British priests protest against euthanasia bill
Hundreds of British priests have united on 31 August to protest against a proposed bill that they claim will legalise euthanasia. More than 750 priests - out of the 5,189 in England and Wales - signed a letter to The Times calling on MPs to oppose the Mental Capacity Bill.
The bill, which is expected to come into force in 2007, enshrines the concept of living wills, allowing people to direct that they should not receive treatment if they become incapacitated. It will allow potential sufferers to nominate a friend or relative to instruct doctors not to give them treatment.
The priests preface their letter of opposition by saying that "as Roman Catholic clergy, our life and work includes pastoral care for mentally incapacitated people and those close to them."
They say that "the bill in its present form will endanger those under our care by enshrining in law euthanasia by omission ... We share the grave concern of those Catholic medico-legal experts who have warned that provisions such as legally binding 'living wills' will force doctors to remove life-sustaining nursing care (including food and water) and medical treatment. We note that 'living wills' were pioneered in the UK by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, which supports the bill's proposals."
The letter quotes Pope John Paul's definition of euthanasia as "an action or omission which of itself and by intention causes death." The priests called on Members of Parliament to give "a clear message concerning the value of human life by voting against the bill at its second reading."
Catholic World News
Polish priests surplus
From the letters section of the Catholic Herald (England) Ruth Ayres writes: "Last week I talked to a Polish priest who has taken over (for the third year) the East Sussex parishes of Hailsham and Polegate while the parish priest is on holiday. I understand that the Polish priest is a professor at Warsaw University and is closely connected with the seminary there. He told me that of the seminarians this year, 25 could not find parishes in Poland. There were no jobs for them. Now that Poland is a member of the EU, surely some of their priests would be willing to serve in Britain. Obviously, not all would want to come, but some have expressed a desire to do so".
Voting guides for US presidential election
In the wake of controversy surrounding a presidential candidate questionnaire produced by the lay staff of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), many Catholics have embraced an alternative voting guide issued by a Catholic apologetics organisation.
Though the USCCB has discouraged use of this new guide, it has been circulated by at least one major archdiocese and thousands of parishes, according to the publisher.
"Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics" is a 10-page booklet produced by Catholic Answers, a lay apostolate based in San Diego whose primary mission is defending Catholic teaching.
Citing papal and Vatican documents, "Voter's Guide" identifies five issues it calls "non-negotiable": abortion, euthanasia, fetal stem cell research, human cloning, and homosexual "marriage." Supporting any of these issues, according to the guide, would disqualify a candidate as a viable option for a faithful Catholic.
Frank Norris, Catholic Answers' director of development, said that the guide has been very successful, citing more than a million in distribution. Norris estimates that by election day in November, Catholic Answers will have distributed somewhere between two million to five million copies. He said the guide is being distributed by the St Louis Archdiocese and that two more dioceses are considering distributing it.
However, while the booklet may soon receive an imprimatur from the Bishop of San Diego it has faced resistance and even disapproval from the legal staff of the USCCB.
The USCCB guide, "Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility," has been criticised for placing the paramount issue of abortion on a level playing field with other lesser issues like promoting "social justice" and "global solidarity." Critics charge that the document has had the effect of minimising the importance of abortion in Catholic social teaching.
Interpreting Internal Revenue Service guidelines for non-profit organisations is at the heart of the voter guide question. IRS rules insist that non-profits may not engage in active campaigning for specific candidates or political parties.
Culture of Life Foundation
Scottish Cardinal attacks sex education program
Cardinal Keith O'Brien has attacked the Scottish Government for the "child abuse" of putting limitless resources into "sinister" sex-education projects. He condemned the country's new sexual health strategy because it is likely to include sex education for students in nursery school and free contraceptives for teenagers, without their parents' knowledge.
The Cardinal said: "Parents are rightly appalled at the idea of pre-pubescent, far less pre-school, children being provided with graphic and intimate sexual instruction. Should such material be used it would amount to state-sponsored sexual abuse of minors."
Writing in a Sunday newspaper in August, Cardinal O'Brien claimed Scotland was facing one of its biggest moral challenges in a generation: "The problems are well known - some of the highest teenage conception rates in Europe; increasing abortion rates and what can only be described as an explosion in sexually transmitted infections."
He continued: "Less well known are the growing army of sexual health service providers who push a value-free agenda, focus on a biological/mechanical approach to sex education, treat children as adults, offer confidential access to powerful drugs and procure abortions for children without their parents' knowledge [and] all done at the expense of the taxpayer with seemingly limitless funding from the Scottish Executive for this failed agenda."
A Government spokesman told the Sunday Telegraph there had never been any intention to target inappropriate groups: "Sexual health in Scotland is unquestionably poor. The development of a national sexual health strategy is important."
Catholic World News
Father Speekman update
Last month AD2000 reported on the Vatican decision calling for the reinstatement of Fr John Speekman as parish priest of Morwell in the Sale Diocese.
The Congregation for Clergy, after almost 12 months of deliberation, concluded there were no grounds for Fr Speekman's removal as parish priest. It said the situation had arisen because Fr Speekman had sought to remedy certain abuses.
However, the Victorian Independent Education Union has now intervened in the dispute, calling on the Bishop not to reinstate Fr Speekman.
The Union's General Secretary, Tony Keenan, has written to the Bishop expressing concern at the decision of the Congregation for Clergy and criticising it as unnecessary interference in the affairs of a country parish.
The Union suggested that legal action could occur if the Bishop reinstates Fr Speekman as canonical administrator of the school, as the Vatican has insisted upon.
Need to evangelise US culture, says Pope
In a meeting with bishops from the northeastern US on 1 September, Pope John Paul II underlined the need for "the evangelisation of culture."
The Holy Father told the American prelates - who met with him at Castel Gandalfo as they completed their ad limina visits - that the Catholic Church in the US has been generous in providing missionaries to other countries, and supporting the Church throughout the world with financial contributions. But now the Church in America needs "a profound interior renewal through a revitalisation of missionary zeal."
America has a proud history of defending human rights, the Pope observed and the religious and ethnic diversity of American society "has necessarily involved practical cooperation," helping Catholics in the US to understand the need for respectful dialogue with other cultures.
These characteristics have prepared Americans to play an important role in the 21st century, John Paul II said: "As the tragic events of September 11, 2001, have made clear, the building of a global culture of solidarity and respect for human dignity is one of the great moral tasks confronting humanity today."
The Church in America "has been chastened by the events of the past two years," the Pope acknowledged, referring to the sexual-abuse scandal. He asked the bishops to be particularly mindful of the needs of priests whose morale has been battered by the scandal.
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Episcopal parishes break away over "gay" bishop
Two Episcopal parishes in southern California announced on 17 August that they have left the US Episcopal Church in reaction to the consecration of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire last year, reported the Los Angeles Times.
The All Saints Church in Long Beach and St James Church in Newport Beach became the first of the 147 parishes in the Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese to break from the Church. They have placed themselves under the leadership of an African Anglican bishop. "The consecration of the gay bishop was like a line in the sand," St James parishioner Jane Irvine told the Los Angeles Times. "You could see the direction was not going to change, and we could not go any further."
But Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno, surprised by the split, said he would not relinquish control over the parishes.
Russian Patriarch thanks Pope for return of icon
Patriarch Alexei II has issued a formal statement thanking Pope John Paul II for returning the icon of Our Lady of Kazan to the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Patriarch's statement, released by the Vatican press office on 31 August, says that the restoration of the prized icon is an act of "justice" as well as a clear gesture of goodwill on the part of the Vatican.
In Rome, meanwhile, a member of the Vatican delegation that took the icon to Moscow reported that the Orthodox faithful of Russia had provided a warm reception, but acknow-ledged that difficulties remain between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
In his message, Patriarch Alexei told John Paul II that he realised the return of the icon was an indication of the Vatican's wish to overcome "the existing difficulties in relations between our two churches." He added that the gesture could also help both Catholics and Orthodox together to overcome the "negative consequences of the history of the 20th century," which he characterises as a time of unprecedented persecution of Christians.
Bishop Renato Boccardo, who was one of the ten Vatican officials to travel to Moscow for the 28 August ceremony at which the icon was returned, confirmed that Patriarch Alexei and other members of the Russian Orthodox hierarchy had shown that the Pope's gesture was "welcomed and appreciated," and could lead to further progress in ecumenical relations.
He also said that ordinary members of the Orthodox Church were extremely friendly in their attitude toward the Vatican delegation in Moscow. After the formal ceremony, many Russian laymen approached the Catholic prelates "asking us to thank the Pope for them." In terms of forming friendly relations with the Catholic Church, "the sentiments of the faithful are ahead of those of the hierarchy."
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