A Look at Today (02.20.07)

Diocesan Events

SAN ANGELO — Bishop Pfeifer at Christ the King Retreat Center for Lenten Retreat for Diocesan Pastoral Staff, 10 a.m.

SONORA — Bishop Pfeifer to dialogue about life of St. Ann’s parish with parishioners, 7 p.m.

NECROLOGY

Deacon Mark Reeh (2005).

Today’s Readings

First Reading: Sirach 2:1-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40
Gospel: Mark 9:30-37

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service

Don’t ‘leave God at the door,’ Fargo bishop tells Catholic lawmakers

FARGO, N.D. (CNS) — Catholic politicians must not “leave God at the door” when they walk into the Legislature, but rather must ensure that every decision they make and every bill they pass protect human life and dignity, Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo said in a column for the diocesan newspaper. The same obligation not to “abandon God” applies to every Catholic, whatever his or her line of work, the bishop added in the edition of New Earth newspaper that went to press Feb. 15. The column was an edited version of a homily the bishop delivered Jan. 18 at the Catholic Legislative Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck. Bishop Aquila said the recent movie “Blood Diamond,” about diamond smuggling in Africa, shows the violence that results when “the lust for power, the lust for money, the lust for control overtakes and guides the human heart.” But he said hardness of heart is not a problem isolated in Africa, but also arises in relation to the immigration debate in this country.

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Cardinal, bishop decry New York City giveaway of millions of condoms

NEW YORK (CNS) — With their decision to distribute 18 million free condoms to the public, New York City officials are failing “to protect the moral tone of our community,” two Catholic leaders charged. Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., said that city officials “encourage inappropriate sexual activity by blanketing our neighborhoods with condoms.” In a joint statement Feb. 15, the two bishops said, “Although in their statements they give nod to the truth that only abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage are fail-safe, by their actions they ignore that truth and degrade societal standards.” On Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, more than 150,000 condoms were handed out in the city’s five boroughs. The new condoms were branded with the logo “NYC CONDOM,” with the letters imitating the signs for the New York subway system. The Free Condom Initiative of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene distributes about 1.5 million condoms a month, mostly bulk orders received via the Internet from nightspots and retail outlets.

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Cardinal urges House to close loophole in genetic discrimination bill

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities is urging the House to amend legislation forbidding discrimination on the basis of genetic information to include unborn children, unimplanted embryos and those in the process of being adopted as “family members” under the bill. Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia said the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, H.R. 493, contained “one very unfortunate and apparently unintentional loophole” by limiting the children identified as family members of an individual to those who are “born to or placed for adoption with the individual.” But the legislation does not address “discrimination against families based on the preimplantation or prenatal genetic testing of their child, or genetic testing performed on an adoptive child before an adoption is completed,” he said. The House Education and Labor Committee approved the legislation on a voice vote Feb. 14, without the specific amendment supported by the bishops. An amendment offered by the committee’s chairman, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., extended protection to children in the womb, but did not address the preimplantation or adoption gaps.

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Catholic-Buddhist dialogue enters second four-year cycle

WASHINGTON (CNS) — “Abiding in Christ; Taking Refuge in Buddha” was the theme of the first meeting in the second four-year cycle of dialogue between Catholics and Zen/Chan Buddhists on the West Coast. The meeting was held at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, a 488-acre Buddhist community and monastery near Ukiah, Calif. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington issued a press release Feb. 12 reporting details of the Jan. 24-27 meeting. Zen and Chan are the respective Japanese and Chinese terms for the meditation school of Buddhism. The dialogue began with a public session, attended by Ukiah religious leaders and by monastics, students and faculty of the city, at which panelists discussed unique features of the West Coast dialogue. During two days of spiritual exercises and closed-session dialogues, participants discussed the basis of Christian and Buddhist religious commitments.

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Catholic abuse prevention program urges parent-child openness

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — If a child has been molested, caring adults need to provide a safe, encouraging environment for the child to talk about it, says an abuse prevention handbook used in the Los Angeles Archdiocese and in many other Catholic dioceses and parishes around the country. “Children often feel scared to come forward because they fear they won’t be believed or could get in trouble,” said Sister Sheila McNiff, director of the archdiocese’s assistance ministry for victims/survivors of sexual abuse. “They may also feel ashamed or self-blaming for what happened.” Sister McNiff, a member of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, added that if the adult molester is a well-liked coach or teacher the child may fear getting this person into trouble. What’s helpful for a child disclosing an abusive incident is for an adult to “really want to listen and to be sensitive to how much courage it took for the child to come forward,” said Sister Margaret Fitzer, a Sister of St. Louis and a counselor in the assistance office. “Teaching Touching Safety” is the program designed by Virtus and used in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

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CCC reprises Lenten radio retreats in English, Spanish

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Based on their popularity last year, the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Communication Campaign is reprising a Lenten series of radio retreats in English and Spanish. Each program in the six-week series — in each language — features a different bishop each week. The series was scheduled to begin Feb. 25, the First Sunday of Lent. The programs, which are being made available to Catholic dioceses and radio outlets throughout the U.S., were produced for the CCC by Franciscan Radio, a ministry of the Franciscans and St. Anthony Messenger Press. Elia Castillo serves as program host, and the featured bishop for each week serves as retreat guide and homilist. Each show begins with a greeting and a description of the retreat, followed by a sung version of the Our Father. The bishop then presents his homily, which is followed by a meditative song and a question-and-answer segment with the bishop. Castillo wraps up each program and the featured bishop gives a blessing to close the show.

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WORLD

Officials say text will be open about tensions in Anglican Communion

ROME (CNS) — A Catholic archbishop and an Anglican bishop who lead work on a document about witnessing to commonly held points of faith said the document will be “very honest” about current tensions within the Anglican Communion and the problems that poses for ecumenical dialogue. Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane, Australia, and Anglican Bishop David Beetge of Highveld, South Africa, are the co-chairmen of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission. The commission was established by the Vatican and the Anglican Communion in 2001 to promote activities that would help Catholics and Anglicans demonstrate the results of four decades of ecumenical dialogue and take concrete steps toward full unity. “While it is encouraging that a document of this kind can be produced and that practical day-to-day cooperation between Catholics and Anglicans can be strengthened, talk of plans to reunite the two communions is, sadly, much exaggerated,” the two bishops said in a Feb. 19 statement e-mailed to reporters.

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Pope says priests must make special efforts to hear confessions

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Because only priests can forgive sins in Christ’s name, they must make special efforts to be available to hear confessions and grant absolution, Pope Benedict XVI said. “Christ has chosen us, dear priests, to be the only ones able to forgive sins in his name. Therefore, it is a specific ecclesial service that we must make a priority,” he said Feb. 19, meeting with priests who work full time hearing confessions in the basilicas of Rome. Pope Benedict said all people looking for “the comfort and consolation of Christ” should be able to find a priest to hear their confession and experience “the peace and the joy” that flow from forgiveness. The sacrament of reconciliation, he said, underlines the reality of sin as well as the even greater reality of God’s love and mercy. “Experiencing the Lord’s tenderness and forgiveness, the penitent is more easily urged to recognize the seriousness of sin and more decisive in avoiding it in order to remain and grow in his newfound friendship with him,” the pope said.

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Action needed to stop excessive alcohol use in Ireland, says bishop

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) — Action is needed to stop excessive alcohol consumption in Ireland, said a bishop during the launch of the Irish bishops’ Lenten pastoral letter on alcoholism. “If we look at international research on alcohol consumption, Irish society’s use of alcohol is nothing short of a national tragedy,” said Auxiliary Bishop Eamonn Walsh of Dublin, vice chair of the Irish bishops’ drugs and alcohol initiative. Ireland tops two recent international league tables: One measured the level of binge drinking among those under the age of 20, and the other measured alcohol consumption of those ages 15 and older, he said. “As well as talk, action is now clearly needed,” said the bishop. The bishops published “Alcohol: The Challenge of Moderation” on Temperance Sunday Feb. 18. The pastoral letter’s publication coincided with events celebrating the life of Capuchin Father Theobald Mathew, who was known as the “apostle of temperance.”

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Pope warns that family in Latin America is showing signs of erosion

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI warned that the family in Latin America is showing signs of erosion, as evidenced by increasing divorce, cohabitation and adultery. He said the church should help resist legislative lobbies that are advancing an anti-family agenda in the region and undermining the institution of marriage. He made the remarks Feb. 17 to participants at a Vatican meeting of apostolic nuncios stationed in Latin America and other church officials. They met in a planning session for the fifth general conference of the Latin American bishops, which will take place in Brazil May 13-31. The pope, who will travel to Brazil to personally open the conference, reviewed a long list of challenges to the church in Latin America. He said priority attention should be given to the family, which “shows signs of yielding under the pressure of lobbies which are capable of negatively influencing the legislative process.”

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Pope says Christian nonviolence means countering evil with goodness

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Christian ideal of nonviolence does not mean standing by in the face of evil, but countering evil with goodness, Pope Benedict XVI said. In his midday Angelus address Feb. 18, the pope praised the heroism of those who spread God’s love even at the cost of their own lives. He also asked for prayers for the people of Guinea, in West Africa, where general strikes and political tensions have led to violence and martial law, with government troops being accused of harassment, rape and pillaging. “The bishops of the country have told me of their concern for the situation of social paralysis with general strikes and violent reactions, which have claimed numerous victims,” the pope said. “In asking for respect for human and civil rights, I assure my prayers so that a common commitment to following the path of dialogue will lead to overcoming the crisis,” he said.

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Pope says life involves recognizing fragility, refocusing on God

ROME (CNS) — The Christian life is a journey that involves moving forward each day, recognizing one’s fragility, overcoming obstacles and continually refocusing on God and his love, Pope Benedict XVI told Rome diocesan seminarians. The fact that Jesus repeatedly had to scold his apostles for their lack of faith and understanding “shows that none of us have reached the heights of this great ‘yes'” to the Lord, the pope told the 120 seminarians during a Feb. 17 visit at the Rome seminary. Pope Benedict spent the evening at the seminary, responding at length to questions about preparing for the priesthood and for a holy life and then eating dinner with the students. One of the students asked how priests could fight the temptation of career climbing in the church. “The Lord knew that from the beginning there was also sin within the church,” the pope said. “In humility it is important to recognize this and to see not only the sin in others, in structures, in high church offices, but also in ourselves.”

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PEOPLE

U.S. nun honored by international Catholic education confederation

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — For her lifelong contributions to Catholic education, Sister Catherine T. McNamee received the Jesus Maestro (Jesus the Teacher) Award from La Confederacion Interamericana de Educacion Catolica (Inter-American Confederation of Catholic Education) during its Feb. 5-10 congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The award was announced by the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, where Sister McNamee, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, is currently distinguished visiting professor in multicultural perspectives. She was president of the college from 1979 to 1984. Sister McNamee’s lifetime career in Catholic education began with teaching Spanish and Latin in a New York middle school right after she graduated from college. She served two five-year terms, 1986-96, as president of the National Catholic Educational Association. After leaving the NCEA she returned to St. Paul as a senior fellow and scholar in residence at the University of St. Thomas’ Center for Christian Social Thought and Management.

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Sunday is day of rest, Bishop Baker reminds South Carolina Catholics

CHARLESTON, S.C. (CNS) — Bishop Robert J. Baker of Charleston has reminded his flock in South Carolina that Sunday is a day of rest. In a Feb. 9 letter to pastors and parish life facilitators, Bishop Baker encouraged Catholics to begin the diocesan celebration of 2007 as the Year of the Family by reclaiming the Sabbath for God and family. “Because we have become distracted, overworked and overcommitted to outside activities, Sunday has become just another workday,” he wrote. “I challenge each of you to restore Sunday as a gift from the Father for the family to appreciate one another.” He added, “We have lost the peace that God created for our day of rest, and we all should actively seek ways to invite God into the center of our families.” He quoted from Pope John Paul II’s 1998 apostolic letter, “Dies Domini” (“The Day of the Lord”): “Sunday is the day which recalls in grateful adoration the world’s first day and looks forward in active hope to ‘the last day,’ when Christ will come in glory and all things will be made new.”

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