A Look at Today (02.28.07)

Today in the Diocese

Bishop Pfeifer celebrates Mass at the Newman Center, San Angelo, Noon.

Today’s Readings

First Reading: Jonah 3:1-10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19
Gospel: Luke 11:29-32

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service

U.S.

Maryland bishop testifies in support of bill to ban death penalty

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (CNS) — In an unusual move that highlights the priority Maryland’s bishops have placed on abolishing the death penalty, Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore testified in person at a Feb. 21 committee hearing in Annapolis on a bill that would replace the death penalty with life sentences without parole. Representatives of the Maryland Catholic Conference usually testify on behalf of the Maryland bishops, but Bishop Madden personally urged members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings and House Judiciary committees to pass the legislation. During his testimony in the Senate, Bishop Madden appeared to look often in the direction of Republican Sen. Alex Mooney, a member of St. John Parish in Frederick and member of the deadlocked Judiciary Committee. Mooney holds the deciding vote on whether the legislation will make it to the floor of the Senate. “The teachings of our church recognize the right of legitimate government to resort to capital punishment, but directly challenge the appropriateness of government’s doing so in a society that is capable of defending the public order and ensuring the public’s safety,” said Bishop Madden.

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Holy Cross Associates discontinued as order rethinks lay programs

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — A small Catholic volunteer program based at the University of Notre Dame is being discontinued and rethought. Meeting at the University of Portland last summer, delegates from the Congregation of Holy Cross recommended that the Holy Cross Associates program stop in 2007 because of lack of focus and interest. But, said one priest who is a former member of the program, the decision leaves the congregation “on the threshold of a new beginning for lay association.” Like Jesuit Volunteers, Holy Cross Associates are usually recent college graduates who live in small communities and work in social service agencies. Since 1978, the volunteers have served in six U.S. cities including Portland, the original site. They have served at parishes, drug and alcohol centers, homeless shelters and schools. There is also an associates’ house in Chile.

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Texas bishops urge moral guidelines for expanding energy resources

AUSTIN, Texas (CNS) — As Texans engaged in a statewide debate over building new coal-fired electric generating plants to meet their expanding energy needs, the state’s Catholic bishops said that concern for the poor and the common good should help frame the discussion. In a statement Feb. 20 the bishops warned that the proposed coal plants “could pose significant health problems such as increased susceptibility to bacterial infection and increased cases of asthma.” “The plants will release sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides — pollutants which are a particular problem for poor families and children, vulnerable workers and farmers,” the bishops said, noting that those who work outside are likely to feel the worst effects of additional air pollution across the state. The bishops’ statement was released the same day a Texas district judge blocked a 2005 executive order by Gov. Rick Perry that would put government permits for building coal-fired plants on a fast track, cutting the time for environmental objections and administrative hearings in half. Ranchers, environmentalists, mayors of major cities and many newspapers in the state have lined up in opposition to the fast-track order.

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Homeboy group forges friendships while helping with Katrina recovery

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) — Homeboy Industries, a Jesuit-founded program that works with former gang members in East Los Angeles, recently sent a group to New Orleans to lend a hand to that city’s hurricane recovery. In mid-February, the 10 Californians teamed up with trainees in the Cafe Reconcile construction training program run by the Jesuits of the New Orleans province and geared toward urban youths. At first glance, the two groups might have thought they had nothing in common. The Homeboys — who included one young woman — were all Latinos who have left behind the gang life, some for years, others for mere months. The six young men from Cafe Reconcile included at least one who entered the six-week program fresh from the local jail. All were African-American and many were from New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood, which was plagued by violence before Hurricane Katrina and has seen it only escalate since.

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WORLD

Scholars reject filmmakers’ claim about tomb of Jesus

JERUSALEM (CNS) — A Catholic biblical scholar and an Israeli archaeologist rejected filmmakers’ claim that a tomb uncovered nearly 30 years ago in Jerusalem is the burial site of Jesus and his family. Dominican Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, a biblical archaeologist and expert in the New Testament at the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem who was interviewed for the film two years ago, said he did not believe there was any truth to the claim. “It is a commercial ploy that all the media is playing into,” he told Catholic News Service Feb. 27. Amos Kloner, an Israeli archaeologist who wrote the original excavation report on the site for the predecessor of the Israel Antiquities Authority, called the claim “nonsense.” “In their movie they are billing it as ‘never before reported information,’ but it is not new. I published all the details in the Antiqot journal in 1996, and I didn’t say it was the tomb of Jesus’ family,” said Kloner, now a professor of archaeology at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University. Toronto filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici and Oscar-winning Canadian director James Cameron announced at a press conference in New York City Feb. 26 that by using new technology and DNA studies they have determined that among the 10 ossuaries — burial boxes used in biblical times to house the bones of the dead — found in the cave by Kloner in 1980 are those of Jesus, his brothers, Mary, another Mary whom they believe is Mary Magdalene, and “Judah, son of Jesus.” The documentary film by Jacobovici and Cameron is to be aired on the Discovery Channel March 4 and in Canada March 6 on Vision TV.

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Mexican cardinal’s lawyer says California court has no jurisdiction

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — A California court hearing a case of cover-up of clergy sexual abuse has no jurisdiction over Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, said one of his lawyers. In statements to the press Feb. 25, Bernardo Fernandez, a member of Cardinal Rivera’s legal team, said the case was filed by a former Mexican altar boy against a Mexican priest and cardinal over alleged events in Mexico. Therefore, he argued, the case should be tried in Mexico. Fernandez added that legal representatives of Cardinal Rivera had appeared “voluntarily and spontaneously” in Los Angeles Superior Court Feb. 20 to present his defense. He said his client had not received formal notification of the case against him from Los Angeles authorities. Father Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, a Mexican priest whose location is currently unknown, has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of boys in Mexico and California. Joaquin Aguilar, 26, of no relation to the priest, claims the fugitive priest raped him in Mexico City in 1994 and that Cardinal Rivera and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony have helped him evade justice.

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Christians protest Finnish rock band’s tour of Lithuania

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) — The latex mask-wearing and axe-wielding Finnish rock band Lordi has been greeted by half-empty concert halls and protesting Christian groups in Lithuania. Though individual calls for a boycott of the concerts were issued right before the Lithuanian tour, irritated organizers have blamed Christian protests for the low turnout. Lordi won the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest, a competition to find the most popular song in Europe. However, many European religious leaders have said the band could inspire Satanism with its morbid images. In a statement the same day as Lordi’s opening show in Vilnius Ash Wednesday, exorcists of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and the Diocese of Panevezys released a statement expressing concern over how the band “represents a destructive Satanist movement.” “Under the guise of artistic and creative freedom, an aesthetics of absurdity and ugliness … is preached, apparently speaking against human and Christian values and at the same time damaging people’s psyche,” they said.

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Canadian bishop: Catholic groups using gambling funds create scandal

SAINT PAUL, Alberta (CNS) — Catholic organizations which choose to do good work with funds raised from gambling create a scandalous situation that “compromises the religious identity” of the organization, said the bishop of Saint Paul. Bishop Luc Bouchard said he is giving Catholic parishes, schools and other organizations up to three years to stop pursuing revenues derived from gambling. In an Ash Wednesday pastoral letter Feb. 21, Bishop Bouchard called on his diocese to contact their legislators to state four concerns or recommendations: legalized gambling does an injustice to a vulnerable minority; Alberta should set up “an impartial and open public review of legalized gambling in order to see if the current and future benefits of gambling are not outweighed by their costs”; the province should substantially increase “the quality and quantity” of counseling resources available for problem gamblers; and video lottery terminals and video slot machines should be eliminated or, at the very least, restricted to licensed casinos.

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PEOPLE

Education still a priority for standout baseball player

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass.(CNS) — Long before Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano reported to spring training this year he was doing his homework, working out and preparing for what he hopes will be another All-Star season. Capuano has always done his homework. The words hard worker and intelligent are used all the time to describe the 1996 valedictorian of Cathedral High School in Springfield. In an interview in his family home, the left-handed pitcher agreed that he is focused and driven. “My goal is to stay ahead of the pack and I always wanted to be one of the elite pitchers in the game. That’s what I shoot for and that’s what I think about in the off-season,” he told The Catholic Observer, Springfield diocesan newspaper. This January Capuano reached a new one-year contract with the Brewers for $3.25 million.

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Kissling retires; led 25-year fight against church stand on abortion

WASHINGTON (CNS) — After a quarter-century as head of an organization working to change the Catholic Church’s stand on abortion, Frances Kissling is stepping down as president of Catholics for a Free Choice. Kissling and others describe Catholics for a Free Choice, which supports legal abortion, as a “church reform group,” but the U.S. bishops’ Administrative Committee said in 1993 that it “has no affiliation, formal or otherwise, with the Catholic Church” and “can in no way speak for the Catholic Church and its 59 million members in the United States.” Under Kissling’s leadership, Catholics for a Free Choice expanded its reach beyond the abortion issue to such topics as same-sex marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, contraception, the clergy sex abuse crisis and the Vatican’s right to diplomatic status at the United Nations. The organization also worked outside U.S. borders to change abortion policy in other countries.

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