Today in the Diocese
Women’s ACTS Retreats continues through Sunday at Christ the King Retreat Center.
Bishop Pfeifer at St. Ambrose, Wall, to meet with pastor and parishioners, 7 p.m.
This Weekend’s Readings
First Reading: Ezekiel 18:21-28
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Gospel: Matthew 5:20-26
First Reading: Deuteronomy 26:16-19
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8
Gospel: Matthew 5:43-48
First Reading: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14
Second Reading: Philippians 3:17–4:1 or 3:20–4:1
Gospel: Luke 9:28-36
This Weekend’s Headlines from Catholic News Service
Court case could open door to legal fight over faith-based initiative
WASHINGTON (CNS) — In a case that hinges on procedural questions of when a taxpayer has the legal standing to challenge how the administration spends money appropriated by Congress, the Supreme Court is being asked to open the door to legal fights over President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative. The only question before the court is the fairly dry issue of whether taxpayers have standing under the Establishment Clause of the Constitution to challenge actions of the executive branch that are only indirectly financed through general appropriations by Congress. During oral arguments Feb. 28, Solicitor General Paul Clement argued that taxpayers only have the legal standing to challenge how the administration spends money when the funds are going directly to an outside source. Attorney Andrew Pincus, arguing on behalf of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group of Wisconsin-based atheists and agnostics, argued that because the meetings organized by the White House were religious in character it was unconstitutional for them to be paid for with U.S. government money.
– – –
Panelists call for social, legal remedies for violence against women
NEW YORK (CNS) — Violence against women, both in the United States and around the world, is on the rise and must be addressed with a potent combination of social, legal and economic remedies, said a panel of speakers Feb. 27 in New York. “Addressing Violence Against Women” was the topic of a panel discussion at the Church of the Holy Family. The program was the second discussion in a series called “The Human Dignity of Women in Contemporary Society,” sponsored by the Holy See Mission to the United Nations, the Path to Peace Foundation and the Vincentian Center for Church and Society at St. John’s University. “It seems ironic that, at a time when the sensitivity for women’s issues appears stronger than ever, the world is now obliged to confront new forms of violence and slavery directed especially at women,” said Archbishop Celestino Migliore, papal nuncio to the United Nations. “The mistreatment of women is a long-standing reality in many places and a disregard for the age and vulnerability of young girls in particular is especially repugnant,” he continued.
– – –
New York Catholic official assails $2.1 billion stem-cell bill
ALBANY, N.Y. (CNS) — The executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference urged the state Legislature Feb. 28 to ban any form of “taxpayer-financed human cloning” and to reject Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s $2.1 billion Stem Cell and Innovation Fund as proposed, with its major emphasis on funding research on human embryonic stem cells. “The governor’s stem-cell research proposal is devoid of any moral consideration whatsoever for the living human embryos who will be subject to experimentation and destruction,” said Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the conference, which is the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops. He made the remarks in testimony before a joint meeting of the Senate Finance Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. The proposed fund calls for spending $100 million in New York’s public funds next year and $50 million a year for the next 10 years after that on “stem cells, other life sciences and emerging technologies.” In addition, it calls for a $1.5 billion bond act, subject to voter approval in 2008, for such research.
– – –
Brazil’s women prisoners feel abandoned, says U.S. missionary
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Ministering to women in Brazilian jails often involves just being there for the prisoners, said a U.S. missionary working with the Brazilian bishops’ Prison Pastoral Office. Women prisoners feel abandoned and forgotten by society, said Heidi Cerneka, national women’s coordinator of the bishops’ office and a member of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners. Women prisoners “often feel invisible. They feel they have no voice,” she said. Being there and talking to the women makes them feel important because “somebody cares enough to show up,” she said. “It helps them feel that they are not invisible.” Usually, the only people visiting women prisoners are their mothers, who in many cases are also caring for their daughter’s children, she said. Cerneka spoke with Catholic News Service Feb. 28. On March 1 she gave testimony about conditions for women in Brazilian prisons to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The commission is a branch of the Organization of American States and has its headquarters in Washington. Cerneka, whose family is from St. Louis, has been working as a missionary in Brazil for 10 years.
– – –
Pro-life speaker sees signs ‘everywhere’ Roe could be overturned
CHICAGO (CNS) — Pro-lifers attending an Illinois conference envisioned a nation without Roe v. Wade, and a speaker told them there are many signs the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion could be overturned. “We see signs everywhere that an overturn of Roe v. Wade may soon be a reality,” said Ann Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League and an organizer of the 17th annual SpeakOut Illinois. “Most notably, we see signs from abortion supporters who have said they are afraid they may lose the Supreme Court’s support.” SpeakOut Illinois, sponsored in early February by a wide range of pro-life organizations, addressed how states would be affected if the Supreme Court overturned its 1973 ruling. The Roe decision threw out most state restrictions on abortion, and its companion decision, Doe v. Bolton, permitted abortions through all nine months of pregnancy. The conference looked at how laws made to comply with Roe have shaped culture, and how overturning the ruling would reshape culture.
– – –
Cardinal: Antichrist tempts Christians to place dialogue above Jesus
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians tempted to set aside their belief in Christ as the only savior in order to promote dialogue with others are being tempted by the Antichrist, retired Italian Cardinal Giacomo Biffi told Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Biffi, who has been leading a Feb. 25-March 3 retreat for the pope and top Vatican officials, cited as “prophetic” a warning about the modern guises of the Antichrist presented in the work of Vladimir Solovyev, a 19th-century Russian philosopher. While the Vatican has not published Cardinal Biffi’s talks to the pope, Vatican Radio provided a daily summary and some quotations from his presentations. The cardinal, who wrote the introduction to an anthology of Solovyev’s work, said the philosopher’s most important message was that Christianity cannot be reduced to a collection of values. In one of the philosopher’s works, Cardinal Biffi told the pope, “the Antichrist presents himself as a pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist. He convokes an ecumenical council and seeks the consensus of all the Christian confessions, conceding something to each one.”
– – –
Church in Austria denounces abortion clinic in new shopping mall
OXFORD, England (CNS) — Catholic Church officials in Austria have denounced the opening of an abortion clinic in a new Viennese shopping mall. “You can now drink coffee, watch a film, buy clothes and then have an abortion,” said Erich Leitenberger, spokesman for the Austrian bishops’ conference. “This trivializes decisions about life and death.” Leitenberger told Catholic News Service Feb. 28 that Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna has asked the shopping mall’s Catholic owner, Richard Luger, to “think again” about the clinic’s opening. Lugar “already leased the premises and says this isn’t up to him, but the cardinal knows him well and I think he’s open to the arguments,” Leitenberger said. “Legally any quick decision could be difficult. But I think this latest controversy has made some people reflect on the reality of abortion here.” A 1975 law legalizing abortions for women up to 12 weeks pregnant has left an “open wound” between the church and state in Austria, where Catholics make up about 78 percent of the population of 8.1 million, Leitenberger said.
– – –
English-speaking liturgists design multimedia education project
ROME (CNS) — Although a new translation of the Mass probably is a couple years away from parish use, a group of liturgy specialists from the United States, England and Australia is designing a multimedia package to help Catholics prepare. Msgr. James P. Moroney, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for the Liturgy, said the liturgy offices of other English-speaking bishops’ conferences will be invited to participate in the education project, which could be ready by late 2008. He said the project flowed from informal discussions about how little was done to prepare people for the Mass in English after the Second Vatican Council; many people felt efforts to get the original English Mass into use were “very hurried.” As the International Commission on English in the Liturgy continues to prepare new English translations of the Mass prayers and as bishops’ conferences await Vatican permission to use the translations they have approved, the group met in Rome in late February to continue outlining what it believes an education package should include.
– – –
Cardinal says pope’s letter to Chinese will be sent at Easter time
ROME (CNS)– Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to Chinese Catholics will be released at Easter time and will encourage the faithful, clarify issues of doctrine and call for full religious freedom, said China’s cardinal. Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong told Catholic News Service in Rome March 1 that he has seen drafts of the pope’s letter. After a two-day meeting in January on the status of the Catholic community in mainland China, the Vatican had announced that the pope would be writing the letter. “On issues regarding the divine position of the church and freedom of religion, the Holy Father will seek to clarify the truth,” Cardinal Zen said. The cardinal, a Salesian, was in Rome to give a speech and preside at a liturgy at the Pontifical Salesian University. Cardinal Zen said that as a diplomatic courtesy Pope Benedict’s letter will be translated into Chinese and will be sent to the government of China several days before it is released to the public.
– – –
Philippine bishops express concern over abuses in anti-terrorism bill
MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — Bishops in the Philippines have expressed concern over potential human rights violations which could result from an anti-terrorism bill. Bishop Martin Jumoad of Isabela said that, although he is “glad” the Human Security Act was passed by Congress, an independent body is needed to avoid such violations. “There should be another body of civil society that will evaluate or analyze the implementation,” he told UCA News, an Asian church news agency, Feb. 28. However, he said, the bill could stabilize peace and order in his prelature on Basilan, an island-province. The Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, who have been blamed for bombings, kidnappings and killings in the southern region, have camps there. The House of Representatives passed the bill Feb. 19 after the Senate had passed it 11 days earlier. If President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signs the bill into law, authorities may detain suspects for three days without a court warrant and without filing formal charges. People “wrongly arrested” or detained as terrorism suspects would be entitled to compensation of up to $10,300 a day.
– – –
To mom, new Salt Lake City bishop will always be ‘the boy we raised’
SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — Helen Wester, the mother of Bishop John C. Wester, sees her son’s appointment to head the Salt Lake City Diocese as a continuing of his vocation. She is a bit sad that he will be farther away from her than he has ever been before but “acceptance,” at least of God’s will, is a vital element of life, she said. Bishop Wester, 56, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco since 1998, was named bishop of the Utah diocese Jan. 8. He will be installed March 14 in ceremonies at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. “That’s the biggest thing in life — acceptance,” Helen Wester told Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper, in the dining room of the Daly City home where she and her late husband, Charles, raised Bishop Wester and his siblings, Nancy, Barry and Kathy. “My own mother said that we need to accept things and leave them in God’s hands. The eight years of John’s being a bishop have been very fulfilling for me,” she said. “Just watching him grow in his vocation has been such a gift.”
– – –
Official: Church upset over inquiry into missing Sri Lankan priest
BANGALORE, India (CNS) — The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka is disappointed about the ongoing investigation into a missing priest and his companion, who disappeared last year amid fighting between government forces and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, said a church official. “So far, we have no information on the progress” of the investigation, said Father Nicolas Jacob, vicar general of the Jaffna Diocese. Father Jacob told Catholic News Service Feb. 27 that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse’s special commission, which investigates prominent cases of people who disappeared during the ethnic conflict, began looking into the case four months after they went missing, and after several marches and protests. Government officials “know we are quite serious about this. We hope the truth will come out,” said Father Jacob. Father Thiruchelvam Nihal Jim Brown, 34, of St. Philip Neri Church in Allaipiddy, and his lay companion, Wenceslaus Vincent Vimalan, disappeared Aug. 20, 2006, when they went to check on the church which had been shelled a week earlier.