A Look at Today (03.26.07)

Today in the Diocese

Day of the Unborn Mass, Noon, Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Necrology

Rev. Serran Braun (1999) 

Deacon Audon Saldivar (2000)

Today’s Readings

First Reading: Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 or 13:41-62
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
Gospel: John 8:12-20

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service

U.S.

USCCB body offers ‘public correction’ to Marquette professor’s views

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The “mistaken views” on contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage and other church teachings expressed in two 2006 pamphlets by Marquette University theology professor Daniel C. Maguire “should not be confused with the faith and moral teaching of the Catholic Church,” the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine said. The doctrine committee’s “Statement Concerning Two Pamphlets Published by Professor Daniel Maguire” was approved for publication by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee during the latter’s March 20-21 meeting in Washington. The pamphlets — titled “The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion” and “A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage” — were sent by Maguire to all U.S. bishops June 19 last year, the doctrine committee said. “Since it is apparent that considerable efforts have been made to give these views the widest possible distribution as if they were a valid alternative to the teaching of the Catholic Church,” the USCCB doctrine committee “considers it important to offer a public correction of the erroneous views proposed in these pamphlets,” the statement said. Maguire, a theology professor at the Jesuit-run university in Milwaukee since the early 1970s, said the bishops “stuck to their obsession with sexual and reproductive matters” in the committee statement and ignored his call in a letter accompanying the pamphlets for greater episcopal attention to issues such as the war in Iraq, the environment, poverty, racism and sexism.

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Conscience rights at risk: States, doctors consider what’s at stake

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Although a proposal to protect the conscience rights of health care providers and institutions that don’t want to participate in certain medical procedures isn’t getting much action in Congress, the issue of conscience protection is a hot topic in several states and within the medical community. The Abortion Nondiscrimination Act of 2007, sponsored by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has gotten no co-sponsors since its Jan. 22 introduction and no hearings have been scheduled on it by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Meanwhile, battles are heating up in various parts of the country over proposals that Catholic leaders say would violate health care providers’ rights — as affirmed in official American Medical Association policy — to decline to participate in actions that conflict with their own “personal, religious or moral beliefs.” The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine also raised the topic of conscience protection in a recent issue by publishing the results of a survey on how doctors’ moral or religious beliefs affect patient care.

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Families, catechists adjust to new confirmation guidelines in Phoenix

PHOENIX (CNS) — Nearly two years after parishes in the Phoenix Diocese were asked to restore the order of the sacraments of initiation and begin confirming third-graders before they receive the Eucharist, students, families and parish leaders are still adjusting. Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said the restored order “has gone remarkably well,” thanks to everyone working together. He detailed the reasoning for the changes in a 2005 pastoral letter. Restoring the order means that, after being baptized, young Catholics are next confirmed and then, at the same Mass, receive first Communion. Changing the order of the sacraments and the age of confirmation has required parishes to host programs for young Catholics ages 8-16. This is the last year in the process. Carol Gastelum, associate director of catechesis for the diocese, said many Catholics viewed confirmation as a sign of maturity, but it isn’t. “It’s a seal on one’s baptism,” she said. The early church recognized the link between the first two sacraments of initiation when Christians received confirmation immediately after baptism or in childhood. The Eucharist was then the final sacrament of initiation.

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WORLD

‘Great support and open ears’: U.S. peace activists visit Vatican

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — On the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq, three U.S. Catholic peace activists paid a discreet but significant visit to the Vatican. The officers of the Indiana-based Catholic Peace Fellowship were in Rome in mid-March to promote the issue of conscientious objection to war. They didn’t know what kind of reception they’d get from Vatican experts, but after a week of talks and meetings, they left feeling like they’d received a sympathetic hearing. “It’s been a miraculous trip,” said Joshua Casteel. “We’ve received great support and open ears here. It’s encouraging to see that we are part of a tradition that’s very sensitive to peace issues.” Casteel, who works as conscientious objector liaison for the fellowship, served in an Army intelligence unit in Iraq in 2004 and was an interrogator at the Abu Ghraib prison. After concluding that systematic torture was being used against mostly innocent people and that his own participation in the war was compromising his Christian witness, Casteel applied for and received conscientious objector status and left the Army. Deacon Tom Cornell, Catholic Peace Fellowship co-founder, and Michael Griffin, the organization’s director of education, arranged the trip to Rome to promote more visible backing of conscientious objection by the church hierarchy.

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Church leaders, WHO express concern over drug-resistant tuberculosis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Church leaders, along with the World Health Organization, have expressed concern over the increased rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis worldwide. Pope Benedict XVI, speaking at his general audience March 21, said the latest reports show that more work is still needed to effectively treat those who suffer from the disease. World Tuberculosis Day, a WHO-sponsored initiative to focus attention on one of the world’s most deadly diseases, was being marked March 24. A WHO statement issued March 22 had good news and bad news: The rate of infection leveled off for the first time in 13 years, but new and potentially more lethal versions of the disease have emerged. Msgr. Jean-Marie Musivi Mpendawatu, a member of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, told Catholic News Service that tuberculosis has the potential to be more dangerous than AIDS and malaria combined, because so many countries do not have the resources to prevent and treat the disease effectively. “We cannot let down our guard against this disease,” he said.

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Zimbabwean archbishop says he would risk his life leading protests

HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNS) — Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo urged Zimbabweans to continue their protests against government oppression and said he was willing to risk his life by leading them. “We must be ready to stand, even in front of blazing guns,” Archbishop Ncube said at a March 22 news conference in the capital, Harare. “I am ready to stand in front,” he told the news conference, organized by the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance. Noting that “starvation stalks our land,” Archbishop Ncube said people should fill the streets and demand that President Robert Mugabe “steps down now.” Inflation in Zimbabwe is more than 1,700 percent and there are severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine. Unemployment is close to 80 percent. “The biggest problem is that Zimbabweans are cowards, myself included,” the archbishop said. He was quoted by Reuters, the British news agency. “We must get off our comfortable seats and suffer with the people,” he said.

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Power sharing in Northern Ireland would be good example, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — If Catholic and Protestant political parties in Northern Ireland form a power-sharing government it would be “a very powerful Christian witness” for other areas where conflicts include a religious component, Pope Benedict XVI told Ireland’s president. Irish President Mary McAleese, meeting reporters after her March 23 audience with the pope, said she told him about efforts to ensure that Northern Irish political parties form a Catholic-Protestant governing administration by March 26. The papal quote came from McAleese; the Vatican said only that her meeting with the pope included a discussion about “the development of the peace process in Northern Ireland.” The power-sharing arrangement was proposed in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to end the violence between unionists, who are mainly Protestant and favor continued British rule, and nationalists, who are mainly Catholic and want Northern Ireland reunited with the Irish Republic.

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German archdiocese distances itself from parish collection for mosque

COLOGNE, Germany (CNS) — The Archdiocese of Cologne has distanced itself from a parish rector after he organized a Sunday collection to help fund the building of a mosque. “This was a private parish initiative, intended as a goodwill gesture from Catholics toward the Muslim community — it had no official support from us,” archdiocesan spokesman Stephan Schmidt told Catholic News Service. “There was a lot of discussion about it and not everyone was happy, since many local parishes are themselves in dire straits financially. … We would also wish for similar gestures toward Christians in countries with a Muslim majority, such as Turkey. It’s a question of reciprocity,” he added. The rector of St. Theodore Parish, Father Frank Muerer, told the German Press Agency he had organized the March 18 collection with unanimous backing from his parish council to support the central mosque in Cologne’s Ehrenfeld district. The parish raised more than $2,600.

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Papal preacher says indifference is biggest sin against the poor

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The biggest sin committed against the poor and the hungry is indifference, the preacher of the papal household told Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials. Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, leading the traditional Friday Lenten reflection at the Vatican March 23, said Christians are called to help remedy the injustice of poverty, not turn away hoping others will resolve the problem. “The parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus is being repeated today among us on a global scale,” he said, with wealthy nations representing the rich man living in splendor and the developing world representing Lazarus who longed to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Just as the rich man’s gate kept Lazarus at bay, “We tend to put double-paned windows up between us and the poor” that shield against and muffle the severity of the poor’s plight, Father Cantalamessa said. “We see the poor on the move, writhing, screaming on the other side of our television screens, in the newspaper … but their cries reach us as from afar. They don’t reach the heart,” he said.

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PEOPLE

Islamic leader postpones planned meeting with pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Grand Sheik Mohammed Sayyid Tantawi, one of Sunni Islam’s leading clerics, has postponed his planned meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican spokesman said. Sheik Tantawi, head of al-Azhar University, a world-renowned center of Islamic scholarship in Cairo, Egypt, was scheduled to meet the pope March 22 at the Vatican. Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, the Vatican nuncio to Egypt, told Catholic News Service March 23 that Sheik Tantawi was unable to keep the March appointment, but he declined to speculate on the reason. “We possibly will start looking for a new date” for the visit, perhaps in May, the archbishop said. The Vatican did not share Sheik Tantawi’s reason for postponing his trip, but Egyptian newspapers had been filled with criticism of the planned visit. Among those disapproving were Muslim clerics and politicians still angered about the pope’s September speech in Germany, in which he quoted a 14th-century criticism of Islam.

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Parish unites to help family pay for 10-year-old’s heart transplant

BALTIMORE (CNS) — While Xavia Pirozzi’s new heart is priceless, her medical bills have topped $3.5 million, with her family’s portion after insurance coverage estimated at $600,000. The drugs she will take for the rest of her life cost $1,500 a month. “I worry about her health first,” said her father, Ralph Pirozzi. “That is my main concern. On a financial basis, I’ll deal with that later.” That’s where the Heart of St. Joseph’s comes in. The committee of parents from St. Joseph Parish and School in the Baltimore suburb of Fullerton is raising funds to pay the fifth-grader’s medical costs, assisted by other schools and parishes. And that’s not the only help the family has gotten. “The outpouring of prayer support from family, friends and patients was tremendous,” Pirozzi told The Catholic Review, newspaper of the Baltimore Archdiocese. Xavia, 10, underwent a heart transplant Jan. 6 at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she had spent 10 months after being diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy, a rare degenerative disease that causes the heart to stiffen over time.

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Asian theologian urges Vatican to initiate dialogue with theologians

CHENNAI, India (CNS) — A leading Asian theologian has urged the Vatican to initiate dialogue with theologians to resolve doctrinal differences. “The Vatican should engage in dialogue with theologians when there is a conflict in doctrine and should not silence them,” said Father Felix Wilfred in the wake of the Vatican notification concerning Jesuit Father Jon Sobrino, a Latin American theologian. He spoke to UCA News, an Asian church news agency. In a document made public March 14, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith warned that some works by the Jesuit priest from El Salvador contain ideas that are “erroneous or dangerous propositions.” The Vatican did not take action against him. Father Wilfred — who has worked with Father Sobrino for more than 10 years in various theological publications, including Concilium, an international theological journal published in seven European languages — called the Vatican notification “highly regrettable.” Father Wilfred said he has written Father Sobrino to express his support.

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Father Fessio dismissed, then given new duties at Florida university

NAPLES, Fla. (CNS) — A day after he was asked to resign his post as provost and leave the campus March 21, Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio agreed to continue to have a role at Ave Maria University, including teaching and serving as a theologian in residence. A statement sent the evening of March 22 by the university’s public relations firm said Father Fessio accepted the school’s offer that he continue his relationship with Ave Maria in a nonadministrative capacity. The university’s March 21 announcement that Father Fessio had been asked to resign as provost cited “irreconcilable differences over administrative policies and practices.” Father Fessio, 66, had served as chancellor or provost of the Catholic university in Florida since its founding was announced in 2002. He also has continued to serve as editor of Ignatius Press, a San Francisco-based Catholic publishing company he founded in 1978. The March 22 press release repeated that “the separation of Father Fessio from the university’s administration had nothing to do with our shared commitment to our mission as a Catholic university ‘ex corde ecclesiae.'”

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Artist says her mural for homeless center will ‘feed the soul’

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) — It would be difficult to imagine any other theme besides water gracing the walls of the Harry Tompson Center at St. Joseph Refuge in New Orleans. A mural series depicting the flow of water, from flood to salvation, will soon grace the planned multiservice center for homeless people. If construction proceeds as planned, the center will open in late June. “It is so gracious, so soulful to exceed just necessity and feed the soul,” said Margot Datz, the artist who is creating the six-panel mural. “Because these people don’t see a lot of beauty. They don’t have access to it.” The first panel depicts Noah and the ark, with a passage from Genesis written on a ribbon scroll that stretches the length of the work: “And the water prevailed exceedingly upon the earth.” The second panel depicts Jonah and the whale and the third, which is nearly complete, depicts the parting of the Red Sea. The other three panels will show Christ walking on the water, the sacrament of baptism and the Lord’s Prayer, with Christ standing beside still waters. A resident of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., where she maintains a studio, Datz, 57, first visited New Orleans 26 years ago and has maintained ties since.

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