Signs of the Times

Roberts Nominated to Supreme Court

Judge John G. Roberts, 50, was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court on July 19 by President George W. Bush, who called him a man of extraordinary accomplishment and ability who has a good heart. Roberts has been a judge of the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia for two years, after working in private practice in Washington and as a U.S. deputy solicitor general from 1989 to 1993. In private practice and at the Justice Department, he regularly wrote briefs on cases before the Supreme Court and has argued cases there dozens of times.

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he moved with his family to Long Beach, Ind., when he was in elementary school. There he attended Catholic elementary and high schools before going on to earn undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard. His wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, also an attorney, graduated from Holy Cross College and Georgetown University’s law school. She is a member of the board of governors of the John Carroll Society, a Catholic lay organization that sponsors the annual Red Mass in the Archdiocese of Washington before the opening of the Supreme Court term. The Robertses, who have two children, John and Josephine, live in Chevy Chase, Md.


Data Supports Design in Evolution, Says Cardinal

Any evolutionary position that denies the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science and incompatible with Catholic teaching, said Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna. Many scientists want to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, he said in an article on the op-ed page of The New York Times on July 7. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of chance and necessity’ are not science at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence, he wrote, quoting the late Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI holds the same position as his predecessor, said Cardinal Schönborn. The article did not discuss the current debate in the United States over some local public school boards that want science classes to incorporate views holding that creation is the result of an intelligent design.

The cardinal’s essay was submitted to The Times by Creative Response Concepts, a public relations firm in Virginia that represents the Discovery Institute of Seattle, Wash., which promotes intelligent design, the idea that the variety and complexity of life on earth cannot be explained except through the intervention of a designer of some sort.

Three prominent U.S. scientists have asked Pope Benedict XVI to reaffirm the compatibility of evolution with the Catholic faith in light of the article. In his article, the cardinal appeared to dangerously redefine the church’s view on evolution, they said. The three scientists are Lawrence Krauss, professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland; Francisco Ayala, professor of evolutionary biology and philosophy at the University of California-Irvine; and Kenneth Miller, professor of biology at Brown University in Providence, R.I. In the article Cardinal Schönborn wrote, Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sensean unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selectionis not.

Synod Document Stresses Dignity of Eucharist

Because Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, the sacrament must be treated with dignity, shared only by those who hold the same faith and lead to efforts to spread the Gospel, said the working document for the next meeting of the World Synod of Bishops. The document, which will form the departure point for discussions at the synod on Oct. 2-23, was released on July 7 at the Vatican. The theme of the synod is The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church. The document’s observations about how Catholics around the world see the sacrament and celebrate it were drawn from contributions sent to the Vatican by 113 bishops’ conferences, 11 synods of bishops of Eastern Catholic churches, 25 Vatican congregations and councils, and the Union of Superiors General.

Pope Benedict Eager to Visit Israel

Responding to a formal invitation by Israel’s prime minister to visit the Holy Land, Pope Benedict XVI said he would love to go and that a visit there would be a priority, said Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See. Ambassador Oded Ben-Hur was part of a small delegation of Israeli officials that presented the pope on July 6 with a letter from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon inviting the pontiff to Israel. The ambassador said that the pope received the invitation with joy. The pope said, I would love to go. I would be delighted.’

San Francisco Settles Cases for $16 Million

For the second month in a row, the San Francisco Archdiocese has announced a multimillion-dollar settlement in cases of sexual abuse by a member of the Catholic clergy. The archdiocese announced on July 8 that it settled 12 cases for approximately $16 million. On June 10 it announced it had reached a settlement for $21,250,000 in 15 cases. In his July 8 statement, Archbishop William J. Levada of San Francisco said all the cases in the latest settlement involved the late Rev. Joseph Pritchard. No parish or school assets were used in the funding of this settlement, the archbishop said. The amount of the settlements to come from insurance coverage has yet to be determined so no specific dollar figures concerning the archdiocese’s contribution can be disclosed at this time, other than to confirm that the contribution is in the millions, he said.

Nuncio Calls for Stop to Illicit Arms Trading

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican nuncio to the United Nations, called on July 11 for greater international cooperation to halt the scourge of the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons. The illicit trade in such weaponry is an obvious threat to peace, development and security, he said. That is why the Holy See adds its voice to the calls for a common approach, not only toward the illicit trade in small arms but also to related activities such as terrorism, organized crime and the trafficking in persons, he added. Archbishop Migliore spoke on the opening day of a meeting on July 11-15 at U.N. headquarters in New York to assess implementation of a plan of action adopted at a conference held in 2001 that launched the U.N. effort to deal specifically with small arms.

Fraternity of Jerusalem to Take Over Roman Church

An accord between the Holy See and France has handed responsibility for the church that towers above Rome’s Spanish Steps to an urban monastic community. In a formal agreement signed on July 12 between the Holy See and France, the Monastic Fraternity of Jerusalem will run the Trinità dei Monti church and convent starting next year. The new amendment to an 1828 accord between the two states said it recognized that the early 16th-century church had been run since 1828 with particular zeal and competence by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But because the sisters were no longer able to continue their mission, the Paris-based monastic fraternity will take over running the church and its pastoral program as of Sept. 1, 2006. Msgr. Antonio Filipazzi, an official at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, said the new arrangement was made with input from the French bishops.

Vatican-Jewish Dialogue Calls Values Crucial

Laws promoting religious values are legitimate if they protect the human rights and freedom of expression of all citizens, said members of a high-level Vatican-Jewish dialogue commission. Religious values are crucial for the well-being of the individual and society, said representatives of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews. The representatives met on June 26-28 in Jerusalem for the fifth meeting in a dialogue that began in 2002. The meeting focused on the relationship between religious and civil authority in the Jewish and Christian traditions. According to a statement released on July 12 at the Vatican, the meeting was opened by Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who expressed his fervent support for the dialogue to emphasize profound shared values of the two traditions while not ignoring the distinctions that make us different faith communities.

Real Fight in Darfur Is Over Resources

Church workers providing aid to some of the more than 2 million people displaced by fighting in western Sudan’s Darfur region say that behind the violence in the area lies a bitter struggle over diminishing supplies of water and arable land. This is a war that’s first and foremost about resources, said Bjorg Mide, director of the ACT/Caritas Darfur Emergency Response, a program that brings together the world’s Protestant and Catholic aid agencies in an effort to help people who have been chased from their homes by a scorched-earth campaign that many characterize as genocide. U.N. officials say more than 180,000 people have died in the last two years because of armed conflict in the Texas-sized region of Darfur. Other experts put the death toll as high as 400,000.

Vatican Gave About $650 Million in Tsunami Relief

The Vatican’s nuncio to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, said on July 13 that agencies related to the Vatican had given an estimated $650 million in relief to victims of the tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean area on Dec. 26. In addition, work is still being done by several organizations involved in projects throughout the region, he said. The nuncio made his comments in a statement to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, which was holding its annual meeting on June 29-July 27 at U.N. headquarters in New York. He began by commending the U.N. agencies for their swift response to the unprecedented crisis. Then, speaking of the Catholic response, he said that in carrying out the tsunami relief, Catholic agencies were committed in all circumstances to respect religious and cultural differences and sought to facilitate greater trust among believers of all faiths and nonbelievers.

Laura Bush Praises Church AIDS Program in Tanzania

U.S. first lady Laura Bush praised an AIDS-treatment center in Tanzania conducted by the Catholic Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam, calling it a good example of the tremendous efforts of faith-based organizations around the world. While in Tanzania on July 13 during a weeklong trip to Africa, Bush said Pastoral Activities and Services for People with AIDS, known as Pasada, was providing life-saving work, life-changing work. At least 11,000 patients are registered with Pasada. The program also supports 1,900 AIDS orphans. Many people of faith have made a commitment to help men and women who are living with H.I.V./AIDS. They are often the only people willing to go into situations that others might find too dangerous or too desperate, Bush said.

Italian Missionary Bishop Shot Dead in Kenya

An Italian missionary bishop who had just learned Pope Benedict XVI had accepted his retirement was shot on July 14 outside the Isiolo pastoral center in Kenya. Bishop Luigi Locati, who would have celebrated his 77th birthday on July 23, died at the Isiolo hospital about an hour after the attack. A guard walking with the bishop was wounded, news agencies reported. The bishop was head of the Apostolic Vicariate of Isiolo in northeast Kenya. The region recently has been the scene of violence between the Gabra and Borana ethnic groups over cattle and access to water. Bishop Locati had received threats on his life and, for this reason, always moved with two guards in the evening, Eugenio Ferrari, of the Consolata Fathers, director of the Pontifical Missionary Works in Kenya, told Fides, the Vatican’s missionary news agency, on July 15. Pope Benedict XVI called Bishop Locati a heroic missionary and a selfless witness to the Gospel.

Diocese to Require Course in Natural Family Planning

Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of the Diocese of Fargo, N.D., has announced that engaged couples across the diocese will have to be instructed in the theology of the body and complete an approved course in natural family planning before they can marry in the Catholic Church. He announced the new policy on July 18, to take effect on Sept. 8. The diocesan communications office said the Archdiocese of Denver is the only other diocese in the country that requires completion of a natural family planning course before marriage. The Diocese of Fargo covers the eastern half of North Dakota and has about 78,000 Catholics. Bishop Aquila said the policy arose out of a genuine concern for the right formation of conscience, the understanding of the truth, dignity and meaning of human sexuality and the responsibilities a couple accepts in married love.

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