Web Seminar Focuses on Disabled Catholics
The 30th anniversary of the U.S. bishops’ pastoral statement on people with disabilities offers an opportunity to acquaint a new generation of bishops and young people with the document’s message, according to speakers at an Aug. 13 “Webinar.” The hourlong Web-based seminar sponsored by the National Catholic Partnership on Disability brought together catechists, parish advocates, directors of disability ministry and others.
“I’m not suggesting you take on a whole new line of work,” said Peg Kolm, director of the Office for Ministry to Persons With Disabilities in the Archdiocese of Washington. “But you need to take this work to the next generation in a partnership year.” Janice Benton, executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, said many in the disabilities community viewed the November 1978 pastoral statement as “our Declaration of Independence.” The document said there “can be no separate church for people with disabilities” but only “one flock that follows a single shepherd.”
Tough Economy Calls for Renewed Solidarity
Invoking the spirit of the late labor priest Msgr. George Higgins, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development said Americans must “move beyond hand-wringing and negative assessments” of tough economic times to a renewed commitment to Catholic principles of subsidiarity and global solidarity. In a message for Labor Day, Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., praised Monsignor Higgins for his “extraordinary ability to measure the large economic issues by their impact on the average working man and woman.” Monsignor Higgins, who died in 2002, wrote the annual Labor Day statement on behalf of the U.S. bishops for many decades. “Monsignor would have been harsh in his judgment about the greed and irresponsibility that led to the mortgage foreclosure crisis,” Bishop Murphy wrote. “He would have had some caustic comments on the price of gas for the working person and its impact on family life.” But ultimately Monsignor Higgins would have reasserted “his faith in a nation and a people whose creative energies and productive capacities should and would move us to a healthier economic situation,” the bishop said.
Democrats Change Wording on Abortion Plank
A draft of the section on abortion in the Democratic Party platform that adds language about supporting alternatives such as adoption and reducing the number of unintended pregnancies was hailed as an important improvement by some and derided by others as “adding a good thing to an evil position.” In an Aug. 12 teleconference hosted by the evangelical organization Sojourners, Catholic and Protestant religious leaders called the changes to the platform “a real step forward” and “an excellent example of the possible,” which moves the party toward a position they said abortion opponents can support. They also said they still object to the party’s unequivocal endorsement of legal abortion and the platform section’s suggestion that anyone would ever “need” an abortion. But the platform committee’s consultation with abortion opponents and the effort to represent at least some of their views was described as “a historic and courageous step,” by the Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Orlando, Fla., and former president of the Christian Coalition. Others who did not participate in the teleconference or the drafting process, however, disagreed. They said while they appreciate the additions dealing with support for pregnant women and parents, the rewording actually made the section worse, because it eliminated phrasing from the 2004 version of the platform that said abortion should be “rare.”
U.S. Bishops Seek Clarity on Jewish Covenant
The U.S. bishops have voted to ask the Vatican to approve a small change in the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults to clarify church teaching on God’s covenant with the Jewish people. The proposed change—which would replace one sentence in the catechism—was discussed by the bishops in executive session at their June meeting in Orlando, Fla., but did not receive at that time the needed two-thirds majority of all members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. After mail balloting, the final vote of 231 to 14, with one abstention, was announced Aug. 5 in a letter to bishops from Msgr. David Malloy, U.S.C.C.B. general secretary. The change, which must be confirmed by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, would remove from the catechism a sentence that reads: “Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.” Replacing it would be this sentence: “To the Jewish people, whom God first chose to hear his word, ‘belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ’” (Rom 9:4-5; see Code of Canon Law, No. 839).
Chicago Pays $12.6 M to Sexual Abuse Survivors
The Archdiocese of Chicago has agreed to pay 16 victims of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy more than $12.6 million in a settlement announced Aug. 12. In addition to financial payments, the archdiocese agreed to make public additional information and files related to the cases, including a deposition of Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago. “My hope is that these settlements will help the survivors and their families begin to heal and move forward,” Cardinal George said in statement. “I apologize again today to the survivors and their families and to the whole Catholic community. We must continue to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of the children in our care.” Attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who partnered with lawyer Marc Pearlman of the Chicago law firm of Kerns, Frost & Pearlman in representing the victims, called the settlement “a giant step” toward accountability and transparency on the part of the church. The settlement covers 14 cases of abuse involving 10 priests between 1962 and 1994. The two others relate to the Rev. Daniel McCormack, who pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges related to the abuse of five children. He is serving a five-year prison sentence. The settlement followed two years of mediation between the archdiocese and attorneys for the victims.
Latin Patriarch’s Message for New U.S. President
If Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jeru-salem had a chance to send a message to the next U.S. president, he would urge him to follow his conscience. “I wish him to be a president, to be a free president, to move according to his faith and his conscience, according to justice,” the patriarch told Catholic News Service in a Washington interview in mid-August. However, he said, “we know that politics is politics. I will pray for him for sure.” Patriarch Twal, installed as head of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in June, said he knew how much responsibility he had as head of a church jurisdiction that includes Latin-rite Catholics in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Cyprus, so he could only imagine the responsibilities of being president of the United States. However, he said that amid it all “the new president...and any president must not forget his family.” The patriarch was in Washington to be honored at a luncheon sponsored by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, an organization founded to assist Arab Christians in the Holy Land.
Humanitarian Corridors Needed in Georgia
Pope Benedict XVI urged the international community to establish humanitarian corridors in Georgia so that the dead can be buried, the wounded can receive medical help and refugees can return home. The pope, speaking at a noontime blessing Aug. 17, said he was continuing to follow “with attention and worry” the events in Georgia, where a cease-fire agreement was reached the day before. The pope said the situation of the refugees, in particular women and children who lack basic necessities, requires a generous response by the international community. The pope said it was important that ethnic minorities in the region be protected and their fundamental rights respected. A Georgian attack on the breakaway province of South Ossetia Aug. 7 followed by a Russian invasion of Georgia left an unknown number of dead, including civilians, and prompted an estimated 60,000 people to flee their homes.
Pope Now Less Strict on Sacraments
Pope Benedict XVI said the church should be generous when it comes to administering the sacraments to young people, recognizing that Jesus would have done the same.
The pope spoke about the need to take a broad approach to the administration of sacraments, reflecting the merciful attitude shown by Christ. Federico Lombardi, S.J., the Vatican spokesman reported, “The pope said, ‘I used to be more strict about this, but the example of Christ led me to become more welcoming in cases in which, perhaps, there is not a mature and solid faith, but there is a glimmer, a desire of communion with the church.’” The pope made the remarks in a closed-door meeting Aug. 6 with about 400 priests and religious in the northern Italian city of Bressanone, where the 81-year-old pontiff was vacationing. Although reporters were not allowed inside the city’s cathedral for the one-hour encounter Father Lombardi described some of the give and take in an interview with Vatican Radio. One of six questions posed by priests touched on the pastoral care of children, Father Lombardi said.
Benedict Discusses Heaven on Feast
Heaven is not an abstract idea or an imaginary place, but heaven is God, Pope Benedict XVI said. Celebrating an early morning Mass Aug. 15, the pope said the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary “urges us to raise our gaze toward heaven, not a heaven of abstract ideas nor an imaginary heaven created in art, but the true reality of heaven which is God himself. God is heaven.” During the Mass in the small parish Church of St. Thomas, located on the main square in Castel Gandolfo, the pope said that while Mary’s assumption is “totally unique and extraordinary”; it also assures believers that their destiny, like hers, is to be with God forever. God is “our goal, he is the dwelling place from which we came and toward which we are called,” the pope told about 200 people who had crowded into the church, while hundreds of others watched on a large screen erected in the square.