The Archdiocese of Baltimore is suing the city of Baltimore to overturn a new law that requires the city’s pro-life pregnancy centers to post signs saying they do not provide abortion or birth control.
Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien announced the federal lawsuit March 29 at St. Brigid Church in Canton, site of a pro-life pregnancy center. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
The archbishop said the law “clearly” violates the constitutional rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion.
The law was passed late last year despite a strong campaign against it from archdiocesan leaders and other pro-life advocates. It imposes a $150 daily fine on pregnancy centers that fail to post signs.
The archbishop noted that it has become a model for similar efforts in jurisdictions across the country. “The ordinance applies only to pro-life pregnancy centers,” Catholic News Service reported Archbishop O’Brien as saying, “and thereby targets for speech regulation only one side of a contentious public debate.”
Archbishop O’’Brien said the ordinance “runs directly counter to Maryland’s conscience clause, which protects the rights of Maryland’s citizens to refuse to provide or refer for abortions.” The archbishop was joined in the lawsuit by St. Brigid Parish and the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, which operates the pregnancy center at the parish. It also operates another pregnancy center in the city and a third at St. Rita Church in Dundalk. A total of 1,000 women annually seek assistance at the three sites.
Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voiced concern for victims of clergy sexual abuse while offering praise for Pope Benedict XVI’s long-standing leadership in dealing with abuse cases.
In a Holy Week statement issued March 30, members of the Executive Committee of the USCCB said they are aware of the pope’s concern for abuse victims and “how he has strengthened the church’s response to victims.”
Committee members also acknowledged Pope Benedict’s support for efforts within the U.S. Catholic Church on behalf of victims as well as the steps taken to deal with perpetrators of abuse.
The letter was sent by Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, USCCB president; Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., vice president; Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, secretary; Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., treasurer; and Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., an elected member of the committee.
The committee said recent revelations of sexual abuse by clergy “saddens and angers the church and causes us shame.”
“If there is anywhere that children should be safe it should be in their homes and in the church,” the bishops said.
In recent weeks hundreds of new sex abuse allegations against priests and other church personnel have surfaced in Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland.
The Executive Committee members reiterated that bishops across the U.S. continue to “respond with compassion to victims (and) survivors.”
“We continue to intensify our efforts to provide safe environments for children in our parishes and schools. Further, we work with others in our communities to address the prevalence of sexual abuse in the larger society,” the bishops said.
“With the support of both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, we bishops have made a vigorous commitment to do everything in our power to prevent abuse from happening to children,” they said.
The bishops added that the U.S. church continues to screen church workers and volunteers who work with children and young people, provide child abuse awareness and prevention training, report suspected abuse to police and participate in an annual audit as a way to hold local dioceses accountable for their efforts in protecting children and young people.
In 2002 the U.S. bishops adopted their “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which mandates safe environment programs be set up in dioceses and parishes and requires an annual audit on how dioceses and religious orders are complying with provisions in the charter.
The bishops also recalled Pope Benedict’s private meeting with abuse victims during his 2008 visit to Washington and how the pontiff listened intently as victims recounted their experiences.
“As we accompany Christ in his passion and death during this Holy week, we stand with our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in prayer for the victims of sexual abuse, for the entire church and for the world,” the bishops concluded.
The Communications Department at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is undergoing a reorganization that will allow it “to tap the benefits of the rapidly changing media environment around us,” said a statement from Helen Osman, who heads the department as secretary.
The changes become effective May 1, according to a March 25 press release from the USCCB.
Under the plan, the department will get a new Office of Creative Services and an Office of Customer and Client Relations. In addition, a unit for project management will be created in the Office of the Secretary for Communications to oversee development of multimedia projects. Its staff will provide communication support for all USCCB projects.
The three new entities will provide services currently being handled by USCCB Publishing and Digital Media, both of which will no longer be stand-alone offices.
The Office of Customer and Client Relations will handle business and marketing for what has been Publishing and for Catholic News Service, the largest English-language religion news-gathering service in the world. CNS is an editorially independent and a financially self-sustaining division of the Communications Department.
The Office for Media Relations, which also is a division of the department, will increase in size and expand its outreach through social media.
The Communications Department also will add staff to oversee Spanish-language translations.
Staff for the new Office of Creative Services and Office of Customer and Client Relations will include current employees who already handle many of those services.
In another change, the department’s Office of Film & Broadcasting will cease to exist as a stand-alone office and its work be absorbed by CNS, which currently distributes its reviews.
Osman noted that the reorganization of the Communications Department came after a review of the media landscape of the Catholic Church in the United States, particularly with regard to the growing Hispanic population and the exploding use of social media.
For example, material produced by the creative services office will be made available not only in print but also in various digital formats, such as video, audio, text, Web, mobile devices and “other emerging technology,” Osman said.
“We are in a paradigm shift in how people receive information, as profound as when the printing press was invented,” she said. “It is important that the church not only provide its wisdom regarding the primary dignity of the human person in this information evolution, but also take advantage of the opportunities this new media ecology provides.”
Historical Vatican documents, including material regarding the role of the church during World War II, are now online and available for consultation on the official Vatican Web site. Thousands of official Vatican acts recorded between 1865 and 2007 have been scanned and uploaded to the Web site. But the documents likely to arouse the most curiosity are contained in the volumes of World War II-era documents compiled by four Jesuit scholars beginning in the 1960s. The volumes include material from the Vatican Secret Archives regarding wartime Pope Pius XII, accused by some historians and Jewish groups of not doing enough to save Jews from destruction by the Nazis. In 1965 Pope Paul VI ordered the scholars to search the archives for evidence to rebut claims about his predecessor’s allegedly negligent conduct during the war. The claims were made by Rolf Hochhuth, a German and author of a 1963 play called “The Deputy,” in which Pope Pius was depicted as a coward who did not stand up to Adolf Hitler. The scholars, led by U.S. Jesuit Father Robert Graham, gathered documents through 1981 that were published in 12 volumes under the title “Acts and Documents of the Holy See Relating to the Second World War.” These volumes were digitized recently with the help of the Pave the Way Foundation, whose president, Gary Krupp, seeks to redress what he says are serious misunderstandings about Pope Pius’ role during the war. Krupp says the documents show that the pope did much to help Jews, acting often quietly behind the scenes to avoid reprisals by the Nazis against Jews.
A new documentary film, a poll of how churchgoers feel about immigration, a massive rally in Washington and a series of White House and congressional meetings in the last few weeks are setting the stage for the next big effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. With health care now off the congressional agenda, advocates for comprehensive reform are hoping to get legislation through before this year’s elections. However, there are already mixed signals coming from White House and congressional leaders about whether that will be possible. They may be taking to heart the lessons of a new HBO documentary, “The Senators’Bargain,” a “this is how the sausage is made” look at the legislative maneuvering that went into the last attempt to pass a broad-based immigration bill. Comprehensive reform bills generally include a process for the estimated 12 million people already in the U.S. without permission to pay fines and back taxes and legalize their status; changes to make it easier for low-skilled workers to come for U.S. jobs and easier for immigrants to reunite their families without the current decades-long waits for visas; and enforcement programs that focus on smugglers and employers who exploit immigrant workers. A March 22 showing of the film by Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini about the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s decades-long quest for immigration reform may be illustrative of the challenges. The screening brought together many of Washington’s leaders of efforts over the years to get a bill through Congress. In the theater were Victoria Kennedy, the widow of the Democratic senator from Massachusetts; Esther Olavarria, his former immigration counsel; and dozens of others who have been star players in this recurring legislative drama, as well as those with perennial bit parts. Before the film, the mood in the room was cheery, as former colleagues renewed acquaintances since the last big legislative effort in 2008, the principal subject of “The Senators’ Bargain”
On Palm Sunday, March 28, the Lifetime Movie Network will premiere a made-for-television film about the Oct. 2, 2006 shootings of ten Amish schoolgirls in Nickel Mines, Penn.: “Amish Grace.” Five of the girls, aged 6-13, died at the hand of an “English” milkman, that is, non-Amish, known to all the children. Charles Carl Roberts, 32, took his own life as state troopers prepared to storm the school. Then, in the immediate aftermath of such tragedy, the Amish parents and community forgave Roberts, astounding the media and people around the world who watched the story unfold on their televisions.
The film respects the facts of the event, but takes some artistic license in order to explore the Amish belief in unconditional forgiveness as well as their practice of shunning, which seems to contradict the act of forgiving. When the Amish community extends forgiveness to Roberts and then visits his wife Amy (Tammy Blanchard) to console her and her children for their loss, Amy is astounded. But one Amish mother, Ida Graber (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), tells her husband, Gideon (Matt Letscher) that she cannot forgive the man who murdered her daughter, Mary Beth.
Ida accuses Gideon of making Mary Beth’s life and death cheap by his “easy forgiveness.” He replies by telling her that the Lord does not ask them to follow an easy path: “… faith when everything is the way you want it is not true faith. It is only when our lives fall apart that we have the chance to make our faith real….”
This fictionalized account of those events takes its name from the 2007 non-fiction book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, by three Amish scholars, Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher. Executive producer Larry A. Thompson said in an interview that even before he obtained rights for the book Kraybill had explained that the authors would not be able to consult on the film. This was due to their close relationship to and respect for the Amish community that lives “plain” and does not seek notoriety nor approve of film and photography.
Thompson, a television and film professional, is a life-long Catholic and member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Los Angeles. He explained that his reasons for making the film emerged from his reflection on the words of Jesus in the Our Father. “When I heard about what happened to these Amish children, I recalled that I have prayed these words all my life, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ I don’t think I really understood what they meant until I heard of this astonishing and powerful story of how the Amish people forgave. Their actions made me realize what God has really asked us to do as Christians. I talk the talk; these people walk the talk.”
Two documentaries made by Catholic filmmakers take the events at Nickel Mines as their point of departure to explore forgiveness. The Big Question: A Film about Forgiveness (2009), directed by Vince DiPersio, was produced by Paulist Productions and The Power of Forgiveness (2008) by Martin Doblmeier, Journey Films. Both films look at forgiveness from various religious, spiritual, and philosophical perspectives and are available from Amazon.com.
“Amish Grace” is a powerful television production that belies its simplicity. The performances are strong, unadorned, and credible. The filmmakers avoid explicit violence by suggesting it instead. They chose to make a movie about and with grace and they have succeeded. As I watched the film, I just let the story wash over me and I could not stop crying.
“Amish Grace” airs on Palm Sunday, March 28, at 7 p.m. on LMN. Check local listings for reruns during April and May.
“Students for Death Penalty Truth” will stage an intercollegiate protest against the death penalty on Friday, March 26. San Antonio-area students from UTSA, Incarnate Word, Trinity, St. Mary’s, and Our Lady of the Lake will all unite to be a voice for the 450 people who have been executed in Texas since 1982. The protest’s aim is to inform the public about the disparities seen with the death penalty and to promote repeal. Texas has executed over 450 people, accounting for over 40 percent of those executed in the United States. The protest will also raise awareness of such key issues as capital sentencing cost, deterrence and racial prejudice. Also, this protest will focus on the numerous cases, like that of Cameron Todd Willingham, that have shown compelling evidence that Texas has already executed innocent people.
At this event, each student will read the last statement of an executed Texas inmate from a microphone at Main Plaza. After reading the statement, the student will then solemnly proceed to lie down on the ground. Then the next student will read a last statement and lie down, and the next, etc. The protest should last about an hour.
Students from every university in San Antonio plan to participate in this event. A short press conference will take place 15 minutes before the formal program begins to discuss the protest’s purpose and intention.
The University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) will celebrate Incarnate Word Day on Thursday, March 25. Incarnate Word Day celebrates the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, God.
The annual Incarnate Word Day festivities will take place on the UIW campus beginning at 9 a.m. on March 25, with the Liturgy of the Hours celebrated in Our Lady’s Chapel. At 11 a.m. the UIW community is invited to enjoy lunch on Dubuis Lawn and at noon, the Cardinal Carnival Golf Cart Parade makes its way through the campus, ending at Dubuis Lawn.
The celebration will continue with a variety of events and activities and will end on Saturday, March 27 with The Encounter: 24-Hour Food Fast in Our Lady’s Chapel and Dubuis Hall. Event locations can be found on the UIW campus map.
Below is a schedule of events for March 25 and March 27:
Thursday, March 25:
- 9-9:30 a.m. — Liturgy of the Hours: Solemn Celebration of Lauds/Morning prayer in Our Lady’s Chapel
- 11 a.m. — 1 p.m. — Lunch on Dubuis Lawn
- Noon — Fourth annual Parade of Values: Golf Cart Parade on the walkway between the clock tower & Westgate Plaza.
- 1:30 p.m. — Alternative Fall Break & Alternative Spring Break: Living the Mission presentation in the library auditorium. Participants will share the experience of their Alternative Fall & Spring Breaks.
- 3 p.m. — Liturgy at Chapel of the Incarnate Word and presentation of CCVI Awards
- 4 p.m. — Reception for CCVI Spirit Award honorees and friends at the Brackenridge Villa
- 4 – 8 p.m. — Cardinal Carnival, sponsored by Campus Activities Board, on the west side of the river by the Natatorium
- 7 p.m. — Roundtable discussion entitled “Through the Eyes of a Refugee” in Marian Hall Ballroom. Listen to stories from refugees who have recently come to the United States for a better life, with a Q&A session afterward.
Saturday, March 27
- 11:30 a.m. Saturday — 11:30 a.m. Sunday — The Encounter: 24-Hour Food Fast in Our Lady’s Chapel and Dubuis Hall. Join UIW students in fasting together for 24 hours to learn why hunger and poverty persist and live your faith in solidarity with the poor. Participate in activities such as global footprint, praise and worship, reconciliation service, adoration and more. Sponsored by the Student Retreat Team of University Mission & Ministry.
Chiara Badano, an Italian who died of bone cancer just before her 19th birthday, will be beatified Sept. 25 at a shrine outside of Rome, said the bishop of the diocese where she lived.
The beatification ceremony will be held at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love and will be presided over by Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said Bishop Pier Giorgio Micchiardi of Acqui, according to a Catholic News Service report.
A member of the Focolare Movement, Badano corresponded for years with Chiara Lubich, founder of the movement.
Born Oct. 29, 1971, in northern Italy, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone malignancy, when she was 17. According to her biography, the diagnosis came after many painful examinations and operations. When she was given the news, she vowed to accept it as God’s will.
“If you want it, Jesus, so do I,” she was reported to have said during a painful therapy session, adding that “embraced pain makes one free.”
She also reportedly declined to take the morphine doctors offered because, she said, “I want to share as much as possible the pain of Jesus on the cross.”
“I feel that God is asking me for something more, something greater,” she said, according to her official biography. “I could be confined to this bed for years, I don’t know. I’m only interested in God’s will, doing that well in the present moment: playing God’s game,” she said.
Badano, who was nicknamed “Luce” or “Light,” died Oct. 7, 1990, and her funeral was attended by hundreds of young members of the Focolare Movement from throughout northern Italy. Devotion to her has spread, so the rather isolated Diocese of Acqui asked that her beatification ceremony be celebrated in Rome to make it easier for more young people to attend, said Mariagrazia Magrini, the vice-postulator of her cause.
Pope Benedict XVI has decided the collection taken up at his Holy Thursday evening Mass will be used to help rebuild Haiti’s major seminary in Port-au-Prince. The seminary was reduced to rubble by the magnitude 7 quake that struck Jan. 12.
Each year the pope chooses where to send the collection taken up during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome.
Pope Benedict’s decision to use the collection from the Mass April 1 to support the rebuilding effort of the Catholic Church in Haiti was announced by the Vatican March 22.
Jim Cavnar, president of Cross International Catholic Outreach, which has been supporting church programs in Haiti for years and is responding to the post-quake needs of Haiti, was meeting with Vatican officials when the announcement was made.
“The Haitians have always been very religious, even though they are very poor, and their faith has remained remarkably strong in the face of such tragedy,” Cavnar said after meeting with Cardinal Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, according to a Catholic News Service report.
Cavnar, who visited Haiti in February, said, “The church in Haiti was hit very hard” by the earthquake, which killed dozens of church workers and severely damaged churches, schools, hospitals and seminaries. Still, he said, even the day after the quake, walking through the streets of the city, one would come across groups of people praying and singing hymns.
Cor Unum coordinates and encourages Catholic charitable giving, but it also is responsible for distributing funds in the name of the pope and for identifying Catholic projects that need special help. Since 2004, Cross International has been distributing about $500,000 a year to projects identified by Cor Unum.
In announcing the pope’s decision to use the Holy Thursday collection for Haiti, the Vatican also published the pope’s Holy Week schedule.
Each year the pope asks a different person to write the meditations read during his Good Friday celebration of the Way of the Cross in Rome’s Colosseum.
According to Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican press office, the meditations for the April 2 service were written by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, former president of the Italian bishops’ conference and former vicar of Rome.
The Vatican also confirmed the pope would celebrate the usual slate of Holy Week and Easter liturgies: Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square March 28; the chrism Mass in the morning April 1 in St. Peter’s Basilica; the Mass of the Lord’s Supper that evening; on Good Friday, April 2, the afternoon liturgy of the Lord’s Passion in St. Peter’s Basilica, followed by the nighttime Way of the Cross; the Easter Vigil April 3 in St. Peter’s Basilica; and Easter morning Mass April 4 in St. Peter’s Square.