JustFaith Ministries, the Louisville, Ky.-based social ministry program, has entered into partnerships with Pax Christi USA and Bread for the World. The partnerships were announced in late May.
Details of the partnership with Pax Christi, the U.S. arm of the international Catholic peace movement, will be announced July 16 in Chicago at the National Catholic Conference on Peacemaking.
The partnership, according to a Pax Christi announcement May 27, will focus on “promoting and practicing the social mission of the church among Catholics throughout the United States.”
“JustFaith is one of the most incredible engines for educating people in the pew on Catholic social teaching and the Gospel values from which that teaching springs,” Pax Christi USA executive director Dave Robinson said in a statement reported by Catholic News Service. “We look forward to how our two organizations together can reach Catholics who are hungering for the Gospel vision of a more peaceful, more just and more sustainable world.”
The partnership between JustFaith and Bread for the World, the Christian citizens’ anti-hunger lobby, was announced May 26. The intent of the partnership is to strengthen both groups’capacity to mobilize Christians to end hunger.
It is an expansion of a partnership started three years ago, when Bread for the World partnered with JustFaith to produce an ecumenical version of the JustFaith curriculum.
The original curriculum was developed primarily for Catholics and was based on Catholic social teaching. The partnership has been expanded to include both the Catholic and ecumenical versions. Both curricula include readings, films, prayers and retreats. Now, the Catholic version will include readings and materials from Bread for the World and a session in which participants do an “Offering of Letters,” Bread for the World’s annual Lenten letter-writing campaign.
JustFaith offers educational programs all over the country for small groups of Christians who want to deepen their commitment, both individually and within their churches, to people in need. About 20,000 Christians, mostly Catholics, have completed JustFaith’s 30-week curriculum.
“This partnership can only build more advocates,” said a statement from Pat Plant, a Bread for the World member and JustFaith board member. “The lessons ask: ‘Why would a Christian advocate on behalf of hungry people?’ We read books and watch films that help us learn more about U.S. and global hunger. This can help church people get beyond knowing, reading and talking — to doing.”
Media and some Catholics have criticized a Polish bishops’ family council statement that seemed to equate in vitro fertilization with abortion.
The bishops issued their statement amid controversy over government plans for a new bioethics law that would allow in vitro treatment to be funded from the state health budget.
“The church always defends the weakest, especially the totally defenseless, who include conceived children,” the family council said in a statement.
“Those who kill them, and those who actively participate in this killing or make laws against conceived life — including the life of a child in embryonic state, which is largely destroyed by in vitro procedure — stand in open conflict with the Catholic Church’s teaching. They cannot receive holy Communion until they change their attitude,” the statement said.
In an article May 24, Poland’s Rzeczpospolita daily said Catholic canon law made no reference to in vitro fertilization and did not “recognize an analogy” between abortion and the in vitro-related destruction of excess embryos.
The chairman of Poland’s Helsinki Human Rights Foundation, Halina Bortnowska, told the Gazeta Wyborcza daily May 23, “IVF does not have to lead to the liquidation of embryos, which people value and often have a very emotional attitude to.
“I don’t think you can exclude someone from the sacrament because of their view about something which isn’t dogmatic in character,” Bortnowska said.
A member of the bishops’ bioethics team, Father Franciszek Longchamps de Berrier, told the Polish church’s Catholic information agency May 22 no bishops’ council “had a right to issue doctrinal declarations,” adding that the family council statement should be treated “solely as the view of its members.”
“The Code of Canon Law asserts that those who kill conceived life or participate in its killing exclude themselves from the church community, as does a person who allows such acts,” the adviser said.
“But this is a question of attitudes and the actions of particular people, and above all a matter between these people and their confessors. A confessor can set conditions of penance but cannot declare them publicly,” he added.
With no sign that globalization and migration will slow down, the future of most societies clearly depends on effectively welcoming and integrating migrants and refugees, Pope Benedict XVI said.
“The future of our societies rests on the encounter between peoples (and) on dialogue between cultures with respect for identities and legitimate differences,” the pope said May 28 during a meeting with participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.
The assembly focused on the shared responsibilities nations and international organizations have toward travelers, migrants and refugees.
Pope Benedict praised the efforts of organizations and international bodies to build a world marked by peace, fraternity and cooperation while simultaneously striving “to resolve the crucial questions of security and development to the benefit of all.”
But some parts of the world have been avoiding “the assumption of responsibilities that should be shared” when it comes to migration policies and assisting refugees, he said.
“The desire of many people to knock down walls that divide and to establish broad-based agreements promoting integration has still not been fulfilled,” he said.
Some of the ways states and organizations can promote social stability and harmony, he said, are by creating policies or plans that help welcome and integrate foreigners, give them “opportunities to obtain legal status, promoting the fair rights to family reunification, asylum and refugee status, compensating for necessary restrictive measures and opposing the appalling trafficking of human beings.”
The pope said migration policies that recognize the key importance of the family and its stability are an essential part of respecting the rights of migrants and promoting their integration in a new country.
The executive committee of the Catholic Health Association met with officials of several top Vatican agencies for talks that focused in part on the association’s support for health reform legislation that the U.S. bishops opposed.
Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is CHA president and chief executive, told Catholic News Service May 26 that the meetings at the Vatican were “useful and positive,” and that the group was well-received. She would not comment on particular issues raised in the talks.
“We were very cordially received and had a wonderful exchange of ideas,” she said.
Vatican sources also refused comment on particulars raised in the various meetings, but they said Vatican officials had clearly spelled out their views.
The group met with officials of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry and the Secretariat of State, among others.
This spring, Sister Carol and the CHA expressed public support for the final version of U.S. health care reform legislation, passed by Congress in March, after Sister Carol said she was convinced it would not fund abortions. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposed the measure, saying its provisions on abortion funding and conscience protections were morally unacceptable.
While the Vatican generally avoided public pronouncements during the U.S. health care debate, Vatican officials were known to have been perplexed at the CHA’s unwillingness to follow the bishops’ position on the issue.
Sister Carol said the CHA executive committee’s meetings at the Vatican were routine, done every two years. “We were not sent for,” she said.
She said that over the years, the meetings have offered a useful exchange of perspectives.
“We have worked to understand the universal church, particularly as it’s governed by the Vatican, and also to make sure they understood the very different health care scene in the United States. And my sense is there’s a great appreciation for the extensiveness and the mission of Catholic health care in the United States,” she said.
CHA is a professional association of administrators and sponsors at the 620 Catholic hospitals and hundreds of other health care facilities in the United States. Its executive committee is made up of senior leaders and board members of the organization, and is headed by M. Colleen Scanlon, a registered nurse and lawyer who is senior vice president for advocacy at Catholic Health Initiatives in Denver.
Catholic leaders have called for prayers as tensions in the Korean peninsula escalate, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.
South Korea’s president raised the stakes in the standoff by slashing trade to communist North Korea in retaliation for a torpedo attack by the North that killed 46 South Korean sailors. North Korea accused the South of a smear campaign and said May 25 that it would sever all ties with the South.
“With Christian faith, we view this as another ordeal on the way toward national reconciliation and we must keep hope. We need to pray for peace and reconciliation,” said Fabiano Choi Hong-jun, chairman of the Catholic Lay Apostolate Council of Korea.
He said the tensions have thrown cold water on efforts for national reconciliation.
The sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan March 26 in the Yellow Sea was the country’s worst military loss since the 1950-53 Korean War. An international team of investigators determined a torpedo from a North Korean submarine sank the ship.
Father Raphael Seo Jong-yeob described South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s decision to enact economic reprisals against the North as “regretful,” observing that the bishops’ Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People had planned much aid to North Korea, but had to cancel it. He welcomed the president’s decision to exclude North Korean children from the aid embargo.
South Korea has been the North’s second-largest trading partner, after China.
Father Seo said North and South Korea “must continue to talk about peace and reconciliation” and that is why “prayers are needed earnestly.”
The Archdiocese of Mexico City has threatened a boycott of the 2010 census, saying the part pertaining to religious affiliation could create confusion and lead to Catholics not being counted properly.
A May 23 editorial in the archdiocesan publication Desde la Fe objected to the census incorrectly referring to the church as the Apostolic Reformed Roman Catholic Church, instead of the Apostolic Roman Catholic Church in Mexico — the name registered with the Interior Ministry.
The mistake, the editorial alleged, jeopardized the outcome of the entire survey and was unlikely made by chance. The census begins May 31.
Using language from the census, the archdiocese conducted a survey at its offices and parishes in the capital and found no more than 30 percent of respondents answered accurately when asked about the religious faith they practice.
“These results … are the consequence of a deplorable methodology that leaves clear the participation of Catholic Church enemies in the planning of the surveys,” the editorial said.
“People’s beliefs are only one of the items … the 2010 census tries to show, but if one classification of religions is subjected to dark interests, what can we expect of the other items, concerning the development of the country?” it asked.
Various dioceses have encouraged the faithful to simply tell enumerators: I’m Catholic.
Census data from the National Statistics and Geography Institute show the percentage of Mexicans declaring themselves Catholic has been in a gradual decline, dropping from 96.2 percent in 1970 to 88 percent in 2000 — but dropping especially quickly in southern Mexico. In the state of Chiapas, for example, the number of people declaring themselves Catholic in 2000 was just 63.8 percent.
The successful development of a synthetic cell can have many practical applications, but the technology must be regulated, said the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.
A team of geneticists in the United States announced May 20 that it had created a living artificial cell.
After mapping on a computer the complete DNA code of a bacterium, the team led by J. Craig Venter, inserted the synthesized DNA into a bacteria cell, which was then able to replicate and be controlled by the synthetic genome.
Synthetic cells could be used to convert carbon dioxide into fuel or to create new vaccines for treating diseases, Venter told CNN May 22.
The Vatican newspaper emphasized that scientists had not created life, but had “substituted one of its engines.”
Venter’s creation has produced “an interesting result,” which could have many applications, but the new technology “must have rules just like everything that lies at the heart of life,” it said in an article May 23, and reported by Catholic News Service.
“Genetic engineering can be used for good,” particularly in treating genetic diseases, it said, however, caution must be exercised as “many people in fact are concerned about the possible future developments of genetically modified organisms.”
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Italian television May 21 that as long as synthetic cells were used “toward the good, to treat pathologies, we can only be positive” about their development.
However, if they are used in ways that offend human dignity, “then our judgment would change,” he said.
“We look at science with great interest. But we think above all about the meaning that must be given to life,” the archbishop said. “We can only reach the conclusion that we need God, the origin of life,” he added.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, told Italian news agencies that the development of the first synthetic cell was a “further sign of human intelligence, which is a great gift of God.”
However, with intelligence comes responsibility, he said. Therefore, any intellectual or scientific advancement “must always measure up to an ethical standard.”
Bishop Domenico Mogavero of Mazara del Vallo, chairman of the Italian bishops’ legal affairs committee, said that the new form of life “is a potential time bomb, a dangerous double-edged sword for which it is impossible to imagine the consequences.”
Human beings must never pretend to be God by artificially creating life, because life can only come from God, Bishop Mogavero told the Italian newspaper La Stampa.
“Pretending to be God and parroting his power of creation is an enormous risk that can plunge men into barbarity,” he said.
The Brazilian bishops’ Pastoral Land Commission condemned the release of rancher Regivaldo Galvao pending an appeal of his 30-year sentence for his involvement in the 2005 assassination of U.S.-born Sister Dorothy Stang.
The commission, known by its Portuguese acronym as the CPT, said Galvao’s May 19 release on his own recognizance “strengthens impunity, which in turn generates increasing violence.”
“Those who have financial resources are always able to benefit from the law, while the poor remain years in jail awaiting trial,” the CPT statement said, according to a Catholic News Service report.
A commission report said that, in the past 25 years, more than 1,540 peasants and their allies have been assassinated. In all of these cases, only 88 people went to trial, including 20 accused of ordering the killings. Of these 20, only 2 have been found guilty and sent to jail: Galvao, who was released, and Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, the other rancher accused of plotting Sister Dorothy’s assassination.
Sister Dorothy, 73, was a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and a naturalized Brazilian citizen. She was known for her fight against large landowners in the Amazon region.
A Catholic nurse is suing New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital and some members of its medical staff, charging that her conscience rights were violated when she was compelled to help with a late-term abortion last year.
A lawsuit filed April 29 on behalf of Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo alleges that the nurse’s conscience rights under state law were violated by her forced participation in a late-term, non-emergency abortion in May 2009, despite the fact that Cenzon-DeCarlo had notified the hospital of her religious objections to abortion before she was hired in 2004.
Another lawsuit charging a violation of Cenzon-DeCarlo’s conscience rights under federal law was filed last year.
Although focused on one nurse and one abortion, the suits have wider implications for implementation of the new health reform law — which the U.S. Catholic bishops contend does
It also could affect a pending decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on whether to rescind conscience protection regulations put in place during the final days of the administration of President George W. Bush. President Barack Obama has indicated he supports rescinding the regulations, and HHS has asked for comments but has not formally taken action.
Cenzon-DeCarlo is being represented in the case by attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based Christian legal alliance dedicated to defending religious liberty, sanctity of life, marriage and the family.
“Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to assist in abortions against their beliefs,” said Matt Bowman, the defense fund’s legal counsel, in a report from Catholic News Service. “It is illegal, unethical and a violation of Cathy’s rights of conscience as a devout Catholic to require her to participate in terminating the life of a 22-week preborn child. It was not only wrong, it was needless.”
Cenzon-DeCarlo, whose uncle is a Catholic bishop in her native Philippines, said her participation in the abortion was required by several of her superiors on the medical staff despite the fact that the case had not been deemed an emergency under hospital procedures and that there were other nurses available to assist who did not object to abortions.
The nurse “has suffered emotional and psychological trauma from being forced to assist in the abortion” and has been subject to financial losses because she is no longer scheduled for as many on-call assignments that supplement her income as she was before the abortion, the lawsuits allege.
In a letter last year, attorneys representing Mount Sinai Hospital urged U.S. District Chief Judge Raymond J. Dearie of Brooklyn, N.Y., to dismiss the lawsuit because the Church amendment — named for Sen. Frank Church and prohibiting entities receiving federal funds from discriminating against health care personnel who refuse to participate in sterilization or abortion procedures because of their religious beliefs or moral convictions – “does not grant individual litigants a private right of action”.
In a brief responding to that claim, attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund said a federal court in 2008 “not only recognized an individual right, but allowed the plaintiff (in that case an abortion supporter) to seek punitive damages.”
“Mount Sinai’s actions are a quintessential example of discriminating in employment and privileges on condition that Mrs. DeCarlo violate her objection to abortion,” the brief said.
A bipartisan bill before the House of Representatives would bring the new health reform law “into line with policies on abortion and conscience rights that have long prevailed in other federal health programs,” said the head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
In a May 20 letter to House members, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston urged passage of H.R. 5111, legislation proposed by Reps. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., and Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., and co-sponsored by 91 other House members.
“Efforts to ensure that our health care system serves the life, health and conscience of all will be a legislative goal of the Catholic bishops in the months to come,” Cardinal DiNardo said in a Catholic News Service report, adding that the Pitts-Lipinski proposal makes “a significant contribution to this important task.”
The cardinal warned, however, that if “these genuine problems are not addressed in their own right, they will be taken up and used as ammunition by those who favor repealing (the health reform law) outright, which would eliminate the positive as well as negative aspects of the new law.”