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Ahead of ballot, Australian bishops reaffirm Church can’t support gay marriage

September 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 2

Canberra, Australia, Sep 1, 2017 / 02:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As a non-binding poll on same-sex marriage in Australia looms, some leading Catholic bishops have again clarified Catholic teaching that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

“I wish to state quite clearly that the Catholic Church, through its official teaching, cannot support proposals for the changing of the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples,” Archbishop Tim Costelloe of Perth wrote an Aug. 17 pastoral letter.

He explained that this position is based on Catholic conviction that marriage is a beautiful union of a man and a woman for life, and the best way to raise children. These convictions rest on the belief that God’s “creative design is written into the nature of creation itself and especially into the nature of humanity.”

“This view presumes that marriage is about more than the mutual love between two people: it is also about the creation of a family,” the archbishop said, while also rejecting unjust discrimination against same-sex couples.

Australia is about to conduct a ballot survey by mail on whether to recognize gay marriage. Ballots will go out Sept. 12, with voters encouraged to return their ballots by Oct. 27. The final deadline for ballots is Nov. 7.

The poll is not legally binding, but if the results show support for legalizing gay marriage, a bill to do so would be introduced in parliament, where members of parliament would not be bound to vote with the public.

In mid-August, Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney told The Australian newspaper that the redefinition of marriage would imperil the free exercise of religion.

“In other parts of the world that have legalized same-sex marriage, those who believe in traditional marriage have been harassed or coerced into complying with the new view of marriage,” he said. “It would be extremely naive to think that won’t happen here.”

Archbishop Fisher said the only explicit religious protections he had seen applied to ministers of religion and civil celebrants.

“What protections will be offered to people who work for church-run institutions such as schools, hospitals and universities?” he said. “Will teachers be free to teach church teaching on marriage or will they be forced to teach a more politically correct curriculum?”

The archbishop asked political leaders to explain whether schoolchildren would be subject to “propaganda in favor of same-sex marriage and gender fluidity” as part of anti-bullying programs, and whether parents and church schools could exempt the children under their charge.

“Will employers of such church agencies be free to choose staff in sympathy with their church’s teachings?” he asked, also wondering whether Catholic welfare agencies would be required to provide marriage preparation or counselling for same-sex couples or face anti-discrimination penalties.

For his part, Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne became the subject of media coverage for commenting that Catholic Church employees who contract a same-sex union risk being fired for publicly contradicting Catholic teaching.

Amid the debate, several leaders at prestigious Australian boarding schools have weighed in with statements that appeared to challenge the bishops and Catholic teaching.

Principal Paul Hine of the prestigious Sydney-area St. Ignatius’ College appeared most defiant of the bishops. In an Aug. 25 message to parents, staff and students, he said Archbishop Hart’s comments “have not gone unchallenged.”

Hine portrayed his stand as supportive of all the school’s self-identified LGBTQI employees. People with same-sex orientation “face the onslaught of the press, religious institutions and the social divisions that surround this contentious matter,” he said, adding, “we will continue to support staff in whatever marriage choices they make.”

“This is a courageous statement as it not only questions Church officialdom, but, it goes to the heartland of gospel teaching,” Hine claimed, adding, “One of the features of Jesuit spirituality is its readiness to challenge prevailing culture by supporting those who may be adversely affected by the vortex of public opinion and disparagement.”

The school’s rector, Father Ross Jones, S.J., also criticized Archbishop Hart. The priest asserted that contracting a same-sex marriage was a private matter and would not publicly contradict Saint Ignatius College’s Catholic values.

While Fr. Jones seemed to back Archbishop Fisher’s concerns for religious freedom, he appeared to question Archbishop Costelloe’s pastoral letter, saying there is more than one approach to natural law. He outlined an argument which a married couple might use “in good conscience” to reject Catholic teaching on contraception.

“Presumably, same sex-couples, who make such a commitment to each other in good conscience, do so by reflecting on experience and on what it is to be human, using their God-given reason,” said the priest.

Saint Ignatius’ College alumni include Archbishop Fisher, as well as former Prime Minister Tony Abbot and current deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce. Both oppose the legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages.

In Melbourne the rector of Xavier College, Father Chris Middleton, S.J., voiced concerns that opposition to same-sex marriage was being virtually equated with “hate speech,” as well as concerns about offensive posters against gay marriage that were being posted in Melbourne.

“The ‘yes’ campaign, in my reading of the polls, can only lose if a perception of suppressing alternative voices alienates many in the middle, and the ‘no’ campaign can risk all credibility for its proponents in Australian society if they are identified with prejudiced or hateful language,” he said.

Fr. Middleton said the debate over marriage “exposes a real disconnect between the Church’s public opposition to same-sex civil marriage and the attitudes of young people,” given “almost total unanimity amongst the young in favor of same-sex marriage.” He said young people are “driven by a strong emotional commitment to equality, and this is surely something to respect and admire.”

“They are idealistic in the value they ascribe to love, the primary gospel value. Any argument against same-sex-marriage must respectfully address these core values, or they will fail a basic test of credibility with our young.”

Michael Cook, writing of the Australian religious commentary site MercatorNet, reflected on these leaders’ remarks.

“For many Catholics, there must be a deep sadness in this admission of failure of schools to pass on Catholic values to the next generation,” Cook said Aug. 31.

He characterized Fr. Jones’ comments as “muddled and meandering”, and suggested both rectors’ statements reflected a defeatist attitude out-of-step with Pope Francis’ hopefulness.

Cook cited the Pope’s 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, which said defeatism is both among “the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal” and something which “turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses’.”

“Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand,” the Pope said.

Cook added:

“Christians have the secret of happiness and the key to truth – Jesus Christ. It is undeniable that the many young people have succumbed to a tidal wave of secularization. But – so Catholics believe – the attractiveness of the Gospel message cannot fade. There should be no room for pessimism in advertising the beauty of the Christian vision of marriage.”


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In deadly CAR conflict, Catholic seminary shelters 2,000 Muslims

September 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Bangui, Central African Republic, Sep 1, 2017 / 02:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Thousands of Muslim refugees have fled deadly militias in the Central African Republic thanks to Bangassou’s Bishop Juan José Aguirre Munoz.

“They would risk death if they venture out,” the Spanish-born Bishop Munoz told the BBC program Newsday. “For us, there’s no such thing as a Muslim person or a Christian person, everyone is a human being. We need to protect those who are vulnerable.”

The approximately 2,000 refugees sought help at the Catholic seminary in the southeastern city of Bangassou after the most recent outbreak of fighting in May.

In 2013, the largely Muslim Seleka rebels seized power and were accused of killing non-Muslim civilians. Since then, the Central African Republic has suffered sectarian violence. Self-defense groups called anti-Balaka formed, composed mainly of Christians. Those groups too have been accused of atrocities.

The refugees at the Bangassou seminary say they fear what is outside.

“Nearby, there are anti-Balaka militias who prevent them from going out to search for food, water or firewood,” said Bishop Munoz. “So they are completely confined inside the seminary.”

Both anti-Balaka and Seleka militias have attacked the Church’s properties, but the bishop says the Church is determined to protect the vulnerable on all sides.

Stephen O’Brien, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, warned that severe violence is possible.

“The early warning signs of genocide are there. We must act now,” O’Brien said. “Violence is intensifying, risking a repeat of the devastating destructive crisis that gripped the country four years ago.”

Some of the refugees at the seminary have been shot at, including a 10-year-old boy. He said one of his brothers was shot in the heart and another was shot in his chest.

Ernest Lualuali Ibongu, a doctor with Doctors without Borders, told the BBC that many refugees need medical care but cannot leave the seminary compound to go to the hospital.

According to Bishop Munoz, that appeals to the militia to allow aid workers into the seminary were not successful.
“The anti-Balaka are armed and very violent and capable of killing children,” he said, adding that it is “very difficult” to reason with them.

Since the conflict began, thousands of people have been killed and at least a million people have been displaced. At least half of Central Africans depend on humanitarian aid, the U.N. reports.

A tentative peace deal was signed in June. The government and 13 of 14 armed groups agreed to end fighting in return for political representation and integration of the militias into the military. Pope Francis visited the country in 2015.


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England mourns death of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor

September 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 2

London, England, Sep 1, 2017 / 10:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who served as Archbishop of Westminster for nine years, from 2000-2009, died Friday at the age of 85 after a brief hospitalization. He was well known for his efforts to promote unity between Catholics and Anglicans.

“I am writing to let you know the sad news that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor died peacefully this afternoon, surrounded by his family and friends,” Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster wrote to his archdiocese Sept. 1.

“Please pray for the repose of his soul. Pray, too, for his family, and those many friends and colleagues from the Diocese and far beyond who mourn his loss.”

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor was admitted to hospital last month. After his admission, he had written to Cardinal Nichols, his successor at Westminster, asking him to share the news of his illness so that the clergy of England and Wales might pray for him.

“As you will know so clearly, for Cardinal Cormac these loving prayers are a source of great strength and comfort as he calmly ponders on all that lies ahead, all in God’s good time,” Cardinal Nichols wrote Aug. 19.

In a letter to Cardinal Nichols published the day of his death, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor had written: “At this time, the words I pray every night are never far from my thoughts: ‘Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit’ … I have received many blessings in my life, especially from my family and friends. I thank God for the many priests, religious and lay faithful who have helped and sustained me in my Episcopal life.”

“Above all, as I now commend myself to the loving mercy of God, I ask them all to pray for me as I remember and pray for them,” the cardinal had written.

Born in Reading Aug. 24, 1932 to an Irish family, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor studied at the Venerable English College and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome starting in 1950, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Portsmouth Oct. 28, 1956.

After 15 years as a parish priest, he was appointed rector of the Venerable English College at the end of 1971. As rector, he was also the host to Donald Coggan, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, who visited Bl. Paul VI in Rome in 1977. It was only the third time that an Archbishop of Canterbury and a Pope had met in Rome since the Church of England split from the Holy See.

In November 1977 Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor was appointed Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, where he served until he was transferred to the Archdiocese of Westminster in 2000. He was made a cardinal by St. John Paul II the following year.

While head of the Westminster archdiocese, he also served as president of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference, and was a member of several Vatican dicasteries.

His retirement as archbishop, at the age of 76, was accepted by Benedict XVI in April 2009.

Although unusual for a retired bishop, he was appointed a member of the Congregation of Bishops and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in October 2009. He served in these congregations until his 80th birthday.

While Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, he served for 18 years as Co-Chairman of the Anglican and Roman Catholic International Commission. He was also chairman of the English and Welsh bishops’ Committee for Christian Unity from 1983 and chairman of the Department for Mission and Unity from 1994.

In recognition of his work for Christian unity throughout his episcopate, the cardinal was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity by George Carey, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, in 2000.

He was criticized when it was discovered that as Bishop of Arundel and Brighton he had failed to report a priest, Fr. Michael Hill, who was convicted for child sexual abuse in 1997. After this incident, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor invited the judge Lord Nolan in 2000 to investigate the issue of pedophile priests and child protection in the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

The Nolan Report was published in 2001. As a result of the report, the Church in England and Wales formed the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults to centrally manage applications through the Criminal Records Bureau ensuring thorough background checks of anyone working with children or vulnerable adults.

In 2002, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor launched a spiritual renewal program in Westminster which during its three years brought together 20,000 people in regular weekly faith groups throughout the diocese.

It was also in 2002 that he became the first member of the Catholic hierarchy to deliver a sermon to an English monarch since 1680. At the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II, he gave a homily for members of the royal family during the Anglican morning service at Sandringham, the queen’s country residence in Norfolk.

Justin Welby, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, said Friday that Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s death “represents a loss to his innumerable friends, to the church and to the country … his humility, sense and holiness made him a church leader of immense impact.”

“His words and his life drew people to God. His genial warmth, pastoral concern and genuine love for those in his care will be missed, but also celebrated with thanks. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Funeral arrangements for the cardinal have yet to be announced.



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Pope, Patriarch: Care for creation includes respect for people

September 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2017 / 09:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew sent a joint message for the World Day of Care for Creation, which says that we have lost sight of our responsibility for God’s creation, including our fellow human beings.

“The human environment and the natural environment are deteriorating together, and this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people,” stated the message, published by the Vatican on Sept. 1.

“The impact of climate change affects, first and foremost, those who live in poverty in every corner of the globe. Our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly implies the recognition of and respect for all people and all living creatures.”

“The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work towards sustainable and integral development,” it continued.

Instituted by Pope Francis in 2015 shortly after the release of his environmental encyclical “Laudato Si,” the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation takes place each year on September 1.

Francis’ decision to implement the event is in keeping with themes expressed in the encyclical, and is also seen as a sign of unity with the Orthodox Church, which established September 1 as a day to celebrate creation in 1989.

This year marks the first time that Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, have issued a statement together for this particular day of prayer.

In the message, the two leaders explain that creation, as told throughout Scripture but especially the Book of Genesis, reveals that from the beginning “God intended humanity to cooperate in the preservation and protection of the natural environment.”

The earth was entrusted to us as a “sublime gift and legacy,” which gives us all a shared responsibility in its care, it continues. This is important because “our human dignity and welfare are deeply connected to our care for the whole of creation.”

However, the message continued, our attitude and behavior towards creation has over time obscured our calling as God’s “co-operators.” As morals decline, we have lost sight of the original purpose of creation, alienated by our tendency to destroy delicate ecosystems and our “greed for limitless profits in markets.”

We have also been controlled by an “insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources.” Instead of regarding nature and creation as a gift shared among everyone, we think we can rule over it like a private possession.

In the message the two leaders, “united by the same concern for God’s creation and acknowledging the earth as a shared good,” urged all people to dedicate a special time for prayer for the environment on Sept. 1.

“On this occasion, we wish to offer thanks to the loving Creator for the noble gift of creation and to pledge commitment to its care and preservation for the sake of future generations,” they wrote, explaining that prayer should be at the center of the celebration, since without the Lord any work is in vain.

One thing we should all pray for is a change in our perception of the world and the way we interact with it, they continued, stating that the goal of the promise to care for creation “is to be courageous in embracing greater simplicity and solidarity in our lives.”

They also appealed to those in positions of responsibility, especially in areas touching the social, economic, political and cultural, that they might listen to the “plea of millions” in need and “support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation.”

“We are convinced,” the message concluded, “that there can be no sincere and enduring resolution to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service.”


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Holy brainteasers? Catholic puzzle book hopes to point readers to God

September 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 2

South Bend, Ind., Sep 1, 2017 / 03:19 am (CNA).- With hopes of leading Catholics to a deeper search for Christ, a new puzzle book from Ave Maria Press challenges readers to expand their interaction with God’s mysteries.

“I open the book with a quote from Proverbs 25:2, ‘It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out’,” said Matt Swaim, author of Catholic Puzzles, Word Games, and Brainteasers: Volume 1.

“Properly understood, the idea of God as a mystery shouldn’t cause us to throw up our hands and stop searching him out; it should draw us to engage with him and get a window into his magnificence,” he told CNA.

Catholic Puzzles, which will go on sale Sept. 22, contains interactive word problems such as anagrams, code scrambles and crypto quizzes. The puzzles empower readers to learn more about saints, the mysteries of the rosary, Holy Scripture, and Church doctrine.

Swaim started developing fun interactive puzzles to aid his 8th grade CCD students with understanding Church teachings. After connecting with Ave Maria Press, a suggestion was made to put together a similar project for a broader adult audience.

“I think adults see their kids doing worksheets for religious ed classes and wish there were more of that kind of thing for their skill level out there.”


He said the puzzles are meant to be a challenge for older Catholics, but not so difficult as to deter anyone from giving it a try.

So far, he said, the response has been positive: “Most people are just excited to discover that something like this exists, and that it’s not at the elementary school level.”

Watching people wrestle with thought-provoking questions is one of his favorite things about the new book, Swaim said, noting that the struggle to solve a problem can help bring us to a deeper knowledge of it.

“Think about it – if you’re working on solving a particular encrypted saint quote for a half an hour, that’s 30 minutes for your brain to mull it over, let it sink in, and have it stay with you.”

He clarified that searching for truth and for Christ does not mean that we treat God like he is a Sherlock Holmes murder mystery. Rather, delving into the mystery of God’s creation gives us “a greater insight into just how wonderful and big and mind-blowing it is to be in relationship with him.”

Seeing God as a mystery doesn’t stop us from pursuing him, Swaim said, adding that growing in our relationship to God’s mystery is similar to the experience of getting to know another human person through friendship, marriage or parenting.

“If every person in this world is a unique, unrepeatable mystery to learn about and learn from, then how much more the God who created all of them?”

“God has hidden himself in his creation, in the faces of our neighbors, in the most minuscule aspects of our days. He’s constantly searching after us, but he also wants us to be searching after him.”

But we do not always search for God, he said. Instead, “we devote hours to studying the intricacies of the NFL” or memorizing quotes of “our favorite television shows.”

Swaim challenged Catholics: “What if we applied a fraction of that inquisitive fervor toward exploring our faith?”