Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco led those participating in the March for Marriage in prayer today, as the Supreme Court hears arguments on the first of two cases about same-sex "marriage. It is truly inspiring to know that so many people from so many walks of life, including many young people, are expressing their support for marriage,” he said of the march. March 26 is the first day of oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the case Hollingsworth v. Perry. The lawsuit challenges California’s Proposition 8, a state measure recognizing marriage as existing solely between a man and a woman.
 Hollingsworth v. Perry is one of two cases on same-sex "marriage" that the court will consider this year. The other, being argued tomorrow, challenges the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. “It is my hope and prayer that the Supreme Court will uphold Proposition 8 and DOMA, respecting the very nature of the human person and the nature of marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” said Archbishop Cordileone, who heads the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on the Defense of Marriage. Plans for the march in downtown Washington have generated excitement and enthusiastic support, according to organizers of the event.
The occasion has been hailed as “an opportunity to witness to the culture about our pro-marriage beliefs,” according to Thomas Peters, cultural director for the National Organization for Marriage. At 8:30 this morning, march participants met at the National Mall and walked to the Supreme Court Building, where a rally began at 11am. In addition to Archbishop Cordileone, speakers included Bill Owens Sr., founder of the Coalition of African-American Pastors; Eric Teetsel, director of the Manhattan Declaration; and Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation. Archbishop Cordileone said that “marriage exists to bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife to be father and mother to children born of their union. The intrinsic dignity of every human being must be affirmed, but this is not realized by redefining marriage to mean simply the public recognition of certain emotional bonds among adults. Marriage is rooted in the natural reality that men and women are different, and thereby complementary, and that children deserve both a mother and a father. Respecting this truth benefits everyone.”
 The two court cases are expected to yield landmark decisions that will set the tone for the definition of marriage throughout the nation.

Friday, March 22, 2013

New proposed regulations governing the contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act continue to violate basic principles of religious freedom, said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In comments filed with the Department of Health and Human Services, the USCCB raised a series of concerns, among them being that the new proposals keep in place "an unjust and unlawful mandate" regarding the provision of contraceptive and other pregnancy services and that the rules provide no exemption, or accommodation, for "most stakeholders in the health insurance process, such as individual employees and for-profit employers," who are morally opposed to such coverage. Other objections raised in the comments include: An "unreasonable and unlawfully narrow" exemption for some nonprofit religious organizations, primarily houses of worship; limited accommodation for religious employers that continues to require those employers falling outside of the government's definition to "fund or facilitate objectionable coverage." The comments state that the concerns being raised are the same as those addressed when the rules governing the Affordable Care Act were first proposed in 2011. The 24-page statement was filed during the 60-day comment period established by the Health and Human Services after it introduced the new proposed rules Feb. 1. The deadline for comments is April 8.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pope Francis is known for his informal style. This has charmed the masses, but doesn’t work so well over the phone. According to a story in the Daily Mail, the pontiff rang a Vatican receptionist directly, which is apparently a papal no-no. The disbelieving man thought the call was a prank, and said, “Oh, yes? And I’m Napoleon.” Luckily, Francis has the patience of a saint, and he convinced the man he was the real deal. The pope wanted to be connected with Adolfo Nicolas, the superior general of his old Jesuit order. He told the disbeliever, “I really am Pope Francis. Do not worry, Andreas, just connect me with Father General, I would like to thank him for the charming letter.” The receptionist realized his error, because who else talks like that? A Vatican expert explained that the pope doesn’t usually make his own calls—that's done through a secretary. But the humble man hailing from Argentina, known for cooking his own food, living in his own apartment and riding the bus to work, has other ideas. Once selected as pope, Francis notably skipped the papal limo, choosing instead to ride the bus with the cardinals. And on his way to the Mass that established him as head of the Roman Catholic Church, the pope frequently got out of his car to greet the crowds, kiss babies and, in one instance, bless a disabled man. His humility will serve him well. His modesty was in full display when, at his first dinner after the election, he told the gathered cardinals, “May god forgive you” for choosing me. The disarming comment, as New York's Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan later described it, “brought the house down.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

The day after he was elected, Pope Francis emphasized that every believer – including bishops, cardinals and Popes – must proclaim Jesus crucified to be true Christians. “We can build so many things but if we don’t confess Jesus Christ, then something is wrong. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, spouse of Christ,” Pope Francis said in his March 14 homily. “He who doesn't pray to God prays to the Devil,” the Pope added in an apparent quote. Pope Francis made his remarks at the Mass to close the conclave on Thursday evening in the Sistine Chapel with all of the cardinal electors present. He asserted that the common theme to all three of today’s Scripture readings “is movement: the first reading, the movement of walking; the second reading, the movement of building; and the third, the Gospel, is in confession. To walk, to build, to confess. But, it's not such an easy thing,” he noted. “In walking, in building, in confession, sometimes there are shocks, there are movements, moments that are not proper to our journey. They are movements that drag us backwards.” Pope Francis then turned his thoughts to the Gospel reading from Matthew in which Peter confesses Jesus is the Christ. “This is the same Peter who confesses to Christ, who says ‘you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. I will follow you, but let's not speak of crosses! This has nothing to do with it. I will follow you with other possibilities, without the Cross,’” he said, characterizing Peter’s reaction. “And, if we walk without the Cross, how much do we build without the Cross? And, when we confess Christ without the Cross, then we are not disciples of the Lord.” The Pope then applied his words to himself and his brother cardinals, saying, “We might be bishops, priests, cardinals and Popes, but we are not disciples of the Lord” if we leave the Cross behind. “I would like all of us, after these days of grace, to have the courage, precisely the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the cross of the Lord, to edify the Church in the blood of the Lord poured out on the cross and to confess the only glory, that of Christ crucified. And, in this way, the Church will move forward,” he said as he finished his homily. Pope Francis’ next event will be a congratulatory meeting with all of the cardinals, both those who are retired and those who are still active, at 1:00 p.m. in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall. On Saturday morning, he will hold an audience with journalists and media personnel in the Paul VI Hall, as his predecessors did. Pope Francis will pray the Angelus and make remarks from the window of his apartment at noon on Sunday. He will be installed as Pope on March 19 at 9:30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76 was elected the 266th pope and took the name Francis. The election March 13 came on the first full day of the conclave on the conclave's fifth ballot. It was a surprisingly quick conclusion to a conclave that began with many plausible candidates and no clear favorite. The Latin American pope, a Jesuit, was chosen by at least two-thirds of the 115 cardinals from 48 countries, who cast their ballots in secret in the Sistine Chapel. His election was announced in Latin from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, to a massive crowd in the square below and millions watching around the world. White smoke poured from the Sistine Chapel chimney at 7:05 p.m. signaling that the cardinals had chosen a successor to retired Pope Benedict XVI. At 7:07 p.m., the bells of St. Peter's Basilica began pealing continuously to confirm the election. Cardinal Bergoglio has had a growing reputation as a very spiritual man with a talent for pastoral leadership serving in a region with the largest number of the world's Catholics. Since 1998, he has been archbishop of Buenos Aires, where his style is low-key and close to the people. He rides the bus, visits the poor, lives in a simple apartment and cooks his own meals. To many in Buenos Aires, he is known simply as "Father Jorge." He also has created new parishes, restructured the administrative offices, led pro-life initiatives and started new pastoral programs, such as a commission for divorcees. He co-presided over the 2001 Synod of Bishops and was elected to the synod council, so he is well-known to the world's bishops. The cardinal has also written books on spirituality and meditation and has been outspoken against abortion and same-sex marriages. His role often forced him to speak publicly about the economic, social and political problems facing his country. His homilies and speeches are filled with references to the fact that all people are brothers and sisters and that the church and the country need to do what they can to make sure that everyone feels welcome, respected and cared for.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Over 35,000 people have signed up for PopeAlarm.com, a service of the Fellowship of Catholic University students that sends out a free text and e-mail alert when the next Pope is elected. “The reaction has been fantastic and overwhelming,” said Kevin Cotter, FOCUS web director. “It’s been great to be at the forefront of Catholic new media and getting the word out there.” Demand for the service has been high since its launch on Saturday March 9. As of Monday morning, over 35,000 people had registered for the service. The PopeAlarm.com website received over 140,000 page views. “It’s really exploded and caught on fire,” Cotter said. “There’s a lot of social media traction.” FOCUS staff will use the service to notify registered users when white smoke appears from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, the traditional signal that the next Pope has been elected. It is sponsored by the organization, which is based in the Denver area. Cotter was inspired to launch the site because he could not find any service to alert him when the white smoke is first seen. He said the 2013 conclave marks the first time a papal election has taken place with this technology. The web director noted that the success of PopeAlarm.com and an unrelated initiative called Adopt-a-Cardinal shows that Catholics are “very excited” about praying for the next Pope, about knowing who he is and about supporting him. Cotter said that secular media sometimes has a “downtrodden view” of Catholics relative to the papacy that ignores many Catholics. “We’re very enthusiastic about the Church,” he said. “There are a lot of Catholics out there that have a real optimism. The Church is made for greatness,” he added. “We don’t always live up to that greatness, but we aspire to it and we want to be led to further greatness to continue the work of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.” FOCUS is attempting to expand service to meet demand in the U.S. and Canada. The service presently requires a U.S. or Canadian phone number. Cotter told CNA that FOCUS is working to respond to the many international requests for a PopeAlarm site that can handle text messaging in other countries. PopeAlarm will also announce the papal election through its Twitter account “@popealarm.”

Monday, March 11, 2013

A telephone survey commissioned by the Knights of Columbus found that U.S. Catholics think favorably of Pope Benedict XVI, who retired in February. The Marist poll, taken March 2-5 -- the week after Pope Benedict's February 28 retirement took effect -- found that Catholics held favorable impressions of the retired pontiff's tenure, his impact on their lives and the direction of both the church and the world. In the poll, 77 percent of all U.S. Catholics, and 82 percent of practicing Catholics, said they had ether a "positive" or "very positive" impression of the retired pope's pontificate. Asked about the outgoing pope himself, 69 percent of Catholics and 75 percent of practicing Catholics had a "positive" or "very positive" view of him. Similarly, 68 percent of Catholics and 77 percent of practicing Catholics said he had a "positive" or "very positive" impact on their life. Seventy percent of Catholics and 75 percent of practicing Catholics said the pope had a "positive" or "very positive" impact on the church's direction, while 65 percent of Catholics and 69 percent of practicing Catholics said in the poll he had a "positive" or "very positive" impact on the moral direction of the world.