Saturday, June 30, 2012

High winds leave path of damage across southern Maryland

Exceptionally high winds destroyed trees in southern Maryland during the night on Friday, June 29, as seen here at Saint Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Benedict.

The large maple tree, above, lost its crown which now lies on the ground near Benedict Avenue. Three additional limbs are still hanging from the tree, one suspended over the church sidewalk, making it dangerous for use at present. Those attending Masses this weekend will be advised to use the side handicapped entrance of the church.
This cherry tree, above and below, on the west side of the church also lost its crown.

The winds also snapped the stems of giant sunflowers, as seen below, that had been planted in various locations around the rectory and church property.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Archbishop Broglio Salutes Troops and Veterans on Independence Day


Recognizes Nation's debt to brave men and women of U.S. Armed Forces

WASHINGTON, D.C. – His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, issued the following statement as the Nation celebrates its birth on the 4th of July.

Archbishop Broglio said:

“The liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights represent a precious treasure for all of us. We know that those liberties have been challenged often in our 236 year history. On Independence Day we celebrate that we are a Nation of the people, for the people, and by the people. Gratefully, we celebrate not only the courage and the insight of the patriots of the past, but also the continued dedication of the many Americans who serve our Country.

"Part of that service is the ability to preach the truth. As we conclude the Fortnight for Freedom, we reaffirm our commitment to preach the truth in love. To be able to do so we must enjoy the freedom of conscience, given to us by Almighty God and recognized by the U.S. Constitution.

“Our liberty is not cheap. It requires vigilant leadership and men and women of faith who are capable of challenging those who would compromise that priceless liberty. I am reminded especially of those for whom I am called to care and their sacrifice for our continued freedom.

“We recognize our debt to these brave men and women of the Armed Forces and their families and the Archdiocese for the Military Services strives to meet their needs along with those of the Veterans and the young people preparing for service in one of the military academies.

“Our prayers and quest for peace are endless, but we cannot fail in the mission to assure that men and women in uniform have access to all the sacraments and the same benefits that Catholics enjoy everywhere.

“July 4th is a combination of many themes and events. However, it is an anniversary that recalls the sacrifices and the price of freedom and peace. It is a call to rededicate ourselves to what makes us a great people. It urges us to do more. It also means recognizing the immense importance that faith has had and still has in building ‘one Nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.’”

Archbishop Broglio invites the public to pray for U.S. servicemen and women, their families, and the chaplains who help them during their deployments and afterwards.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) was created as an independent archdiocese by Pope John Paul II in 1985 to provide the Catholic Church’s full range of pastoral ministries and spiritual services to Catholics serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, enrolled in U.S. Military Academies, undergoing treatment in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers, working for the U.S. Government in civilian jobs outside of the Country, and their families.

As the nation’s only archdiocese without geographical boundaries, the AMS endorses and grants faculties to priests for on-site ministry at more than 220 U.S. Military installations in 29 countries and 153 VA Medical Centers in the U.S. American Catholic civilians work for the federal government in 134 countries beyond U.S. borders, but due to limited resources, the AMS cannot serve them adequately. Worldwide, an estimated 1.8 million Catholics depend on the AMS to meet their spiritual and sacramental needs.

For more information on the Archdiocese for the Military Services, visit , the only official Web site for Catholics in the U.S. Military and for the Cause of Father Vincent Capodanno, M.M.

Fortnight for Freedom Reflection Day 9

Reflections for the Fortnight for Freedom

These reflections and readings from the Vatican II document Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) are intended for daily use during the Fortnight for Freedom, a national campaign designated by the U.S. Catholic bishops for teaching and witness in support of religious liberty. The readings and the questions that follow can be used for group discussion or for personal reflection.

The protection and promotion of the inviolable rights of man ranks among the essential duties of government. Therefore, government is to assume the safeguard of the religious freedom of all its citizens, in an effective manner, by just laws and by other appropriate means. Government is also to help create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life, in order that the people may be truly enabled to exercise their religious rights and to fulfill their religious duties, and also in order that society itself may profit by the moral qualities of justice and peace which have their origin in men’s faithfulness to God and to His holy will.
-- Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 6 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Nine
Once again, the Council Fathers turn to what they consider a very important issue. It is not simply that governments should not deny or impede the religious freedom of their citizens, it is also of the utmost importance that they positively, through just laws, be the guardians of religious freedom, so that no constituency— religious or secular—within society would seek to undermine the religious freedom of all. While few today would consider this, the next point that the Council Fathers make is also very significant. Governments should actually “help create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life.” While governments do not control religions, they should recognize their value and so promote their well-being. This allows all religious bodies and their members to exercise their religious rights and “fulfill their religious duties.” The government’s fostering the religious life of its citizens not only benefits those citizens but also, the Council states, contributes to the good of society as a whole. It helps society grow in its understanding and implementation of what contributes to justice and peace. This justice and peace find their origin in God, who desires the good of all. How do governments protect and promote the religious life of their citizens? Do governments take this into consideration today? In the U.S., how does the government foster religious life while respecting the principle of separation of church and state?

Excerpts from The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, SJ, General Editor, copyright © 1966 by America Press, Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2012, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved.
Day 9  June 29, 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Archbishops Lori, Chaput, Aquila and Skurla to receive pallium in Rome on June 29

Vatican City, 27 June 2012 (VIS)
-The Holy See Press Office today issued a note explaining the new form of the rite for imposing the pallium on metropolitan archbishops, which takes place annually on 29 June, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul Apostles.
"Things will remain substantially the same", the note reads, "but this year, following a logic of development in continuity, it has been decided simply to move the rite itself, and it will now take place before the Eucharistic celebration."The modification has been approved by the Holy Father and is motivated by the following reasons:
"1. To make the rite shorter. The list of new metropolitan archbishops will be read out immediately before the entry of the opening procession and the singing of 'Tu es Petrus', and it will not be part of the celebration. The rite of the palliums will take place as soon as the Holy Father reaches the altar.
"2. To ensure that the Eucharistic celebration is not 'interrupted' by a relatively long rite (the number of metropolitan archbishops now stands at around forty-five each year), which could make attentive and focused participation in the Mass more difficult.
"3. To make the rite of imposing the pallium more in keeping with the 'Cerimoniale Episcoporum', and to avoid the possibility that, by coming after the homily (as happened in the past), it may be thought of as a Sacramental rite. Indeed, the rites which take place during a Eucharistic celebration following the homily are normally Sacramental rites: Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, Matrimony, Anointing of the Sick. The imposition of the pallium, on the other hand, is not Sacramental in nature".
The following metropolitan archbishops will receive the pallium in this year's ceremony:
- Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, archbishop of Berlin, Germany.
- Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega, archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico.
- Archbishop Francesco Moraglia, patriarch of Venice, Italy.
- Archbishop Alfredo Horacio Zecca of Tucuman, Argentina.
- Archbishop Mario Alberto Molina Palma O.A.R. of Los Altos, Quetzaltenango-Totonicapan, Guatemala.
- Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput O.F.M. Cap. of Philadelphia, U.S.A.
- Archbishop Luc Cyr of Sherbrooke, Canada.
- Archbishop Salvador Pineiro Garcia-Calderon of Ayacucho or Huamanga, Peru.
- Archbishop Francesco Panfilo S.D.B. of Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.
- Archbishop Ulises Antonio Gutierrez Reyes O. de M. of Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela.- Archbishop Stanis?aw Budzik of Lublin, Poland.
- Archbishop Wilson Tadeu Jonck S.C.I. of Florianopolis, Brazil.
- Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Canada.
- Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle of Manila, Philippines.
- Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario C.S.C. of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
- Archbishop Wiktor Pawel Skworc of Katowice, Poland.
- Archbishop Jose F. Advincula of Capiz, Philippines.
- Archbishop Filippo Santoro of Taranto, Italy.
- Archbishop Jose Francisco Rezende Dias of Niteroi, Brazil.
- Archbishop Esmeraldo Barreto de Farias of Porto Velho, Brazil.
- Archbishop Jaime Vieira Rocha of Natal, Brazil.
- Archbishop Joseph Harris C.S.Sp. of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
- Archbishop Waclaw Depo of Czestochowa, Poland.
- Archbishop Ignatius Chama of Kasama, Zambia.
- Archbishop Pascal Wintzer of Poitiers, France.
- Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati, India.
- Archbishop William Charles Skurla of Pittsburgh of the Byzantines, U.S.A.
- Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan.
- Archbishop Romulo Geolina Valles of Davao, Philippines.
- Archbishop Airton Jose dos Santos of Campinas, Brazil.
- Archbishop Timothy Costelloe S.D.B. of Perth, Australia.
- Archbishop Jacinto Furtado de Brito Sobrinho of Teresina, Brazil.
- Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta, India.
- Archbishop Arrigo Miglio of Cagliari, Italy.
- Archbishop John F. Du of Palo, Philippines.
- Archbishop Paulo Mendes Peixoto of Uberaba, Brazil.
- Archbishop Christian Lepine of Montreal, Canada.
- Archbishop William Edward Lori of Baltimore, U.S.A.
- Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia.
- Archbishop Jesus Carlos Cabrero Romero of San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
- Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo jung of Seoul, Korea.
- Archbishop Benedito Roberto C.S.Sp. of Malanje, Angola.
- Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins of Lagos, Nigeria.
- Archbishop Samuel Joseph Aquila of Denver, U.S.A.
The following two archbishops will receive the pallium in their metropolitan sees:
- Archbishop Gabriel Justice Yaw Anokye of Kumasi, Ghana.
- Archbishop Valery Vienneau of Moncton, Canada.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fortnight for Freedom Reflection Day Six

Reflections for the Fortnight for Freedom
These reflections and readings from the Vatican II document Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) are intended for daily use during the Fortnight for Freedom, a national campaign designated by the U.S. Catholic bishops for teaching and witness in support of religious liberty. The readings and the questions that follow can be used for group discussion or for personal reflection.

The freedom or immunity from coercion in matters religious which is the endowment of persons as individuals is also to be recognized as their right when they act in community. Religious bodies are a requirement of the social nature both of man and of religion itself.
Provided the just requirements of public order are observed, religious bodies rightfully claim freedom in order that they may govern themselves according to their own norms, honor the Supreme Being in public worship, assist their members in the practice of the religious life, strengthen them by instruction, and promote institutions in which they may join together for the purpose of ordering their lives in accordance with their religious principles.
Religious bodies also have the right not to be hindered, either by legal measures or by administrative action on the part of government, in the selection, training, appointment, and transferral of their own ministers, in communicating with religious authorities and communities abroad, in erecting buildings for religious purposes, and in the acquisition and use of suitable funds or properties.
-- Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 4 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Six
The Council once more addresses the public nature of religious belief. Religious communities have a right to act as a community of faith, for this is inherent within the social nature of human beings and religious belief itself. Provided that the just civil and religious rights of others are not transgressed, religious bodies must possess the freedom to live out publicly what they believe. They must be free to gather for worship, to instruct their members, and to develop institutions that further the religious life of their members. From within the Catholic tradition this would include religious institutes and orders, schools, fraternities and sodalities, prayer groups, and Bible study groups.
Likewise, religious bodies must be free to appoint and train their own ministers. For Catholics, that means the Church’s freedom at least to appoint bishops and ordain priests. It also means that Catholics are free to be loyal to their church and its leaders while also being loyal to their country and its leaders. Religious bodies should also be free to govern themselves financially.
Consider examples in contemporary life where governments—federal, state, or local—fail to respect the above rights? What is the relationship between the religious freedom of individuals and institutions?

Excerpts from The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, SJ, General Editor, copyright © 1966 by America Press, Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. Copyright ©
2012, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved.
Day 6  June 26, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Garden Update: Giant sunflower blooms

View of Maryland garden with blooming giant sunflower, center rear, and in foreground sunflowers, poppies and other mixed wildflowers.

Fortnight for Freedom Reflection Day Five

Reflections for the Fortnight for Freedom

These reflections and readings from the Vatican II document Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) are intended for daily use during the Fortnight for Freedom, a national campaign designated by the U.S. Catholic bishops for teaching and witness in support of religious liberty. The readings and the questions that follow can be used for group discussion or for personal reflection.

There is a further consideration. The religious acts whereby men, in private and in public and out of a sense of personal conviction, direct their lives to God transcend by their very nature the order of terrestrial and temporal affairs. Government, therefore, ought indeed to take account of the religious life of the people and show it favor, since the function of government is to make provision for the common welfare. However, it would clearly transgress the limits set to its power were it to presume to direct or inhibit acts that are religious.

--Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 3 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Five

What the Council Fathers teach in this short paragraph is very important. They previously stated that governments should not deny religious liberty. Here they state what governments should positively do with regards to religion. Since people, through their religious beliefs, direct their lives toward God, governments are positively to take this into account. Not only should governments not hinder religious life, they should also “show it favor.” Since religious belief is a good within culture and society, governments should foster and aid the good that religion brings to the commonwealth. This does not mean that a government should favor one religion over another or that it should attempt to direct what religions should believe or do. Rather, governments are to create an environment in which religious life flourishes for the good of all. In providing such an environment where religious life prospers, governments contribute to the good of individuals as well as to the good of society as a whole.
How does religion contribute to the good of society? In what ways might it hinder the good of society? Do contemporary Western governments view religion in a positive or negative light? How can governments today foster or aid the good of religious belief?

Excerpts from The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, SJ, General Editor, copyright © 1966 by America Press, Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2012, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved.
Day 5  June 25, 2012

Link to all of the reflections offered by the Catholic bishops for the Fortnight for Freedom can be found at this link.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fortnight for Freedom Reflection Day Four

Reflections for the Fortnight for Freedom

These reflections and readings from the Vatican II document Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) are intended for daily use during the Fortnight for Freedom, a national campaign designated by the U.S. Catholic bishops for teaching and witness in support of religious liberty. The readings and the questions that follow can be used for group discussion or for personal reflection.

On his part, man perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience faithfully, in order that he may come to God, for whom he was created. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious.

For, of its very nature, the exercise of religion consists before all else in those internal, voluntary, and free acts whereby man sets the course of life directly toward God. No merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind.

However, the social nature of man itself requires that he should give external expression to his internal acts of religion; that he should participate with others in matters religious; that he should profess his religion in community. Injury, therefore, is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in
society when the just requirements of public order do not so require.

--Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 3 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Four

It is through their consciences that human beings perceive the requirements of the divine law. Human beings must follow faithfully their conscience if they are to grow in their knowledge of and union with God. Again, the Council restates that, because of this, no one should either be forced to act contrary to his or her conscience or be forbidden to act in accordance with his or her conscience. This is especially the case when it involves one’s religious beliefs. The Council Fathers note that this applies not only to one’s internal private religious acts but also to public
communal religious acts. Human beings hold religious beliefs within a community of like-minded believers and so have the right to publicly live out their beliefs. To forbid the just and proper public expressions of religious belief would be contrary to the order that God has established for human beings as social and religious beings.

The Council Fathers want to ensure that religious liberty is understood to be both private and public. It cannot be limited to what takes places in houses of worship. Rather, since religion is by its nature a social phenomenon, its presence within the broader society and culture should not be hindered or forbidden. In what ways is religion being reduced to the merely personal and private? Why should religion have a voice in the public square?

Excerpts from The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, SJ, General Editor, copyright © 1966 by America Press, Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2012, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved.
Day 4  June 24, 2012

Find all of the daily reflections at this link to the USCCB web site.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fortnight for Freedom: Reflection Day Three

Reflections for the Fortnight for Freedom
These reflections and readings from the Vatican II document Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) are intended for daily use during the Fortnight for Freedom, a national campaign designated by the U.S. Catholic bishops for teaching and witness in support of religious liberty. The readings and the questions that follow can be used for group discussion or for personal reflection.

Further light is shed on the subject if one considers that the highest norm of human life is the divine law—eternal, objective, and universal—whereby God orders, directs, and governs the entire universe and all the ways of human community, by a plan conceived in wisdom and love. Man has been made by God to participate in this law, with the result that, under the gentle disposition of divine Providence, he can come to perceive ever increasingly the unchanging truth. Hence every man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious, in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true judgments of conscience, with the use of all suitable means.

Truth, however, is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication, and dialogue. In the course of these, men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth. Moreover, as the truth is discovered, it is by a personal assent that men are to adhere to it.

-- Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 3 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Three

God is the author of all truth and all good. All of what is true and good in our world and cosmos finds its source in God, the Creator of all. Moreover, what is true and good about ourselves as human beings finds its source in God in that he created us in his image and likeness. Thus, for the Council Fathers, all that exists is in conformity with the divine law, the providential plan of God.
Because of this, the Council emphasizes that truth must be “sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature.” This means that human beings must be free to seek the truth. However, human beings do not seek the truth as isolated individuals. The search for the truth is common to all, and so all share in the finding of truth and all share in the receiving of truth from others. Because the search for truth, the finding of truth, and the sharing of truth is a social exercise, human beings must not only be free to search for truth in the hope of finding it, they must also be free to communicate and discuss together the truth they believe they have found. It is through our free assent that we each personally lay hold of the truth.

What are the contemporary means of seeking, finding, and sharing truth? In what ways can this freedom to seek, to find, and to share be inhibited?

Excerpts from The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, SJ, General Editor, copyright © 1966 by America Press, Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2012, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved. Day 3  June 23, 2012

Find the daily reflections at this link on USCCB website.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fortnight for Freedom: Reflection Day Two

These reflections and readings from the Vatican II document Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) are intended for daily use during the Fortnight for Freedom, a national campaign designated by the U.S. Catholic bishops for teaching and witness in support of religious liberty. The readings and the questions that follow can be used for group discussion or for personal reflection.

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons— that is, being endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility— that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth.
However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore, the right to religious freedom has its foundation, not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it. Nor is the exercise of this right to be impeded, provided that the just requirements of public order are observed.

-- Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 2 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Two

The Council Fathers note that it is precisely because human beings are “endowed with reason and free will” that they naturally seek what is true and good and also, then, have “a moral obligation” to search for the truth. This is especially the case of seeking religious truth. Moreover, the truth they believe they have come to know binds them to that truth. Even if the “truth” they believe is not actually true, yet, because they believe it is true, they are bound to follow their conscience. As long as what they believe does not infringe the just rights of others, they cannot be coerced into giving up or changing what they believe.

Moreover, the Council states that in order for human beings to fulfill their obligation to seek the truth and live by it, they must be free to do so. No one or no authority is to force them to believe something to which they themselves have not freely given their consent.
Why does the Council stress the need to seek freely religious truth? Why do those who believe what is actually false still possess religious freedom?

Excerpts from The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, SJ, General Editor, copyright © 1966 by America Press, Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2012, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved. Day 2  June 22, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fortnight for Freedom: Reflection Day One

These reflections and readings from the Vatican II document Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) are intended for daily use during the Fortnight for Freedom, a national campaign designated by the U.S. Catholic bishops for teaching and witness in support of religious liberty. The readings and the questions that follow can be used for group discussion or for personal reflection.

The Vatican Synod declares
that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or publically, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The Synod further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person, as this dignity is known through the revealed Word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed. Thus it is to become a civil right.

-- Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 2 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day One

In the opening chapter of Declaration on Religious Liberty, the Council Fathers at Vatican II forthrightly declared that “the human person has a right to religious freedom.” This right is founded upon the intrinsic dignity of the human person. From God’s revelation we know that the dignity of human beings resides in their being created in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:27). Like God we are intelligent beings with free will. Because of this we can know the truth and perform God-like actions, such as being loving, kind, forgiving, etc. Reason itself, in knowing what a human being is, confirms that we possess a dignity and worth that exceeds the rest of creation and that cannot be violated, but rather needs to be protected and fostered.

What human beings believe concerning God is of supreme importance. Religious belief lies at the very center of who we are in relation to what is most central and cherished in our lives. Therefore, the Council insists that the religious convictions of individuals or groups should never be coerced but must be held freely, protected by a civil constitutional right.

What challenges to religious liberty do you see within our contemporary world? When the Council says that religious liberty must be upheld “within due limits,” what would fall outside of “due limits”? What religious belief would seriously offend the moral order or a just law?

Excerpts from The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, SJ, General Editor, copyright © 1966 by America Press, Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2012, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved. Day 1  June 21, 2012

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput: "Launching the Fortnight for Freedom"

This speech was delivered last night in Indianapolis to a group of Catholic journalists on the eve of the “Fortnight for Freedom,” a national campaign of teaching, witness, and prayer against the abortifacient and contraceptive mandate and in favor or religious freedom.

I’ve known Greg Erlandson as a friend for many years. So I was glad to accept his invitation to join you tonight. And I’m very glad to speak on the theme of religious liberty because events in our country have made it an urgent concern. I can sum up my remarks tonight in five simple points.

First, religious freedom is a cornerstone of the American experience. This is so obvious that once upon a time, nobody needed to say it. But times have changed. So it’s worth recalling that Madison, Adams, Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, Jefferson–in fact, nearly all the American founders–saw religious faith as vital to the life of a free people. Liberty and happiness grow organically out of virtue. And virtue needs grounding in religious faith.

Gertrude Himmelfarb, the historian, put it this way: The founders knew that in a republic, “virtue is intimately related to religion. However skeptical or deistic they may have been in their own beliefs, however determined they were to avoid anything like an established Church, they had no doubt that religion is an essential part of the social order because it is a vital part of the moral order.”

Here’s my second point: Freedom of religion is more than freedom of worship. The right to worship is a necessary but not sufficient part of religious liberty. Christian faith requires community. It begins in worship, but it also demands preaching, teaching, and service. It’s always personal but never private. And it involves more than prayer at home and Mass on Sunday–though these things are vitally important. Real faith always bears fruit in public witness and public action. Otherwise it’s just empty words.

The founders saw the value of publicly engaged religious faith because they experienced its influence themselves. They created a nation designed in advance to depend on the moral convictions of religious believers, and to welcome their active role in public life.

Here’s my third point: Threats against religious freedom in our country are not imaginary. They’re happening right now. They’re immediate, serious, and real. Earlier this year religious liberty advocates won a big Supreme Court victory in the 9-0 Hosanna-Tabor v EEOC decision. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news: What’s stunning in that case is the disregard for religious freedom shown by the government’s arguments against the Lutheran church and school.

And Hosanna-Tabor is not an isolated case. It belongs to a pattern of government coercion that includes the current administration’s HHS mandate; interfering with the conscience rights of medical providers and private employers, as well as individual citizens; and attacks on the policies, hiring practices, and tax statuses of religious charities and ministries.

Why is this hostility happening? A lot of it links to Catholic teaching on the dignity of life and human sexuality. Catholic moral convictions about abortion, contraception, the purpose of sexuality, and the nature of marriage are rooted not just in revelation, but also in reason and natural law. Human beings have a nature that’s not just the product of accident or culture, but inherent, universal, and rooted in permanent truths knowable to reason.

The problem, as Notre Dame law professor Gerry Bradley points out, is that critics of the Church reduce all these moral convictions to an expression of subjective religious beliefs. And if they’re purely religious beliefs, then–so the critics argue–they can’t be rationally defended. And because they’re rationally indefensible, they should be treated as a form of prejudice. In effect, 2,000 years of moral tradition and religious belief become a species of bias. Opposing same-sex “marriage” thus amounts to religiously blessed homophobia.

There’s more. though. When religious belief gets redefined downward to a kind of private bias, then the religious identity of institutional ministries has no public value–other than the utility of getting credulous people to do good things. So exempting Catholic adoption agencies, for example, from placing kids with gay couples becomes a concession to private prejudice. And concessions to private prejudice feed bigotry and hurt the public. Or so the reasoning goes. This is how moral teaching and religious belief end up getting hounded as hate speech.

Here’s my fourth point: Unless we work hard to keep our religious liberty, we’ll lose it. It’s already happening in other developed countries like Britain and Canada. The U.S. Constitution is a great document–historically unique for its fusion of high ideals with the realism of very practical checks and balances. But in the end, it’s just an elegant piece of paper. In practice, nothing guarantees our freedoms except our willingness to fight for them. That means fighting politically and through the courts, without tiring and without apologies. We need to realize that America’s founding documents assume an implicitly religious anthropology–an idea of human nature, nature’s God, and natural rights–that many of our leaders no longer really share. We ignore that unhappy fact at our own expense.

Here’s my fifth and final point: Politics and the courts are important. But our religious freedom ultimately depends on the vividness of our own Christian faith–in other words, how deeply we believe it, and how honestly we live it. Religious liberty is an empty shell if the spiritual core of a people is weak. Or to put it more bluntly, if people don’t believe in God, religious liberty isn’t a value. That’s the heart of the matter. It’s the reason Pope Benedict calls us to a Year of Faith this October. The worst enemies of religious freedom aren’t “out there” among the legion of critics who hate Christ or the Gospel or the Church, or all three. The worst enemies are in here, with us–all of us, clergy, religious, and lay–when we live our faith with tepidness, routine, and hypocrisy.

Religious liberty isn’t a privilege granted by the state. It’s our birthright as children of God. And even the worst bigotry can’t kill it in the face of a believing people. But if we value it and want to keep it, then we need to become people worthy of it. Which means we need to change the way we live–radically change, both as individual Catholics and as the Church. And that’s where I’d like to turn for the rest of these brief remarks.

A year ago I was serving happily in Denver, laughing at rumors I was getting moved anywhere. That turned out to be a mistake. Since then I’ve been asked many times how I like Philadelphia. The answer is pretty simple. I don’t “like” it. I love it–or rather, I love the people and clergy of Philadelphia because they’re easy to love. They’re now my family, an intimate part of my life. And I hope that each passing year will draw me deeper into the life of the community because Philadelphia is really more than just a great city. It’s the birthplace of our country and a jewel in our national legacy. It’s also an icon of the American Catholic experience. So it’s a joy and a blessing to serve there as bishop.

“Joy” may seem like an odd word to use, given events in Philadelphia over the past 16 months. Obviously the abuse tragedy has burdened the life of the local Church in a very painful way. Our laypeople are angry, and they should be. Their frustration shows in the pews. In Denver about 40 percent of registered Catholics attended Mass weekly. In Philadelphia, barely 18 percent do. The scandal has caused terrible suffering for victims, demoralized many of our clergy, crippled the witness of the Church, and humiliated the whole Catholic community.

That’s the bad news–or at least some of it–and it’s not simply “bad,” but bitter and damaging for everyone involved, beginning with victims and their families, but rippling throughout the community. As a bishop, the only honest way I can talk about the abuse tragedy is to start by apologizing for the failure of the Church and her leaders– apologizing to victims, and apologizing to the Catholic community. And I do that again here, today.

There is also good news. Even now, after all the challenges of the past decade, the Church in Philadelphia plays a very large role in the life of the region, and in many quarters, she still draws–and still earns–great respect. I think the staff Cardinal Rigali assembled last year after the second grand jury report to reach out to victims and prevent abuse in the future is strong by any professional standard. And from what I’ve experienced over the past 10 months, the Church in Philadelphia today has a much deeper understanding of the gravity of sexual abuse and a sincere zeal for rooting it out of the life of the Church and helping anyone hurt in the past.

One reason the Church has survived at all in the current crisis is the extraordinary reservoir of good will and fidelity among the clergy and people of the diocese. Pennsylvania remains a largely faith-friendly environment. Our people have strong pro-life and pro-family instincts, respect for religious ministries, and a history of saints and excellent Catholic education. The habits of Catholic culture run very deep in the Philadelphia region. Our Catholic health and social services, and our Catholic school system, are among the largest and best in the United States. The Church contributes in a substantial way to the welfare of the general public, and most people on some level understand that.

But the abuse crisis, as grave as it is, masks other problems that also run very deep, and they belong to the same troubled Catholic culture. They began building decades ago. And while they may be especially sharp in Philadelphia, I’d wager that some version of these problems touches many of the dioceses across our country.

Here’s an example. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is currently owed about $60 million by our own parishes for insurance premiums, assessments, and other expenses shared by the whole local Church. Much of this can’t be recovered because the parishes simply don’t have the money. More than two-thirds of our 267 parishes have operating deficits. About 100 are in some form of financial distress. More than 90 parishes minister to fewer than 400 families. And the archdiocese itself has struggled with frequent budget deficits for about 15 years. We’ve reached a point where–if we did nothing to fix the problem–the gap between our projected expenses and our projected income in Fiscal 2013 would exceed $17 million.

That won’t happen. That will end. The Church is finally a family. No family can survive for long if it spends more than it takes in. In the first nine months of Fiscal 2012, the archdiocese spent more than $10 million on legal and other professional fees. But as crushing as that sounds–and it is–the real problems of the Church in Philadelphia are more subtle than money and more chronic than a habit of bad budgets. They’re not even financial. And they’re not at all unique to Philadelphia.

We need to look honestly at the arc of Catholic history in our country. The lessons may not be comforting. American Catholics began as an unwelcome minority. The Church built her credibility by defending and serving her people. She developed her influence with the resources her people entrusted to her. A vast amount of good was done in the process. We need to honor that. But two other things also happened. The Church in the United States became powerful and secure. And Catholics became less and less invested in the Church that their own parents and grandparents helped to build.

I think it’s fair, in part, to blame Church leaders for a spirit of complacency and inertia, clericalism, even arrogance, and for operating off a model of the Church–often for well-intentioned reasons–rooted in the past and out of touch with reality. But there’s plenty of blame to go around. Too many ordinary Catholics have been greedy, losing themselves in America’s culture of consumerism and success. Too many have been complicit in the dullness–the acedia–that has seeped into Church life, and the cynicism and resentment that naturally follow it.

These problems kill a Christian love of poverty and zeal. They choke off a real life of faith. They create the shadows that hide institutional and personal sins. And they encourage a paralysis that can burrow itself into every heart and every layer of the Church, right down to individual Catholics in the pews. The result is that Philadelphia, like so much of the Church in the rest of our country, is now really mission territory–again; for the second time.

My point is this. We live in a world of illusions when we lose sight of who Jesus Christ really is, and what he asks from each of us as disciples. One of novelist Ray Bradbury’s characters once said, “I wonder if God recognizes his own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar crystal and saccharine.” Father John Hugo, a friend and counselor to Dorothy Day, put it even more forcefully when he wrote of our “falsified picture of Jesus [with his] eyes perpetually raised to heaven, soft, even girlish in beauty, [the] very incarnation of impotence.”

The real Jesus, in Hugo’s words, “did not hesitate to condemn the rich, to warn the powerful, to denounce in vehement language the very leaders of the people. His love and goodness were chiefly for the poor, the simple, the needy. And his love for them was not a limp, indulgent love, like that of a silly, frivolous mother. To his friends he preached poverty of spirit, detachment, the carrying the cross. No more did the kindness of Jesus spare his followers, than the kindness of God the father spared his son. We are to drink of the same chalice that he drank of.”

That’s our vocation. That’s the life of honesty, heroism, and sacrifice God calls us to as a Church and as individual believers. And in our eagerness to escape it, to tame it, to reshape it in the mold of our own willful ideas, we’ve failed not only to convert our culture, but also to pass along the faith to many of our own children.

Emerging American adults–in other words, young people in the 18-23 age cohort–are not only skeptical of organized religion in general and Christianity in particular, but they often lack the vocabulary to engage in, or even identify, issues that require basic moral reasoning. As a group they have unusually high rates of intoxication, loneliness, and sexual alienation. They also, contrary to popular belief, have very little interest in public affairs or political engagement, and a lopsided focus on materialistic consumption and financial security as the guiding stars of their lives.

Of course, tens of thousands of exceptions to what I just said are walking around right now. We all know some of them. These are young adults of faith and strong moral character, determined to do something worthy with their lives. Just this week Our Sunday Visitor did a portrait of Catholic young adults who live the Gospel with really wonderful passion and joy. Their lives will touch hundreds of other lives. And that should give us enormous hope. God never abandons his Church or his people.

But their good witness only brings us back to the conversion that you and I and the whole Church in the United States need to undergo.

Notre Dame scholar Christian Smith and his colleagues, whose research on emerging adults is so compelling, wrote that “most of the problems in the lives of youth have their origin in the larger adult world into which youth are being socialized . . . [One] way or the other, adults and the adult world are almost always complicit in the troubles, suffering and misguided living of youth, if not the direct source of them. The more adults can recognize and admit that fact, [the] sooner we will be able to address some of young people’s problems more constructively.”

I suppose that’s obvious. But if it’s really so obvious, then who let it happen? And what are we going to do about it?

We’re becoming a nation where, as Ross Douthat describes it, “a growing number [of us] are inventing [our] own versions of what Christianity means, abandoning the nuances of traditional theology in favor of religions that stroke [our] egos and indulge, or even celebrate, [our] own worst impulses.” And it’s happening at a time when the Church is compromised by her own leaders and people from within, and pushed to the margins or attacked by critics without.

Tomorrow we start the Fortnight for Freedom. It’s a moment for each of us to be grateful to our bishops for doing the right thing–the important and urgent thing–at the right time. If we don’t press now and vigorously for our religious liberty in the public arena, we will lose it. Not overnight and not with a thunderclap, but step by step, inexorably. And each of you as a Catholic media professional plays a key role, a really vital role, in that effort because our prestige news media, with very few exceptions, simply will not cover this issue in a fair and comprehensive way.

But we also need to remember with Pope Benedict that resistance is “part of the task of the Church,” and with Henri de Lubac that it’s “not our mission to make truth triumph, but to testify for it.”

Scripture says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33). We work best for religious freedom by first opening our hearts to God’s will instead of our own; and loving our country and our Church; and renewing the witness of the Church with the zeal and purity and obedience of our own lives. That freedom, that joy, no one can ever take from us.

From the cross at San Damiano, Jesus said to Francis: Repair my house, which is falling into ruin. Those same words fill this room tonight. How we respond is up to us.

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is the Archbishop of Philadelphia.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Join with the Church and our bishops in the Fortnight for Freedom, June 21 to July 4

" ... bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith."

The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country have scheduled special events that support a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.

Special Masses

Opening Mass—June 21 in Baltimore, MD
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption
Celebrant: Most Reverend William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore

Closing Mass—July 4 in Washington, DC
Time: 12:10 p.m.
Location: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Celebrant: His Eminence Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington
Homilist: Most Reverend Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia
Nationwide Telecast: EWTN cable network. Check your local listings.

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,

Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospelto every corner of society.
We ask you to bless usin our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.Give us the strength of mind and heartto readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;give us courage in making our voices heardon behalf of the rights of your Churchand the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughtersgathered in your Churchin this decisive hour in the history of our nation,so that, with every trial withstoodand every danger overcome—for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,and all who come after us—this great land will always be "one nation, under God,indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Prayer Resources

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cardinal Ouellet’s homily to conclude the Dublin Eucharistic Congress: "Keep hope and be glad, for the kingdom of God is near!"

Dear brothers and sisters, let us rejoice and be full of confidence. “We are full of confidence” (2 Cor. 5:6), as St. Paul says to the Corinthians. We are so because the risen Lord is our home and our safety. We do experience limitations and failures in the Church, but the Lord sustains us, healing our wounds and strengthening our love. Let us rejoice in Him and be glad!

Dear brothers and sisters,

The fiftieth occurrence of the International Eucharistic Congress is now coming to a close. We are deeply grateful to God for the light of His Word and for the gift of the Holy Eucharist, which strengthen our communion with Christ and with one another.

At the end of this celebration we will listen to the message of Pope Benedict XVI. His speaking to us reminds us that this International Eucharistic Congress bears witness to the Catholic Church as the universal communion of many particular Churches. The Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful here represent the Catholic Church which is found throughout the world in thousands of communities, but which is one in faith and love of Jesus Christ. I greet the ecumenical representatives and I thank you all for being part of this grace-filled event.

I greet the President of Ireland, and all the civil authorities, fondly aware of the noble tradition of this courageous nation. I thank wholeheartedly Archbishop Martin, Cardinal Brady and all the collaborators of this event for the gift of their warm hospitality and for the example of their strong dedication to Christian renewal in this country.

In order to prepare ourselves to listen to the Holy Father’s message, let us briefly reflect on today’s readings, which bring us a message of great hope and confidence.

Through the prophet Ezekiel the Lord says, “From the top of the cedar, from the highest branch I will take a shoot and plant it myself on a very high mountain. I will plant it on the high mountain of Israel. It will sprout branches and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar” (Ez. 17:22-23).

In the Gospel, Jesus uses a similar image to speak about the Kingdom of God: “[The kingdom] is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade” (Mk. 4:31-32).

We understand the prophecy of Ezekiel in the light of Christ. Jesus Christ is the shoot taken from the highest branch, he is God from God, and planted by God himself on a very high mountain, which is Calvary.

God the Father has planted on Calvary the seed of the Cross out of love for his creation and for all sinners. The seed of the Cross is the Sacred Heart of His only begotten Son, pierced to death by our sins, but raised up from death by the power of divine mercy. Therefore Christ Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is the Holy Redeemer in whom we trust and find salvation. The seed of Christ’s love, buried in the ground of Calvary, produced an unimaginable fruit: a tree, the Tree of Life, a noble cedar which is the Holy Church of God, the dawn of the Kingdom. We believe in the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church, because we believe in Christ who wills the Church to be His body, born from the self-gift of His Eucharistic Body.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us rejoice and be full of confidence. “We are full of confidence” (2 Cor. 5:6), as St. Paul says to the Corinthians. We are so because the risen Lord is our home and our safety. We do experience limitations and failures in the Church, but the Lord sustains us, healing our wounds and strengthening our love. Let us rejoice in Him and be glad!

We can rely on the Lord for a new beginning. St. Paul gives us the key for any personal or ecclesial renewal: “We are intent on pleasing Him” (2 Cor. 5:6). This key to renewal in our lives is a decision to recommit ourselves to love the Lord and to live and to die for Him, knowing that His grace will never fail. May the upcoming Year of Faith strengthen in us this decision!

Jesus is the seed sowed by God Himself in the depths of the earth, a seed that fell to the earth, died and was raised to eternal life. From this smallest seed of salvation comes the Tree of Life, the Church, in which all of humanity is called to find a home and safety in the company of the risen Lord.

For this very reason, the Church is called, and we are called, to bear witness to the Lord by pleasing Him, that is, preaching the Gospel, living in fraternity and praising God for the gift of salvation.

After this week of Eucharistic reflection, celebration and adoration, we are certainly more aware of God’s call to communion with Him and with one another.

Let us bear witness to this grace by calling others to faith in this communion. The Irish bell, which resounds from Lough Derg, from Knock and Dublin, must resound in the whole world. Let’s ring the bell further through our personal testimony of renewed faith in the Holy Eucharist.

Faith is the most precious gift we have received with Baptism. Let’s not keep it private and fearful! Let it grow as a splendid tree through sharing everywhere!

Even if we are sometimes tested in our faith, do not be afraid, and remember who we are: the body of Christ intent on loving God over and above all things, intent on living in the Spirit of the new and eternal covenant.

We are not alone; the Spirit of Pentecost dwells in us. The communion of saints, with Mary at its heart, comes to our assistance as soon as we have rung the bell of prayer in total confidence. Keep hope and be glad, for the kingdom of God is near!

Dear brothers and sisters, at the end of this Mass we will listen to the Holy Father’s message for the conclusion of this Congress. Let us listen to him with great respect and gratitude since he is our spiritual father, a father who is holy and worthy of our trust and sincere obedience.

May our communion with the Body of Christ be a new bond of love; a small seed perhaps, but, by God’s grace and divine mercy, a fruitful one.

Together we pray the words of Saint Ephrem, deacon and doctor of the Church: “Lord … we have had your treasure hidden within us ever since we received baptismal grace; it grows ever richer at your sacramental table. Teach us to find our joy in your favour! Lord, we have within us your memorial, received at your spiritual table; let us possess it in its full reality when all things shall be made new” (Sermo 3, De fine et admonitione 2. 4-5). Amen!

Marc Cardinal Ouellet
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
Papal legate to the international eucharistic congress

Source: Salt and Light

- Photo Credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring

10 killed in Nigerian Catholic Cathedral

More attaks by Islamic terrorists today claimed the lives of scores of Christians in the state of Kaduna, Nigeria, including 10 killed and 50 injured in an attack to the Cathedral of Christ the King, of the Diocese of Zaria:

From the local paper Daily Trust:

Breaking News: Kaduna confirmed death toll now 34, ...156 wounded

... From the blast at the Christ the King Cathedral at No. 80 Yoruba street Daily Trust confirmed 10 dead and over 50 injured. .

... Three churches were attacked this morning by suicide bombers in Kaduna. One went off at the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) church, Wusasa and another at the Christ the King Cathedral Catholic church at No. 80, Yoruba Street, Sabon Gari, Zaria, just behind the Army Depot, Zaria where all Nigerian soldiers receive their basic training. The third church, Shalom Church at Trikania close to Abuja Fly over and Textile Labour house, was hit by multiple explosions around 10:17am.

Source: Rorate Caeli

Friday, June 15, 2012

Catholic Bishops' Statement: "United for Religious Freedom"

United for Religious Freedom

A Statement of the Administrative Committee

Of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

March 14, 2012

The Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, gathered for its March 2012 meeting, is strongly unified and intensely focused in its opposition to the various threats to religious freedom in our day. In our role as Bishops, we approach this question prayerfully and as pastors—concerned not only with the protection of the Church’s own institutions, but with the care of the souls of the individual faithful, and with the common good.
To address the broader range of religious liberty issues, we look forward to the upcoming publication of “A Statement on Religious Liberty,” a document of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. This document reflects on the history of religious liberty in our great Nation; surveys the current range of threats to this foundational principle; and states clearly the resolve of the Bishops to act strongly, in concert with our fellow citizens, in its defense.

One particular religious freedom issue demands our immediate attention: the now-finalized rule of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would force virtually all private health plans nationwide to provide coverage of sterilization and contraception—including abortifacient drugs—subject to an exemption for “religious employers” that is arbitrarily narrow, and to an unspecified and dubious future “accommodation” for other religious organizations that are denied the exemption.

We begin, first, with thanks to all who have stood firmly with us in our vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate: to our brother bishops; to our clergy and
religious; to our Catholic faithful; to the wonderful array of Catholic groups and institutions that enliven our civil society; to our ecumenical and interfaith allies; to women and men of all religions (or none at all); to legal scholars; and to civic leaders. It is your enthusiastic unity in defense of religious freedom that has made such a dramatic and positive impact in this historic public debate. With your continued help, we will not be divided, and we will continue forward as one.
Second, we wish to clarify what this debate is—and is not—about. This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church’s hand and with the Church’s funds. This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This is not about the Bishops’ somehow “banning contraception,” when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops’ Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.

So what is it about?

An unwarranted government definition of religion.

The mandate includes an extremely narrow definition of what HHS deems a “religious employer” deserving exemption—employers who, among other things, must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith. We are deeply concerned about this new definition of who we are as people of faith and what constitutes our ministry. The introduction of this unprecedented defining of faith communities and their ministries has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom. Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry. HHS thus creates and enforces a new distinction—alien both to our Catholic tradition and to federal law—between our houses of worship and our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need, of any faith community or none. Cf. Deus Caritas Est, Nos. 20-33. We are commanded both to love and to serve the Lord; laws that protect our freedom to comply with one of these commands but not the other are nothing to celebrate. Indeed, they must be rejected, for they create a “second class” of citizenship within our religious community. And if this definition is allowed to stand, it will spread throughout federal law, weakening its healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity. All—not just some—of our religious institutions share equally in the very same God-given, legally-recognized right not “to be forced to act in a manner contrary to [their] own beliefs.” Dignitatis Humanae, No. 2.

A mandate to act against our teachings.

The exemption is not merely a government foray into internal Church governance, where government has no legal competence or authority—disturbing though that may be. This error in theory has grave consequences in principle and practice. Those deemed by HHS not to be “religious employers” will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world. For decades, the Bishops have led the fight against such government incursions on conscience, particularly in the area of health care. Far from making us waver in this longstanding commitment, the unprecedented magnitude of this latest threat has only strengthened our resolve to maintain that consistent view.

A violation of personal civil rights.

The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values. They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing “services” contrary to those values—whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves—without even the semblance of an exemption. This, too, is unprecedented in federal law, which has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. We have consistently supported these rights, particularly in the area of protecting the dignity of all human life, and we continue to do so.

Third, we want to indicate our next steps. We will continue our vigorous efforts at education and public advocacy on the principles of religious liberty and their application in this case (and others). We will continue to accept any invitation to dialogue with the Executive Branch to protect the religious freedom that is rightly ours. We will continue to pursue legislation to restore the same level of religious freedom we have enjoyed until just recently. And we will continue to explore our options for relief from the courts, under the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws that protect religious freedom. All of these efforts will proceed concurrently, and in a manner that is mutually reinforcing.

Most importantly of all, we call upon the Catholic faithful, and all people of faith, throughout our country to join us in prayer and penance for our leaders and for the complete protection of our First Freedom—religious liberty—which is not only protected in the laws and customs of our great nation, but rooted in the teachings of our great Tradition. Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength—for without God, we can do nothing; but with God, all things are possible

Sunflower giant

This is the "prize-winner" among my crop of giant sunflowers this year. I am 5'11" and this towers a couple of feet taller. Stay tuned for the blossom photo coming soon.

World Priest Day: Pray the Rosary and Litany of the Sacred Heart for Priests

Pope Benedict's Prayer

Basilica of Saint Mary Major
Saturday, 3 May 2008

Today, together we confirm that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice banished to the past, like prayers of other times thought of with nostalgia. Instead, the Rosary is experiencing a new Springtime. Without a doubt, this is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourish for Jesus and his Mother, Mary. In the current world, so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ at the centre, as the Virgin did, who meditated within all that was said about her Son, and also what he did and said. When reciting the Rosary, the important and meaningful moments of salvation history are relived. The various steps of Christ’s mission are traced. With Mary the heart is oriented toward the mystery of Jesus. Christ is put at the centre of our life, of our time, of our city, through the contemplation and meditation of his holy mysteries of joy, light, sorrow and glory. May Mary help us to welcome within ourselves the grace emanating from these mysteries, so that through us we can “water” society, beginning with our daily relationships, and purifying them from so many negative forces, thus opening them to the newness of God. The Rosary, when it is prayed in an authentic way, not mechanical and superficial but profoundly, it brings, in fact, peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and love at the centre of each “Hail Mary”.

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer for Priests

eternal High Priest, you offered yourself to the
Father on the altar of the Cross and through the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit gave your priestly
people a share in your redeeming sacrifice.
Hear our prayer for the sanctification of our priests.
Grant that all who are ordained to the ministerial
priesthood may be ever more conformed to you,
the divine Master. May they preach the
Gospel with pure heart and clear conscience.
Let them be shepherds according to your own Heart,
single- minded in service to you and to the Church
and shining examples of a holy, simple and joyful life.
Through the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
your Mother and ours, draw all priests and the flocks
entrusted to their care to the fullness of eternal life where
you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer for Priests
(specially composed for Worldpriest)

To be prayed at any time though especially for the Annual Global Rosary Relay for Priests as each country passes on the mystery of the Rosary to the next location the connecting link will be the Holy Fathers prayer.

Christ, have mercy

Lord, have mercy

Christ, hear us

Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.

God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.

God, the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.

Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mother, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, substantially united to the Word of God, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, of Infinite Majesty, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, Sacred Temple of God, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, Tabernacle of the Most High, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, House of God and Gate of Heaven, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, abode of justice and love, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, king and center of all hearts, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, in whom are all treasures of wisdom and knowledge, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, in whom dwells the fullness of divinity, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father was well pleased, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, of whose fullness we have all received, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, patient and most merciful, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, enriching all who invoke Thee, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and holiness, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our sins, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, loaded down with opprobrium, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, bruised for our offenses, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, obedient to death, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, our peace and our reconciliation, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who trust in Thee, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in Thee, have mercy on us.

Heart of Jesus, delight of all the Saints, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, spare us O Lord.

Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

V. Jesus, meek and humble of heart

R. Make our hearts like unto thine.

Let us pray.

Almighty and eternal God, look upon the Heart of Thy most beloved Son and upon the praises and satisfaction which He offers Thee in the name of sinners; and to those who implore Thy mercy, in Thy great goodness, grant forgiveness in the name of the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who livest and reignest with Thee forever and ever. Amen.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Marylanders will be able to vote against redefinition of marriage this Fall

Same-sex marriage question will be on Maryland ballot
Foes gather enough petition signatures
By David Hill
The Washington Times

Updated: 7:58 p.m. on Thursday, June 7, 2012
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Senate President Mike Miller and Speaker of the House Michael Busch sign the Civil Marriage Protection Act into law at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Md., on Thursday, March 1, 2012. (Barbara L. Salisbury/The Washington Times) ANNAPOLIS — Organizers of a petition against Maryland’s same-sex marriage law have collected enough valid voter signatures to send the law to a November referendum, state election officials said Thursday.

The state Board of Elections announced that local elections boards have verified 70,039 signatures on the petition to force a statewide vote on the law — exceeding the 55,736 signatures that were required to be turned in by June 30.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance has led the petition effort against the law, which was passed in February by the General Assembly. The group says it submitted more than 122,000 signatures last week to the state.

“We’re ecstatic that Maryland’s citizens are guaranteed the opportunity to vote on such a critical issue,” said MMA Executive Director Derek McCoy, who added that the group will continue collecting signatures through the end of the month. “Multiple thousands of people across the state are energized by this issue and want to see it go to referendum.”

Local elections boards must still count the nearly 50,000 remaining signatures on the petition.

And they must start their review of the 28,000 signatures turned in by a group hoping to force a referendum on the state’s new congressional district map.

State officials say the petitions workload is virtually unprecedented in a state that has had just one successful referendum effort in the past 20 years, but that elections officials are up to the challenge.

“There’s no question that it’s a lot of work and it will mean extra hours,” said Mary Cramer Wagner, director of the state Board of Elections’ voter registration division. “But the [local boards] will get it done.”

Elections officials must count all of the marriage signatures by June 18 and all of the congressional redistricting signatures by June 20.

While the marriage petition easily passed the June 30 threshold, organizers of the redistricting petition hope they met the preliminary requirement of having submitted 18,579 signatures — one-third of the June 30 requirement — by May 31.

The signatures must be sorted by county before they are submitted, with no sheet containing voters from more than one local jurisdiction.

The local boards are then responsible for verifying all signatures from their jurisdiction and must do so within 20 days of when the signatures were first submitted to the state.

While the task appears daunting, Ms. Wagner said local boards are right on schedule, having processed about 74,000 signatures by Thursday.

She said workers have had to overcome the fact that some colleagues are away for an annual conference with some Anne Arundel County Board of Elections employees, even by working over the past weekend.

Harold Ruston, manager of election operations for the Prince George’s County Board of Elections, estimated that 10 to 15 employees have had to review more than 10,000 signatures.

He said a few employees are working an extra hour or two each day and are making good progress.

“We’re working on them just fine,” he said. “We have 20 days to do it and we fully expect to get them done.”

The process might sound tedious but elections officials give the petitions far more than a casual glance, typically throwing out thousands of signatures due to minor mistakes and omissions.

All signatures must come from registered voters and be accompanied by the signing date as well as the signer’s full name, permanent address and date of birth as they appear on voter records.

Signatures are often voided for reasons such as an outdated address, omitted signing date, forgotten middle initial or the use of a nickname rather than birth name.

Full story here.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Test of Fire: Election 2012. Will Jesus be Lord for you in the voting booth?

Our Catholic Faith must influence all our decisions, including the ones we make in the voting booth. We may never do evil that good may come of it, thus we may never by voting cooperate in a moral evil such as support for abortion, the redefinition of marriage,or any of the five "non-negotiables" as listed below.


These five issues are called non-negotiable because they concern actions that are always morally wrong and must never be promoted by the law. It is a serious sin to endorse or promote any of these actions, and no candidate who really wants to advance the common good will support any of the five non-negotiables.

1. Abortion

The Church teaches that, regarding a law permitting abortions, it is "never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or to vote for it" (EV 73). Abortion is the intentional and direct killing of an innocent human being, and therefore it is a form of homicide.

The child is always an innocent party, and no law may permit the taking of his life. Even when a child is conceived through rape or incest, the fault is not the child's, who should not suffer death for others' sins.

2. Euthanasia

Often disguised by the name "mercy killing," euthanasia also is a form of homicide. No one has a right to take his own life (suicide), and no one has the right to take the life of any innocent person.

In euthanasia, the ill or elderly are killed out of a misplaced sense of compassion, but true compassion cannot include doing something intrinsically evil to another person (cf. EV 73).

3. Fetal Stem Cell Research

Human embryos are human beings. "Respect for the dignity of the human being excludes all experimental manipulation or exploitation of the human embryo" (CRF 4b).

Recent scientific advances show that any medical cure that might arise from experimentation on fetal stem cells can be developed by using adult stem cells instead. Adult stem cells can be obtained without doing harm to the adults from whom they come. Thus there no longer is a medical argument in favor of using fetal stem cells.

4. Human Cloning

"Attempts . . . for obtaining a human being without any connection with sexuality through 'twin fission,' cloning, or parthenogenesis are to be considered contrary to the moral law, since they are in opposition to the dignity both of human procreation and of the conjugal union" (RHL I:6).

Human cloning also ends up being a form of homicide because the "rejected" or "unsuccessful" clones are destroyed, yet each clone is a human being.

5. Homosexual "Marriage"

True marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Legal recognition of any other form of "marriage" undermines true marriage, and legal recognition of homosexual unions actually does homosexual persons a disfavor by encouraging them to persist in what is an objectively immoral arrangement.

"When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral" (UHP 10).

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