Beijing – His Excellency Joseph Li Shan, Archbishop of Beijing, held a meeting on June 12 for the Archdiocesan preparations for the Olympics, which will begin this August 8, in Beijing. Archbishop Li asked all parish priests, religious sisters, and laity to work together in offering improved pastoral and evangelization initiatives to the Chinese and foreign visitors: “every parish should offer its most competent lay members in receiving the visitors and meeting their needs, whether they be Catholic or non-Catholic, who wish to visit the church or participate in a religious service.” The Archbishop also appointed Father Matthew Zhen, Diocesan Chancellor, as the head of the Welcome Office for foreign visitors. The Archdiocese has already planned for 16 priests, along with other religious and laity to serve at the Olympic Village. In addition to the prayers of all Catholics, the Archdiocese will be offering the celebration of the Mass in English, French, and Italian for all guests. The foreign priests visiting will also be able to celebrate Mass in their own languages in the Churches of Beijing, when they so wish.
ORLANDO, June 13, 2008 (vaticans.org) -- Declaring that stem-cell research does not present a conflict between science and religion, the U.S. bishops overwhelmingly approved a statement June 13 calling the use of human embryos in such research "gravely immoral" and unnecessary.
In the last vote of the public session of their Jan. 12-14 spring general assembly in Orlando, the bishops voted 191-1 in favor of the document titled "On Embryonic Stem-Cell Research: A Statement of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops."
"It now seems undeniable that once we cross the fundamental moral line that prevents us from treating any fellow human being as a mere object of research, there is no stopping point," the document said. "The only moral stance that affirms the human dignity of all of us is to reject the first step down this path."
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., introduced the document on behalf of Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, who was not at the Orlando meeting.
Consideration of the stem-cell document came after an intense and complicated debate at the meeting over a 700-page liturgical translation. Archbishop Naumann thanked those involved in the liturgical debate for "making stem-cell research seem simple," which drew laughs from the other bishops.
The seven-page policy statement was approved with little debate and few amendments.
Archbishop Naumann said it would be issued in an "attractive educational brochure" intended for the "broadest possible distribution."
Also coming out this summer, he said, are three educational resources on the medical advances being made with adult stem cells: a 16-minute DVD called "Stem-Cell Research: Finding Cures We Can All Live With"; an updated parish bulletin insert on the topic; and a brochure on "Stem Cells and Hope for Patients," which will be part of the bishops' annual Respect Life observance.
Although the U.S. bishops have been active in the national debate on stem cells, individually and collectively, this marks the first time they have addressed the issue in a document "devoted exclusively" to that topic, Archbishop Naumann said.
"Even our opponents admit that ours is one of the most effective voices against destroying human embryos for stem-cell research," he added.
The document is designed to set the stage for a later, more pastoral document explaining why the Catholic Church opposes some reproductive technologies.
"While human life is threatened in many ways in our society, the destruction of human embryos for stem-cell research confronts us with an issue of respect for life in a stark new way," it says.
"The issue of stem-cell research does not force us to choose between science and ethics, much less between science and religion," the document says. "It presents a choice as to how our society will pursue scientific and medical progress."
The policy statement seeks to refute three arguments made in favor of permitting stem-cell research that involves the destruction of human embryos. It says proponents of embryonic stem-cell research argue:
-- "Any harm done in this case is outweighed by potential benefits.
-- "What is destroyed is not a human life, or at least not a human being with fundamental human rights.
-- "Dissecting human embryos for their cells should not be seen as involving a loss of embryonic life."
Responding to the first argument, the document says that "the false assumption that a good end can justify direct killing has been the source of much evil in our world."
"No commitment to a hoped-for 'greater good' can erase or diminish the wrong of directly taking innocent human lives here and now," the statement adds. "In fact, policies undermining our respect for human life can only endanger the vulnerable patients that stem-cell research offers to help. The same ethic that justifies taking some lives to help the patient with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease today can be used to sacrifice that very patient tomorrow."
On the claims that a week-old embryo is "too small, immature or undeveloped to be considered a 'human life'" or "too lacking in mental or physical abilities to have full human worth or human rights," the document notes that the embryo "has the full complement of human genes" and is worthy of the same dignity given to all members of the human family.
"If fundamental rights such as the right to life are based on abilities or qualities that can appear or disappear, grow or diminish, and be greater or lesser in different human beings, then there are no inherent human rights, no true human equality, only privileges for the strong," the statement says.
The document also dismisses the argument that there is no harm in killing so-called "spare" embryos created for in vitro fertilization attempts because they would die anyway.
"Ultimately each of us will die, but that gives no one a right to kill us," the statement says. "Our society does not permit lethal experiments on terminally ill patients or condemned prisoners on the pretext that they will soon die anyway. Likewise, the fact that an embryonic human being is at risk of being abandoned by his or her parents gives no individual or government a right to directly kill that human being first."
The document also addresses moves to permit human cloning and the "grotesque practice" -- banned by the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act of 2006 -- to develop cloned embryos in a woman's womb in order to harvest tissues and organs from them.
It closes with a reminder that the use of adult stem cells and umbilical-cord blood have been shown to offer "a better way" to produce cells that can benefit patients suffering from heart disease, corneal damage, sickle cell anemia, multiple sclerosis and many other diseases.
"There is no moral objection to research and therapy of this kind, when it involves no harm to human beings at any stage of development and is conducted with appropriate informed consent," it says. "Catholic foundations and medical centers have been, and will continue to be, among the leading supporters of ethically responsible advances in the medical use of adult stem cells."
ORLANDO, June 13, 2008 (vaticans.org) -- Opening their spring general meeting in Orlando, members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops got an interim report on the causes and context of child sexual abuse by priests and made quick work of proposals to revisit the ethical guidelines on feeding tubes and to declare a National Catholic Charities Sunday in 2010.
In the first morning session of the June 12-14 assembly at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, the bishops also took a preliminary look at two documents they will vote on later in the meeting. The first was a 700-page draft translation of the proper prayers in the Roman Missal for each Sunday and feast day during the liturgical year.
The other was a seven-page policy statement from the Committee on Pro-Life Activities that calls embryonic stem-cell research "a gravely immoral act" that crosses a "fundamental moral line" by treating human beings as mere objects of research.
Both documents were scheduled for further debate and vote June 13.
Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship, said the liturgical document under consideration was the second of 12 sections of the Roman Missal translation project that will come before the bishops through at least 2010.
Each draft section first goes through a consultative process in all English-speaking countries and a final draft is proposed by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, made up of representatives of bishops' conferences throughout the English-speaking world.
Because of that process, Bishop Serratelli said his committee had accepted only "a limited number of amendments considered absolutely necessary." Nearly 100 amendments proposed by a half-dozen bishops were rejected by the committee, although some might be brought before the full body of bishops before a vote.
The stem-cell document was introduced by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., in the absence of Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the pro-life committee.
Saying that the church has been "one of the most effective voices in the national debate on the use of embryos in stem-cell research," Archbishop Naumann said the new document would be the first by the bishops "devoted exclusively to this issue."
He said the stem-cell document will serve as a complement to a "somewhat longer, more pastoral document," aimed primarily at Catholic couples, on the church's teachings on reproductive technologies. The bishops decided not to consider both topics in one document because they face "distinct educational challenges," he added.
In an interim report on a study of the causes and context of sex abuse of minors by priests, researcher Karen Terry said she and her colleagues at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York have found some correlations between the frequency of child sex abuse by priests and the increase or decline in societal patterns of divorce, premarital sex and illegal drug use.
In the 1960s, for example, studies show there was a 200 percent increase in incidents of abuse by priests, as well as a 200 percent increase in the number of divorces and the number of new adult users of marijuana and a 70 percent increase in premarital sexual activity among 20-year-old women.
In the 1980s, when incidents of abuse by priests declined by 72 percent, the divorce rate was down 40 percent and there was a 60 percent decrease in premarital sexual activity and new marijuana users, Terry said.
A similar pattern also is seen in the number of resignations from the priesthood during each decade and the number of incidents of sex abuse by priests in each of those decades, she said.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the various phenomena are "shaped by the same social factors," Terry said.
The causes and context study, commissioned by the bishops' National Review Board, is expected to be completed by December 2010, said Bishop Gregory M. Aymond of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.
In voting on the first day, the bishops gave permission for their Committee on Doctrine to begin revising the "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services" to reflect recent church documents on medically assisted nutrition and hydration.
The documents include a 2004 address by Pope John Paul II to an international congress on the vegetative state and a 2007 response by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on questions raised by the USCCB on artificial nutrition and hydration.
The "modest revision" would later be brought to the full body of bishops for a vote, although Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., doctrine committee chairman, said he did not know whether the changes would be ready for a vote this November.
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati urged as wide a consultation as possible before the proposal comes to the bishops.
"We do not want to seem like we're handing this down from on high to the Catholic health care world," he said. "We need to get as much input as we can get."
The bishops also approved by voice vote a proposal to designate Sept. 26, 2010, as National Catholic Charities Sunday to mark the 100th anniversary of the network of Catholic social service agencies nationwide.
In written ballots they accepted a recommendation from the Committee on Budget and Finance to keep the 2009 assessment on dioceses to fund the work of the USCCB at the 2008 level of just over $10 million and a proposal by the Committee on Divine Worship to replace the Spanish word "vosotros" with "ustedes" in Spanish-language Masses in the U.S. to reflect the usage more common in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The diocesan assessment level was OK'd by a 140-0 vote, while the liturgical proposal was approved 187-3
Baltimore, Jun. 11, 2008 (vaticans.org) - An American archbishop has placed restrictions on the work of the Legionaries of Christ in his archdiocese.
Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore, Maryland, has sent a "letter of understanding" to Father Alvaro Corcuera, the superior general of the Legionaries of Christ, setting forth the conditions under which he will allow the group to be active in the Baltimore archdiocese. The archbishop's letter, written after a meeting with leaders of the Legionaries, is posted on the website of the Baltimore archdiocese.
"Knowing that your willingess to accept the discernment of ecclesiastical authority is but a further proof of the authenticity of the charisms of the Legionaries and Regnum Christi, as pastor of the local Church in Baltimore I need the following from you," Archbishop O'Brien wrote, adding a list of stipulations.
The archbishop asked Father Corcuera to designate a priest as liaison between the Legionaries of Christ (LC) and the archdiocese. That priest, he said, should provide a complete listing of the LC priests working in the archdiocese and a summary of their current activities; he should also list the members of the affiliated lay group, Regnum Christi, and their activities. The LC liaison should inform local pastors about any activities undertaken by the Legionaries or Regnum Christi within the boundaries of their parishes, Archbishop O'Brien ordered.
Showing special concern about the reports of aggressive efforts by LC members to recruit young men to the priesthood, the archbishop said that in order to avoid "undue sense of vocational obligation," LC priests should not act as spiritual directors for young men under the age of 18.
Archbishop O'Brien asked for a full listing of boys from the Baltimore archdiocese who are enrolled in LC high-school seminaries and boarding schools. He said that the archdiocesan director of vocations would "review that information with the parents and pastors of those candidates."
Colombo, Srilanka, Jun. 10, 2008 (vaticans.org) – “Shocked” by the high number of casualties in recent senseless attacks in Dehiwala, Moratuwa and Polgolla, the Catholic and Anglican bishops of Sri Lanka signed a joint statementcalling on the government to find a political solution to the civil war.
“Killing of any human being is unacceptable but the killing of innocent civilians is abominable. We vehemently condemn these acts of wanton violence and terrorism,” the statement said.
The bishops also appealed to Tamil Tiger rebels asking them to desist from using violence.
They called on both sides to enter into negotiations to find a way out of the crisis that has plagued this country for so long.
“It is most urgent that the President and the government obtain the cooperation of all political leaders to forge a consensus as regards to a political solution since peaceful means is the only way to lasting peace,” the prelates said.
In another special press release the Anglican bishop of Colombo, Mgr Duleep de Chickera, urged “all parties to remain calm” because ethnic relations are fast spinning out of control exacerbated by the economic hardships people face.
Given the situation he urged the government and the rebels “to show greater political discernment and maturity to pull our country from the brink” and “collaborate [. . .] towards peace.”