ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CNS) — The U.S. Supreme Court in the fall will hear oral arguments in a case from upstate New York about the practice of praying at open public meetings.
One of the questions the high court may consider is what steps a municipality should take to ensure the religious diversity of prayers offered at such meetings.
The court announced May 20 that it would hear the case Greece, N.Y., v. Galloway, Susan, et al., a dispute that dates back to 2008. It centers on the constitutionality of prayers at the beginning of town board meetings in Greece, a suburb of Rochester.
According to background on the case filed by attorneys representing the Town of Greece, public prayer has been offered at town board meetings since 1999 by Greece clergy members who were invited by the town based on lists published by the Greece Chamber of Commerce and by a local newspaper.
The houses of worship located in Greece are predominantly Christian. As a result, a majority of the invocations offered from 1999 to 2010 contained Christian references, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a nonpartisan, nonsectarian group that is representing plaintiffs Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, who are Greece residents.
“A town council meeting isn’t a church service, and it shouldn’t seem like one,” said a statement from the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Government can’t serve everyone in the community when it endorses one faith over others. That sends the clear message that some are second-class citizens based on what they believe about religion.”
Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal organization founded in 1994 that advocates for the religious liberty of Americans and people around the world, contends that the town did not regulate the content of the prayers, permitted citizens of any religious tradition — or no tradition — to volunteer to say prayers, and did not discriminate in who was selected as “prayer-givers.” Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the Town of Greece on a pro bono basis.
In May 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit struck down the town’s prayer policy and recommended potential changes. Among those recommendations was that Greece should invite non-Christians from outside the town’s borders to pray at its town meetings and take steps to ensure that the prayers said were nonsectarian
May 22, 2013
Vatican City, May 22, 2013 / 09:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican revealed that its enhanced procedures have enabled it to flag more suspicious transactions in 2012 than it did in 2011.
“I’m not saying that everything is great and perfect, but that a lot of progress has been made in the last two years,” said Rene Brülhart, director of the Financial Information Authority, at the Vatican’s press office.
“It’s important that we’re setting a system here to protect the Holy See,” he added.
The Vatican’s Financial Information Authority made the statistics public at a May 22 press conference, where it made its first-ever annual report available.
The report shows that in 2012 there were six reports of suspicious activity, versus one in 2011.
Brülhart said this proves that his department and its system, which became operational in April 2011, are working well.
The director explained that the six suspicious transactions involved sums of money greater than 10,000 Euros ($13,000) but would not provide additional details.
He also revealed that the Financial Authority asked the Promoter of Justice’s office within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to study two of the cases and said that they could be related to money laundering.
He stressed that international cooperation to help combat money laundering was “absolutely key and crucial” and that the Vatican is “a key player in global fight of money laundering.”
The Financial Information Authority was set up to help combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism and hired Brülhart as its director just a few months ago
May 17, 2013
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta has a special briefcase he uses exclusively to carry documentation for a project that would completely revise an entire section of the Catholic Church’s basic law.
The black case contains a 40-page draft text for a new “Book VI: Sanctions in the Church” section of the Code of Canon Law, as well as the 800-page synthesis of recommended amendments and objections to the proposed changes.
Bishop Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, delves into the briefcase at work in his office overlooking St. Peter’s Square and at home in the evening.
Like any society, the Catholic Church has laws, Bishop Arrieta said, and while the tenets of its faith do not change, its laws do need to be adapted to the changing situations in which its members try to live out their faith.
While the pontifical council is looking at small adjustments to several sections of the Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, and ways to speed up the process for evaluating the validity of marriages, the section concerning offenses and penalties was judged to be in need of more than a touch up.
The current code was drafted in the 1970s, Bishop Arrieta said, “a period that was a bit naive” in regard to the need for a detailed description of offenses, procedures for investigating them and penalties to impose on the guilty. It reflected a feeling that “we are all good,” he said, and that “penalties should be applied rarely.”
“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when Pope Benedict was prefect, was obliged to act as a consequence of the fact that the (church’s) penal law was not working,” he said
May 22, 2013
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The United States’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to hunt down suspected terrorists deserves a wide-scale public discussion, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.
Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, raised a series of ethical and moral questions regarding the use of drones in places such as Pakistan and Yemen in detailed two-page letters to Thomas E. Donilon, national security adviser, and the chairs of several House and Senate committees dealing with national security, foreign relations, intelligence and government oversight.
In the correspondence, Bishop Pates also called upon the U.S. officials to “exercise leadership in advancing international norms, standards and restrictions” on the use of drones and called for greater scrutiny of their use.
He suggested that American counter-terrorism policy should “employ non-military assets to build peace through respect for human rights and addressing underlying injustices that terrorists unscrupulously exploit.”
Acknowledging that countries have right to use force in self-defense, the bishop cautioned that not every attack by al-Qaida or other terrorist organizations “justifies war as a response and not every use of force in self-defense is war.”
“Counter-terrorism, even against an organization as uniquely dangerous as al-Qaida, is not war when it takes place outside of war zones. Counter-terrorism is primarily a law enforcement activity which at times may require the use of military assets and forces. To name it a war may overemphasize the utility of military force and underappreciate other critical strategies to address terrorism,” Bishop Pates wrote.
“Naming the struggle with terrorism a ‘war’ would seem to enhance the status of terrorists who are non-state actors, operating entirely outside the framework of just war,” he said.
The letter focused on challenges posed by the use of drones by raising the just-war standards of discrimination, imminence of the threat, proportionality and probability of success
May 17, 2013
Same-sex marriage is one of the most successful social movements in American history.
Writing in Commonweal, Andrew Koppelman said “its claims were outside the realm of political possibility as recently as the early 1990s.
“Now its victory is probably inevitable,” wrote Koppelman, a law professor at Northwestern University.
Based on current evidence, it is difficult to argue with Koppelman’s opinion. The pressure to enact same-sex marriage laws in the states as well as at the federal level is moving as an avalanche roaring over obstacles in its way — including the Catholic Church. In May, Delaware became the 11th state to legalize same-sex marriage.
A social issue such as same-sex marriage gains more support than the moral issues of abortion, capital punishment, immigration rights.
Same-sex marriage proponents rely heavily on arguments of justice to gain support for their cause. But if justice can be seen as convincing in a social question, why isn’t justice convincing in moral issues involving the protection of human life such as capital punishment and abortion?
May 22, 2013
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Selfishness only brings sadness and bitterness, while stepping outside of oneself to evangelize is the ultimate “pick me up” and source of joy, Pope Francis said.
“Let’s live the Gospel with humility and courage. Give witness to the newness, hope and joy that the Lord brings to your life,” the pope said May 22 at his weekly general audience.
Speaking to more than 80,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis also called for prayers for those struck by a deadly tornado in Moore, Okla., which left at least 24 people dead, including at least eight children, as it destroyed numerous homes and leveled an elementary school May 20.
“I invite all of you to pray with me for the victims, especially the children, of the disaster in Oklahoma,” he said.
“May the Lord himself console everyone, in particular parents who have lost a child in such a tragic way.”
The pope made the call for prayers after leading his weekly general audience in which he continued a series of talks about the affirmations of faith in the creed. He focused on the role of the Holy Spirit in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” church.
The Holy Spirit gives the church life and guides her steps, he said.
“Without the presence and constant action of the Holy Spirit, the church could not live and could not fulfill the task the risen Christ entrusted her to go and make disciples of all peoples.”
The church exists to evangelize, which is the mission of all baptized Christians, not just a few, he said.
However, it takes prayer and the Holy Spirit to truly evangelize, he said
May 16, 2013
FAIRFAX, Va. (CNS) — A diverse group of young college women lounged on couches at the entrance of the George Mason University Student Union on a recent afternoon.
Ninoska Moratin, a campus missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, better known as FOCUS, entreated the students to review their week as she began the Bible study.
“(A) bud is something you’re looking forward to and thorns are … bad (things) that happen,” Moratin she told them.
The daughter of a Nicaraguan mother and a Dominican Republic father, she has devoted almost two years of her life to serving God within the many different cultural communities at George Mason University in Fairfax. On Tuesdays, she attends a weekly Salsa Club, where she dances and talks with students.
“I explain to them (that) in my heart I know (the faith is) important and that I love it,” she told Catholic News Service.
Chris Rothschild, FOCUS team director at the University of Maryland in College Park, has put his career as a biochemist on hold for three years “to share the meaning my life,” he told CNS. He wants to show students that “I was in your shoes and thought the same thing, but was wrong. Here’s the meaning in my life (now).”
A convert to the Catholic faith, Rothschild joined the fellowship immediately following his senior year of college.
“I recognized the great brokenness we have in our own culture,” he said.
Moratin, who grew up in a Catholic family, was curious about the organization and decided to apply to be a missionary after spending time as a student leader.
“I love my job,” she said, explaining that she and her fellow FOCUS missionaries promote the virtues of chastity, sobriety and excellence as a way to address what many describe as three main vices confronting students in college — the hookup culture, drunkenness and procrastination
May 7, 2013
Frequent First Things contributor Mary Eberstadt examines the sexual revolution’s negative fallout in “Adam and Eve After the Pill.” She shows how the predictions of “Humanae Vitae” (On Human Life) have come true in full force. Even non-Catholic and anti-church thinkers such as researcher Lionel Tiger note again and again how the sexual revolution, at the center of which is the pill, has led to “unique problems.”
She notes the main points of that much-criticized 1968 encyclical, and their prescience for today. “Humanae Vitae” “warned of four resulting trends: a general lowering of moral standards throughout society; a rise in infidelity; a lessoning of respect for women by men; and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.” These trends have harmed men, women, young adults and children, the author shows, before she moves on to discussing the changed moral landscape wrought by the sexual turmoil.
This more intellectual side to the revolution’s poison offers the best reading, as we come away with a better understanding of mainstream thinking, and how to offer a Catholic counterargument.
Eberstadt clearly explains that, in step with the sexual revolution, Western society has flip-flopped its morals. Sexuality and food, for instance, have changed roles. Nowadays people have the same moral rigidity about food that 60 years ago they held about sex. This includes the belief that other people should also hold the same views. Yet, judging another’s sexuality or sexual practices nowadays is off-putting to most, considered puritanical and old-fashioned.
Smoking and pornography have also flip-flopped, where people are resigned to the bad habit of the day (smoking in the 1950s and pornography today) and don’t see a way out. Yet the author notes that decades of struggle against Big Tobacco, though highly irritating to some, was well worth it, as most people would agree. An identical fight could be undertaken now against Big Porn.
Eberstadt sees the same basic “harm-minimizing synergy” between producer and consumer in each battle: 1950s smokers didn’t want to hear that their habit was killing them, and the tobacco companies didn’t want to tell them. Similarly today, porn users might know they are hurting themselves and their loved ones, but they turn a deaf ear to such advice.
Eberstadt concludes that the research clearly shows how “private actions, notably post-revolution sexual habits,” have “massive public consequences”, contrary to mainstream claims that what happens in the bedroom is no one’s business