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Court hears arguments in Little Sisters of the Poor appeal


DENVER — Speaking on the steps of a federal courthouse in Denver Dec. 8, the mother provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor said the religious order cannot and “should not have to” choose between “our care for the elderly poor and our faith.”

Sister Loraine Marie Maguire said that is what the U.S. government is demanding by requiring the order to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.

“It is a choice that violates our nation’s historic commitment to ensure that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives,” she said in a statement. “But the government forces us to either violate our conscience or take millions of dollars that we raise by begging for the care of the elderly poor and instead pay fines to the IRS.”

She made the comments after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in an appeal filed by the Little Sisters of the Poor and in two related cases, Southern Nazarene University in Denver and Reaching Souls International, an Oklahoma nonprofit.

Mark Rienzi, senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead attorney for the Little Sisters, delivered the oral arguments on behalf of the order. Adam C. Jed, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, delivered the oral arguments on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, headed by Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

“Untold millions of people have managed to get contraceptives without the involvement of nuns,” Rienzi said in a statement afterward. “The idea that the most powerful government in the world cannot come up with a way to distribute these products without forcing the Little Sisters to participate is ridiculous.”

A Catholic News Service request for comment from HHS was not immediately returned.

The Little Sisters of the Poor first filed suit against the HHS mandate in September 2013 in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado and lost.

The order appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit. Last December, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the religious order a temporary injunction on enforcement of the mandate and now the order seeks a permanent injunction.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Denver-based religious order that cares for the elderly poor in several facilities around the U.S., has been steadfast in its refusal to provide contraceptive coverage to its employees as required by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the Affordable Health Care Act.

Refusal to comply with the mandate may force the Little Sisters to pay millions of dollars in fines to the federal government. The fine is set at $1,000 a day per enrollee in an employer’s health plan.

HHS requires nearly all employers to cover contraceptives, sterilizations and some abortion-inducing drugs for all employees in company health plans. It includes a narrow exemption for religious employers that fit certain criteria.

To opt out, nonexempt religious employers must inform the government of its religious objections to the mandated coverage. The government then informs a third party — such as the employer’s insurer or the administrator of its plan — that it must provide the coverage at no cost to the employee.

Nonexempt employers, like the Little Sisters of the Poor, had been required to fill out a self-certification form, known as EBSA Form 700, to direct a third party to provide the contested coverage.

Many religious employers that have sued over the mandate argue that even filling out Form 700 makes them complicit in providing coverage they find objectionable.

So last August, the Obama administration issued revised rules, which religious employers say they still find objectionable.

Under the new procedure, an eligible organization must advise HHS in writing of its religious objection to contraception coverage.

HHS itself will then notify the insurer for a health plan, or the Department of Labor will notify the third-party administrator for a self-insured plan, that the organization objects to providing contraception coverage. The insurer or third-party administrator must provide the coverage at no cost to the employee.

When the new rules were released, an HHS statement said they “balance our commitment to helping ensure women have continued access to coverage for preventative services important to their health, with the administration’s goal of respecting religious beliefs.”

In her statement, Sister Maguire said her order is “not seeking special privileges.”

“The government exempts huge corporations, small businesses, and other religious ministries from what they are imposing on us, we are simply asking to carry on our mission to serve the elderly poor as we have always done for 175 years,” she said.


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Vatican investigates two former bank managers

December 9th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican City prosecutor has opened an investigation into possible embezzlement by two former top officials at the Institute for the Works of Religion, more commonly called the Vatican bank.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said Dec. 7 that the prosecutor, Gian Piero Milano, opened the investigation of the two former bank officials “on a hypothesis of embezzlement for real estate operations in the period 2001-2008.” An investigation of possible collusion by their legal adviser in the real estate deals also is under way.

The possible embezzlement was reported to Milano by current bank officials who discovered irregularities during the Vatican bank’s internal verification of accounts and operations over the past year, Father Lombardi said.

The spokesman said the Vatican bank accounts of those involved have been frozen.

Angelo Caloia, the former bank president, and Lelio Scaletti, the former director general, are being investigated in connection with the sale of 29 Vatican-owned buildings in Rome and Milan, according to the Reuters news agency.

The news agency, which said it had obtained Milano’s order freezing the accounts, said Milano suspects Caloia and Scaletti of entering in the Vatican books prices below what actually was received in the sales and of pocketing the difference, perhaps as much as 57 million euros (over $70 million).

The frozen Vatican bank accounts, Reuters said, contain 16 million euros (close to $20 million).

Liuzzo confirmed to Reuters that his account had been frozen, but he said the suspicions were “rubbish” and insisted all the money from the property sales had gone to the bank. Neither Caloia nor Scaletti responded to Reuters’ request for comment.

A statement dated Dec. 6 and posted on the Vatican bank’s website confirmed officials there “pressed charges against two former managers and a lawyer some months ago, underlining its commitment to transparency and zero tolerance, including with regard to matters that relate to a more distant past.”

“We are very pleased that the Vatican authorities are taking decisive action,” said Jean Baptiste de Franssu, president of the bank’s board of supervisors.


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Dec. 8: Mary gives hope against threats of evil, pope says


Catholic News Service

ROME — In the heart of Rome’s high-end shopping district, sparkling with Christmas lights and shiny baubles in the windows of famous designers, Pope Francis prayed that people would spend time in silence and in service as they prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Pope Francis blesses a wreath while praying at a statue of Mary overlooking the Spanish Steps in Rome Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis blesses a wreath while praying at a statue of Mary overlooking the Spanish Steps in Rome Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Celebrating the feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8, Pope Francis prayed for Mary’s intercession so that, “in us, your children, grace also will prevail over pride, and we can become merciful like our heavenly Father is merciful.”

Before laying a basket of cream-colored roses at the foot of a statue of the Immaculate Conception near Rome’s Spanish Steps, Pope Francis recited a special prayer he composed for the occasion.

The feast is a major Rome holiday, and with brilliant blue skies replacing days of gray and rain, thousands of people lined the streets near the Spanish Steps to catch a glimpse of the pope and pray with him for Mary’s assistance.

Pope Francis said Mary being conceived without sin should give all Christians hope and strength “in the daily battle that we must conduct against the threats of evil,” because her immaculate conception is proof that evil does not have power over love.

“In this struggle we are not alone, we are not orphans,” he said, because Jesus gave his mother to be our mother.

“Today we invoke her maternal protection on us, our families, this city and the world,” the pope said, praying that God would “free humanity from every spiritual and material slavery.”

“In this time that leads up to the feast of Jesus’ birth, teach us how to go against the current,” Pope Francis prayed to Mary. Teach people how to be unencumbered, “to give ourselves, to listen, to be silent, to not focus on ourselves, but to leave space for the beauty of God, the source of true joy.”

In a small blue Ford Focus, the pope was driven to the Spanish Steps’ neighborhood after first stopping for a private prayer at the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Earlier in the day, with thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis led the recitation of the Angelus, a Marian prayer.

Commenting on the feast day’s Gospel reading — Luke’s story of the annunciation to Mary that she would be Jesus’ mother — the pope said it was important that Mary did not respond, “I will do what you say,” but “May it be done unto me.”

“The attitude of Mary of Nazareth,” he said, “shows us that being comes before doing, and that we must let God do in order to be truly as he wants us to be. He will accomplish marvels in us.”

“We, too, are asked to listen to God, who speaks to us and accept his will,” the pope said. “According to Gospel logic, nothing is more effective and fruitful than listening and accepting the word of the Lord.”

The pope also said the Gospel story shows how Mary “is receptive, but not passive.” She agrees to God’s will, receives the power of the Holy Spirit and gives “flesh and blood” to the son of God.

And while Mary was conceived without sin, a special and unique privilege, “we, too, always have been blessed, that is loved, and therefore ‘chosen before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him,’” as the day’s reading from Ephesians said.

Recognizing how blessed they are, the pope said, Christians must be filled with gratitude and ready to share their blessings with others.

“If everything has been given to us, everything must be given again,” he said. “How? By letting the Holy Spirit make us a gift for others.”

Pope Francis encouraged Christians to let the Holy Spirit make them “instruments of welcoming, instruments of reconciliation, instruments of forgiveness.”


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Their time has come: Recent scholastic basketball standouts have become coaches


Dialog reporter


The high school basketball season is now underway, but one of the best girls teams in the state will not be competing this year. Instead, those players will be on the sidelines, whistles around their necks and clipboards in their hands.

A look at the five Catholic high schools in New Castle County that have girls basketball – Archmere, Padua, Ursuline, St. Elizabeth and St. Mark’s – reveals a who’s who of recent hoops talent that is now passing along their experience and knowledge as coaches. Those staffs include all-staters, 1,000-point scorers, state champions and big-time college talent who now want to guide the next generation. Read more »

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Knights of Columbus send $2.2 million to help refugees in Iraq, Syria


NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Knights of Columbus announced its Christian Refugee Relief Fund has donated $2.2 million to help displaced Iraqi and Syrian Christians and other religious minorities who continue to face violent persecution “and the very real prospect of extinction.”

“This is a concrete response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Iraq and to the urgent appeals from the region as well as Pope Francis’ request for material assistance for those affected by this persecution,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a statement.

The funds will help provide permanent housing for the increasing number of displaced families in Iraq, according to a news release.

Specifically, it said, the Knights’ donation of $2 million will pay for the construction of new homes on property owned by the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Irbil in the Kurdish-controlled region of northern Iraq.

The Knights’ Supreme Council, which has its headquarters in New Haven, began the fund in August with $1 million and has since raised an additional $1.7 million in donations from individual Knights, local Knights councils and others, for a total of $2.7 million.

The donations were “accompanied by fervent prayers for all those suffering in the land of the holy apostles,” Anderson said.

Houses will be built for Iraqi Christians who were driven from their homes in Mosul and the surrounding area and who have been living in emergency shelters and random locations far from home.

“With winter setting in, already grave conditions are expected to only worsen as these families are going without proper shelter, which is so fundamental to living their lives,” said Anderson. “These new homes are signs of hope that will allow this community to begin to blossom once again.”

The Knights’ Christian Refugee Relief Fund also has made a separate donation of $200,000 in general aid to the Melkite Catholic Archdiocese of Aleppo, Syria.

The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization with more than 1.8 million members worldwide.


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‘The Pyramid’ lacks a fourth side but includes a robot

December 8th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,


Catholic News Service

Cross “The Mummy” with “Alien” and you get “The Pyramida schlock horror film about scary things that go bump in the Egyptian night.

James Buckley, Christa-Marie Nicola, Ashley Hinshaw and Denis O'Hare star in a scene from the movie "The Pyramid." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Fox)

James Buckley, Christa-Marie Nicola, Ashley Hinshaw and Denis O’Hare star in a scene from the movie “The Pyramid.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Fox)

Gregory Levasseur, in his directorial debut, adopts a documentary style (think herky-jerky camera movements) to tell the “true” story of an American archeological expedition in Cairo in 2013, set against the upheavals of the Arab Spring movement.

A father-daughter team of scientists, Holden (Denis O’Hare) and Nora (Ashley Hinshaw), have discovered a pyramid buried deep under the desert. This is no ordinary structure, of course, it has three sides instead of the usual four, indicating that it’s something special.

The duo oversees its excavation, looking for an entryway. Chronicling the process is Sunni (Christa Nicola), a plucky American journalist, and her wisecracking British cameraman, Fitzie (James Buckley).

Rounding out the team is Arab native Zahir (Amir K). He’s in charge of “Shorty,” a quirky robotic rover and very distant cousin of Pixar’s Wall-E.

Before long, an entrance is found. Prying open the door releases a shock wave of toxic gas. Of course, that ought to be enough to deter all from proceeding any further. But this is a chiller, so common sense is ignored.

Accordingly, Shorty is sent merrily rolling down the shaft, in search of clues. Ancient hieroglyphics on the walls translate as “danger” and “death,” but these admonitions, too, are disregarded.

When contact with Shorty is lost, Holden, Nora and Zahir jump at the chance to rescue the automaton, giddily followed by Sunni and Fitzie.

You can’t say they weren’t warned. Before long it’s apparent that something sinister is lurking underground. Labyrinthine tunnels and tight crawl spaces heighten claustrophobia and a sense of dread. To reveal more would, alas, spoil the (rather derivative) plot.

At one point, Fitzie declares, “This doesn’t look like the Egyptian stuff you see in the British Museum, eh, guys?”

That could qualify as the understatement of the year.

The film contains bloody violence and gory images, brief partial female nudity and some profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.



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Our Lady of Guadalupe events in the diocese




The diocesan Hispanic Ministry Office has announced the following events for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Through Dec. 10, the rosary will be recited each night at 7 at St. Joseph Church, Middletown.

Also, the annual Guadalupe torch run will arrive in Wilmington on Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. at St. Paul’s, Wilmington, where pilgrims will be welcomed. At 6:30 p.m., there will be a rosary and Mass, as well as a blessing of pilgrims who will run with the torch to Camden, N.J., on Saturday.

On Sunday, pilgrims will process from the Walmart on Centerville Road in Wilmington to nearby St. Catherine of Siena Church beginning at 9:30 a.m. There will be a Mass at 11 a.m., followed by lunch.

That afternoon, at 5 p.m., St. Francis de Sales Church in Salisbury, Md., will host a Mass and fiesta. Read more »

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St. Elizabeth drops boys basketball opener at A.I. duPont, 74-69


Dialog reporter

Jordan Money takes a shot for St. Elizabeth. He scored 19 for the Vikings. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

Jordan Money takes a shot for St. Elizabeth. He scored 19 for the Vikings. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

GREENVILLE – Friday night’s boys’ basketball game between A.I. duPont and St. Elizabeth followed a familiar script, and the story was a sweet one for the Tigers as they defeated St. Elizabeth, 74-69, in the season opener for both teams at the A.I. duPont Tip-Off Tournament.

A.I. jumped out to an 8-0 lead to start the contest, allowed the Vikings to climb back into a lead, then righted the ship and took a five-point advantage into halftime. The Tigers threatened to blow the game wide open in the third, watched as St. Elizabeth made it a battle again, opened up a sizable lead in the fourth, and held on to begin the season with a win. Read more »

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Howard passes, shoots its way past Salesianum, 59-52


Dialog reporter

WILMINGTON – Despite rumors that he might not be ready, Donte DiVincenzo was in uniform and started for Salesianum on Friday afternoon at sold-out Howard, but the Villanova signee’s contributions weren’t enough to help the defending state champions stave off a 59-52 defeat at the hands of the Wildcats.

Howard held the high-scoring DiVincenzo in check for much of the game, and the Wildcats showed they will be one of the contenders for Salesianum’s trophy come March. Howard continually went to the drive and kick, and four players scored in double figures against the Sals. Two of those were sophomores, who complemented the senior-heavy roster. Kineph Turner, one of the sophomores, led the way with 17 points. He said he was “a little nervous” coming into the opener, “but I knew I had to get in the gym and get ready for this game.” Read more »

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Auditor general post added to Vatican’s financial reforms, Cardinal Pell says

December 5th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In ongoing efforts to strengthen the oversight of the Vatican’s finances, an auditor general will be appointed who will have the power to audit any Vatican agency and be a lay expert who is answerable only to the pope, said Cardinal George Pell.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, wrote recently that the Vatican is not broke but until  recently implemented accounting standards and reforms, it had been “impossible for anyone to know accurately what was going on overall.” (CNS/Paul Haring)

Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, wrote recently that the Vatican is not broke but until recently implemented accounting standards and reforms, it had been “impossible for anyone to know accurately what was going on overall.” (CNS/Paul Haring)

The massive overhaul of the Vatican’s current accounting and budgeting procedures has also revealed that the Vatican’s economic situation is “much healthier than it seemed,” the cardinal said in an exclusive article for the London-based Catholic Herald magazine Dec. 4.

The brighter financial picture emerged after the secretariat discovered “some hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet,” he wrote.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters Dec. 5 that the money did not represent “illegal, illicit or badly managed funds,” but was money that was never included in the Vatican’s old system of budgeting and reporting.

The previous financial statements of the Holy See and Vatican City State that used to be publicly reported every year never “in any way included all the numerous administrative offices based at the Vatican, but just the main institutions of the Curia and the (Vatican City) State,” Father Lombardi said in a written statement.

Until the Vatican recently implemented modern accounting standards and reforms, it had been “impossible for anyone to know accurately what was going on overall,” Cardinal Pell wrote in his article, since all the Vatican’s “congregations, councils and, especially the Secretariat of State enjoyed and defended a healthy independence.”

It had been a long-established system, “just as kings had allowed their regional rulers, princes or governors an almost free hand, provided they balanced their books, so too did the popes with the curial cardinals (and) as they still do with diocesan bishops,” he wrote.

Even though this principle of subsidiarity, letting diocesan and religious orders locally manage their finances, remains “the only option” for the world’s huge Catholic community, the Vatican may send bishops’ conferences “the new set of financial procedures and chart of accounts introduced in November this year in the Vatican” for the bishops’ “consideration and use,” Cardinal Pell wrote.

Even non-Catholic institutions could benefit from what the Vatican is learning and doing, the cardinal suggested, noting that a “senior delegation from the United States, mainly evangelicals, (recently) came to discuss our work.”

One person in the delegation said “he was praying for the success of the financial reforms because he wanted the Vatican to be a model for the world, not a source of scandal. This is our aim, too,” the cardinal wrote.

Cardinal Pell emphasized that “the Vatican is not broke. Apart from the pension fund, which needs to be strengthened for the demands on it in 15 or 20 years, the Holy See is paying its way, while possessing substantial assets and investments.”

“Eventually, all investments will be made through Vatican Asset Management, controlled by an expert committee, which will offer a range of ethical investment options, with varying degrees of risk and return, to be chosen by individual agencies such as congregations,” he wrote, emphasizing that “prudence” will have priority over risky, high-gain returns.

Another substantial addition to the Vatican’s new financial reforms will be the auditor general, a layperson “answerable to the Holy Father, but autonomous and able to conduct audits of any agency of the Holy See at any time,” who will be appointed in 2015.

Having a “separation of powers” is key to all basic oversight structures and is one of the three basic principles, together with standardized procedures and transparency, that are guiding the Vatican reforms.

The principles “are not original and not exactly rocket science,” he wrote, but they are critical to reforming outdated practices.

He said the reforms are “well under way” and well past the point of anyone being able “to return to the ‘bad old days.’”

“These reforms are designed to make all Vatican financial agencies boringly successful, so that they do not merit much press attention,” he wrote.

“Donors expect their gifts to be handled efficiently and honestly,” he wrote, so that the church can continue its work, especially in evangelization and helping the poor.

“A church for the poor should not be managed poorly,” the cardinal wrote.


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