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Chicago’s cardinal to begin new round of chemotherapy


CHICAGO — Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George is preparing to undergo a new round of chemotherapy to address “current signs of activity of cancer cells surrounding his right kidney,” according to a March 7 announcement by the Chicago archdiocese.

The cardinal has met with his medical team, which recommended the course of treatment based on the results of several recent tests.

U.S. Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago (CNS file)

Cardinal George, 77, was diagnosed with urothelial cancer in August 2012 and underwent chemotherapy at that time. The cancer, dormant for well over a year, is still confined to the area of his right kidney.

“After extensive testing, scans, biopsies and diagnosis, it was agreed that the best course of action is for the cardinal to enter into a regimen of chemotherapy, with drugs more aggressive than those used in the first round but for a more limited duration initially,” the archdiocese said.

Cardinal George intends to maintain his administrative and public schedule during this current round of chemotherapy, although it may occasionally be reduced because of lowered immunity.

In a column titled “Lent: Taking stock of our lives,” in the Catholic New World, the archdiocesan newspaper, the cardinal addressed his health and the cancer treatment ahead.

“If I may speak personally, this Lent finds me once again in poor health. My cancer, which was dormant for well over a year, is still confined to the area of the right kidney, but it is beginning to show signs of new activity,” he said. “After many tests, scans, biopsies and other inconveniences, the settled judgment is that the best course of action is to enter into a regimen of chemotherapy, with drugs more aggressive than those that were used in the first round of chemo.”

Cardinal George said he will receive the treatments over the next two months and his doctors will evaluate his reaction to the chemo.

“I was able to maintain my administrative schedule well during that first round, although my public schedule was sometimes curtailed because of lowered immunity,” he wrote in the column. “As I prepare for this next round of chemo, I ask for your prayers, which have always sustained me, and for your understanding if I cannot always fulfill the schedule already set for the next several months.”

He said he is not currently experience any symptoms of his cancer, but acknowledged “this is a difficult form of the disease.”

“It will most probably eventually be the cause of my death,” he explained. “Chemo is designed to shrink the tumor, prevent symptoms and prolong life.”

In 2006, surgeons at Loyola University Medical Center removed his bladder, prostate gland and sections of his ureters, the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, to rid his body of cancer found there.

The cardinal has often said that one of his goals is to live to see retirement since all of the other Chicago bishops died in office. His predecessor, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, died in 1996 at age 68 of pancreatic cancer.

A five-month bout with polio when Cardinal George was 13 damaged both of his legs, forcing him to use a brace on his right leg. He walks with a pronounced limp.

He served as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2007 to 2010.

Appointed to head the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1997, he was made a cardinal in 1998. Before that, he was archbishop of Portland, Ore., and bishop of Yakima, Wash.

A member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Cardinal George was ordained a priest Dec. 21, 1963. He was his order’s vicar general in Rome from 1974 to 1986.


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Two archdioceses release details on settlement payments


ST. PAUL, Minn. — Two U.S. archdioceses released details on the size of settlements made with victims of clergy sexual abuse.

In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, net claims and litigation expense, not counting legal fees, for the one-year period ending last June 30 came to $3.95 million, according to an audit report issued Feb. 13 by the archdiocese.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in what church officials said was the last of its pending abuse lawsuits, reached a $13 million agreement with 17 clergy sexual abuse victims in mid-February, shortly before the scheduled start of a trial over lawsuits involving alleged acts of then-Father Nicolas Aguilar-Rivera, a visiting priest from Mexico who police believe molested more than two dozen boys in 1987.

In Minnesota, the archdiocese “is involved in various lawsuits relating to claims of alleged sexual misconduct by certain individuals and is vigorously defending these matters and will continue to do so in a manner consistent with the norms established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and with all due respect to the victims of childhood sexual abuse,” the financial report said.

“The release of our full audited financial report, as well as additional information to explain particular points of interest, is part of our ongoing commitment to improve transparency and accountability, evidenced not only in our ongoing disclosure of clergy with credible claims of abuse of minors, but also through our commitment to improved financial reporting,” said Auxiliary Bishop Lee A. Piche of St. Paul and Minneapolis, vicar general, in a Feb. 13 essay accompanying the financial report.

“We are taking these steps because they are the right thing to do,” Bishop Piche said, “because they help us to protect the young and vulnerable, care for victims of abuse, and restore trust among the laity, as well as our clergy who are serving honorably.”

He added, “We have made a commitment to transparency because we are accountable to the people we serve.”

Bishop Piche penned the essay because Archbishop John C. Nienstedt on Dec. 17 stepped aside from public ministry when an allegation was made against him. He is accused of inappropriately touching a male minor on the buttocks in 2009 during a group photography session following a confirmation ceremony. According to church and civil protocol, the accusation was being investigated by law enforcement.

Archbishop Nienstedt said in a letter to Catholics in the archdiocese the allegation was “absolutely and entirely false.” He added, “True, I am a sinner, but my sins do not include any kind of abuse of minors.”

The archdiocese “has no practical means to determine the likelihood of outcome for (settlement) amounts above that which would be more likely than any other outcome. No amounts have been accrued for unknown claims as losses cannot be reasonably determined,” the financial report said. “The amounts recorded are management’s estimates and are not intended to be indicative of the actual legal outcomes of the individual cases. Losses from unknown claims could also be substantial.”

The financial report added, “Unknown claims can go back many years where insurance may not have been available or coverage limits were minimal. Also punitive damages and other claims may not be covered by insurance at all. Therefore, these unknown claims and related insurance receivables are not included in management’s estimates at this time.”

In Los Angeles, in a statement about the $13 million settlement there, the archdiocese said it wanted “to settle the civil cases of abuse and to provide support to the victims through the healing process. We continue to pray earnestly for all victims and their families so that they may find emotional and spiritual healing.

“We also reiterate our firm commitment to the protection of our children and young people.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that the settlement included about $1 million for each of the 11 alleged victims Aguilar-Rivera, who were between ages 7-12 at the time, and smaller amounts to six claimants who said they were molested by other priests.

According to the Times, there have been roughly 500 victims to date who have stepped forward. The abuse claims have cost the Los Angeles Archdiocese more than $740 million. To help pay for the claims, the archdiocese sold real estate, took out a $175 million loan and tapped $115 million set aside for cemetery maintenance to pay the settlements. Last year, the archdiocese explored the possibility of a $200 million capital campaign to help repay the loan.

Aguilar-Rivera was formally charged in 1988, but an archdiocesan priest, after receiving two claims of abuse by him before the charges were filed, met with him and told him he was in danger of being arrested. Aguilar-Rivera fled the United States, was never criminally prosecuted and remains at large.

An attorney for the victims said that, while investigating the matter last year in Mexico, he was told Aguilar-Rivera, now in his 70s, was spotted at a church and a convent near his hometown.


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Court denies Notre Dame injunction on HHS mandate

February 25th, 2014 Posted in National News Tags: , , ,


CHICAGO — The University of Notre Dame must allow free coverage of contraceptives as required by the federal health care law despite its moral objections to doing so, said a panel of the 7th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in a late Feb. 21 ruling that denied the university an injunction against enforcement of the mandate.

The decision was handed down in the university’s appeal of a Dec. 20 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana denying it a preliminary injunction. Notre Dame then sought to obtain emergency relief from the 7th Circuit before the Jan. 1 deadline for the mandate to take effect and was denied.

In its lawsuit, Notre Dame argued that the mandate’s purpose “is to discriminate against religious institutions and organizations that oppose abortion and contraception.”

Judge Richard Posner, joined by Judge David Hamilton, wrote the majority opinion in the 2-1 ruling, saying the university has the option of following a so-called accommodation in the mandate that says employers who object to the coverage on moral grounds can fill out a form and direct a third party to provide the coverage to their employees.

In a brief statement Feb. 24, Notre Dame spokesman Paul J. Browne said: “Our concern remains that if government is allowed to entangle a religious institution of higher education like Notre Dame in one area contrary to conscience, it’s given license to do so in others.”

“Our lawyers are reviewing the 7th Circuit ruling and contemplating next steps,” he said.

Notre Dame and other Catholic entities that have brought dozens of lawsuits challenging the mandate on moral grounds say this third-party accommodation still does not solve their problem over being involved in providing coverage they reject for moral reasons.

In his ruling, Posner wrote: “If the government is entitled to require that female contraceptives be provided to women free of charge, we have trouble understanding how signing the form that declares Notre Dame’s authorized refusal to pay for contraceptives for its students or staff, and mailing the authorization document to those companies, which under federal law are obligated to pick up the tab, could be thought to ‘trigger’ the provision of female contraceptives.”

The mandate, under rules issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, requires nearly all employers to cover contraceptives, sterilizations and some abortion-inducing drugs to their employees in their company health plan. It includes a narrow exemption for some religious employers that fit certain criteria.

Religious employers who are not exempt can comply with the third-party accommodation.

In his dissent, Judge Joel Flaum said it was “clear that if Notre Dame were forced to pay for contraceptive coverage against its religious beliefs or else incur significant monetary penalties, this would be a substantial burden. In the university’s eyes, this form’s ‘purpose and effect,’ evident from the face of the regulations, is to accomplish what the organization finds religiously forbidden and protests.”

The deadline for employers to comply with the mandate was Jan. 1 or they would face thousands of dollars in daily fines.

On Jan. 2, according to the National Catholic Register, Notre Dame told faculty and staff that while its appeal of the mandate worked its way through the courts, a third-party administrator would notify them about access to contraceptives and other mandated non-objectionable services such as mammograms, prenatal care and cervical cancer screenings.

Flaum in his dissent noted that the form a nonexempt employer must use to direct a third-party administrator to provide the coverage “flatly states that it is ‘an instrument under which the plan is operated.’ Having to submit the (form), Notre Dame maintains, makes it ‘complicit in a grave moral wrong’ by involving it with a system that delivers contraceptive products and services to its employees and students.”


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Bishops urge White House to sign treaty to ban land mines


WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace urged the United States to sign and ratify a treaty to ban the use of land mines.

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, said in a letter Feb. 12 to National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice that signing and ratifying the accord, called the Convention on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and Their Destruction, would further demonstrate the United States’ commitment to ending the use of mines worldwide.

A copy of his letter was released Feb. 20 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bishop wrote that the Catholic Church has long called for a ban on land mines on moral grounds because they indiscriminately kill and maim innocent civilians, even after hostilities end.

“There is a legacy of devastation in places such as Iraq, Laos, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Angola, Colombia and Lebanon while land mines appear to have been used in more recent conflicts such as Syria,” Bishop Pates said. “The Holy See has noted the ‘deplorable humanitarian consequences of anti-personnel land mines.’”

Bishop Pates called upon Rice to urge President Barack Obama to sign the treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention or the Mine Ban Treaty, and seek its ratification in the U.S. Senate.

“Be assured that our conference would affirm this action and work vigorously for ratification of a treaty that rids the world of these weapons which cause long-term, irreparable and indiscriminate harm,” the letter said.


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Pope names Wichita bishop and auxiliary for Miami – updated


Pope Francis has appointed the vicar general of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., to be bishop of Wichita, Kan., and also named a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Miami.

In Kansas, Msgr. Carl A. Kemme, 53, vicar general and moderator of the curia in Springfield, will succeed Archbishop Michael O. Jackels, who was named to head the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, in April 2013.

Miami’s newly named auxiliary is Msgr. Peter Baldacchino, also 53, who since 1999 has been chancellor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, a juridical mission of the New Jersey archdiocese.

The appointments were announced Feb. 20 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-designate Kemme’s episcopal ordination and installation as the 11th bishop of Wichita is scheduled for May 1. Bishop-designate Baldacchino’s episcopal ordination will take place in March, but the date has not yet been announced.

Wichita’s newly named bishop is a native of Illinois. He grew up on a small family farm in rural Shumway, Ill. His family attended of Annunciation Church there and his parents are still members of the parish. Bishop-designate Baldacchino was born in Malta; he holds dual citizenship in his home country and the United States.

Msgr. Robert E. Hemberger, Wichita’s diocesan administrator, said Bishop-designate Kemme will find in his new diocese “a people who are resourceful and faith-filled … who know about the great love of God for each and all human beings. … who are ready to roll up their sleeves and make a difference in this part of the world.”

“He will find a people who will welcome and work, who will pray and hope, who will create beauty and community,” added the priest in a statement introducing Bishop-designate Kemme at a morning news conference.

“Pope Francis has reached into the heart of Illinois, to the diocese of Springfield, to call forth a pastor. God has heard our prayers for a wise and loving bishop to guide us in building up the body of Christ and the reign of God,” said Msgr. Hemberger.

Bishop-designate Kemme was ordained a priest for the Springfield Diocese in 1986, and named a monsignor in 2002. He has been parochial vicar, pastor or administrator at a number of parishes. He has had two tenures as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the diocese, from 2002 to 2009, then from 2010 to the present.

In between those assignments, he was pastor of St. John Vianney Church in Sherman, Ill., and from 2009 to 2010 served as administrator of the diocese, after then-Bishop George J. Lucas was named archbishop of Omaha, Neb., and before Springfield’s current bishop, Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, was installed.

Bishop-designate Kemme, the son of Donald and Marita Kemme, has four brothers and one sister and. He studied at the Springfield’s diocesan Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Cardinal Glennon College in St. Louis and Kenrick Seminary, also in St. Louis.

“As time unfolds, we’ll get to know each other very well, perhaps and hopefully for me to know you by name,” said Bishop-designate Kemme in a statement at the Wichita news conference. “I look forward to that discovery and I hope you do as well.

“For today, it is enough to acknowledge that now we are in this together, writing together the next chapter, a glorious, hope filled and exciting chapter in the history of the Diocese of Wichita,” he continued. “This is the joy of the Gospel about which Pope Francis has recently written to the church. It is your joy and mine to follow the Lord together, as brothers and sisters and to leave no one behind. … The fact that our journeys have now intersected by God’s providence and from now on we will journey together makes me very happy, very happy indeed.”

Bishop Paprocki said in a statement Bishop-designate Kemme “is a man of deep faith and love for the Lord and the people of God. We will all be sorry to see him leave our diocese, but we congratulate him on his appointment and rejoice that he will share his abundant abilities with the wider church.”

The Wichita Diocese covers more than 20,000 square miles. Catholics number about 113,000 out of a total population of close to 1 million.

In Miami, Bishop-designate Baldacchino will assist Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, who welcomed the appointment of an auxiliary bishop, the first for the archdiocese in about three years.

Peter Baldacchino was born Dec. 5, 1960, in Sliema, Malta, and holds citizenship in both the United States and Malta. He studied for the priesthood at Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Newark, 1990-1996, and was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1996. He was named a monsignor in 2009.

After his priestly ordination, he was parochial vicar at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Ridgewood, N.J., for three years. Then in 1999 he was named chancellor of the Turks and Caicos Islands. By the end of 1998 the chain of islands, about 90 miles north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, had been put under the jurisdiction of the Newark Archdiocese at the request of the Vatican.

Since 2002, Bishop-designate Baldacchino also has been pastor of Our Lady of Providence Church on Providenciales Island.

He holds a diploma in sciences from the University of Malta; electrical installation licenses from Umberto Calosso Trade School, Malta; a bachelor of arts from Thomas A. Edison State College in Trenton, N.J., and a master’s of divinity degree in pastoral ministry from the School of Theology at Seton Hall University in Orange, N.J.

He speaks English, Italian, Maltese, Spanish and Creole.

The Miami Archdiocese, which covers three counties in South Florida, has a Catholic population of more than 1.3 million out of a total population of 4.4 million. Mass is celebrated in 17 languages; there are 108 churches and missions and 57 schools.



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Milwaukee archdiocese files reorganization plan with bankruptcy court


MILWAUKEE — Attorneys for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee filed the archdiocese’s reorganization plan Feb. 12, with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

In a special edition of his weekly communique, “Love One Another,” which is sent to clergy, parish staffs and other church leaders throughout the archdiocese, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki called the plan “the next major step toward ending the bankruptcy and returning our focus to the primary mission of the church; proclaiming the Gospel, worshipping more fully, and serving our sisters and brothers in need.”

The plan, which must be approved by Judge Susan V. Kelley, demonstrates a commitment by the archdiocese, according to the archbishop, to abuse survivors and to serving the people of God in southeastern Wisconsin.

The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in January 2011.

“It’s time for us to get back to what the church is supposed to be doing. It’s time for the archdiocese to return its focus to its ministry. Outreach to and the support of abuse survivors will always be part of that ministry,” he wrote.

As he has regularly stated throughout his more than four years as archbishop, Archbishop Listecki apologized to abuse survivors, renewed his invitation to meet personally with them and reiterated the archdiocese’s “obligation to love and care for those who were harmed.”

The plan includes a Lifetime Therapy Fund — something which he insisted, since the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 4, 2011, had to be a part of the plan for as long as abuse survivors need it.

The archbishop noted that abuse survivors had told him “this is not about the money and I believe them.”

He continued, “No amount of money could ever be enough to restore what was taken from them. People were robbed of a part of their lives and I understand that nothing we do today can change that; nonetheless, I want to do the best I can to help abuse survivors.”

Archbishop Listecki wrote that the plan also gives remaining “unrestricted archdiocesan assets” to survivors of abuse by diocesan priests. In addition, the plan pays the cost of the bankruptcy, mostly accounting and legal fees, the latter, about which he wrote, have “depleted archdiocesan resources.”

He continued, “What many people do not realize is that the archdiocese must pay the lawyers on both sides. So every decision the creditors’ committee made to pursue assets like parish investments, school funds or other charitable trusts that didn’t belong to the archdiocese, depleted our resources even further.”

The archbishop noted that one archdiocesan asset was its insurance policies, and that “in the interest of abuse survivors” it had “aggressively pursued action against our insurance companies.” A settlement with Lloyd’s of London will provide “millions of dollars for the plan,” while the archdiocese will continue litigation against other insurers.

Archbishop Listecki wrote that to ensure the plan will work financially, the archdiocese is selling what few properties it owns and converting them to cash by using them as collateral in securing a loan from the Cemetery Perpetual Care Trust.

“Instead of depending upon an unstable real estate market, we have been able to secure more for these properties by using them as collateral for this loan,” he wrote. “This puts an end to any speculation about the money that was always intended for cemetery perpetual care and avoids the expense of a lengthy court appeal, which could take another year or more.

“Since no bank would ever lend the archdiocese the amount of money needed to pay for the plan, this loan makes sense.”

Even with insurance money and the loan, the archdiocese expects to come out of the Chapter 11 reorganization with a debt of $7 million, according to the archbishop, because of the expenses for which it is responsible.

“The archdiocese has historically operated on a balanced budget, so the burden of paying off this debt will certainly be part of our penance,” he wrote. “I wish we wouldn’t have had to spend the past three years and millions of dollars on attorneys’ fees to get to this point, but now we have a plan that moves us forward.”

Archbishop Listecki expressed optimism about life in the post-bankruptcy archdiocese.

“I feel confident about the future of the church in southeastern Wisconsin. Confident because of the faith we share in Jesus Christ. Confident that the good work of the church conquers the evil of clergy sexual abuse,” he wrote. “I am confident, mainly because of you, the faithful Catholics in parishes across this archdiocese, who live your faith every day.”

The archbishop encouraged Catholics not to forget the past, but to look “forward to a future guided by the Holy Spirit.”

“Because of the lessons we’ve learned, we will be a stronger, better church as we continue to proclaim the Gospel, and continue our works of education, service and charity,” he concluded.

by Brian T. Olszewski

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Brooklyn priest named bishop of Albany diocese


WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., and named Msgr. Edward B. Scharfenberger, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., to succeed him.

The pope also appointed Msgr. Andrzej J. Zglejszewski as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., where he is currently co-chancellor and director of the Office of Worship.

The appointments and Bishop Hubbard’s resignation were announced Feb. 11 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Hubbard is 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope. He was named to head the Albany diocese in 1977, when he was 38. At that time, he was the youngest Catholic bishop in the nation.

Bishop-designate Scharfenberger’s episcopal ordination and installation is scheduled for April 10 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany. Bishop-designate Zglejszewski’s episcopal ordination will be March 25 at the Cathedral of St. Agnes in Rockville Centre.

Bishop Hubbard called it a privilege to have served so many years as head of the Albany diocese, with its cities, towns, villages, suburban and rural communities spread over 10,000 square miles, “stretching from the Pennsylvania border to the Vermont border; from the Massachusetts state line to the Utica City line; from the northern Catskills to the southern Adirondacks.”

“It is an area blessed with not only magnificent physical beauty but most important with the rich and vibrant spiritual splendor of its 350,000 priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful,” the bishop said in a statement.

He said all in the diocese greeted Bishop-designate Scharfenberger, 65, “with warmth, hospitality and a sincere desire to be attentive and responsive to his leadership as our shepherd.”

In his statement, the bishop-designate said he was “touched by the warm welcome of Bishop Hubbard.”

“My heart is full of gratitude to God for my loving family, especially my 93-year-old parents, who were generous enough to welcome me, my two brothers and two sisters into this world,” Bishop-designate Scharfenberger said. “They taught us how to pray, to trust God and to know Jesus as our friend. Their continuous example shows us that the essence of love is sacrifice.’

Ordained for the Brooklyn diocese in 1973, he has been vicar for strategic planning from the diocese since 2009. He also has been vicar for the Queens area of Brooklyn diocese since last year. He has been a pastor, judicial vicar for the diocesan tribunal and promoter of justice for the tribunal.

Born in Brooklyn May 29, 1948, Bishop-designate Scharfenberger studied for the priesthood in Rome, earning a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical North American College in Rome and a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Lateran University’s Accademia Alfonsiana, also in Rome.

He also holds a licentiate in canon law from The Catholic University of America in Washington and a law degree from Fordham University in New York. He was named a monsignor in 1995.

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said Bishop-designate Scharfenberger has been a close collaborator and friend and is “a good priest … primarily concerned about people and is untiring in finding new ways to proclaim the message of redemption which is at the heart of the Gospel.”

In the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Bishop William F. Murphy said he was grateful to Pope Francis “for giving our diocese this good and holy priest of many talents to assist me in the pastoral care of the 1.5 million Catholics of our diocese.”

“I know the priests, deacons, liturgical ministers and all the people of God will welcome this appointment from our Holy Father as I have, with gratitude to God and with great joy that … we are blessed with a bishop who will serve this church as a bishop just as he has served it so well as a priest,” Bishop Murphy added.

Bishop-designate Zglejszewski, 52, who was born in Poland and ordained a priest for Rockville Centre in 1990, said he was surprised and humbled by Pope Francis’ appointment, but added, “I turn all my emotions and wonders into a song of gratitude.”

“This appointment not only shows his great concern for the church on Long Island, but also it is a concrete way of reaching out to all the faithful in the Diocese of Rockville Centre,” he said in a statement. “The Holy Father recognizes the depth and enthusiasm of spiritual life coming together with an amazing exchange of the diversities of our cultures.”

Born Dec. 18, 1961, in Bialystok, Poland, he holds a master of arts degree from Immaculate Conception Seminary in Douglaston, N.Y., and pursued advanced studies in theology at Catholic University and Fordham.

After his priestly ordination he had several assignments as an associate pastor. He has been director of the diocesan worship office since 2007. He also has been adjunct professor at Immaculate Conception Seminary. He was named a monsignor in 2010.


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Cardinal O’Brien says ‘hold on to your seats,’ Pope Francis wants to ‘stir things up’


Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien doesn’t know what will come out of the Synod on the Family set for October, but the former archbishop of Baltimore believes it will be significant.

“Hold onto your seats,” Cardinal O’Brien told a gathering of seminarians and faculty at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore. “I think Pope Francis wants to stir things up and allow people to raise questions. I don’t think we’re going to see a change in doctrine, but we will see a change in tone, and we might see some disciplinary modifications.”

Those modifications might include adjustments in annulment procedures, Cardinal O’Brien said.

“I think most bishops are very concerned that they have more say in annulments in a responsible way,” he said Jan. 27.

Cardinal O’Brien’s comments were part of a wide-ranging address that touched on the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, the election of Pope Francis and a look at how Pope Francis has governed the church in his first year.

Cardinal O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, was present when Pope Benedict announced he was stepping down in 2013. The cardinal was also part of the conclave that elected the new pope.

As head of the Buenos Aires archdiocese, the future Pope Francis dealt as an outsider with the curia that helps govern the church, Cardinal O’Brien said, an experience that helped shape how he would interact with the curia when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio became pope.

“He’s seen its strengths and its weaknesses,” Cardinal O’Brien said, noting that the pope’s establishment of an eight-member council of cardinals from around the world shows that the pope believes he needs advisers both within and outside the curia.

The principal job of the council of cardinals, Cardinal O’Brien said, is to “completely rewrite the central administration of the Catholic Church.” The cardinal said the curia will somehow have to relate to the new council of cardinals.

“I think a year from now, we’ll hardly know what the structure was, there will be so many different things that will have taken place,” Cardinal O’Brien said. “Maybe the heads of some conferences of bishops will be involved. I don’t know. But we will know by the end of February because the group of eight will meet again and come up with formal recommendations.”

Cardinal O’Brien highlighted several themes of Pope Francis’ young papacy, among them the importance of expanding the pope’s circle of advisers, subsidiarity, solidarity with the poor, evangelizing at the periphery of the culture and acting as a missionary church.

The cardinal cited the pope’s interview with an Italian atheist magazine editor and the pope’s strong focus on mercy as examples of his willingness to reach out to others. The pope has opened up discussions with those who feel alienated from the church, Cardinal O’Brien said.

The pope is modeling an example of being prepared to go anywhere and share the faith with anyone, Cardinal O’Brien said.

Inspired by the pope’s focus on the poor, Cardinal O’Brien said he has become more conscious of how many times the Old and New Testaments make references to the poor. It reminds him to question himself and think about what the readings mean in light of what the pope is asking people to do in reaching the poor.

Noting that Pope Francis often compares the church to a mother, the cardinal said a mother never deserts her children.

“She’s always available to listen and always to extend mercy,” he said.

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Va. bishops to defend voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage


Catholic News Service

ARLINGTON, Va. — Virginia Catholic bishops said they are disappointed that Attorney General Mark Herring will not defend Virginia’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as “the union of one man and one woman” in upcoming lawsuits at federal district courts.

The Virginia Catholic Conference, the bishops’ public policy arm, has encouraged constituents to call Herring’s office.

Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde and Richmond Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo issued a joint statement vowing to continue their defense of traditional marriage shortly after the attorney general announced Jan. 23 that he would side with plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging the Virginia Constitution brought by same-sex couples.

In 2006, Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The ballot initiative passed 57 percent to 43 percent.

“No politician should be able to reverse the people’s decision,” Bishops Loverde and DiLorenzo said in their joint statement. “We call on the attorney general to do the job he was elected to perform, which is to defend the state laws he agrees with, as well as those state laws with which he personally disagrees.”

Oral arguments were scheduled to begin Jan. 30 in one of the lawsuits, Bostic v. Rainey. The plaintiffs argue that the ban stigmatizes gay men and lesbians because it denies them the same definition of marriage that opposite-sex couples have.

As attorney general, Herring was obligated to represent the state on the defendant’s behalf.

Instead, he will side with the plaintiffs, saying that the amendment was unconstitutional because “marriage is a fundamental right being denied to some Virginians, and the ban unlawfully discriminates on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender.”

Herring’s decision drew divided responses. Proponents of striking down the ban applauded Herring while others expressed outrage, comparing the decision to forfeiting his oath to uphold Virginia’s constitution.

Siding with the plaintiffs has ethical implications, said Robert Destro, director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law and Religion at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law in Washington.

“If he can’t represent the commonwealth because he has a conflict of interest, he should withdraw from the case,” he said. “What he is doing is ensuring that the state loses. This is going to cost the state of Virginia a fortune.”

Even if Herring does not represent Virginia in the courts, the state is still entitled to effective representation, Destro said. A bipartisan group of 32 delegates asked Gov. Terry McAuliffe for a special counsel to defend the state in court.

“For Mr. Herring to choose to leave Virginians without a voice in court to defend the voter-approved marriage amendment is appalling,” said Delegate Bob Marshall in a Jan. 24 news release. “Apparently it is unconstitutional for Virginia’s citizens to disagree with Mr. Herring.”

The governor declined to appoint a special counsel, according to a Jan. 27 Washington Post article.

In a letter to the delegates, McAuliffe said in the current court case, the ban “is being vigorously and appropriately defended” by the offices of court clerk in Norfolk and in Prince William County.

Herring’s announcement comes soon after federal judges struck down gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma, and months after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage between one man and one woman.

In a Jan. 16 blog, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said that recent challenges to state laws in federal courts have made it clear that “the marriage debate we are having in this country is not about access to the right of marriage, but the very meaning of marriage.”

The Virginia Catholic Conference sent an e-alert Jan. 27 asking constituents to call, or email Herring to voice their opinions over his refusal to defend the state’s marriage laws.

“This is the will of the people, and one elected official should not be able to reverse the people’s decision,” said Jeff Caruso, the conference’s director.

Caruso said the Catholic conference was considering filing amicus briefs for the two federal court lawsuits that challenge Virginia’s marriage law. He added that the agency will oppose legislative attempts to redefine marriage in the constitution.

Reaction to Herring’s decision included a column written in Spanish for the Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper, by Father Jose E. Hoyos, director of the diocese’s Spanish Apostolate.

The priest encouraged all baptized Catholics to defend the sacrament of marriage. In it, he quoted Pope Francis saying that this union is “a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh and are enabled to give birth to a new life.”

The Virginia bishops have long supported the marriage amendment, issuing a pastoral letter prior to the 2006 elections where they explained church teachings on marriage, calling it “the building block of the family and society.”

Negro is a staff writer at the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.


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Court continues injunction protecting Little Sisters from HHS mandate – updated


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court Jan. 24 issued a three-sentence order affirming, for the time being, an injunction blocking enforcement against the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Christian Brothers benefits organization of a mandate to provide contraceptive coverage in employee health insurance.

The order released late in the afternoon affirmed Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s Dec. 31 order in the case. It temporarily blocks the federal government from requiring the Denver-based sisters and their co-plaintiffs at Christian Brothers Services from having to meet that requirement of the Affordable Care Act.

The attorney for the Little Sisters and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the order.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., speaking in his capacity as president of the USCCB, said in a statement released Jan. 25 that the bishops “welcome the court’s protection of ministries like the Little Sisters, whose vital work is at the heart of what it means to be Catholic.”

The Supreme Court’s order said: “If the employer applicants inform the secretary of Health and Human Services in writing that they are nonprofit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services, the respondents are enjoined from enforcing against the applicants the challenged provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related regulations pending final disposition of the appeal by the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.”

The requirement to provide coverage for contraceptives in employee health insurance does have an accommodation, or waiver, the government says would keep certain religious organizations from having to comply with the mandate.

A statement from Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund, which represents the Little Sisters, said they are “delighted that the Supreme Court has issued this order protecting the Little Sisters.”

The statement said the order means the sisters and the other organizations whose benefits are managed by Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Benefits Trust “must simply inform HHS of their religious identity and objections.”

The statement added that the suit is a class-action case on behalf of more than 400 Catholic organizations whose benefits are managed by the Christian Brothers.

The Little Sisters and Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Benefits Trust, which manages the religious order’s benefits, object to being required to justify to the government that they should be entitled to an exemption from the mandate. They argue that filling out the paperwork for a waiver that would instruct a third party to provide the contraceptive coverage amounts to them being part of the mechanism for providing abortion and other morally objectionable types of coverage.

“To meet the condition for injunction pending appeal, applicants need not use the form prescribed by the government and need not send copies to third-party administrators,” the order said.

The court’s order specified that the injunction “should not be construed as an expression of the court’s views on the merits” of the religious groups’ legal claims.



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