Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

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Catholic Identity Jeopardized, Denver

  • ZE08013006 – 2008-01-30Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-21656?l=english
    Denver’s Biggest Charity Group Threatened
    Catholic Identity Jeopardized by “Anti-Discrimination” Bill
    DENVER, Colorado, JAN. 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The largest provider of charitable and social services in the Denver area is threatened by the draft of a new bill that could force the organization to ignore religious beliefs in hiring personnel.In an editorial published today, the president of Catholic Charities defended the rights of his organization. Christopher Rose wrote that helping the poor and suffering is “not just the government’s business. […] It’s been the business of religious communities for centuries, and quite honestly, we often do it better and with fewer resources. That’s why the government partners with us in the first place.”Rose’s letter is the latest step in a debate over a draft bill called HB 1080. The bill deals with legislation the Colorado bicameral passed last year to prevent discrimination in hiring based on sexual orientation or religion. That legislation was amended, giving an exemption to religious organizations and nonprofits. HB 1080 seeks to scrap the amendment.Archbishop Charles Chaput, in his weekly column of Jan. 23, said that Catholic Charities has a right to its religious identity.The Denver prelate said that “Catholic Charities has no interest at all in generic do-goodism; on the contrary, it’s an arm of Catholic social ministry. When it can no longer have the freedom it needs to be ‘Catholic,’ it will end its services. This is not idle talk. I am very serious.”Archbishop Chaput went on to say: “Catholic organizations like Catholic Charities are glad to partner with the government and eager to work cooperatively with anyone of good will. But not at the cost of their religious identity. “Government certainly has the right and the power to develop its own delivery system for human services. But if groups like Catholic Charities carry part of society’s weight, then it’s only reasonable and just that they be allowed to be truly ‘Catholic’ — or they cannot serve.”Behind the scenesThe archbishop concluded his column voicing concern that the Anti-Defamation League was rumored to have a hand in drafting HB 1080.Bruce DeBoskey, the regional director of the league, responded Jan. 24 with a letter protesting the archbishop’s column and acknowledging that the Anti-Defamation league did help draft the bill. Rose, Catholic Charities’ director, responded to DeBoskey’s claims with today’s letter.He said that “what Mr. DeBoskey portrays as discrimination is actually the legitimate practice of faith-based agencies seeking to hire people of like faith to ensure that their mission of serving the poor is faithfully undertaken.”Rose agreed with DeBoskey that Catholic Charities is not the only organization threatened by the bill. He cited other organizations, including Jewish Family Services, which would also be affected.”DeBoskey notes that Archbishop Chaput would oppose a religious test for employees who work for the government. That’s true,” Rose affirmed. “But in regard to HB 1080, it’s also irrelevant. “Jewish Family Services doesn’t become a division of the U.S. Department of Human Services because it counsels low-income persons while receiving Medicaid dollars. […] If they do, then every private citizen becomes a government actor upon reaching age 65 and receiving Social Security benefits. And every taxpayer becomes a federal agency when he or she receives a tax rebate this spring. Receiving partial — and sometimes inadequate — compensation from the state to perform a public service does not transform a private agency into the government.””The real effect of HB 1080 is to purge religious engagement from the public square by either religiously neutering religious service organizations or forcing them to abandon their ministries in cooperation with government,” Rose added.In RomeArchbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, commented on Archbishop Chaput’s face-off with the Colorado government when he presented Benedict XVI’s Lenten papal message Tuesda, which focuses on almsgiving.”This bishop is doing the right thing,” the National Catholic Reporter recounted. “Theologically, charitable activity and the good deeds of the faithful are always connected to the proclamation of the Word. […] Service is always tied to testimony to the Word of God, and no one must break this connection.””This points to a great contemporary problem,” Archbishop Cordes said. “Thanks to the generosity of many donors, the charitable agencies of the Church are able to do their work. But this carries a risk that the spirit of a Catholic agency can become secularized, doing only what the donor has in view.”
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Filed under: Caritas, Church-State

Church’s Aid Agencies Seen as Exemplary

Church’s Aid Agencies Seen as Exemplary

Cardinal: Low Operating Costs Mean Dollars Get to Needy

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 29, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Church’s charitable organizations are models to imitate, in the sense that their low operating costs mean nearly all donated monies go directly to the needy, said a Vatican official.

Cardinal Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the agency that coordinates and promotes the world’s Catholic institutions of assistance and volunteering, affirmed this today when he presented Benedict XVI’s 2008 Lenten message.

In a press conference, the cardinal said that despite the fact that “the fight against misery, from the financial point of view, registers successes, […] it is necessary to highlight that, for example, the structural costs of aid organizations are sometimes surprisingly high.”

“On occasions,” he continued, “internal costs represent just under 50% of revenue.”

The cardinal said it would be useful if appeals for aid launched after disasters like the tsunami, “would not only indicate the bank account to deposit donations, but also the percentage which the agencies retain to maintain their institution.”

This, he said, “would help the donor to discern how his gift arrives to the needy.”

However, Cardinal Cordes affirmed, “The internal costs of the Church’s aid agencies can be considered exemplary.”

He offered as an example the 2006 administrative costs of Caritas Italy, which represented 9% of donations; the Sovereign Order of Malta, 7%; and Aid to the Church in Need, 6%.

The John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel and the Populorum Progressio Foundation in 2006 both spent only 3% of donations on logistic and operating costs.

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, born from the initiative of Pope Paul VI in 1971, distributed some $2 million in 2007 in direct help from the Pope to populations that had suffered human or natural disasters.

Filed under: Caritas

Papal Message, Lent 2008

PAPAL MESSAGE FOR LENT 2008
VATICAN CITY, 29 JAN 2008 (VIS) – Made public today was the 2008 Lenten Message of the Holy Father Benedict XVI. The text, dated 30 October 2007, has as its title a verse from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians: “Christ made Himself poor for you”.
Extracts from the Message are given below:
“Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters. In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For this year’s Lenten Message, I wish to spend some time reflecting on the practice of almsgiving, which represents a specific way to assist those in need and, at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods. The force of attraction to material riches and just how categorical our decision must be not to make of them an idol, Jesus confirms in a resolute way: ‘You cannot serve God and mammon’.
“Almsgiving helps us to overcome this constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbour’s needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness. This is the aim of the special collections in favour of the poor, which are promoted during Lent in many parts of the world. In this way, inward cleansing is accompanied by a gesture of ecclesial communion, mirroring what already took place in the early Church.
“According to the teaching of the Gospel, we are not owners but rather administrators of the goods we possess: these, then, are not to be considered as our exclusive possession, but means through which the Lord calls each one of us to act as a steward of His providence for our neighbour”.
“In the Gospel, Jesus explicitly admonishes the one who possesses and uses earthly riches only for self. … In those countries whose population is majority Christian, the call to share is even more urgent, since their responsibility toward the many who suffer poverty and abandonment is even greater. To come to their aid is a duty of justice even prior to being an act of charity.
“The Gospel highlights a typical feature of Christian almsgiving: it must be hidden. … This understanding, dear brothers and sisters, must accompany every gesture of help to our neighbour, avoiding that it becomes a means to make ourselves the centre of attention”.
“In today’s world of images, attentive vigilance is required, since this temptation is great. Almsgiving, according to the Gospel, is not mere philanthropy: rather it is a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtue that demands interior conversion to love of God and neighbour, in imitation of Jesus Christ”.
“In inviting us to consider almsgiving with a more profound gaze that transcends the purely material dimension, Scripture teaches us that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. … Every time when, for love of God, we share our goods with our neighbour in need, we discover that the fullness of life comes from love and all is returned to us as a blessing in the form of peace, inner satisfaction and joy”.
“What is more: St. Peter includes among the spiritual fruits of almsgiving the forgiveness of sins. … As the Lenten liturgy frequently repeats, God offers to us sinners the possibility of being forgiven. The fact of sharing what we possess with the poor disposes us to receive such a gift”.
“Almsgiving teaches us the generosity of love. … In this regard, all the more significant is the Gospel story of the widow who, out of poverty, cast into the Temple treasury ‘all she had to live on'”.
We find this moving passage inserted in the description of the days that immediately precede Jesus’ passion and death, who, as St. Paul writes, made Himself poor to enrich us out of His poverty; He gave His entire Self for us. Lent, also through the practice of almsgiving, inspires us to follow His example. In His school, we can learn to make of our lives a total gift; imitating Him, we are able to make ourselves available, not so much in giving part of what we possess, but our very selves. Cannot the entire Gospel be summarised perhaps in the one commandment of love? The Lenten practice of almsgiving thus become a means to deepen our Christian vocation. In gratuitously offering himself, the Christian bears witness that it is love and not material richness that determines the laws of his existence, Love, then, gives almsgiving its true value; it inspires various forms of giving, according to the possibilities and conditions of each person”.
MESS/LENT 2008/… VIS 080129 (820)

Filed under: Papal Teachings

USCCB Message on Economic Stimulus Plan

Make Poor No. 1 Priority, Say U.S. Bishops
In Letter to Lawmakers Debating Stimulus Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 27, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops are asking President George Bush and Congress to make the needs of the poor their number one priority as they debate and pass an economic stimulus package.

The bishops said this in a letter addressed to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that urged bipartisan cooperation to “find effective ways to protect the poorest families and low wage workers from financial hardship during this economic downturn.”

Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, chairman of the conference’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, sent the letter Wednesday.

The White House and leaders of the House of Representatives agreed Thursday on a $150 billion package that would provide rebate checks to 117 million families. The bill has yet to pass the Senate, which will debate the plan this week.
Bishop Murphy’s letter promoted such initiatives as “unemployment compensation, food stamp benefits, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program as effective means to assist families and help the economy,” which were all left out of the bill.

“We, as pastors and our many Catholic Church agencies working with the poor and vulnerable, know at first hand of what we speak,” wrote the bishop. “We also know that, in the various proposals and positions being debated, too often the voices poor families and low paid workers are often missing.

“Allow us to remind one and all that, while their voices are not always heard, poor people have compelling needs that should have a priority claim on our consciences and on the choices and investments which you will make.”

“A good society,” Bishop Murphy wrote, “is measured by the extent to which those with responsibility attend to the needs of the weaker members, especially those most in need.

“Economic polices that help lower-income working families live in decency and with dignity should be a clear and common priority.”

Filed under: Economic Policy

Cor Unum Council Sponsoring Event for Charity Workers

Father Cantalamessa to Preach Retreat in Mexico
Cor Unum Council Sponsoring Event for Charity Workers

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 22, 2008 (Zenit.org).- A retreat for the Americas is aiming to remind diocesan aid workers that Christian charity is not the same as mere humanitarian work.

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum is sponsoring its first spiritual retreat for leaders of diocesan charity organizations. It will be held June 1-6 in Guadalajara, Mexico, and preached by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical Household.

Cardinal Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, spoke to ZENIT about plans for the retreat. The cardinal recalled that Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est,” emphasized the need for charity work to demonstrate the love of God.

“Jesus Christ always went about doing good in relation with a proclamation of the word,” the cardinal said. This is what differentiates Christians: “We have the Red Cross, we have institutions of the United Nations … And all this is very good. But we want to have a different attitude.”

He clarified that Church charities also seek material and even political means to end world suffering. But, he said, “what is specifically Christian consists in going beyond human misery. Frequently, even material help is no longer help, particularly when people go through difficulties in which it is impossible to help them with bread, with a roof, or with medicine. We can then give hope, speaking about the faith, praying with a dying person and consoling them by speaking of the good that God has prepared for us in eternal life.”

Cardinal Cordes said this retreat in the Americas will be followed by similar initiatives on other continents. He said Guadalajara was chosen to be somewhat closer for retreatants coming from South America.

“In a pragmatic, frequently superficial, pressured and insensitive world,” the cardinal said, “we have to rediscover the roots of our qualities: a heart that listens and the strength of the Word of God.

Filed under: Caritas