Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pray for Cardinal George

According to this press release, Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, will undergo surgery today for what appears to be bladder cancer. Although his prognosis would seem to be good, please keep him in your prayers.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Politicians, religion and spiced up history

On July 17, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) spoke on the Senate floor regarding the recently passed, then vetoed, bill that would loosen federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Amidst bringing up the usual candidates (e.g. Galileo, Columbus, etc.) to show the evils of allowing science to be checked by any kind of morality, he mentioned this tidbit:

"Pope Boniface VII banned the practice of cadaver dissection in the 1200s. This stopped the practice for over 300 years and greatly slowed the accumulation of education regarding human anatomy. Finally, in the 1500s, Michael Servetus used cadaver dissection to study blood circulation. He was tried and imprisoned by the Catholic Church."

Around the same time, another Senator (Tom Harkin) let loose with similar claims after comparing the President's veto with the actions of an ayotollah:

Sen. Harkin ... claimed that Bush is now aligned “with people like Pope Boniface VIII, who banned the practice of cadaver dissection in the 1200s. This stopped cadaver dissection for over 300 years, over 300 years.”

The problem with both statements is that there isn't a shred of truth to them. Not only did Specter get the name of the pope in question wrong, but both senators were likely fed grossly inaccurate information which was corrected by this swift Catholic News Service story:

What's a 13th-century pope got to do with stem cells? Nothing at all

In his 1845 textbook "The History of Medicine," German author Heinrich Haesar said dissection of cadavers continued without hindrance during the Middle Ages in European universities, run under the direction of church leaders.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, in its entry on anatomy, says that Guy de Chauliac, considered the father of modern surgery, encouraged the use of dissection in anatomical studies in the 14th century and insisted "on the necessity for the dissection of human bodies if any definite progress in surgery is to be made."

Since de Chauliac was the personal surgeon to three popes and encouraged dissection while a member of the papal household, "this fact alone would seem to decide definitely that there was no papal regulation, real or supposed, forbidding the practice of human dissection at this time," the encyclopedia says.

And what of Michael Servetus, supposedly imprisoned for his cadaverous crimes by the Catholic Church? He was actually executed by the Calvinists for his opposition to certain doctrinal questions relating to the nature of God.

Read the whole story

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Day of Prayer for the Middle East

The Vatican Press Office relates this:

"The Holy Father is following with great concern the destinies of all the peoples involved and has proclaimed this Sunday, July 23, as a special day of prayer and penance, inviting the pastors and faithful of all the particular Churches, and all believers of the world, to implore from God the precious gift of peace.

"In particular, the Supreme Pontiff hopes that prayers will be raised to the Lord for an immediate cease-fire between the sides, for humanitarian corridors to be opened in order to bring help to the suffering peoples, and for reasonable and responsible negotiations to begin to put an end to objective situations of injustice that exist in that region; as already indicated by Pope Benedict XVI at the Angelus last Sunday, July 16."

More here

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Franciscan sister ministers to carjacker

Not too unusual of a story. Religious men and women minister in prisons and jails all the time.

But in this case, the sister was the victim of the carjacking. And now, through her ministry, the perpetrator of the crime is renouncing his former life of violence.

Go here to read more about it.

Two states of religious freedom

Catholic News Service posted two stories yesterday that will be in our archives for the next 30 days. Each takes a look at religious freedom -- one in Russia and one in England. The state of religious freedom in either country is, depending on how things turn out, heading in separate directions. The once-repressive Russia is now opening more to religious freedom, while England may be one the verge of restricting it under the guise of the homosexual movement (as is happening in other western countries.

Excerpts follow...

Freedom stable for church in Russia, say religious liberty experts

While the Catholic Church still has problems in Russia, the religious freedom situation has stabilized, said officials of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom after returning from a fact-finding trip.

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"The Catholic situation in Russia is rather stable," said Tad Stahnke, commission deputy director for policy.

He described the situation as "half on, half off."

As an example, he cited a Catholic church that had been turned into a library under the Soviet government. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the new government decided to keep the building as a library but gave Catholics permission to build a new church, he said.

"I went to the construction site. The church was half finished but no one was working on it," said Stahnke.

Kathy Cosman, commission senior policy analyst on Russia, said that there are no new problems in getting visas for foreign Catholic priests and religious to work in Russia, but old problems have not been resolved.

U.K. bishops worry rules to protect gays could hurt adoption agencies

Catholic adoption agencies in Britain could be forced to close if legislators pass regulations to give gays and lesbians more rights, said the bishops of England and Wales.

Church leaders are seeking exemptions to the British government's proposed sexual orientation regulations, designed to make discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation illegal in the same way as discrimination based on race or sex.

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In their submission, the bishops also expressed concern about the implications of the regulations for Catholic schools, which they said would be limited in what they could teach children about the church's moral teaching.

The regulations also would force the church's marriage preparation and guidance agencies to cater to gay couples and would not allow parishes the right to refuse the use of their halls to groups at odds with church teaching. It could also become illegal for Catholic conference and retreat centers to refuse bookings from gay and lesbian groups, and the Catholic press would be unable to refuse certain advertisements, the bishops said.

They said they have "serious misgivings" about the regulations because they make no distinction between "homophobia" and a "conviction, based on religious belief and moral conscience, that homosexual practice is wrong."