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Catholics play key roles in Maryland marriage equality debate

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Catholics are playing a pivotal role in the marriage equality debate that is heating up in Maryland. While the Maryland Catholic Conference opposes the Religious Freedom and Marriage Protection Act, Catholic lawmakers and Catholic citizens are making the difference to work for the passage of this bill.

State Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola (D), a Catholic, is the primary sponsor of the bill in the Senate. Numerous other Catholic state legislators have already co-sponsored the bill, including Delegate Heather Mizeur (D), a lesbian Catholic. Maryland’s Catholic governor, Martin O’Malley, has stated that he will sign the bill into law if both houses of the legislature pass it. Twenty Senators have already pledged to vote for the bill; 24 votes are needed for passage in the Senate.

A vote will likely happen before the end of February.

Philadephia priests arrested on sex abuse charges

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Breaking news from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Monsignor William Lynn, former head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's Office for Clergy, has been charged for allegedly failing to protect children from sexual abuse by priests, District Attorney Seth Williams announced today.

Two felony counts of endangering the welfare were lodged against Lynn follow a grand jury investigation, Williams said at a news conference.

Williams said Lynn, who was the Archdiocese's Secretary of the Clergy from 1992 to 2004, "supervised two of the abusers . . . knew they were dangerous and chose to expose them to new victims."

Read the full story: 4 priests charged in sex abuse investigation

Irish priests ask for five-year delay in missal adoption

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Last week, the newly formed the Association of Catholic Priests of Ireland, which according to Catholic News Service, represents about 400 of Ireland's 4,500 priests, called for a five-year waiting period to study alternatives to the new English translation of the missal.

Here's the text of a news release that I received today:

New Translation of the Missal Unacceptable says the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).

The ACP understands that the Irish Conference of Bishops has decided that the new translation of the Missal will be introduced in Ireland on the First Sunday of Advent 2011. While a new and improved version of the current missal would be welcome, this new translation is not what is needed.

The ACP urgently calls on the bishops to defer its introduction for five years. During that period the bishops, together with the people and priests, can properly examine the suitability of these texts for the Irish Church.

Pope Benedict's organs

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There was a bit of particularly odd news making the rounds last week: According to the Vatican, the Pope cannot be an organ donor.

The weird question came about when Pope Benedict's secretary, Msgr. Georg Gaenswein, wrote a letter to a doctor in Germany asking him to stop advertising the fact that the pope, while a cardinal, had carried an organ donor card.

"Contrary to public opinion, the card issued back in the 1970s became de facto invalid with Cardinal Ratzinger's election to the papacy," Vatican Radio quoted from Gaenswein letter Feb. 4.

Now, Religion News Service has posted a story with this headline: "There’s a good reason why Benedict’s not an organ donor."

An excerpt from the beginning of Francis X. Rocca's piece:

“A decision of a personal character made when (Benedict) was a private citizen is no longer operative now that he is the head of the Catholic Church,” said the Vatican’s top spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi.

Lombardi also called the idea of transplanting the organs of a man who is already almost 84 “a little surreal.”

End of an era in Ukraine

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ANALYSIS

Today marks the end of an era for the Eastern Catholic churches in union with Rome, as the best-known Eastern Catholic leader in the West is stepping off the stage.

The Vatican announced this morning that Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, who turns 78 later this month, has resigned as the leader of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine. The church will shortly organize a synod of its bishops to elect a successor.

Speaking Truth to Anyone

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The virtue of conscience has woven it's way through Christian history, sometimes conspicuously, often unheralded, too frequently honored only in the breech or paradoxically. Thomas Beckett belongs in the last category, I think, giving his life for the cause of protecting church criminals from secular justice, but the theological sniffers who lament the hopeless simplicities of such entries as this would, I imagine, dispute that somehow on grounds that church justice was the superior court.

Catholic school revolt?

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A lot of Catholic school parents in Los Angeles are angry -- an anger that poured out in a remarkable open forum at my parish Wednesday night.

The gathering was called to address a plan by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to extend the grammar school year by twenty days -- one month. The extension was announced last week absent any prior consultation with a broad array of pastors, principals, teachers or parents.

To the surprise of few, that top-down approach to something this important sparked a lot of unhappiness among the rank and file. And, to its credit, the archdiocese is now seeking to build that lost consensus through a series of forums at schools and parishes.

U.S. bishops testify on behalf of anti-abortion funding bill

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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released the following statement Feb. 8.

WASHINGTON

A permanent ban on abortion funding is long overdue, which is why the U.S. bishops support the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act (H.R. 3), said a representative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in February 8 testimony to the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judiciary Committee.

"H.R. 3 will write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 35 years: The federal government should not use tax dollars to support or promote elective abortion," said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). "Since 1976 this principle has been embodied in the Hyde amendment to annual appropriations bills funding the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and in numerous similar provisions governing a wide range of domestic and foreign programs. It has consistently had the support of the American people."

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