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First same-sex couple married in Charleston

Kristin Anderson and Kayla Bennett exchanged vows today outside the Charleston County Courthouse, becoming the first same-sex couple to marry in South Carolina.

They were among about 11 other couples to receive marriage licenses from Judge Irvin Condon's office by noon of Nov. 19, including the very first one of the morning to Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley, who sued in federal court for the right to marry.

Even as licenses were issued, the state moved to halt the proceedings.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson immediately filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a stay on gay marriages in the state until the high court can issue a ruling.

Also, because of continued legal proceedings, other courts are holding off on marriage licenses.

Berkeley County Court will issue licenses after noon on Thursday, the date set by Federal Appeals Judge Richard Gergel, who ruled on Nov. 12 that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional but also granted a stay until Nov. 20.

The Charleston court began issuing marriage licenses ahead of that date based on two other rulings that came down on Nov. 18. In the first, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to put Judge Gergel's order on hold. The second came from U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs, who ruled in Columbia that South Carolina must recognize gay marriages from other states.

Together, the rulings have led some attorneys to state that same-sex marriage licenses may be issued unless the Supreme Court intervenes, while others urge caution pending a final decision.

A quick decision from the high court was requested by Wilson. Until that time, Greenville County Probate Court said it will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

According to news reports, Probate Judge Deborah Faulkner said as long as the case remains in the courts, there is a legal impediment preventing gay marriages.

The issue has some people questioning whether or not their churches will be required to allow same-sex marriages.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone said court decisions have no bearing on the Catholic Church.

"Our Catholic faith upholds the dignity of every human person, including persons with same-sex attraction," the bishop said in a statement. "Regardless of any civil court ruling, the Catholic Church teaches and will continue to teach that marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman which bonds them for life. This teaching is not a judgment about persons who experience same-sex attraction, but a statement about how the Church has always understood the nature of marriage itself.”

 

Pope Francis will visit Philadelphia in 2015

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON—The visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia in September 2015 for the World Meeting of Families will be a “joyful moment,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Pope Francis made his intention to travel to the United States public, Nov. 17, in an address to the Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman at the Vatican.

“The presence of Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families in our country will be a joyful moment for millions of Catholics and people of good will. Our great hope has been that the Holy Father would visit us next year to inspire our families in their mission of love. It is a blessing to hear the pope himself announce the much anticipated news,” Archbishop Kurtz said.
The World Meeting of Families, sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, is the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families and is held every three years. World Meeting of Families 2015 will be Sept.r 22-25, 2015, hosted by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It will focus on the theme “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” emphasizing the impact of the love and life of families on society.
More information about the meeting, including open registration, is available online: www.worldmeeting2015.org/
The Vatican has not announced additional dates or cities for the 2015 papal visit at this time.
   

Group is organizing to fight for freedom of religion

MYRTLE BEACH—Carol Jean Walters is on a mission to rally people around the importance of fighting for religious freedom.

The former New Yorker has started local chapters of Catholics for Freedom of Religion. She first became involved in the grassroots group through her former parish, St. James in Setauket in the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island.

The organization was founded by Barbara Samuells and Eileen Wolfe, both of Long Island, in response to concerns over the HHS mandate, which required employers to provide contraceptive coverage to workers under the Affordable Care Act.

In New York, Catholics for Freedom of Religion quickly became involved in spreading information about religious liberty at the parish level. They have also helped some who felt their own religious freedom was being threatened, including a high school student from Long Island who tried to form an interfaith discussion group at his school and was initially turned down.

Samuels said the organizers dream of establishing branches in every diocese around the nation, and she felt called to spread the word in South Carolina. After she and her husband moved to Myrtle Beach in late 2013, she received permission from Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone and her pastor, Father James LeBlanc.

Since March, Catholics for Religious Freedom has met monthly at St. Andrew Church and hosted a variety of speakers, including a Florida attorney who specializes in the constitution. The group has about 40 members who attend regularly, ranging from families with children to senior citizens.

They participated in the Fortnight for Freedom over the summer, and sponsored an essay and art contest for middle and high school students that they hope to expand in 2015.

“It’s been quite a journey, but very exciting and rewarding,” Walters said.

“We’ve hit a few bumps in the road, but the important thing is letting people know this is important. It’s about our country and our Church, and how important it is to support the God-given freedom of religion,” she said.

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Catholic radio speaks to those who want to hear Good News

Catholic radio helps Marsha Beach of Mount Pleasant turn rush hour into a spiritual experience.

“Just hearing the programs they offer while I’m sitting there in traffic helps me learn more about my faith and, I think, become a better Catholic,” said Beach, who attends the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston.

She is one of thousands of listeners who benefit from daily programming offered by Catholic Radio in South Carolina, based in Greer. Founded in 2002, the station originally only broadcast programming from the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).

Local material now plays a more prominent role. Offerings include “More Christianity,” a syndicated program by Father Dwight Longenecker of Greenville, live coverage of important events, broadcasts of Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone’s annual messages for Advent and Lent, and occasional noon broadcasts of Sunday Mass from parishes around the state. They will broadcast from Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island later this month.

The annual Radiothon on Oct. 16-17 is a fundraiser and chance to raise awareness of what they offer, said Gary Towery, president of Catholic Radio South Carolina.

Listeners can also call (864) 877- 8458 during those two days to offer feedback about the programming.

Tune into Catholic radio on WCKI 1300 AM (Upstate), WQIZ 810 AM (St. George in the Lowcountry), or WLTQ 730 AM (Coast, broadcast out of Charleston). Towery said they also are exploring ways to add a station in the Midlands.

Streamed broadcasts are available at www.catholicradioinsc.com, or download the Tunein App to listen on smartphones or tablets.

Michael Brennan, executive vice president, said Catholic radio helped him in his journey back to the Church. He listened while traveling between St. Louis and Spartanburg in 2003, and got involved with the project when he moved back to the Upstate permanently in 2008.

“Our purpose here is two-fold,” he said. “First thing, we are a tool of the Holy Spirit to bring people closer to their faith and let them experience it more, and our other goal is to serve the Diocese [of Charleston] and its apostolates, to serve as a medium of information that people can really use.”

Brennan said they try to run as many announcements as possible for parishes and organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, and do special programs in advance of events including the annual March for Life in Columbia and the recent Marian Eucharistic Conference in Greenville.

Catholic Radio also tries to build community ties with events, such as the Catholic business breakfasts they host in Greenville and Charleston.

“We’re trying to bring all the parishes and Catholics around the state a little closer,” Brennan said.

They don’t maintain a count of listeners, but Towery said they know they’re making an impact from phone calls and emails they receive. He said one man recently called to say he had fallen away from the Church, but went to confession and sought counseling to heal his marriage after listening to one of the programs while driving through the Charleston area.

Laurie Rappl of Simpsonville started listening about two years ago and especially likes programs that talk about faith and current events.

“I don’t have the patience to read through a lot of books and don’t have the time to go to some of the educational activities at my church, but I’ve always got Catholic radio,” she said. “Even if I turn it on just for 10 or 15 minutes, I feel like I learn something.”

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