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Archive of March 10, 2004

Vatican study confirms increase in religious indifference

Vatican City, Mar 10, 2004 (CNA) - A study by the Pontifical Council for Culture has revealed that religious indifference and faith in a “faceless God” is on the increase throughout the world, while “active atheism” appears to be diminishing.

“The three hundred responses to our study show a weakening of the faith, both in atheism and in the Church, in the dominant Western culture, which is characterized by a mix a technical rationalism and permissive hedonism,” said Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Vatican dicastery that is holding its plenary assembly this week.

Cardinal Poupard added that “Africa, Asia and also Latin America continue to be invigorated by popular religion in the heart of their cultures.”

Nevertheless, he underscored that “Latin America is characterized by a distortion between the liberal, agnostic elite and the masses that strive to meet the basic needs of the body and the heart.”

The document emphasizes that “the spiritual drama of our age” is that “the world population is backing away from religious practice and any reference to faith.”

“Unlike the past, these are not isolated cases, related to certain individuals or intellectual elitists, but rather a mass phenomenon,” the text indicates.

The report, which included data from various countries, shows that in Italy, for example, 14% of Italians are “indifferent to religion,” and of that number 40% consider themselves atheist.

The study also reveals that 54% of the Dutch, 37% of Belgians, and 43% of the French do not practice any religion.

In Hungary, according to the national census of 2001, only 887 people out of a population of 10 million consider themselves atheists.  In the Czech Republic one third of the population is Catholic and one half atheist.

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Doctor asks Senate for more research into side effects of abortion

Detroit, Mich., Mar 10, 2004 (CNA) - A medical researcher from the University of Michigan Medical School urged members of the U.S. Senate last week to support further study into the physical and psychological side effects of abortion on women, reported the Culture of Life Foundation.

Dr. Elizabeth Shadigian testified before the Senate Sub-Committee on Science, Technology, and Space and said abortion increases rates of breast cancer, placenta previa, pre-term births and maternal suicide. She was one of three witnesses calling for further study.

Shadigian told the committee that because "25 percent of all recognized pregnancies are terminated, the high prevalence of a history of induced abortion means that even small, negative effects on long-term health could influence the lives of many women."

Shadigian said obstetrics and gynecology in the U.S. are relying on old data.

The doctor referred to two recent European studies, which showed "a strong association between induced abortion and ectopic pregnancy." Five combined studies "found that women with prior induced abortion had a relative risk of placenta previa," which results in high rates of preterm birth, low birth weight and perinatal death.

Higher incidence of breast cancer and attempted suicide

Shadigian said one study "concluded that induced abortion is an independent risk factor for breast carcinoma," and emphasized this "clearly demonstrated the need for additional studies, [since] the high incidence of both breast cancer and induced abortion would ensure a substantial impact on women's health if their conclusions are correct."

Shadigian also underlined the relationship between abortion and suicide or attempted suicide. “The fact that the effects are seen after induced abortion rather than before indicates either common risk factors for both choosing abortion and attempting suicide, such as depression, or harmful effects of induced abortion on mental health," she said.

Shadigian argued that the "current literature is insufficient to be informative for counseling, "and that more studies were still needed, "so that women can get better answers for their health care choices.

“Women deserve to be fully and accurately informed about potential health effects of elective abortion,” she said, “preferably in a health education context, separate and distinct from the timeframe of actually being faced with making difficult decisions about whether to continue or end a pregnancy.

“I'm surprised that people aren't talking about this more," she added.

According to sub-committee chairman Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), the hearing was the first of its kind to look into the physical and psychological effects of abortion on women.

But not all senators are supportive. According to the Culture of Life Foundation, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) tried to convince his fellow senators that looking into the effects of abortion are not within the scope of the subcommittee, and that there was no research to substantiate the claim that abortion is harmful to women

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Parental notice measure approved by first Senate committee

Tallahassee, Fla., Mar 10, 2004 (CNA) - A proposed constitutional amendment, which would require doctors to notify the parents of minor girls seeking abortions at least 48 hours before the procedure, advanced through its first Senate committee yesterday to the Judiciary Committee.

The Health, Aging and Long-Term Care Committee approved the measure on a 9-3 vote, reported the Associated Press.

"If a child needs permission to go on a field trip to the zoo, then a child should at least notify the parent if she wants to terminate a pregnancy," said state Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami), according to AP.

If the measure is approved by three-fifths of each chamber, citizens will vote in November on whether the measure should become law.

The constitutional amendment is needed since the Florida Supreme Court ruled last year that a 1999 parental notice law violated privacy rights.

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New York bishops defend marriage at Capitol

Albany, N.Y., Mar 10, 2004 (CNA) - The Catholic Conference of New York defended marriage as the union of a man and a woman at the annual lobbying day at the state Capitol yesterday.

Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York, was joined by lead spokesman Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn in saying that marriage, as the union of one man and one woman, is for the good of society, reported the Associated Press.

Cardinal Egan celebrated mass at a nearby convention center for about 1,000 people that day. In his homily, he called marriage the “most basic, essential and sacred component of society”, and urged the people to champion the rights of the family.

Lobbying against same-sex marriage has become a priority for the bishops after a number of U.S. cities began issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples last month; 25 same-sex couples were married in New Paltz, in upstate New York.

Currently, there are two bills before the state Legislature on the issue. One bill would make same-sex marriage legal, the other would make it illegal.

Bishop DiMarzio said changing the legal definition of marriage would be a major public policy change, which would also change “the whole understanding of our society and religion,” reported the AP. The bishop also warned that allowing same-sex marriage may be taken too far and may lead eventually to the legal marriage of three or more people.

The bishop said he believes in the separation of church and state, but not “in the separation of religion and society." The legal system’s recognition of the role of religion in marriage requires religious leaders to defend marriage, he added.

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Bishops of Costa Rica will premier “The Passion of the Christ”

San José, Costa Rica, Mar 10, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Costa Rica has been granted the exclusive rights by the country’s theaters to debut Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”

Fr. Glemn Gómez, spokesman for the Bishops, said ticket sales for the debut will be used to finish financing Radio Fides, the official radio station of the Archdiocese of San Jose, Radio Fides.

The premier of “The Passion” will take place on March 18, in Magaly Theater, the oldest and largest in San Jose.

Tickets for the event quickly sold out, which was an encouraging sign for the Costa Rican bishops.  Most of the tickets were purchased by priests and lay people connected with the work of the Church in that country.

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Prime Minister of Australia rejects homosexual unions and adoptions

Washington D.C., Mar 10, 2004 (CNA) - Speaking on local radio stations, John Howard, Primer Minister of Australia, criticized a regional law that authorizes the adoption of children by homosexual couples and expressed his rejection of the legalization of homosexual unions.

In response to the legalization of adoption by homosexuals in the province of Canberra, Howard said he was “against gay adoption just as I am against gay marriage.”

According to the newspaper “The Australian,” the Howard administration is studying the possibility of outlawing the measure at the national level.

“The ideal thing would be that these children be educated by a mother and a father who are married,” he added, although he admitted that non-married couples can be good parents.  “I believe it is extremely important that people have roll models from both sexes,” he insisted.

The government is set to consider an Attorney-General's Department submission on a bill to override the Canberra law legalizing gay adoption.

But the Australian Solicitor's chief general counsel, Henry Burmester, has advised in a carefully worded opinion that a federal bill banning gay adoption would be unlikely to stop the practice.

According to Burmester, to be effective the federal bill would also have to ban adoption by all single parents for gay adoption to be stopped in Canberra, since so many gay people already use that route to adopt children.

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