Washington D.C., Apr 2, 2004 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops applaud President George Bush for signing the Unborn Victims of Violence Act into law yesterday. Also known as "Laci and Conner's Law", it recognizes an unborn child as a second victim in a violent federal crime against a pregnant woman.
In doing so, the law also expands the legal rights of the unborn. The law was passed in the House (245-163) and Senate (61-38) earlier this year with bipartisan majority votes.
"The suffering of two victims can never equal only one offense," Bush said at the signing.
"As of today, the law of our nation will acknowledge the plain fact that crimes of violence against a pregnant woman often have two victims. Therefore, in those cases, there are two offenses to be punished," he said.
"We applaud the President for bringing justice to women and their children who are victims of violent crime," said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., spokesperson for the U.S. Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. "Thanks to him, and to a bipartisan majority of Congress, a woman who loses her child to a brutal attacker in a federal jurisdiction will no longer be told that she has lost nothing."
Ruse said the new law exemts abortion, but the abortion lobby fought it anyway "because it commits the unpardonable pro-choice sin ... it recognizes that a child in utero is a human being.
"Abortion activists recoil from any acknowledgment of a child's existence before birth, whatever the context, and however bizarre the argument, in order to protect the ‘logic' of Roe v. Wade," she continued.
Outside the context of abortion, unborn children are often recognized by the law. Most states allow legal recourse for prenatal injuries and recognize fetal homicide as a crime. Unborn children can inherit property, be represented by a guardian, and sue for a wrongful death if their father is killed. They are considered human subjects protected from harmful research, and can qualify as recipients of state-funded health insurance.
The new law was passed after Laci Peterson, who was eight months pregnant with her son, disappeared in December 2002 and was found murdered.
Currently, California is trying Peterson's husband, Scott, on double murder charges. If found guilty, he could face the death penalty.
Washington D.C., Apr 2, 2004 (CNA) - The ban, suggested by President's Council on Bioethics, of certain reproductive technologies are laudable but not enough, and should be extended to include a full ban on cloning and embryonic research, said the U.S. bishops.
In a statement, Cardinal William Keeler said today's report by the council "deserves attention from all concerned about technological abuse of human life."
The chairman of the USCCB Committee for Pro-Life Activities praised the council's support for banning the creation of human/animal hybrids; placing human embryos in the bodies of animals, or in women's wombs for purposes other than a live birth; and the buying, selling or patenting of human embryos.
He also called on Congress to strengthen the council's recommendations for monitoring in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics to prevent harm to women and children.
But he pointed out that two of the council's recommendations raise serious questions. The first is its support for banning the use of embryos in research only after a certain number of days in their development. In a letter to the council, the cardinal argued that this point is arbitrary and does not recognize that human life begins at the point of conception.
"The decisive fact is that human life is a continuum from the one-celled stage onward," he said. "Any cutoff point after this event is arbitrary – providing no principled reason not to extend the time limit for destructive research, once the precedent is established."
The cardinal did not think the ban on cloning went far enough. The council only lent its support for a ban on "conceiving a child" using cloning procedures.
Laws against human cloning, said the cardinal, should not be based on whether researchers intend to place the resulting embryo in a woman's womb in order for her to bear a child, but should simply ban the cloning procedure.
"Human cloning is wrong because it treats human life as an object of manufacture – not because a researcher, having created the embryonic human, may "intend" to allow him or her to survive," he said in the report. "These procedures should simply be banned."
Vatican City, Apr 2, 2004 (CNA) - Addressing the first group of US Bishops on their Ad Limina visit, Pope John Paul said that the process of reconciliation after the sex scandal requires interior renewal.
The Holy Father received on Friday morning the bishops from the ecclesiastical provinces of Atlanta and Miami and said that in the meetings with all the US bishops in the next coming 10 months, he will offer “a series of reflections on the exercise of the episcopal office in the light of the threefold munus of sanctifying, teaching, and governing.”
“Our meetings,” the Pope said, “are taking place at a difficult time in the history of the Church in the United States. Many of you have already spoken to me of the pain caused by the sexual abuse scandal of the past two years and the urgent need for rebuilding confidence and promoting healing between Bishops, priests and the laity in your country.”
The Pontiff said that “acknowledging and addressing past mistakes and failures, while at the same time seeking to learn from them, will contribute greatly to this work of reconciliation and renewal.”
He added that “the history of the Church demonstrates that there can be no effective reform without interior renewal” for individuals, groups and institutions.
For a bishop, “the challenge of interior renewal must involve an integral understanding of his service as ‘pastor gregis’ (shephard of the flock.)”
To be effective, the Pope continued, the Bishop’s “apostolic authority must be seen first and foremost as a religious witness to the Risen Lord, to the truth of the Gospel and to the mystery of salvation present and at work in the Church.”
“The renewal of the Church is thus closely linked to the renewal of the episcopal office.” The Bishop, said the Pontiff “must be the first to conform his life to Christ in holiness and constant conversion.”
“Dear Brothers,” continued John Paul, “I wish to reaffirm my confidence in the Church in America, my appreciation of the deep faith of America’s Catholics and my gratitude for their many contributions to American society and to the life of the Church throughout the world.”
“Viewed with the eyes of faith, the present moment of difficulty is also a moment of hope, that hope which ‘does not disappoint’ (Rom 5:5), because it is rooted in the Holy Spirit, who constantly raises up new energies, callings and missions within the Body of Christ.”Hostility to the Gospel
The Pope recalled that the Bishop “is called to be a prophet, witness and servant of hope to the world,” but acknowledged that “the exercise of this prophetic witness in contemporary American society has, as many of you have pointed out, been made increasingly difficult by the aftermath of the recent scandal and the outspoken hostility to the Gospel in certain sectors of public opinion.”
“Yet, it cannot be evaded or delegated to others. Precisely because American society is confronted by a disturbing loss of the sense of the transcendent and the affirmation of a culture of the material and the ephemeral, it desperately needs such a witness of hope,” he added.
“For this reason,” the Holy Father concluded, “I pray that our meetings will not only strengthen the hierarchical communion which unites the Successor of Peter with his Brother Bishops in the United States, but will bear abundant fruit for the growth of your own local Churches in unity and in missionary zeal for the spread of the Gospel.”
Read the full Pope’s message:
Rome, Italy, Apr 2, 2004 (CNA) - More than 50,000 young people gathered together with Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square yesterday, singing songs and waving flags, to entrust the World Youth Day Cross to the young people of Germany.
The Pope, who appeared in good health, arrived at St. Peter’s at sunset to meet with the young people who had spent the day enjoying music and entertainment in anticipation of the Pope’s arrival.
300 participants of the International Youth Forum who had been meeting together in Rome, under the direction of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, were also present.
During the meeting in preparation for the World Youth Day, which will be celebrated on Palm Sunday with the theme, “We want to see Jesus,” the Pope entrusted the WYD Cross to a group of young people from Germany, and he recalled the first WYD which took place 20 years ago with the theme, “Open wide the doors to the Redeemer.”
During his remarks, the Pope said, “20 years ago, at the conclusion of the Holy Year of Redemption, I entrusted the Cross to the young people, the wood upon which Christ was raised above the earth, where He lived the ‘hour’ for which he had come to this world.”
“Since then this cross, journeying from one World Youth Day to another, is carried by young people all over the world, announcing the merciful love of God who comes out to meet each one of his children to restore the dignity lost because of sin,” he added.
“Dear young people,” the Pope went on, “stay united to the Cross! Do not lose sight of the glory which awaits you as well.”
The Pope also said that “we have to reevaluate the way in which we evangelize the youth of the world, yet with the certainty that today as well, Christ wants them to see Him, today as well he wishes to show His face to all.”
“Dear young people,” the Pope said, “do not be afraid to find new ways of total abandonment to the Lord and to mission. ... Think of how you can carry the Cross in the world!"
The Holy Father called on young people to “continue carrying together the Cross which I entrusted to you 20 years ago.”
"Since then youth have changed, as I too have changed, but your heart, like mine, is thirsty for truth, joy and eternity, and therefore, always young. This afternoon," he concluded, "I put my faith once again in you, the hope of the Church and society! Do not be afraid! Wherever you go, in season and out of season, carry the power of the Cross with you so that everyone, thanks to you as well, can continue to see and believe in the Redeemer of man,” he concluded.
Vatican City, Apr 2, 2004 (CNA) - During a meeting with young people from Rome in preparation for World Youth Day, which will be celebrated on Palm Sunday, Pope John Paul II revealed to the 50,000 youths gathered in St. Peter’s Square details concerning one of his spiritual mentors.
“I joyfully recall the spiritual attraction which the holy Brother Albert, Adam Chmielowski, as he was called, exercised upon my vocation,” said the Pope.
“Brother Albert was a very talented painter and a man of great culture. Yet at a certain moment in his life, he left his art behind because he realized that God was calling him to more important things. He went to Krakow to live amongst the poor and to give himself in service to those in need,” he added.The Pope revealed that “in him I found a particular spiritual support and an example in my abandonment of literature and drama in favor of the radical vocation of the priesthood.”
“Later on,” he added, “one of my greatest joys was to raise him to the honor of the altar, as well as to dedicate to him a dramatic work called, ‘Brother of our God’.”
Vatican City, Apr 2, 2004 (CNA) - During the reception of the diplomatic credentials of the new ambassador of Lebanon, Naji Abi Assi, Pope John Paul II called again for a strengthened role of the United Nations in securing peace.
The Pontiff said that in light of the present international situation “the Holy See does not cease to plead for a return to the stability and international order, thanks to the recognition of the regulating role of international organizations, especially the United Nations, and to strengthening their means to make decisions and take action in order to reduce tensions and guarantee peace.”
“It is to be hoped,” he continued, “that your country will recover stable conditions which will favor economic and social development for everyone’s benefit, especially those most in need. This will help to avoid situations of injustice, economic difficulty and feelings of frustration that can debilitate the social fabric, discourage certain sectors of society to stay in the country, causing emigration which weakens a nation and deprives it of its most precious resources, human beings.”
The Pope then spoke about Lebanon’s strategic position, and asked the international community to assume its responsibility and to invite the parties involved, in the first place Israelis and Palestinians, to “renew dialogue without delay and to find ways to put an end to the infernal cycle of reciprocal violence.”
Lasting peace in the Middle East will not exist, he continued, if there is a lack of “political fortitude, or without the firm determination to recognize the rights of each person, including those of your adversary, in order to take up the path of peace, respecting justice, or if there is no mutual forgiveness to clean the terrible wounds of mutual violence.”
“May all political leaders listen to this appeal in order to work actively and without delays in their renewal to commitments to restore peace, which everyone is hoping for!”
The Pope concluded by encouraging Catholics of different rites in Lebanon “to work together in the service of communion and to follow the path of unity with our brothers and sisters of other confessions.”
“May they commit themselves in a specific way,” he concluded, “to inter-religious dialogue with Muslims, especially in the field of the education of the youth and in the dialogue of life.”
Vatican City, Apr 2, 2004 (CNA) - During the presentation of a new book commemorating Vatican II’s document on the Sacred Liturgy, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, reaffirmed on Friday “the validity of the directives” of the Council regarding the liturgy.
Cardinal Arinze presented on April 2 at the Vatican the book “Spiritus et Sponsa,” which collects the acts of the Commemorative Day of the 40th Anniversary of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy “Sacrosanctum concilium,” that took place in Rome on December 4, 2003.
Cardinal Arinze said that since“the liturgy is the highest expression of the mysterious reality of the Church,” the very first fruit of Vatican Council II was the document on the sacred liturgy, “Sacrosanctum concilium,” which was then followed by 15 other conciliar documents.
“Spiritus et Sponsa” is divided into two parts. The first consists of two documents of John Paul II: the Apostolic Letter “Spiritus et Sponsa,” from which the new book takes its title, and a Chirograph dated November 22, 2003, which commemorates the centenary of St. Pius X’s Motu Proprio “Tra le sollecetudini,” on sacred music.
The second part, said the cardinal, “moves in three directions,” offering a retrospective look at the past 40 years, reflections on the liturgy in the pontificate of John Paul II and a section dedicated entirely to sacred music.
This volume, stated Cardinal Arinze, “wishes to testify to the validity of the directives of Vatican Council II on the sacred liturgy” and “we also hope that this is a small step in promoting the liturgical and pastoral formation of the clergy, consecrated persons and all the lay faithful, in line with duties assigned them in ‘Pastor bonus’.”
Vatican City, Apr 2, 2004 (CNA) - Noted Vatican watcher, Sandro Magister, of the online journal, L’Espresso, says in an upcoming column that the Vatican is leaning in favor of supporting genetically modified foods as a way to alleviate world hunger.
The debate surrounding such crops has lead to a confrontation between the United States, which promotes them as a way to fight hunger, and the European Union, which opposes them because of supposed danger to ecology.
According to Magister, this tendency can be observed in revelations published by the US Ambassador to the Holy See, James Nicholson, in his book, “The Long Road: the USA and the Holy See.”
Magister’s latest column, set to be released this Monday at www.chiesa.espressonline.it/english, underscores new areas of consensus between the US and the Vatican, such as the issue of genetically modified foods.
Nicholson appreciates “the openness and balance shown by the Holy See in organizing in November of 2003, through the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, an international conference on the issue.”
Magister says that a pronouncement by the Holy See on the subject is forthcoming, “but not for some time.” Nevertheless, his article will point to comments made in the journal “Civilita Cattolica,” which often coincides with Vatican opinions, which show that Vatican is leaning in favor of genetically modified crops.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Apr 2, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Murilo Krieger of Florianopolis, Brazil, said the person of Mary in “The Passion of the Christ” reminds us that Mary not only accompanied Jesus to Calvary, she “stood on her feet and united herself to the sufferings of her Son.”
Archbishop Krieger explained that although “some people criticize the movie for its violence and excess of blood, it cannot be said that its director has been unfaithful to the Gospel facts he has sought to portray.”
Returning to the figure of Mary, the Archbishop underscored that “the expressions on the face of Mary and her presence throughout the Way of the Cross constitute one of the highlights of the film. His mother not only accompanied Him to Calvary, she remained ‘standing’.”
“She lived an experience the apostle St. Paul would later describe in these words: ‘I make up in my flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his Body, which is the Church’,” he added. Likewise the Archbishop emphasized that “one of the certainties that is confirmed in the hearts of many who have seen the movie is that the events of the Passion of Christ were not limited to just a few moments in time, but rather they extend throughout history.”
Archbishop Krieger also recalled that we are all guilty of the death of Christ “with our sins.”
“Some individuals deserved special attention during the film, because they followed very closely the events of the Passion of Christ. They convey a truly sublime message. Such is the case of Mary, Veronica, Simon of Cyrene, the apostle John. Let me simply remind you that they were all Jews, like Jesus.”