Archive of June 3, 2004

Democrat senator releases controversial Catholic scorecard, reactions follow

Washington D.C., Jun 3, 2004 (CNA) - Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and other Democrat senators released on Wednesday a controversial analysis of votes and actions of Catholic Senators based on the official positions taken on legislation by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The report analyzes votes and legislative cosponsorships for the 24 Catholic U.S. Senators regarding issues for which the USCCB has taken an official position. 

The issues are broadly divided into three areas: Domestic Issues, International Issues and Pro-Life Issues. 

The scorecard includes a total of 48 votes or actions Senators have taken regarding these 24 issues, 47 of which took place during the 108th Congress (2003-2004), plus the Iraqi War Resolution, which the Senate passed on October 11, 2002. 

According to the scorecard, Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) all earned an overall score of greater than 60% in accordance with issues supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

There are many surprises contained in the voter guide. According to Sen. Durbin, a vote for or against the Dorgan Joint Resolution regarding broadcast media ownership is weighted equally with a vote for or against the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. 

And a vote for or against the Kerry National Affordable Housing Trust Fund is weighted equally with a vote for or against a ban on human cloning.

“Unfortunately, recent media attention has focused on one or two priorities of the Catholic Church, while obscuring others.  This has made it more difficult for Catholic voters to understand the full range of issues that have been identified by the USCCB as priorities for public life,” said Durbin.

“What we have done today is to use the criteria established by the U.S. Catholic Bishops to give voters an insight into the voting records of Catholic senators,” he added.

Durbin also said that statements by Catholic bishops about denying the sacraments to some public officials  “cross the line in terms of what most Catholic Americans find acceptable regarding the relationship between their Church and their government.”

In April, Monsignor Kevin Vann, pastor of the Blessed Sacrament Church in Springfield where Durbin used to attend, told the State Journal-Register that Durbin's “pro-choice position puts him really outside of communion or unity with the Church's teachings on life. And that's why I would be reticent to give him Holy Communion.”

The survey prompted an immediate conference call by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn., a pro-life Catholic.

“This is a selective attempt to make John Kerry and a bunch of liberal Democrats who disagree with the Church's teaching look like faithful Catholics,” Santorum said.

“To suggest, as this scorecard does, that the issue of taking innocent human life is on par and has the moral equivalency of how many television stations somebody owns in Erie, Penn., is a deliberate attempt to confuse and obfuscate what is the true teaching of the Church. They are not morally equivalent issues,” he added.

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Pope postpones indefinitely the creation of a Ukranian Patriarchate

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2004 (CNA) - Addressing members of the Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church headed by Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Pope John Paul postponed to “the day established by God” the creation of an Ukranian Patriarchate.

The creation of a Patriarchate has been a long-desired aspiration of the Ukranian Catholics, the largest group of Eastern-rite Catholics; but the Russian Orthodox leadership has fiercely opposed it, stating that it would be an “interference” with its historic territory.

The Holy Father assured them of his affection and prayers, “with my deepest admiration for the vitality of this Church and for the faithfulness which has characterized it throughout the centuries.”

The Holy Father affirmed: “Rich with heroic witnesses, even in the recent past, your church is involved in pastoral programs that enjoy generous collaboration and approval by the clergy and lay people for the effective work of evangelization, promoted by a climate of freedom that today is felt also in your country.”

“For this reason,” he continued, “I share your aspiration, well-founded in the canonical and conciliar discipline, to have full juridical and ecclesiastical configuration.  I share this aspiration in prayer and also in suffering, waiting for the day established by God in which I will be able to confirm the mature fruit of your ecclesial development as successor of the apostle Peter.

“Meanwhile,” he continued, “as you well know, your request is being seriously studied, also in the light of the evaluations of other Christian Churches.”

John Paul II urged that this hope not be an obstacle “to your apostolic courage or a reason to turn off or dampen the joy of the Holy Spirit which drives and spurs on Cardinal Husar, together with his brother bishops and priests, religious and the lay faithful to greater abandonment to proclaiming the Gospel and in the consolidation of your ecclesial tradition.”

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USCCB representative urges appeal of California ruling against Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act

Washington D.C., Jun 3, 2004 (CNA) - A spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is encouraging an appeal of the ruling made June 1 by a federal court judge in California, declaring the ban on partial-birth abortions unconstitutional.

The federal judge in the Northern District of California declared the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in violation of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortions in the United States more than 30 years ago. The lawsuit was brought by Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

"Once again a federal judge has declared that Roe v. Wade stands for the right to kill a child in the process of being born," said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., of the USCCB’s Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

To state that access to partial-birth abortions is a fundamental constitutional right “makes a mockery of the Constitution,” said Ruse. "We encourage and anticipate an appeal of this ruling.”

Ruse pointed out that trial testimony from abortion doctors included clear descriptions of how a baby’s life is ended during partial-birth abortions, which take place in the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy.

Dr. Maureen Paul of Planned Parenthood Golden Gate testified that there are two options when the baby’s head lodges in the cervix during the procedure. “You can disarticulate at the neck, or what I prefer to do is to just reach in with my forceps and collapse the skull and bring the fetus out intact,” she said.

Further testimony revealed the child's heart is still beating before forceps are used to crush the skull.

Pain specialist Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand also testified that the fetus endures “severe and excruciating pain" during the procedure.

"The American Medical Association says this procedure is never medically necessary," Ruse added.

Challenges against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act are also pending in federal courts in New York and Nebraska.

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Support for Kerry drops among Catholic voters, says poll

Washington D.C., Jun 3, 2004 (CNA) - Poll results released yesterday show Catholic presidential candidate John Kerry receiving only 20 percent support among the United States’ 51 million Catholics on issues where he opposes the Church's position.

Zogby International conducted the poll, commissioned by Associated Television News (ATN) and the O’Leary Report.

Only 23 percent of those polled support Kerry on the question of stem-cell research; 23 percent received his support on same-sex unions, 21 percent on school vouchers, and 18 percent on voluntary school prayer.

According to the poll, his support dropped to 6 percent on parental notification, 10 percent on appointing federal judges, 10 percent on same-sex marriage, and 12 percent on protecting the unborn.

The results have received different interpretations. O'Leary Report publisher, Brad O'Leary, said the results show “political potential.”

"The traditional thinking among pundits suggests that the America's Catholic voters are segmented,” he said.

He pointed out that white Catholics, who attend church regularly, voted for Bush in 2000. That gave Bush 47 percent of the Catholic vote – an increase of 10 percent over those who voted for Bob Dole in 1996.

On the other hand, Hispanic voters, who attend church less regularly, voted for Gore in 2000 and are still considered potential Democrat supporters, he said.

“That leaves the political middle,” he noted, “which sides with Bush on abortion and gay marriage and with Kerry on social issues."

Pollster John Zogby did not consider the results as significant. "I am not convinced that Catholics vote as Catholics,” he said. “I don't think religion is a principal identifier.

“I also am not sure many Catholics will be near enough to a church to hear the bishops' message. Those who do go to mass frequently are mainly already conservative,” he said.

“Issues like the economy, the war in Iraq, and health care will probably be more important in determining how Catholics – and all Americans – vote," he added.

In fact, the poll indicated that 20 percent of Catholic voters felt they would consider issues, other than those of a religious nature, in choosing their president.

Zogby conducted the poll between April 30 and May 14. Its sample included 1,388 Roman Catholics. Poll results have a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percent.

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Pope will preside Corpus Christi celebrations on June 10

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2004 (CNA) - At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 10, Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Pope John Paul will preside at Mass in the square in front of St. John Lateran Basilica after which there will be a Eucharistic Procession to St. Mary Major Basilica on Via Merulana, a broad street which links the two basilicas.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar of Rome, will be the principal celebrant at Mass. Concelebrants will include the vice-regent, auxiliary bishops and newly ordained priests of the diocese of Rome.

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Conference on Science and Faith inaugurated at the Vatican

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2004 (CNA) - This morning Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, inaugurated an interdisciplinary conference on science and faith. It will be organized jointly by the same council and the Slovenian Academy of Science and Art.

The theme of the meeting, which will be held in Ljubljana, Slovenia on June 3-6, is “Ethical Responsibility in the World.” 

The meeting will be divided into four sections: science, faith and society, which analyzes the role that science and faith exercise in social life; science and values, the value of science, which considers the ethical implications of scientific research especially in the biomedical field; the connection between knowledge and ethics and the interdisciplinary character and the new horizons of activity.

In his inaugural speech today, Cardinal Poupard described the changes that have taken place in the last twenty years, especially in Europe, saying that science has played an important role.   

Reclaiming the ethical dimension of science is fundamental, he stated.  It is necessary to present an alliance between science and conscience to those who propose that science has no connection to ethical values.

The event takes place twenty years after another conference organized by the Slovenian Academy of Science in Ljubljana which was then known as the Secretariat for non-believers.

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Islam worse threat than Communism, says Sudanese bishop

Rome, Italy, Jun 3, 2004 (CNA) - In a revealing interview with the Italian daily, “Il Giornale,” Bishop of Cesare Mazzolari of Rumbek, Sudan, said the Islam that he knows and which brutally persecutes Christians in that African country is the “true face” of Muslims, and he emphasized that Islam is a graver threat to the future of Christianity than was communism.

The Sudanese bishop, who was born in Italy, spoke with Stefano Lorenzetto of “Il Giornale” on Sunday, May 23.  According to Vatican observer Sandro Magister of “L’Espresso” online, the interview is “an exceptional document,” “the perfect picture of a bishop on the frontlines who knows ‘his’ Islam well, has seen it in action, and describes it precisely: An Islam of crucifixions, slavery, forced conversions and deception.”

Magister, who publishes the interview in its entirety in his weekly column, points out that for Bishop Mazzolari, there is an abyss between Islam and Christianity because “Allah is not the same god as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

In his analysis of the interview, Magister underscores that Bishop Mazzolari does not romanticize Christian guerrillas, nor does he exalt the West or Western Christendom.  Nevertheless, he believes that the “clash of civilizations” is “just beginning.”

Bishop Mazzolari, with tears in his eyes for his beloved Sudan, told “Il Giornale” that he expects to die a violent death:  “The time of martyrdom is approaching.  I hope the Lord gives us the grace to face this shedding of blood.  There needs to be purification.  Many Christians will be killed for the faith.  But the from blood of the martyrs a renewed Christianity will spring forth.”

The moving interview and analysis by Magister can be found at:

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Catholic Charities of Haiti calling for assistance for flood victims

Port au Prince, Haiti, Jun 3, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic Charities of Haiti has sent a request for funds to the international network of Catholic Charities in order to continue offering assistance to flood victims in the dioceses of Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, Hinche and Cayes.

Sources from the organization said Catholic Charities of Haiti has produced a detailed evaluation of the damage caused by the floods.

According to its own estimates, in Port-au-Prince there are 156 people missing, 1,113 homes destroyed and another 1,288 damages, 5,565 people left homeless, 2,800 children unable to attend school, totaling 10,000 people directly affected in one way or another. 

In the Diocese of Jacmel, there have been 230 deaths, 850 injured, 380 homes destroyed, 2,500 people homeless, and 450 deaths of livestock animals.  In the Diocese of Hinche the number of those left homeless rises to 3,000, with 500 homes destroyed and another 500 livestock deaths.

Likewise in Cayes, 10 people have been confirmed dead and over 50 homes have been destroyed.  On the border with Haiti, the Dominican Republic city of Jimaní suffered 135 deaths with 200 people missing.

From the first moments of the disaster, Catholic Charities personnel in Haiti have been providing assistance to the victims.  With the funds received from other countries, Catholic Charities in Haiti will be ready to put into practice a post-emergency plan which will permit the basic needs of 3,000 families to be met, such as water treatment systems, school supplies, agriculture projects and family loans.

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Nobel laureate says “improvement” of human species will not come through genetic manipulation

Rome, Italy, Jun 3, 2004 (CNA) - Sydney Brenner, biologist and winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for Medicine, says many of the current attempts to “improve” the human race through genetic manipulation are “ridiculous” and he called for focus on a more effective and lasting instrument: culture.

Dr. Brenner, who helped 1962 Nobel laureate Francis Crick to decipher the genetic code, said in interview with the Swiss newspaper “NZZ am Sonntag” that “current attempts to improve the human species through genetic manipulation are not dangerous, they’re ridiculous.”

“Suppose we want a more intelligent man.  The problem is we don’t exactly know which genes to manipulate,” he explained.

Brenner added that “there is only one instrument to transform humanity in a lasting way and that is culture.”

“I explain it like this:  the human brain is more powerful than the genetic patrimony.  Therefore we should concentrate more on cultural evolution, something whose functioning we do not yet know,” said the 77 year-old scientist.

”The important thing is to ask ourselves these types of questions instead of insisting on genetic magic,” he added.

Brenner said the differences in the genetic codes of distinct organisms are very minute.  All animals and human beings share the most important genes.

”We don’t know where the differences are in the codes, but there are no specifically human genes.  There is nothing more foolish than to say as some do that we have found the gene that allows us to speak,” he said. 

”I jokingly respond that I have also found the gene the makes us get fat and it is none other than the one that opens our mouths.  Many people have a sort of ridiculous idea of what a gene is and what I can do,” he pointed out.

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