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Archive of June 16, 2004

U.S. bishops approve national on-site audit at spring retreat

Denver, Colo., Jun 16, 2004 (CNA) - At their spring meeting yesterday, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted 207-14 in favor of a national on-site audit of all dioceses and eparchies, which will form the basis of the second annual report on the implementation of the Charter for Child and Youth Protection.

This audit is to be completed by Dec. 31.

The charter, which the bishops had approved in June 2002, requires that the Office of Child and Youth Protection compile the annual report and help regions develop “appropriate mechanisms to audit adherence” to the charter’s policies.

The bishops also directed the Office of Child and Youth Protection to oversee, in consultation with the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, annual national audits until the next review of the charter. The review process is to begin shortly.

In addition, the bishops directed the National Review Board to prepare for the study of the “causes and context” of the recent crisis.

Archbishop Harry J. Flynn, chairman of the ad hoc committee, said the bishops’ actions were “a clear indication of [their] commitment to the charter and to the protection of children and young people, which is the purpose for which we adopted it just over two years ago.”

Justice Anne Burke, interim chair of the National Review Board, said the board is pleased with the bishops’ decision to move forward with the audits.

This work will “continue to promote strong action to protect children and young people in the Church,” she said.

“The message is clear: Children will be safe from harm in the Catholic Church and the bishops and lay people will work on this together,” she said.

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One step closer to a vote on U.S. Federal Marriage Amendment

Washington D.C., Jun 16, 2004 (CNA) - The Senate Republican leadership is aiming for a mid-July vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment – a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, reported Alliance for Marriage yesterday.

Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.) said the GOP leaders have not yet set a specific date, but he confirmed that they are scouting for July.

The issue was not discussed with all 51 Republican senators at the Tuesday meeting, but a handful of senior senators and leaders reportedly "discussed the issue at length" the night before.

There was not unanimity about whether the GOP should pursue the issue in this election year. However, there appears to be a strong majority within the Republican Conference to at least force a vote, reported Alliance for Marriage.

"I think it needs to come up and we need to vote on it one way or another," said Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Pro-family groups have been pressuring Congress to hold a vote on the issue this year. Their lobby was sparked in part by Massachusetts' decision to sanction same-sex marriages.

The America Family Association is urging people to write letters to the Senate in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment in the next four weeks leading up to the vote.

“I urge you to respond to the call of President Bush for support by helping send one million letters to the Senate,” said Paul Webster of the American Family Association, making reference to the issue as “the most important vote in the history of our nation.”

Webster underlined the importance of letter writing. He pointed out that several Democratic senators, including Minority Leader Tom Daschale, Charles Schumer (NY), Barbara Boxer (CA) and Debbie Stabenow (MI), have already said they plan to kill the amendment.

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Pope: Christ is our peace and our deliverer from evil

Vatican City, Jun 16, 2004 (CNA) - In this morning’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father taught that the message of Psalm 45, “God, our refuge and strength,” is of the peace and serenity to be found in communion with God, who through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection has delivered us from evil.

This Psalm, said the Pope, "celebrates the holy city of Jerusalem, 'a sacred place where the Most High dwells,' but above all it expresses total faith in God Who 'is our refuge and strength, and Who is always near us in our suffering.’”

“The psalm evokes the most tremendous trials in order to affirm with greater force the victorious intervention of God who provides total security," he continued.

"The first part of the hymn," said the Pope, "focuses on the symbol of water and presents a  double, contrasting meaning. On the one hand, there are tempestuous waters, which in biblical language are a symbol of disaster, chaos and evil.”

“On the other hand, the waters which satisfy thirst ...are a sign of the life that prospers in the holy city, of its spiritual fecundity and of its regenerating strength. Therefore, despite the circumstances of history which make peoples sigh and kingdoms shake, the faithful find the peace and serenity that come from communion with God in Zion.”

The second part of the psalm refers to “a world transformed,” said the Pope. “The Lord intervenes with great strength from his throne in Zion against wars and establishes the peace that everyone hopes for.”

Referring to other Old Testament sources to illustrate this point, John Paul II referred to  the prophet Isaiah who “praised the end of the arms race and the transformation of the instruments of war into means of development for thepeople: 'They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

"With this psalm," he concluded, "Christian tradition exalts Christ, 'our peace' and our deliverer from evil, through His death and resurrection."

In closing remarks, the Pope recalled that this friday we will celebrate the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which “evokes the mystery of God's love for mankind in all ages.”  He invited young people to be taught "in the school of Christ's heart, in order to confront life's commitments with faith."

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Pope praises progress of African churches, urges all society to help overcome problems in Africa

Vatican City, Jun 16, 2004 (CNA) - The Pope stressed the tragic injustice of the problems facing the African continent and praised the development of the African churches and their battle to answer their society’s needs, during the 12th meeting of the Post-synodal council of the Special Assembly for Africa of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in 1994 in the Vatican.

The Pope noted how the council had, since 1994, “so often encouraged the bishops of Africa in their efforts to put into practice the conclusions of the synod which were contained in the Apostolic Exhortation 'Ecclesia in Africa'.”

In regular meetings,” he said, “you have been able to verify the realizations, projects and progress of the local African Churches. These Churches are worthy of praise and admiration, especially when the political and socio-economic situations are for the most part tragically unfavorable, even if there are a few signs of comfort.”

“This continent” the Holy Father stated, “seems to know neither truces nor peace. To international conflicts must be added the hotspots of fighting that sow terror and devastation among the populations, so very anxious to live in a serenity that is finally re-discovered.”

He spoke of the other “scourges that afflict Africa and Africans”: poverty, great problems in the health and educations sectors, AIDS, insecurity due to conflicts and widespread corruption.

John Paul II underscored that all of society, and especially the Church, must act cohesively to overcome these problems.

He said the Universal Church has many times reminded world leaders of “the five priorities to give Africans what has been taken from them, often violently: respect for life and for religious diversity, the eradication of poverty, an end to arms trafficking, an end to conflicts and concrete action with a view to development motivated by solidarity.”

“Has the moment not come,” asked the Pope in conclusion, “to deepen this African synod experience? The exceptional growth of the Church in Africa, the rapid exchange of pastors, the new challenges that the continent must face, demand answers” that can only be found in putting “Ecclesia in Africa.” into action.

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Medical association’s support for greater access to morning-after pill ‘appalling’, says USCCB official

Washington D.C., Jun 16, 2004 (CNA) - An official with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the recommendation of the American Medical Association to make the morning-after pill available over-the-counter is “appalling.”

Last month, the Federal Drug Administration decided not to make the abortifacient available over-the-counter since current clinical trials do not prove that there are not serious side effects on adolescents.

“That a highly regarded medical association such as the AMA would attack the FDA for fulfilling its mandate – to put health interests over commercial interests – is as sad as it is appalling,” said Gail Quinn, executive director of the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

The American Medical Association presented its case in favor of the drug’s over-the-counter access yesterday. Reportedly, the president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists told an American Medical Association committee that "the overwhelming data is that [the morning-after pill] is safe, effective and usable across age groups."

However, the drug's manufacturer, Barr Laboratories, admitted to the FDA that there are no studies of the drug's effect on adolescents, said Quinn. She pointed out that Barr’s estimated profits on the drug could range between $25 million and $100 million.

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Health minister insists on distributing abortion pill, says FDA data not current

Lima, Peru, Jun 16, 2004 (CNA) - Peru’s Minister of Health, Pilar Mazzetti, said this week she will not reverse her decision to distribute the morning after pill, or emergency oral contraceptive, at Peruvian family planning centers and she denied the pill’s abortifacient nature on the basis of the supposed “latest” studies, which in reality are not so recent.

At the beginning of April, Mazzetti said she would await a decision of the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. concerning the effects of the drug Levonorgestrel before determining whether to use the drug in public health programs. 

In Peru the Constitution protects the unborn.  The morning after pill prevents a buildup of the lining of the uterus, thus causing the death of a fertilized ovum.  The FDA published their latest information on the drug on May 7, 2004, on their website at http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/planB/planBQandA.htm.

The FDA reiterated that when consumed after fertilization has taken place, Plan B (as the drug is called in the U.S.) prevents implantation in the uterus.

Curiously Mazzetti won’t acknowledge an effect published by the companies that produce the drug, as reported at http://www.go2planb.com.

The drug makers make no attempt to hide the drug’s anti-implantation effect, but in order to avoid using the term “abortifacient” they rely on the World Health Organization’s definition of abortion as “the interruption of a pregnancy” and they claim pregnancy does not begin until implantation, which can occur several days after conception.

During a press conference yesterday, Mazzetti said the decision had been made and that the FDA’s reports are irrelevant because they are based on information from 2002—although she contradicted herself by acknowledging the FDA’s statement of last month—claiming that studies from 2003 and 2004 show the drug only “inhibits ovulation and the thickening of cervical mucous.”

Although Mazzetti didn’t offer further details on these studies to reporters, CNA has confirmed that Mazzetti was referring to a study done by Peruvian gynecologist Luis Tavara, who works for the United Nations Population Fund, an openly pro-abortion organization.

The study dates from 2002 and was carried out in Sweden by scientists from the Department of Health for Women and Children of the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm.  It is older than the most recent decision by the FDA, which did not appear to be influenced by the supposedly new information in the study.

Doctors who support distribution of the pill point to studies carried out on Chile in 2003 and 2004 which supposedly prove the pill does not prevent implantation, but those studies were done on rats and monkeys. 

According to Carlos Beltramo of the Institute of Bioethics Studies of the Autonomous University of Puebla, Mexico, it is unusual that Mazzetti would “question the relevancy and rigor of the information provided by the FDA.”

“What is worrisome is that the Minister chose a public policy in the midst of so much debate and so little scientific support.  Bioethics has an aspect that helps to establish a proper health policy.  I think the Peruvian Minister of Health is not writing one of her best chapters,” he added.

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Mass celebrated in honor of first Archbishop of Mexico, canonization likely

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 16, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico, celebrated Mass yesterday in honor of the opening of the cause of canonization of the first Archbishop Primate of Mexico, Luis Maria Martinez.

Domincan Fr. Pedro Fernandez Rodriguez, postulator of the cause, was also present at the Mass which took place in the crypt of the Cathedral of Mexico City.

Since 1991 Fr. Fernandez is the theological expert for the cause of canonization of the Servant of God Maria Angelica Alvarez Icaza, and on October 31, 2001, he was named postulator of the cause of Archbishop Martinez.

Archbishop Martinez was born in 1881 and died in 1956.  He is considered responsible for bring peace to Mexico in the area of Church-State relations.

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Peruvian bishops: Morning after pill ends a human life

Lima, Peru, Jun 16, 2004 (CNA) - The Secretary General of the Peruvian Bishops Conference, Bishop Juan Jose Larrañeta, dismissed comments by Minister of Health Pilar Mazzetti and stated the morning after pill does attack a new human life.

In statements to reporters, Bishop Larrañeta explained that “the morning after pill is a drug that does not cure, it kills.”

Bishop Larrañeta was responding to statements made by the Health Minister to justify her decision to distribute the drug free of charge at family planning centers, alleging that it does not prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum.

“There is no evidence of neither an anti-implantation effect or of any other effect on the product (the fertilized ovum – editor) which has not been implanted.  Moreover this is a product that has been used since the 1980s,” said Mazzetti.

Bishop Larrañeta argued that there are studies that prove its abortifacient nature—starting with the studies done by the drug’s own producer—but he emphasized that it is not the role of the Church to take part in legal actions against Mazzetti.

In fact a group of lawmakers want to pill to be declared unconstitutional because the Peruvian Constitution protects the unborn from the moment of conception.

Concerning the doctors who have aligned themselves with the Ministry of Health and are defending the use of the drug, Bishop Larrañeta said that “the Church is defending life and it is sad that there are doctors who have the opposite opinion and do not defend life.”

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