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Archive of June 18, 2004

U.S. Bishops issue statement on “Catholics in political life”

Denver, Colo., Jun 18, 2004 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved on Friday a statement highlighting that Catholics public officials who dissent from key Catholic teachings should refrain from taking communion, but leaving to each individual bishop the decision of denying Communion to individuals.

The bishops say in the statement that those who formulate law are obliged in conscience “to work toward correcting morally defective laws,” and calls on Catholics in public life to protect the unborn and oppose legal abortion “lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good.”

The bishops also pledged to counsel Catholic public officials who act “consistently to support abortion on demand” that this support could make them “cooperators in evil in a public manner.”
The statement, “Catholics in Political Life,” was adopted by a vote of 183-6. It came after the Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians made an extensive interim report at the USCCB’ s special assembly, held in Denver, June 14-19, 2004.

In the statement, the bishops highlight:

  • The need “to continue to teach clearly” and help other Catholic leaders to do so about their “unequivocal commitment to the legal protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural death.” The statement notes that Catholic “teaching on human life and dignity should be reflected" in all parishes and all "educational, health care and human service ministries.”

  • The need to do more “to persuade all people that human life is precious and human dignity must be defended.” The bishops also welcome “conversation initiated by political leaders themselves.”

  • The need for Catholics “to act in support of these principles and policies in public life.”

The statement also says that “the Catholic community and Catholic institutions” should not honor those “who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” with awards, honors, or “platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

Recalling the words of St. Paul in the First Letter to the Corinthians about the unworthy reception of the body and blood of the Lord, the bishops state that “all must examine their consciences” about their worthiness to receive Holy Communion, including with regard to “fidelity to the moral teaching of the Church in personal and public life.”

The statement notes that “the question has been raised” whether it is necessary to deny Holy Communion to Catholics in public life who support abortion on demand.
“Given the wide range of circumstances involved in arriving at a prudential judgment” in this serious matter, the bishops state that they “recognize that such decisions rest with the individual bishop in accord with established canonical and pastoral principles.”

Noting that “bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action,” they express their shared “unequivocal commitment to protect human life and dignity.”

The bishops conclude their statement by saying that respect for the Holy Eucharist “demands that it be received worthily and that it be seen as the source for our common mission in the world.”

Read the full statement at:
http://www.usccb.org/bishops/catholicsinpoliticallife.htm

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Catholic League blamed for silencing of Kerry’s religious adviser, Donohue responds

, Jun 18, 2004 (CNA) - Washington Times reporter Julia Duin wrote that Mara Vanderslice, the Kerry campaign’s director of religious outreach, is no longer permitted to talk to the press after a Catholic League’s news release described her as a “far left-wing activist who has spoken at rallies held by the notoriously anti-Catholic group, ACT UP.”

According to Kerry spokeswoman Allison Dobson “it is extremely unfortunate and regretful that John Kerry’s political opponents would attack a person of faith in this way.”

Catholic League president William Donohue responded on Thursday saying that “is disingenuous of the Kerry campaign to blame me for simply disclosing who Mara Vanderslice is.”

“They just don’t get it. The Kerry campaign hires a 29 year-old ultra-leftist who consorts with anti-Catholic bigots and the Catholic League is supposed to take this lying down? And if Vanderslice is so innocent, why have they gagged her? How is a director of outreach supposed to function if he or she is being muzzled?”

According to Donohue, “the larger issue remains: the Kerry campaign is treating religion the way a sick kid treats lousy-tasting medicine—as something that simply must be swallowed. Why is it that this Catholic senator has no problem with ‘gay speech’—he knows how to talk the talk with transgendered types—but stutters every time he engages in ‘religion speech’? Are people of faith so distant from him as to be virtual pariahs?”

“To top it off –continued Donohue, - Kerry is now taking advice from the discredited priest, Father Robert Drinan. Drinan, who says he is part of Kerry’s ‘kitchen Cabinet’ on religious matters, was forced in 1997 to retract an outrageous New York Times op-ed column he wrote the year before supporting President Clinton’s veto of a ban on partial-birth abortion. If this is the kind of Catholic Kerry is listening to, he’s in deep trouble.”

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US Bishops to vote on Communion and pro-abortion politicians today

Denver, Colo., Jun 18, 2004 (CNA) - As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is winding up their spring meeting in Denver, a statement on Communion and Catholic public figures is expected today.

At issue is the interpretation and application in the US dioceses of Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which reads: “those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis said on Thursday that despite “a difference of opinion” he expects the statement on Communion and Catholic politicians will come today from the nation's bishops.

Last November, Archbishop Burke, while still bishop of La Crosse, Wis., notified his diocese that Catholic politicians who support abortion “are not to be admitted to Holy Communion . . . until such time as they publicly renounce their support of these most unjust practices.”

He said he could never in good conscience retreat from his position, which is that Catholic politicians who support or vote for abortion rights “persist in a gravely sinful act,” and if they will not refrain from Communion themselves, the church must refuse them.

“I have to do what I know to be right,” Burke said. “If the statement says that it's the responsibility of each bishop (to act) with regard to the legislators in his pastoral care - that's fine. I've said that repeatedly.”

NOTE: Catholic News Agency will immediately deliver the statement as soon as it is made public.

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Catholic U. and NAACP reach no agreement over chapter

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2004 (CNA) - There was no agreement between leaders of Catholic University of America and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) after their meeting June 16. At the end of the meeting, the NAACP continued to threaten to sue the university, reported the Associated Press.

The two organizations met to discuss the rejection of a student’s application to form an NAACP chapter on campus. The university declined the student request in April, stating that there were already similar student groups on campus and expressing its concern that the civil rights group supports abortion.

Fr. David O'Connell, president of the university, said the school had initially understood that it could not stipulate that chapters follow university policies. But that is not the case, and student groups are requested to abide by the guidelines of the university.

"That was an area of misunderstanding," Fr. O’Connell told The Associated Press. "I certainly would be willing to reevaluate the decision that was made on the information that they had at the time."

Despite the indication on the part of the university to reconsider, the possibility of a lawsuit was still discussed.

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Pope exhorts Spain to protect human dignity, family life, religion

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2004 (CNA) - On receiving the Letters of Credence of the new ambassador of Spain, Jorge Dezcallar de Mazarredo, the Pope spoke firmly and clearly as he exhorted Spain to draw on it’s Christian roots for the building up of a Spanish society open to noble human values and the transendent dignity of the person.

Referring to his last trip to Spain in May of 2003, the Pope said that "it was a very clear sign of hope for the Church and also for Spanish society, since noble values lived intensely are like a soul which gives cohesion to human activity and instills creativity and fullness in moments of collapse or adversity which Spain has experienced very recently with some tragic experiences, due to the scourge of terrorism."

"At a moment when a new order is being born in old Europe, Spain cannot fail to bring forth among its many contributions the express manifestation of its Christian roots, from which as in other European countries, a refined concept of the person open to transcendence has been developing for centuries, which is also a decisive factor of integration and universality."

After emphasizing the Church's respect for civil authority, John Paul II said that neither Church nor State can be ignored because "the common good frequently requires different forms of collaboration between both, without discrimination or any exclusion.”

“This,” he continued, “is the content of the partial accords between the Church and the State, which were immediately established after the approval of the present Spanish constitution."

The Pope affirmed that the Church "makes an effort to invite all men and women of good will to build up a society based on fundamental and irreplaceable values for a just national and international order, worthy of mankind."

He continued by underlining the "incoherent nature of certain tendencies in our time that, while on the one hand increase the well-being of people, also attack their dignity and their most fundamental rights, as happens when the fundamental right to life is limited or converted into a tool as in the case of abortion.”

“Protecting human life,” said the Pope, “is a duty for all, since the questions of life and its promotion are not only a prerogative for Christians but also a duty which pertains to every human conscience that aspires to the truth and is concerned about humanity's plight.

“In terms of guaranteeing everyone's rights, public officials are obliged to defend life, especially the life of the weakest and defenseless," he said.

"In this field," he continued, "some poorly-called 'social advances' are in reality only for some people at the cost of the sacrifice of others, and public leaders, who guarantee rights but are not the origin of the innate rights of all, must consider these 'advances' with concern and alarm."

The Holy Father pointed to the family, "the central and fundamental nucleus of all of society, the unparalleled milieu of solidarity and natural school of peaceful co-existence,” and said that it “deserves the greatest protection and help in order to carry out its duties. Its rights are more important than bigger social bodies.”

“Among these rights,” he added “let us not forget that of being born and raised in a stable home, where the words mother and father may be said with joy and without deception."

“Society will benefit from the smallest,” he continued, "if it does not give in to certain voices that seem to confuse marriage with other very different forms of union, some that are even opposed to marriage, or that seem to consider children as mere objects for one's own satisfaction."

"The family has the right and duty to educate children, doing so according to certain moral and religious convictions, since integral development cannot elude the transcendent and spiritual dimension of man,” affirmed the Pope

“Neither can the teaching of the Catholic religion be underestimated in state institutions, based precisely on the right of families who request it, without discriminations or impositions."

At the end of his speech, John Paul II urged that during this Holy Year of St. James, the Apostle James may, "as he was for centuries, continue to be a luminous beacon for the peoples of Spain and continue to make of his lands a path sown with strength and hope for so many pilgrims from all over Europe."

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Same-sex marriage may be grounds for firing in Massachusetts Church

Boston, Mass., Jun 18, 2004 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Massachusetts has discussed firing homosexual employees who marry their same-sex partners, said Daniel Avila of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference yesterday.

The associate director for policy and research told Reuters that, "The Church has long had a position that the people working on its behalf need to display conduct consistent with the beliefs of the Church."

Avila said the Church has the right to act according to its beliefs and consistent with its practices. He does not know of any homosexuals who have been fired by the Church for having married a same-sex partner.

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference formulates public policy for the state's four bishops.

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U.S. family group lauds Australian marriage lobby for getting government support

Sydney, Australia, Jun 18, 2004 (CNA) - The Australian Family Association has secured the support of Australian Prime Minister John Howard and the opposition Labor Party for a bill, pending in Parliament, to amend the nation’s Marriage Act of 1961.

The amendment would define marriage as “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” It also explicitly prohibits the recognition of overseas marriages between same-sex couples and prohibits the facilitation of overseas adoption by Australian same-sex couples. Action in the Lower House is expected before Parliament adjourns June 24.

The move is preemptive, as two judges on Australia’s seven-person High Court have already expressed support for homosexual marriage. Also, several same-sex couples have announced their intention to sue to have their foreign marriages legally recognized in Australia.

Allan Carlson, founder of the World Congress of Families, congratulated the Australian Family Association for putting the traditional definition of marriage on the fast track to legislative approval in Australia.

“Like the Federal Marriage Amendment in the United States, the Australian bill is defensive,” said Carlson, who is also the president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society. “It takes the definition of marriage out of the hands of judges and put it where it properly belongs – with the nation’s elected legislature.”

Carlson noted that “the movement to save marriage is truly international in scope.”

A World Congress of Families conference, attended by more than 3,300 participants from 70 countries, was held in Mexico City March 29-31. A declaration was crafted, defining the natural family as “the fundamental social unit, inscribed in human nature, and centered on the union of a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.”

The Howard Center also publishes a monthly magazine, called The Family in America. The April issue’s lead article is titled, “Why Homosexuals Want What Marriage Has Now Become.” To receive a copy of this issue, call 1-800-461-3113.

For more on the World Congress of Families, go to: http://www.worldcongress.org  and http://www.profam.org.

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FDA contradicts Peruvian Health Minister: “Anti-implantation” effect of morning after pill not ruled out

Lima, Peru, Jun 18, 2004 (CNA) - A spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has told CNA that the government agency has not ruled out the anti-implantation effect of Levonorgestrel—the generic name for the morning after pill—because it has not received “safety information” to make such a determination.

This week Peruvian Minister of Health, Pilar Mazzetti, told reporters the FDA data on the abortion pill is from 2002 and that “recent studies” confirm that the drug’s third mechanism—which is the focal point of the controversy—has been ruled out.

An FDA statement from May 7, 2004, said the morning after pill functions primarily by preventing ovulation, but it can also prevent fertilization, and if fertilization has already taken place, it can prevent the fertilized ovum from implanting itself in the uterus.

This third mechanism is what has caused the controversy in Peru because the Peruvian constitution grants protection to human life from the moment of conception, not implantation.  By denying the anti-implantation effect, Mazzetti is attempting to get around charges that her decision to distribute the drug as part of family planning policy is unconstitutional.

According to Susan Cruzan, public relations specialist of the FDA, the agency’s statement of May 7, 2004, only reiterates that the first mechanism—prevention of ovulation—is the only one that has been confirmed.  The possibility that the drug prevents fertilization and implantation has not been ruled out.

Asked about the recent studies cited by Mazzetti, Cruzan said, “It’s really up to the manufacturer to submit that information to the Food and Drug Administration” because “the manufacturers are the ones that should make the labeling changes.”

“What you can do is call the company and make sure that they have that data and essentially the companies are required to send any new info that is related to the Food and Drug Administration, specifically if it relates to safety information.  So again it’s really up to the manufacturer to submit that information to the food and drug administration and certainly people can call that to our attention,” said Cruzan.

She added that “the way that FDA operates, the FDA will have to see those studies and review them to make a determination based on that.  We make our decisions based on science and the data that is submitted to the agency.”

In addition, Cruzan said that “what would have to happen in order for FDA to change the information that is put out there is that the company would have to submit that data and FDA would then have to update the label.”

“Its a scientific review process,” Cruzan said.  “You can’t just say that, ‘Oh well you heard through us’.  Usually what happens is that it will have to go through the actual manufacturers of those products. You know the manufacturers are the ones that should make the labeling changes.”

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Bolivian bishops condemn assassination of mayor and warn against lack of respect for law

La Paz, Bolivia, Jun 18, 2004 (CNA) - The Secretary General of the Bolivian Bishops Conference, Bishop Jesus Juarez, has denounced the killing of the Benjamin Altamirano, mayor of Ayo Ayo, located about 80 kilometers from La Paz, saying the tragedy demonstrates that “there is no respect for the law” in Bolivia.

The bishop said that “these are signs that are very worrisome and that lead to a feeling of powerlessness because there is no respect for the law and people are acting in a completely immoral and illegal fashion.”

The Association of Judges of La Paz condemned the crime and issued a statement saying, “Some time ago we requested that local judges be moved to La Paz to hear their cases in the capital because of the lack of security.”

The kidnapping and murder of the mayor—who was burned alive by his captors—took place early Tuesday morning, as an act of “community justice,” according to a note found next to the body.

However, the judges in the case warned that “community justice should not be understood as community execution and a return to the time when each person took the law into his own hands.”

The town of Ayo Ayo only has five police officers who said, along with residents of the area, that they did not “see or hear anything” when the mayor was killed.

According to police chief Jairo Sanabria, the search for the 55 year old mayor, who was accused of corruption and the mismanagement of $500,000, began immediately and that around 11:00pm there was “an unexplained complete power outage.”

The family of the mayor has called for Congress to investigate of Sanabria for “negligence.”

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