Archive of October 22, 2004

Abortion is a human rights issue, not only religious, says Archbishop

, Oct 22, 2004 (CNA) -

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, in an op-ed piece published in today’s New York Times, blasted the notion that moral and religious positions should be kept out of the public square, and emphatically affirmed that the right to life is a fundamental human right, regardless of religious teaching, and that silence and neutrality in the face of abortion “are evils almost as  grave as abortion itself.”

In his piece entitled “Faith and Patriotism,” the Archbishop says that the notion that Catholics must not  "impose their beliefs on society" or warnings about the need for "the separation of church and state" are two of the emptiest slogans in current American politics, intended to discourage serious debate.” He explains that “the founders sought to prevent the establishment of an official state Church…but the Constitution does not, nor was it ever intended to, prohibit people or communities of faith from playing an active role in public life.”

He argues that democratic pluralism always involves lawmakers imposing a certain moral view on everyone else, that democracy depends upon people making their voices heard; those who support permissive abortion laws have had no qualms about imposing their views on a society that is generally against them. The rules of engagement should not be any different for those who oppose those laws, says Archbishop Chaput.

“Catholics…see abortion as a matter of civil rights and human dignity, not simply as a matter of religious teaching,” he said. “We are doubly unfaithful - both to our religious convictions and to our democratic responsibilities - if we fail to support the right to life of the unborn child.”

“Our duties to social justice by no means end there. But they do always begin there, because the right to life is foundational,” affirms Msgr. Chaput. “If we believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, we need to prove that by our actions, including our political choices.”

"Faith without works is dead," said Archbishop Chaput, referring to James 2:17 – a passage mentioned in the last presidential debate. “People,” he concludes, “should act on what they claim to believe. Otherwise they are violating their own conscience, and lying to themselves and the rest of us.”

Read the full editorial here:

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Catholics, as voters or elected officials, must defend human person, bishop Wenski says

Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 22, 2004 (CNA) - In a homily during the Closing Mass of the Catholic Leadership Conference held in Philadelphia yesterday, Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando said that Catholics, either as voters or elected officials must be uncompromising in their defense of the dignity of the human person.

“One could rightly argue  that our American revolution succeeded precisely because it reflected the truth about the human person, while other revolutionary ideologies such as in France, Russia or Cuba, just to name a few, failed because they did not,” said the Bishop at the Chapel of Philadelphia Cathedral.

“Yet, today,” he warned, “many in America are confused about the truth of the human person. The tendency to moral relativism in our culture is the greatest threat to authentic democracy today.”

Recalling that Catholic social teachings recognize that God is the source of those rights deemed inalienable and since they were not granted by men or by the states, Bishop Wenski said that “they cannot be abrogated either by men or by the states.”

“We Catholics” he added, “in serving the common good and in fulfilling our duty as citizens must renew our proposal to our fellow citizens about the truth of who we are as human beings made in God’s image and likeness.”

Whether as citizens or as elected officials “if we are to be faithful to the truth about the human person,” he said, “we must oppose uncompromisingly policies and laws that undermine the common good precisely because they originate in a defective understanding of the human person.”

Therefore “the Church, clergy and laity, while agreeing to disagree on other matters of prudential judgments cannot but oppose the evils of abortion, euthanasia, fetal stem cell research, human cloning and so called same sex ‘marriage.’ In these areas there can be no other legitimate Catholic position,” affirmed the bishop.

If Catholics are rejected in some social environments because of this stand, then “so be it,” said Bishop Wenski in conclusion.

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Chaste love defends the family against attack and fights AIDS, says Pope

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II, in an address to bishops from Angola and Sao Tome this morning – the 26th anniversary of the beginning of his papal ministry – spoke about the need to work for justice and reconciliation and urged the education of chastity and chaste love as the “solid hope to overcome the forces that threaten the institution of the family, and at the same time, to free humanity of the devastating scourge of AIDS."

The Pope, who urged the bishops “to rebuild the communities destroyed by war, to console wounded hearts and help the people entrusted to you so that they may make progress on the path of the Gospel," said that "today more than ever, Angola needs peace with justice; specifically reconciliation, rejecting every temptation to resort to violence…I urge you to work tirelessly for reconciliation and to bear authentic witness through acts of solidarity and aid for victims of the decades of violence," said the Holy Father.

Turning his thoughts to threats facing family life, he exhorted proclaim "the liberating message of authentic Christian love," urging educational programs to emphasize that "true love is chaste love, and that chastity offers us solid hope to overcome the forces that threaten the institution of the family, and at the same time, to free humanity of the devastating scourge of AIDS."

The Holy Father urged young people to have recourse to the sacraments saying that "through a life of prayer and a solid sacramental life, they will remain united to Christ in order to pass on the values of the Gospel in their environments and they will generously assume their role in transforming society."

He emphasized that Catholic schools are "an especially effective means to ensure" the formation of young people, and told the bishops to "promote religious and moral teaching, also in public schools, in order to create a consensus in public opinion on the importance of this type of formation. This service, which could come from closer collaboration with the government, is an important form of active Catholic participation in the society of your country," he said.

Referring to the selection and formation of priests, the Pope said that "candidates for the priesthood must be carefully selected and formed," as well as their professors, "with clear human and priestly maturity."

Priests, he continued, "are called to give up material goods and consecrate themselves to the service of their brothers and sisters through the complete personal gift of self of celibacy. Scandalous behaviour must always be analyzed, investigated and corrected."

The Holy Father remarked in conclusion that the "flourishing number of vocations to consecrated life, especially to female religious life, is a magnificent gift from heaven to the Church of Sao Tome and Angola."

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West Virginia Bishop: abortion is 'Greatest Evil of Our Age'

Wheeling, W.V., Oct 22, 2004 (CNA) - In the light of statistics that indicate that “Catholics are no different than the general population in their opinion on abortion or in their voting behavior,” Archbishop Bernard W. Schmitt, Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston has issued a letter to his diocese reiterating Church teaching that “abortion is the greatest moral evil of our age.”

“As the deliberate killing of an innocent human being, there is “no circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever” that can justify or excuse abortion,” affirmed Msgr. Schmitt, citing Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical, The Gospel of Life.

He notes “that most Catholic legislators are no different from others in their lack of support for Pro-Life legislation; in fact, some Catholic legislators vote against any attempt to limit abortion on demand, and the culture of death it has created, with such regularity as to have a perfect record of opposition to this most innocent of all human life.”

He noted that though Catholics must preach the entire Gospel of Life, “not all evils are equal…Abortion, representing as it does an attack on the most innocent of all human life and the most sacred of all human relationships, is so grave and profound an evil that it calls all men and women of good will to action.”

“Abortion is an evil we can do something about,” he said.”As a nation, we are wealthy enough, blessed enough, and compassionate enough to achieve this goal and to achieve it right now. If, however, we choose to stand idly by while abortion continues, we risk the fate of the rich man who refused to lift a single finger to help the starving Lazarus.”

In his conclusion he states that “a Catholic who deliberately votes for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion is guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil.”

Read the Archbishop's full letter at:

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Vatican says 'No' to cloning at UN assembly

, Oct 22, 2004 (CNA) - The Vatican has backed a treaty that completely bans human cloning as United Nations members began two days of debate on the issue yesterday.

The Vatican came up against a staunch challenge from Britain, which defended the use of human embryos for medical research, reported The Associated Press.

The UN General Assembly's legal committee will meet again today to discuss two resolutions.

Costa Rica's draft calls for a treaty banning all cloning. Belgium's draft calls for a treaty banning the cloning of babies but allowing countries to decide on using embryos for research.

Costa Rica's UN Ambassador Bruno Stagno Ugarte said Wednesday his resolution already had 62 co-sponsors, including the United States.

While Britain's UN ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said his country was against human reproductive cloning, it could not support any attempt to ban or "unreasonably restrict" cloning for research purposes.

Jones Parry says his nation is convinced of the benefits of therapeutic cloning. In fact, British law moved ahead of the UN and legalized therapeutic cloning. In May, Britain set up the first embryonic stem-cell bank.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's UN representative, said the distinction between reproductive and therapeutic cloning "seems specious" because they involve the same process and differ only in their goals.

"Both forms of cloning involve disrespect for the dignity of the human being," Migliore said. He said it is impossible to enforce a ban on one type of cloning while permitting another. He also argued that adult stem-cell research posed no ethical questions and had so far proved more promising than embryonic stem-cell research.

He noted that " the choice is not between science and ethics, but between science that is ethically responsible and science that is not.”
“Thousands of lives have been saved by adult stem cells" and evidence shows that " that adult stem cell transplants are safe, and preliminary results suggest they will be able to help people with Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, heart damage and dozens of other conditions," said the archbishop.

In conclusion Archbishop Migliori said that the Holy See is "convinced that the subject of human embryonic cloning can be best addressed by a juridical instrument, since the rule of law is essential to the promotion and protection of human life."

All 191 U.N. member-states have the right to vote on the matter but the Vatican, which has permanent observer status, does not. The committee has not set a date to vote but it has until Nov. 10.

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Davenport may be third U.S. diocese to file for bankruptcy protection in recent months

Dresden, Germany, Oct 22, 2004 (CNA) - The Diocese of Davenport may file for bankruptcy protection today if it does not win a four-month delay in a child sexual-abuse lawsuit, set to begin Nov. 1.

If the diocese files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the claims of more than three dozen men will be frozen, reported the Des Moines Register Oct. 19.

Judge C.H. Pelton held a hearing Wednesday on postponing the trial.

Davenport would be the third Catholic diocese to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in recent months. Once the bankruptcy process is under way, diocesan records will be exposed court and public scrutiny, and victims' claims will be considered with the diocese's other debts. The bankruptcy judge may hear the abuse cases, or he can return the lawsuits to state court for trial.

Craig Levien, attorney for 37 of the 38 men alleging priests sexually abused them when they were children, said he believes the diocese wants the bankruptcy court to set a deadline for filing claims.

So far, the diocese has settled three cases of child sexual abuse, paid entirely in the 1990s by the diocese's insurer.The diocese has tried to identify insurance coverage that will pay other settlements.

Diocese officials have been able to confirm coverage since 1969, but more than half the lawsuits and mediation claims allege abuse before that, diocese spokesman David Montgomery said.

Bishop William Franklin said the diocese was contemplating major downsizing, including dismissing many of its "dedicated staff" and the sale of the St. Vincent's Center.

The exact positions to be eliminated have not been determined.

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Latest Anglican report unlikely to bring healing, says Christian journalist

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2004 (CNA) - A contributing editor of Christianity Today says the Anglican Church’s recent Windsor Report will be painful for many conservative Anglicans and will not likely bring reconciliation, reported AgapePress.

The Lambeth Commission issued the Windsor Report earlier this week in response to the recent ordination of an openly homosexual bishop in the Episcopal Church of the United States of America and the recent same-sex unions in Canadian dioceses. These two events have caused a rift among Anglican churches.

Christian journalist Doug LeBlanc, who runs the Web site, says the Windsor Report, was right in addressing the U.S. consecration of openly homosexual bishop Gene Robinson, as well as the official rite for blessing same-sex unions. But the lifelong Episcopalian says the recommendations were not forceful enough.

While the report called for ECUSA’s Presiding Bishop to apologize and a moratorium on same-sex unions, it did not give conservative Episcopalians what they sought, says LeBlanc: punishment for church leaders and quick recognition for the network of dissenting congregations.

Instead, the report urged conservative Anglican bishops, some from Africa, to stop offering oversight to estranged Episcopal congregations, and to apologize for doing so.

"That's a part of the report that will be costly to conservatives," LeBlanc states. "That will be painful [because] for some conservative congregations… and I think the Commission might be a bit overly optimistic about how well reconciliation can be brought about in those situations."

At a news conference, Archbishop Robin Eames of Ireland, who led the Lambeth Commission, stated his Commission was convinced the best approach is "not to impose or attempt to impose punishment."

Rev. David Moyer, president of Forward in Faith North America, told AP that the report “doesn't seem to critically address the underlying situations that have brought about this crisis. And I think it will be disappointing to countless Anglicans.”

The report did not say whether Bishop Robinson should be removed.

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Second Utah city within five months wins Ten Commandments monument fight

Ann Arbor, Mich., Oct 22, 2004 (CNA) - A ruling released Oct. 20 states that Duchesne City, Utah, acted constitutionally when it sold land on which a Ten Commandments monument sits to keep from having to remove it.

The decision, made by Federal District Judge Dee Benson, comes only five months after another federal judge ruled in favor of Pleasant Grove City, Utah, allowing a separate Ten Commandments monument to remain on public property.

The Thomas More Law Center and the American Center for Law and Justice acted as co-counsel in both cases.

Duchesne City sold the public land surrounding the monument to the family who originally donated it to the city over 25 years ago. This decision allowed the monument to remain, while removing the controversy over whether the city was promoting religious speech.

The Summum group, a bizarre organization describing itself as a religion that promotes mummification, objected to the sale of the land on which the Ten Commandment monument stands. It had requested that the City transfer a similar plot of land so that it could erect its own monument containing its “seven aphorisms.”

After the City refused, Summum sued, alleging violations of its First Amendment free speech rights.

Judge Benson explained: “Under all of the circumstances, the method the city recently undertook is reasonable. Summum’s demands for a different resolution are not warranted.”

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Supreme Court reverses ruling that legalized anacephaly abortion in Brazil

, Oct 22, 2004 (CNA) - In an expected move, the Supreme Court of Brazil reversed a ruling by one of its judges in July that granted provisional legalization of anacephaly abortion.

The 7-4 ruling came after several weeks of debate between those who demanded permission to abort babies suffering from the malformation and those who defended the right of such babies not to be killed.

This past July 1, then Supreme Court Chief Justice Marco Aurelio Mello issued a ruling on his own legalizing the practice, in response to a case brought by the National Confederation of Health Workers.

On Wednesday night the Court reversed the ruling, saying the decision on this matter should be made by the entire body of justices, which will issue a definitive ruling on the issue in the coming months.

Justice Mello attempted to justify his ruling by alleging that anacephaly constitutes a risk to the life of the mother. But that theory has been discarded by doctors, since anacephaly causes the imminent death of the child either before or after birth, but does not cause the mother to be at risk.

The Court has 30 days to issue a ruling on whether or not it will legalize such abortions.

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Bishops call on Fox to ensure Mexico votes against human cloning at UN

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 22, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Mexico issued a statement this week addressed to President Vicente Fox, calling on the leader to assume responsibility for defending life and to vote against all forms of human cloning at the UN.

The UN is set to decide in the coming days whether or not it will accept a Costa Rican proposal to prohibit all forms of human cloning or approve the request of countries such as Germany and Belgium to allow cloning for therapeutic reasons. Mexico is not among the nations supporting Costa Rica.

The bishops called on Fox “to act with responsibility and respect for our traditions and values by rejecting human cloning in all its forms and for any purpose,” and they recalled that “the Church supports post-natal stem-cell research, but not that which is carried out through the cloning of human embryos.”

In their statement, the bishops stated, “The Catholic Church recognized the kindness, legitimacy and autonomy of research” but “she defends human life, from conception to natural death, without any political, economic or scientific motive.”

In this sense, they explained that “human cloning, as a scientific and technical possibility that could bring medical advances, also contains a serious risk of manipulation of living persons and, eventually, their very disappearance (homicide), once certain scientific and medical goals have been achieved.”

“To pretend to improve the quality of life of some at the cost of manipulating and killing others is not moral.  The sound judgment of men and women of good will is that homicide can never be justified,” they said.

According to the bishops, “Mexico’s vote at the United Nations should be coherent with this tradition and with values that are based on human nature, and not on the seesaw of consensus. Mexico plays an important role in the international order and her influence can grow each time she comes down on the side of life in accord with the humanist orientation of our current government.”

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France begins expelling students who wear head scarves

Paris, France, Oct 22, 2004 (CNA) - French schools have begun expelling Muslim girls for wearing headscarves to class in defiance of a new law banning religious symbols.

The expulsion of at least five girls since Tuesday were the first since the law went into effect at the start of the academic year, Sept. 2.

The explulsions were kept low-key for fear of endangering two French journalists, Christian Chesnot and Christian Malbrunot, who were taken hostage in Iraq by the Islamic Army of Iraq. They are in their third month of captivity, and their captors have demanded that the law be abolished. The French government refused.

More expulsions were expected this week. Most are Muslim girls, but Sikh boys refusing to remove their turbans also risk being expelled.

Those expelled have the right to appeal to the head of the local school board. If they are under 16 - the legal age for leaving school - the expelled students must continue their education at a private school, by correspondence or other means.

Education Minister Francois Fillon expressed satisfaction Tuesday with resolving some 600 cases at the start of the school year, mostly through dialogue.

Critics contend the law contravenes fundamental rights and risks stigmatizing members of France's five million Muslims, Western Europe's largest Muslim population.

Authorities say the law is intended to uphold France's constitutional principle of secularism. They also view the law as a way to fight rising Muslim fundamentalism in France and to protect the rights of women.

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Venezuelan bishops encourage participation in regional elections

Caracas, Venezuela, Oct 22, 2004 (CNA) - With regional and municipal elections just two weeks away, the Bishops Conference of Venezuela issued a statement exhorting the populace to actively participate in the process and calling on authorities to provide appropriate guarantees.

The text recalls that “voting is a right and a duty” and “as citizens we are called to participate in order to be active members and not passive spectators in the decisions that affect us all.”

The bishops called on the National Electoral Council “to provide the necessary legal and administrative conditions that, without exception, respect this right for everyone.” They also encouraged the political leadership “to responsibly encourage such participation” and to not play power games that distort the exercise of one’s right to vote.

“It is essential and urgent that we recover the importance of a political life that is consistent with democratic principles, that doesn’t rob people of their expectations, especially the poor, and that is faithful to the principles of the dignity of the human person and the common good,” they said.

Lastly, the bishops expressed their hopes that “both leaders and citizens in the public and private sector work to foster a society based on truth, freedom and justice, in order to strengthen democracy for the good of all Venezuelans.”

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