Archive of November 12, 2004

Euthanasia does not redeem persons from suffering, it suppresses them

Vatican City, Nov 12, 2004 (CNA) - Receiving participants in the international conference on palliative cures at the Vatican this morning, Pope John Paul II issued strong words against the practice of euthanasia as a means to alleviate suffering, saying it is “motivated by sentiments of a poorly understood compassion” and that it “supresses” rather than redeems the person from suffering.

"Medicine," said the Pope, "always places itself at the service of life. Even when it knows it cannot defeat a serious pathology, it dedicates its own capabilities to alleviating suffering.”

“To work with passion to help the patient in every situation means to be aware of the inalienable dignity of every human being, even those in the extreme conditions of a terminal state," he said.

"In fact, there is a directly proportional relationship between the capacity to suffer and the capacity to help those who are suffering," said the Holy Father. He noted that people who are sensitive to the pain of others to helping them  "are also more disposed, with the help of God, to accepting their own suffering."

Euthanasia, said the Pope, is one of those "dramas caused by an ethic which seeks to establish who can live and who must die.”

“Even when motivated by sentiments of a poorly understood compassion,” he said,  “euthanasia, instead of redeeming the person from suffering, suppresses them."

John Paul II said that wrongly understood compassion "leads to snuffing out life in order to alleviate pain, thus overturning the ethical statute of medical science.”

“True compassion, on the contrary,  promotes every reasonable effort to favor the patient's healing," said the Pope.

The Pope also addressed the question of intense therapy, saying that "the eventual decision to not undertake or to interrupt therapy will be considered ethically correct when (such therapy) is inefficacious or clearly disproportionate to the ends of supporting life or recovering health. Refusal of intense therapy, thus, is an expression of the respect that is owed to the patient in every instance," he said.

The patient should be accompanied lovingly to the end of his life, and special care taken to alleviate his suffering, as well as preparing his "soul to meet the heavenly Father."

The Pope underscored that administering painkillers "must be proportional to the intensity and cure of pain, avoiding every form of euthanasia" by giving a quantity of medicine that would cause death.

The Pope concluded his discourse by reaffirming that "science and technology, in any case, can never give a satisfactory answer to the basic questions of the human heart. Only faith can answer these questions. The Church intends to offer her specific contribution by the human and spiritual accompaniment of the ill."

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Fundamentalists apply “psychological terrorism” against Christians in Iraq

Madrid, Spain, Nov 12, 2004 (CNA) - The Spanish newspaper “La Razon” published a statement this week by a priest of the Iraqi Diocese of Mosul who says that in addition to attacks against churches, Iraqi Christians are also victims of “psychological terrorism.”

Fr. Nizar Semaan says Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq are undertaking “a cultural and psychological massacre” by obliging Christians “to behave in ways they do not want to.”

An example is the harassment young Christian women endure, as they are constantly threatened through messages left for them on university campuses or at the doors of churches.

Fr. Semaan said they are forced to wear the Islamic veil, and some of them carry it in their pockets and put it on when they sense danger.

“I will never tire from asking leaders of the Arab world for a clear condemnation of terrorism, which up to now has not occurred,” said Fr. Semaan.  He added that Arab media reports on the terrorist attacks in a triumphal tone, “instead of fostering a social isolation” of terrorists.

One nun who asked to remain anonymous stated that Christians suffer attacks in their own homes and are kidnapped and killed.

The Mazen Sako family in Nineveh was attacked by fundamentalists upon returning to their home.  “We have come to kill you,” they were told.  “This is the end for Christians.”

Their resistance proved useless as the attackers immediately killed their 10 year-old son.

Quoting the Fides News Agency, “La Razon” reports that according to Elias, a Syrian Christian who lives in Baghdad, the situation in the country is terrible.  “There is a civil war here.  If this continues, Christianity may soon disappear from Iraq.  More than 4,000 Christian families have already fled Baghdad,” he said.

Elias said Christians have to celebrate Mass “in the basements of churches” as if they were modern catacombs.

Sources at the Patriarchate said the only solution is the isolation of extremists.  They said they have contacted “the chief Muslims so that we might be able to live in peace with each other, because we don’t want a small group of extremists to damage the image of religious and peaceful tolerance.”

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Forming critical conscience is “greatest cultural challenge of our times,” says Pope

Vatican City, Nov 12, 2004 (CNA) - In a meeting with the president of Portugal, Jorge Sampaio, this morning, Pope John Paul II said that "the formation of a critical conscience in order to discern the meaning of life and of history is the greatest cultural challenge of our times,” especially in the context of “the grave crisis of values in modern society.”

Recalling his visit to Fatima in 2000 for the beatification of "the two great Portuguese little ones: Francisco and Jacinta Marto," the Pope said that "the special light that shone in their lives wants to illuminate the world.” 

“The world continues to look to Portugal with hope, especially in terms of becoming aware of the grave crisis of values in modern society, ever more insecure in the face of fundamental ethical decisions for the future path of humanity," he said.

"The formation of a critical conscience in order to discern the meaning of life and of history is the greatest cultural challenge of our times,” said the Pope, “something which the Church in Portugal wants to confront through its collaboration, as the new Concordat that will go into effect in a few days demonstrates."

The recently signed concordat between the Holy See and Portugal regulates relations between the Church and the secular government in a number of areas such as education, the teaching of religion, and assigning Catholic chaplains to prisoners and the military.

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Scientific research must not violate the “intangibility” of every human being, says Pope

Vatican City, Nov 12, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II sent a message to the president of the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors, Domenico Di Virgilio, on the occasion of the organization's 23rd national congress, and emphasized the ethical principles of medical care and research that distinguish the Catholic doctor, especially “the defense of the inviolable dignity of every human being.”

In the message, dated November 9 and made public today, the Holy Father, reaffirming the ethical principles on which the Hippocratic Oath are based, said that “there are no lives that are not worth living; there is no suffering, no matter how grave, that can justify killing a life; there are no reasons, no matter how noble, that make plausible the creation of human beings, destined to be used and destroyed."

"May the conviction that life must be promoted and defended from conception till natural death always inspire you in your decisions,” said the Pope. “What will distinguish you as Catholic doctors is precisely the defense of the inviolable dignity of every human being.”

“May you never neglect the spiritual dimension of the human being in your work of safeguarding and promoting health."

While scientific progress is "a formidable instrument for improving the conditions of life and well-being,” he said, “it can also be enslaved to the will of abuse and dominion.  Scientific research, by its very nature oriented to the good of man, runs the risk of losing its original vocation.”

“No type of research can ignore the intangibility of every human being: to violate this barrier means to open up the doors to a new form of barbarity," affirmed the Holy Father in conclusion.

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American Life League says issue of pro-abortion politicians and Communion is still important after elections

Washington D.C., Nov 12, 2004 (CNA) - American Life League president Judie Brown said the U.S. bishops must take action against Catholic public figures who take a public pro-abortion stance, reported

American Life League's Crusade for the Defense of Our Catholic Church has been laboring to expose the scandal of pro-abortion Catholic public figures receiving Communion for almost two years. 

Brown pointed out that at last year’s bishops’ meeting in Washington, “not one bishop was willing to commit to withhold Holy Communion from pro-abortion Catholic public figures."

However, this year, “at least 10 courageous shepherds of the Church have taken strong stances to defend the faith by withholding Holy Communion from those public figures who support abortion,” she said.

Brown said the American Life League is grateful to these bishops, but she added, “we still have a long way to go."

With the defeat of Sen. John Kerry, the American Life League fears that many bishops may think the pressure has subsided and they can overlook this matter.

In an effort to shatter this possibility, the American Life League will run a full-page ad in Tuesday's Washington Times, geared to both the bishops and the laity, about the need to pursue the issue.

"The Catholic bishops of the United States have a moral obligation to teach the truth, to preach it without apology and to defend it unto death," said Brown. "This has absolutely nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the fact that one cannot be both Catholic and pro-abortion."

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UN predicts steep declines in population growth

, Nov 12, 2004 (CNA) - The United Nations Population Division released another report recently that predicts a large aging population and sharp declines in population growth. This is the first UN report to look 300 years down the line, reported the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute.

The report, titled “World Population to 2300," states that these predictions are mostly "guesses."

The report's "medium scenario" predicts a world population of 8.4 billion by 2200 after a peak of 9.2 billion in 2075.

Global population is expected to decline because many developed countries will sustain a long-term growth rate, for up to 100 years, below the replacement level fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman, says the report. By 2045-2050, "139 countries will have total fertility under 2.0," says the report

The report expects Europe to shrink from its current 728 million to 538 million by 2100. 

One of the most alarming predictions in the report is that the world population will experience a massive aging. Decreased fertility will shrivel the proportion of children in the world population from 30 percent to 16 percent by 2100. This, together with increased life expectancy, will cause the median age to rise from 26 years in 2000 to 50 years in 2300, and the proportion of those aged 65 or over will rocket from 7 percent in 2000 to 32 percent in 2300.

The report also projects a great increase in population of the very old (those aged 80 or older). Even by 2100 their population should rise to 11 times the number in 2000, and by 2300 they will be 17 percent of the population, contrasted with the current one percent.

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Mexican bishops call for better treatment of immigrants

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 12, 2004 (CNA) - On the second day of its Fall General Assembly, the Bishops Conference of Mexico encouraged the country’s government to work to ensure that US authorities treat immigrants with dignity and respect their human rights.

During a press conference, Bishops Alberto Suarez Inda, Renato Ascencio and Rodrigo Aguilar commented on a meeting this week between officials of both governments and they expressed their hope that “as long as there is dialogue, there is hope.”

“I hope the Congress and the President of the United States take steps forward in ensuring the respect, full recognition, health and education, and humane treatment of immigrants,” said Archbishop Suarez of Morelia and Vice President of the Bishops Conference.

Bishop Ascencio of Juarez added, “We must be realistic and not think that we can start a fight with a government and a powerful country, but rather we must find an intelligent and clever strategy to achieve what needs to be achieved at this time.”

The bishops say this year more than 300 Mexicans have died trying to cross the border.

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Italian intellectuals reflect on relationship between faith and politics

Rome, Italy, Nov 12, 2004 (CNA) - The re-election of George Bush in part because of moral issues, and the rejection of Italian politician Rocco Butiglione for a post on the European Commission because of his Catholic beliefs, have led two Italian intellectuals of opposite political persuasions to interesting conclusions about the relationship between faith and politics.

Massimo Cacciari, a left-wing philosopher and former mayor of Venice, said, “Bush mobilized grassroots supporters more consistently than Kerry, overcoming the contradiction between materialistic and moral interests by a call to strong values.”

In an interview with the Italian newspaper “Il Manifesto,” Cacciari argued, “The mobilization of Evangelical groups has been evidently formidable.  It was carried out based on a vast appeal to ethics.”

“The left has convinced itself too quickly perhaps that politics are now separated from the values of heaven and hell,” Cacciari said.

The Buttiglione affair

On the other hand, Giuliano Ferrara, director of the influential Italian newspaper “Il Foglio,” argued, “The Commissioner designated by the Italian government has been politically burned because he refused to remain silent about his personal view of things in matters of family and homosexuality, using a word that true liberals should not erase from their vocabulary, the word ‘sin’.”

“In a letter to the newspaper “Corriere della Sera,” Ferrara wrote, “Buttiglione has made a clear distinction between sin and crime, between morality and law, between his personal convictions and adherence to the Charter of European rights and the policies of non-discrimination against anyone.”

“Today there is a danger that the elitist and intolerant bias of civil and secular religion might betray secularism in its very own liberal principles,” he argued.

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Boston archbishop delays some parish closings

Boston, Mass., Nov 12, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley held a meeting yesterday with 18 pastors, whose parishes are scheduled to close, to tell them that the closing of their church can be delayed if pastors need more time to prepare their communities.

The 18 parishes were to permanently close their doors between now and mid-January.  Eighty-two of the 357 Catholic churches in Boston are scheduled to be close because demographics, fewer priests, declining church attendance and financial constraints. About 50 of these have already closed. Eight of the parishes scheduled for closure are now occupied by parishioners who refuse to leave.

Archbishop O'Malley has granted indefinite reprieves to a handful of parishes slated to close, but has not reversed any decision on closings.

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Exhibit tells history of religious sisters in the United States

Washington D.C., Nov 12, 2004 (CNA) - A new exhibit tells of the joy of religious life and the impact religious sisters have had on the United States and its culture. "God's Women: Nuns in America" is on exhibit in the nation’s capital at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center until Jan. 30, 2005.

The story of nuns in America begins in 1694 with Lydia Longley, who as a child was carried off by Indians raiding her New England village. The Indians sold her to their allies in French-ruled Canada, who sent her to the Congregation of Notre Dame in Montreal. There she converted to Catholicism, became a nun and died as one. Organizers of the exhibit know of no record that she ever returned to New England.

The exhibit also tells of three American women who have become saints: Elizabeth Ann Seton, who founded the first new U.S. religious community for women, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph; Francesca Cabrini, an Italian immigrant who founded schools, orphanages and hospitals in major U.S. cities; and Katherine Drexel, who founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

The exhibit includes more than 50 dolls, wearing the habits of different orders. It also explores what it calls "America's love affair with Catholic nuns in film," listing more than 30 actresses who have portrayed nuns.

The exhibit also features the story of a cloistered Benedictine nun – Mother Dolores Hart – who left her life as a Hollywood actress at the age of 24, where she played across Elvis Presley, to enter the abbey.

"I came to understand," she said in a statement issued by the abbey "that God truly expressed himself through his beloved. And through a mystery of great love He broke through the extravagance of the motion picture industry to make my vocation known to me."

There is no admission fee to the exhibit, but visitors are asked to make a free will donation.

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Archbishop tells Argentineans no excuse for attacks on life

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 12, 2004 (CNA) - Addressing issues of human life and the family, Archbishop Domingo Castagna of Corrientes, Argentina, said this week, “Respect for life allows for no exceptions.”  During his comments the Archbishop recalled that poverty, health problems, and even rape provide motives for attacks against this inalienable right.

Archbishop Castagna referred to proposed laws that would promote mutilation through vasectomies and tubal ligations.  He said such proposals, as well as abortion, cannot be allowed.

The Archbishop clarified that despite what some so-called Catholics might think, the teaching of the Church is always directed towards respect for life.

“Existing life should be respected, cared for, and well equipped through urgent economic and educational reforms,” he added.  “Respect for life” means rejecting “the death penalty, all forms of terrorism and violation of the physical and moral integrity of persons, even if they have committed crimes.”

Archbishop Castagna argued that society should have recourse to other types of punishment that include imprisonment without parole, rather than attacking the right to life.

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