Washington D.C., Jan 7, 2005 (CNA) - Nominees who oppose abortion should not be disregarded for judicial office in the United States, said William Cardinal Keeler in a letter to members of the U.S. Senate yesterday.
Members of the Senate will be called upon this session to advise on and consent to presidential nominations for the Federal bench, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We are troubled by reports that national abortion advocacy groups, and even some U.S. senators, view nominees who oppose the purposeful taking of innocent human life as somehow unfit for judicial office,” wrote the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities.
“It is further reported that attempts would be made to deny them a vote on confirmation by the full Senate,” he continued.
“Insisting that judicial nominees support abortion throughout pregnancy is wrong,” said the archbishop of Baltimore. “By any measure, support for the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision is an impoverished standard for assessing judicial ability.
"When considering nominees the Senate should not allow itself to be held captive to such an unfair and unreasonable standard,” he said.
Cardinal Keeler said civil society would be at “all the poorer” if Senators prevented a Senate vote on well-qualified judicial nominees who believe that people have a right to life from conception until natural death.
"I pray God will bless Congress' efforts to ensure that Federal judges are persons of integrity and good character who will respect the rights of all, born and unborn,” he concluded.
Phoenix, Ariz., Jan 7, 2005 (CNA) - After only one year as head of the Diocese of Phoenix, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted has already made his mark. The local newspaper, The Arizona Republic, ran a feature of the bishop this week, highlighting his public commitment to Church teachings and his bold, no-nonsense leadership style.
The newspaper credited the bishop for having taken “a diocese in turmoil” and turned it around, inspiring hope and trust among the people. Bishop Olmsted succeeded Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien, who had resigned six months earlier and was facing criminal charges after fatally striking a pedestrian with his car.
The diocese had its fair share of clergy sex-abuse, and Bishop Olmsted worked at the problem, meeting with victims and presiding at a summit meeting about abuse.
Bishop Olmsted has also been uncompromising in the Church’s teachings about homosexuality and abortion, and in regulations for the mass.
The newspaper referred to how he disciplined priests who had signed a document for the inclusion of homosexuals in church life; prayed at the offices of abortion providers; and suspended four priests for several reasons, including the violation of church rules about the Mass, financial improprieties, and one sexual allegation.
The newspaper reported that while not all of the faithful appreciate the bishop’s leadership style – a strong shift away from that of Bishop O’Brien – many others have found a renewed sense of hope in the local church.
After all that, the bishop still has a lot in store for the 500,000-member diocese. He told the newspaper that in 2005 he plans to establish an order of contemplative and focus on youth, with an emphasis on Catholic education, including the establishment of a Catholic college. He also plans to change the organization of the diocese, update church financial policies, and formalize how parishes report to him.
Prior to arriving in Pheonix, Bishop Olmsted led the small diocese of Wichita in Kansas. He had also spent time studying and working at the Vatican.
First Things recently named Bishop Olmsted as one of several bishops who represent a new, bold generation of Catholic leadership.
Hartford, Conn., Jan 7, 2005 (CNA) - With less than 20 days before Connecticut’s first execution in 44 years, Catholics in the state are being urged to make their voices heard and sign of petition against the death penalty at church after mass this weekend.
Archbishop Henry Mansell, an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, issued a letter to parishes.
“While conceding that the state has the duty to maintain public order and the right to punish convicted criminals, we, the Roman Catholic Church of Connecticut, express our considered opposition to the death penalty,” wrote the archbishop.
The Pope shares this view, having expressed it several times publicly and in an encyclical.
However, the battle in Connecticut looks like it will be tough as public opinion polls show more than 50 percent of people in Connecticut support the death penalty.
The Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty held a rally at the capitol last month. Next week, religious leaders from several faiths will come to the state capitol to urge repeal of the death penalty.
Washington D.C., Jan 7, 2005 (CNA) - A new study debunks the claim that making the morning-after pill available without a prescription would cut the number of abortions by half, says Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.
The study, co-authored by a Planned Parenthood doctor and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed a sample of more than 2,000 girls and young women, ages 15 to 24 years.
One group was given packs of morning-after pills and the other obtained them from a pharmacy, but the results were the same: eight percent of participants became pregnant and 12 percent acquired sexually transmitted diseases.
The study demonstrates that making the drug available over-the-counter would have no effect on pregnancy rates, says Ruse. “This study blows the lid off the main argument for putting morning-after pills on the drugstore shelf,” adds the secretariat’s director of Planning and Information.
The Food and Drug Administration is currently weighing a second request by Barr Laboratories to sell its morning-after pill “Plan B” over-the-counter without a prescription.
“Our message to the FDA remains the same: putting Plan B on the drugstore shelf is bad policy and bad medicine,” says Ruse.
St. Louis, Mo., Jan 7, 2005 (CNA) - Since last March, a dispute has been heating up between the Archdiocese of St. Louis and St. Stanislaus Kostka Polish parish, which resides on the north side of the city.
The dispute erupted after parish board members refused to comply with Archbishop Raymond Burke’s directive to bring the parish civil structure into compliance with Church law.
Come Sunday, the parish itself will vote on weather or not to comply the Archbishop.
Under the current structure, St. Stanislaus’ pastor is subject to the authority of the parish governing board. Archbishop Burke has pointed out that this structure is in violation of Canon Law.
According to Archbishop Burke, “Church law does not permit a parish to be civilly incorporated in this manner. The form of civil corporation must respect the nature of the Church, in which Christ has placed the Holy Father, Successor of St. Peter, and the College of Bishops, Successors to the Apostles, as true shepherds of the Father’s flock.”
Opponents of the Archbishop claim that the restructuring of the parish is an attempt of Archbishop Burke to “gain control of St. Stanislaus’ assets.”
The conflict began under previous Archbishop Cardinal Rigali and was taken up by Burke shortly after his appointment in January of last year.
The Archbishop noted that before coming to the Archdiocese, “Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, then archdiocesan administrator, provided me with the complete documentation in the matter. I studied it carefully and agreed completely with Cardinal Rigali’s actions to rectify the situation.”
In response to allegations that the Archdiocese wanted to take control of St. Stanislaus’ assets because of what the website saveststans.com calls “financial difficulties”, the Archbishop said that, “Regarding parish funds, no bishop may confiscate the funds of any parish. Such action is directly forbidden by the Code of Canon Law. The ownership of goods acquired by a parish belongs to the parish and is governed by Church discipline (cf. Can. 1255-1257).”
In the tense months after the conflict began, the Archbishop removed the resident priests at the parish and relocated Polish language masses to nearby St. John, Apostle and Evangelist Catholic Church.
An appeal, hand delivered to the Vatican by a member of the board was rejected on Nov. 15th."
Archbishop Burke has given the parish until February 4th to come into compliance with Church law, but the decision of the parish could be known as early as Sunday.
St. Louis, Mo., Jan 7, 2005 (CNA) - Inspired by the success of cyclist Lance Armstrong and the St. Louis Cardinals, two St. Louis siblings have recently jumped on the popular wristband bandwagon.
Like the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s Live Strong bands and the St. Louis Cardinals’ bands for its Cardinals Care charity, Jeff and Maria Geerling chose to promote their pro-life message with a royal blue band made of rubber emblazoned with the word PROLIFE.
“Wanting to fashion them in the same way as the Live Strong wristbands,” the St. Louis Review reported, “the Geerlings contacted Yew Sheng Enterprise Co. in Taipei, Taiwan, to make the bands, complete with the same type font and made of the same material.”
They chose the color blue in honor of the Virgin Mary and have made the bands available to groups across the St. Louis area, although orders have been coming in from as far away as England.
The bands are being sold for $1 apiece with the proceeds going to various pro-life charities. More information about the bands can be found at, www.stlprolife.org/Events/Wristbands/wristbands.html
Montevideo, Uruguay, Jan 7, 2005 (CNA) - More than 50 feminist organizations have sent an open letter to Uruguayan President-elect Tabaré Vásquez demanding he support the legalization of abortion in that country. As 2004 drew to a close Vásquez publicly stated his opposition to such a move.
Arguing that the State should maintain its “laicity” and “the plurality of society,” feminists complained that the President-elect met with representatives of the Catholic Church to discuss the problem of abortion.
“Once more, certain aspects that affect family life and a woman’s right to choose have again become the subject of conversations behind closed doors between politicians and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church,” they complained.
Arguing that the majority of Uruguayans support legal abortion, feminists are pressuring Vásquez to act accordingly.
Feminists claim that since 1984 there has been a constant effort to decriminalize abortion in Uruguay but without success. The latest attempt comes in the form of a proposed bill called the “Defense of Reproductive Health,” which was passed by the House of Representatives on December 10, 2002, “but never became law because on May 4, 2004, it failed to be approved in the Senate by 3 votes.”
The controversial bill touches upon everything from sex education to contraception, responsible parenthood and the possibility of obtaining abortions up to the 12th week of pregnancy, all underneath the umbrella of “sexual and reproductive rights.”
Santiago, Chile, Jan 7, 2005 (CNA) - Chile’s Supreme Court has ruled that the Archdiocese of Santiago does not have to provide economic reparations to abuse victims of a former priest, because the relationship between bishops and priests is not of a civil nature.
The ruling put an end to a case that began in June 2003, when a federal judge ruled that a bond of subordination or dependency of a civil order exists between priests and their superiors, making the latter civilly responsible for the actions of their subordinates. The ruling was ratified by the Court of Appeals on June 6, 2004.
The initial ruling did not take into account that the Archdiocese acted appropriately by suspending then Father Jose Andres Aguirre in response to the first complaints of sexual misconduct against him.
The Supreme Court ruled that Aguirre is solely responsible for his actions and should pay civil reparations totaling $88,000 to two victims, as well as serve a prison sentence of 12 years.
In a statement the Archdiocese of Santiago said, “The ruling coincides with the statements of the Archdiocese to the effect that in the Catholic Church, the relationship and bond between a priest and his bishop is of a pastoral and spiritual nature, not a civil one.”
The statement also called for “support for the victims who have suffered or are suffering, and prayer for them and their families.” The ruling “condemns an ex-priest who is going through a difficult period and suffers from an illness that has left him disabled. He also is in need of our help and our prayers.”
Konigstein, Germany, Jan 7, 2005 (CNA) - The International Catholic Association Aid to the Church in Need said it will donate $316,000 to help victims of the tsunami in Asia, with $140,000 going to the four hardest hit dioceses in Sri Lanka.
Aid to the Church in Need said the Archdiocese of Colombo and the Dioceses of Trincomalee-Batticaloa, Jaffna and Galle would each receive $46,000.
Likewise, $65,000 will be donated to the Diocese of Port Blair, which includes the islands of Andaman and Nicobar. Another $65,000 will go to two archdioceses in the Indonesian province of Aceh, in northern Sumatra.
The organization’s secretary general, Antonia Willensen, said donations would be sent through various channels of the Church, in coordination with local bishops. She called on the organization’s benefactors to be generous in assisting the people of Southeastern Asia with their urgent needs.
San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jan 7, 2005 (CNA) - Local authorities in Puerto Rico reported this week that a statue of the baby Jesus and a crucifix were found tied together and burned after being removed from a chapel in the town of Isabela.
Police chief Juan Arce explained the thieves entered the chapel through a window and burned the crucifix, and later they removed a statue of the baby Jesus that was part of a Nativity scene.
Arce also said the numbers 666 were painted on one of the walls of the chapel as well as some obscene words in English. He did not mention any suspects in the vandalism or any cost of the damage to the chapel.
Colombo, Sri Lanka, Jan 7, 2005 (CNA) - On Tuesday, Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga met with a delegation from the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCSL) at her home in Colombo.
During the meeting, Kumaratunga expressed gratitude for the humanitarian work carried out by the Catholic Church in the wake of the devastating tsunami that ravaged south Asia the day after Christmas.
The president also thanked the group of Bishops for the immediacy of relief centers and refugee camps that Church workers set up for victims in the aftermath of the disaster.
She likewise called on the Church to help with continued counseling and medical care.
In the days following the tragedy, the CBCSL appealed in a statement, signed by president Bishop Vianney Fernando and secretary general Bishop Marius Peiristo, to “all our people and Catholics in particular to go to the help of those affected irrespective of differences in ethnicity or religion. We are all brothers and sisters and in this tragedy we should display our brotherly love for each other.”
During the Tuesday meeting with the president, the bishops also discussed proposals for much desired religious harmony in the region, the currently stalled peace process, and the Church’s need for more Catholic teachers.