Archive of February 17, 2005

Pope’s new book to span millenniums

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2005 (CNA) - The Italian publishing house Rizzoli announced Wednesday that John Paul II’s newest book, Memory and Identity; Conversations Between Millenniums is set to go on sale throughout Italy on February 23rd.

Memory and Identity, the Pope’s last book since Crossing the Threshold of Hope, released over a decade ago, centers around conversations he had with friends, Krzysztof Michalski, a political philosopher, and the late Rev. Jozef Tishner at his Castel Gondolfo summer residence in 1993.

The three discuss the state of Europe over the last 100 years as they try to uncover the roots of such evils as fascism, communism and Nazism. The book also delves into issues of Church and State as well as the 1981 assassination attempt on the Holy Father.

Although prior to his becoming pope, John Paul II published numerous philosophical, poetic and dramatic works, Memory and Identity will be the second book published during his pontificate.

It is expected that Rizzoli International will make the new book available to readers in the United States in English soon after its Italian release.

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Pontifical Academy seeks to redefine cultural definition of “health”

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2005 (CNA) - In a press conference this morning at the Vatican, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, discussed an upcoming assembly themed, “The Quality of Life and the Ethics of Health.”

The assembly of the General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life which will meet in the Vatican from February 21 to 23 to focus on what Bishop Sgreccia called, "two current and weighty concepts: 'the quality of life' and that of 'health'."

He said that "developed societies push for attaining a better level of the quality of life and international organizations intend to assure a better level of health," noting that "what exactly is meant by 'quality of life', is not yet clear to the public and perhaps not even to politicians themselves.

The president of the Pontifical Academy, defined "quality of life", by remarking that there are many parameters: medical-health, socio-economic, with a greater consumption of material goods today than in the past, and even ecological.”

But at the same time, he said, "a very different meaning has progressively emerged," a "reductive" meaning where "it is affirmed that where an acceptable level of quality of life does not exist, life loses its value and does not merit being lived." Here, he said, we see that "the quality of life becomes absolute and the sacredness of life becomes relative."

The bishop also talked about problems in defining the word "health.” “Even if health does not represent the ultimate good of the person”, he said, “it is however a very important one which demands the moral duty to preserve, support and recover it."

He noted the problems that have arisen since the World Health Organization defined health "as 'complete physical, mental and social well-being’; this value has become utopian and mythical" and sometimes has "lethal meanings," such as "the fact that, motivated by women's health, abortion was legalized.”

Up to what point does 'the right to health' go? Is there a right to health 'at all costs'? Or rather, is there a right to care?"

Jean Marie Le Mene, a magistrate and academy member, in his presentation focused on health and health care in both rich countries, where "it has evolved into a demand for well-being," and where medical expenses are ever higher and poorly regulated, and in poor countries where, he said, "the administration of health care is penalized by unsuitable situations."

He noted that in wealthy countries, "new needs are created", where the sole criteria is often "desire" - the desire to have - or not have - a child, to be beautiful, attractive, forever young.

Le Mene added that such desires have led to such moral negatives as, medically assisted procreation techniques for those who desire and cannot have children, abortions for the undesired child, techniques to suppress unborn children who are abnormal or handicapped, therapeutic cloning for those seeking youth.

The health systems of developing countries, he added, are "victims of ideologies" and of "piracies," the latter, he said, incorporating "biological piracy, the privatization of the biological patrimony of the South" and "juridical piracy, the attempts at the United Nations to authorize cloning, ... even though the majority of the countries present are for this interdiction."

Moral Theologian Fr. Maurizio Faggioni O.F.M., pointed out that "health is not simply an absence of disease, but the harmony and integration of all individual, physical, mental and spiritual energies towards a life project that is particular to each individual."

Turning to the so-called right to health, he affirmed that "it is not limited to people who enjoy specific standards of living, but derives from the right to life, a right that is rooted in each human being.”

“Persistently-emerging schools of thought”, he said, “estimate the value of each person's life and his right to health care in a way proportional to the current or potential quality of his life, in contrast Catholic morality prophetically announces the value of each human life and the duty to care for others; a duty that is all the more significant the greater its response to the appeal of simpler, poorer and more defenseless lives."

Dr. Manfred Lutz, a neurologist, psychiatrist and member of the academy, said that, "today we live in the age of the real existence of the religion of health. ... Health, goodness, like almost everything in our society, is seen as a product that can be manufactured."

Dr. Lutz underlined the fact that "salvation, according to Christian conviction, is not to be found primarily in so-called good health, but rather in the extreme situations of human life, situations that are disdained by the religion of health as realities to avoid or deficits to eliminate.”

He added that, “it is precisely in disability, illness, pain, old-age dying and death that one may perceive the truth of life more vastly and clearly than in the passing of time without significant problems."

"If health represents the highest value," he said, "then the healthy man is also the true man. And whoever is not healthy, and above all whoever can never be healthy again, tacitly becomes a second or third class man."

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Doctors say Pope is stable but still needs more recovery

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2005 (CNA) - In an interview with the Italian daily “Avvenire,” Dr. Rodolfo Proietti, director of emergency services at Gemelli Hospital, reported that Pope John Paul II was in "good general condition" when he returned to the Vatican on February 10, but that he would still need a period of recovery.

According to Proietti, who coordinated the team of doctors charged with caring for the Pontiff during his recent hospitalization, there is “no mystery” regarding the health of the Pope, and the decision to issue bulletins through Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls was a “mutual agreement.”

Proietti’s statements came as media speculation about the Pope’s health and about his likely absence from the closing Mass of the Roman Curia’s Lenten retreat were on the increase.

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Online petition supports pre-nuptial agreement for Catholic couples to abide by canon law

Columbus, Ohio, Feb 17, 2005 (CNA) - A woman, who has made it her mission to reform Catholic marriage and civil divorce, has launched an online petition, urging the U.S. bishops to support the concept of pre-nuptial agreements for Catholic couples. The pre-nuptial agreement would obligate couples to follow the code of canon law regarding marriage, separation and divorce.

In an interview for, Bai Macfarlane outlined to journalist Zoë Romanowsky the Church teachings and canon law on marriage, separation and divorce and spoke about how no-fault divorce has negatively impacted marriage and the family in this country.

Culture biased against ‘saving marriages’

In the article, titled “Divorce American-Style, Marriage Catholic-Style: An interview with Bai Macfarlane,” the interviewee says the current culture does not truly understand the meaning of marriage and it promotes a bias against saving marriages.

“No-fault divorce makes people think that marriage just ‘breaks.’ It makes people think they have no responsibility for repairing or working on their marriage,” she said.

“It’s the idea that if you decide that your marriage isn’t working, or if it’s not giving you the satisfaction you expected, it’s the normal thing – it’s almost the brave or heroic thing—to move along. You can just try with somebody else.”

Furthermore, she said, divorce negatively impacts a child’s moral development.

Bud and Bai Macfarlane are the parents of four boys and the founders of numerous Catholic media apostolates, such as the Mary Foundation, St. Jude Media, and CatholiCity. However, Bud left the family and filed for a divorce, accusing his wife of “extreme cruelty” and “gross neglect of duty.” Bai denies these claims.

By the end of the civil divorce proceedings, the court gave her husband custody of their children. But Bai is determined to live her Catholic faith and not to give up on her marriage.

Couples bound to ‘work it out’

“The Church teaches that Christ established that marriage is for life,” she told the interviewer. “Even if you don’t feel like being together, you have an obligation to God and to each other to work it out.”

Bai explained that Church law allows couples to separate if there is abuse or adultery. These are “grounds for temporary or permanent separation according to the Church,” she said. Canon law stipulates that one’s local bishop can give a couple permission to be permanently separated, depending on the circumstances.

However, “in the Church system, you are still bound to work towards reconciling,” she added.

Some Church policies encourage divorce

Currently in the United States, marriage tribunals require a civil divorce before considering annulments and annulments are given quite easily, Bai lamented. This policy is not canon law, she underlined. She suggested this policy implicitly encourages people to divorce.

“Civil divorce is setting oneself up for permanent separation,” she said.

According to Bai, people are being misinformed that the Church condones divorce. They are being led to believe that “all divorces should get annulments, which is something (the Vatican document) Dignitatis Connubii warns against.”

From courts to Church

A law professor is submitting a memorandum to the Ohio courts in support of Bai’s legal argument that the court should transfer jurisdiction of her marriage to ecclesial authorities.

“That’s based o the concept that whenever you marry as a Catholic, you are agreeing to follow what the civil courts call ‘a separate or foreign law,’ which in my case in the Roman Catholic code of Canon law governing marriage,” she told GodSpy.

“What my civil attorney and that law professor are arguing is that the civil court shouldn’t’ be able to touch our marriage until we’ve gone through these procedures defined by canon law,” she said.

She said this is actually quite common in various states, where people agree to a third-party arbitrator.

The law professor has also proposed the concept of a pre-nuptial agreement for separation, based on Catholic principles.

For more information on the Bai Macfarlane’s marriage-reform movement, the petition and arguments for the pre-nuptial agreement, go to

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Catholic university students to lobby at U.N.

Steubenville, Ohio, Feb 17, 2005 (CNA) - North American director of the World Youth Alliance (WYO), Cole Siemion made a visit to Ohio’s Franciscan University of Steubenville recently to share tactics with students who will lobby delegates at the United Nations this spring.

According to the University, Siemion “met with two dozen students who will travel to New York in March to lobby UN delegates at the event marking the tenth anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women.”

The students, led by Dr. Brian Scarnecchia, chair of the University’s department of Humanities and Catholic Social Thought, will try and emphasize the Church’s teachings on the dignity of women and respect for all human life, specifically victims of abortion.

Siemion commented that the presence of the University students could have a great effect on the UN and that, “we have found that many delegates find it very refreshing to hear from a youthful presence.”

The University also noted that the WYO is “preparing a statement for the UN…that is in line with Catholic Church teachings on the dignity of women and respect for human life.”

They are also fighting for a complete ban on human cloning.

The students will travel to New York during the University’s spring break, March 7th through 11th.

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UN office in Paraguay says legalized abortion in Paraguay only a “suggestion” and “recommendation”

Asunción, Paraguay, Feb 17, 2005 (CNA) - Responding to a report by the news agency Noticias Globales on the pressure from a United Nations affiliated feminist organization to get Paraguay to legalize abortion, the UN office in Paraguay issued a statement saying the organization was only making suggestions.

Several days ago, the United Nations’ Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women called for Paraguay to revise its laws that criminalize abortion.

The Committee was created by the UN to verify the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Its authority has been freely ratified by each nation.

Due to the markedly pro-abortion and feminist leanings of the Committee, numerous pro-life organizations have pressured their respective nations to abstain from ratifying its protocol, which would give the Committee the ability to interfere in internal politics.

According to the news agency Noticias Globales, during the last meeting of the Committee in New York from January 10-28, its “experts” expressed their concern for “the connection between high maternal mortality rates and the criminalization of abortion under national laws that have not yet been struck down.”

Committee “expert” Salma Khan expressed “great concern for the high maternal mortality rate, a result of the lack of family planning services and because of illegal abortions” in Paraguay, and she told the delegation that according to the Convention women should have complete access to family planning services,” that is, to unrestricted abortion.

UN clarification

The statement by the United Nations office in Paraguay does not deny the Noticias Globales report and argues that “the Committee is only making suggestions and recommendations based on the analysis of reports and data provided the membership States, with the idea of carrying out the goals of the Convention.”

Nevertheless, the statement maintains that “one of the variables analyzed by the Committee during its 32nd meeting was the significant data that, although the numbers have improved, every 7 minutes a woman somewhere in the world dies from an underground abortion, and this is a detriment to her right to life and is an explicit form of violence against women.”

“The recommendations are the product of scientific verification and their reach and effect are limited.  They do not commit the member States to act in consequence and they should not be presented as an official policy of the United Nations,” the statement adds.

Paraguay’s Health Minister, Julio Cesar Velazquez, denied that his office is in favor of legalizing abortion.  “As Minister, my position is pro-life.  I believe that killing people will not solve the problem of over-population,” he said.

Although he strongly endorsed contraception, Velazquez said the report by the UN committee will be analyzed and evaluated with the Foreign Relations Ministry, but with a “no to abortion” position as the starting point.

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Church of England votes to discuss possibility of women bishops

London, England, Feb 17, 2005 (CNA) - The General Synod of the Church of England has voted to consider allowing women to become bishops, reported the Associated Press. 

The vote means a decision could be made on the issue by the church's governing body when it holds its second and final synod this year in July.

Conservatives and evangelicals in the church are opposed to this move. They believe there is no biblical precedent for women bishops, since all of Christ's apostles were male.

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US nun gunned down in Amazon, buried yesterday

Anapu, Brazil, Feb 17, 2005 (CNA) - Thousands of people turned up for the funeral yesterday of an American religious sister who was shot to death in the Amazon rain forest, reported the Associated Press.

Sr. Dorothy Stang, 73, was originally from Dayton, Ohio. She had been working with the poor in Anapu, a town of 7,000 on the Amazon's southern edge, and to protect the rain forest.

She was working at a settlement 30 miles from Anapu on Saturday when two gunmen approached her. The AP reported that a witness said she pulled out a Bible and began to read. The gunmen listened for a moment, took a few steps back and then shot her six times.

Police are looking for four suspects: two hired gunmen, an intermediary and a man they say ordered the murder.

The report said Sr. Stang had received death threats previously but she received little concern or protection from the government.

Following her death, the Brazilian government announced a crackdown on illegal logging. Cabinet ministers reportedly compared Sr. Stang to Chico Mendes, the popular environmentalist and defender of the rain forest, who was assassinated in 1988.

The government has now committed 2,000 soldiers to the region. The first troops were expected to arrive yesterday.

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Lawsuit filed against priest for denying communion to gay activist

Madrid, Spain, Feb 17, 2005 (CNA) - A parish priest in Spain, the second in recent weeks, has become the object of a lawsuit alleging “public humiliation” of a militant homosexual who desired to receive Communion.

Father Domingo Garcia Dobao, pastor of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Jaen, Spain, has been sued by Juan Diego Fuentes Medina after the priest publicly denied him Communion for registering his gay union with Angel de los Reyes with local officials.

Father Garcia explained his decision by pointing out that by making formally public a situation the Church is against, “they cannot receive Communion.”  “I have only applied ecclesiastical norms,” he added.

“What I did,” said Father Garcia, “was fulfill my obligations, as this is what the Church teaches.”  “A Christian cannot receive the sacraments when he or she is officially living in a non-marital union with someone else.”

Father Garcia reminded reporters that Fuentes had been administered Communion at Mass on various occasions before formalizing his homosexual union, but that the decision to publicly register the union with the government obliged him to make his decision.

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Teen Ministry launches new website

Phoenix, Ariz., Feb 17, 2005 (CNA) - The international Catholic teen ministry, Life Teen recently announced the launch of a new website they hope will be able to minister to teens around the world.

The new site, which contains over 1,550 pages of content aimed at explaining and helping teens grow in the faith, builds on Life Teen’s first web site which the group notes, had over 21,000 registered users.

The site was created by Matt Smith, who is best known for his appearances on MTV’s Real World and Road Rules. He now works with Life Teen as their web manager and travels the country trying to share the gospel with high-school aged youth.

According to Life Teen, the new site features a review section in which, “teens and parents can find thorough reviews of movies, music, books, and video games” from a Catholic perspective.

“We want our teens to be smart,” says Smith, “so we offer reviews of artists ranging from Third Day to Eminem.”

Noting the profound influence of the media today, especially on the younger generations, Smith adds that he hopes the site, “with God’s blessing, will be an instrument of peace among teens on the Internet today.”

Life teen Version2 can be found at

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