Archive of March 21, 2005

Congress acts in favor of Schiavo’s life; feeding tube could be reinserted today

Washington D.C., Mar 21, 2005 (CNA) - After four tumultuous days of legal battling and heated debate, congress finally agreed on legislation, which could save the life of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo, whose feeding tube was removed by court order Friday afternoon.

Shortly after midnight Monday morning, the House passed 203-58 a resolution to let Terri’s case be heard in a federal court. The Senate approved the resolution earlier Sunday afternoon by voice vote.

President George Bush hurriedly flew to Washington from his Texas ranch to sign the measure and begin the process of getting Terri’s feeding tube reinserted. That could happen as early as today.

In a statement early Monday, the president said that, "In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. This presumption is especially critical for those like Terri Schiavo, who live at the mercy of others."

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R—Tex.) hailed the bill’s passage: "Tonight we have given Terri Schiavo all we could: a chance to live.  

"After four days of words, the best of them uttered in prayer, Congress has acted, and a life may have been saved,” said DeLay. “Democrats and Republicans, congressmen and senators all deserve respect and gratitude for their commitment to giving Mrs. Schiavo the chance we all deserve.”

Earlier, DeLay had proposed the argument: "What will it hurt to have a federal judge take a fresh look at all this evidence and apply it against 15 years' worth of advances in medical technology?"

Terri has been at the center of a nearly decade-long battle between her family and husband Michael Schiavo, who has been trying to have the feeding tube, which provides food and hydration to his wife, removed.

In February, Florida Judge George Greer ruled in favor of Michael and ordered the tube removed last Friday.

The new legislation, being called “Terri’s bill”, will allow a U.S. District Court to "hear, determine and render judgment on a suit or claim by or on behalf of Theresa Marie Schiavo for the alleged violation of any right ... relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life."

Terri’s family is elated at the renewed hope for their daughter’s life.

David Gibbs, attorney for Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri’s parents, told the Miami Herald that he had said to Terri, “We hope to get you some water”, and “We hope to get you some dinner later on.”

Gibbs filed a restraining order and lawsuit with the federal court as soon as the bill was signed into law, and a federal judge in Tampa was considering early Monday morning whether to reinsert Terri’s feeding tube, reported CNN.

Critics of the bill think it sets a dangerous precedent, and say that congress has no place interfering in state cases. Many think that they are throwing around undue power in an issue that should rightly be decided by families.

Lori Kehoe, congressional liaison for the National Right to Life, however, sees it differently. She told CNA on Friday, that she thinks many Americans see congress as a group who “fancies itself above the rest of us.” She thinks people will be encouraged “that members of congress, both on the right and left have come together to rescue a helpless woman.”

"We are very, very thankful to have crossed this bridge," Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri’s sister, reportedly said after the House vote. "We are hopeful, we are very hopeful, that the federal courts will follow the will of Congress and save my sister's life."

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Pope tells university students to ‘renew art and culture’

Vatican City, Mar 21, 2005 (CNA) - In a message read by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for the Secretariat of State today, the Holy Father told participants of the 38th University Congress (UNIV) to “renew the languages of art and culture.”

The theme of this years gathering is "Projecting Culture: the language of music." Also present at today’s meeting, held in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, was Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, prelate of the personal prelature of Opus Dei.

Nearly 4,000 students and teachers from more than 200 universities throughout the world gathered today to participate in the formative activities promoted by the prelature of Opus Dei.

"Music, like all artistic languages," wrote the Holy Father in his message, "brings man closer to God. ... Yet at the same time, art can on occasion transmit a conception of man, of love and of happiness that does not correspond to the truth of God's design.”

“For this reason”, he said, “it is necessary to discern clearly."

The Pope highlighted the fact that along with renewing “the languages of art and of culture," young people must have the courage "not to accept forms of behavior and entertainment marked by noise and excess."

Recalling that, "the vocation of the lay faithful is holiness, animating temporal reality in a Christian way," John Paul wrote, "Dear university students and teachers, as St. Josemaria liked to repeat, work and study must be 'a constant prayer for you.”

It has the same loveable words, but a different tune each day. It is very much our mission to transform the prose of this life into poetry, into heroic verse'."

"May Mary Most Holy”, the Pope prayed, “help you to encounter her Son Jesus Christ in the liturgy of this Holy Week and in the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist."

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Argentinean government withdraws recognition of bishop

Rome, Italy, Mar 21, 2005 (CNA) - The Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, told reporters this weekend the government of Argentina could be violating religious freedom if it withdraws its recognition of the Bishop of the Military Diocese, Antonio Juan Baseotto.

Asked by journalists about the government’s announcement it would withdraw recognition, Navarro-Valls said, “Normally I do not comment on these types of stories,” but he noted that, “regarding the news reported by the media about the actions taken by the President of Argentina in the confrontation with Bishop Antonio Juan Baseotto, we are awaiting an official communication from Argentina to the Supreme Pontiff, who has named him Ordinary of the Military.”

“Obviously,” warned the Vatican spokesman, “if the pastoral ministry of a bishop legitimately appointed by the Holy See according to the norms of Canon Law and the applicable accords is prevented from being exercised, it would mean a violation of religious freedom that goes way beyond the established accords.”

On Friday, March 18, the government of Argentina revoked the decree recognizing Bishop Baseotto as Ordinary of the Military, which was originally signed in 2002 by then-President Eduardo Duhalde.

The confrontation began when Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia expressed his support in February for the legalization of abortion in an interview with the Argentinean newspaper “Page 12.”

This prompted Bishop Baseotto to send him a letter three days later warning that he was coming close to “defending murder” by his support for abortion and his distribution of “drugs known to be abortifacient.”

The bishop also noted that seeing Gonzalez publicly distribute condoms to young people brought to mind the Gospel passage in which “our Lord affirms that ‘those who scandalize the little ones deserve to have a millstone tied around their neck and to be thrown into the sea’.”

The media seized upon the bishop’s statements and suggested he was threatening to throw Gonzalez into the sea.

Along with the complete support of the Argentinean bishops, Bishop Baseotto was also publicly supported by Cardinal Renato Martino of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Despite a statement by the bishops in which Bishop Baseotto expressed “his regret for the confusion and bad feelings caused by the mentioning of the Gospel passage” and his clarification that “he did not intend to encourage any act of violence or to offend the authority of a member of the national government,” President Kirchner sent a formal petition of removal from office to the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Adriano Bernardini.

The total support of the bishops and criticism of the Minister of Health forced the government to publicly state that it had neither the desire nor the intention of legalizing abortion in the country.

Response of the bishops

This Saturday the Executive Committee of the Bishops Conference of Argentina issued a statement lamenting the lack of prudence with which the conflict has been handled.

“Any possible problem,” they added, “should be resolved constructively through dialogue, which prevents contradictions from worsening and enables paths to solutions to be found.”

“We find it deplorable that this hurried and unilateral decision obstructs, precisely in these days of Holy Week, the normal functioning of the ministry entrusted by the Church to the Military Bishop, who has under his immediate pastoral care a specific community of the people of God spread out all over the country.”

“Lastly, we hope a solution to this disagreement is found soon and that the incident is just a passing episode,” the statement concludes.

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Pope tells youth to be ‘tireless witnesses to the glorious cross of Christ’

Vatican City, Mar 21, 2005 (CNA) - Following yesterday’s Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II made a surprise appearance at the window of his study to wild cheers from those gathered below.

An estimated 50,000 faithful--many of them young people present for a pre-World Youth Day celebration--were gathered in the square.

The Pope blessed the crowd with an olive branch before Archbishop Leonardo Sandri read the papal reflections that preceded the Angelus prayer.

"Twenty years ago," the Holy Father’s message said, "right here in St. Peter's Square, World Youth Days began. Thus, today I am addressing young people in a special way. You, dear ones, gathered here in the square, and the youth throughout the world.”

"My dear young people!” he continued, “This coming August World Youth Day will take place in Cologne, in the heart of Germany and of Europe. In the stupendous cathedral of that city the relics of the Three Magi are venerated and they have become in a certain sense your guides towards that appointment.”

They came from the East to pay homage to Jesus and they said: 'We have come to adore Him'. These words, so rich in meaning, constitute the theme of your spiritual and catechetical itinerary towards World Youth Day.”

Today, you adore the Cross of Christ that you carry throughout the world, because you believed in God's Love, fully revealed in the crucified Christ."

The Pope called on the young people to be tireless "witnesses to the glorious Cross of Christ."

He concluded his reflections, writing, "I become more and more aware how providential and prophetic it is that this day, Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord, has become your day. This feast contains a special grace, that of joy united to the Cross which epitomizes the Christian mystery."

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Cardinal Ruini: In the cross, suffering takes on new meaning

Vatican City, Mar 21, 2005 (CNA) - Celebrating Palm Sunday Mass in the name of the Pope, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, told faithful gathered that it is in the cross of Christ, that, “we come into contact with the true face of God.”

The Cardinal celebrated Mass yesterday in St Peter's Square, where, earlier, he blessed palms and olive branches.

The window of John Paul II's private apartment was open during the celebration, and a palm was affixed to one side of it.

Some 50,000 faithful were present, most of them young people who were there to celebrate diocesan World Youth Day, a prelude to the international World Youth Day, which will be held in Cologne, Germany this summer.

In his homily, Cardinal Ruini spoke on the Lord's Passion as recounted in today's Gospel reading from Matthew.

He said that, "If we consider the large amount of human suffering, especially guiltless suffering, we feel lost and are impelled to ask ourselves if God truly loves us and if He takes care of us, or whether there is not, perhaps, some evil destiny that not even God can change."

"Yet in the cross of Christ," the cardinal continued, "we come into contact with the true face of God. ... Indeed, in the cross of Christ, the face of God does not lose its greatness and its mystery, yet it becomes extraordinarily close and friendly, because it is the face of the One Who, in His own Son, fully shared even the darkest side of the human condition."

The vicar went on to emphasize that, “from the cross of Christ arises a strength and a hope of redemption for all human suffering. In this way, the drama and the mystery of suffering - which in the final analysis are the drama and mystery of our lives - are not eliminated, but they no longer appear as something dark and meaningless."

Turning to address the young people present, Cardinal Ruini stressed the importance of Christ's invitation: "'If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.' These words understandably give rise to fear, even more so for us, men and women of our time who tend to see suffering only as something useless and harmful. Yet, precisely this is our mistake, preventing us from understanding not only the meaning of suffering, but also the meaning of life."

He concluded that, “The cross of Christ neither depresses nor weakens. On the contrary, from it comes ever new energy, energy that shines forth in the deeds of saints and that has made the history of the Church fruitful, energy that stands out particularly clearly today in the tired face of the Holy Father."

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US bishops launch campaign against death penalty

Washington D.C., Mar 21, 2005 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a campaign today to end the use of the death penalty in the United States.

Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, told the Washington Post that the goal of the campaign is to " try to persuade our Catholic people and everybody of good will that the death penalty in America at this time is not necessary, it's not useful and it's not good." 

The cardinal says the time is right for this campaign. The bishops sense that public opinion is shifting against capital punishment, partly because genetic testing has proven that dozens of death-row inmates were wrongfully convicted, said the cardinal, who played a leading role in developing the new campaign.

The campaign strategy will include filing briefs in court cases, talking with the people who publish textbooks in Catholic schools, using church bulletins, encouraging homilies and addressing legislation through state Catholic conferences.

While some Catholics appreciate the consistent right-to-life message of this campaign, others see it as a threat to the good relationship between Catholics and evangelical Protestants in the pro-life movement. According to the polls, the majority of evangelical Protestants support capital punishment.

"I think a campaign to stop capital punishment is comparable to a campaign to stop war," said Scott Hahn, theology professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. There are some exceptions.

Article 2267 of the Catechism says the Church "does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives" against a criminal. But the catechism also quotes John Paul II as saying that today, cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

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Pro-family groups praise President, Congress for defending Terri’s life

Washington D.C., Mar 21, 2005 (CNA) - Pro-family organizations are praising President George W. Bush and Congress for passing legislation early Monday, defending the life of Terri Schiavo, a 41-year-old disabled woman whose feeding tube was removed by court order Friday.

The attorney for Terri Schindler Schiavo's parents followed up the bill early Monday by filing a request in federal court in Florida for an emergency injunction to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted. A ruling is expected later today.

The Schindlers' attorney acted after Congress and Bush returned to Washington to pass and sign legislation allowing the federal courts to review Terri's case.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R—Tex.) hailed its passage: "Tonight we have given Terri Schiavo all we could: a chance to live."  

"Today, we have witnessed the extraordinary will of Congress to ensure that Terri Schiavo's right to life — the first right set out in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence — is protected," said Focus on the Family chairman Dr. James C. Dobson.

"This bill represents a congressional act of mercy, and Americans can be proud of the representatives they sent to Washington, D.C., who have voted to save Terri's life,” he continued. He said his group particularly appreciated House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's “passion” for defending Terri.

Dobson said he hopes that the federal judge will "proceed with the care and caution due such an important test of our country's, and mankind's, most foundational right."

The Family Research Council also had praise for U.S. lawmakers.

"So often we see members of Congress portrayed as unfeeling and unconnected, but this case has brought good people on Capitol Hill to the forefront," Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said.

He also said the "facts are not on Michael Schiavo's side."

"The details prompting serious suspicion are endless and should be enough to grant the family who wants to care for their loved one the right to keep her alive with their hard work, sacrifice and compassion," said Perkins.

He discounted Terri’s husband’s claims that Terri, in an offhand comment years ago, said she would not want extraordinary care. "To be clear, food and water are not extraordinary care," Perkins said.

The removal of Terri’s feeding tube Friday drew criticism and concern from a number or pro-life and family groups. Two-time Emmy winner and star of Everyone Loves Raymond Patricia Heaton said Terri’s tube must be reinserted.

"We must not let Terri Schiavo be starved to death," said Heaton, who serves as honorary chair of Feminists for Life of America. "This deliberate and painful destruction of a woman's life cannot be justified or tolerated. Terri deserves better."

Heaton said she was outraged by Michael Schiavo’s actions, which have demonstrated that he “should not be the one making the ultimate life or death decisions” for Terri.

Feminists for Life opposes the killing of a disabled woman under a so-called "right" to die, said the statement. We believe there is no justification for the deliberate destruction of human life. 

The Christian Coalition of America had issued a statement Friday, urging the House and Senate leadership to pass the "Terri Schiavo Law" Monday. The coalition had applauded the actions by the Senate and House leadership to hold hearings and to issue subpoenas for Terri, Michael Schiavo, and her caregivers to appear before congressional committees this week.

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US bishops welcome Vatican notification on book by US Jesuit priest

Washington D.C., Mar 21, 2005 (CNA) - The United States bishops have welcomed the Vatican’s decision concerning the book “Jesus, Symbol of God,” by Fr. Roger Haight, SJ.  The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a Notification a few months ago that the book has serious doctrinal errors and that the U.S. Jesuit should not teach Catholic theology until he corrects his positions.

The Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said its March 14 statement on the matter was issued "in order to clarify any misconceptions, to affirm our support for the decision of the Holy See, and to reassert the importance of authentic theological inquiry."

The committee said the Notification “does not comment on the author's personal character, but assesses the book, judging it to contain ‘serious doctrinal errors regarding certain fundamental truths of faith.’”

The errors concern "the pre-existence of the Word, the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, the salvific value of the death of Jesus, the unicity and universality of the salvific mediation of Jesus and of the Church, and the Resurrection of Jesus."

The Notification was not the result of a snap decision, said the committee. Rather, the decision was made after a lengthy process, including consultations with the author over five years.

The bishops’ committee, chaired by Archbishop William J. Levada of San Francisco, noted that the Vatican document Ex Corde Ecclesiae says "bishops should encourage the creative work of theologians," but theologians must assent to Catholic doctrine. 

“While the Catholic theological community is not only competent but indeed obliged to address creatively and to debate strenuously theological issues that are open to authentic development, theologians are not permitted to espouse theological positions that are contrary to the teaching of Scripture and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church,” the committee’s statement said.

"It is essential that we, as the authentic teachers and guardians of the Apostolic Faith, ensure that the faithful throughout our country, be confirmed in their faith, and not become confused by ambiguous or erroneous theological speculation," the statement said.

"Authentic doctrine, contained in the Scriptures and in the Apostolic Tradition and defined by the Councils of the Church, must be the explicit and unambiguous foundation not only for catechetical instruction, but also for theological teaching and inquiry."

The competence to judge what is in conformity with the Catholic faith resides with the bishops, the committee said.

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Club owner denied funeral rites due to business activity: San Diego diocese

San Diego, Calif., Mar 21, 2005 (CNA) - The chancellor of the Diocese of San Diego says the bishop denied a man a Catholic funeral because his business activities were contrary to Scripture and to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

John McCusker died last week of congestive heart failure. The 31-year-old was the owner of a dance club that was popular with homosexuals and of another bar for homosexual patrons.

Chancellor Rodrigo Valdivia said church officials did not know McCusker’s business activities when arrangements were made to hold funeral services at Immaculata Catholic Church on the University of San Diego.

“However, when these facts became known, the bishop concluded that to avoid public scandal Mr. McCusker cannot be granted a funeral in a Catholic church or chapel in the Diocese of San Diego," he explained in a statement Thursday.

But homosexual community leaders are crying discrimination. They say Bishop Robert Brom denied McCusker a Catholic funeral because of his sexual orientation.

The chancellor denies this point and says the decision had nothing to do with McCusker’s homosexual orientation.

“We have become aware that an organized campaign is distorting the action of the bishop in order to advance its agenda and to silence those whose moral convictions are at variance with its own,” the chancellor said in a second statement March 18.

He repeated that the bishop’s decision was based on McCusker’s business activities, “which were contrary to Sacred Scripture and the moral teaching of the Church.”

“The bishop acted as he did so that the faithful would not be misled and erroneously conclude that the Church condones activities such as those included in the businesses of Mr. McCusker,” he continued.

“It is a mistake to interpret this pastoral action as a condemnation of Mr. McCusker,” the chancellor wrote. “He should be in our prayers for the blessing of eternal life.”

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Cuban opposition leader calls on Castro to support democratic reform

Havana, Cuba, Mar 21, 2005 (CNA) - Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Paya is challenging the government of Fidel Castro to present to the UN Human Rights Commission alternative projects that would facilitate democratic transition in the country.

The initiatives Paya is referring to are the Varela Project and the Working Document for National Dialogue.  Paya said the government should “explain why it is repressing these peaceful initiatives.”  “Or are they going to try to silence them like they have done in Cuba?” he asked.

Paya, who heads the Christian Liberation Movement, sent a message to the Human Rights Commission in which he denounced that “there in Geneva, just as in Cuba,” the government doesn’t mention that “an alternative for peaceful change does exist.”  He said the National Dialogue “does not exclude anybody” and that even the Cuban Chancellor, Felipe Perez Roque, has been invited to participate in the initiative.

The Varela Project promotes a series of constitutional reforms, but despite the 25,000 signatures gathered in support of the plan, it has not gained the approval of the National Assembly (Cuban law says only 10,000 signatures are needed to bring a proposal before the legislative body).  The National Dialogue is an initiative designed to help Cubans both on the island and abroad come up with a peaceful democratic transition.

Human Rights Violations

On the other hand, Paya’s letter warns that the Human Rights Commission’s resolutions and calls for “the end of violations against the rights of its citizens” are not respected in Cuba.   The letter also denounces the presence on the Commission of supporters of the Castro regime, because they are “enabling (the government of Castro) to violate these rights.”

“In Cuba people have disappeared and we know who made them disappear,” Paya stated in response to Perez Roque, who told the Commission that “there is not nor has there ever been unlawful execution” in Cuba.

“There are prisoners who have mutilated themselves, slashed their own veins, injected themselves with gas and hung themselves in order to escape the horror,” Paya noted in his letter to the Commission.

In recent days, Perez Roque reiterated Cuba’s refusal to cooperate with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  He also said the formation of political parties or communications media that the government believes are financed by the United States would not be allowed to take place.

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