Vatican City, Jul 13, 2005 (CNA) - Sources close to the Holy See said this week Pope Benedict XVI, who began a 17-day vacation on Monday in the Italian Alps, might take advantage of the brief time away from the Vatican to begin writing his first encyclical.
Vatican Radio quoted today the Italian Catholic newspaper “Avvenire” saying that the Pontiff has been working on the draft of his first encyclical “for weeks” and that he plans to finish it during this 18-day long vacation.
The Holy Father will stay at the same chalet in the village of Les Combes where John Paul II often vacationed. He arrived at the isolated chalet with three suitcases full of books, leading to speculation that he may spend much of his time drafting the first encyclical letter of his Pontificate.
The Bishop of the diocese of Aosta, Giuseppe Anfossi, said today that Pope Benedict XVI has chosen "a more private, quiet period of time, with less walks and more reading."
Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2005 (CNA) - Cardinal William Keeler has urged the United States Senate to reject a bill supporting embryonic stem-cell research and pass other legislation that supports umbilical cord blood stem-cell research and treatments.
The two bills may be considered on the Senate floor as early as this week.
The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (H.R. 810/S. 471), sponsored by Senators Arlen Specter and Tom Harkin, supports embryonic stem-cell research.
The bill favoring umbilical cord blood stem-cell research is the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005 (S. 1317), and it is sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch. The House version of this bill (H.R. 2520), introduced by Rep. Chris Smith, was approved May 24 by a vote of 431 to 1.
In separate letters, dated July 11, Cardinal Keeler noted that embryonic stem-cell research raises grave moral objections because it requires the destruction of human life, and its possible use in future treatments is speculative.
The chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said H.R. 810/S. 471 would also rescind the Bush Administration’s policy of funding only research on embryonic stem-cell lines already in existence.
By contrast, he said, umbilical cord stem-cell research “is indisputably acceptable on moral grounds and remarkably promising in terms of clinical benefits.”
The cardinal said umbilical cord blood stem cells exhibit properties once associated chiefly with embryonic stem cells.
“They grow rapidly in culture, producing enough cells to be clinically useful in both children and adults; they can treat patients who are not an exact genetic match, without being rejected as foreign tissue; and they seem able to produce a wide array of different cell types,” he said.
“What is preventing far broader use of umbilical cord blood stem cells is not an ethical concern, or any lack of evidence of clinical benefits, but simply a lack of funding and access,” Cardinal Keeler continued.
“By helping to establish a nationwide public cord blood bank, this legislation will begin saving more lives almost immediately,” he said, adding that scientists are now saying the clinical use of embryonic stem cells is three to five decades away.
“At this point in medical science,” Cardinal Keeler said, “the question is not whether alternative ways are available to pursue the therapeutic goals served by embryonic stem cells — rather, it is whether embryonic stem cells will ever catch up with the therapeutic benefits now arising from the alternatives.”
For the cardinal’s letters, go to: www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/bioethic/stemcell/keeler711.pdf and www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/bioethic/stemcell/keelercord.pdf
Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2005 (CNA) - Following a New York Times editorial by Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schonborn last week which stated that a “neo-Darwinist” idea of evolution--where an “unplanned” and “random” process, devoid of design is responsible for the earth‘s existence--is incompatible with the Catholic faith, a storm of debate over the Church’s true stand on evolution has ensued.
During a luncheon with the National Press Club yesterday, Washington DC’s Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said that “as long as in every understanding of evolution the hand of God is recognized as being present, we can accept that. In other words, it does not -- you need not say that creationism is the only answer, that in six days or seven days God made the world.”
The Church has stated that while the faithful needn’t necessarily believe in seven 24-hour periods in which God created the earth, they do need to acknowledge His creative action within the individual steps of the earth’s formation.
The Cardinal clarified that “John Paul II would say, yes, evolution is fine as long as it has a place for the creator; as long as it has a place for God. But you cannot say this is all an accident, this is all something that happened by coincidence -- that I cannot accept, that the church cannot accept. The will of God is involved here.”
Critics have suggested that Cardinal Schonborn’s editorial is in conflict with the late Pope John Paul II, who said that evolution and the Catholic Church are not necessarily in disagreement.
Responding to this claim, Cardinal McCarrick told the Press Club, “I think that if you really very carefully study what Cardinal Schonborn is saying and what His Holiness Pope John Paul II was saying, you'll find that they do not disagree, that the hand of God must be in there; if it is not, it is unacceptable.”
Cardinal Schonborn said that many mistakenly use John Paul’s undefined openness to evolution as an open door to align the Christian faith with the neo-Darwinian dogma, as he calls it--which can never be true.
An article in Tuesday’s U.S. News and World Report opined that “despite outcries of many scientists and others that [Cardinal Schonborn’s editorial] represents a dangerous break with the church's far more ‘enlightened’ stance on evolutionary theory, it is possible to see Schönborn's views as being largely, if not entirely, consistent with the past 55 years of Roman Catholic teaching.”
The report cited Pope Pius XII’s 1950 document, Humani Generis, which states, “The teaching authority of the church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter–for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.”
Mark Ryland, of Seattle’s Discovery Institute told CNA that, “The main point of Cardinal Schönborn’s article is to highlight the way that people have been glossing over the fundamental conflict between Catholic teaching, on the one hand, and any strong version of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, on the other.”
“Neo-Darwinism”, he added, “denies that there is any real order or purpose in biological things -- that there is only ‘apparent’ order that created by the unguided, unintelligent process of random variation and natural selection which, acting together, can mimic real design.”
Fort Worth, Texas, Jul 13, 2005 (CNA) - In an very unusual turn of events, Most Reverend Kevin William Vann, scheduled to be installed as Coadjutor Bishop of Fort Worth, Texas today, will now be installed as ordinary of that diocese following the surprise death of Bishop William Delaney, who Bishop-elect Vann was assigned to assist.
Archbishop Jose Gomez, metropolitan Archbishop of San Antonio will install Bishop-elect Vann at 6pm tonight –Central time- as scheduled with some adaptations at the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum on the campus of Texas Christian University in southwest Fort Worth.
Although a Coadjutor bishop holds the right of succession upon the death of the ordinary of their diocese, today’s unusual transition puts Vann’s succession into effect before his installation as bishop.
Upon learning of Bishop Delaney’s death, which follows a lengthy struggle with pancreatic cancer, Archbishop Gomez said that, “Bishop Delaney was a dedicated and faithful servant to the Diocese of Fort Worth and the Church of Texas for many years.“
“I am saddened”, he said, “at his passing at this important moment in the life of Church of Texas. My sadness is tempered by the faith that we share as believers in the risen Christ, that God has awarded him the gift of perfect happiness with Him forever.”
Bishop-elect Vann, who comes from Springfield, Ill, will become the third Bishop of Fort Worth, succeeding 70-year old Delaney.
Bishop Delaney’s funeral has been postponed until Monday at 2pm at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Bishop Vann will preside.
Albany, N.Y., Jul 13, 2005 (CNA) - New York’s eight Catholic bishops have urged Gov. George Pataki to veto a bill that would make the morning-after pill, or Plan B, available without a prescription.
In their July 6 letter, the bishops urged the governor to restore "common sense and time-tested values to the public square" by vetoing the bill.
The bishops pointed out that the drug is an abortifacient. They also noted that the bill lacks an age restriction for the drug and doesn't require parental consent. They stated that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year rejected a company's application to sell Plan B over the counter, citing concerns about whether young girls could use it safely.
The bill was passed in the New York state Senate June 22, but it has not yet been delivered to the governor.
The Democrat-led Assembly, which first approved the bill, has until the end of the first week in August to do deliver the bill to the governor, who then has 10 days to sign it or veto it. If the governor takes no action, it automatically becomes law.
Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2005 (CNA) - Feminists at a forum Monday said they would fight President George Bush’s nomination of a “strict constructionist” judge to the Supreme Court, claiming that such a judge could jeopardize access to abortion and contraception.
Jocelyn Frye, director of legal and public policy at the National Partnership for Women and Families, also claimed such a judge could jeopardize other legislation affecting women in the areas of affirmative action, protection from sex discrimination, family and medical leave, and quality health care.
Ms. Magazine hosted the July 11 forum at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. It took the opportunity to highlight a special report in its latest issue, entitled "What's at Stake for Us? The Looming Fight Over the Supreme Court."
Ellen Chesler, a senior fellow at billionaire George Soros's Open Society Institute, noted that Bush already said he intended to appoint strict constructionist judges like Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
Such a judge would likely reject a Constitutional right to privacy, she claimed. The president, she said, needs to nominate a justice similar to outgoing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
O’Connor is recognized by feminists for having voted in key cases involving affirmative action, family and medical leave, and sex discrimination.
Delores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers, was also on the panel. Huerta, who identified herself as a "Catholic mother of 11 who is pro-choice," argued that teenage Hispanics women were in particular need of "reproductive rights" because they experience one of the highest rates of unplanned pregnancies. She suggested that the Catholic Church’s teachings about abstinence are not effective.
Tucson, Ariz., Jul 13, 2005 (CNA) - The Diocese of Tucson will emerge from bankruptcy thanks to a reorganization plan that has the archdiocese, insurers and parishes pooling their funds to settle sex-abuse claims up to $22.2 million.
Creditors could begin receiving payments in two months, says a report by the Associated Press. Judge James Marlar approved the plan Monday.
The diocese first sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last September due to the large number of claims.
The pool includes $14.8 million from insurers, $2 million from parishes and $5.58 million from the archdiocese. An additional $300,000 came from a real estate auction in May.
The AP reported that 25 claims from victims and five from parents have been approved, as were 20 compromise settlements for people who had valid claims but fell outside a statute of limitations. Twenty-seven claims were disallowed. Five settlements are pending, six claimants decided to go to litigation and 14 unresolved claims will be sent to a special arbitrator.
, Jul 13, 2005 (CNA) - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Portland, Oregon, will hear oral arguments today in one of the most important First Amendment cases in the country. The Thomas More Law Center and the American Catholic Lawyers Association will present arguments on behalf of 14 pro-life advocates, who were hit with a $120-million jury verdict in 1999. The Law Center is representing six of the defendants in the so-called “Nuremberg Files” case.
The case was primarily based on the defendants’ use of “wanted” posters, specifically naming abortion providers. Edward L. White III, trial counsel with the Law Center, said he is hopeful that the court will apply the new case law to the defendants’ situation, which would require the reversal of the jury’s verdict. After the 1999 jury verdict, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously decided to set aside the verdict and injunction because the defendants’ speech was protected by the First Amendment. However, an 11-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit overturned the unanimous decision in 2002 with a vote of six to five.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the decision. Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued at least two opinions, which the Law Center believes require a reversal of the court’s decision or at least a new trial.
According to the Law Center, the Supreme Court has now made it clear that for a defendant to be found guilty of making a threat, a jury must determine that the defendant made the threat with specific intent to commit violence. In the defendants’ case, however, the jury was told that it did not have to find specific intent.Also, the Supreme Court has now made it clear that for a pro-lifer to be found guilty of “extortion” under RICO, the pro-lifer must obtain property from an abortion provider. With regard to the “Nuremberg Files” case, there was no evidence that the defendants had obtained any property from the abortion providers, yet the latter were still awarded more than $11 million based on their RICO claims.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 13, 2005 (CNA) - The faithful of the Basilica of San Jose de Flores in Buenos Aires are celebrating their second year of perpetual adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, a practice that began in 2003 and has continued uninterrupted every day of the week. More than 400 people from across Buenos Aires participate in the devotion, which is an opportunity for the faithful to be alone with the Lord, who “only seeks out those whom He wishes and whose hearts are open to receiving Him,” members of the community said in a statement.
“Jesus Himself went off alone to pray to the Father in silence. It’s a silence that speaks to the heart, where we discover the face of God and we feel truly loved by Him. Jesus calls and invites each of us in particular—and all of us as a community—to be that Church which unites us in adoration with Him and through Him to the Father in the Spirit, guided by Mary and Joseph, who were the first adorers of the Lord,” they added.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 13, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Baltazar Porras Cardozo of Merida and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, reiterated this past week the Church’s rejection of a proposal to legalize abortion in cases of rape and incest through a reform of the country’s penal code.
During his opening address to the Venezuelan bishops gathered for their general assembly, Archbishop Porras stated, “The attack against the dignity of women and their right to spiritual and bodily integrity should not compromise the primary right to life.”
“The proposal to reform the penal code would lead to greater social problems since poor women would be better helped with improved housing and dignified employment than with abortions,” he added.
The archbishop said the “attempts to discredit the bishops in their right to speak and act on moral issues that affect the integrity of the human person are an attempt to restrict their exercising of the right to religious freedom.”
For his part, Bishop Mario Moronta of San Cristobal told legislators that the Church is steadfast in her defense of the culture of life and he recalled that “the Constitution itself defends life from the moment of conception.” In the case of rape, he added, it is unjust to condemn the child to death “while the perpetrator’s own life is spared.”
Madrid, Spain, Jul 13, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Madrid, Caridnal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, said this week that in his search for happiness man loses his way when his ideas and behavior are not centered in God.
The cardinal noted how frequently people fall into error when the light of divine truth does not guide their decisions. When “we leave God out as a point of reference for our conduct, ideas and thoughts, because we do not want to acknowledge that happiness comes from Him and nobody else, we lose our way.”
During a Mass of thanksgiving for the recent archdiocesan pilgrimage to Rome and audience with Pope Benedict XVI on July 4, Cardinal Rouco underscored “how important it is to know the path to life well and to find it,” noting that often people get caught up in their own pursuits and neglect to think about what it is that brings man happiness.
“All of this,” he explained, “has to do with the lack of knowledge about the purpose of man’s life or about which path will help him achieve that purpose.” To not know that man comes from God and is going to Him is “to not discover the path,” the cardinal stated.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 13, 2005 (CNA) - The President of the Committee on Missions of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico, Bishop Florencio Olvera Ochoa of Cuernavaca, said this week the new Compendium of the Catholic Church calls on the faithful to exercise civil disobedience against anti-life laws, noting that the human person “cannot go against nature.”
“Laws that approve euthanasia, cloning or homosexual marriage trample upon human dignity, and we cannot allow this,” the bishop explained. He said the call to civil disobedience should be heeded “in Mexico and throughout the world.”
Likewise, Bishop Olvera noted that the Compendium reaffirms that the human embryo must be protected and that in vitro fertilization and same-sex unions are immoral acts.
In Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera warned as well that those who change the law to promote homosexual unions “will be responsible for the effects brought on by this unnatural situation.”