Archive of July 22, 2005

Court allows Becket Fund to intervene in fight to keep God in Pledge of Allegiance

, Jul 22, 2005 (CNA) - A federal court ruled yesterday that the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty could intervene in a lawsuit and defend the reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Michael Newdow launched a suit in the courts to have the words “under God” stripped from the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, he will have to contend with the Becket Fund, who will intervene on behalf of 10 California public school children, their parents, and approximately 1.7 million members of the Knights of Columbus.

"These students and parents represent the literally millions of students who for generations now have recited the full Pledge voluntarily, including its reference to God as the source of our inalienable rights," said Jared Leland, media and legal counsel for the Becket Fund.

"By granting them the right to intervene as parties in the lawsuit, the court properly recognized that they need not stand idly by while Mr. Newdow seeks to rewrite history and this nation's understanding of itself," Leland said.

In 1954, Congress passed a law adding "under God" to the Pledge. Since then, millions of school children and citizens have recited the pledge, which has become an important expression of the American identity.

The Knights' purpose in adding the phrase was to underscore the American philosophy of limited government — as reflected in other foundational documents like the Declaration of Independence and — and to contrast it with the Soviet philosophy of totalitarian government, which may grant and withdraw rights at will.

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Two priests arrested in connection with murder of Kenyan Bishop

Isiolo, Kenya, Jul 22, 2005 (CNA) - Officials in Isiolo, Kenya have arrested two priests in connection with last week’s murder of Bishop Luigi Locati. The total number of arrests now climbs to eight as police try to find answers to a mystery which has shocked Kenya.

On July 14th, Bishop Locati, an Italian, was gunned down by an unidentified group while returning home from a parish event.

According to reports, one of the arrested priests, Father Peter Malley Guyo Wako was forced to resign from his post at Tumaini parish midway through last year after being accused of misappropriating funds. The second, Father Cyril Mukuchia, was serving at Merti parish which runs two secondary schools.

The schools were closed three weeks ago following clashes with church leaders and school management. Fr. Mukuchia was accused inciting parents and students and interfering with the running of the school.

Six other people are currently being held by Isiolo police for questioning.

Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki joined hundreds of mourners at a funeral Wednesday for Bishop Locati. There, he said that "The killing of Bishop Locati, who always stood up for peace, is a scar on our national conscience,” and added that, “We condemn such violence."

He added that Kenyans should emulate the bishop's teachings and sacrifice, and praised him for his work with the poor and less fortunate in society.

Other church leaders are also closely watching the investigation. Nairobi's Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki said that, "I hope the law will take its course, if it is true that the priests were involved in the murder."

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Getting to know Judge Roberts: Catholic Supreme Court nominee is family man

Washington D.C., Jul 22, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier this week, President George Bush introduced Judge John Roberts as a Supreme Court nominee. The nomination quickly captured the interest of the media, but the man remained relatively unknown to a large majority of Americans.

Even Catholic League president William Donohue admitted in a press release Wednesday that he didn’t know Roberts was Catholic until a journalist, critical of the nomination, pointed it out.

Roberts was born in Buffalo, N.Y. He was the only boy in a family of three girls. According to a report by the Associated Press, his family soon moved to Long Beach, Ind., where his father, John Roberts Sr., was employed as an electrical engineer in the steel mills near Gary, Ind. Roberts also spent his summers in high school and college working at the mill.

Growing up, he attended Catholic elementary and high schools, and he remains a practising Catholic as a parishioner at Little Flower Catholic Church, not far from his current home in Maryland.

According to the AP, he married Jane Sullivan, a fellow lawyer, in 1996 when they were in their 40s. Mrs. Roberts, a graduate of Georgetown Law Center, is accomplished in her field. She is partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, where she specializes in communications and technology, and a member of the Supreme Court bar.

She, too, is an active Catholic. She serves on the board of governors of the John Carroll Society, a Catholic lay group that sponsors a mass before the start of the new Supreme Court term each year.

She was on the board of directors for Feminists for Life (1995-1999), and at one time was its executive vice president. She currently does pro bono legal work for the organization.

According to the AP report, the couple tried to have children of their own, but after some time they decided to adopt. They now have two children: five-year-old Jane and four-year-old Jack. Friends say the children bring a lot of joy to the couple.

The young family lives just outside Washington, in Chevy Chase, Md., in a two-story, white brick Colonial home. Roberts mows the lawn himself, a neighbor told the AP.

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Catholic League says Boston city council motion violates church-state separation, aims to bully archdiocese

Boston, Mass., Jul 22, 2005 (CNA) - Members of Boston’s City Council are seeking to pass a measure which would bring the accountability of the Archdiocese of Boston, particularly in light of the priestly abuse scandal, before public vote in November--an act which New York’s Catholic League is calling a blatant violation of the separation of church and state.

The campaign is being led by three council members in particular and if the motion is passed, voters on November 8th of next year will be asked if they “agree, to date, the Archdiocese of Boston has failed to work effectively with Boston’s neighborhoods to mitigate the impacts of Catholic parish and school closings on neighborhood services…”

It would also ask if citizens agree “that in the future the Archdiocese of Boston should be strongly urged to meet its institutional obligations to all of Boston’s citizens, to neighbors, and to the city’s agencies by cooperating before-the-fact, diligently and in good faith, for the difficult transitions?”

William Donahue, president of the Catholic League said yesterday that, “This is sheer, unadulterated demagoguery”, and that, “We will contact the other members of the city council to shoot down this preposterous measure.”

Councilmember Jerry McDermott, the main sponsor of the measure was quoted in the Boston Globe as saying that, ''We want to make sure that the message goes out loud and clear that the public wants to see better communications among city and state officials, and the Archdiocese of Boston…We understand the separation of church and state, but we think it needs to be made crystal clear how the voting public feels."

Donahue however, chided: “It is disingenuous and downright dishonest of Councilor McDermott to say, ‘We understand the separation of church and state, but we think it needs to be made crystal clear how the voting public feels.’ Then take a poll, Councilor McDermott.”

“No, the real purpose of this measure”, he continued, “is to intimidate the Archdiocese of Boston by having an arm of the state whip the public into a frenzy about matters they have no constitutional business sticking their noses into.”

Donahue also claimed that the proposal “smacks of bias” asking that if the purpose truly is accountability, then “why focus exclusively on the Catholic Church?  Why not go for broke and get the Protestants, Jews and Muslims to answer to the public as well?”

Before it can be considered for the ballot, the nonbinding measure would need to pass the inspection of a public hearing and a council vote.

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Young Catholics in Maine attend Theology on Tap trilogy with bishop

Waterville, Maine, Jul 22, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic bishop of Portland, Maine, is reaching out to some young people where they’re at. Bishop Richard Malone met with about 70 young Catholics at a pub called Steve’s to talk faith and culture. It’s all part of a three-session series of Theology on Tap.

The Theology on Tap program began 25 years ago in Chicago. A young priest, following a conversation about the meaning of life with a young man in a bar, followed up by going to different pubs and taverns in an attempt to reach out to young adults.

During Bishop Malone’s second Theology on Tap session, the group discussed a number of topics, including the magnitude of the Church, married priesthood, women’s ordination and sexual abuse by priests, reported Blethen Maine Newspapers.

When told that the Church has to keep up with the times, the bishop reportedly said: "You are right. The Church has to keep up with the issues, but that doesn't mean changing the beliefs based on opinion polls. There are moral challenges in 2005, and there were moral challenges in 1005. Each are very different, but none have altered the traditions of the Church."

A woman reportedly asked about married priests and women’s ordination.

"Women have always filled powerful positions in the Church," Bishop Malone replied. He explained that there are some married priests in the Church and pointed to Pope John Paul II’s theological writings to explain why women are not ordained.

The topic for Bishop Malone’s third Theology on Tap July 27 will be politics and the role of faith in public office. A veteran from Iraq will also share his story. It will be held at Steve’s at 6:30 p.m.

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Institute condemns anti-Christian booklets by Hindu extremist group

Washington D.C., Jul 22, 2005 (CNA) - A Hindu extremist group, dedicated to the promotion of convicted murderer Dara Singh, is planning to distribute anti-Christian booklets in Orissa, India.

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy is condemning the actions of the Dara Sena and urging officials in Orissa to uphold the law and combat religious intolerance.

Singh was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to life in prison for killing Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons by burning them alive. Members of the Dara Sena regard Singh as a godlike figure and a leader in the fight to protect Hinduism against "foreign" religions such as Christianity and Islam.

"Dara Singh and the Dara Sena are violent thugs seeking to intimidate growing non-Hindu populations in Orissa," said Joseph Grieboski, president of the institute.

Rather than protect Hinduism, their stated objective, “they have harmed and embarrassed the international Hindu community by promoting violence and intolerance,” Grieboski said.

Singh has repeatedly stated that he wishes to run for public office in Orissa despite a law prohibiting convicted criminals from holding public office.

The superintendent of police in Mayurbhanj District, where Singh's prison is located, has stated that the police will arrest anyone distributing anti-Christian publications.

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Deep history, tradition surrounds miraculous Feast St. Mary Major Basilica

Vatican City, Jul 22, 2005 (CNA) - On August 4th and 5th, numerous Vatican prelates and throngs of faithful will be on hand at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome to commemorate the miraculous snowfall of the year 358, which led to the church’s construction.

The Basilica will hold its traditional triduum, or three days of preparation from August 1st to 3rd, with a daily recitation of the Rosary and meditation on its mysteries given by Fr. Gabriele Caranta, rector of the Shrine of St. Mary of the Gold in Terni, Italy.

According to tradition, the Basilica’s conception came following an appearance of the Virgin Mary to two faithful Roman Christians, the patrician John and his wife, in a dream. She also appeared to Pope Liberius (352-366), and asked that a church be built in her honor on the site where snow would fall on the night of August 4-5. Rome rarely sees snow at all--much less in the heat of August.

Pope Liberius traced the outlines of the church in the snow and the first basilica was built on that site. It was completed about a century later by Pope Sixtus III (432-440), after the Council of Ephesus in 431 which declared Mary to be the Mother of God.

Masses are scheduled to be held on each day of the triduum, celebrated by: Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, president of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See, Archbishop Paolo Romeo, apostolic nuncio to Italy, and Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan, president emeritus of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, respectively.

The feast itself will commence on August 4, beginning with the Rosary and followed by vespers, which will be presided at by Cardinal Bernard Law, archpriest of the basilica, and Mass celebrated by Bishop Domenico Sigalini of Palestrina, Italy.

On the morning of August 5th, the day will open with the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours, followed by a pontifical Mass, presided at by Cardinal Law. Afternoon celebrations will continue with the Rosary and a second vespers service presided by Cardinal Law. A Mass celebrated by Bishop Lorenzo Chiarinelli of Viterbo, Italy will also follow.

As is tradition, a shower of flower petals will fall from the ceiling of the Basilica during the pontifical Mass and second vespers to commemorate the miraculous 358 snowfall.

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Christian doctors lament another abortion drug death

Washington D.C., Jul 22, 2005 (CNA) - The 17,000-member Christian Medical Association is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to pull an abortion drug for safety review after yet another two women died using the drug.

Mifeprex, or RU-486, has been linked to the deaths of at least five women since it was approved for use in 2000.

The Christian Medical Association’s appeal was issued July 20, one day after the FDA issued a public health advisory, alerting all doctors to be on the lookout for infections in women using the drug. Women may not have typical symptoms, such as a fever.

Eight months ago, the FDA warned about two sepsis cases associated with Mifeprex. Additional sepsis cases were reported to the agency in April and June.

"With every death of another woman due to RU-486, the FDA's mandate grows clearer—to pull this drug for an objective safety review,” said Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical Association. He said the medical association laments the tragic loss of lives of these women and the thousands of unborn babies killed by this drug.

RU-486 was initially approved “through a scientifically deficient and politically corrupted process,” he stated.

“We documented that corrupt and deficient process in a 90-page brief submitted three years ago, calling on the FDA to pull the drug for review,” he said. “The FDA has all the information it needs to get this dangerous drug off the shelves to protect the lives and health of American women.”

Stevens colleague and associate director, Dr. Gene Rudd, said many women “have suffered in other ways after using this pill.” He said many women live in pain and guilt after aborting their baby.

He urged women in crisis pregnancies to seek support from churches and crisis pregnancy centers. Women seeking such help can also call: 1-800-395-HELP.

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Expert says ample material in Koran to justify terrorism

Rome, Italy, Jul 22, 2005 (CNA) - In an article published by the Italian daily Avvenire, French philosopher and historian Remi Brague holds that the Koran and other Islam writings provide ample justification for terrorists in carrying out their attacks.

“I hope that Europeans realize that the sources of Islam—although the majority of Muslims are not aware of it--unfortunately contain everything that is necessary to justify these attacks,” he explained.

In his article he called on Europeans not to be content with simply distinguishing between the majority of peaceful Muslim immigrants and Islamists.  While this may be valid, he said, “it is not sufficient.”

“The original Islam is absolutely incompatible with the European project.  Islam needs to be reformed from within,” he stated.

He noted that Europe “already has an identity” that must be reaffirmed.  The exclusion of Christianity from the European Constitution is a source of great concern, Brague said.

“They should have called a spade a spade and included a reference to Judaism and Christianity.  They want to eliminate Christianity as if it did not exist.  And this scares me, because ideologies typically rewrite the past.  Remember George Orwell’s ‘1984’,” he warned.

Braque also emphasized that Europe is much more than just “an economic engine.”  Culture also figures predominantly in European history, he noted, but the teaching of that history needs to be fostered.  “Economy is no less noble than culture,” Braque stated, as long as “the production of goods is done in an equal way.”

The French philosopher and historian also suggested that the family and the rule of law, among other things, not be referred to as values but as “goods.”  This “changes everything,” he argued, because goods “shine with their own light and enlighten us.” “Instead of taking values as a burdensome ‘super ego’, let us rejoice in the goods, let us be nourished by them and let us assimilate them.  Instead of having something to die for, let’s have something to live for,” Braque said.

He called the rejection of a referendum on assisted procreation in Italy a “good sign,” but he also said “defense of the environment should not be confused with respect for the human person, nor should human life be confused with plant or animal life.”

Lastly, while he said it was unfortunately possible to create a unified Europe devoid of any spiritual dimension, he wondered, “Would it still be Europe?”

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Constitutional Court could reverse homosexual “marriage” in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Jul 22, 2005 (CNA) - A judge in Alicante, Spain, is refusing to “marry” a lesbian couple and has filed a legal challenge against the reform of Spain’s Civil Code allowing same-sex couples to contract “marriage.”  If the case reaches Spain’s Constitutional Court, that body could reverse the new law.

Judge Laura Alabau of the city of Denia in southwestern Spain is challenging the constitutionality of the new law, saying it violates article 32 of the country’s Constitution, which says, “Men and women have the right to contract marriage with full juridical equality.” 

This phrase was identical to a statute in the Civil Code, which after the recent changes now reads, “Marriage shall have the same requirements and effects whether both parties are of the same or of the opposite sex.”

Alabau is the first judge in Spain to refuse to preside at gay “marriages.  She has based her right to refuse on article 163 of the Spanish Constitution, which allows judges to file constitutional challenges.

The leading opposition party in Spain, the Partido Popular, is also considering a challenge to the new law’s constitutionality.  In order to initiate such a proceeding, the party would need 50 senators or representatives to vote in favor.  Such a vote is all but guaranteed as more than 143 representatives and 131 senators voted against the legalization of same-sex “marriage.”

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Argentinean archbishop laments loss of food set aside for the needy

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 22, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Mario Maulion of Parana, Argentina, expressed regret this week at the loss of more than 100,000 pounds of groceries, which had to be destroyed because they had spoiled and had been infested by rodents.

The food was incinerated several weeks ago after having been in storage for an undue amount of time in warehouses provided by the military.  The roofs of the buildings are in poor condition and leak in many areas.  Investigations into the matter have pointed to negligence on the part of some government officials.

“It is sad that such a situation has taken place,” the archbishop said. “Beyond the emerging blame” on the part of those who were in charge, “this is in fact something very sad given the needs that exist.”

Archbishop Maulion said measures should be taken to keep the problem from happening again and to ensure that such assistance is delivered to people as soon as possible.

“I don’t want blame anyone without knowing all the facts.  But this is something that we must obviously pay attention to, especially so that it doesn’t happen again, and so that people can receive what they really need,” he stated.

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