, Dec 7, 2005 (CNA) - The vote on a bill that would legalize abortion in Brazil for any reason during all nine months of pregnancy was postponed for the second time due to the lack of attendance by a majority of the members of the Parliamentary Commission on Social Security and the Family at hearings scheduled for Tuesday.
Some 200 pro-life activists gathered at the Commission building and expressed opposition to the bill, taking note as well of the names of those representatives who were in attendance. Twenty legislators showed up for the hearings but some left, forcing the hearings to be postponed as the presence of seventeen Commission members is required to proceed to a final vote.
According to the Brazil news agency, Commission leaders said a new date would have to be set for the vote.
The author of the bill, Jandira Feghali of the Communist Party of Brazil, wants abortion to be legalized during all nine months of pregnancy. The bill would also allow the distribution of abortifacient contraceptives at health care facilities and hospitals across the country.
Pro-life groups rallied hundreds of supporters to protest the bill in cities such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. Doris Pires, president of the National Association of Women for Life, said, “Abortion is murder and as crime, it must be prohibited.”
Konigstein, Germany, Dec 7, 2005 (CNA) - The President of the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM), Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa of Santiago, Chile, outlined this week the key points to be discussed at the V General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, which will take place in May 2007 in Brazil.
During his visit to the international headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need, the cardinal said, “The title of the Conference is ‘Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ’ and it will focus on the Church’s situation in Latin America, which is much different from what it was 12 or 15 years ago.”
“The gap between rich and poor is also increasingly greater and there are other troubling social problems such as corruption, drug addiction and violence,” Cardinal Errazuriz said. “In addition, the spread of fundamentalist sects should also be discussed.”
“The General Conference will focus on the human person, called to be a follower of Christ,” he stated.
“The Church must awaken the missionary spirit in Christians and encourage them to struggle for the culture of life,” the cardinal continued. “The efforts of Christian communities, apostolic movements and Catholic educational institutions will bear fruit in the future,” he added.
Cardinal Errazuriz also mentioned that there would be two meetings held prior to the General Conference, as a means of preparation for the May 2007 gathering. “One is the meeting of apostolic movements in Bogota, Colombia; the other is a Marian conference to be held in Guadalupe, Mexico.” The conference in Mexico will focus on cultivating “devotion to Our Lady through pastoral work, in order to bear fruit for the life of the Church and society,” the cardinal announced.
Madrid, Spain, Dec 7, 2005 (CNA) - The Director of the Office of Information of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, Isidro Catella, responded this week to critics who used World AIDS Day to blast the Church for her teaching on condoms, saying the true root of the problem lies in a culture that reduces sexuality to the exchange of pleasure.
In an article published by El Mundo entitled, “The Church and AIDS: the solution and the problem,” Catella noted that “26.7% of the world’s AIDS centers are Catholic,” and that for the Church, “every day of the year is AIDS day” because “the Church cares daily for the people who suffer.”
Catella maintained that World AIDS Day “has become a troubling event which, instead of contributing to social awareness and to the effective prevention of the pandemic, is being used for propaganda at the service of the dominant culture that seeks to spread lies and repeat them over and over with the hope that they will eventually be considered true.”
He pointed to three lies as those most significant: the portrayal of AIDS as strictly a health care issue, the one-sided informational campaigns that maintain that the condom is the only solution, and the depiction of the Church as the real problem.
According to Catella, “the first strategy is based on the spread of the idea that the disease has no relation to the one’s sexual behavior and that, as a consequence, we are all equally susceptible to infection. Society is made to believe that we are dealing exclusively with a health care problem, without recognizing that there will be no solution until the ethical dimension is addressed.”
Regarding the use of condoms, Catella lamented that despite efforts by governments to promote them as the solution to the disease, “in 2005 five million more individuals became infected, the greatest increase since the beginning of the pandemic.”
“The policies based on the myth of ‘safe sex’ have failed and we must demand that our leaders acknowledge it and are courageous in proposing other solutions,” Catella continued. The priority should be on morality and the integral education of young people in order to foster dignity and respect for life.
“Why are we told to abstain from smoking and drinking in order to prevent certain diseases and yet they dare not propose abstinence from certain sexual practices in order to prevent AIDS?” Catella wondered. The problem requires “political will,” proper formation in human sexuality and personal responsibility in rejecting drug use and other high-risk behavior, he continued.
Catella criticized those who blame the Church, saying they are “contributing to the confusion and have backward-looking and unscientific views.” He noted the “excellent results” that have been achieved in countries such as Uganda and Kenya, where programs that “coincide with Catholic teaching” are being utilized.
The problem is not that the Church is being ignored, Catella said, but rather that “people don’t even question” whether the prevailing beliefs regarding these matters are the correct or most adequate ones.
Catella noted that no one can honestly continue to say that the Church teaches abstinence and fidelity because she does not live in the real world and is not aware of today’s problems. Even the UN, he pointed out, speaks of “responsible sexual behavior, including abstinence and fidelity.”
Catella concluded his article questioning why people are not given the whole truth about the effectiveness of condoms. “Is it because our young people are not considered capable of understanding the meaning of the words ‘abstinence’ and ‘fidelity’?”
Perhaps if young people were told the entire truth, he speculated, they might begin to make their own decisions and no longer see the condom as the solution and the Church as the problem.
Ann Arbor, Mich., Dec 7, 2005 (CNA) - The five attorneys at the Thomas More Law Center — along with 403 volunteer lawyers across the country — have take on 200 cases in 40 states in an effort to change American culture and to protect life, religious freedoms and family values.
The law center, its work and mission were recently featured in The Detroit News. The nonprofit organization got a lot of media attention recently during a 40-day trial defending the decision of a school board in Dover, Pa., to require science teachers to tell students about intelligent design.
The Detroit News feature article notes that the law firm works exclusively on Christian causes and has been involved in a variety of cases, from defending the 50-year display of a 29-foot cross atop Mount Soledad in California to representing 12 pro-life activists who were fined millions for publishing the names and addresses of abortion doctors in Oregon.
It has taken on Ten Commandments cases and worked to stop same-sex marriage rights in several states. It won a case for a high school student who had been denied by her school to get her opposing views on homosexuality discussed during a Diversity Week.
The law center also won the case for a family over a neighborhood association, which wanted the family to remove a Nativity scene from their front yard. As well, it recently reviewed ballot language proposed by a pro-life group, which seeks to amend Michigan's Constitution and define life as beginning at conception.
"If we succeed in those issues, we will succeed in returning to our culture established by our Founding Fathers," Richard Thompson, 68, president, co-founder and chief counsel of the law center, told the Detroit News.
Thompson said the law center is working to ensure that the rights of Christians are not trampled on and to reform what he sees as an increasingly anti-Christian society. Thompson told the newspaper he is confident the day will come when the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
Founding the center
Thompson and Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan founded the Thomas More Law Center in 1999, after Thompson lost his elected seat as Oakland County prosecutor in the wake of trying to prosecute Dr. Jack Kevorkian. He and Monaghan agreed that culture wars were being waged and won in the courts.
Monaghan put up the $500,000 to start the law firm, and increased its funding annually through mid-2004. Now, the $2.3 million public interest law firm is funded by 50,000 individuals with $25 annual memberships and other benefactors.
Melbourne, Australia, Dec 7, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Dennis Hart of Melbourne cancelled Chief Minister Jon Stanhope’s speech at the last minute over the minister’s pro-abortion stance, after pro-life activists criticized the commission's choice.
Stanhope was to give the annual Melbourne Catholic Commission for Justice Development and Peace lecture, Rerum Novarum, on Friday on the issue of a national Bill of Rights.
The archbishop said the issue of a Bill of Rights was worthy of public discussion but it was clear Stanhope's pro-abortion position would have been raised at the meeting, reported AAP.
"The Church's teachings on sanctity of life and the rights of the unborn in particular are not matters for debate in a church sponsored lecture," he reportedly said. "I am obliged to ensure that there is no ambiguity or confusion in respect to the Church's teachings on these matters.”
The pro-life community has opposed Stanhope since 2001, when he moved to overturn ACT laws which required women considering an abortion to view pictures of aborted fetuses before undergoing the procedure.
, Dec 7, 2005 (CNA) - Catholics participating in an annual run, which began at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City more than one month ago, will arrive in New York City this week.
The international run is called Antorcha Guadalupana, and it serves as a reminder of workers’ plights in the United States, in particular migrant workers, and of the Church’s commitment to promote human dignity at all times. It also commemorates the migrants who died trying to cross the Mexico-U.S. border in hopes of a better life.
Runners, who are carrying a torch, are expected to arrive in New York City on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12. They stopped in a number of dioceses along the way.
Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio had welcomed the runners on one of their first stops in the U.S., Nov. 9, reported Today’s Catholic.
A public performance by matachine dancers from St. Agnes Church was organized on the track of Lanier High School. Participants then proceeded to nearby Our Lady of Guadalupe Church for a 7:30 p.m. liturgy, celebrated by the archbishop.
“We are all sons and daughters of God. We are all children of God,” said the archbishop in his homily. “The Church reminds us to respect every human person.”
Sacramento, Calif., Dec 7, 2005 (CNA) - The Diocese of Sacramento has opened its first cause for sainthood ever for Bishop Alphonse Gallegos.
The Augustinian Recollect first came to Sacramento in 1979 to serve as director of Hispanic affairs for the California Catholic Conference. He became auxiliary bishop in 1981 and became known for his outreach to minorities and his gentle manner.
The opening of the process was marked with a mass Sunday, reported the Associated Press. It could be decades before the bishop is recognized officially for his holiness by the Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Causes of the Saints and beatified.
The bishop’s virtue was also demonstrated in his ability to accept loss and suffering without complaint. The bishop was going blind, and he did not tell most of his parishioners.
"Here was a man who had lost nearly all his eyesight ... but still put other people's needs first," Fr. Samson Silloriquez, postulator general of the order of Augustinian Recollects, told the AP. "He was a person who saw, not through his eyes, but through his heart."
Bishop Gallegos was killed Oct. 6, 1991 when a car slammed into him as he helped his driver push a stalled vehicle off Highway 99.
Vatican City, Dec 7, 2005 (CNA) - Twenty thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square this morning to hear Pope Benedict’s weekly general audience in which he expounded on God’s faithfulness and mercy, particularly toward the small and vulnerable.
The Holy Father continued his ongoing catechesis on the Psalms, speaking today about Psalm 137, called, "a hymn of thanksgiving."
He began by quoting the psalmist, who "raises his voice before the Temple assembly or, at least, having the Shrine of Zion as a reference. ... He sings before God Who is in heaven with His host of angels, but Who also listens within the earthly space of the Temple."
The writer is certain, the Pope noted “that the 'name' of the Lord - in other words His personal, living and active reality and His virtues of faithfulness and mercy - are the ... bastion of all faith and all hope.”
“The psalmist's gaze”, he said, “…goes back for an instant to the past, to the day of suffering, when the divine voice answered the faithful's anguished cry, infusing courage into his troubled soul."
"Following this apparently personal premise," the Holy Father continued, "the psalmist extends his gaze to the earth and imagines his testimony incorporating the entire horizon: 'All the kings of the earth' ... join the Jewish psalmist in a common hymn of praise in honor of the greatness and regal power of the Lord."
The themes of this chorus of praise, the Pope explained, are "the 'glory' and the 'ways' of the Lord.”
“God”, he said, “is clearly 'high' and transcendent, but He 'regards the lowly' with affection while removing the haughty from His sight.”
For this reason, the Pope said, “God chooses to defend the weak, the victims, the smallest;” and he pointed out that “this fact is conveyed to all kings that they might know which option to choose in governing their nations."
As he closed his teaching, Benedict showed that in the Psalm’s conclusion, the writer implores the Lord for his help in the trails of life and the wrath of Israel’s enemies.
This, he said, is "a kind of symbol of the hostility the just may face during their journey through history."
"We must be certain," he added, "that however burdensome and stormy are the trials that await us, we will never be left alone, we will never fall from the Lord's hands, the hands that created us and that now follow us on life's itinerary.”
In conclusion, the Pope cited St. Paul, who assures his own readers in his letter to the Philippians that, “He Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion."
Vatican City, Dec 7, 2005 (CNA) - Following his general audience, given today in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict stressed the importance of the priestly ministry, saying that priests are called to conform themselves to Christ and give their lives for God’s glory and the salvation of souls.
The Holy Father brief address was given to participants in a congress currently being held on the topic of the priesthood and promoted by the Congregation for the Clergy.
The congress marks the fortieth anniversary of the Vatican II document 'Presbyterorum Ordinis,' a decree on the ministry and life of priests.
The Pope told participants, who were accompanied by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, that "this conciliar document marked a stage of fundamental importance in the life of the Church.”
It reflects, he said, “upon the characteristics of priestly ministry which conforms priests to Jesus Christ, the head and shepherd of His people. In His image and at His service, priests must give their lives for the glory of God and the salvation of souls."
The Catholic priesthood has especially been in the public spotlight in recent weeks with the Vatican’s release of a new document regarding homosexuals in seminaries and an ongoing nationwide assessment of seminary formation programs in the U.S.
San Francisco, Calif., Dec 7, 2005 (CNA) - With the film debut of the highly anticipated Chronicles of Narnia just days away for most cities, California-based Ignatius Press has announced the re-release of a unique book chronicling the life of author C.S. Lewis.
Originally released in 1979, Remembering C.S. Lewis; Recollections of those who knew him, is made up of essays from Lewis’ friends, students and acquaintances--all of whom were specially commissioned by editor James T. Como for the book.
Como is one of the founding members of the New York C.S. Lewis Society, and an expert on Lewis’ life and writings.
Christine Valentine-Owsik, spokesperson for Ignatius Press explained that “through [the] recollections…we see Lewis as he takes on atheism, materialism, and a host of other contemporary challenges and issues.”
She said that the reader also gets a chance to see him “in everyday settings--from pacing on a railroad station platform to presiding over leisurely dinners with students…expounding on the virtues of the pub.”
In his preface for the new 2005 edition, Como recalls that “over these last thirteen years [since the book’s last edition], we will have seen what I thought most unlikely twenty-six years ago…” namely, what he called “fine scholarship” and even filmmaking, which casts light on who Lewis truly was.
He encourages readers to take an amplified look at his thought and writings, lest he regress to the status of a celebrity--”famous for being known,” particularly in light of the upcoming film.
According to Valentine-Owsik, “readers of this book and fans of Narnia will quickly see how the man who was Clive S. Lewis--’Jack’ to his friends--was a generous, imaginative, yet razor-sharp moralist and philosopher whose world view is translated into a world that rivets, charms, and disarms.”
The book sells for $16.95 and can be obtained through Ignatius Press at www.ignatius.com
Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2005 (CNA) - In a sharp letter to China’s United States ambassador, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have condemned the attack of 16 Franciscan nuns in that country and called China to account for the crime.
Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando wrote that “Much of the world, regrettably, has become accustomed to the frequent suppression of religious practice, especially of Christians, in your country.”
“However,” he said, “the news of the brutal attack on defenseless Catholic nuns on November 23 in the city of Xian has come as a shock to millions around the world.”
Bishop Wenski is chairman of the USCCB’s committee on International Policy.
According to reports, the attack took place while 30-40 nuns were peacefully protesting the demolition of an elementary school when a group of men, armed with sticks and clubs, charged the sisters.
The Bishop wrote that “this barbaric behavior calls for a thorough investigation and appropriate sanctions against those responsible.”
“Government offers” he pointed out, “to pay for part of the hospital expenses incurred is implicit acknowledgement of official involvement in the attack and is a thoroughly inadequate response.”
He added that his predecessor, Bishop John Ricard, “wrote to you three times over the past two years without receiving a response from your Embassy. I do hope that you will communicate our concerns to Beijing and I request the honor of a reply.”
Krakow, Poland, Dec 7, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Krakow Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, who during 27 years, former personal secretary of Pope John Paul II, asserted to the Polish news agency PAP, that the recent critics thrown by dissident theologians only reinforces the beatification process of Karol Wojtyla.
Referring to the campaign launched by dissident theologians against the beatification of John Paul II, Archbishop Dziwisz remarked that “this kind of manifestations only hastens the beatifications process.”
“Of the Holy Father-said the prelate-we can only say that he always defended man before false ideologies and their preachers and History vindicated him.”
“I think it’s one more opportunity to acknowledge the sanctity of John Paul II,” he added.
The former secretary of the Polish Pope later explained that there is a widespread opinion that is witnessing the names that appear on this protest against the beatification of John Paul II, “there is no reason to fear for the beatification process, because nobody serious will consider these critics.”
A e-mail address is available to send testimonies of holiness of John Paul II. The Rome Diocese Vicariate, where the case for beatification has been opened, has made available an e-mail address to which witnesses can contribute to the cause.
Due to the significant number of testimonies and the limited staff involved in the beatification cause, they have only considered the serious testimonies, well detailed and supported by documents, preferably in Italian or English.
The e-mail is : [email protected]