Archive of January 18, 2006

Supreme Court decides in favor of Oregon’s assisted suicide law

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2006 (CNA) - Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Attorney General does not have the authority to halt Oregon doctors from helping terminally ill patients to kill themselves.

The case, Gonzales vs. the State of Oregon, protects--for now--a one-of-a-kind physician assisted suicide law called the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. Opponents say that the practice is hopelessly immoral and violates a doctor’s Hippocratic Oath of protecting life and preventing harm to patients.

The Supreme Court said that the Bush administration improperly attempted to use a federal drug act to regulate and punish doctors who tried to prescribe lethal drugs to terminal patients.

The decision came on a 6-3 vote, with new Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Thomas and Scalia, dissenting.

According to the syllabus of the case, the decision held that the U.S. Controlled Substances Act "does not allow the Attorney General to prohibit doctors from prescribing regulated drugs for use in physician-assisted suicide under state law permitting the procedure."

The remarks rebuke an attempt by former Attorney General John Ashcroft, who declared the act illegal.

About 30 people a year exercise the so-called “right”, which is exclusive to the state of Oregon, but with the new ruling, some fear that other states could enact similar measures.

Dorothy Timbs, legislative counsel for the National Right to Life’s Powell Center for Medical Ethics said that, “The Court held that the use of federally controlled drugs for the purpose of assisting suicide is not ‘drug abuse’ because the physician is not facilitating drug addiction, but instead seeking to kill.”

“This”, she said, “is a shocking conclusion since one of the things that we most fear in drug abuse is danger to the life of the addict.”

She pointed out that “Nothing in the decision suggests that Congress lacks the constitutional authority to amend the Act to make clear that federally controlled drugs may not be used to kill people,” and called it a “dangerous precedent for all vulnerable Americans, especially those with disabilities and life or health-threatening illnesses.”

Likewise, Dr. John Haas, President of the National Catholic Bioethics center, expressed his profound disappointment at the Court’s ruling, saying that “those entrusted with the regulation of controlled substances are being denied the opportunity to carry out a very important exercise of their authority and oversight in a critical medical setting…”

He said that the Act diminishes “the quality of health care that is ultimately made available to suffering patients, and promoting the abuse of controlled substances.”

Adding that the act “deliberately takes the life of a person who receives his or her life as a gift from God,” Haas said that, “Physician-assisted suicide represents a fundamental violation of this gift and of human dignity."

Added Timbs: “Drugs should be used to cure and relieve pain, never to kill.”

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Archdiocese criticizes bishop’s stance on sex abuse

Detroit, Mich., Jan 18, 2006 (CNA) - Officials of the Archdiocese of Detroit have criticized an auxiliary bishop for supporting a statute of limitations that would give clergy abuse victims more time to sue.

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, 75, spoke last week in support of Ohio legislation to extend the statute of limitations on lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests. During his talk in Columbus, Ohio, he also revealed that a priest had inappropriately touched him while he was a student at a Catholic high school in the mid-1940s.

However, diocesan spokesperson Ned McGrath pointed out Sunday that Bishop Gumbleton authorized church lawyers to invoke a statute of limitations to block lawsuits that claimed he and others failed to monitor a priest accused of abusing children.

The bishop said the legal defense was invoked without his knowledge.

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Episcopalian bishop removes priest for stance against gay bishop

Hartford, Conn., Jan 18, 2006 (CNA) - An Episcopalian priest was removed from his duties because he disagreed with the consecration of the church’s first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Bishop Andrew Smith of Connecticut formally stripped Mark Hansen of his priestly functions Saturday; Hansen had been suspended from ministry six months earlier.

Hansen was among six priests and parishes who had asked to be supervised by a different bishop because they disagreed with Smith's support for Robinson’s 2003 ordination, which has divided the U.S. Episcopal Church and created a rift among churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Hansen, who resigned his priesthood in September, refused to meet with the bishop. The bishop has not yet decided on action against the five other priests, who have been threatened with suspension. He said he hopes for reconciliation.

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Scottish Catholics seek exemption re adoptions by same-sex couples

, Jan 18, 2006 (CNA) - Catholics in Scotland are seeking an exemption for Church-run adoption agencies from laws that would allow children to be adopted by homosexual and lesbian couples. The law would come into force next year.

Church leaders are now asking the Scottish Executive to consider providing a “conscience clause” for church and other faith-based groups, which would allow them to reject same-sex couples considering adoption, reported the Universe Catholic Newspaper.

Bishop John Cunningham of Galloway said the new law undervalues “the unique contribution that a stable married couple can make to the upbringing of children and they have grave reservations concerning the ability of same sex-couples or unmarried heterosexual couples, however loving they might be, to provide the stability and the role models that a married couple can.

“If the proposals go ahead as they stand, the bishops would certainly expect an exemption similar to that given in England to the faith-based adoption agencies".

Cardinal Keith O’Brien has warned that Scotland’s adopted children must not become “guinea pigs in some distorted social experiment aimed at redefining marriage, subverting the family and threatening the good of society”.

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Popular Catholic author, artist, to receive Biblical School honor

Denver, Colo., Jan 18, 2006 (CNA) - On February 3rd, popular Canadian Catholic author and artist, Michael O’Brien will be honored by the Denver Catholic Biblical School with the Servant of the Word Award at the school’s yearly gala.

O’Brien, who has been a professional artist since 1970, is well known for penning the popular Father Elijah novel as well as the more-recent Sophia House, among others.

Dr. Tim Gray, head of the Biblical School told the Denver Catholic Register that, “To serve the word is broader than just teaching Scripture directly…Michael has embodied the word through his art and his writings.”

“A lot of Michael’s art”, he added, “has depicted scenes from Scripture or spiritual themes from Scripture. In his book, ‘Cry of Stone,’ the lead character, who is an artist, says that an artist must be faithful to the word given them by God. Michael has done this in an exemplary fashion and we want to honor that.”

O’Brien himself created the “Mother and Child Reading the Word” icon that has become the Biblical School’s trademark logo.

The author and artist, who has also written numerous articles on cultural issues--particularly children’s literature--will deliver the keynote address at the February 3rd gala.  

So far, O’Brien has authored 7 books and, much to his own admitted surprise, his novel Father Elijah, about a priest called by the Pope to share the Gospel with the antichrist, has become a bestseller in both religious and secular markets, having sold over 40,000 copies in hardcover thus far.

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Spanish president: Faith has no place in public square

Madrid, Spain, Jan 18, 2006 (CNA) - During a visit to a school in the southern city of Jaen, Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said that in a non-sectarian state like Spain, “no morality, no religion can be imposed on the law” and that faith should be restricted to private life.

While conversing with a group of students from the school, Zapatero said faith has no rights in the public square and that it belongs strictly in the private sphere.  “You cannot legislate faith, faith is something inside of each person, and we legislate in a way which, I believe, in a democracy must broaden individual rights as much as possible and recognize as much as possible the plurality that society has,” he stated.

While he acknowledged that Spain has an important relationship with the Catholic Church and that the Constitution establishes that special relationship, Zapatero rejected what he called the “imposition” of religious and moral values on laws.

“What we must be clear about is that a non-sectarian country is a country in which civic values, from all points of view, establish that no morality or religion can be imposed on the law,” Zapatero claimed.

“We must extend rights to the maximum and recognize all types of plurality,” he continued, such that “no religious faith can impose its beliefs on society.”

Zapatero said the law must respect all religious confessions and should grant special consideration to those of the majority.  Nevertheless, he insisted that specific moral beliefs should be conveyed neither through education nor through civil laws. 

The Spanish president affirmed that students have the right to receive religious instruction in public schools, but the government has opted to make such courses voluntary.  Religion, he claimed, is not a subject of knowledge that prepares a person for professional life, but rather it is an individual matter of faith, which should be respect but which cannot be proven.  “That is the reasonable balance in a democratic system and a non-sectarian state,” he said.

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Mexican bishops urge laity to participate in politics

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 18, 2006 (CNA) - The Committee on the Laity of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico is calling on the faithful not to abstain from voting and to get involved in politics as the coming presidential elections draw near.

In a statement the Committee noted that politics is the search for the common good and “nothing at all justifies the absence and skepticism of Christians with regards to the public square.”  Catholics, the bishops wrote, will contribute to strengthening democracy and overcoming disillusionment. 

The bishops went on to underscore that Catholics have the right and the duty to act in accord with their principles and convictions, drawing upon the richness of the Christian vision of humanism.  It’s not a question of imposing one’s religious beliefs, they added, but rather of giving arguments based on the faith that bring light to temporal realities.

The message calls on the laity not “to become entrapped in the emotion and confrontation of those who seek power in spite of the common good, justice and peace of the country.”

The bishops warned that democratic participation is not restricted to the voting booth, but rather implies daily involvement in the life of the country.  “The electing of leaders is a democratic act that requires the conscious participation of the laity,” they noted.

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Church defends human dignity, Chilean bishops tell homosexual leader

Santiago, Chile, Jan 18, 2006 (CNA) - The President of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, Bishop Alejandro Goic, told a prominent homosexual leader this week that the Church defends the dignity of all persons and that the Bishops’ Conference is always willing to enter into dialogue.

The “Episcopate’s doors are open to any organization that wishes to dialogue about the issues that interest or concern that organization or person.  That’s why we met with this individual.  We had a very sincere dialogue,” Bishop Goic said of the meeting with Rolando Jimenez of the Homosexual Movement for Integration and Liberation.

Speaking to reporters, Bishop Goic said that during the meeting “we pointed out, first of all, that each person is a child of God, created in His image and likeness and who therefore deserves our most profound respect.”  “The dignity of every person is sacred,” he said.

Father Fernando Chomali of the bishops’ National Committee on Bioethics, who also spoke with reporters, recalled that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, open to life, and in the case of persons with homosexual tendencies, the Church receives them with love and invites them to live in chastity.  He added that the Church would always “make her position known” whenever legislation on marriage is proposed.

Jimenez called the meeting sincere, although he acknowledged that “profound differences” exist between his ideas and the teachings of the Church.

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Philippine congress to debate new law on sterilization and contraception

Madrid, Spain, Jan 18, 2006 (CNA) - The Philippine Congress is set to debate a new law this week that would promote sterilizations and would threaten health workers with jail time for not making contraceptives available.

The new law called “Responsible parenthood and population control” was approved in committee months ago and according to family groups, is almost assured passage by the full Congress because of the support of most lawmakers for the population programs of the UN and various western non-governmental organizations.

According to the measure, families with two or less children would be given priority in the Philippines for government scholarships.  The measure would also make sex-ed obligatory in school starting at age 10.  Health workers who refuse to perform sterilizations or provide contraceptives would be punished with up to six months in prison.

The project would include a massive propaganda campaign about population control, contraceptive methods and incentives for sterilization.  The bill would establish a government “population official” for each region. 

Passage of the law would mean an end to the country’s reasonably successful efforts to promote abstinence and marital fidelity.  The Philippines has enjoyed a low rate of AIDS infection among adults, with the rate being 0.1% in 2001.

Although the birth rate in the Philippines during the last 30 years has dropped from 6 to 2.8 children per woman and the UN has admitted that such a drop will bring negative consequences for the country in the future, the United Nations Population Fund has carried out extensive campaign in favor of the law, which in addition would earmark $26 million for reproductive health programs.

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Pope Benedict: encyclical to be released Jan 25, to deal with true meaning of love

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2006 (CNA) - During his general audience held today at the Vatican, Pope Benedict announced that his long waited, first Encyclical, on the theme of love, will be released on January 25th.

The title of the document is "Deus Caritas Est," which means, “God is love,” a theme taken from the first letter of St. John. It will be made public during an official presentation in the Holy See Press Office at noon.

The Pope explained the document’s contents saying that "love today often appears as something far removed from Church teaching." Yet "It is a single movement that has various dimensions."

"Charity," he continued, "is the love that renounces itself in favor of others. 'Eros' becomes 'agape' if one seeks the good of others; it becomes 'caritas' if it opens to one's own family and to the entire human family."

The Holy Father added that this first Encyclical "seeks to show that the very personal act of love must be expressed within the Church also as an organizational act. If it is true that the Church is an expression of God, it must be true that love becomes an ecclesial act."

He called it “a sign of Providence that the Encyclical will be published on January 25, the final day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, when I will go to the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, to pray together with our Protestant and Orthodox brethren."

The Pope concluded his brief address--given before some 8,000 pilgrims--by expressing his hope that the new document will "illuminate our Christian life."

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Despite division, ecumenical movement distinguished by common communion in Christ, says Pope

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking before an estimated 8,000 pilgrims gathered at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI called the Christian ecumenical movement unique from other religious dialogues and initiatives because of its common union in Christ.

He dedicated his catechesis during today's general audience to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins today.

The Holy Father began by pointing out that The Week of Prayer represents "an important opportunity to reflect upon the drama of division within the Christian community and to ask, together with Jesus Himself, that 'all might be one, ... that the world may believe'."

"Prayer for the 'union of all'“, he said, “involves - in different forms, times and ways - Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants, united by faith in Jesus Christ, the one Lord and Savior."

Such prayer, he added, "is part of the central nucleus that Vatican Council II called 'the soul of the whole ecumenical movement'."

Benedict said, "The elements that, despite the permanent division, still unite Christians, sustain the possibility of raising a common prayer to God. This communion in Christ upholds the entire ecumenical movement and indicates the goal of the search for unity among all Christians in the Church of Christ.”

“This”, he stressed, “distinguishes the ecumenical movement from all other initiatives of dialogue and contact with other religions and ideologies."

The Pope also called for prayers to be raised during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and during Pentecost, as an expression of "the shared commitment to re-establish the full communion of all Christians."

He noted however, that these prayers must be more that mere petition.

"We can also give thanks to the Lord for the new situation painstakingly created through ecumenical relations among Christians in their newfound brotherhood, for the strong links of solidarity that have been forged, for the growth of communion, and for the convergence, ... between various forms of dialogue.”

“The future”, he pointed out, “stands before us."

The Pope concluded his audience by calling to mind the words of his predecessor, the late John Paul II who, he said, “did and suffered so much for the ecumenical question."

Citing John Paul’s Encyclical "Ut unum sint", the Pope said that “An appreciation of how much God has already given is the condition which disposes us to receive those gifts still indispensable for bringing to completion the ecumenical work of unity."

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