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Archive of April 25, 2006

Colorado mourns 39th anniversary of America's first abortion law

Denver, Colo., Apr 25, 2006 (CNA) - Colorado Right to Life (CRLC) is recalling the anniversary of the passage of the nation's first abortion law, signed April 25, 1967, and mourning the loss of the millions of innocent babies killed in their mother's womb since then.

"Our nation is owed an apology for our state's role in starting the abortion holocaust," said Diane Hochevar, CRLC president. "As America begins to ponder the significant loss of love and talent our nation has discarded as medical waste, it should remember that when Colorado made the tragic error of allowing pre-born lives to be destroyed through abortion, we began a culture of death which has led to all human life being greatly devalued."

The organization applauds South Dakota for passing the first law restoring legal protection to pre-born babies and urges every state to follow suit.

CRLC claims that Terri Schiavo and others like her might not have been in jeopardy had Colorado rejected the taking of innocent life for cases of rape, incest and the mother's health back in 1967.

"When babies aren't safe in their mother's wombs, we are all in danger," added Leslie Hanks, CRLC’s vice president.

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Archbishop Chaput calls for fairness in sex-abuse lawsuits, settlements

Denver, Colo., Apr 25, 2006 (CNA) - As controversy heats up nationwide and particularly in Colorado over the question of amending statutes of limitation for sexual abusers, Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput is saying that any new legislation “must be comprehensive, fair, and equally applied.”

In his article in the May issue of First Things, entitled “Suing the Church”, the archbishop addresses the problem of extending statutes of limitation and the impact it has on Catholic communities in particular.

Colorado’s state Senate is scheduled to meet this morning to debate passage of new legislation which would remove the statutes and open the Church up to a flood of lawsuits. Many Catholics around the state are calling the state’s two potential bills “blatantly anti-Catholic.”

When California Senate Bill 1779 became law, it opened a one-year window to revive expired California sex-abuse claims, some from 70 years ago. More than 1,000 plaintiffs filed previously expired claims. Legislation, modeled on California’s, would likely bring about the same thing in Colorado.
 
“Statutes of limitation exist for good reasons: to protect justice, not prevent it. They were created to encourage a timely and fair resolution of claims, which is why law-enforcement officials support them. Over time, memories fade, witnesses die, evidence grows stale, and fraudulent claims increase,” he writes.

The archbishop also pointed out discrepancies in the ways that sexual abuse claims and lawsuits are treated in the Church versus public institutions, particularly public schools, where the problem is far worse.

“For exactly the same sexual abuse in a public school and a Catholic parish, the difference in financial exposure is millions of dollars,” he writes. The same rules must be applied to all institutions right across the board, he insists.

He also criticizes the move in several states to extend the statutes of limitations, saying that it “makes no sense to hold innocent people accountable today for the evil actions of a small number of individuals from decades ago.”

“The people paying for these abuse settlements are innocent Catholic families who had no part in events of the past. Revenge is not justice, no matter how piously one argues it. Punishing the innocent is wrong, yet that’s exactly what laws imposing ‘retroactive liability’ are designed to do,” he says.

He argues that settlements should be based on “balanced restitution” and based on “what will help a wounded person heal and find a fresh start—and not on a litigation ‘market price’ based on the last highest settlement paid by another institutional defendant.”

“Communities of faith have an obligation to generously help the people who have been hurt by their members, past or present” he writes. But he maintains that they also have a right to maintain their mission of serving others.

The move to amend the statutes “could easily decimate the remaining resources of the Catholic faithful in the United States and steal the religious future from a generation of Catholic young people,” he writes.

“Caring for the victims of abuse and assisting them sacrificially is a good and urgent thing. So is fighting bad laws. We need to focus earnestly on both,” he concludes.

 

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Benedict XVI plans October visit to Verona for historic Italian ecclesial convention

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2006 (CNA) - The Italian Bishops Conference announced today that Pope Benedict is planning on visiting the city of Verona in northern Italy on October 19--the occasion of the 4th National Ecclesial Convention, an event that gathers the representatives of the Catholic Church in Italy once each decade.

The convention will last four days, from October 16th to 20th. The theme this year will be “Giving Testimony of Jesus Risen, Hope for the world.” The program of the pontiff’s visit was published this week by the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household.

The Pope will arrive in Verona in the morning, and will meet with participants at the city’s convention center, where he will address the entire assembly. In the afternoon, he will preside over Mass in the Municipal Stadium at four o’clock.

The Mass is open to all of the city’s faithful as well as pilgrims from other dioceses of the region Veneto. Pope Benedict will travel back to Rome later in the day. More than 2,500 people, including delegates from various dioceses, representatives of institutes of consecrated life, members of lay organizations and people invited by the Italian Bishops Conference are expected to attend the assembly.

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U.S. bishops pledge support to ban on same-sex marriage

Washington D.C., Apr 25, 2006 (CNA) - A coalition of some 50 prominent religious leaders, including six Catholic cardinals and six archbishops, have signed a petition and pledged to support a constitutional amendment blocking same-sex marriage, reported the New York Times.

The petition also included prominent evangelical Protestants, a few rabbis and an official from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Matt Daniels, founder of the Alliance for Marriage, an umbrella group that supports an amendment, told the Times that the members of the religious groups represent "huge numbers" of people.

The group has committed to distributing postcards or letters to their congregants to send to senators urging support for the amendment. At the request of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Knights of Columbus printed 10 million postcards addressed to U.S. senators that they are distributing to Catholic churches around the country.

Republican Senate leaders have scheduled a vote in June on the proposed constitutional amendment, and Catholic officials seem more directly involved in this debate than when the amendment was debated in 2004.

Ohio and other pivotal states have already amended their constitutions regarding marriage, but one survey has suggested that the public's opposition is cooling, reported the Times.

In May, a nonpartisan Pew Research Poll found that 51 percent of the public opposed legalizing gay marriage, down from 63 percent in February 2004.

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Catholic Charities, Christian Churches voice opposition to unfair french immigration reform

Paris, France, Apr 25, 2006 (CNA) - A number of France’s major church leaders, including Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, President of the French Bishops Conference and Archbishop of Bordeaux, have sent a letter to the government expressing concern over the drafting of a bill to reform the country’s immigration law. The bill is scheduled to be debated in parliament.

In the April 22nd letter, the church leaders criticize a project that will implement selective immigration, allowing only the well-qualified and educated.  

“The existence of undocumented aliens”, they wrote, “is an undeniable reality that amounts to more than hundreds of thousands people. Can we just offer them to go back to their homelands, by force or by will?” ...The weakest will be brought to desperation.”

“We deem this as both unrealistic from a practical point of view and problematic on a human scale,” they continued. “We therefore regret that this draft only contains measures that would have the effect of restraining the possibilities to regularize the situation of these aliens.”

On April 24, another letter was sent to the government by the country’s director of Catholic Charities, Jean-Pierre Richer, who, along with other associations, expressed concern over the issue. That letter was entitled, “We cannot compromise with immigrant’s rights.”  

“We find in this text the same spirit of a similar law ten years ago; just a multiplication of obstacles that prevent immigrants to obtain a resident permit,” said Jose Da Silva, director of the national service for the pastoral care of migrants at the French Bishops Conference.

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Pontifical Justice and Peace undersecretary named Coadjutor of Venice, Florida

Washington D.C., Apr 25, 2006 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced that Pope Benedict XVI has named Monsignor Frank J. Dewane, Undersecretary of the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, as Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, Florida.

Bishop-designate Dewane was named to the Pontifical Council in 2002 and will now hold the right of succession to Venice’s Bishop John J. Nevins, in the event of his death or retirement.

Msgr. Dewane was named a priest for the Diocese of Green Bay in 1988 following a career in international business and subsequent theological studies at the Gregorian Angelicum and North American Pontifical colleges in Rome.

He has been involved as a Holy See observer to the United Nations and served with the Vatican’s charitable organization, Cor Unum in addition to his role on the Council of Justice and Peace.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., announced the appointment  in Washington D.C.

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Judge calls Spokane sexual abuse settlement legally unacceptable

Spokane, Wash., Apr 25, 2006 (CNA) - A federal bankruptcy judge has decided that the nearly $46-million settlement between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane and sex abuse victims is legally unacceptable.

In a hearing Friday, Judge Patricia Williams said the deal cannot be approved because it favors one group of victims over another, reported the Associated Press.

“This settlement violates a rule that requires fair treatment,” Williams said, adding that bankruptcy “can’t treat people differently.”

The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2004 because of sex abuse claims and has offered to settle the claims of 75 victims for $45.7 million. More than 100 other claims have been filed since.

The diocese is reviewing “claims of proof” filed by claimants not covered by the so-called “universal settlement,” but no sum has been attached to their claims, reported the AP.

Williams stopped short of ruling against the settlement offer, but warned attorneys for both sides that she expected the matter to be settled quickly. A hearing is scheduled for May 15.

Shaun Cross, a lawyer for the Washington diocese, told the AP he is confident the settlement can be restructured.

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Socialists petition Spanish congress to recognize ‘human rights’ of apes

Madrid, Spain, Apr 25, 2006 (CNA) - In response to reports that Socialists in Spain have asked the congress in that country to include apes in the category of persons, Archbishop Fernando Sebastian of Pamplona said such attempts to be “progressive” were “ridiculous” and that calling for human rights for apes was like calling for humans to be granted the rights of bulls.

Archbishop Sebastian also criticized the government for “not granting the rights of persons to the unborn” and instead “giving them to monkeys.”  “This society is either ridiculous or disjointed,” he said.

The leaders behind the movement plan to inform lawmakers about the current situation of apes at zoos and circuses in the country and will ask them to support their campaign demanding such animals be granted “the moral and legal protection that currently only human beings enjoy.”

Last September, Representative Francisco Garrido of the Socialist party applauded two scientific studies which “appeared, almost simultaneously, in order to remind us of the evolutionary proximity and genetic similarity we have with our relatives, the great apes.”

“Monkeys should be granted the rights of apes,” Archbishop Sebastian continued, “but not human rights, as that would be like saying humans should be granted the rights of bulls. I don’t get it,” he said.

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Urgent call for prayer as decision on abortion looms over Columbian Supreme Court

Bogotá, Colombia, Apr 25, 2006 (CNA) - Pro-life and pro-family groups in Colombia are urging prayers for the right to life in that country after it was revealed that four of Colombia’s nine Supreme Court justices have made up their minds on the issue of abortion.

According to a report in the liberal Colombian daily “El Tiempo,” two justices have decided to vote in favor of legalizing abortion while two others have said they will maintain their pro-life positions.

According to the newspaper, of the other five justices, the Chief Justice has withheld his thoughts because of his involvement in the drafting of the new Penal Code; another says he has an “intermediate” position—which analysts say is difficult to interpret—and the positions of the other three justices remain unknown.

If the court is evenly split, an outside judge would have to cast the deciding vote, but according to “El Tiempo,” the justices are eager to avoid that outcome.

As a decision on the issue is imminent, pro-life groups are calling on all Colombians and people of good will join in prayer that the right to life will be protected in the South American country.

“Let us ask God,” pro-life leaders said, “that the State and the legislature recognize their obligation to defend human life without reserve.  Especially, the innocent lives of the unborn.”

“Let us pray that the people who today are on the Constitutional Court understand they have the responsibility to choose life, that the grace of God will enlighten them in this decision.”  The public can participate in the prayer campaign by visiting http://oracionporlavida.googlepages.com/home

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Mexican presidential candidates to present proposals to bishops

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 25, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico, Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago, confirmed this week that several of the country’s presidential candidates, including Roberto Madrazo, Andres Lopez Obrador and Felipe Calderon, will address the bishops at their general assembly April 24-28 about their proposals for the country.

Speaking to reporters, Bishop Rabago explained that “due to the short amount of time we have for this assembly,” it was impossible “to permit other candidates to attend.”

“We hope that the candidates will explain their proposals in order to maintain an equally close relationship with all, as later they will debate in public in order to make their plans known to the entire country so that people can have greater clarity about the person for whom they will vote in the upcoming elections,” he added.

Historic encounter

The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, called the upcoming meeting with the candidates “historic”, adding that “this type of thing has never happened before.”

In an interview with the newspaper “Proceso,” Bishop Aguiar Retes said the bishops are interested in “knowing firsthand the position of each candidate” about “those issues that are of interest to us” and about which “they speak little,” such as the defense of life and values.

Another issue of concern to the Church in Mexico is access to the media and full recognition of religious freedom.

Bishop Retes said the meetings with the candidates will be private and last two hours.  Candidates will first outline their proposals and then take questions from the bishops.

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Cardinal Rouco calls for ‘alliance of faith’ between Argentina and Spain

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 25, 2006 (CNA) - During the celebration of Mass at the Basilica of Lujan near Buenos Aires, the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, called on the people of Argentina and Spain to “advance an alliance of faith, founded on the love of Christ.”

“It has been a joy to discover the similarities that exist between Madrid and Buenos Aires.  Argentina and Spain should make an alliance of faith, which should be based on the love of Christ,” the cardinal said.

After the Mass, Cardinal Rouco, together with Bishop Ruben Di Monte of Lujan-Mercedes, blessed the hundreds of faithful gathered at the Basilica.

Last Thursday the Spanish cardinal was made an honorary citizen of the city of Mar del Plata and given an honorary doctorate by one of the local Catholic universities.

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