Archive of May 4, 2006

Experts skeptical, saddened by Guttmacher report on state of abortion in U.S.

Washington D.C., May 4, 2006 (CNA) - On Friday, the Alan Guttmacher Institute--the research arm of Planned Parenthood--will release a new report on the past, present and future state of abortion in the U.S. and the world. Even prior to its release however, many are critical of the document, calling it a work of propaganda aimed at building up the abortion industry.

Mercy Gutierrez, a columnist for Catholic News Agency who works with the Denver-based group, ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women) viewed an advance copy of the report, and told CNA that while she wasn’t particularly surprised, she was saddened.

In its section entitled, ‘Incidence of Abortion’ the report showed that 46 million abortions take place across the world, while only about 1.3 million of those are performed in the U.S.

Gutierrez said this fact convinced her that “’population control programs’ along with the global dominance of NGOs like Planned Parenthood capitalize on under-developed third world countries and use these programs as leverage when conducting foreign policy relations.”

She cited efforts made by the Bush administration to end these practices but questioned the specific percentages of third-world abortions.

Likewise, Gutierrez said that another of the report’s statistics suggesting that more than half of all abortions in the U.S. are performed on women in their 20s and two-thirds of them occur among women who have never been married “convinces me of our society’s ‘crisis of commitment’ and misunderstanding of sexuality.”

“I know it is not a surprise since we are living in a hedonistic ‘culture of death’”, she said, “but seeing the stats to prove it is eye-opening.”

Another of the report’s sections seeks to expose the relatively high number of abortions among Christians, and particularly Catholics.

To this, Gutierrez called it “a sad reality to see that Catholic women are more likely to have an abortion than other Christians, but again this points to a lack of catechesis or understanding about the fetus being a LIFE, about God’s greater plan for our lives.”

Agenda-driven statistics?

Likewise, Ramesh Ponnuru, a columnist for the National Review who has actually commended the Guttmacher Institute’s past research called the latest report, merely an attempt “to put social science behind Planned Parenthood's agenda.”

He adds that “It pretends that the latest studies all vindicate the view that parental-consent laws on abortion, for example, are ‘bad public policy.’” and claims “that abortion almost never has any adverse effects on women and suggests that the only way to reduce abortion rates is to increase access to contraception.”

He points to questionable statistics about the decline in numbers of abortions since the passing of Roe vs. Wade, saying that it’s doubtful that numbers actually fell from as many as 1.2 million before legalization to 899,000 after the practice was made legal.

Ponnuru also called misleading the statistics which show a drop in the number of maternal deaths following Roe v. Wade pointing out that the report’s own charts showed that those deaths were already dropping prior to the court decision.

Despite questionable statistics, Gutierrez lamented the culture which has grown up around abortion and contraception on demand.

She pointed out that everything Pope Paul VI (in Humane Vitae) and John Paul II “said has come to fruition. Contraceptive use has spurred a general lowering of morality, increased sexual promiscuity, detachment of consequences that come from sexual activity, and complete ignorance that intercourse should be committed and should be love-making.” 

Overall, she called the report as well as the culture it cites, “Very, very sad.”   

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Vatican condemns illicit Chinese bishop ordinations, expects excommunications

Vatican City, May 4, 2006 (CNA) - Following yesterday’s announcement of a second ordination--in the same week--of a Catholic bishop in China without consent from the Vatican, the Holy See has announced its profound condemnation and said that excommunication is now likely for the two illicit bishops as well as their consecrators.

Farther Joseph Ma Yinglin was consecrated bishop last Sunday in the province of Yunnan, while Fr. Joseph Liu Xinhong, was ordained to the province of Anhui on Wednesday.

In a statement, Holy See Press Office director Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that “the Holy Father has learned of the news with profound displeasure, since an act so relevant for the life of the Church, such as an episcopal ordination, has been carried out in both cases without respecting the requirements of communion with the Pope.”

He called the act “a grave wound to the unity of the Church, for which severe canonical sanctions, as it is known, are foreseen (cfr. canon 1382 from the Code of Canon Law).”

According to the current information received by the Vatican, “bishops and priests have been subjected to - on the part of external entities to the Church - strong pressures and to threats, so that they would take part in the episcopal ordinations which, being without pontifical mandate, are illegitimate and, besides, contrary to their conscience.”

“Various prelates”, Navarro-Valls pointed out, “have given a refusal to similar pressures, while others were not able to do anything but submit with great interior suffering. Episodes of this kind produce lacerations not only in the Catholic community but also in the internal conscience itself.”

He said that the Church now faces “a grave violation of religious liberty, notwithstanding that it is sought to present the two episcopal ordinations as a proper act to provide the pastors for vacant dioceses.”

The press director explained that for some time the Holy See has followed “with attention the troubled path of the Catholic Church in China and even aware of some particularities of such a path, believed and hoped that similar, deplorable episodes by now would belong to the past.”

“She considers that now it is her precise duty”, he continued, “to give voice to the suffering of the entire Catholic Church, in particular to that of the Catholic community in China and especially to that of those bishops and priests who were seen obligated, against conscience, to take part or to participate in the episcopal ordination, of which, neither the candidates or the consecrating bishops want to carry out without having received the pontifical mandate.”

Citing rumors of further episcopal ordinations, the Holy See asked for autonomy for the Chinese Chirch and expressed its wishes that “such unacceptable acts of violence and inadmissible constrictions are not repeated.”

Navarro-Valls pointed to the Church’s long-standing desire “for honest and constructive dialogue with the competent Chinese authorities for the purpose of finding a solution that would satisfy the needs of both parties,” but said that “initiatives such as the above mentioned do not favor such dialogue but instead create new obstacles against it." 

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Church ‘will not budge one inch’ on issue of condom use, says Cardinal Lopez Trujillo

Vatican City, May 4, 2006 (CNA) - In an exclusive interview with Colombia’s Radio Cadena Nacional (RCN), Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said the Catholic Church would not back down from its long-standing teaching on condoms and the prevention of AIDS.

The cardinal told RCN that the Vatican “maintains unmodified the teaching on condoms” and said the recent statements by Italian Cardinal Maria Martini “are nothing more than his own personal opinions which do not reflect [Church] teaching.”

Cardinal Lopez Trujillo said Pope Benedict XVI has not ordered any studies about modifying the prohibition on condom use.  “As a dicastery we do not have any instruction or any indication to the contrary, to carry out a study about something new with regards to condoms,” he stated.

The Colombian prelate said Cardinal Martini “should explain how the condom prevents AIDS if it is true he said it is a lesser evil.”

The Church believes the only way to truly combat AIDS, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo said, is through fidelity and chastity, which are the only morally acceptable means. Contraception, the Church teaches, damages the integrity of the full gift of self, which is intrinsic to the sexual act.

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Bishop Tafoya of Pueblo strongly denies charges of misconduct in handling of sex abuse case

Pueblo, Colo., May 4, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Arthur N. Tafoya of Pueblo, Colorado in an official, statement released today, answered to charges of negligence and misconduct directed against his diocese from lawyers and pressure groups defending victims of sexual abuse.  

The issue came to the attention of the diocese of Pueblo through an article released yesterday in the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper, and related by pressure groups, alleging the diocese had documents showing the diocese was aware of abuse in June 2002, way before any actions was formally taken.

To this Bishop Tafoya answered that  “as has been stated in recent newspaper articles, records indicate that the Diocese of Pueblo received no complaints or reports of sexual misconduct or abuse against former Brother Mueller until the recent claims.”

Lawyers handling the case insist that a letter from a former Roncalli High School student to church officials alerted them to possible sex abuse by a former Pueblo parochial school teacher more than three years before the local Catholic diocese acknowledged it was aware of any allegations.

“In the light of new complaints being made against former Brother Mueller, I wish to state that I am truly sorry for any harm and pain that has been suffered by victims of sexual misconduct,” Bishop Tafoya followed.
“The issue of clergy sexual misconduct is difficult and painful, not only for the individuals involved, but for the people of the Diocese as a whole.” 

Bishop Tafoya  concluded his letter reaffirming the commitment of “many priests, deacons and religious who are ministering capably and faithfully to the people of the Diocese of Pueblo; it is important that they know how much they are appreciated.”

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Archbishop says justice not served by suing innocent, calls for revision of state bill

Denver, Colo., May 4, 2006 (CNA) - Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput is urging a joint House-Senate conference committee to broker a “fair” and “reasonable” version of Colorado’s House Bill 1090, which deals with civil liability in sexual abuse cases.

The joint committee headed to its conference May 1.

In his column, published in the Denver Catholic Register, the archbishop warned against suing current Catholic communities for the crimes of the past.

“The continuing effort of some lawmakers in the Colorado General Assembly to burden the Catholic community with retroactive civil liability for past sexual abuse cases is a textbook example of anger posing as ‘justice,’” wrote the archbishop.

“The people who pay for these damaging lawsuits are … average, innocent Catholic families who had nothing to do with the evil actions of some bad or mentally ill abusers 25, 35 or 45 years ago,” he wrote.

“No one disputes the need for tough laws against the sexual abuse of minors. And everyone — both inside and beyond the Church — agrees that helping past victims of childhood sexual abuse to heal is a serious and urgent need,” he said. “But suing the innocent today for sins and crimes in the past is not justice.”

Archbishop Chaput explained that the Catholic bishops of Colorado endorsed the earlier HB 1088, which abolished the criminal statute of limitations regarding future cases of sexual abuse with minors because it was revised according to the concerns of the community.

But HB 1090 is another matter, he said. While HB1090 “passed out of the House this spring with some modest improvements to its content,” said the archbishop, “some key senators then essentially rewrote HB 1090 with the worst punitive and prejudicial elements of Senate Bill 143, pushed it through the Senate by a one-vote margin, and sent it back to the House.”

The archbishop added that all institutions — both public and private, Catholic and secular — should face the same penalties, financial damages and reporting standards for the society-wide crime of sexual abuse of a minor.

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After Church complaints, German court calls MTV’s ‘Popetown’ ‘too dumb to be insulting’

Munich, Germany, May 4, 2006 (CNA) - A Munich court yesterday rejected a call by local Catholic Church officials to ban MTV’s airing of Popetown, saying the Vatican parody is “too dumb to be insulting," reported the Irish Examiner.

The court said though the program has provoked “various reactions” it hasn’t risen to the level of disturbing the public peace, which it would have to do to warrant a ban.

The Music Television Network said last week it would broadcast only the first episode of the cartoon, and then consider public reaction before airing other episodes.

But the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising rejected the concession, instead filing a legal injunction against the broadcaster.

"In this way the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church are exposed to ridicule, which is justified neither by the freedom of opinion, of art, of the press nor of broadcasting," the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising said in a statement.

The bishops also attacked the television channel for an advertising campaign which showed Jesus getting down from the cross to sit in an armchair and watch the program, reported Reuters. The tagline read: Have a laugh instead of hanging around.

MTV said it had been prepared for resistance to "Popetown" but was surprised by the extent of the backlash from the Catholic Church, reported Reuters. The network also invited Church representatives, a youth political party and viewers to a broadcasted debate on the merits of the cartoon.

The BBC originally commissioned the program but decided in 2004 not to show it after protests from Church leaders. It was aired last year in New Zealand, despite a Church-led campaign against the broadcaster.

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Increasing numbers of immigrants cries out for a just solution, says USCCB president

Spokane, Wash., May 4, 2006 (CNA) - The mounting U.S. debate over immigration is an opportunity to finally find a just solution to the problem of undocumented workers, said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last week.

“Heated political debate, large demonstrations, and the presence of large numbers of migrants to this country have finally brought to a head the much-needed discussion, and search for a resolution, of the issue of immigration,” wrote Spokane’s Bishop William Skylstad in a column, published in the April 27 edition of the Spokane Diocese Inland Register.

“It is most important that we recognize that human beings are involved – people who have come to the United States to work and to live. They are brothers and sisters in Christ who deserve respect and support,” he wrote.

The presence of immigrants is integral to U.S. economy, he said, recalling that his father immigrated to the U.S. in 1927.

The bishop recognized that times have changed and that there are many more undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. than in the past. However, they come seeking work that they desperately need, he said.

“The reality of increasing numbers of undocumented persons cries out for a just resolution,” he said. “Unfortunately, their presence has occasioned a certain amount of immigrant bashing, and even some rather mean-spirited legislation proposed on the national level.”

“We certainly need to secure our borders,” he admitted. “But we have a need for workers in the United States, and people have responded to that need,” he pointed out.

The bishop cited several pastoral letters and documents the U.S. bishops have written on the issues surrounding immigration, either as state conferences, as a national conference and in conjunction with the Mexican bishops (2003).

The documents, he said, remind citizens and legislators that immigration is not just about policy and management but about real people crossing borders to meet their human needs and those of their families by seeking employment, peace, education and stability.

They urge Christians to live the Gospel call to “welcome the stranger.” They affirm the right of a person to migrate in search of a better life and that the dignity and rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.

More recently, the U.S. bishops have embarked upon a special campaign, Justice for Immigrants: A Journey of Hope, which calls for solidarity among the faithful and an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system, the bishops pointed out.

Proposed changes include more access to family reunification, abandoning border blockades, restoring due process protections for immigrants and providing legal pathways for migrants to come and work in a safe, humane, and orderly manner.

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Former Vatican Swiss Guards complete historic march to Rome in time for papal blessing

Rome, Italy, May 4, 2006 (CNA) - A group of former Swiss Vatican Guards, who arrived in Rome after re-enacting a historic march from Switzerland undertaken 500 years ago, will receive a special papal blessings today, reported

Their arrival in Rome launched the 500th-anniversary celebrations that mark the founding of the "smallest army in the world."

On January 21, 1506, 150 Swiss mercenaries marched to Rome in response to an invitation from Pope Julius II, who sought his own private army for protection against the Church’s enemies.

This past month, about 70 former guardsmen, from 25 to 76 years of age, took 28 days to march the same 720-km route from Bellinzona, Switzerland to Vatican City, following the historic "Via Francigena" pilgrimage route to Rome. Fifty other former papal guards walked part of the way.

The former Swiss guards will be officially welcomed by a delegation of officials from Rome and the Vatican. They will receive a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI today.

On Friday, Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger is scheduled to give a welcome speech on behalf of the Swiss government during an official ceremony in the Vatican City. New Swiss guardsmen will be sworn in on Saturday in St Peter's Square.

A wreath will also be laid in memory of the Swiss guards who died in 1527 defending the Vatican against the forces of Charles V.

Today, some 110 papal guards are responsible for the security of the Vatican as well as the person of the Pope.

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Austrian diocese sending USB hard drives with Church info as gifts to young people

, May 4, 2006 (CNA) - Since the start of 2006, the Austrian Diocese of Graz has begun sending a curious gift to all young people who celebrate their 18th birthday:  a USB hard drive with information about the Catholic Church.

According to the news agency, the portable hard drives contain information about the Diocese of Graz presented in a manner that is attractive to young people, as well as texts about the Catholic faith and a series of basic Christian prayers.

In a press release, the diocese said the purpose of the gifts is “to send the traditional birthday greeting of the Bishop to all those in the diocese who become legal adults, through the presentation of the aforementioned information.”

The initiative is intended to deepen and improve the relationship between young people and the Church and at the same time promote the acceptance and understanding of their necessary contribution to the mission of the Church.

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Masons claim compatibility with Christian faith, call for lifting of excommunication

Madrid, Spain, May 4, 2006 (CNA) - The head office of Masons in Spain is calling on the Spanish bishops’ Committee on the Doctrine of the Faith to review the decree of excommunication imposed on Catholics who practice Masonry, claiming it does not contradict Christianity.

In a press release, the Spanish masons said that the Church is committing an “injustice” in their case, because the Masonic system to which they belong—the Rectified Scottish Rite (RSR)—is “totally Christian” and does not attack “Christianity or any Roman Catholic dogma.”

The masons said they have turned over the complete texts of the RSR to the Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat “as sign of our good will and so that they can be calmly reviewed and studied by the person or persons designated by the Catholic Church.”

The masons said the press release was “the continuation of diverse contacts” that have been made with the Church in Spain.  They added that they were determined to find a resolution to the matter.  

The Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1983 states in canon 1374 that, a “person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; however, a person who promotes or directs an association of this kind is to be punished with an interdict.”

Since the new code only implicitly mentions Masonry, then-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, published a statement on November 26 of the same year in order to clear up any confusion and reaffirming the Church’s “negative judgment” regarding Masonry, “because their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the teaching of the Church.  

Consequently, membership in such associations continues to be prohibited by the Church.  The faithful who belong to Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and cannot present themselves to receive Holy Communion,” the statement noted.

Likewise it warned that local Church authorities do not have the competence to issue pronouncements about the nature Masonic associations that would imply a repealing of what the Church has already established in the declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of February 17, 1981.

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Cardinal encourages Catholics, Buddhists to work together in service of humanity

Vatican City, May 4, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue has sent a message to the world’s Buddhists, currently celebrating Vesakh, calling for a mutual respect and cooperation between the two religions in an effort to reclaim the idea of love, discussed in Pope Benedict’s recent encyclical.

The feast of Vesakh marks important events in the life of Gautama Buddha. In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition (China, Japan and Korea) these events are commemorated on different days.

The traditional message, entitled " Buddhists and Christians Serving Humanity" reflects on the nature of love, addressed by Pope Benedict XVI in his first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est".

Cardinal Poupard said that "The Pope is convinced that this word, so frequently used and yet so often misunderstood, needs to have its true meaning restored in order to become a beacon of light for everyday life".

"Through our dialogue”, he continued, “we have come to appreciate the importance that you Buddhists give to love for one's fellow human beings which is expressed in the concept of metta, a love without any desire to possess but only to help others.”

He called this “a love which is willing to sacrifice self-interest for the benefit of humanity. So metta, according to Buddhist teaching, is not confined to benevolent thought, but extends to the performance of charitable deeds, to the service of one and all. It is indeed a universal benevolence.”

"In this world where the word love is so often used and misused”, he stressed, “would it not be useful for Buddhists and Christians to rediscover its original meaning according to their respective traditions and to share their understanding with one another?”

“This”, he said, “would be an encouragement for the followers of both traditions to work together to build up relations based on love and truth, to promote mutual respect, to foster dialogue and to further collaboration in the service of those who are in need".

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Cardinal Pell of Sydney encourages Catholics to read Koran

Sydney, Australia, May 4, 2006 (CNA) - “I recommend that you too read this sacred text of the Muslims, because the challenge of Islam will be with us for the remainder of our lives – at least,” Cardinal Georges Pell of Sydney affirmed at a conference titled 'Islam and Western democracies', in Naples Florida.

The Archdiocese of Sydney published this week the text of a conference given on Islam and Western democracies on February 4, in Naples, Florida. Cardinal Pell sought to answer these following questions: Can Islam and the Western democracies live together peacefully? What of Islamic minorities in Western countries?

Cardinal Pell gave his own personal experience on Islam, particularly in the aftermath on September 11. “ I recognized that I had to know more about Islam” he conceded.

“I decided then to read this book for myself as a first step to adjudicating conflicting claims. And I recommend that you too read this sacred text of the Muslims, because the challenge of Islam will be with us for the remainder of our lives – at least,”, he said at the beginning of his conference.

Pell affirmed that “Most ordinary people, both Muslim and non-Muslim, share the desire for peace, stability and prosperity for themselves and their families.”

“I accept with reservations the claim that Jews, Christians and Muslims worship one god (Allah is simply the Arabic word for god) and there is only one true God available to be worshipped!”

Cardinal Pell also gave a historical survey of the relations between religious communities, clearing the myth of a genuine tolerance of Christian and Jewish minorities under Arab rule: “Arab rule in Spain and Portugal was a disaster for Christians and Jews, as was Turkish rule in the Balkans.”

The Sydney Cardinal wished to underline the fundamental differences between Christian and Muslims in understanding revelation: “In the Muslim understanding, the Koran comes directly from God, unmediated. The Bible, in contrast, is a product of human co-operation with divine inspiration.”

“Above all else we have to remember that like Christianity, Islam is a living religion, not just a set of theological or legislative propositions. Considered strictly on its own terms, Islam is not a tolerant religion and its capacity for far-reaching renovation is severely limited,” Cardinal Pell said.

Though he moderated this view by adding that “It is easy for us to tell Muslims that they must look to themselves and find ways of reinterpreting their beliefs and remaking their societies. Exactly the same thing can and needs to be said to us.”

Cardinal Pell said the West's secularism spawns "meaninglessness." The West also needs to "understand the secular sources of emptiness and despair and how to meet them, so that people will choose life over death."

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