Archive of May 10, 2006

Scourge of abortion more common among poor women, says report

Washington D.C., May 10, 2006 (CNA) - Poor women are increasingly likely to have unwanted pregnancies and abortions than affluent women, says a recent study on pregnancy and abortion, conducted by the Guttmacher Institute. Researchers analyzed federal statistics gathered by the National Center for Health Statistics and other sources.

The report, released last week, will appear in the June edition of the peer-reviewed Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, published by Guttmacher.

Although the report, released by the research arm of Planned Parenthood has received considerable criticism, it makes clear the dire problem of abortion in the U.S.--particularly among the impoverished.

The researchers found that from 1994 through 2001, the rate of unplanned pregnancies rose almost 30 percent for women below the federal poverty line. That rate fell by 20 percent during the same period for affluent women, reported the Washington Post.

The authors said the growing disparities between richer and poorer women appeared to be the result of greater contraceptive use by the more affluent. There were also racial differences. Black and Hispanic women were more likely to become pregnant than white women, and black women had the highest percentage of unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Asked what was driving the trends, the authors told the Washington Post that some state and federal sex-education programs have been cut in recent years. They say state and federal programs have increasingly focused on abstinence rather than contraception, which some analysts say has led to less contraceptive use and more unintended pregnancies.

But Leslee Unruh, president and founder of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, said the growing number of unintended pregnancies among poorer women shows that traditional sex education programs are failing.

"Programs for poor women are often so condescending, even degrading," she told the Post. "They teach how to put on a condom rather than how to take control of their lives."

The report also found that the overall abortion rate has declined and that a higher percentage of women with unintended pregnancies are carrying their babies to term. It also found that women who have abortions are doing so earlier in their pregnancies.

The overall pregnancy rate for women of child-bearing age declined slightly from 1994 to 2001, as did the abortion rate. There were 6.4 million pregnancies in the U.S. in 2001 and about 4 million births. There were 1.3 million abortions and 1.1 million miscarriages. The pregnancies were almost evenly divided between intended and unintended, and the unintended ones led to almost even numbers of births and abortions.

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Pope Benedict: Faithful episcopal succession is guarantee that authentic teaching of apostles carries through history

Vatican City, May 10, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking to a crowd of some 50,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI used his General Audience today to stress the importance of Episcopal succession, saying that the lineage of today’s faithful bishops is a historical guarantee of the authentic passing down of the Apostle’s teaching.
He began by saying that "The Church, which came into being at Jesus' will and around Him, continues her journey through history,” and that “The Twelve ... involved others in the functions with which they themselves were entrusted, so that those others could continue the ministry.”

“Just as at the beginning of the apostolic condition there is a call and an invitation from the Risen One,” the Holy Father went on, “so the call and invitation of others....from those who are already within the apostolic ministry, will be the way by which the ministry of the 'episcope' is passed on."
Pope Benedict called "the succession of the episcopal function is ... a guarantee of the endurance of apostolic tradition” saying that “The link between the college of bishops and the original community of the Apostles may be seen, above all, as a form of historical continuity.”

He added however, that “continuity may also be considered in a spiritual sense, because apostolic succession in the ministry is a privileged place for the action and transmission of the Holy Spirit."
The Pope then quoted St. Irenaeus, who wrote that the Church was "founded and constituted in Rome by the most glorious Apostles Peter and Paul," and highlights "the tradition of faith that ... comes down to us from the Apostles through the succession of bishops."
"Episcopal succession”, Benedict said, “verified on the basis of communion with the succession of the Church of Rome - is therefore the criterion of adherence of individual Churches to the tradition of apostolic faith, ... which has come down to us from the origins."
He went on to explain that according to the ancient Church, "the apostolicity of ecclesial communion consists in faithfulness to the faith and practice of the Apostles themselves, through whom the historical and spiritual link of the Church with Christ is guaranteed.”

“What the Apostles represent in the relationship between the Lord Jesus and the early Church,” he explained, “is similarly represented by the ministerial succession in the relationship between the early Church and the modern Church.”
He stressed in conclusion that "This is not a merely material link…rather it is a historical instrument that the Spirit uses to make the Lord Jesus present as the leader of His people."

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Hong Kong Cardinal: Chinese Catholics want to be led by the Pope

, May 10, 2006 (CNA) - In response to the illicit ordinations of two Chinese bishops last week without the Holy See’s approval, Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen has said that Catholics in the country “want to be led by the Pope” rather than the church imposed by the Chinese government.

In a statement released in response to the government’s defense of the ordinations, Cardinal Zen said that there is only one true Church in China and that the split truly tears at the conscience of members of the state-run church.

According to AsiaNews, he recalled that for more than 50 years, these “self-elected and self-consecrated” bishops “were aware of their situation and their hearts were not really at peace. At the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s, as contacts with abroad became easier, these bishops, through some people, entrusted their request for ‘pardon and recognition’ to the Holy See.”

He pointed out that “Whenever possible, the Pope accepted many of these requests, and he asked them to make this known to priests and lay believers, without pitting themselves in direct opposition to government institutions. This allowed bishops, priests and lay people to live their faith activities tranquilly, being still under government control.”

Cardinal Zen also noted that “Those who are forced to be ordained as bishops illicitly [without the permission of the Holy See], do not face an easy situation: priests generally refuse to concelebrate with them; the faithful do not want to participate in their masses.”

Because of this, as well as the genuine knowledge that they are not truly ordained without recognition from the Holy See, many, he said, go to their ordinations with their eyes “brimming with tears.”

“From this attitude of priests and believers, a very clear significance emerges. And I myself therefore say that ‘in China, there is only one Catholic Church and all want to be led by the pope’.”

In closing, the Cardinal said that while both China and the Vatican seem to sincerely want a harmonious relationship, that it is the state-run church that has “forced two priests to accept Episcopal ordination without the approval of the Holy See. We do not understand this fact and it leads us to lose hope. In conclusion: who is it who is pushing things backwards?”

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Did flight 93 hero know his fate before 9-11?

Little Rock, Ark., May 10, 2006 (CNA) - When Thomas Burnett stepped onto the ill-fated United flight 93 on September 11th, 2001, the California businessman may have already had a premonition that he was going to do something singularly unique with his life.

Burnett is believed to have led a group of his fellow passengers in overtaking terrorists who had planned to fly the Boeing 757 into the White House. Instead, the plane went down in a rural Pennsylvania field.

Thomas’s widow, Deena Burnett recently told Spirit Daily that prior to that fateful day, her husband had begun to delve much deeper into his Catholic faith, frequenting daily Mass and praying the rosary often.

"I've often thought about the prayers he must have said on that airplane,” she said, “and I think that he was praying to the Virgin Mary…I think that his last prayer would have been a Hail Mary."

A few years before, Thomas had begun skipping lunch to attend daily Mass. Deena told Spirit Daily that "He said, 'I feel like God is calling me to do something, and I don't know what it is. But I know it's going to have a great impact on a lot of people.'”

“The reason I've been going to daily Mass”, he told her, “is because I feel like if I can be closer to God, then I'll know what His plan is for me."

Adding that Thomas frequently talked about what that plan might be, she said that "…to say he was intuitive is an understatement, and I knew if he felt something was going to happen, I better listen to it and trust him. One of the things we brainstormed about was that he thought it had something to do with the White House."

About a year before the September 11th disaster, they both admitted to each other that they had a feeling one of them was going to die young—most likely Thomas. Although they had no idea about the details, Deena says that he “just felt that whatever God's plan was for him, it had something to do with the White House and was going to impact a lot of people."

When the details of the hijacking started to come out, it became clear that Thomas had led the charge to take back the plane. After calling his wife from the plane, his last words to her were a simple request to pray.

Deena said that her husband’s attitude was always one of putting everyone else first, and himself last "and he really lived his life this way," she added.

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Experts warn: Amnesty International’s support of abortion as ‘human right’ will undercut group’s credibility

Valparaiso, Ind., May 10, 2006 (CNA) - As the human rights organization, Amnesty International discusses a new proposal which would lead to widespread support and consideration of abortion as a “human right” a cacophony of voices have come out criticizing the plan and urging the group to stay true to its mandate of protecting the weak and defenseless.

One of those voices is Dr. Richard Stith, a law professor at Indiana’s Valparaiso University and an international voice on ethics and human dignity.
In a personal letter sent to Amnesty International, Dr. Stith wrote that “The essential problem [with the new plan] is that the world is increasingly divided over whether such positions would be steps toward or away from universal human rights.”

“That is, state enforcement of abortion rights would not just be something that conservatives might object to—like support of gay rights, for example—but rather would undercut your credibility with many of your natural constituencies,” he wrote.

He stressed that “Many would see you as coming out against certain fundamental human rights, namely the universal right to life as well as the right of conscience-based refusal to participate in violence, something that could not easily be said regarding gay rights or almost any other cause AI might wish to support.”

Highlighting the universality of the problem which, he said, extends far beyond liberal/conservative lines, Dr. Stith wrote that “Many people on the Left not only consider abortion rights an anti-communitarian expression of extreme individualism, a claiming of private ownership of the next generation, but also see rights-talk…as hostile to care and concern for the needs of women.”

In a form letter, sent to in response to constituents questioning the potential policy, Amnesty International said that “members throughout the movement felt that AI's work to stop violence against women and promote women's human rights necessitates that we consider whether a more comprehensive policy on sexual and reproductive rights, potentially encompassing certain abortion-related issues, would enable AI to be more effective in these areas.”

To this, Dr. Smith cites Catherine MacKinnon, who writes about the way “privacy” language often “thrusts women back to private oppression (where males will decide to abort their wanted children) and away from public equality.”

He also says that the “individual freedom to abort is in reality a freedom for the powerful more easily to oppress the weak—especially in the third world. Only after women have achieved true equality could it be argued that abortion would be truly their own right rather than that of their male oppressors.”

In short, Dr. Stith believes that “Any push for abortion by AI at this time could undercut [their] crucial credibility in the struggle to bring violence against women and children out into the open—as well as to maximize support for your core mission of support for political prisoners.”
“Unless you think that your other aims are so well-secured that they no longer need much assistance, which I would respectfully consider absurd,” he warned, “Amnesty International would be well advised not to embark upon this new endeavor.”

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Law firm defends constitutionality of ‘In God we Trust’ motto

Ann Arbor, Mich., May 10, 2006 (CNA) - Michigan’s Thomas More Law Center has decided to take a prominent atheist activist to task on the constitutionality of the phrase “in God we trust” and its role as the U.S.’s national motto.

On May 19th, a California federal district court is scheduled to hear opening arguments in a case brought by California’s Michael Newdow who, the law center points out, “almost succeeded in having the Pledge of Allegiance recited by California school children declared unconstitutional.”

Ann Arbor based Thomas More has filed a friend of the court brief in Sacramento’s federal district court supporting the U.S. government’s motion to dismiss the case.

In their brief, the group said that “This nation and its form of government were founded upon an essential idea: individuals have God-given rights that the government may neither bestow nor deny.”

Richard Thompson, the law center’s Chief Counsel added this week that “Newdow’s attempt to eliminate the mere acknowledgement of our religious heritage by our National Motto has no basis in constitutional law.”

“Even the Supreme Court, in past decisions, has understood there is an unbroken history of official invocations of Divine guidance beginning with our Founding Fathers and continuing to our present day leaders,” he said.

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Spanish pro-euthanasia association admits to ‘helping’ handicapped man die

Madrid, Spain, May 10, 2006 (CNA) - Spain’s pro-euthanasia group “Right to Death with Dignity” (RDD) publicly admitted this week that it provided “technical information” to help a paraplegic man “end his life.”

The group’s spokesman, Angela Maria Jaramilla, said Jorge Leon Escudero of Valladolid “contacted us through email asking for our help.  We gave him ‘technical’ information in accord with Spain’s current health laws.”

Jaramillo called for “public recognition” of individuals such as Jorge Leon and Ramon San Pedro—another handicapped man who committed suicide with the help of a relative in 1998—“who have lent their names in order to bring this struggle into society.”

The president of RDD, Fernando Marin, said helping to end the life of someone “who irreversibly suffers a deteriorated life is an appropriate act of compassion for a civilized society in which the freedom of each human being is respected.”  Those who help others free themselves of “absurd suffering” should have “great reason to be proud of this act of compassion toward one’s neighbor,” he sated.

Leon Escudero, 53, who was left a paraplegic after an accident seven years ago, was found dead in his wheelchair and disconnected from the artificial respirator which helped keep him alive.  On his internet blog he had recently indicated his interest in contacting someone who would “lend a helping hand” in ending his life.

In the wake of Leon Escudero’s death, numerous associations have publicly announced their support, not only for euthanasia, but also for pressuring government leaders and influencing public opinion on the issue.

The spokesman for the Federation of Associations for the Defense of Public Health, Javier Gonzalez, said that euthanasia is an inalienable right equivalent to the right to life and that the government was burying its head in the sand by claiming it is not yet time to debate the issue.  

Likewise the Association of Progressive Doctors claimed this week that Spaniards “are now ready” to have the debate on euthanasia “as soon as possible”.  The group said cutting short the lives of those suffering from incurable or terminal illnesses is a “fundamental right in any secular, plural and democratic state.”

Police suspect that someone assisted Leon Escudero in killing himself although the final results of an autopsy have not yet been obtained.

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Apostolic Nuncio in Belgium answers to allegations by newspaper

Brussels, Belgium, May 10, 2006 (CNA) - In the wake of a highly publicized scandal regarding occupied churches by Muslims in Belgium, the country’s Apostolic Nuncio, Msgr. Karl-JosefRauber, released a declaration denying that he fully backed the Belgian bishops in their action infavor of the asylum seekers. These allegations were made in the "De Morgen" newspaper.

“The Nuncio asambassador of the Holy See to the kingdom of Belgium should not intervene in this question, since it’s an internal problem and not one concerning relations between Belgium and the Holy See,” he declared. The Nuncio is therefore inviting the Belgian bishops to deal with this problem internally.  

“The Church has always taken position for the most weak. This problem needs a political solution,” he concluded.

The occupation of Catholic churches in Belgium, by asylum seekers--most of them Muslim--has raised concern over the respect of the sanctity of these buildings.

There have been reports of tents, computers, banners praising Allah and even campfireswithin the churches. Likewise, in some churches, altars have been moved and statues of the Virgin Mary have been covered with sheets.

No formal declaration or action has been taken so far by Church authorities regarding alleged desecration.  Reportedly, there is a trackrecord of occupations of Belgian Churches by Muslim groups.

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Lawmaker denounces falsification of studies aimed at legalizing morning after pill in Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico, May 10, 2006 (CNA) - Mexican Congressman Fernando Guzman Perez Pelaez has denounced the falsification of recent studies in Mexico aimed at proving that the morning-after pill is not an abortifacient. The studies led to the inclusion of the pill in government-run health care programs.

Perez Pelaez explained that in one study, “13 of the 45 women who underwent analysis to prove that the pill is not abortifacient were found to have had their tubes tied, were sterilized or were married to men who had undergone vasectomies, thereby discrediting the study.”  

“In addition absurd examinations were carried out on rats and monkeys, resulting in insufficient and unreliable analysis,” he added.

Perez Pelaez said information on the studies came from documents obtained through the Federal Institute for Access to Public Information, and that he would make them available in the coming days.  “It makes no sense to approve the morning after pill as a drug since it has been proven to be abortifacient,” he maintained.

The Mexican congressman urged the judges who are reviewing the law “to set aside the deception and manipulation that has been used to try to impose this norm.”

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No authentic democracy, human rights without respect for life, says Spanish cardinal

Madrid, Spain, May 10, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco said this week “if the precedence of the right to life over the power of the State is questioned, the entire foundation for human rights and the principle of democratic participation of citizens is in jeopardy.”

The cardinal’s comments came during a conference at the International Congress, “Europe for Life,” which took place May 4-7 and was organized by the Catholic University of San Antonio in Murcia, the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Diocese of Cartagena.

Cardinal Rouco expressed dismay at the growing number of abortions in Spain, including late-term abortions, underscoring the need for a renewed presence of Christians in public life.

The debate over the issue of the right to life in Church-State relations, the cardinal said, demands of the bishop a constant concern for the Gospel of life in personal relationships and in public dialogue with political leaders.

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Jesuits acknowledge drop in vocations

Rome, Italy, May 10, 2006 (CNA) - The General House of the Society of Jesus reported this week that the number of Jesuits in the world has dropped by 286 during the last year, thus confirming a 16 year-long downward trend in the order’s vocations.

According to the Fides news agency, as of January 1, 2006, there were 19,564 Jesuits in the world, whereas in 2005 the number was 19,850.

The current number of Jesuit priests is 13,735 (231 less than in 2005), the number of brothers is 1,865 (56 less than in 2005), and the number of novices is 897 (down from 909 in 2005).  Only the number of scholastics has seen an increase of 13 since last year, totaling 3,067.  

The median age of 57 is another important factor for the Jesuits.  The average age of priests is 63, scholastics, 29, and brothers, 66.  Geographically, in Latin America there are 2,957 Jesuits, 60 less than in 2005.  In North America there are 3,034, 183 less than in 2005. In Europe there are 6,447, 192 less than in 2005.

The Jesuits have seen growth in Asia, however, with 42 new members this year among a total of 5,698.  In Africa their numbers are 5,698—up by 429 from 2005.

An important part of the universal mission entrusted to the Society is carried out by the Houses in Rome directly dependent on the Father General (General House, Gregorian University, Istituto Biblico, Istituto Orientale, Vatican Observatory, Vatican Radio, "La Cività Cattolica", other hostels and formation houses), reports Fides.

The 446 members of these houses who still belong to their original provinces in the year 2005-2006 include 3 cardinals, 374 priests, 39 scholastics and 30 Brothers.

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Swiss Federal Communication Authority prohibits TV ad for Catholic newspaper

Zurich, Switzerland, May 10, 2006 (CNA) - The Federal Authority for Communications (Bakom) in Switzerland has prohibited the broadcasting of a short TV ad for the Catholic Newspaper “Sonntag” (Sunday) on its national public TV networks such as RTL and VOX.

The Swiss Federal Authority for Communications argues that broadcasting the ad goes against the prohibition for religious commercials or propaganda on public as well as private networks.

This comes as the lower House in the Swiss parliament is drafting a new law to prohibit any commercials with a religious character even on private networks. The bill would also ban ads for liquor and tobacco.
Cat Medien AG, the producer of the ad and owner of the weekly paper “Sonntag”, said the prohibition is absurd, equating religious propaganda with liquor or tobacco. To counter this, the agency is allowing people to see the commercial on the Internet through the link below.

Before viewing it, a warning is given: “Be Careful, do you really want to see a video that’s prohibited by federal authority?” 

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