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Archive of July 26, 2006

Pope Benedict expresses hope that Rome conference can bring lasting peace in Holy Land

Valle d'Aosta, Italy, Jul 26, 2006 (CNA) - Ahead of an international meeting for peace, which is taking place today in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI called for continued prayers for peace in Lebanon and expressed his hope that the process of establishing a lasting peace can now begin.

The Pope said that he is praying that the international conference for Lebanon, "may bear fruit and bring concrete results for peace, for a solution that goes to the roots of the problem."
 
Benedict, who is wrapping up a short vacation in the Valle d’Aosta region of Italy, said last night that he is maintaining hope that through the talks "stable and lasting solutions" can be found.

"I feel that something is now moving,” the Pontiff added, “I see that prayers are not in vain."
 
Benedict XVI made his remarks following a visit to the Marian shrine of Notre-Dame de la Guerison, located at the foot of Mont Blanc, where he called on the faithful to pray for peace. Faced with the worsening situation in the Middle East, the Holy Father had proclaimed Sunday, July 23, as a special day of prayer and penance. On that day, visiting the church of Rhemes Saint Georges, the Pope had prayed to the Lord: "Grant us peace; not tomorrow or the day after, grant us peace today!"

Representatives from 16 countries, as well as United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan are taking part in the conference.  The list of countries and organizations attending includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the World Bank, the European Union, Egypt, France, Russia, Britain, the United States, and Italy. Spain, Germany and Turkey are also to attending.  Israel, however, is not represented at the meeting. 

The Holy See is participating, by invitation, as an observer to the proceedings.  The Holy See delegation is being led by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States.  Two counselors for Lajolo, Msgr. Franco Coppola and Msgr. Alberto Ortega Martin, are also in attendance.

The meeting is being jointly chaired by Condoleezza Rice and the Italian foreign minister, Minister Massimo Dálema.  CNN reports today that the plan of topics for discussion includes negotiations for ceasefire, a U.N. military intervention, humanitarian aid, and the recent deaths of four U.N. military observers.  The attending countries are part of the "Lebanon Core Group," a collection of nations and organizations that want to help with the impoverished country's reconstruction.

While the United States has voiced its opinion that no ceasefire can begin until a long-term plan for peace is established, most of the other countries as well as the U.N. argue that an immediate ceasefire is in order and that a long-term plan for peace can be formulated after that.  U.N. reluctance to enter the war zone until a ceasefire has been enacted is strongly attributed to the recent deaths of four U.N. military observers who were killed when an Israeli plane bombed their observation post.




 

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Catholic ethicist explains Church’s support for stem cell research

Denver, Colo., Jul 26, 2006 (CNA) - Fr. Tadeusz Pacholcyzk, director of Education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, emphatically reiterated, earlier this week, that the Catholic Church is not opposed to stem cell research and, in fact, applauds the efforts of scientists in their work preformed with adult stem cells.  Pacholcyzk was speaking to large crowd gathered at a presentation concerning the science and ethics of stem cell research and cloning Sunday, at the John Paul II Center For the New Evangelization in Denver.

Fr. Pacholcyzk, who received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Yale University, conducted post-doctoral research at Harvard Medical School, and studied theology and bioethics in Rome, listed and debunked what he called, “ten media myths about stem cell research and cloning.”

One predominant myth, said Pacholcyzk, who has been a Catholic priest for seven years, asserts that the Catholic Church is categorically opposed to stem cell research.  In fact, Fr. Pacholcyzk insisted, the ethics of stem cell research depend on the source of the cells.  

Pacholcyzk numbered the four primary sources of human stem cells: human embryos, aborted or miscarried fetuses, pregnancy matter (umbilical cord, placenta, amniotic fluid), and adult tissues and organs.  

Only one method of obtaining stem cells is always morally evil, he said, to extract stem cells from human embryos. This method necessarily destroys the life of the embryo, Pacholcyzk said.  Pacholcyzk said that the Catholic Church openly applauds research performed with stem cells obtained in all other methods that do not violate human life.  

Pacholcyzk also dismissed the claim that that embryonic stem cells offer the greatest hope for curing over 100 million patients with various diseases and injuries.  Pacholcyzk first asserted that estimated number of cures which could be had is grossly exaggerated.  To this day, he said, no human or animal subject has been successfully treated using embryonic stem cell therapy.  

Furthermore, due to their very nature, work with stem cells often ends in tumors and death in test subjects, Pacholcyzk said.  Embryonic stem cells are able to become any type of cell in the body, a trait scientists call plasticity.  These cells also multiply themselves at astonishing rates.  Consequently, the cells’ rapid growth often produces a deadly tumor in test animals known as a teratoma.  

On the other hand, he pointed out, stem cells gathered from adult tissues and pregnancy matter are already producing impressive results.  Fr. Pacholcyzk listed dozens of diseases currently treatable using these stem cells, including sickle-cell anemia, leukemia, spinal cord injury, and heart disease.  These stem cells are obtained without destroying human life and so do not pose the ethical problems of embryonic stem cell research.

Fr. Pacholcyzk also briefly touched on the subject of human cloning.  “It is a myth,” he said, “that therapeutic cloning does not violate human life.”  In fact, he said, the process creates a human embryo in order to produce tissues and organs for use in medical treatments.  Obtaining these tissues requires the destruction of the embryo.  Therapeutic cloning, Fr. Pacholcyzk insisted, is intrinsically evil because it creates human life only to destroy it.

Finally, Fr. Pacholcyzk addressed the topic of frozen embryos.  Advocates of embryonic stem cell research often conclude that hundreds of thousands of embryos frozen in fertility clinics throughout the country are soon to be discarded.  Since they will be thrown away, it seems reasonable to them to reap some benefit from their destruction through scientific research. Fr. Pacholcyzk emphatically countered that the possible future of these embryos does not justify their destruction – what may happen to a human life in the future does not justify its destruction in the present. “If we surrender this battle over the frozen embryos, we will have nothing left to stand on,” Pacholcyzk said.

Fr. Pacholcyzk’s presentation was sponsored by ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women) a non-profit group committed to promoting the teachings of Pope John Paul II and other prominent Catholic thinkers.

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Censor threatens 1st Ammendment Rights of Missouri Catholic group

, Jul 26, 2006 (CNA) - A Washington lawyer has filed a complaint with the IRS against the Missouri Catholic Conference, alleging "illegal political interference" and questioning the conference’s tax-exempt status.  However, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has defended the Conference's actions and says the complaint is an attack on 1st Amendment rights.

The Catholic conference has sent state lawmakers a letter, urging them to reject campaign donations from Supporters of Health Research and Treatment, an organization that promotes embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning.

In his complaint to the IRS, lawyer Marcus Owens says the Catholic group is trying to intimidate candidates with their letters. A spokesman for the conference has denied that the letter makes any threats or violates IRS rules.

Owens’ complaint, “should mobilize all principled civil libertarians to protest its implications for free speech,” said Catholic League president Bill Donohue. Donohue calls the complaint “bogus.”

“Regardless of whether one supports or objects to the intentional killing of human embryos, the immediate issue is a First Amendment matter: All non-profit organizations that speak to public policy issues have a stake in this debate,” Donohue wrote in a statement.

Donohue said the Catholic group’s actions do not violate guidelines set out in the IRS document, Election Year Activities and the Prohibition on Political Campaign Intervention for Section 501 (c) (3) Organizations.

"If the Missouri Catholic Conference were advocating that candidates for public office return monies donated by the Klan, no IRS complaint would have been filed,” continued Donohue. “But because the Catholic group is fighting the fat cats … the censors are out in force.”

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Washington Supreme Court rules in favor of Defense of Marriage Act

Olympia, Wash., Jul 26, 2006 (CNA) - This morning, the Supreme Court of the State of Washington issued a decision in Andersen v. King County, a consolidated case regarding Washington’s Defense of Marriage Act.  
 
The Court’s lead opinion, which was authored by Justice Barbara Madsen, holds that the Washington Defense of Marriage Act does not violate the Washington State Constitution.

The result of the decision overturns two trial court decisions and keeps intact legislation which maintains that marriage in the State of Washington is by definition between one man and one woman.

The decision states that, “the two cases before us require us to decide whether the legislature has the power to limit marriage in Washington State to opposite-sex couples.  The state constitution and controlling case law compel us to answer "yes," and we therefore reverse the trial courts.”

The Alliance for Marriage, who drafted the Marriage Protection Amendment, today celebrated the Washington State Supreme Court decision protecting marriage as a man and a woman while calling on Congress to pass AFMs Marriage Protection Amendment (MPA). 

"While we applaud today’s court decision in Washington, radical activists will remain undeterred in their attacks on marriage in state and federal courts," said Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage.

In his concurring opinion Supreme Court Justice James Johnson said that the question of the case is indeed tied to the question of judicial activism.  "This is a difficult case only if a court disregards the text and history of the state and federal constitutions and laws in order to write new laws for our State's citizens. Courts are not granted such powers under our constitutional system. Our oath requires us to uphold the constitution and laws not rewrite them."

Daniels said that the intent of the Alliance for Marriage was not discrimination against homosexual persons, but the defense of marriage.  "Most Americans believe that gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose.  But they don't believe they have a right to redefine marriage for our entire society," said Daniels.  "Americans want our laws to send a positive message to children about marriage, family and their future."

The Archdiocese of Seattle had filled an Amicus Curiae brief in support of the appeal last week.  The brief warned that the church could lose its right to decide who can be married in Catholic churches and possibly be exposed to discrimination lawsuits if it refused to marry same-sex couples or if it no longer decided to employ someone who married his or her same-sex partner.

"Such an intrusion into religious practice should not be permitted," the brief reads.

The Court’s opinion including concurrences and dissents is available online at www.courts.wa.gov, along with links to the RealAudio of the oral argument. 

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German bishops deplore EU decision to finance research with human embryos

Berlin, Germany, Jul 26, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Germany issued a statement this week deploring the decision by the European Union to provide funding for research on human embryos, calling it a, “great defeat in the struggle for the protection of embryos in Europe.”

“Research with embryonic stem cells, which presupposes the destruction of human lives, may receive more funding from the EU,” the bishops lamented.  “Yesterday’s decision is therefore a horrible sign of the current state of the protection of human life in Europe.  The right to life and the unlimited protection of human life from the moment of conception are not totally guaranteed,” they noted.

In their message the bishops explained that, “interest in the research seems to be more important that the life and dignity and right to life of the human embryos.  Thus German funds will also be used for a type of research that is prohibited in Germany by laws against the killing of human life.”

“The decision is even more deplorable given that alternatives to embryonic stem cell research exist: the ethical research with adult stem cells,” the bishops emphasized.

Lastly, the bishops lamented, “the lack of initiatives for a more restrictive solution that ought to strengthen the protection of human embryos in Europe.”

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New US Catholic Catechism for Adults available July 31

Washington D.C., Jul 26, 2006 (CNA) - The first official catechism produced by the United States Catholic Bishops since the creation of the Baltimore Catechism, will be available this week.

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, available from USCCB Publishing, is an adaptation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1992.

At that time, the Pope urged that local catechisms be developed to better address specific situations and cultural realities in different countries. This catechism reports to do just that.

Unlike the Baltimore Catechism with its 421 questions and answers, the new catechism is aimed specifically at adults and is said to promote a command of Catholic faith, prayer life, and morals through a more accessible writing style and numerous features.

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults was six years in the making. It was authorized by the U.S. bishops in June 2000 and, prior to publication, went through three national consultations and drafts. The adult catechism was approved overwhelmingly by the bishops at their November 2004 general meeting and received the necessary recognitio from the Holy See in November of 2005.

Each chapter includes a story or lesson of faith. It draws a relationship between Catholic teaching and culture, offers questions for discussion and suggestions for meditation and prayer. It also includes related doctrinal statements.

The Preface and each of the 36 chapters opens with a story about a saint, a biblical figure, or other exemplary Catholic - most of them American - including Archbishop John Carroll, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, John Boyle O’Reilly, Sr. Thea Bowman, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez; St. Katherine Drexel, and Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

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Bolivian president, education minister slam bishops

La Paz, Bolivia, Jul 26, 2006 (CNA) - Bolivian President Evo Morales has joined his Minister of Education, Felix Patzi, in slamming the bishops of Bolivia over massive protests which are arising against the government’s proposed educational reform that would remove religious instruction from schools.

Last June Patzi caused a firestorm by declaring that the Catholicism would no longer be “the official” religion taught at schools and would be replaced by a class on indigenous languages.  The announcement sparked massive protests.  This month he met with the country’s bishops and issued a correction.

Nevertheless, two weeks ago the National Congress on Education led by Patzi approved a resolution that stated, “Education in Bolivia is secular and pluralistic because it respects the spirituality of each culture and freedom of belief, it promotes its own values, and rejects every type of dogmatisms.”

The Congress did decide to uphold religious instruction in schools but decreed that the curricula be adapted in accord with the diverse beliefs of the country, said Raul Copa, a spokesman for the event.

The reaction by Bolivians has been swift, with new protests by both students and parents demanding the resignation of Patzi.

Patzi has responded by ridiculing the protests.  “They are saying we are going to destroy the Church and its beliefs.  How untrue!  Excellencies, do not lie to the people, give them the whole truth, the hard truth.  The truth does not destroy.  Hypocrisy sooner or later will become visible.”  

Responding to student protests in the city of Tarija, Pazti stated, “The Church is now showing her true face.  The Church is now on the side of the oligarchy, because for 514 years the Church has been at the service of the oligarchy and the rich.  Nobody can deny it,” he claimed.

Although President Morales was expected to counter Patzi’s statements, the Bolivian leader opted instead to second them.  He accused the bishops of acting, “as if this were the Inquisition.” Morales claimed the government would uphold religion as a subject in schools, but he did not comment on the removal of Catholicism from the classroom.  Rather, he charged that bishops are “still seeking a certain vestige of power.”

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Dominican Republic lawmakers vote down proposal to legalize abortion in new penal code

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Jul 26, 2006 (CNA) - The House of Representatives of the Dominican Republic has backed away from legalizing abortion in cases of rape in a new National Penal Code, approved on Tuesday.  The new Code now goes to the Senate for approval.

Last week lawmakers presented the reformed penal code, the first draft of which included a clause legalizing abortion in cases of rape.  The initial draft drew widespread protests from the Dominican Republic Bishops’ Conference and other organizations.

Although it initially appeared that the modified Code - including the abortion legalization clause - would be approved, lawmakers in the House were persuaded by pro-life lobbyists not to include the clause in the final draft.

The new code establishes prison sentences of 30-40 years for murder and reduces the possibility for parole for repeat offenders of rape, violent crimes, or kidnapping.

Last week, the Secretary General of the Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Ramon Benito Angeles, explained that an abortion in the case of a rape does not benefit the woman who has suffered such a trauma.  “Just as there are centers of care for children, society must seek out solutions in favor of life for children who are conceived through rape, as well as quality care for mothers,” he said.

“Abortion is not a religious issue, it’s a human rights issue.  Those in favor of abortion paint the discussion as if this were a question of imposing religion.  This is not about an argument between religions.  Today in the Dominican Republican we are being plagued by apparently uncontrollable violence.  Every day the media surprises us with more reports of horrendous deaths and deplorable events,” the bishop said.

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Bishops of Colombia: Life, family, and education are non-negotiables

Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 26, 2006 (CNA) - The bishops of Colombia began their 81st Plenary Assembly this week with a fervent call to prevent the legalization of abortion and the legal recognition of homosexual unions.

In his opening remarks, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, recalled statements of Pope Benedict XVI which declared that human life, the family, and education are non-negotiables.  He emphasized that the recent decision by Colombia’s high court to partially legalize abortion does not make the act morally just.

Likewise, he noted that the Catholic Church does not discriminate against homosexual persons, but also does not accept the legal recognition of same-sex couples. “There is no basis for drawing similarities or establish analogies, even remotely, between homosexual unions and the plan of God for marriage and the family,” the archbishop said.

Regarding religious education, Archbishop Castro reiterated the right of parents to choose the kind of education their children would receive.

The archbishop went on to underscore the special support that Catholic politicians in Colombia deserve, as they have the duty to vote on new laws and, “to reject those that are not morally correct.”

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Catholic inner-city schools to benefit from lottery

Cincinnati, Ohio, Jul 26, 2006 (CNA) - Seven inner-city parochial schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will benefit from the commission of a $250-million Mega Millions winning lottery ticket.

The winning ticket was sold in April at a Cincinnati Kroger grocery store.  The store has decided to donate its $100,000 commission, in part, to the archdiocese’s Catholic Inner-city Schools Education Fund.  15 other charities will also receive a share of the store’s money, reported the Cincinnati Business Courier.

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Seattle Archdiocese says filing rejected Amicus brief was still important

Seattle, Wash., Jul 26, 2006 (CNA) - The Supreme Court of the State of Washington rejected a “friend-of-court” brief against same-sex marriage filed by the Archdiocese of Seattle’s because it came 16 months after the case was argued before the court.  The archdiocese says filing the brief was necessary, despite its being rejected.

The case, for which a ruling still has not been issued, challenges the constitutionality of the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Oral arguments in the case were presented in March 2005. The deadline for amicus briefs was one month prior to the arguments.

According to a report in the Seattle Times, the archdiocese filed its amicus brief Thursday, arguing that the legalization of same-sex marriage could violate the church's constitutional right to religious freedom.

The brief warned that the church could lose its right to decide who can be married in Catholic churches and possibly be exposed to discrimination lawsuits if it refused to marry same-sex couples or if it no longer decided to employ someone who married his or her same-sex partner.

"Such an intrusion into religious practice should not be permitted," the brief reads.

Spokesman Greg Magnoni told the Seattle Times that the archdiocese only filed the brief last week because developments in other states made clear the effect the legalization of same-sex marriage could have on the church.

Even though the court rejected the brief, Magnoni said, it was important to submit the document. “It's important for us to make these points because it's such an important issue," Magnoni was quoted as saying. "We're talking about First Amendment issues here. These points were not made [elsewhere] in the case."

The Washington Supreme Court has not yet issued its ruling. Supreme Court Justice Susan Owens has said she expects the ruling to be issued before the start of September's primary election.

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