Archive of July 28, 2006

USCCB official lauds Senate approval of parental consent protection act

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2006 (CNA) - The spokesperson for pro-life activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement commending the United States Senate for their vote approving a parental notification act Tuesday, which protects parents' right to be involved in their pregnant teenage daughter’s abortion decision.

The Child Custody Protection Act would make it a crime to avoid a state's parental-notification law by taking a minor to another state to obtain an abortion. Violators would face fines and up to one year in prison. The only exception would be if the abortion were required to save the teen’s life. According to the National Right to Life Committee, 26 states would be covered by the bill.

The House passed a similar measure last year, so the legislation now goes to final House-Senate negotiations, reported the Washington Times.

"This bill goes a long way in strengthening the effectiveness of state laws designed to protect parents and their young daughters from the health and safety risks associated with secret abortions," said Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican and bill sponsor.

President George W. Bush strongly supports the measure. He has said transporting minors to other states to avoid parental-involvement laws "undermines state law and jeopardizes the lives of young women," reported the Post.

"I appreciate the Senate's efforts to preserve the integrity of state law and protect our nation's families," he reportedly said after the bill was passed.

Polls show that a majority of Americans support parental-notification laws. A Gallup poll, issued Thursday, indicates that more than two-thirds of Americans support legislation preserving parents’ rights, reported LifeNews. Only 28 percent are opposed.

A pro-life spokesperson with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops pointed to a 2005 survey, conducted by WomanTrend, which indicated that 82 percent believe no one should be able to take a minor girl across state lines for an abortion without her parents’ knowledge.

“This act will keep teens from being pressured into abortions by those who have little or no investment in their health or long-term welfare,” said USCCB pro-life spokesperson Deirdre McQuade.

She commended the Senate for approving the bill and urged legislators to expedite its passage into law.

“Secret abortions undermine parents’ ability to care for their children in crisis, and put young girls at particular risk both physically and emotionally,” said McQuade. “Abortion does not solve an adolescent’s problems, but instead often compounds her fears, anxiety, and sense of isolation.”

Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore made a similar comment in a statement last week. “Parents should not be kept in the dark when the welfare of their children and their unborn grandchildren is at stake,” he said. “Many states have wisely chosen to protect parents’ rights in this area, and the intent of their protective laws should not be thwarted.”

Fr. Frank Pavone, national president of Priests for Life, also commended the Senate and urged states that do not have parental involvement laws to legislate them. 

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Pope Benedict leaves his vacation spot for Castelgandolfo

Valle d'Aosta, Italy, Jul 28, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that the Holy Father's vacation at Les Combes, in Italy's Valle d'Aosta region, where he has been staying since July 11, has come to an end this afternoon.
After bidding farewell to Osvaldo Naudin, mayor of Introd, to Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi of Aosta, and to other civil and religious authorities, the Pope traveled to the airport of Aosta where his plane departed.  Pope Benedict landed at Rome's Ciampino airport an hour later and from there traveled to the apostolic palace of Castelgandolfo, south of Rome.
The Holy Father will continue to work from Castelgandolfo through the month of August – when many Romans traditionally leave the city.  Pope Benedict is expected to continue his work on two reported writings – a new Papal Encyclical and a book on Christology.

Beginning this Sunday, Benedict XVI will pray the Angelus from Castelgandolfo and will make the trek back to the Vatican each Wednesday, where his General Audiences will resume, starting next week.

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US to mark 50th anniversary of national motto, ‘In God We Trust’

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2006 (CNA) - President George Bush has called upon Americans to observe the 50th anniversary of the national motto “In God We Trust”, July 30, with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

In a proclamation issued from the White House, the president said the anniversary provides an opportunity to “reflect on these words that guide millions of Americans, recognize the blessings of the Creator, and offer our thanks for His great gift of liberty.”

The president recalled how Francis Scott Key first penned the motto in a poem during the War of 1812. His poem became the national anthem.

The motto first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin. An act of Congress one year later allowed the mint director to place the motto on all gold and silver coins. However, it was only signed into law as the national motto on July 30, 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower.

“Today, our country stands strong as a beacon of religious freedom,” reads the president’s proclamation. “Our citizens, whatever their faith or background, worship freely and millions answer the universal call to love their neighbor and serve a cause greater than self.”

Concerned Women for America (CWA) said it would join the president in marking the anniversary. “We take this opportunity to reflect upon the many blessings God has given our nation recognizing that our motto reflects our history of reliance on God to free us from tyranny,” said CWA director of government relations Lanier Swann.

“Our motto reasserts the grace that God has given to preserve this country. Without His help, our republic would be lost,” she continued. “Our celebration reminds us of the fight we must still engage to counter the ridiculous attempts to purge God from our public square.”

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Solution to reported “nun” crisis not just financial but also spiritual

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2006 (CNA) - A recent study, which is drawing growing attention through an Associated Press story, warns of an impending financial crisis for many U.S. Catholic religious orders.  The study from the US Bishops Office of National Religious Retirement warns that the large number of aging religious – especially religious sisters – along with a continuing drop in new vocations is leading to a massive financial shortfall for the care of the retired.  Many are saying, however, that an answer to the problem may not be merely financial, but also spiritual support for new vocations.

The report, which has not yet been released publicly, claims that tens of thousands of religious are now over age 70 in the United States and are retiring from their active apostolates.  Religious sisters make up 82 percent of current religious retirees.

While billions of dollars have been saved, the report says, there is still an unfunded future liability of $8.7 billion for current religious. The financial hole is projected to exceed $20 billion by 2023.

The study, compiled in June, puts spending for retiree care in 2005 at $926 million. The Office of National Religious Retirement believes only four percent of sisters are adequately funded for retirement. The problem is worse in smaller orders, and hundreds of orders have been forced to sell off assets to cover expenses.

The situation has also been discussed in a new book, "Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church's Betrayal of American Nuns" (Doubleday), by former New York Times religion editor Kenneth Briggs.

Financial response
The problem first gained national attention in 1985, when John Fialka published a report in the Wall Street Journal. Fellow Catholics contacted him with donations, leading Fialka to establish SOAR (Support Our Aging Religious). Last year, the organization raised $1.4 million.

The U.S. bishops held their first annual collection for the cause in 1988 under the new retirement office, which also plans to increase training for orders on how to manage their assets.

When Briggs completed his research, aid collections totaled $480 million, generating more than twice the receipts from the next largest special appeal. This result, he says, shows the high regard Catholics have for religious retirees.

Lack of vocations nationwide
While a financial solution is certainly needed, the problem reportedly stems from the increasing number of retirees and fewer younger members to support them, the AP states. The number of religious women in the U.S. has been steadily decreasing since 1965, when they numbered 179,954. By 2005, this figure more than halved to 68,634. 

While religious orders have traditionally received a great deal of support from donations from members of the Church, a large portion of the income of many orders comes from the income stemming from the work done by younger members of the community.  The lack of any younger vocations is one of the greatest causes for concern for many orders.

Wellsprings of hope
Yet, despite studies detailing the lack of vocations in religious orders nationwide Mother M. Regina Pacis Coury, FSGM says that there are signs of hope in numerous orders.  Mother Regina serves as Vice-chairperson of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), an organization composed of major superiors of US religious communities, which was founded to promote religious life in the United States.  Mother Regina Pacis said that a great number of the orders which belong to the CMSWR have been experiencing growth.  

Far from being fazed by the report, Mother Regina Pacis told CNA that many orders, such as her own Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, simply continue to focus on the life they consecrated themselves to.  “We remain grounded in prayer - through such things as the liturgy of the hours, the celebration of the Eucharist, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament - our life of community, and our apostolate (or work in the world).”

Something seems to be working.  While the national numbers above show a decrease in religious vocations, Mother Regina Pacis said that orders such as the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia of Nashville, the Sisters of Life, the Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, the Missionaries of Charity, and the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles (among many others) have been experiencing tremendous growth in their communities.  

Sister Mary Emily, O.P., Vocation Director of the Dominicans of Nashville said that her order has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, seeing over 100 new vocations in that period.  Not only that, but there are currently an additional 80 women in formation with an average of 15 entering each year.  The median age of her community is now 36 and the average age of those women entering is 24.  

“The young women who enter the community are talented, wholesome women who want to sacrifice their lives for the Church.  They have heard the call to “Come follow Me” and they do it very willingly and very joyfully,” Sister Mary Emily told CNA.

Mother Regina Pacis said that several religious orders listed on the CMSWR website get thousands of hits each week.  “This shows that people are still searching.”
The most important thing for Catholics to do, Mother Regina Pacis said, is to pray for vocations.  Mother said that, “we must keep in mind the words of (Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation) Vita Consecrata, which says, that everyone is called to work for vocations. 

“We pray especially that parents will be open to the vocations of their children and be supportive if they are called to the religious life,” Mother Regina Pacis said, “It is a sacrifice, but we pray that they will be generous.”
Can-do people
At the US Bishops Conference Sr. Andree Fries, the 64-year-old executive director of the National Religious Retirement Office, also remains hopeful facing the financial shortfall.

"The impact is more minimal than one might think," because members of orders "are very much about mission" and are not worrying about their future needs, she told the AP.

While many of the orders will be faced with difficulties in the future, Sr. Fries said she is not discouraged, “because religious are can-do people." 

For more information on the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious and the many orders who belong to their organization see their website at

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Prayer crusade launched for Argentinean mother suffering from cancer

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 28, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic weekly “Cristo Hoy” in Argentina has launched a prayer crusade for a mother who decided to postpone treatment for cancer in order to save the life of her ninth child.

The newspaper reports that Laura Figeroa is in the terminal stage of her illness, the diagnosis is brain metastasis, considered irreversible.”  Two weeks ago, on July 12th, Figeroa gave birth to her son Pedro at only 27 weeks.  The baby weighed just 2.4 pounds and was placed immediately in intensive care, where he is struggling with kidney and heart problems.
The baby’s grandmother told Cristo Hoy, “We are all very united in this struggle and praying hard.” She has spent all of her time helping to care for Laura and for the other children, who “are anxious to know the newest member of their family and hope to soon have in their hands the picture promised to them by the pediatrician.  We invite all our readers to unite in prayer for this family and to pray especially for the health of this model of a mother and for her baby,” the article states.

Laura Alejandra Figeroa is 39 years old and her story has captured the hearts of the entire country of Argentina.  Several months ago, she told Cristo Hoy that she made her decision in order to show her love “to this child that is coming in the same way that I have shown it to the other children I have.  I want my child to know that I love him and that I will always love him, that I will give my life for him if necessary.”

Last March she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was told she should begin chemotherapy - which would have posed serious risks to her unborn child.  She made the decision to postpone treatment until after birth.

Figeroa explained that she made her decision in order to put her son’s life first.  “Of course I don’t intend to neglect my health, as I have the responsibility to protect my own life and that of my baby, but nevertheless, I avoid everything that, while helpful to my own health, might be detrimental to that of my child,” she said.

She also hoped that her testimony would help those who defend life from the moment of conception.  “Today, more than ever, there are people who are against life, who want to legalize abortion, which I consider an abominable crime, and therefore I ask that this testimony encourage those who read it to defend the unborn.  I would like all women who are pregnant to remember that no situation, no matter how difficult, justifies taking the life of the baby in their womb. Not even in cases of rape or life of the mother,” Figeroa stated.

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Ignatius Press Releases two books on Catholic author G.K. Chesterton

Denver, Colo., Jul 28, 2006 (CNA) - Ignatius Press has announced the release of two books profiling author G.K. Chesterton, who is considered to be the “most widely quoted writer of modern times.”  The two books, an autobiography and a work analyzing the insights of Chesterton are expected to reignite popular interest in one of the greatest writers of the modern age.

G.K. Chesterton was born in Campden Hill, London, where he studied to become an illustrator and a writer – though he never actually completed a degree for either.  He began to work as a freelance critic of art and literature, and married a woman named Frances Blogg.  Chesterton also took over a weekly column in The Illustrated London News; a column which he wrote until his death 34 years later.  

Although he is considered the catalyst and greatest contributor to the revival of modern Christian literature, his path was not always straight.  As a young man, Chesterton was deeply interested in the occult, even using Ouija Boards.  

His wife, however, was a devout Catholic and eventually succeeded in converting him to Roman Catholicism; a conversion that would have a significant impact on Christian Literature for the rest of the century.  Chesterton’s many writings centered on Christ and the Church.  One such work was cited as having contributed to C.S. Lewis’ conversion to Christianity.  When Chesterton died in 1936, he was named a “Defender of the Catholic Faith” by Pope Pius XI.  

The Autobiography of G.K. Chesterton, the first of Ignatius Press’s new books, was written by Chesterton during the last few years of his life and he only finished it about three weeks before his death. The company describes it as, “brimming with Chesterton’s wonderful and unique writing, humor, inspiration and humility.” The book also has a collection of forty rare photos.  

Ignatius Press calls the autobiography, “the best account of the doubts and darkness of his youth.”  The work is considered to be a more direct look at the prolific author who typically expressed his views through editorials, scholarly writings, prose, fictional novels, and more. “Chesterton’s other famed writings use various genres to make their civil or moral points; in this book he finally turns to himself,” the company said.

The second new book, written by American Chesterton Society President Dale Alquist is titled, Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton.  The book is described as, “an account of wonderful insights as seen through the eyes of Chesterton.”  The book uses Chesterton’s perspective on life to tackle several civil and moral issues.

Ahlquist describes his new book as “inhabiting (Chesterton) like a large house so that we can see the world through the windows he provides.” Ahlquist said that in preparation for writing the book he immersed himself in what he calls an ocean of Chesterton’s thought.  An ocean which, “is deep, it is dangerous, it is delightful, it is refreshing, it is full of surprises, it is full of life.”  

The book aims at recognizing Chesterton as a writer who was a true “generalist” as opposed to a “specialist.”  Says Ahlquist, “the world is growing weary of specialists who know more and more about less and less.”  “Chesterton has a way of informing every other discipline.  He is ripe for re-discovery!”

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Catholic chaplain meets workers’ spiritual needs at Tyson Foods

Little Rock, Ark., Jul 28, 2006 (CNA) - One of the largest employers in North America, Tyson Foods Inc., now has a chaplaincy program that serves employees in 81 plants and 161 locations in the United States, Canada and Mexico, reported the Arkansas Catholic.

This program is part of a growing trend in the United States to implement workplace chaplaincy to address employee issues, including mental health, retention, productivity, and morale.

Coca-Cola Bottling and the Federal Bureau of Investigation also offer workplace chaplaincy services.

Tyson, with corporate offices in northwest Arkansas, has three full-time chaplains and 126 part-time chaplains. Tyson has hired a diversity of people to meet these needs. They represent different faith traditions as well as a variety of cultural and linguistic groups. Currently, the chaplains include 60 Caucasian, 42 Hispanic, 18 African-American, four Asian, 51 bilingual and 11 females, Justo Gonzalez told the Arkansas Catholic.

The chaplains aren’t office people. They walk the production lines and speak with employees.

"It is amazing what happens when people get to know you and trust you,” said Gonzalez, who is one of the program’s managers. Gonzalez is the company’s first full-time Catholic and bilingual chaplain.

"People talk to us about a variety of issues. In many ways it is a spiritual employee assistance program. We walk with folks on short-term crises and counseling intervention.” Employees are referred to community resources if they need long-term assistance.

A chaplaincy program is a win-win situation for both employer and employee, said Gonzalez.

"It is also good business because an employee that is taken care of doesn't have to carry a two-ton crisis on their back and is better able to be focused and more productive and able to stay with us longer," he explained.

Last August, Tyson Foods was a sponsor for the first Workplace Chaplaincy Conference at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Conn. It was organized to discuss issues, problems and trends within the various programs around the country. The second such conference has been organized for Nov. 9-11.

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Ex-Bolivian president to defend religious instruction in schools at Constitutional Assembly

La Paz, Bolivia, Jul 28, 2006 (CNA) - Former Bolivian president, Jorge Quiroga, is calling on the government to uphold religious instruction in schools and said he would defend the policy in Congress and at the Constitutional Assembly that will be inaugurated on August 6th.

According to El Nuevo Herald, Quiroga warned, “Religion is an issue that should not be politicized.”  “What we have clearly said (as the opposition) is that the teaching of religion be respected and we are going to defend it” in Congress and at the Constitutional Assembly.

Regarding the statements of President Evo Morales, who said that, “some leaders of the Catholic Church act as if this were the Inquisition,” Quiroga responded that such rhetoric should be avoided because it only brings negative consequences.

Numerous lawmakers at the national and local level as well as educational institutions have voiced their support of the Church and have united in calling for the resignation of Bolivia’s Minister of Education, Felix Patzi.

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Spokesman denies Cardinal Rivera offered to mediate election dispute

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 28, 2006 (CNA) - The spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico city, Father Hugo Valdemar, issued a clarification on Thursday denying reports that Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera had offered to mediate the dispute surrounding the results of the July 2nd presidential elections.

“The Church has no intention of supplanting any institution,” Father Valdemar explained, referring, in this case, to the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary.  “Rather, she desires or asks that we let the institutions act, because at this time to speak of mediation is to say that the Electoral Tribunal isn’t doing anything,” he said.

Father Valdemar noted that there are many individuals or even political parties in Mexico capable of providing mediation. Only in an extreme case when, “these options and possibilities of dialogue have been exhausted would the Church undoubtedly be open to mediating”

He also denied that the Mexican government is pressuring the Church to support Felipe Calderon as the winner of the elections, as militants of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) and its candidate Andres Lopez Obrador have alleged.

“That accusation has no basis. The government has been deeply respectful of the Church as the Church has been to the federal government, that is to say, up to now, at least the Archdiocese of Mexico City has not been pressured to support any particular political issue,” Father Valdemar stated.

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Bishops warn of rearming of militia groups in Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 28, 2006 (CNA) - Several Colombian bishops are warning that certain paramilitary groups in the country that in recent years had agreed to disband and turn themselves over to authorities are rearming and getting involved in crime and drug trafficking.

According to the newspaper “El Diario”, the fears were expressed by the bishops during the Plenary Assembly of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia.  “We are very fearful of this grave situation,” conference president Archbishop Luis Castro said.

In the region of Antioquia alone authorities report that 75 demobilized paramilitary soldiers have been murdered and another 88 have been arrested for criminal activity.  In the nearby Valley of Cauca, 227 militants have been linked to criminal groups and to drug trafficking.

Bishop Julio Cesar Vidal of Monteria said the rearming was to be expected, “as the phenomenon has occurred in other countries where demobilization has taken place.”

“Drug trafficking groups are recruiting these demobilized soldiers,” Cesar Vidal said.  “The government must take corrective action.”  Monteria is the capital of the state of Cordoba and is considered the central bastion of the so-called United Self-Defenses of Colombia, the main paramilitary group in the country.

Bishop Jaime Prieto of Barrancabermeja called the situation “troubling” and Bishop Orlando Corrales of Palmira said, “On the outskirts of my city there is concern about this phenomenon.”

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