Archive of August 10, 2006

Las Cruces, New Mexico sued to remove “cruces” from city logo

Las Cruces, N.M., Aug 10, 2006 (CNA) - A case against the city of Las Cruces, New Mexico is going forward, in an attempt to force the removal of three crosses from the city’s official logo.

According to the Associated Press, plaintiffs Paul Weinbaum and Martin Boyd filed a lawsuit against the city last year in the U.S. District Court, in Albuquerque. The lawsuit alleges the emblem violates the constitutional separation of church and state by placing religious symbols on public property and spending public money to promote religion.

Las Cruces is Spanish for "the crosses."

The lawsuit also accuses the city of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by requiring prospective employees to sign job applications that include a religious symbol.

"The crosses serve no governmental purpose other than to disenfranchise and discredit non-Christian citizens," said the lawsuit filed by Paul F. Weinbaum, who lives in the Las Cruces area, and Martin J. Boyd of Las Cruces.

Las Cruces Bishop, Ricardo Ramírez, told CNA that the symbol, as well as the city’s name, is based upon historical and geographical circumstance and not on any direct religious influence.

Bishop Ramírez said that while the precise history of the name is still being studied, popular tradition holds that several people died in the area which is now Las Cruces and were buried by loved ones who planted crosses over their graves.  The area became known as Las Cruces by passersby who used the crosses as a geographical landmark.  When settlers established a village in the area, it logically kept that name.  

“Obviously,” Ramírez said, “the name and the symbol were not chosen by any priest or bishop; this is a symbol which has arisen by choice of the people in the area.”

“It would seem appropriate to keep the symbol as it has been based upon historical and geographical significance. The symbol of the city has been three crosses forever,” the bishop said in a phone interview.

The trial is set to begin in November. According to the AP, New Mexico State University history professor Jon Hunner is expected to provide the court with an account of the historical significance of the crosses.

A separate lawsuit was filed in 2003 by Weinbaum and another Las Cruces resident, Jesse Chavez, against Las Cruces Public Schools for its use of the crosses on its vehicles and logos. No trial date has been set in that case.

Defendants include city officials, city councilors, Mayor Bill Mattiace, District Attorney Susana Martinez, state Attorney General Patricia Madrid and Gov. Bill Richardson.

"We have had to defend ourselves before and we're ready to do it again," Mattiace said.

"The crosses have a basis for being in our logo. We will hold course and will defend that.”

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U.S. Bishops strongly oppose over-the-counter sale of abortion causing drug

Washington D.C., Aug 10, 2006 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reacted yesterday to an announced agreement between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Barr Pharmaceuticals, maker of the Plan B “morning-after pill.”  Dierdre McQuade, Director of Planning and Information at the Bishops Conference, said that the bishops strongly oppose plans to allow the drug, which often causes abortions, to be sold without a prescription.

The pharmaceutical company and the FDA, the government organization charged with regulating drugs, came to an agreement Wednesday that would lead to ready availability of Plan B within weeks, the New York Times reported.  The FDA has been delaying a decision on Plan B for the past three years.  

Barr Laboratories was reportedly told by the FDA to resubmit its application asking for approval for over-the-counter sales of the pill within two weeks. A spokeswoman for the FDA, Susan Bro, said the agency would act quickly on the application, thus making it likely that the pill will soon be available without a prescription.

While Barr says that Plan-B is a contraceptive drug, it is known to have abortifacient qualities.  It works by injecting the body with a large dose of a powerful hormonal drug, one that is available only by prescription when used in smaller doses for contraception. It may act on a woman’s body in several ways. “The morning-after pill may prevent fertilization, or it may interfere with the implantation of the embryo in her mother’s womb,” Ms. McQuade said. “Such interference is best understood not as contraceptive but as a very early abortifacient action.”

The Catholic Church believes that human life begins at the moment the child is conceived, thus the forced expulsion of a living embryo would constitute an abortion.

McQuade said that the drug may not even succeed in its intended purpose and may pose a danger the women, “A number of studies have shown that readier access to emergency contraception does not lower unintended pregnancies or abortions. Such access may also lead to an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Plan B fails the test of addressing an urgent medical need – a new human life is not a disease – and may expose women to greater harm.”

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Montana Bishop calls impending execution ‘state-sponsored suicide’

, Aug 10, 2006 (CNA) - On August 11th, David Thomas Dawson will be the first person to be put to death in the state of Montana in almost a decade. This week, Bishop George Leo Thomas of the Diocese of Helena spoke out against the impending execution calling for a dismantling of what he calls an obsolete system.

In 1987, Dawson was convicted of three counts of homicide and four counts of aggravated kidnapping in connection with the murders of David and Monica Rodstein and their 11-year-old son Andrew. A second child, 15-year old Amy, was kidnapped but survived.

Bishop Thomas said, in a letter published in the Helena Independent Record newspaper, that while Dawson’s crimes were unspeakably horrific, “The Gospel mandates that we ‘love our enemies and pray for those who have harmed us.’” He also cited the author C.S. Lewis, who once exclaimed, “If you want a religion that is really comfortable, I don’t recommend Christianity.”
The bishop outlined Catholic social teaching which says that, “if non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means. ...”

To this, he stressed that, “the fact of the matter is, modern technology has provided the means to assure the safety of the community for the natural lifetime of a convicted felon. The Montana penal system has this technology well in place.”

State-Sponsored Suicide

Bishop Thomas added that “In his testimony before the Montana Supreme Court, Dawson said it himself, ’I have no hopes, no dreams. All I have is 20 years of preparing to be executed. And it’s that preparedness that I decided, you know, enough is enough.’”

“David Thomas Dawson”, the bishop said, “is asking the people of the State of Montana to assist him in the willful taking of his own life, a request tantamount to state-sponsored suicide.”

He added that “His request, and the state’s willingness to grant it, demeans all of us, and makes us, perhaps unwittingly, participants in the suicidal ideations of a man unwilling to take responsibility for his tragic decisions.”

The bishop called on Catholics around Montana as well as all people of good will to press state governor Brian Schweitzer and legislators alike to “dismantle” what he called the “dated delusion that lethal injection is the answer to one of our society’s most complex problems.” 

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Subject of new movie on 9/11 says Catholic faith saved him from death

Washington D.C., Aug 10, 2006 (CNA) - Will Jimeno, whose story of survival in the 9/11 attacks is retold in the new Oliver Stone movie “World Trade Center,” said this week his Catholic faith and an unexpected vision kept him alive during the long hours in which he was trapped under the rubble of the twin towers.

“What kept me going was the faith in God that my mother instilled in me as a Catholic.  And, as the last Pope (John Paul II) said, we Hispanics have very great faith,” Jimeno told the EFE news agency in one of dozens of interviews he has granted.

“World Trade Center” recounts the story of Jimeno and John McLoughlin, two New York police officers who ran into the second tower to help rescue people.  When the tower collapsed, all of their fellow officers were crushed to death.  Jimeno and McLoughlin managed to survive 12 hours under the rubble, unable to see one another but at least able to communicate.  Only 20 people were pulled from the rubble, alive - Jimeno was number 18 and McLoughlin number 19.

“When we got to the twin towers and I saw people jumping out, I felt like my hands were tied, and that’s the worse thing that can happen to a police officer.  We really wanted to help as many people as possible,” Jimeno said.

During the hours in which they remained trapped under the rubble, wondering if they would die, they relied on memories of their families and their faith to stay alive. Jimeno thought about his daughter and his wife who was seven-months pregnant at the time.

In one scene of the movie, Jimeno has a vision of Jesus who offers him a bottle of water.  In an interview with Univision, he confirmed the veracity of the account.

“In the majority of interviews I have with Hispanics, they always ask me about that.  But I am Catholic, my mother Emma taught me my faith and my dad, William, hard work.  And the faith my mother gave me, that night I needed it, because at that moment the two buildings fell, I was burned and the revolver (of his companion) went off.  I was ready to die, I made my peace with God.  But God gave me the will and strength to keep fighting, because if I had not seen Jesus, I think I would be dead,” he stated.

Jimeno came to the United States from Colombia when he was two years old and says he has wanted to be a police officer since he was a young boy.  He graduated from the police academy in January of 2001. Jimeno says he never imagined he would experience a tragedy like 9/11.

“For me this story belongs to us all. Not to me or to John (McLoughlin), but to all the heroes who died with us, those who came to save us, and our wives,” he added.

Now, he said, “my family is everything for me.  I take my daughters to school and I take part in as many activities as possible.  My family is number one.  My daughters are beautiful and have so much energy.  I thank God I have them every day.”

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Texas Cathedral granted special status by Pope

Beaumont, Texas, Aug 10, 2006 (CNA) - On Tuesday, St. Anthony Cathedral in Beaumont was granted Minor Basilica status by Pope Benedict XVI, an honor shared by a small number of churches across the U.S.  

Bishop Curtis Guillory announced that, "This is an honor and a blessing, not only for our Catholics, but also for all the people of Southeast Texas.”

In conferring this special status, the Vatican recognizes the artistic and historical significance of the cathedral, as well as the importance it plays in the liturgical and pastoral ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Beaumont.

"This beautiful designation links us even more closely to the Chair of Peter. Basilica comes from a Greek word meaning 'hall of the King'. This is the place where our King and Savior, Christ, is worshipped," explained Bishop Guillory.

Dedicated in 1907 and renovated and restored in 2004, St. Anthony’s is an historic attraction for the city and a place of pilgrimage for the faithful.

The new status will give the cathedral the responsibility of celebrating, with greater solemnity, certain Church feast days such as the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. It will also be able to add the papal coat of arms to its artwork and sacred images.

According to the Beaumont Enterprise newspaper, following an announcement at noontime Mass on Tuesday, St. Anthony’s Monsignor Richard DiStefano said that despite the new title, the parish’s character will remain the same.

"It doesn't matter if we are a parish, a cathedral or a basilica," he told the congregation. "We have to never lose focus on who we are worshiping and that is the Lord Jesus."

Bishop Guillory called the act, “an affirmation by the Holy Father of the deep faith of the people of Southeast Texas.”

The diocese is beginning to set plans for a special celebration of the new status, though no date has been set. The cathedral will be the fourth Catholic basilica in Texas and one of more than 50 in the United States.

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Bishop slams government official for criticizing priests

Santiago, Chile, Aug 10, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Alejandro Goic, came to the defense of priests in his country and expressed regret that Chile’s Minister of Education is not aware of the work priests are doing.

During the congress “Young People and Politics,” organized by the University of the Andes, Education Minister Yasna Provoste said, “I have never seen any Church leader knocking on a citizen’s door.”

Bishop Goic called the official’s statement “profoundly regrettable.”  

“I think Madame Provoste is ignorant of the work of each pastor, who knows his people, and of the bishops in the pastoral visits we make to each of the parishes in our ecclesiastical jurisdiction.   We must be in permanent contact with our people,” he said.

“With all due respect, I think very few are as aware of the reality people face as the priests of Chile and the bishops in their respective jurisdictions,” Bishop Goic added.

Conservative congressional leaders also voiced their rejection of Provoste’s comments and expressed their support of the Church.
“It is regrettable that certain individuals who only mingle with the people when they are going door to door before elections come out and criticize institutions that work so closely with the community and that carry out such important social work in our country, as the Catholic Church and other religious groups do.  It is an embarrassment to see a government official launch a campaign against the Church, making such serious charges as the ones she has made,” said Marcelo Forni of the conservative Independent Democratic Union Party.

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Nicaraguan bishops to lead march against abortion

Managua, Nicaragua, Aug 10, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Nicaragua announced it will lead a march to the steps of the national assembly on October 6th, in order to protest the inclusion of  a clause legalizing “therapeutic abortion” in the country’s constitution.

According to Bishop Miguel Mantica, head of clergy formation for the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference, the march will begin at the Cathedral of Managua and proceed to the steps of the national assembly building, where they will present a request to lawmakers that the term “therapeutic abortion” be removed from the Constitution.

“Therapeutic abortion will open the door to the legalization of abortion in Nicaragua, as has unfortunately occurred in other countries,” the bishop said.  He invited all people of goodwill and all those who love life to take part in the march.

Nicaraguan lawmakers are currently debating proposals to modify the country’s penal code to allow for therapeutic abortion in the country.

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Dominican cardinal denounces continued influence of drug traffickers in police force

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Aug 10, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, said this week the “shameful” incident in which a man arrested for drug trafficking was found drinking alcoholic beverages with his police guards demonstrates that the power of drug traffickers is present “in all places.”

Last Sunday, Colombian drug trafficker Jaime Alonso Calle Muñoz was caught drinking alcohol with a police patrol group that had checked him out of jail in order to take him to a local mall.  The officers in question have been placed under arrest.

“This confirms what we have been saying for some time: certain members of the national police force must go,” the cardinal said.  He called the incident “shameful, unjustifiable, and reprehensible” and said it proves that drug trafficking has great power in the Dominican Republic.

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The Catholic University of America cracks down on Lacrosse team after initiation party

Washington D.C., Aug 10, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic University of America’s women’s lacrosse team will be walking on thin ice this season following a freshman initiation party involving a male stripper--something university officials are calling “contrary to the values” of the university.

The university opted to forfeit three games from last year’s season which occurred after the party and place the 2006-07 team on probation.

ESPN reported that photos from the off-campus party were posted on the internet under the heading “"Catholic University Women's Lacrosse Initiation Party 2006."

The school’s athletic director, Michael Allen said in a statement this week that "After interviewing members of the lacrosse team and carefully reviewing the facts, we have determined that team members engaged in regrettable activities that are contrary to the expectations we have for our students and to the values of the university."

He expressed deep disappointment at, “their actions, particularly for any embarrassment and humiliation which the freshmen being initiated may have experienced at the time and subsequent to the event."

The school’s decision came as welcome news to many who question the current moral atmosphere at many of the Catholic colleges and universities in the United States.

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