Archive of August 22, 2006

Delay in execution of terrorists creates questions for Indonesian Catholics facing similar sentence

Jakarta, Indonesia, Aug 22, 2006 (CNA) - The execution of three men convicted for their part in the 2002 terrorist bombing of a Bali resort which killed 202 and injured another 209 has been stayed again this morning, according to Australia’s Herald Sun.  The stay has raised hopes and questions surrounding the postponed execution of three Indonesian Catholics.

The three Catholic prisoners were originally scheduled for execution on August 12th.  That execution was postponed after an appeal from Pope Benedict XVI and Catholic leaders within the overwhelmingly Muslim country.  The men, Fabianus Tibo, Domingus “Domi” da Silva and Marinus Riwu, were then expected to be executed sometime early this week.  As of late Tuesday evening in Indonesia the executions have not occurred.

The three Catholics have been convicted of crimes related to a series of murders and reprisals between Muslims and Christians in 2000 and 2001.

The three Muslims, Amrozi Nurhasyim, Ali Gufron, and Imam Samudra, were spared from their scheduled death by firing squad yesterday, as well.

Now the two executions seem to be linked.  Indonesian government sources told the Herald Sun today that the execution of the Christian men must happen before that of the Muslims in order to avoid backlash from the majority Muslim population.

Many in the Catholic community hope that both sets of death sentences might be permanently vacated.  Msgr. Rugambwa Novatus, counselor to the Holy See’s diplomatic mission in Indonesia told AsiaNews yesterday he is hopeful that, “growing opposition to the death penalty in the country and among human rights groups may lead to a reprieve in both cases.”

Novatus told AsiaNews that it is undeniable that the two cases are now linked.

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President Bush supports over-the-counter access to abortion drug

Washington D.C., Aug 22, 2006 (CNA) - President George Bush shocked the pro-life movement with his support for over-the-counter access to abortion-drug Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, for adults. However, Plan B “ought to require a prescription for minors,” he said.

Bush’s words of support came at a White House press conference yesterday, when he was asked by the Washington Examiner’s Bill Sammon about Plan B and his new FDA commissioner who supports its over-the-counter status.  
“President Bush’s implied support of over-the-counter status for the abortion-causing drug Plan B is a betrayal of the pro-life principles he claims to support,” said Stephen Peroutka, Esq., chairman of the National Pro-Life Action Center.

“If this dangerous drug is made available over-the-counter, it will give adult male predators another weapon in their arsenal against young women,” he added.

Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International added that the president’s statement is also "completely inconsistent with his recent veto of the embryonic stem-cell research (ESCR) funding bill.

“What the president apparently fails to realize is that Plan B kills the same innocent unborn children that the ESCR process does," said the priest in a statement.

"The president must demonstrate a consistent respect for the sanctity of all human life or he risks provoking a great divorce with the conservative Catholics that comprise a large part of his support base,” Fr. Euteneuer continued. “Human beings in the embryonic stage of development deserve equal protection under the law and the president's position falls far short of that mark."

FDA Commissioner Dr. Andy von Eschenbach has said he would support making the abortion drug available without a prescription to women, aged 18 and up. Pro-life groups called for his resignation last week over his support for the drug.

According to, Concerned Women for America had blasted the decision, pointing out a clear incongruence: Plan B would be available without medical supervision while a low-dose of the same drug, found in birth control pills, requires medical oversight to protect women from serious health complications.

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Fr. Frank Pavone launching new pro-life community in US

Amarillo, Texas, Aug 22, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Renato Martino, the President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is to preside at the groundbreaking ceremony Aug. 24th Amarillo, Texas, for Priests for Life’s new international headquarters and formation house for the seminarians of the new the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life.

During the mass, Priests for Life national director Fr. Frank Pavone will become the first member of the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life and he will receive the promises of the first group of lay associates. The new priestly community was founded by Fr. Pavone.

Bishop John Yanta of Amarillo welcomed Priests for Life into his diocese and officially established its new community in December. The second group of seminarians for the society arrived Aug. 17.

“This is an historic day,” the bishop said, “and only God knows how significant it will prove to be for the pro-life movement in this country and around the world. Our diocese is proud to partner with Priests for Life in this work of the Holy Spirit.”

Last December, Cardinal Martino said the new community “may seem like a sign of contradiction—but it may just be what the world of today needs! The call to protect life is not only a foundation of our faith as Catholics, but it is the very basis of our recognition of human rights and the right to life.”

Fr. Pavone will also take this opportunity to convene a strategy meeting of priests who work full time on the pro-life cause and pro-life leaders.

Guests expected to attend the ceremony include: Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr. and a member of the Priests for Life pastoral team; Norma McCorvey, the former “Jane Roe” of Roe vs. Wade, whom Fr. Pavone received into the Catholic Church in 1998; Bob and Mary Schindler, the parents of Terri Schiavo; and Mary O’Connor Ward, the sister of Cardinal John O’Connor, who ordained Fr. Pavone and gave him permission in 1993 to lead Priests for Life.

For more information, visit

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Maronite archbishop urges Christians to remain in Lebanon

El Qlaiaa, Lebanon, Aug 22, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Chucrallah Nabil Hage of Tyre in Lebanon is urging Maronite Catholics to keep up their strength and remain in the war-torn country, according to a report in USA Today.

"Wherever you are — in Hajji or Tyre or Marjayoun — if you're patient and believe, you'll make it through this," the archbishop reportedly said in the packed St. George's Church. "The most important thing is to stay on this land."

Since last month, the 63-year-old archbishop has braved the bombing to visit the few Christian villages in largely Shiite southern Lebanon, delivering food and medicine, and urging the Christians to stay, despite the danger.

The archbishop had wanted to begin visiting Christian towns immediately after the start of fighting in mid-July, but he found himself stuck in Tyre as his driver, cook and priests fled. He turned to the group going most often into the war zone: international journalists.

According to the archbishop, Maronites act as a peaceful buffer between two warring entities. He has worked for years to keep the villages populated. But the reality for Christians in southern Lebanon, where they confront a job shortage, is tough.

The Maronite Church cannot compete with the vast social welfare net that Hezbollah has built for Shiites — clinics, schools and other facilities — Daniel Nicholas, an unemployed El Qlaiaa native, told USA Today.

The exact number of Maronites and other Christians in Lebanon is unknown. Though the CIA estimates the nation's population of 3.8 million is roughly 60 percent Muslim and 40 percent Christian.

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Courts halt approval of abortion in Argentina as false information about mother’s pregnancy is discovered

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 22, 2006 (CNA) - A federal court in Mendoza has accepted a petition to halt the abortion of a baby conceived through rape, after it was revealed that the unborn child is in his twentieth week of gestation and not in his twelfth, as the plaintiffs had claimed.

The case in Mendoza concerns a 25 year-old handicapped woman who supposedly conceived through rape.  The parents of the young woman are using a similar case in La Plata as the basis for their own.

The case was halted after pro-life groups discovered that the young woman seeking the abortion in Mendoza is in reality 20 weeks pregnant and not 12, as her lawyers have insisted.

The organizations “Life More Humane” and “Women for a more Humane Life” reported that the clinical history of the woman indicates her pregnancy is well advanced and that the baby has reached viability.

“If, as has been publicly said, the purpose here is to protect the health of the mother,” the groups said, “it is obvious that an abortion at such a late stage in the pregnancy would seriously complicate the health of the woman and would pose a risk to her life.”

“Likewise,” the statement indicates, “knowledge of these circumstances by hospital directors, judicial officials, and officials of the Ministry of Health would make them legally responsible if the murderous act were to take place.”

Archbishop Jose Maria Arancibia of Mendoza has issued a statement in response to the case, recalling that “under no circumstances can the health of a human being be pursued by harming directly or intentionally the integrity of another human being, because the ends do not justify the means, no matter how noble the end.”

“From such fundamental ethical and human questions it is not good to exclude the perspective that religious and spiritual traditions offer because of ideological motives,” the archbishop noted.  “Our society seems to be increasingly influenced by an individualistic pragmatism that is only subject to the empire of economic laws. It urgently needs to have its deeper spiritual forces activated.  Religion—although not exclusively—can provide the soul that vivifies the social fabric, opening it up to more human perspectives,” he added.

“The conditions of poverty, marginality, unwanted pregnancies in adolescents, and young people at risk are not adequately addressed by a rapid decriminalization of abortion,” the archbishop went on.  “We should be debating something else in society, most of all, a better coordinated effort to attack the root causes of these problems, which will ensure that we are building a society that has a truly human face to it,” Archbishop Aranciba’s statement concluded.

The court also removed Judge German Ferrer from the case because of his controversial statements.  He had told a local newspaper that if the doctors refused to carry out the abortion, the mother could sue them for pain and suffering.  The court said Judge Ferrer prejudged the case and compromised his impartiality with the statements.

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Father of disabled child says abuse more worrisome in public schools

Washington D.C., Aug 22, 2006 (CNA) - The parent of a teen with Down Syndrome says children, and especially those with disabilities, are more likely to experience sexual abuse in public schools than anywhere else outside the home, including at church.

“Dan is safer serving Mass at our local parish than he'll ever be in America's public schools,” Francis X. Maier writes of his son in an article published in the May issue of Crisis Magazine. “And yet the Church has been the sole focus of attack since the clerical sex-abuse scandal came to light four years ago.”

Maier cites a 2005 Associated Press article, which reports that in some states, sexual abuse is now the main reason public school teachers lose their licenses. He also cites a 1999 investigative report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which found that the most common reason for teacher discipline in Pennsylvania in the 1990s was sex-related offenses.

In 2005, 250 public school teacher misconduct cases had been substantiated in New York City schools. Of these, 92 involved sexual misconduct complaints, ranging from rape to public exposure.

Maier also cites Charol Shakeshaft of Hofstra University, who, in February 2006, told the Colorado General Assembly that 6.7 percent of all students in the United States report being sexually abused by an educator in public schools.

Of the 45 million students attending public and private schools, more than 3 million will have been the target of physical sexual exploitation by a school employee by grade 11, says Shakeshraft.

“Even on the wild chance that these data are off by half, the scope of public school sexual abuse involves many hundreds of thousands of students and eclipses anything in the Catholic clergy,” says Maier.

“The evidence also suggests that from 1 percent to 5 percent of the teaching profession and up to 25 percent of all public school districts have problems of sexual abuse,” he adds. Furthermore, abusive teachers are moved to at least two to three school districts before they are stopped.

“But don't expect to read about it in your local newspaper,” said Maier, since most incidents of public school educator sexual misconduct with children are not entered into criminal justice information systems. Abusers, says Shakeshraft, “are generally subject only to informal personnel actions within the relative privacy of the [public school] administration."

In a study of 225 cases of educator sexual abuse in a major metropolitan area only 1 percent of offending teachers lost their teaching credentials, Shakeshraft points out.

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Spanish bishop encourages Catholics to participate in politics

Madrid, Spain, Aug 22, 2006 (CNA) - In a pastoral letter entitled on political life, Bishop Luis Guitarras Martin of Segovia has called on Catholics “to get involved in politics based on the demands of the faith.”

In his letter, the bishop explained that “this does not mean that we must belong to a particular political party, but rather that whichever party we belong to, and even if we don’t belong to any, we must follow the guidance and dictates of our faith.”

The Christian faith, he noted, does not provide concrete answers to political endeavors, which are governed by their own principles and rationale, but it can infuse them with humanity and with love.

To illustrate his point, Bishop Guitarras cited a favorite saying of St. John of Avila:  “If you are not rich in love, forsake politics, since it is a war that demands much love.”

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Priest in Spain elects not to repair church damaged prior to visit of Pope Benedict

Valencia, Fla., Aug 22, 2006 (CNA) - A priest in the city of Valencia has elected not to repair damages to his parish that were the result of vandalism prior to the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in July.  

Father Juan Luis Orquin of the parish of Our Lady of the Assumption decided not to repair the doors to the church, which were partially destroyed by fire, as an historical reminder of the persecution the parish endured because of the papal visit.

The parish is located in district of the city known for “all kinds of excesses.”  It’s not uncommon to see anti-Catholic graffiti as well.

According to the Spanish daily “El Levante,” the night before Pope Benedict’s arrival in Spain a group of vandals set fire to an object and threw it at the church doors.  The fire was eventually put out but the damage can still be seen.

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Spanish Catholic group to finance health care for Amazonian natives

Lima, Peru, Aug 22, 2006 (CNA) - The Spanish NGO Manos Unidos has begun financing a food and health care program in the Peruvian Amazon to more than three thousand indigenous people who live in “extreme poverty” and make less than three dollars a day.

According to the AVAN news agency, the project has a budget of some $129,000 thanks to donations from parishes in Valencia.  The purpose of the effort is to provide instruction in the use of new agricultural technology and to improve hygiene to prevent disease in children and pregnant women.

The assistance will be given to twenty different indigenous communities that “are dedicated to raising livestock, operating booths at local fish markets and other small family businesses.”  Manos Unidos reports that in that region, “chronic child malnutrition affects 50% of children under the age of 3 and only 64% have received proper vaccinations.”

The program will be carried out in the area by Caritas Peru.

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