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Archive of November 8, 2006

Elections bring some good news for marriage, bad news for pro-life activists

Washington D.C., Nov 8, 2006 (CNA) - Yesterday's elections in the United States, which brought the first Democratic controlled House of Representatives (and possibly Senate) since 1994, offered good news for marriage in many states, but key defeats in the defense of the life of the unborn.

South Dakotans voted against a toughest-in-the-nation law that would have banned virtually all abortions. The measure, passed overwhelmingly by the legislature earlier this year, would have allowed abortion only to save a pregnant woman's life.

Lawmakers hoped the ban would be challenged in court, provoking litigation that might eventually lead to a U.S. Supreme Court reversal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

In California, Proposition 85, which would have required parental notification for minors seeking abortion, was defeated 53 against 46.

And in Oregon, another measure was defeated that would have required parental notification and a 48-hour waiting period before a minor could receive an abortion.  The measure, which was defeated by a 54 - 46 margin leaves current Oregon law, which allows individuals 15 years or older to obtain an abortion without parental notification, intact.

Meanwhile, in Missouri most are forecasting the passage of a contentious amendment that would open the door for destructive embryonic stem cell research and human cloning through somatic cell nuclear transfer.

Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, President of Human Life International, said this morning that Missourians were duped into accepted the amendment. “We are saddened by the passage of Amendment 2 and recognize that it only passed because this proposal was carefully crafted by the powerful bio- tech lobby’s lawyers to purposely be misleading and confusing,” Euteneuer said.  “This amendment is inherently deceptive, exploitative and misleading and the people of Missouri deserve better.”

“Women and their fertility will now be treated like a commodity that can be bought and sold on a whim, while subjecting women to a dangerous procedure that can cause irreparable harm and even death,” Euteneuer worried.

Nevertheless, seven states joined the ranks of those who have passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex “marriage”: Idaho, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, and South Dakota.  A proposed amendment in Arizona is still too close to call.

Similar amendments have passed previously in all 20 states to consider them.

One of the most important victories took place in Wisconsin, where gay-rights activists hoped for their first-ever victory over marriage.

"We did our best," said Josh Freker, a spokesman for the pro-gay organization, "Fair Wisconsin."  Freker said this was the first full-fledged campaign to defeat such a measure.  "We did have a lot of hope," he said.

Lorri Pickens, campaign manager for Vote Yes for Marriage, said Wisconsin voters wanted to prevent "activist judges" from potentially legalizing gay marriage.

"People understand that the institution of marriage is an important rock bed and foundation for our communities," Pickens said.  

Another key victory for marriage took place in Colorado, were voters not only approved an amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, but also defeated the controversial "Referendum I," which would have granted gay unions all the same rights granted to married couples.

Gay activists saw in Referendum I a test case of how to circumvent marriage amendments around the nation by using the term "civil unions" to grant same-sex couples exactly the same rights marriages have.

Jim Pfaff, national representative of the lobbying branch of Focus on the Family said Coloradans saw through the “deceptive campaign” launched by the “homosexual lobby.”

“(Ref. I) would have redefined the terms ‘spouse', ‘family' and ‘next of kin' in all of Colorado law,” said Pfaff. “There aren't many things that you can do that are more radical, when it comes to Colorado law.”

Pfaff applauded Colorado for passing Amendment 43 and joining other states across the country in upholding the traditional definition of marriage.

“The instinct of humans and thousands of years of history show that, without exception, marriage has always been the union of one man and one woman,” said Pfaff.

The defeat of Referendum I was especially significant, since it received an unprecedented financial support, mainly from gay multi millionaire Tim Gill, the founder Quark Inc.

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Bishop confirms: priest did not receive permission from Vatican to enter politics

Montreal, Canada, Nov 8, 2006 (CNA) - Contrary to claims made by a political party and media reports, a Canadian priest did not receive permission from the Vatican to enter into politics and to run in a federal by-election, the priest’s bishop said recently.

Fr. Raymond Gravel, a priest of the Diocese of Joliette, north of Montreal, was nominated as a candidate for the Bloc Quebecois and is slated to run in the Nov. 27 by-election, which was called after the incumbent died in August.

In a statement issued last week, Bishop Gilles Lussier of Joliette stated clearly that the priest did not receive Vatican approval.

“The Vatican has not given the ‘green light’ to Fr. Raymond Gravel to enter politics,” the statement reads. Neither did the bishop “receive permission from authorities in Rome concerning Fr. Gravel’s project,” the statement adds.

"Church legislation is clear: all priests are to refrain from active involvement in political activities," the bishop’s statement reads.

Though there can be “truly exceptional circumstances” for making allowing this, no such circumstances exist in Canada, the bishop said.
 
"In choosing to become actively involved in a political party, Fr. Gravel retains his clerical state but is relieved from the exercise of his priestly ministry,” the bishop said in the statement. “He cannot undertake any priestly activity during such time as he is involved in politics.

“This measure is to avoid confusion among the faithful and to preserve the distinction between politics and religion,” he explained. “In any case, renouncing the exercise of priestly ministry always represents a painful situation for the Church.”

Contrary to previous media reports as well, the official statement from the diocese makes no mention of special agreements made between Fr. Gravel and the bishop that would allow him to enter politics.

Conservative candidate Stephan Bourgon criticized Fr. Gravel in a statement Monday, saying that the priest had misled voters by saying that he had obtained Vatican permission and that telling the truth is vital in politics, reported the Canadian Press.

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Australian Senate passes cloning bill

Sydney, Australia, Nov 8, 2006 (CNA) - The Australian Senate passed a controversial private member's bill on therapeutic cloning on Monday despite intense lobbying by Catholic and other groups opposed to the practice.

Catholic Health Australia, for one, urged the senators to vote against the bill.  In addition, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney had warned that the legislation would push Australia down a slippery slope of legalizing embryos with multiple genetic parents, as well as human-animal crosses, reported Austrialia-based Cathnews.com.

The Senate was allowed a vote of conscience and the results were very close, with 34 in favor and 32 opposed, following an extremely heated debate.

The bill, which would allow researchers to clone human embryos in order to extract their stem cells, will now go to the House of Representatives, where MPs will also undertake a conscience vote. The House is expected to end debate by Friday and vote the measure into law.

According to Cathnews.com, existing laws allow stem cells to be harvested from surplus IVF embryos, but prevent them from being cloned.

The new bill also requires that cloned embryos be destroyed within 14 days and it prohibits them from being implanted in a woman.

Last-minute amendments, proposed by the Australian Democrats, increase from 10 to 15 years the prison sentence for contravening safeguards designed to prevent abuse of embryonic cloning.

Another amendment stops the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) from granting licenses for human-animal hybrid embryos.

The vote demonstrates that the Senate has essentially accepted the principle that "one human being ... (could) be used and destroyed for the therapeutic benefit of another," said Liberal Senator Gary Humphries, according to The Australian.

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Pope calls Christians to "immerge themselves" in Christ, like St. Paul

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking to the 15,000-plus people gathered for his weekly General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI considered, for the second time, the person of St. Paul.  The Holy considered the profound conversion that Paul underwent and the subsequent life he lived, recognizing his total reliance on God’s grace.
 
The meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus, the Pope explained, "literally revolutionized his life. Christ became his raison d'etre and the profound inspiration behind all his apostolic labors... In truth, Christ Jesus is the apex of the history of salvation and, hence, the true point of reference in dialogue with other religions."
 
"Paul helps us to understand the absolutely fundamental and irreplaceable value of the faith," said the Holy Father, quoting the Apostle's words: "we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the Law." Being justified, the Holy Father continued, "means being made righteous, in other words being accepted by God's merciful justice and...being able to establish a much more authentic relationship with our fellows."
 
In the light of his meeting with Christ, Paul, who was not a man who had lived outside the Law, understood "that he had been seeking to construct his own justice, and that with that justice he had lived for himself. He understood that it was absolutely necessary to give a new direction to his life... Before the cross of Christ, the extreme expression of His sacrifice, no one can boast of themselves, of their own justice."
 
"Reflecting upon the meaning of justification not by works but by faith we have come to the second defining component of Christian identity," said Pope Benedict. Indeed, Christian identity has two elements: "not seeking oneself by oneself, but receiving oneself from Christ and giving oneself to Christ," and "participating personally in Christ's own story, to the point of immerging oneself in Him and sharing both His death and His life."
 
"For Paul," he concluded, "it is not enough to say that Christians are baptized or that they are believers. For him, it is equally important to say that they are 'in Christ Jesus.'”

“That which we, as Christians, are, we owe it only to Him and to His grace. And because nothing and no one can take His place, then to nothing else and to no one else do we pay the homage we pay to Him. No idol must contaminate our spiritual universe. Otherwise, instead of enjoying the freedom we have acquired, we would fall into a form of humiliating slavery, the Pope concluded. “Our radical devotion to Christ and the fact that we 'are in Him' must infuse us with a sense of complete trust."

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Conform your mind to Christ, Pope tells Swiss Bishops at Mass

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2006 (CNA) - Made public today was the homily given by the Pope yesterday during a Mass concelebrated in the Vatican's "Redemptoris mater" Chapel with bishops from Switzerland.
 
The Holy Father's supposed address to Swiss bishops, of which the Vatican Information Service published a summary yesterday, was not, in fact, delivered at all.  As reported by CNA and confirmed by a message released from the Holy See Press Office, the text published yesterday "reflected the contents of a draft version prepared earlier for the Swiss bishops 'ad limina' visit of February 2005."
 
In his off-the-cuff homily during yesterday's Mass, Benedict XVI noted how the liturgical readings he and the Swiss prelates had just heard had "a common theme, which could be summed up in the phrase: God never fails."
 
Referring to the parable of the guests who decide not to attend the banquet (Lk 14:15-24), the Holy Father indicated how God, "does not fail because He always finds new ways to reach mankind, and to open His great house in order to fill it entirely ... God does not fail, even today, though so often we hear the word 'no.'”

“We are aware that churches are becoming ever less full, that seminaries continue to empty, that religious houses are ever emptier; we know all the forms in which this 'no-I've-more-important-things-to-do' can present itself," the Pope said.
 
Quoting from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Pope Benedict told the bishops "Have among yourselves the same mind (or attitude) that is also yours in Christ Jesus(Phil 2:5-11)." 

"Learn to think as Christ thought, learn to think with Him! Such thought is not just of the mind, but also of the heart,” the Pope continued.  “If we enter into His feelings ... love for God is reawakened within us. We feel how beautiful it is that He exists, and that we can know Him, that we know Him in the face of Jesus Christ Who suffered for us."
 
"I believe" the Pope continued, "that we must commit ourselves above all to listening to the Lord, to prayer, to a profound participation in the Sacraments, to learning God's feelings in the face and the sufferings of our fellows, in order to be infected by His joy, by His zeal, by His love, and to contemplate the world with Him ... If we are able to do this, then even amid so many 'no’s,' we will again find men and women who await Him; perhaps strange men and women, as the parable clearly says, but who are called to enter His hall."
 
The Holy Father concluded his homily by highlighting the fact that problems "cannot be resolved if God is not placed at the center, if God does not become visible in the world once more, if He does not become a determining force in our lives, and if He does not, through us, decisively enter the world. It is my belief that the destiny of the world today, in its current dramatic situation, depends upon this: whether God - the God of Jesus Christ - exists and is recognized as such, or whether He disappears. Our concern is that He should remain present." 

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Iraqi archbishop opposes US rescue bid for Christians

Konigstein, Germany, Nov 8, 2006 (CNA) - An Iraqi bishop has criticized the United States bishops’ proposal to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which calls on her to grant asylum to Iraq’s persecuted Christians and to create a safe haven for them in the country’s Nineveh plains. Christians are currently fleeing Iraq in droves amid reports of ethnic cleansing.

The proposed plan is “impossible … and could create much more tension than relief for Christians,” said Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, located in northern Iraq.  

He suggested that the initiative could be divisive for the Christian faithful at a time of increasing anti-U.S. sentiment in Iraq.

“We have not at all assimilated with the coalition forces. We have nothing to do with them, nor indeed do we have anything to do with the West,” said Archbishop Sako. “We are Christians; we are citizens like everyone else,” he added, stressing the age-old co-existence and cooperation between Christian communities and the prevailing Islamic culture.

Archbishop Sako reported that the Christian exodus from Basra was so far advanced that, with barely 200 families left in the region, the local bishop had left his diocese to take up a new post administering to exiled communities in Sydney, Australia.

According to the archbishop, the diocese in Basra is likely to remain vacant and there is only one priest left working there now.

“It is almost the case now that there is no future for the Church in so many parts of the country, including Baghdad, Mosul and Basra,” he said.

He described the situation in his archdiocese as “calm and quiet.”

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Pope’s visit to Turkey is primarily ecumenical, says Cardinal Poupard

Rome, Italy, Nov 8, 2006 (CNA) - The President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, Cardinal Paul Poupard, said this week in Assisi that the primary purpose of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Turkey is “ecumenical,” as one of the most important moments of the trip will be his meeting with the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.

The French cardinal explained that it was understandable that in visiting a country with a majority Muslim population many would think the theme of inter-religious dialogue to be paramount, but that Christian unity has always been the primary focus of the trip.

Cardinal Poupard said the trip to Turkey is one that the Holy Father had wanted to take last year. “The Pope would have liked to have gone to Turkey last year but because of certain circumstances it had to be postponed until this year,” he said.

The Pope will be in Turkey from November 28 to December 1.

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Bishop Larkin, English tutor to JP II, dies

St. Petersburg, Nov 8, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop William Thomas Larkin, who headed the Diocese of St. Petersburg, from 1979 to 1988, died Nov. 4, after a long battle with leukemia; he was 83.

As the spiritual pastor of 300,000 Catholics, Bishop Larkin oversaw the addition of 19 new parishes and the establishment of diocesan offices for Hispanics, African Americans and the disabled. He also oversaw the creation of WBVM-FM, a Catholic radio station.

Raised in Mount Morris, N.Y., he moved to Daytona Beach for his first priestly assignment after his priestly ordination in 1947.

Soon after, he went to Rome to study for a doctorate in sacred theology and was a roommate with Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope, reported The Associated Press. The two men became friends and Larkin offered Wojtyla some English tutoring.

Bishop Larkin will be remembered as a man who was "deeply devoted" to his fellow priests, said the current bishop, Bishop Robert Lynch, in a statement reported by The Florida Catholic.

The current bishop said Bishop Larkin was for him “a wise counselor and friend.”

"His greatest gift to the diocese was the gift of his own person,” Msgr. Brendan Muldoon, a vicar general for the diocese, told The Florida Catholic. “He was a man of prayer. He was a very humble person. He was a very caring person, a very kind person," he recalled.

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Bishops deplore disruption of Mass in Mexico City Cathedral

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 8, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico has expressed outrage at the actions of radical groups that stormed the Cathedral of Mexico City on Sunday and disrupted the Mass being celebrated by Cardinal Norberto Rivera.

In a statement, the bishops expressed their “concern, outrage and condemnation” at the attitude of “isolated groups of individuals seeking the attention,” showing no respect for the celebration of the Mass and attacking “his Eminence the cardinal and the faithful themselves.”

“In a democracy we all have the right to express our different points of view; to speak of tolerance and inclusion means—in addition to accepting different opinions—respecting the convictions of others and, even more so, when one is preaching in a place designed to congregate the faithful who have the right to be taught by their legitimate pastors,” the statement indicated.

The bishops stressed that Mexico is a country where “cultural diversity is a characteristic of our idiosyncrasy.”  In this sense, the bishops reiterated their “rejection of those who, with intolerant attitudes, have chosen to impose their own ideas and beliefs.”

The bishops also called on “those responsible for the different political and social organizations to ensure that these unfortunate violent events are not repeated, and more so in places designed to proclaim the faith of the Catholic people of Mexico.”

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Focolares foundress hospitalized in Rome

Rome, Italy, Nov 8, 2006 (CNA) - The press office of the Focolores Movement announced on Tuesday that its foundress, Chiara Lubich, has been hospitalized in the Gemelli Clinic in Rome.

Leaders of the movement said Lubich was hospitalized for respiratory difficulties and they asked for prayers for her recovery.

Chiara Lubich was born in Trento in northern Italy in 1920.

She privately consecrated herself to God on December 7, 1943, and in 1948 she met Igino Giordani, a politician, writer, journalist and father of four, who would become co-founder with her of the Focolare Movement.  In 1967, in response to the growing crisis of the family, Lubich founded the New Families Movement.  Not long after, she founded a youth movement called “New Generation.”

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Ecuadorian government distributing textbooks that encourage teens to experiment with sex

Quito, Ecuador, Nov 8, 2006 (CNA) - With financial backing from the Dutch government, the government of Ecuador has begun distributing textbooks in schools throughout the country that separate sexuality from moral values, ridicule abstinence, and encourage sexual activity among teens.

The Ministry of Education, which has published the textbooks with the support of the Pan-American Organization of Health, the Dutch Service of Cooperation for Development, and the Dutch Embassy, said the use of the textbooks is obligatory.

In the editions developed for 13 and 14 year-olds, the textbooks present masturbation as “a normal and expected expression of human development.”  Masturbation, the book says, “helps you to release tension and to get to know own body.  During puberty it can help you as a way of learning about sexual pleasure.”

The books treat abstinence with disdain, calling it “the voluntary privation of the total or partial satisfaction of something, in this case, of sex.”  The books make no mention of marriage, chastity, values, respect or fidelity.”

Priscila de Barahona, director of the Pro-Life Action organization, told CNA the books are available to kids as young as 10 years old.  “They incite them to use contraceptives, they recommend masturbation, they present sexually transmitted diseases as problems that can only be solved medically without any consideration for prevention, and they treat the condom as the only means for protection against AIDS, without mentioning its familiar defects.”

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