Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2006 (CNA) - As Republicans and Democrats are still considering what to make of the “Catholic vote” during 2006’s midterm elections, preparations are already gearing up for the 2008 presidential race. And as talk swirls about possible presidential runs by such well known politicians as Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain, a Catholic politician appears ready to throw his hat in the ring.
Senator Sam Brownback, a pro-life Republican Senator from the State of Kansas announced yesterday that, “after much prayerful consideration,” he will consider seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency.
Brownback, who has made a name for himself in conservative circles since he was elected a U.S. Senator in 1996, has been a fervent supporter of “family values” and creating a “culture of life” in the United States.
In the letter announcing his candidacy consideration, Brownback said he is running in order to “spread hope and ideas.”
The senator also noted a few of his platform concepts. In addition to mentioning life issues and the protection of marriage, Brownback notes some problems he would address as president. “The federal government wastes and spends too much. We lack compassionate yet practical programs to help the poor here and around the world. We need energy independence and alternative, clean-burning, domestic-grown fuels. The scourge of cancer has killed too many and must be stopped. We need term limits for judges and members of Congress like we have for the President. We need a flat tax instead of the dreadful, incomprehensible tax code we now have,” Brownback says, adding, “and we need humility.”
The Senator’s approach to “compassionate conservatism” may be what many Catholic voters are looking for. While many more Catholics had been voting for Republican candidates in recent years - due to their strong pro-life agenda - a shift of some Catholic voters back to Democratic candidates was seen in this year’s midterm elections.
Many, including Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, President of Human Life International, think that Catholic voters left their Republican candidates as those candidates became weak on abortion and family matters. “The most vulnerable seats in both houses were those held by politicians who had abandoned the pro-life and the pro-marriage principles that first brought them to power,” said Fr. Euteneuer shortly after the election.
Now, political pundits are projecting Sen. Brownback as the strongest conservative Republican candidate in the race.
Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for the Family Research Council, told Washington D.C.’s “The Hill” that the other leading candidates are lacking in several social areas.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been historically “pro-gay rights and pro-abortion,” McClusky said, and Arizona Senator John McCain has been only “moderately pro-life” and supported issues adamantly opposed by social conservatives, such as embryonic stem-cell research and fetal- tissue research.
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who declared his support for abortion rights during an unsuccessful 1994 Senate race, has a “spotty record on life,” said McCluskey, who said Romney is now “certainly coming around on the issue, which we hope he will, and he has good people working for him.”
According to “the Hill,” McClusky said Brownback might be able to fill a conservative leadership void among top-tier candidates. But even if he does not win the nomination, Brownback could have a major impact on the Republican primary by defining the debate on abortion and other related “life” issues, he added.
Though he doesn’t address it in his letter Brownback has also weighed-in on another contentious issue, the Iraq war. According to his website, the senator says that while he is “anxious” for U.S. troops to come home safely, he recognizes that, “even with the end of major combat operations, Iraq still faces an uncertain future.”
The United States, he continues, “must do all we can to help Iraq build the foundations of its new democracy. At the same time, we must understand that the key to Iraq’s future lies with individual Iraqi citizens.”
“I am very proud of the work our troops have performed since the end of major combat, but I am equally anxious for them to return home safely,” Brownback concludes.
Rome, Italy, Dec 5, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, called the ordination of a Chinese bishop without the authorization of the Holy See as an "accident in the road" which does not help relations with China.
According to the Italian news agency, ANSA, Cardinal Bertone thinks the informal conversations between the Vatican and China will continue, “but the road to arriving at diplomatic relations is not nearby" and the controversial ordination is "an act that slows down and does not encourage good relations."
Yesterday, the Holy See’s press office issued a communiqué stating, Pope Benedict XVI has received with "deep sadness" the news of the ordination of Chinese priest Juan Wang Renlei without Papal mandate.
Last Thursday, November 30th, the 36-year-old priest was consecrated bishop of the Diocese of Xuzhou, a province of Jiangsu, in mainland China, under the pressures of the Office of Religious Matters and of the Patriotic Catholic Association, which obeys the guidelines of the Chinese communist government and he does not recognize the authority of the Holy See.
“The Holy Father learned the news with great sadness, because this episcopal ordination was conferred without the pontifical mandate, in other words without respecting the discipline of the Catholic Church concerning the appointment of bishops,” states the text of the communiqué.
Wang Renlei is the third bishop this year who was consecrated without the approval of the Holy See. Last April, Beijing approved the ordination of Joseph Ma Yinglin as the bishop of Yunnan and in May, Liu Xinhong as bishop of Anhui, both decisions are considered by the Vatican "illegitimate" and "a serious violation to religious freedom."
Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2006 (CNA) -
Several pro-life leaders are urging members of Congress to vote in favor of the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act (H.R. 6099), which is likely to come up for a vote Wednesday.
National director for Priests for Life, Fr. Frank Pavone, says children in the womb should be given at least the same consideration as animals that are up for slaughter.
“The laws of this country require measures to minimize pain in animals that are slaughtered, but offer no pain relief for unborn children who are dismembered by abortion. By what standard of human decency do we allow this contradiction?” the priest said in a statement.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey). It would require abortionists to inform their patients who are aborting children older than 20 weeks that their unborn babies at 20 weeks will experience severe pain from being aborted. The measure also requires abortion practitioners to offer the mother a chance to give the baby anesthesia beforehand.
“Mothers have the right to be informed about the severe pain their unborn babies will feel from being aborted. By the 20th week of pregnancy, the baby will feel even greater pain than the mother. Sadly, this information is rarely communicated to women who are choosing whether their baby will live. This legislation would help women with the necessary medical knowledge to make a rational decision with lasting consequences,” said Concerned Women for America president Wendy Wright.
Senator Sam Brownback (R-Ks.) has also urged members of Congress to vote for the bill. In a Dec. 1 press release, the Republican senator pledged to “seek unanimous consent that the Senate take up and pass this critical piece of legislation" is the bill is passed in the House of Representatives.
The House will consider the bill under the "Suspension Calendar" which means the legislation needs a two-thirds vote in order to pass.
Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand, professor of pediatrics, anesthesiology, pharmacology and neurobiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is the recognized expert on fetal pain.
"The available scientific evidence makes it possible, even probable, that fetal pain perception occurs well before late gestation," he wrote in the May 2006 issue of Pain, a medical journal.
"Our current understanding of development provides the anatomical structures, the physiological mechanisms and the functional evidence for pain perception developing in the second trimester, certainly not in the first trimester, but well before the third trimester of human gestation," he explained.
Pro-life organizations are strongly supporting the bill with the hope that the national debate on it will change minds and that the measure's provisions will prompt some women to reconsider a late-term abortion.
National Right to Life legislative director Douglas Johnson pointed to a Zogby poll conducted in April 2004 showing that 77 percent of Americans strongly support this kind of legislation.
Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2006 (CNA) - The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) international policy committee has urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to increase efforts with the international community to establish peace, stability, and political reform in Lebanon.
Calling the assassination of Lebanese cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel “another sign of the deepening crisis in Lebanon,” Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando said in a Dec. 1 letter to Secretary Rice that the assassination and recent war with northern Israel has weakened democracy and emboldened radicals in the country.
Gemayel, who was serving as the Lebanese Industry Minister, was shot dead in broad daylight on Nov. 21 near Beirut. The Industry Minister was part of a prominent Maronite Catholic political family. Both his father, Amin Gemayel, and uncle, Bachir Gemayel, were elected to the Lebanese Presidency, though his uncle was assassinated prior to taking office in 1982.
Gemayel, 34, was known as an outspoken critic of growing Syrian influences on his country. The assassination rallied the country’s anti-Syrian coalition to demonstrate against the pro-Damascus opposition, led by Hezbollah. Thousands attended his funeral Mass, celebrated by Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, on Nov. 23, and thousands others demonstrated in a public square nearby.
“The United States, in coordination with the U.N. Security Council, must work with even greater resolve to strengthen the current ceasefire and [to] support the expanded U.N. peacekeeping force working with the Lebanese army to assert exclusive Lebanese government authority throughout southern Lebanon,” Bishop Wenski wrote.
“A resolution of the crisis requires disarmament of militias, a permanent ceasefire, an eventual peace agreement with Israel, and reconstruction assistance for Lebanon. All nations in the region will need to play constructive roles in helping the Lebanese people resolve their own internal political crisis and refrain from actions that could further destabilize the situation.”
The bishop said the U.S. should also join the international community in providing humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Lebanon to help rebuild the infrastructure and restore communities devastated by the war.
“We must replace the despair that feeds radicalism with a hope for a brighter future for the long-suffering people of Lebanon,” the bishop said.
Bishop Wenski noted that the U.S. bishops’ relief and development agency, Catholic Relief Services, is providing humanitarian and development assistance in Lebanon through Caritas Lebanon and local partners.
“Our conference of bishops has strong ties of solidarity with the people of Lebanon,” Bishop Wenski said. “Lebanon is a country where Christians and Muslims share a common responsibility for governance and a common future.”
“As the people of Lebanon mourn the loss of yet another leader to the heinous act of assassination, our nation must act creatively and constructively to strengthen full implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701,” he concluded.
Jerusalem, Israel, Dec 5, 2006 (CNA) - Archaeologists claim to have uncovered one of the world's first churches, built on a site believed to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant, reported the London Daily Telegraph.
The site, located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is richly decorated with brightly colored mosaics and inscriptions referring to Jesus Christ.
The church dates to the late 4th century, making it one of Christianity's first formal places of worship, said the team, led by Yitzhak Magen and Yevgeny Aharonovitch.
The site contains an unusual inscription that refers to itself, Shiloh, by name. Aharonovitch says this shows early Christians treated the site as an ancient, holy place.
According to the Hebrew Scriptures, the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the two tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, was kept by the Israelites at Shiloh for several hundred years.
It was eventually moved to the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple that the Bible says King Solomon built around 1000 B.C. When the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians 400 years later, the Ark was lost, prompting theories about whether it was hidden or destroyed.
The team at Shiloh is considering whether to dig under the mosaics that they have uncovered, in order to seek traces of the Ark.
Jewish residents in the modern settlement of Shiloh nearby want the team to keep digging. They believe the dig would eventually uncover remains from the “time of the Tabernacle," referring to the place of worship where the Israelites housed the Ark.
Madrid, Spain, Dec 5, 2006 (CNA) - The Vice President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Msgr. Jean Lafitte, said Monday the Catholic Church defends a method of AIDS prevention that is “real” and “not illusory,” the promotion of “the affective relationship in the context of marriage.”
During an interview with Europa Press, Msgr. Lafitte explained that the Church is “greatly concerned” about the health of those infected with AIDS and about any possibility for cure. Nevertheless, he said, the Vatican “defends prevention that is real.”
Msgr. Lafitte, who recently taught a course in Madrid on the social dimension of human existence, explained, “When people are told that there are safe ways of preventing this disease they are told so because they are safe in 85% of the cases, but someone who uses a method that is not totally safe and increases his or her number of sexual experiences is taking a number of risks.”
With regards to prevention, the Vatican official stressed, “The idea of the Church is to show to all the beauty of the affective relationship of human love, of the dignity of the relationship between a man and a woman when each one offers him or herself to the other in a stable relationship that is marriage.” Marriage, he noted, provides the kinds of conditions that make for true prevention.
Vatican City, Dec 5, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican has requested authorities in Romania to immediately suspend the construction of a 19-story office tower next to the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Bucharest.
According to a press release issued yesterday by the Holy See Press Office, the Vatican is calling on authorities to take the appropriate actions after the Romanian Senate approved a report of the commission of inquiry, which requires the immediate suspension of work. The suspension is only temporary and will continue if authorities do not intervene on behalf of the cathedral.
At the end of April, the Archdiocese of Bucharest informed the Vatican’s Secretariat of State about the construction of the building, less than 10 meters from the northeast wall of the Cathedral.
Church authorities said the construction project would risk irreparably damaging the cathedral, which in addition to its spiritual significance, is also an important heritage site for the country. An Armenian church recently had suffered grave damage for similar reasons.
The Vatican’s Secretariat of State approached Romanian authorities, both directly and through their embassy to the Holy See, to ask for the immediate suspension of work and the withdrawal of the associated building permits. The Vatican cited the 1993 European Union Treaty concerning Legal Conditions and Measures for Preserving Cultural Heritage, which Romania signed, and the State Commission Report for Monitoring Building.
Manila, Philippines, Dec 5, 2006 (CNA) - According to one Filipino bishop, a cycle of terrorism and kidnapping continues to plague the lives of Christians in a group of islands in the southern Philippines. The island of Jolo, located in the historically Muslim region of Mindanao, made international headlines in 2000 when the radical separatist group Abu Sayyaf kidnapped foreign tourists from the nearby Malaysian island resort of Sipadan. But, according to the bishop, the plight of Jolo’s tiny minority has been mostly forgotten.
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) recently, Bishop Angelito Lampon of Jolo said that Christians in his vicariate were being caught in the crossfire of terrorist activity. According to the prelate, militia men and criminal gangs are preying on Christians as an easy target for extortion and kidnapping for ransom – motivated by money more than politics or religion.
“The Christians have no guns and no protection,” explained Bishop Lampon. “Police in the southern provinces, where some areas already have a degree of autonomous local government, are reluctant to act for fear of retribution.”
“Law and order had collapsed,” said Bishop Lampon, adding, “How would one confront a syndicate when they have more people and guns than you? If you try, they will get you and your family. So better turn a blind eye – it’s the safest way to stay alive. And even if a case is filed in court – which is rare – there is no judge to handle the case. Even Muslim judges do not want to be assigned in Jolo.”
According to the bishop, even priests and religious have not escaped the terrorism. He said that in the last 15 years many sisters and clergy have been kidnapped or murdered.
Lampon’s house is currently under the protection of seven marine guards and several more are on duty 24 hours a day at Jolo’s Cathedral.
“Abu Sayyyaf’s violence stirs up prejudice and suspicion,” said the bishop. “No doubt the majority of civilian Muslims do not want trouble. They are tired of this constant conflict. The few who do these negative things somehow cast doubt on the many who are peace-loving. There are lots of efforts being exerted to bring about peace, but people are getting sceptical about the result because of the periodic and constant blemish of wanton killing, extortion, and kidnapping.”
Sao Paulo, Brazil, Dec 5, 2006 (CNA) -
An anencephalic girl in Brazil has survived for two weeks - against all odds and medical prognosis - and has sparked a new debate in the country about the legalization of abortion in such cases.
Marcela de Jesus Ferreira was born on November 20 in the small town of Santa Casa de Patrocinio Paulista. When her mother was four months pregnant, doctors diagnosed the unborn child with anencephaly, a congenital malformation that usually results in early death due to the insufficient development of the brain. Babies born with this condition usually survive hours or just a few days.
Jandira Feghali, the Brazilian lawmaker who has proposed a bill that would legalize abortion in cases of anencephaly, said she was not surprised that the baby has survived for so long. Feghali noted that some studies have shown the possibility of anecephalic babies living as long as three months.
Feghali said in her opinion, the prolonged life of the child would only prolong the suffering of the mother.
However, Claudia, the mother of the child and a 36-year old farmer, is praying for the life of her daughter and gives thanks to God for each minute she is able to spend with her.
When asked why she did not request an abortion in order to avoid the pain of seeing her child born with in this condition, Claudia replied, “I am suffering, but she does not belong to me, she belongs to God and I am just caring for her here.”
“Each second of her life is precious to me,” Claudia said. “I consider her life to be such a great miracle that I am going to wait until God wants her to go,” she added.
“Abortion never crossed my mind. Nobody has the right to destroy a life, especially that of an indefensible child,” the mother said.
Doctors have been surprised by the baby girl’s resistance. Dr. Marcia Beani, who has cared for Marcela since her birth, said, “Up to now she has surprised everybody. It is a rare case and we are going to care for her with dignity, food, water and oxygen.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 5, 2006 (CNA) - An Argentinean bishop has come out in support of a priest known for his ministry to victims of drug addiction and lent credence to the priest’s controversial comments on the drug problem in his area of Argentina.
In response to statements by a prominent priest on the sale of drugs in the Argentinean town of Caleta Olivia, Bishop Juan Carlos Romanin of Rio Gallegos said that he trusted Father Enrique Lapadula’s opinions, which are based on the priest’s continuous and painstaking work with the families of drug addicts.
Fr. Lapadula is “a very serious and learned person,” the bishop said. “His statements come precisely from the encounters he has with the families of drug addicts, in a region in which the situation has reached dramatic levels or is at least a cause of serious concern.”
During a recent meeting with various church leaders and anti-drug organizations, Father Lapadula suggested that much of the blame for the mishandling of the fight against drugs lies with political leaders, which led to protests and threats against Argentinean Senator Nicolas Fernandez.
Bishop Romanin said the terrible situation taking place in Caleta Olivia led the priest to say he does not want to be an accomplice or to feel guilty for the death of young people due to drugs. The bishop also clarified that Father Lapadula’s transfer to another city had already been planned and was not in response to the controversy.
In response to Father Lapadula’s statements and the support of dozens of the faithful, Claudio Izaguirre of the Anti-Drugs Association of Argentina, stated, “Many things are coming out now and it would be great if as a society we were to become more aware of what is taking place because of this problem.”