Archive of April 19, 2007

New abortion protocol equivalent to “permission for killing” says Argentinean archbishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 19, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata has denounced the Minister of Health of the province of Buenos Aires for granting “permission to kill,” since “by granting permission to abort, one is granting permission to kill.”

During his weekly program “Keys to a Better World,” the archbishop explained that the Minister of Health of the province of Buenos Aires “has recently established a protocol for how to proceed with abortion cases that are referred to in the Penal Code.”

“Now, in each hospital,” the archbishop said, “the director will have to appoint an interdisciplinary team that will decide whether or not to allow an abortion in a particular case.  And the curious thing is that this interdisciplinary team cannot include persons who are against abortion.”

“Moreover, hospitals will have to draw up a list, which will evidently function as a black list, of conscientious objectors, in order to determine who those individuals are who will not endorse such a practice,” the archbishop said.

“Even if the woman who is dealing with this problem is a minor or is mentally handicapped, her legal representative cannot oppose an abortion and if it is someone who on principle is against abortion, he or she must be removed from the case.  Consequently the abortion must take place, like it or not.”

He also explained that the new protocol also requires that the abortion take place as soon as possible to avoid cases, such as the one last year in which doctors refused to perform an abortion, but “in the end the abortion was that was carried out was in reality infanticide.”

Archbishop Aguer criticized officials for ramming through a new policy in the dark of night that allows for abortion, even though the Argentinean Constitution recognized the right to life of the unborn.

“We are forgetting that the main person involved in these matters is the unborn child.  No one talks about him, no one talks about the unborn child, but permission is being granted to kill him!  And those who defend his right to life are quiet, or they join the choir of victimizers,” the archbishop said.

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Fr. Euteneuer says Supreme Court abortion decision a “mixed blessing”

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2007 (CNA) - While supporters of the rights of unborn children continue offer thanks for the U.S. Supreme Court’s Wednesday decision to uphold the ban on partial birth abortions, some have cautioned that the ruling is only a small step in halting the destruction of innocent human life.

The Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, President of Human Life International, spoke briefly to CNA yesterday, noting that “the ruling of the US Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Partial Birth Abortion ban is a mixed blessing.”

“[The Ruling] is a small moral victory for the pro-life side,” Fr. Euteneuer said, “because the high court has decreed that there can be some restrictions placed on an abortion procedure.”

“We recognize, however, that not one baby will be saved by this decision because the abortion industry will just alter their procedures for killing late-term babies and call it by a different name.”

“All defenders of life should be emboldened by this decision to work even harder to end any type of abortion, the greatest injustice of our time,” Euteneuer said.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center echoed the priest’s sentiments saying that the organization “is gratified that the Supreme Court has voted to retain some safeguards for the unborn,” but noting that more must be done.

Nonetheless, the bioethics center added, “this decision by the Supreme Court holds out hope that in the future additional progress might be made to ensure the protection of fetal life by overturning the 1973 decision and halting a gruesome practice that ends over 1 million lives in the U.S. each year.”

Reflecting on the recent massacre at Virginia Tech University, Fr. Euteneuer urged the country to find a consistent respect for all innocent human life.  “The day after a madman went on a rampage at a Virginia university killing 33 innocent adults, the Supreme Court has said that we should stop killing innocent children by this procedure.”

“America needs to be consistent with our own values and say that all killing of innocent human beings should stop,” Euteneuer declared.

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Vatican official calls on intl. community to meet needs of Iraqi refugees

Vatican City, Apr 19, 2007 (CNA) - A Vatican official has launched an urgent appeal to the international community for a coordinated response to the needs of the people who have been displaced by the ongoing war, violence, and civil unrest in Iraq.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations Office at Geneva, made the appeal this week, during a two-day international conference. The April 17-18 meeting was called to address the humanitarian needs of the refugees and internally displaced persons inside Iraq and in neighboring countries.

The archbishop noted that about two million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and two million others have already fled the country. More than 50,000 are fleeing their homes each month.

The archbishop commended Jordan and Syria for welcoming Iraqi refugees but noted that these countries are beginning to feel the strain on their resources and ability to welcome.

Furthermore, he said, victims escaping violence are generally more vulnerable to new forms exploitation and of being deprived of health and education services, housing and employment possibilities.

“Facing such vulnerability, some persons are tempted to place themselves in the hands of smugglers in order to escape but simply are confronted with additional difficulties,” he added.

The international community must “take up its responsibility and share in the task of protection and assistance. Non-discriminatory humanitarian engagement would be the first step to re-establish a pluralistic unity,” the archbishop emphasized.

Tomasi also recognized the need to make conditions in Iraq and in the whole region conducive to a decent and sustainable coexistence among all its citizens. However, he suggested the option of resettlement as an immediate response.

“The option of resettlement may need to be enhanced, and doors opened by more countries and for greater numbers, so that pressure within the region may be alleviated on a short-term basis,” he said.

Archbishop Tomasi said he was hopeful with the UNHCR initiative to bring together representatives of governments and of humanitarian organizations in Iraq to discuss means of addressing urgent human needs.

The archbishop recalled the appeals of Pope John Paul II in 2003 for negotiations and for resolute attempts to avoid “the tremendous consequences that an international military operation would have for the population of Iraq and for the balance of the Middle East region already sorely tried, and for the extremisms that could stem from it.”

Archbishop Tomasi expressed concern about the rising violence in Iraq, which has widened to the targeting of unarmed civilians and has a “widening deadly impact in the entire Middle East region.”  

He was also concerned that displaced women, elderly and children bear the brunt of the tragedy, and children are often traumatized by the death of their parents and remain without professional care.

Christian and other religious minorities continue to be the targets of forced eviction and ethnic cleansing by radical groups, he noted.

“A comprehensive reconciliation and peace are the obvious responses that address the root of all forced displacement,” the archbishop said. But until then, he said, the international community must answer to the needs of the millions of refugees in the area in order to protect life and prevent further regional destabilization.

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Diocese launches online program for protection of children

Winona, Minn., Apr 19, 2007 (CNA) - The Diocese of Winona has launched an interactive online learning community, teaching members of the diocese about recognizing and reporting child abuse. The site was launched in partnership with the Professional Learning Board, the Prudent Press Agency reported.

"It is so important that our churches, schools, homes and individual communities are safe for all God's people — especially our children," said Bishop Bernard Harrington of Winona.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in its Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People mandates that every diocese provide a safe-environment program, which requires training of parents and those working or volunteering with minors in Church organizations on the issue of child abuse, including sexual abuse.

PJ Thompson, chancellor of the Diocese of Winona, said the online learning community was the best way for the wide-stretched and relatively rural diocese “to reach virtually all of the people in our diocese that work with children in a religious, education or volunteer capacity."

Traditional classroom seminars were costly compared with online training, especially in reaching rural parishioners. The online program is called Safe & Sacred SeriesTM. It was designed by the Diocese of Winona.

The first three courses in the program include: Protecting All God's Children; Essential Commitment: Code of Conduct; and, Essential Commitment: Regarding Misconduct

The online learning community enables the diocese to track the learning and compliance of its participants to ensure that the diocese is fulfilling its commitment to children and to the USCCB. 

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Bible publishers murdered in Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey, Apr 19, 2007 (CNA) - Three employees of a publishing house that distributes Bibles were murdered Wednesday in the latest attack against Turkey's Christian minority.

The three victims - a German and two Turkish citizens - were found with their hands and legs bound and their throats slit at the Zirve publishing house in the central city of Malatya, reported The Associated Press.

The publishing house has been the site of previous protests by nationalists accusing it of proselytizing in this 99-percent Muslim but secular country, reported Dogan news agency. Zirve's general manager said his employees had recently been threatened.

A group of 150 lit candles and held a banner that read "We are all Christians" in downtown Istanbul to protest the attack and show solidarity with the Christian community.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the attack, calling it “savagery” and said investigators were looking into whether there were other suspects or possible links with terror groups.  

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also condemned the attack, and said he expected Turkish authorities would "do everything to clear up this crime completely and bring those responsible to justice."

Police detained four males, aged 19-20, and also suspect a fifth, who underwent surgery for head injuries sustained apparently in trying to escape by jumping from a window at Zirve, authorities said.

The five suspects had each had been carrying copies of a letter that read: "We five are brothers. We are going to our deaths. We may not return," according to the state-run Anatolia news agency.

EU membership in question

This recent attack has added to concerns in Europe about whether Turkey is ready to join the European Union.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat Party - which opposes Turkey's bid to join the EU - said the attacks showed the country's shortcomings in protecting religious freedoms.

The party's general secretary, Ronald Pofalla, reaffirmed the place of religious freedom as a fundamental human right.

"After today's murders, the Turkish government must allow itself to be asked whether it is doing enough to protect religious minorities," Pofalla said in a statement. "The Turkish state is still far from the freedom of religion that marks Europe.”

Turkey's Christian community comprises less than 1 percent of the 70-million population. About 65,000 are Armenian Orthodox Christians; 20,000 are Roman Catholic and 3,500 are Protestant — mostly converts from Islam. Another 2,000 are Greek Orthodox.

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Portuguese bishops pledge to promote life, protect right to conscientious objection

Lisbon, Portugal, Apr 19, 2007 (CNA) - The Portuguese bishops said they cannot support new legislation, which legalizes abortion and presents it as a legal right.

"It is an unfair law, which we cannot support. It is our duty to go on insisting, in a positive way, on the value of life," the bishops said.

Bishop Jorge Ortiga, president of the bishops’ conference, issued the statement in his opening remarks for the plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, taking place in Fatima April 16-20.

The bishops “will continue to uphold the value of all life” and defend the rights of doctors and other medical professionals to object to performing abortions on the grounds of conscience, said Bishop Ortiga.

The new bill, which legalizes abortion up to the 10th week of pregnancy, was approved by parliament and promulgated by President Aníbal Cavaco Silva even after a national referendum was thrown out due to the unwillingness of Portuguese citizens to support it.  

A document on the transmission of life, the formation of the laity, the formation of clergy and children’s catechisms are also on the bishops’ agenda for their four-day meeting.

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Lawmakers elected to preserve common good and not to violate right to life, bishops warn

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 19, 2007 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico, which is meeting in Plenary Assembly this week, has reaffirmed its position in defense of the life of the unborn and has reminded lawmakers of the Mexico City Legislative Assembly that they were elected “to preserve the common good” and not to pass laws “that violate the natural right to life of the innocent.”

“Any legislation in favor of abortion is a contradiction of the proper role of the State, which exists totally and exclusively at the service of the person and the community,” the bishops warned in a statement.  They noted that while it is true that “this law will oblige no one to have an abortion,” the way people think and act is often determined by what the law says.

In their statement the bishops underscored that abortion can never be justified for any reason and that “nobody owns the life of another human being, not even a father or a mother.”  The right to life, they said, is part of natural law and is not a religious dogma. Therefore, society has a duty to protect the unborn.

The bishops said that those who are in difficult situations and may feel led to make “the drastic decision to abort” should be treated with “justice, love and solidarity” but that no hesitation should be made in “protecting the innocent child who would be put to death.”  Pastoral experience shows that abortion harms the “conscience and mind” of a woman, the bishops concluded.

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16th century Bible stolen from church in Honduras

Tegucigalpa, Apr 19, 2007 (CNA) - A Latin translation of the Bible that was brought from Spain to Honduras in 1537 has been stolen from a church in western region of the Central American country.

Police said two men carried out the robbery in the early morning hours last Sunday in the town of Macholoa, about 124 miles west of Tegucigalpa.

Amparo Reyes, a caretaker at the church, told police, “The subjects came to the town on Saturday and asked me to show them the Bible, and I did. The next day the Bible was not in the glass box that protected it.”

Reyes said the men used a metal bar to force open a rear door to the church and took other religious items along with the Bible.  Police said an investigation into the incident was underway and that such items tend to be sold to foreign collectors who are always seeking out historical items of worth.

The church in Macholoa was built in 1537 by the Spanish conquistadores.  Since 2005 at least 30 churches in Honduras have been burglarized.

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Colombian senator wants to pay men to undergo vasectomies

Bogotá, Colombia, Apr 19, 2007 (CNA) - A Colombian senator has proposed a new law that would provide economic and professional aid to men who undergo a vasectomy for sterilization.

The bill sponsored by Senator Samuel Arrieta would allow men who become sterilized to have greater access to employment opportunities, college scholarships, additional vacation time and other “benefits.”

“Having more children than one wants is a public health problem, and therefore we men must contribute to reducing unwanted pregnancies, Arrieta said, arguing that the issue was one of solidarity “with women and society.”

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Nicaraguan Cardinal: nothing can justify abortion

Managua, Nicaragua, Apr 19, 2007 (CNA) - In an interview with the CAN news agency, Cardinal Miguel Obando Bravo, Archbishop emeritus of Managua, said abortion for any reason, including for “therapeutic” purposes, is “morally a crime.”

Referring to the new law that prohibits therapeutic abortion the country, the Cardinal noted that it “outlaws abortion of any kind, under no circumstance is abortion permitted.  The new law reflects the teaching of the Church on the defense of life from the moment of conception until natural death.”
In cases of a threat to the life or health of the mother, Cardinal Obando noted, “Catholic moral teaching recalls that life cannot be directly taken, whether of the mother or the child, even to save the life of another, because no good end can justify the killing of an innocent person.  Therefore, direct abortion, even if for therapeutic reasons, is morally a crime,” he said.

Even though the choice of an abortion can be “dramatic and painful” for a mother, the Cardinal underscored that “even for serious and dramatic reasons, the deliberate elimination of an innocent human being can never be justified.”

“The legalization of abortion does nothing more than feed this abortion mentality. In the countries where abortion is legal, it is evident that the law has not stopped underground abortions from occurring, which supporters always claim will happen.  Rather, the abortion law has led to an increase in illegal abortions,” he added.

The Cardinal also noted that those who consider “the discoveries of modern science, those who believe in human dignity and recognize the importance of human life should reject the killing of the unborn and should combat abortion in our society.  A society that is not prepared to defend the beginnings of life destroys itself,” he said.

“If our lawmakers unfortunately pass laws allowing children to be killed in the wombs of their mothers, the blood of these children will cry out to from the ground to the heights of heaven,” Cardinal Obando stated, adding that the act of abortion carries with it a sentence of automatic excommunication.

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Pope meets with UN Secretary General, receives New York invite

Vatican City, Apr 19, 2007 (CNA) - Late yesterday afternoon Pope Benedict XVI received the new Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, at the Apostolic Palace.  The meeting came at the head of the Secretary General’s two day visit to Italy.

According to a press release from the Vatican, the Holy Father and UN leader met for 20 minutes following Ban’s visit with members of the Italian Parliament, President Giorgio Napolitano, and Foreign Minister and Deputy Premier Massimo D'Alema.

The audience is one in a series of meetings between Popes - and particularly Pope John Paul II - and the Secretary of the UN.  The Holy See has long been involved with the international organization and its role in maintaining peace in the world and promoting the development of peoples.

“His Holiness and Mr. Ban Ki-moon focused on themes of common interest,” the Vatican press release said, “such as the restoration of faith in multilateralism and the strengthening of intercultural dialogue.”  The two also discussed a few of today’s particularly troubling international situations.

“Also discussed were the contributions of the Catholic Church and the Holy See are able to make, due to its international presence and identity, to the actions of the United Nations in the solutions of current conflicts and the attainment of understanding between nations.”

During the meeting Ban offered an official invitation for the Holy Father to visit UN headquarters in New York.

Following his meeting with the Pope, the Vatican confirmed that Ban also met with Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Secretary for Relations With States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

According to Italian news agency, ANSA, the secretary-general himself described the meeting with Benedict, during which he was accompanied by his wife Yoo Soon-taek, as "a great honor.”

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President, candidates respond to court's decision on abortion ban

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2007 (CNA) - As news of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a partial-birth abortion ban worked its way through Washington and around the country, President George W. Bush and several of the suitors for his office responded with their views on the ruling.

President Bush has strongly supported the law, which prevents doctors from partially removing a child from the womb prior to crushing its skull, since he came into office.  On Wednesday the president expressed his pleasure that the Supreme Court upheld a ban on such an “abhorrent procedure.”

“Today's decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people's representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America,” the president said.

“The partial-birth abortion ban, which an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress passed and I signed into law, represents a commitment to building a culture of life in America.”

“The Supreme Court's decision,” Bush added, “is an affirmation of the progress we have made over the past six years in protecting human dignity and upholding the sanctity of life.  We will continue to work for the day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law.”

That continued work depends, in large part, on who the American people elect to replace Bush.  With elections just under nineteen months away, several leading candidates from both parties were asked their opinion on the ruling.

Leading candidate and former First Lady, Senator Hilary Clinton (D-NY) called the decision an “erosion of constitutional rights.”  Disagreeing with the Supreme Court’s ruling that the partial-birth procedure should be considered infanticide and not abortion and thus does not affect the supposed right to an abortion, Clinton lamented that the Court had taken a “dramatic departure from four decades of Supreme Court rulings that upheld a woman's right to choose and recognized the importance of women's health.”  

“It is precisely this erosion of our constitutional rights that I warned against when I opposed the nominations of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito,” Clinton said.

Fellow candidate and former Democratic Senator John Edwards echoed Clinton’s criticism of the Supreme Court, decrying the “hard right turn” the Court has taken and adding that the decision should serve as a “stark reminder of why Democrats cannot afford to lose the 2008 election.”

“Too much is at stake,” Edwards said of the election, “starting with, as the Court made all too clear today, a woman’s right to choose.”

Mrs. Clinton’s top Democratic competition, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) also voiced his disapproval of the decision.  “I strongly disagree with today’s Supreme Court ruling,” Obama said, “which dramatically departs from previous precedents safeguarding the health of pregnant women.”

Obama said that the procedure should be considered as, “a woman’s medical concern,” and should be, in fact, a “very personal decision between a doctor and patient.”

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), and current Republican front runner has not been shy about his support for abortion.  Yet the Republican and social liberal announced on Wednesday that he agreed with the partial birth ban.  “The Supreme Court reached the correct conclusion in upholding the congressional ban on partial birth abortion,” Giuliani said in a statement on the 5–4 decision. “I agree with it.”

When Giuliani ran for Senate in 2000, he said he would not vote to restrict a woman’s right to undergo the procedure.

Giuliani’s top competition at present, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Arizona Senator John McCain, are both a bit more firm on life issues.  Both announced their support for the ban.  “Today, our nation’s highest court reaffirmed the value of life in America by upholding a ban on a practice that offends basic human decency,” Romney said. “This decision represents a step forward in protecting the weakest and most innocent among us.”

Sen. McCain hailed the decision as “a victory for those who cherish the sanctity of life and integrity of the judiciary.” The senator also emphasized the importance of electing a president in favor of “nominating and confirming strict-constructionist judges who interpret the law as it is written, and do not usurp the authority of Congress and state legislatures.”

One of the GOP’s top pro-life candidates Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) applauded the Supreme Court, “for finding that the constitution 'expresses respect for the dignity of human life,'” and expressed his hope, “that this decision signals the Court's willingness to revisit and reverse Roe v. Wade.”

“This ban was enacted to put an end to one of the most grotesque forms of abortion,” Brownback said, “and it is completely in line with the respect for life that is at the very heart of our Constitution.  This is a great step forward for our nation's citizens, born and unborn.”

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