Archive of April 27, 2007

Mexico City abortion vote 'catastrophic', says pro-life leader

Washington D.C., Apr 27, 2007 (CNA) - Mexico City’s decision on Tuesday to legalize abortion on demand is “catastrophic," said Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, STL, president of Human Life International.

"This vote is a slap in the face to Mexico City Catholics, going against the will of the people who protested loudly in the streets," Fr. Euteneuer said. The move also went against the federal government, he noted.

The priest noted that one of the major determining factors in Tuesday's vote was millions of American dollars that were pumped into Mexico.

According to Fr. Euteneuer, the radical feminist group GIRE received more than $5 million between 1999 and 2004 to accomplish this purpose. Planned Parenthood's affiliate, MexFam, received $3.4 million from 2002 to 2004.

"Tuesday April 24, 2007 is already being called 'Black Tuesday' in Mexico City," Fr. Euteneuer observed.

“Thank God for the courage of the Mexican bishops who informed these assemblymen that they would incur automatic excommunication the moment the first baby is killed," he said.

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Vatican confirms: Pope Benedict has accepted invitation to visit United Nations HQ in New York

Vatican City, Apr 27, 2007 (CNA) - The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., confirmed recent rumors that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted an invitation to visit United Nations headquarters in New York City.

In a short press conference yesterday afternoon Fr. Lombardi announced that “The Pope has accepted the invitation in general terms, and has expressed his willingness to visit the U.N. headquarters, although as yet there is no date or program for the trip.”

The invitation was extended by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on his recent audience with the Holy Father.

Several news sources reported Ban’s declaration yesterday that the Pope had accepted his invite.

Servant of God John Paul II visited the U.N. headquarters in 1979, and again in 1995 for the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the organization.

The Vatican said that during last week's 20-minute private meeting in the pope's library, Ban and Benedict "dwelled on topics of common interest," including strengthening dialogue between cultures and how the Holy See might contribute to solving international conflicts.

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Catholic Charities USA urges Congress to address poverty

Washington D.C., Apr 27, 2007 (CNA) - In its ongoing effort to reduce the U.S. poverty rate to half by 2020, Catholic Charities USA took its Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America directly to Congress yesterday. According to the group, more than 37 million Americans live in poverty today.

Catholic Charities organized a briefing on the struggles of millions Americans who experience hunger, a testimony before a House Ways and Means subcommittee on poverty, and visits to Hill offices by local Catholic Charities agency leaders.

The concentrated day-long effort by Catholic Charities USA to focus attention on the need for action on poverty and hunger included a full-page ad in Congress’s, “Roll Call” and a virtual march on Washington in which people from around the country contacted their Members of Congress.

The four main areas of the Campaign are: improving food and nutrition programs, increasing access to health care, enabling more people to get affordable housing, and promoting greater economic security for the poor and vulnerable through programs that support work and strengthen families.

"The moral test of society is how it ensures the needs of the most vulnerable, including those unable to provide adequate food to themselves and their families," said Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. "It is unacceptable that in a nation as bountiful as ours that children, working adults, and senior citizens experience food shortages that puts their physical, mental, and developmental health at risk.”

The priest said Catholic Charities agencies have witnessed an increase in problems related to hunger and food shortage. Forty-four percent of the assistance provided by Catholic Charities agencies across the country is regarding food and nutrition.

In 2005, Catholic Charities agencies nationwide served more than 5 million people through their various food service programs. Those served in Catholic Charities soup kitchens have increased 27 percent since 2001, while clients served by food banks increased by almost 15 percent, the agency reported.

The need for nutrition assistance across the country continues to rise, especially among low-income working families. For example, as many as 40 percent of the working poor must turn to emergency food services, and 29 percent of food stamp recipients are in families where at least one person works.

Children and elderly are also impacted. Nearly 80 percent of food stamp recipients are children, and three in four seniors have difficulty meeting their daily food needs.

Fr. Snyder said Catholic Charities is working to convince federal lawmakers to revise and improve nutrition programs.

Following the hunger briefing, Fr. Snyder testified at a hearing conducted by the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support on proposals to reducing poverty.

"The many misconceptions about the nature of poverty in the United States reinforce the commonly held view that poverty is due to failures and deficiencies of individuals, rather than the failures of structures that we put in place through the economic and political choices we make as a nation," he said. "While it is true that individual choices and behaviors do influence one's chances of living in poverty, these individual behaviors are frequently outweighed by the structures and policies that shape the opportunities of people who are poor."

Fr. Snyder said government programs to help those living in poverty must be strengthened. He called on Congress and the Administration to give a higher priority to the needs of the most vulnerable when making decisions about policies and allocation of federal money.

Specifically, he encouraged members of the committee to support policies that:
•    improve the TANF program to create more opportunities for low-income families
•    strengthen the federal commitment to children in the child welfare system
•    strengthen two-parent families, by creating more comprehensive policies to support low-income fathers
•    improve the child care program
•    index the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation
•    bolster unemployment insurance to benefit more low-income workers
•    promote long-term economic security and asset building.

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New poll: Michigan residents oppose cloning, destroying embryos

Lansing, Mich., Apr 27, 2007 (CNA) - A statewide poll, commissioned by the Michigan Catholic Conference, demonstrates that Michigan residents are overwhelmingly opposed to measures that would clone and destroy human embryos for research.

Draft legislation, recently introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives, seeks to amend Public Act 368 of 1978, which prohibits the destruction of human embryos for research purposes.

The bill would allow researchers to clone and destroy human embryos in the process know as therapeutic cloning. No treatments or cures have resulted from therapeutic cloning to date.

The poll, which was conducted April 15-16, revealed that 65 percent of Michigan residents would not vote in favor of eliminating the state’s ban on the cloning of human embryos, and 59 percent opposed therapeutic cloning — a procedure whereby human embryos are cloned for the sole purpose of harvesting stem cells.

Seventy percent of the people polled opposed stem cell research that kills the human embryo in the process of gathering stem cells, and 73 percent said they “worry about the future if the cloning of human embryos is allowed.”

Sixty percent of respondents said they do not trust elected officials to ensure that the cloning of embryos for stem cell research is not abused and is properly controlled.

An overwhelming 85 percent said they support stem cell research that uses adult stem cells or stem cells from umbilical cords.

Public Opinion Strategies surveyed 500 likely voters. The poll has a margin of error of 4.38 percent.

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in the state.

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Womb now most dangerous place in Mexico, bishop laments

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 27, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Committee on the Family of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar Martinez, warned that the new law legalizing abortion the Mexican capital now makes the womb, “which should be the safest place in life,” the “most dangerous place” for the unborn.

The bishop slammed legislators for redefining abortion “with one stroke of the pen” as “the interruption of pregnancy after the twelfth week of gestation.”  He encouraged people to look at photos and videos of the unborn during the first trimester and see for themselves that what is inside the womb is not a “worm” or a “frog,” but “a human being.”

Bishop Aguilar Martinez stressed that while the new law forces no one to abort, “it opens a wide door to permissiveness,” which will lead young people more sexual promiscuity, “seeking pleasure without the responsibility of procreation.”

“I don’t pretend to spend any more time trying to convince you that the new law is senseless,” the bishop said.  “I prefer to invite you to contemplate with fascination and wonder the marvel of human life from its beginning,” he added.

He called on Mexicans to collaborate responsibly in the work of God’s creation by “raising children in a stable and mature relationship, based on sacramental marriage.”  He also prayed for those planning an abortion and for those who “ardently long for a new child.”

Meanwhile Archbishop Ulises Macias Salcedo of Hermosillo told reporters the legalization of abortion in Mexico does not mean it is no longer a crime, as abortion is crime that, “as Mother Teresa said…takes two lives: that of the innocent child and the conscience of the mother,” who will be troubled by it forever.  He said it was sad that this occurs in the 21st century and that even though some try to change God’s law, it is what continues to govern peoples’ consciences. 

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Officials deny Social Security health care system will provide abortion services in Mexico City

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 27, 2007 (CNA) - Although the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City legalized abortion up to the director of the Mexican Institute of Social Security, Juan Molinar Horcasitas, denied that the system’s clinics and hospitals in the Mexican capital would authorize the abortion services.

Molinar said the social security system would not practice abortions because the institution is regulated by federal norms, and the new law in Mexico City is strictly local.

“Abortion is not included in the services that the Mexican Institute of Social Security offers according to its own norms and laws,” he said.

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Defense of human rights lethally undermined by relativism, says Spanish archbishop

Valencia, Fla., Apr 27, 2007 (CNA) - In his weekly pastoral letter, Archbishop Agustin Garcia Gasco of Valencia warned that the “defense of human rights on our planet is being lethally undermined by relativism, by arbitrariness in the recognition of the human rights of the weakest and the unprotected.”

In his letter, the archbishop recalled that Pope John Paul II warned of a war of the strong against the weak, with “the former overprotected by all kinds of resources and instruments, and the latter deprived of their most elementary rights, especially the right to life, out of the abuse of power of the former.”

He questioned whether those who support abortion and euthanasia, or those who ignore the problems of hunger, addiction, and exploitation, truly have “a sincere and credible commitment to every human being and his or her dignity.”

Archbishop Garcia-Gasco stressed that the Church “seeks true solutions to man’s problems in Christ,” and that therefore the faithful should keep their eyes on the Master, on “his message, his example, the strength of the sacraments, particularly the Eucharistic presence, which provides the spiritual strength and the clear vision necessary for respecting the dignity of all human beings with consistency and effectiveness.”
Human dignity, he went on, will be left undefended unless society promotes respect for the value of each human being.  “The culture of love and of life consists of this,” he said.

The archbishop also noted that scientific advancement, technological development, religious freedom and democracy are not means that can be used for any end.  While they are “extremely valuable achievements,” they need to be placed at the service of the “only value that truly sustains all others: the dignity of each human being,” he explained.

Lastly, Archbishop Garcia-Gasco emphasized that acknowledgement of God does not constitute an obstacle to true human progress.  Christian teaching on love helps individuals to “discern good from evil,” what is “just from what is unjust,” and “it strengthens us to make this a reality in our decisions and in our lives.”

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UN officials push for therapeutic abortion before Nicaraguan Supreme Court

Managua, Nicaragua, Apr 27, 2007 (CNA) - A leading pro-life activist in Nicaragua has denounced two UN officials for appearing before the country’s Supreme Court in order to argue in favor of the restoration of therapeutic abortion in the country, using false information that “has all the ingredients for confusing and deceiving.”

According to Dr. Rafael Cabrera, president of ANPROVIDA, on April 18 officials from the UN in Nicaragua appeared before the Supreme Court to argue in favor of a constitutional challenge to a new law that prohibits “therapeutic abortion.”

The case is intended to make Nicaragua “conform to the pro-death UN conventions of Cairo and Beijing, in which Nicaragua always expressed reservations about abortion and gender control.”

Cabrera denounced the officials for attempting to quash “the will of 290,000 Nicaraguans who signed a petition asking lawmakers to pass this law, which was approved by a massive majority, without a single vote against it.  He denounced UN officials for attempting to deceive the justices and for insinuating that Nicaragua would lose the financial aid it has a right to if the law is not rescinded.

UN officials have “no right” to “alter the sovereign will of the citizens of the countries they are supposedly serving,” Cabrera emphasized, and he said top UN leaders should work to keep the organization faithful to it’s original mission of serving human dignity and avoiding holocausts.  “With their attitude, these UN officials are promoting a new holocaust,” he added, “the Holocaust of the innocent unborn.”

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Connecticut legislature one step closer to forcing chemical abortions at Catholic hospitals

Hartford, Conn., Apr 27, 2007 (CNA) - The Connecticut state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday that would require all hospitals — including the four Catholic facilities — to provide the Plan B emergency contraceptive to rape victims. The abortifacient drug is also known as the morning after pill.

“This bill is a violation of the separation of Church and State,” wrote Bishops Henry Mansell of Hartford and William Lori of Bridgeport in a letter to lawmakers on Wednesday. “The Catholic Bishops of Connecticut are responsible for establishing and determining what moral guidelines Catholic institutions should follow; not the Connecticut General Assembly.”

“Senate Bill 1343 should contain language that respects the religious beliefs of Catholic hospitals and not force them to cooperate, either directly or through a third-party contract, in an abortion,” they said.  

The bill, which passed 32-3, now heads to the House, where it appears likely to pass, reported the Journal Inquirer.

The bill allows hospitals to first give patients a pregnancy test. Those with religious or other objections could hire an outside physician to administer the contraceptive rather than assign that duty to hospital staff.

The Connecticut Catholic Conference rejected the measure, saying that hiring a physician outside of regular staff would not undo the ethical concern.

"It is clear to us that this approach would involve the hospital in a way that would violate Catholic moral principles of cooperation," the bishop wrote. "It would still involve Catholic hospitals in the performance of early abortions by administering Plan B when the medication cannot act solely as a contraceptive."

The state's four Catholic hospitals — St. Francis, St. Raphael, St. Vincent, and St. Mary — do not provide the contraceptive if a woman is ovulating or pregnant.

The Catholic hospitals have argued that the Plan B contraceptive could cause an abortion by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. Catholic teaching holds that human life begins at conception.

“Catholic hospitals provide emergency contraception to rape victims in the vast majority of cases,” the bishops noted in their letter. “In fact, it is an extreme rarity when this medication would not be provided.”

Senate Minority Leader Louis DeLuca (R-Woodbury), Sen. Daniel Debicella (R-Shelton), and Donald DeFronzo (D-New Britain) opposed the bill.

DeLuca had proposed an amendment, which was endorsed by the Catholic Conference, would require every hospital to have a written protocol for dealing with rape victims. Hospitals would be allowed to refer such patients to other facilities, but would have to report their reasons for doing so to the Department of Public Health.

“Catholic hospitals, in those rare cases, would provide the patient information on where the medication is available and provide transportation to another hospital if the patient requests a transfer. Outside rape crisis counselors are also available from outside the hospitals if the patient requests their support,” the bishops said.  

DeLuca did not succeed in getting the amendment passed.

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British scientists seek to create animal-human hybrid embryo

London, England, Apr 27, 2007 (CNA) - The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in Britain has begun a study to decide whether or not to allow the creation of “hybrid embryos” consisting of genetic material from human beings and animals.

Two teams of British scientists from King’s College in London and the University of Newcastle have requested permission from the HFEA to produce embryos that would 99.9% human and .1% animal.  The HFEA has said it will not issue a decision until it finishes its study.

Although the proposal has been rejected by scientists, associations for the infirm and even the Prime Minister, a report from the Parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee argued that completely prohibiting the creation of hybrid embryos “"unacceptable and potentially harmful to UK science".

The report suggests the creation of hybrids from which stem cells could be harvested.  They would be allowed to develop for 14 days and then would be destroyed.  They would not be implanted in humans or animals.

Promoters of the experiment claim the hybrids would compensate for the lack of human embryos available for research.

The HFEA will meet in June with scientists to discuss the matter and will also conduct a survey of some 2000 individuals.

Josephine Quintavalle, director of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, criticized the committee for its "wholehearted enthusiasm for unrestricted research with little concern for the broader ethical considerations."

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Vatican publishes outline for next Synod of Bishops General Assembly

Vatican City, Apr 27, 2007 (CNA) - In the Holy See Press Office at midday today, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, presented the "Lineamenta" for the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, due to be held from October 5 to 26, 2008 on the theme: "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

The "Lineamenta," a document containing the draft guidelines on the theme of the forthcoming meeting, has been published in various languages including English and is composed of an introduction, three chapters and a conclusion. The text includes a questionnaire relating to the themes covered, the aim of which is to stimulate more profound reflection at all levels of the ecclesial community. Responses must be sent to the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops before the end of November 2007.

The introduction makes it clear that this meeting is a continuation of the last synodal assembly, which was held in 2005 on the theme: "The Eucharist, Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church." The aim of the 2008 meeting, the text reads, is to set forth "the intrinsic connection between the Eucharist and the Word of God. ... This is the Synod's underlying purpose and primary goal, namely, to fully encounter the Word of God in Jesus the Lord, present in the Sacred Scriptures and the Eucharist."

The text of the "Lineamenta" goes on to explain that the aim of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly is "to help clarify the basic truths of Revelation as the Word of God, Divine Tradition, the Bible and the Magisterium, which prompt and guarantee an authentic and effective living of the faith; to spark an appreciation and deep love of Sacred Scriptures so that 'the faithful might have easy access' to it; to renew listening to the Word of God, in the liturgy and catechesis, specifically through 'lectio divina,' duly adapted to various circumstances; and to offer a Word of consolation and hope to the poor of the world."

The first chapter - entitled "Revelation, the Word of God and the Church" - considers such matters as the human need for Revelation; Divine Tradition and Sacred Scripture in the Church, a single sacred deposit of the Word of God; and the demanding task of interpreting the Word of God in the Church.

"The Word of God in the life of the Church" is the title of the second chapter of the "Lineamenta," which recalls how the Church was born and lives by the Word of God, and how the People of God draw nourishment from the Word in various ways: in the liturgy and in prayer, in evangelization and catechesis, in exegesis and in theology, and in the lives of believers.

Chapter three - entitled "The Word of God in the Mission of the Church" - highlights how the Word of God must remain accessible to everyone at all times. "Listening to the Word of God," the text reads, "must always take into consideration its ecumenical dimension." Moreover, the Word of God is "a light for inter-religious dialogue" with the Jewish people and with those of other faiths.

"A fervent listening to the Word," the document concludes, "is fundamental to a personal encounter with God."

During today's press briefing Archbishop Eterovic, recalling the fact that the "Lineamenta" refer to the Vatican Council II Dogmatic Constitution "Dei Verbum," pointed out that "more than 40 years after that great conciliar document, it is time to identify, within the Universal Church, the positive results it has brought to the People of God, especially as concerns biblical renewal in the fields of liturgy, theology and catechesis."

However, he went on, "unresolved and problematic aspects persist, for example phenomena such as ignorance concerning the doctrine of the Revelation and of the Word of God, as well as the significant detachment of many Christians from the Bible." Archbishop Eterovic also highlighted how the forthcoming synodal assembly "will have a prevalently pastoral goal."

Msgr. Fortunato Frezza, under-secretary of the Synod of Bishops, also present at the press briefing, affirmed that the "Lineamenta" may be considered in the light of "the correct interpretation of Vatican Council II, ... its proper hermeneutics, ... its interpretation and application, as an exercise of that hermeneutic of reform, of renewal in continuity, of the one Church which the Lord gave to us. She grows and develops in time, yet always remains the same, the one Church of the pilgrim People of God." 

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