Archive of May 1, 2007

Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice supports partial birth abortion

Washington D.C., May 1, 2007 (CNA) -

A top pro-life leader said a religious coalition’s support of partial birth abortion shows that the group is "confused, at best."

Fr. Frank Pavone says the position taken by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice has more to do with political dogma than religious belief.

"One would think that a group that calls itself a 'Religious Coalition' would base its positions on Biblical or other religious grounds, but the RCRC seems to base its stances on the dictates of abortion profiteers," said Fr. Pavone, president of the National Pro-Life Religious Council.

However, partial birth abortion cannot be reconciled with "neither the Bible nor even the slightest respect for human life," Fr. Pavone explained.

"For the RCRC to claim that it values 'all human life' while supporting partial birth abortion shows that the group is confused, at best," he said in a statement.

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No opposition from Wisconsin Catholic Conference re emergency contraception bill

, May 1, 2007 (CNA) -

The Wisconsin Catholic Conference has decided not to oppose a bill that would require all hospitals, including Catholic health facilities, to distribute emergency contraceptives to female victims of rape.

A spokesperson for the conference said the group removed its objections to the bill after it was revised to allow hospitals to give women a pregnancy test before providing emergency contraception reported The Wisconsin Capital Times. The bill reportedly also includes the right to conscientious objection.

Kim Wades of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference told the newspaper that many Catholic hospitals are already dispensing emergency contraception to rape victims.

Emergency contraception, most often referred to as Plan B or the morning after pill, is composed of a high dose of birth control pills that has shown to prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of intercourse.

Sue Armacost of Wisconsin Right to Life said her group is not taking a stand on the bill, and that it is important to the group that the Catholic bishops were not opposing the bill, reported The Wisconsin Capital Times.

The only group lobbying against the bill is Pro-Life Wisconsin. Matt Sande, the group's director of legislation, said in a news release he opposed the bill because emergency contraception can work to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus and he considers this "pre-implantation chemical abortion."

The bill is likely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate and Gov. Jim Doyle would sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.

The Republican-controlled Assembly has opposed the bill in the past and tried, unsuccessfully, to prohibit University of Wisconsin campuses from prescribing or distributing emergency contraception.

However, in a surprising move, Rep. Terry Musser (R-Black River Falls) voiced his support for the bill and said yesterday that he would circulate the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims bill to his Assembly colleagues immediately.

Musser did not support the bill when it was introduced last session, but said he changed his mind after hearing testimony from rape victims at a public hearing on the bill last week before a Senate committee, reported The Wisconsin Capital Times.

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California Catholic Conference files brief in conscientious objection case

Los Angeles, Calif., May 1, 2007 (CNA) - The California Catholic Conference has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a case now pending before the state Supreme Court. The justices will decide whether a physician has a constitutional right to refuse, on religious grounds, to perform a medical procedure for a patient because of the patient’s sexual orientation, reported The California Catholic.

The case involves two Vista physicians, who were sued for discrimination after allegedly refusing to artificially inseminate a lesbian.

The two doctors, Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton of North Coast Women's Care Medical Group of Vista, were sued in San Diego Superior Court in 2001 by Guadalupe Benitez.

Benitez claim the physicians refused to artificially inseminate her after 11 months of fertility treatments when she told them she was a lesbian. Benitez argues that the doctors violated the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Brody and Fenton, among other defenses, claim they did not refuse to artificially inseminate Benitez because of her sexual orientation, but instead because she was not married. The two doctors said their religious convictions would not permit them to perform the procedure on an unmarried woman.

Brody and Fenton did refer Benitez to another physician and the patient ultimately became pregnant, according to court records.

The case has caused a flood of friend-of-the-court briefs on both sides of the issue, reported The California Catholic. Eleven groups joined the California Catholic Conference in submitting briefs. Some include: the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the Islamic Medical Association of North America, Catholic Exchange Inc., Human Life International, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church State Council, and the Christian Legal Society.

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Bush, Pope Benedict to hold first meeting this summer

Vatican City, May 1, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican and the White House have announced that Pope Benedict XVI will hold his first meeting with U.S. President George Bush this June. The meeting is scheduled to take place just after the president attends the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Heiligendamm, Germany.

According to Italy’s AKI news agency, U.S. Vatican ambassador Francis Rooney said that the Holy Father and the president will discuss the "shared commitment of the United States and the Holy See to promoting human dignity around the world."

The president will be accompanied to the Vatican by his wife, Laura Bush.

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Pope concerned about abuse of power in Venezuela, says bishop

Caracas, Venezuela, May 1, 2007 (CNA) - The vice president of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Roberto Luckert, said last Friday that during an audience with Pope Benedict XVI and a group of Venezuelan bishops, the Pontiff said he was concerned about the abuse of power in that country.

"During the meeting we told him about the problems we are having with education, the lack of security and the trampling of human rights in the country. The Holy Father listened to our comments and was concerned about the situation, which each day seems to be become more radical," the archbishop said in a telephone conversation with "The Truth."

Archbishop Luckert said the bishops expressed their concerns to the Pope because, in his judgment, "the policies of the national government are undoubtedly becoming more radical."

Regarding the law on education, he said, the bishops told the Holy Father it "aims to take religious education out of the classrooms."

According to Archbishop Luckert, the bishops present at the audience asked the Pope for his support, affection and prayer for Venezuela and its inhabitants. Likewise, he revealed, the members of the Bishops’ conference expressed their gratitude to Benedict XVI for the clear teachings he has conveyed in his pontifical teachings and they gave him an example of the documents approved by the Venezuelan bishops’ Plenary Council.

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Uruguayan bishops express grave concern about new law on civil unions

Montevideo, Uruguay, May 1, 2007 (CNA) -

The bishops of Uruguay said this week a proposed law on civil unions "merits serious reflection" and that making civil unions equal to marriage, including between same-sex couples, would be "unacceptable" and would "negatively affect marriage and the family.

At the conclusion of the first Ordinary Plenary Assembly of the Uruguayan Bishops’ Conference, the bishops released a statement expressing their support, in keeping with the country’s Constitution, of "everything in legislation that favors the proper nature of the family, its identity, stability, wellbeing and everything that protects its members."

Therefore, the statement indicated, the law on civil unions "merits serious reflection," since "while it would protect the some of the rights of those are living in this situation or are affected by it, the making of civil unions equal to matrimony cannot be accepted."

The bishops also warned that including same-sex unions in the definition of civil unions "can in no way be accepted, as homosexual relationships do not meet the basic conditions that define marriage."

The efforts being made to address issues related to civil unions, they stressed, "should not negatively affect the institution of the family, which is recognized by our Constitution and needs all of the care and encouragement that society as a whole can offer."

"It is not positive or acceptable to distort or weaken the image of marriage as the foundation of the family," the bishops emphasized.

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Bishops in Mexico call for conscientious objection against "appalling killing" of abortion

Mexico City, Mexico, May 1, 2007 (CNA) -

The archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera, together with his auxiliary bishops, issued a statement on Sunday expressing their "strongest condemnation" of the "unjust" and "iniquitous" law on abortion approved last week by the Legislative Assembly of the Mexican capital.

In their statement the bishops called on health care workers to exercise their right to conscientious objection against this "abominable act" that constitutes "appalling killing." They also expressed their "profound sorrow" that the assembly would pass an "unjust law that deprives unborn children of the protection of their right to life," ignoring the massive demonstrations and serious debate against the proposal. "There is no future for a society that dares to attack its most vulnerable members," the bishops warned.

"Abortion cannot be justified by pretending to deny the human status of the embryo," they continued, noting that, "the changing of legal terms, that is, of the definition of abortion, does not make it morally licit." "All persons of upright conscience should refuse to participate in this abominable act," they said.

The bishops stressed that anyone who cooperates in the carrying out of an abortion is morally responsible for the act, and therefore "doctors, nurses, health care assistants and all those who may be involved in the carrying out of this iniquitous law should make use of their right to conscientious objection."

They also called on priests and the laity to support pregnant women and discourage them from seeking an abortion, would not only put their physical, psychological and moral health at risk, but also their spiritual and eternal health as well, causing them more pain than that which they are seeking to avoid."

Cardinal Rivera and his auxiliary bishops expressed their recognition of the "bravery of our faithful and of all those men and women of good will who have expressed themselves in various ways defending human life and its highest dignity."

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Italian archbishop receives death threats over statements on homosexual unions

Rome, Italy, May 1, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, has become the target of new death threats, prompting increased security measures from Italian police.

Over the weekend, the archdiocese reported receiving an envelope containing a bullet and a photo of the archbishop.

According to the newspaper "Il Corriere Mercantile," the envelope was opened by an official of the archdiocese, and Archbishop Bagnasco was warned hours later, as we returning from Milan.

Local police chief Salvatore Presenti said the threats do not mean more attention is being given to the archbishop, who has been under police protection since the Genoa cathedral was recently vandalized.

A spokesman for the archdiocese said the threats were the work of "very small extremist and psychological weak groups."

Domenico Pompili, spokesman for the Italian Bishops’ Conference, called the threats were an attempt to intimidate the archbishop but declined further comment, saying the Church did not want to encourage more confrontation or tension.

Archbishop Bagnasco became the target of criticism for questioning a proposed law that would legalize homosexual and civil unions.

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Reach out to fallen away Catholics, says Vatican cardinal

, May 1, 2007 (CNA) -

The prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, called on the faithful in Latin America to reach out to fallen away Catholics who have joined other Christian denominations.

"We can’t sit and wait in the parishes," he said. "We should go out ourselves to bring the baptized back. We should go out to poor on the outskirts of town, who need our solidarity, our warmth. We should help them with their daily problems, but also to fulfill their dreams, because the poor also have dreams," the cardinal said.

"In recent years," he continued, "the Church in America has lost 1% of its faithful each year." Therefore, he encouraged Catholics to create new initiatives of evangelization in the region where almost half of the world’s Catholics live. "Perhaps the future of worldwide Catholicity is at risk," he said.

Among the reasons Catholics leave the Church to join other Christian denominations is "the moral relativism imported from Europe and introduced into Latin America, especially by local leaders, the mass media and intellectuals," the cardinal said, citing the recent legalization of abortion in Mexico as an example.

"The Church in Latin America should ask itself what it has not done right and why it has not been able to implant a more profound faith in the baptized," he continued, warning also that this is not a problem affecting solely the Church in Latin America but also in the rest of the world.

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Evangelical Christians seek forgiveness of sins online

Miami, Fla., May 1, 2007 (CNA) -

Evangelical Christians seem to be finding the value of confession. But they’re not lining up for the confessional or for a minister — they’ve headed online.

Confession websites are not new — they’ve been around for at least a few years — but they continue to increase in number and popularity.

People post anything from abortion, lust, pornography, theft, lying and alcohol abuse — the list goes on.

One site, launched by the nondenominational Flamingo Road Church in Cooper City this Easter, is The 6,500-member church created the site as part of a 10-week series on the ways people make mistakes — in marriage, parenting, finances — and can learn from them.

"I think it helps people understand . . . that we're not here to point out people's screw-ups, that we're here to help them," Pastor Troy Gramling told The Miami Herald. "The church is made of skin and flesh and people that have made mistakes."

A 23-year-old man who posted on the site told The Herald in a telephone interview that posting his sin "was very cathartic." The anonymity of the site is key to its appeal, he said.

Janet Sternberg, associate chairwoman of the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University in New York, told the newspaper that online confessionals are a natural outgrowth of Internet chat rooms ''where people have this habit of telling secrets to strangers,'' as well as blogs and MySpace pages.

But, so far, more people are reading confessions than posting them.

The Flamingo Road Church gets about 1,000 hits a day, with about 200 online admissions.

The evangelical’s confession website has had more than 6,000 people post confessions but millions more have logged on to read the stories, said pastor Bobby Gruenewald.

The pastor told The Herald that the church has received some criticism from people who think that "we're trying to encourage people to confess to a computer instead of God."

"We just believe it is a catalyst to have people open up to family and friends and God. I think sometimes it can be misunderstood," he was quoted as saying. A recent redesign of the website gives readers the possibility to post prayers or responses to confessions.

Greg Fox, who created the site in 2000, says the websites, with their voyeuristic appeal, may fulfill people's need to feel better about their own behavior or moral values. His site averages about 1.3 million hits a day.

"What makes it so popular is not so much the people confessing but people going to read all these things, saying, ‘My life's not so bad,’" he told The Herald.

People have written on the site about abusive relationships and contemplating suicide. Fox said he has tried to direct these people to get help. Others have threatened the president, prompting Fox to call the U.S. Secret Service.

He reviews all of the submissions before posting them, and has a backlog of about 4,000. Fox said the confessions are completely anonymous and that he has no way of tracing them.

The Catholic Church rejects the idea of online confessions. Confession is ''the opportunity to confess sins to someone ordained as a priest who is a representative of Christ," Mary Ross Agosta of the Miami Archdiocese told the newspaper.

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Pope supports Archbishop who received death threats over opposition to gay marriage

Vatican City, May 1, 2007 (CNA) - According to the BBC, Pope Benedict XVI has lent his support, by phone, to Italian Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, who has received death threats in recent days over his public opposition to same-sex marriage.

Over the weekend, the Archbishop received a live bullet in the mail along with a photo of himself with a swastika cut into the photo paper. This act however, was just the latest in a string of threats which began last month when the doors of his cathedral in Genoa were defaced with graffiti.

The Archdiocese has stepped up security around the prelate, who now has armed guards regularly nearby.

The BBC reported that the Holy Father expressed solidarity with the Archbishop in his call, and charged him to continue working for human and religious rights, without which "it was impossible to build a true, free and stable democracy."

Archbishop Bagnasco was recently made president of the Italian bishop’s conference and the one of the Church’s primary spokesman against a proposed Italian law which would grant marital rights to same sex partners. The legislation, he has said, undermines the traditional and ancient position of the institution of marriage within society.

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