Madrid, Spain, May 3, 2007 (CNA) -
The civil organization E-Cristians has denounced Spanish officials for refusing to investigate the firing of a waitress at a restaurant in Gerona after she refused to comply with her manager’s wish that she undergo an abortion.
E-Cristians reported that last January, “various media outlets published a story about a waitress who refused to get an abortion after being pressured by the owner of the restaurant where she worked. The waitress, who was four months pregnant, continued her pregnancy and was fired.”
This month the president of E-Cristians, Josep Miro, sent a letter to the Department of the Interior and to government officials in the region of Catalonia reminding them that the owner of the restaurant may have broken the law.
In his letter, Miro also pressured for an investigation into the firing. However, officials responded to the letter saying no investigation would take place because the waitress decided to file her own lawsuit.
“This case is not uncommon,” E-Cristians reported. “Unfortunately, there many cases of pregnant women being fired.” Nevertheless, the organization said, this was a unique case in which the employer was demanding that the employee obtain an abortion as a condition for continued employment.
Vatican City, May 3, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi C.S., delivered a talk during an international conference called by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees to consider the humanitarian needs of refugees and internally displaced persons within Iraq and neighboring States.
In his English-language talk, the text of which was made public today, Archbishop Tomasi pointed out that there are around two million internally- displaced Iraqis, while "two million others have already fled the country and between 40,000 and 50,000 are fleeing their homes each month."
"Where war and violence have destroyed the social tissue and the unity of Iraq, judicious political choices and a non-discriminatory humanitarian engagement would be the first step to re-establish a pluralistic unity."
"Displaced women, elderly and children bear the brunt of the tragedy," said the nuncio. "With the experience of daily violence and, even more tragically, with the killing of family members before their eyes, many children are traumatized and remain without professional care."
The countries hosting displaced Iraqis cannot be ignored by the international community and must receive tangible and prompt solidarity. ... In fact, without this solidarity, the victims escaping violence are at risk of new forms of exploitation and of being deprived of health and education services, housing and employment possibilities."
"While the first humanitarian need is peace, equally vital is a coordinated response that raises awareness of the immense crisis we face. Such a response must involve actors from States, civil society and the United Nations. In order to ameliorate the plight of all displaced people inside and outside the country, this response must enjoy a responsible participation of all Iraqis.
"All humanitarian workers who have been delivering active assistance, notwithstanding risk and sacrifice," he added, "deserve appreciation from the global human family as well as adequate resources to carry out their mission. They serve as effective instruments, as shown, for example, by the tens of thousand of people of all backgrounds and convictions being helped daily by the Catholic charitable network in Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Egypt," as well as by local NGOs and other organizations.
Archbishop Tomasi concluded his remarks be expression the Holy See's conviction that, "at this juncture of the Middle East crisis, vigorous leadership is demanded of the international community. Surely, the greatest challenge is to find a way for reconciliation, to reconstruct the will to dialogue, and to hope again so that peace may win. Generous, timely and coordinated humanitarian help for all the victims of such horrific violence will achieve justice for them and will begin the indispensable process of healing their tragic condition."
Vatican City, May 3, 2007 (CNA) - The Italian comic Andrea Rivera’s recent outburst against the Church because of its stands on euthanasia, evolution, and contraception has caused a reaction from L’Osservatore Romano. Fr. Lombardi, from the Vatican's press office, responded to Rivera's accusations saying, "The statements ... are of a worrying superficiality, but their gravity is not superficial."
At a televised May Day rock concert, Italian comedian Andrea Rivera launched an attack on the Pope for allegedly opposing evolution. His routine also included attempts to joke about the Catholic Church’s teaching on the use of condoms.
Rivera’s main complaint about the Church was that it chose to not provide a Catholic burial for euthanasia activist Piergiorgio Welby. This past December, Welby, who suffered from muscular dystrophy, committed suicide by having a doctor remove him from his artificial respirator.
On Wednesday, after the Vatican Newspaper L'Osservatore Romano strongly criticized Rivera in an editorial column, the comedian apologized and said he "did not intend to offend any person or religion."
San Diego, Calif., May 3, 2007 (CNA) - A teacher is suing his school district after officials ordered him to remove classroom posters that make reference to God. The posters displayed phrases that are closely associated to the United States, such as “In God We Trust”.
Brad Johnson, who teaches at Westview High School in a San Diego suburb, is suing the Southern Californian Poway Unified School District. The school district is under the impression that any reference to "Creator," "Creation," or "God" is prohibited by law.
The following phrases struck the school board as objectionable: “In God We Trust,” the official motto of the United States; “One Nation Under God,” from the Pledge of Allegiance; “God Bless America,” a patriotic song considered to be the unofficial national anthem of the United States; “God Shed His Grace On Thee,” a line from America the Beautiful; and “All Men Are Created Equal, They Are Endowed By Their Creator,” an excerpt from the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.
The Thomas More Law Center announced on May 1 that it has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Poway School District, claiming that school officials violated Johnson’s constitutional rights.
“Cleansing our nation’s classrooms of our religious heritage and history advances no legitimate educational purpose,” commented Richard Thompson, chief counsel for the Law Center. “In fact, such actions undermine the primary purpose of public education: to prepare students for citizenship in our republic.”
Johnson states that seven different principals, approximately 4,000 students in grades 9 to 12, and 1,000 parents have seen these banners in his classroom since 1982. None of them ever complained.
"These are lines from songs, mottoes, and slogans familiar to all of us as part of our history and patriotic heritage,” said Robert Muise, the Law Center attorney handling the case. "It is the responsibility of all public school teachers, including Mr. Johnson, to educate students regarding our nation’s history and its founding. Mr. Johnson’s educational banners serve that purpose.”
Thomas More Center attorneys argue that the school district’s ban is conveying "a government-sponsored message of disapproval of and hostility toward religion” in violation of the United States and California constitutions.
The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California to overturn the school district's speech restriction so that Johnson can continue to display his patriotic and historic banners, as he has for the past 25 years.
Washington D.C., May 3, 2007 (CNA) -
This morning at the White House, President Bush commemorated the National Day of Prayer. He called upon Americans to remember that their nation is one founded upon a tradition of prayer and that prayer has greater power than is often recognized.
The President began by noting that, “We're a prayerful nation. I believe that makes us a strong nation.” Harking back to President George Washington, Bush recalled that, “It's the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and to humbly implore his protection and favor.”
President Bush also offered his reflections on the reasons that Americans pray. We pray for many reasons. First, we pray to give thanks for the blessings the Almighty has bestowed upon us. Second, we pray for the strength to follow God's will in our lives, and for forgiveness when we fail to do so. Third, we pray to acknowledge God's sovereignty in our lives and our complete dependence on Him. This is probably the toughest prayer of all, particularly for those of us in politics. In the humility of prayer we recognize the limits of human strength and human wisdom. Finally, we pray to offer petitions, because our Father in heaven knows our cares and our needs.
The President concluded by emphasizing the power of prayer. “The greatest gift we can offer anyone is the gift of our prayers, because our prayers have power beyond our imagining. The English poet Tennyson wrote, ‘More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.’ Prayer has the power to change lives and to change the course of history. So on this National Day of Prayer, let us seek the Almighty with confidence and trust, because our Eternal Father inclines his ear to the voice of his children, and answers our needs with love.”
Washington D.C., May 3, 2007 (CNA) - The leadership of the Episcopalian Church of the United States is upset over the pending installation this weekend of a bishop to head a parallel conservative denomination.
The presiding bishop of the Episcopalian Church, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, has demanded that Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola not install the new bishop to head the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).
Archbishop Akinola is scheduled to install Bishop Martyn Minns, 64, on May 5 as the head of CANA. However, in an attempt to downplay his presence, Archbishop Akinola is neither giving the main sermon nor appearing at any press conferences, reported The Washington Times.
CANA is considered to be an offshoot of the Nigerian church and a conservative alternative for Episcopalians who still want to remain in the worldwide Anglican Communion but not in the more liberal Episcopalian Church of the United States.
The Episcopalian Diocese of Virginia alone lost 11 parishes — about 9,000 people — to CANA last winter. Currently, CANA consists of about 30 to 35 churches.
Archbishop Akinola will be accompanied by four other Nigerian bishops for the installation. Bishop Minns was already consecrated as a bishop Aug. 20 in Abuja, Nigeria.
The installation will be at the Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge, Virginia. According to Bishop Minns, the nondenominational 3,500-seat chapel was selected as the venue for Saturday's ceremony so as not to antagonize the diocese, but the Episcopalian leadership remains riled.
"Such action [the installation] would violate the ancient customs of the church" in terms of the sacrosanct boundaries of individual bishops,” Bishop Jefferts Schori wrote in the letter to Archbishop Akinola. The latter does not have permission to minister within the geographical boundaries that are not his own, she noted.
Furthermore, wrote Bishop Jefferts Schori, "such action would not help the efforts of reconciliation that are taking place in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion as a whole. Such action would display to the world division and disunity that are not part of the mind of Christ, which we must strive to display to all."
Some Episcopal leaders say Bishop Minns' installation is the beginning of an effort by the Nigerian Church to replace the Episcopal Church with a conservative alternative.
The Nigerian bishops have announced that they will name more CANA bishops in September.
Madrid, Spain, May 3, 2007 (CNA) - The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) of the University of Chicago has published a study on its website noting that people who carry out a work of service to others are the happiest, among which the clergy are the happiest and most satisfied of all.
According to the Spanish daily “La Razon,” the study was carried out during more than three decades (1972-2006) in the United States. The study shows that after those who exercise some kind of religious leadership, physical therapists, firefighters, educational administrators, painters, sculptors and artists, teachers and authors have the most job satisfaction.
“We expected the more prestigious jobs to be the ones that would bring the most satisfaction and happiness but the professions with the highest scores are those that entail care and help for others,” explained Tom Smith, general director of NORC. “My work allows me to help other people and to see them progress both spiritually and personally,” said Father Mayo, one of the priests who participated in the survey.
On the other hand, lawyers, doctors, bankers, which some might consider to have the highest job satisfaction due to their large salaries, are not assured happiness. Only 58% of doctors and 52% of lawyers say they are satisfied with their professions.
The study also showed that waiters and cashiers are among those least satisfied with their jobs.
The complete study can be read at:
Vatican City, May 3, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Julian Herranz, the former president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, denounced the “climate of intolerance and anti-ecclesial fanaticism” currently present in Italy. The cardinal’s comments came in response to recent death threats against Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, over his statements against homosexual unions.
“They are trying to intimidate the Church because it is bothersome that she takes to the streets to defend her faith,” the cardinal said. “Some parties, complaining about Church interference, have spread hatred for the Church and are inciting extremists and this (death threat) is the result,” he said.
The Spanish cardinal said he was worried and concerned that some Italian politicians are not condemning the threats. “Whoever sows hatred arms the hand of ideological fundamentalism with more violence,” he said, noting that a “secular fundamentalism equally irrational and anti-democratic exists as well.”
Madrid, Spain, May 3, 2007 (CNA) - One of the most controversial Italian writers of the 1980s, Pier Vittorio Tondelli, who wrote extensively on homosexuality, returned to the Church shortly before dying of AIDS.
According to the Spanish daily “La Razon,” Tondelli, who was openly homosexual, was born in the Italian city of Corregio in 1955. According to Antonio Spadaro, an expert on the works of Tondelli, his reading of mystical literature and other religious writings always influenced him. For example, the main character of his book, “Separate Rooms,” Leo, “automatically looks for the Bible in the bookstore.”
Tondelli was fascinated with the works of Jewish mysticism, the Imitation of Christ, and the mystics like St. Teresa of Avila. “I love to look through them, to find and read stories, and the idea of holiness,” he wrote.
In 1989, the Italian writer said, “Everyone that has been raised in the bosom of a religion has his own religiosity. I have always tried to seek out not so much a discussion about the Catholic faith, but rather to express my own religiosity—without a doubt in the bosom of Christianity—which seeks out or questions its own positions, especially in confrontation with other authors.”
Speaking about chastity after his conversion, Tondelli called it “a mystic virtue for those who have chosen it and perhaps the most superhuman use of sexuality.”
A few days before dying, Tondelli read the Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, making a few notes in the margins, such as, “Literature does not bring salvation, never. Only love, faith and falling back into grace saves.”
Washington D.C., May 3, 2007 (CNA) - Actor Kirk Cameron and best-selling author Ray Comfort will square off with two atheists this weekend for a 90-minute debate about the existence of God.
The debate will take place in New York on May 5 and will be broadcast on ABC.com on May 9 at 1 p.m. EST. Nightline will air a shortened version of the debate May 9.
"The network originally offered me only four minutes to present my case,” said Comfort, who claims he can prove the existence of God, scientifically, without mentioning faith or the Bible. The network eventually agreed to 13 minutes.
Cameron and Comfort are excited that the network has agreed to this project.
“Most people think that belief in God is simply a matter of blind faith, and that His existence can't be proven,” said Cameron. “We will not only prove that God exists, but as an ex-atheist I'll show that the issue keeping so many people from believing in God — Darwinian evolution — is completely unscientific. It's a fairy-tale for grownups."
The idea for the debate came about after ABC ran a story in January about hundreds of atheists videotaping themselves blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
“There is something more sinister here than a few people not believing in God,” said Comfort. “Why would so many be so bitter against Christianity in particular? Why aren't they making videos that blaspheme Buddha or Mohammed or Gandhi?”
St. Louis, Mo., May 3, 2007 (CNA) - A Catholic all-girls high school withdrew its invitation to Sen. Claire McCaskill to speak at this year’s graduation ceremony because her positions on abortion and stem cell research are not in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Adrianne Marsh, spokeswoman for McCaskill, was quoted as saying that McCaskill, “understands that her positions supporting abortion rights and stem cell research are different from those held by the church.”
Students at St. Joseph's Academy in the St. Louis suburb of Frontenac wanted to have the senator speak at their commencement this month, but the invitation was withdrawn last week. McCaskill’s daughter attends St. Joseph’s Academy.
School president Sr. Michaela Zahner said she reluctantly made the decision after receiving a call from diocesan officials, reported The Associated Press.
While the senator was told that the decision to disinvite her came from the Archbishop, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, Anne Steffens, said the decision was not made by the Archbishop Raymond Burke.
McCaskill said she was disappointed by the decision, but that it did “not diminish my respect and admiration for St. Joseph’s Academy, their faculty, and students."