, May 25, 2007 (CNA) - It sounds as though yet another radio show host has crossed the line. Bill Maher, a person known for his anti-Catholic views, treated his listeners to a tirade this last week that rivals Don Imus’ performance. He began with an attack on the late Rev. Jerry Falwell and then launched into a rant against Catholicism:
"And it's easy to start a religion! Watch, I do it for you: I had a vision last night! A vision! The Blessed Virgin Mary came to me--I don't know how she got past the guards--and she told me it's high time to take the high ground from the Seventh Day Adventists and give it to the 24-hour party people. And what happens in the confessional stays in the confessional. Gay men, don't say you're life partners, say you're a nunnery of two….”
Catholic League president Bill Donohue responded to Maher’s diatribe with a challenge to HBO’s board of directors.
"We are writing to the 14 members who sit on the board of directors of Time Warner (the parent company of HBO) asking each of them whether Maher's gratuitous and highly offensive attack on Jesus Christ merits the same punishment afforded Imus for his racist remark. Maher is a serial anti-Catholic bigot who mocked the Eucharist as recently as April 16.
Donohue also pointed out that, "Time Warner's Standards of Business Conduct--revised last month by the board of directors—includes the following principle: 'While our content may sometimes engender controversy, we want no one to question our character.' We know Maher lacks character. What the public needs to know is whether Time Warner's board has any."
For more information go to: http://www.catholicleague.org/07press_releases/quarter_2/070522_maher.htm
Washington D.C., May 25, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said it welcomes the recent announcement of the bipartisan trade policy as a significant step in creating a more just and equitable U.S. trade policy.
“At a time of deep polarization in our country, your announcement also marks a refreshing example of consensus and cooperation among political leaders, one that should be expanded to other areas of our national debate,” wrote Bishop Thomas Wenski in a recent letter on behalf of the USCCB.
The letter was addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, and Ambassador Schwab. Bishop Wenski is the metropolitan of Orlando and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy
He said the proposed policy offers a credible response to a major question facing the U.S.: How can the country shape trade policy so that it lifts up workers and their families here and abroad, ensures access to life-saving medicines for those who need them, and protects God’s creation?
The bishops, however, remain deeply concerned that their call for just agricultural trade policies within trade agreements remains unanswered and that the proposed policy may weaken protections for poor farmers and their families, Bishop Wenski wrote.
“The plight of small farmers and farm workers in developing countries is well documented. Their ability to adapt to market-forces and develop their operations in ways that maintain their livelihoods and the stability of their communities should be enhanced, not undermined, through increased trade opportunities,” he wrote.
“I urge you to present a comprehensive trade and development package that offers ways of helping our partners in developing countries protect vulnerable workers and rural communities,” he said.
He noted that many developing countries, such as Colombia, face situations of violence and political unrest.
The bishop also said he hopes that USCCB can serve as a dialogue partner with those seeking ways of building peace and security in Colombia given the Church’s extensive experience in seeking ways to further the cause of national unity and reconciliation there.
In addition, the bishops urge that any trade agreements protect and defend public health, especially in developing countries and that poor people in developing countries have effective access to life-saving medicines.
“As you translate the best elements of the bipartisan trade policy into the texts of the actual agreements with Colombia, Peru, Panama and Korea,” he concluded, “you will have the opportunity to strengthen solidarity with our trading partners at the same time that you promote the welfare of vulnerable workers here at home.”
Sacramento, Calif., May 25, 2007 (CNA) - Radical legislation, mandating that schoolchildren as young as kindergarten learn about transsexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality, has passed the California State Senate.
SB 777 requires textbooks, instructional materials, and school-sponsored activities to positively portray cross-dressing, sex-change operations, same-sex marriages, all aspects of homosexuality and bisexuality, and so-called "gay history." Silence on these sexual lifestyles will not be allowed.
Yesterday’s vote, 23 to 13, was on a party line -- Democrats for, Republicans against. No Republican senator rose to speak against the bill.
SB 777 would teach these sexual subjects without parental permission. The new mandate would be enforced by the attorneys of the California Department of Education, which would sue school districts that do not comply.
“The notion of forcing children to support controversial sexual lifestyles is shocking and appalling to millions of fathers and mothers," said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families (CCF). The group is calling on the governor to pledge to veto the bill.
"Parents don't want their children taught to become homosexual or bisexual or to wonder whether they need a sex-change operation,” said Thomasson. “SB 777 will shatter the academic purpose of education by turning every government school into a sexual indoctrination center."
The bill would also replace the definition of sex in the Education Code, which currently reads: “Sex means the biological condition or quality of being a male or female human being.”
It would be replaced with “Gender means sex, and includes a person's gender identity and gender related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person's assigned sex at birth.”
The definition was authored by lesbian Senator Sheila Kuehl.
CNA STAFF, May 25, 2007 (CNA) - The most recent scientific study on Levonorgestrel, the essential component of the “morning-after pill” or “emergency contraceptive,” confirms that the drug does indeed have a third effect on users, which consists in preventing the implantation of a fertilized ovum in the womb of the mother.
The promoters of the drug in Latin America, where most countries have laws against abortion, have argued that the there is no scientific basis for the “third effect,” and that therefore the drug should be legalized. Dr. Horacio Croxatto, professor at the Chilean Institute of Reproductive Medicine, said in 2006 that the morning-after pill “is not abortifacient because it only prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation.”
Nevertheless, the most recent study (2007) by Doctors Mikolajczyk and Stanford of the Department of Medicine in Public Health of the University of Bielefeld (Germany) clearly indicates that the pill’s “real effect” includes mechanisms that prevent implantation.
Published by the magazine Fertility and Sterility, the study used data from multiple clinical studies with advanced mathematical models and concluded that if emergency contraception only inhibited ovulation its true effectiveness would only be in a range of 8-49 percent. If it acted before ovulation and if it inhibited ovulation completely, its true effectiveness would be between 16-90 percent. The rest of the pill’s effectiveness consists in its anti-implantation mechanisms, which cause an abortion.
Aparecida, Brazil, May 25, 2007 (CNA) - The prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, said this week the “Great Continental Mission” that will be launched at the end of the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council “should be born of our openness to the urging of the Holy Spirit and should thus constitute a new Pentecost.”
During his intervention on Thursday, the cardinal called the Conference “a unique opportunity that Jesus Christ offers us to plan a Great Continental Mission” in Latin America, which “will demand the decisive action of the bishops’ conferences, of dioceses, of parishes and of all forms of associations of the faithful.”
Recalling the words of Pope Benedict XVI during his meeting with the bishops of Brazil, Cardinal Hummes said the Holy Father told them, “We have not sufficiently evangelized those we have baptized,” and they “have the right to be evangelized by us because when we baptized them we assume a commitment to evangelize them and lead them to Jesus Christ.”
“Thus a Great Continental Mission to go in search of these poorly evangelized Catholics. It’s not a form of proselytism or of anti-ecumenism, because we’re talking about those whom we have baptized,” the cardinal stated.
During a press conference later on, Cardinal Hummes emphasized that “the mission must begin now. We’ll need to make adjustments, but the process should begin immediately. It has no end date. It should continue and become part of the dynamic daily life of Catholic communities. It should be something permanent.” The mission will not consist of “only door-to-door visits, but will reach out to all of society and all sectors,” he said.
“We should find ways for the laity to bear witness with their lives and their example, and also with their words, to coherence with the Gospel,” the cardinal continued. “Words serve to explain why a missionary acts and lives in this way. The methodology should be quite different depending on the environment,” he added. “Communities should be born of the Eucharist, where the word of God is lived out intensely, in order to awaken the faith anew. The support of communities will be essential. We want to go in search of our baptized,” Cardinal Hummes said in conclusion.
Los Angeles, Calif., May 25, 2007 (CNA) - Opposition to the California Assisted Suicide bill is increasing, according to Ann Guerra, chair of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers. She is one of many disabled activists who have been working to defeat the assisted suicide bill.
Bill 374 was still in committee as of May 20 and has reportedly lost some of its early momentum.
If the bill is not voted out of committee and off the Assembly floor by June 8, it must either be rescheduled for January or it dies.
In an interview with the California Catholic Daily, Guerra said whenever assisted suicide is introduced, early polling shows support for the idea. But as people become educated and look more deeply into the issue, they oppose it.
“They learn, for instance, that pain can be managed, that people are placed at-risk for early death when they do not have access to needed health care services, and that people experiencing depression are dangerously vulnerable,” she said.
While legislation is intended for people with a terminal prognosis, Guerra argues that people with disabilities are at greater risk if the bill passes.
“People with disabilities get terminal prognoses at a greater rate than the general population and many have been told that their condition will result in death in six months only to live many years beyond that time,” she explained.
A new disability is frequently accompanied by depression and even suicidal thoughts. These people are often faced with family or economic stress. This passes with time and is vastly improved with appropriate health and social services, she said.
“If depression and fear of disability are acceptable reasons to prescribe lethal drugs, anyone with a disability is at risk,” she told the Catholic newspaper.
Proponents of the bill argue that there will be safeguards in place, but Guerra is not convinced. Furthermore, she said, the safeguards are more for physicians who prescribe lethal drugs rather than the patients.
Doctors would be protected from legal liability if they act in "good faith," she noted.
“Adequate, appropriate health care services, including palliative care, and the removal of barriers to community living can make this issue completely moot,” she said.
London, England, May 25, 2007 (CNA) - Prime Minister Tony Blair wants to have an audience with Pope Benedict XVI before stepping down next month.
Blair’s official spokesperson said he wanted to travel to Rome for talks with Prime Minister Romano Prodi, ahead of an EU summit next month, and, if he did, would seek an audience with the Pope. No date has been set but it is anticipated that it will be held in early June.
According to a spokesperson, Blair is eager to hold talks on interfaith issues with Benedict XVI ahead of a major conference on Islam to be held in Britain.
His first visit with Pope Benedict was in June 2006, during which they discussed terrorism, globalization and poverty.
The visit with the Pope is likely to reignite speculation that Blair intends to convert to Catholicism once he steps down.
However, Blair has not addressed if he will change his views on homosexuality or abortion which differ from the teachings of the Church.
Vatican City, May 25, 2007 (CNA) - On Thursday Pope Benedict XVI met with officials of Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and encouraged both countries to reaffirm their Christian identity as the backbone of their nations and cultures.
The pontiff met with the president of the Bulgarian parliament, Georgi Pirinski, and immediately afterwards with the president of the parliament of Macedonia, Liubisha Georgieyski, both of whom headed up the delegations of their countries that were visiting Rome for the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius.
Speaking to the Bulgarian delegation, the Pope said their visit was an expression of the nation’s desire to “reaffirm its European tradition deeply impregnated with gospel values. Certainly, given its origin, the history of Bulgaria precedes Christian revelation. But without a doubt, in the Gospel the nation found a source of values, capable of strengthening the culture, the identity and the genius that typifies this people.”
The Pontiff later mentioned the “sad and harsh Communist domination,” but he emphasized that Bulgaria is heading towards “full integration with the other European nations.”
The Pope concluded to express his hope that "Bulgaria and its people will conserve and promote those Christian virtues that descend from the teachings of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, and are still valid and necessary today."
Later during the audience with the president of the Macedonian parliament, the Holy Father expressed his desire that not only "the spiritual patrimony you have inherited be shared, but also that your particular identity be granted its due consideration by the other European peoples who are close to you in terms of tradition and culture."
“My cordial desire is that you may be able to always conserve faithfully the patrimony of your two protector saints, so that your voice, both in the civil sphere as well as the religious sphere, will be heard and be given just consideration,” concluded the Pope.
Madrid, Spain, May 25, 2007 (CNA) - According to a report by the Institute for Family Policy, with more than 141,817 divorces in 2006—one every 3.7 minutes—Spain has become the country with the highest divorce rate in the European Union.
The Institute also pointed out that the number of divorces grew in 2006 by 51% from the previous year and by 277% from the period of 2001-2006.
According to the Institute, the Canary Islands, the Beleares Islands and Catalonia are the regions with the highest divorce rates, and Castilla-La Mancha has seen the greatest jump in abortions since 2004, with the rate more than tripling.
Eduardo Hertfelder, the director of the Institute for Family Policy, said the report should cause Spanish society and the country’s leaders to take “urgent measures to stop this authentic social suicide. A true change of direction is necessary regarding the legal measures, the social and cultural protection of marriage and the family in order to straighten out this tremendous crisis that we are experiencing in Spain.”
“The data is irrefutable,” Hertfelder said, “and it points to a failure of the government that implements laws—like the law on express divorce—which provokes an increase in the breakdown of the family in Spain.”
The lack of a plan by the government to reinforce the family shows the lack of concern for the problems facing the family, Hertfelder said, adding that the government should reverse the current “express divorce” and should implement “support measures for the family.”
Rome, Italy, May 25, 2007 (CNA) - An international conference organized by the National Research Council of Italy and the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences will take place May 25-26 in Rome with the intention of recovering the value of Latin for the future of Europe.
“Latin Future: the Latin language for the building up and identity of Europe” is the theme of the conference that will be held in Rome and at the Vatican. Professors, senators, writers and journalists of various countries, mostly Italy, are expected to attend. On the first day of the event, the congress will address the theme of the role of Latin in the formation of Europe, as well as its significance for science and culture.
Among those invited to address the congress are Jan Figel, EU Director for Education, Formation, Culture and Youth, and Professor Wang Huansheng, member of the Academy of Social Sciences of Beijing.
Before the delivering the closing address of the congress, Msgr. Walter Brandmüller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, will announce the winner of the 2nd annual ad Fontes prize, inaugurated to reward journalists for articles that underline the influence of the Latin language in contemporary education.
Front Royal, Va., May 25, 2007 (CNA) - Fr. Tom Euteneuer, the president of Human Life International, wants to talk about a hot topic—exorcism and deliverance from the Devil. According to Euteneuer, the approach of Pentecost is all the more reason for to speak of the remedy to the Devil, the Holy Spirit.
His new book, “The Devil, His Minions, and His Activities,” will be published in the coming months. Its purpose is to put people in closer touch with the Holy Spirit, who defends us from the Devil, and to help us “experience God's love as the protective shield against all his evil.”
Fr. Euteneuer also exposes the Devil for who he really is, using the words of Christ.
“The devil's most serious indictment came from our Blessed Lord who called him, "a liar and the father of lies," and "a murderer from the beginning" (Jn 8:44). The New Testament refers to this origin of all wickedness nearly three hundred times to warn us of his presence and work.”
As Pentecost approaches, Father urges us to, “make a profound act of faith in the Holy Spirit, that, no matter how evil our times may be, God will never abandon to the power of evil those who call upon Him. Let us call upon the Holy Spirit to protect us and our loved ones and to renew the face of the earth!”