Montgomery, Ala., Jul 11, 2007 (CNA) - Claims that the number of violent lesbian gangs across the country is on the rise are unfounded, according to a recent article published by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report.
According to journalists Susy Buchanan and David Holthouse, the claims made by Fox News crime analyst Rod Wheeler on the O’Reilly Factor on June 21 do not correspond with the information they gathered from law-enforcement officials.
Wheeler told the program’s three million viewers there is “this national underground network” of lesbian and gay gangs that are “recruiting kids as young as 10 years old in a lot of the schools in the communities all across the country… And they actually carry a number of weapons. And they commit a number of crimes."
The children who are recruited, he said, are indoctrinated into homosexuality and forced into performing sex acts. Wheeler said there are more than 150 of these gangs in the Washington D.C. area alone.
However, authorities disagree with Wheeler’s claims. Buchanan and Holthouse reported that Detective Patrick Word, president of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Gang Investigators Network, said there is no evidence whatsoever of a lesbian gang epidemic in his region.
The network is an intelligence-sharing organization of 400 criminal justice professionals in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. "Our membership reports only one lesbian gang," Word told the Intelligence Report.
Sgt. Brett Parson, a member and former commander of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, also questioned Wheeler's numbers.
"We have 150 to 175 total gangs in the D.C. area, and out of those only nine where the predominance of members are female," Parson was quoted as saying. "You simply can't make the jump that they are lesbians. I think it is fair to talk about violence and female gangs. But to sensationalize or marginalize a community by making a statement like that seems irresponsible."
When approached by the Intelligence Report, Wheeler was allegedly unable to specify a law enforcement agency, police report, media account or any other source he relied upon for his claims.
However, he defended his position, saying: “These organizations don't lay it on the line because they don't know what is going on on the streets. This is a serious crisis and the so-called experts are missing it."
Vatican City, Jul 11, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI’s final approval for the publication of the final document of the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM) was announced today by the Vatican. The document is the summation of the teachings of the bishops from their recent meeting that the Pope inaugurated this past May.
In his letter authorizing the publication of the document, the Holy Father noted that it contains, "many useful pastoral indications motivated with rich reflections in the light of the faith and of the current social situation.
"Among them," the Pope adds, "I read with particular appreciation the exhortation for priority to be given, in pastoral programs, to the Eucharist and the sanctification of the Day of the Lord, as well as the expressed wish to strengthen the Christian formation of the faithful in general and of pastoral workers in particular. In this context I was happy to learn of the desire to create a 'Continental Mission,' which episcopal conferences and dioceses are all called to study and put into effect, channeling all their vital energies to this end."
In a separate development, during the first session of the 31st Ordinary CELAM Assembly, which began yesterday in Havana, Cuba, the new leaders of that institution for the next four-year period (2007-2011) were elected.
The new president is Archbishop Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, Brazil, the first vice-president is Baltazar Porras Cardozo of Merida, Venezuela, and the second vice president is Bishop Andres Stanovnik O.F.M. Cap. of Reconquista, Argentina.
The new president, at 70 years old, brings much experience with him having been the Secretary General for CELAM for the past 15 years.
Brussels, Belgium, Jul 11, 2007 (CNA) - Speaking at the Global Forum on Migration in Brussels, Belgium, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples said that the human dignity and freedoms of immigrants must be respected.
The Global Forum is an initiative that is being sponsored by the United Nations to build a more cohesive and uniform approach to policies on migration and development among its member nations.
Addressing those gathered in English, the archbishop recalled how "migrants contribute to their host country's well-being, and also because of this their human dignity must be respected and their freedoms guaranteed: the right to a dignified life, to fair treatment at work, to have access to education, health and other social benefits, to grow in competence and develop humanly, to freely manifest their culture and practice their religion.
At the same time, the archbishop was sure not to neglect the responsibilities of migrants either. "Rights and duties go together." "Migrants have the duty to respect the identity and the laws of the country of residence, strive for proper integration (not assimilation) into the host society and learn its language. They are to foster esteem and respect for their host country, even to the point of loving and defending it.
In a remark that is particularly relevant in the United States, the archbishop addressed the issue of illegal immigrants. "Unfortunately, among them there are immigrants in an irregular situation, who, however, independently of their legal status, have inalienable human dignity. Therefore their rights must be safeguarded and not ignored or violated.”
“An irregular migration status, in fact, does not mean criminality. The solution is better international cooperation that discourages irregularity, with increased legal channels for migration."
Archbishop Marchetto concluded his talk by renewing the call made by the Pope in his Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees for "governments who have not yet done so, to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and the Members of their Families."
Manila, Philippines, Jul 11, 2007 (CNA) - One month after the abduction of Fr. Giancarlo Bossi in the Philippines, his congregation is still waiting for some communication, either from the Italian missionary himself or from his abductors.
From his mountain retreat home, the Holy Father is also eagerly awaiting any news. Benedict XVI said that, “Fr. Bossi is in his thoughts and prayers everyday.” “We are hoping and praying that the Lord helps us.”
Fr. Bossi, a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), was kidnapped June 10 on the southern Philippine Mindanao Island. His community dedicated a day of prayer for his liberation yesterday, reported MISNA. Fr. Gian Battista Zanchi, general superior of the PIME, celebrated mass at the congregation’s general house in Rome for the same intention.
“We are in the same spirits as the day in which Father was kidnapped,” said Fr. Zanchi.
Photographs that have been in circulation since Friday show a much thinner Fr. Bossi. Fr. Zanchi said the congregation still does not know why he was abducted and by whom.
The congregation speculates that a group which split from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is behind the kidnapping. The group has made no contact with the congregation. Immediately following the abduction, the government fingered the radical group Abu Sayyaf, but no substantial evidence that the group is involved has been produced.
The Italian missionary is thought to be held not far from Payao, where he was kidnapped a month ago.
“All we can do is wait,” said Fr. Zanchi from the general PIME house in Rome, “wait for a precise channel to open.”
Jefferson City, Mo., Jul 11, 2007 (CNA) - Missouri Governor Matt Blunt signed a bill into law this week that reclassifies abortion clinics as "ambulatory surgical centers" and places them under stricter regulations and the scrutiny of state officials.
The law, promoted by Missouri Right to Life, permits abstinence-only sex-ed classes and makes it illegal for Planned Parenthood or other pro-abortion groups to teach school sex education classes. Currently Planned Parenthood teaches in up to 40 St. Louis-area schools, reported LifeSiteNews.com.
The new law is "one of the strongest pieces of pro-life legislation in Missouri history," said Blunt at the July 9 signing ceremony.
Planned Parenthood of Missouri complained that the new law will require them to spend up to $2 million to refit their abortion centers to meet the new standards.
Paula Gianino, president of Planned Parenthood for the St. Louis Region, said the new law could leave only one abortion facility in the state.
"I say if they can't meet the same basic requirements that other (medical) providers do, then they should shut down," Blunt stated.
Gianino told St. Louis Today that the group is considering legal action to stop the law from taking effect.
Rome, Italy, Jul 11, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Jean Pierre Ricard, president of the Bishops’ Conference of France, said this week the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum by Pope Benedict XVI “is intended for Catholics faithful to the Pope and respectful of the authority of the Council (Vatican II) and who desire to use the 1962 Missal.”
In noting that “the ancient liturgy has nourished the faith of the faithful during centuries and can still do so today,” Cardinal Ricard said Vatican II was not a “break” but rather a continuation of the tradition of the Church. He stressed that by issuing the document, Pope Benedict is calling on “the council faithful and the traditionalists to begin a journey towards reconciliation and communion.”
The Pope greatly desires “the unity of Catholics, he wants to favor reconciliation and reconcile the Church with her liturgical past. It’s also a gesture towards the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre, but the Pope knows that in this case the differences are not only liturgical,” the cardinal said.
He emphasized that the “Missal of 1970 remains the ordinary form of celebration. This is not bi-ritualism but rather one rite that can be celebrated in two ways. For most Catholics nothing will change,” the cardinal stated.
Pyongyang, North Korea, Jul 11, 2007 (CNA) - An international organization that assists persecuted Christians around the world, launched a worldwide campaign July 10th to free a North Korean man awaiting public execution for being a Christian.
For more than a year, Son Jong Nam, a former army officer turned underground evangelist, has been beaten, tortured and held in a bleak, North Korean death row basement jail in the capital city. He has been sentenced to public execution as an example to the North Korean people.
Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) has been joined in the initiative by U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Sam Brownback (R-Kan).
Brownback sent letters last week, also signed by Senators Baucus (D-Mont.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Vitter (R-La.), asking U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to work to secure the release of the Christian prisoner.
VOM is calling on people in the United States and around the world to write letters and send e-mails on Son Jong Nam's behalf.
"We are asking for prayers for Mr. Son, but also that people around the world take action on his behalf," said Todd Nettleton of VOM.
In his letters to Rice and Ban, Brownback wrote: "Future cooperation and engagement with North Korea will be far more challenging if its leaders continue to persecute their own people for religious views. The United States has made political and religious freedoms important elements in its diplomatic relations, and we are gravely concerned about abuses of such basic rights in North Korea."
According to Nettleton, North Korea is one of the most repressive and isolated regimes in the world and denies every kind of human right to its citizens. The country's previous leader, Kim Il Sung, founded an ideology called "juche," meaning "self-reliance," which is enforced in every aspect of the culture by the ruling elite. Kim Jong Il, the son of deceased leader Kim Il Sung, currently leads the country. In North Korea, both Kims are considered deities.
"All religions have been harshly repressed in North Korea," said Nettleton. "Thousands of Christians have been murdered since the Korean War. In 1953, there were an estimated 300,000 Christians; however, the number is much lower today. Christians must practice their faith in deep secrecy and are in constant danger."
Those who wish to join the letter campaign should go to www.prisoneralert.com for more information.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 11, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the College of Catholic Lawyers in Mexico, Armando Martinez Gomez, announced this week the organization would send a proposal to the National Congress and local legislatures to reform the Constitution in order to strengthen religious freedom in the country and allow religious education in public schools.
Martinez Gomez, who will be presenting the proposal in the name of the Archdiocese of Mexico City, said it was very important that the Constitution be reformed “in order for there to be true religious freedom, because Mexico continues to a be a restrictive country in this area and therefore the Church is focused on this issue.”
He noted that during the debate on the legalization of abortion in Mexico City, “the freedom of expression of religious leaders was restricted” and “several lawsuits against clergy members are still pending.”
Martinez Gomez stressed that clergy members “are citizens who have the right, like the rest of Mexicans, to hold and to express opinions and political, non-partisan positions.” However, they are constantly restricted in exercising that right.
He said that one of the objectives of the proposal is to allow for religious education to be imparted in public schools, thus allowing parents to exercise their right over the education of their children.
The spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, Father Hugo Valdemar, said, “This is not about subduing the secular State or returning to laws and privileges of the past. This is about making our Constitution consistent, which on the one hand provides guarantees to all citizens, but in practice these guarantees are taken away from us.”
The communications office of the Archdiocese of Mexico said the demand for religious freedom is not about a privilege dependent upon the will of political leaders and their policies, but rather it is the “clear recognition of an inalienable right.” “It’s not about a right of the Church as an institution,” but rather “a human right of each person, of each people, of each nation.”
The restriction of freedom of religion is “contrary to human dignity,” it said, and the respect the State owes to religious freedom excludes the tacit or explicit promotion of irreligiosity or indifference, as if the religious dimension of life were totally foreign to the people.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 11, 2007 (CNA) - On the second day of his vacation in the town of Lorenzago di Cadore in northern Italy, Pope Benedict XVI received an invitation from Bishop Giuseppe Andrich of Belluno-Feltre to attend a classical music concert which will feature an organ that dates to 1790.
The local pastor in Lorenzago, Father Sergio De Martino, told Vatican Radio, “We are very hopeful the Pope will attend the concert because it will take place on the feast of St. Benedict and because the Pope is a fan of music. But this is just our hope. We won’t be discouraged if he doesn’t attend, but if he does, it will be a great joy.”
Father De Martino said the concert would feature music by Bach and Scarlatti and that the Schola Cantorum of his parish in Lorenzago will perform.
He said that in his simplicity, the Pope teaches with great depth and speaks to man’s conscience. “His message is a gift, his word is a gift. People are seeing that this is his great treasure. I think he is just the man God wanted,” the priest said.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 11, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Ruben Hector di Monte of Mercedes-Lujan said this week the inspiration behind the founding of Argentina came from the Christian faith and that the since its beginnings the country has been “under the care of God our Lord.”
In his homily for the Te Deum Mass celebrating the 191st anniversary of the independence of Argentina at the Cathedral Basilica of Mercedes, Archbishop di Monte said the Magnificat “reminds us that Argentina also belongs to the generations prophesied in the Gospel” that call Mary “blessed.” He added that, “this legacy cannot be banished or given up, even though we may pass through periods of fear and confusion or go astray as we advance.”
“We must always be guided by the voice of freedom, of human dignity, of our own responsibility, of the defense of human rights, proclaiming the Greatness of the Lord,” Archbishop di Monte said, adding that, “If God is present with us, all of the values we proclaim will not be excuses but rather means for building a promising future.”
The archbishop exhorted Catholics to give thanks to God and ask the Blessed Mother to intercede before the Lord that “we might continue to be free. So that each day we may be liberated from sin and from evil. So that we may have all that we need in body and in spirit.”
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 11, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Plenary Council of Venezuela, Bishop Ovidio Perez, and Bishop Mariano Jose Parra Sandoval of Guayana, said this week that the statement by the Bishops’ Conference about the condition of the country is not interference in affairs beyond their competence but rather the exercising of their duty to provide guidance to the faithful.
“The Church is made up of men and not angels,” Bishop Ovidio Perez told Union Radio, and therefore she has the duty to foster a society that is “respectful of human rights.”
He defended the pastoral exhortation issued by the Bishops at the conclusion of their 88th Plenary Assembly in which they warned about the goals of Hugo Chavez to impose a “Marxist-Leninist system, that is, a Communist system” on the country through constitutional reform.
Bishop Parra Sandoval said the bishops addressed the situation of Venezuela not in an attempt to intervene in political affairs but rather “to fulfill our duty to provide guidance to the faithful.” He stressed that in their analysis of the current state of the country, the bishops concluded that the reforms being promoted by Chavez are aimed at the establishing of a Socialist state, “founded upon the theory and praxis of Marxism-Leninism.”
He also noted that the bishops’ statement refers to poverty, violence, unemployment, kidnappings and assassinations, and it warned that the proposed education reform would be an affront to the rights of parents, because “the first responsibility in education belongs to the family, not to the State or to the Church.”
Bishop Parra said reconciliation in the country would only be achieved through dialogue and not by imposition. “We must listen to those who think differently,” he said, and “seek out common solutions.”
Wichita, Kan., Jul 11, 2007 (CNA) - Abortion practitioner George Tiller’s abortion center was vandalized Tuesday night.
The perpetrators were able to get by the security cameras, cut a hole in the roof and insert a garden hose to flood the abortion center. In addition, the perpetrators tried to seal the gate to the parking lot so no one could enter. However, firemen were able to gain access through the gate before the sealant dried.
Tiller is currently the subject of 19 misdemeanor charges for illegal abortions.
One leading pro-life observer told LifeNews.com that someone affiliated with Tiller's abortion center may have caused the vandalism to try to take the spotlight off of the investigation by Attorney General Paul Morrison, to damage other files that could show other violations, or to engender public sympathy.
As a response to the charges, Tiller’s attorneys filed a lawsuit on Monday, claiming that Kansas law is unconstitutional. They argued that the law requiring two or more doctors to sign off on late-term abortions is invalid.
In their motion, they also seek to dismiss the 19 misdemeanor charges, which could have Tiller in jail as long as 19 years if convicted. He could also be fined $2,500 per violation and lose his medical license.