Rome, Italy, Aug 21, 2007 (CNA) - “We cannot ever destroy life, we must always save life even if it is the fruit of violence,” exclaimed Cardinal Bertone in an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio about Amnesty International’s new abortion policy.
The human rights organization recently decided to change its policy from a position of neutrality to one that supports abortion, but did so without consulting its members.
However, this past week the organization’s delegates overwhelmingly approved the new policy at their meeting in Mexico City. The new protocol calls for abortion to be made available in the case of rape and requires the organization to push for the legalization of abortion in countries where it is currently outlawed.
Cardinal Bertone expressed his regret that the measure was approved even though “the men and women of the Church throughout the world already made their stark opposition to this decision clear.”
“Violence cannot be answered with further violence; murder with murder; for even if the child is unborn, it is still a human person. It has a right to dignity as a human being”, the Cardinal reportedly said.
The Secretary of State also stressed that all forms of violence against women must be opposed. “The inhuman violence of rape must be stopped, and society must be mobilized to protect the dignity of women.”
He also pointed out that “the Church has promoted the dignity of women in its documents and encyclicals” but that these seem to have gone largely unnoticed.
Ann Arbor, Mich., Aug 21, 2007 (CNA) - Michigan Gov. Jenifer Granholm’s office has removed its petition supporting embryonic stem-cell research from the governor’s publicly funded website.
The governor’s action came less than a week after the Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit asking the court to either ban the petition or allow pro-life groups to place their own petition supporting the ban on embryonic stem-cell research on the website.
“The battle is not yet over. She [Granholm] has not yet answered our lawsuit,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Law Center. “It’s important to keep in mind that the website in question is paid for and owned by the people of this state; it is not Gov. Granholm’s personal property. Yet, she only allowed people who supported her position to use the website to petition the leaders of the legislature -- a clear case of discrimination against citizens who are pro-life.”
Law Center spokesperson Mallary Hernly said the issue is one of “fundamental fairness.”
“It is not about Governor Granholm voicing her opinion,” he said in a press communiqué. “It’s about only allowing persons who agree with her position to use a publicly funded website to communicate with their legislative representatives.”
The Thomas More Law Center filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Lansing on behalf of the Lansing Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, Flint-Area Right To Life, and Right To Life – Lifespan.
The lawsuit also seeks a declaration that Granholm’s policy violated the constitutional rights of those citizens who were denied equal access to, and use of, the website.
Further, it is not yet apparent whether the governor’s action is a principled end to the discrimination or simply an attempt to put the lawsuit to rest.
Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 21, 2007 (CNA) - A civil judge in Mexico has ordered the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), which recently pushed for the legalization of abortion in Mexico City, to compensate Bishop Onesimo Cepeda of Ecatepec with $180,000 for moral damages.
Judge Sandra Luz Diaz Ortiz, notified both the PRD and the bishop of her ruling on Saturday, which brings to an end the lawsuit filed by the PRD against Bishop Cepeda for comments criticizing the party for not accepting their defeat at the polls during the presidential elections.
In her ruling, Judge Diaz ordered the PRD to compensate Bishop Cepeda and publish an excerpt from her ruling in two national newspapers. Diaz also ruled to have the ruling featured on a news program by popular journalist Joaquin Lopez Doriga, where last year party leader Cota Montano called the bishop a “reactionary” and a “merchant of religion and politics.” Party spokesmen even claimed that “somebody was paying Bishop Cepeda to speak against the PRD.”
The judge concluded that the PRD should compensate for moral damages because it was proven that the party had the “deceitful” intention to publicly insult Bishop Cepeda. However, she did not find Cato Montano directly responsible, but rather considered his role to be circumstantial.
The PRD could appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of Mexico City.
Sydney, Australia, Aug 21, 2007 (CNA) - The headmaster of Sydney's St Aloysius College, Fr. Chris Middleton has confirmed that his school will cut its ties with Amnesty International because of its policy that promotes abortion in some cases.
In a press release, Fr. Middleton said that he believes that his school’s resignation is one of many to come. “This [Amnesty’s policy change] means that the College and many other schools, I believe, will no longer support Amnesty groups.”
According to Fr. Middleton, Amnesty International has crossed a line that cannot be crossed. “[T]his policy explicitly excludes some of the most vulnerable members of society – the ‘unborn human’ – from its campaigns for human rights. To my mind this goes right to the core of Amnesty as a human rights organisation and as a body that gives primacy to conscience.”
Although Amnesty has abandoned protecting the unborn, St. Aloysius College will not. The students and faculty previously involved in Amnesty will form a new group called the Benenson Society, after Amnesty's British Catholic founder Peter Benenson.
The Benenson Society will allow the students to continue to be involved in “the promotion of human rights through the raising of awareness of violations of these rights and through lobbying of governments for prisoners of conscience, the end of torture and the death penalty, and the rights of all to basic freedoms.”
Fr. Middleton also mentioned that “the society will not be a specifically religious or Catholic body, and will maintain a policy of neutrality on abortion.”
The new society may participate in future individual Amnesty campaigns and work with organizations such as Consistent Life, a network of over 200 organizations that oppose war, abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, poverty and the death penalty.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 21, 2007 (CNA) - According to a survey conducted by the Investiga research firm, although 73.8 percent of Spaniards say they are Catholic, only 36 percent admit that they are practicing.
The study on “religious practice” surveyed 1,600 people over the age of 15. Of those interviewed, 73.8 percent said they are Catholic, 10.2 percent said they are indifferent to Catholicism, 9.7 percent said they are atheists, and 4.5 percent said they practice some other religion.
Likewise, the percentage of Catholic women who practice their faith, 45 percent, surpasses that of men at 29 percent. Of the rest of the men interviewed, 40.5 percent said they are Catholic but non-practicing; 12.8 percent said they are indifferent to the Catholic faith; 11.5 percent said they are atheists, while 4.2 percent said they practice some other religion.
Of the rest of the women, 33.9 percent are non-practicing Catholics, 7.2 percent said they are indifferent to the Catholic faith; 7.6 percent said they are atheists, while 4.8 percent said they practice some other religion.
Asunción, Paraguay, Aug 21, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Claudio Gimenez of Caacupe said the Church in Paraguay would officially respond to the attacks on the Church last week by Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte.
Bishop Gimenez said the executive committee of the bishops’ conference “promised to study the case and issue a response. I don’t want to interfere with that and I think it is the right thing to do at this time.” “It’s important the executive committee takes the action it feels is necessary,” he added.
Asked about the remaining portion of the president’s term in office, Bishop Gimenez said, “We hope that at least in this last part of his term he will take advantage of the time and fulfill his promises.”
“There are many things he promised and have not yet been carried out. He should keep his word, that is very important for our people to keep believing; otherwise, promises are made, they are not kept, and that leads to much frustration and discouragement, and it unleashes a lack of belief and trust in authorities,” Bishop Gimenez said.
Cleveland, Ohio, Aug 21, 2007 (CNA) - The trial began yesterday for a former assistant treasurer of the Diocese of Cleveland, Anton Zgoznik, accused of taking part in widespread financial mismanagement and the embezzlement of church funds.
Zgoznik and the former chief financial officer of the diocese, Joseph Smith, face a total of 27 criminal charges, including money laundering and tax evasion, reported the New York Times.
Lawyers for the defendants, however, are pointing fingers at top Church officials. In documents filed in federal court, the lawyers say the diocese’s former bishop and a priest used secret accounts to embezzle millions of dollars from the diocese.
In a written statement, the diocese said such accusations are “scurrilous.”
According to the Times report, federal prosecutors say Smith hired Zgoznik as a consultant to perform accounting services for the diocese and to computerize records. In return for contracts worth $17.5 million over eight years, Zgoznik used secret accounts to pay Smith kickbacks totaling $785,000. Smith has yet to be brought to trial, but will be arraigned after Zgoznik.
The indictment also says Smith embezzled from the Catholic Cemeteries Association and took kickbacks from the diocese’s insurance broker. He used off-book accounts to hide these and other earnings from the IRS, the prosecutors say.
The defendants counter that Fr. John Wright, the diocese’s former financial and legal secretary and Smith’s boss, created the system of secret compensation for favored employees. They say Fr. Wright directed almost $1 million in disguised compensation to himself, his relatives and friends, and is using Smith as a scapegoat. Fr. Wright has denied the accusations through his lawyer.
In court filings, the defense lawyers also say Bishop Anthony Pilla, who led the diocese for 25 years before retiring in 2006, had an off-book account worth more than $500,000.
Santiago, Chile, Aug 21, 2007 (CNA) - Coinciding with the upcoming feast of St. Alberto Hurtado, known in Chile as the Day of Solidarity, Caritas Chile has launched an appeal in parishes and church institutions across the country to aid the victims of the earthquake that shook the coast of Peru on August 15.
In a statement, Caritas Chile said, “In response to the earthquake, the institutions of solidarity of the Church in Chile have activated their emergency network and are working together to collect monetary donations from the Catholic faithful which will be sent to those in need through the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference and Caritas Peru.
The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, Bishop Cristian Contreras Villarroel, called on the faithful and all people of good will to ask themselves how they can exercise charity, solidarity and provide “heartfelt” assistance.
Msgr. Juan Luis Ysern, president of Caritas Chile said, “Some are asking themselves, how can this happen precisely when we are in a legal battle with Peru over territorial waters? This is very beautiful sign. The conflicts that need to be resolved through dialogue between one side and the other are one thing, but there are other things that are above all that. We can see here how we express ourselves and live as brothers and sisters despite everything,” he added.
More than 60,000 Peruvians live in Chile, most of whom have not been able to communicate with their loved ones at home. According to Father Rodrigo Tupper, vicar of Social Ministry in Santiago, “We want to welcome them also with love and pray for them.”
“This is an opportunity to unite our faith, our prayer to concrete acts of solidarity, helping those who are right now most in need. Therefore, let us be very generous,” Father Tupper said. “The biggest need right now is for us to make monetary donations. Through Caritas Chile we can effectively channel this aid and therefore we ask you to be generous,” he said.
Tilburg, The Netherlands, Aug 21, 2007 (CNA) - A Roman Catholic priest is being fined 5,000 euros by municipal officials each time he rings his church bell for early morning Mass.
Municipal officials of Tilburg, 115 km south of Amsterdam, are responding to the complaints of residents about the bells ringing at 7:15 a.m. each day.
According to municipality spokesman Thomas Heesters, city officials urged Fr. Harm Schilder for months to stop ringing the early morning bell of the Holy Margarita Maria Church. But when the priest did not comply, the city warned that starting Aug. 16, he would be fined for every morning the bell sounds, reported The Associated Press.
Despite the threat, the bells rang out again Thursday and Friday.
''The council does not want to get involved in this - it's a house of prayer - but we have to take into account the feelings of local residents,'' Heesters was quoted as saying.
The first fine was to be delivered on Friday. If the priest refuses to pay, Heesters reportedly said, the municipality could send bailiffs to the church.
The Diocese of Den Bosch has asked the priest to stop the ringing the bell or take measures to make it quieter ''to prevent further escalation in the case.''
The parish website posted a statement, saying it is taking the complaint seriously and looking into whether it could install a smaller bell. “Legally, the parish has a right to ring the bell,” the statement said.
“People who are bothered by the bell should know that we pray for them in the Mass,” the message concluded.
The bells did not sound on Monday morning.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 21, 2007 (CNA) - During his weekly program, “Keys to a Better World,” Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina, said it would not be possible to achieve the goal of education for all as long as there is social inequality in the country.
The “noble ideal” that all children receive an education cannot easily be reached as long as there are so many families in dire straits in the country, he warned.
Archbishop Aguer explained that nonetheless, “it is not only an economic question. It is a social and cultural one as well,” as “zones, sectors and portions of the national population exist that have been relegated or forgotten and that lack basic skills and the elementary resources to react with dignity to the situation of injustice into which they have fallen.”
“It seems unreal that in Argentina, a rich country—which anyone on the outside can easily see—such a situation affects vast sectors of the populace. And this is not only something that should motivate many people and institutions to charity and the solidarity of some social groups, but it should also lead us to re-think the wider state of Argentinean society,” he said in conclusion.
Ottawa, Canada, Aug 21, 2007 (CNA) - A Canadian pro-life group has called for more action from the country’s bishops against Amnesty International’s decision to advocate for the worldwide decriminalization of abortion.
Vote Life, Canada! is upset that the Canadian bishops did not do more to persuade Amnesty International to not adopt its pro-abortion policy.
The Canadian bishops issued a letter cautioning them against approving the new policy and warning of a possible rupture in relations, but Erci Alcock, the president of Vote Life, Canada! wishes more drastic measures had been taken.
Alcock, suggests that since Amnesty’s Canadian branch has 67,000 members, with a majority of those likely being Catholic, the threat of a massive national membership exodus could have discouraged Amnesty from adopting its policy.
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, also joined the chorus of people speaking out against Amnesty International’s International Executive Committee for ratifying a new policy calling for the decriminalization of abortion.
"Amnesty International was founded to protect human rights, yet it now treads upon the most fundamental human right, the right to life," said Fr. Pavone. "To fail to protect the right to life renders suspect one’s advocacy of any other human right."
Ontario, Canada, Aug 21, 2007 (CNA) - Distinguished author, Michael D. O’Brien, has provided CNA with one of his columns on the best-selling Harry Potter series. To read the column “Harry Potter and the Death of God” click here or visit our columns section under "Good Books".
O’Brien’s column provides readers with an analysis of the popular series that is knowledgeable and well-argued. The author cautions that readers should not stop with this article but should read his previous reflections as well.
Michael O’Brien is also the author of seven novels and a book on the paganization of children's culture, "A Landscape With Dragons: the Battle for your Child's Mind", all published by Ignatius Press.