Archive of October 5, 2007

Young people protest against Bishop Samuel Ruiz’s participation in World Forum of Cultures

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 5, 2007 (CNA) - A group of young people led a peaceful protest against the participation of Bishop Emeritus Samuel Ruiz of San Cristobal de las Casas in the World Forum of Cultures, which is being held in Monterrey and features as one of its keynote speakers liberation theologian and former priest Leonardo Boff.

The Forum takes place every four years and aims to propose solutions to problems related to “cultural diversity, knowledge, peace and sustainability.”  However, many observers said the first one held in Barcelona in 2004 was a complete failure.

The young people protested outside while Bishop Ruiz participated in a panel discussion on inter-religious dialogue.  Jose Torres, one of the protesters, requested but was denied an interview with the bishop and told reporters, “When pastoral ministry is centered almost exclusively on material questions, it can even wipe out the hunger for God in people.”

He pointed out that when Bishop Ruiz left the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas, more than thirty percent of the children had not been baptized.

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Italian Bishops Purchase Soccer Team

Rome, Italy, Oct 5, 2007 (CNA) - The Italian Conference of Catholic Bishops has purchased a controlling interest in an Italian soccer club. The acquisition of AC Ancon, a team top in its division, was financed by a group of Catholic businessmen.

Under the new ownership home game prices will be cheaper and profits from the ball club will fund charitable work in the Third World. 

New club rules are also in the works.  Fans will be forbidden to taunt and insult opponents, and offensive banners will not be allowed in the stands.  Players will even face mandatory volunteer work for foul play on the field.

Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli of the archdiocese of Ancona-Osimo explained the goal of the project: "We want to bring some ethics back into the game, which has been undergoing a grave crisis in terms of sportsmanship." The soccer leagues in Italy have recently been in the spotlight for a series of bribing and kickback scandals.

Andrea Staffolani, a 24-year-old striker for AC Ancona, spoke favorably of the new rules: "We have not been told all the details about the new ethical code, but we like what we have read so far." 

"The team has played well and fairly on the pitch until now anyway, and we hope to keep it that way," he added.

After the deal is finalized on October 10, the team will have an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.  Staffolani expressed enthusiasm for the event: "We cannot wait to meet the Pope. All of us are delighted, believers and non-believers. It will be emotional."

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Without the Church, Europe would be missing its heart, says Hungarian cardinal

Rome, Italy, Oct 5, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Peter Erdo of Budapest and President of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, said this week, “As Christians we have much to offer to the building of a common European home.  Without the Church, Europe would be missing its heart.”

The cardinal was in Fatima, Portugal, for the Plenary Assembly of the Council.  During a press conference in Lisbon, he noted, “The Christian roots in Europe are not separated from Europe’s identity and therefore from the testimony of living and visible Christianity.”  This testimony is lived out especially in marriage, he said, which “young people perceive as one of the great values which they desire and consider one of the foundations of the family.”

Speaking to Vatican Radio, the cardinal also stated that the Council was meeting in Fatima to mark “the 90th anniversary of the apparitions.  The proposal to pray together for Europe, to consecrate Europe to the heart of the Virgin Mary and to the heart of Jesus is completely natural,” he said.
“There are many other issues in today’s world that we must confront,” the cardinal said, including the “state of the institution of marriage in Europe.”  “The issue of marriage and the family is fundamental,” he added.

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Sacrilege in Managua Cathedral part of pro-abortion campaign

Managua, Nicaragua, Oct 5, 2007 (CNA) - Father Rolando Alvarez, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Managua, said the sacrilege and profanation committed several days ago at the Cathedral was part of a national and international campaign to legalize abortion in Nicaragua.

Speaking to CNA, Father Alvarez said the anti-life campaign aims to repeal the law approved one year ago that prohibited therapeutic abortion and to get the Supreme Court to intervene in the case.

He said the Cathedral of Managua “is the mother of all the archdiocesan churches.  It is open to all men and women of good will, such that all those who wish to celebrate the faith do so with love, fervor and devotion.  If unscrupulous persons were to disrupt order, surely the police, in their task of protecting the integrity of Nicaraguans of good will,” would be ready to protect it.

“There are usually offenses against the Church, those who support abortion are very present in radio, television and the press with direct attacks on the Church, and also with campaigns of misinformation,” Father Alvarez said.  But with the acts committed last Sunday by pro-abortion supporters who disrupted Mass at the Cathedral, they have “committed sacrilege by disrespecting the Eucharist.”

He called them “acts of aggression against our faith, against the greatest thing we have as Catholics which is the Eucharist.  In fact, these groups usually cause violence and social disorder.  They belong to pro-abortion groups that are well-known by the Nicaraguan people,” such as “Catholics for a Free Choice,” the priest said.

“The Church in Nicaragua is present in the media” and has made “the indisputable option for life” very clear, Father Alvarez continued.  He said the Church in Central America should “continue guiding and leading our faithful people, explaining every situation through civilized means.”  “Moreover, it’s clear that the Church in Nicaragua is a victim of a different kind of persecution than what we have suffered at other times,” he stated.

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Guatemalan bishops call for civility in presidential campaign

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Oct 5, 2007 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Guatemala is set to issue a statement on the upcoming November 4 presidential elections calling on candidates Alvaro Colom and Otto Perez Molina to demonstrate civility in their campaigns and refrain from insults and personal attacks.

Archbishop Oscar Julio Vian Morales of Los Altos warned that personal attacks between the two candidates would confuse voters and have a negative influence on the outcome of the elections. “What we aim to do is get people to stop focusing on the negative campaigning of Colom and Perez and instead focus on analyzing their political agendas,” he told reporters.

He said the candidates should make doable proposals to combat poverty, hunger, unemployment and violence, in order to enable voters to make a clear choice.

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Giuliani dodges Archbishop Burke's Holy Communion admonition

Washington D.C., Oct 5, 2007 (CNA) - St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke recently addressed the behavior of Catholic politicians who publicly dissent from Church teaching yet still receive Holy Communion. The archbishop’s teachings have caused a reaction from presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, who is considered to be in such a position.

In reaction to reports from CNA, the Associated Press asked if Archbishop Burke if he would refuse Holy Communion to Rudy Giuliani or other candidates who support abortion rights, he replied:  "If any politician approached me and he'd been admonished not to present himself, I'd not give it. To me, you have to be certain a person realizes he is persisting in a serious public sin."

The Associated Press reports that Giuliani, former mayor of New York City and current Republican presidential candidate, responded to the archbishop's comments while appearing at a coffee bar in a St. Louis suburb.

"I'm not running for religious office," he began.  "I'm not going to debate the opinion of an archbishop of the Catholic Church or an official of the Protestant Church or a rabbi," Giuliani said. "That's an interpretation of religion. They're entitled to their interpretation of religion."

Giuliani is already barred from Holy Communion because he has divorced and remarried without an annulment.

Recently Archbishop Burke published an essay in a prominent canon law journal reiterating the duties of Catholics in public office to receive Holy Communion worthily. His essay also emphasized the duties of ministers of Holy Communion to ensure the Sacrament's worthy reception.  He advised that clergy privately caution potential communicants who are in manifest grave sin against receiving the Eucharist.

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Polish bishops: “No party has the right to speak in the name of the Church”

Warsaw, Poland, Oct 5, 2007 (CNA) - In a message released at the conclusion of their Plenary Assembly in Warsaw, the bishops of Poland reiterated that the Church “does not have any political representation and therefore is not represented by any party.  No party has the right to speak in the name of the Church or claim for itself her support.”

The bishops’ message will be read on Sunday, October 14, in all parishes. In it they reminded believers of their “natural obligation, reinforced subsequently by the bonds of the faith” to “participate more actively than others in social life and thus in the electoral process,” voting “according to their own moral convictions.”

The believer, they explained, should choose “those whose positions and beliefs are close to, or at least do not contradict, the moral values and principles of Catholicism,”  The bishops said they would continue to reiterate the need to establish society and political life on “the unchanging values that characterize the truth about the human being.”

Among these values, the bishops stressed, is “the dignity and defense of life from the moment of conception until natural death, the family based on lasting marriage between one man and one woman, the right-duty of parents to educate their children and the promotion of the common good in all of its forms.”

They said Catholics must vote for candidates who are “morally upright and whose competence in political and civil life has been tested,” and who have “a strong personality, respect for others, a vocation to dialogue and the capacity to see power as service.”

In conclusion, they called for respect for the “division of roles and competencies between religious and the laity” and for an electoral campaign “free of conflicts.”

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Eighteen-year sentence for Turkish teen who murdered Catholic priest

Istanbul, Turkey, Oct 5, 2007 (CNA) - A Turkish teen has been sentenced for killing a priest, the Associated Press reports.

The killing took place last year during a worldwide controversy over derogatory caricatures of Mohammed that were published in European newspapers.  The priest was killed while he was knelt in prayer.

The teen was sentenced to eighteen years but is expected to serve only ten.

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Pop culture trivia crowds out Ten Commandments

Hollywood, Calif., Oct 5, 2007 (CNA) - A recent survey polled Americans on their knowledge of fast food ingredients, the Brady Bunch, and the Ten Commandments.  Knowledge of the first two was found to be more prevalent than familiarity with the Decalogue. 

The survey was sponsored by the Ten Commandments Commission in conjunction with the theatrical release of Promenade Pictures' animated feature The Ten Commandments.  Among the survey's findings:

-"Thou shalt not kill," was known to fewer than six in ten respondents.
-Less than half (45 %) can recall the commandment to "Honor thy father and mother."
-62 percent know that pickles are an ingredient of a McDonald's(R) Big Mac(R) hamburger.
-Seven of the Ten Commandments are familiar to less than half of the individuals polled, including the more commonly recited, "Honor thy father and thy mother," and "Remember the Sabbath."
-Bobby and Peter, the least-recalled names from the Brady Bunch (43%), were more familiar to respondents than the least-recalled commandments, "Remember the Sabbath" (34 %) and "Do not make any false idols" (29 %), the last being a separate commandment under most Protestant divisions of the Decalogue.

Dr. Ted Baehr, president of the Christian Film and Television Commission, commented on the results.  "We see the negative impact in culture today as people more and more consider these rules only 'Ten Suggestions,'" Dr. Baehr said. "Crime is more rampant than ever, teenage pregnancies are on the rise, dishonesty in business continues to make headlines. We are seeing the results when society disregards these words from God."

The Ten Commandments Commission, Promenade Pictures, and Motive Entertainment encourage participation in "The Ten Commandments Challenge."  Individuals and groups can visit to take the challenge and compare their results with the national average.

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Majorities make mistakes, natural law must be the guide of civil society, asserts Pope Benedict

Vatican City, Oct 5, 2007 (CNA) - This morning Pope Benedict XVI spoke with great force about how the study of natural law guarantees freedom and guards the dignity of all people. He also pointed out that contrary to the modern perception, majorities are not always right, but rather, that the natural law should prevail over pluralities as the measure of what is best for the common good.

Speaking to Cardinal William Levada and the rest of the members of the International Theological Commission, who just completed their annual meeting, Benedict XVI pointed out the importance of their study of the natural law.

The doctrine on natural law "achieves two essential aims: it makes it clear that the ethical content of the Christian faith is not an imposition dictated from outside man's conscience, but has its basis in human nature itself; and on the other hand, by starting from the basis of natural law… it lays the foundations for dialogue with all men and women of good will, and with civil society more generally."

Society Today

Demonstrating his keen awareness of the present-day societal conditions, the Holy Father said, the original evidence for the foundations of human beings and of their ethical behavior has been lost, and the doctrine of natural moral law clashes with other concepts which run directly contrary to it. All this has enormous consequences on civil and social order."

The pontiff also pointed out a problem that many modern democracies are facing. “What dominates today is a positivist conception of law" according to which "humanity, or society, or in effect the majority of citizens, become the ultimate source for civil legislation.”

Majorities can make mistakes

In a comment that brings to mind the red-blue battles of the 2004 elections in the United States the Pope said,  “[t]he problem that arises is not, then, the search for good but the search for power, or rather the balance of power. At the root of this tendency is ethical relativism, in which some people even see one of the principal conditions for democracy because, they feel, relativism guarantees tolerance and mutual respect. ... But if this were true, the majority at any given moment would become the ultimate source for law, and history shows with great clarity that majorities can make mistakes."

"When," the Holy Father proceeded, "the fundamental essentials are at stake: human dignity, human life, the institution of the family and the equity of the social order (in other words the fundamental rights of man), no law made by men and women can subvert the norm written by the Creator in man's heart without society itself being dramatically struck ... at its very core.

Only Natural Law protects freedom

Thus natural law is a true guarantee for everyone to live freely and with respect for their dignity, protected from all ideological manipulation and from all arbitrary abuses of the powerful. No one can disregard this appeal.

"If," he added, "by reason of a tragic clouding of the collective conscience, skepticism and ethical relativism managed to annul the fundamental principles of natural moral law, the very democratic order itself would be profoundly undermined at its foundations. Against such clouding - which is a crisis for human, even more than for Christian, civilization - the consciences of all men and women of good will must be mobilized, both lay people and followers of religions other than Christianity, so that together they may make an effective commitment to creating ... the conditions necessary for a full awareness of the inalienable value of natural moral law."

Benedict XVI concluded by stressing that "the advance of individuals and of society along the path of true progress" depends upon respect for natural moral law, "in conformity with right reason, which is participation in the eternal Reason of God."


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Catholic Bioethics Center examines Connecticut Plan B legislation, HLI calls for reversal of bishops’ decision

Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 5, 2007 (CNA) - The Philadelphia-based National Catholic Bioethics Center(NCBC) has released a statement to help clarify the Connecticut Catholic Bishops' decision on the Connecticut legislation mandating contraceptive treatment for rape victims. Meanwhile, Human Life International has also weighed in on the deicison saying it contains "extremely egregious errors" and has asked the bishops to reverse their resolution. 

The legislation has been controversial because the state's Catholic bishops have allowed the use of the "Plan B" contraceptive as required by the law.  "Plan B" works by preventing ovulation, but may also render a woman's womb hostile to a fertilized egg if she has already ovulated. 

The center's statement describes the situation as "a complex moral matter" which "does not lend itself to brief explanation."  It notes that Catholic hospitals have always provided emergency contraception for the victims of sexual assault.  However, to protect any newly conceived children from unintentionally being aborted, medical staff administered ovulation tests to confirm whether or not a embryo could be present.

An Unethical Law

The Connecticut law allows for a pregnancy test, which would detect a conception that had taken place before the sexual assault.  The law does not allow for an ovulation test, which would indicate the possible presence of an embryo conceived immediately before, during, or after the assault.

The NCBC statement objected to the exclusion of the ovulation test on medical and ethical grounds.  It argued the ovulation test established whether the treatment was necessary.  When not administered, "the physician would have to administer a drug preventing ovulation even if ovulation had already occurred."

Debate About Plan B’s Effects

According to the NCBC, the ethical objections center on the possibility that medical treatment will prevent the embryo from implantation in the uterus.  The statement declares "to intend and to do such a thing is immoral."  However, the statement noted significant scientific debate over whether emergency contraception, also known as Plan B, actually has that effect in the womb.

In the absence of scientific consensus, the NCBC acknowledged the reasonableness of the Connecticut bishops' decision that "the administration of a contraceptive medication in the absence of an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act."

On the other side of the debate is Fr. Tom Euteneuer, the president of Human Life International (HLI).  In a letter that he wrote to the Catholic Bishops of Connecticut, Fr. Tom asserts that Plan B’s ability to cause a chemical abortion is certain.

“The truth is that there is absolutely no doubt about how the Plan B pills work. Just ask the manufacturer, Barr Pharmaceuticals, whose product insert states: “This product works mainly by preventing ovulation (egg release). It may also prevent fertilization of a released egg (joining of sperm and egg) or attachment of a fertilized egg to the uterus (implantation).” (My italics.) It’s that third item that makes Plan B an abortion-causing drug. The same can be said for every chemical contraceptive,” he wrote.

He also cited Dr. Chris Kahlenborn whose research indicates that Plan B only works to halt ovulation half the time.

The president of HLI also took issue with the assertion that the Vatican has not spoken definitively on the Plan B issue by citing a document from the Pontifical Academy for Life from 2001. Since, as Fr. Euteneuer argues from the manufacturer’s description, Plan B can prevent an embryo from implanting, then it falls under the jurisdiction of the Academy’s teaching that, “from the ethical standpoint the same absolute unlawfulness of abortifacient procedures also applies to distributing, prescribing and taking the morning-after pill.”

Both Fr. Tom and the NCBC attacked the Connecticut legislation for its lack of a conscience clause protecting all parties involved.

The NCBC declared that "it is immoral to violate one’s conscience, including the corporate consciences of health care agencies, and the unwillingness of the state to allow an exemption of conscience makes the law unjust and onerous."

HLI’s president urged those who defend life to pray for the downfall of the culture of death and “to pray for the bishops, above all, who are usually the target of attack by the culture of death and are often surrounded by compromisers.”

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Alliance for Marriage reaches out to Latino Catholics

San Francisco, Calif., Oct 5, 2007 (CNA) - California is a state well known as a precedent setter when it comes to national debates and that has made it the target of  pro-homosexual organizations seeking to redefine marriage. Sensing the potentially catastrophic effect of such a change in the law, the Alliance for Marriage (AFM) is reaching out to California’s most influential constituency—Latino Catholics—to enlist their help in defending marriage and the family. 

Matt Daniels, the president of AFM, is convinced that many conservatives, who are typically associated with defending traditional marriage, don’t realize how perilous the situation is in California. He maintains that to stave off the assault on marriage, Latino Catholics must be included in the fight to protect marriage.

The Assault on Marriage

As an example of the way the fight for marriage has escalated, one only has to look at one of California’s most conservative cities, San Diego. Just two weeks ago, the San Diego City Council deadlocked 4-4 on a resolution to sign onto a Supreme Court brief aimed at overturning the state's ban on gay marriage. On Sept. 18, the chamber voted again. This time, gay marriage won, 5-3. After the vote, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who once pledged to veto the resolution, reversed his position on Sept. 19 in an emotional statement announcing that his daughter is a lesbian.

In 2000, Californians voters passed Proposition 22, an initiative that added the traditional definition of marriage to state law. Since then, homosexual litigators and liberal legislators have twice tried to overturn Prop. 22 demonstrating their clear disregard for how doing so will unravel society, not to mention the will of the voters of California. 

Gov. Schwarzenegger declared on Sept. 18 that he would reject a measure that would overturn Prop. 22: "It would be wrong for the people to vote for something and for me to then overturn it," the governor said. "So they can send this bill down as many times as they want, I won't do it."

But Matt Daniels, president of Alliance for Marriage (AFM), said that unless conservatives wake up to the threat, "it's only a matter of time" before homosexual activists and allied public officials get their way.

"For many reasons defeat here will have national consequences," said Daniels. "If we lose in California, the media will tell us that the nation's most populous state is leading the way, that the debate over marriage has been settled by the people."

Both Matt Daniels and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the pastor and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), see Hispanics as the key to protecting marriage in California and the nation.

“The Latino community holds the key to protecting marriage in California – and preventing the attack on marriage in California from having national fallout,” said Rodriguez.

Why the Latino community?

AFM’s president Matt Daniels gives several reasons why the most critical community in California's debate over marriage is the Latino community. "First, Hispanics are the fastest-growing demographic group in California and also in the nation. Second, they voted for Prop. 22 by a higher margin (65 percent) than any other group, including African-Americans, who have usually led marriage-protection vote tallies in other states. And third, they are social traditionalists who also command the attention of Democratic pollsters.”

Rodriguez also pointed out what he believes is another strong point for Latinos in the fight for marriage. "The media have, erroneously I believe, painted those groups as anti-homosexual". "But the Hispanic community is not known to be anti-homosexual. So when our community says, look, it's not about having some kind of phobia about another group—it's about family, it's about the survival of our community—we come with credibility."

Immigration and the Family

Daniels also had some political advice for some of his fellow defenders of marriage and the family. He told them that, “it has been a mistake for some leaders, operating under the banner of marriage and family, to take hard-line positions on immigration and alienate their most natural ally,” Hispanics.

"Marriage, the union of male and female, is the preeminent natural law or 'common grace' institution," he said. "It is not the private property of Americans or evangelicals or conservatives. I believe the marriage and family debate in this country is even more important than the immigration debate. Woe to us if we do not mobilize a coalition for marriage that reflects its transcendence across social and racial barriers."

For more information on the Alliance for Marriage please visit their website:

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