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Archive of October 29, 2007

Statistician refutes Planned Parenthood report

College Station, Texas, Oct 29, 2007 (CNA) - In a report issued on October 11, 2007 by the Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood) and the World Health Organization (WHO), researchers emphasized the numbers of “unsafe abortions” in developing countries that do not have restrictive abortion policies.  The researchers concluded that in order to achieve more “safe abortions”, governmental policies should continue to be loosened to provide access to them.  However, statistician Keith Schumann explains that Planned Parenthood and the World Health Organization use weak or non-existent data to support a conclusion that cannot be found in the numbers.

These findings are consistent with reports from Steven W. Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, who accused abortion legalization advocates of "deliberately exaggerating the magnitude of the problem in order to create a 'health crisis' to justify legalizing abortion-on-demand” as reported by CNA in early October.

Dr. Keith Schumann, a Ph.D. statistician from College Station, Texas, examined the research reported in the study and found several problems behind the numbers that Guttmacher and the WHO released.  Dr. Schumann said, “I cannot make any conclusion on the accuracy or precision of the numbers they report.  There are numerous assumptions made in their methodology that can severely sway the final outcome.  In other words, the numbers in the report contain such potentially large margins of error and so many problems with the underlying data that were cobbled together that few, if any, conclusions can accurately be made.”
 
Dr. Schumann was unable to recreate the results of the report based on the information that he examined.  The data is pulled from multiple sources and in some cases, guesses made by the researchers.  Schumann called the assumptions built upon the data “troubling” and it seemed the data itself was said to be “pulled from the air” in some cases.
 
Some of the more telling numbers reported by the Guttmacher Institute included a 100% “safe abortion” rate for parts of Asia that include China and North Korea.  Therefore, even forced abortions, by the totalitarian governments of these Communist countries, fall under the definition of “safe abortions”.  Also, the data used in several parts of the world was very limited and in other locations and/or dates non-existent.  Therefore, the researchers “corrected” the data to show what they called “under-reporting”.  This included an average correction inflation of 140% per country, including correction inflation for Bangladesh of 300%.  For countries where abortions are illegal, the total number of abortions was estimated, then inflated, and then all of these were considered unsafe.
 
The problems with the report were not reflected in a statement given by Dr. Sharon Camp, Guttmacher president and CEO.  She stated that the first step in making abortion safer was to ensure that the procedure was done by capable persons in good conditions.  In addressing the policies of countries that restrict abortion, Camp states, “It’s high time for policymakers worldwide to renew their commitment to women’s health by addressing these crucial issues”.
 
When asked what he might conclude about the methodology used in this report, Dr. Schumann concluded that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible to get accurate numbers, “We can’t even get an accurate number of abortions locally, aside from what Planned Parenthood self-reports.  I don’t understand how we can then get accurate numbers from a worldwide perspective.”

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Pope writes to new director of L’Osservatore Romano

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2007 (CNA) - Benedict XVI has written a letter to Giovanni Maria Vian for the occasion of his appointment as director of "L'Osservatore Romano," a role, the Pope writes, that is "of great responsibility because of the particular nature of the Vatican newspaper."

The Pope praises the new director's "profound cultural formation as a historian of Christianity" and his "knowledge of the history of the modern papacy." Since the year 1861, the Holy Father notes, L'Osservatore Romano "has made known the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs and the contributions of their closest collaborators concerning the crucial problems humanity encounters on its journey."

Throughout the 20th century the publication of various language editions ensured the newspaper "had a truly international circulation" and gave it "a world dimension which ... is extremely important in truly expressing the reality of the Universal Church and the communion of all the local Churches, ... in a context of sincere friendship towards the women and men of our time.

"Seeking and creating opportunities for encounter," the Pope adds, "L'Osservatore Romano will be able to serve the Holy See ever more effectively, demonstrating the fecundity of the meeting between faith and reason, thanks to which cordial collaboration between believers and non- believers becomes possible."

The newspaper's fundamental task, the Holy Father concludes, "obviously remains that of favoring, in the cultures of our time, a trusting and at the same time profoundly reasonable openness to the Transcendent, upon which, in the final instance, rests respect for the dignity and the authentic freedom of each human being."

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Ecuador: new constitution and religious freedom

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2007 (CNA) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of Fausto Cordovez Chiriboga, the new ambassador of the Republic of Ecuador to the Holy See.

After remarking how "new scenarios of freedom and hope," are "often overturned by unstable political situations and as a consequence of weak social structures," the Holy Father affirmed "the urgent necessity to work towards building an internal and international order that promotes peaceful coexistence, cooperation and respect for human rights, and the recognition, above all, of the central position of the individual and his inviolable dignity."

Faced with the fact that "many Ecuadorians emigrate to other countries in difficult circumstances, seeking a better future for themselves and their families," it must not be forgotten, said the Pope, "that love - caritas - will always be necessary even in the fairest of societies. No State order, however just it may be, can render superfluous the service of love. ... Indeed it is charity, the generous giving of self to others, that has generated and continues to generate those activities of education, assistance, promotion and development which so honor the Church and Ecuadorian society."

"Through her pastoral ministry the Catholic Church ... makes an important contribution to the overall good of the country," said the Holy Father. "Hence the need to promote and strengthen the margin of freedom which she is recognized as having in the law and constitution of Ecuador. Hence also, it is to be hoped that the new constitution will provide ample guarantees for the religious freedom of the Ecuadorian people, so that the nation may have a legal framework which ... conforms to its context and to international agreements."

The Pope emphasized that "the Church's freedom of action, apart from being an alienable right, is a primordial condition for her to carry out her mission among people, sometimes in difficult circumstances. For this reason," he went on quoting his own Encyclical "Deus caritas est," "we do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need.

"There can, indeed, be no other aspiration for a democratic government committed to fomenting a culture of respect and equality before the law, and to the exemplary exercise of an authority which aims to serve all its people. Hence, the government of Ecuador has expressed its firm will to make a priority of tending to the most needy, drawing inspiration from the Church's social doctrine."

The Holy Father concluded by expressing the hope that Ecuador's "citizens may enjoy all their rights, together with their corresponding obligations, achieving better living conditions and easier access to a proper home and to a job, to education and healthcare, in full respect for life from conception to natural end."

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Pope Benedict challenges pharmacists to refuse to dispense abortion pill

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2007 (CNA) - An international gathering of Catholic pharmacists was received by Pope Benedict today at the Vatican. In his talk with them, the Holy Father insisted that health professionals must be allowed the right to exercise conscientious objection when it comes to dispensing drugs that cause abortion or euthanasia— words that are sure to impact the debate about the abortion pill in the U.S. 

The Pope reminded the pharmacists that protecting human life from conception until natural death is part of their job. Benedict also encouraged them "to reflect upon the ever broader functions they are called to undertake, especially as intermediaries between doctor and patient," and upon their role in educating patients "in the correct use of medications" and in informing them of "the ethical implications of the use of particular drugs."

"It is not possible to anesthetize the conscience, for example, when it comes to molecules whose aim is to stop an embryo implanting or to cut short someone's life," the Pope said. He also warned the pharmacists against using people for experiments in ways that don’t respect ethical standards.

Pope Benedict’s words on the use of abortifacient pills come as debate on the use of the Plan-B pill (which according to its manufacturer can result in a chemical abortion in some cases) for rape victims has become quite heated in the U.S.

At the end of September, the Catholic Bishops of Connecticut decided to allow the administration of Plan B to rape victims at Catholic hospitals. They cited the scientific uncertainty of whether or not Plan B can cause a chemical abortion and the new state law prohibiting hospitals, regardless of their religious affiliation or beliefs, from refusing to dispense the drug. CNA coverage here and here.

The Pope told the international gathering that individual pharmacists could always choose not to prescribe such a drug.

"I invite your federation to consider conscientious objection which is a right that must be recognized for your profession so you can avoid collaborating, directly or indirectly, in the supply of products which have clearly immoral aims, for example abortion or euthanasia," he said.

It is also important, the Pope proceeded, that pharmaceutical organizations practice "solidarity in the therapeutic field so as to enable people of all social classes and all countries, especially the poorest, to have access to vital medicines and assistance."

"The biomedical sciences are at the service of man," the Pope concluded. "Were it otherwise they would be cold and inhuman. All scientific knowledge in the field of healthcare ... is at the service of sick human beings, considered in their entirety, who must have an active role in their cure and whose autonomy must be respected."

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Rio de Janeiro governor promotes legalization of abortion to reduce number of criminals

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct 29, 2007 (CNA) - The governor of Rio de Janeiro, Sergio Cabral, has proposed legalizing abortion as means for reducing the number of criminals in the country.

Cabral caused a firestorm when he told the G1 news website, “It is an issue that unfortunately is not discussed because of a lack of courage. The issue of the termination of pregnancies has everything to do with public violence,” he said.
He argued that the prohibition against abortion directly causes more violence because those with higher incomes have fewer children, while the poor have more children.

“All you have to do is compare the number of children per mother in Lago, Tijuca, Meier and Copacabana (middle and upper class neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro), where incomes are similar to those in Sweden, with that of Rocinha (the largest poor area of the city), where incomes are at the same levels as Zambia and Gabon.  This is a factory for producing marginalized people,” Cabral said.

“To not offer something in the public system for these (poor) girls to terminate their pregnancies is crazy,” Cabral stated, adding that although he is Catholic, he considers it “backward” that abortion is not legal in Brazil.

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Love letter from prison proof of martyrdom of Spanish youth

Madrid, Spain, Oct 29, 2007 (CNA) - Bartolome Blanco Marquez is one of the youngest of the group of 498 martyrs beatified by Pope Benedict XVI this past Sunday at the Vatican.  A committed Catholic, the 22 year-old layman wrote a moving letter to his girlfriend Maruja just hours before his death.

“Your memory will go with me to the tomb, and as long as my heart is beating, it will beat with love for you,” he told Maruja. “God has desired to exalt these earthly affections, ennobling them when we love each other in Him.”

Therefore, although in my last days God is my light and my longing, this does not keep the memory of the person I most love from accompanying me until the hour of my death,” he wrote in his letter.

His story

Bartolome was born in Pozoblanco on November 25, 1914.  orphaned as a child, he was raised by his aunt and uncle and worked as a chair maker.  He was an outstanding student at the Salesian school of Pozoblanco and also helped out as a catechist.  At the age of 18 he was elected secretary of a youth division of Catholic Action in Pozoblanco.

He was imprisoned in that city on August 18, 1936, when he was on leave from military service.  On September 24 he was moved to a prison in Jaen, where he was held with fifteen priests and other laymen.  There he was judged, condemned to death and shot on October 2, 1936.

During his trial, Bartolome remained true to his faith and his religious convictions. He did not protest his death sentence and told the court that if he lived he would continue being an active Catholic.

The letters he wrote on the eve of his death to his family and to his girlfriend Maruja show his profound faith.

“May this be my last will: forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness; but indulgence, which I wish to be accompanied by doing them as much good as possible.  Therefore, I ask you to avenge me with the vengeance of a Christian: returning much good to those that have tried to do me evil,” he wrote to his relatives.

On the day of his execution he left his cell barefoot, in order to be more conformed to Christ.  He kissed his handcuffs, surprising the guards that cuffed him.  He refused to be shot from behind.  “Whoever dies for Christ should do so facing forward and standing straight.  Long live Christ the King!” he shouted as he fell to ground under a shower of bullets.

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Priest with secret marriage pleas guilty to half-million-dollar embezzlement

Richmond, Va., Oct 29, 2007 (CNA) - A retired Roman Catholic priest faces forty years in jail for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from two rural Virginian parishes, the Associated Press reports.

On Friday Father Rodney L. Rodis, 51, pled guilty to one count of mail fraud and one of money laundering. 

Father Rodis embezzled money from Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Bumpass and St. Jude Church in Mineral between 2002 and 2006, prosecutors said.  He wired at least $515,231 to relatives in his native Philippines to purchase property.

Authorities said Father Rodis established bank accounts and a post office box, directing parishioners to mail contributions to them.  He then transferred the money to his personal account.

Father Rodis also used the funds to support his family, which included a spouse and three children.  He concealed them by living fifty miles away from his parishes.

"I wanted to hear Rodney Rodis admit his guilt," said William Hynes, who attends St. Jude. "And I wanted to see justice done."

The Diocese of Richmond said that Father Rodis embezzled more than $600,000 from the churches he led between 1993 and 2006.  Under a plea agreement, he has agreed to repay at least $400,000.

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Future cardinals thank Holy Father for remembering Africa

Rome, Italy, Oct 29, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishops Theodore Adrien Sarr of Dakar (Senegal) and John Njue of Nairobi (Kenya) thanked Pope Benedict XVI for naming them to the college of cardinals, saying the appointment has caused much joy in their home countries, not only among Catholics but among the entire populace.
 
Archbishop Sarr, who is also president of the Bishops’ Conference of Senegal, Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Cabo Verde, said he received his appointment with humility as “a call, a duty to serve the Lord more and better.”  He renewed his commitment to foster inter-religious dialogue in his country and said he hopes his appointment would “contribute to promoting Christian-Muslim dialogue in Senegal and abroad.”

Archbishop Njue said he was “shocked” to learn of the news and that he has accepted that he will “humbly and diligently serve the Church.”  “I never expected all this, but I accept the call,” he added, saying his “move to Nairobi and elevation to the college of cardinals are difficult decisions but I accept them.”

The news of Archbishop Njue’s appointment was met with much joy in Kenya and received extensive media coverage.  In a letter to the archbishop, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya said:  “My wife Lucy and I offer you our support with our prayer.  May the Lord bless you at this moment in which you receive such an important task of offering spiritual guidance to the Catholic faithful.”

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498 Spanish Civil War martyrs beatified

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2007 (CNA) - Nearly five hundred victims of religious persecution before and during the Spanish Civil War were beatified Sunday, making it the largest mass beatification in history. 

The crowd gathered for the ceremony included seventy-one Spanish bishops, 1,500 priests, 2,500 relatives of the martyrs, Spanish politicians and 4,000 Spanish pilgrims. St. Peter’s square was filled with pilgrims waving Spanish flags and showing their thanks for the beatification of the 498 martyrs. When Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, proclaimed the 498 martyrs beatified, the square erupted with applause. 

After the beatification Mass, Pope Benedict XVI greeted the pilgrims from his studio window.  He said the beatification of so many ordinary Catholics showed that martyrdom wasn't reserved for a few but is "a realistic possibility for the entire Christian people."

"This martyrdom in ordinary life is an important witness in today's secularized society," he said.

The beatified were killed in the years 1934, 1936, and 1937.  They include two bishops, 24 priests, 462 members of religious orders, a deacon, a sub-deacon, a seminarian, and seven lay Catholics. The breadth of the persecution was also reflected in the range of their ages with the youngest being 16 and the oldest 71.

Seven thousand clergy are estimated to have died in the persecutions.

The violence came from leftist groups who saw the Church as a symbol of wealth, repression, and inequality.  Their continual attacks helped provoke General Francisco Franco into rebellion against the elected left-wing government.  The civil war lasted from 1936 to 1939, after which the victorious Franco ruled as dictator for forty years. 

Franco's legacy is very controversial in Spain.  The Spanish Parliament is about to pass a Socialist-backed bill seeking to make symbolic reparations to victims of the war and of the Church-supported Franco dictatorship.

Relations between the Holy See and Spain's present socialist government have been strained since the latter took power in 2004.  The government has supported easy divorce, gay marriage, and abortion.  It has also disrupted its preceding conservative government's plans to mandate religious education in schools.

Some Spanish critics of the beatifications interpreted them as a political rebuke to the socialists.

To read the story of one of the Spanish martyrs click here.

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Woman faces execution for murdering mother, kidnapping unborn child

Kansas City, Mo., Oct 29, 2007 (CNA) - A Jury on Friday recommended the death penalty in the case of a woman who killed an expectant mother and cut the baby from her womb, the Associated Press reports.

Jurors deliberated for more than five hours before recommending the sentence for Lisa Montgomery.  A judge will sentence Montgomery, but he is obligated to follow the jury's recommendation.

Montgomery, 39, was convicted on Monday of kidnapping and killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett on December 16, 2004 in the town of Skidmore.  The next day Montgomery was presenting the newborn child as her own before her arrest later in the day.

Prosecutors argued for the death penalty because of the violence of her crime and evidence it was premeditated.  Montgomery had made internet searches on performing caesarean sections.

Defense attorney Fred Duchardt claimed childhood sexual abuse caused Montgomery to become mentally ill.  He said emotional abuse from her mother and sexual abuse from her stepfather "killed Lisa's soul."

"I'm not ashamed to ask you all for mercy," Duchardt told the jury. "I ask for it on behalf of Lisa and all the people who love her."

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New archbishop installed in Russia

Moscow, Russia, Oct 29, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Paolo Pezzi took office in Moscow on Saturday as head of the Catholic diocese of European Russia, Itar-tass reports.

 

The Italian-born former head of the Catholic seminary in St. Petersburg, Bishop Pezzi succeeds Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewic, who led the installation Mass.  Pope Benedict XVI has reassigned Archbishop Kondrusiewic to his native Belarus.  Russian-speaking Catholics were upset that the former archbishop was transferred without their consultation.

 

The newly installed Archbishop Pezzi was greeted by Russian Orthodox Church priests. The deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s external relations department, archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, read a message of greetings from Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia.

 

Four Catholic dioceses were created in Russia by the Pope in 2004.  Relations with the Russian Orthodox Church are sometimes strained by Orthodox accusations of Catholic proselytizing.

 

Archbishop Pezzi's diocese is centered in Moscow and extends across the west European part of Russia from Kalingrand and St. Petersburg to Nizhny Novgorod.

 

The Russian Justice Ministry reports that there are 220 Catholic parishes registered in Russia, not including Franciscan and Jesuit structures.  Catholic services take place in 13 languages, and a Catholic Encyclopedia in Russian is in development.

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Church in Brazil reiterates desire to host WYD

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Oct 29, 2007 (CNA) - The National Conference of Bishops of Brazil has reiterated its desire to host the next World Youth Day after Sydney 2008.  The bishops made their initial request to host the event during Pope Benedict XVI’s recent visit to Brazil.

Brazil is competing with Spain, Great Britain and other countries to host the next WYD, said Bishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha, according to the Associated Press.  He said the bishops asked the Holy Father to be considered when he visited Brazil for the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council.

He noted that the announcement of the location of the next WYD is usually made during the celebration of the one prior, and for this reason they will wait until next July to receive a response.

Among the Brazilians cities that could host the event are Bello Horizonte in southeastern Brazil, and Rio de Janeiro.

WYD is held every three years. The last gathering took place in Cologne, Germany in 2005.  The Australian city of Sydney is preparing to host the event in 2008.

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Brazil urgently needs political reform, says head of bishops’ conference

, Oct 29, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Brazil, Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha, said this week the country is passing through a time of “grave institutional crisis” and that therefore “profound political reform” is needed.

In noting that “corruption erodes democracy,” the bishop mentioned the recent scandal involving Senate leader Renan Calheiros, who is of the same party as President Lula and who resigned over corruption charges.  Archbishop Rocha called it one of the “darkest” episodes in Brazilian politics.

“The impression that is given is that corruption is common in public life, and that creates a climate of frustration and ethical relativism, which extends to social relationships and to private life,” the archbishop stated.

He said the public is increasingly outraged over the “lack of respect for fundamental values” and that corruption is undermining the public trust in democracy.

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Consistory for creating new cardinals scheduled

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2007 (CNA) - The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff officially announced today the schedule for the consistory at which Pope Benedict XVI will create the 23 new cardinals.  

The celebration will take place in St. Peter's Square at 10.30 a.m. on Saturday, November 24. Courtesy visits to the new cardinals will take place on the same day from 4.30 to 6.30 p.m.

The following day, November 25, Pope Benedict XVI will also preside at a Eucharistic concelebration with the new cardinals at 10:30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square. During that Mass he will give them their ring of office.

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