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Archive of November 15, 2007

Catholic Charities served 8 million in 2006, as numbers helped rises to one in 10 people living in poverty

Alexandria, Va., Nov 15, 2007 (CNA) - The holiday wish list of America’s poorest families is long, as those living below the federal poverty line increasingly sought help at Catholic Charities agencies, which served one of every 10 people living in poverty in 2006, according to a report by Catholic Charities agencies released today on Capitol Hill.

The report, Poverty in America: Beyond the Numbers, provides a state-by-state look at the types of services local Catholic Charities agencies provide to address the pervasive issue of poverty in this country. The report is based on the findings of Catholic Charities USA’s 2006 Annual Member Survey.

More than 1,700 local Catholic Charities agencies and institutions served nearly 8 million people of all faiths in 2006, including 4.1 million living below the poverty line. Catholic Charities agencies are serving a rising percentage of people who live below the federal poverty line, which in 2006 was $20,000 for a family of four. The report found that 52 percent of Catholic Charities clients in 2006 were from below the federal poverty line—up from 43 percent in 2002.

As millions of Americans look ahead to Thanksgiving, the survey of local agencies shows that there are a growing number of people are turning to Catholic Charities for food. In fact, local Catholic Charities agencies saw a 12 percent increase in the need for food service programs in 2006. Between 2002 and 2006, the number of clients receiving food services—such as soup kitchens, food banks and food pantries, home delivered meals and congregate dining—increased by 2.7 million, or nearly 60 percent.

As the need for food assistance continues to rise, local agencies say they continue to struggle to meet the needs of food service requests. In 2006, agencies responding to the survey said they were unable to serve nearly 1,800 clients requesting prepared food and nearly 91,000 clients requesting distributed food. 

“The holiday season should be a time of joy and celebration, but instead it is often difficult for the hungry, the homeless and the working poor who are often burdened with high utility costs and unexpected medical bills that can demolish their tight budgets,” said Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. “This information from our agencies shows that every season should be a season of giving because the need is still there and it is continuing to grow.”

Other key findings of the survey of local agencies of 2006 services include:

More than 45 percent of Catholic Charities’ clients were either under 18 or over 65.

Services to build strong communities—ranging from education and enrichment to social support and health-related services to neighborhood activism—reached 7 percent more people in 2006, for a total of more than 3.6 million.

Nearly 1.1 million people received services that strengthen families, including counseling and mental health services and immigration services.

Catholic Charities managed more than 176 temporary shelters (nearly 7,800 beds). Yet they were unable to serve more than 31,000 people because all available beds were full. 

“Catholic Charities agencies across the country are working hard to create hope in the hearts of the needy this holiday season. We are helping millions of people deal with everyday disasters such as hunger, homelessness and financial need,” said Janet Valente Pape, chair of the Catholic Charities USA Board of Trustees and executive director of Catholic Charities of Wichita. “We need people to join our efforts in providing help to those in need by volunteering at a local agency or donating to Catholic Charities. The more help we have, the more we can help men, women and children in need this holiday season.”

Catholic Charities Seeks Change through Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America

The report illustrates how Catholic Charities agencies are working to address the pervasive issue of poverty in this country.

“We understand the consequences of poverty first-hand, and also know the solutions for helping individuals get on a path to self-sufficiency,” Father Snyder said. “That’s why we launched our Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America earlier this year.”

The campaign’s goal is to cut the U.S. poverty rate in half by 2020, and Catholic Charities USA and local agencies are joining together to urge policymakers to give the needs of the poor a higher priority in budget and policy decisions in four key areas: housing, hunger, nutrition assistance and economic security.

“At Catholic Charities, we understand the causes, scope and ramifications of poverty,” Father Snyder said. “While certain choices and behaviors can lead individuals into poverty, far more often the greater fault lies with the social and economic structures that shape the opportunities for the poor.”

“The Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America is critical for a long-term solution,” Father Snyder said. “Only through partnerships between government and community leaders, will we develop the capacity and the scale necessary to attack poverty in a comprehensive and sustainable way. With the help of people across the country, as volunteers, as contributors or as supporters of this campaign, we can make a real difference in the lives of so many of the most vulnerable among us.”

Local Agencies Provide Help and Offer Hope to Those in Need throughout the Country

As Catholic Charities agencies across the nation are experiencing an increase in need, they are stepping up to meet the challenge.

Filling Dental Needs – Catholic Charities Maine has been working to meet the dental needs of low-income families and individuals who often cannot find a dentist without a long waiting list or even one who will accept their form of insurance. Catholic Charities Maine opened the Jessie Albert Memorial Dental Center in Bath, Maine where the licensed dentist and hygienists served more than 5,600 children and young people in 2006. Available treatments range from filing cavities to performing root canals and treating early gum disease.

Dining/Food Services – At St. Vincent’s Center in Reno, Catholic Community Services of Northern Nevada operate both a food pantry and a dining room. The food pantry provides supplemental food for an average of 14,000 people a month, nearly 4 percent the local county population. St. Vincent’s dining hall welcomes individuals for breakfast every day, as it has done for more than 40 years. When the center’s new dining facility opened in 2006, the average number of people served per day rose to 333, an increase of 17 percent over the previous six months.

Job Skills Training – For the past 10 years, Catholic Community Services has operated the McDowell Family Literacy Program. McDowell is the poorest county in West Virginia: The median family income is under $20,500, and over 49 percent of the children live in poverty. The program has helped more than 2,000 low-income people through its comprehensive services including job skills training, basic literacy instruction, and classes in parenting, nutrition, money management and survival skills. Also, the program provides early child intervention, pre-school and after school programs. A key goal of this family program is to improve self-image and encourage self-esteem. This is done by getting people involved in helping themselves and others. The Center creates a supportive and caring environment that encourages families to work toward their goals and end poverty in their lives.

Easing Chronic Homelessness – The St. Paul Residence is the newest program of Catholic Charities of St. Paul-Minneapolis to help address chronic homelessness. A collaborative effort with the city of St. Paul and the state of Minnesota, this new residence will provide single-room housing for 60 chronically homeless men. Also located in the new building is the Catholic Charities’ St. Anthony Residence program, which provides permanent housing for 60 chronic alcoholics. Residents will receive independent living skills training, medication monitoring and employment services.

The report, Poverty in America: Beyond the Numbers, can be found at www.catholiccharitiesusa.org.

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Pope Benedict's next encyclical arrives before Christmas, reports Italian press

, Nov 15, 2007 (CNA) - The Italian newspaper La Repubblica revealed today that Pope Benedict XVI has finalized his second encyclical on the subject of Christian hope, and that it should be published before Christmas, during Advent.

Benedict’s first encyclical, “Deus Caritas est”, was signed on Christmas Day 2005 and by the following month had been published in eight languages. His second encyclical is tentatively titled "Spe Salvi” (Saved by Hope) and takes its inspiration from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, the newspaper reported. The potential title comes from the 24th verse of the eighth chapter of St. Paul's letter, which reads: "Because we have been saved by hope."

According to La Repubblica, the Holy Father wants to "reach the hearts of Christians and invite them to have hope, without being thrashed by pessimism."

The document, according to the same source, is being translated into several languages and could be signed by the Holy Father on December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the anniversary of the close of Vatican II.

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Orthodox recognize Pope first among equals, disagreements remain

Vatican City, Nov 15, 2007 (CNA) - A joint commission of Orthodox and Catholic theologians has agreed that the Pope has primacy over all bishops, though disagreements about the extent of his authority still continue. 

The Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue reached the agreement in a meeting in Ravenna, Italy last month, according to a document published Thursday.

The meeting from October 8 to October 15 was only the second since Catholic-Orthodox dialogue resumed in 2006 after a six-year break.

Pope Benedict has said that uniting all Christians and healing the split is a "fundamental" priority of his pontificate.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, who led the commission’s discussions, told Vatican Radio that "the real breakthrough is that for the first time the Orthodox were ready to speak about the universal level of the church" whereas in the past discussion is limited to the church on a local or regional level under a patriarch or archbishop.

Even more importantly “this means that there is also a Primate; according to the practice of the ancient Church, the first bishop is the bishop of Rome," Cardinal Kasper said.

The commission agreed "that the bishop of Rome was therefore the 'protos' among the patriarchs."  "Protos" is an ancient Greek word meaning "first." 

Acknowledging the difference of interpretation, the document noted disagreement "on the interpretation of the historical evidence from this era regarding the prerogatives of the bishop of Rome as 'protos."'

"While the fact of primacy at the universal level is accepted by both East and West, there are differences of understanding with regard to the manner in which it is to be exercised, and also with regard to its scriptural and theological foundations," the document continued.

The commission advised more in-depth study of the role of the Bishop of Rome--that is, the Pope--in communion with other churches.

The Russian Orthodox representative Bishop Illarion walked out of the meeting over a territorial dispute with a rival Orthodox Church.  Bishop Illarion posted the final document on his website.  However, he noted that the document's adoption in the absence of representatives of the Moscow Patriarch cast doubt over whether it could be considered to reflect Moscow's views.  The website posting said Moscow would present its views after further analysis of the document.

The Catholic and Orthodox Churches were united until the Great Schism of 1054.  The Joint Theological Commission is working to heal the split between the churches.

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New attempt to reverse Nicaragua’s pro-life laws fails

Managua, Nicaragua, Nov 15, 2007 (CNA) - On Wednesday Nicaragua’s National Assembly rejected a proposal for the third time to legalize therapeutic abortion again in the country’s new Penal Code, which lawmakers finished discussing after a year of debate.

The latest attempt was led by the Sandinista Renewal Movement to get lawmakers to remove the sanctions against abortion from the Penal Code.  Abortion supporters sought to create an exception in the law for abortion in cases of life of the mother.

The proposal was rejected by an overwhelming number of lawmakers, and the vote buried any chance of overturning the law that was passed in 2006.

The new code punished those who practice or consent to an abortion with up to three years in prison. It will take effect two months after it has been published in the Nicaraguan daily “La Gaceta.”

According to Carlos Polo, director for Latin America of the Population Research Institute, “The international abortion lobby has lost an important battle despite all the pressure.  This was the third and last attempt within the Penal Code to introduce a measure that would protect abortion. The two previous attempts ended with an overwhelming vote against abortion.”

“This has been a long pro-life battle,” Polo continued.  “To these three attempts we must add the anti-life campaign lasting more than a year and lawsuits before the Supreme Court challenging its constitutionality were unsuccessful.”  He said the victory was due to the efforts by non-governmental organizations and by the Catholic laity.  “Today in Nicaragua, fewer women die than what is reported by the official statistics of Nicaragua’s Ministry of Health.”

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New study suggests charter schools threaten survival of inner-city Catholic schools

Detroit, Mich., Nov 15, 2007 (CNA) - New research indicates that the expansion of charter schools can have a negative impact on the presence of Catholic education in the inner city.

According to the Goldwater Institute's Dr. Michael Ladner, a RAND Corporation study focusing on the impact of charter schools in Michigan found that private schools, on a student for student basis, faced more competition from charter schools than from public schools.

Ronald Nuzzi, director of the Alliance for Catholic Education Leadership Program at the University of Notre Dame, claimed that charter schools are "one of the biggest threats to Catholic schools in the inner city, hands down."

"How do you compete with an alternative that doesn’t cost anything?” he asked.

Dr. Ladner reported that the Catholic Diocese of Detroit has witnessed a 20 percent decline in enrollment since 2002 and currently faces another round of school closures. Overall, 29 Diocese of Detroit schools have already closed.

The lack of a voucher program, shrinking numbers of religious staff, and parishioners' movement to the suburbs are all factors that make it more difficult for inner-city Catholic schools to support themselves financially.  Dr. Ladner criticized what he called the "double payment penalty" required of parents who pay to send their children to private school but still support the public schools through taxes.

Charter schools' competition with parochial schools is especially severe because many of the best charter schools take inspiration from Catholic school practices, which have a strong record in educating disadvantaged students and preparing them for college.  However, the charter schools are taxpayer-supported while private schools, including parochial schools, are not.

"It would be tragic and absurd to help drive these schools out of business by publicly funding student attendance to both public and charter schools, but not to private schools," Dr. Ladner wrote.

Dr. Ladner recommended tax credits and school vouchers to offset the "double payment penalty" phenomenon and to preserve Catholic education in the inner city.  His study examining a successful tax credit program in Arizona appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Catholic Education.

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Eritrea’s record on religious freedom one of the worst

Asmara, Eritrea, Nov 15, 2007 (CNA) - The expulsion of 14 Catholic missionaries from Eritrea two days ago is part of a plan of the Maoist dictatorship of President Isaias Afewerkito to destroy the Catholic Church in Eritrea, reports CISA. 

Sources say that the missionaries were given two weeks to leave the country, beginning November 6.  The plan to expel foreigners from the country has been in the making for quite some time, with some missionary institutes saying they received notification from the government two years ago to prepare local personnel to be deported.

Eritrea has one of the worst religious freedom records in the world. While the government recognizes four religions, (Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, and Muslim) members of unrecognized churches are often detained and tortured.  Many hundreds of religious detainees continue to be held without due process in harsh conditions that include extreme temperature fluctuations with limited or no access to family.

The government has severely restricted the freedom of unregistered groups, but also infringes upon the independence of some registered churches.  The government harasses, detains, and arrests members of independent evangelical groups, and seeks greater control over the approved religious groups.

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Archdiocese of Chicago "extraordinarily proud" of Cardinal George's election to presidency

Chicago, Ill., Nov 15, 2007 (CNA) - Church leaders in the Archdiocese of Chicago greeted with enthusiasm the election of Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., as president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Jimmy Lago, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago, explained Cardinal George's qualifications saying “the Cardinal has been a compelling voice that speaks on issues of concern, including interfaith relations, Catholic education, expanding vocations, and racial and social justice. He has also been a steadfast protector of children and youth locally, nationally and internationally, as well as an advocate for the important social service work of Catholic Charities in Cook and Lake counties.”

Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Chicago Very Reverend John F. Canary, praised the news.  “We are extraordinarily proud as Catholics and Chicagoans that Cardinal George has been chosen for this important leadership position,” he said.

“During his ten years in Chicago, the Cardinal has developed very strong relationships with people and their parishes, as well as his pastors and priests. His many responsibilities in the Church, as well as his strength as a pastor, will serve U.S. Catholics well in his new role on behalf of the Church in this country,” he continued.

Cardinal George was most recently vice-president of the bishops' conference.  He succeeds outgoing president Bishop William Skylstad of the Diocese of Spokane.  The cardinal's term as conference president will last three years.

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Researchers find sexual abuse rates in the Catholic Church are the same as society’s

, Nov 15, 2007 (CNA) - The sexual abuse scandal has hung like a pall over the Catholic Church for the last five years. During their conference, the U.S. Bishops learned from the John Jay College report on sexual abuse that the incidence of abuse in the Catholic Church is the same as its occurrence in the rest of society.

The investigation, titled the “Causes and Contexts Study”, aims to answer the questions: “Why did the abuse crisis happen as it did? And what caused this problem?” 

Though the study is only in the first of its three years, the researchers made certain to point out an interesting finding. Contrary to the popular belief that the Catholic Church has some characteristics that exacerbate the sexual abuse problem, the researchers’ preliminary finding was that the occurrence of abuse was parallel to the rest of society. 

That "is in conflict with the idea that there was something distinctive about the Catholic Church that led to the abuse of minors," said primary researcher Karen Terry.

The sociologists also disputed the theory that a change of moral theology in seminaries beginning in the 1970s led to the abuse. Of more than 4,000 priests who are known to have abused minors between 1950 and 2002, Ms. Terry said, 90 percent were ordained before 1980 and 70 percent were ordained before 1970.

The largest number of cases occurred in the 1970s and 80s, while the reports of abuse peaked between 1993 and 2000.

Information was gathered on priests who abused to understand their differences in personality and if any sort of mental disorder was present.  The aim was to discover how abusers can be distinguished from those who struggle with substance abuse, pedophilia, narcissism, or other traits. The next report is due out in six months.

When the floor was opened for questions several bishops spoke out. 

Archbishop Henry J. Mansell asked if there is “any other study of sexual abuse of minors being done?”  In response the researchers, led by Terry, answered that this study is the largest being done.  While other institutions are beginning to conduct this type of research, no one else has been willing to release the results. 

Cardinal DiNardo inquired if the study was taking into account those who were in WWII before entering into the priesthood compared with regular entries.  The researchers answered that the information is “folded into the historical study.”

The new vice president of the USCCB, Bishop Gerald Kicanas from Tucson asked one of the final questions addressing abuse trends in society-at-large. “The rate of child sexual abuse has decreased in the Church, has this happened in the culture?”  Researchers answered that sexual abuse has also declined in society at a similar rate.

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Expert denounces “Argentinean Parliament of Religions” as conglomerate of sects

Madrid, Spain, Nov 15, 2007 (CNA) - Spanish theologian and member of the Latin American Network of the Study of Sects, Luis Santamaria del Reio, said this week the self-proclaimed “Argentinean Parliament of Religions (PAR),” which bills itself is a platform for inter-religious dialogue, is in reality a conglomerate of sects, including groups as dangerous as the Unification Church, more popularly known as the Moonies.

“In addition to Eastern groups, spiritists and New Agers, [PAR] brings together schismatics from the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, as well as from other Christian confessions,” Santamaria said, noting that the group uses “the Argentinean hierarchy, and especially the Pope,” as instruments for its agenda.

The Spanish theologian warned that PAR takes advantage of the different religious groups and organizations “in order to appear as a religious movement on par with the great spiritual traditions.”

PAR’s leadership is made up of a curious arrangement. The president of the group is Miguel Angel Libre, a Catholic, its vice president is the Baptist pastor Dario Martinez, and its general secretary is Mahatma Krishananda Ji, who promotes the doctrine of Amma in Argentina.

Santamaria said the “very special link between the PAR and the Unification Church” is “not a coincidence, but rather something organic and official.”  Other sects that make up the Parliament include the Brahma Kumaris, as well as a host of Eastern-based religions.

Another member of the PAR is the so-called Byelorussian Slavic Orthodox Church of Argentina.  In one of its ceremonies, Santamaria explained, “communion is distributed to the leaders of PAR, even if they are not baptized members of the church.  This is a curious way of welcoming the non-Orthodox and is unique among those who profess to be members of Orthodoxy.”

Schismatic Catholics groups are also listed as members of the PAR, some of which adopt confusing names for their denominations.  On its website, Santamaria said, “the PAR displays a blessing by Pope Benedict XVI,” supposedly proving the Pope’s support for the entity. A closer look at the document reveals it was actually a letter signed by Archbishop Adriano Bernardini, Apostolic Nuncio to Argentina, in which the Pope imparts his blessing to a group of trade union workers. 

Santamaria said one of the clear objectives of PAR is to influence lawmakers in Argentina to pass laws on religious practice that are more favorable to its members.

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CELAM leaders express solidarity with Venezuelan bishops attacked by Chavez

Rome, Italy, Nov 15, 2007 (CNA) - The leaders of the Bishops’ Conference of Latin America have sent a letter to the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela expressing their solidarity with the bishops of that country who have been the target of attacks by President Hugo Chavez for expressing their opinions about his “constitutional reform.”

According to the Fides news agency, the letter signed by the president of CELAM, Archbishop Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, and its vice president, Auxiliary Bishop Victor Sanchez Espinosa of Mexico City, states that CELAM “is following the present process of constitutional reform in Venezuela with profound interest and a spirit of solidarity.”

The letter expresses support for the statement by the Venezuelan bishops issued on October 20, in which they provided moral guidance for evaluating the proposed reforms.  Despite the constructive tone of the statement, the letter continues, “certain sectors have launched attacks and insults” against the bishops.

CELAM leaders expressed their complete solidarity with the Venezuelan bishops and prayed that God would enlighten the leaders of their country to embrace tolerance and dialogue in order to find the path to development and social justice.”

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Future cardinal asks Iraqi president to guarantee teaching of Christian religion in schools

Rome, Italy, Nov 15, 2007 (CNA) - The director of cultural affairs of the Patriarchate of Babylonia of the Chaldeans and the rector of Babel College, Auxiliary Bishop Jacques Ishaq, said this week Iraq’s President Talabani has promised Chaldean Patriarch Mar Emmanuel III Delly he will intervene to ensure that “Christian students will be able to take a test on the Christian religion at the end of the year,” which means that the faith will be allowed to be taught.

In an interview with the Office for Migrant Ministry of the Archdiocese of Turin, Bishop Ishaq said, “The Iraqi educational system is based on an evaluation that is obtained by the sum total of the final grades in each subject.  In many schools, the only religious instruction is in the Islamic faith, and consequently, Christian students find it much more difficult to obtain grades similar to those of their Muslim counterparts.”

For this reason, Chaldean Patriarch Mar Emmanuel III Delly—who will be made a cardinal on November 24 by Pope Benedict XVI—“has asked the Iraqi president to guarantee that the Christian religion can be taught in public schools where the percentage of the Christian students is around 25 percent.”

Bishop Ishaq pointed out, however, the one of the problems is “finding teachers who teach the Christian religion.  The fleeing and forced emigration of Christians has resulted in many educated persons leaving the country.  In addition, there are the problems of the chaos in Baghdad and which have reached the Ministry of Instruction and those responsible for such decisions who at times can obstruct or encourage laws that favor the Christian minority.”

Despite the problems, he said, “Christians are still perceived as bearers of culture.”

According to the SIR news agency, before the nationalization of schools in Iraq in 1972, “Christian schools were considered the best in the country, such that the most influential Muslim families sent their children to these schools.  Some of these students are leaders today in government and mosques.”

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Catholic ethics institute sees monkey cloning announcement as a “double-edged sword”

Thornwood, N.Y., Nov 15, 2007 (CNA) - Yesterday, Oregon-based scientist Shoukrat Mitalipov succeeded in cloning monkey embryos and deriving embryonic stem cells from them.  The Westchester Institute, a Catholic ethics think-tank that has engaged in the stem cell debate, reacted with concern to the announcement calling the breakthrough a “double-edged sword.”

In a press release on Wednesday, the Executive Director, Fr. Thomas Berg stated, "Insomuch as research on cloned primates can provide basic biological insights into human disease and tissue growth, this is a golden opportunity. The risk lies in applying the cloning technique to humans. Such a pursuit, if successful, would be one of humanity's darkest endeavors."

Mitalipov's success with monkey embryo cloning provides the theoretical foundation for scientists to pursue so-called "therapeutic" cloning in humans. Embryonic stem cells from a cloned human embryo, because they would be genetically identical to a patient, could be used in potential treatments without prompting an immune rejection response. However, the scientific community generally agrees that prospective treatments from embryonic stem cells are likely many years away.

"Notwithstanding this new breakthrough, it's still not clear that researchers will have success if they apply Mitalipov's techniques to human cells," said Fr. Berg. "It would be unfortunate to divert time, energy, and funding into human cloning, when much needed insights into treating human diseases and maladies can be garnered just as easily from cloned monkeys.

"I spoke with Dr. Mitalipov and he himself underlined how this new kind of research in monkey cloning can actually further our pursuit of ethically uncontroversial alternatives in stem cell research, such as direct cell reprogramming," continued Fr. Berg. "If scientists can learn how monkey egg cells reprogram body cells to an embryonic-like state, this could give us the key to reprogramming human body cells without having to damage or destroy, let alone clone, human embryos."

Direct Cell Reprogramming is conceptually like taking any cell in the human body and "hitting rewind," sending that cell's nucleus back to a state which would render the cell "pluripotent", capable of producing any tissue type in the human body, equivalent in versatility to human embryonic stem cells. Furthermore, these stem cells would be genetically matched to the person who donated the body cells.

Fr. Berg concluded, "Scientists have repeatedly noted that there is still a lot of basic biological research that needs to be done before embryonic stem cells are ever going to lead to cures. That biology can be done perfectly well in monkeys. The supposed urgency to press on to human cloning is unfounded."

The Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person was founded in 1998 to renew, deepen, and promote the Western tradition of moral reflection. The institute pursues its objectives in cultural, political, and academic settings. Through seminars, lecture series, and research fellowships, the Westchester Institute seeks to reinvigorate contemporary moral discourse at all levels.

More information: visit www.westchesterinstitute.net or contact Michelle Gress at [email protected].

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Cardinal O’Malley rebukes Democrats on abortion

Boston, Mass., Nov 15, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. Bishops have issued their strongest condemnation yet of pro-abortion views with their “Faithful Citizenship” document issued yesterday. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston also has added his disapproval of pro-abortion candidates in comments to the Boston Globe saying that the support of Catholics for these politicians “borders on scandal”.

Cardinal O'Malley voiced a sentiment that the bishops’ latest citizenship document includes, namely that, despite his differences with the Republican Party over immigration policy, capital punishment, economic issues, and the war in Iraq, he views abortion as the most important moral issue facing policymakers.

Noting that many Catholics traditionally support Democrats, O’Malley reamed the Democratic Party for being “extremely insensitive to the church's position, on the gospel of life in particular, and on other moral issues.”

When the cardinal was asked about the many voters who support Democrats who are in favor of abortion, O'Malley said, "I think that, at times, it borders on scandal as far as I'm concerned."

This near-scandal has caused Cardinal O’Malley to challenge his flock about their choices, but his admonitions have only resulted in confused reactions from them. "[W]hen I challenge people about this, they say, 'Well, bishop, we're not supporting [abortion],' " he said. "I think there's a need for people to very actively dissociate themselves from those unacceptable positions, and I think if they did that, then the party would have to change."

The vast majority of the U.S. Bishops seem to agree with Cardinal O’Malley since a full 98% of them approved the “Faithful Citizenship” document yesterday. 

The statement goes beyond previous ones by explicitly declaring abortion, cloning, and embryonic research to be "intrinsically evil" and warning that support for such immoral acts could endanger a Catholic voter's salvation.

This time the bishops also took the further step of pointing out that abortion or any other act which destroys life is a more serious issue than any other, saying, “[t]he direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life is always wrong and is not just one issue among many."

In comments to Boston Globe reporter Michael Paulson, Cardinal O’Malley said, "In the past, there was always the fear that we were considering sort of the smorgasbord of issues, but without any prioritizing, or giving the impression that all issues are of equal value, and I think the emphasis on trying to help people form conscience is very, very important," he said. "The church is not trying to impose Catholic doctrine on the world, but we are trying to invite our people to take seriously their obligation to vote in a way that respects the moral law, the natural law, and takes into account the common good, care for the poor, and particularly the gospel of life, which is always the center of Catholic social teaching."

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