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Archive of January 15, 2008

Georgetown AIDS prevention study called inaccurate, biased against Catholic ethics

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2008 (CNA) - A Georgetown University study that dismissed the Catholic Church’s approach to limiting the spread of HIV/AIDS has been criticized by a leading researcher for being scientifically inaccurate and having a possible anti-religious bias, reports Deal Hudson at InsideCatholic.com.

The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, based at the Jesuit-run Georgetown University, published a report in November titled “Faith Communities Engage the HIV/AIDS crisis.”  Authored by Lucy Keough, a retired officer of the World Bank, and Katherine Marshall, a visiting fellow at the Berkley Center, the report criticized religious groups’ response to AIDS victims.  The authors write:

“Faith hierarchies, leaders, and communities have in the past often been promoters of stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, partly because of their difficulty in confronting aspects of human sexuality and partly because they often assume a link between AIDS and what they regard as sinful activities.”

Keough and Marshall particularly promote the use of condoms in AIDS prevention programs, contrary to the teaching of the Church.

Ray Ruddy, president of Boston’s Gerald Health Foundation, wrote a letter to Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia asking him to disavow or retract the report.  Ruddy’s letter said the report "castigates the Catholic Church in particular and the faith based community in general." 

"It seems incredible to many of us that the Catholic Church in general and the Jesuits in particular would permit such an inaccurate and misleading report to be published," Ruddy wrote.

Ruddy asked a Harvard expert on HIV/AIDS prevention, Dr. Edward C. Green, to evaluate the Georgetown study.

Green, who is not a member of any religious denomination, said the Georgetown report ignored the scientific evidence that behavior change, rather than condom use, has checked the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The Georgetown report, Green says, gets "the story all wrong: they emphasize the role of increasing condom use in bringing down Uganda's HIV rates and downplay the dramatic increase in the number of people reporting abstinence and faithfulness behaviors."

Green suggested that programs based on behavior change were “mysteriously absent” from programs often supported by Western donors.  The neglect of behavioral change advocacy, Green thought, supports the "financial self-interest of contractors and grantees that benefit from the multi-billion dollar global AIDS industry."

He suggested the Church has an advantage in promoting the behavior changes necessary to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, since “these behaviors conform to the moral, ethical, and scriptural positions and teachings of virtually all religions.” 

Green also concluded that the Georgetown report seemed to express an anti-religious bias, treating stigma within faith communities “particularly harshly.” Green wrote that the authors are apparently “making a value judgment about religious beliefs on sexuality,” needlessly depicting religious beliefs as “inherently stigmatizing.” 

The authors of the report would have done better, Green wrote, if they presented how faith communities themselves can “embrace orthodox beliefs about sexuality without contributing to stigma.” 

In addition, Green wrote that though the report recognizes the Church’s contribution to AIDS/HIV prevention through the promotion of abstinence and faithfulness, “the report seems to imply that the Church’s teaching on condom usage is detrimental to the fight against AIDS.”

Green summarized the view he defended in his book Rethinking AIDS Prevention, saying “If AIDS prevention is to be based on evidence rather than consensus, ideology, or bias, then fidelity and abstinence programs, in that order, need to be front and center in AIDS prevention programs for general populations.”

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Obama appearance at Catholic college sparks protest

Jersey City, N.J., Jan 15, 2008 (CNA) - The appearance at a Catholic college of a presidential candidate who supports abortion has provoked objections from the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization focusing on Catholic identity and renewal in higher education.

On Wednesday Democratic presidential candidate Barak Obama addressed St. Peter’s College, a Jesuit-run institution in Jersey City, New Jersey.  College president Dr. Eugene J. Cornacchia in a press release before the event said the college welcomed Obama “as we would welcome any presidential candidate who wishes to discuss and debate the ideas and events that are shaping our history.” 

The college cooperated with the Obama campaign to provide links for media registration and public participation, with 1,074 individuals reportedly registered through the link.

Students from St. Dominic’s Academy, a girls’ Catholic high school in Jersey City, also performed at the rally in their school uniforms.

The Cardinal Newman Society said today that Obama supports partial birth abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand.

“It’s irresponsible for a Catholic college and its leadership to host a political rally for an aggressively pro-abortion candidate,” said Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society. “Such events curry public attention at the expense of public morality. In so doing, they demonstrate reckless disregard for the most vulnerable human lives and contribute to the general decline of Catholic higher education.”

Reilly urged Catholic colleges and universities to “remain true to their Catholic identity and principles and reject any manipulation by politicians who work against these principles.”

“A college or university is dedicated to seeking and teaching truth, and a Catholic university embraces the truths of the Catholic faith,” he said.

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Pope faces “ad orientem” in Sistine Chapel liturgy

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass on Sunday in the Sistine Chapel, using the church’s original altar beneath Michelangelo’s depiction of the Last Judgment instead of the removable altar used by Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican’s office for liturgical celebrations issued a statement saying the decision to use the old altar was used to respect "the beauty and the harmony of this architectural jewel."

Using the old altar meant that Pope Benedict occasionally celebrated the liturgy with his back to the people, a posture called “ad orientem” or “towards the east” in the traditional phrasing.  It was the first time Mass had been celebrated in the Chapel in such a way since the Second Vatican Council, which took place between 1962 and 1965.

The choice echoes part of the Pope’s reintroduction of traditional liturgical practices, some of which were phased out by the Second Vatican Council.  The Pope has also encouraged the revival of Gregorian chant, a centuries-old style of liturgical music.

During the Mass at the Sistine Chapel, the Pope baptized 13 babies. 

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President Bush proclaims “Religious Freedom Day” from Saudi Arabia

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan 15, 2008 (CNA) - While in Saudi Arabia, President Bush has decided to issue a proclamation establishing January 16, 2008 as “Religious Freedom Day” in keeping with the 16 year-old tradition.  

The following is the proclamation released by the White House:

Thomas Jefferson counted the freedom of worship as one of America's greatest blessings. He said it was "a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government, and yet proved by our experience to be its best support." On Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate the 1786 passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

The freedom to worship according to one's conscience is one of our Nation's most cherished values. It is the first protection offered in the Bill of Rights: that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In America, people of different faiths can live together united in peace, tolerance, and humility. We are committed to the proposition that as equal citizens of the United States of America, all are free to worship as they choose.

In an era during which an unprecedented number of nations have embraced individual freedom, we have also witnessed the stubborn endurance of religious repression. Religious freedom belongs not to any one nation, but to the world, and my Administration continues to support freedom of worship at home and abroad. On Religious Freedom Day and throughout the year, we recognize the importance of religious freedom and the vital role it plays in spreading liberty and ensuring human dignity.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 16, 2008, as Religious Freedom Day. I call on all Americans to reflect on the great blessing of religious liberty, endeavor to preserve this freedom for future generations, and commemorate this day with appropriate events and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty- second.

GEORGE W. BUSH

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CRS gears up for long-term assistance to Kenyans

Nairobi, Kenya, Jan 15, 2008 (CNA) - More than 600 people have died and almost 200,000 people are now displaced by violence resulting from the contested December 27 general election, according to government officials in Kenya. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has provided $250,000 worth of emergency supplies to aid 37,500 people in the worst-affected regions of the Rift Valley. Working closely with other agencies, including the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and Caritas Kenya, CRS is now assessing ongoing needs and planning longer term response activities.

"The political crisis in Kenya is far from resolved, and unfortunately we fear that the humanitarian challenges are just beginning,” said Ken MacLean, CRS Kenya's country representative. "Of critical concern is the upcoming planting season. Families must prepare fields and plant seeds soon to have sufficient food, but until people feel safe from the threat of violence, they will not take action to secure their futures.”

In addition to providing emergency relief, with Caritas partners CAFOD and Trocaire helping to fund initial efforts, CRS is developing plans to help communities rebuild trust and eventually enable displaced families to rebuild their lives after extensive loss. CRS is also supporting the peace and reconciliation efforts of the Kenya Episcopal Conference.

People began fleeing their homes when riots broke out shortly after Kenya's electoral commission declared that President Mwai Kibaki narrowly beat challenger Raila Odinga. Since then, gangs primarily in Nairobi and western Kenya have threatened families and burned houses, taking advantage of the disputed results to drive people from their land.

Displaced Kenyans first sought refuge in churches, schools and police compounds. Some are now moving to designated locations to receive longer term services. CRS has delivered 7000 blankets, 10,000 mosquito nets, 5000 water cans, and 7500 plastic sheets for distribution by the Kenya Red Cross at three of these sites in Eldoret and Kitale. CRS is constructing temporary latrines in the sites as well.

CRS has worked in Kenya for more than 40 years, collaborating with local partners to serve some of the country's poorest communities through programs focused on food security, health care, HIV, orphans and other vulnerable children, agriculture, clean water, sanitation, and natural resource management.

Catholic Relief Services is the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency provides assistance to people in more than 100 countries and territories based on need, regardless of race, nationality or creed.

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Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins this Friday

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2008 (CNA) - The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, traditionally celebrated every year from January 18 to 25, will begin this coming Friday. Scripture passages for each day of the Week are being offered for prayer and reflection.

The theme chosen for this year's initiative, taken from the First Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, is: "Pray without ceasing". The texts for reflection and prayer have been prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches.

The texts for reflection for each day of the week are:

18 January: Pray always. "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5, 17).

19 January: Pray always, trusting God alone. "Give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5, 18).

20 January: Pray without ceasing for the conversion of hearts. "Admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted" (1 Thessalonians 5, 14).

21 January: Pray always for justice. "See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all" (1 Thessalonians 5, 15).

22 January: Pray constantly with a patient heart. "Be patient with all of them" (1 Thessalonians 5, 14).

23 January: Pray always for grace to work with God. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5, 16).

24 January: Pray for what we need. ". help the weak" (1 Thessalonians 5, 14).

25 January: Pray always that they all may be one. "Be at peace" (1 Thessalonians 5, 13b)

The normal celebration of this week of prayer is in the month of January, but in the southern hemisphere some Churches observe the week at another time such as Pentecost.

In the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls at 5.30 p.m. on Friday, 25 January, Feast of the Conversion of the Apostle Paul, Benedict XVI will preside at the celebration of Vespers to mark the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was created by the joint efforts of two Anglican priests and a Catholic priest in the early 1900’s. Father Paul James Francis S.A., one of the two Anglican founders, conceived the idea and shared it with Rev. Spencer Jones (Anglican) and Abbé Paul Couturier (Catholic).

As an outgrowth of his desire for Christian unity Father Francis founded the Society of Atonement while still an Anglican. In 1909 the society was received corporately into the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Pius X.

(Information from www.weekofprayer2008.org)

 

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Jesuits to elect new superior on Saturday

, Jan 15, 2008 (CNA) - The 217 Jesuits who are eligible to vote in the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in Rome will elect a new superior general this Saturday to succeed Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach.

A source from the Society of Jesus announced this week that the delegates at the General Congregation have been discussing among themselves the profile which the new superior ought to have, followed by a vote this coming Saturday.

After Pope Benedict XVI has been informed and has given his consent to the results, the name of the new superior will be disclosed to the public.  The election will take place via electronic ballot and, according to the press office of the General Congregation, the election will be the first to take place electronically.  Traditionally the new superior is elected for life.  For reasons of age, Father Kolvenbach officially resigned this Monday after leading the Jesuits for more than 25 years.

The 80 year-old Dutch priest was elected in 1983 with the consent of Pope John Paul II to succeed Father Pedro Arrupe, who retired due to illness.

Although the internal norms of the General Congregation prohibit campaigning for one candidate or another, reports in the Italian media have singled out Father Lisbert D’Souza of India, Father Orlando Torres of Puerto Rico, Father Jose Morales Orozco of Mexico, Father Mark Raper of Australia, Father Ignacio Echarte of Spain and Father Franco Imoda of Italy, as possible successors to Father Kolvenbach.

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Venezuelan cardinal demands Chavez respect Church leaders

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 15, 2008 (CNA) - The archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, is demanding that President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela show more respect for the Church and her representatives, after he accused the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giacinto Berloco, of protecting a “criminal”—student leader Nixon Moreno—in the Nunciature.

During a speech to the National Assembly, Chavez said Church officials should “reflect,” and he criticized Archbishop Berloco for hiding a “criminal” at the Nunciature.  Moreno has been taking refuge at the Nuncio’s residence since March of 2007.

“We deserve to be respected by officials and by the president as well, who the Apostolic Nuncio, Giacinto Berloco, and I have treated with all due respect….We deplore his attacks, offenses and lack of understanding,” Cardinal Urosa said.
Likewise, he recalled that mechanisms exist for the government to make known its complaints.  “These requests or criticisms can be made with having to insult Church officials,” he pointed out.

Nixon Moreno has been taking refuge in the Apostolic Nunciature since March of 2007, after government prosecutors accused him of attempted murder and assault during a student protest in 2006.  The 33 year-old finished his studies while staying at the nunciature and was given his degree at the end of last year. 

Opposition leaders consider the accusations against Moreno to be nothing more than political persecution by the government. 

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Schedule of Cardinal Bertone’s visit to Cuba made public

Havana, Cuba, Jan 15, 2008 (CNA) - Father Jose Felix Perez, executive secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba, announced yesterday that Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, will celebrate several Masses, inaugurate a monument and meet with government officials during his visit to Cuba February 20-26, 2008.

According to the French news agency AFP, Cardinal Bertone, who will travel to Cuba to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the visit to the country by Pope John Paul II in 1998, will celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of Havana on February 21.  Later he will travel to Santa Clara on February 22 to inaugurate a monument to Pope John Paul II in the place where the late pontiff celebrated Mass during his historic visit to the country.

On February 23, Cardinal Bertone will travel to Santiago de Cuba will he will visit to the shrine to Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba.

Bishop Wilfredo Pino Estevez of Guantanamo-Baracoa invited the faithful to participate in an open-air Mass celebrated by Cardinal Bertone. During the Mass, the cardinal will bless the diocese, which was created by John Paul II during his 1998 visit.  “We all give thanks to God for this event and we hope that you will accompany us in this joy.  If you will be able to come, please let us know.  We pray God will allow you to attend,” the bishop said in his open invitation.

February 25 and 26 will be set aside for “high-level” talks with Cuban officials.  At the moment there are no plans for a meeting with the ailing Fidel Castro.

Cardinal Bertone, who expects to meet with Cuba’s provisional president Raul Castro, met with Fidel during a visit in October of 2005 when he was the archbishop of Genoa.

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Rejection of Pope's speech is fear of dialogue between faith and reason, professor says

, Jan 15, 2008 (CNA) - Opposition to Pope Benedict’s now postponed appearance at La Sapienza University, has led Professor Giorgio Israel to write that the resistance of his colleagues is a sign of fear about a dialogue between faith and reason taking place.

In an article published by L'Osservatore Romano, Israel, who is also a professor of mathematics at La Sapienza, argues that the protest against the Pope's scheduled speech "is particularly surprising since Italian universities are supposed to be places open to any kind of position, and it makes no sense that only the Pope is denied access."

According to Israel, the reason why the liberal "openness" has been put aside in the case of the Holy Father "has been explained by Marcello Cini –one of the intellectuals opposing the Pope's visit— in his letter to the University's Dean."

"What Cini regards as 'dangerous,' is the fact that the Pope may try to open a dialogue between faith and reason, to reestablish a connection between the Judeo-Christian and the Greek tradition, and that science and faith may not be separated by an impenetrable wall."

"The opposition to the Pope's visit,” Israel writes, is therefore “not motivated by an abstract principle of secularism. The opposition is of an ideological nature and has Benedict XVI as its specific target for speaking on science and about the relationship between science and faith, instead of limiting himself to speak only about faith."

Israel says that the letter of a group of scientists criticizing the Pope for his alleged justification of the Church's stand towards Galileo in the past "is just an expression of a feeling against the person of the Pope himself."

The group of scientists, in fact, criticized the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for quoting the philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend during a conference delivered at La Sapienza on February 15 1990. Cardinal Ratzinger quoted from Feyerabend when he claimed that during Galileo's age, "the Church remained more faithful to reason than Galileo himself."

In his article, Israel says that the scientists criticizing the Pope have not read the conference in its entirety. According to mathematician, the quote from an Agnostic scientist and others were not used by then Cardinal Ratzinger to defend the Church, but "to make the point of how modernity has become doubtful of itself and of today's science and technology."

In other words, the Pope's remarks at that time "were a clear defense of Galilean rationality against the skepticism and relativism of our postmodern culture”, wrote Israel.

Prof. Israel says that such "inattentive, superficial and careless reading" of the Pope's 1990 conference should be regarded "as a shame and a professional failure."

"But I am afraid that here intellectual rigor has very little to do [with their motivations] and that the intention is to build a barrier at any cost," especially when considering that some of the signers of the letter against the Pope "have never expressed a word of criticism against Islamic fundamentalism or against those denying the Shoah."

"This is just a part of the secularist culture that has no argument, so it demonizes, it does not argue as a real secular culture, but creates monsters."

"This is why the threat against the Pope is a tragedy from a cultural and civic perspective," Israel concludes.

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Papal visit to Italian university postponed after protests

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2008 (CNA) - A planned papal visit to the prestigious La Sapienza University in Rome was canceled after protesting  faculty, staff and students accused the Pope of holding an offensive position on the scientist Galileo Galilei, the BBC reports.

"After the well-noted controversy of recent days... it was considered appropriate to postpone the event," a Vatican statement said. Instead of a personal appearance, Pope Benedict’s address will be sent to the university.

Writing in a letter to the university’s rector, 67 lecturers and professors said it would be “incongruous” for the Pope to open the academic year at the university on January 17.  They called for the visit to be canceled.

The letter highlighted a remark from Pope Benedict from when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.  In a 1990 book he quoted the judgment of philosopher Paul Feyerabend.  Feyerabend called Galileo’s prosecution for heresy “rational and just.”  Taken in context, the remarks were made by Ratzinger to point out how modernity has become doubtful of itself and of today's science and technology.

The university faculty said this quotation indicated that the Pope condoned the 17th century trial of the scientist, who was charged with heresy for his theory of geocentrism, namely the later-proved theory that the earth revolved around the sun.  The faculty wrote that the Pope’s comments “offend and humiliate us."

"In the name of the secular nature of science we hope this incongruous event can be cancelled," said the letter addressed to the university's rector.

Students also organized a protest, holding a lunch beneath a banner reading “Knowledge needs neither fathers nor priests.”

Vatican Radio said the protests had “a censorious tone.”

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Priests for Life launches prayer campaign to prepare for Roe anniversary

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2008 (CNA) - Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, has announced a national prayer campaign starting January 14 and running through January 22, "in reparation for the killing of tens of millions of children by abortion." 
 
Anyone interested in joining the effort is invited to join the Novena of Prayer at www.PrayerCampaign.org, where there is a short prayer to say each day.

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Bishops expose Catholics for a Free Choice for attempting to confuse Wisconsin legislature

Madison, Wis., Jan 15, 2008 (CNA) - A dispute over a proposed Wisconsin law mandating emergency contraceptive coverage for rape victims has resulted in a clash between a group calling itself Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) and Bishops Robert Morlino and Jerome Listecki. The pro-abortion organization is calling opposition to the bill a violation of patients’ rights, while the bishops assert that the bill violates the rights of doctors and the freedom of conscience.

At issue is whether the emergency contraception law will include conscience clauses exempting Catholic hospitals and medical practitioners with objections to such treatment, because it could endanger the life of a newly conceived child.

In a January 11 letter to a member of the Wisconsin legislature, Catholics for a Free Choice president Jon O’Brien attacked Catholic support for exemptions given to conscientious objectors and lobbied for the bill to be passed without conscience clauses. 

O’Brien cited the stance of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference (WCC), which originally took a neutral view of the law, and contrasted this neutrality with the opposition of two Wisconsin Catholic bishops, Bishop Robert Morlino and Bishop Jerome Listecki of the Diocese of Lacrosse.

Calling the two bishops’ protests an “opposition tactic,” O’Brien wrote, “Under the guise of protecting religious freedom, opponents of contraception and abortion aggressively use the political process to allow health-care professionals, including emergency room doctors, nurses, and even pharmacists to opt out of providing essential reproductive health-care services and medications.”

O’Brien claimed that the refusal to provide such services “violates the rights of both patients and health-care providers” who consider the services moral and medically necessary.

Bishop Morlino responded to the CFFC letter with his own letter, sent to the Wisconsin legislature on January 15.

The bishop reaffirmed a 2000 declaration from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that CFFC is not a Catholic organization and promotes positions contrary to the teaching of the Church. “‘Catholics for a Free Choice’ is not, in fact, Catholic because its members don’t accept basic Catholic teaching. So, it comes as no surprise that when I teach basic Catholic doctrine, which they don’t recognize as such, they call it “political maneuvering” – a claim that is as frivolous as their claim to be Catholic is irresponsible,” the bishop wrote.

Bishop Morlino addressed the neutral stand of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, saying the CFFC used the conference’s position against two of the objectives the conference had sought to obtain.  “While I am certain that the WCC sought to protect pre-born life and the rights of conscience, CFFC is clearly pro-abortion and anti-conscience protection.”

“Irresponsibly claiming to be Catholic, while rejecting the basic Catholic values that are to be embodied in emergency contraception legislation, is yet another source of scandal and confusion for faithful Catholics and all those who claim to be pro-life,” Bishop Morlino wrote.

The Catholic approach to emergency contraception, the bishop reiterated, rested on the three concerns of compassionate care for victims of rape, concern that possible pre-born life not be destroyed, and concern that the rights of conscience of individuals and institutions be protected.

Bishop Listecki of LaCrosse also warned against the pending legislation and called on Catholics to contact their state representatives.

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