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Archive of February 13, 2008

Critics claim radio program on school buses is dangerous for kids

Denver, Colo., Feb 13, 2008 (CNA) - A radio show delivered exclusively to school children riding the bus to and from school has drawn sharp criticism from bus drivers and parents for undermining parental rights and introducing bus riders to indecent musicians.

BusRadio is free radio programming that promotes itself as an alternative to AM/FM radio and is designed for children.  The BusRadio website advertises that it gives students the music they want “minus the offensive lyrics, with 1/3 of the sponsorships per hour of AM/FM and positive safety messages and PSAs.”  The company has designed age-specific programs for elementary, middle and high school students.

In addition, the site states that “with BusRadio on board, noise levels drop, kids stay in their seats and the bus ride is safer and more fun than ever!”

However, not everyone is convinced.  Littleton, Colorado bus driver, Danny Kenny is protesting the use of BusRadio in his school district.

Kenny told Colorado News 9 that while the songs may be “technically clean,” that are played on BusRadio, the content and themes of the songs are often too mature for the school children.

Kenny wants all parents to be aware of the door BusRadio opens for kids. He says while "clean" versions may be played on the busses, students can find the "explicit" versions online.

"Do you want to introduce a kid to, Ne-Yo and say, 'Hey this guy is a great singer. He's a great artist and this is a great song.' And then when he buys the album, you find out there are other songs on there you don't want them listen to," said Kenny.

Ne-Yo, a featured artist on BusRadio, raps about having sex with his girlfriend in one track on his album. He also has had graphic sexual photos of himself posted on the internet.

Another criticism leveled at the company stems from the advertisements being broadcast to a captive audience of school children.

Susan Linn, a psychologist told the Boston Globe that ``What these corporations want to do is be in children's faces 24 hours a day, and they're getting close to that.”  

In a conversation with CNA, Danny Kenny said that the incentive for school districts to carry BusRadio’s programming is that they receive money for allowing the broadcasts in their buses.


The issue at stake, says Kenny, is a parenting issue, since parents are losing control of what their children listen to.

So far Kenny has succeeded in getting the Littleton School District (where he is a bus driver) to suspend their plans to subscribe to BusRadio’s service. He hopes to raise awareness in Denver to prevent Denver Public Schools from following through with their plans to launch the service in the spring.

BusRadio currently reaches over one million students in 23 states each day.  

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New documentary advocates strong families to avert “demographic winter”

Washington D.C., Feb 13, 2008 (CNA) - Filmmakers announced at a National Press Club press conference on Tuesday a “groundbreaking” documentary that addresses the problems of population decline and predicts a coming “demographic winter” that will result from weakened families.  

Population decline is projected to seriously affect the sustainability of present societies by reducing the economic and tax bases of nations.  The movie claims that as the number of elderly people swells there will be fewer and fewer young people to help care for them.

The documentary, titled "Demographic Winter: the decline of the human family,” was written and directed by Rick Stout to examine developed countries that are below population replacement rates.  The film brings together demographers, economists, sociologists, and civic and religious leaders to explore problems present generations will soon face due to shrinking and aging populations.

According to a press release for the film, the global birthrate has declined by 50 percent over the past half-century. Fifty nine nations, containing 44 percent of the world’s population, have birthrates below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.  

The filmmakers report that the European birthrate is 1.3 children per woman.  This dearth of children is expected to cause Europe to have a shortfall of 20 million workers by 2030, while Russia could lose one-third of its population by 2050.  The chilling effect this decline is projected to have on economics and culture has led some to dub the phenomenon a “demographic winter,” a phrase from which the documentary takes its title.

“In nations with declining populations, who will operate the factories and farms? Who will guard the frontiers? With a graying population (a declining birthrate combined with growing longevity), who will support pension systems and otherwise care for the elderly?” asked the filmmakers in a press release.

Speakers at the press conference included Dr. Allan Carlson, the International Secretary of the World Council of Families; Maria Sophia Aguirre, a professor of economics at Catholic University; Patrick Fagan, a Senior Fellow at the Family Research Council; and Phillip Longman, author of “The Empty Cradle:  How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity And What To Do About It.”

A three-minute trailer for the documentary is available at www.demographicwinter.com.

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Vatican tightens standards for sainthood

Vatican City, Feb 13, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican will advise bishops around the world this next week to be more rigorous in their selection of the candidates they propose for sainthood, ANSA reports.

A 20-page document to be presented in the Vatican on February 18 will ask bishops to show “greater sobriety and rigor” in accepting requests to begin inquiries into a prospective saint’s life.

Initial investigations into the life of a proposed saint take place in the diocese where he or she died.  The local bishop must begin the inquiry and oversee the first phase, which produces a dossier of evidence to be sent to Rome.  

The dossier is then examined by Vatican officials, who decide whether the candidate merits official recognition.  If found meritorious, candidates are then declared “Servant of God,” and their writings are examined to determine if they are in keeping with Church teaching. If this is true, then they are proclaimed "Venerable". Following this investigation, a verified miracle and further examination of their life is required, after which they can be beatified, and given the title “Blessed".   Beatification is the last step before canonization, in which the candidate is proclaimed a saint and model for the whole Church.

Cardinal Saraiva Martins said the new document would “respond better to the new spirit introduced by Benedict XVI.”  Pope Benedict XVI has emphasized a clear line between beatification and canonization.  Unlike Pope John Paul II, who also presided over beatifications, Pope Benedict only officiates at canonization ceremonies and delegates beatifications to cardinals.

The new restrictions are expected to diminish the number of candidates proposed to the Vatican for recognition.

Some critics accused Pope John Paul II’s pontificate of recognizing too many saints, saying the quantity helped devalue canonizations.  

Cardinal Martins rejected the notion that the Church became a “saint factory” under Pope John Paul II.  He said those who claimed this understood “nothing about saints.”

Last December, Pope Benedict said saints help make the Church’s message “more credible and attractive,” and that the legacy of the saints “purifies and elevates the mind.”

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Italian politicians promote more restrictive abortion laws in election campaign

, Feb 13, 2008 (CNA) - Italy’s election campaign features a call for a moratorium on abortion and a prominent journalist announcing his pro-life parliamentary candidacy, the International Herald-Tribune reports.

In the race for the country’s top leadership position, front-runner and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi told the weekly magazine Tempi that the United Nations should recognize the right to life from “conception until natural death.”  Berlusconi stressed that members of his center-right coalition could decide on the issue according to their own conscience.

In mid-December, prominent conservative journalist Giuliano Ferrara proposed a universal moratorium on abortion, which drew the support of Catholic officials such as Cardinal Camillo Ruini, papal vicar for Rome.

Ferrara, in his magazine Il Foglio, called abortion the “supreme scandal of our time.”  He proposed the moratorium a day after the United Nations General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution, advocated by Italy, that called for a moratorium on the death penalty.  Ferrara reasoned that a similar moratorium on abortion was necessary because millions of innocents were killed by abortion each year.

On Tuesday, Ferrara announced his candidacy for parliament on a pro-life platform.  He said he did not know if Berlusconi, whom Ferrara once served as minister, would accept him in a center-right coalition.

"The center-right would be the natural place for a list like this," Ferrara told Corriere della Sera, but he explained he would be prepared to run alone for office because of his strong pro-life beliefs.

When Tempi magazine asked Berlusconi about Ferrara’s proposal, he replied, "I think that recognizing the right to life from conception to natural death is a principle that the U.N. could make its own, just as it did with the moratorium on the death penalty."

Center-left political leaders have opposed Ferrara’s proposal for changes to existing abortion law.

Abortion has been legal for the first three months of a pregnancy in state hospitals in Italy since 1978.  After more than three months into a pregnancy, abortion is legal only when the pregnancy is a “grave danger” to a mother’s life.

A 1981 referendum attempted to overturn the law, but Italian voters upheld the abortion license.  

In 2004 136,715 women had abortions, compared with 234,801 in 1982.  Italy has about 58 million people.

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Dutch Catholics label Lent the “Christian Ramadan” to encourage self-denial

Amsterdam, Netherlands, Feb 13, 2008 (CNA) - Saying that many Holland residents are unfamiliar with Lent and its practices of self-denial, some Dutch Catholics are calling the Lenten fast the “Christian Ramadan,” the Daily Telegraph reports.

Some Catholic leaders hope that linking Lent and Ramadan will remind less observant Christians of the “spirituality and sobriety” of Lent.

The Catholic charity Vastenaktie, which holds collections for the Third World all across the Netherlands during Lent, said the liturgical season leading up to Easter needed a more relevant reference point.

"The image of the Catholic Lent must be polished. The fact that we use a Muslim term is related to the fact that Ramadan is a better-known concept among young people than Lent," said Vastenaktie Director, Martin Van der Kuil, told the Daily Telegraph.

During their month-long observance of Ramadan, Muslim believers forgo all food during the daytime and increase their prayer habits.

Catholic Lenten practices were once more ascetical than they are presently, which some attribute to changes that followed the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

Van der Kuil believed the name change would highlight similarities between Christianity and Islam.

"The agreements are more striking than the differences. Both for Muslims and Catholic faithful the values of frugality and spirituality play a central role in this tradition," said Van der Kuil.

Four million Dutch describe themselves as Roman Catholics, while 400,000 attend Mass weekly.  Van der Kuil said only a few tens of thousands still mark Lent by fasting.

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Catholics continue to back McCain

Washington D.C., Feb 13, 2008 (CNA) - As the Potomac region’s votes are finalized, results are showing that John McCain continues to win the votes of Catholics and Protestants in the Republican primaries. 

According to InsideCatholic.com, McCain won the Catholic vote in Maryland 59% to 21% over Mike Huckabee and in Virginia, McCain won over Catholics 73% to 23%. 

Looking at the Protestant vote in Virginia, McCain lost 38% to 49% to Huckabee, but won in Maryland, 51% to 37%. However, when the "born-again" Protestants are scored separately, McCain lost to Huckabee 33% to 54% in Maryland, and 31% to 60% in Virginia.

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Cardinal Ortega: John Paul II’s visit improved relations with Cuban State

Havana, Cuba, Feb 13, 2008 (CNA) - In statements to the state-run television, the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, said the visit by John Paul II in1998 increased the presence of the Church in the country and led to “closer relations between the Church, society and the Cuban State.”

In an unusual appearance on state-run media, Cardinal Ortega remembered the visit by John Paul II noting “he was received with great affection by the people and given an excellent welcome by the leaders of the nation.”

The cardinal pointed out that the upcoming visit by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, on February 20 is a response “to an invitation by the Cuban State and the Church in Cuba.”  His presence will revive “the visit of the Pope in a human sense for all of our people.”

Cardinal Bertone will remain in the country until February 26.  As part of his schedule, he will inaugurate a monument dedicated to John Paul II that has been built in Santa Clara, where the late pontiff celebrated his first Mass on Cuban soil.

According to local officials, the cardinal will also meet with provisional President Raul Castro.

After Pope John Paul II’s visit, the Church was given greater access to prisons and the Christmas holiday was re-established.  However, religious education is still not allowed and the Church has no access to the media.

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San Antonio archbishop not happy about Hillary’s Catholic college visit

San Antonio, Texas, Feb 13, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop José Gomez is speaking out against a planned campaign visit by Sen. Hillary Clinton to a Catholic university in his archdiocese, claiming he was neither advised nor consulted about it.  

 

“I was surprised to learn of Senator Hillary Clinton’s appearance at St. Mary’s University.  I was neither advised nor consulted by the university before the decision was made to allow Senator Clinton to speak at the university.”

 

The archbishop of San Antonio said in a statement that St. Mary’s should not be sending mixed signals. “Catholic institutions are obliged to teach and promote Catholic values in all instances.  This is especially important when people look to our Catholic universities and colleges to provide leadership and clarity to the often complicated and conflicting political discourse.” 

 

Citing a 2004 document published by the Catholic bishops of the United States called “Catholics in Political Life”, the head of the Church in San Antonio pointed out that, “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.  They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

 

Lest anyone think that Sen. Clinton is in agreement with the Church, Gomez said, “It is clear that the records of Senator Clinton and some of the other candidates for president on important life issues are not consistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church.”

 

The archbishop of San Antonio also took St. Mary’s to task for merely stating that, “As a Catholic tax-exempt university, St. Mary’s does not endorse political candidates or their positions on issues and acknowledges the fundamental differences between those of the presidential candidates and the Catholic Church.”

 

“Our Catholic institutions must promote the clear understanding of our deep moral convictions on an issue like abortion, an act that the Church calls ‘an unspeakable crime’ and a non-negotiable issue,” the archbishop insisted.

 

Although Catholic clergy have been accused of telling their flock who they can vote for, Archbishop Gomez explained, “It is not my intention to tell people for whom to vote.”  “However, I encourage Catholics to understand the teaching of the Church on the broad spectrum of public issues that are of great concern, today.”

 

He also called upon the faculty and staff at St. Mary’s “to continue to carry out their responsibility to educate their students in their political responsibility in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

 

Hillary Clinton’s visit to southern Texas is calculated to bring her more of the Hispanic vote as she struggles to revive her flagging campaign. She has scheduled five stops in Texas on Wednesday and Thursday, all in south Texas, where the Latino vote is a huge factor in the state's March 4 primary. 

 

Several key Latino political leaders including U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-San Antonio) have endorsed Clinton's primary opponent, Barack Obama.  Gonzalez’s father, the late Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez, was the first Mexican American elected to the U.S. House and is a celebrated figure among Texas Hispanics.

 

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Historian reveals how Pius IX decided to proclaim dogma of Immaculate Conception

Vatican City, Feb 13, 2008 (CNA) - In an article published by L’Osservatore Romano, Italian historian Francesco Guglietta, an expert on the life of Pius IX, revealed how the Pontiff decided to consult with the bishops of the world to proclaim the dogma of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854.

Guglietta points out that the revolution that ended with the proclamation of the “Roman Republic” in 1848 and that forced the Pope to take up residence for nine months in Gaeta, south of Rome, had a profound effect on the Pontiff, who like Cardinal Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti, had openly sympathized with the European revolutionary movements.

“During this lapse of time, in fact, Pius IX progressively lost trust in the processes of the ‘revolution’ that were taking place in Europe and distanced himself from the liberal Catholic environment, beginning to see in the insurrection movement, as well as in the ‘modernity’ of that time, a dangerous snare for the life of the Church,” Guglietta writes.

The expert points out that “understanding what happened with the thinking of Pius IX in Gaeta is of significant historic relevance” and is an “area of research not yet explored.”  Nevertheless, he said, the Pope’s sojourn in Gaeta was fundamental for his decision of proclaiming the Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

According to tradition, Pope Pius IX spent a long period in prayer in Gaeta before a painting of the Immaculate Conception by Scipione Pulzone preserved in the so-called Chapel of Gold, and that moment of encounter with God convinced him to proclaim the dogma.

However, French historian and professor Louis Baunard said that while gazing upon the Mediterranean from the city, “the Pope mediated on remarks made to him by Cardinal Luigi Lambruschini: Holy Father, you will not be able to heal the world unless you proclaim the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.  Only this dogmatic definition will reestablish the meaning of the Christian truths and bring minds back from the paths of naturalism upon which they have become lost.”

According to Guglietta, naturalism, which rejected all supernatural truth, could be considered the “backdrop” for the Pope’s proclamation of the dogma.  “The affirmation of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin laid a strong foundation for affirming and strengthening the certainty of the primacy of grace and the work of Providence in the lives of men.”

He said Pius IX, despite his enthusiasm, welcomed the idea of consulting with the bishops of the world, who expressed their agreement, leading him to finally proclaim the dogma.

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Bella screening in UK by Knights of Columbus

London, England, Feb 13, 2008 (CNA) - Members of St. George Council 14233 in East Anglia, U.K., sponsored a screening of the movie “Bella” at the Royal Air Force Base in Mildenhall.

The Knights of Columbus are trying to show the movie at other RAF bases in the area to promote the culture of life.

Their first showing had more than 50 people in attendance.

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Sicilian bishop braves Mafia death threats

, Feb 13, 2008 (CNA) - A Sicilian bishop who refused to celebrate the funeral Mass of a mafia boss is under police protection after receiving death threats, BBC News reports.

Crocefisso Emanuello, head of a notorious Mafia family, died of natural causes at the age of 81.  Though the family of the mob boss wanted to hold the requiem Mass in the cathedral of the Diocese of Piazza Amerina, Bishop Michele Pennisi refused.

The funeral was held in a nearby town and conducted by a Franciscan monk.  By police order, there was no funeral oration and many plainclothes detectives were seated among the mourners.

One of Emanuello’s sons had been shot and killed by police in December while he was trying to evade arrest.  Three other sons are in jail serving long sentences for murder and other crimes.

While church leaders in Sicily used to turn a blind eye to Mafia crime in the past, Catholic leaders now maintain strong opposition to it.

"Men of the Church must do their bit to fight the Mafia," said Bishop Pennisi, according to BBC News.

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“Terri’s Day” to help disabled in memory of Terri Schiavo

, Feb 13, 2008 (CNA) - The Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation and Priests for Life have established March 31 as “Terri’s Day” to mark the death of the severely-disabled Terri Schiavo from dehydration after her feeding tube was removed by court order.

The full title of the commemoration is "International Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Terri Schindler Schiavo, and All of Our Vulnerable Brothers and Sisters."  The organizers hope that “Terri’s Day” will foster education, prayer, and activism regarding discrimination against the disabled.  They hope the day will also encourage advocacy for those in situations similar to that of Terri Schiavo and her family.

President of Priests for Life Father Frank Pavone said, "Those of us who were with Terri will never forget her life and her death. For the sake of all the vulnerable, it is critically important that those who never knew Terri likewise remember the lessons that God taught us through her."
 
Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri's sister, said "No family should ever have to witness what my family witnessed, watching a loved one slowly dehydrate to death. We want Terri's day to remind us all that persons with disabilities are never burdens and should be treated with nothing but our unconditional love and compassion."

Both the websites of Terri’s Foundation and Priests for Life host educational information and prayer materials related to the day.  Recommended “Terri’s Day” activities include prayer in remembrance of Terri Schiavo, essay contests about the Schiavo case and right to life issues, volunteering at a nursing home or hospital, and spending time with a disabled friend or relative. 

The websites are located at http://www.TerrisFight.org and http://ww.PriestsForLife.org

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