Archive of March 11, 2008

Vatican bishop points to modern social sins

Vatican City, Mar 11, 2008 (CNA) - A Vatican official has listed a set of “social sins” to draw attention to sinful acts that have social ramifications in an interview with the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano. 

The list which includes drug abuse, pollution, and human embryo experimentation spawned sensationalist titles from the secular press such as “Recycle or go to Hell, warns Vatican” or “Seven More Sins, Thanks to Vatican”.

Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, the regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary at the Vatican, examined today’s social sins in an interview published Sunday. 

"While sin used to concern mostly the individual, today it has mainly a social resonance, due to the phenomenon of globalization," said Bishop Girotti.

“You offend God not only by stealing, taking the Lord's name in vain or coveting your neighbor's wife, but also by wrecking the environment, carrying out morally debatable experiments that manipulate DNA or harm embryos,” said Bishop Girotti, according to L’Osservatore.

The bishop classified as social sins drug abuse, "morally dubious" experiments such as embryonic stem cell research, polluting the environment, excessive wealth, contributing to income inequality, and creating poverty.

The seven social sins are:
1. "Bioethical” violations such as birth control
2. "Morally dubious" experiments such as stem cell research
3. Drug abuse
4. Polluting the environment
5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor
6. Excessive wealth
7. Creating poverty

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Planned Parenthood affiliates defraud taxpayers of millions, fired exec alleges

Los Angeles, Calif., Mar 11, 2008 (CNA) - A federal whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former Planned Parenthood executive alleges that nine affiliates in California knowingly engaged in a criminal plot to defraud millions of dollars from state and federal taxpayers over a period of at least six years, the California Catholic Daily reports.

According to one of the allegations, Planned Parenthood used its charitable statues to purchase contraceptives and other medicine at a discount rate.  It then billed the state health program for twelve or more times the purchase price.  The alleged malfeasance cost taxpayers perhaps more than $10 million per year.

Victor Gonzalez, former vice-president for finance and administration of Planned Parenthood-Los Angeles secretly filed the suit in 2005 in a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles under the federal False Claims Act.  The suit was unsealed earlier this week following a review by the U.S. attorney’s office.

Gonzalez, who worked for Planned Parenthood from December of 2002 until March of 2004, alleges he was fired for bringing "illegal accounting, billing and donations practices” to the attention of his superiors.  The lawsuit alleges that Planned Parenthood’s irregular billing practices began in the late 1990s and continued until 2004, when the organization persuaded the state legislature to change the law, allowing it to bill the higher rates.

“The complaint documents what we believe is evidence of extensive, organized fraud by Planned Parenthood in California,” Jack Schuler, Gonzalez’s attorney, told the California Catholic Daily.

Schuler elaborated saying that “A previously buried and ignored California Department of Health Services 2004 Audit, which found more than $5 million in egregious over-billing in two years by the San Diego/Riverside Planned Parenthood affiliate, is an extraordinary indictment against Planned Parenthood." He characterized the case as "the ultimate Hollywood movie set façade of a corporation that poses as charitable while grossly over-billing government programs funded to service the needy, not the greedy." "I would not be shocked that criminal prosecutions might follow,” he added.

Schuler also claimed that Planned Parenthood brought contraceptives at a deep discount rate, “then billed the state Medi-Cal program for 12 or more times their purchase price.”  He said this practice was against both federal and state law.

In a separate wrongful termination lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Gonzalez makes similar charges specifically involving the purchase of the contraceptive device NuvaRing at government-subsidized discounts and its sale at a massive markup.

“The effect of this at [Planned Parenthood-Los Angeles] is overcharging the State of California and self-pay patients approximately $2,000,000 per year,” the lawsuit alleges. “This has been going on for a number of years, and is prevalent with all the other California [Planned Parenthood] affiliates. As a result, the overcharging exceeds $10,000,000 per year.”

Gonzalez said he brought his concerns about the overcharging practices before other Planned Parenthood executives.  He claimed that both Planned Parenthood-Los Angeles and the Sacramento-based Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California were “attempting to stopgap this violation.”

Gonzalez has also alleged that Planned Parenthood-Los Angeles advanced about $12,000 to Planned Parenthood Affiliates California “to cover expenses for lobbying and advocacy.”  He alleged the loans are “simply a subterfuge to support a whole team of people who advocate for specific issues and specific candidates in contravention of IRS guidelines” for non-profits.

He has said that Planned Parenthood-Los Angeles often misused grants and donations from private, corporate, and charitable sources.  Employees of the organization, he claims, also misused corporate credit cards.

Gonzalez further claims that Planned Parenthood-Los Angeles provided “doctored and rosy financial projections” to obtain a $400,000 state-financed loan for a South Los Angeles Clinic.

“We believe the evidence is overwhelming that Planned Parenthood clearly knew the law and then willfully and repeatedly violated it,” said Schuler.

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Catholics could swing Pennsylvania Democratic primary

Washington D.C., Mar 11, 2008 (CNA) - Catholic voters are expected to play a key role in the Pennsylvania Democratic Party presidential primary, the New York Sun reports.

Catholics could compose up to one third of voters in the important April 22 election.

Exit polls from past presidential primary elections indicate that Catholics have preferred New York Senator Hillary Clinton to Illinois Senator Barack Obama by a margin of up to 65 percent.  Even the majority of Catholic Democrats in Senator Obama’s home state of Illinois voted for Senator Clinton.

"The consistent polling has been that the bedrock of her strength is Catholic Democrats," said Brian O'Dwyer, a Clinton supporter who heads the National Ethnic Democratic Leadership Council.

While some have attributed Senator Clinton’s lead among Catholics to her success among Hispanic voters, she won the majority of white Catholics’ votes in Ohio and Rhode Island.

Senator Obama won the Catholic vote in Vermont, but with a thin margin of victory.  Obama supporters note that he has won some states with sizable Catholic populations, such as Missouri and Louisiana.

Obama's director of religious affairs, Joshua DuBois, downplayed concerns about the senator’s low support among Catholics.  DuBois said the campaign would be "aggressively and robustly reaching out to Catholics" in coming weeks.

"There's no concern there, because this introduction is just getting started," DuBois said, according to the New York Sun, "and as more and more Catholics get to know who Senator Obama is and what he stands for, we are 100% confident that he will be the candidate for Catholic voters, not just in the primary but on into the general election."

Obama’s campaign has actively reached out to Catholic Democrats.  In February Senator Obama sent a letter to thousands of nuns across the country.  The campaign also held several “community faith forums” in Ohio, including two directed at Catholic voters.  The forums featured former Indiana congressman Timothy Roemer and Victoria Kennedy, the wife of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy.

The reasons for Senator Clinton’s success among Catholic Democrats are unclear.  "We've not picked up anybody who says, 'I'm a Catholic, and I'm voting for Hillary,'" said political scientist G. Terry Madonna, who directs the Franklin and Marshall Poll in Pennsylvania. 

Madonna said that Clinton’s success could be due to several factors.   He suggested that working-class Catholic voters respond favorably to Clinton’s "bread and butter table talk" about issues like health care and the economy, but not to Senator Obama’s rhetoric about a “new kind of politics.”

The possibility that Catholic Democrats could cross over to vote for the Republican presidential candidate, Arizona Senator John McCain, has also become an issue.   According to the New York Sun, O’Dwyer said that Obama’s poor showing among Catholics “spells disaster for the Democrats if Obama were the nominee.” 

Michael Tobman, a Democratic consultant who supports Obama, denied that Catholic Democrats would vote in large numbers for McCain.  However, he said Senator McCain, who self-identifies as a Baptist, could have an advantage with Irish Catholics.

"For nothing more than his last name, McCain starts with a leg up in the Catholic community," Tobman said.

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Pope Benedict XVI greets Christendom College and blesses cornerstone

Rome, Italy, Mar 11, 2008 (CNA) - At Wednesday’s Papal audience on March 5, Pope Benedict XVI personally acknowledged Christendom College in his address and then blessed a marble cornerstone for the planned addition to Christendom’s Christ the King Chapel. Later that evening the College celebrated its thirtieth anniversary with a reception for its many friends in Rome.
“I extend particular greetings to the visitors from Christendom College,” Pope Benedict XVI said at the close of his address. “May this Lenten season purify your hearts and renew your faith and your hope in the mystery of Christ our Redeemer. God bless you all!”
Following the address the Holy Father came down to greet the many pilgrims. “Ah, Christendom College!” the Pope said as Christendom College Chairman of the Board Donna Bethel and President Timothy O’Donnell introduced themselves.
O’Donnell then presented an artist’s rendition of the planned chapel renovation. “It’s very beautiful,” the Pope said.  He blessed the drawing and then blessed the cornerstone.
Members of Christendom’s Board of Directors, faculty, and staff were joined by others on a 10-day pilgrimage to Rome celebrating the college’s 30th anniversary.  Christendom’s students enrolled in its Semester in Rome Program also attended the audience along with the pilgrims. All of them were given special tickets by Francis Cardinal Arinze, a good friend of the college.
That evening 50 representatives of the college, including board members, faculty, staff, alumni, and students enjoyed a reception celebrating the college’s 30th anniversary at the historic Hotel Columbus. Francis Cardinal Arinze, Renato Cardinal Martino, Bernard Cardinal Law, United States Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, Vatican Radio Director Sean Lovett, and Scripture scholar Scott Hahn were among the many in attendance.
“Paul VI once cried out at an audience and repeated, ‘Where is the love for the Church?’ Christendom College is a response to that cry,” O’Donnell said during remarks at the reception. “During a time of infidelity and betrayal in the Church, Christendom has risen to be a place where faith and reason thrive—a place that is training future leaders of the Church who will go out and restore all things in Christ.”
Alumna Joanie Watson gave an address to those in attendance.  “At too many institutions of higher learning, you are taught what to think. At Christendom, you are taught how to think,” she said.
Cardinal Arinze and Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls will join the college as it hosts a 30th Anniversary Celebratory Gala Dinner and Dance at the Washington-Dulles Hilton on April 19. For more information about this event please visit

Printed with permission from Christendom College

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Cardinal Bertone praises religious tolerance in Azerbaijan, opens Nunciature

Vatican City, Mar 11, 2008 (CNA) - Despite a state of emergency in Armenia shortening his visit, Cardinal Bertone has successfully completed his trip to Armenia and Azerbaijan. The major theme of the visit was a focus on inter-religious harmony.

Interestingly, the visit by the cardinal followed in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, who visited the countries in 2001 and 2002 respectively.

In Armenia, Cardinal Bertone met with His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and gave him a Letter from Benedict XVI in which the Pope expressed his hopes for peace in the country and for continuation along the path of ecumenism. The cardinal also met with representatives of the Catholic community of Armenia, which is a minority in the country.

On March 6, Cardinal Bertone began the second stage of his journey, traveling to Azerbaijan where, in the capital city of Baku, he presided over the opening of the church of the Immaculate Conception, which was shut down by the Soviets 70 years ago.

In his remarks at the opening ceremony, Cardinal Bertone said that the presence of the church is a sign "of true religious tolerance" in a land with a Muslim majority. "Civilization rests on a rock that is concrete-the serene coexistence of different religions," he added.

One of the most symbolic moments of the cardinal's visit to this former Soviet republic –which is 94.3 percent Muslim—was his visit to the mosque of Baku. Allashukur Pashazade, head of Muslims in the Caucasus, received the cardinal in his residence in the presence of religious leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Jewish community.

After visiting the mosque, Cardinal Bertone participated in a prayer of welcome at the Russian Orthodox cathedral where he expressed the hope that, as soon as possible, "the visible unity of the Church may be expressed". He then went on to visit the synagogue of Baku.

Religious tolerance was also a theme for the Cardinal Secretary of State’s meeting with the head of Azerbaijan's Foreign Affair Ministry (FAM), Elmar Mamedyarov. After meeting with Mamedyarov, Cardinal Bertone announced that the Vatican would be opening a Nunciature in Baku. According to Interfax, he praised “the current religion traditions in Azerbaijan and the state policy in religion affairs” in his announcement about the new diplomatic ties.

The final event of the secretary of State's visit to Azerbaijan was his celebration of Mass on March 9 at the newly constructed Immaculate Conception church, where he addressed words of encouragement to the Catholic community of the country. The church has been built on land donated to John Paul II on his 2002 visit by President Heydar Aliyev, father of the current head of State.

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Vatican art from past centuries to be displayed in Rome

Vatican City, Mar 11, 2008 (CNA) - "'Magnificenze Vaticane' Masterpieces of Art from the Collections of the Fabric of St. Peter's" is an exhibition due to be inaugurated this afternoon at Palazzo Incontro in Rome.  The display will feature never seen before Vatican artworks from the 14th to 20th centuries.

The exhibition, which will remain open until May 25, is being promoted by the Province of Rome and by the European Centre for Tourism and includes more than 130 works restored and examined by experts who recovered them from storage in the Vatican Basilica. "Magnificenze Vaticane" is divided into various interrelated but autonomous sections including architecture, painting and sculpture.

The announcement states that the “aim of such a precise distinction is to show the diversity of works at a single site (the basilica of St. Peters) and to bear witness to the quality of workmanship even in fields usually held to be of lesser importance". The overarching goal is to reveal the variety and creative ability of the main figures on the Roman artistic scene who in all times - from the 14th to the 20th century - aspired to leave their mark on the Vatican Basilica."

The exhibit will help visitors to experience art of past ages. "The papal basilica of St. Peter's in the Vatican, universally known as the center of Christianity, houses a vast number of important monuments, the fruit of the abilities and creativity of the greatest artists of all ages. Yet before their sparks of genius were immortalized in stone or bronze, there was a phase in which the work of art was planned and assessed. The rediscovery of traces of this precious heritage of the past ... is the theme of this great and unique exhibition," the announcement says.

The announcement also recalls that the Fabric of St. Peter's was established by Julius II in 1506 to oversee the various phases of the building of the new basilica and to guarantee its subsequent maintenance.

Among the little-known works on display will be a roll of damask with the arms of Pope Alexander VII, pyramidal reliquaries by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, candelabra and crosses purchased by Pope Pius IX from the king of Naples, and a series of eighteenth-century altar hangings in silk and gold.

The 1400s are represented in the sculpture section with the Four Evangelists by Mino da Fiesole and Giovanni Dalmata, while the Baroque is present in the form of works attributed to Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Alessandro Aligardi.

In the painting section, fragments and frescoes from the interior of the basilica of St. Peter's will be on display for the first time.

Documents from the General Historical Archive of the Fabric signed by Benevenuto Cellini, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, Bernini and others will also be on show.

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Nuncio in Iraq prays for health and quick release of kidnapped archbishop

Baghdad, Iraq, Mar 11, 2008 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq and Jordan, Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikat, expressed his concern over the state of health of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, who was violently kidnapped on February 29.  He also pleaded for his quick release.

“While we are comforted by the solidarity of the authorities, we are very concerned.  We haven’t had any news for the last two or three days. We would like to at least hear his voice. We also fear that he was wounded during the bloody kidnapping,” Bishop Chullikat said, according to a report in L’Osservatore Romano.

The nuncio also noted that Archbishop Faraj Rahho “is ill.  Last year he underwent a delicate surgical procedure and needs medical attention.  Certainly he cannot endure a long captivity,” he said.

In Baghdad the signs of solidarity continue to appear. At the Latin-rite Catholic Cathedral, the leaders of the Christian churches in Iraq are praying together for the release of the archbishop.

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Spanish bishops congratulate Zapatero over triumph in elections

Madrid, Spain, Mar 11, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, and its secretary, Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, have offered their congratulations to President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who was re-elected on Sunday.

In a letter Cardinal Varela and Bishop Martinez Camino assured Zapatero of “our prayers that the Lord will grant you his light and his strength in carrying out the important responsibilities commended to you by the Spanish people, in the service of peace, justice, freedom and the common good of all citizens.”

Likewise, they expressed their “personal willingness and that of the Bishops’ Conference to collaborate sincerely with the legitimate authorities of the State in order to better serve the common good.”

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Buenos Aires legislature confers award on transsexual on Women’s Day

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 11, 2008 (CNA) - In order to mark International Women’s Day, the legislature of Buenos Aires decided to confer honors on twenty Argentinean women who “broke the traditional molds,” including a transsexual activist.

The transsexual activist underwent an operation in a public hospital and last year received an official ID under the name of Alejandra Portatadino. Currently she works in the law division of the Argentinean Homosexual Community.

The twenty women who were honored “stand out for their contribution to the advancement of women’s rights and the elimination of gender stereotypes,” the legislature said.

Among the honorees was also Elena Reynaga of the Association of Harlots, militant feminist Susana Gamba and Estela de Carlotto of the Grandmothers of May Square.

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Almsgiving unmasks idolatry of money, says Mexican cardinal

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 11, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, said this week that “almsgiving helps us unmask the idolatry of money” and “reminds us that we are only administrators and not owners of what we have.”

During his Sunday homily, the cardinal said almsgiving teaches people to be humble when it is not practiced it in an “arrogant or showy way,” adding that “it purifies us and opens us to God.”

“The poor, for us Christian disciples of Jesus, cannot be only statistics or diagnostics, no matter how harsh or alarming or necessary they may be,” Cardinal Rivera said, exhorting the faithful to receive the call of Pope Benedict XVI to “be converted to God by serving the poor and bringing back the meaning of almsgiving.”

After noting that the fifth Sunday of Lent is charity Sunday, the cardinal stressed that “an attitude of conversion towards the poor manifested in concrete choices and gestures is needed.” Otherwise, “our option for the poor runs the risk of being simply theoretical or emotional.”

“We are asked, therefore, to dedicate time to the poor, to be kind to them, to listen attentively to them, seeing them as friends with whom we can spend hours, weeks or years of our lives, and seeking with them the transformation of their situations,” he emphasized.

Cardinal Rivera said the Church’s option for the poor is made concrete through the organization Caritas, adding that “in its most Christian and ‘baptismal’ sense, we are all Caritas,” as “we all are the Church as Samaritan and servant of the poor.”

“May our collaboration with Caritas, through our almsgiving, also be the expression today of our Lenten conversion, of our journey towards Easter,” he said in conclusion.

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University of Notre Dame president approves V-monologue performances

South Bend, Ind., Mar 11, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the University of Notre Dame, Father John Jenkins, CSC, announced on Monday that he has approved campus performances of the play The Vagina Monologues from March 24 through March 26.

The sexually explicit play favorably describes lesbian activity, group self-abuse, and hedonistic sexuality.  One scene depicts the lesbian seduction of a teenage girl, which is described as the girl’s “salvation.”

The play is co-sponsored by the university’s anthropology department.

In a Monday press release, Father Jenkins wrote, "I am well aware that the performance of this play will upset many.”  He said it was “particularly painful” for him that Bishop of South Bend-Fort Wayne John D’Arcy and many Notre Dame alumni disapproved of the decision.

"At the same time,” he said, “others are upset at the restrictions on this performance-that there will be no fund-raising, that a panel must follow each play and include a sympathetic and thorough presentation of Catholic teaching.”

"My decision on this matter,” Father Jenkins said, “arises from a conviction that it is an indispensable part of the mission of a Catholic university to provide a forum in which multiple viewpoints are debated in reasoned and respectful exchange--always in dialogue with faith and the Catholic tradition--even around highly controversial topics. Notre Dame's policy on controversial events rests on the conviction that truth will emerge from reasoned consideration of issues in dialogue with faith, and that we will educate Catholic leaders not by insulating our students from controversial views, but by engaging these views energetically, in light of Catholic teachings.”

Father Jenkins referenced a common policy he and the university’s department heads had agreed upon.  The policy says that part of the purpose of a university is “to foster the free and open discussion of controversial issues.”  It states that all involved in a controversial event must ensure it has academic merit, multiple viewpoints, appropriate balance, and a reasoned and respectful exchange of ideas.  Event sponsors must make clear that their sponsorship is not an endorsement, and if the event is relevant to a significant issue of Catholic teaching, a knowledgeable presentation of Catholic teaching must be included in the event.

Patrick Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society, criticized the decision to host the play.

“The announcement comes as a grave disappointment given the status Notre Dame holds as America’s most prominent Catholic university—albeit not the most consistent in its Catholic identity,” said Reilly. “This play is a scandal in every sense of the term.”

“Reasonable consideration of issues—even of perversity—can hardly mean that a Catholic university should put perversity on display and scandalize its students. Catholics have been discussing and lamenting this play for seven years. It’s time to move on to both a new discussion and much better campus entertainment,” he said.

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Pakistan bomb attack kills 24, damages Catholic cathedral

Lahore, Pakistan, Mar 11, 2008 (CNA) - A bomb attack on a government building Tuesday killed 24 people, including two children at Catholic schools, and damaged the Catholic cathedral and other nearby Catholic buildings in Lahore, Pakistan.

Two students at two different nearby Catholic schools were killed in the blast, which injured more than one hundred people, according to UCA News.

The bomb exploded at 9:30 a.m. outside the multistory offices of the Federal Investigation Agency.  It caused serious damage to Sacred Heart Cathedral, Sacred Heart Cathedral School, St. Anthony’s College, St. Paul Communication Center, the Caritas Lahore building, a Catholic press, a nun’s house and a catechists’ house.

Father Morris Jalal, a parish priest among the volunteers assisting at the scene of the attack, told UCA News, "Life has become totally unsafe nowadays."  He insisted that "dialogue with the violent groups is the only way out."

Archbishop of Lahore Lawrence Saldanha felt the blast from his room, which overlooks the area of the attack. "These are attempts to destabilize the country," the archbishop said.

Archbishop Saldanha related that he hoped that the new government elected in February would “resolve the issue through dialogue.”

Another bomb attack occurred simultaneously in the Model Town area of the city, injuring several people. 

Muslim militants have been targeting government buildings in suicide bomb attacks.  Last year, reportedly more than 500 people were killed in similar attacks around the country.

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