Archive of April 4, 2008

McCain won’t change pro-life, marriage planks in GOP platform

Santa Anna Pueblo, Apr 4, 2008 (CNA) - Advisers to Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for the presidency, have denied rumors that the senator will try to “soften” the Republican party platform on abortion and same-sex marriage, the Washington Times reports.

McCain associates told the Washington Times that his allies are not working behind the scenes to remove party planks calling for constitutional bans on abortion and homosexual marriage before the GOP convention in September.

The party’s positions are revised and released in the platform immediately before the nominating convention.

An adviser to the McCain campaign, speaking to the Washington Times on conditions of anonymity, called “dead wrong” a rumor among conservative activists that Bobby Kilberg would mastermind the Republican convention. 

Critics consider Kilberg to be a liberal on social issues.

"Bobby Kilberg will have nothing to do with the platform," the adviser said. "Do you think we are crazy? Why would we want to change the platform?"

The source for the Washington Times said longtime Republican operative Maria Cino would manage the convention under the direction of Mike Duncan and the Committee on Arrangements.  “It has been the case for more than a year and will not change,” the source said.

The Republican Party’s 2004 platform opposes homosexual marriage, saying, “the well-being of children is best accomplished in the environment of the home, nurtured by their mother and father anchored by the bonds of marriage.”

The party plank on abortion says "the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life, which cannot be infringed. ... Our purpose is to have legislative and judicial protection of that right against those who perform abortions."

Previous Republican nominees, such as former Kansas Senator Bob Dole, have tried to change the party’s positions, acting in the belief that the changes will appeal to more voters.

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Scottish cardinal attacks “hype-filled” hybrid embryo research

London, England, Apr 4, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of Edinburgh and leader of Scotland’s Catholics, has written an editorial for a British newspaper criticizing the “hype-filled” claims used to advocate the creation of human-animal hybrid embyros.  He described the hybrid research itself as involving “grotesque procedures.”

Writing in the Wednesday issue of the Guardian, Cardinal O’Brien said, “I think it is time we deployed a great deal more rigor when listening to the hype-filled claims of those who experiment upon and destroy human life at its most defenseless.”

He said that claims about the hypothetical potential of human-animal hybrid research had been made for almost a decade, “without any substance.”

“As the years have gone by, not one single treatment or therapy has emerged,” the cardinal said.  He claimed that research using adult stem cells has led to over 70 therapies and treatments “without destroying a single embryo.”

Cardinal O’Brien emphasized that scientific research must have ethical limits.  “Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done,” he said.  “The question of scientists' responsibility towards humanity is today painfully pertinent as they tamper with human life in its earliest incarnation.”

The cardinal noted his own background as a graduate in the sciences made him understand many of the processes by which scientific understanding advances.  He said he believed “strongly” that scientific research “must always serve the public good.”

Other countries, he noted, had banned the creation of human-animal hybrids.

“France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Australia have all banned the grotesque procedures we seek to legalize. Could it be that the citizens and politicians of those countries care nothing for the chronically ill among them?”

“Or could it be that we are wrong and these democracies see no reason to attack the sanctity and dignity of human life when many alternatives exist?” the cardinal asked.

The cardinal also cited a recent opinion poll reporting that 67 percent of Britons are completely opposed to the creation of human-animal hybrids.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown last month said that human-animal hybrid research would ensure that “lives will be saved” and “treatments and cures will be available.”  Cardinal O’Brien said such statements are “not only complete scientific fantasy, but are blatantly untrue.”  The cardinal said that they were a “cruel deception” to sick persons and their families.

Cardinal O’Brien cited a recent statement of molecular biologist Dr. David King, who said, “There is abundant evidence that even if stem cells are obtained (from hybrid embryos) they will be so abnormal as to be useless."

The cardinal accused the prime minister of “making hopelessly inaccurate statements on scientific matters he clearly doesn't understand,” and urged him to meet with scientists in the field.  The cardinal offered to facilitate such a meeting, and then repeated his call to fund “both ethical and effective” adult stem cell research.

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Supreme Court to hear New Age park memorial case

Washington D.C., Apr 4, 2008 (CNA) - The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case in its next term to decide whether a Utah city must allow a monument to be installed in a public park by a New Age group that promotes pyramids, mummification, and sexual ecstasy, Cybercast News Service reports.

This week Supreme Court justices agreed to hear a case involving a Salt Lake City-based religion called Summum, whose founder claims to have been visited by “highly intelligent beings.”  The group, arguing on First Amendment grounds, has sought to erect a monument to its “Seven Aphorisms” alongside a monument to the Ten Commandments in a public park in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld a lower court decision forcing the city to permit Summum adherents to install their monument.

Brian Barnard, the Salt Lake City attorney representing Summum, said he expects the high court to uphold the decision.

"It's a matter of simple fairness," Barnard said to Cybercast News Service. "If you allow one group to do it, you've got to allow every group to do it."

Summum, according to the IRS, is a religion that is virtually unknown outside of Salt Lake City and certain internet groups.

According to the group’s web site, Summum is based on Gnostic Christianity and Egyptian practices.  It promotes as a funeral rite a modern form of mummification and advocates “sexual ecstasy” as a way of knowledge.

The religion was founded in 1975 by a former Mormon named Claude “Corky” Rex Nowell.  Nowell said he received a series of visits from “highly intelligent beings,” or “Summa individuals,” who gave him higher knowledge.

Nowell legally changed his name to Summum Bonum Amon Ra.  Amon Ra was the ancient Egyptian god of the Sun, while “summum bonum” is a Latin phrase meaning “highest good.”

Nowell is usually referred to as “Corky Ra.”

Summum adherents meet and meditate in a pyramid-shaped temple in Salt Lake City.  They manufacture and use a wine-like beverage they call “nectar.”  The group also uses a symbol of a pentagram within a pentagon within a circle, which they call a “Divine Logo.”

According to Cybercast News, the Seven Aphorisms that the Summum adherents wish to memorialize are: “correspondence,” “vibration,” “opposition,” “rhythym,” “cause and effect,” “gender,” and “psychokinesis,” which the group defines as the idea that the mind is the universe.

The attorney for the city of Pleasant Grove was pleased the appeal would be heard.
"We're delighted that the Supreme Court agreed to take this critical case," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing the city.

Sekulow said that the case did not involve the Supreme Court’s 2005 decisions on the Ten Commandments.  In those cases the justices ruled that officials could allow religious displays on public property so long as the overall presentation was religiously neutral.

"This is not about the Establishment Clause. They have already lost on that," Sekulow told Cybercast News Service. "The issue is the freedom of speech -only, it's really about the government's freedom to speak."

The city of Pleasant Grove will argue that “mayhem” would result if every city, county, or state is forced to allow alternatives to be set up alongside government-sponsored monuments.  The city has considered removing the Ten Commandments monument entirely.

"That's like saying, if you have a Veterans of Foreign Wars monument in a city park, you should have to allow an anti-war group's monument to go up, too," Sekulow said, according to Cybercast News Service.

Sekulow argued that if the court rules in Summum’s favor, cities with memorials to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will face challenges from racist groups citing the decision as precedent to have their memorials erected alongside those to Dr. King.

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Church moves to allay fears over prayer for Jews

Vatican City, Apr 4, 2008 (CNA) - Following the publication of the new prayer for the Jewish people in the 1962 Missal, reaction from some corners of the Jewish community said that the prayer was anti-Semitic. Today, the Vatican’s Press Office issued a statement assuring the Jewish community that the prayer “in no way intends to indicate a change in the Catholic Church's regard for the Jews”.

The statement from the press office explained the reaction to the modified prayer from some Jewish leaders and said that they “expressed disappointment that it is not in harmony with the official declarations and statements of the Holy See regarding the Jewish people and their faith which have marked the progress of friendly relations between the Jews and the Catholic Church over the last forty years".

The Vatican went on to say that "The Holy See wishes to reassure that the new formulation of the Prayer, which modifies certain expressions of the 1962 Missal, in no way intends to indicate a change in the Catholic Church's regard for the Jews which has evolved from the basis of the Second Vatican Council, particularly the Declaration ‘Nostra Aetate’.”
“Nostra Aetate” is a declaration that was issued by Pope Paul VI in 1965 that addresses the relationship between the Catholic Church and non-Christian religions. Among other notable statements in the document, it contains a condemnation of “hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”

The Holy See also pointed out that, “in an audience with the Chief Rabbis of Israel on 15 September 2005,” Pope Benedict “remarked that this document has proven to be a milestone on the road towards the reconciliation of Christians with the Jewish people.”

According to the Vatican, proof that “Nostra Aetate” has been its consistent policy is marked by the fact that “the prayer contained in the 1970 Missal continues to be in full use, and is the ordinary form of the prayer of Catholics".

Besides reiterating that the Church continues to hold the beliefs of “Nostra Aetate”, the statement emphasized that the Catholics have an “unwavering desire that the concrete progress made in mutual understanding and the growth in esteem between Jews and Christians will continue to develop".

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Pope thanks Papal Foundation for helping alleviate suffering

Vatican City, Apr 4, 2008 (CNA) - Every year, members of the U.S.-based Papal Foundation embark on a trip to Rome to meet with the Holy Father and present him with a donation. This morning, Benedict XVI received 150 members of the foundation in an audience and thanked them for their support.

The Pope expressed his gratitude to this institution, headed by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, for the "generous support the Papal Foundation offers through aid projects and scholarships which assist me in carrying out my Apostolic Ministry to the universal Church".

The aid that the foundation provides to the poor led the Pope to think of the story of the disciples at Emmaus and to emphasize that their encounter with the Risen Lord "turned their sorrow into joy, their disappointment into hope". "Their testimony of faith instills in us the firm conviction that Christ lives in our midst, bestowing the gifts that empower us to be messengers of hope in the world today".

"The very source of the Church's service of love, as she strives to alleviate the suffering of the poor and weak, can be found in her unwavering faith that the Lord has definitively conquered sin and death; and that in serving her brothers and sisters, she serves the Lord himself until he comes again in glory," the Pope added.

During the course of the audience, the members of the foundation presented the Holy Father with a check that comes from the interest generated with investments made by the foundation. The foundation members also gave Pope Benedict the first edition of the "Saint John's Bible", the hand-written and illuminated Bible commissioned by St. John's Benedictine Abbey in Minnesota (USA) from the artist Donald Jackson.

The Papal Foundation, which was created in 1990 to provide the Holy See with a stable source of income, has delivered over 41 million dollars to the Pope, which he uses to help those in need around the world.

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Constitutional Court in Chile outlaws morning after pill

Santiago, Chile, Apr 4, 2008 (CNA) - The Constitutional Court of Chile has voted 5-4 to outlaw the distribution of the morning after pill.

According to the newspaper La Tercera, the swing vote was cast by Justice Mario Fernandez, the former defense minister of the government of Ricardo Lagos.

“By prohibiting the morning after pill from the public health system, Chile would be the fifth country in the world, together with the Philippines, Ecuador, Uganda and Costa Rica, not to have it, according to a survey of 206 countries,” the newspaper reported.

The final text of the ruling has yet to be released, as the justices are wrapping up their opinions.

The high court’s decision could also affect the legality of the inter-uterine device and oral contraceptives, which lawmakers have also requested to be excluded from the public health program.

Thirty two pro-life lawmakers requested that all abortifacient methods of contraception be excluded from the country’s health care program and be declared unconstitutional.

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Cardinal Castrillon calls on FARC to free hostages in honor of JP II

Bogotá, Colombia, Apr 4, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Dario Castrillon has called on the Marxist rebel group FARC in Colombia to free former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and all the other hostages still being held in honor of the Servant of God, John Paul II, to mark the third anniversary of his passing.

“Almost as a homage to the memory of this Pope of peace” who “loved Colombia so much, I would say to the FARC commanders that out of Christian love, out of their convictions of faith, they would think about releasing Ingrid and the other captives in their hands right now,” the cardinal told RCN radio.

He noted that the FARC’s second in command, Raul Reyes, who was killed in a recent military operation, had spoken to him “over the phone not long ago” and asked the cardinal what he wanted of the FARC as a member of the Catholic hierarchy.

“I told him: ‘I would ask that you think about peace, because I am sure that your own family wants it,” the cardinal said.

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Racism can be defeated, says Vatican archbishop

Geneva, Ill., Apr 4, 2008 (CNA) - During the seventh session of the Human Rights Council, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva, told the advisory committee that racism and discrimination can be overcome via “concerted practical measures” such as education.

At the session, which lasted from March 3-28, Archbishop Tomasi affirmed that while we all have rights, "to each right corresponds a duty. In this interaction of rights and duties and in the pursuit of the common good, communities are formed and protected."

This is why, he added, "the task then is to provide an enabling environment where the person can flourish without undue discrimination. Religious freedom, in many ways, is a symbol of this type of environment that sustains both individual persons and the community."

While speaking to the council the following day, the archbishop pointed out the importance of ensuring that all persons share human rights.  “The question of pluralism in contemporary societies and the fight against racism can find a solution in an environment where the persons enjoy all human rights, civil and political as well as social, cultural and economic."

The modern notion of tolerance alone will not suffice in the fight against racism, he continued.  “Everyone should acknowledge both the difference and the equality with the other person to find solutions to the practical problems of living together."

Archbishop Tomasi assured the council that the battle against racism and intolerance can be won through “concerted practical measures” such as education.  “Education that favors mutual knowledge, that builds confidence and sustains the implementation of human rights, can serve as a critical vehicle for effective dialogue.”

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Estranged from God, man turns against man, says Spanish bishop

Madrid, Spain, Apr 4, 2008 (CNA) - In a statement to mark Pro-Life Day in Spain on March 31, Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona said when God is suppressed from human existence, “life becomes a struggle of egos in confrontation with each other, in which the strongest rules over the weakest until these are eliminated,” because “estranged from God, man turns against man.”

The bishop emphasized in his message that the struggle to defend life is the task of every person, “and just as endangered species are protected, today it is urgent that human life be protected from its beginnings until its natural end, because it is in danger.”

“There is an erroneous, widespread mentality today, even among believers, that abortion is a woman’s right,” Bishop Fernandez stated.  “This way of thinking has led to more than 100,000 legal abortions in Spain each year, and more than one million babies, since the law on abortion was passed, have not been born because they were killed in the wombs of their mothers. It’s hard to believe that we have grown accustomed to these numbers,” he said.

“This is a silent war,” he continued, “that violently takes more and more lives, while many couples who would like to adopt a child have to go to who knows where and spend huge amounts of money to do so. Last year, we heard the news of late-term abortions and even the idea of abortion on demand and that up to six months the fetus should be considered a simple piece of flesh that can be thrown in the trash.”

The bishop also addressed the issue of embryo research.

Every human being has the right to be born “from the loving embrace of his or her parents, and not from manipulation in science labs. The union of the sperm and the egg should take place in the womb and not in a petri dish.” At the very point of this fusion a new person comes into existence, he added.  “No matter how much science progresses, there are some things that are sacred.”

Bishop Demetrio also warned against euthanasia: “Nobody can suppress the life of another or help him to die or plan another’s death. The end of life is determined by God and Him alone,” he said.

“Medicine can help relieve the suffering of death with palliative care, but in no case can the death of somebody be planned.  In our Western society, we cannot tolerate death, and therefore we can’t tolerate life when it has become difficult,” Bishop Demetrio asserted.  “For the believer, death is the passing to a better life, to heaven. But that belongs to God alone,” he said.

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Women who have had abortions to share testimonies during pro-life congress in Guatemala

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Apr 4, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Guatemala is organizing a conference entitled “Life and Dignity of the Human Person,” which will be held April 3-5 and will include testimonies from women who have undergone abortions and have suffered from post-abortion stress syndrome.

The conference will take place at the Archdiocese of Guatemala City’s seminary and will begin with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Pablo Vizcaino Prado, president of the Bishops’ Conference.

Among the topics to be addressed at the conference are in vitro fertilization, stem cells, abortion, contraception, sexuality and human dignity.

“There will also be testimonies from women who have had abortions and have repented, who went through the terrible post-abortion stress syndrome and who today are important pro-life leaders,” the Fides news agency reported.

Speakers at the event will include Father Thomas Euteneur and Adolfo Castaneda of Human Life International, and Dr. Alejandro Leal, president of the Association for the Defense of Life in Costa Rica.

The conference will conclude with a march led young people and a concert by pro-life Catholic artists.

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Foundation proposes opening museum on abortion in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Apr 4, 2008 (CNA) - The director of Fundacion Vida in Spain, Manuel Cruz, said his institution has proposed the opening of a Museum on Abortion as a means of “educating people, especially university students and young people from schools and institutes,” as “very few know what [abortion] is.”

“We want to show the instruments that are used, the kinds of abortions, the places where abortions are performed in Spain and testimonies from women who had abortions,” Cruz said.

In Spain “there is a lot of talk about abortion,” he said, “but very few know what it really is, how abortions are performed, and neither have they listened to the experiences of women who have suffered from them.”  For this reason, “a stand on abortion could be very educational,” he added.

Cruz recalled that “from a human and moral point of view, abortion causes serious harm to thousands of women who suffer in silence in Spain, and to all of society.”  The killing of “human beings has become a business whose sales volume in our country is estimated to be $81 million.”

“Showing the reality of abortion is not enough to end this inhumane practice,” he went on, because in a society “awash in so much moral relativism” and “radical feminism,” and where “the practice of abortion occupies such a central place, it is difficult to be constructive.”

Cruz said abortion is “just as evil as or worse than the Nazi holocaust.  The thing is that very few pictures of the thousands of dead fetuses are shown, and abortion itself leaves women who have experienced it completely unable to speak about it.”


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