Archive of May 16, 2008

Catholic student group’s pregnancy support campaign banned at university campus

Queensland, Australia, May 16, 2008 (CNA) - A Catholic student group at the University of Queensland has been censored and threatened with disaffiliation from the school’s student union because student union leaders believed the group’s “pro-woman” and “pro-pregnancy” campaign took a stand against abortion.

As part of a pregnancy support campaign, the Newman Society at the school displayed a poster and distributed leaflets that bore a photo of an eight-week old fetus in the womb.  

According to The Australian, a disciplinary hearing run by the student union’s clubs and societies committee has banned the Newman Society from again displaying the material on a booth outside the student café.  The society was placed on 12 months’ probation and must submit all future material to three officials, including the student union president, for approval.

Newman Society secretary Elise Nally, a third-year applied science student, said the union’s action was totalitarian and against free speech.

"I'd like to know what laws we've broken," Nally said. "The union is acting like a dictator."

Student union president Joshua Young, who is associated with the Liberal Party, described the reasons for the decision.

“I know the Newman Society thinks the union is being heavy handed, but the student union voted in 1993 for free, safe abortion on demand so all women have a genuine choice when faced with unwanted pregnancy,” he said.

A minority of the university’s 30,000 students voted in the 1993 referendum.  According to The Australian, Young said the vote was about 1900 in favor of abortion rights, 1400 against, and 200 abstaining.

When asked if the vote precludes other views being advocated in campus debate, Young said “It does.”

Camillus O’Kane, national president of the Australian Catholic Student Association  (ACSA), criticized the decision in a statement. 

“If the truth becomes something we can simply vote for, it becomes a weapon that can be used against others. This is why freedom of speech is one of the guiding principles of our society,” O’Kane said.  “It is a shame that this incident has occurred at one of Australia’s leading universities, a place of learning where we should be able to express our views freely.”

The ACSA said in a statement that pro-life groups had been active at the University of Queensland for five years after the student referendum’s passage in 1993 and no disciplinary action was taken against them.  The ACSA argued that the referendum only established the school as a pro-choice campus, and did not require any particular viewpoint to be suppressed.

Elise Nally, the secretary of the University of Queensland’s Newman Society, is also national treasurer of ACSA. 

In the ACSA statement, she said, “university can be a time when young women might be faced with the difficult challenge of an unplanned pregnancy. Those women not only deserve compassion, but also support.”

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Texas priest resigns new post after complaints about homosexual web site

Dallas, Texas, May 16, 2008 (CNA) - A priest in the Diocese of Dallas on Tuesday resigned from his new post at St. Michael the Archangel Church in McKinney after complaints about his past participation on an Internet site for homosexual priests.

Father Arthur Mallison had been working at the church for several weeks after being transferred from a previous parish where he had served for years.  According to the Dallas Morning News, his transfer prompted a widely circulated internet item, which reportedly described the priest’s history with the web site and questioned whether he would drive families from his new parish.

Father Mallison’s involvement in a no longer operating web site for homosexual priests briefly surfaced in news reports in 2002. 

Annette Gonzales Taylor, communications director for the Diocese of Dallas, said Father Mallison told the diocese that he had contributed to the site, which included his photo, when its purpose was to support gay priests in a celibate lifestyle.  He said he stopped contributing to the site in 2001 after others began posting pornographic material.

Taylor said that the diocese had heard from a “small faction” of McKinney parishioners, but received many more complaints, generated by the internet posting, from across the country.

Father Mallison resigned in a brief letter sent to Bishop Kevin Farrell.

The priest, Taylor said, “felt [resigning] was in the best interest of the parish, his family and the diocese.”  She said Father Mallinson remains a priest in good standing and will be in contact with the diocese about another assignment. 

"He was a very effective pastor in Lancaster, to our knowledge – very well-liked and respected," she said, according to the Dallas Morning News.

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Pro-abortion group endorses Obama over Clinton

, May 16, 2008 (CNA) - A national pro-abortion advocacy group has endorsed Illinois Senator Barack Obama over rival New York Senator Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion “rights” organization, announced its political action committee’s endorsement on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.  The group has supported Clinton throughout her career.

"Pro-choice Americans have been fortunate to have two strong pro-choice candidates in Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, both of whom have inspired millions of new voters to participate in this historic presidential race," NARAL president Nancy Keenan said in a statement. "Today, we are proud to put our organization's grass-roots and political support behind the pro-choice candidate whom we believe will secure the Democratic nomination and advance to the general election. That candidate is Senator Obama."

In addition to its support for legalized abortion, NARAL often opposes conscience protection laws for pharmacists and emergency room doctors who object to dispensing the so-called “Plan B” emergency contraception on the ground it could endanger a newly conceived child.

In a dispute over one such law in Wisconsin, Bishop of Madison Robert C. Morlino accused NARAL and its allies of being “more interested in promoting a state-supported, contraceptive ideology than they are in simply, reasonably, protecting women.”

Speaking to NBC Nightly News, Senator Clinton responded to NARAL’s endorsement of her opponent.

“I am disappointed because of the work that I've done for so many years,” she said.  “I'm proud to have the support of, you know, many other groups that — share my — views and my commitment to issues. But we're going forward.”

The endorsement has divided legalized abortion proponents.  Ellen Malcolm, president of the EMILY's List organization that promotes female pro-abortion candidates, criticized the endorsement. 

“I think it is tremendously disrespectful to Senator Clinton — who held up the nomination of an FDA commissioner in order to force approval of Plan B and who spoke so eloquently during the Supreme Court nomination about the importance of protecting Roe v. Wade — to not give her the courtesy to finish the final three weeks of the primary process," she said in a statement. "It certainly must be disconcerting for elected leaders who stand up for reproductive rights and expect the choice community will stand with them.”

Both Obama and Clinton hold similar positions on abortion. 

In a July 2007 speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Obama pledged that he would not yield to pro-life concerns.  When he held office in the state legislature, he opposed a state law that would have protected newborns who survived failed abortions.  The Illinois senator has also opposed any restrictions on the practice of partial-birth abortion

According to the Associated Press, officials with NARAL said its political committee board was about evenly divided between Obama and Clinton supporters.  The board eventually voted unanimously to support Senator Obama.

Officials said the decision was not meant as a snub of Clinton.  They said they backed Obama because he is overwhelmingly favored to win the nomination.   They believe he can heal what the group sees as a growing rift between black voters and white female activists the long Democratic nomination contest may have created.

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Pope composes prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan

Vatican City, May 16, 2008 (CNA) -

Pope Benedict has composed a prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan to celebrate the Day of Prayer for the Church in China, which will be observed on May 24.

In a letter written to the Catholic Church in China last year, the Holy Father expressed his hope that May 24, the memorial of Our Lady Help of Christians, who is venerated at the shrine of Seshan in Shanghai, would become a day of prayer for the Church in China.

The full text of the English-language version of the Holy Father's prayer is given below:

"Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother, venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title 'Help of Christians,' the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection. We come before you today to implore your protection. Look upon the People of God and, with a mother's care, guide them along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

"When you obediently said 'yes' in the house of Nazareth, you allowed God's eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption. You willingly and generously co-operated in that work, allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul, until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary, standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

"From that moment, you became, in a new way, the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith and choose to follow in His footsteps by taking up His Cross. Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter. Grant that your children may discern at all times, even those that are darkest, the signs of God's loving presence.

"Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China, who, amid their daily trails, continue to believe, to hope, to love. May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world, and of the world to Jesus. In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high, offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love. Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love, ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built. Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!"

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Proclaim the Gospel amidst the challenges of globalization, Pope says

Vatican City, May 16, 2008 (CNA) - On Friday the Holy Father received bishops from the Church in Thailand and addressed them concerning the condition of the Catholic Church in their care. Besides speaking about the need to respond to the challenges of globalization, the Pope urged the bishops to loudly proclaim the Gospel, even as the culture coarsens. 

Pope Benedict began his talk with the prelates by speaking about the good relationship the Church has with Buddhists. "The coexistence of different religious communities,” he said, “today unfolds against the backdrop of globalization.”

Globalization presents the Church with both challenges and positive developments, the Pope noted. On the positive side, “there is the growing multitude of economic and cultural bonds which usually enhance a sense of global solidarity and shared responsibility for the well-being of humanity,” but “on the other there are disturbing signs of a fragmentation and a certain individualism, ... pushing the transcendent and the sense of the sacred to the margins and eclipsing the very source of harmony and unity within the universe.”

These negative outcomes of globalization should be fought by the Catholic Church in cooperation with the Buddhists by promoting “mutual understanding concerning the transmission of traditions to succeeding generations, the articulation of ethical values discernible to reason, reverence for the transcendent, prayer and contemplation,” the Pope said.

"The outpouring of the Spirit is both a gift and a task, the presentation of Christ and His love to the world," the Holy Father told the bishops. He praised the fact that "in Thailand, that gift is encountered particularly through the Church's medical clinics and social works as well as through her schools."

However, Benedict XVI stressed that the Thai Church must have schools that impart the faith, and as part of that, he appealed to the bishops to tell “the many men and women religious who diligently serve in Catholic institutions of learning in your dioceses” that their role “should not primarily be a role of administration but of mission.”

“It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that religious remain close to the students and their families, most especially through their classroom teaching of the catechism for Catholics and others interested, and through moral formation and care for the spiritual needs of all in the school community." He also called on religious congregations to ensure that schools "become increasingly accessible to the poor who so often long for the faithful embrace of Christ."

Another challenge for the small Catholic Church in Thailand is to ensure that the task of spreading the Word of God is not left to catechists alone. "It is the ministry of your priests," the Pope told the prelates, “to 'announce the divine word to all' and to 'labor in preaching and teaching.'"

The Holy Father finished by thanking the Thai Church for its efforts “to uphold the dignity of every human life, especially the most vulnerable. Of particular concern to you is the scourge of the trafficking of women and children, and prostitution.”

“Undoubtedly,” he said, “poverty is a factor underlying these phenomena, and in this regard I know much is being achieved through the Church's development programs.” 

"But there is a further aspect which must be acknowledged and collectively addressed if this abhorrent human exploitation is to be effectively confronted. I am speaking," the Holy Father concluded, "of the trivialization of sexuality in the media and entertainment industries which fuels a decline in moral values and leads to the degradation of women, the weakening of fidelity in marriage and even the abuse of children."

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Holy See adheres to ozone protection treaties

Vatican City, May 16, 2008 (CNA) - The Holy See has fulfilled its obligation to the Convention of Vienna for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, and to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations in New York, deposited the document of adherence before the U.N. Secretary General on May 5.

In English-language remarks, Archbishop Migliore explained that with this gesture "the Holy See desires to encourage the entire international community to be resolute in promoting authentic co-operation between politics, science and economics. Such co-operation, as has been shown in the case of the ozone regime, can achieve important outcomes, which make it simultaneously possible to safeguard creation, to promote integral human development and to care for the common good, in a spirit of responsible solidarity and with profound positive repercussions for present and future generations."

"The Holy See, by means of the solemn act of accession, intends to give its own moral support to the commitment of States to the correct and effective implementation of the treaties in question and to the attaining of the mentioned objectives. To this end, it expresses the wish that by recognizing 'the signs of [an economic growth] that has not always been able to protect the delicate balances of nature,' all actors will intensify the aforesaid co- operation and strengthen 'the alliance between man and the environment, which must mirror the creative love of God.'"

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‘Defend family values,’ Benedict XVI exhorts

Vatican City, May 16, 2008 (CNA) - Upon receiving representatives of the Forum of Family Associations and the European Federation of Catholic Family Associations today, the Holy Father addressed the needs of the family while bringing to mind the words of Pope John Paul II, “the future of humanity passes by way of the family.”

Pope Benedict addressed the representatives participating in the conference entitled: “Alliance for the Family in Europe, associations in the leading role,” recalling how the conference aims to raise “the awareness of political leaders and public opinion on the central and irreplaceable role that the family plays in our society.”

The Holy Father also noted that 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of Paul VI's Encyclical "Humanae vitae," and the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the "Charter of the Rights of the Family," presented by the Holy See in 1983.

The Charter of the Rights of the Family is “principally addressed to political leaders” but it is also directed at families.  The charter “offers those invested with responsibility for the common good a model and a point of reference upon which to base appropriate political legislation for the family” while encouraging families to “come together in the defense and promotion of their rights.”

Benedict XVI emphasized the family’s importance by citing John Paul II, "the Pope of the family," who said that "the future of humanity passes by way of the family.”  Pope Benedict added that all of Biblical history is “an expression of a story of love, a story of alliance with God and with mankind. This is why the story of love and union between a man and a woman in the alliance of marriage was taken up by God as a symbol of the history of salvation.”

Turning to consider the difficulties facing families in the modern world, the Pope noted that in families today, “we hear a cry for help, often an unconscious one, which clamors for a response from civil authorities, from ecclesial communities and from the various educational agencies.”

This must be recognized through a “common commitment to support families by every means available, from the social and economic point of view.”

Among the initiatives of the conference, the Holy Father praised the family-friendly fiscal policy, which aims to “promote family-related policies that give parents a real possibility of having children and bringing them up in the family.”

The Pontiff concluded by exhorting members of the conference to “help families to be a visible sign of this truth, to defend the values which are written in human nature itself and which are therefore common to all humanity: life, the family and education. These are not principles deriving from a [particular] confession of faith but from the application of a justice respectful of the rights of each human being.”

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Educational reform should not be politicized, Mexican bishops say

Mexico City, Mexico, May 16, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico said this week educational reform must not be politicized and must have as one of its primary goals the promotion of the best teachers possible.

In a statement signed by conference secretary, Bishop Jose Leopoldo Gonzalez, the bishops recognized the invaluable contribution of teachers “to the formation of the future generations, and consequently, to the progress of our country.”  Children and young people learn “to socialize and develop their abilities” at school, they said.

The bishops also pointed to the failures in Mexican education, such as the high drop-out rates and the lack of quality teaching.  “The quality of education is perhaps the most serious problem we face.  Just as going to school and learning are not synonymous, neither are having a degree and being professional competent,” they said.

Therefore, the bishops continued, in response to proposed educational reform, “The Church believes that what is most important is that all voices be heard, but most especially those of teachers.”

They went on emphasize the training of teachers as an important factor in “overcoming the problems of education in Mexico,” thus ensuring that Mexican schools are always staffed by the best teachers.

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Pope reaffirms Church’s stance against homosexual marriage

Vatican City, May 16, 2008 (CNA) - One day after California overturned a ban on same-sex marriage, the Holy Father has firmly stated that only marriage between a man and a woman is moral.

Yesterday, California’s Supreme Court came to a 4-3 decision overturning the state’s law preventing homosexuals from being recognized as married.

While the Pope did not directly mention the ruling in California in his address to the Forum of Family Associations and the European Federation of Catholic Family Associations, Benedict XVI stressed the importance of the traditional family for the good of society.

"The union of love, based on matrimony between a man and a woman, which makes up the family, represents a good for all society that can not be substituted by, confused with, or compared to other types of unions," he said.

He continued by speaking of the rights of the traditional family, "founded on matrimony between a man and a woman, the natural cradle of human life." Mention of the need to defend the family is not uncharacteristic for Pope Benedict, but his statement takes on particular relevance following the California ruling.

In the same address, the Pope emphasized the family’s importance by citing John Paul II, "the Pope of the family," who said that "the future of humanity passes by way of the family.”

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Renowned dissident calls on international community to push for real change in Cuba

Havana, Cuba, May 16, 2008 (CNA) - The coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba, Oswaldo Paya, has sent a letter to the Brussels Conference—organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Schumann Foundation—calling on the international community to support initiatives that will lead to democratic change in Cuba.

In his message, Paya denounced the Cuban government, whose spokesmen continue to use “the same insulting, falsifying and threatening language” in referring to those who are seeking change on the island.

“Its repressive bodies continue to harass civic activists and, with all the resources of totalitarianism, denying the fundamental rights to all Cubans,” he said, calling attention as well to the inhumane conditions suffered by political and common prisoners in the country.

While this situation of oppression remains others dedicate themselves to offer an amplified and forced image of opening, creating an entire virtual world of change which the government itself has yet to announce,” he went on.

“No one wishes more for real change than the Cuban people themselves,” Paya said.  “No one works in a more transparent and peaceful way for this change than the fighters for human rights. It is not our spirit to deny the value of what may be positive but to deem some measures and maneuvers as real change is to close the doors of the future on our people and condemn them to live without rights—burying them in lies.”

“Christian Democracy is not ambiguous,” Paya said, “in fact, it takes it cues from above; in human people themselves, the sons of God. Those ideas, those values and those goals can be summarized in a single irreducible category: liberation. That option for you neighbor, for his liberation, has been the inspiration of our peaceful struggle inside of Cuba.”

“Our disposition to dialogue is authentic but until now the government has responded with fatal arrogance of someone who believes in having all the power and to whom charity is being asked of,” he said.

“Cubans have the right to have their voice heard at the polls, to have recognized in the laws and in practice their rights. This road began with the Varela Project, that legal and citizen reclamation continues today and will do so until it reaches its goals,” Paya explained.

“Some say that we must wait until the next presidency of the United States to see changes in the policy towards Cuba and believe that this is how changes will be produced in Cuba,” he continued.  “We do not have to wait for changes outside of Cuba to change what we have to change ourselves. That is our challenge and obligation.”

“We have the right to rights because we are human beings, but only ourselves, only Cubans, can and must achieve the peaceful changes that we wish to enjoy. Many of our brothers are in prison solely for defending these rights peacefully. But that is not only an internal matter, which is why these rights are universal and to deny them to one person is to injure all of humanity, of which we all are family,” Paya insisted.

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Movements challenge “tired Christianity” of many, says Cardinal Rylko

Rome, Italy, May 16, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, said this week that faced with the “tired and discouraged Christianity” of so many Catholics, the new ecclesial movements and communities “are a challenge to live the faith with joy and enthusiasm” and to propose “a great missionary passion for the fallen-away and for the new areopagos of modern culture.”

The cardinal made his comments during an interview with Vatican Radio in the city of Rocca di Papa where bishops from around the world are attending a seminar on the new movements and meeting with their founders and leaders. 

He recalled that Pope Benedict XVI has called on the Church’s pastors to welcome and embrace the new charisms as part of the God’s salvific plan.  Both for the current Pope and Pope John Paul II, he said, the new movements constitute “a providential gift for our times and a great sign of hope for the Church and for humanity.”

Cardinal Rylko said that during the seminar, the bishops hoped to “understand together the ecclesial and theological force of this phenomenon which never ceases to amaze many because of the fruit it bears in the lives of so many of the laity—men and women—in the Church of our time: fruit of extraordinary missionary strength and holiness of life.”

“We will also reflect on what our pastoral response to this gift should be: how to welcome it in the local churches, in parishes, so that we don’t waste this extraordinary spiritual resource that the Holy Spirit offers us,” the cardinal said.

During the opening Mass of the seminar, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, stressed that the Church’s pastors need to know how to guide the new movements.  “And they will be able to do so if they let themselves be guided docilely by the Holy Spirit,” he said.

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Holy See: Food crisis solution must avoid both greed and ecologic extremism

, May 16, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, said today that both mere economic interests as well as ecological extremism must be avoided to solve the spike in food prices that is affecting poor nations.

Speaking before at the 16th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development on Friday, the Apostolic Nuncio stressed "our important responsibility as governmental leaders to point the way forward to addressing the many issues of sustainable development and to find the means for building a better future."

"The world is currently facing a challenge of meeting this very goal in the form of a global food crisis.  This crisis reveals the delicate and interlinking nature of agriculture, rural development, land reform, drought and desertification, and presents a daunting yet important and urgent task to policy makers and civil society," he added.

Archbishop Migliore said that the current food crisis "should not be measured merely by the rise in costs throughout the international food markets", but also by "the physical, mental and spiritual cost of those who are unable to provide for themselves and their families."

Addressing the food crisis, he said, requires "avoiding reducing the dialogue to self-interested and ideologically driven economic and environmental extremes."

"While the current food crisis presents an immediate threat to development, society must continue to address persisting and imminent challenges such as climate change, harmful agricultural subsidies, fair trade, environmental degradation and land reform," he concluded.

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