Archive of May 18, 2008

Claims Bob Schaffer ignored forced abortions lack evidence

CNA STAFF, May 18, 2008 (CNA) - Republican Bob Schaffer is hoping to capture a senate seat in Colorado, but his campaign has been dogged by accusations that he ignored forced abortions during a Northern Marianas Islands trip in 1999. According to diocesan officials in Chalan Kanoa, they have received no solid evidence that forced abortions had in fact occurred.  

The controversy surrounding the 1999 visit first began last month when Colorado Right to Life accused Schaffer of turning a blind eye to reports that textile workers on the islands were being forced to have abortions.

Another pro-life group, American Right to Life Action, an offshoot of Colorado Right to Life, called on Schaffer to admit that he dismissed the allegations.

"The pro-life movement will no longer give a pass to candidates like Bob Schaffer who look the other way when Chinese women are forced to abort their children," Steve Curtis, the head of American Right to Life Action, said in mid-April.

Schaffer, however, was adamant that he looked into the forced abortion claims.

When he returned from the trip 1999 trip to the North Marianas, he told the Denver Post that, “he found factory working conditions generally satisfactory.” Schaffer later added that “allegations of forced abortions were among the things he looked into on that trip.”

"I absolutely did not look the other way on this issue," Schaffer insisted. In fact, he said that during his trip he interviewed ‘dozens’ of workers and met with local religious leaders about the topic.

One 1998 report from the U.S. Office of Insular Affairs found squalid living conditions for foreign workers in the Marianas. Investigators also said that at least one woman claimed that her company forced her to abort her child upon discovering her pregnancy.

Schaffer said that he “found the reports credible" and had “not seen them refuted."

During the five days that he spent on the islands in 1999, the legislator told the Denver Post that he tried to determine how often abortions occurred and to track down anyone with knowledge of forced abortions occurring.

Yet, according to Schaffer, every religious or public official he talked to could only say that they had heard the rumors that forced abortions were occurring, but that they never discovered any actual evidence or had anyone come forward with a claim.

When contacted by Catholic News Agency, Angie Guerrero, Karidat Social Services’ director, confirmed Schaffer’s assertion that evidence on forced abortions is lacking.

“We have heard that (of the claims of forced abortions), but none of the alleged victims have come out and said that they were forced to have abortion. So that’s all hearsay, because we can’t prove it; they’re only allegations,” she said.

As director of Karidat Social Services, Guerrero is familiar with the abortion situation throughout the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, which includes the islands of Saipan, Rota and Tinian. Her office is currently working on a program to assess the number of abortions occurring in the region, but as of yet does not have exact figures.

The same case regarding the claims of forced abortions was presented by several other sources contacted by CNA. Some people cited the fact that abortions do occur on the islands, but that they the mothers chose to abort their children.  

CNA also attempted to contact Chalan Kanoa’s Bishop Tomas Camacho, but he is indefinitely off-island being treated for medical problems.

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California Chaldeans receive 3,000 Assyrian Christians into Catholic communion

San Jose, Calif., May 18, 2008 (CNA) - One week ago today leaders of the Chaldean Catholic Church in California formally received into communion a bishop of the Assyrian Apostolic Church of the East, his clergy, and about 3,000 Assyrian Christians.

The Assyrian Church, centered in modern-day Iraq, dates back to the earliest days of Christianity.  According to the California Catholic Daily, the church eventually embraced the teachings of Nestorius, the fifth-century Archbishop of Constantinople whose doctrines were condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 431. 

Beginning in the sixteenth century, large numbers of Nestorian Assyrians came into union with Rome, forming the Chaldean Catholic Church.  Today, the Chaldean Church is larger than the Assyrian Church.

Assyrian Bishop Mar Bawai presided over the western Assyrian diocese based in San Jose, California.  According to the California Catholic Daily, he was disciplined by the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Apostolic Church for a November 2005 paper defending papal primacy.  His paper, titled “The Position of the Church of the East Theological Tradition on the Questions of Church Unity and Full Communion” argued for the necessity of papal primacy.

Suspended by the synod, he formed the Assyrian Catholic Apostolic Diocese with loyal clergy and faithful.

The California Catholic Daily reports that the new diocese began to draw closer to the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of St. Peter the Apostle, which is based in El Cajon.  On January 17, 2008, clergy of the Assyrian Catholic Apostolic Diocese adopted a “Declaration of Intention” at a meeting in Dublin, California.  The declaration said they intended to “enter full communion with the Catholic Church” and “resume church unity with the Chaldean Catholic Church.”

On March 28, Chaldean and Assyrian clergy met at the Cathedral of St. Peter in San Diego, where they recited a Catholic profession of faith before the altar. 

Six priests, over 30 deacons and subdeacons, and some 3,000 lay faithful joined Bishop Mar Bawai in entering full Catholic communion.  The union was solemnized May 10-11 at St. Thomas Church in Turlock and at St. Matthew Church in Ceres.

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Pope tells young people to trust in Mary

Genoa, Italy, May 18, 2008 (CNA) - At a meeting with young people in the northern Italian city of Savona, Pope Benedict XVI recited the Angelus prayer with the young people and invited them to trust in Mary. He recalled the words the Virgin Mary spoke to shepherd Benedict Pareto in the year 1400 urging him to build a shrine on Mount Figogna, the place where she appeared.

Benedict Pareto, according to tradition, was worried because he did not know how to respond to Mary’s invitation to build a church in a place so remote from the city.  The Pope repeated the Virgin Mary’s words: “trust in me! With me in your midst you will not fail. With my help everything will be easy. Only keep your will firm. Trust in me!”

“This, Mary repeats to us today,” Pope Benedict said.  “An ancient prayer, very dear in popular tradition, makes us turn in confidence to You with these confident words, that today we make our own: ‘Remember, O Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, sought your help or implored your intercession was left abandoned.’

“It is with this certainty that we invoke the motherly care of Our Lady of the Guard on your diocesan community, its pastors, consecrated persons, the lay faithful: young people, families, the elderly.  To Mary we entrust the entire city, with its diverse population, its cultural, social and economic problems and challenges of our times, and commitment of those who cooperate for the common good.”

Turning to the unique heritage of the region the Pope said, "Together with you, I thank God for the strong and tenacious faith of past generations that, during the centuries have written memorable pages of holiness and human civilization. Liguria and Genoa in particular, has always been a land open to the Mediterranean and the whole world: how many missionaries departed from this port for the Americas and other distant lands!"

After the Marian prayer, the Pope directed his attention to Monday’s Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions, a meeting in Dublin convened in order to produce a convention against the deadly weapons.  He said the conference was an “important event.”

"I hope that, thanks to the responsibility of all participants, we can reach an international instrument that is strong and credible: it is indeed necessary to remedy past mistakes and prevent recurrence in the future," Pope Benedict said.

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True youthfulness is found in Jesus, Pope Benedict says

Genoa, Italy, May 18, 2008 (CNA) - Speaking to a crowd young people huddled under umbrellas in Piazza Matteotti, the main square of the northern Italian city of Savona, Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday offered his words of encouragement and blessing to the city's enthusiastic youth.  Telling the crowd that friendship with Jesus ensures true youth, he exhorted them never to remain "old inside."

"Dear young people, unfortunately, the rain followed me in these days, but let us take it as a sign of blessing, fertility for the land, even as a symbol of the Holy Spirit who comes and renews the earth, the earth dry of our souls," he began.

The Pope invited youth to "Always be young."  He stressed that "real youth" is not a matter of age or efficiency, being cool, or following "mythical figures," but is instead about being "good and generous."

The Holy Father said that Jesus is "genuine goodness." He added that, unfortunately, many young people are "old inside.” While not lacking in earthly goods, they are missing the one thing that is important, the "someone that really fills the soul." He said there are those too, who want to stay young at all costs and mask themselves in youth, even though the time of youth is visibly past.

While the future holds much promise for youth, he said, it is also a time of uncertainty and anxiety.

"The youth have the whole future ahead of him. Everything is the future - time of hope. And the future is full of promises. To be honest, we have to say that for many the future is also unclear. ‘Will I find a job? Will I find a house? Will I find love? What will be my real future?' And before these threats the future may also appear as a great void. So many want to stop the time for fear of a future in a vacuum.  They want now to consume all the beauty of life - and so the oil lamp is consumed when life would begin. It is important to choose the real promises, which open to the future - even with disclaimers. He who chooses God still has in old age a future without end and without threats."

Jesus, Pope Benedict said, is the fundamental choice for all who wish to remain young.

"He alone is the friend who never betrays, faithful to the gift of life on the Cross. Surrender to his love! …He alone can dissolve your worries and your fears and fulfill your expectations. He gave his life for us, every one of us."

The Pope said to really know Jesus, it is not enough to remain at a distance. Rather, he said to the crowd of young people, "you must follow him closely, not from afar. We must meet him in prayer, sacramental life, in the Gospel …in the great communion of the Church, in the encounter with the poor."

"Only then, knowing Jesus personally can communicate our friendship to others. We can overcome indifference. Because even when it appears sometimes that we are invincible and indifferent, and it seems that there is no need for God, in reality everybody knows that something is missing in their lives. And only having discovered Jesus do we come to understand: ‘this is what I was expecting.’ And the more we become friends of Jesus, the more we can open our hearts also to others, because they too become really young."

At the end of his meeting with the young people, the Pope encouraged young people to prepare for World Youth day and to be missionary witnesses of the Gospel among their families and communities through prayer, reconciliation, and true fraternal love.

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