Archive of June 3, 2008

Catholic MP fights to reduce 24-week abortion limit

London, England, Jun 3, 2008 (CNA) - The fight against abortion continues in the UK, according to the catholic MP who tabled an amendment under the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill.

Edward Leigh, the conservative MP for Gainsborough, tried to reduce the abortion limit in Britain down to the European average of 12 weeks. He made his comments to the Universe after several cross-party proposals for new abortion limits of 12, 16, 20 or 22 weeks were all defeated in a series of free votes at Westminster last week.

Mr. Leigh, who said that Parliament had defied overwhelming public opinion, undertook to continue pushing for later abortions to be outlawed. “If William Wilberforce were here, he would have voted with us,” said Mr. Leigh. “And he worked to abolish slavery for 30 years.”

Mr. Leigh continued: “I am optimistic. We just need to keep the pressure on. Priests, parishes and the Catholic press need to keep the issue alive, especially in the mind of those Members of Parliament who did not vote to reduce abortion at the top end of the limit.”

The MP explained that 80% of Tory MPs voted to reduce the abortion limit and expressed his sadness that MPs voted to keep the 24-week limit. “It is so clear that the baby is fully human at 24 weeks. It is murder,” added Mr. Leigh, who is a father of six.

Mr. Leigh’s remarks echoed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor’s comments in the Daily Telegraph recently, when he said he would keep fighting to change the abortion legislation.

The cardinal said he was determined to see the number of abortions in Britain reduced and added that many people in Britain were “deeply uneasy” that more than 200,000 abortions were carried out each year in the UK, one of the highest rates in Europe.

“The politicians may have cast their votes on the HFE Bill but many people are left feeling deeply uneasy and perplexed about the direction we are now taking. However, it would be wrong for us to think that the debate within society is over – a vote alone cannot close the discussion,” he said.

The cardinal is calling for a national bioethics commission to be established for experts and members of the public to debate the ethics of new research.

The bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O’Donoghue, also added his voice to the fight, saying he was “saddened beyond measure” at the second reading debate.

He said: “Again and again the justification given to experimenting on embryonic human beings or killing the unborn was an appeal to ‘science’ or ‘scientific research’ as if it were the only source of objective, rational knowledge.

“It seems that millennia of ethical and religious thought are lightly dismissed as subjective and discredited.”

“During the 19th century, slavers said black people weren’t human. They were wrong. During the 20th century, the Nazis said Jews weren’t human. They were wrong. Since 1967, the House of Commons has said the unborn are not human. They, too, are wrong.”

Story provided in partnership between CNA and the Universe

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Salvadoran president to receive Path to Peace award

, Jun 3, 2008 (CNA) - The Path to Peace Foundation, an agency established to support the work of the Holy See’s mission to the United Nations, has awarded its 2008 Path to Peace award to Elías Antonio Saca González, President of El Salvador.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Path to Peace Foundation president, said the foundation board had unanimously selected the Salvadoran president for the award.  According to a press release from the Holy See’s permanent observer mission, President Saca was chosen for his efforts in upholding the peace agreements reached between the Salvadoran government and rebel groups.

A former television sports announcer, President Saca has in the past headed the Salvadoran Radio Association and the International Radio Broadcasting Association’s Permanent Committee of Freedom of Speech.  Having become a national opinion leader, he was nominated as the ARENA party candidate for mayor and later was nominated for the presidency.

After taking office in 2004, President Saca introduced legal and fiscal reforms and has traced out a “map of poverty” to assist in anti-poverty programs.

The 2008 Path to Peace Award will be presented to President Saca at a gala dinner held at United Nations Headquarters on June 10.

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Catholic-owned radio station ends non-Catholic programming

Hartford, Conn., Jun 3, 2008 (CNA) - A Catholic-owned radio station in Connecticut has discontinued most of its non-Catholic programming, which ranged from short inspirational spots to recorded worship services or talk shows produced by various area Protestant and Orthodox churches.

The Hartford Courant reports that the non-Catholic churches had been running their shows on the station for 20 to 30 years.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, which owns WJMJ-FM, decided to replace the shows with programming from the EWTN Global Catholic Network, according to archdiocesan spokesman Father John Gatzak.

Father Gatzak said the archdiocese decided the radio station should be used for Catholic evangelization.

"We have an obligation to reach out to our Catholic population," Gatzak said. He added that there was concern within the archdiocese that 80 percent of the station’s religious programming has been produced by Protestant organizations.

Father Gatzak said the station does not intend to cancel the one-minute “think spots” produced by Protestant groups.

A meeting last week informed the non-Catholic churches of the changes at the station, which had been reported months previously.  At the meeting, Father Gatzak agreed to allow producers of the canceled shows to sit on a committee to discuss “truly ecumenical” programming. 

Father Gatzak said he would consider a program that would include a “round-table conversation” between clergy from Episcopal, Congregational, Orthodox and Catholic churches.

The Rev. Shelley D.B. Copeland, president of the Capitol Region Conference of Churches, said there are “a lot of hurt feelings” over the archdiocese’s decision.

"People are grieving," said Copeland, "But as I told the group, you can't reach a place of entitlement with someone who's been your host for 30 years."

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Vatican speaks about papal audiences during food summit

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2008 (CNA) - This afternoon the Holy See’s Press Office clarified Pope Benedict’s decision to not grant an audience to the various heads of state who are in Rome for the U.N. food security meeting, saying that it was due to the large number of requests, the small window of time available and prior commitments.

A statement issued today by the Press Office notes that “certain journalistic suppositions that have been circulating in the media over the last few days,” and that these caused it to issue a clarification on the Pope’s inability to grant an audience.

According to the statement this Holy Father could not meet with the world leaders because of “the number of requests, the limited time available, and prior commitments.”

“In this context, the Cardinal Secretary of State has written personally to each of the leaders concerned, informing them of the Holy Father's disappointment at the impossibility, on this occasion, of meeting them personally, and reaffirming his willingness to receive them on a future occasion.”

The Vatican also underscored an announcement from April 2006 by the Secretariat of State which said that accepting requests for audiences during international conferences and congresses would not be possible for the Pope.

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Argentina and Vatican agree to dialogue and collaboration

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2008 (CNA) - Leaders from all around the world have gathered in Rome for a meeting on food security with an emphasis on climate change and bio-energy. During the course of the meeting, Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone met with the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.


The two leaders discussed "various bilateral questions of mutual interest” and agreed to face the challenges in Argentina “through frank dialogue and in an atmosphere of sincere collaboration.”


The role the Catholic Church has played in Argentina over the last several centuries was also acknowledged, along with the “contribution she continues to make in favor of the spiritual and material wellbeing of the Argentinean people.”


A final topic discussed by Cardinal Bertone and President Kirchner was the food crisis experienced in Argentina recently. The crisis was brought about by a strike by farmers and ranchers who were upset over increased taxes levied by the government on their produce.

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Fight against hunger must become globalized, Pope asserts

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2008 (CNA) - On Tuesday morning in Rome, 50 leaders from around the world gathered at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The heads of state listened as the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone read a message from the Pope, which stressed that the world is more than capable of providing enough food for all. 

Pope Benedict XVI wrote that, "hunger and malnutrition are unacceptable in a world which has, in fact, levels of production, resources and knowledge sufficient to put an end to such dramas and their consequences.”

The solution, which the Pope said is also a challenging one, “is to 'globalize,' not just economic and commercial interests, but also the call for solidarity, while respecting and taking advantage of the contribution of all components of society."

Benedict XVI also repeated his hope that he expressed before the U.N. General Assembly in April: that of overcoming "the obvious paradox of a multilateral consensus that continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few."

After calling on leaders "to collaborate in an increasingly transparent way with ... organizations committed to closing the growing divide between rich and poor," the Holy Father said that they must also “continue with structural reforms which, at the national level, are indispensable in order to face the problems of underdevelopment, of which hunger and malnutrition are direct consequences."

"Poverty and malnutrition are not a simple fatality, provoked by adverse environmental situations or by disastrous natural calamities," wrote the Pope, noting at the same time that "purely technical and economic considerations must not prevail over the duties of justice towards people suffering from hunger."

The underlying motivation for ensuring the “primary right to food” is the “safeguarding and defense of human life," the Pontiff wrote. "Each person has the right to life. Hence it is necessary to promote the effective implementation of this right, and peoples suffering from lack of food must be helped to become gradually capable of satisfying their own need for healthy and sufficient nourishment."

The Pope also tackled the dramatic rise in food prices, saying that the solution lies in “new strategies to fight against poverty and to promote rural development.” Relating this call to the topic of the summit, Pope Benedict noted that these initiatives must involve “structural reform processes which enable the challenges posed by security and by climate change to be faced."

"The global increase in agricultural production will, nonetheless, be effective only if accompanied by the effective distribution of that production, and if it is primarily destined to satisfying essential needs," he said.

Some maintain that technology will be able to solve the food supply issue, but Pope Benedict said that these agricultural advances "are not enough to meet shortfalls in food."

In addition to technology, leaders need to take "political action which, inspired by those principles of natural law written in man's heart, protects the dignity of the individual. ... Only by protecting the person, then, is it possible to combat the main cause of hunger."

If negotiations and decisions were to take respect for human dignity into account, "it would be possible to overcome otherwise-insurmountable obstacles, and to eliminate - or at least diminish - disinterest towards the good of others.”

The Holy Father concluded his letter by saying, "In the light of such principles, it is my hope that the delegations present at this meeting may take on new commitments and set themselves to pursue them with great determination. The Catholic Church, for her part, wishes to unite herself to these efforts."

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Salvadoran archbishop prays for victims of plane crash in Honduras

San Salvador, El Salvador, Jun 3, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador offered his prayers this week for the victims of the plane crash last Friday in Honduras, asking God to bring comfort to their families.

Archbishop Lacalle said he was praying “for the eternal rest of those who died in the accident in Honduras,” that “God our Lord will receive them in His heart,” and for the families, that they would be able to accept what happened and be strengthened by God.

He also said the president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, has taken “appropriate and radical measures to prevent landings at this airport” and to instead divert flights to the military base at Palmerola.

On May 30, a TACA flight from El Salvador carrying 124 passengers and 11 crew members skidded off the runway at the airport in Toncontin onto a busy highway, breaking up into three pieces and smashing cars.

Five people died in the accident, including the pilot, Salvadoran Cesar D’Antonio, the president of the Central American Bank of Economic Integration, Nicaraguan Harry Brautigam, the wife of Brazil’s ambassador to Honduras, Jean Chantal Neele.  In addition, Josue Rolando Aguilar and Gustavo Trochez Unas, both from Honduras, were also killed.  Some 60 passengers were wounded.

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Vatican reaffirms Church teaching on ordination to the priesthood

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2008 (CNA) - The secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Angelo Amato, said this week only men can be ordained to the priesthood because “the Catholic Church is not authorized to change the will of her founder, Jesus Christ."

"Therefore," the archbishop continued, "in the participation in the life and mission of the Church, women cannot receive the sacrament of Holy Orders and therefore, they cannot carry out the functions proper to the ministerial priesthood.”

In an interview with the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, regarding the recent decree by the CDF on the “ordination” of women, Archbishop Amato explained, that the Church’s teaching on this matter is founded upon the “free and sovereign will of Jesus Christ, who only called men to be apostles.” The Church is bound by the decision of the Lord Himself, he stressed.  “For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.” 

Archbishop Amato said the CDF decree was necessary because of “false ordinations of women that have taken place in different parts of the world.  The General Decree is also an aid to bishops to ensure a uniform response in the entire Church to these situations.  In reality these are not true and proper ordinations,” he explained.

The archbishop went on to note that the decree imposes latae sententiae or immediately applied excommunication on those who attempt to ordain women to the priesthood and on women who attempt to receive Holy Orders.  “The excommunication is automatic, ipso facto,” he stated.

Excommunication bars an individual from participating in the Mass and in the other sacraments of the Church and from exercising any kind of Church ministry.  It is “reserved to the Holy See and is lifted when the persons in question show sincere repentance and promise to follow the Church’s doctrine and discipline."

“Excommunication is a medicinal punishment that invites the person to repentance, conversion and reparation of the scandal, as the act in question was a public one,” Archbishop Amato explained.

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Brazilian high court to rule on abortion of anacephalic babies

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jun 3, 2008 (CNA) - Justice Marco Aurelio Mello of the Brazilian Supreme Court said that in the wake of the approval of a law permitting research with frozen human embryos, “the Court is ready to rule on the case” of anacephaly abortions.

According to his opinion column posted on a blog for the Folha de Sao Paulo website, Mello explained that the ruling on embryonic stem cell research “paved the way” for a reconsideration of a law that would legalize abortion in cases of anacephaly, in which a baby is born with a partially or completely missing brain.

Despite the testimonies of cases like that of Marcela de Jesus Galante Ferreira, an anacephalic baby who in September of 2007 was ten months old and surprised family members and observers, as normally babies with this condition do not live longer than three months, Mello said that legalizing abortion in cases such as Marcela’s is “the first step towards a ruling on abortion,” which he hopes the entire court will decide.

Mello also explained that he hopes to hold public hearings on the issue.  It would only be the second time in 198 years that the Supreme Court has held such hearings.  The first instance was over the issue of embryonic stem cell research. 

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Muslims attack Christians with machetes and sticks in Indonesia

Madrid, Spain, Jun 3, 2008 (CNA) - Muslim extremists who are members of the Islamic Defenders Front recently attacked 200 moderate Christians and Muslims who protested for religious freedom in the Indonesian capital, threatening the protestors with death and attacking them with machetes and sticks.  Twelve people were left wounded as the extremists shouted, “Repent or die.”

According to the Spanish daily, “La Razon,” the extremists also attacked children and the elderly who were present at the protest.  Between the years 2004 and 2007, Muslim extremist groups and local governments closed 110 churches in Indonesia.

La Razon also pointed to the case of Habiba Kouider, a Muslim convert to Christianity in Algeria who was arrested and sentenced for having copies of the Bible in her possession.  In addition to her case, seven other Christians are on trial.

The Spanish daily also denounced that in Egypt, two Catholic Coptic priests were wounded by drive-by gunfire against the Monastery of Abu Fana in the southern region of the country.

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Catholics who cannot explain their faith are easy prey for religious sects, warns Fr. Loring

Caracas, Venezuela, Jun 3, 2008 (CNA) - Father Jorge Loring, the famous Spanish Jesuit apologist, said this week Catholics who are not able to give a reason for their faith fall easy prey to religious sects such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Many Catholics are only so in name, he said, “but they don’t know how to defend the faith” or “to give reasons for being Catholic.”  Therefore they are at risk of being deceived by a non-Catholic, the Spanish priest stated during a visit to Valencia in Venezuela.

“Therefore it is very important to have roots in the faith, to have a strong faith that stands up to the winds of the anti-Catholics,” he added.

Father Loring went on to say, “Moral relativism is the ideological cancer of our times,” as “people are fooled by the media because everything goes.”

“On TV we see debates where some say one thing and others say another.  Who has the truth? The truth is not clear, each person has their truth, but not everything is true.  There are some things that are true and others that are false,” he stressed.

Father Loring is author of the book, “Para Salvarte” (To Be Saved), which has sold over one million copies in Spain.

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Bishop of Orlando prays for God’s protection from hurricanes

Orlando, Fla., Jun 3, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop of Orlando Thomas Wenski celebrated a special Mass on Monday asking for God’s protection during hurricane season.  “At the beginning of this hurricane season, we turn to God and pray that we will be spared from the ravages of nature this year,” he said in his homily as he urged the faithful to place themselves under God’s dominion and to turn their hearts to the Lord.

Noting that weather forecasters have predicted an active hurricane season, Bishop Wenski said that area residents have been made more aware of adversity because of recent years’ hurricanes in the area.  The hurricane strikes in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast and the recent cyclone that devastated Myanmar, he said, had also prompted both outpourings of charity and reflections upon what is important in life.

“We have just begun another hurricane season – and two days into the season we have had already a named storm,” Bishop Wenski said. “For the next six months, we will be understandably more anxious every time a new tropical depression forms off the West African coast or in the Gulf.”

“Like the apostles in that storm tossed boast, in our fear we cry out: ‘Save us, Lord.’

“Yes, we rightly pray that God may spare us from nature’s fury. But, in the face of trial and tribulation, we also ask God to strengthen our faith by calming the storms of anxiety and fear that rage within our hearts.”

Bishop Wenski said that Central Florida Catholic Charities is prepared for hurricane disaster response, but he also commented on the unreliability of insurance companies.  “Given the precarious state of insurance policies in this State of Florida, we do well to pray to God that we be spared any serious storms this year,” he said.

The bishop emphasized that prayer is neither an excuse for complacency nor “some magical way” to force God to do our bidding.  Rather, he said, “prayer brings us to place ourselves under God’s dominion and not the other way around. And recognizing God’s dominion – that he is in fact in charge of our lives – gives us confidence to face whatever challenges that lie before us with confidence and trust in his Divine Providence.

“While we pray that God keep the storms away this year, we, in the very act of prayer, also seek to keep our hearts turned to the Lord whatever may happen. In fact, if our hearts are sufficiently turned to the Lord, then we won’t need any calamities to teach us to keep our priorities straight. If our hearts are turned to the Lord, we won’t need the fury of nature to remind us of the brevity of life, or of the importance of persons over possessions.”

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California marriage amendment certified for November ballot

Sacramento, Calif., Jun 3, 2008 (CNA) - California Secretary of State Debra Bowen on Monday certified for the state ballot a measure that would define marriage as “between a man and a woman.”

The certification comes less than a month after the state Supreme Court overturned a ban on homosexual marriage. According to the Sacramento Bee, counties in California are scheduled to begin issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples on June 17.

A coalition of churches and conservative groups, together with attorneys general from 10 other states, is seeking a legal decision that would delay same-sex marriages in the state until after the November election.

The combined spending by both those who support and those who oppose the measure is expected to reach $30 million.

Reaction to the certification of the measure from pro-family groups has been celebratory but also sobered by the fact that the courts had struck down Proposition 22, which became part of California’s legal code in 2000.

 "The future of marriage in California should be determined among the 36 million residents of the State of California -- not by the personal, closed-door deliberation of seven judges," said Rev. Sam Rodriguez, Jr., an Advisory Board Member of the Alliance for Marriage Foundation.

Looking forward to the November ballot, Rodriguez pointed to the Latino community as “the key to protecting marriage in California - and preventing the attack on marriage here from having national fallout."

"For several decades, America has been wandering in a wilderness of social problems caused by family disintegration," added Rodriguez. "Tragically, as bad as our current situation may be, it could soon become dramatically worse. This is because California courts and the legislature are poised to erase the legal road map for marriage and the family from state law."

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School district sued over ban on pro-life T-shirt

Minneapolis, Minn., Jun 3, 2008 (CNA) - A woman is suing a Minnesota school district alleging her 12-year-old son’s First Amendment rights were violated when his teachers forbade him to wear a T-shirt protesting abortion.

Jeanne Ibbitson’s son, identified only as “K.B.”, was repeatedly warned by teachers and administrators of his school that he could not wear pro-life T-shirts to school.  When he continued to try to wear them, they made him turn his shirt inside out.

"My son kept getting singled out," Ibbitson said. "He should be able to wear those shirts at school, and they decided that he can't. It's not right."

One T-shirt read, "Abortion — Growing, Growing, Gone," another read "What part of abortion don't you understand?" and the third had the words "Never Known, Not Forgotten" on the front, with the text "47,000,000 babies aborted 1973-2008" on the back.  Each T-shirt bore photos of unborn children.  All the shirts were ordered from the web site of the American Life League, a pro-life group.

On Wednesday attorneys for the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center filed suit against Independent School District No. 423.  According to the lawsuit, K.B. had decided to wear the T-shirts each day during April, anticipating “National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day” on April 29.

A press release from the Thomas More Law Center alleges more than a dozen incidents in which teachers or administrators told K.B. not to wear the shirts.  In the various incidents K.B. was allegedly singled out for ridicule in front of his classmates, removed from class, sent to the principal’s office, forced to turn his T-shirt inside out and threatened with suspension unless he stopped wearing the T-shirts.

The lawsuit says the boy wore a pro-life T-shirt on April 1, but the next day a teacher told him the shirt was inappropriate for school and could be offensive.  The lawsuit says one teacher threatened to send K.B. to the principal’s office if he continued wearing the shirts because “the message conveyed by his shirt was 'not appropriate for class.'”

The principal reportedly told the boy he could wear one T-shirt, but only on National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day.

The Pioneer Press reports that Daron VanderHeiden, superintendent of Independent School District No. 423, said he had just received a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment on it.  He said the district was seeking legal counsel.

“I don't know the facts of the incident other than what's in here (the lawsuit), and that's their version of what happened,” VanderHeiden said.

Paul Taylor, a Burnsville attorney who is a volunteer with the Thomas More Law Center, claimed school officials violated K.B.’s right to free speech because “they didn’t like the message.”

"The Supreme Court has said students don't check their free-speech rights at the schoolhouse door," Taylor said, according to the Pioneer Press. "The fact is, they were punishing the message."

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented on the case, saying, “This courageous young Christian was ridiculed and threatened by teachers for expressing his deeply held beliefs.  These school officials clearly violated the U. S. Constitution and the school’s own written Dress Policy which specifically states it is not intended to abridge the rights of students to express political or religious messages.”

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