Archive of July 9, 2008

Scholars divided on interpretation of ‘Gabriel’s Revelation’ tablet

Jerusalem, Israel, Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - A tablet with messianic overtones reputedly from before the time of Christ has become a topic of debate in biblical and archaeological circles. While one scholar claims the find could “shake our basic view of Christianity,” a Catholic Professor of Scripture suggests the tablet is actually evidence for the historical probability of Christian belief.

The three-foot tall tablet bears 87 lines of Hebrew which speak of a messiah who will suffer and rise from the dead after three days. The tablet was probably found near the Dead Sea in Jordan and has been characterized as a “Dead Sea Scroll in Stone,” the International Herald-Tribune reports.

David Jeselsohn, an Israeli-Swiss collector, discovered and purchased the tablet about a decade ago from a Jordanian antiquities dealer.

"I couldn't make much out of it when I got it," said Jeselsohn, who reportedly is himself an expert in antiquities. "I didn't realize how significant it was until I showed it to Ada Yardeni, who specializes in Hebrew writing, a few years ago. She was overwhelmed. 'You have got a Dead Sea Scroll on stone,' she told me."

Jeselsohn and Yardeni examined the tablet in a scholarly article in Cathedra, a Hebrew-language quarterly discussing the history and archaeology of Israel. Yardeni dated the scroll to the late 1st century, B.C. An unpublished chemical examination reportedly did not challenge the tablet’s authenticity.

Israel Knohl, a professor of Biblical Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has cited the tablet as evidence of his theory that the belief in a suffering messiah existed before Jesus.

A New View of Christianity?

"This should shake our basic view of Christianity," he said of the tablet, speaking to the International Herald Tribune. "Resurrection after three days becomes a motif developed before Jesus, which runs contrary to nearly all scholarship. What happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story."

Knohl claims that the messianic figure on the tablet could be Simon, a man who, according to the first-century historian Josephus, was slain by a commander in the Herodian army. Knohl says the tablet’s writers, who he believes were Simon’s followers, depicted the slaying of Simon or a suffering messiah as a necessary step towards national salvation. Three lines of the tablet say “In three days you will know that evil will be defeated by justice,” while other lines speak of blood and slaughter as pathways to justice.

A partially illegible line on the tablet also clearly begins with the words “In three days…”  In Professor Knohl’s interpretation of the obscured following words reads “In three days you shall live, I, Gabriel, command you.” The following line speaks of “a prince of princes.”

Knohl argues the tablet is about the death of a leader of the Jews who will be resurrected in three days.

Knohl further claimed the discovery of a wider belief in a suffering, dying, and resurrected messiah has implications for the Christian view of the life and death of Jesus.

"His mission is that he has to be put to death by the Romans to suffer so his blood will be the sign for redemption to come," Knohl said. "This is the sign of the son of Joseph. This is the conscious view of Jesus himself. This gives the Last Supper an absolutely different meaning. To shed blood is not for the sins of people but to bring redemption to Israel."

Another scholar who studied the tablet, Moshe Bar-Asher, president of the Israeli Academy of Hebrew Language, said Knohl’s interpretation was not certain.

"There is one problem," Bar-Asher said. "In crucial places of the text there is lack of text. I understand Knohl's tendency to find there keys to the pre-Christian period, but in two to three crucial lines of text there are a lot of missing words."

"You can't have it both ways ..."

Dr. Timothy Gray, a professor of Biblical Studies at the Augustine Institute in Denver, told CNA that the news of the tablet was “very fascinating,” saying “everything seems to point to its authenticity.”

He said the text seems to draw heavily upon the Book of Daniel. Scholars know from the work of Josephus that many Jews immediately before and during the time of Jesus focused on the Book of Daniel because of his prophecies related to a messiah coming to usher in a Kingdom of God.

“A focal point of Jesus’ teaching was the kingdom of God, and Jesus makes many allusions to Daniel. That really seems to cohere with this view of Jesus.”

Gray said that Jewish expectation of a dying messiah is shown in Daniel’s prophecies, noting that Daniel chapter 9 talks about how an anointed messiah will be cut off and killed.

According to Gray, a standard view of modern biblical scholarship holds that the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels where He predicts His Passion and His death cannot be authentic because, scholars believe, most Jews had no expectation of a suffering messiah. Such scholars attributed these words of Jesus to later additions made by the early Church.

Knohl’s minority contention that there were Jewish ideas of a suffering messiah before Jesus, Gray said, is echoed in the work of Catholic biblical scholar Brant Pitre.

The interpretations of scholars reported in the International Herald Tribune, Gray said, was “very striking” for its insistence that any evidence must undermine Christianity.

“On the one hand, scholars argue no Jewish tradition about a messiah suffering shows that the Church added this idea. And once you show a document, an ancient document to point to, showing that they did interpret a prophet like Daniel to expect a suffering messiah, well then people say ‘Well this proves Christianity can’t be true.’”

“You can’t have it both ways,” Gray said.

“The point is that our people in modern media and modern scholars will use any evidence as disproof of Christianity, even if it illustrates the evidence of Christian belief. And this evidence clearly points to the historical probability of Christianity, to the historical Jesus.

“‘No evidence of a suffering messiah in the Jewish tradition, therefore the Church invented these things,’” Gray summarized. “Now we find out there is evidence, and instead we find the historical portrait of the Gospels is more probable than we thought, the response is ‘well, see, this disproves Christianity.’”

The inconsistent media and scholarly reaction to the discovery of “Gabriel’s Revelation,” Gray thought, was comparable to Jesus’ description in Luke 7 of the “people of this generation,” who were like the children in the marketplace saying “We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.”

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Cardinal Pell responds to clerical sexual abuse cover-up allegations

Sydney, Australia, Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, has denied allegations of a cover-up involving clerical sexual abuse, saying he did not intentionally mislead a man who complained of a priest’s sexual abuse. It is reported that the cardinal erroneously told the man there were no other complaints against the priest.

The allegations concern the cardinal’s response to the case of Father Terence Goodall, who was convicted in 2006 of indecently assaulting Anthony Jones in 1982.

In 2003, Reuters reports, Cardinal Pell wrote a letter to Jones saying his abuse claim was rejected, stating “as no other complaint of attempted sexual assault has been received against Father Goodall and he categorically denies the allegation ... the complaint of attempted aggravated sexual assault cannot be considered to have been substantiated."

The Australian television program “Lateline” reported that Cardinal Pell wrote another letter on the same day to a different man, who was abused as an altar boy, saying his claim of sexual abuse by the same priest was upheld.

Jones appeared on “Lateline” on Monday night, claiming “Cardinal Pell misrepresented the truth. It destroyed my faith.”

"He had to know that there was other complaints because he wrote to the man who as an 11-year-old boy was assaulted by Father Goodall on the same day," said Jones. "I now hate Catholicism because of what Cardinal Pell has done to me, more so than what Father Goodall did to me."

Cardinal Pell apologized in a Tuesday statement in which he insisted “there was no attempt at a cover-up.”

"I apologize for the confusion caused to Mr. Jones," he said. "The letter to Mr. Jones was badly worded and a mistake -- an attempt to inform him there was no other allegation of rape."

Cardinal Pell claimed Jones’ case was unusual because Jones was 29 at the time of the abuse and not a minor.

The cardinal said he had followed the 2003 recommendations of layman Howard Murray’s internal report on abuse allegations and had requested an assessment of Father Goodall’s suitability for continued priestly service. “This was done and he was then stood down from priestly activity,” Cardinal Pell wrote.

He explained the report held that both complainants’ allegations had been sustained and also recommended offering “remedial assistance.”

In his “badly-worded” letter to Jones, the cardinal said, he was “attempting to inform him that there was no other allegation of rape and I overstated my agreement with Murray, who found all allegations sustained.  I accepted all these findings, including the homosexual misbehavior; but (I repeat) found evidence for rape insufficient.”

Cardinal Pell said the case was unusual because the criminal courts took it up after Jones was dissatisfied with Church findings, but noted the court too did not charge Father Goodall with rape.

“Goodall was convicted in court under the laws in vogue in 1982 which are now changed,” Pell wrote.  “There was never any allegation by prosecutors of rape.  Goodall was sentenced until the rising of the Court and the Judge remarked publicly that his conviction would be unlikely under today’s law.”

“This case demonstrates how difficult it is to do justice to all parties,” the cardinal said, also noting he no longer relied only on “in house advisers on legal matters.”

“My offer to provide help to Mr. Jones is still on the table,” he said.

Groups of victims of clerical sexual abuse have been active in the lead-up to World Youth Day, planning protests and other events.

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Fired Commonwealth Catholic Charities’ employee under investigation for abortion involvement

Washington D.C., Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - Michael N. Herring, Attorney of the Commonwealth of Virginia, has said that he will investigate a former employee of Commonwealth Catholic Charities (CCC) who is alleged to have illegally signed a parental consent form to help a sixteen-year-old girl obtain an abortion in January.

Herring said he will try to determine whether the person who signed the consent form had the authority to do so, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. If the employee lacked such authority, she could be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor and face up to a $500 fine.

In an interview on Tuesday morning, Herring said he had decided to examine the case before being requested to do so by the pro-life group American Life League.

American Life League President Judy Brown in a July 7 letter asked Herring to investigate whether illegal activity was knowingly permitted in the incident where one or more Commonwealth Catholic Charities Richmond employees signed a parental consent form to help the Guatemalan girl obtain an abortion.

The girl is a ward of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement and was in the foster care of CCC.

Brown’s letter said the ALL was “deeply concerned about the mysterious circumstances surrounding this situation, given the plethora of unanswered questions and the air of secrecy surrounding the case.”

ALL questioned why no action was taken either by Joanne Nattrass, executive director of Commonwealth Catholic Charities, or by Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, who were reportedly told on January 17 they could not do anything about the abortion to be performed the next day.

“Who signed the consent forms?  Did Joanne Nattrass know of the commission of a crime and not inform the authorities?” Brown asked.

Brown asked Herring to conduct a “complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding this tragic event” and promised assistance from ALL.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is also investigating the incident.

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King of Bahrain meets with Pope Benedict

Vatican City, Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - While at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo this morning, Pope Benedict received the King of the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain. In other discussions with Vatican officials, the king was thanked for the welcome he has given to Christians in his kingdom. 

King Hamad Bin Isa Al- Khalifa’s meeting with other Vatican prelates included a discussion with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States. Vatican authorities had the opportunity to thank the king for the welcome he has shown to many Christian immigrants.

A press release from the Holy See, "Emphasis was given to the shared commitment in favor of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, and to the importance of collaboration between Christians, Muslims and Jews for the promotion - in the Middle East and throughout the world - of peace, justice and spiritual and moral values.”

During his audience with Pope Benedict, the king extended an invitation to him to visit Bahrain.

The most recent estimate of Bahrain’s population is 718,000, with Christians comprising around 10 percent of its residents.

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Bishop David Ricken appointed to lead the Diocese of Green Bay

Green Bay, Wis., Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - On Wednesday Pope Benedict XVI appointed Most Rev. David L. Ricken as the new bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin. The prelate will become the 12th Bishop of Green Bay on August 28, 2008.


Bishop Ricken will go to the Diocese of Green Bay after having served as the Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming. During his years of service there, Bishop Ricken oversaw the establishment of Wyoming Catholic College and the spiritual lives of the 49,000 Catholics in his diocese.


The newly appointed bishop was born in Dodge City, Kansas in 1952 and after Catholic grade school, entered St. Francis Seminary High School. He later completed his studies for the priesthood at St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana and the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. In 1980, Ricken was ordained a priest by Bishop Arthur Tafoya.


After serving in several diocesan positions, Bishop Ricken was nominated to be an official of the Congregation for the Clergy at the Vatican in 1996 and served there until December of 1999.


On Jan. 6, 2000, Ricken was ordained as a bishop for the Diocese of Cheyenne at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome by Pope John Paul II.


Bishop Ricken will become the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, succeeding the Most Rev. David A. Zubik, who was appointed the bishop of Pittsburgh on September 28, 2007. The ceremony for Bishop Ricken’s installation will take place on August 28 at a place and time that has yet to be announced.


Established in 1868, the Diocese of Green Bay is home to nearly 350,000 Catholics.

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Pope Benedict appoints Salesian as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints

Vatican City, Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - Today Archbishop Angelo Amato was appointed by the Holy Father as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The archbishop will also be raised to a cardinal during the next consistory.

He will succeed Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins (76) who, according to Canon Law, has reached the age of retirement.

Born in 1938, Amato was ordained a priest in 1967 in the Order of the Salesians of St. John Bosco.  He was appointed by John Paul II to become the bishop of the Italian Diocese of Sila in 2002 and has also held the position of secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since December 2002. 

As prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Archbishop Amato will oversee the process or canonization – approving miracles, martyrdom, and heroic virtue - and present the congregations findings to the Pope.

Along with Archbishop Amato, former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke is also expected to be raised to a cardinal during the next consistory.

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Pope appoints new secretary for the CDF

Vatican City, Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican announced this morning that the Pope has appointed Fr. Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer S.J. as the new secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to fill the spot left vacant by the appointment of Archbishop Angelo Amato as the head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Fr. Ladaria Ferrer, S.J. was born in Mallorca, Spain on April 19, 1944, graduated with a degree in Law from the Madrid University in 1966 and joined the Society of Jesus on October 17,1966.

He completed his philosophical and theological studies at the Pontifical Comillas University in Madrid and at the Philosophisch- theologische Hochschule Sankt Georgen in   Frankfurt, Germany.

He was ordained a priest on July 29, 1973 and obtained his Doctorate in Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1975.

In 1975 became a professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical University of Comillas in Madrid, and in 1984 became a professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Gregorian University.

Fr. Ladaria Ferrer has also served as the Vice Rector of the Gregorian from 1986 to 1994, a member of the International Theological Commission from 1992 to 1997, a consultant for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith since 1995 and since 2004 he has been the Secretary of the International Theological Commission.

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Rosary plays important role in hostage rescue in Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - The recitation of the Rosary has become, for an increasing number of Colombians, the secret behind the new phase the country is entering.  Many Colombians also view the Rosary as the "secret weapon" that made the recent rescuing of 15 hostages possible - without a single shot fired.

According to Lidia Rios, spokeswoman for the Legion of Mary in Medellin, thousands of Colombians have been praying the Rosary for years for the release of the numerous hostages being held by rebel groups.

“We have prayed a lot to the Lord and to the Blessed Mother that this rescue would be successful, and we are not going to stop now. We are and will continue praying for this intention,” Rios told CNA in reaction to statements by President Uribe, who said shortly after the rescue that the operation “was guided in every way by the light of the Holy Spirit, the protection of our Lord and the Virgin Mary.”

Rios believes President Uribe’s success in combating violence in Colombia is due to “the devotion and commitment he has to Jesus and Mary.” She added that she believes Uribe has escaped attacks from his enemies thanks “to the Lord and the Virgin Mary, who have saved him and continue to watch over him, because he always prays to them and he is working hand in hand with the Church.”

“Thanks be to God we are beginning to see some hope in Colombia, and that is what all of the hostages who have been freed think,” Rios said.

Former presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt, who was among those rescued and in the past had said she was a non-practicing Catholic, told reporters her rescue was a miracle of the Virgin Mary. “I am convinced this is a miracle of the Virgin Mary,” she said.  “To me it is clear she has had a hand in all of this,” Betancourt said after six years in captivity.

Clara Rojas, who was her close political advisor and was kidnapped along with Betancourt, was freed several months ago and told reporters that during their captivity, “We prayed to her a lot.  We prayed the Rosary, and we said that when we were free, we would thank her.”

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Vatican announces deficit for 2007

Vatican City, Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - The Council of Cardinals that studies the Vatican's organizational and economic problems announced that the Holy See has reported a deficit of 9 million euros –more than 14 million U.S. dollars- for 2007.

The committee of Cardinals, who recently gathered with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, includes cardinal Roger Mahony from Los Angeles, Camillo Ruini, Vicar emeritus of Rome (Italy), Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid (Spain), Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, of Lagos (Nigeria), Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, of Lima (Peru), Edward Michael Egan, of New York, Eusébio Oscar Scheid, of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Gaudencio B. Rosales, of Manila (The Philippines) and Nicholas Cheong of Seoul (Korea).

The Committee evaluated the balance sheets of the Holy See, the Government of the Vatican City State and the contributions to the Peter's Pence all separately.

The Holy See's balance –which includes the expenses of the different dicasteries and offices of the Roman Curia- reported incomes for 236,737,207 euros and expenses of 245,805,167 leaving a deficit of 9,067,960 euros. The posting of a deficit is a dramatic down turn from the surpluses reported 2004, 2005 and 2006, which netted a combined income of 15,206,587.

The main contributors to the Vatican’s dip into the red are Vatican Radio and the newspaper L'Osservatore Romano in their different languages, including the daily Italian edition. The two media providers required a combined 14.6 million euros for their expenses in 2007.

There are 2,748 people working in the Roman Curia, 44 more than in 2006. The labor force of the Curia consists of 778 priests, 333 religious (male and female) and 1,637 laypersons, of which 425 are women.

The Government of the Vatican City State did not post a deficit in 2007, registering a surplus of 6.7 million euros. A significant role in the surplus was played by the substantial increase in the number of visitors to the Vatican Museums.

The Government of the Vatican City has 1,795 employees, 102 more than in 2006. The city state paid out 62.3 million euros in salaries and benefits in 2007.

(1 Euro = 1.573 U.S. Dollars)

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Vatican cardinal calls on FARC to initiate dialogue for peace

Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, has called on FARC leader Alfonso Cano to initiate peace talks to put an end to the civil conflict in the country.

In an interview with Radio W, the cardinal revealed that he had spoken with Cano on the phone before the death of FARC leader Raul Reyes.  The cardinal asked him to collaborate in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in Colombia. He told him, “Your position of armed opposition is seen as increasingly less plausible from the international and national perspectives.”

Cardinal Castrillon said that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has used a “strong arm” in maintaining public order, “but at the same time, in speaking with him I have clearly seen that he has an open heart and an outstretched hand to those who have been involved in the armed opposition in order to achieve a dignified solution.”

During the radio interview, Cardinal Castrillon took the opportunity to address Cano again.  “I think the time has come that you can do something great by joining with your companions in this struggle to seek out a new path, a path that would truly be good for you.”

“With sadness, I remember when you were listening to the conversation I had with Raul (Reyes). You were on the phone and I asked for the personal well-being of each member of FARC.  As a priest, a Christian and a Colombian I have never thought about just one side, I have thought about the good of each and every one because we are all children of God,” the cardinal said.

“This is an extraordinary moment for you to begin a new journey with dignity to put an end to the anguish of so many of your families and the families of so many Colombians,” he said, adding that he remains willing to speak to Cano and listen to him at any time.

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Priest warns measures by Socialist government ‘are against the Church’

Madrid, Spain, Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - Father Jaime Larrinaga, a priest who was forced to leave the Basque region of Spain by the terrorist group ETA, spoke out this week saying that the measures by the country’s Socialist government against life and its promotion of secularism are in opposition to the Church.

In statements to Servimedia, Father Larrinaga said that Spain is a religiously neutral State so therefore, the government should “respect religion” and not put up obstacles with measures that impose secularism and eradicate the faith from the public square.

Socialists, he said, “in reality are going against the Catholic Church.”

Spain’s Socialist Party, meeting for its 37th Convention during which President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was elected as General Secretary, reaffirmed its intention to remove religious symbols from public places, such as schools and government buildings and streets, as well as to promote the legislation favoring abortion.

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With Christ in your heart you will have no fear, says priest quake survivor

Rome, Italy, Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - Father Jiang Tian Xiang, pastor of the Church of Xiu Shui, which was devastated by the earthquake of last May, stands outside the ruins of his parish every day to help parishioners and tell them, “If you simply have Our Lord in your heart, you will never be afraid of anything!”

The Fides news agency reported this week that on May 12, the day of the earthquake, Father Jiang was in Beijing.  After hearing the news of the quake, he began the journey back without knowing if the road would be open.  Fr. Jiang arrived at his parish three days later to find it in ruins.  He saw an old man who was watching over the church day and night and asked him, “Weren’t you afraid that there would be aftershocks and you would be here alone?”. The man told him: “If you simply have Our Lord in your heart, you will never be afraid of anything.”

Impressed by the man’s words, Fr. Jiang took them as his own motto.

“I am not going anywhere. I should guarantee daily Mass for my people who come from a long-ways away. And it always rains? Well, my clothes dry off from my body heat. What do I eat? Whatever nature provides. I have never felt unwell, thanks be to God,” Fr. Jiang said.

“Fifty days after the earthquake, it was my 43rd birthday, and I thanked the Lord with a Mass, entrusting the reconstruction work to Him,” he continued. “That same day, I was visited by the Jinde Charity volunteers. They brought me food, tents, wood. After loading up everything, wiping the sweat off my face with a tissue, I was suddenly inspired to say, ‘Thank you Lord! What a beautiful birthday gift you have given me! Who said that earthquakes only have negative consequences?’ We should look at the people who never came together and are now coming together, the people who had forgotten the faith and are returning. We owe everything to the Lord,” he said.

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Ecuadoran laity council denounces constitutional reform in support of legal abortion

Quito, Ecuador, Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - The Ecuadoran Council of Lay Catholics criticized the reform of the Constitution being carried out by the Constitutional Assembly for supporting abortion, and it has demanded that members of the Assembly change any clauses that would “legalize abortion in our country.”

The Council pointed out that while Catholics have put forth proposals in favor of the family and human life, which were supported by over 700,000 signatures. The Council asserted that assembly members have “assaulted the sensibilities of Catholic people” by imposing pro-abortion articles on the Constitution.

The Council pointed to a section of the proposed reform entitled “Civil Rights,” which states in reference to “reproductive rights”  that “all persons have the right to make free, responsible and informed decisions about their health and reproductive life and to decide when and how many children to have.”  It said the language used leaves the door open for legalized abortion.

The Laity Council also explained that the right to life would depend on “the reproductive rights of the mother;” if she decides “to conceive and continue with the pregnancy, the baby would receive protection and care,” but “if she decides to abort there would obviously be no one to protect or care for,” the Council stated.

“Consequently, what is guaranteed from the moment of conception is not the life of the unborn, but rather their ‘protection and care,’ as long as they are alive through the will of the mother,” it said.

“We demand Assembly members acknowledge the will of the Catholic people and change these texts with which they intend to underhandedly legalize abortion in our country,” the Council stated.

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Order of Canada recipient could return award in protest of abortionist Morgentaler honor

Toronto, Canada, Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - Sister Margaret Smith, a Catholic nun who was awarded the Order of Canada for working to bring health care programs to northern Canada, has said she may return the decoration to protest the granting of the medal to abortionist Dr. Henry Morgentaler. If she returns her medal, she will become the fourth honoree to return the Order of Canada in the wake of the bestowal of the award on Morgentaler, who played a major role in the legalization of abortion in Canada.

Sister Smith said she was “profoundly shocked and saddened” to hear that Morgentaler had been honored with the same award, the Canadian Press reports.

Following the Governor General’s July 1 announcement of Morgentaler’s decoration, others have returned their Order of Canada medals.

Father Lucien Larre, a priest in Coquitlam, British Columbia who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1983 for founding Bosco Houses for troubled adolescents, said last week he was “compelled in conscience to return my Order of Canada to Ottawa.”

Recipients of the honor “should be an inspiration to most Canadians,” he said, but elevating Morgentaler to the Order of Canada “degrades” the award for those who believe in the sanctity of human life.

Members of Madonna House, an Ontario Catholic organization founded by Servant of God Catherine Doherty, returned the Madonna House founder’s Order of Canada medal on Tuesday.

“Dr. Morgentaler is a very public and symbolic figure. We were moved in conscience to make a public gesture of disappointment and sadness for our country," said Susanne Stubbs of Madonna House.

The Directors General of Madonna House explained their decision in a letter, writing:

“Catherine Doherty would not have judged Henry Morgentaler, nor should we. Like all of us, he is a poor person. Has he not been surrounded by death all his life? Yet we have to protest … simply, peacefully, unremittingly and with the tools we have at hand … the serious misdirection our country and many of its leaders, in our view, appear to be taking, as exemplified by the award and glowing citation given him for his misguided work. Catherine Doherty would shout, ‘Wait. Don’t you see where we are going?  There is another way. I’ll show it to you.’ With this act of returning the Order of Canada we are choosing to place truth before honors.”

The most recent person to renounce their membership in the Order is the former Lt. Governor of New Brunswick, Gilbert Finn. "I've sent a note to the prime minister and to the Governor General saying that since Dr. Morgentaler is now a member of the order, I'm returning my insignia and no longer want to be part of the order," Finn told Radio-Canada in French.

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U.S. Catholics top list of contributors to Peter's Pence

Vatican City, Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - The Council of Cardinals that studies the Vatican's organizational and economic matters announced this Wednesday that the income generated worldwide by the collection known as the Peter's Pence placed U.S. Catholics way at the top of the list, distantly followed by Italy.

During 2007, the Peter's Pence reported an income of $79,837,843 U.S. dollars; most of which was used for the Pope's charitable initiatives in favor of the poorest countries or regions affected by natural disasters.

The most generous Catholic communities were the U.S. with $18.7 million dollars, followed by Italy at $8.6 million, Germany with $4 million and Spain at $2.7 million.

The Holy See also received an individual contribution from an anonymous donor for $14.3 million dollars.

The most generous bishops’ conference in support of the Holy See was that of the German Bishops, who contributed $9.3 million. The German bishops were followed by the USCCB at $8.3 million and then the Italian Bishops, who gave $5.5 million. Surprisingly, the Bishops of South Korea, where Catholics represent slightly more than 10% of the population, ranked 7th with $681,542 dollars.

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Natural Family Planning information to counter ‘condom peddlers’ at WYD

Sydney, Australia, Jul 9, 2008 (CNA) - Catholics are responding to anti-papal demonstrators who plan to distribute condoms to pilgrims at World Youth Day by distributing Natural Family Planning information.

The Australian Council of Natural Family Planning (ACNFP) said it will distribute material promoting the sympto-thermal method (STM) of natural family planning, reports. The STM method involves using the knowledge of the naturally-occurring fertile and infertile phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

The ACNFP said there have been protests of Catholic teachings on sexuality and contraception at every previous World Youth Day.

"Interestingly, despite the thousands of young people there to celebrate their belief in the church, it is the condom peddlers who tend to catch the eye of the media,'' the group said in a statement.

"But this time we're ready for them!

"Despite popular belief, the church isn't against sexuality. On the contrary, the church wants everyone to develop a deeper, richer understanding of the meaning of sex and sexuality,'' the ACNFP asserted.

The group plans to hand out material on Natural Family Planning to pilgrims before next week’s final World Youth Day Mass at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney.

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