Gainesville, Fla., Aug 6, 2008 (CNA) - A coalition of citizens and businesses in Gainesville, Florida has formed in reaction to the Gainesville City Council’s passage of a ‘gender identity’ ordinance that allows men who perceive themselves as women to use women’s bathrooms in any school, business or public facility. The coalition, called “Citizens for Good Public Policy,” aims to enact a Charter Amendment that would oppose the addition of such categories to the city’s civil rights ordinance.
The group has gathered 8,800 signatures to place the proposal on the March 2009 ballot, though only 5,581 were required.
“The high number of petitions signed by the citizens of Gainesville serves as an indicator of the power held by citizens over elected officials who choose to push a far-left national agenda,” stated Citizens for Good Public Policy president Cain Davis.
If passed by voters, the proposal would remove the “gender identity” category protection enacted by the city council.
The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center has been acting as legal counsel for Citizens for Good Public Policy.
“The concept of ‘gender identity’ was fashioned by radical homosexual groups and advocates to protect the bizarre sexual behavior of a few people,” President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center Richard Thompson commented in a statement. “In practical effect, these types of ordinances end up being used to intimidate and prosecute Christians and anyone else who raises objections to this form of deviant behavior.”
Dennis Baxley, Executive Director of the Christian Coalition of Florida, said the coalition’s efforts have shown that “extremists with special rights agendas can be stopped, even in a liberal university town.”
“Their successful petition drive demonstrates that government still belongs to the people who want liberty and justice for all, not special rights for special groups,” he continued.
Citizens for Good Public Policy also plans to run a slate of candidates for city council in the upcoming election.
Mumbai, India, Aug 6, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay, on Sunday appealed to a couple seeking legal permission to abort their unborn child due to its congenital heart defect, asking them to stop seeking legal permission to abort the 25-week-old fetus. Cardinal Gracias promised that the Church would take care of the baby if it were allowed to be born.
In the most recent development, a court in Mumbai on Tuesday rejected parents Niketa and Haresh Mehta’s petition to be allowed to have an abortion, the BBC News reports.
Under India’s laws, abortions are not permitted after 20 weeks into a pregnancy unless it poses a threat to the life of the mother. The Mhetas’ case is considered a key test of India’s abortion law.
The Mumbai High Court called together a committee of doctors to assess the risks if the pregnancy continued and also the risks if an abortion was performed on the woman. The doctors held that there was a lesser chance of the baby being born without a handicap, while a late-term abortion would be risky for the mother.
The Mehtas’ doctor told the court that certain ailments could be only detected between the 20th and 24th weeks of pregnancy. The couple also argued that their child would need a pacemaker from birth and would not be able to lead a normal life.
They also said the cost for a $2,500 pacemaker operation might not be affordable for them, as the pacemaker must be changed every few years.
Cardinal Gracias offered the Church’s help to the couple on Sunday and condemned all abortions, continuing his activities from earlier this year, the India Catholic says.
In a January interview, the cardinal endorsed a U.N. moratorium on abortion, saying in an interview “It is an utmost necessity that the international community is sensitized to creating and building a culture of life. Abortion is a horrendous evil and has become a threat to human dignity because it directly attacks life itself.”
Lagos, Nigeria, Aug 6, 2008 (CNA) - Francis Alonge, the Bishop of Ondo in Nigeria, has called for the return of former missionary schools taken over by the government. He criticized the fall in standards of Nigerian education, claiming the decline was due to the government takeover. He further asserted that the takeover had “wiped out completely the teaching of morals which the Church is known for.”
Speaking to reporters on the 45th anniversary of his priestly ordination, he said the takeover is “the first major blow to the educational sector in this country,” the Catholic Information Service for Africa reports. Financial assistance should accompany the desired return of the schools to their original owners, Bishop Alonge argued, because of the schools’ poor infrastructure and limited manpower.
The return of moral standards set by the missionaries, he maintained, would restore the standard of education in the country.
The Nigerian government took over all private and parochial schools in the mid-1970s.
Quebec City, Canada, Aug 6, 2008 (CNA) - A civilization of love cannot be built without the transforming power of God’s grace and it must be lived out in ordinary life, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte told the Knights of Columbus convention this morning.
Noting that the theme of the convention begins with the expression “Building a civilization of love,” Cardinal Turcotte explained that, “This is a desire that bursts forth from the human heart – to live in a society patterned on love.”
“We live in an age of globalization, where every idea and every point of view can now be easily spread and shared. In the midst of all these voices, how can we discover a sure path for progress?” he asked.
Today the universal Church celebrates the feast of the Transfiguration, and this is precisely where Cardinal Turcotte finds the answer for building a civilization of love.
He relates the biblical events this way: “Jesus takes some of his closest friends with him on a mountaintop, and he begins to shine with glory. His face is as dazzling as the sun. But it is still his human face. Who he is, as a human being, is still present. His human nature is still intact. His divine nature is powerfully revealed – but only by gazing on his human face. It is a face we see today in our brothers and sisters, and in particular the poor and helpless. To build the civilization of love means to seek the face of Jesus in others.”
Although “the genuine Christian knows that God and humanity are not in competition,” said the cardinal, the Transfiguration also teaches us with the presence of Moses, the great Law-giver, that “our pursuit of a civilization of love does have certain limits it cannot cross. We must never do evil, even if it seems to be for a greater good.” The prophet Elijah’s appearance also reminds us to be prophets in the way that we speak and work, love our spouses, provide parenting, invest and donate, vote and defend human life and dignity, he asserted.
Another aspect of the encounter with Jesus on the mountain highlighted by the prelate was the seemingly strange command from Jesus that the disciples “Tell no one of the vision.”
“It must have been tough to keep this secret, but it would have taught these disciples an important lesson: while extraordinary experiences are good, the living ‘ordinary’ presence of Christ is just as important. It is not grace OR nature. It is not Jesus OR the world. Yes, we must learn to live in an ordinary world, but as a beginning, not an end,” Cardinal Turcotte reflected.
Today, opposition towards the idea of God and a fear of faith are common, the Canadian cardinal observed. But, the reason for this is that people think “these will require them to deny the ordinary goodness of this life. It because they do not know our secret: that the face of God is found reflected in the face of our neighbour. This is the secret that makes the civilization of love possible."
"The civilization of love is not about getting rid of ordinary life, but about living it in an extraordinary way. In a transfigured way. And in a way that invites others to see the face of Jesus and be transfigured too,” Cardinal Turcotte said in closing.
Vatican City, Aug 6, 2008 (CNA) - In a pastoral letter sent to the priests of the world on the feast of St. John Maria Vianney, the prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, said, “The Church rejoices and is proud of the vast majority of her priests, who are good and extremely praiseworthy.”
According to Vatican Radio, the cardinal explained that the Church knows she can count on her priests because “she knows and explicitly recognizes that the vast majority of our priests, despite their human weaknesses and limits, are decent priests who give their lives every day to the Kingdom of God, who love Jesus Christ and the people entrusted to them. They are priests who are sanctified in the daily exercise of their ministry, who persevere until the end in the harvest of the Lord.”
“It’s true there is a small percentage of priests who go astray, sometimes gravely, but the Church desires to repair the evil they have done,” he noted.
Recalling the feast of the Cure d’Ars, the patron of parish priests, Cardinal Hummes underscored the urgency of embarking upon missionary work “in the regions and environments where the Christian faith was preached centuries ago.”
“It is a mission or missionary evangelization within our own flock, meant for those who we baptized but, for different reasons, we did not sufficiently evangelize or who lost their initial fervor and went astray,” he said.
“The post-modern culture of today’s society,” the cardinal observed, “is relativistic, secularized and agnostic, also has a strong erosive effect on the religious faith of many.”
“The Church by nature is missionary. The Church knows that she cannot stay at home and limit herself to welcoming and evangelizing those who seek her in their communities and parishes,” the cardinal said. “It is essential we get up and go in search in the places where people and families reside, live and work…All members of the ecclesial community, pastors, religious and the laity, are called to this mission,” he said.
“When priests are on the move, the Church is on the move,” Cardinal Hummes added. “Otherwise, it would be very difficult to carry out the mission. You, beloved brothers, are the great treasure, the dynamism, the pastoral and missionary inspiration at the foundation, where our baptized live in community.”
Toronto, Canada, Aug 6, 2008 (CNA) - Toronto-based Salt + Light Television has won the Television Station of the Year Gabriel Award, considered the “Emmy” of religious programming, beating out other candidates competition from the major television networks.
The Gabriel Awards have been sponsored by the Catholic Academy for Communication Arts Professionals for more than forty years. The award was founded in 1965 to “recognize the outstanding artistic achievement in a television or radio program or series which entertains and enriches with a true vision of humanity and a true vision of life.”
Writing in a July 30 letter to Salt + Light Television, Academy President Frank Morock described the prestige of the Gabriel award.
“It proclaims a value-centered view of society and humanity, and it raises our consciousness,” Morock explained. He said the academy hopes the award challenges Salt + Light to continue to provide the quality programming “our world so desperately needs” to the public.
Fr. Thomas Rosica C.S.B., the CEO of Salt + Light, told CNA that his network submitted a compilation of their programming to the Award Committee for consideration in the "Network Category" rather than for individual programs or documentaries.
Reacting to news of the Gabriel award, Fr. Rosica said, "It is a great honor for us to be awarded the prestigious Gabriel Award, not for a specific program but rather for our entire network! He also thanked the Gagliano family in Canada and the Knights of Columbus for their outstanding support, generosity and vision, which “brought this network to birth five years ago on the wings of World Youth Day 2002 in Canada.”
“Much has been accomplished over the past five years, and our Salt and Light team of young adults is the greatest asset of this wonderful project of the New Evangelization. The Gabriel Award is a tribute to their dedication, commitment and key roles in Catholic Media in North America," Fr. Rosica said in praise of his team.
Entries for the Gabriel Award are judged based upon ability to “uplift and nourish the human spirit;” the honesty, depth, and clarity of the presented material; the use of imaginative and innovative approaches; an entry’s overall technical quality; and the intellectual and emotional impact of the entry upon the audience.
The Gabriel Awards will be presented on October 25 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California.
Vatican City, Aug 6, 2008 (CNA) - In order to mark the 30th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s death on August 6, L’Osservatore Romano is publishing an article describing the true personality of the Pontiff, debunking myths about his supposed sadness and uncertainty portrayed in some media.
Written by Maurizio Fontana, the article cites statements by the president of the Paul VI Institute, Giuseppe Camadini, who explained that it is “true that it was not easy to read and accurately portray the personality of Montini (Paul VI)—which was characterized by an intense, strong and elevated spirituality jealously guarded by him and managed by his unmistakable style of gentleness.”
Camadini went on to note that “perhaps the press at that time did not take into account that Paul VI took the Second Vatican Council ‘by the hand’ after its first session, bringing it to a positive conclusion and promulgating all of the approved documents, dedicating personal attention and precise interventions to the final approval.”
He also pointed out that Paul IV was the first Pontiff “who desired to follow the steps of Christ in the Holy Land and who visited all of the continents for the first time. He is also the Pope of Ecclesiam Suam, Populorum Progressio, Octogesima Adveniens, Evangelii Nuntiandi, just to name a few of his documents.”
In debunking the myth about his supposed sadness, Camadini underscored that Paul VI is “the only Pope to promulgate an apostolic exhortation on joy: Gaudete in Domino, 1975.” Regarding the Pope’s “uncertainty,” he pointed to the Pontiff’s determination to publish the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which was published forty years ago, and which showed his humble and constant submission to the will of the Lord” and his “uninterrupted witness of faith and love for the Church,” Flores said.
Witness to Christ
The director of the L’Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian, also dedicated his latest editorial to Paul VI, noting that on the night of the Feast of the Transfiguration 30 years ago, “August 6, 1978, in Castel Gandolfo, the 81 years of Paul VI quietly ended.”
“Despite tenacious opposition and grave dissent in the Church, despite the merciless attacks and criticisms (multiplied above all after the Credo of the People of God and after Humanae Vitae), Paul VI never renounced the authentic magisterium, and in reflecting on his pontificate, he declared he had put everything ‘at the service and defense of the truth,’ and therefore he was always willing to defend human life,” Vian underscored.
Vian also noted that Pope Montini acted “out of love of God and love of man, because, as he himself wrote: ‘perhaps our life has no clearer characteristic than the definition of love for our times, for our world, for so many souls we have been able to draw close and will draw close: but in the loyalty and conviction that Christ is necessary and true.”
Lima, Peru, Aug 6, 2008 (CNA) - A renowned expert on sexuality and the family in Peru has explained the deceit behind the concept of “reproductive health,” after the Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, denounced the existence of ideologically-driven groups that use the concept to promote new forms of abortion.
According to psychiatrist Rene Flores, the cardinal’s comments simply “coincide with the reservations expressed by Peru about this term at the international conferences of Cairo and Beijing.”
“It is not exactly known who created the concept of reproductive health and how,” he said, but the term was explicitly mentioned for the first time in the 1994 World Conference on Population and Development.
Flores said that in Peru, “the concept of ‘reproductive health’ is becoming accepted by leaders, politicians and doctors, without any basis or further questioning.”
He warned that the use of term is part of an effort to re-interpret the traditional understanding of human rights as spelled out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.
“Other intentions are hidden under the umbrella of ‘reproductive health’,” he said, “such as forced sterilizations, the hiding of information about the abortifacient nature and side-effects of some contraceptives, the arguing that pregnancy begins with the implantation of the fertilized egg and not a conception (for example, in order to approve the morning-after pill), and the passage of heath care laws that prevent doctors from having recourse to conscientious objection,” Flores explained.
He noted that the treatment given to “reproductive health” in parliaments and the media is very similar to that give to other issues related to it, such as “sexual rights, reproductive rights, sexual health, the legalization of abortion, gender, gender perspective, sexual diversity, homosexual marriage and emergency contraception.”
Initiatives based on all of these concepts are aimed at passing laws and norms and promoting policies and programs adhered to by governments and political leaders “in order to give social and legal legitimacy to the idea of ‘reproductive health’,” Flores stated.
To carry out their intentions, he explained, governments from the developed countries and large philanthropic foundations located there carry out multiple actions at the worldwide level by politically and financially supporting organizations such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the UN Population Fund.
Rome, Italy, Aug 6, 2008 (CNA) - During a gathering with more than 400 priests in the Italian region of Tirol on Wednesday, the feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI said Christianity has always encouraged care for the environment based on the conversion of the human person.
During the closed-door meeting at the Cathedral of Bressanone, the Pope spent over an hour responding to six questions posed by the priests from the region. Some of the Pope’s responses were later summarized for reporters by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombari.
He said that when asked about the Catholic view on protecting the environment, Benedict XVI stressed that “God, as Creator, cannot be excluded from history.”
Pope Benedict also pointed out that “there is not always sufficient emphasis on the relationship between the teaching of the Church on redemption and creation. This is an issue in which Catholics can practice their faith, giving examples with lifestyles respectful of the environment,” Father Lombardi said, summarizing the Pope’s response.
The Pope believes that those who are conscious of the fact that God has entrusted man with creation have a solid foundation for respecting the environment, Father Lombardi explained. “But if one denies God, the world is reduced to the material, and in a world closed in on its materialism, it is easier for the human being to make himself the dictator of all other creatures and of nature,” he said.
As examples of the Christian view of man’s relationship with creation, the Pope pointed to St. Paul and medieval monarchism and in general Christian tradition, in which spiritualities sensitive to the environment such as that of the Franciscans have always existed.
Responding later to a question about administering the sacraments to persons without a solid formation in the faith—especially in the case of parents who request baptism for their children—Father Lombardi said that Benedict XVI responded that “when he was younger he was stricter and thought that it was a problem to administer the sacraments so widely. With time, the Pope said, ‘I understood it was necessary to follow the way of the Lord and be open to the mercy that embraces those who only have a hint of faith as well’.”
“Even if we can only see a small flame of desire for communion with the Church, there is reason to go in that direction,” he explained.
Utica, N.Y., Aug 6, 2008 (CNA) - The latest Associated TV/Zogby International poll reports a significant change in Catholic support for the leading presumptive presidential nominees of both major U.S. political parties. Zogby analyst Fritz Wenzel explains that the shift amongst Catholics is due to increased concern about "social values."
In mid-July, Catholics polled by Zogby International favored Democratic Sen. Barack Obama by 11 percent. The latest poll now shows they favor Republican Sen. John McCain by a margin of 50 to 34 percent.
Zogby International said in a Tuesday press release that McCain leads Obama among all voters by 42 to 41 percent, as measured by a telephone poll of 1,011 likely voters. The poll, commissioned by Associated TV and conducted from July 31 to August 1, claims a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
On the other hand, an Associated Press/Ipsos poll conducted between July 31 and August 4 finds Catholic support evenly divided between both candidates.
Fritz Wenzel, a Zogby Polling Analyst, gave CNA a statistical breakdown of the 269 Catholic respondents’ answers.
About fifty percent of the Catholics favored McCain, while 34 percent favored Obama. Twelve percent were undecided, while two and one percent favored third-party candidates Bob Barr and Ralph Nader, respectively.
“Catholics vote largely on a set of conservative values and on social values. On social values McCain has a natural advantage because of his pro-life stance, compared to Obama’s pro-choice stance,” Wenzel told CNA.
“This is a dominant issue in voting for Catholics because of the balance of the Supreme Court. The other issues are also important. When you start thinking about the conditions in the Iraq War, that was a concern for Catholics earlier. It’s becoming less so, so voters are turning to other, more domestic concerns.”
If domestic issues dominate Catholic concerns, Wenzel said, “McCain is going to have an advantage.”
While Wenzel said he could not comment on other organizations’ polls, he defended Zogby International’s record.
“We’ve done extensive polling of Catholics over the years and it’s one of our specialties,” he said.
“We’re confident our numbers are accurate.”
Warsaw, Poland, Aug 6, 2008 (CNA) - Five U.S. soldiers embarked on a 10-day, 180 mile-long march to Poland’s Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa with hundreds of camouflaged soldiers from various nations on Tuesday. The shrine contains the icon of the Black Madonna, the creation of which tradition attributes to St. Luke.
The 300-year old pilgrimage has deep religious and patriotic significance in Poland and is expected to end before August 15, the Feast of the Assumption.
Many miracles have been attributed to the Black Madonna, which was brought to the Jasna Gora monastery in Czestochowa in 1384. During a 1655 siege, 70 monks and 180 supporters held off nearly 4,000 soldiers from the Protestant Swedish army, in a reputed miracle that inspired Poles to repel the invaders.
Before beginning the pilgrimage, soldiers attended an early morning Mass at the Field Cathedral of the Polish Army where a priest blessed them with holy water and then exhorted them to set a moral example during the march.
The purpose of the U.S. contingent’s participation in the pilgrimage, the Associated Press says, is to show solidarity with Poland, an ally in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Master Sgt. Roman Waldron, a 37-year-old soldier from Springfield, Illinois, told the Associated Press the event is a chance “to come together and share a little bit, and hopefully develop closer bonds with foreign militaries in a non-combat type setting.”
Sgt. 1st Class Evan Young, from Rock Island, Illinois, said “Originally when I was given the opportunity I thought it would be kind of a neat way to see Poland, but then I started doing research on the Black Madonna and the siege and I thought it's part of a much bigger thing.”
"It's pretty neat to be taking part in this, and help improve relations with Poland and other countries that are here," said Young, who grew up Episcopalian.
Only one of the five U.S. soldiers involved in the pilgrimage is Catholic.
The Archbishop of Warsaw Kazimierz Nycz walked briefly with the group of pilgrims on Tuesday.