Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 22, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico said this week that the greatest challenge Mexicans are confronting is the defense of human life in all circumstances. “If we don’t take the necessary measures in the present,” we will regret it in the future.
“Violating this right (to life), or creating exceptions for his universal and full protection, puts us at risk for being sorry in the future that we did not take the necessary measures today,” the bishops said, as the country’s Supreme Court prepares to rule on the constitutionality of the legalization of abortion in Mexico City.
In a statement, the bishops recalled that life is “a gift and a right; and therefore nobody has the right to attack, suppress, sell, torture, assault, kidnap or kill the valuable personal experience of the life of each human being.”
“The Catholic Church holds out hope that good will prevail and that Mexico will begin a time of greater dialogue and solidarity in which every human being will possess the same dignity and deserve the same respect of their fundamental rights,” the bishops said.
On the other hand, during a press conference Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera of Tuxtla Gutierrez and Archbishop Ramon Castro of Campeche expressed their hopes that the high court’s ruling would be founded upon reason and the law. They said that if the court declared the law to be constitutional, the bishops would respect the ruling. But, they added, that does not mean “that we will leave it there, because there are some causes which must not be surrendered and citizens have to fight for the respect for life.”
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 22, 2008 (CNA) - According to a top pro-life leader in Brazil, the intense life of Marcela de Jesus Ferreira, who survived one year and a half with anencephaly, has become a strong witness that abortion supporters want to silence in order for anencephaly abortions to be legalized.
The president of Anapolis Pro-Life, Father Luiz Carlos Lodi Da Cruz, published an article this week on Marcela entitled, “Marcela: a star in the Heavens,” in which he emphasized the little girl’s contribution to the pro-life movement.
“During the time in which Marcela was with us,” he said, the legal strategy to get the Supreme Court to legalize abortion in cases of anencephaly was paralyzed.
“A few days after the death of Marcela on August 7, 2008, Justice Marco Aurelio sent a letter to several organizations inviting them to participate in public hearings on the issue. Scheduled for August 26-28, the hearings appear to be held for the promotion of abortion,” Father Lodi stated.
Of the eleven organizations invited, the priest continued, “only two are pro-life: the Bishops’ Conference of Brazil and the National Pro-Life and Pro-Family Association. Both decided to participate along with Catholics for a Free Choice and the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which both support abortion.”
Justice Marco Aurelio “does not want to invite the families of anencephaly babies to the hearings, such as the mother of Marcela de Jesus Ferreira, who, despite suffering from anencephaly, lived for one year and eight months.”
“The mere memory of the girl is an obstacle to the approval” of abortion, Father Lodi noted. In his article he mentioned the testimony of the girl’s mother, Cacilda Galante Ferreira, and the doctors who cared for her. After Marcela’s death, her mother said she was always prepared for that moment. “She was with me for as long as God permitted. She was an angel God sent to me,” she said.
“I was sad but I did not cry. I was not losing something. God came looking for something that he gave me, the rare jewel he entrusted to my care. I feel her absence but my conscience is clear. I made the right choice: life for her,” she added.
Father Lodi said Marcela’s smiles, cries and reaction from camera flashes, her reaction to the presence of her mother, “should lead neurologists to review the conclusion that it is impossible to have consciousness without the presence of a brain.”
Utica, N.Y., Aug 22, 2008 (CNA) - The latest Zogby poll shows support for Obama among Catholics remains low at 36 percent, while Catholic respondents support McCain at a rate of 45 percent.
A July 9 through 13 poll found that 47 percent of Catholics supported Obama.
Respondents overall were asked to voice their choice in a two-way race between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama, respectively the presumptive Republican and Democratic presidential nominees. All respondents favored Sen. McCain over Obama by a margin of 46 to 41 percent.
The poll, conducted August 14 through 16, surveyed 1,089 likely voters nationwide and reportedly had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. Stephanie DeVries, Zogby assistant director of communications, told CNA by phone on Thursday that 293 Catholics took part in the survey.
When asked to name the issue they considered most important in the presidential election, voters overall named the economy at a rate 47 percent, the war in Iraq at a rate of 12 percent, energy prices at a rate of 8 percent, healthcare at a rate of 7 percent, and the threat of an attack on the U.S. at a rate of 6 percent.
DeVries told CNA that about 45 percent of Catholics named the economy as the issue they were most concerned about, while 12 percent named the war in Iraq and 11 percent named the threat of an attack on the U.S.
Analyzing the polling trends, Zogby communications director Fritz Wenzel told CNA in an e-mail “Catholic voters continue to support Republican John McCain over Democrat Barack Obama in the presidential race.”
“McCain leads by nine percentage points in our two-person head-to-head polling, but there is still a significant slice who are yet undecided,” he wrote. “Catholic voters tell us they are more likely to be concerned about international issues than the average American voter, and they also care more about social issues, particularly abortion.”
“McCain's strength among Catholic voters comes as Russian troops moved into the Republic of Georgia, and as he put in a strong, straightforward performance at the Saddleback civil forum in California,” Wenzel continued. “In that forum, there was a clear distinction between McCain and Obama on the question of when a human life begins, and Catholic voters may be responding warmly to McCain's defense of his pro-life stance at that forum.”
Catholic political commentator Deal Hudson, using a baseball metaphor, said the Zogby poll shows the relationship between Obama and Catholic voters is at “strike two.”
Classifying the controversy over Obama’s former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright as “strike one,” Hudson said at InsideCatholic.com that Catholics “shrugged off” the controversy because “Wright was so over the top they figured anyone nominated for president by a major political party couldn't possibly hold opinions that extreme.”
Hudson said “strike two” resulted from the series of stories concerning Obama’s position on social issues, such as Obama’s opposition to California’ s Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Further, the “tangled explanations” from Obama regarding his opposition to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, Hudson said, “have led to greater public awareness of his extremism on abortion.”
“The issue of infanticide and Obama has become a national story,” Hudson argued, saying that had Obama’s “above my pay grade” comments on abortion occurred in a televised debate, Obama might have been called for a “strike out.”
At a candidates’ forum at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California on Saturday, Sen. Obama answered Saddleback pastor Rick Warren’s question "At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?" by responding that determining when life begins is "above my pay grade.”
San Diego, Calif., Aug 22, 2008 (CNA) - The University of San Diego’s decision to withdraw the appointment of feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether to an endowed chair drew praise and criticism this week. The appointment was reportedly withdrawn because Ruether, who supports abortion, homosexuality, contraception, and calling God “Gaia,” is on the board of directors of the pro-abortion group Catholics for Choice.
Reuther, who teaches part time at Claremont Graduate University in California and writes a column for the National Catholic Reporter, had been invited to hold the Monsignor John R. Portman Chair in Roman Catholic Theology at the University of San Diego (USD) for the academic year 2009-2010, the California Catholic Daily reports.
Lance Nelson, chairman of the university’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the position involves coming to campus three days a week, teaching a course, giving a public lecture, and mentoring junior faculty.
Nelson said Ruether was recommended in a list of possible candidates recommended in a department vote and approved by the previous dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He said the department was unaware of Ruether’s involvement in Catholics for Choice but stated he didn’t know whether that knowledge would have changed the faculty’s recommendation.
“She's a widely respected scholar in the field,” Nelson said. “She's done seminal work on Christian feminism, social justice, and the relationship between religion and ecology.”
Nelson noted the withdrawal of the appointment does not rule out an invitation to Ruether for a different campus appointment or as a guest speaker.
The California Catholic Daily reports that Ruether has said she thinks God can be called “Gaia” after the Greek mother-earth goddess. A longtime supporter of women’s ordination, she has been on the board of the pro-abortion group Catholics for Choice since 1985.
She has also criticized Christianity for presenting an image of a “tribal war god” instead of “wisdom pervading the universe.”
After Ruether was offered the appointment, the USD web site described her as a “pioneering figure in Christian feminist theology,” according to the Union-Tribune.
USD spokeswoman Pamela Gray Payton defended the withdrawal of the appointment.
“Her public position and the symbol of this chair are in direct conflict,” Gray Payton explained. “This chair is a powerful, visible symbol of Roman Catholic theology, and in Roman Catholic theology abortion is disallowed.”
Gray Payton said the appointment should have gone to the provost for final approval, but that did not happen. She also reported that the university had received various complaints about the appointment, but not from the chair’s anonymous donor.
In mid-July, USD Vice President and Provost Julie Sullivan called Ruether to withdraw the offer, the Union-Tribune reports. Sullivan said the university has a responsibility to match the appointment to the donor’s vision for the endowed position.
“Chair holders are to be distinguished theologians who think from within the Roman Catholic tradition while exploring and expressing the tradition in contemporary contexts,” the USD web site explains.
LifeSiteNews.com editor John-Henry Westen attacked the initial appointment in an interview.
“This is a woman who is in favor of abortion, in favor of contraception, homosexuality and women priests,” he said. “I mean how much more anti-Catholic can you get?”
Ann Forsyth, spokeswoman at Thomas Aquinas College in Ventura County, California, supported the withdrawal of the appointment.
“As a Catholic institution for higher education, our understanding of ourselves is that we are to uphold the church's teachings on abortion and other subjects as the Holy Father calls for,” she said.
According to the California Catholic Daily, a petition titled “Support Rosemary Radford Ruether and Academic Freedom!” has attracted more than 2100 unconfirmed signatures on the site iPetitions.com. The petition was sponsored by the Women’s Ordination Conference, which describes itself as “a national organization that works for Catholic women to be priests and for a more inclusive Roman Catholic Church,” and by the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, "a feminist educational center.”
One petition signer is Frances Kissling, founder of the group Catholics for a Free Choice. The group, which is now called Catholics for Choice, was described by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as “an arm of the abortion lobby in the United States and throughout the world.”
The 71-year-old Ruether said she was concerned about the appointment decision’s implications for academic freedom, saying, “It appears to me that some right-wing group has put pressure on the university.”
She claimed that what people do in their personal life has nothing to do with what they are going to teach, adding that she had no plans to speak about abortion on campus, the Union-Tribune reports.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke on the mission of Catholic higher education during his visit to Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. in April, saying “Any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission.”
Stanford, Calif., Aug 22, 2008 (CNA) - Researchers at Stanford University have discovered that human embryonic stem cell therapies may suffer from a high probability of immune system rejection similar to that found in organ transplantation. The study, which one researcher called a “reality check,” could mean there will be significant delays in perfecting embryonic stem cell therapies.
Researchers found that an immune response resulted in mice injected with human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Because of the immune response, all the transplanted cells were dead within a week, Scientific American reports.
The new findings, in addition to previous work, suggest hESCs injected into a human patient would also provoke an immune response. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the injection of hESCs into human patients because the raw cells have the potential to become cancerous.
hESCs reportedly have the potential to mature into several different types of tissue, but they are harvested from human embryos that have been conceived and then destroyed to provide the stem cells.
Stanford radiologist Joseph Wu said the study shows that such cells do not “slip under the radar” of the immune system. Some scientists had hypothesized that embryonic cells avoid immune system reactions because half of the naturally conceived human embryo’s genes are foreign to its mother.
In the recent Stanford study, researchers used a noninvasive molecular imaging technique to monitor the cells injected into mice in order to determine exactly when the injected hESCs died off.
When hESCs were injected into mice with non-functioning immune systems, the cells reportedly thrived and multiplied. When injected into mice with functioning immune systems, the cells began to die within a week and were completely gone within ten days. When more hESCs were injected into the same mice, the cells then died within two to four days.
Noting the immune reaction was similar to that found during organ transplantation, the researchers repeated the experiment in animals that received two common anti-rejection medications: tacrolimus and sirolimus.
The hESCs lasted 28 days in such animals, but it is not known if that is enough time to have a therapeutic effect.
“Our only finding here is that this combo of drugs can have a medicating effect on these cells,” Wu said.
According to Scientific American, Wu said the result is "not a disappointment, it's more of a reality check… I think there's some promise [to hESCs], but you don't want to be foolish and say these cells are going to cure things in the next five years.”
Vatican City, Aug 22, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI remembered the late Bishop Wilhelm Emil Egger of Bolzano-Bressanone, an expert on the Bible who had been named special secretary for the Synod on the Word of God. He described the late prelate as a “beloved friend” and “learned pastor who the Church has lost, a kind and pious man who tirelessly brought the good news of Christ to people.”
The L'Osservatore Romano published a letter the Holy Father wrote for the funeral of Bishop Egger, which took place on Thursday at the Cathedral of Bressanone. In his letter, the Pope noted that “love for the Word of God and the sanctification of Sunday are now the particular testimony of Bishop Egger, which will help the faithful and parish communities to make the encounter with the God of love the center of their lives.”
After expressing his closeness to the diocese in prayer, the Pope underscored in his letter Bishop Egger’s “profound relationship with the Sacred Scriptures, which molded his entire life and from which he learned. Thus the celebration of the Eucharist constituted the central moment of his spiritual life, and therefore he celebrated Sunday Mass in a profoundly pastoral way with the faithful of his diocese.”
In recalling the last pastoral letter of Bishop Egger entitled, “Called to Follow Love,” the Holy Father said this title “aptly expresses the life of this man of the Church as a Christian, a religious and a bishop. His example is an invitation to each one of us to open ourselves to the love of God and enliven it with consistent effort in order to bring out in our own lives the authentic ‘following of love’.”
Cairo, Egypt, Aug 22, 2008 (CNA) - The Doctors’ Union of Egypt, led by the “Muslim Brothers,” a extreme faction of Islam, has decided to prohibit the transplant of organs between those who profess the Islamic faith and Christians, generating a series of protests and unrest in both communities.
According to the EFE news agency, a spokesman for the Coptic Church said in response to the decision, “We all have the same Egyptian blood, and if the purpose of the measure is to prohibit the traffic of organs, we reject it because that could occur as well among the faithful of the same religion.”
The spokesman said the union’s decision was “very grave,” since it could lead to other steps such as the prohibition of blood donations between Christians and Muslims or prevent a doctor from examining a patient of a different faith. “We fear that in the future there will be hospitals for Christians and hospitals for Muslims,” he said.
The director of the union, Hamdi El Sayed, said the new norm aims “to protect poor Muslim from rich Christians who buy their organs and vice versa” and “to prevent any attempt to deceive the infirm and rob them of their organs, especially if this occurs between Christians and Muslims, because in this case it does open the door to a crisis between both communities.”
Abel Moti Bayumi, an expert with the Center for Islamic Studies of Al Azhar, said the norm is “discriminatory, since it violates human rights, the Constitution and national unity.” “If the union does not annul the decision, there will be more conflicts between Christians and Muslims,” he warned.
Guayaquil, Ecuador, Aug 22, 2008 (CNA) - In an interview with Radio La Luna, Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa openly attacked the bishops of Ecuador accusing them of “stabbing me in the back” by not supporting his controversial constitutional reform.
Correa accused the Bishops’ Conference of Ecuador of having been “one of the biggest disappointments” of his government because, he argued, the Church participated actively with its proposals in the process of redacting the constitution, which is now being questioned for its anti-life and anti-family elements.
“I consider it to be a stab in the back,” Correa said, claiming that he had responded “to 80% of what the Church requested,” but “we did not put the exact text that they wanted in the part on conception” and therefore “now they say the constitution is pro-abortion.”
Correa said that before the criticisms by the bishops, he had bragged to Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Luis Ignacio Lula Da Silva of Brazil and Nestor Kirchner of Argentina about being “the only leftist leader in Latin America who got along with the leaders of the Church.”
In response to the attacks by Correa, the Ecuadoran bishops have firmly reiterated their position and several days ago unanimously reconfirmed their criticisms of the new constitution for not guaranteeing the right to life from the moment of conception, for attacking the family and the right of parents to educate their children according to their own convictions.
The bishops reminded the Ecuadoran people that it is within the Church’s responsibility to make her voice heard whenever human life is under attack. They also reiterated that “the clergy has the full and unquestionable right to preach, expound and defend catholic dogma and morals.”
The new constitution drafted under Correa will be put to a referendum on September 28.
Castelgandolfo, Italy, Aug 22, 2008 (CNA) - Today Pope Benedict XVI thanked his brother Georg Ratzinger for having always been his companion, for being “a benchmark of confidence” and for helping him to accept his old age “with serenity, humility and courage.”
The Holy Father spoke during a ceremony presenting his older brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger with the honorary citizenship of Castel Gandolfo, the Italian town south of Rome, where the Pope’s summer residence is located.
Benedict XVI revealed that “since the beginning of my life, my brother has not only been a companion, but also a trustworthy guide with the clarity and determination of his decisions. He always has shown me the path to take, including in difficult situations."
The Holy Father recalled the years he lived in Regensburg, where his brother was the cathedral choir director for 30 years. “The Sunday music offered me comfort, consolation, and a reflection of the beauty of God" the Pontiff recalled.
“We have reached the last stage of our lives, old age. The days left to live are progressively fewer, but in this stage, my brother helps me to accept with serenity, humility and courage the weight of each day. I thank him," he added.
The Pope also expressed gratitude to the town council for honoring his brother saying, “if it’s possible [Castel Gandolfo] has become even dearer to my heart.”
The Pontiff’s brother
Georg Ratzinger was born in 1924 in Pleiskirchen near Altötting, Germany. He is the oldest of three children. The second child of the Ratzingers, Maria, devoted her life to the care of her brothers (Georg and Joseph) until her death in 1991.
In 1946 George and his brother Joseph, now Pope Benedict, joined the seminary of the Archdiocese of Munich–Freising and received their priestly ordination in 1951.
In 1964, Georg became the choir director at the Regensburg Cathedral. Currently he lives in Pentling, near Regensburg in the house shared with his brother, Pope Benedict.
Denver, Colo., Aug 22, 2008 (CNA) - A group of activists “will get arrested – perhaps more than once – in order to draw focus to Obama's hard core support of child-killing” during the Democratic National Convention, according to Randall Terry. “We will definitely be arrested on Tuesday, August 26 at a location to be announced - and perhaps sooner.
In a press released, Terry, founder of the Christian Defense Coalition, also announced that his group intends “to disrupt a number of DNC events, including, but not limited to: the Interfaith Gathering; Opening Reception; African American Caucus; Hispanic Caucus; Women's Caucus; Faith Forum; the Opening of the DNC; and more.”
The group plans on taking “cues from the ‘Letter from the Birmingham Jail,’ by Martin Luther King Jr.,” Terry explained. “We are deliberately creating social tension in order to highlight the grave evil of legalized child-killing. Those who condemn our tactics might forgo celebrating Marin Luther King day."
The schedule of protests can be seen at: www.humbleplea.com
Other pro-life events taking place during the DNC:
Denver pro-life leader, Bob Enyart, host of Bob Enyart Live, will be leading several pro-life actions in Denver during the convention.
The Christian Defense Coalition, Operation Save America, and Operation Rescue West are also holding pro-life events in the Denver area.
Their schedule of events can be seen at: www.aprayerforchange.com
Chicago, Ill., Aug 22, 2008 (CNA) - U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, faces further criticism concerning the former Illinois state senator’s explanations of his opposition to an Illinois bill that would have protected infants who survive an abortion. While he has claimed that his opposition derived from concern that the law would be used to undermine Roe v. Wade and Illinois state law concerning abortion, a 2002 transcript from the Illinois Senate shows that Obama also opposed the bill because he believed requiring a second doctor to evaluate and care for a potential survivor of a botched abortion would be too burdensome on the abortionist and on the woman who decided to have the abortion.
The Illinois version of the Born Alive Infants’ Protection Act (BAIPA) was supported by Jill Stanek, a nurse who discovered that infants who survived abortions in an Illinois hospital were being left to die in soiled utility rooms.
Erick Erickson, writing on RedState.com, reported his discovery of an April 4, 2002 exchange between Obama and state Senator Patrick O’Malley, a sponsor of BAIPA. The exchange reveals Obama’s contemporary motives for opposing the bill.
The transcript of the State of Illinois’ 92nd General Assembly regular session records Obama criticizing BAIPA:
“As I understand it, this puts the burden on the attending physician who has determined, since they were performing this procedure, that, in fact, this is a nonviable fetus; that if that fetus, or child - however way you want to describe it - is now outside the mother's womb and the doctor continues to think that it's nonviable but there's, let's say, movement or some indication that, in fact, they're not just coming out limp and dead, that, in fact, they would then have to call a second physician to monitor and check off and make sure that this is not a live child that could be saved.”
According to the transcript, Obama also claimed the bill was based on the suspicion that, in the event the doctor performing an abortion discovers he or she has wrongly assessed the viability of the unborn child, the physician abortionist “would not try to exercise the sort of medical measures and practices that would be involved in saving that child.”
Further, Obama voiced his suspicion that the bill is “really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion.”
Erickson, giving his own polemical summary of Obama’s criticism, writes on RedState.com “Let's trust the guy who just botched the abortion to determine whether or not he actually did botch the abortion.”
Obama opposed the bill all three times it was proposed in the Illinois Senate and was the only state senator to speak against the bill in 2002. It passed in 2005, after he left the legislature.
He had repeatedly claimed that his opposition to BAIPA was driven by legal concerns about whether the bill would be used to challenge abortion law, especially the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. According to an October 4, 2004 article in the Chicago Tribune, Obama said that, were he a U.S. Senator at the time, he would have voted for the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, even though he voted against a state version of the proposal.
He claimed the difference between the state and federal versions “was that the state measure lacked the federal language clarifying that the act would not be used to undermine Roe vs. Wade.”
Records from the Illinois Senate showed that in 2003 Obama had voted in committee for an amendment adding such clarifying language to the state bill shortly before he voted to shelf the amended bill. When the records were revealed, the Obama campaign then claimed that the current presidential candidate opposed the BAIPA act because he felt it would be used to overturn state abortion laws.
In a recent candidates’ forum at Saddleback Church in California, Sen. Obama said determining when a baby gets human rights is “above my pay grade.”