Valencia, Fla., Aug 28, 2008 (CNA) - The Little Sisters of the Abandoned Elderly in Chissano (Mozambique) took into their home this week a 25 year-old African young girl named Olivia, who despite not being baptized at the time and not having any legs, crawled 2.5 miles every Sunday to attend Mass.
According to the AVAN news agency, the nuns said that one day, they saw “something moving on the ground far away,” and when they drew near they saw, “to our surprise, that it was a young woman.”
“We were able to talk to her through a lady who was walking by and who translated into Portuguese what she was saying to us” in her dialect, they said.
The sisters said that although “the sand from the road burned the palms of her hands during the hottest times of the year,” the young woman crawled to Mass, “giving witness of perseverance and heroic faith.”
The young woman received baptismal preparation from a catechist, who periodically visited her at home. After she was recently baptized, one of the benefactors of the sisters donated a wheel chair for Olivia.
Denver, Colo., Aug 28, 2008 (CNA) - On Tuesday the Faith in Action Panel at the Democratic National Convention tried to claim the language of faith for the Democratic Party. Stressing the idea of the “common good,” panelists discussed how churches, the government, and “people of faith” can help address the problems concerning the living wage, education, immigration, and prisoner rehabilitation.
Rev. Jim Wallis, Chief Executive Officer of Sojourners magazine, addressed the audience at a Colorado Convention Center ballroom before a wall covered in signs reading “Pro-family, Pro-Obama.” Wallis said that God is not a Republican or a Democrat, insisting that religious influence is “not just about gays and abortion.” He said religious values ought to be brought to bear upon issues like poverty, the environment, immigration, and what he called a “deeper, more consistent” appreciation of the sanctity of life.
“Religion has been abused,” he said, but he believed the “abuse” of religion on the right of the political spectrum requires a response from more progressive religious believers.
Rev. Leah D. Daughtry, CEO of the DNC and a pastor of a Pentecostal church in Washington, D.C., made an unscheduled visit to the panel session, saying it is a “great addition to the Democratic party.”
“It is so important that we added this so people of faith can come together.”
Daughtry explained her own faith life, saying that there is “no separation” of her faith and work.
“Faith is a part of who I am, it’s not something checked at the door,” she said.
Rev. Jennifer Kottler from the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Coalition began the panel titled “Common Ground on the Common Good.” She said that the “bottom line” of poverty is the dividing issue of the 21st century.
“Extreme poverty is a stain on democracy. It is also an affront to God,” she proclaimed.
According to Kottler, the minimum wage has lost 40 percent of its value due to inflation. Had the minimum wage kept pace with inflation, it would today be $10 per hour.
While advocating a raise of the minimum wage, she also endorsed skills training for those in need.
“The best economic stimulus is a good, paying job,” she added, claiming that present day twenty-somethings comprise the first generation likely to do economically worse than their parents.
She stated that there were at least 17 million Americans living in extreme poverty, which she called a “shame.” While granting the necessity of hard work, she said it is difficult to lift oneself up by one’s bootstraps without boots.
Panelist Rabbi Jack Moline, who heads the Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, Virginia, examined the place of education in contemporary life. Explaining how much his parents valued education in his youth, Rabbi Moline said they recognized that education must not be just a “means to an end.”
“It was taken for granted that we were endowed by our Creator with certain responsibilities,” he said, making further allusions to the Declaration of Independence by claiming a fully funded education is part of the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
He added that study is more important than action, because “study moves us to action.”
Decrying what he saw as an anti-educational atmosphere “tantamount to neglect,” Rabbi Moline lamented “teaching to tests” done in place of teaching critical thinking. He also criticized the elimination of physical education, arts and music, and other electives. By ignoring their importance of education we “leave a vacuum in its place,” he asserted.
He further noted that without a solid high school education, young people are more inclined to crime, teen pregnancy, and thus abortion.
Turning to immigration, Bishop Wilfredo DeJesus, pastor of a Chicago mega-church and a member of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, criticized what he called a “broken” immigration system.
While granting that immigration issues are “highly debatable,” he insisted that it is necessary to “stand with all people.”
Bishop DeJesus described the effects of a massive ICE raid in Postville, Iowa in which he said 900 agents were involved.
Claiming the agents displayed an “excessive show of force” and used “heavy-handed tactics,” he said the raid displaced 400 families.
According to DeJesus, 43 women were arrested but could neither work nor return to their home country for months. He also protested the separation of nursing mothers from their children during such raids.
Saying over 2,000 immigrants have died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years, DeJesus called for “comprehensive immigration reform” and claimed Sen. Barack Obama as a true “family values” candidate because of his immigration policy.
Rev. John Hunter from the First African Methodist Episcopalian Church in Los Angeles explained the need to help prisoners released from jail or prison re-enter society and rehabilitate themselves. Saying 13.5 million people are either in jail or in prison in the United States, he described how ex-felons face employment and housing problems.
In particular, he noted that federal laws generally prohibit funding housing for ex-felons.
Criticizing voting restrictions on felons, Rev. Hunter called them an obstacle to prisoner rehabilitation and endorsed Obama’s platform to alleviate such restrictions.
Further, Rev. Hunter told how fathers separated from their children for years had difficulty rejoining their families.
Delicately alluding to the problem of prison rape, he also said that many men are released from prisons with HIV/AIDS.
Hunter said he wanted the women in his family to be able to marry “strong men” who have been able to rehabilitate themselves, but he also warned that a lack of options for released prisoners only means a return to crime.
Rev. Wallis, an evangelical Protestant, concluded the session with quotations he attributed to the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops’ 2004 document “Faithful Citzenship.”
"Politics …should be about an old idea with new power - the common good. The central question should not be, 'Are you better off today than you were four years ago?' The central question should be, 'How can we - all of us, especially the weak and vulnerable - be better off in the years ahead?'"
Vatican City, Aug 28, 2008 (CNA) - Upon finishing his talk on St. Paul at today’s general audience in Vatican City on Wednesday, Pope Benedict turned his attention to the attacks against Christians in India. He appealed for an end to the violence and prayed that a return to peace would soon be restored.
Benedict XVI told of his deep sadness upon having learned the news about the violence against Christian communities in the Indian State of Orissa. People have been killed, others injured, and church property and private houses destroyed following the murder of the Hindu leader Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati.
The Holy Father said, "I implore the Lord to accompany and support (our brothers and sisters in faith) in this time of suffering and to give them the strength to continue in the service of love in favor of all."
He concluded by asking local religious leaders and civil authorities "to work together to restore among the members of the various communities the peaceful coexistence and harmony which have always been the distinguishing mark of Indian Society."
Rome, Italy, Aug 28, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in India said this week in response to the recent wave of violence against Christians by Hindu extremists that Christians, “especially Catholics, are persecuted above all because of our social efforts to help the poor.
In an interview with the L’Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Cheenath also said, “We Catholics have never proselytized but we have always given good example by helping others. I think that for these people who are fanning the flames, our charitable work is an unforgivable sin.”
He noted that the current problems go back to December of 2007 and January 2008. “At that time, the ire of extremists was concentrated on the destruction of the belongings of Catholics, and now it is on the direct attack of people. The number of victims is still not definitively known. I have received news of five victims and numerous wounded, some seriously. I pray to God this will all end soon and reason will soon prevail again,” he said.
The archbishop went on to say, “It is not necessary but it is fair to say that people are using a pseudo-religious pretext for matters of a political nature. Catholics in Orissa are a small community, about one percent of the population. Our faithful support peaceful coexistence with those who belong to other faiths and they have, whenever possible, good relations with their Hindu neighbors.”
Archbishop Cheenath also mentioned the case of a young lay missionary named Ranjie Majhie who worked at an orphanage in Panampur. She may have died during a fire at the orphanage making sure that all of the children were able to escape the flames.
“The children and some of the nuns probably hid in the neighboring plantations. However, I cannot say anything definitive about her fate. I pray that God will protect these innocent victims,” the archbishop stated.
Asked about what would happen to the Pastoral Center of the diocese, he said the center’s director, Father Thomas, “has surely fled from the Hindu fanatics who were gathered outside the building to set it on fire. I have spoken to him by phone. He has described the events with anguish. I have told him to pray fervently and to save himself.”
“As far as I know, the pastoral center has suffered serious damage, perhaps irreparable. This was a work that many of faithful sacrificed greatly for. We were very proud of it,” the archbishop said.
San José, Costa Rica, Aug 28, 2008 (CNA) - In a new directive from the Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica, the Church has reaffirmed her right to educate the faithful in moral and doctrinal questions so that when they intervene in public life, they do so in a way that is consistent with their faith.
In a letter to the President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, the bishops said, “It is not the intention of the Church that her actions be confused with political activity,” as she has no desire to exercise “political power or abolish the freedom of opinion of Catholics regarding current affairs.”
In their letter, the bishops said that when the Church has “intervened in matters inherent to social and political life,” she has done so “in fulfillment of her duty” to educate and enlighten the consciences of her faithful, “above all those who are devoted to political life,” so that they may always be at the service of the person and the common good.
In noting the value of the democratic system, the bishops pointed out that “the Church is free to preach the faith, teacher her social doctrine and exercise her mission among mankind without any kind of hindrance.”
“As the Church we value this system and we know that authentic democracy is possible only in a Constitutional regime and on the basis of an upright concept of the human person,” they said.
Denver, Colo., Aug 28, 2008 (CNA) - The Democrats for Life town hall meeting on Wednesday in Denver, in addition to policy proposals and cultural analysis, examined the consequences of abortion, naming the abortion-related risks of domestic violence, infertility, and cancer as reasons to advocate abortion reduction programs.
Colorado State Senator Debbie Stafford, a former Republican with a background in religious ministry and domestic violence counseling, discussed the relation of domestic violence to abortion while Rev. Clenard Childress, pastor of the New Calvary Baptist Church in Montclair, New Jersey and president of the Life Education and Resource Network (LEARN), discussed abortion’s devastating effects in the African-American community.
“No woman will abort unless she has a sense of abandonment and rejection,” Stafford said. Domestic violence doesn’t “just happen,” and pregnant women are 25 to 50 percent more likely to be abused than a non-pregnant woman, she explained.
Stafford added that sometimes a woman undergoes an abortion just to please her partner.
“When a pregnant woman involved in an abusive or destructive relationship finds herself with an unplanned pregnancy, one of the ways that she believes she can maintain what we call the ‘traumatic-emotional bond’ with her abuser is to allow her baby to be aborted.”
Further, she has discovered that “men hurt too,” and can come “literally unglued” because their pregnant partner used the possible abortion of the baby as a “wedge” between them or as a way to punish the man.
“It took two people to create that child,” she said, noting that both men and women in abusive relationships need support.
Rev. Childress discussed the negative consequences of abortion especially as related to the African-American community, claiming abortion affects African-Americans “more than any other ethnic group in the country.” He cited CDC statistics showing that one in two pregnant African-American women choose to abort.
The African-American birth rate, he said, is at 1.97 children per women, less than the 2.1 replacement rate. African-American women now lead the country in miscarriages due to “using abortion as a contraceptive,” which weakens the uterine lining.
“When they want to have a child, they cannot,” Rev. Childress explained with sadness.
Turning to other health problems, he asserted: “Nobody talks about the 21 conclusive studies that show that abortion and breast cancer are linked.”
He also said he was “totally disgusted” at the medical community for not acknowledging post-partum depression occurs among women who have had abortions.
“You need to be a pastor, and talk to the women who are still hearing heartbeats, who are still traumatized.”
He also claimed 58 percent of African-Americans say they are pro-life, even though they are heavily favorable to the Democratic Party.
He also voiced concerns about the political manipulation surrounding the abortion issue.
“One side uses it for grassroots, the other side uses it monetarily, and it’s very sad,” Rev. Childress lamented.
“There’s too many women hurting,” he said, focusing upon the pro-life Democrats in the audience. “And the ethnic group that is hurting the most is the one that supports your party the most.”
Denver, Colo., Aug 28, 2008 (CNA) -
Speaking at the Democrats for Life town hall meeting in Denver on Wednesday, pro-life Democratic politicians praised Sen. Bob Casey, Jr.’s DNC floor speech and discussed what they saw as a growing openness to pro-lifers in the Democratic Party. Charging that Republicans have done nothing to reflect their professed pro-life views, the speakers called for further government support for pregnant women and adoption programs.
Tennessee Congressman Lincoln Davis, North Carolina Congressman Heath Shuler, and Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. addressed an audience of more than sixty guests and members of the press gathered at Denver’s Hotel Monaco were joined by Tennessee Democrat Bob Tuke, a nominee for the U.S. Senate who favors legalized abortion.
Several other speakers at the town hall spoke about pro-life policy and the consequences of abortion. Their remarks are reported elsewhere on CNA.
Rep. Lincoln Davis
Rep. Davis told how his pro-life convictions were strengthened by the loss of two children to miscarriage before beginning his reflection on the state of abortion-related politics.
“In the last 28 years, we have seen huge differences and divisiveness on the issue of abortion. In many situations, quite frankly, that issue alone has elected a member of Congress to the House or a member of Congress to the U.S. Senate.
“It’s time that we take the politics out of abortion,” he urged. “Probably we will never see that happen,” he conceded, but he said it was pleasing to see that lawmakers can begin to reduce the numbers of abortions.
“For me, it is time that the debate moves to a different level. And that different level is the bill that we have introduced, both Republicans and Democrats, that will help reduce the number of abortions by up to 95 percent over the next 10 years.”
He praised Kristen Day and Democrats for Life as an “unbelievable champion of this.”
“It is a blessing to know that at least for the first time, our Democratic Party has made reducing abortions a major part of the Democratic Party platform.”
Criticizing the Republican Party, he noted that seven of the nine Supreme Court justices who voted in favor of Roe v. Wade were Republican appointees.
Casey’s convention speech on Tuesday, Davis said, was very significant because it was one of the first times that Democrats allowed a senator to say he disagreed with many Democrats on the issue of abortion. According to Davis, Casey’s father Robert Casey, Sr. was not allowed to “make the same speech he made last night.”
Commenting on popular opinion regarding abortion, he said “Seventy percent believe that an abortion takes a life. That’s pretty startling.”
If Democrats continue to have only a “stark contrast” with the Republican platform, he said, “I think we start losing.” There is “too much work to be done” to allow abortion to be “the one issue that takes us down,” Davis argued.
“I’m excited that Democrats at this convention are listening to those of us who believe that we have to champion the unborn child.”
Senate Candidate Bob Tuke
Senate candidate Robert Tuke, who favors legalized abortion, said it did not matter to him when human life has legal status, but it does matter to take care of women and the children who are born, and to reduce the number of abortions.
“The Pregnant Women Support Act is critical to achieving that,” he said, voicing his pride that the Democratic Party has, in his view, included it in the platform.
“I want all children to be born,” he professed, but said caring for them is a matter of “finding how to do it.”
Tuke also endorsed programs encouraging adoption targeted towards women in college or high school.
“In 1973, nearly nine percent of births resulted in adoption. By the year 2000, that had dropped to one percent. Why is that?” he asked, claiming that the lack of adoption information was a problem.
Turning critical, Tuke said people who argue about abortion should “solve the problem and stop bickering about it.”
He too criticized the Republican Party, alleging it uses abortion to create “wedge issues” and to “score political points.”
Rep. Heath Shuler
Heath Shuler, a U.S. Representative from North Carolina, then took the floor, saying, “Democrats who are pro-life Democrats make a difference in our platform.”
He said it is necessary for pro-life Democrats to be not just pro-life “from conception to birth,” but also “from conception through natural death.”
When people hear Shuler is pro-life, he recounted, they say “you gotta be a Republican.”
“No way!” he replied, claiming that the Democrats are right on SCHIP, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
“As Democrats we’ve got our work cut out for us, no doubt,” but he said that there are other issues like Medicare Part D that “we don’t talk enough about how this is a life issue.”
Shuler recounted how Bill Clinton once went to Shuler’s Baptist Church with him, where the pastor was talking about abortion.
“Look, as a church you can talk all you want, we have to do something about it. Until you as a Republican or you as a Democrat does something about it, it will only be talk,” Clinton argued with the pastor.
According to Shuler, Clinton told how his church committed itself to reach out to mothers in need.
‘You know what? Most of them needed just a hug and someone to say that they loved them. And that made a difference in whether or not they saved that unborn child’s life,’ Clinton said according to Shuler.
Shuler said the Republicans will continue to hold a “trump card” in their hand and blamed them for being hypocritical by not doing something when they controlled all branches of the federal government.
When asked to respond to Obama’s pro-abortion comments about not wanting his daughter “punished with a baby,” Shuler replied that “there is nothing greater than having my daughter sitting in my lap” or kissing his kids goodnight.
“As a community we should be able to show that by support for women who maybe have that uncertainty,” he said.
“We have to make a difference as pro-life Democrats. And that’s why I’m a strong supporter for Democrats for Life,” he concluded.
Before the event turned to the next speaker Kristen Day, Democrats for Life president, especially thanked Shuler for his vote against funding embryonic stem cell research.
Obama & The Freedom of Choice Act
Several of the politicians also offered their opinion when they were asked about Sen. Obama’s support for the Freedom of Choice Act, which would remove almost all federal restrictions on abortion.
Sen. Casey said he could not agree with it, Rep. Shuler said he did not see it passing the House, and Rep. Davis was confident it was not going to pass.
Tuke, the senatorial candidate, said he could not support the act unless it was “substantially amended to provide additional protection to mothers.”
Rev. Clenard Childress, pastor of the New Calvary Baptist Church in Montclair, New Jersey, spoke after most of the legislators and candidates had left. Rev. Childress rebuked the use of the political argument which claims that Democrats are better than Republicans because the latter only believe in respecting life from “conception to birth.”
“Reducing abortion should be something that both parties should agree on,” he said. “But because someone failed the first nine months, but then they do better the next nine months… does that make your failure justified?
“I don’t understand the analogy. Yes, I hear it all the time. ‘What about after the baby gets here?’
“Well if I need a grant, if I need an education, if I need help, I first have to get here,” he countered.
Speaking to CNA after the town hall meeting, Kristen Day said the convention had gone “very well” for pro-life Democrats.
“There hasn’t been a big focus on the abortion issue at this convention, and it’s very encouraging to hear people talk about helping pregnant women, and to have pro-life Democrats leading and speaking at the convention, being part of the party, and also part of the platform.”
“So it’s been a very encouraging week, and we’ve had nothing but support. People are welcoming us. It’s been a very good week,” she said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 28, 2008 (CNA) - Mexico’s Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a law in Mexico City that allows abortion up to the twelfth week of pregnancy, in ruling called “historic” by abortion supporters who want the practice legalized throughout the country.
The justices heard arguments for three days from the Mexican Attorney General and the National Commission on Human Rights, who both said the law passed by the Mexico City Legislative Assembly in 2007 was unconstitutional.
On Wednesday it was reported that of the eleven justices, eight supported abortion and established a “majority opinion” that the rights of women should be given priority over the rights of the “unborn conceived.” The official vote on the ruling takes place on Thursday.
The justices in favor of abortion are Genaro Góngora Pimentel, José de Jesús Gudiño Pelayo, Juan Silva Meza, Fernando Franco González Salas, Sergio Valls Hernández, Olga Sánchez Cordero, José Ramón Cossío and Margarita Luna Ramos.
Those who dissented and found that life is protected by the Constitution from the moment of conception were Sergio Aguirre, Mariano Azuela and Guillermo Ortiz.
According to the Mexican daily El Universal, “Azuela was the only one who brought medical and scientific questions to the discussions aimed at defining when life begins.”
“The question was avoided by the ten other justices, who concluded that it was not for the Court to determine when life begins, since it is a question about which there is no agreement throughout the world and is not a legal question,” the paper reported.
New Dehli, India, Aug 28, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India is protesting the recent violent attacks on Christians living in the region. In an effort to promote peace, president of the bishops’ conference, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, has invited Catholic communities to hold protest rallies and to observe a day of fasting for peace and harmony within India.
In a statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) additionally called Catholics to close down their schools on Friday, August 29, to mark their solidarity with the victims of the recent anti-Christian attacks.
Violence against Christians has rapidly escalated in India after Hindu leaders blamed them for the killing of Swami Laxanananda Saraspati. Since his murder last Saturday, Christians have been targeted for attacks throughout the country.
Cardinal Vithayathil is calling on the Catholic community in India to observe a day of prayer and fasting on Sunday, September 7, 2008 for the promotion of harmony and peace in the country as well as peaceful rallies to protest the increase in violence.
The Vatican has also spoken out against the recent attacks saying that the violence damages “the dignity and freedom of the people and compromise a peaceful civic coexistence.”
Denver, Colo., Aug 28, 2008 (CNA) - The Democratic Party’s platform, leadership, and delegates stand far to the left of its rank-and-file members, according to a new paper released by Democrats for Life of America. This disparity, manifesting itself in the party’s 2008 platform and in polls and interviews with delegates, could harm the party electorally.
“The Case for Pro-Life Democrats,” a 13-page document released this week by Democrats for Life uses demographic and polling information to argue that Democrats will gain politically from more openness to pro-life politicians and policies.
Strong majorities of Americans, according to a 2007 Zogby poll, supported requiring minors seeking abortions to get their parents consent (69 percent), laws requiring informed consent before mothers can procure an abortion (64%), and outlawing partial-birth abortion (67%). A Gallup poll in 2007 also found 72 percent opposing third-trimester abortions.
In contrast to this public sentiment, the Democratic platform approved this week states: “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” Roe protects, as a constitutional right, abortion up until the moment of delivery, and parental consent, parental notification, and informed consent, are presumably “efforts to weaken and undermine” “a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion.”
A July 2004 New York Times/CBS Poll found that 75 percent of delegates agreed with the statement that “Abortion should be generally available to those who want it rather than under stricter limits or not permitted.” When that statement was put before a broader swath of registered Democrats, only 48 percent agreed.
While there has been no similar survey of delegates this year, Catholic News Agency interviewed delegates at the Pepsi Center this week, and found near uniform support for legal abortion. Two of the approximately thirty delegates interviewed considered themselves pro-life. Pro-life and pro-choice delegates alike said they considered abortion a minor issue.
The Democrats for Life study also considered the future of the party by looking at the growing numbers of Hispanic Democrats who, by four-to-one margins, oppose abortion and think it should be illegal always “or only be legal when the life of the mother is in danger or in cases of rape or incest.” Also, 64 percent of Hispanics said abortion was a very important issue.
A closer look at the Democratic tidal-wave victory in 2006 suggests that nominating pro-life candidates is a winning issue. EMILY’s list, a political action committee that backs only pro-choice women, supported 25 non-incumbents in that election year, and five won. Meanwhile, all three of the Democratic candidates funded by DFLA PAC won.
While DFLA only examined Democratic candidates, Republicans also saw superior performance by pro-life candidates. All five Republican congressional candidates lost who received money from Planned Parenthood or NARAL Pro-Choice America. Of the 19 Republicans running for reelection who voted to allow abortions in U.S. military hospitals, only 12 won—giving them a 63% winning percentage, compared to more pro-life Republicans who won at a 93% rate.
But pro-life efforts to amend the platform this year fell short. Pro-life delegates to the committee failed even to insert language about seeking “abortion reduction” policies that did not place restrictions on abortion. The pro-life forces were able insert this language:
“We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.
“The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal healthcare, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.”