Archive of September 16, 2008

Pro-life pharmacy owner explains his no-contraception policy

Grand Rapids, Mich., Sep 16, 2008 (CNA) - Citing ethical objections and the potential of some contraceptive drugs to cause abortions, some pharmacies in the United States have decided not to carry contraceptives. One such store is Kay Pharmacy in Grand Rapids, Michigan, owned by Mike Koelzer, who explained his decision not to carry contraceptives in an e-mail interview with CNA.

Koelzer explained that he stopped supplying birth control pills because, as is written on the drugs’ packaging inserts, such pills decrease the lining of the mother’s uterus. This makes the womb less hospitable for a newly fertilized egg to attach.

“It would be similar to taking a field, putting an asphalt parking lot on top of it, and then trying to grow a lawn on it,” he said.

Koelzer, a Catholic, added that he also decided not to stock contraceptives because “the Church teaches that all use of contraceptives is intrinsically wrong.”

An August story from ABC News reported that Koelzer had received many responses to his decision, about 80 percent of which were critical.

Koelzer told CNA that he typically does not respond to the critical comments, most of which came by letter or e-mail.

“If the writer has a genuine question and the letter is respectful in nature, I then respond by answering their questions,” he remarked. “But letters like these are rare.”

Non-critical responses are normally “letters of encouragement,” which Koelzer said thank him for “taking a stand.”

To the criticism that a customer has a right to any product, he responds: “just as an OB/GYN physician is not required to perform abortions, I am not required to participate in something that is morally wrong.”

“As an owner of a store, I have a right to carry or to not carry any legal product. There are some states that are trying to fight this freedom but just as many states that are trying to defend this freedom.”

CNA asked Koelzer if his decision not to carry contraceptive drugs could interfere with patients who take the drug for a medical condition.

Estimating that about ten percent of his 230 regular customers of birth control pills used them for medical conditions, he said he discontinued all sales in 2002 for business reasons.

“It just made good business sense to not have my employees quizzing customers on their intentions and reasons for using the birth control pills,” he explained.

“According to an OB/GYN friend of mine,” Koelzer further noted, “there are plenty of other prescription choices available for women besides birth control tablets that would be just as effective for their needs.”

The group Pharmacists for Life International, which promotes a pharmacist's right to refuse to fill such prescriptions and supports pro-life pharmacies, lists on its web site Koelzer’s Kay Pharmacy and five other U.S. pharmacies that have pledged not to dispense abortifacient drugs or devices or to give referrals for such products.

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Friends remember man who died saving Down Syndrome son

Front Royal, Va., Sep 16, 2008 (CNA) - A requiem Mass was celebrated on Monday for Thomas S. Vander Woude, a former athletic director at Christendom College who died saving his Down Syndrome son who had fallen into a septic tank.

Last week the 66-year-old’s youngest son Joseph, 20, had fallen into a septic tank at Vander Woude’s home in Prince William County. According to the Washington Post, his father jumped into the sewage-filled tank to help his son keep his head above the fouled water while Vander Woude’s wife Mary Ellen and a workman called emergency rescue workers and tried to help.

When he and his son were rescued from the tank, Vander Woude was unconscious. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

His son Joseph was hospitalized but is expected to make a full recovery.

Thomas Vander Woude and his wife have seven sons, one of whom is the pastor of a parish in Alexandria, Virginia, the Arlington Catholic Herald says.

He is remembered as a man of faith and service.

Bob Laird, the executive director of Divine Mercy Care and a friend of Vander Woude's, told the Arlington Catholic Herald that,“Tom was a most humble man.” “For all of the good that he did, he took no credit for it, but gave the credit to others and to the intercession of the Blessed Mother. He dedicated his entire life to his family and his faith. This dedication cost him his life saving his son.”

A dedicated volunteer at his parish, Van Woude was responsible for training altar servers at Holy Trinity.

According to Laird, Van Woude and his wife were one of the first Natural Family Planning couples to work with the Couple to Couple League in the Arlington Diocese.

He and his wife would also hold massive annual Marian celebrations at their home each May.

“His May picnics were infamous (sic),” Laird explained to the Arlington Catholic Herald. “It was sort of like an open invitation, and there were hundreds of people there. I think they stopped after awhile because they just got too big.”

A retired commercial airline pilot, he worked as the athletic director at Christendom College in Fort Royal, Virginia for five years until 2007 when his son Chris took over.

“He was a great man, a devout Roman Catholic, and great friend of the college," said Christendom President Timothy O’Donnell. “He sent his children here and made an incredible contribution to not only our athletics program, but also the larger life of the community here. Our hearts go out to his family at this time. He will be deeply missed."

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Fordham University criticized for awarding ethics prize to Justice Stephen Breyer

, Sep 16, 2008 (CNA) - A Fordham University legal ethics center’s decision to award an ethics prize to the pro-abortion rights Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer is drawing criticism for apparently ignoring the justice’s participation in a Supreme Court decision that struck down laws restricting the practice of partial-birth abortion.

Fordham University’s Stein Center for Law and Ethics recently announced Justice Breyer’s selection as the 2008 winner of the Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize. According to the prize’s charter, it recognizes an individual who "exemplifies outstanding standards of professional conduct, promotes the advancement of justice, and brings credit to the profession by emphasizing in the public mind the contributions of lawyers to our society and to our democratic system of government."

William Michael Treanor, dean of Fordham Law, praised the jurist.

"Justice Breyer has devoted his life to the public good,” he said in a press release. “He was a brilliant, influential, and path-breaking scholar. His government service before taking the bench was of the highest quality. As a jurist, his opinions have been marked by thoughtfulness, balance, rigor, and a commitment to justice and liberty. He has been an eloquent and forceful champion of judicial integrity, as we saw this spring when he participated in a forum on judicial independence at Fordham Law together with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. In every facet of his extraordinary career, he has embodied the great ideals of the Fordham-Stein Prize, and he is a superb honoree."

Bruce Green, co-director of Fordham Law’s Stein Center, also praised Justice Breyer.

"In every phase of his professional life, as a lawyer in government service, as a scholar, as a judge and justice, Stephen Breyer has exemplified the values that the Fordham-Stein Prize honors,” he said.

"Justice Breyer is clearly an attorney whose career has been unwaveringly committed both to excellence and to upholding the integrity of the profession."

Justice Breyer wrote the majority opinion in the 2000 Supreme Court decision Stenberg v. Carhart, which struck down state laws against partial-birth abortion. In his opinion, Breyer wrote: “this Court, in the course of a generation, has determined and then redetermined that the Constitution offers basic protection to the woman’s right to choose.”

Breyer’s colleague Justice Antonin Scalia, writing a dissent in the case, compared the injustice of the majority decision to both the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision which provoked the U.S. Civil War and the Korematsu v. United States which permitted the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II.

“The method of killing a human child . . . proscribed by this statute is so horrible that the most clinical description of it evokes a shudder of revulsion,” Scalia wrote.

Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick J. Reilly criticized the Jesuit-run university, saying in a statement that the awarding of the prize “amounts to nothing less than Fordham University thumbing its nose at the US Bishops, whose opposition to such honors is clear.”

“The choice by Fordham University of Justice Breyer to receive this prestigious award,” Reilly continued, “is a far cry from an award established to recognize the ‘positive contributions of the legal profession to American society.’ Justice Breyer did not act objectively in Stenberg, but rather overstepped his authority and legislated from the bench.”

Reilly contacted Fordham president Rev. Joseph McShane, S.J. three weeks ago asking him to rescind the award, but has still not received a reply.

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Eye for an eye will not rid Mexico of violence, cardinal warns

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 16, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera said in his homily on Sunday that the law of “an eye for an eye is not the way” to solve the problem of violence in the country, and called on Mexicans to embrace “forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation” in order to confront the current complicated situation.


After learning of the discovery of 24 bodies outside Mexico City, the cardinal recalled that “beyond vengeance lies forgiveness and compassion,” and that the law of an eye for an eye would not be a solution because “violence begets more violence.”  Instead, the cardinal proposed “forgiveness and mercy” to help man overcome his “legalistic and justice-only” tendencies.


“Some propose killing those who kill others,” Cardinal Rivera said, noting that vengeance always “leads to more vengeance, and if anyone thinks that forgiving is a virtue of the weak, let him see which is more difficult: taking vengeance or forgiving.”


“An insult, a calumny, an annoyance, physical harm, having one’s material goods destroyed, is not resolved by doing the same to another,” he continued.


On the other hand, he clarified, “to forgive does not mean to accept evil or to stop fighting against injustice and impunity.”  The baptized have an even greater commitment to the promotion of forgiveness and mercy, the cardinal stressed.  “Not even justice, as important as it is, is enough to reestablish the social fabric.  An evil is not redressed by doing the same to another.  Beyond vengeance is forgiveness and compassion,” he reiterated.

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Holy Father asks U.N. to build a world of greater solidarity

Vatican City, Sep 16, 2008 (CNA) - In an address sent for the opening of the 63rd General Assembly of the United Nations, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the participants to continue upholding the dignity of each human person and to build a world of “ever greater solidarity, freedom and peace.”


The message, sent by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B on behalf of the Holy Father, is addressed to participants of a prayer meeting being held for the opening of the General Assembly.


The message explains that the Pontiff, along with “the members of the diplomatic community and U.N. officials present,” join in “imploring from Almighty God the guidance and strength needed to carry out the urgent tasks facing the United Nations in the coming months.”  The letter specifically called the General Assembly to pray for the “continuing implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, the NEPAD program (New Partnership for Africa's Development) and other initiatives aimed at ensuring that the whole human family shares in the benefits of globalization.


The Pope also gratefully recalled his visit to the General Assembly last April on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and renewed his appeal to international leaders to “re-appropriate the lofty moral vision and the transcendent principles of justice embodied in the United Nations' founding documents.”


Finally, the message says, “The Holy Father invokes upon all in attendance an abundance of divine blessings, trusting that these moments of reflection and prayer will strengthen them in their commitment to upholding the dignity of each human person and building a world of ever greater solidarity, freedom and peace.”

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Catholic universities plan scientific examination of evolutionary theory

Vatican City, Sep 16, 2008 (CNA) - Two universities from different sides of the Atlantic announced plans today to hold an international conference to discuss Charles Darwin’s work “The Origin of the Species.” The conference will approach Darwin’s theory of evolution from a scientific standpoint, rather than an ideological one, an organizer explained. 

"Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories. A Critical Appraisal 150 years after 'The Origin of Species'" is scheduled for March 3-7, 2009 in Rome and is being sponsored by the University of Notre Dame (USA) and the Pontifical Gregorian University.

The congress, while being sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture, is “an academic congress, organized by two Catholic universities, the Gregorian University in Rome and Notre Dame in the United States, and as such is not an ecclesial event. Yet the patronage of the Pontifical Council for Culture serves to underline the Church's interest in such questions," Fr. Marc Leclerc S.J. explained.

Professor Gennaro Aluetta, a philosophy professor at Gregorian University, also added that the invitees include “Nobel laureate Werner Arber, the Templeton Prize winner Michael Heller, Prof.John Barrow di Cambridge, il grande neurologo Marc Jeannerod e moltissimi altri. John Barrow of Cambridge, the great neurologist Marc Jeannerod and many others.”

Fr. Leclerc explained the reason that the congress is being held, saying, "Debates on the theory of evolution are becoming ever more heated, both among Christians and in specifically evolutionist circles. In particular, with the approach of the ... 150th anniversary of the publication of 'The Origin of Species,’ Charles Darwin's work is still too often discussed more in ideological terms than in the scientific ones which were his true intention.”

"In such circumstances - as Christian scientists, philosophers and theologians directly involved in the debate alongside colleagues from other confessions or of no confession at all - we felt it incumbent upon us to bring some clarification. The aim is to generate wide-ranging rational discussion in order to favor fruitful dialogue among scholars from various fields and areas of expertise. The Church has profound interest in such dialogue, while fully respecting the competencies of each and all,” Fr. Leclerc said.

The congress is also part of the larger initiative led by the Pontifical Council for Culture called the Science, Technology, and the Ontological Quest or STOQ. The initiative seeks to pursue the connections between science, philosophy and theology.

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Bishop Fernandez lauds large families as sign of hope amidst a culture of death

Madrid, Spain, Sep 16, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona said this week that amidst a culture of death in Spain that promotes abortion and genetic manipulation, large families open to life are a sign of hope for a new and better future. 

In a pastoral letter, the Spanish bishop warned of the loss of the sense of evil among Spaniards and noted that “officials do not support even one social initiative that aims to help women who want to be mothers.  They provide everything to help women who want to abort and kill the babies in their wombs. There is no equal opportunity.  Those who want to kill receive more attention than those who choose life.”

After mentioning some tendencies of Spanish society that promote sexual license and in vitro fertilization, Bishop Fernandez said, “Despite all of the good they say this will do, we are heading towards the destruction of this society.  Whatever does not produce life but death contributes to this destruction.”

“For someone who doesn’t believe in God or in eternal life, another child is a hindrance to happiness” and is seen as something “dangerous” that “must be avoided at all costs,” the bishop said.  “A society that abandons God and turns against man self-destructs. A society that is with God understands and appreciates man not as a threat but as a brother,” he added.

Bishop Fernandez also pointed to parishes, groups, movements and communities living “in keeping with gospel” as sources of abundant life. “When all of these lights come together, they become a powerful focal point that helps us understand everything in a different way, God’s way,” he said.  “Millions of young people have already discovered this light.  That is our hope. It is wonderful.  They will change this decrepit situation into a new springtime.  Let us thank God for that,” the bishop said.

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McCain discusses role of religion in personal and national life

, Sep 16, 2008 (CNA) - Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain spoke about the place of religion and politics in a Friday appearance on the ABC daytime talk show The View. While professing respect for people regardless of their religious beliefs, he said he prayed for God’s guidance and claimed the United States was founded upon “Judeo-Christian values.”

Whoopi Goldberg, one hostess of the show, asked whether McCain’s choice of evangelical Christian Gov. Sarah Palin was a possible threat to the “separation of church and state.”

According to, McCain replied that some of Palin’s remarks, in which she prayed that the military do God’s will, have been taken out of context. The senator claimed that Palin was echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln, who said “we should "pray not that God be on our side, but that we be on God's side."

While John McCain has been reticent in the past to talk about his faith in public, he has recently become more vocal about it.

McCain explained his own view of religion and American life, saying “Judeo-Christian values were the foundation of our nation.  'In God we trust' - clearly - the belief that God has a plan for the world, and that we should do what we can to live as good a lives as we can and trust that - 'in God we trust' - will guide the nation and this world to a better existence."   

When some of his hostesses asked about those who do not believe in God, he replied that atheists are entitled not to believe in God, but that this tolerance should also be accorded to those who do believe in God.

“We should respect the views of those who believe in God and believe that we are a special nation, and that it's a special world, and we believe that God does play a role - not in whether or not we win or lose elections - but in whether we have a better world, and a better future, and better lives," Sen. McCain said.

Goldberg said she believed that Christianity could “take over” and disadvantage people of other beliefs.

"Are you to govern the way that God would have you do it, or do you govern this nation for the greater good of the people in it?" she asked.

"I think everybody obviously is entitled to their individual faith, including not believing in anything,” McCain answered. “But I pray every day for guidance, and to do the right thing... and to do what is in the best interest of the country.

"I am an imperfect person," he concluded, "but the point is, I respect those people who don't think they need spiritual guidance and help. I just happen to be one of those who does.”

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Society must support family founded upon marriage, Spanish cardinal says

Madrid, Spain, Sep 16, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, said during a homily this week that it is the duty of each and every member of society “to support and strengthen the family and its foundation.” This must be done by spreading the truth about marriage as “a lifelong indissoluble union between a man and a woman, rooted in love and open to life,” he said.

During a Mass for the XIX Marian Day of the Family at the Shrine of Torreciudad, the Spanish cardinal underscored that “everyone, without exception, is obliged to promote and strengthen the values and demands of the family. The family must be helped and defended through appropriate social means.”

Cardinal Cañizares explained that the promotion and defense of the family is “the basis of a new culture of love, the center of the new civilization of love.”

“Only the family is the hope of humanity,” he said, adding that “Catholics have a special responsibility that translates into the proclamation of the gospel of the family.”

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Ecuadoran archbishop says sacrifice of the unborn is unacceptable

Quito, Ecuador, Sep 16, 2008 (CNA) - Thousands of Catholics participated in three Masses celebrated by the bishops of Ecuador this past weekend, with the president of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Antonio Arregui Yarza, reminding Ecuadorans that the rights of the unborn must be respected.  “We must all help these lives to achieve viability when there are problems. We can never accept that these lives are sacrificed,” he said.

The archbishop made his comments during the Mass he celebrated on Sunday to encourage Catholics to pray and be informed about the upcoming national referendum on September 28 that will determine whether or not a reform of the country’s Constitution is accepted.
The reform has been led by President Rafael Correa, whose advisors during the project included Spanish socialists.  The new Constitution would open the door to abortion, gay unions and state interference in education.

According to the ANSA news agency, thousands of Ecuadorans attended the three Masses celebrated in Quito. Parishes were closed in the capital in order to encourage attendance at the massive celebrations.

During his homily, Archbishop Arregui underscored that man must not exclude God from human affairs.  “Earthly power without heaven is ambiguous and fragile. Only power that is made subject to the principles and judgment of heaven, that is, of God, can become good.  And only the power that is under the blessing of God is trustworthy,” he said.

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Catholic bishops of India warn anti-Christian violence could spread

New Dehli, India, Sep 16, 2008 (CNA) - Following yet another series of attacks on Christian places of worship by suspected Hindu militants, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has warned that the anti-Christian violence in Orissa state could spread to other parts of India.

The bishops firmly condemned the Sunday attacks, recommitting themselves to serving all Indians while also saying that India’s persecuted Christians have “exercised restraint under extreme provocation.”

CBCI president Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil decried the attacks, which were allegedly committed by the group named Bajrang Dal and other extremist groups in various parts of Karnataka.

In a statement issued on September 15, Cardinal Vithayathil said:

“The heightened attacks on Christians, their dwellings and places of worship in different parts of the country are the manifestation of the growing intolerance of certain sections of society that blatantly defy the constitutional rights of the citizens of this country. We ask them to desist from such provocation of religious minorities in India and follow a path of dialogue and dignified approach to sorting out any social, religious and political issues.”

The CBCI statement as a whole also rejected the violence, saying:

“We, as a nation, cannot allow ourselves to be drawn into the vortex of primitive instincts of conflict and destruction. The Christian community in India has been conducting itself in a peaceful manner all this while, and even under extreme provocation it has exercised restraint. However, it is not to be construed as weakness, but a preferred option based on sound principles of civilized living.”

The bishops said that the Christian community continues to serve “sections of Indian society without any discrimination.” Attacking “baseless allegations of fraudulent conversion,” they charged “certain vested interests” with encouraging social polarization along religious lines.

“We, as responsible citizens of India, will not succumb to their divisive tactics, but continue to work, in the spirit of Christ our Master, for the unity, integrity and progress of the nation,” the bishops’ statement said.

The statement also condemned Saturday evening’s bomb attacks in New Delhi, which injured dozens and killed 22 innocents. The militant group “Indian Mujaheddin” has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

“As a civilized society, we must endeavor to defeat such nefarious designs of the misguided elements of society,” the statement said, with the bishops adding that they will pray for the attacks’ victims and their families.

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