Nashville, Tenn., Sep 19, 2008 (CNA) -
An organization called Girls Against Porn has sent a letter to American Airlines asking that the company filter pornographic sites from its in-flight internet service. Citing concerns for children and other passengers, the group warns that passengers who view pornography could create security risks and provoke lawsuits.
“The airlines are taking a risk, opening themselves up to lawsuits from customers who are exposed to porn or the effects,” the letter states. It notes a $200,000 lawsuit has been filed against American Airlines by a passenger who alleged she woke up to find a substance in her hair from another passenger who was engaged in self-abuse.
“The airlines run the risk of having this happen repeatedly if Internet isn't filtered,” Girls Against Porn said in a press release, noting that in January 2007 the family of an 11-year-old girl sued Delta Airlines alleging she was molested by a male passenger.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants has also voiced support for in-flight internet filters, saying flight attendants do not want to be “moral police.”
Girls Against Porn reported that the airlines Jet Blue, Continental, and Qantas have already applied filters to their internet services. The organization also encouraged the public to contact American Airlines to ask in-flight internet filters be applied.
Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2008 (CNA) - The Family Research Council (FRC) on Thursday released a study on the effectiveness of different parental involvement laws in reducing abortions among minors. According to the study’s findings, when a state enacts a parental involvement law the abortion rate for minors falls by an average of about 13.6 percent.
In a press release, FRC called the study the “first comprehensive analysis” of minor abortion data from nearly all 50 states between 1985 and 1990. The study, titled “The Effect of Parental Involvement Laws on the Incidence of Abortion Among Minors,” was authored by Dr. Michael New, Ph.D, a FRC Fellow and assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama.
“This study is the first of its kind to compare different types of parental involvement laws,” New said. “The study finds that more protective parental involvement laws result in even larger declines in abortion rates.”
The FRC study surveys research findings on laws that require that parents be involved in the decision to abort a child, either through notification laws or by requiring their consent.
It also considers other possible factors in the decline of the abortion rate among minors, such as a stronger economy and increased teen abstinence.
“Laws that require parental consent instead of parental notification reduce the minor abortion rate by about 19 percent,” New reported. “Furthermore, laws that mandate the involvement of two parents, instead of just one parent, reduce the in-state abortion rate by approximately 31 percent.”
Saying that the overall abortion rate among minors in the United States fell by nearly half between 1985 and 1999, New said the study shows that parental involvement laws are an “important causal factor” in the decline.
According to New, Minnesota and Mississippi laws are among the most effective in reducing abortion rates among minors.
“The overwhelming evidence in support of parental involvement laws should be a boon to legislators everywhere," New claimed.
Seattle, Wash., Sep 19, 2008 (CNA) - Critics of a proposed assisted suicide initiative in Washington state have charged that it is part of a strategy to legalize assisted suicide throughout the country. Arguing that the passage of Initiative 1000, also called the “Washington Death with Dignity Act,” would make doctors into killers, they argue the bill lacks mental health safeguards and claim its adoption into law would also reverse longstanding beliefs that suicide is a tragedy.
Rita L. Marker, executive director of the Steubenville-based International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, argued in an article on the American Thinker website that assisted suicide advocates had believed Oregon’s adoption of an assisted suicide measure in 1994 would be followed by similar laws in other states.
When other states failed to pass laws, Marker reported, the Portland, Oregon-based Death with Dignity National Center and the group Compassion & Choices, which was formerly known as the Hemlock Society, in 2005 organized a plan called "Oregon plus One."
“It is based on the premise that, if just one more state follows Oregon's lead, then other states will fall in line,” Marker wrote, saying that assisted suicide activists selected Washington state as a target for their advocacy.
The Death with Dignity National Center, which backs Initiative 1000, argues on its web site: “The greatest human freedom is to live, and die, according to one's own desires and beliefs. The most common desire among those with a terminal illness is to die with some measure of dignity. From advance directives to physician-assisted dying, death with dignity is a movement to provide options for the dying to control their own end-of-life care.”
Initiative 1000 is opposed by John Peyton, a Washington man who is paralyzed and dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. He explained his opposition in a video posted on the website of the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide.
“I’m one of those people who is somewhat a target of the initiative,” he said. “I don’t know how we, as a society, could really consider making doctors into killers.”
The Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) also opposes the initiative, saying the proposal is “contrary to Catholic teaching that life is sacred and that God alone is the true sovereign over life.”
“Human dignity and worth are simply innate to our relationship to God and not dependent on our social usefulness,” the WSCC continued on its web site. “As Catholics we believe that a caring society assists persons with terminal illnesses, and their loved ones, to live as fully as possible the time they have left together.”
The WSCC also argued Initiative 1000 “reverses a longstanding social belief that considers suicide a tragedy” and thus undermines trust in doctors’ dedication to health care.
“Assisting in a suicide would turn the care-giving relationship between physicians and vulnerable patients upside down,” the WSCC said. “Once committed solely to the well-being of their patients, physicians would be legally allowed to help their patients kill themselves.”
Further, the WSCC charged that the bill lacks requirements to notify families of a suicidal patient and to evaluate the mental health of a person requesting assisted suicide.
Initiative proponents are well-backed financially. According to the web site of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, as of Tuesday the “Yes on 1000” committee has reported receipts of $1,856,252.
Of that sum, $775,330 is attributed to assisted suicide advocacy groups and the campaign spokesperson, former Governor Booth Gardner. The International Task Force reported that the figure is almost double the amount of donations in the same time period reported by the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide.
LifeSiteNews.com reports that a poll of 1,000 adults and 718 likely voters in Washington State was conducted from August 11 to 12. The poll claimed 51 percent of survey respondents said they were leaning towards supporting the measure, with only 26 percent saying they were leaning against it.
Another statewide poll reported 39 percent favoring the initiative, with 26 percent opposing it.
Vatican City, Sep 19, 2008 (CNA) - Muslims around the world will soon be celebrating the end of Ramadan, the month during which they fast and devote themselves to more frequent worship and acts of charity. As it does every year, the Pontifical council for Inter-Religious Dialogue published its message, which urges Muslims to work with Christians in defense of the family.
Entitled, "Christians and Muslims: Together for the dignity of the family," the message addressed to all Muslims was signed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, respectively president and secretary of the council.
"During this month Christians close to you have shared your reflections and your family celebrations; dialogue and friendship have been strengthened. Praise be to God!" the message beings.
"This friendly rendezvous gives us an opportunity to reflect together on a mutually topical subject which will enrich our exchange and help us to get to know each other better, in our shared values as well as in our differences: the subject of the family.”
Citing the Vatican II document, “Gaudium et Spes,” the message asserts that the well-being of society depends on the “healthy condition” of marriage and the family.
The pontifical council goes on to ask, “How many people carry, sometimes for the whole of their life, the weight of the wounds of a difficult or dramatic family background? How many men and women now in the abyss of drugs or violence are vainly seeking to make up for a traumatic childhood?”
Undeniably, “Christians and Muslims can and must work together to safeguard the dignity of the family, today and in the future,” the letter continues.
"Muslims and Christians must never hesitate, not only to come to the aid of families in difficulty, but also to collaborate with all those who support the stability of the family as an institution and the exercise of parental responsibility, in particular in the field of education. I need only remind you that the family is the first school in which one learns respect for others, mindful of the identity and the difference of each one. Inter- religious dialogue and the exercise of citizenship cannot but benefit from this,” the message says.
The fast of Ramadan will conclude with the sighting of the new moon, and as that event approaches, Cardinal Tauran and Archbishop Celata write: “Dear friends, now that your fast comes to an end, I hope that you, with your families and those close to you, purified and renewed by those practices dear to your religion, may know serenity and prosperity in your life! May Almighty God fill you with His Mercy and Peace!”
Vatican City, Sep 19, 2008 (CNA) - During their “ad limina” visit today at the Vatican, bishops from the Episcopal Conference of Panama were encouraged by Pope Benedict to lead Catholics in becoming “authentic disciples of Christ” as the world becomes increasingly secularized.
The Holy Father began his remarks to them by praising the bishops’ initiatives “to sow the Word of God in the hearts of Panamanians and to accompany them on their journey to maturity in the faith, that they may become authentic disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ."
This “missionary activity of the priests, religious and lay people” is a “reason for joy,” the Pope exclaimed. Their efforts contrast with “the growing secularization of society that invades all aspects of daily life.” This societal coarsening “encourages a mentality in which God is effectively absent from human life and conscience, and often uses the communications media to spread individualism, hedonism, and ideologies and customs that undermine the very foundations of marriage, the family and Christian morals."
To combat these challenges, the Pope continued, a “profound knowledge of the Lord Jesus and sincere love for Him” is needed. This love, Benedict explained, can be achieved through “meditating upon Sacred Scripture, adequate doctrinal and spiritual formation, constant prayer, the frequent receipt of the Sacrament of Penance, conscientious and active participation in Mass, and the practice of works of charity and mercy."
Focusing on the current “serious human problems” in the country, the Pope emphasized the pressing need for the Church in Panama to “provide lights.”
The Church can bring these lights to society by promoting “a moral consensus of society on fundamental values,” he said. One of the vitally important ways that this can be done is by using the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which “enables a more profound and systematic knowledge of the ecclesial guidelines which must be applied, especially by the laity, in the political, social and economic fields," the Pontiff said.
If the Church helps provide these “lights,” the Holy Father said, “Christian hope may illuminate the people of Panama, who thirst to know the truth about God and about man amidst the phenomena of poverty, youth violence, deficiencies in education, healthcare and housing, harassment by innumerable sects and corruption, which, to various degrees, disturb their lives and prevent their integral development."
Bogotá, Colombia, Sep 19, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Bogota, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano, defended the right to life of the terminally ill this week in response to legislation that would regulate euthanasia, a practice that “can never be morally illicit.”
“Euthanasia is a crime and all those who participate in it carry out a homicidal act. The State has been erected to defend life, as article 11 of the Colombian Constitution maintains, ‘the right to life is inviolable’,” the cardinal said.
The cardinal’s statement came in response to the debate in the Colombian Senate to regulate euthanasia, which was legalized by the country’s Constitutional Court eleven years ago but not implemented.
“The intentional termination of another person’s life, even if by a qualified third party, always constitutes murder, as neither medical personnel nor family members can make the decision to provoke someone’s death,” the cardinal warned.
He said the right to life should be protected “with greater courage especially in the case of those who are weakest, such as those who are in a vegetative state, the handicapped, newborns and pre-mature babies, and those who suffer from deformities.”
Cardinal Rubiano stressed that “proportionate medical treatment” cannot be refused. “This is not about prolonging the suffering” of the patient, but about defending fundamental principles that were violated by totalitarian regimes that employed similar practices for reasons of “quality of life or race,” he said.
The Colombian Senate recently began a series of four debates on the law that would regulate euthanasia. The first debate ended with a vote in favor of 11-3. According to the law, euthanasia would only be allowed if requested by the patient.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Sep 19, 2008 (CNA) - Vietnamese Catholic demonstrators seeking the return of land confiscated by the communist government were the target of a forceful government response early Friday morning as hundreds of police surrounded the Archbishop of Hanoi’s residence, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, and the former papal nunciature.
As bulldozers drove in to destroy the nunciature, several protestors were arrested and an Associated Press reporter covering the event was detained and beaten.
Meanwhile at Thai Ha Church, a Redemptorist monastery which is also the center of a longstanding property dispute, a gang of vandals attacked the altar used to celebrate open air Mass for the protestors. At about 1 am local time on Friday, the gang ransacked the altar and sprayed statues of the Virgin Mary with used motor oil.
On Thursday the Vietnamese government announced the nunciature would be demolished for a library and a park. By 3:30 am on Friday morning, two bulldozers had moved into the area and had started digging out the lawn, Father An Dang told CNA.
Priests at St. Joseph’s Cathedral rang bells continuously to ask for help from local Catholics. Hundreds of Catholics, hearing the bells, came to the nunciature to protest. At one point a woman and a priest pushed through the police cordon to try to stop the workers, but they were arrested.
Thousands of priests and Catholic faithful are presently protesting at the site.
Archbishop of Hanoi Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet strongly protested the government’s actions in a Friday letter to the Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung asking them to “immediately intervene.”
Saying a “great mass” of police and security forces, militiamen, and police dogs had “besieged” the archbishop’s residence, the archbishop charged that the action is “going against the policy of dialogue that the government and the Archbishop's office are conducting.”
He claimed that state television had reported the demolition plan with “distorted information” and severely rebuked the government action, which he said “smears the legitimate aspirations of the Hanoi Catholic community, ridicules the law, and disrespects the Catholic Church in Vietnam. It is also an act of trembling morality, and a mocking of society’s conscience.”
The archbishop called for a halt to the besieging of his residence and the demolition of the nunciature, asking the government to restore the property to the Catholic Church so it can be used for “religious and community welfare purposes.”
He added that the relevant government agencies and political authorities must accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
“We have our rights to use all of our capabilities to protect our property,” he wrote.
Ben Stocking, the Hanoi bureau chief for The Associated Press, was covering the demonstration and prayer vigil at the nunciature when he was detained and beaten by police. The 49-year-old was punched, choked, and hit over the head with a camera by police, the Associated Press reports.
"They told me I was taking pictures in a place that I was not allowed to be taking pictures. But it was news, and I went in," he told the AP.
Taken to the police station, he said when he reached for his camera a policeman “banged me on the head with the camera and another police officer punched me in the face, straight on.”
Stocking was released from police custody after about two and a half hours, requiring four stitches on the back of his head for a gash caused by the assault.
John Daniszewski, the AP's managing editor for international news, protested Stocking’s treatment, saying "It is an egregious incident of police abuse and unacceptable treatment of a journalist by any civilized government authority."
The U.S. Embassy has also reportedly filed a formal statement of protest with Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry.
The police and government have started ratcheting up their use of aggressive techniques over the past two days.
On Wednesday the Redemptorists reported that the People’s Committee of Hanoi had invited them to discuss the dispute. At the meeting, the Redemptorists stated they had received four documents from the committee purporting to prove that the disputed land at Thai Ha Church had been donated to the government by Father Vu Ngoc Bich in 1961.
However, the documents were contradictory and of questionable authenticity. Two documents said that the priest had donated the land on Oct. 24, 1961, while one reported the date as Nov. 24, 1961 and another as Jan. 30, 1961.
“Also,” Fr. An Dang told CNA, “the papers showed characters in a Unicode font that could not have been available in 1961, as computers simply did not exist at that time.”
During the meeting between the Redemptorists and the People’s Committee of Hanoi, committee vice chairman Vu Hong Khanh addressed the differences by saying “I will sort them out and among them, choose the best.”
He reportedly claimed that the clergy would have no way to challenge the ownership of the land and also told the clergy how to preach to their flock.
Finding himself being harshly ridiculed, one priest stood up and asked Khanh not to teach him how to be a priest.
Caracas, Venezuela, Sep 19, 2008 (CNA) - In a statement the Archdiocese of Caracas demanded that the government and the Venezuelan military return the Chapel of Jesus of the Divine Mercy, which was taken over by the military to train 8 to 14 year olds for the Army’s “Children and Young People’s Reserve Brigades.”
On September 7, an Army reserve soldier entered the chapel at the end of Sunday Mass and demanded that the religious brothers who are its administrators abandon the chapel, which the soldier said “would be used for the formation and training of the ‘Children’s and Young People’s Reserve Brigades,’ made up of children aged 8-14.”
“According to the testimony of neighbors, the chapel is being used for activities with underage children until late into the night,” the statement indicated.
The archdiocese expressed outrage over the incident and denounced the occupation of a “sacred place dedicated to religious worship.”
It also demanded respect for “the rights of children according to current national and international law.” “The appropriate measures we are demanding will re-establish peace and harmony in the community affected by the acts we are denouncing,” the archdiocese said.
Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2008 (CNA) - The plight of Iraqi Christians in the chaotic wake of the war in Iraq has, in some places, become quite desperate. After meeting with two Chaldean bishops who explained the intensity of the situation, Deal Hudson decided to get the message out by honoring Cardinal Emmanuel Delly of Baghdad with the 2008 Partnership Award.
On Friday evening, InsideCatholic.com and the Crisis Institute will hold their 13th Annual Partnership Dinner in honor of Cardinal Mar Emmanuel III Delly, the Archbishop of Baghdad, thus also recognizing the ongoing struggles of Iraqi Christians.
In an interview with CNA, Hudson explained that his concern over the circumstances of Iraqi Christians was already growing when he received an unexpected phone call requesting that he meet with Bishop Mar Mawai Soro and Bishop Sarhad Jammo, two bishops from the Chaldean Catholic Church.
After meeting with the two bishops, Hudson realized that one way to bring to attention the struggles and persecution that Iraqi Christians are experiencing, would be to honor their courage and sacrifices at the Partnership Dinner.
Although, Cardinal Emmanuel Delly is being awarded the honor, he is unable to attend because of sandstorms in Baghdad, which prevented traveling. Hudson is anticipating around 230 people to attend, including the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., Samir Shakir al-Sumaydi.
Bishop Jammo, who was a very close personal friend of Archbishop Paulos Rahho, will be paying tribute to the martyred prelate in a speech at the dinner.
The dinner will also be hosting the premier of a 17 minute film on Iraqi Christians produced by Robert Marcarelli, perhaps best known for The Omega Code. Hudson, also explained that a shorter, 7 minute version of the video will be available on Insidecatholic.com.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 19, 2008 (CNA) - A video posted on YouTube.com put on full display the ferocity of abortion supporters who were participating in the National Meeting of Women in the Argentinean city of Neuquen last August. It shows them harassing and insulting a group of Catholic young people who were standing outside the Cathedral of Neuquen to keep the church safe from the protests.
The National Meeting of Women is a feminist event that takes place each year to pressure authorities to legalize abortion and to promote reproductive rights and gender ideology.
Financed by anti-life NGOs and supported by the government of Argentinean president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the meeting brings together pro-abortion, feminist, homosexual and left-wing organizations.
The meeting usually ends with a protest through the streets of the host city, with organizers planning the route to include a stop at the local cathedral. This year, in order to keep protestors from trashing the cathedral grounds, a group of young people from Neuquen stood outside the cathedral to pray and form a barrier against the protestors.
The YouTube video shows abortion protestors shouting and throwing objects at the young people.
Brasilia, Brazil, Sep 19, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Cardinal Odilo Scherer asked Brazilians this week if the country’s Supreme Court legalizes abortion for babies with anencephaly, “what will be the next group ‘incompatible with life’ to be eliminated?”
“The Supreme Court’s ruling will have consequences, as it will enshrine principles for future judicial cases. And so here’s another question: after babies with anencephaly, what will be the next group of discomforting or unwanted people ‘incompatible with life’ on the list to be eliminated?” the cardinal asked in a recent column.
He warned that during the arguments taking place at the Supreme Court, “the life and death of human beings are at stake.” The cardinal reminded the high court justices that it is their duty to ensure that laws are in accord with the Brazilian constitution, which guarantees “the inviolability of the right to life of all Brazilians and all foreigners who are living in the country.”
Cardinal Scherer acknowledged that a gap exists in Brazilian law that should be corrected by Congress in order to protect the rights of the unborn.
Nevertheless, he recalled that Brazil is a signatory of international treaties that must be respected, such as the Costa Rica San Jose Pact, which states that “each person has the right to have his or her life respected” from “the moment of conception.”
Not a matter of religion
On the other hand, Cardinal Scherer said that as a bishop of the Church he is expressing this opinion in accord with Catholic teaching. Yet, he noted, “The protection of innocent and defenseless human life should be of interest to all, above any religious or ideological concepts, because it is a question of humanity and not of religion.”
Science supports the certainty that life begins at conception, the cardinal continued, which is a position the Church defends, and he stressed that “an anencephalic baby is a living human being, and for this reason their fragile lives must be respected.”
“I am happy when I see the position of the Catholic Church associated with the defense of the strict inviolability of human life, including the life of the unborn. Let that be registered for the future,” he said.