Archive of September 25, 2008

Planned Parenthood affiliate removes ‘lewd’ videos from web site

Eugene, Ore., Sep 25, 2008 (CNA) - A series of “lewd” videos produced by the Columbia-Willamette, Oregon affiliate of Planned Parenthood has been taken down from the organization’s web site.

According to the American Life League (ALL), videos have been removed from the site “Take Care Down There,” which was marketed as sex education. The offensive videos included skits of two teen boys having oral sex, girls and boys examining each other’s reproductive organs, and couples talking about orgies and self-abuse.

In some videos, a middle-aged man “dressed something like Mr. Rogers” advises teens about sexually transmitted diseases as the teens depict suggested sex acts.

“Praise God!" said ALL president Judie Brown reacting to the news. "After months of pro-life outcry against this site, we can finally rest knowing this site will no longer threaten our kids. Planned Parenthood finally pushed the envelope past the point of tolerance.

“Every person concerned with the health and wellbeing of our children should have been outraged by this blatant attempt to sexualize kids. It appears the roar of just anger over this Planned Parenthood filth was so great, Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion chain had to shut it down. This is truly a great day.”

Katie Walker from ALL told CNA that she had contacted the Columbia-Willamette Planned Parenthood affiliate but they would not tell her why the videos were removed. She said she assumed the removal of the videos was due to the strong response of the pro-life movement.

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Priest seriously wounded by crazed knife-wielding Da Vinci Code viewer

Rome, Italy, Sep 25, 2008 (CNA) - A Rome priest was in intensive care on Wednesday after suffering serious injuries from being stabbed in the neck and stomach by a disturbed man who had recently watched the movie The Da Vinci Code on television.

The 25-year-old attacker, Mario Luzi, reportedly asked to see the 68-year-old Father Canio Canistri, parish priest at the church of Santa Marcella on the Avantine hill. According to the Times Online, Luzi then attacked the priest with a knife hidden in a cloth.

Retired policeman and parishioner Antonio Farrace, 78, was wounded by the attacker after coming to the assistance of the priest. He was reportedly in serious condition at a hospital.

The assailant fled through a park, stabbing a Peruvian nanny in the shoulder as she protected the three-year-old in her care. One policeman was lightly wounded in the stomach as he and his fellow officer detained Luzi.

Luzi, a former medical student with a history of psychiatric problems, admitted to watching the film of The Da Vinci Code the night before the attack.

He told police he was the antichrist, claiming he had heard voices telling him to attack the priest.

“I have carried out my mission,” he said. He carried a rosary in his pocket and a note reading “This is just the beginning: 666.”

At his apartment investigators found material on the Apocalypse and the antichrist, in addition to the phone number of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

His apartment also contained a large copy of Leonardo’s painting The Last Supper, which is featured in the Dan Brown book on which the movie is based.

A note on the painting pointed to one of the disciples and said “This is the hand in which a knife is hidden,” the Times Online says.

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Obama faith adviser cancels appearance at D.C. faith forum

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2008 (CNA) - Rev. E. Terri LaVelle, senior adviser on Religious Affairs for Obama, canceled a Tuesday appearance at a Reese Roundtable faith forum sponsored by the evangelical group Faith and Action in the Nation’s Capital. LaVelle reportedly canceled his appearance at the event via text message.

"There were 11 empty chairs," said Peggy Birchfield, chief of staff of the sponsoring group. She told Cybercast News Service that the event was "a way for evangelicals to be more familiar with both candidates."

Rev. LaVelle was named staff director of the Democratic National Committee’s Faith in Action Initiative in December 2007. According to the website of the DNC, the initiative was designed to "strengthen and build relationships with members of the faith community through regular outreach based on our shared values and priorities."

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean had praised Rev. LaVelle’s appointment, saying "Democrats are a big tent party, and Reverend LaVelle's unique talent and proven track record of bringing people together around our shared values are critical to our ongoing effort to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the faith community and reach out to Democrats everywhere as we work together for the common good."

This year’s Reese Roundtable event was intended to focus upon the two presidential candidates and religious values, Birchfield explained to Cybercast News Service.

Robert Heckman, a senior advisor to McCain, did speak at the event. According to Birchfield, audience response to Heckman was "very positive" as he was questioned on issues such as abortion and pro-family policy.

Guests in the audience included pastors, priests, congressional staffers, representatives from pro-life and pro-family groups, and the general public.

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Democratic analyst: The Party has been hijacked by secularist elites

Denver, Colo., Sep 25, 2008 (CNA) - The Democratic Party has been hijacked by elites hostile to religion, said Mark Stricherz, author of the book "Why Democrats are Blue" and a Democrat himself, during the Casey Lecture delivered on Tuesday at the Archdiocese of Denver.

The Casey Series of Lectures was started by the Archdiocese of Denver in 2006 to promote Catholic thinking in political life, inspired by the life and political activism of the late Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey, a devout Catholic and a Democrat.

Stricherz, who has focused his investigation on the historical transition that turned the Democrats from a Catholic-friendly organization to the pro-abortion rights party it is today, explained the decisive role played in American politics by staunch Catholic Democrats like Gov. Casey, Robert Kennedy  and David Lawrence.

"These politicians provided a political leadership and a push for human rights based on religious convictions and personal prayer life, thus becoming promoters of Christian Humanist values," he said.

Explaining an argument he makes in his book, Stricherz said that the Democratic Party created internal rules that favor Secular elites and limit the participation of common people. He mentioned caucuses in Iowa as an example: they are established to run from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., "preventing the participation of common people like third-shifters, military men and women or young mothers.” As a consequence, "56% of those attending the caucuses are pro- choice folks," he said.  

Thus, Secularism and hostility to religion have become the dividing line between the Democratic Party of the past and today's Democratic leaders.

Asked about how to change the Democratic Party back to its original connection with average Americans, Stricherz said that is was critical to democratize the internal process, but added that, "I just don't see the constituency, the drive to bring that change... those with college degrees, who tend to be more secular are in control of the party, whereas more religious, working folks are kept out of the loop."

"There have been some small victories from the pro-life people inside the Democratic Party, they are very small, but I encourage people to take up the fight... even if I am very skeptical about the results."

Stricherz highlighted the importance of bringing the common people back to power. "I think the average folks are more commonsensical and less inclined to corruption than the elites." "I would take the first hundred people from the phone book in Boston rather than the first 100 academics from Harvard to run the country."

Finally, he said that, despite current polls, Republican presidential candidate John McCain has a greater chance to win the election because "the Republican party has a more democratic process of candidate-selection, and therefore have chosen the strongest candidate; whereas the Democratic Party’s system promotes the desires of the political leadership and [they] have selected the weakest candidate."

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Catholic and State schools should have equality, Pope Benedict asserts

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2008 (CNA) -

On Thursday at Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict raised the topic of the role of Catholic schools in contributing to the good of society. All who desire the "good of the young and the country" should work for real equality between State schools and private schools," the Holy Father said.

The Pope’s remarks were made to participants in a seminar sponsored by the Italian Bishops’ Conference and entitled: "Beyond the Educational Emergency. Catholic schools at the service of young people."

The mission of Catholic schools, said the Pope, is to help build a "civil coexistence" for society, while at the same time, they serve as "an expression of the right of all citizens to freedom of education."

"In order to be selected and appreciated, Catholic schools must be understood in their educational aims," said the Holy Father. To this end a "mature awareness" is necessary, "not only of their ecclesial identity and cultural program, but also of their civil importance which should be considered not as a defense of special interests but as a precious contribution to creating the common good of all Italian society."

Benedict XVI also noted the enrollment difficulties and attempts at reform in Catholic schools which have been studied for 10 years by the bishops’ Study Center for Catholic Schools. Thanks to this study, "it has been noted that attendance in Catholic schools in some regions of Italy has grown with respect to the preceding decade, although serious - and sometimes even critical - situations persist," he said.

"It is, precisely in the context of the renewal wished for by all people who have the good of the young and the country at heart that we must favor real equality between State schools and private schools, so as to grant parents appropriate liberty of choice on the schools their children attend," the Pope said in closing.


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New appointments mark bold papal move for Liturgical reform

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI made a low profile but significant move in the direction of liturgical reform by completely renewing the roster of his liturgical advisors yesterday.

A hardly noticed brief note from the Vatican's Press office announced the appointment of new consultants for the office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff. It did not mention, however, the importance of the new appointees.

The new consultants include Monsignor Nicola Bux, professor at the Theological Faculty of Puglia (Southern Italy,) and author of several books on liturgy, especially on the Eucharist. Bux recently finish a new book "Pope Benedict’s Reform," printed by the Italian publishing house Piemme, scheduled to hit the shelves in December.

The list of news consultants includes Fr. Mauro Gagliardi, an expert in Dogmatic theology and professor at the Legionaries of Christ's  Pontifical Athenaeum  “Regina Apostolorum”; Opus Dei Spanish priest  Juan José Silvestre Valor, professor at the Pontifical University  of  Santa Croce in Rome; Fr.  Uwe Michael Lang, C.O., an official of the Congregation  for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and author of the book "Turning Towards the Lord" -about the importance of facing "ad orientem" during Mass; and Fr. Paul C.F. Gunter,  a Benedictine professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum  Sant Anselmo in Rome and  member of the editorial board of the forthcoming "Usus Antiquior," a quarterly journal dedicated to the Liturgy under the auspices of the Society of St. Catherine of Siena. The Society, which has an association with the English Province of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), promotes the intellectual and liturgical renewal of the Church.

Also relevant to the appointments is the fact that all former consultants, appointed when Archbishop Piero Marini led the office of Liturgical Celebrations, have been dismissed by not renewing their appointments.

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Every half hour an abortion is performed on a girl under 20 in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Sep 25, 2008 (CNA/Europa Press) - The Institute for Family Policy in Spain said this week the number of abortions in that country has increased by 35% in the last four years and by 155% in the last ten.

According to the organization, one of every two pregnancies in adolescent girls ends in abortion in Spain, with 13,894 abortions having taken place in 2006.  It also said that every day at least one abortion is performed on girls under the age of 15.

Extremadura is the region with the greatest percentage of adolescent abortions, with one in five abortions (19.9 %) being performed on girls under the age of 20.  In Madrid the number is 11.57%.

The Institute said in response that the failure of the morning after pill was “evident,” and that there was a direct relationship between the increase in its use and the increase in the number of abortions.

“Every half hour in Spain a girl under the age of 20 receives an abortion, and each day there is at least one abortion performed on girls under the age of 15 (496 abortions in 2006).  In 99.5% of the cases there is a psychological or physical risk for the mother. This data should make us reflect on what is happening,” said Eduardo Hertfelder, president of the Institute.

Hertfelder criticized Spanish government officials for their “erroneous and out-dated” policy and for provoking an increase in the number of abortions, and he said there should be a change in strategy to respond to “indiscriminate promotion of the morning after pill among adolescents and of abortion as a solution.”

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Peruvian archbishop calls for end to protests and for more dialogue

Piura, Peru, Sep 25, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren has called on Peruvians to set aside protests, conflicts and confrontations and to instead use dialogue and the search for truth as a means of resolving social ills and forging a more just society.

“Let us make dialogue, the search for truth, the common good, solidarity and social charity the way we live and the way we forge a more humane society, more worthy of the person, especially of our children, young people, the elderly, the infirm and the poor,” the archbishop said during a Mass in honor of Our Lady of Mercies.

He warned that the country and the region are dangerously becoming accustomed to confrontation.  “We live in a democracy and democracy is dialogue” between authorities and the people, “between the majority and the minority,” carried out always with respect, he said.

We need dialogue “that serves the truth and engenders hope for unity that helps us overcome obstacles and misfortunes. Social harmony is a duty for all.  The time has come to recover trust, to cultivate dialogue, to encourage solidarity,” he said.

Archbishop Eguren recalled that the Virgin Mary is “the victor over Satan, over sin and over evil,” and that with her example she teaches us “to keep hope alive, especially in times of difficulty and trial. She shows herself to be our permanent help in our all of our struggles and battles.”

He encouraged Catholics to foster Marian devotion in order to overcome pessimism, “one of the favorite weapons” of the devil and “one of the evils that has afflicted Peruvians throughout our history.  Pessimism turns challenges into defeats, it is an accomplice of what is evil and unjust and it leads us to self-destruction.”

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Legalization of abortion could spread to other states in Mexico, cardinal warns

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 25, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, warned this week that the bad example of Mexico’s Supreme Court in legalizing abortion in the capital could spread to other Mexican states and continue the attack on the family.

“The bad example of Mexico City and the Supreme Court could spread to other states, no doubt, but I hope it doesn’t happen,” the cardinal said during a Mass for students, teachers and employees of the Valle de Atemajac University.

Cardinal Iniguez said the legalization of abortion is an attack on the family, as well as divorce and abandonment by parents.

He encouraged young people to strengthen the family and warned that the State would not be able to solve social problems if it does not protect this institution.

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Pro-government mob attacks Catholic demonstrators in Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam, Sep 25, 2008 (CNA) - Hundreds of Catholic protestors seeking the return of a former papal nunciature confiscated by the communist government were attacked on Thursday afternoon in a confrontation with youths, military veterans, and members of other communist associations.

The pro-government gang chased protestors from the area and then gathered at the gate of the Archbishop of Hanoi’s office, yelling communist slogans and calling for the head of the archbishop, whom they accused of treason.

The incident comes just one week after a letter written by several U.S. Congressmen asked the Vietnamese government to respect peaceful protests and the rights of free speech and religious expression.

During the 4 p.m. Thursday clash, priests and the staff of the Hanoi archbishopric withdrew inside the office and closed all the doors. Fr. J.B. An Dang tells CNA that the hundreds of nearby police and government officials who were securing the demolition of the former papal nunciature did nothing to help the Catholics.

Some of the police and government officials reportedly helped the attackers destroy an iron cross protestors had erected at the site in January.

The pro-government forces also placed a statue of the Pieta in a truck to be carried away. Protesters had wheeled the statue onto the Nunciature grounds during their first vigil right before Christmas 2007. The statue had been located at the disputed property before it was seized by the communists in 1959.

Some protestors ran into the nearby St. Joseph’s Cathedral, where they continuously rang the bells to ask for help from nearby parishes.

Once the bells were rung, police urged the pro-government mob to withdraw to avoid conflict with Catholics who were rushing to the site. The truck with the Pieta statue then drove away.

“When I rushed to the site, they carried the statue away. I asked police here why they let this happen,” said Hanoi priest Fr. Joseph Nguyen, J.B. An Dang reports.

“One police man attributed the actions to the ‘fury of people,’ and told me he was instructed not to interfere with anyone who wanted to protect the state.”

The priest expressed concern about the actions of Nguyen The Thao, Chairman of the People’s Committee of Hanoi City.

“In these days, Nguyen The Thao keeps depicting Catholics as a source of perils and keeps urging people to protect the regime,” he said.

Thao has reportedly taken out of context the words of Archbishop of Hanoi, questioning the prelate’s patriotism in what Fr. An Dang calls “an obvious attempt to deceive and incite socially negative sentiments against him and the Church.”

On Wednesday Fr. Nguyen The Hien of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery went to the People’s Committee to protest both its warning against Redemptorist priests and its plans to convert the disputed nunciature at the park.

“According to current land law, we have the chance to protest the government decisions up to three times. And after that if our petition is still rejected we still have another chance to solve the dispute at a court. Why did you announce the decision to convert it into a park when we have only been rejected for the first time, and we are still protesting lawfully?” he asked, calling on the committee to respect the law.

J.B. An Dang tells CNA that as of 7 p.m. Hanoi time on Thursday, thousands of Catholics had gathered at the nunciature to protest the attacks against the demonstrators and the archbishop’s office.

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U.S. Representatives send protest letter to Vietnamese president

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2008 (CNA) - Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, a California Democrat, along with other U.S. House members, has written a letter to Vietnam’s President Nguyen Minh Triet expressing their concern over the Vietnamese government’s recent human rights violations. The letter details some recent incidents of violence, harassment, and arrests of protesters.

"In the last month, Vietnam has intensified its campaign of violence against peaceful protesters", said Sanchez in a statement. "I hope the Bush administration will take a stand against the Government of Vietnam's continued violence and its violations of International Covenants. Vietnam must make swift changes to maintain a positive relationship with the United States."

The September 18 letter, which was obtained by CNA, is signed by Rep. Sanchez, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), and Rep. Stephen Cohen (D-TN). The letter is copied to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Michalak, and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

“We are writing to express our serious concerns regarding the Government of Vietnam's ongoing human rights violations and harassment of democracy activists,” the congressmen’s letter begins.

“The International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Socialist Republic of Vietnam signed onto, grants citizens the right to exercise freedom of expression, assembly and association,” the letter continues. “However, the Government of Vietnam's commitment to human rights remains questionable as citizens are persistently repressed and harassed for exercising their freedom of speech.”

The letter references a recent prayer vigil at the Redemptorists’ Thai Ha Church, also the focus of a property dispute, which the congressmen said was attended by over 3,000 Catholics.

At Thai Ha, they write, “Hanoi’s police harassed the crowd with tear gas, electric batons, and other repressive measures. We are extremely alarmed by these acts of violence by the Vietnamese government.”

Additionally, the letter notes the secret police’s detention of Le Thi Kim Thu, Pham Van Troi, members of the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam, and also Nguyen Xuan Nghia, who is a leader of the Bloc 8406 pro-democracy group.

The congressmen also mention the arrest and sentencing of blogger Nguyen Van Hai, commonly known as Dieu Cay, to 30 months in prison for writing on topics concerning corruption, worker exploitation, and police brutality. 

According to the congressmen, a number of other bloggers are under house arrest because of their opposition to the Vietnamese government.

“As Members of Congress, we would also reiterate that Vietnam's commitment to human rights is integral to maintaining a positive US-Vietnam relationship,” the congressmen’s September 18 letter concludes.

“Peaceful protests, prayer vigils and blogging are all forms of peaceful expression that people in Vietnam have the right to utilize in order to express themselves. We urge the Government of Vietnam to stop harassing their citizens and recognize every individual's right to freedom of speech, religion and expression.”

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