Washington D.C., Oct 16, 2008 (CNA) - Responding to information from the Guttmacher Institute reporting that black woman have abortions at five times the rate of white women, Bishop Martin D. Holley, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington called on African Americans to rededicate themselves to family, prayer and the dignity of the human person.
"As an African American, I am saddened by evidence that Black women continue to be targeted by the abortion industry,” the bishop began in a statement. “The loss of any child from abortion is a tragedy, but we must ask: Why are minority children being aborted at such disproportionate rates?"
The prelate stressed that since the Roe v. Wade decision, “the number one cause of death in the African American community has been abortion.” Because of this, “we have lost over 13 million lives. To put that in perspective, it is one third of our present Black population. Since 1973, twice as many Black Americans have died from abortion than from AIDS, accidents, violent crimes, cancer, and heart disease combined.”
Abortion is an issue that must not be pushed to the back burner, he insisted. “It clearly must be at the heart and center of our discussion of the survival of African American people.”
Bishop Holley, who also serves as Chair of the Sub-Committee on African American Affairs and is a member of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), went on to call for the federal de-funding of the abortion industry.
"Every year the federal government gives over $300 million to Planned Parenthood. Last year for the first time, Planned Parenthood took in over one billion dollars and reported a profit of $51 million," he said of the non-profit organization.
“We must demand an end to the victimizing of African American children, women, families and communities by Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry. Over 80 percent of Planned Parenthood clinics are located in minority neighborhoods,” Bishop Holley continued. He then referred to the well-documented evidence that the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, began the ‘Negro Project’ to reduce the Black population.
Additionally, “we should be shocked and heartbroken by the findings of a recent phone investigation, that recorded a fundraiser at an Iowa Planned Parenthood clinic saying she was ‘very excited’ about a donation specifically for aborting Black babies.”
The bishop concluded by encouraging African Americans to "defend our community by rededicating ourselves to family life and marriage, promoting the gift of chastity and marital fidelity, committing ourselves to prayer and service to others and defending the life and dignity of each human person. We can welcome every child as a gift and we can overcome abortion."
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo of Belo Horizonte in Brazil said this Monday during the Synod of Bishops that religious sects continue to pose a challenge, saying that if Catholics abandon the Church to join a sect it is “because they do not encounter God in her.”
During his intervention at the Synod, the Brazilian bishop said, “Often the simple people who leave our Church do not do so because of what non-Catholic groups believe, but fundamentally because of how they live out that membership, not for dogmatic reasons, but pastoral ones, not for theological problems, but because of the methods within our Church.”
The archbishop underscored that “many of those who turn to sects don’t want to leave the Church but are sincerely searching for God.”
Archbishop Oliveira de Azevedo underscored that for this reason, “sects continue to be an enormous challenge for the Catholic Church, and in order to confront them, a close connection” between ministry and personal testimony, between “the word proclaimed and heard and personal witness” is necessary.
The archbishop emphasized the sects in Latin America are filled with former Catholics, and he stressed that once they join such religious groups, they often change the way they live and “assume a dignified moral life, leaving behind everything that seems unworthy of the new life of believers. The Word they hear is formative for their lives, it nourishes their spirit and bears witness to the religious values that they now interiorize.”
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2008 (CNA) - The former secretary of the late Pope John Paul II has revealed new details about the life of the Servant of God. Information regarding an attack in 1982 and his last public appearance is being shown in a documentary on the Pontiff’s life titled, “Testimony.”
“Testimony,” a film based on a memoir published by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz last year, is narrated by British actor, Michael York, will be viewed by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican premiere on Thursday.
The documentary also includes interviews with Cardinal Dzwisz, the current archbishop of Krakow, Poland who served for many years as the late Pontiff’s private secretary.
Along with information from the memoir, new additions have also been made. The documentary explains how on May 12, 1982, during a visit to the shrine in Fatima, Portugal, a Spanish priest attacked the Holy Father with a knife.
During the incident, reports Reuters, the priest "was knocked to the ground by police and arrested." However, the general public did not know that the knife had struck the Pontiff.
"I can now reveal that the Holy Father was wounded. When we got back to the room (in the Fatima sanctuary complex) there was blood," Cardinal Dziwisz says in the documentary, according to Reuters.
The film also includes the Pontiff's last public appearance in St. Peter's Square, when he was unable to speak due to his illness and being overcome by emotion. After the incident, Dziwisz recalled that the Pope managed to whisper, "If I can't speak any more, it's time for me to go."
Servant of God John Paul II died at the age of 84 on April 2, 2005.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 16, 2008 (CNA) - The Church in Asturias in Spain has announced that out respect for the privacy of Catholic families, it will not open the parish archives to the indiscriminate research requested by Judge Baltasar Garzon, who wants to produce a list of those killed during the Spanish Civil War and the post-war years.
Church officials said that access to the parish archives by government officials would constitute “indiscriminate research that could harm the privacy of information protected for over 75 years, according to Church norms.” In addition, some families do not want to make the information about their deceased loved ones public.
The vicar general of the Diocese of Asturias, Father Juan Antonio Menendez, explained that family members “can always request the death certificates of their loved ones, but the parish registry constitutes a living archive, and the registry as such cannot be opened for research.” “The general norms of the Church distinguish between the living archive and the historical archive, which is open for research,” he explained.
Washington D.C., Oct 16, 2008 (CNA) - Catholic political commentator George Weigel has criticized pro-life Catholics who support the pro-abortion rights Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama. Writing for Newsweek magazine, he criticizes pro-life Obama supporters such as Pepperdine University law professor Doug Kmiec and suggests their emergence may portend a “hardening of the battle lines” within the Catholic Church regardless of who wins the presidency this November.
According to Weigel, Kmiec argues that Obama sounds more Catholic on issues such as the family wage, health-care costs and the war in Iraq and “comes reasonably close” to embodying “an alternative way to be pro-life.”
Weigel also summarizes the arguments of Duquesne University law professor Nicholas Cafardi, who claims Catholics have “lost the abortion battle ... and I believe that we have lost it permanently.” Cafardi argues that the Bush administration has committed “intrinsically evil” acts in its policy of abusive interrogations of suspected terrorists, its detainee treatment at Guantanamo Bay, and its failures after Hurricane Katrina.
Cafardi also argues that welfare policies under an Obama administration would reduce the number of abortions and provide an “adequate social safety net for poor women who might otherwise have abortions.”
Weigel calls the pro-Obama Catholics’ arguments “counterintuitive,” claiming that Obama “has an unalloyed record of support for abortion on demand.” In Weigel’s view, Obama thinks the U.S. Supreme Court has defined abortion as “a fundamental liberty right essential for women's equality” which requires government-guaranteed access to abortion and financial assistance.
Citing Obama’s campaign web site, Weigel argues that the candidate’s support for the federal Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would eliminate “all state and federal regulation of abortion” and also state laws protecting the consciences of pro-life doctors who refuse to assist with abortions. FOCA could even force bills meant to support pregnant women to include support for abortion, he says.
Weigel also charges Obama with supporting federal funding for abortion by opposing the Hyde Amendment that restricts the use of taxpayer monies for abortion. Obama has also pledged to repeal the “Mexico City Policy” which bans foreign aid for organizations that promote abortion. Additionally, he has reportedly opposed continued federal funding for crisis pregnancy centers.
Obama’s repeated opposition to Illinois’ Born Alive Infants Protection Act, which would have protected infants who survive abortions, is also a matter pro-life Obama supporters must address, Weigel says.
Continuing his argument, Weigel addresses the “social safety net” policies some pro-lifers support as a means to reduce abortion. He says Sweden, which has “a much thicker social safety net than the United States,” has the same rate of abortions per pregnancies found in the U.S., 25 percent. Weigel also cites Guttmacher Institute statistics claiming a “mere” 23 percent of abortions are performed primarily because of “alleged financial need.”
Contentions that the abortion dispute is over, Weigel says, is countered by evidence that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision remains “deeply controversial” and the court has allowed some laws regulating abortion clinics or banning certain forms of abortion.
“No Clinton-appointed justice contributed to that trend; it seems very unlikely that Obama nominees would extend the trend. In that respect, a pro-life, pro-Catholic Obama vote is not so much a recognition that the legal argument is over but, de facto, a vote to repeal the legal protections for the unborn that have been laboriously crafted in the 35 years since Roe eliminated the abortion law of all 50 states,” Weigel writes in Newsweek.
Weigel also cites Cardinal Francis George’s argument that abortion violates a basic principle of justice:
“In a just society, innocent human life, especially when incapable of self-defense, deserves the protection of the laws. No one who denies that, the cardinal argued, can claim to be advancing the common good.”
Weigel then argues that pro-life pro-Obama Catholics are trying to support a candidate contrary to a first principle of justice on the grounds of “contingent prudential judgments” that “by definition, cannot bear that weight.”
According to Weigel, Catholic bishops are unlikely to remain passive in the face of pro-choice Catholic Democrats who deny or misrepresent Church teaching on the immorality of abortion.
Should an Obama administration govern U.S. abortion policy, Weigel warns, the Catholic integrity of Catholic hospitals will be placed under further pressure.
He concludes his Newsweek column with a speculation:
“Should an Obama administration reintroduce large-scale federal funding of abortion, the bishops will have to confront a grave moral question they have managed to avoid for decades, thanks to the Hyde amendment: does the payment of federal taxes that go to support abortion constitute a form of moral complicity in an ‘intrinsic evil’? And if so, what should the conscientious Catholic citizen do?”
Baltimore, Md., Oct 16, 2008 (CNA) - Edwin F. O’Brien, Archbishop of Baltimore, has ordered a woman who claims to receive visions of the Virgin Mary to stop disseminating alleged Marian messages within his archdiocese.
Gianna Talone-Sullivan, now a resident of Fairfield, Pennsylvania, claims she began receiving messages from Mary since before she and her family moved from Scottsdale, Arizona in 1993. She and her husband founded Mission of Mercy, a nonprofit that provides health care to the poor and uninsured in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Texas.
Sullivan complied with the archbishop’s order by suspending her monthly appearances at a Frederick County conference center. She also pledged not to disseminate messages in written, spoken, or electronic form within the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Associated Press reports.
Archdiocesan spokesman Sean Caine said Archbishop O’Brien’s letter was prompted by confusion and anxiety resulting from strong apocalyptic language in Sullivan’s June 1 message, which read in part:
“After awhile, you will see a time when there is another body in orbit around your solar system, coming between Earth and the Sun and leading to tremendous devastation… Approximately 60-70% of the world's population, as you know it, will cease. Of those who survive, 60% of them could die of disease and starvation."
In 2000, Sullivan was banned from delivering her messages during weekly appearances at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Emmitsburg. In 2003 the Vatican supported the conclusions of an investigative commission which concluded the apparitions were not supernatural.
A February 15, 2003 letter from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, told then-Archbishop of Baltimore William Cardinal Keeler that the latter was in a position to conclude the matter with a decree that the visions were not supernatural.
A June 7, 2003 decree from Cardinal Keeler ordered that there was to be no public activity related to the visions in the churches, oratories, and other properties of the archdiocese.However, Sullivan still retains followers who have attended her appearances and have posted her messages on the internet.
Manassas, Va., Oct 16, 2008 (CNA) - The Cardinal Newman Society has issued a statement criticizing Pamela Trotman Reid, president of St. Joseph College in West Hartford, Conn., for appearing to dissent from Catholic teaching in comments praising Sen. Barack Obama and warning the next president’s Supreme Court nominees “could affect the right of women to make choices about their own health.”
Such language is often a euphemism for abortion rights.
An October 9 article in the Hartford Courant carried President Reid’s comments. Reid, who is African American, called Obama a “kindred spirit” who she surmised probably experienced racial bias growing up.
Reid said she “expects so much from an Obama presidency,” noting the next president is likely to make appointments to the Supreme Court.
“That could affect the right of women to make choices about their own health. These are issues of incredible importance,” Reid said, according to the Hartford Courant.
Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society, speaking in an October 10 press release, called on Reid to clarify her statements.
“It is a serious scandal when a Catholic college president appears to publicly dissent on the non-negotiable issue of abortion” Reilly wrote in a letter faxed to Reid. “The Catholic Church expects educators to be role models, upholding Catholic teaching and values.”
Citing concern for the Catholic identity of St. Joseph College and for the potential of her comments to mislead people into a “pro-choice” position, Reilly wrote: “we urge you to publicly clarify your support for Church teaching on the intrinsic evil of abortion and your opposition to legalized abortion.”
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2008 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday declared Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio to be of “constant relevance” during an address to participants in a conference marking the tenth anniversary of the encyclical’s promulgation. The encyclical, Pope Benedict said, is characterized by its “great openness to reason” at a time when some speculate about reason’s weakness.
“The truth of Revelation is not superimposed on the truth achieved by reason,” Pope Benedict explained. “Rather, it purifies and exalts reason.”
The conference marking the encyclical’s anniversary was organized by the Pontifical Lateran University in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the World Conference of Catholic University Institutions of Philosophy, the Vatican Information Service reports. Participants in the congress were received by Pope Benedict in a Thursday morning audience.
Speaking at the audience, the Pope described how John Paul II’s encyclical “underlined the importance of uniting faith and reason in a reciprocal relationship” while respecting the autonomy of each. The encyclical addressed an “emerging need” of modern societies by defending “the force of reason and its capacity to arrive at truth” while presenting the faith as a “specific form of knowledge” which opens us to the truth of Revelation.
“The encyclical says that we must trust in the capacity of human reason and not set overly modest goals,” Pope Benedict explained.
"Who can deny the contribution the great philosophical systems have made to the development of man's self-knowledge and to the progress of various cultures?” the Pope asked, continuing: “Indeed, these cultures become fruitful when they open to truth, enabling those who participate in them to reach objectives that make social life ever more human."
Pope Benedict said there has been a shift “from a prevalently speculative form of thought to a chiefly empirical one.”
“Research has turned to focus above all on the observation of nature in the attempt to discover its secrets. And the desire to understand nature has then been transformed into the desire to reproduce it,” he explained.
“Scientific and technological progress, which 'fides' (faith) is increasingly called to confront, has altered the old concept of 'ratio' (reason); in some way it has marginalized the reason that sought the ultimate truth of things to make way for a reason that satisfies itself with discovering the contingent truths of the laws of nature.”
The Pope affirmed that scientific research “certainly has a positive value” when the applied sciences “are the fruit of reason and an expression of the intelligence with which man manages to penetrate the depths of creation.”
He emphasized that faith does not fear scientific progress and its developments “when their ultimate focus is man, his wellbeing and the progress of all humanity.”
However, he noted, “science is not capable of establishing ethical principles.” Here, theology and philosophy are an “indispensible aid.”
“This does not mean limiting scientific research ... but in keeping alive the sense of responsibility which reason and faith must have towards science, to ensure it remains at the service of man,” the Pope said.
“Reason,” he continued, "discovers that beyond its own achievements and conquests there exists a truth that can never be discovered by using its own parameters, but only received as a gratuitous gift. The truth of Revelation is not superimposed on the truth achieved by reason. Rather, it purifies and exalts reason, enabling it to expand beyond its confines to become part of a field of research as unfathomable as the mystery itself."
Pope Benedict concluded his audience by saying that the “passion for truth” impels us to examine ourselves to discover “the profound meaning of our lives in the interior man.”
“True philosophy must lead people by the hand and bring them to discover how fundamental knowing the truth of Revelation is for their own dignity.”
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2008 (CNA) - The Seventeenth General Congregation of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was held on Thursday in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI and 236 Synod Fathers. Attendees at the congregation heard a summary report of the Synod’s discussions and received further suggestions concerning guidelines for language groups and the preparation of the pastoral proposals to put before the Holy Father.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec and relator general of the Synod, read in Latin the “Relatio post disceptationem,” the report after the discussion, the Vatican Information Service reports.
The discussion centered on the Synod’s theme “The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church.”
Cardinal Ouellet’s summary was presented in three parts.
The first part, titled “God speaks and hears,” is split into subsections examining Revelation, creation, and the history of salvation; Christ, the Spirit and the Church; and the Word of God, liturgy, and listening.
The summary's first part also addresses “Revelation and Intra-Trinitarian Dialogue,” discussing the “dialogic” characteristics of the Word whose foundations are found in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Christ is the “fullness and achievement of the Trinitarian revelation” and the “sole mediator and dialogue.”
The Word of God and the history of salvation are also discussed by the report, which depicts revelation as a dialogue through which God addresses His creatures and leads them to the fullness of salvation. This is part of the “sacramental dimension” inherent in the Word of God, a dimension which reinforces the relationship between the Word of God and the Eucharistic liturgy.
The second part of the summary, titled “The Word of God, Holy Scripture, Tradition,” discusses the presentation of the Word of God as an “event” in history. Many Synod Fathers emphasized that the Word of God cannot be simply identified with the Sacred Scripture, noting the Second Vatican Council’s teaching in Dei Verbum that the Word of God is transmitted inseparably in the inspired written Word and in the living Tradition of the Church.
The report addresses the connection between Sacred Scripture and the life of the faithful, as well as the connection between the Word of God and present cultural challenges.
A subsection titled “Unity, primacy, circularity” discusses the relationship between Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium as well as the Holy Spirit’s work through each.
The subsection “Eucharist, homily, community” examines the relationship between Scripture and the Eucharist, with the Synod Fathers’ discussion focusing upon how to foster among the faithful a “more unitary perception” of their relationship. The sacramental and eschatological dimensions of the Word and its celebration were addressed, as were the importance of the homily and art as a form of preaching.
The summary’s second part also discussed exegesis as related to theology and “lectio divina.”
The third section of the summary centered on the theme “The Word of God, mission, dialogue.” It discussed inculturation as well as inter-religious dialogue.
Synod Fathers were especially concerned about making the Bible available in all languages, including unwritten ones. The possible use of modern communication to make the Scriptures more available was also discussed.
Cardinal Ouellet concluded his summary by noting that all the Synod Fathers feel the urgency of proclaiming the Gospel, inspired by the imperative to love Christ and the Scriptures, to favor Christian unity, and to contribute to justice and peace in the world.
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2008 (CNA) -
Marking the annual World Food Day event held every October 16, Pope Benedict XVI has written a message to Jacques Diouf, the director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The Pope called for openness, sustainability, and fair division in the distribution of world food resources as he stressed that hunger relief efforts are inspired by the recognition of the significance of the human person.
According to the Vatican Information Service, the Pope wrote that the event “enables reflection upon achievements in the fight against hunger and upon the obstacles facing the FAO in the new challenges threatening the life of the human family.”
“With the means and resources the world has at its disposal, it is possible to supply sufficient nourishment and to satisfy the growing needs of everyone,” he continued, criticizing public corruption and increasing military spending for diverting resources away from serving people’s primary needs.
A campaign against hunger must include more than scientific studies. It also must “rediscover the significance of human beings in their individual and community dimensions.”
Relations between peoples ought to be “based on real and constant openness” to ensure each country can satisfy those in need and to distribute earthly goods through the “sustainable use” and “fair division” of their benefits.
Pope Benedict concluded by saying both guaranteeing access to land and defending the rights of agricultural workers are conditions essential to increasing levels of food production and to preserve the identity of indigenous communities.
Vatican City, Oct 16, 2008 (CNA) - On Thursday Pope Benedict XVI received prelates from the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference following the completion of their “ad limina” visit. He emphasized that the Church in Ecuador needs “mature and committed” lay people who can illuminate all reality with the light of Christ.
Pope Benedict noted with satisfaction the Church in Ecuador’s implementation of the “great mission” pastoral initiative launched by the Latin American episcopate at their meeting in Aparecida, Brazil, the Vatican Information Service reports.
“The call the Lord Jesus made to His disciples, sending them forth to preach the message of salvation and make disciples of all people, must be a constant theme of meditation and the raison d’être of all pastoral activity for the entire ecclesial community,” the Pope said.
“In order to face the many challenges of your mission, and in a cultural and social atmosphere that seems to forget the deepest spiritual roots of its identity ... it is necessary to make generous efforts to spread the world of God so that no-one remains without this indispensable spiritual nourishment, source of life and light,” he continued.
Pope Benedict declared that their mission particularly depends upon priests, but also noted that prelates are committed to involving all groups, movements, and individuals in their dioceses “in a wide-ranging and generous form of vocational pastoral care.”
Such efforts, he added, must be accompanied by the “greatest care” in selecting seminarians and in providing their intellectual, human, and spiritual formation.
“In this way ... they will be able to shoulder the demands of their future ministry with joy and a sense of responsibility,” the Pope told the Ecuadoran bishops.
“In this important stage of history, the Church in Ecuador needs mature and committed lay people who, with a solid doctrinal formation and a profound interior life, live their specific vocation of illuminating all human, social, cultural and political reality with the light of Christ.”
Noting that the activity of the Church must not be confused with “political concerns,” he said the Church must offer its own contributions through reflection and moral judgment on political questions that “particularly affect human dignity.”
The Pope also gave his condolences over the recent death of the Archbishop of Quito, Cardinal Antonio Jose Gonzalez Zumarraga, and closed with an exhortation that the bishops dedicate particular attention to charitable activities which “express the merciful love of Christ, especially to people in need, the elderly, children, emigrants and to abandoned and mistreated women.”