Guayaquil, Ecuador, Oct 21, 2008 (CNA) - The Ecuadoran daily El Universo reported last week that the president of the Ecuadoran Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Antonio Arregui Yarza, denounced the anti-clericalism of the government of President Rafael Correa during his speech before the Pope at the conclusion of the ad limina visit by the country's bishops.
Archbishop Arregui pointed out that the bishops' criticism of some aspects of Correa's controversial constitutional reform—especially in the areas of right to life, marriage, the family, and the rights of parents—resulted in an unusually hostile reaction from the government.
The government, he said, employed a multimillion dollar campaign, "as aggressive as it was inaccurate, in an attempt to discredit the bishops by labeling their criticism as "political" and "subservient to the opposition."
The archbishop says the country is experiencing a prolonged crisis, "the roots of which we have identified as moral in various statements."
Politically, he explained, "the crisis has provoked an incessant popular outcry for changes that will help overcome the degrading living conditions of so many."
The government's failure to respond to the people has led to a distrust of democracy and increased instability, the archbishop stressed.
During the visit, Pope Benedict XVI congratulated the bishops for their courage and encouraged them to continue exercising their right to speak out in public.
Washington D.C., Oct 21, 2008 (CNA) - Describing the American policy on immigration as “inconsistent, ineffective and, in many cases, inhumane,” Bishop Thomas Wenski wrote in the Washington Post that the current “enforcement-only” policy does not “address the challenges presented by illegal immigration.”
Despite a “torrent of initiatives” aimed to prove that the U.S. can enforce its laws and secure its borders, Bishop Wenski pointed out that Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform because it bowed to a “vocal minority.”
Meanwhile, “intermittent work site raids, increased local law enforcement involvement and the creation of a wall along parts of our southern border, among other efforts, have done little to address the challenges presented by illegal immigration,” the Catholic bishop of Orlando charged.
Referring to worksite raids across the U.S., the bishop explained that this enforcement has “caused dislocation and disruption in immigrant communities and victimized permanent U.S. residents and citizens, including children. The sweeping nature of these raids -- sometimes involving hundreds of law enforcement personnel with weapons -- has made it difficult for those arrested to secure basic due-process legal rights, including access to counsel. Some families have been split up indefinitely.”
However, Wenski said, the greatest problems “are the adverse, long-term effects these policies have had on immigrant communities. The overriding emotion many immigrants feel is fear. Not only do legal immigrants worry that a loved one may be swept away in a work site raid or after a knock at the door at home, they are fearful for their own futures -- and the futures of their children -- in the United States. This is not the way to encourage integration and responsible citizenship.”
“While some organizations that oppose immigration are delighted by this and hope such an atmosphere will lead to a mass exodus of illegal and legal immigrants, they are likely to be disappointed. What they do not acknowledge is that 70 percent of the undocumented have lived in this country for five years or longer and have no home to return to. These people identify themselves more as Americans than anything else and would rather live here in the shadows than take their U.S.-citizen children back to a place they do not know.”
Immigrants are essential to the U.S. for its economic survival. Our economy needs immigrants, the bishop continued. “Opponents like to argue that our economy does not need the work of immigrants, now or in the future.” However, “The Labor Department predicts that in the years ahead, despite the current economic slowdown, a shortage of low-skilled labor will exist in several important industries, for some beginning as early as 2010. As baby boomers begin retiring, immigrants will help support them by paying billions into the Social Security system.”
If this issue is not addressed, Bishop Wenski warned, tensions will elevate “in states and localities, further alienate immigrants and their communities, and tacitly affirm the acceptance of a hidden and permanent underclass in our country.”
In conclusion, the prelate pointed out that an enforcement-only approach to illegal immigration “is ineffective and contrary to our national interests.” When the new administration takes office, they will be forced to make decisions regarding illegal immigrants, otherwise, the American people will be left pondering a wall and wondering why it is not working.”
Denver, Colo., Oct 21, 2008 (CNA) - In an effort to spread information about candidates running for office this November, a group of lay Catholics has formed the Solidarity Institute and the Know your Faith/Know Your Vote Campaign.
“In one of the most crucial elections of our time, informed voting has never been more important,” Jill Reiff, one of the Institute’s researchers explained to CNA. “Unfortunately, not everyone has the time or access to the information necessary for voting responsibly. This website presents the most prominent information in an easy to use manner.”
On the website, each candidate taking part in the national and state races is presented in easy-to-follow comparison charts organized by district and party. Posted beneath each candidate is a link to their available voting record. If a candidate’s voting record is not available, helpful quotes and public statements have also been posted.
The Institute notes on their site that the facts that they present are objective and from reliable sources.
Candidate comparison charts use red, yellow and green lights based on the five non-negotiables of the Catholic Church: Abortion, Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Human Cloning, Euthanasia, and Homosexual Marriage.
The site also includes useful resources on how to vote responsibly, bishops statements, prayers and reliable websites which enable visitors to research their state’s candidates.
“In a culture on the brink of moral crisis,” voting in an informed manner “means more than ever before,” Reiff said. “It is time that Catholics stepped forward and educated themselves on their officials before they are elected.”
“The Solidarity Institute is a stepping stone for those wanting to learn more about their faith and their government. It is a place where people are given access to both realms of information, the intellectual and the spiritual.”
The website can be found at: http://www.thesolidarityinstitute.com
Paris, France, Oct 21, 2008 (CNA) - The prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, has called the parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, now Blesseds Luis Martin and Zelie Guerin, “two witnesses of conjugal love” who raised their children firmly in the Christian faith, thus becoming an example for Christian spouses.
Before the more than 15,000 people gathered for the Beatification Mass at the Basilica of St. Therese in Lisieux, France, Cardinal Saraiva said the parents of the patroness of the missions “walked together towards God in search of the will of the Lord,” and in order to always be sure of fulfilling his will they always looked to the Church, “expert in humanity, seeking to be conformed in all aspects of their lives to the teachings of the Church.”
Referring to the 19 years of marriage they shared, Cardinal Saraiva underscored how the parents of St. Therese “lived out their marital promises in absolute fidelity, conscious of the indissolubility of their bond, in search of the fecundity of their love, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health,” all of which was a gift for their daughters.
“Among these we particularly admire Therese, a masterpiece of the grace of God and a masterpiece of the love of her parents for their children,” the cardinal said.
After explaining how Louis accepted with faith and hope the death of Zelie, who died from cancer, and how he faced his own death in the same way, Cardinal Saraiva said both “are an example of missionaries. For this reason, the Pope desired they be proclaimed blessed on this day that is so special for the universal Church: he desired to unite Louis and Zelie to their disciple, Therese, their daughter, who became patroness of the missions and Doctor of the Church.”
Madrid, Spain, Oct 21, 2008 (CNA) - The recent birth of Javier Mariscal, the first “medicinal baby” to be born in Spain since a new law on assisted reproduction was passed by the Socialist government in June of 2006, has led the Bishops’ Conference of Spain to issue a statement warning that the healing of the infirm should not come at the cost of the lives of other human begins.
The statement published last weekend, the bishops noted that on October 12, the first baby conceived for the purpose of healing another person was born in Sevilla. The baby’s brother suffers from a hereditary disease which forces him to undergo constant blood transfusions.
The bishops explained that with the technique that was used, “the embryos obtained through in vitro fertilization are examined to select those that are not carriers of the gene that causes the hereditary disease. From the selected group, an embryo that has the closest genetic profile to the ill sibling is implanted in the uterus. The rest are either destroyed or frozen.”
The bishops pointed out that the Spanish media “has emphasized the good news of the birth of the child and the possibility of curing the illness of his brother.” “Put like this, the news ought to be a source of joy for all. However, the dramatic fact that the sick embryos, and eventually the healthy ones that were not genetically compatible were destroyed has been silenced.”
“The Church wants to lend her voice to the voiceless and to those who have been deprived of the fundamental right to life. These statements are not a judgment upon the conscience or the intentions of anyone. They are meant to draw attention to the objective ethical principles that protect the dignity of all human beings,” the statement indicated.
Las Vegas, Nev., Oct 21, 2008 (CNA) - A photo of Senator John McCain in front of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has drawn mixed reviews from Hispanic voters around the country. Some claim it shows his attempt to reach out to Hispanics, while others contend that politics and religion should always be separate.
The photo, which was displayed by groups at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, has been sized-down and printed on hand-held cards. These cards are being handed out by Republican supporters to attract the support of Hispanics, a group currently dominated by Senator Barack Obama in swing-state polls, reports the Las Vegas Star.
Xavier Rivas, who has one of the cards, maintains that it illustrates McCain’s attempt to reach out to the Hispanic population in the United States. The message it sends, he explains, is that Our Lady of Guadalupe “represents a symbol of our culture, our feelings ... and (the photo) is sending a signal to Mexican-Americans that McCain is saying, ‘I know and care about your community’.”
One voter, Fernando Romero, says the card gives him a better feeling about McCain. “He made the effort to visit something spiritual that is in the hearts of all Mexicans.”
However, not all voters agree. According to Mexican news reports, while McCain was in the basilica someone yelled, “you can’t play around with people’s faith!”
Rivas admits that once in awhile he comes across similar reactions among fellow Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. “But then I explain why I’m doing it, and they understand.”
David Sanchez, an assistant professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University and expert on the Virgin told the Las Vegas Sun using the photo is a logical consequence of the social conservatism Republicans embrace. “Part of that is religiously based social conservatism, and it is powerful for them to use these images.”
“Religion is so embedded in political discourse these days, I’m sure we’ll see more of this,” he said.
Valencia, Fla., Oct 21, 2008 (CNA) - During protests by both supporters and opponents of the abortion ship operated by the Dutch group “Women on Waves,” which docked last week in Valencia, Spain, feminist organizations openly called for church burnings and handed out matches to their followers.
The presence of the “ship of death” in Valencia last week led to one of the largest pro-life protests in the city’s history, with large numbers of people voicing opposition each day to the ship’s services, which include bringing women into international waters to undergo abortions according to Holland’s liberal abortion laws.
On October 18, a group of 40 feminists gathered to counter the pro-life protests, which brought out four times as many people. They passed out boxes of matches with the picture of a burning church and the caption, “The only church that brings light is the one that burns. Join us!”
On October 19, the feminists met again to distribute matches but decided to disband after they were overwhelmed by the large number of pro-life protestors who gathered at the port where the abortion ship was docked.
Arlington, Va., Oct 21, 2008 (CNA) - Around 50,000 Catholics in Virginia now have the opportunity to fill their prescriptions at a pro-life pharmacy. At the blessing ceremony for the DMC Pharmacy in Chantilly on Tuesday, Bishop Paul Loverde praised the pharmacy for allowing families to “shop in an environment where their faith is not compromised.”
The pharmacy’s manager, Robert Semler, described the unique store as offering “superior pharmaceutical care—both traditional and clinical services—focusing on the individual in a family-oriented, pro-life environment, free of contraceptive products and anti-life messages.”
DMC’s opening also highlights the debate that is occurring across the nation over the clash between a pharmacist’s conscience and the laws of some states that require pharmacies to fill prescriptions for contraceptives or provide a referral.
Semler said that the plight of other pharmacists makes him “grateful to be able to practice within the umbrella of Divine Mercy Care where my conscience will never be violated and my faith does not have to be ‘checked at the door’ each morning.” DMC Pharmacy operates as an entity of Divine Mercy Care.
The economic realities of the venture were not far from the minds of the businessmen either. Bob Laird, the executive director of DMC, told CNA that the pharmacy is positioned between two large Catholic parishes in the area. “St. Timothy’s Catholic Church and St. Veronica’s Catholic Church in Chatilly, VA combined have nearly 20,000 parishioners. Three other churches just beyond them have another 30,000 parishioners,” Laird said.
Dr. John Bruchalski, Divine Mercy Care’s president, explained his group will provide this solid customer base with service that is “values-based and consumer-driven.” “Neither patients nor professionals want to abandon their conscience while they seek medical care,” he added.
The store will stock standard prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and quality alternative products including vitamins, natural products, homeopathics and herbals, home health needs and special order products and equipment. Absent from the typical drugstore offerings will be contraceptive products, which the group says it will not “dispense, recommend or counsel.”
Laird explained why people are not using birth control and are instead selecting other options. “Birth control is not good health care. Birth control makes healthy reproductive organs sick and prevents the marital act from completion. This is not healthcare. Birth control is a lifestyle choice,” Laird explained to CNA, adding that, “Many [people] reject such choices for moral and health reasons.”
As an alternative, Laird said that the pharmacy carries Natural Family Planning materials from the Couple to Couple League. He also noted that the League teaches NFP classes in the area and that DMC Pharmacy “supports the work of the League and supports these classes.”
Bishop of Arlington Paul S. Loverde lauded Divine Mercy Care group for these efforts to protect human dignity during the blessing of the pharmacy. “At a time when healthcare is often robotic and non-personal, you bring together a concept which treats the human person with the dignity and respect which he or she deserves from the moment of conception to natural death.”
As Bruchalski explains, the goal of DMC is to be “professional, personal, and passionate about how we infuse our community with the love of Jesus Christ. We must not separate our faith from our work. The God of science is also the God of revealed religion.”
Sao Paulo, Brazil, Oct 21, 2008 (CNA) - Despite opposition from the Archdiocese of Sao Paulo, a group of Brazilian priests who call themselves the “Catholics’ Forum for Justice” distributed thousands of pamphlets last weekend supporting Marta Suplicy, an abortion rights and homosexual marriage supporter who is running for mayor of Sao Paolo.
According to local reports, the group is led by Fathers Tarcisio Marques Mesquita and Julio Lancelotti. Lancelotti’s leadership has been called into question because of pedophilia charges.
The two priests penned a “Letter to Christians” to encourage believers to “banish” their “prejudices” against politicians who defend abortion and same-sex unions.
“We do not elect candidates because of their hair color, whether or not they use botox, or whether they discuss sexual choice,” Father Tarcisio Marques Mezquita said. “What we are discussing here are the interests of the city of Sao Paulo,” he added.
According to the Movement for the Defense of Life, the controversial pamphlet does not mention that the candidacy of Suplicy, together with the government of President Lula, has a history of making alliances with foreign interests to finance the spread of abortion in Brazil, even though the majority of Brazilians are against abortion.
Santa Clara, Calif, Oct 21, 2008 (CNA) - President Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, Leon Panetta, is scheduled to be honored by the Jesuit-run Santa Clara University, despite his strong pro-choice voting record. An alumnus of the university and member of the board, Panetta also co-sponsored the federal Freedom of Choice Act and later defended Clinton’s veto of a bill banning partial birth abortion.
The Santa Clara School of Law plans to award Panetta, at its “5th Annual Diversity Gala” for his work for “the cause of equality, social justice, and human rights,” notes a press release from the university.
The university fails to mention that Panetta, a member of Santa Clara’s board of trustees, not only has a strong pro-abortion voting record from when he served in the U.S. House of Representatives, but was also the co-sponsor of the federal Freedom of Choice Act. Later, as Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, Panetta defended Clinton’s veto of a bill that would have banned partial-birth abortions.
According to California Catholic Daily, while the university describes itself as Jesuit, Catholic and “committed to faith-inspired values,” it appears that Panetta credits his abortion stance with advice he received from one of his professors at Santa Clara. In a form letter to his constituents in 1992, the then-congressman wrote that as a Catholic, he accepts certain beliefs for himself and his family, however as a congressmen, he felt he could not impose those views on others.
“As U.S. Congressman, I am involved in defining policies that determine other people's rights in these same areas of life, death, and morality. Perhaps Rev. Austin J. Fagothey, a Jesuit Priest, who taught me at Santa Clara University and renowned for his scholarship in ethics and morality, stated it most clearly in responding to the abortion question: ‘A state, especially the pluralistic state of today, must operate within the framework of popular consensus. The argument for the immorality of abortion, the theory of rights on which it rests, and the philosophy underlying the ethics there outlined is not accepted by a large part of the population. I can be convinced of it beyond the shadow of a doubt and steer my own life by it, yet be unable to convince my fellow citizens of my views. Do I then have the right to impose my philosophical convictions any more than my religious convictions on others who disagree with me? I think not, and this is the reason why I think there should be no laws on abortion. I believe the best way to cope with abortion is not by punitive legislation but by a persuasive program of moral education aimed at building up a respect for life.’”
The Cardinal Newman Society, a group dedicated to strengthening Catholic identity at Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S., released a statement regarding the university’s decision to honor Panetta.
CNS president Patrick Reilly strongly stated that “A leading advocate for the Culture of Death is no friend of justice or human rights. With so many admirable defenders of the Culture of Life in our country to select from, it is despicable that Santa Clara University has chosen to award a Catholic who is so clearly opposed to the pro-life work of the Catholic Church -- even worse, to put him on their board of trustees.”