San Salvador, El Salvador, Oct 24, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador has called on the Salvadoran government to place conditions upon the document that will be voted on at the upcoming Latin American Summit of Heads of State and Government. The convention will focus on the rights of young people and may impose abortion and gender ideology on the countries of the continent.
Archbishop Saenz Lacalle suggested the government add as a condition to the document that “all commitments made will be implemented taking into account the current legal and constitutional norms in each country.” Several countries in the region have been pushing for such an exception in order to prevent those in charge of drafting the document from imposing their ideology on sovereign nations.
The archbishop reiterated his rejection of the Latin American Convention on the Rights of Young People and proposed that El Salvador draft its own laws on the issue based on the country’s fundamental values.
“The convention puts the State above the family. It also presents serious confusion in moral issues,” the archbishop explained.
New Haven, Conn., Oct 24, 2008 (CNA) - Proposition 4, the California ballot proposal that requires a waiting period and parental notification before a girl under 18 may have an abortion, is leading among likely voters by 52 to 33 percent, a new survey reports.
The survey was conducted for the Knights of Columbus by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion between September 28 and October 5, 2008.
According to the survey, the initiative has majority support among women, those aged 45 or older, and Latinos. Latino support for Proposition 4 runs at 61 to 27 percent. The proposal also leads among men overall, but trails among likely voters between 18 and 29 years of age by 52 to 41 percent.
Proposition 4 leads by double digits in every region of California except the Bay Area, where 48 percent are opposed.
About 75 percent of California’s likely voters say parents or legal guardians have the right to know if their underage daughter is seeking an abortion. The survey reports that 76 percent of likely California voters favor significant restrictions on abortion, with 47 percent believing abortion should be restricted to cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, or should never be permitted.
According to the survey, 84 percent of Catholic likely voters favor significant restrictions. Among Latino likely voters, 85 percent favor significant restrictions while 61 percent would limit abortion to cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, or say it should never be permitted.
Full details of the poll results are available at www.kofc.org.
London, England, Oct 24, 2008 (CNA) - In what one pro-life leader called a “deadly day in the history of Britain,” the House of Commons on Wednesday approved legislation allowing scientists to create animal-human hybrids for medical research. The bill also allows the creation of “savior siblings” genetically matched to sick siblings and eases access to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for lesbians and single women by eliminating requirements for clinics to consider a child’s need for a father.
The Human Embryology and Fertilization Bill passed by 355 votes to 129, Agence France Presse reports. The bill now heads to the House of Lords and could become law by November.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown backed the measure citing its potential to help future generations. Brown’s son has cystic fibrosis, a disease which could reportedly benefit from future embryo research.
Sixteen MPs from Brown’s Labor Party, including the Catholic former minister Ruth Kelly, voted against the bill.
Nadine Dorries, a member of the Conservative Party, argued that loopholes in the bill could allow scientists to attempt crossbreeding between humans and animals.
"Of all the experimental possibilities debated in the course of this bill, surely none is quite so utterly repulsive as the possibility of seeking to inseminate animals with human sperm," she said, the AFP reports.
All sides complained that the government had blocked a discussion on reforming the abortion laws. According to SIR, the vote rejected a law that authorizes abortion in Northern Ireland.
John Smeaton, director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, responded to the passage of the full bill.
“Today is a deadly day in the history of Britain.” he told SIR. “Parliament approved a law that extends the lethal abuse of the more vulnerable members of our society. The future generations will read this macabre law and will wonder how a nation that should be civil may have debased human life so much.”
“Our only consolation is that thousands of people all over the country have joined their efforts in sympathy with the unborn children,” he added, stating that leaders such as Cardinal Keith O’Brien and Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue “have shown that taking strong, clear, brave positions may put the holiness of human life at the head of the public debate. Very many doctors, lawyers and academicians have defended the weakest of the weak.”
Washington D.C., Oct 24, 2008 (CNA) - The discussion over Catholic support for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama continued this past week as professors Nick Cafardi, Cathy Kaveny, and Doug Kmiec—all Obama backers—debated the topic with political commentator George Weigel in the pages of Newsweek. Obama’s Catholic supporters argued that Obama would serve the pro-life cause in other aspects, while Weigel charged that such arguments ignore or minimize Obama’s vigorous support for abortion rights.
The pro-Obama professors made their case in an October 17 essay on Newsweek Online. They argued that an Obama presidency would reduce the abortion rate and they advocated an “interconnected” approach to promote a “culture of life” through policies favoring a family wage, universal health care, and better parenting and education for youth.
“This greater appreciation for the totality of Catholic teaching is at the very heart of the Obama campaign,” they asserted. “It is scarcely a McCain footnote.”
The professors said Weigel’s recent criticism of their positions is “unassailable” in a perfect world, but they charged that the legal path to preventing abortion “has not worked to date, and it may never work.”
They claimed in their Newsweek essay that Obama recognizes abortion as “a tragic moral choice” but would implement other policies to help women in “adverse economic and social circumstances.”
“Is Obama the perfect pro-life candidate? No.” they conceded, but claimed the Democratic presidential nominee was better than Sen. John McCain. They charged McCain with doing “not much” to promote human life, arguing his policies do not provide for the uninsured, while in their view Obama’s health care plan is superior.
“The Republican alternative familiar to Weigel is simultaneously self-righteous, easy and ineffective,” they alleged, advising that Weigel should consider whether his own support for an “unjust and unjustifiable war in Iraq” is as complicit in moral evil as support for pro-abortion rights politicians.
Weigel responded to these claims in his own Newsweek essay, suggesting the professors’ criticism of what they called the “elegant theorizing” of pro-life Republicans avoided the real argument.
“A serious, bipartisan, national debate about the ways in which people of goodwill in both political parties can work together to build a culture of life in 21st-century America would be welcome,” he said.
According to Weigel, Obama believes that Roe v. Wade was “rightly decided,” charging that the senator’s defense of the Supreme Court decision which imposed permissive abortion laws nationwide “extends far beyond anyone’s ‘elegant theorizing’.”
Weigel also cited Obama’s opposition to Illinois laws which would provide legal protection for children who survive abortion and referenced Obama’s criticism of a Supreme Court decision which upheld state laws against partial-birth abortion.
The candidate’s support for the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was also of concern to Weigel.
“The full implementation of the most radical interpretation of Roe would seem to be the goal of Obama's support for the federal Freedom of Choice Act, which, by stripping Catholic doctors of ‘conscience clause’ protections currently in state laws, would put thousands of Catholic physicians in jeopardy,” Weigel contended.
He then argued there is “very little, if anything” in Obama’s record to show the politician agrees with his pro-life supporters that abortion is a “tragic moral choice.”
“Do Professors Cafardi, Kaveny, and Kmiec imagine that they have a better grasp of Senator Obama's views on the life issues than, say, the National Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), or other pro-choice Obama supporters?”
Weigel argued that thousands of crisis pregnancy centers best serve women in crisis pregnancies, centers whose “modest federal funding” Obama wishes to cut.
“How is it ‘pro-life’ to support a presidential candidate who is publicly committed to requiring any federal legislation in support of pregnant women to include promotion of abortion?” Weigel asked rhetorically.
The Obama backers had criticized the denial of Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians as “using the sacrament as a political tool.” Weigel countered that the practice is a question of “maintaining the integrity of the church's central act of worship” and of helping Catholics form their conscience.
Calling most Catholic politicians “woefully ill-informed” about the logic of Catholic teaching on life issues, he said this “enormous failure” of pastors and bishops is compounded when prominent Catholic intellectuals “fail to make clear” that their preferred pro-abortion rights candidate’s record on such issues is “reprehensible.”
“President McCain would not work to repeal the pro-life legislative advances of the past 35 years; knowledgeable and sober-minded Catholic legal and political observers who have worked on these issues for decades are convinced that an Obama administration and an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress would eviscerate those modest advances within a year,” Weigel argued.
Weigel, a biographer of Pope John Paul II, closed his Newsweek essay with the 1997 remarks Pope John Paul II made when he accepted the credentials of Lindy Boggs, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.
The Pope had said:
“The moral history of your country is the story of your people's efforts to widen the circle of inclusion in society, so that all Americans might enjoy the protection of law, participate in the responsibilities of citizenship, and have the opportunity to make a contribution to the common good. Whenever a certain category of people—the unborn or the sick and old—are excluded from that protection, a deadly anarchy subverts the original understanding of justice. The credibility of the United States will depend more and more on its promotion of a genuine culture of life, and on a renewed commitment to building a world in which the weakest and most vulnerable are welcomed and protected.”
Vatican City, Oct 24, 2008 (CNA) - On Friday morning the Synod Fathers of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, meeting in their Twenty-First General Congregation, voted on the Final Message of the Synod. Using poetic imagery, the message focused upon the Voice, the Face, the House of the Divine Word, and the Road of the Word.
The last image recalled the theme of the Synod, “The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church.”
“The divine Voice ... sounds out at the origin of Creation …giving rise to the wonders of the universe. It is a Voice that penetrates into history, a history lacerated by human sin and troubled by suffering and death... It is a Voice that descends into the pages of the Sacred Scripture which we now read in the Church with the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” the message said, according to a summary published by the Vatican Information Service.
“The Face is Jesus Christ Who is Son of the eternal and infinite God, but also a mortal man, linked to a historical period, to a people, to a land.”
Christ reveals to us the “complete and unitary” meaning of Sacred Scripture, the message continued.
“Christianity is a religion that has at its heart a person, Jesus Christ, Who reveals the Father. It is He Who enables us to understand that the Scriptures are 'flesh'.”
The “House of the Divine Word,” the message explained, is the Church. Citing St. Luke, the Synod Fathers said the Church is supported on the four pillars of teaching, the breaking of the bread, prayer, and fraternal communion.
“To be true Christians it is not enough to be 'those who hear the word of God',” the bishops’ message explained, since Christians must also be those “who do it.”
The Synod Fathers then explained the final image of the Road:
“The Word of God must travel the roads of the world, which today also include those of electronic, televisual and virtual communication. The Bible must enter into families ... schools and all cultural environments. ... Its symbolic, poetic and narrative richness makes it a sign of beauty, both for the faith and for culture itself, in a world often disfigured by ugliness and brutality.”
Their message continued:
“The Bible, however, also presents the breath of suffering that arises from the earth, it reaches out to the cry of the oppressed and to the laments of forlorn. At its summit is the cross where Christ, alone and abandoned, experienced the tragedy of atrocious suffering and death. Precisely because of this presence of the Son of God, the darkness of evil and death is irradiated with Paschal light and with hope of glory.”
The message noted that there are faithful men and women of other religions who in cooperation with Christians “can build a world of peace and light.”
Quoting St. Paul’s words “We commend you to God and to the message of His grace,” the statement concluded:
“With the same expression as that used by St. Paul in his farewell address to the leaders of the Church in Ephesus, we Synod Fathers commend the faithful of the communities scattered across the face of the earth to the Divine Word, which is also judgment but, above all, grace.”
Rome, Italy, Oct 24, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, who signed the diplomatic relations agreement with Israel in the name of the Holy See, told reporters this week that in his personal opinion, certain attempts to “interfere” with the beatification cause of Pope Pius XII are “tiresome.”
According to the Ansa news agency, the cardinal made his statements to reporters during a gathering to present a series of initiatives that are part of the celebration of the Pauline Year.
He was referring to the statements by Israel’s Social Affairs Minister Yitzhak Herzog, who called the eventual beatification of the late Pontiff “unacceptable” during an interview with the Haaretz newspaper.
According to Cardinal Montezemolo, who is currently archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Holy See is displaying “a responsible attitude” towards the controversy surrounding the beatification of Pius XII, but “some attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of the Church are tiresome.”
“These are judgments from outsiders. The Pope is sensible and he opted for a period of reflection, but there is no need to bother him with statements to force him to go one way or another,” the cardinal added.
Rome, Italy, Oct 24, 2008 (CNA) - The international association Aid to the Church in Need presented its Report on Religious Freedom in the world this week, noting that in more than 60 countries there are various degrees of violations of religious liberty, especially in some Asian nations.
The report, presented in Rome by the president of Aid to the Church in Need, Father Joaquin Alliende, specifies how in some countries there are “grave limitations on freedom of religion,” such as in Bhutan, where “although the law protects religious freedom, the government de facto limits this right regarding religions distinct from Buddhism, which is the religion of the State.”
The document also addresses the grave situation of the last two years in India, where the constitution recognizes religious freedom. It states that “in the years 2006 and 2007 anti-conversion laws have been passed, which in general represent a sort of systematic support by some local governments and other public officials of the activities of Hindu nationalists that are contrary to religious freedom.”
ACN hopes its latest report will “provide not only a specialist readership but also a broader public with information that is not published by the rulers and religious leaders of those countries where religious freedom is restricted or denied, thereby promoting a growing awareness which, it is hoped, can improve the lives of millions of people whose most basic right has been trampled underfoot.”
Vatican City, Oct 24, 2008 (CNA) - On October 30 the Congregation for Catholic Education will issue a new document entitled, “Orientations For The Use Of Psychological Competencies In The Admission And Formation Of Candidates To The Priesthood.”
The document will be presented by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the congregation, Msgr. Jean-Louis Brugues, the congregation’s secretary, and Father Carlos Bresciani, a psychologist and consulter.
It will be available in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese, and it will address the complex issue of the importance and the limits of psychology in the evaluation and formation of seminarians.
According to a Vatican official consulted by CNA, the document “is intended to propose clear criteria for establishing an adequate balance between recourse to psychology and spirituality, in order to avoid falling into both a psychology that ignores sin and grace, and a spirituality that overlooks factors related to the human mind and affectivity.”
Rome, Italy, Oct 24, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Antonio Menegazzo of El Obeid, Sudan spoke out this week about the damage being done to the country by its civil war and about the challenges facing the Christian minority that lives amidst growing violence. He called on international organizations to help find solutions to the 20 year-old conflict.
In an interview with the L’Osservatore Romano, the bishop said that the Church in Sudan is “very concerned about Darfur. The war continues to affect innocent victims, and international organizations are not able to stop this endless wave of violence.”
“In the rest of Sudan as well, after 21 years of civil war between the north and the south, the injustices and suffering are not diminishing. Things have not improved even with the peace accords and the situation here is neither clear nor encouraging. The UN and the European Union should pay greater attention to the problems of Sudan,” the bishop said.
Speaking about the situations Christians face in the country, Bishop Menegazzo noted that while there is a great hunger for God in many people in Sudan, this “has not penetrated deeply into the hearts and minds of many of our Christians: they have not been able to completely change their mentality, their culture is still not purified by the Word of God.”
“Often we are unable to find a solution to their problems and they still easily fall back into their old ways,” he said.
“In Sudan,” he continued, “most of the catechumens do not know how to read or write, and therefore in order to prepare them for Baptism, catechists need to be able to explain the Word with posters, drawings or their own words. And here lies the great dilemma: poorly trained catechists, because few are instructed in how to help catechumens who want to be disciples of Christ. Many teach the catechism and the truths of the holy faith from memory, with a poor knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.”
Madrid, Spain, Oct 24, 2008 (CNA) - Spanish expert David del Fresno y Torrecillas has presented to Catholic News Agency his analysis of the Dutch organization Women on Waves, which docked its “Ship of Death” in Valencia several days ago in order to pick up women and take them into international waters to administer abortions.
Del Fresno warned that Women on Waves presents itself as “a non-profit organization that is purely philanthropic and devoted to promoting the legalization of abortion in those countries where it has not been legalized—or is decriminalized in certain cases—with the sole purpose of protecting the health of women.”
However, he said, “behind the pretty name and smooth euphemisms and hidden from Spanish public opinion is the true face of a pro-abortion Dutch organization strongly supported by international entities such as Hivos, a Dutch governmental organization that supports abortion and gender ideology.”
“Hivos lends support to more than 800 local non-governmental organizations in countries in Africa, Latin America and southeast Europe through funding, education, counseling and political support,” Del Fresno explained.
“The funding for Hivos comes mainly from international organizations such as the European Union, the Ford Foundation, and governmental organizations such as the Dutch National Lottery,” he said.
Del Fresno pointed out that “in its strategy for promoting abortion, Women on Waves has not hidden its hostility for the Catholic Church and has manifestly expressed it in numerous documents.”
Washington D.C., Oct 24, 2008 (CNA) - Author and politics writer Mark Stricherz has defended Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput from accusations of partisanship stemming from the archbishop’s vigorous pro-life statements made during this election year. Noting that the archbishop’s critiques are not limited to Democratic politicians, Stricherz argued that advocacy for overturning the Supreme Court pro-abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade is likewise not limited to only one political party.
Writing a Friday post on the Jesuits’ America magazine group blog “In All Things,” Stricherz responded to fellow blogger Michael Sean Winters’ description of the prelate as the nation’s “second most vocal supporter of the GOP.”
Calling the description a “mischaracterization,” Stricherz, a pro-life Democrat, said he thinks it reflects “a larger misunderstanding that progressive Catholics have about their co-religionist opponents.”
He then referenced Archbishop Chaput’s August remarks in which the prelate acknowledged many important issues are relevant to the election, but also asserted that the right to life is “foundational” and all other rights depend on it.
“We can’t build a healthy society while ignoring the routine and very profitable legalized homicide that goes on every day against America’s unborn children,” Archbishop Chaput commented, continuing:
“Yet for thirty-five years I’ve watched prominent ‘pro-choice’ Catholics justify themselves with the kind of moral and verbal gymnastics that should qualify as an Olympic event. All they’ve really done is capitulate to Roe v. Wade.”
Stricherz said the archbishop’s stance should not be interpreted in a partisan spirit.
“This position is not, strictly speaking, Republican or Democratic,” he noted, saying it was the same position of the late Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey, Sr.
Stricherz, whose book Why the Democrats are Blue discusses the secularizing changes the Democratic Party has undergone, reported that during the 1992 Democratic National Convention Gov. Casey organized a full-page ad in the New York Times which called Roe v. Wade “the most momentous act of exclusion in our history.”
The governor had also opposed the re-election of Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mark Singel because the latter reversed his previous opposition to Roe.
Further, Stricherz argued, Archbishop Chaput’s position is echoed in the Catechism, which teaches “The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation.”
He then noted the parties’ official positions on Roe v. Wade: “The Republican’s platform calls for the passage of a human life amendment, which if enacted would reverse Roe; the Democrats’ platform calls for preserving Roe. Naturally, the archbishop has made a descriptive statement about the GOP: that on cultural issues the GOP is ‘the natural ally’ of the church.”
“It is true that Chaput has criticized pro-choice Democrats, such as Barack Obama. But that's because they favor abortion rights, not because they are Democrats,” Stricherz wrote, adding that the archbishop did not say “nice things” about pro-abortion rights Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani and did not imply support for a pro-life Republican Colorado gubernatorial candidate over his pro-life Democratic opponent.
Stricherz voiced his own suspicions that the archbishop is a Democrat, saying that the prelate as a seminarian was an “active volunteer” for Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign and has opposed both the Iraq war and some Republican efforts aimed at illegal immigration.
“Chaput has offered encouragement to Catholics who oppose abortion but don’t seek to criminalize the procedure. But his position, as well as that of Casey, is that overturning Roe is foundational,” Stricherz explained.
Comparing the tolerance of abortion to the tolerance of slavery, he asked whether it was possible to oppose slavery but support the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision which protected the right to own a slave throughout the United States.
“This is a question that I think that progressive pro-lifers need to ask,” he concluded in his post to America Magazine’s blog.
Stricherz expanded on his comments in a Friday e-mail to CNA.
“Many progressive Catholics assume that any criticism on Democratic Party policy is an attack on the Democratic Party,” he wrote. “This is a gross simplification.”
“As blogger Mark Shea once wrote, the logic is reminiscent of Otter's speech in the movie Animal House that any criticism of Americans' conduct was an attack on America itself.
“More seriously, progressive Catholic Democrats assume that they are the only pro-life voices in the party: in fact, plenty of pro-life Democrats wish to overturn Roe and provide necessary resources to women in crisis,” Stricherz told CNA.
On Tuesday Cardinal Justin Rigali, who is chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-life Activities, joined Bishop William Murphy in issuing a joint statement from the bishops’ conference on the subject of faithful citizenship.
In their letter, the prelates insisted that reversing Roe v. Wade is not “a mere political tactic,” but is “a moral imperative for Catholics and others who respect human life.”