Caracas, Venezuela, Oct 29, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, said this week the Church hopes that the regional elections set for November 23 will take place with fairness and respect for all the candidates.
“We have called for these elections to take place with respect, and we will continue to reiterate this call because verbal violence, insults and offenses are not in harmony with the spirit that should reign among Venezuelans,” the cardinal said. “There needs to be respect between all sectors of society and this is the message we are sending to all the participants of this election, which is undoubtedly very important for Venezuela,” he stressed.
He noted that while bishops and priests should not be political, “we cannot lock ourselves in the sacristy,” because “we have something to say with respect to human rights, freedom, justice, and the truth that should prevail among all Venezuelans.”
Minneapolis, Minn., Oct 29, 2008 (CNA) - A sixth grader will be allowed to wear his pro-life t-shirts to school following a Minnesota federal judge’s recent ruling. The decision came after a lawsuit alleging the student’s constitutional rights were violated by his school principal and teachers, who disciplined him for wearing the shirts.
“This is a great victory for freedom of speech and the pro-life movement,” said Brandon Bolling, the lead counsel in the case from the Thomas More Law Center.
In the lawsuit, the student at Hutchinson Middle School in Hutchinson, Minnesota was named only as “K.B.” He reportedly wore several different pro-life t-shirts to school to communicate his belief that abortion wrongfully takes innocent life and is a grave offense to God.
The boy wore three different t-shirts produced by the American Life League. They bore statements such as “Abortion… growing, growing, gone,” “What part of abortion don’t you understand?” and “Never Known – Not Forgotten.”
On a dozen occasions during April 2008, the principal and several teachers told K.B. not to wear the t-shirts, publicly singled him out for ridicule in front of his classmates, removed him from class, sent him to the principal’s office, forced him to turn his shirt inside out, and threatened him with suspension if he did not stop wearing the t-shirts, a press release from the Thomas More Law Center reports.
The Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit against the school in June, alleging violations of the student’s constitutional rights.
In addition to the judge’s new permanent injunction, which prohibits the school from banning the pro-life t-shirts, the school district agreed to pay the student nominal damages and $12,500 in legal fees.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of Thomas More Law Center, commented on the outcome:
“This young Christian was not afraid to stand up for his pro-life beliefs despite ridicule and threats from school officials. We are pleased we were able to vindicate his Constitutional rights.”
Washington D.C., Oct 29, 2008 (CNA) - Michael Malone, a 25-year veteran journalist and technology writer, has penned an essay for ABC News lamenting what he sees as the decline of journalistic ethics and the “sheer bias” in the media favoring Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama.
“The traditional media are playing a very, very dangerous game -- with their readers, with the Constitution and with their own fates,” Malone wrote on ABC News.
Granting that there has always been bias in the media, he argued that contemporary journalism has blurred the lines between reporting and opinion writing.
“I watched with disbelief as the nation's leading newspapers, many of whom I'd written for in the past, slowly let opinion pieces creep into the news section, and from there onto the front page. Personal opinions and comments that, had they appeared in my stories in 1979, would have gotten my butt kicked by the nearest copy editor, were now standard operating procedure at the New York Times, the Washington Post, and soon after in almost every small town paper in the U.S.”
Malone said CNN International’s treatment of the 2005 Israel-Lebanon conflict particularly shattered his faith in journalism, claiming that the news station reported the deadly consequences of Israeli attacks on Beirut, but did not report the deadly consequences of Hezbollah’s missile attacks on northern Israel.
“But nothing, nothing I've seen has matched the media bias on display in the current presidential campaign,” he insisted.
“Republicans are justifiably foaming at the mouth over the sheer one-sidedness of the press coverage of the two candidates and their running mates. But in the last few days, even Democrats, who have been gloating over the pass -- no, make that shameless support -- they've gotten from the press, are starting to get uncomfortable as they realize that no one wins in the long run when we don't have a free and fair press,” he continued.
While saying he does not object to tough treatment of Republican candidates, he criticized “the lack of equivalent hardball coverage of the other side -- or worse, actively serving as attack dogs for the presidential ticket” of the Democrats.
Malone argued that the media has “systematically refused” to properly cover Sen. Obama’s background.
While the press has mentioned Cindy McCain’s drug addiction, the press has not scrutinized Obama’s past in the same way, Malone said.
“Are Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko that hard to interview?” he asked, referring to Obama’s controversial past associates. “Are all those phony voter registrations that hard to scrutinize? And why are Sen. Biden's endless gaffes almost always covered up, or rationalized, by the traditional media?”
“It would seem that by so exposing their biases and betting everything on one candidate over another, the traditional media is trying to commit suicide,” he continued, saying that journalists would have “raced in and roughed up” the Obama campaign had their editors ordered them to do so.
The editors “are the real culprits,” Malone’s ABC News essay concluded, insinuating that editors are presiding over a “dying industry” and hope that the potential reinstatement of the “fairness doctrine” by a Democratic congress and president can save their jobs.
Malone’s comments seem to have struck a chord with readers, generating close to 1,900 comments since being published last Thursday.
Sacramento, Calif., Oct 29, 2008 (CNA) - Two recently published poll results for California’s Proposition 4 vary significantly. Results range from showing a statistical tie to a massive lead for the measure, which requires a waiting period and parental notification before a girl under 18 may have an abortion.
Last week, a poll conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion reported that the proposal was leading among likely voters 52 to 33 percent between September 28 and October 5.
According to the Knights of Columbus-sponsored 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.
The survey reported that Proposition 4 leads by double digits in every region of California except the Bay Area, where 48 percent are opposed.
The relevant survey question asked respondents: “There will be a number of propositions on the ballot this November. Proposition 4 is the ‘Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy’ Initiative. It would prohibit abortions for minors under the age of 18 until 48 hours after a physician notifies the minor’s parent, legal guardian, or adult family member. It provides for exceptions in a medical emergency. If the election were being held today, would you vote Yes or No on Proposition 4?”
The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has also released a poll on the measure, which has findings quite different from the Marist College poll.
Surveying 2,004 “adult residents” and the 1,186 likely voters among them, it was conducted between Oct. 12 and Oct. 19. The results claimed 46 percent of voters were in favor of the proposition, 44 percent were opposed and 10 percent were undecided.
The PPIC survey asked respondents:
“Proposition 4 is called the ‘Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy Initiative Constitutional Amendment.’ It changes the California Constitution, prohibiting abortion for unemancipated minor until 48 hours after physician notifies minor’s parent, legal guardian, or in limited cases, substitute adult relative. It provides an exception for medical emergency or parental waiver. Fiscal impact is potential unknown net state costs of several million dollars annually for health and social services programs, court administration, and state health agency administration combined. If the election were held today, would you vote yes or no on Proposition 4?”
PPIC researchers claim that support for Prop. 4 has “continued to fall short of a majority” and has declined “slightly” since last month.
Vatican City, Oct 29, 2008 (CNA) - Yesterday afternoon Pope Benedict XVI spoke at a Mass in honor of the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope John XXIII’s election as Pope. His openness to the Holy Spirit made possible the “truly special gift” of Vatican II to the Church, Benedict XVI said.
Gathered with 3,000 pilgrims from the late Pontiff’s home diocese of Bergamo, Italy, Pope Benedict described him as the “Papa buono” (the good Pope) as he recalled how "the grace of God was preparing a period of commitment and promise for the Church and for society” at the time Bl. John XXIII was elected.
This grace, was able to help the Church flourish because of John XXIII’s openness to the Holy Spirit, said Pope Benedict, as he described how that “fertile soil,” which characterized the late Pope’s whole life, bore the fruits of “harmony, hope, unity and peace, for the good of all humanity.”
Despite the divisions and sharp contrasts of the time surrounding Pope John XXIII’s pontificate, Pope Benedict explained that he “remained a man and pastor of peace, who opened unexpected horizons of fraternity among Christians and of dialogue with everyone, in both East and West."
This approach allowed John XXIII, who was profoundly convicted of the need for belief in Christ and membership in the Church, to bring to fruition the Second Vatican Council, which the Holy Father called "a truly special gift for the Church.”
Speaking about Vatican II, Pope Benedict urged the Church to be “committed to accepting that gift in appropriate ways, continuing to reflect upon its teachings and to translate its practical guidelines into everyday life." Specifically, Benedict XVI pointed to the parish as the place “that we learn to live our own faith solidly. This enables us to keep the rich tradition of the past alive and to re-propose its values in a secularized social environment which is often hostile and indifferent."
The family is also a place where “the Christian precept of love in daily life" is meant to be lived out, Benedict said as he reflected on the late Pope’s care for the family. John XXIII “trustingly gave the parish - a family of families - the task of nourishing the sentiments of communion and fraternity among the faithful,” he reminded.
Pope Benedict closed his words on Bl. John XXIII by turning to one of the Pontiff’s teachings. "Molded by the Eucharist the parish will become a beneficial ferment amidst the widespread consumerism and individualism of our time, reawakening solidarity and opening, in faith, the eye of the heart to recognize the Father, Who is gratuitous love and Who wishes to share his own joy with His children."
Vatican City, Oct 29, 2008 (CNA) - In the presence of thousands of people at St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI continued his weekly teachings on St. Paul, speaking about the central place of the Cross of Jesus Christ in Paul's preaching. The Cross should teach Christians to renounce their own "superiority" and choose love, the Pope underscored.
The Pope began by noting that Paul's "existence was entirely consumed for souls." In his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, the Holy Father said, Paul "understood that Jesus had died and risen for all and for him also."
"Both were important," Pope Benedict explained. Jesus really died for all, and he also died for me. Once Paul experienced this love "above all in himself," he became a believer and an apostle, the Holy Father added.
For Paul, his new life in Christ was a daily experience that “salvation was 'grace'," Benedict observed. The "gospel of grace, became for Paul the only way to understand the Cross, the reason not only for his new existence, but also the message in his preaching."
The importance of the Cross had an even greater impact than a personal one for St. Paul. The power of the Cross was so great in Paul’s teaching that he saw it as having “fundamental primacy in the history of humanity," Pope Benedict asserted.
Thus, St. Paul’s belief in the primacy of the Cross guided him when he was confronted by the Church in Corinth, where disarray and scandal were present and the community was threatened by internal division, the Holy Father taught. Instead of presenting himself with words or wisdom, Paul came proclaiming the “announcement of Christ crucified."
Benedict XVI then went on to highlight how "the 'stumbling block' and 'foolishness' of the Cross," of which St. Paul, speaks are to be found "in the fact that where there seemed to be only failure, suffering and defeat, there, in reality, is all the power of God's limitless Love."
In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." The Holy Father explained that the Apostle Paul identifies himself with Christ who loved him and gave himself up for his sins and for those of all. This, Pope Benedict continued, "becomes the paradigm for all of us."
In Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians, the Pontiff unfolded the way that Paul applies Jesus’ sacrifice through an "admirable synthesis" of the theology of the Cross: Christ died for all and God has reconciled us with him. This "ministry of reconciliation" is relevant for our life, as we must also renounce our own "superiority" and choose love, the Pope said.
"St. Paul renounced his own life and committed himself totally to the ministry of reconciliation, of the Cross which is salvation for us all, Pope Benedict said as he concluded his teaching on St. Paul. “This is something we must also do. We can find our strength in the humility of love and our wisdom in the weakness to renounce, thus to enter into the strength of God. ... We have to mold our lives on this true wisdom, not living for ourselves, but living in faith in the God of Whom we can all say: 'He loved me and gave Himself for me'."
Bogotá, Colombia, Oct 29, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Julio Cesar Vidal Ortiz of Monteria in Colombia said this week a proposal by Senator Armando Benedetti to legalize euthanasia is “a grave attack on life.”
The bishop explained that the legalization of euthanasia, which supporters call the “right” to a “peaceful death,” “could be corrupted by people interested in the death of someone else,” as in the case of a son or daughter who might apply euthanasia to a parent in order to receive an inheritance.
“This law could open a gap towards the degradation of the respect for life, because many children or family members interested in getting rich could misuse it,” the bishop said.
He called on Colombia’s Constitutional Court and on Senator Benedetti “to closely analyze this proposal, which goes against the right to life.” Bishop Vidal also challenged public officials to put forth proposals to that respect human rights.
Moscow, Russia, Oct 29, 2008 (CNA) - Catholics in Russia learned today that two priests, Frs. Otto Messmer and Victor Betancourt, both Jesuits, were beaten to death at their apartment in Moscow.
According to the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Russia, the two priests’ bodies were discovered at around 9:00 p.m. on October 28 at the Moscow apartment owned by the Jesuits.
The Jesuit Conference reports that a fellow Jesuit discovered the priests after he went on their apartment to check on them. Upon finding their bodies, he contacted the police.
The police determined that though the priests were found in the same apartment, the murders took place on different days. Father Victor Betancourt Ruiz (42) from Ecuador was killed on October 25, and Father Otto Messmer (47), who was the Provincial of the Jesuits in Russia was murdered two days later after returning home from a trip abroad. The motive for the murders is yet to be determined.
The bishops’ conference press release about the deaths of the priests describes them as “Zealous pastors, much loved by their devotees,” a sentiment that was echoed by the president of ACN, Father Joaquín Alliende. In a letter to the superior general of the Jesuits, Fr. Alliende expressed his "deep anguish" at the murder of these two priests, who had both been involved "in fruitful contacts" with ACN and adding that the charity had "been privileged to witness their generous commitment in the service of the Catholics of Moscow."
On Wednesday, Patriarch Alexey II of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed his sympathies to the Catholic Church during his meeting with the chairman of the French episcopal conference, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois. Likewise, representatives of the Muslims in Russia have conveyed their dismay at these murders and their deep sympathy, ACN reports.
A memorial service was held today at 6:00 p.m. local time in the Catholic cathedral of Moscow.
San Diego, Calif., Oct 29, 2008 (CNA) - Despite the opposition of the auxiliary bishop of San Diego and many pro-marriage demonstrators, the San Diego City Council on Monday voted to pass a resolution opposing Proposition 8, which would restore the definition of marriage as being a union between a man and a woman. Meanwhile, the pro-marriage campaign has challenged the California school superintendent to debate how same-sex marriage would be taught in public schools.
In an October 21 letter Bishop Salvatore Cordileone had asked the council not to pass the resolution, arguing it would be divisive.
“Please do not divide our community any more bitterly than it already is,” he wrote.
The council passed the resolution by a vote of 6 to 2, the California Catholic Daily reports. The motion to approve the resolution was made by Councilwoman Toni Atkins, an open lesbian who “married” her partner in September.
The preamble of the resolution asserted that Proposition 8 would limit marriage to individuals of the opposite sex and agreed with the proposal’s opponents that the California Constitution “should guarantee the same freedoms and rights to everyone, and that the freedom to marry is fundamental to our society, just like the freedoms of speech and religion.”
The resolution also agreed with opponents of the measure that “the institution of marriage conveys dignity and respect to the lifetime commitment that a couple makes.”
According to the resolution, no public funds will be used to campaign for or against the measure.
In related news, the Protectmarriage.com Yes on 8 campaign on Tuesday challenged California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell to a live televised debate this weekend to address claims that same-sex marriage will be taught in public schools.
"The No on Proposition 8 campaign has been airing television and radio ads featuring Jack O'Connell accusing us of running a 'shameful' campaign," said Ron Prentice, the chairman of Protectmarriage.com - Yes on 8.
"There is nothing shameful about telling the truth. This is the most critical issue of the campaign. Voters deserve an opportunity to hear for themselves what will happen, and indeed what is already happening, if we do not restore traditional marriage in California on Election Day. Given his strong statements, I'm sure O'Connell will have no problem accepting."
Recent reports have shown homosexual advocacy to be taking place through California public schools.
Earlier this month a San Francisco first grade class was taken on an official school field trip to a lesbian wedding, in what was called a “public relations nightmare.” Last week, a Hayward elementary school held a “National Coming Out Day” for kindergarteners, with parents reportedly being told they could not opt-out.
Rome, Italy, Oct 29, 2008 (CNA) - The U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon, warned in an article published by the L’Osservatore Romano that fundamentalist secularism that excludes faith from public life is threatening the United States and is an attack on so-called “positive secularity” and individual freedoms.
In her article, Glendon recounts how Church-State relations have played out in the U.S. since the 19th century, and the recent visit to the country by Pope Benedict XVI, during which the Pope warned of the need to strengthen relations. While in the U.S., Pope Benedict encouraged Catholics to bring their faith into the public square as an explicit way of living out and strengthening freedom.
Glendon went on to note how the 1962 Supreme Court decision outlawing prayer in schools was part of a “secularism that sought to eliminate all vestige of religious faith from public institutions in the United States.”
“The legitimacy of every form of cooperation between the churches and the State is currently in doubt,” Glendon said, adding that the “pressure on organizations to sacrifice their own principles is very strong,” such as in the case of Catholic Charities of Massachusetts, which closed down its adoption program in 2006 out of a refusal to allow homosexuals to adopt.”
Glendon also cites Professor Philip Hamburger, who explains that “the first amendment, originally thought to limit the government, has been increasingly interpreted by the Court to mean limiting religion and confining it to the private sphere.”
“This interpretation—based on a very individualistic concept of freedom—has as its effect the limiting of the religious freedom of many people, people for whom the worship community is important,” the ambassador said.
“Of course there are exceptions to these tendencies,” she continued, but it is not “an exaggeration to say that, in the current situation, the ‘positive model’ of secularity is fighting for its life.”
Glendon also offered an interesting observation on the survival of institutions such as public schools, which “depend on families and the surrounding community.” Preserving “the free society may depend—ironically—on the protection of certain institutions that are not organized on the basis of liberal principles, that is: families, schools, churches and all other intermediate bodies of civil society,” she stated.
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 29, 2008 (CNA) - The Knights of Columbus in Mexico, in keeping with their long tradition of defending life and promoting Christian principles, have published a document containing fifteen important observations about the Supreme Court’s ruling on the unconstitutionality of the legalization of abortion.
According to the Knights, the document is an expression of support for “the statements by Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera in his homilies and for the position of the Bishops’ Conference and that of many bishops and priests.” It is also an invitation to the faithful to pray for the “victims of the murder of the unborn and for their own victimizers.”
“The Knights of Columbus have maintained a firm position in favor of the marvelous gift of life,” the group said, noting that it has confronted organizations that have received funding from suspicious sources and that are working together with government officials to pass legislation undermining the dignity of the human person and promoting the killing of the innocent.
“Such acts of cowardice are supported by thoughtless lawmakers and by an apathetic public that doesn’t appear to be conscious,” the Knights said.
, Oct 29, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations, spoke at the U.N. on Wednesday about religious freedom, lamenting that the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion continue to be violated. However, the archbishop cautioned against laws prohibiting the defamation of religions, which he said can be used to penalize religious minorities and to stifle legitimate dialogue.
Citing the Special Rapporteur’s report on religious freedom, the archbishop noted that members of all religions are being persecuted in many parts of the globe. He also called recent armed attacks against Christians in Iraq and India a “cause of grave concern.”
Such attacks indicate “the dramatic consequences of the violation of this fundamental right, whose bearers are individual believers and religious groups instead of territorial and cultural areas.”
The attacks also draw attention to the need for a “timely and concerted effort” for all governments and their branches to ensure that the “fundamental right to religious freedom” is “defended and promoted.”
Religious Freedom in a Globalized World
Globalization, the archbishop remarked, which is characterized by “unprecedented human mobility and cultural exchanges,” results in more exposure to diversity of thought and religious beliefs.
“Respecting and promoting the right to religious freedom means keeping in mind that such freedom belongs to people and religious communities and cannot be coerced, limited or trampled upon on the basis of geography or cultures and traditions.
“Furthermore, individuals must be able not only to practice their faith but also to change or uphold it without fear of coercion, intimidation or violence,” the archbishop said, calling it an “unequivocal principle” for governments and civil society to endorse.
Such a principle also must inform public and private education systems, social organizations and religious communities. All such groups must “adopt this conviction and act accordingly, if we want to ensure peaceful coexistence and cooperation in a globalized world.”
Archbishop Migliore noted that the U.N. committee has seen an increased focus on protecting religions from “statements or actions which are perceived to defame religious symbols and institutions.”
“The concept of defamation of religions arises from the belief that certain religious ideas and figures deserve protection by the State in order to ensure that the sensibilities of religious adherents are not offended,” the archbishop explained. “In a multicultural and interconnected society appropriate measures must be taken to guarantee respect for the various faith traditions.”
Religious Protections can be Misused
“However,” he continued, “in the current international context the notion of defamation of religions risks removing the focus from a basic right of individuals and groups to the protection of institutions, symbols and ideas. Furthermore, it can lend itself locally to support laws which penalize religious minorities and stifle legitimate dialogue among persons of different faiths and cultures.”
Emphasizing that the Holy See delegation is “wholly supportive” of protecting believers from hate speech and acts against their convictions, he added:
“We think that such protection can best be achieved by effectively implementing the right of individuals and communities to religious freedom as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil, Cultural and Political Rights and the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief.”
Archbishop Migliore closed by stating that the U.N.’s primary responsibility regarding religion is to debate and elucidate and to help states “fully ensure” the implementation of the right to religious freedom affirmed by U.N. documents.
Denver, Colo., Oct 29, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has been drawing record numbers to his public appearances with his ability to concisely and simply explain the depths of the Catholic faith. In order to make his words more widely available, Catholic Mobile has launched a service to deliver his words straight to your cell phone.
The powerful sayings of Pope Benedict XVI come from his weekly General Audiences, Angelus teachings, and other speeches he has delivered recently. These powerful messages help promote personal conversion to Christ and his Church and encourage Christians to deeper reflection.
Some examples of these messages are:
“Every great reform has in some way been linked to the rediscovery of belief in the Lord's Eucharistic presence among his people”
“The unique mission of women in the family and in society needs to be defended, protected and promoted. Motherhood must never be denigrated”
The text message service, called “Daily Pope,” costs $4.99 a month and includes 28 messages per month.
For more information and to sign up, visit: http://www.catholicmobile.com/pope.htm