Madrid, Spain, Dec 10, 2008 (CNA) - As Spain celebrates the 30th anniversary of its Constitution, a group of young people has covered the monument to the Constitution in Madrid with white crosses in reparation for the thousands of legal abortions that have taken place in the country.
The lawn that surrounds the monument was covered in white crosses, resembling a cemetery. The young people also posted a large sign on the lawn that protested the fact that the Magna Carta defends respect for life from conception to natural death and yet, abortion is legal. The sign read: “Article 15 of the Constitution: Everyone has the Right to Life: No abortion.”
Enrique Jaureguizar, director of “Doctors for Life,” said the protest was intended to convey that the Constitution is not respected in Spain, and he warned that because of the legalization of abortion, each year more than 112,000 children die in the country, which equals more than 300 abortions per day.
Rome, Italy, Dec 10, 2008 (CNA) - On the feast of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, officials announced that Pope Benedict XVI will visit three Italian dioceses next year, including the diocese where San Giovanni Rotondo is located, the burial place of St. Pio de Pietrelcina or “Padre Pio.”
According to Vatican Radio, “The Pope will visit Cassino and the Abbey of Montecassino on May 24; on June 21, he will visit the shrine of San Giovanni Rotondo, where the tomb of Padre Pio is located and on September 6 he will visit Viterbo and Bagnoreggio.”
Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2008 (CNA) - Catholics concerned about pro-life issues should not believe suggestions that President-elect Obama is interested in finding common ground with them, Russell Shaw has argued in a recent edition of Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly. In particular, Shaw warned that the legislative prospects of the radically pro-abortion Freedom of Choice Act should not be underestimated.
Shaw argued that President-elect Obama has not shown signs of engaging with Catholics and other pro-life advocates, especially through his choices of cabinet members and White House staffers. He noted that Obama has appointed pro-abortion rights Catholic Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services, while choosing as the director of his Domestic Policy Council a former member of Planned Parenthood’s board of directors, Melody Barnes.
Further, the head of White House communications will be Ellen Moran, a former executive director of the abortion advocacy group EMILY’s List.
“This, it must be said, is not the path to engagement,” Shaw remarked.
He also noted that the Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, recently reported he and Obama had met a number of times but never had a substantive conversation.
“Shouldn't the junior senator from Illinois, a state senator before that, sometime or other have sought out the archbishop of Chicago for a serious talk?” Shaw asked.
Shaw criticized those writers who denied that the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is a serious threat. FOCA, which would declare abortion to be a “fundamental right,” could provide a statutory basis for overturning state and federal restrictions on abortion, including bans on partial-birth abortion.
It could also endanger conscience protections for pro-life medical professionals and institutions.
The legislation has been lingering in Congress for two decades, leading some to dismiss its chances of passing.
Pro-life Obama supporter Doug Kmiec has charged that it is a “misleading tale” to consider FOCA a real threat, while Commonweal magazine has called it “abortion-rights propaganda…a fundraising device and a rallying cry for pro-choice groups.”
Shaw disagreed with Commonweal, saying “No doubt FOCA is all of that. And it's also a serious threat.”
He cited its numerous backers in the U.S. Congress as well as President-elect Obama’s campaign promise to sign FOCA as his first act as president.
Obama was a co-sponsor of FOCA, as was Sen. Hillary Clinton. However, Obama resigned his Senate seek to prepare for the presidency, while Sen. Clinton is expected to resign her seat to become Secretary of State under an Obama administration.
Their replacements have not yet been named.
The 2007 version of FOCA had 19 co-sponsors, including Sens. Obama and Clinton. Other prominent supporters included former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, former Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman, and California Sen. Diane Feinstein.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, at least 108 Congressmen co-sponsored the 2007 version of FOCA. Their number included Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who will become Obama’s White House chief of staff.
Shaw insisted FOCA should not be ignored, as defeating it would emphasize to Obama that advocating for abortion would be politically foolish and would betray the pro-life progressives who supported him.
“How do you prevent a dangerous bill from becoming law? The answer is, or should be, a no-brainer,” Shaw argued. “Dangerous bills are blocked by vigorously opposing them. Shrugging one's shoulders and saying they're no threat is a good way to get them passed.
“FOCA was stymied early in the Clinton administration by a major campaign mounted by pro-life groups, including the Catholic Church. To make sure it's stymied in the Obama administration will require another such effort,” Shaw argued.
Nairobi, Kenya, Dec 10, 2008 (CNA) - An official with the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has called on industrial nations to do more for the family and for the protection in human life in Africa, charging that most Western aid programs promote a concept of the family that is foreign to Africans.
Christine du Coudray, who heads the Africa desk at ACN, made her comments after returning from a fact-finding trip to Africa. She said that ACN seems to be almost alone in its efforts to promote a “Culture of Life” in Africa.
She claimed that aid agencies in Africa often promote a “Western concept of the family” that is no longer based on the community of husband, wife, and children. Du Coudray reported that such agencies promote artificial contraception and abortion and offer condoms as a solution to the spread of AIDS.
“The Africans see these ideas as foreign. They understand at once that this is no culture of life but rather a culture of death,” she said, according to ACN.
Du Coudray praised the Africa Family Life Federation (AFLF), whose congress she attended in Nairobi in November with ACN secretary general Pierre-Marie Morel. She reported the congress has shown the high level of expertise African experts have in promoting healthy families. The congress’ one hundred participants from 17 African countries included medical specialists, theologians, priests, religious sisters, and lay specialists active in pastoral work.
According to du Coudray, the AFLF bases its work upon outreach to families and in helping married couples in the practicalities of everyday life, with emphasis on natural family planning.
“We can never do enough to encourage this important and valuable cause,” she said.
The AFLF will soon produce a handbook on Christian family life to be used in the family apostolate in many African countries.
"I believe there is nothing more important than to focus on the family. For it is the basis for everything else -- for a healthy and stable society, for priestly vocations and for the future of mankind altogether," du Coudray said, adding that she believes Africa has a "special calling" and can show the West that the future of mankind lies with the family.
In addition to its pro-life work, ACN supports AIDS strategies which encourage chastity outside marriage and fidelity within it, especially among people.
Topeka, Kan., Dec 10, 2008 (CNA) - Major news sources have misreported a Kansas Supreme Court decision in a case involving a county district attorney who is investigating allegations of malfeasance at Planned Parenthood. Reports have incorrectly claimed that the district attorney lost his case.
Several of the state’s Supreme Court justices accused their peers of using their power as a “platform” to denigrate the district attorney and to sanction him arbitrarily, while an ally of the district attorney has accused one justice of writing polemics meant for media consumption.
Though media sources indicated that last week the Kansas high court ordered Johnson County District Attorney Phil Kline to return documents to the state attorney general’s office, in fact he was only ordered to provide copies, LifeSiteNews.com reports.
Kline, as Attorney General, had brought 107 criminal charges against Planned Parenthood including charges alleging that illegal late-term abortions were performed and documents were falsified.
When Kline finished his term as attorney general, he transferred the medical records to his new office as Johnson County District Attorney, where he continued his investigation.
Planned Parenthood sought to force Kline to return all Planned Parenthood patient records, which would have hampered Kline’s investigation.
According to LifeSiteNews.com, the Supreme Court refused all of Planned Parenthood’s requests, including demands that Kline relinquish all medical records, be found in contempt and fined, and forced to pay Planned Parenthood’s legal fees.
Kline was ordered to provide copies of the medical records, which he reported he had already done.
Justice Carol Beier wrote in her decision that Planned Parenthood and the Attorney General “are not entitled to the primary relief they seek. We will not force Kline to disgorge ‘each and every copy’ of the patient records Kline and his subordinates have made ‘and any and all other evidence Kline developed and obtained while he was acting as Attorney General that he took with him to Johnson County’.”
The Associated Press misleadingly headlined its story on the Kline case as “Kan. court orders abortion records returned to AG.”
“I won on every substantive point,” Kline claimed, according to LifeSiteNews.com
However, in her decision Justice Beier harshly criticized Kline as engaging in an "obvious and sorry pattern" of "willful disregard" and calling him "demonstrably ignorant, evasive, and incomplete" in his written responses. She also called his behavior disrespectful and inexcusable, speculating that “further instances of Kline's improper conduct” could come to light and could merit “civil or criminal contempt” or other disciplinary action.
Kline’s campaign manager Jennifer Giroux, speaking to LifeSiteNews.com, argued that the judge had purposefully juxtaposed a favorable ruling with denigrating language.
“Justice Beier wrote the opinion in a way to make it appear that Kline lost which is a falsehood parroted by the Kansas media,” she claimed.
“Beier went out of her way to create an order for Kline so she could call it a sanction," she remarked, adding: "all she actually ordered him to do was give copies to the Attorney General of what they already have. That is what she then called a sanction."
The Kansas Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, Kay McFarland, also criticized Justice Beier and other justices for using the power of sanction merely “to provide a platform from which it can denigrate Kline for actions that it cannot find to have been in violation of any law and to heap scorn upon him for his attitude and behavior that does not rise to the level of contempt.”
Justice Robert Davis concurred with McFarland, saying “While I recognize that this court possesses inherent power to impose sanctions in cases falling short of civil or criminal contempt, our exercise of that power must nevertheless be measured by objective standards.”
Davis argued that the decision to “sanction” was arbitrary.
Kline’s case against Planned Parenthood will pass into the responsibility of his successor to the office of the Johnson County District Attorney, Steve Howe, who defeated Kline in the recent election.
Howe reportedly has not indicated any interest in pursuing the charges against Planned Parenthood, though he has said he will evaluate all cases after taking office.
Vatican City, Dec 10, 2008 (CNA) - Officials have announced that on Saturday the Vatican’s Christmas tree will be lit in St. Peter’s Square. The tree, donated by a group from Austria, that will meet with the Pope later this week, stands at 108 feet and is decorated with over 2,000 ornaments.
The tree is scheduled to be lit during a ceremony on Saturday afternoon presided over by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, accompanied by Bishop Renato Boccardo, secretary general of the Governorate. Also participating in the ceremony will be Austrian government representatives, nearly 1000 pilgrims from Austria, and musicians and singers from Ziersdorf and Altenburg. At 4:30 p.m. (local time) the tree will be lit by a young member of the Altenburg choir.
The nativity decorations, which have been under construction in St. Peter’s Square, will be unveiled on Christmas Eve. Since 1982, the nativity scene and the Christmas tree have both been placed in St. Peter’s Square.
This year the scene of Jesus’ birth will be located in the center of St. Peter’s Square under a temporary structure of wooden planks along the "walls of Bethlehem.” The nativity will contain a series of figures, some of which come from the nativity scene created by St. Vincent Pallotti in the Roman church of Sant'Andrea della Valle in 1842.
To decorate other areas of the Vatican grounds, the Austrian delegation, led by Erwin Proll, governor of the region of Lower Austria has also donated around 40 smaller trees which will be used to decorate the Paul VI Hall, the Clementine Hall, the Pontifical Apartments and various offices of the Roman Curia.
Vatican City, Dec 10, 2008 (CNA) - The Paul VI Hall held around 5,000 faithful this morning, who listened to Pope Benedict unfold St. Paul’s teaching on the sacraments. When people receive the sacraments, he explained, they encounter the Spirit of Jesus in a way that changes their spirit and their body.
The Holy Father began his catechesis by indicating how "from St. Paul we have learned that there is a new beginning of history in Jesus Christ ... formed by the 'yes' He pronounced to the Father ... out of love and truth."
"How can we enter," the Pope asked, "into this new beginning, this new history? ... How can Jesus reach my own life, my own being? The fundamental response of St. Paul, of all the New Testament, is: by the Holy Spirit."
Benedict XVI then pointed out that the Holy Spirit "at the Pentecost created the beginning of a new humanity, a new community: the Church, the body of Christ."
The spirit of Christ "touches me within ... using two visible elements: the Word of announcement and the Sacraments, in particular Baptism and the Eucharist. ... Faith comes not from reading but from listening. It is not only an interior experience but a relationship," the Pope said.
The Holy Father then explained how the new humanity established by Christ comes into being through the Church, which the Holy Spirit established at Pentecost.
"For this reason, the Word of announcement becomes Sacrament. ... No-one can baptize himself; ... no-one can become Christian by himself. ... We can only become Christian through the meditation of others, and this gives us the gift of faith. ... Autonomous Christianity is a self-contradiction. ... These 'others' are, in the first place, the community of believers, the Church. ... Only Christ can constitute the Church, Christ is the true giver of the Sacraments."
Lest we confine the new creation brought by Christ to the spiritual realm, Pope Benedict emphasized that, "Being Christian is more than a cosmetic operation that embellishes life ... it is a new beginning and rebirth, death and resurrection. ... It is not purely spiritual but involves the body, the cosmos, and extends to the new earth and to the new heavens."
On the subject of the Eucharist, the Holy Father pointed out that St. Paul speaks of the institution of this Sacrament in his First Letter to the Corinthians, and he explained that "with the gift of the chalice of the new covenant Christ gives us the true sacrifice, the only true sacrifice is the love of the Son."
The Pope then turned to the unity that is established between the believer and Christ and the believer and the Christian community by the Eucharist.
Referring to chapter ten of the First Letter to the Corinthians in which St. Paul speaks of us becoming "one body, for we all partake of the one bread," Benedict XVI affirmed that "the realism of the Church is much more profound and authentic than that of the nation State, because Christ truly gives us His Body, converts us into His Body ... and unites us to one another. ... The Church is not just a corporation like a State, it is a body; it is not an organization but an organism."
As he finished his thoughts on the sacraments, Pope Benedict touched on the Sacrament of Matrimony, which St. Paul defines as "a great mystery."
"Married love has as its model the love of Christ for His Church," the Holy Father said.
Having a "rewarding experience of true marriage" will happen if "a constant human and emotive development remains united to the effectiveness of the Word and the significance of Baptism," he counseled. The Pontiff also spoke of how "participating in the Body and the Blood of the Lord consolidates the union and makes it visible, a union that grace then makes indissoluble."
Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2008 (CNA) - President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden have officially invited the Lesbian and Gay Band Association to march in the Inaugural Parade. One of the association’s web sites reports that the group will also march in September as part of the homosexual “Southern Decadence” festival infamous for its public lewd acts.
The Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LGBA) is a network of lesbian and gay bands comprised of concert and marching bands from various American cities.
According to a December 10 press release from the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the group’s appearance in the Inaugural Parade on January 20 will mark the first time an “openly LGBT group” has been invited to participate.
"I am honored to invite these talented groups and individuals to participate in the Inaugural Parade," said President-elect Obama. "These organizations embody the best of our nation's history, diversity and commitment to service. Vice President-elect Biden and I are proud to have them join us in the parade."
The main web site of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association hosts a YouTube video reportedly showing 250 of its members marching in the 35th Annual Village Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village in New York City.
The YouTube video, titled “Male Witch Marching Band – Halloween NYC 08,” shows a glamorously dressed man followed by two people wearing fairy costumes. They lead a band of people dressed as witches who play the song “Gimme Some Lovin’.”
The marchers were attendees at the LGBA’s 2008 conference, titled “Deliciously Wicked.”
“The weekend more than lived up to its name,” the web site states, noting the conference’s receptions, parades, performances, and costume ball.
As of Wednesday morning, the web site for the LGBA’s 2009 conference in New Orleans, lgba2009.org, describes conference plans, saying “We will also be marching in the Southern Decadence Parade on Sunday, September 6th.”
The web site reports that the LGBA conference will be held as part of Southern Decadence and Decafest. The site links to the Southern Decadence festival, which has often been targeted for protest because of its extreme indecency. In 2003, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that it had “become routine” for men to flash their genitals and perform public sex acts at the event, which bills itself as “the Gay Mardis Gras.”
“The city's wildest neighborhood gets even crazier as the French Quarter is packed for the entire event,” the Southern Decadence festival’s current web site says. In its Frequently Asked Questions section, the web site tells those with “an interest in the adult film business” that a pornographic filmmaker will be in attendance.
In a statement on its web site, the LGBA said its participation in the Presidential Inaugural will be “truly our chance to make history.”
Organizations wishing to participate in the parade reportedly submitted an application to the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, which assisted the Presidential Inaugural Committee in reviewing applications. Experienced military musicians evaluated the presentation skills of marching bands, musical acts, and drill teams.
In total, 1,382 organizations applied to participate in the Inaugural Parade. Many of the groups approved to march in the parade are high school bands.
Rome, Italy, Dec 10, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, said this week on Vatican Radio that places of worship should not be “converted into a propaganda center to spread fanaticism and hatred.”
The cardinal made his comments during an interview on the issue of new mosques and Islamic cultural centers being built in areas and cities that for centuries have been traditionally Christian.
During the interview by Romilda Ferrauto of Vatican Radio’s French-language broadcast, Cardinal Tauran said, “The building of a new place of worship should be in response to a real need of the religious community in question. And this goes as well for the place that is chosen and its dimensions.”
“As we know, a place of worship is a right that is clearly derived from the right to religious freedom, as all the declarations of international law point out. This right belongs to all religious communities and should be applied in all places: it is what we call ‘freedom of worship’, that is, the right to have a place of worship,” he said.
“The construction of a place of worship must never be an act of defiance towards other religious communities, especially with regards to the majority community. Therefore, it is good, for example, that places of worship have a certain distance between them, even for practical reasons.”
“I think it is important a place of worship be a house of prayer. It should not be turned into an ideological propaganda center to spread fanaticism and hatred. And finally, there needs to be transparency in the financing of the construction and development of places of worship,” Cardinal Tauran stated.
He also noted that “in all of the international congresses in which freedom of religion is mentioned, there is always a clause that foresees that political leaders, the leaders of the State, have the right to verify that the freedom of religion being exercised by a community does not jeopardize the freedom of other religious communities, and that security and public order are always guaranteed.”
Harare, Zimbabwe, Dec 10, 2008 (CNA) - Caritas Internationalis is warning that the crisis in Zimbabwe is so grave that people facing crushing food shortages are mixing cow dung with their food.
With pressure continuing to mount on President Mugabe to relinquish his hold on power, Zimbabweans are suffering the consequences of his government’s policies.
Besides the lack of food, people are also suffering a cholera epidemic and crippling hyperinflation.
Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight reports that "people in Zimbabwe are dropping dead on the streets from Cholera. They’ve witnessed people mixing cow dung with what’s left of their food to make it go further. This is poverty at its most dehumanizing."
Caritas plans to ramp up its aid operations across the country with hunger likely to increase after poor harvests.
A Caritas survey in October found 70 to 90 percent of households going hungry and the remainder on the brink of starvation. At least 5.1 million people are facing starvation out of a population of 13 million people. Additionally, nearly 14,000 cases of Cholera have been reported.
Knight also commented on the political crisis, saying, "Zimbabwe’s political impasse can continue no longer. An effective government that can rectify the policies that have put the country into this position must be established.
"The international community must maintain the pressure on Zimbabwe for an end to this crisis. We must also prepare ourselves for the implosion of the country and the catastrophe that will mean in terms of human suffering across the region."
Zimbabweans have faced discrimination in South Africa and other neighboring countries and Knight warned that they "must address the xenophobia directed at Zimbabwean refugees in their own countries."
"These are very challenging conditions for aid agencies to operate, but Caritas remains committed to delivering aid to the country in its hour of need," she said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 10, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, has called on the faithful to seek out true conversion during this season of Advent to bring about the longed-for reconciliation of the country.
“Conversion implies a profound change of mentality, in which the ways of the world are left behind and the ways of the gospel are embraced. Authentic conversion should lead us to reject injustice, violence and hatred in order to implant justice, peace and reconciliation,” he said during Mass at the archdiocesan Cathedral.
According to the cardinal, the conversion called for by the Gospel “is a change of mentality and of life, necessary not only for those we consider to be serious sinners, but necessary even more for those who believe we are doing more or less alright.”
“Renewing our lives, rectifying our ways should be a daily and universal task, just like breathing and eating are necessary tasks for all in order to be able to live,” he said.
Cardinal Rivera finished by recalling that Advent “invites us to recover that which is substantial, the essence of our faith. It invites us to the desert to encounter God; it invites us to rectify the way in order to for us to be completely fulfilled. All of us have much to do to make our ways like the ways of God, since up to now the Lord can say to us: My ways are not your ways.”
La Plata, Argentina, Dec 10, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata in Argentina has called for attention and care for young people who feel driven to join gangs, saying the problem represents “a dangerous phenomenon of social fragmentation.”
“In fact, the issue of gangs is today the object of special consideration and debate,” the archbishop said during his program “Keys to a Better World.” “There are very serious studies in this area, about what it means as a problem of social psychology related to the family, the educational system and in general, to the very fabric of society,” he said.
Young people who have healthy relationships with their families do not need to join these gangs, and many Argentinean young people are not a part of them, he said. “I think most teens and young people live their lives normally. They surely have their problems like we all did,” but they are connected to the associations that are “proper and natural to society.”
He stressed that strengthening the family and providing young people with ways to “develop themselves culturally, to play sports and engage in healthy interaction” would “contribute to building the future of Argentinean society.
Athens, Greece, Dec 10, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic Greek Bishops Conference has issued a statement blaming the violent riots throughout Greece on a “moral void” resulting from a “detachment from Christian social doctrine and the abandonment of the common values of humanity.”
A policeman’s shooting of a student has sparked five days of rioting and a general strike in Greece. The 15-year-old boy was allegedly among youths who threw stones at police cars on Saturday in an area known for its political radicalism, Agence France Presse reports.
Though initial accounts claimed the student was hit by bullets three times in the chest, a post-mortem examination indicated he was killed by a ricochet.
The nationwide unrest includes clashes at the student’s funeral and street battles with police in which students throw firebombs, pavement slabs, and other missiles and police respond with teargas.
The two officers involved in the shooting were questioned before a magistrate at a courthouse, which rioters attacked with two petrol bombs.
Banks, schools, and hospitals have closed while demonstrators have surrounded the Greek Parliament, police stations, and some Greek embassies in other countries, the AFP reports.
On Tuesday the Greek Bishops Conference called for a “peaceful revolution of values” to escape the “blind alley” which is “testifying to the moral void that exists within the state and social institutions.”
The bishops expressed their sympathies for the dead student’s family and asked the State for “every humane care.”
“We are experiencing a deep crisis of values,” wrote conference president Bishop Francesco Papamanolis. “The detachment from the Christians social doctrine and the abandonment of the common values of humanity and the respect of life, of people, property and difference, as well as unbridled materialism, lead to what is happening in our country in these days.”
The bishops said the Catholic Church invites the government, political parties, trade unions, intellectuals, and citizens of any age, class, or ideology to cooperate for the peaceful revolution of values.”
“Only through a sincere dialogue, based on the common values of humanity, which are also Christian values, and on the respect of the human being will the further fall of values be stopped and will the right way out of this blind alley be found,” the bishops’ statement concluded.