Roswell, Ga., Dec 19, 2008 (CNA) - During the first few months of 2009, VirtueMedia.org will launch a second national crisis pregnancy ad campaign on MTV and BET. Its five-week trial run on the two network cable stations has already yielded nearly 22,000 requests for help from abortion-vulnerable women, resulting in saving the lives of 11,000 babies.
Founder of VirtueMedia, Tom Peterson explained to CNA that the ads "are designed to reach women facing unplanned pregnancies, and invite them to call for help, or come to our PregnancyLine.com website to find a women’s center in their neighborhood to help them."
The organization’s ads "provide a path to healing and hope for post abortive women and men, while other VirtueMedia ads teach about the sanctity of life," he added.
A press release from VirtueMedia explains that the organization intends to air the pregnancy ads on MTV and BET (Black Entertainment Television) beginning December 28, 2008 and running through March 2009.
VirtueMedia chose the beginning of the year to air the ads because they have found that the time after Christmas through the first quarter of the year is "ideal for airing pro life crisis pregnancy television ads. Television rates are at their lowest cost of the year, television viewing is very high due to cold weather and time off from school and work, and pregnancy rates are at highest level of the year. This provides for the ideal time to air VirtueMedia ads that produce the most fruit."
The organization selected the cable stations MTV and BET because both are "among the top cable networks watched by young women, ages 18-24. They feature lots of contemporary programming and music that appeals to that demographic," Peterson said.
The group is currently fundraising in hopes to reach the goal of $200,000 required to purchase national air-time to run the campaign.
VirtueMedia is a non-profit organization founded Peterson, who is also the founder and director of CatholicsComeHome.org.
For more information and to view VirtueMedia’s TV portfolio, click here: www.virtuemedia.org/television.htm.
Washington D.C., Dec 19, 2008 (CNA) - Pro-life leaders are seeking a meeting with President-elect Obama to “establish a foundation” for cooperation in building a culture of life which “honors equality and human rights and ends abortion.”
A December 17 letter seeking a meeting has been signed by Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition; Brandi Swindell, Founder and President of Stanton Healthcare; Deborah Frantzich of Rachel’s Vineyard; and Day Gardner, President of the National Black Pro-life Union.
“The thoughts and prayers of the pro-life community have been with you since your historic victory,” the letter professes.
“Since social justice and compassion begin in the womb, it is essential that we purpose in our hearts to end the pain and tragedy of abortion in our lifetime,” it adds.
Calling on Obama to fulfill his promise that all viewpoints will be heard and respected in the White House, the coalition promises to send an advisory delegation to Obama composed of women who run medical clinics for those in “challenging pregnancies” and for post-abortive women who have been “wounded and diminished” by abortion.
“It is important that you hear from professionals in the field who daily reduce the number of abortions through their labor of love and sacrifice,” the letter adds, saying Obama should also hear first-hand stories from a “growing chorus of women” who suffer because of their abortion.
Writing in a press release, Rev. Mahoney explained the motivations behind the letter.
“President-Elect Obama has never sat down face with members of the pro-life community that represent the values embraced by millions of Americans. He has never heard the narratives of women who have been bruised and diminished through abortion,” he claimed.
"Mr. Obama has never heard the personal stories from thousands of dedicated professionals that have laid aside personal ambition and financial gain in order to serve women who find themselves in challenging pregnancies. He has never heard from faith and human rights leaders that are devoted to standing for social justice and ending the tragedy and violence of abortion. “
Swindell also said it is important to hear the stories of those considering an abortion and also the stories of those who help them.
“We cannot be considered a just and compassionate nation if we do not provide and protect the most defenseless and vulnerable in our society,” she said.
“Mr. Obama talks about hope and change and we admire that. However, that message of hope and change must extend to all Americans and include those who have no voice of their own. Those are the over 50,000,000 innocent children who have been aborted since Roe V. Wade."
CNA spoke with Rev. Mahoney in a Thursday phone interview.
He said his effort had “absolutely” reached out to Catholic organizations such as Priests for Life.
“Should the meeting happen, and we hope and pray that it will, our delegation will clearly have a strong Catholic representation.”
Mahoney commented that Obama has repeatedly said he wanted to reach out to those with different views
“Just today he expressed that same issue when many in the gay activist community and progressive community expressed outrage that Rev. Warren would be delivering the invocation at the Presidential Inauguration.”
“He reiterated how important it was to hear from those with different views.”
“We have a fairly good opportunity for the president-elect to reach out to us,” Mahoney continued.
However, he noted that some of Obama’s “greatest supporters” are those who are strongly favor abortion rights.
“Will the president-elect sit down with women who have been bruised by abortion?” he asked, also questioning whether he would meet with those who assist crisis pregnancy situations.
“We have to move forward, taking the president-elect at his own word.”
“I don’t want to go in with any preconceived ideas. In New Hampshire in January, he said he would sit down with the pro-life community. We tried to work that meeting, and couldn’t. But I think now is the right time.”
“If President-elect Obama is interested in reducing the number of abortions, in speaking to people opposed to abortion, now is the time.”
Let’s hope these are serious words and not promises that will be broken after the inauguration.
Rev. Mahoney explained to CNA how the pro-life delegation could work with Obama on abortion.
“The main body [of the delegation] would be those who work in medical clinics and crisis pregnancy centers, and with women who are post-abortive.
“First of all, we would tell him about the tragedy and horror of abortion. We would let him hear these women’s compelling stories and we would let him know that we can work together not just to reduce abortion, we must end abortion.”
Rev. Mahoney compared ending abortion to racism.
“We do not want to reduce racial attacks, we want to end racism in America.”
“I don’t think he has heard from a woman who has been diminished or bruised by abortion, or from those who work in pregnancy centers,” Rev. Mahoney added.
“I think that we would clearly stress the educational part, that social justice begins in the womb.”
“From that I think we would move to the more strategic part: how can we work together, and can we work together?”
Naming one specific request, he said he would ask Obama to release federal funds for a study on complications suffered by women who are post-abortive.
“There has never been a federal study to examine that,” Rev. Mahoney remarked.
“Can there be bridges we can build, practically, to end abortion? Building bridges is important,” he told CNA. “I think it’s important for him to hear from us. I want to believe that the president-elect will meet with us.”
Hanoi, Vietnam, Dec 19, 2008 (CNA) - Vietnam’s Redemptorist provincial superior is resisting calls from a Hanoi government official who is pushing for the Hanoi members of the Redemptorist order to be transferred out of the city. The priests have been critical of the trial of eight Catholic protesters recently found guilty by the city government.
The pressure comes after more than a year of disputes between the Church and the Vietnamese government surrounding property confiscated by the government. The government demand prompted one priest to warn the Church to “prepare for more persecutions.”
Recently, several Catholics who had protested for the return of the confiscated property were convicted of destroying property and disturbing the public order. Despite the protesters receiving suspended sentences, many local Catholics considered the trial to be a sham.
In the wake of the trial, the People’s Committee of Hanoi asked Redemptorist Superior Fr. Vincent Nguyen Trung Thanh to transfer the Redemptorists who supported the Catholics on trials out of the city.
On December 12 Chairman Thao sent a letter to Fr. Vincent Nguyen and Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, president of the Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops. The chairman demanded that the bishops and the provincial superior “educate, and immediately transfer out of the area of the capital” four priests.
The priests are Fr. Mathew Vu Khoi Phung, the superior of Hanoi Monastery; Fr. Peter Nguyen Van Khai, Fr. Joseph Nguyen Van That and Fr. John Nguyen Ngoc Nam Phong.
The chairman said he considered the transfer to be a “necessary condition to improve state-Church relations,” VietCatholic News reports. Fr. Vincent Nguyen, writing to the committee, defended the religious involved and said they have “not done anything against current Church Canon Law,” Fr. J.B. An Dang told CNA. “I have no rights to transfer my brothers who have done nothing wrong,” he stated. “In this case, they even have carried out greatly their pastoral duties,” he added. “They have devoted themselves to their priesthood. They have stood on the side of the poor and those who have suffered injustice.”
Responding to accusations from committee chairman Nguyen The Thao, the provincial superior said the religious “did not say anything wrong. They simply told the truth.”
Fr. Vincent Nguyen addressed concerns that the refusal would lead to more tensions in Church-state relations and could provoke more government crackdowns in an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA). He said he did not believe submitting to government demands could help improve relations. “The Church-state relation depends on many factors. The way the government treats people, its religion policy, the land law... There are a lot,” he said.
The provincial superior called for sincere dialogue and self-restraint from government officials. “The Church needs to prepare for more persecutions,” Hanoi priest Fr. Joseph Nguyen warned, suggesting that a careful reading of Chairman Thao’s letter shows that he did not actually expect the Redemptorists to be transferred. “He expected and truly wanted the Church leaders to say no,” Fr. Joseph Nguyen claimed. “The tone of the letter was so hostile, and so demanding. It also upset readers with the word ‘god’ in small case. It was not in tune with the claimed intention. “What Thao really wants now is a good excuse for administratively coercive measures. Please pray for the Church in Vietnam. As Christmas draws near, we are still at the Golgotha on the Good Friday,” he concluded.
Johannesburg, South Africa, Dec 19, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, OFM, speaking for the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, has called for relief for the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe and has asked that Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe be isolated completely and deprived of support.
Comparing Mugabe to an obstinate Pharaoh, the cardinal archbishop of Durban on Thursday asked all African leaders to come to the aid of Zimbabwe. The country has suffered violence, food shortages and disease after civil conflict followed Mugabe's refusal to step down after the apparent electoral victory of his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai.
"We, the Catholic bishops of South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland, add our voice to the cries of those who insist that no effort must be spared in ensuring that a political solution to the current impasse is found," Cardinal Napier's statement began. Saying that South Africa has a "crucial role" to play in advancing justice and peace in Zimbabwe, the cardinal said that the bishops are "deeply saddened" that eight years of mediation has "borne no fruit." "These efforts were made in the hope that Robert Mugabe could be persuaded to negotiate with the opposition in the interests of the Common Good of the whole Zimbabwean nation," Cardinal Napier explained. "However, since he lost the election in March this year, he has continued to cling to power, waging war against anyone suspected of not supporting him, and refusing to share any real power with those who beat him in the election."
"It is clear that Mugabe is not prepared to relinquish control voluntarily, and that he is willing to watch thousands of innocent people die of starvation and cholera as long as he is able to retain power."
"Like Pharaoh he is obstinate and refuses to listen to the people," the cardinal said, referencing the Book of Exodus. He reported that the bishops were "extremely disappointed" in the failure of the South African Development Community leadership, including the South African president, to relieve the situation. Cardinal Napier called attempts to blame all sides in Zimbabwe's conflict "a travesty of justice and truth."
He said that Zimbabwe's opposition party has made "major concessions" not reciprocated by Mugabe and his ruling ZANU party, which "must bear total responsibility for the current impasse."
"It is now time to isolate Mugabe completely and to remove all forms of moral, material or tacit support for him and his party," he said. Referring to descriptions of Mugabe as a "liberator" or an "Elder African Statesman," he added: "No true liberator or statesman clings ruthlessly to power, as Mugabe has done, while his people live and die in misery and destitution. No solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe is possible as long as he is there."
Rebuking African leaders who believe they are defending Mugabe against "the supposed machinations of former colonial and present imperial powers," Cardinal Napier called on them to re-direct their solidarity to the needs of the suffering people of Zimbabwe. "The South African Government has the capacity to force Mugabe to go. All that is lacking is the political will," the cardinal argued. "We therefore call on President Motlanthe to stop immediately all collusion with Mugabe and to cut off any life-blood that South Africa is offering him," he said, calling for electricity and fuel supplies to be severed and for the assets of Zimbabwean leaders to be frozen.
Cardinal Napier then concluded the statement of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, saying: "We express our deepest solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe at this desperate time. We recommit ourselves and our people to praying that they will be able to unite and to have the courage and the strength to persevere in the struggle to remove the evil brought on them by Mugabe's dictatorship and the armed forces he uses to enforce it."
Vatican City, Dec 19, 2008 (CNA) - Meeting with members of the Labor Office of the Apostolic See, Benedict XVI explained that by serving the universal Church with love, commitment, professionalism, dedication and responsibility, their work is transformed into a prayer.
In his address to the employees, the Holy Father explained that an essential element of their work is to foresee conflict or discord among "the workers of the Holy See and to seek, if necessary, solutions through sincere and objective dialogue, putting into practice the procedures necessitated by conciliation and arbitration."
The Pontiff went on to describe those working "in the different offices and departments of the Holy See" as forming a unique ‘family.’ He explained that they are not only united by "functionality but also by the same mission, that of helping the Successor of Peter in his ministry at the service of the universal Church. The professional labor that is carried out here thus constitutes a 'vocation' that must be cultivated with care and an evangelic spirit, seeing in it a concrete path to holiness."
"This demands that the love for Christ and for one's brothers and sisters, together with a shared sense of Church, animate and inspire competency, commitment, professionalism, and an honest and proper dedication as well as an attentive and mature responsibility, in this way transforming the work itself, whatever it be, into a prayer. All of this can be considered a permanent formative and spiritual task to which all can give their support: cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, and lay persons."
Concluding his address, the Holy Father remarked that the nearness of Christmas brings to mind, "almost naturally, the labor crisis that currently worries all of humanity." He prayed that the "Christ Child, who was born on that Holy Night of Bethlehem" would draw near us in our difficulties" and look "with kindness on those who are sorely affected by this world crisis, awakening in them feelings of true solidarity."
Wichita, Kan., Dec 19, 2008 (CNA) -
Catholic church bells will toll throughout the Diocese of Wichita next month to mark the 36th anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States.
Tama Dutton, director of the Respect Life and Social Justice Office in the Diocese of Wichita, is organizing "A Peal for Life," an effort to have the Catholic Churches in the diocese toll their bells 36 times at 3 p.m., the Hour of Mercy, the hour Jesus died on the cross, on Thursday, January 22.
Dutton said each parish is welcome to organize any additional effort to mark the Supreme Court decision that has had a part in the death of about 50 million unborn children since the 1973 decision.
"We hope that as the bells are ringing that the faithful will stop to pray for all the women, fathers, and families who have been affected by abortion," she said.
A service has been designed for parishes and schools who wish to pray at that time. It may be downloaded at cdowk.org/offices/rlsj.
Printed with permission from the Catholic Advance, newspaper from the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas.
Vatican City, Dec 19, 2008 (CNA) - Today at the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of Graziano Luigi Triboldi, the new ambassador of the Seychelles Islands to the Holy See. He praised the country’s efforts to improve both its economy and education system to pave the success of future generations.
After recalling the beauty of the 115-island country, the Holy Father praised the emphasis that Seychelles has placed on improving its economic situation so its future generations will not be burdened with debt. It would be “unjust if the human beings of our age were to shirk their obligations and thus bring the weight of their decisions or their inaction onto the generations to come,” he remarked.
The Seychelles Islands are located in the Indian Ocean, northeast of the African country, Madagascar.
The Pontiff also praised the country’s efforts in establishing a successful educational system of quality" inviting all, "whatever their level of responsibility, to follow this path and to sow generously for the future."
However, he continued, the concern for “education would be useless” if the institution of the family was too fragile. “Families constantly need the help and support of political powers. There is a profound harmony between the duties of the family and those of the State. Encouraging synergy between the two means to work effectively for a future of peace and prosperity."
"The local Church spares no effort to help families, supporting them with the light of the Gospel that brings out all the grandeur and beauty of the 'mystery' of the family, and helping them to assume their educational responsibilities."
The Holy Father then greeted the Catholics of Seychelles, inviting them to build a society “in which each can find the path of personal and collective growth.”
Vatican City, Dec 19, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations, has called for an end to unjust discrimination and criminal penalties directed against homosexual persons. However, he reiterated concerns that a U.N. proposal advocating legal protections for "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" is ill-defined and overbroad.
On Thursday afternoon Archbishop Migliore, speaking to a session of the UN General Assembly, remarked: "the Holy See appreciates the attempts made in the 'Declaration on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity' - presented at the UN General Assembly on 18 December 2008 - to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them."
"At the same time, the Holy See notes that the wording of this Declaration goes well beyond the above-mentioned and shared intent," he added.
He said the document’s categories of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity," under international law, "find no recognition or clear and agreed definition."
"If they had to be taken into consideration in the proclaiming and implementing of fundamental rights, these would create serious uncertainty in the law as well as undermine the ability of States to enter into and enforce new and existing human rights conventions and standards," the archbishop stated.
Saying the document rightfully condemns "all forms of violence against homosexual persons," and rightfully seeks to protect them from violence, he said that in total the document "goes beyond this goal and instead gives rise to uncertainty in the law and challenges existing human rights norms."
"The Holy See continues to advocate that every sign of unjust discrimination towards homosexual persons should be avoided and urges States to do away with criminal penalties against them," Archbishop Migliore concluded.
According to Reuters, in the past the archbishop has warned that the European-backed text could lead to reverse discrimination, warning "states which do not recognize same-sex unions as 'matrimony' will be pilloried and made an object of pressure."
Reuters reports that sponsors of the European resolution say "homosexuality" is punishable by law in 77 countries and by death in seven countries, including Iran and Saudi Arabia.
An Arab-backed statement read by Syria at the U.N. on Thursday said the text could lead to "the social normalization, and possibly the legitimization, of many deplorable acts including pedophilia." The Arab statement voiced concern about attempts to "create 'new rights' or 'new standards,' by misinterpreting the Universal Declaration and international treaties."
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told Reuters that the Vatican did not support the Arab-backed statement.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that men and women with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" must be treated with "respect, compassion, and sensitivity" and says "Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."
Calling homosexual persons to chastity, the Catechism says that Church teaching, following Sacred Scripture’s presentation of homosexual acts as "acts of grave depravity," considers such acts "intrinsically disordered" and "under no circumstances" should be approved of.
Washington D.C., Dec 19, 2008 (CNA) -
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Thursday issued a final regulation explicitly clarifying the rights of health care providers to decline participation in services to which they object in conscience. The rule will help protect those individuals and institutions in the medical field who object to abortion.
An HHS press release reported that several statutes have been enacted by Congress to "safeguard the freedom of health care providers to practice according to their conscience."
"The new regulation will increase awareness of and compliance with these laws," it continued.
"Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience."
"Many health care providers routinely face pressure to change their medical practice – often in direct opposition to their personal convictions," said HHS Assistant Secretary of Health, Admiral Joxel Garcia, M.D. "During my practice as an OB-GYN, I witnessed this first-hand. Health care providers shouldn’t have to check their consciences at the hospital door."
According to the HHS press release, the final rule clarifies that non-discrimination protections apply to institutional health care providers as well as individuals who work for recipients of HHS funds. Under the rule recipients of certain HHS funds will be required to certify their compliance with conscience protection laws.
The HHS Office for Civil Rights has been designated as the entity to receive violation complaints. If a state or local government or entity is in violation of the statutes, HHS officials may assist them in becoming compliant. If such efforts fail, the entity may be penalized by termination of funding and may be required to return funding already received.
The HHS also encourages providers to disclose to patients what services they do not provide.
Describing remarks received concerning the proposal, the HHS press release said "the comments consistently bore out the necessity of the regulation to implement the statutes enacted by Congress."
"Many commenters exhibited a lack of understanding of these laws. Others articulated a general knowledge that conscience protections exist for providers, but the scope of these protections was not always widely understood. Still other comments came from health care workers relating personal experiences of what they perceived to be discrimination on the basis of their personal or religious beliefs."
Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the 16,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA), on Thursday welcomed the regulation, saying it will "protect patients and patient access to physicians who adhere to life-affirming ethical standards."
"By protecting physicians and other healthcare professionals who still adhere to the Hippocratic Oath, the Judeo-Christian Scriptures and other objective standards of medical ethics, this regulation serves to protect patients who want access to conscientious and compassionate care from life-affirming physicians," he continued, adding "this regulation insures that physicians and others won’t be run out of the profession for upholding those standards."
According to Dr. Stevens, only 38 percent of Americans realize that physicians may not legally be coerced into performing or referring for abortions. He also reported that 41 percent of CMA members who responded to a survey reported being "pressured to compromise Biblical or ethical convictions."
"Physicians report being forced out of medical positions, residents report loss of training privileges, and students report discrimination in medical school admissions," he stated. "Medical students have been reporting to us that they are deciding not to pursue careers in obstetrics and gynecology for fear of coercion to do abortions."
The rule is opposed by many abortion rights groups and also by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association. Sources close to President-elect Obama’s transition team told the Wall Street Journal the Obama administration will try to change the rule through the HHS regulatory process.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals, both support the new rule. They say it is needed to protect health care providers from being forced to perform sterilizations and abortions.