Archive of December 20, 2008

Atheism vs. Religion debate at Colorado campus

Boulder, Colo., Dec 20, 2008 (CNA) - Two influential speakers will face off next month at the University of Colorado in a debate titled: "What’s so Great About God? – Atheism vs. Religion." The debate, organized by the school’s Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought, will feature Dinesh D’Souza and Christopher Hitchens presenting their cases for and against organized religion, its influence on world history and impact on current events.

The debate is scheduled to take place on Monday, January 26 at 7 p.m. at the University of Colorado – Boulder. Organizers are expecting a crowd of 2,000 to hear Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything; and Dinesh D'Souza, author of What's So Great About Christianity to debate the impact of religion on society.

"We are thrilled to host an event featuring two of the most outspoken and influential individuals in the contemporary debate on religion," said Father Kevin Augustyn, director of Campus Ministry at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center in a press release. "One of the primary goals of the Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought is to promote dialogue on the most important and pressing issues of our time and this debate is an effort to do that on CU's campus."

Father Peter Mussett, the Campus Chaplain at the university’s Catholic Center explained to CNA that these discussions are important in a university setting "to engage the ideas present in the secular world. This debate will continue the expansion of our visible presence on campus witnessing to [the University of Colorado] that the Catholic Church does not shy away from discovering the truth in a public way."

The debate will be hosted by the Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought which was created to serve as the intellectual outreach arm of the university’s Catholic Center. Each month, the institute brings lectures and debates to the university community to discuss the "pressing issues of our time," explained Fr. Mussett. "We have found this to be a tremendously successful avenue for outreach on campus and in promoting the richness of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition."

Tickets for the January debate are available for $10 at

For more information, please visit the Catholic Center’s website.

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Pastor Rick Warren challenged to reconsider participation in inaugural ceremonies

Front Royal, Va., Dec 20, 2008 (CNA) - President of Human Life International, Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, has challenged Pastor Rick Warren to rethink his participation in the inaugural ceremonies for President-elect Barack Obama. Rev. Warren, a strong supporter of both the pro-life movement and traditional marriage, was chosen to give the invocation at Obama’s inauguration next month.

In a statement, Fr. Euteneuer applauded Warren, the pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, for his pro-life leadership, but expressed concern "that his high-profile and explicitly Christian prayerful invocation at President-elect Obama’s inauguration may be perceived as an endorsement, even a blessing, of what will likely be the most anti-life administration in the history of this country."

Rev. Warren is also the author of the best-selling book "The Purpose Driven Life."

"President-elect Obama has given every indication that he has no respect for the lives of the unborn, and whenever given the opportunity, has promised to enforce the most extreme demands of anti-life groups," continued Fr. Euteneuer. "This extremist agenda should not be seen to have the endorsement of pro-life leaders such as Pastor Warren."

"I respect the personal relationship that Pastor Warren has with Mr. Obama," said Father Euteneuer. "But such a public and explicitly Christian endorsement as this invocation is certainly confusing to those who know Mr. Obama’s record on life issues.

"We respectfully ask Pastor Warren to reconsider his participation in the inaugural ceremonies, given Mr. Obama’s extremist anti-life views," the Human Life International president concluded.

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Sri Lankan government declines Catholic-Anglican call for Christmas ceasefire

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Dec 20, 2008 (CNA) -

Despite appeals from Catholic and Anglican bishops, the Sri Lankan government on Thursday said it will not declare a ceasefire for Christmas.

A Wednesday statement from bishops of both Churches asked the government (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to declare a truce during Christmas and the New Year.

"We are now approaching Christmas, a world festival of peace. At this time many Christians and even persons of other faiths will be encouraged by the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace, to review and strengthen relationships," the statement said, according to the Sri Lankan Daily News.

"It is consequently expected that family ties will be renewed, communities will gather for fellowship, strangers will be welcomed, the marginalized included and the oppressed set free.

"Where relationships are strained or hostile it is expected that dividing walls will come down and healing will take place through forgiveness and reconciliation."

The statement was signed by Thomas Savundranayagam, the Catholic Bishop of Jaffna; Rayappa Joseph, Catholic Bishop of Mannar; Norbert Andradi, Catholic Bishop of Anuradhapura; Kumara Ilangasinghe, Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala; and Duleep de Chickera, Anglican Bishop of Colombo.

"It is this spirit of Christmas that compels us as Christian leaders of the country to urge the GoSL and the LTTE to declare a truce to include Christmas and the New Year," the bishops wrote, urging that there be no fighting or troop movement during the truce.

"Such an initiative will be seen the world over as a sign of political maturity and generosity," they said, calling on the government to take the lead in making the truce.

The peace would bring "immense relief" to civilians in LTTE controlled areas, the bishops said.

"It will also enable the Christians of these areas to worship and engage in their religious practices with less anxiety, as well as bring some respite to the war weary soldiers and cadres and some peace of mind to their parents and loved ones."

The bishops also appealed to both parties to "seriously consider" establishing safe zones for civilians, advising that religious leaders may help such a process.

"We are of the opinion that this war must stop, but till that happens such, an arrangement will demonstrate our respect for humanity and save some innocent lives from further trauma or even death.

"We can and must assert that it is possible to care for people even in times of war," they continued. "Nothing should prevent us from our highest priority of enabling life and safeguarding humanity.

"May the Peace of Christ fill our hearts and nation," the Catholic and Anglican bishops prayed, according to the Sri Lankan Daily News.

On Thursday, Media Center for National Security (MCNS) Director Lakshman Hulugalla told the Sri Lankan Daily Mirror that the government stated that it would go in for a ceasefire only if the Tigers laid down their arms. Till then there will be no decision of a ceasefire."

Fighting continues in the north of Sri Lanka. The military has vowed to capture the town of Killinochchi, a rebel stronghold. The rebels claim the army suffered a great defeat in its last attempt to take the town.

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Complaint filed after Slovakia police hinder pro-life protest

Bratislava, Slovakia, Dec 20, 2008 (CNA) -

The Center for Bioethical Reform in Slovakia has filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic alleging that the Slovak Ministry of the Interior and the Police Corps committed serious free speech violations against them.

According to the complaint, police in the city of Kosice on October 16 forced pro-life activists at the University of Kosice to remove the display of twelve large frame-mounted billboards, a press release from the Center for Bioethical Reform (CBR) Europe reports. The billboards showed aborted children juxtaposed with images of other genocides including the holocaust and the Soviet gulag.

The police, who threatened immediate confiscation of the billboards, reportedly outnumbered the activists three to one.

The display is part of the project Stop Genocide, which has toured Slovakian universities and music festivals since the summer. The exhibition reportedly had full municipal council permission at the time of the police action.

"Genocide is invariably presented as something happening somewhere else or in times past but the reality is that genocide is taking place here today in Slovakia where abortion has already claimed the lives of a third of the existing population," said Jana Tutkova, campaign director. "As a nation it is not easy to come face to face with the killing going on our own soil but we have had an overwhelmingly positive response from the students, many of whom have changed their minds by being confronted with the reality and thousands of them have joined the campaign."

The Slovak Ministry said the campaign was against public morality because it showed abortion images in public, CBR Europe reports.

However, Frantisek Tondra, Bishop of Spis and chairman of the Slovak Bishops’ Conference, supported the campaign, saying "I accept this campaign for it shows the real face of abortion."

Tutkova responded to the government’s charge, arguing "If the procedure is legal and subsidized by the state and even claimed to be a human right then how on earth can the authorities claim its depiction to be immoral?"

"This is pure hypocrisy on the part of the government. Taking this approach they would have to admit that abortion is a violence which kills new human beings, but this is precisely what they deny. By attempting to hide the truth, the police and the government have made themselves complicit in the killing and this has to be challenged."

"We will not be cowed by police aggression but will fight to the utmost to defend our right to expose the truth about the abortion genocide," Tutkova said.

The display was adapted from the U.S.-based Center for Bioethical Reform’s Genocide Awareness Project.

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Pro-abortion groups have ‘long list’ of desired U.S. abortion policy changes

Washington D.C., Dec 20, 2008 (CNA) -

Abortion advocates have handed over a "long list" of policies they want to see implemented under the administration of President-elect Barack Obama. Their "smart and strategic" list includes the restoration of funding to the United Nations Population Fund and the reduction in the price of birth control pills at college health centers.

"We're going to be smart and strategic about our policy agenda to bring people together to make progress for women's health," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told the Wall Street Journal. "The Freedom of Choice Act is very important... but we have a long list of things to get done that I think can address problems immediately that women are facing, that are really immediate concerns."

FOCA was not listed in strategic plan submitted to the Obama transition team by a coalition of more than 50 abortion rights advocates.

The Obama administration could also decide whether to cut funding for abstinence education, whether to increase funding for "comprehensive sex education" that includes discussion of birth control, whether to rescind a ban on taxpayer funding for abortions, and whether to overturn regulations that make unborn children eligible for healthcare coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Activists also want to lower the cost of birth control at college health clinics.

Obama is expected to restore federal funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) soon after taking office, the Wall Street Journal reports. Investigations by the Population Research Institute and the U.S. Department of State under Secretary of State Colin Powell have linked the UNFPA to China’s coercive population control policy.

Pro-abortion rights groups are also opposed to new conscience protection regulations announced on Thursday by the Bush Administration. While federal law requires that doctors and nurses not be compelled to perform abortions, the new rules promulgated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) clarify that all health-care workers may refuse to provide information, such as a referral, to patients looking for an abortion.

Many activists on both sides of the conscience protection issue interpret the rule as protecting workers who refuse to participate in providing birth control or other care to which they have conscientious objections.

The new rule could be blocked by Congress. The HHS under an Obama administration could also reverse the regulation.

According to the Wall Street Journal, officials close to President-elect Obama’s transition team indicate that they intend to implement change through the HHS regulatory process.

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