Archive of January 6, 2009

Medical system in Gaza nearing collapse

Rome, Italy, Jan 6, 2009 (CNA) - The latest reports coming out of the Gaza Strip indicate that medical personnel are having difficulty reaching the wounded and that the collapse of the medical system is imminent. Church officials are calling for a cease fire to treat the wounded.

According to Caritas Internationalis, a network of 162 aid agencies which helps provide primary medical services in Gaza, its efforts to help the wounded are being severely hampered by the war.

Caritas’ president, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, has issued a call for an immediate cease fire, saying, “Caritas and our Catholic Church partners in the Holy Land call for an immediate ceasefire to enable the sick and wounded to be treated. Innocent people are suffering because aid agencies cannot reach them due to the Israeli military action.

“Caritas calls for action from the USA, the EU, and the international community on pressing for an immediate ceasefire to create the necessary environment in Gaza for aid agencies to be able to care for the wounded.  War cannot be justified by either Israel or Hamas. Arguments over proportionality are morally repugnant when we are talking about the lives of innocent children.”     

The latest figures show 87 Palestinian children have been killed in the Israeli attacks.

Caritas’ Jerusalem Secretary-General Claudette Habesch offered more details about developments on the ground. “Our staff in Gaza are witnessing a collapse of medical services. People are dying in their homes because they can’t get treatment. There are 2,053 hospitals bed sin Gaza and 2,500 people wounded by the Israeli bombardment. Doctors say they lack bandages and antiseptic.”

The Israeli offensive against Gaza began after the Palestinian region’s ruling Hamas party made continuous rocket attacks on southern Israel, citing Israeli raids and blockades.

Israeli tanks, planes, and ground forces continued their attacks Sunday night. According to Reuters, at least 541 people have died in the 10-day offensive.

Israel had occupied the Palestinian enclave in Gaza from 1967 to 2005.

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Suspected anti-Prop. 8 vandals strike San Francisco church

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 6, 2009 (CNA) - Opponents of Proposition 8 are suspected to have vandalized Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in San Francisco over the weekend, spray-painting on the church black swastikas and the words “Ratzinger” and “Niederauer,” the respective last names of the Pope and the Archbishop of San Francisco.

Most Holy Redeemer parish, located in the predominantly homosexual Castro District of San Francisco, has been billed as a “gay-friendly” church. It has previously participated in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade and reportedly leased parish space to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of homosexuals who mockingly dress as nuns.

Responding to the vandalism, Most Holy Redeemer pastor Fr. Steve Meriweather told KCBS that his parishioners also oppose Proposition 8, a successful California ballot measure that overturned a 2008 state Supreme Court decision which imposed same-sex “marriage” on the state.

“I think it's unfortunate that they selected our community to attack," said Father Meriweather, "because it's the wrong one."

Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, in a Monday press release asked Catholics nationwide to respond to the hostilities following the passage of Proposition 8 by contacting San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“In the wake of Proposition 8, innocent persons have been assaulted, churches have been vandalized, a white substance resembling anthrax was sent to the Knights of Columbus and to Mormon temples, supporters of traditional marriage have been branded Nazis, African Americans have been called the ‘N-word,’ houses and cars have been trashed, etc.”

“Unfortunately, most of those in the gay community have been silent about these acts,” he claimed.

Donohue said some blame for the vandalism should be attributed to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, arguing that they “have shown nothing but contempt for the First Amendment rights of Catholics.”

He also referred to blasphemous and obscene activities at the homosexual Folsom Street Fair, saying San Francisco’s political leaders ignored them but were “quite vocal” about condemning the Catholic Church in a 2006 resolution.

“For those who love to write about ‘root causes,’ let them ponder the guilt of these public officials. Moreover, leaders in the gay community show no leadership when it comes to denouncing incivility committed in the name of gay rights. This has got to end.”

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Pope Benedict prays for an end to violence in Gaza

Vatican City, Jan 6, 2009 (CNA) - Following the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square today, Pope Benedict XVI called on Israelis and Palestinians to find a way to establish dialogue and bring an end to the military confrontation engulfing the Gaza Strip.

"The dramatic news coming out of Gaza shows how rejecting dialogue leads to unspeakable situations that make the populations once again victims of hatred and war," said the Holy Father.

"War and hatred are not solutions to our problems," he added.

Pope Benedict urged everyone to pray to the baby Jesus in the manger and ask him to "inspire the authorities and those responsible for the two sides, Israeli and Palestinian, to immediate action to end the current tragic situation."

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HIV being spread mainly through homosexual relations in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Jan 6, 2009 (CNA) - The Anti-AIDS Independent Committee in Spain has called for behavioral changes among homosexuals in order to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, as 2007 data confirms that the disease is more prevalent in the homosexual population.

The organization pointed out that although ten of Spain’s autonomous communities do not send statistics on infections to the National AIDS Registry, the data “shows that homosexual transmission made up 42.8% of the diagnoses made in 2007, with a constant rise from 26.4% in 2003.  The increase is even sharper if women are excluded: gays have gone from 34.7% to 55.6% of the men diagnosed in one year.”

“Thus, in 2007, for the first time since 1994, there were more infections through homosexual activity than heterosexual,” it said.

The organization criticized government campaigns that promote condom use, “with a message aimed indiscriminately at the population in general and young people in particular, as if everyone were equally at risk, regardless of their habits.”  Such a message only provokes a “false sense of security” and does not reduce at-risk behavior, they said.

Likewise, the organization pointed out that homosexuals have the lowest rate of late diagnosis, at 26.7%, and that the “disproportionately high rate of infections can only be explained by much higher promiscuity and a higher risk of homosexual contact.”

Therefore, the group said, if the risk of contraction is high “and the promotion of condom use does not work, it would be logical to consider a different campaign that encourages a change in behavior in homosexuals.  But that would be the most politically incorrect option of all.”

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Pope calls children 'treasure and blessing for the world' on Feast of Epiphany

Vatican City, Jan 6, 2009 (CNA) - During the Angelus on the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, Pope Benedict XVI prayed for the children of the world, especially those who live in countries suffering from conflict or who are abused in different ways.
The Pontiff recalled that in many countries Epiphany is “the feast of the children,” and therefore he addressed “a special thought to all children, who are a treasure and blessing for the world, and especially to those who are denied a peaceful childhood.”
“I desire, in particular, to call attention to the dozens of children and young people of the western province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who in these last months, including the Christmas season, have been kidnapped by armed gangs who have attacked towns and have caused numerous victims and wounded,” he added.
The Holy Father called on the "authors of such inhumane brutality" to return the children to their families and to allow them a "future of security and development, which is their right and that of all of those beloved people.”
Pope Benedict XVI later pointed out that the episodes of violence related to young people taking place in other parts of the world "seem even more despicable considering that in 2009 we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Children: a commitment in which the international community is called to renew the defense, protection and promotion of childhood worldwide.”
“May the Lord bless all those— they are many!—who work daily in the service of the new generations, helping them to be the protagonists of their future. In addition, the World Day of Missionary Childhood, which is celebrated on the feast of the Epiphany, is an opportune occasion to show how children and young people can play an important role in the spreading of the Gospel and in the works of solidarity towards their peers most in need.  May the Lord reward them!” the Pope concluded.

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Handicapped call for end to abortion of handicapped babies

Madrid, Spain, Jan 6, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Spanish Commission of Representatives of Handicapped Persons, Luis Cayo, has called for a reform of the law that legalizes abortion in cases of fetal deformation.

Cayo said the aborting of handicapped babies is “immoral” because it is based on the belief that “persons with handicaps have less value.” He said it the belief that “a handicap is a problem and (that abortion) is a way of getting rid of it” amounts to prejudice.

Pro-life advocates are calling for the arguments by handicapped persons to be taken into account by the committee that will study the reform of the current law on abortion, which has been called for by the Socialist government.

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Medical Association points out prophetic nature of Humanae Vitae

Rome, Italy, Jan 6, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, Dr. Jose Maria Simon Castellvi, has outlined a series of scientific arguments that confirm the prophetic nature of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on artificial contraception.

In an article published by the L’Osservatore Romano, the Spanish doctor pointed to the Federation’s recent document commemorating the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, which “irrefutably shows that the most widely-used anti-ovulatory pill in the industrialized world, the one made with low doses of estrogen and progesterone, in many cases works with an anti-implantation effect; that is, abortifacient [effect], because it expels a small human embryo.”

Castellvi also pointed out that “this anti-implantation effect is acknowledged in scientific literature, which shamelessly speaks of an embryo loss rate. Curiously, however, this information does not reach the public at large.”

He also pointed to the “devastating ecological effects of the tons of hormones discarded into the environment each year. We have sufficient data to state that one of the causes of masculine infertility in the West is the environmental contamination caused by the products of the ‘pill’.”  Castellvi noted as well that the International Agency for Research on Cancer reported in 2005 that the pill has carcinogenic effects.

After explaining that the “natural methods of regulating fertility are the ones that are effective and that respect the nature of the person,” Castellvi stated that “in celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man we can say that the contraceptive methods violate at least five important rights: the right to life, the right to health, the right to education, the right to information (its dissemination occurs to the detriment of information about natural methods) and the right of equality between the sexes (responsibility for contraceptive use almost always falls to the woman).”

After underscoring the importance of sexual relations within marriage for the union and growth in love of the spouses, Castellvi pointed out that “the doctrine of Humanae Vitae is largely ignored because, among other reasons, at the time doctors did not accept it.”

“The opposite question,” he continued, “can help us see how prophetic Paul VI was.  If he would have accepted the ‘pill,’ would we today be able to know of its anti-implantation effects?” Castellvi wrote.

“A doctor’s prestige lies in being able to authoritatively offer to couples alternatives to contraceptives. The relationship between doctor and patient is so strong that it can only be broken with great difficulty, even if between the two it seems to be like a dissident theologian. Therefore it is necessary that we teach and inform doctors more and better about fertility,” he said.

Castellvi said Catholic doctors would continue working for advancements in their profession but suggested that “the Holy See should respectfully create a special commission for Humanae Vitae.”

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CNA kicks off 2009 with new additions, services to site

Denver, Colo., Jan 6, 2009 (CNA) - CNA has started off the New Year with a list of new additions and improvements to our news service.  In addition to a new look, among the changes are a separate mobile-friendly site, an online Liturgical Calendar, a more comprehensive resource section and a new column that critiques media coverage of relevant topics.

Today CNA released a new site that is mobile-friendly for cell phone users.  The webpage contains all of CNA’s news and resources in a format that is conducive for those on the go.  The mobile website can be found at:

Also today, CNA’s site received a slight “face lift.”  Readers may notice that CNA’s resources, columns and documents that were previously along the left-hand column are now located in a gray box at the bottom of the main page.  Additionally, on the inner pages, a list of “Related Articles” which may interest the reader accompanies each story.  These suggestions range from news items to related resources and documents.

New information has also been added to the resource section.  Readers will find that new prayers, apologetics, Marian devotions, Saints and Biblical information has been added for readers to learn more about the Catholic faith.

Also new to the resource section is an online 2009 Liturgical calendar.  The calendar includes the daily readings, the Saint of the day, the liturgical colors used for the particular day’s Mass, and the current week of the Psalter.  This exclusive calendar can be found at:

Finally, CNA is thrilled for the opportunity to introduce three new columns this month.  The first one, “Under the Glass,” will examine both secular and religious media stories and expose their inaccuracies and biases.  Another column will be written by a U.S. seminarian studying in Rome who will discuss his life, experiences and challenges in the seminary.  Lastly, CNA will resume its popular “Movie Review” column. Look for these additions to appear in the columns section or at the bottom of the main page during this month.

The team at CNA hopes you enjoy the new improvements and changes.  Have a blessed 2009!

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International Symposium to be held on renowned American Catholic writer

Rome, Italy, Jan 6, 2009 (CNA) - “Reason, Fiction and Faith” is the title of an International Symposium on the American Catholic author Flannery O’Connor that will take place in Rome April 20-22. 

According to the organizers, the literary work of this writer “is distinguished for its rich combination of intelligence, literary art and Christian faith. Her short stories and novels reveal a penetrating understanding of the human condition, a moral vision without compromise and an artistic mastery of the first order.”


“Her letters, published posthumously in the volume ‘The Habit of Being,’ reveal a person who knew how to confront illness, suffering and death, and in the end eternal life, with profound faith and a notable sense of humor,” they said.


More information can be found at:

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Vietnamese government confiscates convent in ‘cheap trick’

Vinh Long, Vietnam, Jan 6, 2009 (CNA) - A group of religious sisters who responded to an invitation to meet with the local Vietnamese government last month were very surprised and dismayed when the so-called meeting became a press conference announcing that the government would seize their monastery to convert it into a public square.

At the start of December, the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres received a letter from the People's Committee of Vinh Long inviting them to a meeting to discuss the requisition of their home.

“For a long time, they had never seen such a polite letter from the local government,” Fr. J.B. An Dang told CNA. “However, on arriving to the meeting on Dec. 12, they soon found out they were in fact the victims of a cheap trick played by the government officials.”

According to Fr. An Dang, the sisters entered the meeting with goodwill, trusting their government would do the right thing.

“What happened during that meeting was enough to change drastically their view of the government's credibility,” he said.

The nuns’ provincial superior Sister Huynh Thi Bich Ngoc said in a letter to various state agencies that the congregation had been invited “to exchange and discuss.”

However, “there was neither exchange nor discussion at the meeting.” “Mr. Nguyen Van Dau, Head of the People's Committee simply announced the decision to turn our monastery into a public square.”

The provincial superior reported that prominent media organizations and personnel were present at the meeting, including the editor in chief of Vinh Long Newsmagazine and representatives of the radio and television stations of the province.

J.B. An Dang told CNA that although all the sisters at the meeting stood up and strongly protested the property seizure, state media reported that the sisters were happy with the decision and cited their presence at the meeting as strong evidence of their contentment.

Bishop Thomas Nguyen Van Tan of the Diocese of Vinh Long wrote a letter to the government concerning the action, saying:

“I have been living in Vinh Long since Sept 1, 1953. At that time, next to the old Cathedral there was a school, a convent and a chapel belonging to the sisters of St. Paul Congregation. Now all of it has been reduced to a vacated piece of land.

“I ask the government to reconsider the decision to demolish the convent and the chapel in order to build a public square on the property where the convent used to be. Let it be proven to all that this government is protective of all religions.

“I am in total unity with the view of Congregation of St. Paul.”

In a December 18 letter to the priests, religious, and lay people of Vinh Long diocese, the bishop said the action was “so embittering” for the sisters, himself, and all Catholics.

“How we can help not become bitter when running an orphanage is distorted into ‘training a generation of unfortunate youth to be an anti-revolution force to oppose the liberation of the country’? How can we help not feeling pain at seeing the sisters being kicked out of their monastery empty-handed after 31 years of serving the poor and the unfortunate?” he said, according to VietCatholic News.

“How sad to see the ruin of the monastery which our brothers and sisters had contributed countless efforts to build for more than a century. And how sorrowful to see a place for worshipping God, for praying to Him, for spiritual training, and for providing charity services being converted into a place for entertaining.”

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Vatican congregation orders Jesuit theologian to stop teaching and publishing

, Jan 6, 2009 (CNA) - The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ordered the American Jesuit theologian Fr. Roger Haight to stop teaching and publishing on theological matters. The academic’s work has been criticized for undermining Catholic teaching on the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, the importance of the Church, and issues related to Salvation.

Vatican expert John L. Allen, Jr., writing for the National Catholic Reporter, said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) communicated these restrictions to the Jesuits in spring 2008. Jesuit leaders reportedly had consulted the late theologian Cardinal Avery Dulles in the matter.

Jesuit spokesman Father Jose de Vera confirmed the restrictions, but said a “final resolution” has not been reached in the case.

“The process continues,” Father de Vera said, according to John Allen.

In a 2005 notification, the CDF cited “serious doctrinal errors” in Father Haight’s 2000 book “Jesus: Symbol of God.” The Congregation said that Father Haight, a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, should be barred from teaching Catholic theology.

The Congregation for Catholic Education removed him from a position at the Jesuit-operated Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass. However, Father Haight and Jesuit officials believed that teaching at a non-Catholic institution was not proscribed by the order and so he became a teacher at the multi-denominational Union Theological Seminary in New York.

 As a result of the most recent order, Father Haight may no longer teach at Union Theological Seminary or anywhere else.

According to John Allen, Haight sees his book “Jesus: Symbol of God” as an attempt to express traditional doctrines about Christ and salvation “in a language appropriate to postmodern culture.” The book “offers a positive theological reading of non-Christian religions and savior figures” and is seen as part of a broader concern about the theology of religious pluralism.

Father Thomas Slon, Socius (Executive Assistant) to the Provincial of the New York Province, on Tuesday told CNA that Father Haight “absolutely” plans to comply with the CDF restrictions.

“He’s working with our own Jesuit superiors, our own Father General, and the CDF. I think he’s working towards a resolution,” Father Slon explained.

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