Washington D.C., Jan 7, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has announced that the Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week from January 11 to January 17.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, said the week is a chance for parishes across the country “to highlight the gift of vocations in the church through prayer and education.”
“As a church, we recognize the need to safeguard and promote this gift,” he added.
Father James Steffes, the USCCB’s executive director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations, added: “This week reminds us that it is our responsibility to pray for vocations and to invite young people to consider a call to ordained ministry and consecrated life.
“The church needs to help young people hear the Lord in prayer, so they can recognize him in their lives.”
National Vocation Awareness Week began in 1976 and originally began on the 28th Sunday of the year. In 1997, the observance was moved to coincide with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated on January 11.
Madison, Wis., Jan 7, 2009 (CNA) - Newly publicized plans for the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics to perform second-trimester abortions in a jointly-operated clinic have attracted protest from employees of the clinic and the Alliance Defense Fund. The pro-life group claims the “secret and potentially illegal plans” would likely compel pro-life medical professionals to cooperate in unethical acts and could provide fetal remains for medical research.
The plans, made public by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) on Tuesday, show that University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics (UWHC) is planning a full-service second-trimester abortion practice at the Madison Surgery Center. The center is a joint venture of UWHC, UW Medical Foundation, and Meriter Hospital and currently does not provide any services related to abortion.
The practice was planned after second-trimester abortionist Dr. Dennis Christensen retired in December from the Madison Abortion Clinic, leaving no local provider of late-term abortions.
Planned Parenthood, which performs abortions up to the 18th week of pregnancy, took over Christensen’s clinic. Later-term abortions are being referred to a clinic in Milwaukee, with the new joint clinic being intended to perpetrate such abortions in the Madison area, the Associated Press reports.
UW Health spokeswoman Lisa Brunette told the AP that UW Health gynecologists plan to begin performing abortions at the Madison Surgery Center for patients who are between 13 and 22 weeks pregnant, pending approval from the center’s board possibly later this month.
Acknowledging that state-paid doctors working for the university would perform the abortions, Brunette said UW Health lawyers were comfortable the plan is legal. The abortions themselves will reportedly be paid by insurance and patient fees, and not with public money.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) protested the plans in a Tuesday letter to the presidents and CEOs of UWHC, Meriter Hospital, and the University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation.
Expressing “grave concerns” about the second-trimester abortion clinic plans, the letter reported that the abortions will be performed by UWHC’s Dr. Caryn R. Dutton, to whom Dr. Christensen has referred his clients.
Unborn children in the second trimester of pregnancy are almost fully formed and have brain functions and limb movements.
“They yawn, roll over, and touch their faces,” the ADF letter said, adding that ultrasounds have showed them playing and swimming in the womb.
According to the ADF, second-trimester abortions are usually performed using “dilation and evacuation” methods:
“[T]he abortionist rips the child’s arms and legs off piecemeal and pulls them out with forceps. These dismemberments are followed by the child’s torso and head, the latter of which is sometimes so large that it needs to be crushed until the baby’s brains are observed flowing out of the uterus.”
Additionally, the ADF claimed that University of Wisconsin medical residents are expected to train and take part in the killing of unborn children in the second trimester of gestation.
The second-term abortions “will likely be used to train medical residents to dismember second-trimester babies, and they may well serve as a fresh source of baby body parts for various UW research projects as has occurred in the past,” the ADF added.
University of Wisconsin researchers Ian Duncan, Su-Chen Zhang, Hans Sollinger and Debra Hullett have reportedly published studies that, according to the ADF, indicate “they experiment on fresh fetal brains and pancreases from second-trimester abortions, apparently obtained from the victims of Madison abortionist Dennis Christensen.”
“UWHC may well be pushing abortions into the Madison Surgery Center, via their own in-house abortionist Dutton, so that they will have fresh and inexpensive baby body parts for various researchers to dissect,” the ADF alleged.
“Well over 100 abortions will be performed yearly under this plan, mostly on healthy babies and healthy mothers, as well as on multiple babies with disabilities who are currently killed at Meriter,” the ADF letter said. “
Speaking to CNA over the phone on Tuesday, ADF legal counsel Matthew Bowman explained that his organization became aware of the UWHC plan when an employee of Madison Surgery Center contacted them with concerns about being forced to help perform abortions.
According to Bowman, he found that “many of the employees of Madison Surgery Center strongly object to this proposed practice, but officials from UWHC are using strong-arm tactics to install Dutton’s late-abortion practice there regardless of the employees’ own views on the matter.”
When asked to explain how UWHC attempted to keep its plan to convert the outpatient surgery center into a late-term abortion facility secret, Bowman said, “Up to now, they’ve never publicized it, and they were not ever planning on publicizing it. They were planning on keeping it quiet and intimidating the employees into not talking about it,” he asserted.
The ADF also advised that the plan may violate various federal and state laws either by compelling employees to aid in or refer for the abortions, or by improperly using government funds and agencies to assist in abortion.
“Many Madison Surgery Center employees believe that turning their workplace into an abortion facility will severely upset regular patients, disrupt the respected surgical practice that currently occurs there, decimate employee morale (as it has already threatened to do), require burdensome policy changes, and compel direct or indirect staff participation in the dismemberment of these viable and near-viable preborn infants.”
“We ask you to rethink this plan of tainting the UWHC with late abortions, and of imposing the abortion industry on the undesiring staff of the Madison Surgical Center,” the ADF letter urged.
The letter was also sent to the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which enforces conscience protection rules instituted by the outgoing Bush administration on behalf of pro-life medical professionals, among others.
“Christians and other pro-life medical students and staff should be allowed to abide by their beliefs,” Bowman said in a Tuesday press release. “Pro-life employees shouldn’t be forced to violate their conscience by participating in the killing of preborn, developed babies. The university’s plan is morally and legally flawed and should be abandoned.”
London, England, Jan 7, 2009 (CNA) - A premature baby born in Britain 23 weeks into pregnancy has been allowed to return home six months after her birth, prompting her parents to question the British laws which permit unborn children like her to be aborted.
Lexie Slater-Folksman weighed only 1 lb, 8 oz. at delivery. She was put on life support, her parents being warned that she might not survive, the Daily Mail reports.
Her eyes not having developed fully, Lexie required laser surgery when she was just one month-old. She also suffered collapsed lungs and spent weeks on ventilator equipment.
Lexie’s parents, the 20-year-old Sarah Slater and her 25-year-old fiancé Richard Folksman, said their daughter’s case proves that abortion laws are outdated and should be changed.
“We're so glad to have Lexie home with us at last and it just shows how outmoded our laws on abortion are,” Slater told the Daily Mail.
“Some mothers-to-be would be able to legally terminate their pregnancy at 23 weeks - yet my Lexie is living proof babies can survive being born so prematurely.
“I never realized a baby would be so well developed at 23 weeks and they do have a chance of life.”
In May British MPs voted to preserve the legal limit for abortions at 24 weeks into pregnancy.
Lexie’s mother was 22 weeks pregnant when her water broke. Doctors attempted to halt labor, fearing the baby wouldn’t survive.
Lexie was born a week later.
Turin, Italy, Jan 7, 2009 (CNA) - The Pastoral Office for Migrants of the Archdiocese of Turin said this week that the five-year long campaign called, “I have a new friend, an Iraqi Chaldean priest,” has been a success, and it encouraged the faithful to continue supporting the Christian community in Iraq.
“The end of this campaign does not mean we will forget about our Iraqi brothers, and therefore the Pastoral Office for Migrants of the Archdiocese of Turin invites everyone to continue supporting the Iraqi Christian community and to keep them in your prayers and thoughts,” the Office said.
“Thanks to the generosity of many friends….we have not only been able to provide economic support to our brothers but also show them they are not forgotten,” officials said in a statement.
The campaign lasted for five years and provided economic assistance to ten young priests in Baghdad.
Vatican City, Jan 7, 2009 (CNA) - Despite coping with a cold, Pope Benedict XVI pressed ahead with his series of audiences on St. Paul’s teachings, this time focusing on his understanding of worship in Christ. This “spiritual worship” involves the world being reunited to God through Jesus’ sacrifice, the Pope said.
Pope Benedict began his first general audience of 2009 by saying, "I hope I will be able to make myself clear despite my sore throat," which received applause from the faithful gathered in the Paul VI Hall. He also expressed his wish “that this year, in spite of the inevitable difficulties, may be a year of joy and peace. Only if we are united with Jesus will it be a good and happy year."
Launching into his examination of St. Paul’s teaching on “spiritual worship,” the Pope said that "In the past, people used to talk of an 'anti-worship' tendency in the Apostle, of his 'spiritualization' of the idea of worship.” “Today we are better able to understand how Paul saw in the Cross a historical watershed that radically transformed and renewed the reality of worship."
As he continued, the Holy Father turned to the third chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Having spoken of the redemption in Jesus, Paul continues with a mysterious formula, saying: “God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by (Jesus’) blood.”
This referred to the Jewish practice from the day of Yom Kippur when the “Mercy Seat” was “sprinkled with the blood of animals, blood which symbolically brought the sins of the last year in contact with God. The sins, thrown into the abyss of divine mercy, were absorbed by God, overcome, forgiven,” the Pope explained.
This rite, Paul says, was an expression of the desire that a person be able to really place all their faults in the abyss of divine mercy and make them disappear. This served as a necessary “point of contact between human misery and divine mercy. This contact has a place in the cross of Christ,” Benedict XVI taught.
“St. Paul tells us: With the cross of Christ, the supreme act of divine mercy became human love. Ancient worship with the sacrifice of animals in the Temple of Jerusalem is finished.”
In the twelfth chapter of his Letter to the Romans, Paul says: “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” Pope Benedict called these words by Paul “an apparent paradox. While sacrifice requires, by rule, the death of the victim, Paul speaks of it as the life of the Christian.” The expression “offer your bodies “refers to the entire person: presenting oneself.” It coincides with “a call to ‘glorify God in your bodies,’ in the entirety of everyday life.”
However, this call to “glorify God in your bodies” is in danger of being misunderstood, the Pope cautioned. “This new worship could easily be interpreted in a moralistic sense: by offering our lives we ourselves make the new worship. In this way, worship with animals is substituted by moralism in which man does everything himself with his own moral force. And this was certainly not St. Paul's intention."
Paul, the Pope said, "is the heir of these developments, of the desire for true worship, in which man himself becomes worship of God. The time of animal sacrifice, of the sacrifice of substitution, has come to an end, the time of true worship has come."
Only through union with Christ "can we become 'living sacrifice' in Him and with Him, and offer 'true worship.'” The Holy Father provided further explanation, saying, “Jesus Christ, in His donation to the Father and to us, does not replace us with Himself, but carries our being in Himself, our sins and our desire. He represents us and assumes us to Himself. In communion with Christ, achieved in faith and in the Sacraments, we become a living sacrifice, despite all our shortcomings, and 'true worship' is achieved."
This concept of worship is employed by St. Paul when he describes his missionary work among the peoples of the world to construct the universal Church as a priestly activity, the Pope explained. “The goal of missionary activity is, we could say, cosmic liturgy: that all people united in Christ, the world, may become glory of God," he said.
The Pope concluded that in the Pauline concept of worship, there is "the aspect of hope” because in Christ the world is reunited to God and becomes a “mirror of divine love.”
“This dynamism is ever present in the Eucharist, this dynamism must inspire and shape our lives. May we begin the new year with this dynamism."
At the end of the catechesis, the Holy Father thanked the audience for its patience with his weak voice.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 7, 2009 (CNA) - The organizing committee of the Sixth World Meeting of Families which will open in Mexico City on January 14 announced that Pope Benedict XVI will send two messages to the participants of this historic event.
Organizers aid the Holy Father will send his first message which will be read at the beginning of the Meeting, and his second will be sent live via satellite during the closing Mass on January 18.
“Everything is almost ready to welcome the almost 30 cardinals and 200 bishops who will come from all parts of the world and have confirmed their attendance,” officials added.
The World Meeting of Families can be followed online at www.emf2009.com
Denver, Colo., Jan 7, 2009 (CNA) - Catholics wanting to stay in tune with the liturgical rhythms of the Church will now be able to do so with Catholic News Agency’s exclusive liturgical calendar.
Launched today, the new resource includes the full daily readings, the saint of the day, the week of the Psalter for those praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the liturgical colors for each day. The calendar is the first of its kind online and currently runs until November 2009.
CNA’s Liturgical Calendar, “offers Catholics around the world the opportunity to pray with the universal Church,” explained CNA Editor David Uebbing. “It also gives them the chance for a daily encounter with God in His Word.”
The Liturgical Calendar is free of charge to readers and may be republished or reprinted with proper credit to CNA.
The new calendar is available at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/calendar.php
Madrid, Spain, Jan 7, 2009 (CNA) - The spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, said this week the bishops of that country are willing to support new public protests if the current government continues to insist on liberalizing abortion laws that are being debated in Parliament.
“We want to support whatever we can so that lawmakers know that Catholics do not want this,” Bishop Martinez Camino explained during an interview with Europa Press. “Promoting laws that give license to kill contradicts human and Christian consciences,” he added.
He also warned that guilt for abortion falls not only on women who choose to have them, but also on “those who do not support them, those who pressure them or mistreat them.”
Lawmakers didn’t escape the bishop’s warning either, especially those who are believers. Those politicians who promote “these kinds of laws” should be aware that the punishment of excommunication “is not only for the women, but also for all those whose direct collaboration was necessary to carry out an abortion,” he said.
Bishop Martinez Camino stressed also that abortion “is not a right,” and called on lawmakers to provide greater assistance and thereby ensure that there is never an excuse for taking the life of another person.
“If we have the right to take the lives of our children, we have lost all sense of what rights mean,” he added.
The liberalization of the law on abortion would “subtlety and absurdly” justify this practice as a “right,” he continued, and undermine all other personal rights. The license to kill children is “contrary to the concept of rights,” the bishop said.
New Orleans, La., Jan 7, 2009 (CNA) - Several Catholic parishioners in the Archdiocese of New Orleans who occupied two former churches to protest their closure were removed by police on Tuesday, with two being arrested.
The archdiocese had closed the churches as part of a parish consolidation and restructuring plan.
Protests centered upon the 152-year old St. Henry Church and the nearby Our Lady of Good Counsel Church. Following the uptown churches’ final Masses in late October, some parishioners occupied the churches in round-the-clock shifts, holding Sunday prayer services without a priest and claiming to be building steady support for their cause, the Times-Picayune reports.
Police evicted the parishioners on Tuesday. Accompanied by members of the archdiocese's property management office and lawyers from the city attorney’s office, they arrived at the churches at about 10:30 a.m.
At St. Henry, police reportedly knocked at the locked door and were allowed entry. The occupants, who included the widow of a former Police Superintendent, left peacefully.
At Our Lady of Good Counsel, police and church officials had to force entry by sawing through a side- door. Two parishioners, author Poppy Z. Brite and businessman Hunter Harris, were arrested.
Good Counsel parishioner Harold Baquet, who was also removed from the parish, had climbed out onto the church roof to try to avoid detection, the Times Picayune reports.
In a Tuesday statement, Archdiocese of New Orleans spokeswoman Sarah Comiskey commented on the incidents at the closed churches.
“It was necessary for the police to break-in to Our Lady of Good Counsel because those inside refused entrance to either archdiocesan representatives or the police. Two occupants at Our Lady of Good Counsel received a summons and two were formally arrested. At St. Henry Church, the occupants allowed representatives and police to enter. Only one parishioner received a summons. There were no arrests. In both instances, the buildings were then secured.”
“It has always been the intention of the archdiocese to bring these vigils to a peaceful conclusion,” Comiskey said, saying police involvement resulted because of the actions of protesters at the former parishes.
“This decision was made reluctantly after exploring every possible alternative, including multiple attempts to persuade the people to leave the building on their own. These initiatives are unfortunate but made necessary now to ensure the safety of the people and security of the buildings.”
Comiskey reported that parishioners had been asked to leave on Saturday. Those at St. Henry refused to leave, while at Our Lady of Good Counsel an occupying parishioner left, thus allowing officials to search and secure the building.
“It was discovered later that day that protestors had regained access to the former church building and bolts placed in doors had been removed,” she said.
Archdiocesan representatives reportedly attempted to inspect Our Lady of Good Counsel on Monday, but were refused entry and protesters barricaded the doors. Also on Monday, it was discovered that St. Henry Church occupants had locked the church doors to prevent outside entry.
“These actions forced the difficult decision to bring these occupations to a close to be made,” Comiskey stated.
“It is our hope that the Catholic community may now heal and move forward together,” the archdiocese’s statement concluded. “Our prayers are with those experiencing anger and sadness at losing their home parishes. We pray that they may find peace and a spiritual home in their new parish. As we begin the new year, we must all work to center our faith on the Eucharist and to move forward as one community in Christ.”
Brooklyn, N.Y., Jan 7, 2009 (CNA) - Identity thieves have used the Bishop of Brooklyn’s Social Security number and birth date to apply for credit cards.
Diocese of Brooklyn spokesman Fr. Kieran Harrington confirmed that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s identity was stolen, the New York Daily News reports.
"His identity was compromised," Fr. Harrington said.
The thieves had applied to MasterCard for new cards in the 64-year-old bishop’s name.
"The bishop has an account with MasterCard, so they called him and asked him, 'Did you order new cards?'" Fr. Harrington explained.
The bishop called police and the New York Police Department’s identity theft unit is now investigating.
In 2007, the Federal Trade Commission received over 800,000 consumer fraud and identity theft complaints. Consumers reported losses from fraud of more than $1.2 billion. Credit card fraud is the most frequent form of identity theft making up 23% of cases reported.