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Archive of January 13, 2009

Catholic author of ‘Dear Grace’ films new TV segments

Brownsville, Texas, Jan 13, 2009 (CNA) - Grace MacKinnon, author of the Dear Grace Catholic advice column, is returning to the public eye with new video segments to be shown on EWTN.

From 1999 to 2004, MacKinnon’s “Dear Grace” advice column ran in numerous diocesan newspapers and church bulletins throughout the United States. Her column was published as far away as Korea and Ireland.

ACI Prensa, CNA’s sister news agency, has translated some of her columns into Spanish.

MacKinnon, who holds a master's degree in theology, wrote the column while working as director of adult education for the Diocese of Brownsville in Texas, the Brownsville Herald reports. She left the diocese in July 2004 to start a nonprofit organization called Dear Grace Ministries.

She has now filmed several segments for Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) following the same format as her column.

"It's going to start sometime in the spring," MacKinnon told the Brownsville Herald. "It's going to be like segments, where I'm going to be sitting down, reading a letter from a viewer, and answering a question, and it's all going to be called ‘Dear Grace'."

The segments will run in short periods between programs.

Last year, MacKinnon did her first EWTN miniseries, called “Suffering Is About Love.” She has also written her life story, called “Moments of Grace.”

MacKinnon, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, is confined to a wheelchair. In her youth she faced obstacles to advancing her education.

 "A counselor in grade school told me, ‘Don't ever let anyone tell you what you can't do,'" she told the Brownsville Herald. "And I am telling you, I had a determination that would not quit. I have always been that way, very tenacious, very persistent, especially when I know God wants me to do it."

She explained that her background has helped her connect with readers.

"One of my readers said to me, ‘I like to read what you say because you paid the price.’ I have lived a challenging life, not only because of disability but poverty."

MacKinnon also plans to host a “Lunch with Grace” for Catholics and others who wish to ask questions about God and faith at the Brownsville Public Library.

"At the beginning of the New Year, everyone is asking me what changes they can make to make their lives better, and I think that the most important change is to get closer to God," she told the Brownsville Herald. "You know, people sometimes ask themselves, ‘Why aren't things going well for me? Why am I not getting what I want out of life. Why am I not happy?' And they don't realize what the source of real happiness is, and that's God.”

MacKinnon’s website is located at http://www.deargrace.com/

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Several Catholic colleges especially effective in fostering vocations

Manassas, Va., Jan 13, 2009 (CNA) - During this National Vocation Awareness Week, the Cardinal Newman Society reports that several Catholic colleges have had “notable success” in fostering vocations among their students.

The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), a nonprofit organization committed to the renewal of Catholic higher education, is highlighting the vocational efforts of several colleges, which are also profiled in its book “The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College.”

The CNS attributes the schools’ successes to several factors, which include formal vocation programs, a robust campus ministry, or a faithful learning environment which emphasizes the Catholic intellectual tradition.

At Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, 11 percent of graduates since its founding in 1971 have reportedly entered religious life. In 2007, university president Thomas E. Dillon attributed this flourishing to Catholic fidelity, the school’s academic program, its chaplains, the lay witness at the college and a supportive student body.

The 35-year-old Magdalen College, based in Warner, New Hampshire, has seen about ten percent of its graduates enter religious life. In addition to receiving a liberal arts degree, most of its graduates receive a Vatican-approved catechetical diploma.

“Magdalen sees that the pursuit of wisdom is incomplete without the corresponding pursuit of holiness,” said Magdalen President Jeffrey J. Karls. “This emphasis in the program, embodied in the lives of the college’s faculty and staff, encourages students to genuinely discern God’s will for them.”

Students’ common life and mutual influence, in Karls’ view, provides “great preparation for the pursuit and fulfillment of the religious and priestly vocations.”

Christendom College, located in Fort Royal, Virginia, claims 54 graduates ordained to the priesthood and another 60 men and women who have entered religious life. The college has an annual discernment weekend, whose 2008 event was attended by Bishop of Arlington Paul Loverde.

The small liberal arts college also provides opportunities for students to discuss vocations with chaplains or to participate in discernment through St. Philip Neri Oratory.

Both Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio and Ave Maria University near Naples, Florida sponsor pre-theologate programs for men discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. This year Franciscan University has 56 men in its program, while Ave Maria has about 30.

According to CNS, Ave Maria has a unique Women’s Discernment Program designed to help young women discern vocations to the religious, married and consecrated life. The residential program, which this year has some 20 women, is run by the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother, a new apostolic movement.

Director of campus ministry at Ave Maria Father Robert M. Garrity commented on the vocations, saying:

“Simply put, in Newman’s terms, there is a ‘Springtime’ happening in the Church, in which many young people want to do God’s will.  We pray for all of our young people, that they will be open to God’s call in their lives, whether the call is to priesthood or religious life, or to holy matrimony, or to the single life of service.”

Joseph A. Esposito, director of CNS’s Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education, made general comments:

“These are some examples of the great work being done on faithful Catholic campuses to provide a new generation of priests and other religious.  These colleges take seriously their relationship with the Church and joyfully promote and evangelize the Catholic faith.”

Esposito said he hoped the successful vocations work at these colleges will inspire “an even greater commitment among the nation’s Catholic colleges and universities.”

National Vocation Awareness Week lasts from January 11 to January 17.

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Pro-life summit discusses pro-life future in U.S.

Ann Arbor, Mich., Jan 13, 2009 (CNA) - The sold out Pro-Life Summit to End Abortion was held in Ann Arbor, Michigan over the weekend to discuss the future of the pro-life cause in the wake of the recent elections.

The summit, which was organized by Dr. Monica M. Miller of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, was held at Christ the King Parish in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and was attended by hundreds of people.

Speakers called for resistance to President-elect Barack Obama’s pro-abortion rights agenda, which includes plans to provide federal funding for domestic and international abortions and to reduce restrictions on the fatal procedure.

Bishop Earl Boyea, the new bishop of Lansing, addressed the gathering and asked that pro-life activism always be carried out with love that can “win the heart.”

Other speakers included Priests for Life President Fr. Frank Pavone, Prof. Janet Smith, radio talk show host Al Kresta, Ed Rivet of Michigan Right to Life and National Director of the Pro-Life Action League Joseph Scheidler.

Speakers agreed about the success of the Obama campaign’s Catholic outreach effort, saying it was well-planned, well-executed, and properly funded.

“If pro-life Catholics want to respond successfully over the next four years, they must undertake a similar level of national coalition-building that can influence chanceries and parish communities,” said Catholic political commentator Deal Hudson, who also spoke at the event.

Hudson said the 2008 election had changed his mind about the role of clergy in “Catholic political strategy.”

He reported that previous Catholic outreach efforts had focused on Mass-attending laity and did not actively seek to enlist friendly priests and bishops.

However, he claimed, in 2008 Catholic Obama supporters promoted their message inside parishes through study groups and seminars.

Several speakers at the summit advocated the creation of a parish-level effort to correct the misinterpretation of episcopal documents on the duties of Catholic voters. However, they emphasized that this should not recruit clergy to a Republican Party effort, but must encourage and support pro-life candidates in both parties.

Father Pavone noted that several speakers at the National March for Life on January 22 will host a group of former abortion doctors who will speak from the steps of the Supreme Court about their regrets about performing abortions.

No groups of doctors gather to say they regret not performing abortions, Father Pavone noted, arguing that the nature of abortion itself helps lead people to abhor it.

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Italian atheists announce bus ad campaign for Genoa

Rome, Italy, Jan 13, 2009 (CNA) - Italian atheists, following the lead of atheists in the UK and Spain, announced Monday they will launch an ad campaign February 4 on two public buses in the city of Genoa, with the sponsorship of the Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics of Italy.
 
“Our campaign is a challenge launched by atheists in Bagnasco’s region,” said Union secretary general Raffaele Carcano, referring to the fact that the Archbishop of Genoa, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, is also president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.
 
The campaign’s slogan will be: “The bad news is God does not exist. The good news is you don’t need him.” Archdiocesan officials gave little importance to the ad campaign. “This is a campaign that will lead nowhere. Some methods promote dialogue, others encourage intolerance, and direct opposition is always a manifestation of intolerance,” said Gianfranco Calabrese, Director of Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Genoa.

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Holy Father recalls life of Cardinal Pio Laghi, first U.S. papal nuncio

Vatican City, Jan 13, 2009 (CNA) - Concluding today's funeral Mass for Cardinal Pio Laghi, the first papal nuncio to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI recalled the career of the prelate who died on Sunday, January 11 at the age of 86 after battling a long illness.

At the end of  the Mass, celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodao, dean of the College of Cardinals, Benedict XVI recalled the various stages in the life of the cardinal beginning with his birth into a family that gave him a “sound human and Christian formation,” and which he described in his spiritual testament as 'Christian, Catholic, hardworking and honest'."  He then attended school in Faenza, Italy before going on to study at the Major Pontifical Seminary of Rome. 

After his priestly ordination in 1946, Cardinal Laghi studied theology and canon law at Rome's Lateran University before beginning “his long itinerary of diplomatic and pastoral work" in the apostolic nunciatures to Nicaragua, U.S.A. and India, after which he returned to the Secretariat of State for five years, the Pope explained.

 In 1969, the same year he was ordained to the episcopacy, Paul VI appointed him as delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, pro-nuncio to Cyprus and apostolic visitor to Greece.  Five years later, he was appointed as apostolic nuncio to Argentina. He remained there until 1980 when he took the office of apostolic delegate to the United States. "It was during those years," Pope Benedict recalled, "that official relations were established between the Holy See and the U.S. government."

In 1991, Cardinal Laghi was appointed as prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education due to his “long experience and knowledge of the Church," Benedict XVI related.  Two years later he was also given the title of patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Pope Benedict then took time to point out the “special missions” entrusted to Cardinal Laghi such as cosigning a pontifical Message to Israeli and Palestinian authorities in May 2001 which encouraged an immediate cease-fire, and also delivering a pontifical Message to U.S. President George W. Bush "explaining the Holy See's position and initiatives to contribute to disarmament and peace in the Middle East.” 

These were “delicate missions,” explained the Pope "which he, as always, sought to fulfill with faithful dedication to Christ and His Church."

The Holy Father then concluded his tribute by emphasizing how Cardinal Laghi’s death reaffirms our hope in Salvation.  "At the moment in which we bid him farewell, our hearts are moved by the firm hope which ... 'is full of immortality,' the same hope that illuminated the priestly and apostolic life of Cardinal Pio Laghi."

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Prof. Kmiec accuses ‘right wing’ Catholic bloggers of character assassination

Washington D.C., Jan 13, 2009 (CNA) - In his first lengthy article explaining his position after the election of President Barack Obama, Professor Douglas Kmiec is accusing “right wing Catholic bloggers" of distorting his position, attacking him personally, and potentially poisoning the relationship between the Holy See and the future administration of President Barack Obama.

In the article entitled “A Tangled Web. The Election & the Blogosphere,” written for Commonweal magazine, Professor Kmiec explains that “as the author of a book whose title asked Can a Catholic Support Him? –and whose contents answered with an enthusiastic ‘Yes, we can!’- I have felt the animosity of those with an insatiable desire for political payback.”

“I’ve been subjected to unrelenting personal attacks launched from right-wing Catholic keyboards-blogs (and bloggers) so coarse and uncivil they make the insults of talk radio sound like actual journalism,” writes the law professor.

 “Further –he argues- the lack of civility that rules the right-wing Catholic blogosphere has infected mainstream Catholic journalism as well. In a syndicated assessment of the 2008 election, one usually thoughtful conservative columnist employed the following descriptions of Catholic Obama supporters: ‘decadent,’ ‘tribal,’ ‘immoral,’ ‘certainly stupid,’ ‘mindless,’ and in need of basic ‘adult education.’ And those were all in a single paragraph! Such highly concentrated rhetorical venom is not calculated to invite discussion.”

“My online tormentors,” Kmiec continues, “like to claim that their beef with me is my alleged abandonment of the prolife cause or willful misstatement of church teaching. Neither charge is true. I remain unabashedly prolife and I have never consciously misstated the doctrine of the church.”

“This essay,” Professor Kmiec further explains, “is not about abortion, but at least this much must be said: blog lies to the contrary, there is no real legislative interest in FOCA. The attempt to use FOCA to drive a wedge between the church and the incoming administration is unjustified”. He then warns the U.S. bishops: “the bishops, having stated clearly their opposition to FOCA-and rightly so-should not allow the right wing to obscure what Obama shares with the church: concern for the poor; support for the average family; a commitment to ending an unjust war; and respect for our environment.”

“Unless the sore losers of November 4 manage to poison the well, the Holy See and the Obama administration should be working more closely together in service to others than any administration in modern memory,” he opines.

Going back to his criticism of Catholic bloggers, Kmiec writes that “the scurrilous remarks of conservative bloggers missed the point, which was that I and millions of others who voted for Obama did so not despite our Catholic faith but because of it.”

“A hate-filled blogosphere,” argues Kmiec, after defending the sincerity of Obama’s religious beliefs, “feeds a politics of odium, misleading people of faith and good will, diminishing and at times obliterating our ability to know one another.

“Sadly, neighbor-love is not what has overwhelmed my in-box since my Obama endorsement. Instead, right-wing blogs and their readers have launched missiles of hate, delivering ad hominem invective of an astonishing vehemence and crassness.”

Professor Kmiec later laments in his essay that “to be remade by a hateful blogosphere has its price, I’ve learned. I worry that such invitations to speak at Catholic colleges, and the fruitful exchanges these invitations make possible, will be fewer.”

“One member –he says- of the U.S. hierarchy whom I greatly admire has renounced our past association, writing, ‘We are not friends, professor,’ and answering my invocation of Christian brotherhood with a curt retort: ‘I do see you as a brother in Christ –a brother who is serving an evil end.’ The greatest personal price I have paid is the loss of old-and the preemption of new-friendships.”

Kmiec also confesses that when America Magazine’s blogger Michael Sean Winters speculated that the Obama administration might name him as ambassador to the Holy See, he was “flattered” and started seriously thinking about the possibility.

But he claims that “neither God nor the president-elect had an opportunity to answer before the blogs were recycling their various calumnies, and adding now an anonymous voice allegedly saying ‘it would never happen.’”

Kmiec doesn’t reserve blame to “right wing” Catholic bloggers alone. In his essay, he says a role were played by “unfortunate remarks,” like the ones of Archbishop Raymond Burke calling the Democratic Party “the party of death,” and of Cardinal Francis Stafford at The Catholic University of America “describing some of the policies of the president-elect as ‘aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic.’”

But he returns to his accusations against “right-wing Catholic bloggers,” saying they are “acting as a thinly disguised political front for the GOP" and "remain fixated on the goal of precipitating an unnecessary war between the Holy See and America’s next administration. It is dismaying to see a few American prelates and their ‘anonymous’ Vatican commentators acting as witting or unwitting coconspirators in this divisive action.”

Nevertheless, Professor Kmiec takes solace in the fact that “blogs have not closed the mind of the new president and, like Lincoln, he bears ‘malice toward none’ and manifests ‘charity for all’.”

“Even spinning a pervasive web of falsehood, the right-wing Catholic blogosphere is no match for the self-evident truth of that golden rule-nor would its bloggers want to be, were they to indulge a microsecond of charitable thought before hitting the send button,” he concludes.

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Archbishop Lefebvre signed every one of Vatican II’s documents

Rome, Italy, Jan 13, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who died in 1991 and was excommunicated for ordaining four bishops in 1988 without the Pope’s permission, did indeed sign every document of Vatican II—the same documents he would later harshly criticize, according to a recent article in the Italian magazine Panorama.

The article entitled, “In the Secret Heart of the Vatican,” written by Ignazio Ingrao, states that among the documents kept at the Vatican Secret Archives “are those of the Second Vatican Council, which unmasked an historic falsehood spread by the traditionalists,” led today by schismatic Bishop Bernard Fellay, who several months ago rejected a proposal by the Holy See to return to full communion with the Catholic Church.

“Marcel Lefebvre, the archbishop who contested the conciliar reforms and was excommunicated for having ordained four bishops without the Pope’s permission, in reality signed the documents of Vatican II with his own hand, beginning with the constitution Gaudium et Spes, which he later would harshly criticize,” Ingrao wrote in his article.

“The signature of Lefebvre appears at the bottom of the Council documents,” said historian Piero Doria of the Vatican Secret Archives, who helped Ingrao in the research.

In exclusive statements to CNA, Ingrao explained that this was “the first time a photographer and journalist were allowed to photograph and describe” the vast area “where letters relative to the two thousand year history of the Church are conserved.”

Ingrao also told CNA, “In reality, historians and experts already knew that Lefebvre had signed the Council documents. But many people were not aware of this, and traditionalist propaganda spread the belief that Lefebvre had always opposed the documents. The original copies of the Vatican II documents show the contrary and for many this has come as a surprise.”

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Cardinal George praises Fr. Neuhaus' ecumenical work

Washington D.C., Jan 13, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, has issued a tribute to the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus praising him for his life-long efforts at ecumenism.

Father Neuhaus was a noted Lutheran theologian who converted to Catholicism in 1990. He was the founder of the journal First Things and was known for advocating for the place of religion in the public debate through his Institute on Religion and Public Life. Fr. Neuhaus passed away on January 8 at the age of 72.

Cardinal George issued the following statement:

"Many are grateful for the service that Father Richard John Neuhaus offered to the entire Church, especially through his contributions at the Institute on Religion and Public Life. He was an exemplary priest and a personal friend.”

"As the testimonials from persons of all faiths have shown, Father Neuhaus's work in the area of ecumenism was appreciated by those who saw the importance of working together for the common good of our nation. He had the ability to engage in dialog that was intellectually honest, fully respecting each person while remaining true to his own faith.

"Father Neuhaus will be deeply missed. His life and work were a great gift to the Church and to the country he loved so much. It is my prayer that the Lord will bring him quickly home."

Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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Plenary indulgences available to participants in World Meeting of Families

Vatican City, Jan 13, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican has announced that Pope Benedict will grant a Plenary Indulgence to the faithful who “participate devotedly” in the Sixth World Meeting of Families scheduled to be held in Mexico City on January 14 – 18.

 

The decree, signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, O.F.M. Conv., respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, made clear that the indulgence can be obtained “under the usual conditions: sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion, prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, and with the soul completely detached from any form of sin."

 

The decree also explained how those who cannot attend the meeting in Mexico can receive the indulgence. “Truly repentant faithful who are unable to participate in this event may nonetheless obtain Plenary Indulgence under the same conditions if, united in spirit and heart with the faithful present in Mexico City, they and their families recite the Our Father and the Creed, or other devout prayers, to invoke the aforementioned aims from Divine Mercy, especially at the moments in which the words and messages of the Pontiff are being transmitted by television and radio."

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Colombian president asks for Vatican intervention to free hostages

Bogotá, Colombia, Jan 13, 2009 (CNA) - The president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, unexpectedly put forth a proposal Monday asking Pope Benedict XVI name a delegate to negotiate the release of six hostages being held by the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), although the Colombian Ambassador to the Holy See said the mediation could fall to the Colombian bishops.

The FARC announced on December 21 their intention to release the ex-governor of the province of Meta, Alan Jara, former congressman Sigifredo Lopez, three police officers and a soldier, but only on condition that a “representative of the international community” together with the International Red Cross Committee be involved in the release.

President Uribe has resisted participation by any foreign government, but before departing for the United States this week, where he will receive the Presidential Medal of Honor from George W. Bush, he said, “If the Catholic Church, at the national level or even at the Vatican, the Vatican Secretary of State, or the person or institution designated by his Holiness can help to secure the release of the hostages, the Government would authorize that and would welcome it.”

The Catholic Church in Colombia said it was “surprised” by the president’s proposal, although it said it was willing to facilitate the release of the hostages.  “In recent days there has been no dialogue in that sense,” said Archbishop Ruben Salazar, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia.

Family members of the hostages reacted positively to the news. “We have received the words of the President with much optimism and we are convinced that every moment we are closer to seeing them and embracing them,” said Claudia Rugeles, the wife of former Governor Jara.

In Rome, Colombia’s ambassador to the Holy See, Juan Gomez Martinez, told the French news agency AFP, “The Colombian Church or the Apostolic Nuncio in Colombia could participate in the release of the hostages that the guerillas are willing to release,” but he added, “For now, no official request from the Colombian government has been sent to the Vatican.”

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Holy See calls for cease-fire and renewed negotiations

Vatican City, Jan 13, 2009 (CNA) - In an address made public Monday afternoon, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the permanent observer of the Holy See to the U.N. in Geneva, called upon Israel and Hamas to put an end to hostilities and resume negotiations.

Archbishop Tomasi delivered his appeal during the ninth special session of the Human Rights Council, and called attention to "the grave violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent aggression of the occupied Gaza Strip."

The prelate’s January 9th address called for solidarity with victims of extreme violence, and appealed to the warring parties in the Holy Land to observe a cease-fire and return to negotiations.

His statement was intended to express "solidarity with both the people in Gaza, who are dying and suffering because of the on-going military assault by the Israeli Defense Forces, and the people in Sderot, Ashkelon and other Israeli cities who are living under the constant terror of rocket attacks launched by Palestinian militants from within the Gaza Strip, which have caused casualties and wounded a number of people," the archbishop said.

The Holy See’s permanent observer also underscored the need for the international community to put pressure on Israel and Hamas to end the violence.

"It is evident,” he said, "that the warring parties are not able to exit from this vicious circle of violence without the help of the international community that should therefore fulfill its responsibilities, intervene actively to stop the bloodshed, provide access for emergency humanitarian assistance, and end all forms of confrontation.

"At the same time," he added, "the international community should remain engaged in removing the root causes of the conflict that can only be resolved within the framework of a lasting solution of the greater Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the international resolutions adopted during the years."

 

 

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ACLU targets U.S. bishops over aid to victims of trafficking

Boston, Mass., Jan 13, 2009 (CNA) - The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that a contract it granted to the U.S. Catholic bishops to help victims of human trafficking allows the bishops to force their beliefs on those they serve.

The allegations leveled by the ACLU are related to grants made by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to the U.S. Bishops’ Conference (USCCB) to care for people—mainly women and children—who have been victimized by human traffickers.

The ACLU’s Director of Litigation, Daniel Mach, argues that the Bush Administration allowed the USCCB to "to impose its religious beliefs on trafficking victims by prohibiting sub grantees from ensuring access to services like emergency contraception, condoms, and abortion care."

As part of their agreement with the DHHS to help trafficking victims, the USCCB stipulated that they would not work with subcontractors who provide abortion services or contraceptives, since both are contrary to Catholic teaching.

The Catholic Church teaches that contraception is immoral because it purposely denies the gift of life and does not involve the total gift of self that should take place between husband and wife, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The ACLU claims that the bishops’ conference was awarded $6 million to assist the victims, but Sr. Mary Ann Walsh told Reuters that although that amount was authorized, "far less" money had been appropriated.

"The problem of trafficking in this country is huge and serious and the Catholic Church has the best network of services bar none," she said. "Going to the Catholic Church for social services is very logical."

CNA contacted the USCCB for comment but did not receive a response before press time.

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President Bush declares Religious Freedom Day

Washington D.C., Jan 13, 2009 (CNA) - With less than a week remaining in his presidential term, President Bush has proclaimed January 16 as Religious Freedom Day, a day to celebrate the United States’ “legacy of religious liberty.”

 

After noting that “religious freedom is the foundation of a healthy and hopeful society,” the President explained that on Religious Freedom Day, “we recognize the importance of the 1786 passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom” and also the “first liberties enshrined in our Constitution's Bill of Rights, which guarantee the free exercise of religion for all Americans and prohibit an establishment of religion,” he said, according to a White House press release.

 

President Bush continued by recalling that the U.S. was founded by people seeking to escape religious persecution, “and the religious liberty they found here remains one of this land's greatest blessings.” 

 

“The United States also stands with religious dissidents and believers from around the globe who practice their faith peacefully,” he added.  “Freedom is not a grant of government or a right for Americans alone; it is the birthright of every man, woman, and child throughout the world.  No human freedom is more fundamental than the right to worship in accordance with one's conscience.”

 

He concluded by defining Religious Freedom Day as not only an “opportunity to celebrate our legacy of religious liberty,” but also a time to “foster a culture of tolerance and peace, and to renew commitments to ensure that every person on Earth can enjoy these basic human rights.”

 

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, who served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom for three and a half years, agreed about the importance of religious freedom. “The right to believe in God and to practice our religious faith without harassment is our most precious freedom as Americans.  But this same freedom rightly belongs to all human beings, as sons and daughters of the same Father,” he told CNA. 

 

“President Bush has done a great service to believers everywhere by naming January 16, 2009, as Religious Freedom Day.  May all his successors in office provide religious liberty with the same esteem and protection."

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Planned Parenthood cuts staff after Madoff scandal causes funding loss

, Jan 13, 2009 (CNA) - Suffering declines in funding caused by the economic crisis and the Madoff scandal, Planned Parenthood Federation of America is laying off around 20 percent of its staff.

About 30 people were laid off early last week, Crain’s New York Business reports.

“As with many other nonprofit organizations, Planned Parenthood has had to make staff reductions at our headquarters due to the challenging economic times facing our country,” Maryana Iskander, the organization’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “While taking this action is never easy, we want to ensure the millions of women and men who rely on Planned Parenthood as a health care provider that the reductions will not impact our ability to deliver care to those in need.”

A significant portion of the organization’s funding came from the Florida-based Picower Foundation, listed as the 71st-largest in the nation by the Council on Foundations.

The Picower Foundation was one of the few major funders of pro-abortion groups. According to Crain’s New York Business, it gave $484,000 to Planned Parenthood, $600,000 to the Center for Reproductive Rights, and $200,000 to the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project last year.

The foundation claimed assets of $1 billion and has distributed more than $70 million in grants between 2004 and 2007 in support of its stated mission to advance “education, medical innovation and an equitable and inclusive society.”

“The Foundation’s efforts to achieve a more equitable and inclusive society consists of supporting projects in human rights, reproductive rights and Jewish continuity,” the non-profit networking web site Idealist.org reports.

The Picower Foundation was forced to close in December due to financial problems with its assets, which were managed by Bernard Madoff.

Last December Madoff’s investments were exposed to be a massive $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

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