Oakland, Calif., Jan 22, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Vigneron, the next Archbishop of Detroit, has expressed disappointment with Obama’s position on abortion and has called for forceful opposition and coalition-building to counter it.
Archbishop Vigneron, speaking in an interview with the Detroit News, said he shares other bishops’ concerns that the Obama administration has given indications that the president is going to rescind some protections for the unborn.
“And I am very disappointed in that,” he told the Detroit News. “We are going to have to represent our opposition as forcefully as we can and try to build coalitions to dissuade the administration from moving to that.”
The archbishop declined to answer whether he would deny Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, calling it a “hypothetical question.”
“I simply want to affirm that part of being a Catholic is having a conviction that on these moral matters, the church speaks the mind of Christ. And I want to help Catholics, especially Catholics in responsible positions, to maintain the integrity of their professions,” he told the Detroit News.
Archbishop Vigneron also voiced concern about the economy of Michigan and its impact on people and families.
Other plans for his new flock include reinvigorating the priesthood by encouraging vocations and focusing on pastoral care for students at Catholic colleges and universities.
The archbishop added that he will immerse himself in the archdiocese’s “Together in Faith” reorganization program which is closing or consolidating dozens of parishes.
Ann Arbor, Mich., Jan 22, 2009 (CNA) - Paul Henkels, a Knight of Malta who sat on the boards of organizations such as the St. Thomas More Law Center, died in his home in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania on January 11 at the age of 84.
Henkels, who served in the Army Signal Corps in France in World War II, was the chairman of the worldwide engineering, construction, and maintenance firm Henkels & McCoy, Inc.
He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors of Temple University Hospital, the Lejeune Institute, Vatican Observatory Foundation, the Arts & Letters Advisory Council of Notre Dame, and the American College of Louvain University in Belgium. Henkels was also a supporter of CNA.
An expert in labor relations, Henkels received honorary degrees from Chestnut Hill College and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and was awarded the Award for Excellence by the Commission for Independent Colleges and Universities.
He was also a long-standing member of the St. Thomas More Law Center’s Citizens Advisory Board.
Henkels is survived by his wife of 51 years Barbara, ten children, and 27 grandchildren.
“The Thomas More Law Center mourns the loss of a great Christian man,” said Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center. Paul Henkels was a man fighting in the arena – not afraid. He will be missed.”
Berkeley, Calif., Jan 22, 2009 (CNA) - St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California has invited the sixties radical Bill Ayers to speak in a lecture series titled “Against the Grain.” The college says Ayers will “discuss his life and work and their inevitable intersection in the pursuit of social justice.”
Ayers, presently an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, co-founded the Weather Underground in 1969. Originally called the Weathermen, the Weather Underground was a left-wing terrorist group that planted bombs in public buildings, including the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, and a New York City police station, the California Catholic Daily reports.
President Obama’s connections to Ayers were a topic of controversy during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Saint Mary’s College has about 4,500 students and is run by the Christian Brothers. The college’s announcement says its lecture series forces students to “step out of their comfort zones” and “explore new intellectual territory.”
The college’s announcement of Ayers’ Jan. 28 lecture says he is “noted for his work in education reform and also for his controversial history as a founder of the Weather Underground.”
A group called the “Simple Justice… Not Social Justice Coalition” has announced that it will sponsor educational activities on the day of Ayers’ lecture to speak out against his presence.
“We intend to peacefully counter Ayers’ hateful ideology, which is not compatible with America’s most noble traditions,” the coalition said in a statement, adding that a rally and vigil will be held before and during Ayers’ speech outside of the college’s Soda Center, the event’s venue.
According to the California Catholic Daily, the coalition called the Weather Underground a “domestic terrorist organization” and charged Ayers with being “personally involved in a campaign of violence” and bombings.
“On March 6, 1970 Ayers’ then-girlfriend, Diana Oughton, was killed along with two accomplices when the bomb which they were building prematurely detonated,” the coalition charged. “That bomb was going to be used to kill American soldiers at Ft. Dix, New Jersey. Ayers remains completely unapologetic about his violent past and was quoted as saying he wished he had ‘done more.’”
Ayers’ lecture reportedly will be on the topic “Trudging Toward Freedom.”
Vatican City, Jan 22, 2009 (CNA) - Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican expert of the Italian daily "Il Giornale" announced today that Pope Benedict XVI has decided to revoke the decree of excommunication of the four bishops consecrated by French Bishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988, creating a schism in the Catholic Church.
The suspension of the excommunication of the Lefebvrist bishops has been making the rounds of several conservative blogs, mostly in Spanish, since Monday.
Although the announcement of the declaration was expected for Wednesday or Thursday, a Vatican source confirmed to CNA that it will be made public on Friday via the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, headed by Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio.
This decree will mean, Tornielli explains, that "the superior of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, Bernard Fellay, and the other three bishops, Alfonso de Gallareta, Tissier de Mallerais and Richard Williamson will no longer be excommunicated."
According to Tornielli, who first suggested the move on his blog on Wednesday, the decision "has been maturing in the recent months," after Fellay sent a letter requesting Pope Benedict to revoke the act taken by Pope John Paul II following Lefebvre's decision to ordain the bishops.
"It was then a schismatic act, since those consecrations were not legitimized by the Pontiff, justified by Lefebvre as a necessity for the survival of his Traditionalist community. A community that had accepted neither the post conciliar liturgical reform nor some decrees of the Second Vatican Council, all of them signed by Lefebvre himself, including the one on religious liberty," Tornielli writes.
On January 20, the Traditionalists completed 1.7 million Rosaries as part of a campaign initiated by the four Lefebvrist bishops during a pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Lourdes on the occasion of the feast of Christ the King. The campaign was launched to "obtain from Our Lady the lifting of the decree of excommunication of 1988."
The two consecrating bishops--Marcel Lefebvre and the Brazilian Antonio de Castro Mayer--and the four bishops of the Fraternity of St. Pius X were all excommunicated by Pope John Paul II. Both Lefebvre and Castro Mayer are deceased.
Vatican City, Jan 22, 2009 (CNA) - After the conclusion of his weekly general audience yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI was made an honorary citizen of the Marian pilgrimage town of Mariazell, Austria. The Pope said that the honor allows him to live close to the mother of God, in his heart and now by law.
The brief ceremony included Helmut Pertl, town mayor; Bishop Egon Kapellari of Graz-Seckau, and Fr. Karl Schauer O.S.B., rector of the Shrine of Mariazell.
The Holy Father responded to being made a citizen of Mariazell because it means "being able to live so close to the Mother of God."
Benedict XVI is no stranger to the Marian shrine, having visited it during his trip to Austria in September 2007.
"Mariazell is much more than just a 'place,'" he explained. It also represents "the living history of a pilgrimage of faith and prayer down the centuries."
At the shrine, he observed, one finds a "real answer" that says "God exists and that, through His mother, He wishes to remain close to us. ... For this reason I am happy to be at home in my heart and now, so to say, also by law, in Mariazell."
After highlighting how Our Lady of Mariazell has such "impressive" names, Benedict XVI explained that the Virgin "is above all 'Magna Mater' (Great Mother) yet," he said, "her greatness is evident precisely in the fact that she addresses herself to the smallest, that she is present for them, that we can turn to her at any moment ... just with our hearts."
Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2009 (CNA) - Pro-Obama Catholic organizations who have been promoting the idea the fight against Roe v. Wade should be abandoned by pro-lifers and replaced by a social agenda allegedly aimed at reducing abortions, have announced their presence at today's March for Life in Washington D.C.
A coalition calling itself RealAbortionSolutions.org, organized by the politically progressive group Faith in Public Life, has bought ads in today’s Washington Examiner and Washington Post Express and on capital-area Christian radio to promote an approach to the pro-life cause that sounds more Democratic friendly and that assumes that the 30 plus years of pro-life activism since Roe v. Wade has been just "rhetoric."
The ads promote what they call "solutions based on results, not rhetoric," by expanding adoption, supporting pregnant women and new mothers, preventing unintended pregnancies, and other steps that avoid changing the laws that make abortion legal in the country.
Simultaneously, another group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, held a legislative briefing for an audience on Capitol Hill to propose the same recommendations for reducing the abortion rate. According to Jennifer Goff, Director of Communications for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, CACG is a "nonpartisan lay organization that seeks to promote the social justice teachings of our faith—including an end to abortion, which is a profound moral failure in our country," and strongly rejected the characterization of the group as "Obama Catholics."
In an email to CNA, Goff said that "the audience for our briefing consisted entirely of pro-life marchers who are eager—as we are—to put an end to the tragedy of abortion in America. We did not query each attendee and, therefore, cannot speculate as to their political affiliation."
According to Duquesne University Law School former dean Nicholas Cafardi, and a prominent Catholic backer of the Obama campaign, who participated in the legislative briefing urging support for a Pregnant Women's Act, the event was attended by about 120 marchers and legislative staffers, including the chief of staff for Pennsylvania's Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat.
Goff described CACG's position saying that “we believe we need a comprehensive approach to ending abortion, which includes both protective laws and supportive laws, and are, therefore, calling for bipartisan support for the Pregnant Women Support Act."
Nevertheless, during the election cycle, both CACG and Catholics United were harshly criticized by the U.S. bishops. Among them was Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, who described the groups as "friendly to the Democrat Party” and as having “done a disservice to the Church.” These groups, Chaput said, have “confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress prolifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.”
Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2009 (CNA) - This morning Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) addressed the crowds at the March for Life in Washington D.C., which commemorates the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion in the United States. The representative exhorted pro-lifers to never give up the fight, even in the face of a pro-abortion President.
In his comments, the representative spoke to the thousands of protestors gathered from around the United States by recalling the words President Barack Obama spoke in his inauguration speech on Tuesday. The new President referred to the “God given promises” of freedom, equality and a chance of happiness, Smith recalled.
“Which begs the question, will our new President extend the ‘God given promise’ of hope, freedom, justice, respect, compassion, and protection and a simple chance at happiness to America’s unborn children?” the representative asked.
“Sadly,” he answered, “waiting in the wings, barely visible in the shadows, ready to pounce, lurks the most extreme pro-abortion agenda in American history.”
On the campaign trail, Obama spoke of the importance of reducing abortion, Rep. Smith noted. However, the representative went on to explain how President Obama’s agenda would only lead to an increase in the deaths of the unborn.
“Curiously, the very people who claim to want to reduce the number of abortions will seek to degrade, undermine, and if they get away with it, repeal outright, hundreds of federal and state pro-life laws that have demonstrated over time to have saved millions of innocent lives,” Smith said.
The New Jersey representative backed up his argument with statistics from both the liberal Alan Guttmacher Institute and pro-life advocates. According to Smith, the numbers show that “federal prohibition on taxpayer funding for abortion significantly reduces the number of abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute 18-35 percent of Medicaid patients who would have had an abortion carry their babies to term when Medicaid funding is not available.”
Rep. Smith lent his support to pro-lifers, asking them to remain strong. “Despite this present darkness, be encouraged. Be strong. Be brave. For the scripture tells us, the Lord our God is with you. Continue to pray, fast and to work hard. Joyfully embrace the noble challenge set before us to defend the most vulnerable. For in time we will prevail and overcome the injustice of America’s culture of death, innocent lives depend on what we do today!”
“Let this be absolutely clear,” Smith exhorted the crowd, “Pro-Lifers will never quit, be discouraged or grow weary! What God has given, what God has promised to us all – the right to life – no man, including President Obama, can take away.”
Rome, Italy, Jan 22, 2009 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to Israel and Cyprus and the Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem, Archbishop Antonio Franco, visited the Gaza Strip this week to personally deliver a donation from Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholic community of the region and to express the Pontiff’s spiritual closeness.
In statements to the Italian news agency SIR, the nuncio said, “I have visited the center of Gaza, where I saw much destruction. The damage is gravest on the outskirts.”
The nuncio also recalled that when he celebrated Mass at the Parish of the Holy Family, it was “packed with the faithful.” It was to these people that the archbishop said he brought “the closeness, the prayer and the solidarity of the Pope through a personal donation that is intended to alleviate the sufferings of these days.”
“Solidarity,” he explained, “is fundamental at this time because it is a useful instrument to create conditions of peace and reconciliation.”
Archbishop Franco later added, “I was able to speak with the pastor, Father Musallam, with the sisters and with many other people who have told me their fears and their sufferings.” In addition, he explained, “There is a sense of hope among the people that this ceasefire will allow life to more or less return to normal and that efforts will be made to achieve a true peace. The people are tired of this situation and of this uncertainty of the tomorrow and they want peace.”
“We hope,” he said, “that politicians will concentrate at least a little on the sufferings of the people and find solutions, without falling into power struggles and self-interest.” “I think Obama said it: true solutions for the problems that afflict humanity are what work.”
Rome, Italy, Jan 22, 2009 (CNA) - Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad, Shlemon Warduni, said this week, “Words are nice, but it is now time for action. Leaving Iraq ‘responsibly’ is possible but only by leaving it in peace and security,” he said in reference to statements by President Barack Obama during his inaugural address.
According to the Italian news agency SIR, Bishop Warduni also said that Iraq “should be left in the hands of the Iraqis and not foreigners. We hope that all foreign forces will leave Iraq … but only after a true peace, true stability, is achieved. There should not be any external pressure or interference. Iraq should be given to the Iraqis,” he said.
Bishop Warduni has been in Rome for several days awaiting his “ad limina” visit with the Pope, which will begin on January 23. “The Pope prays for us and we ask him to do whatever is possible to liberate Iraq from the disaster it is in and thus support reconciliation, the return of security and stability.”
Madrid, Spain, Jan 22, 2009 (CNA) - The Spanish Federation of Pro-Life Associations has demanded that the ministers of Health and of Equality, Bernat Soria and Bibiana Aido, respectively, close the El Bosque Clinic out of caution “in order to carry out an appropriate investigation” into the recent death of a 21-week pregnant woman who died from a botched abortion.
In a statement, the Federation also asked for “rigorous control of all the other clinics where we know the law is being violated and inadequate practices and profiting at the expense of the pain of others are taking place.”
The statement said explanations by the director of the clinic, Sergio Munoz, were “not convincing,” after he claimed the woman died from “an embolism of amniotic fluid.”
“Various gynecologists we have consulted agree that if what happened was an embolism of amniotic fluid,” it was caused “by the contractions that were triggered to induce labor and probably by an overdose” of the inexpensive drugs that are often used to bring on contractions and therefore abortions.
“We assume that prior to this inducing, different tests and analyses were carried out. All of this should be investigated,” the Association stated.
It also called on the ministers to establish “an office where women, with complete assurance of their privacy, can denounce the excesses and lack of information experienced at these clinics.”
“We cannot remain passive about this death, which is one of many that have occurred at public and private clinics and that have been unreported by the media. Now it’s not only the unborn that are dying,” the Association said.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 22, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela has issued a statement in response to an attack against the Apostolic Nunciature on Monday, calling for the “eradication of the language of hatred and acts of violence,” as well as for greater dedication to the “creation of a national climate of peaceful coexistence and solidarity.”
The statement came after the pro-Chavez terrorist group “La Piedrita” attacked the Nunciature in what was the sixth such attack on the Church. The bishops expressed their “deep concern over the attack against the office of the Apostolic Nunciature in Caracas and over other manifestations of violence that have recently occurred in our country.”
As a result of the violent acts that have been carried out against the Nunciature, and that police have yet to address satisfactorily, the bishops demanded that “the competent authorities carry out the necessary steps to investigate these acts and apprehend those responsible.”
The bishops also reiterated their call to “eradicate the language of hatred and acts of violence and for everyone to commit ourselves without delay to the creation of a national climate of peaceful coexistence and solidarity.”
“The national leaders have the obligation to be an example of tolerance and to guarantee civil peace,” the prelates added.
The bishops concluded by expressing their support for the Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela, Archbishop Giacinto Berloco.
Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2009 (CNA) - In an article for the National Review, M. Edward Whelan III, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, made the argument today that the pro-abortion rights U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade is the “Dredd Scott” decision of our age. Both cases, he wrote, invoke “substantive due process” to deny American citizens the authority to “protect the basic rights of an entire class of human beings.”
The 1857 Dredd Scott v. Sandford decision ruled that a prohibition on slavery could not apply to slave owners who brought their slaves into free territory. This ruling helped precipitate the U.S. Civil War.
The 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, Whelan explained, imposed permissive abortion laws nationwide. January 22, 2009 marked the 36th anniversary of the ruling.
He noted that the Dredd Scott decision ruled that a prohibition on slavery “could hardly be dignified with the name of due process.”
“Thus were discarded the efforts of the people, through their representatives, to resolve politically and peacefully the greatest moral issue of their age,” Whelan wrote.
“Roe is the Dredd Scott of our age. Like few other Supreme Court cases in our nation’s history, Roe is not merely patently wrong but also fundamentally hostile to core precepts of American government and citizenship,” he argued.
“Roe is a lawless power grab by the Supreme Court, an unconstitutional act of aggression by the Court against the political branches and the American people. Roe prevents all Americans from working together, through an ongoing process of peaceful and vigorous persuasion, to establish and revise the policies on abortion governing our respective states.”
The Roe v. Wade decision, he charged, imposes on all Americans “a radical regime of unrestricted abortion for any reason all the way up to viability.”
“Sloppy language” in the predominant reading of Roe v. Wade’s companion case, Doe v. Bolton, leaves abortion “essentially unrestricted even in the period from viability until birth.”
Whelan argued that Roe v. Wade fuels “endless litigation” as “pro-abortion extremists” challenge minor abortion-related measures enacted by state legislatures despite such laws being “overwhelmingly” favored by the public. He said these contested measures include those requiring informed consent, parental involvement in the case of a minor who seeks an abortion, and partial-birth abortion bans.
He further argued that Roe v. Wade “disenfranchises” those millions of Americans who believe the “unalienable right to life” warrants “significant governmental protection of the lives of unborn human beings.”
“So long as Americans remain Americans—so long, that is, as they remain faithful to the foundational principles of this country—I believe that the American body politic will never accept Roe.”
A 2007 study sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Judicial Confirmation Network found that Americans were opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade 55 to 34 percent. However, the survey found that Americans were also ignorant about how Roe v. Wade functions in practice.
When educated about the permissive mandates of Roe v. Wade, survey respondents then favored overturning Roe v. Wade by 48 to 43 percent.
Noting a difference of opinion on abortion, Whelan concluded his National Review essay:
“I respectfully submit… it is well past time for all Americans, no matter what their views on abortion, to recognize that the Court-imposed abortion regime should be dismantled and the issue of abortion should be returned to its rightful place in the democratic political process.”
Asked by CNA about the argument of Democratic-leaning Catholics that the legal battle to overturn abortion laws should be abandoned in favor of a "common ground" that would reduce abortions via social policies, Whelan said:
"Genuine pro-lifers have long recognized the need both to provide legal protection to the unborn and to provide support to mothers facing unwelcome pregnancies. There's no reason not to pursue both goals. The policies that President Obama has embraced -- including, for example, repeal of the Hyde Amendment -- would instead result in a dramatic increase in the number of abortions."
Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan 22, 2009 (CNA) - Vietnamese Catholics have reacted critically to the bestowal of journalism awards upon two media outlets for reporting that vilifies Catholics in Hanoi, the Archbishop of Hanoi, and the Church as a whole. Critics also charge the media outlets with fabricating opposition to Catholic protests.
The Vietnamese government awarded The Hanoi Moi (New Hanoi) daily and VTV1 television the 2008 Award for Excellence in Journalism for their reports on property disputes between Catholics and the Vietnamese government, VietCatholic News reports.
The New Hanoi was awarded for its reports on protests at Thai Ha, while VTV1 was awarded for a TV series which allegedly distorted Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet’s statements during a meeting with the People’s Committee of Hanoi.
The television outlet reportedly insulted the archbishop for weeks.
Both media outlets are facing lawsuits from two Catholic women who are demanding apologies, corrections, and compensation for damages and mental anguish because of reports which stated that they had pleaded guilty to charges of disorderly conduct and vandalism.
The women, who denied the charges, were among eight Hanoi parishioners tried last month after participating in mass prayer vigils for the return of a church property in Hanoi that was confiscated by the communist government decades ago.
Mr. Le Tran Luat, the lawyer for the two women told AFP "At the trial, the two women rejected the accusations from the state. They did not admit to having committed any crimes and breaking the law."
"However, the Hanoi Moi newspaper and VTV1 ran news claiming all the defendants had bent their heads and admitted to the crimes.”
“The report was incorrect," he added.
Fr. Joseph Nguyen from Hanoi criticized the decision to award the media outlets, saying the awards “insulted their victims.”
“Catholics in Hanoi as a whole were shocked with news of these awards as these outlets have been so notorious with unethical conduct that has been exposed by readers,” he added.
In covering the protests, the Hanoi Daily provided several quotes from one Nguyen Quoc Cuong, describing him as a Catholic parishioner. The quotation accused the demonstrators at Thai Ha Church of “not following the Catholic catechism.”
However, the Archdiocese of Hanoi confirmed that the parishioner did not exist.
In another alleged fabrication, the Hanoi Daily cited a “dissident Catholic” named Nguyen Duc Thang who reportedly opposed the protests.
While a parish priest was able to confirm that the man was one of his parishioners, he reported that he had died several years ago.
The newspaper also quoted Judge Vu Kim My from Kim Son, only to have the judge report that he had never said anything about the Thai Ha controversy.
According to VietCatholic News, he said the journalist who interviewed him only asked a few general questions about the law, but “everything else was fabricated.”
The Vietnamese media has also reported commentary from two alleged priests opposed to the demonstrators, but the two men had never been ordained.
On Sept. 4 a Hanoi television crew from VTV1 introduced as a Catholic a man who could not produce his Christian name. He eventually confessed he was a poor man and the television crew “gave me some money to act and speak as instructed.”
Remarks of Archbishop of Hanoi Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet were also reportedly distorted by the prominent Vietnamese media outlets.
During a meeting between the archbishop and the People’s Committee of Hanoi, the archbishop commented that “As frequent travelers, we often feel humiliated to be carrier of a Vietnamese passport because no matter where we go, we've always been subject to scrupulous inspection.”
He urged that Vietnam become a “strong, united country” so that its citizens may cross borders without being inspected, as Japanese and Korean citizens are able to do.
State-controlled media doctored the remark to say “we often feel humiliated to be carrying a Vietnamese passport.” The media then condemned him for smearing the nation.
Non-Catholics have also suffered from government control of the media, as in the case of two editors of two popular newspapers who exposed a national corruption scandal involving high-ranking officials. Because of their reports, Nguyen Van Hai was forced to serve a suspended sentence while Nguyen Viet Chien was sentenced to two years in prison.