Archive of January 23, 2009

Florida bishops gear up for Catholic Schools Week

Tampa, Fla., Jan 23, 2009 (CNA) - In preparation for Catholic Schools Week, the bishops of Florida have released a statement recognizing the valuable social contributions made through the sacrifices of parents, students and Catholic educators.  Catholic Schools Week will take place January 25 – 31.


In a statement issued by the Florida bishops earlier this week, the prelates expressed their gratitude to Catholic educators “for their dedication, sacrifice and commitment to Catholic education in our state.”


The bishops specifically thanked parents for their financial sacrifices to ensure that their students would receive a Catholic education.  “We have confidence that this investment will allow their children to make important contributions as responsible citizens and leaders in our Church,” they wrote.


After recalling the service of “past generations of Catholics and Catholic school educators,” the bishops brought to light the work being done by administrators and teachers today.


“Today, the women and men who respond to Christ’s invitation to teach build upon that foundation with a renewal dedication and commitment. We are grateful to each of them for sharing not only their academic expertise with today’s youth, but also their faith by word and action, thus giving witness that the Catholic faith can be a lived reality in the world today. Theirs is truly a vocation of service to the Church. Like parents, they have made many sacrifices to teach in our schools.”


Dedicated Catholic teachers, the bishops pointed out, are playing “a vital role in the formation of future leaders in the Church, future priests and religious as well as an educated laity.”


The bishops concluded their letter by noting that Catholic schools are a blessing to the state, a “light to the nation and a rich resource to the Church.” 


During this upcoming week, “We celebrate their high standards of excellence and the quality of education available in Catholic elementary, secondary and special education schools, and give thanks for their many accomplishments and achievements. Truly, our Catholic schools are ‘the good news in education’.”


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Boston mom accuses McFadden’s previous employers of a ‘cover-up’

Boston, Mass., Jan 23, 2009 (CNA) - A Boston-area Catholic woman is accusing a social justice group of ignoring her warnings that a former employee, who is now jailed under prostitution-related charges, was a danger to women. She also claims that she was threatened with a lawsuit if she made her accusations public, an allegation the group denies.

Carol McKinley, a Boston-area mother and national pro-life activist, told CNA in a phone interview that she first contacted Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG) during the first week of February, 2007 to warn them about harassing behavior by Eric McFadden.

McFadden, who was arrested January 14, 2009 on seven charges related to promoting prostitution, was in the midst of leaving CACG when McKinley first called to report the harassment.

Alexia Kelley, the Executive Director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, told CNA in an email that “Carol McKinley sent correspondence to our offices on February 5, 2007. By that date, Eric McFadden had already submitted his resignation. His last day as an employee with Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good was February 9, 2007.”

When CNA asked Kelley if McFadden exhibited any strange behavior that led to his resignation, she replied, “No he did not.”

According to McKinley, when she spoke with Kelley, she informed her of intimidating messages allegedly left by McFadden on her blog as well as emails sent from his personal email account.

There is no doubt in her mind, says McKinley, that the comments were left by McFadden because she would receive comments on her blog, and then on the same day, emails containing identical comments from McFadden’s personal email account.

Using tracking software on her website, McKinley was able to determine that she was receiving visits from the same IP address in Dublin, Ohio “nearly every five minutes.” On one particular day, she registered 82 visits from the Dublin address.  

A copy of the email Carol McKinley sent to Kelley on February 5, 2007 detailed some of McFadden’s alleged rants and was obtained by CNA.

McFadden reportedly commented:

“Carol an other whack jobs come nowhere close to the message of love of Pope John Paul II. Do not soil his name by associating him with the heretic whack jobs. There is nothing Democratic here. It is the Republican Party that twists the life issue to fit its own sick agenda that is not in line with Church teaching. People like the witch Carol who aligned themselves with the Republican party have placed themselves in a state of excommunication and will be dealt with by Cannon law.” 

“A law suit according to Cannon law has been filed. The heretic McKinley will be brought before the witches council for trial before the next full moon.”

Other messages, according to McKinley, accused her of being a “practicing lesbian” who donated to gay and lesbian groups and was not in accord with the Church’s teaching. 

McKinley explained to CNA that, “I was extremely concerned that McFadden was victimizing other people, that his tone to me included strange sexual nuances and bizarre commentary that were the utterings of a very unbalanced man.”

However, McKinley claims that when she contacted Kelley, instead of addressing her concerns, Kelley retorted that Eric McFadden no longer worked for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and that if she made her allegations against McFadden public, she would be served with a lawsuit.

Kelley remembers the situation differently, saying she was alarmed to hear McKinley’s allegations, but that when she attempted to verify McKinley’s claims, she was unable to do so.

The Catholics in Alliance director also denied that anyone at her organization threatened to sue McKinley. “We said that we would refer the matter to our lawyer, one of whom she had already written on 2/5/07.  We never threatened a lawsuit; and never said anything about her going public or not.”

Kelley also adds that, “at no time” did anyone associated with CACG “instruct Mr. McFadden to communicate with Ms. McKinley in any way” and that they “would never condone such actions.”

“In any event, it is extremely unfortunate that such vitriolic exchanges took place. As Catholics committed to promoting the common good, we emphasize the need for individuals to debate their differences with civility and respect,” Kelley said.

McKinley remains adamant that her phone conversation with Kelley transpired differently.

“If McFadden tendered his resignation prior to February 5th, why would she take a complaint on February 5th against a former employee?  Typically, employers will say ‘so and so is no longer an employee.’ I stand by my testimony.  Alexia was rude to me, said Eric did a great job for them, that I was trying to destroy the reputation of a ‘good man’ and that I should brace myself for litigation if I pursued these allegations,” she said.

“I stand by my testimony. CACG protected and enabled Mr. McFadden and threatened the complainant.  Laity needs to be held to the same standard as we hold priests and Bishops,” McKinley affirmed to CNA in an email.

Chris Korzen, Executive Director of Catholics United, was also a part of the conversation with McKinley, since he was the Director of Communications for CACG at the time.

Mrs. McKinley, who is employed as a legal assistant, claimed that Korzen would not give her an email address or a physical address for CACG's corporate lawyer so that she could notify the lawyer of the danger posed by McFadden.

CNA contacted Korzen on Monday, but he said that he did not have any information that would be useful and would not speak on record about the allegations.

During the course of her correspondence with Korzen, McKinley said that she had explained how in the summer of 2006 she contacted the police department in Columbus, Ohio because she was afraid McFadden’s words would turn into physical retaliation.

The Columbus police, McKinley said, told her that she would have to deal with McFadden locally by taking out a restraining order against him at the Boston Police Department. McKinley did not file a restraining order, reasoning that since she believed McFadden to be “criminally insane,” and that it would only make him “all the more dangerous.”

As far as Catholics in Alliance is concerned, the allegations against McFadden were out of their court once McKinley called the police.  Kelley explained to CNA in an email that, “we deferred to them as law enforcement authorities to conduct an investigation. However, Catholics in Alliance was never contacted by them.”

Following his stint at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Eric McFadden was hired by Ohio Governor Ted Strickland to head up his Office for Faith Based Initiatives.

Meanwhile, McKinley continued to receive harassing messages, leading her to email Strickland's office on October 10, 2007.

A little more than two weeks after McKinley made contact with the governor’s legal counsel Christine Thompson, McFadden had his pay cut and was transferred to the corrections department on Oct. 28, 2007, where he coordinated volunteer and outreach efforts for the prison system's faith-based services. McFadden held that position until March 2008 when his position was eliminated as a part of budget cuts.

Keith Dailey, Gov. Strickland’s spokesman, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that McFadden’s departure from the position was due to his struggle with the job. "This was a leadership position and after some time it became clear it wasn't a good fit and it wasn't working out." "It was a mutually agreed decision," Dailey said.

McKinley explains her motivation for trying to expose McFadden’s past actions is not personal payback for the continual harassment she and her children endured. “I want these organizations to be held accountable for covering up McFadden’s behavior,” she said, charging that his previous employers are acting like some Catholic bishops did when priests were accused of sexual abuse.

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Supreme Knight convokes summit of charitable groups to confront crisis

New Haven, Conn., Jan 23, 2009 (CNA) - In a speech delivered on Jan. 23 at Fairfield University, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson invited the nation’s top charitable and volunteer organizations to attend a summit on Feb. 27 on volunteerism and the charitable response to the economic crisis.


The leader of the Knights of Columbus said that, with the philanthropic giving index down 22 percent, and the economic crisis affecting non-profit organizations nationwide, charities must increase volunteer activity.


The summit will be sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Fairfield University Center for Faith and Public Life. Mr. Anderson’s talk will be available live via satellite and online at


The speech will also encourage charitable organizations to work together with the new administration to emphasize and create opportunities for volunteers, especially at a time when financial donations to charity are decreasing.


“Government and charities must work together for the good of our country, and in difficult economic times, that means creating opportunities for Americans to give of their time and talent, as well as their treasure” said Anderson.


“People may be unable to donate $50 or $100 dollars to charity, but everyone can certainly spend an extra hour a week – that’s less than ten minutes a day – doing something for the good of his or her neighbor.”


Anderson is the author of last year’s New York Times bestseller A Civilization of Love (HarperOne).


The Knights of Columbus is one of the nation’s most active volunteer organizations.   Last year Knights donated more than $144 million and more than 68 million hours to charity.

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Pro-life community organizing effort launches in New York City

, Jan 23, 2009 (CNA) - A new pro-life initiative in New York City is being launched to rally pro-lifers and to persuade other Americans to become pro-life through a door-to-door community organizing campaign.

Organized for Life, the joint creation of the groups Prolife Witness and Pro-Life Unity, plans to distribute pro-life literature and DVDs to every house in targeted neighborhoods. According to its website, the campaign aims to “dispel the myths” publicized by the media and Planned Parenthood while challenging people to think what they mean by “abortion” and “choice.”

The campaign will also engage in crisis pregnancy outreach while bringing the “Gospel of Life” door-to-door.

Another of its aims is to identify and establish relationships with pro-lifers, introducing them to community efforts against abortion such as local opposition to Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics. Organized for Life also aspires to create “a strong local pro-life voting bloc among members of all political parties.”

“The concept of community organizing is not a practice owned solely by leftists and communists, and it is not just for stirring up discontent among the ‘have nots’,” the campaign’s web site states.

Participants expressed optimism about the effort.

"Many of the people whose homes we visited responded positively," said Ruben Obregon, a co- founder of Organized for Life who went door-to-door last week in Staten Island, New York City.

“This groundbreaking initiative takes the abortion and life issues battle beyond the streets and the clinics and delivers the life message directly to the homes of American families,” Obregon added.

Peter Shinn, co-founder of Organized for Life, remarked:

"Life issues need to be delivered in person so America can make educated, informed decisions… I believe one of the best ways this can be accomplished is through face to face contact, which is the backbone of Organized for Life.”

The campaign has been endorsed by David Bereit, National Campaign Director of 40 Days for Life, who called it a “long-overdue effort” that fills a “huge gap” in the pro-life movement, according to a press release from the campaign.

“This is a HUGE opportunity that needs to be taken advantage of in the movement!” Bereit said.

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House Republicans ask Obama to disavow ‘FOCA agenda’

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2009 (CNA) - More than 100 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed a letter to President Barack Obama asking that he withdraw his campaign pledge to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) and other pro-abortion rights laws.

FOCA is legislation designed to protect abortion rights even if the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade is overturned. It threatens to abolish existing minimal state and federal restrictions on abortion and could even threaten the rights of Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform abortions.

The Republicans’ Jan. 21 letter, which was signed by House Republican Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and 104 other House members, “respectfully urged” President Obama to withdraw his pledge to sign FOCA.

During his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama told a July 2007 gathering of Planned Parenthood Action Fund “the first thing I'd do as president is to sign FOCA”

The letter from the Republicans claimed that “in one tragic act,” FOCA would “overturn virtually all pro-life laws nationwide.”

It also urged the president to refuse to support legislation that “incrementally enacts the FOCA agenda” by rescinding or weakening existing pro-life laws in a piecemeal fashion.

Noting the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Supreme Court pro-abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade, the letter said that laws such as the prohibition of taxpayer funding for abortions have been enacted to “mitigate the effects of the decision on unborn babies and their mothers.”

The Republicans’ letter also quoted the Nov. 12 remarks of Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), whose statement to Obama spoke on behalf of all U.S. bishops.

As quoted in the Republicans’ letter, Cardinal George said FOCA would “deprive the American people in all fifty states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry. FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars.”

It would also have “lethal consequences for prenatal human life” and have “an equally destructive effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children,” Cardinal George commented.

The Republicans’ letter to President Obama continued: “We ask that you reject this divisive agenda,” referring to the one lamented by Cardinal George.

The politicians assert that FOCA will not reduce abortions, but rather do the opposite, citing two studies as evidence.

The first, by Michael J. New, reportedly found that the minor abortion rate falls by 19 to 31 percent after parental involvement laws are enacted.

The second, conducted by Heather D. Boonstra and published in the Guttmacher Policy Review, reportedly found that 18 to 35 percent of Medicaid patients who would have had an abortion continue their pregnancies when Medicaid will not pay for their abortion.

“Restrictions on funding for abortion save lives and protect the consciences of millions of Americans who do not want their tax dollars to be used to destroy innocent human life,” the Republicans said in their letter.

Citing President Obama’s expressed desire to unite Americans, the letter continued: “…too much is at stake for this divisive and destructive legislation to move forward and life-saving laws to be rolled back.”

“We respectfully urge you to withdraw your pledge to sign FOCA,” the letter concluded, again asking that the president also not sign legislation that “incrementally” enacts FOCA.

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Likely Moscow patriarch stresses differences with Catholic belief

Moscow, Russia, Jan 23, 2009 (CNA) - An Orthodox prelate considered to be the most likely successor of Patriarch of Moscow Alexy II has said that while Orthodox Christianity shares similarities with Catholicism, there are a “great number of differences” on which “there is no room for compromise.”

Metropolitan Kirill, Patriarchal Locum Tenens of Moscow, made the remarks in an interview recently published by Argumenty i Fakty (Arguments and Facts), SIR reports.

Discussing relations with other Christian confessions, Metropolitan Kirill said: “unfortunately, differences in religious doctrines and practices have increased between orthodoxy and other confessions.”

“With some Protestant communities, such as the Lutheran Church of Sweden and the Episcopal Church of the United States, we have come to a complete break, due to the official recognition of homosexual relations,” he continued.

While noting that the social positions of Orthodox Christianity and the Catholic Church are “more close,” the metropolitan said, “nevertheless, we have be accountable for a great number of differences in doctrine and practice between the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches and, in this regard, there is no room for compromise.”

 “Nevertheless,” he added, “this does not prevent us from being open and friendly with people who share different points of view, and with whom we live in the same society.”

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Pope channel makes debut on YouTube

Vatican City, Jan 23, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has launched himself into the digital age today with the Vatican announcing that a YouTube channel dedicated to his activities and events at the Vatican is now online.

The Vatican’s announcement of its new partnership with Google’s YouTube coincides with the release of the Pope’s annual message for the World Day of Communications, which this year focuses on how to utilize new technologies to promote a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See’s press office, described the Vatican’s YouTube Channel at a press conference today.

Currently, the Channel contains clips of Pope Benedict XVI delivering his Christmas Message and Blessing, the January 1 celebration of the World Peace Day and some segments of the Pope speaking about the advantages of new social technology. The footage for the clips is being provided by the Vatican Television Center (CTV) in conjunction with journalists and the web team of Vatican Radio (RV).

According to Fr. Lombardi, the new channel will be updated daily with one or two news pieces each day, none longer than two minutes.

Fr. Lombardi sees the launch of the Vatican Channel on YouTube as “a real and tangible example of the Church's commitment in the field of new technologies, to reach out to a global audience without regard for nationality or culture,” according to a Vatican press release.

Henrique de Castro, Managing Director of European Sales and Media Solutions for YouTube, who has helped with the launch of the new channel, expressed his pleasure at being able to partner with the Catholic Church. "We are honored that the Vatican has chosen to use the site to communicate with people across the world, and delighted that our community will have access to the words of the Pope on some of the most important issues facing the world today."

He also hailed today’s launch as a “landmark announcement” since it the first ever global religious institution to partner with YouTube.

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Benedict XVI praises new technologies, stresses using them for good

Vatican City, Jan 23, 2009 (CNA) - Speaking on the Holy Father’s Message for the 43rd World Day of Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, explained that the Pope’s message delves into the realm of new technology as a “gift to humanity” and discusses the importance of quality relationships and outreach to young people.

The 43rd World Day of Social Communications will be celebrated on May 24 and will focus on the theme “New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship."  At a Vatican City press conference this morning, Archbishop Celli discussed the Pope Benedict’s message which was published today in English, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and German.

In his remarks Archbishop Celli underlined the fact that this year's message represents "a real watershed" because "the theme itself guides us along the path of novelty, not only by focusing on new technologies but by exploring their effects. It does so by addressing the 'digital generation', thus appealing directly to the young."


The Holy Father’s message praised the young people’s ability to link new media with their desire to be connected to others.  They turn to this technology “as means of communicating with existing friends, of meeting new friends, of forming communities and networks, of seeking information and news, and of sharing their ideas and opinions,” the Pope wrote.


By seeking out others and opening ourselves up to them, Pope Benedict continued, “we are fulfilling our deepest need and becoming more fully human. Loving is, in fact, what we are designed for by our Creator."


The Pope also had some words of caution for the latest means of communication. Users should focus not just on the capacity technologies have to foster contact between people, but also on the quality of the content that is put into circulation using these means, he said. “I would encourage all people of good will who are active in the emerging environment of digital communication to commit themselves to promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship,” the Pope added.


The Holy Father spoke directly of the importance of friendships and cautions against replacing our families and neighbors with online relationships.  “If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development.”

"Truly, we are facing a new world," Archbishop Celli remarked. A world "to be explored not by opening our eyes in amazement before new technological advances, but by opening our hearts and giving room to hope in the face of the great possibilities for the common good opening before us. This is even more important if we consider that the Message also examines certain dangers, associated not just with media distortion but with inequality in the uses to which the media may be put. One is reminded of that 'digital divide' which cannot but be a cause for concern, precisely because the new technologies must be considered as primary resources for human development and promotion."


In the Holy Father’s message he both warned of the dangers of internet and also encourages the good that may come from it.  In particular he spoke against the “sharing of words and images that are degrading to humans, that promote hatred and intolerance, that debase the goodness and intimacy of human sexuality or that exploit the weak and vulnerable.”


He also called on young people to use new technology for evangelization by encouraging them “to bring the witness of their faith to the digital world.”


"The proclamation of Christ in the world of new technologies requires a profound knowledge of this world if the technologies are to serve our mission adequately,” he continued. “It falls, in particular, to young people ... to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this 'digital continent'. Be sure to announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm."

The archbishop concluded his comments on the Pope's new message, saying, “Never before, perhaps, has a Message been so powerful but also so challenging."

Below are excerpts from the Holy Father’s message.

For the full text of the message, click here:

"The new digital technologies are bringing about fundamental shifts in patterns of communication and human relationships. ... In this year's message, I am conscious of those who constitute the so-called 'digital generation' and I would like to share with them, in particular, some ideas concerning the extraordinary potential of the new technologies, if they are used to promote human understanding and solidarity. These technologies are truly a gift to humanity and we must endeavor to ensure that the benefits they offer are put at the service of all human individuals and communities, especially those who are most disadvantaged and vulnerable."


"Young people, in particular, have grasped the enormous capacity of the new media to foster connectedness, communication and understanding between individuals and communities, and they are turning to them as means of communicating with existing friends, of meeting new friends, of forming communities and networks, of seeking information and news, and of sharing their ideas and opinions."


"The desire for connectedness and the instinct for communication that are so obvious in contemporary culture are best understood as modern manifestations of the basic and enduring propensity of humans to reach beyond themselves and to seek communion with others. In reality, when we open ourselves to others, we are fulfilling our deepest need and becoming more fully human. Loving is, in fact, what we are designed for by our Creator."


"Reflecting on the significance of the new technologies, it is important to focus not just on their undoubted capacity to foster contact between people, but on the quality of the content that is put into circulation using these means. I would encourage all people of good will who are active in the emerging environment of digital communication to commit themselves to promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship.


"Those who are active in the production and dissemination of new media content, therefore, should strive to respect the dignity and worth of the human person. If the new technologies are to serve the good of individuals and of society, all users will avoid the sharing of words and images that are degrading of human beings, that promote hatred and intolerance, that debase the goodness and intimacy of human sexuality or that exploit the weak and vulnerable.


"The new technologies have also opened the way for dialogue between people from different countries, cultures and religions. The new digital arena, the so-called cyberspace, allows them to encounter and to know each other's traditions and values. Such encounters, if they are to be fruitful, require honest and appropriate forms of expression together with attentive and respectful listening. The dialogue must be rooted in a genuine and mutual searching for truth if it is to realize its potential to promote growth in understanding and tolerance. Life is not just a succession of events or experiences: it is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this - in truth, in goodness, and in beauty - that we find happiness and joy. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by those who see us merely as consumers in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.


"The concept of friendship has enjoyed a renewed prominence in the vocabulary of the new digital social networks that have emerged in the last few years. The concept is one of the noblest achievements of human culture. ... We should be careful, therefore, never to trivialize the concept or the experience of friendship. It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop on-line friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbors and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation. If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development.


"Friendship is a great human good, but it would be emptied of its ultimate value if it were to be understood as an end in itself. ... It is gratifying to note the emergence of new digital networks that seek to promote human solidarity, peace and justice, human rights and respect for human life and the good of creation. These networks can facilitate forms of co-operation between people from different geographical and cultural contexts that enable them to deepen their common humanity and their sense of shared responsibility for the good of all.


"We must, therefore, strive to ensure that the digital world, where such networks can be established, is a world that is truly open to all. It would be a tragedy for the future of humanity if the new instruments of communication, which permit the sharing of knowledge and information in a more rapid and effective manner, were not made accessible to those who are already economically and socially marginalized, or if it should contribute only to increasing the gap separating the poor from the new networks that are developing at the service of human socialization and information.


"I address myself in particular to young Catholic believers: to encourage them to bring the witness of their faith to the digital world. Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communications and information technology the values on which you have built your lives."


"The proclamation of Christ in the world of new technologies requires a profound knowledge of this world if the technologies are to serve our mission adequately. It falls, in particular, to young people ... to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this 'digital continent'. Be sure to announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm."


"The greatest gift you can give to them is to share with them the 'Good News' of a God Who became man, Who suffered, died and rose again to save all people. Human hearts are yearning for a world where love endures, where gifts are shared, where unity is built, where freedom finds meaning in truth, and where identity is found in respectful communion. Our faith can respond to these expectations: may you become its heralds! The Pope accompanies you with his prayers and his blessing."

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Pope Benedict willing to take risks to proclaim Christ on the internet

Rome, Italy, Jan 23, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, explained this week that Pope Benedict XVI enthusiastically accepted the idea of having a channel on YouTube, because “it’s worth embracing the risks” this implies in order to proclaim Christ and his Gospel and bring him to the new generations.

In an interview with the L’Osservatore Romano about the Pope’s message for the 43rd World Communications Day, which will be published this Friday and will have as its theme, “New technologies, new relations: Promoting a culture of respect, dialogue, friendship,” the archbishop pointed out, “The Pope has always expressed sympathy for new technologies.”

“If on the one hand,” he continued, “he certainly sees limits and dangers, he also sees it as a positive way to be current. We will see this in the message of Benedict XVI: it is a strongly positive message, in which the Pope emphasizes his sympathies, his appreciation for the positive contributions the new technologies give to man’s journey today.  The Pope speaks of a ‘true gift of God’ in his text. At the same time he affirms that the new technologies are a contribution to social progress.”

Commenting on the reasons that led Pope Benedict XVI to agree to having a YouTube channel, Archbishop Celli explained that the Holy Father “has made this decision because he wants to encounter people where they are at. He wants to encounter them and begin an open, frank, sincere and friendly dialogue.”

However, the archbishop pointed out that “the Pope is aware of the limits and the negative aspects linked to these new technologies,” but he believes that “if people can be found there, then it is necessary to go there and encounter them. Also because it’s about the new generations, that is, the men and women of tomorrow.”

He went on to comment about the “risks” that would come with Pope Benedict XVI appearing on YouTube, saying they “are part of our daily lives. But I think that accepting the challenge to have a presence there is worth it.  I always remember that John Paul II, when he was asked why he made so many trips, said they were pilgrimages to the heart of a most diverse humanity. Well, I think this theory can be applied to the use of the internet to defend the gospel message.”

“And how can you make a pilgrimage to the souls of so many, at work, at school, at home? By using the internet. From now on they will see the Pope in his mission as the successor of Peter. Whoever watches will be offered the possibility to see, to hear, to understand.  It is a pilgrimage in dialogue, reserved and respectful. It will not be to impose anything. Benedict XVI, with his gentle spirit, his cordiality, will offer his teaching to all those who want to hear him in the intimacy of their own rooms.”

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Obama overturns Mexico City Policy, pro-lifers react

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2009 (CNA) - Pro-life leaders reacted critically to President Barack Obama’s Friday reversal of President George W. Bush’s ban on federal funding for international groups that promote or perform abortions. One Latin American commentator charged that the policy weakens anti-poverty efforts and had enabled a coercive sterilization campaign in Peru under the Clinton administration.

The ban, known as the Mexico City Policy, earned its name from a population conference that took place in the Mexican capital in 1984, where it was introduced by President Ronald Reagan. It was reversed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and then reinstated by President Bush in 2001.

Controversy particularly focuses upon the mission of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where an estimated $461 million at stake.

Critics supportive of abortion have characterized the Mexico City Policy as a “gag rule.”

"Women's health has been severely impacted by the cutoff of assistance,” argued Tod Preston, a spokesman for the advocacy group Population Action International, according to Fox News. “President Obama's actions will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, abortions and women dying from high-risk pregnancies because they don't have access to family planning."

Pro-life advocates were critical of the policy reversal.

Carlos Polo, a Peruvian who is Director for Latin America of the Population Research Council, asked “Where is Obama’s promise to fight poverty in order to reduce the number of abortions?”

He predicted the consequences of the new policy, telling CNA:

“The money that USAID has been distributing to fight poverty, relief hunger and droughts, will end up in the pockets of feminist and pro-abortion organizations to push the legalization of abortion in our countries.”  

“The hard-earned American tax payers’ money will be diverted from poor children and women to the fat salaries of feminist leaders. 

“This is not a potential scenario; it is exactly what happened in South America during the Clinton administration, when he reversed the Mexico City policy.  

“In Peru during those years, USAID financed the most brutal, compulsory campaign of sterilizations, with the open support of feminist, pro-abortion organizations, despite the fact that poor, peasant women were the victims of the campaign.”

Polo reported that international outcry forced USAID to end its funding of then-President Alberto Fujimori’s sterilization campaign.

“But by then, thousands of women, most of them in their late teens and early 20s had been sterilized, and several died as a consequence of the procedure.”

The reversal of the Mexico city policy, Polo said, “clearly demonstrates that President Obama is not interested in fighting poverty to reduce abortions, and that there is no possible common ground with those who want to fight for the right to life.

“President Obama has chosen to do exactly the opposite in the poorest countries: increase abortions and reduce help for the poorest.”

Fr. Thomas Euteneur of Human Life International told CNA the change of policy was “expected.”

“It is standard operating procedure for people who are adamant promoters of the culture of death and seek to impose the culture of death on the rest of the world through our tax dollars.

“It is both very harmful and dangerous,” he added.

According to Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president’s action signals the beginning of the “abortion bailout.”

“Abortions here in the U.S. are at their lowest number in years -- so it's unfortunate that President Obama is poised to make subsidizing abortion abroad one of his first priorities,” she remarked in a statement. 

Austin Ruse, director of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, also opposed the move, telling CNA:

“One of the abortion questions that is almost unanimous in America is that we do not want federal funds being spent on abortions. By striking down the Mexico City policy, President Obama gives lie to the claim that he wants fewer abortions. In fact, he is the most pro-abortion President in the history of the Republic. Those so-called pro-life Catholics who supported Obama have a lot to answer for.”

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), characterized the action as the first in an “anticipated series of attacks” on longstanding pro-life policies opposed by President Obama’s “sweeping abortion agenda.”

He suggested that the agenda includes the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion.

“President Obama not long ago told the American people that he would support policies to reduce abortions, but today he is effectively guaranteeing more abortions by funding groups that promote abortion as a method of population control," Johnson said.

“Obama's order will predictably result in a redirection of funds to groups such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which are ideologically committed to the doctrine that abortion on demand must be universally available as a birth control method,” Johnson further charged.

Stephen Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute, predicted possible political fallout for Obama:

“By signing a series of pro-abortion Executive Orders, President Obama will be perceived as governing from the Left. The die will be cast, and pro-lifers will rally against him from that moment. They will start looking towards 2010 to restore some checks and balances on this man they will rightly perceive as a pro-abortion zealot. 

“Clinton's pollster argued strongly against acting on abortion policy as one of the new administration's first pieces of business, but he went ahead regardless. The debacle of the 1994 House elections for the Democrats began at that moment.”

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Pope’s vicar calls on teachers to educate in hope and be witnesses of Christ

Rome, Italy, Jan 23, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, has sent a letter to Catholic teachers encouraging them to educate children and young people in hope, giving clear testimony to the Gospel of Christ and striving to always make an important contribution to contemporary culture.

In his letter entitled, “Educating with Hope,” the cardinal pointed out that for the important mission of education it is necessary to keep in mind the role of families.  “We cannot forget that the first educators are and will always be the parents, therefore dialogue with the mothers and fathers of your students.”

The cardinal also encouraged teachers to be witnesses to Christ and professionals in their field. “While moral rectitude cannot be substituted by professional competencies, it does promote and cultivate them.”

Cardinal Vallini expanded his call to teachers to include being “witnesses of the truth of the love of God.  Children and young people are fervently seeking credible role models: solid, trustworthy teachers capable of offering a word of affectionate closeness at the right time, perceived by both as a gesture of love.”

This “special mission” is carried out in Catholic schools, “which promote a culture whose understanding of man is anchored to the values of the Gospel.”  “Public schools also need your contribution, as education without a religious dimension would be incomplete,” he added.

Therefore, the cardinal stressed, “do not be content with just presenting the religious facts of Christianity: speak as well of the One in whom history and Christian culture find their origin. Any presentation of Christianity that does not put at the center the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the risen and living Lord of history, becomes biased and deceitful.”

Lastly, Cardinal Vallini exhorted teachers not be discouraged amidst the challenges they face in their profession.  “Teach with hope and enthusiasm. The good seed will bear fruit in time,” he said.

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Korean cardinal expresses joy at Christian unity in Korea

Rome, Italy, Jan 23, 2009 (CNA) - Thousands of Catholics and Christians of other confessions gathered in Seoul this week for an ecumenical gathering to mark the Week of Christian Unity. The Archbishop of Seoul, Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jinsuk, expressed his hope that prayer in common would serve as an example to unify Korea.

According to the L’Osservatore Romano, the gathering was organized by the Committee of the Korean Catholic Bishops and the National Council of Churches in Korea. During his remarks, Cardinal Cheong Jinsuk expressed his “indescribable happiness” at the moment. Now we mutually recognize each other as brothers and sisters in the faith through the same Christ.”

According to UCA News, the cardinal told those present, “We can have different ways and manners of praying to our God. However, we pray our Creed with one voice that cannot be divided.”

The cardinal expressed his hope that the example of the unity of Christians, when all of the faithful are united in prayer, may serve as an example as well for Korean citizens of other confessions and that the prayers recited during the week of prayer for Christians would also foster the desired national unity of the entire Korean peninsula.

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USCCB: "reversal of Mexico City Policy is very disappointing"

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2009 (CNA) - Immediately after President Barack Obama signed the executive order reversing the Mexico City policy, at what was described as "a private act in his office," Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities described the decision as "very disappointing."

"It is very disappointing that President Obama has reversed the Mexico City Policy, which prevents U.S. funding of organizations that perform and promote abortion as a family planning method in developing nations. An Administration that wants to reduce abortions should not divert U.S. funds to groups that promote abortions," the statement said.

Cardinal Rigali recalled in his statement what Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to then President-elect Obama last week urging him to retain the policy: "'The Mexico City Policy, first established in 1984, has wrongly been attacked as a restriction on foreign aid for family planning. In fact, it has not reduced such aid at all, but has ensured that family planning funds are not diverted to organizations dedicated to performing and promoting abortions instead of reducing them. Once the clear line between family planning and abortion is erased, the idea of using family planning to reduce abortions becomes meaningless, and abortion tends to replace contraception as the means for reducing family size. A shift toward promoting abortion in developing nations would also increase distrust of the United States in these nations, whose values and culture often reject abortion, at a time when we need their trust and respect.'"

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Colorado bishops: Obama's reversal of Mexico City Policy "profoundly unfortunate"

Denver, Colo., Jan 23, 2009 (CNA) - In a statement issued minutes after the White House confirmed the reversal of the policy protecting foreign nations from the promotion of abortion with US taxes,  the Colorado Bishops' Conference said in a statement that "we are saddened and troubled by President Obama’s reversal today of the Mexico City Policy by executive order."

The bishops recalled that the Mexico City Policy derives from the 1984 United Nations International Conference on Population in Mexico City.  At the time, member nations urged governments to take practical steps “to help women avoid abortion, which in no case should be promoted as a method of family planning, and whenever possible, provide for the humane treatment and counseling of women who have had recourse to abortion.” 

"This policy -the bishops say- bars non-governmental organizations that perform and promote elective abortions from receiving federal tax subsidies for overseas family planning programs." "Promoting abortion as a method of 'family planning' violates the beliefs and ethical norms of many foreign cultures.  It is politically invasive; and in the absence of a global demand for more abortions, it is also unnecessary.  Many developed countries have supported the Mexico City Policy and have acknowledged that a central goal of family planning should be to reduce abortion not promote it," the Colorado bishops say.

"President Obama’s choice to begin his Presidency with an act that will further damage families around the world is profoundly unfortunate.  We urge President Obama to reexamine his stance on this issue, and we encourage all people of good will to work to protect the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death," the statement concludes.

The statement is signed by the bishops that conform the Colorado province,  Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.,   Archbishop of Denver;  Most Reverend Arthur N. Tafoya, D.D, Bishop of Pueblo;  Most Reverend Michael J. Sheridan, S.T.D.,  Bishop of Colorado Springs and Most Reverend James D. Conley, S.T.L., Auxiliary Bishop of Denver.

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