Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 30, 2009 (CNA) - Several Latin American leaders have criticized President Barack Obama’s Jan. 23 reversal of the Mexico City Policy, arguing its funding of organizations which promote or perform abortions both disrespects the right to life and threatens countries whose laws protect unborn human life.
Christine Vollmer, President of the Caracas-based Latin American Alliance for the Family (ALAFA), in a Wednesday statement called the decision a “horrible way” to begin relations with Central and South America.
“Instead of a positive message of wanting to work to better conditions for every Latin American, President Obama has announced his willingness to fund the enemies of the people of Latin America, whose laws generally are very respectful of the right to life before birth.”
Liliana Negre de Alonso, Vice-president of Argentina's Senate and president of the World Action of Parliamentarians and Political Leaders for Life, attacked the U.S. president’s decision.
“We can’t say we defend human rights if we don't defend the first human right, the Right to Life from conception to natural death,” she said. “To use public funds to finance groups that promote abortion is not respecting the First Human Right, Life.”
Congresswoman Martha Lorena de Casco of Honduras voiced “deep regret and sorrow” that “one of President Obama's first decisions is to revoke the Mexico City policy.”
“I interpret this action as a promotion of abortion and a threat to the national legislation of my country,” she said.
Julia Regina de Cardenal from the El Salvadoran organization "Yes to Life” said her country’s constitution and laws have “total protection” for the right to life from the moment of conception.
“Our ‘Yes to Life’ organization works on a daily basis to provide practical help in a loving and life-enhancing way to poor women who have difficult pregnancies,” she said.
“Ours is the ideal situation: protective legislation and practical, life-enhancing help for people who need it. The U.S. government should follow our example; we shouldn't be pressured to repeat their tragic, anti-life experience!”
Tallahassee, Fla., Jan 30, 2009 (CNA) - Governor of Florida Charlie Crist has vetoed a half-million dollar cut in funding to crisis pregnancy centers in the state.
The Florida Legislature, meeting during a Special Legislative Session, passed a series of budget cuts to address a $2.3 billion shortfall, the Florida Family Policy Council reports. One funding cut passed by the legislature removed $574,728 from the $2 million allocated to the Florida Pregnancy Support Services Program.
The program is administered by the Florida Pregnancy Care Network which maintains a network of 50 crisis pregnancy centers that provide counseling and information to pregnant women to promote and encourage childbirth.
Then-Gov. Jeb Bush launched the initiative in 2005. It aims to provide the same level of information and services to women who desire to give birth that is provided to women who decide to abort their children.
The Florida Family Policy Council said the budget cut would have “severely limited” services and information available for lower income women in crisis pregnancies.
“This would have prevented women from receiving critical education in prenatal care, childbirth, parenting and adoption resources,” the Florida Family Policy Council said in a statement.
“We pray that the 2009 funding for next will also be renewed.”
Boston, Mass., Jan 30, 2009 (CNA) - Fr. Robert Imbelli SJ, a professor at Boston College, has written a reflection on the spiritual themes invoked in the Inaugural Address of President Barack Obama. While noting that the president’s words call for a “renewed covenant” and a “spiritual maturation,” Fr. Imbelli prayed that children “conceived but not born” would be included in this covenant between Americans.
Theology professor Fr. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, began his essay for L'Osservatore Romano by noting the “powerful images” of the Inaugural, such as the image of President Obama fulfilling the “prophetic dream” of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Re-reading the president’s Inaugural Address, Fr. Imbelli said his remarks seem to call for “a renewed covenant of citizenship within the rich patchwork quilt that is the United States.”
In Fr. Imbelli’s view, Obama appealed to the example of generosity given by America’s forebearers and called on present-day Americans to embrace their example.
He said the president appealed to U.S. citizens to re-commit themselves to the common good and “muster the courage to move beyond narrow individual interests to embrace what benefits all.”
Though Americans are of many religious beliefs, Imbelli said, “the President does not hesitate to affirm that the pursuit of the common good is based on a divine imperative and inspiration.”
For instance, Obama declared that it is a “God-given promise” that “all are equal, all are free.”
The president’s comment “We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things” was “one of the most intriguing and pregnant sentences of the speech,” Fr. Imbelli remarked.
The sentence invokes Chapter 13 of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. There St. Paul “realizes that to discern and undertake this way of love requires a spiritual maturity that cannot be taken for granted, but which must be sought and surrendered to,” Fr. Imbelli explained.
Pointing out that the president is not a “Christian preacher,” Imbelli also argued the president is suggesting a “spiritual maturation” is necessary for a thriving body politic.
“Nor is such spiritual maturation solely our work, it is first a gift of grace,” he continued, saying that the Inaugural Address acknowledges God’s grace.
Noting the “special bond” between President Obama’s life and the life of Civil War-era President Abraham Lincoln, Fr. Imbelli referred to Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address in which the president appealed to the “bonds of affection” between South and North and prayed that “the better angels of our nature” would prevail.
“In radically different circumstances, that remains America’s hope and prayer,” Fr. Imbelli’s essay concluded. “One also prays that the angels of children, conceived but not yet born, not be neglected, that the nation’s bonds of affection embrace them as well, that they not be cut off from the covenant.”
Tegucigalpa, Jan 30, 2009 (CNA) - The decision by the Mormon Church to build an enormous temple in front of the most popular Marian shrine in Honduras, Our Lady of Suyapa, has unleashed a wave of criticism and protest, according to Honduran media.
Protestors say the construction of the temple would block the famous view of the shrine of Our Lady of Suyapa as it is approached from a distance.
According to the Honduran daily La Tribuna, “Many Hondurans are concerned because they see an imminent danger that the view that the country has enjoyed of the main Catholic church of Honduras for 262 years is in jeopardy.”
Mormons, whose presence in the country is on the rise, but who have never been the object of hostility on the part of Catholics, have asked the local government for a permit to begin construction.
A large number of the faithful, however, have requested the permit be blocked. “This is about safeguarding the integrity of this national monument, and with the construction of a gigantic temple mere feet from the church of Our Lady of Suyapa, we Hondurans are obliged to conserve, rescue and protect the cultural patrimony of the country,” the protesters said.
Mormon leaders were later forced to cancel their plans because the mayor of Tegucigalpa did not issue the necessary construction permits.
The Marian shrine was visited by Pope John Paul II on March 8, 1983, before a crowd of more than one million.
Vatican City, Jan 30, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI’s prayer intentions for the month of February were published this morning and include that pastors be more open to the Holy Spirit and for the Church in Africa.
Pope Benedict's general prayer intention is: "That the pastors of the Church may always be docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in their teaching and in their service to God's people."
His mission intention is: "That the Church in Africa may find adequate ways and means to promote reconciliation, justice and peace efficaciously, according to the indications of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops."
CNA STAFF, Jan 30, 2009 (CNA) - CNA is excited to introduce a new current events and political column written by Deacon Patrick Moynihan, a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois who spent ten years directing a mission school in Haiti. The column, scheduled to be updated every Friday, is titled "Both Oars In."
"I chose the title ‘Both Oars In’ to honor the wisdom and spirituality brought to us by Pope John Paul II," Deacon Moynihan explains. "To row straight toward God, we must be about Faith and Works; we must be willing to examine life under the dual lenses of Theology and Social Doctrine. I hope readers find my commentaries on events and the politics of the day balanced, but never lukewarm. The Truth rarely is."
After receiving his B.A. in Sanskrit and Classics from Brown University and an M.A. in Religious Studies from Providence College, Moynihan taught Latin and English at a Catholic high school. He then worked trading commodities, futures and options for an international trading company before spending ten years in Haiti directing a free Catholic mission school for academically gifted children.
In 2001, Moynihan was ordained a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Rockford, IL where he was the director of formation and later the head of the Office for the Permanent Diaconate from 2001 to 2006. He is now assigned to a "three parish community" in upstate South Carolina where he, his wife and four children moved in 2008 to spend time with his aging parents.
Comfortable with not being among his own, Deacon Moynihan enjoys bringing those who are willing into the camps of others.
Deacon Moynihan adds, "I enjoy the challenge of finding relevant Church teaching to illuminate daily events. This not only sheds light on the good and the bad, it demonstrates the validity and intellectual integrity of Catholicism. It is exciting to know that we belong and offer to others a vibrant and intelligent Faith."
"Both Oars In" can be found under "Columns" in the gray box at the bottom of the page or by clicking here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/columns.php?sub_id=19
Vatican City, Jan 30, 2009 (CNA) - Meeting with members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches today at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI expressed the importance of a united Christian witness in the world today.
The Holy Father began his remarks by praising the group’s commitment to the “search for reconciliation and communion in the Body of Christ.”
"The world needs a visible sign of the mystery of unity that binds the three divine Persons and, that two thousand years ago, with the Incarnation of the Son of God, was revealed to us," the Pope said. "Our communion through the grace of the Holy Spirit in the life that unites the Father and the Son has a perceptible dimension within the Church, the Body of Christ, ... and we all have a duty to work for the manifestation of that essential dimension of the Church to the world."
The Holy Father then highlighted how the commission's recently-concluded meeting "has taken important steps precisely in the study of the Church as communion.”
“The very fact that the dialogue has continued over time and is hosted each year by one of the several Churches you represent is itself a sign of hope and encouragement. We need only cast our minds to the Middle East - from where many of you come - to see that true seeds of hope are urgently needed in a world wounded by the tragedy of division, conflict and immense human suffering."
At the end of the meeting, Benedict XVI referred to the Year of St. Paul and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Noting that the week of prayer was recently brought to a close in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Pope pointed to the Apostle to the Gentiles’ example. "Paul," he explained, "was the first great champion and theologian of the Church's unity. His efforts and struggles were inspired by the enduring aspiration to maintain a visible, not merely external, but real and full communion among the Lord's disciples."
Washington D.C., Jan 30, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that it is initiating the first-ever visitation of women’s religious communities in the United States. The visitations are being undertaken to help strengthen religious communities in the U.S., which are suffering from a sharp drop in vocations and gentrification of their ranks.
On the heels of issuing a report on the health of U.S. seminaries—which were found to be in relatively good condition—the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, headed by Cardinal Franc Rodé, is embarking on a comprehensive study of the more than 400 congregations present in the United States. The visitations will only assess those religious who engage in apostolic or active work, and will not involve contemplative communities.
The visitation process is being spearheaded by Connecticut native Mother Mary Clare Millea, A.S.C.J., who was appointed by Cardinal Rodé. Mother Clare is the superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a group of sisters that is based in Rome but has 135 sisters in the U.S.
According to a December 22, 2008 Vatican decree authorizing the visitations, the study is being undertaken “to look into the quality of the life” of the members of U.S. religious institutes.
Mother Clare estimates that the project will take about two years to finish, and says that upon completion she will submit a confidential report to Cardinal Rodé. There are no plans to publish the findings.
Sr. Eva-Maria Ackerman, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, explained how the several-stage process will work at a press conference in Washington D.C. on Friday.
“First, Mother Clare will solicit voluntary input from the superiors general through inviting them to make personal contacts with her in Rome or in the United States. During the second stage, the major superiors in the United States will be asked for information such as statistics, activities and community practices.”
She continued, “selected on-site visits will be made during the third stage. During this time, the sisters will have an opportunity to share with the visitation teams their joys and hopes, challenges and concerns about their lives as women religious in the Church today. The final stage will be the compilation and delivery of a comprehensive and confidential review by Mother Clare to Cardinal Rodé.”
Sr. Ackerman also added that the “visitations are beginning as we speak.”
In a press release announcing the initiative, Mother Millea indicated that while she is not obliged to visit every community of women religious, she looks forward to learning and better understanding the “multi-faceted dimensions of the sisters’ religious lives, as well as their abundant contributions to the Church and society.”
“I am truly humbled, and a bit overwhelmed,” Mother Millea said of her assignment. “While I have visited each of the communities and missions in my own congregation, the thought of gathering facts and findings about nearly 400 institutes across the United States can be daunting in scope.”
“I am praying for all the sisters who will be a part of this Visitation, and hoping for their prayers “both for the good of the process as well as for me in this role,” she added. “I ask the prayers of the American Catholic clergy and faithful too.”
More information about the visits can be found at www.apostolicvisitation.org.
Rome, Italy, Jan 30, 2009 (CNA) - On Saturday, January 31, the group “Youth For Life,” whose mission is to defend life from conception to natural death, will launch an International Day of Intercession for Peace in the World at chapels of perpetual adoration and Eucharistic devotion.
According to the L’Osservatore Romano, Youth For Life was created on October 7, 2008 “under the protection of Our Lady of the Rosary. This Apostolate appeared out of a common desire of two young Salesians to be signs of the love of God in defense of the inestimable value of life.”
Theology student Francesco De Ruvo explained that his group brings together 300 young people from Italy, Poland, the United States, Israel and Brazil. “The Apostolate ‘Youth For Life’ intends to be instrument of spreading these values, especially through the prayer of spiritual adoption, which is a prayer for unborn children who are in danger of dying in their mothers’ womb,” he said.
Spiritual adoption is done by “praying a decade of the Rosary daily accompanied by a special prayer for unborn children and their parents,” De Ruvo said.
More information can be found at www.youthfl.org
Antananarivo, Madagascar, Jan 30, 2009 (CNA) - Salesian missionaries in Madagascar have announced through the Salesian Info Agency that the violent rebellion against the government has spread from the capital of Antananarivo to surrounding provinces, causing death and destruction.
“The only radio on the air is Radio Don Bosco, it is the only source of information for all of Madagascar that has been spared from the vandalism of the masses,” the Salesians said, adding that all television stations, including those of the state, have gone off the air.
“In the city all of the large stores are closed, very few retail businesses remain open, and malls have been looted and set on fire, especially those owned by President Marc Ravalomanana,” the missionaries reported. “Some basic items such as oil and flour cannot be obtained. Gas stations have run out and people stand in line to wait for new shipments,” they added.
Cardinal Armand Razafindratandra, Archbishop emeritus of the capital, has appealed for calm.
Rome, Italy, Jan 30, 2009 (CNA) - A bishop whose excommunication was recently lifted by the Pope has written a letter to a leading cardinal expressing his regret for the “unnecessary distress and problems” he had caused by making “imprudent” remarks allegedly denying the Holocaust.
The bishop quoted the Prophet Jonah who told shipmates “throw me into the sea” to halt a tempest.
Bishop Richard Williamson is one of the four bishops leading the traditionalist group Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). The bishops’ 1988 excommunications were lifted last week by Pope Benedict in an effort to advance Church unity.
Speaking in a November 2008 interview with Swedish public television, Bishop Williamson had denied that six million Jews were killed in the Nazi genocide. He also denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers and claimed only two to three hundred thousand Jews were murdered.
His remarks were broadcast last week, causing international uproar.
In a Friday post on his blog “Dinoscopus” Bishop Williamson published a letter he sent to Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” tasked with reconciling the SSPX to the Catholic Church.
“Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems,” he wrote. Bishop Williamson, however, did not renounce his position on the Holocaust.
“For me, all that matters is the Truth Incarnate, and the interests of His one true Church, through which alone we can save our souls and give eternal glory, in our little way, to Almighty God,” he wrote.
He then quoted a passage from the Book of Jonah in which Jonah urges his shipmates to take him up and “throw me into the sea.”
“Then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you,” the bishop’s quotation of Jonah continued.
“Please also accept, and convey to the Holy Father, my sincere personal thanks for the document signed last Wednesday and made public on Saturday,” Bishop Williamson’s letter concluded, promising he will “most humbly” offer a Mass for both the cardinal and Pope Benedict.
Father Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office, spoke out against Holocaust denial in a Friday statement to Vatican Radio.
“Those who deny the Holocaust do not know anything either about the mystery of God or the Cross of Christ,” he said, according to SIR News. “The denial is all the more worrying when it comes from the mouth of a priest or of a bishop, namely a Christian minister, whether they are united with the Catholic Church or not.”
Father Lombardi called Pope Benedict’s Wednesday remarks on the Holocaust “a profound reflection” which recalls his speech at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
“Not only had he condemned every form of forgetting and denial of the extermination of six millions of Jews, but he had also stressed that these events are posing dramatic questions to the conscience of all human beings and believers.”
“It is the faith in the very existence of God that is challenged by this appalling manifestation of the power of evil,” Father Lombardi continued, saying the “ultimate answer” of the Christian faith is “the passion of the Son of God.”
These are “most profound and crucial questions,” Fr. Lombardi said. “We cannot and must not avoid them, and even less deny them. Otherwise our faith is deceptive and empty.”
According to Vatican Radio, Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, has sent a letter to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel asking that the Catholic-Jewish scheduled for March in Rome not be postponed because of Bishop Williamson’s statements.
Washington D.C., Jan 30, 2009 (CNA) -
The Republican National Committee has chosen Michael Steele, a devout Catholic who is well-known for his charisma and strong work ethic, as its new chairman.
Steele, who previously served as the lieutenant governor of Maryland, is the first black chairman of the Republican Party. He was selected after six rounds of voting with 91 votes out of a possible 168. Steele beat out Ken Blackwell, Ohio's former secretary of state, and Saul Anuzis, Michigan GOP chairman, to win the chairmanship.
Some Republicans questioned Steele's conservative credentials during the campaigning for the chairmanship because of his past association with Christie Todd Whitman's Republican Leadership Council (RLC). Many conservatives within the Party ridiculed the RLC's "big tent" philosophy, which they say attempted to bring pro-abortion candidates onto the Republican ticket.
Deal Hudson, a Catholic political commentator, explained that he first became convinced of Steele's pro-life convictions by a 2003 meeting he invited Steele to with the U.S. Catholic bishops' executive committee.
According to Hudson, Steele spoke "very directly, but diplomatically, to the bishops about their need to promote the pro-life cause with greater vigor. He talked about his disappointment with their leadership and its consequences among the African-American community. When he finished talking there was a powerful silence in the room."
Steele's pro-life credentials were even further verified by his 2006 Senate run in Maryland, Hudson said.
The new chaiman was in good spirits Friday as he accepted the top post of the Republican National Committee. "It's time for something completely different, and we're gonna bring it to them," he said, according to FOX News. "Get ready, baby. It's time to turn it on."
"People like Mike," former Governor of Maryland Robert Ehrlich Jr. told the Baltimore Sun. "He's really charismatic. He's a really solid person. He's a solid family guy."
Michael Steele’s Catholic roots include attending Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington D.C. and then, in 1981, entering the seminary to study for the Augustinian Friars at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.
After completing the pre-novitiate period, Steele entered the novitiate for the Augustinians in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Six months later, he decided to pursue a career in law.
"Michael was a very bright, articulate man who I would say gave himself very sincerely to the whole process of discernment," Fr. Francis J. Doyle, who was Steele’s novice master and spiritual director, told the Baltimore Sun.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 30, 2009 (CNA) - An ambiguous ruling by the Spanish Supreme Court on the right of parents to exercise conscientious objection to the controversial school course Education for the Citizenry has amplified instead of closing the controversy that has pitted parents against the Socialist government.
The Court issued a press release on Wednesday making known its decision on four cases brought before lower courts in Asturias and Sevilla. It said that in those cases, “the right to conscientious objection does not exist,” and that the school norms that were being challenged “do not violate the fundamental right of parents to have their children receive the religious and moral foundation that is in accord with their own convictions.”
According to the organization Professionals for Ethics, which has been supporting parents who object to the course, the contents of the ruling have yet to be made known. However, it said some conclusions could be drawn about the debate.
“The ruling issued by the Supreme Court affects the concrete instances that were part of the case; it does not affect other cases of objection protected by other court rulings,” the organization indicated. Therefore, “it is impossible to make an assessment of the ruling since it has still not been made public.”
Stressing that it would continue fighting against the controversial school course, the organization stated, “The mobilization of parents in defense of their freedom and that of their children is unstoppable.” “Beyond the binding force of any law or ruling, a democratic government cannot be insensitive to the reality that has led to more than 52,000 objections to Education for the Citizenry and more than 2,000 lawsuits.”
“Schools need to recover the tranquility, consensus and respect for the freedom of all in order to carry out their mission. This Education for the Citizenry has introduced a serious fracture in Spanish education due to the complete lack of dialogue on the part of the government,” the organization said.
The mandatory course, Education for the Citizenry, teaches students to accept homosexuality as normal and is based upon a relativistic worldview.