Washington D.C., Feb 11, 2009 (CNA) - Until recently, a Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good study of abortion data claimed that increased spending on welfare programs results in substantial reductions in state abortion rates but many pro-life laws do not. However, the study’s results have been revised following the discovery that incorrect abortion data was used and after criticism from a professor that the group’s conclusions did not follow from the data.
In August 2008, the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good announced the release of a study on the effects of public policy on abortion rates over a 20-year period. The group had commissioned Joseph Wright, who is a political science professor at Penn State University, and Michael Bailey, who is a professor of American government at Georgetown University, to conduct the study.
“The study of all U.S. states from 1982-2000 finds that benefits for pregnant women and mothers, employment, economic assistance to low-income families, quality child care for working mothers and removal of state caps on the number of children eligible for economic assistance in low-income families has reduced abortions,” the group reported in an August 28 press release. “In contrast, permitting Medicaid payments for abortions increased the abortion rate.”
The old version of the report was removed from the site in November 2008 after critics pointed out problems with the study.
The new version credits only Prof. Joseph Wright, acknowledging Prof. Bailey in a footnote for “helpful feedback.”
“This release of the report corrects an error in data used for the previous release and provides further robustness checks for the main results,” the footnote states.
The feedback of Michael J. New, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama, was acknowledged in the new version of the report. Writing at the web site MoralAccountability.com, New said that the authors of the study discovered that they had used incorrect abortion data for the years following 1997.
“Furthermore,” New wrote, “after some dialogue with me, the authors decided that it would be appropriate to eliminate data from states, such as Kansas, where abortion reporting was inconsistent over time. These changes have had a substantial effect on the study’s findings.
“The new version provides evidence that welfare policy has no more than a marginal effect on the incidence of abortion,” he argued. “In fact, the new regression results indicate that none of the three welfare policies which the authors previously argued were effective tools for reducing the incidence of abortion have a substantial abortion reducing effect.”
According to New, the new regression results indicate that the presence of family caps limiting the number of children eligible for additional welfare benefits “has only a marginal effect” on state abortion rates.
New argued that the report’s statistical results are not consistent across time.
He also criticized the report’s finding that parental involvement laws and other state laws restricting abortion have little impact on overall abortion rates.
“Since parental involvement laws only directly affect minors, Wright should have mentioned that analyzing their effects on the overall abortion rate is not a methodologically sound way to gauge their actual impact,” New wrote.
The argument that informed consent laws are ineffective, New claimed, fails to acknowledge the “substantial differences” in the effects of informed consent laws that have been enacted and those that have been nullified. By the report’s criteria, New argued, the results provide evidence that informed consent laws are effective.
CNA also sought comment from Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and received a Tuesday e-mail from the study author Joseph Wright.
Wright confirmed that the earlier version of the report was in fact replaced because of erroneous abortion data.
“I discovered that I had used abortions by state of residence for the years 1997 onwards and abortions by state of occurrence before 1997. (Before 1997, the CDC did not collect data on abortions by residence.)”
He explained that Prof. Bailey had requested his name be removed from the report because “he was too busy to deal with the many inquiries after the release of the first report.”
Wright argued that New was incorrect in suggesting that the updated study has no finding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) spending.
“I find consistent, robust results in the 1990s showing that welfare spending reduces the abortion rate -- using multiple samples, weighting techniques and statistical estimations.”
“The results change for some variables because I use different data. Despite the change in the data, both versions of the study find strong support for the contention that welfare spending and male employment helped reduce the abortion rate in the 1990s. Whether I include or exclude certain states (e.g. Kansas) that New excludes from his study, my results remain the same. Similarly, whether I weight data or not, the results remain.”
He said these and other issues will be addressed in a note to be posted on Wednesday.
“The larger point here is that in social science research, findings can change when you use new data,” Wright’s e-mail to CNA concluded. “The main conclusions concerning the socioeconomic determinants of abortion remain robust. As we collect new data through the early 2000s, we will rerun the models and report new results. This is how research works.”
However, Professor New also pointed out that events in the political arena were impacted by the first study.
In an essay at MoralAccountability.com, New accused Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good of misleading the public and referred to “plenty of peer reviewed studies” which find that public funding restrictions and parental involvement laws reduce the incident of abortion.
He claimed the study had a “substantial impact” on the pro-life debate in the 2008 Presidential election and gave “intellectual legitimacy” to those such as Doug Kmiec and Nicholas Cafardi who argued that pro-life voters should vote for Democrats to advance the pro-life cause.
In a Tuesday e-mail to CNA, Prof. New said that the research produced by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good seems unwilling to acknowledge the “positive effect of pro-life laws such as parental involvement and informed consent laws.”
CNA asked New to speculate why welfare spending generally does not decrease the abortion rate.
He suggested that welfare “undermines societal mores against premarital sex” by enabling women to have more children out of wedlock. Welfare may result in more unplanned pregnancies and possibly more abortions, New said.
“Regardless of how generous welfare benefits are, women facing crisis pregnancies can find financial and medical resources at one of the thousands of crisis pregnancy centers across the country,” he added.
New noted the finding in both the current and previous versions of the group’s report that shows higher female employment is correlated with higher abortion rates.
“This is an interesting finding and would be a good topic for future research,” he said. “It is possible that women are more likely to seek employment when the economy is doing badly and the bad economy is increasing abortion rates. It is also possible that states with higher female employment might be those states with more liberal attitudes toward abortion.”
Asked to name further studies on the effects of pro-life laws on abortion rates, New referenced a 1986 study of the Massachusetts Parental Notice law published in the American Journal of Public Health. While the number of Massachusetts minors obtaining abortions in other states increased by an average of 66 per month after the law took effect, the number of abortions performed on minors inside Massachusetts fell by an average of 149 per month.
A 1991 study showed the minor abortion rate in Minnesota fell by 28 percent after a parental notification law was enacted in 1981. Additionally, a 2006 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a Texas notification law that took effect in 2000 resulted in a fall in abortion rates of between 11 and 20 percent depending on the age group.
New also mentioned a 2002 study which showed that Medicaid recipients have a higher incidence of abortion in states where Medicaid funds the procedure.
“In states that provide Medicaid funding for abortions, women with Medicaid coverage had an abortion rate more than four times as high as women without such coverage (89 vs. 21 per 1,000),” New summarized. “In contrast, in states that do not cover abortion services for women on Medicaid, the abortion rate among Medicaid recipients was only twice that of women without Medicaid coverage (35 vs. 16 per 1,000).”
While the Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good study reports an increase in abortion rates in states where abortions are funded by Medicaid, New charged: “they do not give this finding much attention in the write-up.”
“Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good continues to miss opportunities with their abortion research,” New told CNA.
“I think that they would be more effective if they would be more willing to publicly acknowledge the positive impact of pro-life legislation and try to constructively work with pro-life groups to promote social policies that will further reduce abortion rates. Instead Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good seems primarily interested in providing moral, political, and theological cover for supporters of Barack Obama and other Democrats who support ‘abortion rights.’”
Vatican City, Feb 11, 2009 (CNA) - After 20 catecheses devoted to St. Paul, Pope Benedict XVI returned to his teachings on the great Christian writers of both East and West, reflecting on St. John Climacus. The Holy Father held up St. John Climacus, whose name means "ladder," and whose greatest work is titled “Ladder of Paradise,” as a reminder of the need for “continual conversion and purification with the help of the Holy Spirit.”
Speaking to 8,000 people in Paul VI Hall today, the Pope explained that in the first part of “Ladder of Paradise,” St. John Climacus describes a “break with the world in order to go back to a true evangelical infancy, the time of childhood, in accordance with Jesus’ words.” John Climacus teaches that innocence, fasting and chastity are the “pillars” of this journey, the Pope said.
Every “newborn in Christ,” Pope Benedict continued, “learns from these things, which allow the soul to enter in communion with God.” “Blessed be those who mortify their will till the end,” John Climacus said, for they “shall be placed on the right of Christ.”
The rung of St. John’s ladder is the “spiritual struggle against passions.” John Climacus saw passions not as “bad in and of themselves,” but taught that they “become so when they are put to bad use by man’s freedom.” In fact, the Pope said summarizing the saint’s teaching, “If the passions are purified they open onto the path that leads to God.”
“The struggle against passions becomes positive thanks to the image of the fire of the Holy Spirit, whose strength ensures victory over passions, transforming them by the Creator’s positive nature,” John Climacus adds. “The fire of the Holy Spirit is the fire of love and truth.”
The third step on the ascent to Paradise that John Climacus describes, deals with “Christian perfection,” the higher levels of which “can be experienced by those who have reached peace of mind and inner peace.”
John Climacus emphasizes the importance of discernment: Christians must examine every aspect of their behavior in order to ascertain their deepest motivations and reawaken a "sense of the heart." This leads to tranquility of soul, “esichía,” which prepares Christians to probe the depths of the divine mysteries, the Pontiff explained.
The final part of the saint’s “ladder” is dedicated to faith, hope and charity. John Climacus speaks of charity as Eros, “the figure of the soul’s matrimonial love for God.” An intense experience of this Eros, the Holy Father related, makes the soul progress more than any hard-fought struggle with its passions. This positive character counts more than the struggle itself.
St. John Climacus writes, “Hope is charity’s strength.” In its absence charity is obliterated. Hope surrounds one with “God’s mercy.”
“How topical is the opus of a hermit monk from 1,500 years ago?” the Pope asked. “At first glance, we would say no, but if we look closely at monastic life we see that it is a great sign of Christian life. It shows in capital letters what we write daily in small letters; it shows how a baptized person can live in communion with Christ, his death and resurrection.”
Pope Benedict mentioned how this is demonstrated in relation to one’s ego. “I give up my arrogance, for which I too must judge for I cannot rely on others.” It is a question “of overcoming the arrogance of saying ‘I know best.’” In this manner, the soul grows.
“Only hope can make us capable of charity. With hope we can transcend everyday reality,” the Pontiff stated. “We don’t have to wait for success every day but for God himself in the end… We can be good with others without expecting a reward.”
“The mystery of prayer, the personal knowledge of God, hides in charity,” Benedict XVI shared as he concluded with the prayer: Let us use the ladder of faith, hope and charity to reach true life.”
Cincinnati, Ohio, Feb 11, 2009 (CNA) - An upcoming episode of “Facing Life Head-On” will discuss the possible link between abortion and breast cancer and purports to expose the “irregular relationship” between the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer organization and Planned Parenthood.
The episode will argue that an abortion-breast cancer link makes “good biological sense” while alleging that the “cancer fundraising industry” is covering up the link “because it is not good for fundraising to tell donors their abortions may be responsible for their breast cancers.”
The episode also alleges that “abortion industry feminists” lead the breast cancer fundraising “industry.”
“Facing Life Head-On” host Brad Mattes will lead the episode, titled “Komen’s Dark Side.”
Mattes will host Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer; Eve Sanchez Silver, president of Clear Research and former member of Komen’s Latino Advisory Committee; and Dr. Angela Lanfrachi, MD, FACS, a clinical assistant professor of surgery at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Jersey who co-founded the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute.
"Komen's officials have no right to keep women in the dark about a breast cancer risk, while at the same time giving funds to Planned Parenthood, a primary cause of the breast cancer epidemic," Malec charged, according to a press release. She claimed that in 2007 the Susan G. Komen Foundation gave $700,000 in funding to Planned Parenthood.
The episode will air on cable television stations during the week of March 8, 2009.
“Facing Life Head-On” was nominated for “Best TV Talk Show” by the National Religious Broadcasters.
Airtimes and the full program of “Komen’s Dark Side” may be viewed on-line at http://www.facinglife.tv/
Dublin, Ireland, Feb 11, 2009 (CNA) - A leader of Libertas, a new European Union political party dedicated to “individual freedom, democracy, and a culture embracing life” says the party has now been formally recognized despite “the best efforts by Brussels.”
Ganley made the comments over the weekend at a conference’s panel discussion in County Roscommon, Ireland. The conference was organized by the John Paul II Society in Ireland and co-hosted by the pro-life group Human Life International.
Libertas founder Declan Ganley said the party is now recognized in all 27 EU countries, the Irish Times reports. The recognition of Ganley’s new party was delayed after a member of the Estonian national parliament was erroneously reported to have denied signing papers asking for recognition of the party.
Libertas, Latin for “Freedom,” has been the motto of the Christian Democratic parties in Europe. The Libertas Party’s website describes the party as “a pan-European political movement dedicated to creating a new, democratic, accountable and open European Union.”
Stating the belief that Europe has “limitless potential,” the party calls for European cooperation in translating shared values into an “ambitious vision.”
“Europe does not work together at this time,” the Libertas Party web site charges. “It is divided into an elite holding all the power, and the rest, who are critical, but powerless. We want to transform that widespread criticism, harness the power that motivates it and change Europe.”
“Libertas stands for individual freedom, democracy, and a culture embracing life. We stand for tolerance and for the belief that every citizen has rights and limitless potential.”
At the conference, Ganley assured conference delegates of his opposition to abortion and same-sex “marriage.” In earlier opening remarks he had quoted from Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclicals Deus Caritas Est and Spe Salvi.
According to the Irish Times, he reflected on Ireland’s history, saying “our faith and our rights are strong today because we have suffered the yoke of oppression . . . we grew stronger and we grew free.”
He asked whether “he have lost something” and noted the address of the Pope immediately prior to his election in April 2005. He noted that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had criticized a “dictatorship of moral relativism… in a world where faith in God is seen as a threat.”
Ganley also criticized a media “obsessed with breaking down the domestic church… and the family,” saying “the essence of our faith is that all life is sacred.”
“Yes we must, we must take risks for the truth,” he said.
In a question-and-answer period, Ganley argued that where the European Court of Justice was concerned, any guarantees given by the EU on social and ethical issues “were not worth the paper they are written on.”
“The laws of the union have primacy over the laws of any member state . . . If there is a conflict, union law rules,” he explained.
Warning that one should “never become a Eurosceptic,” he said the EU was “a lesson learned from the bloodfest suffered on this continent for hundreds of years” deserving of support.
For the EU to succeed, he reportedly said, “its legitimacy and its vitality has to come from you.”
Speaking to the audience, he discussed the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, saying: “the Brussels elite holds you in contempt . . . telling you to vote again. They told the French, the Dutch, and now you, to vote again . . . taking us for absolute fools, uninformed idiots.”
He characterized the rejection of the union-strengthening Lisbon Treaty as “the most pro-European statement.”
“We want Europe to be strong, but it is also going to be accountable,” Ganley said.
According to the Irish Times, at the same discussion Irish Senator Rónán Mullen said he would be voting No in the next Lisbon Treaty referendum if there were no guarantees that Ireland would retain its independence on “certain sensitive social and ethical issues.
Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput also spoke at the conference, discussing the problems Catholics face in the modern world and encouraging them to be “vigorous and unembarrassed about our Catholic presence in society.”
Rome, Italy, Feb 11, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram to the Governor-General of Australia, Quentin Bryce, expressing his condolences and spiritual closeness to the families and victims of the forest fires that have caused the deaths of more than 200 people in the southern part of the country.
In the telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and made public by the Italian news agency SIR, the Pope “assures his closeness and prayers for all those affected, and he commends to the mercy of God the victims and invokes upon their families and on all those who suffer from the loss of property and the destruction of the earth, strength and divine comfort.”
Benedict XVI, the telegram states, “is praying for all those who are giving of themselves to provide assistance to the victims of the disaster, and he encourages them in their efforts to bring relief and sustenance.”
Rome, Italy, Feb 11, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors, Simon Castellvi, has issued a statement on the case of Eluana Englaro, the Italian comatose woman who died after her feeding tubes were removed, saying, “Neither as doctors, nor as Christians nor as persons can we accept what was done to Eluana. A human being can never be left without food. Eluana was alive and they killed her.”
“Eluana could breath, eat, swallow and smile. And now she is longer in the land of the living,” the doctors said. “Eluana was a girl who needed water, air, nourishment, hygiene, affection. The nuns who were caring for her gave her affection, her mother gave her affection, so many Italians of good will gave her affection,” the Federation noted.
“We perfectly understand the suffering of the father. Eluana was like a little child who needs to be cared for. But Eluana was alive. To deny her nourishment and sedate her to the end, when she had no pain, is simply and candidly murder. Nothing or nobody can justify withdrawing her nourishment and administering a sedative to her, clearly in order to mercilessly accelerate the end of her days,” the organization stated.
Concluding its statement with the hope that “a similar case will not happen again,” the Federation said, “We condemn in the strongest terms the physical elimination of Eluana and we trust the leaders of countries will see the right to life as the basis for living together in peace.”
Madrid, Spain, Feb 11, 2009 (CNA) - The organization Professionals for Ethics has denounced the curious praise the CIVES Foundation has offered to the Supreme Court of Spain for its ruling on the course Education for the Citizenry when the contents of the ruling “have not yet been written.”
“The issue [of their satisfaction over the ruling] would have no importance were it not for the fact that the ruling which the CIVES Foundation claims it knows has not yet even been written,” the organization said in a statement.
Professionals for Ethics recalled that CIVES is led by a former Socialist congressman and has been responsible for training hundreds of teachers to impart the Education for the Citizenry course. It has labeled organizations opposed to the course as “ideological and conservative.”
“CIVES ignores the more than 52,000 conscientious objections that have been made and the 288 court rulings that support those who object to this course,” the organization stated.
San Francisco, Calif., Feb 11, 2009 (CNA) - The Divine Mercy Eucharistic Society (DMES) in California is trying to establish a Divine Mercy Shrine on 100 acres near the San Francisco Bay Area to be a place of mercy, refuge, renewal and healing.
The property, called “Mercy Hills,” is within 15 to 45 minutes of many metropolitan and suburban communities including the major cities of San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco.
Planners hope to build at the site a Divine Mercy Shrine with a large cruciform, domed church with Perpetual Adoration; a home for priests and religious; and a Divine Mercy Retreat and Conference Center.
In the plans, priests and religious will give ongoing teachings about the Divine Mercy devotion, celebrate Mass, and hear confessions while youth and adults can gather for renewal and healing at the retreat center.
The shrine would be the “sister shrine” of the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
The financial cost for the proposed shrine’s land is $3.1 million, while another $30 million is needed for the total project.
“We are completely trusting in God’s mercy,” Thelma Orias, DMES chair and president, told the California Catholic Daily. “Once the land is paid for, with the blessing of the bishop and the cooperation of the diocesan priests, DMES will move on to the construction stage. We live the Divine Mercy message in blind, complete trust in Jesus. Trust is the essence of the Divine Mercy message and devotion. The Lord has always provided for our needs.”
“We need to step out in faith, and we hope that God’s rays of light and mercy will illumine the moral and spiritual darkness that we encounter in our daily lives,” she continued. “Our hope is to build a sanctuary for weary souls; to expand upon the spiritual and corporal works of mercy that we have begun out of our El Cerrito Center. The vision is to build a literal ‘Mountain of Mercy,’ and to become a place of renewal and refuge.”
The Divine Mercy Message was given to St. Faustina, out of which came the popular Chaplet of Divine Mercy devotional. Sr. Faustina was canonized by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 2000.
More information about DMES can be found at http://www.divinemercywestcoast.org/default.aspx
Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 11, 2009 (CNA) - The newspaper El Diaro Catolico of Venezuela reported this week that in the wake of recent terrorist attacks the Venezuelan government has granted military protection to the Apostolic Nunciature and the offices of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference in Caracas.
The newspaper reported: “Seven terrorist attacks against the Apostolic Nunciature in Venezuela had to occur and two strong letters of protest had to be sent in order for the government to keep its commitment to the Vienna Convention signed on April 18, 1961, according to which the government is obliged to ‘guarantee the security and wellbeing of the Diplomatic Mission and its personnel’.”
Photos sent to the newspaper by Father Gregorio Salazar, Under Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, “confirm the presence of military hummers on patrol at both locations: the Apostolic Nunciature, the Holy See’s Embassy to the government of Venezuela, and the headquarters of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, which was surrounded this week by hoards of Chavez supporters.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 11, 2009 (CNA) - During his opening remarks for the 86th Plenary Assembly of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Ruben Salazar underscored that the Catholic Church is always open to “profound dialogue with all parties. We are willing to become involved as facilitators, to do our part to support peace.”
Speaking to reporters, the Archbishop of Barranquilla said he hoped “to understand fully the implications” of the proposals by the government and the FARC rebel group to move forward with a humanitarian agreement and attain the release of hostages.
For his part, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Saenz of Bogota said, “We are willing to collaborate in any area related to peace. Everything that is done for peace and for the release of the hostages is important.” However, he said, members of the FARC who are released should not return to the battlefield but rather should “go home to their families.”
Bishop Leonardo Gomez Serna agreed, saying that the members of FARC who are released should become “peacemakers.” “The humanitarian agreement ought to specify this, that the guerrillas should not return to crime. If it is just for them to go back to the same thing, it’s not worth it,” he said.