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Archive of February 13, 2009

Arizona legislators move to protect unborn and civil rights of health care workers

Phoenix, Ariz., Feb 13, 2009 (CNA) - Following Republican Jan Brewer’s move from secretary of state to Governor of Arizona, the state’s legislature is attempting to pass a combination of abortion-related regulations which were defeated under her predecessor, Gov. Janet Napolitano. One supporter calls the bill the "most significant" legislation ever proposed in the state.

The Center for Arizona Policy and the Arizona Catholic Conference are two major backers of the bill, which has secured 12 of 30 state senators and 27 of 60 representatives as sponsors.

The bill, HB 2564, would require women to wait 24 hours before having an abortion and would provide “informed consent” requirements, the East Valley Tribune says.

Under the proposed law, a woman considering an abortion must be provided in person the details of the nature of the killing procedure and the risks associated with it. Such women must also be told the probable gestational age of the unborn child, and the child’s “probable anatomical and physiological characteristics.”

The bill uses the phrase “unborn child” and not “fetus.”

Women seeking an abortion must also be told that medical assistance may be available for prenatal care, childbirth and neonatal care. The bill requires women be told that public and private agencies and services are available to help a woman if she chooses not to have an abortion, whether she chooses to keep the child or give him or her up for adoption.

Further, women are to be told that the father of the unborn child is required to provide child support even if he offered to pay for the abortion.

The East Valley Tribune reports that Gov. Napolitano had vetoed a less comprehensive informed consent measure in 2004, calling it “undue government intrusion into the relationship between a woman and her doctor, her family, her religious counselor, or whomever else she wishes to consult in making this most difficult of personal and medical decisions.”

The then-governor also argued the law already required that doctors obtain informed consent before performing any surgery.

Rep. Nancy Barto, a Republican from Phoenix, told the East Valley Tribune that informed consent “is not happening.”

"Women are not being told these things and given complete medical information on these procedures," she said.

Barto said that she would prefer that abortion not be legal but claimed that the measures are not aimed at undermining the legal right to abortion.

"These will not stop one abortion from occurring if a woman wanted to go ahead with it," she said. "These are just common-sense provisions that will protect the rights of women."

HB 2564 also specifies what factors a judge may consider in determining if a minor is mature enough to have an abortion without parental consent.

The bill further provides conscience protections for health professionals, hospitals and pharmacists who refuse to perform or facilitate the procurement of abortions or “morning after pills.” Arizona law already protects doctors and hospital staffers from being forced to perform abortions, but the bill is reportedly aimed specifically at “emergency contraception.”

Ron Johnson, Executive Director for the Arizona Catholic Conference, told the East Valley Tribune that people who own private businesses should not be forced to do things they find morally objectionable.

"I know a pharmacist in Prescott who owns his own pharmacy," Johnson said, saying he won’t carry emergency contraception. “He'll shut down if you force him to carry it and there'll be even less access" to medications.

He argued that those who want such medications probably could order them by phone for overnight delivery or travel further to the next drug store.

A statement from Planned Parenthood Arizona President Bryan Howard argued that the measure “makes health care less accessible and more expensive.”

CNA spoke with Ron Johnson of the Arizona Catholic Conference in a Thursday phone call.

Johnson called the bill “the most significant piece of pro-life legislation we’ve done in Arizona.”

“All proposals have gone through in the past years only to have been vetoed by Gov. Napolitano,” he explained. “Because of those vetoes, we’re bringing them back.”

“It’s going to protect women by providing them informed consent before they acquire an abortion. It’s going to protect parents by requiring parental consent, and it will protect the civil rights of health care workers.”

Noting that abortion rights advocates endorse the “right to choose,” he told CNA “We think health care workers certainly have the right to choose not to participate in an abortion.”

He said the Arizona Catholic Conference knows of a nurse who was “fired, basically removed, because she wouldn’t partake of abortion in one hospital.”

Medical students also need protection, he said.

“There was a big situation at our county hospital, which was sending residents to train at Planned Parenthood,” he remarked, saying that state law generally prohibits taxpayer dollars being used to perform abortions.

Though the hospital was a government- funded facility, the students “were learning how to do abortions at Planned Parenthood. By statute they weren’t supposed to be doing that.”

“There were some Catholic students who were really imperiled by that action, which forced them to violate their conscience.”

Johnson said there was “increasing pressure” not only in Arizona but across the U.S. to “take away rights of conscience and compel Catholic hospitals and others to partake of or refer for these activities.”

While Arizona had passed a statute in 1973 saying doctors and nurses may not be forced to perform abortions, Johnson argued that the law hadn’t foreseen new developments like chemical abortions and “morning-after” pills.

Defending informed consent and the 24-hour waiting period, Johnson said:

“We want women to be able to get all the information they need to make an intelligent and informed decision.

“We frequently know that there is a lot of coercion involved. It’s important for her to understand what options are available.

“A large number of women regret their abortions because they feel they were pressured into it only to find out they live with a lifetime of regret.

“We want to help them, and this law will make that possible,” he said.

Johnson noted another provision in the law forbids non-physicians from performing abortions, saying it was necessary because of a case where a nurse was performing surgical abortions at an Arizona Planned Parenthood facility.

He said even those who support abortion “won’t support having nurses or non-doctors doing surgery.”

“We’re hopeful that with the new change of governor we can help get this through the legislature and have these commonsense regulations become law in our state,” he told CNA.

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Over 900 massacred in Congo since Christmas

Rome, Italy, Feb 13, 2009 (CNA) - Troops of the guerilla Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have massacred over 900 people since Christmas in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The news reports from missionary media sources, which are not attracting attention in Europe and America, lament the inaction and “impotence” of the United Nations forces in the area.

Fides news agency reports that the LRA is a Ugandan group mainly composed of child soldiers kidnapped and forced into service. For decades the group has ravaged the land in northern Uganda and is active in Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic.

The armies of Uganda, Congo and South Sudan formed a joint military operation in late December 2008 to try to stop the LRA. They moved against the LRA general headquarters in the Garamba Forest in the Congo with the backing of the U.N. and the United States.

However, the operation failed to capture the guerilla leaders, who are wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

The LRA has responded with violence against Congolese civilians, sacking and destroying entire villages and killing entire families.

Fides, which is a missionary news agency, accused the U.N. Mission in Congo (MONUC) of being “yet another one of the acronyms that has become synonymous with the impotence of the international community.”

Fides claimed that MONUC members seem to be “mere spectators in the massacres of these people whom they should be defending.”

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Boston College attracts praise and hostility for placing crucifixes in classrooms

Boston, Mass., Feb 13, 2009 (CNA) - Crucifixes and icons were recently placed in all Boston College classrooms at the request of the Jesuit school’s president, Rev. William P. Leahy, SJ. The move has generated a variety of both enthusiastic and hostile responses.

According to a statement from the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), executive editor Donato Infante of the Boston College paper The Observer said that Father Leahy had employees hang the images in classrooms around campus over Christmas Break.

Infante reported that during a “State of the Heights” address two weeks ago, Fr. Leahy responded to complaints about the imagery by saying that the administration did not need to consult professors about the decision. He insisted the crucifixes and the icons will not be taken down.

Crucifixes and sacred art have had a scattered presence on campus since the 1970s, the CNS says. Two years ago, a new statue of the Society of Jesus’ founder St. Ignatius Loyola was erected on campus.

Now there is a Catholic icon, usually a crucifix, above the lintel in all 151 college classrooms, the Boston Globe reports.

Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn explained the increased presence of Christian images. According to the Boston Globe, Dunn said the art “reflects our pride in and commitment to our religious heritage.”

The Boston Globe reports that student reaction has been generally supportive but faculty are divided. A January meeting of department chairs of the arts and sciences reportedly featured a heated argument over the images. A handful of faculty have written to the administration in protest, and some “unsuccessfully” circulated a petition asking to have the crucifixes removed.

Maxim D. Shrayer, chairman of the department of Slavic and Eastern languages and literatures, told the Boston Globe that he believes the display of religious signs and symbols in the classroom is “contrary to the letter and spirit of open intellectual discourse that makes education worthwhile and distinguishes first-rate universities from mediocre and provincial ones.”

In a statement published in the Observer, chemistry professor Amir H. Hoveyda attacked the decision, saying:

“I can hardly imagine a more effective way to denigrate the faculty of an educational institution. If that has been the purpose of the administration of Boston College, I congratulate them, as they have succeeded brilliantly.”

He argued that “such surface displays… belittle the significance of any symbol that pertains to any form of spirituality” Claiming that the classroom is “a symbol of dispensing with any prioritized prejudices,” he said the display of the crucifixes “represents a bias towards one way of thinking.” He charged the university administration’s approach with being “irresponsible and anti-intellectual.”

“It is not how a progressive and enlightened university thinks and operates,” Prof. Hoveyda’s criticism continued, saying he had strongly believed in the principles of “freedom and tolerance and democracy” in his native Iran where he was imprisoned and “badly tortured” for those beliefs.

“I am not about to give in now; I more than ever appreciate the importance of values that I, many of my colleagues and students stand for. As far as I could tell, such values were supposed to be part of the Jesuit tradition as well.”

Fr. John Paris, SJ, was pleased with the display of the Christian imagery, saying to the Boston Globe “Christian iconography and symbols permeate this place and always have.”

He said the notion that a crucifix impedes the ability of students or faculty to think critically was “offensive” to him and described such criticism as “the narrow and bizarre musings of a few disgruntled folks.”

“This is a small problem for those with small minds," Paris continued, denying the issue is a serious controversy.

The Observer quoted Boston College junior Michael Williams, who said “Although seemingly a small gesture, rest assured that these symbols give great joy and confidence to me and many of my friends for the direction the school is taking as becoming, as Father Leahy has put it, the nation's leading Catholic university.”

CNS President Patrick J. Reilley also approved, saying “Bravo for Boston College!”

“For Catholics, outward signs, symbols and practices of our faith are an important part of relating to God in a material world,” he said in a CNS statement.

Reilley argued that the complaints are “a sad consequence of the mixed signals from Boston College over several years.”

“At times Catholic teaching and tradition are celebrated, other times they are scorned and undermined. But the crucifixes are a very happy movement forward!”

Infante asked critical professors to understand “what these symbols mean to us.”

“The hanging of the sacred art had nothing to do with asserting power. It had everything to do with honoring our God and being constantly reminded of His love,” he said.

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Bishop of Buffalo meets with families of Continental crash victims

Buffalo, N.Y., Feb 13, 2009 (CNA) -

As people around the country mourn the loss of the 50 people who died in the crash of Continental Flight 3407, Bishop Edward Kmiec of Buffalo is meeting with family members of the victims and asking the diocese to join him in prayer for those suffering from the tragedy.

On Thursday night at about 10:20 p.m. neighbors reported hearing the plane pass overhead at a lower than normal altitude. Moments later the plane suddenly nosedived into the house of Douglas and Karen Wielinski. Karen and her daughter Jill were taken to the hospital, while it appears that Douglas was killed in the crash. All 49 people on board the aircraft perished.

Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, bishop of Buffalo, was quick to respond to the spiritual needs of those involved in the tragedy and met with family members of the victims at the Cheektowaga Senior Center on Friday morning.

"My prayers are with the crew members, passengers, the individual who died on the ground, as well as their families and friends," Bishop Kmiec said.

"I am asking everyone in the Diocese of Buffalo to join me in prayer today as we offer spiritual support to those who have been touched by this tragedy.  I offered my Mass this morning for the victims and their families, and prayers are being said today, and will be said this weekend at Masses in all of our parishes throughout the eight county diocese.  May God grant the victims of Flight 3407 eternal rest."

Continental Airlines is asking friends and family who need information regarding those on board flight #3407 to call 1-800-621-3263.

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Papal foundation fighting drought in Africa celebrates 25 years

Vatican City, Feb 13, 2009 (CNA) - In 1980 Pope John Paul II visited the African region referred to as the Sahel, an area that relies on agriculture and is frequently besieged with drought. Driven by the desperation of the people there, the Pope created a foundation to help prevent desertification and drought which celebrates its 25th anniversary this week.

The idea to create the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel arose from the late Pope’s first trip to Africa, when he visited Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in May 1980. The term "Sahel" means "shore" in Arabic and refers to an area that stretches from the edge of the Sahara Desert in the north to the tropical regions in the south (see map). "After crossing the ocean of sand which is the Sahara, one finds a shore where life is possible," the foundation’s website explains.

Upon witnessing the plight of the farmers and the local populace, John Paul II established the foundation through a papal decree on February 22, 1984.

The anniversary was marked with a meeting of the foundation's management board held in Ouagadougou on February 10. The celebrations will last until February 15 and conclude with a Mass in the same city.

According to its website, the foundation is "actively involved in managing and protecting natural resources, in the struggle against drought and desertification, in rural development and in the fight against poverty, through the real involvement of local people."

"One particularly important characteristic of the foundation is its openness to the different religions of local inhabitants, and thus it is also an instrument of inter-religious dialogue," the website adds.

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Benedict XVI prays for guidance as Vatican marks 80 years

Vatican City, Feb 13, 2009 (CNA) - Celebrating the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the Vatican City State, Pope Benedict attended a concert featuring both a choral and orchestra from Dublin, Ireland.  Afterwards, the Holy Father addressed the audience and prayed that God would continue to watch over the small state.

 

The concert took place last night at the Paul VI Hall, and featured a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” by Our Lady’s Chorale Society and the RTE Concert Orchestra, both from Dublin, Ireland.  The concert was part of a series of events organized to commemorate the anniversary, with the theme: “A small territory for a great mission.”

 

After the concert concluded, the Holy Father expressed his gratitude for the celebration saying, “I would like to thank all the people who have contributed to solemnize such an important moment for the Catholic Church.”  Reflecting on the past 80 years of the city-state’s existence, he added that it is also important to pay tribute to the chief “protagonists” throughout “these eight decades of history of this small parcel of land.”

 

The Pontiff then recalled “the most important of those protagonists,” the venerated Pius XI who, “in announcing the signing of the Lateran Pacts and, especially, the foundation of Vatican City State, chose to use an expression of St. Francis of Assisi. He said that the new sovereign status was for the Church, as it had been for St. Francis, 'just enough body to hold the soul together’.”

 

The Holy Father then asked the Lord, who “guides the fortunes of the 'Ship of Peter' among the not-always easy events of history, to continue to watch over this small State.”

 

“Above all,” he continued, “let us ask Him to help, with the power of His Spirit, Peter's Successor who stands at the helm of this ship, that he may faithfully and effectively undertake his ministry as the foundation of unity of the Catholic Church, which has its visible center in the Vatican whence it expands to all the corners of the earth."

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Link between slain archbishop and paramilitary chief categorically dismissed

Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 13, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez, has strongly and categorically dismissed any link between the slain Archbishop of Cali, Isaias Duarte Cancino, and the paramilitary chief Carlos Castano, despite claims to the contrary by another member of the rebel paramilitary.

Archbishop Salazar Gomez told reporters the statements by paramilitary soldier Ever Veloza constitute “an absolute calumny. We were classmates, and since 1972 I was aware of the courage and moral integrity of Archbishop Duarte Cancino. He was incapable of supporting crime.”

The Archbishop of Bogota, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Saenz, said there was “no basis” for claiming that Archbishop Duarte Cancino was a personal advisor to Carlos Castana, the paramilitary chief who was killed in 2004.

The statement by Archbishop Salazar Gomez noted that Archbishop Duarte Cancino, “known for his strong pronouncements against guerillas, paramilitary groups and drug traffickers, was shot to death on March 16, 2002, in Cali. Several gunmen fired at him outside the Church of the Good Shepherd as he was leaving a ceremony blessing numerous marriages.

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Vatican watcher: Pope has chosen Archbishop Timothy Dolan for New York

Rome, Italy, Feb 13, 2009 (CNA) - The eagerly anticipated appointment of the new Archbishop of New York appears to be just around the corner. The well-connected Italian journalist Paolo Rodari, who writes for Il Reformista, is reporting that Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee will soon be announced as the new head of the most important U.S. diocese.

Church watchers have been itching to hear who will replace Cardinal Edward Egan for almost two years and as Rodari reports, "the announcement should arrive shortly."

Rumors have been circulating with increasing frequency over the past several weeks, including a January 29 report by Edward Pentin on Newsmax.com that pointed speculation in the direction of Dolan.

Rodari reports today that Il Riformista has "collected leaks" that say "Pope Benedict XVI has decided on Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee."

Rodari also claims that although other American prelates would have preferred a stronger personality to take on the Obama Administration’s animus towards Catholics, Dolan is being tapped as a pastoral leader with a "soft touch."

Agreeing with Pentin’s earlier report, Rodari says that Archbishop of Hartford Henry Mansell, Archbishop of Atlanta Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Newark John Myers and the Archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, were all in the running.

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Spanish bishops express solidarity with Pope in response to recent criticism

Madrid, Spain, Feb 13, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Spain said on Thursday it had sent a letter of support to Pope Benedict XVI in which the bishops “express their sentiments of communion and affection in response to those who have cast doubt on his love for the Jewish people.”

According to a press release, in their letter to the Holy Father the Spanish bishops wrote, “We know well the interest Your Holiness has shown for many years, and in particular in the exercise of the Petrine ministry,” in dialoging with the Jewish people, “and that you have strived to make their history and their current situation rightly known and appreciated in the Church.  Few understand as Your Holiness that, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, they are a people very much loved by God.”

The bishops expressed sorrow that the Pope’s efforts to show benevolence and kindness towards the Lefebrvists bishops to help strengthen the unity of the Church “have been misinterpreted and even taken as an excuse to raise false testimony and to negatively prejudice public opinion.”

The bishops assured the Holy Father of their prayers and those of the Catholic people, that the Lord would comfort and enlighten him in his governance of the Church, “which needs and is thankful for your ministry at the service of the truth of the Gospel and unity in charity.”

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Robert George launches website to test pro-life argument for Obama

Princeton, N.J., Feb 13, 2009 (CNA) - Some Catholics and Evangelicals in the pro-life community made a significant wager based on Barack Obama’s promise to reduce abortions during the last election, a bet that Princeton philosophy of law professor Robert George is convinced was “foolish.” In order to document the outcome of this gamble, regardless of the results, George and some of his colleagues have launched Moralaccountability.com.

Professor George took time earlier this week to explain to CNA what led him to create the website, and he began by recalling the debate surrounding the election.

“In the run-up to the presidential election of November 2008, a small number of outspoken Catholic and Evangelical intellectuals and activists were pushing the idea that it was legitimate to vote for Barack Obama and other pro-abortion liberal candidates, not despite the likely impact of their policies on abortion, but because of the likely impact of their policies on abortion.”

Professor George summed up their reasoning as ignoring the anti-life voting record of the candidates and voting for them because of their economic policies, which would be “so enlightened” that they would reduce poverty, the main cause of abortion, according to these scholars.

“Paradoxically,” said George, “their argument was that voting for the explicitly so called pro-choice candidates was the pro-life thing to do.”

Saying that this argument struck him as “not only as paradoxical but as foolish,” the professor told CNA that he resolved to create a website after the election to track the decisions of the Obama Administration on the issues of “the sanctity of human life and the defense of the institution of marriage.”

The resulting website, Moralaccountability.com, is dedicated to holding accountable “everyone in the debate: those politicians who declared themselves to be opposed to abortion but in favor of its legality and public funding and the expansion of its availability …those intellectuals, Catholic and Evangelical, who in effect gave cover to politicians who were opposed to pro-life laws…and people like me, who were skeptical.”

“We are going to look at what actually happens when a liberal pro-abortion president and a liberal pro-abortion Congress are voted into office.”

“Despite my view that the argument was foolish, if it turns out that I’m wrong, and they were right; if I was foolish to think they were being foolish, I will be held accountable by this website.”

The website is going to publish facts and analysis, George stated.

“It’s going to publish the facts about what happens when abortion is extended, when it’s paid for with public dollars, when laws requiring parental notification for minors who are contemplating abortions or informed consent laws are wiped out…we’ll be able to see the impact was.”

Lest anyone level the charge that George’s new website is about being able to say “I told you so,” he stressed, “That’s not the goal of moral accountability the website, and that’s not the goal of the ethical concept of moral accountability.”

“The goal is to make sure, going forward, -that people in our movement do not repeat mistakes we have made in the past.”

Prof. George explained to CNA that he is willing to believe that the scholars and activists who supported candidates with records in favor of abortion were sincere in their stated beliefs and that they too have a stake in knowing whether they were right or wrong.

Currently, George’s website contains submissions on topics dealing with the reversal of the Mexico City Policy, the Freedom of Choice Act, Obama and same-sex marriage and other decisions made by the new Administration.

The contributors thus far represent both Catholics and Protestants and come from a wide range of disciplines: Constitutional law, political science, theology and philosophy.

Prof. George said that he is interested in engaging in debate with people of opposing views and welcomes their submissions as a way to hold those on his own side of the argument accountable.

In the end, George summarized, “somebody is going to be right, and somebody is going to be wrong.”

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Austin Ruse calls Legionaries to be faithful to their charism

, Feb 13, 2009 (CNA) -

The president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), Austin Ruse, has penned a letter calling on the Legionaries of Christ to remain faithful to their charism because, as he writes, despite their failings of their founder, it has brought souls into Heaven.

"There are souls in Heaven because of the charism of the Legion of Christ and of Regnum Christi," begins Ruses’ letter. And this is to be attributed to "the spiritual insights and writings of the Legion's founder Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado," he says.

Summarizing the reactions to the news that Fr. Maciel led a life contrary to his own teachings, Ruse writes, "We do not know the whole story and the bad news will probably get worse. The inevitable braying in the media and in the blogosphere is deafening."

"Old clubs," such as the Legion being secretive, being aggressive in recruiting and revering their founder too highly "are being pulled out to beat the Legion," accuses Ruse, while noting that this has not prevented successive Popes from endorsing the movement.

In Ruses’ analysis, the scandal surrounding the Legion’s founder "is first and foremost a family tragedy" that "starts with the woman who is the mother of Fr. Maciel's child" and extends to "hundreds of thousands of others." He also points out that the daughter fathered by Fr. Maciel is also a victim of the tragedy since she "has the right to the married love of her parents, something she could never have."

The ultimate betrayal, writes Ruse, is that "this spiritual father asked his sons and daughters to defend him all the while knowing he was guilty of something abominable."

In spite of "what Marcial Maciel has done," the C-FAM president maintains that "the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi remain one of the bright lights in this era of the Church."

"A shadow is cast over all of this because of the profound moral failings of their founder. But his failings do not nullify all the good that they have done and will do for the Church and for the Kingdom of God."

When Austin Ruse calls to mind the Legion, he thinks not of the scandal but of Legionary priests like Frs. Thomas Berg, Thomas Williams and Owen Kern. He thinks of Gladys Sweeny who runs the Institute for Psychological Sciences and the many faithful Legion and Regnum Christi members he knows.

Addressing the "thousands of the faithful of the Legion and Regnum Christi who are hurting today," Ruse says, "remember the good and holy priests and all the members of the movement who are the charism. Ignore the idle chatter. Hew close to the charism. Either it is false and will die, or it is true and will be your guide to Heaven."

Austin Ruses’ full letter can be read here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=789

 

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Bishop uses first pastoral letter to praise ‘profound thinking’ of President Lincoln

Wilmington, Del., Feb 13, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishop of Wilmington, Delaware has issued a pastoral letter noting the 200th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth, saying the president’s writings and speeches contain “some of the most profound thinking relating to religion” produced in American history.

A self-proclaimed “Lincoln Buff,” Bishop W. Francis Malooly also compared Lincoln to St. Thomas More in the pastoral letter, his first as Bishop of Wilmington.

The bishop titled his letter “Mystic Chords of Memory in the 21st Century: Remembering President Lincoln on the Bicentennial of His Birth.” The phrase ‘mystic chords of memory’ is taken from Lincoln’s first Inaugural Address.

The pastoral letter was published on the diocese’s website and in the diocesan newspaper The Dialog on Feb. 12, 2009 the 200th anniversary of President Lincoln’s birth, a press release from the diocese says.

In the letter Bishop Malooly wrote that though Lincoln was not a member of any organized Christian denomination, his speeches and writings “contain some of the most profound thinking relating to religion that have been produced in this nation. Moreover, in his life we can see many of the classic Christian virtues; virtues that are as relevant today as they ever were in the past; virtues that help explain why Lincoln’s legacy is so large.”

Describing Lincoln and St. Thomas More as “two very different men,” he said they nevertheless shared the view that public service required them “to pursue the public good rather than their own personal ends, even to the point that they put their lives at risk -- and ultimately died -- in that pursuit.”

The bishop said the two shared many virtues central to effective public service.

“In Lincoln’s life, Catholics and non-Catholics alike can see so many dimensions of the beatitudes, the theological virtues (faith, hope and charity) and the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance) lived vibrantly,” he claimed.

As an example of Lincoln’s mercifulness, Bishop Malooly cited the president’s instruction that the Union Band play “Dixie” when he learned of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant.

“We, like Lincoln, are called to be instruments of the mercy of Christ’s heart and in moments of conflict in our lives to inspire people to follow paths of forgiveness and peace,” he said.

Bishop Malooly encouraged politicians to follow Lincoln’s example, saying “we too need statesmen who see widely and clearly.”

“Although the needs of our nation are many, more than anything else we need statesmen who recognize and respect all human beings without exception.”

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Mother pressured by authorities for pulling her son out of Socialist school course

Madrid, Spain, Feb 13, 2009 (CNA) - A mother from the Spanish city of Jaen has shared her experience of being pressured by the local public school to make her son take the controversial course Education for the Citizenry, despite her objections to the class.

“They told me I couldn’t do that. The pressured me to put him in the class and they suspended him,” Pilar Colomina told Professionals for Ethics.

She recalled that at the beginning, in 2007, when her son did not show up for the class, they called her “for forty five minutes straight to go pick him up. I always refused and I warned them that if anything happened to him during school hours they would be held responsible.”

Professionals for Ethics reported that once the authorities deemed it useless to pressure the mother, they began to undermine the child’s resistance. 

By 2008 the situation had slightly improved. Pilar’s son, together with five other students who have objected to the course, were allowed to sit a separate classroom while the other students attend Education for the Citizenry, but not before school officials tried to trick them into attending. 

“At the beginning of the course they told him to go to the class and that this year they would be studying ethics and not Education for the Citizenry. My son, who can’t fathom that an adult would be deceitful, told me they had eliminated the course,” Pilar said.

At the beginning of the second semester this year, the Board of Education of Andalucia suspended several students whose parents objected to Education for the Citizenry. However, Pilar appealed to the Supreme Court of Andalucia, which last March upheld the right of parents to conscientiously object to the course.

School officials have said that in the wake of the ruling they would adapt the contents of the course, but Pilar is skeptical and does not expect the officials to keep their word.

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