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Archive of March 6, 2009

Franciscan University to host student pro-life conference

Steubenville, Ohio, Mar 6, 2009 (CNA) - Franciscan University of Steubenville will host the annual Students for Life Ohio Conference on Saturday, April 4. The conference will gather student pro-life groups from across Ohio as well as portions of West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

"Students in some colleges today face harsh opposition from their professors and administration to host pro-life events on campuses," says Emily Espinola, vice president of Students For Life in a press release.

"This conference gives strategies on the best ways to promote the pro-life message and work with administrators," she explained.

The conference will focus on some of the leading threats to human life today— abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and other human life issues.

Presenters include Catholic pro-life author, Kimberly Hahn; Steve Wagner, the director of Justice for All; Students for Life of America and the Susan B. Anthony List.

For more information e-mail [email protected]

 

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U.S. bishops ‘gravely concerned’ about review of conscience protection rules

Washington D.C., Mar 6, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is “gravely concerned” about the Obama administration’s move to rescind conscience protection regulations which help pro-life health care providers.

The regulations, implemented in the final months of the George W. Bush presidency, made explicit the existing legal protections for medical workers and institutions which object to cooperating in abortions.

On Feb. 27, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that it was reviewing a proposal to lift the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) regulation. The review is the first step toward reversing the policy and is open to public comment in the 30 days after the announcement.

Deirdre McQuade, Assistant Director for Policy and Communications at the USCCB's Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, in a Feb. 27 statement said the conference is “gravely concerned” about the proposed change.

“Efforts to nullify or weaken any conscience protection will undermine our national heritage of diversity and religious freedom, reduce patients' access to life-affirming health care, and endanger the national consensus required to enact much-needed health care reform.”

“The Administration says it will open a new 30-day comment period so Americans may voice their concerns,” she continued. “We encourage participation in this process by all committed to the sanctity of human life, the freedom of conscience, and the ethical integrity of our healing professions.”

As an expansion of its national postcard effort, the USCCB has also launched an e-mail campaign urging Congress to maintain pro-life policies and to oppose the federal funding and promotion of abortion.

Both the postcard effort and the e-mail effort are being coordinated through the USCCB partner organization the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA).

NCHLA was tasked with coordinating the national pro-life postcard campaigns to encourage citizens to express their views to Congress “clearly and respectfully.”

McQuade said tens of millions of postcards have been distributed in parishes, schools, non-Catholic churches and civic organizations across the U.S.

“The e-mail campaign will give even more citizens the chance to participate,” she said.

The e-mails tell a constituent’s Senators and Representative to oppose the Freedom of Choice Act or “any similar measure.”

“It is especially important that Congress retain these laws in the various appropriations bills, e.g., the Hyde Amendment in the Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bill,” the e-mails also say.

"To guard against the erosion of current pro-life measures—and to keep abortion from becoming a federal entitlement—our voice is needed now more than ever," McQuade said.

More information on the USCCB e-mail campaign is available at http://www.usccb.org/postcard

However, the postcard and e-mail campaign does not directly apply to the HHS rule change, as the department is governed by the executive branch of the federal government.

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Jesuit university cancels production of V-Monologues

Manassas, Va., Mar 6, 2009 (CNA) - Joining the trend of colleges steering clear of the “lewd” activist feminist play, Fr. Michael Engh, SJ, president of the Jesuit college Santa Clara University, has canceled a production of the Vagina Monologues.

The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), which has campaigned against allowing the performances, has reported that 15 Catholic college campuses are hosting productions of the play in 2009, down from a peak of 32 in 2003.

According to the CNS, the V-Monologues is a “sexually explicit and offensive play” that favorably describes same-sex immorality and group self-abuse. It also describes the lesbian seduction and rape of a teenage girl as a “salvation.”

The play is often performed with the stated aim of raising awareness about violence against women and girls, a purpose the CNS argues is thwarted by the play’s “pornographic and demeaning content.”

CNS President Patrick J. Reilly praised Fr. Engh’s decision, calling it “an encouraging sign toward renewal.”

“He deserves the thanks and gratitude of the Catholic faithful who have been praying for an end to the Monologues on Catholic campuses for the past seven years,” Reilly said in a Thursday statement.

The final list of Catholic colleges and universities which have hosted or have been scheduled to host the play is available at the CNS web site.

Schools still hosting V-Monologues performances include Boston College, DePaul University, Fordham University, Georgetown University, Loyola University Chicago, Seattle University and the University of San Francisco.

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Bishop Martino: College ‘diversity’ should not trump authentic Catholic teaching

Scranton, Pa., Mar 6, 2009 (CNA) - Further responding to Misericordia University’s hosting of a homosexual activist, Bishop of Scranton Joseph F. Martino has written a reflection on the nature of teaching diversity and tolerance as it relates to the Catholic faith and authentic Catholic identity.

In February, the university’s Diversity Institute had hosted homosexual rights activist and same-sex “marriage” advocate Keith Boykin, having invited him to speak at the institute’s annual dinner and as part of Black History Month.

Bishop Martino had voiced his “absolute disapproval” for the invitation, later asking that the school consider closing the Diversity Institute and provide information about its efforts to teach Catholic morality regarding sexuality and homosexuality.

In a Tuesday statement, Bishop Martino wrote that the advancement of “tolerance, understanding and harmony between people of different races and cultures” are “worthy goals” which Misericordia University has a responsibility to advance “as a Catholic institution.”

“However, precisely because it is a Catholic institution, it also has a responsibility to transmit Catholic teaching to its students in ways that are not ambiguous or confusing,” he wrote.

The bishop repeated his statement that viewpoints “in direct opposition to Catholic teaching” should not be presented under “the guise of ‘diversity’.”

“Doing so within a formal structure sanctioned by the institution gives the impression that these viewpoints are acceptable, or that all morality is relative,” he emphasized.

“As Catholics, we must distinguish between authentic tolerance and an ‘anything goes’ mindset,” he continued, saying that an invitation to deniers of the Holocaust, defenders of slavery, and exploiters of women would not be justified.

Though these views are “diverse,” that does not qualify them to be given a platform or to be allowed to speak without any Catholic rebuttal, he noted.

Bishop Martino said that Catholics believe there is an “objective, moral Truth given to us by Jesus Christ.”

Faith and actions not rooted in this Truth risk contributing to the “dictatorship of relativism,” the bishop wrote, quoting Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s homily given just prior to his election as Pope Benedict XVI:

“To have a clear faith, according to the creed of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. While relativism, that is, allowing oneself to be carried about with every wind of ‘doctrine,’ seems to be the attitude that is fashionable. A dictatorship of relativism is being constituted that recognizes nothing as absolute and which only leaves the ‘I’ and its whims as the ultimate measure.”

Bishop Martino added that it is his right and duty as a bishop to ensure that “authentic Catholic teaching” is provided in all Catholic institutions in the diocese and to confirm that viewpoints opposed to Catholic teaching are not being presented as “acceptable alternatives.”

He insisted that he had disapproved of Boykin’s appearance at the university not because of his sexual orientation but because he is a proponent of a morality that is “disturbingly opposed to Catholic teaching.”

The bishop described as “regrettable” Misericordia University’s response to his request to produce evidence of its commitment to Catholic morality. He said its brief statement did not convey such evidence.

Referencing Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, Bishop Martino listed the “four essential characteristics” of a Catholic institution of higher learning.

These characteristics are a Christian inspiration of both individuals and the university community as such; a continuing reflection upon and contribution to the “growing treasury of human knowledge” in light of the Catholic faith; fidelity to the Christian message as received through the Church; and an “institutional commitment” to the “service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage.”

Bishop Martino closed by recommitting himself to his duty as bishop to “promulgate the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church to all the faithful.”

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Vatican to focus on Paul and the Holy Spirit this Lent

Vatican City, Mar 6, 2009 (CNA) -

In keeping with tradition, the members of the Roman Curia will hear a series of Lenten sermons by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa. This year’s series will focus on St. Paul’s understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit.

The first sermon will take place in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace on Friday, March 13 with Pope Benedict in attendance.

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the Pontifical Household, will reflect on the theme "The law of the Spirit of Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:2).

Since the Church is celebrating the Year of St. Paul, the series will focus on the Apostle's view of the work of the Holy Spirit. "In particular," says a note from the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, "the reflections will concentrate on the Holy Spirit as a new law operating through love, as an inner master guiding us through conscience, the Word of God and the Magisterium of the Church, as a force that creates and transforms the cosmos, as the soul of Christian eschatology that drives history to fulfillment."

Three other sermons will be preached in the same vein on March 20, 27 and April 3.

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Elderly Chinese bishop imprisoned for three years is released

Rome, Italy, Mar 6, 2009 (CNA) - Eighty five year-old Bishop Leon Yao Liang of Hebei has been reunited with his diocese after being held in prison for 30 months for belonging to the clandestine Catholic Church in China.

The French ecumenical association Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture reported on the release of Bishop Yao, which took place at the end of January.

The bishop has received the support of organizations and people around the world, who demanded that he be released. He enjoys good health, and although he is prohibited from leaving his parish to visit and support the faithful under his care, some 1,000 people attend his Mass each Sunday.

There are still two bishops from Hebei and a priest who remain in prison: Bishop Su Zhimin, 76, of Baoding, who was arrested on October 8, 1997, and Bishop Shi Enxiang, 85, of Yixian, who was arrested on April 13, 2001, and the vicar general of the Diocese of Baoding, Father Lui Genjun, who was arrested on February 17, 2006.

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Direct order from Pius XII to protect Jews uncovered by researchers

Rome, Italy, Mar 6, 2009 (CNA) - Father Peter Gumpel, the promoter of Pope Pius XII’s cause of beatification, revealed this week that he has uncovered new proof of the Pope’s efforts to protect Jews from the Nazis. The evidence consists of a note from the archives of a Roman monastery that mentions an order from the Holy Father to give shelter to persecuted Jews.

In statements to Vatican Radio, Father Gumpel said the note from the archives of the Augustinian Nuns of the Roman Monastery reads: “The Holy Father wishes to save his children, the Jews as well, and orders that the Monasteries provide hospitality to these persecuted people.” The note is from November of 1943 and includes a list of 24 people taken in by the monastery in response to the Holy Father’s request.

Father Gumpel said the importance of the find is that it is a written document.

“There are numerous oral testimonies, not only of nuns and priests, but also of others” about the work of Pope Pius XII, but “often there is a lack of contemporary written statements, which has provided those who continue attacking Pius XII the opportunity to respond with, ‘There are no documents that he ever acted during the raids against the Roman Jews on October 16, 1942.”

“This is completely false; the only thing it reveals is that in times of persecution and in situations like those of that time in Rome, a prudent person did not put things into ‘black and white,’ as there was a danger that they would fall into enemy hands and that later on even more hostile measures would be taken against the Catholic Church,” the priest said.

“The saving work of Pius XII,” he went on, “which many Jewish fronts bore witness to, was carried out through personal messengers—priests—who were sent to different institutions and Catholic homes here, in Rome, to universities, seminaries, parishes, convents, religious homes, always with the message: ‘Open your doors to all those persecuted by the Nazis,’ which first of all would mean the Jews.”

Father Gumpel said there are many who claim they would believe “in the work of Pius XII in support of the Jews if only we had a written document.’ Well, two written documents exist: one was sent to Bishop Nicolini of Assisi, who showed it to his collaborator, Father Brugnazzi; both were recognized afterwards by the Yad Vashem as ‘righteous among the nations’.”

“Here in Rome,” he said, “we now have this document from the archives of the Augustinian Cloistered Nuns” as “a subsequent confirmation that could be useful against those who persistently denigrate Pius XII and attack the Catholic Church.”

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First prison chapel for Christians inaugurated in Pakistan

Rome, Italy, Mar 6, 2009 (CNA) - The maximum security prison of Adiala in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi now has a chapel, which was built with the support of  the government and Christian institutions.

The Fides News Agency reports that the chapel was built for the “250 prisoners of the Christian faith who are held at the prison of Adiala.”  The prisoners said they were “satisfied and thankful for the availability of this space where they can stop to pray and meditate for hours.”

Fides also relates that many of the prisoners “worked and collaborated in the construction of the building and that they enjoy the use of the space to renew their hearts and their spirits.”

Fides notes that many Catholic prisoners “have become evangelizers to other prisoners, inviting them to prayer and carrying out gestures of solidarity, an unusual act in the difficult environment of a prison.”

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Family policy analyst slams conclusions of government committee on abortion

Madrid, Spain, Mar 6, 2009 (CNA) - A government-picked committee for Spain’s Ministry of Equality has concluded that abortion should be allowed to be performed without parental consent up to 14 weeks for teens as young as 16. The president of the Institute for Family Policy, Eduardo Hertfelder, is calling the decision “aberrant and unconstitutional.”

“What the government has done today is take a further step towards manipulation, sectarianism and scorn for society, as the conclusions coincided, as expected, with the assumptions of the government,” Hertfelder said, criticizing the committee for being made up of ideologically-driven people with economic interests in abortion.

Hertfelder depicted the conclusions as “another step” in support of the government’s agenda and against the needs of women, children, parents and society “and anything else that does not conform to its desires.”

“This has become a farce,” he said.

The president of the Institute for Family Policy proposed that the government form “a committee of authentic experts to open a serious and profound debate” without ideological and sectarian dogmas.

Otherwise, he warned, the application of these conclusions will make abortion more prevalent in Spain.

The members of the committee also proposed ensuring conscientious objection does not prevent women from having access to abortion in public or private health care facilities.

The Minister of Equality, Bibiana Aido, said the conclusions would be presented today at the Council of Ministers so that the government could draft a measure that would take the committee’s recommendations into account by summer.

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Archbishop explains excommunications in abortion case involving 9 year-old

Brasilia, Brazil, Mar 6, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho of Recife, Brazil has rebuffed reports that the Church excommunicated a 9 year-old girl whose twins were aborted. The girl underwent the abortion after a court ordered it, citing the fact that she was pregnant because of rape.

 

The Brazilian press attacked the Catholic Church today, falsely reporting that the 9-year old girl, raped earlier this year by her step-father and pregnant with twins, had been excommunicated.


The Archbishop of this Northeastern Brazilian region explained that, contrary to the press reports, all those involved in the abortion have incurred in excommunication latae sententiae (automatically) “except for the little girl, who is not morally responsible for this tragic act.”

 

The girl was required to have the twins aborted on Thursday at a hospital in Recife, Brazil.

 

The Catholic Church teaches that a person who commits a sin of grave matter must be fully conscious, or in this case, have a mature understanding of the act they are committing.  Archbishop Cardoso said that “in order to incur an excommunication, it is required to have a full conscience of the act. In this sense, the Church is benevolent with the minors and the victims of abortion.”

 

“All those who approved, promoted and performed the abortion, incurred automatic excommunication, according to code 1398 of the Canon Law.”

 

The case has drawn widespread attention since abortion is illegal, except under specific circumstances, and because Brazil is the world’s most heavily Catholic country.

 

“The Church usually does not announce or publicly that that is the case, but it was important for me to do it on this occasion,” Cardoso said.

“My hope is that those affected by the excommunication they brought upon themselves may change their hearts and may not wait until the proximity of death to repent,” he concluded.

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Changes in Cuban government do not mean greater democracy, charges dissident

Havana, Cuba, Mar 6, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, said this week that the changes in the cabinet of Raul Castro’s government in Cuba are cosmetic and not intended to make the country more democratic.

“These are high-level changes that may be important inasmuch as it affects the distribution of power among top officials, but they are not changes towards greater democracy,” Paya said during an interview with Chilean radio.

The political dissident explained that Cubans are not told what is happening in the government. “There can be a change in personnel, as there have been at other times, without what the people want to be done, which is openness, rights, reconciliation and freedom,” he said.

Recently, Raul Castro shuffled twelve cabinet positions, including requiring the retirement of vice president Carlos Lage and ex-foreign affairs minister Felipe Perez Roque, who have both been considered long-time supporters of Raul’s brother Fidel.

After the announcement, Fidel Castro accused them of “undignified” conduct. “The foreign enemy was very encouraged with them,” he said in an article published by the official state newspaper Granma. Both men subsequently wrote letters apologizing for their “errors.”

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Congressman to introduce FOCA ‘sooner rather than later,’ spokesman says

St. Louis, Mo., Mar 6, 2009 (CNA) - A spokesman for Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has said that the Freedom of Choice Act is among the congressman’s priorities and will be introduced “sooner rather than later,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is intended to enshrine abortion rights into federal law, protecting abortion in the event the Supreme Court overturns its ban on restrictive state abortion laws. The proposal has drawn intense Catholic opposition, with Catholic bishops worried the bill could threaten Catholic hospitals’ freedom to refuse to cooperate with or perform abortions.

A prior version of FOCA defined abortion as a “fundamental right” that no government can “deny” or “interfere with.”

Critics have claimed that concern about FOCA is overblown, noting the bill has not even been introduced for the present Congressional session. They declare FOCA’s chances of passing Congress to be slim.

However, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Ilan Kayatsky, a spokesman for Rep. Nadler, who said the legislation is “among the congressman's priorities. We expect to reintroduce it sooner rather than later.”

Kayatsky said he expects FOCA’s other original sponsor, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), to introduce the bill in the U.S. Senate.

“We expect it to be more or less the same bill with some minor tweaks," Kayatsky told the Post-Dispatch.

As U.S. Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama was a co-sponsor of FOCA. In 2007 during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, he had promised a gathering of members of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund that he would sign FOCA as one of his first acts in office.

Bishop of St. Petersburg, Florida Robert Lynch said that “even in the worst case scenario” in which FOCA required abortions to be performed at Catholic hospitals, the hospitals would not close.

“We will not comply, but we will not close,” he said, advocating a strategy of civil disobedience.

Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, told the Post Dispatch that she did not believe the language in the most recent version of FOCA would force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. She also believed civil disobedience would be the Church’s response to such coercion.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had launched a postcard to protest FOCA. It recently added an e-mail campaign to the effort, inviting citizens to tell their Senators and Representative to oppose FOCA “or any similar measure.”

“It is especially important that Congress retain these laws in the various appropriations bills, e.g., the Hyde Amendment in the Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bill,” the e-mails also say.

Deirdre McQuade, Assistant Director for Policy and Communications at the USCCB's Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, urged participation in the campaign.

"To guard against the erosion of current pro-life measures—and to keep abortion from becoming a federal entitlement—our voice is needed now more than ever," she said.

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