Archive of March 12, 2009

Obama’s embryonic stem cell decision ignored pro-life Democrats

Washington D.C., Mar 12, 2009 (CNA) - After being excluded by the Obama Administration from the conversation on embryonic stem cell research, Democrats for Life of America is expressing its absolute opposition to the President’s executive order lifting restrictions on the practice. The snub is causing many pro-life Democrats to reexamine their support for President Obama as they ponder the future direction of their Party.

The pro-life Democratic group voiced its surprise that the Obama administration did not give them an opportunity to comment on the policy change, after his team had consulted them over the Mexico City Policy.

The group said in a Monday statement:

“DFLA is against President Obama’s decision, period. There are workable and successful options available to private sector research operations that use umbilical cord blood and non embryonic stem cells. To frame this decision as a necessity to cure finding medical research is not accurate. 

“While we have zero confidence that a call for reversal of this Executive Order will prevail, we are hopeful that the President will heed our call for common ground solutions in dealing with pro-life Democrats.”

DFLA said it had an opportunity to state its concerns on the proposed Mexico City Policy reversal in discussions with representatives of the Obama Administration. However, President Obama’s expansion of embryonic stem cell research funding “came as a surprise” to the group.

“DFLA has had a productive relationship both with the campaign and the early stages of the new Administration. To have no opportunity to weigh in on this controversial issue signals a cooling of our relations,” the group said.

An essay published on the DFLA web site on Jan. 26 attacked the embryonic stem cell research debate’s “false dilemma” between being pro-science and pro-life. It argued that policymakers must not push aside ethical issues concerning the creation, cloning and destruction of human embryos.

DFLA again pointed to new research which can produce stem cells similar to embryonic stem cells while avoiding “many moral and practical problems.”

“Supporters of embryonic stem cell research seek to avoid the moral and ethical objections by arguing that the end – the possibility of a breakthrough that might advance medicine – justifies the means – destroying human embryos to harvest stem cells,” DFLA writes, calling this a “dubious argument.”

The DFLA also warns that some backers of embryonic stem cell research advocate “therapeutic” cloning in which embryos cloned from a patient are destroyed for their stem cells.

“Recent developments may well make embryonic stem cells obsolete. At a minimum, scientists must be encouraged to harness the enormous potential of powerful new stem cells created without destroying human embryos.”

In its Monday statement, DFLA suggested the Pregnant Women’s Support Act (PWSA) would be an area of cooperation with the Obama administration.

“We believe this should be put on the front of the legislative burner,” DFLA said.

“We will work with the President to pass this landmark abortion reduction bill and we are hopeful that he will see the PWSA is a far better way to work with pro-life Democrats than focusing on divisive issues that highlight our differences on issues dealing with life and the unborn.”

Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) Executive Director Kristen Day told CNA in a Wednesday phone interview that the decision has prompted many pro-life Democrats to report that they are re-examining their recent support for President Obama as they contemplate the direction of their party.

Saying that the overturning of the Bush-era executive order was “a little disappointing,” she added, “We were hoping that Congress could have an opportunity to look into this.”

Although President Obama said in his speech announcing the executive order that the limitations implemented by President Bush forced "a false choice between sound science and moral values," he did not specify how moral values could allow the scientific experiments, but merely ignored any moral objections in the name of science.

Kristen Day explained to CNA that “There are moral concerns here. We’re using human embryos. Is it okay to sacrifice one life or many lives to save another? This is something we really should be treading carefully on.

“We’re opposed to using the human embryos and experimenting on them. The end doesn’t justify the means.

“The unfortunate thing about this whole debate has been the confusion around it. Media reports talk about ‘stem cell research’ and there’s no distinction made between adult stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research.

“If people started to distinguish between them, I think there’d be a big shift in support.

“So much has been done and so many cures using adult stem cell research… If you look at adult and umbilical and placental stem cell research, we have cures. Cures for leukemia, cures for sickle-cell anemia.

“We should really be focusing our time and effort on what works. We should probably be using our limited funds, especially in this economy, to use things that are actually working.

CNA asked about legislators’ proposals to codify the president’s executive order in law.

“Really I think a better effort would be to step back. Let’s not rush anything,” Day said. “A lot of people need to be educated about what is going on.”

Day also lamented the “false hope” generated by the claim that President Obama’s executive order is going to cure people.

Asked about other proposals on embryonic stem cell research, such as efforts to overturn the Dickey-Wicker Amendment which bars funding for research which creates or destroys human embryos, she replied:

“We suspected they would come up, given the way things have gone this Congress so far.”

Day said the DFLA had been talking to Obama staffers during the presidential campaign and during the presidential transition on the Mexico City Policy, but not on embryonic stem cell research policy.

“We had no chance to comment on this at all. It’s a little questionable about where we are going.

“We’ve had a good working relationship, which we would like to continue to advance the Pregnant Women Support Act.

“There are a lot of pro-life Democrats who supported the president and voted for him. And I’m hearing a lot of comments from people now who are thinking that was a mistake. They’re wondering where our Party is going.”

CNA asked Day about being in the position of a Democrat who is defending a Republican president’s policy against a Democratic president’s changes.

“The pro-life issue should not be partisan,” Day stated. “There are definitely differences between the parties on raising minimum wage and health care. When you’re talking about pro-life, it should not be a party thing. It cannot be a party thing, because we’re talking about human life here.

Asked to give advice for those opposed to embryo-destructive research, Day said:

“Talk to as many people as you can and share real information about what this does. And really try to advocate for more funding for stem cell research that does work.”

People should especially talk about the distinction between embryonic and non-embryonic stem cell research, she counseled.

“There is really a lot of misinformation out there. People believe ESCR has cured things and it hasn’t. Be careful, and read closely.”

Day specifically advised pro-life Democrats to contact the Obama administration and share their concerns and to write to the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee “as a pro-life Democrat.”

 “We are Democrats and we are Pro-life and this is a consistent position for our Party to hold.

“We’ve been too quiet for far too long and we really need to be more forceful and speak up more.”

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Without evacuation, 100,000 face ‘total annihilation,’ Sri Lankan bishop warns

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Mar 12, 2009 (CNA) - More than 100,000 Sri Lankans face “total annihilation” unless an evacuation begins immediately, a northern Sri Lankan bishop has warned the country’s president.

Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam of Jaffna said that government and rebel forces are preparing for “the final battle” in his message to President Mahinda Rajapaksa pleading on behalf of those trapped in the war zone in northeast Sri Lanka.

The armed forces of the Colombo-based government are preparing for a final showdown with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers, Aid to the Church in Need reports.

The bishop’s letter, a copy of which was sent to ACN and LTTE political chief Balasingham Nadesan, manifests his fear for those cut off in the narrow seven-mile-long “safe zone” in the coastal district of Mulaithivu.

Emphasizing “the perilous situation of total annihilation of civilians in the no-fire zone,” he said the “extremely dangerous” situation requires “fast and stern action” to protect the safety of civilians.

The bishop calls on both the government and the LTTE to work together on a plan to evacuate people to a safe area within the districts of Kilinochchi and Mulaithivu.

Saying government forces have until now ignored his “repeated requests to open a safe corridor” for evacuees, he said the Sri Lankan Army has “persisted in using heavy weapons like artillery and mortar shells and simply drove the people away from a safe corridor to the present situation.”

He noted that the area has “very few trees” to provide shade from the “blazing hot sun,” which could aggravate the looming humanitarian crisis.

Bishop Savundaranayagam proposed a five-point emergency plan to be implemented “at the earliest opportunity” by both sides in conjunction with United Nations observers. He also called for immediate relief aid from the World Food Programme and called for a cease-fire to allow UN representatives to investigate and report on the region.

The bishop has made several previous appeals to the government on behalf of civilians affected by the fighting and has carried out a mission of mercy to the region with food aid supplied by ACN.

The conflict between the government and the Tamil Tigers began in 1983 and appeared to be ending in a lasting peace after a 2002 cease fire was brokered.

However, in January 2008 the government announced its withdrawal from the truce after a sudden escalation of violence in 2006.

At least 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.

The Tamil Tigers, who ACN says are fighting for a separate ethnic homeland, were driven into the far north at the end of 2008. They appeared to be nearing complete defeat after the government captured their administrative headquarters in the north at Kilinochchi.

Bishop Savundaranayagam has been highly critical of the conflict and has argued that a military solution can never bring about “a lasting solution to the present problem.”

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Bishop Olmsted: Obama’s pro-science rhetoric conceals ‘homicidal research’

Phoenix, Ariz., Mar 12, 2009 (CNA) - President Barack Obama’s explanations of his decision to end restrictions on the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research have been criticized by Bishop of Phoenix Thomas J. Olmsted, who has argued that the president’s pro-science rhetoric conceals “homicidal research” that violates the right to life.

Bishop Olmsted’s March 10 column in the Catholic Sun followed the president’s March 9 executive order expanding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

According to the bishop, the decision means that American taxpayers will be funding “the killing of human beings at a very early stage in their lives” so that scientific research can use them for experiments that may or may not have positive results.

“We U.S. taxpayers will now be forced to pay, whether we wish to or not, for the killing of our youngest brothers and sisters on the dubious hypothesis that their murders might, in the future, benefit others. Why did President Obama make this decision?” Bishop Olmsted asked.

He criticized President Obama’s comments that science should trump ideology, suggesting that the president is implicitly dismissing as ideologues people such as Pope Benedict XVI and all faithful Catholics around the world; people of faith from all major religions who believe that human life needs to be protected; and all people of good will who “oppose the killing of one group of human beings in order to benefit another group.”

The idea that science should “trump ideology,” the bishop said, is a “code phrase” concealing the argument that science should trump the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”

“It is contending that science should trump the right to life of a certain class of human beings, those who are at the embryonic stage of life,” he asserted. “Science, according to our president, does not need to be at the service of the human person or subject to morality.”

Bishop Olmsted questioned whether this position itself was influenced by an ideology.

“Is this what we Americans want our taxes to be used for?” he asked rhetorically.

He wrote that the president’s decision is not about overcoming a prohibition against stem cell research, because such research is “tragically” already legal. He reported that California taxpayers are now paying billions to fund “such heinous research.”

“What President Obama is doing is forcing all American taxpayers to pay for this homicidal research,” Bishop Olmsted charged. “He is forcing us who pay taxes to be complicit, in an involuntary yet real way, in this unethical enterprise. All of this is done so that ‘science can trump ideology’.”

The bishop then quoted Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, who called the president’s decision “a sad victory of politics over science and ethics” and a “morally wrong action” that encourages the destruction of innocent human life by “treating vulnerable human beings as mere products to be harvested.”

Bishop Olmsted said that Catholics must beg forgiveness for “this horrendous sin of our nation,” referencing a prayer of the Prophet Daniel:

“Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you and observe your commandments! We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws… Justice, O Lord, is on your side; we are shamefaced even to this day.”

The bishop advised that Catholics join with “others of good will” and make their voices heard at the White House, on Capitol Hill, in state legislatures and in the media.

“We must not stand by idly while our neighbor’s life is at stake,” he urged. “The dignity of a human person does not depend upon his or her age, developmental stage, or ability to function. Every human being has inherent dignity because God has created us with an eternal soul. No one has the right to extinguish this gift of life but God alone.”

Bishop Olmsted said that such “destructive research” is “especially pointless” in light of available ethical methods such as reprogramming adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells and the use of adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells.

Further, he urged, Catholics must pray and fast for an end to President Obama’s decision and an end to all attacks on human life. “Jesus told us that some evils can only be driven out by prayer and fasting,” he explained.

He closed by saying that Catholics must not lose hope, arguing that “false rhetoric” arguing that the notion that “science must triumph over ideology” is one that “will not stand the test of time.”

“Such counterfeit reasoning and slick cover-up of the truth will not have the last word,” he said.

Reminding his readers that Christians place their hope in Jesus, he said “this hope will never disappoint.”

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Pope personally explains decision to extend olive branch to SSPX bishops

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2009 (CNA) - A letter from Pope Benedict XVI to the bishops of the world, in which he explains the reasons he chose to lift the excommunications of the four bishops illicitly ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, including Bishop Richard Williamson, was officially made public this afternoon in Rome.

Addressing his brother bishops, Pope Benedict’s letter reads remarkably like a personal letter about an issue over which he has suffered greatly. He notes that some prelates and faithful reacted to the lifting of the bishops’ excommunication with an understanding of his desire as the Successor of Peter to achieve unity, but others "accused the Pope of wanting to turn back the clock to before the Council," and protested in a way that wounded the Church even more deeply.

"I therefore feel obliged to offer you, dear brothers, a word of clarification, which ought to help you understand the concerns which led me and the competent offices of the Holy See to take this step. In this way I hope to contribute to peace in the Church," the Pope says.

The Holy Father also explains how he did not know of Bishop Williamson’s views on the Holocaust before remitting his excommunication and that this caused the "discreet gesture of mercy towards four bishops ordained validly but not legitimately suddenly appeared as something completely different: as the repudiation of reconciliation between Christians and Jews…"

He also points out that the "gesture of reconciliation with an ecclesial group engaged in a process of separation thus turned into its very antithesis: an apparent step backwards with regard to all the steps of reconciliation between Christians and Jews taken since the Council - steps which my own work as a theologian had sought from the beginning to take part in and support."

Adapting the way that the Holy See relates to the new media was also noted. "I have been told that consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news."

Mixed with his willingness to admit a weakness and improve upon it, is the Pope’s sadness at being turned upon by Catholics "who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility."

"Precisely for this reason, he writes, "I thank all the more our Jewish friends, who quickly helped to clear up the misunderstanding and to restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust which - as in the days of Pope John Paul II - has also existed throughout my pontificate and, thank God, continues to exist."

Pope Benedict XVI also mentions another mistake, which he "deeply regrets," that was made in the process of remitting the four bishops’ excommunications: "the extent and limits of the provision of 21 January 2009 were not clearly and adequately explained at the moment of its publication."

Aiming to remedy that situation, the Pope clarifies, "the excommunication affects individuals, not institutions." Explaining that the excommunications by Pope John Paul II in 1988 had not had the desired effect of bringing about repentance and a return to unity, Benedict says that he lifted the excommunications to try another route of achieving unity. This was made possible by the bishops’ willingness to recognize in principle "the Pope and his authority as Pastor, albeit with some reservations in the area of obedience to his doctrinal authority and to the authority of the Council."

But Pope Benedict notes that there is a difference between individuals (the bishops) and institutions. "The remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the field of ecclesiastical discipline: the individuals were freed from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. This disciplinary level needs to be distinguished from the doctrinal level."

At the institutional level, the Pope explains that the St. Pius X Society does not have a canonical status, thus it is not yet in communion with the Church. " In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers - even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty - do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church."

The letter also contains a very important Curial restructuring that the Pope says he decided to undertake as the St. Pius X Society grapples with accepting doctrinal issues, namely the teachings of Vatican II. Benedict XVI writes that he has decided to transfer the "Ecclesia Dei" Commission to the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "This will make it clear that the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Vatican Council II and the post-conciliar Magisterium of the Popes."

"The Church's teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 - this must be quite clear to the Society. But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life," he writes.

The Pope closes his letter by assessing the way that the world approaches those who have expressed disdain for the St. Pius X Society as well as his efforts to achieve unity and reconciliation.

"Certainly, for some time now, and once again on this specific occasion, we have heard from some representatives of that community many unpleasant things - arrogance and presumptuousness, an obsession with one-sided positions, etc. Yet to tell the truth, I must add that I have also received a number of touching testimonials of gratitude which clearly showed an openness of heart. But should not the great Church also allow herself to be generous in the knowledge of her great breadth, in the knowledge of the promise made to her? Should not we, as good educators, also be capable of overlooking various faults and making every effort to open up broader vistas? And should we not admit that some unpleasant things have also emerged in Church circles? At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them - in this case the Pope - he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint."

The full letter can be read by visiting:



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Pontiff prays for unity, peace among Christians and Jews

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2009 (CNA) - Upon receiving a delegation from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Pope Benedict spoke of the importance of dialogue between the religions and expressed his hope that the groups will continue to work for peace.


Addressing the delegations in English at midday, the Holy Father first recalled the importance of the dialogue that the two groups have been engaged in since 2000, after John Paul II’s March visit to the Holy Land.


Since then, the Pope continued, “not only has the friendship between the commission and the Chief Rabbinate increased, but you have also been able to reflect on important themes which are relevant to the Jewish and Christian traditions alike."


Over the past seven meetings between the Chief Rabbinate and the Vatican commission, the two groups have discussed a wide range of mutual interests. “You have reflected on the sanctity of life, family values, social justice and ethical conduct, the importance of the Word of God expressed in Holy Scriptures for society and education, the relationship between religious and civil authority and the freedom of religion and conscience," the Pontiff pointed out.


Referring then to his own approaching pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the Pope noted his intention "to pray especially for the precious gift of unity and peace both within the region and for the world-wide human family."


Wrapping up his address, the Holy Father expressed the hope that his visit may "also help to deepen the dialogue of the Church with the Jewish people so that Jews and Christians and also Muslims may live in peace and harmony in this Holy Land."

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Bishop of Alicante opens cause of canonization of young Spanish woman

Madrid, Spain, Mar 12, 2009 (CNA) - The Diocese of Orihuela-Alicante in Spain announced that this Saturday it will hold a ceremony opening the cause of canonization of Rebeca Rocamora, a young woman who died in 1996 at the age of 20 after enduring a serious illness.

According to the diocese’s website, the event is “one of most anticipated events of the recent months” and “will be a huge event” presided over by the local ordinary, Bishop Rafael Palmero.

Rebeca died on May 26, 1996, at the age of 20 in her native town of Granja de Rocamora.  According to the promoters of her cause, “her simple life as a parish catechist and her acceptance of her illness and manner of facing death with joy, had a deep impact on those who knew her.”

In October of 2008, Bishop Palmero informed the diocese about her cause and underscored “the growing reputation of holiness for her virtues and intercession among those who know and pray to her, so that her remembrance will serve as an example to the youth and concretely to catechists.”

Rebeca’s life

Rebeca was born into a Christian family on September 7, 1975, in Granja de Rocamora.  Blond-haired and blue-eyed, she was known as a child for her smile, innocence and vitality.

In 1985 she contracted a serious illness, which she accepted with courage and strength, becoming for all around her an example of joy, humility, simplicity and charity.

According to the diocese, “later on, with the onset of a new and unexpected illness, her soul matured quickly, and she was encouraging to all and accepting of her fate.  Many testimonies bear witness to her intimate and daily living out of human and Christian virtues, in a hidden but extraordinary way, that reveal a heart full of great and profound faith.  During her last days, her response to those who insisted she pray for her health was: ‘The Lord already knows that if it would be good for me, He would grant it. I pray that he increases my faith.”

She died on Sunday, May 26, 1996 (the Solemnity of Pentecost), leaving behind a testimony of life full of youth and beauty surrendered to God, at the tender age of 20.

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Arizona has ‘banner day’ for pro-life legislation

Phoenix, Ariz., Mar 12, 2009 (CNA) - The Arizona House of Representatives on Wednesday passed several notable pro-life bills, including a proposed state ban on partial-birth abortions, several regulations on abortion procedures and better tax credit support for crisis pregnancy centers and other non-profits.

A statement from the Arizona Catholic Conference said the multiple victories made Wednesday “a banner day.”

“All of these bills still need to get through the Senate, but I don't remember another single day where so many of our bills were passed on the floor,” commented Ron Johnson, Executive Director of the Arizona Catholic Conference (ACC).

The Abortion Consent Act, HB 2564, passed by a vote of 36-19. It requires informed consent before abortions; more meaningful parental consent; rights of conscience protections for health care providers, including pharmacists; and statutory guarantees that prohibit non-doctors from performing surgical abortions.

Under the informed consent provisions of the bill, a 24-hour “reflection period” is mandated for any woman seeking an abortion, the Arizona Republic reports. The bill also requires these women to be informed of alternatives to abortion, the government assistance available to them if they carry the pregnancy to term, the details of the nature of the killing procedure and the risks associated with it, and the probable gestational age and physiological characteristics of the unborn baby.

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

The parental consent changes in HB 2564 mean that minors who seek an abortion must receive written notarized consent from a parent or guardian.

Bill sponsor Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, described the regulations as “reasonable” as women too often are not making an informed decision.

According to the Arizona Republic, Rep. Olivia Cajero Bedford, D-Tucson, charged that the measure “assumes that women don’t think through their abortion decisions and that the state must do the thinking for them.”

In a February interview, Ron Johnson told CNA that the bill was “the most significant piece of pro-life legislation we’ve done in Arizona.” He said past proposals had been vetoed by then-Governor Janet Napolitano. He expressed hope that the new governor will be more supportive of the pro-life cause.

The ban on partial birth abortions, HB 2400, passed by a 37-19 vote. The ACC said the bill was important because “it enables local prosecutors to bring legal actions in order to make sure this horrific procedure is never performed in Arizona.”

HB 2286, which passed by a 55-1 vote, helped streamline the charitable organization tax credit which the ACC says benefits crisis pregnancy centers and other non-profit groups serving the poor.

Further, the scholarship tuition tax credit was made permanent under HB 2288, which passed 33-23.

The ACC expressed gratitude for the “extremely high number of e-mails” concerned citizens sent to legislators in response to an ACC action alert.

“Your quick response made a tremendous impact on legislators at a critical time,” the ACC statement said.

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Christians should courageously confront today's secular and anti-religious society, says Cardinal

London, England, Mar 12, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, encouraged Christians this week “to recover their self-confidence and courage” in order to confront the growing problem of religious and secular intolerance in the West, as well as “to recover their genius for showing that there are better ways to live and to build a good society.”

The cardinal made his comments during a conference entitled, “Varieties of Intolerance: Religious and Secular,” which he gave in London to the Oxford University Newman Society.  During his speech he indicated that the freedom of the Catholic Church in the West is under pressure from the new and dangerous tendency to use “anti-discrimination law and human rights claims” to attack the role of religion in public life as well as individual rights.

As an example, the cardinal cited the case of California, where Christians and Mormons supported Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.  He noted how churches and temples were vandalized and how many who supported the proposition have been forced to quit their jobs and have been black-listed by homosexual activists.

“Christianophobic blacklisting and intimidation is passed over in silence,” the cardinal said. “In a democracy, believers and non-believers must be free to talk about these differences, to criticize each other's beliefs (what Catholics used to call apologetics), and to evangelize while always respecting the freedom of the individual. Reciprocity in this is essential: it is not a one way street.  Some secularists seem to like one way streets.”

In a reference to Obama’s promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act if Congress passes it, which would legalize abortion and deny doctors the right to conscientious objection, the cardinal said it could cause “a culture war.” “Believers should not be treated by the government and the courts as a tolerated and divisive minority whose rights must always yield to the minority secular agenda, especially when religious people are overwhelmingly in the majority,” Cardinal Pell said.

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Former Colorado congresswoman to lead new pro-life voting initiative

Denver, Colo., Mar 12, 2009 (CNA) - This morning, the Susan B. Anthony List announced that Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) will lead the pro-life organization’s latest initiative, “Votes Have Consequences,” a nationwide grassroots mobilization and voter education effort.


The new initiative will be formally unveiled at the SBA List’s Campaign for Life Dinner tonight in Washington D.C.


According to an interview by CBNNews, the organization says it plans to target certain congressmen who are “out of step” with their constituents on life issues.


Instead of waiting until the next election cycle, SBA List is planning to get involved early in the process.  Musgrave says that she plans to go into districts where politicians are vulnerable and educate voters on life issues now.


In a press release, Musgrave emphasized the importance of the initiative, especially while facing President Obama’s Administration.  “Under the new administration and Congress, pro-lifers have constantly been on the defensive.  An aggressive, strategic effort to educate pro-life voters early and often is long overdue.”


She continued, “This is a new day in politics for the pro-life movement.  We're going to be assertive, strategic and focused in our efforts to elevate the cause of Life at the grassroots level, where it matters.”


During Musgrave’s political career she has long-campaigned for pro-life, pro-family issues.


SBA president Marjorie Dannenfelser also noted that “at a point in history when political ‘education’ includes lies and distortions which attack candidates personally instead of their policy stands, it is critical that pro-life communication to voters about their representatives be constant and clear and honest.”


“That is exactly what the Susan B. Anthony List intends to implement,” she explained.  “Our efforts will be early, aggressive and in a targeted fashion.  Continuing pro-life trends among women and the nation as a whole make this education all the more critical."


Jane Abraham, General Chairman of the SBA List added that “the time to go on the offense is now.” 


“If we learned anything in 2008, it’s that we need to work early and often to raise the salience of the Life issue in the public discourse among voters.”  She continued, “We know this initiative will make a real difference by setting the record straight and engaging grassroots activists in targeted districts nationwide.” 

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Archbishop slams plan by Chavez to centralize authority in Caracas

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 12, 2009 (CNA) - The second vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, Archbishop Roberto Luckert, said this week that the plan by the Chavez government to centralize all authority in Caracas under one official is an abuse and a mockery and confirms that Chavez does not respect or believe in the ballot box, “but rather in using force.”

The archbishop’s comments were in reference to a plan by the National Assembly to create the office of Vice president of the Metropolitan Area of Caracas, which would be above the mayor and would be designated by the president.

Speaking on Union Radio, Archbishop Luckert recalled that the residents of Caracas elected Antonio Ledezma to be their mayor. “Why are they going to name someone else now in violation of the all the constitutional norms and of what the people expressed at the polls?” he asked.

He called the proposal an “abuse and a mockery of the Venezuelan people,” and he said it shows once again that Chavez “has never believed in elections.”  “Ever since he left prison he has persuaded us to abstain, he did not believe in the power of voting but rather in the use of force,” the archbishop stated.

Mayor Ledezma also criticized the plan and said Chavez is seeking to strip power away from the opposition “through a policy of sabotage, using tactics that border on the illegal.”

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Orange County rescinds contract with Planned Parenthood, citing abortion concerns

Orange, Calif., Mar 12, 2009 (CNA) - Citing Planned Parenthood’s links to abortion, the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to rescind the organization’s $290,000 contract which would have funded a sex education program.

The 5-0 vote followed a long debate and many comments from the public.

The funding was part of a $7.5 million contract with the Orange County Coalition of Community Clinics. $291,788 of that money went to Planned Parenthood to provide teens and pre-teens with sex education, including information on birth control and sexually transmitted diseases, the California Catholic Daily reports.

The county supervisors decided that county health officials should find another member of the community clinics coalition that could use the money.

According to the Orange County Register, Supervisor Chris Norby cited Planned Parenthood’s abortion record as a reason for his decision.

“I don’t believe the county should be funding abortion, and I don’t believe the county really should be involved in funding an organization who performs about 35 percent of the abortions in the country,” he said.

Jon Dunn, president of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties, attacked the decision for being driven by “personal religious ideology and not the vision of health care for the county.”

“They’re opposed to our organization because they’re opposed to a woman’s right to choose,” he argued, saying the cuts in funding will result in “more unintended pregnancies and more abortions.”

During public comments, Buena Park pastor Wiley Drake asked the supervisor to discontinue the support for Planned Parenthood.

“They can blow smoke all day long, but they’re nothing more than a baby-killing organization,” Drake said, according to the Orange County Register.

Supervisor John Moorlach brought the Planned Parenthood contracts to the board’s attention in February. He was reportedly surprised when an Orange County resident told him the organization was receiving county funds.

"We have a problem with financing Planned Parenthood, period," Mario Mainero, Moorlach's chief of staff,” told the Register. "We just don't think government money should be used to talk to teens and preteens about birth control and abortion.”

Planned Parenthood is still receiving $50,000 in county funds to provide immunizations.

Undercover investigations by Live Action Films have uncovered Planned Parenthood staffers covering up cases of alleged statutory rape in Indiana and Arizona, while another investigation discovered an Idaho Planned Parenthood staffer would accept money from a racist donor who said he wanted to target black babies for abortion.

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Former Colombian hostage says John Paul II helped her regain her faith

Rome, Italy, Mar 12, 2009 (CNA) - The Colombian lawyer Clara Rojas, who was held hostage by the rebel group FARC for six years, attended Pope Benedict XVI’s Wednesday General Audience this week and recalled that during her years of captivity, she listened to John Paul II on a Catholic radio station, which helped her to regain her faith and to have the strength to carry on.

Speaking to the Efe news agency, Rojas, who was at St. Peter’s with her mother and her son, said she came to Rome to thank the Catholic Church for supporting her and to raise awareness that the FARC still holds some 3,000 people hostage, including some 25 soldiers.

Although she did speak personally with Pope Benedict, she said that “seeing him up close” was “emotional,” and that on Thursday she would be meeting with Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. 

Rojas said she is convinced of the need to raise public awareness about the plight of the hostages in Colombia and that she hopes her meeting with the cardinal will bring more attention to the issue.  “The hostages need to know that we carry them in our hearts and that we are fighting for the release,” she said.

Recalling her experience during the years in which she was in captivity, Rojas said that in the jungles of Colombia she would listen to the voice of John Paul II on Catholic radio and that she often prayed the rosary with him. She regained her faith during those years, which she said gave her the strength to carry on.

Clara Rojas was kidnapped on February 23, 2002, together with Ingrid Betancourt 600 kilometers south of Bogota in an area controlled by the FARC. She was rescued on January 10, 2008 in the southeastern region of Guaviare.

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