Benton Harbor, Mich., Mar 20, 2009 (CNA) - The Washington D.C.-based Becket Fund, a nonpartisan interfaith public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions, announced on Tuesday that a coalition of a dozen religious and civil rights groups have joined in asking a Michigan court of appeals to release a Christian minister accused of “threatening” a judge with a Bible verse.
Rev. Edward Pinkney originally appeared in court for his involvement in fighting the requisition of public lakeshore by Whirlpool Corporation. Pinkney was placed under house arrest, but because he wrote an article in the Chicago-area People's Tribune quoting the Book of Deuteronomy to say that God would punish the judge for his “wrongdoing,” the court decided to send him to jail.
After the article appeared, the trial court judge recused himself. The subsequent judge found that Pinkney's comments were “threatening” and revoked the minister's probation period sending him to prison for three to 10 years.
The civil rights coalition, which includes the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the American Jewish Congress, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, and Liberty Legal Institute, among others, filed a friend of the court brief asking the appeals court to overturn the trial court's order.
"The First Amendment was designed to protect ministers speaking religious truth to political power," said Eric Rassbach, the Becket Fund's National Director of Litigation.
"From the colonial preachers who decried British tyranny, to the abolitionist ministers of Massachusetts to Martin Luther King Jr., our country has a proud history of allowing ministers to hold government officials to account. A court can't punish someone for saying that the judge broke God's law."
"Judges don't get to decide whether prophecies are true, even when those prophecies apply to them. Courts should stick to the law and leave theology to people of faith," added Rassbach.
Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2009 (CNA) - President Barack Obama’s position on human cloning was debated in a recent email exchange between Doug Kmiec and Robert P. George, with George insisting the president’s stated opposition to “reproductive” cloning is “misleading.”
Both agreed that in principle President Obama’s March 9 executive order on embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) allows the funding of research on stem cell lines derived from cloned embryos.
However, Kmiec emphasized that President Obama would prohibit cloning which resulted in embryos being implanted in a womb. George insisted that the president’s support for so-called “therapeutic cloning” should be highlighted for disapproval and criticized the “misleading” language of some who condemn only “reproductive cloning.”
George, who is a Princeton University law professor, a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics and a co-author of a book on the ethical status of the human embryo, initiated the exchange after Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News and World Report’s “God & Country” blog on March 10 posted an email from Kmiec on the president’s embryonic research policy.
In that email Kmiec, a Pepperdine University law professor and Catholic who supported President Obama’s election, voiced his disagreement with President Obama’s decision allowing more federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) “because of my faith and my acceptance, as a scientific matter, of the human zygote as the beginning of life.”
Kmiec wrote, “…no innocent human life is to be sacrificed for another even with the promise of medical breakthrough. That said, I do commend the President for his strong prohibition of human cloning.”
Beginning a three-day email exchange, George wrote a March 12 message challenging Kmiec’s report that President Obama backed a “strong prohibition of human cloning.”
George said that under President Obama’s policy, stem cells produced by destroying cloned human embryos will be “fully eligible for federal funding.”
He argued that the phrase “reproductive cloning” used in the president’s statement is “a misleading term.”
“It refers not to cloning itself, but rather to what one does or intends to do with the clone, i.e., the embryonic human being created by cloning, once the process of somatic cell nuclear transfer has been successfully completed. A ban on ‘reproductive cloning’ is a ban on implanting a human embryo produced by cloning and permitting the embryonic human to develop into infancy.”
“All successful cloning is reproductive: it brings into existence a complete, living member of the species in the embryonic stage of development,” George later wrote in a March 13 e-mail. “Reproduction has happened once the embryo exists. No cloning is ‘therapeutic’ since the subject of the cloning process (the embryo) is in no way healed or helped by the process. Indeed, in what is called by its supporters ‘therapeutic’ cloning, that subject is deliberately destroyed so that his or her cells can be used for purposes unconnected to his or her health or well-being.”
In his March 13 email, George asked Kmiec to correct his previous remarks on President Obama’s cloning position, arguing:
He noted that President Obama did not support the Brownback-Landrieu ban on human cloning “for any purpose” but instead was a co-sponsor of “competing legislation to allow human cloning while forbidding implantation and gestation of human embryos produced by cloning.”
In his reply, Kmiec noted that President Obama used the phrase “human reproductive cloning” in a manner “virtually identical” to the way it is used by the National Academies of Science (NAS).
Conceding that George’s definition is “better” in terms of its “explanatory power,” he said “I am less certain that the President warrants criticism for his usage of terminology accepted by the NAS.”
“I have already raised my disagreement with the President. I take it you share in my dissent,” Kmiec wrote.
Replying to Kmiec, George again focused on Kmiec’s original statement:
“You said that President Obama prohibited cloning. That is what readers of Dan Gilgoff's interview were given to believe on your authority. It is what they will believe if you do not correct the record and provide an accurate account of President Obama's policy.”
He then presented six questions he requested Kmiec answer, which Kmiec did in his final e-mail.
Kmiec refused to grant that President Obama did not prohibit human somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which George called “the scientific name for cloning.”
“While the administrative regulation remains to be drafted, there is no reason to believe based on what the President said that his ban on reproductive cloning would not include the process of SCNT where its intent was implantation and gestation,” he wrote.
Answering another of George’s questions, Kmiec said he “suspects” that the president supports cloning to create living human embryos which will be destroyed to produce stem cells for scientific research.
However, he said that until the administrative regulations are written, it is possible they will permit research only on embryos resulting from infertility or in-vitro fertilization procedures, embryos “that would otherwise be discarded.”
George’s final reply said he was glad Kmiec conceded that President Obama’s decision allows funding for material produced by destroying cloned human embryos, calling that “the most important fact” about the policy.
Agreeing with Kmiec that support should be built for preferring adult stem cell research, he said Kmiec should ask the president about his revocation of a 2007 Bush executive order promoting research on non-embryo-destructive sources of stem cells. George warned that many opponents of “reproductive cloning” nonetheless “have no problem with the industrial production of human embryos for research in which they are destroyed.”
George then invited Kmiec to debate the question “Did President Obama Prohibit Human Cloning” either at Princeton or Pepperdine, saying such an event would advance public understanding.
“It is very important for our fellow citizens to know whether or not President Obama prohibited human cloning, and to understand exactly what his policy is on the creation of new human beings by SCNT and other methods to be destroyed in federally funded biomedical research in the embryonic stage of development.”
Luanda, Angola, Mar 20, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Filomeno Viera Dias of Cabinda said Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Angola, which begins today, constitutes “a great historic moment in the history of our people, our country, for reconciliation and the rebuilding of Angolan society, beginning with its deepest values.”
Speaking to the Angopress news agency, the bishop said that “the preparation has been extremely careful, even though there have been some slight modifications, but we are optimistic. By Friday we will have everything in order to welcome the Pope.”
Bishop Viera Dias said the Pope would be welcomed as only Angola can. “At this moment the only thing left is for me to ask Angolans to experience this moment as a great moment in the history of our people, our country, for reconciliation and the rebuilding of the Angolan society, beginning with its deepest values.
The bishop called on all Angolans to attend the Mass with Pope Benedict XVI this Sunday.
Angola is still recovering from the effects of a 30-year civil war, and hopes that the Pope’s visit will give momentum to a continued rebirth.
Scranton, Pa., Mar 20, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop of Scranton Joseph F. Martino on Wednesday announced that he will not meet with officials from Misericordia University until they make public specific information on the institution’s efforts to teach Catholic morality on sexuality and homosexuality. He also has required the school to discuss how it adheres to Catholic standards of higher education.
In February, the university’s Diversity Institute hosted homosexual rights activist and same-sex “marriage” advocate Keith Boykin, who was invited to speak at the institute’s annual dinner and as part of Black History Month.
According to the Diocese of Scranton, Boykin also addressed the intersection of religion and sexuality in at least one of his talks. Further, the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexual behavior was not presented at the event.
Bishop Martino had voiced his “absolute disapproval” for the invitation of Boykin, later asking that the school consider closing the Diversity Institute. He then requested the school provide information about its efforts to teach Catholic morality regarding sexuality and homosexuality.
He has also asked that this information be made available to Misericordia’s alumni and the public. According to a Wednesday statement from the Diocese of Scranton, the bishop has requested precise information such as courses, content and catalog numbers.
“The university has thus far refused to do so, instead requesting a private meeting with the Bishop,” the diocese’s statement says. “However, the scandal that led to the Bishop’s request was a public matter. Therefore, no meeting will be held unless Misericordia complies with the request for a public release of information.”
Citing Misericordia’s assertion that it is “committed deeply to its Catholic mission,” Bishop Martino said it is puzzling the school would not want to assure the public it is teaching Catholic morality and manifesting the characteristics of a Catholic institution of higher learning.
Referencing Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, Bishop Martino has 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 believes the kind of information he is seeking should be easy to compile and readily available,” the Diocese of Scranton said, noting that Bishop Martino is obliged to address these matters given his canonical responsibility to evaluate and judge how Catholic institutions in his diocese are “upholding the principles of authentic Catholic identity.”
“In particular, it is his responsibility to ensure that institutions of higher learning which desire to call themselves Catholic are zealous in teaching Catholic faith and morals,” the diocese’s Wednesday statement said.
Santa Fe, NM, Mar 20, 2009 (CNA) - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on Wednesday signed legislation repealing New Mexico’s death penalty.
The move makes New Mexico the second state to ban executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the Associated Press says.
Richardson, a former supporter of the death penalty, called signing the bill the “most difficult decision” of his political life. However, he said, “the potential for ... execution of an innocent person stands as anathema to our very sensibilities as human beings.”
The governor said he made the decision after visiting the state penitentiary, observing the death chamber and also the maximum security unit which could house those sentenced to life without parole.
"My conclusion was those cells are something that may be worse than death," he said, according to the Associated Press. "I believe this is a just punishment."
The repeal passed the state Senate by a vote of 24 to 18 and had been approved by the House a month earlier. The law takes effect July 1 and will apply to crimes committed after that date. After it takes effect, the most severe legal sentence will be life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“Faced with the reality that our system for imposing the death penalty can never be perfect, my conscience compels me to replace the death penalty with a solution that keeps society safe,” the governor said, also saying he was disturbed that death rows contain so many minorities.
He also claimed the death penalty affects American moral leadership in foreign policy.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, former President Jimmy Carter and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish joined others who called on Richardson to sign the bill. According to the governor, he had received 12,000 responses from residents by phone, e-mail and visits, reporting more than three-fourths favored the repeal.
Bishop of Rockville Centre William F. Murphy, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), had advocated for the repeal in a March 16 letter to the governor. He said repeal would “help to begin building a culture of life in our country.”
Echoing another passage of Bishop Murphy’s letter, Bishop of Las Cruces Ricardo Ramirez said the repeal “has made New Mexico a leader in turning away from the death penalty with all its moral problems and issues of fairness and justice.”
The New Mexico Sheriffs' and Police Association had opposed repealing capital punishment, arguing it deters violence against police officers, jailers and prison guards. According to the Associated Press, district attorneys also opposed the legislation, saying the death penalty was a useful prosecutorial tool.
Law enforcement officers have "lost a layer of protection and it's a sad day in New Mexico," said Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White.
New Mexico joins 14 other states that do not impose the death penalty. The state has executed only one person since 1960, child killer Terry Clark, in 2001.
Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2009 (CNA) - The United States supports the U.N. Statement on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” a State Department spokesman said on Wednesday. Critics of the statement, including the leader of the Holy See’s mission to the U.N., have expressed concern it is ill-defined and overbroad and could pressure states to recognize same-sex “marriage.”
Robert Wood, Acting Spokesman at the U.S. Department of State, declared U.S. government support for the statement, saying the government “is pleased to join the other 66 U.N. member states who have declared their support.”
He said the statement “condemns human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity wherever they occur.”
Calling the U.S. “an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world,” he said the U.S. will “continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people.”
Article 3 of the statement reads: “We reaffirm the principle of non-discrimination which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Expressing “deep concern” about “violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” the statement condemns “violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice” directed against persons “because of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The statement’s Article 8 encourages the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies to “continue to integrate consideration of human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity within their relevant mandates.”
Last year Archbishop Celestino Migliore, head of the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations, argued that the statement would “add new categories of those protected from discrimination” and could lead to reverse discrimination against those who believe in traditional marriage.
"If adopted, they would create new and implacable discriminations," Archbishop Migliore said. "For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as 'matrimony' will be pilloried and made an object of pressure.”
The archbishop also noted that the Catechism of the Catholic Church forbids “unjust discrimination.”
Homosexual activists seized on the clergyman’s opposition, some trying to claim the Vatican supported capital punishment for homosexuals.
This past December, Archbishop Migliore made additional criticisms of the statement, saying the wording of the declaration goes “well beyond” condemnations of violence against homosexuals and of criminal penalties against them.
He said the document’s categories of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity," under international law, "find no recognition or clear and agreed definition." This “gives rise to uncertainty in the law and challenges existing human rights norms."
Yaounde, Cameroon, Mar 20, 2009 (CNA) - On Thursday afternoon, after having celebrated Mass with 70,000 people, Pope Benedict traveled to a home for young people with disabilities or suffering from traumatic experiences. The Holy Father told the young people that they are not alone in their pain as he elaborated on the Church’s commitment to accompany those suffering, including AIDS patients.
The visit to Yaounde's Cardinal Leger National Rehabilitation Centre began at four in the afternoon and saw the Holy Father meet with the center’s youth as well as 200 sick people, who were brought there from hospitals around Cameroon.
"You are not alone in your pain, for Christ Himself is close to all who suffer," the Pope proclaimed as he spoke to the sick. "He reveals to the sick and infirm their place in the heart of God and in society," he added, noting how in the Gospels Christ often shows us, "through specific actions, His fraternal tenderness and benevolence towards all the broken-hearted, all whose bodies are wounded."
In keeping with his goal of tending to the wounds of Africa, the Pope said, "As I stand here today, I am mindful of all the people in hospitals ... who suffer from a disability, mental or physical. I also think of those whose flesh bears the scars of wars and violence. I remember too all the sick and, especially here in Africa, the victims of such diseases as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. I know how actively engaged the Catholic Church in your country is in the fight against these terrible afflictions, and I encourage you to pursue this urgent task with great determination."
Although it was missed by most of the media, who focused on the Pope’s solitary line about condoms, his Thursday address to the sick and suffering built off of his strategy for fighting AIDS that he mentioned on the Tuesday plane ride to Cameroon.
Pope Benedict stressed once again the need to accompany the sick and suffering, the second prong of the Church’s strategy to combat AIDS.
In the presence of atrocious torment "we feel powerless and we cannot find the right words. Before a brother or sister plunged into the mystery of the Cross, a respectful and compassionate silence, a prayerful presence, a gesture of tenderness and comfort, a kind look, a smile, often achieve more than many words," he said.
The Holy Father then provided a Scriptural reflection on accompanying the suffering by mentioning the "small group of men and women, including the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John, who followed Jesus in the depths of His suffering at the time of His Passion and His death on the Cross."
Among this group, the Pope explained "was an African, Simon of Cyrene, ... [who] took part, at the price of his own suffering, in the infinite suffering of the One Who ransomed all men, including His executioners."
"It is hard to accept to carry someone else's cross. Only after the resurrection could he have understood what he had done. Brothers and sisters, it is the same for each of us: in the depths of our anguish, of our own rebellion, Christ offers us His loving presence even if we find it hard to understand that He is at our side. Only the Lord's final victory will reveal for us the definitive meaning of our trials.
"Can it not be said," the Holy Father asked, "that every African is in some sense a member of the family of Simon of Cyrene? Every African who suffers, indeed every person who suffers, helps Christ to carry His Cross and climbs with Him the path to Golgotha in order one day to rise again with Him. ... Since the resurrection, and right up to our own time, there have been countless witnesses who have turned, with faith and hope, towards the Savior of mankind, recognizing His presence at the heart of their suffering. May the Father of mercies graciously grant the prayers of all who turn to Him. He answers our call and our prayer, as and when He wishes, for our good and not according to our desires."
Pope Benedict invited sick people to "gaze upon the Crucified One, with faith and courage, for from Him come life, comfort, and healing," and to turn to St. Joseph, "an intercessor for bodily health ... [and] for the health of the soul."
Addressing doctors and researchers who were present, the Pope reminded them that they all have the task of "putting into practice every legitimate form of pain relief; you are called, in the first place, to protect human life, you are the defenders of life from conception to natural death. For every person, respect for life is a right and at the same time a duty, since all life is a gift from God.
"With you," he concluded, "I would like to give thanks to the Lord for all who, in one way or another, work in the service of the suffering. I encourage priests and those who visit the sick to commit themselves to an active and friendly presence in their hospital chaplaincy, or to assure an ecclesial presence in the home, for the comfort and spiritual support of the sick."
Yaounde, Cameroon, Mar 20, 2009 (CNA) - Preparing to depart Cameroon for Angola, the second stop of his African visit, the Holy Father addressed the country’s President Paul Biya, along with civil and religious leaders. He recalled his stay in Cameroon and urged the officials to “seize the moment the Lord has given you,” in order to bring “healing and peace to your communities and your society.”
The Holy Father delivered a brief address at the Nsimalen airport expressing thanks for the warm welcome he received in the country and for the efforts made to ensure the success of his visit.
In addition, he encouraged his audience to continue praying that the upcoming African bishops’ Synod will be a time of grace for the Church in Africa and also “a time of renewal and rededication to the mission to bring the healing message of the Gospel to a broken world."
Moving on to recall moments of his stay in Cameroon, he mentioned his visit to the Cardinal Leger Centre where “it was most moving to observe the care that is taken of the sick and the disabled, some of the most vulnerable members of our society. That Christ-like compassion is a sure sign of hope for the future of the Church and for the future of Africa."
He also spoke of his meeting with representatives of the Muslim community. "As we continue on our journey towards greater mutual understanding," he said, "I pray that we will also grow in respect and esteem for one another, and strengthen our resolve to work together to proclaim the God-given dignity of the human person, a message that an increasingly secularized world needs to hear."
Finally the Pope highlighted "the historic moment of the promulgation of the 'Instrumentum Laboris' (working document) of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. Truly this is a moment of great hope for Africa and for the whole world," he said as he invited the people of Cameroon "to seize the moment the Lord has given you. Answer His call to bring reconciliation, healing and peace to your communities and your society.”
"Work to eliminate injustice, poverty and hunger wherever you encounter it!" he cried.
Upon the completion of his remarks, the Holy Father boarded his aircraft and departed for the Angolan capital Luanda.
Yaounde, Cameroon, Mar 20, 2009 (CNA) - Winding down his final day in Cameroon, Pope Benedict met with 12 members of the Special Council for Africa of the Synod of Bishops and spoke about the group’s upcoming meeting on promoting reconciliation, justice and peace on the war-torn continent.
The meeting between the Holy Father and the bishops from Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Algeria, Cameroon, Mozambique, Congo, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Madagascar and Egypt took place at 6:30 p.m. at the apostolic nunciature in Yaounde.
Addressing the gathering, the Pope began by turning to the long Christian history of Africa, beginning with Jesus’ stay in Egypt when his family fled Herod’s persecution.
"God chose your continent to become the dwelling-place of his Son. In Jesus, God drew near to all men and women, of course, but also, in a particular way, to the men and women of Africa," he said.
After mentioning the numerous Christian missionaries and martyrs that have played a key role in Africa’s story, Benedict XVI turned to the bishops’ upcoming meeting on Africa. The bishops will be meeting this next October at the Vatican to discuss how to bring reconciliation, justice and peace to their violence-wracked continent.
The Holy Father addressed this need, saying, "to carry out her mission well, the Church must be a community of persons reconciled with God and among themselves. In this way, she can proclaim the Good News of reconciliation to contemporary society, which unfortunately experiences in many places conflicts, acts of violence, war and hatred."
"The local or regional wars, massacres and genocides perpetrated on the continent must challenge us in a special way: if it is true that in Jesus Christ we belong to the same family and share the same life - since in our veins there flows the Blood of Christ Himself, Who has made us children of God, members of God's Family - there must no longer be hatred, injustice and internecine war."
Since the first Special Assembly for Africa, the Church has made progress in promoting the "preferential option for the poor" and helping to remedy the oppression of so many Africans, the Pope noted.
But now, the Church must work to build Christian communities that "increasingly become places of profound listening to the word of God and meditative reading of Sacred Scripture," places centered on the Eucharist which is "the source of a unity reconciled in peace," he said.
"In His flesh He has reconciled all peoples. In the power of the Holy Spirit, I appeal to everyone: 'Be reconciled to God!' No ethnic or cultural difference, no difference of race, sex or religion must become a cause for dispute among you. You are all children of the one God, our Father, Who is in heaven," the Holy Father exhorted.
He concluded by saying, "With this conviction, it will then be possible to build a more just and peaceful Africa, an Africa worthy of the legitimate expectations of all its children."
Luanda, Angola, Mar 20, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict addressed civil leaders and bishops of Angola in a meeting at the Presidential Palace on Friday. In his remarks, the Pontiff urged leaders to ‘transform the continent,’ and warned against programs that "claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health!”
Following a speech given by Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos, the Holy Father urged the country’s leaders to work to transform the continent, “armed with integrity, magnanimity and compassion.” He explained that the people of Africa aren’t calling out “simply for more programs and protocols, but for a deep-seated, lasting conversion of hearts to sincere solidarity.”
“Their plea to those serving in politics, public service, international agencies, and multinational companies is simply this: stand alongside us in a profoundly human way; accompany us, and our families and our communities!”
Speaking about social and economic development in Africa, Pope Benedict spoke highly of programs that bring Africans into partnerships requiring that “African nations be seen not simply as the receivers of others’ plans and solutions.” He continued, “African men and women themselves, working together for the good of their communities, should be the primary agents of their own development.”
He went on to list several effective initiatives whose common goal is to “promote transparency, honest business practice and good governance.”
Turning to discuss the family, the Holy Father praised Africans for their solid family structure, but also addressed the difficulties that many families are facing. “I think that those who come from other continents can learn afresh from Africa that ‘the family is the foundation on which the social edifice is built,’” he said, citing John Paul II’s document “Ecclesia in Africa.”
“Yet the strains upon families, as we all know, are many indeed: anxiety and ignominy caused by poverty, unemployment, disease and displacement, to mention but a few. Particularly disturbing is the crushing yoke of discrimination that women and girls so often endure, not to mention the unspeakable practice of sexual violence and exploitation which causes such humiliation and trauma.”
A “further area of grave concern” for the Pope involves groups who advocate abortion while describing themselves as supporting “reproductive health.”
“How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of ‘maternal’ healthcare! How disconcerting the claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health!” the Pontiff decried.
He assured the leaders that “the Church will continue to do all she can to support families - including those suffering the harrowing effects of HIV/Aids - and to uphold the equal dignity of women and men, realized in harmonious complementarity.”
In his closing remarks, the Pope thanked the President for the welcoming him into his home and assured him of his prayers for all of Africa.
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 20, 2009 (CNA) - Some 50 civic organizations in the Mexican state of Puebla are defending the reform of the state’s constitution to protect the right to life from conception to natural death, thus preventing any attempt to legalize abortion and euthanasia from passing.
In statements to reporters, Reyna Suarez of the Association for Life, and Patricia Segaib of the Strength of the Future Association, praised the reform for strengthening the right to life in the Puebla Constitution.
Likewise, they rejected claims by abortion supporters that the reform is unconstitutional. The pro-abortion organizations claim the reform violates a ruling by the Mexican Supreme Court upholding the legalization of abortion in Mexico City up to the 12th week of pregnancy.
The ruling by the Court, the pro-life leaders stated, addressed the legality of the law in Mexico City but not the contents of the law. Consequently, the other Mexican states remained free to act in this area.
They also explained that the reform in Puebla includes the exceptions in cases of rape, fetal deformation or life of the mother.
Puebla joins four other Mexican states that have moved to protect life in the wake of the legalization of abortion in Mexico City.
Santiago, Chile, Mar 20, 2009 (CNA) - The prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, reminded Chileans this week that “defending life is an unchanging right” for the Church. His comments came after media reports that some bishops might change their positions on “therapeutic” abortion.
Speaking on Radio Agricultura, Cardinal Medina explained that the Church cannot change her position against abortion because it is a question of the death of an innocent person.
“Any form of abortion is unacceptable. The Church has never changed her position. Abortion is the death of an innocent person. We bishops are going to defend the position the Church has taken during 20 centuries,” he said.
Likewise, he explained that a politician who declares himself Catholic cannot vote in favor of abortion. He was referring to the recent statements by ex-president, Senator Eduardo Frei, who spoke out in favor of debating the legalization of “therapeutic” abortion.
“If the debate we are talking about means explaining the reason for the Church’s position, then I see no problem. But if they want to do it in order to pass a law, a Catholic president cannot do that. I hope that every Catholic candidate conducts himself in this way,” the cardinal said.
“Nobody is preventing debate. But don’t expect for there to be a change in position after the debate because it would be like denying our own identity. Defending life is an unchanging right,” he added.
Valencia, Spain, Mar 20, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco prayed for the help of St. Joseph “for our society to recover the sense of respect for the unborn and to look upon them with hope.” The men and women of our time “need to firmly reject the horror of abortion and of the destruction of embryos in order to say yes to life, yes to women in their generosity as mothers.”
During his homily at the Cathedral of Valencia on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Cardinal Garcia-Gasco spoke of St. Joseph as “a model of profound respect for the dignity of the person, for what God had prepared for him,” and he invited Spaniards to “always say yes to life, yes to the rights of the unborn child, yes to hope, yes to love,” as well as “to take joy in your maternity and paternity.”
The cardinal noted that these are “difficult times for spreading the Christian life,” adding that “the authentic problem at this time in history is—as the Pope has reminded us—that God is disappearing from the horizon of human life.” “When the light that comes from God is extinguished,” he continued, “there is disorientation and lack of meaning in building one’s personal and social life.” “The destructive effects are multiplied in our society,” he said.
For this reason, the cardinal invoked the aid of St. Joseph for “this extraordinary, primary and fundamental task for all Christians of our time which is to lead mankind to God, to Jesus Christ.”