Front Royal, Va., Mar 25, 2009 (CNA) - The United Nations Population Fund stands to receive $50 million in funding from President Obama’s Omnibus spending bill, but the Population Research Institute is reporting that a recently completed investigation in three Chinese counties shows that contrary to UNFPA claims, China’s one-child policy is actively being enforced.
Following a Population Research Institute (PRI) investigation of the UNFPA’s involvement in helping enforce China’s one-child policy in 2001, President George W. Bush decided to redirect $34 million from UNFPA’s family-planning programs and instead fund programs emphasizing child survival and anti-trafficking efforts.
Under former President Bush, the UNFPA was denied $235 million in funds but within weeks of President Obama taking office, $50 million was set aside for the previously implicated fund.
The UNFPA claims that it has played a role in turning the enforcement of China’s one-child policy into a "quality of care approach" that removes birth targets and quotas.
Seeking to verify the UNFPA’s assertion, PRI launched an on-the-ground investigation in three Chinese counties that the United Nations fund considers to be models for its claim.
PRI’s Colin Mason led the team that conducted the March 7-11 investigation, which found that the policy has not been relaxed and that "the coercive measures undertaken by the government are worse now than ever."
According to Mason, "when the actual conditions on the ground are observed, the UNFPA’s claim that it ‘played a catalytic role in introducing a voluntary reproductive health approach in China’ is patently absurd. The policy is just as coercive in these areas as anywhere else."
"Crippling fines, intense pressure to be sterilized, the flagrant display of quota information, and even the seizure of ‘illegal children’ by the government are commonplace," Mason continued. "The UNFPA insists that its presence has led to the removal of these measures. It has not."
"We at PRI ask the President to take a more critical approach in considering funding for the UNFPA," said Steven Mosher, PRI’s president. "United States law clearly dictates that tax dollars cannot fund forced abortion or coercive measures overseas. The President has shown no consideration for these laws, nor has he expressed any concern over the UNFPA’s clear and consistent involvement in human rights abuses."
Mason said that PRI stands ready to provide evidence to the Obama Administration about UNFPA’s involvement in China’s coercive policy.
Phoenix, Ariz., Mar 25, 2009 (CNA) - Following the release of undercover videos showing Arizona Planned Parenthood clinics disregarding laws that mandate the reporting of sexual abuse, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office has reportedly opened an investigation into local branches of the nation’s largest abortion provider.
The videos, taken by the student non-profit group Live Action, showed clinic staffers talking to a student investigator they believed to be a pregnant 15-year-old girl. The student claimed to have become pregnant by her much older boyfriend. Sexual relations between a 15-year-old and an older adult is a felony under Arizona law, while state law also mandates reporting of sexual abuse.
Live Action films conducted investigations at two Phoenix clinics and a clinic in Tucson. Its footage was sent to County Attorneys in Pima and Maricopa counties and to the Arizona Attorney General.
The office of the Pima County Attorney in a letter to Live Action said that the footage from the Tucson clinic is “under review and consideration by the Attorney General.”
Previous Live Action investigations in Indiana resulted in the Indiana Attorney General opening a full investigation into the abortion provider.
A press release from Live Action claimed that Planned Parenthood of Arizona has appeared “non-responsive” and has not offered a public apology.
“We expect the Arizona Attorney General to uphold the law and prosecute Planned Parenthood for returning victimized young girls into the arms of their abusers, rather than notifying the responsible authorities as required by law,” said Live Action president Lila Rose. “When compared to all of the responsible organizations that carefully follow reporting laws, Planned Parenthood's negligent and outright subversive conduct stands out as both shameful and criminal.”
CNA contacted the Arizona Attorney General’s office for comment but did not receive a reply by press time.
In 2002, an Arizona judge found Planned Parenthood negligent for failing to report the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl by her 23-year-old foster brother. Arizona Right to Life is organizing a protest on Sunday to draw attention to the abortion provider’s alleged violation of the law.
The videos of Live Action’s investigation may be viewed at www.LiveAction.org.
Washington D.C., Mar 25, 2009 (CNA) -
Organizers of the annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast are announcing that Archbishop Emeritus of St. Louis Raymond Burke will deliver the keynote address at this year's breakfast, which will be held on Friday, May 8. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will be guest speaker at the event.
A 6:30 Mass will be celebrated for the event on the evening of May 7 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.
The prayer breakfast itself will be held the morning of May 8 at the Hilton Washington, beginning with a Rosary at 7:15 am.
An EWTN broadcast of the event will begin at 8:00 a.m. Eastern time, with the program itself commencing at 8:30.
"We are blessed that Archbishop Burke and Justice Scalia will be addressing the breakfast this year," Leonard Leo, President of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, told InsideCatholic.com. "This year promises to be a great event for our attendees, and we are looking forward to hosting these and other dynamic speakers who will address a number of very timely and interesting topics of interest to Catholics."
Last year’s speaker was then-President George W. Bush, who touched on the Pope’s U.S. visit, his administration’s efforts on the pro-life front and Catholic schools.
Vatican City, Mar 25, 2009 (CNA) - The prefect for the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, has made public a message to the bishops of the world announcing the traditional collection for the Holy Land, which will take place on April 10, Good Friday.
In the message, the Cardinal recalls that this collection supports “our Christian brothers and sisters of the Holy Land who, along with other inhabitants of vast areas of the Middle East, have long aspired after that peace and tranquility which are still so much under threat.”
“The universal Church follows with concern the unstable situation of the different serious problems, such as the absence of peace, as in the case of the joy of Christmas being overshadowed by the hostilities in the Gaza Strip,” Cardinal Sandri wrote.
He also noted that Christians in the Holy Land feel the support of the universal Church, especially from “Pope Benedict XVI who constantly comforts these Christians and all the inhabitants of the Holy Land with words and gestures of extraordinary urgency, coupled with his desire to make a pilgrimage in the historical footsteps of Jesus.”
Cardinal Sandri went on to highlight how the “open wound of violence” in the Holy Land motivates many Christians to emigrate, thus “depriving the Christian minority of better resources for the future. The Land that was the cradle of Christianity is at risk of being left without Christians,” he warned.
For this reason, Cardinal Sandri said, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, in the name of the Holy Father, looks out for the ecclesial community of the Holy Land and urges Catholics “to contribute materially as well to the sustaining of the Holy Places.”
To those who open their hearts to the traditional collection for the Holy Land on Good Friday, the Congregation assures them of the gratitude and prayers of the Holy Father, Cardinal Sandri said.
The funds received from the collection will go towards the renovation of convents and pastoral centers, the construction of new places of worship, a scholarship fund for young people, and an unemployment fund for the jobless and those who have recently graduated.
In addition, the collection also helps fund projects carried out in collaboration with the Franciscan Family Center, such helping poor children with education and food, the renovation of schools and the construction of almost 150 apartments.
A donation can be made to the Custody of the Holy Land by visiting: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/holyland
Havana, Cuba, Mar 25, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Central Opposition Coalition in Cuba, Idania Yanes Contreras, was detained last weekend by Cuban agents despite the fact that she is seven months pregnant. At the time of her arrest she was attempting to learn the whereabouts of her husband, Alcides Rivera Rodriguez, who was arrested as he left his home to meet with dissidents in the town of Placetas.
According to Cubaencuentro.com, Yanes Contreras was detained as she and other activists went to police headquarters to ask about her husband. After being told that he would be held until further notice from upper-level officials, Yanes Contreras and her companions decided to wait outside the building, at which point they were arrested for “disturbing the peace.”
Over the next few days several of her companions were released, but Yanes Contreras remains in detention. Captain Hector de la Fe Freyre told the opposition website that she was taken to a state security center that is closer to one of the local hospitals.
Cubaencuentro.com reported that according to officials, she is being accused of “damaging Socialist property” for allegedly breaking a window at the state security center.
The website asserted that the detentions are an attempt by the Castro regime to deflect attention away from a hunger strike being carried out by dissidents in Placetas.
Santiago, Chile, Mar 25, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the National Committee on Bioethics for the Chilean bishops, Bishop Fernando Chomali, reiterated that the Church’s teaching in defense of human life from conception to natural death is “unchangeable.” His comments came in response to media reports claiming that there is room for change and that “certain exceptions” for aborting can be justifiable.
Amidst a new debate in Chile on the legalization of abortion, and after the media distorted statements on abortion recently made by Pope Benedict XVI in Angola, Bishop Chomali felt it necessary to reiterate the Church’s teaching on abortion.
“Abortion is the deliberate and direct elimination, no matter how it is done, of a human being in the initial phase of his existence, which lasts from conception to birth,” the bishop said according to the Chilean daily El Mercurio.
After reiterating the teachings of Pope John Paul II in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life), Bishop Chomali said the Church is aware that there are some situations that are difficult and complex, such as when the mother’s life or health is in danger, or how another child could economically impact a family, or when a child is found to be developing a serious deformity, or when a child is result of a sexual assault.
Nevertheless, he said, the Church holds that “none of these reasons can ever justify the right to take the life of another, not even in its beginnings.”
“Every human being has the right to have his life respected, and it is not recognition by others that makes it so; it is something anterior and demands, therefore, that it always be recognized.”
Bishop Chomali also pointed out that “you cannot achieve a good by doing evil. When a doctor meets with a pregnant woman, he should be fully conscious that he has two patients before him, and he should do everything possible to save both lives when he is faced with a pathology that could end in the death of one of them or both.”
Washington D.C., Mar 25, 2009 (CNA) - Despite extreme positions on abortion and same-sex “marriage,” the Washington Post reports that Anthony Williams, a former mayor of Washington D.C., is being considered for membership in the Knights of Malta. However, Dr. Joseph Metz, an officer of the Order of Malta American Association, told CNA that anyone who does not agree with Church teachings will be denied admission.
The Knights of Malta, who earned their name by operating on the Island of Malta for hundreds of years, were created “to care for and nurse the sick pilgrims” during the Crusades. Later on, the order took on a military role defending the holy sites, and today defends the Church through charitable works and apologetics.
In the United States, the order has over 200 different works of ministry by operating homes for unwed mothers and babies, helping the homeless in the inner cities, working in soup kitchens and clinics and visiting inmates in prison.
Williams, a self-described Catholic who served as Washington D.C.’s mayor from 1999 to 2007, has raised eyebrows for his reported application to the Knights of Malta because of several controversial public statements about his support for abortion and gay marriage during his two terms in office.
During his run for mayor of D.C. in 1998, Williams filled out a questionnaire from Planned Parenthood in which he stated his support for legalized abortion, writing, “I support choice.” Williams further communicated the depth of his commitment to his position by promising not to restrict abortion in any way, saying, “I do not support limiting access to safe and medically necessary methods of abortion.”
Williams also told Planned Parenthood that he is opposed to laws that would obligate pregnant women under the age of 18 to consult with their parents before having an abortion.
The former D.C. mayor’s stance on homosexuality runs afoul of Church teaching as well.
In response to a Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance questionnaire, he stated, “As a candidate, I was one of the first to express my support for same-sex marriage.”
A 1998 Gertrude Stein Democratic Club questionnaire also shows that Williams supported a Domestic Partnership law that would “grant adoptions to lesbians and gays.”
Mayor Williams is known for being the first mayor to host a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Summit, which was held at the Greenleaf Recreation Center on April 30, 2005.
According to the homosexual newspaper Metro Weekly, Mayor Williams told summit attendees that he would “combat any effort by Congress to impose any ‘defense of marriage act’ on the city.” "I will fight that to the very end," he said.
In an interview with CNA, Dr. Joseph Metz, the Knights of Malta’s third highest ranking officer in the U.S., reacted to the news that Williams' admission to the Order was being promoted by underscoring the requirements for being accepted.
Dr. Metz explained that candidates must be nominated by other members of the Order that are “practicing members of the Roman Catholic Church.” Candidates must also “follow the Magisterium and the teachings of the Church,” “be willing and able to devote themselves to the works and ministries of the order” and to “witnessing [to] the Faith.”
Dr. Metz said the Order “relies upon members” to nominate others, and they “have very little problem finding the people we can recommend to keep these promises.”
When asked about Williams, Dr. Metz said he didn’t know any of the details, but offered to read from the guidelines on the Admission of Candidates to the Order of Malta: “A candidate must support the Catholic Church’s position on the matter of faith and morals, including being pro-life, opposing abortion, opposing euthanasia, and opposing embryonic stem cell research.”
Additionally, Dr. Metz said, the candidate should clearly know what the Order stands for, and when interviewed, the candidate should clearly explain where they stand.
“So I think that’s a response to our position. I think that it speaks for itself to be a member of this religious order,” he said.
He also explained that an individual that holds any of these beliefs would be “unequivocally ineligible.”
Although membership is a lifetime commitment, Dr. Metz said, “there are rare occasions where members are expelled, but that’s very, very far and few between.”
There is recent precedent for an application being denied. In 2007 the former Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe claimed that the Knights were reviewing his application for Knighthood. The Order rejected McAuliffe’s application, saying, “there is not a single possibility for Mr. Terry McAuliffe, to become a member of the Order of Malta."
Lima, Peru, Mar 25, 2009 (CNA) - In order to mark the Day of the Unborn Child, being celebrated today on the Feast of the Annunciation, the Committee on the Family of the Bishops’ Conference of Peru is urging the faithful to “defend and love life from the moment of conception.”
According to a press release, the bishops called on Peruvians “to turn their eyes to the smallest members of the Peruvian family, those who live in their mother’s wombs.”
“Life is a ‘inestimable gift’ in which the potential of the creative action of God can be seen, and this fact should inspire love in our hearts for that child, who—regardless of the circumstances of his conception—waits to be born, as well as the desire to defend him and protect him from different threats, made-up ‘social justice’ or ‘sexual and reproductive rights,’” they said.“The unborn child will always be an expression of the love of God, a fresh, vital and authentic manifestation that God is present in our lives,” the bishops said, “and therefore we should rejoice over the small human being hidden to eyes in the maternal womb.”
Bilboa, Spain, Mar 25, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Ricardo Blazquez of Bilbao and Auxiliary Bishop Carmelo Echenagusia both reacted to a proposed reform of Spain’s abortion law as “a step backwards in humanity and civilization.” In addition, they said abortion is part of “the culture of death that degrades the society that practices and tolerates it.”
“All human life is an undeserved gift from God to humanity and should be welcomed with love and respect. From the moment of conception, the passionate adventure of human life begins in the womb of the mother, a new being created in the image and likeness of God, an unrepeatable being called to communion with God and with all men, with an inherent dignity that must be recognized and protected,” the bishops stated.
Both bishops reiterated that “the human person is always a good,” and “the degree of humanization and grandeur of a society, of a culture, of a civilization, is measured mainly by its capacity to welcome and care for all human beings regardless of their qualities, physical capacities, or state of development or usefulness.”
“For this reason, the service and protection of life constitutes one of the main tasks of those who ought to be guarantors and promoters of the common good, particularly, the different social institutions and powers of the State,” the bishops said.
Rome, Italy, Mar 25, 2009 (CNA) - A reported 2,778 adult catechumens from the Diocese of Hong Kong have been undergoing preparations to receive Baptism, Confirmation, and Communion this Easter.
The diocesan bulletin Kong Ko Bao reported that on March 15 there were three Scrutinies, carried out by the diocesan bishop and his coadjutor bishop in two parishes.
The homily for the event discussed how “Christ is the living water” and explained to the catechumens that the Sacraments are “like living water for our interior life. They lead us to the Lord, leading us to the practice of Jesus’ teachings.”
The catechists presented the catechumens and declared their desire to convert to Christ.
The catechumens include an entire family with four children, a handicapped person and a husband who was at the point of seeking a divorce but reconciled with his family after embracing the Christian faith, according to Fides news agency.
Last Sunday another four Scrutinies took place.
Scrutinies, part of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, are intended to help catechumens’ self-examination and repentance.
South Bend, Ind., Mar 25, 2009 (CNA) -
Debate over the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to be commencement speaker and to receive an honorary degree continues, with a prominent Jesuit priest arguing that the action is morally justifiable while a Catholic writer contends that the action shows indifference to the millions of unborn children killed under U.S. law.
Writing in a post on the Washington Post’s "On Faith" blog, Fr. Thomas J. Reese, SJ, former editor of America magazine, criticized the argument that the invitation to Obama violates the U.S. bishops’ statement "Catholics in Political Life."
The statement said that Catholic institutions should not honor those who "act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."
Fr. Reese argued that having President Obama as a commencement speaker and giving him an honorary degree would not violate this ethic. He said that President Obama has never violated the moral law against abortion "in his personal life."
"Publicly, Obama has never spoken out against the fundamental moral principle that abortion is wrong," he argued, noting that Obama supports some legal restrictions on abortion.
"Although he does not believe that other abortions can be made illegal, he supports programs to reduce the number of abortions," Fr. Reese added, claiming that Notre Dame is honoring Obama as president and not because of his views on abortion.
"Notre Dame is doing nothing more than what has already been done by Cardinal Edward Egan of New York," he argued. "If Cardinal Egan can invite Obama to speak at the Al Smith dinner in October of 2008 when he was only a presidential candidate, then there is certainly nothing wrong with Notre Dame having the President speak at a commencement."
"If Catholic universities are afraid to have people on campus who challenge our views, then we are not training students to listen and think critically," Fr. Reese charged. "We are admitting that our arguments are not convincing."
Carl Olson, a writer at Ignatius Press’ blog "Ignatius Insight," criticized Fr. Reese’s arguments in a Wednesday entry. He noted that "Catholics in Public Life" also stated that legalizing intrinsically evil actions like abortion is "itself wrong." It also asserted that "failing to protect the lives of innocent and defenseless members of the human race is to sin against justice" and said lawmakers are obligated to work towards correcting "morally defective laws."
Olson argued that President Obama has a well-documented record of support for abortion, including opposition to partial-birth abortion bans and legislation protecting infants who survive abortions. He said that Fr. Reese’s language is "rather misleading" in trying to narrowly define what the president has not done while the bishops’ document "clearly points to a broader moral arena."
Noting the President’s perfect ratings with pro-abortion rights groups, Olson remarked: "It's hard to see how anyone could say he has actively stood for the fundamental moral principle that abortion is wrong."
Olson also cited President Obama’s July 2007 speech to a Planned Parenthood group in which the President said Roe v. Wade was "at the center" of his lesson plan on "reproductive freedom" when he taught Constitutional law; and present "not simply as a case about privacy but as part of the broader struggle for women’s equality." Obama also voiced his support for "the freedom of choice."
He argued that Fr. Reese’s attempted distinction between respecting the office of the President and Obama himself does not hold, because the honorary doctor of laws degree is "being conferred upon a specific man" who holds beliefs about essential matters that are "in conflict with the fundamental moral principles of the Catholic Church and, it should follow, a Catholic university."
Defenses of Notre Dame’s invitation to the president "would make sense if abortion were not such a fundamental violation of human rights, such a fundamental contravention of the purpose of government, such a grave and widespread attack on the most vulnerable of human beings, and Barrack Obama were not so prominent a supporter of the pro-abortion rights position," Olson concluded. "By inviting him and honoring him, Notre Dame is simply saying that the right to life for unborn children and the evil of a million legal abortions every year are not that important. It is as simple as that."