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Archive of April 15, 2009

European Court orders Portugal to pay compensation to 'Ship of Death'

Brussels, Belgium, Apr 15, 2009 (CNA) - The European Court of Human Rights has ordered the government of Portugal to pay compensation to the abortion organizations that operate the “Ship of Death,” which was prevented from entering Portuguese waters by the country’s Navy in 2004.

According to the ruling, which the Portuguese Socialist government said it would not appeal, Portugal must pay $2,660 to each of the three organizations that manage the Dutch ship “Borndiep,” known as the “Ship of Death” because abortions are performed on deck in international waters near countries where the procedure is illegal.

The Court said Portugal violated article 10 of the Convention, which deals with freedom of expression, even though at the time abortion was not legal in the country and the “Ship of Death” was not engaged in an act of “expression” but in the performing of abortions in violation of Portuguese law.

The three feminist organizations, including “Women on Waves,” had filed a lawsuit in Portuguese courts, but the case was eventually rejected by the Supreme Court.

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Planned Parenthood pledge drive makes money off Good Friday protest

St. Paul, Minn., Apr 15, 2009 (CNA) - A Minnesota Planned Parenthood fundraiser which tied donations to the number of abortion clinic protesters on Good Friday received about $14,000 by capitalizing off of increased crowds drawn by Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis John Nienstedt’s presence. An archdiocesan spokesman said the pro-lifers are concerned with preventing abortions, not with the money.

Every Good Friday, Pro-Life Action Ministries of the Twin Cities hosts a protest outside a Planned Parenthood clinic on Ford Parkway in St. Paul. This year was the first time that someone the stature of the archbishop participated in the demonstration.

Pro-life protester Megan Noll told Minnesota Public Radio that Archbishop Nienstedt made a “huge difference” and brought perhaps the biggest crowd she had seen.

Seeking to put a dent in the pro-life protest, Planned Parenthood set up a “pledge a protester”system that allowed its supporters to donate a set dollar amount for each protester. The abortion clinic raised $14,000 on Friday through their protestor campaign.

“The day went well and we know that the majority of Minnesotans are supportive of our work in communities across the state,” said Kathi Di Nicola of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS).

CNA spoke about the Good Friday protest with Dennis McGrath, Director of Communications at the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

He said he had no way of verifying the fundraising claims, and was not at the protest himself.

Reporting there were no “incidents” or physical altercations at the protests, he acknowledged “There were more of them than there were of us.”

McGrath reported that Planned Parenthood and abortion supporters conducted “significant promotions” and “really worked the web and the phones.”

However, McGrath told CNA, the fundraising program would not dissuade pro-lifers from continuing and “doing whatever is necessary in the fight for life.”

“It’s not a question of money, it’s a question of a fundamental tenet of our faith. We aren’t about to weaken our resolve or stop speaking out in any way necessary to prevent abortion and all its derivatives.”

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Planned Parenthood claims to play a ‘unique role’ in Obama administration

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2009 (CNA) - The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) has over $1 billion in assets and claims an increase of 15,560 abortions in 2007, its annual report for 2007-2008 reveals. Praising the “new direction” of the United States, the largest abortion provider in the U.S. says it will play a “unique role” in shaping the Obama administration’s health agenda.

The letter introducing the report, signed by Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards and Elena Marks, PPFA chairwoman, professes “enormous optimism” about “the new direction of our country and new opportunities to make lasting change in the lives of women and families, here and around the globe.”

“Planned Parenthood is the leading sexual and reproductive health care advocate and provider, with 93 years under our belt,” the letter continues, adding “And in the near future, we will play a unique role in helping to shape the health agenda for the new administration.”

According to the PPFA report, in 2006 Planned Parenthood clinics performed 289,750 abortions and in 2007 performed 305,310 such killing procedures, CNSNews.com says.

Tom McClusky, vice president of the Family Research Council Action, told CNSNews.com the numbers reflect a continual increase in the number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood. Since 1977, not counting referrals to other clinics, the organization’s abortion clinics have accounted for 4.8 million abortions.

The Planned Parenthood report claims a 100 percent increase in the number of adoption referrals in 2007. In 2006 the organization made 2,410 adoption referrals while it made 4,912 in 2007.

McClusky said this increase was an exception, as very low numbers of referrals had been reported in previous years. None were reported in 2005.

According to the PPFA report, abortion accounts for three percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood. Contraceptives make up 36 percent of the organization’s services.

However, the report does not provide details on how Planned Parenthood spends the more than $300 million it receives from federal funding. Federal law prohibits federal dollars being used for abortions.

In addition to government funding, Planned Parenthood also earned more than $374 million from its clinics and $186 million in “contributions and bequests.”

The organization’s worldwide clinics earned $6.9 million. It claimed to have reached 935,000 individuals in 20 developing countries and also claimed to have supported their “vital work” with more than $2.5 million in grants in 2008.

President Barack Obama’s rescindment of the Mexico City Policy, which barred federal funding for organizations which promote or perform abortions overseas, could help fund Planned Parenthood’s international efforts.

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‘Orthodox’ Catholics more hopeful about future of Church, poll finds

Syracuse, N.Y., Apr 15, 2009 (CNA) - A new poll shows that American Catholics are generally optimistic about the future of their Church, with self-described “Orthodox” Catholics tending to be more hopeful and more churchgoing than self-described “Progressive” Catholics.

The results come from the Spring 2009 Le Moyne-Zogby Contemporary Catholic Trends (CCT) survey, which polled 3,812 randomly sampled members of the Zogby Interactive Panel between Feb. 23 and 25. Respondents included 767 Catholics, who described themselves in a variety of ways.

Twenty percent of Catholic respondents described themselves as Progressive, while 11 percent chose Orthodox as a descriptor. Seven percent said they were Evangelical, four percent said they were Fundamentalist, and three percent said they were Born-Again.

Among all Catholic respondents, 36 percent said they were very optimistic and 37 percent said they were somewhat optimistic about the Church’s future. Eighteen percent were somewhat pessimistic, with only five percent being very pessimistic.

According to Zogby, “Progressive” Catholic respondents were the most likely to be pessimistic, with 36 percent being somewhat pessimistic and four percent being very pessimistic about the future of the Church.

Among the “Orthodox” Catholics, six percent were somewhat pessimistic, while only one percent was very pessimistic.

Concerning Mass attendance, 63 percent of “Progressive” Catholics attend less than once per month, while 79 percent of the “Orthodox” attend Mass at least once a month. Nineteen percent of “Progressives” attend Mass weekly or more often, while 65 percent of the “Orthodox” attend that frequently.

About 64 percent of all Catholic respondents said the Sacraments were very important to their faith, while 23 percent said they were somewhat important. Another 61 percent said the Church’s concern for the poor was very important, with another 29 percent saying it was somewhat important.

Around 81 percent of all Catholics said teachings about Mary as the Mother of God are somewhat or very important to their faith.

Concerning the priesthood, only 36 percent of respondents said it is somewhat or very important to their faith that the priesthood should be all male, while 32 percent said it is somewhat or very important that the priesthood remain celibate.

Sixty nine percent of the “Orthodox” Catholics believed an all-male priesthood is somewhat or very important, while only six percent of “Progressives” felt it is important to their faith.

Dr. Matthew Loveland, principal investigator of the CCT project, commented on the poll results in an April 9 Zogby press release:

"These numbers remind us that news headlines are only part of the Catholic religious experience. When asked to reflect on the Church, I expect that most people think of their personal religious lives, not the national headlines. Religion is experienced, most vividly, in the parish and the family. In fact, 76% of respondents said that family connections are an important aspect of their faith. So, to me, these numbers suggest that most Catholics are satisfied with their personal religious lives."

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Jesus' Resurrection was a 'real historical event,' Pope proclaims

Vatican City, Apr 15, 2009 (CNA) - At his first General Audience of this Easter Season, Pope Benedict XVI said before more than 30,000 people that Christians must forcefully proclaim Jesus' Resurrection as “a real historical event, borne out by many authoritative witnesses.”

"The astonishing novelty of the Resurrection is so important that the Church never ceases to proclaim it, perpetuating its memory, especially on Sundays, the Lord's Day and the weekly Easter of the people of God," explained the Pope, who traveled to the Vatican by helicopter from his residence in Castel Gandolfo.

Instead of a far away, mythical story, we must proclaim Jesus' Resurrection as “a real historical event, borne out by many authoritative witnesses,” Pope Benedict insisted.  “We affirm it forcefully because, even in our own times, there is no lack of people who seek to deny its historical truth, reducing the Gospel narrative to a myth, thus repeating old worn-out theories as if they were new and scientific."

"Of course, for Jesus the Resurrection was not a simple return to His earlier life on earth," the Pope continued. "Rather it was a passage to a profoundly new dimension of life, one that is deeply new, that involves in a new dimension the whole of the human family."

This new dimension, he added, illuminates “our entire earthly pilgrimage, including the human enigma of pain and death.” “With St. Augustine we can proclaim: 'The Resurrection of Christ is our hope' and our future," the Pope pointed out.

"It is true," the Pope stated, "Christ's Resurrection is the foundation of our firm hope and illuminates our entire earthly pilgrimage, including the human enigma of pain and death.”

Moreover, “Faith in Christ crucified and risen is the heart of the entire evangelical message, the central nucleus of our 'Creed.'” “The death of Christ shows that the word of God really and fully became 'flesh', human 'history.'"

"At Easter," the Holy Father concluded, "God reveals Himself and the power of the Trinitarian love that annihilates the destructive forces of evil and death.”

“Let us be enlightened by the splendor of the Risen Lord. Like Saint Paul who met the Divine Master in an extraordinary fashion on his way to Damascus, we cannot keep to ourselves this truth which changes everyone’s life. We must bear witness to divine love.”

During the general audience people sang “Happy Birthday” to Benedict XVI in several languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Croatian and Italian) to mark his 82nd birthday, celebrating also the anniversary of his pontificate, which falls on April 19.

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Residence of Cardinal Terrazas attacked in Bolivia

La Paz, Bolivia, Apr 15, 2009 (CNA) - Early Wednesday morning explosions were heard outside the entrance to the residence of the Archbishop of Santa Cruz, Cardinal Julio Terrazas. No one was injured, and police are investigating the incident.

According to the ATB television channel, the entrance to the cardinal’s residence was partially destroyed.  A neighbor said, “We heard a strong explosion…They wanted to attack our Catholic cardinal.”

The incident took place at 12:30 a.m. local time. Firefighters arrived at the scene soon after, followed by the police, who quarantined the area and began investigating. According to the media, a security plan was activated throughout the city, covering all of the main departure points.

Reports said three men and a woman in a silver Toyota Starlet were seen in the area at the time of the explosion.

Cardinal Terrazas, who is recovering from a heart surgery, was not home at the time. The archdiocese or the Bishops’ Conference is expected to make an announcement about the incident.

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Vatican spokesman denies 'veto' of Caroline Kennedy

Vatican City, Apr 15, 2009 (CNA) - The Director of the Vatican’s press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi denied press reports on Wednesday that the Vatican has rejected the candidacy of Caroline Kennedy for the job of U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

“We have not received candidates for the position of new US Ambassador to the Holy See, and therefore it is not true that (Kennedy) has been rejected,” Fr. Lombardi said when he was asked to comment on a story published by the Italian newspaper “Il Giornale,” which is usually well informed on Vatican affairs.

Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, supported Obama’s candidacy during his bid for the presidency. She defines herself as a “pro-choice devout Catholic.” She is a strong supporter of abortion and is opposed to any kind of restrictions such as parental notification.

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Archbishop Dolan promises not to sidestep controversial issues

New York City, N.Y., Apr 15, 2009 (CNA) - In his first meeting with the New York press, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan pledged to bring Catholics back to Mass, increase vocations, preach the truth and not sidestep controversial issues like gay “marriage” or abortion.

Dolan, the former Archbishop of Milwaukee who recently became the head of the second largest archdiocese in the U.S., began his first press conference by promising to be “a communicator.”

In his first day on the job, Dolan said he will sit down with trusted advisers to discover what strategies have worked in the past and what is the most effective way to communicate the positions of the Church on “controversial moral issues.”

When questioned about whether or not he would be an “agent of change,” on issues where society disagreed with the Church, Dolan firmly stated that as a bishop his “goal is to change [the faithful’s] lives to be in conformity with Jesus and his Church, not to change the teachings of Jesus and the church to be in conformity with what we want.”

He added that what may change is the style, but not the “substance.”

The Archbishop called the issue of declining Mass attendance in New York a “bigee” and criticized the phenomenon of people desiring to be spiritual, without belonging to a specific religion. Dolan said people “want to believe without belonging” and “they don’t mind being the sheep, but without a shepherd. They don’t mind the family, as long as they’re the only child. They don’t see the need for a church. They don’t see the need for organized religion.”

Archbishop Dolan also said the Church had some areas to improve upon, mentioning the need to ask, “Have we passed on the truth to people, or have we gotten a little too subjective, and too much into diluting, watering down the essentials of the faith?”
 
“Young people want the teachings of the church preached convincingly, even if they don’t embrace all of those teachings” he stated.

He also said religious vocations must be communicated to young people as “one of the most freeing, liberating, joyful styles of life that you can lead,” and not as oppressive. He cited a recent visit to a community of cloistered, contemplative religious women who by society’s standards should be “crabby, should be dour, who should be oppressed,” but found them to be “the most free, joyful, loving, happiest women you’d ever meet.”

“True freedom is the liberty to do whatever we ought, not the freedom to do whatever we want,” he said. “We are at our best when we give away freely what’s most inside of us.”

Touching on illegal immigration, the archbishop said the Church has long been a sanctuary for those in need, and cited his own Irish roots. “The parish, the Church” is the first place they go, he said, but  added that today's challenge—now that the Church is a “settled, accepted religion”–is to “revive” an “energetic solicitude for the immigrants that are coming today.” The Church must be a place immigrants can look to “for care, for support, for love,” Dolan said. 

Asked if he would use his position as a “bully pulpit” to challenge politicians on “same-sex marriage,” he responded that he didn’t like the use of the term “bully pulpit.” The term, he said, implied being “aggressive and mean and sharp and bitter.” Instead, he would continue to “preach the truth” and “apply the immutable teachings of Jesus and his Church to contemporary situations” including same-sex marriage.

Yet he also stressed that he will not “shy away from [controversial topics] and won’t sidestep them.” He promised to articulate the Church’s position and remain “active and present” on principles related to faith and morals.

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Paraguayan bishops lament Lugo’s betrayal of his vows

Asunción, Paraguay, Apr 15, 2009 (CNA) - Various Catholic bishops in Paraguay are lamenting the news that the current President of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, fathered a child with a 16 year-old girl while he was still a Catholic bishop.

Bishop Mario Melanio Medina lamented that “Fernando Lugo lied to the Catholic Church in fathering a child as a religious.”

Lugo “is not the first nor will he be the last who lied or will lie to the Church. This should serve as a lesson to all priests,” the bishop said.  Although he acknowledged that the decision by the president to admit his actions and acknowledge his son “is a courageous act,” he added that “it is sad that he had a relationship with a woman at a time when he was still a religious.”

Asked if he knew about the relationship, the bishop replied, “There were rumors, but it was never confirmed that there was a relationship between him and the young girl. Now everything has been clarified and it is a question of assuming responsibilities,” Bishop Medina said.

Bishop Claudio Gimenez of Caacupe told a local radio station that in the face of the revelation of the relationship, Lugo “had only one option and he had to choose to be truthful to the people.”

Bishop Gimenez rejected the idea that Lugo’s case is an argument against celibacy.  “It is rather an obvious call to priests to be faithful.”

Bishop Ignacio Gogorza of Encarnacion said the news Lugo had a relationship with a girl to whom he administered the sacrament of Confirmation “caused much sorrow.”

“As a member of the Church, I accept that we can all sin, but with much sorrow,” Bishop Gogorza said. “What hurts the most is that Lugo had a relationship while he was still Bishop of the Diocese of San Pedro,” he added.

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Venezuelan bishops denounce break-in at Episcopal headquarters

Caracas, Venezuela, Apr 15, 2009 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Jesus Gonzalez Zarate, secretary general of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, denounced the break-in at the bishops’ headquarters on Tuesday. No objects or papers were stolen, but various offices, including that of the bishops’ president, were ransacked.
 
According to the newspaper El Universal, the bishop explained that employees of the bishops’ conference found filing cabinets and files opened throughout the building. They immediately called the police, who arrived at the headquarters within minutes.
 
Investigators said no equipment or important documents had been stolen. The intruders did make off with a laptop computer.
 
Bishop Gonzalez said they had not reached a conclusion about the nature of the break-in, but that the incident “only expressed what we bishops said last week, that there is a climate of insecurity that has become widespread. Today it happened to us, as it has in the past to many of our fellow countrymen in their homes, businesses, etc, and this is the call we bishops have made, to strengthen security measures, to teach people about peace, living together and avoiding confrontation.”

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Law Center challenges basis of DHS report on right-wing extremist threat

Ann Arbor, Mich., Apr 15, 2009 (CNA) -

The Thomas More Law Center announced today that it has filed a request with the Department of Homeland Security challenging the basis for their recent “Threat of Right-Wing Extremism” report, which says those who oppose abortion, gun control, and  immigration laws pose a potential threat to national security.

Yesterday, CNA reported that the Department of Homeland Security released a report called “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” The nine-page document was sent to police and sheriff’s departments nationwide, warning of the possible threat to national security posed by “groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

The report identified as possibly dangerous “those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely.”

Thomas More Law Center, a pro-bono group that “promotes America’s Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians” responded to the report by filing a Freedom of Information Act asking the DHS to explain the basis for the report.

The legal center also cited the report’s “singling out of military veterans” as particularly concerning.

The head of the American Legion, David Rehbein, took umbrage at the DHS report, sending a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday.  Rehbein called the document "incomplete, and, I fear, politically-biased" since it warns that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could be recruited by right-wing groups for possible terrorist attacks.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, said “This is not an intelligence report but a diatribe against those who oppose the policies of the Obama administration. It is a declaration of war against the American people and our constitution. It is a prelude to extreme gun control legislation and hate speech laws targeting Christian churches and others who oppose abortion and same sex marriage. 

He also said, “The federal government should be focusing its attention on the 35 radical Muslim compounds in the U.S. training its followers on how to kidnap and kill Americans.”

Also working with the Law Center is nationally syndicated radio talk show host Dr. Michael Savage, who “warned of the possibility of a document like this being produced by DHS when [they] raised the issue of ‘Fusion Cells.’”

Fusion Cells are local intelligence agencies located across the country that DHS created to combat terrorism, “which includes pro-life activity,” the Law Center says.

After receiving negative news coverage of the report, Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, released a statement today.

Napolitano acknowledged the concerns of many Americans and said, “Let me be very clear: we monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States. We don’t have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group,” adding that the DHS does “not – nor will ever – monitor ideology or political beliefs.”

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Feminists for Life of America to speak at the University of Colorado

Denver, Colo., Apr 15, 2009 (CNA) - Students for Life at the University of Colorado (CU) will host Sally A. Winn, Senior Communications Specialist at Feminists for Life of America on Thursday. Winn will present “Refuse to Choose: Reclaiming Feminism” at the Boulder campus at 7 p.m. in the University Memorial Center.

“We are thrilled to host such a dynamic speaker who will present a fresh and truly feminist perspective on the strength of women, the potential of every human life, and the responsibility of educational institutions and employers to ensure that a woman does not have to choose between her goals and her unborn child,” stated Hannah Rice, senior at CU and a member of Students for Life in a press release.

Feminists for Life of America has recently made headlines for its in the introduction of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Services Act, a bill that would provide grants to colleges and universities to establish service offices for students who are pregnant, parenting or in the adoption process.

The lecture is sponsored by Students for Life at CU, a non-sectarian pro-life organization dedicated to protecting and respecting human life, and the CU Cultural Events Board.

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‘Constructive dialogue’ on Obama invite no longer possible, ND president tells students

South Bend, Ind., Apr 15, 2009 (CNA) - University of Notre Dame President Fr. John I. Jenkins, CSC, has denied a student coalition’s request for wider dialogue concerning the school’s invitation to President Barack Obama, saying “conditions for constructive dialogue simply do not exist.”

Fr. Jenkins had initially offered to participate in a closed-door meeting with 25 members of the Notre Dame Response Student Coalition (ND Response), formed in reaction to Notre Dame’s invitation to the president to deliver the commencement address and to receive an honorary law degree.

The invitation of the president has sparked massive protests from Catholics and other pro-life advocates who thought Obama should not be honored.

Mary K. Daly, spokeswoman of ND Response, wrote an April 6 letter to Fr. Jenkins, saying his offer was not an adequate option. The coalition asked that the meeting include all student members of ND Response and some of the group’s faculty and staff supporters. ND Response said it would guarantee fewer than ten students would speak or engage with Fr. Jenkins and suggested two large auditoriums be considered as meeting places.

“The content of this meeting will be available to the public following its event in the form of a transcript and live video recording: True dialogue only comes with accountability,” Daly’s letter added.

According to an April 14 statement from ND Response, Fr. Jenkins replied that “conditions for constructive dialogue simply do not exist” and informed the students that they could disregard his earlier invitations to meet with him.

The student coalition’s April 6 letter asked that Fr. Jenkins take “concrete steps” to demonstrate that the university is “firm and unwavering” in its commitment to defending human life.

“We ask that you promise now and going forward to use the moral authority of your office and the prestige of Our Lady's University to speak out on behalf of the cause of life in a meaningful, concrete and sustained way.”

ND Response also specifically requested that Fr. Jenkins promise that the university publicly commit to never engage in, promote, or allow “practices offensive to life” such as “research involving human embryos in any way” or the use of biological materials derived from embryo- or fetal-destructive techniques.

The coalition also requested that the university “formally support” pro-life initiatives on campus through financial and personnel resources, suggesting that a pro-life ombudsperson be appointed with the rank of associate provost to ensure that “appropriate attention” is paid to life issues in teaching and research at the school.

“The appointee should be a person who has a deep and demonstrated commitment to the cause of unborn life,” the coalition recommended.

ND Response expressed hopes that Fr. Jenkins would consider taking up “the cause of life” by speaking out against “injustices against the unborn” through other methods. The coalition suggested he could speak out through Notre Dame commercials aired during football season, by leading students in the annual March for Life, and by designating the topic of the school’s fall forum as “a celebration of life in its earliest stages.”

ND Response spokeswoman Mary Daly said the coalition “remains open to true and transparent dialogue with Fr. Jenkins on this issue.”

The coalition includes student groups such as Notre Dame Right to Life, Notre Dame Law School’s pro-life group Jus Vitae, Notre Dame Knights of Columbus Council 1477, the Irish Rover independent student newspaper, Notre Dame College Republicans, The University of Notre Dame Anscombe Society, The Identity Project of Notre Dame, Notre Dame Knights of the Immaculata, Notre Dame Children of Mary, the Orestes Brownson Council, and the Notre Dame Law St. Thomas More Society.

Its website is at www.NDResponse.com.

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Gospel of the Day

Lk 9:57-62

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First Reading:: Job 9: 1-12, 14-16
Gospel:: Lk 9: 57-62

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Lk 9:57-62

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