Archive of May 6, 2009

Archbishop Chaput: Media culture and compromise undermining Christian life

New York City, N.Y., May 6, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput exhorted Catholics to follow the example of St. Paul by understanding their own times and being “possessed by the God of Truth.” Stressing the need to recognize the impact mass media has on thought and action, he warned that Catholics are losing the habits on which they have traditionally relied because of “vanity and compromise.”

The archbishop delivered his remarks to the American Bible Society in New York City on Wednesday. The Archbishop of Denver is in town to receive the Becket Fund’s Canterbury Medal, which is given to persons who “most resolutely refused to render to Caesar that which is God's.”

Beginning his remarks with a reflection on the life of St. Paul, Archbishop Chaput said Paul was “a determined man.”

“As even St. Peter discovered, Paul never let shallow courtesies interfere with his witness for Jesus Christ. In fact, by today’s standards, Paul’s passion for Jesus borders on the unseemly. But of course, that says more about us than about him.”

Paul would go to such extremes because he knew the truth not only as a “collection of doctrines” but was “possessed by the God of truth, who gives life to those doctrines,” the archbishop said.

“There has never been, and there never will be, a greater missionary for Jesus than St. Paul. Through Paul, the Gospel reached the world. And our job as believers today is to be Paul once again to the world around us.”

“If we’re serious when we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, then we need to understand our own times as well as Paul did his,” he counseled the Bible Society members.

The archbishop said this can be a problem because “the tools we rely on to inform us are the same tools we use to delude ourselves about the real world.”

“The American news and entertainment media, which now so often overlap, are the largest catechetical syndicate in history,” he continued.

Saying the media has helped create a culture based on “immediacy, brevity, visual stimulation, celebrity and self-absorption,” he warned this has great implications for the Christian’s place in American society.

To know our times, he said, it is crucial that we understand how mass media works on us. We can learn to judge them “soberly and critically,” but if we do not the consequences may be “very unhappy.”

Noting that the United States was founded in a time of print-based patterns of thought, he warned:

“The more sensory, immediate and emotional our culture becomes, the farther it gets from the habits of serious thought that sustain its ideals.”

As a remedy, he advised Catholics to give up computers, televisions, cell phones, and iPods for “just one night” a week.

“One night a week spent reading, talking with each other, listening to each other and praying over Scripture. We can at least do that much. And if we do, we’ll discover that eventually we’re sober again and not drunk on technology and our own overheated appetites.”

Turning to questions of public life, the archbishop noted President Barack Obama’s comments about America not considering itself a Christian nation. Saying the president’s words should not be taken out of context, he remarked that his comments come at a time when American leaders’ attitude towards religion and Christianity is “very different from the past, and much less friendly.”

The archbishop said it would be “foolish and delusional” to deny the United States’ Christian roots. He quoted Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, who respectively said America was “born a Christian nation,” “founded on the principles of Christianity,” and firmly reliant on God’s providence.

Archbishop Chaput said that the public witness of many American Christians is “softening,” with some groups working “very vigorously” to secularize or de-Christianize public life and popular culture.

American Catholics have successfully fit themselves into American culture, so that “too many of us are happy with our complacency, vanity, compromises, comfort and bad formation.”

The habit of “vanity and compromise” is what is at work in the University of Notre Dame’s decision to honor President Obama at commencement, the archbishop remarked. Though “a sincere and able man,” the president’s views on life issues “run directly against Catholic belief.”

“And a Catholic institution should not honor that kind of behavior,” he said.

While human sinfulness is always present, the archbishop said, “What’s new about our current moment is that too many Christians have made peace with that sinfulness, baptized it with the language of personal conscience, and stopped trying to convert anybody -- including themselves.”

While a “post-Christian” society may seem similar to the world St. Paul confronted, it is in fact “much worse” because the old pagan world was ignorant of Christ, but today’s paganism involves “a specific choice against Jesus Christ.”

He denied there was such a thing as a “post-Christian” society, saying “The redemptive mission of Jesus Christ is unique, unrepeatable and forever. Christ is the center and meaning of history.

“There is nothing after Jesus Christ except a void.”

When Jesus commissioned the apostles to make disciples of all nations and baptize them, the archbishop said, “he was talking to you and me.”

“The lesson of St. Paul, now and for every generation, is that we need to engage the world with intelligence, a creative spirit and, most importantly, charity, which ‘bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.'”

Real charity depends on truth, not “shallow courtesies” and “false compromises.”

“Paul reminds us that charity ‘does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth’ (I Cor 13:6). In fact, no greater gift of love exists than sharing the truth with others. Only God’s truth sets us free.”

“Jesus himself did not claim to ‘preach’ the truth but to be the truth. That’s why a Christianity based only on technique or useful ideas or a system of good social principles will always fail. Christianity can only be anchored in a love for Jesus Christ.”

“The cross of Jesus Christ is not a ‘philosophy.’ It’s an instrument of killing stained with the blood of a Person who was once dead but is now alive.”

“Only if we really believe the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in our bones, only if we endure in proclaiming that truth,” he concluded, will we be able to share St. Paul’s relief and joy in “the crown of righteousness.”

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Archbishop of Baghdad to attend National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

Washington D.C., May 6, 2009 (CNA) - The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad Jean Benjamin Sleiman will attend the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Friday as part of his week-long visit to the United States. He will be joined by over 1,300 attendees including Catholic congressmen and other leaders.

On Sunday Archbishop Sleiman said Mass in an outdoor service for a group of 100 at the St. Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, the Nashua Telegraph reports. He spoke about the persecution of Christians in Iraq, including kidnappings, which he said are underreported and under-investigated.

The archbishop asked for special prayers for him and other religious leaders of the Church in Iraq.

"Without shepherds, the sheep become scattered," he said. "We have to take care of our people. We are weak. We have fear in difficult situations. We have to be able to deliver our flock from fear."

Archbishop Sleiman plans to attend Friday’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington and meet with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, members of the State Department and congressional leaders, according to the Nashua Telegraph.

CNA contacted organizers of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast and received confirmation the archbishop plans to attend.

Though Archbishop Sleiman was not scheduled to speak, Prayer Breakfast founder Joseph Cella told CNA that there are many “last-minute arrangements.”

“We’re still finalizing everything,” he said.

Asked whether he knew the topic of Archbishop Burke’s speech at the event, Cella said he did not. However, he explained the prelate’s comments would be consistent with the breakfast’s theme, “A Celebration of the Teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Cella reported that about 1,300 people will be in attendance.

The Prayer Breakfast invited all members of Congress who are Catholic and all Catholic members of the president’s Cabinet “as a courtesy.” Organizers also invited Vice-President Joseph Biden, who is Catholic.

However, organizers had not heard back from the vice-president or any Cabinet members. Cella said they would not be given a platform to speak if they do respond.

“President Bush really sought us out to attend in the past,” Cella told CNA. “We have not received such an outreach from President Obama. If he expresses interest in coming, he would be more than welcome to attend.”

An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that President Obama had been invited to the prayer breakfast. CNA regrets the error.

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Judge rules irreligious public school teacher violated First Amendment

Santa Ana, Calif., May 6, 2009 (CNA) - A federal judge has ruled that a California public high school teacher who made denigrating remarks about religion and Christianity violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment when he called creationism “superstitious nonsense.”

James Corbett, an Advanced Placement European history teacher at Capistrano Valley High School, was also accused of saying “when you put on your Jesus glasses, you can't see the truth.” He allegedly compared prayers for divine intervention to hopes that the “spaghetti monster” will “help you get what you want.”

Corbett, who has taught for 20 years, also said “Conservatives don't want women to avoid pregnancies — that's interfering with God's work.”

However, U.S. District Judge James Selna ruled that only Corbett’s comment calling creationism “religious, superstitious nonsense” violated the constitutional rights of former student Chad Farnan.

According to Corbett’s attorney Dan Spradlin, the remark about creationism came during a classroom discussion about a 1993 case in which a former Capistrano Valley High science teacher sued the school district because it required instruction in evolution. Spradlin said Corbett expressed his own opinion that the former teacher shouldn’t have presented his religious views to students, the Associated Press reports.

Student Chad Farnan filed suit in 2007 alleging that Corbett violated the First Amendment by repeatedly making comments hostile to Christian beliefs. Farnan’s lawsuit presented more than 20 statements reportedly made by Corbett during one day of class to support allegations that the teacher used a broader teaching method that “favors irreligion over religion” and made Christian students feel uncomfortable.

Judge Selna found that most of the statements cited did not violate the First Amendment because they did not refer directly to religion or were appropriate in the context of the classroom lecture.

On May 1 the judge ruled that Dr. Corbett’s statement about creationism “constitutes improper disapproval of religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.”

He said the ruling reflects “the constitutionally permissible need for expansive discussion even if a given topic may be offensive to a particular religion” but also reflects “that there are boundaries.”

“The ruling today protects Farnan, but also protects teachers like Corbett in carrying out their teaching duties,” Judge Selna said.

Farnan’s attorney, Jennifer Monk of the Murrieta-based Christian legal group Advocates for Faith & Freedom, said her client is not interested in monetary damages. However, he plans to ask the court to prohibit Corbett from making similar comments in the future.

Monk added that the student’s family would like to see the school district offer teacher training and monitor Corbett’s classroom for future violations.

She said there were no plans to appeal the judge’s rulings on the other statements cited in the lawsuit.

"They lost, he violated the establishment clause," Monk told the Associated Press. "From our perspective, whether he violated it with one statement or with 19 statements is irrelevant."

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Apostolic nuncio to U.N. outlines steps towards nuclear disarmament

New York City, N.Y., May 6, 2009 (CNA) - Calling for “concrete, transparent and convincing steps” towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations, outlined five objectives the delegation believes to be achievable in a short time.

Speaking to the third session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 U.N. Conference on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the archbishop said the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Weapons (NPT) remains a “cornerstone” of nuclear disarmament after four decades.

“The Holy See reaffirms its strong and continuing support for the NPT and calls for universal and full adherence to and compliance with the Treaty,” he said.

Noting that more than 26,000 nuclear warheads remain in the world, he urged all states to strive to achieve a nuclear weapons-free world through the NPT.

Adherence to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Archbishop Migliore said, is “essential and achievable” if states are serious about their commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons.

The first measure suggested by the archbishop was starting negotiations for a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, which he said are “overdue.”

Another need is for nuclear weapon States to “interpret their military doctrines as precluding any reliance on nuclear weapons,” he urged.

Archbishop Migliore also advocated that the peaceful use of nuclear energy should be under “strict control” of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“All countries should join all relevant instruments in this area,” he urged, saying the Non-Proliferation Treaty should be strengthened through increasing the capacity of the IAEA and enhancing its safeguard system.

Finally, Migliore said it was “imperative” to find “common solutions and international structures” for the production of nuclear fuel, an area in which he advocated the IAEA play a leading role.

“[A]s long as nuclear weapons exist they will always pose a danger to humanity of being used or falling into the hands of terrorists, threatening peace and security and even human existence itself,” Archbishop Migliore said, praising “some good signs” in advancing nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in international debate.

“Nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, and peaceful use are the three mutually reinforcing pillars,” he continued. “Urgent and irreversible progress is required on all fronts. Today’s growing expansion of civil nuclear energy programmes poses new potential challenges to the non-proliferation regime. But without serious and concrete steps towards disarmament, the non-proliferation pillar will be further weakened.”

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Pope greets doctors, prays for peace in the Holy Land

Vatican City, May 6, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict gave a special greeting to the Catholic doctors present at today’s general audience and addressed those living in the Holy Land.

First he told the doctors: "May your work, which serves human beings from conception until natural death, always be an eloquent testimony of human and Christian solidarity."

Then, noting his upcoming Friday trip to the Holy Land, he gave a special message to the people of Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

He explained that he will visit the Holy Land "as a pilgrim of peace. The Pope continued: "My primary intention is to visit the places made holy by the life of Jesus, and, to pray at them for the gift of peace and unity for your families, and all those for whom the Holy Land and the Middle East is home. Among the many religious and civic gatherings which will take place over the course of the week, will be meetings with representatives from the Muslim and Jewish communities with whom great strides have been made in dialogue and cultural exchange."

Concluding his address, he said, "In a special way I warmly greet the Catholics of the region and ask you to join me in praying that the visit will bear much fruit for the spiritual and civic life of all who dwell in the Holy Land. May we all praise God for His goodness. May we all be people of hope. May we all be steadfast in our desire and efforts for peace."


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Bishops of Nicaragua slam article by presidential advisor accusing the Church of corruption

Managua, Nicaragua, May 6, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Nicaragua issued a statement this week strongly rejecting an "article" by presidential advisor Orlando Nunez Soto which "denounces" the supposed corruption of bishops and priests in the country. The bishops said the accusations were fictitious and were the "product of his imagination."

During a press conference, the president and the secretary general of the bishops’ conference, Bishop Leopoldo Brenes Solorzano and Bishop Socrates Rene Sandigo Jiron, respectively, denounced the article which Nunez sent to the First Lady, Rosario Murillo, and that was later posted on the internet, accusing the bishops of corruption.

In response to the accusations, the bishops explained that the sole purpose of the article was to "sully the image of the Church represented by her bishops and priests who are striving to maintain her prophetic fidelity and closeness to the poor and lowly."

"The article should be considered, as in fact it is, a product of his imagination without any basis, and couldn’t be further from the truth," they continued.

"Although we are open to forgiveness, we would ask that the origin of this document be clarified," the bishops demanded.

The Nicaraguan bishops also invited the faithful to pray to Rosary and increase their devotion to Mary especially during the month of May.


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Pope Benedict explains veneration of images before heading to Holy Land

Vatican City, May 6, 2009 (CNA) - Days before he heads to the Holy Land, Pope Benedict taught the crowd of 20,000 at his weekly General Audience about the reason that Christians venerate images. Drawing from St. John Damascene, he explained the theology behind the use of material objects and the difference between adoration and veneration.

In recalling the figure of seventh century St. John Damascene, who is of “primary importance” in the history of the church, the Pope focused on his “three discourses on sacred images against those who sought to slander them.”

The Holy Father explained that in these three works, the “first attempts to legitimize the veneration of sacred images” can be found. St. John Damascene accomplished this by associating images with the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God in the bosom of the Virgin Mary.

Another contribution of St. John was his distinction, in both private and public Christian devotions,  between adoration and veneration. “The former being highly spiritual can only be directed towards God, the latter can employ images to seek intercession with the images’ subject,” said Benedict.

As he prepares to head to a predominantly Muslim country on Friday and later to Israel, the Pope reflected on the difference between Christian teaching on images and that of the other two monotheistic faiths.

"It immediately became clear that this distinction was important in order to provide a Christian response to people who insisted that the severe Old Testament ban against the liturgical use of images was universal and perennial. This was a also a subject of great discussion in the Muslim world, which accepts this Hebrew tradition of the complete exclusion of all images from worship. In this context Christians, for their part, discussed the problem and found the justification for the veneration of images."

John Damascene, he noted, gave us the theology of the material, which is a prominent feature in Eastern Christianity.

Elaborating on this idea, Pope Benedict explained, “God has made himself material for me; I venerate the material through which His salvation came to me.”

“Is the wood of the cross not material and the ink with which the Book of Salvation was written, and before all other things, the blood and flesh of my Lord?” he continued. “I do not venerate material, he would say, but the creator of the material.”

“We must allow ourselves to be filled with wonder before the works of Providence, overcoming the temptation to see aspects which seem unjust,” Pope Benedict added. “Christian optimism is not naive, it is aware of the wounds inflicted by human freedom and all the consequent disorder derived from it.”

“The path to the sea of God’s love needed to be concretely indicated to mankind,” the Holy Father concluded. “Thus the Son came down to his servants; he lowered the heavens in coming among us, fulfilling the newest of all things, the only truly new thing.”

The Pontiff told English-speaking visitors: “I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today, including a group of Felician Sisters serving in health care administration. Upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.”

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Gaza priest: Israel will only grant 80 visas to attend Papal events

Rome, Italy, May 6, 2009 (CNA) - Commenting on the number of Catholics from the Gaza Strip who will be allowed to see the Pope during his visit to the Holy Land, a new pastor in Gaza, Argentinean priest Father Jorge Hernandez, said this week, “Israel has told us it will do its best to issue some 80 permits. These will be for one day and will only be valid for travel to Bethlehem.”


According to the SIR news agency, Father Hernandez said that 250 visas were requested from the Israeli government.  “With the reduced number (80), we are in the position of having to choose who to take to Bethlehem. It will not be easy because everybody wants to participate.  For now we will only find out about the permits the day before (May 12).  This is the ordinary way things are done,” he said.


“We have much hope for this visit,” the priest continued. “We hope the Pope will speak about Gaza” as “the bombings continue in the south because of the tunnels.”


“The Pope has always spoken about the Gaza Strip during the recent conflict, and for this reason we know we are in the Pontiff’s heart,” the priest concluded.

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Maine allows same-sex ‘marriage’

Augusta, Maine, May 6, 2009 (CNA) - Governor of Maine, John Baldacci, signed a bill today making Maine the fifth state to allow same-sex marriage.


The bill passed in the House of Representatives yesterday and was approved in the Senate today to allow marriage between two people, instead of defining it as between one man and one woman, according to Fox News.


The bill was then quickly signed today by the state's Democratic governor.


Republican Senator Debra Plowman opposed the bill saying that it was passed “at the expense of the people of faith.”


She cautioned: “You are making a decision that is not well-founded.”


Fox News also reported that Senate Majority Leader Philip Bartlett II said that redefinition of marriage does not force any religion to recognize same-sex “marriage saying: “We respect all religious liberties.”


According to the Diocese of Portland, Maine, last month Bishop Richard Malone testified before the Judiciary Committee asking them to uphold traditional marriage.


He noted that in nearly every culture,” marriage is “a social institution with the primary purpose of ensuring that the next generation grows up in a secure, loving, balanced environment… guided by both male and female parents. Children learn different traits from both genders.”

“What message do we send to children when an institution as vital as marriage can be irrevocably altered simply because a particular group demands it?” he asked.  “Redefining a social institution as important as marriage gives precedent to future redefinitions, further weakening it.”

He also recognized that traditional marriage today often “falls short its ideals,” but explained that “redefining it will make our problems worse, not better.”

Maine joins the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Iowa in allowing same-sex “marriages.”  The New Hampshire House is also scheduled to vote on a similar bill today.



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Star of ‘Angels and Demons’ says if you don’t like it, don’t see it

Washington D.C., May 6, 2009 (CNA) - Tom Hanks, star of the film “Angels and Demons,” based on the book by Dan Brown, who also wrote “The Da Vinci Code,” said this week that those who feel offended by the lies of the book and the film should not see it.


Speaking to reporters, Hanks said, ''Anyone who doesn't want to go to this film, thinking it might include things they'd find objectionable: Don't go! I don't go to a lot of movies I know I won't like. I don't go to those 'Saw' films that feature torturing people. I don't want to go to movies to watch people being tortured."


Hanks said he was “very satisfied” with the character he plays in the film, Robert Langdon.


The Under Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Mr. Angelo Scelzo, told reporters the Holy See’s policy is not to allow the filming of any movie on Vatican grounds, which is why Ron Howard was unable to film there.


“All productions concerning the Vatican must be filmed on sets that are reconstructions of the Apostolic areas,” he said.

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Cuban dissident denounces harassment and detention of movement’s members

Havana, Cuba, May 6, 2009 (CNA) - The coordinator of the Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (Christian Liberation Movement), Oswaldo Paya, denounced the detention of several members of the organization by state security agents.

In a statement, Paya said the detention occurred last weekend during a visit he made to various provinces. "A number of leaders of the movement were detained, including Agustin Cervantes and Jose Alba Castro. In addition, his family and his father-in-law, who is gravely ill with cancer, received harassing phone calls," Paya said.

These incidents "reveal that the Cuban government is very concerned about Oswaldo Paya’s connections with activists and citizens due to the growing sympathy for the Varela Project and for National Dialogue."

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Pope is coming to pray for peace in Holy Land, says Jerusalem Patriarch

Jerusalem, Israel, May 6, 2009 (CNA) - The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, said this week that the Church in the Holy Land is awaiting the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI "with joy, hope and enthusiasm: we see in him as a sign of Providence and he comes to pray with us, for all of us, for peace and for all of the inhabitants of the Holy Land."

In dialogue with Vatican Radio, the archbishop explained that the Pope "is a father who will begin encouraging the faithful in Jordan and later will continue to do so here. We must have a big heart and not limit ourselves to small things, to small-mindedness. On the contrary, we must respond to his beautiful gesture with a beautiful gesture of our own through hospitality, welcome and courage."

The Patriarch went on to explain some of the difficulties being experienced by Christians in the Holy Land: "You only have to go to Bethlehem, to Nazareth, to see Calvary; all of the check points that exist." He stressed that Christians also can’t get to the airport, have visa issues and cannot visit their families.

"This is the Calvary of a church, but we can’t forget that Calvary is followed by a resurrection," he said.

Archbishop Twal said that in Jerusalem, "There are only 10,000 Christians, between Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, amidst a Muslim community of 250,000 and an Israeli community of 550,000. We do what we can to stop and limit as much as possible the emigration of Christians, but these same Christians need to understand that their presence here is a mission. They should accept the obstacles and not give up because of the problems. This is Holy Land, and here is where our roots are," he said.

After noting that relations with other Christian confessions are good, the Latin Patriarch said, "We need to restore the Holy Land’s vocation to holiness. More than fighting for territory, we need to strive more for holiness, for reconciliation, for forgiveness, for fraternal charity, which we need so greatly. This is what encourages us."

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Alan Keyes announces plans to be arrested at ND commencement; urges others to join in protest

South Bend, Ind., May 6, 2009 (CNA) - Former U.S. Diplomat Alan Keyes has announced that he will be present at the University of Notre Dame on May 17 and is planning to be arrested for protesting President Obama’s invitation to speak and receive an honorary degree at the ceremony.

In his statement released Wednesday, Keyes notes that he "will go to South Bend. I will step foot on the Notre Dame campus to lift up the standard that protects the life of the innocent children of this and every generation. I will do it all day and every day from now until the Master comes if need be, though it mean I shall be housed every day in the prison house of lies and injustice that Obama, Jenkins and their minions now mean to construct for those who will never be still and silent in the face of their mockery of God and justice, their celebration of evil"

He urges others to join him saying: "If this be trespass, then forgive us our trespasses and join us in trespassing until the South Bend jail is filled to overflowing with witnesses to truth."

"I ask others who all these years have prayed and labored for the unborn to join us. I know you are there. I have broken bread with you at dinners for crisis pregnancy centers and right to life groups. I have marched with you to proclaim the sanctity of innocent life, and decry the laws that sanction its destruction. I have been uplifted by your faith, your perseverance, your love of God and His Son. The forces of evil mean to lay final claim to a place supposed to be within the precincts of our God and Lord. Come what may, we must come forth now to occupy and hold it against them," he concludes.

To read Dr. Keyes full statement, visit:


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Texas bill proposes to punish infanticide with mere two-year maximum in jail

Austin, Texas, May 6, 2009 (CNA) - A Texas bill proposing to reduce significantly the penalty for the murder of young infants by their mothers conveys the message that newborns and infants are "less valuable people," a Texas pro-life leader warns.

The introduced version of House Bill 3318 adds the offense of "infanticide" to the Texas penal code. It defines infanticide as a state jail felony "if the person willfully by an act or omission causes the death of a child to whom the person gave birth within the 12-month period preceding the child’s death" and if the person’s judgment was impaired as a result of the effects of giving birth or the effects of lactation following the birth.

After revision by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, the latest version said the defendant may "raise the issue" whether the defendant’s judgment was impaired by the effects of giving birth or by the effects of lactation.

If such impairment is proven, the offense is categorized as a state jail felony.

In contrast to a first degree felony, a state jail felony carries a maximum sentence of two years and a minimum of 180 days, the Austin American-Statesman reports. At present, the murder of anyone under the age of six brings a capital murder charge.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston). Though Rep. Farrar is a self-described Catholic, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas has praised her as "a fierce supporter of family planning and reproductive choice."

Rep. Farrar acknowledged that the bill is unlikely to be voted on by the House floor.

"I think that we got this far is pretty significant," she told the American-Statesman.

The bill is reportedly aimed at women who show symptoms of postpartum psychosis. The condition was cited in the case of Andrea Yates, a Texas mother who drowned her five children six months after giving birth to her youngest.

George Parnham, a Houston attorney who represented Yates, helped write the measure.

"When the Andrea Yates case happened, honestly, I thought she should be thrown under the prison," Farrar told the Austin-American Statesman. "But then I came to learn more about what the condition was ... when you're looking at culpability, you have to consider the mental state, and that mental state was caused by hormones that were triggered by the pregnancy."

Dave Welch of the Texas Pastor Council said the bill goes too far because it mentions only "effects of birth or lactation" rather than a specific condition.

"That opens a door you can drive a Mack truck through," Welch said.

CNA spoke with Elizabeth Graham, Director of Texas Right to Life, who in a Wednesday e-mail warned that Texas families could be "jeopardized" by the bill.

"With the penalties for murder lessened, the state would be sending that the lives of newborns and infants are less valuable people than others. However, this is consistent with Representative Farrar’s unblemished pro-abortion record through which she has demonstrated her belief that women should be free to dispose of their unborn children; now she is extending that belief to children who are born," she said.

Graham claimed the bill was part of the abortion lobby’s attempt to "dehumanize segments of the human family."

Graham noted that Rep. Farrar had also spoken against the state’s Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

"If Rep. Farrar were sincerely interested in helping women, she would also recommend counseling, medical, and psychiatric assistance to women who are murdering their small children due to emotional and hormonal imbalances," Graham told CNA.

She encouraged pro-life advocates to call or e-mail their state legislators to oppose the bill.

H.B. 3318 must now pass through the House Calendar Committee, which is mostly Republican. Farrar said she plans to address the issue in the next legislative session if it does not pass the committee.



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