Washington D.C., May 21, 2009 (CNA) - On Wednesday the House Foreign Affairs Committee marked up the State Department Reauthorization bill, which contained several provisions advancing abortion and homosexual political priorities. After receiving assurances from the Obama Administration that it would change the current policies, Committee Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-CA) removed his provision granting domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples.
The State Dept. Reauthorization bill, H.R. 2410, would have established same-sex domestic partnership benefits, funded by taxpayers, for Foreign Service Officers and Peace Corps volunteers.
The bill would have mandated that the Secretary of State work through government employees at U.S. diplomatic and consular missions to encourage foreign governments to reform or repeal laws that criminalize “homosexuality or consensual homosexual conduct” or restrict “the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms, consistent with U.S. law, by homosexual individuals or organizations.”
H.R. 2410 would also have required the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor to track violence or restrictions based on “perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.” According to Smith, the terms are undefined in the bill. The American Psychological Association has broadly defined the terms to include exhibitionism, prostitution and pedophilia.
Additionally, the bill would have required the annual human rights report to include information about violence or discrimination based on “perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Rep. Berman spoke on Wednesday about removing his provision granting partner benefits to homosexual diplomats.
“I am deeply committed to ending the long-standing practice of treating the committed partners of gay and lesbian Foreign Service officers like second-class citizens,” Berman said. “I would not agree to strike a provision in my own bill if I did not feel confident that this would be taken care of by the Administration.”
A separate measure in H.R. 2410 establishes an Office for Global Women’s Issues, which critics suspect might be used to promote the legalization of abortion abroad.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), a senior House Foreign Affairs Committee member, sought to strike the original language authorizing the Office of Global Women’s Issues and identify positive means to help women with regard to education, job training, health care and equal pay for equal work. His amendment also specifically added a clarifying statement of policy intended to prevent the office from being used to lobby for the legalization of abortion in pro-life nations.
Chairman Berman opposed the Smith amendment and it was blocked on a party line vote. Thus the original authorization for an Office of Global Women’s Issues without any pro-life clarifying language remains in the bill that will likely go to the full House of Representatives for consideration in the coming weeks.
New York City, N.Y., May 21, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan has said that Fordham University did not inform him that pro-abortion rights Mayor Michael Bloomberg would speak at the Catholic school’s commencement and receive an honorary degree.
Fordham University President Fr. Joseph McShane, SJ, in his address to Fordham graduates, singled out Mayor Bloomberg and television commentator Tom Brokaw for “special mention,” acknowledging the mayor first.
“Last week I heard the Mayor speak at a Jesuit fund-raising event in Manhattan,” Fr. McShane said. “In the course of his typically gracious remarks, he noted wistfully that he had not had the benefit of a Jesuit education. Mr. Bloomberg, this is your lucky day: you are now a Fordham graduate and thus a member of the Jesuit family!”
Pro-abortion rights Sen. Charles Schumer also spoke at Fordham Law’s graduation on Sunday, also unbeknownst to the archbishop, the New York Post reports.
Archbishop Dolan had criticized the University of Notre Dame for inviting President Barack Obama to be commencement speaker and to receive an honorary degree.
According to the New York Post, the archbishop’s spokesman Joseph Zwilling wrote in an e-mail that Archbishop Dolan was unaware that Mayor Bloomberg was speaking or getting a degree at Fordham.
Zwilling also did not know about Sen. Schumer.
Last fall, the now-retired Edward Cardinal Egan had criticized Fordham for giving the pro-abortion rights Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer an ethics award.
Fordham said its hosting of speakers from “across the political spectrum” points to “a vibrant culture of engagement with the real world, rather than an insufficiency of Catholic teaching.”
“The quality of a Catholic education at the university can't be measured by trying to parse the positions of speakers or honorees in relation to church teachings,” Fordham added.
Arlington, Va., May 21, 2009 (CNA) - The network board of PBS in June will vote on whether to pull affiliate status from stations that broadcast “sectarian” programming, a decision which could affect broadcasts of Mass for shut-ins and other religious programming.
Jennifer Lawson, general manager of WHUT, heads the panel that recommended a board vote on religious programming. She told the Washington Post that the intent of the action is to demonstrate editorial independence.
PBS bylaws call for non-commercial, non-partisan, and non-sectarian programming. However, the network’s editorial policy also calls for “integrity, quality, diversity and local station autonomy,” the Television Broadcast Newsletter reports.
“PBS believes that public broadcasting's greatest potential is realized when it serves the unique needs of the local community, and that there are wide variations in local needs and tastes,” the policy reads. “No one is better qualified to determine and respond to those local needs than the public television station licensed to that community.”
Many PBS member stations have carried religious services and Mass for shut-ins for years. Denver’s KBDI-TV has broadcast Mass for Shut-ins since 1966 every Sunday morning. The Archdiocese of Denver estimates 20,000 households tune in to the Mass each week.
WHUT-TV, the PBS affiliate at Howard University in Washington, D.C., has carried a Mass for 13 years. Losing its PBS affiliation would take away its programming lineup of standard PBS shows. WHUT-TV has already told the Archdiocese of Washington the telecast would be cancelled.
WLAE-TV in New Orleans, partly owned by the local Catholic organization Willwoods Community, has carried a Mass for 25 years without any complaints.
“We’ve built an identity around this. People know us for this,” WLAE vice president and general manager Ron Yager told the Washington Post. “I’m really not totally sure of their reasoning for doing this.”
Barcelona, Spain, May 21, 2009 (CNA) - Nobel Peace Prize laureate and ex-president of Poland, Lech Walesa, said in Spain this week he would have resigned as president “twenty times” before signing a law that would allow abortion in his country.
Walesa made his statements during the Europe Forum together with Miguel Duran of Spain, who is running for a spot in the European Parliament.
The former Polish president explained he would “never” agree with a law that allows abortion because he cannot accept “the killing of innocents,” although he did recognize that no woman ever wants to “kill her child,” but rather is usually motivated by “other situations.”
For his part, Duran criticized the Spanish Socialist government for its political “opportunism” with regards to these issues, especially in a time of crisis. “It would be more important to devote our energies to resolving the problem of the four million unemployed,” he underscored.
“I am bewildered that a government that calls itself progressive would play around with these issues. The government is unfortunately throwing a curtain of blood over the true problem,” Duran charged.
Washington D.C., May 21, 2009 (CNA) - Two Catholic commentators are lamenting the “sorry ignorance of recent American history” displayed by L'Osservatore Romano—the newspaper published by the Vatican—in its favorable reaction to President Obama's recent commencement speech at Notre Dame. However, they caution, readers should not make the mistake of thinking that the newspaper speaks for the Catholic Church.
Pope John Paul II's official biographer, George Weigel, wrote in an article for National Review Online that the pieces published by L'Osservatore Romano have caused pro-administration American journalists and activists to leap with “barely concealed glee” on the chance to trumpet the claim that “the Vatican” believes the U.S. Catholic bishops overreacted to Notre Dame’s award of an honorary doctorate of laws to President Obama.
Furthermore, Weigel says, journalists are writing that “the Vatican” is “taking a wait-and-see, so-far-so-good attitude toward Obama after the horrors of the arch-demon Bush.”
Perhaps this argument might hold water if one was ignorant of the way the Holy See operates, but the fact is that there is no such thing as “the Vatican,” which is “as complex and confused a bureaucracy as one finds in national governments,” the Catholic commentator writes.
The truth of the matter is that the Vatican-published newspaper is seldom used as the forum for delivering the Church's position in matters “of faith, morals, or public-policy judgment.”
“The exceptions are when a senior churchman offers a commentary on a recent papal document (an encyclical, for instance), or on those exceedingly rare occasions when an editorial in the paper is followed by three dots, or periods, a traditional convention signaling that the opinion being expressed is from 'high authority,'” Weigel explains.
“In other words,” writes Weigel, “without those dots, there is nothing here but opinion, to be weighed and judged as any opinion is weighed and judged — on its tether to facts and its argumentation.”
While there are middle-and lower-level officials at the Holy See who are “enamored of Barack Obama,” no one can doubt that that the new administration “poses the gravest challenges to the Holy See’s positions on the life issues since the Clinton administration tried and failed to get abortion-on-demand declared a fundamental international human right.”
Charging L'Osservatore Romano with displaying a “sorry ignorance of recent American history (including the history of the civil-rights movement) and a fideist credulity about the magic of Barack Obama,” Weigel says that people should not draw the conclusion that the secular media has: assuming “that the pope and his most senior advisers have drunk the Obama Kool-Aid and wish the American bishops would chill out...”
Catholic political commentator Deal Hudson, is also weighing-in on the newspaper flap, writing on InsideCatholic.com that “something is seriously wrong at L'Osservatore Romano.”
First on Hudson's list of gaffes is the Vatican newspaper's glowing assessment of President Obama's first 100 days in office. The paper, he points out, failed to mention the cancellation of the Mexico City Policy, Obama's pro-abortion rights administration appointments, increased funding for abortion providers and the “widely-recognized White House strategy of approximating the effect of FOCA in a piecemeal fashion.”
The last straw for Hudson came when a Monday article in L'Osservatore praised Obama's speech at Notre Dame for seeking "common ground" on abortion.
“It's now clear that the paper needs a new editor,” Hudson states, pointing out that “the article did not even mention the 79 U.S. bishops who openly criticized Notre Dame for giving Obama an honor at its recent commencement. One of those bishops was the president of the USCCB, Cardinal George of Chicago.”
Hudson also notes that the paper doesn't speak for the Church, but that regardless of that, “damage will be done by the Associated Press story being published around the country, giving the impression that the Vatican officially approves of both Notre Dame's decision and -- most tragically -- Obama's position on abortion.”
“It should be mentioned, as the Catholic News Agency notes, that the same edition of OR contained an article criticizing Obama with quotes from Archbishop Chaput, which both the Associated Press and the USCCB's news service did not mention,” the commentator adds.
In the end, Hudson holds out hope that Gian Maria Vian, the editor of L'Osservatore Romano, is “simply misinformed.”
“If so, that can be corrected, and Vian can begin publishing accurate information and commentary on the new administration. If not, the Vatican newspaper definitely needs new leadership.”
Rome, Italy, May 21, 2009 (CNA) - As Britain’s House of Lords prepares to debate the issue in June, the president of the Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Peter Smith, said this week allowing “assisted suicide would be a perverse act.”
According to L’Osservatore Romano, the archbishop said the current norms are in place to protect vulnerable people from those who promote suicide. Therefore, amending them, “as some suggest, to allow assisted suicide would be a perverse act. This would produce a law that would go in contradictory directions, as on the hand it would prohibit encouraging suicide but on the other it would allow it to be assisted.”
“The legalization of assisted suicide is a complex and controversial argument that cannot be resolved with an amendment to a wide-reaching law conceived for other purposes,” he added.
“The arguments for the legalization of assisted suicide not only have to do with conscience and morality,” he went on. “There are matters of safety that the government has the responsibility to look after.”
Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2009 (CNA) - According to a report by the Institute for Family Policy,Spain has lost more than three million young people in less than 30 years, thus achieving the dubious distinction of having the fastest aging population out of all the countries in the EU.
According to the Institute’s president, Eduardo Hertfelder, the “dreadful policy” in favor of birth control has had a “catastrophic effect” on the Spanish population, which is severely aging.
“More than 3 million young people” have been lost in less than 30 years, he said, such that the Spanish youth population has gone from 10 million in 1981 to only 6.6 million in 2008. And this drop would have been greater—to almost 4 million—were it not for the boost that has come from young immigrants who have softened this drop,” Hertfelder stressed.
The Institute said the current situation is “the logical consequence of the dreadful policy on the family that has been embraced by recent administrations in general and in this government in particular.
The fact is that "Spain is the EU country that provides the least aid to families, with ridiculous amounts ($33 per month per dependent) that are well below the European average ($172 per month per dependent), and with income caps that are so low that 90% of families cannot even have access to these ridiculous credits, is resulting in increasingly less births and consequently a loss of young people.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 21, 2009 (CNA) - The bishops of Argentina have issued a letter to mark the beginning of the Year of the Priesthood to encourage priests to live their vocation with true radical love. The Year of Priesthood, convened by Pope Benedict XVI, will begin on June 19, 2009.
“The profound crisis we are experiencing gives rise to moral questioning. The incoherencies into which we fall cause us pain and hurt,” the bishops said, pondering the state of the priesthood.
After noting the lack of vocations, they said they felt “especially close to those who are passing through trials or who in their ministries are in situations that are particularly demanding.”
“The priesthood is a Mystery of Love received and given, made new each day in the Eucharistic celebration and in the generous gift of one’s life ‘to the end’ (John 13:1). It is beautiful to live it radically, with completely true love. For this reason, the Church has from the beginning seen a multiple harmony between the priesthood and celibacy, and she calls to the presbyterial ministry those who have freely received and accepted to live this fruitful charism of complete surrender.”
“Taken on by Christ the Head and Spouse, priests are called to be fruitful signs of the love of Christ for his Church, pastors and fathers of the community. This truth can only be understood and lived in the light of the faith, animated by the fervor for charity in the glorious hope of the fullness of heaven,” the bishops said.
Likewise, they added, “the prayerful reading and preaching of the Word of God, the joyful celebration of the Eucharist and all liturgy, the faithful, patient and generous service to the faithful, especially to the poor and the infirm, is the indispensable path to forging in us more each day the sentiments and image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.”
Seoul, South Korea, May 21, 2009 (CNA) - A letter from Pope John Paul II asking for clemency helped save the life of a future South Korean president who was sentenced to death by a military tribunal in 1980, new information reveals.
Then-President Chun Doo-hwan had accused Thomas More Kim Dae-jung of inciting the pro-democracy Gwangju People’s Uprising on May 18, 1980, UCA News reports. The uprising was crushed by the military, resulting in an official toll of 191 dead and 852 injured. However, more than 1,000 may have actually died in the clashes.
When Kim was sentenced to death on December 4, 1980, Pope John Paul II wrote to President Chun a week later seeking clemency.
Chun replied to the Pope on January 5, 1981, claiming that Kim had not been charged because of political issues but had committed “an anti-national crime including subversion.”
However, President Chun acknowledged the Pope’s appeal for clemency was “based on humanitarian consideration and compassion.”
Kim’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on January 23, 1981. In response, Pope John Paul II sent a February 1981 letter to President Chun saying “you courteously acknowledged the appeal I made on purely humanitarian grounds for an act of clemency in favor of Kim whose death sentence has recently been commuted."
"I pray God to watch over the noble Korean people and to bestow his richest favors on you all," the Pope wrote.
Kim’s sentence was reduced to 20 years and he was forced to go to the United States in 1982, UCA News reports. He later returned to Korea and was placed under house arrest, with his full legal rights being restored in 1987.
Kim won the December 1997 election and became president in February 1998, leaving office in 2003.
President Kim visited the Vatican in 2000. According to UCA News, he told Pope John Paul II “You saved my life, I am grateful.”
The president won the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize but was not officially cleared of the original charges against him until 2004.
The letters from Pope John Paul II and President Chun were revealed by the National Archives of Korea on May 18, 2009 at the request of the local daily newspaper of Gwangju, Kwangju Ilbo. The paper reportedly seeks details of the Gwangju People’s Uprising every year to help commemorate it.
Manchester, N.H., May 21, 2009 (CNA) - Contrary to expectations, New Hampshire lawmakers have rejected a bill that would have recognized same-sex “marriages” contracted in the state. The fate of the bill remains uncertain, especially since lawmakers decided not to include protections for religious groups that the state's governor said must be included to avoid his veto.
Though the state Senate passed the bill in a party line vote of 14-10, the state’s Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted down the bill 188 to 186.
An earlier version of the bill had passed the House on March 26, Reuters reports.
Democratic Gov. John Lynch had added wording to the bill that would give legal protections, including the right to decline to “marry” same-sex couples, to clergy and others affiliated with religious organizations.
The governor has said he would veto the bill if the wording is not adopted.
The bill now passes to a committee that will try to resolve the differences between the two chambers.
State Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a homosexual Republican from Manchester, opposed the religious freedom amendment. He argued the amended bill allowed discrimination to be written into state law.
According to Reuters, other House Republicans said they voted against the bill because the process did not fairly give a voice to every citizen who wanted to speak on the issue.
In a May 7 statement, Bishop of Manchester John B. McCormack opposed the first version of the bill, saying "We believe that we should be doing all we can as a society to support and protect marriage, which is a union of a man and woman and has been throughout history."
He said the bill would "redefine marriage on the run" with the "slimmest of legislative margins." The New Hampshire bishop also emphasized the need to secure religious liberties. He warned "unintended consequences" of the proposal would lead to "unnecessary confusion, litigation and denial of rights to many people in our state."