Washington D.C., May 25, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops’ conference has submitted comment concerning the National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines on embryonic stem cell research, saying the rules ignore science, ethics and the humanity of the embryo.
Msgr. David Malloy, General Secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), authored the comments. He said the proposed guidelines miss an “enormous opportunity” to combine science and “responsible ethics.”
He declared it a “central fact of science” that the embryo is a human being “at a very early stage of his or her development.” Federal advisory groups had acknowledged this fact, Msgr. Malloy said, citing the National Bioethics Advisory Commission appointed by President Clinton.
The monsignor insisted it was a human right not to be subjected to harmful experimentation and said laws which do not protect that right are of questionable moral legitimacy.
Noting alternative methods of stem cell research such as induced pluripotent stem cells, he decried President Obama’s executive order which lifted funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.
According to Msgr. Malloy, the order also lifted requirements that NIH “thoroughly explore new avenues for obtaining pluripotent stem cells without destroying human embryos.”
“Both science and ethics have been ignored in this decision,” he charged.
“Avenues of stem cell research which pose no moral problem are now showing great promise. In fact, human patients suffering from all the conditions cited by President Obama when he signed his executive order – cancer, juvenile diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, heart disease – have been shown in peer-reviewed studies to benefit from clinical trials using human stem cells,” he continued.
“And in every case, the benefit has come not from embryonic stem cells, but from the adult and cord blood stem cells that this organization and others have said should receive priority attention.”
Msgr. Malloy said the guidelines do not seek to fund research in which embryos are created for the purpose of research, but he said they were “broader or more permissive” than any previous research policy in key respects.
“As the President noted,” he said, “we must not make ‘a false choice between sound science and moral values.’ In fact, these sources of guidance both point in the same direction, away from destructive embryonic stem cell research. His executive order and these Guidelines nonetheless insist on a course of action that is both morally objectionable and, increasingly, scientifically obsolete.”
“This is not merely a political or ideological problem, or a problem of religious dogma, but a deeply human problem: We are testing the limits of our obligation to treat all fellow human beings, of every age and condition, with basic respect,” Msgr. Malloy said.
Accra, Ghana, May 25, 2009 (CNA) - A leading priest in Ghana has proposed new initiatives to counter the exodus of young people to sects. His proposals include a local edition of the compendium of the Catechism.
The Italian-born Fr. Martino Corazzin told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that young people are leaving the Catholic Church to join various sects that have rapidly grown in the last 25 years. In that time the number of Ghanaians belonging to independent Pentecostal churches, which combine traditional magical beliefs with Christianity, has risen by 400 percent.
Fr. Corazzin, who has worked in Ghana since 1991, said an ACN-sponsored Ghanaian edition of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church will help stop the exodus by allowing youth to know their faith more deeply.
“At a catechists’ meeting I was told, ‘Many of the youth you baptized two years ago – they don’t come anymore they attend other churches,’” he said. “Many sects are mushrooming – and they’re a threat to the faithful who are Catholic.”
Reportedly, 8,000 copies of the Compendium have already been distributed, with another 25,000 due to go out over the next month.
Fr. Corazzin said youth go to the sects’ churches because they want entertainment.
“It is merely superficial,” he said. “That is why the Compendium will be a great help to answer the questions and doubts they have.”
The Compendium, a summary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, uses a simple question and answer format to explain the Faith. Pope Benedict XVI promulgated the Compendium in 2005.
According to ACN, in many cases those who leave the Catholic Church either return or move to another sect.
Rev. Dr. Andrew Halemba, ACN’s Africa expert, commented on the subject, saying: “The faith has been weakened terribly so they need a clear foundation and explanation of the basics facts of our faith.”
“After Vatican II there was a tendency to move away from catechisms based on ‘questions and answers’ as too formal and somehow primitive,” he explained.
“Nowadays, they have discovered that there is need for such a book and that it could play a very important role in the process of evangelization.”
Fr. Corazzin said that he expects the Compendium will help people answer questions sects raise about Catholic belief and practice.
“They are asking about Mary, about the saints, all these things,” he said, expressing appreciation for the ACN benefactors helping the effort.
Fr. Corazzin has initiated more than 60 social and pastoral projects in the country, including opening 22 schools.
Jerusalem, Israel, May 25, 2009 (CNA) - A new webcasting endeavor inspired by St. Francis and Venerable Gabriele Allegra is producing Catholic content in both English and Mandarin Chinese to proclaim and celebrate the “life-giving Word of God.”
Based in the Holy Land, the Eternal Light Webcast takes its name from Venerable Gabriele Allegra, a twentieth-century missionary to China whose Chinese name means “eternal light.”
The webcast’s internet site quotes Allegra’s 1975 autobiography, in which he said St. Francis of Assisi could not have thought of the possibilities of the printing press, yet the friars should nonetheless study, preach, write and speak through the radio and television today in proclaiming the Word of God.
Venerable Gabriela Allegra himself translated the Bible into Chinese.
At present the webcast effort reproduces several English-language videos of Pope Benedict XVI’s Holy Land visit and presents some written Chinese-language commentary.
The webpage of Eternal Light Webcast is located at http://www.elwebcast.blogspot.com/
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 25, 2009 (CNA) -
The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo has announced a plan to collect $144 million to be used by Caritas Congo for a three-year HIV and AIDS program. Many of the HIV sufferers are women who had been raped in “acts of war.”
Caritas reports that the funds will be used for education and prevention, treatment and care, and for work against the stigma attached to the disease.
There are about 450,000 people infected with HIV in the Congo, with as many as 50,000 of them being children.
In the east of the country about 1.5 million people have fled their homes because of conflict. This has left women and children vulnerable to rape and HIV infection. In 2006, as many as 27,000 sexual assaults were reported in South Kivu Province. About 10-12 percent of women who were raped are infected with HIV.
Plans for the program have been drafted with the participation of 47 dioceses in the country. The Church’s widespread network provides access to communities which don’t have a solid health infrastructure, Caritas says.
Dr. Bruno Miteyo, Director of Caritas Congo, presented the program at a conference of Congolese bishops in Kinshasa earlier this month. He said that millions of people affected by HIV or AIDS will benefit.
At the meeting, Congo’s government said that faith-based organizations like the Church had a strong role to play and affirmed its commitment to addressing the pandemic.
Monsignor Robert J. Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis’ Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS, was also in Kinshasa. He recounted to Caritas how he had visited the Mama Yemo Hospital during his trip. There, 60 percent of all patients in the Internal Medical Section are living with HIV.
“The hospital’s director told me that patients relied on the special social, emotional, nutritional, and spiritual support offered by Church organizations,” he said.
“In this new AIDS plan, the Church in Congo is providing its resources, expertise, experience, and outreach for this work. We have to hope that government, international agency, and sister Catholic donors will make available sufficient resources to Caritas Congo in order to fulfill its mandate.
"The tragic and systematic [use of] rape as a so-called ‘act of war’ causes even greater vulnerability to contracting HIV among women who already who already are deprived of control over their lives and prevented from enjoying their God-given dignity," Monsignor Vitillo explained.
Kansas City, Kan., May 25, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph has pointed out that Notre Dame's president said he chose to honor President Obama and let him speak to promote dialogue, but that Obama said in his speech that he and the Church have “irreconcilable” differences on abortion. This admission, the bishop said, “shut the door on dialogue.”
Regarding this latter idea, Bishop Finn expressed that the Church can and in fact does cooperate with the government, but that this cannot mean it will ever move away from its values and ideals, making any negotiation regarding the Church’s tolerance of abortion impossible.
“As a country we want to see an end to racial prejudice. We want a more secure peace in the world. We want sound economic justice for people. So we can’t give up on working with the administration,” Bishop Finn said.
Areas where the Church can work with an administration that protects abortion involve the “many associated elements that have to do with taking care of women in distress, offering alternatives to abortion,” he told Jack Smith, editor of his diocese's newspaper.
Bishop Finn added, “We have to work together, discuss and study how best we can provide for the needs of women and families. How can we reduce the number of abortions? These are elements for dialogue.”
“But the rightness or wrongness of abortion – this is an intrinsic evil,” the bishop stressed.
“The direct taking of an innocent life can never be negotiated. ... Dialogue is important, but the question is fairly raised, 'May we negotiate about things that are intrinsic evils?' and I think the answer is no.”
He also pointed to the importance of being acutely aware of the nature of abortion and not allowing oneself to lower his or her guard in an alleged environment of cooperation.
The reality of abortion is that “we’re fighting for our lives – literally. We are attempting to protect real unborn children by the thousands. We’re fighting for the right to exercise a rightly-formed conscientious difference with public policy. We shouldn’t underestimate the danger of dragging our feet in this effort, or taking a 'wait and see' approach. If we are not ready to make a frontal attack on the protection of conscience rights, the overturning of Roe v’ Wade, and the primacy of authentic marriage, we will lose in these areas.”
Although some Americans think that the current administration is willing to do something about protecting life and family, Finn disagreed, saying, “I think the rug is already being pulled out from under us. If we sit back and allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of peace and cooperation in regards to these things, then we will lose these battles and, later, wonder why.”
Later, when he was asked about the dozens of U.S. bishops’ who protested the honoring of President Obama and his speaking at Notre Dame's Commencement, the Kansas City-St. Joseph bishop examined Fr. Jenkins' statement that this showed “a tendency to demonize each other.”
Bishop Finn said that the protest over Obama being honored and speaking demonstrated that the invitation was of a “hurtful nature,” and that the bishops realize that the president has promised to make and has already made “very destructive decisions” on issues concerned with protecting life.
“This is serious business; it is about life and death,” Finn alerted.
“If in speaking out on these things, we are characterized as being angry or condemnatory – then so be it. Such actions are worthy of condemnation.
One major effect that the bishops are worried about is the potential confusion of people “concerning the Catholic teaching against abortion, and on the priority of abortion among other issues of public policy,” he explained.
When asked about President Obama’s speech, he addressed the contradiction of Father Jenkins’ hope for cooperation and President Obama's invitation of “joining hands in common effort” with the rest of his speech, where he cataloged the departing views on abortion as “irreconcilable”:
“I think the message of the day was this – that the President of Notre Dame said that they had invited the President of the United States and decided to honor him for the sake of dialogue. And then the President got up and said that the differences that we have on abortion – namely the Catholic Church’s staunch opposition to abortion and his staunch support of abortion were “irreconcilable.” And at that moment, it would seem to me that the dialogue came to a screeching halt. Father Jenkins’ expressed desire for dialogue, whether it was well-founded or justified, at that point got thrown back in his face. The President shut the door on dialogue by saying that there was not going to be any change in his position on abortion and he understood that there was not going to be any change in the Church’s position on abortion. To me, that was the lesson of the day. I am glad that Mr. Obama was so clear.”
Then he added: “The perception unfortunately was that this was a completely acceptable position of his and, because he is a bright and talented man, this trumps the destructive decisions that he’s making day after day.”
Finally, when asked if President Obama’s “call to work together in reducing unintended pregnancies” was a possible way of finding common ground, Bishop Finn said:
“I fear that the specific way that the [U.S.] President frames this in terms of 'reducing unintended pregnancies' is through the promotion of Planned Parenthood and contraceptive services. The President has supported the Prevention First Act bill that’s going forward. This is not about abstinence education. This is about promoting contraception and giving Planned Parenthood a huge blank check. If Catholics don’t see a problem with this then I don’t think they understand the threat it represents to the meaning of marriage, to fidelity, to chastity, to the very sanctity of human life and intimate love.”
Montecassino, Italy, May 25, 2009 (CNA) - While he was visiting Montecassino Abbey on Sunday evening, Pope Benedict XVI also paid his respects to those buried in a nearby Polish military cemetery. The Holy Father prayed at the cemetery for the fallen of all nations, and in particular, for mankind to realize that “the gift of peace is much more precious than any corruptible treasure.”
The cemetery visited by the Pope contains the remains of 1,052 soldiers who died fighting to take back Montecassino Abbey from the Nazis in 1944.
During his Sunday evening visit, the Holy Father lit a votive candle and recited a prayer for the fallen of all countries in all wars.
"O God, our Father,” the Pope began, “endless source of life and peace, welcome into Your merciful embrace the fallen of the war that raged here, the fallen on all wars that have bloodied the earth. Grant that they may enjoy the light that does not fail, which in the reflection of Your splendor illumines the consciences of all men and women of good will.”
“You, Who in Your Son Jesus Christ gave suffering humanity a glorious witness of Your love for us, You, Who in our Lord Christ gave us the sign of a suffering that is never in vain, but fruitful in Your redeeming power, grant those who yet suffer for the blind violence of fratricidal wars the strength of the hope that does not fade, the dream of a definitive civilization of love, the courage of a real and daily activity of peace.”
Benedict XVI also prayed to the Holy Spirit, asking for the grace that “the men of our time may understand that the gift of peace is much more precious than any corruptible treasure,” and that until the Last Day, “we are all called to be builders of peace for the future of Your children.”
“Make all Christians more convinced witnesses of life, the inestimable gift of Your love, You Who live and reign for ever and ever Amen.”
Montecassino, Italy, May 25, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI, speaking to a crowd of 20,000 people on Sunday, emphasized the need for leaders to give their attention to families, which are urgently in need of better protection because of the economic crisis.
The Holy Father made his comments while he was celebrating Mass at the famous Abbey of Montecassino, which was founded by St. Benedict.
The majority of the Pope's remarks were focused on yesterday's Feast of the Ascension, but he also mentioned the Benedictine motto, “Ora et Labora” (Pray and Work).
He explained: "In the first place, prayer, which is the greatest heritage St. Benedict left to his monks, ... is the silent path that leads directly to Gods' heart; it is the breath of the soul that restores peace to us amid the storms of life."
Turning to work, Benedict XVI recalled how Christian monasticism is called to “humanize the world of work.”
Pope Benedict, noting the state of the world's economies, offered his solidarity to “people living in situations of worrying insecurity, workers made redundant or who have even lost their jobs.”
“May the blight of unemployment, which affects this land induce leaders of public life, employers and others in a position to do so, to seek, with everyone's help, convincing solutions to the employment crisis, creating new jobs and safeguarding families," the Pope urged.
The Pope's greatest concern was that families be protected. "How can we fail to recall that the family today has an urgent need for better protection, because it is threatened at its very roots?" he asked.
"I am thinking too of young people who struggle to find dignified employment that enables them to build a family of their own. I would like to say to them today: do not lose heart, dear friends, the Church will not abandon you!"
Vatican City, May 25, 2009 (CNA) - Priests training to serve as diplomats for the Vatican around the world were received by Pope Benedict XVI in an audience on Saturday and encouraged to remain strongly anchored to Christ amidst the turmoil of the modern world.
The priests who were received by the Pope are studying at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which is headed by Archbishop Beniamino Stella.
The Pope told the priests that service in apostolic nunciatures, for which they are training, "may to some extent be considered as a specific priestly vocation, a pastoral ministry that involves a particular approach to the world and to its often highly complex social and political problems."
"The dialogue with the modern world that is asked of you, as well as your contact with people and the institutions they represent, require an inner strength and a spiritual firmness capable of safeguarding - indeed of giving ever more prominence to - your Christian and priestly identity."
This, he explained, is necessary in order to avoid "the negative effects of the worldly mentality and not allow yourselves to be attracted or contaminated by an overly earthly logic."
"In moments of darkness and inner difficulty," Benedict XVI told the priests, "turn your gaze to Christ. ... Always remember that it is vital and fundamental for the priestly ministry, however practiced, to maintain a personal bond with Christ, He wants us as His 'friends', friends who seek intimacy with Him, who follow His teaching and who undertake to make Him known and loved by everyone.
"The Lord," the Pope added, "wants us to be saints, in other words entirely 'His', not concerned with building a career that is interesting and comfortable in human terms, not seeking success and the praise of others, but entirely dedicated to the good of souls, ready to do our duty unto the end, aware of being 'useful servants' and happy to offer our poor contribution to the spreading of the Gospel."
The Holy Father called on the priests in training to be "men of intense prayer who cultivate a communion of love and life with the Lord. Without this solid spiritual base, how would it be possible to continue our ministry? Those who work in the Lord's vineyard in this way know that what is achieved with dedication, with sacrifice and for love, is never lost."
As he brought his address to an end, Pope Benedict pointed to the upcoming Year of Priests as a “valuable occasion to renew and strengthen your generous response to the Lord's call, in order to intensify your relationship with Him."
"Use this opportunity to the utmost so as to be priests in accordance with the dictates of Christ's heart, like St. Jean Marie Vianney, 'Cure of Ars', the 150th anniversary of whose death we are preparing to celebrate," he counseled.