Archive of May 26, 2009

Family and life advocates concerned by Sotomayor's 'judicial activism'

Washington D.C., May 26, 2009 (CNA) - President Obama introduced Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee to replace retiring Justice David Souter this morning at the White House. Conservative court watchers reacted to the announcement by warning that Sotomayor's judicial record shows she is an activist judge.

This morning just after 10 a.m., President Obama introduced Sonia Sotomayor, emphasizing her rise from humble beginnings to graduating from Princeton and later Yale.

"Along the way," Obama said, she's faced down barriers, overcome the odds, lived out the American Dream that brought her parents here so long ago. ...What Sonia will bring to the Court, then, is not only the knowledge and experience acquired over a course of a brilliant legal career, but the wisdom accumulated from an inspiring life's journey."

Sotomayor will be the third woman to serve on the nation's highest court and the first Latina.

However, some court watchers are worried by remarks that Sotomayor made in a 2001 speech at Berkeley, where she stated that she believes it is appropriate for judges to consider their "experiences as women and people of color," and that these experiences should "affect our decisions."

She went on to say in the same speech, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life."

Judge Sotomayor also said in a speech to the Duke Law School in 2005 that the "Court of Appeals is where policy is made," a comment that has stoked fears that she will be an activist judge.

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, commented on the Supreme Court nominee's remarks by saying, "Women are best protected by the rule of law – and blind justice. Their rights are most endangered when personal preference, ideology or painful personal history inform judgment."

On the other hand, Judge Sotomayor appeared to distance herself from her remarks about letting personal experiences inform the law when she said today at the White House, "I firmly believe in the rule of law as the foundation for all of our basic rights."

While Sotomayor's judicial stance on protecting the unborn is somewhat unknown, the Latina judge did rule against abortion supporters who sued to overturn the Mexico City policy. The pro-abortion group claimed the policy violated their First Amendment, due process and equal protection rights.

Concerned Women for America's Wendy Wright called on all senators to demand ample time for a careful and thorough examination of the nominee's record.

"A necessary quality for a Supreme Court justice is to be committed to equal treatment of the law, regardless of ethnicity or sex. Sonia Sotomayor has an extensive record and several troubling opinions where she seems willing to expand certain 'rights' beyond what the Constitution establishes and the appropriate Supreme Court precedent," Wright said. 

One other issue highlighted by CWA is the fact that Sotomayor has a high rate of having her rulings reversed. Out of five cases brought before the Supreme Court, Sotomayor has had the court overturn three of her decisions.

Her reversal rate "alone should be enough for us to pause and take a good look at her record. Frankly, it is the Senate's duty to do so," Wright stated.

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Vatican City, May 26, 2009 (CNA) - On its first day online, the new website enabling young people from around the world to get to know Pope Benedict XVI, received almost half a million visits.

According to webmaster Father Paolo Padrini of Vatican Radio, the website sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity is intended “to create a climate of belonging, of participating in the Church, through ever greater closeness with the Holy Father.”

The new site, which allows users to learn the teachings of Benedict XVI on Facebook, download tools for iPhones and have access to the Vatican on Youtube, sent out “almost ten thousand virtual postcards on its first day” and received almost “half a million visits.”

Father Padrini noted that what “is on Facebook is not a profile, but rather a place to share, because the Pope obviously does not need a profile to introduce himself … Dialogue with him is dialogue based on our daily realities of school, work, and the parish. This is promoted by him and is later made concrete in the sharing of our friends on the internet.”

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Cardinal Amigo: Unborn child at 13 weeks is a human being

Jaen, Spain, May 26, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Seville in Spain, Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo, said last week the “best thing to do is to forget as soon as possible about” the statements made by Minister of Equality Bibiana Aido, who said, “A fetus at 13 weeks is not a human being.”

Questioned by reporters in Jaen, Spain about the controversy unleashed by the remarks, the cardinal said human life is “non-negotiable from conception to natural death,” and everything that affects it should be treated “with the exquisite respect.”

“When the value of a person, in whatever state of existence, is diminished, we ought to fear the worst,” the cardinal said.  He also commented about the government’s announcement that it would allow the morning-after pill to be made available without a prescription, calling it “something completely absurd.” 

“Abortion under any form is something to be completely rejected,” the cardinal stated.  He also addressed one of the most controversial aspects of the proposed reform of the country’s abortion law, namely, that it would allow 16 year-old girls to undergo abortions without the consent of their parents.

“Parents have rights over their children, and above all, great responsibilities. We cannot act in this manner, without listening to parents, without protecting the rights and responsibilities of their children. A 16 year-old girl can get an abortion, and what about the pain that her parents will experience for the rest of their lives?” he asked.

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Pope improved relations with Islam in Jordan, says Nuncio

Rome, Italy, May 26, 2009 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan and Iraq, Archbishop Francis Chullikat, said last week the Muslim community and the royal family of Jordan appreciated the fact that Benedict XVI decided to travel first to that country on his trip to the Holy Land. The Jordanians said it was an important gesture that has led to a “better perspective of Christians on the part of Muslims.”

Speaking to SIR news agency, the archbishop said, “Inter-religious dialogue has gotten an additional boost since the papal visit. Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammed Bin Talal, the king’s advisor in religious affairs, appreciated greatly the visit Benedict XVI made to the mosque as a gesture of respect to Muslims.  We also hope for positive results from this encounter so that the Muslim population will also be content.”

The nuncio also underscored that in Jordan, “The Pope reminded us that we can build and re-build upon peace and unity, and he went even further by speaking about hope and the will that its necessary for this work of re-building.

“The problems of a political nature that were present during the preparation of this trip have been overcome by his pilgrim testimony,” the papal nuncio said.

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Two women killed in attack on Catholic church in Nepal

Rome, Italy, May 26, 2009 (CNA) - On Saturday, May 23, two women died after a bomb exploded during Mass at the Church of the Asuncion in Dhobighat in Nepal. There was no word on the number of wounded. According to Caritas, some 150 people were in the church at the time of the attack, which was believed to be an act of Hindu extremists.

After the event, the Director of Caritas Nepal, Father Silas Bogatim, who was celebrating the Mass, said, “We never imagined that someone would carry out such a cowardly attack as this which has killed and wounded so many people. In Nepal, we have lived in religious harmony, and an extremist group is trying to do away with this.”

The attack which was condemned by the government, different political parties, human rights activist and various religious groups, was believed to have been carried out by the Hindu extremist group “National Defense Army,” as pamphlets from the group were found on the scene. In July of last year, terrorists from the group claimed responsibility for killing a priest in the region.

Father Bogatim also said, “We are publicly praying to show our solidarity and religious tolerance.” “The attack has created psycho-social fear among Christians in order to disturb religious harmony in Nepal, but they (the extremists) will never succeed.

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Pro-marriage groups "very gratified" by Prop. 8 decision

San Francisco, Calif., May 26, 2009 (CNA) - The California Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that Proposition 8, the successful California ballot measure which defined marriage to be between a man and a woman, is constitutional. It also decided that the some 18,000 homosexual “marriages” contracted in the state should remain valid in law.

By a vote of 6-1, the state Supreme Court justices ruled Proposition 8 was constitutional. The court unanimously ruled that existing “marriages” would stand.

Proposition 8 was put forward as a response to the California Supreme Court’s May 2008 decision which by a vote of 4-3 overturned a state ban on such unions.

Chief Justice Ronald M. George authored the majority opinion in today's court decision.

The court rejected Prop. 8 opponents’ “principal argument,” which was that the proposition was not a constitutional amendment but rather a constitutional revision. A revision may only be proposed in a state constitutional convention.

The justices said that Prop. 8 “does not entirely repeal or abrogate” same-sex couples’ state constitutional right of privacy and due process. Rather, it “carves out a narrow and limited exception to these state constitutional rights” by reserving the designation of the term “marriage” for “opposite-sex couples.”

Proposition 8 left “undisturbed” what the court called the “extremely significant substantive aspects” of a same-sex couple’s constitutional right to establish an “officially recognized and protected family relationship.”

Concerning the validity of homosexual “marriages” contracted after the court’s May 2008 decision but before the passage of Proposition 8, the court said the law cannot be “properly interpreted” to apply retroactively.

“Accordingly, the marriages of same-sex couples performed prior to the effective date of Proposition 8 remain valid and must continue to be recognized in this state,” the court’s decision read.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the only dissenting vote on the constitutionality of the measure was cast by Justice Carlos R. Moreno, the only Democrat on the court. Justice Moreno sided with the argument that Prop. 8 was a revision rather than an amendment.

Andrew Pugno, the General Counsel of Prop. 8 backer, said in a Tuesday statement that the group was “very gratified” that the ballot measure was upheld.

“This is the culmination of years of hard work to preserve marriage in California. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers worked diligently to uphold the institution of marriage. Twice, voters have decided that marriage in California should be only between a man and a woman.

“We are extremely pleased that the Supreme Court has acknowledged the right of voters to define marriage in the California Constitution. The voters have decided this issue and their views should be respected.”

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Vatican publishes Compendium to guide Church in China

Vatican City, May 26, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican press office has announced that on the second anniversary of the publication of Pope Benedict’s letter to the Church in China, a Compendium has been made available on the Vatican's website to help Catholics more deeply understand the Holy Father’s letter to the Church in China.

The Holy Father sent to the letter on May 27, 2007 to bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful of the Catholic Church in China to offer “guidelines concerning the life of the Church and the task of evangelization in China,” in order to help Chinese Catholics discover what the Lord “wants from them,” said the announcement.

The letter was well received by members of the Chinese faithful who had access to it, according to the Vatican. Not only have study sessions been formed to discuss the letter, but it has also become a “point of reference for the resolution of the various problems that the Catholic community is having to address on both the doctrinal level and the practical, disciplinary level.”

The Compendium “faithfully reproduces, both in structure and language, the content of the original Letter, quoting extended passages from it. With the addition of some footnotes and two short appendices, the Compendium is presented as an authoritative tool facilitating a deeper understanding of His Holiness' thought on some particularly delicate points.”

The Holy See also noted that the Pope has approved the Compendium and “has authorized its publication as a document of the Apostolic See.”

The document is now available in English and Chinese on the Vatican's site:

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Cardinal Sandoval calls for truth about assassination of his predecessor

Guadalajara, Mexico, May 26, 2009 (CNA) - On the 16th anniversary of the murder of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo of Guadalajara, which took place on May 24, 1993, the deceased prelate’s successor, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, called for the truth to be made known about the event. “We must not cease in our determination that the truth be told” about this case, he said.

In an extensive report on the case published by the Archdiocese of Guadalajara’s weekly, “Seminario,” Cardinal Sandoval said his work as the slain cardinal’s successor and his efforts to see justice served in the case have not been easy, and that he has not felt the support of the State of Jalisco.

“It has been difficult because I have faced a persecution, sometimes openly, sometimes underhandedly, from those who were involved in the crime,” the cardinal said, adding that society in the State of Jalisco has been “silent” about the case as well. “Some people speak out to the media, but in public they act like nothing happened,” he said.

Regarding the legal situation of the Posadas case, Cardinal Sandoval said it involves he and his legal team doing all the work to find the truth, “because the government has no interest in resolving it, I don’t know if that’s because they don’t want to have any problems, if there are political interests or what.”

The cardinal’s report notes that “sixteen years after the murder of Posadas, the case remains open, and hope remains that it can be resolved if federal authorities subpoena key figures in the case who can untangle the web of lies and complicity.”

The report points to Alberto Gallardo Robles, currently imprisoned in the U.S., and former president Carlos Salinas as key figures in the case. Fernando Guzman, the secretary general of the State of Jalisco and one of the lawyers on the case, said the testimony of Salinas is important because “he was the person who was most informed at the time, and he could provide essential elements to clear up the case.”

Cardinal Posadas Ocampo was murdered in 1993 at the Guadalajara Airport when gunmen, armed with automatic weapons, attacked him in his car.  The case has been reopened several times, however no one has been imprisoned.

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Experts denounce 'educational' material encouraging sexual exploration for teens

Madrid, Spain, May 26, 2009 (CNA) - The association Professionals for Ethics denounced the distribution of a multi-media presentation for teens that encourages them to “explore their bodies in order to discover their pleasure map.”
“If you think it is inappropriate to tell your junior high or high school teen that sodomy is anal sex, or to encourage them to explore their bodies to discover their pleasure map, or to tell them that voluntary abortion is an express decision of the woman to end her pregnancy, you should be worried because this language (accompanied in some cases by pictures) is recommended by the Spanish Government’s Ministry of Education for the course Education for the Citizenry,” the association warned.
The controversial material “is addressed both to teachers and students and includes interactive activities about sexual diversity, the initiation of affective-sexual relations, contraceptive methods and violence in relationships.”
“In the section on the initiation of affective-sexual relationships, the pleasure maps of the human body and the satisfaction these relationships provide are shown, with encouraging testimonies from teens who have already had their first sexual experience,” the association explained.
The material also encourages breaking away from “the traditional characteristics of man and woman” in order to put an end to so-called gender violence.”
“Undoubtedly the subject matter proposed by the Ministry of Education for Education for the Citizenry is perfectly embodied in this material.  Now we know what the government means when it says this school material deals with human rights, interpersonal relationships and affective-emotional education,” said Fabian Fernandez de Alarcon, the association’s secretary general.

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