Washington D.C., May 29, 2009 (CNA) - Several pro-abortion groups have issued reactions to President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court. While praising the choice, some groups avoided the abortion issue while one asked for reassurances about the nominee’s commitment to Roe v. Wade.
Nancy Northrup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), said Judge Sotomayor’s growing up in a single parent household with limited means should provide her with a perspective “sorely needed today as women’s reproductive rights remain under attack.”
Northrup claimed that the pro-abortion rights Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade has been “increasingly in jeopardy” in law and in fact by a “severe shortage of abortion providers,” “onerous” state abortion restrictions, and a lack of funding. These factors, she said, make abortion “virtually unavailable” for many women.
“It is critical that any new Justice empathize with the true plight of women to not only recognize when those protections are being violated, but to take steps to safeguard them. We encourage the Senate Judiciary Committee to engage Judge Sotomayor and any future nominees to the Court on their commitment to the principles of Roe v. Wade,” Northrup added.
Noting that the nominee has not ruled on the constitutionality of abortion, Northrup addressed Sotomayor’s 2002 opinion against the CRR’s case challenging the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which prohibited U.S. funding for organizations that promote or perform abortions overseas.
Northrup said the CRR charged that the center’s overseas work with “women’s rights organizations seeking law reform” to address “the deaths and harmful consequences of unsafe abortion” would be hampered by the policy.
According to Northrup, Sotomayor’s opinion “focused on the application of legal precedent and did not express a view on or discuss the impact of” the Mexico City Policy, which Northrup characterized as “the Global Gag Rule.”
The CRR, then known as the Center for Reproductive Law & Policy (CRLP), had brought the suit which resulted in the U.S. Second District Court of Appeals decision “Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. George W. Bush.”
A district court’s previous decision had ruled that the CRLP did not have legal standing and rejected the CRLP’s claim the policy violated First Amendment protections by chilling foreign non-governmental organizations’ ability to collaborate with domestic NGOs.
Judge Sotomayor rejected part of the district court’s argument and said that the CRLP had “competitive advocate standing” because CRLP is an advocacy organization for its views on “issues of abortion and reproductive rights.” She ruled that the group “competes with anti-abortion groups engaged in advocacy around the very same issues.”
However, Sotomayor rejected as “without merit” the CRLP’s argument that the Mexico City Policy violated equal protection guarantees, saying “The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so with public funds.”
Other leaders of pro-abortion groups also weighed in on the Sotomayor nomination.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said Sotomayor’s nomination was “historic” and a “strong signal” that President Obama wants Supreme Court justices who “respect precedent.”
“What our nation needs from our Supreme Court justices is a deep understanding of the law, an appreciation of the impact of the court's decisions on everyday Americans, and a commitment to the protection of our individual liberties. Judge Sotomayor will bring this dedication and commitment with her to the bench,” Richards’ May 26 statement said.
Richards’ statement did not explicitly mention abortion or Roe v. Wade.
National Organization for Women (NOW) President Kim Gandy in a May 26 statement announced her organization would celebrate the nomination and launch a “Confirm Her” campaign to ensure Judge Sotomayor’s swift confirmation.
Predicting that Sotomayor will serve “with distinction,” Gandy praised the nominee for bringing “a lifelong commitment to equality, justice and opportunity” and for enjoying “the respect of her peers, unassailable integrity, and a keen intellect informed by experience.”
Grady, whose statement also did not explicitly mention abortion or Roe v. Wade, said President Obama had found in Sotomayor his desired judicial qualities of a “towering intellect” and a “common touch.”
Washington D.C., May 29, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) praised as “eminently reasonable” the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Proposition 8, a successful ballot measure that restored the definition of marriage to “the union of one man and one woman.”
Archbishop of Louisville Joseph E. Kurtz, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, spoke on behalf of the U.S. bishops in a Wednesday statement.
He said the court’s decision has respected “the eminently reasonable decision” of California voters to retain “the perennial definition of marriage.”
“This respects the uniqueness of the marital relationship and its service to the common good by respecting the value of procreation and the good of children as well as the unique complementarity of man and woman. Advancing the truth and beauty of marriage enhances, rather than diminishes, the intrinsic dignity of every human person.”
Archbishop Kurtz expressed concern and disappointment that the court failed to apply this definition to the nearly 18,000 same-sex “marriages” contracted between May and November 2008 after the California Supreme Court mandated their recognition.
The court ruled that Proposition 8 did not apply retroactively and could not invalidate the legal unions.
“Attempts to change the legal definition of marriage or to create simulations of marriage, often under the guise of ‘equality,’ ‘civil rights,’ and ‘anti-discrimination,’ do not serve the truth,” the archbishop said, charging that such attempts “undermine the very nature of marriage and overlook the essential place of marriage and family life in society.”
“The state has a responsibility to protect and promote marriage as the union of one man and one woman as well as to protect and promote the intrinsic dignity of every human person, including homosexual persons,” he added, saying that “sacrificing marriage” does not promote that dignity.
Detroit, Mich., May 29, 2009 (CNA) - Following several critical theological appraisals of Christopher West, Professor Janet Smith has come to the defense of the Theology of the Body speaker. Stating her “enthusiasm” for West and the Theology of the Body, she contended that his style is a response to “the sexually wounded and confused” and said many criticisms of him were “without foundation.”
Dr. Smith, a professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, wrote an essay that was published on the the Knights of Columbus' site HeadlineBistro.com responding to an earlier essay by the theologian Dr. David Schindler, dean of the John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C.
Schindler had criticized West’s teaching for significantly misrepresenting Pope John Paul II’s thought, describing his approach as “too much about sex and too romantic” and calling on him to subject his theology to “renewed reflection.”
Smith, in what she called a “brief, partial” reply to Schindler, noted the debate over West had been prompted by his interview with ABC Nightline which West said “sensationalized” his views.
Cautioning about the ability of media to distort stories, she said West has likely been suffering “a kind of crucifixion” over the past week. Smith questioned why Schindler chose the aftermath of the interview to issue his “sweeping, negative critique” of West.
“I think we should be very careful in our evaluation of the work of someone who is on the front lines and who is doing pioneer work,” Smith added, saying that “virtually every pioneering author and presenter” had “severe detractors in his own time.”
Referring to Catholic Answers apologist Jimmy Akin’s recent comments on West, she said it was important to remember that West’s audience is “largely the sexually wounded and confused who have been shaped by our promiscuous and licentious culture” and need an “appropriate pedagogy.”
Smith said West’s style appeals to a large segment of that population, and even to some who are “pure and innocent.”
“It is not hard to find hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals who will testify that they have come to love Christ and his Church, and better understand and live the Church’s teaching about sex because of the work of Christopher West. Cohabiters separate, contracepters stop contracepting, and men cease looking at pornography—and that is the short list,” she continued, invoking the biblical adage “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
Noting that Schindler’s concerns included allegations that West had encouraged spouses to pray over genitals, Smith spoke of a sexual abuse victim who was counseled to have her husband pray over her reproductive organs to help her heal from her past trauma and to become more capable of the marital act.
Another of Schindler’s concerns was West’s reputed sanctioning of anal sex. To this, Smith replied that few know that some orthodox Catholic ethicists have “a tradition of approval of such behavior as foreplay to intercourse” so long as this approval is not confused with the condemnation of sodomy, an act which replaces marital relations. She added that priests have been trained to teach West’s position to married couples “for a very long time.”
“The principle generally invoked is that consensual actions that culminate in intercourse are morally permissible,” she said, claiming that West is perhaps more “conservative” than that tradition as he “clearly discourages the practice” in his book “Good News About Sex and Marriage.”
Smith criticized Schindler for not citing any texts to substantiate his charges, but noted that his critical approach was typical of academic disagreements in which scholars “disagree not only with our archenemies but also with our closest and dearest allies.”
Arguing that Schindler’s criticisms of West should not discourage those from reading West’s work or attending his lectures, she noted that West’s work “Theology of the Body Explained” was reviewed by Schindler’s colleague Prof. William C. May. According to Smith, May had given it a “glowing endorsement” and an imprimatur under the Archdiocese of Boston.
Professing interest in reading a “sustained critique” of West written by Schindler, she said more substantiation of Schindler’s charges and a response from West are needed to evaluate the validity of criticisms directed against West.
“When dealing with a subject as fraught with distortions and sensitivities as sexuality there are surely going to be differences between people of good will,” Smith concluded her essay. “I think West has already made a very worthy contribution to that discussion. Others are free to differ with him, but I am sure that, in the end, West’s influence will not be found to be a pernicious one.”
Janet Smith's full response can be read at: http://www.headlinebistro.com/hb/en/news/janetsmithresponse.html
Denver, Colo., May 29, 2009 (CNA) - Two summer programs intended to help bring young people closer to Christ will host Catholic teens in the Colorado Rockies for week-long experiences tailored to the various age groups.
Both programs are hosted near St. Malo’s Retreat Center, located just east of Rocky Mountain National Park.
God in the Rockies, a program for middle school aged children aged 11 to 14, is run through the non-profit organization Creation Adventures and Mission Programs (CAMP).
Youth will be able to hike and camp in tepees. Other activities include crafts, campfires and archery.
The week will also feature rosary making, the Stations of the Cross, and daily Mass.
Organizers told CNA that each activity has the specific purpose of “illuminating aspects of the Christian life” to bring youth into deeper relationship with Christ.
Camp Wojtyla, open to high school students entering grades 9-12, will hold a week for girls from June 28 to July 3. A week for boys will be held from July 5 to July 10. Run through the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), the program is designed to teach teens what it means to be men and women of Christ.
The week at Camp Wojtyla will feature “rugged” outdoor pursuits and counselors who know how to teach the faith in an approachable way through various wilderness and adventure activities. Teens will hike in the mountains, learn archery and how to purify water and scale rock faces.
Camp Wojtyla said it will challenge student to grow deeper in relationship with God, with others and with God’s creation while meeting new friends.
More information about God in the Rockies is available by emailing [email protected].
Camp Wojtyla’s website at www.focusonline.org/camp/ presents more information and, according to organizers, they are still accepting applications.
Vatican City, May 29, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI received eight ambassadors hailing from countries ranging from Mongolia to Norway on Friday. Assuring the diplomats that the Catholic Church will work with them, the Pope called for a renewed effort to establish true peace, especially since the world is undergoing an economic and social crisis.
The Holy Father first addressed the diplomats as a group, then gave each of them a speech in written form concerning issues specific to his or her own country.
After telling the ambassadors that the Church stands ready and willing to offer her Gospel-based contribution, Benedict XVI turned his attention to how he believes the diplomats can create peace in their countries and the world.
"Today, in the midst of a worldwide social and economic crisis, people must regain an awareness of the need to struggle ... in order to establish true peace, with the aim of constructing a more just and prosperous world."
"Injustices, often so manifest, among or within nations, like all processes that contribute to dividing or marginalizing peoples, represent attacks against peace and create a grave risk of conflict," the Pope warned.
Building true peace in today's world, the Holy Father said, can only be done "by intervening firmly to eliminate the inequality engendered by unjust systems, and so allowing everyone a standard of living that enables them to live a dignified and prosperous existence."
The inequalities in society have become "even more evident because of the current financial and economic crisis which has also had various repercussions on low-income countries," he pointed out.
Among these, the Pope mentioned "the tailing off of foreign investment, the fall in demand for raw materials and the tendency for international aid to diminish," as well as "the drop in remittances of emigrants, likewise victims of the recession which also affects their host countries."
"The crisis could become a catastrophe for the inhabitants of weaker countries," warned Benedict XVI, highlighting how economic woes also have another effect, because "the desperation they bring forces some people to anguished efforts to seek solutions that enable them to survive from day to day. Unfortunately, such efforts are often accompanied by individual or collective acts of violence that can further destabilize already-weakened societies," he said.
Faced with this situation, the Pope noted that some countries have suggested increasing their aid to the "most defenseless nations" and he encouraged other developed countries to follow their example. He also launched an appeal for "greater fraternity and solidarity, and real global generosity," and for "developed countries to rediscover a sense of proportion and sobriety in their economies and lifestyles."
"You must not ignore," the Pope told the ambassadors, "new forms of violence that have arisen over recent years and that, alas, seek support from the Name of God to justify dangerous acts. ... This had sometimes led to the view that religions are a threat to societies, and they have been attacked and discredited by claiming that they are not agents for peace. Religious leaders have the duty to accompany and enlighten believers so as to ensure they become increasingly saintly and interpret divine words in the light of truth."
"It is necessary favor the resurgence of a world in which religions and societies can open to one another, thanks to the openness that religions practice within and among themselves. This will be an authentic testimony to life. This will create a space for positive and necessary dialogue. By making her contribution to the world, the Catholic Church wishes to bear witness to her positive vision of man's future," the Holy Father concluded.
In his letter to the ambassador from India, the Holy Father spoke of his deep concern for Christians who have suffered from outbreaks of violence and appealed for all Indians to reject hatred and renounce violence in all its forms.
The letter written to the South African ambassador touched on the country's struggle against HIV/AIDS and assured that "the Church takes seriously her part in the campaign against the spread of [the disease] by emphasizing fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside of it. At the same time she already offers much assistance on a practical level to people suffering from this affliction on your continent and throughout the world."
The eight new ambassadors to the Holy See who presented the Pope with their Letters of Credence are: Danzannorov Boldbaatar of Mongolia; Chitra Narayanan of India; Charles Borromee Todjinou of Benin, Robert Carey Moore-Jones of New Zealand; George Johannes of South Africa; Beyon Luc Adolphe Tiao of Burkina Faso; Neville Melvin Gertze of Namibia, and Rolf Trolle Andersen of Norway.
Rome, Italy, May 29, 2009 (CNA) - L’Osservatore Romano, that Vatican's newspaper, has praised the F.C. Barcelona soccer team for its example of sportsmanship in the European Champions League final against Manchester United, which was played Wednesday at the Olympic Stadium in Rome.
The newspaper praised Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, the players and the fans for their exemplary conduct “in an atmosphere that is often plagued with maddening controversies and criminal violence.”
LOR noted the impressive “technique and imagination” of the Spanish team and offered special praise for Guardiola, who as a first-time coach has won the titles of several important European tournaments.
The paper noted that Guardiola could have used the moment to speak about his own sense of satisfaction over the triumph, but instead he chose to begin his post-game remarks by paying tribute to the Italian player Paolo Maldini, who is retiring after 25 years in the game and whose last game was marred by a group of fanatics who defamed him with offensive posters.
LOR also noted the sportsmanship of Manchester coach Alex Ferguson, who was graceful in accepting the team’s loss and in praising Barcelona for its victory.
Madrid, Spain, May 29, 2009 (CNA) - The Institute for Family Policy in Spain has reminded candidates vying for a seat in the upcoming European Parliament elections that the family remains “a pending issue” in Europe and Spain.
The president of the Institute, Eduardo Hertfelder, recalled that Spain is following the general European trend in which immigration is the only thing preventing an even more severe decline in the number of marriages.
Currently, “There are 16,836 less marriages taking place annually in Spain than in 1990. But this number would have actually risen to 42,500 were it not for the injection of international marriages,” the Institute said.
“The decline in the number of marriages both in Spain as well as in the rest of Europe is dramatic,” Hertfelder said. “That there are increasingly fewer people getting married in Europe is a sad reality. It is clearly significant that, despite the increase in the population of Europe to more than 25 million between 1990 and 2007, the number of marriages has dropped by more than 570,000 per year during this same period,” he stated.
Hertfelder said the decline was due to the deplorable family policies of many governments in Europe, especially in Spain.
As a solution, he called for a European Pact for the Family that would recognize and promote the rights of the family and would remove the obstacles that prevent the family from flourishing.
The elections for the European Parliament will be held on June 7.
Bridgeport, Conn., May 29, 2009 (CNA) - In response to its efforts to fight a bill that would have redefined the financial and pastoral structure of the Catholic Church in Connecticut, the Diocese of Bridgeport is now being investigated by the Office of State Ethics (OSE) for acting as a lobbying group without registering as one. Today, the diocese filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the investigation.
According to the Diocese of Bridgeport, a letter was received on April 23, 2009 from Thomas K. Jones, Ethics Enforcement Officer for the OSE, who informed the diocese that it was "the subject of an Office of State Ethics evaluation." The Church is suspected to have violated several Connecticut General Statutes (1-94, 1-95 and 1-96) which deal with “failing to register as a lobbyist in Connecticut,” “failing to submit all other appropriate lobbyist filings” and “failing to follow all applicable registration procedures."
The letter from the OSE argues that the diocese acted as a lobbying organization by participating in a rally at the State Capitol opposing Bill 1098 and using its website to encourage members to contact their elected representatives to oppose proposed legislation.
Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport reacted to the investigation earlier today, saying, "Following the surprise introduction of Bill 1098, a proposal that singled out Catholic parishes and would have forced them to reorganize contrary to Church law and the First Amendment, our Diocese responded in the most natural, spontaneous, and frankly, American, of ways: we alerted our membership – in person and through our website; we encouraged them to exercise their free speech by contacting their elected representatives; and, we organized a rally at the State Capitol.
“How can this possibly be called lobbying?" he asked.
Over the weekend, all parishes in the Bridgeport Diocese will hear a letter read to them from Bishop Lori addressing the investigation. In his letter, the bishop explains what he believes the consequences of the state requiring to register as a lobbying organization would be.
“Once again,” writes Lori, “we should be outraged. 'Lobbying'? Exhortations from the pulpit, information posted to the world wide web, a rally in the middle of the day on the State’s most public piece of property? This cannot possibly be what our Legislature had in mind when it enacted lobbying laws to bring more transparency and oversight to a legislative process that has been corrupted by special interests and backroom deals.
“Let’s be clear: we violated no law.” Bishop Lori states in his letter.
In response to the investigation, the diocese announced on Friday afternoon that it had filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Thomas Jones, OSE Ethics Enforcement Officer, and against Carol Carson, Executive Director of the OSE. The Bridgeport Diocese is seeking a court order to prevent further action against it by the Office of State Ethics.
"I believe that an order from the Court barring Mr. Jones and his colleagues at the OSE from applying the lobbying laws to the Diocese in this manner is necessary to enable the Diocese to continue to carry out its mission without fear of incurring civil penalties, exposure to possible criminal prosecution, burdensome administrative requirements, and intrusive oversight by the State," Bishop Lori said.
Mexico City, Mexico, May 29, 2009 (CNA) - The twelve bishops of the State of Mexico City have issued a document as local and regional elections draw near, urging voters to be informed about the candidates and issues in order to responsibly cast their vote when they go to the polls on July 5.
The bishops called for the dignity of the human being to be the “fundamental value” of democracy in Mexico.
In response to the various problems affecting the country, the bishops recalled that politics is “one of the most noble activities in the service of others, as it is a concrete expression of the commitment to the good of the entire community.”
Nevertheless, they questioned why “if politics is so noble and the vocation to politics so sublime,” there are so many complaints about the actions of politicians. “Perhaps because it is our fault, because we don’t know how to elect our leaders responsibility, or what’s worse, with our indifference or abstaining in the exercise of our vote we have allowed some people to obtain power who are not suitable. For this reason we exhort and encourage all citizens to exercise their civic responsibility in the upcoming elections by voting for those who are most qualified,” the bishops said.
Likewise, they suggested voters correctly exercise their right to vote by studying the platform of each political party, informing themselves of the agenda each candidate is proposing and evaluating their capabilities and moral standing.
Voters in Mexico will elect local officials and congressional representatives on July 5.
Washington D.C., May 29, 2009 (CNA) - Michael Waldstein, an Ave Maria University theology professor and translator of Pope John Paul II’s work, has joined the discussion about the Catholic speaker Christopher West’s presentation of the Theology of the Body. Defending West as an effective communicator and popularizer, Waldstein warned that a critical “spin” on West’s work does harm to the Theology of the Body.
The Theology of the Body is based on a series of addresses delivered by Pope John Paul II early in his pontificate. The topic concerns matters such as marital life, virginity, moral theology and the Resurrection.
Following West’s appearance on ABC Nightline, John Paul II Institute dean and theologian David Schindler had written an essay critical of West at HeadlineBistro.com. Granting that West’s remarks were “in some sense” taken out of context, Schindler said West has a record of making comments and actions “not inconsistent” with the context presented by the Nightline editors.
Schindler also criticized West’s interpretation of the Theology of the Body for significantly misrepresenting the thought of Pope John Paul II, for being “too much about sex and too romantic,” and for neglecting a sound understanding of concupiscence.
Waldstein addressed Schindler’s remarks in an essay published on InsideCatholic.com, saying that Schindler’s essay was a “blanket negative statement.” Waldstein said Schindler made “sweeping accusations” against a position he did not recognize as West’s.
Countering Schindler’s argument that West misses the meaning of concupiscence, Waldstein argued that West was correct in diagnosing “strong Jansenist influences” in American Catholicism of the early twentieth century.
Jansenism was a rigoristic French approach to spirituality and theology condemned as heretical in the seventeenth century.
“This Jansenist negativity, which is still deeply rooted in some conservative Catholic quarters of the United States (much less in Europe), is profoundly opposed to the pedagogy of the body proposed by John Paul II,” Waldstein continued.
He said the “vehemence” of Schindler’s “condemnation” of West was “somewhat understandable,” as Schindler must uphold the reputation of the John Paul II Institute.
“Although getting the Theology of the Body message out to the very large audience on Nightline was potentially an important moment in Catholic evangelization, the distortions have the potential of harming not only West's reputation, but the Institute's as well,” Waldstein wrote. “If Nightline is right, one would expect the main textbook at the John Paul II Institute to be The Joy of Sex According to John Paul II, edited by David Schindler and Hugh Hefner (centerfold included).”
However, Waldstein warned that it is important not to “trample” on particular persons. He characterized Schindler as “ready to accept ABC’s spin at face value.” He suggested that Schindler should offer his analysis in “an appropriate journal” rather than using the “media firestorm” to “go in for a quick kill.”
Waldstein said West’s “main strength” is his “effective communication” of John Paul II’s teaching on a popular level.
“West's theological penetration of John Paul II's work and the expression of his insight in his published materials have high academic quality. They are worthy of serious scholarly engagement. In writing my own book about the Theology of the Body (which is almost completed), I turn to West's commentary often and with profit,” he added.
“Both ABC's spin on West and Schindler's condemnation of him in agreement with that spin do harm to the cause of the Theology of the Body,” Waldstein’s article concluded. “I appeal to all who work for the promotion of the Theology of the Body to do their utmost to counteract this harm.”
Theologian Prof. Janet Smith also recently defended West against Dr. Alice von Hildebrand’s criticisms that West’s approach to the Theology of the Body ignores “tremendous dangers.”