Archive of June 12, 2009

Servitor Pacis award to honor husband and wife’s autism work

New York City, N.Y., Jun 12, 2009 (CNA) - An American Catholic couple involved in philanthropic activities will receive the Path to Peace Foundation’s Servitor Pacis award for their charitable with autistic children and their families.

The Path to Peace Foundation, which collaborates with the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, chose Bob and Suzanne Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, to be honored with the award.

Autism Speaks is the United States’ largest autism science and advocacy organization. The Wrights launched the foundation in February 2005 after being inspired by the challenges facing their grandson, who is autistic.

The organization aims to help find a cure for autism by raising funds for research, raising public awareness of autism, and giving hope to those who suffer from autism.

Autism Speaks aims to give a voice to every family that deals with the hardships of autism. Autism, a complex brain disorder inhibiting a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships, is reportedly diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States.

It affects more than 67 million people worldwide and its rate of incidence is believed to be increasing.

Autism Speaks co-founder Bob Wright is a former executive and board member of the General Electric Company, he became chairman and CEO of NBC in June 2001. He held the same offices at NBC Universal from 2004 to 2007. He is also on the board of directors of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation and RAND Corporation.

Suzanne Wright has long been involved in community and philanthropic endeavors, generally directing her energies towards helping children. She serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations and is also Trustee Emerita of her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College.

The Wrights have three children and four grandchildren and they will be married 42 years in August.

For their work in autism advocacy, in 2008 the Wrights were named to the Heroes and Pioneers Time 100 list of the world’s most influential people.

Writing in Time, former NBC Nightly News Anchor Tom Brokaw praised the Wrights’ work, saying:

“For those of us who have known Bob and Suzanne for a long time, none of this [work] came as a surprise. The products of modest beginnings, they have never taken their good fortune for granted. In their devotion to family and their faith, they always ask, ‘How can we help?’ When it comes to autism, they won't quit until we have some answers.”

Other 2009 Servitor Pacis awardees include Judge Andrew Napolitano, who is a senior judicial analyst for Fox News, and Father John P. Foley, SJ, a co-founder of the Cristo Rey Network which provides college preparatory educations for economically challenged youth in urban areas.

According to the Path to Peace Foundation’s website, the Servitor Pacis Award is granted in recognition of an individual’s commitment to the development of peace in national and international arenas.

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Magdalen College launches 'rigorous' honors program

Waren, N.H., Jun 12, 2009 (CNA) - Magdalen College of Warner, New Hampshire has appointed Dr. George Harne as its new academic dean. In conjunction with the announcement of his appointment, Harne also unveiled the Catholic college’s new Honors Program which integrates Great Books-based Socratic seminars with courses in catechesis, music and the visual arts.

Dr. Harne, who holds a doctorate and a master of fine arts in musicology from Princeton University, primarily studies and teaches medieval music, music theory and twentieth-century music.

He and his wife Debbie have been married for seventeen years and have four children, a Magdalen College press release reports. They converted to Catholicism from Anglicanism in 2005 and reside in Warner, New Hampshire.

Unveiling the Magdalen College Honors Program, Dr. Harne said it extends the college’s “rigorous” Program of Studies.

“We've seen students, both current and incoming, who desire more challenging coursework and readings,” he said.

In addition to its Great Books seminars, the Honors Program will also include study abroad courses in Rome and Norcia, Italy.

Magdalen College explained that the program is intended to offer “intellectually ambitious” students opportunities to participate in advanced courses in Geometry and Reasoning, Latin and English Composition.

Honors Colloquium students will explore selected texts, themes, authors or media to complement the Program of Studies. Topics of study will include modern cinema, Dante’s Divine Comedy and the twentieth century German Thomist Joseph Pieper.

Magdalen president Jeffrey Karls stated that the new program will allow honors students to focus not just on independent growth, but also on raising academic standards and achievements across the board.

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NASA goes ‘completely off-mission’ with LGBT Pride Month, critic charges

Greenbelt, Md., Jun 12, 2009 (CNA) - The Acting Administrator of NASA and the Equal Opportunity Programs Office at Goddard Space Flight Center have encouraged agency employees to take part in “LGBT Pride Month,” leading to criticism that the action takes the space agency “completely off-mission” and promotes homosexual activism.

An announcement posted at the website of Goddard Space Flight Center’s Equal Opportunity Programs Office began by referencing President Bill Clinton’s 1999 declaration of June as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” The announcement said the first “Gay Pride parade” was held on June 28, 1970 on the first anniversary of the “Stonewall Rebellion.”

The Stonewall event marked a New York City riot in which patrons of a gay bar resisted police who were attempting to enforce liquor laws at a Greenwich Village inn.

A contemporary New York Times report characterized the patrons as going on a “rampage” and said four policemen were injured in the initial violence.

The NASA announcement characterized the police as “harassing and arresting gay and transgendered persons.”

“The patrons fought back in a protest that lasted for the next three days,” the announcement continued. “For many gays and lesbians, this protest marks the first organized effort in the United States by gays and lesbians to openly gain equality under the law, and gave birth to the modern gay civil rights movement.”

“During Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, we focus on our efforts to embrace acceptance and welcome diversity in communities regardless of sexual orientation. Gay and lesbian groups celebrate this special time with pride parades, picnics, parties, memorials for those lost from HIV and AIDS, and other group gathering events that attract thousands upon thousands of individuals.”

The announcement then described “symbols of LGBT pride” and referred employees to internal sites for more information.

Christopher J. Scolese, Acting Administrator for NASA, also mentioned the Stonewall riots in a message about “Lesbian Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month” sent out to agency employees. He characterized the “celebration” of LGBT Pride as a commemoration of the riots, which he said were an act of “rejecting discrimination and standing up for the American values of fairness and equality.”

“This month-long observance gives all of us an opportunity to appreciate the accomplishments of LGBT Americans and celebrate the many contributions members of the LGBT community make daily to the fabric of American life,” Scolese continued.

He mentioned “LGBT people” such as Todd Hawley, co-founder of the International Space University, and atmospheric scientist James Pollack.

Scolese encouraged employees to take part in “LGBT Pride Month” activities planned at their NASA center or to organize an activity if there is no planned event.

“Take time to learn about the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans, and celebrate the diversity that has helped shape and strengthen NASA and our nation,” his statement closed.

John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, said Scolese’s announcement was “stunning” and charged that it promoted activities which “‘celebrate’ aberrant forms of sexual conduct.” He called the action “completely off-mission” and counterproductive to the best interests of children, families and “the common good of society.”

“NASA's work is critical, exacting and if not done properly, life threatening. With all the challenges, and tragedies that NASA has had in its past, it is unconscionable that its administrator would promote this type of a distraction and internally divisive social activism.”

He said the action breeds “bad internal morale” and disrespects the consciences of “tens of thousands, if not the vast majority, of NASA’s own 300,000 employees” who object to “the promotion of sexual activism.”

“Promotions of specific sexual orientations over others clearly is outside of NASA's mission and is being paid for by taxpayers’ dollars,” Stemberger said. “NASA should be for advancing scientific space research objectives, not engaging in homosexual activism.”

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Bishop Aymond heading home to lead Archdiocese of New Orleans

New Orleans, La., Jun 12, 2009 (CNA) - Catholics in Louisiana received good news this morning when they woke up to hear that Pope Benedict had appointed Bishop Gregory Aymond, a New Orleans native, to head an archdiocese still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

Archbishop-designate Aymond will be leaving the Diocese of Austin, Texas to become the 14th archbishop of New Orleans, taking the baton from Archbishop Alfred Hughes, who reached the canonical age of retirement 18 months ago.

Today's appointment marks the first time that a New Orleans native will shepherd the archdiocese. Born in 1949, Archbishop-designate Aymond attended Notre Dame seminary in New Orleans and was ordained in 1975. His first assignments after ordination were as a parish priest and a high school teacher, before returning to Notre Dame as a professor.

In 1997, Aymond was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop for New Orleans and then on August 3, 2000 he became the Bishop of Austin, Texas.

According to the Diocese of Austin's website, the diocese has seen unprecedented growth since Aymond's arrival. Highlights of the diocese's accomplishments include "the development of an Institute for Spiritual Direction; the opening of San Juan Diego Catholic High School, which specifically targets financially disadvantaged students; a program with St. Mary’s University in San Antonio that allows lay people in the Austin Diocese to obtain a master’s degree in theology using distance learning technology; three-fold increase in the number of seminarians; and the establishment of an Institute for Ecclesial Ministry."

Archbishop-designate Aymond's track record will serve him well as he returns to a flock that has struggled to adjust to the impact of Hurricane Katrina, including the closing of 33 parishes.

The installation Mass for Archbishop-designate Gregory Aymond is scheduled for Thursday, August 20, 2009, at 2:00 p.m. in St. Louis Cathedral.

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Women religious organize conference to combat 'new form of slavery'

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2009 (CNA) - This morning at the Vatican's press office, organizers announced a forthcoming congress on the theme: “Female Religious in Network against Trafficking of Persons.”  The congress will focus on fighting and preventing human trafficking, a phenomenon that has been described as “a new form of slavery of the twenty-first century.”

The conference is being put together by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), an international forum allowing congregations of religious women within the Church to dialogue, collaborate, and support each other.
“The problem of human trafficking represents a new form of slavery of the twenty-first century, one that offends the dignity and freedom of many women and minors, but also of youths and adult men, most of them from poor countries” said Fr. Hernandez Sola, bureau chief at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Because religious are called to bring Christ to the impoverished, Fr. Sola said that these “new forms of poverty remind us that religious life is, by vocation, called to play a prophetic role in society and the Church today.

“A new conception of charity must carry consecrated life to the new frontiers of evangelization, and to the new forms of poverty, among the most serious of which is the loss of personal dignity,” he asserted.
“Networking in this field is not an option but a necessity if we hope to make any kind of strategic commitment,” said Sr. Bernadette Sangma, explaining that the factors involved in human trafficking are very complex.

“The criminal bands that prey on women and children are highly organized and linked to one another, from one part of the world to the other,” she explained. 

Taking on these trafficking rings requires a networking strategy which “includes the victims’ countries of origin, of transit and of destination, will it be possible to implement measures to prevent the weakest and most vulnerable people from becoming human merchandise,” Sr. Sangma said.
Human trafficking is a global problem today, affecting both wealthy and poor countries.  It is believed that hundreds of thousands of victims are annually trafficked across international borders worldwide. 

Some victims are sold into slavery by their families, while others are deceived by false offers of employment.  Still others are forcibly kidnapped or abducted.  Once they are transported to their new location, victims are subjected to sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, or other forced work.


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Benedict XVI cautions against Eucharist worship becoming empty

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2009 (CNA) - While celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi yesterday in front of the basilica of St. John Lateran, Pope Benedict encouraged the faithful to nourish themselves with love of Christ in the Eucharist and warned of secularization within the Church.

In his homily, the Holy Father explained that though we are inadequate due to sin, we need to nourish ourselves “from the love the Lord offers us in the Eucharistic Sacrament.”  Noting yesterday's feast, he said, “this evening we renew our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Such faith must not be taken for granted!”

The Pope went on to warn of the risk “of insidious secularization, even inside the Church” which “could translate into a formal but empty Eucharistic worship, in celebrations lacking that involvement of the heart which finds expression in veneration and respect for the liturgy.”

"There is always a strong temptation to reduce prayer to superficial and hurried moments, allowing ourselves to be overcome by earthly activities and concerns," he cautioned.

However, reminded Benedict XVI, we must remember that in the Eucharist, “heaven comes down to earth, God's tomorrow descends into the present moment and time is, as it were, embraced by divine eternity."

During the Eucharistic procession which traditionally follows the Mass, he prayed, "we will ask the Lord in the name of the entire city: Stay with us, Jesus, make us a gift of Yourself and give us the bread that nourishes us for eternal life. Free this world from the poison of evil, from the violence and hatred that pollute people's consciences, purify it with the power of Your merciful love."

Following Mass, the Pope participated in the Eucharistic procession that traveled along Rome’s Via Merulana to the basilica of St. Mary Major.  While the Holy Father knelt in prayer in a covered vehicle before the monstrance, thousands prayed and sang along the route.

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Dominican lawmakers reject legalization of same-sex 'marriage'

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Jun 12, 2009 (CNA) - A commission charged with revising the Dominican Republic’s constitution has rejected the legalization of same-sex “marriages” and affirmed that the family based on a union between one man and one woman is the foundation of society.

“The State will promote and protect the organization of the family founded upon the institution of marriage between one man and one woman,” the text of the reformed constitution reads. According to media reports, the text also affirms that the State “shall guarantee the protection of the family. The good of the family shall be declared inalienable and absolute in conformity with the law.”

The commission recognized the rights and duties of civil unions and added that they must be limited to heterosexual couples.

Likewise the commission ratified that only the Catholic Church could officiate marriages that have civil status, thus rejecting proposals by other religious denominations. It also “declared the eradication of child labor and every kind of abuse and violence against minors” to be a national priority.

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Attack against Church reveals lockstep Chavez political agenda, bishop says

Caracas, Venezuela, Jun 12, 2009 (CNA) - said on Thursday that the new attacks by the government against the Catholic Church “reveals the intransigence of its political agenda.”

In response to Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami’s accusation that the Venezuelan bishops have become a “political party” that incites “hatred,” Bishop Perez Morales lamented that some in Venezuela “want us all not to just wear red t-shirts [like Chavez], but to have red minds as well, that everybody thinks like the president thinks.”

The bishop said statements by government officials are in line with the administration’s agenda, which is a totalitarian agenda similar to Castro’s Communist model.

With this kind of an agenda, anything that falls outside the official line is anathemized, condemned and labeled as false and evil. For this reason, unfortunately, I am not surprised,” he added.

Bishop Perez Morales rejected claims that the bishops are inciting hatred and said that during their recent visit to the Vatican, they discussed the political and social reality that Venezuela currently faces.

“In Rome they are aware of the official slogans being used in Venezuela, which is: Homeland—Socialism or Death. In Europe where they have experienced totalitarianism, Nazism, Communism and Fascism, they know what this means: it is practically putting the people in the position of either having to accept the agenda we are imposing on you or you will be condemned to death,” he explained.

Bishop Perez Morales reiterated that the verbal assaults expose “the fundamentalism of a political agenda that revives the outdated regimes that cause so much pain and tears last century and led to the extermination of peoples, to confrontations and to war.”

“According to this logic, statements by officials are only natural and coherent, unfortunately,” he said. “God willing the situation will change and there will be an openness to tolerance. We are in the 21st not the 16th century,” he chided.

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Doctors in Madrid reject abortion without parental consent

Madrid, Spain, Jun 12, 2009 (CNA) - The Madrid College of Doctors has expressed its rejection of the government’s proposed reform of abortion laws, saying, parents “must give their consent to any operation that is performed on a minor under the age of 18” and that should be the case for abortions.

The Madrid doctors said they opposed the Socialist administration’s proposal to legalize abortion for minors aged 16 and older without the consent of their parents.

Miguel Garcia Alarilla, vice president of the College, said, “Life begins with the fertilization of the ovum, the moment in which an individual living being is created with its own determined genetic map and with the hope of living 80 years in a developed world.”

For this reason, he warned, “There is no discontinuity, there is no moment in which we can say that there was something pre-human and later a human being.”

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Cardinal George calls Holocaust Museum shooting ‘appalling’ and ‘deplorable’

Chicago, Ill., Jun 12, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis George, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has decried the “appalling” shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. as a “deplorable act of violence.”

On Wednesday an 88-year-old man named James W. von Brunn reportedly opened fire on the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

Security guards returned fire and critically injured von Brunn but not before he fatally wounded 39-year-old security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns.

In 1981 von Brunn was charged with trying to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board and was in prison until 1989, the Washington Post reports.

A Holocaust denier, von Brunn authored an essay for an atheist website in which he asserted that Christianity was used to destroy the Roman Empire and the Holocaust was being used to destroy “Western Civilization.” He accused the Apostle Paul of using a “Big Lie” technique to create Christianity and insisted this technique was also used to create “the Holocaust religion.”

“Christianity and the Holocaust are hoaxes,” he claimed in his essay.

In a Thursday statement reacting to the “appalling” shooting, Cardinal George, who is president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference, characterized the June 10 incident as a violation of a “hallowed space” in the U.S. capital.

“By preserving the memory of the six million Jews who died in the Shoah, the Museum speaks to the consciences of all who pass through its doors and hear the powerful stories of the innocent men, women and children who lost their lives at the hands of a criminal regime.”

Cardinal George said that the millions of visitors to the museum learn the dangers of “unchecked hatred” and learn the need to prevent genocide.

“This tragic incident only serves to reinforce the need for continued education throughout society against bias of every kind, but most especially racial and religious prejudice,” he said.

“On behalf of the Catholic Bishops of the United States I offer prayerful condolences to the family of Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, who died in the line of duty, and to the staff of the Museum who endured this appalling act of violence.”

Reiterating the Catholic bishops’ commitment to the protection of “the sacredness of all human life” and the promotion of human dignity and interreligious peace, Cardinal George cited Pope Benedict XVI’s comments at a January 2009 General Audience:

“May the Shoah be a warning for all against forgetfulness, denial or reductionism, because violence committed against one single human being is violence against all.”

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Rep. Smith: New Women's Issues office part of Administration push for abortion

Washington D.C., Jun 12, 2009 (CNA) - On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill authorizing a new “Office for Global Women’s Issues” in the State Department. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) told CNA on Friday that he believes the new office is part of a behind-the-scenes Administration attempt to promote abortion worldwide.

Supporters claim that the Foreign Affairs Reauthorization Act (HR 2410) will promote women’s rights around the world.  But Rep. Chris Smith from New Jersey believes that the Bill is simply a veiled promotion of overseas abortions. 
“In the context of what the Obama administration has already done, I think it is pretty evident,” he told CNA.  “This is clearly part of an effort to integrate abortion into everything.”

Smith offered an amendment to HR 2410 that would have limited the new State Department office, authorizing it to help women in numerous ways but preventing it from promoting or providing abortions.  According to Smith, his amendment would have made the Bill in question “truly about human rights, not a stealthily masked push for abortion overseas.”

To objectors who claim that abortion is not the intent of the Bill, Smith responded, “I find that hard to believe with everything else this administration is doing.” The Obama Administration has been “working aggressively” to promote “worldwide abortions,” Rep. Smith charged.

“This is something that is already happening,” said Smith, who believes that his opponents’ suggestions that this Bill would not lead to more abortions is simply “a deceitful approach to confuse and mislead pro-lifers in Congress.”

As he defended his Amendment on the House floor this past Wednesday, Smith pointed to numerous examples of an Obama administration abortion push. 

A key example was President Obama’s reversal of the Mexico City policy, which had ensured that taxpayer money was not given to promote, lobby, or perform abortions overseas.  Within his first week in office, Obama lifted this ban, an act that Smith noted will allow pro-abortion organizations “to get hundreds of millions of dollars annually to push abortion around the world,” despite the fact that a recent poll shows that 65 percent of Americans opposed the policy’s reversal. 

Smith added that although a recent poll indicated that the majority of Americans consider themselves pro-life, Obama’s administration is overflowing with pro-abortion activists, including Wendy Sherman, the head of the U.S. Agency For International Development.  Every dollar of U.S. foreign aid goes through Sherman, the former director of EMILY's List, an organization that describes itself as dedicated to “building a progressive America by electing pro-choice Democratic women to office.”
Smith also spoke of the danger in a recent statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton redefining the term “reproductive health” to include abortion, explaining that this is simply another attempt to integrate abortion into the realm of general health care.

America’s efforts to promote worldwide abortion are not appreciated by their recipients, noted Smith.  “We are perceived by huge majorities of Africans and Latinos as cultural imperialists,” he said, observing that many of these countries have maintained strong family values and pro-life traditions until America starts to promote abortion.

“And then we try to integrate it with the aid we offer them, and link it with diplomacy,” he continued.  “They resent it bitterly.”

The great danger that accompanies the legalization of abortion, Smith said, is that once legal, the abortion marketers begin to sell abortion, using slogans and advertising techniques to promote it.  “They target women in vulnerable positions, who are more susceptible to deceit,” he explained.

Despite pro-life objections, the Bill passed the House, while Smith’s amendment was blocked by a vote of 17 for and 22 against.  Now, the Bill will continue to the Senate, where Smith expresses hope that it will be blocked. 

“There is no doubt in my mind,” he told CNA, “If this Bill is allowed to succeed, more babies and mothers will be hurt.”

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