Washington D.C., Jun 30, 2009 (CNA) - A White House spokesman has described as “inaccurate” a report that President Barack Obama had decided to make a Camp David chapel his primary church.
Time Magazine had reported that the president told aides he would make Evergreen Chapel, a non-denominational church at Camp David, his main church. Former President George W. Bush had chosen the same church in order to avoid a public scene when he attends services. Time had reported President Obama had made his choice for similar reasons.
During his run for the presidency, Obama left the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, following a controversy surrounding its former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Time described Camp David chaplain Lt. Carey Cash as the “polar opposite” of Wright.
However, White House Spokesman Bill Burton said the story that the president chose the Camp David chapel as his church was “inaccurate.”
“The president and first family continue to look for a church home. They have enjoyed worshipping at Camp David and several other congregations over the months, and will choose a church at the time that is best for their family," he said, according to Fox News.
Brooklyn, N.Y., Jun 30, 2009 (CNA) - Several Christian and pro-life groups have filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit challenging a court order which requires the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow the “Plan B” drug to be sold over the counter to minors.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed a motion on behalf of Concerned Women for America, the Christian Medical and Dental Association and Christian Pharmacists Fellowship International. The groups say that the order disregards parental rights and the safety of minors.
On March 23 a federal court ordered the drug Levonorgestrel—also known as the “morning after pill” or “Plan B” --be made available to girls 17 and older without a prescription. The drug aims to prevent pregnancy when used within 24 hours of sexual intercourse.
Many doctors believe the drug can cause the abortion of a recently-conceived child by preventing its implantation on the uterine wall.
“The life and health of women, especially minors, is more important than the political agenda of pro-abortion activist groups. Minors are least of all in a position to make an informed decision about the life or death of a child, or even about their own safety. It is a lie that over-the-counter sales of this drug increase safety for women, including minors,” remarked ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman.
Bowman said the organizations seeking to intervene in the lawsuit represent “thousands of medical personnel” who will be affected by the court’s order and believe “strongly” that it will result in excluding parents and doctors from minor children’s care.
“The order allows minors to bypass being seen by a doctor who can check for sexually transmitted diseases and other potentially serious medical conditions,” Bowman added. “Our motion argues that the case should be dismissed because, under the law, the plaintiffs have not established sufficient reason that they can even ask for an order like this.”
In 2005 the pro-abortion group Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) successfully sued the FDA to force it to require Plan B be provided over the counter to women age 18 and older. A second suit by the CRR resulted in the FDA lowering the age limit to 17 years-old and above.
Washington D.C., Jun 30, 2009 (CNA) - President Obama has issued a budget recommendation for the 2010 fiscal year that would ease the restrictions on taxpayer funds for abortions in Washington D.C., a change that has drawn criticism from pro-life organizations across the nation.
Unlike other U.S. states and territories, the budget for the District of Columbia is reviewed and modified by Congress and the President before it is approved.
In its submission for the fiscal year 2010, the Obama administration has reversed the “Dornan Amendment,” introduced in 1988 to prevent both federal and local tax dollars from funding abortions in the District of Columbia, except in cases of rape or “where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term.”
Under the Obama administration's alterations, the prohibition will only apply to federal tax money, and the exemptions would be expanded to include any case “where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness,” including those physical conditions that endanger the life of the mother.
The recommended change has raised strong concerns among pro-life groups.
“The Dornan Amendment is commonsense policy that should be retained by Congress,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List, a network dedicated to supporting pro-life women in the political process.
Dannenfelser joined the House Pro-Life Women’s Caucus in speaking out against the change at a news conference last week. “Women facing unplanned pregnancies deserve woman-centered solutions to help both mother and child, not abortion on-demand, which pits mother against child in the most tragic of circumstances,” she said.
“We won't find reductions in abortion as long as we continue to subsidize and promote it at taxpayers' expense,” she continued. “The Obama administration's promise to find ways to reduce abortion numbers rings hollow in such an environment.”
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the nation’s largest pro-life organization, issued a statement calling the move a “political scam.”
"President Obama is pursuing a step-by-step strategy to expand access to abortion, and today's step is to urge Congress to authorize the funding of abortion on demand in the nation's capital, with funds appropriated by Congress," said Doug Johnson, legislative director for the NRLC.
"If Congress goes along with the Obama proposal, the predictable result will be tax funding of several thousand elective abortions annually, including roughly 1,000 abortions annually that would not otherwise occur," Johnson explained, pointing to studies showing that policies barring tax-funded abortions actually prevent at least one-third of the abortions that would otherwise occur among given populations.
Christa Lopiccolo, director of life issues for the Archdiocese of Washington, also responded to the news, saying, “More than 40 percent of all pregnancies in the District of Columbia already end in abortion. In fact, Washington, DC has one of the highest abortion rates in the country.”
Lopiccolo expressed her belief that increased funding will likely increase the number of abortions in Washington, DC and went on to say that instead of more abortions, women need more access to services that will help them support the lives of their children.
Noting that national surveys show that the majority of taxpayers in the District of Columbia oppose abortion, she said that “it is unconscionable that funds from taxpayers…would be used to destroy innocent human life.”
Although Obama has spoken of looking for “common ground” on the issue of abortion, pro-life groups are concerned that adding a broader non-life-threatening “health” exception to provide more funding for abortion may provide a slippery slope in the opposite direction.
In past abortion cases, exceptions for the “health” of the mother have been interpreted by the Supreme Court to include “physical, emotional, psychological [and] familial” factors.
Tegucigalpa, Jun 30, 2009 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador called for prayers for peace this past weekend in Honduras after a military coup ousted President Manuel Zelaya and exiled him to Costa Rica. The president was also impeached by the Honduran Congress.
According to the Efe news agency, Bishop Rosa Chavez said during a press conference, “We need to pray to God that things will return to normal.” “We pray that peace will return to Honduras,” he added, calling the crisis “a traumatic moment that the region is experiencing.”
Bishop Rosa Chavez later pointed out that the Church always “desires there to be peace in all countries, that there is stability and hope for the poor.” He said events in Honduras were being followed very closely in El Salvador and that Salvadorans hope “that things will return to normal as soon as possible.”
For his part, the president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, held a press conference on Monday to express his position regarding the Honduran political crisis.
Recently the Bishops’ Conference of Honduras had expressed its concern with the political crisis taking place in the country and strongly called on all politicians to work for peace.
Prior to the military coup, President Zelaya tried to hold a referrendum that, if successful, would have allowed him to stand for another term in November, despite the fact that the country's constitution limits a president's service to one term. The country's highest court declared the referrendum unconstitutional and, claiming they were protecting the Constitution, the military exiled Zelaya to Costa Rica. Hours later, the Honduran Congress swore in its speaker Micheletti as the interim president until January, when Zelaya's term expires.
At a press conference in Washington D.C. this morning, President Obama described the coup as undemocratic. “President Zelaya was democratically elected. He had not yet completed his term. We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the President of Honduras, the democratically elected President there. In that we have joined all the countries in the region, including Colombia and the Organization of American States,” he said.
Vatican City, Jun 30, 2009 (CNA) - On yesterday's Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Benedict XVI bestowed the pallium, a narrow circular woolen band signifying authority, upon 34 new metropolitan archbishops. During the ceremony, the Holy Father reminded the new bishops of their call to shepherd their flocks as Peter and the other apostles did.
In his homily, the Pope spoke about the First Letter of St. Peter, explaining the significance of the role of bishop by emphasizing how Peter describes Christ as "shepherd and guardian of ... souls" while, in the same context, the Greek text uses the word “episcopos,” which means bishop.
"It is surprising the Peter should call Christ Himself bishop, bishop of souls," Benedict said. "What this means is that He sees us from God's perspective. Looking from God's standpoint gives an overall view, the dangers are evident but also the hopes and the possibilities. From God's perspective one sees the essence, one sees the inner man.”
“If Christ is the bishop of souls, the aim is to ensure that man's soul does not become impoverished, that man does not lose his essence, his capacity for truth and love,” the Holy Father continued. “In this perspective, being a bishop, being a priest, means ... making oneself available to human beings that they may find life."
"The word 'bishop' is closely related to the word 'shepherd,'" the Pope said, explaining how the pastor "must be capable of resisting the enemy, the wolves; he must go before, show the way, maintain the unity of the flock. ... This is what being a pastor, model to the flock, means: living the word now, in the great community of holy Church."
The Holy Father spoke of the duty of the bishops to “understand the reason of the faith” so as not to “allow it to remain mere tradition.” Addressing those gathered, he said, “Part of our duties as pastors is to penetrate the faith with our minds in order to show the reasons for our hope in the disputes of our age. ... Faith must not remain a theory, it must become life.”
The Pope continued, “The true sickness of souls is defined by St. Peter as ignorance, in other words as non-knowledge of God.” Noting that at the beginning of his Letter, St. Peter states “that the outcome of our faith is the salvation of souls,” Benedict went on to say that "lack of concern for souls, inner impoverishment of man, destroys not only the individual but threatens the destiny of all humankind.”
The Pope also spoke about cultivating the virtue of obedience, as opposed to the “coexistence with falsehood that pollutes it.” Leading a life rooted in truth begins by obeying “the small truths of daily life, which can often be tiring and painful. This obedience then extends to unreserved obedience towards Truth itself, which is Christ. Such obedience makes us not only pure, but above all free for service to Christ, and so to the salvation of the world,” Benedict taught.
In closing, Pope Benedict told the new archbishops that the pallium they were about to receive "reminds us of the flock of Jesus Christ, which you must feed in communion with Peter. ... It reminds us of the fact the He, supreme Pastor, made Himself a Lamb in order to assume all our destinies, to carry us and heal us from within."
Vatican City, Jun 30, 2009 (CNA) - Upon learning that a freight train derailed and exploded Monday night in northern Italy, Pope Benedict expressed his sorrow and promised to pray for the souls of the 13 who died as well as for the recovery of all who were injured.
The incident occurred in Viareggio, Italy late on Monday night as the train was on its way from La Spieza to Pisa. As it reached Viareggio, it derailed, crashing into a neighborhood, where a freight car filled with liquefied natural petroleum exploded and set fire to the area, the Associated Press reports.
The latest estimates say that 13 people were killed by the accident and more than 50 were injured by the blaze.
After learning of the tragedy on Tuesday morning, a telegram was sent to Archbishop Benvenuto Italo Castellani of Lucca, Italy, in which the Pope expressed “his heartfelt participation in the suffering afflicting the entire city” as well as “his fervent prayers for the souls of those who have so tragically died.”
Additionally, the Holy Father invoked “from the Lord a speedy recovery for the injured” and entrusted those impacted by the tragedy “to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary.”
Rome, Italy, Jun 30, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, said last week that a culture and society that is faithful to the Gospel “must derive from the person and the family.”
The cardinal made his comments during the National Congress for Family Ministry in the city of Crotone, Italy.
According to L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Bagnasco underscored that “in the heart of the couple, in the family founded upon marriage, is found the natural vocation to life, the first school of humanity, where distinct generations learn and exercise day in and day out the joy and virtue of living the signs of the expression of love: gift and forgiveness, sacrifice, patience and daily perseverance, joy and sorrow.”
The cardinal went on to underscore the need to learn and live out the Church’s teachings on the family in order to confront a culture that scorns the objective value of the good as if it were “something old and outdated.”
“The human and sacramental beauty of marriage demands all of the Church’s attention, and care for couples and families has always been an essential part of our pastoral work,” he added.
Vatican City, Jun 30, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI received bishops on Saturday from the Episcopal Conference of Vietnam who have just completed their "ad limina" visit, during which bishops report to the Pope on the status of their dioceses. In speaking to them, the Holy Father called on them to be faithful witnesses to Christ, despite the resistance they encounter.
The Pope addressed the prelates, calling to mind Cardinal Paul Joseph Phan Ding, the former archbishop of Hanoi who died in February. He also expressed his hope that "the example of sanctity, humility and simplicity of life of the great pastors of your country may stimulate you in your pastoral ministry at the service of the Vietnamese people, to whom goes my profound esteem."
Benedict then spoke about the Year for Priests, saying that "in order to be reliable guides who conform to the heart of God and the teaching of the Church, priests must develop an interior life and tend towards sanctity, like the humble Cure of Ars."
The Pope reminded the bishops that in their pastoral letter last year, they “dedicated particular attention to the lay faithful, highlighting the role of their vocation in the family." With this in mind, the Holy Father instructed them to "pay particular attention to their correct formation, promoting their life of faith ... that they may effectively serve the Church and society."
The Holy Father went on to urge the bishops to help internally displaced youth. He recommended increasing “collaboration between the dioceses of origin of the young people and the dioceses of destination” as a way to provide them with “ethical advice and practical guidance."
Noting that 2010 will mark the 50th anniversary of the creation of the episcopal hierarchy in Vietnam, the Pope said, "On this occasion the People of God are invited to give thanks for the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. This gift has been generously accepted, lived and witnessed by many martyrs who wished to proclaim the truth and universality of faith in God."
The Church in Vietnam has frequently clashed with the Communist government over the last several years, mostly concerning the return of Church properties seized by the government in 1954.
Pope Benedict addressed these confrontations by telling the bishops, "Healthy collaboration between the Church and the political community is possible.” “The Church does not seek to substitute government, rather her only desire, through a spirit of dialogue and respectful collaboration, is to participate in life of the nation, at the service of all people."
Bearing in mind that Vietnam is home to Buddhists, Catholics, and native religions, the Holy Father closed his audience with the Vietnamese bishops by emphasizing that religions "are not a danger for the unity of the nation, because their goal is to help people to sanctity and, through their institutions, wish to place themselves generously and disinterestedly at the service of others."
Ottawa, Canada, Jun 30, 2009 (CNA) - An investigating committee with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has released its report concerning allegations a CCCB-affiliated agency was supporting pro-abortion groups in Mexico concluding that the charges were unfounded but deeming the groups in question to be “imprudent.”
The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) was accused of distributing funds to five organizations that support the legalization of abortion and the distribution of contraceptives in Mexico.
The CCCB’s Committee of Inquiry made a visit to Mexico in April after which it rejected the allegations that Development and Peace projects there provided financial assistance to projects related to the promotion of abortion.
However, the committee said the five organizations in question were imprudent in signing a United Nations report on human rights in Mexico that included “orientations not in accord with Catholic teaching,” the CCCB stated.
A fact-finding report issued by the committee said the United Nations report in question represented a “sum total of all the recommendations of 50 Mexican human rights organizations.”
“Each organization presented its own views without necessarily consulting the others. This is why some of them, by their signature, now appear to accept what the others had presented,” the report said. Some organizations “took advantage of this opportunity” to add “sexual and reproductive rights” to the document, hoping to “open the way to abortion” and leading to the initial allegations against the five groups.
The report also noted a 2007 legal debate in Mexico about whether to oppose imprisonment as a punishment for abortion. According to the report, some Catholic groups “claimed that to be in favor of abolishing imprisonment for abortion meant promoting abortion and not being pro-life.”
“Development and Peace does not fund projects that support or promote abortion,” the report concluded.
The committee also issued recommendations in response to the charges, asking the CCODP to be “more vigilant” in demanding information from possible partners and in ensuring “more thorough” consultations with bishops appointed to its national council. It also asked that the organization foster “good relations” between its partners and the episcopal conferences of the countries in which they are located.
The committee also advised that Development and Peace, a group founded by the Canadian Catholic bishops, be encouraged to develop a “good and sound understanding” of Catholic social doctrine.
It then endorsed a “frank and transparent dialogue” between the bishops of Canada and LifeSiteNews, the pro-life news site which reported the allegations about Mexican CCODP partners.
In a Monday statement about the inquiry, CCCB President Archbishop James Weisgerber explained that the dialogue recommendation came because the committee and the CCCB Permanent Council are “deeply concerned about the series of public allegations, accusations and denunciations that were the reason for the Committee of Inquiry to be established this past March.”
“This is an important moment in the life of the Church in Canada,” Archbishop Weisgerber said. “On behalf of my brother Bishops, I urge all Catholics, in the words of Saint Paul, not to ‘bite and devour one another,’ but ‘to restore one another in a spirit of gentleness,’ and so ‘to work for the good of all, and especially of the family of faith.'
Other allegations linger about CCODP financial involvement with pro-abortion groups in Peru, where a local archbishop has said there was “no doubt” three such groups were funded by the Canadian organization.
Havana, Cuba, Jun 30, 2009 (CNA) - The coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba, Oswaldo Paya, said last week the organization would continue promoting the Varela Project for peaceful democratization in Cuba, because to do otherwise would be to abandon those Cubans who have been imprisoned for reasons of conscience.
“No tyrannical power, nor group of powers, can make us abandon this path. To do so would be to forget José Daniel and all our brothers and sisters in prison. To do so would be to forget our own people who are now without freedom, and we will not forget them, like the Hebrew people in captivity never forgot Jerusalem,” Paya said in a letter accepting the National Endowment for Democracy’s 2009 Democracy Award.
In his letter Paya expressed gratitude for the recognition of the courage and commitment of Jorge Luis García Pérez (Antúnez), José Daniel Ferrer García, Librado Linares García, Iván Hernández Carrillo and Iris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, all detained “for peacefully defending an promoting the rights of Cubans.”
“They were convicted on false charges, accused of threatening our national independence -- when they and we dedicate our lives to fight for sovereignty and national independence, but with the conviction that, to be real, sovereignty and national independence are inseparable from freedom and from the rights of all citizens,” Paya stated.
He went on to denounce the many other regimes that “establish and then sustain themselves in the name of defending the sovereignty of the people.” “Meanwhile,” Paya said, “they take away their citizens’ freedom; they silence them, and leave them without a voice and without a real opportunity to exercise their sovereign right to determine their own destiny.”
He criticized the Cuban government, “and others with power outside of Cuba,” for their desire “to silence and discredit this campaign for the rights of all Cubans. But we continue – and will continue forward – because Cubans should be and deserve to be free, as with all the people of the world.”
“If you wish to support our people,” Paya told the international community, “support with your voice and with your heart the path of peace and reconciliation that leads us unmistakably to freedom and to the rights that we Cubans want for ourselves.”
Rome, Italy, Jun 30, 2009 (CNA) - Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said last week the true culture of peace is born out of the depths of peoples’ hearts “first through humble and daily gestures of charity, kindness, forgiveness, before through diplomatic and political objectives.”
The cardinal made his comments during a Mass celebrating the 140th anniversary of the founding of St. Peter’s Circle, a charitable organization in Rome. According to L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Bertone praised the organization for its work with the homeless and the infirm, underscoring its “free service of faith and love.”
Following Christ demands of Christians “a constant effort to accept and do everything with joy, in a responsible way, keeping in mind the true good of others.” “May we never act just out of ‘pure interest’ but rather may we always be of ‘good spirit,’ knowing how to accept setbacks and misunderstandings,” the cardinal added.
After noting that St. Peter’s Circle follows the example of the first pope, “despite sin and human weakness,” Cardinal Bertone stressed that “the human community is in its intimate essence a place of forgiveness, of love that is based on trust in the mercy of God and translates into solidarity and compassion for the suffering of others and their weaknesses.”
By viewing the events of each day through this lense of the Gospel, instead of allowing ourselves to become discouraged or scandalized, the cardinal asserted, Christians can understand that “what is necessary to establish unity in our communities, families and associations is the humble acceptance of the merciful love of God.”
Birmingham, Ala., Jun 30, 2009 (CNA) - Another student investigation into Planned Parenthood’s treatment of alleged statutory rape victims has caught on video an Alabama counselor’s admission that her clinic “does sometimes bend the rules a little bit” rather than report sexual abuse. State law requires health professionals to report suspected cases of sexual abuse immediately to state authorities.
Lila Rose, a 20-year-old UCLA student and president of the group Live Action secretly visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in Birmingham, Alabama under the guise of a 14-year-old pregnant by a 31-year-old “boyfriend.”
The video shows a Planned Parenthood counselor advising Rose on whether there is a “problem” about her “boyfriend.”
The counselor, identified as “Tanisha,” replies “As long as you consented to having sex with him, there's nothing we can truly do about that.”
When Rose claims her boyfriend said he could get in “big trouble,” Tanisha replied “he could, especially if your parents find out that he's 31.”
Tanisha then says that the clinic manager, named as OB/GYN Dr. Desiree Bates, “sometimes does bend the rules a little bit.”
“Whatever you tell us stays within these walls," she states, adding "we can't disclose any information to anybody."
Alabama Code 26-14-3 requires health professionals to immediately disclose suspected cases of sexual abuse to the authorities via telephone or in person and later file a written report.
Tanisha also tells Rose that a signature from an “older sister” over the age of 18 or someone “with the same last name” could function as a substitute for parental consent allowing an abortion to be performed. Alabama law requires a minor seeking an abortion for reasons other than abuse, rape, incest or neglect to have the written permission of either a parent or legal guardian.
Commenting on the investigation in a press release, Rose said:
“The law is explicit about a healthcare provider's duty to report, yet Planned Parenthood pretends they cannot say anything.
"Planned Parenthood increases its business and influence by circumventing state reporting laws, but inflicts terrible harm upon the vulnerable young girls sent back to statutory rapists."
“When to 'bend the rules a little' means hiding a case of statutory rape from Child Protective Services and looking for ways around the parental consent requirement, Planned Parenthood becomes directly responsible for ensuring that statutory rapists can continue their abuse of young girls," Rose charged.
The new video is the sixth of a series in Live Action’s “Mona Lisa Project.” Other video investigations have shown questionable treatment of suspected statutory rape cases in Planned Parenthood clinics in Arizona, Indiana and Tennessee.
The new video can be seen at http://liveaction.org/alabama