Washington D.C., Jul 10, 2009 (CNA) - Testifying before the U.S. House Rules Committee in support of the bipartisan Smith-Stupak-Sensenbrenner-Jordan Amendment to restore the Mexico City Policy, Rep. Chris Smith said on Wednesday the proposal would reflect a pro-life trend and would prevent the U.S. from funding the “Trojan horses” of the abortion industry.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) told the committee that polls showed 65 percent of Americans opposed President Obama’s January executive order reversing the Mexico City Policy, which forbade federal funding for groups which promote or perform abortions overseas.
“The United States is clearly trending pro-life—ultrasound technology has shattered the myth that an unborn child is not a person,” he remarked.
Without euphemism, he said, abortion is “violence against children” that also harms women “emotionally and physically.”
He argued that abortion should be understood as infant mortality, which everyone recognizes as an evil.
“An unborn child’s immaturity or dependence shouldn’t mitigate, negate, or nullify an unborn child’s inherent humanity. Human rights ought to be about inclusion, especially for the weakest and most vulnerable, not exclusion.”
Rep. Smith also told the House committee that the 2009 Foreign Operations appropriations bill increases population control funding by 40 percent to a record $648 million.
“Our amendment would simply ensure that the huge allocation of tax-payer grant money not be awarded to foreign non-government organizations (NGOs) that perform abortion or lobby for abortion on demand in developing countries,” Rep. Smith said.
He said the amendment would direct funds to “family planning services,” not abortion.
“Prior to January, the pro-life Mexico City Policy guaranteed, to the extent possible, that unborn children in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere not be put at risk of death by the NGOs we fund,” he continued. “Every human life is precious and sacred and worthy of respect. No one is expendable.”
Empowering some NGOs would create a “Trojan Horse” for the “global abortion industry,” which Rep. Smith said would render President Barack Obama’s endorsement of reducing the number of abortions into “cheap political sophistry.”
Late on Wednesday evening, the amendment was blocked in the Rules Committee by the Democratic majority.
The Foreign Operations bill, sans amendment, passed the House on Thursday afternoon.
Rome, Italy, Jul 10, 2009 (CNA) - The Legionaries of Christ has officially announced that the apostolic visitation of the troubled religious order will begin on July 15, as CNA previously reported.
Five prelates will take part in the visit. Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput will be a visitor to the order in the United States and Canada, while Bishop Ricardo Watty Urqidi of Tepic, Mexico will be a visitor to the order in Mexico and Central America. Archbishop of Concepción, Chile, Ricardo Eszzatti Andrello will be visitor in South America.
The visitors will report to the Holy See, after which the order will be given appropriate guidelines.
Father Álvaro Corcuera, Director General of the Legion, invited the order’s members to “give thanks to God and to the Church for the help that the Holy Father is offering us, and to welcome the visitors to each and every one of our communities with sincere charity and faith as representatives of the Vicar of Christ.”
Earlier this year the Mexico-based order was rocked by revelations that its founder Fr. Marcel Maciel, who died in January 2008, had a mistress and had fathered a child out of wedlock. As far back as the 1980s, he was also accused of sexually abusing teenage recruits to the Legion.
Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Jul 10, 2009 (CNA) - A new poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus supports other reports that say Americans are increasing becoming pro-life. About 49 percent of Americans now describe themselves as pro-life, while 60 percent think abortion should be legal only in a few circumstances or not at all.
The poll, undertaken in partnership with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, conducted a telephone survey of 1,223 Americans in May 2009 and claims a margin of error of plus or minus three percent.
An October 2008 Knights of Columbus/Marist Institute poll showed 44 percent of Americans considered themselves to be pro-life. This figure increased to 49 percent among the May 2009 respondents. Men and women were about evenly split on abortion but were still slightly more pro-life than those polled in 2008.
Practicing Catholics surveyed in May were 67 percent pro-life, compared to 59 percent in 2008. However, pro-life non-practicing Catholics declined from 29 percent to 23 percent.
African-Americans said they were pro-life at a rate of 54 percent, a 15 percent uptick from the 2008 respondents. About 43 percent of Latinos said they were pro-life, a slight increase, while 49 percent of whites said likewise.
Shifting opinion on abortion was also evident by region.
By region, the South showed a 15 percent pro-life jump to 64 percent. However, the West declined in pro-life sentiment by five points to 32 percent. The Midwest (47 percent pro-life) and the Northeast (41 percent pro-life) were almost unchanged.
About 42 percent of poll respondents said abortion should be illegal in most circumstances, while 18 percent said the killing procedure should be illegal in all circumstances. A reported 23 percent said abortion should be legal in all circumstances, while 17 percent believed it should be legal in most circumstances.
In addition to the 60 percent who favored banning abortion in all or most circumstances, another 26 percent thought it should be allowed only in the first three months of pregnancy. Under Roe v. Wade and related Supreme Court rulings, abortion in the U.S. is almost unrestricted throughout all nine months of pregnancy.
Around 53 percent of respondents said an abortion does more harm than good to a woman in the long run, while 26 percent felt it improves a woman’s life. Eighteen percent were unsure.
On the topic of conscience protections, almost 80 percent of Americans believed health care workers should not be required to perform an abortion if it conflicts with their personal values.
The findings provide results similar to other recent surveys, such as a May Gallup poll which for the first time in its 14-year history reported that a majority of U.S. respondents self-described as pro-life.
Vatican City, Jul 10, 2009 (CNA) - Michelle Obama, accompanied by her mother, two daughters and personal assistant, was given a Vatican tour this afternoon as her husband, President Barack Obama, prepares to meet with the Holy Father later in the afternoon.
The 60-minute tour included visits to St. Peter’s Basilica, the tombs of several Popes, the first and second floors of the Loggia and the Sistine Chapel.
She has currently joined her husband in a meeting with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and will meet with Pope Benedict at 4 p.m. local time.
Vatican City, Jul 10, 2009 (CNA) - Mexico's new ambassador to the Vatican, Hector Federico Ling Altamirano, met with Pope Benedict on Friday morning to present his letters of credence and discuss the state of his country. The Holy Father spoke with Ling about the nature of religious freedom, and praised the end of the death penalty and efforts to protect the unborn.
Mexico, the Pope recalled, has an identity that has been "forged over the centuries in a fruitful relationship with the message of salvation proclaimed by the Catholic Church."
"Faith in Jesus Christ," he added, "has engendered a culture in Mexico that provides a specific and complete meaning for life, and a hopeful vision of existence, at the same time setting out a series of fundamental principles for the harmonious development of all society."
One example of this harmonious culture is the Sixth World Meeting of Families, held in Mexico City this past January. Pope Benedict pointed out that Mexicans hold the family in "high esteem," and that "it is of vital consequence that families be given adequate assistance, that homes continue to be schools of mutual respect and understanding, seedbeds of human virtues and a reason for hope in the rest of society."
Noting that Mexico and the Holy See recently celebrated their 50th anniversary of re-establishing diplomatic relations, the Holy Father recalled that the events focused on "the correct understanding a true democratic State and its duty to protect and support religious freedom in all aspects of its public and social life."
Religious freedom has a troubled history in Mexico, which did not guarantee the right in its 1917 Constitution. Between 1926 and 1929, Mexico witnessed the open persecution of priests and religious as well as lay people.
In his remarks to Ambassador Ling, the Holy Father spoke about the nature of religious freedom, saying, "The truth is that religious freedom is not just one more right among many others, nor a privilege claimed by the Catholic Church. ... It belongs to the essence of each individual, of each people and each nation."
Benedict XVI also stated that religious freedom cannot be restricted to "the mere coexistence of citizens who practice their religion privately, or limited to the free exercise of worship." Rather, he said, "it must ensure that believers have full guarantees of being able to express their religious beliefs, at the same time making their contribution to forging the common good and a just social order in all aspects of life, with no restriction or coercion.
"In this context the Catholic Church, while she supports and encourages this positive vision of the role of religion in society, does not wish to interfere in the due autonomy of civil institutions."
As Mexico battles against the wave of violence and death that drug cartels and organized crime are causing, the Pope praised the country's efforts to "foment a more just and united ordering of society and to overcome the contrasts that continue to afflict the country," among them "such serious questions as violence, drug trafficking, and inequality and poverty which are fertile ground for delinquency."
Finally, the Holy Father stressed that, "It cannot be over emphasized that the right to life must be recognized in all its fullness." Since Mexico City legalized abortion, numerous Mexican states have passed laws to protect life from conception to natural death.
The Pope lauded these laws as well as the end of the death penalty, saying, "I joyfully greet the initiative by which Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2005, and the recent measures adopted by some Mexican states to protect human life from its beginnings. These resolute moves in such a fundamental question should be an emblem of your homeland, one of which it can be justly proud."
Vatican City, Jul 10, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI received President Barack Obama this afternoon in his private library, and after 36 minutes of private conversation, the pair emerged without providing any details about their topics of conversation. Nevertheless, the Holy See revealed that the Pope gave Obama an “unannounced gift”--a Vatican document on bioethics and the right to life.
"The G8 has been very productive, 20 billion dollars have been allocated [to poor countries]; that's something concrete," President Obama told the Pope when he asked about the summit, as photographers and journalists were ushered out of the Papal library.
The meeting between the Pope and the U.S. President started at 4:25 p.m. local time, after an unusually short meeting of ten minutes with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
After the private conversation, and again in front of the cameras, President Obama gave the Pontiff a stole that was drapped upon the body of St. John Neumann from 1988 to 2007. The Pope instead presented the president with a mosaic portraying St. Peter's Square and the Vatican Basilica, and an autographed copy of his latest social encyclical “Caritas in Veritate.”
“I will have something to read on the plane,” President Obama joked after receiving the encyclical.
In addition to his family, Obama’s entourage included Kaye Wilson, General Jim Jones, Denis McDonough, Mona Sutphen, Robert Gibbs, David Axelrod, Julieta Valls (currently responsible for the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See), Alyssa Mastnaco Clay Beers, Melissa Winter, Joseph Clancy and interpreter Elisabeth Ullman. They all received commemorative medals and blessed Rosaries.
At the end of the meeting, the Pope said in English, "I pray for you and bless your work."
"I am very grateful, I hope we will have fruitful relationships," the President responded.
Despite the fact that the Vatican did not release an official statement about the nature of the meeting, the “unannounced” gift to Obama of the 2008 document "Dignitas Personae" on bioethics and the right to life, could be a signal of the nature of at least part of their conversation.
Vatican City, Jul 10, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican has announced the topics discussed during U.S. President Barack Obama’s Friday afternoon audience with Pope Benedict XVI. The two leaders reportedly discussed the promotion of life, the peace process in the Middle East, the global economic crisis, and immigration.
In the course of what a Vatican statement called a “cordial exchange,” the two spoke about the defense and promotion of life and the right to abide by one’s conscience. They also discussed immigration issues such as reuniting separated families.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J. told Vatican Radio that the U.S. president “reiterated his commitment to reducing the incidence of abortion.”
On matters of international politics, the Pope and President Obama discussed some global issues highlighted by the G8 Summit. They also talked about the peace process in the Middle East, on which there was reportedly “general agreement,” as well as other regional situations.
According to the Vatican's press office, other current issues under discussion included dialogue between cultures and religions, the global economic crisis and its ethical implications, food security, and development aid especially for Africa and Latin America. The problem of drug trafficking was a topic, as was the importance of educating young people in the value of tolerance.
In a televised appearance after their conversation, President Obama gave Pope Benedict a stole that was draped upon the body of St. John Neumann. The Pope gave the president a mosaic portraying St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican Basilica and an autographed copy of his new encyclical “Caritas in Veritate.”
Before the papal audience, the U.S. president met Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States.
Rome, Italy, Jul 10, 2009 (CNA) -
The Somali Muslim extremist group Al Shabaab, which is linked to Al Qaeda, has decapitated seven people accused of being Christians and “spies” in the city of Baidoa, Somalia.
According to the AGI news agency, the extremists said they were applying Sharia law in murdering the seven people. Baidoa had been a stronghold for the transitional government that re-gained control of Somalia in 2006 with the help of Ethiopian troops.
Now the government is losing increasingly greater swaths of territory to fundamentalist groups that are beginning to appear in the country. Al Shabaab, which means “youth” in Arabic, had already decapitated three other people in the region last month.
The extremist group seeks to control the country and strictly enforce Muslim law, forcing women to wear burkas and cutting of the hands of those accused of stealing, AGI reports.
Vatican City, Jul 10, 2009 (CNA) - Correcting confusion generated by the recent statement of a Vatican official, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a statement today confirming that so called “therapeutic” abortion “has not been and can never be” accepted as Catholic teaching.
The document is a response, it says, to the “manipulation and instrumentalization” of an article by Bishop Rino Fisichella published in L’Osservatore Romano on March 15, 2009 about the case of an abortion procured for a 9 year-old Brazilian girl who had been impregnated by her stepfather.
In his article, Fisichella seemed to criticize the local Brazilian archbishop, José Cardoso Sobrinho, who sparked criticism from the secular media when he reminded everyone that, according to the teachings of the Church, all those involved in the abortion, with the exception of the girl, were excommunicated.
The softer position of Bishop Fisichella created a wave of articles and editorials—especially in Latin America—claiming that the Church had allegedly “softened” its position on abortion. The article was even used by pro-abortion activists in Nicaragua who were trying to reverse a ban on all forms of abortion.
In response to the Fisichella letter, the CDF says it received several letters, “including some from top personalities of political and ecclesiastic life, that have informed us of the confusion created.”
“In that regard, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reconfirms that the Church’s doctrine on procured abortion has not changed and cannot change. Such doctrine has been expressed in numbers 2270-2273 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
The CDF document quotes the numerals in its entirety:
2270: Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you."
“My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth."
2271: Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:
"You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish."
God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.
2272: Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae," "by the very commission of the offense," and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.
2273: The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:
"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."
"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights."
The CDF says that “Pope John Paul II has reaffirmed such doctrine with his authority as Supreme Pastor of the Church; and quotes the encyclical “Evangelium vitae”: 'by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops—who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine—I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.'”
The CDF document also adds that “when it comes to procured abortion in some difficult and complex situations, the clear and precise teaching of Pope John Paul II still stands.”
The note of clarification then quotes again from “Evangelium Vitae”: “It is true that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother, insofar as the decision to rid herself of the fruit of conception is not made for purely selfish reasons or out of convenience, but out of a desire to protect certain important values such as her own health or a decent standard of living for the other members of the family. Sometimes it is feared that the child to be born would live in such conditions that it would be better if the birth did not take place. Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic, can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.”
The CDF explains that two “very different circumstances” can be involved in some medical treatments aimed at preserving the health of the mother. “On the one hand, an intervention that directly provokes the death of a fetus, sometimes inadequately called ‘therapeutic’ abortion, which can never be licit since it is the direct murder of an innocent human being; and on the other hand an intervention not abortive in itself which can have, as collateral consequence, the death of the child.”
Finally, the document says that health care workers must also bear responsibility for their actions. The CDF's clarifying note says “it is necessary to remember the words the words of Pope John Paul II,” who wrote in “Evangelium Vitae,” “Their profession calls for them to be guardians and servants of human life. In today's cultural and social context, in which science and the practice of medicine risk losing sight of their inherent ethical dimension, health-care professionals can be strongly tempted at times to become manipulators of life, or even agents of death. In the face of this temptation their responsibility today is greatly increased. Its deepest inspiration and strongest support lie in the intrinsic and undeniable ethical dimension of the health-care profession, something already recognized by the ancient and still relevant Hippocratic Oath, which requires every doctor to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness.”
Santiago, Chile, Jul 10, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, Bishop Alejandro Goic, is calling a proposed new law on birth control being debated in the country’s House of Representatives, “a way to get around the obstacles put in place by the Supreme Court and by the Comptroller” against the distribution of the “morning-after pill.”
In a speech to the Congressional Health Care Committee, Bishop Goic lamented that in recent years “the Chilean political society and its institutions” have focused on promoting the morning-after pill and not on “authentic prevention consistent with human dignity.” Instead, lawmakers should focus on providing a “thorough solution to the problems that derive from the misuse of human sexuality.”
“It is difficult to understand that the State offers a credit to mothers for every child that is born and at the same time establishes public policies about unwanted children,” the bishop said.
Bishop Goic argued that the Ministry of Health is not the proper agency for providing formation in the areas of emotions and sexuality in a way that “respects the beliefs and personal formation of each individual.” “Why is the country’s entire public and private educational system excluded? The impression is given that the sole intention of this measure is to simply make contraceptive methods, both hormonal and non-hormonal, available to people” including the so-called “morning-after pill.”
The bishop said the proposed law reduces education to merely the informing about “techniques” available for preventing pregnancy or eliminating human life, and the reason is that the underlying anthropology “sees the human person from an incomplete perspective: as a hedonist, materialist and individualistic being.”
“An issue as delicate as human life” cannot be addressed solely from the dimension of contraceptive policies and in the heat of an electoral campaign, Bishop Goic stressed.
While policies such as these are supposed to be intended to eliminate unwanted pregnancies, they do nothing to address the underlying issue of sexual promiscuity which gives rise to such problems, he pointed out.
Only by providing an education based on moral values can society help individuals to live healthily and responsibly, the bishop said. “For those of us who believe in Christ, the fruit of sexual relations is not a problem but rather a human life that deserves to be born, to grow, to be loved and to develop in all its fullness.”
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 10, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Ubaldo Santana, warned this week against two controversial laws being debated by the National Assembly on “gender” equality and education.
During his opening speech at the bishops’ 92nd Full Assembly, Archbishop Santana said the discussion in the country about the possible passage of the two laws “gives us the opportunity to re-examine in light of the Gospel, the Church’s Social Doctrine and new cultural tendencies in our society, issues that for the Church are of primordial importance.”
“The Church has something to say and a message to give about these issues,” he continued. “In fact they touch aspects and fundamental values of the organization of society and of human coexistence.”
The archbishop went on to note that the bishops’ bases their statements on the “principle of subsidiarity, the freedom and responsibility of parents in choosing the kind of education they desire for their children, on religious education in school, the centrality of the family and the dignity of human life.”
He also called on public officials both at the local and national level “to respect the right to work and for a just wage” and to accept the results of democratically held elections by not placing obstacles in the way of those who are elected to political office.
Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 10, 2009 (CNA) - The new secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba Villota, said the Church in that country has no plans to adopt an official position in favor or against the re-election of President Alvaro Uribe and that each bishop who decides to express an opinion does so on his own.
Speaking on Caracol Radio, Bishop Cordoba said the bishops meeting in Bogota for their 87th Plenary Assembly agreed that “we cannot make decisions and that if any bishop does so it will be motu propio” (on his own).
“In a democracy, the ideal is that there is rotation and participation,” he said, referring to the possibility that President Uribe is seeking a third term.
The bishop went on to explain that during their meeting the prelates noted “there are two ways to be involved in politics: the politics of the common good and partisan politics.” The former is about calling attention to “justice, peace and love,” while the latter “does not fall to us because we are universal pastors of all and by being partisan we are choosing one side over another,” they said.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 10, 2009 (CNA) - In response to the distribution of a comic which features explicit sex scenes to grade school students, the secretary general of Professionals for Ethics, Fabian Fernandez de Alarcon, warned that this type of content could be included next year in the course Education for the Citizenry, as socialist leaders “have stated that sexual education” is part of the course material.
The Popular Party recently denounced the School Board of the Spanish province of Castilla-La Mancha for distributing a comic book to grade school children called “El Quijote.” The comic features graphic sexual depictions between the main characters.
Fernandez de Alarcon criticized the school board for ignoring the issue. He noted that sexual education is “an issue that many parents prefer to explain to their 10 year-old children when they think it is appropriate and not when the government of Castilla-La Mancha thinks so.”
He warned that this kind of content could be included next year in the new edition of Education for the Citizenry, because Socialist leaders said the course material will include lessons on “the sentiments and emotions, interpersonal relationships, that is, on questions that are directly related to the intimacy of students and that violate the rights of parents.”
“We must remember that various Socialist leaders have said that sexual education is part of Education for the Citizenry. Let us not forget as well that according to the government’s law on education, the new course, Education for the Citizenry, should be developed as part of the values-based education that should cut across all school activities,” he said.