Archive of July 14, 2009

'Jane Roe’ arrested after protest at Sotomayor confirmation hearing

Washington D.C., Jul 14, 2009 (CNA) - Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” in the U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision Roe v. Wade, was removed from the Senate confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Monday and arrested after she and three others protested the Supreme Court nominee’s stand on abortion.

She was escorted out of the hearings after she shouted to Sotomayor that she was “wrong” in her view of abortion, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

"You're wrong Sotomayor," she said. "You're wrong about abortion."

Capitol police arrested McCorvey and Robert M. James, 48, from Virginia; Andre R. Beachman, 27, from Indiana; and Francis Mahoney, 68, from Florida.

McCorvey was the plaintiff “Jane Roe” in the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which imposed permissive abortion laws nationwide. She reportedly became a “poster child” for the pro-abortion movement, but turned to the pro-life cause in the 1990s.

She converted to Catholicism in 1998 and now lives in Texas.

Before the hearings, McCorvey was among a group of pro-life activists who protested Sotomayor’s confirmation outside the Hart Senate Office building. The group held signs saying “Stop All Abortions.” Some displayed graphic images of aborted fetuses.

One protester wore a black judicial robe and held a sickle in protest of Judge Sotomayor’s reported view on abortion.

“I’m here to overturn Roe and defeat Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” McCorvey said earlier in the day, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “She’s unworthy of the position. She’s Catholic. She’s even unworthy of taking communion because of her pro-abortion stance.”

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Pope encourages university students to discuss God in the classroom

Vatican City, Jul 14, 2009 (CNA) - On Saturday Pope Benedict XVI addressed over 1,100 university students about missionary efforts at universities. Encouraging them to bear witness to Jesus Christ, he urged them both to help bring discussion of God back into the classroom and to overcome materialist worldviews.

The students were participants in the first European meeting of university students promoted by the Catechesis-School-University Commission of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE).  The meeting’s theme was “New disciples of Emmaus: In University as Christians.”

Pope Benedict mentioned the theme of “development” several times, echoing a major topic of his recent encyclical “Caritas in veritate.”

Noting the students’ visit to the Vatican took place on the Feast of St. Benedict, the Pope said that the meeting showed to the episcopal conferences of Europe the students’ “willingness to continue along the path of cultural development, which St. Benedict knew to be vital for the human and Christian maturity of the people of Europe.”

He said this development will come about if they imitate the disciples of Emmaus and “meet the risen Lord in an authentic ecclesial experience,” especially in the celebration of the Eucharist.

“Your missionary efforts in the university environment consist, then, in bearing witness to your own personal encounter with Jesus Christ, the Truth Who illuminates the path of all mankind. ... Only in this way can we become the ferment and leaven of a society enlivened by evangelical love.”

Pope Benedict remarked that university pastoral activity must be expressed “in all its theological and spiritual implications” and must aid the young to perceive “the more profound mystery of man and of history” in their communion with Christ.

“The Christian presence in universities is becoming ever more demanding, yet at the same time fascinating, because faith is called, as it was in centuries past, to offer its indispensable service to knowledge, which is the true motor of development in modern society,” the Pope said.

Knowledge enriched by faith supports people in looking forward with hope and in overcoming the temptation of “a purely materialist vision of life and of history.”

"You are the future of Europe," the Pope told the young people. "The new amalgamated culture which is currently being forged in Europe and in the globalized world needs the contribution of intellectuals capable of bringing discussion of God back into the classroom” and to revive the desire to seek God.

“The Church in Europe places great trust in the generous apostolic commitment of all of you, aware of the challenges and difficulties but also of the great potential of pastoral work in the university environment,” he said.

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Prominent Kennedy’s ‘bogus and embarrassing’ remarks set Obama over Pope, critic says

Washington D.C., Jul 14, 2009 (CNA) - Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s recent Newsweek editorial claiming President Barack Obama represents U.S. Catholics better than Pope Benedict XVI has been attacked by one Catholic critic as “bogus and embarrassing.”

Townsend, the eldest child of Robert F. Kennedy, in a July 9 Newsweek column claimed that the Catholic hierarchy ignores women’s equality and “gays’ cry for justice” because they cannot admit they are wrong.

She endorsed dissent from Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” which upheld traditional Christian teaching on the immorality of contraception. She then promoted President Obama and attacked Church authority.

“American Catholics do not want to be told by the Vatican how to think,” she said, citing opinion polls on homosexuality and condom use.

She also cited Pope Benedict’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” about institutional charity, claiming that this was the Church opening up to “roles that for too long have been neglected.” Obama as a former community organizer “could teach the Pope a lot about politics – and what a Catholic approach to politics could entail.”

Predicting the interaction between President Obama and Pope Benedict at their meeting last Friday, Townsend said: “they'll politely disagree about reproductive freedoms and homosexuality, but Catholics back home won't care, because they know Obama's on their side. In fact, Obama's agenda is closer to their views than even the Pope's.”

Catholic commentator Deal Hudson said Townsend’s column was arrogant and ignorant of American Catholics. He suggested she was self-contradictory in citing the authority of Pope Benedict to confirm President Obama as the more Catholic of the two.

He also insisted that her claim to represent the Catholic Church in the political arena is “bogus and embarrassing in its disregard for the truth as taught by the Church.” He characterized Townsend as a member of the Catholic family who has “done more to promote abortion” than any other.”

“Townsend and other Obama Catholics have tended to disregard the ‘Veritas’ side of the ‘Charity in Truth’ encyclical,” Hudson wrote, using the Latin word for “truth.”

Hudson also denied the accuracy of Townsend’s poll sources. He said the claim that American Catholics don’t want to listen to the Vatican is the equivalent of saying “American Catholics don’t want to be Catholic.”

Even when President Obama’s opinions match the views of dissenting Catholics, Hudson said that doesn't mean that the Pope should change the Church's teachings but rather that the Church “should do a better job of teaching and evangelization so that the pervasive dissent on issues like contraception and gay marriage is effectively addressed.”

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Baghdad bomb attacks on Christians kill seven, injure several dozen

Baghdad, Iraq, Jul 14, 2009 (CNA) - More than 40 people were killed or injured in renewed attacks on Christians in Baghdad on Sunday.

Shortly after 7:00 on Sunday evening, a car bomb exploded in front of the gates of St. Mary’s Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad. The explosion occurred just as churchgoers left Mass.

Seven were killed and around 30 were injured, with 18 requiring hospital treatment, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reports.

Bombs reportedly went off at three other Baghdad churches around 4:30 pm, two of which were St. George’s Church in the Al-Ghadier section and St. Joseph’s Church in the Al-Shurta section.

According to ACN, which received its information from a priest working in the Iraqi capital, eight people were wounded in the attacks.

More than 200,000 have fled Iraq because of persecution and violence since the American-led invasion. Upwards of 50,000 have sought refuge in the north of Iraq.

Continued emigration is also depleting the numbers of Iraqi Christians, who have resided in the country since the early centuries of Christianity. While Christians in Iraq numbered about one million in 2003, there are fewer than 400,000 today.

Archbishop of Baghdad Jean Sleiman has said that “very real persecution” is a huge threat for Christians in some areas.

ACN has provided food and medical aid for Iraqi refugees in other Middle Eastern countries. The international pastoral charity has also supported religious sisters who distribute basic food parcels to displaced and impoverished families in the north of Iraq.

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Pope Benedict prays that bombers will have a 'conversion of heart'

Vatican City, Jul 14, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to the string of attacks against eight Christian churches in Iraq on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his spiritual closeness to the victims and prayed for the attackers' "conversion of heart."

The attacks took place on Sunday evening at eight separate churches in Baghdad and Mosul.

One church, St. Mary's Chaldean Catholic Church, was attacked shortly after 7:00 on Sunday evening. The bomber pushed his car in front of the church after convincing guards that his car—secretly packed with explosives—had broken down. The explosion occurred just as churchgoers left Mass, killing at least four and wounding dozens.

Pope Benedict decried the spate of bombings in a telegram sent to Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans by the Vatican's Secretary of State.

The Pope, the telegram says, "prays for a conversion of heart in the authors of this violence, and encourages the authorities to do everything possible to promote just and peaceful coexistence among all sectors of the Iraqi population."

The Holy Father "also gives assurances of his prayers and his spiritual closeness to the Catholic and Orthodox communities of the Iraqi capital," the telegram states.

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Vatican paper finds good and bad in new Harry Potter movie

Rome, Italy, Jul 14, 2009 (CNA) - In an article entitled, “Magic is no longer a surprising trick,” the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano has reviewed the new film in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” The paper finds that the movie's message is a mixed bag, with references to New Age spirituality and praiseworthy aspirations toward choosing the good.
On the eve of its worldwide July 15 release, the L'Osservatore article notes that “magic is no longer the surprising pastime that it was before.”  “It’s no longer about adventures for children or even for those gifted with exceptional powers. Now, as we saw in the previous episode, lives are really at risk and what is really in danger is huge: preventing the forces of darkness from gaining the upper hand.”
The article goes on to explain that “the psychology of the characters takes a more precise form.  In the fifth chapter, Harry went through a difficult period, tormented by his dreams and personal demons, by the memory of his parents murdered by Voldemort. And he was searching for answers.”
“Now,” it continued, “he seems to not need them.  Few questions are asked and he knows he has a task to complete. He trusts in Dumbledore, who doesn’t treat him as just a mere student but also as a friend. And he is aware that the world of magic, which he grew up with in the past, is not exempt from malice.”
The Vatican newspaper took issue with the new film's constant references to “new age spirituality,” which some have criticized for “instigating young people to flee from reality and instill in them the illusion that supernatural powers exist that they can control to please the world. “In summary,” the critics accuse, “it is mis-informative and even anti-Christian.”
The article’s author, Gaetano Vallini, said J.K. Rowling’s work “lacks a reference to the transcendent, to a providential design in which men live their personal stories and the story takes shape. Thus it is true that, in the classic mechanism of fables, the protagonist finds himself amidst experiences in which magic is almost always an instrument in the hands of evil.”
Vallini pointed out later that in this film “one cannot say that witchcraft—but in this case it would be better to speak of magic—is portrayed as a positive ideal. On the contrary, the line between those who do good and those who do evil is clearly drawn, and the reader or moviegoer identifies with the former.  In this latest film in particular, the distinction is a bit clearer. It is clear that doing good is the just thing and what should be done; and it is understood that this entails sacrifice.”
Vallini believes that one of the Rowling’s intentions is to unmask “the myth that reason can have an answer for everything,” although he notes that “a child or teen could come to different conclusions.”
“It is quite likely that after seeing or reading it, rather than the fascination with magic (which is only a pretext for animation), what remains are the scenes that summon values such as friendship, altruism, loyalty and the gift of one’s self.”

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Second Spanish priest found murdered in Havana

Havana, Cuba, Jul 14, 2009 (CNA) - A Spanish priest was found murdered in a Havana parish this week.  Initial investigations indicate that the body of Father Mariano Arroyo Murillo, 74, was found at his parish in the neighborhood of Regla.
According to the government officials and to the Archdiocese of Havana, the priest’s body “was found by paramedics around 6:10 a.m. local time, after the night shift security guard noticed smoke coming out of the parish.” 

Europa Press reported that Elizardo Sanchez of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said the motive behind the killing has not been determined, “although theft has not been ruled out since the priest’s car was not found.”

Father Arroyo was the second Spanish priest to be killed in Cuba in five months. In February, the body of Father Eduardo de la Fuente Serrano was found on the outskirts of the Cuban capital. No motive for his murder has been determined as of yet.
Sanchez called the killings a grave matter and ruled out any type of conspiracy against some members of the Catholic Church.  “Priests are not seen as a threat to society; on the contrary, people are happy with them and Arroyo Murillo was very well-liked.”
“There is a lot a crime on the streets and this is because of economic factors, because of the crisis, because of people’s needs,” Sanchez stated. 

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Venezuelan bishop defends life, family and freedom of expression

Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 14, 2009 (CNA) - At the conclusion of their Plenary Assembly, the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela issued several statements underscoring the urgent need for the respect of freedom of expression, especially in the media. They also denounced attempts to institutionalize attacks on the family as well as traditional marriage.

The bishops criticized a new proposed law on equality that would strengthen respect for human rights but yet would commit "grave violations and irreparable harm to the fundamental rights and structures of the Venezuelan society that are recognized in and guaranteed by our Constitution."

The new measure in the National Assembly, which has caused great concern in the Catholic Church and other Christian communities, comes at a time when marriage and the family are already suffering from economic, social and moral deterioration and from the impact of a sexually-saturated culture, the bishops said. They warned that the measure would mean the approval of "same sex unions, granting them the same legal and property benefits as those of traditional marriage." It would also ignore the constitutional protection of the inviolability of all human life, "whether through contraceptives or abortion."

For this reason, the bishops explained, "when the institutions of marriage and the family, which are the pillars of a society, are threatened by social, economic, ideological and legal situations, the different institutions of society must mobilize in their defense. Consequently, the reaction and rejection by society is legitimate when the dignity of the human person and his inherent rights are in danger."

For this reason, they added, "all men and women of Venezuela must be vigilant in studying and debating this new measure that, if approved, would seriously compromise the future of our society."

"We invite all to work and make suggestions that contribute to maintaining the dignity of the human person and to reject anything that weakens such fundamental rights as the dignity and respect for the human person and the natural structure of marriage and the family."

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Colombian bishops encourage and reaffirm unconditional defense of life

Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 14, 2009 (CNA) - At the conclusion of their 87th Plenary Assembly, the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia issued a final statement reiterating and encouraging unconditional defense of human life from conception to natural death.

In the final document signed by conference president Archbishop Ruben Salazar, the bishops draw attention to some of the attacks on human life in Colombia today, such as abortion and kidnapping. They note that the country’s Constitution states that "life is an inviolable right and that in Colombia there shall be no death penalty." The bishops continue: "However, all of the facts we have pointed out go against this fundamental right and have given rise to the grave crisis that Pope John Paul II called an eclipse of the value of life."

"Life, and above all human life, cannot be fully understood except in the measure in which we become aware that its origin, development and goal is found in God as the only Master and Lord," the bishops explain.

After recognizing the work of those who promote human rights in the country, the bishops express their "faith and trust in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, who will help us to keep the commitments that have been made at this Plenary Assembly, commitments that we will make known later on together with the working documents and the criteria that should inspire pastoral plans in relation to the promotion and defense of human life."

"The Gospel of Life is at the center of the message of Jesus," the bishops add. "Life is a fundamental right of each human being and in recognizing this right the foundation is laid for human coexistence and for political life.

They conclud by calling on health care works, those who administer justice, the armed forces, teachers and parents, to be clear in their daily and professional work in respecting life from the moment of conception, through all its stages until natural death."

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Health care bill drawing bipartisan fire over abortion funding

Washington D.C., Jul 14, 2009 (CNA) - As Congress prepares to consider President Obama's health care reform this week, the legislation is drawing opposition from both sides of the aisle. At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, ten lawmakers warned that the current draft of the health care bill will force taxpayers, businesses and insurance providers to pay for abortions.

Reaction from Democrats first became public when a group of 19 congressmen, some of them "Blue Dog Democrats," sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the end of June.

In their letter, the group of 19 warned Pelosi that they would not vote for any health care reform bill that either mandates government coverage for abortion or allows the Health Benefits Advisory Committee to recommend abortion services be included under covered benefits or as part of a benefits package.

"We believe in a culture that supports and respects the right to life and is dedicated to the protection and preservation of families. Therefore, we cannot support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan," the congressmen wrote.

On Tuesday afternoon, ten Republican congressmen, led by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Joe Pitts (R-PA), held a press conference to denounce any attempt to use the health care reform bill to include coverage for abortions.

Congressman Smith railed against the "rush to enact Mr. Obama’s exceedingly expensive, complex and potentially ruinous health care restructuring plan without the benefit of comprehensive hearings on and through vetting of the actual bill text."

"Obamacare is the greatest threat ever to the lives and wellness of unborn children and their mothers since Roe v. Wade was rendered in 1973," Smith charged.

Recalling President Obama's comment to the Pope about wanting to reduce the incidence of abortion, the New Jersey congressman said that the "ugly truth is that his so-called health care reform bill, if enacted, will lead to millions of additional dead children and wounded mothers."

The group of representatives, which included doctors and pro-life women, asserted that the funding of abortions under Obama's health care restructuring will increase the number of abortions.

Agreeing with the 19 Democrat congressmen, Rep. Smith cited a Guttmacher Institute study that found "20%-35% of Medicaid eligible women who would chose abortion carry their pregnancies to term when public funds are not available."

"Government funding, facilitation, promotion and mandates will cause abortion rates to skyrocket," he warned.

"Obamacare opens the spigot of public funding and does more to facilitate abortion than any action since Roe. This is the big one!" Smith cried.

In addition to direct funding of abortion by the government, Smith explained that the legislation "vests new, huge, sweeping powers in an Obama-appointed committee tasked with establishing 'essential health benefits' that all plans must include."

These "essential benefits" include abortion, Smith said, citing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and remarks Obama made as a senator.

Rep. Joe Pitts explained at today's press conference that the proposed legislation "will affect Americans across the country throughout all walks of life. It will affect the insurance companies that are forced to cover abortion. It will affect the employers, who will be forced to purchase plans that cover abortion. It will affect the individuals, who are forced to pay for coverage of abortion."

"In fact, any individual who does not have a plan that meets the minimum benefit standards, which will undoubtedly include abortion unless it is excluded, will be forced to pay a 2 percent penalty. Any employer who does not provide coverage that meets these standards will pay an 8 percent penalty.

"This legislation will mandate and subsidize abortion and then tax the Americans who stand for one of the very principles that this nation was founded on – the right to life," Pitts said.

According to Rep. Smith, the bill contains "another egregious flaw."

"Obamacare will also exponentially expand the number of abortion mills in the country by requiring that any insurance provider must contract with 'essential community providers, as specified by the Commissioner’," he said.

Smith pointed out that "Planned Parenthood, an organization that aborted over 305,000 children in 2007 alone, launched a multimedia blitz on June 17th, billing itself as an 'essential community health care provider.'"

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Weigel revisits social encyclical's analysis of ‘moral ecology’

Washington D.C., Jul 14, 2009 (CNA) - George Weigel has provided a second reaction to Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical “Caritas In Veritate,” saying the document raises questions about the “moral ecology” of the economy, the continuity of Catholic teaching and the prudential application of Catholic principles.

In his July 7 reaction to the encyclical, published at National Review Online, Weigel claimed to distinguish portions of the encyclical written by the Pope and portions written by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, asserting its style “resembles a duck-billed platypus.”

He revisited the encyclical in a July 13 analysis at National Review Online, where he referred to scholarly debate about whether the Second Vatican Council is an example of “continuity” with the Church’s past or a “rupture.” Similarly, Weigel claims, there is question about whether there are one or two Catholic social doctrine traditions, one stemming from Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical “Rerum Novarum” and another from Pope Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical “Populorum Progressio.”

The latter work, in Weigel’s view, lacks discipline in “closely identifying specific policy recommendations with points of theological principle.” He stressed the importance of distinguishing between “principles of Catholic social doctrine and specific prudential judgments about public policy.” This approach is not “picking and choosing,” he said, but rests on questions of prudence and practicality.

He then wrote that the new encyclical's teaching on the “moral ecology” necessary to a free economy is “entirely welcome.” This emphasizes the necessity for people with “certain virtues” to make an economy work to result in genuine human flourishing.

“Benedict XVI insists in his encyclical that the life issues are social-justice issues, such that the ‘human ecology’ or moral ecology necessary to make free economies work is eroded when wrongs are defined as rights,” Weigel said in his National Review essay.

“Thus the encyclical has put Catholic legislators on notice that they can’t hide behind their ‘social justice’ commitments while taking a pass (or worse) on the life issues,” he wrote.

“Caritas In Veritate” challenges pro-abortion politicians to address the “hard questions” about whether Roe v. Wade violates fundamental Catholic norms of social justice, he said.

In his view, this is also a “tacit response” to President Obama’s use of Cardinal Bernardin’s “consistent ethic of life” or “seamless garment” theory, which Weigel said has helped some Catholic politicians to avoid pro-life votes.

Weigel also suggested that Caritas in Veritate’s passages about “quotas of gratuitousness and communion” derive from the “Economy of Communion” school which promotes free-market approaches in which profit is not the only factor and profits are shared with projects to empower the poor.

“It is unclear from the text of Caritas in Veritate whether this is being recommended as a general model for 21st-century economic life, or an interesting experiment within the framework of the free economy,” Weigel remarked. However, he said economists and Catholic scholars “committed to the Centesimus Annus portrait of the free economy” should engage and debate the idea.

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