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Archive of July 16, 2009

Illinois parents claim victory as federal court reinstates parental notification on abortion

Chicago, Ill., Jul 16, 2009 (CNA) - In what one pro-life leader called an “incredible victory” for parents and children, a federal court has lifted an injunction against an Illinois law which entitles parents to notification before their minor daughters are taken for abortions.

The Parental Notice Act, passed in 1995, has been in legal limbo for more than ten years because the Illinois Supreme Court refused to issue the rules necessary to make the Act effective, the Thomas More Society reports.

Paul Linton, special counsel for the Chicago-based Thomas More Society (TMS), developed the legal strategy to lift an injunction on the law.

In the spring of 2005 representatives of pro-life groups met with DuPage County State’s Attorney Joseph Birkett, asking him to petition the Illinois Supreme Court to adopt the rules required by the Act. Birkett agreed to petition the court, filing in June 2006. In September 2006 the state Supreme Court adopted the requested rule.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in March 2007 then petitioned for the lifting of the permanent injunction against the law. The petition was denied, resulting in the appeal to the federal court.

Peter Breen, Executive Director and Legal Counsel of the TMS, said the latest decision was “an incredible victory for Illinois parents and their children.”

“Parental involvement laws enjoy overwhelming public support. These laws promote the integrity of the family and ensure that parents are consulted so that their children are not forced into an abortion decision. A wealth of social science data indicates that parental involvement laws lead to lower pregnancy rates, out-of-wedlock births and abortions.”

Since 1995, TMS says, over 50,000 Illinois minors have obtained abortions without any requirement to notify their parents. More than 4,000 of these minors were 14 years or younger.

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‘Extraordinary’ Arizona legislative session witnesses pro-life victories

Phoenix, Ariz., Jul 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Arizona Catholic Conference says the latest state legislature session was “truly extraordinary” and possibly the most pro-life session in Arizona history. Abortion restrictions were passed while tax credits for student vouchers and non-profits were preserved or expanded. Further, a weighty anti-immigrant bill went down in defeat.

Characterizing the legislative session, which ended July 1, as “one of the most unusual and bitter legislative sessions in memory,” Ron Johnson of the Arizona Catholic Conference (ACC) listed legislative achievements in a “wrap-up” announcement.

Johnson said the ACC was “especially grateful” that Governor Jan Brewer signed into law the Abortion Consent Bill, which requires informed consent and a 24-hour waiting period before abortions, tightens parental consent requirements. The new laws also specify that non-physicians cannot perform surgical abortions and they provide conscience protections for health care workers and pharmacists.

According to Johnson, the provisions barring non-physicians from performing abortions were added because new information showed that nurse practitioners performed more abortions than previously thought.

A state ban on partial-birth abortions was also enacted, while an end-of-life measure preserves food and fluids for certain patients with guardians.

Further, the ACC initiated a bill to help streamline charitable tax credits for non-profits who help low-income people and the disadvantaged. The ACC said this would help faith-based charities and crisis pregnancy centers during a time of increased need and shrinking resources.

The ACC claimed “enormous” victories in the area of school choice.

The first victory claimed by the ACC was the passing of a tuition tax credit for corporations. The credit targets low and moderate income students who are entering kindergarten or want to switch from public to private schools.

Gov. Jan Brewer also called a special session was called to help foster students and disabled students who would have lost their school vouchers at the end of the school year because of a state Supreme Court decision.

Immigration issues were also considered in the state legislature. One bill would have made it a crime for illegal immigrants to seek employment or solicit work on their own in yard work or tree cutting.

The most attention-getting bill would have compelled local police to enforce federal immigration law above others. It also would have established a felony crime of trespass for all those not legally in the country.

The ACC opposed the bill, as did various chiefs of police. The police chiefs argued the bill would take away resources from more serious crimes and would chill the desires of crime victims and witnesses to step forward.
Both immigration bills failed, but are expected to return next year.

“The ACC is grateful to all of the people and groups it has worked with over the course of this session that have made our efforts successful. In particular, there are certain legislators that deserve special praise such as Rep. Nancy Barto and Sen. Linda Gray who have championed the pro-life and conscience measures through their respective chambers,” the ACC said.

State Rep. Steve Yarbrough and State Sen. John Huppenthal were praised as “outstanding leaders” on school choice and the charitable tax credit, while Sen. Amanda Aguirre was specially acknowledged for providing a decisive vote on charitable tax credit.

“The ACC is grateful to all of the people who supported our efforts through prayers and e-mails this session,” Johnson said.

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Archbishop of Baghdad encourages Iraqi Christians to maintain hope

Rome, Italy, Jul 16, 2009 (CNA) - In the wake of attacks on eight churches in Baghdad and Mosul, Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman of Baghdad encouraged Iraqi Christians to maintain hope and to “trust in the country and in the path towards unity.”
 
In statements to the SIR news agency, the archbishop said that while he does not know “all of the details surrounding the incidents, I believe they have occurred in order to discourage Christians and make them leave Iraq.  They also discourage those who are thinking of returning,” he added.
 
Similarly Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk said the attacks were a message that Christians who have left Iraq “should not return.”
 
According to some analysts, the new wave of violence could be linked to the upcoming local elections in Kurdistan and Kirkuk in an effort to intimidate Christian voters.

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Vatican Museum to stay open for sunset experience

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2009 (CNA) - Following the example of other museums in Europe, the Vatican Museum will stay open to the public late into the evening on Friday, July 24.

The museum describes the special hours as an opportunity to “enjoy the sight of the sunset over St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Gardens from the Courtyard of the Cuirasses and from the windows of the Gallery of Maps.”

The Rooms of Raphael, Vatican Apostolic Library and the Sistine Chapel will also remain open.

The extended hours will be from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., with the last visitors being admitted at 9:30 p.m.

Visitors are required to book their tickets in advance at: http://mv.vatican.va/2_IT/pages/MV_Home.html.

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Holy Father offers condolences for devastating plane crash in Iran

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict mourned the lives lost in yesterday’s Iranian plane crash in a telegram addressed the country’s apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel.  The Holy Father offered his condolences and said that he will pray for the families and for the repose of the souls of the 168 who died in the tragedy.

The doomed Caspian Air flight took off Wednesday morning en route to Armenia. The plane caught fire in mid-air, went into a  nose-dive and crashed into farmland outside a village in northwest Iran.

The force of the crash was so great that rescue workers have been unable to identify any particular individual's remains thus far.

Ahmad Majidi, head of the Transport Ministry's Crisis Unit told Mehr news agency that, "The pilot could probably not be blamed for this crash and we think it was likely due to a technical problem.”

Upon hearing news of the devastating crash, the Vatican's Cardinal Secretary of State sent the telegram in the Pope’s name.

"Saddened by news of the great loss of life in the air tragedy over Jannatabad near Qazvin, the Holy Father offers heartfelt condolences to the civil authorities and the families of the victims.  He prays for the eternal repose of the dead and implores the almighty and merciful God's gifts of comfort and strength on those who mourn the loss of their loved ones," the telegram says.

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Hindu extremists using death threats to force Christians out of Nepal

Rome, Italy, Jul 16, 2009 (CNA) - Following the recent bomb attack on the Cathedral of the Assumption, which was attributed to the Hindu group Nepal Defense Army, extremists are now threatening priests and religious in Nepal with death if they do not leave the country “within one month.”
 
The Apostolic Vicar of Nepal, Bishop Anthony Francis Sharma, said the threats were made to the associate vicar, Father Pius Perumana.  L’Osservatore Romano reported that the police have beefed up security at the diocesan chancery in Godavari, where Father Perumana works. 
 
Protestants have also received similar threats. One minister, who chose to remain anonymous, said he received a letter also threatening him with death if he did not leave the country. 
 
L'Osservatore said one of the messages sent by the Hindu extremists read: “We want the one million Christians who reside in Nepal to leave the country. If not we will plant one million bombs in all of their homes.”
 
“Christians do not hide their concern about the  threats and intimidation, but they trust in the will and the capability of countries to confront fundamentalist groups,” Father Perumana said.
 
“We are on alert but our activities and our mission continue,” he added.  “We have faith in the people and in our leaders.  We are a beloved and esteemed minority, and the attacks have not destroyed our hope,” he said.

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Mexican cardinal says existence of devil must be taken seriously

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, said yesterday that the existence of the devil must be taken as fact, without exaggerating or minimizing his actions out of skepticism or credulity taken to the extreme.
 
During a conference for exorcists in Mexico, the cardinal said skepticism leads many to deny the existence of the devil and dismiss his actions as psychological, socio-cultural or paranormal phenomena.  Others, out of extreme gullibility, see the devil everywhere and grant him supernatural powers as if he were God, the cardinal stated.
 
According to the Archdiocese of Mexico City’s news service, Cardinal Rivera said that many people embrace esoteric and occult practices because of their estrangement from God.
 
He encouraged exorcists to appeal to the Virgin Mary for help, as she plays a special role in the fight against the demonic.  “She brings us to Jesus, she protects us and cares for us in this difficult ministry ... Mary also participates in exorcisms. She herself is an exorcist and expels the devil through her sanctity,” the cardinal stressed.
 
“The Lord Jesus, together with the Virgin Mary, helps us to lend a hand to those who are weakest and most in need, especially in sensitive and prudent cases of liberation or exorcism,” Cardinal Rivera stated. 
 
Throughout human history, he recalled, “there has been a hard battle against the powers of darkness, which began at the origins of the world and will endure until the last day, according to what the Lord has said.”

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Papal visits to Italian towns confirmed for September

Rome, Italy, Jul 16, 2009 (CNA) - Vatican Radio has announced the details of Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming visits to the Italian towns of Viterbo and Bagnoreggio on September 6.

Viterbo, located some 62 miles northeast of Rome, is known as the “City of Popes,” since it served as the see of the Successor of Peter for several decades during the 13th century.  Various conclaves were held there, including the one that elected Pope Gregory X, who was later beatified.

According to the schedule, the Holy Father will arrive on the morning of September 6 for a welcoming ceremony at the Enrico Rocchi Stadium. Later in the day he will make a private visit to the Palace of the Popes, where he will deliver an address to the city. The Pope's speech will be followed by the celebration of Mass in the Faul Valley. 

The Holy Father will also visit the tomb of St. Rose of Viterbo, patroness of the city. Part of the St. Rose festivities will include the Pope viewing the famous “Machine of St. Rose,” a huge float carried in procession each year to celebrate devotion to the Franciscan saint.

That afternoon, Pope Benedict XVI will pray the rosary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Quercia with religious from 12 cloistered convents in the region. 

The Pope's visit to Bagnoreggio will be shorter. His visit will include a stop to pray with the relics of St. Bonaventure and an opportunity to greet the local residents in the city's main square.

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Vatican sports foundation criticizes FIFA for trying to ban religious expressions

Rome, Italy, Jul 16, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the John Paul II Foundation for Sports, Eddio Constantini, has severely criticized the president of the International Soccer Association Board (FIFA), Joseph Blatter, for seeking to prohibit religious speech during matches. Blatter's action came after the Brazilian team huddled for a prayer at the conclusion of the Confederations Cup.
 
Constantini explained that “Blatter and the soccer federation Denmark are mistaken, it is an error to purge sports of those ethical values that the Christian faith and the Catholic Church have defended for centuries.”
 
His statements came in response to comments by the FIFA president about the Brazilian players huddling for prayer after their victory over the United States. He called their gesture “a danger” and said there was “no room for religion in soccer.”  Blatter has also promised he would prohibit any kind of religious expression during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
 
Constantini said the comments by Blatter were not new and pointed to his “ultimatum” to the Brazilian team for a similar gesture after the 2002 world championships.  “I would argue that it is precisely the gradual abandoning of religious and ethical values that has been the cause of the moral degradation that is affecting soccer and sports in general,” he added.
 
“Only a revolution from below that is capable of training wholesome athletes and individuals will be able to restore the authentic meaning to sports that is under threat from violence, drugs, racism and money,” Constantini stated.
 
The John Paul II Foundation for Sports was launched in July of 2008.  Among its objectives is the organization of a triennial program of national and international sporting events focused on promote human dignity, especially among young people.
 
On that occasion Constantini said it was not coincidental that the launching of the Foundation coincided with the opening of the Pauline Year.  “In his letters St. Paul often refers to the Christian life as a sports race which at the end will be awarded with an imperishable crown.”

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World’s oldest IVF mother dies at 69, leaving two-year-old twins

CNA STAFF, Jul 16, 2009 (CNA) - A Spanish woman who became the world’s oldest mother after she lied about her age to obtain IVF treatment has died two years after she gave birth.

In 2007, one week before her 67th birthday, Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara gave premature birth by caesarean section to two sons, Christian and Pau, in a Barcelona hospital. They weighed 3.5 lbs each.

Without the knowledge of her family, she had traveled to California for IVF treatment at the Pacific Fertility Center. According to the Associated Press, the director and owner of the center, Dr. Vicken Sahakian, said she falsified her birth date on documents.

Dr. Sahakian had implanted Bousada with an embryo conceived with a younger woman’s eggs and donated sperm. Bousada also had to receive a three-week hormone treatment to “rejuvenate” her uterus, after being menopausal for 18 years.

In 2007 Bousada claimed that the Pacific Fertility Center did not ask her for identification. She said that she stood a good chance of living long enough to raise her children because her mother at died at 101.

Justifying her action to the Sunday Times, she said “That’s life. I have my motives.”

She had been diagnosed with a tumor shortly after giving birth, according a Spanish newspaper report. Dr. Sahakian said he did not believe the hormone treatment increased her cancer risk.

Following her death, her brother Ricardo Bousa said he had sold exclusive details of his sister’s death to a television program. The proceeds will go toward supporting his sister’s two-year-old twins.

Edward Furton, ethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics Center and editor of the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, explained the ethical problems with IVF to CNA on Thursday.

He said the major problem with IVF is that “it takes conception away from the married couple and puts it into the hands of a lab technician.”

“It’s conception without sex, really. Every child should be brought into the world through the union of husband and wife, this is the natural norm.

“This particular woman chose to act outside the natural norm, and she became pregnant at a very advanced age. Not surprisingly, she has passed away, leaving two very young children.”

Asked about whether there is difference between scientific procedures that treat disease and IVF fertility treatments, Furton replied, “Science should be in the service of natural norms.” “Yes, people get diseases, but diseases are contrary to the good of health, which by nature we should have. So doctors are trying to bring individuals back to health. So nature is the standard by which we judge science and medicine.

“Conception is good as well, but it has boundaries, and those need to be respected if we are going to avoid circumstances like this where a woman leaves behind young orphans.”

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Southern Catholic College to become Legion of Christ institution

Dawsonville, Ga., Jul 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Legion of Christ and Southern Catholic College have agreed to make the school a Legion institution, saying the move will advance Catholic higher education in Georgia.

Southern Catholic College (SCC), a co-educational liberal arts college, claims to be Georgia’s first and only residential Catholic college and describes itself as “grounded in the Catholic intellectual and moral tradition.”

Founded in 2000, it now has more than 200 students from 25 states on its Dawsonville, Georgia campus an hour’s drive north of Atlanta.

“This is a great step for Southern Catholic and, we hope, for Catholic higher education in North America,” Jeremiah J. Ashcroft, president of SCC, said of the agreement.

He added that the Legion’s “experience and leadership” will help attract students from across North America and will help develop programs with other institutions worldwide.

“This expanded reach and support greatly enhances our ability to achieve our mission to prepare moral and ethical leaders who will enlighten society and glorify God.”

Fr. Scott Reilly, LC, the territorial director for the Legion, said the order wanted to build on SCC’s “great reputation.”

“There will be considerable sharing of best practices with our existing institutions. I expect that SCC will experience significant growth in the years ahead, as we can expand the availability of Catholic higher education to students from across North America,” Fr. Reilly said in a press release.

The Legion of Christ, a religious congregation, was founded in 1941 with the stated mission of extending the Kingdom of Christ according to Christian justice and charity.

The order is currently the subject of an Apostolic Visitation, following revelations that its founder Fr. Marcel Maciel had fathered a child with a mistress.

CNA contacted SCC to determine how the Visitation affected the decision to create an alliance between the college and the Legion but did not receive a response before publication.

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