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Archive of July 21, 2009

Judge throws out challenge to Proposition 8, DOMA aspects to move forward

Sacramento, Calif., Jul 21, 2009 (CNA) - A federal judge has thrown out another legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8, ruling that plaintiffs had no standing to dispute the constitutionality of the ballot measure which restored the definition of marriage to be between a man and a woman.

U.S. District Court Judge David Carter, ruling in the case Smelt v. United States, threw out a challenge to Proposition 8 and dismissed the state of California as a defendant, a press release from Protectmarriage.com reports.

The judge said in his ruling that because the plaintiffs in the case were legally married before the enactment of Proposition 8, and because the California State Supreme Court held that such marriages would remain intact, they had no “injury” or standing to challenge the measure.

However, portions of the suit challenge the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and will be heard in August with the U.S. Department of Justice as the official defendant.

Andrew Pugno, Chief Legal Counsel for Proposition 8 campaign committee ProtectMarriage.com, said the ruling marked “another great day for marriage in California.”

“The twice-expressed will of the people of California for traditional marriage is under assault from many lawsuits, but our recent string of victories in both state and federal courts is very gratifying,” he said in a press release.

“ProtectMarriage.com will continue to fight for marriage and fight to defend the will of the people, no matter what course and no matter what legal theory they conjure up,” Pugno remarked.

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Vietnamese police beat hundreds of Catholics seeking to restore parish

Hanoi, Vietnam, Jul 21, 2009 (CNA) - On Monday morning Vietnamese police in the Diocese of Vinh brutally beat hundreds of Catholics who were erecting a cross and building an altar on the ground of a church that collapsed during the Vietnam War. Dozens of Catholics were arrested in the clash.

The incident took place at 9 a.m. at the church of Tam Toa. Rumors are circulating that the government is planning to convert the church into a tourist resort, Fr. J.B. An Dang tells CNA.

Hundreds of Catholics were attacked by police, as described by Tam Toa pastor Fr. Le Thanh Hong:

“The police, who far outnumbered parishioners of Tam Toa and neighboring parishes, had fired teargas canisters at the crowd before kicking and beating them brutally with stun guns, and batons. Numerous priests and lay people were wounded.

“Some were made to sit on the ground, where again they were beaten by a youth gang employed by police, while dozens were thrown into police trucks,” he added. “At the moment their whereabouts remain unknown.”

Tam Toa is an historic parish for Vietnamese Catholics and can trace its origins back to 1631, when the Church first appeared in the country. According to Fr. An Dang, the parish quickly grew during the 1600s and was the largest parish in its region, with 1,200 Catholics. It once had an orphanage and a school operated by the Sisters of the Lovers of the Holy Cross.

In 1886 a group of anti-Western men calling themselves Van Than attacked the parish, killing 52 parishioners in what the attackers believed was retaliation against the French presence in the country.

The most recent church of Tam Toa opened in 1887 to meet the spiritual needs of the faithful. Considered to be one of the most beautiful churches in Vietnam, with Portuguese architecture and a large bell, it was largely destroyed in 1968 by U.S. Air Force bombing during the Vietnam War.

Only the church entrance and the bell tower still stand today. Parishioners had wanted to rebuild their church but were too impoverished.

Mass had been regularly celebrated on the grounds of the bombed church until March 1996. At that time the People’s Committee of Quang Binh confiscated the church, deeming it a “War Memorial Site” which must be preserved and protected “for future generations to remember American war crimes.”

The Archdiocese of Hue had protested the action without result. In May 2006 the parish was transferred to the Diocese of Vinh, whose bishop Paul Maria Cao has repeatedly asked for the return of the church.

On February 2, 2009 Bishop Cao and 14 priests of the diocese concelebrated Mass at the property. Thousands of Catholics attended to support the diocese’s efforts to reclaim the church.

Tam Toa is a home parish for more than a thousand parishioners, Fr. An Dang reports. However, their efforts to rebuild the church have been stalled by government interference.

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Politician leading ‘common ground’ initiative faces questions about pro-life credibility

Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2009 (CNA) - Though U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH)’s pro-life credibility has been described as ‘crumbled’ by a leading Democratic pro-life group, some supporters of “common ground” efforts to reduce abortion are still introducing him as a pro-life politician.

Kristen Day, President of Democrats for Life of America (DFLA), wrote in a July 16 essay on Catholic Online that pro-life Democrats have been “proud” of Rep. Ryan, who has in the past served on DFLA’s national advisory board.

However, she wrote, Rep. Ryan’s formerly pro-life record has become “more and more pro-abortion,” possibly because of his aspirations to statewide office in Ohio.

“After his last vote in favor of taxpayer funded abortions, his credibility as a pro-life legislator has crumbled with the national pro-life community,” Day added.

Rep. Ryan recently voted against a proposal to consider the Tiahart-Davis Amendment, which would have preserved a federal funding ban on abortions in the District of Columbia.

Day explained that DFLA was forced to “quietly” remove Rep. Ryan from their advisory board last year.

“DFLA gave Congressman Ryan ample opportunities to prove he’s committed to protecting life but he has turned his back on the community at every turn,” she added.

“For now, pro-life Democrats have lost a promising, rising star to the pro-choice movement,” her essay concluded, noting that he would be welcomed back if he returned to a pro-life stand.

In a July 17 Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post, Fred Rotondaro, chairman of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and Thomas P. Melady, a member of the group’s advisory council, advocated legislation proposed by Rep. Ryan, whom they described as “pro-life.”

Discussing the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor, Rotondaro and Melady criticized “culture-war theatrics” that “do nothing to support pregnant women.” They claimed it was time to end the United States’ “divisive abortion battles.”

The two endorsed legislation by “pro-life” Rep. Ryan and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) that had as its goal “reducing the number of abortions.”

Their letter did not mention the place of the unborn child in the abortion debate.

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Catholic medical clinic offers solution to health crisis

Madison, Wis., Jul 21, 2009 (CNA) - As President Obama urges Congress to pass health care reform legislation by August, a medical clinic in Madison, Wisconsin is offering a novel way to address medical needs by offering free care for the uninsured. Patients with insurance only pay a single yearly fee for their care at Our Lady of Hope Clinic.

When Drs. Michael Kloess and Anne Volk Johnson became unhappy with the medical system in which they worked, they decided to found Our Lady of Hope Clinic.  Their goal was to start a clinic where they could minister to the poor while being free to practice their Catholic faith fully.

Our Lady of Hope Clinic is “totally pro-life and totally Catholic,” developmental director Steven Karlen told CNA. “So they don’t have to dispense birth control, they don’t have to refer for sterilizations or in-vitro or abortion or anything of that nature. They can practice in complete accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

The ability for doctors to freely practice their Catholic faith is currently being challenged throughout the country as lawmakers debate whether or not to exempt workers from performing abortions, prescribing contraceptives, or participating in other activities that violate their consciences.

At Our Lady of Hope, Kloess and Johnson are able to live out their faith by practicing  the corporal works of mercy and providing free care for the uninsured, particularly the “working poor,” those who are employed but do not have insurance through their jobs and cannot afford it on their own.

According to their by-laws, at least 50% of the care given at Our Lady of Hope will go to the uninsured, who can come in on a day-by-day walk-in basis and will receive no billing or other charges. 

Treatment of the uninsured is funded by the clinic’s benefactors, clients who pay a once-a-year fee to receive unlimited concierge-style primary care.  For a single person, the annual fee is about $1,200.  In the case of married couples and children discounts are given, with no additional charges after three children.

For this fee, benefactors receive unlimited access to the clinic. Whether they are coming in for a simple physical or for a condition that requires a weekly visit, there are no additional charges beyond the set annual rate.

The number of benefactors will be limited to 300 per provider in order to ensure less waiting and more access to personalized quality time with a doctor.

Karlen explained to CNA that this system benefits not only the uninsured, but also the paying clients, “particularly those who have control in purchasing their insurance.” These people, such as the self-employed or small-business owners, “can very often save money by dropping a more comprehensive plan and switching to a high deductable or catastrophic major medical sort of plan, and then using the clinic for their primary care.”

Others who just like the idea of the Catholic clinic make the contribution and become benefactors in addition to their normal insurance plans, he added.

While every benefactor must have insurance for cases outside of primary care, such as hospitalization or referrals to a specialist, Our Lady of Hope does not bill any insurance at all, Karlen continued, noting that the money that would be spent on insurance claims and billing is instead used to treat the clinic’s uninsured patients.

As they started the clinic, Drs. Kloess and Johnson found a model in St. Luke’s Family Practice, a similar organization in Modesto, California, and currently the only other full-time clinic of this type in the country.

Our Lady of Hope Clinic opened in Wisconsin on April 1 to benefactors, and on June 1, it began treating the uninsured free of charge.

Now, the clinic is working to raise awareness of what they offer and increase their number of benefactors.  Both doctors currently work part-time as volunteers, spending half the week at the clinic and the other half at their previous practices so they can make money to support their families. 

Once they have a larger base of benefactors, they will be able to work for pay full-time at Our Lady of Hope.

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Benedict XVI calls on Tour de France cyclists to use sports to build moral character

Les Combes, Italy, Jul 21, 2009 (CNA) - Tour de France competitors entered the 16th stage today, winding through the Italian and Swiss Alps and bringing cyclists near the village where Pope Benedict is vacationing.  Aware of the athletes’ presence, he sent them a message challenging them to let sports form their character, especially in the realm of “moral and educational values.”

 

After a rest day on Monday, the world's greatest cyclists began a grueling mountain stage on Tuesday. The 16th stage of the tour, it stretches from Martigny to Bourg-Saint-Maurice, France, a distance of almost 100 miles.

 

The Tour will pass by the Italian Alpine town of Introd, which is near the Pope's vacation spot in Les Combes. Although the papal vacation doesn't usually make headlines, last Thursday evening Pope Benedict slipped and fractured his right wrist, an injury that required minor surgery to correct.

 

Today however, the message from the chalet was of an entirely different tenor.

 

The Vatican's press director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, announced that on the “occasion of the passage of the Tour de France in the Valle d'Aosta, the Holy Father … addresses his cordial greetings to all the athletes and to the organizers of the race, at the same time extending his thoughts to all sports men and women currently involved in various activities and competitions.”

 

Benedict XVI, Lombardi said, hopes that “involvement in sport may contribute to the integral development of the person, and that it may never be separated from respect for moral and educational values."

 

Currently, Spaniard Alberto Contador is in the lead, with American teammate Lance Armstrong in second place, one minute and 37 seconds behind.

The Tour will finish on the Champs Elysees in Paris on Sunday.

 

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Drug traffickers issue death threats against three Mexican bishops

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 21, 2009 (CNA) - The spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, Father Hugo Valdemar, told reporters this week that three bishops in Michoacan have received death threats from drug trafficking gangs.
 
“There is news that three bishops and several priests in Michoacan have been threatened.  Generally these things are not made public but it is obvious that wherever drug traffickers are operating, the criminals see these people as their enemies,” the priest said.
 
He went on to note that for now the bishops have not requested extra protection even though they are living with anxiety and insecurity and that each one would determine whether or not increased security would be necessary.
 
Last week the bishops of Michoacan called for an end to the violence sweeping the region. 
 
“If there is not a united front by the government to combat crime this war will be lost,” Father Valdemar asserted.  “There are certain aspects that must be protected. The Church has always said that this war cannot take place at the cost of human rights.  The rule of law must be preserved, but reforms are needed in order to more effectively combat this urgent problem,” he said.

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Italian socialist praises new way forged by Benedict XVI

Rome, Italy, Jul 21, 2009 (CNA) - In an article published by L’Osservatore Romano, the Italian politician, historian and journalist, Giuseppe Tamburrado, who led the Italian Socialist Party from 1966-1981, praised the new social encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI for addressing the real needs of humanity.
 
Tamburrano begins his article by presenting himself as a Socialist and a Christian and then criticizing the recent G-8 Summit which was held in L’Aquila, Italy for being nothing more than a “useful exchange of opinions” with no real concrete proposals for economic reform. 

He noted that the global economic crisis has impacted the poor especially and that up to now there has been no “antagonist” to the crisis.
 
In this context, he continued, “the voice of the Pope has been heard with Caritas in veritate and his call to the G-8 on July 12.  In “Rerum novarum, Leo XIII distinguished between two dominant contenders—liberalism and socialism—and affirmed the superiority of a solid economy at the service of the human person.  With Mater et magistra, the Church of John XXIII, aware of its strong authority, opened itself to dialogue, above all with one of the contenders: that of socialism.”
 
With Benedict XVI, Tamburrano continued, its “neither socialism nor liberalism.  But he is faced with an unjust and jagged economic system that ignores the tragedies of misery, hunger, illiteracy, infant mortality, inequality, war between the poor, fanaticism, racism, human and drug trafficking: the list is long.”
 
“Liberalism has failed leaving behind immense injustices.  Socialism is no more,” he said.

“Is the Church really the only one able to call for a truly humane economy and to give voice to the marginalized of the earth, as well as to the imperative of equal dignity for all men, all women and all children?” Tamburrano asked.

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Orthodox Union rejects booklet alleging Vatican support for Hezbollah

New York City, N.Y., Jul 21, 2009 (CNA) - The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America has clarified circumstances surrounding the distribution to Israeli soldiers of a booklet that claimed the Pope and Vatican support the anti-Semitic goals of Hezbollah. The Orthodox Union rescinded the endorsement of the booklet and rejected any connection to it.

On July 19, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported on the booklet, “On Either Side of the Border,” which had been distributed to members of the Israel Defense Forces.  According to the report, one of the book’s publishers was the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

In a statement provided to CNA, the Orthodox Union explained on Tuesday that “this endorsement was made by staff at the OU’s Israel branch office, and was never submitted to, nor approved by, senior Orthodox Union management.”

The Orthodox Union went on to say that it “rescinds the endorsement of the book and disavows any connection to the views expressed in it.”  It also stated that an internal review of the incident has been ordered to help “ensure that such a situation is not repeated.”

“While the Haaretz report certainly sensationalized the book’s contents, there is no doubt that some of what it contains is antithetical to the well-known views of the OU regarding respect for other faiths and their leaders.”

“The Orthodox Union expresses its sincere regret to those of other faiths who may have been embarrassed or offended by the publication of this work,” the statement concluded.

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Surgery on Pope’s wrist was best solution, says Father Lombardi

Rome, Italy, Jul 21, 2009 (CNA) - In response to criticism in the Italian press of the small operation performed on Pope Benedict XVI to repair a fractured wrist, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the surgery was “the best and most reasonable solution possible and there is no reason to be concerned.”
 
After noting that the Holy Father would still preside at the recitation of vespers with priests from the Diocese of Aosta on Friday, July 24, Father Lombardi said, “The kind of surgery that was performed and its methods were determined after careful reflection by the competent individuals, keeping in mind—as is right and usual—the direct knowledge of the patient and the concrete circumstances.”
 
Speaking on Vatican Radio, he said some in the media who have questioned the decision to perform surgery on the Pope were not privy to “determining factors of direct knowledge of the patient, of his situation and the circumstances in which he found himself, which are decisive elements in the case of a surgery like the one that was carried out.” 
 
“We can be confident that in this concrete situation, [the surgery carried out] was the best and most reasonable solution possible and that there is no reason to be concerned,” the Vatican spokesman said.

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Bolivian bishops respond to attacks by President Evo Morales

La Paz, Bolivia, Jul 21, 2009 (CNA) - In a recent statement the secretary-general of the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Jesus Juarez, responded to claims by President Evo Morales that Catholics are divided. The Church is one, he said, while emphasizing that the hierarchy places itself “at the service of building the Kingdom of God.”
 
Speaking on behalf of the bishops, Bishop Juarez said, “This vision of faith and of common sense that is rooted in our people is far away from the defeated ideologies that see religion as a threat to their own plans to achieve power.”
 
After pointing out that the Catholic Church “teaches that prayer facilitates a process of interior liberation” and helps to build up a more just society through non-violent means, the bishop said, “The Catholic Church in Bolivia has been the target of criticism and accusations, both in times of dictatorship and of democracy, for not being properly understood and for trying to remain faithful to the commandment of love she has received from Jesus Christ, which often makes her a sign of contradiction in today’s world, just like her Master.”
 
History should be read responsibly “with its lights and its shadows,” Bishop Juarez insisted. Bolivians should approach history with an openness to learn from the errors of the past and to look towards the future with confidence, “beyond the anchors of bitterness and resentment,” he added.
 
Bishop Juarez also reiterated the unity of the Church against attempts to create division between the laity and the bishops.  “The Catholic Church affirms her unity, because she constitutes the one People of God, composed of bishops, priests, religious and laity,” he said. 
 
He finished his remarks by expressing the solidarity of the Bolivian bishops with the Bishops of Honduras, while also calling on the faithful to pray for the Honduran people, “who are experiencing difficult times, that they may find the path to dialogue, reconciliation, peace and unity.”

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Cardinal Canizares slams Spanish abortion law

Aranjuez, Spain, Jul 21, 2009 (CNA) - The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, asserted on Monday that Spain’s laws, which “must protect the defenseless, are being used today to eliminate those who are weak, innocent and defenseless.”
 
During remarks at King Juan Carlos University, Cardinal Canizares said, “Medicine must be for curing and not for killing.  Laws must serve to protect the defenseless but they are being used to kill these human beings.  The present situation reminds us precisely of the gravity of abortion, a reality that reflects so many things. 

“Without a doubt nothing else more clearly manifests the crisis of humanity we are suffering,” he said.
 
Abortion is a “very grave” problem, he said, and humanity needs to be aware that the greatest crisis we are suffering is the “47 million legal abortions” that, according to the World Organization of Health, take place each year. “This is something unprecedented in the history of humanity,” the cardinal noted.
 
Regarding the question of the excommunication of health care workers who perform abortions, Cardinal Canizares reminded that there is such a thing as “immediate excommunication.”  “This practice is a crime, the killing of a human life, an innocent, weak and defenseless human being.  Is there any other greater atrocity?” he asked.

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Obama made same abortion comments to Pope and Planned Parenthood, spokesman states

Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2009 (CNA) - White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has said that President Barack Obama made the same comments to Pope Benedict XVI that he made to Planned Parenthood in 2007 concerning reductions in the numbers of abortions.

In a Monday conversation with CNSNews.com, the news reporter referred to President Obama’s visit to the Vatican, saying “he reportedly told the Pope that he would work to and do all he could to reduce the number of abortions.”

Gibbs then interrupted: “I think he said -- he said that in a speech to Planned Parenthood in 2007, so yes.”
During President Obama’s meeting with Pope Benedict earlier this month, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said, the president made a “very explicit” promise to work to reduce the number of abortions.

“The pontiff told me that President Obama affirmed his personal commitment to try to reduce the number of abortions in the United States,” Lombardi remarked, according to Vatican Radio.

Speaking to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in a July 17, 2007 speech as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, Obama criticized the U.S. Supreme Court Decision Gonzales v. Carhart and pledged to sign the Freedom of Choice Act.

He also promoted a “common ground” approach to abortion in the context of promoting contraceptive use.
Speaking about a “moral component” to the prevention of disease and pregnancy,  he said parents need to encourage young people to “show reverence towards sexuality and intimacy.”

“But even as we are teaching those lessons, we should never be willing to consign a teenage girl to a lifetime of struggle because of a lack of access to birth control or a lifetime of illness because she doesn’t understand how to protect herself,” he added. “That’s just commonsense. There’s common ground on behalf of commonsense—there we have an opportunity to move forward and agree.”

CNSNews.com also asked Gibbs whether reducing abortions would mean supporting an amendment by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that would prohibit federal funds going to abortion.

Gibbs responded by saying that he had not seen the Hatch amendment. He said the president believes current policy for Medicaid such as the Hyde amendment prohibits federal funding for abortions.

In the Obama administration’s view, Gibbs said, a medical benefit package is “better left to experts in the medical field to determine how best and what procedures to cover.”

On Fox News Sunday, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said abortion funding would end up being “part of the debate” about the final health care bill.

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