Archive of July 23, 2009

Critic says values in Education for the Citizenry are at the root of sexual violence

Madrid, Spain, Jul 23, 2009 (CNA) - The secretary general of Professional for Ethics, Fabian Fernandez de Alarcon, has echoed the sentiments of Spain’s Minister of Education, Angel Gabilondo, who said he is worried about recent sexual assaults on young girls by adult men and boys. The secretary general warned that the moral relativism promoted by “Education for the Citizenry” is the fundamental cause of such acts.
“These terrible incidents have multiple causes but the fundamental one is moral relativism, the absence of references about what is good and what is evil and the lack of limits, especially in sexual relations,” Fernandez de Alarcon said.
For this reason, he asked Minister Gabilondo if the school course recommended by his ministry “that incites 12 year-old adolescents to engage in sexual activity is really the best type of formation for young people.”
Fernandez de Alarcon pointed to page 41 of the new edition of “Education for the Citizenry,” which states that “most of the so-called ‘sexual perversions’ are meaningless, as, in the end they are no different from other forms of conduct.”
He warned that the material imparted in the course does not encourage students to value fidelity, commitment and the comprehensive development of the person, and that, rather, it promotes a culture that places selfish desire above everything else.
For this reason he called on the promoters of Education for the Citizenship to serious self-criticism and to keep ideology out of education.

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Catholic nurse forced to participate in abortion, lawsuit filed

New York City, N.Y., Jul 23, 2009 (CNA) - The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Catholic nurse who was forced to participate in an abortion, despite voicing her moral objections.

Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, was instructed to assist in a late second-trimester abortion for a woman 22 weeks into her pregnancy.  The hospital had known of the nurse’s religious objections to abortion since she was hired in 2004.

Cenzon-DeCarlo reminded her supervisors of her religious objections, but was told that if she did not participate, she would be charged with “insubordination and patient abandonment,” which could result in disciplinary action and the possible loss of her job and nursing license.

Hospital officials told Cenzon-DeCarlo that the situation was an “emergency,” although evidence suggests that this was not the case.  The hospital itself labeled the case as a “Category II,” meaning that the operation needed to take place within six hours.  This would have allowed enough time to find another nurse without moral objections to assisting in the abortion, her lawyers said.

Matt Bowman, legal counsel for the ADF, explained that the hospital could not legally have required the nurse to participate in the abortion even if the case had been a “Category I,” meaning that the patient required “immediate surgical intervention for life or limb threatening conditions.”  Federal statutes prohibit recipients of federal health funds from requiring employees to perform abortions, Bowman told CNA.

However, the evidence in the case suggested that the patient was not even at the “Category II” level, as the hospital had claimed.  When the woman was brought into the room, Cenzon-DeCarlo observed no indications that the case was a medical emergency.  The woman’s blood pressure was not at a crisis level, and standard procedures for patients in crisis had not been taken.  Yet the nurse was still required to aid in the abortion.

When CNA contacted Mount Sinai, officials refused to comment or explain why the nurse was asked to participate in the abortion. Officials stated that they would not comment because a lawsuit is pending.

Now, the ADF has filed a lawsuit against Mount Sinai for violating Cenzon-DeCarlo’s rights of conscience. 

According to Bowman, this scenario is not unique.  “We’re seeing more and more cases where pro-life health workers are facing requirements to assist in abortions against their rights of conscience,” he said.

Earlier this month, President Obama promised that a “robust conscience clause” would be forthcoming, but critics are skeptical after his earlier decision to repeal conscience provisions put in place by the Bush administration. 

However, Bowman remains hopeful about the case. “We’re going to fight so that pro-life nurses are not forced to assist in abortions,” he said.  “This is a battle we have to win.”

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U.K. offers atheist summer camp

London, England, Jul 23, 2009 (CNA) - The Richard Dawkins Foundation is sponsoring a "free-thinking" summer camp in Britain this month that discourages faith and religious belief.

While Camp Quest U.K. claims that it is "open to all" and does not promote a nonreligious agenda, statements by the camp’s leaders and on the website admit to teaching children atheism and trying to disprove religion.

Camp Quest was founded in the United States by Kentucky Eagle Scout Edwin Kagin and his wife, Helen, as a summer camp for "free-thinkers." The first session of Camp Quest was held in 1996 with 20 campers. This year, there will be about 150 campers across six locations nationwide. In addition, Britain will be introducing Camp Quest U.K. for the first time this summer.

The camp, which is scheduled to take place the last week of July, just south of Bath, England, will include normal summer camp activities, such as archery, climbing, canoeing and a ropes course, but will also feature games and activities that challenge traditional religious beliefs.

In an NPR interview, Amanda Metskas, president of the board of Camp Quest Inc. explained that Camp Quest was created as an opportunity for "kids from free-thinking families" to do "all the traditional camp activities" while also learning about principles promoted by "famous freethinkers throughout history."

Metskas denied that the point of the camp is "proselytizing for non-belief," calling it a "misconception" about the camp. "We try really hard not to denigrate anyone’s belief system," she said, citing one camp employee, a PhD candidate in religious studies, who gives talks about world religions "from a very objective" perspective.

"We don’t tell kids that they have to be atheists," Metskas continued. "We tell them to be skeptical of claims that don’t have evidence and to ask questions." She went on to say that the goal of the camp is to "encourage kids to think for themselves, to explore the world around them, to learn about all sorts of different ideas, and to come to their own conclusions."

But despite these repeated assertions, evidence to the contrary abounds. Camp Quest of Minnesota declares in its statements of principles that it deplores efforts to "seek to explain the world in supernatural terms" and to "look outside nature for salvation."

In addition, Metskas said that the camp is designed to help children explain and defend their atheistic beliefs. Each day, campers are taught about prominent atheists and other figures who expressed skepticism about religion.

Similarly, the British version of Camp Quest, new this year, has claimed that it is "not designed to rival ‘faith-based breaks’." At the same time, however, Camp Quest U.K. advertises itself as a "godless alternative" to traditional religious summer camps.

Samantha Stein first read about Camp Quest in a footnote of Richard Dawkin’s book, "The God Delusion," and became curious. After learning more about it, she volunteered as a camp counselor for a week. "I immediately felt part of a big family of atheists and other nonbelievers, so I knew that I was onto something good," she said.

Now, Stein, who is currently studying for a Masters in Religion and Contemporary Society at King’s College in London, is directing the inaugural year of Camp Quest UK.

The goal, according to Stein, is to "take science out of the classroom and get the kids to look at trees and smell the dirt and look at the stars themselves and really make it something that’s quite hands-on and practical."

Statements on the camp’s website, however, would suggest that the goal is to promote antireligious beliefs.

Like its American counterpart, Camp Quest U.K. claims that it does not try to spread atheist beliefs to its campers, but simply offers the children the "tools to go off and come to their own conclusions about a wide range of topics."

However, the upcoming U.K. camp’s description of its activities seem to be far from objective and unbiased on the matter of religion, including references to "debunking creationism" and using "examples from religions when talking about errors in critical thinking."

The Camp U.K. website claims, "There is no ‘atheist dogma’ or agenda" and says that the camp will "welcome children from families who may hold any religious belief."

However, the website also states, "Campers are taught that ethical behavior is not dependent on religious belief and doctrines" and that "religious belief and doctrines are sometimes a hindrance to ethical and moral behavior."

One prominent feature of both the American and British versions of Camp Quest is The Invisible Unicorns Challenge. Throughout the course of the week, counselors repeatedly refer to two unicorns that live at the camp. There is no physical evidence for these unicorns, but an ancient book, which the campers are never allowed to see, offers proof of their existence.

At the end of the camp, campers are challenged to prove that the unicorns do not exist. If they succeed in doing so, they will win a godless 100-dollar-bill, printed from a time prior to 1957 when In God We Trust was not printed on American money.

In the U.K. version of Camp Quest, campers will win a £10 note with a picture of Charles Darwin and signed by Richard Dawkins. Since the challenge was first offered in 1996, no one has successfully proven that the unicorns do not exist.

Camp Quest U.K. is scheduled to run July 27-31. The campsite capacity is 48 campers and, according to the website, the camp is fully booked.

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Holy Father to bless faithful of Aosta, will preside over Vespers

Vatican City, Jul 23, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican press office has announced that tomorrow evening, Pope Benedict will preside at Vespers in both English and Italian at the cathedral of Aosta, Italy.


Following Vespers, the Holy Father is scheduled to give a homily before emerging on the cathedral’s balcony to bless the faithful present. On the return journey to his holiday villa at Les Combes, he will stop to greet the elderly at the retirement home of Introd.


Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., who is currently in Les Combes, has announced that Benedict XVI "is well and in good spirits. He is using a tape recorder to dictate his ideas as he finds it difficult to wield a pen, his right hand being in plaster because of his broken wrist."


Fr. Lombardi also indicated that the Holy Father takes two daily walks near the chalet in which he is staying, one after lunch and the other in the evening.


The press office director also explained that the Pope "makes regular phone calls to his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger who, in a few day's time, will travel to Castelgandolfo to spend four weeks with the Pope."


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Life-sized model of fetus named after Spanish minister who said unborn babies not human at 13 weeks

Madrid, Spain, Jul 23, 2009 (CNA) - A group of Spanish professionals are using life-sized models of a 13 week-old fetus to respond to statements by the country’s Minister of Equality, Bibiana Aido, who said in an interview that fetuses at that stage of development are alive but are not human beings.

The group is offering replicas of the "Aido Baby" through its website to help raise awareness about the development of the unborn during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy.

"Its real size is 5-6 centimeters and all of its organs have already been formed. It only needs to mature and grow," the group said.

On May 19, Minister of Equality, Bibiana Aido, said that a 13 week-old fetus is alive "but is not a human being, because there is no scientific basis for such a claim."

However, organizers of the campaign said science has demonstrated that "human life begins at conception. Every manual of human embryology states that the zygote is already an unrepeatable human being, unique in its species, a different being from the mother and the father."

In addition, they said, at 12 weeks a fetus has a full-formed head, eyes, arms, legs, hands, feet and heart. "It can feel as its nervous system is well-developed," said Fatima Navarro-Rubio, a spokeswoman for the campaign.

"We have made thousands of ‘Aido Babies’ so that people in Spain can determine with their own hands whether or not the 12 week-old baby that some don’t want to protect is a human being," she added.

The money raised by the campaign will be used to help women in troubled pregnancies.

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‘The Passion’ producer speaks about faith and the art of entertainment

CNA STAFF, Jul 23, 2009 (CNA) -

In a Wednesday evening conference call Steve McEveety, producer of movies such as "The Passion of the Christ" and "Bella," spoke about his Hollywood career, his faith, and how aspiring filmmakers can advance in the entertainment industry. He also discussed the production of movies such as "Braveheart," "The Passion" and "The Stoning of Soraya M."

McEveety, a founder of Mpower Pictures, was interviewed by Sean Wolfington, founder of Positive Media and co-owner of Metanoia Films. Members of the media, aspiring young moviemakers and interested laymen listened in and then asked questions in the call’s final segment.

Discussing his early years in Hollywood as a child actor, McEveety described himself as a "movie brat" between ages seven and twelve. Later, he took a job as a production assistant and "did work nobody else wanted to do" as he "climbed the ladder" in the entertainment industry. He also worked as an extra and a stand-in during the summers between his studies in film at Loyola Marymount University.

McEveety then told of the problems he faced helping to produce "Braveheart," the 1995 film about Scottish hero William Wallace. It was difficult to find a location where horses could safely run, while Irish extras had to be found.

However, he said, the movie helped him perfect his filmmaking abilities in a collaborative effort with "a great crew, a great cast."

"The more experience you have, the better you get," he remarked, adding that he enjoyed hearing people say it was their favorite movie.

He described "Braveheart" star and director Mel Gibson as a prankster with "a great sense of humor." He said Gibson was a "great storyteller" and a "brilliant filmmaker" who understands the medium.

Turning to another Gibson-directed movie "The Passion of the Christ," McEveety said publicity for the movie he produced was "painful" and had "spun out of control."

"We were in defensive mode the entire time, trying to get a distributor when nobody would do it and trying to stay out of the newspapers for a year hoping to just survive. It wasn’t to be, but fortunately for us it was constantly in the press for months and months before it opened."

"We were hating every moment of it. We thought it was going to kill us."

Discussing strange phenomena during filming the movie, McEveety noted that people including Jim Caviezel, who starred as Jesus, were struck by lightning and that people’s family members were getting "cured."

McEveety told the conference call that he and his family understood their faith "completely differently" after the movie was finished.

"It opened our eyes to a spiritual world that we didn’t realize was so prominent in this world. I now see clearly that here is a spiritual war going on… we’re expected to be part of that battle."

"I was completely blessed to be part of it all, and blessed to survive it all," he remarked.

Though a few Catholic bishops, such as Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput, had supported the film immediately, producers of "The Passion" had difficulty finding traction among other bishops and took their pre-release promotional campaign to Evangelical churches.

The campaign was wildly successful, helping the movie become the most profitable independent production in history.

In the conference call McEveety also discussed his latest movie, "The Stoning of Soraya M," a drama based on a real-life execution of an innocent Iranian woman accused of adultery. He said the film, perhaps the "most unique" he had ever helped make, was about "women’s rights and human rights and the abuse of power."

"It’s about abuse, and about the abuser, from a part of the world that we try to ignore," he continued. "This needs to be brought to the surface, but hopefully we look at ourselves as well through this film.

"It may never be a big blockbuster but, boy, am I glad I made it."

He said the effort helped "empower" the Iranian man who wanted to tell the story in the Farsi-language movie, made largely by a "great crew" of American-Iranians.

"It’s their story. We just helped them make it the best that can be made."

The film’s capstone stoning sequence was "particularly difficult" to shoot, he explained. Local villagers in the Middle Eastern country where the film was made were unclear about what the filmmakers were doing.

When some villagers were asked to join in the stoning as extras, McEveety remarked, a couple of them went up to the actor playing the mullah and asked if the "execution" had the number of witnesses required by law.

The actor, not knowing how to respond, said they did. According to the filmmaker, the villagers "were okay with that."

"They didn’t have any problem joining in the stoning at that point, which was really a statement unto itself."

McEveety said that fans of "The Stoning of Soraya M." were inadvertently discouraging viewers by warning about its disturbing content. He encouraged fans to recommend the movie "without reservation."

Describing his upcoming films to the conference call listeners, McEveety said he was working on a promising family film titled "Snowmen" and a couple of comedies. One is about a father who thinks he is a secret agent.

A movie on Our Lady of Guadalupe is also in the works.

He also reported that he is developing a movie "Left to Tell," based on the book by Rwandan genocide survivor Immaculee Ilibagiza.

Speaking in a June interview with Christianity Today’s Peter T. Chattaway, McEveety said the film is about "forgiveness" and "spiritual warfare."

He explained he was attracted to how Immaculee could forgive the people who "have slaughtered in the most violent way her family members, her most loved ones in the world."

One young aspiring filmmaker on Tuesday’s conference call asked McEveety for advice about working in Hollywood as a Catholic.

"You need to build your resume before you’re really going to have a good impact," he commented. "Concentrate on entertaining, learning your craft as well as you can, knowing that at some time in the future you’ll be able to control your destiny a little bit."

"I wouldn’t get too hung up on trying to save the world at 23. You have to have done something before anyone pays attention to you."

He advised hard work and suggested that sometimes it’s what a filmmaker takes away from a story rather than adds that makes an impact. For instance, changing a subplot where a girl originally gets an abortion in favor of a "better idea" can end up "probably saving many many lives" without anyone knowing it except God and the filmmakers.

"Perfect your craft and be as entertaining as you possibly can," McEveety advised his questioner. "You’ll be in the right position to do something really important someday."

Positive Media accepts scripts and solicits internship applications at its website,

The full interview can be accessed here:

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Fifteen formerly homeless veterans organize food drive

Denver, Colo., Jul 23, 2009 (CNA) - Men living at St. Joseph’s Veterans Home in Denver, Colorado are coordinating an August 7 - 8 food drive to assist those in need.

The drive, organized by 15 formerly homeless veterans, will benefit the Catholic Charities Community/Emergency Assistance Centers.

Food collection will take place at St. Joseph’s Polish Church in Denver both days from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Patti Carr, site manager of the Byers Place Emergency Assistance Center, noted that food donations are usually much lower throughout the summer months.


"We’ve seen the demand for food baskets increase from 500 baskets a month at each center to about 1,000 baskets a month.  Here in the metro-area, the number of individuals and families that need help is extremely high" she explained in a press release.

Items with a long shelf life are high on the priority list including: peanut butter, jelly, pasta, tomato sauce, canned vegetables, rice, beans, cereal, canned and dry soups, tuna and macaroni and cheese.

The veterans are also asking for personal items to distribute such as: shampoo, bar soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, laundry detergent, diapers and baby wipes.

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Dr. Alveda King demands abortion be excluded from health care bill

Washington D.C., Jul 23, 2009 (CNA) -

The niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will take a stand Monday with other African American pro-life leaders in Washington to demand that abortion be barred from any health care legislation.


"Our message is clear – abortion is neither health care nor a benefit. It's genocide," said Dr. Alveda King in a press release.


Dr. King is scheduled to join other African American pro-life leaders on Monday at 10 a.m. in front of the Cannon House Office Building to calling for abortion and Planned Parenthood to be excluded from the health care overhaul.


"Give us procreative reproductive rights. Repair our communities with life affirming programs. My fellow civil rights workers and I will be on Capitol Hill to say that if President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, or anyone else truly wants to reduce the number of abortions, they will not coerce Americans to pay for them and they will not subsidize Planned Parenthood, the billion-dollar business that has killed more black children than the KKK," King charged.

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Cardinal Zen denounces ‘false interpretation’ of Benedict XVI’s letter to Chinese

Rome, Italy, Jul 23, 2009 (CNA) - The bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, this week denounced the "false interpretation" of Benedict XVI’s 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics, which has resulted due to the restrictions imposed and maintained on the document by the Chinese communist government.

According to Vatican analyst Sandro Magister, the papal letter has been misunderstood "in favor of the communist authorities, and their plan to subjugate the Church."

Magister reports on the assessment Cardinal Zen has made of the letter in which he says, "The Patriotic Association has prohibited its distribution. A number of priests who distributed it have been arrested. The Chinese websites that posted it have had to remove it. The complete Mandarin language version of it on the Vatican website is still inaccessible in China."

"It was also difficult and complicated to have a follow-up letter, from Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, delivered personally to every bishop in China. In some cases this took months. Nor did this letter - the contents of which were ambivalent, in Cardinal Zen's view - help to bring clarity," Magister writes.

He goes on to the note that in the judgment of Cardinal Zen, "The most serious misunderstanding of the guidelines given by Benedict XVI concerned - again, in Cardinal Zen's view - the question of official recognition on the part of the communist authorities. Many interpreted the Pope's letter as a binding order to the ‘underground’ communities and bishops to come out of hiding and ask for government recognition."

Cardinal Zen maintains that the "fundamental reality is that the government has kept its policy substantially unchanged, a policy that aims at enslaving the whole Church. That is why we have to witness such a painful spectacle: bishops and priests who, thinking they are obeying the Holy Father, make enormous efforts to come to terms with the government; many of these, faced by the unacceptable conditions imposed by the government, draw back."

"The government, on its part, has presented itself as an enthusiastic executor of the will of the Pope, declaring itself the promoter of [Church] unity, evidently a unity under the total control of the government inside the iron-tight structure of an independent Church," Cardinal Zen says.

To head off this collapse, Cardinal Zen fought strenuously in recent months to have Rome issue a "Compendium" of clarifications on Benedict XVI's letter. He called on Chinese Catholics to attentively read the compendium and said it is right to want to operate freely and openly, "but unfortunately," he writes, echoing the Pope's words, "'almost always' it is impossible to do so since conditions are imposed on us which are not compatible with our Catholic conscience."


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Religious sisters help others to ‘fall in love with Jesus’

Steubenville, Ohio, Jul 23, 2009 (CNA) - Earlier this month, religious sisters gathered from over 20 orders not only to learn how to draw closer to Christ in their own lives, but to lead others to Him as well.

The sisters gathered in Steubenville, Ohio July 14-16 for Franciscan University’s Religious Sisters Conference. "The Religious Sisters Conference usually gets me fired up and ready to go out until 365 days later when I come on back," said Sister Mary Michael Mackey of the Doors of St. Dominic in Steubenville. 

According to a press release from the university, one speaker, author Ralph Martin explained to the sisters that their call to holiness must be a gift to others.

He said, "[When] people come and visit [you], rather than just letting them ask about you and your life, ask about them and their lives, with an eye for: What's the Holy Spirit doing? How can I help them come closer [to God]? How can I help them fall in love with Jesus?" Martin said. "You're not just full-time religious for yourself; you're full-time religious to equip the saints for the work of ministry."

Another talk focused on growth and perseverance in prayer. Sister Therese Marie Iglesias, TOR, shared that once when she was she was sick and awake in the middle of the night, she looked out the convent window and saw a solitary deer in the winter snow. If she been asleep she would have missed this exquisite scene, she said, pointing out the marvels that await those who don't "sleep" through their prayer lives.

Sister Therese Marie also emphasized the importance of living for others.

"I didn't become a sister to proclaim to the world that I'm special," she said. "I became a sister to announce to the world that God is in love with you. And when the world sees me, I want them to say, 'I have a God who is head over heels in love with me'."

On the final day of the conference, Steubenville Bishop R. Daniel Conlon celebrated Mass for the sisters, reinforcing in his homily the importance of bringing others to Christ.

"To be able to help others, that is our task; to help others to understand what it means to love Christ," he said.

Following the talks, some sisters shared what they enjoyed the most about the conference.

Sister Virginia Maria Klonowski said, "I enjoy being with the sisters of the different communities. It's not only a social experience, but it's a very spiritual experience, to be with them and see the commonality of our desire to come here."

Sister Mary Helen Forney of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Erie, PA, has been coming to workshops and conferences at Franciscan University for over three decades.

"I've gone every chance I could," she said. "The desire to become a true religious, the desire to know what God is asking, brought me here."

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Calls mount for ‘clear’ prohibition of abortion funding in healthcare legislation

Washington D.C., Jul 23, 2009 (CNA) - Arguing that U.S. taxpayers should not be forced to pay for abortions, almost 70 pro-life organizations have signed a letter to Congress asking that abortion be clearly excluded from proposed health care bills. Others, including a prominent Evangelical ally of President Obama, say that an abortion funding ban should be maintained.

Present health care restructuring proposals, the Thursday letter from the Stop the Abortion Mandate coalition said, pose “a grave danger to the unborn.”

The letter was addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Minority leader John Boehner (R-OH).

Signatories to the letter included Priests for Life President Fr. Frank Pavone, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Democrats for Life of America head Kristen Day, President Brian Burch, Day Gardner of the National Black Pro-Life Union, and Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List.

John F. Brehany of the Catholic Medical Association and Christian Medical Association Senior Vice President Dr. Gene Rudd, M.D. also signed the letter.

“Excluding abortion from public funding is true common ground that all Americans can support,” the letter commented, citing polls that show as many as 70 percent of Americans oppose public funding for abortions.

Referring to President Barack Obama’s stated goal of reducing the number of abortions, the letter said that it is generally agreed that public funding bans on abortion discourage the procedure.

“Yet the draft proposals go even further than just funding abortion with taxpayers’ dollars,” the letter claims. “The proposals ensure that every American will eventually be in a plan that includes abortion.”

According to the letter, the health care bills require individuals to buy health insurance that meets “certain minimum benefits standards” which will be determined by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“History has shown that if the law does not clearly state that abortion is excluded, government agencies and the courts will mandate that abortion be a required benefit,” the letter’s signatories wrote. “Even if the word abortion does not appear in the bill text, abortion will be construed to be a required benefit if it is not excluded.”

Several pro-abortion groups’ comments were then cited as evidence of this danger. The National Abortion Federation has supported health care reform to increase access to “comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion care.” The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Health claims that “basic health care includes abortion services.” NARAL president Nancy Keenan has also voiced optimism about “reproductive health care” being a part of the entire package.

According to the Washington Post, pro-life Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) has charged that the House’s health care legislation contains “a hidden abortion mandate.”

The pro-life groups’ letter also voiced concern about conscience protections for healthcare professionals who decline to perform or refer for abortions.

“Catholic hospitals make up 15-20% of all hospitals in the country. If they are forced to perform abortions under the new government healthcare plan, it is possible that many would close their doors rather than violate the ethical and religious directives of their church,” the letter explained.

“Strong, clear protections for private conscience must be included in any healthcare legislation.”

Without funding bans and other protective measures, the letter argued, healthcare reform will be a “death sentence for thousands of unborn children.”

“The unborn and their mothers deserve better than abortion. There are always two patients, mother and baby. America deserves a health care system that respects, protects, and cherishes both,” the letter concluded.

Evangelical minister and Obama supporter Rev. Jim Wallis, who was not among the letter’s signatories, said in a Wednesday statement that abortion should not “doom the chances” of healthcare legislation. He characterized abortion in politics as a “contentious and ultimately unproductive debate” between “simplified and polarizing positions.”

“Federal funding of abortions is prohibited by current law, and that prohibition should be maintained,” said Rev. Wallis, who also edits the left-wing Sojourners magazine. “Any final legislation should make clear that no private insurance company will be mandated to pay for an abortion, nor should they be prohibited from paying for an abortion. These provisions would maintain the current status quo, and demonstrate how sensible common ground can bring people together.”

According to a press release from the Stop the Abortion Mandate coalition, pro-life leaders had scheduled a “massive” webcast on Thursday night at 9 pm Eastern Time. More information on the webcast is available at


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Patriarch of Jerusalem to speak in London on plight of Holy Land Christians’

Jerusalem, Israel, Jul 23, 2009 (CNA) -

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Archbishop Fouad Twal will be visiting the United Kingdom to speak about the plight of Christians in the Holy Land. A bishop from Pakistan will also speak about the position of Christians in his country.

Patriarch Twal was invited to the September event by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), an international Catholic pastoral charity for persecuted and suffering Christians.

Speaking with ACN from Rome, the Patriarch said he looked forward to his visit.

"It will be an opportunity to share with so many friends the sufferings and joys that we experience in the land of Christ."

He told ACN the visit would build on the success of Pope Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During the pontiff’s visit, the Pope pleaded with Christians not to emigrate.

Forty years ago Christians in the Holy Land made up 20 percent of the population, but now they comprise less than 1.5 percent.

Patriarch Twal emphasized that poverty and discrimination against Christians persists in the region.

"If only the faithful are given the chance to lead a normal life, they will stay in the Holy Land. As long as they cannot lead a normal life, they will be tempted to leave."

The Patriarch also thanked ACN for its support for the faithful in the Middle East.

In related news, Bishop of Faisalabad, Pakistan Joseph Coutts will address ACN’s annual Westminster Event on October 17. He thanked ACN for its ongoing support for the Church amid continuing hardship among Christians and other minorities.

ACN’s U.K. director Neville Kyrke-Smith said it was "critical" that people are informed about what Christians are "enduring for their faith today in the Middle East and Pakistan."

"We are so glad that Patriarch Twal and Bishop Coutts can give us their first-hand testimonies."

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Archbishop encourages Catholics to fight Tasmanian ‘right to die’ bill

Hobart, Tasmania, Jul 23, 2009 (CNA) -

Catholic leaders are working to defeat a proposed "right to die" law in the Australian state of Tasmania, saying it is wrong to end a human life. They also warn that the bill will put Catholic health and hospice institutions at odds with their ethical standards against "euthanasia."

Archbishop of Hobart Adrian Doyle has written to Tasmanian parishes asking Catholics to do all they can to help lobby against the so-called Dying with Dignity Bill.

The archbishop said he will make a submission to the parliamentary inquiry examining the bill and wants other Catholics to do the same, ABC News of Australia reports.

Archbishop Doyle said that any direct intervention to end a human life is morally unacceptable. He added that politicians need to realize the importance of the decision they are to make.

"It's an enormous responsibility for people in parliament to be making laws that will affect the life and life-span and life ending of other people, it's an enormous responsibility," he commented.

According to ABC News, the Church believes the bill will compel Catholic health and elder care homes to act in opposition to Catholic ethics, which prohibits euthanasia.

Archbishop Doyle remarked that those who work in hospitals and aged care homes could also be put in difficult positions by the law.

"As a consequence of what they do, other people might be forced to act in a way that they don't really feel comfortable with, people involved in the medical profession, so they would be placing obligations on them as well," he said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses euthanasia under the Fifth Commandment, "You Shall Not Kill."

"Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible," the Catechism says in Paragraph 2276. "Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons."

The Catechism says such action is "morally unacceptable" and "murderous." It also outlines the specific situations in which life-shortening pain relief may be used and the cases in which medical procedures may be ethically discontinued.

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Congressman Smith warns against phony ‘compromise’ on abortion mandates in Obama health care overhaul

Washington D.C., Jul 23, 2009 (CNA) - Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) released a statement today cautioning Americans to be wary of Congress’ attempts to compromise on abortion funding and expressed concern that any alteration in the language of the proposed authentic pro-life amendments may leave room for ambiguity allowing millions more abortions.

"Just as Americans are beginning to more fully appreciate and more fully understand the colossal threat posed by Obamacare to the culture of life including a massive expansion of abortion and rationing for the sick and frail elderly, some in Congress are now trying to cobble together a phony ‘compromise’ on abortion mandates, and abortion funding," the congressman began. "While we have yet to see the language, please beware."

The congressman advised that if the past is any guide, Americans "need to be exceedingly wary and alert concerning bogus legislative language that purports to be pro-life."

"I simply don’t believe President Obama when he says, as he again repeated a couple of days ago, that he wants to reduce abortion. With all due respect, that’s just not true! President Obama has since his inauguration—and with Obamacare is again promoting abortion, and if we fail millions of children will die."

Smith then stated that we "know what has to be done and we’re trying to do it. The authentically pro-life amendments designed to remove the abortion mandate in private insurance plans and bar public funding of abortion in most circumstances are extremely well crafted. Every word in our pro-life amendments has been carefully chosen to ensure that the text cannot be misinterpreted or misconstrued."

However, so far, the amendments have been rejected by two House Committees.

"In the Ways and Means Committee on July 17, Congressman Sam Johnson’s amendment to prevent the abortion mandate lost 18-23 and Congressman Eric Cantor’s amendment to prohibit taxpayer subsides for abortion lost 19-22."

"In Education and Labor, Congressman Mark Souder offered both and lost 19-29."

Though both were rejected, Smith noted that the amendments would be offered in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

"While our pro-life amendments are straightforward, unambiguous and transparent, I am deeply concerned that any change or alteration of either of these pro-life amendments by the Obama team or former pro-lifers like Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio (who just 2 weeks ago voted to force taxpayers to pay for abortion in the District of Columbia) will result in legislative language that President Obama will be able to interpret and construe to mandate abortion coverage in private insurance plans and public funding of abortion," Smith continued.

The congressman explained that since Obama wants to sign the health care bill by the August recess, "we must warn Members of Congress not to be deceived, misled, or bullied into accepting phony abortion bans."

"If we lose this fight or accept inferior, ineffective legislative language, millions of babies--who otherwise would have been born--will die and millions of mothers will be wounded."

Smith then explained what can happen if the wording is not "airtight." He recalled "President Clinton’s reinterpretation of the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Embryo Protection Amendment that stipulates that no taxpayer funds can be used for creating embryos for research or for research in which an ‘embryo is destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.’ In 1999 President Clinton reinterpreted that restriction only to the ‘direct’ destruction of embryos, not embryos that are killed by non-taxpayer funds. They did an end run."

"President Obama recently used the same distorted reinterpretation of law to subsidize the NIH funding for embryo destroying stem cell research, with the flimsy requirement that private dollars are used to kill the embryo."

He went on, "the potential for deceit is high and we must guard against it. I believe we also have to be aware that however unlikely, the Democrat leadership might just let something of substance get added to the House bill to expedite passage, only to rip it out in a House-Senate conference convened later on to iron out the difference between the House and Senate health care reform bills."

"This is the big one, Congressman Smith concluded. "Not since Roe v. Wade have our children and their moms been more at risk."


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