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Archive of August 21, 2009

Forty Days for Life prepares fall campaign in 209 cities

Washington D.C., Aug 21, 2009 (CNA) - The 40 Days for Life campaign is preparing for the launch of its fall campaign in 209 cities in 45 U.S. states, five Canadian provinces and Denmark.

The campaign is to take place from September 23 to November 1. The community-based campaign involves 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion, 24/7 peaceful vigils outside abortion facilities, and grassroots educational outreach.

David Bereit, national director of 40 Days for Life, said the organization was “incredibly encouraged to see record numbers of people in cities across America willing to take a stand.”

He added that participants will “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and seek God's protection for innocent children in the womb -- and mothers -- at risk of abortion.”

Bereit said the campaign takes place at a time when abortion advocates are trying to “exploit” the current health care reform debate to mandate taxpayer funding for abortion.

Bereit is also working with the Stop the Abortion Mandate coalition, which successfully urged more than 36,000 Americans to voice their opposition to what the coalition characterized as an abortion mandate in health care reform proposals.

The 40 Days for Life website is at http://40daysforlife.com

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Catholic Answers apologetics apostolate joins Catholic Word publishing consortium

Necedah, Wis., Aug 21, 2009 (CNA) - The apologetics apostolate Catholic Answers has now given responsibility for the distribution of its books, CDs and other materials to the publishing consortium Catholic Word.

Catholic Word is a Wisconsin-based consortium of 18 Catholic publishers and music producers who combine their shipping to streamline resellers’ purchases.

Catholic Answers’ publishing imprint includes several prominent apologists such as Tim Staples, Jason Evert and Mark Shea.

The apostolate has just published Shea’s three-volume work on the Virgin Mary, titled “Mary, Mother of the Son.”

Catholic Word President Carolyn Klika said she has been impressed by Catholic Answers for over 15 years.

“More than ever, people are looking for answers, meaning, and direction,” she remarked in a press release. “As the Ethiopian told Philip in the book of Acts, 'How can I [understand Scripture] unless I have someone to guide me?' Catholic Answers has guided Catholics and seekers through their speakers, radio programs, books and CDs. I believe there are many more Catholics in the Church today because of this apostolate's tireless work.”

"We are proud to welcome this company as a valued new publisher member of Catholic Word," Klika continued.

Including Catholic Answers, Catholic Word has added five publishers to its consortium.

Catholic Word distributes Catholic books, faith formation programs and other resources. Its publications  include works by Scripture expert Jeff Cavins, Fr. Donald Calloway, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Fr. John Bartunek and Dr. Christine Mugridge.

Catholic Word’s website is http://www.catholicword.com

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Lawsuit charges that NIH embryonic stem cell funding policy violates federal law

Washington D.C., Aug 21, 2009 (CNA) - A federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines for public funding of human embryonic stem cell research was filed on Wednesday. The suit claims the regulations violate a federal law which bars the institute from funding research in which human embryos are destroyed.

Plaintiffs in the suit include the Christian Medical Association (CMA) and embryo adoption agency Nightlight Christian Adoptions.  Dr. James L. Sherley, a senior scientist at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Dr. Theresa Deisher, founder of AVM Biotechnology, are also parties to the suit.

The Alliance Defense Fund is serving as co-counsel on the case and is providing financial support.

Thomas G. Hungar, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the language of the statute is “clear.”

“It bans public funding for any research that leads to the destruction of human embryos. NIH’s attempt to avoid Congress’s command by funding everything but the act of ‘harvesting’ is pure sophistry. The guidelines will result in the destruction of human embryos and are unlawful, unethical, and unnecessary.”

The Dickey-Wicker Amendment has been part of the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services in every year since 1996. It bars federal funding for the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes and also research in which a human embryo or embryos are “destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”

The lawsuit argues that the NIH guidelines violate the law because they “necessarily condition funding on the destruction of human embryos.”

The plaintiffs also allege that the NIH guidelines were invalidly implemented. They charge that the decision to fund embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) was made without the proper procedures required by law and without properly considering other forms of adult and induced pluripotent stem cell research.

Sherley, an expert stem cell researcher and former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, said that stem cells derived from human adults and other sources present “the same if not greater potential for medical breakthroughs without any of the troubling legal and ethical issues related to embryonic stem cell research.”

The NIH promulgated its guidelines with a “preconceived determination” to fund ESCR without considering “scientifically and ethically superior alternatives,” the plaintiffs’ legal team charged.

Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the 16,000-member Christian Medical Association, said his organization is opposed to the “illegal and unethical federal funding of destructive embryo research.” Funding the research would compel every American to cooperate with “unlawful human experimentation” and would violate fundamental research ethics never to lethally experiment on one human being for the benefit of others.

Sam Casey, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and general counsel of Advocates International’s Law of Life Project, reported that the majority of the 50,000 comments that the NIH received were opposed to funding ESCR.

“The so-called spare human embryos being stored in IVF clinics around the United States are not ‘in excess of need,’ as the NIH in its guidelines callously assert. They are human beings in need of biological or adoptive parents,” Casey commented.

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Pope has cast removed from wrist, rehabilitation to begin

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 21, 2009 (CNA) - The Holy See’s Press Office has issued a statement today announcing that the Pope Benedict XVI’s personal physician, Dr. Patrizio Polisca, has removed the cast from the Holy Father’s right wrist.

After wearing the cast for just over a month, Dr. Polisca removed the cast at Castel Gandolfo and took an X-ray of the Pope's wrist, which he fractured on July 16 while on vacation in northern Italy.

The X-ray showed that the fractured to the Pope’s right wrist is healing as expected.
 
“The final results can be defined as optimum,” the doctor said.
 
Pope Benedict will now begin physical therapy to recover the full use of his right hand, Dr. Polisca explained.

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U.S. bishops launch website on new Mass translation

Washington D.C., Aug 21, 2009 (CNA) - After years in the making, the English translation of the new Roman Missal is nearing its completion and is now awaiting the final approval of the bishops and the Vatican. In an effort to begin educating the faithful and clergy on the new translation, the U.S. bishops have launched a website.

The new website, which was launched on August 21, includes background material on the process of the development of liturgical texts, sample texts from the Missal, a glossary of terms and answers to frequently asked questions.

A press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says that content will be added to the website on a regular basis over the next several months.

Bishop Arthur Serratelli, who chairs the bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, welcomes the faithful to the new site in a video, saying, "In the years since Vatican II we have learned a lot about the use of the vernacular in the liturgy and the new texts reflect this new understanding."

Describing the translation, Bishop Serratelli says, "The new texts are understandable, dignified and accurate. … They not only strive to make the meaning of the text accessible for the listener, but they also strive to unearth the biblical and theological richness of the Latin text."

The process of translating the new Missal began in 2003 and has been ongoing since then.

Now that they have studied, reflected and adjusted the translation for five years, the bishops are expected to conclude their review and approve the final portion of the translated texts at the end of this year, the USCCB says in a press release.

Following the approval of the bishops, the translation will require a final approval (recognitio) from the Holy See before the texts can be published and used in the liturgy.

Speaking in the video, Bishop Serratelli explains that he sees this time of waiting as an opportunity for the faithful to learn and prepare.

"We have a great opportunity during this period not only to learn about the changes, not only to learn about the revised texts, but also to deepen our own understanding of the Liturgy itself," he says. "We encourage priests, deacons, religious, liturgical ministers, all the faithful to avail themselves of the information that we are making available."

The website dedicated to the new translation can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal.

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Mexican archbishop calls for defense of dignity of women

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 21, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Luis Chavez Botello of Antequera-Oaxaca has called for the defense of the dignity of women who suffer from marginalization, the lack of opportunities and violence.

The archbishop made his remarks in a statement to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Association for the Protection of Oaxaca Young Women, a group that supports women from Indigenous and rural communities who come to the city to work and study.

Archbishop Chavez said that we must “open our eyes, set aside our pride and begin to act with social responsibility” to help women “who are in a vulnerable situation.”

The archbishop attributed the difficulties being faced by women as the result of “grave social errors that we have been making for decades in the fields of education, the family and policy with regards to women. In many women’s faces sadly we see injustice, abuse, and the sex trade, the havoc of drug addiction and some involved already in organized crime.”

Archbishop Chavez noted that women by nature are receptive and welcoming and easily perceive spiritual realities, which they experience with greater awareness.  “Religious truths, when embraced by women in their hearts, take on an extraordinary resonance. They experience these realities in their interior and they make them felt by others,” he wrote.

He also underscored that motherhood in its deepest sense is a manifestation of women’s vocation to love, which she lives out by “giving of herself, to the point of forgetting herself, as an offering to others.”  “It is impossible that all of these gifts have been given to women by God for no purpose,” the archbishop stated.

Men and women enjoy a fundamental equality and the same rights based on their human dignity, he noted, but  “this equality does not erase the biological and psychological differences that stem from being male or female.”

To distort or obscure these differences would be a true catastrophe for personal identity and for society and the family.  “Men and women are complementary,” he said, “and therefore all superiority and competition must be eradicated.”

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One year after attacks, Indian Christians still live in fear

Konigstein, Germany, Aug 21, 2009 (CNA) - The government of the Indian state of Orissa has decided to close its refugee camps, resulting in most of the resident returning to their towns.  However, Aid to the Church in Need warns that Christians still cannot return to their homes over fears of a new outbreak of violence, one year after the violent attacks by Hindu fundamentalists in the region.

Reporter Anto Akkara told ACN that many of the Christians who have not yet been able to return are living in the slums of Bhubaneswar in Orissa, fearing that the government will not guarantee their security.

Marie-Ange Siebrecht, ACN’s expert on India, said, “The government is dissolving the camps now, but this does not solve the problems of the refugees, because the Christians dare not venture back into their villages because of threats of fundamentalist Hindus.” She also said that displaced Christians usually lack the means to support themselves, since compensation payments promised by the government have often “gone missing.”

Siebrecht also joined in calls for state government of Orissa to create safe areas, so that all Christians can return to their villages without fear of attack.

The aid organization has also been supporting peace-building efforts, especially among the young, to help Christians to return to the region. ACN workers have worked to provide emergency assistance at the camps, such as temporary tent chapels where Mass could be said, and has promised help to Archbishop Cheenath to rebuild churches and other buildings destroyed in the violence.

During last August’s attacks against Christians, more than 70 people were killed, 5,031 homes were attacked and 171 churches were targeted.

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British woman with connection to Amnesty International leaves over abortion

London, England, Aug 21, 2009 (CNA) - The British woman Fiorella Nash owes the release of her father from prison in Malta in the 1970s to Amnesty International. For Nash, supporting the organization over the years was a given, but recently she decided to suspend her support because of group's pro-abortion agenda.

According to the website Religion Confidencial, “Fiorella Nash owes her father’s life to Amnesty International.  For many years she worked with the NGO until she became aware of its pro-abortion slant.”

Since its founding by Catholic British lawyer Peter Benenson, Amnesty has been one of the human rights groups that was most supported by Catholic and Protestant believers in the United Kingdom. When August 2007 rolled around, Amnesty raised the ire of some of its strongest supporters by revealing its intention to campaign for access to abortion.

The decision to move from not having a position on abortion to campaigning for it led  bishops and lay people around the world to withdraw their membership from the organization, calling the abortion agenda a betrayal of the group's founding principles.

“Amnesty has focused its most recent campaign on the government of Nicaragua, accusing it of being responsible for the deaths of pregnant adult and teen women because of its laws against abortion,” the website reported.

Writing to CNA in an email, Fiorella Nash exlpained that, "I withdrew my support from Amnesty some years ago when Amnesty began supporting the whole sexual rights agenda but I continued to be involved in some activities until the abortion issue was raised, which was the last straw and I felt that I had to publicly disassociate myself from the organisation."

Nash, who works at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, noted that “its conferences on the issue only include pro-abortion speakers, there is no open debate on the issue."

Nash was pregnant when Amnesty publicly revealed its pro-abortion slant. “I was pregnant with my first son and I thought, ‘When my father was vulnerable you [Amnesty] helped him - what about my unborn child?'"

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Evangelical Lutheran Church backs away from Christian chastity

Minneapolis, Minn., Aug 21, 2009 (CNA) - The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on Wednesday approved a new policy that no longer declares marriage as “the appropriate place” for sexual relations, but rather calls for “social trust” in associations that are “loving” and “committed.” One critic characterized the move as an embrace of moral relativism.

The ELCA claims about 4.6 million members. Its numbers have declined by 1 million over the past forty years.

The ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly, meeting from August 17 to 23 at the Minneapolis Convention Center, formerly said that marriage is “the appropriate place for sexual intercourse.” Such language is absent from the new policy, which says that heterosexual relationships are “best served through binding commitment, legal protections, and the public accountability of marriage.”

“Some cohabitation arrangements can be constructed in ways that are neither casual nor intrinsically unstable,” the policy adds.

The policy calls for “social trust” in relationships that are "loving," "life-giving," "fulfilling," "nurturing," and "committed."

On the issue of homosexuality, the ELCA claimed that “consensus” does not exist and recognized four “conscience-bound beliefs” ranging from disapproval of all homosexual relations to honoring them as equally valid marriages.

Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), commented on the decision.

"How sad that the ELCA no longer affirms the timeless Christian understanding of marriage. Instead it is touting secular psycho-babble about 'fulfilling' and 'nurturing' relationships. How will the church's young people interpret this tacit approval of at least some non-marital sex?"

“In embracing moral relativism, the ELCA assembly has disregarded the Bible, the views of its own members, and the pleas of Lutherans in Africa and Asia. It has left the mainstream of U.S. and global Christianity, instead following other shrinking denominations like the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ towards internal division, accelerating membership loss, and cultural irrelevance.”

During the Wednesday vote on the policy, a tornado struck the area around the convention center. It knocked the cross off the steeple of Central Lutheran Church, just across the street from the center.

Washington Times reporter Julia Duin reported that during the storm ELCA President Mark Hanson read out loud Psalm 121 to calm those in the convention center.

"We trust the weather is not a commentary on our work," said the Rev. Steven Loy, author of the statement on sexuality, Duin reports.

CBS affiliate WCCO reported that John Piper, the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, characterized the tornado as a “gentle but firm” warning to the ELCA and everyone else to turn from “the approval of sin.”

On Friday the ELCA assembly will vote on proposals that would allow for the formal blessings of same-sex unions and for the ordination of active homosexuals.

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