La Paz, Bolivia, Sep 1, 2009 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Jesus Juarez, has called for an honest and respectful campaign season. He urged candidates to refrain from insults and from making campaign promises they are unable to keep.
“In a democratic electoral campaign,” he said, insults and mudslinging against political opponents must be avoided, because they harm the “dignity of each human being.”
The bishop told reporters that candidates must be honest and “speak the truth with great transparency.”
For this reason, he added, candidates must not make unreasonable campaign promises. “You can’t go around, as we say, promising the moon and the stars and later not be able to keep those promises,” he warned.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Sep 1, 2009 (CNA) - A blogger who was defending the Church against the state media’s distortions of Pope Benedict XVI’s June speech to Vietnamese bishops was arrested on Thursday in what some fear is the first of many arrests.
Bui Tanh Hieu is a catechumen who writes under the pen name Nguoi Buon Gio, which means “Wind Trader.” Reuters reported that he was arrested by police in Hanoi on August 27 and has not been heard from since.
Redemptorist Father Peter Nguyen Van Khai of Hanoi monastery confirmed to Asia News that the blogger was detained on Thursday. The priest described him as a catechumen of the Archdiocese of Hanoi who is studying the catechism in preparation for baptism.
Sr. Emily Nguyen from the Diocese of Vinh warned that his arrest “certainly is not the last one.”
“Many Catholic bloggers have criticized the ‘shameful distortion’ by state media against Pope Benedict XVI's speech to Vietnamese bishops on their ad limina visit. They are at possible risk of arrest,” Sr. Nguyen said, according to Fr. J.B. An Dang.
On August 24 the state media outlet Vietnam Net published an article titled “A good Catholic is a good citizen.” In that piece it quoted several phrases from Pope Benedict’s June 27 speech to visiting Vietnamese bishops.
Perhaps the most serious distortion of the article was its abuse of the Pope’s statement that the Church’s intention is “certainly not to replace government leaders,” Fr. An Dang said. This phrase was interpreted as evidence the Vatican had advance knowledge of a plot of Catholic priests to overthrow the government. The article called on all Vietnamese bishops to identify such attempts at once.
“The next day, television channels, radio stations, and newspapers re-broadcast the article with great emphasis and calls for urgent arrests and punishments against some Catholic priests in Thai Ha and Vinh diocese,” Sr. Emily Nguyen reported.
Another of Pope Benedict’s phrases, about how it is possible to have a “healthy collaboration” between the Church and the political community, was used to accuse Vietnamese church leaders of not following a policy of peaceful dialogue with the government and of maintaining a hostile attitude.
The Vietnam Net article also tried to interpret “healthy collaboration” as the submission of Catholics to the Communist government.
Fr. An Dang told CNA that church leaders have in fact been “very patient” in seeking peaceful dialogue with the government.
“The government has refused any dialogue,” he charged, noting that in Dong Hoi the government has allowed police and groups of thugs to roam the streets and attack those who wear visible Catholic symbols.
The recent Vietnam Net article also misused the Pope’s statement to paint a “somber picture” of the Vietnamese Church in which priests have no deep inner life and have not striven for holiness, while laymen have not been charitable, honest, or good citizens.
“It tries to make its readers to understand that Pope Benedict XVI himself had insulted the Church in Vietnam for its spiritual corruption,” Fr. Joseph Nguyen of Hanoi explained.
“It has cast shadows of sadness among Catholics,” he lamented. “We all know that His Holiness Benedict XVI did not mean that.”
According to Fr. An Dang, the distortion of the Pope’s statement has caused doubt and frustration among Catholics throughout Vietnam and abroad.
Catholics have also reacted to the distorted report through internet blogs, a unique way to express opinion because all other public media are under state control.
Some bloggers have simply presented the Vietnamese translation of Pope Benedict’s speech. Others have argued that the Church would not require her faithful to obey without question governments which promote injustices and policies that violate Church teaching.
"Surely, no Catholics should follow the policy of Population Control through Abortion as Family Planning. Rather they should condemn it," blogger An Dan wrote.
Some bloggers have even argued that a government has just power only if that power has been bestowed by the people. Communists took control of the government by violent force and no democratic elections have been held.
Vietnamese authorities’ reactions indicate a readiness to take extreme steps to silence dissent, Fr. An Dang told CNA.
The Vietnamese state media have previously distorted Catholic leaders’ statements. In September 2008 the news media misrepresented a statement by the Archbishop of Hanoi about the difficulties of carrying a Vietnamese passport to make it appear he had insulted Vietnam.
The day after the report, government-supporting thugs attacked a Marian Shrine at Thai Ha parish. Concerns about security confined the archbishop to his residence and canceled or delayed his normal activities.
Fargo, N.D., Sep 1, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop of Fargo, North Dakota Samuel J. Aquila has written a letter encouraging priests, deacons, vowed religious and laymen to become engaged in promoting “genuine health care reform.” His letter presents four principles on which to evaluate legislative proposals for health care plans.
He said health care plans must exclude any provisions which deny “the dignity of human life,” such as abortion, passive or active euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research. It would be “inherently inconsistent” to expand access to health care without safeguarding human life from conception onward, Bishop Aquila wrote.
“True health care begins with the unborn child in the womb,” he explained. “When a given plan to provide care fails to protect that life, it is no longer animated by a source of truth and justice, thus it will not, and cannot, flourish.”
Killing unborn children, he continued, has “nothing to do with promoting health.”
The bishop listed conscience protection as another important facet of health care for health care professionals, participants in health care plans, and society in general.
“The doctors, nurses and health care professionals who possess such medical expertise are prime candidates for coercion from those who would destroy the most vulnerable human lives. The right to follow one’s conscience, as informed by God, must be guaranteed,” he stated.
“In no way should taxpayers or policy holders be forced to participate in plans, whether private or public, which fund procedures that violate the moral precepts of the faith.”
Another principle of reform is access for all, Bishop Aquila added.
“Finding ways to provide medical care to those who have none is a perennial priority for the Church,” he wrote, adding that access to health care must be ensured for the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, legal immigrants and the unborn.
The bishop invoked the concept of subsidiarity as his fourth principle. He quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s description of subsidiarity, which holds that a “higher order” of society should not needlessly interfere with or displace a “lower order.”
“As a society seeks to bring about any good such as health care, there are many organic and intermediate groups which cooperate together to reach the desired goal. There is a danger in being persuaded to think that the national government is the sole instrument of the common good,” he continued.
“Many different communities within society share this responsibility,” Bishop Aquila explained, naming communities such as the state, towns, fraternal organizations, businesses, cooperatives, parishes and the family as contributors to the social fabric.
The bishop encouraged readers of his letter to visit the web sites of the North Dakota Catholic Conference and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, located at http://www.usccb.org/healthcare.
He also exhorted Catholics to be joined by the Holy Spirit in “fervent prayer” to God the Father with Jesus Christ.
God is “the Lord of history who continues to guide and direct our world with the power of his truth and love. May we trust in him who continually inspires us to arduously work for the health, well-being and flourishing of all human life from the moment of conception through natural death.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 1, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, has called Mexicans to rally to the defense of life from conception to natural death, a task which he called essential and one which the Church cannot remain silent about.
During his homily last Sunday, the cardinal urged Mexicans to defend life against every threat facing it.
“We are all aware of the diverse stages through which the human being passes, from the moment of conception until death. Jesus took on this process, illuminating human existence in all states of life,” he stated.
The cardinal went on to reproach those who believe they are wiser and more prudent than God, saying, “The Catholic faithful must be consistent with their faith in public and in private. They cannot support death projects without betraying themselves. On the contrary, the must support every project that supports the development of human life in all its stages and circumstances.”
The cardinal’s statements came as the states of Sinaloa and Queretaro appeared ready to join the fourteen other Mexican states that have modified their constitutions to head off attempts to legalize abortion.
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 1, 2009 (CNA) - As Pope Benedict winds down his time at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, he is also praying for the spread of the Gospel and that Christians in Asia are not deterred from witnessing to Christ.
For the month of September, Pope Benedict XVI's general intention is: "That the word of God may be better known, welcomed and lived as the source of freedom and joy."
His mission intention is: "That Christians in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, who often meet with great difficulties, may not be discouraged from announcing the Gospel to their brothers, trusting in the strength of the Holy Spirit."
Havana, Cuba, Sep 1, 2009 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Havana announced this week that it will open a new seminary in 2010, the first such building project the Church has undertaken in Cuba in the last 50 years.
John Paul II blessed the cornerstone of the seminary during his visit to Cuba in 1998. The construction has been financed by numerous international institutions, including the Knights of Columbus.
The seminary will be able to house 100 candidates for the priesthood and will be inaugurated in 2010 as part of the closing of the Year for Priests.
The new formation center will be named after St. Charles Borromeo and St. Ambrose and will be located in historic downtown Havana. The former seminary will be converted into a cultural center named after Fr. Felix Varela.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 1, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Adolfo Gonzalez of Almeria has criticized the Spanish government’s proposal to reform the country’s laws on religious freedom, saying it would be an attack on Christians under the pretext of “democracy.”
“When you attempt to make all religious equal, as if all had the same historical and social significance in the development of a people, you reveal the fallacy of a falsely democratic egalitarianism,” the bishop said.
The regulation of religious freedom “will never be just or democratic if it is directed against the mostly Christian identity of a society.”
A true respect for freedom of worship ought to allow “religious faith to inspire all areas of life without reducing it to the mere freedom of subjective belief,” Bishop Gonzalez argued.
Des Moines, Iowa, Sep 1, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa is one of the latest bishops to voice his belief that any health care bill that provides funding for abortion is unacceptable.
Writing in a guest column for the Des Moines Register, Bishop Pates said, "Health is among the most fundamental of human needs - right up there with food and shelter. Yet, in many ways, we leave it pretty much to chance, to a health-care 'system' that may, or may not, care for us depending on our ability to pay."
According to Bishop Pates, the greatest problem with America's health care situation is that it is the most expensive in the world, but at the same time fails to achieve "proportionate benefits."
"These are among the reasons why the Catholic Church, which consistently promotes respect for human life, heartily supports health-care reform. The status quo is just too expensive, too exclusive and too inconsistent in its outcomes. It hurts almost everyone, but especially the most vulnerable," he wrote.
However, despite the urgency of reforming the health care system, Bishop Pates insisted that "respect for human life obliges the church to oppose the inclusion of abortion in any funding that is part of such reform."
"Promoting and protecting human life and dignity by reforming health care shouldn't come at the expense of the lives of unborn children," he said, also calling for conscience protections for health care workers.
Addressing those who say a bishop has no reason to speak about matters of public policy, Bishop Pates responded that "caring for others was one of Jesus' principal commandments, and Catholics and other Christians have always been involved in providing care. The Sisters of Mercy, for example, established Mercy Hospital in Des Moines in 1893. It's the longest continually operating hospital in the state, and provides care to people of all faiths."
Instead of health care being a secular issue, "it is 'a fundamental issue of human life and dignity,' and a 'critical component of the Catholic Church's ministry,'" the Bishop of Des Moines said quoting Bishop William Murphy.
Washington D.C., Sep 1, 2009 (CNA) - An upcoming pro-life documentary named “Blood Money” aims to shake the viewer “to the very core” and expose the “inconvenient truth” about the money involved in the abortion industry. The documentary interviews pro-life leaders, former abortionists, and women who have been harmed by abortion.
One of the interviewees featured in the movie trailer, Carol Everett, was a part owner of several abortion clinics in the Dallas area who has repented of her involvement in abortion.
In the Blood Money trailer she talks of the unsavory practices her clinics were involved in.
“Our goal was three to five abortions from every girl from the ages 13 to 18,” she says.
Everett describes a plan to “sell abortions” by using sex education to “break down” the natural modesty of children, separate them from their parents and their values, and establish the abortion provider as the sex expert in young people’s lives.
“So they would turn to us when we would give them a low-dose birth control pill they would get pregnant on, or a defective condom,” she says.
Later in the trailer she remarks: “I recognized that I’d been involved in the deaths of over 35,000 babies.”
The film is being directed by David Kyle. Its executive producer is John Zipp.
Speaking in a Tuesday e-mail interview, Kyle told CNA that the message of Blood Money is that abortion “destroys lives.”
“Not only that of the baby, but of the mother, father and families that have to deal with the consequences of what is sold to them as a quick fix. We then tie in the monetary gains that are being made in the name of helping women. This is an industry that when the product proves to be defective, you don't get a refund.”
He explained that the business of abortion was not the filmmakers’ initial focus.
“The original title of the film was going to be ‘The American Holocaust’. We had set out to present the truth about abortion, from the destruction of the human being, to the effect it has on the women that make the choice to abort,” he said.
During interviews, the “monetary aspects” of the abortion industry kept repeatedly surfacing.
“So while we still cover in part some of our original idea we honed in on the money that is made on the slaughter of the unborn,” he explained.
He and John Zipp had first developed the concept in 2004 because they felt that no one else was talking about the nature and effects of abortion.
“It does come up at election time or when there is opening on the Court, but only in general terms. We believed that the mass media doesn't want to go into details because they know if they did, more people would oppose it.”
Kyle and Zipp thought a documentary would be the best way to reach a large audience and to force a conversation on abortion.
He explained that most of the film is testimony of individuals involved in the abortion industry like Everett or former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, or those who have been harmed by their abortion decision.
Pro-life leaders like Norma McCorvey, Fr. Frank Pavone, Dr. Alveda King, and Fr. Thomas Euteneuer were interviewed for the documentary and have at least one appearance in the film.
Kyle explained that he had no background in film, describing Blood Money’s development as a “crash course” in filmmaking. The filmmakers hired a professional director of photography, Jeff Butler of Cabin One Productions, to do the camera work. They also brought Roman Jaquez on board to edit and improve the film.
Asked about his decision to use the documentary genre Kyle said, “I think pro-lifers underuse filmmaking period.” In fact, Kyle said he could only name “The Silent Scream” as another pro-life documentary that he has seen.
Listing aspects of abortion that should be covered in future documentaries, he named the humanity of the baby, the harm abortion does to women and the sale of parts from aborted babies’ remains.
“Film is a way to reach a wide audience with the values you want to pass on. If they are done with an eye on quality I believe people would go and see them and could compete with the liberal attitude of Hollywood,” he stated.
Kyle told CNA the makers of “Blood Money” are planning at least one follow-up film focusing on the women interviewed for the documentary.
“We have so much compelling testimony that did not make it in this film,” he said.
“Blood Money” has no scheduled release date, since the filmmakers still need to find a distribution company that will “take the chance on something this controversial.” He said some distributors are interested in seeing the film upon its completion, which Kyle predicted would come at the end of September.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 1, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, told the thousands of faithful gathered Monday at the Shrine of St. Ramon to defend life from the moment of conception to natural death, in order to overcome the “culture of death” that is afflicting today’s society.
During his homily, the cardinal urged Catholics to “stand up” against “the culture of death.” The “culture of life,” he said, believes that “life has value from the moment of conception” and should be cared for in childhood, so that that new life “grows up healthy, receives a good education and has enough to eat, and is instilled with principles of moral values.”
“We must stand up and say: this is the culture of life, this is life, the complete opposite of the culture of death,” which “always leads to failure,” the cardinal said.
The culture of life means that children must be cared for “throughout their entire existence,” including “in their suffering, their illnesses, with clean hospitals that are properly equipped, where those who are sick are treated well. This is life, this is the message of life,” he stated.
This also must be done with the elderly because grandparents are “the wisdom of life,” the cardinal taught, adding that he was saddened that the elderly are often “pushed aside” because of the demands of one’s work or because they live too far away to be visited often.
After blessing those present as “messengers of life,” Cardinal Bergoglio encouraged them to spread respect for life to all Argentineans. “This is the message we need, God’s message, go in the footsteps of Jesus, you will not go wrong. They are the footsteps of life, because He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
Thousands of Argentineans gathered this week at the Shrine of St. Ramon the Unborn, to whom pregnant mothers pray in thanksgiving for the gift of life and those unable to conceive pray for the gift of motherhood.
Brasilia, Brazil, Sep 1, 2009 (CNA) - Brazil’s Ministry of Culture is demanding that pro-lifers who were involved in the Third National March for Life this past Sunday in Brasilia pay back the public funding they were given for the event.
The Ministry claims organizers of the event “omitted information in the presentation of the plan” by not indicating that the march was a protest against the attempts to legalize abortion in Brazil.
Pro-life leaders denounced the claims as completely false and said their intentions were clearly spelled out to Ministry officials, who granted approval for the use of funds for the march.
The National Movement of Citizens for Life (NMCL) rejected the government’s demand that some $60,000 from the public coffers be returned and said, “The minister’s actions reveal an anti-democratic attitude because he is denying the right to protest of more than 90 percent of the Brazilian population, which believes life should be defended from the moment of conception.”
Reiterating that the march as well as all the activities of the NMCL were “approved beforehand by the Federal Government,” pro-life leaders called on Catholics to help defray the costs of the event, as the Ministry of Culture has also blocked access to the movement’s bank accounts.