San Francisco, Calif., Sep 18, 2009 (CNA) - A homosexual activist group is claiming that groups at dozens of high schools and middle schools in California, including at least one Catholic school, have signed up to show and discuss its explicit films. The films include one in which a boy “comes out” by wearing his mother’s bikini.
Another film uses Native American spirituality to depict lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people as being “two-spirit” people.
Parts of the discussion materials encourage students to question whether religious and cultural celebrations such as bar mitzvahs wrongly discourage homosexual and transgender lifestyles, the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) reports.
PJI said it was not clear whether the films are being shown predominantly during class time or in meetings of LGBT student clubs.
“They are clearly being marketed for showing in class and in school assemblies,” PJI says in a press release.
The films and accompanying school materials are being distributed by Youth in Motion, a partnership between the Gay-Straight Alliance Network and the LGBT media group Frameline.
“Our goal is to give student activists and teachers new tools to educate their peers about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history and culture (and have fun doing it!). And we believe that an inclusive curriculum is one step to creating truly safe and welcoming schools,” Youth in Motion says on its website.
Trying to draw on the controversy of Proposition 8 in California, Youth in Motion promotes its videos on “hot topics” such as “marriage equality.”
The group claims over 250 schools have registered for the program.
The list of registered schools includes high schools throughout California and some middle and junior high schools. At least one elementary school is on the list. Many of the schools are located in the Bay Area and Southern California, but the Sacramento area and small communities are also affected.
Notre Dame High School, a Catholic girl’s school in Belmont, Calif. sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, is on the list of schools registered for the Youth in Motion curriculum.
“PJI will continue to investigate whether any opt-out laws are being violated by the showing of these films,” said PJI president Brad Dacus. “Any parents whose opt-out requests are denied by their child's school should contact PJI immediately.”
Redondo Beach, Calif., Sep 18, 2009 (CNA) - Three students in Los Angeles-area Catholic high schools have won cash prizes in a pro-life essay competition that one organizer described as a show of reverence for the sanctity of life.
The contest, sponsored by LoveMatters.com, sought essays on the theme “Abortion Is Deadly.”
The first place $1,000 prize went to Elizabeth Chapin of Villanova Preparatory High School in Ojai. She wrote that abortion “kills the future, and it kills a child’s chance to speak out. Give a baby a voice and let the child live.”
The second place $500 prize went to Bronwyn Bennet, also of Villanova Prep. She wrote about how she and her older sister were adopted and how they owed their lives to birth mothers who let them become part of a loving family.
The third place $250 prize went to Megan Golbranson of St. Monica Academy in Pasadena. She refuted defenses of abortion, saying “every child has a right to live.”
Entrants had to support their essays with facts and stories gathered from the LoveMatters.com website and its 32-page pro-life, pro-chastity newspaper.
Fr. Sal Pilato, superintendent of Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, authorized the voluntary essay contest last Spring. He asked the principals of 48 Catholic high schools to distribute copies of the LoveMatters.com newspapers to about 30,000 students.
J.T. Finn, editor of LoveMatters.com, said that today’s youth want to “save unborn babies and end abortion.”
“Abortions are truly deadly, physically, emotionally and spiritually,” he continued. “Abortion has taken the lives of one-third of their generation. But these students see through the deadly lies of the abortion industry. They each accurately and persuasively tell the truth: Abortions kill babies and devastate women, families and society.”
The students clearly love babies. They revere the sanctity of human life and express that very well,” Finn wrote.
Finn said that he is working to duplicate the essay contest and reach thousands more students in other dioceses. Many pro-life leaders across America are “very interested,” he said, asking that any diocese or member of the general public who wants to sponsor a LoveMatters.com distribution and pro-life essay contest should contact him.
He said has a standing offer to send 200 free copies of LoveMatters.com to anyone who requests them.
He also offered to print a special edition of LoveMatters.com with the name, phone number and website of a diocese on all 32 pages. Finn said this effort helps to reach students with “pro-life truth,” and would save lives and souls, spare young people from “tragedy and heartaches,” and inspire many to become pro-life activists.
Winning contest entries can be read at the LoveMatters.com website and at www.Prolife.com.
Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2009 (CNA) - Some pro-life groups have reacted critically to the new health care legislation proposed by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), warning that it would subsidize and sometimes mandate abortion coverage, especially if Hyde Amendment funding restrictions are not maintained.
They also warned the proposal could force the “rationing” of health care.
Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, charged that that Sen. Baucus’ “America’s Healthy Future Act” includes abortion “pure and simple.”
He compared the legislation to the Capps Amendment, saying it would subsidize health plans that cover elective abortions with tax credits.
“The accounting used in the bill is a matter of smoke and mirrors, since elective abortion is authorized for health plans receiving government subsidies.”
Perkins also charged that the Baucus bill mandates at least one health plan in each region of the country covers elective abortions. In Perkins’ view, this contradicted President Obama’s claim that he would prevent federal funding of abortion.
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) said the Baucus proposal contains “an array of pro-abortion mandates and federal subsidies for elective abortion.” Provisions of the bill would give “massive” federal subsidies to both private insurance plans and government-chartered cooperatives that pay for elective abortions.
“This would be a drastic break from longstanding federal policy, under which federal funds do not pay for elective abortions or subsidize health plans that cover elective abortions,” NRLC's legislative director Douglas Johnson said.
The NRLC also charged that the bills were inconsistent with President Obama’s claim that no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions. It reported that the Baucus bill provides $6 billion in federal funds to establish health insurance cooperatives, without any limitation on the use of funds to pay for abortions or to subsidize plans that pay for elective abortions.
The national pro-life group also warned that the Baucus bill would allow the federal government to declare abortion a “mandated benefit.” NRLC claimed that without renewal of the Hyde Amendment, which expires every September 30, many private insurance plans could be forced to include abortion on demand as a mandatory benefit in the minimum benefits package.
NRLC further cautioned about health care “rationing,” saying the Baucus bill contains a medical provision that in 2015 would instate severe financial penalties upon physicians who are in the top 10 percent of medical resource use.
“This provision does not link funding to outcomes or quality; instead, it will force a ‘race to the bottom’ with relentless pressure on doctors to limit health care for their older patients,” the group said. “On top of the significant Medicare cuts in the bill, this will gravely endanger the lives of America’s senior citizens.”
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president of American United for Life, also criticized the $6 billion in funding for the establishment of health care cooperatives which would be allowed to cover abortion. She likewise warned of mandated abortion coverage if the Hyde Amendment.
“Real health care respects life and the pro-life community will never support any bill that does not explicitly say that abortion funding and coverage is not allowed,” Yoest said.
Mary Harned, staff counsel at Americans United For Life, said that there is still a long road ahead since, even if language expressly excluding abortion funding and coverage is added to the Baucus bill, it will need to be reconciled with the bill from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and with the bill produced by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Vatican City, Sep 18, 2009 (CNA) - Six Italian soliders were killed on Thursday in Kabul when a car bomb was detonated near their armored vehicles. Upon hearing of the blast, which also killed 15 Afghans, Pope Benedict XVI said he is grieved to hear of the loss of life and is praying for all the victims and their families.
The six Italian soldiers were members of the "Folgore" parachute regiment. Besides the Italian casualties, 15 Afghans, including four policemen, were killed in the terrorist attack. The violent blast also wounded 60 civilians and four Italian soldiers.
On Thursday, the director of the Vatican's press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, conveyed the Pope's assurances of his prayers for the victims and expressed his "closeness to the families and to everyone involved."
"What causes most sorrow," Fr. Lombardi added, "is the continuation of such violence against the very people who are working for peace. ... We hope that all this bloodshed may, in the end, give way to the peace to which so many people are committed and are giving their lives."
Rome, Italy, Sep 18, 2009 (CNA) - On Wednesday Pope Benedict XVI visited and blessed the new headquarters of the Vatican Observatory, which moved from the Pontifical Palace in June. The observatory had been housed since in the palace since 1935, and is now located in an old monastery on the grounds of the Pontifical Villas.
During his hour-long visit to the building, the Holy Father viewed the large collection of meteorites housed by the Observatory and held a rock from Mars in his hands.
The Pope also peered through a microscope at a meteorite that was found near Bavaria and also browsed through some works by Copernicus, Kepler and Newton.
After praying in the chapel, the Holy Father signed a commemorative document that will be placed next to one that contains the names of his predecessors.
Pope Benedict XVI was received at the Observatory by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Vatican Governorate, which oversees the facility, and by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the general secretary. Jesuit Superior Father Adolfo Nicolas Pachon and the director of the Observatory, Father Jose Gabriel Funes, were also present.
San José, Costa Rica, Sep 18, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica announced Thursday that it completely rejects a bill that would modify the country’s constitution, remove a clause that establishes the Catholic faith as the Costa Rica’s religion and eliminate any reference to God in legal oaths.
The bishops said the measure that was proposed by the “Movement for a Secular State in Costa Rica” is being portrayed as “a means of safeguarding religious freedom” for Costa Ricans, when in reality the movement’s purpose is to take advantage “of this opportunity in order to push its own agenda.”
Some members of the movement, the bishops noted, “have shown themselves to be opposed to the values of the Gospel and the Christian ethics the Church teaches. Their marked particular interest prevents them from seeking the authentic common good and discredits them as supposed defenders of religious freedom in the country.”
They went on to stress that the current Constitution “has historically allowed for a healthy, respectful and balanced collaboration between Church and State in the interest of the integral development of our country. To affirm the contrary is to ignore history,” the bishops said.
Addressing the group’s intention to strip God from legal oaths, the bishops said it is evidence of a secularist agenda which is “opposed to the concept of the just autonomy of the political community and the Church and is understood as the exclusion of God and faith from the public sphere, reducing it to the private realm.”
For this reason, they added, “anti-religious prejudices, special interests and moral relativism are an expression of a myopia that denies any value of the transcendent dimension and of living the Christian faith.”
The bishops said their opposition to the bill was rooted “in the defense of principles and values that support authentic democracy and not in the search for supposed privileges, because a democracy without values…easily becomes a dictatorship and ends up betraying the people.”
Rome, Italy, Sep 18, 2009 (CNA) - In a telegram sent on the occasion of the Jewish feasts of Yom Kippur and Sukkot, Pope Benedict XVI prayed that God would bestow “copious blessings upon all the Jews and constant encouragement in the struggle to promote justice, harmony and peace.” He also announced that in the coming months he would visit the synagogue of Rome.
According to L’Osservatore Romano, the Holy Father offered Rabbi Ricardo Segni of Rome his best wishes that the Jewish feasts “would be a reason for mutual and holy joy” and he renewed his “cordial friendship” with the rabbi.
The Pope said he also hopes to visit the synagogue of Rome after the Jewish feasts have ended, out of a desire “to express to you my personal closeness and that of all of the Catholic Church.”
Rabbi Segni expressed thanks for the gesture and the news of the visit, which would come 23 years after the historic visit of Pope John Paul II on April 13, 1986.
This would be the third synagogue visited by Benedict XVI. In 2005 he visited a synagogue in Cologne and one during his 2008 visit to New York.
Milwaukee, Wis., Sep 18, 2009 (CNA) - In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the founding of Project Rachel, a post-abortion healing ministry, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson will speak at a celebratory dinner to be held in Milwaukee on September 18. Anderson’s speech will touch on the vital significance of the post-abortion ministry as well as the encouraging pro-life trend in recent polls.
The speech comes in wake of a Gallup Poll conducted last spring which found that 51 percent of Americans now identify themselves as "pro-life," while only 42 percent identify as "pro-choice." This slight pro-life majority is the first time since 1995 when Gallup first began conducting such polls.
Despite such encouraging pro-life trends, the ministry of Project Rachel is essential, as is the support of the Knights of Columbus over the last several years, said a press release from the K of C. In his speech this evening, Anderson plans on noting that: “In an often shrill debate over abortion, the work of Project Rachel is vital. It brings healing to those survivors of abortion that are so often ignored: the parents of the aborted child."
The speech and dinner will be held after a 6 p.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop William Callahan, auxiliary of the Diocese of Milwaukee, at St. Margaret Mary Church.
Fatima, Portugal, Sep 18, 2009 (CNA) - The Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, said this week that Catholics in the media should above all “be believers and Christians. We want the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be known and understood through the testimony of the Church. If this does not happened, we are wasting our time,” he said.
During his remarks at the Day of Social Communications being held in Fatima, Portugal, the Vatican spokesman said Catholics in the media “are not people who spread political propaganda, nor are they defenders of special interests or mere journalism professionals.”
Today there are many possibilities for the Church to use the media “in the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he continued. After noting that there are journalists of all stripes in today’s media and that they should not be all automatically seen as sinister or ill-intentioned, Father Lombardi underscored that it is important to help guide them in the right direction, “so they may be able to provide good information, as long as they are willing to do so.”
Father Lombardi said the Church’s Magisterium is a crucial reference point for Catholics in the media, and he urged them to always use “clear, simple and understandable language that is not abstract or complicated or technical.” “Always speaking the truth is the fundamental premise for confronting even the most difficult situations,” he said.
Havana, Cuba, Sep 18, 2009 (CNA) - The leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, has called on the pop stars who will be appearing at a concert entitled “Peace Without Borders” on Saturday in Havana’s Revolution Square to perform the song “Todos Cubanos” (We’re All Cubans) and dedicate it to the release of all political prisoners in the country.
Paya recalled that Cuban prisons are filled with people like Regis Iglesias Ramirez, who will turn 40 on Saturday and has spent the last six and a half years in prison “for fighting for the rights of Cubans, for reconciliation and for peace.”
Iglesias “was 33 on the day he was detained outside my home and then sentenced to 18 years in prison in a summary trial without any rights and that was fixed ahead of time. Regis was and is the spokesman of the Christian Liberation Movement and one of the leaders of the Varela Project which through legal means calls for the recognition of rights, including the right of freedom of expression, and thus the right to sing for all Cubans both inside and outside Cuba, in Cuba,” Paya explained.
The lyrics were written by Oswaldo Paya and the music is by his brother Carlos, who represents the Christian Liberation Movement in Europe.
The song can be heard at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ce0czNF3Fis
Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2009 (CNA) - The pro-life group Americans United for Life Action says it is still “deeply concerned” about abortion funding in health care reform following its meeting with White House officials.
Americans United for Life Action (AULA) President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest met on Thursday with Melody Barnes, who is Director of the Domestic Policy Council, and Tina Tchen, the White House Director for Public Liaison.
Dr. Yoest asked the White House to clarify President Obama’s statements supporting the exclusion of abortion from health care reform, an AULA press release says.
She presented a legal brief on the necessity of an explicit abortion funding and coverage ban prepared by the Americans United for Life. Yoest also delivered a petition with over 39,000 signatures from pro-life Americans urging a veto on any bill that does not specifically forbid requiring insurance companies to cover abortion.
"After the meeting, we remain deeply concerned about abortion funding and the abortion mandate in health care reform. Ms. Barnes reiterated the President's statement about opposing abortion funding in his address before Congress last week but the White House would not commit to language that explicitly excludes abortion from health care reform.
“The reality on the Hill right now is that the health care bills do include abortion funding,” Yoest added. She said an explicit ban on abortion funding is necessary and that the pro-life movement will “vigorously” oppose the inclusion of abortion in health care.