Archive of September 30, 2009

Newt Gingrich examines John Paul II’s role in fall of Communism in new movie

Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2009 (CNA) - Former Speaker of the U.S. House Newt Gingrich, a recent convert to Catholicism, is producing a forthcoming documentary about Pope John Paul II’s first return visit to Poland in June 1979. Titled “Nine Days that Change the World,” the film explores the impact of the visit on the collapse of Communism.

The film’s website says that the Polish trade union movement “languished” before June of 1979. Following the visit of Pope John Paul II and the 1980 Gdansk shipyard strike, the Solidarity movement became the first officially recognized free trade union in the Communist bloc and had over 10 million members.

Nine Days that Changed the World seeks to examine what happened during John Paul II’s nine-day visit, why millions of Poles came to see the Pope and what made John Paul II’s visit such a “liberating moment.”

The story of Pope John Paul II’s role in the overthrow of Communism, in Gingrich’s view, will show that our true humanity is found “only in a relationship with God.”

“I hope people will see the film and think about their relationship to Christ and the importance of courage,” Gingrich added, speaking to Deal Hudson of

Gingrich says he hopes the film, co-produced by his wife Callista, will be an “evangelical vehicle” to counter the “secularist moment” in U.S. culture.

In the former politician’s view, the United States is “heir to a Scottish and English Enlightenment that did not reject God, unlike the atheism of the French Revolution.”

"In the face of the secularist threat," Gingrich mused, "along with that of militant Islam, endurance is what really matters."

Telling Hudson of his conversion, Gingrich said his wife did not push her faith on him but witnessed to it through her example.

“It was clear it meant a great deal to her,” he said, telling how he went to Mass with her at Washington’s basilica and wherever they traveled.

Gingrich said his wife “created an environment where I could gradually think and evolve on the issue of faith.”
Reading and conversations with friends advanced his understanding until the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States. Callista’s choir was to sing vespers for the Pope, allowing Gingrich to see him up close.

He said it was clear Pope Benedict was “having the time of his life.”

“[T]he joy in his eyes belied his reputation as an austere German,” Gingrich told Hudson. “As he walked past me, I knew I wanted to become a Catholic."

"I knew that I belonged here."  "No --as a Catholic, I should put it: Here is where I belong."

Nine Days that Changed the World is scheduled to be released in Fall of 2009. The website for the film is

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Philippines archbishop praises ‘heroic’ response to Typhoon Ketsana

Manila, Philippines, Sep 30, 2009 (CNA) - After a major storm in the northern Philippines caused flooding that has left at least 246 people dead, the local archbishop praised the heroism of a young man who died saving more than a dozen neighbors. He also called for compassion in what he said may be the worst flood in more than half a century.

Nearly 1.9 million people saw their homes inundated in the weekend flooding caused by Typhoon Ketsana, known locally as “Ondoy.” About 380,000 have sought shelter in schools, churches and other evacuation centers, according to news reports. Extra police have been deployed to prevent looting in abandoned homes, while victims search for food, clean water, dry clothes and shelter.

Archbishop of Jaro Angel N. Lagdameo, who is also the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president, praised the “heroism of the Filipino” in response to the disaster.

“Compassion is drawing many Filipinos to unite with their unfortunate brothers and sisters,” he said.

Archbishop Lagdameo saluted 18-year-old Muelmar Magallanes, who died after saving more than a dozen neighbors, the last of whom was a six-month-old baby.

During the flooding in his Manialla village, Magallanes first helped his older brother take his three younger siblings to higher ground. He returned to save his parents and again returned to save neighbors trapped on rooftops, New Straits Times reports.

A strong swimmer, he was tired when he heard Menchie Penalosa screaming as the styrofoam box on which she and her young daughter were floating became caught in a strong current.

“I didn’t know that the current was so strong. In an instant, I was under water. We were going to die,” Penalosa told New Straits Times. “Then this man came from nowhere and grabbed us. He took us to where the other neighbors were, and then he was gone.”

The exhausted Magallanes was swept away by the water. His body was found on Sunday.

Archbishop Lagdameo’s message continued with a call for compassion in the face of agonizing victims and angry complaints at the slowness or absence of disaster relief response.

“If there were no graft and corruption in our government, our government would be more prepared to respond to such crisis,” the prelate commented.

The archbishop said the Filipino bishops' National Secretariat for Social Action (NSSA) has been mobilized to help victims of the flood. Relief goods are now being gathered and distributed to the flood-affected provinces around Metro Manila.

Caritas Manila has started to respond to the flood victims in Metro Manila, while social action centers of other dioceses may send to CBCP NASSA whatever they collect.

Archbishop Lagdameo expressed “profound gratitude” to the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council and the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Relief Services.

“They were among the first to respond,” he explained.

“Through the ravages of nature in the past, the Filipino sense of compassion, which we also call ‘bayanihan,’ has been called forth. The pictures we have seen in the past few days are pictures of Filipinos responding to the call for compassion, of people willing to ‘suffer with,’ people with the spirit of ‘bayanihan,’” he said in his letter.

“We bend our knees in prayer for salvation against natural calamities, but when they do come, we are not so helpless as not to respond with heroism,” the archbishop continued, citing the saying “In the Church, no one is so poor as to have nothing to give, and no one is so rich as to have nothing to receive.”

“We are humbled by the crises that come to us. We pray to God and appeal for our neighbor,” he added.

According to the Associated Press, Philippines officials have appealed for international aid, saying they may not have enough resources to withstand two new storms forecasted to hit the northern Philippines later this week and again next week.

The administration of Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has acknowledged that it was overwhelmed by the disaster but said it was doing all it could.

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Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist leaders to mark 10th anniversary of Joint Declaration on Justification

Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2009 (CNA) - Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist church leaders will mark the tenth anniversary of a joint agreement on the Doctrine of Justification in a meeting in downtown Chicago on Thursday.

A service including Evening Prayer and tributes to the joint declaration will be held at Old St. Patrick’s Church, a press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reports.

The Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation signed the Joint Declaration on October 31, 1999. It was the product of nearly 35 years of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue in the United States and abroad.

Fr. James Massa, Executive Director for the USCCB’s Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said the anniversary is “an historic moment on the journey toward Christian unity.”

“The Joint Declaration expressed a common understanding of how human beings are made right with God through the life-giving death of Jesus Christ,” he added.

In 2006, the World Methodist Council also affirmed the joint declaration as an expression of how Methodists understand the nature of salvation as a gift that equips believers for good works of justice and compassion in the world.

USCCB president and Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson will lead the prayer service. The service, which will begin at 6:30 pm, will include choral music and a solemn reading of the Word of God.

Bishop Hanson is also President of the Lutheran World Foundation, the global Lutheran partner to the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, Chairman of the bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and Dr. Ishmael Noko, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, also will speak.

The president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, Bishop Gregory Palmer, will represent the United Methodist Church.

Attendees will include numerous Lutheran, Methodist and Catholic bishops and clergy and laity from various Christian traditions.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was with Dr. Noko one of the four official signers of the Declaration ten years ago. He recently expressed hope that the Declaration would become a “joint commitment to deepen our common prayer.”

“May it encourage us to continue our theological dialogue, and building on our common foundations, may it lead to an increase in joint witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Justification by faith was a point of theological controversy between Martin Luther and the Catholic Church in the period Protestants call the Reformation. Lutherans accused Catholics of believing in salvation by works, while Catholics held that Lutherans and other Protestants had divorced faith from the other two supernatural virtues of hope and love.

The Joint Declaration identified a consensus behind the controversy, saying “Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.”

More information on Catholic-Protestant relations is available at the website of the USCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs:

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Benedict XVI to pray for improved Sunday worship and evangelization efforts

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2009 (CNA) - During the month of October, Pope Benedict XVI will pray that Sunday is properly celebrated by Christians as the day of Jesus' Resurrection and that they will eagerly embrace their responsibility to share the faith.

The Holy Father's general prayer intention for October is: "That Sunday may be lived as the day on which Christians gather to celebrate the risen Lord, participating in the Eucharist."

His mission intention is: "That the entire People of God, to whom Christ entrusted the mandate to go and preach the Gospel to every creature, may eagerly assume their own missionary responsibility and consider it the highest service they can offer humanity."

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Complete human formation is solution to dictatorship of relativism, Pope says

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2009 (CNA) -

With 10,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated Wednesday’s general audience to retracing the stages of his journey to the Czech Republic. The history of the region, the Pope explained, shows us that progress must either be rooted in “integral human formation” or risk falling prey to dictators. In our day, the dictator is relativism, coupled with the dominance of technology.

The journey to the Czech Republic, he said, “was both a true pilgrimage and a mission to the heart of Europe, a pilgrimage, because Bohemia and Moravia have for over one thousand years been territories of faith and holiness, a mission, because Europe needs to find in God and His love the firm foundation of hope.”

"The love of Christ is our strength,” the Pope stated, explaining that it is "a force which inspires and animates real revolution, peaceful and free, and which sustains us in times of crisis, allowing us to rise again when painfully recovered freedom is in danger of being lost, of loosing its true meaning.”

Recalling his visit to the Church of Our Lady Victorious in the Czech capital, where the famous statue of the Infant of Prague is located, Benedict XVI reminded the faithful that, “The love of Christ began to reveal itself in the face of a child." The Infant of Prague statue, he added, “reminds us of the mystery of God made man, God close to us, the foundation of our hope," and in that church "I prayed for children, parents and the future of families."

Prague’s castle, in the words of Pope Benedict, "contains numerous monuments, environments, institutions, almost like a polis: the cathedral, the palace, the square, the garden. Thus I could touch both the civil and religious which are not juxtaposed but in a harmonious closeness in their distinction.”

Thanking God for the success of the visit, the Pope recalled the ecumenical meeting in the Prague archbishop’s residence, where representatives of various Christian and Jewish communities were present. "Looking back at history and the bitter conflicts of the past,” he said, “it is a cause for gratitude to God to have found ourselves together to share our faith and historical responsibility in the face of current challenges. The effort to move towards a more full and visible unity among us makes our joint commitment to rediscover the Christian roots of Europe stronger and more effective.”

The Holy Father also recounted that in his encounter with the academic world he insisted on the role of universities in the context of the “common commitment to rediscover the Christian roots of Europe.”

"The University,” he concluded, “is a vital environment for society, ensuring peace and development, as demonstrated by the so-called 'Velvet Revolution.'"

"Twenty years afterwards, I raised the idea of integral human formation to counter a new dictatorship, that of relativism combined with the domination of technology. Humanistic and scientific culture cannot be separated, they are two sides of the same coin. The Czech lands themselves remind us of this, being home to great writers like Kafka and to abbot Mendel, pioneer of modern genetics."

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EEOC nominee signed radical marriage manifesto that praised polygamy

Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2009 (CNA) - A law professor nominated by President Obama to become a commissioner for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was a signatory to a radical 2006 manifesto which endorsed polygamous households and argued traditional marriage should not be privileged “above all others.”

Georgetown University Law Center professor Chai R. Feldblum, nominated as a commissioner for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), is listed as a signatory to the July 26, 2006 manifesto “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families & Relationships.”

The manifesto’s signatories said they proposed a “new vision” for governmental and private recognition of “diverse kinds” of partnerships, households and families. They said they hoped to “move beyond the narrow confines of marriage politics” in the U.S.

Describing various kinds of households as no less socially, economically, and spiritually worthy than other relationships, the Beyond Marriage manifesto listed “committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner.”

Same-sex marriage, the manifesto said, should be “just one option on a menu of choices that people have about the way they construct their lives.”

“Marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship, and it should not be legally and economically privileged above all others,” the manifesto continued. “While we honor those for whom marriage is the most meaningful personal ­– for some, also a deeply spiritual – choice, we believe that many other kinds of kinship relationship, households, and families must also be accorded recognition.”

The manifesto listed as one of its principles “freedom from a narrow definition of our sexual lives and gender choices, identities, and expression.”

It also charged that the political right enforces “narrow, heterosexist definitions of marriage.”

Other signatories of the Beyond Marriage manifesto included activists, academics, writers, artists, and clergy. The prominent names listed include Ms. Magazine founder Gloria Steinem, New York Times writer Barbara Ehrenreich, Catholic feminist theologian Mary E. Hunt, Tikkun Magazine editor Rabbi Michael Lerner, philosopher Judith Butler and Princeton University professor Cornel West.

President Barack Obama announced Feldblum’s nomination in a Sept. 14 statement, saying she and nominees to other agencies bring “a dedication and expertise in their fields that will serve this administration and the American people well.”

“As we work to advance equal rights, keep our nation safe and put our country back on a path to prosperity, I look forward to working with these fine individuals in the months and years ahead," the president said.

The White House’s statement noted that Feldblum has taught at the Georgetown University Law Center since 1991 and founded a program there to train students to become legislative lawyers. She also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun and helped draft the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

“She has also worked on advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and has been a leading expert on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act,” the White House’s Sept. 14 statement said.

The Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) would create a federal ban on workplace discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The EEOC is tasked with the enforcement of federal anti-discrimination law in the workplace. If confirmed, Feldblum would become one of five EEOC commissioners, who each serve a term of five years.

Feldblum’s nomination was sent to the U.S. Senate on Sept. 15.

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Pope’s visit has put the Church at the center of Czech society, cardinal says

Prague, Czech Republic, Sep 30, 2009 (CNA) - In the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the Czech Republic last weekend, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of Prague said the historic trip has placed the Church at the center of the country’s social life and has profoundly revitalized Catholics in a country that is usually seen as “atheist and secularized.”
Speaking on Vatican Radio, the cardinal said the Holy Father’s visit was a source of great encouragement for the faithful of Prague, Brno and Stara Boleslav.
“The Pope himself mentioned it, and you could see that people came not only out of curiosity over seeing a ‘celebrity,’ but above all motivated by their faith. And the Holy Father felt this, especially in Stara Boleslav, where the young people gathered. Their joy had a great impact on the Holy Father, who said after lunch with the bishops that this was an extraordinary visit,” the cardinal stated.
After noting that it was very special to have the Pope in the Czech Republic for the feast of St. Wenceslas, Cardinal Vlk said that before the Pontiff’s arrival, “The Church was seen as a small group on the fringes of society and civil life.”
With the papal visit, he continued, “Society can see that we are part of the universal Church which is worldwide, and that we follow this great moral and spiritual authority of the world who is the Holy Father.”
“I think this visit has had a profound effect on the Church’s position and situation in our society,” the cardinal said.

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New astrophysical discoveries leave little to no room for Atheism, expert says

Denver, Colo., Sep 30, 2009 (CNA) - Contemporary astrophysics hold the scientific key to prove the existence of God, but unfortunately very few know the scientific facts, said Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J, PhD, during a conference delivered on Sunday at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization in Denver, Colorado.

The Honolulu-born Jesuit is the past president of Gonzaga University and is also well-known philosopher and physicist who is involved in bringing science and theology together.

Fr. Spitzer is currently engaged in an ambitious project to explain the metaphysical consequences of the latest astrophysical discoveries, mainly, the existence of a Creator.

The conference in Denver was sponsored by John and Carol Saeman as well as the California Catholic philanthropist Timothy Busch.

“The arguments of Fr. Spitzer are addressed to every honest human being who is trying to reach to God through science,” said Mr. Busch, during the introduction.

“Atheism and pop culture have had a significant impact on Theism and it has to be confronted especially because Secularism and the negation of God are becoming pervasive,” began the 57 year-old priest.

“Theism, in fact,  can be better explained by contemporary science and modern philosophy better than ever before,  but particularly interesting is what is happening in the field of astrophysics ... to the point that  I can't imagine why agnosticism and Atheism are still popular,” Fr. Spitzer said. 

“That is why we need contemporary ‘translators’ that are capable of bringing today's science to regular people, and especially, to bring the astrophysical response to atheism,” he added.

Fr. Spitzer explained that, since science is based on a empirical model, it can change at any time. Nevertheless, as science develops and the so called “Big Bang” theory of the origin and existence of the universe becomes more refined, “it becomes less and less possible for other explanations (of the universe) to be scientifically viable.”

The theory, developed by the Belgian Catholic priest and astronomer Georges Lemaître, proposes  that the Universe has expanded from a primordial dense initial condition at some time in the past (currently estimated to have been approximately 13.7 billion years ago), and continues to expand to this day.

The model, according to Fr. Spitzer, has been revised, refined and scientifically established to a point that any other theory of the origin and existence of the universe has become harder and harder to defend.

Fr. Spitzer explained that, what we know from the most recent scientific evidence is that “the universe is not the universe of Mr. Newton anymore, it is not infinite, it is finite, it started at some point, and is in constant expansion.”

He then explained the complexity of the universe, saying it is based on “an incredibly delicate balance of 17 cosmological constants.  If any of them would be off by one part of a tenth at a forty potency, we would be dead and the universe would not be what it is.”

“Every single Big Bang model shows the existence of what scientists call a ‘singularity,’ and the existence of each singularity demands the existence of an external ‘element’ to the universe,” Fr. Spitzer said.

The priest physicist then proceeded to explain the different, complex versions of the various Bing Bang theories.

He quoted Roger Penrose, the world-famous English mathematician and physicist, who corrected some of the theories of his friend and colleague Stephen Hawking to conclude that every Big Bang theory, including the one known as Quantum theory, confirms the existence of singularities. Therefore, said Spitzer, the need to find an explanation to the universe’s existence drives us to seek “a force that is previous and independent from the universe.”

Fr. Spitzer also quoted the 2003 experiments by three leading cosmologists, Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin, who were able to prove that any universe which has, on average, been expanding throughout its history cannot be infinite in the past but must have a past space-time boundary.

“The concept at this point is clear: nothing is nothing, and from nothing, nothing comes, since nothing is... nothing!” Fr. Spitzer said, to explain the fact that contemporary astrophysics demands “something with sufficient power to bring the universe into existence.”

“It sounds like a theological argument, but is really a scientific conclusion.

 “There is no way to ignore the fact that it demands the existence of a singularity and therefore of a Creator outside space and time,” he added.

According to Fr. Spitzer, “this theory has become so scientifically solid, that 50% of astrophysicists are “coming out of the closet” an accepting a metaphysical conclusion: the need of a Creator.”

The Jesuit priest explained that this theory is not what is currently known as “Intelligent Design.”

“Intelligent Design is a biological theory, this is an anthropic universe theory, based on the question: Can our universe sustain forms of life no matter what, without any external energy?”

According to Fr. Spitzer, Professor Penrose “has provided a mathematical model in which the possibilities of a universe that would not be gobbled without the existence of a Creator are simply improvable, to a point of mathematical impossibility.”

“What  can we conclude of this? First that the Creator is really smart... and second that it must be a loving one, because He could choose so many more violent and chaotic alternatives, that it really has to make you wonder.”

Fr. Spitzer explained to CNA that “all this information must be conveyed in a simple manner to our seminarians, our college and high school students, who are mostly ignorant of the powerful Theistic message of today’s astrophysics.”

The Jesuit physicist, with the help of some Catholic philanthropists, is working on a project to create a  90-minute curriculum, divided into three 30-minute segments, that will offer the astrophysics-based response to atheism. “It will be a high quality production that will involve 12 physicists, as well as dynamic and engaging graphics,” he explained.

“The idea,” he told CNA, “is to make not only DVDs that can be distributed to all Catholic high schools or Newman centers around the U.S., but to make it available for free via the Internet.”

Fr. Spitzer is working in another three more 90-minute curricula: “The historical evidence of Jesus,” “Suffering and the love of God” and  “Contemporary philosophical responses to Atheism.”

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World Congress of Catholic doctors to be held in Lourdes in 2010

Rome, Italy, Sep 30, 2009 (CNA) - The International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors (FIAMC) announced that its 23rd World Congress will be held May 6-9, 2010, in Lourdes, Frances.
Under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, the Congress-Pilgrimage, as it is being called, will focus on the theme, “Our Faith as Doctors.”
The International Medical Association of Lourdes and the Catholic Center for French Doctors are among the organizations promoting the event.
Speakers at the Congress will include experts from France, Italy, Spain, the United States, Peru, Chile, Argentina, India, Australia, Croatia, Germany and others.  The opening session will be led by the president of FIAMC, Dr. Jose Maria Simon Castellvi, president of FIAMC, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, Bishop Jacques Perrier of Tarbes and Lourdes and Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona.
The Congress will address such topics as, “Catholic doctors and the Church, “Cures and miracles,” “The doctor, reflection of the Holy Spirit,” “Maternity, a priority for the Church,” “The protection of human life, in vitro fertilization and related procedures from a Catholic point of view.”
The schedule for the event can be found in French at

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Cuba detains political opponent and places him on summary trial

Havana, Cuba, Sep 30, 2009 (CNA/Europa Press) - The Christian Liberation Movement, led by Oswaldo Paya, on Tuesday denounced the detention of one of its members, Agustin Cervantes, who is facing a summary trial without the ability to testify in his own defense.

Cervantes' trial is the first to take place since the government attempted suppress opposition by detaining political dissidents in the spring of 2003, according to Europa Press.
In an audio message posted on the movement’s website, Paya said Cervantes was detained Monday in the province of Santiago. He was coordinator there for the Varela Project, which calls for a referendum on civil freedoms in Cuba.
Paya also denounced the harassment he has been subject to at his home, which is surrounded by state security agents who carry out surveillance on “everyone who comes and goes” and who disconnected his phone service right before Cervantes was detained.  Service is periodically restored, he said, but “mafia style messages” are often heard when picking up the receiver to make a call.
Paya went on to lament the increase in repression against the members of the Varela Project, who he said are “only employing their constitutional right to present legal initiatives.” The civil rights leader also reiterated that the effort would continue until all Cuban citizens are granted their full rights.

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Widespread distribution of morning-after pill fits into Spanish government’s agenda

Madrid, Spain, Sep 30, 2009 (CNA) - The organizations Professionals for Ethics and Responsible Pharmacies Network are  criticizing the decision by the Spanish government to allow the morning-after pill to be distributed in pharmacies without a prescription or an age restriction.
Fabian Fernandez de Alarcon, general secretary for Professionals for Ethics, said the measure is a manifestation of the government’s ideological agenda, which he said is taking precedence over the public’s health and the best interests of Spaniards. 

It is an attempt to “banalize sexual relations and turn them into a game deprived of any humanity and responsibility,” he said. Furthermore, he said, the ruling separates “children from their parents when it comes to important decisions,” and  makes abortion, “which can now be carried out by simply taking a pill, something trivial.”
Alarcon noted that the pill often thwarts implantation “and thus has an abortifacient effect.  The woman who ingests this pill can suffer an abortion without even realizing it,” apart from all of the problematic side effects, he commented.
He called the measure another step towards “the total liberalization of abortion,” which is just as dangerous when done medically as when done surgically.

Alarcon said distributing the pill to minors was “contrary to all logic” and to “health care norms, which prohibit minors from purchasing drugs that are much less harmful than this pill.”

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Senate committee rejects amendment to keep abortion out of health care

Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2009 (CNA) - The Senate Financial Services Committee rejected an amendment today that was presented by Senator Orin Hatch to keep abortion out of Senator Max Baucus' "America's Health Future Act of 2009." The Hatch amendment also would have codified current conscience protections into the health bill.

Senator Hatch's abortion funding amendment would have kept federal funds from paying for abortions or plans that cover abortion, but it would also not prevent women from obtaining their own separate abortion policies if they choose to do so.

Hatch's amendment failed by a 13-10 vote, with one Republican, Olympia Snowe of Maine voting with the majority and one Democrat, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, supporting Hatch.

The Baucus legislation explicitly includes elective abortion and would subsidize health plans that cover all elective abortions. It would also undermine current conscience protections by not protecting health insurers from being forced to cover elective abortions.

Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council reacted to the vote, saying, “by defeating Senator Orin Hatch's amendment on abortion funding we once again see Democrat leaders determined to create massive new government subsidies for plans that include abortion on demand.”

According to Perkins, without the Hatch amendment, “the Baucus bill creates a back-door way around the Hyde Amendment by subsidizing plans that cover abortion. Moreover, by rejecting Senator Hatch's conscience protection amendment, the Baucus bill would undermine current protections in the annual Hyde/Weldon appropriations provision that provide protections for health plans that refuse to cover abortion.”

“Rather than maintain the status quo on abortion funding or conscience rights,” Perkins said, “the Baucus bill will greatly increase the number of abortions in our country and offer fewer protections for health plans that refuse to cover elective abortion. This isn't the status quo, it's a pro-abortion expansion.”

The Senate Finance Committee's decision could threaten support for the health care bill from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and most Catholics, who oppose federal funding of abortion but back the idea of expanding health care coverage.

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