Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Oct 7, 2009 (CNA) - A spokesman for the Catholic Church has compared a Scottish government plan to set up sex clinics in all secondary schools to “pouring petrol on a fire.”
The government’s report, titled “Do the Right Thing,” plans to create clinics that will offer school pupils free condoms and pregnancy tests. Government ministers hope the clinics will curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and stop teen pregnancies, the Daily Record reports.
The clinics will be open to students under the age of 16. Parents will be notified only if the nurses who run the clinics think they are being abused or exploited.
A government spokeswoman said it was “vital” that young people’s services be available “when and where they require them.” She told the Daily Record that services will be provided in all schools that can do so. Where schools cannot provide clinics, an alternative will be provided within 20 minutes’ walking distance.
Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Catholic Church warned that sexually transmitted infections, teen pregnancies and abortions have “exploded” as these services have expanded.
“This approach is tantamount to pouring petrol on a fire,” he commented, according to the Daily Record.
Catholic schools will be allowed to opt out of the scheme.
Scottish Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser said sex education must be done in “a moral context” to ensure educators are not “stimulating an interest which might not otherwise be there.”
Scotland has some of the highest levels of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in Europe. In recent years there have been 8.1 pregnancies per 1,000 under the age of 16 and more than 60 children under 15 diagnosed with Chlamydia.
Chicago, Ill., Oct 7, 2009 (CNA) - An organization for people who have left homosexuality is asking the American Library Association (ALA) to include “ex-gay” books in its annual Banned Books Week.
The Chicago-based Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) said in a press release that it has tried to secure a statement from the ALA opposing “the censorship of ex-gay books.”
“According to Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, ALA policy recommends diversity in book collection development by libraries, regardless of partisan or doctrinal disapproval. However, Caldwell-Stone refuses to state whether that diversity policy includes ex-gay books,” PFOX executive director Regina Griggs said in a Tuesday statement.
"Books about leaving homosexuality are censored in most high school libraries, although gay affirming books for youth are readily available,” she continued.
Griggs reported that Charlie Makela, the supervisor of library services for Arlington County, Virginia public schools rejected PFOX’s donation of ex-gay books, but accepted books from homosexual groups.
“Ms. Makela is also the chair of the ALA's Supervisors' Section of the American Association of School Librarians. Shouldn't the ALA enforce its own diversity policy?” she asked.
She added that other libraries will not accept a donated copy of an ex-gay book for children but will circulate several picture books with homosexual themes for children.
"According to the ALA, the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if unorthodox and unpopular, is the reason for its Banned Books Week," said Griggs. "Every week is a banned books week for the ex-gay community."
Griggs contended that ALA’s sexual orientation policies that advise librarians to resist excluding books about “sex, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation” should also include former homosexuals.
Vatican City, Oct 7, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana has said that resources intended to fight HIV/AIDS should be directed towards anti-retroviral drugs instead of condoms, explaining that prophylactics vary in quality and give the poor a “false sense of security” which facilitates the spread of the disease.
Speaking at a press conference, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson said that if resources presently put into condom production instead subsidized anti-retroviral drugs, “I think we would be happier, in Africa, for the availability of the retroviral drugs then.”
“The ordinary use of condoms, just as a stop of AIDS, is not the given, appreciable resort in our case,” said the cardinal, who is the relator-general or secretary general of the current Synod of Bishops for Africa.
“We are talking about a product of a factory and there are different qualities. There are condoms which arrive in Ghana where in the heat they burst during sex and when that is the case, then it gives the poor a false sense of security which rather facilitates the spread of HIV/AIDS,” he added, according to the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA).
Cardinal Turkson called for abstinence and fidelity, saying they are the key to fighting the epidemic. He also said those who are infected should refrain from sexual relations.
Appia, Somoa, Oct 7, 2009 (CNA) - An Australian sister and her colleagues at a Samoan primary school saved the lives of 320 school children when she quickly moved them to higher ground after an earthquake triggered a tsunami warning.
The Queensland-born Sister Doris Barbero, a Salesian, was teaching at St. Joseph’s Primary School on the edge of the sea in a village in southwest Western Samoa. The school is sponsored by Catholic Mission in Australia.
On Sept. 29 Sr. Doris, two other sisters and 11 lay staff felt the violent rumbling of the earthquake. According to the Archdiocese of Sydney, she said her first reaction was relief that all the children and the school had come through unhurt.
Then came strong aftershocks and the tsunami warning.
"We realized we had a very short time to get the children away from the school and the sea and up to higher ground to the hills behind us," Sister Doris said in a phone conversation with the Archdiocese of Sydney.
Sr. Doris and the staff scrambled up the hills with the children, who ranged in age from four to fifteen years old.
The older children helped the younger ones, who were very frightened.
The group remained huddled in the hills until the following day, the Archdiocese of Sydney reports. Although they escaped, many did not know the fate of their families and some still have relatives missing.
Sr. Doris now wants to raise funds to build a secure tsunami shelter high in the hills behind the school with emergency supplies in the event of a future tsunami.
Samoa-born Catholic priests Fr. Paulino and Tui Kolio and Father Tie Tie celebrated a special evening Mass at St. Therese Church in Sydney last Friday for the grieving and distraught families of victims killed or missing in the wake of the tsunami.
The two priests, both based at St. Therese parish, are migrant chaplains with the Archdiocese of Sydney who serve the local Samoan community.
Vatican City, Oct 7, 2009 (CNA) -
During his Wednesday general audience, held for 40,000 people in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI focused his catechesis on St. John Leonardi, the patron saint of pharmacists. This Italian saint, the Pope taught, can show us that God's medicine, his son Jesus, “is the measure of all things.”
St. John Leonardi, Pope Benedict recalled, was born in the Italian town of Diecimo in the year 1541. He studied pharmacology but abandoned it to focus on theology and was later ordained a priest.
Together with Monsignor Juan Vives and the Jesuit Martin de Funes he helped to found the Pontifical Urban College of Propaganda Fide, in which countless priests have been formed. Throughout his religious life, John Leonardi never lost his passion for pharmacology, convinced that "God's medicine, which is Jesus Christ Who was crucified and rose again, is the measure of all things," the Pope said.
The saint was also involved in advising a group of young people who in 1574 founded the Congregation of the Priests of the Blessed Virgin Reformed, later known as the Clerics Regular of the Mother of God.
"The resplendent figure of this saint invites all Christians, first and foremost priests, to strive constantly towards the 'highest measure of Christian life,' which is sanctity," the Pope said. "Indeed, it is only from faithfulness to Christ that authentic ecclesial renewal can arise.
“In those years,” Benedict XVI recalled, “in the cultural and social passage from the sixteenth to the seventeenth century, the premises of contemporary culture began to be outlined, characterized by an unwarranted fracture between faith and reason which, among the negative effects it has produced, marginalized God and created the illusion of a possible complete autonomy of man, who chooses to live 'as if God did not exist.'”
"This is the crisis of modern thought which I have frequently had occasion to highlight and which often leads to forms of relativism," the Holy Father added. "John Leonardi understood what the true medicine for these spiritual ills was and he summarized it in the expression: 'Christ above all.'”
St. John Leonardi was also well-aware of how Jesus' parable of the weeds and wheat applied to the Church, Pope Benedict explained. He was “not scandalized by her human weaknesses and, in order to counteract the weeds, he chose to become good wheat; that is, he chose to love Christ in the Church and to contribute to making her a more transparent sign of Him."
"Conquered by Christ like St Paul, he pointed to and continues to hold up the Christocentric ideal for which we must give up all our personal interests," the Pontiff said. "Next to the face of Christ his eyes are fixed on the maternal face of Mary, who became the patron of his order."
"The example of this fascinating man of God,” Pope Benedict concluded, “is a model, a call to all priests and all Christians to live their vocation with enthusiasm."
Later, in his greeting to Italian-speaking pilgrims, Benedict XVI noted that today the Church honors Our Lady of the Rosary. He expounded: “To you, dear young people, I recommend praying the Rosary so that it may help you to do the will of God and to find safe refuge in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Dear sick people, experience the comfort of our heavenly Mother so that you may confront moments of trial. For you, dear newlyweds, the recitation of this prayer constitutes a daily commitment of your family so that it may grow, thanks to the intercession of Mary, in unity and in fidelity to the Gospel.”
Pittsburgh, Pa., Oct 7, 2009 (CNA) - The Holy Father has appointed a priest from the Diocese of Pittsburgh to become the fourth bishop of Gaylord, Michigan. Msgr. Bernard A. Hebda, who is a graduate of both Harvard and Columbia University, will succeed Bishop Patrick R. Cooney who submitted his resignation to the Vatican upon reaching the age of 75 in March.
Bishop-elect Hebda, who is currently undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts at the Vatican, expressed his excitement for his new position today, saying that he is both “humbled and honored” at the decision to appoint him to lead the Michigan diocese.
"Never in my wildest dreams have I ever imagined that I would one day be the Bishop of Gaylord,” he told the faithful in the Diocese of Gaylord. “I look forward to getting to know the people of this diocese – their needs, their strengths, their history, so that we can together strive to continue to make Christ’s presence felt in this portion of His vineyard.”
Born in 1959, Msgr. Hebda lived in Pittsburgh until his college years. He completed his undergraduate degree at Harvard University before moving on to study law at Columbia University.
According to the Diocese of Gaylord, the bishop-elect then studied philosophy at Duquesne before completing his theological studies at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Msgr. Hebda was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1989, before completing his licentiate in canon law the following year.
The bishop-elect was then appointed to the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts in Rome in 1996, a department of the Vatican responsible for the interpretation of Church laws. He became the council’s undersecretary in 2003.
While in Rome, Msgr. Hebda also worked as an adjunct spiritual director at North American College and as a confessor for the postulants of Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity.
Bishop of Pittsburgh David A. Zubik spoke of the bishop-elect’s “deep faith and leadership” in a statement released today. He noted that Msgr. Hebda will make an extraordinary bishop due to a number of qualities he possesses: “his self-effacing nature, his capacity to find the good in everyone he meets, his cheerful helpfulness.
“We are excited in knowing that the Diocese of Gaylord is blessed to have such an exceptional servant of Christ,” he said.
The bishop will serve 71,700 Catholics and 69 priests in the Diocese of Gaylord.
Rome, Italy, Oct 7, 2009 (CNA) - On Saturday, October 3, a 55 year-old Christian nurse named Imad Elia Abdul Karim was kidnapped, and despite pleas by Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk for his release, his body was found Sunday, according to Vatican Radio.
The father of two was outside his home when he was kidnapped by Islamic extremists. Upon learning of the news, the archbishop called on authorities to help Imad and denounced the continuous attacks on Christians by extremists who “take advantage of the lack of security in order to carry out kidnappings and demand ransom.”
“Everyone knows,” the archbishop said, “that Christians are citizens of this country and this city. There is no question about their devotion to their homeland, about their sincerity.”
Archbishop Sako deplored the violence against Christians, “who desire to have a role in the reconstruction of the nation,” and encouraged “governmental officials and honest people of Iraq and Kirkuk to do everything possible to protect citizens without distinction.”
Madrid, Spain, Oct 7, 2009 (CNA) - The Spanish Parliament is set to debate a new law on abortion that would allow mothers to end the life of their unborn children through the first trimester. In response, pro-life organizations across the country are collecting signatures and organizing a march on October 17.
Currently, Spanish law permits abortion in cases of rape, fetal abnormalities, and in cases that would compromise the health of the mother. This new law would allow abortion on demand for the first trimester. Pro-life groups expect that if the Socialist Spanish government’s “new law on abortion” is passed that it will dramatically increase the number of abortions.
In order to marshal support against the bill, pro-life organizations in Spain have created a manifesto in defense of life, women and maternity. They are also urging Spanish citizens to march in support of life on October 17. The groups are also asking people to support the establishment of pregnancy centers to help mothers and clinics to assist women in dealing with post abortion grief.
According to organizers of the pro-life efforts, although the legislation is Spanish, past support from pro-life groups and individuals in the U.S. have made an impact on international legislation.
One such example is a vote that took place in Slovakia on a measure to inform women of the dangers of abortion, alternatives to ending the life of their child and requiring informed consent. Despite intense pressure from 19 international pro-abortion groups, the Slovak parliament passed the bill, which was then signed into law by President Ivan Gasparovic.
For more information in Spanish on the manifesto and march, visit, http://cadavidaimporta.org.
Washington D.C., Oct 7, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments in a case concerning whether a cross on federal park land in California which memorializes World War I veterans violates the U.S. Constitution. One congressman warned that the case could have an enormous “ripple effect” on memorials across the country including Arlington Cemetery.
The white cross mounted on southeastern California’s Sunrise Rock, commonly known as the Mojave Desert Cross, is seven feet tall. It is currently covered with a plywood box in accordance with a lower court’s order.
A district court initially ruled that the cross had to be removed from the land. Congress then enacted legislation ordering the Department of the Interior to transfer an acre of land which included the cross to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The property was exchanged for a parcel of equal value elsewhere in the federal preserve where it is located.
The legal case, named Salazar v. Buono, is now before the Supreme Court.
According to the Associated Press, several Supreme Court justices on Wednesday indicated that they agreed with a federal appeals court ruling that the land transfer was an end run around current First Amendment jurisprudence’s prohibitions against government endorsement of religion.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had invalidated the transfer, ruling the move would do nothing to minimize the “impermissible governmental endorsement” of the religious symbol.
Other Supreme Court justices on Wednesday thought the transfer resolved constitutional questions, with Justice Samuel Alito asking whether it was not a “sensible interpretation” of a court order.
Judging by the tenor of the discussion, the AP said the justices could rule narrowly on the case and not use it to make a general statement about First Amendment concerns.
Easter Sunday sunrise services have been held at the Mojave Desert Cross for decades.
A former National Park Service employee, Frank Buono, sued to have the cross removed or covered after the agency refused to allow the erection of a Buddhist memorial nearby. Buono, who is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), describes himself as a practicing Catholic, the Associated Press reports. He said he took issue with the government’s decision to allow the display of only the Christian symbol.
The federal government's lawyers contend that Buono lacks standing to file the lawsuit because, as a Christian, he suffers no harm from the cross. The government characterizes his main complaint as being that others may feel excluded.
The Becket Fund has filed an amicus brief in the case also questioning whether Buono has been injured or denied any rights by the presence of the cross.
"Stripping this country of every symbol--even the religious ones--that might offend somebody somewhere will impoverish American culture," Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director of the Becket Fund, commented in a press release. "The First Amendment guarantees the right to speak and believe freely; it does not guarantee the right to silence those who disagree with you."
Rassbach added that if the memorial is ruled unconstitutional, tens of thousands of memorials are at risk of legal challenge.
In a Wednesday phone interview, CNA spoke with Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-VA). The Congressman is the founder and chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus and a supporter of an amicus curiae brief filed in the case by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
Rep. Forbes, who observed Wednesday’s hearings, reported that justices “peppered” both sets of attorneys with questions. Every justice except perhaps Justice Clarence Thomas asked a series of questions about the case.
He told CNA that the defense’s argument went in some directions he found regrettable, but he also reported that opponents of the Mojave Cross did not do a good job either.
One concern for defenders of the Mojave Cross, he reported, is how passionate the Obama administration will be in its defense of such cases.
The congressman criticized the government for not raising the issue of the legal standing needed to bring a lawsuit. In his view, the standard is so low that anyone who drives by a cross like the Mojave Cross “automatically gets the right to go into federal court.”
“This can cost defendants hundreds of thousands per case,” Rep. Forbes told CNA. He claimed this was the situation in the Mojave Cross case.
Another issue, he said, concerned whether one can have “a five-foot cross on what will be privately owned land.”
If it comes to the point where one cannot, he warned, “the ripple effect is going to be enormous.”
“What do they do to Arlington Cemetery?” he wondered. “How detrimental would that be to many people across the country who have lost spouses and children and parents who have been honored by these crosses at war memorials and other places and now you’re just ripping it up because one person doesn’t like it?”
The congressman pointed out that the Mojave Desert Cross had been up for “years and years and years.”
When it was first erected, he said, “no one had any inkling that we would be at a day where someone would have a constitutional challenge to anything as simple as a cross.”
Madrid, Spain, Oct 7, 2009 (CNA) - The spokesperson for Right to Life in Spain, Gador Joya, has challenged the country’s Vice President, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, to be consistent and act on comments she made on a local radio station. Joya is urging her to withdraw the proposed reforms of Spain’s abortion laws, which according to the vice president, have fractured Spanish society.
In an interview on the COPE radio network, Fernandez de la Vega said the question of when life begins is controversial. “It is a moral and scientific debate which I respect,” she said, adding that “society is split 50-50” on the bill allowing abortion on demand.
However, she went on to justify the measure, saying “greater guarantees, greater security for women” are needed, and that Spanish laws on abortion need to fall in line with those of its European neighbors.
Joya responded that “there is no scientific debate about the beginning of life, but rather on the contrary, it is an undisputed fact, unanimously recognized by the scientific community, that individual human life begins at the moment of conception.”
The pro-life leader lamented that “the vice president talks about legal guarantees when the legal security of the life of the child is going to be at the mercy of the mother’s will and the interests of the abortion industry during the first fourteen weeks. There will only be more security for the promoters of abortion, but the child and the mother will be more unprotected than ever.”
Joya also noted that the bill would not bring Spanish laws in line with those of other European countries because “the abortion agenda of Mr. Zapatero is the most radical and violent in all of Europe.”
If the government wanted to bring Spain into line, “it could have brought Spain into line on policies that support the birth rate and by helping women to exercise their right to be mothers. Instead it has chosen the most extreme abortion agenda that is harmful to both mother and child,” Joya said.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 7, 2009 (CNA) - Just days before the release of the new movie “Agora” by Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar, civil rights organizations are denouncing the film for promoting hatred of Christians and reinforcing false clichés about the Catholic Church.
The president of the Religious Anti-Defamation Observatory, Antonio Alonso Marcos, has sent an open letter to Amenabar, also know for his pro-euthanasia film “The Sea Inside,” denouncing the film’s anti-Christian bias.
“The reason for my letter is to make you realize something that you already know but have dismissed as unimportant: your film is going to awaken hatred against Christians in today’s society. You present a biased view of the relationship between science and the Church, between faith and reason. It has been pointed out to you directly and indirectly, and you have used a somewhat vague excuse and looked the other way,” Marcos wrote.
Marcos reminded Amenabar of the comments made by people who have already seen a private screening of the film and which Amenabar himself echoed during a television interview.
During the interview he said, “At the end of the film, people sitting near me said Christians are bunch of SOBs.”
“This has been and will be the reaction of the public in general, and you know it,” Marcos said in his letter. “Is that what you were looking for? To throw manure on an institution that today helps millions of human beings to live and enjoy life to the fullest?” he asked the director.
In response to Amenabar’s statements that the film “is not against Christians but rather against those who set off bombs and kill in the name of God, that is, against religious fanatics,” Marcos wondered why the director has not recreated situations like those that take place in the Middle East.
“Agora,” which stars Rachel Weisz, is an epic film that recounts the story of Hipatia, a pagan woman who was killed for her political beliefs. According to some Spanish media, the film has yet to find a distributor in the United States because of its strong anti-Christian bias.