Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2009 (CNA) - This past Saturday evening, Barack Obama became the second sitting U.S. President to make an appearance at the Human Rights Campaign, the largest pro-gay “marriage” organization in the country. President Obama delivered an impassioned speech in which he criticized the concept of the traditional family and announced that his administration will work to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA.)
Speaking at the black-tie event, President Obama assessed the progress made by the gay agenda, saying, "despite the real gains that we’ve made, there’s still laws to change and there’s still hearts to open."
"There are still fellow citizens, perhaps neighbors, even loved ones, good and decent people, who hold fast to outworn arguments and old attitudes; who fail to see your families like their families; who would deny you the rights most Americans take for granted. And that’s painful and it’s heartbreaking," he lamented.
The president then asserted that homosexual couples "have demonstrated before the world that different kinds of families can show the same compassion in a time of need," and praised the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for "helping to elect candidates who share your values; standing against those who would enshrine discrimination into our Constitution; advocating on behalf of those living with HIV/AIDS; and fighting for progress in our capital and across America."
"This fight,” the president said, “continues now. And I’m here with a simple message: I’m here with you in that fight."
"We have made progress and we will make more. And I think it’s important to remember that there is not a single issue that my administration deals with on a daily basis that does not touch on the lives of the LGBT community,” the U.S. leader added.
Obama then promised the audience that "you will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman. You will see a nation that’s valuing and cherishing these families as we build a more perfect union — a union in which gay Americans are an important part."
During his speech, the President revealed that he met recently at the Oval Office with Dennis and Judy Shepard, whose son Matthew, a homosexual college student, was killed in Wyoming 11 years ago. He said he promised them “that we were going to pass an inclusive hate crimes bill — a bill named for her son." "I can announce that after more than a decade, this bill is set to pass and I will sign it into law," he said to cheers and applause.
"Together," he stated, “we will have moved closer to that day when no one has to be afraid to be gay in America. When no one has to fear walking down the street holding the hand of the person they love."
After listing his administration's achievement on LGBT issues, Obama announced that “we are moving ahead on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell." "I’m working with the Pentagon, its leadership, and the members of the House and Senate on ending this policy. Legislation has been introduced in the House to make this happen. I will end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. That’s my commitment to you."
The president then turned to the issue of legalizing same-sex marriages, saying, "I support ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country."
"I believe strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away and passing laws that extend equal rights to gay couples. I’ve required all agencies in the federal government to extend as many federal benefits as possible to LGBT families as the current law allows. And I’ve called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act."
Without naming names, the president criticized pro-family groups for trying to introduce and pass legislation to protect marriage that defines it as being between one man and one woman. These groups are pushing "divisive and deceptive efforts to feed people’s lingering fears for political and ideological gain," Obama charged.
"If we are honest with ourselves we’ll admit that there are too many who do not yet know in their lives or feel in their hearts the urgency of this struggle. That’s why I continue to speak about the importance of equality for LGBT families, and not just in front of gay audiences. That’s why Michelle and I have invited LGBT families to the White House to participate in events like the Easter Egg Roll, because we want to send a message."
“That’s the promise of America, HRC. That’s the promise we’re called to fulfill. Day by day, law by law, changing mind by mind, that is the promise we are fulfilling,” President Obama said, finishing his speech.
Rome, Italy, Oct 12, 2009 (CNA) - The semi-official Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, has called the decision to award President Obama with the Nobel Peace Prize premature and more of an invitation to choose peace through politics. The award is also questionable because of his position on various bio-ethics issues, especially abortion.
The article points out that “the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama has taken everyone somewhat by surprise, first and foremost the U.S. president himself.”
“During the last 90 years,” L'Osservatore noted, “the prize has never been awarded to a sitting U.S. president—when it was awarded to Jimmy Carter in 2002 he had been out of office already for some time—[but was] involved in politics and susceptible, therefore, to making a range of decisions related to peace.”
Perhaps for this reason, the newspaper said, “Analysts have almost unanimously interpreted his selection as a way of pressuring Obama to make pacifist choices as his administration continues forward.”
L'Osservatore also questioned the administratoion's actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that the decisions seem aimed at trying to find a middle way between “fidelity to the pacifist statements made during the campaign season and a more realistic policy, which some have defined as a continuation of that of the ‘warmonger’ Bush.”
This back-and-forth policy, the paper observed, is very similar to the approach that Obama has taken to “the great bioethics issues, with abortion being first and foremost.” His way of doing things has generated great controversy among Catholics in the country, the daily added.
The Vatican newspaper also brought to mind Mother Teresa being honored with the Peace Prize in 1979, and said, “Obama ought to recall that in 1979 he was preceded by Mother Teresa, who had the courage to state in her acceptance speech that the harshest war with the greatest number of ‘fallen’ is the practice of abortion, legalized and facilitated as well by the international structures.”
Pointing out an inconsistency, L'Osservatore noted that Pope John Paul II was a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize for year but was never chosen for the award, not even in 2003 “after his condemnation of the war in Iraq.”
“Pope Wojtyla was considered by the members of the committee as too ‘conservative’ in other areas, and they feared that awarding it to him would been seen as favoring the Catholic Church over other religions. Their fears were evidently overcome in the much more controversial case of the selection of Obama,” the Vatican daily said, noting that the selection process has become mired in being politically correct.
Nevertheless, the article concluded, “at the same time, as the director of the Holy See’s Press Office has stated, we cannot help but rejoice at the recognition of President Obama’s efforts at nuclear disarmament and his personal disposition towards a policy that seeks peace more than the affirmation of U.S. power in the world.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 12, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Mexican Shroud of Turin Center, Adolfo Orozco, said last week that the announcement of the creation of an allegedly exact replica of the Shroud of Turin is nothing more than “a trick to attack the Shroud.” Orozco also pointed out various details that show the flaws of the experiment.
Last week the Italian scientist Luigi Garlaschelli announced he had created a replica of the Holy Shroud with materials and techniques that were available in the 1300s. The project was conducted with financing from the Italian Committee on Paranormal Phenomena and the Union of Rationalists, Atheists and Agnostics.
Garlaschelli said his experiment proves the image on the Shroud “could have been made with instruments available during that era.”
However, Orozco explained that in the case of the Shroud, “the blood was present on the cloth before the image, and not vice-versa, as was done by the supposed ‘reproducer.’”
In this sense, he pointed out that “the image on the Shroud is not from contact. This was proven by scientists in 1978. There are parts of the cloth that have the image and were not in contact with the body,” he explained.
Doctors also showed that the blood on the cloth appears in places that are clinically and pathological correct, with details unknown in the 13th century, Orozco said.
The Mexican expert also took issue with Garlaschelli adding other features to his replica. It is “ridiculous to try to reproduce the burn marks from the fire of 1532 and the water marks, which have nothing to do with the original image.”
“The image is similar,” he noted, “but it does not have the three-dimensional properties that are characteristic of the Shroud.”
“It’s all just another trick to attack the Shroud,” he argued.
“Garlaschelli himself acknowledged that he was financed by a group of atheists and agnostics.
"Why doesn’t he mention the three-dimensionality? Because he cannot reproduce it with his methods and as always, the news is being manipulated. Instead of saying that a scientist claims the Shroud can be replicated, the headline reads: ‘Italian scientist reproduces Shroud’, conclusively stating that it has been reproduced. They should have said: Italian scientist claims to have reproduced Shroud,’” Orozco stated.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 12, 2009 (CNA) - The vice president and spokesman for the Institute for Family Policy in Spain, Mariano Martinez-Aedo, said last week the latest figures on homicides among couples show that marriage is the best antidote to violence.
“Marriage is where the least amount of violence among couples occurs, which makes it the best antidote to violence,” Martinez-Aedo remarked.
According to the Institute, in 2008, six out of every ten homicides took place between emotionally involved couples. While one homicide occurred for every 311,000 marriages, in the case of couples who are unmarried, it was one homicide for every 25,000.
This means that for every homicide among married couples, twelve take place among unmarried couples, he explained.
Martinez-Aedo said this was a confirmation of the importance of marriage and its role in society. For this reason, he added, the institute is urging the government to promote policies that support and uplift marriage.
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 12, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, warned last week that “the divorce between Church and State could cause our ruin,” as he commented on those who want to overlook the country's religious roots.
The cardinal made his remarks during the opening of the 2009 Guadalupan Congress, saying he rejects the attempts by some to celebrate Mexico’s bicentennial by “disregarding the religious roots of our country.” He criticized those who wish to follow the ideologues of Europe and turn Mexico into a secular country, forcing Mexicans to deny “a part of who we are.”
After noting that many thinkers in history have tried to define the Mexican people, Cardinal Rivera explained that it is necessary to recognize that “in our national context, Holy Mary of Guadalupe is a fundamental force for national unity, and devotion to her is now totally independent of the Mexican state … She has contributed to cementing a national Catholic identity, because all Mexicans are in some way Guadalupans.”
He went on to stress that the popular phrase, “To be Mexican is to be Guadalupan,” does not mean “that we all have to think the same about Guadalupe, or that we all have to practice a Guadalupan devotion. But there is a part of being Mexican that signifies an unique relationship with Holy Mary of Guadalupe,” he said.
Although “at times we manifest it and other times we want to hide it,” he said, Our Lady of Guadalupe “is very present in our cultural roots, in very concrete events: when our mixed race began, at our Independence, during the Revolution, during important national events, and she is also present in our daily lives, for this reason [there is] the insistence that to be Mexican is to be Guadalupan,” the cardinal said.
The Archbishop of Mexico City also said that Our Lady of Guadalupe was instrumental in uniting the divided people of what is now Mexico. “And then came the Guadalupan event, and what seemed irreparable became a pathway, what seemed irreconcilable became a nation. Holy Mary of Guadalupe is the remedy that God provided for what seemed to be our destruction,” he said.
Rome, Italy, Oct 12, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed two prominent scientists to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences: Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Edward M. De Robertis, a chemical biology professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Collins was a leader in the Human Genome Project and directed the NIH’s National Human Genmore Research Institute from 1993 to 2008, according to his NIH biography. He has also written about the relation between science and faith in the 2006 bestseller “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.”
He has been an evangelical Christian since the age of 27. However, he is a supporter of human embryonic stem cell research who believes “therapeutic” human cloning could be acceptable, Discover Magazine reports.
Edward M. De Robertis is an expert in the molecular machinery that governs the formation of the embryo. According to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, his research is used in gene reprogramming experiments in human stem cells. He was also president of the International Society of Developmental Biologists from 2002 to 2006.
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences traces its roots back to 1603, when it was founded by Federico Cesi as the first exclusively scientific academy in the world. New academics are elected by the current members and then nominated by the Pope.
The academy's activities range from a traditional interest in pure research to a concern with the ethical and environmental responsibility of the scientific community, the Vatican's website says.
Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2009 (CNA) - Twice last week White House spokesman Robert Gibbs stated that federally funded abortions will not be included in the government's health care reform due to the Hyde Amendment, a statement which is in direct opposition to two recent letters sent to Congress by the U.S. Catholic bishops.
CNA reported that last Wednesday, Gibbs claimed that the Hyde Amendment will also apply to health care reform legislation. The Hyde Amendment, named after the late pro-life advocate Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), prevents federal funds that are appropriated through the annual Health and Human Services appropriation bill from paying for abortions.
Gibbs' first assertion that abortions will not be paid for with taxpayer funds in the new health care reform bill came last Wednesday at press briefing at the White House. The White House spokesman had said at the time, “there’s a fairly well documented federal law that prevents it.”
Responding to the press secretary's claim, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) said that “the proposed health insurance reform contains a nationwide government-run insurance program and premium subsidy programs to help tens of millions of Americans purchase health coverage. None of the funds for the public plan and spent by the premium subsidy programs would be appropriated through the annual appropriations bill and would therefore be outside the scope of the Hyde Amendment.
The NRLC said this analysis has been confirmed by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service.
Then, on Thursday the U.S. bishops sent a letter to members of Congress asking them to “exclude mandated coverage for abortion,” and include “policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights.”
The bishops noted that they “remain apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes. If acceptable language in these areas cannot be found, we will have to oppose the health care bill vigorously,” they insisted.
The following day, Gibbs contradicted the bishop's letter at a White House press briefing.
CNSNews.com addressed Gibbs saying, “You said on Wednesday that the Hyde amendment would prevent abortion funding through the health bill. The Catholic bishops have repeatedly said that the Hyde amendment would not apply to the health care bill and yesterday in the letter that they sent to Congress they said that if language expressly prohibiting abortion funding is not added to the health care bill, they will vigorously--‘vigorously oppose’--that's a quote--the bill. My question on that, does the President support the bishops on this? And to eliminate this as an issue, will he call on Congress to have an explicit prohibition of abortion funding?”
Gibbs answered that his answer is the same as it was on Wednesday. “There may be a legal interpretation that has been lost here, but there’s a fairly clear federal law prohibiting the federal use of money for abortion. I think it is--again, it's exceedingly clear in the law.”
Lucas then followed up his question, asking, “But the Hyde amendment is only for direct appropriations for HHS, and that's...”
Gibbs replied quickly, “Again, I think that law is exceedingly clear.”
Vatican City, Oct 12, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict prayed a Rosary with university students from both Rome and Africa on Saturday night at the Vatican's Paul VI Hall. Following the Marian prayer, the Holy Father remarked that students must be “passionate seekers of truth.”
Synod Fathers from the ongoing Synod for Africa, Roman university students and via satellite, university students from eight African cities: Cairo, Egypt; Nairobi, Kenya; Khartoum, Sudan; Johannesburg, South Africa; Onitsha, Nigeria; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Maputo, Mozambique, and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso participated in the event.
Following the Rosary, Benedict XVI spoke to the students and asked them to be “workers of intellectual charity” in both the Church and society. Living out this call is “so necessary if we are to face up to the great challenges of the present time,” the Pope said.
While at the university, he continued, the students must be “passionate seeks of truth,” and must build “academic communities of the highest intellectual standard, where it is possible to exercise and enjoy that open and all-embracing rationality which paves the way to the meeting with God.”
He then exhorted the students to also also collaborate among their various institutions, especially with the African schools.
Speaking to the African students, the Pope invited them to use their years of study as “preparation to carry out a service of cultural animation in your countries.”
“New evangelization in Africa also depends on your generous efforts," he concluded.