Santiago, Chile, Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - The executive committee of the bishops’ conference of Chile sent a letter Monday to the House of Representatives underscoring that marriage between man and woman must be protected and promoted.
In their letter, which comes as lawmakers debate a bill regulating domestic partnerships between heterosexual couples, the bishops called for attentive reflection “with serenity and freedom...without being carried away by pressure.”
“Why should couples who could marry but choose not to be given special legal status?” the bishops asked. “It certainly seems contradictory to establish a law to resolve possible estate and inheritance problems that already can be solved by existing laws that regulate marriage,” adding that current laws already allow for the “regulation” of these relationships as well as their “dissolution.”
“Would it not be better to encourage young people to marry?” the bishops continued. “Why not promote the idea that those who have opted to cohabitate regularize their situations by living together in marriage?” they asked.
The bishops went on to question the timing of the bill, which has been introduced during an intense campaign season when there is little time for debate on an issue that is of such importance and complexity.
They stressed that they “cannot remain indifferent to legislation that diminishes the value and the meaning of marriage as a permanent union between one man and one woman.”
Therefore the bishops called on lawmakers to take their time in addressing the issue. “We invite those who are Christians to reflect on the teachings about the values of a society founded upon the Gospel and to ponder the damaging social and personal consequences that the weakening of the institution of marriage could provoke,” they said.
Ayaviri, Peru, Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Kay Martin Schmalhausen of Ayaviri, Peru reminded the faithful this week that the Church cannot remain silent when human life is attacked, because “it is her duty to raise her voice when it comes to fundamental issues about man.”
Amidst the recent debate in Peru over the legalization of abortion, Bishop Schmalhausen explained that the Church cannot remain silent “when it comes to the fundamental issues of man, when the good of a people or of humanity itself, its present and its future, is in danger.”
“Nobody, no man, no human authority has power over another man to decide the life of another,” the bishop said. “At the root of all debate over allowing abortion and relativizing the primordial right to life of every unborn child is the logic of Cain who, hidden though always culpable, kills his brother.”
On an issue as delicate as this one, the Church is speaking in defense of all of her children, especially all women, Bishop Schmalhausen continued. More than anyone, “the Church understands the joys and sufferings of families, the joys and tragedies of young people,” and especially of women who are pregnant and even women who have experienced abortion, he said.
“Any society that justifies killing its own will end up corrupting itself and will be guilty of the threatening spread of a culture of death,” the bishop stated. It is well known that the strategy of pro-abortion groups at the national and international level is to see that the first legislative concessions to abortion lead to a wider liberalization of the practice, to make it institutionalized in third world countries,” he said.
Bishop Schmalhausen called for improved policies aimed at assisting pregnant mothers and families in difficult situations to prevent them from suffering from the tragedy of abortion.
He praised and encouraged efforts by the Church to reach out to women through assistance centers and other projects aimed at preventing abortion and helping women who are suffering from post-abortion stress syndrome.
Memphis, Tenn., Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - The second annual 10,000 Masses forUnborn Babies Novena is scheduled to take place Jan. 13-21 in 2010,the Memphis-based St. Michael the Archangel Organization hasannounced. The organization asks Catholics to have one or more Massesoffered for the protection of the unborn.
Last year more than 3,000 Masses wereoffered in at least 18 countries.
"It has been said that within thelast fifty or so years, approximately one billion unborn babiesthroughout the world have been surgically killed," said St. Michaelthe Archangel Organization president Patrick Benedict, explainingthat that number does not include the unborn babies killed bynon-surgical means.
"This unprecedented slaughter of theinnocents is hellish. None of us can fully grasp the magnitude ofthis horror."
"Obviously, the Culture of Death iswaging a fierce war against the unborn babies," Benedict continued."A major and ongoing spiritual response from the Church Militant islong overdue. I hope the day will arrive that has every priest andbishop in the world offering at least one Mass each week for theprotection of unborn human persons."
More information is available at http://www.SaintMichaelTheArchangelOrganization.org
New York City, N.Y., Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) -
Responding to a pundit’s charge that Catholic nuns are “second class citizens” facing “inquisitions” for their “modernity” and “independence,” columnist Kathryn Jean Lopez has said there are many happy, young women in the convent today and that the Vatican investigations especially concern dying orders which have gone “off course.”
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently claimed that the Vatican apostolic visitation to American women religious institutes hopes to “herd them back into their old-fashioned habits and convents and curb any speck of modernity or independence.”
Dowd also criticized what she saw as bishops’ hypocrisy in rebuking dissenting religious sisters but apparently doing nothing in response to wayward and abusive priests.
Commenting on Dowd’s essay, Katherine Jean Lopez wrote in National Review Online that Dowd needs to meet some of the young sisters she has.
“Young women are willingly devoting their lives to the Church, with veils and all,” she commented.
“It’s becoming common that orthodox orders report waiting lists, as they see themselves filled to capacity with young postulants and their overjoyed older sisters.”
The Vatican investigation is necessary, Lopez wrote, because many orders are “literally dying.”
“They are not recruiting, and they’ve long lost their charisms.”
As evidence, she noted reports of a Dominican sister in Illinois who volunteers as an escort at an abortion clinic.
Many religious orders no longer live or pray in community and even openly dissent on Catholic teaching, she reported.
“The Vatican has taken action because there are ships off course. And the waters are rough; our culture can’t afford to have so many lost at sea,” Lopez wrote. “The fog has come because of surrender to the cultural chaos. Maureen Dowd’s answers involve more of the same — confusing faith with politically correct fluff.”
According to Lopez, Dowd wants the Church to remake herself in the image of conventional mores. However, this itself is the cause of the collapse of dying religious orders.
Pope Benedict XVI’s message is different from that of the New York Times, Lopez continued, but it is a liberating one, “much more liberating than the tired and angry gender politics that offers little hope to the anxious men and women of our time.”
On Tuesday Cardinal Franc Rode of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life announced that a report on the findings of the present apostolic visitation will be made public. He said he is “encouraged by the efforts to identify the signs of hope, as well as concerns, within religious congregations in the United States.”
Murfreesboro, Tenn., Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - A pro-life group is criticizing pharmaceutical company Neocutis’ defense of its use of cells harvested from an aborted fetus in the development of burn treatments and anti-aging creams. While the company said it takes seriously concerns about the dignity of human life—going so far as to cite a Vatican document—the pro-life group is questioning Neocutis’ version of the facts.
Last week the organization Children of God for Life released a statement criticizing Neocutis’ use of cells harvested from an aborted fetus in the development of anti-aging creams. The group also called for a boycott.
The “Processed Skin Proteins" (PSPs) being used in Neocutis' burn and wound treatments were reportedly taken from an electively-aborted 14-week-old male fetus donated by the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland.
The baby’s cells were used to create a working cell bank by laboratory cultivation. The cells now number in the hundreds of millions.
Though the University Hospital of Lausanne said the cells were originally established for wound healing and burn treatments, Children of God for Life charged that they are now being used for cosmetic products.
Neocutis defended its procedures in a recent statement which professed respect for differing views. It said the important question is how to conduct research and development in a way that is “respectful of the dignity of human life, and that is conducted in a highly controlled and responsible manner.”
“This is an understandable concern that we take very seriously,” Neocutis said. “The small skin donation that, ultimately, made the development of our treatment possible originated from a single terminated pregnancy that could not survive to term and was deemed medically necessary by the attending physicians.”
According to the company, the “voluntary donation to medical research” was made by the parents and was performed in adherence with “strict Swiss laws.”
“To be clear, our products do not directly use the originally donated tissue in any way,” the company added. The cells used were not embryonic stem cells, it reported, saying that no other donation will ever be necessary and that the cell bank enables the production of about 900 million biological bandages for patients with severe wounds, burns and other serious skin conditions.
The company said it believed “extremely limited use” of fetal skin tissue obtained in a respectful manner can lead to “significant medical benefit.”
In a Nov. 3 statement, Children of God for Life Executive Director Debi Vinnedge charged that the company was “not being honest.” The group cited evidence that the company was using fetal cells since 1995, long before the 2004 abortion used to provide fetal material.
The organization also questioned Neocutis’ claims, made in other responses to public inquiries, that the abortion was performed on a pregnancy that could not come to term in which the mother’s life was in danger. These facts were not documented in a 2009 research paper published in Experimental Gerontology, the pro-life group says.
Vinnedge criticized as “unconscionable” other comments by Neocutis President Mark Lemcko that he had “felt comfortable with his decision” after studying a 2005 document by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life.
In Vinnedge’s view that document, “Moral Reflection on Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived from Aborted Human Fetuses,” allowed the use of fetus-derived treatments only in temporary situations of “grave inconvenience” or “considerable danger” to the health of children and would not apply to cosmetics.
The issue is one of “health versus pure vanity,” Vinnedge insisted.
Vatican City, Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - The Holy See’s press office has denied a report published by the Italian daily La Repubblica, which made claims that John Paul II will be beatified in 2010 and that Rome and Krakow are locked in a dispute over which city will host the ceremony.
Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office said Pope John Paul II “will surely be beatified,” but the process must be completed, including the decree certifying a miracle.
Lombardi also denied the reported tension between Rome and Krakow, Poland. “The Pope is the Pope and he belongs to the universal Church,” he said.
Vatican City, Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - Concluding today’s weekly audience, Pope Benedict noted that today's feast day celebrates the life of St. Charles Borromeo, “an outstanding bishop of the diocese of Milan who, animated by ardent love for Christ, was a tireless master and guide to his brothers and sisters.”
St. Charles Borromeo, the son of a wealthy family in Italy, was instrumental in the reconvention of the Council of Trent, as well as in the creation of the decrees issued by the council.
Born in 1538, St. Charles later became a priest and was appointed Bishop of Milan by his uncle, Pope Pius IV. However, before being sent to Milan, he initiated several reforms in the Diocese of Trent, which had been without a resident bishop for 80 years. Under his influence, Trent became a model diocese.
While Bishop of Milan, St. Charles oversaw many reforms of the clergy, the liturgy and of religious education. While he encountered much opposition, he was very active in preaching and ministry, and was famous for bringing back many lapsed Catholics to the Church.
Though he was a member of the wealthy and powerful Medici family, St. Charles did everything with humility and unselfishness, choosing not to rely on corruption to influence others. He gave Church money generously to charity, and he is famous for staying behind in Milan and ministering to the sick and dying while many, including the authorities, fled the city during famine and plague.
St. Charles died on November 3, 1584. He is the patron of catechists and catechumens.
Vatican City, Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) -
Speaking to almost 15,000 people in St. Peter's Square during the Wednesday General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI continued last week’s comparison of the monastic and scholastic theology in the twelfth century. In the area of theological discussion, the Holy Father cautioned against ethical relativism influencing the Faith.
Pope Benedict dedicated his catechesis to the twelfth-century debate between St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Abelard. He began by recalling, "to understand this confrontation between the two great masters, we must remember that theology is the search for a rational understanding, as far as possible, of the mysteries of the Christian faith."
For St. Bernard, Benedict XVI explained, "faith itself is endowed with inner certainty, strengthened by the testimony of the saints and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, and in case of doubt, by the exercise of the Magisterium of the Church."
The Pope added, “In his view, the critical examination of reason risks intellectualism, the relativization of truth, that could even lead to questioning one’s own faith.”
"For Bernard, theology has the sole purpose of promoting the intimate experience of God, to love the Lord more and more," he continued. "There are varying stages in this journey until the culmination is reached, when the soul of the believer is intoxicated by the summits of love."
Above all, the abbot of Clairvaux taught that theology "must be nourished by contemplative prayer," the Pope said.
Turning to Abelard, the Pontiff noted that “among other things introduced the term 'theology' as we understand it today, ... originally studied philosophy then applied the results achieved in this discipline to theology."
However, Abelard was a conflicted person. Pope Benedict explained that he had a "religious spirit but a restless personality, and his life was rich in dramatic events: he challenged his teachers and had a child by a cultured and intelligent woman, Eloise. ... He also suffered ecclesiastical condemnations, although he died in full communion with the Church to whose authority he submitted with a spirit of faith."
On the academic plain, the Holy Father said an “excessive use of philosophy rendered Abelard's Trinitarian doctrine dangerously fragile.” In the field of morals Abelard’s teaching was not without ambiguity as he insisted on considering the intention of the subject as the only source for describing the goodness or malice of moral acts, ignoring the objective moral significance and value of actions.
"This aspect", Benedict XVI went on, "is highly relevant for our own age, in which culture often seems marked by a growing tendency to ethical relativism.”
The Pope also underlined "some of Abelard’s insights, such as when he says that in non-Christian religious traditions there is already a preparation for the reception of Christ, the Word of God."
The Holy Father concluded by stressing that "the theological confrontation ended with a full reconciliation between the two, thanks to their mutual friend, Peter the Venerable. Abelard showed humility in recognizing his errors, Bernard great kindness. ”
Portland, Maine, Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - In midterm elections on Tuesday the voters of Maine repealed a law that legalized same-sex “marriage.” Scott Fish, Communications Director of Stand for Marriage Maine, told CNA that Catholic support was “very crucial” to the outcome.
“The Yes on 1 campaign,” Fish said, “had much support from Catholics statewide, working hand-in-hand with Evangelical churches throughout Maine, as well as other denominations.”
Despite a 3-to-1 deficit in fundraising, Fish said that “with 95 percent of precincts reporting, 52.90 percent voted yes on Question 1 and 47.10 percent voted no.” According to Fish, this means that “marriage in Maine law remains the union of one woman and one man.”
The vote in Maine reflects a nationwide trend, with voters rejecting the redefinition of marriage in 31 states.
Yesterday's vote was the result of Mainers exercising the People's Veto after the state legislature passed a bill recognizing same-sex “marriage” earlier this year and Gov. John Baldacci signed it into law in May.
The People's Veto ran on yesterday's ballot as Question 1, which read, "Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?"
In a statement on the results of Question 1, Bishop Malone of the Diocese of Portland, Maine said he wanted “to thank the people of Maine for protecting and reaffirming their support for marriage as it has been understood for millenia by civilizations and religions around the world,” and that he is “thankful for those who engaged in sincere and civil discourse on the matter of such serious consequence to our society.”
Bishop Malone also stated that “respect and acceptance of all people regardless of sexual orientation is not a point of controversy – indeed, it is a teaching of the Church.”
Drawing his statement to a close Bishop Malone said, “while the Catholic Church will continue its commitment to work for the basic human rights to which all people are entitled, it remains devoted to preserving and strengthening the precious gift of marriage.”
Vatican City, Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said today that the ruling by the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, France ordering the removal of crucifixes from classrooms in Italy is “truly a loss” as it is necessary “to conserve the signs of our faith for those who believe as well as for those who do not.”
“This Europe of the third millennium has left us only with the pumpkins of the recently celebrated feast and has eliminated the most beloved symbols.”
After voicing his support for the Italian government’s decision to appeal the ruling, Cardinal Bertone stressed that the crucifix “is the symbol of universal love, a symbol of welcome and not exclusion.”
“I wonder if this ruling is a sign of rationality or not,” he questioned.
It its edition today, L’Osservatore Romano (LOR) recalled statements made on March 22, 1988, by Natalia Ginzbug, published in l’Unita, the newspaper founded by Communist party member Antonio Gramsci, who said, “The crucifix does not lead to any discrimination. It is the image of the Christian revolution which has spread the idea of equality between all men all over the world.”
“More than twenty years later,” LOR reported, “these words express a sentiment that is still widely shared in Italy.” “The political world has almost unanimously testified to the lack of common sense in this ruling, reiterating that the secularization of institutions is a value quite distinct from the denial of the role of Christianity,” the paper stated.
After emphasizing that in 2006 the Italian government ruled it was lawful to have crucifixes in the classroom, LOR said that the EU court’s ruling is part of a tendency towards a “not-too-distant future of public places without religious or cultural references out of fear of offending the sensibilities of others.”
The Vatican newspaper said the State should be accepting and respectful different identities rather than denying them.
Rome, Italy, Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - Italy’s Minister of Education, Mariastella Gelmini, has rejected the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in favor of removing crucifixes from public schools. She stated, “Nobody, much less a European court that is steeped in ideology, will be allowed to strip our identity away.”
The court ruled the presence of crucifixes in classrooms could be a “bother” to students who practice other faiths or who are atheists and that the State should abstain from imposing beliefs in public places. “Religious neutrality should be observed in the context of public education,” the court ruled.
The case was filed before the court by an Italian mother of two boys ages 11 and 13 who attended public school from 2001-2002 in the town of Abano Terme in northeastern Italy. Crucifixes were hung in each classroom.
After losing in the Italian courts, the woman filed her suit before the European Court, which ruled in her favor and ordered that she be paid 5,000 euros in damages. Italian officials said the ruling would be appealed.
Minister Gelmini rejected the ruling and told reporters, “The presence of crucifixes in the classroom does not signify adhesion to Catholicism, but rather represent our tradition.”
“The history of Italy is full of symbols and if they are eliminated, a part of us will end up be eliminated,” she said.
After noting that nobody “in this country wants to impose the Catholic religion,” she noted that the Italian constitution “rightly recognizes the value of the Catholic religion for our society.”
Italy’s Minister of Agriculture, Luca Zaia, also deplored the ruling and said, “The Court has decided that crucifixes offend the sensibilities of non-Christians. It’s the Court that is offending the sentiments of the European peoples who have their origin in Christianity. What an embarrassment!”
In addition, former Minister of Culture, Rocco Buttiglione, said the ruling was “abhorrent.” He called for it to be strongly rejected saying, “Italy has its culture, its traditions and its history. Those who come among us should understand and accept this culture and this history,” he added.
Washington D.C., Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, sent an urgent message this week to the group's base asking for pro-abortion Catholics to defy the U.S. bishops, who are campaigning against the current versions of health care legislation on Capitol Hill because they fund abortion.
In the email, Richards says that “as I write this, the bishops have asked all the Catholics in the country to contact their legislators, asking them to alter current health care legislation to include anti-choice amendments.”
“The bishops have inserted letters into church bulletins and asked priests to include their call to action in their sermons - and even in their prayers - during Sunday services,” she says.
“One thing I know for sure,” the Planned Parenthood president states, “the bishops don't speak for all Catholics. If you're Catholic and you disagree with the bishops, please let your legislators know when you send your message. Your voice as a pro-choice Catholic needs to be heard NOW.”
Richards claims in her email that “a few days ago, it felt as if we were holding strong in achieving health care reform that would finally ensure comprehensive coverage for everyone,”... “And then I received a copy of a memo that the Catholic bishops sent to their congregations.”
Richards asks Planned Parenthood sympathizers to “contact your senators and representative right now, asking them to protect women, to protect our health care, to protect our rights and not cave to the vocal minority.”
“Second, spread the word. I truly believe that if people know what the bishops and other groups are doing, they will be outraged, and they will speak up. Drowning them out won't be easy, but your action today will help,” she writes.
According to Richards, “we are so close” to passing the current legislation. “In my lifetime, we've never been closer to expanding access to affordable health care for everyone. I don't think we'll get another chance, and we've got to do everything we can not to let it slip away.”
“Rest assured, Planned Parenthood is doing all we can. Every time a group tries to limit the care and rights of women and their families, we will be here for them,” Richards writes.
Rome, Italy, Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - The Redemptorists have elected Fr. Michael Brehl, formerly the Provincial of the Edmonton-Toronto Province, as the new Superior General for the order.
Fr. Brehl, who was introduced to the Redemptorists while he was a university student, was impressed by their dedication to issues of peace and justice as well as their involvement with the poor. “So far,” he says in his online biography, “it’s been an exciting life – and it’s lived up to the promise I first experienced at Gerard House all those years ago.”
Father Brehl is the first Canadian to be elected Superior General of the Redemptorists, who were founded by St. Alphonsus Ligouri in 1732. Born in Toronto, Ontario, in 1955, he professed his vows as a Redemptorist on August 15, 1976 and was ordained to the priesthood on March 15, 1980.
Since finishing formation, completing a theology degree, and being ordained, Fr. Brehl has worked in numerous capacities. He has served as a parish priest, been on a retreat team, directed the Redemptorist's formation house and been elected to three terms as the Provincial of the Province of Edmonton-Toronto.
Fr. Brehl described getting to know the Redemptorists all over the word as one of the highlights of his experience.
In his free time, Fr. Brehl writes, “I’ve always tried to stay active – and I enjoy sports of many kinds: cycling, running, squash, golf. As well, I like reading, crossword puzzles, and movies.” He says he has made many good friends in different places and that he values cultivating those relationships.
For the next six years, Fr. Michael Brehl will be living in Rome at the Redemptorist General House, executing his duties as the Superior General.
Budapest, Hungary, Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - On October 31, the Church beatified Bishop Zoltán Lajos Meszlényi, a victim of the Communist persecution of the Catholic Church in Hungary. The beatification was scheduled shortly after Pope Benedict approved a decree verifying the martyrdom of the bishop, who died in 1951.
Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and Primate of Hungary, presided over the Mass and beatification of Bishop Zoltán Lajos Meszlényi on Saturday at the Basilica of Esztergom. During the Mass, the cardinal emphasized that the “mission of Christians is to announce Jesus Christ even if they are persecuted,” adding that Bishop Meszlényi “is an example of witness by a person fortified by the Holy Spirit.”
Cardinal Erdő explained that Bishop Zoltán Meszlényi’s life and death are exemplary for his time, in which many kept silent for fear of losing their jobs, homes, families, and lives. Blessed Meszlényi’s teaching is still very timely today when we feel “trapped by our individual and common selfishness, short-sightedness, thirst for power, hatred, ’ a trap that we are unable to free ourselves from using our own strength.”
According to Magyar Kurír, a Catholic news organization in Central Europe, Bishop Meszlényi was an exemplary priest who led a life of service to the Church. Having studied in Rome at the Gregorian University as part of his education at the Pontifical German-Hungarian Institute, Blessed Meszlényi became fluent in Italian, French, English, German, Latin and Greek, in addition to his native Hungarian. His studies led him to a degree in canon law as well as diplomas in philosophy and theology.
Despite the excellence of education and his incredible intellect, Blessed Meszlényi was known as a very down to earth man. He did not mind being alone and was very humble, not even considering himself to be a candidate to replace Cardinal József Mindszenty who had been arrested and sentenced to life in prison. He was also known for his strict but loving treatment of the priests in his diocese, encouraging them to always become better, more faithful servants of the Church.
However, Blessed Meszlényi would not back down when confronted by the Communists. The Church in Hungary faced many difficulties when the country gained its independence from the Hapsburg empire, as well as when the borders of many Eastern European countries were re-drawn after WWI, which caused the geographical area of one diocese to be located in two different countries.
The presence of the Communists, as well as Russia’s invasion, which put the country behind the Iron Curtain, also presented the Church with difficulties, as the Communists tried to seize Hungary's Catholic schools and influence the election of bishops. Blessed Meszlényi quickly became an enemy of the Communists when it became known that he was not afraid of the threat of force.
Meszlényi was appointed bishop, however only two weeks after his episcopal ordination, the communist authorities took the newly-appointed bishop and he was never heard from again.
Magyar Kurír also explains that as was the custom, the communists were very secretive about their persecution of the Church so they wouldn’t create any martyrs whose stories of standing up for their faith would inspire others. Thus, no one heard from the bishop after his arrest, and there are no documents to show where he was detained, how he was tortured, of what he was accused, or how he died. Nevertheless, based on accounts of other priests who also suffered Stalinist repression, it was concluded that his martyrdom was preceded by imprisonment and common tortures which included solitary confinement, physical beatings, psychological torture, unheated jail cells without windowpanes, and no access to medical treatment.
Asking for the intercession of Blessed Zoltán Meszlényi, Cardinal Erdő concluded: “Pray for us all so the renewal of the hearts may help the world around us become better and happier and may lead as many people as possible to Christ."
Washington D.C., Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - A new amendment to a health care reform bill which claims to remove government funding for abortions is drawing criticism from pro-life leaders who deem it to be “phony.” The provision would actually fund abortion and is inferior to the proposed Stupak Amendment, they charge.
The draft text of the Ellsworth-DeLauro Amendment, which modifies the bill H.R. 3962, was sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), a reportedly pro-life Democrat.
In a Tuesday press release, Rep. Ellsworth claimed that the amendment explicitly prevents taxpayer dollars from funding abortion in the “public option” and prohibits U.S. Treasury funds from paying for abortion services in plans purchased through the proposed Health Insurance Exchange.
According to the Congressman, the amendment creates “strict rules” separating public funds from private individuals’ premiums. It also claims to guarantee access to a pro-life insurance option and to expand conscience protections securing pro-life insurance plans from discrimination.
Planned Parenthood Vice President for Public Policy Laurie Rubiner was skeptical of the proposal, citing Rep. Ellsworth’s zero rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
She contended that the competing Capps Amendment bars federal funding for “abortion care” and does not require or prohibit abortion access.
“We are concerned that this new language could tip the balance away from women's access to reproductive health care,” she remarked in a Tuesday statement.
Pro-life leaders were also highly critical of the bill.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, criticized the Ellsworth-DeLauro proposal in a Wednesday phone interview with CNA.
Johnson charged that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and leading Democratic congressmen are “determined” to cover elective abortions in the federal health insurance programs.
“That is their goal,” he said, claiming that the relevant language is on page 110 of the proposed bill.
According to Johnson, the bill “explicitly authorizes” payments for elective abortions under the federal health insurance plan.
“Federal agencies can only spend federal funds,” he explained. “Under this bill, in other words, this new federal agency program will pay for abortion on demand with federal funds.”
Johnson said that the amendment proposed by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) would prevent this from happening, much like the Hyde Amendment stopped Medicaid funding for abortions.
He charged that leading Democrats in Congress and the White House are trying to make a “sharp break” with decades of federal policy.
“They’re just going to pretend that these aren’t federal funds,” he added. “If the federal government is paying abortionists for elective abortions, that is federal funding for abortions. It doesn’t matter if they write in that they claim they’re using non-federal funds.”
Johnson told CNA that under the Ellsworth-DeLauro Amendment the Secretary of Health and Human Services would be required to hire a private contractor to take the payments for the abortions. According to Johnson, Rep. Ellsworth’s staff claimed that this ensured no federal funding for abortion because a private contractor would be handling the money.
“This is ludicrous,” Johnson said. “A law that requires a federal official to hire a ‘bagman’ to deliver federal funds to abortionists? This is worse than the original bill.”
“Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Henry Waxman and the White House have a problem. They promised Planned Parenthood that they’d set up a national public plan that covered abortions. It’s in the bill, but it’s very unpopular with public. They misrepresent what’s in the bill.”
He charged that the new amendment is intended to provide political cover for the 40 House members who wanted to support Rep. Stupak’s amendment. He called this alleged deception “an insult to the intelligence of the American people.”
Explaining the legislative process, Johnson explained that the amendment’s language will be written into the House rule. The vote on whether to accept the rule will occur either Friday or Saturday, with Saturday being more likely.
If Congress rejects the rule, it will have to consider whether to allow Rep. Stupak’s amendment.
“Over the next 24 or 48 hours we’ll see all sorts of little theater about coming together and compromising. It’s all scripted, it’s all phony,” Johnson charged.
He told CNA that his analysis of the amendment was not unique to the National Right to Life Committee but also was shared by the attorneys of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other analysts.
“This is just slapping on a few extra layers of makeup,” he claimed. Rep. Stupak’s amendment, by contrast, would be “surgery” to remove pro-abortion provisions.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said in a Tuesday statement that the language of Ellsworth-DeLauro does nothing to change the fact that the public option will be authorized to pay for abortion.
“If they truly want to keep abortion out of the health care bill, they must accept the Stupak-Pitts amendment that says clearly and plainly that there can be no funding for abortion and no government subsidies for plans that cover abortion,” he said.
He criticized the new proposal as “yet another phony amendment” that is “designed to subsidize and expand the abortion industry cloaked in deceptive language.”
Rep. Smith stated that H.R. 3962 becoming law would result in the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade.
“The public should not be fooled nor should any pro-life Democrat,” he continued. “Slaughtering innocent children is never health care.”
Madrid, Spain, Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - While presenting his latest book, “Cain,” in Spain, Portuguese writer Jose Saramago said he is convinced that God is “evil” because he has been created “in the image and likeness of man.” The author added that he hopes the controversy sparked by his anti-Christian writings will increase the book's sales.
Saramago’s latest work is a parody of the “heavenly government” and portrays biblical history as “written by a cruel and irresponsible God.”
“When I say that God cannot be trusted, it seems like I am saying something that can't be said, but I actually prove it,” the author said, arguing that the destruction of Sodom as recounted in the Bible is proof of God’s “cruelty.”
“God accepted the sacrifice of Abel and rejected the sacrifice of Cain with the cruelty that only God can have,” he said. “What kind of God is this who raises up Abel and scorns Cain?” Saramago asked.
The author said critics in Portugal have only helped to boost his sales, and therefore he hopes the controversy in Spain will have a similar effect.
“Nobody has come back from the dead to tell me if there is an afterlife. I don’t accept the Church telling me that if I commit sin I am going to hell. We were the ones who created God in our image and likeness, and for this reason God is so cruel,” he said.