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Archive of November 17, 2009

Planned Parenthood 'runs on fear,' former clinic director charges

Denver, Colo., Nov 17, 2009 (CNA) - Abby Johnson, former Bryan, Texas Planned Parenthood director spoke with CNA on Monday about the restraining order her former employer filed against her following her Oct. 6 resignation.  Johnson noted that while she was a little surprised by the injunction, she also knows that Planned Parenthood “runs on fear.” 

Johnson, who had worked at the Bryan clinic for eight years, left Planned Parenthood on what she describes as “good terms” after witnessing an ultrasound of an abortion. 

“I made a decision that day,” she told CNA.  “I went home and talked to my husband about it.”

Following her resignation, Johnson joined up with members of the Coalition of Life.  Shortly after, Planned Parenthood's lawyers filed a restraining order against their former employee citing their concern that she would share confidential information about the clinic as well as its patients.

Johnson noted that Planned Parenthood's attempt was unsuccessful and that their claims “had no evidence.”

“Alluding to the fact that I would release patient information is very offensive.  I cared about them when I worked there, and I still do.”  Johnson added that she would never do anything to violate their privacy.  “It's absolutely ridiculous!” 

The former clinic director went even further in denouncing Planned Parenthood, calling it “an organization that frequently threatens people who go against them.”  During her tenure at the clinic, Johnson said that she saw her former employer “continually threaten” its opponents.

“If you're against them, they are going to try to sue you,” she told CNA.

Though Johnson admitted she was slightly surprised the organization filed an injunction, she figured they might go after her.

“Planned Parenthood is an organization that runs on fear.  They are scared of what they do know, and they are scared of what they don't know.”

Now that Johnson has resigned from her position, she said she's not sure what is in store for her. Currently she has several talks lined up to discuss pro-life issues on the benefits of ultrasound and how important it is for women.

She added that she and her husband are “spending a lot of time in prayer to decide what we'll do next.  Everyday something new pops up.  Something that we didn't expect.”

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Health care abortion debate centers on whether Stupak Amendment is ‘status quo’

Washington D.C., Nov 17, 2009 (CNA) - White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod has suggested that President Obama will intervene to alter the Stupak Amendment in health care legislation, claiming that it changes the “status quo” on abortion. A leader of a pro-life Democratic group told CNA in response that the Stupak Amendment is itself the status quo.

In an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Axelrod said that President Obama does not think the health care bill should “change the status quo as it relates to the issue of abortion.”

“This shouldn't be a debate about abortion. And he's going to work with Senate and the House to try and ensure that at the end of the day, the status quo is not changed,” he continued.

Axelrod said that the issue “can and will” be worked out before the bill reaches his desk.

Last Monday President Obama told ABC News that his “simple principle” is that the legislation is “a health care bill, not an abortion bill.”

“And we're not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions. And I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test -- that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but on the other hand that we're not restricting women's insurance choices,” he continued.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News Sunday that Americans do not want any taxpayer money going toward abortion.

“I think it would be very difficult to pass a bill that, in effect, either directly or indirectly provided tax money to pay for abortions,” he said, predicting there would be many amendments to the bill overall.

In a Monday interview, CNA spoke with Democrats for Life President Kristen Day about the future of the Stupak Amendment’s restrictions on abortion funding.

“Judging from the president’s comments over the weekend, it looks like he has some interest in trying to move this forward,” she told CNA. “Some intervention from the president will be helpful as we try to negotiate with Congress on the Senate side.”

She reported that pro-life Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska has already said he does not want any funding of abortion.

“Senator Casey has said the same thing,” Day added.

She told CNA that Sen. Carper, a Delaware Democrat, had voted for language similar to the Stupak Amendment in committee.

“The general sense of the American public is that they don’t want public funding for abortions. The Stupak Amendment says that. So hopefully the Senate will find some way to put similar language in there.”

Neutralizing the issue of abortion, Day said, would be “a positive way to move forward with health care reform.”

Asked how the Stupak Amendment would fare in talks to reconcile Senate and House versions of health care legislation, she commented:

“In an ideal world the Stupak Amendment would be adopted in the Senate. If it’s not, I think it will be very difficult to remove this language from the bill unless there is an agreement worked out ahead of time. Because there are strong coalitions on each side that either do or don’t want public funding for abortions.”

The House spoke “very clearly” by passing the Stupak Amendment, she continued, predicting that its removal “wouldn’t sit comfortably” with the 64 Democrats who voted for it.

It will be a “very difficult road” to find a way to keep Stupak’s language in the legislation, Day said, “but I think that’s what we’re going to have to do.”

Asked to respond to David Axelrod's claims that the Stupak Amendment changes the status quo on abortion, Day told CNA the problem all along has been “a disagreement about what the status quo is.”

Had abortion restrictions passed in the Senate Finance Committee, Day noted, “We could have resolved this months ago.”

“We think the status quo is the Stupak Amendment, with no public funding of abortion. I think the amendment was written in a way that was very consistent with the Hyde Amendment language. And I think that the language should stay.”

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Coalition calls for reform of CCHD as annual collection nears

Washington D.C., Nov 17, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is highlighting its projects as the annual CCHD collection approaches. One Catholic coalition, citing several controversial grants to groups which opposed Church teaching, has called for reform of the campaign.

CCHD funding in 2008 involved 776 Catholic parishes, 18 Catholic Charities agencies and 51 religious communities, a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) press release reports.

The CCHD said its programs empower “poor and marginalized people” to seek solutions to local problems and to improve their lives and neighborhoods. Its economic development initiatives include help for poor and low-income people to develop new business, to create new jobs and to develop family and community-owned assets.

The Campaign also educates Catholics about poverty and the faithful response to it. The CCHD also says it helps them interact with those affected by poverty.

CCHD-funded projects include the Savannah Local Food Collaborative in the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia. The organization is working to relocate a local farmer’s market to increase community access to health local food, to strengthen the local economy and to move towards a sustainable environmental future.

McIntosh SEED, a community-based organization in the same diocese, is involved in creating a summer tutorial program that helped 200 students and their families improve their reading and math skills.

The Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network (MINF), involved in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minnesota, is also funded by the CCHD. It engages immigrants and allies on immigration policy, and develops a broad leadership base to address the “broken” immigration system with a focus on immigrant youth, the USCCB reports.

Some CCHD grantees have been involved in controversy. In 2008 the USCCB defunded the community organizing group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) following allegations that some of its members were involved in voter fraud.

The self-described Catholic grassroots group Bellarmine Veritas Ministry (BVM) also uncovered evidence that some CCHD grantees were involved in advocacy for abortion, contraceptive distribution, and same-sex “marriage.”

In September 2009 the Campaign announced that it had begun to defund at least two of the accused groups and said it was investigating other groups accused of advocating for positions and activities that contradicted Catholic teaching and CCHD grant regulations.

In response to the controversial grants, some Catholic groups have formed a coalition to “reform” the CCHD.

The Reform CCHD Now coalition includes Human Life International, the Bellarmine Veritas Ministry, the American Life League and Catholic Radio International.

Though it says the CCHD has funded groups which “legitimately serve and represent the poor and marginalized,” the coalition protested its funding of groups that “openly oppose the Church’s teachings.”

“It is hard to believe repeated assurances that the CCHD always carefully vets its grantees given both its history and its continued funding of groups which openly oppose the Catholic Church's teachings on social justice, family and life issues. This must stop,” the coalition says on its website.

The coalition began a novena for reform on Nov. 14 that will end the day after the Nov. 21-22 collection takes place.

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Catholic bishops of India propose National Day for Indian Martyrs

New Dehli, India, Nov 17, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) has proposed to make the last Sunday of August a National Day for Indian Martyrs to commemorate the Christians who died in the August 2008 massacres in Orissa.

Nearly 30,000 people fled Orissa’s Khandamal district in 2007 and 2008 during Hindu extremists’ anti-Christian attacks on nearly 300 villages. At least eighty people, including a Catholic priest, were killed. About 270 churches and chapels were desecrated, while 6,000 homes were destroyed.

The CBCI’s Commission for Ecumenism developed the proposal for a National Day for Indian Martyrs after meeting with regional secretariats in Jhansi. The commission told Fides news agency that the proposal is expected to establish a special day to remember all priests, religious and laity who have “sacrificed their lives for their faith in Christ” and who are India’s “modern martyrs.”

The proposal won unanimous agreement among all Christian denominations present in India, Fides reports. If approved, it would be celebrated on an ecumenical level, giving the observance more strength and visibility.

Bishop Anil Cuto of Jalandhar said in a message to Fides that martyrdom is “the highest form of love.”

“I consider making an effort to remember those who died in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a memory that we want to confirm and continue, for the benefit of future generations.”

The commemoration’s celebration at the ecumenical level would strengthen unity among India’s Christian churches, he added.

“Establishing it as a celebration would be a historic decision that we hope will come true soon.”

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First step taken toward beatification of John Paul II, says Vatican analyst

Rome, Italy, Nov 17, 2009 (CNA) - Vatican analyst Andrea Tornielli reported this week that the first step toward the beatification of John Paul II has already been completed.  He explained that officials at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints have given the green light for the proclamation of the late Pope's heroic virtue.

Tornielli added that only the signature of Pope Benedict XVI is needed for the proclamation to become official, noting that it “could come during Christmas, when the prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Archbishop Angelo Amato, will include it in cardinals’ agenda.” Once the decree is signed, he said, Pope Wojtyla will be given the title of “venerable.”

“Once the decree is officially promulgated,” Tornielli continued, a miracle will then need to be attributed to the intercession of John Paul II.

One case, the curing of a French nun from Parkinson's Disease, could be the miracle recognized by the Congregation.

“The case will first be analyzed by doctors with the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, later by theologians and finally by the cardinals. Only then, after a final and definitive confirmation by Benedict XVI, could Pope Wojtyla be beatified,” Tornielli explained.

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Group linked to Bolivian government behind attack on Cardinal Terrazas

La Paz, Bolivia, Nov 17, 2009 (CNA) - The Bolivian media is reporting that the perpetrator of the April 15 attack on the residence of Cardinal Julio Terrazas of Santa Cruz may have been a member of the Crisis Resolution Tactic Unit (CRTU), which is linked to the Bolivian government.

The newspaper “El Deber” reported that attorney Oswaldo Rojas said he would soon reveal “the name of the person who placed the bomb at the home of Cardinal Julio Terrazas. He is a member of the CRTU.”

On September 9, government and police officials disbanded the CRTU after it attacked a group of journalists in the city of Santa Cruz.

The CRTU was made up of 15 specially-trained police officers who are alleged to have participated in various violent detentions, especially in eastern Bolivia.

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Cardinal Rouco defends importance of divine law in present-day Europe

Madrid, Spain, Nov 17, 2009 (CNA) - This week Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid defended the importance of “natural and divine law” in the history of contemporary Europe. The prelate added that the right to life must be protected in the legislation of European countries.

According to the Spanish daily “La Razon,” the cardinal celebrated the closing Mass of the Congress of the International Union of Catholic Lawyers, which took place November 13-14 in Madrid.

“Natural and divine law are important in the history of the Europe today,” the cardinal said. He then invited the lawyers to keep “the Law of God and Natural Law” at the center of their lives, so that their ethical, moral and legal principles would influence the laws of the state.

The cardinal warned that the temptation to control fundamental rights is very strong and that the “right to life must be addressed and protected in legislation.”

“The State is essential in ensuring that man journeys forward justly and uprightly,” Cardinal Rouco said before warning against the temptation to abuse power and cause harm.

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Vatican encourages Chinese Catholics, sees signs of hope

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2009 (CNA) - On Monday the Vatican made public its continued efforts to promote reconciliation within the Chinese Catholic community as well as between the Church and the Chinese government.

In a letter written by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone to the clergy in China, the Vatican noted the celebration of the Year for Priests and addressed some of the issues that the Catholic Church in China is facing.

Recalling Pope Benedict's 2007 Letter to the Church in China, Cardinal Bertone referenced the “guidelines” that were indicated for the future of the Church in China, saying that “among those I wish to emphasize (are) reconciliation within the Catholic community and a respectful and constructive dialogue with the civil authorities, without renouncing the principles of the Catholic faith.”

The Catholic Church in China has faced many difficulties in recent years, including divisions within the Church caused in large part by persecution from the Chinese Communist government.

Cardinal Bertone encouraged the clergy in his letter and called for unity, saying that, “In this Year of the Priesthood, I wish to remind you of the source where you can find the strength to be faithful to your important mission ... the Eucharist. ... A truly Eucharistic community cannot retreat into itself, as though it were self-sufficient, but must stay in communion with every other Catholic community.”

The Secretary of State continued to emphasize the need for Chinese clergy to “seek reconciliation with concrete gestures” and to find the “various practical ways in which you can make  your valuable contribution.” Citing some examples, the cardinal told the priests that efforts such as visiting families, training good catechists, fostering charities, organizing special gatherings and distributing literature were among some of the ways that the Chinese clergy could promote unity.

Cardinal Bertone summed up his advice and assessment by saying, “despite the persisting difficulties, the information that has come from different parts of China points to signs of hope.”

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U.S. bishops remember slain El Salvador priests

Baltimore, Md., Nov 17, 2009 (CNA) - Monday, Nov. 16 marked the 20th anniversary of the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador. The massacre took place in 1989 and was perpetrated by members of an army battalion during El Salvador's civil war. 

Speaking on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, New York said that the USCCB joins in “commemorating the lives and the work of the six Jesuits and their collaborators.”

Bishop Hubbard, Chairman of the USCCB's Committee on International Justice and Peace, has also thanked the members of Congress who have sponsored and co-sponsored House and Senate resolutions (H.R. 761 and S. 321) which have honored the lives of the six priests.

In his letter to Congress, Bishop Hubbard quoted Pope Benedict XVI's recent encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate,” saying, “charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine … (and) gives real substance to the personal relationship with God and with neighbor.”

The Bishop continued by saying that “it is precisely this kind of charity that was exemplified by the Jesuits in El Salvador - a commitment to a more just and peaceful society where the human needs and rights of people are acknowledged and respected.”

Bishop Hubbard concluded that “their legacy continues to be embodied in the many women and men who still seek a more just, peaceful and secure world where the life and dignity of all persons is defended.” 

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Pattern of clerical sexual abuse remains unchanged, researchers tell U.S. bishops

Baltimore, Md., Nov 17, 2009 (CNA) - Researchers investigating the sexual abuse of minors by clergy presented their interim report at the November assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday. They said new reports of sexual abuse do not alter the pattern of clerical sexual abuse, which peaked in the late 1960s and 1970s before declining in the 1980s.

The Interim Report on the Cases and Context Study, written by researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, aims to explain the increase of sexual abuse by priests in the late 1960s and 1970s and its decline after 1985. Researchers gathered and analyzed archives and also collected data from priest, psychologists, sociologists and the U.S. bishops.

According to a USCCB press release, the Interim Report found that cases of abuse reported after 2002 showed the same pattern of a rise of sexual abuse in the 1960s and decline in the 1980s. The researchers do not believe that unreported cases will be brought forward that change the time frame of the abuse.

The researchers found that the pattern of deviant sexual behavior by clerics is consistent with several other changes in society between 1960 and 1990, including the increased use of drugs and an increase in divorce and criminal behavior.

Clergy who as seminarians had “explicit human formation preparation” seem to have been less likely to abuse than those without such preparation. Such formation is described in a 2008 USCCB document, The Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests, as the cultivation of priests so that their humanity is “instrumental in communicating Jesus Christ.”

“While a celibate commitment is not expressed in genital sexual activity or in an exclusive intimate relationship, the priest remains a sexual person who is expected to develop mature expressions of chaste love and caring,” the document reads.

The Interim Report also found that dioceses’ responses to charges of clerical sexual abuse changed substantially over a 50-year period, with decreased reinstatements and more administrative leave being given to abusers in recent years.

The Causes and Context Study was funded by the USCCB, the National Institute of Justice and several foundations. A complete version of the study is expected in December of 2010.

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Archbishop Dolan declares ‘Sweet Victory’ as Cardinal Rigali delivers on World Series bet

Baltimore, Md., Nov 17, 2009 (CNA) - Fulfilling his part of a wager on the outcome of the World Series, Archbishop of Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali on Monday presented a case of Tastykakes pastries to Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual meeting in Baltimore.

The two prelates had bet on the outcome of the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees. The Yankees won the series four games to two.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia reported that Cardinal Rigali also sent a letter to Archbishop Dolan.

“Congratulations, my good friend, on the New York Yankees' Game 6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies which made you the winner of our spirited World Series wager,” Cardinal Rigali wrote to Archbishop Dolan. “Though I had planned to enjoy your New York bagels with Philadelphia Cream Cheese after another Phillies World Championship, the loss of our wager stings a little less knowing that the forthcoming Tastykake gift package is going to you and how much you will enjoy the taste of Philadelphia.”

“Since a talented nucleus is returning for the Phillies next season, I join so many in Philadelphia in already looking forward to next season and a possible rematch with you!”

Archbishop Dolan responded to Cardinal Rigali at his blog “The Gospel in the Digital Age.” In an entry titled “Sweet Victory,” he said:

“Today, at the meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, my good friend, Justin Cardinal Rigali, graciously made good on our World Series wager. Victory never tasted so good!”

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Europe has profound Christian roots which cannot be ignored, says Vatican cardinal

Rome, Italy, Nov 17, 2009 (CNA) - During the presentation of his book, “The Contribution of Christians for a New Europe,” the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, said Europe, “more than a geographic reality, is a spiritual reality, which distinguishes it from other continents,” and that it has profound Christian roots which cannot be ignored in the face of secularist threats to banish them.

In the introduction to the book, Cardinal Sodano recalls first the great work of Pope John Paul II and his contribution to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Communism in Europe.  He also noted the late Pope's untiring work in support of the “European Community of the Spirit,” a task also important to Pope Benedict XVI.

Benedict XVI, says Cardinal Sodano, “from the outset of his pontificate, has always recalled the Christian roots of Europe, which are capable of assuring a new and harmonious development of social life on the continent.”

He said these statements by the Holy Father conflict with “a secular current that seeks to hide the religious and moral aspect of the lives of the European people.  Some have even spoken of a time of historical amnesia, others of Christ-phobia. What is certain is that there are attempts to dissolve the Christian identity of Europe,” the cardinal said.

“Many people of good will, in particular the Christians of Europe, who are the guardians of that spiritual patrimony that has always characterized them throughout the centuries,” have fought against these attempts, he added.

Cardinal Sodano noted that in his recent encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate,” Pope Benedict XVI called on Christians in Europe to make the Gospel present in the lives of their communities and to thus transform society.

“Christians are only demanding the right to concur in the formation of a civilization that respects and promotes the rights of all, that is, of believers and their institutions,” the cardinal said.

“The new Europe that Christians, particularly Catholics, want to strengthen is not a sectarian Europe.  But neither do they want Europe to be a secular institution that disregards the spiritual values that have given it life throughout the centuries,” he added.

Christians “understand well the duty to give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, but they also legitimately demand Caesar to give to God that which is God’s,” the cardinal concluded.

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