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Archive of December 3, 2009

Bishops' synod discusses concerns for American laity including migration, violence and drugs

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) -

On Monday, the Vatican published a communique concerning a synod of bishops in Rome which expressed the need for American laity to be educated in the faith through the “inculturation” of the Gospel.

“The process of inculturation depends to a large extent on a balanced education in the faith,” stated the communique. “This task particularly falls to families, schools and Catholic universities and, especially urgently today, to the media which, if used correctly and competently, are a vehicle of extraordinary pastoral effectiveness.”

The 14th meeting of the Special Assembly for America of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops was held on Nov. 17 and 18, and addressed social concerns that Americans are facing such as “drug trafficking, the recycling of illicit profits, corruption, violence, the arms race, racial discrimination, foreign debt, inequality between social groups and the thoughtless destruction of nature.”

The communique called for American Christians to take a stand against these issues, saying that “the Church is ready to make an effective contribution to eradicate this evil from civil society through the education of the faithful and through a greater presence of qualified lay Christians who - by virtue of their family, school and parish education - promote the practice of such values as truth, honesty, hard work and the service of the common good.”

Also addressed was the concern over “the ease with which arms are able to circulate” and the need for Churches in America “to raise a prophetic voice denouncing rearmament and the scandalous trade in the materials of war, which absorb huge sums of money that should, in fact, be used for combating poverty and promoting development.”

Additionally, the synod discussed the issue of migration “which particularly affects many people and families from Latin American States who have moved to the northern regions of the continent,” stated the communique, and that “on the basis of the Gospel, it is necessary to promote a culture of solidarity that stimulates appropriate initiatives in support of the poor and marginalized, especially refugees.”

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New Uruguayan president-elect means pro-life battle is compromised, leader warns

Montevideo, Uruguay, Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - Following the announcement that Uruguay's left-wing candidate won the country's recent presidential election, pro-life leader Alvaro Fernandez warned that “the ballot for life in Uruguay is frankly compromised,” as the newly elected leader has said he would not oppose a possible legalization of abortion, as did his predecessor, outgoing President Tabare Vasquez.

In an interview with CNA, Fernandez explained that president-elect Jose Mujica was a member of the Tupamaros during the 1970s, a Marxist group that resorted to violence to bring about social change in Uruguay. His wife, who was also a member, is also “clearly supportive of the legalization of abortion.”

Fernandez said the differences between the various presidential candidates “were notable, not only for exterior reasons or because of their different political styles, but also because of deep philosophical differences.”

For example, he said, former president and candidate of the National Party, Luis Lacalle, “had promised he would veto any law on abortion that was passed by Parliament. Mr. Mujica promised he wouldn’t put any obstacles against the law on abortion.”

In order to warn the fellow Uruguayans of the importance of the November 29 elections, Fernandez explained, Uruguayan pro-lifers took the streets on November 23 to protest the legalization of abortion, with some 3,500 participating.

“What is certain and sure is that the pro-life battle in Uruguay is frankly compromised,” Fernandez said, adding that pro-lifers “would continue fighting like always. We will do everything we can to achieve the impossible. We are counting on the prayers of all, and, much to the dismay of Mr. Mujica, on the help of Divine Providence.”

Carlos Polo, the director of the Office for Latin America of the Population Research Institute, told CNA, “While it is true that candidate Mujica said he supported abortion, President Mujica does not necessarily have to come down on the side of his personal convictions. He won by a very small margin and almost half of the country does not concur with his position.”

For this reason, Polo warned, “Mujica must govern everyone and not only a particular social or political group, as there is a growing social tendency in Uruguay against the legalization of abortion.”

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Caritas International urges youth to learn values in order to fight AIDS

Rome, Italy, Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - Caritas International’s special advisor for the fight against AIDS, Msgr. Robert Vitillo, said this week that one of the main ways of combating the disease is to teach values to young people.  He added that though it doesn't cost anything to do this, it requires “much effort and is tiresome.”

Speaking to Vatican Radio from Nairobi, Msgr. Vitillo recalled that the Church is always close to those who are suffering most. “This pandemic continues and according to U.N. statistics, more than two million people were infected in 2008.  This means that we must re-dedicate ourselves to the prevention of this disease.”

He noted that teaching young people is not easy, “as it is difficult to successfully make them discover values and their own dignity. But it is necessary to establish healthy connections among them.”

Msgr. Vitillo also pointed out that in poor countries, 60 percent of the population does not have access to medicine.  He remarked that this is a major issue because only 20 percent of HIV-positive children receive treatment because “the drugs are not specifically for pediatric use.” 

Vitillo said pharmaceutical companies and governments must invest in developing drugs that are especially adapted for children.

According to recent data, as of 2009 some 33.4 million people are living with HIV, while 2.7 million became infected in 2008, and another 2 million died that year as a result of complications from the disease. Estimates are that in 2008, 430,000 children were born HIV-positive, with 2.1 million infected children under the age of 15.

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Cardinal Van Thuan Observatory condemns RU-486

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - The Cardinal Van Thuan Observatory recently issued a statement condemning RU-486, known as the abortion pill or mifepristone, as an “expression of a disgregating culture that destroys the passion for life and delivers a blow to the very origins of the meaning of being together.”

The Observatory, whose aim is to promote the social doctrine of the Church on an international level, issued a “decalogue” which lists 10 reasons against chemical abortion.

Among the listed concerns is the fact that the abortion pill is dangerous for the health of the woman as it is merely “poison,” also known as Mifepristone, that is being ingested.

“The Mifepristone is handed over to a woman who takes it on her own; pain and bleeding begin after a few hours and she has to deal with and monitor everything all on her own, and then report that at a later visit when she is prescribed a second 'pill' which helps in the definitive expulsion of the embryo,” says the decalogue.

Additionally, the Observatory states that the process of chemical abortion “forces a woman into solitude.”

“All this takes place over a period of time that can go from three to fifteen days, with a great degree of individual variability regarding the pain symptoms, which can be dealt with through prescribed pain killers that she still has to take herself.  It is unthinkable for all this to take place under regular hospital conditions in light of the very high costs inherent in admittance for such a long time. This puts a woman all on her own in dealing with the abortion, as used to happen and still happens in the case of ‘clandestine’ abortions.”

The decalogue also condemns the abortion pill on the grounds that it “makes abortion a trivial matter” by being marketed as a “drug” that will cure an “illness.” The pill, according to the Observatory, “ushers in two dramatic errors: the first is how abortion is considered something easy, and the second that an abortion falls within the sphere of medical therapy.”

“The fact that it isn’t easy is demonstrated by the experiences narrated by women, the many sufferings that remain unknown and can erupt on the surface even many years later,” continued the statement.

“Moreover, it is a grave falsehood to lead people to think that pregnancy is an 'illness' that can be 'cured' (eliminated) through recourse to a medicinal option. A pregnancy is the presence of a new human being, not a headache or a bad cold: they are not to be dealt with in the same way!”

Other concerns listed in the decalogue include the fact that one does not have to be a physician to prescribe the pill as well as the lack of time a woman has to make a decision in taking it. “The pills are given to women within a necessarily short lapse of time since they must be taken within the first 49 days of pregnancy in order to be effective,” says the statement. This does not allow women “any time for any in depth reflection on the final decision.”

The Observatory concluded its remarks on RU-486  by saying that “despite efforts to make it unfelt, trivial and routine, abortion remains a gravely unjust act, bereavement to be dealt with and a wound to  be healed.”

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Archbishop Dolan to mark 30th anniversary of Archbishop Sheen’s death with memorial Mass

New York City, N.Y., Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan will celebrate a special St. Patrick’s Cathedral Mass on Dec. 9 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. The Mass will be broadcast live on the Catholic television network EWTN.

Archbishop Sheen was a radio host and bestselling author who also hosted the popular 1950s television series “Life is Worth Living.” He served as the Bishop of Rochester, New York from 1966 to 1969.

He died on Dec. 9, 1979.

In 2002, Archbishop Sheen was declared a Servant of God. In 2008, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints opened his cause to consider his beatification and canonization.

Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan will be the main celebrant and homilist at the memorial Mass.

The archbishop has told EWTN host Raymond Arroyo that he had the chance to meet the famous prelate several times. However, he only became interested in him during his graduate work on the history of the Catholic Church in the U.S.

Archbishop Dolan told EWTN:

“My professor, John Tracy Ellis, used to say there’s never been anybody who’s been able to communicate the timeless truths of the Catholic religion to a very timely culture, namely the United States, like Fulton Sheen – without diluting any of the essentials of our Catholic Faith. He was able to present it in an eminently attractive way and that has always inspired me...”

Archbishop Dolan said he would never pretend to be like Archbishop Sheen or to have “his culture and bearing.” However, Sheen was an “inspiration” to him to bring “the immutable truths of the Catholic Faith to a very changing culture and society.”

The memorial Mass will be broadcast live on EWTN at 5:30 Eastern Time on Dec. 9. It will be rebroadcast at midnight Eastern Time.

The EWTN web site is at http://www.ewtn.com

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Massacre of journalists may endanger Catholic-Muslim relations in Philippines

Manila, Philippines, Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - A Philippines massacre which killed at least 57 people may endanger interfaith relations between Catholics and Muslims in the country. The deterioration in relations is in part due to the spread of extremist Wahhabi Islam in recent decades, a priest involved in interfaith dialogue says.

A Nov. 23 massacre in the predominantly Muslim province of Maguindanao killed at least 30 journalists and their staff and 27 other civilians, the Associated Press says. It is believed to be the deadliest single attack on the media.

The journalists were in a convoy to cover a local politician’s filing of his intention to run for governor. Dozens of gunmen allegedly led by a political rival abducted the journalists, raked them with gunfire at close range and hacked their bodies.

Andal Ampatuan Jr., the son of a political warlord, is the main suspect in the case. The Associated Press reports that he has been detained in Manila and faces multiple murder charges.

Speaking to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), interfaith dialogue leader Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra said the attacks would exacerbate religious tensions.

Although the killings are widely seen as political, Fr. D’Ambra commented that they are part of a breakdown in interfaith relations on an island conscious of its unique status as a mainly Muslim region.

Fr. D’Ambra, the founder of the interfaith initiative called the Silsilah Movement, has worked on religious cooperation in the region for almost 30 years, ACN reports. The priest said that relations with Muslims have declined sharply since the 1960s.

“Religious dialogue today is becoming more and more complicated because of the influence of groups which do not encourage dialogue between Christians and Muslims,” he told ACN. “Before the 1970s, there was a traditional way of living Islam in this region. Relations between Christians and Muslims were quite good, but for many reasons there has been deterioration.”

The priest said that there has been an “infiltration” of extremists and a spread of Wahhabism, a form of Sunni Islam. He also noted the rise of Muslim insurgency groups such as Abu Sayyaf.

“The decline of Muslim-Christian relations is already serious and will get more serious unless the political situation improves, and, in the context of killings like those [on Nov. 23], I do not see that happening soon.”

Fr. D’Ambra insisted the Silsilah Movement and other efforts at improving Christian-Muslim relations could still succeed.

“The Silsilah movement is working very hard. We have to be convinced of our work for dialogue. If our efforts are to work, they have to be sustainable,” he told ACN.

The movement was begun 25 years ago to create opportunities for interfaith cooperation. It centers on the 14-acre Harmony Village in the city of Zamboanga. The village includes an institute for religious dialogue, a training center, activities for young people from different religious and both a chapel and a mosque.

Fr. D’Ambra wants to expand the movement’s work with a media center to prepare materials for television and radio and to promote religious peace initiatives.

He also is looking to launch interfaith advocacy initiatives to stop employers’ exploitation of workers and resources. One program involves lobbying to stop a mining company from working in an area that would risk cutting off a water supply crucial for villagers.

“We have to remember that there are many groups in Mindanao who work for dialogue. Indeed most groups have a peaceful approach,” Fr. D’Ambra commented.


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Bishop still has ‘very serious concerns’ about health care legislation

Bend, Ore., Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - Despite the advance of the Stupak Amendment in proposed health care legislation, Bishop Robert Vasa of Bend, Oregon says there are still “very serious concerns” about the legislation. These include funding for abortion, pro-life conscience protections, assisted suicide, sex education and interference in the doctor-patient relationship.

Bishop Vasa wrote in his Dec. 3 column for the Catholic Sentinel that Catholic support for the Stupak Amendment, which barred federal funding for most abortions, should not be interpreted as complete support for the health care legislation.

He noted that the legislation funds abortion in cases of rape and incest and when the life of the mother is threatened, which he said is contrary to Church teaching about the “inviolability and dignity” of every unborn human being despite the circumstances of his or her origin.

The bishop warned that the legislation would further develop school-based clinics that provide not only appropriate medical care but also contraceptives and referrals for abortion.

“This is a completely unacceptable use of Catholic tax dollars,” Bishop Vasa commented, adding that the health care proposal also funds sex education and abolishes a federally funded abstinence education program.

Assisted suicide is also a concern.

“It is surmised that the states with assisted suicide, presently our own Oregon and Washington, will be provided with some federal funds for ‘counseling’ for patients who might be candidates for this ‘medical service’,” he wrote, saying that this is unacceptable.

Existing conscience protections in the bill are “grossly inadequate,” he charged. Pro-life physicians and nurses as well as private health care institutions need to be “free from coercion” on abortion, contraception, sterilization and other treatments and procedures that do not respect the “sanctity or integrity of human life.”

Turning to the topic of the patient-doctor relationship, he described it as both a personal and a professional relationship.

“The physician has the right and the need to be free to diagnose and prescribe for the patient a mode of treatment that is morally and medically sound,” Bishop Vasa explained. “There is already a degree of interference in this relationship by way of a variety of mechanisms, but the reform legislation seems to heighten that interference.”

The bishop voiced concerns about the “monolithic system” encouraged by the legislation. He said Catholic families who wish to exclude contraception coverage from their plan would be prohibited from doing so, making contraception available to their minor children without parental consent.

“It is not expected that we will be able to configure the plan in such a way that it would be entirely consistent with Catholic moral and social principles but we must work to assure, at very least, that we are free to live our faith in a way consistent with our faith tradition,” the bishop added.

Bishop Vasa’s Catholic Sentinel column also included a reflection on his trip to make confirmations. He wrote that the Holy Spirit will abide with the confirmands and nourish their wisdom, understanding, fortitude and piety.

On his return home he reported he saw tumbleweed being pushed by the wind and trapped by barbed wire fences.

“They were driven uncontrollably by the wind and were as much prisoners of the wind as they were of the fence. The way of God is freedom while being driven by the winds of our times is the real enslavement,” his column concluded.

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NIH approves first human embryonic stem cell research under new rules

Washington D.C., Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Wednesday approved the first experiments on human embryonic stem cells under the Obama administration’s new research policy.

The NIH authorized 11 stem cell lines produced by scientists at the Children’s Hospital in Boston and two cell lines created by researchers at Rockefeller University in New York, the Washington Post reports. The cell lines were obtained from embryos “left over” by couples who sought fertility treatments.

“This is a real change in the landscape," NIH Director Francis Collins said, according to the Washington Post.

He characterized the move as a “first down payment” that will “empower the scientific community to explore the potential of embryonic stem cell research."

Collins, who is an evangelical Christian, claimed there is an argument that the research is ethically acceptable “even if you believe in the inherent sanctity of the human embryo.”

Proponents of stem cell research hope to use adult or embryonic stem cells to create better treatments for ailments ranging from diabetes to spinal cord injuries.

Human embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) requires the destruction of human embryos.

Richard M. Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) criticized the NIH action.

“Ethically, we don't think any taxpayer should have to fund research that relies on destroying early human life at any stage,” he told the Washington Post. “But the tragedy of this is multiplied by the fact that no one can think what the problem is that can only be solved by these cells.”

Collins reported that the 13 cell lines approved on Wednesday met the requirements finalized by the NIH in July. Another 96 lines are awaiting approval, including 20 that will be considered by the advisory committee on Friday. At least 254 more will be submitted for approval.

The NIH has authorized 31 grants totaling about $21 million for research on human embryonic stem cells pending their approval under the new guidelines, the Washington Post says.

Many embryonic stem cell researchers hope to use the $10 billion the NIH received as part of the U.S. government’s economic stimulus package, Collins reported.

President George W. Bush had funded embryonic stem cell research on cell lines created before August, 2001 but barred funding on research which used cell lines created afterward.

President Obama overturned the Bush policy in March 2009.

The new NIH rules allow the funding of research which uses stem cells harvested from fertility clinic embryos and also outline informed consent standards for women or couples who donate their embryos.

In May Msgr. David Malloy, then the General Secretary of the USCCB, criticized the NIH guidelines for ESCR. He said they were "broader or more permissive” than previous policy in key respects.

“We are testing the limits of our obligation to treat all fellow human beings, of every age and condition, with basic respect,” he commented, saying it is a human right not to be subjected to harmful experimentation.

In a Wednesday statement, U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell noted that the announcement “marks an historic departure from our nation’s longstanding position of neutrality on embryo-destructive research.”

“For the very first time in U.S. history, the federal government will now use taxpayer dollars to pay for research that relies on and promotes the destruction of human life at its earliest stages. Americans may disagree about the morality of embryo-destructive research. But one thing we should all agree on is that taxpayers should not be compelled to pay for it.”

Archbishop of Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali has said the NIH policy encourages the destruction of “living embryonic human beings,” and treats those human beings as “objects to be created, manipulated and destroyed for others’ use.”

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SNAP slams Connecticut diocese after documents released, admits not having read them

Bridgeport, Conn., Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) as well as “Voice of the Faithful," said on Wednesday that thousands of pages of documents released Tuesday "uncover a culture of secrecy, cover-up, denial and arrogance," in the Diocese of Bridgeport, but admitted that they haven't yet read the more than 12,000 pages of documents released by the diocese.

David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, said the documents show "partial truth about devastating cover-ups, and are a step toward healing those still trying to recover from the horror of sex crimes suffered in their youth by trusted, respected, but abusive priests."

Clohessy told CNA, "we hope that every single person who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover-ups, in Connecticut and elsewhere, will be inspired to speak up, call police, expose predators, protect kids, get help and start healing."

”We hope that Catholics will read the documents themselves and encourage others who were molested and are still suffering shame and isolation to come forward,” he added.

Clohessy explained to CNA that “I haven't read (the 12,000 pages of documents released by the diocese)  and  wouldn’t pretend to.”  He admitted that his comments immediately following the release of the documents were not based on the documents themselves but on “what has been leaked to the press and covered by the media for years.”

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Diocese of Bridgeport said that in the last decade the Catholic Church throughout the United States “has brought about a significant culture change regarding the knowledge of and ability to deal with sexual abuse."  "The diocese has worked and will continue to work diligently and transparently to address the issue of sexual abuse in order to prevent this tragedy from happening again."

"The diocese remains committed to reaching out to support those who have been harmed. Under the direction of a dedicated Office of Safe Environments, and together with the active participation of all clergy, lay employees, volunteers, and contractors, the diocese is doing everything in its power to provide safe environments for all children and young people," the diocesan statement concluded.

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Rep. Kennedy 'milked' confrontation with Bishop Tobin for political reasons, expert says

Boston, Mass., Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) has decided to pull out of the Communion controversy after unsuccessfully “milking" his confrontation with Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, said Joe Fitzgerald, a political analyst from the Boston Herald.

Fitzgerald wrote: "Patrick Kennedy’s announcement that he’s 'not going to indulge in this debate any longer,' referring to his rejection of Catholic Church beliefs, was reminiscent of a strategy George Aiken floated at the height of the Vietnam War: 'Declare victory and pull out!' the late Vermont senator suggested.”

The Boston Herald columnist added that Kennedy was pulling out after "having milked his confrontation with Bishop Thomas J. Tobin for all it was worth after igniting it by indiscreetly disclosing a private communication he had received from the latter."

"Kennedy, like other pols before him, thus discovered it was much easier to profess his faith than it was to actually practice it, so he decided to cast himself as a martyr."

"Why not? There’s never been a better time to beat up on the Catholic Church. It plays well to malcontents and dissidents who’ve long resisted its teachings, and to activists and anarchists who resent its disapproval of their agendas," Fitzgerald said.

It brings to mind a puckish thought from Ronald Reagan: 'I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress'.”

Fitzgerald's column is available at: http://news.bostonherald.com/news/columnists/view/20091202immoral_society_perfect_host_to_kennedys_catholic_crusade/srvc=home&position=also

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Pope Benedict asks sick to offer up suffering for priests

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - Benedict XVI has announced that the World Day of the Sick will be celebrated this liturgical year on February 11, the 25th anniversary of the institution of  the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers.  The Pontiff drew attention to the essential nature of pastoral service for the sick and asked those who are ill "to pray and offer up their sufferings for priests" in this Year of the Priest.

For February 11, the Pope said, the Church would like to "raise awareness in the ecclesial community of the importance of pastoral service in the vast world of health..."  It's a service, that plays an integral part in healthcare's mission following  "the same saving mission of Christ."

"Through the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection, human suffering obtains sense and fullness of light."

Benedict quoted the words of his predecessor to "illuminate" this mystery.  John Paul II wrote that in Christ's death, human suffering reached it's culmination and also entered into a new dimension of love, obtained through suffering.

"The Cross of Christ became a spring, from which gush rivers of living water."

The Pontiff also highlighted the necessity for a "logic of love" practiced with the little ones and the needy as witnessed in Christ's washing of the apostles' feet  and called for every Christian to relive the parable of the Good Samaritan.

"Go and do the same," says Jesus at the end of the parable.

"With these words he turns also to us," indicated the Pope.  He calls us to see that "the experience of sickness and suffering can become a lesson of hope."

It's not "resting from the suffering or running from the pain that cures man, but it is his capacity to accept tribulation and to mature in it, to find sense through the union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love."

Pope Benedict called particular attention to the institutions that provide humanitarian and spiritual healing to the sick and suffering, saying there has never been more need for them in the world.  He recognized the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers specifically.  The council will celebrate its 25th anniversary of service this coming year.

The Holy Father concluded with a message directed to priests and the sick.  To the priests, as "ministers of the sick," he said, "not to hold back in giving care and comfort to the sick."  To the sick, he implored, "I ask you to pray and offer your sufferings for priests, that they may remain faithful to their vocations and that their ministry be rich in spiritual fruits, to the benefit of the entire church."

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Diocese of Portland reaches settlement on sex abuse case

Portland, Maine, Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - The Diocese of Portland, Maine has reached  a $200,000 settlement with a woman who  was allegedly molested by a priest in 1976 in South Berwick.

The announcement was made Wednesday by Mitchell Garabedian  of Boston, an attorney who has dedicated his recent years to reaching large settlements with Catholic dioceses around the country.

The victim, who lives outside of New England, was 11 years old at the time and one of the first female altar servers in the state.

Sue Bernard, spokesperson for the diocese, said the settlement money came from insurance.

She also said that the diocese received its first complaint about Fr. James Vallely – who is now deceased- in 1978 and took action.

At least three other people, including the victim in the settlement, have said that Vallely sexually abused them, Bernard said.

Garabedian has represented more than 650 victims in clergy sexual abuse cases throughout the country since 1995.

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Swiss ban of minarets continues to draw criticism

Rome, Italy, Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - The referendum outlawing new minarets from being built in Switzerland has received few votes in favor from the international community since it was passed into law in a vote on Sunday.  The Swiss Conference of Catholic Bishops is among those who oppose the result as an infringement on freedom of religion.

Nearly 58% of Swiss voters, including the majority in all but four of the 26 counties in Switzerland, passed the measure to block new minaret construction within the country with a 'yes' vote.

"This is a blow to religious freedom and integration" Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported the Swiss Conference of Catholic Bishops (SCCB) as saying, and it's "a tendency that complicates things for Christians who live in nations where this liberty is already limited."

SCCB spokesman, Walter Muller said that the referendum will only serve "to add to the problems of cohabitation between religion and culture" in the country.  He added that it wouldn't help abroad either, in countries where Muslims outnumber Christians.

In a statement to Vatican Radio, Secretary General of the SCCB Fr. Felix Gmur underlined the fact that in the cities of Geneva and Basel, where the highest concentrations of Muslims live in Switzerland, the vote came out in favor of building minarets.

Gmur added that the paradoxical overall result against freedom of religion in public came from a Christian society that must, as an intrinsic element of Christianity, practice in public.  He proposed a debate to "clarify this because society is disoriented, there is a contradiction in all of European society, as is shown in the open question of crucifixes in Italy."

In November of this year, the EU Human Rights Court prohibited crucifixes in Italian schools.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe said that the vote "is worrying for a number of reasons, including the fact the Swiss people have seen fit to limit the religious practice of one particular group."  He added, "I trust the Swiss government will work swiftly to be sure the Swiss are not viewed as an intolerant people.”

Central to debate on the matter of the minarets is the question of how the measure made it onto ballots at all.  Many regard it as integral to the human rights and liberties provided for in the constitution.

The affirmative vote was campaigned for aggressively in the lead up to the elections by the Federal Democratic Union political party, which has drawn international attention in recent years for its anti-immigration platform.  Campaign posters included one of a woman in a niqab flanked by a number of minarets modified to look like missiles.

Northern Italian and Dutch populist parties are among the few to speak in favor of the “yes” vote, and have said they will soon put together their own campaigns for the same cause.

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British couple chooses to cut life support for child

Rome, Italy, Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - A British couple elected on November 10 to discontinue medical care for their son of 13 months of age.  "RB" suffered from congenital myasthenic syndrome and, his doctors said, would only live a short life on artificial respiration and feeding tubes.

Irene Gemeno, of the Scottish Edinburgh Napier News, reported that "RB", as he was referred to in order to protect his identity and that of his parents, could barely, if at all, move his limbs or breathe due to limitations resulting from the neuromuscular condition, but his brain appeared to be healthy. 

Doctors, however, advised that he wasn't expected to live beyond three years of age and would never shed the artificial support for basic body functions.

According to the boy's father, the child was able recognize relatives and made an effort to play, but his doctors said it was impossible to know if these responses were involuntary or a result of the child's will.

After all known treatments for the congenital disorder had been attempted and the professional medical personnel had made their best efforts to treat the condition, doctors advised that they were out of options. 

The mother of the child consented to disconnecting all life support, but the father, "Mr. AB," took the case to the tribunal in defense of RB's life, hoping to put the boy on a portable life support system through a tracheotomy, reported the Italian daily, La Stampa.  The case was then taken to Britain's Family Division of the High Court to determine from experts' testimonies if any improvement in the baby's health could be expected.

Justice McFarlane, the court magistrate, reported in his remarks on the evidence provided by doctors, that RB “has not shown any effective response and the prospect of effective treatment for him, which would involve both identifying the defective gene and relying upon the development of a new pharmaceutical, which must be many years down the line."

After a week of the hearings, Mr. AB withdrew from the legal battle.

RB was taken off life support shortly thereafter.

Opinions supporting both sides surged on internet forums and in local British media.  Some call it a case of child euthanasia, while others say that there is no obligation for doctors to provide treatment if there is no possibility that it will benefit the patient. 

No one has criticized the parents, of whom Justice McFarlane recorded RB's key nurse describing them as "brilliant; they are great parents; they love him dearly, are always at his bedside and always want what they feel is best for him." But, many have called for an evaluation of the case and its relevance to the euthanasia debate.

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Catholic experts clarify the teachings of JPII following Playboy model's comments

Denver, Colo., Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - Joanna Krupa, the Polish model on the cover of this month's Playboy magazine has released a statement countering critics of her recent advertisement for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in which she professes herself to be a practicing Catholic who is “working to stop senseless suffering of animals, the most defenseless of God's creation.”

Krupa's comments came in response to statements made by Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, in reaction to Krupa's most recent ad campaign with PETA: “Be an angel for animals. Always Adopt. Never Buy.”

One of the ads features Krupa wearing angel wings and a digital halo while holding a large, elaborate cross which barely covers her nude figure. The other shows a topless Krupa, again with angel wings and a halo, holding a dog while a rosary dangles from her hand.

Donohue blasted PETA for a lack of reverence and an ignorance of ethics. "The fact is that cats and dogs are a lot safer in pet stores than they are in the hands of PETA employees," Donohue said in a statement. "Moreover, pet stores don't rip off Christian iconography and engage in cheap irreligious claims." "It also has a long and disgraceful record of exploiting Christian and Jewish themes to hawk its ugly services. Those who support this organization sorely need a reality check,” he continued.

“It's understandable that the Catholic League is wary of another sex scandal, but the sex we're talking about pertains to dogs and cats,” Krupa's statement reads. “In my heart I know that Jesus would never condone the suffering that results when dogs and cats are allowed to breed,” she added.

The model who appeared, unclad, in PETA's 2007 “I'd rather go naked than wear fur” campaign said, “As a practicing Catholic, I am shocked that the Catholic League is speaking out against my PETA ads, which I am very proud of.”

“I'm doing what the Catholic Church should be doing, working to stop senseless suffering of animals, the most defenseless of God's creation. I am a voice for innocent animals who are being neglected and dumped by the millions at shelters,” she asserted.

Terry Polakovic, Executive Director of ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women) told CNA that if Krupa is “a serious Catholic, she might want to devote some time to catechesis.” Polakovic referred Krupa to John Paul II's, “'Theology of the Body,' wherein he explains how the human body speaks a language of its own.”

Earlier this year, Krupa defended nudity by saying the human body is a work of art. "I think worrying about going topless in a photo shoot or film is really ridiculous," she told Fox News. "And the fact is, Pope John Paul said, since we were born naked, it is art, and it's just showing a beautiful body that God created."

Krupa's suggestion that the late Pope John Paul II endorsed photographs of half-naked women because they depict "a beautiful body that God created" is simply wrong," said Joan Frawley Desmond, a Catholic journalist who studied at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family.

Desmond added, “For the Pope, the human body has been created by God as a priceless 'gift' of one spouse to another. Great art respects this 'truth' and treats the naked human form with dignity. In contrast, the casual display of the naked body transforms this inestimable 'gift' into 'public property.'”

“It is not enough to say “The body is a work of art” and then proceed however you might wish,” Polakovic remarked. “ That the body may be perceived as a work of art needs to be understood within a much larger context of the overall understanding of what it means to be a human person, that is, a union of body and soul. We must understand the dignity of the person, which stems from being created in the image and likeness of God.”

“For a beautiful woman like Joanna to be under informed about her true nature and dignity as a woman made in the image of God is a real sorrow. And more worrisome is that it poses a danger to other people who are similarly confused about their nature and purpose and look to a famous model to school them in truth,” Polakovic added.

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Radio ads in Michigan and Pennsylvania thank Reps. Stupak and Pitts

Arlington, Va., Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - The Susan B. Anthony list has begun airing a radio ad in Northern Michigan and in Pennsylvania thanking Rep. Bart Stupak and Rep. Joe Pitts for their courageous efforts to exclude publicly funded abortions from the house health care bill.

This fall, Representatives Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joe Pitts (D-PA) co-sponsored an amendment to the House health care bill which excludes government funding for abortion and for health plans that cover abortion. Against all expectations, the Stupak-Pitts amendment  passed the house 240-194. 

Despite recent polls that demonstrate that the majority of Americans do not support government money going toward abortion, pro-choice advocates have reacted negatively to the Stupak-Pitts amendment and sought to tear down Stupak and his pro-life allies.  According to the SBA list, the abortion advocates have even resorted to sending coat hangers to Democrats who supported the amendment. 

"Congressman Bart Stupak is a courageous pro-life Democrat in the mold of former Governor Bob Casey," said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. "Susan B. Anthony List members are thankful for his partnership with Congressman Joe Pitts to ensure that health care reform legislation is not used to usher in massive government-funding for abortion."

Therefore, the SBA List has aired radio ads funded by nationwide grassroots donations in  Stupak's and Pitts' districts. The ads thank the representatives for their dedication and pro-life efforts. They also attempt to get the word out so that more people will be aware of what exactly Stupak and Pitts did.

“This holiday season, the people of Northern Michigan can be thankful that they are represented by a principled and effective congressman: Bart Stupak. Congressman Stupak had the courage to lead the fight in the House of Representatives to stop federal dollars from being spent for abortions. We can trust Bart Stupak to protect unborn children and women. And for that, we can be thankful. ” reads the radio ad. 

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Italian bakers give Pope sweet bread to feed the poor

Rome, Italy, Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - The Italian Federation of Bread Bakers has donated 1,000 loaves of “panettone” (a traditional Christmas sweet bread) to the Holy Father who will distribute them to the poor in Rome. As an expression of their affection for the Pope, they also gave him “the largest panettone we’ve ever made” as a special gift.

The sweet bread will be distributed to the poor at the Dono di Maria Shelter and by Caritas of Rome.

The president of the federation said the Italian bakers also wished to convey to the Holy Father their desire that “Sunday be respected as a day for the family.”

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Analyst says 'homosexuals will go to hell' likely a misquote of Vatican cardinal

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - Italian Vatican analyst Andrea Tornielli said this week that the statement, “Homosexuals and transsexuals will never enter the Kingdom of God,” attributed to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, is “very likely” an “improper synthesis on the part of the interviewer,” Italian journalist Bruno Volpe.

Tornielli explained that “the Church is right to condemn a certain homosexual ideology, but she cannot close the gates of paradise to homosexuals and transsexuals because judgment, thanks be to God, waits for God, and Catholic theology has always taught that the possibility of repentance of one’s sins imploring divine mercy exists until the end.”

For this reason, and considering the fact that Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan “is a theologian,” Tornielli continued, “I cannot believe that he made these statements, which in all likelihood are an improper synthesis on the part of the  interviewer,” Italian journalist Bruno Volpe.

Volpe published the statements on his website Pontifex News.

Tornielli remarked that Volpe was, “perhaps ignorant of the fact that the Church has always distinguished between the sin and the sinner.”

Regarding this issue, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See’s Press Office, said Pontifex News “should not be considered an authority on Catholic thinking,” especially “on complex and delicate issues such as homosexuality.”

Father Lombardi pointed to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358, which says that “the number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

Pontifex News has previously been involved in controversies regarding the accuracy of their quotes. Last year, Cardinal Juan Sandoval of Guadalajara, Mexico, strongly denied a quote attributed by Pontifex to him, in which he allegedly said that a former Mexican president was responsible for the murder of his predecessor, Cardinal Juan Posadas.

CNA attempted to contact Cardinal Lozano Barragan to verify the claims by Pontifex but he was unavailable due to a minor medical procedure.

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Letter from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reiterates his opposition to most abortions

Washington D.C., Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to those who object to abortion funding in the proposed health care bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office is sending a letter which notes his opposition to abortion except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother.

“I noted your specific comments related to health care reform and abortion. I oppose abortion except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at risk,” the Senator’s Nov. 26 letter reads, according to CWNews.com.

Sen. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, speaks in the letter of his commitment to finding “common ground” that respects the views of those who differ.

“Please know that as we move forward, I will keep your ideas and concerns in mind. It is my hope that we can make affordable, comprehensive health care coverage a reality for so many Americans who are currently struggling to pay their medical bills, and make ends meet,” his letter continues.

The Senator, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has described himself as pro-life. Both pro-life and pro-abortion rights organizations have rated his voting record on abortion as mixed.

The health care reform bill put forward by Sen. Reid allows abortion coverage in the “public option” plan, permits federal subsidies to go to private insurance plans, and mandates that the Secretary of Health and Human Services ensure at least one insurance plan covers abortion in the proposed federally-subsidized “insurance exchange.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) had proposed an amendment barring most abortion funding from the Senate health care bill but the proposal was defeated in two Senate committees.

He had told CNSNews.com on Nov. 1 that Sen. Reid knew about the amendment.

“I believe Harry Reid would be on our side on this,” Sen. Hatch had said.

Sen. Hatch has now joined Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) in leading a bipartisan effort to add Stupak Amendment language to the Senate version of the health care bill.

The amendment would prohibit federal dollars from funding abortions except in the cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother. It largely mirrors the amendment passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Judge on Notre Dame 88 case allows appeals court to decide recusal issue

South Bend, Ind., Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - In a hearing today, the judge assigned to the case against the 88 pro-life protesters arrested for trespassing at Notre Dame's commencement exercises last spring, has allowed the request for her recusal to move to an appeals court.

St. Thomas More Society attorney Thomas Dixon, who is representing the protesters, argued that Judge Jenny Pitts Manier has “an actual or perceived bias based on her prior rulings, her husband’s outspoken criticism of Catholic pro-life teachings as a philosophy professor at Notre Dame and other factors.”

Judge Manier, the wife of a retired pro-abortion Notre Dame professor, is markedly pro-abortion herself, Laura Rohling, one of the Notre Dame 88, told CNA in an October email.

In an October statement, Judge Manier denied any personal or judicial bias in the case and refused to recuse herself. She has also stated that her husband doesn't have a personal or professional interest in the case.

However, after a more than two-hour hearing during which Dixon again presented his case against Manier, the judge granted Dixon's request that the final opinion on the recusal be settled in the Indiana claims court.

“We’re very pleased that Judge Manier has allowed this immediate appeal as it is critical that these vital issues be heard before a fair and impartial tribunal,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society.

“Universities are supposed to be a place where free speech is welcomed and not silenced,” Brejcha continued. “The pro-life movement is the next stage of America’s civil rights movement. Notre Dame should not go down in history as another Birmingham, infamous for suppressing demonstrators for exercising their Constitutional rights.”

The defense of the protestors, who are being charged with trespassing by the University of Notre Dame, is based on the argument that the free speech rights of the pro-life protesters were violated by their arrest by campus police while demonstrating Obama supporters stood by watching.

Though representatives of the university claim that the issue is out of their hands, Brejcha expressed hope “that Notre Dame will intervene and ask that the charges be dropped.”

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Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice tries to 'Stop Stupak'

Washington D.C., Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - On December 2, a series of events called  the “Stop Stupak! Day of Action” took place in Washington. Among them was a protest on Capitol Hill in which members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) called the Stupak amendment an “affront to religious liberty.”

During the event, RCRC President Rev. Carlton W. Veazey quoted Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  Veazey called upon the crowd to defend justice by advocating health care reform which would not exclude access to any services.

According to an article from RCRC, Rev. Veazey also decried the recent USCCB campaign against federally-funded abortions saying it was “imposing its theological views on the American people with the Stupak amendment.”   Calling the Stupak amendment “an affront to religious liberty and to the rights of women,” Veazey said that as a nation that is home to so many different faith traditions, “we must oppose any attempt to make specific religious doctrine concerning abortion the law for all Americans.”

The USCCB has spoken out against the bill calling it “morally unacceptable.” 

In a Nov. 20 letter sent to U.S. Senators, the U.S. bishops noted that for the bill to be adequate, it must “keep in place current federal law on abortion funding and conscience protections on abortion; protect the access to health care that immigrants currently have and remove current barriers to access; and include strong provisions for adequate affordability and coverage standards.”

In a press statement issued for the Stop Stupak Day of Action, Rev. Veazey also said: "We – as people of faith – have a special responsibility to bear witness in support of equal access to health care for all. In fact, it is our moral obligation to do so.”

He continued: “We are letting it be known that those who support this amendment do not speak for all religious leaders and people of faith. One particular religious belief system must not be imposed on all of us especially at the expense of public health. Women must have the right to apply or reject the principles of their own faith without legal restrictions," the press statement stated.

The RCRC claims that “the Stupak ban goes far beyond the Hyde amendment, which has unfairly prohibited the use of federal funds for abortion in most cases for more than 30 years.” Their website also contends that, if enacted, the Stupak amendment would “effectively prohibit millions of women from using their own money to purchase private health insurance that provides comprehensive reproductive health care benefits.”

According to a November 12 fact sheet released by the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, the Stupak amendment “is a modest and reasonable measure” which “reflects the Hyde amendment and all other existing federal abortion funding policies in the context of health care reform.”

“Under this policy, anyone who actually wants abortion coverage can buy it with their own money; the government does not use taxpayer funds for abortions; and no one who opposes abortion is forced through their health premiums to pay for other people’s abortions,” the Secretariat notes.

 The “Stop Stupak Day of Action” featured nearly 500 protestors and abortion advocates from 30 states. The event coincided with  the news that an amendment with “Stupak-like language” being introduced to the Senate floor by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

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Health care bill’s definition of ‘preventive care’ could be backdoor for mandatory abortion coverage

Washington D.C., Dec 3, 2009 (CNA) - The passage of an amendment requiring “preventive care” for women in the Senate’s proposed health care bill could provide a backdoor to make abortion coverage mandatory, pro-life advocates warn.

The Mikulski Amendment, passed on Thursday by a vote of 61-39, requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to provide coverage for “preventive care” for women and bars them from imposing cost sharing requirements on such care.

Under the amendment, “preventive care” would be defined by the comprehensive guidelines of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

The National Right to Life Committee has reported that some pro-abortion advocates consider abortion to be “preventive” health care.

It said the National Abortion Federation co-sponsored a 2009 publication titled “Providing Abortion Care” which explicitly stated that advance practice clinicians are “especially well positioned within the health care system to address women’s need for comprehensive primary preventive health care that includes abortion care.”

The Mikulski Amendment’s vulnerability to pro-abortion redefinition has concerned some pro-life leaders.

“While this amendment does not explicitly require abortion coverage, it also fails to explicitly exclude it,” wrote Mary Harned of Americans United for Life (AUL) at the AUL website.

If the HRSA categorizes abortion as preventive care, it would recommend coverage for abortion by all private plans and force them to offer abortion coverage.

Harned charged that this would further “the abortion lobby’s agenda of mainstreaming abortion as health care.”

The NRLC said concerns that “preventive care” will include abortion should not be dismissed. But it argued that those who do dismiss those concerns should therefore have no objection to explicitly excluding abortion from that definition.

The Mikulski Amendment was sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). The Associated Press reports that it was intended to safeguard coverage of mammograms and preventive screening tests for women under a revamped health system.

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