Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2009 (CNA) - Last week, InsiderCatholic.com issued a story referring to a Harvard Business School case study which outlined some of Planned Parenthood's recent financial difficulties. According to Mauricio Roman's article, Planned Parenthood has recently consolidated its affiliates, pushed for more cost effective procedures such as chemical abortions versus in-clinic abortions, and has tried to increase its sale of emergency contraceptive kits.
The Harvard case study, released in April of 2009, claims that "tough economic times, a hostile political environment" and inability to raise philanthropic dollars are among the reasons for Planned Parenthood's financial difficulties, despite the fact that the non-profit organization claimed $85 million in profits in 2008.
"Planned Parenthood may call itself a non-profit but the numbers don't lie: abortion is a big business," said Colin Mason, Director of Media Production for the Population Research Institute to CNA.
"Planned Parenthood talks the talk on 'wanting to reduce abortions' but that is actually the last thing they want. Why would they? Abortions are their bread and butter. When rates drop, Planned Parenthood feels the heat, as we're seeing now."
When asked if their financial difficulties are among the reasons that Planned Parenthood is working so hard to ensure federally-funded abortions in the new health care reform, Mason told CNA that "it is likely that this particularly strong push is a result of their slashed revenues."
"As abortion becomes more and more unpopular, Planned Parenthood suffers. Federal funding ensures a reliable budget."
Mason continued to tell CNA that "Planned Parenthood is beginning to have an odor of disreputability, and is losing funding at the state and local level as a result. They are shrouded in scandals that seem to pop up at every turn, from their proven practice of covering up statutory rape, to their willingness to accept racist donations."
"It is telling," said Mason, "that major companies like Target, who used to give to Planned Parenthood, have ceased. Planned Parenthood is beginning to develop a 'creep factor,' which takes its toll on revenue and patronage."
Ultimately, Mason believes that "Americans are becoming more and more uncomfortable with the entire idea of abortion and that is one of the biggest reasons why America’s biggest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, is starting to see a massive fall-off."
"It is our hope," Mason told CNA, "that, just as the ovens of Auschwitz stand empty now as a public memorial to millions of slain Jews, so someday Planned Parenthood’s clinics will stand empty to remind us of the countless babies sacrificed in the name of 'choice'."
Hanoi, Vietnam, Dec 5, 2009 (CNA) - The Vietnamese government has announced that President Nguyen Minh Triet will visit the Vatican and meet with Pope Benedict XVI next week to strengthen ties between his country and the Holy See.
The countries do not have diplomatic relations and Vietnamese Catholics continue to protest their treatment at the hands of the communist government. However, Vietnam and the Holy See have begun reconciliation in recent years, according to Agence France Presse.
President Triet will visit the Vatican on Dec. 11 as part of a European tour through Italy, Spain and Slovakia.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said the president will meet with Pope Benedict during his trip to Italy. They will discuss "measures to reinforce relations between Vietnam and the Vatican," which she said have been progressing well.
The AFP reports that she did not give details of the agenda for the papal meeting and did not say whether the issue of confiscated Catholic land will be discussed.
The communist government has seized many Catholic properties, but in December 2007 Catholics began a series of demonstrations seeking their return.
The demonstrations have occasionally led to clashes with the police. Government-backed gangs have reportedly attacked protesters and ransacked churches.
In 2007 the Catholic priest Fr. Nguyen Van Ly was jailed for eight years on the charge of spreading propaganda against the state. His sister reports that his health is deteriorating, AFP says.
The priest’s case has drawn condemnation from diplomats and human rights groups. In early July 2009, a bipartisan group of 37 U.S. Senators sent a letter to the Vietnamese president calling for his release.
Prime Minster Nguyen Tan Dung made a historic visit to the Vatican in 2007. Earlier this year a senior Vatican official led a delegation to the country to hold the first formal meetings with government authorities to discuss establishing diplomatic ties.
Vietnam has the largest Catholic community in Southeast Asia after the Philippines. About six million of Vietnam’s 86 million people are Catholic.
According to the AFP, religious activity remains under state control in the country.
Rome, Italy, Dec 5, 2009 (CNA) - The Cardinal Van Thuan International Observatory has written and published the first report on the Social Doctrine of the Church in the world, a 187-page book containing information compiled from all five continents.
According to officials at the Observatory, the book was published by Edizioni Cantagalli Siena and is already on sale in bookstores in Italy. In the preface for the book, Cardinal Renato Martino comments, “This is an absolutely new and extremely useful instrument.”
Directed by Msgr. Giampaolo Crepaldi, president of the Observatory, and Stefano Fontana, the report presents analysis of the Magisterium as well as the “emerging problems on the five continents.”
The press release notes that the report “is an essential tool of information for research and dialogue. It makes one understand where the Catholic Church is headed with her social doctrine, its strong points and weak points, its advances and setbacks. It sets a course, as do sailors on the sea.”
This first report is intended to be a point of reference for all those interested in the Social Doctrine of the Church.”
Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2009 (CNA) - The “crushing burden” of student loans delays marriage and childbirth and encourages cohabitation, family policy expert Allan Carlson said in a lecture on Friday. He urged a pro-family debt relief program to help alleviate the financial stresses student loans can cause.
Carlson, who is President of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society, spoke at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.
“In cultures around the world and throughout recorded history, the common practice has been to use dowries (the property brought by young women into their marriages) and other marital gifts to provide newlyweds with working capital at the beginning of their marriage,” Carlson wrote in a 2005 paper. “This cultural strategy has aimed at encouraging marriage, stable homes, and the birth of children.”
However, the recent practice of burdening young adults with substantial educational debt appears to significantly discourage marriage and childbirth.
At the FRC on Friday, Carlson cited a 2002 survey indicating that 14 percent of indebted students delayed marriage because of their loans, while 21 percent delayed having children. In 1988 these numbers were nine and 12 percent, respectively.
This debt can also cause problems in marriages. One survey which examined 41 marital problems and found that “debt brought into marriage” was the third most problematic issue facing newlyweds. Among respondents who had no children, debt was the second most problematic problem. Among respondents ages 29 and below, debt was named the most problematic issue.
Carlson suggested student loan debt has encouraged a “retreat” from marriage.
The marriage rate for women aged 20-24 declined 41.4 percent between 1984 and 2004. The rate for women aged 25-29 declined 19.4 percent. For men, the marriage rate in those cohorts declined 45.5 percent and 29.6 percent, respectively.
Cohabiting couples have increased from 1.6 million in 1980 to 5.1 million in 2004. This has significant effect on the family, as cohabiting couples are less stable, more prone to domestic violence and more prone to infidelity even after they marry. Children of cohabiting couples show the same level of well-being as children of single mothers, a much poorer well-being than children of married parents.
Carlson added that women who receive a college degree or above tend to remain childless compared to those without a university degree. The higher a woman’s qualifications, the less likely she is to marry or cohabitate.
If these women do marry, they are more likely to marry college-educated men. This means their debt obligation is likely to be twice as high as individual debt.
Student loan debt also has effects on health care costs, Carlson noted in the question and answer session after his lecture. Doctors who exit medical school with massive debt must insist on a large income to repay it. This pressures doctors to prefer specialized fields which pay more than general practice.
He added that young couples’ unrealistic expectations, like the supposed need for a $40,000 wedding or an expensive first home, also discourage marriage. However, he suggested, the decline in housing prices could help improve the marriage rate.
To assist young married couples and encourage childbirth, Carlson proposed that for each child born or adopted, the federal government pay off 25 percent of married parents’ outstanding student debt, up to $5,000 each for mother and father.
Front Royal, Va., Dec 5, 2009 (CNA) - Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, President of Human Life International has called for Americans to be watchful of President Obama's appointments to the new Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, claiming the unlikelihood of the advisors to share the pro-life sentiment of the majority of Americans.
On November 24, President Obama signed an Executive Order creating the new Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, whose purpose is to advise the President on concerns emerging from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology.
"As our nation invests in science and innovation and pursues advances in biomedical research and health care, it’s imperative that we do so in a responsible manner," said President Obama. "I am confident that Amy and Jim will use their decades of experience in both ethics and science to guide the new Commission in this work, and I look forward to listening to their recommendations in the coming months and years."
Obama is referring to Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania to and James W. Wagner, president of Emory University, who will serve as chair and vice-chair of the new commission, respectively. Research on the two found that many of Gutmann's publications regard democratic theory, while Wagner studied engineering and materials science before becoming involved in academic administration.
The other 11 appointments to the commission have yet to be announced.
"Does anyone think that even one person on this commission will strongly represent the majority of Americans' pro-life views?" said Fr. Euteneuer. "We saw what the president thinks of bioethicists who disagree with him when he fired the previous presidential bioethics commission the day after they lodged a complaint about his policies."
Last June, Obama suddenly and without warning disbanded Bush's bioethics commission, who's charter was set to expire in September, without allowing the scheduled final meeting of the council. In March, the council had released a statement disagreeing with Obama's position on stem cell research.
Last Wednesday, Obama authorized embryonic stem cell research for 13 lines of stem cells obtained from the destruction of fetuses "left over" from IVF treatments.
"We already know what the president is going to do. He is going to find eleven utilitarians who will carefully furrow their scholarly brows as they tell us that we just have to get used to the idea that some lives aren't worth as much as others," said Rev. Euteneuer. "Then he is going to find two 'pro-life Christians' or other religious types who provide religious-sounding rationalizations for this assault on life."
Euteneuer noted that every one of Obama's current advisors who has written on bioethical issues "is pro-abortion, pro-embryonic stem cell research, pro-euthanasia, pro-assisted suicide. Bioethicists like this strive to create a ‘Brave New World’ for the weakest and most vulnerable of those created in God’s image: those who doctors used to swear an oath to protect."
CNA STAFF, Dec 5, 2009 (CNA) - Craig Manson, Distinguished Professor and Lecturer in Law at the University of the Pacific, has recently written about how the South in the U.S could be regarded as the “birthplace of black Catholicism.”
Explaining the historical context, Manson told CNA that “evidence suggests that the first black Catholics in America were those in Florida as early as 1565. They came with the Spanish explorers. Some were slaves; others were free Africans.”
“As for slaves, we know that the Spanish baptized their slaves and treated them like human beings, not property,” continued Manson. “Black people did comparatively well under Spanish rule in Florida, as opposed to, for example, South Carolina. In the late 1600s, slaves from the Carolinas began escaping to Florida, where one condition of their sanctuary there was baptism.”
Manson also told CNA that “there exists in St. Augustine a baptismal record for a black child dated 1606. Some scholars believe there were Catholic child baptisms in Florida earlier than that, but the records just haven't survived.”
“A great many black Catholics have roots in Louisiana,” explained Manson. “The reason is similar to the other situation: the French who governed Louisiana originally required slaves to be baptized and encouraged the preservation of family structures among slaves. They required slave marriages to be consecrated by the Church.”
“Additionally,” said Manson, “the French were quite a bit more liberal than the British when it came to interracial marriages.”
When asked about the significance of these findings, Manson told CNA that he believes that “understanding history gives us a perspective on the present. It explains why we are where we are and how we got there. As a life-long black Catholic myself, I didn't know much about the history of black Catholics until recently.”
“I think it's significant to know that not all black Catholics are recent converts - a widely held perception,” continued Manson. “My mother-in-law, for example, comes from a black family that traces its early Catholicism to the year 1722. All people should understand that black people have a long involvement with and commitment to the Church in America and elsewhere.”
“This knowledge is not for the purposes of dividing us, but for uniting us in the Universal Church.”