Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 18, 2009 (CNA) - The Abortion Fund for Social Justice, “Women, Abortion, Reproduction and Accompaniment,” announced this week the launching of the “Maria Network,” a program which finances abortions for poor women in Mexico City using U.S. dollars.
The network operates by sidestepping legal roadblocks to abortion implemented by numerous Mexican states by bringing low-income pregnant women to Mexico City where they can obtain legal abortions.
The Abortion Fund for Social Justice is part of the National Network of Abortion Funds, based in the United States.
Eugenia Lopez Uribe, the network coordinator, told reporters that the “Maria Network” has been operating for six months and is supported by donations and volunteers.
The organization also provides technical assistance to pro-choice groups such as the Population Council, Gire, Ipas and the self-proclaimed Catholics for a Free Choice.
Anchorage, Alaska, Dec 18, 2009 (CNA) - An Alaskan petition initiative to place a measure requiring parental notification for an underage girl seeking an abortion has collected 31,000 signatures. Organizers credited the efforts of Catholics like Archbishop of Anchorage Roger Schwietz, who asked Catholics to sign the petition and encouraged parishes to support the proposal.
The parental notification initiative must secure 32,734 signatures to place an initiative on the ballot. Organizers are seeking another 11,000 signatures to make up for any invalid signatures.
In a Sept. 3 letter Archbishop Schwietz voiced support for the initiative. He said the petition effort sends a “strong message that Alaskan parents should be involved in the healthcare decisions of their children.”
As of November 2007, he reported, only 14 states did not have a parental notification law.
Addressing concerns about election law, the archbishop noted that though it is prohibited to endorse a particular candidate on Church property, the same restriction does not apply when discussing an issue of public policy.
Alaskans for Parental Rights, the organization leading the initiative, said Catholic support has made a large impact on its success, the CatholicAnchor.org reports.
“His words of encouragement have raised up an army of petition circulators from parishes across the state. Many of these ‘soldiers’ have circulated the petitions in their home parish and even visited other churches in order to collect signatures,” the group’s campaign organizer Kelly Foreman said in a Dec. 8 e-mail to the Anchor.
The state requires signatures for an initiative to be gathered from 30 of the 40 House districts. Foreman reported that ten House districts have met the minimum number of signatures, while ten other districts need less than 100 more signatures.
Organizers of the petition drive hope to file all signatures by the end of December after verifying names against voter registration records.
In November 2007 the Alaska Supreme Court overturned a state law requiring parental consent before a minor’s abortion, though it had passed by an overwhelming vote in the legislature, the Anchor reports.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in 2006 a reported 369 Alaska teens had abortions. Of those 74 were 16 years old or younger and 54 were 17 years old.
Phoenix, Ariz., Dec 18, 2009 (CNA) - A new Catholic radio station launched in Phoenix on Thursday, becoming the 24th station of the Immaculate Heart Radio network in the western United States. The local bishop says it will be a “channel of evangelization.”
The new station, broadcast at KIHP 1310-AM, is the result of a five year effort to bring Catholic radio to the Phoenix market, the Phoenix Business Journal reports. The last three letters of its call sign stand for Immaculate Heart Phoenix.
Though the radio station used by KIHP was priced at four or five million dollars five years ago, it was purchased for only one million because the recession caused a lower asking price.
Doug Sherman, president and founder of the Sacramento-based Immaculate Heart Radio, said the purchase was funded by donors, the majority of whom were local.
“This is the first time a Catholic radio station has ever to come to Phoenix,” Sherman told the Phoenix Journal. “We know there’s a market here. Over 25 percent of the population is identified as Catholics.”
Bishop of Phoenix Thomas Olmsted told the Catholic Sun that the station would be a “channel of evangelization” for those with no faith or those who have fallen away from religious practice.
“Wherever stations have opened across our country, stories of conversion have soon followed,” he added.
Such stories include babies saved from abortion, Catholics growing deeper in their faith, strengthened families and instances of confirmed atheists bringing their family into the Church.
The station will also help reach the home-bound, those in nursing homes or with limited ability to be active in a parish. Commuters too will benefit, the bishop added.
Programming will include a musical rosary aired at 7:30 a.m. local time and at two other times during the day. The station will rebroadcast EWTN shows such as The World Over and also seven hours of live call-in talk shows.
Jim Dwyer, public information officer for the Diocese of Phoenix, said KIHP will help the diocese broaden its voice in the Phoenix Valley. He said the diocese would also like to work with Immaculate Heart to have some local programming on the station.
“We would like to have a Bishop’s Hour for sure,” Dwyer explained. “At least once a month from the Bishop.”
Sherman explained that local businesses can advertise their products and services by sponsoring programs on the station. This would not be “hard-sell advertising,” but more like PBS television, he told the Phoenix Business Journal.
Immaculate Heart employs 22 people to oversee 23 radio stations in California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. Sherman said he is not yet sure how many will be employed at the Phoenix station.
Immaculate Heart Radio’s first station launched in January 1997 and was only the seventh Catholic station in the country. By contrast, there were about 1,500 Protestant stations at the time.
“For whatever reason, Catholics were asleep at the wheel for the last 30 years, while other people were doing very good things with radio,” Sherman said.
There are now about 200 Catholic radio stations in the U.S.
Immaculate Heart Radio and the diocese launched the station at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, followed by a blessing from Bishop Thomas Olmsted and a celebration at Mount Claret Retreat Center.
The radio network’s website is at http://www.ihradio.org
Albuquerque, N.M., Dec 18, 2009 (CNA) - Attorneys for a small photography company charged with violating anti-discrimination laws for declining to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony” are planning to appeal a New Mexico judge’s decision to uphold the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission’s ruling against them.
The Albuquerque company, Elane Photography, is co-owned by Elaine Huguenin and her husband Jon. They are being represented by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF).
In 2006 a woman named Vanessa Willock asked them to photograph a “commitment ceremony” that she and another woman wanted to hold in Taos, N.M. State law does not recognize homosexual unions.
Elaine Hugenin declined because her and her husband’s Christian beliefs conflicted with the message communicated by the ceremony, the ADF said. Willock filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, accusing Elane Photography of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The commission held a one-day trial and issued an order in April 2008 finding that the company engaged in discrimination prohibited under state law. The commission ordered the company to pay Willock $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees.
“Christians in the marketplace should not be subject to predatory legal attacks for simply abiding by their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “The Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling artists to promote a message they disagree with and thereby violate their conscience. Should the government force a videographer who is an animal rights activist to create a video promoting hunting and taxidermy?
“American small business owners do not surrender their constitutional rights at the marketplace gate, nor can the government make people choose between their faith and their livelihood,” he continued.
Lorence charged that the commission’s decision showed a “striking disregard” for the company’s rights. He said the decision will be appealed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals.
Front Royal, Va., Dec 18, 2009 (CNA) - With the close of the Copenhagen summit on climate change, demographics expert Steven W. Mosher has warned that blaming overpopulation for global warming is “unscientific” and “dangerous.”
“The people of China have paid dearly for their leader's obsession with driving down the birthrate, and now we hear anti-population extremists at Copenhagen advocating a China-like one-child policy for the entire world,” Mosher said in a Thursday press release.
Mosher, president of the Virginia-based Population Research Institute (PRI), is an expert on China’s one-child policy. He has witnessed forced abortions and forced sterilizations performed on pregnant women in China.
“Population extremists speak of a world in danger from exploding population. But one wonders what ‘world they are talking about.”
He said that at present “tremendous strides” have been made to produce more food from less land and to set aside land for nature preserves. Mosher also cited population statistics which show birth rates plummeting and population growth plateauing.
“The demographic collapse of the developed world is the real inconvenient truth,” Mosher commented, predicting that much of the developing world will follow the same path.
“We would be better served holding summits on these matters if we want to stave off economic and societal collapse. Climate change can wait. Providing for the future by providing the next generation cannot. Weather fluctuations or not, we should have more children, not fewer.”
Vatican City, Dec 18, 2009 (CNA) -
Friday afternoon at sunset, Pope Benedict XVI will flip a switch to turn on the Christmas lights adorning the 27 meter tall tree standing next to the nativity scene in the center of St. Peter's Square. The Pope met earlier in the day with those responsible for bringing the Christmas tree to the Vatican from the Belgian region of Wallonia.
The Pope thanked the delegation present at the audience, including the Economy Minister of Wallonia, the Belgian ambassador to the Holy See, Bishop Aloys Jousten of Liege and all others involved in the promotion of the project and the "delicate" transportation of the six-ton tree to its present location.
The tree that was brought to us from the "dark and shadowy" forest is now in the light and covered in decorations like "many marvelous fruits," Benedict remarked.
"Leaving behind its somber robe for a sparkling radiance. It has been transformed."
"It becomes the carrier of a light that is no longer its own but bears witness to the true Light that comes to the world," said the Pontiff, likening the tree to the shepherds at the birth of Christ.
Pope Benedict added that the tree's presence could be compared to our existence in the world, "we are also called to bear good fruits to show that the world has truly been visited and redeemed by the Lord."
In its own way, said the Holy Father, this tree "proclaims the coming of the Son of God" to all who see it, "he who has come to make all things new and to call all creatures, from the humblest to the highest, to enter into the mystery of the Redemption and to be include in it."
The lights covering the enormous tree will be turned on at sunset on Friday evening by the Pope himself. He will flip a switch that has been installed in the Apostolic Palace overlooking the Vatican Square. The tree has been in place since Dec. 4, but due to the monumental task of constructing the nativity scene and decorating the tree, they weren't made public until now.
CNA STAFF, Dec 18, 2009 (CNA) - In an effort to distance itself from the wrongdoings of its founder, the Legion of Christ has recently circulated an internal memo detailing how a long venerated work of spirituality attributed to Fr. Marcial Maciel was actually a slight re-writing of a book from a little-known Spanish author.
“El Salterio de mis días” (The Psalter of my Days), according to the Legionary tradition, was regarded as written by Fr. Maciel during the period of the "great blessing," (1956-59), when the Mexican founder was submitted to a canonical process by the Vatican that was finally called off.
The memo now reveals that the text, very popular among the Legion in its original in Spanish and partially translated into English for internal use, was “based” on the little known work of a Spanish Catholic politician, Luis Lucía.
In a book titled “El Salterio de mis horas” (The Psalter of my Hours), Lucía, a Christian Democrat, reflected on his experience of being persecuted both by the Communist government during Spain's civil war (1936-1939), and the Nationalist government of Francisco Franco, who condemned him to death, but later changed the sentence to life in prison.
Lucía, the author of several political and spiritual books, probably wrote “The Psalter of my Hours” in the 30's. He was released from prison in 1941, and died in Valencia, Spain in 1943.
Despite being long forgotten, a small edition of “The Psalter of my Hours” was published in Valencia in 1956. It seems this was the edition Fr. Maciel read in Spain.
Although the memo does not describe Fr. Maciel's copying as plagiarism, a Spanish member of the Legion familiar with the text told CNA that Fr. Maciel's version reproduces "80% of the original book in content and style."
New York City, N.Y., Dec 18, 2009 (CNA) - SIRIUS XM Radio announced on Thursday that Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York and Rabbi Harlan J. Wechsler, who both host their own radio shows, will co-host a live radio special on Sunday, Dec. 20.
“We are honored to bring together Archbishop Dolan and Rabbi Wechsler for an insightful discussion that will appeal to people of many backgrounds,” said Scott Greenstein, President and Chief Content Officer of SIRIUS XM Radio. “This thought-provoking and timely dialogue about tradition and faith demonstrates the unique power of radio.”
Archbishop Dolan and Rabbi Wechsler, hosts of “A Conversation with the Archbishop” and “Rabbi Wechsler Teaches” respectively, will hold an interfaith dialogue on Sunday and address topics such as Catholic and Jewish holy days and the importance of preserving traditions in an increasingly secularized world.
The program will be broadcast simultaneously on The Catholic Channel and SIRIUS XM Stars on Sunday Dec. 20 from 3:00-4:00 ET.
Madrid, Spain, Dec 18, 2009 (CNA) - Spain’s House of Representatives voted 184 to 158 to pass a reform to the country’s abortion laws that would allow for the procedure up to the 14th week of pregnancy and limit the conscientious objections of medical professionals. The bill, which now moves to the Senate, would also permit 16 year-olds to obtain abortions and force medical schools to teach abortion as a subject.
Socialists, together with other left-wing lawmakers, gathered enough votes to ensure the bill’s passage in the House.
Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Alcala, who is also president of the the Spanish Bishops’ Subcommittee on Life and the Family, told the COPE Network, “This is a long-term battle. We are experiencing a time of darkness, of crisis in which reason has been overshadowed by perverse freedom.”
“Today we must say to the House of Representatives: Don’t do it,” he added.
The pro-life organizations HazteOir (HO) and Right to Life have strongly rejected the new bill. HO president Ignacio Arsuaga emphasized that the measure would only lead to greater opposition among Spaniards.
“Knowing that this is nothing more than one battle in the long struggle to defend life and women, we will not cease to insist that they listen to society, who is now faced with the profoundly unjust legal reform they are trying to impose on us,” he added.
Vatican City, Dec 18, 2009 (CNA) - Vatican Radio reported today that yet another cardinal has reached the age of retirement. Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Archbishop-emeritus of Warsaw, turned 80 on Friday and is thus ineligible to vote for the next Pope as a member of the College of Cardinals.
When cardinals reach this 'ceiling' age their vote is no longer considered in the election of a new Pope by the College of Cardinals. This decision was laid out in the Apostolic Constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis” of 1996, in which John Paul II reinforced the decision of Pope Paul VI to forbid the vote of a cardinal of 80 years of age or more.
"The reason for this provision is the desire not to add to the weight of such a venerable age the further burden of responsibility for choosing the one who will have to lead Christ's flock in ways adapted to the needs of the times," the Apostolic Constitution reads.
At the same time, the document notes that "This does not however mean that the Cardinals over eighty years of age cannot take part in the preparatory meetings of the Conclave... ."
Cardinal Glemp's retirement brings the total number of cardinals eligible to vote in elections to 112 and those ineligible for voting to the number 73. There are 185 living cardinals as of Dec. 18.
Vatican Radio also included the statistic that of the eight Polish cardinals, five of them are over 80 years old.
Rome, Italy, Dec 18, 2009 (CNA) - The Legionaries of Christ have announced that the ongoing Apostolic Visitation of the order will end in mid-March 2010 when the five appointed visitors present their respective reports to the Holy Father.
In a statement, the Legion said that the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone informed General Director of the Legion, Fr. Alvaro Corcuera that he met with the apostolic visitors and members of the Roman Curia at the beginning of December.
At the meeting it was determined that the visitors would complete their work by the middle of March 2010. “Then they will present their reports to the Holy Father,” who will decide how to proceed, noted the statement.
The five apostolic visitors named by the Holy Father are Bishop Ricardo Watti Urquidi of Tepic, Mexico; Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Colo.; Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Concepcion, Chile; Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi of Alejandria, Italy; and Bishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Biblao, Spain.
Rome, Italy, Dec 18, 2009 (CNA) - During a Mass attended by numerous government officials, the president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, encouraged lawmakers to overcome the current climate of “political hatred” that plagues the country.
In the wake of the attack on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Cardinal Bagnasco recalled that “the message of Christmas...demands respect amidst the climate we are currently experiencing as a country. The climate of personal hatred poisons politics, fosters aggression and leads to grave and unacceptable episodes of violence.”
Cardinal Bagnasco also underscored that “without evident, honest and concrete change, the sense of insecurity grows, trust in institutions decreases, participation in the life of the country is discouraged and social cohesion is weakened.”
“The people are tired and don’t deserve this,” the cardinal said. “Our people deserve the best from all and from their leaders.”
Copenhagen, Denmark, Dec 18, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the head of the Vatican delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, addressed the High-Level Segment of the conference on Thursday. His message underscored the inefficacy of the current economic and development models, promoted the efforts of the Church and others to raise awareness to safeguard an "authentic human ecology" and pledged continued Vatican support for all initiatives that protect creation.
Migliore began his address by asking aloud what the reasons might be for the delay in adopting "common binding measures and adequate budgets for an effective mitigation and adaptation to ongoing climate change."
He attributed the lethargy to a mixture of the complexity of the issue, conflicting national interests, difficulty in quantifying individual responsibility and overbearing energy policy. All of these considerations, he continued, converge on the central element of "the necessity of a new and deeper reflection on the meaning of the economy and its purposes, and a profound and far-reaching revision of the model for development, to correct the malfunctions and distortions."
Earth's ecological health and man's moral and cultural well-being require it, he said.
"With realism, trust and hope we must assume the new responsibilities which call us to the scene of a world in need of a deep cultural renewal and a rediscovery of fundamental values on which to build a better future," said Migliore, calling for action to curb "deeply interlinked" moral crises evident in humanity today.
If the structures in place cannot provide us with an informed direction to discover and respond with in a timely manner to the "tangible reality of climate change," he stated, "reason and the innate sense of shared responsibility of the people once again must prevail."
The nuncio then pointed out that "an impressive series of initiatives" has already been started by individuals, groups, local authorities "to give form to the two cornerstones of the response to climate change: adaptation and mitigation."
However, technical solutions aren't enough, Migliore underscored. The response to climate change must include more projects that inform, educate, and develop a sense of responsibility in all people towards "environmentally sound patterns of development and stewardship of creation."
Migliore called the evidence of the success of such initiatives in the world a "widespread ecological conversion."
Through awareness, he said, a solidarity will arise that will ensure our future.
He then highlighted the Holy See's "significant efforts to take a lead in environmental protection," giving the examples of the Vatican City's greater reliance on renewable energy sources and advocacy and education programs that promote environmental responsibility by all types of Church institutions.
"We must safeguard creation - soil, water and air - as a gift entrusted to everyone, but we must also and above all prevent mankind from destroying itself," stated Migliore in defense of efforts to change currently unsustainable production and consumption models.
"The degradation of nature is directly connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence: when the human ecology is respected within society, the environmental ecology will benefit. The way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself."
Echoing the sentiments of the Holy Father in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate and his recent message for the World Day of Peace, Migliore said, "Environment and climate change entail a shared responsibility toward all humanity, especially the poor and future generations.
"There is an inseparable link between the protection of creation, education and an ethical approach to the economy and development. The Holy See hopes that the process in question can ever more appreciate this link and, with this outlook, continues to give its full cooperation."
Washington D.C., Dec 18, 2009 (CNA) -
Sen. Bob Casey's office released a statement to CNA on Friday afternoon claiming that the senator's abortion compromise has received “widespread praise” from health groups and faith leaders around the country. However, the U.S. bishops' head of pro-life issues, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, charged that Casey's language does not address the fact that the Senate bill still fails to comply with “longstanding Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions.”
Following the defeat of the Nelson Amendment in the Senate, Sen. Casey (D-Penn.), who helped co-sponsor it, sent a new compromise proposal to Sen. Nelson that would hopefully garner enough votes to pass the Senate.
After reviewing the Casey proposal, Nelson rejected the language, saying that it “does not yet ensure that a longstanding federal standard barring public funding of abortion would be maintained in the Senate health care bill the Senate has been debating this month.”
Speaking in a press release on Friday, Sen. Casey underscored that “It is critical to maintain restrictions on federal funding of abortion. But we must also focus on the needs of vulnerable pregnant women and do all we can to assist them at a time when they may find themselves alone and without support.”
“For far too long, our focus on reducing the number of abortions has emphasized federal funding prohibitions. I support and will always support federal funding prohibitions. But we must do more if we truly want to reduce the number of abortions in this country,” he added. “It was critically important to me to include positive support for vulnerable pregnant women, which the research clearly shows is the most effective way to reduce the number of abortions.”
According to the statement released to CNA, Casey's proposed language claims to provide conscience protections to health care providers and medical facilities. It also sets out to create an opt-out clause for individuals so that they are not compelled to fund abortions through their personal premiums in any future Exchange.
“Casey was also successful,” says the statement, “in adding two significant provisions to the Senate language that will help reduce the number of abortions and support adoption: the creation of a 10-year $250 million pregnancy Assistance Fund, and a two year increase to the Adoption Tax Credit.
Despite the fact that no one has actually seen the proposed language of the compromise, Sen. Casey's office released a list of religious groups who have come forward in support of the illusory language. The list includes U.S. Ambassador to Malta Douglas Kmiec, Sr. Simone Campbell of NETWORK, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, the Catholic Health Association and professors from Boston College, Fordham University, Marquette University, the University of Dayton, the Catholic University of America and the University of Notre Dame.
But Sen. Casey's proposal didn't pass muster with the U.S. bishops, whose chairman of Pro-Life Activities, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, said today that the Senate bill will be morally unacceptable “unless and until” it complies with longstanding current laws on abortion funding such as the Hyde amendment.
“Senator Casey’s good-faith effort to allow individuals to ‘opt out’ of abortion coverage actually underscores how radically the underlying Senate bill would change abortion policy,”Cardinal DiNardo stated.
Some news reports have mentioned that Sen. Casey's opt-out mechanism will have the default be that a taxpayer's money goes to funding abortions, requiring citizens to apply for an exemption.
“Excluding elective abortions from overall health plans is not a privilege that individuals should have to seek as the exception to the norm. In all other federal health programs, excluding abortion coverage IS the norm,” Cardinal DiNardo insisted.
Applauding Sen. Casey's efforts, Cardinal DiNardo emphasized that his improvements to the bill “do not change the fundamental problem with the Senate bill: Despite repeated claims to the contrary, it does not comply with longstanding Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions and health plans that include them.”
Cardinal DiNardo also stressed that “numerous opinion polls show that the great majority of Americans do not want abortion coverage.”