Houston, Texas, Jan 7, 2010 (CNA) - A national group of pro-life leaders is planning a protest in Houston, Texas on Jan. 18, following Planned Parenthood's announcement that it plans to renovate a six story building into a late-term abortion facility.
The building, formerly belonging to a bank and shaped like a cash register, will be transformed into a 78,000 square foot clinic and is expected to be one of the largest in the nation. It will also include a surgical wing capable of providing late-term abortions.
Dr. Marcella Colbert, director of the Respect Life Office in the Archdiocese of Houston, spoke with CNA on Wednesday about the new facility. Although she is not directly involved with the upcoming protest, she has been involved with legislation concerning Planned Parenthood's presence in the area.
In Dr. Colbert's view, the new facility will ultimately prove to be counterproductive. “I think it allows the community to see the evil of abortion,” she told CNA on Wednesday. Since the large building is located near a major freeway and will be the sole location of abortions in the area, Colbert surmised that “people are going to look at it and say, 'my goodness, they're doing all those abortions there.'”
Colbert explained that one reason Planned Parenthood needs to set up the new facility is to consolidate its operations as it struggles with financial difficulties. Additionally, the center is being opened to allow late-term abortions to be performed in compliance with Texas state law, which requires abortions being performed at 16 weeks or later to take place at a properly licensed surgical center.
According to the Respect Life director, the move will also result in closer monitoring by the state of women who are damaged by abortions at the new clinic. “Once they have to obey the law in relation to all the medical and surgical outpatient facilities, they also have to obey the law in relation to reporting what happens at abortion facilities.”
Protest organizer Lou Engle, founder of pro-life group The Call to Conscience, has called the new clinic “an abortion super center” and has further argued that it is being strategically placed in an area of Houston which has predominately black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Engle also spoke of how he believes Planned Parenthood markets itself to minority women of low income.
“Planned Parenthood has always targeted minorities from the very beginning,” agreed Dr. Colbert, who told CNA that “there is nothing new about that - Planned Parenthood and all abortion clinics are always in the poorest part of town.” The new facility in Houston “is no change from what they've done in the past,” she added.
Lou Engle will be joined in the protest on Jan. 18 by Family Research Council president Tony Perkins; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church; Star Parker, president of the Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education as well as Abby Johnson, the former Bryan,Texas Planned Parenthood Director.
Likening the protest to those of the Civil Rights Movement, Engle stated to CNSNews.com that “As Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'It is time to subpoena the conscience of America.'"
Bend, Ore., Jan 7, 2010 (CNA) - A bishop’s power of excommunication in grave cases is like that of a doctor who cuts off a diabetic patient from sugar, Bishop of Bend, Oregon Robert Vasa has said. Explaining the practice, he noted that excommunication is an act of charity intended to instruct a wayward Catholic about the gravity of his or her situation.
Writing in his Jan. 7 column for the Catholic Sentinel, Bishop Vasa noted that bishops are “extremely reluctant” to take the step of excommunication.
Accusations of abuse of power towards bishops who talk about excommunication are “unfair,” the bishop said.“Excommunication is a declaration, based on solid evidence, that the actions or public teachings of a particular Catholic are categorically incompatible with the teachings of the Church,” he explained. “It is intended primarily as a means of getting the person who is in grave error to recognize the depth of his error and repent.”
Bishop Vasa added that a secondary reason for the practice is to assure the faithful that what they believe to be Catholic teaching is true and correct.
“Allowing their faith to be shaken or allowing them to be confused when Catholics publicly affirm something contrary to faith or morals, seemingly without consequences, scandalizes and confuses the faithful. This is no small matter.”
The bishop noticed that he receives “a significant number” of messages from supportive Catholics when he speaks on matters of morality and discipline. Further, allowing public error to stand without comment is “discouraging” to faithful Catholics and may give the impression that the error is condoned by the bishop and the Church.
He compared excommunication to a doctor’s treatment of a diabetic patient.
“Accusing the doctor of being a tyrannical power monger would never cross anyone’s mind,” he noted. When a doctor “excommunicates” a diabetic man from sugar, Bishop Vasa explained, “it is clear that his desire is solely the health of his patient.”
Any doctor who encouraged a diabetic patient in destructive habits, he noted, would be “grossly negligent and guilty of malpractice.”
Bishops must tell the faithful when they are gravely wrong and out of communion with the Catholic faith, he said.
“In serious cases, and the cases of misled Catholic public officials are often very serious, a declaration of the fact that the person is de facto out of communion may be the only responsible and charitable thing to do,” the bishop added.
Not naming an error for fear of causing offense is not compassionate or charitable, he continued.
“Confronting or challenging the error or evil of another is never easy yet it must be done,” Bishop Vasa concluded his Catholic Sentinel column.
“In an era when error runs rampant and false teachings abound, the voice of the Holy Father rings clear and true. The teachings of the Church are well documented and consistent. Bishops and the pastors who serve in their Dioceses have an obligation both to lead their people to the truth and protect them from error.”
Washington D.C., Jan 7, 2010 (CNA) - In a telephone press conference on Wednesday, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City called for “a humane and comprehensive solution to the problems which beset our immigration system” and expressed a desire for Congress “to address the issue.”
The press event, held in honor of National Migration Week, was chaired by Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, and Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, chairman of the USCCB International Policy Committee, who both outlined plans by the Catholic Church to work to enact comprehensive immigration reform in 2010.
Bishop Wester discussed the bishops’ position on immigration reform, and cited some of the new initiatives being taken such as a nationwide postcard campaign, the launch of a new website (www.justiceforimmigrants.org) and a call for Congress to enact immigration reform.
Bishop Hubbard spoke about the root causes of migration and how the United States and other nations should address factors that drive immigrants to come to the United States.
“The first principle of the U.S. bishops with regard to immigration is that migrants have the right not to migrate,” explained Bishop Hubbard. “In other words, to be able to find work in their own home countries so they can support their families in dignity.”
“Migration should be driven by choice, not necessity.”
Given that immigration issues often spark controversy, CNA asked USCCB Director of Migration Kevin Appleby if there has been any opposition to this initiative within the Catholic community.
“You are always going to have folks who disagree,” Appleby said. “(Immigration) has become such a demonized issue in some quarters and there is such a divide. It's such an emotional issue that the facts sort of are sacrificed by the emotion.”
However, “what we are pushing is not that radical,” Appleby stated. “It's very to the point and will solve the problem.”
1.5 million postcards for the Justice for Immigrants campaign have already been ordered by dioceses around the nation and parishioners are being encouraged to fill them out and send them to state legislators.
Press conference participant Sister Rita Mary Harwood, a Sister of Notre Dame and the Secretary for Parish Life and Development in the Diocese of Cleveland, stated on Wednesday that “in the end, to stand with those who are frightened, alone or in danger; to educate, to speak with and for, and to pray – this is the message of the Gospel and the work of the Church.”
Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan 7, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Hanoi has condemned an early Wednesday morning attack on Catholics by city police involved in the destruction of a crucifix in a parish cemetery. Pictures of the bloody clash show several people injured.
The archdiocese reported that police attacked Dong Chiem parish at a time when both its pastor and assistant pastor were at the annual retreat at the archbishop’s office, J.B. An Dang tells CNA.
An estimated 500 heavily armed police officers and a large number of trained dogs were deployed to the area to protect an army engineering unit. The unit was tasked with destroying a large crucifix erected on a boulder inside the parish cemetery.
The incident began at 3 a.m. Wednesday, when an army engineering team used an explosive to destroy the crucifix.
“On hearing explosions, parishioners rushed to the site to protect their crucifix but they were stopped by police who tried to drive them back,” said Fr. Joseph Nguyen Van Huu, pastor of Dong Chiem parish.
He reported that at least two parishioners were wounded and taken away. J.B. An Dang says the exact number of the injured has not been reported.
Parishioners said they were kneeling in prayer and asking police officers to stop the crucifix’s destruction when they were hit with tear gas canisters at close range. Some were beaten with batons.
Photos of the clash obtained by CNA show several injured and visibly bloodied Catholics. One woman was beaten “brutally.”
Asked by CNA what prompted the attack, J.B. An Dang explained that a policy requires all religious symbols to be inside a religious premise.
“They use the policy to persecute Catholics,” he charged.
A similar attack took place in Bau Sen parish in the Diocese of Vinh early in the morning on Nov. 5, 2009. The parish’s pastor was kidnapped by a group of local police while traveling to the annual retreat at the bishop’s office. During his detention, the statue of the Virgin Mary in his parish’s cemetery was removed.
Provincial authorities spent $68,000 for the demolition work, which J.B. An Dang describes as a “considerable amount of money” for a poor province.
Bethesda, Md., Jan 7, 2010 (CNA) - An April 2009 study co-authored by a researcher who has previously denied an abortion-breast cancer link shows a statistically significant increase in breast cancer risk among women who have had abortions or who use oral contraceptives.
The study by researchers including Jessica Dolle of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research contained a table reporting a statistically significant 40 percent risk increase for women who have had abortions. According to the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer (CABC), the study listed abortion as among “known and suspected risk factors.”
The CABC says that one co-author of the study, U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) researcher Dr. Louise Brinton, had organized a 2003 NCI workshop on the abortion-breast cancer link. That workshop reportedly said the non-existence of an abortion-breast cancer link was “well established.”
CNA contacted Dr. Brinton for comment but did not receive a reply by publication time.
Dr. Joel Brind, who is a CBCP advisor and president of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute and a professor of endocrinology at Baruch College at City University of New York, said that the study’s findings on abortion were not new.
Rather, they repeated the “modest but significant” findings of the 1990s which found a breast cancer risk factor increase of between 20 and 50 percent.
However, he said Dr. Brinton’s participation in the study was significant because the NCI has “firmly maintained” a position denying an abortion-breast cancer link since 2003.
The study, titled “Risk factors for triple-negative breast cancer in women under the age of 45 years,” was published in the American Association for Cancer Research’s (AACR) medical journal “Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.”
Researchers also found a significant link between the use of oral contraceptives and a particularly aggressive cancer known as triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).
Brind said that according to the study, women who start oral contraceptives before the age of 18 multiply their risk of TNBC by 3.7 times. Those who were users of oral contraceptives within one to five years before the study showed a risk 4.2 times the average.
TNBC is associated with high mortality. Brind suggested that oral contraceptives may function not merely as a secondary carcinogen. Rather, the synthetic estrogen-progestin combination or its metabolic byproducts may be a primary cause of the cell mutations that lead to cancer formation.
CBCP president Karen Malec criticized that the NCI, the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and other cancer organizations for not issuing nationwide warnings to women on the basis of the study.
Vatican City, Jan 7, 2010 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI accepted the credentials of a new ambassador from Turkey to the Holy See on Thursday morning. The Pontiff took advantage of the occasion to make a plea to the Turkish government to give Catholics expanded rights in the country, which, according to a parish priest in Istanbul, can be quite limited.
"The Catholics in Turkey appreciate the freedom of worship that is guaranteed by the Constitution, and are pleased to be able to contribute to the well-being of their fellow citizens, especially through involvement in charitable activity and healthcare," said the Pontiff of the current climate within the Eurasian country.
But, the Holy Father informed Dr. Kenan Gürsoy, the new ambassador from Turkey, "the Catholic Church in Turkey is waiting for civil juridical recognition" that "would help her to enjoy full religious freedom and to make an even greater contribution to society."
To shed more light on the situation in Turkey, CNA spoke with a parish priest in Istanbul, who asked to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of the situation.
Under current legislation, the pastor explained that "Within the church (building) we are free to do as we wish, but when we leave the church we are censured."
The priest added that Catholics are not free to build new structures for worship, and are limited to using the historic church buildings still standing from past years of greater religious freedom.
The priest observed that the government has turned many of these churches into museums. He referred specifically to the Cappadocia region, where hundreds of church-museums are located but in which open worship is prohibited.
"If the law is changed, we will be more at ease. Inşallah … God willing," the Turkish priest said.
In his address to the new ambassador, Pope Benedict praised certain initiatives the Republic of Turkey has taken "to make a significant contibution to the effort to bring peace and stability to the Middle East," since the country serves "as a bridge between Islam and the West." The Holy See, he said, is eager "to support further efforts to put an end to long-standing conflicts in the region."
Diplomatic relations between the two entities were first established by the late-Pope John XXIII nearly 50 years ago.
Vatican City, Jan 7, 2010 (CNA) - The Holy Father met with members of the Carabinieri, the Italian national police force, on Thursday morning in the Clementine Room of the Apostolic Palace, where he thanked the corps for its service.
The Vatican reported that Benedict XVI expressed his gratitude to the police force for its diligence in having a "vigilant yet discreet presence in the area around the Vatican."
"Your labors help to provide security and serenity for the pilgrims and visitors who come to the center of the Catholic faith and allow them the necessary spiritual concentration as they visit the tomb of the Apostle Peter and the Basilica that houses it."
A press communiqué released by the Holy See on Tuesday reported that the number of visitors to Papal events at the Vatican and Castel Gandolfo in 2009 was well over two million.
The Pope wished the representatives from the St. Peter's unit and the entire corps success in their work, saying, "May your own faith, the tradition of faithfulness and generosity of which you are heirs, and the ideals of your corps help you to find in this delicate service new sources for satisfaction and for experiencing positive elements in your personal and professional lives."
Benedict XVI concluded their meeting by entrusting the force to their patroness, the Virgin Mary.
Santiago, Chile, Jan 7, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Enrique Troncoso of Melipilla in Chile has suspended Father Ricardo Munoz Quinteros from priestly ministry after he was accused of sexual abuse and detained by police. “In the Church there is no room for those who sexually abuse minors,” the bishop said.
In a statement released Wednesday, Bishop Troncoso said he was shocked over the accusations made against the priest and pledged to collaborate with law enforcement officials to uncover the truth about the case. “We trust in the actions of the court and we will respect its findings,” he said.
Bishop Troncoso also explained that the Church would open its own canonical investigation and that Fr. Munoz would be immediately suspended from priestly ministry.
While the conduct attributed to Fr. Munoz is both “inappropriate for the priestly ministry and is a cause for scandal and disappointment,” said the bishop, “the accusation of pedophilia against a clergyman is particularly serious.”
“There is no room in the Church for those who sexually abuse minors.”
Bishop Troncoso continued by expessing his closeness “to all those who, in one way or another, have been affected by this situation, especially the alleged victims and their families.”
Turning to the communities where Fr. Munoz had served, the bishop offered them his prayers during this “time of understandable disappointment and confusion.”
“We ask God and our brothers and sisters for forgiveness," he continued. We also want "to respect the rights of the accused and wait for proof of the accusations and for the trial.”
The Chilean bishops urged Catholics in this Year for Priests to pray that the Church “may learn to confront situations such as these - ones that cause pain to people and to families - with Christian maturity, and that the Lord might grant us holy priests who proclaim the good news of the Gospel, as do the immense majority of the 2,400 priests who serve in Chile.
Rome, Italy, Jan 7, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Roger Etchegaray will soon be released from the hospital after being admitted on Christmas Eve for a broken leg. The prelate was injured in a fall caused by Vatican security as they attempted to impede a disturbed woman from approaching Pope Benedict XVI as he processed in to St. Peter's Basilica to celebrate Mass.
According to the Italian daily La Repubblica, the cardinal is recovering and will be sent home by January 10.
Etchegaray underwent surgery for a complete arthroprosthesis of the right hip on Dec. 27 at the Gemelli Hospital in Rome to repair a fractured femoral neck, reported Fr. Federico Lombardi in a statement from the Vatican Press Office on that day.
As for the 25-year old Susanna Maiolo, the Swiss woman that jumped a barrier to allegedly embrace the Pontiff, she is still being held in the Angelluci psychiatric hospital in a small city near Rome.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 7, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Victor Sanchez Espinoza of Puebla joined with Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City in calling for the protection of the family in response to the approval of both homosexual “marriage” and adoption in the Mexican capital.
In his recent message, Archbishop Sanchez voiced support for Cardinal Rivera, who urged states in Mexico not follow “this perverse example” and to do whatever necessary “to constitutionally defend the family.”
He recalled that the Catechism and the March 28, 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith teach that persons with homosexual tendencies should be treated with sensitivity and should not suffer unjust discrimination.
“True respect for these persons and for all of society demands that all positive laws be in accord with the nature of the human person and promote his comprehensive development, both on an individual as well as a societal level,” he added.
There are “biological, rational, social and legal reasons” which show that only the union between one man and one woman can be categorized as marriage. One reason, he explained is the “preservation of the species” through the birth of children.
On the other hand, he warned, “the union between persons of the same sex is only of interest to the couple and does not provide this fundamental contribution to society.”
With regard to the adoption of minors by homosexuals, Archbishop Sanchez said this violates the rights of children, as the lack of a father or a mother in the home “creates obstacles for the normal development of the children who are part of these unions and are thus subjected to violence of different kinds. This obviously has negative repercussions both for individuals as well as for society.”
For this reason, Archbishop Sanchez echoed Cardinal Rivera’s call to strengthen the family and instill in young people “the unique value of the family based on the marriage of one man and one woman.” He also encouraged Mexicans to pray for the conversion of those who have promoted and voted in favor of the Mexico City law.
New York City, N.Y., Jan 7, 2010 (CNA) - Tomorrow, January 8, will mark the one year anniversary of the death of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, the famous intellectual, Catholic convert and editor-in-chief of First Things. To observe the occasion, admirers and friends of the late priest will gather in New York City for a memorial Mass on Friday evening.
The memorial Mass will be celebrated by the Holy See's delegate to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore. The homily will be delivered by Fr. George Rutler, and Fr. Benedict Groeschel will offer a post-Communion reflection.
The liturgy will take place on Friday, January 8 at 7:30 p.m. in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, located in New York City.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 7, 2010 (CNA) - A large group of young people gathered before the World Youth Day Cross and icon of the Virgin Mary in Madrid this week at El Pozo train station to pray for victims of terrorism, specifically the 67 people who died there during the March 11, 2004 bombings.
The event was part of the preparations for WYD 2011, which will take place in Madrid. It was attended by numerous youth volunteers and disabled young people.
Victor Hernandez of the Archdiocese of Madrid's Health Care Ministry said, “We are all praying in the same way, regardless of our physical state. Occasions such as these show that values important to young people include not only strength and beauty, but also the capacity to give of oneself, solidarity and striving for the dignity of all the children of God.”
Prior to its trip to the train station, the WYD cross was taken to the Soto del Real prison, where it was received by inmates and by the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jan 7, 2010 (CNA) - On Wednesday, the Malaysian High Court suspended a ruling that would have allowed a Catholic newspaper to use the word “Allah” in a non-Muslim context. The decision came after an appeal was made by prosecutors trying to overturn the ruling.
The Herald, Malaysia's sole Catholic publication, was prosecuted last year by the Malaysian Home Ministry and threatened with the loss of its printing license for its use of “Allah” in describing the Christian God in its Malay-language section.
The Herald argued that use of the term follows a centuries-old tradition within the Arabic language that pre-dates Islam, while the Home Ministry claimed that its usage outside the Muslim context was an affront to Muslims. Islam is both the state religion and the largest faith in the country.
The High Court decision on Wednesday came after the Archbishop of Malaysia and the Malaysian Home Ministry agreed that banning the use of “Allah” for non-Muslims was of national concern.
After last week's court approval of the paper's usage of “Allah,” which has since been retracted, hundreds of Muslim youth protested and The Herald's website was hacked several times.
“We believe these actions (are designed) to create a climate of fear and a perceived threat to national security so as to pressure the court in reversing it's decision,” said Fr. Andrew Lawrence, editor of The Herald, in a statement to the Agence France Presse (AFP) Wednesday.
Nevertheless, The Herald has agreed outside of the court to the suspension of the controversial ruling, given the sensitivity of the issue and potential backlash.
“We are Malaysians and we want to live in peace and happiness,” Fr. Lawrence stated.
Though court officials have indicated that the matter should be resolved soon, no court date has been set.
The Herald has a circulation of 14,000 a week, and is printed in four languages. Malaysia is home to around 850,000 Catholics.
Trenton, N.J., Jan 7, 2010 (CNA) - A last minute attempt to push a gay “marriage” bill through the New Jersey Senate was defeated today by a vote of 20-14, ending the attempt to pass the measure before Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine leaves office.
The defeat of the bill comes just before Republican Chris Christie takes over the governor's office on January 19. Corzine had promised to sign the bill if it made it to his desk before he left office.
The incoming Christie has promised to veto any legislation legalizing gay “marriage.”
Opponents of the bill note that New Jersey legalized domestic partnerships in 2002 and civil unions in 2006. They claim that this bill would have had adverse affects on religious freedom.
“From the beginning, Republicans have opposed legislative and judicial efforts to redefine marriage in New Jersey and called for any changes to be put on the ballot for voters to decide. We believe that the majority of New Jerseyans agree with that position," Republican State Committee Chairman Jay Webber told New Jersey Real Time News.
Four states currently allow homosexual “marriage” while another 30 have constitutional amendments protecting traditional marriage.
It is unlikely that the bill will be brought up again soon.