Archive of January 16, 2010

'Right to abortion' enslaves women, expert warns

Madrid, Spain, Jan 16, 2010 (CNA) - Iñigo Urien Azpitarte, an expert on violence against women warned this week that the “right to abortion” championed by feminists and abortion supporters ends up enslaving women because they are turned into instruments of sexual gratification.

“If the woman can abort without restrictions, the man is free of any responsibility as father,” leaving the “woman as his tool of sexual gratification in a position of ‘non-equality’,” Azpitarte said.

Speaking with the organization “Professionals for Ethics,” he added that women also can come out on the losing end if they decide to keep the child, because the father will say she chose not to exercise her “right to an abortion.” He can then easily escape responsibility for the child's future.

In these sense, he explained, access to “abortion on demand” has affected relations between men and women. “It is not uncommon to hear young people, and not-so-young people, say that they are in favor of abortion because they do not like to use condoms. Thus, if a man thinks that abortion is an easily accessible option for a woman, he will easily feel disconnected from her and leave her with an unwanted pregnancy - since she can easily obtain an abortion.”

“While it is true that some women can resist pressure and refuse to abort, the legalization of abortion creates a vicious circle from which many others cannot escape,” he said.

The right to abortion is one of those legal notions thought to be “liberating” that actually jeopardizes women, putting them in a situation of profound inequality, Azpitarte stated before criticizing the Socialist government in Spain for not supporting pregnant women. 

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University’s first graduates celebrated as ‘pioneers’ and ‘heroes’

San Diego, Calif., Jan 16, 2010 (CNA) - Receiving their diplomas last month, the first graduates of John Paul the Great Catholic University were hailed as “pioneers” and “heroes,” whose legacy will be remembered by future graduating classes. Nineteen students earned bachelor’s degrees – 10 in business and nine in communications media – during a graduation ceremony in St. Francis Chapel at Mission San Diego de Alcala.

“A lot of people have gone to a lot of trouble to make this look like every other graduation that you’ve ever attended,” said Derry Connolly, the university’s president, in his welcoming address. But despite the mortarboards and graduation gowns, he said, “there is something very different about this graduation.”

That “something,” Connolly said, is the belief among graduates and their parents that “there is nothing more important” than deepening one’s relationship with Jesus. As a result, he said, they “took an incredible risk” in choosing John Paul the Great Catholic University, a brand-new school with an accreditation process still underway and a temporary campus in the Scripps Ranch area.

The San Diego-based university was founded in 2003 with the hope that its intensive, hands-on curriculum would produce the next generation of Catholic innovators and entrepreneurs in the fields of media, business and technology. The university, which prides itself on its Catholic identity, welcomed its first students in September 2006.

At the graduation ceremony, other speakers echoed Connolly’s message, reflecting on the uniqueness of the school and the trailblazing path of its first graduates.

Commencement speaker Patrick Lencioni, a best-selling author and a nationally known expert on making organizations more effective, described it as “a rare and amazing experience” to be present at the graduation.

Contrasting the modest ceremony with the more lavish affairs traditionally held at older universities with longer histories, Lencioni noted that the United States and the Catholic Church also began in “a humble environment.”

“Yes, this is a humble day,” he said, “but 10, 20 and 30 years from now, we will look back at John Paul the Great (Catholic) University and think of you, and this day only gets bigger as those years go by.”

“This may not be Harvard or Stanford, and we might not be in a big arena or the stadium with people with their Emmys and their Oscars and their awards yet,” he told the graduates. But “this is better because you kids – young men and women – are pioneers.”

In a final speech, delivered right before the closing benediction and recessional, film professor Christopher Riley asked the graduates to think back to a lesson he taught them in their freshman year about the nature of storytelling.

“A story is a hero’s struggle against an obstacle to reach a goal,” he said. “Today, we come to the end of the story you’ve all been living. You’re the heroes of this story … and now you need a new story.”

Noting that the best stories are those in which the heroes have the best goals, Riley offered the following as a worthy goal for each graduate: “Light up the darkness.”

“Go, leave this place and walk into the dark,” he said. “The dark is dangerous because the darkness might overcome you; it might get inside you; your light might get snuffed out. … But we have avoided the darkness too long. We’ve been too afraid.”

“Now is the time, you are the generation, today is the day,” Riley said, “for the people of the light to leave the comfort and safety of home.”

He urged the graduating business students to “go into the darkness and create jobs for those who have no jobs” and called upon the media graduates to tell “stories that help the ones wandering in darkness find their way home.”

Graduates with Companies

At John Paul the Great Catholic University, students graduate with more than just a diploma.

“There’s no other university” that walks each student through “the fundamentals of building a business from the ground up,” Connolly said.

Supporting the students along the way are the university’s professors, who are business and media professionals with real-world experience. (Riley, for instance, has written screenplays for major studios, worked as a script proofreader and authored The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style.)

In their first two academic years, Connolly said, students learn what is necessary to create and run a successful business. Then, during their junior and senior years, the students form teams that are responsible for creating a viable business plan. Through this process, he said, students develop “a great appreciation for the mechanics of a business.”

Since the university was founded, its administrators have hoped that students will take their business plans with them after graduation and develop them into thriving companies guided by Catholic ethics.

Connolly said about four or five student plans have already been developed into revenue-generating businesses. Other members of the first graduating class continue to pursue their business plans with the expectation of financial success in the near future.

Business student Justin Wilga graduated last month as co-founder of his own company, Creative Rhetoric. The company serves nonprofits and other organizations by helping them craft their messages in the most effective ways. Creative Rhetoric was founded after the organizers of Proposition 4 sought the university’s help with their campaign; the proposition was a parental-notification initiative that appeared on the November 2008 ballot in California.

By graduation, Wilga said his company already had committed revenues of about $6,500 and would be working to increase those numbers to $20,000 for the next quarter. He will continue to work part-time with Creative Rhetoric, holding another part-time job until he can grow his company into a full-time enterprise.

Wilga said the university’s hands-on approach to studying business was “an awesome way to just experience business from essentially a CEO-level viewpoint, and you don’t find that opportunity very often with a young college graduate.”

Before hearing about the university, communications media graduate Mollie O’Hare had researched several Catholic institutions of higher education, ultimately “whittling [her choice] down to about three.”

“I wasn’t really thrilled about any of them,” she admitted, “just because they were all liberal arts, and I really wanted to do something practical, so when I graduated … I could just jump right into something.”

She quickly recognized John Paul the Great Catholic University as “the perfect fit,” a Catholic school that would provide her with practical experience in the mass media.

As a student, O’Hare founded Yellow Line Studios, a company that produces Web series, short films and feature films on controversial contemporary issues. The company’s name, she said, comes from its “middle-of-the-road approach” which is intended “to get both sides to dialogue” on issues that sometimes can devolve into “a shouting fest.”

O’Hare is currently at work on “Bump,” a Web series about three pregnant women faced with the decision of whether or not to carry their unborn children to term.

Many of the university’s graduates are embarking on their careers with an impressive body of work and demonstrated experience in their chosen fields.

Matthew Salisbury, a communications media graduate and co-founder of Creative Rhetoric, graduated with two feature-length screenplays and two graphic novels among other projects completed during his time at the university. His first graphic novel, Paul of Tarsus, will arrive in stores next month.

Christopher Lane, a business graduate, not only studied marketing in his classes, but also gained practical experience by working with the admissions department on the university’s own marketing campaigns. He believes the university’s hands-on approach to education will help graduates in job interviews by providing them with a list of concrete accomplishments.

“I think it allows you to kind of separate yourself from … the rest of the applicants that are out there for the job, that are right out of college,” he said.

A New University Model

The inspiration for John Paul the Great Catholic University came to Connolly during a visit to the Eucharistic adoration chapel at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

It was 11 p.m. on a Friday night in early November 2000 and, as Connolly prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, he was amazed to see that almost 20 students were still gathered in the chapel, deep in prayer. He wondered if it would be possible for one university to combine the spirituality of Franciscan University with the sort of top-caliber business and technology programs offered at the University of California, San Diego.

John Paul the Great Catholic University represents his effort to do just that.

In 2003, Connolly and four other lay Catholics from San Diego’s North County – Philippe Dardaine, Wes Fach, Scott McKenna and Ed Snow – founded the university. For its first 18 months, it operated under a temporary name, New Catholic University. But after the death of Pope John Paul II in April 2005, the university’s board of trustees voted unanimously to name the university after the late Pope.

Two degree programs were available when the university’s first students arrived in 2006 – a Bachelor of Science in communications media, with an emphasis in entertainment media, and a Bachelor of Science in business, with an emphasis in entrepreneurial business. Since then, the university’s academic offerings have continued to expand.

Starting in 2009, communications media students have been able to pursue their degree with an emphasis in either screenwriting, directing and producing, interactive media or video journalism.

Meanwhile, business students have been given the opportunity to major in business with an emphasis in the “business of entertainment.”

Also in 2009, John Paul the Great Catholic University opened a graduate school of biblical theology and began offering a Master of Business Administration program with an emphasis in entrepreneurial business.

The university also plans to offer a Bachelor of Science in technology with an emphasis in video game development (starting in 2010) and computer engineering (starting in 2011). Future degrees will include a Master of Business Administration in politics, a Bachelor of Science in fashion and a Bachelor of Science in music.

The university plans to receive its regional accreditation by 2012 and be housed on a permanent campus by 2015.

Regardless of their chosen field of study, all of the university’s students receive a solid grounding in Catholic theology and spirituality.

Every Wednesday during the academic year, students are required to attend a school Mass in the campus chapel and, at a time of their own choosing, commit to at least one hour of Eucharistic adoration each week. But students often surpass this minimum level of spiritual participation, and it is not uncommon for groups of students to gather for recitations of the rosary or night prayer, attend weekday Masses on campus or take class assignments to the chapel, where they can work on them in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

“At the end of the day, that’s really what drew me to the university – the idea of an authentically Catholic university,” said Lane, whose friends have shared “horror stories” about heterodox theology classes at “some big-name Catholic schools.”

“It was nice knowing that what I was learning was authentic Church teaching,” he said.

For more information on John Paul the Great Catholic University, visit

Printed with permission from The Southern Cross, newspaper for the Diocese of San Diego.

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Salesians recount tragedy in Haiti

Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan 16, 2010 (CNA) - This week Father Ducange Sylvian, the Salesians' superior in Haiti, described the tragedy the country's Salesians are facing following the earthquake that devastated the country on Tuesday.  He noted that one brother is missing, students are trapped under a collapsed school and a Salesian nun has been hospitalized.

The Salesian headquarters in Rome is mobilizing aid to help earthquake victims in Haiti. 

According to Fr. Sylvian, 200 students are trapped beneath the rubble of the Salesian Don Bosco school, one of the two Salesian facilities receiving the most damage.  Likewise, Father Sylvian continued, the formation house “has also suffered significant damage.”  A section of the house, as well as the reception center “have been demolished.”

He continued, “The houses of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Port-Au-Prince and Petion-Ville have also suffered damage. Right now, one Salesian nun is recovering at the hospital,” the superior said.

Missing are two Salesian university students and one brother, the 85-year old Fr. Hubert Sanon.

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Beatification ceremony of brave Spanish martyr announced

Barcelona, Spain, Jan 16, 2010 (CNA) - The Vatican announced on Friday the time and location of the beatification of Fr. Josep Samsó i Elisa, a Spanish priest and martyr. According to the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, the ceremony will take place on Jan. 23 at the parochial basilica of Santa Maria n Mataro in the Archdiocese of Barcelona.

Born in Jan. of 1887 in Castellbisbal, Spain, Fr. Josep  eventually studied at Barcelona's seminary and was sent to the Pontifical University of Tarragona. Upon graduation, Bishop Laguarda of Barcelona assigned him to be his personal secretary, and he was ordained a priest in 1910. 

In his priestly ministry, Fr. Josep emphasized charity and catechesis, earning him praise from the Archbishop of Barcelona, Manuel Irurita, as “the premier catechist in the diocese.” The Bishop of Segovia, Daniel Llorente also praised Fr. Joseph, and declared that “Doctor Samsó, in his parish of Santa María de Mataró, held the best organized catechesis in all of Spain.”

His spiritual direction encouraged many people to follow their religious or priestly vocation. Fr. Josep also insisted on punctuality in the Mass schedule, sought perfection in the liturgy, and worked intensely to improve the interior decoration of the local cathedral, which was honored with the title of minor basilica in 1928. 

In the throws of the Spanish Civil War in 1934, a group of armed men entered his rectory and threatened Fr. Josep and the people who were with him. The men made the priest and his companions go into the sanctuary of the church and pile up the pews. They then ordered the rector to light them on fire, but he refused in spite of their threats.  Though men proceeded to ignite the altar and other things, firemen, arriving later, were able to calm the blaze. Fr. Josep pardoned the men, and chose not to reveal their identities when invited to by the authorities.

Fr. Josep was eventually arrested for being a priest in 1936. While he was in jail, he set up a schedule for reading his breviary, mediating, and praying the Rosary without the guards knowledge. He also heard the confessions of his fellow prisoners. Always friendly in his disposition, he reportedly shared the gifts people brought him with everyone.

On the morning of his execution, he bid the other prisoners farewell with his customary “God above all” and, with his hands tied together, was escorted to the cemetery of Mataró. When he got to the top of the stairs, he asked for the ropes to be taken off his hands so he could embrace those who were about to kill him. He also told his executioners that he forgave them as Christ forgave those who nailed him to the Cross.

Though the executioners tried to cover his eyes, he asked that he be left able to see the city where the people he loved so much lived as he died. After his attempts to embrace the firing squad, Fr. Josep crossed his arms and said, “you may shoot now.”

Fr. Josep's beatification is the first one to take place in the Archdiocese of Barcelona.

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Freedom always triumphs over oppression, say Venezuelan bishops

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 16, 2010 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela has called on the country's citizens to commit themselves to rebuilding the country by following the ideals of their founding fathers and holding fast to life and liberty.

“Everything that goes against a free, equal, united and fraternal Venezuela will not triumph,” the bishops said in an extensive pastoral letter. “The desire to work for a better future, in the conviction of the definitive triumph of life and liberty over death and any form of oppression, was, is and will be a motive and reason to struggle for a nation that believes, loves and hopes,” they stated.

In their letter the bishops reflected on Venezuela’s history and noted that although the founders made mistakes, their mission was to build a country whose inhabitants would be free, equal and united.

However, they lamented, during the democratic period which began the middle of the 20th century, despite abundant oil resources, most Venezuelans felt left out and disillusioned, believing that democracy was “not for everyone.”

This disillusionment laid the groundwork for “transformative alternatives that were beyond a mere change of administration. This is what the winning candidate (Hugo Chavez) promised during the 1998 election campaign,” the bishops stated.

Nevertheless, they continued, despite initial support from the voters, the new government slowly turned totalitarian and not only affected the social fabric, but also “the spirit and soul of the nation.”

Today, the bishops said, millions of Venezuelans continue living in inhumane conditions. “The elites of the past and present have not been able to form an autonomous nation.” The continued, “And the project of 21st century Socialism which is being trumpeted now, is far from what the Venezuelan people aspire for and demand.”

Amidst this reality, the bishops called on Venezuelans to fight against “an anti-culture of exploitation, domination and arbitrariness; of division, violence and exclusion.” They urged them to work that the dignity of each person in the country be recognized and promoted.

Venezuelans are called to participate in the material and spiritual re-construction of their country in solidarity and peaceful coexistence, they said.

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North American College rector reflects on 150th anniversary celebration

Rome, Italy, Jan 16, 2010 (CNA) -

The Pontifical North American College in Rome marked its 150th anniversary with Masses, a papal audience, talks and toasts.  A reunion for alumni of the college was held from Jan. 8 - 13 alongside events to celebrate the century-and-a-half milestone since the founding of the college.


Among other activities, current and former students were able to celebrate the Holy Mass together on five different days on five different altars each presided over by a North American prelate. Cardinals Foley, Levada, Stafford and Law each presided over a Mass as did Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.


Among all of the items on the week's agenda, rector of the Pontifical North American College (PNAC), Monsignor James Checchio, told CNA that Saturday's audience with Pope Benedict XVI, after a beautiful Mass at St. Peter's among members of the reunion, was a particularly special moment as was Sunday Mass, which was celebrated in the Immaculate Conception Chapel on the College's campus.


Of the Sunday Mass, the rector said, "It was certainly a joy to have the Chapel overflowing with seminarians and alumni..."


"It is in that Chapel that so many of us spent hours and hours listening for confirmation of the Lord's call, so it was appropriate for us to gather there again during this reunion."


Msgr. Checchio also mentioned that the meal following Mass, which was served by students, was equally "festive" he and expressed his gratitude for "all the assistance the alumni continue to give us."


Msgr. Checchio commented that the lecture by Archbishop of Washington, D.C. Donald Wuerl on Sunday morning called "Preaching the Word of God" was especially appreciated during the reunion as it focused on priestly communion.


On Monday, about 140 members of the group took advantage of the opportunity to make an excursion to Castel Gandolfo, where they were able to visit the college's old summer residence, the Villa of Saint Catherine of Alexandria.


The closing Mass was at the Basilica of St. Mary Major on Wednesday evening.


Reflecting on his impressions over the course of the week, Msgr. Checchio said, "To be rector during this celebration was an honor beyond words. Countless peoples' lives have been changed by the good work of these priests, and the reunion provided an opportunity for them to renew themselves to their priestly commitment."


Checchio is now in his fifth year as rector of the longstanding North American institution. In his brief tenure, he has seen great expansion. The seminary has grown from 150 to 220 students in the time he has been there, leading to the addition of three priest-mentors on campus.

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Benedict XVI named honorary citizen of Freising, Germany

Vatican City, Jan 16, 2010 (CNA) -

A delegation from the German city of Freising met with Pope Benedict XVI just after noon on Saturday to confer honorary citizenship on him.  The Pope accepted the gesture and used the occasion to reaffirm the role of the Church in today's society.

The Holy Father addressed the delegation, in his mother tongue of German.  "Tu es Petrus", an Italian website, provided an early translation of the Pope's words.

As he accepted the honor, the Pope reflected on the Church which, much like the structure of the cathedral of Freising in the Bavarian landscape, has a "firm place in our society, in our history and in our culture which we cannot dismiss."

"We need the Church, we need Christians, men, women, families, priests and religious that teach our children faith, hope and love, that lead today's society to a profound cultural renewal and to the rediscovery of spiritual values of which the world today has so much need and only on which one can build a good and dignified future."

The honor is especially meaningful for Pope Benedict as he had studied in Friesing after World War II, taught there shortly after his ordination to the priesthood, in 1951, and was eventually be named the Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977 by Pope Paul VI, a position he held until 1982. At that point, Pope John Paul II named him Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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Cardinal Etchegaray returns home to recuperate

Rome, Italy, Jan 16, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Roger Etchegaray has been released from Rome's Agostino Gemelli Hospital after having his femur repaired. He was described as in "good condition."

The Holy See released a message on Friday which confirmed that Cardinal Etchegaray, the 87-year-old President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Cor Unum, has now left the hospital.  

After having sustained a fracture of the right femur in an incident at Midnight Mass on Dec. 24 caused by the young woman who attempted to reach Pope Benedict, Cardinal Etchegaray underwent an operation on December 27 that left him with a total arthroprosthesis of the right hip. 

He has been cleared to continue rehabilitation from home.

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