St. Petersburg, Fla., Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - The fifth anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo will be marked by a memorial Mass and a day of prayer and advocacy on behalf of the vulnerable.
Schiavo, a victim of severe brain damage, was barred from receiving nutrition and hydration by a Florida court order after a long legal fight between her husband and her family.
The National Mass for Terri’s Day will be celebrated at the Ave Maria Oratory at Ave Maria University near Naples, Florida.
Two years ago Priests for Life and Terri’s Foundation established Terri’s Day, formally known as the “International Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Terri Schindler Schiavo, and All of Our Vulnerable Brothers and Sisters.”
The day is intended to encourage prayer, education and advocacy about discrimination against the disabled and about those in situations similar to Terri Schiavo’s last days.
Terri’s brother, Bobby Schindler, cited a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine which found that some people diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) are in fact responsive.
"What is worse is that persons with cognitive disabilities thought to be in this 'PVS' condition, like Terri, are routinely being denied food and hydration -- their most basic rights,” Schindler commented. He said the new findings underscore the importance of why the “dangerous and often mistaken” PVS diagnosis should not be used as “a standard to kill our most vulnerable.”
The Terri’s Day website is located at http://www.TerrisDay.org
Port au Prince, Haiti, Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, the president of Caritas Internationalis, visited Haiti on Monday to deliver aid from Honduras and to express solidarity with the country after its devastating January earthquake.
The cardinal went to Port-au-Prince’s destroyed cathedral and visited the rubble of the archdiocesan offices where Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot and a number of his colleagues were killed.
According to Caritas Internationalis, he then proceeded to the Renaissance Hospital and the Champ de Mars makeshift camp, where tens of thousands of people have taken refuge.
Cardinal Rodriguez met representatives of the Haitian Bishops’ Conference to discuss relief and reconstruction efforts. He also spoke to international and national staff at the Caritas Haiti headquarters.
“I want to thank all the Caritas of the world for their support. It is essential we go on, in order to rebuild Haiti culturally and spiritually as well as materially,” he commented.
He thanked the apostolic nuncio to Haiti, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, as well as Caritas Haiti President Bishop Pierre Dumas and Director General of Caritas Haiti Fr. Serge Chadic for hosting his visit.
Caritas members in 40 countries have collected $198 million in private donations for quake relief. Governments and institutions have pledged $36 million to Caritas for the effort.
Caritas reports that it has fed over 500,000 people, given shelter kits to 43,000, and given medical treatment to 12,000 in Haiti. The two-month relief effort will be followed by a three to five-year reconstruction program focusing on housing, education, and livelihoods.
Jefferson City, Mo., Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - A proposed Missouri “mega-sales tax” would affect private school tuition and would unfairly burden parents who send their children to Catholic schools, the Missouri Catholic Conference has warned.
The services taxed under the proposal by the Missouri General Assembly include educational services provided by K-12 private and parochial schools. College tuition is explicitly exempted and no K-12 school tax is imposed on public school parents, the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) reported in a Feb. 11 statement.
The present proposed tax rate of 5.11 percent may be adjusted upward, the MCC added, because once the principle of tuition taxation is conceded there is nothing preventing its increase. An eight percent tax on tuition of $3,000 would cost parents an additional $240 in taxes.
College tuition is reportedly exempted from the tax because it is considered an investment.
The MCC argued that K-12 private school tuition is also an investment, not “discretionary” spending like buying a movie ticket or a magazine. It charged that the tax discriminates against private school parents, especially those who feel that their child will not receive an education in “a failing public school.”
“By singling out private school parents for taxing while exempting all other school parents, the mega-sales tax penalizes parents who choose private or parochial schools,” the MCC commented.
Countering the argument that private school children’s parents will be better off even with the sales tax because they will no longer pay income taxes, the MCC noted that poor parents do not pay income tax at present. It also claimed that it was unjust to tax private school parents when other school parents are not.
Further, tax to tuition could encourage parents to remove their children from private schools and send them to public school, where the average cost to the taxpayer is $9,300 per child per year.
“The state of Missouri should promote schools that successfully educate children, not tax them,” the MCC wrote, noting the better graduation and college admission rates of Catholic school students.
Saying that at some level taxation begins to coerce parents to choose public schools, the MCC claimed that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled such coercive laws unconstitutional. The Conference also noted Catholic teaching that parents’ right to choose a school for their children is “fundamental.”
“The mega-sales tax should be defeated,” the MCC statement said.
Supporters of the bill argue that instituting the tax would help the state better project its income and spread the tax burden more evenly amongst citizens.
One of the bills, SJR 29, has already passed a state Senate committee and was scheduled to be debated as early as Tuesday.
Washington D.C., Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - The Catholic Medical Association has called for the legislative process on health care reform to “begin anew,” citing “substantial flaws” in existing proposals. The group especially called for protections for the right to life.
Writing in a Feb. 23 open letter, the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) called on Congress and President Obama to respect “fundamental human and constitutional rights” in health care legislation.
“[T]here is no right more basic than the right to life, and no right more central to American constitutional order than the right to freedom of conscience and religion,” the CMA wrote. “Legislation must not compel any public funding of, or provider participation in, abortion.
“Moreover, the rights to conscience and religious liberty of health-care providers must be more comprehensively protected as the power of governmental regulation grows.”
The Association said that the House and Senate bills will increase health care costs and total federal health care spending, reporting “near unanimity” of opinion among analysts that the current legislation would do “little or nothing” to improve quality.
The health care legislation should be truly “bipartisan” and should ensure that efforts to assist the poor and uninsured are “effective and economically sustainable.” The CMA cited reports that Medicaid enrollees already face unacceptable access problems which would be exacerbated by the provisions of health care bill H.R. 3962.
Additionally, the CMA advised, the physician-patient relationship should also be respected. It warned of “excessive levels” of government regulation in both the House and Senate Bills that would be detrimental to effective medical practice.
Citing polling shows that a slight majority of Americans oppose the present health care legislation, the CMA expressed its belief that Americans will rally behind “sound legislation.”
“We face real challenges, and the status quo is not acceptable,” the letter concluded. “However, we can make progress only if we respond responsibly to the current impasse and move forward in a constructive manner. We ask all of you to engage in a good-faith effort that respects the principles and the process required for authentic health-care reform. We look forward to the opportunity to contribute to this effort.”
Wilmington, Del., Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - A new survey reports that college professors were more likely than the general population to think that the Ten Commandments are totally irrelevant and to disagree that the Bible is the Word of God, but they were also more likely to disagree that religion and science typically conflict.
Professors were more likely to think abortion should be available for any reason, more likely to support co-ed dormitories, and more likely to oppose prayer in public school. They also were more likely to agree that educators should “instill more doubt in students and reject certainty.”
The survey of 2,508 Americans was conducted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) based in Wilmington, Delaware. It asked 39 questions intended to evaluate the impact of a college education on people’s beliefs.
However, the report did not address the issue of selection bias, because of which people with certain beliefs may be more likely to seek higher education.
Dr. Richard Brake, director of ISI’s Culture of Enterprise Initiative, told CNSNews.com that the survey results do not say that all or even most teachers think that the Ten Commandments are irrelevant.
“But they are more likely to think that having taught college, and they are more likely to think that compared to the rest of the population,” Brake said.
The study also found that those who obtain college degrees were more likely to disagree that the Bible is the Word of God. They were more likely to favor same-sex “marriage” and abortion on demand than those who do not.
The study’s results are available in the ISI report “The Shaping of the American Mind: The Diverging Influences of the College Degree & Civic Learning on American Beliefs.”
Los Angeles, Calif., Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - In their latest sting operation at a Planned Parenthood clinic, a pro-life group has produced footage that documents the 10th case in which clinic workers at an abortion facility ignore and cover up statutory rape.
A member of the pro-life Live Action group recently posed as a 14 year-old girl seeking an abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In the video, the girl can be heard saying to the staff member that her boyfriend with whom she had sex is 31 years old. The worker replied, “you don't have to say anything.” After ignoring evidence of statutory rape, the clinic worker instructed the girl to “just give them the information that they need” and proceeded to confirm that the 31 year-old “boyfriend” will pay for the abortion.
According to Wisconsin state law, sex between an adult and minor under the age of 16 is considered a felony and health professionals are required to report cases of statutory rape to law enforcement authorities immediately.
Lila Rose, a 21 year-old student at UCLA and the president of the non-profit Live Action, said that this latest video reaffirms what she believes to be Planned Parenthood's blatant disregard of the law.
“In case after case, Planned Parenthood acts in contempt of its legal and professional obligations to report child rape. At a time when the Obama administration, through its new health care plan, is offering potentially billions of dollars to the abortion industry, state and federal lawmakers need to take notice of Planned Parenthood's lawlessness and make certain they receive no more taxpayer subsidies.”
This recent undercover venture is the latest effort of Live Action's “Mona Lisa Project” which has shown evidence of sex abuse cover ups at Planned Parenthood clinics California, Indiana, Arizona, Tennessee and Alabama. One Birmingham, Ala. clinic was recently put on probation by the state health department, following an investigation sparked by a Live Action video.
“The evidence is now available for all to see that Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin ignores state laws that have been in place for years,” Rose said on Tuesday. “Wisconsin law enforcement needs to follow the lead of other jurisdictions, investigate this corrupt organization, and enforce the laws that protect vulnerable women and their pre-born children.”
Freiburg, Germany, Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - On Tuesday, the German Conference of Catholic Bishops began their plenary session. On the first day of meetings, president of the conference Archbishop Robert Zoellisch asked for public forgiveness regarding cases of child sexual abuse in the German Church.
Archbishop Zoellisch said he was "deeply upset" by the cases of the "repugnant crime" of pedophilia which took place in some Jesuit schools in Germany from the 70s to the 90s, L'Osservatore Romano (LOR) reported.
"I ask forgiveness in the name of the German Catholic Church of all the victims of this crime," he said in a press conference, pointing out that it is particularly grave as a violation of the special trust young people give to priests.
LOR added that the archbishop gave his assurance that cases of abuse would be reported for public prosecution, but also noted that many of the cases will have already passed the 10-year statute of limitations.
In addition, Archbishop Zoellisch spoke of the Church's need to reestablish its reputation for Catholic education and its credibility in areas such as marriage and family teaching and sexual morality.
The German archbishop echoed the recent words of Cardinal Sean Brady of the Irish Bishops' Conference, pointing out that the greatest danger of the scandals is the possibility that they might affect the resolve of church-goers, "shaking their faith and threatening their capacity to trust in God."
During the press conference, the archbishop mentioned that he will be speaking to Pope Benedict XVI about all of these issues when he meets with him next month.
The Plenary Assembly will continue through Thursday, taking on a number of themes currently affecting the German Catholic Church, including the aging population, the participation of the German army in the War in Afghanistan, vocations ministry and aid to Haiti.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - St. Joseph’s Seminary in La Plata, Argentina has become the formation center with the highest number of students in the country. Twenty-one seminarians entered during a Mass on Monday, bringing the grand total of students to 92.
During a Mass welcoming the students, Auxiliary Bishop Antonio Marino of La Plata remarked that in the world today, “we must swim against the tide.” He asked the seminarians to look to St. John Vianney, patron of priests, as a model “of self-denial, sacrifice and commitment.”
“The Church needs holy priests, and St. John Marie Vianney is a true model for this path.”
After the Mass, the bishop pointed out that the new students entered the seminary on the feast of the Chair of Peter, and called them to strive to “love and be faithful and obedient to the Holy Father.”
St. Joseph’s Seminary was founded in 1992 and provides formation for seminarians from various dioceses in Argentina.
Rome, Italy, Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - The Vatican's newspaper reported on Tuesday that just six weeks after the catastrophic earthquake, the plight of Haitians has already become old news, even though the situation remains "dramatic."
L'Osservatore Romano (LOR) observed that the decrease in interest can be seen in the declining presence of international media on the island and in the fact that relief and reconstruction activities are suffering from a lack of supervision.
Illustrating the desperation that prevails in the country, LOR recounted an attack on a food supply convoy in the city of Limbe earlier this week. Residents threw rocks at U.N. vehicles on their way to deliver milk and food rations to another city and made off with at least one truckload.
The president of Haiti, Rene Preval, expressed his concerns to members of the Unity Summit of Latin American and Caribbean nations in Mexico this week, saying that despite the enormous amount of support offered to the nation, the recovery will be slow, expensive and difficult.
President Preval drew attention to the fact that "every day a million Haitians sleep in the street, with problems made even graver by the rains of these days."
The president has ordered 50,000 tents from China which will arrive this week in anticipation of the rainy season, according to the Herald Sun. The rainy season in Haiti usually starts at the end of March or beginning of April. He said that 900,000 people are still in need of shelter and asked the international community for at least 200,000 more tents.
Adding to the difficult situation are aftershocks that continue to rock the island, the last of which hit Monday and measured 4.7 on the Richter scale.
Mosul, Iraq, Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - The Vatican communicated on Wednesday that the Holy Father reacted with "deep sorrow" upon hearing the news of the most recent killings of Christians in Iraq, which reached him while he was on his annual Lenten retreat. The Holy See had urged respect for Iraqi Christians in a January letter to country's premier, but after continuing violence Christians have started to flee the city.
The Vatican's newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported the Pope's sadness upon learning of the assassination of the father and two brothers of a Syro-Catholic priest in Mosul on Tuesday. He reacted with "deep sorrow," the paper said, while also relaying the Pope's closeness through prayer and affection "to all who suffer the consequences of violence."
Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone had written a letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamil Mohammed al-Maliki on Jan. 2, at the Pope's behest, inviting a "moral and civil reconstruction" of the nation through "dialogue and cooperation between ethnic and religious groups... including minorities."
He expressed his hope that this would happen in "full respect of the individual identities of those groups, in a spirit of reconciliation and in search of the common good."
Cardinal Bertone also reminded the Iraqi leader of how Pope Benedict had asked him at the Vatican in 2008 to ensure that the right to freedom of religion be respected and that Christians and their churches would be protected.
On this occasion, related the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister had provided his personal assurance that the Iraqi government "took the situation of the Christian minority very seriously."
The cardinal closed his Jan 2. letter by asking Nouri al-Maliki to "pray with fervor for an end to the violence" and to have the government do "everything possible to increase security around places of worship in the entire country."
On Tuesday, three Christians were murdered in their home by unknown assailants. The victims were the father and two brothers of the Syro-Catholic priest Fr. Mazen Ishoa, who was himseld abducted and later released in Oct. 2007.
A Syro-Catholic priest, who is based in Rome but from Mosul, informed CNA on Wednesday morning that after the attack on Tuesday, many Christians are fleeing Mosul for the Christian cities and villages in the surrounding plain of Nineveh.
Many of the Christians, he continued, left with only the clothes they were wearing and some had already arrived at a convent in the city of Alqosh.
The priest also mentioned the recent of appeal from the Episcopal Conferences of the Syro-Catholic, Chaldean and Syro-Orthodox Churches for an international intervention on behalf of Iraqi Christians.
This is important, he wrote, "being as it is that the governments of Baghdad and the region of Nineveh are incapable of defending Iraqi Christians, especially those from Mosul."
Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - During his recent trip to Colombia, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was John Paul II's personal secretary for 40 years, was presented with the Grand Cross of the National Order of Merit from President of Colombia Alvaro Uribe.
Cardinal Dziwisz, who is also Archbishop of Krakow, Poland visited Colombia to participate in a conference on the legacy of the late-Pope.
The Colombian government said the award is “a sign of the admiration Colombians have for (Cardinal Dziwisz) and his pastoral work, oriented towards helping people overcome any form of oppression through faith.” It is also a sign of “the profound ties and close relations between Colombia and Poland, especially with the Church,” they explained.
During the ceremony, Cardinal Dziwisz recalled his experience as Pope John Paul II’s personal secretary and their visit to Colombia on July 1, 1986. On that occasion, he said, the then-Pope called for the building of a “civilization of love,” in which “the fundamental rights of the person, civil liberties and social rights ... would be guarded and preserved.”
Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - On Tuesday, Cardinal Francis George, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, gave a talk to nearly 12,000 students and faculty at Brigham Young University in Utah. The cardinal dedicated his speech to exhorting the two faiths to defend religious freedom and their place in the public square.
“In recent years, Catholics and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have stood more frequently side by side in the public square to defend human life and dignity,” said Cardinal George on Tuesday morning.
The cardinal gave his presentation, “Catholics and Latter-day Saints: Partners in the Defense of Religious Freedom,” at a BYU forum on Feb. 23, at the school's Marriott Center. Receiving a standing ovation at the end of his address, Cardinal George is believed to be the highest ranking Catholic official to ever speak at the Mormon university.
“I'm personally grateful that after 180 years of living mostly apart from one another, Catholics and Latter-day Saints have begun to see each other as trustworthy partners in defense of shared moral principles,” noted the prelate.
Cardinal George lauded LDS members for their commitment to serving the poor, defending traditional marriage, fighting pornography and opposing abortion.
He also praised the work of Catholics and the LDS Church in their collective fight in supporting religious freedom. This freedom, he stressed, should not be limited to the private sphere alone but should also be thriving and present in the public square.
“Any attempt to reduce that fuller sense of religious freedom, which has been part of our history in this country for more than two centuries, to a private reality of worship and individual conscience so long as you don't make anyone else unhappy, is not in our tradition,” said Cardinal George, who added, “It was the tradition of the Soviet Union.”
Cardinal George also addressed the opposition that Catholics and Mormons have faced for their joint advocacy of human rights and dignity, citing the response from Proposition 8 opponents in California as an example.
“What I most regret is not the opposition, that is understandable ... And those of us who have gay people in their family as I have, know the anxieties and the conflicts in their own life. And we have to be there for them and love them and support them.”
But when Prop. 8 opponents “respond by thuggery, by quasi-fascist tactics, then the common good, our whole society, stands in great jeopardy,” Cardinal George said.
Opposition to the efforts of Catholics and LDS members should be expected, he added. “But despite that, if we stay together and go forward, … if we simply continue to talk together, (it) will in the end bear much fruit.”
“When government fails to protect the consciences of its citizens, it falls to religious bodies, especially those formed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to become the defenders of human freedom,” the Chicago cardinal said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - Patricia Lopez Macera, regional director of a women's center in Cancun, noted in a statement on Mexican radio that the constitutional reforms implemented by 18 of the country's states to protect the unborn are not anti-woman, but are in full support of human life.
Lopez Macera clarified that the reforms should not be understood as criminalization, but instead as guaranteeing the right to life from conception to natural death.
She added that just as Mexico's government has included the word “secular” in its constitution, so also have local legislatures granted protection to the lives of the unborn.
Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - In his message for Lent 2010, the Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, said the political and social crisis that Venezuela is currently experiencing “is due to the sinister presence of sin in our society and in ourselves.”
In his statement, the cardinal first explained the importance of living out “the Lenten practices of prayer, mortification or penance and almsgiving.
He urged Venezuelans to realize that “the root of the difficulties we are experiencing lies in a profound moral crisis, that is, in the sinister presence of sin in our society and in ourselves.” He then gave examples of the sins that society faces: “ violence, hatred, injustice, aggression, delinquency, crime, sexual disorders, religious indifference.”
“The corruption that is manifested in various ways in the social life of the country, in the area of sexuality, in the economic sphere, in the political sphere, is a manifestation of that moral crisis,” he warned.
“Beyond the political problems, which we must try to resolve in accord with our constitution … we must place our hands over our hearts and listen to the Gospel invitation: ‘Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel’,” Cardinal Urosa urged.
“Let us open our hearts to Jesus Christ! Let us take advantage of this Lent to seriously embrace our faith. Let us truly embrace our following of Christ and its consequences in the areas of morality and religious practice. Let us really be practicing Christians!” he stated.
After encouraging participation in Sunday Mass and in the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, Cardinal Urosa concluded his message encouraging Venezuelans to embrace “the commitment to firmly live our faith, to know it, appreciate it, defend it, without fear or hang-ups.” He also asked the faithful to “joyfully embrace our belonging to the Holy Church of God, the people of life, of love and of peace.”
Mosul, Iraq, Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - The persecution of Christians in Iraq escalated on Tuesday, as three relatives of a Syro-Catholic priest were killed in their own home in the city of Mosul.
Bishop Georges Casmoussa of Mosul told SIR news agency that unknown men entered the home of the father and two brothers of Fr. Mazen Ishoa, in the neighborhood of Hay Al Sahaon on Feb. 23. After the house was broken into, the priest's father and two young brothers were murdered.
Fr. Ishoa was previously abducted in 2007 and later released. The latest reports do not mention anything about the fate of Fr. Ishoa.
The killings come amid increasing chaos in Mosul as targeted attacks against Christians continue to rise.
Following a funeral service for the three victims this morning in Karakosh, Chaldean Bishop Emil Shimoun Nona told SIR that “Fear is great – it is the first time Christians are killed in their own homes. There are many families that are leaving the city, at least until the election of March 7th.”
Pope Benedict, who is continually receiving updates from the Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq, responded on Wednesday to news of the murders with “deep sorrow.”
The Holy See had urged respect and protection for Iraqi Christians in a January letter to country's prime minister, yet the violence against Christians in the city has continued.
Bishop Casmoussa called the current circumstances in Mosul a “situation that risks getting worse in the run-up to March 7th.” “We hope that the after-election period may be calmer and violence may decrease,” he added. “But that’s not very likely for the moment.”
In response to yesterday’s murders, Church leaders have organized a protest on Feb. 24. “The community will meet for a peaceful march in four areas of Mosul for a peaceful protest,” Bishop Casmoussa explained to SIR. “There will be no Masses in the city’s churches. This is done to press the institutions into taking care of the citizens’ security.”
Manila, Philippines, Feb 24, 2010 (CNA) - A Catholic archbishop in the Philippines has called for a ban on prostitution to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Oscar Cruz, Archbishop emeritus of Lingayen-Dagupan, has said authorities should consider widespread and covert prostitution as one of the “transmission realities” of HIV/AIDS. The government should tackle the root problem instead of relying on condom promotion, he added.
Unlike other bishops, Archbishop Cruz has not called for the resignation of Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) reports. However, he criticized her for making a “cobweb” against the Church’s position on condom use.
Cabral blamed the Church for helping the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the Philippines after her department’s free condom distribution was censured by some bishops.
Archbishop Cruz charged that Cabral appeared “curiously silent” about the “continuous operation of many prostitution houses all over the country” as a major culprit in HIV transmission.
The archbishop added that instead of blaming the Church the Department of Health chief should focus upon the rising number of motels famous for “short-time” rates, which continue to spread, especially in urban areas.
He also called on the government to create laws against internet pornography, which can adversely affect people’s sexual behavior and attitudes towards sex.