Archive of March 18, 2010

New sex-ed bill in England draws ire of Catholic leader

London, England, Mar 18, 2010 (CNA) - The House of Lords in Britain is currently debating a new bill that will require Catholic schools to provide, among other things, “non-judgmental” information on access to abortion and contraception to students as part of a new sex education initiative. In response, one Catholic politician has called the new legislation “radical” and “a crisis of conscience for parents and teachers alike.”

According to Britain's Catholic Herald, the new Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) will be required for children as young as five and will forbid parents from removing their children from sex education classes once they turn fifteen.

The Hon. Edward Balls, an MP who backed the legislation, told the BBC on Feb. 23 that under the new bill, Catholic schools will “have to teach that there are different views on homosexuality. They cannot teach homophobia. They must explain civil partnerships. They must give a balanced view on abortion. They must give both sides of the argument. They must explain how to access an abortion. The same is true on contraception as well.”

House of Lords member David Alton, who is Catholic, said earlier this week that the bill “seeks to take away powers from schools and parents by placing sex and relationship education (SRE) on to the national curriculum and removing the parental right to withdraw children for the last year at school.”

Quoting the legal opinion of top human rights barrister John Bowers, Lord Alton said that the bill “represents a radical appropriation of power by central government, enabling them to dictate teaching on a matter over which many parents have strongly held moral or religious convictions. The Bill would further erode parental influence in an area which many parents would assert is a matter for the family rather than for schools.”

“I cannot begin to tell the Minister how much anxiety this has engendered, and not just among Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Anglicans, who as a matter of conscience believe abortion to be the taking of an innocent life,” Lord Alton added.

“This is not a trivial matter, and I hope that the Government realizes the implications. The Government needs to understand that such a fundamental attack on the character and ethos of faith schools will create a crisis of conscience for parents and teachers alike.”

The House of Lords member also said the the proposed sex ed bill contains “some of the most unenlightened clauses that I have ever encountered in my 30 years in parliament,” and that parents are “outraged” by it. According to the Catholic Herald, the government's own consultation showed that 68 percent of respondents said they do not want SRE placed in schools and 79 percent stated that they do not want the parental right to withdraw a child to be interfered with.

“Simply ignoring the views of parents on such a sensitive matter smacks of arrogance and the worst kind of nanny state,” Lord Alton charged.

On March 8, Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham, who is the chairman of the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales, argued in the Times that the claim that the Church promotes homophobia “highlights a real lack of understanding of what is being taught in Catholic Schools.”

The bishop pointed to a study which reported that 61 percent of Catholic schools in Britain were deemed “excellent” or “very good” in respecting other people, compared to 43 percent of other schools in England.

“That’s one of the major reasons why so many parents decide to send their children to Catholic schools in the first place,” the bishop asserted. Teaching sex education in light of Church teaching, then, “does not lead to discriminatory and intolerant behavior, nor does it lead to a deficient knowledge of the full facts of life,” he stated.

“In Catholic teaching, the equality of all men and women is embraced because all are seen as the children of God. They are not defined by their race, ethnic identity or sexual orientation,” the bishop said.

Bishop McMahon did not address concerns raised by Ed Balls' comments that Catholic schools would be required to present opposing beliefs on abortion and homosexuality.

When CNA contacted the offices of the Catholic Education Service (CES), it was referred to an amendment to the SRE bill that says religious schools will be allowed to teach the material within a Catholic ethos. However, questions about the requirement to inform students of non-Catholic views on abortion, contraception and homosexuality were not answered.

CES staff also told CNA that Oona Stannard, the group's director, was on “annual leave.” Stannard has been quoted as calling the new SRE “a positive step forward.”

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Archbishop Naumann upset with CHA for Senate bill support

Kansas City, Kan., Mar 18, 2010 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Kansas City has urged Catholics to contact key members of Congress and ask them to vote against the Senate health care reform bill. He also expressed his disappointment with the Catholic Health Association for its apparent willingness to accept government-funded abortion as part of health care reform.

Writing in The Leaven, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann noted specific problems with the health care bill. Its $7 billion appropriations for Community Health Centers can be used directly for elective abortions. It uses federal funds to subsidize health care plans that cover abortions, thus making abortions more accessible.

The bill also uses the power of the federal government to force people to pay for other people’s abortions even if they are morally opposed to it, the archbishop wrote.

Archbishop Naumann said he was “deeply troubled” to learn that Sr. Carol Keehan, the Chief Executive for the Catholic Health Association (CHA), has urged the U.S. House of Representatives to vote for the Senate health care reform bill.

“This action by the Catholic Health Association could not come at a more critical time,” he continued.

The prelate noted that pro-life Democrats are a critical group objecting to the bill and “creditable” pro-life groups have found that the bill allows for “unprecedented” government funding for abortion.

“The Catholic Health Association’s position, in effect, provides cover for any member of the House who chooses to buckle under the pressure of the President and the Democratic leadership to accept government funding of abortion,” he lamented. “They can now defend themselves by pointing out that Catholic Health Care leaders recommended they vote for the bill.”

The archbishop charged that the CHA leadership took this action knowing that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) continues to urge a vote against the bill unless it is amended to prohibit federal funding of abortion and provide conscience protection for health care professionals and institutions.

Archbishop Naumann cited Sr. Keehan’s claim that disagreement centers on “the technical issue of whether this bill prevents federal funding of abortions.”

He thought this statement was either disingenuous or “incredibly naïve.”

“Either the bill permits previously prohibited government funding of abortion or not. This is not a technicality,” he insisted. “If the Senate had wanted to prohibit federal funding for abortion all they had to do was accept the language that had been adopted by the House of Representatives by an overwhelming majority.”

According to the archbishop, President Obama and the Democratic leadership have refused to accept language protecting taxpayers from having to fund abortion. He thought it was “foolish” to believe that the president or Congressional leadership will correct problems at a later date, charging that President Obama has been “scrupulously faithful” to his promises to Planned Parenthood and other abortion groups.

He then discussed other problems with the Senate bill such as its lack of ‘adequate” conscience protections.

“One would think that the Catholic Health Association would be extremely concerned about conscience protection. However, if the Catholic Health Association is willing to compromise on government funding for abortion, then who needs conscience protection?”

Despite the CHA’s “laudable intentions” and the “gut-wrenching” examples of failures in the health care system, the archbishop said it was not permissible to try to improve some people’s quality of live by “cooperating in the killing of the most innocent and vulnerable members of our human family.”

He closed his column in the Leaven by urging readers to contact their Representative and those with “critical swing votes” to urge a vote against the Senate bill.

“They need to hear from Americans throughout the country,” he explained.

“Finally, I encourage you to contact Sister Carol Keehan and the Catholic Health Association expressing to them your disappointment in their willingness to accept government funded abortion as part of health care reform.”

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Catholic adoption charity may appeal in equality case, British High Court rules

London, England, Mar 18, 2010 (CNA) - Britain’s High Court has allowed a Catholic adoption charity to appeal for an exemption from sexual orientation rules that would force it to close. The ruling was praised for securing the freedom of charities and allowing Catholic agencies to continue their services.

Catholic Care, which serves the dioceses of Leeds, Middlesbrough and Hallam in South Yorkshire, was the last Catholic adoption agency to continue to fight for its continued operation. The laws required adoption agencies to place children with homosexual couples and forced Catholic agencies to close or disaffiliate from the Church.

The Charity Commission had rejected Catholic Care’s attempt to secure an exemption, but on Wednesday a High Court Judge allowed the appeal, the Telegraph reports.

Bishop of Leeds Arthur Roche said in a statement that the court confirmed Catholic Care’s reading of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 and agreed that the exemptions of Regulation 18 can apply to “any charity subject to its being in the public interest.”

“We look forward to producing evidence to the Charity Commission to support the position that we have consistently taken through this process that without being able to use this exemption children without families would be seriously disadvantaged,” he continued.

“Catholic Care has been providing specialist adoption services for over 100 years,” the bishop explained, saying hundreds of “some of the most vulnerable children” have been helped through the recruitment, evaluation and support for prospective adoptive parents.

“The judgment today will help in our determination to continue to provide this invaluable service to benefit children, families and communities.”

In a separate comment, Caritas Social Action in Leeds said that the High Court “upheld the legitimate freedom of charities to organize themselves in such a way that their activities reflect their religious ethos when justified in the public benefit.”

This was an “extremely important” principle to uphold concerning the common good, CSA said.

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Critique from ‘The View’ of Boulder Catholic school was opportunistic, Catholic League says

New York City, N.Y., Mar 18, 2010 (CNA) - A Colorado Catholic school which told two children under the guardianship of two homosexual partners they could not re-enroll on account of their guardians’ relationship has drawn “inevitable” criticism from the hosts of “The View” because they “never miss an opportunity to rip the Catholic Church,” the Catholic League says.

Several weeks ago staff members at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Boulder, Colorado were told that that an attending preschooler and kindergartner, whose two guardians are lesbian women, would not be re-enrolled after they finished the 2010-2011 school year.

In response to mostly negative media coverage, Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput explained the decision, saying “If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the Church, or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible.”

On Tuesday the hosts of the daytime ABC talk show “The View” criticized the school, prompting a response from Catholic League president Bill Donohue.

Donohue said he thought it was “inevitable” the issue would become a topic on “The View” because the hosts “never miss an opportunity to rip the Catholic Church whenever it fails to ratify the secular thinking in the dominant culture.”

Noting that one of the show’s hosts, Joy Behar, predicted they would be hearing from Bill Donohue, which Donohue argued was not surprising.

“If five Catholics with a history of anti-Semitism bashed the house rules of a yeshiva, would it not occasion a news release from Abe Foxman at the ADL?” he asked rhetorically.

Donohue said that none of the hosts upset with the Catholic school is Catholic, while Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Whoopi Goldberg are all former Catholics. He particularly criticized Hasselbeck, saying she is “still obsessed” with Catholicism.

“Both Behar and Hasselbeck said yesterday that Jesus would not have approved of the Catholic school’s decision. Nice to know they have a pipeline to the Almighty, and that they consider themselves to be tolerant, non-judgmental and without a trace of bigotry.”

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C-FAM stands by report of graphic brochures at Girl Scout event

New York City, N.Y., Mar 18, 2010 (CNA) -

The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) has stated that it stands by its reporting of a sexually explicit Planned Parenthood brochure being distributed at an international Girl Scouts meeting. At the same time, a spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts USA told CNA that if graphic brochures were passed out “it wasn't from us, it wasn't known to us.”

C-FAM's “Friday Fax” reported last week spoke on how the recent World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts hosted a panel in which Planned Parenthood was allowed to distribute brochures containing sexually explicit material to the girls. The panel served as part of the annual U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

According to C-FAM, the brochures titled, “Happy, Healthy and Hot,” were aimed at young people with HIV and gave graphic details on sex, encouraging a casual approach to sexual experimentation.

Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) media manager Michelle Tompkins responded to the C-FAM article by sending CNA an official GSUSA “fact sheet” which states that “the stories that are circulating on the internet and blogs” regarding the pamphlets “are factually inaccurate.”

“Only seven adults were in the room at the time of the meeting, each representing one of the sponsors of the event,” the statement says. “No one from Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute was in the room to report on the event.”

“The girls received a copy of the only document they were working on titled ('The Girls’ Statement'). No other documents were given to the girls as part of this event.”

The GSUSA fact sheet goes on to note that the room where the Girl Scout meeting was held hosted several different events throughout the day and was not cleaned of trash and materials before the girls entered the room. GSUSA also said that they were not contacted by C-FAM about the accusations surrounding the pamphlets.

Michelle Tompkins reiterated the position of GSUSA on Wednesday in a phone interview on CNA, and said that if the Planned Parenthood brochures were distributed at the U.N. meeting “it wasn't from us, it wasn't known to us.” Tompkins also charged that C-FAM's “Friday Fax” article on the brochures smacks of “very bad journalism.”

C-FAM president Austin Ruse responded to the media firestorm caused by their reporting of the event by issuing a statement on Tuesday and reiterating his stance in a phone interview with CNA on Wednesday.

“We have been inundated with responses from Girl Scout moms, Girl Scout leaders and others angered and confused that such a thing could happen,” stated Ruse on March 16.“The Girl Scouts have flatly denied that the sex guide was available at their UN conference. We stand by our story and based on new evidence we go further. The sex guide was distributed with the full knowledge and consent of the Girl Scouts-USA.”

Austin Ruse proceeded in his statement to address the accusations that C-FAM falsely reported the incident, saying, “The Girl Scouts imply another group left the literature prior to their panel. Understand that the Girl Scout meeting was on opening day of the conference (March 1), which means the room was clean of all literature that morning.”

“There were four other meetings in that room that day prior to the Girl Scouts meeting,” Ruse added. “At 10 am the NAACP had a meeting about climate change. At noon the UN had an orientation meeting for NGOs attending the conference. At 2 pm CORAID had a meeting about counterterrorism and women.”

“Very clearly, none of these meetings were on adolescent topics, which was the target audience of the sex guide,” he added.

“The Girl Scouts say we were not in the room,” Ruse continued. “That is true. All non-Scout adults were thrown out prior the meeting; and no wonder given what was distributed there. However, even though our source was thrown out of the room, she stayed around and as the doors closed she went right in to see what was being distributed. It was there and then that she found the stack of dangerous sex brochures.”

“The source for our story and the woman who went into the room to monitor what the Girl Scouts were doing is mother of seven Sharon Slater who is also president of longtime UN pro-family group Family Watch International.”

Ruse also cited a 2004 interview on the Today Show with Kathy Cloninger, CEO of Girl Scouts, who stated that the Girls Scouts “partner with many organizations” including “Planned Parenthood.”

“If the Girl Scouts do not approve of the sex guide that they made available at their conference, they should say so. If they do not approve of the brochure and its message, they should say so,” Ruse concluded. “The Girl Scouts have an obligation to their members, to the girls and their parents to disassociate themselves from this dangerous Planned Parenthood sex guide for teenagers.”

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Pastoral letter from Pope to Irish Church confirmed for Saturday release

Vatican City, Mar 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The text of the Pope’s pastoral letter will be made public on Saturday, March 20 at noon, according to an announcement on Thursday from the Holy See’s Press Office.

The letter to the Catholics of Ireland is greatly anticipated by the lay faithful and clergy of the Irish Church after the details of sexual abuse cases came to light in the Murphy Report, released last Nov. 26.

It was announced on Dec. 11, after a meeting with Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, that Benedict XVI would be writing the letter. The two leaders of the Irish Catholic Church had gone to Rome to discuss the contents of the Murphy Report with the Holy Father.

Cardinal Brady, head of the Irish bishops, welcomed the letter this week in his St. Patrick’s Day homily, saying he was looking forward to it as an “important source” for a “new beginning” and renewal in the Catholic Church of Ireland.

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Pope Benedict calls for renewal of business world with human principles

Vatican City, Mar 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The current economic crisis provides opportunities for the marketplace to find new and better ways of doing business, the Holy Father said to a group of businessmen meeting with him at the Vatican on Thursday. A “humanism” based on the knowledge of our role as individuals and a community in God’s one family, he told them, is needed to establish a “more competitive and civil marketplace.”

Speaking of the current crisis which has put economic and productive systems to the test in many countries, the Holy Father said that despite this situation, we should live these moments with “trust, because it can be considered an opportunity.” He referred specifically to the economic struggles as a time for a “revision of development models and of a new organization in the world of finance, a ‘new time’ ... of profound rethinking.”

Pope Benedict repeated the importance of one of the lessons in his most recent encyclical, “Caritas in veritate,” emphasizing that putting the person at the center of the economy is crucial and that  ethical and spiritual concerns should be favored over those of strictly material and technical nature.

“Moreover,” the Pope continued, referring to his call for a reform of the U.N., “while recommending that politics not be subordinate to financial mechanisms, I encouraged the reform and creation of an international juridical and political order (adapted to global structures of economy and finance) in order more effectively to achieve the common good of the human family.”

Further into his address, he reaffirmed the Church’s position as a promoter of “access to a decent job for all,” which is “a good for man, for the family and for society” as well as “a source of freedom and of responsibility.”

Business people, he said, are “obviously involved” in reaching these goals, being “particularly encouraged in the work in service of society and the common good.”

Pointing out the difficulty today for small and medium-sized businesses in securing financing, Benedict XVI said, “it’s important to know how to defeat that individualistic and materialistic mentality that suggests removing investments from the ‘real economy’ to favor the employment of capital in financial markets, in view of easier and quicker earnings.”

The Holy Father also took time to highlight elements of “the surest way” to combat economic decline, He named, networking with other “social realities,” investing in research and innovation, avoiding unfair competition, remaining true to social duties and providing incentives for quality production that caters to “real needs of people.”

Calling to mind businesses that have been able to weather the crisis by adhering to “moral behaviors” and being aware of local needs, he said that businesses can be “vital and produce ‘social wealth’ if the businessmen and managers are guided by a far-sighted view, that prefers investment in the long term to speculative profit and that promotes innovation instead of thinking of accumulating riches only for itself.”

"Business people attentive to the common good are always called to see their activity in the framework of a pluralistic whole. Such an approach generates - through personal dedication and a fraternity expressed in concrete economic and financial decisions - a market that is more competitive and, at the same time, more civil, animated by a spirit of service.”

A “humanism,” said the Pope, “born of the knowledge of being called as individuals and a community to form part of the single family of God” is required to put this into practice.

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'Bella' actor and 7,000 young people promote chastity in Guatemala

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Mar 18, 2010 (CNA) - During the First Congress for Catholic Youth in Guatemala, more than 7,000 young people, together with Mexican actor Eduardo Verastegui, promised “to work for the virtue of purity” and "lead a chaste life.”

According to a press release, young people packed the Domo Coliseum in Guatemala City and began the event with a procession, followed by a Marian consecration.

The thousands of young people then spent time in Eucharistic adoration, led by Congress chaplain Father Axel Sanchez, who “blessed brown scapulars and rosaries that were later distributed to participants.” Afterwards, “Eduardo Verastegui, kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament, said the chastity promise prayer with the young people.”

The Mexican actor then shared his conversion story, his personal commitment to live in purity, and challenged the young people to “follow God’s commandments and be saints of the third millennium.”  He also recalled the words of Mother Teresa who said, “God does not ask us to be successful, he asks to be faithful.”  

Likewise, Mexican soap-opera actress, Karyme Lozano, shared her own conversion experience and why she “abandoned her successful career to live a consistent Christian life according to the teachings of the Church.”

The young people celebrated Mass with Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Apostolic Nuncio to Guatemala, who was joined by various Guatemalan bishops.

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Catholic sisters denounce fellow religious for directly opposing Church on health care

Washington D.C., Mar 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

In a statement on Wednesday, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) spoke out against a statement from a group of religious sisters in support of the Senate health care bill that made headlines yesterday. CMSWR underscored that endorsement of the bill is “directly” opposed to the U.S. bishop's stance on health care reform.

NETWORK claimed in a March 17 letter to the House of Representatives that it represents 59,000 women religious across the U.S. and urged members of Congress to “cast a life affirming 'yes' vote” for the Senate health care bill.

“The health care bill that has been passed by the Senate and that will be voted on by the House will expand coverage to over 30 million uninsured Americans,” the NETWORK letter states. “While it is an imperfect measure, it is a crucial next step in realizing health care for all.”

The sister's letter continues to say that “despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions.” The letter also claims that the Senate bill “will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments – $250 million – in support of pregnant women. This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it.”

In response to these claims, Mother Mary Quentin Sheridan of the CMSWR noted, “In a March 15th statement, Cardinal Francis George, OMI, of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke on behalf of the United States Bishops in opposition to the Senate’s version of the health care legislation under consideration because of its expansion of abortion funding and its lack of adequate provision for conscience protection.”

“Recent statements from groups like Network, the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) directly oppose the Catholic Church’s position on critical issues of health care reform,” Mother Mary Quentin asserted.

Citing her support of the bishops stance on health care reform, Mother Mary Quentin stated that “The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the second conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious in the United States, believes the Bishops’ position is the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church.”

Mother Sheridan concluded her remarks by underscoring that the “Protection of life and freedom of conscience are central to morally responsible judgment. We join the bishops in seeking ethically sound legislation.”

The CMSWR represents over 103 women religious communities and 10,000 members across the U.S. Though Network claimed to represent 59,000 women religious in their letter, there are in fact only 59,000 total women religious in the U.S, according to CARA.

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Cuban dissident: Government lying about case of political prisoner

CNA STAFF, Mar 18, 2010 (CNA) - In an interview with CNA, the president of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba, Oswaldo Paya, offered encouragement to those struggling for democracy in the country and accused the government of spreading lies about the recent death of prisoner of conscious, Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Referring to the plight of prisoners of conscience, Paya remarked that they “are treated like common prisoners” and are “abused and harassed” right in front of government officials.

These prisoners are held “often far from their families, in conditions of extreme overcrowding, with barely enough water to drink,” said Paya adding that they “have to use paper or bags when they go to the bathroom.”

These conditions they face are in addition to the “systematic beatings and abuse they receive, such as the case was with Orlando Zapata,” Paya said.

Speaking about Zapata, who recently died, Paya explained that he was first sentenced “to three years in prison,” and after being “subjected to arbitrary trials” he was “sentenced to 36 more years.”

Because of this oppression, he said, “Zapata declared a hunger strike.  He was put in a prison, in a cell that was truly like a cage. We even received reports that they left him without any water for several days.”

Paya said hunger strikes are sort of an “act of desperation because the prisoner has no other recourse and for this reason his demands must be supported.”  When “a prisoner declares a hunger strike we must ask that his demands be met, which is different than the lies that the Cuban government has spread that are an insult to people’s intelligence.  We must ask for a more decent treatment, for more respect of the human being.”

He then reported there are some 200 political prisoners in Cuba, and that the government paints them as dangers to society in order to avoid the appearance of incarcerating them for political reasons.  “They are considered to be delinquents and agents of imperialism ... In this case the political motives were the defense of human rights, the proposal for peaceful change, the denunciation of human rights violations, the organizing of peaceful civic movements to promote dignity, rights and information.”

“This is what Stalin, Hitler, Franco, Pinochet, Saddam Hussein did, and it’s what the government of Fidel and Raul Castro are doing,” Paya said.

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Christian solidarity includes listening to and praying with quake victims, affirms Caritas Chile

Santiago, Chile, Mar 18, 2010 (CNA) - President of Caritas Chile, Bishop Manuel Camilo Vial Risopatron, recently noted that in addition to providing for the material needs of the Chilean earthquake victims, Caritas is also addressing the suffering each person is facing.

Bishop Camilo stressed that "we are attempting to accompany our work with the most profound aspects of our faith in Christ. Our efforts do not simply include receiving, processing and distributing boxes of needed goods. We are also making an effort to listen to those who need to share the suffering they have experienced and that they continue to experience with the aftershocks.”

The bishop noted that Caritas has been meeting with the victims and discussing what they love and value in their lives.  “We also talk to them about God, to whom they owe much gratitude, but still have many profound questions about.”

“Christian solidarity does not stop at providing food and shelter. It also provides time to listen, to embrace one another, and to pray together,” the bishop added.

The bishop then thanked the thousands of volunteers from parishes, colleges, movements, universities and other institutes of the Church who have made their services available to Caritas. They have subsequently accompanied people who are suffering, collected goods and have distributed them into the hands of suffering families.”

"The dignity of these people is the major concern of the Church ... We want to infuse the human spirit with respect, joy, and dignified assistance which will be truly helpful to the vulnerable situation these people are living in,” he added.

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USCCB: Dissenting women religious 'grossly overstate' support on health care

Washington D.C., Mar 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A letter of support for the Senate health care bill from NETWORK, a women's religious group claiming to have the support of 59,000 sisters in supporting the current Senate health care bill, has caused the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to state that the group “grossly overstated” the number of sisters who endorse their position.

In a recent letter to the House of Representatives, NETWORK said it represents 59,000 women religious across the U.S. and urged members of Congress to “cast a life affirming 'yes' vote” to the Senate health care bill. Wednesday's letter also stated that “despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions” and  “will uphold longstanding conscience protections.”

Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, director of Media Relations at the USCCB, stated on Thursday afternoon that “the recent letter from Network, a social justice lobby of sisters, grossly overstated whom they represent in a letter to Congress that was also released to media.”

“Network’s letter, about health care reform, was signed by a few dozen people, and despite what Network said, they do not come anywhere near representing 59,000 American sisters,” Sr. Walsh clarified.

“The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice,” she added. “There are 793 religious communities in the United States.”

“The math is clear. Network is far off the mark,” the U.S. bishops' spokeswoman concluded.

NETWORK's letter has also received criticism from the head of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, Mother Mary Quentin Sheridan, who charged that the group “directly opposed” the position of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on health care reform. Cardinal Francis George issued a statement on Monday that denounced the current Senate health care bill and outlined its problems,  including its funding of abortion and lack of conscience protections.

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Concert to be given for Pope on feast of his namesake

Vatican City, Mar 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Prefecture of the Pontifical Household has organized a concert in honor of the Pope for the feast of St. Joseph, his namesake. A string quartet and an accomplished mezzosoprano vocalist will be at the Vatican to celebrate his “name day.”

On the program for this Friday is a modification of Joseph Haydn’s original work “The Last Seven Words of Christ on the Cross,” which is to be presented in a new version called “In the manner of Haydn” by Spanish composer Jose Peris Lacasa.

Sixteen musical pieces will be offered over the course of a little more than an hour, performed by the Henschel String Quartet and mezzosoprano Susanne Kelling, all from Germany.

The official program from the Pontifical Household presents the quartet as “one of the most acclaimed string quartets of the contemporary scene” for their success both in Europe and internationally.

Susanne Kelling has performed in theaters across Europe and offered recitals in many of the major cities. Her appearances around the globe have been “critical and public successes,” according to the program.

The reworking of Haydn’s “Last Seven words” by Lacasa unites originally separate Latin texts to its seven sonatas. The new version was first performed in 2008 during Holy Week in the Spanish Royal Court.

Following the concert Pope Benedict XVI will give an address to all those assembled in the Clementine Room of the Apostolic Palace for the performance.

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Objectors to required Spanish course take case to EU Court

Madrid, Spain, Mar 18, 2010 (CNA) - Jose Luis Bazan of Professionals for Ethics announced during a press conference this week that 300 conscientious objectors to the Socialist course, “Education for the Citizenry” have filed 105 lawsuits in the EU Court against the Spanish government for violating “the fundamental rights of parents and their children.”

The organization announced that the plaintiffs will require that “provisional measures be adopted” to restrict the Spanish government from forcing children “to take the Education for the Citizenry course.”

According to Professionals for Ethics, the plaintiffs are appealing to the European Convention on Human Rights and are demanding “compensation for moral damages.”  The group has also petitioned the EU Court to “require the Spanish State to respect ideological neutrality in the educational system to prevent future violations of rights.”

“Spanish families have been forced to appeal to the EU Human Rights Court in response to the obvious lack of will on the part of the Spanish State in a conflict that has lasted for years,” Bazan said.

“The defense of the fundamental rights of the person should come before the ideology upheld by a government that does not respect the ideological freedom of its citizens,” he stressed.

Inmaculada Lopez, whose three children have objected to the course, stated that, “Neither the government of Spain nor the regional governments have given us any other option to educate our children according to our moral and religious convictions.”

The lawsuit, which is being filed by lawyers from the Alliance Defense Fund and Professionals for Ethics, will be submitted on March 19 in Strasbourg, France.

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No bishops involved in cases of sex abuse in Brazil, Vatican spokesman clarifies

Rome, Italy, Mar 18, 2010 (CNA) - As cases of sexual abuse by clergy and religious within the European Church have manifested themselves in five different countries, news of more abuses has come to light in South America. Three priests have been suspended for their involvement in alleged homosexual activities in a diocese of eastern Brazil.

Investigations were acknowledged on Tuesday when Holy See spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, released a statement through Vatican Radio affirming concretely that no bishops were involved in the cases.

Reports from Brazil had mistakenly tied the activities to bishops, as they also carry the title of "monsignor" there.

The situation was made public in the Latin American nation this week when a video was run on Brazil's SBT Television Station that allegedly shows 82-year old Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa involved in sexual relations with a 19-year old man.

According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, after the show was aired, he and two other priests from the Diocese of Penedo, Msgr. Raimundo Gomes and Fr. Edilson Duarte, were suspended by Bishop Valerio Breda for possible homosexual acts.

The AP reported Fr. Lombardi as having said that two of the priests had been suspended and the third has been removed from his parish and is facing civil charges.

Italy's La Stampa newspaper cited Church and police sources explaining that the three had been under investigation by the local police for having abused children in a choir over the course of many years. In an article on Thursday, they reported that the video was taken by a 21-year old who claims that he was abused by Msgr. Marques Barbosa when he was 12.

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Health care bill could force people to pay for abortion, bishops’ spokeswoman says

Washington D.C., Mar 18, 2010 (CNA) - Lacking strict rules on abortion funding, the Senate health care bill will allow subsidized insurance companies to force people to pay for “morally repulsive” abortion services, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. bishops, has charged.

She added that the health care bill currently under consideration would limit health plan options for those who want a plan that does not cover abortions.

“That could happen under the Senate bill, if your child has asthma and the best specialist is not in the one health plan in your state that excludes abortion services. To get your child to that specialist, you'd have to ante up for the abortion fund in the plan,” Sr. Walsh said in a March 17 column for the Washington Post’s “On Faith” section.

She accused the Senate legislation of “shying away” from the Hyde Amendment, which prevents the use of federal money to pay for elective abortions and for health care plans that include the procedures.

While the U.S. House version of the bill incorporated Hyde language which helped ensure passage of the bill, the Senate version did not.

“Why would any member of Congress want to use health care reform to promote elective abortion?” asked Sr. Walsh. “And why has the Senate designed a system that lets insurance companies force people to pay for abortion services they do not want and find morally repulsive - and gives federal subsidies to those companies to help them do it?”

“Those who insist on expanding abortion rights through health care legislation are willing to sink health care reform and with it the hopes of desperate people,” she continued, charging that abortion proponents want to expand abortion “as far as possible regardless of consequences.”

According to Sr. Walsh, such policies are promoted by Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women (NOW). She quoted NOW president Terry O’Neill as saying “We will never stop fighting for the right of every woman to have equal access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion.”

This position, Sr. Walsh noted, “does not benefit women at their earliest stage of life.”

She rejected efforts to “blame the Church” for the impasse over health care reform, denying claims that the U.S. bishops have threatened to “bring down the health care bill.”

“What the bishops have said is that for health care reform they would live with the status quo, where the government does not pay for abortions or abortion-containing health plans, but people who want abortion coverage can purchase it with other funds.”

“The Hyde Amendment has been satisfactory for America for almost 35 years. Why not incorporate it into health care reform legislation now?” she wrote in the Washington Post.

“The Hyde Amendment saves taxpayers from the ignominy of seeing their tax money used to end innocent lives. A wise leadership would adopt Hyde in a minute, and move on to creating a reformed health care plan with an abortion position people already have shown they can live with.”

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Confirmation of lesbian as Episcopal bishop causes regret in Canterbury

Los Angeles, Calif., Mar 18, 2010 (CNA) - On Wednesday, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles reported the approval of the election of Mary Douglas Glasspool as their first openly partnered lesbian assistant bishop. The decision drew sharply contrasting reactions from those within the Episcopal community, including dissatisfaction from the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Glasspool, 56, was elected bishop in December of last year but had to wait for consent from the Office of the Episcopal Church, which was confirmed yesterday. Upon hearing of her election confirmation, Glasspool was reported by the LA diocese as being “overjoyed” and “profoundly grateful.”

“I am also aware that not everyone rejoices in this election and consent, and will work, pray, and continue to extend my own hands and heart to bridge those gaps, and strengthen the bonds of affection among all people, in the Name of Jesus Christ,” Glasspool said on Wednesday.

Bishop John Bruno of Los Angeles issued a statement praising the confirmation of both Glasspool and colleague Diane Jardine Bruce as assistant bishops, saying that the standing committees and bishops involved “have joined the Diocese of Los Angeles in recognizing and affirming the many gifts and skills of these highly qualified and experienced clerics.”

On Thursday, however, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams emailed a statement to the Episcopal News Service from Lambeth Palace, saying, “it is regrettable that the appeals from Anglican Communion bodies for continuing gracious restraint have not been heeded.”

Archbishop Williams had previously reacted in December to Glasspool's initial election and said at the time that “the outcome of the consent process would have important implications for the communion” and that “(f)urther consultation will now take place about the implications and consequences of this decision.”

Bishop David C. Anderson, President and CEO of the American Anglican Council, issued a statement echoing the concern of the Archbishop of Canterbury and going one step further. “What this means is the majority of The Episcopal Church's leaders - down to the diocesan level throughout America - are exercising no restraint as requested by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the primates of the Anglican Communion.”

“Despite pleas to the contrary, they have given their consent for a partnered lesbian to become a bishop, not just for Los Angeles, but for the whole church,” the bishop added.

“Unfortunately,” he continued, “this comes as no surprise because The Episcopal Church, at its General Convention this summer, voted in favor of allowing dioceses to determine whether they will conduct same sex blessings using whatever rites they deem appropriate. Even if The Episcopal Church should eventually decide to sign an Anglican Covenant, it has shown time and time again that it will not abide by traditional Christian and Anglican Communion teaching on marriage and sexuality.”

Jeff Walton, director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy's Anglican Action Program, also weighed in on the issue Thursday. “Glasspool's election is unfortunate because she has unapologetically taken sexual expression outside of the God-ordained boundary of Holy Matrimony. In the view of the wider Anglican Communion, this practice makes her unqualified to serve in the role of a bishop.”

Walton added that “Glasspool's election is the next step in the Episcopal Church's liberalizing trajectory. After revoking a moratorium on the consecration of non-celibate homosexual bishops during its July General Convention, the denomination made clear that it was going to proceed on this route, despite protests from other Anglicans.

“Consent to Glasspool's election by the Episcopal Church shows how little the U.S. - based denomination cares about what other parts of the global Anglican Communion believe,” asserted the IRD director, adding, “The majority of the Episcopal Church is increasingly practicing a separate faith than what most worldwide Anglicans practice.”

Walton also noted that “Glasspool's election and consecration comes at the same time as the Episcopal Church reports steep declines in attendance. Interestingly, the traditionalist Anglican Church in North America (AC-NA) has added 100 new congregations since July.” 

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