Archive of March 24, 2010

CNA and EWTN launch joint news service

Denver, Colo., Mar 24, 2010 (CNA) - Catholic News Agency is pleased to announce it has entered into an agreement with the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). The new cooperation involves the sharing of news and resources to bring readers more Catholic news from around the world.

The new venture will be evident on both CNA's website and in the launch of a news website for EWTN, which can be found at
President and CEO of EWTN, Michael Warsaw remarked that the “new arrangement” will “greatly expand the news content available on our website ” and “will provide a tremendous service to our global audience.”

“When EWTN first launched our online service in 1996,” he recalled, “the Network was a pioneer in the use of the world wide web to deliver Catholic news and information.  This new project with CNA continues that history of using every means of technology to share the faith with people around the globe. “

Warsaw added that CNA has been providing news stories to EWTN for years, and for that their readers have “always been grateful.”  He explained that the “new collaboration allows us to greatly expand that effort,” and gives each organization an avenue to use its strengths to provide high quality, accurate reporting on matters of interest to the Catholic community and beyond.

“I believe this is an important step forward for EWTN, CNA and for the delivery of Catholic news around the globe,” Warsaw said.

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Clerical abuse reports being exploited to discredit Catholics, Elizabeth Lev charges

Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2010 (CNA) - A prominent Catholic writer says “selective” and “salacious” reporting of Catholic clergy in the aftermath of clerical sexual abuse scandals is being used to discredit a “powerful moral voice” in public debate. Acknowledging genuine abuse, she says present day anti-clericalism echoes the slanders of pre-Revolutionary France.

That view comes from Elizabeth Lev, an art historian who has written for Inside the Vatican, Sacerdos and First Things magazine. A regular columnist for Zenit, she is also the daughter of former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon.

“While no one denies the wrongdoing and the harm caused by a small minority of priests, their misconduct has been used to undermine the reputations of the overwhelming majority of clergy who live holy quiet lives in their parishes,” Lev writes at Politics Daily.

Lev sees parallels between the “sustained hostile attacks” on Catholic clergy in pre-Revolutionary France and present-day media depictions of the Catholic Church.

After the National Assembly in 1789 diminished the authority of the French King, fierce accusations against the Catholic clergy increased.

“Isolated cases of clerical immorality were magnified to make depravity appear endemic to the entire priesthood (ironically, in an age where sexual libertinism was running rampant),” Lev writes. “The French propagandists labored night and day, dredging the past for old scandals whether decades or even centuries distant.”

She cites the words of politician and writer Edmund Burke, who in 1790 noted these polemicists depicted French clergy as “a sort of monsters,” composed of sloth, fraud and avarice.

"It is not with much credulity I listen to any when they speak evil of those whom they are going to plunder. I rather suspect that vices are feigned or exaggerated when profit is looked for in their punishment,” Burke wrote, just as revolutionaries prepared for mass confiscation of Church lands.

Lev charges that “salacious” reporting on clerical sexual abuse is conducted as if the crimes were limited only to Catholic clergy. They have been given more prominence than present-day massacres of Christians in India and Iraq.

“It doesn't take the political acumen of an Edmund Burke to wonder why the Catholic Church has been singled out for this treatment.”

According to Lev, there are an estimated 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse in the U.S. Between 40 and 60 percent of these were abused by a family member, five percent were molested by school teachers, and fewer than two percent were abused by Catholic priests.

“But to read the papers, it would seem that Catholic clergy hold a monopoly in child molestation,” her Politics Daily article continues.

She sees behind the attacks on Catholic priests attempts to “destroy the credibility of a powerful moral voice in public debate.”

Media reports on sex abuse rose to a “frenzy” at the same time as the final vote on the health care bill was opposed by the Catholic bishops, she claims.

“To silence the moral voice of the Church, the preferred option has been to discredit its ministers.”

Burke saw the anti-clerical campaign as a temporary preparation for the “utter abolition” of Christianity by bringing its ministers into “universal contempt,” Lev says, remembering the hundreds of priests sent to the guillotine during the Reign of Terror.

“One hopes Americans will have the good sense to change course long before we reach that point,” her Politics Daily essay concludes.

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Prop. 8 opponents object to making disclosures already required of Prop. 8 supporters

San Francisco, Calif., Mar 24, 2010 (CNA) - Although the same actions have been required of their adversaries, opponents of Proposition 8 have objected to a federal judge’s ruling that they must turn over internal campaign materials to the lawyers of Prop. 8 supporters.

The successful California ballot measure which restored the definition of marriage is being challenged in court. The challenge is the first federal case examining whether reigning interpretations of the U.S. Constitution bar states from outlawing same-sex “marriages.”

On Monday U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker said sponsors of Prop. 8 were entitled to the information as evidence in their defense against the challenge to the ballot measure, the Associated Press reports.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Equality California, two of the groups affected by the decision, said they are reviewing the judge’s order to determine whether to appeal it. They had argued that the campaign materials were irrelevant and said it was unfair to burden them with the expense of searching through tens of thousands of old e-mails.

Geoffrey Kors, Equality California's executive director, said they believe the decision is incorrect.

"A core issue in the case is whether the motivation of those who put Prop. 8 on the ballot is animus. Why people opposed Prop. 8 is not relevant," he said, according to the Associated Press.

Protect Marriage, a sponsor of Prop. 8, has already been required to hand over similar materials to lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the case.

Judge Walker said Magistrate Joseph Spero had taken substantial steps to make the Prop. 8 opponents’ task easier. He said they failed to substantiate their argument that the magistrate’s order imposes an “undue burden.”

An appointee of President George H.W. Bush, Judge Walker is himself homosexual, the San Francisco Chronicle has reported.

The proceedings in the trial of Prop. 8 have been on hiatus because Judge Walker wanted to review the evidence before scheduling closing arguments.

On Monday he gave Protect Marriage’s lawyers until April 12 to submit their remaining evidence.

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Religious freedom does not require complete secularization, archbishop tells UN

Geneva, Switzerland, Mar 24, 2010 (CNA) - The leader of the Holy See’s delegation to the United Nations in Geneva has advocated a form of religious freedom that does not require “complete secularization” but sees religion as a “bridge” to human rights. He also criticized laws against “defamation” as vague and open to abuse targeting religious minorities.

Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, addressed the Human Rights Council on Monday. His remarks responded to the follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration.

“Increasing instances of ridiculing religion, of lack of respect for religious personalities and symbols, of discrimination and killings of followers of minority religions, and a generalized negative consideration of religion in the public arena damage peaceful coexistence and hurt the feelings of considerable segments of the human family,” he explained.

Religious freedom should protect the personal and collective exercise of faith and convictions, he continued. Furthermore, religious values are “a bridge for and to all human rights” by allowing a person to orient himself or herself to “what is true and real.”

Human dignity is “rooted in the unity of the spiritual and material components of the person,” Archbishop Tomasi added.

“The respect of everyone’s right to religious freedom does not require the complete secularization of the public sphere or the abandonment of all cultural traditions nor does the respect of freedom of expression authorize lack of respect for the values commonly shared by a particular society.”

He denied that the state can become “an arbiter of religious correctness” by deciding on theological or doctrinal issues, saying this itself would deny the right to religious freedom.

The prelate said the “vague concept of ‘defamation’” used to combat offensive attitudes towards religion moves way from the universality of humanity and is not a support for an effective and satisfactory solution.

“There is the additional real risk that the interpretation of what defamation entails may change according to the censor’s attitude towards religion or belief, often at the tragic expense of minorities,” he cautioned, stating that this is the unfortunate case in states that do not distinguish between civil and religious matters.

States that identify with a particular religion or a certain sect interpret defamation according to their own convictions and “inevitably” discriminate against citizens who do not share those convictions. The concept of “defamation of religion” will only lead to further oppression of religious minorities, he argued.

“The Holy See calls upon the member-countries of this respected Council to transform these unfortunate incidents of religious intolerance and the culture that underlies them into an opportunity for a new engagement to dialogue and for the reaffirmation of the right and value of belonging to a community of faith or belief,” Archbishop Tomasi concluded.

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Sr. Keehan receives presidential pen for supporting health care despite bishops' objections

Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2010 (CNA) - Sister Carol Keehan, President of the Catholic Health Association, has been awarded with one of the 21 pens used by President Barack Obama on Tuesday to sign the health care bill.

It is a presidential tradition to give out the pens used to sign the bill to lawmakers and proponents who have played a key role in any piece of major legislation.

“I have got to use every pen, so it’s going to take a long time,” said President Obama during the ceremony held at the White House's East Room.

Sister Keehan, who strongly supported the controversial health care bill despite the opposition of the U.S. bishops, was joined in receiving presidential pens by some of the most strongly pro-abortion members of the Congress:  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; Senator Dick Durbin, majority whip; Max Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee; Senators Tom Harkin and Christopher Dodd; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer;  James Clyburn, majority whip; George Miller, chairman of the Education committee; Henry Waxman, chairman of Energy and Commerce; Sander Levin, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee; John Dingell and Charles Rangel, former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

The list of pen recipients also includes Vice President Joe Biden; HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; Nancy Ann DeParle, health adviser to the president; Phil Schiliro, legislative liaison for the White House; Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy and President Obama himself.

During the ceremony, President Obama did not sign the executive order on abortion negotiated with Congressman Bart Stupak.  According to White House officials, Obama will sign the order in the Oval Office, in private, on Wednesday afternoon.

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Irish bishop apologizes to abuse victims and retires from post

Rome, Italy, Mar 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father officially accepted the resignation of Bishop John Magee of the Diocese of Cloyne, Ireland on Wednesday. The Irish Bishops’ Conference had already reassigned his powers and duties in March of last year.

Official news of the Pope’s acceptance of the bishops resignation request came at noon local time in Rome.

Following the announcement, Bishop Magee released a message through the communications office of the Irish bishops’ conference.

He expressed his “sincere apologies to any person who has been abused by any priest of the Diocese of Cloyne” during his time there or “at any time.”

He begged “forgiveness and pardon” of any person he has failed or made suffer through any omission.

The bishop repeated that he takes “full responsibility” for criticisms regarding management of cases of sexual abuses within his diocese that were brought to light on December 24, 2008 in a report from the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Among those who had been calling for his resignation for the mishandling of complaints of abuse was Irish Fr. Michael Mernagh, who drew attention to the matter when he staged a nine-day walk from the Cloyne diocesan see of Cobh to Dublin shortly after the report’s release.

Archbishop Dermot Clifford had been appointed by Pope Benedict as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Cloyne on March 7, 2009, in response to Bishop Magee’s request for relief from his duties. The bishop said that he had done so to be able to dedicate his time to cooperating with the Government Commission of Investigation on child protection procedures.

On Wednesday, Archbishop Clifford thanked Bishop Magee for his assistance over the past year and wished him “all God’s blessings” in his retirement.

Cardinal Sean Brady also acknowledged the “long and varied ministry” of Bishop Magee and expressed his gratitude to the bishop for two decades of service to the Catholic Church of Ireland.

He added that “foremost” among his thoughts, however, “are those who have suffered abuse by clergy and those who feel angry and let down by the often inadequate response of leaders in the Church.”

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Science and faith are not opposed, Pope Benedict teaches

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

A “friendship” exists between science and faith, said the Holy Father during his catechesis on Wednesday morning in which he spoke of St. Albert the Great, “one of the greatest teachers of scholastic theology” and the patron of those who study natural sciences. He used the saint’s example to urge young people to seek God’s guidance for their “life project.”

As a teacher, scholar and writer in the 13th century and “being a man of prayer, science and charity,” said the Pope, St. Albert “enjoyed great authority in his interventions, in various events of the Church and of the society of that time.”

There was “something of prodigious” about the culture of the Dominican, the Holy Father said, explaining that beyond philosophy and theology his “encyclopedic interests” included every other known discipline at that time including physics, chemistry, astronomy and even botany and zoology.

Pope Benedict said that this teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas still has much to teach us, particularly, he pointed out, “St. Albert shows us that there is no opposition between faith and science.”

St. Albert, the Pope remarked, “reminds us that there is friendship between science and faith, and that scientists can, through their vocation to study nature, follow an authentic and absorbing path of sanctity."

“A man of faith and prayer,” he was able to “ serenely cultivate the study of natural sciences and advance the understanding of the micro and macrocosm” and doing so “to nourish (his) thirst and love for God.”

His dedication to the sciences was not accidental. The Bible, pointed out the Holy Father, “speaks to us of creation as the first language through which God ... reveals to us something of himself.”

Referring to the Book of Wisdom in particular, he said that the “phenomena of nature, endowed with greatness and beauty” are affirmed, “they are like the works of an artist, through whom, by analogy, we can know the Author of creation.”

All scientists who are inspired in their work like St. Albert was, see a world that “appeared and appears as the good work of a wise and loving Creator,” the Holy Father noted.

“Scientific study is thus transformed into a hymn of praise,” he observed.

At the beginning of his address, the Holy Father had recalled St. Albert’s path to finding his vocation, following his calling from his native Germany to the Dominican order in Padova, Italy.

Drawing inspiration and a lesson for today’s youth from the experience of the 13th century saint, Pope Benedict XVI said, “often, in the years of youth, God speaks to us and indicates to us the our life project. As for Albert, also for all of us personal prayer nurtured by the Word of the Lord, the association with the Sacraments and the spiritual guidance of illuminated men are the ways to discover and follow the voice of God.”

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'Bella' star urges Paraguay to stand firm against abortion

Asunción, Paraguay, Mar 24, 2010 (CNA) - During a recent visit to Paraguay, Mexican actor Eduardo Verastegui met with members of Parliament and expressed his satisfaction that the country has not passed laws legalizing abortion.

Verastegui visited Paraguay at the invitation of the Thomas More Institute at the Catholic University of Our Lady of the Assumption. The institute had previously awarded the actor the Thomas More Award for his clear stance defending life and family, which has required great courage and strength.

They noted that his courage and dedication to life were clearly expressed in the making of the film “Bella,” which demonstrates the need to defend human life.

During his stay, Verastegui met with Ariel Oviedo, President of the Chamber of Deputies of Paraguay. He also spoke with parliamentarians who expressed their commitment to defending life by passing just laws promoting and defending the dignity of all people.

The Mexican actor and producer also met with the Archbishop of Asuncion, Estaquio Pastor Cuquejo as well as the Apostolic Nuncio in the country, Archbishop Eliseo Antonio Ariotti.  Verastegui told the archbishops that for decades, the Oscars were awarded primarily to great movies with religious and moral values. Now, it is time that Hollywood be restored to Christ, he said.

Verastegui also visited the “Casa Rosa Maria,” a center which ministers to pregnant women by providing them with psychological, medical and spiritual assistance during their pregnancies. He also met with approximately 3000 young people at  the St. Christopher sports center. During the event, Verastegui knelt and asked for forgiveness from all the women present for the times they had been hurt by men and for the times they were treated like objects.

Past recipients of the Thomas More Award include: John Paul II; Chiara Lubich, the Catholic founder of the Focolare Movement; and Fr.  Luigi Giussani, founder of the Communion and Liberation movement.

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Archbishop describes Pope’s response to abuse crisis as ‘strong and clear’

Tarrangona, Spain, Mar 24, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - Archbishop Jaume Pujol of Tarragona, Spain noted Tuesday that Pope Benedict's letter to the Irish Bishops regarding clerical sex abuse is “extraordinarily strong and clear.”

Speaking to the Catalonian news site CatalunyaReligio, Archbishop Pujol said that he is "very hurt" by the abuse, because “it has offended God and has caused great harm to many people."

In his opinion, the Pope’s response to the crisis was "extraordinarily strong and clear" and did not make “any type of excuses.”  The prelate also expressed the hope that a similar crisis would not occur in the Spanish region of Catalonia. However, he did note that, in this situation, Pope Benedict’s letter to the Irish Bishops "gives an explicit idea as to how the church should react.”

In order to prevent such situations in the future, Archbishop Pujol called for a strengthening of the commitment to chastity and the full observance of the commandments among priests and religious.

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Peruvian bishops criticize government's efforts to distribute morning-after pill

Lima, Peru, Mar 24, 2010 (CNA) - The Peruvian bishops’ Committee on the Family, Childhood and Life criticized the government’s stubbornness in pushing the distribution of the morning-after pill, despite the fact that the country's Constitutional Court ruled last year that the pill cannot be sold or distributed due to its abortifacient potential.

In a message, the committee also criticized the efforts of groups that are backed by foreign organizations and are driven by “a fury that human reason can’t explain,” to persecute those who are most defenseless on the basis of a supposed “right” of women.

These groups are driven by “foreign interests, and not our own,” the bishops' committee said.  The bishops warned that the groups “seek to make the Peruvian people think it is ‘modern’ to annihilate unborn children who, because of some deformation, are unjustly and arbitrarily discriminated against.”

The murder of the unborn has “silently and secretly moved from the mother’s womb to laboratory test tubes where in vitro fertilization and other assisted reproduction techniques are carried out, thus becoming another selective and discriminatory crime against these little brothers and sisters of ours,” they continued.

After warning that society “cannot have a solid foundation” if it scorns the lives of the weakest, the committee called on Peruvians to be on the side of the unborn and to be committed to protecting them from the incessant attacks of those who seek to annihilate them through all possible means.

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NASA technology to be used in preservation of Vatican manuscripts

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican Apostolic Library will be converting 80,000 of its manuscripts into a digital format to ensure their availability for future generations. The “grandiose undertaking” will make use of technology created by NASA to preserve and protect important documents.

This project is not one to be faced with a “weak heart,” wrote Monsignor Cesare Pasini, prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library in the pages of Wednesday’s edition of L’Osservatore Romano. As the director of the project, he expects around 45 million pages including text and pictures to be “digitalized” which will occupy 45 petabytes of memory.

Msgr. Pasini exclaimed, “that’s 45 quadrillion bytes!”

The project of “high and innovative value,” which the prefect estimates will take 10 years and involve over a hundred people in the final phases, aims not only to scan the documents into electronic format, but to ensure their “stability” for the future and facilitate their maintenance and management.

The project will reproduce images of the manuscripts using a scanner and a 50 megapixel camera to convert them into the NASA-invented Flexible Image Transport System (FITS) format. The NASA format has been used by the agency for decades in the storing and sharing documents related to space missions, astrophysics and nuclear medicine.

The Vatican Apostolic Library recently completed a two-year feasibility study that “digitalized” 23 manuscripts into five terabytes of memory space. Referring to that study, Msgr Pasini said that in comparison with the total scope of the project, the work that has been completed is little more than a mustard seed.

“But we know well that that seed contains an immense energy,” he noted.

“Welcoming the promise guaranteed in the parable, we would like to give hope also to everyone who waits for the fruits of the realization of this project.”

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Pope remembers Chileans after quake, highlights sanctity of life

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Earthquake victims in Chile and the sanctity of life were among the matters Pope Benedict touched on in the individual language greetings after the catechesis at Wednesday's General Audience.

Greeting the Spanish pilgrims in St. Peter's Square on a mostly overcast morning in Rome, Pope Benedict welcomed Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, Bishop Alejandro Goic Karmelic the president of the Chilean Bishops' Conference, and a delegation from the same country that had brought an image of the "Virgen del Carmen" for a blessing.

The Pope acknowledged the group and blessed the image "as a sign of affection to the children of that
country, that celebrates its bicentenary."

Benedict XVI added that he will continue to accompany them "in these moments of difficulty following the recently suffered earthquake."

The blessed image of the Virgin of Carmen will be taken to those places hardest hit by the earthquake, until it visits every diocese in Chile. The statue is being donated to the local Church by Pope Benedict and will be taken to the South American country on April 5 by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, according to L'Osservatore Romano.

Greeting pilgrims from Poland in their native tongue, Pope Benedict remembered the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord to be celebrated on Thursday, which in the northern European nation is also observed as the Day for the Sanctity of Life.

"The mystery of the Incarnation," he said, "reveals the particular value and dignity of human life.”
"God gave us this gift and sanctified it, when the Son was made man and born of Mary. We need to safeguard this gift from conception to natural death."

He concluded his message to the Polish pilgrims, saying, "With all my heart I unite myself to those who take on different initiatives in favor of the respect for life and for the promotion of the new social sensibility."

The Italian Bishops' Conference's SIR news agency reported on Tuesday that a "massive mobilization of pro-life movements" has been taking place in the week leading up to the celebration of Sanctity of  Life Day. Included among the demonstrations and prayer meetings this week was the 30th annual pro-life pilgrimage to Jasna Gora, a Marian shrine in south-central Poland.

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Holy Week calls us to be firm in faith, teaches Venezuelan cardinal

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 24, 2010 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, recently spoke to Venezuelans explaining that Holy Week is a chance for Christians to draw close to the Lord and strengthen their faith amidst attacks from secular society.

There are many threats to our faith and to the Catholic religion,” the cardinal said in a letter for Holy Week.”  The prelate also touched on secularism which, he said, aims to remove God from the public square and society.

“Our faith is also threatened by the scandals of some Church leaders, made known by the international press,” he said.  However, the cardinal continued, “we should remain firm in the faith, and live according to our status as children of God, disciples of Jesus Christ, and members of the Holy Catholic Church.”

Catholics should act contrary to the many who applauded Jesus as he processed into Jerusalem but later turned their backs on Him.  “We are called to always be faithful to Christ who gave His life for our salvation,” the cardinal said. 

“May the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus, the Divine Savior, encourage us, fill us with joy and strengthen us in our fight against sin.  May it lead us to become authentic Christians, with holy and virtuous conduct, worthy of those who believe in the Risen Lord,” he concluded.

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President Obama signs executive order barring federal abortion funding

Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - This afternoon President Barack Obama signed the executive order created to ensure that federal funds will not be used under the new health care law to pay for most abortions, mirroring the Hyde Amendment.

The executive order was signed by the president as part of a deal with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who voted for the health care bill after securing the assurance of the order. Stupak revealed in the wake of the negotiations that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had the votes to pass the bill without his bloc's support, and that the executive order was the best pro-lifers could do.

The order confirms that the long-standing ban on the federal funding of abortions—except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the woman's life—will apply to the Health Insurance Exchange and the funding of Community Health Centers.

The executive order has been criticized by the U.S. Catholic bishops and numerous pro-life groups as lacking teeth since the president could rescind it at any time or it could be struck down in court.

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Holy Father encourages youth to 'discover their vocation to love'

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a message for the inaugaration of the 10th International Youth Forum, the Holy Father reminded the 300 young participants from around the globe that "Learning to Love," the theme of the event, is "central in faith and in the Christian life." 

The forum, which runs Monday to Friday of this week in Rocca di Papa, Italy, offers sessions on love in several different dimensions, including as a vocation, a life choice, and regarding sexuality.

"As you know," wrote Benedict XVI, "the starting point of each reflection on love is the very mystery of God, since the heart of Christian revelation is this: Deus caritas est (God is love)."

The Pope continued, adding that it is in man's likeness to God that we understand the "profound identity of the person" and "his or her vocation to love.

"Man is made for love; his life is fully realized only if he has lived in love."

Benedict XVI exhorted the youth to "discover their vocation to love" which is "the key of all existence."

The Pope paid particular attention to vocations to the priesthood and to matrimony in his message. Of the priesthood, he wrote that "people consecrated to celibacy are also an eloquent sign of the love of God for the world and of the vocation to love God over all things."

Speaking of the "greatness and beauty" of matrimony, he underscored that "the relation between man and woman reflects divine love in a totally special way; therefore the conjugal bond assumes an immense dignity."

The forum will also include addreses by Archbishop Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, noted Jesuit psychologist Msgr. Tony Anatrella, and French secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Bishop Jean Laffitte.

Married couples from five different continents will also be on hand to offer their perspectives on Christian matrimony.

On Thursday evening, participants will answer the Pope's open invitation to youth to go to St. Peter's Square to celebrate World Youth Day 2010.  Then, on Palm Sunday they will be in attendance at Mass presided over by the Pope.

The International Youth Forum is held every three years.

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Rep. Stupak defends executive order on abortion funding

Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2010 (CNA) - Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) has defended President Obama’s executive order intended to bar taxpayer dollars from funding abortion under the health care reform legislation signed yesterday.

According to a Wednesday statement from Stupak’s office, the executive order says that the legislation “maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges.”

Stupak said the order has “the full force and effect of law” and makes “very clear” that current law barring funding of abortion applies to the new health care legislation.

“I have said from the start that my goal was to see health care pass while maintaining the principle of the sanctity of life. The president’s Executive Order upholds this principle that federal funds will not be used to subsidize abortion coverage,” Stupak claimed.

Citing previous important presidential orders, Stupak listed President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and President George W. Bush’s 2007 executive order restricting embryonic stem cell research.

The latter executive order, according to Stupak, “followed the principle of the sanctity of life, and was applauded and welcomed by the pro-life community.”

“That these same people would now claim President Obama’s Executive Order maintaining that same principle is not worth the paper it is written on is disingenuous,” he said, questioning why an order signed by President Bush is “applauded” but one signed by President Obama is “condemned.”

The Congressman reported that during the debate on health care legislation he had engaged in a colloquy with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman to “make clear and place on the record” that Congress intends the Hyde provisions, combined with the executive order, to ensure there is no public funding for abortion.

“This is an excellent Executive Order and a strong compliment to the health care reform legislation that was signed into law by President Obama Tuesday afternoon. I and other pro-life Democrats are pleased that we were able to uphold this important principle and vote for a health care bill that is pro-life at every stage of life.”

Stupak’s comments were released in response to what his office called “misinformation” about the executive order.

Many pro-life leaders have warned that the executive order will not be effective in restricting abortion funding or remedying other flawed aspects of the bill.

“The president cannot amend a bill by issuing an order, and the federal courts will enforce what the law says,” the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) commented on Sunday.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on Tuesday praised the “admirable intention” of the pending executive order, but said the fact such an order is necessary “points to deficiencies in the statute itself.”

“We do not understand how an Executive Order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions,” the statement said.

Rep. Stupak himself expressed a preference for statutory language in his Sunday afternoon press conference which announced the promised executive order and his support for the health care reform bill.

He also said if his pro-life coalition missed something in the bill, “we’re coming back with legislative fixes.”

The bishops have said they believe that new legislation will “almost certainly be required” to address “deficiencies” such as a lack of strong pro-life conscience protections and of statutory restrictions on abortion funding.

President Obama signed the executive order on Wednesday afternoon with Rep. Stupak and other lawmakers in attendance.

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Divide between bishops and sisters on health care ideological, says public policy expert

San Francisco, Calif., Mar 24, 2010 (CNA) - Fractures and a “deep ideological divide” within the Catholic Church in the United States have been exposed by the debate over health care reform, an official with the Archdiocese of San Francisco has said. He adds that although private tension has long been recognized, its exposure may be beneficial.

George Wesolek, director of the Office of Public Policy and Social Concerns with the archdiocese, delivered his analysis in a March 24 letter in the archdiocese’s paper Catholic San Francisco.

He wrote that while the U.S. Catholic bishops were critical of the Senate version of the bill because of its abortion provisions, its lack of coverage for immigrants, and its lack of strong conscience protections, several Catholic groups came out in support of the Senate bill.

The Catholic Health Association (CHA) and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) were among these groups. Some characterized the bishops’ stand as false.

“So now we have some nuns accusing the bishops of lying about abortion. Are you shocked? Don’t be because this has been going on for a long time,” Wesolek wrote.

Most of the leadership of the LCWR and the Catholic hospitals have been advancing “a view of Catholic social teaching that reflects a vision that they learned in the 60s and 70s.”

Wesolek charged that this view was “a tired feminism that distorts the role of wisdom” and supports the right to abortion.

“This view rightly offers deep concern for justice for the poor and vulnerable, but like so many in this age-group, minimizes or trivializes the unborn,” he explained.

The LCWR’s lobbying arm NETWORK does not include pro-life legislation as part of its work and if it uses the phrase “pro-life” at all it “distorts” the term to be so “ambiguous and far-reaching that it includes everything,” Wesolek claimed.

“Some have said that the sisters are taking this position because they have deep economic interests because of their hospitals. I disagree. Their rationale is ideological. I believe that they truly believe in health care reform … so much so that they are willing to trivialize the abortion issue and throw in their lot with the Obama administration.”

He pointed out that the group of sisters making these statements is relatively small compared to the number of sisters and communities of women religious in the U.S.

Wesolek noted that in contrast, 103 communities of religious sisters have issued a statement supporting the U.S. Bishops. He directed readers to U.S. bishops’ spokeswoman Sr. Mary Ann Walsh’s clarification of the religious sisters' statement in which she said the endorsement of the bill came from 55 signatories, not 59,000 sisters.

Wesolek said there was value in having the “private tension” within the Church become public.

“Like an angry boil, it is better to break open than to keep festering and growing,” his letter said.

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