Spokane, Wash., Mar 31, 2010 (CNA) - The Cardinal Newman Society reported on March 30 that Gonzaga University is upholding its ban on the controversial play “The Vagina Monologues” being performed at the Washington school.
Gonzaga University's interim president, Dr. Thayne McCulloh, decided on March 19 to uphold the 2002 ban of the Monologues when students led by a faculty sponsor from the school's Women's and Gender Studies proposed bringing the play to the Spokane campus this year.
“As many Catholic colleges and universities work to renew and strengthen their Catholic identity, your decision not to reverse Gonzaga’s policy reassures Catholic families that Gonzaga continues on that path,” wrote Cardinal Newman Society president Patrick J. Reilly to Dr. McCulloh. “Thank you!”
In 2002, then-president of Gonzaga Fr. Robert Spritzer banned the Monologues along with the school's Board of Trustees who supported the priest's decision after taking a vote on the issue. In a press release on Tuesday, the Cardinal Newman Society called the play “vulgar” and said that it positively describes lesbian activity, and ultimately reduces “sexuality to selfish pleasure.”
Those in support of the Monologues held protests on campus March 19, with some duct taping their mouths and holding signs that read “I am a Catholic and I support 'The Vagina Monologues,'” reported the school's Gonzaga Bulletin.
In Dr. McCulloh's email to the University community following his decision to uphold the ban, the interim president said that he “could not ignore the historical context that informs review of the current proposal” to bring the play to campus.
He also pointed out how significant it was that the Board of Trustees was involved with the ban in 2002 since they “rarely vote on these types of matters but when they do it is often considered a significant statement, and most frequently a statement of policy.” The interim president added that it is “obvious” to him that some of the Trustees see their earlier vote as “having affirmed not only the president's decision, but the institution's position, in relating to this specific production.”
The Cardinal Newman Society said on Tuesday that the organization V-Day has reported performances at Catholic colleges and universities of “The Vagina Monologues” are down to 13 in 2010 from 32 in 2003.
Merrimack, N.H., Mar 31, 2010 (CNA) - The Spring 2010 semester at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts is only Dr. William Fahey’s second semester as president of the school, but he has already rolled up his sleeves and stepped into his role as a Catholic leader and educator.
Fahey spent nearly a decade at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va. before he came to Thomas More College in the fall of 2007. Though he was “very satisfied” with the work done in the Classics Department at Christendom, “I had arrived at a point where I felt in my bones and I felt very clearly in moments of prayer that I was called to some further service,” Fahey told CNA. “And so, when the opportunity arose to assist at one of the great ‘counter-cultural’ or ‘alternative’ Catholic Colleges, I was excited.”
Two years later, the board asked Fahey, then-provost of the college, to become its third president, a role that has occupied his time almost completely. However, though early in his term, Fahey has made strides in improving the education and Catholicity of the College.
“The most significant change has been the review and development of the curriculum,” Fahey explained. “I was prompted by the Holy Father’s April 2008 Address to Catholic Educators in which he talks about the duty of all educators to strive to ensure students encounter Christ throughout the institution, in particular in their studies.”
While the curriculum review maintained much of its previous content, “one of the things that the College faculty all agree on is that we must never make the curriculum an idol,” Fahey recalled. “We won’t be radicals and revise it constantly, but we do always have to remind ourselves that the truth and the Catholic intellectual tradition are larger than any particular curriculum, college, or group of scholars.”
Throughout the whole review, and after it, the college has retained two of its oldest strengths: the Humanities and an understanding and defense of beauty. And it is this emphasis on beauty that makes Thomas More College unique. Noted Fahey, “It is one of the three great “convertible” attributes of God and all good things: truth, goodness, and beauty. To possess one, is to possess all, as the saying goes. Thomas More College always had this as part of its tradition.”
Because of this dedication to the pursuit and study of Beauty, students also “learn basic principles of Catholic art theology and practical artistic technique. They learn how to paint—or ‘write’ icons; they will also learn the basics of musical theory and learn to pray—in Latin and English, with chant—the Liturgy of the Hours,” Fahey explained. This love of beauty in sacred and secular art is matched by a love of Sacred Scripture and great literature. “We are the only College where students will carefully work through the canon of Sacred Scripture during the entirety of their four years along side with four years of reading the great classics of western thought.”
Another unique aspect of the college, is the fact that the president teaches classes as well as serves as an administrator. Fahey notes, “strangely, the teaching and administration combination is a good one for me. I should add that the College has something of a tradition there. The founding president, Peter Sampo, taught a full-load while presiding over the College for three decades.”
“Isolated from the classroom, I could never be a president,” says Fahey. “Quite frankly, I am not sure how presidents who are not teachers represent an institution dedicated to teaching and learning. This would be like a divorced man representing marriage.”
“It’s a modern notion that the President is a technocrat or development specialist. I suppose that is why most modern presidents hop from post to post every 3 or 4 years. They really don’t have any attachment to their own institutions. Without love of a community, you can’t serve it in a leadership role.”
Fahey was quick to note that his “quiet and simple” prayer life helps him considerably. “I try to pray the Liturgy of the Office sometimes according to the traditional Benedictine Office, sometimes according to the modern form in the morning and evening. I pray the chaplet of St. Anne on my ride to work, and we try very hard to pray a family rosary at night. Some weeks are good and I have a nice run of lectio divina too.”
St. Gregory the Great is Fahey’s patron. He explained to CNA that St. Gregory “was a contemplative, Benedictine scholar who kept finding himself placed in positions of authority, when he really just wanted to read, write, pray, and converse with friends and students. He writes quite explicitly on how to balance leadership with contemplation.” Because of the obvious inspiration for his own life, Fahey said he tries to spend a little time reading the works of St. Gregory at the beginning of each day when he can.
Though Fahey says he is an avowed amateur at most things and doesn’t really have any hobbies, he is devoted to his wife and five children, from whom he draws a lot of his strength. He also cited Pope Benedict XVI as a great inspiration. “I must say, I cannot believe how blessed the Church is in his Pontificate! I cannot keep up with his writings on education. It is just marvelous to be a teacher and College president right now!” exclaimed Fahey.
CNA asked Fahey if there is more that he would like to do. “Oh yes,” he responded. “The College needs to grow. At the moment we are limited, rather strictly, to about 100 students, but the plan is to grow to about 300. This will require a building and campus development campaign, future hiring, etc.
“My colleagues and I have our work cut out for us.”
Washington D.C., Mar 31, 2010 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced on Tuesday the 2010 Catholic Home Mission Appeal, which will urge dioceses around the country to “Strengthen the Church at Home” with their financial support.
The appeal will take place across the U.S. from April 24-25 and will focus on youth ministry as a special area of need within the Church.
“In youth ministry programs, young Catholics grow in faith and gain valuable leadership skills. Without this appeal, some poorer dioceses might not be able to sustain vital youth programs,” said Bishop Michael W. Warfel of Great Falls-Billings, and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions.
The USCCB reported on Tuesday that from 2003-2007, the Catholic Home Missions Appeal gave more than $2.25 million to 130 diocesan youth ministry programs.
The bishops' conference also explained that the Catholic Home Mission Appeal funds a variety of pastoral activities each year with emphasis on evangelization, religious education, ministry training for priests, deacons, religious sisters, and lay people, youth ministry and support for poor parishes.
Home mission dioceses often exist in rural or economically struggling areas with a lack of priests and lay people to sustain parishes. Around 90 of the 195 Latin and Eastern rite diocese in the U.S., approximately 45 percent, are unable to provide basic services for their parishioners without assistance from the Catholic Home Missions Appeal.
In 2009, a grant of $125,000 from the appeal enabled the Diocese of Lexington to keep nine parishes in Appalachia open by providing for priests, pastoral assistants and office staff. The appeal last year also supported nine seminarians in the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
Los Angeles, Calif., Mar 31, 2010 (CNA) - Responding to controversial media reports about Pope Benedict’s handling of abusive clergy, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, has praised “without hesitation” the future Pope’s quick and helpful response to allegations in the California archdiocese.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the future pontiff responded “quickly and affirmatively” to all requests for assistance from prelates in the United States during the year 2002 with reports about the American sexual abuse scandal.
Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF responded “swiftly” and advised how to proceed in cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Cardinal Mahony wrote on his blog.
“We never had delays or a lack of proper response,” the cardinal continued. He noted that then-Cardinal Ratzinger responded quickly and approvingly whenever he proposed a certain priest be laicized and no longer able to serve as a priest.
Recently the New York Times and other outlets have published reports questioning the case of a priest who sexually abused more than 200 students at a Milwaukee school for the deaf. The reports claimed the priest was “protected” from laicization in the 1990s by the CDF.
The accuracy of those reports has been challenged by figures like Fr. Thomas Brundage, the judicial vicar who oversaw the case. He said the reports are based on an incorrect letter from an archbishop and also do not understand that the Roman Rota, not the CDF, handled cases of sexual abuse until 2001.
Cardinal Mahony’s praise for Cardinal Ratzinger’s work continued:
“Without the proactive and helpful assistance of Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation over these years, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles would never have been able to move forward aggressively to remove priests from ministry who were proved to be guilty of the sexual abuse of minors.”
Without the CDF’s insights, the cardinal added, “many guilty priests would still be considered priests in our Church.”
Cardinal Mahony expressed gratitude towards the present prefect and staff of the CDF, saying they continue with the same visions and policies Cardinal Ratzinger set before he became Pope.
Those procedures and policies have helped the Archdiocese of Los Angeles resolve cases to “make certain that the Church is a safe place for all peoples, especially children and young people,” the cardinal wrote on his blog.
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 31, 2010 (CNA) - The spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, Fr. Hugo Valdemar, spoke in opposition to members of the Federal District Legislative Assembly last week who proposed to extend the operating hours of nightclubs. The prelate also criticized the Democratic Revolution Party for promoting this initiative which will "lead to youth, family and social tragedies."
"Once again, the Democratic Revolution Party is revealed as an evil party, destroying our values and colluding with the darkest of interests," the priest said in a statement.
Fr. Valdemar posed the question, "what interest is served through the unspeakable extension to the hours of these dens? How will the increased revenue of such places pay for the many deaths of the young and the pain and suffering that their families will endure?"
The statement also questioned, “can we justify the economic benefit that will be experienced by a few ambitious entrepreneurs at the expense of human life and the safety of citizens? Will the Assembly govern on behalf of the citizens or will they favor the economic interest presented by this initiative which, in turn, benefits them financially?"
The priest dismissed several arguments in favor of extending the opening hours of clubs. One such argument claims to defend the right of young people to enjoy themselves. The other claims that other cities around the world have longer operating hours.
Fr. Valdemar said that to compare Mexico City to other large cities “is either ingenuity or cynicism, because if our city is characterized by anything, it is characterized by noncompliance with the law and unrestrained corruption.”
Finally, he called on the public, of which seven in 10 reject the measure, to not tolerate "this attack on the integrity of the family, the safety of youth and of all citizens."
Rome, Italy, Mar 31, 2010 (CNA) - Noted Italian exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth, commented this week that the recent defamatory reporting on Pope Benedict XVI, especially by the New York Times, was “prompted by the devil.”
Speaking to News Mediaset in Italy, the 85-year-old exorcist noted that the devil is behind “the recent attacks on Pope Benedict XVI regarding some pedophilia cases.”
“There is no doubt about it. Because he is a marvelous Pope and worthy successor to John Paul II, it is clear that the devil wants to ‘grab hold’ of him.”
Father Amorth added that in instances of sexual abuse committed by some members of the clergy, the devil “uses” priests in order to cast blame upon the entire Church: “The devil wants the death of the Church because she is the mother of all the saints.”
“He combats the Church through the men of the Church, but he can do nothing to the Church.”
The exorcist went on to note that Satan tempts holy men, “and so we should not be surprised if priests too … fall into temptation. They also live in the world and can fall like men of the world.”
More on attacks on Pope Benedict:
Ave Maria, Fla., Mar 31, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Today, the fifth anniversary of the death of Terry Schiavo, Priests for Life will celebrate an honorary Mass and a day of prayer and advocacy on behalf of the vulnerable.
“On March 31, five years ago, Terri Schiavo died a court mandated and government enforced death,” said Fr. Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, on Wednesday. “I saw for myself, as I held her hand and prayed at her bedside, that this death was not ‘peaceful’ and ‘beautiful’ as euthanasia advocates want us to think.”
“Moreover,” he added, “as health care is placed more and more in the hands of the government, we have to be more vigilant than ever to protect the Terris of today and tomorrow.”
Schiavo, a victim of severe brain damage, died in 2005 when she was barred from receiving nutrition and hydration in by a Florida court order after a long legal fight between her husband and her family.
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, recently 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 in a Feb. 23 press release. 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.”
Vatican City, Mar 31, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
"We are living the holy days that invite us to meditate on the central events of our Redemption, the essential nucleus of our faith," said Pope Benedict at Wednesday's General Audience. The Pontiff then reviewed the upcoming rites of the Church and spoke of the significance of the Paschal Triduum as the "fulcrum of the entire liturgical year."
During the Paschal Triduum, a time which the Fathers of the Church also observed as a "new beginning," we are called to silence and prayer to contemplate the mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord, recalled the Holy Father.
We should live these days "intensely," he exhorted, so that they serve to "decisively orient the lives of each of us to the generous and convinced adhesion to Christ, (who) died and arose for us."
The Pope went on to explain the different rites that will mark the rest of the week: first calling to mind Thursday's Chrism Mass in which priests and their bishops come together to bless the oils and renew their vows. This act takes on a "special" importance this year, he pointed out, as it falls within the Year for Priests.
Thursday evening we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, he continued, when Christ "made himself truly present with his donated body and spilled blood which (is) the sacrifice of the New Covenant" and it also marks the constitution of Holy Orders.
On Friday, we remember the passion and death of the Lord, said the Holy Father, highlighting the wish of Christ to offer his life for the remission of the sins of humanity, "choosing ... the most cruel and humiliating death: crucifixion."
Jesus is "the key" to understanding the Last Supper, taught the Pope, which is the "anticipation of the transformation of violent death in a voluntary sacrifice, into an act of love that redeems and saves the world."
Then, there is the silence of Holy Saturday, which invites us to prayer, reflection and conversion to prepare us for the Easter celebration, continued the Pope, arriving "intimately renewed" to the song of "Alleluia that night." In singing we "announce the resurrection of Christ and proclaim the victory of light over darkness, of life over death," he explained.
Benedict XVI closed by inviting everyone to "live intensely this Holy Triduum" and extended his "cordial greetings" for a Holy Easter to all.
New York City, N.Y., Mar 31, 2010 (CNA) - Responding to Vatican analyst Sandro Magister’s article on the leadership of the Legion of Christ, two prominent former members of the congregation told CNA on Wednesday that Fr. Luis Garza LC, current Vicar General of the Legion, should be regarded as part of the solution and not the problem.
Fr. Richard Gill and Fr. Thomas Berg, two high profile former Legionaries of Christ now working in the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA that Magister, in his reaction to the Legion of Christ's official admissions concerning Fr. Marcial Maciel's double life, “makes valid points about the likelihood the Holy See will need to remove the current major superiors and appoint a commissioner” in order to make “needed reforms” and “purge the Legion of any taint of the legacy of Maciel.”
“The current superiors,” the priests note, “whether they had prior knowledge of, or were complicit in any way with Maciel's crimes are certainly compromised by their closeness to him and their inability to be honest about, and take corrective steps concerning his scandalous life from the time it became indisputably clear in 2006.”
They note that moving forward for the Legion, “requires new leadership and a new start with a spirituality free from the influence of a man who may in fact be the most seriously disturbed major Catholic figure in the 20th century.”
Nevertheless, the two former Legionaries argue that Magister goes “well beyond the available evidence” when he suggests the Vicar General, Fr. Luis Garza, LC is “mastermind of an evil conspiracy to consolidate control."
“Our personal experience has been that Fr. Garza was candid and forthright from the beginning about the issues generated by the Maciel scandals. It was Garza who investigated Maciel once it began to appear to him the Vatican's 2006 censure of Maciel was well grounded and discovered the facts. Garza later put forth a program of openness and reform that was unfortunately rejected by the other major superiors, a program which, had it been implemented at the time, would have saved the Legion much of its current distress,” Fathers Gill and Berg say.
Magister also notes in his article that Garza “is the creator and absolute master” of the “holding company that acts as treasury and administrative center for all the works of the Legion in the world, with assets totaling an estimated 25 billion euros.”
The priests defend the Legion saying that “all religious orders have assets in real estate and investments, and some larger orders no doubt have assets in the many billions of dollars. Why should this be surprising?"
They add, “The task of any reporter who suspects foul play is to demonstrate that this wealth is somehow ill gotten or is being misused for purposes that do not further the mission of the Church.”
“A reporter should avoid innuendo that creates an impression unsupported by facts he can document,” Fathers Gill and Berg conclude.
New York City, N.Y., Mar 31, 2010 (CNA) - Reacting to the slew of articles from media outlets attempting to incriminate Pope Benedict in past clerical sex abuse cases, the New York Daily News published an editorial today calling for a fair analysis of the facts about the Pope’s involvement with such cases.
Using extremely direct diction, the Daily News’ editorial states that “with certainty,” the belief that Pope Benedict enabled a pedophile priest to inflict great harm is “false.”
The editorial then refers to a recent column by the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, stating that she “took the accusations against the Pope, whose given name is Joseph Ratzinger, to their most extreme.”
Dowd’s commentary called the events surrounding the case of Milwaukee’s Fr. Lawrence Murphy “sickening news” and claimed that the then-Cardinal Ratzinger “ignored repeated warnings and looked away.”
“Again, and with certainty,” the Daily News writes, “This is false.”
The Daily News does concede that “there is much to criticize in the Catholic Church's abysmal failure for decades to take action against priests who engaged in sexual abuse. That history tends to lend credence to reports that the hierarchy has either turned a blind eye or engaged in coverups.” However, the editorial is quick to assert that, “While the Murphy case does exemplify the church at its worst, the grievous sins in this matter cannot be laid to Pope Benedict.”
As the Daily News’ editorial details the circumstances regarding Fr. Murphy’s habits of offending, it notes that his first crimes occurred in the 1950’s and continued until the church forced him into “temporary sick leave.”
“Those crimes, dating back half a century, took place decades before Ratzinger rose to high church positions in Europe. He could not have ignored repeated warnings, nor could he have looked away. He not on the scene at all,” the editorial asserts.
After analyzing the subsequent events in the Murphy case, the Daily News poses the question, “What exactly did then-Cardinal Ratzinger do wrong?”
“His office approved the trial and waived the statue of limitations. Those are not the makings of a coverup. At the same time, it's fair game to debate whether his office should have considered for a moment a plea deal, even on the verge of Murphy's death. But that's a far cry from vilifying Benedict as a man who took no action in the face of Murphy's evil or many years later tried to paper it over,” the editorial concludes.
Rome, Italy, Mar 31, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a statement released on the Vatican website, Cardinal William J. Levada charged that the recent media attacks on the Holy Father by the New York Times concerning sex abuse within the Church are “deficient by any reasonable standards of fairness” that American readers have come to expect from major media outlets.
Cardinal Levada, who is the current prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), began his remarks by addressing a recent New York Times article by senior columnist Laurie Goodstein which leveled charges against the Vatican's handling of a Milwaukee sex abuse case. The prelate also took issue with an accompanying editorial which echoed Goodstein's perspective.
“I am not proud of America's newspaper of record, the New York Times,” Cardinal Levada wrote.“Both the article and the editorial are deficient by any reasonable standards of fairness that Americans have every right and expectation to find in their major media reporting,” stressed the cardinal, who then discussed what he found to be most troubling in Goodstein's March 24 article.
Cardinal Levada recounted that in her report, Goodstein asserted that “newly unearthed files” have shown that the Vatican, in particular then-Cardinal Ratzinger, failed to respond appropriately to the case of Fr. Lawrence Murphy, a Milwaukee priest who abused some 200 deaf children in an archdiocesan school from 1950 to 1974. Goodstein charged that the future Pope, who was then head of the CDF, failed to respond to letters from Archbishop Rembert Weakland, head of the Milwaukee Archdiocese at the time, informing the CDF of the abuse. Goodstein also claimed that the CDF “halted” Fr. Murphy's canonical trial.
Archbishop Weakland, who has dealt with numerous personal scandals of his own, informed the CDF of the Fr. Murphy situation some 20 years after the abuse cases took place.
Though Cardinal Levada agrees that “failures” on the part on civil and local Church authorities may have taken place concerning the dismissal of Fr. Murphy, the “point of Goodstein's article, however, is to attribute the failure to accomplish this dismissal to Pope Benedict, instead of to diocesan decisions at the time.”
In light of these false attributions the Holy Father, “Let me tell you what I think a fair reading of the Milwaukee case would seem to indicate,” said Cardinal Levada.
“The reasons why church and civil authorities took no action in the 1960’s and 70’s is apparently not contained in these 'newly emerged files.' Nor does the Times seem interested in finding out why. But what does emerge is this: after almost 20 years as Archbishop, Weakland wrote to the Congregation asking for help in dealing with this terrible case of serial abuse.”
Despite claims by Goodstein that then-Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to Archbishop Weakland, “The Congregation approved (Archbishop Weakland's) decision to undertake a canonical trial, since the case involved solicitation in confession – one of the graviora delicta (most grave crimes) for which the Congregation had responsibility to investigate and take appropriate action.”
“Only when it learned that Murphy was dying did the Congregation suggest to Weakland that the canonical trial be suspended, since it would involve a lengthy process of taking testimony from a number of deaf victims from prior decades, as well as from the accused priest. Instead it proposed measures to ensure that appropriate restrictions on his ministry be taken. Goodstein infers that this action implies 'leniency' toward a priest guilty of heinous crimes.”
“My interpretation,” he continued, “would be that the Congregation realized that the complex canonical process would be useless if the priest were dying. Indeed, I have recently received an unsolicited letter from the judicial vicar who was presiding judge in the canonical trial telling me that he never received any communication about suspending the trial, and would not have agreed to it. But Fr. Murphy had died in the meantime. As a believer, I have no doubt that Murphy will face the One who judges both the living and the dead.”
Cardinal Levada further countered the New York Times by saying that “we owe Pope Benedict a great debt of gratitude for introducing the procedures that have helped the Church to take action in the face of the scandal of priestly sexual abuse of minors.”
“These efforts began when the Pope served as Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and continued after he was elected Pope,” Cardinal Levada asserted. “That the Times has published a series of articles in which the important contribution he has made – especially in the development and implementation of Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela, the Motu proprio issued by Pope John Paul II in 2001 – is ignored, seems to me to warrant the charge of lack of fairness which should be the hallmark of any reputable newspaper.”
The Cardinal further lambasted the Times by saying that as “a full-time member of the Roman Curia, the governing structure that carries out the Holy See’s tasks, I do not have time to deal with the Times’s subsequent almost daily articles by Rachel Donadio and others, much less with Maureen Dowd’s silly parroting of Goodstein’s 'disturbing report.'”
“But about a man with and for whom I have the privilege of working, as his 'successor' Prefect, a pope whose encyclicals on love and hope and economic virtue have both surprised us and made us think, whose weekly catecheses and Holy Week homilies inspire us, and yes, whose pro-active work to help the Church deal effectively with the sexual abuse of minors continues to enable us today,” Cardinal Levada concluded, “I ask the Times to reconsider its attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI and give the world a more balanced view of a leader it can and should count on.”
Washington D.C., Mar 31, 2010 (CNA) - Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) remarked today that the new health care bill is “a major step in the wrong direction” in defending the unborn. Concerned that the executive order on abortion funding will likely be overturned by the courts, he reported that the order may undercut its own claims to apply Hyde language to the legislation.
He added that the bill’s problems can be corrected before its changes go into effect in 2014 and should be fixed regardless of whether President Obama’s executive order functions as promised.
Rep. Lipinski, a pro-life Democrat who voted against the legislation, told CNA in a Wednesday interview that he is concerned the legislation is “a major step in the wrong direction in regards to protecting the unborn.”
Since the beginning of the debate on the bill, he said, he had insisted that Hyde Amendment language would have to be in the bill or in another statute applicable to the bill.
“If that was not the case, no matter what the rest of the bill looked like, I could not vote for it,” he explained. “I would not accept anything less than statutory language.”
The Hyde Amendment, named after the late Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), has restricted most federal funding for abortions and barred elective abortion coverage from federally subsidized health insurance plans. However, it did not explicitly apply to the health care legislation.
Congressman Lipinski voiced other concerns about the bill, saying it does not reform the health care system but addresses only insurance and not the “skyrocketing” costs of health care. Its Medicare cuts could have negative consequences for seniors, and in his view, the legislation is not “fiscally sustainable.”
Nonetheless, concerns about abortion funding were a leading motive for his opposition.
“It was clear that they did not want to change that,” he told CNA, speaking of the legislation’s backers. “I spoke out a lot on that.”
Asked about the executive order which claimed to apply Hyde language to the health care legislation, Rep. Lipinski said that in his understanding the executive order will “likely be overturned, or at least there’s a chance that it’d be overturned based on precedent.”
“If a federal law requires coverage of medical services, medical services include abortion unless law specifically says abortion will not be covered,” he explained.
The order “does not really have an impact” in affecting funding going to individuals to purchase an insurance plan that covers abortion.
Asked about claims the executive order applies to the health insurance exchanges, he said section one of the order does have language saying Hyde language extends to the health insurance exchanges.
However, he is concerned about the second section’s discussion of insurance exchanges’ compliance with the prohibition on abortion funding.
“There it really talks only about separating the funds,” the Congressman told CNA. He said this policy was along the lines of previous proposals which had been dismissed by pro-life groups and members of Congress.
It purports to “segregate” federal dollars from other funds and use those other funds to pay for abortion services in the plans.
“To me, the executive order is a little confusing on that. At first it does say it will apply Hyde to health insurance exchanges, but when it actually discusses what will be done, the implication is that Hyde only deals with direct funding for abortion.
“I don’t know how that will be interpreted. I assume that the more-specific section two, which explains how Hyde will be applied, what the interpretation will be, that is what it is. Not the entire Hyde Amendment.”
While “hopeful” that the order will stand, if it does not, opponents of abortion funding “should be moving forward,” he said.
“And even if it does stand, I think we should be moving forward to put that [order] into statutory language,” he explained. “We have a new opportunity, potentially, before the exchanges go into effect in 2014. That still gives us three more years at least, before they start, to make a change in the law.”
The executive order itself was secured by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) who had led a coalition of pro-life Democrats seeking statutory restrictions on abortion funding.
Last week Rep. Stupak told CNA the order’s restrictions on abortion funding were “ironclad.” He also claimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had “votes in her pocket” from other Congressmen who would have voted to pass the bill if needed. Though the final vote on the bill was 219-212, Stupak said the total available numbered 222.
CNA asked Rep. Lipinski about that estimate. He replied that Rep. Stupak was much closer to the negotiations than he was.
“I don’t want to say anything that would in any way impugn the motives of Bart Stupak,” he remarked.
“The day that all this happened, I went to Mass with Bart, I sat next to Bart that evening. I think he was trying to do what he thinks was best… He believes that this was the best that we could get on the pro-life side. And I’m not going to say that he was wrong, I’m just going to say that I had a different view of it.”
“And that’s where I’m going to leave it.”
He added that he did not like seeing “all these attacks on Bart Stupak, especially because he has been a leader.”
“And we need Bart Stupak to continue to be a leader on this pro-life issue, even or especially on this health care bill. If we are going to put in more strict federal funding [rules] on abortion, we in the pro-life movement, Democrats and Republicans, have to work together to get this done.
“Everyone’s going to have their opinion on who did the right thing. But in the end, we all need to come together and work together from here on out to help protect life.”
Congressman Lipinski explained that he is a pro-life Democrat because he believes there is an “important role” for government in helping people, especially in “protecting people in ways that no other institution can.”
“Democrats talk about protecting the individual and talk about the dignity of the individual. And because I believe life begins at conception, I believe that should cover everybody from conception throughout life to death. So I see that as being consistent with many of the other things that the Democratic Party stands for.”
While his pro-life position also originates in Catholic teaching, he said he believes it is “self-evident” from biology.
“You don’t need to be Catholic and you don’t need to come at it from a religious perspective to believe that life begins at conception and that we should protect life.”
While he has been a “target” for some people who do not think a Democrat should be pro-life, he said his Congressional district still has “a lot” of pro-life Democrats.
“I’m hopeful with the controversy that has occurred here that we do not see the pro-life movement start to fracture. I’m hopeful that members of Congress who are pro-life can stay together. No matter what anyone’s opinion is about who did or didn’t do the right thing on this vote, we all still need to work together and we are planning on getting together.”