Archive of April 13, 2010

Vatican prefect says religion in schools is the tool for understanding others

Vatican City, Apr 13, 2010 (CNA) - Last week at the 15th European Forum for the Teaching of Religion, the prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski described the importance of teaching religion in schools as a “privileged tool for understanding and accepting others.”

According to segments of the Vatican prelate's address delivered to participants of the forum and reprinted by SIR news, he remarked that religion must be recognized in education as a "genuine discipline, in dialogue with other subjects.”

In this light, he said, religion classes "will not hinder an authentic intercultural education, but will become the privileged tool for understanding and accepting others.”

However, he warned, “A teaching of religion that merely presents the different religions in a comparative or neutral manner can create confusion or relativism" and a mindset of indifference to religion in students."

In response to the great ethnic and religious diversity in modern-day Europe, Cardinal Grocholewski noted the importance of "a high-quality confessional teaching, capable of retaining the identity of the teaching, introducing the students to the understanding of the Catholic religion..."

Through this methodology, continued the prefect, the foundations will be laid "to raise confident identities, that will thus be able to communicate with the other religions as well."

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Complaints dropped against Maine school counselor who supported marriage

Portland, Maine, Apr 13, 2010 (CNA) - Last Friday, a state licensing board in Maine dismissed two charges against a high school counselor which were made due to his appearance in a Fall 2009 TV ad in  favor of Maine’s Question 1 – a proposition that secured the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Donald Mendell, a licensed counselor at Nokomis Regional High School in Portland, Maine, was the subject of a complaint accusing him of violating the state’s code of ethics for social workers because of his expressed position on marriage.

“The government should not punish people because they believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and because they say so during a political campaign,” said Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence, who helped defend Mendell.

“The licensing board was right to dismiss these complaints. The First Amendment protects the rights of citizens to speak out on important public policy matters being voted on by the people.

“State governments around our nation license many professions, including, doctors, pipe fitters, beauticians, real estate agents, and many others,” Lorence added. “The state rules governing licensed professionals should not be twisted to punish those who publicly advocate for marriage as one man and one woman.”

The Alliance Defense Fund explained on Monday that the complaints against Mendell were issued last year after the counselor was featured in a “Vote Yes on 1” TV ad. But both complaints failed to mention that the ad was a response to a “Vote No on 1” ad that also featured a staff member from Nokomis High. The complaints, says the ADF, made no mention of the teacher who made an appearance in the “No on 1” ad.

On April 9, the Maine Board of Social Work Licensure discussed the complaints and then voted 2-1 to dismiss them.

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Connecticut bishops warn against statute of limitations bill

Hartford, Conn., Apr 13, 2010 (CNA) - A Connecticut bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits in cases of sexual abuse targets the Catholic Church and could have a “disastrous fallout,” the state’s Catholic bishops have warned.

In an April 8 letter to all pastors, Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport and Bishop Michael R. Cote of Norwich asked for help in a campaign against House Bill 5473, which would make Connecticut the only state without a statute of limitations for the filing of sexual abuse claims concerning minors.

According to the letter, the state already has the longest retroactive statute in the U.S., with alleged minor victims allowed 30 years past the age of 18 to take legal action.

“Over the past several years in states that have even temporarily eliminated the statutes, it has caused the bankruptcy of at least seven dioceses,” the bishops wrote, according to the Catholic Transcript. “This bill would put all Church institutions, including your parish, at risk.”

The attempt to change the statute of limitations is reportedly tied to the claims of people abused by Dr. George Reardon, a deceased doctor who practiced at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford.

"While this legislation is aimed directly at this hospital, it also targets the Catholic Church across the state and has potentially disastrous fallout for all of us," the bishop’s letter says."The bottom line is that this is terrible public policy, discriminatory by its nature, and a huge threat to us all.”

A Hartford Courant editorial has opposed the bill, saying “hard cases make bad law.” The paper also pointed to questions about the hospital’s ability to defend itself against decades-old allegations.

“Records likely are gone, witnesses' memories may have grown unreliable.”

The Catholic bishops too warned of the bill’s flaws.

“The passage of this legislation could potentially have a devastating financial effect on the Catholic dioceses of Connecticut, including parish assets and those of other Catholic service organizations. We all realize the serious nature of these crimes. However, the passage of this law could result in claims that are 50, 60 or 70 years old, which are impossible to adequately defend in court.”

Opponents of the bill at a March 17 hearing before the House’s judiciary committee argued that it unfairly targets Catholics and other non-public entities because public institutions are protected from such lawsuits. Supporters of the bill spoke about the allegations against Reardon.

In their letter to pastors, the Connecticut bishops noted the Catholic Church’s zero-tolerance policy of sexual abuse and its outreach to victims.

“Ultimately the legislation would undermine the mission of the Catholic Church in Connecticut, threatening our parishes, our schools, and our Catholic Charities,” they wrote.

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Undercover video exposes abortion clinic misinformation about fetal development

Milwaukee, Wis., Apr 13, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new undercover video from pro-life investigators shows medically inaccurate abortion counseling at a Milwaukee Planned Parenthood clinic. A staffer tells a woman six to eight weeks pregnant that her baby has "no arms, no legs, no heart no head, no brain.”

The video of the taxpayer-funded clinic was released by Live Action.

Claiming that images of abortions are fabricated, the staffer says that an unborn child at six to eight weeks has no “identifiable parts” and is just “fetal matter.” The staffer also emphasizes the difficulties of adoption and urges the woman to obtain an abortion as soon as possible.

Wisconsin law reportedly requires women to receive medically accurate information before obtaining an abortion.

Live Action president Lila Rose charged that the new footage confirms deceptive practices at Planned Parenthood.

"Planned Parenthood has an abortion- first mentality that is driven both by ideology and the desire for money," Rose commented. "Since women will often choose against abortion if they learn the scientific facts about the unborn child inside the womb, Planned Parenthood distorts basic facts in an attempt to perform more abortions."

In December the pro-life group released a video taken at an Appleton, Wisconsin abortion clinic in which another counselor gives incorrect information. The group has called its effort to document deceptive abortion counseling the Rosa Acuna Project.

Live Action has also staged investigations exposing abortion clinics which do not report suspected cases of statutory rape as required by state law.

The group’s website is

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Head of Italian bishops praises Pope's efforts to cleanse the Church

Rome, Italy, Apr 13, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI is leading a “self-examination” of the Church to rid it of the individuals who are responsible for perpetrating or mishandling cases of pedophilia, according to the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) president, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.

Expressing his “shame and remorse” for the victims’ experiences, Cardinal Bagnasco vowed to pursue, “inside and outside the Church,” those who failed to bring sex abusers to justice.

During an interview published on Sunday in Italy’s, he was asked for his perspective on the recent media frenzy for and against the actions of the Holy Father and others Church leaders in their handling of sexual abuse of children by priests.

“Pedophilia ... is an odious crime,” he said, adding that “it’s also a scandalously serious sin” which in all cases is “aberrant” as it "betrays the educational relationship." When it involves a consecrated person, he said, “it acquires an even greater seriousness.”

In confronting cases of clerical sex abuse, Cardinal Bagnasco commended the “severe action” of the Pope in leading a self-examination of the Church that aims “to purify itself of single members that have painfully obfuscated its image and credibility.”

The president of the CEI acknowledged that these “cleaning” efforts which cooperate with the civil courts, “cannot erase the suffering and the disenchantment of the victims: children and youth that were betrayed in their spontaneous trust."

“To each of the violated persons, to their families,” he added, “I feel shame and remorse, especially in those cases in which they weren’t listened to by (those) who should have immediately intervened.”

The interview also included Cardinal Bagnasco’s responses to a great variety of questions on contemporary themes that affect Church and society in Italy. Among other things, he spoke of the important role that schools play in integrating immigrants, of the economic crisis which shows a social and cultural crisis, and of the “enormous potential” new media has for connecting people.

Cardinal Bagnasco also expressed the continued support of the bishops and “the entire Italian Church” for the efforts of Benedict XVI in the face of the "gratuitous and defamatory accusations” directed at him.

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Vatican announces members of Medjugorje commission

Vatican City, Apr 13, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Today the Vatican announced the individual members of the commission created by the Holy See to investigate the alleged apparitions in Medjugorje. The commission held its first meeting on March 26.

The International Investigative Commission on Medjugorje is being presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini and includes several cardinals and archbishops, many of whom serve on Vatican congregations or Pontifical Councils. These members include, Cardinal Jozef Tomko, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Archbishop of Vrhbosna, and president of the Bishops' Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina; Cardinal Josip Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb and vice-president of the Council of European Bishops' Conference; Cardinal Julian Herranz, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and Archbishop Angelo Amato,  prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The commission also includes specialists such as Msgr. Tony Anatrella, psychoanalyst and specialist in Social Psychiatry; Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, professor of Fundamental Theology at the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy; Fr. David Maria Jaeger, O.F.M., consultant to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; Fr. Zdzislaw Jozef Kijas, O.F.M. Conv., relator of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints; Fr. Salvatore M. Perrella, O.S.M., teacher of Mariology at the Pontifical Marianum Faculty of Theology and Fr. Achim Schutz, professor of Theological Anthropology at the Pontifical Lateran University as secretary. Msgr. Krzysztof Nykiel, an officer of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, serves as additional secretary.

Other experts participating in the commission's work include Fr. Franjo Topic, professor of Fundamental Theology in Sarajevo; Fr. Mijo Nikic, S.J., professor of Psychology and Psychology of Religion at the Philosophical and Theological Institute of the Society of Jesus in Zagreb; Fr. Mihaly Szentmartoni, S.J., professor of Spirituality at the Pontifical Gregorian University and Sr. Veronica Nela Gaspar, professor of Theology at Rijeka.

One notable omission from the group is the Bishop of Mostar Ratko Peric, whose diocese includes the site where the alleged apparitions have taken place.

When the investigative commission was announced, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said that the group will decide whether or not to communicate information regarding their findings. Nevertheless, he said, it can be assumed that it will be a “very discreet” project “given the sensitivity of the subject.”

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Vatican analyst denounces anti-Catholic media bias

Rome, Italy, Apr 13, 2010 (CNA) - Vatican analyst Andrea Tornielli published a column this week discussing the Associated Press' manipulation of a letter from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger which supposedly “proved” he covered up abuse by a California priest. Tornielli remarked that the media has a new bias: “The-Pope-Must-Be-Guilty.”

The AP article, published last Friday, was based on a letter signed in 1985 by then-Cardinal Ratzinger when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).  He was responding to a request by Bishop John Cummins of the Diocese of Oakland, California to remove priestly duties from Fr. Stephen Kiesle. At the time, Fr. Kiesle was accused of molesting two children in 1978.

The AP charged that then-Cardinal Ratzinger “resisted pleas to de-frock the priest.” In the letter, the Holy Father is quoted as saying that the case needed “careful consideration, which necessitates a longer period of time.”

Tornielli wrote: “As has been the case in recent days, the letter was presented as a case of ‘covering-up’ a pedophile priest on the part of the future Pope.”

However, Tornielli continued, a greater scrutiny of the context shows that at the time the Ratzinger-led CDF “did not have jurisdiction over cases of pedophilia and (Cardinal Ratzinger's) letter addresses the issue of laicization and not his trial.” He adds that “Ratzinger asked for more study of the case,” and "two years later, laicization was granted; and there was no cover-up of the guilty party.”

“What is most noteworthy is not that fact that these letters (Ratzinger must have signed many of them during his 23 years at the head of the former Holy Office) are published,” but that they are reprinted “again and again without any verification of context or procedures,” without “looking into the circumstances that would allow whoever is reading them to have a clue.”  This is what a “journalist is supposed to do.”

“I myself have made many mistakes in my profession throughout the years, and I don’t take any pleasure in lecturing or giving advice to others,” Tornielli said.  “But as a reader, I think we are dealing with a pre-established bias: The-Pope-must-be-guilty (perhaps for this reason they are trying to bring him to court) and it is through this lens that they are seeking out testimony and documents.”

Pope Benedict XVI has been leading the effort to address the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, he added, and it is “obvious” that the recent reports are an attempt to “discredit the moral authority of the Church and the Pope and weaken his message.”

“By this I am not saying we should minimize the scandals that we have all seen,” he added.

In an article for the Italian daily, Il Giornale, Tornielli also pointed out that American attorney Jeff Anderson was behind the AP story.  Anderson had previously made known his intention to continue filing lawsuits against the Church and that he has made millions from his efforts thus far.

Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi has not commented on the specifics of the letter, but noted on Friday that "The press office doesn't believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations.”

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Benedict XVI accepts no excuses for abuse, say Chilean bishops

Santiago, Chile, Apr 13, 2010 (CNA) - During his keynote address for the opening of the 99th Plenary Assembly of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, Bishop Alejandro Goic underscored the firm position of Pope Benedict XVI in response to cases of sexual abuse by the clergy, saying the Holy Father does not accept any excuses for these crimes.

During the address for which Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was present, Bishop Goic reiterated the Chilean bishops’ commitment to declare “with renewed conviction our joyful encounter with the Lord.”

He went on to thank Cardinal Bertone for his visit to the areas most impacted by the February earthquake. “You have been able to see that our people are on their feet, that hope has not diminished, that in times of anguish we are capable of working together, and that on this journey the Church’s leadership is present and permanent.”

Referring to the crisis of sexual abuse by the clergy, Bishop Goic said the Chilean bishops reiterate “our full communion with our beloved Universal Father and Pastor, who has reminded us with perfect clarity the evangelical direction we must take to treat these cases, which are always complex.  They do not cease to be of the utmost gravity despite being rare.”

“For this reason we unite ourselves to the will of the Pope, who does not accept any excuses or justification for the abominable sins which must be condemned and whose painful effects we must confront, clinging to the Lord, so that never again are little ones, the favorites of Jesus, hurt in the heart of the Church,” the bishop said.

“The clear firmness and consistency of the message and actions of His Holiness Benedict XVI are  proof of the path along which he leads the Church in response to these episodes."

Bishop Goic concluded by thanking Cardinal Bertone for the gift of the statue of Our Lady of Carmel, which the Pope sent to the Chilean people as a sign of his closeness and affection.

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Archbishop Chaput takes immediate action on sex abuse allegation in Denver

Denver, Colo., Apr 13, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Charles Chaput removed a priest from active duty in the Archdiocese of Denver the day after an allegation was made that the priest was involved in sexual misconduct with a minor in the 1970s. The archbishop noted in his column for the archdiocesan paper that some parishioners are frustrated at the speed with which he relieved the priest, who maintains his innocence in the matter.

In a letter read at weekend Masses at the various parishes where the accused priest served, Archbishop Chaput wrote that on April 8, he “relieved” Fr. Mel Thompson from his priestly faculties and role in active ministry due to a complaint received on April 7.

The complaint alleged that the priest engaged in “sexual misconduct” with a minor in the early 1970s. Fr. Thompson has served as parochial vicar for St. Thomas More parish for the last nine years and prior to that was in Our Lady of Fatima, St. Vincent De Paul, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Good Shepherd (formerly St. John the Evangelist), St. Rose of Lima, and Christ the King parishes.

“In accord with our policies in this matter,” wrote Archbishop Chaput, “we have reported the allegation to civil authorities for investigation. We are also alerting other parishes where Father Thompson has previously served.”

“It is important to note,” he added, “that Father Thompson maintains his innocence of the allegation, and to respect his privacy as this matter proceeds.”

Archbishop Chaput also related, “Father Thompson has been a popular and effective priest, respected by his brother priests and well-loved by many parishioners.” It comes as “no surprise, then, that various people from around the archdiocese have voiced their frustration with the speed and 'unfairness' of the archdiocesan response to a reported incident from more than 35 years ago.”

“Father Thompson has no previous allegation of any sexual misconduct with a minor in his priestly history,” the archbishop stated, adding that, “in fact, any priest who did, would not be allowed to minister in the archdiocese.”

“In removing Father Thompson, or any member of the clergy, from ministry in a situation like this, we act purely to ensure the safety of children, families and the integrity of the Church community. We take all allegations of abuse seriously.”

“Prompt action is painful for the whole local Church,” Archbishop Chaput added, “but it’s a necessary course to protect people’s trust in their parish and in the archdiocese. In this case, and in any other such case that may occur in the future, we follow diocesan and national policies that exist to serve the safety of our people, and to respect the suffering and dignity of victims. These priorities are vitally important, and they will not change.”

The Denver archbishop also took the opportunity to comment on the renewed media attention to international allegations of clergy sex abuse. He said that the only “good news” in the coverage is that “we’ve learned a great deal from experience.” “It’s clear now, in ways far more irrefutable and widely reported than in years past, that celibacy has nothing to do with the cause of clergy sexual abuse.”

The archbishop continued to say that it is also “irrefutable” that the Church in the United States acted “vigorously” in dealing with past sex abuse cases and that “sexual abuse of minors is equally prevalent in public schools and institutions.”

In his concluding remarks, Archbishop Chaput implored the faithful to “pray for the healing of the person who has brought this claim forward” and to “remember Father Thompson in our prayers.”

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Pedophilia is not linked to celibacy, but homosexuality, says Cardinal Bertone

Santiago, Chile, Apr 13, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - During a lengthy press conference in Chile, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, was asked about the possible abolition of clerical celibacy following the revelations of pedophilia among some priests. The cardinal answered by explaining that research shows these two issues to be unrelated, however studies prove that there is a connection between pedophilia and homosexuality.

At a press conference held Monday evening at the Pontifical Seminary of Santiago, the Vatican cardinal remarked, “Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and pedophilia,” but have found a “relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia.”

He noted that “there is much documentation from psychologists in this area.”

Speaking about the scandals of clerical sex abuse against minors, the cardinal said, “the important thing is to provide proper guidance and accept the facts of the past. It is crucial to prevent this in the present and the future through comprehensive training in human and priestly virtues for candidates of the priesthood.”

The cardinal also spoke about the media campaign against the Pope and cited as an example the Wall Street Journal’s report published on April 6 exposing the lies of the New York Times, "saying it is no longer is a news source and only attacks the Catholic Church."

After reiterating that on several occasions the Pope has apologized for the abuses against minors committed by priests, Cardinal Bertone noted that Pope Benedict has always been very aware of this problem and has taken numerous steps to address it.

In addition, he added, while others remain silent, the Church speaks out on other issues related to the dignity of children, young people and women. “The Pope has severely denounced sex tourism and defends the dignity of those exploited in this way,” the cardinal said.

After denying that sexual abuse cases are commonly covered up by the Church, Cardinal Bertone addressed the case of Father Lawrence Murphy. This case, he said, "has already been explained many times. If you read the March 26 edition of Avvenire, in which I myself spoke out, it is well explained. I wrote to request that the case be continued when I was secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A civil judge, 20 years earlier, had decided to close the process."

Fr. Murphy "was gravely ill, terminally ill. When we received this information, what mattered was that he could no longer do any harm, that he was repentant, and we let him die in peace. Four months later, he in fact died. In this case, the media has created a lot of confusion,” concluded the prelate noting that lies have been spread trying to pin the abuse on himself as well as Pope Benedict XVI.

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Arsonists target Mexican parish on Easter

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 13, 2010 (CNA) - The parish of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, located in El Porvenir, a town about 62 miles from the city of Juarez, Mexico, was attacked by unidentified arsonists in plain sight of parishioners whose faces displayed “helplessness” as they struggled to control the flames.

According to the Bulletin of the Council of Catholic Analysts in Mexico, the parish priest, Fr. Salvador Salgado Murguia said that with much “toil, sweat, and tears, parishioners were able to control the flames that were ignited when masked gunmen sprayed the doors to the parish with gasoline.”

“The main door to the church was reduced to a pile of embers. Fortunately, there were no injuries,” Fr. Salgado Murguia added. “The attack on the church damaged parts of the choir and vestibule,” but also has harmed the Catholic community, whose members' “faces displayed utter helplessness.”

The pastor went on to explain that this tragedy was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many parishioners. The faithful of the area have come to him with “sadness, saying that because they have seen their parish burned, they are leaving. “They don’t want to stay and risk becoming victims again if their homes are burned by delinquents,” he explained.

Fr. Salgado Murguia also remarked that local authorities have done little to nothing in the week since the event. He cited the “constant violence of the criminal organizations and their accomplices who work under the broad light of inefficiency of the agencies in charge of national security.”

Recently, the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, indicated that criminal groups in that area “have already killed more than 80 people this year, burned 16 houses, and distributed messages on blankets or pieces of cardboard warning the local residents “ to leave the area.

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Pope to visit Malta, might meet with sex abuse victims

Valletta, Malta, Apr 13, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - At a press briefing this morning, the Holy See’s press office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, responded to questions about the Pope’s pending visit to Malta. During the meeting, the Vatican spokesman stated that it was still to be determined as to whether the Pope would meet with victims of clerical sexual abuse.

Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic visit to the island of Malta will take place from April 17-18, 2010. The visit commemorates the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul’s shipwreck on the same island. Consequently, Malta is an island that has a large Catholic population and a deeply Catholic culture.

Fr. Lombardi could neither confirm nor deny if the Pope would meet with victims of clerical sexual abuse as he has done during previous papal visits. According to Fr. Lombardi, his uncertainty about a possible meeting is due to the fact that “the time is very short, and the program really intense.”

“The Pope has met many people, and in this respect, he is going on being available for that, but always in an atmosphere of meditation and discretion, not under the pressure of mass media; he wants to be able to listen to the people and to communicate with them personally,” Lombardi added.

The Vatican spokesman also confirmed that His Holiness “is preparing for this journey with serenity” and that “there is no special concern” about potential demonstrations by victims of clerical sexual abuse. “In a country such as Malta, with a tradition in which the Church is constantly present, if there are demonstrations, they will be made by a small minority,” he said.

The Archdiocese of Malta announced on April 13 that Archbishop Paul Cremona will be meeting with Mr. Lawrence Grech and other alleged victims of sexual abuse. Since the creation of a Church Response Team 11 years ago, 45 allegations of clerical sexual abuse dating back to the 1970s have been reported. Nineteen of those allegations have been shown to have no basis and another 13 are currently in court. The allegations pertain to 13 priests, two of whom have passed away.

Journalists also asked Fr. Lombardi if the Vatican felt “under siege” by the media in recent weeks, to which he responded that he did not feel “in a state of siege; and I did not express this kind of attitude.”

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Stupak’s health care compromise was not a victory, Catholic leader argues

Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2010 (CNA) - Despite initially withstanding “tremendous pressure” to abandon his pro-life demands on health care reform, Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) decision to accept a “meaningless” executive order on abortion was a “drastic” error that will further abortion, the vice president of Catholic Advocate has said.

Matt Smith, the vice president of Catholic Advocate, wrote in an essay at the group’s website that his organization and other pro-life groups had praised the Congressman for his “stalwart defense of life” during the health care debate.

“Congressman Stupak roared like a lion in the savage jungle of Capitol Hill. He handled tremendous pressure from his own caucus and countless rumors and speculation about compromises and deals,” Smith said.

However, Rep. Stupak’s endorsement of a “meaningless” executive order caused “disappointment and disbelief” among many pro-lifers.

Rep. Stupak has justified his decision by noting precedents for the order, such as President George W. Bush’s order restricting embryonic stem cell research.

To this, Smith said that Bush’s order was “narrowly focused” to actions by the executive branch of the U.S. government. Orders which intrude upon legislative action are struck down by the courts, Smith continued, noting that one such order was struck down the same week that President Obama's executive order on abortion funding was signed.

“The most important casualties from the fights on Capitol Hill over abortion funding in the health care bill were the unborn,” he wrote, also calling the executive order “one of the worst compromises against life in the history of the pro-life cause.”

Turning to Rep. Stupak’s announcement that he would retire, Smith suggested it was a sign Stupak’s compromise was not a victory.

“Most people, when they come out victorious after a long hard personal fight, usually catch their breath and return invigorated by their victory. It is only when you have truly lost a challenge that you have trouble finding your motivation, and worse yet, if you are the one responsible for the loss.”

“He consistently stood for the cause of life, but when it came to the biggest battle in years, could not go the distance,” continued Smith. “Congressman Stupak unsuccessfully tried to have it both ways on health care. He made a drastic error in judgment that will ultimately further abortion in the United States.”

Though he wished the Congressman well, he said people are remembered for how they depart.

“Many pro-life activists feel Congressman Stupak quit on them, so it is only fitting he retire from the arena if he has lost his heart for the battles.”

For his part, Rep. Stupak has claimed the executive order was an “ironclad commitment” that applied Hyde Amendment restrictions on abortion funding to the health care reform bill funds and to the federally subsidized insurance exchanges.

He told CNA in a March 25 interview that while he would have preferred statutory language, there were not enough votes in the Senate. He also claimed that Republican intransigence on procedural rules blocked his amendment from being reconsidered.

According to the Congressman, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) already had enough votes to pass the bill but his pro-life Democrat coalition’s support allowed at-risk Congressmen to vote against the controversial bill.

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Concern for fetal pain drives Nebraska to enact abortion ban at 20 weeks

Lincoln, Neb., Apr 13, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Citing evidence that unborn children feel pain, Nebraska lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bill banning abortion at 20 weeks or later. Pro-life organizations welcomed the bill which was signed into law on Tuesday afternoon, saying it is in the best interest of the state to protect unborn children.

"The Nebraska legislature has taken a bold step which should ratchet up the abortion debate across the nation," commented Nebraska Right to Life director Julie Schmit-Albin. "What we didn't know in 1973 in Roe versus Wade ... we know now."

The Nebraska bill was in part intended to shut down Dr. LeRoy Carhart, one of the few late-term abortionists in the U.S.

According to the Associated Press, abortion was permitted in Nebraska based on “viability,” an unborn child’s ability to survive outside the womb. Determined on a case-by-case basis, this occurs at 22 to 24 weeks into gestation.

However, some jurists say that a broad health exception in fact allows abortion up to birth itself.

Abortion advocates claimed that the bill is “flatly unconstitutional” and cannot survive a challenge without a change to three decades of court rulings.

“Courts have been chipping away at abortion rights … this would be like taking a huge hacksaw to the rights,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the Associated Press. She and Carhart indicate they might challenge the law.

Backers of the Nebraska law say the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding a late-term abortion ban allows the legislation because it suggests states have an interest in protecting fetuses. They also point to the evidence of fetal pain as a justification for the law.

The National Director of Priests for Life, Fr. Frank Pavone reacted to the signing of the bill into law, saying, "Until now, our laws have shown greater concern for laboratory animals and cattle that are slaughtered than for babies in the womb. With the Abortion Pain Prevention Act, Nebraska is beginning to change this. Every state should look to do the same."

The AP reports that it is unclear how many abortions would not be performed in the state because of the law.

Gov. Dave Heineman signed the Abortion Pain Prevention Act into law on Tuesday afternoon, along with a bill requiring a risk evaluation for women seeking abortions.

Kansas lawmakers have passed a bill meant to prevent Carhart from performing abortions in their state, but pro-abortion Gov. Mark Parkinson has not yet acted on the bill.

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