Archive of July 8, 2010

Archdiocese of Mexico City lauds citizens for voting despite threat of violence

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 8, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Mexico City and its leader Cardinal Norberto Rivera have praised citizens for voting in the country's July 4 elections despite the threat of violence.

In a recent statement, the archdiocese also encouraged Mexicans to strive to seek the common good and to set aside all rivalries which endanger the country.

“Mexico is experiencing difficult times, and thus now more than ever we need to strive our best to seek the common good and set aside all the anger and rivalry that only leads to endless aggression and great danger for our beloved nation,” read the statement.

The archdiocese also lauded Mexicans for going to the polls to vote despite the risk of conflict.

It then added that the country must now accept the results and take steps towards “a new era of respect and harmony, in which the interests of the nation are those that dictate the political agenda.”

The archdiocese also urged election officials to resolve any disputes as objectively as possible in order to prevent controversy. “We reiterate our praise for the voters who despite adversities have expressed at the polls their desire for a better Mexico,” the statement concluded.

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ACLU presents inaccurate image of Catholic hospitals on abortion, say experts

Washington D.C., Jul 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A recent letter from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to investigate and take action against Catholic hospitals who refuse to provide abortions. However, critics have said that the letter misrepresents the Church's teaching in its claim that Catholic hospitals are violating their patients' right to health care.

Analysts of the letter also told CNA, any law or regulation requiring Catholic hospitals to perform abortions would disregard the rights of conscience that the Obama administration has promised to uphold.

The ACLU letter, dated July 1, claims that refusal by religiously affiliated hospitals to provide abortions is a violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act and the Conditions of Participation of Medicare and Medicaid.

The letter states, “Religiously affiliated hospitals across the country inappropriately and unlawfully deny pregnant women emergency medical care.” The ACLU also highlights the recent demotion of Sr. Margaret Mary McBride for facilitating an abortion at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. The letter claims that although the abortion was performed, disciplinary actions taken against Sr. McBride, as well as the statement of opposition by the diocese, discourages hospital employees from fulfilling their legal duties.

In addition, the ACLU lists several other examples of Catholic hospitals not providing “reproductive services” to women. According to the legal organization, the hospitals' “refusal to provide timely reproductive health care to pregnant women seriously threatens their health and lives.”

CMS spokeswoman Ellen Griffith confirmed to CNA that the letter was received and is currently being reviewed to decide what action, if any, will be taken.

Experts in bioethics and law have responded to the letter by saying that it both attacks and misrepresents Catholic teaching by depicting it as though it forbids any attempt to save the life of pregnant mothers.

Dr. John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, explained that while direct abortion is always prohibited by Catholic teaching, the Church permits efforts to treat or cure the mother, even if such efforts may result in the indirect and unintentional death of the unborn child. The principle of double effect holds that because the child's loss of life is neither direct nor intentional, it is not morally wrong.

“In fact, some of the conditions cited in the letter would have allowed an 'indirect abortion' in a Catholic hospital which permits a physician to address a current and serious pathology which might indirectly result in the foreseen but unintended death of the child,” Dr. Haas told CNA.

He referenced the "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services" of the U.S. bishops. Directive 47 states that “Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.”

Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel for the Thomas More Society, told CNA that requiring Catholic hospitals to facilitate abortions would violate fundamental rights of conscience.

“Catholics should view the ACLU's letter as heralding nothing less than a new onslaught of attacks against the Church's core teachings that human life is sacred from conception to natural death, that procured or directly intended destruction of a viable fetus by abortion is never morally permissible, and that those who participate or materially aid in such acts per se put themselves out of communion with the Church,” Brejcha explained.

“ACLU's advocacy that abortions are sometimes necessary to 'save a life' and its contention that reproductive health care may require the killing of unborn human beings should provoke an enlightened, invigorated and sustained response from Catholics and others who believe that every human life is endowed with an inviolable right to life,” he insisted.

“Direct killing of defenseless human beings is evil,” Brejcha maintained. “No law now requires that those who abhor such killing must nonetheless engage in it, and advocacy of such a law in utter disregard for rights of conscientious objection must be repulsed and rejected in the strongest possible terms as both inhumane and unconscionable.”

“President Obama promised in his notorious Commencement speech at Notre Dame in May, 2009, to protect fundamental rights of conscience,” he added. “He and his Administration must be held to honor that pledge. America's distinguished legacy of Catholic health care must not be sacrificed in deference to the abortion lobby.”

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Religious sisters’ support for US health care bill discussed at Vatican meetings

Rome, Italy, Jul 8, 2010 (CNA) - The Leadership Conference of Women Religious’ (LCWR) support for the U.S. health care bill passed in March was a topic in lengthy discussions between LCWR officials and Vatican leaders, who also discussed the doctrinal investigation of the group.

In meetings with Vatican officials last April, LCWR officials answered several questions about the group’s support for the legislation despite the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) opposition to the bill on the grounds it lacked strict restrictions on federal funding for abortions.

Following the meeting, the LCWR sent a letter to its membership, according to the National Catholic Reporter which obtained a copy of the letter. The letter said the LCWR officers’ April 23 meeting with Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), focused on both the status of the doctrinal assessment and on the LCWR’s support for the health care legislation.

“We clarified that LCWR does not support abortion and that we have made this position clear,” the letter said, according to the Reporter. The conference officials reported that they explained to the cardinal that they felt a “moral imperative” to ensure health care coverage for all persons.

“We were very clear in stating that our actions were not in opposition to the U.S. bishops,” the letter also said.

The LCWR reported that Cardinal Levada was concerned the organization’s actions were being interpreted as “a public display of disunity within the church.” He was also concerned that they undercut “the perception of the church as one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic.”

On April 24, the LCWR leaders met with Cardinal Franc Rodé, head of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. They discussed LCWR support for the health care bill “at length.” According to the conference’s letter to its members, Cardinal Rodé stated his belief “that we cannot defend our position because it was contrary to the bishops.”

In reply, the conference officials repeated that they did not support abortion and were “quite aware that we are citizens of our country who must take action.” They defended their actions as being based upon their understanding of “all the moral imperatives brought to the table” by the health care legislation.

Cardinal Rodé reportedly said that the LCWR cannot declare a “pastoral direction,” which is the sole responsibility of the episcopal conference. He added that “by our actions we broke unity,” the LCWR letter reported, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

CNA inquired about the discussions with LCWR at the Rome offices of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life but did not receive any reaction.

According to its website, the LCWR claims to have more than 1,500 members representing more than 90 percent of the 59,000 women religious in the U.S. Its president, Sr. Marlene Weisenbeck, F.S.P.A., took part in the meetings with Vatican officials.

In her capacity as LCWR president, Sr. Weisenbeck was a signatory to a March 17 letter by the NETWORK Lobby urging the passage of the health care bill. The letter came at a critical time when the passage of the bill was uncertain. The letter was praised by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and other backers of the legislation.

Though the NETWORK letter purported to represent 59,000 nuns and religious sisters, USCCB spokeswoman Sr. Mary Ann Walsh said NETWORK “grossly overstated” these numbers.

In a commentary in late March 2010, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said NETWORK’s letter was a “critical demonstration of support.” She praised how the nuns “most importantly broke with the bishops and the Vatican to announce their support for health care reform.”

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Diocese of Augsburg turns the page with successor to Bishop Mixa

Vatican City, Jul 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Bishop Konrad Zdarsa was appointed to the Diocese of Augsburg, Germany on Thursday. He takes the place of Bishop Walter Mixa, who resigned from the post earlier this year under pressure after past misdeeds came to light.

Bishop Mixa's resignation was accepted by the Holy Father on May 8, 2010 after it was discovered that he had physically abused orphaned children and misused funds destined for their care.

Although he made public statements that he was "forced" to step down and wished to return to the bishop's office, after a meeting with the Pope last Thursday, his resignation was confirmed. During the meeting, he admitted that he had committed "errors" and asked for forgiveness.

The newly appointed Bishop Zdarsa will come to the Diocese of Augsburg from that of Gorlitz, Germany, where he has been for a little more than three years.

According to a brief biography released by the Holy See's Press Office, he has been a priest since 1974 and has served in a variety of posts including work as parish priest, in diocesan curial positions and as a president of a diocesan chapter of Caritas.

Since 2004, he has been the Vicar General of the Diocese of Dresden- Meißen while also being the head of personnel there. He was ordained the Bishop of Gorlitz on April 24, 2007.

Bishops Zdarsa and Mixa will be in communication following the new bishop's appointment. As the Vatican statement explained following last week's audience with the Pope, after a "time of silence, contemplation and prayer, and ... a period of healing and reconciliation (Bishop Mixa) - as other bishops emeritus - will be available for pastoral duties, in accordance with his successor."

That statement also included Pope Benedict XVI's plea to the faithful of the Diocese of Augsburg to "welcome the bishop that he will designate as successor to Bishop Mixa with an open heart."

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Benedict XVI begins vacation, thanks faithful for friendship

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Jul 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Having arrived at Castel Gandolfo to begin his summer vacation, the Holy Father greeted those present from a window overlooking the square and thanked them for their friendship.

Pope Benedict XVI told those who had turned out for his arrival, "Dear friends, this evening my holidays begin and I'm happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of creation and of history, and of your sympathy and friendship. Thanks from my heart, I bless you all. Have a good night and a good week. Thanks for your presence and for your friendship."

The Pope's next public engagement is this Sunday's Angelus prayer. The Marian prayer will be recited every Sunday with those who join him in the square, and is the only public or private "audience" on his official schedule for the month.

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Venezuelan cardinal says Chavez moving country towards dictatorship

Rome, Italy, Jul 8, 2010 (CNA) - Speaking from Rome where he is attending a previously scheduled meeting, the Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, responded to the attacks by President Hugo Chavez against him and the bishops on July 5, saying the leader “has no right to insult, defame or slander any Venezuelan.”
In a statement released by the Archdiocese of Caracas, Cardinal Urosa said, “On various occasions [Chavez] has verbally attacked me, unjustly exposing me to public mockery. I totally reject those attacks, which are unbecoming of the person who is making them.”
The cardinal then warned against the dangers that Venezuela now faces.

“I have made statements that have been reported by the media on my own accord and without pressure from anyone, but strictly following the voice of my conscience as a Venezuelan and as the Archbishop of Caracas amidst the reality we are experiencing. Unfortunately, instead of reflecting and thinking about the arguments I have laid out and correcting his behavior, the president limits himself to discrediting and offending me.”
Cardinal Urosa warned that the Chavez government is leading the country towards “a dictatorship” founded upon the Marxist ideology “that the president himself has openly proclaimed on repeated occasions.”
“Such conduct is unconstitutional and illegal, but above all, attacks the human, civil and political rights of Venezuelans. The failure of Marxist Socialism in other countries is more than evident,” he added.
Power for naming bishops
Addressing another issue alluded to by Chavez, Cardinal Urosa said, “The naming of all the bishops of Venezuela and the world is in the hands of the Church, and concretely, in the hands of the Holy Father, after considerable consultation with the ecclesial community. Thank God it is not in the hands of politicians.”
Like all Christians, he continued, bishops “are peacemakers. For this reason, without any pretensions for power or becoming political operatives, we demand our right to speak out on everything that has to do with the life and future of the Venezuelan people. We want what is good, peaceful and beneficial for Venezuela, with opportunities for all, without exclusion, injustice and intolerance.” 
Cardinal Urosa concluded his statement expressing thanks for the support he has received during recent days.

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Vatican to clarify canonical procedure for attempted ordination of women

Vatican City, Jul 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - More information regarding the soon-to-be-announced modifications to the Vatican's canonical guidelines for dealing with abusive priests and other sins came to the surface on Thursday. In addition to the previously leaked content, sins such as the attempted ordination of women and "crimes against the faith" will also be addressed by the pending Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) document.

Details of possible modifications have been produced by unnamed Vatican sources all week concerning the content of a new document that will update the Church's legal procedures for recognizing and punishing the most serious sins.

Reports concur across the board that there will be changes in the process of trying priests who have sexually abused minors, and that there will be an increase in the statute of limitations in these cases from the current 10 years to 20 years after the victim turned 18 years old.

According to the Mexican news agency Notimex, which cited unnamed Vatican sources, the scope of the 2001 decree will also be extended to include not only the "delicta graviora," or most serious sins, but a number of other sins typically examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, even though those sins are not mentioned in the 2001 decree.

This means that sins considered to be "less serious" will be officially subject to the same judicial procedures that were previously reserved in canon law only for sins against the Eucharist, the sacrament of Penance and sexual abuse of minors.

Sins such as the attempted ordination of women to the priesthood and the "crimes against the faith" of heresy, schism and apostasy, that have until now been investigated by the CDF only on an extraordinary basis will fall under their official jurisdiction, thus clearing up any confusion as to where cases must be reported. In other words, it formalizes procedures that may have been followed in practice, but were never made official.

According to the July 8 Notimex report, possession and distribution of child pornography will also be declared "serious sins" and, in cases in which they have been found guilty in civil courts, perpetrators could be sentenced without a canonical trial.

The modifications should be promulgated in the coming days, bearing the signature of the prefect of the CDF, Cardinal William Levada, and accompanied by notes explaining the changes and the history of the legislation.

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Paya thanks Church; hopes for 'end to unjust imprisonment'

Havana, Cuba, Jul 8, 2010 (CNA) - The coordinator of the Christian Life Movement, Oswaldo Paya, thanked the Church yesterday for its efforts to achieve the release of political prisoners. He also expressed his hope that an end to unjust imprisonment in Cuba is near and that Cubans could finally live under democracy.
Paya issued a statement following the July 7 announcement that five prisoners of conscience would be released yesterday and another 47 over the next four months.
He thanked the Church for its efforts and its solidarity, as well as for the “comfort and assistance that so many religious, lay people, priests and bishops across Cuba have given over the years and that they continue to give to political prisoners and their families.”
Likewise, he expressed his hope the Cuban government would follow through on its decision to “release these prisoners, without conditions, so that they can freely live their lives.”
“This should be the first step towards freeing all political prisoners soon and beginning the changes that the entire nation desires,” Paya continued.  “And changes mean rights, freedom, reconciliation. We can achieve this among all Cubans,” he added.
Paya also thanked Cubans at home and abroad who have shown solidarity with the political prisoners, as well as the governments, international institutions and the “heroic Women in White,” the wives of those imprisoned in 2003 for political reasons.
All those imprisoned for defending human rights in Cuba must be released, he urged, “including Agustin Cervantes Garcia, who was sentenced to two years in 2009 merely for promoting the Varela Project.”
Paya also thanked “all those in Spain, from the government to opposition leaders to the entire society, for their concern and solidarity and for their efforts to free these peaceful political prisoners.”
“We thank all these heroes who one day were kidnapped from their homes and unjustly imprisoned for merely defending Human Rights.  The people of Cuba and all those who love justice should be thankful to these Cubans who have been torches of dignity and hope shining in the darkness,” Paya said.

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Guillermo Farinas ends 140-day hunger strike

Havana, Cuba, Jul 8, 2010 (CNA) - After the Cuban government agreed to release 52 political prisoners earlier this week, the Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas abandoned his 140-day hunger strike.
“From this moment, Fariñas has abandoned the hunger and thirst strike,” dissident Gisela Delgado told the press.
Fariñas has been on hunger strike for around 140 days. He began his strike last February after another political prisoner, Orlando Zapata, died. Zapata was also on a hunger strike and had refused to touch any sort of food for 85 days.  
This announcement comes in the wake of nearly two months of dialogue between the Catholic Church and Cuba’s communist government. On July 7 it was announced that 52 political prisoners would be released of the 73 that were arrested for treason in 2003. Five will be released immediately and the remaining 47 will be released in the next four months.
This morning, Fariñas’ mother, Alicia Hernández, indicated he would release a statement this afternoon.

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Colombian bishops hopeful new administration will jump-start mediation with FARC

Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 8, 2010 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba, said this week the Catholic Church there is on stand-by awaiting the new administration of president-elect Juan Manuel Santos to take office in order to define the Church’s role in mediation with the Marxist rebel group FARC.

Bishop Cordoba said the Church is available and awaiting an invitation from the government to serve as mediator or to facilitate new talks with FARC.

“The efforts to secure the release of hostages are on ‘stand-by’ until the new government takes office. There is nothing official. Without the consent of the Government we cannot proceed,” the bishop explained.

Bishop Leonardo Gomez Serna said that while there has been no official progress, the Church continues to be committed to peace, to peace that is founded upon social justice, reconciliation and a coming together of all parties.”

Bishop Julio Cesar Vidal Ortiz of Monteria noted that as pastors and Catholic prelates, “We must dialogue with everyone.”  “We must take steps to offer the guerrillas and other groups the chance to be reincorporated into our democratic life,” he said.

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Washington state lawyers acknowledge pharmacies' right to not stock Plan B

Olympia, Wash., Jul 8, 2010 (CNA) - In a major reversal of their previous position, attorneys for the state of Washington have acknowledged the right of local pharmacies not to stock or dispense the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B.

On July 7, the state's attorneys told a federal judge that the Washington State Board of Pharmacy would begin revising its rules, to allow pharmacies to act on their conscientious objections to the controversial drug.

The state attorneys' new position may signal an end to a legal battle between the State Board of Pharmacy and owners of the local drugstore Ralph's Thriftway.

In 2006, the board initially granted all pharmacies the right not to stock or prescribe medications to which they objected on religious or moral grounds. However, the board later changed these rules after publicly coming under fire from Washington's governor, Christine Gregoire.

The subsequent change in policy attempted to force pharmacies to stock and dispense Plan B or other drugs regardless of religious or moral objections, prompting a legal challenge from Ralph's Thriftway. Its owners sued the state of Washington in 2007, asserting that their right to refuse to sell Plan B, in accordance with the state's original rules, was a matter of religious freedom.

In 2009, a federal judge sided with the store's owners, but had his ruling struck down on appeal.

On Wednesday, however, the board's lawyers acknowledged that pharmacies with religious or moral objections could refer those seeking Plan B to another drugstore, without interfering with patients' “timely access” to a “lawfully-prescribed medication.”

Eric Rassbach, the National Director of Litigation for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the firm representing Ralph's Thriftway, interpreted the reversal as "a clear signal to Governor Christine Gregoire that her bullying tactics are not acceptable."

"First," Rassbach reported, "she threatened to fire the members of the State Board of Pharmacy if they did not agree with her; then, she tried to pressure the pharmacy by joining a boycott against Ralph's Thriftway.”

"It may come as a surprise to her, but conscientious and principled people like the owners and pharmacists of Ralph's Thriftway are the backbone of this country," he said.

Also commenting on the case was Luke Goodrich, legal counsel at The Becket Fund, who stated, "The government should accommodate and protect the fundamental rights of all members of the medical profession, not punish some members because of their religious beliefs.”

Attorneys for Ralph's Thriftway agreed to postpone the case from going to trial, while the pharmacy board considers the revisions to its rules.

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