Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 27, 2010 (CNA) - An expert on family issues reminded Mexicans last week that the defense of life is not a religious issue and that it is based on the scientific certainty that life begins at conception.
In an article published by the Diario de Yucatan, Lourdes Casares de Felix from the Association in Defense of the Family, explained that the right to life is not a religious right. “Is defending the life of an innocent human being a question of religion?” she asked. Accepting that “from the moment of conception the embryo is a person whose life must be respected and to affirm that abortion is a crime is not a question of religion, it is an argument based on science, as was demonstrated by Jerome Lejeune, doctor in medicine and science and professor of genetics,” Casares wrote.
“It has been proven scientifically that life is there and that it is human. Here the moral or ethical question would be: Should it be allowed to put that life to death? The answer could be given by a humanist atheist. Amidst the lack of scientific arguments for promoting abortion, the tactic of blaming religion is always used,” she added.
“The tragedy of abortion not only lies in stripping the unborn of rights, or in the refusal to recognize the unborn as the persons they are, or in accepting or denying their ability to feel pain or pleasure ... the tragedy is the sad dehumanization of the human being determined to destroy the lives of defenseless beings by denying them the chance to live,” Casares said.
Los Angeles, Calif., Jul 27, 2010 (CNA) - After the Los Angeles Times ran a piece citing a “nonpartisan” survey showing that the majority of Californians support same-sex “marriage,” Mollie Hemingway from Get Religion accused the poll of being skewed as it was conducted by a group that explicitly supports same-sex unions.
On July 22, the LA Times ran an article by Ann M. Simmons titled, “1 in 4 Californians have grown more supportive of gay rights, survey finds,” citing a “Washington D.C. - based nonprofit” group as conducting the poll.
Simmons wrote that that the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) “examined the attitudes of Californians toward same-sex marriage” in a “nonpartisan” poll that was comprised of random phone interviews with more than 3,300 residents over the course of two weeks in June. The institute focused their research on examining the “attitudes” of Californians towards the Proposition 8 measure, which passed in 2008 and defines marriage as between one man and one woman in the state.
“An overwhelming majority of Californians – 75% – said they favored laws that would protect gays and lesbians from job discrimination, 69% said they supported allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military and 56% favored allowing gay couples to adopt children,” Simmons reported.
According to PRRI, the poll results also found that if a vote similar to Proposition 8 were held tomorrow, “a majority of Californians said they would cast ballots in favor of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.”
“We have some good evidence here of the way the wind is blowing … in a more positive direction for the rights of gays and lesbians,” Robert P. Jones, chief executive of PRRI, told the LA Times.
Despite Simmons identifying PRRI as simply “nonpartisan” and “nonprofit,” Mollie Hemingway on the Get Religion website – run by noted journalist Terry Mattingly – claimed that the group has a vested interest in supporting same-sex “marriage.”
Hemingway wrote on July 23 that “nowhere” in the LA Times story “will you learn that PRRI is a liberal group when it comes to same-sex marriage.”
Funded by the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Hemingway said the purpose of the poll, according the group, was to “survey California religious communities and help develop religious education strategies supporting gay equality.”
Mainstream media, including the LA Times and others who have already reported on the poll findings, said Hemingway “didn’t report that the poll was designed with advocacy in mind.”
“You know what would be a good story for the mainstream media to look into in light of the real world data – such as the vote in 2008?” she asked. “One where the attitudes of Americans who oppose same-sex marriage are not caricatured or dismissed but fairly presented.”
Hemingway's critique of the mainstream media's depiction of same-sex “marriage” acceptance in California comes at a time when the state is awaiting a decision from a U.S. district court judge on whether or not Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.
Avignon, France, Jul 27, 2010 (CNA) - An order of cloistered Benedictine nuns in France has signed a deal with Universal Music to produce an album of Gregorian chant. The abbess said that after time in prayer the nuns decided the effort could touch people’s lives.
The nuns of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation (Abbey of Our Lady of the Annunciation), near Avignon, France, won a worldwide search to find the world’s finest female singers of Gregorian chant, Decca Records reports. The search surveyed over 70 convents, including some in North America and Africa.
The nuns’ order dates back to the sixth century and their convent remains closed to the outside world. Vowed sisters remain in the convent until their death and any visitors must communicate with them through a grill. Those women who choose to live in a cloister do so to fully offer themselves to God and to commit themselves to praying for the world and the Pope.
When it came time to hold negotiations with the record label over the album, the Benedictine nuns maintained their cloister.
"I passed the contract through the grill, they signed it and passed it back,” reported Dickon Stainer, managing director of Decca Records.
The prospect of producing an album while respecting the rules of the convent means that record company bosses will not be allowed into the abbey, and that the nuns will film their own television commercial and photograph their own album cover.
"We never sought this, it came looking for us," said the abbess. "At first we were worried it would affect our cloistered life, so we asked St. Joseph in prayer. Our prayers were answered, and we thought that this album would be a good thing if it touches people's lives and helps them find peace."
The album will feature the most ancient form of Gregorian chant, the first music ever to be written down.
Other artists on the Universal Music label include Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Amy Winehouse, U2 and Lady GaGa.
“Although the nuns do not leave the convent, the whole world will now hear the true beauty of their singing,” Stainer commented.
Decca Records executive Tom Lewis was also enthusiastic about the prospective album.
"When you hear the sound of nuns chanting, it's like an immediate escape from the challenges, stresses, noise and pace of modern living. You're given a glimpse of a secret world of peace and calm," he said.
The nuns’ album “Voices – Chant from Avignon” will be released worldwide in November.
In 2008, the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz released their Universal Music album “Chant: Music for Paradise,” which sold over one million copies.
Washington D.C., Jul 27, 2010 (CNA) - The website InsideCatholic.com has launched a new version of its site, featuring an attractive design and greater integration of social networking features. Social networking helps make readers “partners in evangelization,” the site said, adding that the revision is intended to reflect “digital literacy.”
InsideCatholic.com editor Deal Hudson told CNA that the new version of the website is only the first of many ongoing revisions intended to make the site “a comprehensive media apostolate.”
The new design also kept in mind the importance of aesthetic concerns.
“The beauty of good design, we think, should always be part of how Catholics present themselves on the Internet,” Hudson said.
He described the new InsideCatholic site as “fully fitted” with social media interfaces and with improved functionality and attractiveness in its columns, articles and blog and video posts.
“The direction of the Internet is increasingly trending toward interaction and interface, while the amount of information available has become nearly overwhelming,” Hudson said in an article announcing the changes. “Social media allows users to select their favorite content and spread it exponentially in any direction they choose. This makes every reader a potential partner.”
Hudson's design team also operated with the idea that social networking is “integral” to how Catholic websites invite their visitors to become “partners in evangelization.” The site redesign, according to Hudson, aspired to represent “digital literacy” by providing accurate, well-presented content and also a space for people to interact “with intelligence and cordiality.”
“I'm sure that one day, we'll all look back at the first versions of our site in much the same way I remember the rabbit ears on the family TV. Technology is always moving, and Catholics need to keep up,” Hudson wrote in his announcement article.
InsideCatholic.com is the successor to the publication Crisis Magazine.
South Bend, Ind., Jul 27, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The University of Notre Dame released a statement on July 26 saying that the campus's Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes caught fire on Monday evening.
The university's fire department quickly extinguished the flames when they broke out early in the evening, Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown told the South Bend Tribune. No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Brown said.
Notre Dame's July 26 statement added that the “interior of the Grotto has been closed while officials determine if it is safe to enter. Visitors may still pray at the perimeter of the shrine.”
Candles are often lit in the grotto by those visiting to pray and have posed a hazard in the past with the grotto catching fire in 1985 due to the large number of lit votive candles.
Built in 1896, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is one-seventh the size of the shrine in France where the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette numerous times in 1858.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 27, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Caracas, under the leadership of Cardinal Jorge Urosa and his auxiliary bishops, called the faithful to pray for peace between Venezuela and Colombia as tensions rise between the two countries.
“Because of the grave condemnation made by the Government of Colombia and the rupture of relations with that country by (Venezuelan) President Hugo Chavez, a critical situation has arisen,” said the archdiocese in a statement. It also noted that the tensions are “gravely affecting many people in both nations, especially those who live on the Colombian-Venezuelan border.”
“As Venezuelan citizens … we deplore this complex situation and we pray that soon, with the mediation of various international organizations ... the grave difficulties that have led to the rupture of relations between both countries can be resolved,” the statement continued.
Cardinal Urosa and the auxiliary bishops encouraged “all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Caracas to pray to Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Peace, that with the search for truth and peace, a beneficial dialogue between both parties will be re-established, the issues under discussion will be clarified and relations between our sister nations will be normalized.”
Erbil, Iraq, Jul 27, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Auxiliary Bishop Andraos Abouna of Baghdad died Tuesday morning in a hospital in Erbil, the capital of Kurdish northern Iraq. The bishop was 67 years old and had suffered from kidney problems.
According to the Italian bishops' news agency SIR, Bishop Abouna underwent kidney surgery two months ago. He seemed to have recovered, however he had a relapse last week and was admitted to the hospital on Monday.
“His death is a great loss for the Iraqi Church,” Bishop Shlemon Warduni, Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar of Baghdad, told SIR. “Msgr. Abouna was in charge of youth pastoral care. Now, let’s pray for the Lord to give us a new pastor.”
Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly will preside at a funeral for Bishop Abouna, scheduled for Tuesday evening at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Ankawa, near Erbil.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Catholic charity that supports the faithful in places of persecution and difficulty, spoke with Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, who recalled how Bishop Abouna was “always smiling, even in very difficult situations.”
“He was a very close friend not just to me but to so many others,” Archbishop Warda said.
“Bishop Abouna was a very good and humble man, very open-minded,” added Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk. “He really took care of each one of his priests, and he always worked for the unity of the Church. I hope he can pray for us from heaven.”
Born in 1943 in the northern Iraqi village of Bedar, Bishop Abouna entered the seminary at age 14 and was ordained a priest for the Chaldean Catholic Church in 1966.
He served as a parish priest in Iraq for 24 years, and was then moved to London, where he led the Chaldean and Syrian-Catholic Mission in England for 11 years.
On Novermber 11, 2002, he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad. Shortly after his return to Iraq, Saddam Hussein was overthrown, and Baghdad became a hotbed of extreme violence.
Bishop Abouna led his people through the difficult times that followed. Bomb attacks on churches and threats of violence against non-Muslims led many to leave the city, but the bishop remained.
Despite increasing health problems, he continued to hold youth events when possible. He also responded to the priest shortage by serving at Our Lady of the Assumption parish.
ACN had helped pay for Bishop Abouna's health care. The organization had also worked with him to relocate St. Peter's Seminary away from Baghdad when conditions became unsafe.
“I had the pleasure to meet Bishop Abouna many times during my visits to northern Iraq,” said Marie-Ange Siebrecht, ACN projects coordinator for Iraq. “He was a very spiritual person and had great concern for the priests and seminarians he was in charge of.”
“Especially in Baghdad he played a great role among the priests to try to show them that there is a future in their country.”
Santiago, Chile, Jul 27, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Alejandro Goic, president of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference, has expressed appreciation for the decision by the country’s President Sebastian Pinera to consider granting clemency to some prisoners on a case by case basis.
Last week the bishops of Chile sent a request to the country’s president asking for the pardon of some prisoners as the country celebrates the bicentennial of its independence.
According to the BBC, the president responded explaining that pardon would be considered individually, in a “very prudent and restrictive manner.” He added that prisoners arrested for serious crimes would not be under consideration.
Bishop Goic told reporters that Pinera’s decision satisfied the bishops, as it puts the issue into the public forum. He said the bishops were not asking for blanket clemency, but rather that the prison system be reformed. “Delinquency is not resolved only by throwing people in jail. There must be an effort to rehabilitate them as well,” he said.
He explained that the bishops’ proposal was of a pastoral, not a political nature. While the bishops initially suggested pardon for some former military personnel, they were not proposing that clemency be granted for those convicted of violent acts against the State, the bishop said.
“Obviously we are going to continue to be concerned about this issue. The Church has always been close to those who are poor and suffering. Why could we not continue exercising our right to express our concern about the anguish of these people?” the bishop asked.
Whether or not we – as the Church – are listened to, “our duty is to speak words of mercy,” he added.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 27, 2010 (CNA) - A Mexican archbishop issued a memo this week clarifying to priests and the faithful where the sacraments can be celebrated – other than Church buildings – and still protect “the dignity of the Sacred Liturgy.”
In his memo, Archbishop Constancio Miranda of Chihuahua said priests should charitably explain “the reasons for which the Church calls on us … to discover in the sacraments an encounter with the Lord, which leads us to a strong communitarian and social commitment.”
He said church authorities can authorize the celebration of the Mass outside a sacred place, as long as “a substantial number of the faithful attend or the distance to the closest place of worship is considerable.”
In addition, he said, the Mass must be held in “a place that is worthy and appropriate for the celebration. An altar with a cloth, a corporal, a crucifix and candles ought to be set up.”
“The Eucharist cannot be celebrated in individual homes,” the archbishop added.
He also remarked that First Communions, Quinceaneras, marriage anniversaries or other celebrations must not be held “in hotels, social or recreation centers.”
Brasilia, Brazil, Jul 27, 2010 (CNA) - The Movement for the Defense of Life has denounced the intention of the Brazilian government to propose that abortion be legalized in all the countries of Latin America.
“Amidst absolute media silence, the Brazilian government, together with the U.N., has just given a new and harsh strike against the fundamental right to life,” the movement said. With the exception of a blog linked to the Rio de Janeiro newspaper O Globo, the media has been silent about the story.
“Consensus of Brasilia,” the title of the document containing the proposal, was signed at the conclusion of the 11th Regional Conference on the Women of Latin America and the Caribbean. Pro-life leaders criticized the title, “Consensus of Brasilia,” because in reality, they said, it represents no consensus except that “of the organizations that promote abortion ...”
The movement noted that most Brazilians, as well as most Latin Americans, are against the legalization of abortion.
It said the document is illegal because Brazil, like other Latin American countries, is committed to binding international treaties that recognize the legal status of the unborn from the moment of conception.