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Archive of September 4, 2010

Reacting to court ruling on stem cells, Rep. DeGette pushes bill to fund embryo-destroying research

Washington D.C., Sep 4, 2010 (CNA) - Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) claims to have wide support for proposed legislation to permit government funding for embryo-killing research and expects to pass it this month. Pro-life advocates, the U.S. Catholic bishops and a majority of likely voters have opposed such funding.

An Aug. 23 decision held that federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) violated the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which bars the funding of research which destroys or discards human embryos. While some have depicted the ruling as a ban on the research, the decision only restricts federal funding.

DeGette’s bill is now “on the table” for quick action, a House Democratic leadership aide told Politico. DeGette has worked with Democratic leaders who want to ensure her bill does not raise objections from pro-life Democrats.

The bill’s 51 co-sponsors include two Republicans, Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware and Mark Kirk of Illinois. Both are running for the U.S. Senate.

“Embryos and stem cells are two entirely different organisms,” DeGette claimed, saying they involve different types of research.

“This is a positive wedge issue. Supporters can use it in an election because there is strong public support and its opponents look extreme,” the congresswoman said, according to Politico.

However, a Rasmussen Poll report released last week found that 57 percent of likely voters were opposed to federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and only 33 percent supported it.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) praised the federal court ruling which prohibited the funding, saying it vindicated the USCCB’s longstanding interpretation of the law.

“Each year since 1996, Congress has approved the Dickey amendment to forbid funding any 'research in which' human embryos are harmed or destroyed,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo explained last week. “This should ensure that taxpayers are not forced to fund a research project when pursuing that project requires the destruction of human life at its earliest stage.” 

“A task of good government is to use its funding power to direct resources where they will best serve and respect human life, not to find new ways to evade this responsibility,” the prelate underscored, expressing hope the court decision will encourage more government commitment to “ethically sound avenues of stem cell research.”

Rep. DeGette has previously criticized Catholic commentary on bioethical issues.

In her 2008 book “Sex, Science, and Stem Cells” she described as a “downhill” move the appointment of Catholic ethicist Edmund Pellegrino to head the President’s Council on Bioethics. Discussing public debate on sexuality and reproduction, she lamented “the many tentacles of the Catholic Church, trying to influence a dialogue that’s already difficult to begin with.”

Her bill to codify in law President Barack Obama’s executive order allowing ESCR funding was low on the Senate’s priorities until the recent court ruling, Politico reports.

In July the congresswoman met with many politically vulnerable first-term Democrats to gauge support for her proposal. She reported the “vast majority” saw it as a political advantage.

In 2006 and 2007 Congress passed legislation to permit ESCR funding but President George W. Bush vetoed each bill. The July 2007 vote was 247 to 176, with 37 Republicans voting to override and 16 Democrats opposed. The Senate passed the bill 63 to 34.

Last week Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Labor and Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, set a Sept. 16 hearing date to review the federal court ruling.

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Pro-Obama Catholic group plans to launch news business

Washington D.C., Sep 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Chris Korzen, Executive Director of Catholics United, told CNA in an e-mail last Friday that his group is getting ready to launch a news organization of its own.

CNA had contacted Korzen to confirm whether or not the organization Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG) had gone out of business. Korzen refused to answer any questions about the status of CACG, claiming that CNA has not made clear "what your real motivations are" in asking questions about Catholics United and CACG.

Nevertheless, in his e-mail, Korzen revealed that "Catholics United is moving into the news business."

Korzen did not say when the news business will be launched or how it will be financed, but noted that one of the tasks of the new entity will be "reporting on the activities of CNA and EWTN."

On July 16, Catholics United committed $500,000 to support Catholic Democrats who voted for the health care reform bill; in particular, John Boccieri (OH-16), Kathy Dahlkemper (PA-03), Steve Driehaus (OH-01) and Tom Perriello (VA-05.) Perriello, a founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, is a freshman congressman whose election was highly praised by Korzen. After two years of questionable voting on the life issues, Perriello is at risk of loosing his seat to a Republican contender.

Whether the news business will be part of the effort to get key Catholic Democrats re-elected in November, has not been yet clarified. "More to follow on that front," Korzen said in his response to CNA.

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Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good closes offices, ceases 'most operations'

Washington D.C., Sep 4, 2010 (CNA) - A member of the advisory board for the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG) confirmed to CNA on Friday that the organization had closed its offices, ceased the majority of its activities and that staff members had moved on to other jobs.

Catholics in Alliance was accused by bishops and laity of identifying Catholic social teaching with the concerns and agenda of a single political party, and criticized for neglecting the importance of issues such as abortion.

Dr. Liza Cahill of Boston University, a member of CACG's advisory board, explained to CNA in a e-mail that the group "did not cease to exist but did close its offices and most operations. It is in a holding pattern and staff have gone into positions at similar organizations."

CNA confirmed that the group's phone number has been disconnected, with “no further information” provided by the phone company. CACG's former executive director, Alexia Kelley, was named to a position at the Department of Health and Human Services in June 2009. The group's spokesman John Gehring also recently left CACG, according to his current employer Faith in Public Life.

Attempts by CNA to contact CACG's interim executive director, Vicky Kovari, did not result in any response. Although Catholics in Alliance's website remains online, it lists no current staff, and its last blog entry is from June.

CACG became embroiled in a number of controversies that surrounded the 2008 election of Barack Obama and his subsequent presidency. The group strongly supported the passage of national health care legislation that was criticized by the nation's Catholic bishops for lacking conscience provisions and possibly opening the door to federal funding of abortion.

Archbishop Charles Chaput criticized CACG and similar groups in a 2008 speech, saying that in spite of their concerns for social justice, these groups had ultimately harmed both society and the Church.

Such groups, the archbishop explained, typically “seek to 'get beyond' abortion” as a politically divisive issue, “or economically reduce the number of abortions, or create a better society where abortion won’t be necessary.” But these strategies, the archbishop charged, “involve a misuse of the seamless garment imagery in Catholic social teaching,” demoting the issue of an individual's right to life in favor of “other important but less foundational social issues.” 

CNA encountered some difficulties in attempting to ascertain the present status of CACG, particularly in seeking clarification from Chris Korzen, Executive Director of Catholics United.

CNA approached Korzen because he not only co-authored a book with the founder of Catholics in Alliance, but was on the group's payroll as a full-time employee in 2007.

Korzen, however, would not answer questions about the status of Catholics in Alliance, and instead chose to respond to inquiries by asking CNA a series of unrelated questions.

“Can you tell me what the relationship is between CNA and EWTN?” he asked, ignoring a direct question as to whether Catholics in Alliance was now defunct. “What is the relationship between CNA and the Archdiocese of Denver?”

Eventually, Korzen explained his refusal to answer questions about Catholics in Alliance by saying: "It occurs to me that we've never exactly been clear on who you guys are and what your real motivations are. So we're not going to be able to answer any questions until we get some more clarity.”

The director of Catholics United also insisted he was “separate from Catholics in Alliance, so I really can't speak for them anyway.” Korzen received $84,821 in compensation for full-time work for CACG in 2007. In 2008, he explained to Anne Hendershott in a piece for the Catholic Advocate that Catholics United does the “edgier” work.

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good's current president, Morna Murray, will make an appearance this Sunday on "This Is America With Dennis Wholey." The program runs on WHUT, a Washington D.C. public television station, and will air at 6 p.m. Eastern. Murray will be accompanied by the National Education Association's Dennis Van Roekel and American Federation of Teachers' Randi Weingarten.

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Pope appoints new 'ambassador' to stricken Iraqi Catholics

Vatican City, Sep 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Benedict XVI appointed Monsignor Giorgio Lingua as the Holy See's representative to Iraq and Jordan on Saturday. The new apostolic nuncio will begin the position at a time in which the Iraqi Church struggles to find peace.

No stranger to international relations, Msgr. Lingua has been a member of the Vatican's diplomatic corps since 1992. In the last 18 years, the Italian priest has worked at diplomatic posts in the Ivory Coast, the U.S., Italy and Serbia, in addition to serving in the Holy See's Secretariat of State section for relations with states.

Msgr. Lingua was ordained a priest in 1984 and has a license in canon law. Besides Italian, he speaks French, Spanish and English.

He enters the Iraqi nunciature as Church officials in the nation cry out for assistance and protection after the departure of American combat troops. The country, said one official in an interview with Vatican Radio in August, is already unsafe for minority groups, and as U.S. forces are reduced, the situation can only worsen.

Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad said that they will become the "scapegoats" for the three major groups in the country - Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds - after the U.S. withdraws. He added in the August interview, "We desire, we ask, and we scream for peace and security.”

Pope Benedict acknowledged the difficult situation in Iraq in his address to welcome the new Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See at the beginning of July. At that time, he called for all the nation's people to unite in their "shared suffering" to build "a just, moral and peaceable environment."

Msgr. Lingua replaces Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt who had held the position for more than four years before being appointed as the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations last July.

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Parents told to ensure respect is the first rule for students’ online behavior

Wilmington, Del., Sep 4, 2010 (CNA) - Many children and teenagers return to school this fall with thoughts of text messages, Facebook posts and Twitter alerts dancing in their heads. Those means of connecting in today’s world can trigger headaches or nightmares for parents, teachers and school administrators.

While they recognize the value of new media, more and more of which finds its way into the classroom, adults also are aware of the dangers associated with social networks and other advancements in technology.

Headlines in recent years of new media horror stories spark concern, such as a group of high school students in Pennsylvania involved in “sexting,” or sending nude photos via cell phones, and the suicide of a teenage girl in Missouri after she was cyberbullied.

While less dramatic, photos or comments about inappropriate behavior posted on social networks could cause major problems for young people when they begin to apply for jobs or graduate school.

But properly used, experts and church leaders have pointed out, the Internet, social networks and other media, including cell phones, can help unite people. In a meeting of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications last year, Pope Benedict XVI urged all those involved in social media “to promote a culture of respect for the dignity and value of the human person, a dialog rooted in the sincere search for truth (and) for friendship that is not an end in itself, but is capable of developing the talents of each person to put them at the service of the human community.”

Principals and teachers spend many hours keeping technology current at Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wilmington, said Cathy Weaver, superintendent of schools.

Catholic schools embrace technology and help students understand “the need for respect and kindness” online even when computers and Internet sites give the impression of being distant, detached and impersonal,Weaver said.

In addition to promoting well-mannered interactions online, Catholic schools teach students to make good judgments about what online information “can be trusted and what information should be challenged.”

“Respect is the big theme of the things I try to do,” said Katie Koestner, of Campus Outreach Services, who speaks about the dangers that lurk on the Internet and in society at large in talks to high school and college students, parents and faculty throughout the nation. She spoke last May to parents and seniors at St. Elizabeth High School in Wilmington, and returned to speak to faculty, students and parents there. She also will speak to parents at Padua Academy on Sept. 13.

“Sometimes the anonymity of technology enables disrespectful behavior in the mind of a teenager,” said Koestner, who lives near Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

She knows the dangers of disrespectful behavior too well.

When she was 18 and attending the College of William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Va., she was raped while on a date. Rather than keeping quiet, she spoke out about the date rape problem, sparking a national discussion so others could avoid negative experiences.

Internet isn’t private

When it comes to the Internet, she has a simple rule: “If it’s something you think is private, it doesn’t go on the World wide Web. You should place there what you want people to know about you.”

Parents need to monitor what sites their child visits and what they post on social networks, she said. “Determine what is developmentally appropriate,” she said, and help the child better understand the technology being used. Parents should use technology-filtering software, which Koestner compared to choosing a movie the child may see.

“Technology is a privilege; it’s not a right,” she said. Parents should set parameters for its use, even when the child pays for a cell phone or Internet access. “If the child is paying for it you might set up a different set of rules, but if your child is a minor he is still under your supervision.”

Cell phones carry some of the same potential problems as computers — inappropriate text messages and videos or photos, and accessing inappropriate information.

But cell phones also carry some other pitfalls, Koestner said, including its use while driving and isolating oneself through its use.

One of the problems with today’s technology is its speed. “It’s so fast you can do everything with a single button,” she said. But once sent, “there’s no way to get it back.”

Tamara Napier, whose son, Craig, is a senior at St. Elizabeth, discovered many concerns through Koestner’s talk last May. “I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who did not know,” Napier said. “Our kids are so blessed with all of the technology that is out there. But the things she presented to us, I don’t think we would have known without her presentation.”

Multitasking

St. Elizabeth history teacher Dana Delle Donne didn’t expect the graduating seniors to get too much from Koestner’s presentation. “When I heard we were going to do something on cyber smarts, I’m like, these kids have been drilled about this stuff,” Delle Donne said. “But she told them things we couldn’t have, maybe because we didn’t know or maybe because we didn’t realize.

“She made them realize that I’m leaving my safe little environment of high school and there’s a big old bad world out there and I could get caught up in it if I’m not careful.”

One of the problems for today’s high school parents is that their children have grown up with the technology while parents have not, Delle Donne said. But she is hesitant to say children today multitask better than their parents did in the pen and paper age of high school.

“If you think about it, you were listening and writing at the same time,” she said, “but I think that their mind g oes in so many directions. They could be on the computer texting, watching TV, reading a book and listening to their mom all in the same context.

I don’t have any scientific proof of this, but it almost rewires their brain to think differently.”

Printed with permission from the Dialog, newspaper for the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware.

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Benedict XVI, like predecessors, to remember Pope Leo XIII with visit

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father will be traveling to Pope Leo XIII's hometown to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth. It is not the first time a Pope has traveled to the small mountain town to remember Leo XIII and, particularly, his social teaching.

Pope Benedict is set to arrive early Sunday morning by helicopter in Carpineto Romano, just 50 miles from the Vatican. The pastoral visit consists mainly of the celebration of Mass at an altar placed in the center of town and a brief meeting with a delegation of local religious and lay Catholics.

During his extremely long pontificate, carried out from 1878-1903, the village's most celebrated son made great efforts to address the changing society of the times. His teachings in this regard are expressed in the 1891 encyclical "Rerum Novarum," meaning "new things." It is considered one of the fundamental texts establishing the social doctrine of the Church.

In it, he speaks on the Church's situation in relation to political, economic and social fields. Particularly notable in the document is his call for social justice for the common man and state intervention to uphold his rights, thus addressing the "deep chasm" dividing the two social classes.

It has been called the Magna Carta of the Church's social thought.

So revered is that document, in fact, that Popes Paul VI and John Paul II both made pastoral visits to Carpineto Romano to observe the 75th and 100th anniversaries of its publication. In 1991, John Paul II wrote the encyclical "Centesimus Annus," which he offered as a "rereading" of Leo's text and also "to satisfy the debt of gratitude which the whole Church owes to this great Pope and his 'immortal document'."

During his homily in Carpineto Romano in September of that same year, John Paul II called Leo XIII's encyclical "a rigorous and illuminated announcement of the duty of justice, in the context of a love that is inspired by the holiness of God and to his mercy towards men, especially towards the humble and poor."

Pope Benedict's visit to Carpineto on Sept. 5 will just be a short one. He plans to return to Castel Gandolfo for the Angelus at noon.

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