Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2010 (CNA) - A controversy over political billboards in Ohio has caused more debate over abortion funding in this year’s health care legislation. Backers of the targeted pro-life Democrat say the ad violates state law against false statements, but the Republican-leaning pro-life group running the ad says the facts are on its side and deserve a hearing.
The Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) had intended to put up four billboards targeting Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus. “Shame on Steve Driehaus!” the proposed billboard read. “Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion.”
In response, the candidate filed a criminal complaint with the elections commission, which blocked the campaign.
Kristen Day, president of Democrats for Life of America, responded to a CNA inquiry about the case.
“I cannot comment on the current case except for the facts,” she wrote. “The Ohio Elections Commission ruled that there was probable cause to believe that the Susan B. Anthony List acted with reckless disregard for the truth in their campaign claim that Congressman Driehaus voted in favor of taxpayer funded abortion when he voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).”
She added that the SBA List has now asked a federal court to overturn the relevant Ohio law which prohibits “posting, publishing, circulating, distributing, or otherwise disseminating a false statement concerning a candidate.”
Day said it was “false” to claim that a vote for the health care legislation was a vote for taxpayer-funded abortion.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the SBA List, defended the ad.
“Every major pro-life organization takes the stand that they did vote for taxpayer funding of abortion,” she commented in a separate phone interview. “Our position was (Michigan Rep. Bart) Stupak’s and Driehaus’ position before they changed it.”
“For that debate not to be allowed to unroll on the district level should be offensive to anybody who wants to be involved in political conversation.”
In the controversy over the billboard, the pro-life blogger and 2002 Republican House candidate Jill Stanek had published e-mails from Day to the SBA List’s Emily Buchanan discussing strategy to encourage support for the Stupak Amendment before the passage of the health care bill.
Day confirmed she had written the e-mails, but challenged Stanek’s contention that they show she knew that the legislation without the Stupak Amendment restrictions allowed taxpayer funding of abortion.
“The e-mails don’t say that,” she wrote.
Asked to respond to the claim that previous support for the Stupak Amendment showed a belief that the health care legislation allowed abortion, Day answered:
“The fact that we wanted to make the bill stronger, does not logically imply that the bill allowed taxpayer funded abortions.”
She was also critical of backing Republicans to replace pro-life Democrats.
“The pro-life organizations that are working in concert with the Republican Party strategy to defeat all Democrats are seizing on the public's general lack of knowledge and uncertainty about the health care insurance reform bill,” she commented. “Targeting strong pro-life advocates who are willing to stand up to their own leadership to protect the sanctity of life is mistake. The pro-life movement is now moving toward fully embracing a one-party strategy.”
The SBA List is financially backing one Democratic congressman, Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois, who voted against the health care bill in part because of concerns about its restrictions on abortion funding. It has targeted 42 Democratic House candidates for defeat.
Dannenfelser told CNA that the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio had joined the fight against the law which had barred the billboards, arguing that the law is “vague,” missing important provisions, and in violation of the First Amendment.
Opponents of the law are aiming for a legal victory which will have a “ripple effect” in districts where the same argument is continuing.
“It’s one of those things where a backroom deal could completely wipe out an organization,” she commented. In her view, the charges against the SBA List could lead to a costly and “highly invasive” legal discovery process in which every paper an organization has generated must be produced, including private strategy papers.
Don Clemmer, assistant director of media relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), responded to a CNA inquiry about the conference's view of abortion funding in the health care bill, which Dannenfelser had cited in support.
He referred to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo’s Aug. 20 letter to U.S. Representatives encouraging legislation to make permanent federal restrictions on abortion funding. There, the cardinal wrote that the PPACA funds health plans that cover abortions and force citizens enrolled in many plans to fund others’ abortions through their health premiums.
Other possible abortion funding in the bill is dependent upon a decision by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, while still more funds could go to abortions in Community Health Centers if court precedent is upheld.
Sao Paulo, Brazil, Oct 22, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Luis Gonzaga Bergonzini from the Diocese of Guarulhos, Brazil has promised to continue defending the unborn despite receiving “an anonymous letter” threatening his life.
In a letter sent to his brother bishops, Bishop Gonzaga explained that since July of this year he has spoken out against Brazilian President Lula da Silva and the party's current presidential candidate, Dilma Rousseff, due to their support of legalized abortion.
Rousseff has voiced her support of legalized abortion on various occasions. However, as part of her strategy for the Oct. 31 runoff elections, she has said she is “personally opposed to abortion” and has promised that if elected president, she will not sent proposals to Congress to legalize the procedure.
Her change in stance has failed to convince many Brazilian pro-lifers.
Bishop Gonzaga maintained that his actions and words defending life “are based on my conscience and the Gospel” and that he has never endorsed any specific candidate. “I don’t have any intention of creating controversy, I just want to make my position as bishop clear, in defense of the Church and of God’s commandments.”
The bishop also shared that he received “an anonymous letter” threatening his life. He said the letter is currently in the hands of the police.
Other sources have indicated that other bishops in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo received similar threats.
Statements denouncing the Workers’ Party abortion agenda have caused a stir at the Brazilian bishops’ conference, where figures such as Bishop Demetrio Valentini of Jales, a well-known follower of Marxist liberation theology, have pressured Bishop Bergonzini to end his criticism.
Vatican City, Oct 22, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI said he is pleased with recent efforts by Slovenia to address the problem of the “erased.”
In declaring independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, the new Slovenian government “erased” from its citizenship roles the names of tens of thousands of non-ethnic Slovenes who had been living in its territory for years. The move left as many as 25,000 without any basic rights to employment or residency.
Human rights advocates have for nearly 20 years decried the erasure and Slovenia’s apparent unwillingness to correct the injustice as "administrative genocide" and “civic death.”
In an Oct. 22 address to Slovenia’s new Vatican ambassador Maja Marija Lovrencic Svetek, the Pope referred to a recent law that would allow the “erased” to apply for citizenship.
“This is an important step forwards in the attempt to solve the cases of those people who lost the right to residency, work and health care assistance,” the Pope said. “I encourage you to continue in this direction and hope efforts will be made to alleviate their suffering."
The Pope reminded the new ambassador of the “imprint of the moral and spiritual values of Christianity” on Slovenians’ history and character.
He said the recent beatification of Lojze Grozde, a young martyr under the communists, is a sign of the Church’s vitality and commitment to the Gospel. He said Slovenian Catholics would continue to “seek to help everyone, and to deepen the spiritual meaning of life, and wish to contribute to building an ever more just and united society, while respecting the beliefs and religious practices of each individual."
Santiago, Chile, Oct 22, 2010 (CNA) - The rector of the Chilean National Shrine of Maipu, Father Carlos Cox, explained that the rescue of the 33 miners trapped in the San Jose mine is a sign of how God, together with man, brings about “true miracles.”
Speaking with CNA, Fr. Cox noted that Catholics must first give thanks to God for the rescue. “If we look at this rescue from the engineering perspective, we can see that God is present.”
“There was obviously a first-class technical effort, with the support of the government.” The priest added that “the engineer in charge of the operation (Greg Hall) said it himself, the experience of God was very important.”
Hall previously told CNA about “one particular time when we were stuck, and really, I had no more answers. I was standing on the drill rig, and there really wasn't anything, technically, we were able to do. So I just started praying.”
The drill bit eventually loosened, and the team continued work on what Hall said was “the hardest job I've ever been on in my 25 years, by far.”
Fr. Cox said the miners will continue to receive the pastoral care they need, and that Bishop Gaspar Quintana of Copiapo plans on continuing to meet with them and their families, “because he knows that the future they are facing will not be easy.”
An ecumenical liturgy in thanksgiving for the rescue will be lead by Bishop Alejandro Goic Karmelic, president of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference on Oct. 25.
Vatican City, Oct 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Earlier this week, Pope Benedict XVI for the first time publicly engaged the issue of the relationship between the Church’s celibacy requirements and the clergy sexual abuse scandals.
In an unusually personal letter to the world’s seminarians Oct. 18, the Pope told them that it is understandable if the scandals have caused them to question their decision to become priests or to choose to live a celibate life.
“Recently we have seen with great dismay that some priests disfigured their ministry by sexually abusing children and young people,” the Pope said.
He added: “As a result of all this, many people, perhaps even some of you, might ask whether it is good to become a priest; whether the choice of celibacy makes any sense as a truly human way of life.”
The Pope’s frank engagement of the question comes after a year of controversies in Europe in which many have publicly questioned whether there might be a link between the celibacy rule and the scandal.
Two bishops in Belgium in September raised the issue of admitting married men to the priesthood in the wake of the scandal that has rocked the Church there. Earlier this year, Cardinal Christoph Schöborn of Vienna suggested the Church needs an “unflinching examination” of the reasons for the crisis, including a discussion of “the issue of priestly celibacy and the issue of personality development.” The cardinal’s words were widely misreported, forcing him to clarify that he in no way was questioning the celibacy rule.
The Church has consistently maintained that there is no evidence of any relationship between celibacy and deviant sexual behavior.
And in his new letter, the Pope again emphasizes that the issue is not the commitment to celibacy but the maturity and personal development of the priest.
"It is important for the priest, who is called to accompany others through the journey of life up to the threshold of death," he wrote, "to have the right balance of heart and mind, reason and feeling, body and soul, and to be humanly integrated.”
"This," he said, "also involves the integration of sexuality into the whole personality. Sexuality is a gift of the Creator yet it is also a task which relates to a person’s growth towards human maturity."
When a man’s sexuality is not properly integrated, it becomes "banal and destructive," he said.
Throughout his pontificate, Pope Benedict has repeatedly spoken of celibacy as a “gift.”
In celebrating the close of the Year for Priests on June 10, he said priests were united with the “unique priest,” Jesus Christ, mysteriously drawn into the reality of Christ's resurrection, to a new life "already beyond marriage."
In this relationship with Christ, he said, "celibacy is anticipation," taking the priest beyond this world and time to the "world of the resurrection." In opening the doors to this "future of God," he said, celibacy is lived as a witness to faith, a testimony of true belief that God exists and is found in one's life.
For this reason it causes such "scandal" in the secular world, he said. Celibacy is a "yes" that implies a type of marriage, he explained. It is a proof of loyalty and trust in God. Celibacy, he said, "confirms the 'yes' of marriage with its 'yes' to the future world" and "is a great sign of faith, of the presence of God.”
The Pope also spoke of the importance of celibacy during a congress for priests organized by the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy on March 12.
Celibacy he said, is "an authentic prophecy of the Kingdom, a sign of consecration with undivided heart to the Lord and to 'the affairs of the Lord', the expression of their gift of self to God and to others."
Concluding the thought in his new letter to seminarians, the Pope thanked God for priests that bear witness to the "authentic, pure and mature humanity" that can be attained in the priesthood -- "specifically in the life of celibacy."
Strasbourg, France, Oct 22, 2010 (CNA) - The European Parliament has awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to a 48-year-old Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, a leader for human rights in Cuba.
Farinas has spent the past 11 years in jail as a prisoner of conscience.
The decision to select Farinas was made by the leaders of the parliamentary groups and was announced by the president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek.
The European People’s Party and the group European Conservatives and Reformists pushed for his selection, arguing that his struggle “is and will continue to be an example for all those who struggle for freedom and democracy.”
A doctor in psychology and a journalist, Farinas has carried out 23 hunger strikes throughout his life to protest the censorship and the violation of human rights in Cuba.
He began his latest hunger strike in February 2010 after the death of fellow dissident Orlando Zapata. Farinas' declining health forced him to end the strike 135 days later, after the government announced that 52 political prisoners would be released thanks to mediation by the Catholic Church.
The other two candidates for the prize were the Israeli NGO, Breaking the Silence, and Ethiopian opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa.
Since 1988 the European Parliament has awarded the Sakharov Prize each year to individuals or organizations for their fight against injustice and oppression in the world.
Vatican City, Oct 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The rehabilitation of the scandalized Legion of Christ has entered a new phase according to the Vatican official in charge of the troubled religious congregation.
In an Oct. 19 letter to Legion members, Archbishop Velasio De Paolis said the Legion is entering a period of “reconstruction and renewal.”
His letter was dated one day before Pope Benedict XVI announced that Archbishop De Paolis, president of the Vatican’s Prefecture for the Economic Affairs, would be one of 24 new cardinals to be installed in a consistory to be held Nov. 20.
The cardinal-designate had been tapped by the Pope in July to oversee renewal of the Legion following revelations of grave sexual and financial abuses by its charismatic founder, Father Marcial Maciel.
A team of five bishops assigned by the Pope to investigate, found evidence of "very grave and objectively immoral actions" and said Father Maciel had lived "a life devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning."
Because of his continuing influence on the congregation, the Vatican team suggested that Legion redefine its mission and its governing structure. Archbishop De Paolis has been charged with overseeing this transition.
Questions remain, he acknowledged, about how much other Legion leaders knew about Father Maciel’s abuses. Finding the truth is “not that simple,” he said.
“There is one recurring difficulty from more than one place: some feel that the current superiors could not have been ignorant of the founder’s misdeeds,” he said. “By silencing them, they must have lied. But we know that the problem is not that simple. The different denunciations published in the newspapers from the 1990s onward were well known, also to the superiors of the congregation. But it is something else to have proof that they were founded and even more that they were certain. This came only much later, and gradually.”
The cardinal-designate said that today, “it is a vital requirement now to recover trust.”
Archbishop De Paolis said in his letter that while “not a few things” must be changed, the Legion’s basic approach to religious life and the priesthood should be “preserved and promoted."
"What matters above all is for each one to be moved by the desire for the good, and by the will to be converted ever more to the Lord, under the guidance of the Church, and so to be open to his will and to progress along the path of fidelity and holiness according to our own vocation," he said.
"If we are united and respectful of each other as we move forward the journey will be swift and sure, but it will be certain shipwreck to let ourselves get caught up in the desire to win out and impose our own ideas."
The cardinal-designate outlined plans for a renewal process that could take three years or more. He and four close advisors will work with Legion officials to revise the congregation’s constitution; in addition, he is considering appointing a committee to address complaints made against the Legion and another to address financial management issues in the congregation.
Included in the process will be a second investigation -- this time of the lay branch of the congregation, known as Regnum Christi. Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez of Valladolid, Spain, will head up that investigation, working in tandem with cardinal-designate De Paolis.
Despite the shock caused by Father Maciel's actions, he said, the Legion "not only survives, but is almost intact in its vitality."
Manhattan, Kans., Oct 22, 2010 (CNA) - Social scientist Walter Schumm doesn't think his forthcoming paper ought to be provoking outraged responses he has already received.
For years, researchers have admitted the possibility that he says he has now confirmed -- that children raised by homosexual parents are more apt to become homosexual themselves.
Nevertheless, Schumm's article, which will be published in the November edition of the Journal of Biosocial Science, has triggered a firestorm since it began circulating online this summer. Irate advocates for the “normalization” of homosexuality accused him of ideological bias and shoddy research.
But Schumm, a professor of family studies at Kansas State University, said he rigorously tried to disprove his own theory. Ultimately, he reached a conclusion that mainstream sociologists, and even a prominent gay activist, have described as common sense.
In new research and an analysis of more than two dozen earlier studies, Schumm found that 27 percent of lesbian parents' children identified themselves as homosexual, and 19 percent of the children of gay men; by contrast, 5 to 10 percent of the children of heterosexual parents self-identify as homosexual.
Furthermore, Schumm observed gay parents' children increasingly identifying as homosexual as they emerged from adolescence. His analysis of families with older children showed that one-third of gay fathers' families, and 58 percent of families of lesbian mothers, included at least one gay or lesbian child.
“Most scholars actually agree with the concept that gay people ought to be more likely to have gay children,” he told CNA in an Oct. 19 interview. “Even people on the liberal side of things actually pretty much agree with the idea that there are going to be social influences.”
He noted that prominent gay activist Jim Burroway has criticized proponents of the “parental influence” theory but has also said that such findings would not be surprising. In a column published on a gay and lesbian website in 2006, Burroway noted that virtually every theory about the origin of homosexuality would likely predict a higher incidence in children of gay parents.
Schumm wanted to test that prediction, and to improve on previous research he said was too limited and not sufficiently rigorous. He analyzed data obtained from 26 studies of gay parents and their children. He noted that many of the studies' authors had dismissed the idea of a parental influence on children’s homosexuality.
Those researchers, Schumm believes, chose to ignore or downplay the significance of their own findings. Even when attempting to disprove his hypothesis -- for instance, by classifying the significant number of respondents who showed no clearly defined sexual preference as “heterosexual” in the analysis, or assuming that up to a third of those identified as homosexuals could have been erroneously categorized-- Schumm consistently confirmed the hypothesis among 218 families.
His paper makes no assertions as to the exact origin of homosexual behavior. But the professor has indicated some of the “pathways” through which he believes homosexual parents may influence children. These include parents' attitudes toward adolescent sexual experimentation, and ideas about men and relationships that Schumm said tended to prevail in some lesbian households.
Vatican City, Oct 22, 2010 (CNA) - Receiving the new Korean ambassador to the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI praised the Republic of Korea’s work for peace and its role as an “important player” on the world stage. He pledged the Church’s help to advance the common good, noting the inspiration the faithful take from the example of the Korean Martyrs.
Ambassador Han Hong-soon presented letters of credence to the Pontiff on Oct. 21 at the Vatican.
Encouraging the Korean government’s efforts to promote material prosperity, he noted the dangers involved in rapid economic growth. Such growth can “too easily bypass ethical considerations” and exclude the poorer elements from their “rightful share” in prosperity. The recent financial crisis has drawn attention to the need to renew the “ethical foundations” of all economic and political activity, he continued.
He told the new ambassador that the Catholic Church’s role is to proclaim the truths of the Gospel, which challenge “narrow pragmatism and partisan interests” and recognize the obligations to the human person “created in the image and likeness of God.”
“This requires of us an unambiguous commitment to defend human life at every stage from conception to natural death, to promote stable family life in accordance with the norms of the natural law and to build peace and justice wherever there is conflict,” Pope Benedict commented.
The Republic of Korea’s roles in promoting peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in promoting the security and economic integration of the region have shown Korea to be as “an important player on the world stage.” Noting next month’s G20 summit in Seoul, the Pope said the Korean government has helped to guarantee that globalization will be directed by concerns for “solidarity and fraternity.”
Pope Benedict then noted the Church’s network of Korean schools which help the moral and spiritual formation of the young and the Church’s charitable outreach to the poor and needy.
“Through her work for inter-religious dialogue she seeks to break down barriers between peoples and to foster social cohesion based on mutual respect and growth in understanding,” he continued.
The Congress of Asian Catholic Laity recently held in Seoul was a “clear sign” of cooperation.
"It was only right that the congress' focus was on the lay faithful, who ... not only sowed the first seeds of the Gospel on Korean soil but bore witness in great numbers to their firm faith in Christ through the shedding of their blood,” Pope Benedict’s comments concluded. “I am confident that, inspired and strengthened by the witness of the Korean martyrs, lay men and women will continue to build up the life and well being of the nation.”
Lima, Peru, Oct 22, 2010 (CNA) - Adding to the current debate on the correct way to present the teachings of the late John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, Professor Janet Smith issued a response to philosopher Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, who recently critiqued the work of popular speaker Christopher West.
In an essay provided to CNA in July, Dr. von Hildebrand wrote on her difficulties with West’s teaching methodologies and contrasted how her late husband – the noted Dietrich von Hildebrand – would have discussed the Theology of the Body.
Dr. von Hildebrand explained in her essay that there are two main concerns she has with West's approach to presenting the teachings of Venerable John Paul II on human sexuality.
The first is that West “erroneously” assumes “that John Paul II has initiated a 'revolution' in Catholic teaching” in the concept of the Theology of the Body. The second concern is that West uses “loose” and what could be viewed as crude and graphic language in describing what she calls the “intimate sphere” of human sexuality.
Responding to her critique of West, Dr. Janet Smith posted an article on Catholic Exchange Monday, opening her remarks by saying that “Alice von Hildebrand is a philosopher who has been a tremendous model of courage and perseverance in defending the truth in a very hostile academic environment.”
Because von Hildebrand “is a fellow academic and has enormous influence, it seems appropriate that I respond to her critique of West,” Smith said.
“I am moved to make this response not only because I am on record as supporting West, but also because I know individuals who have never read the Theology or the Body or who are not much acquainted with West’s work who are using von Hildebrand’s essay to obstruct what I believe to be a very important apostolate.”
Although von Hildebrand “has the noblest of motives,” wrote Smith, her “piece on Christopher West does not exhibit the fairness and charity embodied and championed in the works of both von Hildebrands.”
Referring to von Hildebrand’s first point of contention to West, Smith said “I find it curious that von Hildebrand objects to calling the Theology of the Body a ‘revolution.’”
“Surely West does not mean that there has been a change in dogma or doctrine. And certainly he would allow that elements of the Theology of the Body can be found in previous Church teaching. Nonetheless, John Paul II, in the Theology of the Body, explained Church teachings about marriage in a unique blend of Thomism, phenomenology, personalism, and mysticism that is undoubtedly new and life-changing for many people.”
“For these people,” she noted, “the Theology of the Body is truly revolutionary and even a source of profound conversion.”
On the charge that the popular speaker engages in “loose” and crude language, Smith said that “West is a fantastic speaker; he speaks extemporaneously and freely.”
“Such speakers are immensely more enjoyable to listen to than those who read from a script. But there are risks to such a style; the choice of words may not be as precise as desired, and this may lead some in the audience to misunderstand what is really being said.”
“The speaker may choose better words and examples for future events,” she added, “but it is not wrong to expect that others will at least have a charitable interpretation of a speaker’s attempts to convey difficult truths.”
Smith then addressed von Hildebrand calling West a “sex enthusiast,” saying it was “a strange term to use in a piece that is presented as a philosophical critique.”
“Von Hildebrand tells us that her husband’s key word in his books was ‘love,’ not ‘pleasure.’ She thus seems to suggest that the key word in West’s works is ‘pleasure.’ But West stresses that the key to the Theology of the Body is the theme of ‘self-gift.’ Why not take him at his word?”
Speaking on West’s controversial reference to the Easter Candle as a phallic symbol – “again, an issue that is in no way central to his presentations,” Smith noted – the professor argued that nonetheless “this view is held by some respectable liturgists.”
Smith also discussed the debate surrounding whether or not dwelling on the details of Christ’s birth displays an inordinate curiosity.
“Von Hildebrand’s response to West’s likening the birth of his son to the birth of Jesus is curious. She believes it is incorrect to think that Mary may have expelled a bloody placenta. Pregnant wombs have placentas,” Smith wrote. “Did not Mary’s? Would it be wrong to think it might have been bloody? Christ’s body was covered with blood when he died, was it not? Scripture itself makes reference to Mary’s womb and breasts; is the placenta really so objectionable that it could not be mentioned?”
In her closing remarks, Smith said “I have undertaken this response to von Hildebrand’s essay only with reluctance, since I greatly admire her and I know she seeks only to do good.”
“I truly think von Hildebrand has been misled by others to focus on fairly tangential works, such as column on a play (which she has misread) and a book review, rather than to do the careful work of critiquing West’s more formal material and to adopt a tone toward a fellow faithful Christian apostle that is not characteristically hers.”
“She seems to find what she perceives to be the frosting on the cake so distasteful that she cannot even get to tasting the cake itself.”