Washington D.C., Oct 27, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Ohio voters this November won't be seeing a controversial ad campaign that accuses Ohio Representative Steve Driehaus of betraying his pro-life convictions to pass health care reform.
Instead, they may be watching a legal battle over the contents of the law, as the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List defends its claim that the new law funds abortion through insurance premiums and community health centers.
Representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have reached the same conclusion. But SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser could face fines or jail time for attempting to run billboards saying Representative Driehaus “voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion.”
Driehaus' complaint to the Ohio Elections Commission stopped the ads from running, when the commission chose to investigate SBA List's billboard as an illegal “false statement.”
On October 25, a federal judge dismissed SBA List's counter-suit claiming that the Ohio statute was choking off constitutionally protected speech. Speaking to CNA on October 26, Dannenfelser explained that the disputed Ohio billboards simply repeated the findings of the USCCB.
“The Catholic Church's position,” she said, “is also our position. The bill that all these members of Congress voted for ... does not have a prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion.” Nor, she said, does a presidential executive order address the main concerns about abortion funding.
Dannenfelser said Driehaus and other Democrats had previously insisted on these very same flaws being corrected in any comprehensive health care bill. “This was not only the position of the entire pro-life movement, but it was the position of Congressman Driehaus himself,” Dannenfelser argued.
Driehaus, she explained, had criticized earlier versions of health care reform, objecting strongly to abortion funding mechanisms that were not fixed in the final version. “He tried to get a resolution passed before the bill went through, that would have fixed the funding mechanism problem,” the president of SBA List recalled. “But that was rejected by the leadership in the house.”
Eventually, she asserted, political pressure caused Driehaus and other pro-life Democrats to accept an executive order from President Obama, in place of restrictions in the bill. While the White House said the executive order would “ensure that Federal funds are not used” for elective abortion, the USCCB's lawyers concluded that the order would prevent abortion funding in some cases, but allow it in others.
Dannenfelser also drew attention to the comments of Cardinal Francis George. The cardinal initially praised the Senate's efforts toward health care reform, but wrote in March that the final version of the bill “expands federal funding and the role of the federal government in the provision of abortion procedures.” Why, Dannenfelser wondered, was no one accusing Cardinal George of “lying,” or attempting to sue him –or the USCCB as a whole-- for defamation?
Driehaus has lost the financial backing of his own party, and is not favored to win the election on November 2. But with the Ohio Elections commission scheduling its hearing only four days before voting, it appears he succeeded in silencing his former allies.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 27, 2010 (CNA) - Lawmakers in the province of Chaco, Argentina have passed a resolution condemning the violence carried out by a group of abortion supporters at the “25th National Women’s Conference.”
The Oct. 9 – 11 event took place in the Argentinean city of Parana. The National Women's conference is an annual meeting of women who support abortion on demand, gay “marriage,” and birth control.
One of the resolution’s sponsors, Clelia Avila, said, “What happened during the women’s conference in Parana is the result of intolerance, of the inability to dialogue.” She called the result “appalling” since it is “inappropriate to attack those who don’t share your point of view.”
Dr. Roberto Castellano, president of the NGO Pro-Life, said that during the conference, the feminists gathered in Parana and engaged in threats, physical attacks, and the destruction of business and public property. He pointed out that their actions received no coverage in the media.
Castellano said the event cost some $2 million and was focused on promoting abortion, attacking the Church and the military, the natural family based on marriage between a man and a woman, the promotion of homosexuality and birth control.
Pro-life women who attended the event were physically attacked and forced to leave.
Rome, Italy, Oct 27, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Education is important to the Catholic Church in Italy and many want to demonstrate that. That’s why tens of thousands, particularly students, teachers and Catholic Action leaders are expected to turn out in St. Peter's Square for a rally Oct. 30.
The Church association Italian Catholic Action is promoting the event to draw attention to the importance of education in the formation of young people and their future.
Organizers want children and young people to feel called to responsibility in the Church and in the public life of Italian society.
Father Vito Piccinonna, an Italian Action official, told the Italian bishops' news agency that addressing the challenge for young people today requires individual attention and tenderness, but also assistance in making children "not just big in age, but also in wisdom and grace."
He called the Oct. 30 meeting "a moment of listening, prayer and celebration" for all.
Father Piccinonna said the purpose of the demonstration is to bring children, parents, teachers, priests, bishops and others together to show a "company of life and faith" in support of better education.
Organizers expect an appearance from Pope Benedict XVI. This will "make this 'company' truly solid," Father Piccinonna said.
The Catholic Action initiative has special significance as it takes place in the first year of a decade-long effort by the Italian bishops to focus greater national attention on education in the country.
In a speech to the nation’s bishops in September, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, head of the bishops conference, said the "spirit of the times" in education is "most worrying." Education in Italy, he said, faces an "emergency" that is "capable of jeopardizing the balance of society and concrete possibilities of its progress."
Bogotá, Colombia, Oct 27, 2010 (CNA) - The Secretary General of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia reminded Catholics this week that sterilization procedures are mutilations of the body. He added that the Catholic Church opposes this anti-life practice.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba of the bishops' conference rejected a new law that allows Colombians to undergo vasectomies and tubal ligations free of charge in public and private hospitals.
The bishop explained that such practices constitute “mutilations of the body, and the body must be respected.” He said that undergoing the procedures to avoid pregnancy or to have a more “uninhibited and guilt-free sex life” is immoral.
Colombians, he concluded, need to have a greater understanding of the importance of responsible parenthood.
Vatican City, Oct 27, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Indonesia has been rocked by simultaneous catastrophes this week, leaving hundreds dead and many others displaced. Pope Benedict XVI appealed today for international aid to those stricken there and those displaced by flooding in Benin, Africa, during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.
Mantawai Island, one of the thousands of islands that make up the southeast Asian nation of Indonesia, was slammed by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami on Oct. 25. News reports vary greatly on the number of deaths caused by the disaster. One local official told Reuters on Oct. 27 that the official number of dead is 282, with 411 people missing.
Not even 24 hours after the tsunami, volcanic activity began on the separate island of Java, sending "searing gas and molten lava into the sky on at least 10 occasions," according to the Indonesian daily, the Jakarta Globe. The paper reported that 25 people had died and many others had been sickened by the fallout. At least 19,000 people were asked to evacuate the area.
Pope Benedict expressed his "deepest sympathy to the families of the victims for the loss of their loved ones" and assured his "closeness in prayer" to all Indonesians.
He also asked for God’s "blessing and comfort" for the people of Benin. According to the United Nations, the country has been hit by twice normal levels of precipitation for the last five weeks. Almost 200,000 people have been left homeless and there are another 600,000 affected by the disaster.
The Pope called on the international community "to strive to supply the aid necessary to alleviate the distress of the people who have suffered these disasters."
Lima, Peru, Oct 27, 2010 (CNA) - Amnesty International has announced it will give Peru's ministry of health a petition signed by 11,000 people calling for the legalization of abortion.
The organization’s secretary general, Salil Shetty, will meet Oct. 27 with Peru’s vice minister of health, Zarela Solis Vasquez. Shetty plans to deliver the petition signed by abortion supporters from Peru as well as other countries.
Last year in the northern Peruvian city of Chiclayo, the local diocese organized its own petition opposing abortion that was signed by 33,000 people.
Amnesty International has been distributing a report throughout the country titled, “Fatal Deficiencies: The Barriers to Maternal Health in Peru,” in which it argues that the legalization of abortion could diminish maternal mortality in rural areas. The report calls for changes in the country’s laws that would allow for abortion in cases of fetal deformation and for underage girls who become pregnant.
The report also encourages Peru to give in to the U.N.'s pressure to legalize abortion. It uses the case of Karen Llantoy, a Peruvian woman who was not allowed to abort after doctors discovered her baby was suffering from anacephaly (a condition in which the brain does not develop) because the mother’s life was not at risk.
Founded by a British Catholic, Amnesty International abandoned its neutrality on abortion several years ago and, as many analysts predicted, has become a pro-abortion organization.
Vatican City, Oct 27, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The 14th-century St. Bridget of Sweden is a “powerful example of feminine sanctity” and a model for Christian families and religious men and women, Pope Benedict XVI said in his weekly general audience Oct. 27.
St. Bridget’s founding of a religious order that was composed of both monks and nuns living separately under her authority as abbess was a reminder of the spiritual power and authority of women in the Church, the Pope said.
"In the great Christian tradition the woman is recognized as having her own dignity and -- following the example of Mary, Queen of the Apostles -- her own place in the Church which, though not coinciding with the ordained priesthood, is equally important for the spiritual growth of the community,” he stated.
Pope Benedict made his remarks as part of his series of Wednesday teachings on the holy women of the Church’s history.
In the first part of her life, Bridget was a happily married mother of eight. With her husband, Ulf, she lived the lifestyle of the Third Order of St. Francis and founded a hospital for the poor. When her husband died, she gave all her worldly possessions to the poor, moved into a Cistercian convent, and dedicated herself to prayer, penance and works of charity to deepen her relationship with God.
While at the convent, she received the controversial visions of the life of Christ and especially his sufferings on the Cross.
Pope Benedict acknowledged that her visions provoked skepticism even today. But he said the Church has accepted “the overall authenticity of her interior experience,” while not making any judgments on the accuracy of her individual revelations.
St. Bridget, he said, was convinced that all gifts, such as her visions, were “destined to build the Church.”
That is why “many of her revelations were addressed, in the form of sometimes severe admonitions, to the believers of her time including the political and religious authorities, to live their Christian lives coherently,” he said.
But, he added, she always did this with “an attitude of respect and complete faithfulness towards” the Church’s teaching authority and the Pope.
The Pope prayed that Christian spouses today would look to Bridget as an example of “authentic 'conjugal spirituality.'”
“May the Holy Spirit arouse the sanctity of Christian couples, so as to show the world the beauty of marriage lived according to the Gospel values of love, tenderness, mutual support, fruitfulness in the generation and education of children, openness and solidarity towards the world, and participation in the life of the Church,” the Holy Father said.
In 2000 Pope John Paul II named St. Bridget one of the co-patron saints of Europe. Pope Benedict also held her up as an example for Europeans, saying that they should look to her for inspiration and ask “her intercession help unite all Christians,” thus drawing the people of Europe to “an ever greater appreciation of their unique and invaluable Christian heritage."
Among those present at the audience was a group of around 100 sisters from the Order of the Most Holy Savior of St. Bridget, the "Bridgettines," who are gathered in Rome their general chapter meetings.
Barcelona, Spain, Oct 27, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - The Association for the Beatification of Antoni Gaudi stated this week that the architect could possibly be beatified in 2016. The date would coincide with the 90th anniversary of his death.
The association said Gaudi, the architect who designed Barcelona's Church of the Holy Family, could be beatified on June 10, 2016, after the association presents a 1,200 page biography on the architect in Rome next spring.
The author of the biography, Josep Maria Tarragona, noted during a press conference that the document will be used by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints to determine if Gaudi’s devotion and the miracles that have taken place through his intercession are sufficient for his beatification.
Two miracles cited in the biography have yet to be examined by the Vatican congregation. The first surrounds the cure of Spanish man from Canet de Mar who suffered from stomach ulcers. The second is related to the case of a woman from the town of Reus, Spain who lost her sight but later regained it after praying for Gaudi's intercession.
The association noted that the Pope's Nov. 7 visit to Barcelona to dedicate Gaudi's Church of the Holy Family will not accelerate the architect's cause for beatification.
Columbus, Ohio, Oct 27, 2010 (CNA) - A federal judge ruled Oct. 26 that Rep. Steve Driehaus’ complaint against the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) may proceed. The congressman has asked the Ohio Elections Commission to decide whether the pro-life group’s ad charge that he voted for abortion funding was an illegal false statement.
Driehaus’ campaign plans to depose SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, executive director Emily Buchanan, and former U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, a spokeswoman for the group. His campaign has asked for thousands of documents, including e-mails discussing the billboards, in part to evaluate whether the group believes its argument, Politico.com reports.
Making false statements in political campaigns is a violation of Ohio criminal law.
The SBA List had planned to run billboards reading “Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion.”
According to the SBA List, Rep. Driehaus’ attorney convinced Lamar Companies not to put up the billboards in order to avoid being added to the complaint. The pro-life group has announced a $50,000 radio ad buy in Rep. Driehaus’ district.
Kristen Day of Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) characterized the SBA List’s petition as a request “to allow them to make false statements” saying that Rep. Driehaus’ vote for the health care legislation was a vote for taxpayer-funded abortion.
“All records, including any coordinated communication with the Republican National Committee, will have to be turned over to lawyers for Congressman Steve Driehaus,” read a DFLA press release Day sent to CNA.
“This is an historic first step to stop the mudslinging and lies that have come to dominate American politics,” Day continued, saying “there is no federal funding for abortion in the health care bill.”
The DFLA also criticized the SBA List for targeting Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Penn.). The group said a similar campaign by Americans United for Life (AUL) uses “misinformation.”
SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser responded to the judge’s decision, saying “Nothing in today's ruling changes the fact that Rep. Steve Driehaus voted for a health care bill that provides for taxpayer funding of abortion.
“Steve Driehaus does not want his constituents to hear that he voted for a bill that provides for tax dollars to pay for abortions, but the fact that he did is a position held by the National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ohio Right to Life and numerous other organizations and policy experts,” she stated. “We will pursue this case to the end and are confident the truth will prevail.”
Dannenfelser voiced agreement with the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union (Ohio ACLU) that the law gives a state agency the ability to police free speech.
Speaking to CNA last week, she said the legal case is one where “a backroom deal could completely wipe out an organization.”
In her view, the charges against the SBA List could lead to a costly and “highly invasive” legal discovery process in which every paper the organization has generated, including private strategy papers, must be provided to the court.
In an Aug. 20 letter to U.S. Representatives encouraging legislation to make permanent federal restrictions on abortion funding, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo wrote that the health care legislation funds health plans that cover abortions and force citizens enrolled in many plans to fund others’ abortions through their health premiums.
According to the cardinal, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, 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.
Last week Dannenfelser told CNA that President Obama’s executive order limiting abortion funding will not hold up in the court of law when it is appealed by abortion-supporting organizations.
“They see it as health care. They will sue, but they certainly won’t sue before the election,” she explained.
The SBA List head also suggested that many pro-life Democrats who voted for the legislation initially supported stronger funding restrictions because they believed that the health care legislation funded abortions.
Asked to respond to the claim that past support for such restrictions reflected a belief the bill funded abortion, Day told CNA, “The fact that we wanted to make the bill stronger does not logically imply that the bill allowed taxpayer funded abortions.”
Boston, Mass., Oct 27, 2010 (CNA) - Bishops in Massachusetts are emphasizing the importance of voters protecting the sanctity of life and upholding traditional marriage in the upcoming mid-term elections.
In a guest opinion column in Boston’s Herald News on Oct. 26, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference released a statement signed by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston, Bishop George Coleman of the Diocese of Fall River, Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of the Diocese of Springfield and Bishop Robert J. McManus of the Diocese of Worcester.
The bishops opened their remarks by saying that one “of the greatest blessings of our American democracy is the opportunity it affords to its citizens to step up and share their vision of a better society.”
“It was the same yearning for a better life for everyone that brought many of our ancestors to this country. So it is a deeply-rooted concern for the common good that has moved us throughout our history to participate in the election process,” they noted. “Our convictions about the importance of voting are bolstered by the innate sense of hope that has endowed this nation with such promise in good times and in bad.”
The Massachusetts bishops then stated that in the upcoming elections, certain “moral and social issues are fundamentally important, since human rights are at stake and must be protected to help democracy to flourish in a way that benefits every citizen.”
“These include the defense of the sanctity of life, the family based on marriage between a man and a woman, religious freedom, and the well-being of the poor,” the prelates wrote.
Referencing Pope Benedict’s address to the Pontifical Council for the Laity this past May, the bishops underscored that “it is imperative that we exercise our right and duty to vote” as “the common good is at stake.”
“Particularly for us as Catholics,” they said, “voting is an exercise of reason inspired by faith. Our participation as citizens in the electoral process allows us to propose our vision for this country and about our future as a democracy.”
“Deciding which candidate in any particular race offers the best opportunity to take us in the right direction is not an easy task. Yet there is a measuring rod by which all electoral choices must be evaluated: Will my vote enhance human dignity?”
“The opportunity to vote is a blessing,” the bishops concluded. “Taking advantage of this opportunity is an expression of hope. Go to the polls on Election Day and act on your vision of a better society.”