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Archive of October 30, 2010

California insurance commissioner race could affect taxpayer funding of abortions

Sacramento, Calif., Oct 30, 2010 (CNA) - The California insurance commissioner race could be pivotal in the future of taxpayer funded abortion in the state. While one candidate is pro-life, Democratic candidate David Jones has publicly committed to promote full funding for abortions in all health insurance plans in the state.

He made his pledge for abortion funding in a May 5 speech at the 2010 Planned Parenthood Capitol Day, the California Catholic Daily reports.

Jones is presently an Assemblyman from Sacramento. On Oct. 8 he opposed three amendments to the 2010-11 California MediCal budget. He voted to table proposals which would have banned payments for partial-birth abortions, required parental consent for MediCal-funded abortions performed on minors, and required informed consent of the woman before a MediCal-funded abortion.

The candidate has a 100 percent rating on the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California (PPAC) 2009 Scorecard. He has also earned Planned Parenthood’s Advocate for Access Award for promoting legislation favored by the organization, the largest abortion provider in the United States.

The Republican candidate for the position is Mike Villines of the Fresno area, who headed his party in the California Assembly from 2006 to 2009. He had a pro-life voting record during his three terms. He voted for all three of the MediCal abortion-funding regulation amendments and has a zero percent rating on the 2009 Planned Parenthood scorecard.

Mary Shallenberger, Planned Parenthood’s master of ceremonies for the 2010 Capitol Day, called Jones “somebody who lives the principles of Planned Parenthood.” In his remarks he cited his support for the FamilyPACT program, which provides taxpayer-funded birth control drugs and devices to Californians, including minor children without parental knowledge or consent, according to California Catholic Daily.

Jones said he would restore the office of Insurance Commissioner to being one that is “a consumer activist office and one that fights for women’s reproductive health.”

He also pledged to work with Planned Parenthood to ensure that abortion is covered in the implementation of the national health care bill in California.

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Former President Bush's memoir will highlight influence of Pope John Paul II

Washington D.C., Oct 30, 2010 (CNA) - An early preview of President George W. Bush's forthcoming memoir “Decision Points,” has revealed that the book will discuss the former president's relationship with Pope John Paul II—especially the Pope's influence on his decision to restrict embryonic stem cell research.

The Pontiff and president met publicly in 2001, 2002 and 2004, for discussions that displayed both profound agreements and serious differences between the two men.

On October 28, 2010, the Drudge Report posted exclusive details from the president's memoir (available November 9). Their first look at “Decision Points” mentioned that the Pope's vision of a “culture of life” helped the president understand the dignity of embryonic human lives, even as proponents of embryonic research urged him to consider the possible benefits.

During their first meeting, in July of 2001, Pope John Paul II reminded the president that “a free and virtuous society, which America aspires to be, must reject practices that devalue and violate human life at any stage from conception to natural death.”

“Through a vibrant culture of life,” the Holy Father told Bush on that occasion, “America can show the world the path to a truly humane future, in which man remains the master, not the product, of his technology.”

According to the Drudge Report preview, President Bush was strongly moved by the Pope's cultural vision, as well as his personal witness. John Paul II had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for up to a decade at the time of the meeting. But he opposed research into any possible treatment that would have involved the destruction of embryonic lives.

The Pope's words and witness that summer led the president to make a decision protecting embryonic life in crucial ways. On August 9, 2001, President Bush announced that federal money would not fund research involving any further destruction of embryos for research purposes. The ban remained in place throughout his administration.

Although the president's address on stem cells drew some criticism for its moderately positive take on in vitro fertilization (which also involves the mass production and killing of embryos), many observers praised his cautious approach to bioethical questions, as well as his advocacy of adult-derived stem cell research.

Crown Publishing Group, the publishers of the former president's book, has revealed that “Decision Points” will also detail the considerations that led to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. In regard to this decision, President Bush did not agree with Pope John Paul II.

The Holy Father publicly opposed the “Bush doctrine” of preemptive war against countries suspected of threatening the U.S., stating that war was to be regarded only as a last resort once all other options were exhausted.  On March 18, 2003, two days before the invasion, the Pope warned of “tremendous consequences” for the Iraqi people, and said there was “still time to negotiate” to avoid war.

That same day, President Bush declared that America had exhausted its options, describing the invasion as a necessity due to weapons of mass destruction allegedly being prepared by Saddam Hussein. When the two men met again in 2004, the Pope reaffirmed that the stance against war remained “the unequivocal position of the Holy See.”

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Agnostic filmmaker tells St. Josemaria Escriva's story

San Diego, Calif., Oct 30, 2010 (CNA) - Oscar-nominated film director Roland Joffe describes himself as a “wobbly agnostic.” “There’s easy atheism, there’s easy agnosticism, and there’s easy faith,” he explained during a Sept. 9 phone interview with The Southern Cross. “Because I have a curious mind, I’ve never been able to take … a totally easy path.”

Still, Joffe admits that he finds “immense beauty” and “immense truths” in religion. He also sees no conflict between his agnosticism and his latest film project, “There Be Dragons.”

The film is based on the life of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, a Spanish priest who founded the lay Catholic movement known as Opus Dei. The film will be released in theaters in Spring 2011.

“Just because I’m agnostic, I would be a fool if I dismissed somebody because he was a saint,” Joffe said. He added that he actually finds himself steered in the opposite direction, convinced that “things of great interest to every human being” are bound to be discovered in the life of “a hero of the Church.”

Written and directed by Joffe, “There Be Dragons” is not the first time the British filmmaker has explored religious territory. His 1986 directorial effort, “The Mission,” starred Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons as Jesuits in 18th-century Latin America.

Nine years after its release, “The Mission” was included in a Vatican-compiled list of 45 “great films.” The film also won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival and earned Joffe his second Academy Award nomination for best director. He had previously been nominated two years earlier for 1984’s “The Killing Fields.”

Joffe’s latest film, “There Be Dragons,” is set during the Spanish Civil War of the mid- to late 1930s, a period the director describes as “the seminal moment in Josemaria’s life.” Joffe said the film expresses the Spanish saint’s deeply held belief that God can be found in everyday life – even during a civil war – and that everyone can be a saint.

“There Be Dragons” is not intended to be the cinematic equivalent of a “poster” or “user’s manual” for Opus Dei, Joffe said. But viewers also should not expect a retread of the lurid conspiracy theories propagated by “The Da Vinci Code” and its film adaptation.

“I think Dan Brown (the author of “The Da Vinci Code”) misused Opus Dei … in a rather unpardonable way,” Joffe said. “I hope, in some ways, this movie will set the balance straight, but that’s not the objective of the movie. I just think it’s maybe a byproduct.”

While “There Be Dragons” would seem to have built-in appeal for Catholic viewers, Joffe believes that it will speak to a much larger audience, including those who do not believe in God or subscribe to any particular faith. He revealed that an atheist character, who figures prominently in the film, is shown to experience “a profoundly religious moment.”

“I think there’s going to be much to find, because there’s all of life expressed in this movie,” Joffe said. “I think Catholics and other religious people, and agnostics and atheists alike will find the human experience there, very clearly and rather beautifully expressed by the actors.”

Printed with permission from the Southern Cross, newspaper for the Diocese of San Diego.

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