Archive of December 14, 2010

Expert criticizes UN distribution of condoms in Peru

CNA STAFF, Dec 14, 2010 (CNA) - The Latin American director of the Population Research Institute, Carlos Polo, recently charged that the United Nations' donation of 20,000 “female condoms” given to  Peru’s “family planning” programs are part of a “huge business” that involves more than $33 billion worldwide.

Peru’s Ministry of Health announced Dec. 12 that the U.N. Population Fund had donated 20,000 female condoms for the country to use in its campaign against AIDS.

Polo clarified on Dec. 13 that the 20,000 female condoms were given free-of-charge to Peru, but that once they are included officially as part of the government’s family planning program, “the Peruvian State will have to pay for them with tax-payer money.” 

“This is the same thing that has happened with other contraceptive methods,” he explained.

According to a report from the U.N. Population Fund, $33 billion was spent on population control in 2008, with $10 billion coming from international corporations. The other $23 billion came from the governments of poor countries and from consumer sales of contraceptives, Polo said.

“Contrary to what the international organizations – who portray themselves as ‘the good guys’ – say,” Polo continued, they only contributed a little more than “three percent of the total cost.”

The U.N. Population Fund report states that the goal for population programs is to spend some $65 billion “in order to meet the goals supposedly agreed to at the conference in Cairo,” he explained.

“This means the U.N. Population Fund needs to raise funds for its questionable population policies, from supporting China’s one-child-per-family policy and forced abortions to including this ‘novelty’ of female condoms,” Polo said.

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Mexican cardinal demands that drug cartels respect holiday season

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 14, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez of Guadalajara, Mexico has called on drug cartels to respect the holiday season after a group of armed men interrupted an Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration and killed at least 10 people.

The cardinal expressed his indignation over the latest episode of violence during Mass on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12. “These people have no shame.  They fire off bullets at a group of people attending a religious celebration. They ought to at least respect sacred things … They are already committing serious enough crimes,” he said.

On Dec. 10 armed men fired upon a group honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe in Tecalitlan, located two hours from Guadalajara. At least 10 were killed and 30 injured.

Cardinal Sandoval urged the faithful to take extreme measures to protect themselves from becoming victims of crime, such as “not leaving home unless necessary.” He also encouraged them to avoid becoming victims of extortion by not giving out personal information over the phone.

The cardinal said the reason for Mexico’s ills are because the faithful “have not seriously accepted the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is to pay attention to her son and put our faith into practice. He added that Our Lady calls Catholics “to live the commandments of the Lord, who is the King of justice and of peace.”

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Pope Benedict XVI expresses solidarity with Colombian landslide victims

Rome, Italy, Dec 14, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has expressed solidarity with the victims of the Dec. 5 landslide in the Colombian town of Bello.

Colombia’s ambassador to the Holy See, Cesar Mauricio Velasquez added that the Pope is urging solidarity with those affected by the torrential rains that have drenched 80 percent of the country.

During a Dec. 12 visit to the town of Bello, which is near the Colombian city of Medellin, Velasquez told reporters, “The Pope has encouraged the International Caritas Network to help those affected, especially the families of the deceased in Bello.”

The Holy Father “shares the suffering of the victims of the torrential rains in Colombia,” the ambassador said, especially those in Bello.

Benedict XVI is praying “for the children who were buried in the landslide, and for their families, that they might receive divine comfort and strength,” he added.

Velasquez said he was “astonished” at the scale of the tragedy and at the organization and determination of those involved in the rescue effort, which he described as “exemplary.”

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Iraqi government building walls around churches after anti-Christian violence

Baghdad, Iraq, Dec 14, 2010 (CNA) - Concrete walls up to 10 feet high are being built around churches in Baghdad and Mosul to protect Christmas churchgoers from violence.

The barriers are the Iraqi government’s response to reports of increased threats to churches and other Christian communities ahead of Christmas.

Normally celebrations would involve parties in church halls and parks. But after requests from church leaders, activities in both Baghdad and Mosul are being scaled back to reduce the security threat.

“The sadness of the people is everywhere. Uncertainty is everywhere. The question on everyone’s lips is ‘What’s next?’” Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil told the charity Aid to the Church in Need. “There is a kind of desperation. But whatever happens, the people are determined to celebrate the Christmas liturgy by any means possible.”

Access points to the churches are being controlled by police with scanning equipment.

Archbishop Warda said the barriers and security measures make churchgoers feel as if they are “entering a military camp.” However, he praised the government for taking steps to improve security.

Government officials had asked parish priests if they wanted the security walls. Many clergy approved the plans while others said they felt the actions would just intimidate a Christian community that is already fearful.

In an Oct. 31 massacre at Baghdad’s Syrian Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, 58 people were killed and more than 70 were injured. At least 2,000 Christians from Mosul and Baghdad have fled because of the violence.

Aid to the Church in Need is distributing emergency aid packages to displaced Christians. It has also arranged aid for the victims of the Oct. 31 massacre and their families.

Archbishop Warda said the aid is being “welcomed with joy.”

“They feel very grateful and they are encouraged by the fact that they are being remembered by others more fortunate than themselves,” he explained.

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Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum rejects JFK's separation of church and state

Merrimack, N.H., Dec 14, 2010 (CNA) -

During a symposium exploring Catholic statesmanship on Dec.4, likely 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum rejected President John F. Kennedy’s advocacy of an absolute separation of church and state.

St. Thomas More College of Liberal Arts’ Symposium on Catholic Statesmanship took place Dec. 4, and included former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; Ray Flynn, the longtime mayor of Boston and Clinton appointee as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See; and Prof. Hadley Arkes of Amherst College, a recent convert to Catholicism.

Describing Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech in which he aimed to dispel suspicions about the role the Pope might play in his administration, Santorum said that “Kennedy chose not just to dispel fear, he chose to expel faith.”

“The idea of strict or absolute separation of church and state is not and never was the American model. It’s a model used in countries like France and until recently Turkey, but it found little support in America until it was introduced into the public discourse by Justice Hugo Black in the case of Everson v. The Board of Education in 1947,” he said.
The country's founders, according to Santorum, were determined to ensure that the new national government “had no jurisdiction over matters of religion, in large part to insure that each American would be free to pursue the religion of their choice without state interference.

“Far from reflecting hostility toward religion, our founders, rooted in their own faith convictions, knew that faith was not just an essential element, but the essence of civilization and the inspiration of culture.”

The former Pennsylvania senator also explained that Jefferson's “wall of separation” was meant to describe “how the First Amendment was designed to protect churches from the government and nothing more.” But Kennedy's “misuse of the phrase,” he argued, “constructed a high barrier that ultimately would keep religious convictions out of politics in a place where our founders had intended just the opposite.”

“Kennedy took words written to protect religion from the government and used them to shield the government from religion,” Santorum explained.

“When I served in the U.S. Senate I often looked to the moral wisdom found in the writings of religious people,” he said, citing Mother Teresa's 1994 speech against abortion at the National Prayer Breakfast and Pope John Paul II's call for absolving Third World debt in 2000.

“Should I have rejected the instructions from the clergy to relieve debt because it was inspired by the word of God?” he asked.

Santorum said that a major political offshoot of Kennedy's philosophy was best illustrated by Mario Cuomo's speech at the University of Notre Dame on the 24th anniversary of JFK’s Houston speech, in September 1984.

“There he espoused his nuanced position on abortion: that, as a result of his religious convictions he was personally opposed to abortion. But he then applies Kennedy's thesis and refrains from imposing his values upon others whose views, because the truth is indiscernible, are equally valid.”

“Virtual stampedes of self-proclaimed Catholic politicians followed Cuomo into this seemingly safe harbor and remain there today. This political hand washing made it easier for Catholics to be in public life, but it also made it harder for Catholics to be Catholic in public life,” Santorum observed.

He then described Cuomo's stand as “nothing more than a camouflage for the faint of heart -- a cynical sanctuary for concealing true convictions from the public, and for rationalizing a reluctance to defend them. Kennedy, Cuomo and their modern day disciples would resolve any conflict between religion and politics by relegating faith to the closet.”

Santorum admitted that there are moral issues where he has differed from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and even the Pope, such as welfare reform, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and some immigration policies.

“While all of these issues have profound moral underpinnings,” he said, “none of them involve moral absolutes. War is are not always unjust; government aid is not always just or compassionate. The bishops and I may disagree on such prudential matters, but as with all people of good will with whom I disagree, I have an obligation to them and my country to listen to their perspective and perform a healthy reexamination of my own position.”

The former senator explained that President Kennedy could have offered the “Church’s principle of the harmony of faith and reason” in response to those who worried about his Catholicism. 

“The American experience has demonstrated a healthy union of faith and reason,” Santorum said. We have learned that faith for its own sake, apart from the pursuit of truth is only a sentiment, and that reason for its own sake withers into rationalism. … If I have faith only in myself, I belong to a very small religion.”

In Santorum's view, the brilliance of America's founders “created a paradigm that has given America the best chance of any civilization in the history of man to endure the test of time.”

But America's well-balanced model is in danger, he warned.
“You'll see it in the public square today, and it's popular because it pretends to impose nobody's values on anybody. Yet it's an illusion because it uses a cloak of ‘neutrality,’ ‘objectivity’ and ‘rationality’ that results in the imposition of secular values on everybody while marginalizing faith and those who believe as ‘moralizing theocrats’.”

“I believe we all have an obligation to be good stewards of this great inheritance the ‘true remedies’ generations of Americans created with their last full measure of devotion.”

“That's why we should feel so blessed to be here at a time when the land that God has so richly blessed is being put to the test. Many generations are never called to do great things, make great sacrifices to maintain liberty. We are the fortunate ones,” Santorum said.

“In Chapter Six of Isaiah, the prophet looked up to heaven and heard a voice that called out for someone to stand for God. Whom shall I send? The voice asked. And Isaiah responded ‘Here I am Lord, send me.’ This is our watch and like every generation we are being called Whom shall we send? What is your answer?” the former senator said in closing.

Each of the speakers answered questions from the audience before the symposium gave way to a cocktail hour. The evening was rounded out with a keynote address from Cardinal Raymond Burke in which he spoke about the importance of authentically Catholic colleges.

Charles McKinney, Director of Communications for Thomas More College, told CNA that the audience “responded extremely well to Senator Santorum’s speech. He received a long standing ovation for his remarks, and was mobbed by well-wishers after the event."

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Vatican’s global importance evident in leaked cables

Denver, Colo., Dec 14, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Leaked State Department cables are giving insight into the Vatican’s influential role on the world stage and the United States’ efforts to cooperate with the Holy See in advancing common interests.

Some Vatican-related cables are being released through WikiLeaks’ media partners, which include the New York Times and the British newspaper The Guardian. The cables are also slowly being released through the websites of WikiLeaks, although the main U.S. site has been shut down.

The cables offer State Department officials’ own analysis and recount conversations with Vatican officials and diplomats from other countries. Topics range from the Vatican’s internal affairs to its actions in international relations.

One April 22, 2009 cable reported on Vatican hopes that better U.S.-Cuba relations would weaken the role of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The Vatican’s motives included great concern regarding the “deterioration” of Church-state relations in Cuba.

Recounting a discussion with Msgr. Angelo Accattino, the Holy See official in charge of relations with Caribbean and Andean countries, the cable analyzed Chavez’s behavior at the Summit of the Americas. The Venezuelan president was “clearly rattled” by the possibility that the U.S. and Cuba could begin a dialogue that excluded him. This was reportedly a motive for his “bombastic approach” to President Barack Obama.

The cable stated that the Holy See “believes the U.S. and Cuba should pursue a dialogue both for its own sake” as well as to “reduce the influence of Chavez.”

A May 2006 cable analyzed the continuing Polish influence at the Vatican and discussed the Holy See’s hopes that Poland would capably defend life and family issues in the European Union. It also noted support for U.S. foreign policy among Polish clergy and seminarians at the Vatican. The cable further discussed the Vatican’s “wariness” towards the Radio Maryja outlet accused of xenophobia and anti-Semitism and the “dangers that right-wing nationalists posed to Poland’s future.”

One cable from August 2004 discussed U.S.-Vatican agreement on U.N. General Assembly initiatives, including a ban on human cloning and responses to human trafficking and anti-Semitism.

The cable reported some confusion over the Vatican’s support for a cloning ban and noted some misperceptions caused by communication problems may have proved “decisive” in a close U.N. vote on the issue.

A Feb. 20, 2009 memo further discussed communications problems which reduced the volume of the Vatican’s “moral megaphone.” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi is anomalous in his use of a Blackberry and many officials do not have official e-mail accounts. Fr. Lombardi is also “terribly overworked,” simultaneously managing the Vatican Press Office, Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Center, it stated.

The memo also critically described Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg speech as “disastrous.” The 2006 speech caused global controversy and violence when media reports focused on its quotation of a Byzantine emperor who said Islam was violent.

News coverage of the Vatican-related cables has brought many old stories back to the headlines.

The Guardian’s publication of a June 2009 cable highlighted the Vatican’s role in helping to secure the release of British sailors detained by Iran in April 2007. However, this was already reported in 2007 by Time Magazine, among others, who noted that the release of the sailors came just a day after Pope Benedict XVI had sent a private letter asking for their release.

"There was respect for the request of the Pope," Iran’s vice-ambassador to the Holy See Ahmad Fahima told Time in 2007. “The policy of the Holy See is important throughout the whole world.”

The New York Times said the Vatican-related cables “do not appear to contain any bombshells.” Presently unreleased cables discuss Opus Dei’s reaction to the guilty plea of Robert P. Hanssen, an FBI agent who spied for Russia. Other documents discuss U.S.-Vatican relations regarding the clergy sex abuse scandal which broke during 2002.

A U.S. Vatican embassy cable from that year reported that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, then-secretary of state, spent most of his initial meeting with U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson to “register his displeasure with the several lawsuits filed in U.S. courts that have been served at the Vatican.”

The cardinal reportedly complained about “aggressive attorneys,” saying it was one thing to sue bishops but “another thing entirely to sue the Holy See.” According to the New York Times, the cardinal urged the ambassador to help defend the sovereignty of the Holy See.

Again in the headlines is Pope Benedict’s previous opposition to Turkey’s bid to enter the European Union. One 2004 cable recounted the Holy See’s acting foreign minister Msgr. Pietro Parolin’s clarification that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s criticisms of Turkish EU membership did not reflect the view of the Holy See at the time.

The cable discussed the integration of Muslims into European society and the problems of religious freedom in Turkey.  D. Brent Hardt, the U.S. Embassy official who authored the cable, noted that Cardinal Ratzinger was a “leading voice” behind the Vatican’s unsuccessful effort to secure a reference to Europe’s Christian roots in the EU constitution.

“He clearly understands that allowing a Muslim country into the EU would further weaken his case for Europe's Christian foundations,” Hardt explained, noting that the Vatican’s official position towards Turkish integration is one of “cautious, skeptical openness.”

A December 2006 cable revisited the question under the papacy of Benedict XVI. It reported that neither the Pope nor the Holy See have endorsed Turkey’s EU membership but the Holy See has been “consistently open” to the idea.

Msgr. Parolin said the Holy See would see no obstacle to Turkey joining the EU provided religious freedom advances in the country. In his estimate, the situation couldn’t get much worse for Turkey’s Christian community short of open persecution.

The same cable also referred to Pope Benedict’s Regensburg speech. In the view of U.S. embassy official Christopher Sandrolini, this speech made clear that the Pope was “not naïve about the challenges presented by Islam” but also gave “added heft to his favorable words on Turkey.” Sandrolini suggested the United States' focus on Turkey’s EU entry as an opportunity to improve the lives of Christians would also resonate with the Vatican.

A February 2010 cable examined Vatican-Irish relations concerning the commissions investigating sex abuse. While saying Vatican and Irish officials’ first concern was for the victims, this reality was sometimes “obscured” by subsequent events triggered by the Vatican’s belief that the Irish government failed to respect and protect the sovereignty of the Holy See during the investigations.

The Vatican’s “relatively swift response” indicated that it learned from the U.S. sex abuse scandals, but the papal nuncio’s lack of action caused resentment among the Irish people.

The cables also offer insight into the U.S. government’s understanding of the relationship between the Vatican and the U.S. Catholic bishops.

A June 26, 2009 “scene setter” for President Obama’s July 10 visit to the Holy See noted the Vatican’s appreciation of many of the president’s positions, but also its “profound concerns” about his approach to abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

The document advised the president that the Vatican has made a “tactical decision” to allow the U.S. bishops to take the lead in voicing these concerns, and this difference in emphasis “should not be interpreted as a divergence of views.”

One pervasive theme of the State Department cables is the global importance of the Vatican.

The Vatican observer mission at the U.N. was “always active and influential behind the scenes,” a December 2009 memo reported. “As the spiritual leader of 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide and enjoying respect as well from non-Catholics, the Pope wields an unparalleled moral megaphone,” the June 2009 scene setter for President Obama said.

One lengthy July 2001 memo described the Vatican as “the supranational power” which has presence and reach in “virtually every country in the world.” However, the same cable was aware that American and Vatican interests do not always align, as in the case of the U.S. effort to isolate Saddam Hussein.

“We should recognize that the Vatican will not support our efforts in Iraq, and investigate ways to limit Vatican interference with our objectives,” it said.

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Al-Qaida hatred for Pope caused US worries about Vatican security

Rome, Italy, Dec 14, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Speaking frankly about “the known al-Qaida antipathy to the Pope,” American embassy officials in 2008 asked the U.S. State Department to consider an effort to help Vatican security forces deal with terrorist threats.

The WikiLeaks website recently published a Dec. 19, 2008 State Department cable reputedly from the U.S. Embassy in Rome. The cable, classified as “secret,” documented a request from the U.S. Vatican Embassy to plan and fund a “crisis management tabletop exercise” with Vatican security services.

The stated purpose of this effort was to enhance the Vatican’s crisis response abilities and to “foster a dialogue with the Vatican on counter-terrorism.”

“Al-Qaida has publicly identified the Pope and the Catholic Church as an enemy (‘Crusaders’), and Vatican City attracts hundreds of thousands of American citizen visitors each year, both tourists and pilgrims,” the cable continued.

According to the cable, the head of the Vatican Gendarme Corps Domenico Giani had sought specific security training from the FBI, including explosives ordinance training for Vatican Gendarmerie members at the Quantico Marine Corps base in Virginia. However, the cable reported, Giani has been “reluctant to engage in a comprehensive dialogue with the United States about Vatican capabilities and preparedness to respond to a terrorist attack.”

While the famous Swiss Guard provides security for the Pope and visiting dignitaries, the Gendarme Corps is responsible for general security and law enforcement at the Vatican.

During a November 2008 conversation about al-Qaida’s threat to the Vatican, U.S. Vatican Embassy official Julieta Valls Noyes proposed to Giani a joint tabletop exercise on crisis management, to which he reportedly responded “positively.”

The Rome Embassy cable noted the Holy See’s sensitivity about appearing to be too close to any one state, which the embassy described as a challenge to fostering dialogue about security. Another challenge was “the Vatican’s conviction that its facilities must be easily accessible to all Catholics.”

According to the cable’s analysis, Giani’s interest in a crisis management exercise was an opportunity to better position the U.S. to help the Vatican prepare to respond to terrorist threats.

The cable appears to be WikiLeaks’ first release of a Vatican-related document that did not originate with the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See. The cable’s authorship is attributed to U.S. Ambassador to Italy Ronald Spogli.

More than 700 WikiLeaks cables originate at the U.S. Vatican Embassy, while about 100 others originate at other American embassies and consulates.

In a Dec. 3 response to CNA inquiries, the U.S. Vatican Embassy said it could not address the authenticity of any documents provided to the press. The embassy also condemned “in the strongest terms” the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

For their part, Vatican officials have also advised “great prudence” in examining the WikiLeaks cables. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said the reports reflect “the perceptions and opinions of those who wrote them” and cannot be considered as expressions of the Holy See or as exact quotations of its officials.

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Legionaries of Christ no longer promoting their founder

Rome, Italy, Dec 14, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Under Vatican authorization, the head of the Legionaries of Christ announced that he is implementing new changes regarding their deceased founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel. The new norms include not celebrating his birthday, not selling his writings and removing his photos from group centers.

A statement on the Legionaries' website said that current leader, Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, issued the norms on Dec. 6 following the approval of Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, whom Pope Benedict charged with reforming the order last July.

The religious congregation and the lay movement, Regnum Christi, are working to recover from revelations that their founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, sexually abused seminarians and fathered several children. The discovery led to questions – and an apostolic visitation of the Legion ordered by Pope Benedict – about whether the charism and formation process of the order were affected by the founder.

An apostolic visitation of Regnum Christi's consecrated lay members is ongoing and will conclude in June 2011.

New changes – which are the result of ongoing dialogue between the leaders of the religious order and lay movement – mandate that significant days related to Fr. Marciel's birth, baptism, and priestly ordination can no longer be celebrated by members.

The founder will also be referred to simply as “Fr. Maciel” instead of “Nuestro Padre” (our father) and his personal writings and talks will no longer be available for purchase at Legionary publishing houses or centers.

New norms also require that photos of Fr. Marciel either alone or with the Pope be removed from Legionary and Regnum Christi buildings.

Additionally, the norms state that the burial place of Fr. Maciel, located in the priest's native Cotija, Mexico, "will be given the value that pertains to any Christian burial place," and "will be treated as a place of prayer for the eternal repose of the deceased."

Fr. Corcuera noted that retreat centers in Cotija will continue offering the same services, but will also add a “place for prayer, reparation, and expiation.”

The statement emphasized that leaders should respect the “personal freedom” of group members and allow for individuals to  keep a photograph of the founder, read his writings, or listen to his talks. The content of Fr. Maciel's writings can also be used by members without citing the author.

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