Germantown, Md., Jan 21, 2011 (CNA) - A pro-life group’s first whistleblower award will go to a former clinic worker in Massachusetts who provided evidence that an abortionist’s negligence played a role in the death of a woman injured in an abortion.
Abortionist Rapin Osathanondh ran an abortion clinic in Hyannis, Massachusetts. He was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the case of a woman, 22-year-old Laura Hope Smith, who died in 2007 after an abortion he performed.
Prosecutors charged that he failed to monitor Smith while she was under anesthesia, delayed calling emergency services when her heart stopped, and then lied to try to cover up his actions, the Associated Press says.
Osathanondh was also a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Kim Nichols was one of the clinic workers who testified against the abortionist. She will receive $25,000 from Operation Rescue’s Abortion Whistleblowers Program at a Jan. 22 pro-life rally at the Neelsville Presbyterian Church in Germantown, Maryland.
“Due to Nichols’ courageous and truthful testimony before the Massachusetts Board of Physicians, Osathanondh was declared a danger to the public. His two abortion clinics were closed and he surrendered his medical license, rather than suffer the humiliation of revocation,” commented Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue.
Newman said Smith’s testimony was the basis for the criminal charges which resulted in the abortionist’s conviction. She also endured threats and harassment from Osathanondh.
Nichols told Operation Rescue she had begun to work at the abortion clinic about 10 years ago because she was bothered by the upset young girls in the waiting room and wanted to help them. She said the doctor’s treatment of both patients and employees was “very bad” and many quit because of the abuse.
She reported that Planned Parenthood sent many referrals to the abortionist from both the Boston area and from other states. Though she at first thought she was helping the girls at the clinic, Nichols’ world came “crashing down” when Smith died while Nichols was holding her hand during an abortion.
“Laura’s death shook me to my core. I told the doctor that we should close this clinic down. This wasn’t supposed to happen,” Nichols commented, according to Operation Rescue.
Osathanondh tried to get Nichols to lie for him. When she refused, he began to make harassing phone calls and told her she would hurt the clinic employees and the girls seeking an abortion if she told the truth. He also claimed that she would lose her house in Smith’s mother’s lawsuit if she did not go along.
Nichols said she is now “definitely pro-life” and wants to tell young girls who are considering an abortion to reconsider.
“I want to tell them that abortion will affect them for the rest of their lives and that that it may even sterilize them. I want them to know that they can be physically maimed or worse; they could die, like Laura did,” Nichols commented.
She also commented on the babies who are aborted. "They are not told what is really going to happen to them or their babies. They are lied to about the development of the baby. The baby is called a blob of tissue. They are not told about the alternatives to abortion such as adoption. I wish abortion would end."
Nichols said she now wants to volunteer at a pro-life pregnancy center and share her experiences with young girls.
Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman praised Nichols’ actions.
"We are proud to present our first $25,000 reward to Kim Nichols and pray that her brave commitment to the truth encourages other clinic workers who have witnessed abortion abuses to do the right thing and tell the authorities what they know," he said.
The Abortion Whistleblowers Program has produced radio spots and has sent a flyer to every abortion clinic in the U.S. asking those who have credible information about crimes at abortion clinics to come forward.
Operation Rescue said it has also received information from “several abortion industry insiders” that it is currently analyzing.
Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2011 (CNA) - Catholic politician and public servant Robert Sargent Shriver died on Jan. 18 at the age of 95 in Bethesda, Maryland. He was remembered for his faith and leadership, his service to the poor and his prominent stand as a pro-life Democrat.
“Today we mourn the passing of one of America’s most beloved and respected citizens,” Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, commented.
Shriver was born to a prominent Maryland family on Nov. 9, 1915. He was educated in law at Yale University and served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during the Second World War. He married Eunice Kennedy in the early 1950s and served on the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago. His brother-in-law, President John F. Kennedy, appointed Shriver to create the Peace Corps program which sends American volunteers to developing countries to teach and to work on community projects.
As head the Office of Economic Opportunity, Shriver led many government efforts to combat poverty. His office developed the Head Start program, the Volunteers in Service to America and Job Corps.
His political life included service as U.S. ambassador to France, a vice-presidential run in 1972 and a run for president in 1976.
He later became president and chairman of the Special Olympics, which his wife founded.
The last years of his life included a struggle with Alzheimer ’s disease. His daughter Maria Shriver, a former television journalist and former First Lady of California, published a children’s book on the subject.
Shriver leaves behind five children and 19 grandchildren. His wife Eunice died in 2009.
In a Jan. 18 statement, Cardinal O’Malley described him as a “champion” for millions of people and as a man dedicated to his family and public service.
“He changed the world for the better. His commitment to preserving and protecting human life at every stage of existence, especially for the unborn, and working to lift people out of poverty were exceptional gifts of love and humanity,” the cardinal continued.
Shriver and his late wife “showered us with their energy and devotion to faith and society and they shall remain ever in our thoughts and prayers.”
“We pray for the repose of Sargent’s soul and we ask that God grant him eternal rest in His loving Kingdom,” Cardinal O’Malley concluded.
Shriver and his wife were signatories to a full-page July 1992 New York Times advertisement protesting the Democratic Party’s embrace of abortion politics.
Titled “The New American Compact,” the ad denounced abortion as a drastic reversal of American progress towards liberty and justice for all. It declared the pro-abortion Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade to be “the most momentous act of exclusion in our history” which deprived every unborn human being of the “most fundamental” human right to life.
The ad also called for support for policies that help both mother and child, saying “We can choose to extend once again the mantle of protection to all members of the human family, including the unborn.”
If such choices are made, the signatories predicted, “America will experience a new birth of freedom, bringing with it a renewed spirit of community, compassion, and caring."
Columnist Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, writing in Canada’s National Post, compared Shriver favorably to other members of the Kennedy family.
“Robert Sargent Shriver lived his life as God intended. He was a devout Catholic, often at daily Mass and never without his rosary. A faithful husband and devoted father, he applied his considerable talent and influence on behalf of the weak and the poor. He knew the glamour of the spotlight, but worked for those in the shadows,” Fr. de Souza wrote.
“Shriver was the most outstanding statesman in a tradition that has almost entirely disappeared -- the principled Catholic man of the left.”
The columnist charged that the political left became allied with “the agenda of sexual libertinism” through “the corrosive politics of abortion.” This made the defense of traditional values and concern for the poor appear to be incompatible.
“Today's Democratic Party would never nominate a pro-life Catholic for national office; Shriver's nomination in 1972 was the last of its kind. The political left has become the party of secularism, something that pained both Sargent and Eunice Shriver in their latter years,” Fr. de Souza claimed.
He suggested that Shriver kept his values because for him politics was “only a means.” He also noted that Shriver’s former speechwriter and friend Colman McCarthy has suggested that Sargent and Eunice will be canonized as saints. Fr. de Souza said this was the right category for his legacy because “the true platform of Shriver’s life was the Gospel.”
A public wake for Shriver will be held at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C. from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday. A private funeral Mass will be held on Jan. 22 at Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac, Maryland on Saturday. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, will celebrate the Mass.
Culver City, Calif., Jan 21, 2011 (CNA) - Updated Jan. 21, 11:17 Mountain time. Previous version incorrectly reported that Holy Wood Acting Studio was being supported by Eduardo Verastegui.
On March 28, a team of acting coaches and other entertainment industry professionals will partner with spiritual guides and leadership coaches, to begin a new kind of Hollywood venture – one that will form both onscreen and offscreen character.
On that day, following a Grand Opening event on March 25, Holy Wood Acting Studio says it will open its doors to actors aspiring “to play great roles in movies and in life.” The studio's base of operations, Culver City in West Los Angeles County, bills itself as “the Heart of Screenland,” and is the home of Sony Pictures Studios today.
In their effort to take back Hollywood, the founders of Holy Wood Acting Studio are starting by taking back the city's name – which derives originally from the “holy wood” of the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
The cross many actors bear, according to Holy Wood CEO Carlos Espinosa, is a sense of emptiness that persists –or gets worse– even amid success and recognition. Behind some of the world's most recognized faces, he sees a kind of despair that reminds him of Christ's question in the Gospels: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?”
Espinosa has seen this offscreen lack of personal fulfillment play itself out in actors' real-life dramas of self-indulgence and misery. He believes these destructive tendencies may have a lot to do with the kinds of roles today's actors are expected to inhabit and portray – as they push fiction into the realm of outright deception, and present an exciting but often morally rootless vision of life.
In response, the talents behind Holy Wood are seeking to change both the entertainment business, and the broader culture.
The studio has already drafted the prominent acting coach Mark Atteberry, leadership coach Dr. Owen Phelps, personal growth specialist Dr. Ernesto Bolio, and fitness and nutrition coach Jeff Jordan. They will implement what Holy Wood calls the “Four Pillars” of success in acting – training in the art itself, primarily, but also leadership, personal and moral growth, and physical fitness.
Holy Wood is likely to be unique among acting studios in its incorporation of the theological teachings known to Catholics as the “Theology of the Body.” This approach to spirituality, developed by Pope John Paul II, emphasizes the individual dignity and complimentary roles of men and women, while showing how the drama of romantic love can only find fulfillment in marriage.
More information on Holy Wood Acting Studio can be found at http://www.holywoodactingstudio.com/
Updated Jan. 21, 11:17 Mountain time. Previous version incorrectly reported that Holy Wood Acting Studio was being supported by Eduardo Verastegui.
Havana, Cuba, Jan 21, 2011 (CNA) - An article published by the Archdiocese of Havana’s Catholic magazine, “Espacio Laical,” praised the decision by the Obama administration to relax the rules on travel to Cuba for academic, cultural and religious reasons, saying it comes at a strategic moment and will spur necessary reforms in the country.
The U.S. government announced the new travel rules on Jan. 14 and also made it easier to send remittances to Cuba in order to help promote private economic activity.
Arturo Lopez-Levy, a lecturer on Latin American politics at the Colorado School of Mines, said the new rules come at a strategic time of economic transformation in Cuba, with the recent layoffs of thousands of government workers and the granting of permits to establish small businesses.
In the January edition of “Espacio Laical.” Lopez-Levy also said that by allowing academic, religious and cultural groups to travel to Cuba, the United States is creating “a virtuous circle of travelers” who will help bring about reform. “There are few things of greater impact than direct contact between people,” he said.
He added that for its part, the communist government should eliminate the travel permits Cubans are required to obtain before traveling abroad, and it should allow Cubans to visit the United States for academic reasons.
“The flexibility regarding travel will also benefit U.S. interests in Latin America and the Caribbean, where it will be warmly received and coincides with the international and Cuban human rights agenda,” Lopez-Levy said. However, he criticized U.S. officials for not lifting “the counterproductive, illegal and immoral embargo against Cuba.”
“This opening is potentially the beginning of a thawing in bilateral relations,” he asserted.
Rome, Italy, Jan 21, 2011 (CNA) - Italians are calling for truth in a possible sex scandal that threatens to cause serious damage to their current government. Amid the turmoil, Pope Benedict XVI has issued a call for a return to morality for those in public office.
Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is being investigated for allegedly engaging a minor in sexual relations for pay. While Berlusconi attempts to avoid being brought to trial for the judicial process in Milan, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano asked in an official statement this week that the competent authorities review the findings "as soon as possible."
The Vatican's Secretariat of State voiced its support for the president's call for clarity in the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. It reported the greater part of his statement on Jan. 18.
Asked for comment on Jan. 20, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told Italian media that the Vatican is following the events "with attention and especially with concern."
He said he is particularly concerned for the families and younger generations of Italy, in light of the current events.
"The Holy See ... urges and invities everyone, especially those who have a public responsibility of any kind in whatever administrative, political and judicial sector to have and to assume the commitment for a more robust morality, of a sense of justice and legality."
These, he said, are the hinges of a society that desires to grow and that wishes to give positive answers to all the problems of our time."
Italian media has been filled in recent days with exclusive interviews with callgirls who claim to have had "dates" with the prime minister. He maintains his innocence and even told news outlets that it was he himself who passed Italy's law against prostitution.
The minor involved in the current scandal, Karima el-Mahroug, has denied the alleged relations with the prime minister and any payment from him. Investigations into wiretaps that say otherwise are ongoing.
Berlusconi insisted in comments on Italy's public RAI television network that he would have the case transfered to the ministers' court in Rome from that of Milan, which he deemed incompetent to hold the trial.
Incidentally, the Pope met with administrators and officers from Rome's police department on Jan. 21 to speak about a return to morality. He spoke of the "insecurity" today caused by the economic and social crises and made worse by a perceived loss of ethical principles.
"Our world, with all its new hopes and possibilities, is at the same time affected by the impression that moral consensus is breaking down and that, as a consequence, the basic structures of coexistence are no longer able to function fully."
Against the temptation to think in such a way, the Pope called all people and especially Christians to take responsibility for renewing efforts to profess their faith and do good.
He noted that there are "new challenges" to renewing man's encounter with God in world that gives importance to relativistic attitudes that operate under the premise that "each possesses his own truth and his own morals" and relegate religion to the private sphere.
But, he prayed for change, that "society and public institutions rediscover their 'soul,' their spiritual and moral roots, so as to give a new consistency to their ethical and juridical reference values, and hence to their practical actions."
Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Along with their Jan. 18 recommendations on fixing “serious moral problems” in last year's health care legislation, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a more comprehensive set of recommendations to members of the 112th Congress.
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, wrote on its behalf to members of Congress on Jan. 14. He presented a series of proposals applying the Church's social teaching –which deals mainly with society's universally shared interests, among people of all faiths or none– to issues expected to face the new Congress.
Among his top priorities were “responsible transitions” to end the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a greater emphasis on religious freedom in foreign policy decisions, and a “clear priority for poor families and vulnerable workers” in all economic recovery measures.
Writing only a week before the 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, the archbishop declared that the bishops' most fundamental aim was “to protect the lives of the most vulnerable and voiceless members of the human family,” particularly the unborn, disabled, and terminally ill.
“We will consistently defend the fundamental right to life, from conception to natural death,” he wrote, while promising to “encourage one and all to seek common ground” to reduce the number of abortions through increased medical care for pregnant women.
“In close connection with our defense of all human life,” Archbishop Dolan continued, “we stand firm in our support for marriage, which is –and can only be– a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of one man and one woman.” He pledged the bishops' support for the Defense of Marriage Act against challenges to its constitutionality, and renewed their opposition to same-sex civil unions and partner benefits.
On the economic front, the archbishop reminded members of Congress that any legislative attempts to revive the national economy must give priority to the immediate needs of those hit hardest by the downturn in recent years. He urged the Obama administration and Congress to “seek the common good of our nation” over “partisan politics and the demands of powerful or narrow interests.”
Archbishop Dolan gave a qualified endorsement to partnerships between the federal government and faith-based charities, many of which have stepped in to help victims of economic turmoil. Such partnerships can be of vital service to the nation, the archbishop said, provided they do not require religious groups to make unacceptable compromises of their beliefs.
Immigration reform also continues to be a priority for the U.S. bishops, who supported last year's unsuccessful attempt to pass the DREAM Act. Many members of the U.S. episcopate have experienced firsthand, in the course of their ministry, the systematic problems of what Archbishop Dolan called a “broken immigration system” that “harms both immigrants and our entire nation.”
“Comprehensive reform is needed,” Archbishop Dolan argued, “to deal with the economic and human realities of millions of immigrants in our midst.” Such reform, he said, “will include a path to earned citizenship,” without neglecting the ways in which U.S. trade and development policies can improve conditions in immigrants' countries of origin.
“I assure you of our prayers,” he wrote, promising to pray that the new Congress would “advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all, especially vulnerable and poor persons whose needs are critical in this time of difficult economic and policy choices.”
Rome, Italy, Jan 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Current fiscal and monetary policies in the United States and Europe risk increasing government control over national economies, resulting in weakened political strength throughout “the whole of the western world,” the Vatican’s top banking expert said.
Ettore Gotti Tedeschi has been head of the Vatican's bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, since 2009. He has a long career in finance, having served as the head of Banco Santander, the largest private bank in Europe, as well as on the boards of some of the continent’s leading financial institutions.
He is known as a staunch capitalist with a deep concern for the Church’s social teaching. He is also a former professor of financial ethics at the Catholic University of Milan.
Writing in the Jan. 14 edition of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Tedeschi warned of the growing influence of “Keynesian” economic theory on both sides of the Atlantic.
John Maynard Keynes was a prominent 20th-century economist whose theories were widely embraced by world powers to jump-start their economies after World War II.
Tedeschi cited a 2009 book, "Where Keynes Went Wrong: And Why World Governments keep creating Inflation, Bubbles and Busts," by the American economist and philosopher Hunter Lewis.
He said Lewis had spelled out the "doctrinal errors and practical disasters" of Keynes' theories.
In simple terms, Keynes taught that in times of economic crisis, consumer demand must be stimulated by government investment and an "attitude of saving" must be discouraged, Tedeschi wrote.
He said Keynes' crisis-averting tactics can be seen in the U.S., where government economic policy has focused on increasing public expenditures – and public debt – in order to stimulate private economic activity, including consumer demand and employment.
In addition, also following Keynesian wisdom, the U.S. is printing more money and has looked at increasing taxes in an effort to generate more public revenues.
Tedeschi warned that these policies are leading to a "nationalization" of private debt in the U.S. He also criticized the government bailouts of private banks that offered too much credit without adequate guarantees. This too is leading to increased government control of the economy in the U.S. — a “nationalization” that is being paid for with newly printed currency.
In Europe, he said, the issue is the opposite. Because of the lack of widespread private debt, a "privatization" effort is being enacted to absorb the large public debt of banks and businesses.
This also is Keynesian policy, which "perseveres against the scorned savings," Tedeschi said.
Governments on both sides of the Atlantic, he said, are committed to Keynes' policy of increasing public debt to sustain levels of economic production, consumption, and employment.
He said artificially low interest rates are another key to the strategy of increasing spending and discouraging saving. With no incentive to keep money in the bank, those who would have otherwise been savers are pushed to spend.
"Zero interest rates factually equal a de facto transfer of wealth from he who was a virtuous saver (although not for Keynes) to he who has become virtuously (for Keynes) indebted," he said. "Practically, it's about a hidden tax on poor savers, a tax transferred to the wealthy, (that is), over-indebted states, business people and bankers.”
Although the alternative to zero interest in such a situation is economic collapse and eventual default, the zero-rates "are not sustainable and are dangerous," Tedeschi warned.
"They destroy savings, which is an essential resource to create the base for bank credit; they promote speculation on real estate and securities, create illusory artificial values rather than scaling them down; they push consumption to more risky debt; they alter the market with artificial values and thus lead to belief that the very markets do not know how to correct themselves."
The biggest danger, Tedeschi said, is that zero interest rates "permit, or impose governments into management of the economy, without correcting inefficiency and facilitating distortions in the competition."
He warned that the greatest economic impacts may be on the way.
In the future, he said, inflation might be used as the "maneuver" to absorb the enormous debt in both the U.S. and Europe. Debt levels are now three times as large as the gross domestic product in most countries, he observed. Governments have thus far been able to control inflation by controlling consumption rates.
"Someone," he said, "is hoping for new taxes to sustain a new statism that reinforces a rather weak political class in the whole western world."
Rome, Italy, Jan 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - After an unusual journey, a pair of lambs destined for great things were blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in a traditional ceremony at the Vatican on Jan. 21.
The soft, pure wool from the little lambs will be used to make a vestment, called a "pallium," which the Pope places on the shoulders of the world's newest metropolitan archbishops each summer.
The lambs have quite an adventure before they arrive in the Vatican.
Sister Hanna Pomnianowska of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that the lambs come from a Trappist Monastery at Tre Fontane, just outside of Rome.
They are brought to the sisters the day before the ceremony, where they are the "joy" of the convent and the surrounding neighborhood. They are washed with soap to "bring out the shine" in their coats, blowdried, fed and generally "coddled" before the next day's festivities.
The sisters have had the responsibility since 1884, she said, but they carry on a tradition that was passed on to them by a neighboring convent before it closed.
The morning of the Feast of St. Agnes, the sisters adorn the two lambs with flowers, small roses and a mantle each, one white and one red. The initials S.A.V adorn the white one and stand for "St. Agnes Virgin," while S.A.M. is emblazoned on the red background for "St. Agnes Martyr."
At 9 a.m., a pair of representatives from the Basilica of St. John Lateran arrive to haul the lambs to the Basilica of St. Agnes Outside-the-walls in northern Rome.
The Order of Lateran Canons Regular run the parish dedicated to St. Agnes, which has more than 10,000 parishioners.
On this, one of the most special days of the year in parish life, the lambs are carried inside in baskets for the 10:30 a.m. Mass.
This year, the Pope's auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Rome's North Region, Bishop Guerino Di Tora, presided over the Mass and Lateran Abbot Fr. Pietro Guglielmi blessed the lambs in the special rite.
From there, the lambs are loaded into a truck again for the ride to the Vatican.
This year, they arrived in time for the 11:30 a.m. presentation ceremony at the Vatican's Urban VIII Chapel. They were ceremoniously presented to the Pope, who then entrusted them to the Benedictine religious sisters of the Roman convent of St. Cecilia in Trastevere.
As they do every year, the sisters will use the lambs' wool to make a pallium for each of this year's newly-appointed heads of Catholic archdioceses in the world with sees in major cities.
The pallium is a special white liturgical vestment emblazoned with six black silk crosses. It is placed over the shoulders of the archbishops when they are recognized by the Pope. It is a symbol of both their pastoral authority and their unity with the Successor of Peter.
Last year, 38 metropolitan archbishops received the pallium in St. Peter's Basilica.
The pallia from this year's lambs will be ready for the ceremony on June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. At that point the woolen vestments begin another journey, out from Rome to the archdioceses of the world.
Brasilia, Brazil, Jan 21, 2011 (CNA) - Two Catholic bishops in the region of Rio de Janeiro have reported on the arduous work carried out by the Church in response to torrential rains and flooding that have so far left 765 people dead.
According to a Jan. 20 bulletin from the Civil Defense of Rio de Janeiro, the municipality of Nova Friburgo reports 357 deaths, followed by Teresopolis with 323 deaths, Petropolis with 64, and Sumidouro with 21.
Regarding the Church’s efforts to address the tragedy, Bishop Filipo Santoro said the situation is dramatic as there have never been so many deaths in such circumstances. “We cannot stop speaking about the fact that solidarity is being shown everywhere,” the bishop said.
He noted that many churches and schools have opened their doors to those made homeless by the floods. “It is a network of solidarity that can’t be measured. People are seeking the best way to help and that can be done through unity and companionship, as we have done,” he said.
Bishop Edney Gouvea Mattoso of Nova Friburgo said the work of recovering the bodies of victims is difficult but continues to take place. “Our work has been effective in obtaining donations of basic necessities, coats, and in the fraternal and spiritual care for those affected. Many of them were left with only the clothes on their backs and have wandered aimlessly through the streets,” he said.
Some sectors in Nova Friburgo can only be reached by helicopter, he added, warning that while the rescue effort continues, “it is very difficult, especially because damage to roadways is preventing immediate access.”