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Archive of February 25, 2011

Woman who sought priesthood renounces 'alleged ordination'

San Diego, Calif., Feb 25, 2011 (CNA) - A former advocate of women's ordination, who attempted to be ordained as a deacon, has renounced her attempt to join the priesthood and declared her adherence to Church teaching.

“I relinquish all connection to the program of Roman Catholic Women Priests,” Dr. Norma Jean Coon stated in a recent declaration on her personal website. “I disclaim the alleged ordination publicly, with apologies to those whose lives I have offended or scandalized.”

“The ordinations were illegitimate, and not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church,” she wrote. “I withdrew from the program within two weeks of the ceremony, because I realized I had made a mistake in studying for the priesthood.”

Dr. Coon explained that she participated in an attempted ordination to the diaconate on July 22, 2007, at the hands of Patricia Fresen, a former Dominican sister from South Africa who claims to have been consecrated as a bishop.

Fresen's orders are also invalid according to Catholic doctrine – meaning that her attempt to ordain any other individual to the diaconate, priesthood, or episcopate would have no sacramental effect.

While Coon made reference to “Bishop Patricia Fresen” in her formal recantation, she also described the ceremony in which she participated as an “alleged ordination” – implying she did not consider it valid – and also acknowledged “the authority of the Holy Father on these issues of ordination.”

“I confess to the truth of Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter ‘Ordinatio Sacerdotalis’,” she stated, “and recognize that Christ founded the ordination only for men.”

In that letter, the Pope declared that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women,” and taught that this judgment was to be “definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

While sacramentally futile, the attempt to confer Holy Orders on a woman involves a profound rejection of Catholic unity, through the establishment of separate structures and communities for worship. The simulated ordinations and other liturgies also represent a form of sacrilege, making them especially serious.

As such, their canonical consequences are also serious – a fact Dr. Coon acknowledged in her public recantation.

“An excommunication process called 'Latae Sententiae' occurred,” she said, explaining that this is the technical term for “excommunicating oneself by failure to observe the canon laws of the Church.”

Since July 2010, cases of attempted women's ordination – and any subsequent reestablishment of communion for those who renounce it – have been under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, along with other serious offenses against the priesthood and the Eucharist.

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Catholic mothers debate breastfeeding and government involvement

Denver, Colo., Feb 25, 2011 (CNA) - Although they agree on the numerous benefits of breastfeeding, prominent Catholic experts on motherhood are at odds over government attempts to promote the practice in the fight against childhood obesity.

Republican leaders recently asserted that Michelle Obama's efforts to increase breastfeeding among mothers in the U.S. were the work of an intrusive “nanny state.”

Experts Sheila Kippley – author and co-founder of National Family Planning International – and Terri Aquilina, writer and La Leche League counselor, joined the debate this week. While the two held the same views on the need to encourage breastfeeding, they differed on the topic of government involvement.

“If we want what is best for babies, we need to encourage moms to breastfeed,” Aquilina told CNA on Feb. 23. “Michelle Obama's main concern is preventing childhood obesity,” she added, saying that breastfeeding “is the right place to start.” 

Controversy around the issue began when Michelle Obama – who has made reducing childhood obesity a primary focus during her White House tenure – recently told reporters that breast-fed babies have a lower tendency of being overweight. Her remarks, coupled with the IRS releasing a new policy several days later offering tax breaks to women who buy breast pumps, set off an immediate round of criticism from political opponents.

Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-Minn.) accused the Obama administration of imposing a “nanny state” on mothers. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin quipped that Michelle Obama was trying to compensate for high milk prices.

Also wary of government involvement, Sheila Kippley said that although she agrees with the administration promoting breastfeeding, she is “not a believer in the government providing tax breaks for mothers to buy breast pumps.” 

Kippley is a mother of five and author of the 2005 book “Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood.”

“This is an excellent case that illustrates the need for citizens to take personal responsibility for themselves and their dependents,” she told CNA in a Feb. 24 e-mail. “The purchase of breast pumps is simply not a subject for federal, state, and city taxes.”

Kippley also noted that women who are able to stay home with their babies do not need a pump, and those who work earn a salary and should be able to afford one for themselves.

However, Aquilina – a mother of six who has counseled breastfeeding moms for 16 years through the international La Leche League – countered Kippley's stance on the issue.

In a Feb. 23 interview, she asserted that the First Lady's comments as well as the IRS  initiative are “not making a ‘nanny state’.” 

“If you can get a tax break for tools or uniforms and such, why not breast pumps?” she said. “I think our government should encourage healthy behavior.  Health care costs would certainly go down if more mothers breastfed.” 

“No one is saying that you have to breastfeed,” she underscored. “Saying that it is the best choice for babies is only the truth.”

Aquilina added that “we Americans do not like people 'telling us what to do'” or being made “to 'feel guilty.' However, breastfeeding is what is best for baby.” 

Kippley agreed that breastfeeding is the best option for babies and not only in regard to fighting childhood obesity.

“Michelle Obama is well-advised to promote breastfeeding in order to prevent obesity, but that is only one of many benefits,” she said. “What is most interesting is that many of the benefits for both mother and baby occur many years after the breastfeeding has ceased.”

According to Kippley, babies who breastfeed experience an overall reduction throughout their lives in conditions such as asthma, diabetes, leukemia, allergies, lymphoma and bacterial meningitis. Breastfed children also have a better immune system, increased response to vaccinations, fewer sick days and score higher on cognitive and IQ tests at school age. 

“If all mothers world-wide would exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months, one and a half million babies’ lives would be saved each year,” Kippley said.

Despite the documented benefits of breastfeeding, however, Aquilina noted that the cultural climate in the U.S. “makes it difficult for moms.” She observed that breastfeeding “is not well supported by doctors or employers” and that mothers “feel afraid to nurse in public.”

“We would have a healthier society if all mothers at least tried to breastfeed and if our society supported that decision,” Kippley concurred, lamenting the lack of encouragement for it on a local level.

“How many bishops, priests, parishes, pro-life groups and Catholic doctors promote exclusive breastfeeding?” she asked, noting the need for breastfeeding mothers to be supported at
Mass and other Church events.

Kippley also said that Church “has a unique opportunity to increase the physical and emotional health of babies and mothers alike” through its pre-marriage programs. Kippley said that if every diocese required engaged couples to attend Natural Family Planning courses that address the benefits of breastfeeding, the practice “would be increased considerably.”

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Mexico considers making 'sexual preference' a human right

CNA STAFF, Feb 25, 2011 (CNA) -

The president of the Mexican association Familia Mundial, Juan Dabdoub, has denounced the country’s government for considering a constitutional amendment that would make “sexual preference” a human right.

He argued that the measure would also legitimize pedophilia and bestiality.

Dabdoub, who directs the association based in Monterrey, underscored that the human right to “sexual preference” does not exist in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or in “any international organization.”

The House of Representatives debated Feb. 24 whether to put the measure to a vote on March 1, but chose to send it back to the committee.

Dabdoub said the measure was sponsored by “representatives from the Democratic Revolution Party,” which also promoted the legalization of abortion and homosexual unions in Mexico City.

Dabdoub told CNA on Feb. 24 that this amendment would institutionalize conduct that psychiatric entities worldwide “treat as disorders,” such as transvestism, fetishism, voyeurism, exhibitionism and sado-masochism.

If the measure is approved, “teachers would be able to dress as transvestites and teach their classes.” They could not be disciplined “because you would be discriminating against them,” Daboub added.

Sexual preference is not “a medical term,” he underscored, noting that “a clear intent” exists “to move toward allowing behavior in society in which sexuality is completely trivialized.”

“There are politicians who want to push these things through, but there are also many people of good will who should have been just a bit more suspicious of what their colleagues were proposing with their erroneous ideology,” Dabdoub said.

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After setback in dialogue with Islam, Vatican official entrusts talks' future to God

Vatican City, Feb 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Dialogue will continue on God's time, said a Vatican official as talks with an top Egyptian authority of Islam suffered a blow this week.

A two-day meeting between the Vatican and an Egyptian institute of Sunni Islam set for Feb. 23-24 was suspended. Egyptian officials have said unofficially that the future of dialogue hinges on an apology from the Pope.

The Vatican and the highest authority of Sunni Islam, Cairo's Al-Azhar Institute, planned to continue ongoing talks on theology during the sessions. The two sides normally meet twice per year, but this week's dates came and went without a sound.

The bombing of the Coptic Christian Church in Alexandria, Egypt after a New Year's Mass nearly two months ago was the first in a series of events that led to the suspension.

In the days that followed, Pope Benedict XVI condemned the attack and called for greater religious liberty in Egypt and protection for all citizens. His words appear to have been perceived by the government through media reports as possible calls for a western action in the country.

To clarify the meaning of the statements, the nation recalled its Holy See ambassador to Cairo.

Then, on Jan. 20, the Al-Azhar institute issued a press release in which they announced the suspension of theological dialogue with the Vatican. They said the Vatican had interfered in the nation's affairs.

The president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran told L'Osservatore Romano on Jan. 29 that the Vatican delegation expected all future appointments to be kept.

“If we want progress in dialogue,” he added, “we must first of all find the time to sit down and talk person-to-person and not through the newspapers.”

Days before the meetings were set to take place, on Feb. 20, he told the French agency I.Media, “we don't have any news from our friends.”

The government announced that their ambassador would return to Rome at mid-week, but there was still no official word from Al-Azhar.

Feb. 23 - 24 came and went with no statement about the talks. Incidentally, an official from Al-Azhar and the institute's former spokesman were in Rome to participate in a forum sponsored by the Catholic Church's Sant'Egidio Community.

Away from the microphones at the event, the two made separate statements to media on their thoughts on how dialogue can continue.

In a report from Italy's ASCA news agency, the special representative of the Grand Imam of Azhar, Hasan Shafie, said that for the dialogue to be reopened the Pope must apologize for his words on Islam and Muslims in his now famous address at Regensburg, Germany in 2006.

The speech provoked furor among some Muslim leaders after some phrases were taken out of context and reproduced in misleading mass media reports.

The Pope quoted a 14th-century Christian emperor who approached a Persian thinker to get a better understanding of Islam. The emperor asked, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

The Pope used the quote to illustrate that a greater understanding is needed between faiths through dialogue, explained the Vatican's spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi after Muslim leaders expressed outrage at the quote.

Fr. Lombardi explained that the Pope respects Islam and wants to “cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward the other religions and cultures, obviously also toward Islam.”

After the miscommunication with the Egyptian government in January, Fr. Lombardi again stepped in to say that “an attentive reading” of the Pope's words on religious freedom would help to dispel this latest the round of “misunderstandings.”

According to ASCA, on Feb. 23, Shafie called this response “another insult” because it assumed they did not understand it well the first time around.

Muhammad Rifaa Al-Tahtawi, Al-Azhar's spokesman until just recently, was also at the Sant'Egidio meeting. He said Muslims need to see a “show of respect” from the Vatican.

According to the National Catholic Register, al-Tahtawi said the Vatican's response to Regensburg was “not acceptable.”

Asked why they have not been able to forgive the Pope, despite his efforts rectify the situation, Al-Tahtawi said, “It's not a question of forgiveness.

“He has given an apology for the Holocaust, but there has been no apology for the Crusades. (We) need this. Why? Because the Pope is not only considered chief of Catholics, he is a man of universal authority.”

He also asked the Pope to condemn the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue official Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, member of the committee for dialogue with Al-Azhar told CNA over the phone on Feb. 25 that these were personal statements and the council is treating them as such.

He said that they “work on the official things.”

“Everyone on a personal level can assert whatever they wish, but this does not commit their institution or ours,” he explained.

The two Egyptians speak for themselves and not Al-Azhar, he reiterated. For now, Msgr. Akasheh said that dialogue will continue “Whenever God wishes.”

Asked when that might be, he said, “we don't know yet. We have to wait.”

Father Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Holy See's Press Office confirmed the temporary suspension of meetings with Al-Azhar. “The Holy See is committed to the dialogue and will pursue all its efforts to overcome the problems,” he told CNA.

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Peruvian bishops: Abortion is an injustice, not a right

Lima, Peru, Feb 25, 2011 (CNA) - The Peruvian bishops' defense of life committee recently released a statement explaining that any law permitting abortion is an injustice, not a right.

The bishops' message was released to mark the Day of the Unborn Child on March 25.

Only “ignorant minds opposed to the truth” could fail to recognize the human nature of the unborn as confirmed by science and the law, the statement continued.

The committee rejected the idea that the life of an unborn child is not as important as the mother’s just because the child does not yet “occupy a place in the world.”

The unborn are part “of the reality in which we live,” the committee said, and therefore they must be taken into account when decisions are made – including political ones.  Human rights begin at the moment of conception, and therefore the unborn must never become mere scientific studies, the bishops added.

“Any law that allows abortion – even only in ‘limited cases’ – is an injustice and not a law. A law that leaves human life unprotected is questionable in and of itself,” they said.

The bishops urged that the Day of the Unborn Child, which coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation, be an occasion to celebrate human life as a “wondrous gift from God” entrusted to the care of a woman.

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Pope to visit site where Nazis executed hundreds of Italians

Vatican City, Feb 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Next month Pope Benedict XVI will mark the anniversary of a brutal massacre that took the lives of 335 Italians during World War II.

On March 24, 1944, Nazi soldiers slaughtered the hundreds of individuals to exact revenge for a surprise bomb attack in the heart of Rome that killed 33 of their colleagues.

When he heard of the attack, Adolf Hitler ordered that 10 Romans be rounded up for each Nazi casualty.

The Nazi commander in Rome took all those on death row in a military prison, but they did not equal the number Hitler had ordered. He added 75 Jews, political prisoners, individuals in jail for petty crimes and civilians present at the attack to the group to reach the figure. The final count proved to be higher than 330.

The 335 victims were led into the caves of a quarry by soldiers who were driven by commanding officers to kill each of them, one-by-one, with a shot to the back of the head.

Following the massacre, the Nazis covered their tracks by blowing up the caves. The bodies were recovered and properly buried a year later, when the war had finished.

A mausoleum that looks similar to a military bunker was later erected on the site to house the tombs of the dead.

The Pope will go to the site, called the “Fosse Ardeatine,” on March 27 to observe the 67th anniversary of the executions. It is very near the Catacombs of St. Callistus on the outskirts of Rome.

He follows in the footsteps of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, who also paid their respects to the dead.

During his visit to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland in May 2006, Pope Benedict said, “In silence, then, we bow our heads before the endless line of those who suffered and were put to death here; yet our silence becomes in turn a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, a plea to the living God never to let this happen again.”

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Defunding threat finds Planned Parenthood at vulnerable point in its contentious history

Washington D.C., Feb 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Planned Parenthood is now at a point of “significant vulnerability” because of a shift against abortion and government spending, one historian of the organization says.

“They are a very expensive organization to fund. They are very well-heeled, and they are receiving taxpayer subsidies at a time when the country is running a $1.6 trillion deficit,” commented Charles A. Donovan, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation who co-authored the 1991 book “Blessed are the Barren: The Social Policy of Planned Parenthood.”

“They are singularly focused on expanding other services to adolescents, because they need a next-generation client base. They’ve done more abortions every year for 27 years running, even as everybody on the life issue now says they want to see abortion rare.”

Planned Parenthood has become a major player in U.S. domestic and international policy, despite much initial religious and moral opposition after its founder Margaret Sanger opened her first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York in 1916.

While its combination of feminism and sexual liberation has become dominant in many sectors of the country, its long history now faces new obstacles.

The House of Representatives voted to defund Planned Parenthood in its first budget bill of the session. At the same time, undercover investigations into the abortion provider’s affiliates in seven states have revealed its staffers’ apparent willingness to accommodate the needs of illegal sex traffickers.

President Barack Obama, in a February television interview with NBC affiliate WWBT, reacted to the pro-life group Live Action’s controversial video which resulted in the firing of the clinic director at a New Jersey affiliate.

“You know my bottom line is I think that Planned Parenthood in the past has done good work,” the president said. “If there was a specific problem at this center, it should be addressed, but we shouldn't get so distracted with some of these issues.”

But Donovan pointed out that problems at Planned Parenthood run deep.

“They really have exposed generation after generation of women to being exploited, to the heartbreak of abortion, to disappointment in their personal lives,” he commented in a Feb. 24 interview.

He wondered whether the actions and attitudes exposed by the investigative videos were “somewhat inevitable” given the organization’s past.

“They’ve gotten very used to the idea that they’re going to see 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds in their clinics,” he explained. “Their job is simply to provide them with devices or services and so they ignore context.”

The legal environment makes adolescents “isolated” and renders Planned Parenthood unaccountable to parents. Many schools even cooperate in letting adolescents go to the clinics.

He charged that Planned Parenthood has an “obsession” and a “single-minded focus” on eliminating unwanted pregnancy, not preventing sexual activity.

This is very much in the heritage of its founder, according to Donovan. Though Sanger was unable to see some of the implications of her advocacy, she abandoned her family, took several famous men as paramours, and wrote a great deal about “the joys of unfettered sex.”

Planned Parenthood has “basically been a voice for sexual liberation, multiple partners, things like that, ever since,” Donovan said.

Sanger also strongly believed that there were inferior people and races and that the government had an “affirmative responsibility” to lessen their numbers or limit their participation in public life, he noted.

Her mission probably included sexual liberation and feminism for public policy, he said, but “it was more about weeding out what she called ‘human weeds’.” She was a fan of nativism and ethnic superiority. Sanger was also “very harsh” in some of her characterizations of African-Americans.

Sanger targeted “anybody struggling in the economy at the time,” Donovan added. These included blacks, recent immigrants, and lower-class Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans and Gypsies. Her targets included anyone from a race of a low intelligence as measured by tests of the time.

“It took a long time for Planned Parenthood to get significant influence,” Donovan continued. “They probably had much more active resistance than pro-life groups did at the beginning.” 

While Planned Parenthood was rejected by religious organizations and most government officials, who believed that the government should not be planning the nation’s families, the organization was persistent.

“They developed massive mailing lists,” Donovan explained. “They worked one-by-one with religious denominations which were already fracturing on church doctrines on sexuality. They worked very carefully with the medical profession.”

Planned Parenthood’s true breakthrough came on the issue of population control. The organization persuaded the State Department and the military establishment that the government would have to deal with overpopulation in foreign lands to ensure American security and worldwide stability.

This approach won them access for domestic and international programs and won converts including Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush when he was in Congress.

While other organizations have played a role in the debate about birth control and abortion, Planned Parenthood has been “the longest and most consistent supporter” of legal abortion on request and puts up the strongest resistance to pro-life laws and regulations. It is present in almost every state and provides nearly one out of every four abortions.

While some of the organization’s supporters contend that access to birth control and abortion saves money, Donovan claimed this rationale was “specifically crafted to keep penny-pinching conservatives on board with what Planned Parenthood does.”

The argument was effective in the 1970s and probably took additional strength after the Reagan administration. Since 1992, Planned Parenthood’s funding has grown every year.

However, this economic argument ignores the large-scale effects of changing public views about marriage, sexuality and family.

“Economic growth comes through stable families,” Donovan said, urging people in the pro-family and pro-life camps to provide holistic solutions.

“We’re really about building families to where people can have the trust and the relationships that so often now just seems to be missing. Because we are collectively as a society viewing sexuality as an avenue for personal fulfillment, a way to exploit others, and there are really no rules of the road.”

Opponents can’t simply deny funding to abortion providers, he advised. They must help low-income women get screenings without having to find that the most convenient clinic is also the one that encourages them to have abortions and be promiscuous.

He suggested that pro-life advocates become more aggressive in demanding and supplying personal support for pregnancy centers that utilize Planned Parenthood’s marketing schemes and establish a presence in poorer neighborhoods to give alternatives to women in need.

“In some areas that’s happening. But it’s not happening in the big cities like New York, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and others where really the abortion problem is an epidemic and a national scandal.”

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