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Archive of March 22, 2011

Vatican official at UN decries 'attacks' on Catholic beliefs

Geneva, Switzerland, Mar 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Vatican representative to the United Nations spoke out today against “attacks” on freedom of conscience and religion, directed against Catholics and others who hold traditional beliefs about sexual morality and human nature.

Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi spoke out in a March 22 meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council, calling attention to what he described as a “disturbing trend” in debates over social life and human rights.

“People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behavior between people of the same sex,” Archbishop Tomasi told the council.

“When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature, which may also be expressions of religious convictions, or state opinions about scientific claims, they are stigmatized, and worse – they are vilified, and prosecuted.”

The archbishop stated that these attempts to silence Catholics, and other critics of homosexual practice,  were a human rights violation according to the council's own standards.

“These attacks contradict the fundamental principles announced in three of the Council’s resolutions of this session,” he pointed out.

“The truth is, these attacks are violations of fundamental human rights, and cannot be justified under any circumstances.”

The archbishop's remarks came as the council revisited the subject of “sexual orientation” as a human right, a subject that has caused tension between the Vatican and the U.N. in the past.

Church officials do not support the criminalization of homosexual activity. However, they fear that the concept of a universal right to “sexual orientation,” under certain interpretations, could lead to international action against Christians and others who regard homosexual acts as immoral.

“There has been some unnecessary confusion about the meaning of the term 'sexual orientation,' as found in resolutions and other texts adopted within the U.N. human rights system,” Archbishop Tomasi noted in his March 22 remarks.

But he pointed out that the term “sexual orientation” refers properly to “feelings and thoughts, not to behavior” – a distinction he said was especially important to make, in order to avoid the complete deregulation of all sexual behavior.

“For the purposes of human rights law, there is a critical difference between feelings and thoughts, on the one hand, and behavior, on the other,” Archbishop Tomasi explained.

“A state should never punish a person, or deprive a person of the enjoyment of any human right, based just on the person’s feelings and thoughts, including sexual thoughts and feelings.”

“But states can, and must, regulate behaviors, including various sexual behaviors. Throughout the world, there is a consensus between societies that certain kinds of sexual behaviors must be forbidden by law. Pedophilia and incest are two examples.”

While countries should not attempt to regulate thoughts or feelings, he said, they must avoid regarding sexual behavior as something completely private, and not subject to any restriction.

“Human sexuality, like any voluntary activity, possesses a moral dimension,” said the archbishop.

The Vatican representative explained that those who deny the voluntary and moral character of sexual acts – by treating them, instead, as inevitable expressions of an “orientation” – are actually undermining their own claims about human freedom and dignity.

Archbishop Tomasi also reiterated the Vatican's position on human sexuality –  which the Catholic Church regards not only as an article of faith, but as a universal matter of natural law.

“Human sexuality is a gift that is genuinely expressed in the complete and lifelong mutual devotion of a man and a woman in marriage,” he stated.

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Police response to firebomb attack on pro-life demonstrator criticized

Kalispell, Mont., Mar 22, 2011 (CNA) - The “tepid” and “rude” police response to a firebomb attack on a pro-life demonstrator outside a Kalispell, Montana abortion clinic merits disciplinary action, the head of a Catholic legal group said.

Poor police response to these types of incidents could “legitimize” the tactic, warned Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society.

“There has to be an utter condemnation of the use of violent tactics from both sides of the abortion debate. Any kind of coddling, or treating it as a normal thing would only provoke violent actions,” Brejcha told CNA on March 21.

Participants in the local 40 Days for Life prayer vigil were on the sidewalk near the All Family Health Care abortion center on March 17 around 6:15 p.m. An unidentified assailant threw a homemade incendiary device at an elderly woman, although it landed behind her.

The device, a water bottle filled with a flammable liquid, made a loud popping noise like a big firecracker and burst into flame.

Brejcha criticized the initial police reaction as “tepid” and “outrageous.”

“The officer responding to the 911 call took half an hour to get to the scene. He was very brusque and rude. When the 77-year-old lady held out her hand to greet him, he just ignored her and walked right past her,” Brejcha said.

When asked if he was going to have the residue collected as evidence, he said there wouldn’t be any fingerprints and he “just called the garbage folks to collect the debris.”

When the coordinator of the 40 Days event called the desk sergeant to complain about the officer’s “rather nonchalant response” to a “serious bombing incident,” he continued, the desk officer “pretty much said what the police officer said.”

According to Brejcha, the officer remarked that “it was reasonable that people would react this way when you’re out there protesting on a public sidewalk.”

“Of course, those reactions are just outrageous. This was a serious incident, a violent attack with a firebomb that exploded on impact and could have caused very serious impact to this lady.”

He added that those involved have received many calls from Kalispell police officers and others in the area, disagreeing “strongly” with the officers’ response.

“The reaction of these police officers should not be taken as typical,” he said.

The group intends to pursue disciplinary charges against the two officers.

“We’re not looking for a pound of flesh or anything, but it’s a very serious matter when law enforcement is unresponsive as they were in this case.”

Mary Anne Hofmann, the attacked woman, was “very startled” but is “a rather unflappable person,” Brejcha reported. “She’s going to keep on doing what she was doing.”

“There was another bombing at a Target store close to the same time. The two incidents may be related,” Brejcha surmised.

There was also an eyewitness of the attack on the woman who could help the investigation. He was not associated with the pro-life group.

Brejcha said there had been no incidents at this clinic other than a water balloon attack. He does know of other menacing incidents towards pro-life demonstrators at other clinics, but nothing involving a firebomb-like device.

The Thomas More Society is in contact with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms about the Kalispell case.

Brejcha said that the FBI and the ATF have been “very active in policing the activity of pro-lifers at abortion sites.”

“We expect them to be equally aggressive in this matter.”

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Doctors hope treatment will give Baby Joseph the gift of more time

St. Louis, Mo., Mar 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Doctors who performed a recent procedure on a terminally ill 13 month-old expressed hope that the treatment will provide the baby's family with the “gift of a few more months together.”

On March 21, physicians at the SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri – where baby Joseph Maraachli was recently transferred – successfully performed a tracheotomy on the infant after doctors in a Canadian hospital refused to perform the procedure. 

The London Health Sciences Centre in Ontario said that the treatment– which would allow for the baby to breath on his own – was reserved for patients who needed a breathing machine long term.

Baby Joseph, who suffers from a severe and fatal neurological disorder called Leigh Syndrome, was considered to be in a vegetative state by Canadian doctors, who recommended that he have his feeding and breathing tubes removed.

However, physicians at the Catholic St. Louis hospital said in a March 21 statement that after “a thorough examination by a multi-disciplinary medical team of specialists,” and “extensive consultations” with Joseph’s parents and the hospital ethics committee, “we concluded that a tracheotomy was medically appropriate.”

St. Louis doctors said the infant “is currently in the pediatric intensive care unit, where tracheotomy patients routinely spend 7 to 10 days following the procedure.”

The hospital said that after he is discharged from SSM Cardinal Glennon, baby Joseph will moved to Ranken Jordan – a Pediatric Specialty Hospital in St. Louis – before being transported to his family home in Canada.

Fr. Frank Pavone, who heads the New York-based Priests for Life, told CNA on March 14 it was a “victory for the family” that baby Joseph was moved from the Ontario medical center to the Catholic hospital in Missouri.

Joseph's parents – Moe and Sana Maraachli – had asked Priests for Life for help after doctors in Canada refused to transfer the child to a facility that could perform a tracheotomy on him.

Fr. Pavone said that the treatment is considered by many doctors as a “standard procedure for Joseph's condition.”

“We and the family felt that they were making a value judgment on his life,” Fr. Pavone said. “It's one thing to say a treatment is worthless – it's another thing to say a life is worthless.”

The baby had been at the Ontario facility since October of last year. His sister, Zina, passed away from a similar condition years ago.

At the hospital in Canada, Joseph's parents “felt trapped in the situation they were in,” Fr. Pavone said.

In response to their pleas for assistance, Priests for Life raised $150,000 to transfer the baby to the St. Louis hospital and to pay for the tracheotomy and subsequent medical tests.

“It is our hope that this procedure will allow Joseph and his family the gift of a few more months together and that Joseph may be more comfortable with a permanent tracheotomy,” the St. Louis hospital's statement added.

Fr. Pavone said in a March 21 statement that “Baby Joseph received today a wonderful benefit, through the love of his parents and the professional care of the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.”

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Franciscan guardians of Holy Land shrines launch new website

Jerusalem, Israel, Mar 22, 2011 (CNA) - The Franciscans in the Holy Land, who've been charged by the Vatican with preserving Catholic sanctuaries in the area throughout the last 800 years, have launched a new website offering more information about the sacred sites as well as pilgrimages to the region.

“It is the love and care for the places of the incarnation of Jesus that create the desire for all Christians to feel closer to the Holy Land,” Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, major superior of the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, said in a March 21 announcement.

“The renewed internet site meets this desire,” he said, explaining that it will continue to inform the faithful around the globe who are interested in “the life of the Holy Land and its community.”

The new website, available in six languages, details the historical significance of the Franciscan's work to preserve the places where the Christian faith originated in the Middle East. The site also explains the importance of each sanctuary and provides information on pilgrimages to the area.

Since the 13th century, the friars have been tasked by the Vatican with having “custody” over the holy sites within areas of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Cyprus and Rhodes. The job involves coordinating and directing the reception of faithful who make pilgrimages to the Holy Land to pray at the shrines.

“The present site will be a 'work in progress,' growing gradually in time,” Fr. Pizzaballa said. “In addition to the life of the Custody of the Holy Land, the Places of Salvation that the Franciscans have looked after with passion for 800 years will be presented with more detailed information.”

For more information, visit: www.custodia.org

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Pope Benedict chooses two bishops for Detroit archdiocese

Detroit, Mich., Mar 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has named two Michigan priests as auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Msgr. Donald F. Hanchon, 63, pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in Detroit and 52 year-old Fr. Michael Byrnes, pastor of the city's Our Lady of Victory Parish, were appointed as auxiliary bishops for the archdiocese on March 22.

“It's a great blessing for the archdiocese,” said Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, who introduced the bishops-elect at the local Sacred Heart Seminary.

“Certainly it's an honor for a priest to be selected for this level of responsibility,” he added. “More than an honor, it's about new capacity for sharing Christ with others.”

The appointments were announced in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S.

Bishop-elect Donald F. Hanchon, who was born in Wayne, Mich., said he is humbled by the appointment and looks forward to being “in the service of the people of the Archdiocese of Detroit.”

After attending St. John Provincial Seminary and the University of Notre Dame, Bishop-elect Hanchon was ordained a priest for the Detroit archdiocese in 1974 and named a monsignor in 2005.

Following his ordination, Bishop-elect Hanchon’s assignments included pastoral roles in multiple parishes in Michigan as well as being the episcopal vicar for the central region of the archdiocese from 2009 to the present.

“I promise obedience because I believe that the God who began this good work in me all those years ago will indeed bring it to fulfillment,” he said on March 22. “I thank Archbishop Vigneron for his trust in me, and his joyful encouragement to serve.”

Bishop-elect Michael Byrnes was born in Detroit in 1958. After attending the University of Michigan, and Sacred Heart Seminary, he earned a Ph.D. in biblical studies from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1996.

“I am honored that the Holy Father and Archbishop Vigneron have such confidence in me to make this appointment,” he said in reaction to the news on Tuesday. “I will do my best not to let them down.”

Assignments after his ordination to the priesthood included serving as the associate pastor of St. Joan of Arc and St. Clair Shores parishes, vice-rector and dean of formation at Sacred Heart Seminary, and pastor of Presentation/Our Lady of Victory Parish from 2004 to present.

“I love being a priest of Jesus Christ, and I have loved my work helping young men discern and prepare for the priesthood,” Bishop-elect Byrnes said.

“I place my trust in God's providence that these experiences, along with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will help me to do that.”

Bishops-elect Hanchon and Byrnes will join Auxiliary Bishop Francis Reiss and Archbishop Allen Vigneron as shepherds of 1.4 million Catholics in the Detroit archdiocese.

The two will be ordained as auxiliary bishops on May 5 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.

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Nearly 40,000 in Peru march for life

Piura, Peru, Mar 22, 2011 (CNA) - Some 40,000 Peruvians took part in a march commemorating the Day of the Unborn Child on March 19 in the northwestern province of Piura.

During a Mass at the event, Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren of Piura urged Catholics to “be committed to building a culture of life, which must begin with heeding the voice of every unborn child” in Peru.

“We are all responsible for what science has amazingly revealed to us to be a child from the first moment of his existence at conception,” the archbishop said. “The mother who bears him in her womb is responsible first and foremost. Then, those who are around her, the baby’s father and her family. And last but not least, civil authorities and society in general,” he said.

Authentic development demands that the “inalienable rights of the human person – especially the right to life from conception to natural death – be defended,” the archbishop continued.

Consequently, he added, the legalization of abortion in Peru “would always be an injustice and never a right. The right to kill does not exist. Only the right to life does. Abortion solves nothing. Let us pray to the Lord of Life that abortion is never allowed in Peru.”

Archbishop Eguren also expressed regret that the campaign season underway in the country has been characterized by “insults and attacks from one side to the other.

“Candidates are using language and expressions filled with double meanings to attack each other like never before.”

“Voters deserve more respect from those who seek to govern us, whether from the presidential palace or the congress,” the archbishop said. Voters also deserve to know the political agendas of each of the candidates, he continued. “An important part of this is that they clearly tell us what they think about the issues of abortion, the family and drugs,” he stated.

At the conclusion of his homily the archbishop prayed for the Japanese people impacted by the recent earthquake and tsunami. “May our prayer be a sign of our solidarity with our noble sister nation of Japan with whom we have historical and cultural ties. May the Lord help them to overcome the dramatic situation they are facing.”

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