Archive of March 23, 2011

New South Dakota abortion law increases waiting period, requires counseling

Pierre, S.D., Mar 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - South Dakota's Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard has signed into law a bill which would require a three-day waiting period and counseling at pregnancy health centers for women seeking an abortion.

Supporters of the bill said the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Sioux Falls gives women little information or counseling before they have abortions done by doctors flown in from out of state. They said the bill will help make sure women are not being coerced into abortions by boyfriends or relatives.

The new law requires that an abortion can only be scheduled by a doctor who has personally met with a woman and determined she is voluntarily seeking an abortion. The abortion cannot be done until at least 72 hours after that first consultation.

After signing the bill into law, Gov. Daugaard said in a statement, "I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives."

"I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices," he remarked.

“Just one woman being coerced to have an abortion is too many,” said Leslee Unruh, co-founder of the Sioux Falls-based pro-life Alpha Center. “Women will be better informed and safer.”

Rep. Roger Hunt (R-Brandon), the main sponsor of the law, said that women need to be reminded that there is “a natural, legal relationship between them and their child,” the Associated Press reports.

The state will publish a list of pregnancy help centers where women considering abortion must receive information about services available to help her give birth and keep a child.

“If we truly want to have less abortions, let's give these women the 72 hours they need to make this decision on their own without being coerced,” Unruh told the Associated Press.

Kathi Di Nicola, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, argued the law would make it harder for some women to get abortions and would be a “barrier” to women who have to travel in the rural state.

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota have said they will ask a judge to strike down the measure as unconstitutional. The law is scheduled to take effect on July 1.

Opponents of the measure said the legal fight would cost the state money, but Rep. Hunt said the state would only have to pay legal costs if it lost the lawsuit. He added that the money was well spent to try to prevent the about 800 abortions done each year in South Dakota. Donors have also pledged money to help defend the law.

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Church needs courageous apostles to fight religious indifference, says Pope

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict said at his Wednesday general audience that the modern world needs “zealous” disciples of Christ, who will fight religious indifference with the “light and beauty” of the Gospel. 

The Pope dedicated his teaching at the Vatican on March 23 to St. Lawrence of Brindisi, who was born in Italy in 1559 and was named one of the Doctors of the Church for his expertise in preaching Catholic doctrine and Sacred Scripture.

St. Lawrence is known for his “clear and tranquil” explanations of the Christian faith to his surrounding culture, the pontiff noted, particularly to those who had left the Church in the wake of the Reformation.

“Even today, the new evangelization needs well-trained, zealous and courageous apostles, so that the light and beauty of the Gospel may prevail over the cultural trends of ethical relativism and religious indifference,” he said. This effort will help transform the various ways people think about life and help them act with an “authentic Christian humanism.”

St. Lawrence, who lost his father at the age of seven, was entrusted by his mother to the care of the Franciscan Friars Minor Conventuals. He later entered the Order of Capuchins and was ordained a priest in 1582.

The saint acquired a deep knowledge of ancient and modern languages, which enabled him to “undertake an intense apostolate among various categories of people,” the Pope explained.

He was also an effective preacher, who was so well versed in the Bible and rabbinic literature “that rabbis themselves were amazed and showed him esteem and respect.”

“The success enjoyed by St. Lawrence helps us to understand that even today, as the hope-filled journey of ecumenical dialogue continues, the reference to Sacred Scripture, read in the Tradition of the Church, is an indispensable element of fundamental importance,” Pope Benedict said.
He added that even “the lowliest members of the faithful” benefited “from the convincing words of St. Lawrence, who addressed the humble in order to call everyone to live a life coherent with the faith they professed.”

The Pope then noted another prominent aspect of St. Lawrence's life, which was his tireless work to promote political and religious peace.

Popes and Catholic princes “repeatedly entrusted him with important diplomatic missions to placate controversies and favor harmony between European States, which at the time were threatened by the Ottoman Empire,” he said.

“Today, as in St. Lawrence's time, the world has great need of peace, it needs peace-loving and peace-building men and women,” Pope Benedict said. “Everyone who believes in God must always be a source of peace and work for peace.”

St. Lawrence was canonized in 1881 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1959 by Blessed John XXIII, who recognized not only the saint's personal sanctity, but his numerous contributions to biblical scholarship.

 “St. Lawrence of Brindisi,” Pope Benedict said, “teaches us to love Sacred Scripture, to become increasingly familiar with it, daily to cultivate our relationship with the Lord in prayer, so that our every action, our every activity, finds its beginning and its fulfillment in Him.”

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Catholic social teaching must inform immigration debate, says LA archbishop

Washington D.C., Mar 23, 2011 (CNA) - At a conference on U.S.-Mexico relations on March 21, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles explained that the Catholic Church's social teaching can provide essential guidance on the question of immigration, and other dilemmas presented by a globalized economy.

The Mexican-born archbishop, who is also a U.S. citizen, addressed participants gathered at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. for a conference on the Church's role in the immigration debate.

He encouraged audience members – including Mexico's ambassador to the U.S., Arturo Sarukhan, and the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz – to consider both the large-scale economic factors driving immigration, and the rights and needs of individuals caught up in these economic changes.

“Globalization has expanded opportunities for businesses and for workers,” Archbishop Gomez acknowledged. “But it has also created new problems in the relationships between our nations.”

“The biggest problem is that while we have developed laws and policies to govern the flow of capital and money, we have no standards for the movement of laborers.”

“Money, capital, and other resources now flow more freely between our nations,” he noted. “But human beings — the men and women who do the work — cannot.”

Archbishop Gomez also spoke frankly about the need to deal realistically and humanely with the reality of unauthorized immigration.

He emphasized that he was interested in the immigration question not primarily as a matter of politics or diplomacy, but as a spiritual and moral issue affecting millions of people.

“I am not a politician or a diplomat or an expert in the global economy,” said the archbishop. “My concern is to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to defend and promote the dignity of the human person who is made in the image of God.”

He spoke eloquently of the spiritual toll that immigration often takes on those who lack opportunities in their homeland but are exploited or even hated in their new country.

“It gets harder every day to hold onto your cultural identity, your moral compass, your religion, your dignity,” he observed. “You start to believe what people say about you — that you are no good.”

Archbishop Gomez went on to propose a series of measures to address the root causes of immigration, while respecting the human needs and rights of those who have entered the U.S. illegally.

Many aspects of the problem, the archbishop said, arose from underdevelopment within Mexico – a problem that has no instantaneous solution, but demands urgent action.

“We need to find ways to target economic development,” he said, “so that far fewer Mexicans will feel compelled to leave their homes to seek jobs and money in other countries.”

Archbishop Gomez also indicated that the prosperity of nations and transnational corporations must not be placed above the good of the individuals who make such prosperity possible. He strongly urged his fellow U.S. Catholics to consider the human dignity of immigrants, even as they seek to ensure the rule of law.

“Our current policies of enforcement — detentions, and deportations — are a humanitarian tragedy,” he stated. “We are destroying families in the name of enforcing our laws.”

He pointed out that a nation's immigration laws, however important, could not be given absolute priority over the bonds of family – which precede the state itself, according to the natural law.

“Practically speaking,” he stated, “I would like to see a moratorium on new state and local immigration legislation. And, as the U.S. bishops have called for, I would like to see an end to the severe deportation policies.”

Archbishop Gomez also noted that children and women are the “most vulnerable migrants,” who “often fall prey to unscrupulous traffickers” and others seeking to exploit or harm them. He urged policymakers to consider the safety of these populations, and also to remember the needs of all immigrants who are seeking to be reunited with family members by attaining a U.S. visa.

“All of these measures,” said the archbishop, “would make a real difference in the lives of millions of people.

“But they are only temporary,” he noted. “We need to muster the political will to fix our broken immigration system.”

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Cuban government to release last of 75 political prisoners

Havana, Cuba, Mar 23, 2011 (CNA) - After unprecedented talks with the Catholic Church, Cuban officials have agreed to release the last of a large group of political prisoners who were jailed during a repressive wave in the country nearly eight years ago.

Felix Navarro and Jose Daniel Ferrer – activists who had each been sentenced to 25 years in jail – are the last dissidents to be freed under an agreement President Raul Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana reached in July of 2010.

The release is the latest of several, following a landmark dialogue between Cuban officials and the country's Catholic leaders. In 2003, 75 dissidents – including prominent intellectuals, opposition leaders and activists – were arrested for what the local communist government viewed as treason.

The prisoners have reportedly suffered harsh conditions while incarcerated, with some going on hunger strikes as a sign of protest.

Many of the political prisoners who have been released in the last several months are living in exile in Spain, which agreed to accept them. However, those dissidents who have been released recently had refused to leave their homeland, which slowed their being released because the Cuban government had to return to the negotiating table.

On March 15, Cuban officials set free 10 political prisoners, including prominent dissident Oscar Elias Biscet, who was recently nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

The 49 year-old doctor is the president of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights. Biscet became one of the most well known opponents of the communist government in Cuba and suffered numerous arrests beginning in 1998.

Tuesday's announcement of Navarro and Ferrer's release comes on the same day that 84 year-old Fidel Castro confirmed he secretly stepped down as head of the country’s Communist Party nearly five years ago.

Fidel became critically ill in 2006 and was forced to turn the presidency over to his brother, Raul.

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Archbishop of Indianapolis is ‘alert’ and recovering after mild stroke

Indianapolis, Ind., Mar 23, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein of Indianapolis suffered a mild stroke on March 18 and has been hospitalized.

Greg A. Otolski, the archdiocese’s Executive Director of Communications, reported that the archbishop’s condition was unchanged.

“He’s still in the hospital. He’s still alert, talking to doctors and meeting with people and priests from the archdiocese,” he told CNA on March 21.

The archbishop became dizzy while at home and called 911. After undergoing tests at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, doctors determined that he had suffered a mild stroke.

Archbishop Buechlein said the day-to-day operations and ministries of the archdiocese will continue as normal while he recuperates, the archdiocese newspaper The Criterion reports. He has said he would appreciate everyone’s prayers.

The archbishop has suffered a series of health problems over the past three years. In 2008 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and underwent several weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He is now cancer free.

In 2009 the archbishop had shoulder replacement surgery and in 2010 he had surgery to remove a benign tumor from his stomach.

Indianapolis Auxiliary Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, who was ordained on March 2, had already begun taking over some of the archbishop’s duties, such as confirmations, Otolski told CNA. There have been no changes in Coyne’s responsibilities as a result of the archbishop’s stroke.

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St. Joseph's example should be model for Catholic men, bishop teaches

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 23, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Jorge Lozano of Gualeguaychu, Argentina is urging Catholic men to learn from St. Joseph, rather than the examples of masculinity the world embraces today.

“Sometimes the image we have of a real man is a fuzzy caricature of the ideal: having lots of money, enjoying many women, having no commitments,” the bishop wrote in his weekly column on March 20.

His article was published in the newspaper “Cronica.”

“Some say the current crisis in society has to do with a crisis among men,” the bishop continued.

“In reality, we are at a time in which the roles of men and women in the family and in society are being redefined,” he said. “When this dimension of complementarity (between men and women) is lost, we run the risk of turning each other into ‘things’ and losing respect for the qualities proper to each sex and that make up the person,” the bishop wrote.

“We can end up superficially trivializing each other and valuing our bodies as if they were a reality disconnected from our histories and our families,” he added.

St. Joseph “was humble, simple and quiet. He saw himself as part of a people and understood its history. He awaited the fulfillment of the promises made by God centuries before,” Bishop Lozano noted.

“God spoke to him in dreams, and St. Joseph knew how to listen and let himself be guided. He was a migrant because of the persecution of Herod. He earned his living by working with his hands. He was a simple man with unique treasures under his care: his life and the lives of his loved ones.

“Tell me, beloved reader: Is St. Joseph very different from you?” the bishop asked.

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