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Archive of March 28, 2011

Humanitarian and strategic questions surround Libyan intervention

Washington D.C., Mar 28, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic observers are questioning the humanitarian impact and strategic aims of the U.S. intervention in Libya, as President Obama prepares to deliver a speech defending the military campaign.

“It is our moral responsibility as a nation to rigorously examine the use of military force in light of the need to protect human life and dignity,” wrote Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, head of the U.S. bishops' committee for peace and justice. In a March 24 letter to National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon he said the U.S. bishops were following events in Libya “with great apprehension.”

George Weigel, a Catholic writer and  Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center noted that “the problem with the administration's policy thus far, is that it has been feckless, and unattached to any clear strategic goal.”

“Means aren't being connected to strategic ends here – and they won't be until the United States exerts the kind of leadership that only it can give.”

President Obama recently told Speaker of the House John Boehner in a letter that U.S. forces were “conducting a limited and well-defined mission in support of international efforts to protect civilians and prevent a humanitarian disaster.” The president also maintains that the mission is in America's national interest, an argument he is expected to advance in a speech on March 28.

Allied forces began the Libyan campaign on March 19, two days after a U.N. Security Council resolution approved the use of force against the regime of Colonel Moammar Gaddafi. The Libyan leader allegedly began massacring civilians in response to a popular uprising that began in mid-February and has since developed into a civil war.

Hours before the president's speech, Weigel provided CNA with his thoughts on the United States' role in the international intervention. He said the U.S. seemed to be conducting a legitimate and possibly just war, but without a clear strategy or strong leadership.

“If mass murder was about to unfold in Libya, stopping it was a just cause and doing so exhibited a right intention,” Weigel said, explaining why he believed the intervention could qualify as a just war. While he does not believe states need U.N. approval to go to war, he noted that the security council's approval showed “an international consensus had been reached that something had to be done.”

While some Catholics may question the idea of a war being fought for humanitarian reasons, Weigel thinks the notion is legitimate.

“I think a strong just war case can be made that military intervention to stop genocide would have been appropriate when the former-Yugoslavia was unraveling in the 1990s,” he noted, “as I think a similar case could have been in Rwanda and in Darfur. The prerogatives of sovereignty do not include the right to murder your people.”

Regarding Libya, Weigel believes the problem is not the United States' intervention in a remote country's civil war, but rather, President Obama's “indecisiveness, multilateralism, and lack of strategic vision.” The president resisted a unilateral approach to intervention in Libya, and instead waited for an agreement to be reached between the Arab League and European countries.

A broad spectrum of conservative and liberal politicians have expressed concern over this approach. Some consider the United States' involvement to be fundamentally misguided, while others – like Weigel – want it carried out more decisively.

Bishop Giovanni Martinelli, the apostolic vicar of Libya's capital Tripoli, has questioned the need for allied forces' bombing strikes, as has Pope Benedict XVI. Near the beginning of the campaign, the Libyan bishop said it could lead to “a very lengthy crisis with an uncertain outcome.” Pope Benedict said on March 27 that leaders should begin immediate talks in order to halt the use of weapons.

In his March 24 letter to the National Security Council on behalf of the U.S. bishops' conference, Bishop Hubbard refrained from coming to a negative or positive judgment of the military action, although he stated that the basic cause of protecting civilians appeared to be just. But he urged authorities to remember other considerations of just war thinking in their decisions.

“The just war tradition teaches that the use of force must have 'serious prospects for success' and
'must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated,'” recalled Bishop Hubbard, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“Important questions include: How is the use of force protecting the civilian population of Libya? Is the force employed proportionate to the goal of protecting civilians?”

“Since the protection of civilians is paramount,” asked Bishop Hubbard, “a key question is: Will the coalition actions stay focused on this limited goal and mission?”

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Atheists and Catholics in Paris examine question of God

Paris, France, Mar 28, 2011 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI called for a greater sense of brotherhood in the world as the first official modern forum for dialogue between believers and non-believers was inaugurated last week in Paris.

“Religions cannot be afraid of a just secularism, a secularism that is open and allows individuals to live according to what they believe in their own consciences,” he said.

“If we are to build a world of freedom, equality and fraternity, believers and non-believers should feel themselves to be free, with equal rights to live their individual and community lives in accordance with their own convictions; and they must be brothers to one another.”

The Vatican's first-ever “Courtyard of the Gentiles” event was held in Paris, France from March 24-25. The Pontifical Council for Culture, led by president Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, organized the two-day discussion between believers and non-believers in historically important cultural sites in the French capital.

The Courtyard was formed by the Vatican's culture department after the Pope hoped for such a forum to foster dialogue on religion in a Dec. 2009 speech.

Catholics and atheists examined themes of enlightenment, religion and shared reason during gatherings at the offices of the UNESCO, the Sorbonne University and the French Academy during the inaugural event.

The evening of the second day was capped off with a large gathering at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The Taize community held a prayer service inside the Church as people gathered for music and mixed in the square outside. A light show beamed onto the cathedral facade was part of the festivities.

In a pre-recorded message addressed to youth in the square, Pope Benedict XVI said that the “question of God” must not be absent from contemporary discussion. He called all young people - believers and non-believers - to “rediscover the path of dialogue” in Europe.

Dialogue, he said, will help both to overcome fears of the unknown.

The Courtyard project, he said, “is to foster such feelings of fraternity, over and above individual beliefs but without denying differences and, even more profoundly, recognizing that only God, in Christ, gives us inner freedom and the possibility of truly coming together as brothers.”

He told the youth not to be afraid. “On your journey together towards a new world, seek the absolute, seek God, even those of you for whom he is an unknown God.”

For his part, Cardinal Ravasi was pleased with the product of months of preparation. He went through highlights of the inaugural event with Vatican Radio.

The cardinal found “a particular attention and sensitivity” in the city of Paris, historically "the city of secularism, ... liberty, independence between Church and State."

The subjects of discussion, he said, were chosen "with much passion" and he came away with the sensation that the Parisian encounter could be a model for others.

For the future, he said, Courtyard activities may aim not only to engage atheism and non-believers, but "superficiality and the absence of questions towards faith that are often noted at the lowest levels."

He noted that there was an unexpected result to the encounter. Non-believing philosopher Luc Ferry asked him to collaborate in writing a book on the Gospel of St. John.

Tirana, Albania is slated to host a similar Vatican-sponsored event for dialogue in October.

Stockholm, Prague and Florence will also see individualized events in coming years, each tailored to the city and culture that surrounds them. Interest has also been expressed for hosting Courtyard events in cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C, but also Moscow, Russia and Geneva, Switzerland.

Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, commented during his weekly television editorial on Vatican Television that the Pope has emphasized since the first day of his pontificate that the "question of God" is the most important one for all for all people.

The Courtyard, he said, is "an optimal point of departure" for deepening the study of such questions together.

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Group highlights 55,000 abortions in Mexico City

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 28, 2011 (CNA) - The Population Council praised what it called the “extraordinary” results of legalized abortion in Mexico City. In less than four years, 55,000 abortions have been performed in the Mexican capital.

Abortion is legal in Mexico City up until the 12th week of pregnancy.

Sandra Garcia, a representative of the Population Council, also applauded the city's health care system for the high marks it received from various organizations, reported the newspaper Milenio on March 23.

President of Voz Publica, Leticia Gonzales Luna, later spoke with CNA lamenting that there “has been no follow-up as to how abortion clinics are operating in the Federal District.”

“That the deaths of 50,000 children are a success does not mean they are a success for women,” Gonzalez Luna said. She noted that the organizations that sponsored the studies leading to the legalization of abortion in Mexico City are the same organizations “selling the instruments to perform the procedure.”

“The survey presented by Sandra Garcia is from an agency that is the principal abortion clinic in the world,” Gonzalez Luna explained. They would never draw attention to “something that goes against what they promote.”

“It is sad that the deaths of so many thousands of children are applauded. It is a shame that Mexico City is becoming a tourist city for abortion,” she added.

“A woman who has aborted is a victim who tends to abort again.” She “is caught in a cycle of pain that she tries to get out of by justifying what she is has done and encouraging others to do the same,” Gonzalez Luna explained.

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At site of Nazi massacre, Pope deplores ‘grave offense to God’

Rome, Italy, Mar 28, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI made a heartfelt appeal for peace at an emotional memorial ceremony in Rome, March 27.

The Pope visited the site where 335 people, mostly Romans, were executed during World War II by the Nazi occupation forces.

The Pope and the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, both prayed Psalms at what is now a mausoleum in the victims' memory.

Pope Benedict was joined by two cardinals as he entered the bunker-like monument and knelt before the rows of tombs to pray.

For one of them, Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, the act was deeply personal.

He was praying before the tomb of his father, Giuseppe, an Italian colonel among the murdered.

In a brief discourse that followed, Pope Benedict called the event of March 24, 1944 “a grave offense to God, because it was deliberate violence of man against man.

“It was the most deplorable effect of war, of any war; while God is life, peace and communion.”

Only the mercy of God can “fill the void, the abysses opened by men when, impelled by blind violence, they renounce their dignity as children of God and as brothers of one another,” he said.

Whoever and wherever he may be, man is the child of God and brother to rest of humanity, he added. Being “sons” and “brothers” is a status that must not be taken for granted but be sought, he said. “We must say yes to good and no to evil.”

The killings were carried out within an abandoned stone quarry near the Catacombs of St. Callistus known as the “Fosse Ardeatine.”

Under orders from Adolph Hitler, soldiers killed 10 prisoners and civilians for every Nazi life taken in a surprise attack that left 33 of their comrades dead.

In the rush to round up the victims before the 24-hour deadline imposed by the dictator, a total of 335 people were gathered up from local jails on March 24, 1944. They were serving time for all manner of real or fictitious crimes, for their opposition to the occupation or just for being Jews.

The Nazi soldiers detonated explosives to cover their tracks after they had committed the killings, drawing the attention of the Salesian fathers in charge of the nearby catacombs. They discovered the mass grave.

At the old quarry, the Pope said, the “painful memorial of the most horrendous evil, the real answer is to join hands as brothers, and say: 'Our Father, we believe in You, and with the strength of Your love we desire to walk together in Peace, in Rome, Italy, in Europe, throughout the world'.”

Cardinal Montezemolo told Vatican Radio on the anniversary that although the event has become “a page in history,” it cannot be forgotten.

It “must continue to teach and remind on the one hand that there was a violent event, on the other hand that it represented a gathering of persons of different faiths who sacrificed their lives ... always with faith, with a strong faith. And this remains strong.

“These,” he said, “are the pages of history that give strength to the current and future generations.”

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Priest urges Ecuador's president to reverse contraception campaign

Quito, Ecuador, Mar 28, 2011 (CNA) - Fr. Juan Carlos Mari is calling on the president of Ecuador to reverse a “family planning campaign” that would provide condoms and contraceptive pills free of charge.

The priest sent an open letter to President Rafael Correa on March 25. He called the president to focus instead on “teaching values and a correct understanding of sexuality, continence and chastity among young people.”

These measures are more effective in preventing teen pregnancies, the priest added.

The Ecuadoran president’s proposed family planning program would create a society that can no longer “distinguish between “good and evil, or worse yet, that would end up calling what is evil good and what is good evil,” Fr. Mari said. It would be a society “hovering between perversion and the lowest of animal instincts,” he warned.

Moreover, he continued, “the door to the diabolical monstrosity of legal abortion would be opened, which,” he cautioned, would be the next logical step. “Once this happens, it would be the beginning of the end of Ecuadoran society as we know it. For, a government and a society that ‘legalizes’ the killing of the innocent is profoundly corrupt and is heading towards destruction.”

Fr. Mari stated that he is proud of his Catholic identity and that he would “happily give up his life for Christ, my Lord, and for the Holy Catholic Church.” For this reason, he said, he is raising his voice “in response to these unfortunate acts that will destroy human lives forever.”

He said that while he respects President Correa’s work on social issues, he hopes that at the end of his term the president will not “feel guilty that he has opened wide the doors to the perversion of young people. Because unfortunately at that point he will not be able to fix it.”

“I will invest my time into educating teens and young adults, providing them with appropriate guidance about true love and caring for the future of my country,” Fr. Mari concluded.

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