Washington D.C., Jun 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops will debate and vote on a statement that strongly opposes physician assisted suicide--one of the most controversial topics in American society.
“After years of relative inaction following legalization of physician-assisted suicide in Oregon in 1994, the assisted suicide movement has shown a strong resurgence in activity,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, head of the bishops' pro-life committee.
“The Church needs to respond in a timely and visible way to this renewed challenge, which will surely be pursued in a number of states in the years to come,” he said.
The bishops will vote on a document on doctor-assisted suicide at their June 15-17 spring assembly in Seattle. The statement, “To Live Each Day with Dignity,” will be the first official stance taken on the issue by the full body of the U.S. bishops' conference.
A Gallup poll released on May 31 shows Americans are sharply divided on the topic, with 45 percent finding it permissible versus 48 percent who believe it is morally wrong.
Cardinal DiNardo warned that increasing cultural acceptance of doctor-assisted suicide has led to legislative efforts to make the practice widespread in the U.S.
“This renewed effort has led to the passage of an Oregon-style law in Washington by popular referendum in November 2008, a state supreme court decision essentially declaring that assisted suicide is not against public policy in Montana, and concerted efforts to pass legislation in several New England and Western states,” he said.
The bishops’ draft statement recognizes the hardships and fears of patients facing terminal illness, and at the same time counters the popular claims of the assisted suicide movement that the act affirms patients’ “choices” and expresses “compassion” for their suffering.
The bishops argue that true compassion eliminates suffering, not the patient himself, and that medical workers must dedicate themselves to addressing the patients' needs and affirming their value as human beings.
The statement also warns that the “compassion” as defined by assisted suicide advocates is a slippery slope, that will extend to others who do not have terminal illnesses such as individuals with disabilities.
The bishops also say they are concerned about the practice undermining patients’ freedom, citing legal systems such as the Netherlands, where voluntary assisted suicide has led to involuntary euthanasia in certain instances.
The U.S. bishops also raise the economic interests of those advocating the legalization of assisted suicide, arguing that the practice can ultimately become an excuse to save money by denying better medical care to seriously ill people – even for those who never considered the option.
San Francisco, Calif., Jun 2, 2011 (CNA) - Fifty years after a 1961 public Rosary gathered over half a million people in San Francisco, a Catholic lay group is organizing the same event for October of 2011.
Rally organizers told CNA on June 1 that "thousands" of Catholic faithful are expected.
On October 15, the Bay Area chapter of the Legion of Mary – an international community of lay Catholics – will host their Family Rosary Crusade. The event will be held in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, starting at noon.
The keynote address will be delivered by Father Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., a co-founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and a well-known television presenter and author.
David Marten, head of the Legion’s board for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said that every year “the Legion of Mary tries to contribute one significant event to the archdiocese.”
“This year, our object is to foster devotion to the Blessed Mother and to Jesus Christ,” Marten said. “We hope we can accomplish this by witnessing in a very public place.”
In the 1950s and 60s, Holy Cross priest Father Patrick Peyton led Rosary events in countries across the globe. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the record-breaking 1961 Rosary Rally at the Polo Fields in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
That event drew 550,000 people, making it one of the largest gatherings in the history of San Francisco.
Fr. Lawrence Goode, the Legion of Mary’s spiritual director, recalled Fr. Peyton's charisma and personal character when he participated in the 1961 event.
“In those days, we went door-to-door inviting people to attend the rally,” Fr. Goode remembered. “Fr. Peyton was an amazing priest, a friend of movie stars and celebrities, yet he always remained very simple.”
Fr. Goode said that although the 2011 Rosary Crusade honors the work of Fr. Peyton several decades ago, this year's event seeks to emphasize the importance of prayer in today's world.
“You know, it was Fr. Peyton who popularized the phrase ‘the family that prays together stays together.’ His idea is even more relevant today than it was then.”
Sioux Falls, S.D., Jun 2, 2011 (CNA) - Planned Parenthood is suing the state of South Dakota, saying its new abortion law threatens women's privacy and free speech. The co-founder of a South Dakota crisis pregnancy center says the real threat is to abortion provider's business model, which relies on women being coerced into abortion.
“A woman who's being asked to destroy her unborn child with a 72-hour waiting period – a time to learn all about what this procedure is, to think about it, and to get as much information as possible – is a major threat to Planned Parenthood, because it's going to affect their bottom line,” said Dr. Allen Unruh, a physician who founded the Alpha Center with his wife Leslee in 1984.
Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit on May 27 with the U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls, seeking to block the July 1 implementation of the abortion bill that was signed into law on March 22.
The statute requires women to wait three days before having an abortion, and to receive medical information about the procedure along with information about alternatives.
A doctor must also certify that the woman is seeking an abortion voluntarily, rather than being coerced by someone else.
Dr. Unruh, who studied abortion for a state task force in 2005, said that Planned Parenthood maintains willful ignorance about the majority of women who have abortions against their will.
The threats often come from a boyfriend, husband, parent, or other party.
“The task force revealed it was 65 percent,” Dr. Unruh told CNA in a May 31 interview. “Planned Parenthood admitted under oath that they don't have anybody who has any training, of any kind, in counseling to determine when a woman's being coerced.”
Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota said that South Dakota's new law “goes farther than any other in the country in intruding on the doctor-patient relationship and putting women and families at risk.”
Planned Parenthood maintains that the law violates women's freedom of speech, by forcing them to discuss medical issues with crisis pregnancy counselors. Mimi Liu, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood, said the law wouldn't bar pregnancy centers from “disseminating false and misleading information.”
Dr. Unruh – whose Alpha Center has filed to provide women with counseling under the law – said the legislation was a necessary legal response to the problem of women forced into abortion.
“No woman should be forced to kill her unborn child against her will. That's why the legislature responded,” he explained. “The law requires them to get the counseling at a pregnancy care center, because we know Planned Parenthood will not police themselves.”
Nor, he said, does Planned Parenthood offer the authentic “doctor-patient relationship” they claim to be protecting.
“There's zero 'doctor-patient relationship' in an abortion procedure,” Dr. Unruh stated. Often, he said, “the first time a woman meets the doctor is when she's unclothed in an operating room, and the machine is so loud she doesn't have a chance to talk to him.”
“Our services are free,” he said. “We don't charge anything. We don't have a conflict of interest.”
“At Planned Parenthood, women have to pay cash up front before they even see the doctor. They've had no history, no examination, no consultation by a qualified person. They call this 'free speech rights.'”
He pointed out that Planned Parenthood does not present the truth about fetal development, or the risks associated with abortion.
“They testified to the task force, that when a woman says 'Is it a baby yet?', they will never, ever admit the humanity of a unborn child. They say it's nothing but 'tissue' and 'cells,' it's 'protoplasm.'”
“If anything's false and misleading, it's that.”
Dr. Unruh also noted the irony of Planned Parenthood boasting of its medical credentials, while attempting to keep women from learning more about its most profitable procedure.
He cited the Hippocratic Oath – which, in its original form forbids abortion – to explain the physician's duty to inform patients about facts and risks.
“All medical doctors take an oath: 'First, do no harm.' That's the oath above every medical procedure,” he explained. “Doctors have an ethical obligation to provide information, and to answer all questions a patient has.”
Crisis pregnancy centers, he explained, should be seen as performing a service in the interest of both personal and public health.
“I don't care if you're just removing a wart – you want to know what the biopsy says, what the risks are of the surgery. You should have the right, as a patient, to learn all about the surgery.”
The doctor also found some irony in comparing the new abortion law with another South Dakota statute that imposes a decision-making period.
“We have a law in South Dakota requiring a 72-hour waiting period to buy real estate,” he observed. “Anybody has a right to change their mind.”
“I think an unborn child is more valuable to a person than real estate.”
State Representative Roger Hunt, who sponsored the new law, saw Planned Parenthood's challenge coming.
“I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that they've filed a lawsuit,” Hunt told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. “We've been expecting this and preparing for it.”
The state's Life Defense Fund, which defends South Dakota's abortion laws with the help of private donations, has more than doubled since the passage of the waiting-period and counseling law. Hunt says the state will only have to pay legal fees if Planned Parenthood's challenge succeeds.
Havana, Cuba, Jun 2, 2011 (CNA) - A provincial court in Havana, Cuba has sentenced four dissidents to three to five years in prison for distributing pamphlets containing anti-government information.
Family members and supporters gathered outside the courthouse where the trial took place, including Vidiet Martinez, whose brother was among the four dissidents. “They didn’t consider anything (in the trial). (The dissidents) didn’t commit any crime, they didn’t set off any bombs, they didn’t attack anyone. They simply protested because of their ideals,” Martinez told Reuters.
Relatives of the four men said Luis Enrique Labrador, 33, David Piloto, 40, and Walfrido Rodriguez, 42, were sentenced to five years in prison, while Yordani Martinez, 23, was sentenced to three. The men were declared guilty of “disrespect” and “public disorder.”
Government sympathizers stood nearby, shouting that the four men were “counter-revolutionaries” who “attacked a policeman.”
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an organization that is tolerated by the government, reported that the four dissidents were detained in January for distributing pamphlets containing slogans against the Castro regime. The government dubbed them “mercenaries” of the United States.
Human rights groups on the island have warned that in recent years the Cuban government has opted to substitute long prison sentences for dissidents with brief detentions.
“Frankly five years in prison is way too much for something that in any other country is part of daily life,” the spokesman for the commission, Elizardo Sanchez said.
In mid-2010 the Cuban government released over 100 political prisoners, including 52 dissidents rounded up in the Black Spring of 2003 who were given sentences from six to 28 years. The decision to release them came after an historic agreement between the Catholic Church and the Cuban government, in which Spain participated as a mediator.
Rome, Italy, Jun 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Australians traveling to Rome now have a place that they can call home--Domus Australia – or Australia House. Cardinal George Pell of Sydney described the newly renovated pilgrim center as “a house, a community of religious inspiration.”
“The thinking was to create in a very old tradition of pilgrim centers in Rome,” the rector of the Domus Australia, Father Anthony Denton, told CNA.
“That means that Australians can come here and have some sort of orientation when they visit Rome rather than just get stuck on the number 64 bus, getting robbed. They can actually come here and get information and have a nice place to stay.”
The center is situated only five minutes walk from the city’s main Termini train station. It’s a former Marist Brother’s house of studies built in the 19th century. Three years ago, though, it was acquired by the Catholic Church in Australia. It’s since been heavily renovated and restored.
“It’s a house, a community of religious inspiration. We won't be satisfied if it’s a religious building but pretty empty and secular,” Cardinal George Pell of Sydney told CNA. He was on a visit to Rome to mark the completion of renovations at the Domus with a thanksgiving Mass.
“The ambition is to encourage tourists to become pilgrims and to deepen their faith, to deepen their goodness. There will be Mass every day, regular opportunities for confession.”
Such an attitude is reflected in the restoration of the chapel. The extensive renovations have involved the construction of a new sanctuary, altar and sacristy. Meanwhile, much of the art and marble work has been restored to its former glory, with the flooring being completely replaced.
The restored chapel also features 32 paintings by the award winning Sydney artist, Paul Newton, many of which adorn the seven side altars, which were also restored.
Much of the artwork tells the history of the Church in Australia. One portrait is of the founder of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Archbishop Bede Polding, while another depicts the country’s first saint, Saint Mary MacKillop. All of this bring Australia to the heart of Rome, says Cardinal Pell.
“The second purpose is to strengthen the links between the city of Rome - which is the home of the Pope, home of the Successor of Peter - and Australia, which is nearly as far away as you can be,” Cardinal Pell explained.
For those who wish to stay at the Domus Australia, there are 33 rooms. Bookings are already being made for July onwards.
Rome, Italy, Jun 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Lawyers acting on behalf of Belgian clerical abuse victims say they intend to sue the Vatican, despite the bishops of Belgium agreeing to compensate abuse survivors only two days ago.
The legal team – working on behalf of about 70 victims – claims that the Vatican did not intervene even when it learned of the sexual scandals in the Belgian Church.
“There were instructions from the Pope that said those things had to be kept secret and silent,” claimed lawyer Christine Mussche at a news conference in Belgian city of Ghent June 1.
The Bishops Conference of Belgium said on Monday, May 30 that it would set up a commission to compensate victims molested so long ago that their cases can no longer be prosecuted. Some reported cases go back several decades.
“As long as there are no concrete results from the arbitration commission, the victims will continue the procedure,” Mussche said.
Mussche added that the text of the summons will be translated into Italian and delivered to the Vatican in the next few days.
Over 500 cases of alleged abuse by priests or Church workers have been registered in Belgium in the past year. The allegations date back to the 1950s. The most shocking amongst them involved Bishop Emeritus Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges who admitted earlier this year to abusing two nephews.
The likelihood of the Belgian legal team succeeding in bringing a suit against the Holy See is low. Several similar attempts in the U.S. in recent years have all failed.
One of the most recent cases came last year in April 2010 when lawyers for three Kentucky men dropped an attempt to sue the Vatican. Their attorney had initially tried to implicate Vatican officials – and potentially even the Pope – in allegedly ignoring or covering up the mishandling of clergy sex-abuse cases by American bishops.
At the time, Jeffrey Lena, the American lawyer for the Vatican, said that the dropping of case showed once again that there had never been a Vatican policy requiring the concealment of sexual abuse. He also suggested that such attempted lawsuits only distract from the important goal of protecting children.
Rome, Italy, Jun 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Rome is hosting a gathering that would be unusual in almost any other city-- a festival showcasing possible pilgrimage destinations from 31 different countries.
The Journeys of the Spirit Festival, or JOSPFest, is bringing over 120 exhibitors from 31 countries to the Italian capital to promote their particular locations as destinations for pilgrimage.
“We’re trying to spread the word about pilgrimages and the beauty of traveling,” said the press officer for the festival, Rosamaria Mancini.
“We think that people are looking for a type of tourism that’s a little bit deeper. We think that people don’t just want the sun and the sand, that people are looking for something that stimulates them in some sort of way,” Mancini told CNA June 2.
The organizers predict that over a million people will descend on Rome to take part in the festival. For those in the tourist business there are numerous seminars, debates and trade shows.
For everybody else, there are stalls all around the city advertising hundreds of destinations as well as numerous cultural events. One event sure to draw a crowd will be a performace by Spanish tenor Jose Carreras, who will perform at Rome’s Piazza di Spagna on the evening of Saturday, June 4. In addition, a 57-piece orchestra will be playing every day at the nearby Piazza Navona. All events are free and open to the public.
This year’s theme connecting all the events is “The Pilgrim Lifestyle.”
“The pilgrim lifestyle is really an interesting way of life,” said Mancini.
“The idea with a pilgrim lifestyle is that the values that come along with that journey of the spirit – building bridges, interacting, dialogue, being respectful, being kind - those values don’t have to end after you finish your pilgrimage. You can use them and implement them in your everyday life afterwards.”
This is the third Journeys of the Spirit Festival in Rome. Organizers are hoping to make it an annual event.
Miami, Fla., Jun 2, 2011 (CNA) - As the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks begin the NBA Championship series, the Catholic bishops of the teams’ hometowns have made a friendly wager on the outcome.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami offered Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas three items from three parts of his archdiocese: a collection of Key Lime pies and stone crabs from Monroe County, a box of cigars handmade in Miami, and a fish bowl containing Ft. Lauderdale sand, shells from the beach, and water from the Atlantic Ocean.
He will also include some “ocean breezes and oranges” if the Miami Heat lose, the Archdiocese of Miami reports.
Bishop Farrell has accepted the challenge. He has offered barbeque ribs from Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q in Frisco, tortillas and salsa from Luna Tortilla Factory in Dallas, and a deep dish pecan pie from Colin Street Bakery in Corsicana. He is also offering a “Don’t Mess with Texas” hat.
If the Heat loses, Bishop Farrell said, he would like to receive a picture of Archbishop Wenski wearing the cap, perhaps while sitting on his Harley motorcycle.
“I want to see Archbishop Wenski wearing a hat that says, 'Don't Mess With Texas,’ because he has got to learn that lesson,” Bishop Farrell told WFAA-TV.
Archbishop Wenski wants the promised ribs to arrive at his home in time for the July 4 weekend.
“My mouth is already beginning to water,” he told the Miami Sun-Sentinel.
The Miami Heat won the first game of the series on May 31 by a score of 92-84. The second game is scheduled for Thursday night at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.