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Archive of September 7, 2011

Cardinal Deskur, former Vatican communications head, dies at 87

Vatican City, Sep 7, 2011 (CNA) -

Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur, former president of the Pontifical Council of Social Communications, died on Sept. 3 at the age of 87. Pope Benedict XVI remembered him as “one of the most illustrious sons” of the Archdiocese of Krakow.

Pope Benedict said the cardinal was linked by “profound ties of friendship” to Bl. Pope John Paul II and left the memory of a life spent in “coherent and generous dedication to his vocation as a pious and zealous priest.”

The Pope also praised Cardinal Deskur’s “valuable collaboration” with the Holy See, especially in communications media.

His comments came in a Sept. 5 telegram to Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, presided at Cardinal Deskur’s funeral in St. Peter’s Basilica on the morning of Sept. 6.

The cardinal was born on Feb. 29, 1924 in Sancygniów, Poland to a family of French origin. He received a doctorate in law in 1945 from the Catholic University of Krakow and served as secretary general of Bratniak, an important Polish student organization, according to his official Vatican biography.

After he entered seminary in Krakow, he was ordained a priest on Aug. 20, 1950. He was called to Rome in 1952 to work in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. He served on several communications commissions and was a “peritus,” a theological expert, at the Second Vatican Council.

He was named president of the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications in 1973 and ordained a bishop in 1974.

Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal in 1985. He was cardinal priest of St. Cesario in Platio.

“I pray that, through the intercession of Mary Immaculate whom he so greatly venerated, the Lord may welcome this faithful pastor of the Gospel and the Church into His Kingdom of eternal joy and peace,” Pope Benedict said.

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Prop 8 hearing puts ballot initiative powers in spotlight

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 7, 2011 (CNA) -

On Sept. 6, California's Supreme Court heard arguments about a legal question that has less to do with marriage, than with the state's legislative process and citizens' right to propose ballot initiatives.

“Today's issue was not limited just to the marriage issue, but any initiative that comes along that a government official may fail to defend,” said Andy Pugno, a lawyer representing the organization Protectmarriage.com.

“It presents, really, a new question for our courts that they've never had to decide before: and that is, what do you do when the attorney general won't do his job?”

Pugno's organization is involved in two legal battles, one of which will establish their right to move forward with the other.

Protectmarriage.com wants to defend Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, against opponents who say it violates the U.S. Constitution. The organization has stepped forward to defend the law in court, because – in a move Pugno calls “unprecedented” – California's governor and attorney general have refused to do so.

Before the group can defend Prop. 8 in federal court, however, it must prove to the California Supreme Court that it has the right to defend the law in place of the governor and attorney general.

Opponents of Prop. 8 say the organization that proposed the initiative has no such right. They maintain that Protectmarriage.com, having successfully passed the initiative in question, has no direct stake in the outcome of the court case that will decide whether it is constitutional. In that fight, they say, the group that proposed an initiative has no more legal standing than any private citizen.

But Pugno disagrees. He says his organization is now fighting not just to defend marriage, but to defend any group of citizens' right to propose and pass ballot measures, without the governor and attorney general exercising what amounts to veto power.

“The California constitution reserves this special power for proponents to draft and qualify and propose initiatives for the voters to vote on. And if it's passed and then it's challenged in court, and the government basically says 'We give up,' then really that has nullified or even vetoed all the efforts of the proponents who played an official role in sponsoring the initiative.”

In Tuesday's hearing before the state Supreme Court, he argued that the official advocates of an initiative enjoy a particular kind of right to participate in the lawmaking process. That right, he said, will be threatened if the executive branch of government can nullify an initiative, and also prevent its supporters from defending it.

“We're saying … there's a special role under California law that proponents carry out. Without proponents fulfilling that role, there would be no initiative. And so the proponents should be authorized to come and defend the effective exercise of the right to propose initiatives by amendment.”

“Otherwise, there's really nobody else who is suitable to stand in for the voters who passed it.”

If proponents cannot defend their initiatives in court, Pugno says, they end up in a position similar to an individual who cast a vote that was never counted.

“Just like if your right to vote is taken away if your vote is not counted in an election, the nullification of your right to propose and pass an initiative – just like the nullification of your vote – is a harm that we suffer directly.”

Even those who promote or accept the redefinition of marriage, he said, should be concerned by a betrayal of the legislative process. Pugno says their tactics are shortsighted, and serve to undermine democracy.

“The advocates of changing marriage in California are really so extreme that they're willing to do just about anything – even take procedural maneuvers that really don't make any sense, that really are bad law for other people and other cases in the future.”

“The fact that they're willing to throw the entire initiative power of the people itself out the window, just to achieve their goal with regard to gay 'marriage,' really signals some desperation.”

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Mexican cardinal demands justice for victims of casino attack

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 7, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega of Monterrey, Mexico has urged officials to track down those responsible for the attack on the Casino Royale and bring them to justice.

The Aug. 25 attack killed 52 people.

“Precisely because these innocent lives were lost, as a society we must not forget the sacrifice and sorrow their family members are experiencing.”

“(F)or the sake of that sorrow we demand that all these irregularities be cleared up and justice be carried out,” the cardinal told reporters following Mass on Sept. 5.

He also mentioned the accusations of corruption that surround the case. “We already pointed out that when these unfortunate things happen, they bring to light many irregularities which are the result of corruption and complicity.  If the rule of law is always to be respected, it should be much more so when we are dealing with the loss of human lives.”

Cardinal Robles also urged support for the employees of the casino, who may be laid off without pay. 

According to the AFP news agency, six suspects have been detained, including a police officer.  The attack may have come after the owner of the casino, Raul Rocha, refused to pay money to the drug cartel Los Zetas in exchange for protection.

Rocha fled Mexico after the attack and said he would not return to the country until officials could guarantee his personal safety.

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Pope speaks of God's presence during 'times of darkness'

Vatican City, Sep 7, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims in St. Peter's Square that they should look to the Bible's third psalm to recall that God is near “even in times of difficulty, problems, and darkness.”

“In the Psalmist's lament,” Pope Benedict observed in his September 7 general audience, “each of us may recognize those feelings of pain and bitterness, accompanied by faith in God, which, according the biblical narrative, David experienced as he fled from his city.”

Pope Benedict presided over the Wednesday general audience at the Vatican before returning to Castel Gandolfo, his summer vacation residence.

His discussion of Psalm 3 served as the beginning of his treatment of the Psalms – which he called “the book of prayer par excellence” – as part of his continuing series of lessons on “the school of prayer.”

Psalm 3, Pope Benedict recalled, comes from “one of the most dramatic episodes” in the life of King David, to whom the Church has traditionally ascribed the entire book of Psalms. It represents David's cry for help after his son Absalom usurped his throne, forcing David to flee from Jerusalem in fear.

The incident prompts David to exlaim: “How many are my foes, Lord! How many rise against me! How many say of me, 'God will not save that one.'”

David's persecutors, Pope Benedict noted, not only threaten his life, but “also seek to break his bond with God and to undermine the faith of their victim by insinuating that the Lord cannot intervene.”

Their aggression against “the central core of the Psalmist's being” subjects David to one of the most serious temptations a believer can suffer, “the temptation of losing faith and trust in the closeness of God.”

But the author of Psalm 3 also recalls that God is “a shield around me,” and declares: “Whenever I cried out to the Lord, I was answered from the holy mountain … I do not fear, then, thousands of people arrayed against me on every side.”

“By praying this Psalm,” Pope Benedict told the crowd of pilgrims, “we share the sentiments of the Psalmist: a just but persecuted figure which would later be fulfilled in Jesus. In pain, danger and the bitterness of misunderstanding and offense, the words of this Psalm open our hearts to the comforting certainty of faith.”

“God is always close, even in times of difficulty, problems and darkness,” the Pope taught. “He listens, responds and saves.” David's cry of desperation, then, is also “an act of faith in God's closeness and His willingness to listen.”

Pope Benedict explained that the third psalm, like the entirety of the Old Testament, points to Jesus' experience of suffering, death, and final deliverance.

Through the words of this psalm, Christians can learn to “recognize (God's) presence and accept his ways, like David during his humiliating flight from his son Absalom … and, finally and fully, like the Lord Jesus on Golgotha.”

When darkness and pain arrive, the ability to recognize God's presence makes an immense difference, as it did when Christ died in circumstances that seemed to have no redeeming value.

“In the eyes of the unrighteous it appeared that God did not intervene and that his son died,” the Pope said. “But for believers it was at that precise moment that true glory was manifested and definitive salvation achieved.”

“May the Lord give us faith,” Pope Benedict concluded. “May he come in aid of our weakness and help us to pray in moments of anguish, in the painful nights of doubt and the long days of pain, abandoning ourselves trustingly to him –  our shield and our glory.”

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Spanish woman dies 14 days after removal of feeding tube

Huelva, Spain, Sep 7, 2011 (CNA) - Ramona Estevez, the 91-year-old Spanish woman whose feeding tube was withdrawn last month, died on Sept. 6 at the Blanca Paloma Hospital in Huelva, Spain.

Estevez suffered a stroke at the end of July, leaving her in a deep coma. On Aug. 23, the Andalusia Health Department granted a request by her family members to remove her feeding tube. 

The organization Right to Life in Spain responded by filing two lawsuits, one requesting that the tube be reinserted, and another against the head of the Andalusia Health Department and against Blanca Paloma Hospital for failing to provide care and assisting in a suicide.

The court rejected the lawsuits arguing that Right to Life “is not a party of interest in the procedure and that no proof has been presented of criminal action.”

Bishop Jose Vilaplana of Huelva weighed in on the case recently saying, “(a)ny action aimed at interrupting food and hydration constitutes an act of euthanasia, in which death is produced not through illness but through the bringing about of hunger and thirst.” 

Speaking to Europa Press, the woman’s son, Jose Ramon Paez, said the family was carrying out his mother’s wishes. The spokesman for the Socialist Party in Huelva, Mario Jimenez, said the removal of the feeding tube was in accord with the “death with dignity law.” 

“The law was followed, which in this country comes before religious ideas,” he said.

In his statement, Bishop Vilaplana said, “We must always be on the side of human life, no matter what its stage of development.” 

“We must support those who are last, the weak, the handicapped, in order to ensure that their rights, especially the right to life, are respected,” he continued.

The bishop noted that even though some people have tried to portray the removal of Estevez’s feeding tube as a humane act, “(t)he only duty society has with regard to the sick is help them to live, as life is not something we use and throw away.”

The dignity of human life “must not be linked to the state of consciousness or unconsciousness of someone who is sick,” he said.

“Deliberately seeking out death or inducing it, as Benedict XVI has said so many times, is not the answer to the drama of suffering,” Bishop Vilaplana insisted.

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Family finds hope in tragic loss on 9/11

Providence, R.I., Sep 7, 2011 (CNA) - It has been a decade since Michele Murphy lost her sister Renee Tetreault Newell on 9/11, and while the pain may never truly subside, Murphy, a devout Catholic, has found comfort and strength in her faith that reassures her that her younger sister is always with her.

Despite a recent tragedy in her life—Murphy’s North Providence, R.I.  home caught fire this summer causing significant damage—Murphy, a parishioner at Mary, Mother of Mankind Parish, North Providence, points to a series of seeming coincidences through the years involving one of the most delicate and beautiful of God’s creatures: the butterfly, that bring her confidence that her sister is one with God.

Two days before the tragedy, a large monarch butterfly unexpectedly perched itself in Murphy’s home. Then, on the morning after 9/11, Murphy says she walked into her bathroom to find a butterfly pin atop the sink. She had purchased the pin a year earlier to remember someone who had died from her parish, and had put it away for safe keeping.

More instances of butterflies beginning to flutter around the windows of her home—once when a group of mourners was present—led her to believe a greater force was at work.

“To me, it was the Holy Spirit telling me everything was going to be okay,” Murphy said.

One night, during a candlelight vigil for his mother, then-nine-year-old Matthew Newell suddenly became excited to find a butterfly hovering around the candle.

“There in (Matthew’s) candle, there was a live butterfly fluttering,” Murphy recalls. “He took the butterfly out and let it go.”

“Now, this strength is being passed on to everybody,” Murphy said.

She was so inspired that she purchased two butterfly bushes for her yard, and the creatures never fail to alight nearby when she feels she needs additional strength the most.

Tetreault Newell was known to go out of her way in order to make people feel special. In her role as a customer service and union representative for American Airlines she was at times able to arrange for upgrades to first class when she traveled.

Scheduled to depart for a conference in Las Vegas on Sept. 11, 2001, she invited her good friend Carol Bouchard to join her. Bouchard hadn’t flown in many years, so Tetreault Newell decided to upgrade both their tickets to first class to make the trip extra special for them both.

The only catch was that there weren’t any first class seats that day out of Providence, so they made the trek up to Boston’s Logan International Airport, where they boarded American Airlines Flight 11 to Los Angeles. There, they would catch a connecting flight to Las Vegas.

But the trip was cut short 15 minutes after departing Boston when five al-Qaeda terrorists, led by Mohamed Atta, a trained pilot, seized control of the aircraft and flew it into the North Tower of New York City’s World Trade Center, killing everyone aboard, and countless others in the tower.

The FBI later told the family in a briefing that Tetreault Newell and Bouchard were seated directly behind the lead terrorist on the flight.

“She just loved life. She was a good friend, a great mom and was wonderful to our parents,” Murphy said of her sister.

Tetreault Newell’s uncle, James Tetreault, will be in attendance at NYC’s Ground Zero on Sept. 11 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

“I’m still angry that it was so easy for the terrorists to do what they did and the ease with which they made it work,” he said.

“It’s shameful. It will never, ever be forgotten.”

Printed with permission from the Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Providence, R.I.

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Opponents: Calif. vaccine bill will give taxpayer boost to drug companies

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 7, 2011 (CNA) - California Gov. Jerry Brown should veto a bill allowing 12-year-olds to consent to STD vaccinations or treatment without their parents’ knowledge, bill opponents say. They warn that the bill violates parents’ rights and could give pharmaceutical companies $360 per child vaccinated, at taxpayer expense.

“This legislation is going to disenfranchise parents, and taxpayers are going to subsidize that disenfranchisement,” said Kevin Snider, lead attorney for the California-based Pacific Justice Institute.

The California Senate passed the bill on a 22-17 vote on Aug. 31.

Snider said his organization was “very disappointed” by the vote. He urged the state’s citizens to write  Gov. Brown and highlight the costs of providing treatments to young people like the Merck corporation’s Gardasil HPV vaccine or the GlaxoSmithKline company’s Cervarix vaccine.

“This will cost taxpayers money,”  he told CNA on Sept. 2.

“They expect the taxpayers to pay for it. The bill will be split 50-50 between the state and federal funds.”

A five to ten percent immunization rate for HPV among the state’s 923,000 eligible minors would result in administrative costs ranging from $1.2 million to $2.5 million, an analysis from the California Senate Appropriations Committee said.

However, the bill also includes language that says parents’ insurance will not be responsible for the costs. This would allow minors’ vaccinations to be funded through the federal Vaccines for Children Program. Using the committee’s immunization rate estimate, this would provide $16.6 million to $33.2 million to the vaccine manufacturers.

Backers of the bill say it will help contain the spread of human papillomavirus strains which can cause deadly cervical cancer in women. They say waiving the consent requirements will help vaccinate homeless youth and young people unable or reluctant to obtain parental consent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 12,000 women get cervical cancer each year in the U.S. and almost all cases are HPV-associated. The virus may also cause several thousand other U.S. cancer cases each year.

Opponents of the vaccine say that it is unlikely that minors will complete the three-part vaccination process without parental guidance, even though the bill allows minors as young as 12 years old to consent to the shots.

“Most young people are not going to be seeking out independent medical vaccinations on a complex medicine like this. We’re thinking they’re going to be steered to it by adults,” Snider said.

He also reported that there is significant controversy in the medical community about 12-year-olds’ ability to understand the medical and moral implications of the vaccine.

“Parents have the primary responsibility for kids for medical decisions,” he said. “This bill basically puts them out of the loop.”

Opponents of the bill are asking California residents to tell Gov. Brown to veto the bill.

“It is time for parents and anyone who cares about the welfare of California’s children to mobilize,” Catholics for the Common Good chairman William B. May said on Aug. 25. “It is bad healthcare policy and an attack on the rights of parents and the rights of children to have the protection and guidance of their parents.”

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles said he was praying for the veto. He cited children’s “fundamental” rights to parental guidance and parents’ “fundamental” right and duty to be responsible for their children’s physical and spiritual well being.

“Our children need the knowledge and wisdom of their parents in order to make complicated medical decisions. This legislation would leave our children to make these decisions without the benefit of their parents’ wisdom,” he said Sept. 6.

Disallowing parents’ involvement, he warned, could lead to pressure on children from “parties who may not have our best interests in mind” and who may have “financial or other motivations” to encourage vaccination.

“Let us all pray and work to build a society that encourages family values and strengthens the bonds of parents and children,” the archbishop said.

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