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Archive of September 26, 2011

Panama archbishop speaks out against death penalty

Panama City, Panama, Sep 26, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa of Panama City recently denounced a proposal to legalize the death penalty in the country.

“We cannot counteract violence with violence.  There are other means,” the archbishop said according to the AFP news agency.
 
Representative Marco Gonzalez of the ruling party in Panama previously announced a proposal to legalize the death penalty in the country. He claimed it would end widespread violence in the region.
 
Gonzalez said he plans to move forward with his proposal in the coming weeks and is calling for lawmakers to debate the measure.
 
His announcement came after the discovery of five Panamanians of Chinese origin who were found buried together in a mass grave. Police suspect they were murdered by a man from the Dominican Republic.
 
Archbishop Ulloa instead called for tougher and stricter prison sentences and he called on the government to “clarify its security policy.”

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Martyred nuns beatified in Bosnia

Rome, Italy, Sep 26, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, presided at the beatification of five Bosnian nuns who were kidnapped and later killed in December 1941.

Maria Jula Ivanišević, Maria Berchmana Leidenix, Maria Krizina Bojanc, Maria Antonija Fabjan and Maria Bernadeta Banja were all members of the Daughters of Divine Charity.
 
In 1911, the nuns lived in a convent near Sarajevo in the town of Pale. They ran an elementary school until it was closed in 1919.  In 1927 they began teaching catechism at the region's schools. “Their selfless commitment to the people in need was known by all the inhabitants of the region,” earning them the respect of the Orthodox community as well, Sister Maria Ozana Krajacic of the Daughters of Divine Charity recounted in the Sept. 24 edition of L’Osservatore Romano.
 
On Dec. 11, 1941, a group of Serbian militants attacked the convent where the nuns were living. They were kidnapped together with a Slovenian priest. The convent was sacked and burned.
 
The militants forced them to walk 40 miles in the freezing snow over four days, without adequate clothing. They were continually insulted and subjected to intense interrogation. “None of them complained, they didn’t ask for any concessions.  They were silent and in constant prayer,” Sr. Krajacic wrote.
 
Half way through their journey, the Serbs abandoned 76-year-old Sr. Maria Berchmana Leidenix. She was later murdered on Dec. 23.
 
The other four sisters were taken to an outpost in Gorazde. On Dec. 15, a group of militants attempted to rape them “but none gave in despite being threatened with death. According to author Fr. Anto Bakovic, the sisters shouted, ‘We prefer death over what you want!’”

The attempted sexual assault continued for over an hour. 
 
“When the Serbs began to get violent, the sisters tried to flee. They prayed to Jesus and one by one jumped out of a window (on the second floor of the barracks). Injured and exhausted after the jump, they tried to stand up and flee but they were stabbed and dragged to the banks of the Drina River,” Sr. Krajacic recounted.

In the Spring of 1942, two sisters of the congregation in Sarajevo attempted to locate the tomb of Sr. Maria Berchmana, but they were unable to find it. 
 
“The news of the deaths of the five sisters spread quickly in Sarajevo. Even though it was a time of war, the people remembered them and prayed to the martyrs of Drina, as they were called, for their intercession,” Sr. Krajacic recalled.
 
Their story is recounted in the book, “The Martyrs of Drina,” written by Fr. Bakovic.

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Researcher sees threat of ‘global aging’ in latest data

New York City, N.Y., Sep 26, 2011 (CNA) -

The phenomenon of “global aging” poses serious problems for the world if nothing is done to promote and protect strong families, according to an analysis of the latest U.N. population data.

Dr. Susan Fink Yoshihara, who leads research at the International Organizations Research Group and at the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, believes that “aging among the great powers will have destabilizing effects in the decades ahead.”

“Global aging is caused by the decline in fertility rates which reduces the proportion of young people in society, along with longer life expectancies,” she explained to CNA.

Yoshihara bases her predictions off her analysis of a recent United Nations population forecast.

She explained that the U.N. forecast predicts that future decades will see a “steep rise in society’s proportion of the old (65 years or older) and very old (80 years and older).”

“The U.N. says that the number of people over 60 will double by 2050,” she said. This phenomenon, known as global aging, will create significant economic problems for countries around the world.

“As the population ages there are fewer young people entering the work force and more retirees who draw benefits from the state,” Yoshihara explained. “That means there is an increase in the number of older people that each worker must provide for.”

“That ‘dependency ratio’ of worker to dependent has changed dramatically from supporting many children, whose medical and social care is relatively cheap, to supporting older people whose care and benefits are expensive,” she continued.

“As we know from the health care and social security reform debates, those costs keep increasing beyond what we can afford,” she added.

Global aging will have a negative social impact as well. Yoshihara predicts that “aging among the great powers will have destabilizing effects in the decades ahead.”

“There will be fewer ships to patrol the world’s commerce-laden sea lanes and fewer boots on the ground to quell regional conflicts,” she said. “Global reordering is inherently destabilizing.”

The large scale of the aging phenomenon is a cause for concern, said Yoshihara, noting that rapid aging is not limited to a specific culture or region.

“Fertility rates have plummeted all over the world,” she explained.

Yoshihara said there is a need for a greater awareness of global aging and its effects.

“For more than four decades public debates about population have been dominated by talk of too many people.”

“There is nothing policy makers can do to reverse the aging trend,” Yoshihara said. “No one can bring back the children who were never born.”

But she does believe they can help mitigate the worst effects by protecting policies that promote strong families and eliminating those that do not.

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New alliance supports those threatened for defending marriage

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The National Organization for Marriage announced Sept. 23 that it is launching the Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance, a new project to defend the freedom to express one’s belief that marriage should be the union of a man and woman without fear of harassment or punishment.

“My sense is that there are too many of us who believe that marriage is the union of husband and wife to stigmatize or marginalize if we come together,” said Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of National Organization for Marriage.

Gallagher told CNA Sept. 26 that the alliance was created in response to “increased reports, both public and private, of people whose livelihoods are being threatened because they disagree with gay marriage.”

“Gay marriage advocates are seeking to create an America in which decent, loving, law-abiding Americans are afraid to stand up for the idea that marriage is the union of husband and wife, for fear of reprisals ranging from insults and invectives like 'hater' and 'bigot,' to practical consequences like the loss of a job,” she said.

The alliance is not a legal project, Gallagher explained, but rather an attempt to increase awareness and support for those who have faced unjust harassment because of their views on marriage.

Gallagher said that the alliance aims “to get the word out about what is actually happening, because this is not being well-covered.”

The alliance is also designed “to create a community where other people to whom this is happening will feel safe in coming forward and will feel that somebody cares about what’s happening to them.”

As these two goals are achieved, participants will also be able to “develop strategies for insisting on social respect for both sides in the gay marriage debate,” she said.

The Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance website states that it is dedicated to the idea that “no American should be afraid to exercise core civil rights: to speak, to donate, to organize, to sign petitions, or to vote for marriage as the union of husband and wife.”

The alliance recently released a video on Frank Turek, a leadership seminar speaker who lost his contract with Cisco and Bank of America after human relations employees discovered that he had written a book that argued marriage should not be redefined.

In response the alliance started a consumer complaint campaign directed towards Bank of America in the state of North Carolina, where the company’s headquarters is located.

“We reached out to a small number of customers of Bank of America in the Charlotte area, told them what happened to Frank Turek and asked them to call the company to let bankers know their customers do not appreciate this kind of disrespect,” said Gallagher. “In the last few days more than 1,400 people have called to complain.”

“Frank Turek's experience shows that an anti-defamation initiative is urgently needed, not for some point down the road, but right now in America,” Gallagher said.

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Catholics fight contraception mandate as deadline looms

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholics across the U.S. are mobilizing against a proposed Health and Human Services mandate that requires health insurance to cover contraception and provides a narrow exemption for religious groups.

“Under the new rule our institutions would be free to act in accord with Catholic teaching on life and procreation only if they were to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics,” explained Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, chairman of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee.

“Although this new rule gives the agency the discretion to authorize a ‘religious’ exemption, it is so narrow as to exclude most Catholic social service agencies and healthcare providers,” he warned.

The HHS department announced federal rules on Aug. 1 that will require nearly all new health plans, including those of most religious agencies, to cover all government-approved methods of contraception as well as surgical sterilization.

The guidelines, which were created in response to the 2010 health care law, require new health insurance plans to cover what it calls “women’s preventive services.” These include breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening and contraception without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible.

The proposed mandate, announced by department secretary Kathleen Sebelius, offers exemptions only if a religious employer “has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose,” “primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets,” and “primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets.”

Bishops and Catholic organizations across the U.S. have reacted strongly against the proposition for weeks now, urging the faithful to oppose the measure by contacting HHS before the Sept. 30 deadline.

“The administration’s brazen attempt to attach the binding strings of its secularist agenda to something as basic as health insurance constitutes an unprecedented threat to individual and institutional religious freedom,” Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Military archdiocese said on Sept. 23. 

“Never before has the government required private health plans to include coverage for such morally objectionable procedures as contraception and sterilization,” he noted. “In a free society, women and men of faith cannot be compelled to fund medical practices that violate their religious principles.”

On Sept. 21, Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn added to criticism of the mandate, saying that U.S. Catholics should send a clear message “that pregnancy is not a disease.”

“We must insist that sterilization prescriptions and contraceptives be dropped from the list of preventative services that the federal government is mandating,” he emphasized. “This is especially important to exclude any drug that may cause an early abortion,” Bishop DiMarzio said, referring to contraceptives like Ella.

In recent weeks, other American bishops have also drawn attention to the potentially negative effects that the proposal could have on Catholic institutions. 

“Unintended or not, this mandate is an attack on Catholic beliefs and on the religious liberty of Catholics to adhere to their beliefs as they serve the community in which they live,” Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh wrote in a Sept. 15 letter to Sebelius.

The bishop noted that Catholic Charities in his diocese alone has served over 80,000 people last year
“without regard to the religious belief” of those they ministered to.

But “under this mandate, Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh would either be forced to cease to exist or restrict its employees and its wide ranging social services to practicing Catholics alone.”

In a Sept. 21 letter to HHS, the bishops of California reiterated Bishop Zubik's concern, saying that the Catholic Church “has an unparalleled record of serving the poor and needy through its religious institutions.”

However, the mandate “disregards the firmly held belief of Catholics and ethical and religious directives by which their religious organizations abide.”

The Catholic Health Association was also critical of the exemptions, with executive director Sr. Carol Keehan saying that she is “very concerned about the inadequacy of the conscience protections with respect to the coverage of contraception.”

“As it stands, the language is not broad enough to protect our Catholic health providers,” Sr. Keehan added.

“Catholic hospitals are a significant part of this nation's health care, especially in the care of the most vulnerable. It is critical that we be allowed to serve our nation without compromising our conscience.”

The proposed rules are set to take effect in August 2012.

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