Rockford, Ill., Nov 30, 2011 (CNA) - An Illinois abortion clinic which set up blasphemous and obscene window displays directed at pro-life demonstrators will remain closed after a judge ruled that its license suspension for health violations will continue until a Jan. 4 hearing.
The Illinois Department of Health brought a series of charges against the Northern Illinois Women’s Center of Rockford, Illinois, the Chicago-based Thomas More Law Society reports. All three of the clinic’s operating rooms failed to ensure a sanitary environment, the clinic failed to prevent contamination of surgical equipment, including surgical gloves. Sterilization equipment also failed tests at least twice.
The abortion facility also did not meet the legal requirement for a qualified registered nurse to be present in the operating room during procedures, and failed to keep records properly, suggesting that women were left to care for themselves after surgery.
Doctors also lacked admitting privileges at local hospitals, possibly putting patients at risk of serious injury or death.
A prosecuting attorney from the health department on Nov. 28 told an administrative law judge that “two to three issues” remained unresolved. The department cited the clinic in June and September. It ordered an emergency suspension of the clinic’s license on Sept. 30 and fined it $15,000.
The clinic believes that the suspension was not warranted and violated the constitutional rights of the clinic and its patients. The Jan. 4 hearing will determine whether the clinic can reopen or if its closure will be extended.
The Thomas More Law Society is representing concerned Rockford area citizens, including the Rockford Pro-Life Initiative and a nurse who helped persuade public health authorities to investigate the facility after 14 years in which no inspections took place.
Society president and chief counsel Tom Brejcha said the group will continue to monitor the proceedings “as closely as possible” and to do “all we can” to ensure that the clinic is “held fully accountable for compliance with Illinois law before it is permitted, if ever, to reopen and continue its grisly business of the mass slaughter of human beings.”
“We pray that this Christmas season may mark NIWC’s permanent closure.”
Staffers at the abortion clinic have a history of trying to provoke and insult pro-life demonstrators. They placed anti-Christian symbols in the facility’s window, including images of Jesus making an obscene gesture. Other items included a nun doll in a miniature casket and hand-drawn signs attacking priests and other demonstrators as HIV-positive child molesters.
Paso Robles, Calif., Nov 30, 2011 (CNA) - The Central California Marian Eucharistic Conference this January will feature a rare speaker: Mother Dolores Hart, OSB, a former award-winning actress who performed in two Elvis Presley movies and still votes for the Academy Awards.
“We feel really blessed that she is coming,” conference organizer Pat Borba told CNA on Nov. 29. “That in itself is a miracle that we got her. We thought that since she’s cloistered that that would never happen.”
The conference, the 15th annual event of its kind, will take place at the Paso Robles Event Center at a Mid-State Fairgrounds auditorium in Paso Robles, Calif. from Jan. 14-15. Its theme is “Faith That Moves Mountains!”
Mother Dolores’ scheduled speeches are titled “How a Career in Hollywood Led Me to Faith” and “The Ear of the Heart: When the Master Speaks the Disciple will Listen.”
Before Mother Dolores became a nun, she acted for the stage and screen. She starred in the 1960 teen classic “Where the Boys Are” and played St. Clare in the 1961 film “Francis of Assisi.” She also played the lead role in the movie “The Inspector.”
She won a 1959 Theatre World Award and a Tony Award nomination for her role in the Broadway production of “The Pleasure of His Company.” She has remained a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is presently the only nun to vote for the Oscar awards.
Conference organizer Gertrude McMasters explained that it is “highly unusual” for the cloistered Benedictine nun to address a conference.
When Mother Dolores received the request, she thought it would not be possible for her to go. She asked her prioress anyway.
“Her superior just looked at her and said ‘Are you ready to go?’ She was really surprised too, that she was able to come,” Borba said. “That’s why we feel there’s really a reason that she’s going to be here.”
The conference focuses on the Eucharist, the Blessed Virgin Mary and Catholic teaching.
Other conference speakers include Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, who is known for his retreats, conferences and television appearances; Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, a school safety expert; Fr. Patrick Martin, a legally blind priest and author; California vocations director and youth minister Fr. Joshua West.
Irish vocalist David Parkes will emcee the event and offer a Saturday afternoon concert.
Bishop Richard J. Garcia of Monterey will celebrate Mass at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Borba said that the organizers considered ending the conference until they reflected on how much fruit it has borne.
“We’ve talked to many people who have come. We were approached by so many people on how it had affected their lives and changed their lives, that we decided that we really needed to continue. Even the youth approached us and said ‘please don’t stop it.’”
“We’ve gotten many wonderful letters on conversions and how people have come back to the sacraments through the speakers that we have. That’s why we have actually continued,” she explained.
Attendance has varied from 400 to 2,000 people, and usually averages from 600 to 800.
For more information on the 2012 conference, visit http://www.ccmec.org.
New Haven, Conn., Nov 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Knights of Columbus' Catholic Information Service will launch a series of booklets and online materials on the task of re-evangelizing formerly Christian societies.
“Pope Benedict XVI has made the New Evangelization a priority,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson on Nov. 29.
“It is our hope,” he added, that the new series “will help Catholics to learn about their faith in a way that allows them to participate first hand in the Church’s mission of the New Evangelization.”
The New Evangelization Series will feature online content and booklets focused on issues related to evangelizing modern culture and will draw from the writings of Popes Benedict XVI and Blessed John Paul II.
Catholic Information Service has printed and distributed millions of booklets over the last 60 years. The group's previous two series on the Catechism and faith topics contain more than 75 booklets with many available in podcast and PDF format.
Michelle Borras, Ph.D., the newly appointed director of Catholic Information Service, will serve as general editor of the new series.
In their Nov. 29 announcement, the Knights of Columbus noted that the term “New Evangelization” was first used by Blessed Pope John Paul II early in his pontificate in Poland in 1979. The late pontiff often returned to this theme in his speeches and writing much like his successor, Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Benedict has organized a synod in October of 2012 which will gather bishops from around the world in Rome to discuss efforts on the New Evangelization.
Bogotá, Colombia, Nov 30, 2011 (CNA) - Bishops in Columbia condemned the Nov. 26 killings of four hostages who were held for over ten years by the rebel group FARC.
“We are grieved by the drama that these brothers of ours and their families have had to live through all these years,” the bishops said in a Nov. 27 statement.
“We are grieved by the manner in which the hope of them returning to their homes, alive and safe, was shattered.”
Colombian officials confirmed the deaths of Libio Martinez, Elkin Hernandez Rivas, Edgar Yesid Duarte Valero and Alvaro Moreno on Sunday after a failed military rescue operation.
The only survivor, Sergeant Luis Alberto Erazo, said the rebels told the kidnap victims that in the event of a confrontation with the Colombian military, they should walk forward together and would be released. Erazo ignored the command and fled. Hiding nearby, he watched as the other four hostages were killed by the rebels.
Bishops in Colombia said the country is facing the “cruel reality of human beings whose dignity has been damaged by the violation of their fundamental rights and whose lives have been mercilessly cut off.”
“In response to this fact, Colombians must demand that respect for persons and for human life be always the central objective of all of society’s activity, that murder or violence in any form never be justified for any reason, that the humanitarian values and principles sacrificed so often amidst confrontation be respected,” the bishops stated.
They reiterated the Church’s commitment to assist the victim's families and offered their prayers that God would grant them “comfort and companionship in this time of so much sorrow.”
“We will continue to tirelessly work for the ideal of a society at peace, in which life is respected, the dignity of each person is fully recognized, freedom is a central value and justice and social equity direct the whole of society,” the bishops said.
“We invite all Colombians to not lose hope, to look to the future with the certainty that love and justice are stronger than anything intended to destroy our society.”
Vatican City, Nov 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI encouraged countries around the world to end the death penalty as a legal sanction at today’s general audience.
Addressing a group of pilgrims gathered in Rome for an international conference on the controversial topic, the Pope said he hopes that their deliberations “will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty.”
The conference was organized by the Italian-based Sant'Egidio Community under the theme of “No Justice without Life.” The Pope told them that he applauded “the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the traditional teaching of the Church “does not exclude” recourse to the death penalty when it is “the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.” It adds, however, that today such cases are “very rare, if not practically non-existent.”
Recent figures suggest that around a third of the world’s countries use the death penalty as part of their legal code. In the United States, there are currently 34 states where the death penalty is legal.
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 30, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City said that Pope Benedict’s slated visit to Mexico will encourage values such as respect for life to help quell the violence that has swept across the nation.
“To strengthen us in the fundamental values, that is the Pope’s task, and I think he is coming to Mexico expressly to do this at a time when we really need it,” the cardinal said in a Nov. 28 interview with Impacto TV.
Cardinal Rivera noted that these values are not confined to one religion or another and stressed the need “for each and every one of us to do our part so that Mexico will change.”
Otherwise “Mexico will become a very difficult place to live in and people will continue running away to other countries, despite this beautiful country of ours.”
Pope Benedict XVI is expected to visit both Mexico and Cuba in the spring of 2012 in his first papal visit to the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America.
Cardinal Rivera noted during his interview that violence in Mexico did not crop up overnight but has slowly spread due to the breakdown of values at home.
He called on families and people of all faiths to devote themselves to “spreading these values: the social fabric is coming undone and we need to strengthen it with truly authentic values that make human coexistence possible.”
The cardinal also said that religious education has an important role to play in this area and should be available in both private and public schools. People who lack financial resources should not be deprived of this kind of formation, he said.
Cardinal Rivera also called on Mexican leaders to work to bring about peace in the country by carrying out the duties for which they were elected.
Vatican City, Nov 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI used his Nov. 30 general audience to discuss Jesus' prayer life and how it challenges Christians to faithfully devote time to prayer.
The Pope told pilgrims in the Paul VI Hall that Jesus “by his own example most fully reveals the mystery of Christian prayer.” The Lord's own prayer life, he said, was like “a hidden canal irrigating his life … and guiding him with increasing firmness to the total gift of self, in keeping with the loving plan of God the Father.”
Pope Benedict initially focused on the prayer of Jesus at the time of his baptism in the River Jordan.
He explained that Christ, who was without sin, chose to be baptized to show his “solidarity with people who recognize their sins, who chose to repent and change their lives.” In doing so, Jesus “helps us to understand that being part of the people of God means entering into a new life, a life in conformity with God.”
This conformity with God comes in prayer, for it was “through prayer” that “Jesus lives in uninterrupted contact with the Father in order to achieve His project of love for mankind,” said the Pope.
For Jesus, “prayer enters into all stages of His ministry and into every day of His life,” so much so that it was never interrupted by fatigue.
On contrary, said the Pope, “the Gospels make it clear that Jesus was wont to spend part of the night in prayer,” and that this increased as he encountered decisions of greater magnitude.
The Pope stressed that while Jesus in his humanity learned to pray from “his Mother and from the Jewish tradition,” the “source of his prayer is his eternal communion with the Father.” Therefore, as “the incarnate Son,” Jesus “shows us perfectly how to pray as children of the heavenly Father.”
This divine example of fidelity to prayer challenges each one of us “to examine the time and effort we devote to our own prayer,” so that in our lives we recognize “the importance of the prayerful reading of Holy Scripture,” as well as the need for “listening, meditating and remaining in silence before the Lord,” which is “an art we learn through constant practice.”
Pope Benedict also encouraged Christians to give witness to prayer in a world that “often remains closed to the divine, to the hope which leads to the encounter with God.”
He finished his reflection by asking that the faithful “maintain an intense relationship with God, to pray, not intermittently but constantly and faithfully, so as to illuminate our lives as Jesus taught us.”
Vatican City, Nov 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI will be praying in December for world peace and that children might be able to share the Gospel and be protected from violence.
The Pope's general prayer intention for December is: “That all peoples may grow in harmony and peace through mutual understanding and respect.”
His mission intention is: “That children and young people may be messengers of the Gospel and that they may be respected and preserved from all violence and exploitation.”
Rome, Italy, Nov 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - As they prepare to head back to the United States, the bishops of New York are calling their visit to Rome and time with Pope Benedict a positive, encouraging and challenging experience.
The bishops wrapped up their trip by celebrating Mass Nov. 30 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Pope’s cathedral.
“It’s been a very positive experience for us all,” said Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, the main celebrant at today’s Mass.
“To be with Pope Benedict at this time has been a special grace, his words to us were uplifting, they were challenging but by the same token they were also confirming,” he told CNA.
Bishop Murphy is one of 20 bishops from the Empire State who have been in Rome for the past week to discuss the health of their dioceses with Vatican officials and to meet with Pope Benedict XVI.
On Nov. 26, the Pope told them that “despite attempts to still the Church’s voice in the public square, many people of good will continue to look to her for wisdom, insight and sound guidance.”
Bishop Edward U. Kmiec of Buffalo said he was “greatly encouraged,” by those words because it “affirmed” what the bishops of New York have been attempting to do, despite being “criticized very often for intruding into the public domain.”
“If it’s a moral issue, then we belong and we’re going to be there and we’re going to talk about it,” Bishop Kmiec told CNA. “We’ve done so in the past and it was nice to hear from the Holy Father, saying, ‘keep up the good work.’”
As a Polish-American, Bishop Kmiec said he found great parallels with Pope John Paul II’s message to the enslaved people of Poland in 1979—“Be not afraid.”
“Fear is useless, what we need is trust in the Lord, and that drives us all. And so it was a great little impetus that we received here,” said Bishop Kmiec.
Bishop Murphy drew the same historical parallels, saying that “Pope Benedict, in a different way, has continued that same kind of confidence.”
He explained that such confidence is not rooted in “ourselves or in our talents” but in “what the Spirit of the Lord gives to us.”
“So that we know we have the most important message that the human heart needs to hear and, regardless of how others may interpret us, we have to be firm in the faith, founded in Christ and witnesses to the world,” the Rockville Centre bishop said.
The dioceses represented this week in Rome were New York, Albany, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre and Syracuse.
All 20 bishops have had a series of meetings with various Vatican departments that concluded on the morning of Nov. 30 with visits to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization.
Among the issues discussed during the visit was the health of family life in New York, following the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage in June.
Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn explained that their meeting with the Pontifical Council for the Family focused on the need to continue opposing the redefinition of marriage but to also to address the larger misunderstandings fueling acceptance of the change.
“It’s not so much that people misunderstand marriage, which they do,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “But it is more that they misunderstand individual freedom, which is the real problem as people think that means they can do whatever they want to do. So that’s our challenge we have today.”
The New York delegation is only the second of 15 episcopal delegations from the United States that will make the ad limina journey to Rome in the coming months.
The next to visit, which begins Nov. 30, is by the bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.