Cupertino, Calif., Dec 2, 2011 (CNA) - The failure of the iPhone’s Siri program to locate some abortion clinics drew praise from pro-lifers and criticism from pro-abortion rights advocates, but Apple said the lack of recommendations was unintentional.
“Our customers want to use Siri to find out all types of information, and while it can find a lot, it doesn't always find what you want,” Apple spokeswoman Natalie Harrison told CNA on Dec. 1.
“These are not intentional omissions meant to offend anyone, it simply means that as we bring Siri from beta to a final product, we find places where we can do better and we will in the coming weeks.”
Siri, the voice recognition software for the iPhone 4S, helps users find nearby stores, service providers and other venues.
Users in the Manhattan area received no results for abortion clinic queries, while users in the Washington, D.C. area are directed to pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in Virginia and Pennsylvania, the New York Times blog “Bits” reports.
The American Civil Liberties Union and NARAL Pro-Choice America were among those who responded critically to the reports.
Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL, sent a Nov. 30 letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook which repeated her organization’s charges that many crisis pregnancy centers do not provide accurate pregnancy information and are “not up front about their anti-abortion, anti-contraception agenda.”
She said women should not be “misled about their pregnancy-related options” and she offered to meet with members of the Siri team to “go over our concerns in person.”
The ACLU has launched a petition asking Apple to “fix Siri.”
One pro-life pregnancy center praised the Siri application for some of its recommendations.
Bradi Swindell, founder and president of the Boise, Idaho-based Stanton Healthcare, said that “numerous lives” will be saved because abortion clinics are not listed.
“Siri is setting the standard for all organizations -- no one should ever refer anyone to get an abortion,” she said Nov. 30.
Swindell voiced hope that Apple will not give in to pressure from the abortion industry.
The Siri program does list affiliates of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S.
On Dec. 1, CNA asked Siri about abortion clinics in the Denver area. The program responded with one result for an abortion clinic.
The program has a reputation for quirky and playful pre-programmed responses to certain questions, though for other questions it relies on stock answers.
Asked if it was anti-abortion or pro-life, it replied “no comment.”
Vatican City, Dec 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
To mark World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers appealed for universal access to life-saving treatment for all AIDS victims and urged others to show solidarity with them.
“Although the international community began to work against this infection over twenty years ago, unfortunately it is estimated that 1,800,000 people still die every year because of HIV. These are people who could lead normal lives if they only had access to suitable pharmacological therapies, those known as antiretroviral therapies,” the council’s president Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski said Dec. 1.
The development of suitable treatments means that AIDS patients’ deaths, and the sufferings this causes their families, are “no longer justifiable.”
The archbishop said the annual observance is also a time to promote prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child and to educate others in a “truly correct and responsible” approach to sexuality.
The day is also an occasion to “re-launch the fight against social prejudice and to reaffirm the need for moral, spiritual and – as far as this is possible – material proximity to those who have contracted the infection and to their family relatives.”
Archbishop Zimowski also emphasized the “fundamental importance” of educating everyone, especially the younger generations, in a sexuality based upon natural law and “illuminated by the Word of God.”
“The Church and her Magisterium ask for a lifestyle that privileges abstinence, conjugal faithfulness and the rejection of sexual promiscuity,” he explained, emphasizing that this is a part of “integral development” to which people and communities have a right.
The archbishop thanked those who have worked to help AIDS victims and praised their “wonderful and important work.”
Fr. Bob Vitillo, the Caritas Internationalis special advisor on HIV/AIDS, told Vatican Radio the World AIDS Day goal of “Getting to Zero” new patients is much more attainable than it was in past decades.
“It’s more a possibility now, and we need to articulate that and work towards it,” he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama pledged Dec. 1 to increase access to life-saving drugs for AIDS victims in the U.S. and around the world. He said the U.S. will help six million people in countries hardest hit by the virus access antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2013, an increase from the original U.S. goal of two million. He also announced plans to boost spending on HIV treatment in the U.S. by $50 million.
World AIDS Day has been observed since 1988. Over 30 million people have died of the syndrome. More than 33 million people presently live with the HIV virus.
Detroit, Mich., Dec 2, 2011 (CNA) - Responding to decades of depopulation in Detroit and other declines in Catholic numbers, an advisory council for the Archdiocese of Detroit has proposed closing nine parishes and merging 60 parishes into 21.
The recommendations were formed through the parishes themselves and reviewed and amended by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, a group of mostly lay advisors.
“The recommendations are not in themselves the final plans for the future of the Archdiocese of Detroit, although they are serious and well-researched proposals,” the archdiocese said Nov. 30.
Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit will spend the next several weeks reviewing the recommendations. He is expected to release an archdiocesan-wide pastoral plan in February of 2012.
The recommendations focus on seven priorities defined by the parishes and the archdiocesan leadership: evangelization and catechesis; Christian service outreach; youth and young adult ministry; lay leadership; stewardship and administration; Catholic education; and vocations awareness.
There are presently 270 parishes or missions in the archdioceses, a decrease of 43 from 10 years ago. Though the archdiocese has 438 diocesan and 206 religious priests, their average age is 62 years. Only 293 are assigned to parishes and of these, about 71 percent are 10 years or more away from retirement.
The Archdiocese of Detroit is the sixth largest in the U.S., with over 1.4 million Catholics, but there was a six percent decline in the number of Catholics in the archdiocese in the last decade and a 13.3 percent decline in the number of Catholic households.
Population losses have been greatest in Wayne County, where the decline was 26.6 percent. The archdiocese said this change is due to Catholics moving to the suburbs, where about 88 percent of the archdiocese’s faithful now live.
The pastoral council’s proposals also include some expansions. Twenty-eight proposals offer new or expanded ministries or regular events for youths and young adults, while 19 would form multi-parish initiatives to strengthen vocation awareness. There are 23 proposals for new, multi-parish teams or initiatives focused on inviting non-Catholics into the Church and inviting inactive Catholics to return.
The archdiocese’s “Together in Faith” planning process drew the participation of more than 1,500 laypeople from the archdiocese’s parishes. They met in small planning groups to discuss their parishes’ futures, giving consideration to various factors including local demographics, existing parish ministries, financial records, church maintenance costs, and parish sacramental numbers.
The parish groups submitted their plans to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council in the fall.
Rome, Italy, Dec 2, 2011 (CNA) -
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster is being accused of defying Vatican guidelines on homosexual civil partnerships. In response, he says he is simply trying to defend the “profound human good” of traditional marriage.
“We’ve got to find the ways of speaking to people about the positive values of marriage as it’s always been understood, while not getting boxed off by somehow being accused of being homophobic,” Archbishop Nichols told CNA on Dec. 1 in Rome.
“The convictions about marriage mean that this is not something that the Church has invented nor the State has invented. And therefore it is not, as it were, at the disposal of the Church nor the State, if you like, to change,” he said.
The Church believes that marriage is “part of what is best in human nature,” he added.
Archbishop Nichols recently came under fire from some Catholics for the way he explained his position of same-sex civil partnerships at a Nov. 26 press conference that followed a meeting of the English and Welsh bishops.
According to the English religious journal The Tablet, the archbishop remarked that “(w)e would want to emphasize that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship (and) a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision.”
Same-sex civil partnerships become law in the United Kingdom in 2004. In 2003, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued guidelines that stated, “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.” It also stressed that “all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions.”
Well-known Catholic commentator William Oddie wrote in the Nov. 30 edition of the Catholic Herald that “Archbishop Nichols says he is in favor of gay civil unions: but that legally includes the right to adopt. So why did we lose our adoption agencies?”
“Now we are told, by the chairman of the bishops’ conference, that the English Church supports civil unions between homosexual persons, unions which have been given the legal right to adopt children,” Oddie continued.
When Archbishop Nichols was asked by CNA if the bishops of England were contradicting the Vatican’s guidelines, he said that the bishops have tried “to recognize the reality of the legal provision in our country of an agreement, a partnership, with many of the same legal safeguards as in marriage.” He further explained that while the bishops recognize the existence of civil partnerships, they also “believe that that is sufficient,” and that they should not be placed on par with marriage.
The issue of same-sex marriage has come to the fore in the United Kingdom in recent months. The Scottish government is currently wrapping up a public consultation on whether to legally permit such unions. A similar consultation in England & Wales will take place next spring.
“Clearly, respect must be shown to those who in the situation in England use a civil partnership to bring stability to a relationship,” the archbishop said, qualifying that while “equality is very important and there should be no unjust discrimination,” that “commitment plus equality do not equal marriage.”
Archbishop Nichols said the key distinction between civil partnerships and marriage is that the former does not “in law contain a required element of sexual relationships.”
“Same-sex partnerships are not marriage because they have no root in a sexual relationship, which marriage does,” he explained. “And that’s the distinction that I think it’s important for us to understand, that marriage is built on the sexual partnership between a man and a woman which is open to children to their nurture and education.”
So while the bishops of England and Wales “respect the existence of same-sex partnerships in law,” he said, “the point we are at now is to say that they are not the same as marriage.”
Archbishop Nichols praised the launch earlier this week of a high-profile campaign in Scotland to protect traditional marriage, entitled Scotland for Marriage. “That’s a very positive message in that title and I’m quite sure that’s what we’ve got to do, too.”
The Westminster archbishop also wants to “explain and expound as clearly as we can,” the “particular qualities of marriage,” which, he believes, are “widely understood,” in the United Kingdom.
He recalled that while attending the recent Royal Wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton the cheering of the crowds in the London streets could be heard inside Westminster Abbey on two occasions: when Catherine said “I do,” and when they were pronounced “man and wife.”
“So there was a wide public, instinctive recognition of what makes a marriage, and I think that is the public understanding that we want to bring to the surface,” Archbishop Nichols said.
Rome, Italy, Dec 2, 2011 (CNA) - A member of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America praised Christian anthropology magazine “Humanitas” as a leading Catholic publication.
Commission secretary Guzman Carriquiry Lecour described it as “among the best publications in Latin America” at the launch of the English version of the magazine in Rome on Nov. 29.
Humanitas was founded in 1995 and explores themes related to Christian culture from Catholic intellectuals worldwide and is issued by the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have voiced their support for the magazine.
Authors in the first English edition include Cardinals Angelo Scola, Angelo Amato, Stanislaw Dziwisz, Mauro Piacenza and Avery Robert Dulles, who died in 2008. The publication also contains essays by Livio Melina, Stanislav Grygiel, Pedro Morande and Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson.
In an interview with CNA on Nov. 30, the magazine’s director, Jaime Antunez, said the idea to make the magazine available in another language came from the secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues.
“Our goal from the beginning has been to study and delve deeper into major issues and based on that premise, to dialogue with society about the major themes of the magisterium of the Church and of the pontifical magisterium,” he said.
Antunez said the magazine’s content is of worldwide interest because “it is not focused solely on the local situation in Chile, but rather is intended to spread the doctrine of the Church’s magisterium, in accord with the mission of a pontifical university.”
He offered “a very positive assessment” of the magazine’s sixteen years in publication, both for its important work of evangelization and for the numerous bonds of friendship the development of Humanitas has created throughout the years.
“This has been a great experience of friendship, because the magazine is only about the paper on which it is printed or the ideas that are said, published or spread, but also about creating unity between the people who are committed to the magazine and to collaborating in its circulation,” Antunez added.
The English version of the magazine will be available in print and online at its website http://www.humanitas.cl/web/.
Vatican City, Dec 2, 2011 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that good Catholic families are necessary to bring about a re-Christianization of countries throughout the world.
“The New Evangelization depends largely on the domestic Church,” the Pope said Dec. 1 at the Vatican.
“In our time, as in times past, the eclipse of God, the spread of ideologies contrary to the family and the degradation of sexual ethics are intertwined,” he added.
“And just as the eclipse of God and the crisis of the family are linked, so the New Evangelization is inseparable from the Christian family.”
Pope Benedict made his remarks Thursday at the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family. The council is currently preparing for the 7th annual World Meeting of Families which will be held in Milan, Italy, from May 30 to June 3, 2012.
“The family founded on the Sacrament of Matrimony is a particular realization of the Church, saved and saving, evangelized and evangelizing community,” the Pope said.
He explained that just like the Church, the Catholic family is also called to “welcome, radiate and show the world the love and the presence of Christ.”
This “reception and transmission of divine love” in a family is realized in such things as “the mutual commitment of spouses, generous and responsible procreation, in the care and education of children,” he explained, as well as love for the poor, the local parish and the good of civil society in general.
He described a Catholic family that “succeeds in living love as communion,” as reflecting “the splendor of Christ in the world and the beauty of the divine Trinity.”
Pope Benedict drew much of his address from Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on the family, Familiaris Consortio, and celebrated the document's 30th anniversary this month.
“In the wake of my predecessors, I too have repeatedly urged Christians spouses to evangelize both with the witness of life and with involvement in the pastoral activities,” he said.
The Pope noted that Priests and families should work together since both marriage and holy orders are two sacraments “at the service of communion.” Because of this, priests should not see families “merely as the object of pastoral action,” but as “the closest ally of the priestly ministry.”
He then urged bishops, priests and families to work toward educating young people, preparing engaged couples, helping form those already married and ensuring pastoral care for all families.
This care includes helping them to live life-long commitment and to strike the right balance between work and rest, he said.
Pope Benedict concluded by congratulating the Pontifical Council for the Family on their work, including their suggestion of a “family week” for Catholics parishes, associations and movements. He then wished them well in their preparations for next year’s World Meeting of Families.
Rome, Italy, Dec 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Coptic Catholic Patriarch Antonios Naguib remains hopeful for his country's future, even as Egypt's Islamic political parties seem poised to make the largest gains in parliamentary elections this week.
“We have a great hope that a better situation will come out,” Cardinal Patriarch Naguib told CNA Dec. 1, after the Nov. 28-29 vote for lower house representatives in nine of Egypt's 27 provinces.
“There are many groups that are convinced and working hard for democracy,” the Egyptian Eastern Catholic leader said, “and for a society and constitution based on human rights, and equality, and civic society.”
On Dec. 3 Egypt's military government is expected to announce the final results of the first round of voting since the departure of former president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Early predictions found secular and civic-oriented parties receiving only around 17 percent of the votes.
The Muslim Brotherhood-linked Freedom and Justice Party reportedly won 40 percent of this week's votes, while the hardline Islamic Salafist movement was said to have received another 20 percent.
“We must learn to live with that,” the patriarch said, acknowledging political Islam as a force in Egypt's future.
Such parties, he predicts, will not achieve an absolute dominance.
“They are presenting themselves as the majority, (that) they will have the highest place and the highest percent of everything. But the impression is that the result will be much less than that.”
“We have much hope that after declaration of the results, there will be a good place for the democratic and civic groups and orientation.”
These groups, Patriarch Naguib said, would work to secure a place in society for Egypt's historic Coptic Christian communities.
Christians' political voice depends in part on how Egypt's new government will form after elections, and who will become prime minister. Catholics, Orthodox, and other Christians make up about 10 percent of the Muslim-majority population.
The cardinal says his hope for peaceful Christian-Muslim coexistence “also depends on the results of these elections.”
“If Islamists will be a real majority, this will be a great problem,” he said.
But “if they will have a place which is sure, but in a moderate and amicable way,” he expects “life will be much easier for everybody.”
The strictest Muslim political ideology, he pointed out, excludes even members of the same religion.
“For instance, the Salafists do not want to leave a place to the Muslim Brothers, because they say they are too moderate and Islam is not like that according to their understanding, which is not right.”
For the moment, Patriarch Naguib is grateful that Egypt's first post-Mubarak elections happened without violence, after a tumultuous run-up period in which protesters and police clashed in Cairo.
“Thanks be to God, the last two days when elections were made went quietly and well. There were some transgressions from the part of the Islamists, but with no violence.”