Lima, Peru, Jan 9, 2012 (CNA) - The Population Research Institute in Latin America criticized Peru’s Ministry for Women’s Affairs for appointing what they call a radical abortion advocate as its vice minister.
Marcela Huaita Alegre, a professor of law at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, was appointed to the post on Jan. 5, the organization said.
Huaita Alegre is the author of several books on “reproductive health” and has worked with the Latin American Consortium for Emergency Contraception. She is also a member of the Manuela Ramos NGO, which promotes abortion in the country.
The group reported that Huaita Alegre will continue the work begun by officials Rocio Villanueva and Maria Ysabel Cedano, who both belong to the Ministry for Women’s Affairs and are staunch supporters of abortion.
During the last year, Huaita Alegre has also focused on “promoting sexual and reproductive rights for teens,” the organization said.
The Poplulation Research Institute speculated the new vice minister will most likely support the decriminalization of sexual relations between adolescents “and access to contraceptives without parental consent,” which is currently under debate in the Peruvian Congress.
Vatican City, Jan 9, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI stressed the plight of persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in his annual address to Vatican-accredited diplomats on Jan. 9.
“In many countries Christians are deprived of fundamental rights and sidelined from public life; in other countries they endure violent attacks against their churches and their homes,” the Pope reminded the 179 diplomats accredited to the Holy See from around the world, who were gathered at the Apostolic Palace.
In his speech, Pope Benedict paid tribute to the slain Pakistani Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic “whose untiring battle for the rights of minorities ended in his tragic death” in March 2011. But in bringing up Bhatti's murder, the Pope said he was “not speaking of an isolated case.”
“In the past year religiously motivated terrorism has also reaped numerous victims, especially in Asia and in Africa,” he recalled, before stating that religion “cannot be employed as a pretext for setting aside the rules of justice and of law for the sake of the intended 'good.'”
But the Pope also warned against secularist policies “aimed at marginalizing the role of religion in the life of society, as if it were a cause of intolerance” rather than a source of “human dignity, justice and peace.”
Last year showed some encouraging signs of religious freedom, according to Pope Benedict, who pointed to Georgia's legal recognition of minority religious groups and the European Court of Human Rights' reversal of a ban on crucifixes in Italian public schools as examples.
Italy, he said, should “continue to foster a stable relationship between Church and state, and thus serve as an example to which other nations can look with respect and interest.”
In Africa, meanwhile, the Pope stressed the need for justice and reconciliation between Christian groups, governments, and various ethnic groups. He said it was “painful to realize that in different countries of the continent this goal remains distant.”
Among his foremost African concerns is Nigeria's recent church bombings, along with the famine in the Horn of Africa and the aftermath of the civil war in Ivory Coast. He also renewed an appeal for nations “to make every effort to find a solution to the crisis which has gone on for years in Somalia.”
Throughout the world, the Pope has observed a “profound disquiet” in events like the Arab Spring revolutions, the European financial crisis, and Japan's Fukushima nuclear meltdown. His remarks to the assembled diplomats drew a link between this darkness and the modern world's loss of God.
“Truly the world is dark wherever men and women no longer acknowledge their bond with the creator, and thereby endanger their relation to other creatures and to creation itself,” he observed.
In the midst of global uncertainty, Pope Benedict said the Church stands ready, “inspired by the certainty of faith,” to proclaim “the lofty grandeur of our human calling … and to offer humanity sincere cooperation in building a sense of universal fraternity corresponding to this calling.”
Australian Ambassador Timothy Fischer was among the members of the Diplomatic Corps who attended Monday's address. He told Vatican Radio it was a “very sober message from the Pope,” starting off the year in “a very sobering world.”
One hopeful sign mentioned by the Pope was the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian discussions under a Jordanian initiative. Mordechay Lewy, Israel's ambassador to the Holy See, told Vatican Radio he was pleased that “the Holy Father saw the light in the window” and “encouraged the lights to be stronger.”
Palestine’s representative to the Vatican Chawki Armali also welcomed the Pope’s statement but also lamented the obstacles he sees standing in the way of peace, such as the ongoing construction of settlements by the Israelis.
Chicago, Ill., Jan 9, 2012 (CNA) - Chicago's Cardinal Francis E. George says he compared gay activists to the anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan out of “fear for the Church's liberty,” not as a blanket accusation against homosexuals.
“I am personally distressed that what I said has been taken to mean that I believe all gays and lesbians are like members of the Klan,” Cardinal George said in a statement posted on the Archdiocese of Chicago's website Jan. 6. “I do not believe that; it is obviously not true.”
He acknowledged that he had used an “inflammatory” analogy during a December 2011 episode of Fox Chicago Sunday, when he said he did not want the homosexual pride movement to “morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.”
The analogy was prompted by a question about the 2012 Gay Pride Parade, and a local pastor's concern that its route and timing would interfere with Catholic worship. After the Fox Chicago Sunday taping, Cardinal George defended his remarks on the subject in a Dec. 27 written statement.
“When the pastor's request for reconsideration of the plans was ignored, the organizers invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church,” he explained.
“One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940's, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus. It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate.”
Cardinal George did not retract the statements, but said in his Jan. 6 followup that he intended no insult against individuals or homosexuals as a group.
“Many people have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian, as have I. We love them; they are part of our lives, part of who we are,” he wrote. “I am deeply sorry for the hurt that my remarks have brought to the hearts of gays and lesbians and their families.”
“I can only say that my remarks were motivated by fear for the Church's liberty,” Cardinal George explained.
He noted that this was “a larger topic that cannot be explored in this expression of personal sorrow and sympathy for those who were wounded by what I said.”
Some activists welcomed Cardinal George's statement by canceling their participation in a planned march on Holy Name Cathedral during Sunday Mass. Rainbow Sash Movement Director Joe Murray said he appreciated the cardinal's sincerity and wished to “put this matter behind us.”
But the head of DignityUSA, an organization that promotes defiance of Church teaching on sexuality, called for activists to “keep the pressure on Cardinal George,” saying he had “no business leading one of the largest Catholic communities in the country.”
“We can no longer look to the bishops for moral guidance,” wrote DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne T. Duddy-Burke in a Jan. 8 Huffington Post column. She said Cardinal George's comments showed the need to “dismantle or disregard structures that reinforce Vatican centrality” in the Church.
Washington D.C., Jan 9, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Five former U.S. ambassadors to the Holy See have announced their “wholehearted support” for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whom they describe as the “best qualified” candidate for the nation's highest office.
“Governor Romney has the experience, vision and commitment to the common good that our country needs at this crucial moment in history,” said the former ambassadors in a letter that was released Jan. 7.
Thomas Patrick Melady, Raymond L. Flynn, James Nicholson, Francis Rooney and Mary Ann Glendon all signed the letter, which applauded Romney for realizing “that sound economic and social policies must rest on a healthy culture.”
The signatories, who served under presidents George H. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, agreed that Romney has shown commitment to “the values that we feel are critical in a national leader.”
Ambassadors Glendon and Flynn had also previously signed a letter defending Romney’s record on the issues of life and marriage.
While acknowledging their diverse political affiliations, the former ambassadors said they all agree on “the importance of family and traditional values in American life.”
They voiced their conviction that Romney understands the need for strong and healthy families “as pillars of a vibrant economy and a flourishing polity.”
The signatories praised the former Massachusetts governor’s “outstanding record in defense of marriage and the family” and expressed confidence in him as “a staunch defender” of human life “from conception to natural death.”
Furthermore, they said, Romney possesses a “superior understanding of America’s key role in our increasingly interdependent world.”
They also stated their belief that Romney will uphold “the Constitution and the rule of law” because he recognizes that American freedom and prosperity are due to the country’s “distinctive legal heritage.”
According to The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Catholic voters have tended to mirror the general electorate in recent presidential elections.
In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush won 52 percent of the Catholic vote, while Democrat John Kerry received 47 percent.
In the 2008 election, Democrat Barack Obama garnered 54 percent of the Catholic vote, while Republican John McCain received 45 percent.
In both elections, the Catholic vote was within one percentage point of the general vote.
Hamden, Conn., Jan 9, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A three-year survey of women's religious life in the United States has concluded with the filing of a final report by the Vatican-appointed Apostolic Visitator Mother Mary Clare Millea.
“Although there are concerns in religious life that warrant support and attention, the enduring reality is one of fidelity, joy, and hope,” Mother Millea said in a Jan. 9 release announcing the submission of her findings to the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Along with her comprehensive report on women's religious communities, Mother Millea is presenting individual reports on nearly 400 religious institutes to the congregation's secretary Archbishop Joseph Tobin. These reports are likely to be completed by the spring of 2012.
Cardinal Franc Rodé, the congregation's former prefect, began the visitation in December 2008, to “look into the quality of life” of communities nationwide. Mother Millea, who is the Superior General of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and hails from the U.S., oversaw the process and conducted much of the research.
Her review of women's religious institutes spanned 2009 and 2010, with a further year dedicated to compiling and summarizing the findings. Its first three stages involves meetings, questionnaires and other communications, along with visits to around a quarter of the groups nationwide.
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has not yet set a date to announce its own conclusions from the report. But Mother Millea said the apostolic visitation had “generated widespread interest” and was already reaping “tangible benefits” in the U.S. Church.
“The attention to it has resulted in a renewed appreciation for the role of religious in the Church and society and has increased dialogue and mutual awareness among the various communities in the United States,” she noted.
Not all of the attention drawn by the visitation was positive, as some communities challenged its mandate and opted not to provide requested information.
However, Mother Millea called the three-year process “demanding, but equally refreshing” as a reminder of religious orders' “history and vital role in the Church in the United States.”
“As I learned of and observed firsthand the perseverance of the religious in the United States in their vocations, in their ministries and in their faith … I have been both inspired and humbled,” she said after submitting her report to the Vatican congregation.