Archive of January 24, 2012

Survey finds American majority in favor of abortion restrictions

Washington D.C., Jan 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A supermajority of Americans supports significant restrictions on abortion, in contradiction to the Supreme Court decisions which require permissive laws nationwide, a new survey sponsored by the Knights of Columbus says.

“Almost four decades after the Supreme Court’s decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which resulted in the almost totally unrestricted abortion regime of today, these decisions continue to be out of step with the vast majority of Americans,” said Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.

The Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll survey found that 79 percent of Americans say they would not allow abortion after the first three months of pregnancy. Another 51 percent said they would only allow abortion, at most, in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother or they would not allow it at all, the Knights reported Jan. 23.

Eighty-four percent of survey respondents said that laws can protect both the life of the unborn and the health and well-being of the mother, an increase of three percent since a survey two years ago.

“Far from being settled law, the inadequacy of the Court’s reasoning on abortion in Roe and Doe is readily apparent to most Americans. Once a survey moves beyond the labels of pro-life and pro-choice, we see a fundamental unity among Americans in favor of significant abortion restrictions,” Anderson said.

The survey questions on abortion were part of a broader survey that will be released in February. The survey polled 1,053 adults in the continental U.S. from Dec. 15 through Dec. 27, 2011. It claims a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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Catholic leaders criticize ‘profoundly troubling’ contraception mandate

Denver, Colo., Jan 24, 2012 (CNA) - Catholic clergy, university presidents and health care leaders are saying the Obama administration’s decision to mandate contraceptive coverage in health care plans without a broad religious exemption fails to protect the conscience rights of many Americans.

“The inalienable rights guaranteed in our country's founding documents are being trampled,” lamented Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit. “Where is the 'liberty' in a decision to intrude on freedom of conscience? The Constitution speaks of ‘freedom of religion,’ not ‘freedom from religion’.” 

He said the Department of Health and Human Services is forcing insurers and insurance purchasers to “choose whether or not to violate their moral and religious beliefs.”

The archbishop urged lawmakers to defend the rights of citizens against a “truly unconscionable” government mandate.

University of Notre Dame president Fr. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision, saying it will place many religious organizations in “an untenable position.”

“This unnecessary intervention by the government into religion disregards our nation’s commitment to the rights of conscience and the longstanding work of religious groups to help build a more compassionate society and vibrant democracy. I find that profoundly troubling on many levels,” he said Jan. 20.

Fr. Jenkins called for a national dialogue among religious groups, government and the American people to “reaffirm our country’s historic respect for freedom of conscience and defense of religious liberty.”

The Department of Health and Human Services on Jan. 20 announced the Obama administration would not expand a religious exemption for employers who object to a requirement that insurance plans cover contraception as part of “preventative services.” The policy requires free coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause abortions.

The policy provides a religious exemption only for organizations that employ and primarily serve members of their own faith and that have the inculcation of religious values as their primary purpose.

Sr. Carol Keehan, D.C., president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, said her organization is “disappointed” that HHS did not broaden its definition of a religious employer.

“This was a missed opportunity to be clear on appropriate conscience protection,” she said Jan. 20.

Sr. Keehan, who broke from the U.S. bishops to support the health care legislation which authorized the HHS action, said the challenge religious groups face under the bill is “unresolved.” She said there is a need for an “effective national conversation” on the “appropriate conscience protections” in the U.S., which she said has “always respected the role of religions.”

Catholic League president Bill Donohue said that many of those who side with legal abortion advocates also adhere to the “very American principle of respecting conscience rights.”

“(W)hen these issues collide, the latter proves decisive,” he said Jan. 23.

Donohue cited critics of the new policy such as the editorial board of the Washington Post, whose Jan. 23 editorial said that requiring a religiously affiliated employer to spend its own money against its religious principles “does not make an adequate accommodation for those deeply held views.”

“The Obama administration made a fatal flaw when it assumed that most people are not going to get worked up about healthcare plans that carry contraceptive coverage,” he said.

“There is a high price paid for arrogance in politics. Stay tuned—this issue isn’t going to go away.”

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Catholic Healthcare West adopts non-Catholic governing structure

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic Healthcare West, one of the largest health systems in the U.S., is changing its name to Dignity Health while adopting a non-denominational governing board in an effort to expand.

The new structure and name will help the organization to “grow nationally while preserving the identity and integrity of both its Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals,” Dignity Health said Jan. 23.

The system’s Catholic hospitals will continue to be Catholic under the direct sponsorship of their founding religious congregations and will adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services produced by the U.S. bishops.

The non-Catholic hospitals will continue to be non-Catholic and will adhere to the “Statement of Common Values.” Those rules prohibit abortion and in-vitro fertilization but not sterilization procedures like tubal ligations, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Sr. Judy Carle, S.M., vice chair of the Dignity Health Board of Directors, said the organization’s new name reflects its identity.

“The value of dignity is embedded in our culture. Our mission, vision and values were all formed out of the recognition of the inherent dignity of each person.”

Sr. Carle also cited a declining number of religious sisters as a reason for the structural changes.

The changes follow “several years of discussions” between the system’s sponsoring congregations, board of directors and management team about its future. Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco, where Dignity Health is headquartered, consulted with other bishops and determined that the changes are consistent with Catholic morals and may proceed.

The system came under major scrutiny because of a 2009 incident at Catholic Healthcare West’s St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. The hospital’s ethics board decided that a direct abortion could be performed on a woman who was suffering severe medical complications.

On Dec. 21, 2010, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix revoked the Catholic status of the hospital.

The bishop’s investigation found that the hospital and its parent company were involved in a pattern of behavior that violated Catholic health care ethics, including the creation and management of a government program that offers birth control, sterilization procedures and abortion.

Lloyd Dean, the president and CEO of Catholic Healthcare West, said concerns about the system’s Catholic affiliation have hindered potential agreements with other hospitals.

“I have been contacted over the last couple of years by many, many different constituencies who have an interest in Catholic Healthcare West and what we have accomplished,” he told the Sacramento Bee.

Potential partners have asked about their future as a non-Catholic entity within the system, whether they will have to become Catholic hospitals themselves, and what the Catholic influence over them will be, he said.

The hospital system operates in California, Arizona and Nevada. There are 25 Catholic and 15 secular hospitals in the system. It is the fifth-largest in the country with about $11 billion in revenue and 6.2 million patients treated in 2011.

The system is also seeking to triple in size.

Dignity Health, in a Frequently Asked Questions bulletin, said the system’s long-term plans call for a “more integrated care” to enhance quality and reduce costs. The new structure and name “enable us to grow into a national system, welcoming both Catholic and non-Catholic care centers into the system, while respecting the identity and integrity of each.”

The change was necessary, the system said, because “inclusiveness has always been a priority for our sister sponsors” and because they wanted to ensure continued partnership with “others who share our values.” The change “preserves our ministry in the Catholic tradition.”

The system’s governing structure is also changing.

Catholic Healthcare West’s original governing board was headed by the Corporate Members body, which was composed of representatives from each of the system’s six sponsoring religious congregations. The board of directors was the second level of governance and was appointed by the Corporate Members.

In the new Dignity Health structure, the Board of Directors is the top level of governance and is non-denominational.

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Archbishop Gomez holds Requiem Mass for unborn

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - At a Jan. 21 Mass mourning the deaths caused by the legalization of abortion in the U.S. 39 years ago, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles urged Catholics to build a culture of life.

“We can never give up until our world comes to know the truth,” he said, noting that the humanity of the unborn is not a simply a “religious” or Catholic truth, but “a truth of biology, a truth of science.”

During his homily at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Archbishop Gomez said that the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1973 defied another “great truth” that our nation was founded on – that all men and women are created equal and are born with God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“The Supreme Court, in effect said that our rights do not come from God but instead are bestowed by the government,” he said.

The archbishop's comments come one day after the Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the Obama administration would not expand a religious exemption for employers who object to its requirement for health insurance plans to cover sterilization and contraceptives –  including abortifacients – free of charge.

Archbishop Gomez warned that if our rights do not come from God, then they are threatened by the “random whims” of those in political power.

He drew attention to the fact that slavery was also once upheld by the Supreme Court.

“Slavery was evil when a majority in this country held that it was good. It was wrong even when the Supreme Court said it was right.”

The archbishop's remarks touched on the day's Gospel reading from the book of Mark which told of the Holy Family's flight into Egypt and the slaughter of the first born children, known as the Holy Innocents, by King Herod.

He invoked the prayers of the Holy Innocents for the state of California and the United States and said that Herod still exists today in the injustice done to the unborn and families.

“King Herod is a symbol for all those rulers and forces in our world that are afraid and jealous of God . . . all those who seek to cast out God from the world he created an to erase the memory of him from society.”
The protection of human life and the family, he added, is vital for civilization because “in the child and the family we see the love of God.”

He encouraged those in attendance to be “guardians of the light of life”  just as St. Joseph was when he responded to the voice of God telling him to flee into Egypt.

“We need to tell the world of the good news of this Child – that the Son of God became a child of Mary so that every mother's child can become a child of God.”

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Spanish bishop urges Christians to remain hopeful in despair

Valencia, Spain, Jan 24, 2012 (CNA/Europa Press) - Archbishop Carlos Osoro of Valencia in Spain called on Christians in Europe to remain hopeful in the Lord, despite difficult circumstances in life.

Catholics must “keep alive the hope that comes from God, especially in this time of despair and disappointment, ” he said during a Mass at the Cathedral of Valencia on Jan. 22, the feast of the archdiocese's patron St. Vincent the Martyr.

“We live in a time in which we must not allow ourselves to be disturbed by the human situations that happen to us,” the archbishop remarked. “What comes from God is much more important than what comes from man, because what comes from God is hope and God gives man a way out.”

“It is precisely in a culture of despair and of disappointment where Christians must be present,” he underscored, “because God is hope, He is love, and God’s embracing of my life is what I also must share with others.”

For this reason, he added, Christians must never react to the present-day circumstances with “hatred, separation or rupture, nor consider others to be a bother or a permanent inconvenience.”

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Lay movements answer problems of today’s world, Vatican official says

Cordoba, Spain, Jan 24, 2012 (CNA) - Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, said that lay ecclesial movements are a gift to the Church and an answer to the difficulties modern society presents.

“The ecclesial movements and new communities are a timely response of the Holy Spirit to the challenges the world poses to the Church in our times,” he said.

Cardinal Rylko made his remarks during a Mass on Jan. 22 in Cordoba celebrating the one thousandth retreat lead by the movement Cursillo – a Spanish lay community founded in 1944.

The “Church looks to you with great hope and counts on you,” the cardinal told the 2,000 Cursillo members gathered at the Cathedral of Cordoba.

Cardinal Rylko listed what he called the three tasks for lay associations and ecclesial movements today, and that is to be “schools of holiness, mission and communion.”

“The world needs truly holy Christians, and for this reason the lay movements and associations should be missionary and evangelistic, and true schools of communion,” he said.

Later during the Mass, Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba noted that through the Cursillo movement, “thousands and thousands of people have encountered Jesus in his Holy Church.”

He told the group members the Church embraces them and encourages them to evangelize modern society.

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Pope emphasizes need for silence in digital world

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI believes that in a noisy world of constant communication people need silence more than ever.

He outlined his thoughts in his message for World Communications Day 2012, which is entitled “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization.” The Pope’s letter was released Jan. 24 at the Vatican press office by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

“When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary,” the Pope says in a statement that will be read in Catholic churches around the world on May 20, 2012.

“This makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge,” he writes.

Pope Benedict recommends making this interchange possible by developing “an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.”

He suggests that silence is required to make sense of the constant stream of information that people now receive via television, radio, the Internet and various forms of social media.

“In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves,” he says.

He also observes that silence can allow other people to express their thoughts. In this way “we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested,” and therefore, “space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible.”

Pope Benedict believes that this use of silence is “often more eloquent than a hasty answer,” because it “permits seekers to reach into the depths of their being and open themselves to the path towards knowledge that God has inscribed in human hearts.”

The Pope sees this need for silence as a part of Christian life from the earliest times. He points to the “eloquence of God’s love, lived to the point of the supreme gift,” which is seen “in the silence of the Cross,” when, after Christ’s death “there is a great silence over the earth.”

Silent contemplation also “immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbors so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love,” he writes.

Archbishop Celli summed up the Pope’s message as reminding everyone that real communication involves pairing “words and silence” so that people are not “overwhelmed by the sheer volume of communication itself.”

Monsignor Paul Tighe, Secretary of the social communications council, explained to CNA that the Pope’s message “reminds us that the relevance of silence is equally important within the context of a digital environment.”

“Especially when we now find ourselves continually bombarded by messages, by ideas, by opinions, by news.

“And so the Pope is saying we need silence if we’re going to judge that, integrate it, make it our own and not simply be caught up in a flow of information.”

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Rep. Smith: HHS mandate is attempt to end Catholic health care

Washington D.C., Jan 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Representative Chris Smith thinks that the Obama administration’s decision to force religious organizations to purchase health insurance plans in violation of their consciences is an attempt to force “Catholic health care to cease to be.”

“That’s the end goal here. I think we have to be very blunt about it,” he said in a Jan. 23 interview with CNA.

The Republican congressman from New Jersey also responded to President Barack Obama’s Jan. 22 statement on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the United States.

President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to abortion, which he called a “fundamental constitutional right.” He added that the 1973 decision “also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.” 

Rep. Smith said that President Obama’s statement reveals his “bigotry and prejudice against the unborn child,” whom he fails to include as a family member.

He also observed that the president’s professed commitment to avoid interfering with the private matters of citizens is inconsistent with his administration’s Jan. 20 decision to require virtually all health care plans to cover sterilization and contraception – including abortion-causing drugs – at no cost.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also announced that its finalized “preventative services” mandate would not contain an expanded religious exemption for employers who object to its requirements on religious grounds.

Since it was first proposed, the religious exemption policy has been harshly criticized as being too narrow. 

The overwhelming majority of religious organizations will not qualify for the exemption, which applies only to organizations that exist for the purpose of inculcating religious values and that primarily serve and employ members of their own faith.

Rep. Smith said that the mandate violates the conscience rights not only of those who object to contraception, but also those who object to abortion. The early abortion drugs  Plan B and Ella are included in the “preventative services” that insurance companies are required to cover.

The congressman warned that the “misguided” policy might be a foreshadowing of further coercive abortion policies in the future.  

He explained that during the heath care overhaul debate, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) offered the preventive health care amendment, upon which the HHS mandate is based.

Sen. Mikulski was asked during the debate if she would exclude abortion as a “preventative service” and she said no.

Rep. Smith said this illustrates a move toward saying that “preventive health care equals abortion, because you’ve got to get rid of that unwanted pregnancy.”

A pro-abortion mindset sees an unwanted child as a “disease” or “a tumor to be excised,” he explained.

Rep. Smith also stated that “coercion is embedded” in the legal abortion movement, and that he believes more attempts to force compliance can be expected under the current administration.

He illustrated his point by noting that “coercion begins in the first place against the baby,” who has “no say in the violence that’s coming his or her way.”

Congressman Smith said that Americans must realize the significance of the threats being posed by the Obama administration’s attacks on conscience rights.  

“The mask is off,” he said. “It’s about time we woke up.”

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