Cordoba, Spain, Feb 3, 2012 (CNA/Europa Press) -
Catholic professors from the University of Cordoba in Spain have published a study on abortion in which they argue that no law allowing abortion can be considered moral.
The study, which is included in a book published by the Diocese of Cordoba, was presented Feb. 1 by Professor Juan Luis Sevilla of the University of Cordoba and Miguel Castro, head of Campus Ministry for the diocese.
Castro said copies of the book will be distributed free of charge throughout the Spanish region of Andalusia “to all those who want a clear understanding of the issue of abortion from a humanist and Christian perspective, but with an academic report.”
Commenting on the Spanish government’s plan to reform the 2010 law on abortion rather than returning to the 1985 law, Castro said, “the Church does not support any law” that considers the unborn to receive less legal protection “than other persons.”
In fact, he underscored, abortion can never be justified in any instance, not even in cases of rape or fetal deformation, as established by the 1985 law.
The Church rejects the current law but also continues to be “in disagreement” with the 1985 one, “because the person in the womb deserves the same protection as the person outside it,” Castro said.
Juan Luis Sevilla, the director of the study on abortion in Andalusia, said Spain’s current law is based on “gender ideology” and is a “legal aberration,” because it “establishes abortion as a right” and allows minors to obtain abortions without parental consent.
For this reason, he said, the 1985 law “can never be good” as it “opened the door to death for innocent persons.”
London, England, Feb 3, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic Church in England and Wales plans to distribute one million “faith cards” to every parish in the country in a bid to help all baptized Catholics to know, live and share their faith.
“We all carry a variety of cards in our purses and wallets which reflect something of our identity and the things that are important to us,” explained Bishop Kieran Conry, Chairman of the Bishops’ Department for Evangelization and Catechesis.
“The faith card for Catholics aims to offer a daily reminder of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We can’t summarize the whole of our faith in bullet points, but we hope that the card simply inspires people to do, read and learn more.”
The new document is the size of a credit card. On one side it lists six things that a Catholic is called to do: “Share with others the joy of knowing Jesus Christ, Pray, Celebrate the sacraments regularly, Love my neighbor as myself, Use the gifts that I’ve been given wisely, and Forgive as I have been forgiven.”
There is also a space for the owner to sign their name, with the additional request that “in the event of an emergency please contact a Catholic priest.”
On the reverse side is a quote from the 19th-century English cleric Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, taken from his 1848 “Meditations on Christian Doctrine.” In it Cardinal Newman explains that “God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.”
Bishop Conry explained that the card is “also designed to give Catholics confidence to share their faith – often people need help knowing what to say. Faith is a not a private matter.”
The Catholic Church in England and Wales hopes that the card will help prepare the way for the Pope Benedict’s Year of Faith, which begins in October 2012. The Pope hopes the year will spur a “new evangelization” of those traditionally Christian countries which are currently experiencing the rise of radical secularism.
“Carrying a faith card takes courage, it signals to others, every time you use your wallet or purse, that you believe in God, that your life has a purpose, that you are trying to love and serve your neighbor,” explained Bishop Conry.
“We hope that Catholics will use it to witness to their faith. If someone asks a question about Catholicism, a starting point could be to show the card and to take it from there.”
The cards are free and will be distributed to 24 dioceses, including the Bishopric of the Forces and the new Anglican Ordinariate, during February and March.
Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 3, 2012 (CNA) - The Obama administration has betrayed Catholics by refusing to expand the religious exemption in Health and Human Services' contraception mandate, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput says.
“The administration's only concession was to give our institutions a one-year delay to comply,” he said in a Feb. 2 letter. “This is not merely inadequate. It is dangerous. And it betrays the good faith of many Catholics who – until now – have supported the current administration with an honest will.”
Archbishop Chaput is one of over 140 U.S. bishops who have spoken out against the Health and Human Services rules finalized Jan. 20, which require most new health plans to provide contraception and sterilization – including drugs that can cause an abortion – without a co-pay.
Most religious institutions will not be able to opt out, though HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave them an additional year to meet the requirements.
In a letter distributed to parishes to be read at Feb. 5 Sunday Masses, Archbishop Chaput said Catholic institutions “cannot comply with this unjust law without compromising our convictions and undermining the Catholic identity of many of our service ministries.”
“This is not just another important issue among the many we need to be concerned about,” he stated.
“This ruling is different. This ruling interferes with the basic right of Catholic citizens to organize and work for the common good as Catholics in the public square.”
On Feb. 1, White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz issued a response to critics of the mandate. She stressed the existence of a religious exemption, cited Guttmacher Institute statistics about contraceptive use among Catholics, and said the mandate excluded abortion-causing drugs.
The exemption, however, applies only to institutions that primarily employ and serve members of the same faith for the purpose of inculcating religious values.
Meanwhile, the emergency contraceptive “Ella” – covered without a co-pay under the mandate – can prevent the survival of a living embryo, and thus qualifies as an abortifacient drug according to the U.S. bishops' Ethical and Religious directives.
In his letter, Archbishop Chaput indicated that the issue at hand had nothing to do with any particular individual's decision to contracept, but was primarily a matter of institutions' right to act in accordance with religious convictions.
But individuals and non-religious institutions, he noted, would also be subject to state coercion.
“Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those 'services' in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.”
He urged Catholics to educate themselves with the resources of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and said they should contact their congressional representatives in the House and Senate.
“Your action on this issue matters – not just today but for many years to come; and in ways that will shape the ability of the Church to witness the Gospel publicly through her ministries well into the future.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 3, 2012 (CNA) - A Mexican artist designing the papal throne Pope Benedict will use during his visit to the Cathedral of Leon on March 25 said he was honored to be appointed to the task.
“This is not a special job, it’s beyond special,” Jose Cruz Gonzalez Martinez told the Efe news agency. “The mere fact that it is for the Pope is amazing.”
Gonzalez said for thirteen days he did not tell his family he had been given this assignment, until he could no longer contain his emotions.
“The truth is I cried. I couldn’t hold it in,” he said, recalling the phone call he received from Father Jose Salome Lemus, the rector of the Cathedral of Leon, who asked him to design the papal throne.
The chair is being built with Mexican mahogany and will be decorated with engravings. The arms of the throne will feature two lions, representing the city of Leon (“Lion” in Spanish), where the Pope will be from March 23-26.
Seven carpenters involved in the project work 12 hours a day including the weekends, in order to have the throne ready by Feb. 20. After the papal visit, the throne will be sent to the Museum of Sacred Art located at the Cathedral of Leon.
On March 25, the Pope will use the throne during vespers with the Bishops of Mexico and Latin America at the Cathedral.
Washington D.C., Feb 3, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - An expert in religious freedom says that the White House's defense of the contraception mandate contains inaccurate information and does not address the main complaints raised by its critics.
Brian Walsh, executive director of the American Religious Freedom program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said that some of the the claims made by the White House are “not factually accurate” and a number of its points “aren’t even relevant.”
“It’s certainly not a direct response” to the concerns of religious freedom that have been raised in recent days, but is simply restating the administration’s position on contraception,Walsh told CNA on Feb. 2.
Walsh's remarks were aimed at a Feb. 1 blog post by Cecilia Muñoz, the Director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, who attempted to clarify “the facts” surrounding the controversial mandate.
On Jan. 20, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that virtually all employers would be required to purchase health insurance plans that cover contraception – including drugs that cause abortion – and sterilization at no cost to employees.
The very narrow religious exemption to the mandate includes only those organizations that exist for the purpose of inculcating religious values and that both primarily serve and employ members of their own faith.
The administration refused to broaden the exemption, despite an outcry of protest from religious individuals and organizations who will be excluded from the exemption and believe that their religious freedom and rights of conscience are being violated.
In her Feb. 1 blog post, Muñoz justified the administration’s decision by saying that although companies will be required to purchase contraceptive coverage, women will not be forced to use it, and doctors will not be forced to prescribe it.
She also argued that multiple states already require contraceptive coverage in insurance plans.
Muñoz asserted that contraception coverage actually “reduces costs” for employers because they will not have to pay costs associated with their employees’ unintended pregnancies.
Walsh responded that the White House’s assertions “don’t address the core” of the religious freedom concerns that were raised by the mandate.
He also found several statements on the blog post to be factually inaccurate.
The claim that “churches are exempt from the new rules” is “not entirely correct,” he said.
Walsh said that in some areas, new “church plants” are being built from scratch for the purpose of reaching out to those who have no faith or have left their faith.
Because these churches do not restrict their services to primarily members of their own faith, they would not qualify for the mandate’s religious exemption.
Walsh also said that the White House is playing “word games” in its claim that “drugs that cause abortion are not covered by this policy.” He noted that the drug Ella, which is covered by the mandate, prevents an already-fertilized embryo from attaching to the uterus, thereby causing an early abortion.
He added that the blog’s statement that “no Federal tax dollars are used for elective abortions” is “inaccurate and misleading.”
President Obama reversed the Mexico City Policy during his first week in office, he explained, and since that time, federal taxpayer money has gone “to fund abortion providers in foreign countries.”
Walsh also tackled the White House’s claim that “contraception is used by most women,” including Catholics. He said that the Catholic Church is very clear in its opposition to birth control, and the fact that not all Church members follow that teaching is not a sufficient reason to “sweep away” religious liberty.
Religious liberty is not “subject to majority vote,” he said. “That’s not truly religious freedom.”
Washington D.C., Feb 3, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has pledged to overturn the HHS contraception mandate that he says takes “particular aim” at Catholics.
“I stand with the Catholic bishops and all religious organizations in their strenuous objection to this liberty- and conscience-stifling regulation,” Romney wrote in a Feb. 3 Washington Examiner column titled “President Obama vs. religious liberty”
If elected president, the former Massachusetts governor said, he would eliminate the mandate “on day one.”
“Such rules don’t belong in the America that I believe in.”
The mandate, announced on Jan. 20, requires employers to provide insurance coverage for FDA-approved sterilization procedures and contraceptive drugs, including some abortifacient drugs. The Department of Health and Human Services classified the procedures and drugs as “preventive care.”
The religious exemption for the mandate would not cover most Catholic hospitals, universities, and charitable organizations, despite Catholic teaching that the use of these procedures and drugs is sinful and objectively immoral.
Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that religious liberty is “facing the most serious assault in generations” from “liberalism itself.”
He charged that the rule is “taking particular aim at Roman Catholics.”
“The Obama administration is forcing religious institutions to choose between violating their conscience or dropping health care coverage for their employees, effectively destroying their ability to carry on their work.”
Romney incorporated his pledge against the mandate into his general position against the 2010 health care legislation, which opponents call “Obamacare.” He said he is committed to overturning it “root and branch” and will issue an executive order telling his Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a waiver from its requirements to all U.S. states.
However, his column’s dominant focus remained religious liberty.
Although liberals and conservatives have defended the rights of religious minorities in the past, Romney charged, that devotion to religious freedom “goes out the window” for “the agenda of the left-wing of the Democratic Party.” He linked the mandate to abortion on demand and opposition to abstinence education.
“They would force Catholics and others who have beliefs rooted in their faith to sacrifice the teachings of their faith to the mandate of federal bureaucrats,” Romney said.
He also criticized the Obama administration’s 12-month extension for religious groups to comply with the mandate, calling it “a clumsy attempt to push this matter past this year’s presidential election.”
“The America I believe in is governed by the U.S. Constitution and I will not hesitate to use the powers of the presidency to protect religious liberty,” Romney stated.
All four leading Republican presidential candidates have opposed the mandate.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a convert to Catholicism, charged that the mandate is part of a “war against Christianity.” During his campaign in Florida, ahead of the state primary, he pledged to overturn all “anti-religious” federal policies on his first day in office.
At a Jan. 31 campaign stop in Colorado, Catholic and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum said the mandate makes people act against their faith.
“Barack Obama and Kathleen Sebelius said ‘Too bad. If it goes against what you believe, then you believe the wrong things,’” Santorum said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg of what we can expect.”
In an October statement on his website, Texas Congressman Ron Paul said the mandate “violates the conscience of millions of pro-life Americans.” He said he views the “regulatory overstep” as “payback to Planned Parenthood and big pharmaceutical companies for their support of Obamacare.”
Dallas, Texas, Feb 3, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced on the morning of Feb. 3 that it is amending its funding guidelines so that only those organizations under criminal investigation will be excluded, a move that could allow Planned Parenthood funding to be restored.
“I am surprised that it happened so fast, but not that it happened,” nationally syndicated EWTN radio host Teresa Tomeo told CNA.
Tomeo received a significant amount of criticism for holding back her full support of the organization this week but said she is not surprised that breast cancer charity changed their initial decision.
On Feb. 3, Founder and CEO of Komen for the Cure, Nancy Brinker, apologized to “the American public” for the original decision to pull funding from any organization undergoing investigation and said she did not want her charity “marred or affected by politics.”
The new funding guidelines now specify that “disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political.”
Brinker said that her organization was “distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.”
The day before the organization decided to adjust its rules, 26 U.S. senators sent Brinker a letter urging her to reconsider her decision to cut funding to abortion provider Planned Parenthood.
“We earnestly hope that you will put women's health before partisan politics,” the letter signed by 26 Senate Democrats said.
For her part, Tomeo explained that her hesitation to lend full support came partially from Komen's long history with Planned Parenthood as well as the group not recognizing the link between abortion, oral contraception and breast cancer, a position that many medical professionals claim to be one of the most avoidable risks for breast cancer.
Tomeo thinks organizations such as the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute and Abortion/Breast Cancer should have gotten support from those opposed to abortion, before Susan G. Komen. She was disappointed that so many anti-abortion advocates “drank the pink kool-aid” by lending their support to Komen so quickly.
Americans United for Life founder and CEO Charmaine Yoest released a statement in support of Komen's original decision. She said the criticism they received was just a part of Planned Parenthood's “highly partisan” and “scorched-earth strategy” to force their “pro-abortion agenda.”
Americans United for Life's report on Planned Parenthood employees involved in covering up prostitution and human trafficking helped spur the ongoing congressional investigation being led by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) into the nation’s largest abortion provider.
Vatican City, Feb 3, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Being Catholic in 2012 involves “paying a price” for loving Jesus Christ and his Church, says Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit.
“If we are not willing to pay a price for the grace of the revelation then it is a sign that we don’t really treasure it,” the archbishop told CNA Feb. 3.
“And maybe that is what God is asking us to do – to re-appropriate our own conviction about how precious the knowledge of Jesus is to us.”
Archbishop Vigneron is currently in Rome with 16 other bishops from the Provinces of Detroit and Cincinnati to update the Vatican and Pope Benedict on the health of their dioceses. As part of their “ad limina” visit, the group has also made pilgrimages to the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul.
“When I see those tombs,” said Archbishop Vigneron, “I immediately think of Our Lord’s big recruitment speech to the apostles when he said ‘I am sending you out like lambs in the midst of wolves’ and I imagine them looking around at one another and saying ‘Is he talking to us?’”
And yet, Christ's prediction that “if they rejected me they’ll reject you,” is present for Catholics “in every age” even if “it differs in how it takes its shape,” he said.
He believes that one clear manifestation of this is the Obama administration’s decision to force all health insurance to cover sterilization and contraception services, including abortifacient drugs. The “price to be paid,” he said, could be in terms of religious freedom and also financially.
“If I think about these fines that it seems the government will impose upon us, well that is money I could use in my Catholics schools, it’s money I could use for feeding the hungry, providing services to people with addiction. I expect we’ll have to pay a price like that.”
The one price that Archbishop Vigneron said he will refuse to pay is any violation of Catholic moral teaching. As Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York recently said, “they’ve given us a year to figure out how we can violate our principles – it’s not going to happen.”
On Friday morning, Archbishop Vigneron led the bishops of the Detroit Province as they met with Pope Benedict XVI in a private audience. During the seminar-style discussion, the Pope was asked about how to authentically interpret the Church’s mind as regards the liturgy.
“The Pope’s way of talking about it was to say that the liturgy is the experience of the Church and what should happen is that people experience at the Mass the existence of the Church as it is true through all time. I thought that was a very good way to talk about it,” said Archbishop Vegneron
He added that he has “heard the Pope make this point before. The liturgy isn’t something we do. It’s something we inherit and enter into.”
Archbishop Vigneron said the meeting with the Pope also “confirmed” the bishop’s own intuition “that we really have to focus ourselves on the new evangelization,” which involves giving “intentionally focused energy on bringing the Gospel to people who think they’ve already heard.”
That doesn’t involve “some sort of miracle program,” he contended, but does involve “helping people who are strong in their faith to share their faith.”
The archbishop said he took inspiration from the 19th century English cleric, Cardinal John Henry Newman, who saw faith as growing “from being passed from one heart to another heart.”
In modern society, there is immense opportunity to evangelize those “parts of our culture that look upon the Gospel and Gospel way of life as a burden which they seem to think they are fortunate to have escaped,” he noted.
“What we bring is not an onerous burden – we bring a liberation,” he said, “and people may not know they do want this good news from Jesus but it really is what they’re looking for.”
Archbishop Vigneron and the other bishops conclude their “ad limina” visit on Monday Feb 6. He said they return home full of “new encouragement” after a week that has helped them to “take stock of our lives and to find some new breath to go back to reapply ourselves to our task.”