Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2012 (CNA) -
The head of a group that works to elect pro-life candidates said that this election year, women want to defend their freedom of conscience against attacks by the Obama administration.
“Women do not think the President and a small group of federal officeholders should succeed in co-opting freedom of conscience,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.
Dannenfelser told CNA on Feb. 27 that although those who oppose the Obama administration's contraception mandate have been depicted as oppressive to women's interests, many women in America actually object to the federal rule.
The controversial new mandate would require employers to purchase health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
The mandate has sparked a storm of protest from those who argue it infringes upon the constitutionally-protected freedom of religion. The U.S. bishops along with several academic institutions and numerous religious groups have called for legislation to repeal the regulation.
But those who support the rule have argued that women have a right to contraception without cost and have portrayed those who oppose it as being anti-woman.
U.S. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has recently criticized the “Republicans' anti-woman agenda,” and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) predicted that women would rise up in outrage against the Republican party’s “hostility to women's health” in the next election.
However, Dannenfelser explained, women do not want the president to arbitrarily restrict their constitutionally guaranteed right to religious liberty.
“For years, 'Who decides?' was the favorite incantation from the feminist movement,” she said.
While the question dodges the central issue on the topic of abortion, she explained, it is relevant to the current debate.
“'Who decides' which is more fundamental: religious freedom or an ideology of reproductive health care?” she asked.
Dannenfelser said that “President Obama asserts it is government, specifically himself as spokesman, who decides what a properly formed conscience is.”
However, the answer to the question was already “decided some time ago and recorded as the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” she said. “President Obama does not have the power to now re-decide this constitutional principle through regulation.”
The Susan B. Anthony List president joins numerous women who have spoken out against the suggestion that the mandate is universally endorsed by women.
Over 2000 women from various religious, political and professional backgrounds have signed an open letter opposing the mandate and asking Obama’s administration and members of Congress not to speak for them in supporting it.
Recent polling data also suggests that many women are not outraged by Republican opposition to the mandate, as Boxer had suggested they were.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll, conducted Feb. 15 to 19, shows that GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum has enjoyed a recent increase in favorability among Republican women.
Santorum, who has spoken out strongly against the mandate and voiced his own opposition to birth control as a Catholic, is now viewed favorably by 57 percent of Republican women, up 13 percent since January.
The poll also revealed that only 40 percent of Democratic women view Santorum unfavorably, while Mitt Romney is viewed unfavorably by 55 percent and Newt Gingrich is viewed unfavorably by 63 percent.
Dannenfelser said that Americans will use electoral and legislative means to “stop this attack” launched by Obama against religious freedom.
“First, we will advance legislation to disarm his assault on conscience and second, implement electoral strategy to defeat him,” she said.
Chicago, Ill., Feb 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Obama administration is effectively telling Catholics to abandon their work in the public square, according to Chicago's Cardinal Francis E. George.
“This year, the Catholic Church in the United States is being told she must 'give up' her health care institutions, her universities and many of her social service organizations. This is not a voluntary sacrifice,” warned the cardinal and former president of the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference.
In his Feb. 26 Catholic New World column, the cardinal said these public ministries may come to an end because of the “much-discussed Department of Health and Human Services regulations now filed and promulgated for implementation beginning Aug. 1 of this year.”
The rules in question, formulated as part of federal health care reform, force many religious institutions to provide employees with contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs, without a co-pay through their health care plans.
Unless the rule is halted, Cardinal George said, institutions may be forced to choose between dropping their religious identity or abandoning their work.
He offered a striking picture of “what will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded.”
“A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices,” he explained.
The first would be to “secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop.”
The second choice would involve paying “exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable.”
A ministry's only other choices would involve transferring ownership to a non-Catholic group or the government – or shutting down altogether.
In his column, Cardinal George also argued against tactics he said were being used to marginalize the Church in its opposition to the contraception mandate.
One such argument claims that “the majority of Catholics use artificial contraception,” and Church institutions should therefore be forced to provide it to employees.
But this argument assumes that the moral law should conform to human behavior, rather than the other way around.
“Behavior doesn’t determine morality. If it can be shown that a majority of Catholic students cheat on their exams, it is still wrong to cheat on exams. Trimming morality to how we behave guts the Gospel call to conversion of life and rejection of sin.”
Advocates of the contraception mandate also call attention to some Catholics' disagreement with Church teaching.
Cardinal George noted that there have “always been those whose personal faith is not adequate to the faith of the Church.” But this does not change the fact that bishops “are the successors of the apostles; they collectively receive the authority to teach and govern that Christ bestowed upon the apostles.”
The bishops, he said, speak “for the Catholic and apostolic faith. Those who hold that faith gather with them; others go their own way. They are and should be free to do so, but they deceive themselves and others in calling their organizations Catholic.”
The cardinal invited the Catholic laity, and other concerned citizens, to “step back and understand what is happening to our country as the church is despoiled of her institutions and as freedom of conscience and of religion become a memory from a happier past.”
“The suffering being imposed on the church and on society now is not a voluntary penance. We should both work and pray to be delivered from it.”
Farmington, New Mexico., Feb 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Krickitt Carpenter says she and her husband Kim are at peace with the film version of their story, “The Vow,” despite the movie's failure to mention the couple's deep faith in God.
The recent Hollywood film is based on Kim and Krickitt's real-life struggle to stay faithful to their vows after a 1993 car accident just weeks into their marriage left Krickitt with no recollection of meeting, falling in love with, or marrying her husband.
Despite her memory-loss, Carpenter said she chose to love her husband “based on obedience to God” and not her feelings, “because the feelings had been completely wiped away.”
“We made a vow before God,” she told CNA on Feb. 27, “so I chose to love him.”
“I hadn't read in the word of God that you can divorce over a head injury,” Carpenter joked, adding that she decided to make the best of her situation and “get to know this man that I was married to.”
Although their faith in God played an essential role in the Carpenter's marriage, the film version of “The Vow” – released on Feb. 10 by Sony-owned production company Screen Gems – removed any real mention of God or the couple's Christian faith.
“There's a few things that were terribly off that were a little hard to swallow,” Carpenter said of the movie, which stars Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams.
Carpenter said that she realized the world is “a much different place” now than it was over 15 years ago when she and her husband first signed the movie deal.
“We thought the movie would be a complete reflection of our story,” Carpenter said, “but Hollywood is Hollywood and...this is how the Lord is having it play out.”
Overall, Carpenter said that she and her husband “are at peace” with the film version of their story and trust that it will lead people to their book, which recently topped the New York Times best-seller list.
The movie, despite it's lack of overtly Christian themes, is “definitely putting people towards our book” which is where they will “be able to meet face-to-face with us and the God that did miracles in our lives.”
“When they read the book, they're even more amazed at an awesome story.”
The movie appeals to both “the believer and non-believer” Carpenter said, which is also why she and her husband were mostly pleased with it.
At the suggestion of a therapist, the couple worked to rebuild their relationship by starting over and were re-married in 1996. They now have two children who, Carpenter said, would not be here had she and her husband not remained faithful to their vows.
Vatican City, Feb 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new interfaith exhibition that opens this week at the Vatican reveals how the roots of the 1611 King James Bible are almost entirely Catholic – despite the fact that the translation was often viewed as a highpoint of Protestant European culture.
“If it had not been for the Catholics of the 1500s there would be no King James Bible,” exhibition organizer Cary Summers told CNA.
“Many of the original bibles that formed the basis of the King James Bible came from Catholic priests. Very few changes were made. The ancient writings that the King James writers actually mimicked and copied were by Catholic priests,” he explained.
The “Verbum Domini” (Word of the Lord) exhibition runs from March 1 to April 15, coinciding with the seasons of Lent and Easter. The organizers describe it as a “highly contextual, interactive format” exhibit that aims to celebrate “the dramatic story of the Catholic contribution of the most-banned, most-debated, best-selling book of all time.”
They have also collected rare Jewish, Protestant and Orthodox artifacts to manifest a “shared love of God’s word” that exists among those religions. For that reason, the first room visitors enter is a scaled reproduction of the mid-third-century Synagogue of Dura Europos in Syria. Another exhibition highlight is the earliest known fragment of the book of Genesis, which comes from the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Summers gave CNA a preview tour of the exhibition on Feb. 22. The exhibition takes visitors through eight galleries, and concludes with a replica of the Jerusalem Chamber in London’s Westminster Abbey, the place where the King James Bible was completed 400 years ago.
“Most people don’t understand the history of the King James Bible. There is a rich history, a very positive history of Catholic contribution to the creation of it,” Summers said.
The King James Bible was commissioned by King James VI & I in 1604, only a year after the Scottish monarch ascended to the throne of England. A copy of the book was gifted to Pope Benedict XVI earlier this month by the current U.K. prime minister, David Cameron.
“The King James Bible has bequeathed a body of language that permeates every aspect of our culture and heritage, from everyday phrases to our greatest works of literature, music and art,” Cameron said in a speech to mark the 400th anniversary of the work in December 2011.
A recent study suggested that there are over 250 phrases and idioms in common English usage that have their origins in the language of the King James Bible. These include “how the mighty are fallen,” “the skin of my teeth,” “nothing new under the sun,” and “the salt of the earth.”
The Vatican exhibition hopes to show that all Christians can share the King James Bible in common.
“Unfortunately we live in a world that locks in on all the negatives, and that’s how it’s spun,” Summers remarked.“But there’s ... a rest of the story which is very positive, too. And that’s what we are here to celebrate.”
Madrid, Spain, Feb 28, 2012 (CNA) -
Biographer Joseph Pearce says the famous South African poet Roy Campbell saw the Spanish Civil War as a religious conflict between Christianity and atheistic modernism.
In a recent interview with CNA, Pearce said Campbell – who was the inspiration behind the character Aragorn in Tolkien's “Lord of the Rings” – believes “the war in Spain was a battle between Christian tradition and atheistic modernism. In other words, he saw it as a religious conflict.”
As the publication nears for his new book, “Roy Campbell: Spain Saved My Soul,” Pierce pointed to an episode in the poet’s life in which he saved various manuscripts written by St. John of the Cross from anti-clerical forces.
While living in Toledo in the 1930s, Campbell and his wife Mary became close friends with the Carmelite friars, “one of whom became their confessor,” while “Mary became a third order Carmelite.”
“For this reason the friars confided in the Campbells and considered them the best people to safeguard the extremely valuable papers of the great saint and poet,” Pearce said.
During “the assault by anti-clerical forces on his home, Campbell was worried that his family would be killed, especially if the manuscripts were discovered.
Faced with this mortal situation, he prayed to St. John of the Cross and promised to translate his poetry into English if he and his family survived,” Pearce recounted.
Campbell was considered one of the greatest translators of St. John of the Cross as well as one of the most significant poets of his time, the biographer added. “Critics acclaimed him, and his works became bestsellers.”
Although Campbell was “never very political, at least not in terms of ideology,” he “passionately opposed the Nazis as well as the Communists, and he fought in the British army during World War II,” Pearce said.
His estrangement from the Bloomsbury Circle – a group of early 20th century writers who criticized religion – was inevitable, even before his conversion to Catholicism, Pearce added.
“He had already distanced himself from its hedonistic progressivism since its beginnings and never felt comfortable with the group,” Pearce said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict will visit Mexico as a messenger of peace and hope “amid the state of insecurity, violence and drug trafficking” in the country, says a spokesman for the local bishops' conference.
Father Antonio Camacho Munoz, executive secretary for the Mexican bishops' communications committee, told CNA that the Pope is coming to encourage the faithful “to continue journeying, to have faith in Jesus that everything is going to be okay.”
The pontiff's March 23-25 trip will “confirm his brethren in the faith,” the priest added. “He is coming to support us, to encourage us and to tell us that he is with us, that we are not alone.”
Fr. Camacho said the bishops and priests of Mexico hope that Benedict XVI will breathe new life into the Great Continental Mission, and that his visit is not only for Mexico but for all the Americas.
“His desire is to visit a Spanish-speaking country that has a mature faith, tradition and a large presence” of Catholics, he noted. “By choosing Leon in Guanajuato, he also sees all the history, so that he can deliver a message from here not only to Mexico but to all of Latin America and the world.”
Fr. Camacho said that while the memory of Blessed John Paul II remains strong in the country, Mexicans know that “it is not so much the name that is important but the office of the Pope, as Vicar of Christ, who is coming to visit us.”
“Mexico knows how to welcome the Pope,” he said, adding that the extensive media coverage of the visit will help millions of viewers – unable to attend in person – follow the events on television, radio and the internet.
“The Church has taken a lead role, because the international signal during the Holy Father's entire stay will be managed by the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico,” he explained. “The international feed will be provided through Vatican Television and from there distributed to the entire world free of charge.”
Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Women in fields ranging from law to medicine denounced the Obama administration's contraception mandate, arguing that it violates religious freedom and promotes a culture that degrades women.
“This whole idea of contraception, sterilization and abortifacients as being necessary for a woman’s health is actually demeaning to women,” said Gloria Purvis, a policy director at a major financial services company and board member for the Northwest Pregnancy Center and Maternity Home.
She explained that this idea is based on the belief “that women, because of our fertility, are deficient, and we need fixing,” and warned that the mandate “further presses this false perception into the American psyche.”
Purvis took part in a Feb. 27 panel of women at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C. that spoke out against the Jan. 20 mandate announced by the Obama administration.
The federal rule, which has sparked intense protest from religious groups in recent weeks, will require employers to provide health insurance plans that include contraception, sterilization and abortifacients.
Purvis, who has also served on the National Black Catholic Congress' Leadership Commission, said that the Catholic Church is engaged in a spiritual battle for religious freedom.
She added that the ability to create and foster life is already “undervalued” in our culture and predicted that if the mandate succeeds, it will further an attitude of “hostility toward motherhood.”
The Catholic Church offers true liberation for women, she said, explaining that “it’s the Church that allows me full membership without asking me to check my fertility at the door.”
Dr. Marie Anderson, chief medical officer of the Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, Va., said that as an OB-GYN, she feels set up to be a “pawn” in the administration’s attacks on liberty and human dignity.
Anderson, who serves as the president of the Northern Virginia Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, said that women should not accept a culture that assumes they will allow their bodies to be “violated” by medication.
“People talk about the pill as if it were candy,” she said. “And it’s not.”
She outlined a long list of serious side effects associated with the birth control pill, including deadly blood clots and strokes.
Anderson said that it is “just wrong” to “break” a healthy reproductive system with medication.“It’s taking fertility, which is a healthy state, and calling it a disease.”
She added that birth control rejects the amazing opportunity for “taking part in a miracle, that of bringing a life into a world” and instead “turns sexual relations into merely a contact sport.”
“Women deserve better,” she said.
Maria Montserrat Alvarado, director of operations for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, emphasized that the debate “is a First Amendment issue.”
She said that it is “completely untrue” to suggest that the current debate is a battle between the Catholic Church and American women.
Nor is it “an access issue,” she added, explaining that income-based clinics across the country already offer access to contraception for those who desire it.
Rather, she said, it is about the rights of religious individuals who deserve to be treated as full citizens.
“It’s not for the government to decide what qualifies as violating my own conscience,” added Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network.
The American founders understood human nature and created a limited government in order to fight against the human “tendency” toward tyranny, Severino explained.
They knew that rights come from God, not the government, and they listed freedom of religion as the first of these cherished rights in the First Amendment, she said.
Severino denounced the modern idea that government has the authority to force people to violate their consciences. “That is the definition of tyranny,” she said.
Rome, Italy, Feb 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The October 2012 Synod of Bishops in Rome is likely to identify the family as the key place for beginning the re-evangelization of the Western world.
“The primary place for the transmission of faith was identified in the family,” said a communiqué issued by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops on Feb. 27.
“There the faith is communicated to young people who, in the family, learn both the contents and practice of Christian faith.”
The statement was the result of the secretariat’s seventh meeting in a series intended to pave the way for the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in the Vatican from October 7-28. Over those three weeks the bishops of the world will gather to discuss “The New Evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith.”
The Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat consists of senior clerics from around the globe, including Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, and is currently preparing a working document that the Synod will base its discussions on.
At the secretariat’s Feb. 16 meeting in Rome, the role of the family emerged during their discussions on “the recipients of the new evangelization and the identity of Christians in their relationship with Christ.”
They recognized that other bodies within the Church have to support the family in its evangelization.
“The indispensable efforts of families are then extended by catechesis in ecclesial institutions, especially through the liturgy with the sacraments and the homily,” said the communiqué, “or by giving space to parish missions, popular piety, movements and ecclesial communities.”
The council members also debated “a crisis in faith which is also a crisis in the transmission of faith,” at this present time.
They said the “fruitlessness of current evangelization” is often tied to “the influence of modern culture which makes the transmission of the faith particularly difficult” and “represents a challenge for both Christians and the Church.”
“In this context,” they said, “the Year of Faith will be a good occasion to develop the gift of the faith received from the Lord, to live it and transmit it to others.”
The Year of Faith will be launched by Pope Benedict XVI in October so that it coincides with the Synod of Bishops. It will run from October 11, 2012, until November 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Christ the King.
Announcing the initiative last October, the Pope said he wanted the year to give “new impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead men out of the desert in which they often find themselves, to the place of life, of friendship with Christ.”
He is particularly eager to re-evangelize traditionally Christian countries that have become more secularized in recent decades, a task that is known as undertaking the New Evangelization.
Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2012 (CNA) - The Catholic Advocate organization has launched a new video in an effort to defend religious liberty against the HHS mandate and rally support for the proposed Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.
“People of faith across the country are joining together in support of our religious liberties,” Matt Smith, president of the D.C.-based organization, said Feb. 27.
The video, titled “Catholic Advocate: Consultation,” criticizes the HHS mandate of Jan. 20 and the “accommodation” announced on Feb. 10 for failing to respond to concerns raised by religious groups. These actions will force religious institutions “to do something that goes against their beliefs,” it says.
“Catholic Bishops, who interpret the doctrine of the Church, and leaders of other religious groups, were not consulted. Yet, the head of Planned Parenthood was … and the mandate was finalized without addressing our concerns.”
Many Catholic institutions self-insure and will still be required to pay for contraception coverage, even though it is against their beliefs, the video notes.
“Insurance companies have already said their costs will go up and be passed along to customers,” it adds.
The video asks concerned citizens to contact Congress and tell its members to support H.R. 1179 and S. 1467, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.
“Help defend our religious liberties,” it urges.
Catholic Advocate has also launched the website www.ProtectOurConscience.org, which provides resources for Catholics who want to speak out against the final HHS rule. The organization reports that at least one parish in each congressional district in every U.S. state has produced letters to Congress through the program.
“Some are trying hard to make this about a different issue,” Smith said. “Make no mistake, when those in power try to rip through the fabric of what America stands for, the voices of the people unite.”
In October, Catholic Advocate released a video “Common Ground,” which called on President Obama to live up to the promises he made at Notre Dame.
The new Department of Health and Human Services rule presently requires all employers’ new health plans to cover FDA-approved sterilization and contraception, including drugs that can cause abortions. The rule currently allows a narrow religious exemption that does not cover most Catholic universities, health care systems and charities.
It also establishes a one-year period for religious employers to bring their insurance plans into compliance.
The Obama administration has proposed mandating that insurance companies, not religious employers, provide the coverage. Critics have said the move is an “accounting trick” that does not address conscientious objections.