Barcelona, Spain, Mar 13, 2012 (CNA) - Various medical experts and pro-life leaders in Barcelona warned of reported abortions taking place in local Catholic hospitals and called for facility leaders to commit to the Church's pro-life stance.
Since April of 2011, CNA has reported on numerous complaints against hospitals connected to three dioceses in the Spanish region of Catalonia, where abortions, sterilizations and the morning-after pill are allegedly made available.
The hospitals are located in the Archdiocese of Barcelona and the suffragan Dioceses of Sant Feliu and Terrasa.
At the end of November in 2011, CNA spoke with Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, who said that although “there are public hospitals, and probably private ones as well, that perform them,” abortions are not available in Catholic hospitals, “at least in the Archdiocese of Barcelona.”
“What we want is to educate people,” he said. “First, there should be no hospital associated with the Church that performs abortions, and second, Christians should not obtain abortions, and that is the formation we want for people.”
However, in recent weeks, the agency has received numerous testimonies that appear to contradict the cardinal.
Dr. Jose Maria Simon Castellvi, a member of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, said that the fact that the head of gynecology at the San Pablo Hospital in Barcelona, Joaquim Calaf Alsina, is a public supporter of abortion is proof that the practice is taking place there.
Simon Castellvi, who is also president of the International Federation of Catholic Doctors Associations, said, “In medicine we say something is 'pathognominic' in the same way that in theology we say something is 'dogma.'”
“And what is pathognominic is that in a medium-sized or large hospital, if the head of the department is not one hundred percent pro-life, and there is no family care service, then abortions are done right there or referrals are given.”
Calaf has publicly expressed his support for abortion, telling local newspaper El Punt Avui that “Catalonia should firmly support drug-induced abortion,” referring to the morning-after pill.
He also told local paper El Mundo, “The sooner a voluntary pregnancy termination occurs, the better, both for medical and psychological reasons.”
Simon Castellvi stressed the need to put pro-life doctors in charge of gynecology at Catholic hospitals and to implement social services, family care services and education in natural family planning.
On Nov. 25, 2011, Esther Armora, a reporter with the Spanish newspaper ABC, revealed that three Catholic hospitals – San Pablo, San Juan de Dios and Granollers – appeared on a list of medical facilities that perform abortions compiled by the government of Catalonia.
On the following day, without any explanation, the Catalan government closed down the website where the list that included the Catholic hospitals was posted.
The president of the pro-life organization Barcelona es Vida, Mariano Arnal, also questioned whether Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach was well-informed about the hospitals linked to his jurisdiction.
He told CNA that if one inquires directly at San Pablo Hospital, “The information you will get is not the same as what cardinal has. The cardinal has the information he wants to have.”
Arnal said many Spanish bishops “are completely asleep, and there is too much silence surrounding abortion, such that the laity has had to step up and say this cannot be.”
“We have been silent for too long, especially the clergy. The hierarchy has been silent for too long. It is time for (local Church leaders) to strenuously speak out,” he said.
Dr. Xavier Sanz, a member of the Association of Christian Doctors of Catalonia, told CNA that the director of San Pablo Hospital, Father Jose Maria Forcada, has often expressed a vague position on issues related to the defense of life.
“We cannot have an unclear position,” he said. “We need to call what is black, black, and what is white, white.”
He said Fr. Forcada has a very calm personality and is very articulate, “so much so that when he speaks he doesn’t leave a clear impression of what his position is. It seemed like he was trying to defend the gynecologists at San Pablo a little.”
Sanz said that on several occasions the priest has appeared to justify abortion and euthanasia.
Adding to the accusations against the hospitals are personal testimonies of women who claim that they were offered the procedure during clinic visits.
One woman who preferred to remain anonymous over fear of reprisals, told CNA that a few months ago she approached an administrator at San Juan de Dios Hospital in the Diocese of Sant Feliu, which is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Barcelona, who told her that she could obtain an abortion at the facility.
The woman said she asked what she could do if she was pregnant and did not want the baby, and she was told she should go to the emergency room “and they will take it (the child) out of you, give you a pill or something, and you’ll no longer be pregnant.”
“I don’t agree that they do these things, because on the one hand as a hospital they are saving lives, but on the other they are inciting people to kill,” she said.
CNA also gained access to the confidential testimony of another woman who was taken to San Pablo Hospital after feeling dizzy, where she was told she was pregnant.
The nurses caring for her asked how many children she had and if she wanted another one. In the emergency room she was told that if she was less than thirteen weeks pregnant she could get an abortion there, but that since she had been pregnant longer she would have to obtain one in another part of the hospital.
According to some media reports, the doctors at San Pablo Hospital claim that as of “very recently” abortions are no longer performed there.
However, Father Custodio Ballester, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Barcelona, said that abortions at San Pablo hospital “are performed on late-term pregnancies, because abortion clinics won’t perform them and send them to the Church’s hospitals.”
Fr. Ballester revealed that shortly before meeting with Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach on Jan. 29 of this year, a representative at San Pablo told him, “It is true, abortions have been done here for 25 years. They have deceived us.”
However, he added, “When you talk to the cardinal, his argument is that he has been told abortions are not performed at the hospital. I told him that they are deceiving him, but he said that they are not deceiving him, because he has to trust them.”
He said that during his meeting, the cardinal avoided discussing the pro-abortion stance of the head of gynecology at San Pablo, Joaquim Calaf Alsina.
Fr. Ballester said that in May of last year, the current Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro – who was recently raised to the College of Cardinals – assured him in a personal meeting that the Catalan bishops have been told to “leave those hospitals.”
In June of 2011, the Pontifical Council for Health Care sent a letter to Fr. Ballester regarding his complaints against the hospitals, assuring him that it has asked those responsible to find “concrete solutions” to the problems.
London, England, Mar 13, 2012 (CNA) - As the British government considers a proposal to institute same-sex “marriage,” the leaders of the Catholic Church in England and Wales have warned that it will lead to further social breakdown.
“We have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations,” wrote Archbishop Vincent G. Nichols of Westminster and Archbishop Peter D. Smith of Southwark, in a letter released March 8.
Current law, they said, “does not discriminate unjustly when it requires both a man and a woman for marriage. It simply recognizes and protects the distinctive nature of marriage.”
A change in the legal definition “would be a profoundly radical step. Its consequences should be taken seriously now.”
Archbishops Nichols and Smith, the president and vice-president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, distributed the letter to 2,500 parishes for reading at Sunday Masses over the weekend of March 10-11.
Britain's coalition government was expected to present a consultation paper the following week, on the proposed change to the concept of marriage. Prime Minister David Cameron believes the move would strengthen society, by encouraging individuals to “make vows to each other and support each other.”
In their letter, Archbishops Nichols and Smith countered that society depends on a concept of marriage that goes beyond the commitment of two individuals. True marriage, they said, has an essential connection to family life, and is oriented toward the raising of a new generation.
“Understood as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, and for the creation and upbringing of children, marriage is an expression of our fundamental humanity,” the archbishops explained.
“Its status in law is the prudent fruit of experience, for the good of the spouses and the good of the family. In this way society esteems the married couple as the source and guardians of the next generation.”
It is this institution, and not the mere commitment of two people, that is “at the foundation of our society.”
The law, they observed, recognizes the distinction and interdependence of the two sexes – by defining both a man and a woman as necessary for the institution that grounds family life.
“Male and female we have been created, and written into our nature is this pattern of complementarity and fertility,” the archbishops wrote, describing a truth accessible to reason and confirmed by faith.
“Christian teaching fills out this pattern and reveals its deepest meaning, but neither the Church nor the state has the power to change this fundamental understanding of marriage itself. Nor is this simply a matter of public opinion.”
A legal redefinition, they warned, “would gradually and inevitably transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage.”
“It would reduce it just to the commitment of the two people involved. There would be no recognition of the complementarity of male and female or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children.”
As they encouraged the faithful to preserve the complementarity of the two sexes in civil law, the archbishops also called U.K. Catholics to embrace the fullness of the Church's teaching on marriage and sexuality.
Marriage, they reminded the faithful, “is open, in its essence, to welcoming new life, ready to love and nurture that life to its fullness, not only here on earth but also into eternity.”
“We understand marriage to be a call to holiness for a husband and wife, with children recognized and loved as the gift of God, with fidelity and permanence as the boundaries which create its sacred space.”
Archbishops Nichols and Smith observed that “no other institution” can support society's “stability, its capacity for compassion and forgiveness and its future,” in the way that authentic marriage can.
Philadelphia, Pa., Mar 13, 2012 (CNA) -
The Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania are calling for a day of prayer, fasting and abstinence on March 30 in response to to the “unprecedented and gross infringement” of religious freedom by the Obama administration’s contraception and sterilization mandate.
“On that day, offer your sacrifice for the cause of religious liberty, that the Church may be granted the basic right to practice what she preaches, and for our political leaders, that their eyes may be opened to the rights of all Americans, including those of faith,” the bishops said March 10.
“We have entered dangerous territory – the government is defining religion and limiting its practice. This is an unprecedented and gross infringement on our religious freedom. We did not pick this fight, but neither will we run from it,” they said.
The HHS mandate will require Catholic employers to pay for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.
The Pennsylvania bishops objected that the mandate’s narrow religious exemption tells churches what activities are religious. The exemption does not include Catholic schools, hospitals, nursing homes and Catholic charities because they serve and employ non-Catholics.
Though the Obama administration has proposed an accommodation, Catholic leaders say it changes nothing and note that the present mandate is already on the books.
The bishops suggested adding fasting to traditional Lenten practices of prayer and abstinence from meat on March 30 in recognition both of the efficacy of prayer and fasting and of the challenges posed in the “attack on our religious freedom.”
Catholics in times of need have turned to God through prayer and fasting, practices which “allow us to grow closer to the Lord, inspire us to do His will and invoke His protection in answer to our prayers,” they explained.
Religious liberty, said the bishops, “does not belong to the Democrats or Republicans, it belongs to all Americans.” They pointed to their own efforts to secure health care reform that respects human life and includes language to protect religious conscience.
“Our fervent entreaties were answered with promises that we had nothing to fear. We cannot now sit idly by and let this happen. We cannot, as a Church, be silent because some have sought to politicize our plight.”
Rome, Italy, Mar 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Bishop John M. Quinn of Winona, Minnesota has welcomed Pope Benedict XVI's call for better instruction of young people, saying it will meet their desire for solid truth over self-centered relativism.
“Our younger generation is breaking out of it,” Bishop Quinn told CNA, observing a growing discontent with worldviews that reject the idea of truth in areas like religion and morality.
“They're looking for the truth. One of them said to me, 'Bishop, just tell us the truth. Don't sugar-coat it. We want to know what the truth is.' And someone else said to me: 'You know, bishop, we've been told so many lies, throughout the culture and by other people. Just give us the truth.'”
Bishop Quinn offered his thoughts on March 9, hours after his second meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Bishops of his state, as well as North and South Dakota, were in Rome for their traditional “ad limina” visit, involving talks with the Pope and Vatican officials about the health of their dioceses.
That morning, Bishop Quinn celebrated Mass with the bishops of his region at the tomb of Saint Peter, a traditional part of the journey to the Vatican that is required of them every five years.
The experience confirmed his sense “that the risen Christ is always with us,” encouraging the successors of the apostles “to be good witnesses out in the world.”
In his March 9 address to the assembled bishops, Pope Benedict spoke of the need for better instruction on the Catholic vision of marriage and sexuality. The Pope told the bishops that young people must hear the whole truth about these topics, “challenging and counter-cultural as that teaching may be.”
Bishop Quinn acknowledged that the bishops would have to “swim against our culture” in order to teach clearly on controversial subjects. But he draws encouragement from the Pope, and from his own meetings with young people who want to escape the “prison of relativism.”
“Society is captured by that,” the Bishop of Winona said.
“It's politically correct only to speak of those things that are subjective, only to speak of those things that you determine 'work for you,' they may not 'work for me' … We're in a prison with that.”
But many young people are finding liberation from these self-centered philosophies, through the teaching of the Catholic Church, he noted.
“They want to break out of that prison that holds them bound,” said Bishop Quinn, reflecting on his experience teaching young people at Saint Mary's University in his diocese. “Once they know the truth – and the truth is Christ – that sets them free. And then their acts of freedom are rooted in Christ.”
“It leads them to happiness – not to more self-indulgence.”
In his second meeting with Bishop Quinn and his brother bishops, Pope Benedict spoke frankly about the “contemporary crisis of marriage and the family,” which has caused “grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.”
Here, too, the Bishop of Winona sees signs of improvement, despite the damage done by popular culture and inadequate religious formation.
“I think we're doing much better,” he said, noting that Blessed John Paul II's teachings on love and marriage – especially those known as the “Theology of the Body” – were “becoming very popular” in his diocese.
He predicts that the next generation of Catholics will have “a much richer, a much more sacramental, much more beautiful appreciation for the gift of human sexuality,” if they are given a clear and truthful presentation of the Church's vision.
“That's happening now,” said Bishop Quinn. “And the fruit is beginning to be manifest.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The bishops' conference of Mexico has released the official anthem for Pope Benedict XVIs upcoming March 23-25 visit to the country.
In a March 11 message, organizers voiced hope that the song “will be a point of reference to unite the bonds of cordiality, solidarity and fraternity between families, neighbors and peoples.”
Titled “Mensajero de Paz” (Messenger of Peace), the song features the voices of several popular Mexican singers who wished to join the Mexican people in warmly welcoming Pope Benedict XVI.
The song was composed by Carlos Lara, with vocals by Mijares, Alexander Acha, Sheyla, Danna Paola, Magaby, Miguel Angel, Hiroshi from the group Pequenos Gigantes, Filippa Giordano and Prey.
The Mexican bishops' conference said the anthem's lyrics aim to inspire people to open their hearts to “peace, faith and hope.”
The official video for the song can be found at: http://www.benedictomexico.mx/visita-a-mexico/noticias/159-himno-mensajero-de-paz&Itemid=75
Montevideo, Uruguay, Mar 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A convent in Uruguay reported on March 7 that a container holding 15 consecrated hosts has been stolen from the monastery chapel’s tabernacle.
According to the local bishops' conference, the Monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary in the Diocese of Canelones also found a small monstrance containing the Eucharist, three metal crosses and several candelabra missing.
Intruders also stole the sanctuary lamp and choir organ and attempted to dismantle and steal the sanctuary's sound system.
The sisters attended a special Mass in the convent's chapel on March 9 to pray for the recovery of the stolen hosts.
Local bishop Alberto Sanguinetti of Canelones exhorted Uruguayan Catholics to offer “acts of love and reparation to Jesus in the Eucharist, whose love is scorned by those for whom He gave his life.”
Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A recent poll shows that President Barack Obama's approval ratings dropped 12 percentage points among women voters, despite claims that a federal contraception mandate would help his bid for re-election.
“It’s definitely something that young women are concerned about,” said Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America.
Hawkins told CNA on March 13 that beyond just contraception or abortion, the mandate touches on the issue of religious freedom, which is clear to any woman in the U.S. “whether she’s religious or not.”
“It goes too far,” she said, adding that women are beginning to ask fundamental questions about what the government would be able to regulate next if this mandate were to succeed.
In recent weeks, political analysts have suggested that Obama’s re-election campaign will receive a significant boost in women's votes due to its support for a controversial federal contraception mandate.
But a New York Times/CBS News poll shows that Obama's approval rating among women has plummeted at three times the rate as men within the last few weeks.
The poll, conducted March 7-11, revealed that the president's approval rating among Americans has fallen from 50 percent last month to an all-time low of 41 percent.
While Obama’s approval rating dipped just four percentage points among men, it dropped by 12 percentage points among women.
The decrease in women's support comes amid debate over a Jan. 20 mandate issued by the Obama administration under the new health care law. Introduced by the Department of Health and Human Services, the mandate will soon require employers to offer health care plans that include full coverage of contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
Faced with a storm of protest from those who argued that the mandate violated First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom, President Obama promised an “accommodation” for religious freedom on Feb. 10.
Under the “accommodation,” which was never incorporated into the original mandate, religious employers would not directly buy the controversial coverage but would instead purchase health care plans from insurance companies that would be required to provide it free of charge.
Critics of the promised “accommodation” note that under such an arrangement, insurance companies would likely raise employers’ premiums in order to account for the “free” coverage, effectively passing the cost of the coverage back to the employers who object to it.
The U.S. bishops and numerous other groups have called for legislation to either overturn the mandate or implement an effective religious exemption.
Majorities of both men and women in the New York Times / CBS News poll also voiced support for religious and moral exemptions to the mandate.
Those polled believe by a 57 percent to 36 percent margin that religiously-affiliated employers should able to “opt out” of covering the full cost of birth control and related drugs if they have object to doing so.
Fifty-one percent say they support an exemption for all employers who have religious or moral objections to the mandate.
The poll findings come as the Obama administration launched increased efforts within the last week to bolster support among women voters by appealing to the healthcare law. On March 12, more than 1 million mailings were sent to women nationwide in separate versions for mothers, older women and young women, reported the New York Times.
Hawkins said that her organization is “comprised of mostly young women” who see the religious freedom concerns being raised by the mandate and do not accept the administration’s claims that it is looking out for women’s health.
She pointed out the irony in the fact that she, as the employer of a pro-life organization that seeks to end abortion, would be required under the mandate to offer an insurance plan that covers abortion-causing drugs.
“There’s no freedom at that point,” she said.
Hawkins said she has “pro-choice” friends as well who oppose the mandate for forcing people to violate their consciences. They realize that the mandate is “not about contraception” and “not about women’s health,” she said.
She also decried the efforts of those who have been “using women’s health” to promote the mandate, stressing “they’re not doing it for me.”
Hawkins encouraged women to take an active role in the political battle by contacting their Congressmen and making their voices heard.
When people are talking about the upcoming elections, they should be talking about this issue, she said, adding that men and men should work together to show the Obama administration that “this is not the will of the American people.”