Archive of April 3, 2012

Vatican doctrinal office's new site offers decades of documents

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has revised its website and launched a new internet domain name to distribute all of its documents published since the Second Vatican Council.

“Wider distribution of the teaching of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is necessary in today's world,” the congregation said March 16. “These texts treat significant questions for the life and mission of the Church and give important doctrinal responses to the challenges of our times.”

The congregation added that making the documents more available will have “significant value” in communicating Church teaching around the world.

The website organizes the doctrinal, disciplinary and sacramental documents both chronologically and by theme.

The congregation is in charge of theological matters within the Church. It issues authoritative, though not infallible, statements on theological questions and contemporary ethical controversies.

Documents of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith which have the express approval of the Pope participate in his teaching authority as the successor of St. Peter, the congregation said. “Attentive reception” of these texts is important for all the faithful, particularly those engaged in theological and pastoral work.

The major documents of the congregation are available in Latin, French, English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, German and Polish. Some documents are available in Hungarian, Slovak, Czech, and Dutch.

Other translations will be added in the future.

The website also provides information about the book series “Documents and Studies,” individual printed volumes of major documents with commentaries by prominent theologians.

The site publishes various speeches and other publications by the congregation prefects, among whom were Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before his election as Pope Benedict XVI.

The congregation’s website is now available at

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UN women's commission rejects expansion of 'reproductive rights'

New York City, N.Y., Apr 3, 2012 (CNA) -

Amid controversy over the “rights” to contraception and abortion, the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women concluded its 56th annual meeting without reaching the necessary agreement for a concluding document.

A Holy See delegation which attended the gathering argued that expanding the definition of family planning “amounts to a wholesale attempt at rewriting history to advance an agenda disrespectful of marriage and the family.”

The U.N. Commission’s closing meeting, held on March 15, ended without adopting the normal “agreed conclusions.”

This unusual outcome was due to the U.S. delegation’s attempt to expand the definition of “family planning” that has been used for nearly two decades to include “modern forms of contraception.”

The Obama administration has been pushing expansive “reproductive rights” within the United States as well.

The Department of Health and Human Services has recently included abortion-causing drugs as “preventive services,” calling them “FDA-approved contraceptives” and requiring employers to offer health insurance plans that cover them under the new health care law.

However, numerous states at the Commission meeting – including Muslim nations, southern African countries and the Holy See – objected to the attempt to establish an international consensus on the “right to contraception.”

Several states, including Poland, Chile and Malta, also clarified that they did not interpret the term “reproductive rights” to include abortion.

The U.S. delegation had worked to expand the term from its past definition, which excluded abortion.

The Holy See delegation joined in criticizing the move, noting that there is “no international consensus” regarding the inclusion of abortion in the term “reproductive rights” and observing that numerous states across the world remain firmly committed in their opposition to abortion.

The Holy See stressed the need to "respect conscience and the freedom of religion” in developing international policies.

The delegation also strongly criticized a U.S.-supported maternal mortality resolution calling for “comprehensive sex education” for young people and “youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health care services, including family planning.”

“It is the sacred and solemn responsibility of parents to care for their children and no one – including the state – has a right to advance an agenda which does not respect the natural moral law,” the delegation said in a statement.

It warned that the resolution “undermines international law” and conflicts with the state’s duty “to promote the common good of the family and society.”

The Holy See emphasized the need to fight maternal mortality through “adequate healthcare,” including the availability of “skilled birth attendants, prenatal and postnatal care for mother and child, and emergency obstetric care.”

"In authentic rights-based approach to eliminating preventable maternal mortality and morbidity respects fully all human persons and thus all women,” it said.

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Red Cross faces controversy over possible Haiti hotel

Port au Prince, Haiti, Apr 3, 2012 (CNA) -

Recent news that the Red Cross may be planning to build a luxury conference center and hotel in Haiti using donor funds has drawn criticism from local missionaries and charity watchdog groups.

“It's interesting to think about if the decision is being motivated by the Red Cross executives desiring to have a nice facility for themselves to use and have control over,” CharityWatch president, Daniel Borochoff, told CNA.

On March 27, the Associated Press reported that the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society is considering plans to convert a $10.5 million, 10-acre compound that was purchased after local headquarters were destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.

The land is located near the Haiti International Airport and now serves as living space for aid workers, relief trucks and offices.

Although the Haitian Red Cross headquarters will remain on the compound in Tabarre, which is near the capitol of Port-Au-Prince, discussions have begun as for what purpose the remaining land will serve.

Now that relief efforts are slowing down, Eduard Tschan, Head of Delegation in Haiti, said that two possible options are to either sell the remaining land or to find a business partner to build a luxury hotel and conference center with profits going towards the Hatian Red Cross.

Although no final decision has been made as of yet, critics have already voiced their concern that the hotel is even a possibility.

Deacon Patrick Moynihan said that he is worried about so much money going towards the “wrong focus” in Haiti.

As president of The Haitian Project, a missionary organization which supports and operates Louverture Cleary School –  a tuition-free Catholic boarding school in Haiti – Moynihan said the most important thing for the Haitian people is education.

In order to help establish a stable environment, “Haiti needs more education and then jobs,” he told CNA March 29.

The concern is not a matter of whether or not Haiti needs hotels, which it does Moynihan said, but rather that there was no mention of such a project when the Red Cross solicited for funds.

“You know that people who donated,” Moynihan said, “really cared and wanted to do something.”

The fact that the Red Cross can consider undertaking such a project shows that they received more money than they needed for emergency relief services, he said.

In a March 30 interview, Daniel Borochoff added that ideally, by working with a local business, the hotel and conference center would provide jobs and business for the local economy in the growing city.

However, he wondered if they would use the hotel for housing aid workers and employees.

Before spending the public's money, Borochoff said that “all charities need to think about how the donor would feel” about how their donation is spent.

In this case, Borochoff said, donor funds could be going towards a business venture that simply “may not work.”

Should another emergency arise while undertaking such a project, donor funds that could have gone to emergency relief efforts would be tied up until the hotel were finished and operational, Borochoff pointed out.

“I think they need to go back to the drawing board and come up with some better ideas for the use of that property,” he said.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Communications Coordinator Becky Webb confirmed that no final decision for the use of the property has been made as of yet.

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Colombian rebels release 10 hostages held since 1998

Bogotá, Colombia, Apr 3, 2012 (CNA) - The International Red Cross Commission confirmed on April 2 that ten hostages kidnapped in 1998 by the Marxist rebel group FARC in Colombia have been released.

In a statement issued on Monday, the commission said the group released four soldiers and six police officers.

Local Church leaders praised the news, with Archbishop of Bogota  Ruben Salazar Gomez calling the move “a necessary first step to start the process of dialogue in order to end the scourge of civil war in Colombia.”

Archbishop Salazar urged all groups “that are still holding people as hostages to release them as soon as possible, in order to allow the crime of kidnapping to disappear from our country forever.”

The ten hostages have been transported to the city of Villavicencio by a helicopter provided by the Brazilian government. In the coming days they will be flown to Bogota on a government jet.

The Red Cross thanked the government of Brazil for its cooperation and said it continued to be willing to “facilitate the release of other individuals being held by armed groups.”

“We manifest our great joy over the success of this operation which in one single day allowed ten families that had been waiting for so many years to be reunited,” said Jordi Raich, the head of  Colombia's Red Cross commission.

 “Today the agony for these families is over, and this fills us with great satisfaction,” he said.

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Legionaries will sell New York formation center

Thornwood, N.Y., Apr 3, 2012 (CNA) -

The Legionaries of Christ have announced plans to sell their Thornwood property in Westchester County, New York, citing financial strain and fallout from revelations about the late Father Marcial Maciel.

“The scandal involving our founder has been a great shock to us all, shaking our trust and raising doubts in many hearts. We are working hard to regain the trust of our friends – and of one another,” explained Father Luis Garza, L.C., director of the order's North American territory, in an April 2 letter.

In his message to the Legion and its affiliate Regnum Christi, Fr. Garza announced the sale of the property that had been used for priestly formation since 1996. He noted that the global recession of the past several years had “also affected many of our benefactors.”

“As a consequence of our difficulties, we have also experienced a decrease in vocations to the Legion and to the consecrated life,” he acknowledged.

“Although God continues to call men and women to follow him in the Legion and consecrated life in Regnum Christi, there are fewer in these last few years than in previous ones.”

A group of 72 Legionary brothers, currently studying philosophy at the Thornwood location, will transfer to the order's seminary in Rome during the fall of 2012. The Legion plans to continue using the property until it is sold and transferred to its new owner.

The 265-acre site is also home to 21 other Legionaries and five consecrated men. It was acquired during a period of expansion in the mid-1990s, along with a retreat center in Mount Kisco, New York. That property, initially planned as a seminary or women's center, was offered for sale in 2011.

“Having analyzed our current situation,” Fr. Garza noted in his letter, “we have seen that perhaps in past years because of our growth rate we may have overestimated our needs and currently have more facilities than our actual presence in North America requires or can support.”

On a worldwide level, the Legionaries of Christ are revising their constitutions and statutes following a Vatican-decreed apostolic visitation. The congregation was asked to reconsider its charism and structures after revelations about the double-life and crimes of its founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel.

According to Fr. Garza, the Legion and Regnum Christi “are faithfully working through a deeply purifying period of renewal.”

“With the help of experts appointed by the Vatican, all members are discussing the documents that will guide our religious and consecrated lives going forward,” he said in his April 2 letter.

He said the sale of the Thornwood property was necessary to deal with “the practical consequences of our current situation,” describing it as “a difficult decision but hopefully the right one.”

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Colombia attorney general calls for reversal of abortion ruling

Bogotá, Colombia, Apr 3, 2012 (CNA) -

The attorney general in Colombia urged the country’s Constitutional Court to overturn an appeal's court ruling allowing an abortion to be performed on a minor girl.

A March 31 statement released by the official rejected a ruling by Colombia’s Eight Circuit Court of Appeals which reversed a lower court ruling denying a woman the right to subject her minor daughter to an abortion.

The attorney general argued that the appeals court violated due process because the subject of the ruling – the unborn child – had actually already been born before the ruling was even issued, and that therefore it no longer made any legal sense to rule in favor of the abortion.

The statement also pointed out that the girl’s medical records indicated that the pregnancy “was accepted by the girl, her boyfriend and their parents and that they wanted the child,” and that they were “falsely informed that the baby would be born with deformities and that the birth could happen at any moment, causing her anguish and worry.”

A pro-life advocate in Colombia told CNA that the ruling by the appeals court is part of an overall strategy to get the country to legalize abortion. 

“This is all part of the effort to have abortion declared a supposedly 'fundamental right,'” said a source who requested anonymity, adding that the ruling seeks to “set a new precedent.”

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Obama policies may be effort to court non-religious voters

Washington D.C., Apr 3, 2012 (CNA) - Recent policies by the Obama administration that have isolated many American Catholics may be part of an election strategy to reach out to non-Christian and non-religious voters, says one political scientist who specializes in Catholic research.

“I don't think his campaign is really worried about ‘winning’ the Catholic vote,” said Mark M. Gray, director of Catholic polls for Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

Gray explained in a March 29 blog post that President Obama may be willing to risk losing the Catholic vote as he works to build support among those who are not Christian or not religious at all.

In his post, Gray examined a series of decisions by President Obama and his administration which “could lead to the appearance of bias against the Church that would potentially damage his support among some Catholics in an election year.”

A recent analysis by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate estimated that there will be approximately 55.6 million Catholics in the voting-age population for the 2012 election.

Seventy-nine percent of these Catholics live in 16 states that offer a combined 306 Electoral College votes.

These states create a significant target for candidates, who need 270 Electoral College votes to win the race.

The high concentration of Catholic voters in heavily weighted states means that the Catholic vote could be critical in the upcoming election.

In addition, key battleground states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin are estimated to have more than 1 million voting-age Catholics each. In the contested states of New Hampshire and New Mexico, Catholics accounted for more than one-third of the vote in the 2008 election.

However, according to a February analysis released by the Pew Research Center, Catholics in the U.S. have shifted away from the Democratic Party since the 2008 election. 

Many have questioned why President Obama would isolate Catholic voters when they will be so critical to his re-election campaign this fall. 

Gray acknowledged that “most presidential election winners have carried a Catholic majority.”

While Catholics are not always united in the way that they vote, “winning a majority of the vote of Catholics has still been very important,” he said.

At the same time, Gray said, “a tipping point may have been reached” in the 2012 election.

He explained that a growing voting bloc, composed of non-Christians and those with no religious affiliation, “is now sufficient in size and support for the Democratic Party where President Obama could lose the Catholic vote and still have a good chance of winning re-election.”

This group of voters tends to disagree with Catholics and other Christians on social issues such as abortion, “gay marriage” and embryonic stem cell research, he observed.

Gary suggested that the Obama administration’s recent policies may be an intentional part of a broader strategy to reach out to these non-Christian and non-religious voters, at the risk of losing the Catholic vote.

“What seemed so irrational to some weeks ago is beginning to look to me like a campaign strategy,” he said.

“In other words, perhaps we should not be so surprised to see President Obama take some of the positions he has in direct opposition to Catholic leaders.”

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