Washington D.C., Jun 1, 2012 (CNA) - Despite gaining the support of more than half of the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill to prohibit abortions based on the sex of the unborn child was defeated on May 31.
“Sex-selection is violence against women, and it is the truest kind of war against women,” said Rep. Trent Franks on May 30, one day before the vote took place.
Franks, who had introduced the bill, said that it is an act of “extreme violence” to have an abortion solely “based on the sex of the child.”
“In 2007, the United States spearheaded a U.N. resolution to condemn sex-selection abortion worldwide,” he said. Yet America is “the only advanced country left in the world that still doesn’t restrict sex-selection abortion in any way.”
The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act was defeated in the House despite a 246-168 vote in its favor.
Normally, this majority would be enough for the bill to pass. However, the legislation was brought up under a suspension of normal rules. As a result, it would have required the support of two-thirds of the lawmakers in order to pass.
Republicans supported the bill by a 226-7 margin. Among those who voted against it was Ron Paul (R-Tx.), a former hopeful for Republican presidential candidate.
Democrats opposed the bill by a vote of 161-20.
The legislation would not have prosecuted women who seek abortions. Rather, it would have held accountable those who knowingly coerce, fund or perform sex-selection abortions.
The bill’s advocates noted that it would not in any way affect women seeking an abortion for health reasons. By definition, sex-selection abortions are performed solely due to the gender of the baby.
During debate over the bill on the House floor, supporters pointed to multiple academic studies showing that sex-selection abortion is happening in the United States.
They also referenced a recent poll indicating that the vast majority of American women support a ban on abortions that are based solely on the child’s gender.
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) said that she supported the legislation “as a woman, as a mother of four daughters and as a grandmother of three granddaughters.”
She explained that “there can be no rights for women if we don’t allow them the right to life.”
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) argued that the bill is necessary to “give baby girls the same chance at life as baby boys.”
She said that it is “hypocrisy” to call oneself “pro-woman” while supporting the abortion of a girl based on her gender.
“Since when did America subscribe to the idea that males are worth more than females?” she asked.
The May 31 vote came amid the release of several videos showing Planned Parenthood workers helping women asking for an abortion because their children were girls rather than boys.
The videos were posted online by Live Action, a pro-life group that produces undercover films of abortion clinics violating laws and internal standards.
On May 29, the organization posted a video from an Austin, Tx. Planned Parenthood clinic in April. The video showed a counselor encouraging the possibility of a late term abortion after the female gender had been confirmed, while at the same time admitting that the baby’s “brain is already developed” and “pretty much everything’s already developed.”
Two days later, Live Action posted a similar video from a New York Planned Parenthood clinic, where a clinic worker condoned and helped to schedule a sex-selection abortion, saying that “here at Planned Parenthood, we believe that it’s not up to us to decide what is a good or a bad reason” to have an abortion.
As public awareness of the videos grew, pro-life leaders vowed to keep fighting.
“For most of us ‘it's a girl’ is cause for enormous joy, happiness, and celebration,” said Rep, Chris Smith (R-N.J.). “But in many countries, including our own, it can be a death sentence.”
Spokane, Wash., Jun 1, 2012 (CNA) - The Diocese of Spokane, Wash. has reached a mediation agreement in a sex abuse suit that will save parishes from foreclosure, reduce the diocese's legal fees and compensate victims, Bishop Blase J. Cupich announced.
“This is an important and significant turning point in a very sad chapter of our diocesan history,” Bishop Cupich said in a May 27 letter to the diocese’s parishioners.
“We can never forget the harm done to children, who deserved better from the Church and her ministers. Once again, I apologize to the survivors of sexual abuse by clergy and to the families of survivors.”
The Diocese of Spokane reached a bankruptcy agreement in 2007 to pay $48 million to nearly 180 victims of clergy sex abuse from decades ago and to pay lawyers’ fees, the Seattle Times reported. Twenty-two parishes in Spokane County offered their parish properties as collateral to help ensure the claims could be paid, in the belief that foreclosure would be unlikely.
However, some victims were allowed to file late claims, causing worry parishes would be foreclosed upon.
Catholic parishioners are now being asked to contribute another $1.5 million to help resolve the settlement, a figure far smaller than initially feared.
The diocese has also created a new strategy and procedure for the remaining four years of the bankruptcy plan. It will withdraw all legal appeals to eliminate “costly legal fees,” the bishop noted.
Bishop Cupich said that parishes had been in severe risk of foreclosure.
“I cannot underscore enough how close we were to losing by foreclosure up to one-half of our parishes in Spokane County, had the mediation process not intervened,” he said. “Everyone would have lost.”
The legal battles would have displaced faith and school communities and triggered more legal costs.
“It is also certain that eventual proceeds from the sale of parish and school properties would have gone disproportionately to legal and court fees rather than compensating victims.”
The bishop praised the lawyers and advisors who helped the diocese reach the agreement and asked for continued prayer from the faithful.
“We will not waiver in staying vigilant and making sure that our churches and schools remain safe environments for our young people,” Bishop Cupich said in his three-page letter.
“I am also personally committed to promoting healing in our Church and I plan to announce in the near future some new initiatives in this regard.”
Denver, Colo., Jun 1, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Denver's newly-appointed archbishop says the federal contraception mandate is the result of a larger push to remove religion from the public sphere.
“Essentially what people are saying to us is, 'We want you to pretend you're agnostic or atheist like us, and that is the way society should be,'” Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila explained to CNA on May 28, as he assessed the thinking that made the mandate possible.
“Today what is happening is that those who do not want faith in the public square are really saying, 'It's our lack of faith, our unbelief that we want you to follow,'” he said.
Archbishop Aquila, who was announced as the new Archbishop of Denver on May 29, called the federal mandate a direct infringement on the First Amendment that is simply another example of “the erosion of religious liberties” which has been occurring for some time.
“It's the violation of our consciences and it is the violation of religious liberty,” he said.
In its current form, the federal contraception mandate would force employers to purchase health insurance to cover birth control, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, announced a narrow “exemption” from the mandate for religious organizations that serve and employ only members of their own faith on Feb. 10.
Since then, 43 Catholic organizations across the country, including dioceses, charities, hospitals and universities, have filed lawsuits against the Obama administration on the grounds of religious liberty.
Bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have spoken out against the mandate, warning that it poses a serious threat to religious liberty and could force such organizations to shut down.
Archbishop Aquila said that he would “continue to speak out” against the mandate and will “ help people to recognize the violation that is taking place.”
Christians, he said, should do the same, even if doing so is unpopular.
“If we become martyrs, so be it,” he said. “It is for the Lord that we do it.”
Although such comments may sound pessimistic, the archbishop said that history has already proved that the Catholic Church is able to withstand such opposition.
Throughout the 2,000 year history of Christianity, “there have been the rise and fall of many governments,” Archbishop Aquila said, “but the Church is still here.”
Washington D.C., Jun 1, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The national board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is arguing that the Vatican’s recent assessment of the organization was “based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency.”
Board members also said in a June 1 statement that “the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised” and might compromise the sisters’ “ability to fulfill their mission.”
The statement came after the LCWR’s board members held a special May 29-31 meeting in Washington, D.C. in order to review and plan a response to a report issued several weeks ago by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
On April 18, the Congregation revealed the findings of its multi-year doctrinal assessment of the women's conference, which noted “serious doctrinal problems” and significant need for reform.
The assessment document raised concerns over “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” that were prevalent in some presentations sponsored by the conference.
One such address discussed religious sisters “moving beyond the Church” and beyond Jesus.
These positions risk distorting Church teaching and constitute “a rejection of faith” and a “serious source of scandal,” the report said.
It also pointed to a lack of adequate doctrinal formation offered by the group, as well as letters from LCWR officers suggesting “corporate dissent” from Church teaching on topics such as the sacramental male priesthood and homosexuality.
In addition, while the organization strongly promotes social justice issues, it largely ignores the topics of life, marriage and sexuality, which have played a significant role in recent public debates over abortion, euthanasia and “gay marriage,” it said.
To lead renewal efforts, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle has been mandated to work with LCWR leadership for up to five years.
He will be aided by an advisory group of clergy, experts and women religious, along with Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield and Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, who was responsible for conducting the assessment of the LCWR.
Archbishop Sartain will work with the conference to revise its statues and review its links with affiliated organizations. He will also help create a new formation program offering a deeper understanding of Church teaching and will be responsible for approving future speakers and presentations at the organization’s assemblies.
Furthermore, the archbishop will review the application of liturgical norms and texts, offering guidance to help ensure that the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours are given proper priority in LCWR events.
In its June 1 statement, the LCWR’s national board criticized “both the content of the doctrinal assessment and the process by which it was prepared.”
The board members charged that the Vatican’s report on the organization has “caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.”
The LCWR announced that its president and executive director will travel to Rome on June 12 to discuss their concerns with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Sartain.
After that meeting, the organization’s members will gather in regional meetings and at an August assembly to develop a response to the Vatican’s report.
With some 1,500 members, the LCWR members make up about three percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United States. However, the group says it represents 80 percent of American sisters since its members are leaders of their respective religious communities. The average age for members is 74.
The group had initially said that it was “stunned” by the assessment.
However, Ann Carey, author of the 1997 book “Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women’s Religious Communities,” said that problems have existed between the LCWR and the Vatican since the group revised its statutes 40 years ago.
Carey told CNA that members of the LCWR have shown a clear intent to change “the nature of religious life” and abandon some of its essential elements, such as communal life and prayer, a corporate apostolate and distinctive religious garb.
She explained that the drastic changes led some women to leave the organization and form an alternative group, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, which adheres to the traditional elements of religious life and is attracting the bulk of young vocations today.
Archbishop Sartain spoke about his upcoming assignment with CNA on April 23.
He recognized the “great, great gift” of women religious and said that he hopes to “work in a positive way” that demonstrates “our continued love and support for their extraordinary contribution.”
The archbishop stressed that the role of women religious in the U.S. “has been important from the very beginning.”
“I think it is such a wonderful witness to the world and something I have had the benefit of seeing throughout my whole life and the four dioceses that I have served,” he said.
Washington D.C., Jun 1, 2012 (CNA) - In a new guest column, Fr. Gregory Gresko discusses how a flawed interpretation of Blessed John Paul II's seminal work on human sexuality can lead to a fundamentally wrong understanding of sex.
Known popularly as the “Theology of the Body,” the late Pope's Catechesis on Human Love is “profoundly beautiful,” but at times “subject to misinterpretation,” warned Fr. Gresko.
In his column, the avid blogger, scholar and chaplain of the Blessed John Paul II Shrine in Washington, D.C., examines Christopher West's newest book, “At the Heart of the Gospel: Reclaiming the Body for the New Evangelization.”
Fr. Gresko begins by calling West's definition of lust problematic, as the author describes it in his new book as a “disorder of the heart.”
While this is certainly true, Fr. Gresko says, West falls short in his interpretation by failing to clearly define what is meant by “heart” and whether or not he fully takes into account human concupiscence – or “the tendency to sin.”
Fr. Gresko says West claims that “a more complete spousal understanding of the 'body' provides the key to rectifying the sinful diseases of the 'heart.'”
But such an attitude, he writes, overlooks a human's tendency towards sin, which is “objectively present in the body” even after Baptism.
The priest points out in his column that even the most virtuous saints “had to wage battle daily” against sin. Therefore, assuming that lust or other disorders of the heart can be completely removed from the spousal act, as West seems to suggest, is false.
In order to fully understand Bl. John Paul II's works, one must realize that he often wrote and taught in terms of analogy, Fr. Gresko says.
He points out that in much of his work, West lacks “an adequate concept of analogy” while discussing spousal union.
“Understanding this latter concept analogically, the conjugal relation stands as an image pointing to the deeper reality of the Trinity, revealing God in our human world in a new and different way.”
Essentially, the family and the relationship between husband and wife on which it is founded, represents an “analogy of the Trinity” but not the Trinity itself.
Overemphasis on the sexual act can eclipse humanity's relationship with God, which is first and foremost that of Father and child, he explains.
“As a child of God, man has a relationship with Him that then gives him the capacity to be in relation with another human being,” Fr. Gresko says.
In other words, the emphasis should always be on the individual and God and then the individual and the other.
West risks confusing Catholics in his emphasis of the conjugal act as the ultimate expression of union with God and by stating that “nothing is shameful.”
“West's presentation fails to account adequately the positive aspects of shame,” which are found throughout the late Pope's works.
Fr. Gresko says that such an oversight fails to bring enough attention to the fact that married couples can still struggle with lust, a teaching for which John Paul II received much criticism.
Overall, Fr. Gresko says, in order to properly interpret the “Theology of the Body,” the Magisterium should ensure that Bl. John Paul II's teachings are “never used to condone searching for sexual satisfaction” by ways that are essentially “not conjugal” or that objectify the other spouse.
Although much clarification is necessary to properly “reclaim the body for the new evangelization,” he writes, Catholics have the necessary tools to do so through the teachings of Bl. John Paul II.
Read Fr. Gresko's full article here.
Vatican City, Jun 1, 2012 (CNA) - The Virgin Mary’s docility to the will of God should remind everybody that the Lord has a plan for each of us, Pope Benedict XVI said at the conclusion of a Rosary vigil to mark the end of May.
“The Magnificat is the hymn of praise that rises from humanity redeemed by divine mercy, rises from all the people of God; at the same time it is a hymn which denounces the illusion of those who believe they are lords of history, arbiters of their destiny,” he said May 31 at the shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens.
“In contrast, Mary has God at the center of her life, she abandoned herself, confident in his will, in an attitude of humble obedience to his loving plan.”
Mary was chosen “to be the temple that carries the Word, God made man,” the Pope said, because of her “poverty of spirit and humility of heart.”
Pope Benedict was joined several thousand pilgrims who had made their way to the grotto in candlelit procession while reciting the Rosary and singing Marian hymns. The annual vigil is a rare opportunity for the public to walk relatively free through the Vatican Gardens. The final destination of the pilgrimage was the Vatican’s replica of the grotto at Lourdes in France.
“Dear friends, this evening we wish to turn our gaze to Mary with renewed filial affection,” the Pope told the pilgrims as the sun set over the grotto.
“We all need to learn from our heavenly Mother: her faith invites us to look beyond appearances and to believe that daily difficulties prepare the way for a springtime that has already begun in the risen Christ,” he said.
With his butler being charged last week for stealing confidential papal documents, the Pope also prayed that Mary’s intercession may bring “spiritual joy” to “those families that here in the Vatican serve the universal Church.”
“It was most beautiful thing this evening to pray to Our Lady at this difficult moment in time for the Holy Father, and I pray this brings him great comfort,” Alessandra Brambilla, a 28-year-old pilgrim from Rome, told CNA.
“It is amazing to conclude the month of May with the Holy Father,” said her friend and fellow Roman, 29-year-old Luca Pezzi, “and what he said about Mary was beautiful, too.”
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jun 1, 2012 (CNA) - A Brazilian bishop and top organizer revealed today that Copacabana Beach and the Santa Cruz Air Base will be the venues for the main events of World Youth Day Rio 2013.
The global youth event will take place July 23-28 next summer, which Pope Benedict XVI is expected to attend.
During a press conference, Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta said Copacabana will be the venue for the opening Mass, the welcoming ceremony with the Pope and the Via Crucis – the event's traditional Way of the Cross procession.
The Santa Cruz Air Base, on the western side of the city, will be the venue for the vigil on July 27 and the closing Mass on July 28, where some two million young people are expected to gather. Operated by the Brazilian Air Force, the base covers an area of nearly 3.5 square miles.
Accompanied by his auxiliary bishops, Archbishop Tempesta was in Rome yesterday to meet with officials at the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who approved the venues for the event.
“We will begin the main events under the protection of Mary – Copacabana Beach is named after Our Lady of Copacabana – at the place where large events have traditionally been held in Rio de Janeiro and that will now have the privilege of hosting these events and welcoming young people from all over the world,” he said.
Archbishop Orani said he has invited the Pope to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks the city and to hold a gathering at Maracana Stadium with the nearly 60,000 volunteers expected to participate in WYD.
Asked about whether confessions would be heard in specific place similar to what organizers did in WYD Madrid 2011, Father Arnaldo Rodrigues of the organizing committee said the Madrid model would not be possible but that confessions would be heard at various venues across the city. He also said the locations of the catechetical sessions have also yet to be determined.
The Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro also said it would ask city officials to allow the Shrine of Christ the Redeemer to remain open around the clock to accommodate the constant flow of pilgrims.
Washington D.C., Jun 1, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle says he is dedicated to addressing concerns regarding the Leadership Conference of Women Religious “in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, integrity and fidelity to the Church’s faith.”
The archbishop said that both he and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “are wholeheartedly committed to dealing with the important issues” raised by both the recent doctrinal assessment and the LCWR’s national board.
He added that both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops are “deeply proud of the historic and continuing contribution of women religious,” a sentiment he said “has been echoed by many in recent weeks.”
“Dramatic examples of this can be witnessed in the school system and in the network of Catholic hospitals established by sisters across America,” he said, describing these institutions as “lasting contributions to the wellbeing of our country.”
The archbishop’s statement was released on June 1, hours after the national board of the LCWR accused the Vatican’s recent investigation of being “based on unsubstantiated accusations” and resulting from “a flawed process that lacked transparency.”
Board members also argued that “the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised” and might compromise the sisters’ “ability to fulfill their mission.”
Archbishop Sartain has been mandated to work with the LCWR’s leadership for up to five years, after a four-year doctrinal assessment of the organization revealed “serious doctrinal problems” and a need for reform.
The findings of the assessment were released on April 18 by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. They noted that some presentations sponsored by the LCWR exhibited “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
These presentations, which included one address about “moving beyond the Church” and beyond Jesus, risk distorting Church teaching, the report said, adding that they constitute “a rejection of faith” and a “serious source of scandal.”
The assessment document said that the group failed to offer adequate doctrinal formation to its members. It also voiced concern over letters from LCWR officers suggesting “corporate dissent” from Church teaching on topics such as the sacramental male priesthood and homosexuality.
The investigation also found that the organization speaks out strongly on social justice issues but is largely silent on matters of life, marriage and sexuality, which have been prominent topics of public discourse in recent debates over abortion, euthanasia and “gay marriage.”
In leading renewal efforts, Archbishop Sartain will work with the conference to revise its statues and review its connections to affiliated organizations. In addition, he will help create a new formation program to offer a deeper understanding of Church teaching and will be responsible for approving future speakers and presentations at the organization’s assemblies.
He will also review the application of liturgical norms and texts, in order to ensure that the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours are given proper priority in the conference’s events.
In carrying out these tasks, the archbishop will be aided by an advisory group of clergy, experts and women religious, as well as with Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield and Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, who was responsible for conducting the assessment of the LCWR.
Composed of some 1,500 members, the LCWR consists of about three percent of the 57,000 women religious in the U.S. Because its members are leaders of their religious communities, the group says that it represents 80 percent of American sisters. The average age of its members is 74.
In its recent statement, the national board of the LCWR criticized “both the content of the doctrinal assessment and the process by which it was prepared.”
The board members argued that the Vatican’s report on the organization has “caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.”
The group plans to issue a response to the Vatican’s report after conducting several internal discussions and meeting with CDF head Cardinal William Levada and Archbishop Sartain in Rome later this month.
Archbishop Sartain said that he looks forward to meeting with the leaders of the organization as part of ongoing efforts “to collaborate in promoting the important work of the LCWR for consecrated life in the United States.”
Milan, Italy, Jun 1, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI began his visit to Milan for the 7th World Meeting of Families by challenging the northern Italian city to create a future built upon the Christian family.
“Faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, who is living among us, must animate the entire fabric of your life, personal and communal, private and public, so as to enable a stable and authentic 'well-being' beginning with the family,” he told enthusiastic crowds in Milan’s Piazza del Duomo next to the city’s cathedral.
Over the next three days, the Pope will meet with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from over 150 countries who have gathered to pray, celebrate and study marriage and family life.
The theme this year’s event is “The Family: Work and Celebration.” The Pope described the family as “humanity’s principal patrimony, coefficient and sign of a true and stable culture in favor of man.”
Noting the location of his first public event in Milan, Pope Benedict praised the city’s cathedral that “with its forest of spires” invites citizens “to look upwards to God.”
“This very momentum towards the heavens has always characterized Milan and allowed the city over the years to respond fruitfully to its mission: to be a crossroads – Mediolanum – of peoples and cultures.”
The Pope charted the religious history of the city from the great 4th century bishop St. Ambrose to the 16th century’s St. Charles Borromeo, who pursed a “wide-ranging, tenacious and rigorous application of the Tridentine reforms.”
He also noted modern day figures such as St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who sacrificed her life for her unborn daughter, and “made beauty and joy, faith, hope and charity shine.”
“It is now up to you, heirs of a glorious past and a spiritual heritage of inestimable value, to commit to transmitting to future generations the torch of such a shining tradition,” challenged the Pope.
“You well know the urgent need to merge the Gospel leaven into the current cultural context.”
He concluded his comments by entrusting the people of Milan to the protection of the Virgin Mary “who from the highest spire of the cathedral holds maternally vigil day and night on this city.”
The Pope then traveled onto the world-famous Scala Theatre for a concert held in his honor. Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9 was performed by the theater's orchestra and chorus under the baton of Daniel Barenboim.