Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2012 (CNA) -
The Romney campaign released a new television ad on Nov. 4 to appeal to Catholic voters, citing the Obama administration's controversial HHS mandate.
“The Obama administration dictated that every Catholic school, hospital and charity must include services that many Catholics consider immoral,” the ad says.
The administration's Department of Health and Human Services mandate requires that virtually all employers, even religious ones, provide employees with health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, despite any moral or religious objections.
Under the mandate, Catholic organizations, such as schools and hospitals, are included under with only churches as exempt from the new rule.
“After President Obama's mandate, Catholic schools, charities and hospitals are left with three choices,” the ad explains.
“They could pay for services and violate their beliefs, they could pay fines of $100 per employee per day, leading many to shut down, or they could strip care from everyone they serve and limit the good they did to Catholics only.”
Because Catholic hospitals and charities help all people regardless of their religion, the Obama administration does not consider them to be religious organizations under the terms of the HHS mandate.
The issue is important, according to the ad, because of the major role that Catholic institutions play in achieving the common good in the United States.
“The Catholic Church provides an education to over 2 million American children every year. The Catholic hospital network is one of our nation's finest. In fact, one out of every six hospitalized Americans is being cared for in a Catholic hospital.”
“And the Catholic Church makes serving the poor a cornerstone of its good work. Over 7 million men, women and children receive food services from Catholic charities every year.”
“It is critical” the ad warns, that “we vote for the candidate who is going to protect these religious institutions.”
Religious freedom is a major issue in the presidential campaign, with numerous bishops across the country reminding their faithful of the importance of voting and the gravity of the decisions made in the voting booth.
The HHS mandate has already been challenged with more than 34 lawsuits and over 100 plaintiffs.
The Obama administration has proposed an accommodation for religious employers, but the details are not yet clear. It has opposed congressional efforts to provide a broad religious exemption to the mandate.
The administration has pointed out that most women, including most Catholic women, have used contraception, and that contraception reduces costs in the long-run, because of “potentially unintended” pregnancies and indirect costs, such as “employee absence and reduced productivity,” according to Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.
Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has created a new website dedicated to encouraging education, prayer and public action to protect religious freedom at home and abroad.
As our first American freedom, religious liberty is “a founding principle of our country, protected by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights,” said the U.S. bishops on their new website.
“It's a fundamental human right, rooted in the dignity of every human person – people of any faith or no faith at all,” they added.
Launched just days before the Nov. 6 election, the new website, firstamericanfreedom.com, includes sections promoting education, prayer and action regarding the right to freedom of religion.
Religious liberty includes not only freedom of belief, speech and worship, but also freedom of action, “the freedom to serve the common good in accordance with your faith,” the bishops said.
This means that religious communities define their faith, not the government, they explained. It also means that believers should be able to live out the principles of their faith as they help the needy, work in business and participate fully in public life.
“In short, it means that nobody should be forced to act in a manner contrary to their own religious beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, unless it is necessary to keep public order,” they said.
“As Catholics, we’re called to live out our faith every day – not just Sunday,” explained a brochure posted on the website. It noted that Catholics “serve the poor and needy, protect life at all stages, welcome immigrants and fight for social justice.”
“Our service flows directly from our faith; the two cannot be separated,” it said, adding that these “are matters of conscience and principle, not subjects for political negotiation or compromise.”
This freedom has always been protected in America, and both major political parties have defended it for decades, the brochure noted.
“But now, all across America, our faith is being rewritten by the government,” it warned, giving examples of current threats to religious liberty at both the federal and local levels.
Chief among these threats is a federal mandate requiring employers – including religious schools, hospitable and charitable organizations – to provide health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs.
In addition, the brochure noted, several states have proposed legislation that would prevent Catholics from offering food, shelter and medical aid to undocumented immigrants, and lawmakers in Connecticut recently proposed a bill that would let the state force the Church to change how it is structured and governed.
The brochure warned that if this pattern is allowed to continue, “being a Catholic in America will look very different in just a few years.”
To address these threats, the bishops are stressing the importance of prayer, recognizing that “With God, all things are possible; without God, we can do nothing.”
The new website offers a prayer for religious freedom and includes a section for prayerful reflections, including a recent one offered by Archbishop Lori during a rosary novena for life and liberty.
The bishops are also calling for action to protect religious freedom. The website offers information about an email and text message campaign run by the bishops’ conference to send out periodic updates and opportunities for further action.
Readers are asked to contract their elected officials and urge them to protect religious liberty. They are also encouraged to inform their friends and neighbors about the importance of this fundamental freedom by sharing the message on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
A resources section on the website offers additional materials, including a speech on international religious freedom delivered by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, copies of several Congressional testimonies given by Archbishop Lori, a video on faithful citizenship and a religious freedom radio ad in both English and Spanish.
Sacramento, Calif., Nov 6, 2012 (CNA) -
A legal group is seeking a federal injunction against a California ban on “reparative therapy” for minors with homosexual attractions or behaviors, saying the law restricts the rights of families to find treatment for their children and threatens religious freedom.
Brad Dacus, president of the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute, said that the advocacy for the bill “relied heavily on sound bites and buzzwords.”
“Our legal briefs have unmasked this stealth attack for what it is – an unprecedented attempt to reach even inside the four walls of a church to enforce state orthodoxy on homosexual behavior,” he said Oct. 31.
“We are looking forward to defending churches – and our children – in court.”
Pacific Justice Institute attorneys sought the legal injunction in a Sacramento federal court against S.B. 1172 in filings last week.
The broadly worded law prohibits any therapy “to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex” among minors.
The law prohibits not only therapies that promote “conversion” to heterosexuality but bars therapy to change behavior and address unwanted attractions, even if the minors and their parents desire the therapy.
Backers of the bill include gay rights activists and mental health groups, who charge that reparative therapy may increase the risk of depression and suicide.
Bill May, president of Catholics for the Common Good, is one of the bill’s critics. He told CNA Nov. 5 that the bill endangers the well-being of youth and could affect counselors in Catholic schools.
“A priest or a nun or a lay Catholic person who is a licensed counselor or therapist could lose their license if they are treating a teenager who has gender confusion or unwanted same-sex attractions,” he said. “They cannot really, in the context of the therapy, witness to the truths of our faith and really treat the whole person.”
He said the bill restricts the rights of young people to be treated for gender confusion or same-sex attraction “even if these things are unwanted.”
“It also violates the rights of parents who love their children and act in the best interests of their children,” he said, pointing to State Sen. Ted Lieu’s comments that purpose of the bill is to prevent parents from harming their children.
“There’s no one who loves children more than parents; certainly not the state of California,” May said.
On October 4the Florida-based Liberty Counsel challenged the law on behalf of several plaintiffs. The plaintiffs include parents and their children who say they are benefiting from such counseling, several licensed counselors, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, and the 50,000-member American Association for Christian Counselors.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Nov. 1 a mob of abortion supporters and anti-clerical leftists in Argentina tried to deface the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires but was turned away by the police and a human chain of Catholics.
The would-be vandals marched from the capital city’s congressional building to May Square, where police stopped them from attacking the cathedral. The protestors were also met by a large number of Catholics, including many young people, who formed a human barrier at the entrance to the cathedral.
Many shouted “Long live Christ the King,” Long live Mary Queen of Heaven,” and “Long live our homeland,” while others prayed the Rosary or the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.
At the request of the rector of the cathedral, Father Alejandro Ruso, and with the consent of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, police officers installed a metal fence to protect the church from the same damage the abortion activists caused in the province of Posadas last month.
The pro-abortion protesters in Buenos Aires arrived at the cathedral as vespers was being prayed and began shouting insults and blasphemies against Jesus Christ and priests.
They also threw eggs at the cathedral, hitting one priest who was inside. Witnesses said one police officer was wounded in the leg during the assault.
Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Throughout the United States, Catholics are gathering in prayer on Nov. 6 to ask for God’s blessing upon the country and its citizens as they cast their ballots.
In response to popular request, Ave Maria University in southwest Florida will be hosting 24-hour adoration for both students and members of the local community on Election Day.
“We’re expecting a full house,” said Father Robert McTeigue, S.J., director of campus ministry, adding that the students have a clear understanding of what is at stake in this election.
“They’re very much involved,” he told CNA. Members of the community gathered for a holy hour on the evening of Nov. 5, followed by 24 hours of adoration, along with benediction and the recitation of the Rosary.
Nov. 6 marks the end of a heated presidential race that polls indicate will come down to the wire. In many dioceses – including those in key battleground states – parishes, college communities and individuals have rallied together to pray for the nation’s future as the next leaders of the country are chosen.
A special election day of adoration is being held at Blessed Sacrament parish in Arlington, Va., while St. Mary's Visitation parish in Milwaukee, Wis., held a Holy Hour for the Nation on the night before the election, asking for God's blessing on the country in an evening of prayer, Eucharistic adoration and Benediction.
In the Archdiocese of Denver, the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception will offer Eucharistic Adoration on both the morning and the evening of Election Day.
At Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, a nine-day novena prayer released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been prayed before all daily and Sunday Masses leading up to the election, said Tom Sofio, who handles public relations for the university.
The university’s Students for Life group has also held a 54-day Rosary novena leading up to Election Day, gathering to pray every evening at the outdoor Marian grotto on campus.
Graduate student Rob Fernandez has also worked to start a prayer initiative among the university community by calling for fasting and prayer each Tuesday from Sept. 4 through Nov. 6. The nine-week event drew more than 400 participants on Facebook.
In Maryland, which is one of four states where voters will be faced with ballot measures on “gay marriage,” Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore has been stressing the importance of voting with a well-formed Catholic conscience, according to an archdiocesan spokesman.
The archbishop is also calling on Catholics to attend Mass on Nov. 6 and to pray for the outcome of the election.
Diane Hoefling, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., has worked to help circulate a Three Day Fast and Election Prayer that is being passed around numerous states nationwide.
Hoefling explained that for many of those who have worked to fight for life, marriage and religious freedom, “we are at a point where we can only pray.”
“We know that this election is in God's Hands and we pray His Will be done,” she told CNA. “There is a calming peace with that knowledge.”
Vatican City, Nov 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Colombia's new ambassador to the Holy See has asked Pope Benedict to give his blessing to the peace talks begun in October between the Colombian government and the Marxist rebel group FARC.
“In the name of our President Juan Manuel Santos and the Colombian people, I ask for your Apostolic Blessing upon Colombian for the peace talks,” Ambassador German Cardona Gutierrez Cardona said to the Pope during an official ceremony which took place Monday at the pontiff's private library.
In a private audience, he thanked the Pope for the efforts made by Cardinal Ruben Salazar, president of the Bishops' Conference of Colombia, and Archbishop Aldo Cavalli, the Apostolic Nuncio to the country, to maintain a strong relationship with the Vatican.
“I wish to underscore the interest and prudence shown by the Church and her prelates in the peace process that has begun,” he said. “I wish to express the full confidence of the Government in your actions and support through your prayers.”
Cardona also expressed joy for “the creation of a new Colombian cardinal, which is a gesture of immense love for Colombia on the part of the Holy Father.”
He reiterated the invitation made to the Pope by President Santos and the bishops to visit Colombia next year when he travels to Brazil for World Youth Day.
“We desire to receive from the Most High and from his vicar on earth, the Holy Father, the graces of the faith and the hope for a future filled with peace and prosperity,” he said.
Rome, Italy, Nov 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholics in the Eternal City are holding an all-night Eucharistic vigil, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., praying that U.S. voters help their country by electing politicians who will support Christian values.
“We’re praying that the Holy Spirit guide those who vote, especially all Catholics and people of good will,” said Father Frederick Gruber, 28, who is studying for his license in sacred theology at the Marianum. “We’re praying that life be protected, that the leaders elected will really help our country at all levels of government.”
The vigil, which had 18 people attending its first hour, is being held in Rome’s San Lorenzo parish.
The event was organized by the San Lorenzo Center, an international center for young Catholics that hosts a variety of faith and fellowship activities, much like a vibrant Newman Center in America. The idea for the vigil came from Ann Schneible, 28, a freelance journalist and the center’s former communications director.
“It was an opportunity to pray that God’s will happens in our country, and to entrust our country to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament,” she said, noting that 19 Christendom College students agreed to take one-hour shifts for the full 12 hours.
The center is attached to the Church of San Lorenzo, where Fr. Gruber had just finished celebrating Mass in English.
Most of the college-age mass-goers were not American. Even so, about 15 signed up afterward for adoration – some at 7 p.m., others through the night and early morning.
“I think Americans need as many prayers as they can get,” said 23-year-old Christian Iligan of Sydney, Australia, who is studying in Rome at the Emmanuel School of Mission, a lay evangelism program. “Looking at their recent history, they need people to lead them in the right direction – leaders who value life and can lead the country in a Christian direction. In other words, not Obama!”
One of the American mass-goers, Robert Prybyla, 23, is friends with many of those international English-speakers who signed up for adoration.
“They feel united by our Catholic faith, and they’re aware of the importance of this election, all the moral issues at stake,” said the native of Round Rock, Texas. “We need all the graces we can poured upon our country, and spending an hour before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is about the best way we can do that.”
Prybyla and three others are taking the 2 a.m. shift.
One American who is waiting at least until dawn to pull her watch is Marie Nuar, 32, of Anchorage, Alaska.
“You need graces for everything, and you can definitely use them for elections,” she said, putting a big batch of her homemade chocolate chip cookies on a snack table in the center for hungry adorers.
“The U.S. has, or at least had, led the world. So in many ways wherever we go, they go,” Nuar said, adding that she believes the world will follow America’s lead, even if it’s not the best path.
Helena, Mont., Nov 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On Nov. 6, Montana passed a measure requiring abortion facilities to notify parents before performing the procedure on those under 16-years-old.
As votes rolled in Tuesday, 66 percent of state locals voted in favor and 33 percent voted against Referendum 120, which mandates that doctors notify a parent or legal guardian at least 48 hours beforehand.
Notice will not be required, however, if there is a medical emergency, if it is waived by a youth in court in a sealed proceeding, or if it is waived by the parent or guardian.
Physicians who perform an abortion in violation of this act, or who coerces a minor to have an abortion, will now be subject to criminal prosecution and civil liability.
Michael Pauley, the campaign consultant for the successful parental notification law in Alaska in 2010, helped with Montana's campaign and had predicted victory for the legislation.
But in Florida, locals rejected a law Tuesday that would have exempted taxpayers' money going to abortion except in rape, incest or life endangerment.
State unofficial results say 55.22 percent voted against and only 44.78 percent voted in favor of passing Amendment 6, which would have required that minors have parental consent to have an abortion.
A Florida ballot amendment requiring parental notification, not consent, became law after it passed 65 percent to 35 percent in 2004.
The proposed amendment would have superseded statutory limitations by putting a prohibition in Florida's Constitution.
The law would have also limited the right to privacy relating to abortions and any court rulings that had upheld that right.
Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Voters in the state of Maine approved a ballot measure Nov. 6 to redefine marriage to include homosexual couples, becoming the sixth state in the U.S. to do so, and the first to do so by a vote of the people.
Previously, marriage had been put before the people 32 times, and voters had affirmed marriage as the union of a man and a woman in each case.
Question 1 on the Maine ballot proposed to legally recognize “gay marriage,” reversing a similar referendum in 2009 that was narrowly defeated.
With 45 percent of precincts reporting on the night of the Nov. 6 election, the measure held a 55-46 percent lead, enough for analysts to project its passage.