Archive of November 26, 2012

Bishops say Colombians unaware of truth behind euthanasia law

Bogotá, Colombia, Nov 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Bishops' Conference of Colombia has rejected a proposed law on euthanasia and assisted suicide currently being debated and said the country “has not been told the truth” about the measure.

After “attentive study, the Catholic Church wishes to express its total disagreement with the bill and its deep concern about the abuses that could result from its possible enactment,” the bishops said in a Nov. 21 statement.

“The promoters of the law have repeatedly hidden from the public the serious implications and intentions of their proposal. There is nothing pious or humanitarian about it.”

Despite supporters' arguments that the law will protect the rights of the sick, it instead “defends shadowy ideological and economic interests,” the bishops said.

For example, they noted, the proposed law does not limit itself to “regulating” the 1997 ruling by Colombia's Constitutional Court that decriminalized euthanasia.  

“That ruling did not legalize euthanasia in Colombia, but rather was limited to decriminalizing one specific case: that of a terminally ill patient who voluntarily and repeatedly, of his own free will, asks his attending physician for an early end to his life in order to avoid pain and suffering.”

“The current bill establishes motives, criteria and procedures that contradict even those contemplated by the Constitutional Court,” the bishops warned.

Article five of the law, additionally, “would legalize non-voluntary euthanasia, that is, that which is carried out without the express consent of the patient.”

In their remarks, the bishops insisted that the bill is ultimately “a grave attack on the right to life and the health of all Colombians, especially the poorest and most disadvantaged.”

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New cardinals excited, honored at elevation by Pope

Vatican City, Nov 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The six new cardinals from various parts of the globe shared their excitement after making their vows to Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Basilica.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines said that being made a cardinal has made him feel “excited and tired,” as well as a bit stunned.

Pope Benedict swore-in the cardinals at a Nov. 24 consistory at which the men promised to praise God and be faithful to the Apostolic See “even to the shedding of blood.”

The Pope chose them from six different countries and they will now lead over 230 million Catholics of the world's 1.2 billion.

"It's a new phase and ministry and a lot of responsibility," Cardinal Tagle told CNA. "I hope this helps the Philippines.”

The cardinals will be in regular contact with Pope Benedict, and will help him carry out the Church's top priority of re-announcing the Gospel to an increasingly secular world.

For some of the cardinals, being in regular contact with the Pope is not new.

Cardinal Tagle recalled that he regularly met with the future Pope when he was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

"From 1997 up to 2003 I was a member of the International Theological Commission of which our current Pope was also a member, and so I had a chance to work with him for more than five years," he said.

The newest American cardinal, James Michael Harvey, kept his remarks brief. After declining interviews with the media at the cardinals' reception that followed the consistory, Cardinal Harvey simply said, "I'm very excited to be a cardinal now."

Cardinal Harvey is no stranger to Pope Benedict. For the past 14 years he has led the Papal Household, which involves scheduling the Pope’s meetings and maintaing daily contact with the pontiff.

Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan was asked what it felt like to receive the ring from the Holy Father.

"Is that an interview?" he replied with a laugh. "You should see what it feels like. It's a great honor and I thank God for this incredible blessing."

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, who comes from India, heads the Syro-Malankara Rite of the Church. Alongside the Maronite and Syriac Catholic rites, it forms part of the West Syrian branch of the Church.

"I'm so happy that the Malankara section of the St. Thomas Christians is inducted to the consultation of the Holy Father by nominating the head of the Malankara church as a cardinal," Cardinal Thottunkal said.

"The Malankara church is important in India because the Church is universal. The Church in India is an apostolic Church as old as Christianity itself – 2,000 years, and we belong to that."

After his first Mass as cardinal at St. Peter’s Basilica on Nov. 25, he noted that "the Holy Father has elected six new cardinals from all over the world, representing not only different continents and different churches, but also various nationalities."

Cardinal Thottunkal sees his elevation as keeping India “in the mainstream.”

“India is an emerging power, socially and economically, and in the Church it is also re-confirmed that the Holy Father has a special place for the Church in India," he said.

There are 20 million Catholics in India, and of that total 437,000 belong to the Syro-Malankara Rite.

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Catholics for a Free Choice spends millions in Latin American abortion support

Lima, Peru, Nov 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The abortion advocacy group Catholics For a Free Choice has invested more than $13 million over the last decade in pushing the legalization of abortion in Latin America.

IRS documents show that between 2002 and 2010 – the last year of tax filings available for review – the organization spent $13,716,679 to promote the procedure in Central and South America.

Founded in 1973, the group has an annual budget of $3 million, which it obtains through organizations that openly finance abortion, such as the Ford Foundation, which donated $300,000 in 2011.

Additional funding has been attributed to the MacArthur Foundation, which donated $275,000 between 2009 and 2012, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which gave over $600,000 thousand in November of 2011 during a period of 24 months.

The Playboy Foundation is also among the group's financial backers.

In October of this year, the spokesperson for the U.S. Bishops' Conference, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, told The Washington Times that Catholics For a Free Choice “is not a Catholic organization.”

“It never has been, and it was created to oppose the Catholic position on abortion,” Walsh emphasized.

The main offices for the group are in Washington, D.C., but the organization has outposts in Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Spain.

Its average annual budget for abortion advocacy campaigns in Latin America is estimated at $1.2 million.

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Court ordered to hear Christian college's health care challenge

Washington D.C., Nov 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Supreme Court has ordered a federal court of appeals to consider a Christian college's claim that its religious freedom is threatened by forced funding of abortion under the health care reform law.

“I am very pleased with the High Court’s ruling,” said Mat Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law and founder of the nonprofit litigation group Liberty Counsel, which is representing the university.

The ruling “breathes new life into our challenge” to the Affordable Care Act, Staver said, asserting that mandated abortion funding under the law “collides with religious freedom and the rights of conscience.”

On Nov. 26, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Liberty Counsel’s petition to have its case reheard by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., allowing the possibility for the Supreme Court to ultimately hear the case within the next year.

The lawsuit, initially filed in 2010 on behalf of Liberty University and two private individuals, challenged both the mandate requiring individuals to obtain health insurance and a regulation requiring employers to offer health insurance to their workers.

In addition to challenging the authority of Congress to pass the Affordable Care Act, Liberty University argued that the law’s insurance exchange policies are unconstitutional because they “do not protect against payment for elective abortion coverage.”

The university charges that the law includes forced funding of abortion despite religious objections and therefore violates the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion protection and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

As a Christian institution, Liberty University is morally opposed to abortion and does not cover it in its health care plan, the lawsuit explained.

It observed that under the health care reform law, states that provide for abortion coverage in health plans must segregate funds in order to ensure that no federal money received by a health care exchange can go towards abortions, with a few exceptions. This is in keeping with a law that prohibits the federal funding of most abortions.

However, such segregation is not required for non-federal funds received from individuals or employers enrolled in these health care plans, it noted. Therefore, money from those who religiously object to abortion may still be used to fund its coverage.  

“Plaintiffs must choose between forced purchase of a private insurance product that does not protect their sincerely held religious beliefs or paying a punitive penalty for refusing to compromise their religious beliefs,” the lawsuit said.

The health care law has also raised considerable concern about freedom of religion due to its “preventive services mandate,” which requires employers including religious schools, hospitals and charitable organizations to offer coverage of contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs.

More than 100 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits over the mandate, and the U.S. bishops have spoken out about the grave threat that it poses to religious liberty.

The Richmond appeals court initially refused to rule on the merits of the Liberty University case last year, arguing that it was premature under the federal Anti-Injunction Act because the penalty for refusing to purchase insurance had not yet taken effect.

However, the Supreme Court ruled in June 2012 that the Anti-Injunction Act does not apply to that portion of the health care law. The court upheld the individual mandate but did not rule on the employer mandate or the religious freedom concerns that are connected with it.

Liberty Counsel petitioned the high court to reopen its case and send it back to the court of appeals to consider these unresolved questions.

The court of appeals will now consider Liberty University’s argument that it “has a sincerely held religious belief that it should play no part in abortions, including no part in facilitating, subsidizing, easing, funding, or supporting abortions since to do so is evil and morally repugnant complicity.”

In its lawsuit, the university and individual plaintiffs asked the court to issue an injunction protecting them from being “forced to choose between their sincerely held religious beliefs about abortion and support of abortion and following a mandate of the federal government.”

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Vatican helps launch new interreligious dialogue center

Vienna, Austria, Nov 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy See is a founding observer of a new international organization for religious dialogue, which opened Nov. 26 in Vienna, Austria.

“The Centre that will be inaugurated on Monday in Vienna is a new institution, the purpose of which is to foster dialogue among religions and cultures,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Nov. 23.

“This goal is always to be looked on with favour – with a view to understanding and peaceful co-existence among peoples: a basic and an urgent need for the humanity of today and tomorrow.”

The King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue is a joint initiative of Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Austria. The Saudi king, for whom the center is named, is its primary financial backer.

Fr. Lombardi said the organization's importance is as “an opportunity and a space for dialogue,” and that “it is right that the Holy See should avail herself of the opportunity.”

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue's secretary, Father Miguel A. Guixot, will be the Vatican's representative at the center.

“This constitutes,” said Fr. Lombardi, “an important occasion for presenting the Church’s vision: of dialogue; the human person and vocation; ethics and religion; social relations; justice and peace.”

Addressing concerns about cooperation with a Saudi-backed organization, Fr. Lombardi noted that the Holy See will “not fail to bring to light her concerns for the effective respect of the fundamental rights of Christians who live in countries with a Muslim majority, in order to promote authentic and integral religious liberty.”

Saudi Arabia prohibits the practice of any religion but Islam, and Saudi law penalizes apostasy from the religion with capital punishment.

The opening of the center was marked by a symposium on best practices in interreligious dialogue.

Fr. Martin Rupprecht of the Vienna archdiocese told Vatican Radio Nov. 26 that in Austria one “special initiative” involves bringing together Catholic priests and imams, and Catholic religious sisters with female Muslim pastoral workers and religion teachers.

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue was founded in 1964 as the Secretariat of Non-Christians, and was elevated to a pontifical council in 1988. Its purpose is to foster relations with groups of non-Christian religions and all those with a religious sense.

In 2008, the council's president, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, said that in inter-religious dialogue, I “allow myself to be questioned by the convictions of others … the idea is to get to know each other, to view another’s religion with kindness and to allow oneself to be enriched by the positive aspects of his religion.”

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Nigerian cardinal condemns bombing of Protestant church

Rome, Italy, Nov 26, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The newest cardinal from Nigeria has condemned a deadly terrorist attack on a Protestant church at a local military base, lamenting the lack of security in the country.

“Once again, a great tragedy has taken place but in this case the circumstances are particularly worrisome,” Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja told Aid to the Church in Need in Rome Nov. 26.

“This attack took place within one of the highest military establishments in Nigeria, surely one of the most secure premises you can think of,” he added.

“It seems that this kind of attack could happen anywhere.”

On Sunday two suicide bombers detonated two explosives-laden vehicles at St. Andrew's Protestant Church inside the Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Jaji in the central northern state of Kaduna.

One of the vehicles, a bus, was driven into the wall of the church and exploded but caused no injuries.

After onlookers gathered at the site of the explosion, a second more powerful blast detonated, killing at least thirty and wounding 45.

The military college is one of the country's most important, the Associated Press says.

The Islamist group Boko Haram, which has taken credit for previous attacks on churches, has initially denied responsibility for the attack.

The repeated attacks have prompted criticism of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and his government .

Cardinal Onaiyekan, whom Pope Benedict XVI made a cardinal on Nov. 24, said the Sunday attack raised many questions.

He wondered whether lax security allowed the attackers access to the site.

“The government is under pressure to produce results. There is a lot of activity going on but not many results,” the cardinal told Aid to the Church in Need. “Let us hope this particular incident will be a wake-up call to the government that they need to do more than what they are doing at the moment.”

The cardinal has spoken with Muslim leaders about the attack. Upon his return from Rome, he intends to meet with government officials to discuss the security situation.

An early morning Monday attack on a major police station freed about 30 inmates, though about 25 were recaptured. The station’s inmates included members of Boko Haram.

The Islamist group has targeted government buildings, markets, churches and mosques.

On Oct. 28, a Boko Haram bomb attack killed five and seriously injured 134 during Sunday Mass at St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Kaduna.

In March, a spokesman for the group declared “a war on Christians” and said Boko Haram wanted to “eradicate Christians” from parts of Nigeria.

The group was responsible for 620 deaths in the first six months of 2012 and over 400 in 2011.

Christian leaders have lamented the deaths while also urging Christians and others not to commit reprisals.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, told a British parliamentary briefing in October that Christian pastors have reached “a state of near desperation seeing children, women, children and men bombed out of existence.”

“That these terrorists can easily get away with horrible acts of criminality against innocent people is very disturbing,” he said.

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