New York City, N.Y., Nov 29, 2012 (CNA) -
A secular men's magazine has praised Chinese anti-abortion advocate Chen Guangcheng in its December 2012 issue, placing him on the list of “Man of the Year.”
Gentleman's Quarterly, the popular men's entertainment and fashion magazine, lauded the blind activist for his fight against forced abortions and sterilizations in China, calling him a “humanitarian cause célèbre.”
Despite its usual fare of risqué photo spreads and articles, the latest issue features a three-page interview detailing Chen's house arrest, torture and eventual escape to the United States in May 2012.
Blinded by a serious illness when he was young, Chen is a self-educated human rights attorney who spoke out against China's one-child policy and the coerced abortions and sterilizations that are often used to enforce it. His work attracted the anger of Chinese authorities.
Chen spent more than four years in prison and was subsequently placed under house arrest in September 2010. Both he and his family were held without formal charges, endured violent assaults and were refused medical treatment.
Chen's routine beatings “went on for a year and a half, all because the self-taught lawyer had sued the Chinese government to stop forced abortions in his village,” John B. Thompson of GQ wrote for the December issue.
In late April, Chen made international headlines by escaping from house arrest and reaching the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
He left the embassy for a hospital in Beijing on May 2, after being promised by Chinese authorities that he and his family would be secure. Shortly afterwards, however, he voiced fears for his safety and asked to come to the U.S. with his family for a period of peaceful rest.
Although he felt “sorrowful” to leave his country, Chen believes that he will “inevitably return to China, standing tall.”
“I don’t think China can continue like this forever,” he told GQ.
Chen was offered a fellowship to study law and learn English at New York University’s law school and was ultimately allowed to travel to the United States with his family, arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport on May 19.
On Aug. 1, bipartisan leaders of U.S. Congress came together to meet with and offer their support of the Chen and his work in China.
While politicians “might not agree” about which rights he is fighting to protect, Chen told GQ that his work opposing China’s one-child policy is not only a fight to protect the “rights of unborn children” or of women, but of all people.
“Men have rights. The elderly have rights,” he said. “This is a human problem, a fundamental concept.”
Dublin, Ireland, Nov 29, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - An Irish pro-life group has reiterated its opposition to proposed new regulations or laws on abortion, warning that these would effectively allow “abortion on demand.”
“All of the options, basically, allow abortion in one way or other,” Ide Nic Athuna, a spokeswoman for the Irish pro-life group Youth Defence, told CNA Nov. 28.
“These allow for the deliberate abortion procedure, which is the intentional killing of an unborn child. So that’s what we’re faced with now.”
In December 2010 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland needed to clarify the legal status of abortion, in line with a 1992 Irish Supreme Court decision that held it is permissible to save the life of a pregnant woman.
The Irish Minister for Health James Reilly on Nov. 27 brought before the Irish Cabinet several options to implement the court ruling for “lawful termination of pregnancy.” The list of possible ways to change the current situation includes non-statutory guidelines, statutory guidelines, legislation alone or legislation with regulations.
Alan Shatter, the Irish Minister for Justice, argued that Irish abortion law has “deeply dysfunctional and obtuse legal architecture badly in need of reform,” according to the Irish Times. He said the government is “not considering in any shape or form abortion on demand.”
But Nic Athuna asserted that if the Irish Supreme Court decision is implemented it “will basically lead to abortion on demand.”
She told CNA that the decision allows abortion when a pregnant woman threatens suicide.
“There is absolutely no way to disprove that somebody is suicidal and therefore … not entitled to abortion,” she said. “Many senior psychiatrists have said in the last few days that putting that into law will allow widespread abuse.”
“Abortion has never been considered a treatment or a cure for suicidal ideation. But now they’re trying to put that into law,” she stated.
Nic Athuna said pro-life advocates are also concerned that backers of abortion legalization are trying to reclassify treatments that are presently performed in Irish hospitals as abortions. Those procedures include treatments for ectopic pregnancy, preeclampsia, or cancer in cases where a woman is pregnant.
“Hospital treatments are what they are. But they are not abortions,” she said, warning that advocates intend to reclassify these treatments to make abortions appear acceptable and to legalize “deliberate and intentional abortions.”
Efforts to develop abortion regulations and laws have been underway since January 2012.
However, the Oct. 28 death of Savita Halappanavar in an Irish hospital has added to the controversy.
The woman was 17 weeks pregnant when she went to a Galway hospital Oct. 20 with severe back pain. Doctors determined she was miscarrying, at which point she asked for an abortion.
Medical staff would not perform an abortion as long as her child had a heartbeat. The child died Oct. 24 and its body was removed.
However, Halappanavar developed an infection. Her heart, kidneys and liver stopped working Oct. 27 and she died the next day from blood poisoning.
Halappanavar’s family and abortion advocates contend that an abortion would have saved her life. An independent inquiry is investigating.
Nic Athuna said after the woman’s death “absolutely every media outlet has been screaming for legislation.”
“The pro-abortion lobby has been given a huge platform,” she added. The controversy has “softened” the Irish people to the idea of abortion legislation because of the repeated insistence that legalized abortion would have saved the woman’s life.
“Nobody can say for certain,” she said. “Nobody knows yet exactly why that baby died.”
However, Nic Athuna said the debate has improved in recent days.
“Gradually, people have been calming down,” she said, charging that abortion advocates “created absolute hysteria.”
“We’re just trying to roll back that propaganda,” she said, accusing groups like the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the Family Planning Association of using these cases “to further their own agenda in an effort to get the public on their side and get the government to do their will.”
“The average Joe on the street eventually does get through the hype and does see the truth,” Nic Athuna said. “Hopefully we can overcome that again in time before the government does try to force legislation on that.”
She said the government should recognize “the will of the people, which have always been against abortion in three separate referenda.”
Irish medical practice, she said, has made the country “one of the safest places in the world for a woman to have a baby.”
Ireland “protects and gives dignity and respect to both women and children in our hospitals.”
Washington D.C., Nov 29, 2012 (CNA) - Supporters of Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem will launch an internet Advent calendar to help the world learn more about the patients and staff at the maternity hospital located only 500 yards from what is traditionally considered the birthplace of Jesus.
“So many families have come to know Holy Family Hospital as the birthplace of hope because they know that no one ever arrives at its doors to hear, ‘there is no room,’” Colleen Marrotta, executive director of the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation, said Nov. 28.
“We hope visitors will use the calendar as they prepare for Christmas. In the process, they will learn about the important work of the hospital,” she said. “Doctors and staff save the lives of thousands of mothers and babies annually. And they provide the highest-quality medical care without regard to race, religion or ability to pay.”
The U.S.-based foundation’s website will launch the Advent calendar Dec. 2 and unlock new content daily through Christmas. It will offer videos that introduce internet visitors to the hospital, its staff, its patients and its mobile medical outreach. The calendar will also feature reflections from Catholic priests, vowed religious, writers and bloggers.
The calendar’s photos aim to show how the hospital helps one of the poorest, most war-torn areas of the world.
The French Daughters of Charity opened the hospital in 1885 with an accompanying orphanage. They were forced to close in 1985 because of economic, social and political pressures.
Pope John Paul II asked the Sovereign Military Order of Malta to reopen the hospital. The hospital has delivered over 55,000 babies since it reopened as a maternity and gynecological hospital in 1990. It has the only neonatal intensive care unit in the West Bank.
The 150-employee hospital recruits and trains native-born medical professionals and midwives to meet its staffing needs. It also operates a mobile medical clinic to care for women and their families, many of whom lack access to running water and sanitation.
The website for hospital’s foundation and the Advent calendar can be found at: birthplaceofhope.org.
Vatican City, Nov 29, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Artist David Lopez Ribes noted the importance of his wife and children in his life as he received the award in the category of painting from the Pontifical Academies at the Vatican.
The Spanish father of six told CNA after the Nov. 21 event that although he does not have one particular masterpiece among his work, “if there were one, it would for sure be my family.”
Lopez Ribes is a multidisciplinary artist devoted to painting, sculpture and video art, and is collaborating with Kiko Arguello – the founder of the Neocatecumenal Way – on an aesthetics project for liturgical spaces around the world.
He said a large part of his work “is putting this at the service of the Church, at the service of the faith, at the service of the liturgy, but also starting a dialogue with people today who don’t go to church through contemporary art, a language that they understand and that can introduce them to new ideas.”
The goal of man is to find beauty, Lopez Ribes said, adding that he has found it.
“It is Christ, and we want to share him. When we look at contemporary man, what we see is that he is immersed in a process of desecration, of the loss of the sense of mystery and transcendence.”
“The work I do is focused on bringing mystery, transcendence and spirit back to the image through painting, sculpture and also through the contemporary and radical language of video art, for example, which I think, holds great spiritual possibilities,” the artist said.
Lopez Ribes recalled that after submitting his work for the awards competition, he made a pilgrimage to St. Peter's Basilica to pray at the tomb of Blessed John Paul II.
“I just asked him for one thing, that if this is going to be something good for my kids’ faith, that that was all I really cared about, and to help me. If not, I don’t want it,” he said.
After several months, he received a call from Rome. The Pope had looked over the finalists and chosen him for the award.
“It was extraordinary news, and I thought, I don’t remember whose feast day it is today, and you know what? It was Blessed John Paul II’s,” he said.
“That day I said, this is very clear, I have to go with my kids, and here I am. I have come with all my kids.”
Along with Lopez Ribes, Polish sculptor Anna Gulak and Italian sculptor Jacopo Cardillo also received awards.
The Pontifical Academies celebrated its 17th public session at the Vatican on the theme, “Pulchritudinis fidei testis. The artist, like the Church, as witness to the beauty of the faith.”
St. Louis, Mo., Nov 29, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A federal appeals court on Nov. 28 granted a Catholic business owner in Missouri an injunction against the Department of Health and Human Services mandate that he says violates his religious freedom by forcing him to provide insurance coverage for morally objectionable drugs and procedures.
“The order sends a message that the religious beliefs of employers must be respected by the government,” said Francis Manion, Senior Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.
The center is representing Frank O’Brien and his St. Louis-based business O’Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC, which operates many businesses in ceramic materials exploration, mining and processing.
“We have argued from the beginning that employers like Frank O'Brien must be able to operate their business in a manner consistent with their moral values, not the values of the government,” Manion said Nov. 28. “We look forward to this case moving forward and securing the constitutional rights of our client.”
The HHS mandate requires that most businesses with 50 or more employees provide the coverage as “preventive care” for women. Violators face fines of $100 per employee per day.
The injunction from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit blocks the implementation of the mandate for O’Brien’s business. In October, a federal district judge had dismissed the lawsuit.
O’Brien’s 87-employee business was the first private business to challenge the mandate.
The company’s website states that its mission is “to make our labor a pleasing offering to the Lord while enriching our families and society.” Its values statement stresses integrity in conduct “guided by the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments” while also pledging not to discriminate based on anyone’s beliefs.
O’Brien has created several programs to help employees purchase homes, fund their children’s college education and save for retirement.
Missouri law mandates contraception coverage in employee health care plans, but exempts employers with religious objections.
The federal mandate’s present religious exemption applies only to non-profit organizations that primarily serve and employ people of the same religion and have the inculcation of religious values as their primary purpose. The exemption is so narrow that it may not apply to Catholic non-profit employers like colleges, health care systems and charities.
The Obama administration proposed a broader exemption in February, but its details are still unclear. President Obama’s re-election campaign attacked the Republican candidate Mitt Romney for supporting federal legislation that would secure a broader exemption.
Over 40 lawsuits have been filed against the HHS mandate, representing over 110 plaintiffs. Plaintiffs include Catholic dioceses, the University of Notre Dame and the EWTN Global Catholic Network as well as Protestant organizations like the Virginia-based Liberty University and the Bible publisher Tyndale House Publishers.
They say the mandate violates their religious freedom protected by the U.S. Constitution and federal law and forces them to provide coverage for drugs and procedures to which they have religious and moral objections.
The Christian-owned retailer Hobby Lobby is the largest private business to challenge the mandate on the grounds its owners object to providing abortion-causing drugs in their employee insurance plans.
The company is appealing a Nov. 20 federal court’s refusal of a request for a legal injunction against the mandate. The employer of over 13,000 full-time employees could face $1.3 million in daily fines if it does not comply.
Rome, Italy, Nov 29, 2012 (CNA) - The solution to the ongoing economic troubles is to adopt a worldview that combines both economic and moral truths, Father Robert Sirico said as he presented his new book.
Father Robert Sirico, co-founder of the Acton Institute think tank, introduced his book titled "Defending the Free Market: the Moral Case for a Free Economy" on Nov. 28 in Rome.
"I wrote the book because I was concerned that there's such a false set of assumptions of what a market economy is and that it's completely disconnected from the moral life," he explained.
"I'm also using the book to give a sort of autobiography," said Fr. Sirico, who wrote the book using parables of his life to ''tell a moral.'' "I tell of an encounter I had when I was five years old my neighbor, an old lady."
"She handed me warm, delicious, scrumptious cookies, and I saw she had tattooed numbers running up her arm. My mom later told me how refugees had come to the United States for safety," said Fr. Sirico.
"The whole seed of human dignity was then implanted in my mind and it's been a preoccupation from that day to this."
Fr. Sirico, originally from Brooklyn, said that his approach to economics is anthropological and combines economic truths with moral ones.
When it comes to the current economic crisis, Fr. Sirico faults regulations that were based only on good intentions.
"The intentions were that people would have access to credit to buy homes, but the problem is that good intentions aren't always the sound basis for sound economics," he said.
He noted that "it's going to be difficult for young Italians to reach adulthood with their dignity intact for quite a while, because they presume that the State will provide for them, cradle to grave."
"Also they don't have much access to work, which incentivizes them to stay at home, which delays them from getting married and having children," he said. "You then have fewer and fewer Italians supporting the elderly and this becomes a vicious cycle."
Fr. Sirico believes that Italians need to rethink how they and their government handle the economy.
The priest, who disagrees with the notion that the way for a business to succeed is to take advantage of others, said the solution is to apply subsidiarity, which means that needs are best met at a local level.
"We need to stop presuming that the government is the provider and find creative and innovative ways which can serve people and which will build a virtuous cycle instead of a vicious cycle," said Fr. Sirico.
"You get clients by offering them a better service and product quality, which is unique to them and meets their needs," he stated. "It's service that people need to prioritize, not taking advantage."
Looking to the future, Fr. Sirico thinks there are “bumpy years ahead of us.”
"The root of all our political and civic thinking in the U.S. and in Europe is that the government has the dominant role in our lives," he argued.
Instead of this model, he thinks that the role of government needs to shrink and the ''civic voluntary dimension of society'' needs to increase.
"Unless we correct ideas, nothing else is going to work because politics isn't the solution to this problem," he said.
Bogotá, Colombia, Nov 29, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
With 80 out 99 possible votes, the Colombian senate re-elected Attorney General Alejandro Ordonez on Nov. 27 to a new four-year term.
Ordonez, whose firm pro-life stance has come under fire over the past several months, beat out candidate Maria Mercedes Lopez, who received five votes and Orlando Gallo, who received only two.
“I thank God and thank the Senators for their independence and the officials of the Justice Department,” Ordunez said in reaction to the news.
In his speech to the senate before the vote, he said that he did not have “the slightest regret upon finishing this term.”
“There were good decisions and bad ones,” he added, but he felt “absolutely certain and at peace” about the work he carried out.
Ordunez's re-election came despite heavy opposition led by local attorney Monica Roa and aided by Father Carlos Novoa of the Xaverian Pontifical University. The priest has publicly criticized the Attorney General for his pro-life stance and said he agreed with Roa regarding the debate over abortion.
In Colombia, abortion has been legal in cases of rape, fetal deformation or life of the mother since a Constitutional Court ruling in 2006.
The court ruling came despite overwhelming opposition from Colombians, who declare themselves to be pro-life by an 80 percent margin. In August of last year, a petition calling for constitutional protection of the unborn signed by five million Colombians was sent to the Senate.