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Archive of May 2, 2013

FOCUS prayer breakfast remembers Boston bombing victims

Cambridge, Mass., May 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Fellowship of Catholic University Students’ breakfast near Boston offered prayers for the victims of the marathon bombings, as speakers encouraged students to evangelize within their communities.

“In times like these, when we are reminded of the broken world we live in, we are given the opportunity to let Christ shine through all the clearer,” said Justin Petrisek, FOCUS team director at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Bomb explosions at the April 15 marathon in Boston killed three people and wounded more than 250 others. Within days, authorities began a manhunt in pursuit of suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, resulting in the death of the former and the arrest of the latter. 

An MIT police officer, Sean Collier, was reportedly killed by the suspects when they crept up upon him and shot him several times in an attempt to steal his gun.

Petrisek said the prayer breakfast was “a wonderful opportunity for us to come together as a community in Boston, especially in light of all that has happened these last couple of weeks.”
 
Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston celebrated Mass before the April 23 breakfast, offering it for the victims of the bombings.

The prayer breakfast, called REACH, is held regularly to help local community members gather in prayer and fellowship and encounter Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Attendees hear inspirational speakers and learn how to evangelize their families, parishes, workplaces and communities, FOCUS said.

Father Robert Spitzer, former Gonzaga University president and current president of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith in Irvine, Calif., delivered the keynote speech. He focused on the pursuit of true happiness as the key to evangelization.

Curtis Martin, president and founder of FOCUS, said there are three things needed for a successful life: “to encounter God and to come to know him…to come to know his plan for you…and to pursue that plan with passion.”

“If we do that, then we’re going to have successful lives. If we don’t, then in some way we’ll never become who we were meant to be…and the fight needs to be fought in the hearts and minds of our young leaders,” Martin said.

Other speakers at the event included the former First Lady of Mexico Margarita Zavala de Calderón and Sister Bethany Madonna Burwell of the Sisters of Life.

Levi Rash, a FOCUS missionary at Boston University, said the prayer breakfast reminded him that the scope of the Catholic faith “goes beyond the college campus” and that “there are faithful men and women all over the United States and the world who are fighting for Christ, as well as supporting the way Christ is using FOCUS in his Church.”

Several REACH prayer breakfasts have been held in 2013 in the cities of Washington, D.C., Kansas City and Omaha. The final REACH event this year will take place in Philadelphia on May 10.

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Pope's book shows desire to draw re-married persons to Christ

Denver, Colo., May 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A recently translated book by Pope Francis exhibits a call for Catholics who have been divorced and are re-married to be made welcome in parishes, in the hope that they can remedy their situations.

“Catholic Doctrine reminds its divorced members who have remarried that they are not excommunicated – even though they live in a situation on the margin of what indissolubility of marriage and the sacrament of marriage require of them – and they are asked to integrate into the parish life,” he says in his newly translated book, “On Heaven and Earth.”

The book is a conversation between Pope Francis and Abraham Skorka, a rabbi and scholar from Buenos Aires. It was originally published in Spanish in 2010, when Francis was still Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires.

The Pope's belief that re-married persons should “integrate into the parish life” is unsurprising to Alejandro Bermudez, who recently translated the book into English.

“The most important thing to understand is that he is a very close follower of Pope John Paul,” Bermudez told CNA.

“He was a friend of John Paul II, and he is an intellectual and pastoral follower of John Paul II in his teachings, in a very particular and personal manner,” he explained.

“So what he means by encouraging divorced Catholics in a new union to 'participate in the parish' is exactly what John Paul II said in 'Familiaris Consortio,' that Catholics in this situation are not formally excommunicated.”

Bermudez, who is executive director of Catholic News Agency, explained that such individuals are “just in a condition that does not allow them to approach to receive Holy Communion.”

“But the way to move towards a remedy to that situation is by participating in the charitable life of parishes.”

He said that the Buenos Aires archdiocese “actually has a ministry and has a group of Catholics in this condition, who do not question the teaching of the Church about receiving Communion, they accept the irregular conditions in which they are living.”

“But at the same time, they want to make sure that by participating in Sunday Mass, and by participating in the charitable activities of the Church, they grow in charity and open ways in which God will finally help them move away from that condition, whatever that means for each one in their particular situation.”

In this way, Bermudez explained, Pope Francis' nuanced position on divorce is one that is always informed both by Catholic doctrine and by charity.

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Doctor willing to abandon baby from failed abortion sparks protest

Washington D.C., May 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pro-life activists protested outside the clinic of a Washington, D.C., abortionist who admitted during an undercover interview that he “would not help” any infant that survives an attempted abortion procedure.   

Melissa Ohden, a survivor of an attempted abortion, spoke at the May 1 protest, saying she was thankful that the doctors at the abortion facility where she was born “didn’t subscribe to Dr. (Cesare) Santangelo’s credo that children like me should be left to die.”

“They didn’t see me as a liability, they didn’t hate me for surviving, they saw my humanity,” Ohden said.

Lila Rose, president of the undercover reporting organization Live Action, called Santangelo’s comments “a great injustice.”

“This is something that we can all agree needs to stop, and we’re not going to stop doing this work until we see an end to these grave injustices,” she said.

Live Action is releasing a series of undercover videos filmed in abortion clinics across the country. The videos reveal a willingness to commit infanticide in the event that a baby survives an abortion procedure.

Video footage and transcripts released by the organization on April 29 show Santangelo – a doctor who runs an abortion practice at George Washington University – and a clinic nurse promising that if an infant were to survive a late-term abortion, they would treat the child as if he or she had “do not resuscitate orders” and, as if they were treating someone with terminal cancer, “wouldn’t do any extra procedures to help that person survive.”

This latest investigation coincides with the trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who is currently charged with the murder of one woman under his supervision and several additional charges of murder for infants who were allegedly born alive and then killed by Gosnell or his staff members.

Rose warned that “Gosnell is not an outlier,” but that Live Action has documented a similar willingness to kill or fail to care for infants who survive abortions in clinics throughout the country.

“We can do so much better as a country, and we can do better for women than this,” Rose stated.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, also spoke at the protest, calling Santangelo’s comments “an unacceptable and inhumane tragedy.”

“If this is not rank discrimination and unspeakable cruelty, what is?” she asked.

Dannenfelser and several other speakers asked the building to evict Santangelo, and called on authorities to prosecute abortionists who break the law.

Dyllan Harrington, a protest participant, told CNA that he was moved by the testimonies of the speakers, who each “had a story of a personal experience to tell.”

He explained that he was driven to attend the protest by Santangelo’s comments, because “when infanticide is acceptable it’s just proof that abortion is murder – it’s something that’s inhuman and cruel.”

Other participants explained that the Catholic chaplaincy at George Washington University has gathered with students every week for years to pray the rosary outside of the clinic.

Lisa Campbell, a student at the university, said that many students “don’t know there’s an abortion clinic on campus.” The public protest helped draw attention the clinic’s presence, she observed, noting that “it was nice to see the students stop as they walked by and take note of what’s going on.”

Some counter-protesters also appeared at the event. Freshman Alicia Little told CNA that while she had not heard of Santangelo or Gosnell, she knew “that there have been protests here before” and thought that it was important for “both sides to be represented” at the event.

“I just personally think that it should be a person’s choice to have an abortion or to have a baby at all,” said Little, adding that she believes that “it should be available whenever” and that “any reason is a valid reason” to abort.

Fr. Greg Shaffer, Catholic chaplain at George Washington University, told CNA that while he has become accustomed to seeing evil over the past 20 years of involvement in the pro-life movement, “this goes to another level.”

“To defend infanticide – you can’t do it,” said Fr. Shaffer, adding that he was “very happy” at the prospect of the abortionist’s possible removal from campus.

“It’s really an answer to our prayers and we know that something is happening here,” he said.

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Pope: 'yes' to Holy Spirit prevents division

Vatican City, May 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis said that Church divisions begin when it does not say ‘yes’ to the Holy Spirit and allow it to work.

“The divisions in the Church begin, the sects, all of these things, when we do not let him work because we are closed to the truth of the Spirit,” he said in the homily for his May 2 morning Mass.

“He always does a nice job, the Holy Spirit, throughout history,” he quipped, as he celebrated Mass with Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith from Colombo, Sri Lanka and staff from the Vatican Museums.

Pope Francis explained that allowing the Holy Spirit to work results in a Church that says ‘yes.’

He noted that this ‘yes’ happens “when a Christian community lives in love, confesses its sins, worships the Lord, forgives offenses, is charitable towards others and manifests love.”

“It feels the obligation of fidelity to the Lord to observe the commandments,” he underscored.

The pontiff also spoke about the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which relates how the Church “went to the outskirts of faith” to proclaim the Gospel after Pentecost.

In his unscripted homily, the Pope said the Holy Spirit first “pushed and created problems” and then “fostered harmony within the Church.”

He explained that although there were disagreements among the first disciples in Jerusalem on whether or not to allow Gentiles into the Church, some believers were open to it because of their love for Jesus.
 
“There was a ‘no’ Church that said ‘you cannot, no, no, you must not’ and a ‘yes’ Church that said ‘but let’s think about it, let’s be open to this, the Spirit is opening the door to us’,” said Pope Francis.

“The commandments are fulfilled from this ‘yes,’ a community of open doors,” he stated.

The Church teaches that the Holy Spirit is the continual exchange of love between Jesus Christ and God.

The Pope noted that “Jesus asks us to remain in His love.”

He said that that means “carrying a yoke” and is a ‘yes’ that “defends us from the temptation of becoming Puritans, in the etymological sense of the word, to seek a para-evangelical purity and from being a community of ‘no.’”

The pontiff also mentioned James, a Bishop of Jerusalem, who said people “should not impose a yoke on the neck of the disciples that the same fathers were not able to carry.”
 
“When the service of the Lord becomes such a heavy yoke, the doors of the Christian communities are closed and no one wants to come to the Lord,” he remarked.

In contrast, it is from love “that the observance of his commandments is born and this is the Christian community that says yes.”

“This love leads us to be faithful to the Lord … I will not do this or that because I love the Lord,” he said.

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Vatican invites Buddhists to help build culture of life

Vatican City, May 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican’s top official for interreligious dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, sent a message to all Buddhists urging a joint commitment to “unmask the threats to human life.”

In his annual letter for the feast of Vesakh, Cardinal Tauran highlighted the two faiths’ “noble teachings on the sanctity of human life” but lamented that “evil in different forms contributes to the dehumanization of the person” in society, “by mitigating the sense of humanity in individuals and communities.”

“This tragic situation calls upon us, Buddhists and Christians, to join hands to unmask the threats to human life and to awaken the ethical consciousness of our respective followers to generate a spiritual and moral rebirth of individuals and societies,” he wrote in his May 2 letter.

Vesakh is a major Buddhist holy day that commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha.

According to tradition, the historical Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment and passed away during the full moon of the month of May. This means that Vesakh is a movable feast, which this year falls on May 24 or 25, depending on the country it is celebrated in.

On those days, Buddhists visit local temples to offer the monks food and to hear the teachings of the Buddha, taking special care to meditate and to observe the eight precepts of Buddhism.

This year's message is entitled: “Christians and Buddhists: Loving, Defending, and Promoting Human Life.” The letter is signed by Cardinal Tauran, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Father Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, the council’s secretary.

Cardinal Tauran also recalled that Pope Francis believes in the importance of interreligious dialogue.

“Pope Francis, at the very beginning of his ministry, has reaffirmed the necessity of a dialogue of friendship among followers of different religions. He noted that: ‘The Church is … conscious of the responsibility which all of us have for our world, for the whole of creation, which we must love and protect. There is much that we can do to benefit the poor, the needy, and those who suffer, and to favor justice, promote reconciliation, and build peace.’”
 

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Flood of reform rumors premature, Vatican official states

Vatican City, May 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The number two official from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State has dismissed wide-ranging speculation about the reforms Pope Francis will make as “absolutely premature.”

“The Pope has not yet met with the group of advisers who have been chosen and already advice is raining down,” Archbishop Angelo Becciu said in a May 1 interview with the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

“After having spoken with the Holy Father, I can say that, at this moment, it is absolutely premature to put forward any hypothesis about the future structure of the Curia,” he stated.

Archbishop Becciu characterized the current time as one in which Pope Francis “is listening to everyone but, in the first place, he will want to listen to those whom he has chosen as advisers.”

Among the proposals that have surfaced are: creating a moderator for the Curia, naming two “papal secretaries” – one to handle the Church’s administration and another for international relations – and finally, the idea of shutting down the Vatican’s Institute for Religious Works, which has been the target of negative headlines.

The Pope did recently comment on the institute, known in Rome by its acronym IOR, during a daily Mass where some of its employees were present.

As he spoke about how institutions should not get in the way of the love story of the Church, he said, “I know that people from the IOR are here, so excuse me. Offices are necessary but they are necessary only up to a certain point.”

The barb was interpreted by some as an indication that Pope Francis was planning to dismantle the institute, which typically funds missions and other outreach projects in places where stable financing is hard to obtain. But Archbishop Becciu insisted that this was a misreading of the Pope’s meaning.

“The Pope was surprised to see words attributed to him that he never said and that misrepresent his thoughts,” he told L’Osservatore Romano.

“The only mention about it was during a brief homily at the Santa Marta, made off the cuff, in which he passionately recalled how the essence of the Church consists in a story of love between God and human beings, and how the various human structures, the IOR among them, should be less important.”

The archbishop also said that he does not know the timing of when Pope Francis will begin his reform project, but he did say that the temporary status of the heads of all the Vatican dicasteries and councils is tied to the Holy Father’s desire for prayer and reflection.

Finally, Archbishop Becciu addressed the suggestion that the commission of cardinals Pope Francis created to advise him would in some way diminish his primacy.

“It is a consultative, not a decision-making, body and I truly do not see how Pope Francis' choice might put the primacy in question,” he said.

Their mission of advising the Pope should be understood in theological terms, he said, likening it to groups “in dioceses and parishes, or of councils of superiors, provincials, and generals in the Institutes of consecrated life.”

In the secular world it would not make sense to have a council without decision making power, he acknowledged, but “theologically, advising has a function of absolute importance: helping the superior in the task of discernment, in understanding what the Spirit asks of the Church in a precise historical moment,” he explained.

Archbishop Becciu also noted that process will not move as fast as some have suggested, given that reforms to the apostolic constitution “Pastor Bonus” – which details the structure of the Curia – will still need to go through another process to be implemented.

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Pope Francis welcomes Benedict back to Vatican

Vatican City, May 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Benedict XVI has returned to the Vatican after moving to the papal summer household outside of Rome to not interfere with the papal election.

“He is now pleased to return to the Vatican, where he intends to devote himself, as he announced on Feb. 11, to the service of the Church in prayer,” said a Vatican statement released on May 2.

The former Pope was picked up by helicopter at 4:30 p.m. from the grounds of Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence that is located on the edge of a volcanic crater lake, about 15 miles southeast of Rome.

He had been living in the house for two months as a temporary arrangement since he resigned on February 28.

“The former Pope is happy to return to the Vatican because that is the normal situation for him,” said Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See’s press office.

“He will live a normal life, I believe that he can walk and also receive visitors and so on, but that depends on him and how he wants to live his life,” Fr. Lombardi told Vatican Radio.

Benedict XVI arrived at around 4:45 p.m. at the Vatican’s heliport and was greeted by Vatican staff and authorities including Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State.

Also in attendance were Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the President of the Vatican City State Governorate; Archbishop Angelo Becciu, deputy of the Secretariat of State; Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, who is the State Secretariat’s chief of relations with States; and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, the secretary for the Vatican City State government.

From the heliport, Benedict XVI took a car to his permanent home, the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, where Pope Francis met him.

After their greeting, the two walked into the chapel of the monastery for a short moment of prayer.

The monastery is located within the Vatican gardens and is a 10-minute walk from the Saint Martha residence where Pope Francis lives.

Renovations to the monastery, which began in Nov. 2012, were recently completed and involved replacing old windows, fixing a problem with humidity in the basement and making repairs to a rooftop terrace.

“It is small but has been well prepared,” Fr. Lombardi commented.

“There is, for example, a study room and a small library and there is also a room for when his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, comes to visit,” he said.

The monastery also includes a chapel and a choir room.

Benedict XVI will live alongside five other people, including his secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, and the four Memores Domini who lived with him at the Pontifical Household throughout his pontificate.

The Memores Domini are members of a lay association whose members practice obedience, poverty and chastity, and live in a climate of silence and common prayer.

As for the former pontiff’s health, Fr. Lombardi said he is healthy and there is no reason for any “special concern.”

“He is not a young man, he is old and strength slowly goes backwards, but there is no specific illness,” said the Vatican spokesman.

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Knights grateful for Gonzaga student group status

Spokane, Wash., May 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Knights of Columbus applauded a decision by Gonzaga University to grant them recognition as a sponsored organization after their application to be acknowledged as a student club was denied.

“We welcome this development and appreciate that our college Knight of Columbus Council #12583 has received official approval” as a sponsored university organization, the group said in a statement. 

“We express our gratitude to the President of Gonzaga University, Dr. Thayne McCulloh, for his support and for asking for a review of the current Clubs and Organizations Recognition Policy and Process to deal with any inconsistencies.”

On April 30, Gonzaga president Thayne McCulloh granted the Knights of Columbus status as a student club, after an earlier decision by the school’s student life office suggested that they would not be granted this recognition.

“The Knights of Columbus St. Aloysius Gonzaga Council #12583 is approved as a sponsored organization at Gonzaga,” said a statement released by McCulloh's office.

“This sponsorship is granted under the University's 'Standards for On-Campus Religious Activities Policy.'”

On March 7, the university's student life division had denied the council's application for recognition as a “student organization,” according to a report by the Cardinal Newman Society.

The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic charitable fraternal organization with 1.8 million members globally. It has more than 14,000 local councils – including numerous college councils – throughout the U.S. and overseas.

The vice president for student life at Gonzaga, Sue Weitz, had written the March 7 letter to the Knights council saying it could not be recognized as a “student organization” because the group is closed to women and non-Catholics.

“These criteria are inconsistent with the policy and practice of student organization recognition at Gonzaga University, as well as the University’s commitment to non-discrimination based on certain characteristics, one of which is religion,” she wrote.

Weitz said that the decision is not “some kind of litmus test of Gonzaga's Catholicity,” according to The Gonzaga Bulletin.

“It is a decision about social justice, equity, and the desire of the University to create and maintain an environment in which none are excluded,” she added.

The decision drew criticism, and McCulloh announced April 6 that he would be reviewing it, and was expected to take 30-45 days in doing so. He completed the review in 24 days.

His newly announced decision ensures that the Knights may use Gonzaga's name in its title, fundraise on campus, meet in campus facilities, and recruit members at events such as the semi-annual Club Fair.

“Also as a result of his review, Dr. McCulloh has directed the Student Activities department to review and update the 'Clubs and Organizations Recognition Policy,' with the goal of more clearly and explicitly identifying benefits of recognition and criteria for club eligibility,” the statement from the president’s office said.

Mary Joan Hahn, the university's communications director, told CNA April 30 that the policy review is “designed to take the opportunity to update club recognition policies in light of our Catholic, Jesuit mission and heritage. The study will review policies and processes which have not been examined in some time.”

“It is expected to identify any inconsistencies in how policies may have been applied previously, and also to evaluate the University’s provision for recognition of clubs that may be selective in their membership.”

McCulloh's office indicated that the revised norms for club eligibility should be in place in time for the next academic year.

The statement also re-affirmed “the University's value, respect and support for the purpose and good works of the Knights of Columbus.”

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Bishop calls for courage as 'gay marriage' passes in RI

Providence, R.I., May 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence lamented Rhode Island’s new law recognizing “gay marriage,” using his pastoral letter to call on Catholics to have courage in the face of negative cultural change.

“We must continue to engage our culture, remembering that Jesus called us to be ‘the salt of the earth and the light of the world’,” Bishop Tobin said in his May 2 letter.

“Without a doubt this is a time of challenge, even disappointment for many of us, but it is also an opportunity to be steadfast and courageous and to renew our commitment to Christ and His Church.”

The bishop said it is important to affirm Catholic teaching that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” He said same-sex unions are “clearly contrary to God’s plan for the human family and therefore objectively sinful.”

“Catholics should examine their consciences very carefully before deciding whether or not to endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies, realizing that to do so might harm their relationship with God and cause significant scandal to others,” the bishop said.

Though Catholics are not free to “endorse or ignore immoral or destructive behavior,” Bishop Tobin stressed that the Catholic Church has “respect, love and pastoral concern for our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attraction.”

“I sincerely pray for God’s blessings upon them, that they will enjoy much health, happiness and peace,” he said.

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee promised to sign the bill recognizing same-sex relationships as marriages shortly after its final approval in the legislature on Thursday.

In a New York Times editorial, Chafee said he thought the bill was about being “as inclusive as possible.” He also said redefining marriage would help the state’s economic competitiveness and make the state welcoming to the “young, educated and forward-looking.”

The Senate’s Judiciary Committee could have stopped the bill, but passed it by a 7-4 vote. Two senators who had previously stated their opposition to “gay marriage” voted to send the bill to the Senate floor. It passed there by a vote of 26 to 12 last week, with all five Republicans voting in favor.

A similar version of the legislation had passed the state House of Representatives in January. The House approved the final version on May 2.

The Rhode Island Catholic Conference on April 23 thanked senators who opposed the legislation “despite tremendous pressure from well-funded special interest groups.”

The conference voiced appreciation for some religious freedom exemptions, but warned that they “fail to protect individuals and small businesses who believe that marriage is a union of one man and one woman.”

In other states, redefining marriage and anti-discrimination laws have allowed lawsuits against businesses with moral objections to recognizing same-sex unions.

Some states have shut down or de-funded Catholic adoption agencies because they do not place children with same-sex couples.

The Rhode Island law has language ensuring that groups like the Knights of Columbus that have event facilities aren’t legally obligated to host same-sex “weddings,” the Associated Press reports. The law also says no religious leader is obliged to officiate at any marriage ceremony.

The new law takes effect Aug. 1. It bars new same-sex civil unions from being contracted. Civil unions were passed in 2011, but few couples have contracted any.

Rhode Island joins nine other states which have recognized “gay marriage.” Marriage redefinition has usually taken place through court decisions or legislative action, though it passed in two states by popular vote in the 2012 election.

Rhode Island is one of the most heavily Catholic states in the U.S.

Bishop Tobin invited Catholics to “a moment of prayer and reflection as we respond to this new challenge of the post-Christian era into which, clearly, we have now entered.”

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Administration appeals judge's order on Plan B access

Washington D.C., May 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Obama administration filed an appeal notice Wednesday to challenge a judge’s decision requiring that the morning-after pill be available without a prescription to girls of any age.

The Department of Justice is contesting the decision of U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman on the grounds that “the remedies that the judge ordered were beyond his authority,” according to a Justice Department official who spoke to the New York Times anonymously.

The judge had ruled in April that the FDA must make the morning-after pill, Plan B One Step, available over-the-counter with no age restrictions.

While the FDA had initially recommended this policy change, it was overruled by Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, in December 2011.

Sebelius argued that there was not enough information to prove that the drug would be safe for use by younger girls and noted “significant cognitive and behavioral differences” between older adolescent girls and those that are in their pre-teen or early teen years.

The judge challenged Sebelius’ decision, saying that it was too political. He ordered the FDA to change its policy and remove all age limitations on the morning-after pill.

The drug levonorgestrel, the active ingredient in Plan B and its generic versions, is called the “morning-after-pill” because of its ability to prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation following a sexual encounter.

However, the drug’s label warns that if ovulation has already occurred, Plan B can also prevent implantation in the mother’s womb, thereby ending the life of the already-created human embryo.

The appeal by the Obama administration will not state a suggested age limit for access to the morning-after pill, but will instead simply argue that the judge did not have the authority to place the specific policy demand on the FDA.

“The public interest will not be served by reclassification of drugs as non-prescription by order of a court, without appropriate agency decision-making procedures being followed,” wrote U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in a letter to the judge.

The appeal announcement will not affect the new rule unveiled by the FDA the previous day to lower the age of over-the-counter access to Plan B from 17 to 15 year of age. The decision is independent of the judge’s orders and does not fully comply with them because it does not entirely remove all age restrictions.

Critics have warned that the decision to lower the age of access will recklessly allow young teenage girls to obtain a powerful and potentially dangerous drug being provided without parental permission or notification. They have noted that the morning-after pill has been associated with cancer, blood clots, heart attacks and stroke, as well as higher risks of ectopic pregnancy.

In addition, concerns have been raised over the lack of studies about the drug’s effects on girls during puberty, as well as its potential to be used to cover up sexual abuse and to cause early abortions.

Some opponents of the new rule warned that it may encourage risky behavior, as many teens may not be mature enough to understand that the morning-after pill should not be used routinely as a contraceptive and does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Abortion advocacy groups including NARAL Pro-Choice and the Center for Reproductive Rights also criticized the new policy, saying that it did not go far enough. These groups have pushed for all restrictions on the drug to be lifted, allowing children of any age to purchase it over-the-counter without parental notification or consent.

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