Archive of June 11, 2013

Women's caucus to connect pro-life lawmakers nationwide

Washington D.C., Jun 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new nationwide caucus is seeking to organize and recruit pro-life women to run for political office and pass legislation that will defend human life from the moment of conception.

“We need strong, articulate women in Washington and in state legislatures who will boldly support policies that respect and promote life,” said Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.). “I’m excited to support the National Pro-life Women’s Caucus as it builds up the next generation of pro-life women leaders.”

The creation of the caucus was announced on June 10 by the Susan B. Anthony List, an organization that supports pro-life women in pursuing political office.

The National Pro-life Women’s Caucus will work to “foster community between pro-life women lawmakers across the country.” It will encourage pro-life women to run for higher office and help them find the resources necessary to pass pro-life laws.

The caucus is being directed by former Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, who represented Colorado’s Fourth District in the U.S. House of Representatives for three terms.

The leadership team of the new group also includes two state governors, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma and Jan Brewer of Arizona. Both have been instrumental in passing pro-life legislation in their states.

“Women are the best messengers when it comes to defending the lives of the unborn and the integrity of motherhood,” Brewer said.

“I am proud to be a part of this national effort to highlight the leadership of lawmakers who are leading the charge to protect innocent unborn human life and women from the violence of abortion.”

Four lieutenant governors also sit on the leadership team, including Sue Ellspermann (R-Ind.), Rebecca Kleefisch (R-Wis.), Kay Ivey (R-Ala.) and Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa).

Florida's attorney general, Pam Bondi, along with more than 20 state lawmakers from across the country are also part of the leadership team.

The new national caucus will enhance the efforts of the already-existing Congressional Pro-life Women’s Caucus, which works to achieve similar goals among members of Congress.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said she hoped the new state-level caucus would provide women with the resources to advance pro-life legislation and to run for higher office.

“I hope to see many of its members joining me here in Congress soon,” she said.

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Migrants on Mexico's border face 'nightmares,' priest says

Tijuana, Mexico, Jun 11, 2013 (CNA) - Harsh conditions and persecution confront migrants in Mexico, many of whom have been deported from the U.S., according to a Salesian priest who serves the population in the border-town of Tijuana.

“This results in them being people with so many dreams that end up becoming nightmares,” Father Ernesto Hernández Ruiz, a member of the order founded by Saint John Bosco to assist the young poor, told CNA in early June.

Fr. Ruiz operates the “Padre Chava” soup kitchen, which gives breakfast to some 1,200 people daily in the city across the border from San Diego. Most of them have faced deportation by the federal government, some after having lived in the U.S. for numerous years with families and business ties.

“We try to offer comprehensive help – from basic aid consisting of meals, a place for them to stay if necessary – to assistance in helping them to move on with their lives, such as guidance on where to go to resolve a specific problem, or even support in returning to their native countries...or to their cities if they are from Mexico.”

The Salesians in Tijuana don't distinguish between legal and illegal migrants, and Fr. Ruiz says that “the only requirement to come here is to be in need and to be hungry...and of course they should be respectful of themselves and those around them.”

“Every immigrant receives help, and there are even American emigrants who come here for different reasons. Everyone receives help according to their need and what we can give.”

At least 1,000, and as many as 3,000 migrants in Tijuana have made makeshift homes along the Tijuana River, which serves as a sewage canal through the city. Trash, feces, and pollution flow along the river where people deported from the U.S. are now living.

Tijuana, and border towns like it, are full of both those preparing to enter the U.S. from Mexico and Central and South America, and those who have been deported, who are effectively displaced persons.

In Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, deported emigrants as well as those seeking to enter the U.S. are at the mercy of the Gulf Cartel, which regulates both human and drug trafficking in the northern part of the state of Tamaulipas.

Migrants in Tamaulipas are a vulnerable population who can be pressed into the cartel's service, or who pay the cartel for assistance in crossing the border. Smugglers in Tamaulipas must pay the Gulf Cartel a tax for each person they help across the border, and migrants must pay for this tax, even if they are later deported.

Over the past five years, the U.S. has deported more than 1.5 million people, often separating immigrant parents from their U.S.-citizen children.

“The first suffering is family separation,” Fr. Ruiz said. Emigrants come to Tijuana in hopes of “solving their family's problems,” by finding economic opportunity in the U.S. Crossing the border involves not only avoiding the U.S. border patrol, but also “being the targets of so much abuse” in both the U.S. and Mexico.

“The rupture of the family,” Fr. Ruiz told CNA, is not only the physical separation, but involves also “difficulty even to communicate.”

This challenge, of being cut off from the family members whom emigrants are trying to help, can lead to the loss of family identity “and even the desire to improve their situation.”

“To strive for this and then not achieve it leads to a feeling of frustration and defeat,” he said – the transformation of the “American dream” into a nightmare for so many seeking a better life for their loved ones.

One of the displaced people deported from the U.S., Abimael Martinez, spoke to NPR about conditions in Tijuana last month. Migrants there are vilified and face harassment from city officials.

“For the police in Mexico, just seeing someone dirty and enough to detain them,” he told the agency in May.

Martinez has dug a hole along the canal to live in, about the size of two refrigerators. He was deported from the U.S. after living in California, where he was an entrepreneur – the owner of an auto body shop, for eight years.

Tijuanans view the migrants in their city as a criminal threat, even though most deportees have no criminal record and less than 0.3 percent are murderers.

Deportation, Fr. Ruiz said, “is breaking up the fundamental structure of society and of the Church herself, which is the family. He called the current U.S. immigration system “immigrant persecution” because “most of the immigrants who are deported are people who have already established a family” in the U.S.

“These children, these teens suddenly find that their father or their mother are no longer here and are not with them. And that causes all kinds of disintegration.”

He noted that government policies must always be concerned with “what is most essential, which is care and concern for the person.”

Government policy in Latin America, he said, should promote job creation “so that people don't leave. Most people leave because they want to seek a better economic situation for their families.” He also urged information campaigns, “because the solution really isn't to go to the U.S.”

“I think people imagine it to be a paradise, when it isn't.”

Meanwhile, in the U.S., an immigration reform bill in Congress that has garnered bipartisan support. It would offer a path to citizenship for some 11 million immigrants already residing in the country.

The U.S. bishops have welcomed the proposal, acknowledging it is imperfect saying, according to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, that it “goes a long way towards correcting injustices in the system.”

Fr. Ruiz expressed concern that the bill would “be beneficial for some...but the vast majority won't have access to many of the proposals that are included.”

“It’s risky for many people because it gives them the hope of getting something, but without offering them any real guarantees,” he reflected.

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French priest suspended after Freemasonry revealed

Paris, France, Jun 11, 2013 (CNA) - Bishop Yves Boivineau of Annecy in southeastern France has barred a local priest from public ministry after he was exposed as an active Freemason.

Father Pascal Vesin, 43, was suspended for his active membership in a Masonic lodge of the Grand Orient of France. He became a member in 2001, five years after his 1996 ordination as a Catholic priest, the French newspaper Le Figaro reports.

The priest served a parish in the Alpine ski resort of Megeve and Bishop Boivineau suspended him at Rome's request, his parish said.

Membership in Masonic societies has long been condemned by the Catholic Church. This condemnation was repeated in a 1983 document from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which said Masonic principles “have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church.”

“The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion,” the congregation said in a declaration signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI.

The disciplinary action against Fr. Vesin followed the priest’s refusal to renounce Freemasonry.

The priest told Le Figaro that he did not choose to place Freemasonry against the Church. He said his action is “the expression of my absolute freedom of conscience within the Catholic institution.”

The diocese said that the priest's suspension is not final and can be lifted. It described it as a “medicinal” penalty intended to encourage the priest’s return to Catholic practice.

The Catholic Church has opposed Freemasonry on account of its secret nature, its religious indifferentism and its history of conspiring against the Church.

A 1985 letter to the U.S. bishops by then-Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Bernard Law criticized Freemasonry’s dedication to a form of “naturalistic” religion that is “incompatible with Christian faith and practice.”

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Rome visit deepens former NFL quarterback's faith

Rome, Italy, Jun 11, 2013 (CNA) - As he stood next to St. Peter’s Square, former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon reflected on how his family’s first visit to Rome deepened their faith.

The Gannons had been thinking about a trip to the Vatican for years and their faith has always been important to them, but the election of Pope Francis made things even more personal for Rich.

“I was really excited when Pope Francis became the Pope. I went to a Jesuit private boys high school in Philadelphia … so to have a Jesuit become a Pope was kind of special to me, having been trained by the Jesuits,” he told CNA June 10.

The former Oakland Raiders quarterback, along with his wife and two teenage daughters, spent a few days visiting the Eternal City’s churches and also got a chance to see the Holy Father.
“We had a private (papal) audience with 150,000 other people here in the square. … And even though it only lasted a couple minutes, we did get a blessing,” Gannon joked.

The importance of what the Church does to preserve and promote art also struck them and they signed up to become Vatican patrons of the arts.

“We’re learning more and more about what they’re doing to preserve so many beautiful pieces of art that have been left for us to be able to appreciate and enjoy as a family,” Rich Gannon said.

“The chance to come over here and see the restoration process, projects and the work they’re doing – I think it’s really impressive,” he remarked.

The trip also had an impact on Rich’s wife Shelley and his daughters Alexis and Danielle.

“To be able to do it as a family, all four of us together, it’s been a trip we dreamt about for a long time.  … it just strengthens our faith as a family so much,” Shelley Gannon commented.

Their oldest daughter, Alexis, agreed and said she hopes to grow “a little closer to God” through the trip, which also helped her glimpse “the future of the faith in Pope Francis.”

The Holy Stairs, which tradition says Jesus walked on as he faced Pilate and then went to his death after being scourged, were also on the Gannon’s itinerary. 

Danielle Gannon was most touched by going up the stairs on her knees, as many pilgrims do.

“There were actually windows on the stairs, which are covered with wood,” she explained.

“You could see the blood that Jesus shed.

“You could feel the pain of kneeling down on the stairs,” which made her think about “what Jesus went through for us to be able to save us from our sins,” she said.

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Pope encourages Church rich in praise, not wealth

Vatican City, Jun 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis pointed out that Saint Peter did not have a bank account, as he warned against the dangers of a Church that finds its security in resources instead of the free gift of the Gospel.

“St. Peter did not have a bank account, and when he had to pay taxes, the Lord sent him to the sea to catch fish and find the money in the fish to pay,” said the Pope during Mass in the chapel of Saint Martha’s House.

“Philip, when he met Queen Candace’s finance minister, did not think ‘ah, good, let’s set up an organization to support the Gospel,’” he added during his June 11 homily.

Instead, the pontiff noted, Philip “preached, baptized and left.”

Pope Francis made his comments based on Matthew 10 and said “the key word” is in the mandate given by Jesus, “freely you have received, freely give.”

“When we find the apostles who want to build a rich Church and a Church without the gratuitousness of praise, the Church becomes old, the Church becomes an NGO, the Church becomes lifeless,” he remarked.

“The proclamation of the gospel must follow the path of poverty,” he asserted.

 The only wealth Christians should have should be the gifts they receive from God.

“This poverty saves us from becoming managers, entrepreneurs,” he remarked.

“The works of the Church must be brought forward, and some are a little complex, but with a heart of poverty, not with the heart of an investment broker or an entrepreneur,” he clarified.

Pope Francis explained that poverty and the ability to praise the Lord are two signs of an apostle who lives a gratuity, the free gift of the Kingdom of God.

“The Church is not an NGO, it is something else, something more important, and this is the result of gratuity, received and proclaimed,” he said.

“When an apostle does not live this gratuity, he or she loses the ability to praise the Lord,” the Pope said.

The pontiff noted that “praising the Lord is essentially gratuitous” and a kind of freely given prayer because “we do not ask, we only praise.”

“There is the temptation to seek strength elsewhere than in gratuity,” he stated.

“This temptation creates a little confusion where proclamation becomes proselytizing,” the Pope said. “Instead our strength is the gratuitousness of the Gospel.”

He underscored that the Lord “has invited us to preach, not to proselytize.”

Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, concelebrated the Mass with Pope Francis.

Employees of the congregation also attended the Eucharistic celebration.

“Everything is grace, everything,” he told them.

“The Church does not grow through proselytizing but by drawing people to her, and this attraction comes from the testimony of those who freely proclaim the gratuity of salvation,” said Pope Francis.

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Critics decry decision to remove age limits for Plan B

Washington D.C., Jun 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Citing the health and wellbeing of young girls, critics slammed the Obama administration’s decision to allow children of any age to purchase “emergency contraception” over-the-counter.

“Irresponsibly removing the important opportunity for a health-care provider to identify and intervene in cases of abuse, and giving a potentially life-ending drug to young girls without any understanding of the medical implications unnecessarily exposes them to risk,” said Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life.

Yoest was one of numerous critics who blasted the federal government’s June 10 announcement that it would abide by a court order to make Plan B One-Step available without a prescription or identification requirements to children of any age.

The decision is a reversal of the administration’s earlier opposition to the unrestricted access for “emergency contraception.”

In December 2011, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled a plan by a Food and Drug Administration panel to make Plan B available over the counter without age limits. Sebelius cited “significant cognitive and behavioral differences” between older adolescents and the youngest girls of reproductive age, which may affect their ability to properly use the drug.

At the time, President Barack Obama supported the decision, saying that as “the father of two daughters, I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.”

In April 2013, however, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ordered the FDA to change its policy and remove all age restrictions on over-the-counter sales of Plan B. He argued that Sebelius’ decision had been “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent.”

The Obama administration initially appealed Judge Korman’s ruling, arguing that he did not have the authority to determine what kinds of drugs the FDA is required to authorize, and for what ages.

However, the Department of Justice has now notified Judge Korman that it will drop its appeal if he accepts the administration’s plan for compliance, which requires Teva Women’s Health Inc. to reapply for approval of the product with a new label.

Plan B One-Step, made by Teva Women's Health, Inc., is also called the “morning-after pill” because of its ability to prevent pregnancy following a sexual encounter by inhibiting ovulation.

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

The decision will not apply to Ella, another “emergency contraceptive” that has a different active ingredient and is only available with a prescription.

The announcement has been hailed by contraception and abortion advocates.

“This is a huge breakthrough for access to birth control and a historic moment for women’s health and equity,” said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards in a statement. “The FDA’s decision will make emergency contraception available on store shelves, just like condoms, and women of all ages will be able to get it quickly.”

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, also praised the decision.

Northup had previously argued that a minimum age limit and identification requirement for purchasing the drug over-the-counter amounted to “daunting and sometimes insurmountable hoops” for women to jump through.

Other organizations, however, have criticized the decision, warning that it may lead to an increase in promiscuity and sexually transmitted infections, as well as unsafe repeat use.

Opponents also argued that the new policy will undermine parents’ rights to help make medical decisions for their children.

They warned that the pill is labeled as a cancer-causing carcinogen by the World Health Organization and is also associated with increased risk of blood clots, heart attacks, strokes and ectopic pregnancies. Furthermore, they said, there have not been studies on the effects of taking the drug during puberty.

“We're very concerned and disappointed at the same time because what we see here is the government caving to political pressure instead of putting first the health and safety of girls (and) parental rights,” said Anna Higgins, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity in a statement.

Pro-life organizations also noted the drug’s potential to end an unborn human life.

Pushing unlimited abortion and contraception access “does not empower women, nor will it improve women’s health in any way,” said Father Shenan J. Boquet, president of Human Life International.

“By allowing  very young girls to purchase powerful drugs like Plan B without parental notification or medical consultation this administration is showing a complete disregard for the health of young women, who may also end up unknowingly killing their unborn children.”

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Mexican cardinal: spread peace, not violence

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 11, 2013 (CNA) - Cardinal Norberto R. Carrera said the family should become the nucleus of a society that spreads concord and not hostility, while speaking at a voluntary disarmament campaign in Mexico City.

“Society always needs public forces to prevent violence, but preventative actions such as voluntary disarmament are more important,” the cardinal Archbishop of Mexico stated.

The campaign allowed citizens to exchange weapons in their possession for economic aid or cash, and was held at the city's cathedral.

According to the News Service of the Archdiocese of Mexico, Cardinal Carrera thanked government officials for the invitation “to participate in a cause so noble as peace.”

“Together with his program, many other actions are needed, such as strengthening the nuclear family, where violence often arises, instead of being a center of harmony, peace and tolerance,” he emphasized.

“Not only are preventive actions necessary to be successful, but the banishing of impunity is as well, because if it is not, society is encouraged to continue down the path of violence and criminality.”

Nearly 6,000 weapons and 49,000 cartridges were collected during the voluntary disarmament campaign, which ended May 31.

Mexico City governor Miguel A. Mancera thanked Cardinal Carrera for the “chance to be at this most important center of the Catholic religion,” and he recognized the Church's efforts to join in the campaign to help foster a culture of peace.

Thanks to the combined efforts of the Church, the Mexican military, and civil organizations, it was the most successful disarmament campaign in the country, Mancera noted.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu thanked Cardinal Carrera for his efforts to raise awareness and promote peace initiatives.

The disarmament program “invites us to make others aware that we want to live in happiness, not in fear.”

“Fear comes from weapons,” she added.

Cardinal Carrera said the Church joins these efforts because “her goal is also to achieve the peace that Christ came to bring to the earth.”

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Pope calls for 'culture of encounter' towards disabled

Vatican City, Jun 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Highlighting the spiritual gift of faith seen in Jesus’ healing of the blind, Pope Francis encouraged an ‘active participation’ of the disabled in society.

“The Gospels tell us that Jesus had a particular care for the blind,” the Pope said on June 11. “Besides other sick persons, He healed many blind persons. But the healing of a visually impaired person has special symbolic meaning: it represents the gift of faith.”

Speaking in an audio message to the Italian Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Holy Father explained that Christ’s healings are “a sign that concerns us all because we all need the light of faith to walk along the path of life.”

“This is why Baptism, which is the first Sacrament of Faith, was also called 'illumination' in antiquity.”

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis prayed that each member of the association be granted a renewed faith, filled with “the light of love that makes sense of our lives, illuminates it, gives us hope, and makes us good and available to our brothers and sisters.”

“I also wish the best for your association,” he said, encouraging them to “spread a culture of encounter, solidarity and hospitality towards persons with disabilities, not just asking for the proper social services but also encouraging their active participation in society.”

The Pope’s message was sent for the association’s summer program in Le Torri Centre in Tirrenia, Italy, which specializes in rehabilitation studies and is currently hosting around 75 people, mostly elderly.

“I know that … some of you wanted to come to Rome,” the Holy Father said. “Thanks to modern technology, I can come to you!”

Asking for their prayers, he entrusted them to the protection of the Virgin Mary and offered them his blessing.

“Thank you for your appreciation, for your affection, and especially for your prayers,” he said.

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IRS scandals raise doubts over HHS mandate judgment

Washington D.C., Jun 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The targeting of conservative, pro-life and religious non-profits by the Internal Revenue Service is drawing concern over the agency’s authority to decide exemptions to the HHS mandate.

“The HHS mandate hinges on what constitutes a religious entity,” said Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow at the Catholic Association and editor of AltCatholicah, a Catholic women’s web magazine.

McGuire explained to CNA during a May 10 interview that the IRS has “authority in determining what a religious entity is” for purposes of deciding which employers much comply with the controversial mandate.

Issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, the mandate requires employers to offer health insurance covering free contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

A wave of protest against the regulation has sparked a multi-step process to issue a revision that takes religious objections into account. As currently proposed, this revision would allow a small percentage of religious organizations to be exempt from the mandate, based on their tax status with the IRS.

Late last month, however, the IRS admitted that certain non-profit organizations’ applications for tax exempt status received increased scrutiny due to their names and political themes. Additionally, some targeted groups were required to disclose lists of donors, blog and newsletter content, and prayers used at events.

These groups included politically conservative organizations as well as pro-life groups and religious organizations and charities such as Christian Voices for Life, Family Talk Action and Samaritan’s Purse, among others.

Pointing to a recent article in the Weekly Standard, McGuire explained that in the midst of this new controversy, the IRS will become responsible for deciding whether or not organizations are forced to abide by the mandate if it violates their consciences.

She explained that the “way the regulation is written, it is the IRS that determines whether an organization qualifies for full exemption from the HHS mandate.”

“So the very enforcers at the IRS, whose own inspector general admits they systematically targeted conservative and religious groups, will now get to decide who is entitled to ladle soup into a bowl for a homeless person without violating his or her conscience,” McGuire wrote in the Weekly Standard.

In the midst of the scandal in which “religious values were indeed scrutinized by bureaucrats,” the IRS will “gain new authority to determine what constitutes religious activity and which religious employers are entitled to conscience rights,” she continued.

“If the case for repealing this unjust intrusion on the free exercise of religion was always strong, in recent weeks it’s gotten stronger still,” she added.

McGuire told CNA that the only way to ensure that the sort of political targeting that has occurred already by the IRS does not result in an infringement on religious freedoms via the contraception mandate is to either “completely repeal the mandate” or give a religious exemption to “anyone who asks for an exemption.”

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