Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the leaders of the United States and Vietnam prepare to meet, one federal lawmaker is calling for stronger efforts to encourage respect for human rights in the Southeast Asian country.
In a statement submitted to the Congressional Record, U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va.) criticized the Obama administration for the “deteriorating human rights situation in Vietnam – a situation which merits bold U.S. leadership, not mere lip-service.”
On the morning of July 11, the White House announced that it had extended an invitation to Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, with the aim of “discussing human rights, emerging challenges such as climate change, and the importance of completing a high standard Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.”
President Obama will meet with President Sang in Washington, D.C., on July 25.
The announcement followed Wolf's July 10 remarks, which argued that the administration's policy towards the Southeast Asian country “has failed every citizen of Vietnam and every Vietnamese-American who cares about human rights and religious freedom.”
In 2004 and 2005, Vietnam was listed by the State Department as a “Country of Particular Concern,” or CPC, in part for the Communist government's persecution of Catholic and Buddhist individuals and communities. The classification allowed trade and funding sanctions, such as increased human rights protection requirements for all non-humanitarian aid to the country.
In 2006, that designation was lifted, following the Bush administration's assertion that the country had made significant steps in improving its religious freedom violations and other human rights concerns.
In recent years, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, along with other human rights groups, has asked the State Department to reinstate Vietnam's “Country of Particular Concern” status, claiming “that abuses continue and that lifting the CPC label removes an incentive for Vietnam to make further improvements.”
Wolf acknowledged that the Obama administration's policies have not differed greatly from those of the Bush administration, but he claimed that human rights abuses have increased during the current president’s tenure, quoting an ABC News story which stated that “more than 50 people have been convicted and jailed in political trials” in 2013 alone.
The congressman described several examples of persecution and repression in the country, pointing in particular to a 2012 situation in which a Vietnamese-American activist and U.S. citizen, Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan, was “arbitrarily detained and imprisoned” in Vietnam during a visit to the country.
Wolf explained that updates to the doctor’s family began only at Wolf’s urging to the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, David Shear, and that the ambassador failed to follow through with promises for the embassy to show stronger support for prisoners of religious and political persecution within the country.
“This is but one of many examples of the U.S. embassy, under the leadership of Ambassador Shear, failing to serve as an island of freedom in a sea of repression. This was all the more troubling given that Dr. Quan is an American citizen. The lack of urgency in securing Dr. Quan’s release was stunning,” the congressman said.
In addition to its failure in addressing human rights abuses in Vietnam, he said, the U.S. government has greeted “the face of growing popular dissent” against the political and human rights abuses of the government “with virtual silence.”
“Pressing authoritarian regimes and repressive governments to respect basic human rights can yield positive results, but inexplicably that is almost never the instinct of the State Department or this administration,” Wolf critiqued.
Vatican City, Jul 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Demonstrating the role of Anglican Ordinariates in the new evangelization, baptized Catholics can now join the groups set up for Anglican converts, according to a change in rules made by Pope Francis.
Those who were baptized Catholic but have not received Confirmation and First Communion are now allowed to join the ordinariates. Previously, baptized Catholics were not eligible to join the groups unless they had family who were ex-Anglicans.
“This confirms the place of the Personal Ordinariates within the mission of the wider Catholic Church, not simply as a jurisdiction for those from the Anglican tradition, but as a contributor to the urgent work of the New Evangelisation,” the United Kingdom's ordinariate announced July 9.
Taking its cue from the late John Paul II, the new evangelization is the common term for bringing the Gospel to formerly Christian nations, and can be seen in the new outreach to people who were baptized as Catholics but who never completed the process of Christian initiation.
Benedict XVI allowed for the groups to be set up with his 2009 apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum coetibus,” which provided for ordinariates, or Anglican communities wishing to enter into the Catholic Church.
His “complementary norms” governing the groups said that “those baptized previously as Catholics outside the Ordinariate are not ordinarily eligible for membership, unless they are members of a family belonging to the Ordinariate.”
On May 31, Pope Francis modified the complementary norms, adding a section which says that “a person who has been baptized in the Catholic Church but who has not completed the Sacraments of Initiation, and subsequently returns to the faith and practice of the Church as a result of the evangelizing mission of the Ordinariate, may be admitted to membership in the Ordinariate and receive the Sacrament of Confirmation or the Sacrament of the Eucharist or both.”
It was emphasized that Catholics must meet the objective criterion – lacking at least one of the sacraments of initiation – to join the groups for former Anglicans, and they may not join “for purely subjective motives or personal preference,” according to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In addition to the U.K.'s Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, there are also ordinariates in North America and Australia.
“I certainly welcome this development, which further establishes our place in the work of the new evangelization,” said Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, ordinary of the Chair of Saint Peter, in North America.
“Particularly in North America, with large percentages of 'unchurched' peoples, it is inevitable that we will encounter those who have no formal ecclesial relationships but who are seekers of truth,” he added in his statement.
“The Great Commission thus becomes more and more the heart of our work.”
Baltimore, Md., Jul 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The International Order of Alhambra, a Catholic fraternal order, has served the intellectually disabled youth and young adults of the world for over a century, and now looks to the future.
Roger Reid, the order’s executive secretary and past grand commander, said the organization follows Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew.
“What you do for the least of your brethren, you do for me,” Reid paraphrased.
He said the organization provides the opportunity “to join an international fraternity that has the single purpose of assisting developmentally disabled children and young adults.”
The order supports developmentally disabled people and their parents through funding education and work training, summer camps, field trips, parties and the Special Olympics.
Many Alhambrans are parents of individuals with intellectual disabilities. They join the organization for its social and spiritual events for themselves and their children, which accompanies its charitable work.
“We provide group homes, Alhambra Houses, that house and quarter six to eight intellectually disabled children or young adults,” Reid told CNA July 11. “We provide the seed money for these group homes.”
The order supports eight such homes across the U.S.
In the past year, the order has given out $110,000 in scholarships to college juniors or seniors pursuing a career of teaching special education children or young adults.
The organization also preserves Catholic heritage through identifying and supporting Catholic historical places, events and people.
The Order of Alhambra uses themes and styles based on Moorish Spain and the Near East. Its name comes from Spain’s palace of Alhambra, where the Moors surrendered to the Spanish monarchy in 1492 after 800 years of occupation.
Alhambran regalia includes a white fez, a type of hat popular among Turks before the 20th century.
The order was founded in Brooklyn, New York, in 1904 and is now headquartered in Baltimore. Today it has almost 2,300 members in the U.S. and Canada, with over 150 joining in the past year. Over 100 of its members are Catholic clergy.
Pope John Paul II was a notable member of the organization.
Membership is open to practicing Catholic men and women aged 18 and over. The organization opened to women in 2011 and there are presently 66 women members.
The order has 55 local divisions, called “caravans,” with a new caravan set to launch later this year in Longueuil, Quebec. Members are most numerous in Texas, Michigan and Maryland.
Reid said that anyone interested in supporting the intellectually disabled by joining a caravan or starting a caravan in a region without one should contact the Alhambrans. The group’s website is www.orderalhambra.org.
Vatican City, Jul 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Vatican announced it has frozen the funds of a senior accountant who is accused of laundering money through the so-called Vatican bank.
“By court order on the 9th of July, the Vatican Promoter of Justice has frozen funds at the IOR attributed to suspended Vatican employee Nunzio Scarano as part of an ongoing investigation by the Vatican judicial authorities,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said July 11.
Fr. Lombardi also revealed that the bank, officially called the Institute for Religious Works, has hired the Promontory Financial Group to conduct “an objective review” of the “facts and circumstances of the accounts in question,” as well as “all client relationships and the anti-money-laundering procedures it has in place.”
Promontory will be the second outside firm brought into scrutinize the Vatican’s finances, since its books are audited by Price Waterhouse Coopers each year.
The investigation into Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a senior accountant for the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, was triggered by several suspicious transaction reports filed with the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority and it could be extended to additional individuals.
The case in question involved Msgr. Scarano allegedly trying to move 20 million Euros – $26 million U.S. Dollars – from Switzerland into Italy via the Institute for Religious Works.
Msgr. Scarano was arrested by the Italian police on June 28, along with Giovanni Maria Zito, an Italian secret service agent, and Giovanni Carenzio, a financial broker, just days after Pope Francis created a commission of inquiry into the Institute’s activities and legal status.
The Institute has been working since May 2013 at revamping its structure and procedures, and recently hired Antonio Montaresi as its Chief Risk and Compliance Officer. It has also been collaborating since March 2012 with the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering group MONEYVAL to ensure its compliance with international norms in that realm.
Fr. Lombardi underscored a recent statement by the bank’s president, Ernst von Freyberg, who said, “the IOR is systematically identifying and will have zero tolerance for any activity, whether conducted by laity or clergy, that is illegal or outside the Statutes of the Institute.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 12, 2013 (CNA) - The director of L’Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian, said Pope Francis’ encyclical “Lumen Fidei” could be considered a “bridge” between two successors of St. Peter.
In an editorial published on July 6, Vian said, “The image of a bridge perhaps best represents the encyclical Lumen Fidei as an extraordinary text uniting the pontificates of Benedict XVI and his successor Francis.”
He said that it “is not a coincidence” that the release of the encyclical, “in and of itself already quite out of the ordinary, was preceded a few hours earlier by the presentation of the document and later the historic announcement of the canonization of two authentically Christian and exemplary Popes: John XXIII and John Paul II.”
The encounter between Pope Francis and Benedict XVI was a visible expression of the fraternity between the Bishop of Rome and his predecessor, he added.
“This is the immediate and profound context one should consider when reading and understanding this encyclical,” Vian said, quoting the words of Pope Francis during the Angelus on June 30:
“Pope Benedict XVI has given us a great example in this sense,” the Holy Father said at that event. “When the Lord had made it clear, in prayer, what was the step he had to take, he followed, with a great sense of discernment and courage, his conscience, that is, the will of God that spoke to his heart – and this example of our father does much good to all of us, as an example to follow.”
“The continuity in diversity of the succession in the Roman Chair is the background for the document stamped with the date of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul,” Vian emphasized.
For those who wish to read it, he said, the encyclical is a chance to rediscover in the faith “the lamp that guides our steps in the night.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A scientist from the Pontifical Academy for Life says Ireland’s new abortion law will result in an increased number of children being aborted, especially because it does not involve enough doctors in the decision-making process.
“I would have liked to have had this law with a motion of at least three doctors, even in an emergency,” Monsignor Jacques Suaudeau said July 12.
“We are not in Tamanrasset (Algeria) or in Fulsara (India), we are in Ireland, so you could have three doctors. And at three you make the right judgment,” he remarked.
In his view, if the Irish politicians had passed the law with a clause that required three doctors to decide if a mother's life is really at risk, it “would have put the breaks on the abortion industry.”
Msgr. Suaudeau affirmed “people who brought this law into Ireland are liberals and want to go further; this is just the beginning.”
“This law has to be carefully limited and not used as a door to open up more and more abortion,” he told CNA in a July 12 interview at the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Ireland passed a law making abortion legal in the country for the first time in history after an Indian woman who was refused an abortion died because doctor’s failed to detect an E coli infection.
Abortion advocates seized on the case as an opportunity to legalize abortion and were met with a strong pro-life stand against their efforts.
“You can consider this (law) as a first step,” Msgr. Suaudeau remarked.
“I come from a country (France) that has abortion and the consequences are not so beautiful.”
“Nothing is going to diminish (abortions), it just rises and rises,” he said.
Msgr. Suaudeau, who studied gynecology and obstetrics, also addressed the medical aspects of cases where a mother’s life might be in danger.
“More often than not, you can control diseases and if you have a threatening condition you can induce the baby to be born prematurely,” he explained.
“In extreme cases,” he noted, it is a question of a team, because gynecologists are never left alone to take important decisions.
“I have a feeling that these decisions will now be left for one person,” Msgr. Suaudeau stated.
The law, which passed with a margin of 127 to 31 after a two-day marathon debate, states abortion is legal if the mother's life is at risk or if she is at risk of committing suicide.
Msgr. Suaudeau believes the new law could increase demands from people who want to abort their children for increasingly frivolous reasons, such as “simply because they want to go on vacation.”
“I was expecting this decision (to allow abortion in Ireland),” he said.
“We have all these abortion numbers growing in Europe, and Ireland was an exception like Malta.”
“Before abortion was passed in France, we still had 1,000 abortions a year and of course, there were infections, but they were dealt with,” the French monsignor noted. The number of children who are aborted in France is now around 200,000 per year.
“So when it becomes law, the numbers increase. You can't negate it and say you can control it.”
He also blamed the lack of education for an increase in abortion.
“If you are in a country like France with a lot of abortion, it is because teenagers have not been educated,” said Msgr. Suaudeau, who has been working as the Vatican pro-life academy's scientific director for around 10 years.
“Nothing has been said, so they have been left to their own will,” he remarked.
“Abortion is a bad thing and people who are pro-choice recognize that, they just say it's a question of freedom,” he affirmed.
But Msgr. Suaudeau asserted that young people should be educated “in sexual life and in what the price of life is.”
He also challenged the prevalent mentality in the health care industry that advocates more contraceptives instead of encouraging different sexual behavior.
“We know that the more contraception there is, the more abortion rises,” he stated.
“It's like euthanasia, you start with a little bit and then it grows and grows because it becomes a facility,” he added. “People are losing their sense of life; that is a big danger.”
He also underscored that “if you want to fight abortion, you have to value babies.”
“Teenagers have to realize that the sexual act is serious and if you get pregnant, you are responsible,” Msgr. Suaudeau insisted.
“It's about an education on realizing the value of life and the value of a baby, not on prohibition.”
The Academy for Life official believes that Christians should try to solve the issue of teen pregnancy by teaching more young people using a type of sexual education is focused on “showing the price of love, not on avoiding pregnancy.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 12, 2013 (CNA) - The Italian daily Il Cittadino has unearthed the story of Father Enrico Pozzoli, a Salesian missionary from the province of Lodi who baptized young Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who is today Pope Francis.
The newspaper published an account of various episodes in the life of Bergoglio, including his baptism, which occurred on Christmas night at the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians and Saint Carlos in Buenos Aires.
According to Il Cittadino, Father Pozzoli was a “very important figure and model of priestly life” for Pope Francis, so much so that in 1982, the future Pontiff remembered him in the prologue for his “Meditations for Religious” as “an example of ecclesial service and religious consecration,” underscoring “the great influence he had on his life.”
In a letter he wrote on October 20, 1990, to Salesian Father Cayetano Bruno, Pope Francis explained his relationship with the missionary priest: “Today is the 29th anniversary of the death of Father Enrico Pozzoli, and I just celebrated Mass for the priest who baptized me on December 25, 1936.”
Father Pozzoli lived in Argentina from 1906 until his death in 1961. He was born in 1880 in Senna Lodigiana, an Italian town near the Po River. He left Italy as a young priest to work in South America.
“He would have never imagined that among the faithful entrusted to his care there would have been a future Pope as well and that his seed would have born such illustrious fruit. Not only did he bring forth the faith in the future Pope Francis, but he also accompanied him as he grew as a Christian and was his spiritual father until he reached the age of 17, when his priestly vocation blossomed,” Il Cittadino reported.
Father Pozzoli would send letters to his nieces and nephews in Italy, explaining his daily life with Italian immigrants in Argentina. He also sent pictures of Buenos Aires and Tierra del Fuego, noting on the back how many kilometers he went on each trip.
In addition, he cared for the health of young Bergoglio and was the one to encourage him to travel to the mountains south of Buenos Aires to recover from a serious respiratory infection that left him with only one working lung.
Austin, Texas, Jul 12, 2013 (CNA) -
Pro-life group Heroic Media is disappointed after several national newspapers refused to run, and labeled “too controversial,” an ad featuring a model of a 20-week old fetus held in a hand.
Both the Los Angeles Times and USA Today refused to run the advertisement altogether, while the Chicago Tribune settled for a revised version, with a different picture of a live 20-week old baby en utero.
“It strikes me as ironic that a medically accurate fetal model was too controversial, when the actual babies being aborted are living humans with blood pulsing through their veins,” Marissa Cope, marketing and research director at Heroic Media, a pro-life apostolate, told CNA July 12.
Major newspapers that ran the original advertisement included the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Some papers ran the ad with the stipulation that the wording “made it clear that it was a paid advertisement,” Cope said.
Cope called the rejections “disappointing, but not surprising.”
The goal of the advertisement was to raise awareness of a baby’s development at 20 weeks gestation. Congress is currently considering a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks, when an unborn child can likely feel pain.
There is evidence that fetuses can feel pain as early as 20 weeks, and they certainly can by 24 weeks.
On June 18, the House passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
It states, “there is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain at least by 20 weeks after fertilization, if not earlier.”
Though the bill has passed the House, it must still pass the Senate, and the White House has suggested that if it arrives on President Obama's desk he will veto it.
The administration stated that the bill “shows contempt for women's health and rights, the role doctors play in their patients' health care decisions, and the Constitution.”
A similar bill was passed in the Texas House July 9, and is due to be considered by the state Senate.
Cope said, “we know that the public is uncomfortable with giving a face to the children being aborted at 20 weeks. The reality of abortion is unspeakable – devastating; and that’s the problem we’re trying to address.”
Heroic Media has also ran a successful series of television ads encouraging women with unwanted pregnancies to give their child up for adoption, rather than aborting him or her.
The ads generated hundreds of contacts to Heroic Media's partner, Bethany Christian Services, which provides adoption counseling and resources.
Cope said Heroic Media’s purpose is to help women in crisis pregnancies and to propose alternatives to abortion, and that they will continue to spread their message despite the resistance they face.
“We’re grateful for our supporters who enable us to use media to save lives and change hearts and minds across the country, everyday.”
Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A State department official has testified before Congress explaining that China, Russia and Uzbekistan have not made adequate progress in addressing human trafficking in recent years.
“Trafficking in persons affects every country in the world, and no government is doing enough to fight it," ambassador-at-large for trafficking in persons, Luis CdeBaca, testified before a House subcommittee on July 11.
The Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J). The annual State Department Trafficking in Persons report was released June 19, and details the state of trafficking in persons for sex, labor, and other motivations, in countries around the globe in the past year.
In the report, China, Russia and Uzbekistan were downgraded from the Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 3 because they were “found not to be taking the affirmative steps needed to fight human trafficking.”
The hearing was held to discuss the downgrade in the three countries’ status, as well as the broader worldwide trafficking trends.
"Through our diplomacy, we urge governments to fully embrace their responsibility to deal with this crime and we offer to work with any government that takes this problem seriously," CdeBaca said.
Worldwide, the report showed a decrease in the number of countries that meet Tier 1 standards for protecting victims of human trafficking, and an increase in the number of countries on the Tier 2 Watch List and in Tier 3 for their failure to adequately address the trafficking in persons situation in their countries.
Previously, China, Russia and Uzbekistan had been on a Tier 2 Watch List. Under the 2008 re-authorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a country on the Tier 2 Watch List for two consecutive years must either make "sufficient progress had been made to merit an upgrade to Tier 2" or face an automatic downgrade, the ambassador explained.
"The law allowed for the mandatory downgrade provision to be waived for up to two additional years, meaning that a country could be on the Tier 2 Watch List for a total of four consecutive years if a government provided a written plan designed to bring that country into compliance with the minimum standards," CdeBaca added.
This was the first year after the initiation of the 2008 policy that countries could be automatically downgraded for failing to make enough progress in fighting human trafficking to remove themselves from the watch list.
"In China, Russia, and Uzbekistan, we did not see … progress, and as a result, they had to be placed on Tier 3 of this year’s Report," he explained, accounting for the countries' downgrade.
He noted that "even though this report takes a hard, thorough look at this issue around the world, it isn’t meant to be punitive."
"We aren’t pointing the finger, but rather extending a hand in partnership to anyone who agrees that this is a problem we need to grapple with," he said, explaining that the report is meant to be educative, and an aid for better addressing "modern slavery" around the world.
The ambassador explained that the developments found in the report were not all negative, saying that "we continue to see modest gains on a global scale when it comes to anti-trafficking efforts," noting a increase in victims identified, a move to adopt anti-trafficking laws, and increased government in fighting human trafficking across the globe.