Denver, Colo., Oct 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The state of Colorado is illegally providing $14 million to Planned Parenthood in violation of the state constitution, a lawsuit from a former executive director of the state health department charges.
“Public officials should respect the law and the democratic process rather than ignore both to fill Planned Parenthood’s bank account,” Michael J. Norton, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said Oct. 17.
“Colorado voters already decided the issue when they amended the state constitution to prohibit tax-dollar subsidies to abortionists,” he said. “State records clearly show that state officials have provided both federal and state taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood in clear violation of the state constitution.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Jane Norton, a former head of Colorado’s Public Health and Environment Department, in her suit “Norton v. Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood,” filed Oct. 15 in a state district court.
The suit contends that new public information shows that Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood has received $14 million in state taxpayer funds since January 2009.
Under a state constitutional amendment passed in 1984, Colorado law bars direct or indirect subsidy of abortion.
When Norton headed the state health department, a 2001 state audit of Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood and its affiliate Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Services Corporation found that state funds indirectly subsidized work in abortion. The audit ended the funding.
Alliance Defending Freedom said that state officials later resumed funding and claim that only federal taxpayer dollars went to the organization.
Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Modern day slavery is prevalent throughout the world even though it goes by different names, a human rights activist has clarified in light of a new worldwide report.
“Modern day slavery has many faces,” said Dr. Ana Steele told CNA, explaining that the United Nations’ definition includes “the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
Regardless of what form it takes, the Dalit Freedom Network USA and Dalit Freedom Network UK president explained, “it is incumbent on each one of us to combat modern day slavery wherever it exists.”
Her comments come in the wake of the release of the 2013 Global Slavery Index which detailed the various kinds of modern-day slavery as well as countries with the highest density.
The report stated that “modern slavery takes many forms, and is known by many names: slavery, forced labour or human trafficking,” and included these different forms in its study of slavery around the world.
Conducted by the Walk Free Foundation, the study found that worldwide there are 29.8 million persons held in modern-day slavery while researching the countries with the highest proportions of its people living in slave-like conditions.
Over three quarters of the victims are found in just ten countries – India, China, Pakistan Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, D.R. Congo, Burma, and Bangladesh – with India containing nearly 14 million exploited people.
Mauritania in West Africa has the highest rate of slavery with nearly four percent of its population subjected to some form slavery.
Dr. Steele, whose work focuses on helping Dalit and Adivasi caste-members in India escape slavery and extreme poverty, explained that modern slavery is not only a human rights concern, but a development concern as well.
“Slavery destroys lives and destroyed lives create a nation in crisis,” she said.
In order to end the toleration of slavery, nations must come together in “a concerted global effort” to do so.
The surest ways of eliminating slavery is the use of preventative measures which “seek to combat the push factors that lead to enslavement” as well as those that “aim to change a life and ultimately change a nation.”
“Our efforts need to include preventing the next generation of victims,” and should include “programs such as education, healthcare, economic security building, and social justice advocacy and intervention that serve the most marginalized and at-risk populations,” she said.
Individuals can aid the fight against human trafficking “by committing to stay informed and following organizations that are at the vanguard of anti-slavery work,” helping with “restoration efforts underway for victims of modern day slavery,” and “most importantly, by supporting prevention.”
The Global Slavery Index used research conducted over a period of 10 years and was compiled by a team of four authors and drew from support of 22 experts. Although this is the first, the aim is to conduct a yearly report on global slavery.
Vatican City, Oct 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis in his Sunday Angelus greeting taught that prayer is a ‘weapon’ in the struggle against evil.
“Above all, persevering prayer is an expression of faith in a God who calls us to fight with him, every day, every moment, to overcome evil with good,” Pope Francis said Oct. 20 to an enthusiastic crowd in St. Peter’s Square.
We do not pray to convince God “by the force of our words,” he said.
“He knows what we need better than we do!”
The Pope explained that Christians’ strength in prayer comes from God alone.
“In our daily journey, especially in difficulties, in the struggle against evil outside of ourselves and within us, the Lord is not far way, he is at our side; we fight with him beside us, and our weapon is prayer, which makes us feel his presence alongside of us, his mercy, even his help,” Pope Francis said.
The Pope acknowledged the “”struggle to carry on every day,” adding “God is our ally, faith in him is our strength, and prayer is the expression of this faith.”
“If the faith goes out, if prayer goes out, and we walk in the darkness, we will be lost on the journey of life,” he added.
The Pope reflected on Sunday’s gospel story of the “persistent widow” who refused to give up asking a judge to render a just verdict. At the end, she convinces him to grant her justice.
“We can therefore learn from this widow in the gospel,” said Pope Francis. “She was good, this widow. She knew to fight for her children.”
“I think of the many women who struggle for their families, who pray, who never grow tired. Let us remember today, all of us, these women who with their approach give us a true witness of faith, of courage, of a model of prayer. Let us remember them!” he exclaimed to the crowds who cheered in response.
Marking the celebration of World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis then turned to particular examples of “those missionaries who work without making noise, and who give their lives.”
One such missionary was the Italian woman Afra Martinelli, who worked for many years in Nigeria.
Pope Francis recounted: “one day she was killed in a robbery; everyone wept, Christians and Muslims. They really loved her!”
“She announced the Gospel with her life, with the works she accomplished, a center of instruction; in this way she spread the flame of faith, she fought the good fight,” he continued. “Let us think about this our sister, and greet her with applause, all of us!”
The pontiff also spoke of the life of Stefano Sandor, a lay Salesian who was beatified Saturday in Budapest.
Pope Francis said Sandor was “exemplary in service to young people, in the oratory and in professional instruction.” The Hungarian confronted the Communist persecution of Catholics “with courage” and was killed at the age of 39.
Pope Francis also took a moment to remember the people of the Philippines who suffered from a 7.1-magnitude earthquake on Oct. 15. The earthquake killed over 150 people and affected nearly 3.5 million others.
“I invite you to pray for that dear nation, which in recent days has suffered different calamities,” he requested.
The Pope concluded by greeting the various groups present, including those who had gathered for a 100-meter “race for faith” held by the Pontifical Council for Culture.
He had special words for visitors from his homeland Argentina, which celebrates Mother’s Day today.
“I offer an affectionate greeting to the mothers of my land!” he said with a smile.
Vatican City, Oct 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - At a Vatican athletic event promoting the connection between faith and sports, British Olympic gold medalist runner Jason Gardener credited Catholic nuns for encouraging him to succeed.
He recounted his first involvement in sports at age six at St. John’s Catholic Primary School in Bath. There, he said, “I was given the opportunity to participate in sports days, and I remember crossing the (finish) line – trying my best and doing really well.”
“That coincided with the Olympic Games in 1984 and I thought, ‘wow, I want to be like that.’ And my nuns (from my school) came to see me and brought some medals and said, ‘you work really hard, and be a good boy, you may get some of these when you’re older’,” he said Oct. 20.
Gardener had run a 100-meter track that had been set up along the street leading to St. Peter’s Square on Sunday morning.
The British athlete had been invited to participate in the “100 Meters of Racing in the Faith” sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture. He won a gold medal for the 4 x 100 meter relay in the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics
The event was part of a festival day for sports intended to “to recover the educational, cultural, and spiritual values of sport,” the pontifical council said.
Gardener said the festival is “a very special occasion and event.”
He addressed the crowds in St. Peter’s Square, telling them that sports has “the power to change lives, whatever your ability.” Sports provide “values and life skills…the ability to enjoy yourself, have healthy lifestyles, learn how to win, and sometimes lose. But of course it’s about a life-long journey of being a good person and having good values.”
The athlete told CNA he had a “good foundation” and was brought up in a Catholic school.
“I was brought up with good values, so that’s played a huge part in my life,” he continued. “I’m not outspoken, particularly, about my faith, but I’m a believer and I’m very pleased to have had a good life which I’ve had to this day. I’m very thankful – I’ve worked very hard, and having good morals instilled in me, behaving well as a citizen – I believe has helped me on the journey to where I am.”
Gardener wasn’t always so committed to his faith. “I probably didn’t get into Church as often as my parents or grandparents would have liked,” he admitted.
“But a few years ago I joined the John Paul II Foundation for Sport in the U.K., so that was very interesting, and actually it’s evolved from knowing some of the people who are doing great work within the U.K. and beyond.”
The foundation began after Pope Benedict XVI visited Britain in 2010. It seeks to promote “the building of spiritual character through excellence in sporting skills and fitness,” the foundation says on its website.
Gardener also works with the Special Olympics, an organization dedicated to providing athletic training and competitions to individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Many Special Olympians were present to participate at the Vatican’s sporting event.
Gardner said it was “very humbling” to work with them and with Para-Olympians “because everyone is an athlete who works really hard and most importantly everybody takes part to have fun.”
“I think sometimes as a professional sports person you lose that aspect of it, you know, when it’s your job and things aren’t going well.”
“I sometimes just feel so impressed with people who have experienced so much,” the champion runner explained. There are “such stereotypes of who they are in common society but then you bring the athletes into an arena and they’re great athletes in the their own right.”
Gardner was grateful that the stereotypes surrounding disabled athletes are diminishing.
“They work very hard… seeing what’s achieved is incredible and that’s a real powerful message to society and I think times are changing and people are realizing that just because you may not have all your limbs, you’re not at a disability because athletes can do so much more than the regular person on the streets.”
Gardener considered the power of sports in his own life to be part of his journey that led him to Rome on Sunday morning.
As the crowds waited for Pope Francis to give his weekly Angelus message, the Olympic gold medalist expressed his excitement to see the pontiff.
“I have to pinch myself because I can’t quite believe that I’m actually here!” he exclaimed.