Archive of October 28, 2013

Vatican restorers: Art preservation a great responsibility

Vatican City, Oct 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Those in charge of the restoration of various types of artwork in the Vatican museums stress that the preservation of such treasures is necessary on both a historical and an educational level.

“I really feel that I remove the old varnish and I can see what is the state of engraving, the original state of engraving, but I do really step by step because we need to think what we do exactly because it is a big responsibility,” restorer Chiara Fornaciari told CNA in an Oct. 21 interview.

Fornaciari is the Director of the Paper Restoration Laboratory, which facilitates the care of all paper works conserved in the Vatican Museums, with a particular emphasis on works of paper with color.

“I can feel the responsibility to do my work and I try day by day to think about this,” Fornaciari said of a current project she is working on, “I like to see my work renew.”

The Vatican Museums, founded by Pope Julius II, are an immense collection of different pieces of art located within Vatican City which have come into the Catholic Church's possession throughout the centuries.

Among the vast works within the museums are many of the most renowned classical sculptures and most significant masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world.

Deputy to the Director of the Vatican Museums for the Scholarly and Conservational Departments Arnold Nesselrath spoke with CNA on Oct. 21, stressing that without a restoration department, the Museums could not continue to exist in decent way.

“We have a restoration department for centuries,” he noted, “First artists were trying to keep the works of art in a reasonable condition,” but “when the approach became more scholarly,” the museums funded the opening of several different departments in order to adhere to “modern standards” of restoration.

“Works of art always deteriorate by their nature, like everything deteriorates,” Nesselrath noted, “so we need restoration departments to preserve the works.”

“But restoration is not the only issue. What is important is of course the presentation of the works.”

Because the art in the Museums are seen by so many, roughly 5 million people per year, Nesselrath  that “if you want to present” the different pieces of art, “you have to present them in the best condition noted you can.”

“All restoration is done in view of presentation because museums are an educational institution,” he stressed.

Pieces within the museums that are chosen to be restored are done so primarily depending on the condition of the work, Nesselrath noted, and “restoration is only done on works that are damaged, that need maintenance, that have suffered from environmental influence.”

Nesselrath is currently assisting in the restoration of the Borgia apartment, wall paintings done by the artist Pinturicchio for Pope Alexander VI, and various other projects concerning historic buildings within the Papal Palace.

Currently there are about 80 permanent employees working in the restoration labs, with close to 20 temporary employees, the number of which fluctuates depending on the projects undergoing restoration.

Both Fornaciari and Nesselrath gave special thanks the “Patrons of the Arts,” who fund the restoration of the various historical and artistic pieces within the Museums by adopting certain projects either individually, or collectively as a chapter for a specific region.

“We are lucky to do this work,” Fornaciari said of her job in the paper restoration lab, “we like this work.”

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Alabama joins EWTN in lawsuit against HHS mandate

Birmingham, Ala., Oct 28, 2013 (CNA) - EWTN Global Catholic Network has been joined by the state of Alabama in a new lawsuit against the Obama administration’s contraception and sterilization mandate.

“EWTN has no other option but to continue our legal challenge to the mandate,” said chairman Michael P. Warsaw in an Oct. 28 statement announcing the suit.

The network had originally filed a suit against the federal government Feb. 9, 2012 and was later joined by Alabama through the state's attorney general, Luther Strange. That suit was dismissed, but in the new suit, Alabama has joined EWTN at the start.

“I am proud to stand with EWTN to oppose this unconscionable mandate. … the freedom of religion, and to believe as one sees fit, is our ‘first freedom’ under the United States Constitution,” Strange said regarding the new lawsuit.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing both EWTN and Alabama in the suit.

“Version 2.0 of the mandate is just as bad as version 1.0,” Lori Windham, senior counsel at the Becket Fund said. “It would still force the world’s preeminent Catholic network to betray publicly the very teachings it was founded to promote, and which it promotes on a daily basis.”

EWTN's original suit against the HHS mandate was dismissed March 25 by Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn, who said the matter should be deferred until the mandate’s new regulations were “created and finalized.”

At the time she noted that the Obama administration vowed to implement new rules to address concerns such as those raised by EWTN and Alabama.

The mandate was issued by the Department of Health and Human Services under the Affordable Care Act and requires employers to provide and pay for contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs and procedures in employee health insurance plans, even if doing so violates the employer's conscience or religious beliefs.

In June 2013, the government finalized an exemption from the mandate for certain religious organizations, however, the exemption only applies to houses of worship, and not religious non-profit ministries, schools, hospitals or charities, nor does it apply to for-profit organizations run by religious persons.

By shifting the contraception coverage from the employer to the insurance provided by the employer Warsaw said the federal government has essentially “ignored” their concerns.

“As an organization that was founded to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church, we do not believe that contraception, voluntary sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs constitute health care,” Warsaw said. “We simply cannot facilitate these immoral practices.

“We sincerely hoped that our concerns would be addressed. Instead, the government ignored our comments entirely and pressed forward with a rule that changed nothing.  We are in the same position today as we were when the mandate was first published.”

He noted that under the finalized regulations, the network is still finding itself “in a situation where we are forced to offer contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs as part of our employee health plan or to offer our employees and their families no insurance at all.”

“Neither of these options are acceptable. The mission of EWTN is not negotiable.”

The federal government is currently facing 75 lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate on grounds of the freedom of religion and the protection of conscience rights.

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Jesus continues to pray for us from heaven, urges Pope

Vatican City, Oct 28, 2013 (CNA) - Pope Francis devoted his morning homily to the fact that Jesus prayed for his apostles and the people he encountered on earth, highlighting that he still prays for us in heaven.

When we pray to Jesus, the Pope stressed, Jesus shows his Father in heaven the wounds on his hands, feet and his side, the price of our salvation, which “is as if he is saying: Father, may this not be lost!”

The pontiff directed his Oct. 28, 2013 homily to those gathered in the Saint Martha guesthouse of the Vatican.

At the beginning of his reflections, Pope Francis spoke of the day’s Gospel reading, taken from St. Luke, in which Jesus prayed for the whole night before he chose the Twelve Apostles, pointing out that Jesus continues to pray for us even today.

In praying to God to choose his apostles, the Pope stressed that Jesus was “arranging his team,” noting that afterwards many people came to him in order “to listen to him and to be healed,” because they recognized his ability to heal.

The pontiff then reflected on three different relationships which Jesus had, which were “Jesus and the Father, Jesus and his Apostles, Jesus and the people,” stressing that “Jesus prayed to the Father for the Apostles and for the people” and that he is still praying for the Church.

Jesus, urged the Pope, saved us with his prayers, with his sacrifice on the Cross, and with his life, noting that although his is gone, he continues to pray.

The pontiff then underlined that although Jesus is praying from heaven, he is not a spirit, but a person with flesh like ours, except his flesh is in the glory of God.

“We often say to each other: pray for me. I need prayers. I have so many problems,” noted the Pope, “but this is good, eh? Because we brothers must pray for each other.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily saying that Jesus prays for each one of us personally, and that he does so with courage, showing his Father the cost of our salvation – his wounds.

When we think about this, urged the Pope, we must thank God for giving us a brother who prays and intercedes for us, saying “Lord, you have saved me. And now pray for me.”

“It is to him we must entrust our problems, our life and many other things so that He may take them to the Father.”

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Iranian Christians face lashings for communion wine

Tehran, Iran, Oct 28, 2013 (CNA) - Four Iranian Christians were sentenced last week to 80 lashes each for drinking communion wine during a communion service at a house church.

The four men were charged in court with drinking alcohol and possessing a receiver and satellite antenna in Rasht, a city 200 miles northwest of Tehran, on Oct. 6. The verdict was delivered to the men Oct. 20, and they have been given ten days to appeal the sentence, the group Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports.

Iran is an Islamic Republic, and Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol. Non-Muslims account for less than one percent of Iran's population.

The charged men are members of the Church of Iran, a Protestant ecclesial community. Two of the men were arrested Dec. 31, 2012, during the government’s crackdown on house churches.

Mervyn Thomas, head of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, criticized the sentence.

“The sentences handed down to these members of the Church of Iran effectively criminalize the Christian sacrament of sharing in the Lord’s Supper and constitute an unacceptable infringement on the right to practice faith freely and peaceably,” he said Oct. 23.

He urged the Iranian authorities to ensure Iran’s laws do not violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory. He said the government should guarantee “the full enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief by all its religious communities.”   

The sentencing follows the Oct. 4 release of a report from Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran.

Shaheed said there are still allegations of rights violations, although the Iranian government has accepted recommendations to extend rights guaranteed under international law to members of all religious groups. These alleged violations include limitations on freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

Members of minority religious communities, including Christians, are “increasingly subjected to
various forms of legal discrimination, including in employment and education, and
often face arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment,” the report said.

More than 300 Christians have been arrested since 2010, with dozens of church leaders convicted of national security crimes for their church activities. At least 20 remain in custody. Evangelical Protestant groups, many of whose members are converts, are particularly affected, according to the report.

The Iranian government responded to a draft version of the report, contending that it was a “politicized report” based on “invalid” sources.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has been and continues to be transparent and responsive to human rights issues,” the government said.

Saeed Abedini, a Protestant pastor, has been imprisoned by the Iranian authorities for over a year. He was charged with threatening national security for his work with non-religious orphanages in the country.

He had previously worked with house churches in Iran, and human rights groups contend that his Christian faith is the real reason for his eight-year sentence.

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Becket Fund will represent EWTN, Alabama in HHS suit

Birmingham, Ala., Oct 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Obama administration’s HHS mandate still compels the EWTN Global Catholic Network to violate Catholic beliefs, its new lawsuit in which both the network and the state of Alabama are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

“Version 2.0 of the mandate is just as bad as version 1.0,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at the Becket Fund. “It would still force the world’s preeminent Catholic network to betray publicly the very teachings it was founded to promote, and which it promotes on a daily basis.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing the Irondale, Alabama-based EWTN and the state of Alabama, the state constitution of which bars compulsory participation in any health care system.

Both are plaintiffs in a new lawsuit challenging the Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring employers to provide employees access to no co-pay sterilization procedures and contraceptive drugs, including some drugs that can cause abortions.

The lawsuit charges that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, compels speech, interferes with internal religious governance, and discriminates against Catholics.
“We sincerely hoped that our concerns would be addressed,” Michael Warsaw, EWTN chairman said Oct. 28. “Instead, the government ignored our comments entirely and pressed forward with a rule that changed nothing. We are in the same position today as we were when the mandate was first published.”

Warsaw said the mandate “has still placed us in a situation where we are forced to offer contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs as part of our employee health plan or to offer our employees and their families no insurance at all. Neither of these options are acceptable.”

“The mission of EWTN is not negotiable.”

Under current rules, EWTN will be required to certify its plan and deliver it to a third party administrator before July 1, 2014.

According to EWTN’s lawsuit, the revised federal rule now simply provides “complex means” through which the plan administrator may seek to recover costs from an employer for payments for contraceptive and abortifacient services. However, the network says its Catholic beliefs preclude it from agreeing to these plans.

Warsaw said the Catholic network has “no other option but to continue our legal challenge to the mandate.”

A previous lawsuit from EWTN, later joined by Alabama, was delayed for over a year and then dismissed March 25. The judge who dismissed the lawsuit cited the Obama administration’s pledge to implement new rules to address concerns such as those raised by EWTN.

However, the Catholic network’s federal lawsuit contends that the Department of Health and Human Services “deliberately ignored” the rule’s impact on the religious liberty of “the vast majority of religious organizations” with conscientious objections to the federal rules.

The comment period on the revised federal rule and its putative religious accommodation lasted from Feb. 1 to April 8, 2013. It drew over 400,000 comments, including comments from EWTN and other religious organizations which were “overwhelmingly decrying” the rule as a religious liberty violation, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit noted that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke about the rule in an April 8 presentation at Harvard University in a way that indicated the critical comments would not be addressed.

“We have just completed the open comment period for the so-called accommodation, and by August 1 of this year, every employer will be covered by the law with one exception,” Sebelius said.

While churches and church dioceses would be exempted, “Catholic hospitals, Catholic universities, other religious entities will be providing coverage to their employees starting August 1,” she added.

The EWTN lawsuit objected: “It is clear from the timing of these remarks that defendants gave no consideration to the comments submitted.”

Several hundred thousand comments had also been submitted in previous comment periods on the HHS rule. The rule was enacted under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

EWTN’s lawsuit further contended that the federal rule is discriminatory against religious organizations that oppose contraception and abortion.

The lawsuit cited Sebelius’ “staunch” support for abortion and described her as a “vocal critic” of religious teachings and beliefs regarding abortion and contraception, as when she told an October 2011 fundraiser for NARAL Pro-Choice America “we are in a war.”

There are 75 lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate, with many Protestant-run businesses and institutions joining Catholic archdioceses, health care systems, universities in seeking legal remedies to their religious freedom violations.

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Georgetown class requires work with abortion group

Washington D.C., Oct 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Georgetown University Law Center class offered next spring will require students to work with a lobbying group which a lawyer said is known for its work promoting abortion rights.

“Georgetown offers a course that will require students to work with an organization dedicated to promoting abortion and contraception and actively attacking religious freedom,” Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network, told CNA Oct. 25.

She added that Georgetown's offering of the course is “a disgrace to its Catholic identity.”

“Georgetown students will be given course credit for advancing the very policies that our bishops are fighting in court and promoting abortion and contraception that, as our faith teaches us, do violence to both women and children.”

On Oct. 24, the Cardinal Newman Society was the first to report that Georgetown University Law School will be offering “Regulatory Advocacy: Women and the Affordable Care Act,” in its spring 2014 semester, taught by Kelli Garcia.

The course will require that students work alongside the National Women's Law Center, a D.C.-based advocacy group whose healthcare platform pushes for abortion, sterilization and contraceptive provision as health care.

The organization’s work aims specifically to “oppose challenges such as pharmacy refusals and religious restrictions,” of individuals and religious groups who find these products and procedures as unconscionable.

The NWLC website decries organizations such as crisis pregnancy centers and Catholic hospitals for their unwillingness to participate in abortions, and labeled the ethical rules governing Catholic hospitals, bans on sex-selective abortions, and restrictions on the abortion of babies capable of feeling pain and living outside of their mother as “Threats to A Woman’s Right to Decide Whether to Have an Abortion.”

This policy and legal work against religious freedom in favor of abortion provision is headed by Kelli Garcia, senior counsel for NWLC, who “oversees the Center's efforts to address religious restrictions” on abortions and contraception, the organization’s website states.

Garcia will be both teaching the course and coordinating its practical component.

This is Garcia’s second time at Georgetown: from 2011-2012, Garcia was an O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law representative at Georgetown.

The class she is teaching will instruct students on the intersection of women’s health – which is often code for the provision of abortions, sterilization and contraception – and the Affordable Care Act, as well as on its rules, including the HHS mandate, which requires employers to provide and pay for abortion-causing and contraceptive drugs, even against their deeply-held religious beliefs.

Students in the class will also be required to “work with the National Women's Law Center to develop projects that will assist in the organization's regulatory advocacy efforts,” and participate in “strategy meetings and conference calls with the partner organization and other coalition members.”

Some of the organizations partners are the Ford Foundation, which is a supporter of expanding abortion programs, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, among other organizations in other topic areas.

The National Women’s Law Center also addresses other areas of law regarding women, including equal pay laws, maternity leave, elimination of discrimination against pregnant women, sexual harassment, early childcare education, poverty support for struggling families, and fighting discrimination in the workplace against mothers of young children.

Georgetown University Law Center said in a statement to CNA that the class “is an optional course” and is part of a broad education and emphasized that the “practicum will explore a number of issues,” including eating disorders, maternity coverage, and other topics.

The university also stressed that “there are no assignments pertaining to abortion, and certainly no requirement that students adhere to a particular set of beliefs.”

“Georgetown University embraces academic freedom and supports the free exchange of ideas in order to foster dialogue on critical issues of the day – such as issues relating to the Affordable Care Act,” Georgetown University Law Center continued.

“The issues discussed in this class, or any class, do not imply any institutional endorsement of a particular course of action.”

It is unclear whether students will be able to choose to work on a project related to abortion or contraception for the final practical project.

As of the publishing of this article, the Archdiocese of Washington was not able to comment on the class or the instructor to CNA, saying that they would look more into the situation.

Severino explained that while students may not be forced to assist directly in abortion-related activities, it is “still disheartening to see a Catholic school offering a platform for an organization that is diametrically opposed to the Church on abortion, contraception, and religious liberty.”

She explained that the “language of the course description may sound potentially neutral, but the content is almost certainly not.”

The National Women’s Law Center “has been active in promoting and defending the HHS contraception/abortifacient mandate,” Severino said, adding that the mandate “not only will increase the use of drugs that the Church teaches do violence to both women and their children, but it also is being used to force religious organizations and Catholic business owners to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients or pay crushing penalties.”

“The course description is about learning regulatory advocacy in health care, and the HHS Mandate is precisely the type of regulation the NWLC is advocating.”

“It is outrageous that Georgetown is employing a professor whose agenda is specifically focused on increasing abortions, even when that comes at the expense of religious freedom,” Severino said.

“What is key here is also that this is not an issue of a Georgetown professor whose personal beliefs do not line up with (the) Church – there are surely many of those as can be expected in a large university. But this course appears to be designed specifically to teach Georgetown students how to advocate for contraception and abortion and against religious freedom.”

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