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Archive of November 2, 2013

Decreases in religious life could prompt canon law reform

Vatican City, Nov 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In the context of a discussion on the exodus of religious and priests, the heads of the congregation for religious have said that Pope Francis is open to a reformation of the Code of Canon Law.

At a conference on “vocational perseverance” held at the Pontifical University Antonianum in Rome Oct. 29, Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, noted that in the last five years the congregation dispensed nearly 12,000 people from religious life.

Archbishop Rodríguez discussed reasons for this vocational crisis, and lamented that “the Code of Canon Law does not allow us to have longer novitiates in order to permit a better discerning.”

According to the current code, novitiates in the religious life must last from a minimum of 12 months up to a maximum of two years.

Archbishop Rodríguez told CNA, “we could need even more time for discerning.”

During the conference he had asserted that he would “hope (for) a change to the Code of Canon Law” so as to better manage vocational paths.

At that point, Cardinal Joao Bráz de Aviz, prefect of the congregation, interrupted him, saying that “this is what the Pope told us.”

Archbishop Rodríguez responded, “yes, when I was pointing this out, I was thinking about what the Pope told us.”

He later shared with CNA that “Pope Francis' words were not only about the novitiate, but they dealt with the Code of Canon Law over-all.”

In any case, the Roman Pontiff's words were merely a “declaration of principles,” since at the moment there are reportedly no studies about a possible reform of canon law.

During the conference, Archbishop Rodríguez noted that the congregation for religious dispensed from religious life 11,805 persons from 2008 to 2012 – an annual average of 2,361.

During the same period, he said, the Congregation for the Clergy dispensed 1,188 men from their priestly duties, and 130 from their diaconal duties.

“By adding this data with others, in five years, 13,123 people left the religious life.”

These data do not include the specific cases which are under the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In conclusion, Archbishop Rodríguez underscored that “a little more than 3,000 religious brothers and sisters left annually the consecrated life.”

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Pro-life advocates urge abortion transparency in health care

Washington D.C., Nov 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pro-life leaders are calling for transparency in the health care exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, asking that they include an open acknowledgement of whether each individual plan funds abortion.

“Abortions are covered” under the health care law, and “taxpayers are going to be funding it,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, at an Oct. 31 rally in front of the U.S. Capitol.

“But what's really interesting is the secretary (of Health and Human Services) herself wrote a memo this April demanding that all insurance providers cover Planned Parenthood and their services in the health insurance exchanges,” she continued.

Participants in the demonstration, hosted by Students for Life of America and the Christian Defense Coalition, protested against new regulations governing health care plans, including those offered on the health care exchanges.

Established under the Affordable Care Act, the health care exchanges opened Oct. 1 and allow individuals to compare and purchase different health care plans, even across state lines.

However, although the Obama administration had assured citizens during deliberations over the health care law that the Affordable Care Act would not fund abortions, some of the federally-funded exchange plans include a mandatory monthly abortion surcharge.

This inclusion has been controversial and drawn criticism from pro-life groups. The U.S. bishops, although they had long advocated for health care reform, ultimately declined to support the Affordable Care Act, due to concerns over abortion funding and conscience rights.

Pro-life advocates have also criticized the exchanges for the lack of information available to consumers about exactly which plans include the abortion-funding charge.

Asked during an Oct. 30 hearing whether she could guarantee that abortion funding would be clearly labeled in health care plans in which it is included, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius replied, “I don’t know.”

Those at Thursday's protest demanded that Congress stop funding Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion vendor. They highlighted that the organization will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money when key parts of the Affordable Care Act go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

In honor of the 915 preborn babies aborted by Planned Parenthood every day, 915 pink crosses were placed on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol before and after the demonstration.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who is co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Prolife Caucus, described Sebelius’ inability to answer the question about abortion funding as “just not believable.”

“It is an outrage,” Smith said, “that at this stage Sebelius cannot, or will not, tell consumers how to find out whether the plans they are considering include abortions that painfully dismember or chemically poison unborn children.”
 
“Why are they hiding?” he asked.

“Any detailed review reveals that it is virtually impossible for consumers looking at exchange plans to identify which, if any of the Obamacare exchange plans on their state exchange include or exclude abortion.”

Last month, Smith unveiled proposed legislation to require full disclosure of abortion coverage for every plan offered on an exchange under the new health care law.

“This is a Right to Know bill,” he said at the time of the bill’s introduction. “Even the most ardent advocate of abortion should embrace full disclosure.”

“Americans buying their insurance through the new healthcare exchanges shouldn't have to spend hours trying to figure out if the money they pay for premiums will be spent to provide abortions,” added Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.).

“This bill will give the American people the transparency they need to make informed decisions that are in line with their religious and moral beliefs.”

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Pope prays at papal tombs on Feast of All Souls

Vatican City, Nov 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Late Saturday afternoon Pope Francis went to the Vatican grottos to pray in private for the souls of the deceased pontiffs interred there.

November 2 marks the Feast of All Souls, a day traditionally dedicated to praying for those who have died. 

In his homily on November 1, the Feast of all Saints, Pope Francis had spoken of the deceased saints saying, “Those who have preceded us and have died in the Lord are there (in heaven). It was proclaimed that they were saved not through their own work – even though they had done good work – but they were saved by the Lord.”

Today was not the first time Pope Francis has prayed at the tomb of his predecessors. On Easter Monday last April, the Bishop of Rome had prayed at the tombs of Benedict XV, Pius XI, Pius XII, Paul VI and John Paul I, preceding his moment of prayer close to the tomb of St. Peter under St. Peter’s Basilica. 

Last Thursday, he prayed at the tomb of John Paul II inside St. Peter’s Basilica.

Friday’s mass was celebrated in the Verano Cemetery, one of the largest in Rome, where many Catholics from the city were buried in the 19th century.

Pope Francis spoke of the importance of gratitude and hope in life when facing death.

“And if today we remember our brothers and sisters who have preceded us in life and are in Heaven, it is because they were washed in the blood of Christ,” he said. “This is our hope: hope in the blood of Christ! A hope that does not disappoint.”

 After the Mass, Pope Francis blessed the tombs there and prayed for immigrants who had recently lost their lives “searching for freedom.”

Pope Francis will celebrate a mass on Monday for deceased cardinals and bishops.

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