Washington D.C., Jun 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A pro-life legal group has responded to claims that Scripture is silent on the topic of abortion by offering to donate free Bibles to every Planned Parenthood clinic across the nation.
“Planned Parenthood could place these Bibles in their waiting rooms and permit women the opportunity to explore for themselves what the Jewish and Christian Scriptures have to say about abortion,” said Casey Mattox, senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom.
His comments came in response to a “Pastoral Letter to Patients” written by Planned Parenthood’s clergy advocacy board.
“Many people wrongly assume all religious members disapprove of abortion,” the letter said.
It stated that “abortion is not even mentioned in the Scriptures” and claimed that “clergy and people of faith from all denominations” support women who are in the process of making this “complex decision.”
“No one knows the circumstance of your life as well as you know them; no one knows what’s in your heart better than you do,” it said, adding that God “is with you no matter what you decide.”
Mattox responded in a June 6 letter to Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards.
“While I disagree with Planned Parenthood’s exegesis of Scripture, I am not writing to debate that point,” he said, explaining that although he differs with the abortion organization’s moral and theological views, he agrees that “making these Bibles available to those women would certainly benefit your potential customers.”
Mattox offered to donate Bibles to Planned Parenthood clinics across the country, in order to help “ensure that women are empowered to decide for themselves what the Bible teaches on this important question.”
He said the Bibles would be unmarked to “allay any concern” of Planned Parenthood.
In his letter, Mattox underscored numerous Scripture passages on the topic of human life, including: “You knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13), “Truly children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3), and “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13).
Alliance Defending Freedom is happy to “make these Bibles available, unedited and without emphasis of any kind, allowing those women visiting a Planned Parenthood facility to review them themselves,” he emphasized.
Madison, Wis., Jun 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison said he was “deeply saddened” by a federal ruling that Wisconsin law must recognize “gay marriage,” warning that it endangers the family as a fundamental basis of society.
Marriage between a man and a woman is “an element of the very first ‘domino’ of civilization,” the bishop said in a statement.
“When that first ‘domino’ falls, everything that is good, true, and beautiful, which is rooted on the natural family, is seriously threatened.”
“There can be no question that the best formation for children is in the home of their biological mother and father, generally speaking, and we should always have a greater concern for future generations than we do for ourselves,” he said.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb on June 6 ruled that a Wisconsin law defining marriage discriminates against same-sex couples.
The judge’s ruling struck down a referendum passed in 2006 by the majority of voters. The referendum defined civil marriage as a union of one man and one woman and said that legal statuses identical or similar to marriage would not be recognized in the state.
While media reports characterized the Wisconsin law as a “ban,” the law did not bar private ceremonies.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said that the original law remains in force and he will appeal the decision.
“While today’s decision is a setback, we'll continue to defend the constitutionality of our traditional marriage laws and the constitutional amendment, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters,” he said June 6.
Van Hollen filed an emergency stay against the decision June 9, although some county clerks have begun to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Bishop Morlino emphasized that the fundamental role of marriage, saying, “Marriage is, and can only ever be, a unique relationship solely between one man and one woman, regardless of the decision of a judge or any vote.”
“In striking down the constitutional amendment in our state which protects marriage, the court has, once again, shaken one of the most precious and essential building blocks of our civilization,” he continued.
The bishop also stressed that Catholics must “respect, love and care for every individual we encounter, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or how they define themselves.”
“For my own part, I will continue to speak strongly about the truth and beauty of marriage and encourage my brother priests and deacons, and all the lay faithful, to do the same,” Bishop Morlino said, calling for “fervent” prayers.
Omaha, Neb., Jun 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The all-women's College of St. Mary in Omaha, Neb. has something rare.
With a recent $10 million investment in additional dorms for single mothers and their children, the college is among a very few in the nation with such on-campus housing.
According to the Omaha World-Herald, the college believes these dorms, which were first built in 2000, are an important part of the success of their single-mom students who make up about 18 percent of the population.
The rate at which first-year, single-parent students returned to the College of St. Mary was significantly higher for on-campus students than commuter students – 50 percent compared to 20 percent. Still, this trails behind the 79 percent return rate for non-parenting students.
Tara Knudson-Carl, vice president for student development at the college, said continual improvements to the campus for single parent students will help to close the gap.
“We want them to walk across that stage and get that diploma,” Knudson-Carl told the World-Herald. “Anything we can do is a benefit to us and them, if they are able to stay here and succeed.”
Beth O'Malley, the Pregnant on Campus coordinator for Students for Life of America, said part of the
reason these dorms are so rare is because of the liabilities that go along with housing children in addition to their parents.
Often, students who become pregnant while living on campus are faced with being allowed to stay in their dorm only through about the second trimester of the pregnancy and then have to leave – sometimes abandoning housing scholarships.
“Campuses should strive to provide support for these women in other ways,” O'Malley said.
Students for Life of America works closely with pro-life, on-campus student groups to help make their campuses more welcoming and feasible for parenting and pregnant students.
“This issue goes beyond simply 'is housing available?,' but we also have problems with the kinds of solutions that universities are providing for when that student can’t stay on campus,” she noted.
Commuting and child care are some of the main concerns and main areas where campuses can provide such solutions.
“One of the things we're seeing across the country that is a positive trend is that a lot of universities are starting to expand their childcare programs. Many universities have these programs in place for their faculty,” O'Malley said.
“But what we’re seeing with many universities is that, in noticing the diversity in their student body, they're realizing that they need to expand and are starting to open more centers to students.”
For example, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) just opened their fifth day care that is open to students.
“Finding care that is not only accessible on campus but also affordable while still trying to balance those finances is huge,” O'Malley said.
Besides transportation and childcare, other areas of concern for pregnant or parenting students include flexible class schedules and policies that grant parents a little leeway for family emergencies.
“So many universities have expanded their policies to not penalize, say, a pregnant student for missed classes or turning in papers late because of being pregnant and having to go through the physical, demanding process of that,” she explained.
It is often student groups on campus that are the first to propose additional pro-life resources for their campuses. Availability and promotion of these resources is important to make pregnant and parenting students feel supported on campus, O'Malley said.
“We have to create a culture that shows that if you become pregnant in college, it's not the end of your education. Yes it's hard, we’re not saying it’s not going to be hard, but we're going to help you through that.”
For Anne Pierce, who served as president of Boston University's chapter of Students for Life, finding common ground with other groups and administration on campus was key to moving forward with making pro-life resources available.
“I really think where the 'pro-life' movement is heading right now is towards the middle ground of both
sides in the sense that we are trying to appeal to…what we have in common,” Pierce said.
“Everyone can see when people need help. Whether one identifies as pro-life or pro-choice, anyone can unite on the stance of helping women and children. We can do so much together.”
The Boston University Students for Life group worked with the Feminists for Life group to create a resource packet of information. They then met with administration and departments around the university to add the resources that were available on-campus for students. Their resource packet was added to Boston University's student health services website in November.
“I'm really proud of the fact if you google 'Boston University student health services pregnant,' then the page which has a link to all of the resources is the first hit.
Pierce said she would recommend working with both Students for Life of American and Feminists for Life for any other college campuses that want to promote their available pro-life resources.
“Also appeal to graduate students and staff members who will definitely feel similar in the sense that there are not enough resources on campus,” Pierce said.
O'Malley stressed the importance of campus pro-life groups providing practical and accessible resources for pregnant and parenting students.
“If we're asking a woman to make a life-affirming choice, we have to actually give her opportunities and resources to make that choice,” O'Malley said, noting that these initiatives can also help change how others view the pro-life movement.
“There is very often this stereotype among people who misunderstand pro-lifers that we only care about the child and we only care about the woman when she’s pregnant,” she added.
“But by us embracing pregnancy resources and really promoting these types of changes within our culture and on college campuses in particular, we’re embracing full love for the mother and the child.”
Vatican City, Jun 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Following the cancellation of his public commitments yesterday morning due to tiredness, Pope Francis has decided to continue his rest today with no appointments, but will continue tomorrow as usual.
“He is not sick and there is nothing serious, but he had a minor indisposition and because of this he felt that it was better to give up some commitments yesterday and the celebration of the Mass with the general public this morning in Santa Marta,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told CNA June 10.
Fr. Lombardi explained that the Pope usually does not hold public commitments on Tuesdays, so he did not have to cancel any appointments for today. He also said that the Pope plans to carry out his normal private activities and the General Audience tomorrow.
Yesterday Pope Francis canceled his commitments for the second part of the morning following Sunday’s Invocation for Peace in the Vatican gardens with the presidents of Israel and Palestine, as well as Patriarch Bartolomeo I of Constantinople, after which he was “very tired,” the spokesman said.
Although Pope Francis is taking a second day of rest, he sent a tweet from his Twitter account @Pontifex this morning, stating: “Let us pray for all victims of sexual violence in conflict, and those working to end this crime. #TimeToAct”.
The hashtag used by the Roman Pontiff is the one currently promoting the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict currently taking place in London.
Lasting from June 10-13, the summit is the largest international gathering ever held to address this issue, and is being co-chaired by British Foreign secretary William Hague and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees special envoy Angelina Jolie.
Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Jun 10, 2014 (CNA) -
The Argentinean team playing for the World Cup is bringing with it a larger-than-life photo of the players with Pope Francis, at a meeting in the Vatican last year.
The team hopes that the picture showing Lionel Messi and teammates with the Holy Father will “give a message of hope prior to the beginning of the World Cup,” reported the publication Diario Castellanos, which posted an image of the giant photo on Twitter:
The picture was taken when the players visited the Pope at the Vatican in August of last year, the day before Argentina beat Italy in a friendly match.
It will be kept with the team during World Cup games at the Cidade do Galo Stadium in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte.
The team's administrative staff arrived in Belo Horizonte ahead of the players and praised the Atletico Mineiro Club, the Brazilian team that plays at the stadium, for welcoming them.
“The truth is that they are treating us like we are at home, and the word no doesn't exist. They make it all happen, and we have almost everything ready for the arrival of the players,” said Efe Ruben, an official with the Argentinean national team.
Vatican City, Jun 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has decried the rape and murder of two Indian teens, stating that the crime is inhumane and the government is being dismissive.
“In just the last two weeks, we have seen despicable attacks against women and girls around the world – from Nigeria to Pakistan and from California to India,” Ki-moon said in a June 3 statement made at the launch of a video campaign on ending sexual violence through gender equality.
“I was especially appalled by the brutal rape and gruesome murder of two teenaged women in India who had ventured out because they did not have access to a toilet.”
Ki-moon, who is the eighth and current secretary-general of the United Nations, referenced the gang rape and killing of two cousins, aged 14 and 15, from India’s small village of Katra.
Disappearing the evening of May 27 after going out to relieve themselves because they did not have a toilet in their home, the girls’ bodies were found the following morning hanging from a mango tree.
Criticizing the state’s Samajwadi Party leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who according to Vatican Radio is said to have dismissed the rapists, saying, “boys will be boys” during India’s recent election campaign, the secretary-general voiced that “We say no” to this “dismissive, destructive attitude.”
Vatican Radio reports that the U.N. official also expressed harsh condemnation to Mulayam’s son Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh under the Samajwadi Party banner, who taunted reporters over the case, saying “Aren't you safe? You're not facing any danger, are you? Then why are you worried? What's it to you?”
Referencing the Twitter hashtag currently promoting the June 10 –13 Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in London, Ki-moon explained that “I am here to declare with all of you: it is time to act.”
“Violence against women is a peace and security issue. It is a human rights issue. It is a development issue,” he stated, affirming, “We must respond on all fronts and achieve full equality for all women.”
“Together we can empower more people to understand that violence against women degrades us all,” he stated, drawing attention to the work of Dr. Denis Mukwege in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whom he referred to as a “personal hero in the fight to end sexual violence.”
Noting how the doctor was nearly killed for assisting survivors of sexual violence, the U.N. official lauded the fact that he continued to treat them regardless of the danger.
“Dr. Mukwege says sexual violence continues because of indifference, as if the crimes happen to someone else,” Ki-moon observed, quoting the doctor’s affirmation that “really, it happened to one of us. We all belong to the same family of human society.”
Reiterating that we “are one human family,” the secretary-general explained that “I stand here with the head of U.N. Women and my Special Representative to demonstrate that the United Nations is mobilized.”
“I hope to hear more and louder outcries against sexual violence,” he said.“I will be raising my voice – and I count on all of you to join our chorus demanding action around the world.”
Washington D.C., Jun 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis’ recent prayer meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents is a call for peace in the region that may show fruit in improving relations, according to a panel of observers.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., pondered at a June 6 panel discussion whether Pope Francis, through the meeting, is “building up a constituency of reasonable people who maybe will make sacrifices to work together.”
Held on Capitol Hill, the panel was sponsored by the U.S. bishops' conference and Catholic Relief Services.
“We've had a lot of prayers, but never on this level,” said the cardinal, who has traveled extensively in the Holy Land and joined Pope Francis on his May visit to the region.
On Pentecost Sunday, June 8, the Pope and Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I met with Presidents Shimon Peres of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine at the Vatican, praying together, talking about peace and exchanging symbols that represent a move towards peace.
The evening’s prayer was divided into three parts, following the chronological ordering of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religious communities. Prayers were offered in Hebrew, English, Italian, and Arabic, praising God for creation, asking pardon for sin, and requesting the gift of peace.
Pope Francis and the two presidents planted an olive tree and spoke about the need for peace. The presidents, the patriarch, and Pope Francis also exchanged a sign of peace and gathered for a private discussion.
Sean Callahan, chief operating officer of Catholic Relief Services, said that while movement towards peace in the Holy Land has been “disappointing” in recent decades, this call for reconciliation and peace is a “great opportunity to re-look at where the situation is.”
Fr. Drew Christiansen, S.J., a professor of Ethics and Global Human Development at Georgetown University, said that while the United States' position as a broker of peace in the Middle East is compromised because of its “entangled” political ties, the Holy See – and specifically Pope Francis – potentially has a valuable role in helping the region's negotiations.
Fr. Christiansen remarked that in dealing with the international media during his trip to the Holy Land, the Pope dealt with “every challenge and every trap, and (has) come out clean.”
Ronit Avni, founder and executive director of Just Vision – a non-profit promoting a peaceful solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – commented that the Pope is excellent and choosing and using powerful symbols to teach a message, such as with “that iconic picture at the wall” during his May visit to the Holy Land.
However, while the meeting was powerful, Avni said that she did not expect its fruits to lead to an immediate end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“This is a marathon: I don't see us being close to resolving this issue in the next few years,” she reflected.
Wellington, New Zealand, Jun 10, 2014 (CNA) -
The bishops of Oceania upheld their solidarity with those traveling across the water to seek asylum in Australia, known locally as "boat people," urging a “more humane approach” to their situation.
Stressing that “boat people are real people,” Bishop Eugene Hurley of Darwin, Australia, remarked that “the giving of sanctuary has always been one of the noblest of human endeavors.”
He warned of the use of language to dehumanize those seeking asylum, noting that while they are called “queue jumpers,” there is no discussion of how to form orderly lines when one is fleeing war-torn Sri Lanka and Syria.
The bishop went on to call the offshore detention centers “factories for mental illness,” saying their use is “devoid of logic, fairness, and compassion.”
Bishop Hurley was among more than 80 bishops from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and other Oceania nations who were gathered in Wellington May 12-16 for prayer, fellowship, reflection, and discussion.
Among the topics discussed was current Australian policy, under which asylum seekers – many of them from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Iran – travel by boat from Indonesia and are intercepted by the nation's navy before reaching land. They are then sent to offshore detention camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, a small Micronesian nation.
The camps' conditions have been condemned by human rights groups. In February an Iranian asylum seeker was murdered, and 77 others were injured, during a spark of violence at Manus Island detention center.
“We express our solidarity with our fellow bishops, priests and pastoral workers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea who are attempting to respond compassionately to the presence and plight of asylum seekers who have been transferred to these nations against their will,” read a motion adopted May 15 by the Federation of Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Oceania.
“We appeal to the leaders of Papua New Guinea and Australia to review the Regional Resettlement Arrangement between Australia and Papua New Guinea … with a view to developing a more humane approach to asylum seekers attempting to reach Australian shores.”
In addition to asylum policy, the bishops at the gathering discussed pastoral planning and earthquakes; the Church in Fiji; preparations for October's synod on the family; youth ministry; and faith amid secularity.
Bishop Hurley, Archbishop Douglas Young of Mount Hagen, and representatives from Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands spoke about Manus Island detention center; while Bishop Paul Mea Kaiuea of Tarawa and Nauru gave a presentation on the Nauru detention center.
The motion which the bishops adopted after the discussion called Australia's policy regarding asylum seekers “institutionalized cruelty.”
Australia is currently negotiating an agreement with Cambodia to resettle some asylum seekers.
Cambodia scored a 20 on Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks the perception of corruption in public sectors. The country's score tied it with Eritrea and Venezuela, and left it just behind Zimbabwe.
“People come to get protection from Australia . . . why would they go to Cambodia?” an asylum seeker being held at the Nauru detention center said to The Sydney Morning Herald June 3.
Virak Ou, chairman of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, has said that “there's no reason for Australia to believe that Cambodia will protect the rights of refugees, which to me is very irresponsible of Australia.”
In May, a Labor party parliamentarian, Tanya Plibersek, told ABC, “We are gravely concerned about some of the things that are happening in Cambodia,” saying it is “one of the poorest countries in Asia, it still has difficulty feeding its own people . . . and protesters have been shot in the street.''
In recent years, Cambodia has deported a number of Degar refugees from Vietnam back to their home country. The Degar are an indigenous people of Vietnam's central highlands, who are largely Christian and have been persecuted for their faith by the communist government.
Frustration with Australia's policies have culminated recently in acts of self-immolation – suicide by setting oneself on fire.
Two Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka have committed the act in recent months, believing they would not be granted asylum in Australia, though they feared persecution from the Sinhalese majority should they be returned to Sri Lanka.
In a June 2 interview with ABC, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane said that “Pope Francis would subscribe to that statement that the current policy supported by both sides of politics is morally unacceptable and shames our country and the need for it to be reconsidered is urgent.”
He added that the Pope would be “appalled” were he to visit the Manus Island detention center.
Archbishop Coleridge said that the “cruel” treatment of asylum seekers “can only happen if those who are seeking refuge are seeking refuge on our shores are dehumanized – and that’s the heart of the problem.”