Thursday, January 14, 2010 12:28 AM
Pelosi Redux but with Niederauer's response ...
"Free Will, Conscience, and Moral Choice": Pelosi-Niederauer, Round Two
In a Newsweek interview
late last month, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sparked a new round of blowback in some church circles after the California Democrat reiterated her "concerns about the church's position respecting a woman's right to choose."
"I practically mourn this difference of opinion" on abortion and gay rights, the Speaker said, "because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that is that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have that opportunity to exercise their free will."
Pelosi went on to add that "When I speak to my archbishop in San Francisco and his role is to try to change my mind on the subject, well then he is exercising his pastoral duty to me as one of his flock. When they call me on the phone here [in Washington] to talk about, or come to see me about an issue, that's a different story. Then they are advocates, and I am a public official, and I have a different responsibility."
In light of Pelosi's gauntlet-throw, earlier today said hometown ordinary -- San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer -- released a column
in response to the Speaker's comments, which'll be published in the coming edition of the archdiocesan weekly.
Here, some snips:
Embodied in [Pelosi's statements] are some fundamental misconceptions about Catholic teaching on human freedom. These misconceptions are widespread both within the Catholic community and beyond. For this reason I believe it is important for me as Archbishop of San Francisco to make clear what the Catholic Church teaches about free will, conscience, and moral choice.
Catholic teaching on free will recognizes that God has given men and women the capacity to choose good or evil in their lives. The bishops at the Second Vatican Council declared that the human person, endowed with freedom, is “an outstanding manifestation of the divine image.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 17) As the parable of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, makes so beautifully clear, God did not want humanity to be mere automatons, but to have the dignity of freedom, even recognizing that with that freedom comes the cost of many evil choices.
However, human freedom does not legitimate bad moral choices, nor does it justify a stance that all moral choices are good if they are free: “The exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything.” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1740) Christian belief in human freedom recognizes that we are called but not compelled by God to choose constantly the values of the Gospel—faith, hope, love, mercy, justice, forgiveness, integrity and compassion.
It is entirely incompatible with Catholic teaching to conclude that our freedom of will justifies choices that are radically contrary to the Gospel—racism, infidelity, abortion, theft. Freedom of will is the capacity to act with moral responsibility; it is not the ability to determine arbitrarily what constitutes moral right.
What, then, is to guide the children of God in the use of their freedom? Again, the bishops at the Council provide the answer—conscience: “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment . . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God . . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.” (GS, No. 16) Conscience, then, is the judgment of reason whereby the human person, guided by God’s grace, recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act. In all we say and do, we are obliged to follow faithfully what we know to be just and right.
How do we form and guide our consciences? While the Church teaches that each of us is called to judge and direct his or her own actions, it also teaches that, like any good judge, each conscience masters the law and listens to expert testimony about the law. This process is called the education and formation of conscience.
Catholics believe that “the education of conscience is a lifelong task.” (CCC, No. 1784) Where do we go for this education of our consciences? Our living tradition teaches us that “In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path; we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.” (CCC, No. 1785)
Our Catholic beliefs about free will, conscience and moral choice are rooted in the Good News of Jesus Christ’s teaching and his redemptive life, death and resurrection: “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1); “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2Cor. 3:17); we glory “in the liberty of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:17). Common caricatures of Christian morality portray believers as living in fear of punishment or concerned only with an eternal reward. Long ago, however, St. Basil the Great, a fourth-century bishop and theologian, taught that the Christian, in living a moral life according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “does not stand before God as a slave in servile fear, nor a mercenary looking for wages, but obeys for the sake of the good itself and out of love for God as his child.” (CCC, No. 1828)
As participants in the life of the civil community, we Catholic citizens try to follow our consciences, guided, as described above, by reason and the grace of God. While we deeply respect the freedom of our fellow citizens, we nevertheless are profoundly convinced that free will cannot be cited as justification for society to allow moral choices that strike at the most fundamental rights of others. Such a choice is abortion, which constitutes the taking of innocent human life, and cannot be justified by any Catholic notion of freedom. Because of these convictions we commit ourselves to a continuing witness to, and dialogue about, the Gospel values that underlie our understanding of freedom, conscience, and moral choice.
Slammed by a horde of US bishops in the run-up to the 2008 elections after she sought to justify her pro-choice stance on Meet the Press,
the Speaker and Niederauer had "a conversation"
at the latter's behest
in February, following which a Pelosi aide said that her support for abortion rights wasn't changed, and that she would continue to receive the Eucharist.-30-
Monday, January 18, 2010 3:41 AM
Our former Episcopal priest is going to this with 300 young people from here. I'm hoping a lot more people show up than expected and our pitiful politicians take notice.
Thousands expected for March for Life events at National Shrine
Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2010 / 03:14 pm (CNA).- The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception expects more than 10,000 people to attend its liturgies, prayer services, rosaries, Holy Hours and confessions for Catholics participating in the upcoming March for Life. Events will take place Jan. 20-22, a press release from the National Shrine reports.
On Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston will be principal celebrant and homilist for the Vigil Mass for Life. The cardinal is the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Following the Mass, from 10 p.m. to midnight there will be confessions, the National Rosary for Life and Night Prayer.
Holy Hours for Life will continue as part of the National Prayer Vigil from midnight to 6 a.m. The Closing Mass of the vigil will take place at 7:30 a.m. Its principal celebrant and homilist will be Archbishop for Military Services Timothy P. Broglio.
Both Masses will be broadcast live on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).
The National Shrine and the Catholic University of America will house overnight participants in the March for Life who come from across the United States.
The March for Life commemorates the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that ordered abortion to be legalized across the United States.
According to the National Shrine, participants “demonstrate their belief in the sanctity of human life in all its stages from conception to natural death.”
The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception’s website is www.nationalshrine.com.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 2:07 AM
D.C. PRO-LIFE MARCH NOW A WORLD EVENT
Filipinos, Africans Tell Obama: "Stop Paying to Kill Our Children"
WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- International pro-life leaders are arriving to the United States to join in this Friday's march to protest the legalization of abortion.
"America’s March for Life is now the world's March for Life," according to Joseph Meaney, director of International Coordination for Human Life International.
Each year since the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States, marchers have taken to the streets in the nation's capital in protest.
Meaney said that now the world is joining in: "It has become the world’s pro-life protest because of the aggressive promotion of abortion and population control that is now official policy of the United States, thanks to the administration of President Barack Obama."
"This is not only the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which has led to the destruction of almost 50 million American children," Ligaya Acosta, Human Life International regional coordinator for Asia and Oceania, explained. "This is now the anniversary of President Obama’s allowing Americans' taxpayer funds to be used to promote abortion and other assaults on life in my own country of the Philippines, in Africa, in China … all over the world where 40 million babies are killed every year.
"It is wrong and we are here to tell him and Congress to stop paying to kill our children!"
Obama reversed the Mexico City Policy on Jan. 23, 2009. That policy kept federal funds from supporting organizations that promote abortion outside the United States.
"We are tired of the arrogant American government trying to tell us how many children we should have," said Emil Hagamu, Human Life International regional coordinator for English-speaking Africa. "President Obama is of Kenyan descent. How can he do this to his own people?"
Friday, January 22, 2010 11:05 PM
MARCH FOR LIFE 2010 / NC Register
March for Life: Pro-Life Strength Grows in Congress and Coming Election by RICH DALY, REGISTER CORRESPONDENT 01/22/2010
WASHINGTON — The voices of those taking part in the March for Life may finally be getting heard by those in the buildings they march past year after year in Washington, D.C.
In particular, their tenacity seems to be paying off in the Capitol and the Senate and House office buildings that stand near the Supreme Court, where Roe v. Wade was decided 37 years ago today.
Pro-life Republican and Democratic members of Congress believe the increasingly pro-life views of the public have finally gained traction in Congress, despite the pro-abortion views of many Democratic leaders in Congress and the administration. And abortion may be a critical issue in the mid-term elections this November.
The growing strength of the pro-life position in Congress became apparent last November when a group of 64 Democrats joined most Republicans in the House of Representatives to add an amendment to the health-care overhaul bill that barred the use of federal taxpayer funds for abortions. The vote “shocked” pro-abortion Democratic leaders in Congress, according to the namesake of the pro-life amendment.
Democratic leaders in Congress “ignored the pro-life issues until health care, and even then they didn’t listen to us until the last minute,” said Bart Stupak, D-Mich., the co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, in an interview with the Register on the eve of the Jan. 22 March for Life in Washington.
The amendment to keep taxpayers from funding abortions — much maligned by pro-abortion advocates, Democratic leaders in Congress and President Obama — has brought pro-life issues “front and center” in Congress, Stupak said.
The abortion-funding restriction is one of the issues that tripped up the Democratic health-care overhaul because Stupak and a group of fellow pro-life Democrats vowed to oppose any final bill without it. The pro-life Democrats rejected a watered-down ban included in the Senate-passed version of the health-care overhaul.
The outlook for the massive health-care overhaul bill that included the abortion-funding language is poor to terminal because of the pro-life opposition and a range of other controversial provisions, Stupak said.
“It’s not going anywhere,” he said.
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., told the Register that the vote to block public funding of elective abortions in the health-care bill demonstrates that it is “very much a rising issue” in Congress.
Likewise, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., another member of the Pro-life Caucus, told the Register that the successful effort to strip abortion funding from the health-care bill showed that abortion is unexpectedly “taking a higher profile” in a Congress led by staunchly pro-abortion Democrats.
“That vote has shown the power of the issue” of abortion to galvanize pro-life supporters, Franks said.
The pro-life stand in the House of Representatives followed a May 2009 Gallup Poll that found for the first time a majority of Americans — 51% — described themselves as “pro-life,” which was the highest pro-life finding since the poll began in 1995. In contrast, only 42% of Americans described themselves as “pro-choice.”
More Abortion Challenges Coming
The growing strength of the pro-life position in Congress is not one that’s going to go away, even after the health-care debate, said the congressmen.
“The life issues are front and center now,” Stupak said.
The higher-profile pro-life legislators have faced tests of their resolve in this Congress even before the health-care overhaul debate, and they expect more congressional efforts to expand abortion before Congress adjourns at the end of the year.
The successful abortion fight in the health-care bill already has led congressional leaders to drop an effort to lift a long-standing abortion-funding ban for private plans that insure federal employees. Democratic leaders had slipped the abortion coverage for federal employees into an end-of-the-year department funding bill before pro-life members of Congress caught it and demanded its removal, said Tom McClusky, senior vice president of Family Research Council Action.
Additional abortion battles in Congress loom over the plans of pro-abortion members of Congress to write into law an Obama administration policy that allowed federal taxpayer funding to flow to overseas groups that perform abortions. Until now, the power to determine whether foreign abortion groups can receive federal funding has been left up to the sitting president. Previous Republican presidents have routinely reinstated the abortion-funding ban as one of their first acts in office, while Democrats, including Obama, lifted the ban as one of their first acts.
Pro-Life Position Gains Political Currency
Pro-life politicians and advocates also see the defense of the unborn as a popular position on an issue with a rising profile and one that would benefit them in the mid-term elections later this year.
“There is a lot of awareness [of abortion as a key political issue] that hasn’t been there in a while, especially on the Democratic side,” Stupak said.
Camp noted that pro-life members of Congress are watching to see if the abortion-funding effort re-emerges in any stripped-down health-care bill that Democratic leaders may try to advance in the wake of the collapse of the massive health-care legislation.
Abortion “will have a higher profile in the election if [pro-abortion advocates] change existing law” on abortion funding, said Camp, who sponsored the smaller-scale Republican health-care alternative.
The impact of abortion was felt in the recent Massachusetts Senate race. Republican Scott Brown shocked the Washington political establishment when he easily won election in a state that had not sent a Republican senator to Congress since 1972. His Democratic opponent, Martha Coakley, launched pointed pro-abortion attacks late in the race against Brown, who describes himself as pro-choice but has supported restrictions on abortion as a state senator. Coakley proudly described her earlier legal efforts to help minors obtain abortions over the objections of their parents and was endorsed by the pro-abortion advocacy group Emily’s List.
The state’s pro-life group, Massachusetts Citizens for Life, also threw its support to Brown’s campaign. Such support may be critical in many other congressional races later in the year, where a pro-life position can provide a candidate with a net gain of up to 5% of voters, said Karen Cross, political director of National Right to Life.
The polling in a growing number of congressional races has shown pro-life candidates, regardless of their party, improving as the national mood shifts in a more conservative direction, she said.
“The last two election cycles have been very discouraging, but this year it’s like Christmas every day” as new poll numbers are revealed, Cross said.
Franks agreed. In his view from Capitol Hill, the pro-life position is strengthening candidates.
Said Franks, “Pro-life candidates will run stronger and stronger as time goes on.”
Rich Daly writes from Washington
Friday, January 22, 2010 11:12 PM
Photo from the March for Life 2010
Taken today at the march. More photos by AmP reader DistrictKo here.
[Yellow and white Vatican colors ... good going!]
Friday, January 22, 2010 11:15 PM
Mass for Life - Basilica of the Immaculate ConceptionPosted by Rocco Palmo on "Whispers in the Loggia"
As always, this 22 January is a national day of Prayer and Penance
in the Stateside church to observe the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade
, which legalized abortion on these shores.
Sure, it might never be far from center stage of late given recent months' battle over health-care reform, but the pro-life movement's traditional moment in the ecclesial sun ensues over these days; last night saw the usual throng of some 18-20,000 fill every open inch of Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine
of the Immaculate Conception for the annual Vigil Mass for Life,
led by some six cardinals, 150 bishops and enough priests to fill an hourlong processional... then around 2,000 visitors camp out at CUA
for the night before another 20,000 fill the capital's Verizon Center for the DC archdiocese's Mass and Youth Rally,
the tickets for which were snapped up in 45 minutes
; this year's event will have "satellite" sites due to the high demand, all while other diocesan groups in attendance hold scores of individual liturgies across the city.
All, of course, are preludes to the afternoon's March for Life, an all-faith gathering which draws an invariable throng of some 150,000, long making it Washington's largest annual demonstration.CatholicTV
will be streaming
the Verizon Center Mass at 11am ET (1600GMT)... and, well, here's hoping someone from EWTN
(which ran last night's liturgy) can rustle up on-demand video of the Vigil -- at least, the homily.
While the USCCB's freshly-installed
pro-life chair, Cardinal Dan DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, had a prepared text for his first "State of the Movement" address (as the Eve's preach has become
over the years), the draft ended up getting upended as the extemp-friendly prelate
delivered some of his strongest passages off-the-cuff, preserving his usual pop
in the process.
For now, suffice it to say this: the core of DiNardo's message laid out the three core qualities of genuine pro-life witness -- joy, caritas
, and dependence on Christ... and just in case the full treatment doesn't materialize (or even if it does), one sister's call for the church to not just be "pro-life," but "pro-active"
is well worth a read, to boot.
PHOTO: Nancy Wiechec/CNS
Friday, January 22, 2010 11:21 PM
Saturday, January 23, 2010 3:43 AM
Our priest took 300 young people from here to this rally.
Participants at annual March for Life urged to keep up their efforts
By Carol Zimmermann
Catholic News Service
Jan. 22, 2010
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Despite overcast skies, the mood at the Jan. 22 annual March for Life in Washington was decidedly upbeat as speaker after speaker urged the crowd to keep up their efforts in the pro-life arena.
Several speakers told the tens of thousands on the National Mall -- bundled in winter gear and holding aloft placards with pro-life messages or banners identifying where they were from -- that they were now in the majority and would continue to make inroads in society and in government policies.
Although the rally's opening prayer asked God to grant the march participants "the courage to be a voice for the voiceless," this group hardly seemed to be lacking bravery. They showed stamina by simply showing up in vast numbers -- many as repeat marchers -- despite calls for sleet and freezing rain, which never materialized.
A glance at the banners across the mall showed that the participants included people from Texas, Michigan, Ohio and Massachusetts. The relatively subdued crowd cheered enthusiastically when speakers stressed that abortion should never have been part of health care reform legislation before Congress or when speakers criticized President Barack Obama's support for legal abortion.
Nellie Gray, president of the March for Life Education & Defense Fund -- the group that organizes the march -- told participants that their presence at the 37th annual march represented a "whole new surge" for the pro-life movement to not only continue to educate government officials about the immorality of abortion but to also show a united front.
Those involved in the fight against abortion, she said, are not just working to change laws but are also giving support for pregnant women and women who have had abortions.
Several speakers highlighted the pro-life movement's outreach efforts and urged participants to support pro-life doctors and pharmacists and to let members of their community know about the available pregnancy centers or post-abortion counseling programs.
With the U.S. Capitol in the background, 23 Catholic bishops and 21 members of Congress joined pro-life leaders on the rally's stage.
Among the bishops were Cardinals Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Justin Rigali of Philadelphia. Several of the lawmakers were Catholic including: U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.; Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who is co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus; and Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, R-La.
Cao led the group in a pro-life cheer and then urged them to "speak loudly for leaders to understand we are pro-life."
He encouraged the participants to keep up their efforts, stressing that the "fight will be long and hard" and that young people, who made up a large percentage of march attendees, would need to see the efforts through.
Brownback told the crowd that "for the first time you live in a majority pro-life country" referring to recently released Gallup poll results showing 51 percent of American to be pro-life on the abortion issue and 42 percent of Americans as pro-choice.
"You have done it -- persuading others -- keep it up," he said.
After the rally, participants walked to the Supreme Court where many planned to meet with their representatives to lobby for anti-abortion measures. The marchers talked with one another, sang and prayed as they made their way down Constitution Avenue.
As marchers were lining up in the street, Father Paul Hrezo, spiritual director for the college seminarians at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, said it was important to be at this event "to be counted with others and give witness to what we believe."
The priest, who is a veteran marcher, came with about 80 people.
Even though many marchers have made this event an annual one, some in the crowd told Catholic News Service that this march was their first.
Two women from Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Turnersville, N.J., said they had never attended the march before because they weren't quick enough to get seats on the parish-sponsored buses.
They were pleased simply to see the turnout. Theresa Ramsey, taking pictures of the crowd, said she was surprised to see people "coming from all directions."
She also was confident that the sheer number of people had to make an impact, either in Washington or in their local efforts.
"Let's hope people are listening," she said as her friend nodded in agreement.
300,000 MARCH FOR LIFE IN US CAPITAL
Another 75,000 Participate Online
WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 22, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Some 300,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. today to mark the 37th anniversary of the U.S. supreme court decision that legalized abortion.
Half of the multitude that attended the annual rally and March for Life was under the age of 25, Father Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, told the Eternal Word Television Network.
Another 75,000 participated in the pro-life demonstration through a Virtual March for Life, an initiative sponsored by Americans United for Life Action.
The action group launched a Web site for people who support the cause and want their voices to be heard but were unable to attend the event.
The Web page allowed users to sign in and choose an avatar -- a digital figure -- to be placed on a map in front of the congressional buildings, thereby making a stand to defend life.
Several political and social leaders participated in this virtual march, including Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska, Michael Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, Rick Perry, governor of Texas, Timothy Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota, several congressmen, and other personalities.
In a Facebook entry, Palin affirmed, "Together we can bear witness to the beauty and blessings of the culture of life."
Members of the action group kept the online community updated with on-the-scene blog entries. They also created a network through Twitter and Facebook for pro-life activists to connect, comment and participate in today's events.
Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, explained in a letter that "with a health care bill that includes taxpayer funding for abortion hanging in the balance, this is an important, historic opportunity to get the attention of politicians in Washington."
"In this critical moment, every American must be heard regardless of where you are," she affirmed.
This year is the "most important March for Life in history," Yoest said. "So much is at stake in this moment."
Saturday, January 23, 2010 3:45 AM
Three Images for the March for Life
AUTHOR: PETER SCHINELLER, S.J.
Three remarkable images came together for me as I celebrated Mass today, on 22 January, the 37th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the U.S. The bishops advised priests on this day to celebrate a Mass for Peace and Justice and “pray for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.”
The first image comes from the first reading of the Mass of the day, from the book of Samuel. David comes upon his enemy Saul in a cave. His supporters urge him to kill Saul but David “restrained his men.” David refuses and spares the life of Saul, “the Lord’s anointed.” He takes a stand against violence, a stand for life--prefiguring the words of Jesus that we must love, a love that extends to our enemies.
The second image is the powerful picture of the seven-year-old Haitian boy, Kiki, emerging from eight days in the rubble, a smile on his face, his outstretched arms raised over his head as he his handed over to a familiar face. The rescue teams who had dug him out cheer him and share in his joy, as they see the fruit of their labor.
We know that thousands died in Haiti, including Kiki’s little brother. Yet amid such suffering we are deeply moved by the smile of Kiki. In this iconic photo, Kiki represents all true humanity – from life in the womb to the elderly--indeed all of God’s creation, with our instinctive God-given urge to preserve and share life.
The final image is that of the thousands of pro-lifers gathering in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, coming from all corners of the U.S. They carry their flashlights as they march and stand for life. They are part of the growing movement, now a majority, in the U.S. that is pro-life.
Surely the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, was present with King David, with Kiki and his rescuers, and with the marchers in Washington. May each of us, in our own way, guided by that same Spirit, act against the forces of death and violence and stand strong for the culture of life and nonviolence.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010 6:11 PM
The howling by these so-called "feminist" groups over this ad "celebrating life" drives me nuts. Tim Tebow is a great college football player who is also a very committed Christian. He has received a lot of criticism for his Christian beliefs and his missionary work. But to blast his mom because she was brave enough to give birth to him instead of aborting him as her dumb doctors suggested is not only anti-life but anti-courage, anti-hope, and anti-love and is instead pro-hysterics, pro-selfishness, and pro-hatred. I wish the fanatics who lead these so-called feminist groups would stop saying they represent women's rights and welfare because they only represent themselves and their own small-mindedness and bitterness. Really pathetic. I hope CBS doesn't get cowed by their screeching and end up pulling that ad.
Women's groups urge CBS to drop Tebow Super Bowl ad
Updated Jan 25, 2010 7:41 PM ET
NEW YORK (AP)
A national coalition of women's groups called on CBS on Monday to scrap its plan to broadcast an ad during the Super Bowl featuring college football star Tim Tebow and his mother, which critics say is likely to convey an anti-abortion message.
"An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year -- an event designed to bring Americans together," said Jemhu Greene, president of the New York-based Women's Media Center.
The center was coordinating the protest with backing from the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority and other groups.
CBS said it has approved the script for the 30-second ad and has given no indication that the protest would have an impact. A network spokesman, Dana McClintock, said CBS would ensure that any issue-oriented ad was "appropriate for air."
The ad -- paid for by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family -- is expected to recount the story of Pam Tebow's pregnancy in 1987 with a theme of "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life." After getting sick during a mission trip to the Philippines, she ignored a recommendation by doctors to abort her fifth child and gave birth to Tim, who went on to win the 2007 Heisman Trophy while helping his Florida team to two BCS championships.
The controversy over the ad was raised Sunday when Tebow met with reporters in Mobile, Ala., before beginning preparations for next weekend's Senior Bowl.
"I know some people won't agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe," Tebow said. "I've always been very convicted of it (his views on abortion) because that's the reason I'm here, because my mom was a very courageous woman. So any way that I could help, I would do it."
Thirty-second commercials during the Super Bowl are selling for $2.5 million to $2.8 million. Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, said funds for the Tebow ad were donated by a few "very generous friends" and did not come from the group's general fund.
Schneeberger said he and his colleagues "were a little surprised" at the furor over the ad.
"There's nothing political and controversial about it," he said. "When the day arrives, and you sit down to watch the game on TV, those who oppose it will be quite surprised at what the ad is all about."
The protest letter from the Women's Media Center suggested that CBS should have turned down the ad in part because it was conceived by Focus on the Family.
"By offering one of the most coveted advertising spots of the year to an anti-equality, anti-choice, homophobic organization, CBS is aligning itself with a political stance that will damage its reputation, alienate viewers, and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers," the letter said.
However, Schneeberger said CBS officials carefully examined Focus on the Family's track record and found no basis for rejecting the ad.
"We understand that some people don't think very highly of what we do," Schneeberger said. "We're not trying to sell you a soft drink -- we're not selling anything. We're trying to celebrate families."
The idea for the ad came from an employee in Focus on the Family's film department, Schneeberger said, and the Tebows "were thrilled" when it was proposed to them. The Tebows, including Tim, have been outspoken in discussing their Christian faith and their missionary work.
All the national networks, including CBS, have policies that rule out the broadcast of certain types of contentious advocacy ads. In 2004, CBS cited such a policy in rejecting an ad by the liberal-leaning United Church of Christ highlighting the UCC's welcoming stance toward gays and others who might feel shunned by more conservative churches.
CBS was criticized for rejecting that ad -- and perhaps might have worried about comparable criticism from conservatives if it had rejected an ad featuring such a charismatic and well-known figure as Tebow.
CBS noted that it had run some advocacy ads in recent months, including spots taking conflicting sides in the debate of a national health care overhaul.
Terry O'Neill, the president of the National Organization for Women, said she had respect for the private choices made by women such as Pam Tebow but condemned the planned ad as "extraordinarily offensive and demeaning."
"That's not being respectful of other people's lives," O'Neill said. "It is offensive to hold one way out as being a superior way over everybody else's."
A national columnist for CBSSports.com, Gregg Doyel, also objected to the CBS decision to show the ad, specifically because it would air on Super Sunday.
"If you're a sports fan, and I am, that's the holiest day of the year," he wrote. "It's not a day to discuss abortion. For it, against it, I don't care what you are. On Super Sunday, I don't care what I am. Feb. 7 is simply not the day to have that discussion."
Saturday, January 30, 2010 4:45 PM
More of the same kind of antics as in the post above. The spokespeople for so many of these venomous little protest groups remind me of hysterical hyenas, yapping at the heels of some creature far more beautiful and noble than they could ever hope to be in their wildest dreams.
Atheist group urges boycott of Mother Teresa stamp
New York City, N.Y., Jan 29, 2010 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- Following the U.S. Postal Service announcement that they are featuring the late Mother Teresa on an upcoming stamp, the atheist group Freedom from Religion has urged its supporters to boycott the stamp on the grounds that it violates postal regulations.
The stamp is scheduled for release on Aug. 26, which would have been Mother Teresa's 100th birthday, and is intended to honor the Nobel Peace Prize recipient for her humanitarian work. A press release from the U.S. Postal Service issued last month praised Mother Teresa for her 50 years of service to “the sick and destitute of India and the world,” as well as her “humility and compassion” and “respect for the innate worth and dignity of humankind.”
However, Annie Gaylor, spokeswoman for Freedom from Religion, told Fox News on Thursday that the stamp goes against a postal stipulation that prevents the Postal Service from honoring “individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings.”
“Mother Teresa is principally known as a religious figure who ran a religious institution,” Gaylor argued. “You can't really separate her being a nun and being a Roman Catholic from everything she did.”
Postal Service spokesman Roy Betts responded to Gaylor by saying that there is a long history of individuals with religious backgrounds like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. who have been honored on stamps. “This has nothing to do with faith,” he stated in a reply to Fox News.
Gaylor claimed, however, that Dr. King “just happened to be a minister” and that “Malcolm X was not principally known for being a religious figure.”
“And he's not called Father Malcolm X like Mother Teresa,” Gaylor continued. “I mean, even her name is a Catholic honorific.”
Catholic League president Bill Donahue also reacted to Gaylor's arguments on Thursday, issuing a statement which said that Gaylor “sounds like a white racist when she dresses down Rev. Martin Luther King.”
Responding to Gaylor's claim that Martin Luther King, Jr. “just happened to be a minister,” Donahue said, “Really? We'd like to hear her explain that to African Americans at a Sunday service. Perhaps she can get the NAACP to recast King as a secular orator, and not as a black clergyman, during Black History Month, which starts on Monday.”
Gaylor also told Fox News that she opposed Mother Teresa's “anti-abortion rant” during her Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1979 and claimed that her humanitarian work was fraught with controversy.
“There was criticism by the end of her life that she turned what was a tiny charity into an extremely wealthy charity that had the means to provide better care than it did,” Gaylor argued.
Donahue countered Gaylor's claim, asserting, “What's really driving Gaylor's hatred of Mother Teresa, besides her virulent anti-Catholicism, is the saintly nun’s opposition to abortion.”
“She accuses the Albanian nun of making an 'anti-abortion rant' during her Nobel Prize acceptance speech. As a matter of fact, the 'rant' amounted to her saying that 'abortion was the greatest destroyer of peace in the world,'” Donahue stated.
“To understand why abortion hits a nerve with Gaylor, consider this,” he added. “Her mother, Annie Nicol Gaylor, founded the Freedom from Religion Foundation in 1978. And just two years after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion-on-demand, she released a book titled, 'Abortion Is a Blessing.' This is not the kind of book that someone who is reluctantly pro-choice writes: it could only be written by someone who sees abortion as a positive good.”
Postal Service spokesman Roy Betts reiterated on Thursday that “Mother Teresa is not being honored because of her religion, she's being honored for her work with the poor and her acts of humanitarian relief.”
“Her contribution to the world as a humanitarian speaks for itself and is unprecedented.”
Tuesday, February 02, 2010 6:15 PM
More than 50,000 show support for Tebow pro-life Super Bowl ad
Washington D.C., Feb 2, 2010 / 06:51 am (CNA).- Over 50,000 people have reportedly submitted comments to a website in support of college football star Tim Tebow’s appearance in a pro-life Super Bowl ad.
The Susan B. Anthony List set up the site BlockHardForTebow.com to show support for the ad, in which Tebow and his mother Pam discuss how Pam refused to abort Tebow despite a life-threatening infection.
“When someone this prominent is willing to put himself out there with a positive message about Life, we need to defend him,” the site says.
The website, launched Jan. 27, allows visitors to send personal comments of support to Tebow. It also hosts a short ESPN video about Tebow.
The ad, sponsored by Focus on the Family for broadcast on CBS, has drawn protest from the National Organization for Women (NOW) and other pro-abortion women’s groups.
Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser claimed that NOW and its allies are “on the wrong side of American public opinion.”
“The outcry of national support for Tim Tebow’s pro-life leadership illustrates the strength of the growing American pro-life majority.”
She claimed that the campaign against CBS, the Tebow family and Focus on the Family was “going nowhere fast.” In Dannenfelser’s view, it was being led by “old guard feminists” whose “desperate arguments” ring hollow.
“The ‘pro-choice’ label has worn out its usefulness – it is an empty platitude for the pain women feel when they’ve made the abortion choice. Arguments that abortion is somehow as liberating and self-sacrificing as Pam Tebow’s decision to choose life in the face of great personal pain just don’t stand the straight face test. Such callous attitudes grate on the conscience and defy experience.”
The Susan B. Anthony List reports that the pro-abortion rights group EMILY’s List has collected 16,000 signatures asking CBS to refuse to broadcast the ad.
A New York Times editorial criticized the protests against the ad as “puzzling and dismaying.”
Thursday, February 04, 2010 7:01 AM
I really like the way this woman sports writer thinks.
Tebow's Super Bowl ad isn't intolerant; its critics are
By Sally Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
I'll spit this out quick, before the armies of feminism try to gag me and strap electrodes to my forehead: Tim Tebow is one of the better things to happen to young women in some time. I realize this stance won't endear me to the "Dwindling Organizations of Ladies in Lockstep," otherwise known as DOLL, but I'll try to pick up the shards of my shattered feminist credentials and go on.
As statements at Super Bowls go, I prefer the idea of Tebow's pro-life ad to, say, Jim McMahon dropping his pants, as the former Chicago Bears quarterback once did in response to a question. We're always harping on athletes to be more responsible and engaged in the issues of their day, and less concerned with just cashing checks. It therefore seems more than a little hypocritical to insist on it only if it means criticizing sneaker companies, and to stifle them when they take a stance that might make us uncomfortable.
I'm pro-choice, and Tebow clearly is not. But based on what I've heard in the past week, I'll take his side against the group-think, elitism and condescension of the "National Organization of Fewer and Fewer Women All The Time." For one thing, Tebow seems smarter than they do.
Tebow's 30-second ad hasn't even run yet, but it already has provoked "The National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us" to reveal something important about themselves: They aren't actually "pro-choice" so much as they are pro-abortion. Pam Tebow has a genuine pro-choice story to tell. She got pregnant in 1987, post-Roe v. Wade, and while on a Christian mission in the Philippines, she contracted a tropical ailment. Doctors advised her the pregnancy could be dangerous, but she exercised her freedom of choice and now, 20-some years later, the outcome of that choice is her beauteous Heisman Trophy winner son, a chaste, proselytizing evangelical.
Pam Tebow and her son feel good enough about that choice to want to tell people about it. Only, NOW says they shouldn't be allowed to. Apparently NOW feels this commercial is an inappropriate message for America to see for 30 seconds, but women in bikinis selling beer is the right one. I would like to meet the genius at NOW who made that decision. On second thought, no, I wouldn't.
There's not enough space in the sports pages for the serious weighing of values that constitutes this debate, but surely everyone in both camps, pro-choice or pro-life, wishes the "need" for abortions wasn't so great. Which is precisely why NOW is so wrong to take aim at Tebow's ad.
Here's what we do need a lot more of: Tebows. Collegians who are selfless enough to choose not to spend summers poolside, but travel to impoverished countries to dispense medical care to children, as Tebow has every summer of his career. Athletes who believe in something other than themselves, and are willing to put their backbone where their mouth is. Celebrities who are self-possessed and self-controlled enough to use their wattage to advertise commitment over decadence.
You know what we really need more of? Famous guys who aren't embarrassed to practice sexual restraint, and to say it out loud. If we had more of those, women might have fewer abortions. See, the best way to deal with unwanted pregnancy is to not get the sperm in the egg and the egg implanted to begin with, and that is an issue for men, too -- and they should step up to that.
"Are you saving yourself for marriage?" Tebow was asked last summer during an SEC media day.
"Yes, I am," he replied.
The room fell into a hush, followed by tittering: The best college football player in the country had just announced he was a virgin. As Tebow gauged the reaction from the reporters in the room, he burst out laughing. They were a lot more embarrassed than he was.
"I think y'all are stunned right now!" he said. "You can't even ask a question!"
That's how far we've come from any kind of sane viewpoint about star athletes and sex. Promiscuity is so the norm that if a stud isn't shagging everything in sight, we feel faintly ashamed for him.
Obviously Tebow can make people uncomfortable, whether it's for advertising his chastity, or for wearing his faith on his face via biblical citations painted in his eye-black. Hebrews 12:12, his cheekbones read during the Florida State game: "Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees." His critics find this intrusive, and say the Super Bowl is no place for an argument of this nature. "Pull the ad," NOW President Terry O'Neill said. "Let's focus on the game."
Trouble is, you can't focus on the game without focusing on the individuals who play it -- and that is the genius of Tebow's ad. The Super Bowl is not some reality-free escape zone. Tebow himself is an inescapable fact: Abortion doesn't just involve serious issues of life, but of potential lives, Heisman trophy winners, scientists, doctors, artists, inventors, Little Leaguers -- who would never come to be if their birth mothers had not wrestled with the stakes and chosen to carry those lives to term. And their stories are every bit as real and valid as the stories preferred by NOW.
Let me be clear again: I couldn't disagree with Tebow more. It's my own belief that the state has no business putting its hand under skirts. But I don't care that we differ. Some people will care that the ad is paid for by Focus on the Family, a group whose former spokesman, James Dobson, says loathsome things about gays. Some will care that Tebow is a creationist. Some will care that CBS has rejected a gay dating service ad. None of this is the point. CBS owns its broadcast and can run whatever advertising it wants, and Tebow has a right to express his beliefs publicly. Just as I have the right to reject or accept them after listening -- or think a little more deeply about the issues. If the pro-choice stance is so precarious that a story about someone who chose to carry a risky pregnancy to term undermines it, then CBS is not the problem.
Tebow's ad, by the way, never mentions abortion; like the player himself, it's apparently soft-spoken. It simply has the theme "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life." This is what NOW has labeled "extraordinarily offensive and demeaning." But if there is any demeaning here, it's coming from NOW, via the suggestion that these aren't real questions, and that we as a Super Bowl audience are too stupid or too disinterested to handle them on game day.
Friday, February 05, 2010 8:07 PM
Fortunately, we haven't got to this point yet in the U.S. but we are definitely headed that way. I really hope the people of St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and numerous other saints and martyrs can somehow defend the faith and the human dignity and decency of their children against such persistent and insidious attacks.
Spanish government course teaches sex can be practiced with 'girl, boy or animal'
Madrid, Spain, Feb 3, 2010 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- Parent organizations in Spain are fiercely protesting the curriculum of the Socialist government’s required education course, “Education for the Citizenry,” after it was revealed that in one Spanish city, students are being taught that sex can be freely practiced, even with animals.
According to the organization “Professionals for Ethics,” third grade students in Cordoba, located in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, are using course material stating that “nature has given us sex so we can use it with another girl, with a boy or with an animal.” Parents groups say the material indoctrinates children and camouflages an agenda that is pro-homosexual and critical of moral norms and values.
In the region of Castille and Leon, some 500 students have been excused from participating in the course for reasons of conscience, while hundreds in Madrid and Valencia are awaiting a ruling from the courts on whether or not they are required to attend.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010 1:53 AM
Dominican sisters to appear on Oprah Winfrey Show
Ann Arbor, Mich., Feb 8, 2010 / 02:52 am (CNA).- The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist have made waves across the nation for their rapid growth and their devout orthodoxy. Now, they are once again in the national spotlight, being featured on the popular Oprah Winfrey Show.
“They phoned us and asked if they could do a program on us with Oprah. That's all we know!” Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP, vocations director for the community, told CNA in an email.
The show featuring the sisters will air on Tuesday, February 9, 2010. The same day happens to be the congregation’s 13th anniversary. The coincidence is “amazing, as they did not know this when they chose the date -- but God did!” exclaimed the vocations director.
When asked why they chose to accept the invitation and appear on the show, “Oprah is powerful -- we entrust this endeavor to Mother Mary for the greater glory of her Son! It's truly been a lot of fun as 'the world' does not begin to understand our life,” the Dominican said. “Hopefully, this will inspire more people to love God and serve Him in the manner He invites each of us -- and get the Gospel on the airwaves!!”
The Dominican Sisters of Mary were founded in 1997 by four Dominican sisters responding to John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization. In the 13 years of their existence, they have grown to almost 100 members. Their newly constructed motherhouse is already filled to capacity.
Currently, the average age of the sisters is 26 and the average age of their postulants is 21.
“Young people, inspired by John Paul the Great and Pope Benedict XVI, are generous and desirous of living sacrificial, authentic lives as God asks of them,” Sr. Joseph Andrew said.
“We agreed (to be on the show) because it will further understanding of Religious Life,” she added. “The Catholic Church is alive, well, and thriving as is authentic religious life,” she added.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010 1:55 AM
Former New Orleans archbishop grateful Saints 'won the fight'
New Orleans, La., Feb 8, 2010 / 05:44 pm (CNA).- Following the Saints' Super Bowl victory on Sunday, Archbishop Phillip Hannan, the retired Archbishop of New Orleans, lauded the team's win and told CNA that “it was a tremendous effort.”
“Everybody involved, in a marvelous way supported each other,” said the archbishop on Monday, adding that he was “tremendously grateful” the Saints “won the fight.”
Kent Bossier, the personal assistant and care taker of the 96-year-old prelate, told CNA that their lively Super Bowl experience began when they were flown to Miami from New Orleans on Saint's owner Tom Benson's private jet.
On game day, “we rode into the stadium earlier in the day with the players entourage,” said Bossier.
Prior to the showdown with Indianapolis, Archbishop Hannan concelebrated a pre-game Mass with current New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond. The Mass ended with a rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Bossier recalled.
When the game began, Archbishop Hannan and Bossier were honored by being seated in Tom Benson's suite along with Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and his wife Supriya Jindal as well as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“There were lots of hugs and high fives going on,” Bossier said.
As Saints fans around the country celebrated the win, Archbishop Hannan and his assistant joined the players in choruses of "Who Dat" and "When the Saints Go Marching In."
Archbishop Hannan's history with the Saints stretches back to 1967, when he not only approved the naming of the Saints at their inception but also wrote an official prayer in honor of the team.
Saturday, February 13, 2010 1:49 AM
Rep. Kennedy’s retirement an opportunity for pro-lifers, Rhode Island group says
Providence, R.I., Feb 12, 2010 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s decision not to run for re-election creates an opportunity for a pro-life candidate to replace him, a Rhode Island pro-life group said on Friday. Kennedy had sparked a dispute with his bishop after he strongly criticized the Catholic bishops’ opposition to health care legislation that funded abortion.
Rep. Kennedy, a Democrat and son of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), announced his decision in a video posted to YouTube on Thursday. He said his life is taking “a new direction.” He has held his seat for eight Congressional terms.
CNA spoke about Rep. Kennedy’s decision in a Friday interview with Barth E. Bracy, Executive Director of Rhode Island Right to Life (RIRTL).
“Our hope and goal politically is to have a pro-life Congressman in Rhode Island’s First Congressional district,” Bracy explained.
“Patrick Kennedy is certainly not a pro-life congressman… So we’re delighted at the opportunity his resignation presents,” he commented. “We’re happy. We’d be happier if he would have just become pro-life.”
Polls released last Friday showed Kennedy to be “incredibly vulnerable,” he reported, adding that RIRTL has seen an opportunity in the district “for some time.”
“We had been working on identifying pro-life candidates to run against him, not only on the Republican side but also, just as importantly, on the Democratic side to run in the primary.”
“In some ways this is a great blessing, in others it presents greater challenges,” he commented, explaining that the Congressman’s exit may assist the rise of a “more formidable” pro-abortion candidate.
Patrick Kennedy is no stranger to the contentious issue of abortion. Last year controversy erupted when he accused the Catholic Church of fanning “the flames of dissent and discord” in debate over the proposed health care reform. The Catholic bishops had declared that they would oppose the proposed legislation unless it explicitly prohibited funding of abortion.
Bishop of Providence Thomas J. Tobin asked the politician to apologize for his “irresponsible” comments and said he was a “disappointment to the Catholic Church.”
The dispute continued for several weeks, with Rep. Kennedy revealing that the bishop had previously asked him to refrain from receiving Holy Communion because of his support for abortion.
After hearing of Kennedy's latest announcement, Bishop Tobin told the Boston Herald on Friday:
“I am sure that the Congressman’s decision was a difficult one to make given his very long and strong commitment to public service… I wish him well and pray that God will bless all of his future endeavors.”
Asked about the dispute between Bishop Tobin and Rep. Kennedy, RIRTL’s Bracy told CNA he was “shocked” and “couldn’t believe” Kennedy’s initial comments.
In Bracy’s view, Kennedy’s attack against the Catholic bishops was “totally without basis” and “completely uninformed.”
“The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been talking about heath care reform and universal coverage since Patrick’s father was in diapers. Indeed that’s hyperbole, but it’s pretty darn close.”
He thought Bishop Tobin’s response had been “very appropriate” and said it pointed out “the errors in Patrick Kennedy’s thinking.”
Bracy said RIRTL stood behind Bishop Tobin “completely.”
“He did a fantastic job in handling Congressman Kennedy with restraint, with perhaps ‘tough love’.”
He also noted Bishop Tobin’s personal letter to Kennedy before their public dispute.
“Bishop Tobin has fulfilled his role as a shepherd in a fantastic way. He apparently has contacted these legislators to call them back to their faith and to question their political activities that are not in harmony with Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life. But he has not done that in a public, political way.
“It was Kennedy who made that conversation and dialogue public,” Bracy noted.
According to Fox News, Kennedy’s departure will mean that for the first time since 1962 a member of the Kennedy family will not be serving in Congress.
Monday, February 15, 2010 5:34 PM
FOR THE LOVE OF PETS
The Growing Trend to Humanizing Animals
By Father John Flynn, LC
ROME, FEB. 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In the lead-up to this year's celebration of St. Valentine's Day, a surprising poll came out that revealed about a fifth of adults would prefer to celebrate the occasion with their pet rather than their partner.
The survey polled 24,000 people in 23 countries, according to a Feb. 8 report by Reuters.
It found that age and income were more of a determining factor than gender or nationality. For those aged under 35, around 25% opted for their pet over their partner.
This compared to 18% of those aged 35-54 and 14% of people aged 55 or more.
Those choosing pets over people were also more likely to be those who have a lower income compared to those who were middle or higher income earners.
The survey was only the latest news in the growing trend to the humanization of animals.
On Jan. 23 the British newspaper the Telegraph reported on the return of the ancient pagan practice of pet owners being buried with their animals.
The newspaper reported that earlier in January planners in Lincolnshire approved the latest in a series of joint animal and human cemeteries.
The article quoted Penny Lally, who runs a woodland burial place in Penwith, west Cornwall. Lally told the Telegraph that she has laid to rest more than 30 owners alongside their animals since she began allowing joint graves in 2003, and has more than 120 future bookings.
"For many, the grieving process for a pet is no different to losing a member of the family, particularly given that pets bring such a structure and routine to people's lives and company for older people on their own," commented Elaine Pendlebury, a veterinary surgeon with animal charity PDSA.
The idea of joint burial builds on the already existing custom of pet cemeteries. Last Oct. 26, the Chicago Tribune published an article on this in which they noted that one of the oldest in the United States, the Hindsdale Animal Cemetery in Willowbrook, Illinois, has more than 15,000 pets buried there.
The article cited Michael Schaffer, author of the book "One Nation Under Dog," who said he has noticed the messages on pet epitaphs have evolved over time, reflecting how many people have promoted their pets to "full-fledged members of the family."
"If you visit old pet cemeteries, the oldest headstones might say 'Here lies Fido, a loyal servant,' or 'Here lies Fido, man's best friend,'" said Schaffer. "Nowadays it's 'My little girl,' or 'Mommy and Daddy miss you.' People have developed a conception of their pets as children. That is quite a dramatic development."
It's not just emotions, as increasingly people are prepared to spend substantial sums of money on their pets. The Chicago Tribune article reported that one pet owner, Ernie Yamich, spent $2,100 on the funeral costs for his pet, after having spent more than $7,000 on medical treatment trying to save his dog's life.
In fact, spending on pets has risen notably in the last few years. On Feb. 8 the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, (APPA), released its latest annual review of spending data.
Spending in the pet industry grew by 5.4% from $43.2 billion in 2008 to a little over $45.5 billion in 2009. The APPA commented that while U.S. Census Bureau figures on the retail segment of the economy showed 2009 down overall versus 2008, the pet industry continued to grow. They also forecast a 4.9% increase in spending to $47.74 billion in 2010.
The biggest increase in spending in 2009 was in health care categories, with an 8.5% increase from 2008. The report noted that pet health care now ranges from CAT scans, to root canals and cancer surgery, as well as anti-depressants.
APPA President, Bob Vetere commented that due to the humanization of pets, the gap in quality of life between humans and their pet companions is quickly disappearing in all categories from food and clothing to health care and services.
As recently as 1998, total spending in the pet industry was only $23 billion, according to data posted on the APPA Web site. That has more than doubled over the past decade.
Another recent study, also released by Global Industry Analysts on Feb. 8, looked at the pet accessories market. They calculated that the world market for pet accessories products will reach $17.2 billion by the year 2015.
"Humanization accounts for one of the most important reasons for the growth in the pet accessories market," the press release by Global Industry Analysts affirmed. "Owners perceive pets, particularly dogs and cats, as their true companions, and wish to give them as much care as their partner or child," it added.
Margaret Somerville, director of the Center for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University, Canada, commented on the humanization of pets in an article posted on the Mercator Net Web site, Jan. 27.
Some ethicists propose granting animals a personhood status, she noted. This is not a good idea, however, according to Somerville, as it would undermine the idea that humans are special and deserve to be treated differently.
"In other words, if animals become persons, human persons become animals," Somerville observed.
Instead, she argued, we should continue to maintain that all humans are persons that and only humans are persons.
Restricting the category of personhood to humans is a way by which we can foment a greater respect for human life. In fact, abortion is justified by the courts by their refusal to recognize unborn babies as persons, Somerville pointed out.
The seeming contradiction pointed out by Somerville between losing respect for human life and at the same time placing animals on a sort of quasi-human level has an underlying theological dimension.
Benedict XVI briefly referred to this in a general audience back on Jan. 11, 2006. At the time he was commenting on the psalms and the one under consideration that day was Psalm 144.
Part of the text says the following: "'Lord, what is man that you manifested yourself to him?' [...] It is a great happiness for men and women to know their Creator. In this we differ from wild beasts and other animals, because we know we have our Creator, whereas they do not."
The Pope referred to the commentary on the psalm made by one of the Fathers of the Church, Origen. "It is worth thinking a bit about these words of Origen, who sees the fundamental difference between the human being and the other animals in the fact that man is capable of recognizing God, his Creator, that man is capable of truth, capable of a knowledge that becomes a relationship, friendship," the Pontiff said.
"It is important in our time that we do not forget God, together with all the other kinds of knowledge we have acquired in the meantime, and they are very numerous!" the Pope noted. "They all become problematic, at times dangerous, if the fundamental knowledge that gives meaning and orientation to all things is missing: knowledge of God the Creator," he concluded.
Indeed, one of the notable trends in contemporary society is how losing sight of God has led to a mentality that also loses sight of the dignity of the human person. So, there is a link between the lack of respect for human life, increasingly viewed through a utilitarian perspective, and the humanizing of animals. One more step in the return to a pagan culture.
Thursday, February 18, 2010 1:29 AM
Same-sex ‘marriage’ law forces D.C. Catholic Charities to close adoption program
Washington D.C., Feb 17, 2010 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington announced today that it is shutting down its foster care and public adoption program. The District of Columbia said the charity would be ineligible for service because of the new law recognizing same-sex “marriage.”
“Although Catholic Charities has an 80-year legacy of high quality service to the vulnerable in our nation’s capital, the D.C. Government informed Catholic Charities that the agency would be ineligible to serve as a foster care provider due to the impending D.C. same-sex marriage law,” the organization said in a statement.
The Catholic Charities affiliate transitioned its foster and adoption program to the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) on Feb. 1. The transition includes seven staff, 43 children and their biological families, and 35 foster families. The transition was scheduled to coincide with the expiration of the current contract between Catholic Charities and D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA).
“Foster care has been an important ministry for us for many decades. We worked very hard to be able to continue to provide these services in the District,” said Ed Orzechowski, president and CEO of Catholic Charities D.C.
“We regret that our efforts to avoid this outcome were not successful.”
Orzechowski expressed gratitude to the staff and foster families involved in the program.
The D.C. City Council’s law recognizing same-sex “marriage” required religious entities which serve the general public to provide services to homosexual couples, even if doing so violated their religious beliefs. Exemptions were allowed only for performing marriages or for those entities which do not serve the public.
The archdiocese and legal experts criticized the exemptions for being too narrow.
D.C. law also now requires partners with the city to provide benefits for same-sex couples. This also poses a problem for Catholic Charities, though the Washington Post reports that the organization is optimistic it can structure benefits in a way that would allow it to remain in partnerships with the city.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, slammed the District’s actions.
“Archbishop Donald Wuerl is a man of principle and prudence: he did not want to end the foster-care program, but he was left with no realistic option,” Donohue said Wednesday. “District lawmakers could have granted the kind of religious exemptions that would have ensured a continuation of services, but instead they sought to create a Catch-22 situation for the archdiocese.
“Surely they knew that Archbishop Wuerl was not going to negotiate Catholic Church teachings on marriage, yet that hardly mattered to them. The real losers are the children who were served by the Catholic Church.”
Those who characterized the Catholic Church’s actions on the issue as neglectful of the children, Donohue claimed, were “phonies.”
“Archbishop Wuerl isn't about to allow the state to run roughshod over Catholic doctrine, and that is why he is being forced to drop the foster-care program.”
CNA sought comment from Archbishop of Louisville Joseph E. Kurtz, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage. He was unavailable for an interview.
Catholic Charities of Boston was forced to close its adoption services in 2006 because it would no longer place children with homosexual couples, as required by state law. Laws have also forced Catholic adoption societies in Britain either to close or to disaffiliate from the Church.
Friday, February 19, 2010 3:36 PM
New website to examine harms of pornography ‘pandemic’
CNA STAFF, Feb 19, 2010 / 04:43 am (CNA).- A new website called Pornography Harms has been launched to provide access to credible, peer-reviewed research documenting the ill effects of pornography. The site was created by Patrick Trueman, a former chief of the U.S. Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.
Trueman described the site as “a one-stop location for sound research, news articles and opinion pieces” discussing the harmful effects of pornography.
“Since the advent of the internet, pornography has flooded homes, businesses, public libraries, and even schools. The results have been devastating to the social and family fabric of America," Trueman added.
He said that for nearly two decades a large segment of American children have had easy access to internet pornography. The latest trend of children producing and distributing pornographic images via cell phone, called “sexting,” may be an outgrowth of the regular viewing of internet pornography.
The habit may result in diminishing children’s natural inhibitions against such activity.
"Pornography, in other words, is altering minds, destroying taboos, and reordering society," Trueman continued, adding that pornography addiction is now common among men, women and even children.
Pornography use is a significant factor in divorce, a contributing cause of the spread of prostitution, and the sexual trafficking of adults and children.
The web site Pornography Harms uses research work from a multi-disciplinary group of professionals and concerned citizens.
"Pornography is a neglected pandemic and it will remain so until knowledge of its destructive forces is widely understood and disseminated. The Pornography Harms website is dedicated to this task of education," Trueman said.
The site’s address is pornharms.com.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010 6:39 AM
European court no longer able to rule on crucifixes in Italy
Strasbourg, France, Feb 22, 2010 / 12:20 pm (CNA).- During meetings last week in Switzerland, 47 countries represented in the Council of Europe adopted a declaration regarding the scope of jurisdiction of the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, France. The new policy limits the court's decisions concerning traditions and national culture in member countries, which extends to the prohibition of crucifixes in Italian public institutions.
According to L'Osservatore Romano, the council met for two days in Interlaken, Switzerland to decide on reforms concerning the activities of the European Human Rights Court.
These meetings were held particularly to address the need for speed, efficiency and credibility within the European Human Rights Court, where there is growing concern for the increasing number of backlogged cases. The Council of Europe calls this situation "desperate," citing more than 100,000 outstanding cases, 90 percent of which are "clearly inadmissible or have no legal basis, and reveal a serious ignorance of the Convention and the Court's procedures."
Discussion during the meetings turned to the topic of crucifixes at the behest of Lithuanian and Maltese representatives, according to LOR. Carmelo Mifsu Bonnici, Justice Minister of Malta, proposed that the court "is not sufficiently sensitive" to the "cultural characteristics" of the "national identities" of member states, to which he provided the example of the situation regarding crucifixes in Italy.
The Lithuanian Minister of the Exterior, Maris Riekstins, declared that the court must work to provide "clear, precise, unambiguous and comprehensible" rulings for everyone, something she said did not happen in their decision last fall against crucifixes in schools.
Vatican officials denounced the ruling upon its release in November, saying it was not in the court's hands to rule on a matter of Italian tradition.
On Nov. 3, the court ruled in favor of Soile Lautsi's case to remove religious symbols, including crucifixes, from public schools to ensure her children's right to a secular education.
The new declaration of policy from the Council of Europe "invites" the court "to apply in a uniform and rigorous manner the criteria concerning admissibility and jurisdiction..."
These measures, however, do not immediately overturn November's decision, and an appeal against it, citing the longstanding tradition of the crucifix in public places in Italy, is expected to be processed by March.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 7:08 AM
Rep. Stupak calls Obama health care proposal 'unacceptable' on abortion
Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2010 / 06:55 pm (CNA).- Pro-life Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) released a statement on Tuesday morning, calling President Obama's latest health care proposal “unacceptable” on the issue of abortion.
Rep. Stupak, who has been outspokenly opposed to abortion during his political tenure, said on Feb. 23 that he “was pleased to see that President Obama’s health care proposal did not include several of the sweetheart deals provided to select states in the Senate bill.”
“Unfortunately, the President's proposal encompasses the Senate language allowing public funding of abortion,” the Michigan representative stated. “The Senate language is a significant departure from current law and is unacceptable,” he added.
“While the President has laid out a health care proposal that brings us closer to resolving our differences, there is still work to be done before Congress can pass comprehensive health care reform.”
Rep. Stupak stepped into the national political spotlight when he introduced an amendment to the House health care reform bill that maintained the Hyde Amendment ban on using federal funds to pay for abortions. The Stupak Amendment passed in the House by a vote of 240-194 last November.
President Obama's health care proposal comes at a time when congressional leaders are still divided on the issue. The recent election of Republican Senator Scott Brown to an historically Democratic seat in Massachusetts has added to the complexity of the situation and has caused some to claim it unlikely that there are enough votes to pass health care reform legislation in either the House or the Senate as it currently stands.
Thursday, February 25, 2010 5:51 PM
Appeals continue to seek stay of D.C. same-sex ‘marriage’ law
Washington D.C., Feb 25, 2010 / 06:24 am (CNA).- Opponents of a Washington, D.C. same-sex “marriage” law are appealing a court order that denied a motion to prevent the law from going into effect.
The attorneys filing the appeal represent registered voters such as Bishop Harry Jackson, the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) reports. Opponents of the law say that 59 percent of registered voters in the District want to vote on the new City Council law that changes the legal definition of marriage.
“The people have a right to have the final say on any law regarding marriage passed by the D.C. Council. The D.C. Charter makes that right clear, and officials should not be ignoring the right of the people to vote for or against the new definition of marriage fabricated by the council,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks.
Nimocks said the redefinition of marriage should not go into effect “until voters have the opportunity to vote on a critical matter that affects everyone in the District.”
Jackson and seven other registered voters filed a referendum with the Board of Elections and Ethics to secure a vote. The board rejected the proposed referendum, saying it violated the District’s human rights laws.
The attorneys appealing the case are from the ADF and Stand4MarriageDC.
The law will take effect on March 3 unless Congress disapproves it or the appellate court grants the motion to stop it from taking effect.
The D.C. same-sex “marriage” law purported to protect religious freedom, but its provisions have already helped force Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington to shut down its 80-year-old foster care and public adoption program.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010 5:15 AM
ABORTION AND RACE: A COMPLICATED PROBLEM
Black Women Found to Account for 40% of US Abortions
By Carl Anderson
NEW HAVEN, Connecticut, MARCH 1, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Having served for nearly a decade as a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, I know that there are few subjects as controversial in American society as those issues touching race relations.
Nonetheless, an article appearing this weekend in the New York Times -- titled "To Court Blacks, Foes of Abortion Make Racial Case" -- is worth considering.
Without getting into the controversy concerning the well-documented eugenic philosophy of Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood), or the debate over whether or not African Americans are actually deliberately targeted by abortion providers today, several disturbing facts remain.
For one, as the New York Times pointed out, black women account for almost 40% of the abortions in the United States, though they make up only 13% of the population.
Regardless of the cause for that high rate, abortion is an especially large-scale tragedy for African Americans. There are no winners in abortion. There are only the dead and the wounded. And all involved need to be embraced with compassion and love.
Those in the black community who are most at risk for abortion must be offered concrete alternatives. Those who have experienced an abortion must be offered the message of healing and hope.
As we try to build a support of compassion, we should also remember Benedict XVI's last encyclical, "Charity in Truth." And as part of our charity, we must come to terms with the falsehoods which led millions to accept injustices as social necessities -- and resolve to let the truth guide our charity, and let our charity be the spokesman of truth.
Last month, the United States celebrated Black History Month. Sadly, there are legal parallels between the horrible legacy in the United States of denial of the rights of black people -- and their treatment as less than human -- and the current legal rights limbo of the unborn in this country.
For one thing, both the unborn and black community have been the victims of terrible jurisprudence. In fact, the Supreme Court decisions that enabled unrestricted access to abortion (Roe v. Wade) and established the segregationist principle of "separate but equal" (Plessy v. Ferguson) were both, as it happens, based on falsehood.
In Plessy v. Ferguson, the majority opinion asserted that segregation could in fact allow for equal treatment of black and white Americans. In the Court's opinion, black Americans who saw this separation as "a badge of inferior," created their own reality, not the reality assigned by the law. The Court insisted that any semblance of inferiority was "not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it."
But as Justice John Marshal Harlan noted in his dissent in Plessy: "Everyone knows that the statute in question had its origin in the purpose, not so much to exclude white persons from railroad cars occupied by blacks, as to exclude colored people from coaches occupied or assigned to white persons."
In Roe v. Wade too, a fiction was allowed to become the law of the land. In Roe, the court argued that it could not decide when human life begins.
Everyone, nonetheless knew at the time, and science has only made increasingly clear since then, that the unborn child before birth is precisely that -- a child.
What is notable about both Plessy and Roe, is that the majority in each found it necessary to ignore the obvious to rule the way they did. At best, they bought into a lie. And sadly, whatever the motivations of individual judges, the black community targeted by Plessy, has also been affected disproportionately by Roe.
The majority's decision in Roe could not have had a good outcome under any circumstances, but the current controversy is yet another example of how poorly adjudicated decisions tend to have unintended -- and often terrible -- consequences beyond those readily realized.
Of course, in the 1950s, many legal experts, law professors and politicians insisted that the segregation allowed by Plessy was "settled law." Today, "experts" and politicians say the same about the abortion legacy of Roe.
But Plessy was unhinged from reality, and the courage of brave men and women such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks unsettled this "settled law" and earned the respect of the judgment of history.
Roe too is unhinged from the truth that everyone knows. Needed are more brave men and women willing to stand up and demand that a nation's law on abortion will never be settled until it is brought into conformity with the truth.
* * *
Carl Anderson is the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus and a New York Times bestselling author.
Wednesday, March 03, 2010 1:28 AM
JFK speech on faith was 'sincere' but 'wrong,' Archbishop Chaput states
Houston, Texas, Mar 2, 2010 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday evening, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver delivered a talk at Houston Baptist University, in which he criticized President John F. Kennedy's historic campaign speech on his faith impacting his possible presidency as “sincere, compelling, articulate – and wrong.” The archbishop called on his audience to get involved in the Christian “vocation” of being engaged in public service, at a time when religion is being increasingly ignored in the political sphere.
Archbishop Chaput gave his address, “The Vocation of Christians in American Public Life,” on the evening of March 1 at the Houston Baptist University's Morris Cultural Art center. The lecture was presented in coordination with the Pope John Paul II Forum for the Church in the Modern World at the University of St. Thomas.
After offering caveats about his remarks, Archbishop Chaput emphasized the need for ecumenism and dialogue based on truth as opposed to superficial niceties. He then remarked, “We also urgently owe each other solidarity and support in dealing with a culture that increasingly derides religious faith in general and the Christian faith in particular.”
During his talk, the archbishop noted that there are currently “more Catholics in national public office” than there ever have been in American history.
“But,” he continued, “I wonder if we’ve ever had fewer of them who can coherently explain how their faith informs their work, or who even feel obligated to try. The life of our country is no more 'Catholic' or 'Christian' than it was 100 years ago. In fact it's arguably less so.”
One of the reasons why this problem exists, he explained, is that too many Christian individuals, Protestant and Catholic alike, live their faith as if it were “private idiosyncrasy” which they try to prevent from becoming a “public nuisance.”
“And too many just don't really believe,” he added.
Recounting the historical context that led to the current state of affairs, Archbishop Chaput referred to a speech that the late John F. Kennedy made while running for president in 1960 which greatly effected the modern relationship between religion and American politics. At his speech almost fifty years ago, President Kennedy had the arduous task of convincing 300 uneasy Protestant ministers in a Houston address that his Catholic faith would not impede his ability to lead the country. Successful in his attempt, “Kennedy convinced the country, if not the ministers, and went on to be elected,” he recalled.
“And his speech left a lasting mark on American politics,” the prelate added.
“It was sincere, compelling, articulate – and wrong. Not wrong about the patriotism of Catholics, but wrong about American history and very wrong about the role of religious faith in our nation’s life.”
“And he wasn’t merely 'wrong,'” the archbishop continued. “His Houston remarks profoundly undermined the place not just of Catholics, but of all religious believers, in America’s public life and political conversation. Today, half a century later, we’re paying for the damage.”
“To his credit,” he noted, “Kennedy said that if his duties as President should 'ever require me to violate my conscience or violate the national interest, I would resign the office.' He also warned that he would not 'disavow my views or my church in order to win this election.'”
“But in its effect, the Houston speech did exactly that. It began the project of walling religion away from the process of governance in a new and aggressive way. It also divided a person’s private beliefs from his or her public duties. And it set 'the national interest' over and against 'outside religious pressures or dictates.'”
Archbishop Chaput then clarified that although “John Kennedy didn’t create the trends in American life that I’ve described,” his speech “clearly fed them.”
In light of this separation of religion from the public sphere, “What would a proper Christian approach to politics look like?” the archbishop queried.
Drawing on St. Augustine and several theologians, Archbishop Chaput answered, “Christianity is not mainly – or even significantly – about politics. It's about living and sharing the love of God. And Christian political engagement, when it happens, is never mainly the task of the clergy.”
“That work belongs to lay believers who live most intensely in the world,” he asserted.
“Christian faith is not a set of ethics or doctrines. It's not a group of theories about social and economic justice. All these things have their place. All of them can be important. But a Christian life begins in a relationship with Jesus Christ; and it bears fruit in the justice, mercy and love we show to others because of that relationship.” This fundamental relationship then informs how we involve ourselves in public life, he explained.
“As I was preparing these comments for tonight,” he added, “I listed all the urgent issues that demand our attention as believers: abortion; immigration; our obligations to the poor, the elderly and the disabled; questions of war and peace; our national confusion about sexual identity and human nature, and the attacks on marriage and family life that flow from this confusion; the growing disconnection of our science and technology from real moral reflection; the erosion of freedom of conscience in our national health-care debates; the content and quality of the schools that form our children.”
Because of the immensity of these issues, the Denver archbishop stressed that Christians need to united in their societal involvement. “The vocation of Christians in American public life does not have a Baptist or Catholic or Greek Orthodox or any other brand-specific label. Our job is to love God, preach Jesus Christ, serve and defend God’s people, and sanctify the world as his agents. To do that work, we need to be one. Not 'one' in pious words or good intentions, but really one, perfectly one, in mind and heart and action, as Christ intended,” he said.
Archbishop Chaput concluded his remarks by saying that “We live in a country that was once – despite its sins and flaws – deeply shaped by Christian faith. It can be so again. But we will do that together, or we won’t do it at all.”
“We need to remember the words of St. Hilary from so long ago: Unum sunt, qui invicem sunt. 'They are one, who are wholly for each other.' May God grant us the grace to love each other, support each other and live wholly for each other in Jesus Christ – so that we might work together in renewing the nation that has served human freedom so well.”
The full text of Archbishop Chaput's speech can be read at www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/3489.
Friday, March 12, 2010 2:23 AM
Vatican criticizes condom machines in Rome school
By ALESSANDRA RIZZO
March 11, 2010
ROME – The decision by a Rome high school to install condom vending machines has set off a storm in Italy, with the Catholic Church charging the move will encourage young people to have sex and Rome's mayor saying it sends the wrong message.
But the Keplero high school vowed Thursday to go ahead with its experiment, billed as the first in the capital. While it's a relative novelty for Italy, schools in several other European countries have installed the machines in hopes of curbing teen pregnancy and HIV.
"This is not about stimulating the use of condoms or intercourse," Antonio Panaccione, the school headmaster, told The Associated Press. "On the contrary, it's about prevention and education."
The school plans to install six vending machines as part of educating students about sexuality and HIV protection. The price: euro2 (US$2.70) for a pack of three, lower than market prices.
Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the pope's vicar for Rome, said the decision trivialized sex. He said it "cannot be approved by Rome's ecclesiastical community or by Christian families who are seriously concerned with the education of their children."
The newspaper of the Italian Bishops' Conference said Thursday that sex was being reduced to "mere physical exercise." The newspaper, L'Avvenire, lamented that young people these days have no spiritual guidance on sexuality, and that educators are more concerned with "the health and hygiene consequences of sex" than its moral implications.
The Vatican opposes artificial contraception. Catholic teaching views sex as a means for procreation within marriage.
Pope Benedict XVI drew criticism from European governments, international organizations and scientists last year when he said distributing condoms was not the answer to Africa's AIDS problem, and could make it worse. He said a moral attitude toward sex — abstinence and marital fidelity — would help fight the virus.
"The scandal is that we do it in Rome, because this is the city of the pope and therefore one can't really talk about sex," Panaccione said in a phone interview. "They can talk about pedophilia, can't they?" he said, referring to a sex abuse scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church in several European countries.
But some criticism came from outside the church, too.
A leading association of parents, MOIGE, said the move was "trivial and insufficient." Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno, a conservative, was quoted by the ANSA news agency as saying that "on the one hand it's childish to think young people need these vending machines, on the other hand it seems like a bad message to them."
The head of Italy's national association of Catholic pharmacists, Piero Uroda, suggested condoms were responsible for increased rapes and violence.
"We're giving sugar to the diabetic," he told Radio 24 Il Sole 24 Ore.
Panaccione said condom distribution was only part of the sex education curriculum. The school enrolls about 860 students aged 15-19 at two venues — one in a lower-middle class neighborhood, one in a blue-collar area.
Panaccione said the decision was taken because of the rising number of HIV cases among young people, and to break a taboo still surrounding the use of condoms in Italy.
LILA, a national association for the prevention of HIV/AIDS, said distributing condoms could help combat HIV among the young.
Teen pregnancies have been on the rise in Italy, although not sharply. According to the latest figures made available by national statistics agency ISTAT, there was a 0.5 percent increase in teen pregnancy between 2006 and 2007.
On average, Italian women have sex for the first time at age 16, according to SIGO, a group of Italian gynecologists and obstetricians. Almost four in 10 have unprotected sex the first time.
European countries including Belgium, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands have had instances of schools selling condoms. Spain, like Italy a predominantly Catholic country where the church still has some influence on society, has a few schools in the Catalonia region with condom vending machines.
In France, nearly 96 percent of high schools — public schools and private schools that receive state funds — have condom vending machines, according to a survey conducted by the Education Ministry last year. The prevalence results from a 2006 government circular urging high schools to install them.
However, students at Lycee Carnot, a public high school in western Paris, appeared divided Thursday about whether condom dispensers in their school were useful.
"I think it is a good idea. More is better than less. And it is less expensive than in a drugstore," said Alexis Freiberg, an 18-year-old.
There have been some cases of condoms being distributed at public schools in the United States, but it is not commonplace.
In Italy, the only other reported case of a condom-vending machines was in a Turin school over a decade ago. ANSA reported the machines were eventually removed since they weren't being used.
The Vatican still has some influence on Italian society and politics. Its views on sexuality, marriage and contraception are often echoed by the powerful Italian Bishops' Conference and typically get significant coverage.
Panaccione said the reason Italy is less progressive regarding sex education than other countries lies not with the Vatican alone, but also with the "duplicity and reluctance of many families, which to this day still look the other way."
"To them this is a dogma: One must not talk about it, only do it — secretly!" he said.
Elena Bucchinelli, a high-school student in Rome, said she approved of the Keplero initiative.
"We young people are the most vulnerable to the risks of unprotected sex. Schools and families are the best places to receive this kind of information," the 16-year-old said, as she drove her moped to a public school downtown Rome.
"Many young people think they know all that there is to know about sex," she said, "but that's not true."
Friday, March 19, 2010 3:16 PM
Look what appeared on MSN.com news this morning. I am sure Papa's enemies are already struggling to find some way to blame him for this too. This article proves that wherever there are kids, there is sex abuse. Because kids are so powerless, they are perfect victims.
Boy Scouts accused of sex abuse cover-up
‘Perversion files’ kept secret by Scouts due to ‘confidential information’
Fri., March. 19, 2010
PORTLAND, Ore. - The Boy Scouts of America has long kept an extensive archive of secret documents that chronicle the sexual abuse of young boys by Scout leaders over the years.
The "perversion files," a nickname the Boy Scouts are said to have used for the documents, have rarely been seen by the public, but that could all change in the coming weeks in an Oregon courtroom.
The lawyer for a man who was molested in the 1980s by a Scout leader has obtained about 1,000 Boy Scouts sex files and is expected to release some of them at a trial that began Wednesday.
The lawyer says the files show how the Boy Scouts have covered up abuse for decades.
The trial is significant because the files could offer a rare window into how the Boy Scouts have responded to sex abuse by Scout leaders.
The only other time the documents are believed to have been presented at a trial was in the 1980s in Virginia.
At the start of the Oregon trial, attorney Kelly Clark recited the Boy Scout oath and the promise to obey Scout law to be "trustworthy." Then he presented six boxes of documents that he said will show "how the Boy Scouts of America broke that oath."
He held up file folder after file folder he said contained reports of abuse from around the country, telling the jury the efforts to keep them secret may have actually set back efforts to prevent child abuse nationally.
"The Boy Scouts of America ignored clear warning signs that Boy Scouts were being abused," Clark said.
'Trying to do the right thing'
Charles Smith, attorney for the national Boy Scouts, said in his own opening statement the files were kept under wraps because they "were replete with confidential information."
Smith told the jury the files helped national scouting leaders weed out sex offenders, especially repeat offenders who may have changed names or moved in order to join another local scouting organization.
"They were trying to do the right thing by trying to track these folks," Smith said.
Clark is seeking $14 million in damages on behalf of a 37-year-old man who was sexually molested in the early 1980s in Portland by an assistant Scoutmaster, Timur Dykes.
Clark said the victim suffered mental health problems, bad grades in school, drug use, anxiety, difficulty maintaining relationships and lost several jobs over the years because of the abuse.
Dykes was convicted three times between 1983 and 1994 of sexually abusing boys, most of them Scouts.
Although there have been dozens of lawsuits against the organization over sex abuse allegations, judges for the most part have either denied requests for the files or the lawsuits have been settled before they went to trial.
The Boy Scouts had fought to keep the files being used in the Portland trial confidential. But they lost a pretrial legal battle when the Oregon Supreme Court rejected their argument that opening the files could damage the lives and reputations of people not a party to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also named the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because the Mormons acted as a charter organization, or sponsor, for the local Boy Scouts troop that included the victim. But the church has settled its portion of the case.
The Portland trial comes as the Boy Scouts are marking their 100th anniversary.
"They spent a century building the Boy Scout brand," said Patrick Boyle, author of a book about sex abuse in the Boy Scouts. "It's one of the most respected organizations in the world."
The trial "can only erode what they have been doing for 100 years," he said.
The Portland case centers on whether the Boy Scouts of America did enough to protect boys from Dykes.
The Mormon bishop who also served as head of the Scout troop, Gordon McEwen, confronted Dykes after receiving a report of abuse by the mother of one boy in the troop in January 1983.
In a video deposition played for the jury, the bishop said Dykes admitted abusing 17 boys.
But McEwen said he contacted the parents of all 17 boys and the boys themselves, and none would confirm any abuse.
Dykes was arrested in 1983 and pleaded guilty to attempted sexual abuse, received probation and was ordered to stay away from children.
Clark told the jury Dykes continued with his scouting activities until he was arrested in July 1984 during a routine traffic stop while he was driving a van full of Scouts on a camping trip.
A spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America at its headquarters in Irving, Texas, said in a statement the organization cannot comment on details of the case. But it has worked hard on awareness and prevention efforts, including background checks.
"Unfortunately, child abuse is a societal problem and there is no fail-safe method for screening out abusers," Deron Smith said.
Saturday, March 20, 2010 5:29 AM
Virtual visit to the Sistine Chapel
by John Thavis
Catholic News Service
Posted on March 19, 2010
VATICAN CITY — You have to check this out.
The virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel, a joint project of Villanova University and the Vatican, has been launched here on the Vatican Web site:
We’ve written about the university’s filming team, who have already assembled a virtual tour of the Basilica of St. John Lateran and are working on one for St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Sistine Chapel is stunning, in floor-to-ceiling detail. You can crawl up and down Michelangelo’s frescoes with the mouse — just don’t spin it too quickly or you’ll get dizzy.
Saturday, March 20, 2010 8:52 PM
This is the latest roundup on the battle about health care legislation in the U.S. Obama is giving a kind of victory speech right now to congressional Democrats.
Cardinal O'Malley rips pro-Obama Catholics on health care
Boston, Mass., Mar 20, 2010 / 09:03 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, yesterday criticized organizations such as the Catholic Health Association and Network for supporting a health care bill that will halt decades of government neutrality on the issue of abortion.
"Health care is such an important issue for the United States. It’s very disturbing to see that there seems to be a rush to push through legislation without carefully weighing all of the consequences," wrote Cardinal O'Malley on his blog.
"I think it’s unfortunate that some Catholic groups have not paid close enough attention to what the bishops are saying regarding the present legislation. It would undermine the Hyde Amendment and put us at the mercy of regulations that could very easily be altered."
"As many studies have shown," the Cardinal explained, “the vast majority of Americans favored the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal money from being used to pay for abortions. The only thing we are asking is that this be enshrined in the new legislation."
"In our enthusiasm for universal health care, we cannot underestimate the importance of having a strong and firm backing for the principles of the Hyde Amendment incorporated into this legislation. The administration should take more time to craft legislation that will create a consensus in the country rather than trying to force through this legislation by using procedural gimmicks," Cardinal O'Malley concluded.
U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, has said he will vote against the Senate bill because he thought most of the U.S. House bill's provisions enacting “significant reform” have been stripped, WBUR.org reports.
Congressman Lynch has been attacked in television ads paid for by "Catholics United," a pro-Obama lobbying organization.
Pro-life leaders: Senate bill bans conscientious exemption, allows billions for abortion
Washington D.C., Mar 19, 2010 / 07:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life leaders on Friday discussed the prospects of the Senate health care bill, warning that the present version will ban conscientious exemptions among private health care plans while making “billions” of dollars available for abortion.
They urged pro-life Democrats to “stand firm” until better legislation can be written.
Speaking in a Friday press conference Tom McClusky, the senior vice president of the Family Research Council (FRC), characterized the legislation as “the biggest expansion of government-funded abortion since Roe v. Wade.”
Also addressing the conference was Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Secretariat of Pro-life Activities.
The Catholic bishops, supporters of universal health care since 1919, wanted to support the bill, he commented. They did not seek an explicitly pro-life bill, but only a “neutral bill.”
However, the Senate legislation is “morally unacceptable,” with billions in community funding appropriated outside of the Hyde Amendment abortion funding restrictions and not covered “by any limitation.”
A very long line of federal court precedent holds that if abortion funding is not explicitly prohibited then it is required, Doerflinger warned. The statutory language, which trumps Department of Health and Human Services regulations, will free up “billions” for direct funding for abortions.
The Senate bill also lacks Hyde restrictions barring funding for benefits package that include abortion. Its attempt to segregate abortion funding actually creates a “really stunning new conscience problem.”
“If a private health plan … decides to cover abortion, it must collect from every enrollee a separate payment each month just to pay for other people’s abortions. That’s not the situation now,” he said.
At present health plans “carve out” options for Catholic organizations seeking insurance that does not cover abortion.
“This actually bans conscientious exemptions, it makes the situation worse than it is now.
“I didn’t think it was possible for health care reform to make things worse than insurance companies on a matter of conscience, but this one has.”
According to Doerflinger, the bill also lacks “Hyde-Weldon” language preventing government bodies from discriminating against pro-life health care providers that refuse to perform abortions.
“There’s not a reason in the world the Senate should have rejected it … they just can’t stand to have anything in there that actually shows some respect for the conscientious objections of Catholics and others who object to abortion.”
National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) legislative director Douglas Johnson said that pro-abortion groups wanted to use health care legislation to “greatly expand access to abortion.”
Many of the Democratic leadership’s proposed solutions disguised this, he charged, adding that the proposals were not subjected to much critical scrutiny by the media.
In his view, the Stupak Amendment was the “most bipartisan thing that’s happened the entire Congress.” One in four Democrats voted for the bill and only one Republican did not.
President Obama could have accepted the Stupak Amendment and ensured it a place in the base Senate bill. If he had done so, Johnson explained, 60 votes would have been required to remove the legislation from the Senate version.
“We wouldn’t be having this discussion today,” he continued.
“The president did just the opposite. He lamented the House vote. He expressed opposition to the Stupak Amendment. And he and his agents collaborated with the Senate Democratic leadership to make sure that it did not get into the base bill.”
Johnson said that this vote would be a factor on the NRLC candidate scorecard and indeed would be “a career-defining vote.”
“If they are voting to put this bill on the president’s desk, they own it.”
Tony Perkins, FRC president, said the abortion issue was the “single largest issue” for bipartisan opponents of the bill. He compared the legislation to the Roe v. Wade decision in its possible breadth of scope.
The issue will “dramatically” change the political landscape in the November elections, Perkins predicted, because many people are concerned not only about abortion but about “forcing everyone to fund it.”
He claimed that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has said everybody will be “forced to contribute to funding, providing access to and subsidizing abortion through this plan.”
“We don’t know what’s going to happen on Sunday,” he continued, discussing the scheduled vote on the bill, saying pro-life advocates will be working “aggressively” in 28 Congressional districts across the country.
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and Rep. Peter DiFazzio (D-Ore.) have unexpectedly opposed the bill with objections on grounds other than abortion, speakers told the press conference.
However, hard numbers were not available. Speakers warned that secure votes for the Senate bill were being announced to “create a perception of momentum” and were selectively reported in the media.
Perkins said that efforts against the bill are being made in hope that Congress will “yield and go back to the drawing board.”
“There are measures here that we would support. There are problems in our health care delivery system that need to be reformed, and there are ways to do that. We want to be a part of that, but not in way that jeopardizes human life, limits the freedom of Americans, and creates the tax burden on families that it will if enacted.”
Asked about speculation of separate Senate legislation to be passed after the health care passage, McClusky said they were “very wary” of any deal that “promised something down the road.” Perkins thought it would not fix the bill but was a “fig leaf” to allow pro-life Democrats to vote for this bill “thinking that the Senate is going to fix it.”
Doerflinger said it was “very important” that pro-life leaders “stand firm.”
Other topics at the press conference included tax resistance to mandatory abortion payments, the status of Catholic organizations which endorsed the bill contrary to the bishops’ position, and whether Catholic members of Congress could vote for the bill in good conscience.
U.S. bishops, dissenting Catholics face off in in health care debate
Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2010 / 07:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While the U.S. Bishops are encouraging the faithful to call their representatives and ask them to oppose Senate legislation because of federal funding for abortion, the group Catholics United and other left-leaning groups are running interference, allowing lawmakers to justify ignoring the guidance of the bishops on the critical moral and political issues contained in the bill.
In a recent email sent to supporters, Chris Korzen, the head of Catholics United, urges Catholics to “ keep the pressure up,” saying, “(h)ealth care reform is coming down to the wire, and abortion is the last sticking point.”
“The bishops' staff claim that the Senate bill expands federal financing of abortion,” Korzen writes. “That’s simply not true. Independent news outlets and policy experts have confirmed that the Senate health care bill explicitly prohibits federal financing of abortion. Despite this, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are still opposing reform.”
“The bishops need to hear the truth about what health care reform will - and will not - do. Join us in calling the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago,” Korzen adds. “Let him know that Catholics in the pews want the bishops to get their facts straight and support health care reform.”
The Catholics United head then gives the number to Cardinal George's archdiocesan office and says that “(h)opefully if Cardinal George hears from enough of us, the bishops will get better information about what’s in the bill and drop their opposition to reform.”
Colleen Dolan, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told CNA on Friday that although they “have received some calls,” they “receive all types of calls everyday.”
“There is no way to determine if they are part of a campaign,” she added.
Korzen's group has also led a TV campaign across 8 congressional districts featuring ads that claim to “set the record straight” about the “false allegations” surrounding Senate bill abortion funding. In an Friday email to CNA, Korzen said that the ad campaign has a budget of “six figures,” but he would not disclose specifics of who is funding the campaign. “Money comes from same sources as all our ad campaigns: private donors, foundations who share catholic values,” he said.
In contrast to this, the U.S. bishops launched an effort on March 15 to ask Catholics to “take action” and call their congressional leaders to inform them of the deficiencies of the bill. The Conference also posted resource materials on their website explaining the flaws in the health care bill on Thursday.
“As long-time advocates of health care reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to make the moral case that genuine health care reform must protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable,” a statement announcing the March 15 effort begins.
“Health care reform should provide access to affordable and quality health care for all, and not advance a pro-abortion agenda in our country,” the statement adds. “Genuine health care reform is being blocked by those who insist on reversing widely supported policies against federal funding of abortion and plans which include abortion, not by those working simply to preserve these longstanding protections.”
“The U.S. Senate rejected this policy and passed health care reform that requires federal funds to help subsidize and promote health plans that cover elective abortions. All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions through a separate payment solely to pay for abortion. And the affordability credits for very low income families purchasing private plans in a Health Insurance Exchange are inadequate and would leave families financially vulnerable.”
“Outside the abortion context, neither bill has adequate conscience protection for health care providers, plans or employers,” the statement underscores.
U.S. NUNS TAKE ISSUE WITH HEALTH CARE BILL
Say It's Not "Ethically Sound"
WASHINGTON, MARCH 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious is asking for "ethically sound" legislation on health care, which it says isn't found in the bill currently being debated on Capital Hill.
The council sent out a statement today saying it supports the position of the president of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who opposes the "Senate’s version of the health care legislation under consideration because of its expansion of abortion funding and its lack of adequate provision for conscience protection."
The council's president, Religious Sister of Mercy Mother Mary Quentin Sheridan, signed the note.
The statement comes on the heels recent statements from groups such as Network, the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, who "oppose the Catholic Church's position on critical issues of health care reform."
The note of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious added that it "believes the bishops' position is the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church."
"Protection of life and freedom of conscience are central to morally responsible judgment. We join the bishops in seeking ethically sound legislation," the communiqué concluded.
The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, which represents more than 100 religious communities and 10,000 members, is a canonically approved organization founded in 1992 to promote religious life in the United States.
The U.S. bishops took direct issue with the endorsement from Network, which touts itself as a national Catholic social justice lobby.
"We write to urge you to cast a life-affirming 'yes' vote when the Senate health care bill comes to the floor of the House for a vote as early as this week," Network said a letter to Congress this week. "We join the Catholic Health Association of the United States [...] in saying: The time is now for health reform and the Senate bill is a good way forward."
The letter stated that the organization represents 59,000 Catholic sisters, a number the U.S. bishops said was "grossly overstated."
"Network’s letter, about health care reform, was signed by a few dozen people, and despite what Network said, they do not come anywhere near representing 59,000 American sisters," said a communiqué issued today by the conference.
"The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice," it added. "There are 793 religious communities in the United States.
"The math is clear. Network is far off the mark."
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver and Auxiliary Bishop James Conley of Denver sent a letter to the Catholics of Northern Colorado to not be fooled by endorsements from organizations that oppose the U.S. bishops' conference.
"In the past two days, congressional leaders and the White House have brought tremendous pressure on pro-life Democratic members of Congress to support a fatally flawed Senate version of health care reform," the note said.
It continued: "Regrettably, groups like Network and the Catholic Health Association have done a grave disservice to the American Catholic community by undermining the leadership of the nation’s Catholic bishops, sowing confusion among faithful Catholics, and misleading legislators through their support of the Senate bill.
"Do not be fooled. Nothing has changed. The Senate bill remains gravely flawed on the issues of abortion funding, conscience protections and the inclusion of immigrants.
"Unless seriously revised to address these issues, the Senate version of health care is unethical and should be firmly opposed."
Tuesday, March 23, 2010 1:43 AM
Obama’s executive order on abortion funding is inadequate fix, pro-life groups say
Washington D.C., Mar 22, 2010 / 07:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The executive order promised to reassure pro-life Democrats about the health care reform bill is inadequate and does not address several other pro-abortion provisions, several pro-life groups have charged.
“The executive order promised by President Obama was issued for political effect. It changes nothing. It does not correct any of the serious pro-abortion provisions in the bill. The president cannot amend a bill by issuing an order, and the federal courts will enforce what the law says,” the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) commented on Sunday.
The NRLC cited a March 20 letter to Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) by Prof. Robert Destro, a professor of law and former dean of the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America.
“Without the Hyde Amendment, abortions not only may be covered, abortions must be covered,” Prof. Destro said about the Senate health care bill.
The NRLC continued: “A lawmaker who votes for this bill is voting to require federal agencies to subsidize and administer health plans that will pay for elective abortion, and voting to undermine longstanding pro-life policies in other ways as well.”
The group said that the executive order does not correct the omission of “necessary conscience protection language” called “Weldon language.”
Other flaws in the legislation, the NRLC argued, create “dangerous regulatory mandate authorities,” revise Indian health programs, and create “pools of directly appropriated funds that are not covered by existing restrictions on funding of abortion.”
“Pro-life citizens nationwide know that this is a pro-abortion bill,” the NRLC continued, saying these citizens will be reminded of which lawmakers voted against the legislation.
On Sunday Americans United for Life (AUL) said its legal team concluded that an executive order is “not an adequate fix to mitigate this legislation's establishment of taxpayer-funded abortion.”
“An executive order, for example, cannot prevent insurance companies that pay for abortions in the exchanges from receiving federal subsidies,” AUL President and CEO Charmaine Yoest said.
Yoest argued that White House assurances to address the problem of abortion funding in the health care bill through an executive order is “an open acknowledgement that the bill just passed is pro-abortion legislation.”
The pro-life group pledged to dismantle taxpayer-funded abortion at the state level and to begin an “aggressive” state-by-state campaign to help states opt out of subsidizing plans that cover abortions through their exchanges.
“Given that seven out of ten voters agree that no public funds should pay for abortion, I am confident that with hard work we will succeed,” Yoest’s statement concluded.
Rep. Bart Stupak has said his coalition of pro-life Democrats would revisit the issue of abortion funding and in health care and subsidized health plans if its implementation does not satisfy them.
“If there was something we missed, we’re coming back with legislative fixes,” he said in a Sunday noon press conference announcing President Obama’s promised executive order and his support for the Senate health care bill.