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Issue Date:  December 28, 2007


Advent program moved outside

ST. LOUIS -- For the past several years, St. Cronan Catholic Church has invited Rabbi Susan Talve to teach about Isaiah during the parish’s Advent program. This year, however, church leaders said they received a call from Archbishop Raymond Burke requesting that Talve’s invitation be withdrawn, according to a report in the St. Louis Jewish Light.

Talve allowed the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement to use her synagogue, the Central Reform Congregation, to ordain two women Nov. 11 in defiance of church directives.

Because they couldn’t have Talve in church, about 100 parishioners met her Dec. 12 outside, across the street and off church property under a large tarp to protect them from frigid wind and rain.

Parishioner Joe Connolly told the St. Louis Jewish Light that the Dec. 12 event wasn’t a protest. “It was a spiritual experience,” he said. “It wasn’t a political experience. It was a human experience of people of two faiths meeting under a tent and worshiping God.”

Cell research funding fought

ROMEOVILLE, Ill. -- In light of new scientific evidence demonstrating how primitive stem cells can be created without destroying human embryos, the Catholic Conference of Illinois is pushing for new legislation to end state-sanctioned funding of embryonic stem-cell research through the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute.

“Now that science has progressed to a point where it seems that embryonic stem-cell research is no longer necessary -- that we can ban that procedure,” said Zach Wichmann of the conference, the public policy arm for the state’s Catholic bishops.

Two years ago, Gov. Rod Blagojevich used an executive order to create and fund the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute. The institute provides grants for adult and embryonic stem-cell research along with research on therapeutic human cloning that seeks to replicate embryonic stem-cell lines. This year, the General Assembly voted to approve the institute.

The Catholic conference is gathering support for legislation preventing the institute from supporting research that destroys or clones human embryos.

Bill supports pregnant women

WASHINGTON -- A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate in December that would provide resources and support to pregnant women won high marks from the U.S. bishops’ pro-life office.

“The bill will empower pregnant women to make healthy choices for themselves and their children, born and unborn,” said Deirdre McQuade of the bishops’ pro-life office.

Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., introduced the Pregnant Women’s Support Act. It mirrors nearly identical legislation introduced in the House earlier in 2007.

The act would ensure that pregnant women are not denied coverage by insurance companies; provide qualified new mothers with free home visits by registered nurses; and codify the current regulation allowing states to provide Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage to unborn children and their mothers. The bill also expands adoption-credit and adoption-assistance programs.

It “is truly a common-ground initiative to reduce the number of abortions in the United States,” said Kristen Day of Democrats for Life of America, the group that helped craft the legislation.

-- CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz

Challenging militarization
Mary Ann Hart takes part in a roadside peace rally in Setauket, N.Y., Dec. 5. Hart and her husband, Paul, are members of their Catholic parish peace and justice committee and among the founders of the North Country Peace Group, a community organization that opposes war. Members of the group have been assembling at the same intersection every Saturday since December 2002. In his annual message for World Peace Day, Jan. 1, Pope Benedict XVI called the global traffic in weapons a “baneful commerce,” and called for an “effective demilitarization,” especially for nuclear weapons. “The countries of the industrially developed world profit immensely from the sale of arms, while the ruling oligarchies in many poor countries wish to reinforce their stronghold by acquiring ever more sophisticated weaponry,” Benedict wrote. Global spending on weaponry reached $1.2 billion in 2006, and spending on arms went up 37 percent between 1997 and 2006, according to a Vatican statement.

Letter on politics issued

SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer has issued a pastoral letter, titled “Religion and Politics 2008,”on the role of the church in the political arena.

The text quotes frequently from and urges Catholics to read the U.S. bishops’ “Faithful Citizenship,” a document revised and reissued Nov. 14.

While church and state “should be independent of each other,” Niederauer wrote, “both politicians and religious leaders rightly -- and unavoidably -- concern themselves with many of the same issues.” He cited civil rights and care for the poor and the homeless as common concerns for both church and state.

He wrote that abortion and euthanasia must take a higher priority in decision-making than many other issues. At the same time, he said, it is incorrect to reduce “Catholic moral and social teaching to one or two issues, and refusing to be concerned about a wide range of issues.”

As examples, he mentioned racism, torture, unjust immigration policies, hunger, the death penalty and health care.

-- Catholic News Service

Ban on death penalty praised

TRENTON, N.J. -- New Jersey became Dec. 17 the first state to abolish the death penalty since it was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 -- a historic move praised by the state’s Catholic leaders.

“The church recognizes the rights and duties of the state to punish criminals and protect its citizens from crime. But we cannot teach respect for life by taking life,” said Trenton Bishop John M. Smith, who represented the state’s Catholic bishops at the bill signing.

“The issue of the death penalty carries with it deeply felt emotions, particularly among those who have had a loved one taken from them through violent crime. We must continue to be sensitive to the feelings people bring to this issue, and offer effective, ongoing assistance to the loved ones of victims,” Smith said.

“Today New Jersey evolves,” Gov. Jon S. Corzine said prior to signing the law. “This is a day of progress for us and for the millions of people across our nation and around the globe who reject the death penalty as a moral or practical response to the grievous, even heinous, crime of murder.”

“We have seized the moment and now join the ranks of other states and countries that view the death penalty as discriminatory, immoral and barbaric,” said Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo. “We’re a better state than one that puts people to death.”

-- CNS/Octavio Duran

Sr. Helen Prejean

At the bill signing the governor was flanked by half a dozen legislators and Sr. Helen Prejean, an advocate for abolishing the practice, who has said by getting rid of the punishment New Jersey would be a “beacon on the hill.”

The next day, the U.N. General Assembly ratified -- 104 to 54, with 29 abstentions -- a resolution calling for a moratorium on executions “with a view to abolishing the death penalty.”

According to Amnesty International, 133 countries have abolished capital punishment, and last year 91 percent of executions took place in six countries: China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the United States.

-- News wires


Australia passes laws for pope

SYDNEY, Australia -- The New South Wales government has passed special legislation to accommodate Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Sydney for World Youth Day in July. Temporary laws passed in mid-December will allow police extended powers of search and seizure and the discretion to remove individuals and vehicles from July 15-20 World Youth Day events.

The laws, which have been likened to those enacted for the Sydney Olympics in 2000, also restrict air space above World Youth Day venues such as Royal Randwick Racecourse and the pope’s residence while he is in Sydney. They protect commercial agreements between World Youth Day organizers and corporate partners.

U.N. looks to faith community

BATH, England -- The United Nations is forging new partnerships with faith communities in its drive against global warming. It recently granted funds to the environmental campaign of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, based in the United Kingdom.

Alliance members include followers of the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Daoist, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Shinto, Sikh and Zoroastrian faiths in 50 nations.

Faith groups are a natural steward for environmental conservation, said Martin Palmer, the alliance’s secretary general. “If you’re looking to the long-term future, they are the strongest and most stable unit anywhere in the world.”

Palmer criticized the new trend of buying carbon offsets, likening it to the sale of indulgences, which sparked the Reformation. “Indulgences remove from you moral responsibility,” he said.

The partnership with the alliance is a major shift for the United Nations, which has maintained a secular approach since its inception, Palmer said. It comes, he said, because of “recognition that in many parts of the world, it is religion that holds society together.”

National Catholic Reporter uses the following news services: AsiaNews, Catholic News Service, Latinamerica Press, New America Media, Religion News Service, and UCA News.

National Catholic Reporter, December 28, 2007

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