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Bishops appeal to Obama to protect life
AMERICA ’ SBISHOPS gave President Barack Obama a cautious welcome as he took office on Tuesday, pledging to work together with the new administration wherever they could. Writing to Mr Obama on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said the bishops would “work constructively with the new administration and Congress and others of good will to pursue policies which respect the dignity of all human life and bring greater justice to our nation and peace to our world”. Cardinal George pointed out that the US Catholic bishops lead the largest single faith community –American Catholics constitute 22 per cent of the country’s population –and that the Church is universal. He wrote: “From our experience and our tradition, we offer a distinctive, constructive and principled contribution to the national dialogue on how to act together on issues of economic turmoil and suffering, war and violence, moral decency and human dignity.” Over two million people gathered in Washington DC on Tuesday to witness the swearing in of the 44th President of the United States and the country’s first African-American leader. Mr Obama’s running mate, Joseph Biden, became America’s first Catholic vice-president. On the Sunday before the inauguration, Mr Biden attended Mass at the Holy Trinity Catholic church, Washington DC, where he
not only received Communion but was also given a standing ovation by the congregation. Mr Biden has been a controversial figure throughout the campaign because he has a chequered voting history on abortion but, like 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry, is a Mass-going Catholic. When Mr Biden was selected as Mr Obama’s running mate, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver said Mr Biden should refrain from receiving Communion because of his position on abortion. Cardinal George’s letter, drafted during the meeting of the US bishops in November, signalled a willingness to cooperate with the new administration on areas such as immigration, fighting poverty, the battle against HIV/Aids, the transition in Iraq and international aid and relief efforts. It also focused on the Church’s role in defending the poor and the vulnerable, both in the United States and around the world. Despite its conciliatory tone, there was a note of warning. The bishops said they would not compromise on issues concerning the sanctity and dignity of human life. Cardinal George wrote: “Most fundamentally, we will work to protect the lives of the most vulnerable and voiceless members of the human family, especially unborn children and those who are disabled or terminally ill. We will consistently defend the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death. “Opposed to abortion as the direct killing of innocent human life, we will encourage one and all
President Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States on Tuesday
to seek common ground that will reduce the number of abortions in morally sound ways that affirm the dignity of pregnant women and their unborn children. We will oppose legislative and other measures to expand abortion. We will work to retain essential, widely supported policies which show respect for unborn life, protect the conscience rights of healthcare providers and other Americans, and prevent government funding and promotion of abortion. “The Hyde amendment and other provisions which for many years have prevented federal funding of abortion have a proven record of reducing abortions. Efforts to force Americans to fund abortions with their tax dollars would pose a serious moral challenge and jeopardise the passage
of essential healthcare reform.” During the election campaign in the autumn some bishops expressed vocal opposition to Mr Obama because of his pro-abortion stance, arguing that while Catholics should vote according to their consciences they should not vote for a pro-abortion candidate. Catholics in the US fear that Mr Obama will sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which he co-sponsored in the Senate in 2007. He told an audience at a Planned Parenthood Action Fund event: “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing I’d do.” The US bishops have spoken out against FOCA, which will fully federalise the abortion laws
and would nullify all existing limitations on abortion. This could include, if FOCA is passed, scrapping laws requiring parental consent and freedom-ofconscience laws in 46 states. The bishops fear that Catholic hospitals, which are protected from having to perform abortions by freedom-of-conscience laws, would be forced to close. Without public money from Medicaid and Medicare, many Catholic hospitals would no longer be able to operate. But other Catholic commentators argue that FOCA has no chance of becoming law. Catholic clergy did not play a leading role in the inauguration celebrations which included blessings by the evangelical pastor Rick Warren, African-American
pastor Joseph Lowery and the gay Anglican Bishop Gene Robinson. The last time the Catholic Church was represented on stage at a presidential inauguration was in 1985. Pope Benedict congratulated Mr Obama on the day of his inauguration with a telegram, which is customary. The Holy Father said that he prayed that the American people would “continue to find in their impressive religious and political heritage the spiritual values and ethical principles needed to cooperate in the building of a truly just and free society” under the new President. On Thursday tens of thousands of pro-lifers were expected to take to the streets of Washington DC in the annual March for Life.
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Evan Harris plans to introduce Bill repealing Act of Settlement
THEMPDUBBED “Dr Death” because of his support for liberal abortion laws and euthanasia is to introduce a Bill to repeal the last remaining penal laws against Catholics. Dr Evan Harris, the Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, drew fifth in the Private Member’s Bill ballot, giving him the opportunity to draw up proposals that stand a real chance of becoming law. His Bill would abolish the sections of the 1701 Act of
Settlement that prevent a monarch from marrying a Catholic. Last year Autumn Kelly, then the fiancée of Peter Phillips, the Queen’s grandson, converted to Anglicanism so her future husband would not lose his place in the line of succession. The Bill would also scrap all discrimination against women in the line of succession. It would mean that Princess Anne would move behind Prince Harry in the line of succession, instead of below Prince Andrew, Prince
Edward and their children. Dr Harris said he was opposed to all discrimination and so introducing the Bill was the “obvious thing to do”. He said: “Although the current discrimination does not have a wide practical effect, because this is still part of our constitution, it is an ongoing symbol of the lingering second-class status of Roman Catholics and women.” The Catholic bishops have repeatedly called for the repeal of the final vestiges of the penal laws. The Government
has indicated that it would take the matter seriously after the next General Election. There have been two unsuccessful attempts to repeal the laws in recent years by Tory MPs John Gummer and Edward Leigh, both Catholics. Dr Harris believes his Bill will carry more weight because he is “not exactly the pin-up boy for Catholics” and no one will be able to accuse him of being self-interested. His Bill will receive a second reading because it came in the top seven of the ballot.
Vatican to launch YouTube channel
Hollywood mourns devout veteran actor
THEVATICAN is to launch its own YouTube channel after an agreement with the website’s owners Google. The online video-sharing website YouTube has hundreds of “channels”, effectively video libraries, put out by television stations, political entities such as the EU, and private organisations. The Vatican channel will
feature video and audio footage of papal addresses as well as news from the Holy See. The YouTube channel will complement the Vatican’s media outlets, which include the daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano and Vatican Radio, which broadcasts in 39 languages. The Holy See’s website, www.vatican.va, was laun ched in 1995 and publishes the Pope’s pronouncements and encyclicals. The Vatican also has a Facebook page, and the Pope has 24,782 fans on the website. Last month the Holy See approved an iPhone application, the iBreviary, which allows users to download the daily prayer.
CATHOLIC actor Ricardo Montalban, whose work in television and film also included several Catholic projects, died on January 14, aged 88, at his home in Los Angeles. The Mexican-born Montalban –best known for his role as Mr Roarke on television’s Fantasy Island –always credited his faith for helping him in Hollywood. Montalban won several awards for his contribu
tions to the entertainment industry and the Catholic faith. He won an Emmy for the 1978 television movie How the West Was Won . Montalban also featured in Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan , Planet of the Apes , Cannonball Run and The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! . In 1998 he was made a Knight Commander of St Gregory the Great by Pope John Paul II.