New Vatican Secretary of State: spiritual priority
The incoming Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarciscio Bertone, believes that his mission "transcends politics and diplomacy," and plans to "stress the Church's spiritual mission."
In an interview in August with the Italian daily Il Giornale, Cardinal Bertone said he favoured a reorganisation of the Roman Curia, pointing out that the last significant changes in the Vatican's administrative structure came early in the pontificate of John Paul II. "After nearly two decades, it is understandable that one would want to evaluate the organisation of the dicasteries," he said.
While the Secretariat of State had to "help the Church's mission in every area", Cardinal Bertone emphasised that he would try to keep the focus of work on the spiritual mission. He cited the advice of Bishop Luigi Bettazzi, the former bishop of Ivrea, where he was born: "He told me to be more of a secretary for the Church than a Secretary of State."
While he conceded that his own lack of diplomatic experience could be a disadvantage, "in a certain sense," he said he would approach his new job with confidence, relying on the prayers of the faithful for support. Since his appointment was announced, he had visited several monasteries around Genoa to ask for special prayers, and written to other contemplative communities with the same request.
Catholic World News
Survey: most women want abortion risks facts
A new American survey has found that women want to be thoroughly informed of all possible risks associated with elective medical procedures, not least with abortions.
The survey of 187 women seeking obstetric and gynecological services at a Wisconsin women's health clinic was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics in July.
The women were given a short survey in which they were asked to state their preferences for information about elective medical procedures. They ranked the degree of information they preferred regarding alternative treatments and complication rates, and rated the severity of different types of complications, ranging in severity from headaches to death.
The results showed that 95 percent of patients wished to be informed of all the risks of a procedure and 69 percent wanted to be informed of all alternative treatments, not just the alternatives preferred by their doctor.
Moreover, in their ranking of the seriousness of complications, mental-health complications ranked as very serious, only slightly below the risk of death or heart disease.
This finding may be especially important to the abortion debate, since recent peer-reviewed studies have linked abortion to increased rates of mental health problems, such as suicidal behaviour, clinical depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and sleep disorders.
Dr David Reardon, director of the Elliot Institute and one of co- authors of the study, said that the survey "demonstrates that women have a high level of interest in being informed of any risk that is statistically associated with the procedure, including psychological risks. It also reveals that while some experts may consider some associations, such as a 10 percent higher risk of breast cancer, as relatively unimportant, most women would consider it to be very important to their decision-making process."
Stiff prison term for Chinese pro-life activist
In August, a Chinese court sentenced a blind pro-life activist to over four years in prison on charges of damaging property and disrupting traffic in connection with a protest against forced abortions.
Chen Guangcheng was sentenced to a term of four years and three months, after a trial in which his lawyers were first denied access to the prosecutor's evidence and then barred from appearing in court. Human-rights activists said the charges against him were false.
Chen was charged with "organising a mob" when he staged a public protest against the aggressive family- planning efforts in the Linyi region. (The official Xinhua news agency said that he was protesting at "poverty- relief programs"). He came to prominence last year with a report in which he detailed policies that included forced sterilisations and abortions for tens of thousand of Chinese women.
Catholic World News
Canada's same-sex marriage to be reviewed
The Canadian Parliament made a "terrible mistake" when it redefined marriage last year, said Bishop Richard Smith of Pembroke, Ontario, to the 800 women present at the annual national convention of the Catholic Women's League in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 15 August.
The bishop told the women that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's promise of a parliamentary vote later in the year on whether to reopen the same-sex marriage debate offered "a rare second chance" to revisit the issue, according to Canadian Catholic News.
Bishop Smith, who is the CWL's national spiritual advisor, urged the group's 99,000 members across the country to get in touch with their MPs and to address the marriage issue on the parish level.
The bishop reportedly said he believed he could speak for all Canadian bishops when it came to the "incredibly important issue" of uphold- ing marriage as the lifelong bond between a man and a woman.
Catholic News Agency
Jesuit astronomer replaced at Vatican Observatory
In August Benedict XVI named a new director for the Vatican Observatory. Father José Gabriel Funes will succeed Father George Coyne, an American Jesuit.
Father Funes, an Argentinian Jesuit, is already a member of the Vatican Observatory team. The outgoing Father Coyne had been director of the Observatory for more than 25 years, and was aged 73.
Last year Father Coyne drew worldwide attention for his public comments on the topics of evolution and the theory of intelligent design. In an August 2005 column for the London Tablet, he criticised arguments put forward by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn questioning the Darwinian theory of evolution. A few weeks later, speaking at a conference in Florida, Father Coyne said that "intelligent design isn't science, even if it pretends to be."
The Vatican Observatory was established by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 to advance astronomical knowledge and to demonstrate the Church's support for the physical sciences. Originally it was located at Castel Gandolfo, near the Pope's summer residence. However, in 1981, because of the smog that obscures viewing of the sky near Rome, the main observatory was moved to Arizona, and Father Funes had spent most of his time there.
Catholic World News
Worldwide day of prayer for sanctity of human life
Again this year, the World Apostolate of Fatima is promoting a worldwide prayer day for the sanctity of human Life. This event will take place on Sunday, 8 October. People from all over the world are invited to pray for this intention. Catholics are being asked to pray the Rosary and non- Catholics to pray according to their faith for twenty minutes.
Those wishing to do so can register on the World Apostolate of Fatima's website: www.worldfatima.com
A special Fatima Sanctity of Life Rosary has been commissioned and is available from the International Secretariat via the website.
The World Apostolate of Fatima is also co-organising an international congress, entitled "Mary, We Entrust to You the Cause of Life", which will take place in Fatima from 4-8 October. This congress aims at putting into practice the wishes of John Paul II, when he stated in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae that "a great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world".
The congress is supported by the Pontifical Council for the Family and will gather well-known pro-life and Fatima speakers from around the world in the cause of defence of human life. Information is available from www.fatima-pro-life-congress-2006.com.
AIDS conference promotes "abstinophobia"
Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, would be more effective in the fight against AIDS by speaking about their long and successful marriage rather than by promoting condom use, said a leading Ugandan AIDS activist, Martin Sempa.
The Ugandan pastor is known as the instigator of the successful Ugandan educational campaign against AIDS, called the ABC program, which promotes abstinence and marital fidelity as the first two means of protection against the killer virus.
Sempa noted that Gates, who gave opening remarks at the Toronto International AIDS Conference in August, used the platform to promote the condom approach to combating the disease. In fact, the crowd booed when he mentioned abstinence education and fidelity as approaches that are being used in some parts of the world.
"This [ABC] approach has saved many lives, and we should expand it," he said to boos. The crowd began to cheer, however, when he spoke about the "limits" of such a program, and criticised abstinence and faithfulness as ultimately ineffective and unrealistic.
Sempa said he avoided the Toronto conference because of the hostility he was likely to find to his message. The only trouble is, he said, the conference delegates are missing the basic fact that promiscuity is at the heart of the problem.
"The last gasp of life for a sexual revolution that has gone stale in the West is using the AIDS crisis as a means of keeping itself going," Sempa told LifeSiteNews.com from Las Vegas, where he was giving a series of talks.
"Western experts, Bill Clinton, the UN, and the World Health Organization, look upon the AIDS problem as 'not enough condoms'. We on the ground, those who actually live in the country, see that the problem is too much promiscuity."
Sempa also believes that the condom approach promotes a hatred and fear for abstinence and fidelity, which he calls "abstinophobia", and a fear of marriage and motherhood, which he has dubbed "matriphobia". The Toronto conference promotes both, he said, as well as loathing of traditional Christian values.
Sempa is a witness to the fact that the ABC program is extremely successful. In the 1980s, the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Uganda was at 30 percent - in line with most African countries. Since the program was launched in 1987, the rate dropped to 6.2 per cent in 1994 and still remains among the lowest in Africa.
Furthermore, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Swaziland adopted the Ugandan program last year and are already seeing results.
Catholic News Agency
No to witchcraft, yes to Christ: African bishops
Southern African bishops have warned priests in a pastoral letter published in August not to moonlight as witchdoctors and to steer clear of fortune telling, ancestor worshipping and other traditional African practices.
The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, which represents bishops in South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana, said in their pastoral letter that some priests were adopting the traditional African practice of calling on ancestors for healing.
"We notice with a measure of concern", said the bishops, "that many African Christians, during difficult moments in their lives, resort to practices of the traditional religion: the intervention of ancestral spirits, the engagement of spirit-mediums, spirit- possession, consulting diviners about lost items and about the future, magical practices and identifying (smelling out) one's enemies".
The bishops ordered priests to "desist from practices involving spirits," and to steer clear of witchcraft, fortune-telling and selling spiritual powers or magic medicines.
"The belief that ancestors are endowed with supernatural powers borders on idolatry. It is God, and God alone, who is all-powerful while the ancestors are created by him.
"Christ is our great Healer who wants to heal people - more than the healing for which they yearn. He wants to share with us everlasting life and never ending health".
The bishops said Catholic priests should instead heal in the name of Jesus Christ, and tend to the soul, not just the body.