24 giugno 2010

Christianophobia at Work in "Crucifix Trial," Says Cardinal

Roundtable Event Held in Rome Ahead of Public Hearing

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 23, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The decision of the European Court of Human Rights to ban the crucifix from Italian classrooms is a result of the encroachment of "secularist fundamentalism" and "Christianophobia," says the former president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

Cardinal Julián Herranz Casado said this today in Rome at a round table event organized by the Christian Humanism Association, with the sponsorship of the office of Italy's prime minister. The title of the event was "Values and Rights: The Value of the Crucifix."

In November, the human rights court ruled in favor of an Italian citizen of Finnish origin who complained in 2002 that the state school where her two children studied violated their freedom by displaying crucifixes.

Italy launched an appeal in January, contending that the crucifix is part of Italian cultural patrimony. Since then, 10 other member states have joined Italy's appeal as third parties. At stake is not only the crucifix ban, but also the limits of the jurisdiction of the human rights court.

The court's Grand Chamber will hold a public hearing on June 30, and the final judgment on the case is expected by the end of the year.

Cardinal Herranz explained that the ruling is a result of a growing "secularist fundamentalism" that seeks to "relegate the Christian faith and religion in general to the mere private realms of personal conscience, excluding all signs, symbols or external manifestation of the faith in public places and civil institutions (schools, hospitals, etc.)."


The 80-year-old cardinal said the erroneous reasoning behind the court's decision asserts that the presence of the crucifix in classrooms is "contrary to the right of parents to educate their children in line with their own convictions, and to the right of children to religious liberty," as the atmosphere of the school would be "marked by a specific religion."

The court, he continued, also wrongly affirmed that the presence of the crucifix might be "emotionally disturbing," and that its display might not "foment critical thought in pupils" or the "educational pluralism" that is essential to preserve a "democratic society."

"This decision," the Spanish cardinal responded, "makes reference without a motive -- because the mere display of the crucifix does not have an imperative or discriminatory character -- to the religious liberty of non-Christian pupils, while it does not respect Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affects Christian pupils of Italian schools and the 'patria potestas' of their parents."

"This norm," Cardinal Herranz stressed, "guarantees the right of religious liberty, which includes among other things: 'the liberty to manifest one's religion or belief, individually and collectively, both in public as well as in private, by teaching, practice, worship and observance.'"

In second place, the cardinal indicated that "secularism certainly represents a constitutive principle of democratic states," but noted that the court ignores the rights of states to "determine in each case their concrete forms of application, in the light of the different circumstances and local traditions."

Secularism, he insisted, "is not an ideological principle that must be imposed on society violating the traditions, feelings and religious beliefs of the citizens."


Cardinal Herranz said that the Strasbourg Court confuses the meaning of "the neutrality or a-confessionality of the state" with the idea that "the state must be 'anti-confessional,' that is, opposed to the presence in public institutions of any religious sign or symbol."

"This attitude of rejection of religion would make of atheism a sort of ideology or state religion," he stressed.

Moreover, the Opus Dei cardinal continued, "it seems that the court has exceeded illegitimately the limits of its own competence, pronouncing itself on a question that affects the legitimate and due safeguarding on the part of the state of the national traditions and culture, as well as the commitments assumed with concordats or particular conventions with the Catholic Church and eventually with other religious confessions."

He spoke of "strong media powers and some political groups that for a long time have supported the ideology of secularist fundamentalism" and who hope for a law of religious liberty that would prohibit "crucifixes and other religious signs [...] in public institutions and official ceremonies (schools, courts, hospitals, state funerals, etc.)."

And they do this, the cardinal added, knowing that "the majority of citizens, if consulted in a referendum, would vote against this."

ZE10062306 - 2010-06-23
Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-29688?l=english

23 giugno 2010

Lasers uncover first icons of Sts. Peter and Paul

By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer – Tue Jun 22, 4:16 pm ET
AP via Yahoo News

ROME – Twenty-first century laser technology has opened a window into the early days of the Catholic Church, guiding researchers through the dank, musty catacombs beneath Rome to a startling find: the first known icons of the apostles Peter and Paul.

Vatican officials unveiled the paintings Tuesday, discovered along with the earliest known images of the apostles John and Andrew in an underground burial chamber beneath an office building on a busy street in a working-class Rome neighborhood.

The images, which date from the second half of the 4th century, were uncovered using a new laser technique that allows restorers to burn off centuries of thick white calcium carbonate deposits without damaging the brilliant dark colors of the paintings underneath.

The technique could revolutionize the way restoration work is carried out in the miles (kilometers) of catacombs that burrow under the Eternal City where early Christians buried their dead.

The icons were discovered on the ceiling of a tomb of an aristocratic Roman woman at the Santa Tecla catacomb, near where the remains of the apostle Paul are said to be buried.

Rome has dozens of such burial chambers and they are a major tourist attraction, giving visitors a peek into the traditions of the early church when Christians were often persecuted for their beliefs. Early Christians dug the catacombs outside Rome's walls as underground cemeteries, since burial was forbidden inside the city walls and pagan Romans were usually cremated.

The art that decorated Rome's catacombs was often simplistic and symbolic in nature. The Santa Tecla catacombs, however, represent some of the earliest evidence of devotion to the apostles in early Christianity, Vatican officials said.

"The Christian catacombs, while giving us value with a religious and cultural patrimony, represent an eloquent and significant testimony of Christianity at its origin," said Monsignor Giovanni Carru, the No. 2 in the Vatican's Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, which maintains the catacombs.

Last June, the Vatican announced the discovery of the icon of Paul at Santa Tecla, timing the news to coincide with the end of the Vatican's year of St. Paul. Pope Benedict XVI also said tests on bone fragments long attributed to Paul "seemed to confirm" that they did indeed belong to the Roman Catholic saint.

On Tuesday, Vatican archaeologists announced the image of Paul was not found in isolation, but was part of a square ceiling painting that also included icons of three other apostles — Peter, John and Andrew — surrounding an image of Christ as the Good Shepherd.

"They are the first icons. These are absolutely the first representations of the apostles," said Fabrizio Bisconti, the superintendent of archaeology for the catacombs.

Bisconti spoke from inside the intimate burial chamber, its walls and ceilings covered with paintings of scenes from the Old Testament, including Daniel in the lion's den and Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac. Once inside, visitors see the loculi, or burial chambers, on three sides.

But the gem is on the ceiling, where the four apostles are painted inside gold-rimmed circles against a red-ochre backdrop. The ceiling is also decorated with geometric designs, and the cornices feature images of naked youths.

Chief restorer Barbara Mazzei noted there were earlier known images of Peter and Paul, but these were depicted in narratives. The images in the catacomb — with their faces in isolation, encircled with gold and affixed to the four corners of the ceiling painting — are devotional in nature and as such represent the first known icons.

"The fact of isolating them in a corner tells us it's a form of devotion," she said. "In this case, saints Peter and Paul, and John and Andrew are the most antique testimonies we have."

In addition, the images of Andrew and John show much younger faces than are normally depicted in the Byzantine-inspired imagery most often associated with the apostles, she said.

The Vatican's Sacred Archaeology office oversaw the two-year $73,650 (euro60,000) project, which for the first time used lasers to restore frescoes in catacombs, where the damp air makes the procedure particularly difficult.

In this case, the small burial chamber at the end of the catacomb was encased in up to two inches (five centimeters) of calcium carbonate. Restoration using previous techniques would have meant scraping away the buildup by hand, leaving a filmy layer on top so as not to damage the painting underneath.

Using the laser technique, restorers were able to sear off all the deposits by setting the laser to burn only on the white of the calcium carbonate; the laser's heat stopped when it reached a different color. Researchers then easily chipped off the seared material, revealing the brilliant ochre, black, green and yellow underneath, Mazzei said.

Similar technology has been used on statues, particularly metallic ones damaged by years of outdoor pollution, she said. However, the Santa Tecla restoration marked the first time lasers had been adapted for use in the dank interiors of catacombs.

Many of Rome's catacombs are open regularly to the public. However, the Santa Tecla catacombs will be open only on request to limited groups to preserve the paintings, she said.

17 giugno 2010

Sea creatures flee oil spill, gather near shore

By JAY REEVES, JOHN FLESHER and TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press Writers
June 17, 2010
AP via Yahoo News

GULF SHORES, Ala. – Dolphins and sharks are showing up in surprisingly shallow water off Florida beaches, like forest animals fleeing a fire. Mullets, crabs, rays and small fish congregate by the thousands off an Alabama pier. Birds covered in oil are crawling deep into marshes, never to be seen again.

Marine scientists studying the effects of the BP disaster are seeing some strange phenomena.

Fish and other wildlife seem to be fleeing the oil out in the Gulf and clustering in cleaner waters along the coast in a trend that some researchers see as a potentially troubling sign.

The animals' presence close to shore means their usual habitat is badly polluted, and the crowding could result in mass die-offs as fish run out of oxygen. Also, the animals could easily be devoured by predators.

"A parallel would be: Why are the wildlife running to the edge of a forest on fire? There will be a lot of fish, sharks, turtles trying to get out of this water they detect is not suitable," said Larry Crowder, a Duke University marine biologist.

The nearly two-month-old spill has created an environmental catastrophe unparalleled in U.S. history as tens of millions of gallons of oil have spewed into the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. Scientists are seeing some unusual things as they try to understand the effects on thousands of species of marine life.

Day by day, scientists in boats tally up dead birds, sea turtles and other animals, but the toll is surprisingly small given the size of the disaster. The latest figures show that 783 birds, 353 turtles and 41 mammals have died — numbers that pale in comparison to what happened after the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska in 1989, when 250,000 birds and 2,800 otters are believed to have died.

Researchers say there are several reasons for the relatively small death toll: The vast nature of the spill means scientists are able to locate only a small fraction of the dead animals. Many will never be found after sinking to the bottom of the sea or being scavenged by other marine life. And large numbers of birds are meeting their deaths deep in the Louisiana marshes where they seek refuge from the onslaught of oil.

"That is their understanding of how to protect themselves," said Doug Zimmer, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

For nearly four hours Monday, a three-person crew with Greenpeace cruised past delicate islands and mangrove-dotted inlets in Barataria Bay off southern Louisiana. They saw dolphins by the dozen frolicking in the oily sheen and oil-tinged pelicans feeding their young. But they spotted no dead animals.

"I think part of the reason why we're not seeing more yet is that the impacts of this crisis are really just beginning," Greenpeace marine biologist John Hocevar said.

The counting of dead wildlife in the Gulf is more than an academic exercise: The deaths will help determine how much BP pays in damages.

As for the fish, researchers are still trying to determine where exactly they are migrating to understand the full scope of the disaster, and no scientific consensus has emerged about the trend.

Mark Robson, director of the Division of Marine Fisheries Management with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said his agency has yet to find any scientific evidence that fish are being adversely affected off his state's waters. He noted that it is common for fish to flee major changes in their environment, however.

In some areas along the coast, researchers believe fish are swimming closer to shore because the water is cleaner and more abundant in oxygen. Farther out in the Gulf, researchers say, the spill is not only tainting the water with oil but also depleting oxygen levels.

A similar scenario occurs during "dead zone" periods — the time during summer months when oxygen becomes so depleted that fish race toward shore in large numbers. Sometimes, so many fish gather close to the shoreline off Mobile that locals rush to the beach with tubs and nets to reap the harvest.

But this latest shore migration could prove deadly.

First, more oil could eventually wash ashore and overwhelm the fish. They could also become trapped between the slick and the beach, leading to increased competition for oxygen in the water and causing them to die as they run out of air.

"Their ability to avoid it may be limited in the long term, especially if in near-shore refuges they're crowding in close to shore, and oil continues to come in. At some point they'll get trapped," said Crowder, expert in marine ecology and fisheries. "It could lead to die-offs."

The fish could also fall victim to predators such as sharks and seabirds. Already there have been increased shark sightings in shallow waters along the Gulf Coast.

The migration of fish away from the oil spill can be good news for some coastal residents.

Tom Sabo has been fishing off Panama City, Fla., for years, and he's never seen the fishing better or the water any clearer than it was last weekend 16 to 20 miles off the coast. His fishing spot was far enough east that it wasn't affected by the pollution or federal restrictions, and it's possible that his huge catch of red snapper, grouper, king mackerel and amberjack was a result of fish fleeing the spill.

In Alabama, locals are seeing large schools hanging around piers where fishing has been banned, leading them to believe the fish feel safer now that they are not being disturbed by fishermen.

"We pretty much just got tired of catching fish," Sabo said. "It was just inordinately easy, and these were strong fish, nothing that was affected by oil. It's not just me. I had to wait at the cleaning table to clean fish."


Lush contributed from Barataria Bay, La., Flesher from Traverse City, Mich.

16 giugno 2010

Obama: BP agrees to $20B fund; chairman apologizes

By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer
June 16, 2010
AP via Yahoo News

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama and BP reached agreement Wednesday on a $20 billion fund to compensate victims of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the giant British company's chairman apologized to America for the worst environmental accident in the nation's history.

BP is suspending its dividends to shareholders to help pay for the costs, said chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg.

Obama announced the agreement after a four-hour meeting with BP officials. He also said the company had agreed to set up a separate $100 million fund to compensate oil rig workers laid off as a result of his six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling.

"The structure we are establishing today is an important step toward making the people of the Gulf Coast whole again, but it will not turn things around overnight," Obama said. He said the vulnerable fishermen, restaurant workers and other people of the Gulf "are uppermost in the minds of all concerned. That's who we're doing this work for."

Likewise, Svanberg, speaking for a company that has been assailed from every corner for the past two months, said, "I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are — are greedy companies or don't care, but that is not the case in BP. We care about the small people."

The claims system sets up a formal process to be run by a specialist with a proven record. Instead of vague promises by BP, there will be a White House-blessed structure with substantial money and the pledge that more will be provided if needed. The news was applauded in the Gulf — a rare positive development in a terrible two-month period since the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers and unleashed a flood of oil that has yet to be stemmed.

Company officials talked separately outside the White House.

Svanberg announced the dividend suspension and expressed sorrow for victims of the spill. "This tragic accident ... should have never happened," he said, and he also used the occasion to "apologize to the American people."

Obama said the independent fund will be directed by lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw payments to families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. There will be a three-member panel to adjudicate claims that are turned down.

"This is about accountability. At the end of the day, that's what every American wants and expects," Obama said.

BP would pay $5 billion a year over the next four years to set up the $20 billion fund.

"The people of the Gulf have my commitment that BP will meet its obligations to them," Obama said. "This $20 billion amount will provide substantial assurance that the claims people and businesses have will be honored."

He emphasized that the $20 billion was "not a cap" and that BP would pay more if necessary.

The eight-week disaster in the Gulf, with oil still pouring from the broken well, is jeopardizing the environment as well as the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people across the coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

BP has taken the brunt of criticism about the oil spill because it was the operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig that sunk. It also is a majority owner of the undersea well that has been spewing oil since the explosion, which killed 11 workers.

But when the day of reckoning finally comes, BP may not be the only one having to pay up. That's because Swiss-based Transocean Ltd. owned a majority interest in the rig. Anadarko Petroleum, based in The Woodlands, Texas, has a 25 percent non-operating interest in the well.

Word of the fund was well received on the Gulf Coast. Applause broke out during a community meeting in Orange Beach, Ala., when Mayor Tony Kennon briefed participants on the White House meeting.

"We asked for that two weeks ago and they laughed at us," Kennon said. "Thank you, President Obama, for taking a bunch of rednecks' suggestion and making it happen." Obama visited Orange Beach on Monday.

In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also sought to take some credit. "While this fund will in no way limit BP's liability, it is a good first step toward compensating victims," he said. Reid and other Senate Democrats proposed a $20 billion BP-financed fund earlier in the week.

Feinberg, the official who will direct the effort, is currently known as Obama's "pay czar," setting salary limits for companies getting the most aid from a $700 billion government bailout fund. He also ran the $7 billion government compensation program after the 2001 terrorist attacks. It was a job that lasted nearly three years as he decided how much families should get, largely based on how much income victims would have earned in a lifetime.

As pay czar, Feinberg has capped cash salaries at $500,000 this year for the vast majority of the top executives at the five major companies that received bailout funding: American International Group, GMAC Financial Services, Chrysler Financial, Chrysler and General Motors.

The president met at midday with the top BP leaders to press the London-based oil giant to pay giant claims.

Wednesday's White House meeting came the morning after Obama vowed in a TV address that "we will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused."

For the president, Wednesday's meeting with a few company officials behind closed doors was a bookend to his attempt to reach millions at once. Using a delivery in which even the harshest words were uttered in subdued tones, Obama did not offer much in the way of new ideas or details in his Tuesday night speech. He recapped the government's efforts, insisted once again that BP would be held to account and tried to tap the resilience of a nation in promising that "something better awaits."

Obama's forceful tone about BP's behavior shows how far matters have deteriorated. The White House once described BP as an essential partner in plugging the crude oil spewing from the broken well beneath nearly a mile of water. Now Obama says BP has threatened to destroy a coastal way of life.

An Associated Press-GfK poll released Tuesday showed 52 percent now disapprove of Obama's handling of the oil spill, up significantly from last month and about the same as President George W. Bush's rating after Hurricane Katrina. Most people — 56 percent — think the government's actions in response to the oil disaster really haven't had any impact on the situation.


Associated Press writer Harry Weber in Houston, Jay Reeves in Orange Beach, Ala., and Kenneth Thomas, Martin Crutsinger, Darlene Superville, Daniel Wagner and Jennifer Loven in Washington contributed to this story.

09 giugno 2010

NO! Empire State Building refuses to light up in honor of Mother Teresa

It is sad that it doesn't surprise me that this is happening....

BY Adam Lisberg
Wednesday, June 9th 2010, 2:06 PM

The Empire State Building has a message to Mother Teresa - you don't deserve to be honored in lights.

The building has colored its famous lighting in the past for Mariah Carey, stock car driver Jimmie Johnson and drug-loving musicians the Grateful Dead, but its owner said Wednesday that Mother Teresa doesn't qualify.

"As a privately owned building, ESB has a specific policy against any other lighting for religious figures or requests by religions and religious organizations," said Anthony Malkin, head of the family company that owns the building.

The firm "no" comes after the Catholic League and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn both urged the city's tallest tower to turn its lights blue and white on Aug. 26 for what would have been her 100th birthday.

Quinn said she spoke to Malkin on Tuesday and hoped he would change his mind.

"He said he would reflect on it," Quinn said today. "It's a really wrong-headed decision that he has made. It's his private building, and he has the right to make it, but I think it's a hugely lost opportunity for the city."

Catholic League President Bill Donohue said the tower was lit red and white when Cardinal O'Connor died in 2000, and the lights were extinguished to mark the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005.

"Malkin has made his decision to stiff Catholics," said Donohue, who now plans an Aug. 26 demonstration outside the building. "His decision to double down at this juncture - in the face of massive support for our request - is something he will regret for the rest of his life."

Archbishop Timothy Dolan is monitoring the situation, a spokesman said. He earlier said he was stumped why a nun who devoted her life to helping the suffering was not deserving of the honor.

"I kind of shrug my shoulders with everybody else," Dolan said in March. "I guess there must be a reason. It'd be tough for me to understand a credible one, but I wish they'd kind of tell us. It's tough to be against Mother Teresa?"

The City Council is scheduled to consider a resolution Wednesday calling on the skyscraper to change its mind.

Malkin said the building lights itself up for religious holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah and Id al-Fitr, but not individuals.

"We try to use the lighting to celebrate everybody who thinks highly of the building," he told the New York Times last year. "We do important Western holidays, we have fun with the Mets versus the Yankees or the Jets versus the Giants."

The decision outraged tourists lining up to tour the building's 86th-floor observation deck today, who saw no earthly reason not to honor a heavenly nun.

"She's not just a Catholic figure - she's an inspiration to everybody," said Mary Shull, 54, visiting from northeast Tennessee.

Added Wesley Dessert, a 28-year-old social worker from Brooklyn: "It's an iconic building in New York, and she's an icon too. It's special to honor her 100th birthday. It's a milestone."

With Frank Lombardi and Samantha Shirley

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/06/09/2010-06-09_no_empire_state_building_refuses_to_light_up_in_honor_of_mother_teresa.html#ixzz0qNrFam6Z

Why Time Magazine Misses the Point

Benedict XVI's Pontificate Is Marked by Reform and Renewal

By Gregory Erlandson

HUNGTINGTON, Indiana, JUNE 8, 2010 (Zenit.org).- It would probably be too much to ask that Time magazine run a cover story on the bold statements and concrete actions that Benedict XVI has taken to address the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

No self-respecting journalistic enterprise wants to be separated from the pack when it comes to covering a controversial news story, which means it must always follow the herd, even when the evidence points elsewhere.

But the Time magazine June 7 cover story is a particularly frustrating example of a media enterprise playing to prejudices with half-truths even to the point of severely misrepresenting the story.

"Why Being Pope Means Never having To Say You’re Sorry: The Sex Abuse Scandal and the Limits of Atonement" is the provocative headline splashed across the most recent Time cover, which also features an image of the back of Benedict XVI's mitered head.

Lest we have any doubts where this is heading, the lead sentence of the story manages to drag in the Inquisition: "How do you atone for something terrible, like the Inquisition?"

The gist of the story is that as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he wasn't so up to apologizing for the Inquisition, and he isn’t really doing enough to apologize for the clergy sexual abuse crisis, either. Time magazine wants the Pope to offer a personal mea culpa, particularly for his handling of a case in Germany when he was archbishop of Munich, and more generally for the fact that he "was very much part of a system that had badly underestimated and in some cases enabled the rot of clergy abuse that spread through the Church in the past half-century."

The target

The story, written by Jeff Israely (reporting from Rome) and Howard Chua-Eoan, while appearing to be about the sexual abuse crisis, is really a subtly written assault on the papacy itself, making the following case:

1. For the past two centuries, the Vatican has centralized power and authority over the Church, including the declaration of papal infallibility at the First Vatican Council.

2. This centralization is how it has managed to control its docile flock even as it has lost temporal power.

3. At stake in the sexual abuse crisis is the prestige and power of the papacy and the Church’s own authority.

4. There needs to be some sort of acceptance of personal guilt on the part of Pope Benedict for his actions, despite all he has done to address the crisis.

5. Such an admission of guilt and apology would call into question, however, the "theological impregnability of the papacy" and hasten other changes in the Church that will diminish its size and authority.

The provocative headline of the article -- "Why Being Pope Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry" -- makes more sense in this narrative because it yokes the claim of infallibility to the current crisis, making the papacy the center of the abuse story.

The fact that the Pope has apologized repeatedly thus becomes irrelevant for Time magazine -- despite the obvious contradiction of the headline -- because the apologies are just a public relations strategy to head off a greater challenge.

In laying out this political analysis of the last 200 years of Church history, the article also serves to bolster the case of those lawyers seeking damages from the Vatican for sexual abuse cases that occurred in the United States. Since the Vatican was so centralized and domineering, the question of its liability for the handling of individual local cases becomes more plausible.


Thus, after recounting the many positive steps the Pope has taken, Time still concludes that he is hedging: "He assigned wrongdoing not to the Church but to its servants." This, the magazine suggests, is to protect the Church from legal liability. "The consequences of sin are subject to divine salvation, but the consequences of crime lie within the purview of human judges and entail courts of law, prison, public humiliation and the loss of property."

Time quotes an Irish theologian: "This very centralized Church [tightly managed out of Rome] has only really been the case since the end of the 19th century." Here it ties everything back to the First Vatican Council and its statement on papal infallibility. In keeping with the heavy editorializing of the entire story, it sums up Vatican I as a "stage-managed" council that used a "suspect majority of bishops" to approve infallibility, thus allowing the Roman Curia to become "ever more centralized and domineering."

While the article dismisses "a purportedly impromptu crowd of 150,000 people" who showed up to cheer the Pope one Sunday (although no one claims it was impromptu), it lauds plans for a "Reformation Day" in October being organized by victims of clergy sexual abuse to "pressure the Vatican to act" and to "take back" the Church.

The story gets so many details wrong, that defenders of Benedict XVI in some ways don't know where to start.

Papal authority

Infallibility has nothing to do with the story of sexual abuse. The centralization of authority is more stereotype than truth, as witnessed by the diversity of Catholic voices, the independent actions of many bishops, the rise of the national bishops' conferences and on and on. If anything, what is frustrating to many Catholics and puzzling to non-Catholics who hold a simplistic view of papal authority is that the Pope cannot just rule by arbitrary decree. (It is ironic that this same misunderstanding permeates the controversy surrounding Pope Pius XII and the struggle with Nazism.)

The real story is this: Benedict XVI is aware of the scale and the scope of the crisis worldwide. He has taken decisive actions (such as the removal of the founder of the Legion of Christ). He has intervened strongly in Ireland, with a remarkably honest and plain-spoken letter to the Irish Catholics, a visitation of top prelates to study the root causes of the crisis and how it was handled, the acceptance of several resignations by bishops, and a high-level meeting with Irish prelates at the Vatican. He has quite clearly led the way in encouraging local bishops’ conferences to address their scandals head on, and he has laid out the language for understanding the crisis: Endorsing the search for truth, calling for penance, not blaming the media or enemies outside the Church, but pointing to the enemies within.

Mistakes have been made. Grievous mistakes. Mistakes were made by bishops, by priests, by psychiatrists and police and judges and yes, even by well-intentioned and grief-stricken relatives. The cost of these mistakes is very high, and the Church will have to pay these costs. But efforts to make Benedict XVI part of the problem rather than part of the solution would be an even bigger mistake, for it is he who is providing real leadership on this issue.

It is Benedict XVI who is refusing to circle the wagons and understands the spiritual as well as the canonical and civil issues at stake. It is Benedict XVI who is championing the necessary reform and renewal that the scandals demand.

* * *

Greg Erlandson is the president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, and co-author of the newly released "Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Working for Reform and Renewal" (2010, Our Sunday Visitor).

Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-29530?l=english

08 giugno 2010

Personal Memories of Pius XII

Interview With Sister Margherita Marchione

ZE10060711 - 2010-06-07
Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-29521?l=english

By Carmen Elena Villa

ROME, JUNE 7, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The future Pope Pius XII enjoyed spending his summer vacations at the beach of Santa Marinella.

Last Saturday, a bronze bust of him was placed at that beach, to honor the World War II Pope and all the "righteous of the world."

Before being placed at the site, the bust was presented to Benedict XVI. The honor of this task was held by Sister Margherita Marchione, of the community of Religious Teachers Filippini. She is one of the world's principal biographers of Pius XII.

"So many pictures were taken of me in a few seconds," Sister Marchione recounted to ZENIT while she looked at the images of her brief meeting with the Pontiff.

This nun, born the daughter of Italian immigrants in New Jersey in 1922, has a doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University. In the last 15 years, she has published 10 book in English and Italian on Pius XII.

ZENIT: You met Pius XII. What was this experience like?

Sister Marchione: I met him in fact in St. Peter's Basilica in 1957; I came to Rome with his niece Elena Rossignani Pacelli. He approached us. We were in the first row. I held his hands in mine and kissed them, and spoke with him. He asked me questions. He wanted to know what I was doing in Rome. I was already a sister, but young, in a certain sense. I explained to him that I traveled and did research. I was writing my thesis on the poet Clemente Rebora. He asked me about the family. He gave me his blessing. It was such an impressive occasion for me that I can still see it again. He spoke to me as if we were friends of many years. I was struck by his kindness, his smile. The emotion I experienced, the impressions I have from this meeting are precious, indelible memories, which I have had my whole life. In fact, he exuded holiness.

ZENIT: Why did you decide to become Pius XII's principal biographer?

Sister Marchione: In 1995, almost 40 years after my meeting with Pius XII, I was here in Rome for a general chapter and I learned that our sisters, the Religious Teachers Filippini, saved 114 Jews in three convents of Rome. I was amazed and I said: How come? These are things that no one speaks about, that no one writes about. I learned this by chance. I became interested in Pius XII. I spoke with the sisters [involved] who were still alive and I was impressed by the work they -- as so many other Italians -- had done to hide the Jews. On my return to America, I began to be interested in the issue, I interviewed Jews who had been our guests and I wrote a first book. I have [now] written 10. I was able to interview some persons who had suffered, who were here in Rome during that period. I abandoned all my other interests and I began to write only about Pius XII.

ZENIT: How were the sisters of your community able to hide the Jews?

Sister Marchione: The sisters in all the convents were very courageous in hiding Jewish women. Even if bread was lacking for themselves, they gave half of what they had to these women. There were 60 Jewish women. If the Nazis had not believed the sister who said that no one was there, not only these women but also the sisters who were hosting them would all have been sent to Auschwitz. Hence, much courage was needed. I admired what they did and I wanted to make these facts known.

ZENIT: Other works of yours speak of Pius XII's silence.

Sister Marchione: Yes. Some Jews accuse him of silence, but it isn't true. His silence was prudent. He did everything possible to save the Jews, it could be said "behind the scenes." He could not start to fight America, England, Germany, the Russians. In the book "Architect of Peace" I reported important documents. Pius XII's charitable work was universal, magnanimous, assiduous and, above all, paternal in Christian terms, in the most profound sense of the term.

Pius XII maintained a diplomatic network in the Vatican during the whole war. He was personally interested in every human case made known to him. Young people and old went to him to receive help and to find dispersed relatives. Innumerable requests arrived daily from all countries worldwide, and all received his attention.

To make possible correspondence with prisoners' families, he instituted the Office of Information for Research, a unique archive that contained information on prisoners of war. The task of Holy See employees [there] was to inform the families on the state of prisoners.

ZENIT: What do you think of the negative judgments of Pius XII?

Sister Marchione: History must tell the truth, that the Catholic Church saved more than 5,000 Jews in Rome alone. It is a disgrace not to recognize it. For me it is necessary to tell the truth. In these books I have wished to make known Pius XII's virtues, the theological and cardinal virtues. I will give a few examples: He ate very little, he did not drink alcohol or mixed it with water during meals, he did not eat deserts, he was very mortified and had a strong character. He demonstrated he had faith, hope and charity.

ZENIT: Can you tell us about this Pope's personality?

Sister Marchione: He had the gifts of the Holy Spirit to a heroic degree, with all the virtues, theological and cardinal. He was prayerful -- a serene, tranquil person dedicated to every duty as Pontiff. By nature he was a timid person, and preferred tranquil environments. Gentleness as opposed to severity, persuasion as opposed to imposition. He was very humble and sincere, for him everyone was equal. I remember him as a saint, that's all.

[Translation by ZENIT]

07 giugno 2010

Charles Curran, martyr for the life-destroying gospel of the "modern life"

By Carl Olson

I have a big deadline Monday, am behind on that and other projects, but I simply can't let this one pass by: A Re-Declaration of Victim Status by Charles Curran, titled, "Banned By the Pope," and written for Newsweak's "My Turn" column. Tssk, tssk; fisk, fisk:

I knew that the letter—approved by Pope John Paul II and issued by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger—was unlikely to be good news.

Because, for one thing, Curran had been openly undermining, scoffing at, rejecting, and attacking key moral teachings of the Church since the mid-1960s. (Quick note: the Summer 2009 issue of Nova et Vetera has a great essay, "The Cultural and Ecclesial Situation 1964 to 1967: Paving the Way for Dissent From Church Teaching on Contraception", by Dr. William E. May, which provides a lot of helpful information and context.) Note how long the process of evaluating and dealing with dissenters takes—a loooong time. And yet the common (mis)perception is that "the Vatican" or the CDF deals in a knee-jerk, off-the-cuff, reactionary manner. False. Completely false. This priest was publicly rejecting the Church's moral teachings for almost twenty years before he was finally stripped of his ability to teach theology at a Catholic school.

It was 1986, and for the previous seven years, Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—the office charged with safeguarding official theology—had been investigating my work.

Seven. Years. That's. A. Long. Time. See point above.

As a professor at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., I lectured and wrote about traditional church teachings.

"About." Well, how to say this? It's a rather meaningless word in this case; in fact, it's something of a weasel word. As in: Arius spoke and sang about the Logos. Nestorius wrote and spoke about the Theotokos. Hans Küng has written volumes and volumes about Christianity. What Curran doesn't make clear here is that as far back as 1966 or 1967 he was already contradicting Church teaching on contraception. A sympathetic (to Curran) September/October 1989 article in Academe (PDF format) states:

In articles and in his first book, Christian Morality Today, published in 1966, Professor Curran established himself as a scholar who subjected accepted views, including noninfallible teachings of the Church, to careful scrutiny and did not hesitate to publicize his conclusions. An interest in sexual ethics led him specifically to dissenting views on such subjects as abortion, birth control, and homosexuality.

TIME magazine reported in an April 1967 article: "Curran had been fired by the trustees, without a hearing, largely because of his unconventional teaching on doctrinal issues — most notably, approval of birth control." Curran, you see, had been fired by Catholic University of America for holding and teaching positions directly contrary to clear Church teaching. But, it being the late 1960s, all it took were some student protests and threats, and CUA caved. (Hey, it was all the rage back then.) And so Curran continued to lecture and teach "about" traditional Church teachings. And:

But I also pointed out areas where I believed Catholicism and modern life were misaligned, including Rome’s opposition to birth control for married couples; its stance on homosexuality, divorce, and remarriage; and the status of women in the church.

Hmmm. "Misaligned." That's a nifty way of putting it. First, a weasel word. Now a slithery word. But note what Curran is saying, plain as day: he, as a young Catholic priest (he was 33 in 1967), was solidly and publicly on the side of "modern life" over against Catholicism and Rome. He was opposed to the Church's teaching on homosexuality, divorce, contraceptives, women's ordination, masturbation, euthanasia, and sterilization (goodness, what's left??). And so he as ever been.

The Vatican had finally had enough. “One who dissents from the Magisterium as you do,” the letter said, “is not suitable nor eligible to teach Catholic theology.”
Despite that rebuke, I remain a committed Catholic, a priest in good standing, and a professor of Catholic theology (albeit at a Methodist institution).

I bet good money that a Methodist would do a better job of accurately and fairly teaching Catholic theology than Curran, but I digress. Curran, who is something of an American Hans Küng (a dissenter who whines in the press, mocks or openly attacks the pope and Church teaching, but insists on being a "Catholic theologian" despite denying nearly every point of Catholic doctrine), likes to have it both ways, as most dissenters do. He wants to be recognized and known for rejecting the Church, but then complains that he is a victim, a martyr, when the Church says, "Uh, we have a problem..." He's been employing this stunt routine for over forty years, a routine that Jeremy Lott reported about in the October 2006 issue of Catholic World Report:

In response to the [1986] Vatican condemnation, [Curran] insisted to reporters that "I neither denied nor disagreed with the core elements of the Catholic faith." Rather, he had "dissented from noninfallible church teachings on a few moral issues . . . far removed from the core beliefs of the Catholic faith."

So what, exactly, were all those peripheral issues that the Vatican was making such a fuss about? "I was asked to reconsider and retract my positions on contraception and sterilization, abortion and euthanasia, masturbation, premarital sexuality, and the indissolubility of marriage," he writes. In other words, by the mid-1980s, he had come to disagree with the Vatican on pretty much every moral issue in the catechism.

And this from a man who had, as Lott notes, "wrote, edited, contributed to, or was the subject of Dissent in and for the Church, The Responsibility of Dissent, Dissent in the Church, Faithful Dissent, Vatican Authority and American Catholic Dissent, and now we have Loyal Dissent. The subtitle is 'Memoir of a Catholic Theologian.'" Curran, in other words, is not only a one-trick pony, he is the poster boy for Catholics who want to be "Catholic" without actually being Catholic (the ponies and the posers go well together, actually). And, of course, he is constantly trying to justify his legless position:

I also continue to care deeply about the church, which I believe is facing a crisis that predates the sex-abuse scandal of recent years. Today, about a third of people who were raised Catholic have left the church; no other major religion in the United States has experienced a larger net loss in followers in the last 30 years.

Ah, the last thirty years. Say, isn't that the same era during which the many wonders and joys of "modern life" finally came to full fruition, with the sexual revolution in bloom, contraceptives as common as candy, divorce rates skyrocketing, cohabitation likewise, etc., etc., and so forth? What, then, is Curran's point? Is he suggesting that if the Church had embraced and endorsed divorce, contraceptives, premarital sex, abortion, et al, that those Catholics would not have left the Church/stopped going to Mass? You have to either be smoking crack or be a full-blown, hyper-committed believer in The Glories of Modern Life to believe such rot. You either have to be quite stupid or quite arrogant to go for that line of argumentation:

Many of the issues that troubled me decades ago have contributed to this decline. Some, like those related to contraception, homosexuality, and family life, are considered matters of divine or natural law—the will of God—and, therefore, are immutable. I disagree, and I’m not alone, but we have been unable to persuade the church to make changes.

Arrogant it is.

Other matters are considered a product of human law, which is alterable if the church thinks that doing so is in its best interest. The vow of priestly celibacy is one such statute: none, I believe, would be easier to change or, quite possibly, is more important to the short-term health of the church.

Because, of course, what motivates Curran is his love for the Church—the same Church whose consistent and credible teachings on sexuality and morality he has spent his entire adult life rejecting, undermining, and dismissing. Please. This is like a five-time divorcee explaining, with nary a hint of irony or cynicism, that he not only loves the institution of marriage, he is a completely devoted husband who is so in love with wife #5. Spare us.

Lifting the ban might help address the pedophilia crisis—which, at least in the popular mind, was caused in part by the frustrations of celibacy.

Is that...an argument?

More important, it would reverse a damaging shortage of clergy. Between 1975 and today, the number of Catholic priests in the United States has slid from nearly 60,000 to about 40,000. Protestant churches, which allow their minsters to have families, have suffered no such struggles. I can only conclude that celibacy laws are to blame.

Right. And the rapid rise of the divorce rate from the late 1960s into the mid-1970s wouldn't have happened if all of those darned marriage laws hadn't made spouses feel so constricted, misunderstood, tied down, and otherwise obligated to fulfill their marriage vows. Why has divorce increased so much in the past forty years? I can only conclude that marriage laws were to blame!

The shortage has created related problems. For example, the church has tried to make up for the shortfall by using foreign priests. Without strong English skills or a knowledge of American culture, however, some of these substitutes struggle to connect with their followers.

Which is completely different from having an American priest who rejects most or all of Catholic teaching trying to pastor a parish where the majority of the parishioners accept and adhere to Catholic teaching. Right? Besides, this sounds more than a little xenophobic, even rather racist, doesn't it?

Some parishes are closing because no one can be found to lead them, while others remain open but no longer offer the eucharistic liturgy—the heart of Catholic faith and life—because there’s no priest to preside at it.

Again, Curran's concern for the health of the Catholic Church is so...unbelievable. It's like the aforementioned divorcee complaining that married couples just don't get enough quality time together because of all the obligations that come with marriage and family life. Perhaps Curran hasn't figured out that when the Catholic laity see priests denounce or disregard Church teaching and thumb their noses at the pope and the Magisterium, they get the message: "Do whatever you want. The Church has no meaningful or real authority. Why bother being here if it isn't true?" Need I point out that many Catholics have gotten that message over the past forty years and have acted on it?

(Catholic bishops have had to devise alternative services for those communities.) In essence, by mandating celibacy, the church contributes to a dilution of Catholicism.

Because, as everyone knows, clerical celibacy has been dragging down the Church for centuries! Of course, if celibacy were the real problem, the Church would have gone away in the early medieval era, or earlier. Curran continues to implicitly argue that the problem is that the Church hasn't embraced "modern life" enough, when a big part of the problem is that many Catholics have, in fact, embraced "modern life" with life-killing gusto over the past several decades.

Now, I’m not wholly at peace with would-be reformers placing all the emphasis on the celibacy issue.

Oh man, I just spewed coffee all over my computer. (Not really, but close.) Well, if anyone knows something about "would-be reformers," it would be Curran. Would-be, has-been, and who-cares?, all rolled into one.

Women, whom the church treats as second-class citizens, are hurting most today;

Yes, yawn. Which is why approximately 85% of those working for the Catholic Church in the U.S. are women. (Which is not, by the way, a criticism, just a factual observation.) Oh, wait, I think he's referring to priestettes:

changing the laws that forbid male clergy from marrying will do nothing to speed women’s path to the priesthood. We should treat rewriting the celibacy laws as an initial edit—a change on the way to redressing the multitude of other needed reforms. Even at the risk, I’d argue, of getting an unfriendly letter one day from Rome.

Ooh, he's soooo courageous, trying to turn the Catholic Church into a branch of the Episcopalians! And, as we all know, the Episcopalians—who support everything Curran does while also rejecting the Magisterium—are thriving, bursting at the seams! Turning down seminarians! Sending out missionaries to all of the world! Building new churches! Uh, no, not really. (Had you going there, didn't I?)

But Curran, who misread the "signs of the times" back in the mid-60s, is still madly trying to remake the times, even though time is now against him. The young Catholics who are filling the pews across the U.S. and throughout the world not only reject Curran's religious devotion to the "modern life," many of them are sick of much that "modern life" brings, and most of them have never heard of Curran. He and his fight to Episcopalinize the Church is quickly becoming a matter of ancient history, even while the ancient teachings and moral stances of the Church are as life-affirming and vibrant as ever.

Long road to oil cleanup looms over Gulf Coast

By JAY REEVES and RAY HENRY, Associated Press Writers
June 7, 2010
AP via Yahoo News

GULF SHORES, Ala. – A geyser of oil spewing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico is slowly tapering off with the help of a wellhead cap, but there's no containing much of the crude that's already escaped, a reality becoming increasingly evident at the region's beaches and marshes.

The battle to contain the oil is likely to stretch into the fall, the government's point man on the spill warned. The cap will trap only so much of the oil, and relief wells being drilled won't be completed until August. Meanwhile, oil will continue to shoot out.

To Kelcey Forrestier, a 23-year-old biology graduate visiting Okaloosa Island, Fla., it was already clear Sunday that the spill and its damage will last long into the future.

"Oil just doesn't go away. Oil doesn't disappear," said Forrestier, of New Orleans. "It has to go somewhere and it's going to come to the Gulf beaches."

Lifeguards found a "very minor" set of fingernail-size tar balls over the weekend on the western edge of the island about 35 miles east of Pensacola, marking the easternmost point oil has been discovered ashore.

Officials reported Sunday afternoon that a sheen of oil was spotted about 150 miles west of Tampa, though they did not expect the slick to reach the western Florida peninsula in the near future.

Officials put out a report late Sunday that dead, oiled birds had been found in Texas but retracted it Monday morning. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Zach Zubricki said authorities were still trying to determine the cause of the error.

BP said Monday that the cost of the response has reached about $1.25 billion. The company said the figure does not include $360 million for a project to build six sand berms meant to protect Louisiana's wetlands from spreading oil.

The prospect that the crisis could stretch beyond summer devastated residents along the Gulf, who are seeing more and thicker globs of oil appear all along the coast.

In Gulf Shores, Ala., Jerry Chessey went for a walk on the beach Monday, stopping on a sandy spot. He was surrounded by clumps of brown seaweed full of rust-colored oil. At his feet, a small yellow cup was coated with black crude, which apparently washed ashore overnight from deeper water.

"It's disappointing," said Chessey, who drove to Gulf Shores with his wife from their home in Cincinnati. "We walked on the beach last night and didn't see any oil. But we walked up to the condo, and it was all over our feet."

In Florida, tar balls continued to roll onto Pensacola Beach and left a distinct line in the sand from the high-rise condos above as the sun rose Monday morning.

Beach walkers had to stay between the line of dime and quarter-sized tar balls and the retreating surf or risk getting the gummy, rust-staining, gunk stuck to their feet.

Jody Haas, a tourist from Aurora, Ill., was among the few walking the beach early Monday after a crowded weekend here.

Haas, who has visited this beach before, says it is not the same now.

"It was pristine, gorgeous, white sand," she said. "This spot is light compared to some of the other spots farther down and (the tar) is just everywhere here. It's just devastating, awful."

Environmental and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich planned to visit southern Louisiana on Monday to speak to people who say they've been sickened by dispersants used to break up the oil spill.

At Pensacola Beach on Sunday, the turquoise waves also were flecked with floating balls of tar. Buck Langston, who has been coming to the beach to collect shells for 38 years, watched as his family used improvised chopsticks to collect the tar in plastic containers.

"Yesterday it wasn't like this, this heavy," Langston, of Baton Rouge, La., said Sunday. "I don't know why cleanup crews aren't out here."

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, overseeing the government's response to the spill, has expressed similar frustration, ordering cleanup crews to the Alabama coastline after surveying the scene from the air. But he acknowledged the relative futility of their efforts.

"It's so widespread, and it's intermittent," he told The Associated Press on Saturday. "That's what's so challenging about this. Everyone wants certainty. With an oil spill like this, there isn't any."

Since it was placed over the busted well on Thursday, the cap has been siphoning an increasing amount of oil. On Saturday, it funneled about 441,000 gallons to a tanker on the surface, up from about 250,000 gallons it captured Friday.

But it's not clear how much is still escaping from the well, which federal authorities have estimated was leaking between 500,000 gallons and 1 million gallons a day. Since the spill began nearly seven weeks ago, roughly 23 million to 50 million gallons of oil have leaked into the Gulf.

The inverted funnel-like cap is being closely watched for whether it can make a serious dent in the flow of new oil. Allen reserved judgment, saying he didn't want to risk offering false encouragement.

"This will be well into the fall," he said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "This is a siege across the entire Gulf. This spill is holding everybody hostage, not only economically but physically. And it has to be attacked on all fronts."

04 giugno 2010

Researchers Asked to Hide Scientific Debate over Maternal Deaths

By Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D.
Co-authored by Catherine Foster

(NEW YORK – C-FAM) At a meeting on maternal and child health research in Washington last week, United Nations (UN) staff and abortion advocates told scientists they should “harmonize” their findings or discuss them “in a locked room” so that the press could not report maternal death numbers that conflicted with the ones they use to lobby policy makers and major international donors.

Ann Starrs, co-founder and president of the abortion advocacy organization Family Care International (FCI), told a roomful of scientists to “lock all the academics in a black box and have them come out with a consensus set of numbers” or “at least hide that there is disagreement” and “infighting.” FCI is the founder of Women Deliver, which is hosting a massive UN-backed reproductive rights fundraising conference in Washington next week.

The comments were made at a symposium hosted by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and the British medical journal, The Lancet. The journal recently published an IHME study, which refuted the UN-sanctioned but highly controversial figure of 500,000 annual maternal deaths, finding the number to have declined to 342,900 including 60,000 deaths from HIV/AIDS. Abortion advocates and some UN staff have been using the higher figure for two decades to promote a version of maternal and child health policy that includes abortion.

Tessa Wardlow, Chief of Statistics and Monitoring at UNICEF, shared Starrs’ concerns, saying that there is a “system in place for harmonizing estimates for child mortality and I would invite the IHME to participate in that process and contribute to the methodological dialogue.”

Dr. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, pushed back saying researchers should not come to a “consensus” or “harmonize” but rather have a “scientific summary view of what the totality of available evidence should be.” He argued that this should not be centered at the UN, but housed “independently within the scientific community.” Horton responded to Starr’s objection by saying, “Unless we subject numbers to that peer-review process, I think we are accepting second-class data, and that applies wherever the numbers come from.”

When he published the IHME study, Horton told the press that he withstood significant pressure from activists not to release it until after major global funding conferences concluded this year, such as the G8 summit, UN General Assembly, and next week’s Women Deliver conference.

Highlighting the tension in the room between the researchers’ desire for openness and activists call for secrecy, Horton said, “For God’s sake, your country, the United States, was founded on the press! One of the best documents in the history of humankind is the Federalist Papers; if it wasn’t for the press, we wouldn’t have a United States! So learn to love the press.”

The confrontation between the maternal health advocates and researchers may be behind the decision by Women Deliver conference organizers to re-write their schedule to include Dr. Horton in the agenda for next week’s conference.

You can find this online at: http://www.c-fam.org/publications/id.1641/pub_detail.asp

03 giugno 2010

Roman Catholic bishop stabbed to death in Turkey

By SUZAN FRASER, Associated Press Writer Suzan Fraser

Via Yahoo News

ANKARA, Turkey – A Roman Catholic bishop was stabbed to death in southern Turkey on Thursday, a day before he was scheduled to leave for Cyprus to meet with the pope, officials and reports said.

Luigi Padovese, 63, the apostolic vicar in Anatolia, was attacked outside his home in the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun. The killing was not believed to be politically motivated.

Dogan news agency video footage of the scene showed the bishop lying dead in front of a building.

Mehmet Celalettin Lekesiz, the governor for the province of Hatay, said police immediately caught the suspected killer. He said the man, identified only as Murat A., was Padovese's driver for the last four and a half years and was mentally unstable.

"The initial investigation shows that the incident is not politically motivated," Lekesiz said. "We have learned that the suspect had psychological problems and was receiving treatment."

Padovese, who is the equivalent of the bishop for the Anatolia region, was scheduled to leave for Cyprus on Friday to meet with the pope, who is visiting the island, and fellow bishops from around the region to prepare for a synod of Roman Catholic bishops in the Middle East. The synod is scheduled for October.

The Vatican-affiliated Asia News agency cited unnamed witnesses as saying the driver appeared to be "depressed, violent and threatening," in recent days.

No one answered phones at his church in Iskenderun.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told The Associated Press in Rome that the Vatican felt "immense pain, consternation, (and) bewilderment" over the death and noted that it showed the "difficult conditions" of the Catholic community in the region.

He said the pope's upcoming visit to Cyprus and the upcoming synod of bishops on the Middle East showed "how the universal church is in solidarity with this community."

The killing is the latest in a string of attacks in recent years on Christians in Turkey, where Christians make up less than 1 percent of the 70 million population.

In 2007, a Roman Catholic priest in the western city of Izmir, Adriano Franchini, was stabbed and slightly wounded in the stomach by a 19-year-old man after Sunday Mass. The man was arrested.

The same year, a group of men entered a Bible-publishing house in the central Anatolian city of Malatya and killed three Christians, including a German national. The five alleged killers are now standing trial for murder.

The killings — in which the victims were tied up and had their throats slit — drew international condemnation and added to Western concerns about whether Turkey can protect its religious minorities.

In 2006, amid widespread anger in Islamic countries over the publication in European newspapers of caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, a 16-year-old boy shot dead a Catholic priest, Father Andrea Santoro, as he prayed in his church in the Black Sea city of Trabzon. The boy was convicted of murder and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Padovese was appointed to his post in 2004.

Mustafa Sinanoglu, the mufti or top Muslim cleric for Hatay province, told the Anatolia news agency that he and Padovese had been working together toward establishing closer dialogue between their faiths.

"I have been deeply affected by the death of a colleague with whom I had been working together on projects for the region, Turkey and world peace," he said.

"These kinds of incidents are damaging our country's image," he added.

Asia News said the Bishop was also involved in work for the unity of the Christian church and to revive the tiny Christian community in Turkey.

Turkey's Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay paid tribute to Padovese saying he had "made important contributions to the culture of tolerance through his services in Hatay."

The Foreign Ministry said the death of Padovese was an "important loss from a religious and scholarly point of view," adding that the Bishop had written extensively on Turkey.

In a 2006 telephone interview with the AP, following another knife attack that injured another priest, Padovese expressed concern over the safety of Catholics priests in Turkey.

"The climate has changed," he said. "It is the Catholic priests that are being targeted."

BP cuts pipe, plans to lower cap over Gulf spill

By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press Writers
Via Yahoo News

METAIRIE, La. – BP sliced off a pipe with giant shears Thursday in the latest bid to curtail the worst spill in U.S. history, but the cut was jagged and placing a cap over the gusher will now be more challenging.

BP turned to the shears after a diamond-tipped saw became stuck in the pipe halfway through the job, yet another frustrating delay in the six-week-old Gulf of Mexico spill.

The cap will be lowered and sealed over the next couple of hours, said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man for the disaster. It won't be known how much oil BP can siphon to a tanker on the surface until the cap is fitted, but the irregular cut means it won't fit as snugly as officials hoped.

"We'll have to see when we get the containment cap on it just how effective it is," Allen said. "It will be a test and adapt phase as we move ahead, but it's a significant step forward."

Even if it works, BP engineers expect oil to continue leaking into the ocean.

The next chance to stop the flow won't come until two relief wells meant to plug the reservoir for good are finished in August.

This latest attempt to control the spill, the so-called cut-and-cap method, is considered risky because slicing away a section of the 20-inch-wide riser removed a kink in the pipe, and could temporarily increase the flow of oil by as much as 20 percent.

Live video footage showed oil spewing uninterrupted out of the top of the blowout preventer, but Allen said it was unclear whether the flow had increased.

"I don't think we'll know until the containment cap is seated on there," he said. "We'll have to wait and see."

President Barack Obama will return to the Louisiana coast Friday to assess the latest efforts, his third trip to the region since the April 20 disaster. It's also his second visit in a week.

BP's top executive acknowledged Thursday the global oil giant was unprepared to fight a catastrophic deepwater oil spill. Chief executive Tony Hayward told The Financial Times it was "an entirely fair criticism" to say the company had not been fully prepared for a deepwater oil leak. Hayward called it "low-probability, high-impact" accident.

"What is undoubtedly true is that we did not have the tools you would want in your tool-kit," Hayward said in an interview published in Thursday's edition of the London-based newspaper.

Oil drifted six miles from the Florida Panhandle's popular sugar-white beaches, and crews on the mainland were doing everything possible to limit the catastrophe.

The Coast Guard's Allen directed BP to pay for five additional sand barrier projects in Louisiana. BP said Thursday the project will cost it about $360 million, on top of about $990 million it had spent on response and clean up, grants to four Gulf coast states and claims from people and companies hurt by the spill.

Mark Johnecheck, a 68-year-old retired Navy captain from Pensacola, sat on a black folding chair as rough surf crashed ashore at Pensacola Beach and children splashed in the water. Johnecheck has lived in the Pensacola area since the 1960s, but doesn't come to the beach very often.

"The reason I'm here now is because I'm afraid it's going to be gone," he said. "I'm really afraid that the next time I come out here it's not going to look like this."

He said the arrival of the oil seems foregone: "I don't know what else they can do," he said. "It just makes you feel helpless."

His wife walks up and becomes emotional thinking about the oil. "It's like grieving somebody on their dying bed," said Marjorie Johnecheck, 62.

Next to her chair is a small white pail full of sugary Panhandle sand. She will take it home and put it in a decorative jar.

"I'm taking it home before it gets black," she said.

Forecasters said the oil would probably wash up by Friday, threatening a delicate network of islands, bays and beaches that are a haven for wildlife and a major tourist destination dubbed the Redneck Riviera.

Officials said the slick sighted offshore consisted in part of "tar mats" about 500 feet by 2,000 feet in size.

County officials set up the booms to block oil from reaching inland waterways but planned to leave beaches unprotected because they are too difficult to defend against the action of the waves and because they are easier to clean up.

Anne Wilson, a 62-year-old retired teachers aide who has lived in Pensacola Beach for the last year and a half, felt helpless.

"There's nothing more you can do," said Wilson, who lived in Valdez, Alaska, near the Exxon spill in 1989. "It's up to Mother Nature to take care of things. Humans can only do so much."

Florida's beaches play a crucial role in the state's tourism industry. At least 60 percent of vacation spending in the state during 2008 was in beachfront cities. Worried that reports of oil would scare tourists away, state officials are promoting interactive Web maps and Twitter feeds to show travelers — particularly those from overseas — how large the state is and how distant their destinations may be from the spill.

The effect on wildlife has grown, too.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 522 dead birds — at least 38 of them oiled — along the Gulf coast states, and more than 80 oiled birds have been rescued. It's not clear exactly how many of the deaths can be attributed to the spill.

Dead birds and animals found during spills are kept as evidence in locked freezers until investigations and damage assessments are complete, according to Teri Frady, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"This includes strict chain-of-custody procedures and long-term locked storage until the investigative and damage assessment phases of the spill are complete," she wrote in an e-mail.


Associated Press writers Adam Geller and Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans, Melissa Nelson and Matt Sedensky in Pensacola and Travis Reed in Miami also contributed to this report.

02 giugno 2010

Oil nears Fla. beaches as BP tries risky cap move

By GREG BLUESTEIN and BRIAN SKOLOFF, Associated Press Writers

June 2, 2010

Via Yahoo News

PORT FOURCHON, La. – The BP oil slick drifted close to the Florida Panhandle's white sand beaches for the first time as submersible robots a mile below the Gulf of Mexico made the latest risky attempt to control the seafloor gusher.

Even if it works, the current mission to cut a major pipe and cap it would only reduce the flow, not stop it. If it fails, it could make the largest oil spill in U.S. history even worse. The best hope for sealing the leak, until a permanent fix is possible in August, failed Saturday, when engineers were unable to plug it with heavy mud in a maneuver called a top kill.

Investors ran from BP's stock for a second day Wednesday, reacting to the top kill failure and the Justice Department's announcement that it was looking at criminal and civil probes into the spill, although the department did not name specific targets for prosecution.

Shares in British-based BP PLC were down 3 percent Wednesday morning in London trading after a 13 percent fall the day before. BP has lost $75 billion in market value since the spill started with an April 20 oil rig explosion and analysts expect damage claims to total billions more.

In Florida, officials confirmed an oil sheen Tuesday about nine miles from Pensacola beach, where the summer tourism season was just getting started.

Winds were forecast to blow from the south and west, pushing the slick closer to western Panhandle beaches.

Emergency crews began scouring the beaches for oil and shoring up miles of boom. County officials will use it to block oil from reaching inland waterways but plan to leave beaches unprotected because they are too difficult to protect and easier to clean up.

"It's inevitable that we will see it on the beaches," said Keith Wilkins, deputy chief of neighborhood and community services for Escambia County.

The oil has been spreading in the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded six weeks ago, killing 11 workers and eventually sinking. The rig was being operated for BP, the largest oil and gas producer in the Gulf.

Crude has already been reported along barrier islands in Alabama and Mississippi, and it has polluted some 125 miles of Louisiana coastline.

More federal fishing waters were closed, too, another setback for one of the region's most important industries. More than one-third of federal waters were off-limits for fishing, along with hundreds of square miles of state waters.

Fisherman Hong Le, who came to the U.S. from Vietnam, had rebuilt his home and business after Hurricane Katrina wiped him out. Now he's facing a similar situation.

"I'm going to be bankrupt very soon," Le, 53, said as he attended a meeting for fishermen hoping for help. "Everything is financed, how can I pay? No fishing, no welding. I weld on commercial fishing boats and they aren't going out now, so nothing breaks."

Le, like other of the fishermen, received $5,000 from BP PLC, but it was quickly gone.

"I call that 'Shut your mouth money,'" said Murray Volk, 46, of Empire, who's been fishing for nearly 30 years. "That won't pay the insurance on my boat and house. They say there'll be more later, but do you think the electric company will wait for that?"

BP may have bigger problems, though.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who visited the Gulf on Tuesday, would not say who might be targeted in the probes into the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

"We will closely examine the actions of those involved in the spill. If we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be extremely forceful in our response," Holder said in New Orleans.

The federal government also ramped up its response to the spill with President Barack Obama ordering the co-chairmen of an independent commission investigating the spill to thoroughly examine the disaster, "to follow the facts wherever they lead, without fear or favor."

The president said that if laws are insufficient, they'll be changed. He said that if government oversight wasn't tough enough, that will change, too.

BP has tried and failed repeatedly to halt the flow of the oil, and the latest attempt like others has never been tried before a mile beneath the ocean. Experts warned it could be even riskier than the others because slicing open the 20-inch riser could unleash more oil if there was a kink in the pipe that restricted some of the flow.

"It is an engineer's nightmare," said Ed Overton, a Louisiana State University professor of environmental sciences. "They're trying to fit a 21-inch cap over a 20-inch pipe a mile away. That's just horrendously hard to do. It's not like you and I standing on the ground pushing — they're using little robots to do this."

Engineers have put underwater robots and equipment in place this week after a bold attempt to plug the well by force-feeding it heavy mud and cement — called a "top kill" — was aborted over the weekend. Crews pumped thousands of gallons of the mud into the well but were unable to overcome the pressure of the oil.

The company said if the small dome is successful it could capture and siphon a majority of the gushing oil to the surface. But the cut and cap will not halt the oil flow, just capture some of it and funnel it to vessels waiting at the surface.

BP's best chance to permanently plug the leak rests with a pair of relief wells but those won't likely be completed until August.


Bluestein reported from Covington, La. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Pete Yost from Washington, Curt Anderson from Miami, Brian Skoloff from Port Fourchon, Mary Foster in Boothville, and Michael Kunzelman also contributed to this report.