Wednesday, 18 April 2012 14:19
Brazil’s Supreme Court OKs abortion for fetuses with malformed brains
SAO PAULO (CNS) — Supreme Court justices in Brazil voted to legalize the abortion of fetuses without brains or those with malformed brains, despite an effort that saw thousands of Brazilians praying outside of the court, urging the justices to protect the life of unborn children.
The voting session, which ended late April 12, showed that the majority of the justices — 8 of 10 — were in favor of allowing women to interrupt a pregnancy if the fetus is found to have a malformed brain.
The Brazilian bishops’ conference issued a statement “deeply regretting” the court’s decision. The document, signed by the conference president, Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, said that “to legalize the abortion of anencephalic fetuses — erroneously diagnosed as brain-dead fetuses — is to discard a fragile and innocent being. Anencephalic fetuses cannot be discarded nor have their fundamental rights stolen.”
The said that by taking this stance, the church relies on “ethical, theological, scientific and legal arguments. Any argument that claims that this is an interference of religion in a secular state is erroneous.”
Earlier in the week, the bishops had asked Catholics to hold prayer vigils outside of the court to encourage justices to consider the life of the unborn child.
“We understand that the principles of the inviolable right to life, the dignity of the human person and the promotion of well-being, without any form of discrimination (stated in the Brazilian Constitution) also includes anencephalic fetuses,” said a document distributed by the bishops’ conference to parishes around the country.
In Sao Paulo, Cardinal Odilo Scherer asked parishes to join prayer vigils April 10 “so that human life is respected and preserved in all circumstances.”
“Only God is the master of life, and it is not up to mankind to eliminate his fellow man, killing him,” Cardinal Scherer said in the letter.
Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro led a vigil for unborn children and the preservation of life April 10.
“Even if (life is) brief, everyone has the right to life,” he said at the vigil.
In a statement the archdiocese said, “If the Supreme Court defines this type of abortion as constitutional, it may open up precedence to the legalization of other forms of abortion.”
In Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, hundreds gathered outside the Supreme Court building to protest the voting session.
The justices who voted for legalization explained that “what is at stake is not the right of the fetus but the right of the pregnant woman.” They said that the “non-interruption of the pregnancy would only bring psychological distress to the pregnant woman.”
Abortion is illegal in Brazil except in specific cases. Individuals other than a doctor convicted of participating in an abortion face from one to three years in jail. Doctors who perform abortions not permitted by law face from one to four years in jail.
Chinese bishops detained by the government released on Easter
HONG KONG (CNS) — Two Chinese bishops not recognized by the government were freed by authorities on Easter, church sources told the Asian church news agency UCA News.
Coadjutor Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou, in eastern Zhejiang province, and Bishop Peter Jin Lugang of Nanyang, in central Henan province, were detained, respectively, for four weeks and for four days.
Bishop Jin was taken away in early April by officials wanting to prevent him from celebrating the chrism Mass, which symbolizes a bishop’s communion with his clergy, and other Easter liturgies.
The prelate was detained in a guesthouse and taken by four officials to several tourist spots before being released April 8, UCA News reported April 16.
Bishop Shao was detained March 19. Local church sources said his detention included a “brainwashing” class on the country’s religious policies.
Sources told UCA News that Bishop Shao was detained because he participated in the secret episcopal ordination of the bishop of Tianshui last year. His participation was seen by the government as “an act of defiance to the official church’s ‘self-election and self-ordination’ of bishops,” said the sources.
They said Bishop Shao, 49, was escorted by government officials to Leshan Diocese, where he met the excommunicated Father Paul Lei Shiyin, ordained as a bishop without a papal mandate last June. Father Lei and the officials showed Bishop Shao some historic monuments, a church-run hospital, guesthouse and the construction site of the new bishop’s house.
Father Paul Jiang Sunian, chancellor of Wenzhou, who was detained with Bishop Shao, was released March 24, UCA News reported.
Bavarian band, dancers celebrate pope’s birthday in apostolic palace
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his 85th birthday with guests who treated him to Bavarian “oompah” music and folk dancing in the apostolic palace.
Bavarian bishops, minister-president of Bavaria — Horst Seehofer, and a 150-person regional government delegation visited the pope April 16 in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.
They were accompanied by a small Bavarian band, three female singers and 10 children who danced the skirt-swirling, shoe-stomping, thigh-slapping “Schuhplattler” before the pope.
The pope’s 88-year-old brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, also attended the festivities as well as representatives from the Lutheran Church and the Jewish community in Bavaria.
The children, dressed in traditional costume, presented the pope with white flowers and a maypole covered with colorful ribbons. They also recited a German birthday poem.
The delegation presented the pope with gifts of a wooden crucifix sculpted by a well-known 18th-century Bavarian woodcarver, Ignaz Gunther, and a large Easter basket filled with traditional cakes, dark bread, ham and painted eggs.
In his address to the pope, Seehofer said Bavaria was still the most-Catholic region in Germany and that it was still common to find the crucifix hung in public schools and small roadside shrines maintained throughout the area.
“You’ve always stayed Bavarian and we’re very grateful for that,” he told the pope.
Among the guests were all seven of Bavaria’s Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising and his predecessor, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter.
In his address, Cardinal Marx thanked the pope for his fidelity to the faith, saying he was an important example to all bishops of loyalty and obedience.
The pope, who smiled and clapped during the 40-minute event, thanked everyone present and noted how the different cities, people and ages represented there were “a reflection of all the stages in my life.”
He said the music and instruments reminded him of his childhood. His father used to play the stringed zither, he said, and, as children, he and his siblings would sing “God Greets You,” which was sung at the Vatican event.
“This is the sound of my youth, present and future,” the pope told his guests.
At the end of the celebration, everyone, including the pope, sang the Bavarian state anthem.
Catholics urged to resist unjust laws, join in ‘fortnight for freedom’
WASHINGTON (CNS) — American Catholics must resist unjust laws “as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith,” a committee of the U.S. bishops said in a new statement on religious liberty.
Titled “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” the 12-page statement by the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty also calls for “a fortnight for freedom” from June 21, the vigil of the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, to July 4, U.S. Independence Day.
“This special period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty,” the committee said. “Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.”
Made public April 12, the document was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee during its March meeting for publication as a committee statement.
The ad hoc committee opened its statement with several “concrete examples” of recent threats to religious liberty, saying that “this is not a theological or legal dispute without real-world consequences.”
Cited first was the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate that most health plans must include contraception, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs free of charge, even if the employer is morally opposed to such services.
“In an unprecedented way, the federal government will both force religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching and purport to define which religious institutions are ’religious enough’ to merit protection of their religious liberty,” the statement said. “These features of the ’preventive services’ mandate amount to an unjust law.”
Among other examples of “religious liberty under attack” the bishops named:
• Immigration laws in Alabama and other states that “forbid what the government deems ’harboring’ of undocumented immigrants – and what the church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to those immigrants.”
• An attempt by the Connecticut Legislature in 2009 to restructure Catholic parishes.
• Discrimination against Christian students on college campuses.
• Government actions in Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia and the state of Illinois that have “driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services” because the agencies would not place children with same-sex or unmarried heterosexual couples.
• A New York City rule that bars small church congregations from renting public schools on weekends for worship services, while allowing such rentals by nonreligious groups.
• Changes in federal contracts for human trafficking grants that require Catholic agencies “to refer for contraceptive and abortion services in violation of Catholic teaching.”