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 May 25, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Waiting for food
Pakistanis displaced by a military offensive in the Swat Valley line up for tea and bread at a camp run by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Swabi district, northwest Pakistan, May 11. Pakistan has intensified an offensive against Taliban militants in the region.
Vatican launches new website
The Vatican is launching iPhone and Facebook applications as part of its new Web site — www.pope2you.net. It aims to bring the message of Pope Benedict XVI to young people.

New campaign against stem-cell research
WASHINGTON (CNS) — As the National Institutes of Health continued to gather comments on the draft guidelines that would permit federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched a new campaign urging support for ethical cures and treatments “we can all live with.”

The “Oppose Destructive Stem-Cell Research” campaign at www.usccb.org/stemcellcampaign also encourages Web users to contact Congress and NIH to express opposition to the draft guidelines. May 26 is the NIH deadline for public comment on the draft guidelines, which would allow the use of federal funds for stem-cell research on embryos created for reproductive purposes at in vitro fertilization clinics and later discarded. Donald M. Raibovsky, an NIH spokesman, said a total of 13,503 comments on the stem-cell guidelines had been received as of May 8.

The home page for the new campaign outlines the reasons the proposed guidelines are considered unacceptable and provides links to USCCB resources on stem-cell research in English and Spanish.

More Americans call themselves ‘pro-life’

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Less than four months into President Barack Obama’s term, opinion polls are finding that Americans are taking a dramatic turn toward greater opposition to abortion. A poll conducted May 7-10 as part of the annual Gallup Values and Beliefs survey found that a majority of Americans (51 percent) described themselves as “pro-life” with respect to the abortion issue, while only 42 percent said they were “pro-choice.”

The results were made public May 15. It marked the first time since Gallup began asking the question in 1995 that more respondents said they were pro-life than pro-choice, and was a shift of 7-8 percentage points from a year earlier, when 50 percent said they were pro-choice and 44 percent said they were pro-life.

A separate Gallup Poll Daily survey conducted May 12-13 found that 50 percent of Americans described themselves as pro-life and 43 percent as pro-choice.

Senators urged to keep voucher program in D.C.

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The District of Columbia’s public schools “didn’t get bad overnight, and they are not going to get better overnight,” a student from a Washington Catholic high school said May 13, urging Congress to continue funding a program that helps low-income families send their children to local private schools. Ronald Holassie, a sophomore at Archbishop Carroll High School, was one of two students who testified at a Senate hearing about the importance of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, now in jeopardy since Congress voted to cut funding in March.

On May 6, President Barack Obama proposed more funding for students who are already in the scholarship program, but not for new students. The program gives annual scholarships of up to $7,500 to low-income families that allows them to choose a private school for their children.

Bishop speaks against reproductive health bill

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — A Philippine bishop has called on Catholics not to vote for politicians who support a reproductive health bill that would fund artificial contraception and allow sex education for young children. Speaking over Church-run Radio Veritas May 13, Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said he hoped people would send a message to legislators that the bill was unacceptable.

A survey last year showed 63 percent of Filipinos support the legislation. Other surveys conducted in February and March in Manila and Paranaque, south of the capital, showed “strong support” for the bill.

Religious figures support Employee Free Choice Act

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Catholic Church teaches that unions are indispensable for “a just social order,” said Manhattan College religious studies professor Joseph Fahey, but “we won’t have a just social order unless we have labor associations that contribute.” Fahey feels labor associations can make greater contributions if Congress passes the Employee Free Choice Act.

Current labor law allows for an employer to determine recognition of a new union in the workplace by choosing to hold an election or using a “card-check” process, with a majority of employees signing cards to join a union. But the bill transfers from employers to employees the right to decide which method will be used. It also requires binding arbitration if an employer and the union cannot reach an agreement on a first contract, and calls for triple damages if an employer fires a worker who supports the union.

Lacking proof of birth, children linger on fringes

LIMA, Peru (CNS) — When Paraguayan bishop turned President Fernando Lugo recently acknowledged having a son who turned 2 in May, he drew fire not just for having broken his vow of chastity, but for having failed to recognize the child at birth. On April 15, two days after publicly admitting that he had fathered Viviana Carrillo’s son before the Vatican had laicized him, Lugo filed paperwork to add his last name to the boy’s birth certificate.

A recent study in Paraguay found that more than one-third of the children born in the landlocked country lacked birth certificates, and many of them were born out of wedlock. Without a birth certificate, a child cannot attend school or use public health services. As far as the government is concerned, he or she was never born.

Americans rely on faith in economic downturn

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (CNS) — In a recent poll, a majority of adults said their faith will help them weather the country’s continued economic downturn and more than half said they believe personal actions can play a strong role in helping to turn around the economy. The survey, for which results were made public May 4, was conducted online in March by Harris Interactive, a national polling company, on behalf of Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic publishing company in Huntington.

When asked how the economy has impacted their spirituality or their personal lives, less than 10 percent said they changed the amount of time they attended religious services, sought counsel from church leaders or read more spiritual or self-help books. Only 2 percent said they had lost faith in God or a higher power during the economic downturn.

Suicide risk still high among quake survivors

SHIJIAZHUANG, China (CNS) — One year after the deadly Sichuan earthquake, Catholic workers are focusing on the psychological needs of tens of thousands of survivors at risk of suicide. The Church-run Jinde Charities in Shijiazhuang — which sent the first group of medically trained nuns to the disaster area after the May 12, 2008, quake — is counseling survivors and helping them to rebuild their homes.

Psychologists believe the quake’s first anniversary could trigger more suicides than traditional celebrations of Chinese festivals that remind survivors of their families. Chinese psychologists estimate that 3 percent to 5 percent of the victims — about 360,000 to 600,000 people — are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Up to 10 percent of survivors would have suicidal tendencies, according to psychologists.

Catholics join against re-routing Brazilian river

SAO PAULO, Brazil (CNS) — The Brazilian Catholic bishops’ Pastoral Land Commission, Bishop Luiz Cappio of Barra and indigenous leaders have launched a campaign to stop the rerouting of the Sao Francisco River. Bishop Cappio, who has gone on two hunger strikes to halt the rerouting, spoke at a press conference May 6 in Sao Paulo about the environmental as well as the cultural impact the diversion of the river would have on local communities. The government plans to divert some of the water from the Sao Francisco River to irrigate the country’s arid Northeast.

Rubens Siqueira, a representative of the Pastoral Land Commission, said four indigenous tribes directly affected by the rerouting will lose not just their homes, but thousands of years of tradition.


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