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 June 7, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Educating girls
An Afghan boy walks past a billboard encouraging girls to go to school, posted in a neighborhood next to a police substation in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.
CRS reps say Afghans
thirst for education

RADNOR, Pa. (CNS) — After 30 years of war and repressive rule of the Taliban, today only 28 percent of the people in Afghanistan can read and write and 18 percent of them are women and girls, according to Catholic Relief Services representatives.

Michaela Egger, education program coordinator for CRS Afghanistan, and two of her Afghan colleagues visited the Philadelphia Archdiocese recently and said that since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, more than 6.5 million children have enrolled in school, and about one-third of those students are girls. Afghan citizens thirst for education and are willing to work hard to secure it, they added.

Assessing damage
Scientist Douglas Inkley of the National Wildlife Federation looks at marsh grass stained with oil from the major oil spill off the Louisiana coast. For nearly a month, roughly 210,000 gallons of oil per day have been gushing from British Petroleum’s broken Deepwater Horizon wellhead situated in the Gulf of Mexico in what is considered the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Tension grows
A North Korean soldier keeps watch south at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, May 26. Tensions between the two countries increased after an international investigation confirmed that North Korea was responsible for the sinking of a South Korean naval ship.

Shroud exposition visited by more than 2 million
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — With the Shroud of Turin now carefully put away, Church officials said that more than 2 million pilgrims had come to venerate the linen cloth in the six weeks it was on display at the Turin cathedral, April 10 to May 23. The cloth is revered by many Christians as the shroud that covered the body of the crucified Christ.

Cardinal Severino Poletto of Turin said that he was pleased with the record number of people who came to see the cloth. “I had the clear perception that the Lord was speaking to the hearts of the pilgrims who came before the shroud seeking answers,” he said.

Cuban bishops meet with Castro

HAVANA (CNS) — Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino and Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez of Santiago, president of the Cuban bishops’ conference, met with Cuban President Raul Castro May 19 and came away from the four-hour session voicing optimism that conditions would improve for jailed political dissidents. They said their meeting with Castro was “a magnificent start,” but “we are not talking about any commitments,” and that talks would continue between the Church and the government.

Mexican Supreme Court rules on morning-after pill

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — The Mexican Supreme Court has upheld a federal health regulation directing doctors to prescribe emergency contraceptives in the case of sexual assaults — a decision that drew a rebuke from some Catholics.

“This is a regrettable decision,” Armando Martinez Gomez, president of the College of Catholic Lawyers of Mexico, told Catholic News Service. “It doesn’t get to the bottom of the issue, which is that the (contraceptive) is abortive.”

Jalisco state Gov. Emilio Gonzalez Marquez had challenged the regulation, arguing emergency contraceptives are abortive and only police and judicial investigators — not medical personnel — should determine if a sexual assault had occurred. The court rejected those arguments.

Criticism for failure to protect children

DUBLIN (CNS) — A year after the publication of the Ryan Report, which exposed decades of child abuse and neglect in Church-run residential institutions, Amnesty International has strongly criticized the Irish government for failing to protect children today.

The annual Amnesty report on the state of human rights worldwide lists 61 countries for torture, 55 for unfair trials and 48 for imprisoning people for political or religious beliefs, but in Ireland’s case the organization focused chiefly on breaches in the rights of children.

The Irish practice of placing mentally disturbed children in adult institutions is “inexcusable,” said the organization, which also noted that, between late 2002 and June 2009, more than 400 children have disappeared while in the care of the Irish Health Service Executive. It is feared that some of the children have been seized by traffickers and forced into the sex industry.

Oklahoma Legislature overrides abortion veto

OKLAHOMA CITY (CNS) — The Oklahoma Legislature overrode Gov. Brad Henry’s veto of a bill requiring the compilation and publication of abortion statistics in the state May 25. The state Senate’s 33-15 vote to override came the day after the House passed a similar override measure by a vote of 84-13 and the day before Henry vetoed another abortion-related measure. The latter bill would have prevented state insurance exchanges created under the federal health reform law from covering most abortions.

Henry, a Democrat, had said both bills presented unconstitutional barriers to women seeking abortions and would have resulted in “an expensive lawsuit and potentially futile legal battle for the state.”

The abortion reporting law, which will take effect Nov. 1, requires doctors performing abortions to submit to the state the woman’s responses to a 34-point questionnaire that includes the mother’s age, race, marital status, level of education and previous pregnancies, as well as data on the type of abortion performed and the reasons given for the abortion. No information that could be used to identify the woman will be made public under the law.

Henry said the bill had several flaws, including the lack of an exemption for victims of rape or incest.

Opposition to Employment Non-Discrimination Act

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A letter from the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated the bishops’ opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because of the bill’s potential to “jeopardize our religious freedom to live our faith and moral tenets in today’s society.”

The bishops added that the measure, known as ENDA, could be used to justify legal protection for same-sex marriage, based on similar state-based nondiscrimination laws. The bill would add sexual orientation to the list of individual characteristics that would bar employers from discriminating against.

Italian Church handled 100 sex abuse cases

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As bishops’ conferences across Europe are coming to grips with the clerical sex abuse crisis, the Italian bishops’ conference revealed for the first time that about 100 cases of alleged abuse had been handled by Italian Church courts in the past decade.

“In general and factual terms, there are about 100 cases relative to canonical procedures carried out during the last 10 years,” said Bishop Mariano Crociata, general secretary of the Italian bishops. He did not respond to queries about the number of cases that ended in a guilty verdict or how many were turned over to the police.

Ethicist cautions on at-home DNA tests

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholics should use caution in deciding whether to have genetic testing and should do so only with a doctor’s counsel, a Catholic ethicist said. Stephen Napier, an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, said “There’s nothing inherently wrong with” wanting to know about one’s genetic makeup, “but it needs to be done within the context of medical expertise.”


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