Catholic US News

Catholic US News

Holy See expresses cautious support for UN development goals

Washington D.C., Sep 4, 2015 / 04:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See on Tuesday expressed its “strong support” for the 2030 United Nations development agenda, but added it has “firm reservations” about some items in the agenda document.

“This Agenda is a clear sign that, in spite of differences in some areas, the international community has come together and affirmed its commitment to eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions and to ensure that all children, women and men throughout the world will have the conditions necessary to live in both freedom and dignity,” the Holy See’s delegation to the United Nations said in a Sept. 1 statement on the document.

They also have “firm reservations to certain items,” as stated in an accompanying Sept. 1 press release.

The United Nations’ new global development agenda sets broad, comprehensive goals for the next 15 years with the aims of fighting global poverty and hunger and human trafficking, and promoting sustainable energy, among other desired achievements. Funding for the goals is massive, estimated to require $5-7 trillion.

Titled “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” the agenda was first drafted in 2014 and the outcome document was finalized Aug. 2. That document will be adopted at the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Summit Sept. 25-27. Pope Francis will address the U.N. general assembly just before this summit begins.

Within these broad goals are specific targets to meet in order to achieve those goals. Progress toward these targets and goals will be measured by specific indicators which will be drafted after the agenda goes into effect in 2016.

“The Agenda rightly puts the centrality of the human person as the subject primarily responsible for development,” the Holy See stated, adding that they are “confident that the related pledge ‘no one will be left behind’ will serve as the perspective through which the entire Agenda will be read to protect the right to life of the person, from conception until natural death.”

However, the Holy See expressed “reservations” about two targets in particular, targets 3.7 and 5.6. Pro-life advocates have already warned that language in these targets could be interpreted to promote abortion access worldwide.

Target 3.7 states, “By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.”

Target 5.6 states, “Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.”

Veteran U.N. watchdogs have already warned that language in these targets will be interpreted to include abortion access by wealthy donors, who will have the final word when the goals are implemented.

Language of “sexual and reproductive health” has been interpreted to include abortion access by many Western countries and U.N. agencies, one former U.N. diplomat who partook in many negotiations about sexual and reproductive health language told CNA in June.

Furthermore, donors from these countries and from the U.N. could then use the prospect of development funding to pressure poorer countries to liberalize their abortion laws, the former diplomat added.

Even though Target 5.6 does cite previous U.N. documents respecting national laws on abortion – the “Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action” – donors can still withhold development funding so as to pressure pro-life countries to change their abortion laws.

“To most of the world, especially the developing world, the U.S. is like a life-or-death situation for them,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) had told CNA in an August interview. “If they have refugees, they need refugee money. And to the developing world, the U.N. is almost like another government, if not a major government, for them.”

Western politicians have acknowledged that the language includes abortion access, such as the head of Canada’s permanent mission to the U.N., who in 2001 admitted that “services” for “reproductive health care” included abortion access. In 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Smith that the U.S. definition of “reproductive health” included abortion access.

Ultimately, the Holy See said it does not interpret this language to include abortion access, stating that it “does not consider abortion or access to abortion or abortifacients as a dimension of these terms.”

Rather, it interprets them “as applying to a holistic concept of health, which embrace, each in their own way, the person in the entirety of his or her personality, mind and body, and which foster the achievement of personal maturity in sexuality and in the mutual love and decision-making that characterize the conjugal-relationship between a man and a woman in accordance with moral norms.”

Marie Smith, who had served as a U.N. observer for the Holy See, has explained to CNA how controversial the development agenda has been.

Over 20 countries objected to the proposed agenda in 2014, she said, and when the outcome document was finalized on Aug. 2, there was still opposition to the language in question and “there still are broad differences” about it, she told CNA.

The Holy See also expressed its reservations about other items in the document.

Regarding contraception and other family planning terms, they reiterated their “well-known position concerning those family-planning methods which the Catholic Church considers morally acceptable and, on the other hand, family-planning services which do not respect the liberty of the spouses, human dignity and the human rights of those concerned.”

Regarding the term “gender”, the Holy See stated that it “understands the term to be grounded in the biological sexual identity that is male or female.”

In reference to sexual education mentioned in the document, the Holy See re-affirmed “the ‘primary responsibility’ and the ‘prior rights’ of parents, including their right to religious freedom, when it comes to the education and upbringing of their children, as enshrined, inter alia, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Catholic US News

Who’s behind the mysterious Eye of the Tiber?

Denver, Colo., Sep 4, 2015 / 03:45 am (CNA).- If you’re a Catholic on Facebook, or the internet in general, chances are Samer Noam has made you laugh. Or he’s made you angry.

If he’s done his job the way he wants, he’s done both.

Noam is the man, the myth, the legend behind the Catholic satire site, Eye of the Tiber. Catholic News Agency had a chance to sit down with the Californian writer and professional smart aleck to talk inspiration, excommunication (well, his nightmares of it), and of course all those people who think it’s actual news.   

1: What first inspired you to start writing Eye of the Tiber?

I’ve loved satire for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, anyone who loves the Church can recognizes that satire, like most everything else that’s good in this world, like literature, poetry, music, the sciences and so on has been secularized. Heck, even Judeo-Christian symbols like the rainbow and the thunderbolt were taken by those typically most hostile to the Church. The rainbow, of course, represents God’s covenant with Noah. The world now sees it as a symbol representing man’s covenant with another man. The thunderbolt, I understand, never really represented anything for the Church, but I kinda wish it did, because thunderbolts are pretty awesome, and I’d love an excuse to get one of them tattooed on me.

Where the heck was I? Ah yes, what inspired me? Love for the Church and love for good satire. The Onion is wonderful. Their ability to poke fun and to reveal truths with sometimes subtle, sometimes absurd headlines is breathtaking. But there was so many times I thought, and still do think, that they could tone down the sacrilege a notch or ten. And so, cue light bulb, and the idea of a Catholic satire site was born.

2: What is your goal for Eye of the Tiber?

To piss off every Catholic at least once. If you’re not happy with that answer, please delete and insert this: to shed light on the absurdity of some of the things going on in the Church while giving people an opportunity to laugh at themselves. And also not getting excommunicated. You think the last part’s a joke, but it’s not. I’ve literally had nightmares of being excommunicated because of an article. But the nightmare’s always followed by a happy dream about me being handcuffed and led to a tribunal during the Spanish Inquisition, and realizing that Toquemada is the Grand Inquisitor for my case, and he sets me free because Torqumada wasn’t as bad as he’s been made out to be.

Anyhow, that’s my goal for EOTT. Not the weird dream part per se, but letting readers know about random Catholic facts that I find interesting, while poking fun on important things like liturgical dancing and the other 7 Deadly Sins.       

3: Are you a one-man team? Do you take submissions?

I’ve written most of the articles on the site. I’ve had a couple submissions from readers, and about ten to fifteen from friends. I don’t really accept articles from readers anymore because I found it difficult to deny someone when I didn’t think their article was a good fit for the site. It always made me feel bad to say no. It especially made me feel bad when that one guy I denied told me to shove it. I didn’t want to shove it, that’s the thing. I wasn’t telling him that it wasn’t funny…just that it simply wasn’t a good fit. I remember that I had had a long work week, and I was tired and had so many things going on, and shoving it was seriously the last thing on my mind. So I didn’t. I just decided that I’d no longer take submissions.

4. Where does your inspiration for articles come from?


5. When you’re not running EOTT, what do you do?

I love hanging out with my family. I love reading, writing, praying, and working out. That last part was a lie. I hate working out. I have no idea what I was trying to pull off with that lie.

6. What has been the most popular EOTT article?

‘Peter Jackson Announces Plans For 72-Part Movie Series of the Silmarillion’ is the most popular EOTT article written. It got like 100k+ Facebook likes, 600+ Twitter reposts or whatever you call them, and a bunch of other relatively impressive stats as well. Actually, there was a while there where if you googled “Silmarillion” it was the top post in Google News. That was kinda awesome.

Best part about the article, though, is that it wasn’t even written by me. It was written by a priest friend, Fr. Andy Younan (Twitter: @Jonah_3001). The thing with many of these articles, as Fr. Andy (Twitter: @Jonah_3001) would agree with is that the ones you think are gold will typically suck and the ones you think will suck, will typically turn gold. It’s an odd thing that neither I (Twitter: @SCNaoum), nor Fr. Andy (Twitter: @Jonah_3001) can figure out. So if you ever see an article that just absolutely sucks, it’s because I (Twitter: @SCNaoum) thought it was genius. Don’t be frustrated. It was an honest mistake.

7. Which EOTT article has cause the most controversy?

I can’t remember exactly which article caused the most controversy, but I know that the ones written about the Mass typically get the most heated. If I write an article titled, ‘Report: Some 2nd Century Roman Christians Hated Latin Mass Because It Was Said In The Vernacular,’ I know I’m gonna piss off liturgical traditionalists. If I write one titled, ‘Clown At Circus Mass Reprimanded For Honking Sanctus Horn At Wrong Part Of Consecration,’ I know it’s gonna piss off whatever the complete opposite of a liturgical traditionalist is. I think they’re called Protestants, actually.

8. How often do people think EOTT is a real news source?

Very often. [Awkward silence]. Is there a follow up to the question?

9. How can satire speak truth in ways that news sources or other media cannot?

Satire is an interesting art form. It’s not only the greatest form of passive aggression there is, but it is, at the same time, the most direct form of criticism and examination. While proper journalism takes the issue at hand and attempts to reveal the fact of the matter, proper satire takes that very same matter assumed to be factual, beats it to a pulp, dissects it, finds the inaccuracy in what the media is reporting, siphons off the inaccuracy, beats it to a pulp once more just for good measure, waterboards it to make sure it has all the details, and represents it in a way so that the average reader can truly understand the fact of the matter without the spin. It’s in this way that satire is passive aggressive and at the same time direct. It takes a round about way of delivering direct truths. You know what I’m saying? Good, cause I sure as heck don’t.

10. What is your favorite liturgical dance?

My top three are The Catholic Carlton, Walk Like an Egyptian Coptic, and of course The Cha Cha Slide, Stand, Sit, Stand, Kneel.


Catholic US News

Planned Parenthood’s CEO validates suspicions, advocacy group says

Washington D.C., Sep 1, 2015 / 11:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Under fire after a series of recent sting videos, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s (PPFA) CEO Cecile Richards wrote a letter to Congress last week addressing the issues raised in the videos, which call into question Planned Parenthood’s procurement of fetal tissue for research.

In a follow-up letter to Congress, the Center for Medical Progress – the non-profit group that released the sting videos – said Planned Parenthood’s letter corroborates their initial claims that the organization is illegally selling fetal tissue at a profit and altering abortion procedures in order to obtain intact specimens.

In Planned Parenthood’s letter to Congress, Richards reveals that a California Planned Parenthood affiliate currently “receives a modest reimbursement of $60 per tissue specimen from the TPO.” According to Richards, “that affiliate also has a separate relationship with the University of California.”

Richards also argues that the reimbursement for tissue falls under the exceptions in the law that allow “for actual expenses (e.g. storage, processing, transportation, etc.) of the tissue. If an affiliate chooses to accept reimbursement for allowable expenses, it must be able to demonstrate the reimbursement represents its actual costs.”

However, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) questions whether $60 per specimen can lawfully be considered a modest and legal reimbursement:

“Thus, if ABR (a tissue procurement organization) harvests a liver and a thymus, a common fetal tissue order, from an 18-week fetus aborted at the San Diego clinic, Planned Parenthood receives a total payment of $120 from that case,” CMP wrote. “It stretches credulity to believe that ABR’s technician harvesting two organs from a fetus costs Planned Parenthood $120 – this is a new revenue stream off of fetal tissue with no real cost to Planned Parenthood, and thus a criminal profit.”

In a recent article in the Daily Signal, former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson discussed the fetal tissue procurement process during her employment, which ended in 2009. At the time, Johnson said her clinic participated in a fetal research program which reimbursed Planned Parenthood $200 per baby.

“The researchers provided the Styrofoam box and dry ice to Planned Parenthood. Literally the only cost we had was shipping the box. And that was about $20 every time we shipped,” Johnson told The Daily Signal. “So Planned Parenthood is getting $200 per specimen, and we’re taking all the specimens, putting them in one box and shipping it off for $20. The different fetal body parts are not shipped individually.”

The Center for Medical Progress also argues that in her letter to Congress, Richards admits that Planned Parenthood makes adjustments to abortion procedures in order to obtain intact specimens for reimbursement.

Richards’ letter states: “In performing the selected method, a physician may need to make multiple adjustments to the method as the surgery proceeds. These adjustments are clinical judgments – not a change of method – made by the physician as the abortion proceeds and are always intended to achieve the woman’s desired result as safely as possible. The key point, as the 1988 blue-ribbon commission recognized, is that there be no change that would impact the safety or well-being of the patient.”

The Center for Medical Progress also notes that Richards seems to conflate “the 2nd-trimester abortion methods of dilation and evacuation (D&E) and intact dilation and extraction (IDX), the latter known legally as ‘partialbirth abortion’ and prohibited by 18 U.S.C. 1531.”

When listing possible methods of abortion in her letter, Richards does not mention IDX as a possible method.

She “seems to refer to both as ‘dilation and extraction,’” CMP wrote. “PPFA Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, clearly described a partial-birth abortion according to the federal law during the lunch meeting CMP investigators had with her on July 25, 2014.”  

After the release of several of the sting videos, Planned Parenthood’s main defense has been that the videos were “heavily edited” and therefore misleading. Planned Parenthood paid Fusion GPS, a political opposition-research company, to investigate and provide analysis of the videos.

Fusion GPS’s analysis “did not reveal widespread evidence of substantive video manipulation” and “shows no evidence of audio manipulation.” While it identified cuts in the tape, the Center for Medical Progress maintains that these cuts were made during bathroom breaks of their actors and were made to protect their privacy.

“Of course, CMP is ready to provide original recording files to law enforcement and to Congress to the extent we are lawfully able to. Our attorneys are working diligently to resolve pending legal questions regarding the disclosure of these recording files to government investigators, including by seeking clarification of an unconstitutional prior restraint TRO imposed on CMP in federal litigation brought by Planned Parenthood’s proxy, the National Abortion Federation,” CMP wrote in their letter.

Four committees in the Senate and House are currently investigating the recent allegations against Planned Parenthood, and several states have decided to cut funding to the organization in wake of the video sting.

The Center for Medical Progress said they will continue to advocate for a thorough investigation of Planned Parenthood by each investigation, and they will cooperate fully with the federal government toward that end.

“The reduction of any human being, man, woman, or child, to a commodity, or to only the commercial sum of their parts, is offensive to the public and contrary to our foundational values as a people,” CMP wrote. “It would be unconscionable to allow Planned Parenthood to hold themselves above the law and human decency, with their barbaric abortion practice subsidized by half-a-billion taxpayer dollars each year.”

Catholic US News

Citing Pope Francis, bishops call on Congress to renew religious freedom commission

Washington D.C., Sep 1, 2015 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Congress has only one month to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Many human rights activists and religious leaders have stressed its importance, and the nation’s bishops suggest the commission would help the U.S. fulfill Pope Francis’ call to protect religious minorities.

“Protecting religious freedom is critical to the health of societies,” said the U.S. bishops’ Aug. 26 letter to Congress. They noted that about a quarter of the world’s countries still face high levels of religious hostilities.

“Christians and members of other minority groups are seeking refuge from violence in Syria and Iraq. Religious minorities are jailed on blasphemy and apostasy charges in Pakistan, Burma, and Sudan, just to note a few countries where vulnerable persons can be killed with impunity,” said the letter. It also noted the violence the radical Islamist group Boko Haram has inflicted on both Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.

“All these cases are indicative of a worldwide pandemic of religious intolerance that is threatening the stability of so many countries,” the letter added.

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces signed the letter as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ international justice and peace committee. The letter called for the reauthorization of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; the human rights monitoring body’s current authorization expires Sept. 30.

The letter cited Pope Francis’ Aug. 5 message to the Knights of Columbus, in which the Pope called for a global response to violence against minority religious communities.

The Pope called for prayers “for the conversion of hearts, an end to fanatical violence and intolerance, and a general recognition of those fundamental human rights which are not granted by the state, but from the hand of the Creator, whom all believers invoke as a God of peace.”

The U.S. bishops said religious freedom appears to be “more imperiled globally.” The religious freedom commission’s reauthorization would allow it to continue its work in “raising the profile of those who are discriminated against, harassed and even killed for their faith.” They said the commission has a vital role in promoting human rights by monitoring and promoting religious freedom.

The religious freedom commission dates back to 1998. It monitors the state of freedom of religion and freedom of thought, conscience, or belief as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements. The commission makes independent policy recommendations to the president, the Secretary of State, and Congress.

In December 2014, Congress passed a nine-month extension reauthorizing the commission.

In a separate letter from the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, many other civic and religious leaders voiced support for the commission’s reauthorization and stressed the commission’s importance.

The commission has been “a consistent and reliable voice for people around the globe who desire nothing more than to peacefully worship and live out their faith according to the dictates of their conscience,” said the letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.). It urged the approval of S. 1798, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Reauthorization Act of 2015.

Signers of the letter included many Christian organizations, as well as Jewish, Sikh, Baha’i and humanist organizations. Individual scholars, religious leaders, and human rights advocates also asked the senators to work for “the swift passage” of the USCIRF reauthorization act.

“While there is very little we agree on theologically, or politically, we all agree on the importance of international religious freedom. It strengthens cultures and provides the foundation for stable democracies and their components, including civil society, economic growth, and social harmony,” the roundtable letter said.

The letter characterized religious freedom as “the ultimate counter-terrorism weapon” that preemptively undermines religious extremism.

“Religious freedom is a principle upon which our country was founded, and its promotion is a significant factor in U.S. national security and related global interests,” the letter added.

The letter said attacks on religious freedom are “systemic and growing.” The Pew Research Center has reported that in 2013, 77 percent of the world’s population lived in countries with “a high or very high overall level of restriction on religion,” compared to 68 percent in 2007.

The roundtable letter criticized a separate bill, the Further Independence of Religion for Security and Tolerance Freedom Act of 2015, on the grounds it has provisions that risk undermining USCIRF’s work.

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