In what a U.S. archbishop called a vital step in the right direction for our nation, President George W. Bush signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act into law on Nov. 5 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., attended by many Catholic leaders. The facts about partial-birth abortion are troubling and tragic, and no lawyer’s brief can make them seem otherwise, Bush said. By acting to prevent this practice, the elected branches of our government have affirmed a basic standard of humanity, the duty of the strong to protect the weak.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Denver, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said the signing marks the first time in three decades that our nation has placed any restriction on an abortion procedure.
The pro-life committee and the Knights of Columbus also published full-page ads in the newspapers USA Today and Roll Call on Nov. 5 thanking Bush and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle for approving the ban, which has already been challenged by abortion providers as an unconstitutional restriction on abortion. The struggle over partial-birth abortion is not over, and the ban faces a court challenge, said the ad, signed by millions of Catholics across the United States. But today our nation is one step closer to a culture of life.
The partial-birth abortion procedure, used only in the second half of pregnancy, is defined in the law as the partial delivery of a fetus from the womb for the purpose of performing an overt act that the person knows will kill the partially delivered living fetus and then performing that act, killing the partially delivered fetus instead of delivering it alive.
Pro-life members of Congress have been working since 1993 to ban the procedure. Bills barring partial-birth abortions were twice vetoed by President Bill Clinton on grounds that there was no health exception in them. A health provision would have rendered the legislation virtually meaningless because of the broad definition of maternal health given by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 in its decisions to legalize abortion.
Among the approximately 400 people attending the signing ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington were Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York; Carl A. Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus; and Gail Quinn and Richard Doerflinger, director and deputy director of the bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.
But less than an hour after the president signed the legislation, U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf of Lincoln, Neb., issued an injunction against implementation of the law. The ruling applied only to Dr. LeRoy Carhart of Bellevue, Neb., and three other abortion providers who had filed suit against the law.Pro-Life Committee Wants Document on Contraception
The U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, chaired by Archbishop Chaput, is asking the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to approve the development of a document on contraception for consideration in November 2004. Catholics report using contraceptives at about the same level as those of other faiths or of no faiths, reports the committee. Only 4 percent of Catholic married couples of childbearing age use Natural Family Planning.
The committee says there is a need to address our people about the abortifacient potential of hormonal contraception. The committee said that openness to the transmission of life is a common theme joining contraceptive practices and abortion. While it is appropriate to treat the issues distinctly in the public square, a catechesis for Catholics ought to explore their linkage. The committee says that many priests are not comfortable discussing the church’s teaching on contraception with parishioners and there is more than one generation of young Catholics that has not received adequate information about the church’s teaching concerning contraception.Vatican Aims to Create Sacred Vernacular Language’
The Vatican’s new rules and structures for translating the prayers and readings used at Mass aim to create a sacred vernacular language that is easy to understand but more formal than everyday speech, a Vatican official said. The Vatican contests the affirmations that do the rounds in certain circles to the effect that the language of the liturgy should slavishly reflect the development of local speech, said the Rev. Anthony Ward.
Father Ward, an official at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, wrote about Vatican rules on liturgical translations in the congregation’s bulletin, Notitiae. The 32-page article was published in the March-April issue of the bulletin, which was distributed in early November, less than two weeks after presidents of English-speaking bishops’ conferences met with the congregation. Father Ward’s article looked specifically at the congregation’s instruction Liturgiam Authenticam (The Authentic Liturgy), published in 2001.
Some English-speakers saw the document as a sharp criticism of the approach their bishops had taken toward translations, as an attempt by the congregation to take control over liturgical translations from bishops’ conferences and as a move to impose a style of English that does not reflect the way most people speak the language.
Father Ward, however, wrote, The document takes a fundamentally positive tack, planning for the future rather than expending any great energy on criticizing the past. Father Ward also disputed the charge that the congregation improperly had taken upon itself the bishops’ authority to oversee translations. The 2001 document, he said, aims at promoting a collaborative or a collegial model, ensuring that bishops, and not the translators they hire, are directly responsible for the translations.
When a translation is being prepared for use by more than one bishops’ conferenceas is common with Spanish, English and German textsit is necessary that some guaranteeing authority enter the scene, and the only candidate is the Holy See, he said. In addition, he said, the Vatican must be involved in translations into the world’s major languages because those translations are used by the Vatican and its embassies around the world.
Father Ward also said that those bishops who saw the 2001 document as a discouragement by the Vatican of translating the Mass into every local language were correct. Father Ward said people should be cautious about an attitude that equates people with a linguistic species which should be conserved on a par with species of frogs or butterflies, each in a sort of cultural reservation.
Father Ward said the challenge of translating liturgical texts is to find vernacular expressions that respect the rich heritage of Catholic liturgical tradition while remaining faithful to the Latin text, to its beauty, rhythms, syntax and formality.
Father Ward said Liturgiam Authenticam made it clear that the Vatican is opposed to attempts, particularly in English-speaking countries, to deny to certain masculine terms an inclusive’ value. Apart from the literary clumsiness of some expressions that try to make clear that a text refers to both males and females, he said, the abandonment of the term man’ as referring to the human race fragments the concept of a unitary human nature, first of all into a dualism of man and woman, and then into a sort of conglomerate of numerous individuals. A single, unitary term such as man is needed, he said, in order to convey the biblical distinction between man and God and to affirm man as the object of God’s saving mercy.Iraqis Respond Eagerly to C.R.S. Help
Iraqis have responded to Catholic Relief Services’ initiatives with curiosity and eagerness rather than the hostility some higher-profile foreign agencies have found, said a C.R.S. official who recently visited Iraq. Our ability to work over these last several months has been helped because we are not so high-profile and have a low number of expats, said Christine Tucker, C.R.S. regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.
She said C.R.S., the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency, deliberately hired a primarily Iraqi staff in order to give the Iraqis a sense of empowerment of their own abilities to reconstruct their country. C.R.S. has received a great deal of support from their Iraqi partners and local residents, she said. The face of our work in Iraq is an Iraqi face, and that has helped mitigate what might otherwise have been a hostile reaction under other circumstances, Tucker said.Pope Says Church Must Acknowledge Wrongs
Pope John Paul II said it was important for the church to acknowledge mistakes and shortcomings in its 2,000-year history, and he encouraged others around the world to do the same. Behind many modern conflicts are historical wrongs that need to be recognized objectively before true reconciliation can occur, the pope said in a message to a conference of church scholars commemorating the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII, who died 100 years ago. Against some resistance among his Vatican advisers, the pope pushed forward a program of purification of memory during the jubilee year 2000, with critical examinations of Christian actions during the Crusades, the Inquisition and World War II.News Briefs
Even partial figures indicate the high financial cost of the church’s scandal of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, said Illinois Appeals Court Justice Anne Burke, acting chairwoman of the National Review Board formed by the U.S. bishops to monitor diocesan compliance with their charter to protect children. In 23 dioceses alone, financial settlements [with the victims] have reached $292.8 million, Burke said, referring to some dioceses whose total costs have been publicly released.
Seventeen priests of the Diocese of New Ulm have written Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asking him to discuss optional celibacy for priests with his fellow bishops during their Nov. 10-13 meeting in Washington, D.C. In a response, Bishop John C. Nienstedt of New Ulm said that optional celibacy would end up discouraging priestly vocations.
A Vatican statement to the United Nations on Nov. 3 called for use of the road map as a way to move toward an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.