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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Mar-1-2013

By Catholic News Service


Arkansas is eighth state with fetal pain law; court challenge expected

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CNS) -- Both houses of the Arkansas Legislature voted to override Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of a fetal pain bill, outlawing most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Medical evidence suggests that the unborn can feel pain beginning around 20 weeks of life. In a 19-14 vote Feb 28, the state Senate reaffirmed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The House of Representatives voted 53-28 a day earlier to overturn the veto. Both votes fell largely along party lines with Republicans mostly supporting the override. Pro-life activists praised passage of the measure, a legislative priority for the Diocese of Little Rock and Arkansas Right to Life. "It's a great day in the state of Arkansas," said Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life and member of St. Theresa Church in Little Rock. "This law is going to protect many unborn babies from excruciatingly painful deaths by abortion." The measure, introduced by Republican Rep. Andy Mayberry , became law immediately. It provides exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother's life but does not include any exemption for fetal disorders. The new law builds upon the state's Unborn Child Pain Awareness and Prevention Act of 2005 that requires doctors to review printed material discussing fetal pain at least 24 hours before an abortion is performed on women whose pregnancy is 20 weeks or longer. Few later-term abortions are performed. The Arkansas Department of Health reported that 4,033 abortions occurred in the state in 2011, and 46 of them occurred at 20 weeks and two occurred at 21 weeks or later.

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Catholic advocates monitoring issues raised by extractive industries

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In his State of the Union address last year, President Barack Obama called for an "all of the above" strategy on domestic energy production. In this year's State of the Union remarks, Obama said, "No area is more ripe for such innovation than energy." Not so fast, say some clean-energy advocates, a growing number of Catholics among them. The latest craze in domestic energy is hydraulic fracturing -- fracking for short. Energy companies hope to tap into natural gas deposits trapped in shale deep under the ground. To free them, they drill deep, then pump in a compressed mixture of water, silica sand and a collection of chemicals -- the composition of which is a trade secret of the energy firms. According to Richard Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, which issued a statement on the issue, polls show mixed support for fracking. It's evenly divided in areas of the state where fracking occurs or could occur, he said, but tilts against fracking outside those regions. Barnes had spoken during a Feb. 12 forum on "extractive" industries during the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington. Those who support fracking look to the economic benefits of leasing their land or selling mineral rights to fracking interests. Those who oppose it worry about environmental degradation. New York currently permits only vertical fracking, although technology has advanced to the point where horizontal fracking -- once vertical pipes are underground -- can take place, holding the promise of extracting even more natural gas.

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Deficit forces layoffs, ministry consolidation in Chicago Archdiocese

CHICAGO (CNS) -- The Chicago Archdiocese has laid off 60 pastoral center employees and must consolidate some of its agencies because of a deficit in the budget of its administrative operations, according to Cardinal Francis E. George. He announced reduction in staff and other changes in his column in the March 3-16 issue of the Catholic New World, the archdiocesan newspaper. "Like so many other families and institutions, the Archdiocese of Chicago has suffered during the economic downturn of these past few years," he said. "The archdiocese remains a financially secure institution with a strong asset base." However, he said, the archdiocese's "administrative operations have run operating deficits of more than $30 million in each of the past four years. Since this trend is unsustainable, I want to set out the measures we are taking to ensure prudent stewardship of our resources for years to come," he explained. The ongoing deficit has required the archdiocese to reduce the costs of its pastoral center operations, he said, which means eliminating 75 positions. Besides the 60 employees who have been laid off, the archdiocese will not fill 15 vacant positions. Of the 75 positions, 55 were full time, Cardinal George said. Those now out of a jobs will receive severance pay and continued health insurance coverage and can access services of an outplacement firm contracted by the archdiocese to help them find new jobs, he said.

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Pope Benedict begins emeritus life; cardinals begin 'sede vacante' jobs

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After Pope Benedict XVI officially became pope emeritus, he ate dinner, watched the television news and strolled through the lake-view rooms of the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said he spoke March 1 with Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the retired pope's secretary, who said the mood in the villa after the pontificate ended was "relaxed" and his boss slept well. After watching two news programs, Pope Benedict expressed his gratitude to the media, because he said the coverage of his last day as pope helped people participate in the event, Father Lombardi said. The papal secretary said Pope Benedict celebrated Mass at 7 a.m. March 1 as normal, read his breviary, had breakfast and then began reading more of the messages he had received in the last days of his pontificate. He expected to stroll through the villa gardens, praying his rosary, in the afternoon. Meanwhile, back at the Vatican, officials from the College of Cardinals had a series of tasks to perform at the beginning of the "sede vacante," the period when there is no pope. The most symbolic tasks were carried out by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the camerlengo or chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church, and his assistants. During the sede vacante, the chamberlain is charged with administering and safeguarding the temporal goods of the church.

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Cardinals' Catch-22: eager for conclave, but need time to choose well

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal-electors are caught in a Catch-22. They are eager to give the world a new pope; however, they need time to pick the right leader, said South Africa's cardinal. "There might be a need for a long delay" as the cardinals try to gauge how much they do or don't know enough about each other, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier told Catholic News Service March 1, the first day of the "sede vacante." No church leader wants to be away from his diocese for too long, he said, and no one wants to miss Easter, March 31. "Yet no cardinal, on the other hand, wants this process to be fouled up by ill-considered actions" and haste, he said. Because there will be no mourning period, which usually lasts at least 10 days after the death of a pope, he said there may be many cardinals here in Rome who are thinking "'If we're all here, why should we delay it?' There's a whole church out there that needs to get an answer, and I'd say sooner rather than later, but they want the right answer," he said. The quandary is: "Are we going to get the right person if we hurry things up? Will we get a better person if we slow things" down, he asked. One part of the process begins March 4 with the general congregations, daily meetings in which the cardinals prepare for a conclave, discuss the needs of the church and handle more serious church business that must be attended to between popes. Cardinals over 80 may participate in these meetings, but they are not required to. The general congregations end when the cardinal-electors enter into conclave.

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Cardinals' meetings begin with business, then look toward choosing pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The world's cardinals were to begin meetings at the Vatican March 4, and while onlookers are focused on who may be the next pope, the cardinals have business to deal with. Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa said the general congregations begin with the actual business of running the church during the extraordinary period when there is no pope. While the cardinals do not have to plan and set a budget for a funeral and burial -- which past general congregations have had to do after the death of a pope -- there still is a "sede vacante" budget to approve and the formal authorizing of sede vacante stamps and coins. In the general congregation, the cardinals set the date for the beginning of the conclave, but the Vatican spokesman said that is unlikely to happen on the first day. The cardinals also begin examining together and in depth the rules for the conclave and for electing a new pope, Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga told Catholic News Service March 1. They invite experts in canon law to join them and give advice if some points are unclear or in dispute. Only after they deal with practical business, he said, will they begin discussing the main challenges facing the church. In 2005, he said, they had broad discussions, then broke up into small groups, according to continent, "so we could define better the challenges" particular to their region. "I believe we will do the same" this time, the cardinal said.

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Between popes, a time of speculation and suspense

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The period immediately following a pontificate is one of excited speculation, more or less loose, about the identity of the next pope. Though secrecy rules do not forbid cardinals from naming their preferences, custom and prudence effectively do. In any case, as history shows, once the electors get behind locked doors, their deliberations take on a dynamic impossible to forecast or affect from outside. Such uncertainty makes a journalist's job hard in one sense and easy in another, since practically any outcome is at least marginally plausible. That is especially the case this time, in the wake of an event -- Pope Benedict XVI's resignation -- which a few weeks ago most observers would have dismissed as far-fetched. Some conjecture about "papabili" is disinterested; much reflects a desire to provoke or entertain; and a fair amount is clearly wishful thinking. And then there are those who use the press to influence the cardinals, who read newspapers like everyone else and, in most cases, know little about each other as they arrive in Rome. For members of the church, the interregnum is inevitably a time of suspense and even anxiety. A fear that the conclave might not choose the right man does not necessarily reflect a lack of faith. In 1997, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told an interviewer that the Holy Spirit does not "dictate the candidate for whom one must vote."

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Sargent Shriver a 'good man' formed by his deep faith, not achievements

ANAHEIM, Calif. (CNS) -- Sargent Shriver wasn't a "good man" because of his notable public achievements, of which there were many, but because his profound Catholic faith informed him throughout his 95 years of life, according to his son Mark Shriver. "After my father died, I wanted to figure out what it meant to be a 'good man,'" said the 49-year-old father of three, who is senior vice president of U.S. programs for the international charity Save the Children. "Some 'great' people stand up here and have the spotlight on them, and when the spotlights are off, they aren't good people," he said in a Feb. 23 keynote address at the Religious Education Congress 2013 in Anaheim. "I wanted to dig in and try to figure out what (waitresses, airport workers and the garbage man) meant when they said he was a good man," Shriver said. The accomplishments of the elder Shriver included being founding director of the Peace Corps, being the architect of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty and helping his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, expand the Special Olympics worldwide. He also was a former ambassador to France and the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1972.

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Father Kapaun, Korean War hero, to receive Medal of Honor in April

WICHITA, Kan. (CNS) -- Father Emil Kapaun, whose actions as a U.S. Army chaplain during the Korean War saved the lives of dozens of soldiers in the field and in a North Korean prisoner of war camp before his death, will be awarded the Medal of Honor. A priest of the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., Father Kapaun will be honored during ceremonies at the White House April 11 and at the Pentagon the next day, said Todd Tiahrt, a former Kansas congressman who has advocated for the honor for years. Citing a letter from an Army staff member preparing for the ceremony, Tiahrt said the award is well deserved. "What he did in the face of adversity at the risk of his own life was remarkable. I'm very pleased by the award. I think it's justified fully," Tiahrt told Catholic News Service March 1. "I'm very excited that Father Kapaun is getting this recognition," he said. The Wichita Eagle reported that President Barack Obama called Father Kapaun's sister-in-law, Helen Kapaun, of suburban Bel Aire, in December to tell her the news. She and her family were expected to be on hand to receive the medal. An announcement is expected later in March from the White House and the Pentagon. Tiahrt has long advocated for Father Kapaun to receive the honor, asking in 2001 then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to review the priest's record.


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