Catholic Bishops reverse earlier opposition to state law requiring Plan B for rape victims

Aboard the papal plane, Sep 29, 2007 (CINS/CNA).- The Catholic Bishops of Connecticut have reversed a previous decision and are allowing Catholic hospitals to provide Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, to rape victims without an ovulation test.

Their decision comes just days before a new state law would require the distribution of Plan B, regardless of religious beliefs. The Act Concerning Compassionate Care for Victims of Sexual Assault, which takes effect Monday, will require a pregnancy test, but not an ovulation test, before the drug is administered.

In a statement from the Connecticut Catholic Bishops, “The Bishops and other Catholic health care leaders believe that this law is seriously flawed, but not sufficiently to bar compliance with it at the present time. We continue to believe this law should be changed.”  Originally, Church officials had stated that the treatment was identical to abortion, however they have backed away from this position.

According to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, a woman who has been raped has the “moral right” to prevent pregnancy for three reasons:

“First, the rapist (including his sperm) is an unjust aggressor who has violated the woman’s dignity.  Second, rape is an act of force and violence, unlike the conjugal love in marriage whereby both spouses give freely of themselves in an act of unitive and procreative love.  Third, the woman is not responsible for the action, and thereby has the right to prevent the pregnancy.”

However, according to the Arlington Catholic Herald, the real difficulty in rape treatment protocols is having moral certainty that conception has not occurred.  Once conception has occurred, the new life is a new, unique human being.  As stated in the Declaration on Procured Abortion, "From the time the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already.”
Determining whether or not conception has taken place, has been the issue in Connecticut.  With the new law, and the uncertainty surrounding Plan B, the Catholic hospitals will be allowed to provide Plan B without ovulation tests.  However, the bishops have determined that due to the fact that “the teaching authority of the church has not definitively resolved this matter and since there is serious doubt about how Plan B pills work…[t]o administer Plan B pills without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act.”

The bishops say in their statement that a pregnancy test will provide them with enough information to determine whether or not conception has taken place.

Plan B is a high dose of a drug found in many regular birth-control pills. Its maker, Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc., got approval last year to sell the drug over-the-counter.

The company says Plan B can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. The drug works by stopping ovulation and has no effect on an existing pregnancy.”

Portugal to host the plenary assembly of the European Bishops Conferences

Lisbon, Portugal, Sep.29,2007, (CINS/SIR) - From 3rd to 7th October Portugal will host the plenary assembly of the presidents of the Council of the 34 European Bishops Conferences (Ccee). The news was relayed by Ccee on Thursday, stating that they will meet in Fatima on the invitation of mgr. Jorge Ferreira da Costa Ortiga, president of the Portuguese Bishops Conference”. The assembly will be chaired by card. Péter Erdö, president of Ccee, assisted by the deputy presidents, card. Josip Bozanic and card. Jean-Pierre Ricard.

“The monographic subject of the plenary assembly – states Ccee – will be marriage, from different perspectives. The pastoral and legal status of the institution of marriage in the different European countries; marriage and family in the European Union; and mixed-race marriages”. The presidents of the European Bishops Conferences – reads the note – will first meet in Lisbon on 3rd October; in the morning of Thursday 4th October they will meet, in the premises of the patriarchate (Monastery of S. Vicente de Fora), the Patriarch of Lisbon, card. José da Cruz Policarpo, and the Prime Minister of Portugal, José Sócrates Carvalho Pinto de Sousa, the current president of the Council of the European Union as the head of the government of the State that is currently chairing the EU. Then the participants will move to Fatima.

“During the first part of the assembly – reads the release from the Ccee –, the bishops will have an opportunity to go into the details of the status of the Catholic Church in Portugal and the role played by the Sanctuary of Fatima. The second part of the Assembly will be focussed, instead, on the service of Ccee for the Church in Europe, with a presentation of the five-year programs of the new bishops in charge of the Ccee commissions for the media (Ceem); for the pastoral of migration; for callings; for catechesis, school and university”. In addition, the presidents will discuss the commitments contained in the final message of the Third European Ecumenical Assembly (Sibiu, 4-9 September; and the new prospects of ecumenism in Europe. The issue of the European institutions and the process of European unification 450 years after the Treaties of Rome will be introduced by the leaders of Comece.

 Other items on the agenda: cooperation between Ccee and Celam (Latin-American Bishops Council) and between Ccee and Secam (Symposium of the African and Madagascan Bishops Conferences). A short report on the pastoral of prisons will be given by the president of the International Commission for the Catholic Pastoral of Prisons, Christian Kuhn. A press release will be issued at the end of the Assembly. Info:

Spanish Bishops Conference

Madrid, Spain, Sep.29,2007, (CINS/SIR) - Pastoral of migration and beatification of 498 martyrs. These are the main subjects addressed by the Permanent Committee of the Spanish Bishops Conference, which ended in Madrid on Thursday. Mgr. José Sánchez González, bishop of Sigüenza-Guadalajara and president of the Bishops Conference for Migration, submitted to the Permanent Committee the draft of the document, “The Church in Spain and the Pastoral of Migration”, which contains the comments of the bishops about these subjects.

The text will be voted at the next meeting in November. The bishops also announced that some celebrations will be organised for the 40th anniversary of the encyclical Populorum Progressio. A celebratory symposium will also be held for the occasion at the Paul VI Foundation of Madrid plus a message on the Encyclical. In the meantime, cardinal Antonio M.Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, announced that the beautification of 498 martyrs of the XX century, which had been planned in San Paolo Fuori le Mura, will probably be moved to Saint Peter’s Square, in the Vatican, because of the high number of pilgrims expected to attend the ceremony.

“Who is my Neighbour?”: A Statement issued by the Catholic Bishops of Australia

Sydney, Australia, Sep.20,2007(CINS/Fides) - A Statement on the themes of justice, development and peace has been issued by the Catholic Bishops of Australia in view of Social Justice Sunday on 30 September which the local Church celebrates every year. The Statement, titled this year “Who is my Neighbour?”, is prepared by the Bishops' Commission for Social presided by Bishop Christopher Sauders of the diocese of Broome.

The Statement is call to reflect on “diversity” in the community, in order to see “in every face the holy face of Christ”, insisting on multiculturalism, typical of Australia, as a source of enrichment and calling all Australians to show solidarity with those who are poor and marginalised and in need of help.

In these times “of hunger, war, terrorism and disease we are called to help our others and not act as people unable to share prosperity, ”, Bishop Saunders says in the introduction. Citing the passage in the Gospel of Luke which introduces the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10, 29-37), Bishop Saunders urges Australians to ask themselves the same question and to reflect on the answer Jesus gives.

In his letter to present Social Justice Sunday Statement, Archbishop Philip Wilson, President of the Bishops' Conference says, "Australia and Australians have a responsibility to be good global citizens: we have responsibilities beyond our national borders. This year's Social Justice Sunday Statement is a call for us Australians to act more in the interest of our neighbours who do not share our prosperity and security, an invitation to consider the way we live and as individuals and as a nation”. The Archbishop says the statement focuses on global issues of social justice which Australians can help to face in order to promote common good.

Italy in "moral crisis," bishops' leader says

Rome, Italy, Sep. 19, 2007 (CINS/CWN) - The president of the Italian bishops' conference has described Italy as "a country in a state of moral crisis."

Speaking on September 17 to the executive committee of the episcopal conference, Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco defended the right of the Church to speak out on public issues involving the dignity of human life, and said that Church leaders have an obligation to provide moral guidance in a society that has drifted away from fundamental principles.

The archbishop responded directly to a new flurry of public discussion about euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, saying that the Church would continue to insist on the preservation of human life until natural death.

Archbishop Bagnasco decried the decision by Amnesty International to support legal abortion. Echoing the words of Pope Benedict XVI, in his address to the diplomatic corps in Vienna, the Italian prelate said that "abortion cannot be a human right."

Addressing one internal Catholic issue, the archbishop said that he is "reasonably optimistic" about the prospects for a successful implementation of Summorum Pontificum, the papal moto proprio authorizing wider use of the 1962 Roman Missal. The aim of that initiative, he told his brother bishops, is to "preserve the riches developed through the faith and prayer of the Church." Proper implementation of the motu proprio, he added, will require "an inclusive rather than confrontational" approach. 

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