Beliefnet News

Beliefnet News

Lawmakers Seek Bishops’ Help in Ending Iraq War

posted by Jana Melpolder

Washington – In a rare reversal of roles, 14 Catholic members of Congress are lobbying U.S. Catholic bishops to step up efforts to end the war in Iraq.
The lawmakers, all Democrats, wrote to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asking for a meeting to discuss how Congress “and the clergy can work together to mobilize public action to end the war,” according to a statement released Tuesday (July 3).
“As Catholic members of Congress we stand in unison with the Catholic Church in opposition to the war in Iraq,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said in a statement. “Yet to attain the ideal of peace, we must not only speak the words, we must take action.”
Other Catholic politicians lobbying the bishops include Reps. Dennis Kucinich, Tim Ryan, Charlie Wilson and Marcy Kaptur, all of Ohio.
“Throughout our nation’s history Catholics have been at the forefront of the fight for social justice,” the lawmakers’ statement said. “Now, at another critical moment, we respectfully urge the (bishops) to join with us in mobilizing support for Congress’ efforts to end the Iraq war.”
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the USCCB, said the bishops were considering the letter and that they have already made repeated statements about the war. “Certainly the bishops have made no secret about their concerns over the war in Iraq,” Walsh said.
Last fall, Bishop William Skylstad, president of the bishops’ conference, said: “In statements, letters and meetings, we have expressed grave moral concern regarding `preventive war’ and noted the moral responsibilities that our nation has in Iraq.”
In May, 18 Catholic U.S. representatives, including some who are now lobbying the bishops, criticized Pope Benedict XVI for suggesting that pro-abortion rights politicians can be considered excommunicated from the church.
” … Religious sanction in the political arena directly conflicts with our fundamental beliefs about the role and responsibility of democratic representatives in a pluralistic America,” the Catholic lawmakers said then.

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Nepalese Goddess Loses Title After U.S. Tour

posted by jmcgee

A 10-year-old Nepalese girl lost her title as a Hindu living goddess because she left the country to promote a film.
Sajani Shakya was the first living goddess — or “kumari” — ever to leave the country. Her June visit to Washington served as a publicity tour for a British documentary that explores the centuries-old kumari tradition.
Officials from Sajani’s temple in the town of Bhaktapur announced Tuesday (July 3) that they would revoke her title and replace her upon her return to Nepal, according to the state-run National News Agency.
The tradition of kumaris dates back more than 300 years. Around the age of 2 or 3, a young girl is selected to the position of goddess based upon a list of 32 “perfect characteristics,” which include perfect skin, hair, eyes and teeth. A young toddler also must prove herself fearless by withstanding time in a dark room without crying.
Hindus believe these girls are possessed by the goddess Taleju, and they revere kumaris by bowing to them and bringing requests to their feet. Once the girl-goddess reaches puberty, Hindus believe Taleju leaves her body and temple officials search again for another girl to worship.
A handful of goddesses live in Nepal, and some live sequestered lives in luxurious palaces. While Hindus — including her own family — worship her, Sajani lives a relatively normal life and attends school.
Her regular schedule also budgets time for blessing villagers and attending ceremonial events.
In an interview in June, Sajani’s caretaker said the young girl feared the day she would lose her status as a goddess, often asking if people would still love her if she lost her “deity.”
Though Sajani’s caretaker assured the girl that her family would still worship her when she was no longer a kumari, the goddess’
less-than-divine future is uncertain. According to Nepalese folklore, men who wed a former kumari will face an early death, so many of the girls never marry and face a life of hardship as a result.

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Mo. Tightens Abortion Clinic Regulations

posted by jmcgee

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., July 6–Missouri abortion providers will face new regulations for their clinics and new restrictions on teaching sex education classes under a bill Gov. Matt Blunt signed into law Friday.
The measure places more abortion clinics under government oversight by classifying them as ambulatory surgical centers. Planned Parenthood has said the law could force it to spend more than $1 million on remodeling, plus some extra staffing costs.
The law also bars people affiliated with abortion providers from teaching or supplying materials for public school sex education courses, and it allows schools to offer abstinence-only programs.
Missouri Right to Life, which backed the measure, argued that groups like Planned Parenthood have a conflict of interest in supplying sex education materials because they could make money if female students go to their clinics.
An official with Planned Parenthood, which has several staffers who visit public schools, called that assertion “political propaganda.”
“Essentially, what Governor Blunt and the Legislature is doing is saying that teens need to be protected from information, not from sexually transmitted infections or unintended pregnancies,” said Peter Brownlie, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
The state already licenses facilities that get at least half of their revenue or patients from abortions. Only one, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, falls under that licensing requirement.
The Department of Health and Senior Services said the new law would require three other clinics to be licensed. The department didn’t identify them, but Planned Parenthood said its offices in Columbia and Kansas City would be affected.
The organization is considering a legal challenge.

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Mo. Conceals Executioners’ Identities

posted by Jana Melpolder

Jefferson City, Mo. – People who carry out executions can sue others who disclose their identities, under a new law that followed reports that a doctor who attended Missouri executions had been sued for malpractice more than 20 times.
Some of the 36 other death penalty states also shield the names of their executioners. But the Missouri measure, which Gov. Matt Blunt signed in private Saturday and announced Monday, is believed to make that state the only one with penalties for disclosing their information, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Supporters say the law is an important protection against threats to workers just doing their jobs. The Department of Corrections said offering confidentiality would help in recruiting medical professionals to assist with executions.
“This legislation will protect those Missourians who assist in fulfilling the state’s execution process as directed by the courts,” Blunt said in a statement.
Critics contend the bill further shrouds the death penalty process in secrecy, violates constitutional free press protections and goes against the public interest.
“It prevents oversight and accountability of the execution process,” said Rita Linhardt, death penalty liaison for the Missouri Catholic Conference, which opposes executions.
The law, which takes effect Aug. 28, followed the revelation last summer by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of the identity of Dr. Alan Doerhoff of Jefferson City. Doerhoff participated in dozens of executions and testified anonymously to a federal judge in a lawsuit challenging lethal injection.
Doerhoff came under criticism after disclosing that he occasionally altered the amount of anesthetic given to inmates, and after news reports that he had been sued for malpractice more than 20 times.
Post-Dispatch editor Arnie Robbins said Monday that the public has a right to know how the execution process works. But he said the newspaper isn’t planning a legal challenge.
The Missouri Press Association hasn’t decided whether to fight the law, but the group’s attorney, Jean Maneke, said the bill is “a direct attack on the public’s right to have people performing public service be properly qualified to do so.”
State Corrections Director Larry Crawford has said the bill should make it easier to recruit a doctor to assist in executions. For the past year, Missouri has been unable to find a willing physician with an expertise in anesthesia, as demanded by a federal judge.
“The value of the public’s need to know is trumped by the safety of both the guard and doctor and their family,” Crawford said in May.
Linhardt questioned that explanation.
“If the safety of the execution team members would’ve really been a major problem, we would’ve seen this bill long before we had 66 executions,” Linhardt said. “There’s a lot of people family members could take their revenge out on, but their identities are not confidential.”
The bill does make the state’s lethal injection protocol an open record, covering things such as the types, amounts and timing of drugs used, but not the doctor and execution team’s names or addresses.
A federal appeals panel ruled last month that Missouri’s lethal injection method is not cruel and unusual punishment, overruling a lower court’s effective freeze on executions. That decision is being appealed.
Missouri is among at least nine states that have put executions on hold as they grapple with whether lethal injection is humane. The state hasn’t executed an inmate since October 2005.

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