Page 2, 31st March 2000

31st March 2000
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Page 2, 31st March 2000 — Abortion ruling rocks Bolivian Church
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Locations: Toronto, La Paz, Detroit

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Abortion ruling rocks Bolivian Church

From Jeremy McDermott, Latin America correspondent

CHURCH LEADERS in Bolivia have said they want to excommunicate a judge who ordered doctors to give a 12-year-old girl an abortion after she was raped and impregnated by her stepfather.

"Abortion is a crime that deserves excommunication," said Bishop Jesus Juarez, stating that the ruling by Judge Juan Luis Ledezma violated fundamental Church beliefs, The Bolivian Church is also considering legal action against Judge Ledezma. Under local law, such an action could mean prison time in the unlikely event that a judge rules in the Church's favour.

"A horrendous crime was committed since the boy or girl was already 5 months old," said the Rev. Miguel Manzanera. "The judge will carry his decision in his conscience for the rest of his life."

Abortion is illegal in Bolivia but widely practised. The procedure in the case of the young girl was carried out in the capital La Paz after doctors in Cochabamba, the city where she lived, refused to obey the judge's order.

The girl's mother made a public statement after the abortion, covering her face with a cloth to protect her daughter's identity, "If the Church condemns me, I would still rather bum in hell rather than seeing my daughter suffer," the woman said, adding that her daughter was happy she went through with the abortion and will continue with her studies.

Feminist groups collected the money for the abortion.

Desecration `not a crime'

AN ANTI-CATHOLIC group that desecrated a Montreal cathedral will not be charged with hate crimes, to the outrage of Catholic groups and the national media.

The seven, who have been arrested, burst into the cathedral earlier this month shouting anti-Catholic slogans. They spray-painted "neither God, nor Master" on the altar and littered the church with condoms and sanitary towels. They also attempted to overturn the tabernacle.

A police spokesman said that hate crime charges applied only to spreading hatred against specific groups, not for "voicing issues of public concern" or expressing their opinion.

The president of the Catholic Civil Rights League, Thomas Langan said: "This was nothing less than a hate crime that meets the legal requirements for the extreme form of vilification."

Following the attack, the National Post, published in Toronto, said that if similar attacks were made in a Jewish synagogue in Toronto or if Ku Klux Klan members burned a cross on the front lawn of an African-American church in Nova Scotia, "these hateful acts would dominate the national media for days and politicians would be denouncing the perpetrators".

Cut arms bill, say bishops

US CATHOLIC bishops have called for reductions in their country's military budget and for the redirecting of funds to healthcare, education and tax relief for the nation's poorest citizens.

Thirty-four bishops launched Bread not Stones: A National Catholic Campaign to Redirect Military Spending at a press conference last week and urged the nation's 64 million Catholics to take an active part in the campaign.

In the US, 35 million people live in poverty and 31 million, including 12 million children, report not having enough to eat. For every 50 cents spent on the military, the US chooses to spend six cents on education and four cents on healthcare.

Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J Gumbleton of Detroit said: "Very clearly this is a moral issue. We as a nation have extraordinary resources, but we are misusing them, instead of using them for the purpose God has given them to us.

"We are not only causing the poor to be killed by the misuse of our resources, but we are dying spiritually."

The national campaign was conceived by the international peace group Pax Christi.




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