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Updated: 1 hour 26 min ago

Bishops ask faithful to flood Congress with calls for Conscience Protection Act

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 17:23

Washington D.C., Mar 6, 2018 / 03:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a statement asking people to pray, call, and write to their Congressional representatives to urge the inclusion of the Conscience Protection Act in the government’s upcoming funding bill.

The statement, issued by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the conference’s pro-life committee, and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the religious liberty committee, urges Catholics to “flood” their members of Congress in support of the act.

“Increasing and fierce attacks on conscience rights regarding abortion cry out for an immediate remedy,” said the archbishops. “Nurses and other health care providers and institutions are being forced to choose between participating in abortions or leaving health care altogether.”

While the bishops’ conference is encouraging action each day until the bill is enacted, they are especially focusing on Monday, March 12 as a day of action. The funding deadline is March 23.

The Conscience Protection Act would protect physicians and nurses from being forced to engage in procedures that violate their conscience, such as abortion or sterilization.

It would also prevent employers from being forced to cover abortions in their health care plans if the procedure violates their conscience beliefs. Currently, three states--California, Oregon, and New York--require most or all insurance plans to cover abortion.

“Opponents and supporters of abortion should be able to agree that no one should be forced to participate in abortion,” reads the bishops’ statement. “Congress must remedy this problem by enacting the Conscience Protection Act now as part of the FY 2018 funding bill.”

Failure to pass this legislation could result in prejudice against pro-life or religious employees, said Dr. Michael Parker of the Catholic Medical Association.

“If it’s not enacted, it could lead to discrimination against these people – failure to work for certain employers or given access to certain programs,” he told CNA.

“For example, Vanderbilt University made all their nurse practitioners in their programs agree to participate in abortion procedures in order to be accepted into their program,” Parker said. There have also been several cases where nurses have faced the threat of losing their job if they would not assist in an abortion.

Parker warned that forcing someone to violate their conscience in this manner could result in additional issues later in life. Mandating someone who is against abortion to perform or assist with one could “cause them to have significant remorse,” or could possibly trigger psychological problems.

“[The Catholic Medical Association] has always been for a conscience protection law that protects the conscience rights of physicians, especially in performing elective procedures such as abortions, sterilizations, physician-assisted suicide – or even genital mutilation,” said Parker.

The U.S. bishops’ conference has also released a video as part of the promotional effort for next week’s advocacy:

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Baltimore Blue Mass calls police to public leadership

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 16:42

Baltimore, Md., Mar 6, 2018 / 02:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, the Archdiocese of Baltimore celebrated a Blue Mass to honor the local police force and law enforcement officials, showing gratitude to the public servants and encouraging faithful leadership according to the Ten Commandments.

“Every day you put your lives on the line to keep the citizens of our city safe and strive to build bonds of trust between the police and the community,” said Archbishop William E. Lori in the homily.

“The fact that we’ve gathered together as a community of faith to pray with you and to pray for you is meant to be a source of comfort and encouragement to you and your colleagues,” he continued.

The Blue Mass took place on March 4 at St. Casimir Parish in Canton, one of the largest churches in the archdiocese. Archbishop Lori presided at the Mass, which was attended by police officers, local families, the Knights of Columbus, the Boy Scouts of America and the Maryland Catholic War Veterans. Mayor Catherine Pugh of Baltimore and Darryl De Sousa, the city police commissioner, were also in attendance.

Archbishop Lori prayed for the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel, patron saint of police officers, that those present would be protected from all harm and given “the strength, wisdom and virtue needed to fulfill your demanding responsibilities on behalf of all of us.”

Pointing toward the authority of the Ten Commandments, the archbishop that “the Word of God in Scripture may shed divine light on the work you have been called to do in our midst.”

“God’s Commandments are not unreasonable. The Lord did not command his people to do outlandish things; rather, through the Commandments he guided them to discover his law already written in their hearts, that innate sense of right and wrong, that inner voice which tells us to choose good and shun evil,” Lori said.

“As a rule, just laws enacted by civil authority relate in some way to one or more of the Ten Commandments,” the archbishop continued, saying that “if every citizen observed most of the Ten Commandments most of the time our society would be much more just and peaceful than it is.”

However, he noted, “The people of the Ancient Covenant did not always observe God’s Commandments…nor do people in our day always abide by human laws, however reasonable and just they may be.”

“Clearly, enacting just laws is not enough. Nor is it enough to cajole and even force people to be law abiding… something more is needed and it’s this: all of us, myself included, need to have the temple of our hearts cleansed,” Archbishop Lori said.

This conversion of heart is necessary in order to see real change in the community, leading people to obey God and his laws “as a free and loving response to his immense and merciful love,” he said.

“Just as Jesus cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem, so too he wants to cleanse and reform our hearts.”

The March 4 Mass came as the Catholic Church continues efforts to promote healing after heightened racial tensions in Baltimore took the national spotlight with the 2015 death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.

In 2016, the Justice Department issued a report criticizing policing abuses in Baltimore after an investigation into multiple allegations of police misconduct within the city. They found a “pattern of civil rights violations,” including the use of “enforcement strategies that unlawfully subject African Americans to disproportionate rates of stops, searches and arrests.”

“Signs of unity are particularly important now,” said Lt. Robert Quick Jr., one of the police officers in attendance at the Blue Mass, according to the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

“This is the greatest job in the world,” Quick continued, noting that “there is so much good in the world. To be able to help people is very rewarding.”

Bishops call for ‘common-sense gun measures’ after Florida school shooting

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 22:00

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2018 / 08:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the aftermath of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. that killed 17 people, two US bishops have issued a joint statement calling for “common-sense gun measures” and dialogue about specific proposals that will reduce gun violence and ensure school safety.

"Once again, we are confronted with grave evil, the murder of our dear children and those who teach them. Our prayers continue for those who have died, and those suffering with injuries and unimaginable grief. We also continue our decades-long advocacy for common-sense gun measures as part of a comprehensive approach to the reduction of violence in society and the protection of life,” the statement said.

The statement was issued by Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice, and  Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education.

The bishops said the idea of arming teachers “seems to raise more concerns than it addresses.” Rather, the bishops said “concepts that appear to offer more promise” would include “an appropriate minimum age for gun ownership,” universal background checks, and the banning of certain gun accessories, such bump stocks.

Previously, the USCCB has voiced support for several gun control measures, among them a ban on assault weapons, limits to high-capacity magazines, additional penalties for gun trafficking, as well as restrictions on who can purchase handguns. The USCCB is also in favor of child safety locks that prevent children from using guns.

The bishops also noted that violent images “inundate our youth.”

“We must explore ways to curb” these images, they said.

The bishops also pointed out that while the vast majority of people with mental health conditions are not violent, mental illness has played a role in many mass shootings. “We must look to increase resources and seek earlier interventions,” they said.

The Parkland shooter’s lawyers say that he has mental illness and “brain development issues.”

Since the shooting in Parkland, some Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students have become public advocates for increased gun control measures. The USCCB praised these students, saying that “the voices of these advocates should ring in our ears as they describe the peaceful future to which they aspire.”

With today's deadline struck down by courts, what's next for DACA?

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 18:04

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2018 / 04:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Although the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections did not expire on March 5, the passage of the original deadline has highlighted the uncertain fate of more than half a million Dreamers.

DACA is an Obama-era program created by executive order that offered work permits and temporary protection from deportation to people who were brought illegally to the United States as children and who registered with the program, known as Dreamers.

In September 2017, President Donald Trump sought to end the program, and gave Congress a six-month period to codify parts of DACA into law. March 5 was named as the end date for the original program. However, Congress failed to pass any legislation relating to immigration reform during this time.

Two federal judges blocked the March 5 expiration date for DACA, and the Supreme Court declined to hear an immediate review from the Trump administration protesting this decision, effectively punting the DACA issue to the fall.

Despite moving to end the program, Trump administration officials have said that they will not seek to target DACA recipients for deportation if the program expires. President Donald Trump has suggested an immigration reform plan that would tie DACA provisions to increased legal immigration restrictions and border security measures, including the building of a border wall. This plan, criticized by Senate Democrats, was not passed.

Without a firm deadline to codify DACA into law, it is unclear what will happen to the program. CNN suggested that lawmakers may try to pass legislation on the issue by March 23, the next government funding deadline, but sources involved in the process said that an agreement was unlikely. In January, the government shut down for nearly three days over the immigration issue.

In recent months, demonstrations in support of DACA recipients have taken place across the country.

Last week, 40 people were arrested as an act of civil disobedience at a Catholic-led DACA protest in a Senate office building. One of the arrested said she was aiming to “raise the consciousness of our legislators” and their inaction on immigration reform.

Archbishop Jose. H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice-president of the USCCB, has in the past been critical of efforts to tie immigration reform with border security, saying last month that it is “cruel” to use DACA recipients as “bargaining chips.”

“[T]his is no way for a great nation to make policy on such a crucial area as immigration,” he said.

The U.S. bishops had encouraged a National Call-in Day for Dreamers last month, encouraging the faithful to contact lawmakers and ask them to protect DACA recipients.

Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, said that the faithful who participated in the call-in day “recognize that protecting these young people from deportation is an issue of human life and dignity, and that a legislative solution is necessary to make that protection durable.”

“My brother Bishops and I continue to call upon Congress to work towards a bipartisan and humane solution as soon as possible,” he said.

St. Cloud is 4th Minnesota diocese to declare bankruptcy amid abuse lawsuits

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 18:00

St. Cloud, Minn., Mar 5, 2018 / 04:00 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Diocese of St. Cloud has announced that it will declare bankruptcy as it faces 74 civil claims alleging the sexual abuse of minors.

St. Cloud is the fourth diocese in Minnesota to declare bankruptcy after the passage of the Minnesota Child Victims Act in 2013, which lifted the civil statute of limitations for child abuse allegations until May 2016, giving alleged victims three years in which to file claims for abuse alleged to have occurred decades ago.

“I am committed to openness and transparency about how we are working to resolve these lawsuits. We will keep pastors and parishes informed about the process as it moves forward. I ask you to please continue to pray for healing for all victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse,” Bishop Donald Kettler said in a statement issued by the diocese on Feb. 28.

During the three-year window provided for by the Minnesota Child Victims Act, more than six hundred claims were filed against Catholic dioceses in Minnesota leading to bankruptcy announcements from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Diocese of New Ulm, and Diocese of Duluth.

Kettler announced that the St. Cloud Diocese plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, although no date has been set for this filing.

“This approach is the best way to ensure that available resources will be distributed equitably to all the victims and survivors, while allowing the diocese to continue its vital ministries that benefit the people of our 16 counties,” said Kettler, who met with the 31 clergy members named in the lawsuits prior to the announcement.

According to the Diocese of St. Cloud, the reorganization is not likely to impact the normal operations of its 131 parishes and 29 schools. 60 active priests serve more than 133,000 Catholics in the diocese.

Minnesota is one of four states to pass a temporary window allowing lawsuits for abuse claims exceeding the ordinary statute of limitations.

Analysis: In new pastoral plan, Cardinal Wuerl shares a missionary mandate

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 12:37

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2018 / 10:37 am (CNA).- Since the beginning of the debate on whether chapter eight of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia permits the divorced and civilly married to receive Holy Communion, Cardinal Donald Wuerl has lamented that the exhortation has been co-opted by that single issue and that, really, the Holy Father’s concern is much broader than that debate suggests.     

Some people, though, have suggested that the synods and Amoris Laetitia were simply a cover to change the practice of not giving Holy Communion to the divorced and civilly married. In a newly-released pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Wuerl has taken a decided step away from such a cynical view and captured the passion of the Pope Francis’ insistence that because we are all in need of it, we must also go out and give God’s mercy and truth to those who do not know it, who are not living it, and who are desperate to receive it.

Sharing in the Joy of Love in Marriage and Family, the Archdiocese of Washington's pastoral plan, focuses the implementation of the exhortation not on questions of sacramental doctrine and practice, since these truths have been definitively taught and Church teaching has not changed.
Rather, echoing a cornerstone in the thought of Pope Francis, Pope St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI, Wuerl’s plan begins with the principle that “the desire to love and to be loved is a deep, enduring part of our human experience.” This desire is part of God’s providential care for us and his plan for marriage. Echoing a reflection on our need for God that Joseph Ratzinger once made in his "Introduction to Christianity," Cardinal Wuerl notes that the joy of love in this life “gives us an invitation to experience Christian hope in the love of God that never ends.”

It’s somewhat surprising that it was thought necessary to hold two synods and to issue an apostolic exhortation to encourage priests and parish leaders to reach out to people living in irregular situations. In the United States I’ve certainly not noticed priests turning people away who struggle to live the Christian life. If anything, I think many priests are loathe to challenge people to strive for holiness and virtue by living in the grace of Jesus Christ. Perhaps that’s another story about our own weaknesses as priests and pastors.

But in a culture given over to secularism, materialism, and individualism, it’s indisputable that many people do not experience marriage as a force of life-giving joy. Moreover, in at least two generations, the majority of Catholics have not been catechized or given the teaching of the Church in a meaningful way. There are many reasons for that, but the question before us is what to do with those who live in irregular situations.

There are two extreme responses we could make to persons who aren’t living in the truth of Christ’s teaching about marriage. We could simply ignore the situation and let them continue on as they have been. Some may be living with a sort of resentment of the Church’s teaching, and some may be ignoring it (and receiving Holy Communion in the meantime). Or we could, upon learning of people’s sins and struggles, simply exhort them to live in a way consistent with Church teaching (and in those cases to refrain from Holy Communion until they do). Neither of these solutions seem aligned with a pastoral sensibility. The former is passively laxist and the latter will likely have no effect on persons unaccustomed to receiving difficult truths from ecclesial authority.

Despite the ambiguity of various passages in chapter eight of Amoris Laetitia, I think that the Holy Father asks us to choose neither of these paths. In his pastoral plan for the archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Wuerl avoids the question of Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly married, even though he repeatedly asserts the need for the formation of conscience, and explains that personal judgement does not supersede the objective moral order. Rather, noting that “each one of us is in an ‘irregular situation’ when it comes to our relationship with the true God,” the cardinal reminds his priests and pastoral leaders that the “Church offers the love and mercy of God as the sure path to fulfill the human desire for love, walks with those who bear and try to overcome the trials and difficulties that too often mark marriage and family as they do life in general.”

The thrust of the pastoral plan and the majority of the text, therefore, focuses on meeting people where they are and finding ways that priests, parish staff, and youth leaders can work to form the consciences of the faithful in order to invite those who are struggling in marriage and irregular relationships to come to know the mercy, love, and liberating truth that Jesus Christ offers.

Encouraging individual meetings between priest and parishioner, developing comprehensive formation in marriage with the assistance of mentor couples, offering retreats for couples, and teaching families to pray together are just some of the suggestions the pastoral plan makes.

Cardinal Wuerl’s plan focuses not specifically on couples in irregular situations but on all marriages. That’s why it focuses on preparing youth to give and to love, on developing a culture supporting the self-offering of marriage, on formation during the engagement period, and on supporting families in unique situations such as those with children who have special needs or those families with immigrant members.

After so much polarization, we finally now have a local implementation of Amoris Laeitia that sees the larger picture of Pope Francis’ challenge and vision. It’s a plan that doesn’t get bogged down in a question that was neither asked nor answered in the exhortation: whether divorced and civilly remarried can receive Holy Communion. That question was already answered by Pope St. John Paul II in his 1983 exhortation on the family Familiaris Consortio and has been reaffirmed repeatedly by the Holy See.

Some will no doubt be disappointed that Cardinal Wuerl did not repeat the Church’s teaching on the matter. Yet, it seems to me that to do so would be to continue the tired arguments of the last few years to the detriment of a vision that seeks to encounter the faithful and to help them not only to know the doctrines of our faith but to experience the liberating truth of what we believe.

The cardinal understands that “many adult Catholics do not know the fullness of what the Church teaches and have never experienced it lived out. Some know Church teaching, but citing the primacy of individual conscience (which is sometimes a misinformed conscience), they simply pick and choose which teachings they will practice or not follow.” He is also well aware of the pressures Catholics face from the culture not to take seriously the demands of Christ and his Gospel.

All of this being the case, Cardinal Wuerl’s pastoral plan recognizes that many people have great difficulty in grasping the positive value of the Church’s teaching or have difficulty in embracing it fully. Nevertheless, he is clear: “The underlying moral principle which should inform both that personal discernment and the priest’s ministry is that a person whose situation in life is objectively contrary to moral teaching can still love and grow in the faith, he or she can still take steps in the right direction and benefit from God’s mercy and grace while receiving assistance from the Church.”

We are not permitted to claim that any situation in this life is irredeemable or that any person is lost until they die in a state of mortal sin (which is something that only God can know definitively). So we have to believe that listening to, forgiving, loving, teaching, and accompanying those who struggle can by God’s grace initiate positives steps that move them in the right direction toward a normalized relationship with God: to reconcile with loved ones, to live chastely when necessary, and to live with integrity as children of God.

Some may insist that Cardinal Wuerl leaves too much to personal judgment and conscience. I point out that his pastoral plan clearly states that “prudential judgments of individuals about their own situation do not set aside the objective moral order.” Additionally, it states, “In Catholic pastoral ministry there is an interaction of objective moral directives and the effort to live them according to one’s ability to grasp them and thus make prudential judgments.”

While it is true that every person is bound to follow his or her conscience, the conscience must be well-formed. That people often act because their conscience is either ignorant of or deadened to the divine law does not lessen our responsibility not only to teach but also to evangelize and to accompany. Indeed, the mere statement of truth is not the goal of a disciple’s mission but rather the liberation and conversion of those caught in sorrow, addiction, and sin is.

Colorado bishops support religious freedom of jailed Mennonite

Sun, 03/04/2018 - 06:38

Denver, Colo., Mar 4, 2018 / 04:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Colorado bishops have released a statement of solidarity with a Mennonite investigator who has been imprisoned for failing to testify in a death penalty case due to her religious beliefs.

“Religious freedom ensures that all people have the freedom to believe and act according to their faith; it is a fundamental right and constitutionally protected in the United States. This right encompasses the ability to practice one’s faith openly, without undue interference from the government or others,” read a Feb. 28 statement from the Colorado Catholic Bishops.

“Ms. Lindecrantz should not be punished for her religious beliefs and convictions regarding the death penalty and the taking of human life,” they continued.

Greta Lindecrantz, a Mennonite, was a prominent investigator in the defense counsel for a man named Robert Ray during the 2000s. Ray was ultimately convicted as an accessory to murder in the death of Gregory Vann, and additionally for ordering the murders of two witnesses. He was later sentenced to death row.

Years later, a death-sentence appeal case for Ray was opened, prompting prosecutors to question Lindecrantz and her participation in Ray’s case. Lindecrantz has refused to testify on grounds of her religious objections to the death penalty, which caused Judge Michelle Amico to hold her in contempt.

Lindecrantz has been in imprisoned since Monday and could face upwards of 6 months in jail, without bail.

“I feel like I was handed a gun and I was told to point it at Mr. Ray, and the gun might or might not have bullets in it, but I’d have to fire it anyway. I can’t shoot the gun. I can’t shoot the gun,” Lindecrantz told the judge during court proceedings, according to the Washington Post.

Mennonites are conscientious objectors to all forms of violence, including the death penalty. During legal proceedings this week, the local Denver Mennonite communities filled the courtroom in solidarity with Lindecrantz.

“For the court to imprison her until she is broken, until her will is broken, and she abandons her faith and her view that she cannot participate in state-sanctioned killing is an abomination,” said Mari Newman, Lindecrantz’s attorney during a news conference.

Colorado bishops urged the court to respect Lindecrantz’ religious objections, stressing that she should not be forced into participating in a proceeding that is contrary to her beliefs.

“As a country and a State, we have long recognized the social value of genuinely accommodating deeply held religious convictions and this should hold true in the case of Greta Lindecrantz,” the bishops said.

“It is our hope that Ms. Lindecrantz’s right to religious freedom will be respected and upheld and that she will not continue to be coerced into behaving in ways that are contrary to her faith or into accepting an ideology that is at odds with her beliefs.”

Washington archdiocese issues Amoris Laetitia marriage plan

Sat, 03/03/2018 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Mar 3, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Washington has released a pastoral plan aiming to implement Amoris Laetitia within the archdiocese.

Amoris Laetitia is the post-synodal apostolic exhortation published by Pope Francis in April of 2016 following two episcopal synods on the family.

The Archdiocesan pastoral plan focuses primarily on encouraging marriages are open to life; the ministry of accompaniment; building welcoming parish communities; and combating challenges posed by modern culture.

This, Catholic University of America professor Dr. Chad Pecknold told CNA, is a “breath of fresh air.”

Pecknold praised Cardinal Donald Wuerl for his clarity in maintaining that Church teaching has not changed, and that objective truth exists.

“One of the most important things that the cardinal stresses —relying as much on Saint John Paul’s Veritatis Splendor as on Amoris Laetitia — is that the Church must not only proclaim the objective moral truths, but also attend to how people can experience and be formed by these truths,” said Pecknold.

Amoris Laetitia has been the subject of controversy because, among other things, some theologians have questioned its treatment of Catholics who have been divorced and civilly remarried without an annulment from the Catholic Church,

A widely criticized footnote in the exhortation’s eighth chapter seemed to some critics to suggest that there could be a path for couples in “irregular unions” to partake in the Eucharist following an examination of conscience. This has become a subject of considerable debate, and some cardinals have requested that Pope Francis clarify certain elements of the exhortation.

Wuerl’s pastoral plan includes a subsection emphasizing that Amoris Laetitia did not change what the Church teaches on any topic. While Catholics should use their own consciences to make decisions, Wuerl states plainly that, “Prudential judgments of individuals about their own situation do not set aside the objective moral order.”

Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., vice president and academic dean of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies, echoed Pecknold’s praise.

Petri told CNA that he was pleased with the majority of the plan, and was encouraged that it focused on the larger context of Amoris Laetitia as a whole.

“The pastoral plan is much more concerned with the pastoral encounter between priests, the Church, and those who are struggling to live the Christian life in marriage. This is what I think Amoris Laetitia was always about,” Petri said.

Petri also noted that despite the frequent mention of the challenges of modernity and current culture for the modern family, the plan says nothing about a potential path for allowing the divorced and remarried to receive Communion.

“On the contrary, finding ways to meet people, help them grow in faith, and closer to the Lord is what is key in this pastoral implementation of Amoris Laetitia,” he said.

“In fact, I would say, that part of the mercy of God is sometimes helping people slowly learn the truth of their situation in the sight of God and with his grace, taking steps to reconcile what has gone wrong in their past.”

The plan stresses the importance of a strong parish community that is welcoming to all, including those it terms the “anonymous.” These “anonymous” included the poor, infertile couples, the disabled, ethnic minorities, and with a “lack of authentic friendships, sneaking in and out of church without notice, young people church-hopping Sunday after Sunday without belonging to a parish community.”
The plan emphasizes that these groups should be made to feel welcome by a Church community, because “the Church must live up to its identity as a ‘family of families”’(AL, 202) where each person is recognized, cared for, and loved.”

Cardinal Wuerl identified secularism, materialism, and individualism as three challenges facing people today. These challenges, he said, impede the proper formation of consciences, which results in the necessity of “the ministry for encountering and accompanying families through a process of discernment and growth in the faith” as part of the new evangelization.

Pecknold agreed with this sentiment, and lauded the plan as a way for parishes to assist people with both the proper formation of their consciences and to better understand their faith.

“Instead of highlighting ambiguous phrases of Amoris Laetitia to teach new things,” he said, “this pastoral plan looks at how the Church can help people experience and understand the objective truths of the faith even in the midst of their own failures, challenges, and hopes.”


Catholic lawyer voices concern at Supreme Court's immigrant bond ruling

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 21:20

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2018 / 07:20 pm (CNA).- After the Supreme Court rejected the idea that detained immigrants are entitled to periodic bond hearings, a Catholic immigration lawyer warned that detention centers take a toll on those who spend long periods of time there.

“I was just recently in a facility in South Texas where they were detaining children and families and it was an old Walmart that had been converted into a jail like facility,” said Michelle Saenz-Rodriguez, who serves on the Dallas bishop’s Immigration Task Force.

The detention facility has a “bathroom in the middle of the room. You don't have any privacy, which really makes people feel that...they don't have any dignity,” Saenz-Rodriguez told CNA.

“A lot of people are depressed...they have suffered violence in their country and now they really need treatment,” she continued.

On Feb. 27, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that periodic bond hearings are not required for detained immigrants who face possible deportation.

The class-action lawsuit, Jennings vs. Rodriguez, was brought by a collection of immigrants who have been in custody for long periods of time. It includes both immigrants who are claiming asylum and those who were detained on charges of committing a crime.

A lower court had ruled that bond hearings must be held every six months in cases where an immigrant is being detained.

Saenz-Rodriguez, a Catholic immigration lawyer who has worked with the detained for 27 years, said immigrants often refer to these detainment centers as the “hieleras” or “refrigerators” due to the constant, uncomfortably cold temperature inside.

She said that she often sees cases in which the detention time is 14-15 months or more.

“I have a client right now...who had applied for asylum in the United States and was actually deported...He was sent back to Honduras and when he was in Honduras they [a gang] tried to kill him and he was badly, badly beaten. So he makes his way back to America and he is detained at entry...not entitled to any type of bond,” said Saenz-Rodriguez. “It took us, I want to say, 16 months to get his case heard and ultimately he was granted protection.”

“Unfortunately, right now it is a broken system that is overburdened and the immigration judges, even though they want to hear cases, there is just not enough human manpower to get it done,” she said.

She added that the immigrants in question often “turn themselves in. They don't sneak across the border. They literally walk up to the bridge or the officer and say ‘I'm here seeking protection,’ so it is not like they are catching them.”

“I mean there is a certain extent of human trafficking where you'll see a smuggler trying to bring people across, but the vast majority of people who have asked for asylum are turning themselves in when they get to the border.”

Dr. Christopher Wolfe, a University of Dallas politics professor specializing in Constitutional Law and Catholic Social Teaching, said that “the question of whether this issue involves an injustice or not is not the same as whether the policy is unconstitutional or not. Those are two different questions.”

“I would doubt that there is Constitutional grounds for requiring bail hearings for detained immigrants. And, therefore, it seems best to me that those who think such a policy is necessary should go to Congress to get legislation for it,” he told CNA.

Saenz-Rodriguez said that she has been encouraged by Dallas Bishop Edward Burns’ involvement in seeking to serve the immigrant community in his diocese.

“He's been out there and he immediately formed a task force of all the different sectors of the community trying to say, ‘How do we make people understand that this should not be a polarizing issue? This needs to be a humanitarian issue.’”


Pro-life Democrat Lipiniski faces NARAL backed challenger

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 16:35

Denver, Colo., Mar 2, 2018 / 02:35 pm (CNA).- Pro-life Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois faces a primary challenger backed by pro-abortion rights groups, putting a focus on the priorities of the Democratic Party and its sympathizers.
“I think my pro-life beliefs fit in perfectly with standing up for the little guy, the little girl, those who are most vulnerable among us. I think that fits in with the Democratic Party,” Lipinski told CNA March 1.
“It used to be, if you go back 40 years ago, there was not at all a partisan split between the parties on being pro-life. There were pro-life Democrats and pro-life Republicans and there were Democrats and Republicans on the other side,” he said. “Just as 40 years ago it made sense for Democrats to be pro-life, it still makes sense today.”
The pro-abortion rights groups EMILY’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood have backed Lipinski’s primary challenger, Emily Newman, who has been endorsed by several other Democratic members of Congress ahead of the March 20 primary election in a heavily Democratic Chicago-area district. The LGBT activist group Human Rights Campaign has also backed Newman.
Some Democrats say NARAL’s activism is a reason Lipinski has not yet been endorsed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is in charge of helping Democratic congressional candidates.
NARAL’s chief financial officer, Steven Kravitz, is treasurer of an anti-Lipinski political action committee, Citizens for a Better Illinois, which in the last month has spent over $400,000 to oppose Lipinski, Politico reports.
Newman’s camp had its own explanation.
“Democratic Party institutions’ reticence(sic) to endorse Rep. Lipinski is understandable — Rep. Lipinski is a Democrat in name only,” said Newman’s campaign manager Erik Wallenius, according to Politico.
Lipinski, however, defended his party affiliation.
“I’m a Democrat because I think there are times when the government needs to stand up for those who are defenseless, those who need help,” Lipinski said, citing the needs of senior citizens on Medicare or Social Security.
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, said the congressman’s opponents within the party had engaged in a “misinformation campaign” trying to link him to conservative causes.
“When you look at his record, he’s not a conservative,” Day told CNA. “He’s been representing his district and the Democrats in his district quite well. Labor, education, environment—he has a 90-something percent lifetime record in those areas.”
“The traditional Democratic Party supported labor, supported education, supported working families,” she said. “Now I think the abortion lobby is trying to reinvent what it means to be a Democrat.”
Day stressed the importance of Lipinski’s role as co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.
“He’s been a huge voice for the 21 million pro-life Democrats who see him as our leader,” Day said. “He’s the one we can count on. He’s fighting there for us in Congress in trying to push the Democratic Party to be more understanding and supportive of our point of view.”
“His voice there is hugely important in making sure the life issue continues to be bipartisan,” she said, warning that the elimination of pro-life Democrats in Congress would harm the pro-life movement as a whole.
In the wake of claims Planned Parenthood violated laws against selling fetal tissue for profit, in 2015 Lipinski voted to defund the organization and transfer its funding to over 13,500 other health clinics--legislation which failed to pass the Senate. He co-sponsored a bill to add the criminal penalty of murder to the Born Alive Infants Protection Act.
In 2010, he was one of the few Democrats to vote against the Affordable Health Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, and later backed legislation intended to address concerns about abortion funding and religious freedom violations enabled by the initial legislation and President Barack Obama’s related executive order.
Lipinski attributed his primary challenge to an effort among some Democratic Party activists to create a “Tea Party of the Left.”
“They want to have a party that is pure as they define that, and so I think that’s a big reason for that (primary challenge) right now,” he said, warning that efforts to narrow the party would harm its prospects for electoral success.
“Democrats need to be a ‘big tent’ party,” he said.
“I think it’s terrible for the party at this time when we’ve lost over 1,000 seats nationwide since 2010. At the 2014 election, Democrats in the House were at our lowest point since the Great Depression when Herbert Hoover was president. We’ve come up a little bit since then but we still have a big deficit to make up.”
Day also thought campaigns against pro-life Democratic officeholders would harm the political prospects of Democrats, about 30 percent of whom self-describe as pro-life.
“I really believe the Democratic Party is listening to the wrong people right now.  Abortion on demand, taxpayer funding, pushing pro-lifers out of the party is not going to be a strategy that’s going to help us build,” she said. “This doesn’t feel like a good long-term strategy to be not backing a loyal Democrat.”

Lipinski said that pro-life Democrats who stand for election face a tough fight.
“The issue is more on the outside than inside the party,” he said. “There are activist groups who have a lot of influence in Democratic primaries who are on the other side. They want to defeat pro-life Democrats in primaries. That makes it much more difficult.”
“The party needs to step up and say 'we will support pro-life candidates who want to run for office,'” he added. “I think the pro-life groups need to step up and understand that there’s a need to have pro-life people in both parties, and they need to step up for pro-life Democrats in primaries.”
Day said abortion backers will find their own candidates to run against pro-lifers.
“The abortion lobby has a history of targeting pro-life Democrats,” she said. In her view, the massive expenditures in a safe Democratic district “shows that the abortion lobby cares more bout their own issue than the health of the party.”
Lipinski, a member of the Blue Dog Democrat coalition, has the endorsement of many labor unions, and both major Chicago newspapers. On March 1, he secured the endorsement of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, as of Dec. 31 Newman had about $236,000 cash on-hand, while Lipinski had $1.6 million. His internal polling numbers put him ahead about 30 points, the Washington Examiner reports.
As for Democrats for Life of America, the group will be holding their annual conference in Denver July 20-22 on the theme “We Want our Party Back”
“We’re the party that’s supposed to protect those who need assistance, including pregnant women who don’t want to have abortions but feel that it’s their only choice,” Day said. “We want to be representing what we’re historically representing.”


Ohio revenge porn bill could protect human dignity, priest says

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 05:15

Cincinnati, Ohio, Mar 2, 2018 / 03:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An Ohio priest praised a proposed state law to criminalize the nonconsensual publishing of sexual videos or photos, known as “revenge porn.”

Monsignor John Zuraw, chancellor of the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, told CNA that he believes the legislation would help protect the dignity of Ohio’s residents.

“When we look at that idea of what porn is all about, porn promotes harmful and destructive views of the human person,” said Monsignor Ziraw. “Revenge porn laws protect the dignity of the human person.”

Revenge porn is when an ex-romantic partner – or a hacker – posts sexual videos or photos of a person without their consent.

More than 30 states currently have laws against revenge porn, but Ohio only prosecutes the posting of pornography featuring underage children, or pornography used as blackmail. The state currently does not penalize a person for simply distributing non-consensual pornography.

Introduced to the Ohio Senate on January 25, the bill was sponsored by Senator Joe Schiavoni, who had unsuccessfully introduced similar legislation in 2016. The bill has now gained support from members of the Aurora police force, including Chief Bryan Byard and Detective Sgt. Dan Kalk.

The bill would provide “compensatory and punitive damages for harm resulting from the violation” and a “temporary restraining order prohibiting further dissemination of the image.”  

According to Record-Courier, Detective Kalk, who is also an attorney, helped craft the bill after Aurora authorities struggled to find a charge for alleged offenders of revenge porn.

He said the bill would help clarify which jurisdiction should investigate or prosecute a specific crime, which can be unclear if a perpetrator is in a different city from where the victim lives.

Additionally, he said the legislation would forbid employers and universities from discriminating against victims.

Monsignor Zuraw explained that all pornography “debases the human person,” but said that revenge porn adds an additional dimension of harm.

“When we move into…revenge porn, there are two aspects there: it is the pornography that promotes harmful and destructive views of the human person, but then that whole aspect of revenge that I’m getting back at you because you didn’t do what you should be doing for me.”   

Monsignor Zuraw emphasized that human sexuality is an extension of God’s goodness, but must be seen in the context of God’s creation.

“When God created each every one of us, he created our sexuality as an aspect of what is good. We should never lose sight of what God has created and ultimately what is good is to benefit us in ways that are not selfish.”


Texas bishops raise concerns about state pro-life group

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 21:00

Austin, Texas, Mar 1, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops has suggested churches in Texas sever ties with pro-life group Texas Right to Life, encouraging Catholic to volunteer with other pro-life groups in the state.

The TCCB’s advisory was read after Masses and printed in church bulletins in the Diocese of Fort Worth last Sunday. Texas Right to Life is the state affiliate of National Right to Life.

The TCCB urged in a parish advisory notice that Catholics not be involved with Texas Right to Life’s activities and that parishes not allow the organization to use their sites for events.

The TCCB cited Texas Right to Life’s opposition to incremental pro-life reforms, such as laws that restrict certain types of abortion rather than outlaw the act entirely, and mentioned “conflicts on end-of-life reform” and issues with the organization’s voter guide among their concerns about the organization.

“The bishops have been compelled to publicly correct Texas Right to Life’s misstatements on end-of-life care and advance directives,” the bishops stated.

“Texas Right to Life implied that the legislation the bishops were supporting allowed euthanasia and death panels rather than the reality that the legislation reflected the long-standing Church teaching requiring a balance of patient autonomy and the physician conscience protection.”

The TCCB claimed that Texas Right to Life’s voter guide excluded pro-life members of the Texas legislature, and “was not based on a fair analysis of a legislator’s work.”

“Unfortunately, a number of legislators who have consistently voted for pro-life and end of life legislation have been opposed by Texas Right to Life,” said the bishops.

The TCCB encouraged people to volunteer their time with other pro-life organizations as well as Church-sponsored pro-life ministries.

On its website, Texas Right to Life issued a statement defending themselves from the TCCB’s claims, saying they were “disappointed but not surprised.” Texas Right to Life stated that the bishops were being “uncharitable” in their description of the group, and that they had in fact worked hard to secure wins in the legislature.

“Uncharitable mischaracterizations of our political and policy goals serve only to dissolve the spirit of collaboration that yielded recent legislative victories to protect the most vulnerable in our state—victories that were hard-fought against the leadership of the Texas House,” they said.

Texas Right to Life also defended their voter’s guide, saying that they were seeking to endorse candidates who would commit to new legislative leadership in the state.

Joe Pojman of the Texas Alliance for Life in Austin told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that “some of [Texas Right to Life’s] goals are not well-founded in law.”

The group has come under criticism from others who claim that even pro-life legislators face reprisal from Texas Right to Life if they vote contrary to the group’s recommendations.

Republican Kyleen Wright, president of Texans for Life, told the Star-Telegram, “I thought our pro-life lawmakers would need protection from abortion-minded people. But no — we have to protect them from Texas Right to Life saying they're not pro-life enough.”

Iowa Senate passes fetal heartbeat abortion ban

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 19:00

Des Moines, Iowa, Mar 1, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- On Wednesday, the Iowa Senate approved a measure 30-20 that would prohibit abortions in the state after a baby’s heartbeat is detected during a pregnancy.

The legislation, Senate File 2281, moves that a physician cannot perform an abortion after a heartbeat has been detected. The measure would require that physicians test women before an abortion to determine the presence of a fetal heartbeat. The bill would make certain exceptions in cases of medical emergencies.

The legislation now moves on to the House of Representatives, which has a Republican majority.

A statement from the the Iowa Catholic Conference said that the state’s bishops “support the life-affirming intent of ‘heartbeat’ abortion legislation such as Senate File 2281.”

“We appreciate legislators for their efforts to advance the protection of unborn children and we remain committed to helping with efforts aimed at resolving questions regarding the bill’s constitutionality,” the statement continued.

During the legislation’s presentation in the Senate, the bill’s sponsor Sen. Amy Sinclair said that the presence of a beating heart is the “indication of another human being’s life,” according to the Des Moines Register.

Fetal heartbeats during pregnancy can be detected around 6-7 weeks of pregnancy.

“Please take a moment with me to reflect on what it means to be human, to be a person with rights, to aggressively defend your own right to life and to defend your reasonable expectation that your government should actively support you and all other individuals with a beating heart in that very same endeavor,” Sinclair said

“Senate File 2281 gets at the very heart and soul of what it means to be an American, of what it means to be a person,” she continued.

Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, a leading opponent of the bill, called the legislation “unfathomable,” saying that “there are no other provisions in Iowa code that say an Iowan cannot access medical care unless it is to prevent death.”

If the bill passes, and a physician did perform an abortion after a fetal heartbeat had been detected, the doctor could be criminally charged with a Class D felony and serve upwards of 5 years in prison.

The fetal heartbeat abortion ban was attempted last year by House Republicans, but withdrawn when it failed to gain support. However, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad did sign a bill last year prohibiting most abortions after 20-weeks of pregnancy.

“Science shows that life begins at conception,” the Iowa bishops' statement read.

“May we continue to work together in solidarity on ways to protect vulnerable people, including the unborn.”


Indiana Catholic priest charged with domestic violence against wife

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 18:53

Indianapolis, Ind., Mar 1, 2018 / 04:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A married Catholic priest in the Indianapolis archdiocese faces several criminal domestic violence charges after he allegedly assaulted his wife in September 2017.

The priest serves the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, a special church jurisdiction set up for Anglicans who wished to enter the Catholic Church, often as a group, while retaining many of their customs. Because they come from the Anglican tradition, some priests in the ordinariate are married.

The ordinariate said in a statement that it is “committed to collaborating with authorities to ensure justice is provided for all concerned, and affirms the Catholic Church’s clear teaching that domestic violence is never justified,” the Indianapolis television station FOX59 reports.

Father Luke W. Reese, 49, is charged with kidnapping, criminal confinement, intimidation, and domestic battery in a Sept. 24 incident after he allegedly discovered his wife was having an affair.

A former Anglican clergyman ordained as a Catholic priest in June 2016 for the ordinariate, he was serving at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Indianapolis.

The victim’s probable cause affidavit said she was in the backseat of a vehicle with a man when Reese arrived and told her to get out. He then drove her around the city as he hit her and played loud heavy metal music. He took her to Holy Rosary Church and, the victim claims, forced her to kneel at the altar. He said he could choke her, then slammed her into a wall and hit her head on their vehicle before they left.

He reportedly drove his wife to Auburn to force her to tell her grandmother what had happened. When they returned home, the priest allegedly forced her to have sexual relations.

The ordinariate said the priest was put on administrative leave on Sept. 27, 2017 “when he disclosed actions that resulted in criminal charges related to domestic violence.”

Mary Foley Panszi, the alleged victim’s attorney, said, “It is unfortunate when anyone is a victim of domestic violence or physical abuse.” She lamented comments “from people within the church and the greater Indiana community at large, saying it must be the victim’s fault,” given the current environment in which men and women are “much more conscious and aware of the devastation that is caused to the abused victims and their families.”

Soon after the alleged assault, Holy Rosary pastor Father C. Ryan McCarty said in a church bulletin announcement that Reese had notified him of “some personal and family issues which would require a greater amount of his attention.” Reese had asked for a leave of absence from Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, who granted a leave of absence of indeterminate length.

The pastor asked the parish to respect the privacy of Reese and his family and continue to pray for them.



True story of Christian-Muslim solidarity nominated for an Oscar

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 16:18

Los Angeles, Calif., Mar 1, 2018 / 02:18 pm (CNA).- Amid the crime thrillers, historical dramas and love stories at the Oscars this year, one little-noticed short film tells a true story of religious solidarity in a face of terrorism.

When militants with Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group in East Africa, stormed a bus in Kenya in 2015, they ordered the more than 100 passengers to separate into Christians and Muslims, in order to kill the Christians present in the group.

The Muslims refused, however, shielding their fellow Christians and offering their hijabs so the women could not be identified by their religion. As a result of this act of solidarity, almost all of the passengers survived the attack.

The story is recounted in the short film “Watu Wote,” which is Swahili for “All of Us.”

The movie focuses on the character Jua, a Christian who is traveling to a relative’s house. Jua is uncomfortable getting on a bus surrounded by Muslims, and the film highlights the tensions between the two religious communities, before the two groups come together during the terrorist attack.

The 23-minute film has already won 29 awards – including best short film at the Brooklyn International Film Festival and the Biberach Film Festival – and is nominated for Best Live Action Short Film in the 2018 Oscars.

It was directed by Katja Benrath, as a graduation project for her master’s studies at Hamburg Media School. Writers include Julia Drache and Alexander Ikawah, and actors include Barhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, and Adelyne Wairimu.


Human dignity in the 21st century – Alaskan bishops release pastoral letter

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 05:03

Juneau, Alaska, Mar 1, 2018 / 03:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of Alaska released a joint pastoral letter this month, highlighting the meaning, origin, and implications of human dignity in today’s world.  

“What God creates is good. With this pastoral letter, we wish to invite a closer examination of the human person and human sexuality from God’s perspective, wisdom and love,” the bishops wrote.

“Human life is sacred precisely because its origin is from God, is sustained by God, and is ordered to return to God. This biblical understanding is the basis for the Church’s teaching that all life, from conception to natural death, is sacred and holds inherent dignity that must be protected,” they continued.

Entitled “Living in the Image and Likeness of God,” the Feb. 14 pastoral letter was signed by Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage; Archbishop Emeritus Roger Schwietz of Anchorage; Bishop Chad W. Zielinski of Fairbanks; and Bishop Andrew E. Bellisario of Juneau.

The bishops outlined the reasons behind the Church’s teaching on life and death, and how it should affect every Catholic’s attitude towards others.

“The Church, and we – her members – are called to work for an end to abortion and the death penalty. We are also called to resist legislative efforts that would allow the taking of any human life by medically prescribed suicide,” said the bishops.

The Church, they continued, “makes it clear that life must be respected as a gift, but a gift that is not ours to own outright, but one that must be in keeping with God’s desire and design for humanity.”

Because the Church’s teaching is clear on the importance of respecting human life and dignity, the bishops went on to say that self-respect is crucial to understanding overall sacredness of life.

“Our body is a temple of the Lord, and in relationship with Christ, we learn to grow in virtue and self-discipline.”

The bishops pointed to a number of obstacles to the protection of life in Alaskan society, particularly suicide and addiction. Alaska has the second highest number of suicides per capita, they said, and many individuals struggle with drug or pornography addictions.

In addition, the Alaska bishops highlighted global struggles, including violence, division, indifference to the poor, homelessness and racism, as well as refugee crises around the world. They also noted the mounting attacks against religious freedom, which has “come under threat in recent years.”

Despite these challenges, the bishops noted the importance of treating each individual with the dignity of “a child of God.” They also underscored the importance of helping to “heal the wounds of our brothers and sisters” and to be “agents of reconciliation,” noting that Christ is the ultimate healer.

“It is Christ who holds all things together. Christ breaks down the walls that divide us, and He roots out the prejudices that erode our common humanity; He makes us one.”

Closely related to the truth of human dignity is the proper understanding of human sexuality, the prelates said, which relates to other topics such as marriage, chastity, and the understanding of gender.

“This truth that all human life has its origins in God’s creative love also shapes our understanding of human sexuality,” they emphasized.

“Human sexuality is a gift, as well as a powerful, mysterious complexity of affection, emotion, and passion, all lived out in the body, which is marked by a complementarity – male and female,” the bishops said, adding that this relationship is “ordered to conjugal love of husband and wife in marriage.”

The Church teaches that marriage is a bond, holy and sacred, which can only be shared between a man and a woman. The bishops said that this institution, which has been “willed by God at the beginning of creation,” has also been under attack by its recent redefinition through the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in “Obergefell v. Hodges.”

Because of this, the Church should further promote efforts to “support and strengthen the Church’s understanding of marriage and family,” the bishops said.

They also noted the importance of chastity in modern times, as the “virtue that integrates one’s sexuality within the dignity of person as created in the image and likeness of God.”

Chastity, said the bishops, should be practiced in all vocations, whether married, consecrated, or single, because it mirrors Christ’s ultimate gift of self.

“At the heart of our relationship with Christ is the call to make a gift of self to others, for this is the heart of love, the good of another,” the bishops said.

“True human joy and contentment can only be found in faithfully living according to the natural law, the moral law of the Creator.”

The bishops also reflected on the struggle with gender identity, saying that “we cannot dismiss God’s creation of the human person as male or female.” However, they also acknowledged “the challenging complexities involved for individuals” who struggle with relating to their biological sex.

Discussing individuals with homosexual tendencies, they stressed that Catholics cannot “condone immoral behaviors,” but rather should “recognize them as brothers and sisters” worthy of respect.

“We simply must give witness to the news of Jesus Christ, both in good times and in bad. In doing so, we seek only to love and serve all those with whom we share in a common humanity, a common dignity.”

The bishops voiced that “every age has its challenges,” but the key to living as a Christian in turbulent times is to “keep our eyes fixed on Christ.” They noted every Catholic’s responsibility to live an “integrated faith life, in public and in private,” and to seek interior conversion through formation of the human conscience and a relationship with Christ.

“Our relationship with Jesus Christ gives us hope in the knowledge that we are redeemed in His mercy,” the bishops said.

“With this pastoral letter, we encourage all to draw closer to Christ, to continually renew their relationship with Him so that we may seek the truth of Christ together, that we may live more fully the dignity that is ours, being created in the image and likeness of God.”


What's in it for men? The benefits of getting married

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 02:05

Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2018 / 12:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While the phrase “ball and chain” is still sometimes tossed around by those who view marriage as a burden, a recent study shows that men who tie the knot reap a plethora of benefits.

“Indeed, the benefits of marriage for men are substantial by every conceivable measure, including money, a better sex life, and significantly better physical and mental health,” noted a recent study released by the Institute for Family Studies.

“There’s no doubt that marriage requires sacrifices… but it turns out that these sacrifices pay for themselves and more.”

The study, titled “Man & Marriage: Debunking the Ball and Chain Myth,” was authored by researchers W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas H. Wolfinger.

Ultimately, the data indicated that men reap numerous benefits from marriage, including reports of boosted happiness and well-being. However, research showed that despite these benefits, many men still attach a negative stigma with marriage, as seen in the declining marriage rate, particularly among young men.

According to the research, married men earn around 10-40 percent more money than single men do. Married men are also less likely to be fired and tend to be more successful in business, the study found.

“Married men typically end up with a lot more money than their single peers,” the study said, noting that even men who were married and divorced fare better career-wise than single men.

In addition to career benefits, married men also find that sex is “more emotionally and physically pleasurable than their unmarried peers.”

According to the National Health and Social Life Survey, 51 percent of married men were extremely satisfied with their sex lives, while only 39 percent of cohabiting men, and 36 percent of single men, could say the same.

Research has shown that men are more sexually satisfied when they are in a lasting relationship because both spouses are making long-term investments in intimacy.

Marriage is also good for men’s physical and mental health. For example, men who are married and stay married have a longer life-span, outliving unmarried men by about 10 years.

“What accounts for these surprising findings? Simply put, the companionship, the support, and even the nagging that men get from their wives in marriage translate into better physical health,” the study said.

Additionally, spouses “appear to manage illness better, monitor each other’s health, and adopt healthier life-styles,” compared to singles.

The relationship between spouses also boosts social and emotional health. Married men reported less depression and more overall happiness than single men. The General Social Survey found that 43 percent of married men, ages 20-39, were “very happy” with their lives, while only 20 percent of bachelors said the same.

Ultimately, the research is proving that marriage offers various advantages for men, noting that that “marriage confers enormous benefits for men’s wallets, for their sex life, and for their physical and mental health.”

Yet, many men are not saying “I do” because of a negative stigma surrounding the institution or because of the perceived toll marriage would take on a man’s “freedom.” Many men remain ignorant of the multitude of marital benefits, the study’s authors said.

“We believe these negative perceptions need to change. The first step is ensuring that the next generation knows the truth about marriage,” the study said.

“Journalists, social scientists, and policy-makers bear a special responsibility for making the good news about marriage more widely known.”

How the rosary helped Jim Caviezel play St. Luke

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- “Passion of the Christ” star Jim Caviezel told CNA that he relied on scripture, daily Mass and the rosary to portray holiness on the big screen in “Paul, the Apostle of Christ.”

The film, which premieres March 23, depicts the persecution of the early Christians in Rome under Emperor Nero, along with an imprisoned Saint Paul conveying a message of hope at the end of his life.

“I thought that that was one of the greatest parts of the script,” Caviezel told CNA. “Here is a beat up old man in prison, facing execution. How can this man be a light to the world?”

“But it’s often through our struggles, our trials, our tragedies that triumph comes,” the Catholic actor said.

Caviezel plays the role of Saint Luke, who regularly visits Paul in prison to document his story while composing the Acts of the Apostles. The audience sees Luke serving the early Christian community in Rome as a physician, spiritual leader and writer.

“He [Luke] mentioned the Virgin Mary more than any other writer,” reflected Caviezel on portraying the Gospel evangelist, “I use the rosary to focus, to pray.”

“I go to Mass every day and the Eucharist is Christ in me,” Caviezel continued, “Everything that I do is always with heaven's help. It directs my path. It guides me. It is where I got my talent from. What I give back to God from what he has given me … he just multiplies it and blesses it in ways that I never thought possible.”

Caviezel says that he also has “a great devotion to the patron saint of actors, Saint Genesius.”

The role of Paul is played by British actor James Faulkner, who previously had supporting roles in “Game of Thrones” and “Downton Abbey.”

“Well I'm happy to admit that Jim is a much more devout Christian than am I, and I drew from his faith whenever possible,” said Faulkner, who was raised in the Church of England.

Faulkner told CNA that playing Paul changed him as he “read and reread Paul’s letters” in preparation for the role.

“Do I have more humility? Yes. Do I have more love for my fellow man? Yes. Is there a possibility of redemption even for myself? Yes, there is,” reflected Faulkner.

Behind the scenes, “Paul, the Apostle of Christ” felt different than his previous experience on the set of “Game of Thrones,” Faulkner said.

“Being placed in a much simpler environment, and feeling entirely supported by those around you, and loved by those around you, I found to be an extraordinary experience.”
Conversion and forgiveness are major themes of “Paul, the Apostle of Christ,” Caviezel said.

“The greatest controversy of this film is forgiving at all costs, and that doesn't mean weakness or the acceptance of evil. It means meeting evil face-to-face … that’s the hardest thing,” he said.

“Some of the most powerful dialogue centers around what true courage is,” continued Caviezel, “Courage is ardent love. Love creates change by igniting a passion in each one of us. One person at a time.”

The film is dedicated to the world’s persecuted Christians. “We were writing this script through those heavy intense times with ISIS and the problems that are going on in Syria and the Middle East,” executive producer Eric Groth told CNA. He said his team also reflected “on the martyrs of the centuries who have laid down their lives” in guiding the actors of the film.

“Paul, the Apostle of Christ” was written and directed by Andrew Hyatt, who previously directed the film, “Full of Grace,” about the Virgin Mary’s last days on earth. Both films were produced by the Catholic group ODB Films, in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment.

ODB Films says it is “dedicated to fostering an encounter with Christ through artfully made, spiritually rich films.”

Groth told CNA he hopes that Catholics will reach out and invite friends to the film who are not familiar with the Biblical story.

“I want them to reach out and take someone who might be struggling in their life and go to see a non-cheesy, Christian film that looks at faith through a very human lens and through a very real lens."


At the Met, Catholic-inspired fashion now in style

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 05:01

New York City, N.Y., Feb 28, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Can the Catholic imagination dream up beautiful and compelling clotheswear?

That’s one of the questions behind an exhibit collection set to open this year through New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“The Roman Catholic Church has been producing and promoting beautiful works of art for centuries,” Greg Burke, director of the Holy See’s press office, told the New York Times. “Most people have experienced that through religious paintings and architecture. This is another way of sharing some of that beauty that rarely gets seen.”

Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” set to launch later in 2018, was organized through the Met’s Costume Institute. The exhibit brings together Church garments borrowed from the Vatican, religious art from the Met collection, and 150 designer fashion pieces that were intended to pay homage to Catholicism, taking inspiration from Catholic iconography, the liturgy, or other parts of the faith tradition.

The exhibition will run May 10 – Oct. 8, 2018.

The church garments, many of which are still in use for liturgies, will be displayed separately from the fashion exhibit out of respect, the New York Times reports. There will be about 50 items in this separate exhibit. They come from the Sistine Chapel sacristy’s Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff and range in age from the mid-1700s to the pontificate of Saint John Paul II.

The exhibits will be hosted at the Anna Wintour Costume Center, the medieval rooms at the Met on Fifth Avenue, and the Met Cloisters in uptown New York City. The three exhibit spaces total 58,600 square feet. It will be the Costume Institute’s largest show yet.

Andrew Bolton, the curator in charge at the institute, suggested the exhibit may have more potential than any other previous exhibit.

Explaining the exhibit’s vision, he said: “the focus is on a shared hypothesis about what we call the Catholic imagination and the way it has engaged artists and designers and shaped their approach to creativity, as opposed to any kind of theology or sociology. Beauty has often been a bridge between believers and unbelievers.”

Bolton had consulted with several Catholic groups and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York to avoid any controversy in the fashion selections. The Church was receptive to the idea, but he had to travel to Rome eight times to discuss the show.

Bolton, who is Catholic, said he had initially intended to include the five world religions that are represented in the museum’s collections, but narrowed his focus after realizing that most Western designers were interacting artistically with Catholicism. He suggested this was because so many designers were raised Catholic.


#MetHeavenlyBodies—at The Met and The Met Cloisters—will feature a dialogue between fashion and religious artworks.

— The Met (@metmuseum) November 8, 2017


The “Heavenly Bodies” exhibit will include a Chanel wedding gown inspired by First Communion dresses and the fashion designer Valentino's couture gowns that draw on the style of the paintings of monk’s robes by the 16th century Spanish painter Francisco di Zurbarán.

One artistic rendering of an Elsa Schiaparelli evening dress, made for the summer of 1939, appears to evoke the keys of St. Peter and the color scheme of Christian iconography.

Versace and Dolce & Gabbana will contribute art in the style of mosaics, including mosaics of Sicily's Cathedral of Monreale.

A 1983 exhibit of Vatican liturgical garments at the museum was the third-most visited exhibit in its history, with nearly 900,000 visitors.

The “Heavenly Bodies” exhibit will have such sponsors as the media company Condé Nast and the Italian luxury designer Versace, as well as patrons such as Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman.

The New York Times reporter Vanessa Friedman suggested that the exclusive, expensive opening night gala for the Costume Institute’s exhibit, as well as the exhibit's luxurious clothing, appear to contradict the priorities of Pope Francis and Christian humility.

The opening night gala’s honorary chairs include the Schwarzmans, Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour, the pop star Rhianna and the prominent lawyer Amal Clooney, wife of actor George Clooney.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has been invited to the gala, but it was unclear whether he would accept.


This article was first published Nov. 9, 2017.

Forty arrested at Catholic-led DACA Protest

Tue, 02/27/2018 - 18:20

Washington D.C., Feb 27, 2018 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- A group of about 100 people--including Franciscan friars, religious sisters, and laity--gathered in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Building in Washington on Tuesday, and were led away in flex cuffs in a planned act of civil disobedience.

The protest was intended to pressure Congress to take action on “Dreamers,” or people who were brought to the United States illegally as children. It was organized as part of the Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers, an event planned by Catholic social advocacy groups.

One of those arrested was Sr. Tracy Kemme, a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati. Prior to her arrest, Kemme told CNA that she considered her actions to be worthwhile to help protect the immigrant community.

“Myself, two of my sisters, and one of our associates will be doing civil disobedience,” said Kemme. She continued, “It’s a moral moment of truth and it’s worth it to us to try to raise the consciousness of our legislators.”

Registered “Dreamers” are afforded renewable protection from deportation under an Obama-era policy called the “Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals” (DACA). President Donald Trump sought to end DACA in September of 2017 and gave Congress a six-month period to come up with a solution before the protections would expire on March 5.

Two federal courts have issued injunctions preventing the President from ending DACA.

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to consider the Administration’s expedited appeal of those injunctions, ensuring that the program will remain as-is until a final court decision is made later this year.

Congressional legislators have been unable to pass compromise bills that would have codified parts of DACA into law. On Monday, the USCCB urged Catholics to call their Congressmen as part of the “National Call-in Day for the Protection of Dreamers.”

The PICO National Network, along with Faith in Public Life and the DC Catholic Coalition, organized Tuesday’s “day of action.” The day featured a prayer rally and peaceful civil disobedience, culminating with the arrests.
Kemme told CNA that she hopes Congress is able to pass a DREAM Act unconnected to other proposed immigration reforms, and that her faith inspires her passion of working with the immigrant community.

“As a Catholic, my end goal would be comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship that keeps families together,” she said.

Kemme’s desires were echoed by Sr. Elise Garcia, O.P., from the Dominican sisters in Adrian, Michigan. Garcia said she was in D.C. on Tuesday to pray for the Dreamers as well as for elected leaders, and she too would like to see comprehensive immigration reform.

“Ideally, I would like to see an entire comprehensive package of immigration reform. That’s the ideal. Short of that, I’d like to see justice for Dreamers,” who have only known the United States as their home.

Before the Capitol Police attempted to disperse the protest, Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., Bishop of Lexington, addressed the crowd. Once the crowd began loudly praying a decade of the rosary, the police started to make arrests.


LIVE: Catholics praying inside Senate office building, urging lawmakers to support #DreamActNow. Some face arrest.

— Jason Calvi (@JasonCalvi) February 27, 2018

A total of 40 people were arrested and charged with “Crowding, Obstructing, or Incommoding.”