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Kansas judge strikes down ban on 'telemedicine' abortions

Wed, 01/02/2019 - 17:00

Topeka, Kansas, Jan 2, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A district judge in Kansas has ruled that the state cannot prohibit “telemedicine” abortions and blocked a law banning the practice that was due to go into effect this month.


District Judge Franklin Theis ruled Dec. 30 that the new law was legally unenforceable and could not go into effect. Theis had earlier described the law as an “air ball.” He also ruled that other state laws that contain provisions against telemedicine abortions were to be put on hold. Those laws are being challenged in a different case that has not yet been decided.


A telemedicine abortion is when a woman consults a doctor via a video chat rather than an in-person visit. The doctor then writes a prescription for abortion inducing drugs which the woman can fill locally, taking the drugs at her own home or another location.


Theis has previously ruled against similar bans on telemedicine abortion in Kansas. In his decision, he said that the 2018 law lacks a basis for prosecutors to bring charges against someone for performing a telemedicine abortion. He ruled that the law “has no anchor for operation.”


In comments reported by the Kansas City Star, the executive director of Kansans for Life, Mary Kay Culp, called Theis’ ruling “infuriating,” and said the judge had a long record of “taking laws designed by the legislature to protect unborn babies and women and turning them into laws that instead protect the abortion industry.”


The pro-abortion legal advocacy organization Center For Reproductive Rights filed suit against the law in November, 2018. The suit was filed on behalf of Trust Women Wichita, which operates an abortion facility in Wichita. Trust Women had started offering telemedicine abortions the previous month, due to a shortage of abortionists for in-clinic procedures.


Trust Women also said that they hoped that they would be able to provide abortions via telemedicine to women living in the state’s rural areas. There are no abortion clinics outside of Kansas’ major cities.


In 2017, there were nearly 4,000 medication abortions performed in Kansas. This is more than half of the total number of abortions in the state. It is unknown how many of these were performed by telemedicine.


The measure was the third attempt by Kansas lawmakers to restrict telemedicine abortions. In 2011, a ban on telemedicine abortions was passed as part of a larger group of regulations for abortion clinics in the state. That law was challenged by abortion clinics, and the regulations were blocked in another ruling by Judge Theis.


Four years later, in 2015, Kansas’ legislators again passed a bill banning telemedicine abortions. Theis later ruled that this new law was also covered under his previous injunction, which he described as a “safe harbor” for the state’s abortion clinics.


Seventeen states have banned the practice of telemedicine abortion.

Father Cantalamessa preaching to US bishops on retreat this week

Wed, 01/02/2019 - 15:46

Chicago, Ill., Jan 2, 2019 / 01:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of the US are gathered near Chicago for a week-long retreat directed by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., who has been apostolic preacher since 1980.

The Jan. 2-8 retreat is being held at Mundelein Seminary, in the Chicago suburbs, on the theme of Christ's commission of the 12 apostles, and the apostolic mandate.

It is “taking place at the invitation of Pope Francis who has asked all bishops in the United States to pause in prayer as the Church seeks to respond to the signs of the times,” the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said in December.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the USCCB, expressed his gratitude to the Pope for asking the bishops “to step back and enter into this focused time of listening to God as we respond to the intense matters before us in the weeks and months ahead. I also humbly ask the laity, our priests and religious for your prayers for my brother bishops and me as we join in solidarity to seek wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit. Pray also for the survivors of sexual abuse that their suffering may serve to strengthen us all for the hard task of rooting out a terrible evil from our Church and our society so that such suffering is never multiplied.”

Fr. Cantalamessa, 84, was appointed apostolic preacher, or preacher to the papal household, by St. John Paul II, early in his papacy. He was born in Italy in 1934, and ordained a priest in 1958.

He then earned a doctor of divinity in Fribourg in 1962, and a doctorate in classical literature in Milan in 1966.

Before being appointed preacher to the papal household, Fr. Cantalamessa was a history professor and head of the religious sciences department at the Catholic University of Milan, as well as a member of the Catholic delegation for dialogue with Pentecostal communities. He as a member of the International Theological Commission from 1975 to 1981.

As apostolic preacher, Fr. Cantalamessa preaches to the pope and the Roman curia on the Fridays of Advent and Lent, and he also preaches at the Good Friday service in St. Peter's Basilica. Since its recent establishment by Pope Francis, he has also preached for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in St. Peter's Basilica.

He is the author of more than 20 books of spiritual theology and Catholic devotions. His most recent book is the 2015 work “The Gaze of Mercy: A Commentary on Divine and Human Mercy.”

The office of apostolic preacher was established in the mid-16th century by Paul IV. Since a 1743 decision of Benedict XIV, the office has been restricted to Capuchins.


Spiritual direction: What is it, who needs it, and why?

Tue, 01/01/2019 - 09:00

Denver, Colo., Jan 1, 2019 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Chatting with Lee McDowell is a peaceful experience.

Seated in a comfy leather chair in a rust-colored office near downtown Denver, McDowell serenely and thoughtfully explains the “art and science” of her particular trade - and it’s not surprising to learn that she has a background in clinical psychology.

Today, McDowell serves not as a psychologist, but as one of many spiritual directors available to Catholics and other Christians through the Lanteri Center for Ignatian Spirituality in Denver, Colorado. The center is a house founded by the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, with the mission of bringing spiritual direction to the “popular level” of parishes and lay people.

Once thought to be reserved for the “interior castles” of highly mystical souls like St. Teresa of Avila, spiritual direction is today increasingly popular among Catholics of all vocations in the post-Vatican II age of emphasizing the universal call to holiness.

"As she has never failed to do, again today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction,” Pope Benedict XVI said in 2011, “not only to all those who wish to follow the Lord up close, but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his baptism, that is, the new life in Christ."

But good spiritual directors can be hard to find, and it can be difficult to know when one needs spiritual direction, versus a good confession or pastoral counseling or other kinds of help.

CNA posed some questions about the ministry to some seasoned spiritual directors and experts on spiritual direction: McDowell, a Catholic convert and former clinical psychologist who found spiritual direction through her grief after losing her husband; Fr. Greg Cleveland, an oblate of the Virgin Mary and executive director of the Lanteri Center; John Johnson, the associate director of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation; and Dr. Anthony Lilles, Academic Dean of both St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, and the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, who has written extensively on the spiritual life.

What is spiritual direction - and what is it not?

While the answers from spiritual directors and experts vary slightly on this question, one thing is clear - spiritual direction must be aimed at forming and cultivating a relationship with the Lord.

“One of my favorite definitions for spiritual directions is that it is a three-part encounter,” McDowell said. “An encounter between the Lord, the directee, and the spiritual director, for the purpose that the directee may grow in their relationship with our Lord.”

Remove any one of those encounters, and what is taking place is no longer spiritual direction, McDowell said.

Spiritual direction is also distinct from other forms of pastoral help or counseling, Cleveland told CNA.

“Spiritual direction is not pastoral counseling, a lot of people mistake it for that,” Cleveland said. “Pastoral counseling is more about solving problems in a person’s life, and that’s certainly important and very much needed.”

It’s also not confession, Johnson noted.

“It’s very important that spiritual direction is distinguished from confession. Confession is for your sins, and that doesn’t need to be very illustrative. Confession is number and occasion (of sin),” he said. “If you confess all your sins, you express remorse, you have contrition, and you vow to do have a good confession, you get absolution. It doesn’t need to be a laundry list.”

Spiritual direction instead focuses on a relationship with God, Cleveland said, which is “not a problem to be solved, but something to be discovered and deepened and celebrated. A lot of times people are looking for something sometimes we have to really reorient someone’s thinking - are you looking to deepen your relationship with God through prayer and discernment?”

Johnson told CNA that spiritual direction is a helping relationship that allows Christians to achieve sanctity and the heights of contemplation - which are for every Christian, and not just an elite few.

The practice has biblical roots, Johnson noted, such as in Acts 8:27-39 in which an Ethiopian eunuch is travelling and reading Scripture, but does not fully understand the passage he is reading.

“Seated in his chariot, (the eunuch) was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go and join up with that chariot.’ Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone instructs me?’ So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.” (Acts 28-31).

In the rest of the passage, Philip reads the Scripture passage with the eunuch and “proclaimed Jesus” to him by teaching him about the passage, and then baptizing him.

Lilles emphasized that spiritual direction is not just another self-improvement program.

“It’s not psychological counseling for example, nor is it self-exploration or self-improvement or self-therapy,” he said.

“There might be a therapeutic dimension to it, and of course self-knowledge allows you to have a deeper knowledge of God, but is about a living encounter with the Lord. What obstacles do I need to remove so that that encounter can unfold in my life? What do I need to do to dispose myself for that encounter so that I’m ready to say yes to what God places in my heart?”

Who needs spiritual direction? Is it for everyone?

“The first thing that we could say about a spiritual director is that everybody needs one,” Johnson said.

It’s a point on which not everyone in the world of spiritual direction and formation completely agrees. But for Johnson, the biblical roots of spiritual direction confirm its necessity in the spiritual life.

“In this culture of self-starters, of bootstrappers, we hear a lot this notion of ‘well I taught myself.’ How’d you learn that language? I taught myself. How’d you learn ballet? I taught myself. Well that’s not true, because if you could teach yourself anything, you wouldn’t need to,” Johnson said.

“So we need a guide, and beginning in the Biblical tradition even in the earliest days, the apostles introduce one another to Christ. This is the normative way that sanctity is achieved.”

For Father Cleveland, the desire for spiritual direction is key. The average person who identifies as Catholic but may not pray regularly or seek out the sacraments is probably not going to be interested in a spiritual director, he said.

McDowell said that while every Christian who is serious about their faith could benefit from spiritual direction, she didn’t believe formal spiritual direction with a trained religious or lay director was always necessary - or practical - in the spiritual life.

People early on in their faith journey might benefit more from bible studies or other small groups at first, rather than diving right into spiritual direction, she noted.

But there are times in a person’s life when spiritual direction might be more beneficial, she said, such as times of transition - whether that’s vocational discernment, transitioning from college to the real world, a midlife crisis, retirement and empty nesting, or other life changes.

Another time when spiritual direction is especially helpful could be when a person experiences something unexpected, usually something painful like the loss of a job, a dream or a loved one, McDowell said.

“Unexpected sufferings, are marvelous times and often needed times for the ministry of spiritual direction,” she said.

Lilles said there are three key times when he thinks spiritual direction is most needed in a person’s life: when someone has become “spiritually lazy” and needs to reignite their spiritual life, when someone experiences a traumatic event due to their own sin, the sin of others or an outside event, and when someone experiences some internal spiritual trial that may or may not be related to external events.

“When some kind of crisis of faith has come it would be good to seek someone out,” he said.

Where can good spiritual directors be found?

A good spiritual director can be hard to find. Isolated geographic locations, a shortage of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the already-busy schedules of available spiritual directors are some of the reasons someone might have difficulties finding a qualified person.

Johnson said he recommends that people find the holiest person they know, and ask them who their director is.

“It’s easy to say my parish is terrible and my priest is too busy...but you have to keep looking. Because the best spiritual directors are going to be very hidden,” he said. “If you see a billboard that says call me, 1-800 Spiritual Director, run the other way.”

Johnson and Lilles both recommended spending some times at local monasteries or convents with religious who are faithfully living out their vows, and asking them for spiritual direction.

“Where the discipline of the Christian life is being lived, God always raises up people who have wisdom for the spiritual life,” Lilles said. He added that most parish priests should also be able to recommend spiritual directors to their parishioners.

As with everything in the spiritual life, prayer is a key component of finding a good spiritual direction.

“The most important thing to find a spiritual director is to beg God to send you one, and God will send you the spiritual director you need at the right time in your life, he hears those kinds of prayers,” Lilles said.

Are all priests spiritual directors? Can lay people be spiritual directors?

While most priests have some sort of training in giving spiritual counsel, they often need further formation to become a well-trained spiritual director, Cleveland said.

“The traditional thinking was that priests were automatically qualified by virtue of their training to be spiritual directors, but it all depends on how good their training is,” he said.

“Priests may have that gift but that gift needs to be developed, like any talent we have,” he added. “Somebody could be a born athlete but they would still have to practice and become good at the sport that they play, and its like that with the priesthood as well.”

There are several formation programs that help develop priests and religious as spiritual directors, and these are increasingly open to interested and qualified lay people as well. Both the Avila Institute and the Lanteri Center providing spiritual direction formation for priests and laity.

Lay people, when given the proper formation and training, “make excellent spiritual directors,” Cleveland said.

“Sometimes the life experience of one lay person receiving spiritual direction will be more consonant and similar to the lay person who’s giving spiritual direction... (they) may find that another lay person understands and is able to relate to (their) experience of being a layperson in the world,” he said.

McDowell, herself a lay spiritual director, said that she finds that people seek lay spiritual directors for a variety of reasons - their priest is busy, they want to talk to someone who might share their vocation of marriage, or they are a woman who would rather share intimate spiritual details of their life with another woman, rather than a priest.

The key qualifications for any good spiritual director are spiritual maturity, psychological maturity, and self awareness, McDowell added. These people can then enter into formation as spiritual directors, where they delve more deeply into the spiritual life, the discernment of spirits, and the ability to listen deeply to another person and notice where God might be moving in their life.

What happens at spiritual direction? What do the directee and the director bring to the table?

At the Lanteri Center, spiritual directors are taught to listen to their directees and to help facilitate their relationship with God, rather than present themselves as gurus who have all the answers, McDowell said.

“My facilitation is mostly asking questions, sometimes repeating back to them a word or phrase that they have said and asking them to say more about that,” McDowell said.

“I don’t suggest: ‘I believe God wants you to do this.’ We are not directive in that way. There’ll be times when I may have a sense that God is working in a particular way in a directees life, but one of our cardinal maxims so to speak is never get out in front of God,” she said.

“So even though I may have a sense that he is working in a particular way or has a desire for the directee in a particular area of holiness and growth, my suggestion will be - how about praying with this scripture. Or if they’ve been praying with it, to journal about it. That’s what I will do, that’s what I mean by facilitating.”  

As for what the seeker of spiritual direction brings to the table, a desire for and commitment to a prayer life is key, McDowell said.

“Without their own personal prayer, there’s really no reason to get together,” McDowell said. “Now, some people come and they want to be taught how to pray. That’s beautiful and we can do that.”

Once people begin with spiritual direction, Cleveland said he usually recommends they spend at least half an hour a day in prayer, whether that’s meditating on scripture, praying the examen prayer, spending time in front of the Eucharist or other forms of prayer.

Johnson said his recommendation to people just beginning spiritual direction is “to bring themselves.”

“At first you especially want to try to get to the heart of the matter, and that can be the most prevalent place of pain in your life, that can be your heaviest cross, that can be your darkest memory,” he said, “because in many ways these crosses, these trials impress themselves upon us in a way that’s very formative or de-formative and that might be the place to start, the most difficult place.”

“Each of us is deeply broken, and if we weren’t deeply broken we wouldn’t need any direction,” he added. “It’s like when you go to the doctor, what are you going to do? It’s not like you’re going to tell them about things that aren’t bothering you. You’re going to tell them about what’s hurting so he can fix it. That’s what a director does, that’s the quality of a good physician.”

What happens if a spiritual director is not a good fit?

McDowell said both the spiritual director and directee should always be discerning whether the relationship is a good fit.

At the Lanteri Center, people seeking spiritual direction are encouraged to have an initial interview meeting with one of the available spiritual directors, and to read their biographies online to see if they feel called to meet with any particular person.

McDowell said she never assumes at a first meeting that she will be that person’s spiritual director, she rather uses the time to gauge where the person it at and what they need.

“Our first meeting with a potential or prospective directee is what we call an initial interview...where I’ll tell them what spiritual direction is and is not, I’ll ask what their desires are and what has brought them,” she said.

It is then up to both the director and directee to discern whether they are a good fit, or whether another person or another ministry altogether might be needed. McDowell said she has referred people to priests for pastoral matters, and directors at the Lanteri Center are also able to recommend Christian psychological counselors if they discover that that is what a person might need.

Sometimes a spiritual direction relationship reaches a natural end - a person may enter a new phase of life or prayer that necessitates a different spiritual director. Prayerful discernment and honesty are key, McDowell said.

For example, as a convert to Catholicism, McDowell said if she had directees who desire to delve more deeply into the lives of the saints, she will usually refer them to a different director, since she is not as familiar with this particular tradition.

“So that’s another time where it’s really good to discern,” McDowell said. “Maybe we’ve been together, and it’s been really good, but now there’s someone else to take them on the rest of the journey.”  

What can Catholics do if they still can’t find a good spiritual director?

There are many resources on spiritual direction available to those who desire spiritual direction but who cannot find a formal director.

Cleveland recommended the many books by Father Timothy Gallagher, another Oblate priest, who is most well-known for his book “Discernment of Spirits”, as well as his other spiritual works such as “The Examen Prayer,” and “Discerning the Will of God.”

In his video for Ascension Press entitled “No spiritual director? No problem!” Father Mike Schmitz makes several book recommendations. Besides “Discernment of Spirits,” he also recommends “Time for God” by Father Jacques Philippe, “Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer” by Father Thomas Dubay, and the “Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales.

Whether people are in spiritual direction or not, Lilles said he recommends that people who want to grow in their spiritual lives read more about the doctors of the Church.

“Since 1972 the church has raised up doctors of the Church - St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. John of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and more recently St. Gregory of Narek..these doctors of the Church have all written about the spiritual life, they all have spiritual wisdom,” he said.

“They are masters of the spiritual life...this is an important time for rediscovering that spiritual teaching,” he added.

“Don’t be afraid to put out into the deep, as St. John Paul II often exhorted us” Cleveland added.

“Don’t be afraid to try to deepen that relationship with God, to seek the Lord through prayer and through living the spiritual life vibrantly. It’s a commitment, but the rewards are tremendous - to have that relationship with God, to know God’s presence not only in prayer but in the midst of my daily life, and to be able to seek and find God in all things.”  


This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 31, 2018.


How a priest and teams of homeless people are transforming Detroit

Mon, 12/31/2018 - 19:01

Detroit, Mich., Dec 31, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Many homeless people of Detroit already recognize Father Marko Djonovic’s white Ford Excursion.

When Djonovic rolls up with his friend Marcus Cobb, it’s probably because they’ve got a job to offer, in exchange for lunch and some pay.

“Word is getting out on the street about us,” Djonovic said of his new ministry, which he dubbed Better Way Detroit.

“So when they see the white Ford Excursion they come up to us, asking, are you going to pick us up for work?” he told CNA.

Djonovic and Cobb are the two-man crew behind Better Way Detroit, and since May they have been teaming up with the city of Detroit and willing homeless workers to clean up the city’s parks, overgrown alleys, and vacant lots.

They drive around three days a week, stopping at shelters and other homeless hangouts, offering several hours of work for pay. The van can hold up to six people besides Djonovic and Cobb, and they typically take workers on a first come, first serve basis.

While he never worked with the homeless in any official capacity prior to starting this ministry, Djonovic said he was inspired by the individual interactions he had had with people on the streets.

After helping a mentally ill man get off the streets and into housing, he said he realized that while the homeless agencies are a “well-polished machine, there are gaps in that sometimes they can’t go out on the streets and find people and meet these people.”

He said he also discovered that many of the homeless had a strong work ethic and a desire to work for pay.

“When I see the homeless I don’t see hopeless objects of pity, but I see persons...with a sincere desire to work. They want to work. And there’s a great need in the city of Detroit, so putting those two things together moved me to to do this project,” he said.

Djonovic is also part of the newly-formed Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri at Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Detroit.

The spirit of service found in St. Philip Neri was an inspiration behind Better Way Detroit, Djonovic said.

“We serve following his spirit,” Djonovic said of the members of the Oratory. That service manifests itself in three ways: evangelization to youth, the cultivation of the spiritual life among the people through the sacraments, and service to the poor.

“I believe it’s what St. Philip would have done, he wasn’t afraid to out on the streets and preach the Gospel, to engage people, which included the homeless. St. Philip Neri was known as the apostle of Rome just because of that,” he said.

In the beginning, Better Way Detroit partnered with the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department to clean up parks through their Adopt a Park program. They now also help the city clear out overgrown alleys and vacant lots that can pose safety problems to neighborhoods.

Cobb provides much need insight to the ministry for how to work with the homeless because he was once a homeless veteran himself, Djonovic said.

“I learn a lot from Marcus, he understands the homeless culture; he’s very wise,” Djonovic said. He said Cobb has taught him the importance of being attentive to even the smaller needs of the homeless, such as if they want cigarettes or water, and to let them know they are respected.

Cobb said it helps instill a sense of respect and responsibility to the homeless that they work with if they are given ownership of the projects in which they partake. Every job starts with an evaluation of the site and the work to be done, and the homeless workers decide how best to get the job done, he said.

“You give them ownership, ask them how it should be done. It gives them responsibility,” Cobb said. “We get their input, and before you know it everyone’s teaming up. It makes them feel important, it gets better results, and they put the word out because they know it’s well worth their time.”

Cobb said he believes the ministry has been well-received among the homeless because “it gives them something to look forward to, and a chance to give back, and to get back into society.”

“Just because they’re homeless...doesn’t mean they don’t want to give back or try to get back in to society,” Cobb said.

It also appeals to the homeless because it gives them a chance to provide for some of their own needs “without a handout,” he said.

The partnership with the city, which is significantly understaffed, has also worked well, Cobb and Djonovic said, because their team is often able to get to jobs that the city doesn’t have the staff to do.

For example, the city gets a lot of calls from senior citizens who have lived in their neighborhoods for decades and have safety concerns about overgrown lots that may serve as hideouts or hubs for drug deals, Djonovic said.

“One woman was just singing our praises” after they cleared up a vandalized, overgrown lot in her neighborhood, he said. “Once (lots) are exposed, they feel safer, especially for the sake of children.”

Djonovic said he feels privileged to get to work alongside the homeless, and as they work, “sometimes I get to know their story, and they get to know my story,” he said.

“It’s happened a few times where guys ask me, why did you become a priest?” he said.

Every project concludes with lunch and a reflection on a bible reading. They have also handed out prayer cards to the homeless and do their best to connect them to housing, healthcare services, or other resources they might need.

“We at least just make them aware of the services available and encourage them to go, some guys aren’t aware of (everything available),” Djonovic said.

Djonovic currently funds the ministry entirely out of his own pocket, and through any donations he receives for the project. All of the money goes strictly to needed materials such as gloves or shovels and to pay the homeless for their work.

Djonovic and Cobb added that they are always looking for ways to expand and strengthen their ministry, and they are hoping sometime in the future to employ someone in a full-time position who can oversee the operation to make it more sustainable.

“Things are looking good we’re really enjoying it,” said Djonovic, who added that he’s been touched by some of the responses he’s seen from the homeless.

“One guy said: ‘I feel blessed because to be a part of something positive.’ He didn’t say, 'oh, now I’ve got some money in my pocket',” Djonovic recalled.

“Another young man, 25 years old, he said it was a grace” to participate in the project, he said.

Cobb said he would encourage Catholics to encounter and get to know the poor in their cities.

“Go out and start from the bottom and communicate with the people...go into the areas where the people don’t have the income, and approach them and talk to them halfway nice, and they’ll respond.”

This article was originally published on CNA Sept. 12, 2018.

State legislators working for a pro-life New Year

Mon, 12/31/2018 - 18:30

Washington D.C., Dec 31, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- Pro-life legislators in several states have pre-filed bills for consideration during the next year’s legislative session, including bills in three states that would prohibit abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

In 2019, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Missouri could become the next states to attempt to pass this legislation. Lawmakers in all three states have pre-filed heartbeat bills for consideration and possible votes in the coming months.

Each of the states have governors who describe themselves as “pro-life,” as well as Republican majorities in their state legislatures, offering a strong possibility of the bills becoming law.

Texas state senator Bob Hall has pre-filed a bill proposing a change to the state’s constitution to enshrine that “the right to life applies to an unborn child.” Currently in Texas, a woman can obtain an abortion until the 20th week of a pregnancy. A similar bill has been proposed in past sessions of the Texas legislature.

Should the bills pass the state legislature, there would still be other hurdles to clear before they could come into effect.

Earlier this year, Iowa and Ohio both considered “heartbeat bills” that ban abortion after approximately six weeks gestation, when the heartbeat can be detected. Iowa’s bill was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), but was immediately blocked by a judge and remain the subject of a  court battle.

Ohio’s bill was vetoed by Gov. John Kasich (R), and the state’s Senate failed to reach the super-majority needed to override the veto by a single vote, preventing the bill from becoming law.

Kasich did, however, sign a bill to ban the late-term abortion procedure called “dilation and evacuation.” This procedure is used in a large majority of second-trimester abortions. In 2015, about 3,000 abortions in Ohio were carried out by this method.

The new law makes the procedure a fourth-degree felony charge, punishable by up to 18 months in prison for any doctor found to have performed a dilation and evacuation abortion.

Nationally, figures show that the abortion rate dropped to its lowest level since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision found that a woman had a right to an abortion throughout pregnancy. A report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which studied the abortion rate placed in the United States placed it at 188 abortions per 1,000 live births in 2015, down from 233 in 2005.

Money, power and Humanae Vitae: the forgotten story

Mon, 12/31/2018 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Dec 31, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The controversy over Humanae Vitae, the papal encyclical that reaffirmed Catholic teaching on contraception 50 years ago, cannot be understood apart from the context of a well-funded advocacy network for population control after the Second World War.
The network includes big names in grantmaking like the Ford Foundation and John D. Rockefeller III. One scholar has been writing about this network for decades.
“The campaign to persuade Catholics, leaders and the lay public, that traditional views of sexuality, abortion, and marriage were antiquated was extensive and conducted on many fronts,” Arizona State University history professor Donald Critchlow told CNA.

“Groups such as Catholics for Choice were encouraged through philanthropic grants, but the more general campaign was conducted around sexual education.”
Critchlow is the author of the 1999 Oxford University Press book “Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion, and the Federal Government in Modern America.”

Together with his talk at the Catholic University of America’s April 2018 conference “The Legacy of Dissent from Humanae Vitae,” his work helps place Humanae Vitae in the political and policy context of its time.
“In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, leaders in philanthropic foundations, politics, and business joined together to undertake a campaign to control the rates of population growth. They concluded that future wars, famine, and other social ills could be prevented through a reduction in the rate of population growth.” Critchlow told CNA. “This neo-Malthusian agenda was joined by activists seeking reproductive rights for women and environmentalists seeking environmental justice.”
This took part in an environment of sexual revolution, even before the invention of the birth control pill.
“American sexual mores were already changing in the 1960s,” Critchlow continued. “Changes in sexual mores and sexual behavior cannot be attributed to one single cause. There should be little doubt, however, that elite opinion encouraged changes in sexual mores and behavior in the name of ‘progress,’ reproductive justice, and population control.”
The history professor classified the postwar era as “one of most massive efforts of social engineering in human history.”
“Many actors were found in this neo-Malthusian campaign, but it is important to emphasize that it was not a conspiracy as such,” he said. “Those involved in the population control movement and calls for publicly funded contraception, abortion, sterilization and sex education shared a general perspective on the need to control population growth and to educate the public. They saw themselves as the enlightened bringing progress to the masses, who were backward in their social, political, and religious views. “
When Humanae Vitae, issued by Pope Paul VI on July 25, 1968, reaffirmed Catholic teaching that contraception was immoral, these advocates responded strongly.
Humanae Vitae was attacked openly and publicly,” Critchlow said.
This advocacy network had Catholic allies. The National Catholic Reporter had received a leaked report backed by the majority of Paul VI’s birth control commission, which argued that contraception was compatible with the Catholic faith.
Theologian Fr. Charles Curran became the center of controversy, after the Catholic University of America overturned his tenure recommendation because he rejected Catholic teaching on birth control. The decision prompted waves of protest and controversy, and was later reversed.
Hugh Moore, a non-Catholic businessman and population control activist who had helped found the Dixie Cup Corporation, took out full page ads in the New York Times and other newspapers, circulating anti-Humanae Vitae material to the bishops and translating it into Spanish and French.
“He organized petitions from dissenting priests that were highly publicized. The Vatican, Roman Catholicism, and traditional bishops in the United States were portrayed as reactionary and out of step with modernity,” Critchlow added.
Moore had played a key role in establishing the International Planned Parenthood Federation and served as its vice-president in the mid-1960s. He helped co-found the Population Crisis Committee and was a leading advocate of voluntary sterilization.
According to Critchlow, the overall campaign against a feared “population explosion” was “conducted on many fronts, often uncoordinated, with sharp differences over strategy and tactics, but based on the assumption that population control was necessary to save humanity.”
After the Second World War, philanthropic foundations worked to establish family planning clinics outside the U.S. These foundations’ lobbyists then worked to get a U.S. commitment to domestic family planning. Under President Lyndon Johnson, anti-poverty programs saw family planning as an instrument, especially in inner city neighborhoods, black minorities, and Native American reservations. This was extended under the Nixon Administration.
Books like Paul Erhlich’s “The Population Bomb,” popular magazine articles, science fiction novels and movies raised fears of a dystopian future that would be inevitable unless population growth were controlled.
Another major name in the movement was John D. Rockefeller III, who funded many population control groups and founded the Population Council in 1952. Its charter’s first draft, which was later modified, spoke of creating conditions in which parents who are “often above average in intelligence, quality of personality” produce “larger than average families.”

Critchlow saw this as “eugenic language.”
The Ford Foundation similarly put millions of dollars into population control programs. Some donors, like Cordelia Scaife May, an heiress of the Mellon family fortune, would be drawn to more radical groups like Zero Population Growth.
In the 1960s, the Catholic bishops faced paralysis. Efforts to block the federal government’s moves to fund family planning were stalled by disagreement among the bishops and uncertainty about what Pope Paul VI would finally say about the birth control pill, among other problems, such as Catholic agencies’ and hospitals’ dependence upon federal funds.
“Catholic religious leaders, including educators, confronted a critical dilemma with deep roots in the Roman Catholic experience in America: How to be accepted in a country with a tradition of anti-Catholicism, while maintaining core Catholic principles,” said Critchlow. “Inevitably compromises were reached to ensure accommodation with a culture that was becoming increasingly secularized”
With the involvement of University of Notre Dame president Father Theodore Hesburgh’s personal assistant George Shuster, a series of meetings on human population growth were held at Notre Dame from 1963 to 1967 under the sponsorship of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation. They brought together selected Catholic leaders to meet with leaders of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Population Council, as well as with leaders of the Ford and Rockefeller foundations.
Critchlow, in his book “Intended Consequences” said John D. Rockefeller III and others within the foundation community were “astutely aware of the importance of changing the Catholic Church’s position on birth control” and saw the meetings as an opportunity to ally with Catholic leaders who could “help change opinion within the hierarchy.”
According to Critchlow, Fr. Hesburgh arranged for a 1965 meeting between Rockefeller and Pope Paul VI to discuss population control issues. The same year, 37 scholars who attended a conference at Notre Dame signed a confidential statement to the papal commission examining the morality of new forms of artificial birth control. Their statement lobbied for a change in the Catholic Church’s view of contraception.
Rockefeller appointed Fr. Hesburgh to the Rockefeller Foundation’s executive committee in 1966, with the understanding that he would abstain from voting on issues involving contraception, sterilization and abortion. Fr. Hesburgh served as the foundation’s chairman from 1977 to 1982.
“In the end, the bishops were forced to accommodate to dissent within the church. The Catholic Church was placed on the defensive until the rise of the abortion issue in which public opinion was much more divided on than oral contraception,” said Critchlow.
The population control programs led to several scandals involving U.S. and U.N.-sponsored family planning programs. In India, forced sterilization was widespread and drew outrage when reported. In the U.S., there were instances of federally funded forced sterilization in anti-poverty programs.
This resulted in strong attacks on population control, especially from feminists, and the movement changed strategies. It promoted delayed marriage through women’s economic and educational development.
“These goals of promoting economic independence and higher education for women in developing countries should be applauded, even if such programs are supported by feminist activists and population control advocates,” Critchlow said.
While the population control debate has shifted, the controversy over Humanae Vitae continues to this day.

This article was originally published on CNA June 11, 2018.

Why robot brothels are not the solution to America's STD crisis

Mon, 12/31/2018 - 06:08

Washington D.C., Dec 31, 2018 / 04:08 am (CNA).- With several sexually transmitted diseases reaching an all-time high in the U.S., could sex robots be the answer? Catholics leaders say no, because the alleged benefits of “sexbots” will never outweigh the harms inflicted upon the person and authentic human sexuality.

“There are all sorts of bad solutions to a legitimate problem. Even if it were the case that sex robots would cut down on STDs, it wouldn’t make sex robots a good idea,” said Matt Fradd, author of The Porn Myth.

“[It] denigrates the sexual act and pretends it’s an accidental feature of marriage rather than a substantial feature of marriage. The sexual desire is not an itch to be scratched.”

Sex is “not a negative thing that has to be discarded,” he clarified, but “a positive drive that ought to be tempered and regulated by virtue.” Without the virtue of chastity, he stressed, there is no love.

Earlier this year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that nearly 2.3 million syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia cases had been diagnosed in 2017 – a record high. This number represents a 200,000-case increase from the previous year, and marks the fourth straight year of increase.

Experts have called the rise in STDs a “public health crisis” and are looking for ways to stop the spread of the diseases.

Meanwhile, a “sex doll brothel” hoping to open in Toronto next month claims to offer a “safe sex” experience for customers, who can order from a menu of life-like sex robots.

The owners of Aura Dolls claim it is the first “sex doll brothel” in North America. Similar brothels exist in Japan and some parts of Europe.  

The brothel has faced criticism and the recent drop of its lease. The city of Toronto ruled that it fits the definition of an “adult entertainment parlour,” and is therefore restricted to certain areas of the city. Owners say they are hoping to find a new location to open in the coming weeks.

“We operate similar to a brothel where guests come in, they have their own room,” Aura Dolls’ marketing director, Claire Lee, told CityNews.

“We try to focus on the fact that since we have this service, for men who have these dark, violent fantasies, instead of putting out the urge to act aggressively, they can do something like this which is safe for everyone,” she added.

But not everyone agrees that the use of sex dolls is safe. For one thing, they do not eliminate the risk of diseases. Though the dolls are sterilized, the brothel encourages condom use to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases from one customer to the next.

Forensic criminologist Xanthe Mallett warned in a June 2018 article in The Conversation that “sexbots could be tools to empower some who sexually offend against women and children.”

“[C]reating life-like robots that cannot say ‘no’ and that can be violated and abused without impunity will play into some men’s fantasies. For a small proportion, this may encourage them to enact that abuse on living people as part of an escalation,” Mallett said.

Hannah Gutierrez, mission team manager at the Culture Project, a youth-run organization that promotes virtue, human dignity and sexual integrity, raised additional concerns. Regardless of the level of violence, she said, any misuse of human sexuality promotes ideas of using other people.

“It will perpetuate this idea, and it already does perpetuate this idea, that when it comes to sex… we only see them as good as long as we get what we want,” she told CNA.

“Love should not be this exchange of you do this and I do this,” she further added. “They might get the physical pleasure they may be desired in that, but what they desired more than the physical pleasure is someone to connect with – a human being, a human person.”

She said people should look at sexuality in a healthy and beautiful way – not as a feeling to suppress or of which to be ashamed, but something that must be governed by chastity, to elevate it beyond a mutual exchange of pleasure.  

Chastity, she explained, “gives us…freedom because we are not tied to think that sex is just this exchange of human body parts and pleasure. We are able to love freely because we are not controlled by our sexuality, instead we can channel it to love fully and love freely.”

This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 30, 2018.

O’Malley sent concerns about NY priest to apostolic nuncio after NY Times report

Sat, 12/29/2018 - 23:29

Boston, Mass., Dec 29, 2018 / 09:29 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Boston this month forwarded to the pope’s U.S. representative concerns sent to him about a New York priest who was in active college and parish ministry while under investigation for charges of sexual abuse.

The cardinal forwarded the correspondence the day after media reports emerged detailing the allegations made against the priest.

On Dec. 21, Cardinal Sean O’Malley sent to Archbishop Christophe Pierre correspondence he had received regarding Rev. Donald Timone, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York who was being investigated by the review board of that archdiocese.

“I note the seriousness of the allegations [redacted] presents with regard to Rev. Timone,” O’Malley wrote, in a letter published Dec. 28 by Spanish Catholic news site Religión Digital.

The cardinal said he had received a letter expressing concerns about Timone in early November, though the author of that letter was redacted. Sources familiar with the letter told CNA that the person who wrote to O’Malley about Timone’s ministry was himself a victim of sexual abuse by a New York priest.

The cardinal said he had not forwarded the correspondence sooner because he was “away from the Archdiocese for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last month, [for] commitments in other dioceses, and meetings with the Holy Father in Rome this month.”

O’Malley acknowledged in his letter that “today the New York Times has published an extensive report concerning the allegations against Rev. Timone.”

Timone is accused of sexually abusing two teenage boys during the late 1960s and early 1970s. On Dec. 20, the New York Times reported Timone was allowed to continue to publicly minister as a priest despite allegations made against the priest, and a 2017 settlement with two of Timone’s alleged victims. The priest was prohibited from ministry shortly after the report was published.

CNA subsequently reported that the archdiocese sanctioned the priest’s continued college ministry even while he was under investigation, telling a California college that Timone had never been accused of abuse.

In August, O’Malley apologized after reports emerged that his office had received a 2015 letter detailing accusations of sexual abuse against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, and failed to pass it on to Church officials.

The apology came after media reports revealed that New York priest Father Boniface Ramsey had tried to warn church officials about McCarrick multiple times, including in the 2015 letter, which he sent to O’Malley because of his role as President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

O’Malley said his secretary Father Robert Kickham received the letter and responded to Ramsey himself, saying that the accusations fell outside of the jurisdiction of O’Malley’s office, as they did not involve minors. O’Malley said he only found out about Ramsey’s letter after the recent media reports.

O’Malley promised at that time to revise the policies of his office to ensure that all complaints of sexual abuse or episcopal negligence sent to him would be forwarded to appropriate authorities.

How CRS is changing life for disabled children in Vietnam

Sat, 12/29/2018 - 12:54

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Dec 29, 2018 / 10:54 am (CNA).- Life used to be very isolated for Ho Ngoc Linh, an 11-year-old girl living in central Vietnam.

She lived at home with her family and went to school with her peers. But she could never make the connections she wanted - and needed - because she was deaf.

“If you can imagine; you’re 11 years old, you aren’t able to communicate with your family or your friends or your teachers, you can’t hear anything,” said Leia Isanhart, a senior technical advisor for Catholic Relief Services.

“That’s going to be pretty frustrating. Especially as you get into this adolescent age.”

But Linh’s world shifted this year when she became one of the more than 5,400 children to benefit from Catholic Relief Services’ programs for children and adults with disabilities in Vietnam.

In February, Catholic Relief Services paired Linh with a speech therapist who taught her to read lips. Lip reading was the best option for Linh because her hearing loss was too profound for a hearing aid and nobody in Linh’s community knows sign language.

Linh attends a government-run school where neither her peers nor her teacher know how to communicate with her. But when Linh returns home, her speech therapist helps her to practice lip reading while reviewing lessons from the classroom.

When Linh began speech therapy in February, she was completely nonverbal. By June, she was making dozens of sounds.

“That’s a huge jump...she’s a very bright girl,” Isanhart said.

Isanhart visited Linh’s home in the Thang Bing district of Vietnam’s Quang Nam province in June. She said Linh’s new skills have transformed the 11-year-old’s home life.

Isanhart said Linh’s parents seem less frustrated, because they are finally able to effectively communicate with their daughter. Linh’s parents also have more support thanks to a parent association organized by CRS for parents of children with disabilities. Parents meet in their neighborhoods to learn positive parenting skills and techniques to handle common behavioral challenges, Isanhart said.

“We’re giving these families and children access to speech therapy that then is opening up their world and helping them to communicate,” Isanhart said. “That lessens some of the frustrations within the home.”

But Linh was also making meaningful connections with other children in her neighborhood.

During her visit in June, Isanhart watched as Linh’s speech therapist gathered Linh, Linh’s siblings and several neighbor children into a circle. The therapist then lead all the children in several popular Vietnamese games.

In one game, the children repeated one word while pointing to the object that word defined. Linh was able to look at her siblings and peers to see what that sound or word looked like on the lips of different people while also making associations between the words and the objects they described.  

“Promoting social inclusion through play; it was quite impressive,” Isanhart said.

Linh’s story is just one of thousands from Catholic Relief Services’ long-running program for children and adults with disabilities in Vietnam.

CRS, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary of service this year, has several projects in Vietnam; including tracking unexploded landmines from the Vietnam War, disaster risk reduction and a clean water initiative. But Julie Keane, CRS’ country manager for Vietnam, said work with children and adults with disabilities is CRS’ flagship project in the country.

For more than 20 years, CRS has worked to offer direct services to people like Linh and her family, while also advocating for large-scale changes to make life in Vietnam more welcoming to those with disabilities. Their work ranges from providing ramps and handrails at schools to programs training children with disabilities to recognize and report abusive behavior.

“It’s kind of that dual approach that is really successful and helpful because you’re not just delivering a service that then is done when we’re done, but it’s really changing the overall system of support for children and adults with disabilities,” Keane said.

CRS is also introducing this year organized play and organized sports for the disabled in Vietnam. Through a partnership with the Special Olympics, CRS was able to host an inclusive soccer match and bocce ball competition this June for 100 children with disabilities and dozens of their peers.

“There are so many benefits that come to the child’s development through sport,” Isanhart said. “We’ll be tracking the benefits to all the kids who are playing together and forging friendships between kids.”

CRS’ ultimate goal is to empower communities to organize inclusive sports clubs, Isanhart said. The provinces that hosted the June events procured more than $800 in donations from members of the community.

“It was really great to see the buy-in of so many stakeholders from within the community to support these kids to have the opportunity to play and build their friendships through organized sport,” Isanhart said.  

For Keane, CRS’ program for the disabled in Vietnam is one of the most life-changing programs she has seen in her more than a decade with the Catholic aid agency.

“In Vietnam, it (having a disabled child) is still truly very much still a stigma and so often parents don’t go and get help for their children...and that early intervention is so important,” she said.

“I think for us - for CRS - it’s really about ensuring that all human beings have a life that has value and that the most vulnerable are not left behind. There’s still a lot of work to be done … we are making progress on de-stigmatizing life for people with disabilities but there’s still a ways to go.”


This article was originally published on CNA July 27, 2018.

NY archdiocese issued suitability letter for priest under abuse investigation

Fri, 12/28/2018 - 19:39

New York City, N.Y., Dec 28, 2018 / 05:39 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of New York told a California college this month that a local priest had never been accused of sexual abuse, even while the priest was being investigated by the archdiocese for several abuse charges. An administrator at the college called the letter “a lie,” and said she can no longer trust assurances from the archdiocese.

On Dec. 4, the New York archdiocese issued a letter stating “without qualification” that Fr. Donald Timone had “never been accused of any act of sexual abuse or misconduct involving a minor.”

In fact the archdiocese first received in 2003 an allegation that the priest had sexually abused minors, and it reached settlements with alleged victims in 2017.

The archdiocesan letter was received Dec. 13 by John Paul the Great University in Escondido, California, where Timone served. According to the university, the letter was not rescinded until after university officials contacted the Archdiocese of New York, following a Dec. 20 New York Times report on the history of allegations against Timone.

Allegations were first made against Timone in 2003 but they were dismissed as “unsubstantiated” by the archdiocese following an investigation by the archdiocesan review board. New allegations were made against the priest during a 2017 investigation by the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program of the Archdiocese of New York.

Last week, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York told CNA that the archdiocesan review board had reopened its formal investigation into Timone in early autumn 2018.

The officially retired priest, still active at the university and in other contexts, was removed from ministry Dec. 21, according to the New York Times.

Timone has served for the last decade as a visiting priest at the university during the winter and summer terms. His duties included saying Mass and hearing confessions. He taught a class during the summer term of 2018 and was scheduled to lead a seminar in the coming term.

University Vice President for Administration Lidy Connolly told CNA that she was “thrown for a loop” when she heard about the allegations against Timone.

“Fr. Timone has been coming here for more than a decade and New York never told us anything about [the allegations] against him,” Connolly said.

Letters of suitability are issued by dioceses around the world for priests traveling outside of their home dioceses. They have assumed a far greater importance in recent decades, especially in the United States, following the sexual abuse scandals of the last twenty years.

“What do these letters of suitability and good standing mean if they say there’s never been an allegation and there clearly have been?” Connolly asked.

“Does this mean we can no longer have priests come visit from New York? At the moment the archdiocese’s word means nothing.”

The Dec. 4 letter was signed by New York’s archdiocesan director of priest personnel, Msgr. Edward Weber.

“I have carefully reviewed our personnel and other records which we maintain,” Weber wrote.

“I assure you that Reverend Donald Timone [is] a person of good moral character and reputation and is qualified to serve in an effective and suitable manner as a priest. I have no reason to suspect that the above-mentioned priest is unfit for service as a priest.”

Weber wrote that he could “certify and affirmatively represent without qualification” Timone had “never been accused of any act of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct involving a minor,” and “manifested no behavioral problems in the past that would indicate he might deal with people, including minors, in an inappropriate manner.”

The letter also attests that Timone has “never been involved in an incident which called into question his fitness or suitability.”

In 2017, the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program paid settlements in response to substantiated allegations that Timone had sexually abused two teenage boys, one of whom eventually committed suicide.

A spokesman for the archdiocese told CNA that, after the Dec. 4 letter was issued, archdiocesan officials conducted an internal discussion about Timone’s status in active ministry.

“The question of Father Timone remaining active in ministry did arise when a letter of suitability was requested for his trip to California,” archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling told CNA.

“He was initially instructed not to publicly exercise his ministry or present himself as a priest while there; it was followed a few days later with a further restriction of ministry for whenever he returns to New York, while the matter is under review by our review board.”

Connolly told CNA that John Paul the Great University had received letters attesting to Timone’s suitability for more than a decade. She expressed shock and outrage on behalf of the university.

“I’d defend the Church come hell or high water,” Connolly told CNA, “but there is no defending this - the [Dec. 4] letter is a lie.”

Connolly said she contacted the Archdiocese of New York after reading media reports about Timone, to ask why he had been given a clean bill of health.

“They totally evaded my questions,” Connolly told CNA.

The Archdiocese of New York declined to comment on why it issued letters for years indicating that no allegations had been made against Timone, even after settlements were paid by the IRCP and Timone became the subject of a renewed investigation by the archdiocesan review board.

The Dec. 4 letter explicitly states that all the relevant archdiocesan files had been checked before it was issued. The Archdiocese of New York declined to comment on whether this had happened in Timone’s case and, if not, whether similar letters had been issued for other priests accused of abuse or misconduct.

Zwilling told CNA that “lessons were being learned” and that a new process had been instituted in the light of the case.

“As a result of our experience with Fr. Timone’s case, in the future, before any letters of suitability will be issued by the archdiocese the request will be passed through the offices of the archdiocesan civil attorney and the Safe Environment Officer,” Zwilling said.

Empty cradle, empty pews? What the low birth rate means for Catholics

Fri, 12/28/2018 - 17:15

Washington D.C., Dec 28, 2018 / 03:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Demographic reports indicate that the U.S. birth rate is at a 40-year low, with significant declines among Hispanic women. That low birth rate could mean declining Mass attendance because couples with children are more likely to attend church, one demographer says.

“It is the case that Catholics, Hispanic or not, tend to become more active in their faith when they marry and have children,” said Dr. Mark Gray, senior research associate at the Georgetown University-affiliated Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

“Thus, going to Mass frequently may not necessarily make a couple more open to having more children. Instead, having children may encourage parents to incorporate their faith in their family life more and thus lead to higher levels of attendance.”

Hispanic Catholics who attend Mass weekly on average have 2.89 children, compared to non-Hispanic Catholics who have 2.35, said Gray, citing General Social Survey figures.

“So it is accurate to say that more frequently Mass attending Catholics have more children,” Gray told CNA. “Hispanics who are not Catholic have 1.8 children, on average. Nearly half of Hispanic adults are not Catholic, 46 percent.”

At the same time, there are other aspects of the birth rate to consider.

“A growing rate of disaffiliation from Catholicism among Hispanics along with slightly lower rates of Mass attendance among Hispanic Catholics over the last decade could be having an effect on fertility decisions,” Gray added. “The economy is also important.”

The U.S. reached a 40-year low in the fertility rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control provisional estimate for 2017. There were about 3.85 million births last year, a total fertility rate of about 1.76 births per woman.

By comparison, the total fertility rate in 2007 was 2.08 children born per woman, with total births numbering as high as 4.31 million.

Lyman Stone, a research fellow at the Charlottesville, Va.-based Institute for Family Studies, said the Hispanic birth rate appears to have declined the most.

“Solidly half of the missing kids over the last decade would have been born to Hispanic mothers, despite the fact that Hispanics only make up about a quarter of fertility-age women,” Stone said at the Institute for Family Studies website.

From 2008-2016, Hispanic women’s age-adjusted fertility rate fell from 2.85 births per woman to 2.1. They had about 19 percent fewer babies than they were on pace to have before 2008. This numbers about 2.2 million “missing births,” according to Stone.

By comparison, non-Hispanics’ fertility rate fell from 1.95 births per woman to 1.72. About 2.3 million “missing births” would be from these mothers.

Stone credited the birth rate decline among all groups mostly to changes in marriage and marital status.

“Births to never-married women are down more than births to ever-married women,” he said.

Since 2007, the age-adjusted fertility rate for married women is down 14 percent, while the never-married fertility rate is down 21 percent.

The statistics indicate the birth rate is falling more slowly for women with graduate degrees than women with bachelor’s degrees, while the birth rate is falling most for women with no bachelor’s degrees.

“Fertility declines are most strongly associated with factors that are race- or region-specific, not broadly class-specific, as different economic classes appear to have quite similar trends,” Stone said. “This doesn’t rule out all economic causes: there are important interactions between race and socioeconomic class.”

He suggested that economically-oriented solutions may have only “modest direct effects” on the birth rate.

The CARA research blog, edited by Gray, took a look at a similar time period, 2010-2016. It found a net loss in the U.S. Catholic population of 0.9 percent.

“This is a dynamic that is happening at the level of the family where it meets the parish community. Something is disconnected,” Gray said in a March 12, 2018 post.

Decline in marriage rates between Catholics and non-Catholics also mean a decline in non-Catholic spouses who convert to Catholicism. In 1996, 31 percent of all marriages were between Catholics and non-Catholics, compared to only 23 percent in 2015, Gray said.

“The most common reason given by adults converting to Catholicism for switching their religion is that they are marrying a Catholic. Fewer marriages in the Church between Catholics and non-Catholics will result in fewer adult entries into the faith.”

The retention rate among Hispanic Catholics appears to be slipping.

In 2010, 77 percent of Hispanics who were raised Catholic remained Catholic when surveyed, compared to 64 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics. By 2016, only 69 percent of Hispanic Catholics remained Catholic, compared to about 63 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics.

In 2010, 63 percent of all Hispanic adults in the U.S. self-identified as Catholic, compared to 54 percent six years later.

“Declining affiliation among Hispanic Catholics should be of great concern to the Church because a majority of Catholics under the age of 18, those of the iGen, are Hispanic,” said Gray, referring to the generation after the Millennials as “iGen.”

He suggested that descendants of immigrants from predominantly Catholic countries often show diminishing religious affiliation over time.

“Coming from a very Catholic country to one with abundant religious pluralism … is a dramatic cultural change,” he said.

The numbers could also reflect differences among Hispanics by national origin.

“In the United States, majorities of self-identified Mexicans, Dominicans, and Salvadorans self-identify their religion as Catholic,” said Gray. “However, minorities of Cubans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans say they are Catholic.”

More Mexican residents of the U.S. are returning to Mexico than entering, with a net population decline of about 140,000 U.S.-residing Mexicans from 2009 to 2014.

Catholic immigrants’ numbers are also on the decline compared to other immigrants.


This article was originally published on CNA May 18, 2018.

Cristo Rey Network puts low-income students to work--and on to college

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 16:30

Washington D.C., Dec 27, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As urban Catholic schools nationwide are closing their doors, it may come as a surprise that the Catholic Cristo Rey Network says it is on-pace to expand to a total of 50 schools within the next decade. The network says that it can provide Catholic education in low-income areas for a fraction of the cost of other high schools.

What’s the secret? Through a unique arrangement called the Corporate Work Study Program, Cristo Rey students are placed in entry-level corporate positions for five days a month. Instead of being paid for their work, students earn their tuition.

The Corporate Work Study Program began in the mid-1990s, when Chicago Jesuits were seeking to better serve the city’s Latino community. After surveying residents, they discovered that they most desired a college-prep high school in their neighborhood. When issues of funding came up, the Jesuits assigned to create this new school reached out to a “very creative, original thinker” for ideas.

“They asked [the consultant] for some ideas about how to sustain a private school for students and families who could not afford to pay for it. He came back with the suggestion that every student have a job,” Fr. John P. Foley, S.J., founder of the Cristo Rey Network, told CNA.

“That was the origin of the Cristo Rey concept.”

Students are allowed to work despite being underage due to a law that permits students enrolled in school-supervised and authorized work-study program to be lawfully employed.

More than 3,000 businesses, including Deloitte, PwC, CIBC, Jones Day, United Airlines, and Ernst & Young, employ Cristo Rey students throughout the school year. Initially, the Jesuits reached out to business-owning alumni of Jesuit schools to propose the idea of the Corporate Work Study Program.

According to Foley, the Jesuit connection provided a great assist to the program.

“It almost seemed enough for those alumni to hear that this was something the Jesuits were thinking about doing for them to say yes, they would give a job. It was almost a blind act of faith in their former teachers,” said Foley.  
The first Cristo Rey school, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, opened in Chicago in 1996, with Foley as president. There are now 32 Cristo Rey schools across throughout the country, and the Cristo Rey Network is currently on target to open an additional eight schools by 2020.

About 10,000 students attend Cristo Rey schools, and on average, their parents pay about $1,000 annually in tuition fees. Nearly eight out of 10 Cristo Rey students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and almost all students are people of color.

Unlike other networks of Catholic schools, Cristo Rey schools are administered by a variety of religious communities, including the Jesuits, Dominicans, Salesians, and Franciscans. Others are run by a particular diocese, such as Cristo Rey Boston High School.

About 40 percent of students in the Cristo Rey Network are not Catholic, and students are welcome to attend the school regardless of what faith they practice, or if they’re not religious at all.

“All of our schools teach a standards-based religious studies curriculum in which all students must complete four years of religious studies courses,” said Alyse Faour, an advancement associate with Cristo Rey, in an interview with CNA. In addition to the required religion classes, there are student ministry programs on campus to assist with spiritual formation.

According to its website, students are admitted to Cristo Rey schools regardless of their abilities, and the average student begins high school about two grade levels behind. Despite this, about nine out of 10 graduates will enroll in college, which is a higher rate than enrollment levels of some high-income students.

“Cristo Rey graduates (...) are completing bachelor’s degrees at more than twice the rate of high school graduates from low-income families nationwide,” said Faour. “We’re making strong progress towards them earning college degrees at national rates comparable to students from families in the highest income quartile.”

Cristo Rey schools currently exist in 21 states, plus the District of Columbia. Schools in Texas, California, Florida, Virginia, Nevada, and Oklahoma are currently in development and on target to open within the next three years.

This article was originally published on CNA Feb. 1, 2018.

Ohio senate fails to override veto of 'heartbeat abortion' bill

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 13:44

Columbus, Ohio, Dec 27, 2018 / 11:44 am (CNA).- Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio on Dec. 21 vetoed a bill that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, but today the Republican-led Ohio House of Representatives voted 60-28 successfully to override the governor’s veto.  

The Ohio senate subsequently failed to override the governor’s veto Dec. 27, with just 19 senators voting in favor of the bill, with 20 votes needed for an override.

Democrats in the house reportedly argued that House Bill 258 iis unconstitutional, an assertion with which Kasich ultimately agreed.

“As governor I have worked hard to strengthen Ohio’s protections for the sanctity of human life , and I have deep respect for my fellow members in the pro-life community and their ongoing efforts in defense of unborn life,” Governor Kasich wrote Dec. 21 in a message accompanying the veto.

“However, the central position of [the bill], that an abortion cannot be performed if a heartbeat has been detected in the unborn child, is contrary to the Supreme Court of the United State’s current rulings on abortion.”

Kasich went on to write that passage of the bill would result in a costly legal fight for the state of Ohio, which would result in the state losing and being forced to pay “hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activists’ lawyers.”

Groups like Ohio Right to Life had previously remained neutral on the bill due to constitutional concerns, but today the pro-life group announced their full support for the heartbeat abortion ban.

Ohio Right to Life also announced their intention to send a new heartbeat bill to the governor’s desk during the next legislative session, now that the senate has failed to override the veto.

This is the second time Kasich has vetoed a bill of this kind, the first of which arrived on his desk two years ago.

This time around, the Ohio Senate passed an amendment clarifying that the bill would not require the use of a transvaginal ultrasound to detect a heartbeat, which would extend the period of pregnancy before a heartbeat can be detected. It removed language that would have allowed the state to suspend a doctor’s medical license before a crime related to abortion is proved in court, and made it clear that a pregnant woman who undergoes an abortion is not considered in violation of the law, but rather allows her to take civil action against the abortion doctor involved if it is proven he or she broke the law.

The law allows exceptions to prevent a woman’s death or bodily impairment, or in cases of medical emergency.

Local media reports that Kasich has signed at least 20 abortion-limiting measures into law since taking office in 2011, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, based on the point when an unborn child can feel pain.

The same day he vetoed the heartbeat bill, Kasich signed several measures related to abortion into law, including a ban on so-called “dismemberment abortions” that drew praise from pro-life advocates.

"Ohioans can sleep easier tonight, knowing that the horrendous practice of dismemberment abortions is behind us," Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, was quoted as saying.

Senate Bill 145, also signed into law Dec. 21, bans the dilation and evacuation abortion procedure, which involves the dilation of the cervix and extraction of the unborn child. The penalty for violating the new law could be fourth degree felony charges, prison time and fines.  

Ten states have now passed bans on the common procedure, though nearly all the laws are facing legal challenges and are not currently in effect in eight of those states. Apart from Ohio, only Mississippi and West Virginia have currently effective “dilation and evacuation” bans, both of which took effect in 2016.

Ohio Governor-elect Mike DeWine, a fellow Republican who takes office in January, has reportedly expressed support for the passage of a heartbeat abortion ban.

Smartphones are driving a rise in teen sexting

Wed, 12/26/2018 - 20:04

Washington D.C., Dec 26, 2018 / 06:04 pm (CNA).- Teen sex may be down, but widespread access to smartphones is driving an increase in teen sexting, recent research has found.

According to an analysis of studies by JAMA Pediatrics, as many as one in seven teens, or about 15 percent, are sending sexually explicit text messages, while one in four teens (25 percent) have reported receiving sexts.

The analysis was compiled from the findings of 39 international studies dated between 2009 and 2016, with a combined total of 110,380 young participants with an average of 15 years of age.

“Sexting over the last decade has been on the rise, which is consistent with the rapid growth in the availability and ownership of smartphones,” noted Sheri Madigan and Jeff Temple in an article about the study. “Teen sex, on the other hand, has been on the decline over the last decade.”

The authors of the study define sexting as the “sharing of sexually explicit images and videos through the internet or via electronic devices such as smartphones.”

Most teen sexting does occur on smartphones, the study noted, which aligns with the increased access that teens have to the devices. In 2015, Pew Research Center found that the majority of teens had access to a smartphone - 73 percent - while 15 percent only had access to a basic phone, and 12 percent did not have access to a cell phone.

The research also showed that older teens were more likely to be sexting, and that boys and girls participated equally in the sending and receiving of texts.

Despite equal participation, another recent study from JAMA Pediatrics also found that girls report feeling more pressure to sext, and may have more sexual partners compared to girls who do not sext. Another recent study found that many girls who sext or are asked to sext react with confusion, but also believe that these requests are normal and struggle to turn them down.

Madigan and Temple recommend that parents have ongoing, “proactive” conversations with their children about “digital citizenship” and the consequences of sexting. However, they say that preaching abstinence regarding sexting “does not work.”

In contrast, Alysse ElHage with the Institute for Family Studies suggested in a blog post that perhaps a better message for parents to send their teens is that sexting is still only done by a minority of teens, and should not be accepted as normal behavior.

“Not only does [Madigan and Temple’s] response seem to disregard research linking teen sexting to other risky sexual behaviors, it also presents sexting as common teenage behavior, even though the present study indicates that only a minority of teens are sending and receiving sexually explicit images,” ElHage wrote.

“Although the increase in the prevalence of teen sexting is worrisome, it is still not the norm. Given that young people face tremendous peer pressure to sext because ‘everyone is doing it,’ perhaps a better message is that the majority of their peers are not sexting,” she emphasized.

“Justin Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center says that our education efforts need to emphasize ‘the abnormality’ of sexting behavior along with the dangers: ‘[R]emind the youth in your life that most teens are not asking for nude photos (or sending them),’ Patchin advises. ‘That is the norm, and one we should continue to encourage.’”


This article was originally published on CNA March 12, 2018.

The life of a hermit: A glimpse inside the little-known state of life

Mon, 12/24/2018 - 18:01

Portland, Maine, Dec 24, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The word ‘hermit’ might conjure up some strange images, a la John the Baptist living reclusively in the desert, wearing a hair shirt and eating locusts and honey.

The word itself comes from the Greek ‘eremos’, meaning wilderness or an isolated place. The vocation of a hermit became most popular among early Christians, who, inspired by Old Testament saints such as Elijah and John the Baptist, desired to live a life set apart and therefore withdrew into the desert in order to live lives of prayer and penance.

But the vocation is still a recognized calling in the Church today, and is about so much more than seemingly-odd ascetic practices and isolation.

In the interview below, Brother Rex, a hermit at Little Portion Hermitage in the Diocese of Portland, told Catholic News Agency what it is like to live the eremitic life in the 21st century.


What does it mean to be a hermit?

According to the Church's latest Code of Canon Law the canonical definition of a hermit is as follows:

Can. 603 §1. In addition to institutes of consecrated life, the Church recognizes the eremitic or anchoritic life by which the Christian faithful devote their life to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through a stricter withdrawal from the world, the silence of solitude, and assiduous prayer and penance.

§2. A hermit is recognized by law as one dedicated to God in consecrated life if he or she publicly professes in the hands of the diocesan bishop the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by vow or other sacred bond, and observes a proper program of living under his direction.

A shorthand and non-canonical definition that I use is to say that a hermit is a woman or man who lives alone expressly for the glory of God, the good of the Church and the salvation of souls. Some hermits are consecrated by the Church per Canon 603 above and live their vocation in the name of the Church; some hermits live out their calling without publicly professing their commitment in the hands of the diocesan bishop. I am hermit of the former kind, i.e. according to Canon 603.

How did you find out about this way of life, and what drew you to it?

Grace drew me to this life. The example of the Desert Fathers and Mothers drew me to this life. The example of many of the great saints throughout history - Francis of Assisi, just to name one well-known saint who lived as hermit for a time before he was called to found a religious fraternity of Brother - drew me to this life. Through all and with all and in all of this it was God's grace calling me to this particular way of discipleship.

How does one become a hermit? Was there someone you followed or learned from? How is the formation process different than that of a religious in community?

If a person wishes to discern a vocation to the eremitic life according to Canon 603, that person will want to contact the chancery of the diocese in which they live to determine whether or not the Ordinary of the diocese is open to the possibility of having a hermit under his canonical jurisdiction. If he is, the Ordinary or his representative in conversation with the would-be hermit will determine how the discernment process is to proceed.

What does a day in the life of a hermit look like?

Each hermit has his or her own schedule. My schedule looks like this:

My day begins around 4:00 a.m. I make a daily Holy Hour from 5:00-6:00 a.m. during which I pray the Morning Office. I attend daily Mass at a local parish at 7:00 a.m. After returning from Mass I have breakfast and spend the rest of the morning engaged in spiritual reading, Lectio Divina, and meeting occasionally with any person who has made an appointment to see me for spiritual direction. After Noonday Prayer and lunch, the afternoon (approximately 1-5 p.m.) consists of a work period during which I respond to email, and take prayer requests via email or regular mail. I pray the Evening Office at 5:00 p.m., my evening meal is at 5:30pm, Night Prayer is at 7 p.m., and lights out by 8 p.m. most nights.

This schedule is rigid enough to provide stability for my vocation in the silence of solitude, yet flexible enough to accommodate running errands, doctor's appointments, accomplishing tasks around the hermitage and so forth.

How isolated are hermits, in practice? How often or in what context do you encounter other people?

It varies. Some hermits rarely venture out of their hermitage. Some hermits venture out a couple of days a week to some form of work to provide financial support. The amount of time a hermit spends outside the hermitage or otherwise encounters other people is determined to a large degree by the interpretation of Canon 603 in dialogue with their Ordinary or his representative, and the hermit's Rule or Plan of Life.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about this way of life that you have encountered?

The biggest misconception I have encountered is that people seem to think that hermits are misanthropes who dislike other people and so hide away from them; that our life is not so because we love God, but because we can't get along with other people (at best) or dislike humans altogether (at worst).

I remember one person telling me I couldn't possibly be a hermit because I am too outgoing and friendly toward others! That being said, I would argue that eremitic life and misanthropy are two very different things. Eremitic life is a calling from God and includes a love of others. Misanthropy on the other hand is a psychologically maladaptive response to the world. This is not to say that all hermits are friendly and outgoing - being friendly and outgoing are a matter of temperament - but it is to say that hermits in a healthy and Christian sense do not, indeed cannot, "dislike humankind" which is the very definition of misanthropy.

What are some of the most joyful aspects of the life of a hermit?

One of the most joyful aspect of my life as a hermit is the opportunity God has given me to spend long periods in the silence of solitude to practice being present to God and to my neighbor through prayer. Paradoxically perhaps, another joyful aspect of my vocation is the part I am blessed to play in the lives of other people as they invite me to join them on their life journey through the ministry of intercessory prayer. Thus, in a particular way i am able to fulfill Our Lord's command to love God and neighbor.

Are there other hermits in the U.S. that you know of, or have met? Is there a hermit network of sorts?

I'm sure someone somewhere keeps an official tally of the total number of consecrated hermits in the Church throughout world, but I don't know who or where. In the diocese where I live there are five or six other hermits listed in the official Diocesan Directory. I am also aware of hermits, both male and female, in other dioceses in the U.S. and abroad. As for a ‘hermit network,’ I know of nothing official, but some of us do keep in touch via an occasional email, or letter or phone call. As I said, we not misanthropes. Not most of us, anyway!

Is there anything that you wish other Catholics, Christians or society at large knew about being a hermit?

What I pray for other Catholics, non-Catholic Christians and society at large is that they, like me, come to experience the freedom, happiness and joy that comes from submitting one's will and life to the loving lordship of Jesus Christ in whatever state of life they find themselves.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Assure your readers that I live my vocation as a prayer for them. Ask them to please pray for me, a sinner.


Prayer requests for Brother Rex, as well as his spiritual reflections and links for financial support, can be found at Friends of Little Portion Hermitage.

This article was originally published on CNA April 15, 2018.

Where is Jesus in the midst of the Church's sex abuse crisis?

Mon, 12/24/2018 - 13:16

Washington D.C., Dec 24, 2018 / 11:16 am (CNA).- Fr. Thomas Berg is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, a former Legionary of Christ, and professor of moral theology, vice rector, and director of admissions at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, NY.  He is author of Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics. He spoke recently with CNA’s Courtney Grogan about the challenges Catholics face amid the Church’s sexual abuse and misconduct scandals. The interview is below, edited for clarity and length.


With everything that has been coming out in the news recently about sexual abuse in the Church, how do you think that your book, “Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics,” could be helpful?

In the wake of the McCarrick scandal and ongoing revelations of priest sexual abuse, a very common reaction is one of betrayal.

That's what I have heard a lot of from persons who have reached out to me, especially persons who for years have collaborated with bishops, worked in chanceries, worked for bishops, collaborated in apostolates, have headed-up bishop’s capital campaigns, have been donors and so on. Part of the very common experience is this raw emotional wound of betrayal.

Much of my book speaks directly to that experience. That's where I really hope that persons who are going through that betrayal, profound discouragement, disappointment, the bewilderment of the moral failures of bishops, who either failed to report what they should have reported or did not act on what was reported to them.

That is scandalous and that opens up a wound of betrayal really in the whole mystical body.

I very much believe that the book can, hopefully, point to where is the good news in this -- Where is the hope in this? Where is Jesus in the midst of this crisis?

Where is Jesus in the midst of this crisis?

Jesus is the healer of wounds, and Jesus does not leave the members of his mystical body without healing when we seek it.

We are in the midst of a massive crisis, notwithstanding some resistance to that idea by some of our prelates.

And those wounds are opened up. This is where not only can Jesus bring healing, but he can also use that experience of woundedness, whether that is personally or institutionally or spiritually as the body of Christ. He uses those wounds to bring greater good, to bring grace and healing to His Church.

Part of what I do in the book is just to reflect, often with these individuals [victims of abuse] and sometimes in their own words, on this mystery that the Jesus who comes into this experience is Jesus who appeared with his glorious wounds. The wounds were still there. The wounds are mystically important and we can unite our wounds to Jesus and allow him to unite those in a mystical way, in a redemptive way to His redemptive work.

So, where is Jesus in all of this? Jesus is continuing in the midst of our brokenness, in the midst of the utter moral failures of our pastors, in the midst of our own sinfulness and brokenness. The risen Good Shepherd comes with his glorious wounds by which he intends to bring about healing in his Church and to bring about a much greater good and a much more glorious future precisely in and through the tragedies that we are experiencing.

We will also experience this in a much more glorious and beautiful day for the Church in the future, and certainly for the Church when all time has been consummated and we are all, by God's grace, caught up in the glory of the heavenly kingdom.

You discuss in the book how uprooting a betrayal of trust can be and how we really need to be grounded in Christ's love. What are some concrete ways that Catholics can really root themselves in Christ's love and find that grounding in a time when they might feel destabilized in the Church?

First, very practical immediate answer: Eucharistic adoration. No doubt about it.

That was essentially my homily when we were talking about the McCarrick thing from the pulpit. It means, as always in crisis, we need to be earnestly and deeply seeking the Lord by frequenting Eucharistic adoration and intensifying one's life of prayer.

In my own story, I had to go on retreat. I had to just go take some time to just be by myself to get that down to the solid foundation of what did I stand on. What was the foundation that everything that I believed stood on?

What one can come to in those experiences is that experience of Jesus -- the experience that our risen and glorious Lord still stands present in the midst of our lives. He is there.

When we are hurting, we need to do whatever it takes: adoration, retreat, increased prayer, asceticism, solid spiritual reading, all of the things that we can avail ourselves of God's grace to re-experience ourselves as rooted and grounded in His love.

God has a very big safety net for us and it is that reality of being truly rooted and grounded in Him and in His love that encompasses us.

It is just that when we are hurting, when we are scandalized, when we are angry, when we are experiencing all of this emotional turbulence, it is just -- it takes time and prayer and I think a lot of coming to silence and coming to quiet to get through that and to realize that our Lord is still there. Our Lord is still holding his hands out to us. Our Lord is still there to embrace us and pick us up and guide us and help us to move forward.

What would you say to the priest who just doesn't know how to address this from the pulpit, who is dealing with his own feelings of hurt and confusion, and maybe is on the fence about whether he should address it in a homily?

I think that the best thing that priest can do is to talk about that in his homily. It is emotionally exhausting for most of us. It is heartbreaking. When I preached, I got emotional. I think it is very healing and good if priests allow themselves to feel and show that emotion. Feel and show how personally upsetting it is. If a priest is angry, tell your people, 'Yeah, I'm angry too, and you should be angry.' It should start there.

It is absolutely essential that this is addressed. No priest should be waiting for some directive from his bishop. I would hope that across the country most priests have already addressed this from the pulpit. If not, it absolutely has to happen.

People are very angry right now, and I do not think that they are identifying that anger as a hurt. Many people are channeling their anger into what needs to change in the Church. Some channel it at specific people in the Church.

You address healthy anger in the book, and I want to hear your thoughts on it in this context. What would you say to people who are very angry?

There is certainly such a thing as just anger. I would hope that most of the anger that what most committed Catholics are experiencing right now is precisely that -- “just anger.” I have experienced a good deal of bit of it in the past few weeks.

Hopefully that anger does get channelled into good positive, action steps that I think Catholics are taking. But people should also be very honest with themselves: This hurts.

I think that our brothers and sisters who are going through this right now, and they are many, need to own up to that.

That is a very healthy starting point to getting to a better place. In this context, it is an important part of rightly channeling our energies and our reactions prayerfully and in docility to the Holy Spirit. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to come fully into that experience of hurt in this ecclesial context.

The immediate victims of McCarrick, those who have suffered sexual exploitation, they are hurt in a very unique way, but in some sense this has inflicted a hurt on all of us. And those who failed, those who enabled him, those who pulled him up the ecclesiastical ladder, if they did so with knowledge of his sexual predation, that inflicts a real emotional hurt on all of us, and we should just admit that.

Many Catholics first faced these initial feelings of betrayal, shock, bewilderment in 2002. After positive steps forward like the Dallas Charter, these Catholics found some consolation in the fact that the Church had made positive changes. Now there are layers of hurt there, particularly the hurt of thinking that things were better and then discovering that they are not.

The Church might not change in our lifetimes. Reform in the Church takes so long. The Church is very good at reforming herself, but it can take centuries sometimes. I'm worried for people who are looking for a quick fix.

I think that you are hitting at the heart of the problem. One thing that we are being faced with in this crisis is the reality that effective change within the Church takes a very, very long time. Even within organizations, people talk about changing the internal culture of a business, even that in itself can take a long time.

First of all, there is no reason why we cannot continue to take genuine pride in the programs that have been set in place with the sacrifice and dedication by the way of hundreds of lay Catholic men and women who have jumped into this breach and who have instituted requirements for background checks, safe environment training, safe environment programs, who serve the Church as sexual abuse assistance coordinators in dioceses (these are people who deal one on one especially with victims of clergy sexual abuse.) So we have every reason frankly to be confident that we are in a much better place then we were 15 years ago to protect our children. There is no reason to doubt that.

What people are still reeling from, and this has been the real revelation, is that there has been, especially within the episcopacy, there has been an internal culture which allowed -- and I am not faulting all bishops here, but McCarrick is the child of an old boys school mentality, a culture where bishops too often understood themselves as members of this kind of privileged caste who used power and authority to manipulate and frankly to bring about all kind of harms and hurts in people's lives. Bishops have sadly often been the perpetrators of much of the hurt that has been experienced on many levels and in many forms in the Church. And that is a sickly culture and it has to change.

The Church desperately needs a healing in its episcopacy. This is very much a crisis of the episcopacy. The current ethos is in so many ways it is failing us. It is failing the Church. What we have is, in far too many cases, a kind of managerial approach. Bishops simply seek to manage, to contain, to bureaucratize our apostolates, and that is not a culture where the Church is going to thrive.

Is that going to change anytime soon? No, but I think that we have an opportunity. This crisis is putting a spotlight on that problematic culture within the episcopate. I think that we can be hopeful for some kind of change, maybe even sea change.

There are good and holy bishops out there who are as incensed about this as you or I or any of us are. It is my prayer and hope that they will begin to exercise some very kind of unprecedented leadership within the body of bishops and certainly within their own dioceses.

So what do Catholics do meanwhile? Well, we are challenged to exercise the supernatural virtue of hope. We are challenged to believe that that kind of change, if it is meant to be, will take time, but we have to support every bishop who shows signs that they are getting it.

We have to support every bishop who shows signs that they understand and that they are taking unprecedented steps towards transparency, toward addressing even the faults of their own brother bishops.

We need to be supportive and helpful, and I guess that is a long way of saying that we need to hang in there and trust in the Holy Spirit. Change does take a long time in the Church. We are called to continue to exercise hope and it is by sustaining hope and sustaining a healthy pressure on the bishops that can bring about some really positive change here, maybe faster than we think.

As outrageous as it is, I can imagine the temptation a leader might feel to keep something so scandalous secret, to think that they were protecting Catholics from scandal by a sort of false charity, if you will. How does a leader find the courage or strength to come forward with the truth after they have covered up?

In the context of the Church, bishops who get it have come to understand that the scandal has been the supposed effort to “avoid scandal.” The scandal has been covering this stuff up. The scandal has been keeping this stuff quiet.

This is what I always tell our seminarians. Transparency is your friend. Light and truth are our friends. Institutionally, I think that we are understanding that. In the context of seminary formation, I really believe earnestly that the vast majority of our men understand that.

And I think understanding that also makes it easier to come clean when there has been a failure of any sort. In a sense, it all boils down to the old adage, 'Honesty is the best policy.'

Obviously, when you are talking about something as complex as sexual abuse and exploitation, that is obviously much more complex because sometimes you are dealing with victims who desire to remain anonymous.

It takes an enormous amount of courage for victims of abuse to come forward and go public. That's been one sad part of this whole tragedy. It is so difficult. The courage there is just amazing sometimes. I think the message of what we are learning in the sexual abuse crisis is that transparency is the only way to go.

Honestly trying to protect the requirements of justice and people's reputations is a difficult balance and it definitely requires that transparency.

What do you recommend for those who are specifically dealing with disillusionment? How do Catholics keep their eyes open to the truth without totally succumbing to cynicism?

I think that the level of cynicism and disillusionment right now is off the charts.

You know people often use that image of having a bandage ripped off a wound. I don't think that we have yet healed from -- I know we haven't healed from 2002. This isn't having a bandage ripped off. This is having that wound ripped open and stamped on.

I'm fully expecting that the level of disillusionment and just shear kind of numb confusion is going to be a very common experience. I think that there will be different outcomes. I hope that Catholics can believe that there is a way forward here, especially committed Catholics.

It leads you to question your faith. I have been there. I have had that experience. The more you expose yourself to this, the more faith is going to be severely challenged.

I would just hope though that Catholics can understand that Jesus can lead them through that fire. He can lead us through this fire and make it a purifying fire, so that we can emerge from this really sad and really critical chapter of crisis in the Church, that we can emerge from this as stronger disciples and more committed Catholic Christians.

What transformation the Holy Spirit brings about, I hope we could no matter how hard this is, I hope we could kind of look forward to that with a sense of hope and expectation and maybe even the sense that as bad as it is, I want to be a part of what happens now. I want to be a part of the renewal that the Holy Spirit is going to necessarily going to bring about. I want to be a part of the action here. I want to be a part of what the Holy Spirit is going to do now in the Church.

I am absolutely convinced that the Holy Spirit is working in and through this crisis in a very real way. I have experienced it myself. I have seen it and I have heard it from others.

We have to allow the Holy Spirit to bring us beyond this very profound disillusionment.


This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 16, 2018.

What went wrong in the Sexual Revolution? This documentary takes a look

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 18:51

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 23, 2018 / 04:51 pm (CNA).- The story of a donor-conceived woman. The Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. The development of birth control. And a papal document that shocked the world. These themes come together in a new documentary, Sexual Revolution--50 Years Since Humanae Vitae.

The film’s director, Daniel diSilva, told CNA that the documentary focuses on three main messages: addressing the broken ideals of “free love” that were promised in the Sexual Revolution; examining the consequences of the “free love” movement in light of Humanae Vitae; and outlining the historical development of the birth control pill and Natural Family Planning.

Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI, affirms the Church’s teaching against contraception. It talks about the dignity of human life and sexuality, and outlines the use of Natural Family Planning as a morally valid method of planning and spacing children.

The Sexual Revolution, said diSilva, introduced a new concept of love “with no strings attached, no babies, no consequences.” But it “went off track…and it has broken every promise that it made to our culture.”

“We, as a culture, were lied to left and right, and we all went with it,” he said. “I think the sexual revolution was, in a certain sense, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Pope Paul VI, who was canonized a saint this October, “was the antithesis, if you will, of the sexual revolution,” he continued. In Humanae Vitae, the pope warned society against the widespread use of artificial contraception, saying it would lead to an increase in marital infidelity and general decline of moral standards, the possibility of governments using coercive measures to force contraceptive use upon people, a loss of respect for women, and a general decrease in humility regarding humanity’s dominion over the human body.

“And he was ridiculed. He was laughed at,” said diSilva. “That document, to this day, is probably…one of the most hated papal history.”

But in the end, he continued, the pope’s warnings about the consequences of contraception for society would prove to be true.

The film also delves into the history of the pill in contrast with Natural Family Planning. For those who have not explored Natural Family Planning, diSilva said, its history is revealed in the film as a “beautiful and organic, super scientifically effective method,” especially in a time “when people are so focused on what’s organic and what’s natural.”

Tying these elements together is the story of the film’s narrator, Alana Newman, whose exploration of her life as a donor-conceived individual led to her conversion to the Catholic Church.

The inspiration for the film came during a conversation between diSilva and Newman’s husband, Richard, during the screening of diSilva’s previous work, The Original Image of Divine Mercy.

“I’ve been pitched a million ideas for films,” he said, but Newman’s idea stuck out to him.

The idea was even more special to diSilva because it began during the screening of a film based on God’s mercy.

“It’s highly significant because of what mercy means,” he said. “It’s an incredible link from Divine Mercy to this film.”

It also tips its hat to the pro-life movement. “It’s a work of art that is a culmination” of all pro-life efforts, he said.

The film features commentary from prominent Catholic leaders, including Professor Janet Smith of Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Princeton law professor Robert George, Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft, Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, director of the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project Brad Wilcox, George Mason law professor Helen Alvare, and author Mary Eberstadt.

But diSilva hopes its message will reach far beyond a Catholic audience.

The film, he said, is “an invitation to revisit Humanae Vitae now, 50 years later…Nobody can ridicule the pope for what he said in Humanae Vitae anymore - those days are over. Because everything he said came true. He was right about everything. He couldn’t have been more accurate in Humanae Vitae.”


This article originally published on CNA July 4, 2018.

How an abortion clinic became a medical center for the poor

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 17:00

Manassas, Virginia, Dec 23, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Four years ago, a medical office in Manassas, Virginia was one of the area’s largest abortion clinics. Today, it is a free medical clinic for the poor, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic opened its doors on Dec. 6, 2017. Supported by the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington (CCDA), the clinic provides free medical care to uninsured or underinsured adults living in Northern Virginia.  
The abortion clinic previously at the site, Amethyst Health Center for Women, closed in September 2015, when its owner retired. The building was purchased in 2016 by the BVM Foundation (BVM being an abbreviation for “Blessed Virgin Mary”), who passed it on to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. In August, the diocese announced that the newly transformed clinic would open later that year.

The clinic is run by a volunteer force of doctors, nurses, and translators, and is open weekly for patient care, provided completely for free. The clinic also does referrals for other services.

Most of the patients served by the clinic do not know about the building’s past use, but all of the volunteer workers are aware of its former life.
Medical director Dr. Scott Ross told the Washington Post that he thought the volunteers had been “energized” by how they would be part of “something good” coming from the same place where abortions had been performed for years.
Ross told the Post that he is hoping to expand the clinic’s hours with the help of additional volunteers, and that he hopes the clinic is able to make agreements with other medical providers to further serve patients in need of assistance.
Many of the patients served at the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic are recent immigrants who have not yet obtained insurance or cannot afford medical insurance, Ross said. The clinic is partnered with Novant Health UVA Health System, where Ross works as a family physician.  Catholic Charities says this partnership will provide even more low-cost medical care to those who qualify.
In addition to medical care, Ross told the Post the he hopes to eventually expand the clinic to offer food assistance to patients, and mental health counseling. Ross said that he has been surprised by the number of people who visited the clinic with complications from poorly-managed diabetes, and wants to assist these patients with meal-planning and education.

“We are starting as a drop in the bucket,” said Ross.
When it was an abortion clinic, Ross used to regularly pray outside of the building. He told the Post that it was “eerie” going into the building before it was renovated into its current state.
While the clinic is now running, the initial sale of the building to the BVM Foundation was criticized by abortion proponents. The former building owner says she was “duped” into the sale, and said she was unaware that the BVM Foundation was a Catholic group intent on shutting down the abortion clinic.

Sean Garvey, one of the founders of BVM, and Jim Koehr, the secretary/treasurer, say their group was entirely transparent throughout the sale process and communicated with Amethyst’s owner many times about what they intended to do with the office.

Controversy also arose after the abortion clinic’s closure, when its former telephone number, still active at the site, was routed to the crisis pregnancy center located next door. Koehr said that women who were calling a closed abortion clinic needed to hear “someone who cared” on the other end of the line.


This article was originally published on CNA Jan. 2, 2018.

Archdiocese faces questions over accused New York priest

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 19:00

New York City, N.Y., Dec 21, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of New York is facing questions about the sequence of events which led to the recent removal from ministry of one of its retired priests, Fr. Donald Timone. Fr. Timone is accused of sexually abusing two teenage boys during the late 1960s and early 1970s.


In a story published by the New York Times on Dec. 20, it was reported that Timone was allowed to continue to publicly minister as a priest despite allegations first being made against him in 2003 and an independent commission paying compensation to two of Timone’s alleged victims last year.


The awards were made by the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP), a body established by Cardinal Timothy Dolan in 2016 to compensate victims of clerical sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of New York.


Timone, 84, retired from full-time ministry in 2009 but has continued to say Mass in parishes and a Catholic university.


Initial media coverage of the case suggested that the handling of the allegations against Timone showed a failure in archdiocesan procedures. But a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York told CNA that the Timone case was “an example of the effectiveness of the Church’s procedures” and that the archdiocese had removed Fr. Timone from ministry in 2003 when the first allegation against him was received, and again this month following new complaints and more information becoming available.


“Sixteen years ago, after conducting their own investigation, the Dutchess County District Attorney referred to the Archdiocese of New York an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor made against Fr. Timone,” Joseph Zwilling told CNA.


“As is our protocol,” Zwilling explained, “Fr. Timone was removed from ministry, the allegation carefully investigated, and the entire matter turned over to our Review Board. They determined, after studying the case and interviewing both the person bringing the allegation and Fr. Timone, that the allegation was not substantiated. Thus, Fr. Timone was returned to ministry.”


Speaking to sources in the Archdiocese of New York, CNA was told that the 2003 allegation included the names of two other potential victims, but that neither of these responded when approached by the archdiocese.


The alleged victim committed suicide in 2015, following battles with addiction. He published a memoir in 2006 in which he detailed his alleged abuse but only named Timone as “Fr. X.”


In 2017, the IRCP awarded compensation for a claim submitted by the accuser’s widow, as well as to another alleged victim of Timone - both settlements were reported by the New York Times to be in excess of $100,000.


Controversy over the case has centered on how Timone’s apparent victims could be compensated by the IRCP while he was allowed to continue ministering as a priest during his retirement, both in New York and California where he spends part of the year.


Zwilling told CNA that the IRCP was set up to be a truly independent body and, as such, it applied its own standards to handling cases and there was no automatic mechanism to forward information between it and the archdiocese.


“Because it is a compensation program, not a legal one, it has a different standard of proof and review. The original complaint about Fr. Timone [found unsubstantiated by the Archdiocesan Review Board] was brought to the IRCP and in the course of its investigation new information came to light,” Zwilling said. He told CNA that, following the IRCP decision to make the award, the archdiocese asked the Review Board to re-examine the case, and that it had begun doing so in the Fall of 2018.


The second accuser compensated by the IRCP in 2017, quoted but unnamed by the New York Times, said that he had made allegations against Timone directly to the archdiocese in 2002.


The Archdiocese of New York declined to comment on this second accuser. “When the IRCP was set up by Cardinal Dolan in 2016, a commitment was made that the archdiocese would never do or say anything that could even inadvertently lead to the disclosure of a potential victims identity,” Zwilling said.


“At the risk of that happening, the archdiocese can’t comment on an allegation supposedly made in 2002, who might have made it, or under what circumstances.”


Zwilling did confirm to CNA that although the Archdiocesan Review Board had reopened  Timone’s case at least by October of 2018, his priestly faculties had only been limited earlier this month, ahead of his scheduled departure for California.


Christine Rousselle contributed to this report.

Senators quiz nominee about membership of ‘extreme’ Knights of Columbus

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Dec 21, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have questioned a candidate for the federal bench over his membership of the Knights of Columbus, with some calling the group’s Catholic views on abortion and same-sex marriage “extreme.” Senators also questioned if belonging to the Catholic charitable organization could prevent judges from hearing cases “fairly and impartially.”

Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) raised membership of the Knights as a point of concern during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of Brian C. Buescher, an Omaha-based lawyer nominated by President Trump to sit on the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska.

In written questions sent to Mr. Buescher by committee members Dec. 5, Sen. Hirono stated that “the Knights of Columbus has taken a number of extreme positions. For example, it was reportedly one of the top contributors to California’s Proposition 8 campaign to ban same-sex marriage.”

Hirono then asked Buescher if he would quit the group if he was confirmed “to avoid any appearance of bias.”

“The Knights of Columbus does not have the authority to take personal political positions on behalf of all of its approximately two million members,” Buescher responded.

“If confirmed, I will apply all provisions of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges regarding recusal and disqualification,” he said.

Kathleen Blomquist, spokesperson for the Knights of Columbus, told CNA that the senators’ questions echoed the kind of anti-Catholicism seen in previous generations.

“We were extremely disappointed to see that one’s commitment to Catholic principles through membership in the Knights of Columbus—a charitable organization that adheres to and promotes Catholic teachings -- would be viewed as a disqualifier from public service in this day and age,” Blomquist told CNA.

President Trump nominated Buescher to serve on the U.S. District Court on Nov. 3. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Buescher’s nomination Nov. 28, sending written questions to him on Dec. 5. 

The Knights of Columbus is present in 17 countries world-wide. In 2017, members carried out more than 75 million hours of volunteer work and raised more than $185 million for charitable purposes. Successive popes, including Pope Francis, have written to the group praising them for their charitable work and the manner in which they articulate Catholic faith and values.

“Our country’s sad history of anti-Catholic bigotry contributed to the founding of the Knights of Columbus, and we are proud of the many Catholics who overcame this hurdle to contribute so greatly to our country,” Blomquist said.

In her questions to the nominee, Sen. Harris described the Knights as “an all-male society” and asked if Buescher was aware that the Knights of Columbus “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and were against “marriage equality” when he joined.

Responding to the senator’s questions, Buescher confirmed that he has been a member of the Knights since he was 18 years old, noting that his membership “has involved participation in charitable and community events in local Catholic parishes.”

“I do not recall if I was aware whether the Knights of Columbus had taken a position on the abortion issue when I joined at the age of 18,” he wrote in response.

Harris highlighted a statement by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson that abortion constituted “the killing of the innocent on a massive scale” and asked Buescher if he agreed with Anderson.

Buescher said he was not responsible for drafting statements or policies made by the Knights and that, as a federal judge, he would consider himself bound by judicial precedent regarding abortion.

“I did not draft this language. If confirmed, I would be bound by precedent of the United States Supreme Court and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and would not be guided by statements made by others,” Buescher told the senator.

In reaction to the questions put to Buescher, Blomquist told CNA that asking a judicial nominee to defend his membership of a major Catholic charitable organization was disturbing.

“We believe that membership in the Knights of Columbus, which helps everyday men put their Catholic faith into action, is worthy of commendation and not something a nominee for public office should be asked to defend," she said.

In 2014, Buescher ran as a candidate in the Republican primary election for Nebraska attorney general. During that campaign he described himself as “avidly pro-life” and said that opposition to abortion was part of his “moral fabric.” 

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) noted the nominee’s previously outspoken opposition to abortion and asked “why should a litigant in your courtroom expect to get a fair hearing from an impartial judge in a case involving abortion rights?”

Buescher responded that “as a candidate for Nebraska Attorney General in 2014, I did what candidates for any major state or federal office do, which is to take political positions on a variety of issues of the day.” 

“However, there is a difference between taking political positions as a candidate for elective office and serving as a federal judge. I believe a judge’s role and obligation is to apply the law without regard to any personal beliefs regarding the law,” Buescher wrote.

“If confirmed, I will faithfully apply all United States Supreme Court and Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals precedent on all issues, including Roe v. Wade."

Buescher also fielded questions from senators about Trump administration policy on Title X funding for clinics providing abortions and referrals, as well as on the application of anti-discrimination law to gay people and on LGBT questions. 

The nominee underscored that, as a judge, it was not for him to advance personal or political opinions but to make fair and impartial rulings based on the law and judicial precedent. 

If confirmed by the Senate, Buescher will fill the vacancy left by Judge Laurie Smith Camp, who assumed senior status - a kind of judicial semi-retirement - on Dec. 1.