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Bishop Rhoades: 'I strongly disagree' with Notre Dame contraception decision

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 19:00

South Bend, Ind., Feb 12, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend issued a statement on Thursday criticizing the University of Notre Dame’s recent decision to provide “simple contraceptives” on its insurance plans for faculty and students.

The university is located in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

In the Feb. 8 statement, published on the diocesan website, Rhoades said that he “strongly disagree[d]” with Notre Dame’s decision to provide funding for contraception, and that the school is now “even more directly” contributing to immoral behavior.

“The Catholic Church clearly teaches that contraception is an immoral action that contradicts the truth of marital love,” Rhoades wrote.

Previously, the university worked with a third-party administrator to provide contraceptives without the involvement of the school, but Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. announced in a letter last week that this relationship would be ending. Jenkins said he was concerned that the types of drugs covered by the third-party plan included contraceptives that could potentially cause an abortion, so he made the decision to drop this plan altogether. Instead, the school will now pay for a limited range of contraceptive drugs.

In the letter, Jenkins cited a concern for respecting the religious beliefs of others who use contraception after prayerful discernment as for why the school would be providing the drugs. Bishop Rhoades rejected this line of thought as misguided, and said that it was wrong for those people to expect the school to fund things contrary to Catholic teaching.
“Members of the community who decide to use contraceptives, however, should not expect the university to act contrary to its Catholic beliefs by funding these contraceptives,” said Rhoades. He said Notre Dame may have missed a chance to be a witness of Catholic faith and teaching, even if this would not have pleased everyone.

“Not providing funding for contraception would not be popular with some, but it would truly be a prophetic witness to the truth about human sexuality and its meaning and purpose.”

Bishop Rhoades said that he understands that not everyone fully understands or appreciates what the Church teaches about contraception.

“I encourage all who struggle with this teaching to study prayerfully this teaching of the Church, and I especially recommend the study of the encyclical of Blessed Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, during this 50th anniversary year of the encyclical, as well as the rich teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II in his catecheses on the ‘theology of the body.’”

“I hope and pray that the University will reconsider its decision,” Rhoades concluded.


Florida resolution could label pornography a 'public health risk'

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 18:55

Tallahassee, Fla., Feb 12, 2018 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A proposed resolution in Florida would declare pornography a public health risk, allowing for greater education and research into the hazards of porn, especially among developing children and teens.  

“It’s trying to raise agreement and awareness as to [pornography’s] risks,” said Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“I don’t think the risks are limited to children alone, but there is a focus in the resolution on it,” he told CNA.

Sponsored by Republican Rep. Ross Spano, the resolution passed 18-1 on Jan. 18 in the House Health and Human Services Committee. On Tuesday, Feb. 13, it will be considered in the House Commerce Committee before it is sent to the full House of Representatives sometime before March 9.

A similar piece of legislation has also been sent to the Senate, but has not been read in committee. However, Sheedy said, the House resolution does not require approval from the Senate or governor to pass.

Spano originally sought to label pornography as a “health crisis,” but changed the words to “health risk” to increase support, according to Orlando Sentinel.

Speaking before the Health and Human Service Committee, Spano outlined studies showing that pornography use risks damaging relationships and human development.

“Research has found a correlation between pornography use and mental and physical illnesses, difficulty forming and maintaining intimate relationships, unhealthy brain development and cognitive function, and deviant, problematic or dangerous sexual behavior,” he said.

This resolution would not ban pornography or create legal consequences for its use or distribution.

However, Sheedy said it would be the first step in paving the way for more research and education on pornography’s hazardous effects, especially among children and teens.

“It’s a recognition that children are especially at risk given changes in technology – having more access to pornography than ever before – and the effects on their development and their sexuality. “

The resolution says that “a child who views pornography is at a higher risk of developing low self-esteem, an eating disorder, and a desire to engage in risky sexual behavior.”

A website called People Not Porn – endorsed by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops – has been created to raise awareness of the resolution and to educate the public on the dangers of pornography.  

The website states that 27 percent of people ages 25-30 have admitted to seeing pornography before they hit puberty. Additionally, 64 percent of 13-24 year-olds will actively seek out porn once per week or more.

If Florida succeeds in passing a resolution acknowledging the risks of pornography, it will not be first state to do so. Since 2016, Tennessee, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Utah have all declared pornography a public health crisis. Virginia has labeled pornography as harmful to the public.


Cardinal Cupich launches Amoris Laetitia seminars for US bishops

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 18:05

Denver, Colo., Feb 12, 2018 / 04:05 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Chicago has invited some U.S. bishops to a series of conferences on the 2015 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. The seminars will be held at three Catholic colleges later this month.

According to a letter obtained by Catholic News Agency, the meetings, dubbed “New Momentum Conferences on Amoris Laetitia,” are designed to offer a “tailor-made program that goes from why Amoris Laetitia provides New Momentum for Moral Formation and Pastoral Practice to how to provide formative pastoral programs.”

“The aim is to gather fifteen to twenty Bishops to have a conversation with the aid of theologians on the related topics,” the letter said.

The letter, written by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, explains that the conferences are modeled after a seminar of bishops and theologians discussing Amoris Laetitia held at Boston College in October 2017.

“The seminar treated the full document giving particular focus to its reception in the multi-cultural and diverse environment that characterizes the Church in the United States,” Cardinal Cupich wrote.

“Both the bishops and the theologians universally agreed that our two-day seminar was an exercise in synodality, a walking together in which the Church both taught and listened. In fact, in keeping with the counsel of Pope Francis at the start of the 2014 synod, the Boston College participants spoke with candor and boldness, parrhesia, but they also listened with humility,” the letter explained.

The letter said that Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery on Laity, Family and Life, encouraged and endorsed the upcoming conferences, which will be held at Boston College, the University of Notre Dame, and Santa Clara University.

The upcoming seminars come in the wake of a speech given by Cardinal Cupich Feb. 9th, at the Von Hügel Institute, at St. Edmund College, in Cambridge, England.

In that speech, Cardinal Cupich said that “Pope Francis is convinced of the need for a new ministerial approach to families as he looks at the challenges facing families in today’s world.”

He added that “some people misinterpret and misunderstand Amoris simply because they fail or refuse to take into account the present reality in all its complexity.”  

The cardinal said that Pope Francis has introduced a set of “hermeneutical principles” – principles of theological interpretation – that “force a paradigm shift” in the Church’s work with families.

Among the aspects of such a paradigm shift, Cupich said, is “rejecting an authoritarian or paternalistic way of dealing with people that lays down the law, that pretends to have all the answers, or easy answers to complex problems, that suggests that general rules will seamlessly bring immediate clarity or that the teachings of our tradition can preemptively be applied to the particular challenges confronting couples and families.”

Cupich further discussed the importance of discernment in conscience. The “voice of conscience—the voice of God—...could very well affirm the necessity of living at some distance from the Church’s understanding of the ideal, while nevertheless calling a person ‘to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized,’” he said, commenting on an excerpt from Amoris Laetitia.

The cardinal said that a pastoral, not “merely doctrinal,” approach is needed in work with families, because “the conscience based Christian moral life does not focus primarily on the automatic application of universal precepts. Rather, it is continually immersed in the concrete situations which give vital context to our moral choices.”

The result of such a pastoral approach, Cupich said, “is not relativism, or an arbitrary application of the doctrinal law, but an authentic receptivity to God’s self-revelation in the concrete realities of family life and to the work of the Holy Spirit in the consciences of the faithful.”

Further, the cardinal said, “doctrinal development is about remaining open to the invitation to see our moral teachings on marriage and family life through the lens of God’s omnipotent mercy."

"Doctrine can develop as a result of the Church’s merciful accompaniment of families because God has chosen the family as a privileged place to reveal all that the God of mercy is doing in our time,” he added.

The cardinal concluded by saying that a failure to approach questions related to marriage and family life with a “holistic approach” has “led some critics to misinterpret and misunderstand Amoris. Instead of actually attending to the present reality of people’s lives today in all of its complexity, they limit their scope to an idealistic understanding of marriage and family.”

Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Archbishop Wilton Gregory are scheduled to speak at the Boston College seminar. Cardinals Joseph Tobin and Blase Cupich will present at the University of Notre Dame. Bishops Steven Biegler and Robert McElroy will present at Santa Clara University, according to the invitation.

Several theologians and a canon lawyer will also present at the upcoming seminars.

Among the theologians is Dr. Kate Ward, a professor at Marquette University. From 2012-2015, Ward was a national board member of Call to Action, a group that has called for the ordination of women to the priesthood, expressed support for same-sex marriage, and said that the Church should re-evaluate its “position” on the use of artificial birth control. From 2006-2009, Ward served as a national board member of Call to Action Next Generation, a youth affiliate of the organization. She chaired that board from 2008-2009.

In 2006, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, then-prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, wrote that Call to Action’s activities “are in contrast with the Catholic Faith due to views and positions held which are unacceptable from a doctrinal and disciplinary standpoint. Thus to be a Member of this Association or to support it, is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic faith.”

Also scheduled to present is Dr. Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a theologian at Manhattan College.

Imperatori-Lee was also a presenter at the October seminar at Boston College. At that seminar, she criticized the Church’s “infantilization of the laity,” saying that “lay people are infantilized by a logic...where pastors serve as gatekeepers, offering permission for sacraments, rather than as counselors who accompany laypersons on their sacramental journeys.”

In a 2015 interview with the podcast Daily Theology, Imperatori-Lee described the late theologian and University of Notre Dame professor Fr. Richard McBrien as a mentor. According to the National Catholic Reporter, “McBrien advocated the ordination of women priests, an end to mandatory celibacy for priests, moral approval of artificial birth control, and decentralization of power in the church.”

In a 2016 essay in the magazine America, she wrote “any claim that there are only two kinds of humans, male and female, is simplistic.”

Msgr. Jack Alesandro, a canon lawyer from the Diocese of Rockville Centre, also presented at the Boston College seminar, and will present at the upcoming conferences.

At the 2017 seminar, Alesandro said that Amoris Laetitia “as a whole supports the idea that as time passes, sacramental marriages become more sacramental and therefore more indissoluble.”

Alesandro also said that Amoris Laetitia suggests new thresholds for the validity of consent to sacramental marriage. The document suggests “a superior capacity and resolve of the will is required of those entering sacramental marriage than of those entering a non-sacramental union,” he said.

He said the exhortation “is challenging judges in a tribunal process to discover whether both spouses, including the man, were at the time of the wedding truly capable at the time of tenderness in the sense described by the pope, the tenderness of a mother cradling her infant.”

“Spouses must be capable of entering a lifelong adventure, and able to renew it constantly if they are to exchange consent validly. It requires that they be friends on the journey. While they do not start out whole and complete, we know that, they must at least be able to grow into this vocation. If they’re incapable of that growth, or they’re really not committed to it, I don’t think they’re validly married, at least, not the Christian marriage.”

“Canon lawyers may find it difficult to get their juridical mind around love, if their thinking has become overly legal, which is another way of saying ‘secularized,’” he said.

According to the invitation, “there will be other theologians who will be invited to participate at one or more of the days.”

The letter inviting bishops to the conference explained that transportation costs would be covered by “foundation grants.”

The Boston College event was sponsored by the Jesuit Institute, the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Cushman Foundation, Healey Foundation, and Henry Luce Foundation.

According to its tax forms, the Cushman Foundation provided the Archdiocese of Chicago a $12,300 grant in 2015 to fund periti, or theological experts, to the Synod of Bishops on the Family, in which then-Archbishop Blase Cupich participated.

The Henry Luce foundation has given at least $600,000 in grants to Commonweal Magazine since 2005, it has also given grants to a number of Catholic universities and theology programs. In 2007, it gave a $25,000 grant to the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual, according to grant listings on the foundation website. It also gave a one-time $9,500 grant in 2015 to the Archdiocese of Chicago “to support communications during the Ordinary Synod of the Roman Catholic Church.”
The foundation’s website says it “seeks to bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding, and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious and art communities.”
The Luce Foundation’s Theology program gives grants to “advance understanding of religion and theology.”
“Particular attention is given to work that rethinks what theology is and reimagines its contemporary significance; to research that creatively examines received assumptions about religion, secularity, and public culture; and to projects located at the intersections of theological inquiry and the multidisciplinary study of religion,” the foundation’s website says.

Sources told CNA that the USCCB is not involved in the New Momentum Conferences.

The Archdiocese of Chicago did not respond to questions before deadline.



The historically black Catholic university founded by a saint

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 14:00

New Orleans, La., Feb 12, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Of the 106 historically black colleges in the United States, only one is Roman Catholic - Xavier University of Louisiana.

But Xavier is also the only Catholic college, of the United States’ 251 Catholic colleges, to have been founded by an American-born saint.

C. Reynold Verret, president of Xavier University of Louisiana, told CNA that the spirit and charism of St. Katharine Drexel, foundress of the school, continue strongly on campus today.

“She saw education as a transformative gift, and that’s something we need to understand today,” Verret said. “That education is not a gift to the individual, even though it does improve the life of the individual, but it’s a gift to the communities to which those individuals returned, in which they serve, it’s an ever-expanding gift.”

Katharine Drexel was born to a wealthy and devout Catholic family in Philadelphia in 1858, and shocked much of society when she decided to become a religious sister and a missionary to Native Americans and African-Americans.  

Supported by the inheritance from her father, Drexel and her Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament founded schools to serve these populations throughout the United States, including a Catholic secondary school for African-Americans in Louisiana in 1915.

By 1917, she also established a preparatory school for teachers, one of the few career tracks available to Black Americans at the time. A few years later, the school was able to offer other degrees as well and became a full-fledged university in 1925.

Drexel’s gift was her ability to see potential, and God’s presence, in all people, despite having grown up in a segregated world.

“There’s a famous New York Times interview in 1915 when...the reporter asked Mother Katharine - ‘why are you using this expensive Indiana limestone for a school for black children?’ And Mother Katherine said, ‘do they not deserve the best?’” Verret said.

“We often remind ourselves of that, and I think that comes from her spirituality, where she could see, despite living in a segregated country where some were more valued than others, somehow she could see value in all, and I think that is her charism,” he said.

That charism continues on in Xavier University today through its “rigorous academics, its great faculty, and expectations,” Verret said.

Besides being a top-ranked Historically Black College and University (HBCU), Xavier University also sends the most African Americans on to medical school of any HBCU in the country, Verret told CNA. The school is also one of the top HBCUs for sending students on to doctoral programs in the sciences, and has several alumni who are currently serving as federal judges, he added.

“We have great students, some who come to us and may not have had the pre-collegiate experience that they needed or deserved,” Verret said. “But we recognize where their gaps are and address them and they graduate.”

Verret said that the Catholic Church has a rich tradition in the black Catholic community from which to draw, and that the Church can continually grow and learn when it comes to reaching out to the black community. During Katharine Drexel’s time, many Catholic Churches and institutions operated with the same segregation as the rest of the country.

“As a human institution we fall short of God our Father and the calling of Jesus, but that’s not (surprising) because we’re human institutions in the process of perfection - we are called to speak the truth and to bring real information and light before the world and into the Church,” he said.

The Institute of Black Catholic Studies out of Xavier University also examines the worship styles and cultural traditions of black Catholics in the country.

What is distinct about black Catholic culture can be seen clearly in the music and worship style of the community, Verret said.

“I would offer any parish to use the hymnal ‘Lead Me Guide Me’, created by the Institute of Black Catholic Studies in the late 70s and 80s,” Verret said. “The style of worship somewhat differs from the style of worship in the Northern European tradition - it is not quiet, it is much more expressive of spirituality, people sing, people express things with their hands.”

While Xavier University is historically black, the school has always been open to students of other races, and today’s student population is about 70 percent black and 30 percent students of other races.

This diversity provides students with learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom, Verret said, which can show students how to be united even with those who are different than they are, Verret said.

“In this moment we’re still struggling with - ‘who’s the other?’ We’re not assuming that we are all one people. But really we have an expansive global message [at Xavier] which is that we are one people and what we have to give is for the large community and the larger nation,” he said.

During February, which is Black History Month, the school is also sponsoring events and speakers to honor their cultural heritage, including an art exhibit,  a private screening of the movie Black Panther, and a screening of the HBCU series "Tell Them We Are Rising".

Verret added that he hoped the message that Xavier University sends through its students and alumni is one that continues to dissipate the myth that black students can’t perform as well as other students.

“We are disabusing the nation of the myth that was prevalent after the Civil War, which is that these young people are not educated and could not be educated at a high level. What Xavier did was to educate students who can sit and compete and be equal and present whether at medical school or law school...and these students demonstrate that they’re able to achieve and contribute at those levels, and that’s an important message.”

Dominicans worldwide pray for their deceased parents

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 07:00

Washington D.C., Feb 11, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Dominican friars around the world celebrated a unique tradition last week: they offered Masses for their deceased parents and for all deceased parents of friars. Feb. 7 is specifically designated in the Dominican order’s liturgical calendar as a day of prayer for the deceased parents of all Dominicans.

The Dominicans regularly dedicate themselves to pray for the repose of souls. Each day the friars pray for the souls of those Dominicans who passed away on that date. And Dominican priests are bound to offer Mass for recently-departed brother priests.

“Most Dominican friars have heard at some point in their life that the Dominican Order is not only a good order to live in, it’s a great order to die in. That’s because from its foundation, the Dominican order has had a strong devotion to praying for the dead,” said Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., academic dean of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., in an interview with CNA.

“Every day, friars gather to pray for the souls of their brothers who have died on that particular day. When a friar dies, his brethren who are priests are bound in obedience to offer a Mass for him, and one rosary each week said by a friar is for the souls of his deceased brethren.”

Petri thinks the custom of praying for deceased parents developed because “unlike other orders in the history of the Church, the Dominican order rejected a sense that that friars are cut off from their family, like men dead who rise again in the service of Christ,”

Despite their total dedication to the order’s mission, the Dominicans respect the fact that without their parents, they would not have been born, and therefore would have never become friars.

“In filial piety, we recognize that we wouldn’t be here without them. Therefore, we constantly pray for the parents of the brethren, and most especially, when the parents of the brethren die. Like our devotion to praying for our deceased brothers, we pray for our deceased parents and celebrate Mass for their repose.”

The Masses celebrated by Dominicans on Feb. 7 had a bit of an adjustment to the normal words of the liturgy. Petri explained that the friars prayed a special prayer that God would have mercy for their parents, and that one day, they themselves will be reunited with them in heaven.

“(...)we pray, in the words of the Collect for the Mass, that God have mercy in his compassion on our parents, forgive them their sins, and bring us to see them one day in the gladness of eternal joy.”


Abortion funding limits get priorities right, bishops say

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 07:00

Washington D.C., Feb 10, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops have praised signs of progress against ‘abortion ideology,’ in response to a State Department report on new limits to U.S. funding for groups involved in abortion.
“Abortion undermines basic human rights, certainly for the child, and it also can wound the mother emotionally and physically,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said Feb. 8. “U.S. tax dollars have no business going to organizations that are unwilling to pursue health outcomes for every person and instead insist on promoting and imposing their abortion ideology on women and children.”
Cardinal Dolan, speaking in his role as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said “I again applaud this administration for restoring our foreign assistance to its rightful goals of promoting health and human rights.”

The Feb. 6 report from the U.S. State Department’s Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources is a six-month review of the implementation of the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, an expanded version of the Mexico City Policy. The original policy, first instituted under President Ronald Reagan in 1984, directs U.S. overseas family planning funding away from organizations that perform or support abortions overseas.
The report is early evidence that the “vast majority” of NGOs are “willing and able to comply with this policy and that compliance does not appear to undermine delivery of appropriate health services,” said the cardinal.
President Donald Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy on Jan. 23, 2017, then ordered Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to extend the policy to other forms of monetary aid, like global health assistance, provided by all U.S. departments or agencies.
The new report, covering the period through the end of fiscal year 2017, said that almost all “prime partners” who have had the chance to accept the policy have accepted it. Only four of 733 partners declined funding under the new policy.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List and co-chair of the 2016 Trump campaign’s pro-life coalition, welcomed the report.
“The overwhelming 99.5 percent compliance rate shows that the dire prognostications of abortion advocates have not come true,” she said. “The Trump administration’s pro-life policy has not reduced foreign assistance by a dime, but instead ensures that U.S. international aid partners act consistently to save lives, rather than promoting and performing abortion.”
Two major abortion providers, Marie Stopes International and International Planned Parenthood Federation, are among the partners that have declined funding linked to the new policy.
Previously, Marie Stopes received about $80 million per year in U.S. funds, about 17 percent of its donations. The organization has secured short-term replacement funds for most of that sum, but many programs may face losses in mid-2018, National Public Radio reports. It may shut down outreach teams for sexual and reproductive services for impoverished women in Madagascar, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
In January 2017, before the policy’s expansion, a spokesperson for International Planned Parenthood Federation said the organization could lose $100 million in annual funding for its non-abortion services.
“Only a tiny minority of extreme pro-abortion groups have stubbornly refused to put the wellbeing of all women ahead of their agenda,” Dannenfelser continued. “The funds they forfeited have gone to worthy providers who respect the life, dignity, and values of women and families worldwide, as well as the will of American taxpayers.”
At the same time, international funders are working to replace the prior U.S. funding, such as the She Decides NGO launched by the Dutch government. About $450 million has been raised from country donors, especially European governments, and private donors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In July, Melinda Gates announced the foundation would boost family planning funding by 60 percent, another $375 million over the next four years, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian reports.
Many of the grantees in the State Department report are pass-through groups and it is unclear how many of their partners will comply with the new policy.
There are still assistance agreements made prior to the policy change that have not yet come under the new standard, the State Department report said.
The policy affected grants made through the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense. The agencies began implementing the policy in May 2017.
One Defense Department partner, a U.S. NGO, accepted the new policy requirements in all countries in which it is active but one.
As of Sept. 30, no HHS partners had declined to accept the policy. USAID reported that three centrally funded partners and 12 sub-awardee implementing partners refused to agree to the terms of the policy. The development agency is working to transition these organizations to other partners “while minimizing disruption of services.”
U.S. departments and agencies are including the policy provision in grants and agreements and are conducting trainings to ensure the policy is applied, the report said, adding that a standard contract clause is in development.
The report said there is a need to clarify that the provision must be included in U.S. department or agency awards to state or local government agencies, including state universities, “in the same manner as they include it in awards to U.S. NGOs.”
A further review is planned by Dec. 15, 2018.

USCCB praises disaster relief policy for churches

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Feb 9, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The USCCB issued a statement Friday praising the early morning passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act, which, in addition to preventing a government shutdown, also codified into law a new FEMA policy that would allow churches and other houses of worship to apply for disaster relief funds.

The policy was developed by FEMA in January, after three Texas churches damaged by hurricanes sued the government claiming discrimination.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">U.S. Bishops Chairmen Commend Provisions in Budget Act that Ensure Houses of Worship Can Apply for Federal Disaster Assistance <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BudgetDeal</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; US Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) <a href="">February 9, 2018</a></blockquote>
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As houses of worship--including churches, synagogues, and mosques--are often directly involved in the recovery effort after a natural disaster, it makes sense that they too are able to receive federal assistance with rebuilding, said a statement from  Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, chairman of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

"We applaud Congress for including provisions in the Budget Act that direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make disaster relief assistance available to houses of worship on the same terms as other nonprofit entities. These provisions ensure that houses of worship are treated fairly,” said the bishops.

Notre Dame professor criticizes university’s provision of ‘simple contraceptives’

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 16:00

South Bend, Ind., Feb 9, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After the University of Notre Dame announced it would fund  “simple contraceptives” in its insurance plan, one Notre Dame professor has criticized the move, calling it “a giant leap into immorality.”

“Now the University [of Notre Dame] is to be sole funder and proprietor of a contraception giveaway,” wrote Notre Dame law professor Gerard V. Bradley in an essay published Thursday at Public Discourse.

“What is solemnly declared for years to be morally impossible is, suddenly, the substance of Notre Dame’s free choice,” Bradley wrote.

In a Feb. 7 statement, Notre Dame's president Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, announced that while the insurance plan at the university will not provide abortifacients, the school will fund the use of “simple contraceptives,” which apparently include drugs that prevent conception.

In the statement, Jenkins noted that contraception is indeed “contrary to Catholic teaching,” while explaining that offering contraception to the school was a way to “respect” other religious traditions and conscientious decisions - particularly decisions made by those in the university’s community who rely on access to contraception through the insurance plan.

This step came as a surprise to many, since the university was one of the institutions which sued the United States over the 2012 Obamacare contraception mandate.

“In its lawsuit, Notre Dame cited chapter and verse of Church teaching,” Bradley recalled.

“The University said, basically, that, to remain faithful to its beliefs, it could not be involved in any way whatsoever with a process designed to provide contraceptives to its employees, its students, or their dependents,” he continued.  

Bradley noted that “Notre Dame’s practice until just a few years ago exhibited all the ‘respect’ possibly due to those who want to contracept.”

The university “rightly did nothing,” he said, to make contraception available or cheaper, while at the same time, it “did not discriminate in the workplace against those who chose to contracept.”

While Bradley said the allowance for contraception will cause incalculable harm to “so many persons’ minds, bodies and souls,” he also noted that “Fr. Jenkins supplied a primer about how Catholics should make all sorts of morally important decisions that is not only mistaken, but catastrophic for the moral life.”

“Our moral duty to respect others’ choices does not have anything to do with giving them the means to do evil,” Bradley said, adding that “one should not respect another’s specific immoral choice at all.”

“Everyone’s immoral choices should be regretted, and their repetition discouraged, and their occurrences criticized appropriately,” he continued.

Bradley said he believes that Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the diocese where Notre Dame is located, will speak out against the decision, noting that he will “have no choice but to publicly do so” in order to “protect all the faithful in his care from this grave scandal.”

Bradley said that the rationalization behind Jenkin’s most recent allowance for contraception is a “crucial mistake” which violates the sexual and moral teachings of the Catholic Church, as delineated in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, “Humanae Vitae.”

“God does not want us to weigh up pros and cons of adhering to the moral truth,” Bradley said.

“And the greatest respect we can show others is to bear faithful witness to the truth.”


How the Lord’s Prayer led this North Korean defector to freedom

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 12:05

Washington D.C., Feb 9, 2018 / 10:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- “Before his escape, when Seong-Ho was being tortured by North Korean officials, there was one thing that kept him from losing hope: over and over again he recited the Lord’s Prayer,” President Donald Trump said in his speech at the 2018 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

Seong-Ho's courage and faith were also highlighted by Trump during his State of the Union address in January.

Many North Korean defectors like Ji Seong-ho encounter Christianity through the missionaries who organize the underground railroad that makes it possible for them to escape to China, where they still face the constant risk of being repatriated back to North Korea.

The journey with the Christian missionaries often leads to conversion for defectors. Eighty to ninety percent of North Koreans who pass through the underground railroad identify as Christian after reaching South Korea, according to a 2015 study by Dr. Jin-Heon Jung entitled “Underground Railroads of Christian Conversion.”

One Catholic Church in Seoul baptized 60 North Korean defectors in one day in June 2016, after Father Raymond Lee Jong-nam catechized and assisted them with the transition to life in South Korea, according to UCA News.

“I thank Father Lee for showing us deep love like our father and I will live this new life to the full in this church," one newly baptised North Korean told the Union of Catholic Asian News.

Ji Seong-ho, whose story gained national attention when he triumphantly raised up his crutches during the president’s State of the Union address last week, told EWTN that prayer sustained him during his escape.

“I offered so many prayers to my God...I started to pray save me, rescue me,” he said.

Ji escaped North Korea in 2006 by crossing the Tumen River into China, and then journeying 6,214 miles across China, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand to reach South Korea on crutches due to an earlier tragedy that left him an amputee.

Now that he has reached freedom, Ji Seong-ho said he feels called by God to rescue other North Korean refugees.

“God’s love needs to be conveyed to the people of North Korea and North Korean souls need God’s salvation. Under that conviction, I am doing what I am doing,” he said.

According to the Korean Ministry of Unification, more than 31,000 North Korean defectors have entered South Korea since 1998.

However, the annual number of North Koreans arriving in the South has declined since Chinese President Xi Jinping assumed power and cracked down on Christian missionaries.

Last year had the lowest figure for North Korean defections to South Korea since 2001, according to the Unification Ministry’s data.

For the more than 25 million people who remain within North Korea, human rights violations abound, according to the U.S. State Department.

“The DPRK regime detains more than 100,000 people, including children in political prison camps, where summary executions, torture, sexual violence, starvation, and other egregious abuses are committed under Kim Jong Un’s direction,” said State Department Spokesperson, Heather Nauert, on Feb. 6.

North Korea has consistently been ranked the worst country for persecution of Christians by Open Doors.

“The Catholic diocese of Pyongyang is vacant and the last bishop was appointed in March 1944. There are no native Catholic clerics in North Korea, but visiting priests occasionally say Mass. In 2008 Father Paul Kim Kwon-soon, a South Korean Franciscan, became the first priest to be granted a residency permit,” according to an Aid to the Church in Need UK report.

One French priest, Father Philippe Blot, has visited North Korea several times. He spoke to Parisians at Notre Dame Cathedral in April 2017 about his perspective on the country that singles out Christians for torture and execution.

“As a missionary and as a Catholic priest, I am speaking here on behalf of all those Koreans who for more than 60 years have been living the longest Way of the Cross in human history,” he said.

Father Philippe asked Catholics to pray “ardently every day for this crucified people.”


What New York’s non-discrimination order could mean for religious liberty

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 07:00

New York City, N.Y., Feb 9, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has signed an executive order that bans the state from doing business with companies that “promote or tolerate” discrimination, a move that has some religious liberty advocates crying foul.

In a press release about the executive order, Cuomo specifically cited the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the HHS contraception mandate as one of his concerns. Cuomo said that with the executive order, New York would “further protect New Yorkers’ civil rights” and that the state’s various agencies will not do business with companies that either promote or tolerate discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

As of May 1, state agencies will be prevented from “entering into contracts with entities that have institutional policies or practices that fail to address the harassment and discrimination of individuals on the basis of their gender identity, transgender status, gender dysphoria or any of the other protected classes[...].”

Further, schools that “refuse to protect transgender students” will not be eligible for state funding.

Ed Mechmann, the director of public policy and the director of the safe environment programs in the Archdiocese of New York, said that while this executive order may sound unobjectionable on the surface, it could actually be used to trample religious liberty in the state.

Writing in his “Stepping out of the Boat” blog, Mechmann said that Cuomo effectively tipped his hand by including the HHS mandate in the press release for the executive order.

“By citing this completely irrelevant federal proposal, the press release inadvertently made clear that the Governor's new order is rooted in animosity towards religious freedom,” said Mechmann.

Mechmann disputed Cuomo’s claim that the removal of the HHS mandate has caused businesses to “claim broad exemptions from nondiscrimination laws,” which in turn has “increased the vulnerability of LGBTQ rights.”

“The idea that 'LGBTQ rights' might be 'vulnerable' (whatever that means) because of a decision relating to health insurance coverage of contraceptives is something that only an ideologue could believe,” he added.


Notre Dame’s pro-life club offers free childcare for parenting graduate students

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 17:37

South Bend, Ind., Feb 8, 2018 / 03:37 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Parents pursuing graduate degrees at the University of Notre Dame are now able to partake in a free childcare service through the campus’ Right to Life Club.

“The Right to Life’s mission is to promote and uphold the sanctity of all human life from conception until natural death through prayer, service and education,” stated Lorenzo Beer, who was the commissioner behind the new childcare service, according to the Observer.

“The Child Care Service is a direct, concrete action of the Right to Life Club to showcase the love the pro-life movement has for those who choose life,” Beer continued.

The childcare program is offered once a week to parents who are graduate students at the University of Notre Dame. The children are cared for by university student volunteers, who are required to have a background check and a child care training session.

Currently, the program has 30 trained child caretakers, while upwards of 80 students have shown an interest in volunteering for the program. The service is in its third week of operation, during which it has served five different families.

“Last week, the service provided daycare for about 11 children,” Beer said.

Beer, who is a sophomore at the university, believes the program will showcase what it means to be pro-life, while also supporting fellow students.

“Raising a child is hard enough,” Beer said, but “raising a child while being a graduate student requires superpowers.”

Beer also noted the challenges involved when parents experience the “difficulty of choosing life.” However, he noted that life itself is “the greatest gift of humanity.”

“For that reason, we want to serve those who choose life, and what better way to do so than helping those right here on campus in our community.”

The president of the university’s Right to Life Club, Sarah Drumm, said that she hopes the new childcare program will help parents who are pursuing their graduate degrees, even if on a small scale.

“We recognize that our once-a-week child care service isn’t going to dramatically improve the lives of parenting students,” Drumm said.

“However, we do hope that the little we do somehow can make their workload a little lighter and their jobs as parents a little easier, at least for a few hours a week.”


Archbishop Chaput: blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples is not permitted

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 17:18

Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 8, 2018 / 03:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia has penned a letter to priests and deacons in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, addressing the possibility of blessing rites for same-sex couples.

“I want to remind us all that under no circumstances may a priest or deacon of the archdiocese take part in, witness or officiate at any civil union of same-sex persons, or any religious ceremony that seeks to bless such an event,” Archbishop Chaput wrote in a Feb. 7 letter, which was obtained by CNA.

“This in no way is a rejection of the persons seeking such a union, but rather a refusal to ignore what we know to be true about the nature of marriage, the family, and the dignity of human sexuality,” he continued.

Chaput’s words come amidst controversy surrounding recent remarks from senior German church leaders who have implied support over same-sex union blessings.

In January, Father Johannes Zu Eltz, the city-dean of the Catholic Church in Frankfurt, stated that the Church should consider “theologically founded blessing ceremonies” for couples who do not meet standard requirements for marriage in the Church, which would include same-sex unions.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, spoke out on Feb. 3, saying that while “there are no general solutions,” the question of blessing homosexual couples should be left to “pastor on the ground.”

“We are talking about pastoral care for individual cases, and that applies to other areas as well, which we cannot regulate, where we have no sets of rules,” Cardinal Marx stated.

“The imprudence in these public statements has been deeply concerning,” Chaput wrote to his clergy.  

 “As you know, blessing persons in their particular form of life effective encourages them in that state-- in this case, same-sex sexual unions,” he added.

In a Feb. 6 column for Catholic Philly, Chaput further noted the Church’s reasoning behind its stance on same-sex unions and their blessings.

“There is no love – no charity – without truth, just as there is no real mercy separated from a framework of justice informed and guided by truth,” he wrote.

Additionally, Chaput’s column offered two principles for consideration.

“First, we need to treat all people with the respect and pastoral concern they deserve as children of God with inherent dignity,” he said, noting that this “emphatically includes persons with same-sex attraction.”

“Second, there is no truth, no real mercy, and no authentic compassion in blessing a course of action that leads persons away from God.”

Chaput also wrote that every individual has the “right to hear the truth,” which may, at times, be uncomfortable. He said leaders of the Church must be “clear, honest and prudent in what they do and say,” so as not to cause confusion.

“Jesus said the truth will make us free,” Chaput wrote. “We still need to hear the truth clearly – and share it, clearly, always with love.”

“Creating confusion around important truths of our faith, no matter how positive the intention, only make a difficult task more difficult.”


The story of the patron saint of human trafficking victims

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 17:07

Washington D.C., Feb 8, 2018 / 03:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Today, February 8, has been designated as the International Day of Prayer for Victims of Human Trafficking. It is also the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who is the patron of trafficking victims.

Today is the International Day of Prayer for Victims of Human Trafficking, coinciding with the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron of #humantrafficking victims.

For more resources to raise awareness, visit:

— US Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) February 8, 2018 The USCCB is urging people to hold or attend prayer services for victims of this crime. The USCCB estimates that about 17,000 people are trafficked across the United States border each year.

St. Josephine Bakhita was born in 1869 in Sudan. Around 1877, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery by Arab slave traders. During her time as a slave, she was beaten, tortured, and scarred. Eventually, in 1883, she was sold to the Italian Vice Consul, Callisto Legani, who took her with him back to Italy. While in Italy, she was given to a family and became their nanny, and that family eventually left her with the Canossian Sisters in Venice when they traveled to Sudan for business.

Once with the sisters, she learned about Christianity, and decided to become Catholic. She refused to go back to the family that enslaved her once they returned to Italy, and an Italian court ruled that since slavery had been outlawed in Sudan prior to her birth, she was not legally a slave. She was then freed from slavery.

With her newfound freedom, she remained with the Canossians, and received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and first holy communion on January 9, 1890. She took the name Josephine Margaret and Fortunata--with Fortunata being a Latin translation of her Arabic name Bakhita. Three years later, she became a novice with the Canossian Daughters of Charity, and professed her final vows on December 8, 1896. She then lived out the remainder of her life in a convent in Schio, Vicenza, working as a cook and a doorkeeper. She passed away on February 8, 1947, and was canonized on October 1, 2000, by St. John Paul II.

In addition to her patronage of victims of human trafficking, she is also the patron of her home country of Sudan.


Fulton Sheen’s final resting place not yet final

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 17:00

New York City, N.Y., Feb 8, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s niece has said her uncle’s remains belong in Peoria, but a lawsuit seeking his internment there has been returned to a lower court for further consideration.
“I just hate that this is dragging on and on and on,” Joan Sheen Cunningham said, according to the New York Times.
Cunningham, a Yonkers, N.Y. resident now aged 90, has suggested Sheen’s body be divided into relics.
“Let it go to Peoria for a few months, and then bring back some of the relics to New York and leave some in Peoria,” she said. “It’s just too bad it can’t just be settled without all this fuss.”
In 2016 she filed a legal complaint seeking to have her uncle’s remains moved to Peoria, Ill. Sheen was born in the Peoria diocese and served as an altar boy at its cathedral, where he was ordained a priest in 1919. He served New York City as an auxiliary bishop from 1951-66 before becoming Bishop of Rochester, and retired to New York City before his death in 1979 at the age of 84.
New York State Appeals Court has ruled that a lower court’s decision upholding Cunningham’s lawsuit failed to give sufficient attention to a sworn statement from a colleague of Archbishop Sheen, Monsignor Hilary C. Franco. Msgr. Franco had said that Sheen told him he wanted to be buried in New York and that Cardinal Terence Cooke, New York’s then-archbishop, had offered him a space in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“There are disputed issues of material fact as to Archbishop Sheen’s wishes,” the appeals court said Feb. 6 in a 3-2 ruling. It has ordered “a full exploration” of the archbishop’s desires.
Cunningham has said Sheen had never told her about Cardinal Cooke’s reported offer.
Sheen’s will had declared his wish to be buried in the New York archdiocese’s Calvary Cemetery. Soon after Sheen died, Cardinal Cooke asked Cunningham, Sheen’s closest living relative, if his remains could be placed in the New York cathedral’s crypt, and she consented.
Cunningham has said that Sheen would have wanted to have been interred in Peoria if he knew that he would be considered for sainthood.
The Peoria diocese opened the cause for Sheen’s Canonization in 2002 after the New York archdiocese said it would not explore the case.
In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI recognized the heroic virtues of the beloved archbishop, who served as host of the “Catholic Hour” radio show and the television show “Life is Worth Living.” He now has the title “venerable.”
Despite the progress of the cause for beatification, the fate of Archbishop Sheen’s body became the subject of an impasse.
Peoria’s Bishop Daniel R. Jenky suspended the beatification cause in September 2014 on the grounds that the Holy See expected Sheen’s remains to be in the Peoria diocese.
The Archdiocese of New York, however, has said that Vatican officials have said the Peoria diocese can pursue Sheen’s canonization regardless of whether his body is at rest there.
In the wake of Tuesday’s decision, both the Peoria and New York dioceses predicted success.
“We believe that Archbishop Sheen clearly stated his intention in his will, written just days before his death, that he be buried in New York, where he conducted his ministry, and where he lived most of his years, including at the time of his death,” the Archdiocese of New York said in a statement.
Msgr. James E. Kruse, vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria, discussed the case in a Feb. 7 update to the priests of the diocese, reported in the diocese newspaper the Catholic Post.
“We are confident that the new hearing and ruling will be completed in short time,” he said. “Please continue your prayers for the success of these legal issues and for the Cause of Canonization for our brother, Venerable Fulton Sheen.”
Msgr. Kruse of Peoria predicted that the future ruling would favor Cunningham’s position. Her attorneys “are very confident the new hearing will end in re-affirming the original ruling,” said the priest, who added that the same judge who sided with Cunningham’s argument will preside at the evidentiary hearing.
New York archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling voiced hope that the Peoria diocese will reopen the beatification cause, the New York Post reports.
Cunningham has praised the efforts of Bishop Jenky to pursue the beatification, arguing this work means he “deserved the honor” of hosting Sheen’s remains.
In addition to his pioneering radio and television shows, Archbishop Sheen authored many books, with proceeds supporting foreign missions. He headed the Society for the Propagation of the Faith at one point in his life, and continued to be a leading figure in U.S. Catholicism until his death.
Archbishop Sheen’s intercession is credited with the miraculous recovery of a pronounced stillborn American baby from the Peoria area.
In June 2014, a panel of theologians that advises the Congregation for the Causes of Saints ruled that the baby’s recovery was miraculous.
The baby, later named James Fulton Engstrom, was born in September 2010 showing no signs of life. As medical professionals tried to revive him, his parents prayed for his recovery through the intercession of Fulton Sheen.
Although the baby showed no pulse for an hour after his birth, his heart started beating again and he escaped serious medical problems.


Catholic symposium – how music, food, and friendship ground us in reality

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 15:00

Kansas City, Kan., Feb 8, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Prairie Troubadour gathering will be full of good music, food, and discussions with Catholic leaders addressing how to live a healthy human ecology in a digital age.

“[Prairie Troubadour] springs out of a desire among Catholics to live the good life [and] to navigate their way through the digital world,” said Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., who will be a speaker at the event.

Located at the Liberty Theatre in Fort Scott, Kansas, the third annual Prairie Troubadour will take place on Feb. 9-10. The event will feature talks and conversation, access to the sacraments and prayer, and musical performances.

“There will be people from all different walks of life looking to live … the healthy human ecology,” Conley told CNA, “[Celebrating] everything from what we eat, to how we entertain ourselves, friendship, music, wine – the good things in life.”

Among the conference speakers will be Christopher Check, president of Catholic Answers; William Fahey, president of Thomas More College; and Kevin O’Brien, founder of Theater of the Word.  

An informal musical session will follow the discussions on Friday where a variety of instruments will be passed around between musicians in attendance. On Saturday, a musical duo called the Vogts Sisters will be brought in for a late-night conversation session to be enjoyed with whiskey and cigars.

Tickets range from $85-175, and all the proceeds from the event will go to St Martins Academy, a unique all-boys boarding school opening this fall, that will focus on a classical education and teach students all aspects of running a working farm.

Daniel Kerr, who is hosting the gathering, told CNA that the symposium is in honor of his late father, Gerald Kerr, who was nicknamed the Prairie Troubadour for his poetry and songwriting.

This symposium is themed “Field and Family: Reflections on a Healthy Human Ecology,” and it will focus on human happiness in an increasingly disconnected digital age.

“We find ourselves immersed in technology, in a society that’s obsessively preoccupied with entertainment and the pursuit of pleasure,” Kerr said.

“Despite the rapid advancements in technology and availability in technology, people aren’t happy.”

Christopher Check agreed, and told CNA that a constant absorption with screens and digital media has separated people from reality. The Catholic Church aims to help overcome that, he said.

“Number of afflictions in the post Christian age … one of them is the separation from reality: The separation of man from what is real.”

“The Church, in her qualities of truth and goodness and beauty, has guardianship of what is real. Included with that is an understanding of man’s relation to the natural world, or what once went by the name of creation, and his role in it.”

How does people find their role? By seeking the Catholic faith and the naturally good things, said Bishop Conley.

“We intentionally live tapping into the great legacy of our Catholic faith, first of all, but we also tap into the riches and treasures of western culture by the way of truth, goodness, and beauty, and how they manifest themselves in natural things: good work, good play, good conversation, good friendship, good food, and good drink.”

The bishop continued to discuss the qualities of truth, beauty, and goodness, and, said that relativism challenges human experiences of truth and goodness.

“[However,] beauty has not been compromised and when we recognize it and see it we are drawn towards it, whether it be in art or music, literature, poetry or friendship.”

This symposium, he said, is an opportunity to celebrate the desires which truly make up the human person – the transcendental properties of truth, beauty, and goodness.

“We all desire truth; ultimately in Jesus Christ; we all desire goodness, which is love made visible; and we all desire beauty,” he said.


Trump at prayer breakfast: 'Faith is central to American life and to liberty.'

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 12:58

Washington D.C., Feb 8, 2018 / 10:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- President Donald Trump lauded the importance of faith in American life as a foundation for freedom in his speech at the 66th annual National Prayer Breakfast this morning.

“Faith is central to American life and to liberty,” Trump began, “Our founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence.  Our currency declares, ‘In God We Trust.’ And we place our hands on our hearts as we recite the Pledge of Allegiance and proclaim we are ‘One Nation Under God.’”

During his remarks, the president emphasized the interconnection between freedom of religion and a flourishing society.

“When Americans are able to live by their convictions, to speak openly of their faith, and to teach their children what is right, our families thrive, our communities flourish, and our nation can achieve anything at all.”

Trump also committed America to the defense of religious freedom worldwide saying “We know that millions of people in Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, and other countries suffer under repressive and brutal regimes. America stands with all people suffering oppression and religious persecution.”

“Our rights are not given to us by man, our rights come from our creator,” Trump said to the estimated 3,000 attendees at this year’s prayer breakfast.

The president said that he has seen God’s grace in the good works of American citizens who serve their communities, such as teachers, police officers, services members, and parents.

He also commended those Americans who responded to the tragedies that befell our country in the past year, particularly those who served others suffering amid hurricanes, forest fires, the Las Vegas shooting, and the opioid epidemic.

Following President Trump’s speech, U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, who was shot during practice for the Congressional Baseball Game last June, spoke about the role of his Catholic faith in his work in politics, his prayer life, and the power of prayer in his recovery.

“When you pray for somebody that you don’t know, they feel it. I felt that prayer, the prayers of so many people that I had never met before,” said Scalise.

Scalise reiterated the president’s comments on the integral relationship between faith and liberty. “If you go to the Jefferson Memorial right now, go read this inscription from Thomas Jefferson, ‘God, who gave us life, gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?’”

Another prayer offered at this morning’s gathering came from Democratic Senator Chris Coons who prayed, "Bless the world with better leaders," he said, "Who seek your wisdom.”

The U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director, David Beasley, who prayed for sustainable policies to address world hunger, read a passage from Matthew 25, and emphasized that "every human on the face of the earth was made in [God's] image."

Republican Senator James Lankford prayed,  "We don't know everything, but we're so grateful to know the One who does.”


The rules of the streets: Which laws help - and hurt - the homeless

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 07:00

Denver, Colo., Feb 8, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Walk down 16th Street Mall in Denver, Colo., and you’ll probably see people who are homeless sitting on the ground with cardboard signs.

Walk down that same street with a cop, and you’ll probably notice that those same people stand up when they see you coming.

That’s because Denver has banned urban camping - and sitting for too long in public places could technically be considered “camping”, and could land a person with a ticket, a fine or even an arrest.

For the most part, the homeless do their best to comply, said Philip Couture, Director of Formation with Christ in the City, a Catholic homeless outreach in Denver.  

The police officers are generally “of good will, not trying to cause any trouble but trying to enforce the law,” Couture said. But the camping ban does prevent the Christ in the City missionaries from sitting down with their friends on the street.

“We want to cooperate with the government while also serving our friends on the street, understanding that the government largely, while its a very complex issue, is trying to help the homeless - we really have confidence in that,” Couture said. “But it’s true that some laws that intend to help [the homeless] actually hurt them, and some laws that intend to get them off the streets punish them for being on the streets. Even people like us who are trying to help them, we are caught up in that as well sometimes.”

Laws and ordinances that impact the homeless are varied and complex. Some of them, like the camping ban, are an unintended consequence of laws aimed at specific groups - the camping ban was enacted to break up Occupy Denver, a spin-off of Occupy Wall Street, back in 2012.

Another Denver ordinance, aimed at minimizing the often-rowdy 4/20 marijuana rallies, had the unintended consequence that Christ in the City now has to pay $150 each month in order to use City Park for their ‘Lunch in the Park’ to feed their friends who are homeless.

Sometimes, however, the laws are more direct. Last month, about a dozen volunteers were arrested in El Cajon, California for feeding the homeless. Just a few months prior, the city council had passed an ordinance prohibiting the distribution of food on city property.

According to the San Diego Tribune, council members said the ordinance was to prevent the spread of hepatitis A, while critics said the ordinance was an attempt to criminalize homelessness.  

Linda Plitt Donaldson is an associate professor at the National Catholic School of Social Service, at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She teaches a class on homelessness, and prior to teaching, spent 10 years working with the homeless as a social worker.

Catholic social teaching instructs the faithful to see the human dignity of all, especially the poor, and treat them like another Christ, while some laws that impact the homeless tend to do the opposite of that, Donaldson said.

“These laws that criminalize homelessness prevent people from encountering [the poor], or try to make these populations invisible,” she told CNA. “So a lot of these kinds of laws are about making this kind of human suffering that we feel more comfortable.”

Donaldson said while she understands that there can sometimes be legitimate public health concerns, these laws are also applied in a discriminatory manner.

“It’s criminalizing food sharing for a certain group of people - nobody’s breaking up family picnics,” she said.

Mary Sullivan is an outreach worker with the St. Francis Center, a homeless shelter in Denver. She also spent two years working with and befriending the homeless as a Christ in the City missionary.

Often, these ordinances aimed at the homeless are a “band-aid solution” to a deeper problem, Sullivan said.

“What happens is these laws - they start out as public health concerns which are usually legitimate,” she said, but then sometimes they are carried out to a point where they threaten the well-being of people who are homeless.

For example, in the case of the food ban to prevent hepatitis A, “a lot of cities have taken to getting the vaccination for it out to the community, because that’s the most effective way to stop the spread of a disease,” Sullivan said.

“When you get to a point where you’re taking away food - people need to eat to survive, and a lot of people on the streets get their food and the things they need to survive from local charities or organizations,” she said.

Criminalizing these essential things “doesn’t really work” to solve the problem of homelessness, she added.

Couture said he saw a “qualitative difference” between laws that take away essentials - like food and water - and laws like the camping ban, which are more of a mixed bag in terms of the impact on the homeless.

“The camping ban that exists right now is to keep the streets safe, not only for those who aren’t homeless, but even for those who are,” he said.

“[The government] doesn’t want the homeless to form colonies because when the homeless gather, they tend to bring chaos. This is not to say that the homeless are bad, or that all the homeless are addicts, or mentally ill or anything like that, but that when you get a certain volume of people, you do get a number of people” who can act out or be dangerous, he said.

Sometimes the homeless will even ask their Christ in the City friends to call the police about other homeless people if they feel unsafe, Couture noted.

“They want the park to be safe for themselves as well, so if you have someone who’s high, or having a terrible day and acting out, or who is mentally ill, they want them to move off the premise so that they can enjoy their lunch or their conversation with the missionaries or just have a free moment from the stresses of the streets,” he said. “So that’s just one example of how complex it can be - in some sense it punishes the homeless, many of whom didn’t ask to be on the streets, but on the other hand the enforcement of it also helps keep things from compounding and becoming more complicated and dangerous for everybody on the street, including the homeless.”

When it comes to policies that help the homeless, Donaldson said she encourages her students as well as her fellow Catholics to advocate for Housing First projects, which prioritize affordable and accessible housing for all.

Some cities, such as Salt Lake City Utah, have completely eliminated veteran homelessness with this model, and have seen great successes with the rest of their homeless population, she noted. In 2015, the entire state of Utah reduced homelessness by 91 percent, in large part because of their Housing First projects and other developments.

“The primary cause of homelessness is a lack of affordable housing,” Donaldson said. “If we had enough affordable housing, we would not have a homelessness problem.”

Couture said he agreed that affordable housing was a “huge” problem, but cautioned that Housing First should not be understood as “housing only.”

“Calling it Housing First is really a misnomer,” Couture said. “It’s really providing a space that the homeless need, but with proper accompaniment.”

A closer look at the Utah models, for example, shows that the reason Housing First was so successful is because it was carried out with close accompaniment by social workers and other outreach providers who stayed close to their clients throughout their transition into housing, which can be a difficult thing for those who are used to living on the streets, Couture said.

“Once they’re inside, if they’re just left alone there, it becomes more like a prison,” Couture said. “It may seem strange, but when you’re outside you have people who care for you, who love you...some sort of community. When you’re inside, your friends are out there... so you feel trapped,” and many people leave if they don’t have the proper continuing support.

“So from what I see of Housing’s yielding great fruit, but it shouldn’t be confused with housing only, that’s not the same thing,” he said.

Sullivan said that her experiences as a missionary and as an outreach worker have taught her “the importance of relationship and acknowledging the dignity of the human person, that’s been at the forefront of both,” she said.

As a missionary, she learned a lot about “the spiritual poverty and the woundedness that people experience, spending that time in relationship with people, getting to the heart of the person,” she said.

But being an outreach worker, and attempting to connect her homeless clients with resources, has opened her eyes in a new way “to the system in which people have to operate, and it’s really a lot more complicated than an individual and their problems,” she said.

Sullivan said she would encourage Catholics to remember the human dignity and the personhood of the homeless community when they are voting on laws that impact them.

“It’s really willing the good of the people on the margins, and I’ve see how a lot of these things that intended to be helpful aren’t actually for the good of the people in these situations, they just continue to make their lives more miserable,” she said.

Often, when it comes to these policies, there is a misperception that some people want everything to be a “free-for-all”, and others want to punish the homeless because they believe poor decisions led them to a life on the street, Sullivan said.

“In reality, it’s a much more complicated, nuanced thing,” she said. “Try to find the reasonable middle ground.”

Catholics should also understand that homelessness will never be completely solved with politics, Couture said.

“The homeless situation is as complex as the human person, and any attempt at a one-dimensional answer is simply inadequate,” he said.

“I think any person who [wants to help] needs to move forward with the tranquility and trust in God, and throw out the naivety that this one solution will fix everything, this will do it all, and understand that this is a multi-faceted issue that requires many answers,” he said.

To better understand the homeless and their needs, Catholics need to encounter them face to face as friends, Couture said.

“Whatever we vote for, we should have an understanding that it’s not going to be enough to fix the homeless situation in and of itself, and what that implies is action on our part,” he added.

“Whatever we vote for, we also need to recognize that we have to act, to befriend the homeless - obviously while being safe and having common sense - but with a willingness to put some skin in the game personally, to truly encounter the homeless.”

EWTN’s Michael Warsaw honored for evangelization in media

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 18:13

Orlando, Fla., Feb 7, 2018 / 04:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).-
Recognized for evangelization through Catholic media, EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw received the Bowie Kuhn Special Award for Evangelization during the recent 2018 Legatus Summit in Orlando, Fl.

“All of us as Catholics, and particularly those of us in Catholic media, have a responsibility to reach out to the peripheries of society and to address the needs of people who are living in spiritual poverty,” Warsaw said during his acceptance speech, according to an EWTN press release.

“Sometimes, that means reaching out and serving people somewhere across the globe, but more often than not it’s about reaching out to our neighbors next door or down the street who are living in the depths of spiritual poverty and sharing with them the beauty, truth and goodness of the faith,” Warsaw added.

The Legatus Summit was held Jan. 25-27 in Orlando. The conference included speakers Ryan Anderson and Scott Hahn, and was sponsored by Legatus, a membership organizations for Catholic business leaders, which champions the motto, “Ambassadors for Christ in the marketplace.”

The award was presented to Warsaw by Tom Monaghan, Legatus Chairman and Founder of Domino’s Pizza, and Jack McAleer, member of EWTN’s Board of Governors and Legatus Secretary.

Past recipients of the award include Curtis Martin, founder of the Catholic campus ministry FOCUS; Tim Busch, attorney and philanthropist; Thomas Peterson, President and Founder of Catholics Come Home; and Luisa Kuhn, wife of the late baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

EWTN Global Catholic Network is the largest media network in the world, with 11 television channels on broadcast in multiple different languages, reaching more than 275 million households in over 145 countries. EWTN platforms also include radio, news services, and a publishing division. EWTN’s electronic and print news services include Catholic News Agency, The National Catholic Register newspaper, and several global news wire services; as well as EWTN Publishing, its book publishing division.


University of Notre Dame adds ‘simple contraceptives’ to insurance plan

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 17:46

South Bend, Ind., Feb 7, 2018 / 03:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The University of Notre Dame has announced that it will fund “simple contraceptives” through its insurance plan.

In November 2017, the university had announced that students or employees and students on its insurance plans would be eligible to receive through a third-party insurance administrator.

That move came as a surprise to many because the university was one of several Catholic organizations that filed suit over the 2012 federal contraceptive mandate, and in October had announced it would cut contraceptive coverage from its insurance plans.

The university’s most recent decision was announced today in a letter from university president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. Catholic News Agency obtained a copy of the letter.

In the letter, Jenkins said that while the school should remain “unwavering in our fidelity to our Catholic mission,” the other religious beliefs and practices of members of the Notre Dame community should be respected. This is why, in November, the university decided that it would continue to provide contraceptive coverage for those who had “made conscientious decisions about the use of such drugs.”

However, Jenkins has now taken issue with the range of drugs covered under this third-party provider, which, “includes the provision of abortion-inducing drugs.”  Jenkins said such drugs are “far more gravely objectionable in Catholic teaching.” Jenkins did not delineate exactly which contraceptive drugs he considered to be more objectionable than others.

Due to the inclusion of these drugs, Jenkins has that the school’s own insurance plan will directly cover a limited range of contraceptive drugs.

“Instead, the University will provide coverage in the University’s own insurance plans for simple contraceptives (i.e., drugs designed to prevent conception),” as well as funding for Church-approved natural family planning methods, said Jenkins. He did not name which drugs would be covered by the school’s plan.

Prior to the 2012 mandate, the school did not provide contraception coverage in its insurance plans, except when prescribed to treat a medical condition. Jenkins’ letter said that Notre Dame’s participation in the suit was an effort “to protect its ability to act in accord with its religious mission,” and the positive outcome had secured the school’s “right to decide.”  

Jenkins said that in November he had “thought it allow the government-funded provision of these drugs and services to continue so that our employees could have access without University funding or immediate and direct involvement in their provision.”

“The government-funded program, however, also includes abortifacients, which, because they involve the destruction of innocent human life, are most gravely objectionable in the Catholic tradition. With further thought, wider consultation and more information, I concluded that it was best to reconsider this decision.”

The letter also said that Notre Dame “will provide to all who sign up for health care benefits a statement of the Catholic teaching on contraceptives, so that the Church’s teaching is clearly presented.”
“Although Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical letter, Humanae vitae, written nearly fifty years ago now, has been controversial within and without Catholic circles since its publication, its prophetic quality is clear,” Jenkins wrote.

About 17,000 people, including employees of the school as well as students who are not covered by their parents’ plans due to either age or some other factor, use Notre Dame’s insurance plans.

Nearly two years after the Affordable Care Act was passed in March 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate saying that contraception drugs must be covered under insurance policies. The mandate offered narrowly-defined exemptions for religious employers. In October 2017, the Trump Administration issued broad exemptions to the mandate, giving relief to religious non-profits and others with deeply held religious or moral convictions regarding contraception.



Dreamers will not be targeted, White House official says

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 18:38

Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2018 / 04:38 pm (CNA).- White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said on Tuesday that even if existing protections for “Dreamers” expire and Congress is unable to come up with a solution, they would not be targeted for deportation. Kelly made these comments to a group of reporters at the Capitol.

A “Dreamer” is someone who was brought to the United States illegally as a child. President Donald Trump’s immigration proposals have tied a path to citizenship for these people with funding for additional border security, including a wall on the Mexican border, and cuts to other immigration programs.

In 2012, then-President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was expanded in 2014 to cover more people brought to the United States as children. The work permits distributed through DACA expire on March 5, 2018.

Kelly further elaborated that he does not think Trump will extend the DACA deadline, as this is possibly beyond the scope of executive power. However, Congress can pass a bill that would ensure these protections.

In a Jan. 10 column, Archbishop José Gomez expressed concern for the estimated 125,000 DACA recipients who live within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, all of whom could face deportation when the program ends in March.

“It would be cruel to punish them for the wrongs of their parents, deporting them to countries of origin that they have never seen, where they may not even know the language,” Archbishop Gomez wrote.