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'Mass of the Americas' to premiere at San Francisco cathedral

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 16:05

San Francisco, Calif., Dec 5, 2018 / 02:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Mass of the Americas, a newly-commissioned Mass composed by Frank La Rocca, will premiere Saturday for the feast of the Immaculate Conception at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco.

“The Mass of the Americas is a simultaneous tribute to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (the patroness of the United States) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (the patroness of both Mexico and all the Americas),” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has said. “It is in the high sacred music traditions of the Church, yet incorporates traditional Mexican folkloric hymns to Mary.”

The Mass will be said Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. (PST), and will be televised and livestreamed by EWTN.

La Rocca is composer-in-residence at the Benedict XVI Institute, which was founded by Archbishop Cordileone in 2014 to provide practical resources to help parishes have more beautiful and reverent liturgies, and to promote a Catholic culture in the arts.

Archbishop Cordileone had requested the Mass, desiring a Mass setting that would reflect the multicultural diversity of the Church in the Americas.

The Mass of the Americas is a parody Mass, primarily using La Guadalupana, a Mexican folk song celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is written in Spanish, Latin, English, and Nahuatl – the Uto-Aztecan language in which Our Lady of Guadalupe addressed St. Juan Diego.

In an interview at the Benedict XVI Institute's website, La Rocca noted that he and Archbishop Cordileone “were both aware, in general terms, of the musical models used by missionary priests in Mexico, or later, California; they incorporated beloved popular tunes into the total experience of the Mass,” and that the archbishop suggested the use of La Guadalupana.

“La Guadalupana has always been, and it sounds like, a typical Mexican Mariachi tune … The challenge before me was to make the tune recognizable enough so anyone paying attention would sit up and say, ‘I know that’ but stripped of the sombreros, the guitars, the crooning violins and of course the words,” La Rocca said.

He noted that such a use of folk music in classical compositions is nothing new, and was actually a notable feature of German romanticism.

The Mass of the Americas is written for a 16-voice mixed chorus, along with organ, string quartet, bells, and marimba (a percussion instrument native to the Americas).

The Communion meditation is a Nahuatl setting of the Ave Maria which uses the marimba; La Rocca has said that “there are ways of getting the marimba to sound that are unfamiliar to most people, a way that will fit right in, and that’s what I have done.”

The Mass concludes with the Marian antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater; following the singing of the antiphon, the organ continues with its tune, and the strings harmonize it with La Guadalupana.

Through its combination of sacred music traditions, folk music, and several languages, the Mass of the Americas “embodies the way Mary, our Mother, unites all of us as God’s children,” Archbishop Cordileone said.

American priest arrested in the Philippines for sexual abuse

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 12:37

Naval, Philippines, Dec 5, 2018 / 10:37 am (CNA).- An American priest was arrested in the Philippines Wednesday, amid allegations that he sexually assaulted dozens of boys over a period of decades.

The priest, Fr. Kenneth Hendricks, was arrested Dec. 5 inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Naval, Biliran, a province in the eastern part of the Phillippines. Hendricks, 78, has been in ministry in the region for nearly 40 years.

Hendricks was arrested by a joint task force of local police and U.S. Homeland Security Agents. According to PLN News, a warrant for Hendricks’ arrest was issued Nov. 11 by the U.S. District Court  for Court of Ohio. Hendricks faces federal charges for engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country, a U.S. crime.

"He did not resist arrest," provincial police director Julius Coyme told The Straits Times.

Coyme told reporters that at least seven complaints about Hendricks have been filed with police. Subsequent investigations revealed that the priest might have had as many as 50 young male victims, The Straits Times reported. Some of his alleged victims reportedly served as sacristans and altar servers for the priest.

A Diocese of Naval directory lists Hendricks as the “priest-in-charge” at the St. Isidore the Worker Mission Chapel. A 2009 report in the Cincinnati Catholic Telegraph identifies Hendricks as a Franciscan from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, headquartered in Cincinnati, could not be reached for comment.  

Hendricks is alleged to have sexually abused boys as young as 12, and police say that additional allegations continue to be investigated. He is now being held in Manila.


Editor's note: This story's headline originally referred to Hendricks as a "Franciscan." The headline has been changed, as reports that the priest is a member of a religious order have not been confirmed.

What does it really mean to observe Advent?

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 05:04

Denver, Colo., Dec 5, 2018 / 03:04 am (CNA).- With the first Sunday of Advent behind us, the liturgical season of preparing for Christmas is well underway.    But what does it actually mean to “observe Advent?” The observation of other liturgical seasons may be more readily apparent – Lent is clearly a time for prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving, while Christmas and Easter are clearly times for celebration.    Search Pinterest for “how to celebrate Advent” and everything from ideas for a do-it-yourself Jesse Tree, to instructions for a handmade Advent calendar bunting, to a tutorial on “how to make your own wreath from foraged materials” appears.   The penitential time of preparation before Christmas seems to have taken on a crafty life of its own over the last few years, thanks to websites such as Pinterest and Instructables. Add in a few glowing shots of your friend’s handcrafted nativity set on her Instagram feed and you’ve got a recipe for some serious Advent-envy. 
While all of these crafts and activities can help one better celebrate Christmas, it’s important not to let them distract from the true purpose of the season: preparation for the Incarnation, said Fr. Mike Schmitz, chaplain for the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth.   Fr. Schmitz told CNA that one of the things that gets easily overlooked about Advent is “that it’s actually a season of penance” and as such, the Church asks us to practice prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.    “That’s kind of like the buzzkill of Advent because it’s like, ‘OK, don’t have too much fun because, remember, this is a penitential season’,” he said.    However, just because it’s a season of penance doesn’t mean we need to be somber.    “I think there’s some great ways that a person or a family can make that – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – a part of the celebration of preparation for Christmas. It doesn’t have to be a dour kind of experience,” he said.   The simplest way Catholics can prepare for Christmas, Fr. Schmitz suggested, is by going to confession during Advent.    “During Advent the faithful are asked not only to prepare themselves to celebrate Christmas, but we’re called to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus at the end of time,” he said.    “There’s a lot of good ways to do that, but I think one of the best ways a person could possibly do that is to go to confession.”   For Kathryn Whitaker of the blog, “Team Whitaker,” observing Advent is all about knowing what works best for your family.    “There are lots and lots of beautiful ideas on Pinterest and other places, but I think you have to find what suits your family and then not apologize or feel badly because someone else is doing it differently,” she said.    In an attempt to dial back the frenzy of Christmas morning, she said her family began to look for ways to serve others and be grateful for what they already have in the weeks leading up to it.   “I think for us, it’s just been about pouring a little bit more love, particularly in these next four weeks, in everything that we do.”   The Whitakers pick a local family in need to “adopt” each year by providing gifts and food, or they donate presents to Brown Santa – a tradition named for the brown uniforms members of the Travis County, Texas Sheriff’s Office wear that provides assistance to underprivileged residents, particularly during the Christmas season.   That, plus “lighting” her kindergartner’s Advent wreath – made from tissue paper and toilet paper rolls – and having a Jesse Tree, an ancient tradition of decorating a tree with ornaments that represent the story of salvation, will make up their Advent, which also includes Mass and confession.    Over the years, Whitaker and her family have adapted their Advent season to their “family season.” The year that she and her husband brought their premature son home from the hospital, for example, all they could do was put up the Christmas tree with some ornaments.   “And that was OK,” she said. “And then knowing next Advent, or the next liturgical season that comes up, you can do more. Or you can do less.”   Much like Whitaker, Bonnie Engstrom of the blog “A Knotted Life” said that the best way for a family to observe Advent is by “looking through the options and seeing what will work for them, what will help them create meaningful lessons and memories during that season of their family's life.”   “Then you just gotta walk away from the rest, appreciating that it works for some but confident that you're doing a good job.”   In recent years, the Engstroms have “scaled back our Advent activities by a ton” by just focusing on the Advent wreath and a few saints’ feast days. Festivities that many Americans typically do in the time before Christmas – such as looking at light displays, drinking cocoa and watching Christmas movies – are all saved for the actual Christmas season.    “It has greatly bolstered Christmas beyond December 25th and has brought a lot more peace and joy to our home, while greatly reducing the stress,” she said, which is a definite “win-win.”   Gradually filling the nativity scene, adding ornaments to their Jesse Tree and celebrating St. Nicholas’ feast day with her kids are all fun ways that Engstrom said she can “trick them into learning about their faith.”   While engaging her kids in celebrating Advent is important, she said observing this season has also helped her grow in her relationship with God.   “The silence, the simple beauty, the focus on preparation,” she said, “those things have really helped me create the still in my interior and exterior life for God to speak to me.”    Essentially, there’s not just one way to do Advent, and that’s fine.

This article was originally published on CNA Dec. 5, 2015.  

South Carolina lawmakers plan to advance pro-life bills

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 21:00

Columbia, S.C., Dec 4, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Several lawmakers in South Carolina have announced they will introduce pro-life bills in the state’s upcoming legislative session, set to begin next month.

Three anti-abortion laws are expected to be filed – a  bill forbidding abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, a “bill establishing fetal personhood, and a bill restricting dismemberment abortions.

Pro-life lawmakers in the state say they have been encouraged by the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the 2017 election of conservative Governor Henry McMaster.

“There’s been nobody more committed to pro-life legislation than Gov. McMaster, and there’s absolutely no reason to expect that to change in the coming legislative session,” McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes told The State.

Fetal heartbeat bills will be filed by state Rep. John McCravy and state Sen. Larry Grooms.

If it becomes law, the legislation would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which usually occurs at around six weeks.

Similar proposals introduced in prior years have required that a doctor examine for the heartbeat of a fetus before performing an abortion. If one is detected, the doctor would be prohibited from performing the abortion, with the exceptions of rape, fetal abnormalities, incest, and as a requirement to save the mother’s life.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported that over 60 percent of the abortions conducted in South Carolina in 2017 occurred after six weeks of pregnancy.

“It’s a common-sense bill. If a heart stops beating permanently, the person is dead,” said McCravy, according to The State.

“Common sense should tell us that when a heart is beating, we have a precious human life that should not be terminated.”

The fetal heartbeat bill failed to make it through the legislature in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Last year, Democratic legislators held a filibuster to stall a vote until the proposal was dropped.

Sen. Margie Matthew, an opponent of the bill, said a push for the measure would “waste its legislative capital on doing something just to please the fringes of a political party and pandering to just a few people,” The State reported.

Matthew said the state’s priorities are misplaced, noting that legislators’ efforts would be better spent toward education, port accessibility, and workforce development.

Rep. Gary Simrill, the state’s House majority leader, said the bill has a strong chance of passing through the state’s House.

State Rep. Lin Bennett  said she plans to refile a bill that will seek to ban dismemberment abortions. The procedure is used to remove the fetus in pieces and is usually served to handle abnormal fetuses or medical complications.

Senator Richard Cash will refile the Personhood Act. The bill recognizes that the right to life begins at conception and would almost outlaw abortions across the board.

According to The State, opponents to those bills have expressed that, if passed, the legislation would be likely overturned in court. Similar laws have been overturned by federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to reexamine lower court rulings.

With the recent additions to the Supreme Court, conservative legislators said the timing is right for pro-life actions.

“We have a moral obligation to defend life,” Long told The State.

“The court system is primed and ready for a good piece of pro-life legislation. Now is the time we need to be pushing and fighting to get legislation like this passed. The tide is turning.”


Cost of raising children a major obstacle for US families, study finds

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 19:44

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2018 / 05:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The overwhelming majority of U.S. families with children at home worry about paying their bills each month, and the cost of raising a child today is a significant factor in deciding whether to become parents, according to a recent study.

Fifty-three percent of respondents to the 2018 American Family Survey said that the cost of raising a family today is not affordable for most people.

The survey, released last week, is the fourth annual poll of American families by Deseret News and Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. The nationwide survey of 3,000 Americans examined attitudes toward marriage, family, and policy issues.

For both men and women who do not currently have children, the cost of raising a child was the top consideration in deciding whether to become parents, ranking ahead of current relationship status, desire to raise a child of one’s own, and difficulty of balancing family and career.

In addition to attaining financial stability, the majority of respondents said it is “extremely important” to be in a committed relationship – although not necessarily married – and to have good health insurance before having children.

Of those who have children at home, 73 percent say they worry about being able to pay at least one monthly bill, and 44 percent have faced an economic crisis in the last year – being unable to pay an important bill or going without food, medical care or housing due to financial difficulty.

Of those who do not have children at home, 56 percent were worried about being able to pay bills, and 30 percent had faced an economic crisis in the last year.

Among women with children who responded to the survey, 40 percent are not currently married. However, the majority of those polled in the American Family Survey – 65 percent – agreed that children are better off if they have two married parents. Majorities also agreed that marriage has financial benefits for couples and is necessary to create strong families. Only 14 percent said that marriage was a burden, and that it was out-of-date.

Republicans and black Democrats were more likely to say that it is ideal to be married before living together and having sex, while white Democrats were more likely to favor cohabitation and marriage after sex. However, the groups’ behavior was all similar – sex generally preceded living together and marriage.

Overuse of technology was seen by parents as the top issue facing teenagers. The majority of both fathers and mothers cited too much tech use as a concern, ahead of issues such as bullying, mental health, divorce, and pressure to use alcohol or drugs.

“Parents estimated that their teenage sons spent a little more than 24 hours a week playing video games, while parents of teenage girls estimated that their teenage girls spent a little less than 24 hours a week on social media,” the survey found.

The survey also examined views on migrant families who cross the border illegally, requesting asylum. Eighty-three percent of those polled said parents and children should be kept together.

Overall, the survey’s publishers said, this year’s poll shows that “respondents continue to have positive views of their own relationships and families, though they are far less optimistic about the state of marriage and families generally.”

It found that “people place much more importance on their identity as a parent or partner than other identities, such as their religion, political party, or career.”

“In this time of deep partisan identities and divisions, it can be easy to label someone as ‘right’ or ‘left,’” said Boyd Matheson, opinion editor of the Deseret News, “but our survey shows that personal experience and family life can greatly influence a person’s political beliefs, and not on strict conservative or liberal lines.”

'Holding the line' Pro-lifers look ahead to new Congressional session

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Pro-life legislators and organizations remain optimistic about ongoing efforts to ban abortion in the United States, despite an incoming House of Representatives, led by a Democratic majority committed to the practice.


Although leadership elections have not yet taken place, former Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is widely expected to replace outgoing speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who has retired from Congress. Pelosi is in favor of abortion rights, and once defended her refusal to support a bill banning late-term abortion by saying “As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me.”


With a Pelosi-led Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, pro-life advocates predict it will be much harder, if not impossible, to pass further protections for the unborn. At the same time, they remain confident that their work will continue to be effective.


Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), told CNA that he and other pro-life legislators would have to be “as persuasive as we possibly can to bring up the negative aspects” of abortion and try to change minds on the issue.


Wenstrup added that while it will certainly be a challenge to do anything legislatively with a new majority in the House, he said that there are other issues the pro-life movement can pursue that might garner support from members of the Democratic Party, such as legislation addressing assisted suicide or limiting the use of fetal tissue in experiments.


In addition to being a congressman, Wenstrup is also a physician, which he partially credits for his values, along with his Catholic faith. He said that it was essential that pro-lifers continue to “make the case for what is ethical, what is right” but conceded that there is no practical chance of further legislation to curb abortion during the current lame duck session of Congress.


Pro-life leaders say that there will be significant challenges ahead now with a new party in control of the House of Representatives.


"Well, I think our biggest challenge in the coming two years with a Democratic, pro-abortion Democratic control of the House will be to protect the Hyde Amendment,” National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias told CNA.  Tobias said that she believes that the repeal of the Hyde Amendment will be a “top priority” for the new House leadership.


“We know that the American public strongly opposes using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion, but I still expect the Democrats to try very hard to repeal the Hyde Amendment and try to force taxpayer funding on America," said Tobias.


Tobias was, however, confident that the Senate would be able to continue to confirm pro-life judges to the federal bench. She told CNA that Trump and the Senate have done a “fantastic job” at this over the last two years.


“We are thrilled that pro-life members have actually increased in the Senate after the election, so we will be expecting that to continue,” she explained.


“Which is great news for the future."


Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, met with President Donald Trump last week and urged him to take action during the “lame duck” session of Congress, before the new members officially begin their terms.


Hawkins said she asked the president to refuse to sign any budget that includes funding for the abortion provider Planned Parenthood, and that she hopes Trump will formalize new pro-life protections in Title X regulations “as soon as possible.”


She also encouraged the president to “continue to appoint judges who respect life in law” and to cease the funding of fetal tissue research through the Department of Health and Human Services.


Additionally, Hawkins told Trump that she hopes that the government is able to “sever the connection between sex education and abortion vendors.”


This could be done through new restrictions on federal grants. Currently, Planned Parenthood recieves grants to teach sexual education in schools, Hawkins said.


Hawkins compared the use of the grants to “their own personal marketing slush fund” through which teens are taught to acquire contraceptives from the organization, and then to go back for an abortion “when their advice and products fail.”


In a statement to CNA, Students for Life said that pro-life advocates have to “hold the line” on issues such as the Hyde Amendment and the defunding of Planned Parenthood.


“There is growing momentum across the country for commonsense limits on abortion and state laws such as protecting women's lives and health with safety regulations,” Students for Life told CNA.


“People are ready to vote on human rights issue of our time, and that is what will happen when Roe v. Wade becomes an historical footnote.”


Another pro-life leader had a different approach to the upcoming legislative session.


Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood clinic director who now leads the pro-life ministry And Then There Were None, told CNA that she hopes “those legislators that pro-lifers elected to Congress should keep their promises to defund Planned Parenthood.”


“However, that’s not where And Then There Were None focuses our energy - if there are no more workers at abortion clinics, they will close and taxpayers will no longer need to worry about their money going to support these clinics,” said Johnson.

Why God can tell you what will happen, but your astrological sign cannot

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 18:48

Denver, Colo., Dec 4, 2018 / 04:48 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Bible is full of prophecies regarding future events, that typically come from God through angels or prophets.

In the book of Isaiah, the prophet predicts the coming of Christ when he tells Ahaz: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.”

In the New Testament, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream to tell him of God’s plans for Mary and Jesus, and tells him that Jesus “shall save his people from their sins.”

But while God uses prophets and angels to announce future events, he also rejects false prophets and anything to do with human predicting of the future throughout the Bible.

Strong rejections of such things can be found in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 18: “Let there not be found among you anyone who...practices divination, or is a soothsayer, augur, or sorcerer, or who casts spells, consults ghosts and spirits, or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the Lord.”

The Catholic Church, through the teachings of the Church Fathers and other saints, has repeatedly rejected the use of any mediums, such as psychics or astrology, to predict the future.

Despite this, a recent Pew survey found that 33 percent of Catholics in the US said they believe in the use of astrology, while 46 percent said they believe in the use of psychics.

But if God can use prophets and angels to foretell future events, why can’t Catholics read their daily horoscopes or consult with psychics about the future?

The issue of predicting the future, particularly through astrology, is one that Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, an American research astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory, frequently encounters.

“The first problem is the one identified in many places in scripture: putting your faith in such mystical powers means not putting your faith in God,” Consolmagno told CNA.

“If you think that the positions of the planets controls your fate, then you are both denying God’s power and denying human free will. Both are bad news, theologically.”

The Church doesn’t reject the study of the cosmos, he noted, but rather recognizes that everything in the created universe is subject to the will of God.

Similarly, false prophets such as psychics are rejected by the Church because they attempt to rely on their own power and not on that of God.

“Remember, the prophets are chosen by God to speak the word of God,” Denise Gustafson, an instructor with the Denver Catholic Biblical School, told CNA.

“Prophecy is a charism, a divine grace, a gift from God that imparts to human beings knowledge which we aren’t capable of attaining by our own power,” she added.

Psychics, on the other hand, “are part of the occult and never, never speak the word of God. I would say they are instruments of Satan. Scripture is very clear on such matters,” she said.

Daniel Campbell, another instructor with the Denver Catholic Biblical School, told CNA that the Jewish people were forbidden to consult with psychics in order to set themselves apart from the pagans, who believed in demonic powers.

“It is demonic – a psychic may very well be telling you something that is true, but the source of that is a demon (irrespective of whether the psychic realizes it or not, desires demonic influence or not),” he said.

“That is, after all, the origin of all pagan religions that these practices are a part of – behind every idol is a demon, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10. Hence, all exorcists say that messing with this New Age stuff is a surefire way to come under demonic influence.”

The second problem with the desire to predict the future is that of gnosticism, or the desiring of “secret knowledge” in order to have an advantage over others, Consolmagno said.

“There is something fundamentally not Christian about seeing the world as a contest of me-against-you, where all’s fair including ‘cheating’ by using secret knowledge that no one but you has access to,” he said.

The third problem is that astrology is false, Consolmagno noted.

“...astrology is wrong in the sense that it is a lie, it promises what it cannot deliver,” he said. “The people who sell your their knowledge are lying. And relying on it is like relying on a snake oil medicine: by putting your hopes in a lie, you can very well be kept from using a medicine that is true.”

St. Augustine rejected astrology as a “ridiculous waste of time” and demonstrably false, in part because twins born under the same astrological sign could have widely varying personalities and behaviors.

The cosmos have also shifted significantly since the signs of astrology were first created, and they have never been updated to allow for such shifts, Consolmagno noted.

Psychics and astrologists also often prey on the poor and the vulnerable, he added.

“If astrology were actually true, the fortune tellers would all be rich or at the very least controlled by the rich. Instead you find them preying on the poor, offering answers that are easy but false,” he said.

“The bottom line,” Gustafson said, is that those who put their trust in fortune-telling mediums “are putting their trust in something other than God.”

“We are to trust in the Lord God alone; He tells us so.”

Ohio 'heartbeat abortion' bill nears Senate vote amid veto threat

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 18:01

Columbus, Ohio, Dec 4, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Ohio Senate is expected to pass legislation banning abortion on an unborn baby after he or she has a heartbeat, and there could be enough votes to override Gov. John Kasich’s promised veto, amid questions over whether the proposal could withstand US Supreme Court scrutiny.

Republicans control the Senate with 24 votes to 9, and the “heartbeat abortion ban” only needs 20 votes to override a veto. The bill could face a full vote as soon as Thursday.

House sponsor State Rep. Christina Hagan told the New York Times the legislation is designed to challenge the pro-abortion rights U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, claiming Ohio is “best positioned to send this through the Circuit Courts and to the federal Supreme Court.” She said she is confident backers have enough votes.

If H.B. 258 becomes law, it would ban abortions at around six weeks into pregnancy, once a baby’s heart beat is detectable. The law allows exceptions to prevent a woman’s death or bodily impairment, or in cases of medical emergency.

The bill’s text makes clear that a pregnant woman who undergoes an abortion is not considered in violation of the law. Rather, it allows her to take civil action against the abortion doctor involved if it is proven he or she broke the law, related to the “wrongful death of the unborn child.”

An abortionist who performs an abortion in violation of the law would commit a fifth-degree felony, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine, the New York Times reports.

The bill also requires the Ohio Department of Health to inspect medical records of abortion facilities to ensure they are compliant with reporting requirements.

The bill also establishes more ways to promote adoption.

The Ohio Catholic Conference on Nov. 15 said it supports “the life-affirming intent of this legislation,” but stopped short of endorsement. The conference said it will continue to assist efforts to resolve “differences related to specific language and strategies.”

“In the end, the Catholic Conference of Ohio desires passage of legislation that can withstand constitutional challenge and be implemented in order to save lives,” the Catholic conference said.

The recent vote in the House was 60-35, exactly the number of votes needed to override a veto.

The legislature first passed the bill in 2016, but it was vetoed by Kasich, a Republican set to leave office for governor-elect Mark DeWine, a Republican who supports the legislation.

“I believe that the essential function of government is to protect the most vulnerable members of society. That includes the unborn,” DeWine said in an October gubernatorial debate with Democrat Richard Cordray.

Kasich has a strong pro-life record, signing into law at least 18 abortion regulations or restrictions, including a 20-week ban. The heartbeat bill is the only one he has vetoed.

State Rep. Catherine Ingram, D-Cincinnati, has said the bill would bring back dangerous methods of abortion procedures, while other critics have faulted its lack of exceptions for women pregnant by incest or rape. The Ohio State Medical Association has said it is very concerned about the possibility that doctors could face criminal penalties for what could be considered a standard of care.

Pro-abortion rights groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice have opposed the bill. Foes of the bill planned to rally Tuesday during Senate hearings. Rally speakers included members of the Ohio Senate and House, a rabbi, and Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, vice-president of Catholics for Choice, reports.

While Catholics for Choice self-describes as Catholic, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have repeatedly said the group is not affiliated with the Church in any way.

In the past, the heartbeat bill was supported by pro-life organizations such as the Susan B. Anthony List. However, Ohio Right to Life pushed back against the bill, noting that similar legislation in other states have been overturned by the courts.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said in 2016 that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear appeals to those cases. At the time, he said legal scholars believed another effort to present a heartbeat law to the Supreme Court would cause “irreparable harm” to the pro-life movement.

Since 2016, U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy have been replaced with two new justices appointed by President Donald Trump. Though Kennedy was considered a swing vote in many abortion cases, it is still unclear what the new composition of the court could mean for specific pro-life legislation.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, abortions increased last year by 1 percent compared to the previous year. Out of the 20,893 abortions performed in 2017, the report stated, almost half were performed after nine weeks of the pregnancy.

Eighteen Ohio Republicans in the legislature have sponsored a different bill, H.B. 565, to define “any unborn human” as a human person under state law.

“I believe life begins at conception so the goal of this bill is to, first of all, continue to get the word out that life does begin at conception and move the debate in that direction and to protect unborn Ohioans from being aborted,” bill sponsor Rep. Ron Hood said when the bill was introduced, CNN reports.

This proposal has drawn criticism and negative media coverage claiming it could mean pregnant women who get abortions could be charged with murder and potentially face the death penalty, claims that backers deny.

Survey asks women what they needed instead of abortion

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 16:05

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2018 / 02:05 pm (CNA).- Women have spoken about their personal and near experiences of abortion and the lack of resources and support which led them to the tragic decision.


A recurring theme in the responses to a survey conducted by the website FemCatholic was the lack of practical information about the support available to young mothers, and also the fear of rejection by family and loved ones.


One respondent said that what she desperately wanted, but could not find, were “practical resources, inspiration, and information.”


“How can I finish my degree and be a parent? Where can I live? Can I continue in dorm housing? Are there other mothers out there with thriving careers who started out with an unplanned pregnancy as a single woman?” the respondent wrote.


In many cases, the reason that women chose to have an abortion was, they said, because no one told them the could continue on with their lives and be a young mother.


The same respondent wrote that after she had an abortion,she discovered there was special housing and financial aid at her college for ‘non-traditional’ students and that she could have completed her degree in a modified way.


“It makes me sick to think about it. If that information had been readily available, I would have a ten year old today,” she said.


FemCatholic draws its founding inspiration from Pope St John Paul II’s “effective and intelligent campaigns for the promotion of women.” The website says the survey was taken anonymously, with aim of making support to vulnerable women considering abortion more effective.


A number of women detailed similars experience of finding almost no resources aimed at supporting them in life as a young mother.


“Not a single person around me told me it would be ok to have the baby. No one showed any confidence in me,” wrote one woman.


“I believed the lies of the culture that abortion was the most responsible decision for a young woman in college to make,” another said.


One woman wrote that “Everything pointed to choosing abortion because of poverty, being single, being in high school, not being able to give a child a good life, it’s too hard, you will be shunned, you won’t have help, you’ll live off the government forever, no one will want you anymore.”


While in all the cases quoted by FemCatholic, the women did, tragically, choose abortion, some wrote about how their own experience helped to resolve them to help other women choose life.


“In my tiny town the only resources available was at the health department with a hateful nurse and junk provided by Planned Parenthood,” one woman wrote. “This is why I now volunteer at crisis pregnancy clinics.”


Many of the women, and more than one man, also spoke about the fear of the mother that she would be rejected by her family when it was discovered that she were pregnant. Several describe the “terror” of rejection by parents and the wider community.


“I come from a very, very traditional family. I felt so lonesome, scared. I knew my parents would kick me out of the house, and my partner ran away,” one woman recalled.


One contributor related the experience of her sister, saying that while their mother hand handed down firm teachings against premarital sex, this only inflamed her sense of isolation and shame when she found out she was pregnant.


“I think we need a cultural shift in how we speak about sex and pregnancy so that women in these positions don’t feel so ostracized and shamed into trying to undo the situation without anyone knowing,” she wrote.


The results of isolation and fear are that women feel they have no place to turn, the contributor wrote. “I wish [my sister] had known about other pregnancy resource centers besides Planned Parenthood because they were all too willing to take her in and confirm her fear that her only option was abortion.”


Others said they worried about social stigma or pressure to marry the father, even if they did not want to. In the end, the responses concluded, there were many different reasons why a woman might feel she must choose an abortion but they are “all based in extreme terror.”


The survey also asked women about the lasting impact abortion had left on their lives. Many related the ongoing physical and mental health problems they had been left with, including damage to their womb, panic attacks, and grief over their lost children.


“I still think about my child every June when s/he would have been born. I should get help. I just pray for healing,” one still-grieving woman wrote.


While the pain was still intense for many, others spoke about the support the had received from husbands, family, priests, and from the example of Catholic figures like Dorothy Day.


“I feel spiritually and physically healed,” one woman wrote in response to the survey.

“Confession and joining the Church helped tremendously. What still hurts – I miss my kid. But now I have even more motivation to strive for heaven so I can meet my child!”

Pa. court orders 11 names permanently redacted from grand jury report

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 14:19

Harrisburg, Pa., Dec 4, 2018 / 12:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Citing due process, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday wrote that the names of 11 former and current priests in a grand jury report on allegations of clerical sexual abuse of minors are to remain permanently redacted.

The 11 names will be kept redacted as “the only viable due process remedy  … to protect their constitutional rights to reputation,” Justice Debra Todd wrote in the court's Dec. 3 majority opinion.

More than 300 priests were named in the report.

“We acknowledge that this outcome may be unsatisfying to the public and to the victims of the abuse detailed in the report. While we understand and empathize with these perspectives, constitutional rights are of the highest order, and even alleged sexual abusers, or those abetting them, are guaranteed by our Commonwealth's Constitution the right of due process.”

Article 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution enshrines a person’s right to possess and protect their good reputation, placing it on the same footing as life and liberty.

Six of court's justices were joined in the majority opinion, while Chief Justice Thomas Saylor filed a dissenting opinion.

Several individuals named in the report, including some priests, have objected to being included in the document. They argued that the grand jury report links their names to terrible crimes or cover-up efforts, but that they had not been afforded the chance to respond to allegations made against them, or given the benefit of due process of law.

A redacted version of the report was released Aug. 14. It detailed sexual abuse allegations in six of Pennsylvania's eight Latin-rite dioceses, following an 18-month investigation into thousands of alleged instances of abuse spanning several decades.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro responded to the Supreme Court's decision saying it “allows predator priests to remain in the shadows and permits the Church to continue concealing their identities,” and that “the public will not relent in its demand that anyone involved in this widespread abuse and cover up be named.”

The grand jury report was adopted and issued by the grand jury, but its text was drafted by Shapiro's office.

In his dissent, Saylor argued that the petitioners' due process concerns could be remedied by having a judge conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether disputed matters in the report were supported by the evidence.

This suggestion was rejected by the majority of the court because they held it is not authorized by the statute governing Pennsylvania's grand juries, and because the supervising judge would be evaluating diverging types of evidence.

Praying for healing, Syracuse bishop releases names of accused priests

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 20:49

Syracuse, N.Y., Dec 3, 2018 / 06:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Syracuse has released a list of 57 priests credibly accused of abusing a minor, with some of the charges dating back to the 1950s.

“It is my fervent hope and prayer that this effort will bring some peace and healing to those who have been directly harmed and to all members of our community of faith,” Bishop Robert Cunningham of Syracuse said Dec. 1.

Stressing that no clergy credibly accused of abuse of a minor are in active ministry, he said the list includes both deceased priests and living priests removed from all ministry.

The accused priests were ordained as far back as 1911.

Some abuse victims have not wanted the names of their abusers released. While the diocese previously yielded to their wishes, Bishop Cunningham said, “upon serious reflection and prayer, I have concluded this practice has become a roadblock to moving our local Church forward.”

The 75-year-old bishop, who has submitted his resignation upon reaching retirement age under Church law, added that it was not fair to leave such a decision about abuse disclosure to his successor.

“The news over the past few months of the tragic failings of the Catholic Church has been deeply distressing and has caused many to lose faith and trust,” he said. “It continues to weigh heavily on our hearts. Personally for me, as your bishop, I have prayerfully considered what I can do to help rebuild trust and forge a path to restoring and strengthening the faith.”

A credible accusation, the diocese explained in documents accompanying the bishop’s letter, meets one of several criteria: the allegation is “natural, reasonable, plausible and probable”; the allegation is corroborated with other evidence or another source; or the allegation is acknowledged or admitted by the accused.

Some additional allegations have been reported to the appropriate district attorneys and will be added to the list if found credible, the diocese said.

A compensation program run by the diocese determined that there are 85 known abuse victims, as of September. A diocesan compliance officer works with accused priests and regularly monitors them.

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick told he has reviewed the list released by the diocese several times. His office and the diocese have taken steps to ensure that accused priests who are still alive do not pose any danger to children. There are 19 such priests in the diocese.

Bishop Cunningham told that Catholic leaders had for a time taken the view that sex abusers were not criminals, but psychiatric patients suffering “a sickness that we thought was treatable.” Priests, including some in the Syracuse diocese, were sent to Catholic treatment centers like the Southdown Institute in Canada and St. Luke’s in Maryland.

The bishop also said previous generations had a poor understanding of the damage caused by sexual abuse.

“Not just in the Church, but in society at large, there's been an evolving understanding of child sexual abuse, the trauma it causes, the difficulty it causes,” Cunningham said in his letter.

“I don't think the church ever intended to cover anything up,” Cunningham continued. “They frequently handled situations as families wanted or as society was doing at that time. I think it's a slow awakening to realize how serious this issue is. And it covers much more than the Church.”

The 2002 approval of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People ended the practice of treating priests and returning them to active ministry.

The U.S. bishops had intended to address sex abuse again at their fall general assembly, but the Congregation for Bishops ordered them to postpone voting on resolutions until a special global meeting of the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences to address the sex abuse crisis, set for this February at the Vatican.

Starbucks and Tumblr to block porn

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 19:16

Seattle, Wash., Dec 3, 2018 / 05:16 pm (CNA).- Coffee giant Starbucks and microblogging website Tumblr have each announced they will be taking steps to prevent the online access of pornography.

Tumblr announced Monday that sexually explicit content and nudity will be banned on its blogging platform, effective Dec. 17.

The policy comes after the site was removed from Apple’s App Store in November. Images of child pornography had reportedly been uploaded on the website, after the filters had failed to block them.

According to the new ban, GIFs, videos, and images exposing genitalia, along with illustrated sexual acts, will be prohibited. Art featuring nudity will be permitted, as will nakedness in some photos of public events like political protests.

In a similar move, Starbucks announced last week it will block access to pornographic material viewed through WiFi networks at the company’s stores beginning next year. The coffee chain banned in-store pornography in 2016, but did not install filters to prevent customers from accessing pornography.

The recent decision comes after an internet-safety group, Enough is Enough, pressured Starbucks to restrict the pornography accessed on the café’s WiFi.

The coffee company said recently that it had been looking for a way to block pornography on its network without thwarting access to other websites.

Details on the new filters have not been released, but Starbucks has said it will introduce them sometime in 2019.

"We have identified a solution to prevent this content from being viewed within our stores and we will begin introducing it to our U.S. locations in 2019," the representative told NBC News.

Starbucks made the announcement shortly after Enough is Enough re-issued a petition Nov. 20 which has more than 26,000 signatures. The petition was a second attempt by the group to campaign against the lack of porn restriction on Starbucks’ WiFi.

In 2014, the non-profit pressured Starbucks and McDonald’s to create a porn-free environment on publicly accessible WiFi.

Donna Hughes, CEO of Enough is Enough, said McDonald’s quickly responded to fix the problem, while Starbucks promised to act but did not. At present, Starbucks has only filtered porn in its U.K. locations.

"Starbucks has had a tremendous opportunity to put its best foot forward in protecting its customers from images deemed obscene and illegal under the law, but they haven't budged, despite their promise two years ago,” Hughes said in a Nov. 26 statement.  

"We demand Starbucks do the right thing by keeping its promise of two and half years ago," she said. "We applaud Starbucks' commitment to protect children in its UK stores, but what about America's children? …There's no reason why Starbucks can't offer that same level of commitment of WiFi safety to its loyal customer base here in the United States.”

Hughes said that because Starbucks did not follow through with its 2016 commitment, the company has kept open an for child pornography to be accessed under the radar, and for teens to bypass parental controls.

Enough is Enough ran a thank-you campaign for Starbucks after it promised to block porn in 2016. Hughes told NBC News that, this time, the group will withhold applause and continue to apply pressure until the changes are seen.

"They won’t get an applause until they’ve actually implemented safe Wi-Fi filtering," Hughes said. "This time we’re going to wait and see, and we’re going to keep the pressure on."

Major porn websites have issued statements in response to the decision. The pornographic video-sharing site YouPorn, released a memo which banned the Starbucks’ products from the organization’s offices, beginning in January 2019.

A similar site, Pornhub, also issued a statement, noting it would be rolling out “Safe for Work” content – nudity-free videos. The category contains topics like video game reviews and advice from porn stars.

However, sexual and obscene advertisements may still be encountered in the "SFW" webpages. It is unclear if the new ban will block entire domains containing pornography, or allow access to parts of the websites which do not have sexually explicit material.

‘A man of faith and humility’ Catholics remember President George H.W. Bush

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 15:30

Washington D.C., Dec 3, 2018 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- George H.W. Bush, who died late Friday, served as a fighter pilot in World War II, head of the CIA, vice president under Ronald Reagan, and as the 41st president of the United States. But he maintained throughout his last years that his most important role was that of a father of six.


“I can honestly say that the three most rewarding titles bestowed upon me are the three that I’ve got left: a husband, a father and a granddad,” Bush said in 1997 at the opening of his presidential library in Houston.


In the days following the president’s death, Catholics around the country remembered the 41st president for his character and family values.


Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, offered prayers for the former president and for his family, and praised Bush as a “courageous man, dedicated leader and selfless public servant.”


As a congressman, Bush represented Texas’ seventh congressional district, which is within DiNardo’s archdiocese.


“President Bush’s career in the public eye – from the Lone Star State to the global stage – was marked by incredible statesmanship and honor,” DiNardo said in a statement released by the archdiocese.


“His strong faith in God, devotion to his wife of 73 years, the late First Lady Barbara Bush, and his boundless love for the covenant of family served as a model for all to follow. The City of Houston was very proud to call him one of our own and one of our brightest points of light. We will forever be grateful for his presence and commitment to our community and to the people of Houston.”


Bush’s marriage to Barbara, who died earlier this year, was the longest marriage in the history of the American presidency.


In his speech at the 1992 Knights of Columbus convention, President Bush, an Episcopalian, spoke of the importance of character and morality in American society.


“I think my parents were like yours: They brought me up to understand that our fundamental moral standards were established by Almighty God. They taught me that if you have something for yourself, you should give half to a friend. They taught me to take the blame when things go wrong and share the credit when things go right. These ideas were supported by society,” he told the Knights.


Joseph Cullen, a spokesman for the Knights of Columbus, told CNA that Bush had “a wonderful feel for what makes America great: her people and their individual communities, including faith communities.”


“He knew that religious liberty produced varied and wonderful fruits, especially in the areas of charity and service. He knew us at the Knights. He encouraged us and did so personally at two of our conventions, including in 1992 as president. We are grateful to have known him and now pray for him and his family” Cullen said.


Bush noted in 1992 that there was a “disturbing trend” in “the rise of legal theories and practices that reject our Judeo-Christian tradition.”


“The President should set the moral tone for this nation,” Bush said.


Other bishops and Catholic voices have issued their own tributes to the 41st president.


“A gracious and humble man who lived a life of service to others, President George H.W. Bush is remembered as a man of character, a husband and father who did his best to bring about a kinder and gentler nation.  He guided our country during difficult times with grace, dignity and courage,” Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland said Dec. 1.


Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland, Maine, also extended his prayerful sympathy to the Bush family.


“He will be remembered for his integrity. A man of faith and humility, may he be at peace with the Lord he served in life,” Deeley said.


His presidency from 1988 to 1992 oversaw the fall of the Soviet Union. In Bush’s last State of the Union Address in 1992, he said, “By the grace of God, America won the Cold War."


Later that year, the president went on to say, “Saint Ignatius said, ‘Work as though all depended upon yourself,  and pray as though all depended on God.’ The practice of that motto conquered communism. Ceaseless prayer and tireless work halted the cold war and spared us from the catastrophe of a third world war. Believers behind the Iron Curtain defied persecution; believers in the West defied indifference.”


Bush met with Pope Saint John Paul II in Rome twice during his presidency. Though the two leaders disagreed over the U.S. military intervention in the Gulf War, Bush described his last presidential meeting with John Paul II as "major tour d'horizon, touching on all the trouble spots"  in the world.


When Bush first entered politics as a Republican Congressman, he supported funding for Planned Parenthood, however he went on to be an effective pro-life president. Bush used his power of veto to stop 10 bills with pro-abortion provisions, according to the National Right to Life Committee.


"President George H.W. Bush dedicated his administration to advancing pro-life policies to protect mothers and their unborn children," National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said Dec. 1. "He used his presidency to stop enactment of pro-abortion laws and promote life-affirming solutions.”


Bush’s funeral will be held at Washington’s National Cathedral on Wednesday, Dec. 5 with President Donald Trump and his wife in attendance.

Commentary: Advent is the remedy to our spiritual crisis

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 16:29

Denver, Colo., Dec 2, 2018 / 02:29 pm (CNA).- “Insincerity was an evil which sprang up within the Church from the first,” wrote Blessed John Henry Newman in 1839. “Ananias and Simon were not open opposers of the Apostles, but false brethren.”

Any of us, he said, can affect a certain kind of religiosity without sincerity, any of us can be tempted to put on the trappings of faith without the interior disposition. Any of us can be tempted to give the appearance of love when, in truth, we do not love.

Real faith grows when we have the humility and the honesty to profess what we really believe, to speak what we really know, and to stand before God and one another as we really are.

Jesus transforms us, Newman taught, when we come before him as we are.

That lesson resonates with many Catholics this year. The past six months have proven difficult. The Church faces a crisis that does not need ongoing enumeration. But it is a crisis in which sincerity has come into question, in which trust has been eroded, and in which many Catholics are no longer certain who they can believe, and what they can trust.

And, for at least some Catholics, it has occasioned a crisis of faith itself.

Advent is the spiritual remedy to that crisis.

Advent, Pope Benedict XVI taught, is an invitation to return “to the heart of our faith, which is the mystery of Christ, the Messiah who was expected for long centuries and was born in poverty, in Bethlehem.”

Christ came into the world because sin is real, and because he sets us free from sin. This Advent, we need to remember that.

“In coming among us, he brought us and continues to offer us the gift of his love and his salvation,” Benedict said.

Because Christ is present, Benedict said, we “may speak to him, presenting to him the suffering that afflicts us, our impatience, the questions that well up in our hearts. We may be sure that he always listens to us! And if Jesus is present...we may continue to hope, even when others can no longer assure us of any support, even when the present becomes trying.”

That we are marred by sin should be no surprise. Advent reminds us that sin is defeated, in the Messiah who came into the world at Christmas, and who will come again.

In fact, the trying afflictions of the present moment are exactly why Jesus has come- because sin exists in the world, even among members of the Church. It is Christ in whom we can place our trust- because Christ is the one who came into the world to defeat sin and death through his own Passion.

Advent also reminds us that the Church, the Body of Christ, is human and divine, just as Christ himself is. That the holiness of the Church does not depend on the holiness of her members or ministers. That even as she must follow a path of penance and renewal, she is more than what we can see, and especially more than the headlines of recent months.

There is a danger, amid the scandal of the moment, that we might reduce our vision of the Church to the sociological, that we might see only the scandal, and not the grace. Christ is present to us in and through his Church- even if actions undertaken in the Church's own name, set amid the disordering chaos of sin, are the source of our pain, or even of our despair. That is the scandalous proposition of the Gospel.

Advent reminds us that the Church is Christ’s Mystical Body, and that even as her fallen humanity is on full display, she is nonetheless the sacrament of our salvation. The Church, the Body of Christ, is a source of grace, even as she is in need of grace.

Jesus has come into the world, and he is coming again. He is present, even in our great difficulty. He loves as we are, and he wishes us to transform us. Advent is here.

Come Lord Jesus, come.  


How a 'messy family' can be a holy family

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 14:00

Steubenville, Ohio, Dec 2, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- When Mike and Alice Hernon started their podcast on marriage and family in 2015, they didn’t think anyone would listen, outside of their family and maybe a few close friends.

Both from big families - Alice the second of 10 siblings, and Mike one of six - and parents of 10 children themselves, the Hernons would often get asked for parenting advice at extended family gatherings.

At the urging of their siblings who were benefiting from their advice, the Hernons started a marriage and family podcast.

“At the beginning if you listen to our first two or three episodes, we kind of start off by saying something like, there are probably just like five of our brothers and sisters and their friends listening,” Alice told CNA.

But over the past three years, the podcast grew from a small fanbase of friends and family to 10,000 listeners per month.

“We literally did zero marketing! We didn't do anything” to promote the podcast, Alice said.

“We didn’t have time,” Mike added. They were too busy with work and with their own family life.

Sensing a growing need among parents and families for guidance and support, and with the support and partnership with Our Sunday Visitor Institute, Alice and Mike have decided to expand their podcast into a full-time marriage and family ministry called The Messy Family Project.

In addition to the podcast, the Hernons will now offer their advice, support and encouragement through videos, downloadable resources, and live events such as retreats and workshops.

“One of our taglines is: 'we're not experts' because neither of us have counseling degrees, we're not professors, we're not doctors,” Alice said. “We are really just older parents who are ahead of most of the people who are listening to us, so what we want to do is just kind of give that encouragement, that practical advice, but without being dogmatic.”

They’ve gained their wisdom from their own families of origin, from years of experience raising their own children (who are now ages 6-23), and from the teachings of the Catholic Church, and from interacting with families through various ministries over the years.  

Their mission: “to empower parents, strengthen marriages and bring families to Christ.”

This mission has been on the hearts of the Hernons for a while, Mike said, because “we believe it’s more challenging to raise children today than maybe it ever has been.”

They offer their wisdom as older siblings who have been there, rather than as parents of a different generation, Mike said.

“There are challenges that our parents didn't have,” he said, “everything from technology to all of the cultural issues that are bearing on our children and our family life.”

They wanted to offer their support and advice for Catholic families to build their own unique cultures instead, which will look different depending on the individual family, Mike said.

“We don't try to say - this is the perfect plan. We try to share experiences, also the principles from the Church, because we believe the Church is an expert in humanity, an expert in real living.”

Creating a strong, welcoming and unique family culture, built on a Catholic identity, is one of the best ways to combat the cultural messages that are antithetical to Catholicism and family life today, the Hernons said. “The best defense is a good offense,” Mike said.

“Our ‘offense’ is creating your own family culture,” Alice said.

“Families need to not allow their children to be influenced by the world's culture more than by their own family culture, because when you create your own family culture...that culture is a very powerful influence on our children because it’s an unspoken set of beliefs and expectations.”

A strong family culture also allows parents to enforce values without being judgmental of other families, Alice said.

“Because when a child says, ‘Oh well Susie is allowed to wear that dress to prom,’ you can say ‘Yeah, but Susie's not a Hernon, and this is who we are,’” she said.  

Family culture is communicated primarily through relationships, the Hernons said - the relationship of the parents with each other, the relationships parents have with individual children, and then the relationships children have with each other.

“The grace for your family flows from the sacrament of marriage,” Mike said.

“More is caught than taught, and kids need to see what that marriage looks like, and you model for them in so many ways what true love is, what it means to lay down your life, what it means to have a vocation, a mission of service.”

The Messy Family Project offers resources that cover a wide variety of topics related to family culture - including discipline, growing spiritually as a family, managing screen time, fostering sibling relationships, strengthening marriages, and building community with other like-minded families.

These resources include downloadable worksheets for parents to work through together, because spouses are each other’s own best parenting resource, the Hernons said.

“One of our themes is that parents need to work together and listen to each other as the experts,” Alice said. “More than they listen to us, more than they listen to anybody else out there, they need to listen to each other. So we have worksheets for parents to go through and have conversations with each other.”

Much of the Hernons' inspiration comes from Pope St. John Paul II, and his teachings on marriage and family.

“Each family finds within itself a summons that cannot be ignored and that specifies both its dignity and responsibility: family, become what you are!” Pope John Paul II said in his 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio.

That quote “sums up the goal” of The Messy Family Project, Mike said in a press release.

The Hernons said they are also inspired by St. Mother Teresa and the Little Flower of Therese, who found joy and holiness even in the little things of life.

They are also inspired by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who said in a 2017 address: “When young people ask me how to change the world, I tell them to love each other, get married, stay faithful to one another, have lots of children, and raise those children to be men and women of Christian character. Faith is a seed. It doesn’t flower overnight. It takes time and love and effort.”

Alice said she hopes Catholic families can find inspiration and hope, even in troubling times in the Church and in the world, through The Messy Family Project.

“I think a lot of times, Catholics look at the (Church sex abuse) scandals and say - ‘How can we change the Church?’”

“That's important and we need to do that, but start with your family. That's the most influence you can have, is over your family, and I think that people forget that.”

Eucharistic procession for Hollywood homeless draws hundreds

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 17:56

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 1, 2018 / 03:56 pm (CNA).- Hundreds of Catholics processed through Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in a special Eucharistic procession for the poor this month.

The event was organized by the Beloved Movement, a forum that promotes discipleship and spiritual community.

An estimated 700 people attended the Hollywood Beloved Procession after Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church on Nov. 17.

As part of the event, volunteers on the walk sat and listened to some of the city’s homeless population on the boulevard.

Seminarians from St. John’s Seminary and Queen of the Angels led the procession. It was also attended by members of several religious orders, including the Friars and Sisters of the Poor Jesus and Daughters of St. Paul.

The procession concluded in the church parking lot with adoration, praise and worship, and silent prayer.

The Beloved Movement website says the procession seeks to remind people of the common dignity between those on the streets and those who are not. Since Christ bore the weaknesses of mankind, it says, there is no need to be afraid of each other.

“Jesus shared our weaknesses, wounds, and limitations so that we wouldn’t need to be afraid of them, in ourselves or in others,” the website reads. 

The Beloved Movement partners with various organizations to foster relationships between homeless people and non-homeless people in Los Angeles. Father Spencer Lewrenz, one of the primary organizers of the event, said those in poverty need more than just resources.

“There are more and more resources,” he told America Magazine when he was a seminarian in 2017. “And it isn’t helping.”

“My experience is there’s a lot of bitterness and despair among the homeless population because they feel like nobody cares,” he said. “If I can recognize where I feel a little homeless for whatever reason inside myself, then it kind of helps me be able to talk to that person.”

Suicide, drug overdose rates bring US life expectancy down

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 04:28

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2018 / 02:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The suicide rate in the United States is at its highest in at least 50 years, and is contributing to a decrease in the nation’s life expectancy, the federal government said Thursday.

Life expectancy for the U.S. population declined to 78.6 in 2017, down from 78.7 the previous year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a new report.

“Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,” said CDC director Robert Redfield in a Nov. 29 statement.

The United States saw more than 47,000 suicides in 2017, an increase of more than 2,000 from the previous year.

In addition, there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths last year, a 10 percent rise from 2016. Deaths from heroin and prescription opioids remained steady from the previous year, while fentanyl deaths drastically increased.

Other findings in the CDC report included an increase in gun deaths, totaling almost 40,000. Deaths from heart disease – the top killer in the U.S. – are no longer declining, while deaths from flu and pneumonia increased by 6 percent.

While U.S. life expectancy had been rising for decades, the country is now seeing its longest period of generally declining life expectancy since World War I, according to the Associated Press.

Iowa prisoners sue to get their pornography back

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 20:03

Des Moines, Iowa, Nov 30, 2018 / 06:03 pm (CNA).- Dozens of Iowa inmates have filed a lawsuit challenging a ban on pornography which has affected the state’s prisons in recent weeks.

The law, which took effect Nov. 14, prohibits pornographic material and puts an end to “pornography reading rooms” in all of Iowa’s nine state prisons.

A lawsuit filed by 58 inmates at Fort Dodge Correctional Institution claims the new state regulations are unconstitutional. The suit calls for an end to the ban and for $25,000 to be awarded to each inmate.

Thirty years ago, a similar ban was brought to court, where a federal judge found that the law’s language on “explicit material” was unconstitutionally ambiguous. The law was then revised to more closely match the Supreme Court’s ruling on obscenity laws.

The director of the Drake University Constitutional Law Center, Mark Kende, told CNA that the previous law’s specific description only banned incredibly hard-core pornography, but continued to allow for less extreme material.

Kende said the new law, however, is a little less specific than the edited law of 30 years ago, and uses a more general depiction of sexually explicit material that would also include what is generally considered soft-core porn.

“‘Sexually explicit’ means a pictorial depiction of actual or simulated sexual acts including sexual intercourse, oral sex, or masturbation,” reads the law.  

“Sexually explicit material does not include material of a news or information type. Publications concerning research or opinions on sexual, health, or reproductive issues should be admitted unless the publications are otherwise a threat to legitimate institutional interests,” the law says.

Further clarifications are needed, Kende said, pointing to example of magazines such as Playboy, which has both sexual content and non-sexual articles. Without more clarity in the law, it is uncertain where the courts would come down on the regulation, he said.

“You don’t have that assurance that it will be something that the court will say this is just a ban on obscenity,” he said. “[They] are trying to ban more than obscenity.”

However, he said the law may have enough “specificity in it and it is possible that it will be upheld because of that, but it is not perfect.”

Religious order petitions Supreme Court over gas pipeline

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- An order of religious sisters in Pennsylvania has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the drilling of a government-sanctioned gas pipeline through the religious order’s property. The Adorers of the Blood of Christ claim the plan is a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).


“These nuns have every right to tell the government and its corporate partners to stay off the convent’s land and respect the nuns’ right to exercise their religious beliefs about the sacredness of God’s creation,” John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, said in a statement Nov. 28. The institute has filed an amicus brief on behalf of the order.


In the petition to the Supreme Court, Adorers of the Blood of Christ et al. v Federal Energy Regulatory Commission et al., filed in October, the sisters asserted that the construction of a high-volume natural pas pipeline on their land by invoking eminent domain violates their religious beliefs and conscience by “forcing them to use their own land to facilitate a fossil fuel pipeline that will harm the earth.”


The religious sisters cited Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si in their press statement, “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an option or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience,” the quote the pope as saying.


Lawyers for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission objected that the sisters had not previously based their objections to the plan on religious freedom grounds, and the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company maintained that there is insufficient evidence that the pipeline violates the sisters’ religious beliefs.


The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline would run directly through the religious order’s land, which includes a nursing home, convent, and a chapel.


The Adorers of the Blood of Christ have opposed the construction of the pipeline accross their farmland since July 2017, when they dedicated an outdoor chapel on their property in the path of the fossil fuel pipeline.


“When the Adorers established a presence here in Columbia in the 1920s, working the land was part of their daily existence ... This ground is seeped with their love and their sacrifices. Our spirits and our hearts are permeated with their legacy of responsible stewardship for this land,” Sister Janet McCann said at the chapel’s dedication.


A priest was arrested for protesting the pipeline being built on the property in 2017. Father Bill Pickard was charged with defiant trespass along with five other Catholic participants in the peaceful protest.


The Adorers of the Blood of Christ were founded as a teaching order in Italy by Saint Maria De Mattias in 1834, and went on to found nearly 70 schools. The order expanded to the United States in the late 19th century, eventually establishing a ministry to assist the elderly in Pennsylvania in 1925.


St. Maria De Mattias was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2003.


“When St. Maria DeMattias founded our congregation in 1834, she spoke of our call to help ‘bring about that beautiful order of things,’” Sister McCann said.


“As Adorers, we believe that ‘beautiful order’ happens when we reverence and respect creation. We ‘bring about that beautiful order of things’ when our decision-making and our influence honor our interconnectedness and oneness with all creation.”

Farm Bill to pass without expanded SNAP work requirements

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 17:40

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2018 / 03:40 pm (CNA).- Congress looks set to pass a compromise version of the Farm Bill, which would reauthorize billions in government funds for nutrition assistance and agricultural support, but strike a plan to expand work and job-training requirements for food assistance programs.

A final version of the bill looks set to be approved during the current lame duck session of the 115th Congress.

The Senate and House of Representatives have both passed drafts of the bill, but negotiations on a final compromise version have stalled in recent months.

In the House, H.R. 2 passed in June with narrow, Republican-only support. The House version included provisions that would increase work and training requirements for access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.


The proposed changes to SNAP, which had the support of House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump, would have required able-bodied beneficiaries between the ages of 18 and 59 to either hold a job or participate in a job training program for 20 hours each week to remain eligible for the program. Similar requirements apply now only to 18-49 year-olds.


Adults with disabilities or dependents under six years old would be exempt from this requirement.


In April, representatives from some Catholic groups wrote a joint letter to the House Agriculture Committee about the bill. The letter welcomed efforts to improve state workforce training programs, but cautioned that the bill do not appear to offer sufficient investment to fund job training programs.


The letter, signed by representatives from the U.S. bishops’ conference, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Rural Life, and the National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul, also warned that members of rural communities could find it especially difficult to access training, which is often only available some distance away.


Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry told CNA Nov. 30 that as a Catholic legislator, he was comfortable supporting reasonable work and job-training requirements for SNAP beneficiaries.


“The decayed theology of the last 40 years has left little room for a reasoned approach to charity. Access to meaningful work is dignity. Work gives a person well-being, support, and societal participation. Those who suffer from severe incapacity should not be required, but a holistic approach to charity should integrate work when possible,” Fortenberry said.


“The Farm Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation for America. It provides risk stabilization for farmers and ranchers and protects those who have food insecurity. America enjoys some of the lowest food prices in the world. We pay less for our groceries then anyone else in the world. And this is the result of a smart legislative process that creates an abundance of food supply that actually helps feed the world’s poor as well,” he added.


“I am hopeful that we can quickly reach bipartisan consensus.”


SNAP benefits assist more than 38 million Americans each month to buy food in grocery stores. The proposed employment and job-training requirements were estimated to affect as many as 1.2 million recipients. Savings incurred by the changes would have been reinvested into job training programs and better administration.


The Senate version of the bill did not include the new training requirements, but contained some additional anti-fraud measures, and was able to pass with bipartisan support.


Congressional Republicans are now indicating that a final compromise bill along the lines of the Senate version can pass before the new Congress, with a Democratic majority in the House, is gaveled into session January 3.


Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts R-KAN said Thursday that the final version of the legislation will not include the tougher work rules contained in the House bill.


“We took a more comprehensive approach to provide program integrity, as opposed to extending age limits to moms that have kids,” Roberts told Huffington Post.


“We got to get the farm bill done,” Rep. Glenn Thompson said earlier this month. “If we could get this one done with some bad modifications, it will be so much better than what will be negotiated under the Democrat majority next year.”