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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
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Senate vote to prevent filibuster on 20-week abortion ban fails

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 18:30

Washington D.C., Jan 29, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- A procedural vote on a Senate bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks failed on the evening of Jan. 29, after more than three hours of debate. The cloture motion, which would have prevented a filibuster on the bill, required 60 votes to pass, and failed by a vote of 51-46.

The bill could continue to be considered in the Senate, even with the prospect of a filibuster, though this is not widely expected. The bill is likely to be a topic of debate in 2018 Senate elections.

The  U.S. is one of seven countries in the world that allow abortions after 5 months of pregnancy.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act proposes that abortion be made illegal after 20 weeks of gestation, on the basis that fetal neural development enables the unborn to experience pain at that point. The bill includes exceptions for an abortion in the case of rape or incest, as well in the circumstances in which the pregnancy threatened the life or the mother.

“After 20 weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling,” according to the text of the Pain-Capable Act.

Because of an unborn child’s sensitivity to pain at this stage, anesthesia is regularly administered during in-utero surgery after 20 weeks. An ultrasound can reveal the gender of an unborn child, who can be viewed sucking their thumb, yawning, or stretching by 20 weeks of pregnancy. The nervous system begins functioning in the fourth month of pregnancy.

The bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives in Oct. 2017, is opposed by most Senate Democrats. To prevent a filibuster, Republicans needed Democratic support, in addition to the votes of the 51 Republican Senators.

Democratic Senators Bob Casey, Joe Manchin, and Joe Donnelly supported the motion. Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski voted against it.

Twenty-one states currently have a law banning abortion after 20 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute. A recent Marist poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus found that 76 percent of Americans support limiting abortion to the first trimester of pregnancy.

“There is no reason why this should be a partisan issue,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor before the vote.

“The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act reflects a mainstream, growing consensus that unborn children should not be subjected to elective-abortion after 20 weeks,” he added.

In France, Italy, and Germany, abortion is illegal after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The United States, China, North Korea, Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Vietnam are the seven countries that permit elective abortions after 20 weeks.

Ash Wednesday trumps Valentine's, Chicago archdiocese says

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 13:59

Chicago, Ill., Jan 29, 2018 / 11:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Occasionally, the liturgical calendar has a curious intersection with secular holidays.

This year, Ash Wednesday—which begins the penitential season of Lent with a day of fasting, abstinence, and prayer—falls on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day celebrates a third-century Christian martyr, but it has also become a celebration of romantic love, replete with with chocolates, fancy prix fixe menus, roses, and an overload of candy hearts.

The Archdiocese of Chicago has clarified that Lent is more important than candy hearts, and suggested that Catholics pick some other day for paper hearts and Cupid’s arrows.

A statement released by the Archdiocese explained that Catholics will not be dispensed from the laws of fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday, and suggested that Catholics planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day could do so on Feb. 13th, which is also Mardi Gras.

“The obligation of fast and abstinence must naturally be the priority in the Catholic community,” said the statement.

“Valentine’s Day can appropriately be celebrated the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which also happens to be Mardi Gras, a traditionally festive time before beginning our Lenten observance.”

Mardi Gras is traditionally celebrated each year on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Customary Mardi Gras celebrations include parades, elaborate costumes, and the consumption of pancakes. In the Archdiocese of Chicago, it might also serve as a substitute Valentine’s Day.

Catholics 18-59 are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Catholics 14 and older are also required to abstain from meat on those days, and on Lenten Fridays.  According to the US bishops’ conference, a person fasting “is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.”

 

Young adult delegates to pre-synod gathering span vocations

Sun, 01/28/2018 - 18:35

Washington D.C., Jan 28, 2018 / 04:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops have selected the young adult delegates who will represent the country at the pre-synod gathering in Rome this March, which will take place before the 2018 Youth Synod of Bishops in October.

The three delegates, all 20-somethings, represent a variety of vocations and will be able to bring their personal perspectives, as well as what they have learned from working with young people at local and national levels, to the gathering in Rome, said a representative of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

“What was not really intended, but certainly was wonderful to see, was that they really reflect the vocational diversity (of the Church),” said Paul Jarzembowski, assistant director for youth and young adult ministries at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“This is a pre-synod meeting on the reality of young people but also the vocational pathways, so it was wonderful to see that the three representatives...represent the three particular phases and experiences of the vocational journey, it just made for a wonderful diversity of the vocational and ministerial experiences,” he told CNA.

The chosen delegates are: Brother Javier Hansen, FSC, a LaSallian Brother who teaches religion at Cathedral High School-El Paso, Texas; Nick López, a single young adult who is the director of campus ministry for the University of Dallas and a guest columnist for the Catholic News Service; and Katie Prejean McGrady, a wife, new mother, youth minister, and speaker from the Diocese of Lake Charles in Louisiana.

The pre-synod gathering is significant because it is yet another way that the Church is listening to and gathering information about youth and young people, ages 16-30, the demographic on which the synod will focus, Jarzembowski said.

Typically, the bishops gather pre-synod data from questionnaires sent out to episcopal conferences, but this year the bishops are also including this pre-synod gathering as well as the pre-synod youth survey, which was available online last year.

“So when the bishops meet in Rome in October, they will have a lot of information at their fingertips in terms of what is the experience of young people today,” Jarzembowski said.

The Youth Synod’s theme is “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” While an official agenda has yet to be set, the preparatory document outlines some of the things that the bishops will be discussing, while the rest will be determined by the pre-synod survey as well as the gathering.

Brother Hansen said that he looks forward to representing young adult religious vocations, as well as his students, at the gathering.  

“I believe I offer the perspective of many young religious in this country and those who are currently discerning religious life,” he said in a statement. “I not only will represent the people of my generation but also the young people I interact with every day in the classroom.”

For Lopez, the gathering is an opportunity to share what he has learned working in youth ministry, as well as his perspective on the American and Latino youth experience.

In comments to CNA, Prejean McGrady said she is looking forward to learning from other youth ministers throughout the word, as well as sharing what she’s learned in her work with young people in America.

“...I’ve noticed that American youth are hungry for authentic encounter: with each other, with their families, with the Church, and ultimately with Jesus,” she said.

“They are seeking the chance to communicate and share their hearts, and be guided on their journey, but they’re confronted with the noise of the culture and struggle to find opportunities to authentically share, be heard, and listen. I hope to convey that our American youth want to know Jesus, and there are many successful ways we are helping young people meet Him in our country.”

Fostering vocations; the impact of technology and social media on individuals and communities; and best practices for youth and young adult ministry are likely to be some of the key topics going forward in the gathering and the synod, Jarzembowski said.

He added that he was excited about the chosen delegates because not only are they young people themselves, but they are accompanying other young people in the faith.

“They’re young people working with young people, which in and of itself is a wonderful model for the way we should accompany one another,” he said.

“We don’t do this Church thing alone, we walk with each other. And these are three examples of young adults who are walking with other young people, and we can’t go wrong with that model.”

Jarzembowski encouraged young people to continue offering their perspectives and follow along with the pre-synod gathering as well as the synod by following @Synod2018 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Youth and young adults can also follow along on the official Vatican website for the synod and the pre-synod gathering, as well as on the USCCB web page for the synod.

 

Michelle La Rosa contributed to this report.

Study suggests teenage girls don't have tools to navigate pressure to sext

Sat, 01/27/2018 - 18:09

Chicago, Ill., Jan 27, 2018 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a recent study, teenage girls were found to feel powerless when asked for a nude image of themselves from young men, most often saying they felt trapped, bombarded, coerced, and confused when confronted with “sexting” requests.

Perhaps even more alarming is that most of the young women in the study reported that the pressure to sext was normal and accepted boys’ aggressive behavior as acceptable. Even more, the only negative language the girls used was not against their male counterparts – but instead to describe themselves or other girls.

The study, “What Should I Do?: Young Women’s Reported Dilemmas With Nude Photographs,” was conducted by Sara E. Thomas, a doctoral student at Northwestern University, and was published by Springer Science and Business Media in December 2017. The study looked at 7,000 stories from girls who posted their experience on the online platform “A Thin Line.”

Of the 7,000 experiences, Thomas focused on 462 stories in which girls reported sexting, sending nude photos, and related experiences from the years 2010-2016. The average age of the girls was 15.

Thomas noted the study’s limitations, saying that the shared experiences were the result of an anonymous online platform, which neglects to include important information such as the girls’ demographic backgrounds and may not be indicative of all young women’s experiences. Most of the girls were also adolescent and there was no information given about the male counterparts who reportedly pressured the girls into sexting.

However, the study is able to highlight a number of adolescent girls’ struggles when faced with requests for nude photos, most of whom reported that they did not want to send the images. Also noteworthy was the most common reaction among the girls when asked for photos: “What should I do?”

“Teenage girls know the potential risks and are disinclined to [sext], yet they continue to share their images anyway. They struggle to say no,” said Thomas, in an interview with Northwestern Now.

Thomas also noted that the girls seem to be ill-equipped with the resources and tools necessary to face pressured requests from young men.

Of the girls who sent nude photos, “more than 90 percent…engaged in what could be considered unwanted but consensual sexting to either prove their affections or avoid reproach or conflict with their partners,” the study reported.

The study also noted that none of the girls who sent nude photos felt relieved or good about their choice. In addition, 40 percent of the stories said their nude photos were sent to unintended audiences. One girl reported that her nude image ended up on the personal phones of over 300 people.

“It appears that a desire for status, love or pressure from boys to be ‘good girlfriends,’ threats, anger or relational consequences compel them to consider sending photographs,” the study said of the girls who were asked to send nude images.

Of the girls who refused, 31 percent said there were repercussions for not engaging in sexting or sending nude images, such as “having the boy get angry, break up with them, or make more requests despite their refusal.”

In addition, a number of the girls expressed a level of normalcy in being asked to provide nude images or engage in sexting. They also did not describe their male counterparts as blameworthy, but instead described themselves as “weak,” “pathetic,” having “ridiculously low self-esteem,” or a “horrible person.”

When not describing themselves, the girls sometimes used negative language against other girls, calling those who did not send nude images “prudes.”

Thomas concluded that her study was “not meant to suggest that all young women struggle with immediate day to day pressures, to represent all young women as victims of coercive tactics, or to represent all young men as coercive or threatening.”

“Rather, it is the aim of this study to explore the struggles young women experience and to elaborate on our current understanding of young women’s dilemmas as they develop romantic and sexual relationships in this digital era.”

Thomas also added that young women need support and information on how to navigate pressuring situations from males, while there is also an overwhelming need for males to act with respect and boundary acceptance.

US bishops critical of Trump's proposed immigration changes

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 18:36

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2018 / 04:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday, US President Donald Trump announced a proposal to create a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million people brought to the United States as children in exchange for increased funding for border security and for an end to “chain-migration” and diversity visa lottery policies.

The plan is controversial, from both the left and the right. The right is concerned that Trump is backing away from his campaign promises and that this new pathway to citizenship effectively amounts to amnesty, whereas the left thinks the proposals are too “hard-line” and that the “Dreamers” are being used as pawns to advance an agenda.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has a more nuanced take on the issue.

In an interview with Catholic News Agency, Bill Canny, executive director of the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services Offices, said that while the bishops agree that border security is important, this proposal is only going to create animosity between Republicans and Democrats and will not improve the current situation for the “Dreamers.”

“The bishops believe that it’s important the citizenry is protected, that our borders are secure, and that we don’t live in any fear,” said Canny.

However, he was concerned that a “high amount” of money was being put into various enforcement measures that he doesn’t think would lead to any sort of progress or agreement.

“The debate will not be fruitful” if the current proposal stands, he said.

Further, Canny said that he did not think it was right that the “plight of the Dreamers” was being used to push different restrictions on immigration.

“We don’t believe it’s the right time to take up all of these issues. Stay focused on the Dreamers – we know border security is an issue.”

As for the proposed restrictions on what’s being referred to as “chain migration” or “family reunification,” Canny believes that the updated definition of “family” – which prevents immigrants from sponsoring visas for their parents, siblings, or adult children – is “very troubling.”

The proposal would include funding for a border wall, and end the diversity visa lottery, by which 50,000 people from around the world annually are randomly granted Green Cards, or permanent residency status.

Catholic aid organizations ask US to restore funds for Palestinian refugees

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 18:20

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2018 / 04:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic aid leaders and others have requested that the White House reconsider its decision to withhold $65 million designated for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Leaders of 21 global aid groups, including Catholic Relief Services and Jesuit Refugee Services/USA, signed a Jan. 24 letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other U.S. leaders, expressing concern that cuts in humanitarian aid will have “dire consequences” on emergency food and medical aid in the region.

“We are deeply concerned by the humanitarian consequences of this decision on life-sustaining assistance to children, women and men in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” reads the letter, posted online by the Palestine News Agency.

Giulia McPherson, Interim Executive Director of Jesuit Refugee Services told CNA, “As a UN partner that also serves Palestinian refugees through some of our programming, we felt compelled to join this effort.”

“We know that places like this are strapped for resources, having taken in millions of refugees in recent years due to war in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. When resources are taken away for a specific population, such as UNRWA, the impacts can be felt throughout the region,” McPherson continued.

The letter said the decision “impacting humanitarian aid to civilians is not based on any assessment of need, but rather designed both to punish Palestinian political leaders and to force political concessions from them.”

“This is...a dangerous and striking departure from U.S. policy on international humanitarian assistance,” it read.

The United States will provide $60 million in 2018 to UN relief efforts for Palestinian refugees. According to State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, the Trump Administration will withhold an additional $65 million for future consideration, until it determines whether UNRWA has made reforms that have not yet been specified.

On Jan. 2, President Trump tweeted “we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue … peace treaty with Israel.”

He added: “With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

At a Jan. 16 press conference, Nauert said the decision to withhold aid to refugees was not politically motivated, or related to recent regional controversy of a US decision to relocate its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. She declined to comment on whether withholding the funds was related to the president’s tweets.

The aid organizations contrasted current foreign aid protocols with the approach of the Reagan and Bush administrations. “The Reagan Administration declared that ‘a hungry child knows no politics,’ and, indeed, this sentiment has guided U.S. policy makers for decades,” their letter said.

“This sentiment is, for example, reflected in the international Good Humanitarian Donorship Initiative, an intergovernmental donor forum and network that the United States helped to establish during the Administration of George W. Bush. That initiative includes best practices that the Bush administration and subsequent administrations have endorsed, including the propositions that ‘humanitarian action should be guided by … the centrality of saving human lives and alleviating suffering wherever it is found,’ and that humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations should be ‘solely on the basis of need, without discrimination between or within affected population,’” the letter continued.

Nauert said that the Administration’s decision might motivate other countries to support Palestine. “The United States has been, in the past, the largest single donor to UNRWA. We would like other countries – in fact, other countries that criticize the United States for what they believe to be our position vis-a-vis the Palestinians, other countries that have criticized us – to step forward and actually help with UNRWA.”

Catholic Relief Services, which is overseen by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, was also a signatory to the letter.  

“Catholic Relief Services has grave concerns about the humanitarian impact these cuts will have on the people UNRWA serves, and CRS does not believe political conditions should be applied to that aid,” CRS Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy Bill O’Keefe told CNA.

CRS told CNA they will continue to serve the people of Gaza, in response to the Holy Father’s call on Christmas Day, 2017.

“We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians,” the Pope said.
 

What's destroying some Catholic marriages? The answer may surprise you

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 02:04

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2018 / 12:04 am (CNA).- Of the countless Catholic couples who have come through Father T.G. Morrow's office in Washington D.C. for marriage counseling, two remain imprinted in the priest's mind even today.

In many ways, these two Catholic couples were the ideal; they were open to life, they formed their children in the faith and they frequented the sacraments.

But both of these marriages fell apart. The culprit? Anger.

“Anger is a poison,” Fr. Morrow, a moral theologian and author of “Overcoming Sinful Anger” (Sophia Press, 2014) told CNA. “If a husband and a wife are angry with each other a lot, it destroys the relationship. It makes it so painful that people want to get out of that relationship.”

Everyone experiences the feeling of anger. It's a natural, uncontrollable response to the behavior of others, he said. And anger can sometimes be righteous – St. Thomas Aquinas once said anger that's aligned with reason is praiseworthy. But most often that natural response of anger morphs into sinful anger, which is motivated by a desire for revenge, the priest noted.

And this sinful anger has a devastating effect on relationships.

“It's extremely important that people realize that (anger) can be a very serious thing, especially if they have major outbursts that really hurt other people,” Fr. Morrow said.

Anger is so destructive that many marriage experts recommend couples have five positive interactions for every negative interaction.  

“This anger, when it’s expressed badly, is a poison to every relationship,” he said. “Married people need especially to be careful about this…to work on this and to overcome this.”

Since the feeling of anger is natural and unavoidable, Fr. Morrow said it is important to know how to express anger or displeasure in an effective and positive way. The first step: decide if it is worth getting angry.

“People get angry about little, trifling things,” he said. “You have to say “Is this worth getting angry about?” If not, then you have to let it go. Just forget it.”

If your anger is justified and a confrontation would promote the good of the other, use humor or diplomacy to express your anger. If a confrontation would not promote the good of the other, then Fr. Morrow suggested offering that anger to God as a sacrifice for your sins and the sins of the world.

“(Anger) won’t go away automatically in one try,” he explained. “We have to keep giving it to God as a sacrifice.”

Fr. Morrow said this approach to anger does not mean every person should suddenly become a doormat who is too cowardly to express dissatisfaction with the actions of another.  

He used the example of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. Many of the men in Tagaste at the time had violent tempers, and St. Monica’s husband was no exception. When he would come home and yell at St. Monica, she would stay quiet. Some time after her husband’s explosion of anger, St. Monica would approach her husband and calmly address his treatment of her and his complaints.

“She was the furthest thing from a doormat,” Fr. Morrow explained. “She had a specific goal that she wanted to become holy and she wanted to covert her son. She pursued her goals ardently and as a result she converted her violent husband and eventually converted Augustine.”

Fr. Morrow’s book “Overcoming Sinful Anger” (Sophia Press, 2014) reads like a manual and draws from his experience as a marriage counselor and spiritual director and his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pope John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.

Photo credit: www.shutterstock.com

This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 14, 2015.

Nuns, guns and the Wild West: the extraordinary tale of Sr. Blandina

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 19:26

Santa Fe, N.M., Jan 25, 2018 / 05:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Billy the Kid, a notorious bank and stage-coach robber of the Wild West, met his match in the most unlikely of people when he met Sister Blandina Segale.

According to legend, and to Sr. Blandina's journal and letters, one of Billy the Kid's gang members had been shot and was on the brink of death when the doctors of Trinidad, Colo. refused to treat him. Sister decided to take him in and cared for him for three months, nursing him back to health.

But Billy the Kid (William Leroy) was still unhappy. Word got out that the outlaw was coming to town to scalp the four doctors of Trinidad in revenge. When he arrived, Sr. Blandina intervened, and convinced him to call off his mission on behalf of his man she had saved.  

After that incident, Sr. Blandina and Billy the Kid became friends. She once visited him in jail, and he once called off a stage-coach robbery as soon as he realized Sister was one of the passengers.

When she wasn't calling off outlaws, Sr. Blandina was founding schools, building hospitals, teaching and caring for orphans and the poor, and advocating for the rights of Native Americans and other minorities. All in a day’s work.

Her heroic virtue and enduring works are why her cause for sainthood was opened in New Mexico in 2015, earning her the title “Servant of God” and allowing people to ask for her intercession. Since then, several documents have come to light corroborating her stories, and the necessary miracle for the next big step – beatification – seems to be well on its way.

“Sainthood isn’t about an award, it isn’t about honoring, it’s about helping the faithful know that there is a source of God’s grace being worked on Earth,” said Allen Sanchez, president and CEO for CHI St. Joseph's Children in Albuquerque, which Sr. Blandina founded. Sanchez also serves as the petitioner for the cause of Sister’s sainthood and has studied her life extensively.

Her early years

Sr. Blandina, born Maria Rosa Segale, was just four years old when she emigrated with her parents from the small town of Cicagna, Italy to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1854 (she had her 5th birthday on the boat ride over).

At the age of 16, Maria Rosa joined the Sisters of Charity and took the name Sr. Blandina. When she was just 22 years old, she was sent – alone – to Trinidad in Colo. territory to teach in the public school there. A few years later, she was sent further south, first to Santa Fe and then to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

It was probably quite an adjustment, Sanchez said, going from Europe and the more settled parts of America to the still very rough-and-tumble west.

While in New Mexico, Sr. Blandina helped found the public health care system and the public school system by building the first hospitals and schools in Albuquerque, often asking for the temporary release of prisoners to help her with the labor.  

Much of what is known about Sr. Blandina’s life comes from a series of letters she wrote her sister, Sr. Justina Segale, who was back in Ohio. The compiled correspondences, which span the years of 1872-1894, were published ten years before Sr. Blandina’s death in 1941.

“You’re able to see the history of New Mexico happening within her interactions,” Sanchez said.

Sister stops a lynch mob

To open a cause for sainthood, examples of heroic virtue of the person must be shown. The specific example of heroic virtue that her petitioners are using involves another story that could only take place in the Wild West; the story that earned her the title “The Fastest Nun in the West” from a 1966 CBS feature on the incident.

Sr. Blandina was teaching school in New Mexico when one of her pupils told her, “Pa’s shot a man, and they’re going to hang him.”   

That’s when Sr. Blandina went to work. She met with the shooter, and was able to convince him to write a confession. She then met with the dying man, and convinced him to forgive his shooter – in person – before he passed away.

After the two men were reconciled, Sr. Blandina then had to face down the lynch mob that was coming to kill the shooter, who, because of Sister, was instead taken to the circuit court and was given life in prison. After nine months, he was released to go back home to care for his four children.

“She disarms them from their guns, their hanging rope and their hate,” Sanchez said of sister and the lynch mob.

“She must have been charming to them!” he added. “I think they would fall in love with her and do what she would ask them to do, because she cared for them and she honestly was able to see the dignity of every human being from the innocent orphans to the guilty outlaws.”

Sr. Blandina also made several trips to Washington, D.C. to meet with legislators and to advocate on behalf of the Native Americans, whose reservation boundaries were being drawn at the time.

And although her own life is being evaluated for sainthood, Sr. Blandina herself knew all about the canonization process – she helped to petition to Rome for the cause of two different saints in her lifetime; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Kateri Tekakwitha. She also helped bring now-St. Katherine Drexel and her sisters to the West to help serve the Native American populations.

The next step

In order to be beatified – one step away from canonization – there needs to be proof of an otherwise – inexplicable miracle brought about through that person’s intercession. There are several possible examples of this being explored, which makes those petitioning for Sr. Blandina hopeful that her cause will advance quickly.

“We know of a baby that was born prematurely with a malfunctioning valve in the heart and collapsed lungs,” Sanchez said. “This family immediately contacted us, said they were praying the Sr. Blandina novena for the baby. The doctors had very little hope for the baby living, but four days later they couldn’t find the problem in the heart, it was as if it didn’t exist to begin with. Doctors are saying it’s inexplicable, so we’re pursuing that, there’s many stories like that that are being pursued to see if Sr. Blandina was involved.”

The example of her life on earth is also important for the faithful today, Sanchez said, because Sr. Blandina knew how to address both immediate problems as well as more systemic problems of social justice.

“She would follow through from the charity to the social justice,” he said. “For example, she would help feed and house the railway workers, but then she would also ask why the railway workers weren’t being cared for. And that’s the call for us today. Charity is important, that’s where you start, and then you move to the social justice from there.”

Sister’s cause for canonization may take several years, depending on the approval of her heroic virtue and miracles attributed to her intercession, but Sanchez said the board that is petitioning her cause is hopeful that things will progress quickly.

“I’d say we’re more than halfway through the diocesan phase. For her to be called ‘venerable’, we just have to prove her heroic virtue,” he said.

If he had to describe her personality, Sanchez said, he would say she was tough but spunky, holy but unafraid of conflict.

“She wasn’t afraid of conflict and to roll up her sleeves and get the work done,” he said. “And she was always giving credit to the Gospel, to Jesus’ work.”

The best part of the process, Sanchez said, has been getting to know Sr. Blandina.

“I didn’t know this was going to be so fun and so inspiring,” he said. “And I really know her; she’s become my best friend.”

This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 1, 2015.

Gov. Brownback confirmed as international religious freedom ambassador

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 18:03

Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2018 / 04:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) was narrowly confirmed as the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom Thursday. The Senate voted 49-49, along party lines, and the tie was broken by Vice President Mike Pence.

On Twitter, Brownback tweeted his appreciation to President Donald Trump, Pence, and everyone in the Senate who voted to confirm. He said he was “looking forward” to his new role and that he will work “hard for the American people and religious freedom around the world.”

 

Thank you to @POTUS, @VP, and all the Senators who supported my nomination. I'm looking forward to starting my new position as Ambassador and working hard for the American people and religious freedom around the world. #ksleg

— Sam Brownback (@govsambrownback) January 24, 2018


 

Brownback had to wait an unusually long time from when he was first nominated for ambassador-at-large until he was confirmed. He was nominated for the post in July, and had to be re-nominated in January after the Senate didn’t vote on whether to confirm him to the role.

The position of ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom was created in 1998. In this position, Brownback will now be the head of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. He replaces David Saperstein, who held the post for President Barack Obama’s second term.

Brownback will officially resign as governor of Kansas on Jan. 31st in order to assume his new position.

Freedom Stickers aim to combat Super Bowl human trafficking

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 02:00

Minneapolis, Minn., Jan 25, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Super Bowl LII, a matchup between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, will be played Feb. 4 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. As the game approaches, victim advocates warn about a darker side to major sporting events: human trafficking.

At least one group is on a mission to help.

In Our Backyard is an Oregon-based nonprofit that works to provide “pathways to freedom” for the victims of human trafficking.

Before the Super Bowl, the group will distribute “Freedom Stickers,” and encourage Minnesotans to place them in public restrooms. The stickers, which are printed in English and Spanish, contain the number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline and encourage women who are in an unsafe situation to call or text the number for assistance.

Nita Belles, the executive director of In Our Backyard, told CNA that the idea for the stickers came from her long-time work with domestic violence survivors. She said she realized that one of the only times a woman is alone is when she’s in a bathroom stall.  Belles began placing “shoe cards” in restroom stalls--small cards with a hotline number, which could be hidden in a shoe.

The Freedom Sticker is a similar concept, but since victims of human trafficking are often moved and stripped searched, the sticker cannot be removed from the restroom. Instead, Belles says a woman can store the number in her phone or text it privately from the restroom stall. After someone calls the hotline, they can be connected to law enforcement or other resources.

“Freedom Stickers raise awareness for community members who see them,” Belles added.

In Minneapolis, In Our Backyard will hold an event distributing the stickers, as well as educating people about how to spot human trafficking in their communities. In Our Backyard has held similar events for the past eight Super Bowls.

In addition to these events, Belles hopes to change cultural views of sexual exploitation, noting that demand drives human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Belles believes that the statistics on human trafficking are no more than “educated guesses,” and that the number of trafficking victims in the United States is usually underestimated.  

Belles has worked to combat human trafficking for more than a decade. “Human trafficking is what I call domestic violence on steroids,” she told CNA

“We must educate people to know that the myth of ‘the oldest profession’ is really ‘the oldest form of oppression,’” she added.

“We need a change of beliefs about everyone being equal, and that it is not okay to oppress people.”

Nationwide, more than 60,000 stickers have been distributed in 41 states. In 2015, Oregon passed a law requiring that the stickers be given to businesses when they renew their liquor licenses.

Satanic Temple sues to end Missouri pro-life laws

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 20:00

St. Louis, Mo., Jan 24, 2018 / 06:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life laws in Missouri have drawn the ire of members of the Satanic Temple, which has filed a lawsuit claiming the laws violate their religious freedom.

State law requires abortion providers to distribute a booklet from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services which includes the statement: “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

This law and others drew objections from the Satanic Temple and one of its members, whose lawsuit claims the restrictions violate her religious freedom. The politically active group, based in Salem, Mass., was founded by self-described atheists who profess disbelief in a literal Satan.

The plaintiff goes by the name Mary Doe in the lawsuit, not using her name due to fears of personal attack. In 2015 she traveled to a St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic from southeast Missouri for the abortion.

The lawsuit seeks to block Missouri’s three-day waiting period for an abortion and a requirement that doctors who perform abortions offer the booklet to women seeking abortions. The suit further objects to requirement that abortionists must offer the women an ultrasound and a chance to hear a fetal heartbeat.

The plaintiff’s complaint says her professed tenets include a belief that a woman’s body is “inviolable and subject to her will alone” and that she makes health decisions regarding her health “based on the best scientific understanding of the world,” according to her complaint. The complaint says a pregnancy is “human tissue” and part of her body that “she alone” can decide to remove.

W. James MacNaughton, a New Jersey lawyer, represented her before the Missouri Supreme Court Jan. 23.

“It is a bedrock principle of our culture (and) of our country that we choose for ourselves what to believe by way of religious beliefs,” MacNaughton told the court, according to the Associated Press. “It’s not the business of government to tell us that.”

The Missouri attorney general’s office is defending the restrictions on abortion, saying religious freedom protections do not apply.

Solicitor General John Sauer told the court that such laws would only protect against obstacles to practicing one’s belief or being forced to violate one’s religion.

MacNaughton, the plaintiff’s lawyer, told the Washington Post the lawsuit was prompted by the Hobby Lobby decision favoring the store owners whose Christian beliefs conflicted with federal mandates to provide abortifacient contraceptives in their employee plans.

“I have thought the really defining issue is religion,” he said. “Are you committing murder when you have an abortion? That’s a religious question.”

The Satanic Temple has filed a similar lawsuit in federal court. Its website says its members and allies have provided “religious exemption and legal protection against laws that unscientifically restrict women's reproductive autonomy.”

The group’s founders say they identify with Satan’s putative outsider role.

Lucien Greaves is one of the founders. In a statement, he contended the legal case showed the group is “on the front lines working to restore and preserve Enlightenment values.”

In 2014 the group attempted to stage a re-enactment of a satanic “black mass” at Harvard University, initially claiming it would use a consecrated Host from a Catholic Mass. The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club had intended to host the event on campus. The event was voluntarily moved from campus and then postponed indefinitely after loss of venue.

The group has also previously engaged in political advocacy.

In 2015 it had planned to place a statue of an occultic Baphomet figure on the grounds of the Oklahoma capitol on religious freedom claims. Shortly afterward, a court ordered the removal of a Ten Commandments monument on the capitol grounds.

In response to a Minnesota town’s debate over a veterans’ memorial that had a cross, the group proposed its own version of a memorial involving pentagrams.

Turpin abuse case prompts debate on homeschool oversight

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 19:00

Sacramento, Calif., Jan 24, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A horrifying case of alleged child abuse in a large homeschooling family in California has sparked calls for more regulation of homeschools, as well as worries such rules could mean more false reports and disruption for innocent families.
 
“The California Catholic Conference has not dealt with the issue of homeschooling other than to support the parental right to do so,” Steve Pehanich, communications and advocacy director at the California Catholic Conference, told CNA. “That would be the controlling principle we’d point to in such a case but, as this case tragically illustrates, even parental rights have some limits.”
 
Pehanich referred to the case of David Allen Turpin and his wife Louise Anna Turpin, who are accused of starving their 13 children, ages 2 to 29, and holding them captive in Perris, Calif. They rarely allowed their children outside and are accused of shackling them, feeding them one meal a day, and allowing them to shower only once a year.
 
A teenage daughter escaped the home Jan. 21 and told police that her siblings were being held captive by their parents.
 
Both parents have pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of torture, abuse on a dependent adult, false imprisonment and child abuse, NBC News reports. David Turpin has pled not guilty to another charge of committing a lewd act on a child.
 
The abuse allegedly started during the family’s 17-year residence in Texas, then intensified after their 2010 move to California.
 
David filed a 2010 affidavit to establish a private school run out of his home, naming himself as principal of a “Sandcastle Day School,” and updated the paperwork annually. According to the Los Angeles Times, this affidavit is the state of California’s sole legal requirement for homeschooling families.
 
Pehanich said the California Catholic Conference’s education committee “will be taking a look at the homeschooling issue in more depth” in light of the Turpin case.
 
California Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, has said he is working on legislation in the wake of the reports about the Turpin family.
 
“I am extremely concerned about the lack of oversight the State of California currently has in monitoring private and home schools,” he said.
 
The progressive-leaning Coalition for Responsible Home Education is backing a requirement that homeschooled students be forced into contact with mandatory child abuse reporters. The group recommends requiring homeschooled students to have annual doctors’ visits and annual assessments by a certified teacher. The group says “responsible home-schooling parents” already do those things.
 
“Our goal is not to make it harder for those parents to home-school, our goal is to make it harder for parents like the Turpins to home-school,” said the group’s executive director Rachel Coleman.
 
Debbie Schwarzer, an attorney with The HomeSchool Association of California, opposes required visits by mandated reporters, telling NBC News it could single out homeschooling parents for “intrusive inspection.”
 
“This case has nothing to do with education, and everything to do with parents who are hell-bound [sic] on criminal activity and hiding their children from the world,” Schwarzer said of the Turpin case.
 
Stephen M. Krason,  Franciscan University of Steubenville professor of political science, reflected on homeschooling and claims of child abuse.
 
“Most homeschooling families are highly responsible and very concerned about their children. They are not torturing their children,” Krason told CNA. He said there is instead “a crisis of false reporting of child abuse and neglect.”
 
“There’s this view out there that somehow there’s this massive situation of child abuse and neglect that doesn’t seem to be borne out by the facts,” he added.
 
Krason referred to his article “The Mondale Act and Its Aftermath” in the 2013 anthology “Child Abuse, Family Rights, and the Child Protective System: A Critical Analysis from Law, Ethics, and Catholic Social Teaching.”
 
In 2009, only 14.4 percent of 3.3 million reports of abuse and neglect were substantiated, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.
 
“What you have though is a situation where the child protective services across the country are just intruding into families left and right, which causes severe damage to families by itself,” Krason told CNA. “People make reports for all kinds of reasons and for no kind of reasons and sometimes for very bad reasons.”
 
In his view, regulations would “heighten the already massive number of false abuse and neglect complaints out there.”
 
Pehanich said the California Catholic Conference has reflected on state regulation of parenting in “A Primer on Parental Rights in California.” The primer cited an American tradition of “the fundamental right of parents to raise their children according to their own beliefs,” upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
“Parental rights, however, though fundamental, are not absolute. They have limits, as also articulated by the courts,” the primer continued. “The state has legitimately assumed authority over parents in protecting children from child abuse and neglect and in deciding custody issues.”
 
Debates about regulations and the freedom of parents, the primer said, should ask the question  “Is there a demonstrated need that warrants this particular form of government intrusion on parental rights?”

 

Bishops pray for victims of school shootings in Texas, Kentucky

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 16:42

Washington D.C., Jan 24, 2018 / 02:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After two students opened fire at their high schools this week, bishops in the US have offered prayers and condolences for the victims and their families.

“Over the past two days in Kentucky and Texas, we have witnessed painful reminders of how gun violence can tragically alter the lives of those so precious to us – our school children,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We pray for eternal rest for those who have died. Let us pray, too, for the families, teachers and friends who must now endure the suffering of losing those dearest to them,” he said in a Jan. 23 statement.

One shooting took place on the morning of Jan. 22 at Italy High School in Italy, Texas, about 50 miles south of Dallas, in which a teenaged girl was injured.

And a student opened fire Jan. 23 at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky.,  about 120 miles southwest of Owensboro, killing two students and injuring 20 others.

Cardinal DiNardo said that “We stand in solidarity with the children who face a long road of recovery from serious injuries. May they find comfort in a loving community. As Christians, we experience this pain as if it were our own.”

“Let us reach out in compassion to assist the grieving and may we move forward in greater resolve to treat one another as children of God, so that unthinkable acts like this become more and more rare and love more and more present in the world.”

Bishop William Medley of Owensboro said Jan. 23 in response to the Marshall County shooting, “I offer my prayers for the victim, those injured and the shooter who is now in custody. May the Lord bring comfort to the family who lost their loved one today, and to all of the students and their families who have to endure the aftermath of this school shooting. Let us all pray for peace across our nation.”

And Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville said Jan. 24 that “I extend my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and their friends, teachers and staff as well as the first responders and the whole community of Benton.”

“We know that God’s love overcomes all evil. May the souls of the departed rest in peace and may God’s merciful love sustain the victims and those who love and support them as they heal from the physical and emotional wounds of this senseless act of violence.”

The Benton shooter was a a 15-year-old male carrying a handgun. Baily Holt was killed at the scene and Preston Cope died at a trauma center shortly after; both were students. Within minutes after the first shot was fired, police were able to apprehend the shooter.

The Italy offender was a 16-year-old male student who used a handgun to open fire in the school cafeteria. According to the Associated Press, the shooter had been penalized before for violence within the classroom.

A 15-year-old girl is reported to have been the only person wounded, and she was airlifted to a nearby hospital soon after the incident.

Which Catholics oppose abortion? A closer look at the data

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 16:13

Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2018 / 02:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A recent Pew study shows that support for legal abortion varies widely among religious groups, with Catholics falling somewhere in the middle when it comes to beliefs about legal abortion.

Among Catholics in the United States surveyed in the study, 48 percent said they were in favor of legal abortion, while 47 percent said they were opposed to it and 5 percent said they didn’t know.

Unitarian Universalists are the most likely religious group to support legal abortion at 90 percent, while Jehovah’s Witnesses were the least likely to support, it at 18 percent, according to the study.

Among both atheists and agnostics, 87 percent support legal abortion; as do 83 percent of Jews; 82 percent of Buddhists; 68 percent of Hindus; 55 percent of Muslims; and 27 percent of Mormons. Among Orthodox Christians, 53 percent support legal abortion.

The numbers may be surprising, as the Catholic Church is one of the most outspoken opponents of legalized abortion in the U.S. and teaches that abortion under any circumstance is a grave sin.

However, a closer look at other available data for Catholics helps to explain some of this discrepancy.

Overall, “the more frequently you go to Mass the more likely you are to oppose to oppose abortion,” Mark Gray, a senior research associate with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) out of Georgetown University, told CNA.

However, responses vary significantly depending on the frequency of Mass attendance of the respondent as well as on the phrasing of poll questions about abortion, according to data from the General Social Survey analyzed by CARA.

When asked if they would support abortion if a woman wants it for any reason, 85 percent of frequent Mass attendees (those who go weekly) said they would not support abortion, while 56 percent of Catholics who attend Mass less than monthly said they would oppose abortion if a woman wants it for any reason.

Responses changed the most among Catholics when were asked whether they would support abortion in situations in which the “woman’s health is seriously endangered.”

When posed this question, 26 percent of weekly Mass attendees said they would oppose abortion in this circumstance, compared with 5 percent of infrequent Mass attendees saying the same.

The discrepancy between these two different sets of responses may be attributable to a misunderstanding of the principle of double effect, an aspect of moral theology which can be used in evaluating acts which will have multiple effects.

The principle of double effect states that an act which is not inherently evil may be chosen for a good end, even if it is foreseen that this act will have an additional, evil effect, which is not disproportionate to the good end. The actor chooses the positive end, and tolerates the evil effect as a consequence of achieving that good end. The act may never be chosen for the sake of the evil effect.

Therefore, in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, a physician may licitly choose the act of removing the affected area of the mother's fallopian tubes to achieve the end of saving her life. The consequent death of the embryo or fetus owing to its removal is a foreseen, but unchosen, side effect of that act.

This principle of double effect is sometimes also invoked (incorrectly) to justify an abortion performed to save the life of the mother. However, the principle of double effect does not apply in this case, because the act of abortion is the direct killing of an innocent – an inherently evil act which is proscribed in all cases. Even if the act of abortion is chosen as an end to the means of saving the mother's life, the act is itself nevertheless evil.

OneLife LA event an opportunity to celebrate life, face culture of death

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 19:04

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2018 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Thousands gathered in Los Angeles on Saturday for a rally and march supporting the dignity of every human life and proclaiming that every human person is “made for greater.”

“God made a decision to make each one of you. He decided to make you, to make me. This is how special we are to him,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez in his homily during the Requiem Mass for the Unborn, which concluded the Jan. 20 OneLife LA event.

“[God] comes to us to proclaim the Gospel of Life,” he said. “We are called to announce this good news to every person that we are made for greater things,” he said, citing the event’s theme, “Made for Greater.”

Archbishop Gomez told CNA that the event was created four years ago. The archbishop said he saw the need for both an annual celebration of life and an opportunity to address the challenges in the culture of death, such as abortion and assisted suicide.

The day began with a youth rally at 11 a.m., where young people from Southern California gathered at La Placita Olvera.

There, bands led the crowd in praise and worship, and Daniel Rangel-Santos, executive board vice president of the USC Caruso Catholic Center, shared the story of how his parents were advised to abort him when doctors discovered a likely birth defect.

“Immediately, my parents strongly refused to have the abortion. For them, despite their financially humble situation at the time, a birth defect was neither an issue nor an excuse for an abortion. They loved me and they wanted to meet the new son God sent them,” he told CNA.

Shortly after noon, dozens of students, families, seminarians, clergy, and religious made their way to the Los Angeles State Historic Park, chanting along the way, “We are the pro-life generation” and “OneLife LA.”

Karen Gaffney, worldwide pro-life speaker and the first person with Down syndrome to ever swim the 21-mile stretch of the English Channel, was the keynote speaker at the event. She decried the abortion industry’s effort to target babies with Down syndrome, saying, “They want to screen us out.”

However, she also expressed gratitude for the steps taken by schools, businesses, and individuals to work toward greater inclusion for people with Down syndrome.

“We are musicians and artists, actors and fashion models, we own black belts in Taekwondo. And some of us have even escaped from Alcatraz … 15 times,” she said jokingly, referring to her own accomplishments of crossing the San Francisco bay 15 times.

Gaffney encouraged the crowd to take the time to learn more about Down syndrome.

Also in attendance was Bishop W.C. Martin, pastor at Bennet Chapel Baptist Church who has helped members of his parish adopt 76 children; Jose Arellano who aids Homeboy Ministries, which helps teens escape gang violence; and Patricia Heaton, pro-life advocate and star in ABC’s Sitcom “The Middle.”

“I love the fact that so many of these diverse groups can all get together and support each other… I think that’s also the other important thing – to look around and see how much support there is from all kinds of people – everybody has a stake in this,” said Heaton.

The day concluded with Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Some After the liturgy, 180 candles were lit and processed to the base of the altar in memory of the 180 unborn lives aborted that day in Southern California alone.

For many OneLife LA attendees, the march is just one way to witness to the dignity of life all year round.

Father Alan Benander, a Norbertine priest prays for the unborn at every Mass he celebrates. He is also the Right to Life Moderator at St. Michael’s Preparatory School in Silverado, California, where he is also a teacher and coach.

When Fr. Benander leads his students on pro-life outings, he reassures them of the power of prayer and fasting.

“On this trip I took 20 students, and I said, ‘We are going to pray for an end to abortion, and we might not be able to stop every abortion from happening … but pray for one particular girl right now who is thinking of killing her unborn child,’” he told CNA.

In addition to prayer, Father Benander said Catholics should aim to educate themselves more thoroughly, so that they can be sources of catechesis for those who support abortion.

Rangel-Santos, from the USC Caruso Catholic Center, agreed. He told CNA that he worked to support “The Real Sex Week” at the USC, where he is a senior. As part of the initiative, he spoke to students at the secular college about “the effects of pornography, developing healthy relationships, resources for reproductive health, support for victims of sexual assault, self-defense classes, and the effects of sex in the media.”

In addition to advocating and praying for an end to abortion, march participants also focused on end-of-life care. California legalized assisted suicide in a high profile bill in 2016.

Sister Isabella, a Carmelite of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus of Los Angeles, has spent the last seven years caring for the elderly in the area. Those she works with often face suffering and depression, but Sister Isabella said the answer is not in handing them pills that will kill them.

“We are God’s hands and feet in this world, and we have to say yes to the love,” she told CNA. She recalled how an elderly man once told her, “When you all are near, the suffering doesn’t matter anymore, because the love is greater.”

“That’s what we have to do when someone is suffering. It’s a call for help, it’s a call to love to a greater degree, and if we don’t listen to that call, our brothers and sisters…won’t feel God’s love for them.”

Commentary: Respect is pro-life

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 17:55

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2018 / 03:55 pm (CNA).- Last week, I attended the national March for Life in Washington, D.C. I have attended the march on several occasions before, and it is always a beautiful and encouraging experience.

But unfortunately, I also witnessed something at this year’s march that was discouraging. As marchers arrive at the Supreme Court – the end of the march route – they usually encounter a few dozen counter-protesters, waving signs and chanting slogans in support of abortion under the guise of women’s “freedom” and “choice.”

This year, however, there were also a few demonstrators waving signs about immigration: With Congress in a stalemate over DACA and the threat of government shutdown looming just hours away, the immigration issue was in the spotlight in Washington that day.

I didn’t hear what the people with the immigration signs said to the marchers. But suddenly, a whole group of pro-life marchers started chanting, in unison, “Build that wall! Build that wall!”

This is wrong. Whatever one’s views on immigration, it is a matter of basic courtesy to maintain respect and courtesy when discussing an issue. DACA is not just a heated political topic. It is a policy question with human consequences: family members facing separation and young adults whose entire lives may be uprooted. Uncertainty causes real suffering for hundreds of thousands of people impacted by DACA. The “Build that wall” chant tossed out so casually by the pro-life marchers did not express a coherent argument or invite reasoned debate. All it did was harm.

There are several issues being debated within the pro-life movement. One is how to respond to the inconsistencies of President Trump. Another is which social initiatives and political policies will best achieve the goals of the pro-life movement. Still another is the question of whether abortion is the sole issue under the pro-life banner, or whether other issues – the death penalty, for example – fall under the same umbrella.

People of good will may debate and strongly disagree on these questions. What’s not up for debate, however, is the necessity of respect for other people, no matter who they are, and what they think. Taunting people at a march themed “Love Saves Lives” discredits pro-life claims about the dignity of every human person.

Shortly before the march began, I talked to Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. Now 45 years after the Supreme Court mandated legal abortion nationwide, I asked him if he is hopeful about the future of the pro-life movement. He said that he is hopeful, first and foremost, because the pro-life movement is joyful. Because of this joy, he said, the pro-life movement is growing.

My own experience supports Archbishop Lori’s observations. The pro-life movement is a joyful movement, and people take notice. One young woman at this year’s march shared with a CNA reporter that her mom had considered abortion while pregnant with her, after being kicked out of her home and lacking support from family. It was the support and joyful witness of pro-lifers that led her to reconsider and choose life for her daughter, who is now active in the pro-life movement in Canada.

This is the pro-life movement at its best: joyful, supportive, full of hope. And it is a standard that must not be compromised. When individuals wearing pro-life t-shirts shout antagonistic, vitriolic comments at anyone, they do a disservice to the cause they profess to care about so deeply.

 

Roe anniversary observed as National Sanctity of Human Life Day

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 17:16

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2018 / 03:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- US President Donald Trump has proclaimed that Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion nationwide, is being observed as National Sanctity of Human Life Day.

“Today, we focus our attention on the love and protection each person, born and unborn, deserves regardless of disability, gender, appearance, or ethnicity,” began the president’s proclamation issued Jan. 19, the same day he spoke to March for Life participants via live video.

“This is why we observe National Sanctity of Human Life Day: to affirm the truth that all life is sacred, that every person has inherent dignity and worth, and that no class of people should ever be discarded as ‘non-human,’” the President Trump explained in the proclamation.

The statement calls on Americans to recognize the human dignity of the elderly, the infirm, the disabled, the addicted, the mentally ill, single moms, orphan and foster children, pregnant mothers, and their unborn children. It also commends those who volunteer to assist pregnant mothers and legislators who work towards legal restrictions on abortion.

In the proclamation, the president explicitly highlights “the humanity of the unborn,” citing medical advances that make possible operations on babies in utero and images that “present us with irrefutable evidence that babies are growing within their mothers’ wombs – precious, unique lives, each deserving a future filled with promise and hope.”

On Jan. 19, the White House also released a separate document with information related to the Trump administration’s commitment to the protection of life, stating: “President Trump has expressed strong support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would stop late-term abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, when science tells us that an unborn child can experience pain.”

The U.S. is one of seven countries globally that permits elective abortions after 20 weeks. The other countries are Canada, China, the Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The White House document cites a study by the Charlotte Lozier Institute that “taxpayer funding subsidizes 900 health care plans that cover abortions” in the U.S.

The Catholic Church has long held the sanctity of each human person as the foundation upon which stand her social teachings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church roots the dignity of the human person in humanity’s creation in the image of God with the powers of intellect and the will: “Endowed with ‘a spiritual and immortal’ soul, The human person is ‘the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake.’ From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude.”

Mexico City Policy ensures US funds won't force 'abortion ideology,' backers say

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- One year ago, President Trump reinstituted and expanded the Mexico City Policy, widening a ban on funding for NGOs that are involved in abortion—a ban that could shift tens of millions of dollars away from groups like the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Backers and foes of the policy have voiced their views on the Trump administration’s expanded limitations on grants to international organizations promoting or providing abortion.

Greg Schleppenbach, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNA the policy is needed “because the agenda of many organizations receiving U.S. population aid has been to promote abortion as an integral part of family planning – even in developing nations where abortion is against the law.”
 
“Abortion proponents assert that this policy is nothing more than powerful U.S. politicians forcing their policies on poor nations. But, frankly, the opposite is true,” Schleppenbach said, adding that the the policy “ensures that NGOs, as grantees of U.S. funds, will not themselves force their abortion ideology on countries without permissive abortion laws.”
 
The Reagan-era Mexico City Policy takes its name from the location of the 1984 United Nations conference on population and development, where the funding ban was announced. The policy was repealed by Bill Clinton in 1993, reinstated by George W. Bush in 2001, repealed by Barack Obama in 2009, and again reinstated by President Donald Trump when he took office.
 
President Trump, who had not promised to implement the Mexico City Policy during his campaign, signed the executive order on Jan. 23, 2017. He instructed the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to expand the Mexico City Policy, now called “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” because of its increased scope. When fully implemented, it would apply to over $8.8 billion in foreign aid for global health assistance. By comparison, the previous version of the policy affected $600 million in U.S. aid for family planning programs.
 
Foes of the policy characterize it as a “gag rule.”
 
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. On Thursday Marie Stopes International, a U.K.-based abortion and contraceptive services provider, has estimated its own funding shortfall at $80 million, about 17 percent of its income from donations.
 
“Unless we can fill the $80 million gap created by the global gag rule, it will deprive millions of women of the contraception they need to prevent an unintended pregnancy, and it is the world’s poorest women and girls who will bear the brunt,” said Marjorie Newman-Williams, Marie Stopes’ vice president and director of external affairs.
 
Marie Stopes claimed the lost resources would result in 2.5 million unintended pregnancies, 870,000 unsafe abortions, and 6,900 maternal deaths.
 
The new policy could affect 1,275 foreign NGOs and about $2.2 billion in global health funding, the Kaiser Family Foundation has said.
 
Schleppenbach, however, said critics made “the same dire predictions” about widespread harm to global health care services in 2001 when President George W. Bush reinstated the policy. He thought such claims were “dishonest and sad.”

Past experience with the policy “provides little to no credible evidence to support claims that the policy will lead to dramatic adverse health consequences,” Schleppenbach said.
 
“The vast majority of Americans reject abortion as healthcare and do not want their tax dollars used for programs that promote or provide abortion as a method of family planning,” said Schleppenbach. He said the expanded policy aligns foreign aid with Americans’ views, and with other laws limiting funding for abortion and abortion providers, like the Helms Amendment and like the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which bars funding for organizations determined to be involved in coercive abortion or sterilization.
 
The NGO Human Rights Watch has advocated congressional action as a long-term strategy to provide “stability” to U.S. global health assistance.
 
“It is disruptive and counterproductive to the global health community to have the U.S. policy on foreign assistance change dramatically from one presidential administration to the next,” the NGO said in June 2017.
 
The organization advocated passage of the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights Act, whose shortened name is the Global HER Act, which would permanently revoke the policy. Other backers of this legislation include Amnesty International.
 
Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the Susan B. Anthony List’s research arm, also backed the Trump administration’s policy, saying it “reflects the wishes of the American people who time and again have indicated they do not want their tax dollars used to provide abortions either domestically or overseas.”
 
He said that because some nations increase their funding for such programs when U.S. funding is cut, it is difficult to know how many millions of dollars are used for such campaigns.
 
The She Decides NGO was launched by the Dutch government to encourage donors to replace the funding cut by the Mexico City Policy. 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.
 
Lilianne Ploumen, former Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation for the Netherlands, founded She Decides. Ploumen was the focus of controversy upon news that she had been awarded the Order of St. Gregory the Great. The honor was later described by a Holy See press officer as simply a matter of protocol during a visit of the Dutch royal family, not an endorsement of Ploumen’s abortion views.
 
The pushback against the Mexico City Policy itself has funders, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Two $1 million grants from each foundation aim to track the policy’s effects in Kenya and Nepal through a research project based at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
 
The Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at the school announced the research project and the grants which funded it Nov. 29, 2017, while the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute reported on the grants in December.
 
Another $500,000, four-year grant from the Hewlett Foundation to the Guttmacher Institute backs a “large-scale, multi-country study” on the Mexico City Policy’s impact on “sexual and reproductive health funding, services, and outcomes” in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Uganda.
 
“Research findings will be useful for advocacy,” the foundation’s Oct. 6, 2017 grant listing said.
 
Since 2001, the Hewlett Foundation has given several million dollars to the Guttmacher Institute both for general support and support for various domestic and international projects, grant listings indicate.
 
The foundation is a major supporter of Planned Parenthood, giving tens of millions to the abortion provider’s local, U.S., and international affiliates. A 2015 grant listing from the Open Society Foundations indicated the Hewlett Foundation was a partner in a multi-million dollar campaign responding to investigations that appeared to implicate the abortion provider in the illegal procurement and sale of unborn baby parts and fetal tissue.
 

 

Why this man says abortion isn't just a woman's issue

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 02:00

Denver, Colo., Jan 21, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A man who lost his own child to abortion believes men have important things to say on the issue, and their voices need to be heard.

“We are told that men shouldn’t talk about abortion,” but it's an issue that affects them too, Jason Jones told CNA in a recent interview. “It’s a man’s issue and it’s a woman’s issue.”  

“As a man, I have something in me that wants to protect the vulnerable from violence. That is what men do,” he said.

Jones, a national pro-life advocate, said when he speaks frankly in those terms, men respond to him, because “we need to say the truth.”

“When men speak about abortion, it is very effective,” he added.

It might seem natural to think that women are better pro-life “spokespersons,” or that men should have a diminished role, Jones said. But “men have their place” in the discussion.

“Men share their stories, and their stories are sorrowful. Men who are scared, and manipulated or coerced into having an abortion. Men who can be humble and say 'I coerced my daughter or my girlfriend or my wife into getting an abortion.' We need to hear those stories.”

When men tell the truth about their own experience with abortion, “it changes people,” he said. “No one has a happy abortion story. When people tell the truth, it influences people.”

Jones, who often shares the story of his own child’s abortion, told CNA he was 17 when he and his girlfriend Katie found out they were pregnant. Still in high school, they planned to hide the pregnancy while he dropped out and joined the army so he could take care of the baby. He was excited to be a father, he said.

However, while still in basic training and during their third trimester, Jones got a call from his girlfriend's father saying their “secret” had been discovered and “taken care of.” He was devastated.

An atheist who didn't fully understand what abortion was, Jones said he realized his daughter, whom they had already named Jessica, had been murdered.

“That was it for me. It horrified me. It was unbelievable,” he said. “I had never been to church a day in my life, I knew nothing about politics. I was just a kid who was last in his class in high school, who to me, school was just something I had to do to play football.”

However, since the moment he found out that his daughter had been aborted, he says he has committed his life “to protecting women and children from the violence of abortion.”

Jones, 46, is now a film producer, author, and human rights worker known for his pro-life activism. He remained an atheist for years, though his contact with Christian organizations and study of political philosophy eventually led him, in 2003, to the Catholic Church. 

In his comments to CNA, Jones, who is now married with seven children, said that it can be hard to discuss abortion because the friends and loved ones of someone who has had an abortion often become defensive, saying that to condemn abortion is to condemn a person they care about.

“The irony is that you know your sister had an abortion because she called you crying about it, with a broken heart. And then when that person stumbles upon a pro-life activist, they get angry because they think you are calling their sister a bad person.”

“We need to help people understand that when a woman gets an abortion it’s...an act of desperation,” he said. “She’s a victim just like the child.”

Jones said the pro-life movement needs an “apologetic” that is able to get the truth about abortion across in a simple way, and which teaches men to defend women and children.

“You do not need sophisticated arguments to tell a man: you don’t pay a stranger to kill your baby. As a man, you defend your child from violence ... you defend the woman carrying your child from violence...it’s just very simple.”

He said that much of the language used in the pro-life movement is designed for women and to talk to women who are in a crisis situation, but men interact differently and need to be approached in a different way.

“When I talk to men about abortion, I talk to them as a man. I talk to them plainly,” he said. “I talk to them as a man that has lost his child.”

Many people can be cavalier and insensitive about abortion, he said, explaining that he can become passionate and wants to remind people that “we are victims in this too.”

When speaking about abortion, he says men should just be themselves: “Don’t talk about abortion differently that you talk about everything else, don’t put it off to the side. You are allowed, as a man, to talk about an issue like a man.”

Jones said his message to people who might be in a state of fear or crisis because of an unexpected pregnancy, said his message to them would be “what are you afraid of?”

“I had that experience, I became a teen parent,” but looking back, “what was I afraid of? … Being a father is such a beautiful gift ... there is no more beautiful thing in the world than being a father.”

 

Cardinal O’Malley: Pope’s words ‘a source of great pain’ for abuse survivors

Sat, 01/20/2018 - 17:25

Boston, Mass., Jan 20, 2018 / 03:25 pm (CNA).- The chairman of the Vatican’s commission on sexual abuse has said that recent comments from Pope Francis were painful and alienating to survivors of clerical sexual abuse.

"It is understandable that Pope Francis’ statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, in a Jan. 20 statement.  

The statement refers to a comment made by Pope Francis to a Chilean reporter Jan. 18. The Pope was asked about Bishop Juan Barros, a Chilean accused by four victims of clerical sexual abuse of colluding with their abuser to cover up his crimes. Barros, who has maintained his innocence, has been a subject of controversy since his 2015 appointment to lead the Diocese of Osorno.

“The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak," Pope Francis told the reporter. "There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”

O’Malley said that “not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday’s interview I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time.”

“What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.”

The Pope has long been a defender of Barros.  

On May 6, 2015, five months after Barros was appointed to lead the Diocese of Osorno, Deacon Jaime Coiro, general secretary of the Chilean episcopal conference, told Pope Francis that the Church in Osorno “is praying and suffering for you.”

“Osorno suffers, yes,” Pope Francis said, “for silliness.” According to a video of the conversation released by Chile’s Ahora Noticias, the Pope told Coiro that “the only accusation against that bishop was discredited by the judicial court.”

“Think with your head, and do not be carried away by the noses of the leftists, who are the ones who put this thing together,” the Pope added.

O’Malley was appointed by Pope Francis to lead the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors when it was established by the Pope in 2014. He is widely lauded for his leadership in the Archdiocese of Boston after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, amid widespread reports of clerical sexual abuse under Law’s leadership.

“Words that convey the message ‘if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed’ abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile,” O’Malley’s statement read.

"My prayers and concern will always be with the survivors and their loved ones. We can never undo the suffering they experienced or fully heal their pain,” he added.

"In some cases we must accept that even our efforts to offer assistance can be a source of distress for survivors and that we must quietly pray for them while providing support in fulfillment of our moral obligation. I remain dedicated to work for the healing of all who have been so harmed and for vigilance in doing all that is possible to ensure the safety of children in the community of the Church so that these crimes never happen again."

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