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Concerns of 'anti-Catholic bigotry' as judicial nominee questioned about faith

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 11:25

Washington D.C., Sep 7, 2017 / 09:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic nominee to a federal circuit court faced hostile questions about her faith from U.S. senators on Wednesday, prompting outrage from Catholic leaders.

“This smacks of the worst sort of anti-Catholic bigotry,” Dr. Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at The Catholic University of America, told CNA of questions asked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) of Amy Comey Barrett, a Catholic lawyer nominated to be a federal circuit court judge.

“Senator Feinstein's shockingly illegitimate line of questioning sends the message that Catholics need not apply as federal judges,” added Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association.

Barrett, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday at her confirmation hearing to be a United States Circuit Judge for the Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals.

In the past, Barrett had clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and has twice been honored as “Distinguished Professor of the Year” at Notre Dame.

However, as she appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, some of the pointed questions directed at her by Democratic senators focused on how her Catholic faith would influence her decisions as a judge on cases of abortion and same-sex marriage.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member of the committee, told Barrett outright that her Catholic beliefs were concerning, as they may influence her decisions as a judge on abortion rights.

“Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that dogma and law are two different things, and I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different,” Feinstein said.

“And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

Feinstein began her round of questions by personally complimenting Barrett that she was “amazing to have seven children and do what you do,” but then called her “controversial” when she began to address Barrett’s record in law, “because you have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail” over the law.

“You’re controversial because many of us that have lived our lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems,” she said. “And Roe entered into that, obviously.”

Barrett repeatedly said that as a judge, she would uphold the law of the land and would not let her religious beliefs inappropriately alter her judicial decisions.

At the beginning of the hearing, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chair of the committee, asked Barrett: “When is it proper for a judge to put their religious views above applying the law?”

“Never,” Barrett answered. “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else, on the law.”

Feinstein’s “anti-Catholic bigotry” in her questions to Barrett “is especially chilling because it defames and slanders such an accomplished woman in the legal guild,” Pecknold said.

Feinstein “reveals herself to be the sort of ideologue who never considers the substance of her interlocutor’s actual legal decisions, but rather projects false ideologies onto everyone who disagrees with her party on any point,” Pecknold charged.

In 1998, Barrett co-authored an article in the Marquette Law Review with then-Notre Dame law professor John Garvey, now the president of The Catholic University of America. The article focused on Catholic judges in death penalty cases.

Catholic judges, if their consciences oppose the administering of the death penalty, should, in accordance with federal law, recuse themselves from capital cases where a jury recommends a death sentence, Garvey and Barrett wrote. They should also recuse themselves from cases without a jury where they have the option of granting a death sentence, they wrote.

On Wednesday, Barrett was asked repeatedly about this article, published 19 years ago, and whether she still agreed with it today. Barrett answered that she was still a third-year law student during the article’s publication, and “was very much the junior partner” in writing it with her professor.

“Would I, or could I, say that sitting here today, that article in its every particular, reflects how I think about these questions today with, as you say, the benefit of 20 years of experience and also the ability to speak solely in my own voice? No, it would not,” she answered Senator Grassley’s opening question on the article.

She added that she still upholds “the core proposition of that article which is that if there is ever a conflict between a judge’s personal conviction and that judge’s duty under the rule of law, that it is never, ever permissible for that judge to follow their personal convictions in the decision of a case rather than what the law requires.”

Senator Grassley asked her later how she would recuse herself as a judge in a case, if necessary.

“Senator, I would fully and faithfully apply the law of recusal, including the federal recusal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 455, the canons of judicial conduct,” she replied, but added that “I can’t think of any cases or category of cases in which I would feel obliged to recuse on grounds of conscience.”

Garvey, in a Thursday op-ed in the Washington Examiner, explained the article’s conclusion in cases where judges face a conflict of interest between their own conscience and the law.

“Law professors less scrupulous than Prof. Barrett have suggested that sometimes judges should fudge or bend (just a little bit) laws that every right-thinking person would find immoral. In our article we rejected that course of action,” he said, pointing instead to the federal recusal statute.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) then grilled Barrett over her use of the term “orthodox Catholic” in the article, implying that she did not think persons who dissent from Church teaching on marriage to be real Catholics.

“I’m a product of 19 years of Catholic education. And every once in a while, Holy Mother the Church has not agreed with a vote of mine. And has let me know,” he told Barrett. “You use a term in that article – or you both use a term in that article -- I’d never seen before. You refer to ‘orthodox Catholics.’ What’s an orthodox Catholic?”

Barrett pointed to a footnote in the article that admitted it was “an imperfect term,” and that the article was talking about the hypothetical case of “a judge who accepted the Church’s teaching” on the death penalty and had a “conscientious objection” to it.

“Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” Durbin asked Barrett, who replied that “I am a faithful Catholic,” adding that “my personal Church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

Durbin then said that “there are many people who might characterize themselves ‘orthodox Catholics,’ who now question whether Pope Francis is an ‘orthodox Catholic.’ I happen to think he’s a pretty good Catholic.”

“I agree with you,” Barrett replied, to which Durbin responded, “Good. Then that’s good common ground for us to start with.”

He also asked Barrett how she would rule on a case involving a “same-sex marriage,” given the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent from the 2013 Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

“From beginning to end, in every case, my obligation as a judge would be to apply the rule of law, and the case that you mentioned would be applying Obergefell, and I would have no problem adhering to it,” she said.

Durbin’s questions of Barrett’s faith were also disturbing, Pecknold said.

“So faithful Catholic is interchangeable with Orthodox Catholic. The fact that one definition is acceptable to Sen Durbin but one is not tells you that he thinks one can dissent from the Church's teaching and be orthodox and faithful.”

“But why is a politician interested in that question when the only concern should be whether the nominee is a superb interpreter of the law? How has this become a religious inquisition rather than an adjudication of legal competence for the bench?” he asked.

“I submit that the real dogmatists in the room are the ones mounting an inquisition against one of the nation's great legal scholars.”

Other Catholic leaders decried the questioning of Barrett’s faith.

“Such bigotry has no place in our politics and reeks of an unconstitutional religious test for qualification to participate in the judiciary. What these Senators did today was truly reprehensible,” said Brian Burch, president of

“Imagine the universal outrage had a nominee of a different faith been asked the same questions; there is clearly a double standard at work,” commented Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor with The Catholic Association.

Garvey, in his op-ed for the Examiner, wrote that “I suspect what really troubled” Durbin and Feinstein “was that, as a Catholic, her [Barrett’s] pro-life views might extend beyond criminal defendants to the unborn.”

“If true, the focus on our law review article is all the more puzzling,” he wrote. “After all, our point was that judges should respect the law, even laws they disagree with. And if they can't enforce them, they should recuse themselves.”


A bioethicist's take on child cancer treatment that uses gene therapy

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 05:02

Washington D.C., Sep 7, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A genetic modification therapy designed for treating pediatric leukemia has drawn both praise and caution from a Catholic bioethicist, after recently being approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

While a “promising” use of gene modification technology, the treatment still has potentially deadly side effects - which could make the risks outweigh the benefits, says Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., of the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

Gene therapies have garnered public attention for their potential medical significance, and because of problematic research procedures surrounding their development and the moral questions they raise.

However, the new treatment, called Kymriah, is a hopeful development and a morally licit use of genetic modifications in medicine, Fr. Pacholczyk told CNA.  

Because the therapy only uses matured cells from the patient, Fr. Pacholczyk explained, it does not entail the same ethical problems as other forms of gene therapy under investigation – including therapies which destroy human embryos or make modifications of cells which can be passed onto future generations. Instead, developing therapies which make “genetic changes to help our immune system do better what it is supposed to do, namely identifying and eliminating various dangers from the body, is a praiseworthy goal,” he said.

“To the extent that side effects can be limited or controlled, the therapy appears to be very promising, with reports of high success rates in slowing or even eliminating certain childhood cancers like pediatric acute lymphoblastic lymphoblastic leukemia,” Fr. Pacholczyk said.

Kymriah, developed by drug company Novartis, is a highly personalized form of immunotherapy called CAR T-cell therapy. The procedure, short for “Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell Therapy,” takes a person’s T-cell – a kind of white blood cell – and genetically modifies it to contain a new kind of protein.

This protein, called a chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR, helps detect certain kinds of cancer cells. When the body’s T-cells are reintroduced to the body, they are now able to find and kill the cancer cells.

The treatment is specialized to attack a kind of pediatric cancer called acute lymphoblastic lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL. ALL is a bone marrow and blood cancer, and is one of the most common childhood cancers in the United States.

According to the FDA, over 3,000 patients under the age of 20 are diagnosed with ALL each year. The treatment will be offered to patients who have not responded to other existing treatments, or those whose cancer has returned after initial treatment.

Fr. Pacholczyk emphasized that there are some ethical concerns doctors and patients considering this treatment should investigate, particularly the potential for side effects the treatment can cause in some individuals.

“One ethical concern raised by this therapy centers on the question of whether the risks may be greater than the benefits for particular patients,” he said.

In some patients, treatment with Kymriah can cause a severe immune response. Sometimes, when the white blood cells are rewritten, they can lead to a severe immune response called cytokine release syndrome, or CRS, when they are reintroduced. Symptoms of this syndrome can include high fever, flu symptoms, dangerously low blood pressure, and organ damage. It can also cause neurological symptoms, including swelling of the brain, which can be fatal.

In light of these dangerous side effects, the FDA also approved the expansion of use of an immune suppressing drug for treatment for CRS. The drug has shown to be an effective treatment for CRS after treatment with CAR-T cells. The FDA will also require Novartis to continue monitoring Kymriah after its release for long-term side effects and other harmful side effects.

With the control of the dangerous side effects, and weighing the risks of the treatment against its benefits, however, the new gene therapy looks “promising,” Fr. Pacholczyk said.

Did this group lose its fundraising page because of its view on marriage?

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 17:57

Lake Charles, La., Sep 6, 2017 / 03:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A non-profit group dedicated to studying and explaining the effects of the sexual revolution claims that its ability to process donations online was cancelled because of its views on sexuality.

“The Ruth Institute's primary focus is family breakdown and its impact on children: understanding it, healing it, ending it. If this makes us a ‘hate group,’ so be it,” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, said on Friday.

Morse said that on Aug. 31 she received a letter from Vanco Payments, which processed the Ruth Institute’s donations online, telling her that the service would be discontinued that day.

The reason Vanco gave for cutting their service was that the Ruth Institute “has been flagged by Card Brands as being affiliated with a product/service that promotes hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse. Merchants that display such attributes are against Vanco and Wells Fargo processing policies.”

“We surmise that Vanco dropped us because we hold views about marriage, family and human sexuality that are considered ‘Anti-LGBT’,” Morse said.

Vanco did not reach out to discuss or inquire about allegations that the institute “promoted hate, violence, harassment, and/or abuse,” prior to sending the Ruth Institute a notice that service was being terminated, she said.

“We’ve never had any incidents or problems” with Vanco, Morse told CNA of their years-long relationship with the payment service. She said that the sudden termination of service without any prior notice was “rude” and “uncivil.”

Asked about the decision to cut ties with the Ruth Institute, a Vanco representative on Sept. 1 told CNA, “Vanco depends on the assessment of its banking partners to guide its decisions on continuing customer relationships that those partners believe violate processing policies. Accordingly, based on that assessment, we terminated our processing relationship with the Ruth Institute on Thursday, August 31.”

On Sept. 5, the representative retracted that statement, and issued a new statement saying, “Vanco terminated its processing relationship with the Ruth Institute on Thursday, August 31. Otherwise, we have no additional comment on the issue.”

Vanco did not specify how it had determined that the Ruth Institute “promoted hate, violence, harassment, and/or abuse,” Morse said. However, groups including the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) have criticized the Ruth Institute’s stance against same-sex marriage.

The SPLC was founded in 1971 and originally monitored persons and groups fighting the civil rights movement. It began to track racist and white supremacist groups like neo-Nazis and affiliates of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s. It also claims to monitor other “extremist” groups like “anti-immigrant” and “anti-Muslim” groups.

More recently, the SPLC has listed mainstream Christian groups like the Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom as “hate groups” for their “anti-LGBT” stance. The Ruth Institute has also been included in this list by SPLC.

The Ruth Institute has faced consequences for this designation. Morse told the National Catholic Register that the institute was denied its application for the “Amazon Smile” program, which sends portions of purchases to charities in the program, because of the SPLC’s “hate” designation.

SPLC has recently faced questions regarding its financial administration, after reports that the non-profit has transferred millions of dollars to offshore accounts and investment firms.

Morse voiced concern that one group like SPLC holds so much power in the public sphere for its designations.

Still, she said, the Ruth Institute will not be deterred in its mission of speaking out against “the sexual revolution in all its forms” – from divorce to the hookup culture to same-sex marriage – because these things are harmful to the human person.

“What the sexual revolution promotes is irrational,” she said.


Judge temporarily blocks Texas' 'dismemberment abortion' ban

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 02:04

Austin, Texas, Sep 6, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked part of a Texas law that bans dilation-and-evacuation abortions in the second trimester.

“While some pro-lifers may be tempted to despair at today’s ruling, this is the first step in a longer and consequential legal battle over this dynamic and historic legislation,” Texas Right to Life said in an Aug. 31 statement.

The group said the important question is “whether this type of procedure is something Texas has the right to prohibit,” not how it will affect women and the abortion industry, as the plaintiffs’ lawyers have said.

The abortion rule in question bars “dismemberment abortions,” which use forceps and other instruments to remove the fetus from the womb, the Associated Press reports. Critics of the law say “dismemberment abortion” is not a medical term.

Texas Right to Life, however, defended the law.

“The Dismemberment Abortion Ban outlaws a specific abortion procedure in which a living preborn child is killed by being torn limb from limb in utero,” the group said.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is a party to the lawsuit challenging the measure, says the procedure is the safest and most common way to perform an abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel granted the temporary restraining order on the law Aug. 31, saying it was in the public interest to preserve the status quo and allow the parties to the case to put the constitutional questions on record “without subjecting plaintiffs or the public to any of the act’s potential harms.”

The judge has set a Sept. 14 hearing on the case.

Texas Right to Life said the law is defensible under the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Gonzales v. Carhart, which says states have a “compelling interest in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession and in protecting the life of the preborn child.”

Courts have blocked similar laws in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

The abortion ban is part of Senate Bill 8, which was passed this year response to a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a 2013 state law that helped close more than half of Texas’ abortion clinics. There are now about 20 abortion clinics in the state, compared to 41 in 2012.

Bishop Tobin: Ending DACA shatters lives. So does abortion.

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 21:38

Providence, R.I., Sep 5, 2017 / 07:38 pm (CNA).- Many Americans are justifiably outraged at the lives that will be shattered by the cancellation of DACA – but that same sentiment should extend to the unborn lives cut short by abortion, said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I.

In a Sept. 5 Facebook post entitled “Other Children Have Dreams Too,” Bishop Tobin noted that he and his fellow bishops have been clear in opposing President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

“The President’s decision is a terribly shortsighted approach to a very complex problem. It will cause enormous division in our country and will short-circuit the dreams of many children and young people who were brought to this great country by their parents seeking only security, peace and prosperity,” the bishop said.

“At the same time, I wonder about the stunning lack of concern and compassion for the many unborn children who also don’t have a chance to live in our country because their lives are terminated by the cruel and violent practice of abortion,” he continued.

“They don’t have legal protection either. Their dreams are short-circuited too,” Bishop Tobin said. “What happened to the consistent ethic of life? Where’s the outrage on their behalf? Where’s the Governor on this issue? Where’s our Congressional delegation?”

The bishop’s comments follow Tuesday’s announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Trump administration, in an anticipated move, would be ending DACA, which had begun in 2012 under the Obama administration.

Under the program, eligible immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors by their parents could receive a two-year stay on their deportation. In that time period, they could be eligible for work permits and Social Security.

Congress had several times tried and failed to pass a bill that would help young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally before the age of 16 to lawfully remain in the U.S. and even have a path to citizenship.

On Tuesday, the administration announced it would end DACA by phasing it out. Sessions said that it was an unconstitutional overreach of executive power, especially since Congress refused several times to grant such benefits to undocumented immigrants.

Sessions also blamed the program for contributing to the recent surge in unaccompanied minors coming to the U.S.-Mexico border from Central America, as well as allowing undocumented immigrants to take jobs that could have been open to U.S. citizens.

Leading U.S. bishops have spoken out against the cancellation of DACA, noting that those covered by the policy did not choose to enter the country illegally, see the U.S. as the only home they have ever known, and could face grave danger if they are deported.

Bishops decry Trump administration's decision to end DACA

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 17:23

Washington D.C., Sep 5, 2017 / 03:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishops condemned the Trump administration’s decision Tuesday to end a program that benefited hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors.

“The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible,” leading U.S. bishops said in a joint statement released Sept. 5.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, as well as vice president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, migration committee chair Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, and Bishop Joseph Tyson of Yakima, chair of the subcommittee on pastoral care of migrants, refugees, and travelers, all contributed to the statement on the Trump administration’s ending of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Young immigrants eligible for DACA have worked in the U.S., served in the U.S. military, and attended U.S. educational institutions, the bishops said, yet now “after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had announced Tuesday morning that the Trump administration, in an anticipated move, would be ending DACA, which had begun under the Obama administration.

Under the program, eligible immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors by their parents could receive a two-year stay on their deportation. In that time period, they could be eligible for work permits and Social Security.

The program was announced in 2012 by President Obama and implemented by the Department of Homeland Security, in the memorandum “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children.”

Congress had several times tried and failed to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or a version of it, that would help young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally before the age of 16 to lawfully remain in the U.S. and even have a path to citizenship.

The most recent version has been introduced this year by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and would grant permanent legal status to more than 1 million eligible persons.

DACA was expanded to include eligible parents who brought their children illegally to the U.S. in a program called “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.” In 2016, the Supreme Court upheld a halt on that program going into effect, and Sessions warned Tuesday that DACA could get struck down in court.

On Tuesday, the administration announced it would end DACA by phasing it out. Sessions said that it was an “unconstitutional” overreach of executive power, especially since Congress refused several times to grant such benefits to undocumented immigrants.

“In other words, the executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions,” Sessions stated.

Sessions also blamed the program for contributing to the recent surge in unaccompanied minors coming to the U.S.-Mexico border from Central America, as well as allowing undocumented immigrants to take jobs that could have been open to U.S. citizens.

Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke stated that the courts would have overturned DACA, and so the administration was trying to “wind the program down in an orderly fashion that protects beneficiaries in the near-term while working with Congress to pass legislation.”

The bishops, in their statement, called on Congress to pass a law to protect the immigrants who would have been eligible for DACA, and promised to continue advocating for DACA youth.

“We strongly urge Congress to act and immediately resume work toward a legislative solution,” the bishops stated. “As people of faith, we say to DACA youth – regardless of your immigration status, you are children of God and welcome in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you.”

Other bishops also issued statements expressing disappointment in the Trump administration’s decision.

Archbishop Gomez, in a separate statement, said “as a pastor” that ending DACA would result in the possible deportation of 800,000 and would be “a national tragedy and a moral challenge to every conscience.”

“It is not right to hold these young people accountable for decisions they did not make and could not make. They came to this country through no fault of their own,” he said. “Most of them are working hard to contribute to the American dream — holding down jobs, putting themselves through college, some are even serving in our nation’s armed forces.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington said that “while the issue of immigration is complicated …  “offering special protection to those who only know the United States as home is a reasonable measure of compassion.”

Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the White House Tuesday morning to protest the administration’s announcement.

Carlos, 31, of northern Virginia, told CNA he currently works two jobs to pay for his college tuition and is nine months from finishing school. Without his degree, he would not be able to pursue a nursing career, he said.

“DACA protects young immigrants like myself to achieve their full potential,” he said. “The young people of this country are the future, we are the future of America. And everyone that has a dream, everyone that has a purpose that wants to help someone is also a dreamer, not just myself.”

“Dreamers” are not asking for handouts, Edvin, another immigrant protesting the end of DACA, told CNA.

“I came to this country with nothing,” Edvin said, “now I’m trying to give something back to this country. I am a business owner, I became a home owner, and I contribute to this country.”

“We are not asking for money. We are not asking for food or anything else,” he said. “We just want a chance to work here legally. Just give us documentation to do it in a safe way, no hide under the shadows. Just let us be us.”

Fr. Kevin Thompson, OFM Cap., parochial vicar at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington, D.C., said many DACA recipients are parishioners there.

“They’re just doing so well and advancing,” he said, and are “adding to this country.”

It is vital “to keep families together,” he said. He also pointed to the Old Covenant, at which time God told the Israelites  to “treat the foreigner well, as you were once foreigners in Egypt.”

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network called the announcement a “a heartbreaking disappointment.” Jeanne Atkinson, the group’s executive director, said many young people have benefited from DACA, with 60 percent of those approved for the program contributing to their family’s finances, 45 percent in school, and 16 percent having bought a home.

“Ending DACA will break apart families, throw potentially millions into impoverished living conditions and shatter the dreams of a better life for young people who did nothing wrong,” Atkinson said.

John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America, said ending DACA without Congress providing a sufficient legislative solution would be problematic.

“Our country's moral quality is measured by the way we treat those who most need our assistance. DACA has given young people a shot at an education and a better life. Elimination without a more comprehensive solution means abandonment,” he said.

Knights of Columbus take action to aid Hurricane Harvey victims

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 15:46

Houston, Texas, Sep 5, 2017 / 01:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Local Knights of Columbus councils have taken action after the passage of Hurricane Harvey, rescuing survivors by boat and providing shelter, food and water to others.

Their efforts on the ground are being supported by more than half a million dollars raised so far through the organization’s long-standing disaster relief fund.

“Since Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast of Texas on August 25, local Knights have been at the forefront or bringing assistance to victims of the disaster, especially those displaced by destructive winds and flooding,” the Knights of Columbus said on their website.

In Dickinson, Texas, members of the Father Roach Council 3217 used boats to help evacuate people stranded in their homes. They helped evacuate a priest from the Shrine of the True Cross.

Richmond Council 7445 aided displaced people at the local parish, providing meals and drinking water until the parish facility was flooded out. In Sealy, the facilities of Father Crann Council 3313 are sheltering nearly 100 evacuees and serving food and clean water.

Also aiding storm victims is the Father Nemec Council 3793, which has provided meals and shelter in Wallis, Texas. In Carrizo Springs, the Rev. Arthur N. Kaler Council 8142 helped feed 300 families.

Members of the Rev. John T. Weyer Council 11343 in Sugar Land, Texas helped home owners repair roofs that suffered tornado damage.

Their actions will be supplemented by the international Catholic fraternity’s disaster relief fund. The organization said in a statement that 100 percent of the funds raised go directly to relief efforts.

The Knights led a multi-million dollar recovery effort after Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005. The Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus also gave $860,000 in humanitarian relief for victims of the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, where the organization has tens of thousands of members. In late 2016, in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, Knights of Columbus Charities raised over $100,000.

The Knights of Columbus has about 1.9 million members in over 15,000 councils worldwide. Donations to the disaster relief fund can be made through its website at


God is present, Cardinal DiNardo tells Hurricane Harvey victims

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 14:30

Houston, Texas, Sep 5, 2017 / 12:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid the immense devastation left behind in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston assured the people that God is with them in their suffering.

“When we survey the loss and devastation, it is natural to wonder how such calamity fits into God’s plan. The problem of suffering is a mystery that is always with us,” Cardinal DiNardo said in a Sept. 2 opinion piece published in the Houston Chronicle.

“However, our Christian faith reminds us that the Lord is never distant from us but is intimately close,” he continued.

Hurricane Harvey tore through the Gulf Coast of Texas late last month, devastating thousands of homes with catastrophic flooding and winds. At least 60 people were killed and more than 30,000 displaced, with billions of dollars reported in property damage.

Cardinal DiNardo offered words of comfort to the devastated communities in Texas, saying that God “hears the prayers of His faithful.”

The Texas cardinal quoted Psalm 69:1-3, which says, “Save me, God, for the waters have reached my neck. I have sunk into the mire of the deep, where there is no foothold.”

“The cry of the psalmist speaks to the danger and distress of recent days along the Texas coast, which have tested the faith of all of God’s children,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

“When it seems that we are on the verge of perishing, we must wake up the Lord in our united prayers for personal need and for all of our brothers and sisters who are suffering.”

While many communities are overwhelmed with the storm’s aftermath, the state has also seen an outpouring of rescue efforts, charitable donations and humanitarian aid.

“In the midst of our darkest hour along the Gulf Coast, the people of Texas have shown humanity’s best face as we step up to the challenge before us,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

“This already can be verified by the overwhelming response of help and charity from the human family as people of every race, class, religion and way of life have united in assistance for one another.”

Although many families and individuals face a long road ahead, the cardinal voiced confidence that God’s providence will ultimately bring about good, despite the suffering and loss that was caused by the storm.

“With the grace of our God, we will run the race before us with energy and joy,” Cardinal DiNardo said, and “we will win.”


'Hello. My name is Mother Teresa. I just wanted to give you my card.'

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 16:54

Denver, Colo., Sep 4, 2017 / 02:54 pm (CNA).- It happened on the most ordinary day, in the most ordinary of places.

A woman stood by herself in the back of an airport lounge, flipping distractedly through a magazine while she waited for her flight. Suddenly, she was approached by a 5’0” woman in a blue and white sari.

“Hello. My name is Mother Teresa. I just wanted to give you my card.”

The religious sister passed her a business card and gave her hand a gentle squeeze before turning and boarding a flight. The woman stared at the card. And then, a smile.

This is one of hundreds of testimonies about the life and holiness of Mother Teresa of Calcutta included in the new book “A Call to Mercy” (Image, 2016). The 384-page book published just weeks ahead of the Calcutta sister’s Sept. 4 canonization.

The book gives an exclusive peek into the first and secondhand oral and written testimonies that built Mother Teresa’s cause for sainthood. In total, the sainthood cause for the Missionary of Charity foundress included 17 volumes – or nearly 7,000 pages – of testimonies.

Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause and editor of “A Call to Mercy,” told CNA that such testimonies are typically unavailable to the public for decades following a canonization.

“This is the first time we’re using testimonies like that in such an organized manner and such a large number,” said Fr. Kolodiejchuk. “All that material will be available maybe in another 50 years. But in the meantime, if you read the examples you’ll see just what Mother did.”

“Some of them are extraordinary, but for the most part Mother is doing ordinary things. Like she herself used to emphasize; Ordinary things with extraordinary love.”

Since Mother Teresa’s canonization coincided with Pope Francis’ Jubilee of Mercy, “A Call to Mercy” also has a special focus on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The book is divided into 14 chapters covering the 14 works of mercy. Each chapter includes a selection of Mother Teresa’s writings and testimonies related to a specific work of mercy.

“People will see – or have a good idea – firsthand or at least secondhand about how Mother herself lived the works of mercy,” Fr. Kolodiejchuk said.

A chapter on bearing wrongs patiently includes the testimony of a Missionary of Charity sister who was tasked with bringing Mother Teresa to the airport. The sister had just managed to usher Mother Teresa to the car when another sister ran to Mother Teresa and informed her that one of the children in their care was dying. The Missionary of Charity recalled being flooded with impatience.

“I’m not saying anything, but my body language, my tutting and sighing, says it all,” the sister recalls. “Mother…didn’t tell me off at all or point out my dreadful behavior. She just lovingly put her hand on my arm and said, ‘I will come, but I need to see this child’.”

Mother Teresa went to the child, a young baby, and prayed before tucking a Miraculous Medal into the child’s shirt. She then proceeded to the car to go to the airport.

“She didn’t point out how rude I was being; she embraced me and held me in my rudeness,” the sister reflected. “With all my faults, in that moment, she took care of me too.”

For many, the simplicity of this testimony and many others may come as a surprise. But not to Fr. Kolodiejchuk.

“Most of the examples…are just very ordinary,” Fr. Kolodiejchuk told CNA.  “Almost all of them – we can do those kinds of things. The little thoughtfulness to your neighbor, paying attention to those in need, beginning in your own family.”

For Fr. Kolodiejchuk, the testimonies also paint a fuller picture of the simple affectivity of the saint, whom he knew personally and worked alongside for nearly two decades.

“Someone would meet Mother just once and it would change their life,” he told CNA. “Or they saw her walking by and it was a moment of conversion. She had this graced capacity to really affect people.”

“She radiated holiness and she had the witness of her life behind it.”


This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 25, 2016.


In Labor Day message, bishops call for ordered understanding of work

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 06:01

Washington D.C., Sep 4, 2017 / 04:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In their 2017 statement for Labor Day, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stressed a properly ordered understanding of work, which prioritizes the worker and the family.

This vision of work must ensure safe working conditions, show solidarity with those in poverty, and seek to emphasize the dignity of the worker rather than solely economic gain, the statement emphasized.

“Economic stresses contribute to a decline in marriage rates, increases in births outside of two-parent households, and child poverty,” said Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development at the U.S. bishops’ conference.

He called for legal safeguards to protect workers’ rights and defend against exploitation.

However, “(l)egal protections cannot solve all problems when the culture itself must also change,” he said, and these changes must extend beyond politics, and aim to recover the understanding of work as “a cooperation with God's creative power.”

The bishop expressed concern that despite a growing economy, there is still a “stagnant or … decreasing [wage] for the vast majority of people” and that the newly generated wealth is only going to a small percentage of people.  

“The dignity of the individual and the demands of justice require, particularly today, that economic choices do not cause disparities in wealth to increase in an excessive and morally unacceptable manner, and that we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment  for everyone,” said the bishop, repeating the words of Benedict XVI in Caritas in veritate.

That encyclical has also been echoed by Pope Francis, the bishop noted, pointing to Francis’ challenge “to confront a twisted understanding of the purposes of labor which does not recognize talents as gifts from God.”

“With such a mindset, it becomes possible to improperly justify economic and societal injustices,” he added, and warned that “merit” can be used to unjustly excuse inequality in the work place.

“The poor person is considered undeserving and therefore to blame. And if poverty is the fault of the poor, the rich are exonerated from doing anything,” said the bishop, repeating the words of Pope Francis.

Seeing wealth as the basis for right or wrong, Bishop Dewane said, opposes the message of the Gospel and aligns itself to the opinions of Job’s friends, who saw Job’s misfortune as the result of his sin.

Pope Francis has said that this view contradicts God’s “gaze of love” which is best reflected in the parable of the Prodigal Son, whose father “thinks no son deserves the acorns that are for the pigs,” even when the son has failed.

However, this potential crisis is also an opportunity to regain the true nature of work, Bishop Dewane said, highlighting the importance of legal protections, unions, and rest.

He said laws should be ordered to protect compensation in wage and injuries, worksite safety, easy access to information on workers’ legal rights, and the right to unionize.

“Migrants and refugees should receive careful consideration,  including the conditions that allow for dignified work and protections against trafficking,” he said, also giving special attention to closing the wage gap between sexes.

Unions must regain the voice of the unheard and be a line of defense for the vulnerable, especially the foreigners and the discarded, he said.

“Thus, the union should resist the temptation of ‘becoming too similar to the institutions and powers that it should instead criticize,’” said the bishop, quoting a statement to the Italian trade unions issued by the Holy Father last month.

Additionally, he said, the whole wellbeing of the worker, including their family life, should be promoted, respecting a proper amount of rest necessary for recovery and a parent’s bonding with their children.

A properly ordered understanding of work is crucial, the bishop said, “not only to understanding our work, but also to coming to know God himself.”

This journalist first told the world about Mother Teresa

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 05:54

Denver, Colo., Sep 4, 2017 / 03:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The American reporter who first brought news of Mother Teresa’s work to an international audience still remembers the day in 1966 when he met the nun serving the poor in the slums of Calcutta.

“Certainly she totally deserves to be a saint. In my eyes, she was a saint her entire life,” retired Associated Press reporter Joe McGowan, Jr. told CNA. “She was so humble and yet so pleasant.”

McGowan, 85, was an AP reporter for 42 years who covered wars, revolutions, and earthquakes.

In 1966, he was an AP bureau chief with a huge territory – India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Ceylon, and the Maldives Islands.

Trying to dig up more stories, he was speaking with a newspaper editor in Calcutta about anything unusual or ignored.

“He finally said, ‘Well, there’s that funny little nun who goes around collecting dying people.’ And I knew I had a story,” said McGowan.

The reporter took a bike taxi over to her home for the dying and spent two days with Mother Teresa.

She was dressed in the local sari, the homespun material common to average or poor Indian women.

“There was nothing pretentious about her at all,” McGowan said.

The nun would walk around Calcutta with a two-wheel cart with the help of two hired men.

“They went around picking up dying people,” the reporter recounted.

“In those days there were not enough [hospital] beds in places like Calcutta. So if you were declared terminally ill, your family had to come and take you home so that there was a bed for somebody else,” he said. “If nobody picked you up, they put you on the sidewalk to die.”

Since 1952, Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity sisters had cared for the abandoned and the dying at their Home for the Dying Destitutes. The building, a former Hindu chapel, was divided into two parts, one for men and one for women.

Conditions were cramped.

“They slept on the floor on crude little mats. It was so crowded they couldn’t even get up and go to the bathroom,” McGowan recounted. “I tried to stay out of the way, these people were crammed in there so tight.”

“Under her outstanding care, some of those people recovered and got up and walked out,” he said.

McGowan said he was “extremely impressed” with her work.

“I think that showed in my writing about her.”

His Associated Press account from March 1966 was the first international news story about her.

McGowan said he didn’t know if he could even explain what motivated her.

“She always wanted to do the Lord’s work, I guess she would say.”

“I’m not Catholic, but obviously she is an amazing woman,” he continued. “I just have the highest of respect for her, the work that she did, to work there in the slums of Calcutta.”

The Indian city was a rough place in the 1960s.

“Calcutta is a place all unto itself,” McGowan recollected. “I saw a couple of completely naked women walking the streets, their hair all disheveled. They would see a cigarette butt and they would reach over and pick it up and chew it and eat it.  This was the kind of thing you saw in Calcutta in those days. How they are today, I don’t know.”

Another time he saw a group of students waiting and waiting for a streetcar, growing increasingly angry at the delay.

“They were so mad, when the street car arrived they set it on fire. That meant fewer streetcars for the next day.”

In a world like that, McGowan recalled, Mother Teresa was “very, very calm” and “very unpretentious.”

“She was doing all this work, but it was just her life. She wasn’t bragging about it.”

The people she helped reacted with great appreciation.

“Elsewhere they had not received any aid of any kind,” he said. “It was so unusual in an extremely overpopulated place like India for them to get this kind of attention.”

McGowan continued his reporting career and retired to Broomfield, Colo., a suburb of Denver. He told of his experiences and the people he met in his 2012 book From Fidel Castro to Mother Teresa.

“On the one hand, you had Fidel Castro. On the other hand, you had Mother Teresa: this small nun who was doing – I guess you would have to say – miraculous things for people at the bottom of the societal rung,” he said.

The journalist and the nun reunited when she visited Denver in May 1989. She passed him a written message.

“She gave me a card. In her handwriting, it says ‘Love others as Jesus loves you. God bless you. M. Teresa, M.C.’”

McGowan says it’s among his most treasured possessions.


This article was originally published on CNA Sept. 1, 2016.

Global research project looks at Christian response to persecution

Sun, 09/03/2017 - 05:01

Washington D.C., Sep 3, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Which Christians face the most persecution around the globe, and how do they respond to it?

The Religious Freedom Institute teamed up with the University of Notre Dame and Georgetown University's Religious Freedom Project to find out.

And what they ended up conducting was the world's first systematic global investigation of the Christian response to persecution, called Under Caesar’s Sword.

This report, funded by the Templeton Religion Trust, was researched over the course of three years by a team of 14 scholars who analyzed more than 30 of the most threatened countries around the world. They examined the patterns of religious persecution, the varieties of responses to persecution, and made recommendations for action against persecution.

“'Under Caesar's Sword' is an effort to discover and draw attention to the ways in which Christian communities around the world respond to the severe violation of their religious freedom,” the project's website said.

“One of the project's signature features is its extensive efforts to disseminate its findings. This is part and parcel of its efforts to raise awareness of and be in solidarity with persecuted Christians.”

The study's major findings were turned into a number of difference resources, including two different educational courses now offered online for free through the Satellite Theological Education Program (STEP) at the University of Notre Dame.

“We are now working to put the findings from the Under Caesar's Sword project (produced together with Dan Philpott at Notre Dame) into the hands of churches and leaders to help them equip their people to understand and respond to persecution of Christians around the world,” Kent Hill, the executive director of the Religious Freedom Institute, said in a press release.

The first program is called Christians Confronting Persecution, which is intended for educators, minister, pastors and adults who are interested in actively encountering “the reality of persecution through the lens of faith.”

The six-week course includes lectures from experts such as Tom Farr, Tim Shah, Daniel Philpott and Kristen Haas, and takes about 3-4 hours of study each week. Those who complete the course will receive certificates of completion which will also prepare them to facilitate the course with others.

The second program is called We Respond, a seven-session lecture series for adult groups, high school students, parishes, and churches who “wish to engage both intellectually and reflectively with the reality of religious persecution today.”

Both of these resources explore how Christian communities respond to persecution, and include videos, Scripture passages, stories and information on how to cultivate solidarity.

According to the project’s website, 76 percent of the world’s population lived in a religiously oppressed country in 2012. Christians were reported to have been harassed in 102 countries in 2013.

“We at the Religious Freedom Institute are seeking to be very concrete in providing very specific ways for our churches, our Christian schools, and the members of our churches to both learn about the plight of Christians in harm’s way and to become aware of what they can do to be of help,” Hill said.

The programs will start online on Sept. 4 and are now open for registration.

California bill seeks to punish 'misgendering' with jail time

Sat, 09/02/2017 - 07:29

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 2, 2017 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new bill in California would punish the ‘misgendering’ of nursing home and long-term care patients with hefty fines and even jail time.

In February, state senator Scott Wiener introduced SB 219, the “Long-term care facilities: rights of residents” bill, which has already been passed by California’s state senate. After being recommended by the state assembly’s judiciary committee, the bill will now be considered by the California House of Representatives.

If passed into law, the policy would punish nursing home and long-term care workers who refuse to call patients by their preferred pronouns with fines of up to $1,000, or jail time for up to a year, or both.

Besides compelling workers to refer to residents by their preferred pronouns, the bill would also mandate that facilities allow residents room assignments and bathroom preferences based on gender identity rather than biological sex.

Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, told CNA that the bill could unjustly target religious facilities and place excessive burden on an already-heavily regulated industry.

“It would potentially compromise some of the institutions that are religiously sponsored and would not want to be supportive” of gender identity room or bathroom assignments, he said.

He added that it seemed to be solving a problem that wasn’t there, since there haven’t been widespread reports of discrimination based on gender in the state’s nursing home and long-term care facilities.

“In many ways it seems to be a solution looking for a major problem,” he said.  

“That’s certainly one of our concerns – is this just part of a larger ideological drill? Do we have examples of people being mistreated around the state because of their gender experience? It seems that this is more like – let’s fix something that we don’t even know needs fixing.”

Greg Burt, with the California Family Council, testified against SB 219 in July, noting that it would infringe on the First Amendment rights of workers by compelling them to use speech with which they might not agree.

“How can you believe in free speech, but think the government can compel people to use certain pronouns when talking to others?” Burt asked members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee during his testimony.

“Compelled speech is not free speech. Can the government compel a newspaper to use certain pronouns that aren’t even in the dictionary? Of course not, or is that coming next?”

Burt also denounced the bill for lacking any religious exemptions for religiously-affiliated institutions.

“Those proposing this bill are saying, ‘If you disagree with me about my view of gender, you are discriminating against me',” Burt testified. “This is not tolerance. This is not love. This is not mutual respect… True tolerance, tolerates people with different views.  We need to treat each other with respect, but respect is a two-way street. It is not respectful to threaten people with punishment for having sincerely held beliefs that differ from your own.”

Dolejsi said he anticipated that the bill would pass in the legislature sometime in the next week, and would head to the desk of the governor. At that point, the California Catholic Conference would advocate for a veto, based on the burden the bill would place on religious institutions and the industry of nursing and long-term care facilities.

“Our advocacy with the governor will be inviting his veto based on…(the fact that) it doesn’t seem to be sensitive to the many religious organizations that sponsor these particular homes and facilities, and there’s no (religious exemption). And, absent a strong experience out in society for rights being violated in this regard, it seems like this is burdening the state in an industry that’s already challenged.”

Understaffing and under-qualified personnel is a growing problem in nursing home and long-term care facilities throughout the nation, as baby boomers age and the industry struggles to keep up.

While this bill could pave the way for legislation that would apply more broadly, such legislation is already in the works, Dolejsi noted, including a bill that would mandate gender identity training for all state employees.

“That’s the nature of how we’re experiencing this in California,” he said. “It’s like every aspect of public life needs to salute and address concerns of the LGBT folks.”

Dolejsi encouraged concerned Catholics to keep up with the legislation that was being approved, and to contact their elected officials by email or phone to express their concerns. He also encouraged participation in town hall meetings, and persistency in raising their concerns.

“We need practical laws,” he added. “And if there is truly a case of discrimination, then let’s sit down and figure out how to...bring people together and solve it in a way that’s respectful of people’s religious values and expressions and experiences.”


In rare WSJ op-ed, Cardinal Sarah says Fr. Martin's LGBT outreach falls short

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 15:07

New York City, N.Y., Sep 1, 2017 / 01:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic outreach to LGBT individuals must always include the truth about Catholic teaching and chastity, Cardinal Robert Sarah said in an article responding to Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin.

“The Catholic Church has been criticized by many, including some of its own followers, for its pastoral response to the LGBT community,” Cardinal Sarah wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal Sept. 1.

“This criticism deserves a reply, not so much to defend the Church’s practices reflexively, but to determine whether we, as the Lord’s disciples, are reaching out effectively to a group in need.”

The Guinean-born cardinal heads the Congregation for Divine Worship. He specifically named Father Martin, S.J., editor-at-large of the Jesuits’ America Magazine, as “one of the most outspoken critics of the Church’s message with regard to sexuality.”

Fr. Martin has become a media personality and has a significant presence on social media. He authored the 2017 book, “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.”

The book drew praise from Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, as well as Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who said the book “marks an essential step in inviting Church leaders to minister with more compassion, and in reminding LGBT Catholics that they are as much a part of our Church as any other Catholic.”

However, other admirers include dissenting Catholic groups like New Ways Ministry, which hosted the lecture on which the book is based and gave Fr. Martin their Bridge Building Award last year.

New Ways Ministry is part of the Equally Blessed Coalition, itself an outspoken critic of Catholic theology and sexual ethics. The coalition’s funders include billionaire heir Jon Stryker’s Arcus Foundation, which is following a broad strategy to counter Christian opposition to LGBT activism and to foster global social change on LGBT issues, particularly within Christianity and other religions.

At the same time, Fr. Martin’s book has its critics. They say the book avoids Church teaching on marriage, celibacy and chastity and shows an apparent reluctance to recognize Catholics who experience same-sex attraction and seek to follow Catholic teaching.

In his op-ed, Cardinal Sarah said the priest repeated “the common criticism that Catholics have been harshly critical of homosexuality while neglecting the importance of sexual integrity among all of its followers.”

The cardinal said Fr. Martin is correct to reject any double standard on the virtue of chastity “which, challenging as it may be, is part of the good news of Jesus Christ for all Christians.”

“For the unmarried – no matter their attractions – faithful chastity requires abstention from sex,” the cardinal said. While this may appear to be a high standard, Jesus’ wisdom and goodness would not require something that cannot be achieved.

“With God’s grace and our perseverance, chastity is not only possible, but it will also become the source for true freedom,” the cardinal continued. “Jesus calls us to this virtue because he has made our hearts for purity, just as he has made our minds for truth.”

Cardinal Sarah stressed the importance of both truth and love.

“To love someone as Christ loves us means to love that person in the truth,” he said. “Those who speak on behalf of the Church must be faithful to the unchanging teachings of Christ because only by living in harmony with God’s creative design do we find deep and lasting fulfillment.”

Cardinal Sarah summarized Catholic teaching on same-sex attraction: the person is good because he or she is a child of God. Homosexual attractions are not sinful if not willed or acted upon, even though they are not in harmony with human nature. However, homosexual actions are “gravely sinful and tremendously harmful to the well-being of those who partake in them.”

“People who identify as members of the LGBT community are owed this truth in charity, especially from clergy who speak on behalf of the Church about this complex and difficult topic,” the cardinal continued.

The cardinal recommended the book by American author Daniel Mattson titled “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay,” for which he wrote the foreword.

“It is my prayer that the world will finally heed the voices of Christians who experience same-sex attractions and who have discovered peace and joy by living the truth of the Gospel,” Cardinal Sarah said. “I have been blessed by my encounters with them, and their witness moves me deeply.”

Such Christians testify to “the power of grace” and the truth of Church teaching, he said. Some have been reconciled to Jesus Christ and the Church after living apart from the faith.

“Their lives are not easy or without sacrifice…but they have discovered the beauty of chastity and of chaste friendships,” he said, adding that these Christians deserve respect and attention for their ability to teach about “how to better welcome and accompany our brothers and sisters in authentic pastoral charity.”

Speaking generally, the cardinal further stressed the necessity for Catholic fidelity in public life. Rejecting God’s plan for human intimacy and love has sad consequences, he said.

“The sexual liberation the world promotes does not deliver its promise. Rather, promiscuity is the cause of so much needless suffering, of broken hearts, of loneliness, and of treatment of others as means for sexual gratification,” the cardinal warned. “As a mother, the Church seeks to protect her children from the harm of sin, as an expression of her pastoral charity.”


Arizona, New Mexico bishops ask Trump to keep DACA

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 06:38

Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 1, 2017 / 04:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic bishops of Arizona and New Mexico have joined the growing chorus of voices calling on President Donald Trump to maintain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program (DACA).

“(We) want to reiterate our strong and unwavering support for DACA youth so they do not have to live in fear of deportation,” the bishops said in an Aug. 31 statement.

“These young people entered our country as children and should have the opportunity to remain in our country to be educated here and to have opportunities to exercise their gifts for the enhancement of our nation.”

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was established under President Obama to protect young people who were brought into the country illegally as children from deportation and to allow them to secure work permits.

The Trump administration is under pressure from the attorneys general of 10 states, who have said they will file suit against President Trump on Sept. 5 unless he cancels the program.

“Presently, DACA protects nearly 800,000 of these young people, while allowing them to live and work in our country without fear of deportation,” the bishops of Arizona and New Mexico noted in their statement. “Through DACA they have furthered their education, started small businesses and become integral members of our communities in Arizona and New Mexico.”

The statement was signed by Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares of Phoenix, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup.

The bishops acknowledged that “DACA is not a permanent solution,” but said they “support its continuance until a permanent solution can be found.”

“Accordingly, we urge our federal elected officials to move forward with permanent solutions that grant relief to these young people along with the chance to earn permanent residency and eventually to seek citizenship,” they said. “We ask that all people of goodwill join us in praying and advocating for governmental efforts to protect DACA youth and for reform of our broken immigration policies.”

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has also called on President Trump to reconsider his stance on DACA.

“They did not make the decision to enter this country in violation of our laws, and in fairness we cannot hold them accountable,” Archbishop Gomez said in an Aug. 29 column for the Archdiocese’s Angelus News.

On Aug. 21 the Vatican released the Pope’s message for the 2018 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, to be observed by the Catholic Church on Jan. 14.

“Collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions, particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights,” Pope Francis said, stressing the need to increase access to humanitarian visas and to reunite separated families.

Pope Francis cited the words of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who in his own message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in 2007 said the family is “a place and resource of the culture of life and a factor for the integration of values.”

Other backers of DACA youth include the Catholic bishops of Nebraska. On Aug. 29, they said these young people have become “contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes.”

“To the DACA youth here in Nebraska, please know that the Catholic Church stands in solidarity with you,” said the bishops of the Nebraska Catholic Conference. “It is our desire to accompany you in the anxieties and fears you face through this journey.”


Holy brainteasers? Catholic puzzle book hopes to point readers to God

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 05:19

South Bend, Ind., Sep 1, 2017 / 03:19 am (CNA).- With hopes of leading Catholics to a deeper search for Christ, a new puzzle book from Ave Maria Press challenges readers to expand their interaction with God’s mysteries.

“I open the book with a quote from Proverbs 25:2, ‘It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out’,” said Matt Swaim, author of Catholic Puzzles, Word Games, and Brainteasers: Volume 1.

“Properly understood, the idea of God as a mystery shouldn't cause us to throw up our hands and stop searching him out; it should draw us to engage with him and get a window into his magnificence,” he told CNA.

Catholic Puzzles, which will go on sale Sept. 22, contains interactive word problems such as anagrams, code scrambles and crypto quizzes. The puzzles empower readers to learn more about saints, the mysteries of the rosary, Holy Scripture, and Church doctrine.

Swaim started developing fun interactive puzzles to aid his 8th grade CCD students with understanding Church teachings. After connecting with Ave Maria Press, a suggestion was made to put together a similar project for a broader adult audience.

“I think adults see their kids doing worksheets for religious ed classes and wish there were more of that kind of thing for their skill level out there.”


He said the puzzles are meant to be a challenge for older Catholics, but not so difficult as to deter anyone from giving it a try.

So far, he said, the response has been positive: “Most people are just excited to discover that something like this exists, and that it's not at the elementary school level.”

Watching people wrestle with thought-provoking questions is one of his favorite things about the new book, Swaim said, noting that the struggle to solve a problem can help bring us to a deeper knowledge of it.

“Think about it – if you're working on solving a particular encrypted saint quote for a half an hour, that's 30 minutes for your brain to mull it over, let it sink in, and have it stay with you.”

He clarified that searching for truth and for Christ does not mean that we treat God like he is a Sherlock Holmes murder mystery. Rather, delving into the mystery of God’s creation gives us “a greater insight into just how wonderful and big and mind-blowing it is to be in relationship with him.”

Seeing God as a mystery doesn’t stop us from pursuing him, Swaim said, adding that growing in our relationship to God’s mystery is similar to the experience of getting to know another human person through friendship, marriage or parenting.

“If every person in this world is a unique, unrepeatable mystery to learn about and learn from, then how much more the God who created all of them?”

“God has hidden himself in his creation, in the faces of our neighbors, in the most minuscule aspects of our days. He's constantly searching after us, but he also wants us to be searching after him.”

But we do not always search for God, he said. Instead, “we devote hours to studying the intricacies of the NFL” or memorizing quotes of “our favorite television shows.”

Swaim challenged Catholics: “What if we applied a fraction of that inquisitive fervor toward exploring our faith?”

Evangelicals' Nashville Statement 'largely consonant' with Catholic thought

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 02:08

Nashville, Tenn., Sep 1, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An Evangelical Christian coalition’s statement on marriage, sexuality, and gender identity is “largely consonant” with Catholic thought, according to one commentator.

“The language of the document is clearly Evangelical, but its articles are largely consonant with Catholic understandings of human sexuality and sexual morality,” Stephen P. White, a fellow in the Catholic Studies program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told CNA Aug. 30.

“I think Pope Francis would agree with virtually everything in the letter,” White continued. “When man forgets his Creator, he loses sight of himself as well. We see the result of this in the confusion over sexual morality, but in many other areas as well. It’s what most of Pope Francis’ last encyclical, Laudato si', was about.”

The Nashville Statement was published by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood after endorsement in Nashville by more than 150 Evangelical Christian leaders Aug. 25.

“As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being,” said the statement. “By and large the spirit of our age no longer discerns or delights in the beauty of God’s design for human life.”

“Many deny that God created human beings for his glory, and that his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female,” it continued. “It is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences.”

Denny Burk, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, said the statement aimed “to shine a light into the darkness – to declare the goodness of God’s design in our sexuality and in creating us as male and female.” He said the council prayed that the statement might provide churches and Christian organizations with “biblical guidance on how to address homosexuality and transgenderism.”

The council aims to foster a coalition of like-minded Evangelicals and influence a new generation of Evangelicals who are being pressured to abandon their vision of Christian teaching.

Signatories of the Nashville Statement include Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of World Magazine; K. Erik Thoennes, a theology professor at Biola University; and Jerry A. Johnson, president of National Religious Broadcasters.

The statement includes 14 articles which each include affirmations and denials. It affirms marriage as a lifelong union of a man and woman; sex differences and sexual equality as a part of God’s creation; “chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage”; God’s forgiveness of sins; and salvation through Christ.

It rejects sexual immorality, whether heterosexual or homosexual. The statement affirms “our duty to speak the truth in love at all times, including when we speak to or about one another as male or female.” Another of its affirmations: it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism, on the grounds that “such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.” It is not “a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.”

The Nashville Statement affirms the ability of people with same-sex attraction to live a life pleasing to God, encourages a self-conception as male or female “defined by God’s holy purposes in creation,” and rejects “a homosexual or transgender self-conception” as inconsistent with God’s purposes in creation.

For White, the statement’s language reflected “the absence of Catholic sacramental theology, for obvious reasons.” He also questioned an apparent failure to recognize that chastity is a virtue for both married and unmarried people.

“But the basic outline of Christian sexual morality is there: our sexuality is good and God-given, sexual intimacy belongs in marriage and nowhere else, marriage is between a man and a woman, no sin is insurmountable to God’s grace, etc.”

White predicted a mixed reaction, saying “many will be grateful for simple sanity in a time of widespread confusion; others will see the affirmation of orthodox Christian teaching on sex and marriage as disconcerting, perhaps even hateful.”

“The Gospel doesn’t please everyone,” he added.

White said that Americans’ views on sex and morality have undergone drastic change. These changes are more than a shift in morality, in his view. Rather, they reflect “a fundamental change in our understanding of human nature itself.”

“Whether it’s individualism, or affluence, our technological power, we often delude ourselves into thinking we can do as we please…and that doing as we please will make us happy,” White said, citing the Book of Genesis. “It’s the oldest temptation in the book, literally: to make ourselves like gods.”

“Unfortunately, when man forgets God, he loses sight of himself as well,” he said. “We see the result of this in the confusion over sexual morality, but in many other areas as well.”

Nashville mayor Megan Barry criticized the statement on Twitter, saying it “does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville”.

Chicago archdiocese to receive relic of Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 19:20

Chicago, Ill., Aug 31, 2017 / 05:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sept. 5, Saint Mark's Parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago will receive a first class relic of Saint Teresa of Calcutta for public veneration, which will then be permanently kept in the church.

The relic, which consists of some of Mother Teresa's hair, was requested from the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity by St. Mark's pastor Father Martin Ibarra, and parishioner Fernando Iñiguez.

Iñiguez said that they had asked for the relic to help promote the life and virtues of the recently canonized saint.

“Also, so that the parishioners will be inspired with fervor and a new prospect of evangelization on the parish level and that the will same occur throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago,” Iñiguez told CNA.

On September 5, Fr. Ibarra will celebrate Mass at the parish at 7:00 p.m. to mark the one year anniversary of the canonization of Saint Teresa of Calcutta, and in thanksgiving for the arrival and installation of her relic. Missionaries of Charity sisters will be present at the celebration.

In the following days, the parish will organize pilgrimages, novenas, and other events at parishes that would like to have the relic visit.

Saint Mark's Church will be the only parish with a relic of Mother Teresa in the archdiocese. It is also the only church that has a first class relic of Padre Pio, which consists of a vial of his blood.

“As the community of Saint Mark's we feel blessed and happy to have the relic of such an important woman on the world level in every sense and aspect of life,” Fr. Ibarra said. “But especially in the power she conveys through her evangelization and humanitarian service to the most needy.”

As State Department reorganizes, what will be the fate of religious freedom office?

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 19:03

Washington D.C., Aug 31, 2017 / 05:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Although the State Department plans to cut or consolidate certain senior positions as part of an ongoing reorganization, the international religious freedom office will reportedly be expanded.

“I am encouraged by this move,” Dr. Tom Farr, head of the Religious Freedom Institute, told CNA in a written statement on the agency moving religious “special envoy” positions into the Office of International Religious Freedom.

“Each of these religion-related envoys and offices are intimately connected to religious freedom,” he said.

“I believe that the Department will be able to better execute its mission by integrating certain envoys and special representative offices within the regional and functional bureaus,” Tillerson wrote in a letter to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, “and eliminating those that have accomplished or outlived their original purpose.” CNN first reported the letter.

Of 66 senior positions at the department which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson discussed in his letter, 30 are planned to be kept in place, according to a department official. Nine will be cut, 21 will be consolidated into various bureaus within the agency, and five others will be “folded into existing positions.”

The moves are being made to consolidate positions within the agency in the name of efficiency, clarity, and concentration of resources, according to an official at State.

Certain senior religious positions at State – including their staff and functions -- are now being assumed by the Office of International Religious Freedom, all of which will reportedly be expanded.

That office was created with the original International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA), sponsored by former Congressman Frank Wolf. It was meant to establish a place at the State Department where promoting religious freedom would be a lasting part of U.S. foreign policy.

Daniel Mark, the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan federal commission that advises the State Department and promotes religious freedom abroad, did not take an official position on the re-organization.

However, he said that if it improved the effectiveness of the State Department’s mission of promoting religious freedom as part of U.S. foreign policy, then it obviously would be a sound move.

“For coordination purposes, it is helpful, we think, for the Ambassador for International Religious Freedom to be taking the lead and coordinating the activities of all those different groups and offices,” he said of the re-organization.

“The goal isn’t to have this many envoys or that many envoys. The goal, of course, is just to see all the issues that need to be addressed, addressed in an efficacious way.”

The end results may depend on how much of a voice the Office of International Religious Freedom is given within the State Department.

Some advocates have thought that the office was marginalized at the agency over the years, both in its physical presence within the building and in its diminished role in the hierarchy of offices.

However, the previous Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom, David Saperstein, who served during the last two years of the Obama administration, played an important role in increasing the voice of the office within the agency, Wolf said.

President Donald Trump nominated Kansas Governor and former Senator Sam Brownback for the position in July. He has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

And in the new State Department plan, the ambassador will report to “a higher-level official,” Mark told CNA.

The ambassador will now report to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, a change which is “a step in the right direction” and one which will hopefully gain the office a more prominent voice within the agency, Mark said.

However, “we would look to see it be elevated even further,” he said, “to be a direct report, involved in the senior-level staff meetings and that sort of thing.”

The Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which is the most recent version of IRFA, passed by Congress in 2016, calls for the ambassador to report directly to the Secretary of State.

And now the office will absorb other religious positions within State: the U.S. Special Representative for Religion and Global Affairs, the U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities, and U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, and Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia.

And by keeping the envoys and placing them within the International Religious Freedom office, State will be able to bring their expertise to the office’s mission of promoting religious freedom.

“For example, the Muslim-related envoys will strengthen the US capacity to advance religious freedom in Muslim-majority nations by, for example, presenting evidence that moving toward religious freedom will benefit Islam and their societies,” Dr. Farr said.

One of the positions – the Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia – has been hailed by advocates for Middle Eastern Christians as vital to the mission of protecting them.

Knox Thames is the current Special Advisor, but a State Department official could not provide information as to whether specific staff members would remain in positions. Wolf praised Thames’ work as Special Advisor.

The Special Advisor position was created through bills passed by the House in 2013 and by the Senate in 2014 as a way to ensure that an advocate for persecuted religious minorities in the region would exist at State as part of a “one-stop special place” for leaders of those communities to share their concerns and requests.

Initially a “Special Envoy” position, it was changed to be a “Special Adviser” role under the Obama administration. The position is extremely important, Wolf told CNA, because of the dire plight of many religious minorities in the region.

These persecuted communities, he said, would include Coptic Christians suffering deadly terror attacks in Egypt, Iraqi Christian refugees, and Yazidis who suffered genocide at the hands of Islamic State, Baha'is imprisoned in Iran, and Christians and Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan.

“You can’t pick up the paper, and there’s not a story about persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East,” Wolf said. “You can’t get rid of the person who’s working on that issue at this very time. It would send a terrible message to the persecuted people in the Middle East.”

Not only must the position exist, he said, but the right person must fill it.

“Personnel is policy,” Wolf said. “You put the right person in, and things are going to happen. You put the wrong person in, and you can have nothing happen.”

The Special Envoy for anti-Semitism will reportedly be kept, but moved to the Bureau of Democracy, Rights and Labor. The Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan will be cut, with its functions and staff being transferred to the Bureau of African Affairs.

This health center for the uninsured used to be an abortion clinic

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 18:31

Manassas, Va., Aug 31, 2017 / 04:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Prayer. Sacrifice. Friendship. Charity. Could one Virginia community’s work to put basic Gospel tenets into action be a model for the future of the pro-life movement?

“I think it is a turn from desperation to great hope and transformative hope going forward,” Art Bennett, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, told CNA of a new free medical clinic set to open in November, replacing a long-standing abortion clinic.

The story began with friendship. The Amethyst Women’s Health Center was a decades-old abortion clinic in Manassas, Va., a western suburb of Washington, D.C., founded by a husband and wife and operating since 1988. The clinic averaged 1,300 abortions per year.

As the clinic opened its doors day after day for years, local Catholics began to regularly pray outside the building all year round for the victims of the abortions, for the clinic workers and owners, and for an end to the abortions there.

In 2013, two members of the pro-life community visited the clinic and struck up a friendship with the owner, her son, and one of the contracted abortionists. In their regular clinic visits, they learned that the owner, now a widow, was not opposed to leaving the practice but felt trapped since operating the clinic had been her livelihood for years. If she left the clinic, her son would need support as well.

They tried to find a job for her son, while realizing that they would need to raise a significant amount of money within three months to purchase the clinic and buy her out so she could retire. For such an urgent task, one of the men received a key piece of advice – pray to the Blessed Mother. He began to pray a 14-day rosary novena.

Members of local parishes began discreetly spreading the word among their church communities. A coalition of local entrepreneurs also banded together and began raising money.

Donations poured in, and in less than three months, the community raised all the money required to buy out the clinic, which closed at the end of September 2015. The owner, who had been a baptized Catholic, eventually repented and came back to the faith.

However, the community was faced with the question of what to do with the former clinic building. The idea formed to turn it into a charitable medical clinic.

There was a “great desire that something redemptive would happen here,” Art Bennett told CNA. He had been approached about possibly establishing the health clinic, and local community members “wanted it to be a place where people would find hope and healing.”

Over the next two years, parishioners of nearby parishes and the diocese worked to make the dream a reality. In August 2017, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington gave the approval for the new clinic, and Catholic Charities announced that it would indeed open in November.

“Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic” will offer a range of general family practitioner services free-of-charge, with physicians and nurses volunteering their time and effort. It will have a target demographic of uninsured persons, which number around 8,000 in that part of the county, Bennett said.

The clinic will also provide referrals to nearby Novant Health for other services for qualified patients, and a physician network has been set up to see patients with more serious medical problems at a reduced or free rate.

Bennett hopes that the clinic will serve as a “transformation” of the community from having an abortion clinic to providing free health care for those who need it. Another free health clinic in the area had closed, he said, and that was a further impetus for Catholic Charities to fill the gap.

Promoting human dignity and upholding the common good will be two pillars of the clinic’s mission, he said.

“By offering this service, we’re not only acknowledging the dignity of the individual,” he said, but also “helping the common good, helping people overcome problems so they can flourish and lead a better life.”

The clinic will also put into practice the corporal works of mercy.

“Most of the work we did on this was done during the Year of Mercy, mapping it out, doing the research, so we think this is a fruit of the Year of Mercy,” he said.

They also see a Marian connection. The abortion clinic closed after the countless rosaries that were said for life, and the new clinic is named for the “Mother of Mercy.”

“Mary, with her maternal care for people, particularly those who are most vulnerable, we thought that that was a nice integration,” Bennett said.

The clinic was “brought in to bring a better future to this location,” he told CNA, a future that would include “hope and healing and transformation.”

“This has been quite a transformation.”