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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.
Updated: 2 hours 9 min ago

Behold, Catholic beard balm (yes, it's a thing)

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 14:03

Seattle, Wash., Jun 9, 2017 / 12:03 pm (CNA).- What do you do with an excess of chrism and a plethora of Catholic men with beards?

Tony Vasinda, a director of faith formation at a Catholic parish in Seattle, Wash., was faced with that dilemma three years ago when he ordered some of the fragrant, liturgical oil for his confirmation students.

“I love it when people can actually engage with the materials of the sacrament in advance, so I wanted to have some non-blessed chrism we could use for the candidates to smell and help cement in their memory the different lessons we were teaching,” Vasinda told CNA.

When he went to order essence of chrism, Vasinda only needed an ounce. But the minimum amount he could order was enough to make three gallons.

“So I had a little bit of an excess of chrism,” he joked.

Around that same time, Vasinda had been making beard balms for himself and his bearded friends, and he had an idea for what to do with his surplus.

“I thought hey, wouldn’t it be funny if I made some chrism-scented Catholic beard balm?”

That’s how Catholic Beard Balm got its start. Vasinda, and his friend and fellow Catholic beard balm creator Michael Marchand, soon started selling their handmade, natural balms in small batches with five signature scents. According to the website the balm has a myriad of beardly benefits including conditioning, nourishing, and promoting a fuller appearance.

And the great thing is, all the proceeds benefit Tony and Michael’s ministry, ProjectYM, a resource hub for Catholic youth ministers.

Tony and Michael sat down to chat with CNA about all things follicular and fragrant:

How did you recognize that Catholic beard balm would even have a market?

Tony: We had a conference coming up, and I thought we could take it there and sell it to other Catholic Youth ministers. We knew a lot of those guys have beards...So that was kind of how it started.

Michael: It’s funny, Tony brought like one hundred beard balms to that event, and we all kind of laughed at him and said there’s no way we’re gonna sell those, there’s no way people will buy those. And within a matter of hours, we sold all of them. So it was sort of like oh wait a minute, there is a market for this.  



What’s up with Catholic guys and beards? So many Catholic guys I know have a beard going right now.

Tony:  I don’t think it’s a new thing, I think the real question is kind of like, what’s up with the lack of facial hair? That was really the change that happened at some point in the last couple hundred years – men stopped growing beards.

(Beards are) kind of a unique signifier of manliness. There’s not a lot that men get to do that show off our masculinity in a way that’s easy for us to do in our daily life. Like I have zero desire to go chop down a tree and cut it up into lumber, I’m not working in a coal mine. So there’s a little bit of it that comes down to a desire to display our masculinity in a way that’s appropriate for who we are today. Plus beards are just awesome and they look great.

Michael: I started mine because I was lazy and my wife somewhere along the road told me hey, you either need to grow it out all the way or you need to shave it. There was no larger plan in my mind.

Tony: There was always a larger plan in my mind. I always wanted my beard to be larger and larger.

Tell me about the different scents your balms have.

Tony: We have five different aromas, the original three were chrism, Franciscan, which is the unscented, natural ingredients, it’s a nod to the simplicity of Francis and the Franciscan community and their close connection with God’s creation.

The next one was Lectio, which was supposed to be evocative of the sweet smell of old books or old bibles, so it’s got amber, vanilla, and sandalwood in it.

We’ve got Holy Smokes, which is the incense one, so that’s frankincense, a little bit of myrrh and a touch of woodsmoke. I actually had somebody the other day who was wearing it on their beard and their pastor was like, did we get the good incense? But it was because the beard balm smelled better than the incense they normally buy.

We also did one that’s kind of (a nod) to Chesterton that is called Orthodoxy, that is pipe tobacco and hops, it’s a lighter scent but it smells really good.

Who are your favorite bearded saints?

Michael: I’m a big John the Baptist fan, he’s kind of a throwback. He was willing to be radical and out there, I think he’s probably top on my list.

I’m also a big fan of Cyril and Methodius, I’m somebody who really values evangelization, and I think St. Cyril and Methodius are perfect examples of that mission.

Tony: It’s hard to choose, but St. John Chrysostom, I knew he had a beard but his statement on fasting particularly is a modern concept that most Catholics understand very poorly. He has this (reflection) on fasting and not just fasting from food or meat but fasting from sin, really taking the time to remove sin from our life in an intentional way.

Padre Pio – amazing beard, amazing saint. Such a surprising saint I think for young people to hear about.

And then St. Max Kolbe is another one that I think is phenomenal, he grew his beard so that he could gain more respect in the culture that he was trying to minister to, and as soon as the Nazi’s came to attack he knew his beard would offend them, but he knew his habit would offend them more, so he offered to sacrifice his beard because he wasn’t going to sacrifice his commitment to God.



What has the overall response to Catholic Beard Balm been like?

Tony: It’s really been a cool extension of the New Evangelization. It’s fun how oftentimes humor and mirth lead us into that place of evangelizing in a way that the culture responds to.

Michael: One of the things I think that surprised us I think initially and going into Lent was how strong the devotion is of men through their beard. It’s part of who they are, so the fact that they can identify with other Catholic men through something they share I think has been really cool.

I think sometimes it gets dismissed as being superficial, but I think it’s really interesting that an attribute of their masculinity, an attribute of who they are is something that they can connect with other men through that.

Do have other products besides the beard balm?

Tony: We had a lot of women who were really upset that we didn’t have any products for women, so we made Little Flower lip balm. We have three handmade lip balms that are rose, citrus or peppermint flavored, and we use really high quality essential oils in those, and we try to avoid anything that’s not a natural ingredient wherever we can.

We're launching our third product line – I would say it’s more geared towards women, but it could work for men as well, just like beard balm could work on a woman’s beard as well.

We’re selling a lotion bar called Lumina, my wife came up with the idea, in honor of st. Philomena, just like the Little Flower in honor of St. Therese, and four different aromas for that. And then also soap.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Michael: Our heart for ministry trumps our desire for beard balm to be successful, so we love that beard balm has been so successful because it empowers and enables the ministry that we’re doing.

Tony: The dialogues we get to have online with people has been amazing – I got to explain the difference between adult and infant baptism through Catholic Balm Company on Facebook, so there’s a lot of really big things that come into it.

A lot of people don’t know that we’re an authentically Catholic company run by guys who have a real passion for ministry, but we’re not just making money, we’re excited about all the ways it’s allowed us to do more. 

 

This article was originally published on CNA Feb. 28, 2016.

Iraqi Christians endure despite persecution, Chaldean bishop says

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 08:04

Washington D.C., Jun 9, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Iraq’s Christians have suffered persecution for centuries, yet their faith has survived and the community will remain, provided their material needs are met, a Chaldean Catholic bishop has said.

“The story of suffering of Iraqi Christians is an ongoing phenomenon,” Bishop Bawai Soro, auxiliary bishop of the Chaldean Eparchy of Saint Peter the Apostle of San Diego, told CNA in an interview. “For two thousand years, it’s a story of suffering, a suffering Church,” he added, a “Church of the martyrs.”

Bishop Soro, a native of Iraq who came to the United States as a refugee in 1976, related of how his grandparents had told him of the massacre of Assyrian and Chaldean Christians in the region around the time of World War I, where hundreds of thousands of Assyrians in the Ottoman Empire were killed or dispersed by the new progressive government.  

“The same thing, the whole story was repeated again after 100 years,” he said. “But amazingly, if my grandparents survived this difficulty and were able to hand their faith to the next generations, this suffering generation will do the same.”

Bishop Soro spoke with CNA June 7 after a press conference on Capitol Hill for the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017, a bill that would let the U.S. distribute humanitarian aid directly to churches in Iraq and Syria so that it reaches Christian genocide victims there.

There have been many reports that U.S. aid is not reaching Christians, because either they are not in the U.N. refugee camps or the aid gets swallowed up in the bureaucracy of the Iraqi central or local governments. The bill, supported by Bishop Soro, would look to ensure that aid reaches those who need it most. The bill passed the U.S. House on Tuesday and will move to the Senate.

“The current situation of Christians in Iraq and Syria remains very fragile,” Bishop Soro stated at the press conference. “As a religious minority, Christians still suffer from remaining elements of radical Islamist groups and their policies.”

Christians in Iraq have drastically dwindled in number since the U.S. war in Iraq began in 2003, dropping from around 1.5 million to below 300,000.

After the Islamic State swept through northern Iraq in 2014, killing and displacing those Yazidis, Christians, Muslims, and others who refused to submit to their theocracy, refugee families fled east to Kurdistan, and have lived in temporary shelters around Erbil.

Their situation is an emergency, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the House panel on global human rights, stated at Wednesday’s press conference, as the private aid has been stretched to its limits and, according to Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, they are expected to face “severe food shortages.”

Christians have also been “undercut” by aid groups that “would like to be politically correct” and believe in helping all persons equally, Bishop Soro said. Christians and other minorities need more aid from these groups, he insisted, because they may not receive any international aid from the UN or countries like the U.S.

“I think the American Church has a mission to go out of the political correctness when helping Christians is concerned, and to address the needs of the Christians,” he insisted to CNA.

Christians in America also need to “continue the political pressure” and hold the U.S. government accountable on the equitable distribution of aid and “directly help the Christian communities,” he said.

Yet, although it is vital for the immediate needs of Iraq’s Christians, they must also have the means to support themselves and live comfortably in the future with their homes rebuilt and with access to water, electricity, and health care.

Also, as citizens of Iraq they must be able to enjoy all the rights they are entitled to, he continued. “After the short-term financial needs are met, constitutional freedom and liberties are needed in stabilizing the Christians in Iraq and Syria for the long-term,” he said.

It is vital to keep Christians in Iraq because they “are, and have always been, the founders of educational and health care institutions” in the region, he stated on Wednesday.

“They often were the peacemakers and the catalysts of reforms,” he continued.

“As a religious minority and as a peace-loving people, they, and they alone, can once more bring together all the major segments of the Iraqi people, Shiites, Sunni, Yazidis, the Kurds, and the rest of the minorities. As a helping agent that delicately and serenely heals the present and offers a promising future.”

Oregon's advance directive bill is deceptive and deadly, critics warn

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 02:08

Salem, Ore., Jun 9, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Oregon Senate has passed an advance directive bill that critics say would allow the starvation and dehydration of patients who have dementia or mental illness.

Earlier this week, Oregon Right to Life executive director Gayle Atteberry said the bill was “written in a deceiving manner.” She said its goal was “to save money at the expense of starving and dehydrating dementia and mentally ill patients to death.”

S.B. 494 passed the Oregon Senate by four votes on June 8. The bill would remove existing safeguards that protect conscious patients’ access to ordinary food and water even after they have lost the ability to make decisions about their care.

The bill was drafted in response to the case of Ashland, Ore. resident Nora Harris, who suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She lost the ability to communicate and the fine motor skills needed to feed herself. She would eat and drink only with assisted spoon feeding.

Harris’ husband had filed a suit to stop the spoon feeding but lost his case in July 2016. Harris herself was represented by a court-appointed attorney, who said that that refusing to help Harris eat would be against state law. The law and Harris’ advance directive authorized only the withdrawal of artificial means of hydration and nutrition. Jackson County Circuit Judge Patricia Crain agreed, the Medford Mail-Tribune reports.

Oregon Right to Life objected to efforts to change the advance directive system.

“If the bill passes, it could allow a court to interpret a request on an advance directive to refuse tube feeding to also mean you don’t want to receive spoon feeding,” the group said in February. “This is not tube feeding or an IV. This is basic, non-medical care for conscious patients.”

Current safeguards limit the authority of the healthcare representative, ensuring a patient is able to receive basic care and their life is not ended, except under certain limited end-of-life conditions.

Bill 494 would effectively render these safeguards null, critics said.

“It doesn’t matter that the bill doesn’t explicitly state this or that this is not the principal intent of the bill, it likely will be the real effect,” said Colm Willis, a Republican candidate for Congress, in testimony to the Senate Rules Committee on behalf of Oregon Right to Life on June 5.

Willis said the bill creates a situation where a person’s previously indicated intentions “may not be reflected in the decisions made for you when you can no longer make those decisions for yourself.”

He noted that even when someone has lost the ability to make complex medical decisions, he or she often retains the ability to decide whether or not to eat.

That person’s will should be “respected as long as possible,” he said.

Oregon Right to Life’s Atteberry told CNA the bill would now move on to a vote at the House of Representatives, where it may have a harder time passing than the Senate, because of a greater number of pro-life representatives.

She said the group would now focus its efforts on asking people to contact their representatives to voice their opposition to the bill.

Missouri governor calls special session to protect St Louis pro-lifers

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 17:47

Jefferson City, Mo., Jun 8, 2017 / 03:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Missouri’s Gov. Eric Greitens has called a special session of the legislature to pass stronger legal protections for pro-life groups, like pregnancy centers he charged are “under attack” by a controversial St. Louis ordinance.

“Our faith community and volunteers do incredible work to support people in need. And there's few finer examples than the work pregnancy care centers do across our state,” Greitens said in a video posted to his Facebook page June 7.

He said his pro-life stand was motivated in part from witnessing “the value of true love and compassion in one of Mother Teresa’s homes for the destitute and dying.”

The governor’s action follows the February enactment of a controversial ordinance in the City of St. Louis which has drawn strong pro-life opposition. Opponents said the law would bar any individual or entity, including Christian organizations, from refusing to sell or rent property to individuals or businesses that promote or provide abortions. It could create the risk of lawsuits for Catholic schools with a policy against hiring abortion supporters.

The ordinance creates a protected status for anyone who has “made a decision related to abortion,” even in cases where the abortion was not their own. The protections apply to corporations and all businesses, not only individuals.

The St. Louis’ archdiocesan school system, a pro-life pregnancy center called Our Lady’s Inn, and a Catholic-owned private business are among the parties to a lawsuit challenging the ordinance.

Last month, Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis said the archdiocese will not comply with the “vile bill” which he said marks the city’s “embrace of the culture of death.”

Greitens was also among the ordinance's critics.

He praised pregnancy centers’ pro-life work with pregnant women, new mothers, and newborns.

“In the city of St. Louis, some of these pregnancy care centers are under attack,” his video message said. “There’s a new city law making St. Louis an abortion sanctuary city – where pregnancy care centers can't work the way they're supposed to. Politicians are trying to make it illegal, for example, for pro-life organizations to say that they just want to hire pro-life Missourians.”
 
The governor said the Missouri Senate failed to act on a bill that would address the measure, which prompted the need for the special session.

Another focus of the special session will be what the governor called “common-sense health and safety standards in all medical facilities.” These include proposed requirements such as annual safety inspections in abortion clinics and mandatory plans for abortion complications.

The governor also advocated laws that “will stop abortion clinics from interfering with emergency responders.” He contended that abortion clinics currently can tell an ambulance to come slowly, not to use lights and sirens, or go around to the back of the clinic.

According to the governor, a court decision weakened health standards for abortion clinics.

In April a federal judge, citing a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision on a similar law in Texas, struck down a Missouri law that required abortion clinics to have the same standards as similar outpatient surgical centers. The law also required abortionists to have hospital privileges.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is appealing the ruling.

Allison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, charged that the governor’s action was intended “to shame women for their personal medical decisions and make basic reproductive health care harder to access.”

Susan Klein, legislative liaison for Missouri Right to Life, backed the legislation, saying it would allow legislators to pass “a life-saving bill to protect women, unborn babies and reaffirm our religious liberties so that Pregnancy Resource Centers and Faith Communities from all denominations are not forced to participate in abortion.”

Calif. Supreme Court weighs ballot measure to hasten death penalty

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 13:55

Sacramento, Calif., Jun 8, 2017 / 11:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A ballot measure intended to speed up the application of the death penalty is now being challenged before the California Supreme Court.

For its part, the California Catholic Conference has repeated its warning that a speedy death penalty risks further injustice.

“The last three Popes have said that the death penalty is no longer needed,” Steve Pehanich, director of communication and advocacy at the California Catholic Conference, told CNA. “We don’t think it’s needed any longer in California. We have supported the end of its use, and we continue to do so.”

The Catholic conference opposed Prop. 66, whose fate is now before the state’s Supreme Court. The court heard oral arguments over the ballot initiative's constitutionality June 6.

The ballot measure imposes time limits on death penalty reviews and requires death row inmates to work and pay restitution to victims. It requires attorneys who are qualified for the most serious appeals in non-capital appeal cases to take appeals in death penalty cases.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit before the Supreme Court argue that some of the requirements for appeals, like the five-year limit, are simply impossible to meet. University of California-Berkeley School of Law professor Elizabeth Semel told Sacramento’s Capital Public Radio the proposition could violate the constitutional separation of powers by taking away court authority.

Backers of the measure argued against objections about its practicality, saying it should be given a chance to work.

The California Catholic Conference has not taken a position on the merits of the lawsuit. However, Pehanich said Prop. 66’s stated goal was “to speed up executions.”

“There are very good reasons why you have to take your time on this. You don’t want to be wrong. You don’t want to execute an innocent person,” he said. “Speeding them up just makes matters worse. It makes the likelihood of executing innocent people all the greater.”

The Catholic conference strongly backed a different amendment in the 2016 election: Proposition 62, which promised to end the death penalty and reduce death sentences to life in prison without parole. That measure was favored by only 46.8 percent of voters.

However, 50.9 percent of voters backed Prop. 66.

Pehanich said there was political strategy behind two competing ballot measures.

“Proposition 66 was really put on the ballot to confuse the situation,” he said. “It’s a very common technique in California ballot politics. If you don’t like the proposition, for a small amount of money you can get a different proposition. People look at the two and just scratch their heads. They don’t vote for either one.”

California’s Supreme Court has 90 days to issue a ruling on Prop. 66.

Can the Catholic Church help an addicted generation?

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 13:31

Greenwich, Connecticut, Jun 8, 2017 / 11:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Young Americans are dying at a rate not seen since the Vietnam War.

But they are not dying in combat - they’re dying of the effects of drug overdoses, alcoholism, mental illness and suicide, at a rate 200 percent higher than the 1980s in much of the United States. 

A recent report from the U.S. surgeon general estimates that more than 27 million Americans have problems with prescription drugs, illegal drugs or alcohol. But just a fraction of those people, only 10 percent, get meaningful help.

And it’s not just substance addictions that are on the rise. Process addictions, related to behaviors, have also seen recent spikes. Pornography addiction in particular has reached what some view as crisis levels.

A 2011 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information estimated that roughly 47 percent of all American adults struggle with at least one of the 11 most common forms of process or substance addictions.

The prevalence of all kinds of addiction likely mean that most people in the pews of a Catholic Church on any given Sunday have experienced addiction in themselves or in a loved one.

So what is the Church doing to address the problem?

Understanding addiction

Dr. Gregory Bottaro is a clinical psychologist and the founder and director of Catholic Psych Institute in Connecticut. He frequently sees clients who are dealing with either substance or process addictions.

Part of the problem of addiction is a widespread misunderstanding of addiction as a lack of intellectual or spiritual willpower, Dr. Bottaro said.

“You have to recognize that there is an actual brain disease in effect,” he told CNA.

“So as much as you can sit and talk through the issues, you’re dealing with real brain chemicals that are out of balance, and a real disease that has occurred in the brain, so approaching it from a number of different angles is very important.”

Behaviors or substance abuse have to reach certain diagnostic marks to be considered addictions, Dr. Bottaro said. Generally, an addiction is occurring when a person is compulsively dependent on a substance or behavior, and continues to do it despite negative consequences and a desire to stop.

And just like addicted individuals can build up tolerances to substances and require more to achieve the same effect, process addictions also show tolerance buildups, such as when a pornography addict requires more hardcore viewing to achieve the same release.  

Erik Vagenius is the founder of Substance Abuse Ministry Scripts, or SAM Scripts, a faith and scripture based ministry designed to help ease the process from recognition of addiction to seeking professional help.

Vagenius, who has been involved in addiction ministry for decades and is a recovered alcoholic himself, said that the first step to solving the problem is recognizing that there is one.

“I firmly believe so much for this (ministry) to be part of the church,” he told CNA. “(T)o have a church community that recognizes that they’re behind you, just as they would be if somebody had cancer, helps to destigmatize this thing.”

“Unfortunately the reactions I sometimes get are well, this isn’t really a Catholic problem. But I’ll bet everybody in the pew on any given day has had some relationship with the disease of addiction,” he added.  

What does faith have to do with it?

Faith has long been a tenet of many addiction recovery programs. One of the most popular, Alcoholics Anonymous has strong Christian roots because it’s co-founder, Bill Wilson, had a spiritual awakening after he was hospitalized for his drinking in 1934. He joined the Oxford Group, a nondenominational Christian movement popular in the U.S. and Europe at the time, and helped found AA in 1935.

The AA tenets of self-examination, acknowledgment of character defects and restitution for harm done to others grew out of Oxford Group teachings.

Today, allegiance to a specific creed is not required for membership, though the group still considers itself a spiritual, albeit denominationally non-preferential group. Four of the 12 steps in the AA program mention God directly, and the 12th calls for a "spiritual awakening as a result of these steps."

Vagenius also considers addiction a spiritual battle.

“We’re dealing with a spiritual disease, and that’s why the Church needs to be involved with it,” he said.

The website for SAM Scripts recognizes that “addiction is a spiritual illness that disconnects a person: from self, loved ones, and God. SAM's mission is to help these individuals reconnect through education, prevention, referral, and family support.”

Dr. Bottaro said he also incorporates faith in his recovery programs for addicts.

He said he was especially inspired after hearing a talk by Catholic speaker Christopher West, who specializes in Theology of the Body.

“He said basically we have this desire, and our desires are insatiable. So God made us with this desire for more more more, and with that desire we can do one of three things...we can become a stoic, and addict or a mystic.”

A stoic ignores the desire or tries to repress it and pretend it doesn’t exist. An addict tries to fulfill their desires with the things of this world, and a mystic “directs their desires towards God, and that’s where we enter into that mysticism by transcending the finitude of this life,” he said.

That’s still an abstract way of looking at a very real disease, Dr. Bottaro said. However, there are several Catholic programs that offer concrete assistance to struggling addicts of all levels.

Catholic recovery programs

On the less intensive side, Dr. Bottaro has developed an 8-week online program that anyone can access from home called Catholic Mindfulness. It adds the Catholic understanding of abandonment to Divine Providence to a traditional mindfulness approach to healing.

“If you look into what mindfulness is, you’re basically training your brain to know that you’re safe, because the anxiety response is how God made us to react to danger,” he said. “The problem is we overuse that...we activate our anxiety response, but most of the time we’re not actually in danger. So mindfulness is basically paying attention to what’s actually real right now to convince your brain that you’re safe, and that corrects the brain chemistry.”

“The Catholic perspective as to why we’re safe is that we have a Father who loves us and who always keeps us in his hands, and we have a reason to trust that everything is going to be ok.”

Vagenius refers to those in his ministry as “SAM teams” who share their time and talent, typically through talks and meetings, to offering hope, healing and reconciliation to those touched by addiction. SAM teams provide a safe, confidential place for people to seek help and referral at the parish level.

Team members do not have to be in recovery but need to be acquainted with addiction, and must be approved by their pastor.  

The ministry’s exact format varies from parish to parish, depending on those involved and the needs of the faith community. Vagenius’ trainings provide a basic format, and the parish SAM team develops its own dynamic from that outline based on specific needs.

Depending on the person, more intensive work may be necessary, including outpatient psychotherapy and group counseling, or even residential programs.

St. Gregory Retreat Center is a Catholic residential program for adults struggling with substance abuse located in Adair, Iowa.

The program offers separate residential facilities for men and women and offers a “holistic approach that combines the very best research in psychology, health, social support, and other methodologies.”

The program targets addiction behavior in four different aspects of life: biological, psychological, social, and spiritual.

Besides counseling, social activities and physical exercise, daily Mass and regular access to the sacraments are part of the residents’ normal routine.

Natalie Cataldo, Director of Admissions at St. Gregory, told CNA that incorporating spirituality in the recovery process has proven to be very effective.

“Research shows that people are more successful in overcoming addiction when they have an active spirituality in their lives,” she told CNA in an e-mail interview.

“Most people who come to us have had not a great past. With the sacrament of reconciliation, our guests are able to ask for forgiveness... Allowing them to feel like they are getting rid of the past, making new good habits for the future that they can start using and making better choices.  It also allows for self reflection and self evaluation.”

For those in post-recovery, there are programs available to help ease people back into their normal routine.

Dr. Bottaro works at one such facility, Ender’s Island in Connecticut, a residential program for young men “with or without faith” who are recently out of recovery. The program provides a community in which to practice the 12 steps and support for a better transition into regular life, as well as daily Mass and regular access to the sacraments.

The biggest barriers to seeking help for addiction can be denial on the part of the individual and a perceived stigma in seeking help. Increased education and understanding from everyone in the Church can help break these barriers, Dr. Bottaro said.

“It’s important to have support and understanding that there are other ways to fight these battles than just prayer, or just kind of sucking it up and hanging in there and seeing how far you can go before you get help,” he said.

“Once you’re looking for help, there’s a wide spectrum.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA Dec. 16, 2016.

Delaware legislature votes to drop restrictions on abortion

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 02:08

Dover, Del., Jun 8, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In Delaware, lawmakers’ vote to pass a bill that would strike down almost all remaining abortion restrictions drew strong criticism from pro-life advocates, who warned it would provide safe harbor for Kermit Gosnell-style abortionists.

“Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are using Delaware as a testing ground for their extreme legislation to ensure abortionists can carry out abortions without limit – even on healthy children hours from birth,” charged Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

Under Delaware’s current law, which was rendered inactive by federal laws and court decisions, abortion is allowed only in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, if there is a substantial risk the unborn child would be born with serious disabilities, or if the child was conceived in rape or incest, the Associated Press reports.

Current law also bars abortion after 20 weeks into pregnancy. It requires parental consent for girls under 18, and written consent and a 24-hour waiting period for a woman seeking abortion. Women seeking abortion must also receive a full explanation of fetal development, the abortion procedure and its effects, and reasonable alternatives to abortion.

These measures are stripped under the bill. Instead, the bill would allow abortion without restriction before viability, and would allow abortion after viability if a doctor determines it is necessary to protect a woman’s life or health, or that the baby is not likely to survive without extraordinary measures.

The Susan B. Anthony List and other critics charged that the bill would make abortion legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy.

The bill passed the Senate by one vote in May. It passed the House June 6 by a vote of 22-16.

Democratic Gov. John Carney will sign the bill, a spokesman said.

Ellen Barrosse, a pro-life leader in Delaware and a Republican National Committeewoman, invoked the crimes of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist convicted of murdering three infants who had survived abortion at a legal abortion clinic that went without a health inspection for 17 years. Gosnell would also work in Delaware, but did not face legal charges there.

“This bill would open the floodgates to Gosnell-style ‘houses of horrors’ abortion clinics in Delaware,” Barrosse said.

She charged that Delaware women have “suffered at the hands of unscrupulous abortionists.”

The Susan B. Anthony List cited other abortionists who have faced disciplinary action in the state as well as a 2013 report from ABC Philadelphia that two nurses at the Planned Parenthood of Delaware abortion clinic quit their jobs and alleged unsafe, unsanitary conditions and “a meat-market style of assembly-line abortions” at the facility.

Barrosse cited a trend favoring abortion restrictions in 20 U.S. states, saying: “Delaware is headed backwards.”

Dannenfelser, who chaired the Donald Trump presidential campaign’s pro-life coalition and its Catholic advisory board, contended that abortion advocates are “running scared” given the presence of “a pro-life president in the White House and already one pro-life [Supreme Court] justice nominated and confirmed.”

On June 6, the Susan B. Anthony List announced details of a nearly six-figure campaign to urge legislators in the Delaware House of Representatives to oppose the bill, which passed the House the same day. The campaign included a radio ad, digital campaign, direct mail, constituent phone calls, and a rally.

Why this bill could be crucial for Iraq's beleaguered Christians

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 18:55

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2017 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a myriad of reports of United States humanitarian aid not reaching Christian genocide survivors in Iraq, their advocates in the U.S. are hoping that will change very soon.

“There is an emergency here,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the House panel on global human rights, stated at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday regarding emergency relief for Iraq and Syria genocide victims.

“We’re not asking for new money,” he said June 7. “We’re asking to make sure the money that’s in the pot is provided to those who have been left out and left behind for about three years.”
 
After forces of the Islamic State swept through Syria and Iraq in 2014, the U.S. has sent humanitarian aid for the victims of the caliphate, who were driven from their homes by the hundreds of thousands. Many fled to refugee camps or have been living in temporary shelters, at risk of disease and malnutrition or starvation.

However, many Christians reportedly avoided refugee camps because of the security situation, and U.S. aid that was sent to the central government of Iraq or local governments has not reached Christians. There has been an “appalling lack of equitable distribution of U.S. humanitarian assistance when it came to the Christians and the Yazidis,” Smith said.

Thus, Christian genocide survivors in Iraq are almost completely dependent on NGOs and aid groups. The Knights of Columbus alone has sent over $12 million for their aid.

That money has been “squeezed to get every ounce of efficacy out of it to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, provide shelter, and of course to provide medicines,” Smith said.

However, the money from the private sector is “not enough,” he insisted, saying that Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil has warned of “severe food shortages” if nothing is done.

Before Christmas, Smith toured the region around Erbil where many Christian families are living after they fled from the Islamic State.

“When I went to Erbil with my staff and a few other individuals, I can tell you I was shocked that we were not supplying the kind of assistance to these women, children, and men families,” he explained on Wednesday. He was told by the consulate that a camp for displaced persons a 10-minute drive away was unsafe to tour.

“It was not dangerous. It was filled with little kids and young families,” he said. “They had not even been there to do an assessment.”

So, Reps. Smith and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) co-sponsored a bill that passed the U.S. House Tuesday evening and is set to move on to the Senate, which would help ensure that the U.S. aid can go to churches and their auxiliaries that serve Christian refugees.

The Trump administration has reportedly signaled its support for the bill, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act.

“The State Department would not allow any U.S. dollars to flow to church organizations. And this legislation allows for that,” Eshoo explained on Wednesday. “It is so essential to work with those that are on the ground who know exactly where the dollars should go.”

The money is there, Smith insisted, noting that Congress set aside a “huge pot of money” for beleaguered minorities in the recent omnibus bill. However, it has to reach the churches that are on the ground helping Christians.

A 2012 GAO report found that USAID had failed to show how it was fulfilling a 2008 mandate that funds be “provided” for aid to religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq during the war.

“I am still trying to track, through the GAO, dollars that the Congress appropriated many years ago at the height of the Iraq War,” Eshoo said. “And that all went through the State Department and their agencies, and we’re still trying to figure out where that money went.”

It is vital that more aid reaches Christians and other minorities in Iraq to ensure that they remain there, advocates insist.

Christians are examples of forgiveness and can help with the reconciliation process between different ethnic and religious parts of the region, and the preservation of minorities can help ensure “pluralism and stability” in Iraq, the Religious Freedom Institute explained.

Texas bishops decry state's new immigration law

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 18:40

Brownsville, Texas, Jun 7, 2017 / 04:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two Texas bishops have defended from charges of fear mongering the opponents of a new law which targets sanctuary cities for immigrants, explaining that the bill draws little distinction between criminals and undocumented immigrants.

The law in question, Senate Bill 4, was signed into law May 7. It will take effect in September, and requires local government and law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law. Cities which do not comply face fines and the withholding of state funding.

The law also allows law enforcement to question the immigration status of those they detain, as well as the victims and witnesses of crimes. This provision had led to fears that undocumented immigrants will be less likely to report crimes.

“The public debate often makes it sound as if all immigrants are criminals because they are here without proper documentation. Overstaying a visa is not a criminal offense; it is a civil offense against a federal statute,” Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio and Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville wrote in a June 4 column.

“Yes, immigrants without valid documents have infracted federal statutes; but they are not justly lumped together with human traffickers, drug dealers and murderers,” they maintained.

The column, which appeared in the McAllen-based daily The Monitor, is a response to a previous column by Governor Greg Abbott (R) which appeared in the San Antonio Express-News and in The Monitor.

The governor had charged that “Whether driven by misunderstanding or by purposeful fear mongering, those who are inflaming unrest place all who live in Texas at greater risk.”

The bishops said there is more to the unrest than misunderstanding, and that it is SB 4 which is causing fear among immigrant communities.

“This new Texas state law encourages the notion that the immigrant community is defined by the criminals in our midst – instead of defined by the fact that most immigrants are working families with children. These things generate fear in the immigrant community.”

Archbishop García-Siller and Bishop Flores are worried that the option for law enforcement to question immigration status will lead to aggressive interpretations, and that “pretexts will be invented so that [people] can be stopped and asked about their immigration status.”

Noting that while the law “prohibits discrimination and profiling,” the bishops said that “the immigrant poor are not likely to have the resources or the counsel needed to defend themselves.”

“People get stopped, and they are desperately afraid. They immediately wonder about their children, and about their own safety if deported. It is this uncertainty and potential panic at the moment of questioning that breeds fear and that hurts the community fabric.”

Any law enforcement agencies that are more aggressive in questioning immigration status will undermine trust in all law enforcement persons, the bishops noted.

“And does not such uncertainty make it less likely that crimes will be reported?”

Archbishop García-Siller and Bishop Flores noted that “We are a nation of laws, as the governor says; unfortunately, not all our laws are good laws. Bad laws have bad effects.”

They stated, “we will step up our efforts to inform persons of their rights, including the right to remain silent, and to make available the best advice about what to do if you are stopped and are without valid documentation.”

“We will also work to repeal SB 4, or correct the most injurious aspects of this law. And we encourage all who oppose this law to work together in strenuous and peaceful ways toward this same end.”

 

Increasing homelessness a worrisome trend for Archbishop Gomez

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 13:33

Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 7, 2017 / 11:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of Los Angeles has urged a prayerful and prudent response to a housing crisis in his city, relating the problem to the link between human and environmental ecology.

“The housing crisis is a reminder that in God’s creation, there is an ecology of the human person and an ecology of the natural environment. We cannot think about the one without the other,”Archbishop José Gomez said in a June 6 column for the Angelus.

His column follows outcry from fellow bishops and Catholic leaders who have criticized the Trump administration for withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement. The 2015 accord was signed by 191 countries dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Last Thursday, President Donald Trump announced that the US would exit the deal, calling the agreement destructive to workers and business interests in the nation.

Archbishop Gomez said the effects of climate change not only have a negative effect on the environment, but also the people who live in it.

He cited a report by the Los Angeles Times which stated the city has seen a 23 percent increase in homelessness since last year.

The archbishop is concerned that the growing number represents a widening gap “between those who have what they need for a dignified life and those who do not.”

“I worry that we are getting accustomed to these sights in our city. We cannot allow ourselves to accept a Los Angeles where sidewalks become permanent residences for our neighbors.”

He said that “the lack of affordable housing is directly related to ‘the human ecology.’ This is true in the poorest nations of the world, but sadly it is also true here in the wealthiest.”

He continued to explain that “human life and human nature must be protected and cared for” and this means defending the environment as well by not participating in a “throw away culture”.

“The natural environment must also be protected and cared for. We are not put here to consume what we need and throw away what we do not, with no regard for the health of our communities or the needs of future generations.”

“God made this earth, not for its own sake, but to be a home for the human family. The good things of creation are meant to be shared, developed and used for the good of all of his children.”

Archbishop Gomez ended the column by asking the Holy Spirit to “inspire us to do what is right and guide us to find creative pathways to renew the face of the earth.”

Nun urges Catholic prayer breakfast attendees to keep the faith

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 12:43

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2017 / 10:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- To preserve their future and reveal the life found within the Church, Catholics in the United States must not forget their faith, but should find hope within it.

These were the words of an Iraqi-born nun to hundreds of political and religious leaders gathered for the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday. The annual event was begun in 2004 as a response to St. John Paul II's call for a “new evangelization.”

“I believe in the future of our country and our Church as long as we keep our roots grounded in the soil of Grace that comes from God,” said Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart at a June 6 speech in Washington, D.C.

Originally from Iraq, Mother Olga is now an American citizen and lives in Boston, where she founded the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth in 2011. She was raised in the Assyrian Church of the East, and was received into the Catholic Church in 2005.

Mother Olga warned the several hundred Catholics gathered not to forget their religious identity, but to embrace it.

“A tree with no roots does not blossom. When we forget where we came from, and where we have been planted and what we have to do to in order to flourish, we can lose hope,” she said.  “However, when we are living in hope, we find the strength and courage to journey forward, helped by the Lord and with others.”

Fellow keynote speakers at the prayer breakfast were Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese of the Military Services, USA, and Vice President Mike Pence, who was raised Catholic.

At the breakfast, Mother Olga spoke of her time ministering to prisoners in Iraqi prisons, many of whom were kept in cells underground and whose family members rarely visited. Many of the prisoners Mother Olga met asked why she visited, and why she did other acts of charity during the four wars she experienced growing up, such as gathering the bodies of the dead to give them a proper burial.

“My answer to them was always the same,” she said: “my love for God and my love for his children.”

Mother Olga recounted her experience moving to the United States and learning about the religious background of the pilgrims and other colonists who founded the country – particularly of their search for religious freedom.  

“The true democracy and the strength of our democracy should not only be seen as an expression of the political minds of the people, but also in our embrace of our own identity as Americans and appreciation of the religious roots of our foundation of a nation,” she commented.

However, Mother Olga commented that she is concerned by trends within her new country that belie "a hesitation to speak about God, even in the simplest ways, such as saying 'God bless you' when somebody sneezes.”

She urged the Catholics gathered to look at the examples of the American Saints, Blesseds, Venerables, and Servants of God, as well as the example of holy men and women alive today who are “serving in an ordinary, hidden way.”

“They are the true expressions and finest fruit of the American religious expression.”

“May our gathering today as people who love God and this country be a renewed commitment to renew the spirit of cooperation which has accomplished so much good through the history of our nation," Mother Olga prayed.

"May the fruit of today's prayer for our nation be a grace for our people to experience a new birth of freedom, freedom planted with faith, grounded in hope, nourished by love in the soil of truth."

Archbishop Broglio’s address also highlighted to the importance of the Catholic faith for Americans. To do so, he recounted the story of  Father Joseph Lafleur, a military chaplain who died while helping others escape from a damaged prison ship during World War II.

"If we were to survey the history of the Church, and look at the lives of the saints, we would discover men and women who built on their virtues, to reflect the authenticity of their faith. The same thing has an impact on the nation," he said.

The archbishop expounded on the importance of the virtues, and how they strengthen and form the foundation of Christian life.

Quoting Cardinal James Hickey, who was Archbishop of Washington from 1980 to 2000, the archbishop said that “a good Catholic is a good American because the practice of virtue also leads to good citizenship and there is no dichotomy between faith and life if we cultivate and practice virtue.”

“Each of us has the potential to rebuild our society and our world if we cultivate authentic virtue,” he added.  “Our virtue will give us strength and wisdom if we are open to it.”

Pence's keynote address encouraged those attending to be a “voice for the voiceless”, after proclaiming that “life is winning” in the United States through a variety of pro-life initiatives.

Also speaking at the event was Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, who gave the opening invocation for the event. The bishop began by reading a letter from Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, who was unable to attend.

"Let us also be mindful of so many of our brothers and sisters around the world who continue to face persecution and suffering on account of their faith," read Cardinal Wuerl's message, speaking to the persecution Christians face in the Middle East and elsewhere. "As our Holy Father, Pope Francis said, 'We must not resign ourselves to thinking of a Middle East without Christians who for 2,000 years have confessed the name of Jesus and have been fully integrated as citizens into the social cultural and religious life of the nations to which they belong.'"

Bishop Dorsonville also gave a benediction asking for the strength of the Holy Spirit and the visibility of Catholics’ faith and prayer for all persons, including the immigrants, homeless, and refugees.

“As we proclaim the good news of the Gospel: love, hope and faith,” the bishop prayed. “We continue to build up this world, not just so that we are right in this life, but that we are right in the other.”

Mythologizing the devil won't end well, Archbishop Chaput warns

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 02:04

Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 7, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A society that relies on reason and technology, without faith, risks forgetting God and making a deal with the devil, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia has warned.

“We’re in a struggle for souls. Our adversary is the devil. And while Satan is not God’s equal and doomed to final defeat, he can do bitter harm in human affairs,” Archbishop Chaput said. “The first Christians knew this. We find their awareness written on nearly every page of the New Testament.”

Writing in his June 5 column for Catholic Philly, titled “Sympathy for the Devil”, he said: “The modern world makes it hard to believe in the devil. But it treats Jesus Christ the same way. And that’s the point.”

The archbishop noted a medieval Christian saying, “no devil, no Redeemer.” When the devil is denied, it is difficult to explain why Christ came to suffer and die for humankind.

“The devil, more than anyone, appreciates this irony, i.e., that we can’t fully understand the mission of Jesus without him,” he said. “And he exploits this to his full advantage. He knows that consigning him to myth inevitably sets in motion our same treatment of God.”

The archbishop’s column drew on the life of Leszek Kolakowski, a onetime critic of the Catholic Church who was a leading Marxist in communist-ruled Poland before being exiled. He later became an admirer of St. John Paul II.

In 1987, Kolakowski delivered a lecture at Harvard, saying, “when a culture loses its sacred sense, it loses all sense.”

“Evil is continuous throughout human experience,” the scholar said. “The point is not how to make one immune to it, but under what conditions one may identify and restrain the devil.”

Continuing this theme, Archbishop Chaput reflected on the story of Faust, the intellectual and scholar who sells his soul to the devil to learn the secrets of the universe.

“Faust doesn’t come to God’s creation as a seeker after truth, beauty, and meaning,” the archbishop said. “He comes impatient to know, the better to control and dominate, with a delusion of his own entitlement, as if such knowledge should be his birthright. A prisoner of his own vanity, Faust would rather barter away his soul than humble himself before God.”

“Without faith there can be no understanding, no knowledge, no wisdom,” Archbishop Chaput said. “We need both faith and reason to penetrate the mysteries of creation and the mysteries of our own lives.”

A society that relies on mastery of reason and its products like science and technology, but does not have faith, “has made a Faustian bargain with the (very real) devil that can only lead to despair and self-destruction.”

“Such a culture has gained the world with its wealth, power and material success. But it has forfeited its soul,” Archbishop Chaput warned.

Speak up for the voiceless, Pence encourages Catholic prayer breakfast

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 14:13

Washington D.C., Jun 6, 2017 / 12:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- United States Vice President Mike Pence exhorted those in attendance at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday to continue to be a “voice for the voiceless”, after proclaiming that “life is winning” in the nation.

“Life is winning in America. Life is winning through the steady advance of science that continues to illuminate more and more when life begins,”  Pence told the audience in Washington, D.C., June 6.

He added that the pro-life cause is advancing also “through the generosity of millions of adoptive families” and “through the compassion of caregivers and volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations.”

Pence addressed an estimated crowd of 1,300 at the 13th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast attended by many Catholic leaders including Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, U.S.A., and Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington.

The vice president stated: “I believe we’ve come to a pivotal moment in the life of our nation, and indeed, the life of the world. The Catholic community in America has made an enormous difference in the life of this nation.”

“And at this moment, I urge you to continue to stand up, to speak out, to continue to be that voice for the voiceless that the Church has been throughout its history, continue to be the hands and feet of our Savior, reaching in with love and compassion, embracing the dignity of all people of every background and every experience.”

Pence also reflected on the importance of daily prayer, saying that “in these challenging times I encourage you to take time every day to pray” with confidence, insisting that there is “so much need for healing” today.

The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast has taken place each year since 2004 as a response to St. John Paul II’s call for a “new evangelization.” Political leaders are invited to attend and speak, but the event is non-partisan.

Past keynote speakers have included Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship; House Speaker Paul Ryan; the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; and former US President George W. Bush.

Earlier on Tuesday morning, Archbishop Broglio and Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart, founder of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, addressed the audience.

Archbishop Broglio told those present to remember the virtues as the key to living heroic lives and being good citizens.

“The practice of virtue also leads to good citizenship,” he said, noting that there is “no dichotomy between faith and life if we practice good virtue.”

“Each of us has the potential to rebuild our society and our world if we cultivate authentic virtue,” he continued.

Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, introduced Pence by saying that the U.S. needs a “new national political consensus” built on faith.

He added that “the times require men and women of prayer and humility, courage and conviction, leaders who can help bring healing to our nation.”

Pence began his keynote address by expressing his sorrow on behalf of the administration at the recent terror attacks in London that killed seven and injured 48, after attackers drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge, disembarked from the vehicle, and stabbed other persons in the vicinity on Saturday.

Pence also mentioned Monday’s hostage situation in Melbourne, Aus., in which a gunman was killed in a shootout with police and several officers were injured, according to the BBC.

“Our hearts break for the families and the victims,” Pence said. “They have our prayers. They have our unwavering resolve.”

Pence, one of six children, was baptized and raised Catholic, but said in October’s vice presidential debate that “my Christian faith became real for me when I made a personal decision for Christ when I was a freshman in college.”

He referred to himself as a “born-again Evangelical-Catholic” in a 1994 interview, and began attending an Evangelical megachurch with his family in the 1990s. He now says in public that he is a Christian.

Pence recalled on Tuesday that he received the Sacrament of Confirmation as a youth, with the name “Michael Richard Christopher Pence.” He also noted how “my Catholic faith poured an eternal foundation in my life” during his childhood in Indiana, and joked that he spent “eight years of hard time in a Catholic school,” the “beneficiary of an extraordinary Catholic education.”

“My own faith journey has taken me and my family in a different direction,” he said on Tuesday. Pence has not revealed which church he regularly attends. He stated Tuesday that he had “just attended Mass this weekend with my mom in Chicago.”

“My mom would be so proud,” he said of his speaking at the Catholic prayer breakfast, adding that “this honestly feels like coming home to me.”

He focused some of his speech on persecuted Christians worldwide, maintaining that the Trump administration is committed to promoting and protecting the freedom of religion. He said the administration “stands with those who are persecuted for their faith around the world” and “stands with the most vulnerable, the aged, the infirm, and the unborn.”

Pence also cited President Donald Trump’s executive order on religious freedom, issued last month, as an “action to protect men and women of faith in the public square.”

The order, which granted “regulatory relief” to religious organizations fighting the previous administration’s contraception mandate, was nonetheless criticized by certain religious freedom advocates as being not broad enough. One chief criticism was that it failed to protect persons and institutions sued for discrimination for not supporting same-sex marriage.

Pence also mentioned Trump’s May 24 meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, saying the president and the Pope had a “lengthy and meaningful discussion about issues facing our world, about how our nation and the Church can work together.”

In particular, one area of collaboration could be to counter “the persecution of people of faith across the wider world,” he said on Tuesday, noting recent violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt as well as the genocide of Christians in Iraq and Syria. “I believe that ISIS is guilty of nothing short of genocide,” he said of the terror group the Islamic State.

“Protecting and promoting religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of this admin,” he insisted.

However, the administration has yet to appoint an international religious freedom ambassador, a key position in the State Department charged with promoting religious freedom as part of U.S. diplomacy.

Bishop Choby of Nashville remembered for his pastoral care

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 13:39

Nashville, Tenn., Jun 6, 2017 / 11:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop David Choby of Nashville died at age 70 Saturday night after complications arose from a recent fall; he was a man known for his dear friendship and his commitment to promoting priestly vocations.

After a fall in his home early in February damaged his spine, Bishop Choby developed a reoccurring blood infection, which ultimately led to his death June 3 at about 10 pm.

“His engaging style, his keen intellect, especially in matters related to canon law, and most of all his warm personality will be greatly missed. Bishop Choby was a thoroughly gracious gentleman and churchman,” Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville said June 4.

He added that Bishop Choby “leaves a legacy of true pastoral care for all.”

Bishop Choby was noted for his understanding of canon law and commitment to the formation of priests. Instead of flowers, his family has asked for donations to be made to a memorial fund for the Nashville diocese's Seminarian Education Fund.

A native to Nashville, he was born to Raymond and Rita Choby in January 1947. He was baptized at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, where he was later ordained a bishop. Attending seminary at Saint Ambrose College in Iowa and the Catholic University of America, he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Nashville in 1974 by Bishop Joseph Durick.

Before receiving his canon law degree from the University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome, he was an associate pastor at St Joseph Parish and administrator for St Ann Parish. He also spent time working for the diocese’s tribunal while at Christ the King Parish – which he did for most of his priesthood until he was appointed bishop.

After receiving his degree in canon law, Bishop Choby joined the faculty of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio for five years. He was also the president for the seminary’s board of trustees.

Starting in 1989, and until he was appointment bishop in 2005, he worked as the pastor for St John Vianney Parish in Gallatin, Tennessee. He served two five-year terms with the diocese’s presbyteral council and college of consultors – a local ordinance governing the diocese’s pastoral welfare. He was then elected the diocesan administrator in 2004.

He was appointed Bishop of Nashville in 2005, and consecrated in February 2006. He continued to serve as Nashville's bishop until his death.

Visitations of Bishop Choby's body will be held at the Nashville Cathedral June 8, concluding with the Office of the Dead; and June 9 at St. John Vianney in Gallatin, followed by the rosary and a dinner.

The bishop's funeral Mass will be said June 10 at the Diocese of Nashville's chancery, and his body will be buried at Calvary Cemetery.

“Please pray for the repose of the soul of Bishop Choby, for his family and friends, and for the people of the Diocese of Nashville,” the diocese asked in a statement.

Insurance denied her chemo treatment. But it covered drugs for suicide.

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 04:49

Orange, Calif., Jun 6, 2017 / 02:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Stephanie Packer cherishes every moment with her husband and four children. Living with a terminal illness in Orange, California, her goal is “to do everything I can to have one more second with my kids.”

When assisted suicide legislation was officially passed in California in 2016, Packer experienced the ultimate slap in the face: her insurance company denied the coverage of critical chemotherapy treatment that her doctors recommended for her condition.

Her insurance would, however, cover end-of-life drugs for just $1.20.

“It was like someone had just hit me in the gut,” said Packer, who shared her story in the documentary, Compassion and Choice Denied.

Produced by the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, the documentary details Packer’s experience of living with a terminal illness in an age where assisted suicide is cheaper than the fight for life.

Particularly concerning: the insurance company had initially suggested that they would cover the chemotherapy drugs. It was one week after assisted suicide was legalized that they sent Packer a letter saying they were denying coverage. Despite multiple appeals, they continued to refuse.

“As soon as this law was passed, patients fighting for a longer life end up getting denied treatment, because this will always be the cheapest option… it’s hard to financially fight,” Packer said in the documentary.

Physician-assisted suicide is legal in a handful of states, gaining momentum ever since the high profile suicide of cancer patient Brittany Maynard in 2014.

Many prominent Catholic leaders, such as Pope Francis, have spoken out against assisted suicide, calling it “false compassion.” Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez has said that assisted suicide “represents a failure of solidarity” and abandons the most vulnerable in society.

“We are called as people to support each other, to hold each other’s hand and walk through this journey,” Packer said, adding, “I want my kids to see that dying is a part of life, and the end of your life can be an opportunity to appreciate the things you didn’t appreciate before.”

Packer leads support groups for individuals with terminal and chronic illnesses. She said there was a clear morale change in many of the group members when physician-assisted suicide became legalized in her state.

“Normally, we would talk about support and love, and we would be there for each other, and just encourage them that, you know, today is a bad day, tomorrow doesn’t have to be,” she said.

But when assisted suicide was legalized, individuals became more depressed, with some saying that they wanted to end their lives.

“Patients are going to die because of this,” Packer said. “Patients need to know what this means, and the public needs to know that it’s going to kill these patients because they aren’t going to get the treatment they need to extend their life.”

She also said that assisted suicide proponents have twisted the meaning of suicide to make it sound “sweet and pretty,” and have also redefined what it means to live with a terminal illness.

“It makes terminally ill patients feel ‘less than,’ that they are not worthy of that fight, that they're not worth it,” she said.

Packer believes that end-of-life drugs should never “be supported by physicians or run by the government. That’s not okay... because it affects me negatively and affects my fight and my ability to stay here longer with my children.”

Packer pointed to other resources, saying that there is a whole treasury of support for terminal patients – financially, psychologically, physically, and even if patients just need someone to talk to.

While life-affirming palliative care remains an expensive medical cost, Packer recommended that more energy and resources fund hospice care, instead of making death the cheaper option.

“We can start to fix our broken health care system, and people will start to live instead of feeling like they have to choose to die.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA Oct. 19, 2016.

 

Fix health care bill's major defects, bishops ask US Senate

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 02:08

Washington D.C., Jun 6, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Despite its pro-life actions, the latest health care reform bill has “many serious flaws,” the U.S. bishops have said.

People without a strong voice in the political process “must not bear the brunt of attempts to cut costs,” several leaders with the U.S. bishops' conference told U.S. Senators in a June 1 letter. They said lawmakers have “grave obligations” related to health care legislation and need to reject the “grave deficiencies” of the American Health Care Act.

The U.S. bishops’ letter to senators stressed the principles of universal health care access, respect for life, truly affordable health care, conscience protections, and the need for health care that is comprehensive and of high quality.

They asked the Senate to reject major changes to Medicaid, to retain protections for human life, to increase tax assistance for those with low-income and the elderly, to retain a cap on health care plan costs for the elderly, to protect immigrants, and to add health care protections.

On May 2 the House of Representatives narrowly voted (217 to 213) to pass a bill to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act and to replace it with the American Health Care Act.

The latest bill would replace the 2010 legislation’s individual insurance mandate with a 30 percent premium fine for having a significant gap in coverage. More tax credits would be offered, and the allowable contributions to health savings accounts would also be expanded.

The bill would cap the expansion of Medicaid and would allow states to determine which “essential health benefits” to recognize as mandatory for health plans. Under the 2010 legislation, this included hospitalizations and maternity care. The new bill would allow states to charge persons more based upon their health history, provided the states set up pre-existing pools. Under current law, this is forbidden.

The bill bars funding for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood for one year, instead directing $422 million in these funds to health care providers that do not perform abortions.

However, the new legislation faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

The bishops said that the Catholic Church “remains committed to ensuring the fundamental right to medical care, a right which is in keeping with the God-given dignity of every person, and the corresponding obligation as a country to provide for this right.”

The U.S. bishops’ conference leaders who signed the letter were Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, who chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, who heads the Committee on Migration.

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