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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: 1 hour 33 min ago

How the Pittsburgh diocese is tackling addiction

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 15:34

Pittsburgh, Pa., Feb 13, 2019 / 01:34 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Pittsburgh has launched a new addiction ministry to bring rehabilitation to addicts and families through a holistic approach, including spirituality and close relationships.

“We have a big opiate crisis in Pittsburgh, like every big city,” said Father Michael Decewicz, a recovering alcoholic and one of the leaders behind Addiction Recovery Ministry (ARM).

“How can we as Church respond in love to the addicted and the afflicted? This is our chance as Church, as people of God to reach out to those who are suffering addictions and afflicting their loved ones,” he told CNA.

ARM began Feb. 10 with a Mass of Healing from Addiction. An estimated 200 gathered at the liturgy, where addicts received Anointing of the sick.

Anointing of the sick “can be administered to a member of the faithful who, having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger due to sickness or old age,” according to the Code of Canon Law.

Father Decewicz noted to CNA the proximity of the program's initiation to the Feb. 11 feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. He said it correlates to the healing miracles of Lourdes, but also emphasized that addiction is a disease, not a moral choice.  

The ministry is funded by Pittsburgh’s On Mission for the Church Alive campaign, a movement in the diocese to condense unused or small parishes into multi-parish groups. Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh said the program is an effort to strengthen ministries.  

Located at the John Paul I Center in Sharpsburg, the program will begin with three meetings a week of either Narcotics Anonymous or NARANON, a support group for friends and family of addicts suffering from an addiction to narcotics.

Decewicz said program will later add Alcoholics Anonymous and ALANON, the family support group for alcoholics, and eventually have a variety of all four of these meetings three times a day.

The program will also include monthly opportunities for education on the disease of addiction and spiritual nourishment, which may include “a talk on the spirituality of recovery and addiction,” said Decewicz.

He said this ministry is an opportunity for evangelization. The results might not be immediate, he said, but these are moments to plant the seeds of the faith and help people, who often have been wounded by organized religion, reconsider the Church.

“God calls us in our brokenness. We need to spread that message that God touches us in our brokenness and in our frailty. To bring a message of compassion and empathy….to affirm the dignity of every human being regardless of what they are suffering,” he said.

“For years AA has met in the basement of the church, it’s time to invite them upstairs,” he said.

Father Decewicz said a major component of the ministry will be the opportunities for one-on-one encounters. If people call the program, he said the organization will the return the call within 24 hours and connect the person to a recovering addict who can be a guide or a friend.  

Decewicz will be one of the individuals answering calls, helping direct people to the proper services, and discussing his or her experience. Another volunteer for the ministry is Carol Smith, a retired Program Manager for a women’s residential facility and a recovering addict of nearly 24 years.

“You need the right tools, the right people around you to support you,” she told CNA. “There is someone here who can help you, who can identify with you, and get [you] to a meeting.”

She stressed the healing potential of 12 steps programs and shared her own experience with addiction – getting into prescription drugs when she was about 12 and the damage that followed.

Smith was introduced to prescription painkillers because of a dental procedure. She fell in love with these opiates, she said, noting she began stealing drugs from her father’s drug store. After her little brother was born and she felt more estranged from her family, Smith began to spend more time with the wrong crowd, getting deeper into alcohol and other types of drugs.

Even as the drug habit progressed, she was able to function, receiving good grades throughout high school and getting accepted into the University of Pittsburgh. While maintaining an addiction to heroin, Smith graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and later on worked for the government as a supervisor in the welfare department.

She said her life began to take a tragic turn after her husband died. She was forced to resign from her position because of a problem with theft, and eventually ended up in the hospital with sores on her legs from heroin abuse. From the hospital, she was taken to jail which then led to a work release program.

After prison, the addiction was still too much, and Smith again began shooting up heroin. “[Getting high,] that’s all I know how to do. I’ve been doing it for the past 40 years,” Smith told her supervisor when she was confronted about her relapse. But, instead of getting taken back to jail, Smith was taken to an eight week outpatient program, where she was introduced to NA.

“I started going to meetings every day and that’s when the bulb finally went off – you can get through a day without getting high, you can live without using.”

Smith explained the importance of faith in the 12 step program, calling it an opportunity for people to experience the love of God. She further added that evangelization efforts begin with people living this love.

“God is a part of it,” she said. “There’s a lot of people, especially people in addiction, they think that God’s given up on them and that he could never love them with the horrible things they’ve done.”

“The biggest thing is you let them know that God’s love them,” she said. “I think it is more about being an example if you are going to try and have other people come to God or look at him the way you do.”

Are millennial Christians really killing evangelization?

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 05:06

Washington D.C., Feb 13, 2019 / 03:06 am (CNA).- Millennials are notoriously blamed for being killers of previously-thought-necessary industries and activities: Applebees. Napkins. Golf. Mayonnaise. Lunch. And so on.

For the ever-shrinking number of millennials who are practicing Christians, could evangelization be on the chopping block next?

Recent data from the Barna group, which researches the intersection of faith and culture, shows that of millennials practicing their Christian faith, almost half - 47 percent - believe it is at least somewhat wrong to “share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.” This is significantly higher than the number of Gen X-ers (27 percent), and Boomers (19 percent), who said the same.

But while at a glance this statistic may be alarming, given the missionary mandate of the Church, there might be more behind it than just another hit on the millennial kill list.

Elizabeth Klein is an assistant professor of theology at the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado. One of the main goals of the institute is to prepare students to respond to the New Evangelization - a term popularized by Pope John Paul II that emphasizes a renewed call to share the Gospel with the world.

Klein said before sounding the alarm about the death of evangelization, the statistic should be read in light of the others also shared by Barna - that 96 percent of millennials believe “part of my faith means being a witness about Jesus,” that 94 percent said that “the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to know Jesus,” and that 73 percent said “I am gifted at sharing my faith with other people” - higher than every other generation included in the data.

And in 2013, 65 percent of millennial Christians said they had shared the Gospel with someone in the past year, compared to the national average of about half of Christians in general.

“I thought it was interesting that they didn't highlight that millennials in fact evangelize more than the older generations do,” Klein said of an article from Christianity Today on the data.

Furthermore, she said, the phrasing of the particular question about evangelization probably also affected the way millennials responded.

“I thought the phrasing of the specific question - it’s about people who already have a religious faith, so I thought that was a big factor,” Klein told CNA.

“I think millennials are more likely to see someone of a different faith as more of an ally maybe than in the past,” she said, “because we are in such a post-Christian, post-religious world that anyone else who is practicing a faith may be more likely to be seen as someone you have a lot in common with, rather than the chief object of evangelization for millennials,” which would probably be atheists or fallen away Catholics, she said.

Vince Sartori is a regional director with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), which trains students and missionaries on college campuses to form disciples through friendships and Bible studies. Evangelizing in a millennial culture is at the heart of the group’s work.

Sartori, who served as a missionary on two different campuses before becoming a regional director, said he has noticed a hesitancy in millennials on campus to engage in evangelization.

“I think some of it comes down to a misunderstanding of evangelization versus proselytization,” Sartori told CNA.

Proselytization, Sartori said, happens when “the person is preaching or going out to be heard, not listening to someone but rather just trying to get a point across.”

Evangelization, on the other hand, is “about building trust, encountering a person, understanding a person, and introducing them to Jesus and proposing ideas, as opposed to just telling them something.”

Sartori said the way millennials answered this question also reflects the current political climate and a culture that prioritizes people’s comfort over everything else.

“In this culture of ‘if you disagree with me you hate me,’ I would say most millennials would say: ‘I’m not trying to convert anyone,’” Sartori said.

“But I would hope everyone is trying to convert someone, it’s just that there’s a right and true way, and then there’s a way that’s just kind of yelling at people, and that’s obviously not what I’m about and not what anyone would desire. And I think in general millennials are really sensitive to that.”

Klein also said that millennials are reacting to the polarization that characterizes the political and social media world of today.

“Actual authentic dialogue has in fact broken down, and I don't think that's a delusion of millennials; things are often so polarized that it is very difficult to have a dialogue which is perceived as open and a back and forth, and not somehow inauthentic or aggressive” she said.

“It’s not that they don't want to share their faith, but it seems that sharing via dialogue or speaking makes people uneasy, and I don't think that's inexplicable, that seems to make sense,” she said.

Part of the training of FOCUS missionaries is teaching them how to evangelize, Sartori said - which includes building friendships and trust with people before proposing that they consider going to church or learning more about Jesus.

“The three habits (taught to missionaries in training) are the things we emphasize that help us to go and do evangelization,” Sartoir said. “The first is divine intimacy (with God), the second is authentic friendship, and the third one is clarity and conviction for what we call spiritual multiplication. So this idea that you’re investing deeply in a few people, and sharing your faith in a way that they can then go and do that with others.”

“You’re listening, you’re building trust, you’re speaking in a way that they’re going to be able to hear you,” Sartori said, “but you’re also hearing where they’re coming from on things.”

Once a friendship is established, Sartori said one of the easiest ways to talk to someone about God is to ask them about the faith tradition they had while they were growing up.

“It’s the basic questions of like - did you ever go to church growing up? Something like that that’s less attacking than, say, ‘How do you feel about abortion?’ or something that’s more politicized or a hot topic,” Sartori said. “You want to do something that’s a softer, more inviting conversation, so you can just understand the person.”

After a conversation about faith has been opened, then it can be time to invite someone to events at a parish or into a Bible study, if the person is open to it.

“While there’s an urgency for someone to accept the Gospel as quickly as possible, we also want to propose it and not impose it, so we’re not going to rush into anything on that,” Sartori said.

Klein said millennials are also most likely to be tuned into the need for authentic witness - that someone must be living a personal life of holiness and friendship with God before they can propose it to someone else.

The article on the Barna research from Christianity Today ended with: “Younger folks are tempted to believe instead, ‘If we just live good enough lives, we can forgo the conversation entirely, and people around us will almost magically come to know Jesus through our good actions and selfless character.’”

“This style of evangelism is becoming more and more prevalent in a culture constantly looking for the fast track and simple fix,’” it said, quoting Hannah Gronowski, the founder and CEO of Christian non-profit Generation Distinct.

But Klein said this kind of attitude is overly dismissive of the importance of personal holiness.

“Witnessing personal holiness - it's not like that's easy, its plenty important,” she said, especially with the recent sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church.

“I don't think that millennials are crazy to think that personal holiness is the most important thing right now, especially when dialogue has broken down and there has been a lot of - with the recent scandals - insane hypocrisy where people's lives are not matching what they're saying,” she said.  

“I think a big part of it is...holistic Catholic formation,” Klein added. “If you're not prepared to pursue wisdom and pursue personal holiness, you're not going to have that authentic witness and authentic life to share.”

While that doesn’t remove the necessity of evangelizing with words, Klein said, it does point to why millennial Christians may have answered that particular question the way they did, beyond a trend toward universalism and relativism.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church itself recognizes the disconnect that may exist between a person’s holiness and the preaching of the Gospel: “On her pilgrimage, the Church has also experienced the ‘discrepancy existing between the message she proclaims and the human weakness of those to whom the Gospel has been entrusted.’ Only by taking the ‘way of penance and renewal,’ the ‘narrow way of the cross,’ can the People of God extend Christ's reign. For ‘just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and oppression, so the Church is called to follow the same path if she is to communicate the fruits of salvation to men.’” (CCC pp. 853).

“It’s very clear that the Church has a missionary mandate, but I think it nuances that very well and talks about the hypocrisy that has been found,” Klein said. “I think that tension is what millennials are most keyed into, that personal holiness comes first before you can even think about opening your mouth.”

An oft-quoted line, typically attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, speaks of the tension between personal holiness and evangelizing: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words,” the saying goes.

But if that quote really came from St. Francis of Assisi, Sartori said, it came from a saint who preached the Gospel so prolifically that he was known to preach it “to the birds.”

“He couldn’t stop preaching,” Sartori said, “so of all the people to have said that, St. Francis is one of the greatest examples of preaching (the Gospel).”

So while personal holiness is a must, he said, so is preaching the Gospel with words.

“To preach the Gospel is an integral part of being a Christian,” he said, “and we can’t separate that.”

 

New Jersey dioceses launch fund for abuse survivors

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 19:00

Newark, N.J., Feb 12, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The five Roman Catholic dioceses of New Jersey announced on Monday the creation of the Independent Victim Compensation Program (IVCP) for survivors of sexual abuse as minors by clerics in the state. The program will not handle claims of sexual abuse involving adults, including seminarians.

 

The IVCP will be administered by victims’ compensation experts Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, according to a statement from the IVCP that was emailed to CNA and posted on the websites of the New Jersey dioceses.

 

Feinberg and Biros were involved in the creation of compensation programs for abuse survivors in New York and Pennsylvania, as well as in the administration of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and the BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Fund.

 

“Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark and the Bishops throughout New Jersey have united in going further than any other state in establishing such a compensation program,” said the statement.

 

While dioceses in other states such as New York and Pennsylvania have created programs to compensate abuse survivors, the IVCP is unique in being statewide program that involves every diocese agreeing to follow the same compensation protocol.

 

“The program provides victims with an attractive alternative to litigation,” said the statement, and will give abuse survivors a “speedy and transparent process to resolve their claims with a significantly lower level of proof and corroboration than required in a court of law.”

 

After agreeing on and receiving a settlement, the abuse survivor will not be able to pursue additional legal action against the diocese. All settlements will be funded by the dioceses themselves.

 

The first phase of the program will give “priority” in compensation to those who have already filed a complaint about abuse committed by a member of the clergy.

 

The statement from the IVCP confirmed that abuse survivors who have not previously reported their abuse will be eligible to join phase II of the program. These claims will be reviewed by Feinberg and Biros, and survivors will be compensated if their claims are found eligible.

 

According to the IVCP, Feinberg and Biros will “act independently” in their administration when evaluating claims and deciding levels of compensation. The dioceses will not be able to appeal the decisions made by the administrators.

 

“[The participating dioceses] have assured us that we have complete discretion in deciding who is eligible to receive compensation and the amount to be paid to the individual victim,” Biros said in the statement.

 

The IVCP has been in the works since mid-November 2018. At that time, a statement was published by the Archdiocese of Newark announcing that some sort of compensation program would come together in the near future.

 

A draft of the IVCP protocol will be released on March 1, and a final version will be implemented after a 30-day comment period. After the final version is adopted, the IVCP will commence receiving claims.

 

All claims must be submitted before December 31, 2019.

 

The IVCP is limited to those who were abused as minors. According to (Amy Weiss, the PR lady for Feinberg and Biros? I don't know how to phrase this) there are no plans at this time to create a similar fund for those who were abused as adults, including by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

 

McCarrick, who resigned from the College of Cardinals in July after being credibly accused of abusing two minor boys, was the Bishop of Metuchen from 1981 until 1986 and the Archbishop of Newark from 1986 until 2000.

 

In 2005, the Archdiocese of Newark and the Dioceses of Metuchen and Trenton paid an $80,000 settlement to Robert Ciolek, who was abused by McCarrick while he was a seminarian. A $100,000 settlement was paid in 2007 to a man who says he too was abused by McCarrick when he was in seminary.

 

Both of these settlements were first disclosed after McCarrick was accused of abusing a minor.

Gallup diocese restores order of sacraments of initiation

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 18:01

Gallup, N.M., Feb 12, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop James Wall of Gallup has announced in a pastoral letter the restoration of the order of the sacraments of initiation in the mission diocese.

Once the new policy is implemented, children will receive Confirmation and First Holy Communion in the same Mass, at around the age of 7 or 8.

“Receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation long after the reception of Holy Communion, tends to weaken the understanding of the bond and relationship that the Sacraments of Initiation have with one another,” Bishop Wall wrote in his Feb. 11 pastoral letter The Gift of the Father.

“Because the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation lead the faithful to the culmination of their initiation into the Christian Life in Holy Communion,  the practice of postponing the reception of Confirmation until the teenage years has not always been beneficial,” he noted.

The bishop added that “An alarming percentage of our Catholic children who were baptized and received First Holy Communion, do not continue their formation for the Sacrament of Confirmation, and in too many cases, never receive the Sacrament.  As your shepherd, I believe it is important for our children, before they reach their adolescent years, to receive the strength of this important Sacrament.”

The pastoral change in the Diocese of Gallup follows that of several other local Churches in the US.

Commending such a change in the Diocese of Manchester in 2017 as “a praiseworthy practice”, Rita Ferrone wrote in Commonweal that 11 dioceses were then practicing “restored order”.

Bishop Wall opened his letter reflecting on the relationship among the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Communion.

Baptism “immerses us into the Divine Trinity,” while the grace of Confirmation “confirms and strengthens the supernatural life we have received in Baptism and it also enables us with its grace to live in a more mature way our lives as Christians giving witness to Christ in all that we do.”

“At the same time, the Sacrament of Confirmation is ordered toward a deeper communion with the Lord and to His Church through this witness to Him, a communion which receives its greatest expression and grace in this life in the sacrament of Holy Communion.”

The bishop noted that he has chosen to restore the original order of the sacraments of initiation “after consultation with the Presbyteral Council and having prayerfully considered it.”

Wall then discussed the historical background of the temporal order of the sacraments of initiation, noting that in the first 500 years of the Church they “were received together,” and that afterwards Baptism came to be administered in infancy, Confirmation around the age of 7, and Communion around the beginning of adolescence, such that “the order of the sacraments was conserved but they were administered in separate celebrations throughout childhood.”

St. Pius X “decided that it was important for children at a younger age to receive Holy Communion,” and began administering First Communion around the age of 7.

“This positive change had the unintended consequence of moving the Sacrament of Confirmation to an older age, thus inverting the original order of the Sacraments of Initiation,” Wall stated.

He added that today a person baptized after reaching the age of reason normally “receives in the same celebration the three Sacraments of Initiation,” but that “up until now, a child who was baptized as an infant would receive Holy Communion at around the age of 8 and receive the sacrament of Confirmation at a later date, sometimes waiting until they are 15 or 16.”

The bishop also discussed the effects of Confirmation, which “ gives us an outpouring of the Holy Spirit which strengthens us,” and he cited Divinae consortium naturae, St. Paul VI's  1971 apostolic constitution on the sacrament.

Teaching about the sacraments, he said: “Although grace builds upon nature and much depends upon the disposition in faith, the piety and charity of the one who receives it, the sacraments work in us in a different way.  As long as the recipient does not have any impediment, the sacraments will produce in us their grace on their own.”

“This is important when we consider the age of the reception of the sacraments,” Wall said.

While Confirmation is sometimes called “the Sacrament of Christian maturity,” it “does not require the recipient to be physically mature in order to transmit its grace. On the contrary, the Sacrament brings the recipient into Christian maturity and is given the strength through the Sacrament to live one’s Christian life even in a heroic way.”

“Although the recipient of the Sacrament always must seek to remove obstacles to grace in his or her life and cooperate with the strength of the grace that is offered to the individual, the power of the sacraments to transform one’s life has been well established.”

Noting that “countless young children have shown the witness of heroic virtue,” Wall said that “it has become all the more important” for young Christians, given the challenges they face in today's world, “to receive the strength of the Sacrament of Confirmation as soon as possible to assist them.”

Citing St. Paul VI, Bishop Wall said that Confirmation's link with the Eucharist “will be emphasized by uniting the Sacrament of Confirmation with the reception of the First Holy Communion in the same celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass.”

The policy change in the Gallup diocese will be gradually implemented over the next three years, with a “progressive lowering of the age,” until preparation for the reception of Confirmation and First Communion will begin in third grade.

“There will always be the possibility of children older than 3rd grade seeking the Sacrament, especially those who move into our diocese from other areas, as well as adults who seek the reception of Confirmation,” he noted. “For this reason, there will have to be available an intergenerational model of catechesis or catechists prepared to take on classes of different age groups to prepare them for Confirmation.”

The sacraments, the bishop reflected, “are an introduction and aids to living an authentically Christlike life, to prepare ourselves for our passage into our longed-for eternal life.”

He called on parishes to meet the challenge of developing “creative programs to accompany, form and integrate young members of the parish – now fully initiated – into the life of the Church.”

With catechetical formation after third grade no longer tied to sacramental preparation, it will instead “help our young Catholics grow in their faith, discern their vocation and prepare for that Christian vocation as they approach adulthood.”

“As we implement these new policy changes we are attempting to face the great challenges of our time,” Wall concluded.

Thanking the pastors of the diocese for their faithful service, he asked them “to work closely with the families of your communities to help them accomplish their vocation as first catechists and witnesses of their faith.”

“The parish should become a community of communities where the family, the domestic Church, can find guidance in the Word of God, strength in the Sacraments and support in their daily struggles. Your assistance to the families of your parish to provide them with what they need to accompany their children in their pilgrimage of faith is invaluable.”

“May Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Diocese of Gallup and our Mother, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, heroic witness to the faith, intercede for all of us, for you and your families, and may the Lord bring to completion the good work He has begun in us.”

New Mexico legislators seek to repeal state abortion ban

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 17:00

Santa Fe, N.M., Feb 12, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- New Mexico’s House of Representatives passed a bill that would decriminalize the state’s inactive ban on abortion.

The move is seen as a preemptive measure to legalize abortion in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the 1973 decision to legalize abortion nationwide.  

A 1969 state law in New Mexico made it is a felony for any doctor to perform abortions, except in instances of congenital abnormalities, rape, and a danger to the woman’s health.

If Roe vs. Wade were overturned, abortions would be banned completely in the New Mexico. Eight other states have laws that would also ban abortion and four additional states have “trigger laws” that would ban abortion if the Supreme Court decision was overturned.

The bill passed through the House 40-29 on Feb. 6. If the bill is approved by the Senate, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has promised to sign the measure into law.

The House, which is controlled by the Democratic Party, approved the bill mostly along party lines, but opposition to the legislation did gain bipartisan support.

According to the Associated Press, the Democratic representatives who opposed the bill included, Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup, Anthony Allison of Fruitland, Candie Sweetser of Deming, Wonda Johnson of Church Rock, and Patricio Ruiloba of Albuquerque.

Before the bill’s approval, Las Cruces Sun News reported on a few testimonies that were given to the House on Jan. 26. Opponents to the bill emphasized the lack of abortion restrictions currently in New Mexico and expressed concern that the repeal would weaken safeguards.

"We are now known as a late-term abortion state, which I'm very ashamed of," said Pauline Anaya, an educator and therapist in Albuquerque.

"I just have a deep concern that we are taking the only explicit protection we have for individuals," said Rep. Gregg Schmedes, a Tijeras Republican and surgeon.

The makeup of the Supreme Court has changed significantly since President Trump promised to appoint pro-life Justices. Trump nominated Justices Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.  

Advocates for the bill have expressed concern about a possible repeal of Roe vs. Wade. Representative Joanne Ferrary, co-sponsor of the bill, said the bill was a necessary protection to ensure abortion services are safe and legal.

"It is time to remove this archaic law from New Mexico's books," she said, according to Las Cruces Sun News. "With the threat of a Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe, we need to pass this bill to protect health care providers and keep abortion safe and legal.”  

In a Jan. 7 statement, Bishop James Wall of Gallup opposed House Bill 51 and encouraged lawmakers to focus on policies that support human prosperity at all stages of life.

“While the law is currently not enforced due to federal legalization of abortion through the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade, I nevertheless urge opposition to any bills that would loosen abortion restrictions,” he said.

“New Mexico consistently ranks low or last among other states in education results, economic opportunities, poverty, and childhood health. An abortion will not fix the obstacles many women and families face, such as economic instability, access to education, and a higher standard of living.”

 

Border security compromise may prevent new shutdown

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 13:30

Washington D.C., Feb 12, 2019 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Congressional leaders hope to have avoided a further partial government shutdown after reaching an agreement on a budget that includes over a billion dollars in funding for new barriers along the United States’ border with Mexico.

The deal, announced February 11, comes ahead of a looming Friday deadline to reach an agreement on the budget or else face a further round of partial federal shutdowns. The deal still has to be approved by President Donald Trump, who has previously requested about $5.7 billion to fund the construction of a wall along parts of the southern border.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said that he expects the president to approve of the compromise. The final text has yet to be released, but could come as soon as Wednesday.

The compromise agreement reportedly provides $1.3 billion in funding for border barrier construction along 55 miles of the Rio Grande Valley. The deal is also set to include a gradual reduction of the number of beds used to detain undocumented immigrants in areas not located near the U.S. border, something pushed by Congressional Democrats throughout budget negotiations.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement claims that the majority of undocumented immigrants detained have previous criminal records.

Shelby told reporters that “hard negotiations” had gone in forging an agreement, and that he was confident there would be a successful resolution.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has repeatedly called for Congress to find a solution that provides both border security as well as protections for undocumented migrants and immigrants.

In a January 10 statement calling for an end to the recent partial government shutdown Bishop Joseph Vasquez of Austin, chair of the USCCB’s migration committee, said that “secure borders and humane treatment of those fleeing persecution and seeking a better life are not mutually exclusive.”

Vasquez said that the U.S. must move to achieve these goals “without instilling fear or sowing hatred,” and said that he would “continue to advocate for immigration reform to advance the common good and address these issues.”

“We urge lawmakers to look beyond rhetoric and remember the human dignity that God our Father has given each of us simply because we are all His children,” he said.

Some border bishops have been vehemently opposed to the construction of walls in their dioceses. Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, TX, filed suit against the federal government over their request to survey the land surrounding a small chapel located near the Rio Grande. If the border wall were to be built, the chapel would be located on the southern side of the wall and would not be accessible to most of the people who use it.

A judge recently ruled that the government would not be impeding the exercise of religious freedom if it were to survey the land around the chapel to determine if a wall could be built.

NY archdiocese responds to Cardinal Spellman groping allegation

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 21:00

New York City, N.Y., Feb 11, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of New York has said it had only recently learned of an allegation that the deeply influential Cardinal Francis Spellman groped a visiting West Point cadet in the 1960s, but says it will take the accusation seriously and has invited the accuser to contact the archdiocese.
 
“This is the first time we have learned of this allegation, and take what the writer says seriously, as we do all allegations of abuse or inappropriate conduct,” Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA Feb. 11. “We have never had a substantiated allegation of abuse against Cardinal Spellman, who died in 1967.”
 
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a longtime journalist and writer, made the claim about the former Archbishop of New York in a Feb. 9 essay at Salon.
 
According to Truscott, the alleged incident took place in 1967 in Spellman’s private quarters behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Truscott said he was a junior at West Point who had sought to interview Spellman for the cadet magazine, The Pointer.
 
In Truscott’s account, apparently written decades after the fact, he was in a sitting room with the 77-year-old Spellman, his monsignor assistant, and two other West Point cadets, including the magazine’s photographer. Even before the interview began, Spellman placed his hand on the cadet’s thigh and attempted to grope him, Truscott said.
 
According to Truscott, the monsignor intervened, chastised the cardinal, and placed the cardinal’s hand back in the lap. Truscott said this happened several times during the interview.

Truscott wrote that the cardinal gave him a small gift after each attempted incident of groping. “He did it over and over again, and I just kept asking questions and recording his answers like nothing happened. I left the cardinal’s residence that day carrying a couple of tie clasps, three key chains, and a couple of gold-plated tie tacks,” the essay claimed.
Truscott said he was shocked the incident happened in front of others and was sure he would not be believed if reported. He claimed the photographer had taken photos of the incidents and he and the other two cadets treated it as a joke after it was over.
 
Truscott said he now wishes he hadn’t laughed off the experience and wishes he had reported it instead, given revelations about sex abuse in the Church.
 
“I wasn’t an innocent victim. I was an adult, a cadet at West Point, and I knew better,” said Truscott.
 
Zwilling said the archdiocese encourages reports about alleged misconduct.
 
“We would welcome Mr. Truscott in contacting the archdiocese, and reporting his allegation to our Safe Environment Director and/or the Victim Assistance Coordinator, so that we might offer whatever assistance might be needed,” Zwilling said.
 
While Truscott was not a minor at the time of the alleged incident, the New York legislature recently passed legislation extending the period for child victims of sex abuse to bring civil charges until the age of 55. Criminal prosecutions can be brought before the victim turns 28.
 
The legislation also creates a one-year window for victims of any age to come forward.
 
Cardinal Spellman was one of the most deeply influential churchmen of the United States.
 
Originally a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, he worked in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State in the 1920s and 1930s and smuggled Pope Pius XI’s anti-fascist encyclical “Non Abbiamo Bisogno” to Paris for its 1931 release. He served as an Auxiliary Bishop of Boston from 1932-39, and was named Archbishop of New York by Pope Pius XII, a role that included oversight of the military vicariate of the armed forces during the Second World War and beyond.
 
He was a staunch anti-communist close to controversial FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. He has been the subject of rumors about sexual misconduct, though not necessarily abuse.
 
The cardinal’s lengthy FBI file, as published in a somewhat redacted and possibly incomplete form at the FBI website, includes many interactions with the bureau and with Hoover; his public statements and speeches; and information about Vietnam War protests targeting the cardinal. At one point a Jan. 20, 1954 memorandum to Hoover described Spellman an FBI contact who “can be of assistance in furnishing information concerning prominent Catholic priests and laymen” and who has “on several occasions made available information in connection with research matters.”
 
The released files include a December 1954 request from Spellman’s office to the FBI to investigate an anonymous tip that a communist-linked publisher aimed to print a book vilifying the cardinal and the Catholic Church, apparently claiming the cardinal had a scandalous relationship with a woman.
 
FBI agents found no proof that such a book was forthcoming.
 
The publisher of a Spellman biography released in 1984 removed a passage citing several people who claimed he had a homosexual relationship; none of them had direct proof, the New York Times reported.


 

 

Assisted suicide bill advances in New Jersey

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 18:00

Trenton, N.J., Feb 11, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- New Jersey may become the next state to approve of physician-assisted suicide after the president of the state’s Senate replaced two members of a committee who had previously voted against a bill that would have legalized it in the state.

 

The New Jersey senate legislative committee voted 6-3 on Feb. 7 to advance a bill that would permit doctors to prescribe a lethal doses to patients with terminal illnesses. Two people who voted on the bill--Senate President Sen. Stephen Sweeney (D-Cumberland) and Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), who co-sponsored the legislation--were not originally members of the committee.

 

Sweeney nominated himself and Scutari to replace Senators Fred Madden (D-Gloucester) and Ronlad Rice (D-Essex), both of whom had previously voted against physician-assisted suicide in 2016. To become law, the bill must now clear the full assembly and Senate.

 

The Catholic Church is opposed to physician-assisted suicide, as well as all other forms of suicide.

 

Those opposed to assisted suicide point out that it has the potential for abuse and that many recipients of it are not actually terminally ill.

 

“Like other states that have confused liberty with license, New Jersey is considering a law that would promote physician-prescribed death. The proposal violates the sacred oath of the medical profession, recognized even by pre-Christian cultures, to heal the sick and preserve life,” Dr. Edward J. Furton, an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA.

 

Furton explained to CNA that the majority of patients who pursue physician-assisted suicide do so due to fears of “being a burden on others” or because they “suffer from despair, loneliness, or feelings of unwantedness.”

 

“Very few choose this route because of severe pain,” he told CNA. While Furton agreed that those in severe pain should be given assistance and treatment, he did not think it was appropriate or proper to “abandon them to hopelessness” and promote the idea of suicide.

 

“Physicians should have no part in this reversal of the traditional aims of their profession, preserving health and life,” he added.
 

The New Jersey law would be limited to adults. Two physicians would have to agree that the patient seeking to die has less than six months to live. In order to receive the lethal dose, the patient would have to submit three requests (with one in writing) to a doctor. The written request must be witnessed by two people, and one of the two people cannot be a family member, physician, or someone who is named as a beneficiary of the patient.

 

The patient would then have to self-administer the medication.

 

Six states, as well as the District of Columbia, have approved physician-assisted suicide, and its status is unclear in the state of Montana. Oregon was the first state to pass an assisted-suicide law, doing so in 1994. Washington followed suit in 2008.

 

Several states, including Massachusetts, have attempted and failed to pass physician-assisted suicide measures either by referendum or through the legislative process.

 

Since the District of Columbia approved physician-assisted suicide in 2017, there have been no reported cases of terminally ill patients utilizing the law.

Prosecutor drops abortion charge against alleged murderer after NY abortion law

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 17:22

New York City, N.Y., Feb 11, 2019 / 03:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The district attorney for Queens County, New York, has reportedly dropped an unlawful abortion charge against a man accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend, citing a new state law that removed abortion from the criminal code.

Anthony Hobson is accused of killing his girlfriend Jennifer Irigoyen, who was 14 weeks pregnant, Feb. 3. He allegedly dragged her into the stairwell of an apartment building and stabbed her multiple times in the abdomen – she later died in hospital.

Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown announced in a Feb. 8 statement that Hobson would be charged with second-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence, and fourth degree criminal possession of a weapon. He could face 25 years to life in prison.

Brown’s office cited the Reproductive Health Act, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Jan. 22, as the reason for dropping the abortion charge, according to the New York Times. A district attorney spokeswoman told the New York Post that the abortion charge was dropped because it was “repealed by the legislature, and this is the law as it exists today.”

The Reproductive Health Act changed New York law to allow health care professionals such as nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to perform abortions, and now permits late-term abortion at any time throughout pregnancy in case of fetal inviability or “when necessary to protect a patient's life or health.”

One of the Democratic sponsors of the RHA, writing in a Times Union op-ed, claimed that physical assault resulting in the loss of pregnancy would now qualify as first-degree assault, which as a class B felony carries a penalty of 5-25 years.

Unlawful abortion, which is now repealed, would have been a class D felony, carrying with it a 2-7 year sentence.

In June 2018 a New York man was charged with attempted murder, abortion, and assault after the attempted murder of his 26-week pregnant fiancée. It is as yet unclear whether the Reproductive Health Act will affect that case.

In a Jan. 28 op-ed for the New York Daily News, Charles Camosy, associate professor of theology at Fordham University in the Bronx and a board member for Democrats for Life of America, predicted that the removal of abortion from the criminal code altogether would eliminate the potential to charge men who attack pregnant women with the crime of killing unborn children.

“Intellectually honest people know that when a pregnant woman is killed, something different has happened than when a woman who is not pregnant is killed. Both situations are incredibly tragic, but in the former situation, two human beings are killed, not one,” Camosy said.

Catholic convert, anti-war Congressman Walter Jones dies at 76

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 12:45

Washington D.C., Feb 11, 2019 / 10:45 am (CNA).- Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), who represented North Carolina for 12 terms in the House of Representatives, passed away on Sunday - his 76th birthday.

 

“Congressman Jones will long be remembered for his honesty, faith and integrity,” said a statement from his office announcing his passing.

 

“He was never afraid to take a principled stand. He was known for his independence, and widely admired across the political spectrum. Some may not have agreed with him, but all recognized that he did what he thought was right.”

 

Jones, who was raised Southern Baptist but converted to Catholicism in his early 30s, was first elected to Congress in 1994.

 

After winning election for the twelfth time in November 2018, he requested a leave from Congress due to illness in December. He was sworn in to the 116th Congress from his house in Farmville, North Carolina.

 

In late January, his wife announced that Jones was in hospice care after suffering a broken hip.

 

Throughout his time in Congress, Jones was known for being a political maverick. Initially a strong supporter of the Iraq War-- famously suggesting that french fries be re-named “freedom fries” in the House cafeteria after the French refused to support the invasion--he changed his views after attending a funeral for a service member who was killed by a grenade.

 

Jones spent the remainder of his time in Congress critical of efforts to send troops overseas, and fighting to end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He accused then-President George W. Bush for deceiving Congress to drum up support for overseas intervention.

 

As an attempt to atone for his vote in favor of the war, Jones sent letters to the families of nearly every soldier killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Outside of his office, he posted pictures and bios of the more than 550 deceased troops that were sent to war from Camp Lejeune, located in his district.

 

In 2017, he told NPR that he had signed over 12,000 letters to the families of deceased troops, and “that was for me asking God to forgive me for my mistake.” In a 2015 interview, he said he would “go to [his] grave” regretting his vote to start the Iraq War.

 

Jones is survived by his wife, Jo Annee, who he married in 1966, and his daughter, Ashley.

Mentors are key in program to get civilly married couples back to Church

Sun, 02/10/2019 - 18:45

Lafayette, La., Feb 10, 2019 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- When Mary Rose Verret first welcomed Douglas and Elizabeth into her home, Douglas’ boots squished with the sewage he worked with, and Elizabeth smelled of french fries from her fast food job. Douglas was also just a few years of out jail.

Burnt out after years of ministry, Mary Rose didn’t think she would have anything in common with this couple, whom her pastor had asked Mary Rose and her husband, Ryan, to mentor through a process to convalidate their marriage in the Church.

“It was a difficult, complex situation that on paper didn’t look like it was going to go well,” Mary Rose recalled. Often, she saw couples like Douglas and Elizabeth disappear from the Church as soon as their marriage was blessed.

But when Douglas opened up about how he found Jesus in prison, and about their desire for a sacramental marriage in the Church, Mary Rose was humbled.

“On my end, working with this couple, I thought I was going to teach and I was going to form, and Ryan and I thought we were going to give everything to them,” she told CNA.

“But when we started listening to them and the husband’s experience of getting to know Jesus at a bible study while he was in jail, and the relationship he had with Jesus, and how he wanted to make things right with God, and how he wanted to have a marriage in the Church and he wanted Jesus to be part of their marriage, it was very humbling...and it really changed the way Ryan and I lived our ministry and lived our faith and lived our marriage,” she said.

The Verrets founded Witness to Love, a Catholic marriage prep renewal ministry, several years ago with the intent to give newly-engaged couples an older mentor couple of their choosing in the Church that could walk with them through marriage preparation and beyond.

Now, they are launching a Witness to Love track specifically for couples who are seeking to have their civil marriages blessed by, or convalidated in, the Catholic Church.

“We saw that with Witness to Love, in the parish where we started this, engaged couples were benefitting so much, but we were seeing couples who were having their marriage blessed who didn't go through Witness to Love, they met with Father a few times...they were getting divorced quickly, some of them even a month after having their marriage blessed,” she said.

Couples seeking to convalidate their marriage in the Church make up a significant percentage of sacramental marriages in the Church each year - roughly 20 percent, Mary Rose said. In 2017, the total number of sacramental marriages in the U.S. was 144,000 - meaning approximately 28,800 of them were convalidations.

In response to this growing need, the Verrets tweaked their marriage prep program to offer a track specifically fitted to couples seeking convalidations in the Church. They interviewed couples seeking convalidations and looked at best practices throughout the country for bringing them into the Church. Many couples seeking convalidation would do so around the time their children needed sacraments - baptism or communion or confirmation. It was a time they could reconnect with the Church and felt they needed to “get right with God,” Mary Rose said.

But old approaches of bringing these couples into the Church weren’t working - couples would fail to connect with the Church community and drop off, or even divorce, shortly after they received the sacrament. That’s where Mary Rose thought the Witness to Love mentorship model could work.

What’s different?

What sets Witness to Love apart in marriage convalidation preparation “is every other mentor model out there says: the Church is going to choose and train and assign mentor couples to you. You don't know them, you didn't pick them, you don't know how old they are or their background,” she said.

“And we're telling this to a generation that doesn't trust the Church, many of whom have been abused, have a pornography addiction, haven't been to church in 15 or more years. And we're asking them to talk to complete strangers, who are like uber Catholics, about their faith life and sex life and we wonder why it doesn't work out.”

The choice in mentor couples provides the “skin in the game” for the marriage prep couple and the room for the Holy Spirit to work, Mary Rose said.

Beyond that, the program is tweaked to match the language that civilly married couples use, and to emphasize how the grace of the sacrament builds on the natural goods of a civil marriage.

“There are two ways of looking at marriage. One is just on the natural level - you're living together, balancing a checkbook, you have kids, you share groceries - you know, life,” Mary Rose said. “And there's a lot of natural goodness there, but there's also a lot of natural challenges and we have fallen nature. So the grace of the sacrament helps you get through some of those things, love through things, grow through things, work through things, offer things up, pray for your spouse,” she said.

“The reason that we have the grace of the sacrament is that it’s impossible, on a human level, to love completely, totally, freely and fruitfully. It is impossible,” she noted.

“With the grace of the sacrament, you just have to ask God everyday to please help me keep my wedding vows,” she said, which also differ in wording and intent between civil and sacramental marriages.

Often, couples who have convalidated their marriages become the best witnesses of the grace of the sacrament of marriage, Mary Rose noted, because they know what it’s like to live without it.

“When they have their marriage blessed, if they are formed, then it's a whole different experience, because if they just have one or two quick meetings and then never really understand this grace they receive, they can't really tap into it.”

Going through the process

Meghan Reily and her husband Brendon were high school sweethearts who met in middle school, dated through college and got married civilly in 2016 - Meghan was Catholic, Brendon was not.

Once Meghan discovered that her marital situation was keeping her from the sacraments, she talked to Brendon about having their marriage blessed in the Church.

“After much discussion and prayer, we decided to go through the process. I think that shows a true testament to Brendon’s character,” Meghan told CNA.
 
“I could tell that this was something that was important to her and for the Church,” Brendon added, though he admitted to being “a little apprehensive at first.”

“Opening up about your relationship is something that is very personal to me,” he said. But going through this, I have never felt closer to Meghan than I do now. Same with our mentor couple. I’ve known them for several years, but I feel like they are family now too. They will always be someone who we can call on for anything.”

For their mentor couple, the Reily’s chose a couple that Meghan had known since childhood.

“We were in the same parish and I grew up with their daughter. We became best friends and her family was like a second family to me. Since I was always so close to them, Brendon got to get to know them when we were dating,” Meghan said.

“When asked who to choose as a mentor couple, it was a no-brainer for us. Their love for God and putting Him right at the center of their family is exactly the type of environment we want to have for our family.”

Meghan said the mentorship and the program of Witness to Love brought a “self-awareness” to their marriage that they hadn’t had before. It gave them tools to know and love their spouse better, and to work on virtues together.

“It was both challenging and rewarding. It in a way forced you to have those difficult conversations you don’t necessarily want to have,” she said.

“While we have been civilly married for two years, we are nowhere close to having it all figured out! The workbook provided great tools to give you insight on how you are wired and how your spouse is wired so you can better understand each other and how to handle situations, or discover what things you need to work on that you didn’t think was even an issue,” she added.

Brendon said the program changed their relationship by emphasizing that “it takes three to get married” - the couple and God.

“We are much more open in sharing what’s on our hearts so that we can pray for each other and build each other up,” he said.  

Much of the content of Witness to Love is virtue-based. It encourages couples to examine different virtues - love, honor, courage, respect, humility, and so on - and how those virtues can best be lived out in a marriage.

“By learning the virtues, you are growing closer to God and understanding fully how much He loves you and how you need to love your spouse in return, because God loves your spouse that much and He put you together by His grace,” Meghan said. “Doing that, well, that’s what gets you closer to Heaven - knowing how to love and accept someone for all of who they are.”

Meghan and Brendon’s marriage will be blessed in the Church this March. Meghan said she would “absolutely” recommend the Witness to Love mentorship program to other couples in similar situations.

“It’s definitely something I’ll want to reference going forward in our marriage,” she said.

Responding to the needs of the Church

When Bishop Joseph Strickland was first made bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas in 2012, strengthening marriage and family life was one of his top priorities.

“I wanted to really focus on marriage formation because in some ways I think we find ourselves needing to rebuild Christian society, and the stronger the marriages are, the stronger the families will be, the stronger (the faith of) the children will be, and I think that's where we can begin of a joyful revolution of deeper faith,” Strickland told CNA.

About a year ago, the Diocese of Tyler began using Witness to Love’s marriage prep program - “I liked the solid theology on marriage and the beautiful presentation of what the sacrament of marriage is about for us as Catholics,” Strickland said.

Located in a minority-Catholic area, Strickland said he sees the need for good convalidation formation continuing to grow, as more couples delay marriage, or decide to come back to the Church later in life.

“There are so many couples that need convalidation, and we’re really encouraging and wanting to support those couples,” he said.

Having worked on a marriage tribunal for years, Strickland said what appealed to him about Witness to Love, besides being theologically sound, was that it didn’t feel as “bureaucratic” as some other marriage and convalidation programs.

“You’re having to talk about this very personal information with a priest that you don’t know, maybe you don’t feel you’re that comfortable with them, maybe you’re not Catholic or haven’t been practicing your Catholic faith for a long time,” he said.

“So I think to have the mentor couple, who would be someone who is faithfully living their Catholic faith, to help them feel like they’re welcome and to navigate any issues they might have...would be important especially for couples who may have been married civilly for quite some time and have had a number of kids and are having to negotiate some significant complexities.”

Mary Rose said the mentor couple relationship is so key to Witness to Love because it works both ways - the convalidating couple receives formation, but the mentoring couple is also challenged to examine their marriage and “step it up”, so to speak, in order to be a good example. She said some mentor couples have told her that being asked to mentor another couple is what saved their own marriage.

“It’s kind of a dead end if you don’t open at least a crack for the Holy Spirit, and in Witness to Love that risk has always been allowing the couples to choose their own mentor,” she said.

“But it’s that invitation, that personal relationship - it’s a two-for-one evangelization effort that has made all the difference and transformed parish communities, because instead of a couple coming through the Church and never seeing them again, their mentor’s marriage is renewed, the community is renewed.”  

Judge rules in favor of Christian club kicked off Iowa campus

Sat, 02/09/2019 - 18:20

Iowa City, Feb 9, 2019 / 04:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal court ruled Wednesday that a Christian club at an Iowa college cannot be kicked off campus due to its religious standards for student leaders.

In the fall of 2017, the University of Iowa removed from its campus the Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) because the group required its leaders to affirm that they believe in and live out their Christian faith.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose said the university had engaged in religious discrimination in its application of the Human Rights Policy to Registered Student Organizations.

“The Constitution does not tolerate the way [the University] chose to enforce the Human Rights Policy. Particularly when free speech is involved, the uneven application of any policy risks the most exacting standard of judicial scrutiny, which [the University] ha[s] failed to withstand,” Rose said.

BLinC membership is open to all the students at the university; however, leaders are required to accept and abide by the tenets of Christianity. The club’s removal from campus took place after a complaint about the group’s leadership requirements and views on marriage was filed with the university.

Before last Friday’s hearing, the university said that 32 religious groups had been placed on probation because of their leadership standards. Other groups included the Chinese Student Christian Fellowship, Imam Mahdi Muslim organization, and the Latter-day Saint Student Association.

Becket, the religious liberty firm that is representing the business club, noted that the University of Iowa permits other groups, such as fraternities, to choose their leaders based on the group’s shared mission.

Becket Vice President Eric Baxter said the judge’s decision is a victory for justice.

“This ruling is a win for basic fairness, but it is also an eloquent plea for civility in how governments treat Americans in all their diversity. As a governmental body bound by the First Amendment, the university should have never tried to get into the game of playing favorites in the first place, and it is high time for it to stop now,” he said.

Jake Estell, BLinC member, told Becket that the group was grateful for the court’s decision, saying it reinforces the principle that religious groups on campus cannot be targeted for their faith.

“We are grateful the court protected our rights today—to let us have the same right as all student groups to express our viewpoints freely on campus, and to be who we are,” he said.

A parallel lawsuit against the University of Iowa is still pending. That case was brought by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship after also being deregistered by the university due to its student leadership standards.

The organization aims to create Christian communities on college campuses. It hosts Bible studies, charity projects, worship services, and community discussions.

Katrina Schrock, student president of InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellow, stressed the importance of religious liberty on campus.  

“We’re grateful to have been part of the University community for 25 years, and we think that the University has been a richer place for having Sikh, Muslim, Mormon, Catholic, Jewish, atheist, and Christian groups,” she said.

 

Why Christians can criticize 'Green New Deal', but can't dodge 'green' politics

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 20:38

Washington D.C., Feb 8, 2019 / 06:38 pm (CNA).- A joint congressional resolution for a “Green New Deal” is the latest effort aiming to apply political solutions to environmental problems. Whatever the merits of the proposal, one theologian says, Christians must think hard about what their faith says about environmental policy.

“To think that the U.S. government can be agnostic about the environment is a little like thinking it’s agnostic about faith: policies will impact the environment, for good or for ill,” Joseph Capizzi, professor of moral theology and ethics at Catholic University of America, told CNA.

“It strikes me that the Christian approach to the environment would require us to think about our policies’ impact on creation. Or, to put it differently, about whether our policies give God his due in their impact on his creation,” said Capizzi, who also directs the Institute for Human Ecology.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., have proposed a joint resolution to recognize “the duty of the federal government to create a Green New Deal.”

The non-binding resolution would not create new programs, but its passage would convey the sense of Congress and provide justification for further legislation.

The new resolution cites the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report, which said that a rise in global temperatures must not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Though Capizzi said addressing particular policies is beyond his expertise, he said Christians are a “future-oriented people.”

“We look in hope to the coming of our savior and our reflections on how to live now should always have an eye towards their long-term impact on the world into which, in hope, we bring our children,” he said. “We have justice-based responsibilities to our children to care for the creation God intends for them as well as for us.”

As a theologian, Capizzi said, the specifics of the proposal “are less interesting to me than is the idea that politics must attend to humanity’s relationship with all of God’s creation.”

The political proposal comes as the Trump administration has worked to promote domestic gas, oil and coal production by loosening regulations including environmental protections.

Green New Deal backers cite goals including zero-net greenhouse gas emissions from power production; halting a rise in global temperatures; and de-carbonizing the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. It envisions major infrastructure upgrades to power grids and transportation and upgrading all buildings to maximize energy efficiency, water efficiency, and affordability. Other goals in the resolution include “clean manufacturing”; reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from ranches and farms; and shifting away from nuclear power as well as fossil fuels.

Critics say some efforts against fossil fuels have caused major unemployment and community displacement in parts of the country dependent on the coal industry and other resource extraction.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., whose state economy is heavily based on coal, criticized the effort, saying it “shuts everybody down.”

The resolution’s many promises include aid for both communities facing the most significant changes from climate change and communities affected by shifts away from fossil fuel use. It promises to ensure high wages and better jobs for workers currently in fossil fuel industries.

The non-binding plan promises a federal jobs guarantee, as well as other Democratic goals like a family wage, adequate family leave, paid vacations and a secure retirement as well as universal health care.

Any proposal is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate. The resolution could play a role in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not give Green New Deal backers the committee leadership they wanted. She told Politico their proposal is “one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive.”

For Capizzi, environmental politics should be motivated by the goodness of creation.

“The starting point for Jewish-Christian approaches to the environment is the Hebrew Bible’s teaching that God created the world, and then, at different stages but before humans are created, we are told he viewed his creation as ‘good’.”

These things that God names “good” include “the creation of land and gathering of waters, the fecundity of the earth, (and) the creation of sea and land and flying creatures.” The creation of humans is “a part of the story of God’s creation of a universe he names as good and within which humanity lives.”

“This is the starting point for Christian reflection,” Capizzi told CNA. To this is added the “classic notion of justice” expressed in the imperative “give to each what he or she is due.”

“We are to give God his due by giving his good creation its due. We do this in our relationships as human beings, but we do this as well in our relationship with the creation of which we are a part – even if a special part.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have an Environmental Justice Program, under the conference’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development. It draws from St. John Paul II’s 1990 World Day of Peace message, the U.S. bishops’ Nov. 14, 1991 pastoral statement “Renewing the Earth,” as well as encyclicals such as Pope Francis’ 2015 Laudato si'.

The bishops make some policy recommendations about environmental laws and regulations. They opposed the Trump administration’s June 2017 withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, which aimed to combat climate change and global warming through reducing carbon dioxide emissions. They said they objected to a March 2017 executive order from President Donald Trump that rescinded and weakened many environmental protections.

They have backed a national carbon emission standard and other carbon mitigation goals.

Bill to repeal permanently Mexico City Policy introduced in US Congress

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 19:01

Washington D.C., Feb 8, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two Democrats in the U.S. Congress this week reintroduced a bill that would permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy, a regulation that is seen as a barometer of U.S. presidents’ abortion politics.

The Mexico City Policy, referred to as the “Global Gag Rule” by some critics, was originally instituted by president Ronald Reagan in 1984. It mandates that foreign non-governmental organizations may not receive federal funding if they perform or promote abortions as a method of family planning.

Since its implementation, the policy has been reinstated by every Republican president, and repealed by every Democratic president. The signing or repealing of the policy is typically one of the first acts by a newly-elected president in a kind of signaling of where they fall on abortion politics.

President Donald Trump signed the policy during his first week in office, and in May 2017 he expanded its scope, allocating more forms of foreign funding to organizations that do not perform or support abortions overseas, a move applauded by pro-life leaders.

When the policy is instated, foreign aid groups must either abide by it or risk losing their federal funding. Critics of the policy say that it cuts funding from essential health care to women abroad.

This week, the Global HER (Health, Empowerment, and Rights) Act, which seeks permanently to repeal the Mexico City Policy, was reintroduced in Congress by Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), with 150 cosponsors, including two Republican women –  Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

When the bill was introduced in 2017, it had 212 sponsors.

In comments to Reuters, Lowey credited the bill’s recent traction with the record number of women in Congress this year.

“The power of over a hundred women certainly makes a difference,” she told Reuters.

The U.S.-based Center for Family and Human Rights, a pro-life organization, told Reuters that foreign aid “should not be used to harm women and end the lives of their pre-born children.”

“It’s unfortunate that these members of Congress are motivated to provide assistance programs that are so destructive,” they said.

The bill will likely have a more difficult time passing the majority-Republican Senate.

Muslim denied presence of imam at his execution in Alabama

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 18:18

Mobile, Ala., Feb 8, 2019 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- A Muslim man convicted of murder has been executed in Alabama without his imam present, despite the man’s requests to have his spiritual advisor with him during his execution.

Domineque Ray, 42, was sentenced to death for the 1995 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl. Ray specifically requested that the Christian prison chaplain be excluded from the execution chamber, and asked that his imam be present to “provide spiritual guidance for him at the time of his death.”

He also requested that he not be required to undergo an autopsy, as that would have conflicted with his religious beliefs. The warden reportedly denied the first two requests and said she had no authority to grant the third.

Consequently, the prison’s officials said they would allow the Christian chaplain, Chris Summers, into the execution chamber to kneel and pray with the prisoner, though the prisoner would not be required to pray with the chaplain. The officials reportedly said it would be a security risk to let a non-employee of the state’s correctional department into the execution chamber.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday granted a stay of execution until it could determine whether the prison had violated the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, after Ray appealed the prison’s decision. In defending the prison’s decision, the state said Ray’s imam, Yusef Maisonet, would be allowed to visit him on the day of the execution and could accompany him up until he entered the execution chamber.

The Supreme Court decided 5-4 Feb. 7 that Ray’s execution could go ahead, and he was subsequently executed that evening by lethal injection. The court’s majority cited the last-minute nature of Ray’s request as a reason for vacating the stay.

The Christian chaplain was reportedly excluded from the execution, as Ray had requested.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissent, calling the court’s decision “profoundly wrong” and quoting from the court's decision in the 1982 case of Larson v. Valente: “The clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.”

“But the State’s policy does just that,” she wrote.

“Under that policy, a Christian prisoner may have a minister of his own faith accompany him into the execution chamber to say his last rites. But if an inmate practices a different religion – whether Islam, Judaism, or any other – he may not die with a minister of his own faith by his side.”

Kagan acknowledged that prison security could constitute a “compelling interest” that could justify religious discrimination, but claimed that the state had offered “no evidence to show that its wholesale prohibition on outside spiritual advisers is necessary to achieve that goal.”

Kagan also spoke out against the Supreme Court’s decision to vacate the stay of execution because Ray did not file his request “in a timely manner,” pointing out that the Alabama state code does not explicitly prohibit “the inmate’s spiritual adviser of choice” from being present in the execution chamber.

The prison also reportedly refused to give Ray a copy of its own practices and procedures.

“So there is no reason Ray should have known, prior to January 23, that his imam would be granted less access than the Christian chaplain to the execution chamber,” Kagan wrote.

Ray’s imam told local media that he considered it important that he be present for Ray’s death in order to ensure that the inmate died according to his faith.

“I know the things that are required of Muslims before they die,” Yusef Maisonet, imam of Masjid As Salaam in Mobile, told AL.com on Feb. 1.

“We want to make sure his last words are, ‘There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet….If they exclude me, [a Christian chaplain and other prison staff] may ask him something and ask him to reply and those won’t be his last words.”

University of Dallas names Ryan Anderson as first Catholic Social Thought fellow

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 17:24

Dallas, Texas, Feb 8, 2019 / 03:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The University of Dallas has announced the creation of the St. John Paul II Social Thought Teaching Fellowship, with Dr. Ryan Anderson as the first fellow in the role.

The formation of the fellowship is part of the university’s plan to create an institute for Catholic social teaching, offering degree programs that include the philosophical foundations and applications of Church social teaching, opportunities for continuing education, and the promotion of research.

“The University of Dallas is already a center for significant work on Catholic social thought,” said University Provost Dr. Jonathan Sanford in a Feb. 7 statement. “Inviting Dr. Ryan Anderson will strengthen the university's commitment to Catholic social teaching, provide new insights for our students, and help us to fulfill our mission to pursue the truth and cultivate justice.”

Sanford said the University of Dallas “is uniquely positioned to make a special contribution to the church and help shape culture through Catholic social teaching, and takes seriously its responsibility to do so.”

In a press release announcing the new program, the university applauded Anderson for his “clear and careful writing as well as his poise and civility in addressing controversial social issues.”

Anderson is a prominent Catholic speaker and author on marriage, sexuality, religious freedom, and natural law.

He has coauthored the books What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense and Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination. He is also the author of Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom and When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.

Anderson is a senior research fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation, as well as the founder and editor of Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute. His research has been cited by Supreme Court justices in two cases.

As the inaugural St. John Paul II Social Thought fellow, Anderson will become an adjunct faculty member in the university’s Politics Department. He will teach two classes each year and will offer lectures and an annual conference, in cooperation with the American Public Philosophy Institute (APPI).

Anderson’s first lecture, entitled “Catholic Thought and the Challenges of Our Time,” will be held on campus March 25 and will be open to the public.

The talk will give an overview of Catholic social teaching and preview the courses Anderson will be teaching in the next two years.

Sanford attributed the new fellowship in part to the work of Rob Hays, head of the Dallas Business Ethics Forum, which promotes business practices and formation based on Catholic social teaching. Hays, a local businessman, contributed to the project and worked to obtain other contributions and corporate sponsorships.

Located in Irving, Texas, the University of Dallas is a Catholic university with a focus on the Western tradition of liberal arts education.

 

First official Virginia March for Life to be held in April

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 17:00

Richmond, Va., Feb 8, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The first Virginia March for Life will be held on April 3, 2019, outside of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.

 

The Virginia March for Life is being organized by a partnership between The Family Foundation, Virginia Catholic Conference, the Virginia Society for Human Life, and the national March for Life.

 

In a statement, March for Life Defense and Education Fund President Jeanne Mancini said that she was “delighted” to partner with these organization, and will work to “bring together and mobilize countless pro-life Virginians who are appalled by the past few weeks’ pro-abortion activity in their beloved state.”

 

On January 29, Virginia Del. Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax), the lead sponsor of the Repeal Act, was questioned in a legislative committee session about her bill, which would have removed pro-life safeguards, and reduced the number of doctors needed to approve of a third-trimester abortion from three to just one.

 

During questioning, Tran admitted that there was nothing in the bill that would stop a woman from procuring an abortion while she was in active labor if she felt her mental or emotional health would be at risk.

 

The following day, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) appeared on radio station WTOP and seemed as though he was defending the law. Northam said that if a baby were to survive an abortion, it would be given “comfort care” during a “discussion” to determine if any other medical care would be administered. Many people, including the bishops of both of Virginia’s dioceses, said that Northam’s rhetoric was promoting infanticide.

 

“Given such an extreme pro-abortion agenda, it is imperative for all of us to stand together for the rights of the unborn. Every human life should be valued and protected,” said Mancini.

 

Although the Virginia March for Life was officially announced after abortion became a hot topic in the commonwealth, March for Life Director of Grassroots and Digital Strategy Bethany Peck told CNA that the event had “been in the works for many months” and that plans became were formalized in January.

 

“We feel it cannot come at a better time given Virginia’s recent comments and proposed legislation promoting pro-abortion extremism,” said Peck. The date of April 3 was chosen because it is the same day as the veto session in the Virginia legislature, Peck explained.

 

This means that all lawmakers will be at the capitol that day “and will not be able to miss the March for Life,” she said. Peck told CNA she expects hundreds of marchers will come to Richmond, but said it was too early to give a formal estimate.

 

The Virginia March for Life will be prefaced by a rally at 11 a.m., with the march beginning at noon. Speakers at the rally will be announced at a later date.

Washington state bishops support repeal of death penalty

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 05:04

Seattle, Wash., Feb 8, 2019 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic bishops of Washington state are expressing support for a senate bill that would repeal the death penalty.

This comes after the state’s Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in October 2018, finding it had been applied in an arbitrary and racially-biased manner.

“Our country’s legal system is far from perfect when it comes to imposing the death penalty,” Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle wrote in a Feb. 5 joint statement released by the  Washington State Catholic Conference.  

“Senate Bill 5339 removes the unconstitutional language and moves Washington state towards greater justice and respect for life at all stages.”

The bill would change the sentence for aggravated first degree murder to life imprisonment without the possibility of release or parole. The bill’s text states that the goal of the bill is “reducing criminal justice expenses.”

The bishops, in their support for the bill, cited the Catholic Church’s belief that every human life is sacred from conception until natural death.

“The act of murder cries out for an appropriate punishment, but the death penalty merely adds violence to violence, perpetuating an illusion that taking one human life for another can somehow balance the scales of justice,” Sartain said.

The Washington effort to repeal the death penalty is part of a national trend. New Hampshire legislators voted to remove the death penalty from the state last year, but the bill was vetoed by Republican Governor Chris Sununu.

Lawmakers in Colorado have said they are planning to introduce a proposal to repeal the death penalty in the upcoming legislative session. Similar legislation has already been introduced in Nevada and Kentucky this year.

Pope Francis in Aug. 2018 ordered a revision to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, updating it to describe the death penalty as “inadmissible” and an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

The Catechism previously taught the Church “does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.”

In declaring the death penalty inadmissible, the new text cites “an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes,” as well as the development of “more effective systems of detention…which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.”

 

Supreme Court blocks law regulating Louisiana abortion doctors

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 23:03

Washington D.C., Feb 7, 2019 / 09:03 pm (CNA).- The Supreme Court has blocked from taking effect a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to hold admitting privileges at hospitals nearby to abortion clinics. The court issued a stay on Thursday evening.

In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court granted Feb. 7 a temporary stay blocking the law while it is adjudicated in lower courts. Chief Justice John Roberts was the deciding vote and voted to grant the injunction.

The 2014 law required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at the hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. It was modeled after a similar law in Texas, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016. The law was challenged almost immediately upon passage and had been held from taking effect by legal challenges since it was passed.

Those opposed to the law say that it would prevent all but one abortionist in the state from performing abortions.

Although the Supreme Court struck down the Texas law three years ago, the makeup of the Court has changed significantly since that time. Notably, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was considered to be a moderate swing vote, has retired. He was replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose judicial approach to abortion was relatively unclear at the time of his confirmation.

Kavanaugh voted against the injunction and wrote an independent. In that dissent, Kavanaugh said that the law should be allowed to go into effect so its true impact can be measured.

With the injunction, the Supreme Court will likely be forced to consider the law in an upcoming session.

In a statement, Louisiana’s Attorney General Jeff Landry vowed to continue the legal fight, and pointed out that the law was passed nearly unanimously.

“Unfortunately, the supreme court today put enforcement of this pro-woman law on hold for the time being,” said Landry.

“We remain hopeful that if the Supreme Court grants certiorari in this case, it will to be to re-affirm that courts rule in fact-specific cases; because the facts in our case show (the bill) is constitutional and consistent with our overall regulatory scheme for surgical procedures.”

Landry said that his office “will not waver” in defense of the law, and will “continue to do all that we legally can to protect Louisiana women and the unborn.”

 

Governor Cuomo, Cardinal Dolan continue war of words over abortion

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 19:04

New York City, N.Y., Feb 7, 2019 / 05:04 pm (CNA).- More than two weeks after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law expanding legal protection for abortion, his battle with New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan continues in the op-ed pages of New York newspapers.

In a Feb. 6 op-ed in the New York Times, Cuomo accused President Donald Trump and the “religious right”, including Dolan, of “spreading falsehoods about abortion laws to inflame their base.”

“Activists on the far right continue to mislead with the ridiculous claim that the act will allow abortions up to a minute before birth,” he wrote.

According to the law’s wording, the Reproductive Health Act will allow for abortions “within 24 weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or (when) there is an absence of fetal viability, or at any time when necessary to protect a patient's life or health.” The bill also removes act of abortion from the criminal code, and instead places it in the public-health code, and strips most safeguards and regulations on the procedure. Non-doctors will now be permitted to perform abortions.

“While Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, and the Catholic Church are anti-choice, most Americans, including most Catholics, are pro-choice,” Cuomo said. “While governments may very well enact laws that are consistent with religious teaching, governments do not pass laws to be consistent with what any particular religion dictates.”

Cuomo, himself a Catholic, said he signed the Reproductive Health Act “to protect against” the “extreme conservatives” who want to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the U.S.

“The decisions I choose to make in my life, or in counseling my daughters, are based on my personal moral and religious beliefs,” Cuomo said, but the “oath of office is to the Constitutions of the United States and of the State of New York - not to the Catholic Church. My religion cannot demand favoritism as I execute my public duties.”

New York has consistently been one of the most pro-choice states, and was the first to legalize abortion in 1970, three years prior to the passing of Roe v. Wade. It currently has the highest abortion rate in the nation.

In a post to his personal blog, Dolan shot back, accusing Cuomo of “hiding behind labels” like the “religious right” to malign those opposed to abortion when it was convenient for him.  

“This is something new from the governor,” Dolan wrote. “He did not consider me part of the ‘religious right’ when seeking my help with the minimum wage increase, prison reform, protection of migrant workers, a welcome of immigrants and refugees, and advocacy for college programs for the state’s inmate population, which we were happy to partner with him on, because they were our causes too. I guess I was part of the ‘religious left’ in those cases.”

Quoting former Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey, Dolan noted that abortion is not about “right versus left, but right versus wrong.” Dolan also rejected Cuomo’s attempt to cast abortion as a “Catholic issue” instead of a human rights issue.

“The governor also continues his attempt to reduce the advocacy for the human rights of the pre-born infant to a ‘Catholic issue,’ an insult to our allies of so many religions, or none at all.  Governor Casey again: ‘I didn’t get my pro-life belief from my religion class in a Catholic school, but from my biology and U.S. Constitution classes,’” Dolan noted.

Responding to Cuomo’s remarks that religion is personal, Dolan said: “Yes, religion is personal; it’s hardly private, as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and struggle for civil rights so eloquently showed. Governor Cuomo’s professed faith teaches discrimination against immigrants is immoral, too. Does that mean he cannot let that moral principle guide his public policy? Clearly not.”

“Debate abortion on what it is. Don’t hide behind labels like ‘right wing’ and ‘Catholic,’” the Cardinal concluded. It is not the first time Cuomo and Dolan have exchanged words over the Reproductive Health Act, as well as the Child Victim’s Act, which extended the statute of limitations for reporting childhood sexual abuse.

At a late January press conference, Cuomo slammed the Catholic Church over the sex abuse crisis: “Tell the truth. Jesus Christ teaches about truth and justice - social justice - and that’s not what the church did here,” he said.

In a January 28 op-ed in the New York Post, Dolan criticized Cuomo for insulting the Church and for signing the “ghoulish radical abortion-expansion law.”

“All this in a state that already had the most permissive abortion laws in the country,” the cardinal wrote. “Those who once told us that abortion had to remain safe, legal and rare now have made it dangerous, imposed and frequent.”

Responding to Dolan’s criticism, as well as calls from several other bishops for his excommunication, Cuomo doubled down on his defense of separating his religion from his politics in comments to reporters: “I have my own Catholic beliefs, how I live my life. ... That is my business as a Catholic...I don’t govern as a Catholic. I don’t legislate as a Catholic.”

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