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Can you be pro-life and anti-war? In Pittsburgh, apparently not.

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 20:00

Pittsburgh, Pa., May 25, 2017 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- On Tuesday, a “Consistent Life Ethic” group was booted from sponsorship of the Pittsburgh March Against War after Facebook complaints against their pro-life stance.

Rehumanize International, previously Life Matters Journal, is a group that opposes all violence against human beings, including abortion, war, euthanasia, torture, capital punishment and human sex trafficking.

They were invited to co-sponsor the Pittsburgh March Against War, set to take place this summer, and were then removed from sponsorship after a vote of the other co-sponsors, following several complaints on the event’s Facebook page.

By Wednesday afternoon, the Facebook page for the March event had been deleted.

The Pittsburgh March Against War was organized by the Pittsburghers in Solidarity Against War, a coalition consisting of several organizations: the Anti-War Committee of the Thomas Merton Center, Veterans for Peace, CAIR Pittsburgh, International Socialist Organization - Pittsburgh, Socialist Alternative, Party for Socialism and Liberation, ANSWER Coalition, WILPF Pittsburgh, the Democratic Socialists of America, and Redneck Revolt.  

CNA reached out to all of the co-sponsor groups and the March event’s main e-mail for comment on this story, but did not receive any responses, aside from the Thomas Merton Center, by press time.

Aimee Murphy, Executive Director of Rehumanize International, said that she was first invited by one of the co-sponsors to a meeting about the Pittsburgh March Against War, a grassroots event scheduled to take place July 1 at the Schenley Plaza. Murphy previously hadn’t heard about the March, but wanted her organization to get involved after attending the meeting.

Murphy said she introduced herself, as well as the vision of Rehumanize, at the meeting and handed out her card to multiple people before her organization was added to the sponsors of the event.

“I handed out my card and said yeah, we’re kind of new to this, but check us out. So people in the roundtable had ample opportunity to vet us before they ever added us to the event, and they didn’t,” Murphy told CNA.

Once the group was added to the list of sponsors on the Facebook event, attendees began researching the group and complaining about Rehumanize’s pro-life stance in Facebook comments.

While the event page was deleted Wednesday, Murphy saved screenshots of some of the comments.

“...I can’t and won’t march alongside a group that equates my choices as a person with a uterus and my work as a scientist with war and imperialism. It’s dehumanizing and detrimental to the anti-war and anti-imperialist movement overall…” Abby Cartus wrote in Facebook comments on the event.

“I definitely believe Rehumanize was passed off as an anti-war group,” wrote another commenter, who amended her comment to be “an anti-war group only.”

In a Medium post, Patrick Young said that most people involved in Rehumanize “seem like caring and loving people. I do believe that they genuinely intend to be loving and compassionate in their work. They’ve gone to great lengths to separate themselves from the hateful and aggressive anti-abortion advocates that have been so persistent for decades and train volunteers on what they believe is a compassionate approach.”

Nevertheless, he said, they engage in the “abhorrent” practice of approaching women outside of abortion clinics “to guilt and shame women out of choosing to have an abortion,” and therefore he believes they were rightly removed from co-sponsorship of the anti-war march.

The Thomas Merton Center (TMC), which created the event Facebook page, responded that they were listening to concerns and that many of the groups planning the event only became aware of Rehumanize’s ideology “that stand against our human rights” after the Facebook comments.

On Tuesday night, a democratic vote was held with the co-sponsors of the event on whether or not to remove Rehumanize from sponsorship. Murphy said she was included in the call, and the thread of the conversation was whether or not an anti-abortion group could be allowed to sponsor the anti-war March.

As stated on the event page, before it was deleted: "The votes consist of 8-remove, 1-abstain, 2-absent, and 1-remain. Rehumanize International was removed as a member of the organizing group and sponsor of the Pittsburgh March Against War."

A statement on the Rehumanize International Facebook page reads: "Though we know that this is not meant as a personal slight against us, we are disappointed in the decision to exclude pro-life anti-war organizers as we fear it sends a signal to grassroots pro-peace, pro-life people that they are not welcome in the anti-war movement. [As with any social movement dedicated to the abolition of violence,] in order to end the atrocity of war, we need everyone committed to peace."

Murphy said she was “flabbergasted” that a representative of the TMC voted to "remove" Rehumanize, because Thomas Merton was a Catholic, pro-life Trappist monk who believed in a consistent life ethic.

"It seems a little strange that we are so wildly exercised about the ‘murder’ (and the word is of course correct) of an unborn infant by abortion... and yet accept without a qualm the extermination of millions of helpless and innocent adults... I submit that we ought to fulfill the one without omitting the other," Thomas Merton wrote in a letter to fellow activist Dorothy Day on Dec. 20, 1961.

Antonio Lodico, Executive Director of the TMC, told CNA that the involvement of the center in the March was largely through their anti-war committee, which consists of volunteers. Lodico said the TMC did not cast a vote regarding whether or not to remove Rehumanize because they had not had a chance as an organization to meet and discuss beforehand.

The TMC vote was likely a provincial vote cast by a representative of the volunteer group, but one that is considered binding unless the group changes their vote in the future. CNA asked the TMC to be put in contact with their volunteer anti-war committee but did not receive a response by press time.

Lodico added that while the TMC created the Facebook event for the March, they had given admin access to several of the co-sponsor groups and are unsure which group deleted the event.

“You may have received a notification that the Thomas Merton Center deleted the Pittsburgh March Against War Facebook event page. We did not approve deleting this event. A co-host deleted the event. The groups involved in planning this event are just finding out about this now. We acknowledge the labor that went into the education and conversation on the Facebook page and we regret that this effort was lost,” the TMC said in a Facebook post on their page.

This is not the first time that Rehumanize International has been excluded from sponsoring or organizing marches and protests. According to a press release from the group, “leading up to the Women's March earlier this year, they were summarily ignored despite their support of women's rights and nonviolence (while their sister group New Wave Feminists was accepted, then removed as a partner).”

Murphy noted in the press release that Rehumanize will attend the anti-war march regardless of whether or not they are sponsors.

"We are anti-war for the same reason we are anti-abortion: we believe in the inherent dignity of human beings and therefore, that all violence against them is contrary to that dignity," Murphy said.

"Because those who are bombed, aborted, and killed by other acts of aggression cannot afford for us to cease our holistic, human-centered work, we will march on July 1, even if we are unwanted. We will be there, supporting a message for peace and all life."

Following the deletion of the Facebook event, it is unclear whether the March will continue.

Pro-lifers slam Christian school for punishing pregnant teen

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 13:34

Hagerstown, Md., May 25, 2017 / 11:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Students for Life of America had strong words for a Maryland Christian high school that banned a pregnant student from walking at her graduation – a move they say will only deter women from being pro-life.

“Not allowing Maddi to walk in her graduation ceremony sends the message that being pregnant in a Christian school is an embarrassment that should be hidden away,” president Kristan Hawkins wrote in a May 23 letter.

“…this example may be the turning point causing many students to turn away from the pro-life and Christian message.”

The letter was sent to principal David Hobbs of Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland. The private school refused to let senior Maddi Runkles walk at her graduation due to violating a moral clause she was obligated to sign.

Eighteen-year-old Maddi had a 4.0 grade point average, was involved in her student council and other leadership programs, and played soccer.

She found out she was pregnant in January this year and entertained the idea of an abortion. However, Maddi encountered the loving support of her parents and the Christian community at her church and chose to keep the baby.

Originally, Maddi was going to be expelled from campus and placed on independent study, but the degree of punishment was lessened after her family and 25 other parents and classmates appealed to the principle in person.

Principal Hobbs had said in a statement on the school's website that “we love Maddi Runkles,” but that the “best way to love her right now is to hold her accountable for her immorality that began this situation.”

According to Students for life, Hobbs was planning on telling the school that the student had broken the rules, “but Maddi didn't want the information to go through a secondhand source.”

“So instead, she voluntarily got up in front of the entire high school and tearfully told them what she did and that she was pregnant.”

Even with the lessened punishment, Hawkins criticized the school board for deciding that graduation “is too great of an honor…on which to present a pregnant girl with her earned academic achievements.”

Hawkins argued that the public nature of the punishment is unnecessary, given Maddi's suspension and stripped leadership roles – as well as the sheer difficulty of pregnancy.

“It appears that the school is not satisfied that she has repented of and been held accountable for her initial offense, and that satisfaction of such only comes at a public cost.”

She insisted that the public punishment will only work to shame other women who will go or are going through a similar situation. Students for Life was founded with the mission of ending the need for abortion by educating youth, engaging with the students on campuses throughout the U.S., and lobbying for campus pregnancy programs.

A study released by the Guttmacher Institute shows that over 50 percent of women who procured an abortion in 2014 consider themselves to be part of a Christian denomination – nearly half of the group identifying as Catholic.

Another study, according to Care Net, said that 76 percent of women did not feel they were able to discuss their abortion with members of their church. Additionally, 65 percent felt judged by parishioners, and 41 percent did not believe their church was prepared to counsel them through pregnancy decisions.

Religious freedom cited in first US female genital mutilation case

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 05:02

Detroit, Mich., May 25, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A U.S. federal law prohibiting female genital mutilation will be challenged for the first time in a case in Detroit, where lawyers plan to cite religious freedom as a defense of the practice.

In the case, two physicians and one of their wives are charged with subjecting young girls to genital cutting. The three adults are members of the Dawoodi Bohra, a small Indian-Muslim sect located in Farmington Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), or the cutting or removal of a female’s clitoris and labia, has officially been illegal in the United States since 1997, under the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act.

Until modern times, the cutting or removal of female genitalia was considered a “cure” for various ills - hysteria, excessive sexual desire, lesbianism, etc. and was covered by some insurance providers well into the 1970s.

Now, FGM is widely understood by the United Nations and numerous other international human rights groups as a “harmful traditional practice”. The procedure has no health benefits for women, multiple health risks, and is considered a human rights violation.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the defense “maintains that the doctors weren't engaged in any actual cutting — just a scraping of the genitalia — and that the three defendants are being persecuted for practicing their religion by a culture and society that doesn't understand their beliefs and is misinterpreting what they did.”

Court documents state that the two Minnesota girls in the case had scarring and abnormalities on their clitorises and labia minora as a result of the procedure.

"According to some members of the community who have spoken out against the practice, the purpose of this cutting is to suppress female sexuality in an attempt to reduce sexual pleasure and promiscuity," a Homeland Security Investigations special agent wrote in an April 20 court filing, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Although it is the first case specifically challenging the law on female genital mutilation, experts believe it is unlikely that the religious freedom defense will work in this case.

“I don’t think the religious freedom argument will work. Based on Jehovah Witness cases of denying blood transfusions to children, the court should decide this type of case on the basis of what’s in the best interest of the child,” Nina Shea, an international human-rights lawyer and director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, told CNA.

Religious freedom has failed as a defense in numerous cases where a child has either been abused or denied healthcare, because the government has an overriding compelling interest in what is best for the child, a basic standard in the family law codes or statutes of most Western nations.  
 
A complicating factor in cases of FGM is that it is sometimes presented as the female equivalent of male circumcision.

However, “FGM is very different in purpose in that it is to deprive the woman of sexual enjoyment throughout the rest of her life.  Also unlike male circumcision, there are no health benefits and there are health risks to FGM,” Shea said.  

Some of those health risks include severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

"I can't imagine any court that would say that the parents' right to practice their religion gives them the right to inflict this harm on their daughters," First Amendment expert and constitutional law scholar Erwin Chemerinsky told the Detroit Free Press.

"It's going to come down to medicine, and if (the procedure) really inflicts great, lifelong harms on those who are subjected to it — that's what is going to decide this case," he said.

Despite the risks, the practice remains deeply ingrained in some cultures and religions where it is seen as a sort of “rite of passage” for young women, who often opt for the procedure themselves, rather than being forced into it by males in the community.   

Anthropologists have found that even educating mothers about the health risks of FGM is not enough to deter the practice in some areas, where it is a matter of cultural pride and a way of ensuring a girl’s future and acceptance in a society where this has been a long-accepted practice.

“What we're coming to realize is that programs that target individual mothers (about the harms of FGM) are completely ineffective. Mothers are not solely in charge of the decisions for their daughters,” Bettina Shell-Duncan, an anthropology professor at the University of Washington, told The Atlantic in 2015.

“We need to be targeting people who are in the extended family, and we know that we need to figure out who are the figures of authority in these families, and who are the influences on them in the community. We need to do male elders, but also female elders.”

“It’s about a conversation about, What is the best way to secure the future for your children? The future for their girls might not be best secured by being circumcised any longer,” she added.

Stronger religious freedoms in Texas could boost Catholic foster care

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 02:04

Austin, Texas, May 25, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church in Texas will work to promote more foster parenting, following the state legislature’s approval of strong legal protections for religious adoption and foster care agencies.

“Now Catholics can join other people of good will and serve Texas’ children in good faith,” said Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops.

This fall, the bishops’ conference has said, it will work with diocesan offices on a campaign to encourage Catholic families to be foster parents.

“Most Catholic Charities in the state had withdrawn from serving foster children,” the bishops’ conference said May 22. “The new law removes a significant barrier to Catholics serving children in the foster care system and will trigger greater recruitment efforts by Catholic parishes and ministries.”

The bill, called the Freedom to Serve Children Act, could protect the ability of organizations and individuals in Texas’ foster care system who have sincerely held religious beliefs to remove themselves from actions that would directly violate their faith.

It has multiple applications. It could allow groups opposed to abortion to avoid helping a minor obtain an abortion. It could allow groups that believe children should be placed only with a married adoptive mother and father to provide foster services without facing lawsuits from same-sex couples.

The bill passed the Texas Senate May 22 on a 21-10 vote. Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville joined Republicans to support the bill, saying it would help add more private adoption agencies to Texas’ system: “It's about increasing capacity, it's about providing homes for kids.”

The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign the bill.

The Texas House of Representatives had passed the bill by a 93-49 vote on May 10, largely along party lines.

Private foster care and adoption agencies receive about 25 percent of child placement funding in the state, the Associated Press reports. Some groups had suspended services for fear of discrimination lawsuits.

In other states and the District of Columbia, long-serving Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down by laws against sexual orientation discrimination or new state funding rules that would have required them to place children with same-sex couples.

A Texas Department of Family and Protective Services report indicates that 314 children slept in state offices, hotels, shelters and other temporary housing between Sept. 1 and March 31, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

The bill drew opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union and LGBT activist groups like the Human Rights Campaign.

Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, charged that the bill would “prioritize discrimination over the best interest of kids in the child welfare system.”

Critics voiced concern the bill would allow foster parents to prevent children from being vaccinated. Some critics objected to protecting foster parents’ abilities to limit children’s access to contraceptives and abortion.

South Dakota passed a similar bill in March, but no other states currently have similar legislation.

Catholic academics urge protection of undocumented students

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 22:02

Washington D.C., May 24, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of increased government crackdown on immigration, a letter was sent to the Department of Homeland Security voicing Catholic support for programs promoting deferred deportation.

“As leaders of Catholic colleges and universities, we are dedicated to educating students from all backgrounds,” read the May 23 statement with over 65 signatures from presidents of Catholic colleges throughout the U.S.

“In keeping with this commitment, many of our institutions are home to young men and women who are undocumented and have met the criteria for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). We are deeply concerned about the futures of our undocumented students.”

The letter was addressed to John Kelly, secretary of the DHS. It requested that he meet with leaders of Catholic colleges to discuss greater involvement and understanding of current immigration policies aimed at protecting undocumented migrants with no criminal activity.

“We would like to better understand how immigration enforcement agencies in the Department of Homeland Security, including ICE and Customs and Border Patrol, approach DACA holders during targeted enforcement actions, police encounters or in public.”

The statement responds to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement which said that the reprieve granted to undocumented childhood arrivals isn't necessarily legally binding, but that they are less of a priority to deport than undocumented immigrants with criminal charges.

“DACA is not a protected legal status, but active DACA recipients are typically a lower level of enforcement priority,” the group said in a tweet in March.

Individuals who are registered for DACA are also known as “DREAMers,” since many meet the general requirements of the 2001 Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was a policy put in place by the Obama administration in 2012. The policy promised to defer deportation for two y ear periods to those who qualified underneath the program’s guidelines.

In order to apply for DACA a person must be under the age 31 before June 2012, moved to the US before turning the age of 16, has a high school degree or are aiming to receive one, and has no record of felony charges, significant misdemeanors, or three smaller misdemeanors.

According to a study released in January by the Pew Research Center, over 750,000 undocumented migrants have received either deportation relief or work permits since the program’s establishment.

The current administration has a stricter interpretation of immigration policy than Obama's, but President Donald Trump has stated that he would not revoke the DACA program. He said targets for immigration enforcement will be criminals and not “DREAMers.”

Cracking down on immigration was a major platform of President Trump’s campaign. According to ICE, over 41,000 suspected undocumented immigrants have been arrested this year, a nearly 38 percent increase since this time last year.

However, just because “DREAMers” aren't targeted does not mean they are not affected.

The letter cited that 10 DACA recipients have been arrested and one has been deported since President Donald Trump took office this year.

DACA does not commission legal protection or defines legal status of the individual. But the policy is rather an omission by the DHS in order to ignore legal action, which they may have been carried out as defined by the immigration laws.

The policy does not necessarily bind the government to inaction, and even though the Trump administration has stressed the arrest of DACA immigrants to be of minute importance, there is still a danger that “DREAMers” will still be subject to punishment.

John Kelly confirmed a statement from President Trump that migrants like “Dreamers” will not be targeted, but only the immigrants with criminal records. However, Kelly acknowledged that laws were already broken in illegally crossing the border, and said “Dreamers” may still be subject to negative ramifications.

“People fall into our hands incidentally that we have no choice in most cases but to go ahead and put in the system,” said Kelly in an April 23 interview with CBS.

The letter stated that protecting the vulnerable is a Christian obligation, and applauded the policy’s ability to help undocumented students within the US.

“The DACA policy has enabled our students to continue their studies and pursue careers in their chosen fields, from education to medicine, despite great anxiety and uncertainty.”

Budget proposal draws concern for cuts to poverty programs

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 19:11

Washington D.C., May 24, 2017 / 05:11 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump’s budget requests, although applauded for their pro-life measures, were largely met with concern from Catholic aid groups, particularly for their cuts to welfare programs and international aid.

“Rather than balancing the budget on the backs of those who are poor while shoring up military spending, our budgetary policies should reflect compassion for those most fragile and, at the same time, should allocate funds to protect safety and the common good,” Sister Donna Markham, O.P., president and CEO of Catholic Charities, USA, stated on Tuesday.

President Trump released his FY 2018 budget proposal “The New Foundation for American Greatness” on Tuesday, calling for a $54 billion increase in defense spending and an increase in immigration enforcement and border security funding.

To balance the budget over 10 years, these increases would supposedly be offset by cuts elsewhere, including to international aid, the State Department, a $191 billion cut in food stamp funding over 10 years, and cuts to other welfare programs.

The administration also announced a proposed budget increase in fighting the opioid epidemic, including “$12.1 billion for treatment and prevention efforts” and “$10.8 billion in treatment funding.”

In anticipation of the budget proposal, leading U.S. bishops wrote Congress on Tuesday outlining their serious concerns. The goal of reducing the deficit was legitimate, they said, but such deficit reduction must include a comprehensive set of cuts and not just cuts in programs tailored for low-income groups while increasing spending in other areas.

Particularly concerning to them were cuts to international aid programs at a time when conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa threaten to destabilize whole regions, along with droughts and famines. Famine has already been declared in South Sudan, and three other countries are on the brink of famines.

Overall, the proposed cuts to diplomacy and development amount to almost $60 billion, Catholic Relief Services says.

“This budget also shifts attention to short-term ‘strategic’ issues and countries,” Bill O’Keefe, vice president of advocacy for Catholic Relief Services, stated on Tuesday of the proposed cuts. “The danger is that problems elsewhere ignored today become the expensive strategic challenges our military has to address tomorrow.”

“The people who say aid does not work should come stand in my shoes here in Somalia,” said Mohamed Dahir, CRS’ country manager in Somalia. “They should talk to a woman who walked with her children for days and days, trying to escape drought, only to lose some of those children along the way.”

“In previous droughts, people like her found water in the major rivers, but this drought is so bad even the rivers have dried up,” Dahir said. “How can we abandon them – good, hardworking, innocent people who have done nothing wrong? Our aid not only brings them life, it brings them another commodity that is very precious in Somalia – hope."

Cuts to diplomacy are also distressing, CRS and the bishops said, as the international community still has yet to come together to negotiate a peace to end the six year-long conflict in Syria.

 Other Catholic aid groups largely were concerned over the domestic budget proposals.

Catholic Charities, USA “supports efforts to improve vital safety-net programs needed to move people out of poverty and protect life,” Sister Donna Markham said.

Yet “the disastrous, albeit cruel, cuts to anti-poverty programs such as SNAP, Medicaid and jobs training will have a devastating effect on millions of vulnerable individuals and families who depend on them,” she continued.

The Catholic Climate Covenant also expressed serious concerns about Trump’s proposed budget, calling the cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency “dramatic and unwarranted” and saying that they hurt the poor.

This is because the EPA has done “excellent work” for the environment, “yet far too many families, especially in low-income and of color communities, live near heavily polluted areas such as Superfund and brownfields sites, incinerators and coal-fired power plants,” the group explained.

Trump’s budget would cut programs having to do with clean-up of these areas and enforcement of environmental laws, rendering poor people in these communities more “vulnerable” to pollution.

“These cuts threaten the future of our children not only in the U.S. but around the world,” Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, bishop liaison to the group’s board of directors, stated on Wednesday, pointing to cuts of programs working “to help reduce greenhouse gases, the major cause of the global warming we are experiencing.”

“Pope Francis has made it clear that the threat of climate change demands that ‘the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay’,” he said, quoting the encyclical Laudato Si’ paragraph 165.

The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, however, approved of the proposal that funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, would be redirected to community health centers. That funding would be estimated at $422 million.

“We’re encouraged to see that the budget released today prevents federal funds from going to the nation’s largest abortion chain, Planned Parenthood,” the group’s president Marjorie Dannenfelser stated on Tuesday. “Taxpayers should not have to prop up Planned Parenthood’s failing, abortion-centered business model.”

 

St. Louis rule creates legal traps for pro-lifers, lawsuit charges

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 08:18

St. Louis, Mo., May 24, 2017 / 06:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A St. Louis city ordinance that could force Catholic schools and pro-life pregnancy centers to hire employees who support abortion has drawn legal opposition from the Archbishop of St. Louis and several pro-life organizations.

“As Catholics, we know that all life is a gift from God and our parents, and must be protected at any cost,” St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson said May 22. “Sadly, legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed by the Supreme Court in 1973.”

“Now, some of our St. Louis politicians have made a protected 'class' out of 'reproductive health,' which is merely a politically correct euphemism for abortion,” the archbishop said at a press conference on the steps of the federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis.

He said the archdiocese will not comply with the “vile bill.”

Archbishop Carlson was joined by Peggy Forrest of Our Lady’s Inn, which promotes abortion alternatives for pregnant women, archdiocesan newspaper the St. Louis Review reports. Also present was Sarah Pitlyk, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, which has filed the lawsuit seeking judicial review.

The Archdiocesan Elementary Schools of St. Louis, Our Lady’s Inn, and the private company O’Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC are parties to the lawsuit concerning St. Louis Ordinance 70459, also called Board Bill 203 Committee Substitute. The ordinance, enacted in February, creates a protected status for anyone who has “made a decision related to abortion,” even in cases where the abortion was not their own. The protections apply to corporations and all businesses, not only individuals.

Opponents said the bill would bar any individual or entity, including Christian organizations, from refusing to sell or rent property to individuals or businesses that promote or provide abortions. It could require Catholic schools to hire abortion supporters or potentially be sued.

The lawsuit notes the archdiocesan schools require teachers and employees to sign a statement saying they will not publicly support abortion and will otherwise live in harmony with Catholic teachings in their professional and personal lives. Organizations that require such a statement face criminal fines under the city bill, while individuals who enforce it face a fine and even jail time.

“The passage of this bill is not a milestone of our city’s success. It is, rather, a marker of our city’s embrace of the culture of death,” said Archbishop Carlson.

Pitlyk of the Thomas More Society further criticized the ordinance.

“The City of St. Louis, by pushing an abortion agenda, is clearly out of step with the rest of the state,” she charged. “The city has taken the protections typically granted to prevent discrimination for ‘race, age, religion, sex or disability’ and applied them to those who have made or expect to make ‘reproductive health decisions’,” she said.

Forrest said that the ordinance would bar Our Lady’s Inn from hiring only individuals who support its mission to provide abortion alternatives.

She said that since the ordinance was passed, her organization has received several suspicious calls that seemed like possible legal traps. She said there is a great possibility “that women either pretending to need services or knowing full well they don't want the services that we provide will engage us just to see if they can catch us in violating the ordinance.”

“It’s insincere and takes up time for women who really are interested in our services,” Forrest added. “We support women who have already made a choice for life. And if that's not the choice they’ve made then our services don’t match them.”  

The ordinance would also require businesses to include abortion coverage in employee health care plans, even if owners object. The Thomas More Society said this requirement is unlawful under the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving Hobby Lobby’s challenge to a federal rule mandating coverage of contraceptive drugs, including drugs that can cause abortion.

The Catholic-owned O’Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC, was also part of the Hobby Lobby case.

The St. Louis legal complaint said the ordinance violates other constitutional protections involving free speech, free association, the religion clauses of the First Amendment, due process rights, and equal protection, as well as several state laws.

Pitlyk also faulted the ordinance’s “extremely limited” religious exemptions for housing and employment, and its lack of exemptions for individuals who have “sincere religious, moral or ethical objections to abortion.”

“That is unconstitutional, and directly violates both federal and state law,” she said.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson defended the law in a statement, saying, “We don’t believe the ordinance infringes on the rights of the Archdiocese,” according to the Associated Press.

While backers of the ordinance said it aimed to address discrimination against individuals who have had, or were planning to have abortions, they could not find examples of such.

Pitlyk said the ordinance was “a remedy in search of a problem.”

 

Cardinal Dolan finds lesson in humility in life of Irish migrant who saw Our Lady

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 02:04

New York City, N.Y., May 24, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An Irish immigrant named John Curry passed away in 1943 in New York City after a modest life.

But when he was reburied earlier this month, a large congregation gathered to remember the man who had witnessed the apparition of Our Lady of Knock.

Among those who honored his memory was Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who delivered the homily for Curry’s May 13 reburial Mass at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan.

“We remember this sincere, honest, holy immigrant John Curry, who we come to bury today with reverence for who he was, with reverence for the country from whence he came, with reverence for the nation where settled, with reverence for what he saw that August 21, 1879,” the cardinal said in his homily.

On that evening, fifteen men, women, and children, mainly from the village of Knock in County Mayo, saw an apparition at Knock parish.

They ranged in age from 5 to 74 years old. Curry was the youngest, there with his cousin Patrick Hill.

Some of the witnesses reported figures that appeared to be the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. John at the parish church’s gable wall. Amid luminous lights, they saw the figure of a lamb and a cross on an altar. In the pouring rain, the witnesses stayed, praying the rosary.

Cardinal Dolan said Curry beheld the apparition “with the simplicity and sincerity of a little five-year-old boy.” Throughout the rest of his life, Curry was “a man whose only quiet boast was that he was an altar boy, from his childhood at Knock to his death at Sacred Heart Home with the Sisters of the Poor, rarely if ever missing daily Mass and Holy Communion.”

Curry would later leave Ireland for the United States, then spent time in London before moving once again to New York. He spent his last years with the Little Sisters of the Poor at Sacred Heart Home and was buried in a donated, unmarked grave at Pine Lawn Cemetery on Long Island.

His reburial at Manhattan’s historic old cathedral drew Irish and Irish-American leaders. Their numbers included a group of Irish pilgrims from Knock, including relatives of the never-married Curry.

As an immigrant who first came to New York at the age of 21, Curry “really only distinguished himself by his simplicity, his humility, his kindness and his piety,” Cardinal Dolan said at the Mass. John Curry’s faith in Christ “animated his tender care for the sick” at the New York hospital where he later worked.

At the age of 63, the cardinal recounted, Curry testified “that he recalled the vision of Jesus the Lamb of God, silently adored by his mother, St. Joseph and St. John, as if it were last night.”  

“Jesus, Mary, Joseph and St. John,” said the cardinal. “They’re here, and the communion of saints, as is true at every Eucharist... as is the spirit of John Curry.”

“Our eyes are on Mary, are they not?” Cardinal Dolan asked. “The mother of Jesus, given by him to us as a parting gift from his cross on Calvary as our own mother too. Our eyes are on Mary as she appeared in that little village in County Mayo, Knock, on Aug. 21, 1879 in company with her spouse, St. Joseph, her spiritual son St. John, all three of them in silent adoration of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

He also reflected on the place of immigrants in the United States.

“Our eyes this this morning as well are on the immigrant, as Jesus, Mary and Joseph were refugees once in Egypt,” he said.

“John Curry was but one of the millions of immigrants who came here to America, from Ireland to be sure, but from almost every nation in the atlas, to enrich this country mightily, and to make this nation a light to the world, through its embrace of the John Currys of the world--a light, my friends, we can not allow to grow dim today.”

According to Cardinal Dolan, Curry would say the day is not about him, but about Jesus and the Virgin Mary, of whom St. Elizabeth said, “Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s promise to her would be fulfilled.”

The day of the reburial Mass coincided with the May 13 observance of the centenary of the Our Lady of Fatima apparition.

New York City event to discuss how faith, modernity intersect

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 22:01

New York City, N.Y., May 23, 2017 / 08:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An event exploring the interaction of the Christian faith with the modern world – in light of the writings of the founder of Communion and Liberation – will take place in New York City this summer.

The June 22 event, titled Christianity: An Encounter that Shapes Life, is the second annual Giussani series on Faith and Modernity. It will be presented by global ecclesiastical movement Communion and Liberation, Crossroads Cultural Center, and the Sheen Center in New York City.
 
The event is free and will focus on the heart of the Christian faith and true human encounter as described by Monsignor Luigi Giussani in his book, “Generating Traces in the History of the World.”

An Encounter that Shapes Life will feature discussions from Father Solanus Benfatti, a professor of Spirituality and Franciscan Traditions at St. Joseph's Seminary in the Archdiocese of New York, and Michael Waldstein, PhD, a professor of theology at Ave Maria University in Florida.
 
Communion and Liberation began to emerge in 1954 by Italian priest, Catholic thinker, and educator Msgr. Luigi Giussani. The movement focuses on the actualization of man's faith by living the Christian presence within community.

In his 1995 book “The Risk of Education,” Msgr. Giussani described the movement as “showing the relevance of faith to life's needs, and therefore – and this 'therefore' is important – showing that faith is rational, implies a specific concept of rationality.”

“When we say that faith exalts rationality, we mean that faith corresponds to some fundamental, original need that all men and women feel in their hearts.”

Crossroads Cultural Center was established in 2004 as an extension of Communion and Liberation. The group's mission is to foster knowledge of reality and life's meaning, as seen through the lens of Christian faith.

The event will be held at Sheen Center located in East Village of downtown New York City. The center is named after the previous archbishop of Rochester, Fulton Sheen, and hosts events which align to the truth, beauty, and goodness as expressed by the Catholic Church.

A life stream of the conference will be made available at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Sheen Center’s website: https://sheencenter.org/shows/giussani2/

US bishops welcome Trump administration's reprieve for Haitian migrants

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 18:38

Washington D.C., May 23, 2017 / 04:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Trump administration’s decision to allow 50,000 Haitian earthquake victims to remain in the United States prompted gratitude from the U.S. bishops’ conference, which stressed the need for continued work to aid Haitians here and in their home country.

“While this extension is helpful, it still leaves many Haitian families in the United States in an insecure and vulnerable position, particularly with respect to ensuring legal work authorization,” Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, said May 23.

The Department of Homeland Security’s decision extended the Obama administration’s protections for Haitians who had arrived in the U.S. within a year of the massive 2010 earthquake. They may remain with work authorizations until January 2018.

Sources in the department told Reuters that Secretary John Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security believes that conditions in Haiti are improving, but Haitians in the U.S. still need protections.

At the same time, there is no commitment to extending protections past January. Officials recommended that Haitians with temporary protective status begin seeking travel documents to return to Haiti.

In a May 23 letter to Secretary Kelly, Bishop Vasquez said that extending temporary protective status serves an important humanitarian role by promoting the safety and stability of Haitian families in the U.S.

“We encourage our government to work proactively with the Haitian government to provide life-saving aid and recovery assistance,” he said. “Haiti will continue to struggle to receive back those who are temporarily protected, even those who may be returned in the near future.”

The bishop said that Catholic service networks in the U.S. will continue to aid Haitian families and the rebuilding process in Haiti. These networks will also look for opportunities to collaborate with the Church in Haiti and with the U.S. and Haitian governments.

The earthquake killed an estimated 220,000 people and affected over 3.5 million more.

Temporary protected status may be provided to citizens of countries that are suffering from severe violence, disease and natural disasters. At present countries designated for that status include Sudan, Somalia, Syria, El Salvador, Nepal, and Yemen, Reuters reports.

Ventura softball star: Encountering Christ through service

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 07:46

Los Angeles, Calif., May 23, 2017 / 05:46 am (CNA).- To a pitcher, a little situation like bases loaded, full count and trying to protect a one-run lead in the late innings is no big deal — not if you’ve been doing this since you were 8 years old.

And not if, like St. Bonaventure High School pitching star Jessica Gomez, you’re aiming for a career in pediatric nursing, where matters of life and death will mean something a lot different than they did on a softball field.

And certainly not if, like this senior scholar-athlete, you are a lifelong Catholic who believes Christ is present in every part of your life, which is why she chooses to serve others, willingly and joyfully.

“As someone who’s been raised Catholic, I’ve always been involved in service activities,” said Gomez, who tutors kids with learning disabilities and helps serve the hungry through the Many Meals feeding program at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Ventura. “It just really touches me when I encounter the love of Christ through service.”

That’s one reason Gomez was named an archdiocesan Christian Service Award recipient for 2017, and why she’s headed for the nursing program at Villanova University.

“Nursing is a healing occupation, and it’s the kind of ministry I really feel drawn to,” said Gomez. “I’ve always felt a call to help and serve wherever I can, plus I’m interested in science, and the nursing program at Villanova seems like a wonderful opportunity.”

Pressure performer

This week, Gomez - who has posted a 27-14 won-lost mark, 2.27 earned run average, and .302 batting average - will lead her St. Bonaventure team into the CIF-Southern Section softball playoffs. The Seraphs finished 16-8 and shared the Tri-Valley League title with Fillmore, made possible when Gomez tossed a three-hit, 11-strikeout, 5-0 win over Fillmore in the regular season finale.

“I respond well under pressure,” she said with a smile. “I have a very competitive nature, and my drive to win influences me when I get into tough situations. I enjoy the challenge of coming through in tight spots - which I’m hoping will serve me well in nursing.”

Those “tight spots,” she adds, are eased through prayer. In fact, the Seraphs as a team take a quiet moment before each game “to ask God for freedom from injury, the strength to play well and, if it’s in God’s will, for victory. And we really try to play the game the right way, to practice good sportsmanship and to be charitable and respectful, on and off the field.”

That attitude carries into off-the-field service projects. Gomez, her coaches and her teammates have visited a nearby youth correctional facility, meeting and talking with the female inmates “on how we have tried to deal with and adapt to challenges and struggles in our lives. Mainly, we want them to know that someone cares about them.”

As student body vice president, Gomez takes seriously her role as a leader, in class and on the softball diamond, and tries to impart “positive messages” to younger students and teammates, just as others did for her.

At Our Lady of the Assumption - which she, parents Bill and Candace and older brother Joseph (a sophomore at Georgetown) have attended since she was in sixth grade - Gomez enjoys another form of service, through singing in the Life Teen band that leads music at Sunday evening liturgies, “which is really fun and a wonderful way to connect with God and the community.”

Soon, Gomez will head back east to begin her next adventure at Villanova, a journey she anticipates with typical open-mindedness and determination.

“It’s a little scary,” she admitted, “but I’m excited by the opportunities in front of me. And I know that God is going to be with me every step of the way.”

 

This article originally appeared at AngelusNews.com, the news website for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Here's why the US bishops are distressed about military spending

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 05:13

Washington D.C., May 23, 2017 / 03:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Leading U.S. bishops have expressed serious concerns with President Donald Trump’s reported budget proposals for the 2018 fiscal year, noting among other fears that the proposals would decrease funding for diplomacy efforts while increasing military spending.

“The human consequences of budget choices are clear to us as pastors,” leaders of various committees of the U.S. bishops’ conference wrote to members of Congress in a May 19 letter.

“The moral measure of the federal budget is how well it promotes the common good of all, especially the most vulnerable whose voices are too often missing in these debates,” the bishops continued.

President Trump’s budget proposal for FY 2018 – to be released on Tuesday – will reportedly make deep cuts to Medicaid and other programs, and would eliminate entirely some programs that are tailored toward low-income persons, while increasing military spending and immigration enforcement funding.

Food stamps could see $193 billion in cuts over a decade, according to the AP. Farm subsidies could also be cut.

Leading bishops wrote members of Congress on May 19 saying that proposals in the budget would be “profoundly troubling.”

The signatories included Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, head of the committee on pro-life activities; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, chair of the committee on international justice and peace; Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chair of the domestic justice and human development committee; and Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the migration committee.

Especially troubling, the bishops said, are the increases to military spending, when the U.S. already outspends all other countries in this area, and cuts to foreign assistance and diplomacy at a time when conflicts around the world threaten to destabilize whole regions.

The Syrian civil war, for instance, has displaced more than 11 million and created almost six million registered refugees.

“Our nation should elevate diplomacy and international development as primary tools for promoting peace, regional stability and human rights, not adopt deep cuts to these budgets,” the bishops wrote.

The U.S. already spends more on its military than at least the next seven countries combined, according to estimates from the fact-checking website PolitiFact.

When considering hikes to defense spending, the U.S. should remember that just wars can only be waged as a “last resort” and “within strict moral limits of proportionality, discrimination and probability of success,” the bishops emphasized.

Also, they added, the U.S. must exercise gratitude toward the members of the military and remember “the stress of repeated deployments over the years.” The bishops reminded Congress that they have “repeatedly called for robust diplomatic efforts to end longstanding conflicts in a range of countries, including Syria and Iraq.”

“It is hard to reconcile the need for diplomacy and political solutions with significant cuts to the State Department budget,” the bishops wrote.

And cuts to foreign international aid programs might not only hurt the poor, but could pose threats to the security of areas afflicted by war, drought, and famine, as well as to U.S. national security, they added. Famine has already been declared in South Sudan, and famines could be breaking out soon in three other countries.

The bishops maintained the legitimacy “of reducing future unsustainable deficits that would harm all citizens,” yet insisted upon “a comprehensive approach” to reduce deficits and not one that cuts only in certain areas while increasing spending in others.

“A just framework for sound fiscal policy cannot rely almost exclusively on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons,” they wrote.

“The Catholic Bishops of the United States stand ready to work with leaders of both parties for a federal budget that reduces future deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people, and advances peace and the common good,” the letter concluded.

 

Why head transplants won't disprove the existence of God

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 05:04

Denver, Colo., May 23, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With plans for the first human head transplant surgery looming in the next year, a lead doctor on the formidable project has high hopes for the procedure.

Along with the aim of finding a new body for a yet-to-be-selected patient, the physician says that the surgery – as a first step toward immortality – will effectively disprove religion.

But Catholic critics have called into question not only the ethics of such a risky procedure, but the dubious claim that such a development would render belief in God irrelevant.

“The actual trying of the surgery at this point I think would be unethical because of the tremendous risk involved, and it is an unproven surgery,” Dr. Paul Scherz, assistant professor of moral theology and ethics at The Catholic University of America, told CNA.

Sherz made his remarks following the news that Italian doctor Sergio Canavero is aiming to carry out the first human head transplant surgery within the next 10 months. It's a process Canavero hopes will pave the way for the process of transplanting cryogenically frozen brains – and ultimately, in his view, to the eradication of death.

Canavero serves as director of Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group and has teamed up with Harbin Medical Centre and Doctor Xiaoping Ren, an orthopedic surgeon who was involved with the first successful hand transplant in the U.S. The first surgical attempt for the head transplant is expected to take place in China, where the group says they're more likely to find a donor body.

Cryonics involves the freezing of the brain or even the whole body of patients, with expectations that future science will have the means to restore the frozen tissue and extend life.

Because conscious minds will have experienced “life” outside of death, Canavero said the surgery would then remove the fear of death and the people's need for religion. He said if the process succeeds, “religions will be swept away forever.”

However, Sherz responded that even if the surgery was a success, it would not disprove the Catholic faith.

“There is nothing in the Catholic tradition of how we understand the soul that would think that if you moved a head or moved the brain that that wouldn’t allow the person to come back to life,” he said.

Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group has already claimed that a successful head transplant has been carried out on a monkey, but not all scientists agree that the operation can be recorded as a success.

Before the monkey's head was stitched back together, it was removed, cooled, and the blood of the transplant body was cross circulated with an outside source. Canavero and his group claimed the supply of blood was then connected to prove the surgery succeeded without brain damage, but the spinal cord was left unattached.

How the connected blood supply proves the surgery is possible without brain damage was not described, and many bioethicists are skeptical of the publication of the surgery's success without proper peer review and of the issues around the severed spine.

Because the technology has not yet been developed, the bioethicists worry that the severed spine may never be reconstructed, leaving the patient worse off than before.

Despite the pervasive belief in the surgery's failure, Canavero claims there's a 90 percent chance that the human head transplant will succeed. And not only that, its success would allow humans to “no longer need to be afraid of death.”

Father Tad Pacholczyk, who serves as a bioethicist for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, disagreed with Canavero's definition of being “brought back to life.”

He said to assume death as a necessary product of either the head surgery or brain surgery is gullible and mistaken, as there is potential for the patient to be merely unconscious.

“The patient undergoing the head transplant is not dead, only unconscious,” he told CNA. “There is not any 'bringing back to life'…There is merely a restoration of consciousness, briefly lost during the movement of the head from one human body to the other.”

Scherz also said that the Church accepts an intimate and mysterious relationship between soul and body, and that the procedure's success wouldn't necessary disprove the soul or religion.

“Our neurological tissue has important part to play in our soul…The soul is always intimately related to the body. We are not just souls that are disembodied, right? We are embodied spirits or spirited bodies.”

Most physicians agree that the proposed surgery's success rate is infinitesimal, and they've questioned the morality of a procedure that's doomed to fail – and the unrealistic hope life extension projects could give to people.

“I am concerned that the rights of vulnerable patients undergoing cryonics cannot be protected indefinitely,” Dr. Channa Jayasena, a lecturer in Reproductive Endocrinology at Imperial College in London, told the Telegraph.

Cryonics, she said, “has risks for the patient, poses ethical issues for society, is highly expensive, but has no proven benefit.”

And the hope for immortal life, Scherz weighed in, isn't a realistic desire in a fallen world. “Living forever in bodily form is not going to satisfy anyone,” he said.

“If the goal is not to help someone to get back bodily movement or things like that, but to try to live forever on this earth, then I think if you really want to get over the fear of death then you will have to come to terms with the fact that we are mortal.”

“That what's going to help you to live a better life because you are going to be willing to give your life to things like service.”

In fact, he said that people in transhumanist movements have admitted they would most likely avoid risky behavior in order to preserve their lives.

“If life extension projects come into being there is so much more to lose – and you committed yourself to trying to live on this earth for as long as possible, which stands in contrast to the Catholic tradition and a lot of the philosophical traditions,” Scherz noted.

Knights of Columbus leader talks Pope Francis, Trump in new interview

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 02:32

Bridgeport, Conn., May 23, 2017 / 12:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The leader of the nearly 2 million-member Knights of Columbus recently spoke about the importance of his group's fidelity to Pope Francis, as well as his hopes for a successful upcoming meeting between the Roman Pontiff and U.S. president Donald Trump.

In a new interview, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson touched on these topics as well as his organization's commitment to persecuted Christians, problems with how some media treats issues within the Church, and what the Knights make a priority in their charitable giving.

The organization recently celebrated its 135th anniversary at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., the church where Fr. McGivney founded the Catholic fraternity that now has 1.9 million members worldwide.

Please read below for CNA's full interview with Carl Anderson:


The Pope will be meeting the United States president this week; what should people expect from that meeting?

The pope has made clear that he is seeking common ground with the president, and I would assume the president will do the same. Some in the media focus only on the differences between the thinking of these two men, but, there is also much common ground on issues like abortion, religious liberty, persecuted Christians and human trafficking.

In what ways have the Knights worked with Pope Francis over the past few years?

From our earliest days, the Knights of Columbus has always been loyal to the Holy Father. We have a wonderful relationship with Pope Francis and have helped sponsor a number of conferences and projects with the Vatican during his tenure on topics including relief work in Haiti, the Church in America, and the continental Jubilee of Mercy. I’ve had the privilege to meet with Pope Francis privately each year and to review with him our priorities and new initiatives. Each time, I’ve come away deeply inspired by his love for the poor and those on the margins of society.

We see supporting the pope, his ministry and his charitable endeavors as central to who we are as an organization.  I have repeatedly told our K of C leaders to take his words to us as our agenda, and I’ve personally assured him he can count on our support.

What are the main causes the Knights support?

We support causes large and small, but our primary focus over the past two years has been helping Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East who were targeted by ISIS. Because these communities are so small, they are too often overlooked by U.S. Government or UN aid programs and risk disappearing. We also have been supporting clean water projects in Africa, inspired by Laudato Si, and we just finished a project to improve the energy efficiency of our headquarters.

Two of the projects I’m very proud of are our work in Africa to educate and support AIDS orphans, many of whom are themselves HIV positive, and our efforts in Haiti to provide artificial limbs to children who lost their legs because of the earthquake there.

Also, at the local level, our members accompany their fellow parishioners and the members of their communities, supporting their needs in ways large and small. From food programs, to housing and clothing programs, to disaster relief, when people need us, we are there.

We also strongly support the right to life. Laudato Si section 120 states that without opposition to abortion, defending the rest of the vulnerable is increasingly difficult: “Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.”

In our country today, abortion takes more lives each year than any other cause of death. But we certainly don’t focus all our charity efforts on beginning-of-life issues. For example, we continued to give away more than 80,000 new winter coats and more than 8,000 wheelchairs in 2015, and we are constantly engaged in tens of thousands of projects around the world to help clothe, feed, shelter and meet other pressing needs of our neighbors. Last year we gave away $175 million and 73.5 million hours to charitable causes. We also support the Vatican and national bishops’ conferences in numerous ways, including in the defense of religious liberty, especially – but not only – when assaults on religious liberty also implicate the lives of the most vulnerable among us.

How dire are things for the Christians in the Middle East and why did you choose that issue?

For the first time in nearly 2,000 years, we are reaching a point where Christians could literally cease to exist in a country like Iraq. The situation is incredibly dire, and in the next few days, we will be announcing a new initiative to help stabilize these communities because there is a real concern that they will not survive. We have been providing assistance with food for thousands of families, we have provided funding for medical clinics, for apartment buildings, rental assistance, clothing, education, etc. But even more is needed. We simply cannot allow Christianity and pluralism to be eliminated from this region by those using terrorism and genocide to achieve their ends.

I am among the many who hope that the meeting between the pope and the president this week in Rome may include breakthrough solutions and closer cooperation between the American government and its aid programs and the Church to help ensure that these people survive, and that ISIS’ goal of eliminating religious minorities is not realized. As at least one commentator has also pointed out, no two organizations are more critical to surivival of these people than the U.S. government and the Vatican.

In terms of how we chose this issue, it came naturally to us, since the Knights of Columbus has been concerned about religious persecution throughout our history. We spoke up for Catholics being persecuted in Mexico in the 1920s, for Jews being persecuted in Germany in the 1930s, for people of faith being persecuted in the Cold War, and now, for these victims of ISIS.

You also mentioned your pro-life work. There have been some real advances in that area recently - what trends do you see?

We have seen some great strides in this area over the past months including moves to stop the taxpayer funding of abortion including via the Mexico City Policy. Appointments to the court and several cabinet positions are also very pro-life and this is very heartening as well.

As our polling shows, support for abortion restrictions is bi-partisan. For example, 70 percent of Democrats and 94 percent of Republicans support banning taxpayer funding of abortion abroad. In addition, about 6 in 10 Democrats, 7 in 10 Independents and 9 in 10 Republicans support substantial restrictions on abortion, and would limit it – at most – to the first three months of pregnancy.

Practicing Catholics are united in support for abortion restrictions in overwhelming numbers as well.

Some may see abortion as a political or divisive issue, but that does not mean that it is. And we do not see or intend our opposition to it as political. For us it is a matter of morality and values.

In fact, it is my fondest hope that both of our country’s major parties would embrace a pro-life platform. If that were to happen, the issue could cease to be seen as partisan, and voters could move on to other issues. We’ve been working on this for more than four decades, with nearly 60 million abortions since Roe v Wade. The scandal is that too many Catholics in public office have refused to take action to protect unborn children. As Catholics we are called to build a culture of life and that certainly includes more than abortion. But I do not see how it is possible to build a culture of life with public officials who insist on maintaining a legal regime that results in a million abortions a year.

I have personally voted for pro-life candidates of both parties. Those who criticize our pro-life work as partisan miss the fact that far from being partisan, it is consistent with our help of the defenseless and marginalized. It exactly fits with Pope Francis’ statements in Laudato Si and also in Evangelii Gaudium, where he stated    in section 213: “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development.”

How can we help poor individuals and families, the intellectually disabled, and refugees from ISIS and ignore the unborn? It's not possible. We are talking about a million lives each year that are lost, and that demands our attention.

The same outlook applies to our work in defense of religious freedom – in which we have been supported by Pope Francis. This isn’t a new – or political – endeavor for us. It is the defense of a fundamental right that we have engaged in for more than a century.

What is your opinion of how the news media covers the Church today?

Pope Francis, in his book, On Heaven and Earth, was very hard on the media. He pointed out that too often the media tries to generate conflict and misinforms. He said: “Today, there is misinformation because only part of the truth is said, only what interests them is taken for their convenience, and that does a lot of damage because it is a way of favoring conflict.”

We see this with some reports leading up to his meeting with the president. Some push what they see as points of conflict, ignoring the points of common ground.

Unfortunately, in this country too, we frequently see reporting focused on advancing a political agenda instead of getting the facts right.

We ourselves have even sometimes had partisan reporters or commentators complain about a donation or two that we made that they don’t agree with. In such cases, they typically ignore the majority, totality and context of what we do – in other words, the literally hundreds of donations we make that they probably would support as well.

As Pope Francis said, those in the media can tell a half truth and do damage by generating conflict, and let me give you one example that really illustrates the point. A commentator recently intimated that a $1.5 million dollar donation we gave to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia a couple of years ago somehow showed sympathy to opposition to Pope Francis. Leaving aside the many ways in which that assertion is problematic on its face, in fact, exactly the opposite of what was asserted was true.

The money donated was actually in support of Pope Francis’ trip to the United States as part of the Vatican’s World Meeting of Families in that city. At best what can be said about this kind of thing is that it reflects what lawyers might call a reckless disregard of the truth.

What makes such episodes of misleading or untruthful reporting particularly sad is that it seems that often what drives this reporting is dissent or disagreement with Church teaching, not just disagreement with us. But the media should not stoop to politicizing the pope or trying to drive wedges between him and faithful Catholics who love him.  

The pope is pro-life, he is in favor of religious liberty. He visited the Little Sisters of the Poor and has spoken about “polite persecution” in Western countries to underscore the importance of religious freedom. These aren’t political positions for him – or for us. They are values positions based on our Catholic faith.

It is worth noting that we support a number of Catholic media outlets – large and small – because we see the importance of quality Catholic journalism.

The Knights of Columbus is unique as a business entity. Can you talk a little about that?

Unlike non-profits that are charities with fundraising operations, the Knights of Columbus is also one of the nation’s largest – and best rated – life insurers. We have an arm that takes donations, but many of the dollars we donate come from the business side.

We were founded by the Venerable Father Michael McGivney to help provide Catholic families with support for their faith and in their financial future. The faith side is obvious, and the financial future side has grown into a Fortune 1000 insurance operation exclusively focused on our members and their families. Many people are surprised by the size of the Knights of Columbus insurance program. We sell more than $8 billion of insurance each year. We have over $106 billion of insurance in force and we have over $23 billion of assets under management. Our members have entrusted us with their hard earned cash, and they count on us to be there to provide for the future of their families.

We have a responsibility to their future, and we take this responsibility seriously on both fronts. One way that we do this is to seek to invest in ways that are sustainable, and to use Catholic screens on our investments so that we are not putting our members’ money into enterprises that run counter to our faith.

To do that, we hire top professionals to manage our business and our investments. We have about 900 employees at our headquarters in New Haven and we are one of the city’s largest private employers.  Given that we are operating at such a high level in the financial services industry, while we pay our executives less than the market average, we also understand that we have to pay competitively enough to attract the caliber of talent needed to run a Fortune 1000 company and to successfully manage the financial futures of our members and their families. People’s livelihoods depend on us hiring and retaining the highly competent people able to deliver at the highest level, and our members deserve nothing less than the best professionals we can hire.

This has been our approach to the business side of the Knights of Columbus for decades. And it has worked. We have consistently received top ratings for our financial strength.

Pence to Notre Dame graduates: Bring values into the workplace

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 16:08

South Bend, Ind., May 22, 2017 / 02:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence challenged University of Notre Dame graduates on Saturday to promote human dignity and the sanctity of life in the workplace.

“I urge you, as the rising generation – carry the ideals and the values that you’ve learned at Notre Dame into your lives and your careers,” Pence told the graduates, praising the university for its rich traditions of defending human life and religious liberty in the face of persecution.

The vice president delivered the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame on March 20. He called on the graduates to “be exceptional from this day forth.”

Pence commended the university’s defense of religious liberty, noting that it was among the plaintiffs in lawsuits against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.

“Just as Notre Dame has stood strong to protect its religious liberty, I’m proud that this President just took steps to ensure that this university and the Little Sisters of the Poor could not be forced to violate their consciences to fully participate in American civic life,” Pence said in reference to the lawsuits.

“I’m so proud that the University of Notre Dame has stood without apology for the sanctity of human life,” he continued, pointing to the university’s efforts to uphold human dignity, through its educational initiatives, social commitment and focus on ethics and culture.

Around 100 students walked out of Pence’s speech on Saturday, according to an estimate by the university reported by CNN. They reportedly did so to represent racial minorities, undocumented immigrants, LGBTQ persons and others who they said would be adversely affected by the administration’s policies.

Pence, formerly a member of the U.S. Congress and the governor of Indiana, was baptized Catholic, but by 1994 he called himself a “born-again, evangelical Catholic.” He had begun attending an evangelical megachurch with his family in the 1990s.

He has recently described himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.”

Pence has a long history of pro-life and religious freedom advocacy, but has also quarreled with Catholic bishops over immigration matters.

As governor of Indiana, he tried to halt the state’s participation in the U.S. refugee resettlement program as he, along with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, questioned the security of the program. This came in the wake of deadly terror attacks in Paris in November of 2015, where a terrorist who was reportedly one of the perpetrators had allegedly entered Europe by posing as a Syrian refugee, according to reports at the time.

Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, now Cardinal of Newark, had directed Catholic Charities Indianapolis to resettle a Syrian refugee family during that time. He met with Governor Pence in December. Pence’s office said after the meeting that the governor “respectfully disagrees with their decision to place a Syrian refugee family in Indiana at this time.”

Pence’s speech at Notre Dame continued the tradition of presidents and vice presidents speaking at the university and receiving honorary degrees.

In May of 2009, President Barack Obama became the ninth U.S. president to have an honorary degree from the university. He spoke amidst controversy over his staunch pro-abortion record.

Then-Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput issued a strong statement saying that Notre Dame “conferred an unnecessary and unearned honorary law degree on a man committed to upholding one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in our nation’s history [Roe v. Wade].”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic who supported abortion as a U.S. senator and who was in an administration that issued the controversial contraception mandate, received an honorary degree from the university last year.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the local diocese, said the university should not have honored a politician with “gravely irresponsible” positions on abortion and marriage that are at odds with Church teaching.  

“We should seek to honor those who act to protect human life and dignity from conception to natural death, who respect true marriage and the family, who promote peace, justice, religious freedom, solidarity, the integral development of the poor, the just treatment of immigrants, and care for creation,” he stated last March. “We should not honor those who may be exemplary in one area but gravely irresponsible in another.”

In his speech this weekend, Vice President Pence called for the university to continue to foster a free discussion of ideas, as free speech has been curbed in much of academia.

“Notre Dame is a campus where deliberation is welcomed – where opposing views are debated and where every speaker, no matter how unpopular or unfashionable, is afforded the right to air their views in the open for all to hear,” he said, adding that the university “is an exception” and is “an island in a sea of conformity.”

Many schools have “speech codes, safe zones, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness,” he said, which “are destructive of learning and the pursuit of knowledge. And they are wholly outside the American tradition.”

Pence also exhorted the university’s graduates to “have faith.”

“Strive every day to lead for good with courage and conviction.  Live your life according to the precepts and principles that you have learned and seen here at Notre Dame,” he said.

“And in all that you do, have faith that He who brought you this far will never leave you, nor forsake you – because He never will.”

 

Sanctions on Syria's military a good step, Christian advocate says

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 12:35

Washington D.C., May 22, 2017 / 10:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday that issues additional sanctions against supporters of Syria’s Assad regime, and those providing arms for the regime.

“This bill is a big step in the right direction,” Phillippe Nassif, executive director of the group In Defense of Christians, told CNA.

The House passed the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act May 17, issuing additional sanctions on the Assad regime and its “backers,” especially human rights violators and those involved in the trade of weapons or weapons parts with the regime. Those supporters could include Russia and Iran, international allies of Assad.

The Syrian civil war is now in its sixth year, and over 400,000 have died, with over 11 million displaced from their homes, including 5 million registered refugees. Civilian witnesses have given testimonies to the carnage – hospitals bombed, chorine gas bombs unleashed, and starvation are only some of the atrocities that have been inflicted.

Christian leaders in the area have denounced the trafficking of weapons into Syria as something which helps the conflict continue. Wednesday’s bill at least claims to target those supporting the Assad regime’s air force and those doing business with the regime.

The bill also directs the State Department to assist those investigating war crimes in Syria.

Pope Francis has repeatedly denounced the arms trade. In his September 2015 speech to the U.S. Congress, he emphasized that Christians must ask “why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?”

“Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade,” he said.

Last July, in a video message promoting peace in Syria, he lamented that “while the people suffer, incredible quantities of money are being spent to supply weapons to fighters.”

Some of the arms suppliers “are also among those that talk of peace,” he said. “How can you believe in someone who caresses you with the right hand and strikes you with the left hand?”

House leaders cited recent atrocities committed by the Assad regime as a further motive of the sanctions – the deaths of over 90 civilians by sarin gas back in April after pro-government forces bombed a neighborhood in Idlib, and the Saydnaya military prison run by the Assad regime where Amnesty International estimates that up to 13,000 prisoners were executed in five years, along with repeated torture.

These atrocities, along with the repeated bombings of hospitals and killing of humanitarian workers and obstructing aid convoys trying to reach vulnerable populations, call for action, members of Congress insisted.

“If you’re supporting this murder – if you’re enabling the Butcher in Damascus to continue waging that sort of violence against his own people – you’re going to face consequences,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stated on the House Floor on Wednesday.

“This bill would sanction anyone who provides material support for the Assad regime,” he explained. “We want to go after the actual hardware that keeps his war machine running: the planes and bombs that terrorize the Syrian people, and the spare parts and oil that keep everything running.”

Supporters of the bill expressed their hope that sanctions would drive parties toward international peace negotiations.

“IDC hopes that these steps will result in the swift resolution of the conflict, the substantial defeat of ISIS, Al Qaeda affiliates, and Iranian backed extremist groups in Syria and the Middle East; promotes stability in Lebanon and Jordan; and end the human rights catastrophe, now in its sixth year,” Nassif stated.

“For there to be peace in Syria, the parties must come together,” Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stated. “And as long as Assad and his backers can slaughter the people of Syria with no consequences, there is no hope for peace.”

For sanctions to really work, however, they must be enforced and the perpetrators who are being targeted must be publicly shamed.

The bill does allow the president the flexibility to suspend the sanctions if serious peace negotiations are taking place and the violence against civilians in Syria has stopped. It also directs the president to report to Congress on the names of all those responsible for serious human rights abuses.

However, the actions could also show hypocrisy from the U.S., some claim, as it is set to approve a $300 billion arms deal with ally Saudi Arabia which, according to Hillary Clinton’s emails unearthed by WikiLeaks, has covertly funded the Islamic State in the past.

Justice Alito warns seminarians religious liberty is in danger

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 05:04

Philadelphia, Pa., May 22, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his address to graduating seminarians on Wednesday, United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. emphasized the importance of religious freedom and the dangers it faces today.

Religious freedom means that “no one is forced to act in violation of his own beliefs,” Alito said, according to Catholic Philly. “Most of my life Americans were instilled in this,” he added, and urged the audience “keep the flame burning.”

Alito gave the keynote address at the concursus ceremony for the graduating class of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia May 17, where he also received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honorus Causa, from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia.

He was awarded the degree “in testimony to and recognition of his many outstanding contributions to society … especially in protecting the sanctity and dignity of human life, the full responsibilities of the human person and promoting true justice and lasting peace,” Archbishop Chaput said.

Alito, 67, is a practicing Catholic from an Italian family in Trenton, New Jersey, and was nominated to the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush, where he has served since January 2006.

He wrote the majority opinion for the 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. case, in which the court allowed for closely-held, for-profit corporations to be exempt from a regulation its owners religiously object to if there is a less restrictive means of furthering the law's interest, according to the provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

He also wrote a dissent from the majority opinion in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case, in which the Supreme Court held that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage.

Prior to his address, in an interview with the St. Charles Borromeo blog Seminarian Casual, Alito again spoke about religious freedom as well as the effect his faith and family has had on his career.

Religious freedom is “one of the most fundamental rights” in the United States, Alito said, and the founding fathers “saw a vital connection between religion and the character needed for republican self-government.”

“What the founders understood more than 200 years ago is just as true today,” he said, though “(t)here is cause for concern at the present time.”

In his Obergefell dissent, Alito said he “anticipated that… 'those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.’”

There is already evidence of this happening, he said, such as in a case the Supreme Court declined to hear, in which a pharmacy was being forced to sell emergency contraceptives despite their religious beliefs against them. He said he anticipates even more struggles for religious freedom in the years to come.

“This is not an easy time to be a priest, but priests are desperately needed,” he said.

In particular, priests of the 21st century are needed to “express what is essential about the faith in a way that registers with a culture that speaks a different language. It is a daunting task, but that is essentially what was done by brave priests in the past who took the faith to every corner of the globe,” he said.

“One priest who especially stands out in my memory is the pastor of the church in New Jersey that we attended before moving to Washington. He had a marvelous way of speaking to the parishioners in a way that was seemingly simple but attractive and ultimately profound.”

When asked how his Catholic faith has shaped him, Alito said his faith provides him meaning and purpose.

“The title of a book by Tolstoy has been translated as What Then Should We Do? My faith gives me an answer. It would be terrible to think that life has no meaning, that we are going nowhere, and that what we do until we die is a matter of indifference. That is what tortures so many today.”

He added that the strong family values with which he was raised influenced the way he raised his own family, and that he is grateful for a career that allows him some flexibility to be able to spend time with his family.

“Nothing on this Earth is more important to me than my family,” he said.

“I have been fortunate to have jobs that allowed me to control my work schedule to a very great degree,” he said. “Very few people today have this luxury, and it is hard for busy people to balance work and family life. Our society needs to do a better job of making this possible.”

Despite pleas from bishops, immigration arrests soar in 2017

Sat, 05/20/2017 - 06:19

Washington D.C., May 20, 2017 / 04:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Immigration arrests have risen sharply in 2017 compared to the previous year, after the Trump administration unveiled stricter immigration policies, which were decried by the U.S. bishops.

In the first 100 days after President Donald Trump signed an executive order on the subject, immigration arrests are up almost 40 percent compared with the same time last year.

According to data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations deportation officers made 41,318 immigration arrests between Jan. 22 and April 29, 2017, more than 400 arrests per day and up from 30,028 made between Jan. 24 and April 30, 2016.

“These statistics reflect President Trump’s commitment to enforce our immigration laws fairly and across the board,” ICE’s acting director Thomas Homan stated.

In January, President Trump had directed in an executive order that his administration intended on enforcing federal immigration law, and called for a wall be constructed on the U.S.-Mexico border as well as the construction of additional immigrant detention centers and the hiring of new immigration officials.

Then in February, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memoranda implementing the order.

The new DHS rules called for, among other things, speeding up deportations, the construction of new immigrant detention facilities, enforcement of federal immigration law by local law enforcement officers, and the publication of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, the New York Times had reported.

Also, undocumented parents living in the U.S. who attempt to have their children smuggled into the country could be prosecuted for human trafficking under the new DHS rules.

The chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee warned that the rules would target vulnerable persons along with criminals.

“Taken together, these memoranda constitute the establishment of a large-scale enforcement system that targets virtually all undocumented migrants as ‘priorities’ for deportation, thus prioritizing no one,” Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Tex. stated after the rules were issued.

With local police officers enforcing federal immigration law, this could disrupt their relationships with immigrant communities, the bishop continued, as immigrants could not be “fearful of cooperating…in both reporting and investigating criminal matters.”

ICE reported that the rise in arrests was a result of the Trump administration’s immigration policy where criminals would primarily be targeted for arrest, but other undocumented persons, if discovered, would also be detained.

Almost 75 percent of those arrested in 2017 – 30,473 persons – were convicted criminals, ICE said, with convictions ranging from homicide and assault to drug-related charges. “Non-criminal arrests,” meanwhile, jumped to 10,800 in 2017, compared to 4,200 at the same time in 2016.

“ICE agents and officers have been given clear direction to focus on threats to public safety and national security, which has resulted in a substantial increase in the arrest of convicted criminal aliens,” acting director Thomas Homan stated. “However, when we encounter others who are in the country unlawfully, we will execute our sworn duty and enforce the law.”

“We are a nation of laws, and ignoring orders issued by federal judges undermines our constitutional government,” said Homan.

Bishops of dioceses along the U.S.-Mexican border signed a joint statement in February calling for the dignity of immigrants to be respected.

“Immigration is a global phenomenon arising from economic and social conditions of poverty and insecurity,” U.S. and Mexican bishops stated. “It directly displaces entire populations causing families to feel that migration is the only way to survive.”

“The migrant has a right to be respected by international law and national law as he/she faces the violence, criminality, and inhuman policies of governments as well as the world’s indifference,” they continued. “Regardless of one’s migration condition, the intrinsic human dignity that every person possesses must be respected in the person of the migrant.”

“They are commonly subjected to punitive laws and are often mistreated by civil authorities in their countries of origin, the countries through which they travel, and the countries of their destination. It is essential that governments adopt policies that respect the basic human rights of undocumented migrants,” they stated.

 

A new path for Philadelphia’s historic seminary?

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 21:06

Philadelphia, Pa., May 19, 2017 / 07:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid plans for the future of the Philadelphia archdiocese’s historic Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, the seminary and Neumann University have announced a feasibility study into a possible affiliation agreement.

“While this agreement does not presuppose that the seminary will definitely affiliate with Neumann, it does allow both institutions’ academic leaders and others to meet openly and to discuss how such an affiliation agreement may work to benefit both institutions,” said the May 18 announcement signed by Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Senior of Philadelphia, the seminary’s rector, and university president Rosalie M. Mirenda.

The seminary’s board of trustees in May 2016 recommended that Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia explore the possibility of affiliating the seminary with a local Catholic college or university.

The agreement between the seminary and Neumann University followed “an exhaustive and thorough process,” the announcement said.

Neumann University, located in Aston, Penn., about 20 miles outside of Philadelphia, is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. It has about 3,000 students enrolled total, 2,000 of whom are full-time undergraduate students. It is named for St. John Neumann, who served as Bishop of Philadelphia in the 1850s.

The seminary has been exploring whether to affiliate with a university and move its campus to new buildings on or nearby a partner institution’s campus.

In June 2016, Bishop Senior told CatholicPhilly.com that a plan to remain at the seminary’s present site would require $50 million in renovations to its upper campus. The seminary features massive three-story stone structures that date back 100 to 145 years. Its maintenance costs alone are $500,000 per year and still fall short of needs, he said.

“Is it really the best thing to put all that money into those buildings?” the bishop asked.

The seminary enrollment was at 128 in 2013, including seminarians from other dioceses and from religious orders, and increased to 142 in 2014.

Enrollment increased 20 percent in 2015 and 13 percent in 2016, with 160 students enrolling in fall 2016.

Pope Francis stayed at the seminary during his 2015 visit to the United States.

Planned Parenthood to close its only Wyoming clinic this summer

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 08:01

Cheyenne, Wyo., May 19, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The only Planned Parenthood office in Wyoming will close along with another five offices in the organization’s Rocky Mountain region, though officials said it would still exercise a presence in the state.

The organization’s Casper clinic opened in 1975 and served about 480 clients each year. While Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the U.S., the Casper clinic’s services include abortion referrals, not abortions themselves. The clinic is set to close July 21.

North Dakota is the only other U.S. state without a Planned Parenthood location.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains official Adrienne Mansanares, speaking to the Casper Star-Tribune, said the organization looked at the services and financial health of the Wyoming clinic. Most Planned Parenthood patients in the state go to the Fort Collins, Colorado location.

The Casper clinic has been staffed by a part-time manager and a traveling nurse who visits from northern Colorado.

Planned Parenthood will continue its presence in the state through the Wyoming Abortion Fund, which connects women to abortionists. The organization will continue to offer sex education resources, and its advocacy work will also continue in collaboration with NARAL Pro-Choice Wyoming.

“The political footprint and the education we provide will continue to remain,” said Mansanares.  

Whitney Phillips, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said the capacity of other Casper providers to supply comprehensive reproductive health care was a factor in the decision to close the clinic. Patients are being referred to several other providers in Casper.

Planned Parenthood’s Rocky Mountain region includes Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and southern Nevada. The Longmont and Parker, Colorado offices will also close, as will New Mexico offices in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, and Farmington.

In a May 17 statement, Phillips said the closures are “difficult but necessary organizational changes” driven by a desire for long-term sustainability.

“This strategic decision will allow us to maintain a fiscally solvent operation that will keep our doors open to patients in the region for the long term,” she said.

The organization’s abortion work has always been controversial, but it has come under severe scrutiny since 2015, when undercover journalists with the Center for Medical Progress recorded Planned Parenthood staff and leaders appearing to plan the sale of aborted baby parts and fetal tissue for profit, which is illegal under federal law.

The Center for Medical Progress videos strengthened efforts to defund the abortion provider, which has received about $500 million in federal funding each year for non-abortion services. Planned Parenthood and its allies responded to the videos with a multi-million dollar publicity campaign to control the damage.

Two videos released in July 2015 appeared to show Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains vice president and medical director Savita Ginde negotiate the sale of aborted baby parts.

The Planned Parenthood affiliate also recently settled a civil lawsuit alleging that two of its employees failed to comply with Colorado law by performing an abortion on a 13-year-old girl who was sexually abused. The lawsuit said employees neglected to report the abuse of a minor to authorities or obtain consent from her parents prior to performing the abortion.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains also contested a 2013 lawsuit by the former executive director of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regarding $14 million of taxpayer subsidies that the group received from the state despite a Colorado constitutional amendment prohibiting the use of tax dollars to fund abortions.

In November 2015, a man fatally shot three and wounded nine in attacks at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. He was later ruled mentally unfit for trial. One victim’s widow, who was wounded in the attack, filed a lawsuit charging that the clinic should have had better security given the history of attacks on clinics.

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