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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 1 hour 22 min ago

NFP: It's not just a Catholic thing anymore

Mon, 07/24/2017 - 05:13

Washington D.C., Jul 24, 2017 / 03:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For some, it was a health-conscious decision. For others, it was environmental. For still others, it was faith-based.

But no matter the reason, more and more women are ditching the pill and opting for fertility awareness methods as a natural way to achieve or delay pregnancy.

“In the US, there does seem to be an increase in the interest in fertility tracking and understanding the signs and symptoms of our bodies to plan and prevent pregnancy,” said Dr. Victoria Jennings, director of the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University.

“Our work has shown that simple fertility awareness messages are extremely attractive to a wide range of women and can address their family planning needs,” Jennings told CNA.

July 23-29 is national Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, coinciding with the 48th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humane Vitae, which laid out the Church’s long-understood teachings on the sanctity of human sexuality.  

The Catholic Church has always taught that contraception is immoral, because it divorces procreation from the sexual act. However, the Church approves of Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods, which allow couples to remain open to life.

Through Natural Family Planning, a woman learns to understand her body’s natural monthly cycle. By tracking the signs of her own fertility each day, she is able to determine when she is fertile and infertile. Decisions about whether to engage in sexual activity can then be made, based upon this knowledge, and the couple’s desire to achieve or postpone a pregnancy.

While NFP is sometimes mistaken for the primitive “calendar method” of generations past, it is actually an umbrella term for a collection of modern fertility awareness methods. Carefully evaluating each woman’s individual body and cycle, modern methods are rooted in science and are 99.6 percent effective when used correctly – a number that competes with the pill, according to the Couple to Couple League, a group that promotes Natural Family Planning.

Additionally, these methods are free from the host of side effects and health risks accompanying hormonal contraception. They don’t pollute the environment. And they can even help women identify underlying health problems that may otherwise go undiagnosed.

And Catholics are not alone in their use of Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM). Increasingly, they are being joined by women of various faiths and no faiths at all, as the benefits of natural methods draw new awareness.

In recent years, many Evangelicals and other Protestants have started to find fault with artificial birth control, and are turning to natural fertility-based methods instead.

“All women – Protestant, Catholic, Atheists, and nones – can appreciate this hormone free (and conscience free) alternative to chemical contraception,” said Chelsen Vicari, the Evangelical Program Director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy, in an article last year.

Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the University of Utah found that more women, religious or not, are seeking alternatives to hormonal birth control without turning to surgery. And a 2015 study from the University of Iowa found that more than 1 in 5 women would be open to using fertility monitoring instead of the pill if they knew how it worked.

Methods for understanding fertility are also on the rise, and thanks to the help of modern technology and research, women are able to re-think the long list of side effects that can accompany hormonal contraception, such as depression, increased risk for stroke, and reported lower quality of life.

“Specifically in the app world, the use of fertility apps to track cycles or plan/prevent pregnancy is increasing exponentially,” Jennings said, noting that there are more than 1,000 fertility apps available on Apple and Google Play stores.

However, Jennings did warn that some of the apps have been proven to be inaccurate or “make claims that are either unsubstantiated or misleading, making it difficult for women to know which apps are most likely to meet their needs.”

Among the most well-respected fertility apps is Kindara. Launched in 2012, the iOS app offers charting tools to help women track when they are fertile by highlighting the ovulation period of a woman’s monthly cycle.

“Over the past couple of decades, fertility awareness has been studied a lot. We know scientifically, based on evidence now, that it does work, and it works very well if you use it correctly,” says Lauren Risberg, the Content Lead for Kindara.

Another fertility app, Natural Cycles, was started by a nuclear physicist in Sweden and was recently approved by the European Union as a certified method of birth control.

The growing interest in fertility awareness also comes at a time of concern over false expectations of reliability with artificial birth control.

New statistics released this month indicate that more than half (51%) of the abortions performed in the UK last year were due to failed contraception from the pill, implants or patches.

In an interview with the Telegraph, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service Ann Furedi said that by encouraging women to use contraception, “you give them the sense that they can control their fertility.”

“Our data shows that women cannot control their fertility through contraception alone,” Furedi stressed.

In contrast, Church teaching surrounding Natural Family Planning emphasizes an openness to life, steering away from the notion that women control their fertility and instead empowering them with the knowledge to understand their bodies and cooperate with them to the fullest possible extent.

Emphasizing the gift of fertility and the ability to be co-creators with God to bring about a new human life, the Church teaches that couples should only avoid pregnancy through NFP when they have a just reason to do so.

With fertility awareness continuing to grow in popularity, the medical community would do well to pay attention, Jennings told CNA.

“Significant numbers of women worldwide don’t use birth control due to fears of side effects, negative beliefs about contraception, and because they don’t think they need it at the time,” she said.

“We believe the reproductive health community must take women's concerns seriously – and also take seriously evidence-based methods that rely on people knowing their own fertility.”

 

Deaths in smuggler's truck 'completely senseless,' Texas archbishop says

Sun, 07/23/2017 - 23:26

San Antonio, Texas, Jul 23, 2017 / 09:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The deaths of at least nine people due to heat in an alleged immigrant smuggler’s truck parked in San Antonio are an occasion for tears, prayers, and action to end such situations, the local archbishop has said.   “There are no words to convey the sadness, despair, and yes, even anger, we feel today at learning of the completely senseless deaths of nine people who died as human smuggling or trafficking victims from heat exhaustion and suffocation in San Antonio overnight,” Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said July 23. “This is an incomprehensible tragedy.”   The San Antonio archbishop voiced prayers for the about 30 adults and children hospitalized with serious injuries due to heat.   “We pray for these victims and all victims of human smuggling and trafficking; that this monstrous form of modern slavery will come to a quick and final end,” he said. “God cries seeing this reality and many other situations such as this across our country and around the world.”   One U.S. official told the Associated Press that 17 of those rescued were being treated for injuries considered life-threatening.   The victims were found in a tractor trailer parked outside a San Antonio Walmart late Saturday or early Sunday. Someone from the truck approached a Walmart employee asking for water. The employee gave the person water and then called police. Authorities found eight people dead, and a ninth died at the hospital.   San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said the victims were ““very hot to the touch.” “So these people were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water,” he said. James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida, was taken into custody but officials would not say whether he was the alleged driver.   Initial interviews with survivors suggest more than 100 people may have been in the back of the 18-wheeler at one point, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director Thomas Homan. There were 39 in the truck when rescuers arrived, with the rest believed to have escaped or found rides to their next destination. Homan said it was unlikely the truck was used to carry immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.   Mexican consul general in San Antonio said Mexican nationals were among the survivors and those who died. At least two Guatemalans were on the abandoned trailer, Guatemala’s foreign ministry said.   For Archbishop Gustavo-Siller, the deaths are a “clarion call” for everyone, including churches, law enforcement, elected officials, civic orgaizations and others to prioritize immigration issues and “truly work together in new ways which have eluded us in the past for common sense solutions.”
 
“No more delays! No more victims!” he said.   The Texas Catholic Conference said the bishops of Texas joined Archbishop Garcia-Siller in offering their sincerest condolences to the families of the migrants. They also prayed for healings of the survivors among those who were human smuggling or trafficking victims.   In 2003, 19 immigrants locked inside a truck rig died in Victoria, Texas. It was one of the deadliest smuggling-related incidents in recent history.

Duterte's bloody war on drugs slammed as 'social cleansing'

Sun, 07/23/2017 - 05:02

Washington D.C., Jul 23, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and government officials are guilty of “social cleansing” under the guise of a war on drugs, advocates testified on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

“Duterte and other high officials of the land, having had to find a particular section of Philippine society worthy of elimination, have effectively put in place a de facto social cleansing policy whereby police and vigilantes are not only encouraged, but rewarded and forced to commit extrajudicial killings,” witness Ellecer Carlos told members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on Thursday.

The hearing on “The Human Rights Consequences of the War on Drugs in the Philippines” featured Carlos and two other witnesses from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. They testified on reports of extralegal killings in the Philippines as part of President Duterte’s “Operation Plan Tokhang,” the war on drugs.

The witnesses alleged that high-ranking officials in the Philippine government are complicit in human rights abuses where police officers and vigilantes, who may be working for and paid by the police, track down and kill those involved in the drug trade, with evidence present of other abuses like torture.

The targets are disproportionately poor people. “The vast majority of victims of drug-related killings come from the poorest segments of Philippine society,” Matthew Wells, senior crisis advisor at Amnesty International, stated in his written testimony before the commission.

Heads of poor families may be involved in the drug trade as a way to escape poverty, Wells said, or some may use methamphetamines to help stay awake and energized on a long work day. “The death of a breadwinner often puts families in a more precarious position, at times compounded by police officers stealing from them during crime scene investigations,” Wells said.

President Duterte ran for office on a platform of taking strong action against the drug trade in the country, making shocking statements to underline his commitment to action.

“Forget the laws on human rights. If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor,” the BBC reported him saying. Duterte was previously the mayor of the city of Davao, where he made a name for himself as the “death squad mayor.”

“You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because I'd kill you,” he said while running for president. “I'll dump all of you into Manila Bay, and fatten all the fish there.”

Duterte was elected president in May of 2016. Since then “his rhetoric quickly became all too real” in the war on drugs, Wells stated in his testimony before the commission.

Police officers and vigilantes had killed over 7,000 persons in the drug trade from July, 2016 through January, 2017, according to numbers provided by the Philippine National Police.

While the authorities kept statistics for the first few months of the spike in drug-related deaths, they stopped providing transparency, Wells said. According to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, there have been “blatant inconsistencies and a deliberate attempt to conceal the magnitude of the killings” in the war on drugs, Carlos said.

The killings allegedly undertaken by vigilantes were among the worst human rights problems in the country, the State Department noted in its most recent human rights report.

On Tuesday, Wells described how police officers are paid under-the-table for “encounters” with drug traffickers where “offenders are killed,” and that there is a pay scale for killing drug sellers and users. Vigilantes are also handed hit lists of suspects in the drug trade by police. They carry out the killings for the police, offering them some mode of cover.

Many of the killings are made at night, through home invasions or drive-by shootings. The “modus operandi” of the police is to barge in the door of a home of a suspect at night; in the encounter, the suspect is shot but the police can use the cover of darkness to claim that the suspect was the initial aggressor, Phelim Kine, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said.

More and more citizens have begun sleeping in the streets to be witnesses, taking video of the incidents to ensure that the truth is documented.

A Reuters investigation had uncovered “payments for killings” by police to vigilantes, and showed significant evidence that a “license to kill” had been granted from high levels of government, Wells said.

All this has been an “economy of murder created by the war on drugs, with the police at the center,” Wells said. And there is “scant accountability,” he said, as there have been no convictions of police officers in drug killings and the family members of those killed “face obstacle after obstacle” in seeking justice.

The testimony of a survivor of an extralegal killing, 29 year-old Efren Morillo, was also submitted to the record. Morillo is the lead petitioner before the Philippine Supreme Court in the first case against Operation Plan Tokhang.

Morillo described being at a friend’s house when five men and two women in civilian clothes arrived, armed with guns. They detained five members of the group and accused them of selling illegal drugs. Morillo recognized some of the men as police officers in civilian clothes. The armed men then shot the five civilians.

The Philippine bishops have been outspoken against the increase in killings, referring to it as a “reign of terror” in a Jan. 30 pastoral letter.

“If we neglect the drug addicts and pushers we have become part of the drug problem, if we consent or allow the killing of suspected drug addicts, we shall also be responsible for their deaths,” the bishops said.

“We cannot correct a wrong by doing another wrong,” they said. “A good purpose is not a justification for using evil means. It is good to remove the drug problem, but to kill in order to achieve this is also wrong.”

Duterte, however, responded to the letter by saying “You Catholics, if you believe in your priests and bishops, you stay with them,” while adding that “if you want to go to heaven, then go to them. Now, if you want to end drugs ... I will go to hell, come join me.”

Duterte has also “openly threatened human rights defenders” and “attacked the media and lawyers who have represented the families of extrajudicial killings,” Carlos said on Tuesday.  

Catholic priests have also offered their churches as “sanctuaries” for those who believe they are on the police hit lists, the Guardian reported in February.

Federal budget jeopardizes struggling poor people, US bishops warn

Sat, 07/22/2017 - 18:02

Washington D.C., Jul 22, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Congress’ proposed federal budget will fail to provide for the basic needs of millions of America’s poor people, the U.S. bishops have said in a call for a morally sound budget.

“A nation’s budget is a moral document. Reducing deficits through cuts for human needs – while simultaneously attempting a tax cut, as this proposal does – will place millions of poor and vulnerable people in real jeopardy,” the bishops said.

“Congress should choose a better path, one that honors those struggling in our country.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice issued the July 20 statement in his role as chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

The proposed budget assumes “harmful and unacceptable cuts to Medicaid” under the American Health Care Act, he said.

The proposal’s steady increases to military spending are made possible by “cutting critical resources for those in need over time.” These cuts could include programs like SNAP that he said are essential in providing nutrition to millions of people.

The budget proposes to roll back $203 billion in welfare spending, financial industry regulations, federal employee benefits, and other areas, the Washington Post reports. It passed out of a House committee July 19.

Over 10 years, defense spending would steadily increase while non-defense discretionary spending would fall to $424 billion from $554 billion this year.

The budget’s spending cuts could be deeply controversial politically and the bishops’ statement urged members of Congress to reach across the aisle.

“The bipartisan approach to discretionary spending in recent years, while imperfect, reflected a more balanced compromise given competing priorities,” Bishop Dewane said.

He said the U.S. bishops’ conference is closely monitoring the budget and appropriations process and analyzing the proposed House budget resolution.

Catholic women's conference to be held in New Mexico

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 20:40

Albuquerque, N.M., Jul 21, 2017 / 06:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Women of Grace apostolate will mark 30 years at its national conference this year, an event which aims to help women celebrate their “gift of authentic femininity.”

“Come be restored, renewed, and refreshed as we journey together through this transforming weekend!” organizers said in an announcement. “Discover the blessing of your femininity and how to follow our Blessed Mother’s example in the world today!”  

Johnnette S. Benkovic, EWTN host and founder and president of Women of Grace, will be among the event’s speakers.

The national conference will take place in Albuquerque, N.M. at St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church Friday, Sept. 8 through Sunday, Sept. 10.

The conference is based on the theme “Bloom Who You Are.”

Besides Benkovic, other presenters include Father Philip Scott, F.J., founder of the Family of Jesus; singer/songwriter and Catholic evangelist Kitty Cleveland; and Carol Marquardt, founder of the Mantle of Mary Association Prayer Network.

Musical presenters include Kitty Cleveland and the worship team Living Praise.

The conference will include Mass, opportunities for confession and Eucharistic Adoration, a healing service, and a musical presentation. Spanish translation will be provided, as will a young women’s track.

The full cost of $140 includes a Friday boxed dinner, as well as lunch and dinner on Saturday. Other registration options are available.

Benkovic will lead a Benedicta Leadership Enrichment Seminar at the same location Sept. 7-8.

More information and registration is available at http://www.womenofgrace.com

 

 

Bishop: Senate mustn't repeal health care law without suitable replacement

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 18:52

Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2017 / 04:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The US bishops' representative for domestic justice has asked Senators not to vote to repeal the current health care law unless they have an alternative in place that offers acceptable levels of coverage.

“In the face of difficulties” of bringing health care legislation to the Senate floor, Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice said in a letter to senators on Thursday, “the appropriate response is not to create greater uncertainty, especially for those who can bear it least, by repealing the ACA [Affordable Care Act] without a replacement.”

“Yet,” he said July 20, “reform is still needed to address the ACA's moral deficiencies and challenges with long-term sustainability.”

After the House passed a health care bill repealing the ACA and replacing it with provisions of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the Senate has worked on producing a bill of its own, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). However, the Senate has so far failed to bring a health care bill to the floor for a vote.

This week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that not only did the Senate not have the votes to pass the health care bill, but it did not have the votes required to sustain debate on repealing and replacing the ACA.

He announced that a vote would occur anyhow, on the House health care bill with an amendment attached that would repeal the current health care law but allow for a two-year transition period for stability.

A vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act is expected as soon as Tuesday. However, according to reports it is still unclear exactly which bill the Senate would vote on to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, for example, advocated on Friday that the Senate should vote either on its own health care bill or on the 2015 reconciliation bill that repealed the ACA. Those bills would end the funding of abortion coverage within the ACA, Susan B. Anthony List said.

Pro-life leaders, including Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, and Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, met with Vice President Mike Pence on Friday. Mancini called it a “good meeting” and reiterated that “abortion is not health care,” referring to funding of abortion coverage under the current health care law.

Bishop Dewane had previously said that no repeal of the current health care law should be made without a suitable replacement plan. “To end coverage for those who struggle every day without an adequate alternative in place would be devastating,” Bishop Dewane said.

He said any replacement plan must be one that “protects poor and vulnerable people, including immigrants, safeguards the unborn, and supports conscience rights.” The replacement plans that have been proposed by the House and Senate are “seriously flawed, and would have harmed those most in need in unacceptable ways,” he said.

While the bishop had applauded the Hyde Amendment protections in the House bill that would have blocked the taxpayer funding of abortions through tax credits and other subsidies, he had expressed serious concern about its changes to Medicaid and other provisions. The bill, he said, would cut coverage or make it more cost-prohibitive for those who may need it most, like the elderly, the poor, and the chronically ill.

The revised Senate plan, meanwhile, was still “unacceptable,” the bishop said in a statement last Thursday.

Regarding the original Senate health care proposal, in his June 27 letter Bishop Dewane said that “at a time when tax cuts that would seem to benefit the wealthy and increases in other areas of federal spending, such as defense, are being contemplated, placing a ‘per capita cap’ on medical coverage for the poor is unconscionable.”

He added that under the bill health coverage costs could increase for many elderly and poor persons “because of decreased levels of tax credit support and higher premiums.” And, the bishop said, the bill, like its House counterpart, lacked conscience protections.

He warned that the pro-life language in the bill was laudable, but echoed concerns of other pro-lifers that the language could be stripped by the Senate Parliamentarian before it reached the Senate Floor.

The revised Senate bill contained some slight improvements like more funding to fight opioid addiction, “but more is needed to honor our moral obligation to our brothers and sisters living in poverty and to ensure that essential protections for the unborn remain in the bill,” he said last Thursday.

This week, however, the Senate bill was scuttled. Yet amid the uncertainty of what the senators may vote on next week, “the appropriate response is not to create greater uncertainty, especially for those who can bear it least, by repealing the ACA without a replacement,” Bishop Dewane said.

On Friday, Pence urged Americans to ask their senator to vote to begin the debate to repeal and replace the ACA on Tuesday.

Susan B. Anthony List, meanwhile, said the Senate should work to ensure a bill is passed which defunds Planned Parenthood and protects taxpayer funding from going to abortion coverage in federally-subsidized plans.  

“The first step is voting for the motion to proceed to the House-passed bill which replaces Obamacare abortion funding with health assistance that does not include abortion coverage and redirects funding for certain abortion providers to noncontroversial community health centers,” the group’s president Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a July 20 letter to senators.

“While the House bill faces procedural hurdles, we support passage of a substitute amendment that is substantially similar to the Obamacare repeal bill sent to President Obama in January 2016,” she added.

“Obamacare has been a disaster for unborn children through its unprecedented expansion of taxpayer-funded abortion,” Dannenfelser said.

“The 2015 reconciliation bill that was sent to President Obama’s desk or the Better Care Reconciliation Act would roll back this damage and help return us to the principle that abortion is not health care.”

Bishop Conley: 50 years after Land O'Lakes, Catholic education needs renewal

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 18:05

Denver, Colo., Jul 21, 2017 / 04:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The 50th anniversary of a historic statement that changed Catholic higher education in America represents both a cautionary tale and a chance to reflect on Catholic renewal, said Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska.

“The Land O’Lakes statement proposed to redefine the mission of the Catholic university. It rejected the authority of the Church, and of her doctrinal teaching,” Bishop Conley said. “It rejected the idea that faith and reason work best in communion with one another. It prioritized the standards and culture of secular universities over the authentic mission of Catholic education. It was a statement of self-importance, and self-assertion.”

Bishop Conley delivered his remarks July 5 in Denver to teachers and principals at the Regional Catholic Classical Schools Conference at the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education.

He said that the Land O’Lakes statement “declared that Catholic universities would become independent from the hierarchy of the Church, from any obligation to orthodoxy, and from the authentic spirituality of the Church.”

Fifty years ago, 26 Catholic university presidents and administrators gathered at the Land O’Lakes retreat center in Wisconsin for the North American summit for the International Federation of Catholic Universities. The University of Notre Dame’s influential president, Father Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, was president of the federation at the time.

The meeting aimed to help the federation develop a vision for Catholic higher education in light of the Second Vatican Council, produced a document called “Statement on the Nature of the Contemporary Catholic University,” signed July 23, 1967. Many observers consider the statement a watershed moment in Catholic education.

Bishop Conley cited historian Philip Gleason’s characterization of the statement as “a declaration of independence from the hierarchy,” then suggested it represented “the ‘non serviam’ moment of many of America’s Catholic universities.” The Latin phrase, meaning “I shall not serve,” is used by the Prophet Jeremiah to refer to the Hebrew people’s disobedience to God. The phrase is also used to characterize Satan’s rejection of God.

“Fifty years ago, a ‘declaration of independence’ in Catholic education transformed the Church,” the bishop told the Catholic educators gathered in Denver. “Today, may your humility, wonder, and dependence on the grace of God transform your schools, transform the Church, and transform hearts for Jesus Christ.”

For Bishop Conley, the 1967 statement represented a burgeoning trend of Catholics becoming prominent in public life, but doing so by playing down faith elements that were out of step with general American culture.

He focused on several principles of the statement, including its commitments to “contemporary and experimental” liturgy, favoring “creative dialogue” over “theological or philosophical imperialism,” and “true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself.”

He was critical of the statement’s presentation of Catholic universities as the Church’s “critical reflective intelligence” that could “objectively evaluate” the Church’s life and ministry in order to give “the benefit of continual counsel.”

“It seemed to bemoan the fact that Catholic universities were not asked more often how bishops should be undertaking their ministry,” he said.

The bishop suggested that secularization in the universities and colleges has “impacted every single facet of Catholic life” and secularized many Catholic elementary and high schools. This impact is found both in textbooks and teachers who have “not been trained to think or teach from the heart and wisdom of the Church.”

He cited the decline of Catholic school attendance from 5 million in the early 1960s to 2 million today, faulting factors like the decline of the Catholic university. The university, properly ordered, can also be “a training ground for dynamic and faithful Catholic educators, and as a context in which to discern and discover vocations.”

Bishops, clergy, religious and lay Catholics were formed in the wake of the statement, Bishop Conley said – himself included – resulting in “all of us doing the best we can, but regrettably, without being exposed to much of the truth, goodness, and beauty of the Church’s tradition.”

But there is still cause for hope: if dissenting universities can have a deep impact on Catholic and civic life, so can faithful schools. “The work being done to foster renewal in Catholic schools across the country will significantly impact the culture of the Church in the United States,” the bishop told the Denver gathering,

He encouraged Catholic educators to avoid several temptations and not measure Catholic universities “according to the standards of the world” or “to confuse influence, sophistication, or social acceptance with virtue and fidelity.”

“Meaningfully engaging with modernity is much more difficult than either capitulating to it or rejecting it out of hand,” he said.

The Land O’Lakes statement’s self-importance and self-assertion show the importance of “humility, docility, wonder, and receptivity,” Bishop Conley added.

“Encountering the living God is at the heart of true and meaningful Catholic education. This means that teachers, and administrators, must first themselves be disciples of Jesus Christ. It means that prayer – silent communion with the Eucharistic Lord – is at the center of the vocation of a teacher.”

 

Could a California bill make Catholic conduct codes illegal?

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 14:02

Sacramento, Calif., Jul 21, 2017 / 12:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-abortion groups are lobbying for a California law that Catholic leaders warn would open employers like Catholic schools to lawsuits for asking teachers to follow their codes of conduct.

“The bill unmistakably targets religious organization employers in the state, and goes further, inviting expensive litigation that could take years to sort out,” the California Catholic Conference said July 14, adding that it “sets a dangerous precedent for religious employers.”

The Catholic conference strongly opposes the bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales Fletcher (D-San Diego).

Assembly Bill 569 would prohibit employers from requiring their employees to sign a waiver or other document that “purports to deny any employee the right to make his or her own reproductive health care decisions,” its summary says.

It would also bar an employer from taking any adverse action against an employee based on the employee’s or employee dependent’s use of any drug, device or medical service related to “reproductive health” – which would include abortion, contraception and sterilization.

If an employer has an employee handbook, the bill would require the handbook to notify employees of these legal rights.

The California Catholic Conference charged that the bill targets religious employers who “expect faithful public and workplace conduct by their employees, including those who teach at religious schools and are reasonably expected to model the principles of that faith.”

The bill would make employers vulnerable to “nuisance lawsuits” from both employees and their dependents. The vulnerability from dependence is “unprecedented in California law,” the conference said.

“On the surface, the bill claims to seek legal protections from discrimination or retaliation for the ‘reproductive decisions’ of employees,” the conference continued. “However, the bill does not allow employers to enforce codes of conduct, even those negotiated with employees as part of union contracts. Those ‘codes of conduct’ – which are actually just standards and expectations set by an employer for the individuals it employs – bind religious employers and their employees in pursuit of a good society.”

The pro-abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice California is among the bill’s backers. Its February 14 statement in favor of the bill cited the actions of two Catholic schools in other states that had fired teachers on morality grounds.

The California Catholic Conference said backers of the bill can cite only one California case in the past decade, and that case was settled out of court.

Other backers of the bill include the California Council of Churches, which represents mainline Protestant and Orthodox Christian churches. Opponents include the California Family Council.

Similar legislation was enacted in February in the city of St. Louis, Missouri. Several Catholic organizations have filed a legal challenge against the law and the Missouri governor has called for a special session of the legislature to pass stronger legal protections for pro-life groups.

To help rally opposition to the California bill, the Catholic conference has prepared an action alert on its website, http://www.cacatholic.org.

 

100 descendants and counting: The remarkable story of Pat Klingbeil

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 12:30

Denver, Colo., Jul 21, 2017 / 10:30 am (CNA).- When most people hear about a stereotypical “large Catholic family,” they might picture a van that seats six or eight kids. Most wouldn’t think of having so many great-grandchildren that you’ve lost count.

But this is reality for Pat Klingbeil of Colorado.

Pat has nearly 50 great-grandchildren (an estimate she gave that was confirmed by one of her more mathematically talented daughters), having given birth to eight children and raised a total of 11.

“Parenting is a career,” she says, “and it has a lot of paybacks.”

One of the many signs and newspaper clippings hanging throughout her house bears the first half of that same message. Another, tucked amid jokes about Irish heritage and a morning prayer hanging above her coffee pot, depicts a mother surrounded by rambunctious children: “Lord, give me the strength to endure my many blessings!”

And her many blessings, along with the trials in which they have sometimes appeared, are something of which Pat often speaks in these conversations: “See how God works” and other such phrases are constant refrains of hers.

“It’s certainly been an adventure,” she said of her family. She paused before saying: “It’s what I always wanted to do, since I was old enough to know better. I always wanted to be a mom. So, to be blessed with a large family is just incredible.”

Dinnertimes at Pat’s are rarely low-profile events, as many nights out of a week the kitchen is packed with friends, former boarders, and most of all, her extensive family.

Pat was born in Aurora near Denver and just north of where she lives now, on St. Patrick’s Day in 1933 to an impoverished family.  

She discussed coming to a knowledge of God’s love, saying it was an awareness that slowly grew in her life, and came largely through her family: “having babies, giving birth, living the wonder of life, of having that experience.”

“I don’t think there was ever an ‘ah-ha!’ moment. I think it just began to develop in me. And as I lived, and as my children grew and all, I began to experience the presence, the presence of God.”



Pat speaks often of this presence of God. Far from being simply a nice Catholic slogan to her, it is something she always turns backs to, not only when talking about the joys of life, but also its sorrows.

“If there is a God, then you believe that he will not abandon you,” she says.

And the stories Pat tells reveal this clearly.

A growing family

Pat raised four of her grandchildren, after their parents (her stepdaughter and son-in-law) were murdered after a Fourth of July party in the early 1980s.

Neighbors and even families in Utah filed to take the kids, but only volunteered for one or two. However, the coroner promised Pat that she and her husband would be the ones to raise them.

“When all else fails, God’s still here, and I can still say, ‘Help me,’ and he does. And the best part of that is that he’s always allowed me to see that he’s helping me.”

And so the four grandchildren joined the family, and their grandparents became their mom and dad.

“When I became mamma to them, there was so much that need to be cared for and loved for, that I had to give myself to them,” Pat says.

Sadly, however, another trial waited which God would bear them through. A few years later, in 1988, her husband received a diagnosis with cancer. The eldest of the adopted grandchildren asked her new mom, “How many of my parents does God want to take away from me?”

Doctors gave him at most 18 months to live.

“And that’s what he took. He took 18 months,” says Pat.

He passed away in a hospital with Pat at his side.

“Everybody in the family, and close friends, all said, ‘What are you gonna do? What are you gonna do?’” Pat says.

“Well, you do whatever God sent you. And he takes care of it. If you ask him to take care of it, he takes care of it.”

Decades later, in 2004, Pat was invited by some friends to a Thanksgiving dinner. One of these felt it would be good for her to meet her boyfriend’s brother, Roger.

“We had dinner at their house on Thursday night, and when he walked me to my car, he said, ‘Well, will I see you again? Because I’m going back to Washington on Monday.’”

Pat offered for him to call her sometime.

He did so the next day, asking her to dinner.

After a meal where they both expressed distaste at the food, Roger walked Pat to her car.

“He said, ‘Can I kiss you goodnight?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I don’t think so.’ I don’t know where I was.”

The next day, Sunday, he came to Pat’s house, and the two simply chatted.

After he returned to Washington, the two stayed in touch over the phone. When Roger came back in town a couple weeks later, Pat invited him to her daughter and son-in-law’s house warming.

“Really and truly, I totally believe it, I’ve always told him: he fell in love with my family, and he wanted to be a part of my family.”

In 2005, Roger moved to Denver, and the next year they set the wedding date for August 13, the day after Pat’s grandson Matt married.

“We really did have a good time,” Pat says of their travelling the country and golfing together.

In 2010, the couple were staying a few nights in Estes Park on the way back from Washington. One day while they were there, Roger pointed out a swell on his stomach to Pat.

The two came home, saw a doctor the next morning, and received an MRI immediately.

It was her second time hearing the news of a spouse’s cancer diagnosis. This time, it was stage 4 liver and gallbladder cancer.

“It was harder because it was so hard for him,” Pat says. “He just cried, and he said, ‘I don’t want you to have to go through this again.’”

The doctors said he might live six months, but more likely around three weeks.

But just like her first husband, Roger lived the full time, passing away six months later on October 28.

“It’s a different experience this time,” Pat says.

She told me Roger’s story sitting in the living room by the backyard patio. When we had wrapped up our chat, she stood up and indicated a Divine Mercy image hanging above the wall. In front of this image, here in that room, she told me, she had prayed for Roger hours before he died in his hospice bed two rooms over.



Difficult circumstances, unexpected blessings

As a young mother while her first husband was serving overseas, Pat became pregnant after being raped. Her husband managed to secure a re-assignment in the States, and the young family moved to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

There, the family met a priest sympathetic to the situation, who found a couple willing to adopt the child. Pat delivered the child, who was then delivered to his new family.

“It doesn’t matter how that life is in you,” Pat says. “It matters how you nurture that life and allow it to grow in God’s image in likeness, and go on with your life in a proper way.” Pat has in years since given talks to young people which discuss, among other things, the challenges and beauty of adoption.

Around the year 1980, having been given his birth certificate by his adoptive mother, this son of Pat’s, named Joe, began searching for his birth mother. With the advent of the internet, he began using online genealogy tools and was able to hunt down her contact information.

Pat tells the story:

“Late morning, I answered the telephone, and this soft, quiet voice said, ‘This is not a business call, this is a personal call. My name is Joseph John Gongalski. I am calling looking for a Patricia Klingbeil. I was born at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.”

Pat cut across him at this point: “And you weighed seven pounds, four ounces.”

As Pat tells it, Joe went “blubbery” at this point in the conversation.

They arranged for Joe, along with his wife and one of their sons, Matthew, to come to Pat’s birthday party on March 17, an annual event which draws family from across the country and friends from across the Denver area, packing the house.

Joe and his family arrived a couple of days early, and Pat, in her usual Irish mischief, had an idea.

“I decided that I would pull a trick on him.”

Grabbing Roger’s old cane, she hobbled out the door, bent halfway over, and made her way meekly across the lawn, surrounded by family armed with cameras.

“When we saw the car pull up, I went out across the lawn. He had gotten out of the car and was coming in between the cars on the driveway. And I’m coming across the grass with the cane and I’m bent way over, like a real old lady.”

From her feigned stoop, she could see Matthew over the cars.

“In that one glance, I could see his expression of, ‘Oh my God, look at her.’ It was just horror that was on his face!” she remembers, laughing.

“As Joe came out from between the cars, I threw the cane and ran to him.”

When Joe shows the video to church groups, audiences typically believe they’ve witnessed a miracle.

“I think that was the cream of it all,” says Pat, still laughing.

Joe and his wife Joanna now make regular visits to Pat from where they live in Michigan.



If you started from Pat’s name on a family tree and counted all the members extending below her, you’d count over 100 names. Among them would be kids, grandchildren raised as her kids, great-grandkids not yet born, a whole family rejoined after Joe’s search climaxed on her birthday one year: members lost, and members gained.

“See how God works,” as she says.

Why we should care about the spike in women prisoners

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 05:01

Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While there is talk of criminal justice reform in the U.S., something must also be done about a decades-long spike in female inmates, experts and members of Congress of both parties said.

“We talk a lot about racial disparities in our system, but for some odd reason, we've really not focused on women, and it’s been to the detriment of public safety,” Holly Harris, executive director of the Justice Action Network, told CNA.

Harris spoke at the event “Women Unshackled,” sponsored by both the Justice Action Network and the Brennan Center for Justice, and was held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on July 18.

It featured a keynote address by Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma (R) and speeches by members of Congress of both parties, Rep. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rep. Sheila Jackson lee (D-Tex.), Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah).

“If we as a country value life as much as we say we do, then we value all life, even those who have made mistakes and have went through the incarceration system,” Rep. Collins said in the morning welcome remarks.

“How can we justify a system that takes people who are survivors of trauma, survivors of abuse, and put them on a survivor of sexual trauma to prison pipeline?” asked Sen. Booker, who had said in his address that many women in prison have previously suffered trauma, which may be triggered or exacerbated during their stay in prison.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had addressed the rising numbers of women in prison in their 2000 statement on criminal justice reform “Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration.”

The bishops said that the large increase in the number of women in prison came “largely as a result of tougher drug laws,” that most of the women were incarcerated for non-violent offenses, and that “an equal number have left children behind, often in foster care, as they enter prison.”

According to the Vera Institute of Justice, the numbers of women behind bars have grown more with each decade, especially when the U.S. is compared to other countries on the issue.

The research is “incredibly dated and scarce,” Elizabeth Swavola of the Vera Institute said at the “Women Unshackled” event on Tuesday, but from what information the organization has been able to study, the numbers are striking.

While fewer than 8,000 women were incarcerated in the U.S. in 1970, 110,000 were incarcerated in 2014, the Vera Institute reported, with the sharpest increases coming in small or “midsize” counties. In the U.S.,127 women per 100,000 people are incarcerated. In Canada that rate is just 11 per 100,000.

They make up the “fastest growing segment of the prison population” Harris said. Most of them are mothers, and many, like the men in prison, suffer from drug issues, poverty, and mental illness, and racial minorities make up higher rates of the prison population than in society.

Many women, however, have suffered previous instances of trauma – which can be exacerbated or triggered in prison. Vera reported that “almost a third had experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the past 12 months,” and that 86 percent of women in prison have “experienced sexual violence in their lifetime,” along with 77 percent suffering from partner violence.

Eighty percent are also mothers, with some being the primary caretaker for their children, Vera reported. “In many instances,” Cynthia Berry of the Council for Court Excellence said, “children aren’t even told their mother is incarcerated.”

If their mother is their primary caretaker, children may end up in the foster care system as a result, and mothers may not eventually be reunited with their children after they are released from prison.

Most are in prison for low-level or non-violent offenses. “According to the latest available national data, which are now more than a decade old,” Vera reported, “32 percent of women in jail are there for property offenses, 29 percent for drug offenses, and nearly 21 percent for public order offenses.”

For the violent offenders, some are serving sentences for violence committed against people who were violent with them, like women retaliating against abusive husbands or boyfriends.

Why has there been such a sharp increase in the number of women behind bars?

There is “very little out there explaining why,” Swavola said, but from Vera’s findings, “at the very front end, policing practices have come to increasingly focus on low-level, non-violent offenses” like low-level drug possession and disorderly conduct. This would be the result of “broken window” type policing, based on the belief that if smaller infractions are punished, there will be fewer greater infractions.

Because of a “punitive” approach to drug enforcement, she said, there are more women in the prison system.

Yet once they land in prison, they face a system that is hard enough for men to cope with, but one that at least is designed for men. For the women, they face greater threats of abuse and a more severe lack of privacy.

“Women are different from men,” Harris told CNA/EWTN News. “Their needs would be different. So unfortunately right now, women are entering prisons that are programmed for men.”

The result is that, although time in prison may help men become more hardened criminals, women may exit feeling far more degraded and dejected.

“All of these women have completely physically changed,” Harris said. They are visibly lacking self-confidence and staring at the floor. “It’s just clear that they are emotionally and mentally devastated.”

They are more likely to be victimized in prison. For instance, while women accounted for only 13 percent of the local jail population between 2009 and 2011, 67 percent of victims of staff-on-inmate sexual victimization were women, as well as 27 percent of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, Vera reported.

They may have to endure indignities like male prison officers walking in to their room while they are undressed, Sen. Booker said. Practices common in prison like shackling and searching inmates “can really re-trigger a lot of that trauma,” Swavola said.

Also, women prisoners tend to be poorer, which means that they may have less of a chance of having their bail paid or may not be able to afford expenses in prison like basic health necessities, laundry expenses, or phone calls home.

“Some jails charge inmates a per diem fee during their incarceration,” Vera reported, “which can leave an individual with thousands of dollars of criminal justice debt upon release.”

Prison can be “incredibly destabilizing and disruptive” to a woman’s life, Swavola said, especially in the case of a severely mentally ill woman.

Cash bail and “excessive fines and fees” can “trap women in the system,” she said.

What solutions can be attempted for the problem of women in prisons? States and counties could begin to invest more in drug treatment and prevention programs rather than law enforcement, Swavola said.

“A huge portion of these county and community budgets go toward public safety,” she said, and “oftentimes it’s 70 to 80 percent.” Much of that portion “is to corrections,” she said.

Other programs like diversion programs do not get resources, she said. “I think we really need to rethink how we are using our taxpayer dollars to fund the justice system.”

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R) said that her state has put too many women behind bars and is working on decreasing the number of incarcerated.

“For many of our non-violent, low-level offenders, there are alternatives that work better,” she said, like “drug and mental health courts” and “community based treatment, diversion programs, supervision.”

Recidivism is also a large cause of women in prisons, Vera reported.

“It’s no wonder that the female prison population is spiking, because we’re not providing these women with the tools that they’ll need to successfully re-enter society,” Harris said.

“They are not equipped mentally, emotionally, they can’t find jobs, they can’t improve their education, they can’t reconnect with their families, they can’t get adequate housing.”

For instance, CNA spoke with an ex-convict, Casey Irwin, back in April who had been convicted of bank fraud and drug-related offenses.

“I can get a job, but it wasn’t going to pay me any money, and I wasn’t going to ever move up,” Irwin told CNA of her difficulty in finding a job after prison that paid her enough in wages.

Eventually, she was offered a managerial position at a fast food franchise, but said that more opportunities must be available to ex-convicts, who face a myriad of obstacles from employment to obtaining loans.

100 descendants and counting: The remarkable story of Pat Klingbeil

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 19:48

Denver, Colo., Jul 20, 2017 / 05:48 pm (CNA).- When most people hear about a stereotypical “large Catholic family,” they might picture a van that seats six or eight kids. Most wouldn’t think of having so many great-grandchildren that you’ve lost count.

But this is reality for Pat Klingbeil of Centennial, Colorado.

Pat has nearly fifty great-grandchildren (an estimate she gave that was confirmed by one of her more mathematically talented daughters), having given birth to eight children and raised a total of 11.

“Parenting is a career,” she says, “and it has a lot of paybacks.”

One of the many signs and newspaper clippings hanging throughout her house bears the first half of that same message. Another, tucked amid jokes about Irish heritage and a morning prayer hanging above her coffee pot, depicts a mother surrounded by rambunctious children: “Lord, give me the strength to endure my many blessings!”

Interviewing Pat felt like any other conversation – any other conversation we’ve had, that is, given that I live with her. (Pat has for several years traditionally hosted CNA interns in the rooms she rents to boarders.)

And her many blessings, along with the trials in which they have sometimes appeared, are something of which Pat often speaks in these conversations: “See how God works” and other such phrases are constant refrains of hers.

Sitting in our living room during normal office hours while on an assignment from the office, we discussed everything from family, to life and death, to the boarders who have passed through her place.

“It’s certainly been an adventure,” she said of her family. She paused before saying: “It’s what I always wanted to do, since I was old enough to know better. I always wanted to be a mom. So, to be blessed with a large family is just incredible.”

Dinnertimes at Pat’s are rarely low-profile events, as many nights out of a week the kitchen is packed with friends, former boarders, and most of all, her extensive family.

Pat was born in Englewood, near Denver and just north of where she lives now, on St. Patrick’s Day in 1933 to an impoverished family.  

She discussed coming to a knowledge of God’s love, saying it was an awareness that slowly grew in her life, and came largely through her family: “having babies, giving birth, living the wonder of life, of having that experience.”

“I don’t think there was ever an ‘ah-ha!’ moment. I think it just began to develop in me. And as I lived, and as my children grew and all, I began to experience the presence, the presence of God.”



Pat speaks often of this presence of God. Far from being simply a nice Catholic slogan to her, it is something she always turns backs to, not only when talking about the joys of life, but also its sorrows.

“If there is a God, then you believe that he will not abandon you,” she says.

And the stories Pat tells reveal this clearly.

A growing family

Pat raised four of her grandchildren, after their parents (her stepdaughter and son-in-law) were murdered by their father’s older brother after a Fourth of July party in the early 1980s.

Neighbors and even families in Utah filed to take the kids, but only volunteered for one or two. However, the coroner promised Pat that she and her husband, Marvin, would be the ones to raise them.

“When all else fails, God’s still here, and I can still say, ‘Help me,’ and he does. And the best part of that is that he’s always allowed me to see that he’s helping me.”

And so the four grandchildren joined the family, and their grandparents became their mom and dad.

“When I became mamma to them, there was so much that need to be cared for and loved for, that I had to give myself to them,” Pat says.

Sadly, however, another trial waited which God would bear them through. A few years later, in 1988, Marvin received a diagnosis with cancer. The eldest of the adopted grandchildren asked her new mom, “How many of my parents does God want to take away from me?”

Doctors gave him at most 18 months to live.

“And that’s what he took. He took 18 months,” says Pat.

Marvin passed away in a hospital with Pat at his side.

“Everybody in the family, and close friends, all said, ‘What are you gonna do? What are you gonna do?’” Pat says.

“Well, you do whatever God sent you. And he takes care of it. If you ask him to take care of it, he takes care of it.”

Decades later, in 2004, Pat was invited by some friends to a Thanksgiving dinner. One of these felt it would be good for her to meet her boyfriend’s brother, Roger.

“We had dinner at their house on Thursday night, and when he walked me to my car, he said, ‘Well, will I see you again? Because I’m going back to Washington on Monday.’”

Pat offered for him to call her sometime.

He did so the next day, asking her to dinner.

After a meal where they both expressed distaste at the food, Roger walked Pat to her car.

“He said, ‘Can I kiss you goodnight?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I don’t think so.’ I don’t know where I was.”

The next day, Sunday, he came to Pat’s house, and the two simply chatted.

After he returned to Washington, the two stayed in touch over the phone. When Roger came back in town a couple weeks later, Pat invited him to her daughter and son-in-law’s house warming.

“Really and truly, I totally believe it, I’ve always told him: he fell in love with my family, and he wanted to be a part of my family.”

In 2005, Roger moved to Denver, and the next year they set the wedding date for August 13, the day after Pat’s grandson Matt married.

“We really did have a good time,” Pat says of their travelling the country and golfing together.

In 2010, the couple were staying a few nights in Estes Park on the way back from Washington. One day while they were there, Roger pointed out a swell on his stomach to Pat.

The two came home, saw a doctor the next morning, and received an MRI immediately.

It was her second time hearing the news of a spouse’s cancer diagnosis. This time, it was stage 4 liver and gallbladder cancer.

“It was harder because it was so hard for him,” Pat says. “He just cried, and he said, ‘I don’t want you to have to go through this again.’”

The doctors said he might live six months, but more likely around three weeks.

But just like Marvin, Roger lived the full time, passing away six months later on October 28.

“It’s a different experience this time,” Pat says.

She told me Roger’s story sitting in the living room by the backyard patio. When we had wrapped up our chat, she stood up and indicated a Divine Mercy image hanging above the wall. In front of this image, here in that room, she told me, she had prayed for Roger hours before he died in his hospice bed two rooms over.



Difficult circumstances, unexpected blessings

As a young mother while Marvin was serving overseas, Pat became pregnant after being raped by one of her husband’s childhood friends. Marvin managed to secure a re-assignment in the States, and the young family moved to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

There, the family met a priest sympathetic to the situation, who found a couple willing to adopt the child. Pat delivered the child, who was then delivered to his new family.

“It doesn’t matter how that life is in you,” Pat says. “It matters how you nurture that life and allow it to grow in God’s image in likeness, and go on with your life in a proper way.” Pat has in years since given talks to young people which discuss, among other things, the challenges and beauty of adoption.

Around the year 1980, having been given his birth certificate by his adoptive mother, this son of Pat’s, named Joe, began searching for his birth mother. With the advent of the internet, he began using online genealogy tools and was able to hunt down her contact information.

Pat tells the story:

“Late morning, I answered the telephone, and this soft, quiet voice said, ‘This is not a business call, this is a personal call. My name is Joseph John Gongalski. I am calling looking for a Patricia Goggin Klingbeil. I was born at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.”

Pat cut across him at this point: “And you weighed seven pounds, four ounces.”

As Pat tells it, Joe went “blubbery” at this point in the conversation.

They arranged for Joe, along with his wife and one of their sons, Matthew, to come to Pat’s birthday party on March 17, an annual event which draws family from across the country and friends from across the Denver area, packing the house.

Joe and his family arrived a couple of days early, and Pat, in her usual Irish mischief, had an idea.

“I decided that I would pull a trick on him.”

Grabbing Roger’s old cane, she hobbled out the door, bent halfway over, and made her way meekly across the lawn, surrounded by family armed with cameras.

“When we saw the car pull up, I went out across the lawn. He had gotten out of the car and was coming in between the cars on the driveway. And I’m coming across the grass with the cane and I’m bent way over, like a real old lady.”

From her feigned stoop, she could see Matthew over the cars.

“In that one glance, I could see his expression of, ‘Oh my God, look at her.’ It was just horror that was on his face!” she remembers, laughing.

“As Joe came out from between the cars, I threw the cane and ran to him.”

When Joe shows the video to church groups, audiences typically believe they’ve witnessed a miracle.

“I think that was the cream of it all,” says Pat, still laughing.

Joe and his wife Joanna now make regular visits to Pat from where they live in Michigan.



If you started from Pat’s name on a family tree and counted all the members extending below her, you’d count over 100 names. Among them would be kids, grandchildren raised as her kids, great-grandkids not yet born, a whole family rejoined after Joe’s search climaxed on her birthday one year: members lost, and members gained.

“See how God works,” as she says.

Former US head of Opus Dei dies at 71

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2017 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Father Arne Panula, the former U.S. vicar of Opus Dei, passed away at his Washington, D.C. home on July 19, 2017 after a battle with cancer.

“Father Arne had the firm belief that anything is possible, the imagination to think big, and the drive and energy to make things happen,” said Father Thomas G. Bohlin, U.S. vicar of Opus Dei.

Born in Duluth, Fr. Panula graduated with a degree in English Literature from Harvard University in 1967, before studying theology in Rome. While there, he lived with St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of the personal prelature Opus Dei.

Fr. Panula completed his graduate studies in theology, and in 1973, became a priest. He served as chaplain of The Heights School in Washington, D.C. and later became the U.S. vicar of Opus Dei, a role he served from 1998-2002.

Starting in 2007, Fr. Panula became the director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C. The center includes a bookstore and chapel, offering Mass, adoration, confession and spiritual direction, and hosts talks from prolific Catholic speakers.

Under Fr. Panula, the center was expanded to include the Leonine Forum, which aims “to educate men and women early in their careers in the core tenets of the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church.”

A wake for Fr. Panula will be held from 4 p.m. July 21 through 8 a.m. July 22 at the Catholic Information Center.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl will celebrate the funeral Mass at 9:30 a.m. July 22 at the Cathedral of St. Mathew the Apostle.

 

 

 

David Daleiden to appeal huge contempt fine over Planned Parenthood videos

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 16:07

San Francisco, Calif., Jul 20, 2017 / 02:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge has ordered over $136,000 in fines after the release of several undercover videos in a series that appeared to implicate Planned Parenthood officials and the National Abortion Federation in the illegal sale of unborn baby body parts.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick III on Monday sanctioned David Daleiden, his Center for Medical Progress, and his criminal defense lawyers for disclosing videos whose release was barred by his February 2016 preliminary injunction. The judge said each of the parties was jointly liable for security and legal costs for the National Abortion Federation, the subject of the videos.

The lawyers said they would appeal the ruling.

The Center for Medical Progress contended that the contempt charge against the attorneys was “just for trying to use the same video evidence in his defense that the California attorney general is using in his prosecution.” In a July 11 Facebook post, the center charged that the action would hinder efforts to provide a fair trial for Daleiden. The center also cited Daleiden’s attorneys’ ongoing efforts to disqualify the judge for alleged bias and links to Planned Parenthood.

The first investigative video release took place in July 2015, appearing to implicate Planned Parenthood in illegal activity and adding to the momentum to defund the United States’ largest performer of abortions.

In 2016, Judge Orrick had granted an injunction barring disclosure of the videos involving two National Abortion Federation meetings in Baltimore and San Francisco that the center’s investigators, including Daleiden, had surreptitiously recorded while posing as fetal tissue purchasers for a non-existent medical supply company.

However, Daleiden's lawyers, former Los Angeles prosecutor Steve Cooley and Brentford Ferreira, posted the videos to their website in May of this year. The release included preview footage of convention attendees casually discussing the skulls, eyeballs and other baby body parts they encounter in abortion procedures.

“An eyeball just fell down into my lap, and that is gross!” one panelist said in the video, to laughter from the crowd.

Planned Parenthood employees also appeared in the footage discussing baby organs that could be provided to biotech firms for money.

“They’re wanting livers,” one abortion provider said. “Sometimes she’ll tell me she wants brain,” another medical director said.

The footage also appears to show a person acknowledging the performance of illegal partial-birth abortions.

The videos had been uploaded to a private YouTube account and were not viewable without a link. One of Daleiden’s attorneys argued that this meant the posting itself was not a violation of the court order. Judge Orrick disagreed, saying that the enjoined materials were shared with a third party, namely YouTube.

The judge said he believed Daleiden had created the preview video and playlist, uploaded it, and forwarded the links to his criminal attorneys “for their use on his behalf.” He said it was reasonable to conclude the videos were uploaded “for the purpose of facilitating the publishing and distribution of those videos, which is what in fact occurred.”

When the videos initially became public, a spokesperson for the attorneys told National Review that the footage was entered into the public record when Calif. Attorney General Xavier Becerra Read filed a public criminal proceeding based on it.

Judge Orrick, however, said the lawyers failed to explain why the links to the videos needed to be published when the California state court judge had a thumb drive with the files, Courthouse News Service reports.

Defending themselves against the contempt charges, the attorneys had told Judge Orrick they aimed to use the videos to help defend their client against 15 felony charges he faced in California state court. They had believed the injunction did not apply to them. The judge said that under federal court rules an injunction also applies to attorneys, Bay City News reports.

The National Abortion Federation had accused Daleiden of creating a three-minute “preview” that identified abortionists by name, called them “evil,” “a baby killer” and “a systematic murderer.” The video asked viewers to share the video to hold Planned Parenthood accountable for “their illegal sale of baby parts.”

Judge Orrick’s ruling sided with the abortion federation, saying that Daleiden had failed to rebut the evidence against him by showing “deafening silence” and refusing to answer questions in his defense. Rather, he cited attorney-client privilege.

The judge said that in his review of the videos he found no evidence that abortion providers agreed to illegally sell fetal tissue, as alleged.

He ordered Daledein and the Center for Medical Progress to turn over all video of the federation’s meetings to the attorneys representing him in the civil lawsuit against him.

In June, a California court dismissed 14 of 15 felony charges against Daledein and a co-defendant Sandra Merritt involving illegal recording of confidential communications for their videos of Planned Parenthood employees, not the abortion federation.

The California attorney general is seeking to reinstate the charges.

In the federal case, Daleiden’s attorneys filed a June 7 motion to disqualify Judge Orrick, claiming the judge was biased in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant.

The motion cited an affidavit by Daleiden citing the judge’s role as an emeritus board member for a family resource center linked to a Planned Parenthood affiliate that is part of the National Abortion Federation.

Daleiden also cited the social media behavior of the judge’s wife, such as expressions of support for Planned Parenthood in the face of the videos. She also appeared to support stories critical of the Center for Media Progress and Daleiden. The judge’s wife had liked a post on the Facebook page “Keep America Pro-Choice” that supported the Harris County, Texas indictment of Daleiden.

The videos provoked a massive response from Planned Parenthood and its allies. A 2015 grant listing from the Open Societies Foundation, published after a foundations’ computer system was hacked, revealed apparent plans for a $7 to $8 million response campaign.

 

 

Supreme Court order affects thousands of refugees seeking US entry

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 14:01

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2017 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Grandparents and other family members are temporarily exempt from the travel and refugee bans implemented by President Donald Trump, the US Supreme Court said Wednesday.

The court also said that for the time being, a ban on entry by refugees already working with resettlement agencies may remain.

The Supreme Court did not explain its reasons in a brief order July 19. It said the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals must consider further arguments about who is included in the ban under Trump’s executive order. Supreme Court justices will hear further arguments about the executive order Oct. 10.

The Trump administration had argued that an exemption for close family members should not apply to grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and brothers- and sisters-in law.

A federal court in Hawaii said that definition of close family was too strict.

The ban bars travel into the U.S. for 90 days by nationals of Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Iran, all predominantly Muslim countries. It halts all refugee resettlement for 120 days. The first version of the ban, which had a broader impact, was announced in January, then blocked in federal court. A revised version was announced in March, then blocked by legal challenges.

In June the Supreme Court restored the ban, while saying those with “bona fide” links to the U.S. were exempted: close family members, employment, university admission, or relationships with other institutions.

Hawaii was among the challengers of the revised ban. It also argued that a refugee organization’s interactions with a refugee qualify as a bona fide relationship. About 24,000 refugees have formal assurances with resettlement agencies for relocation assistance.

However, the Supreme Court rejected that argument, thus allowing the U.S. government to halt efforts to grant entry to these refugees.

The order was not signed, though it stated that Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch would have granted the Trump administration’s request to put the lower court’s entire order on hold.

Trump had presented his order as a temporary anti-terrorism measure. The Trump administration has also lowered the cap on refugee admissions to 50,000 people per fiscal year. That cap was reached July 13.

In March the U.S. bishops had warned that security concerns could overshadow real human beings.

“Let us not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life,” the bishops said. “They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future. As shepherds of a pilgrim Church, we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: 'We are with you'.”
 
“It is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity,” said the March 22 statement from the US bishops' conference's administrative committee.

Bishops to Trump: Don't abandon young people to deportation

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 08:01

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Undocumented young people brought to the U.S. by their parents contribute to American society and deserve continued protections from the Trump administration, said the U.S. Catholic bishops this week.

“These young people entered the U.S. as children and know America as their only home. The dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected,” Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas said July 18.

Young people who qualify under the program are “contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes,” said the bishop, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ migration committee.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy was implemented in 2012 by the Department of Homeland Security to address the situation of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. at a young age. It provides more than 750,000 youth with a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization to work legally in the U.S.

Bishop Vasquez urged the Trump administration to continue the program and “to publicly ensure that DACA youth are not priorities for deportation.”

In late June, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, with the attorneys general of nine other states, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding the Trump administration end the DACA policy. The letter threatened to amend a lawsuit against another deportation deferral program in order to target the policy, Politico reports.

Bishop Vasquez, however, addressed the young people and their families: “the Catholic Church stands in solidarity with you.”

“We recognize your intrinsic value as children of God,” he said. “We understand the anxiety and fear you face and we appreciate and applaud the daily contributions you make with your families, to local communities and parishes, and to our country. We support you on your journey to reach your God-given potential.”

Bishop Vasquez also said that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is not a permanent solution and called on Congress to find a legislative solution for these youth “as soon as possible.”

“My brother bishops and I pledge continuing efforts to help find a humane and permanent resolution that protects DACA youth,” he said. “Additionally, I note the moral urgency for comprehensive immigration reform that is just and compassionate. The bishops will advocate for these reforms as we truly believe they will advance the common good.”

According to Politico, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a gathering of 20 Democratic members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he can’t guarantee the Trump administration will defend the DACA policy in court. Attorneys have told him the program wouldn’t survive a legal challenge.

 

 

Is the single life a vocation? Maybe we're asking the wrong question.

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 05:02

Denver, Colo., Jul 20, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- From a young age, Catholics are taught to pray about and discern their vocations – whether they're called to marriage, to the religious life, to the priesthood, or consecrated single life.  

This can leave the lay single person feeling that they are in a vocational limbo of sorts, and it's become a topic of much heated and emotional debate in the Catholic blogosphere: have these people missed their vocation? Is the lay single state, chosen or by default, a vocation?

But actually, at the end of the day – does it matter?

Fr. Ben Hasse is a vocations director for the Diocese of Marquette, Wisc. He said addressing the topic of singleness in the Church can be difficult because of the emotions surrounding the issue.

“I have quite a few friends who would like to be married, so there's a much more emotional investment in the question because there’s more people who find themselves single” rather than having specifically chosen it, he said.

Recognizing the emotional weight of the topic, Fr. Hasse noted that there are many aspects to addressing the question of vocation and singleness that need to be taken into account, and that it can be difficult – and dangerous – to make generalizations about a population in the Church that is actually very diverse.

Being specific about singleness

Fr. Hasse said that he has found it’s helpful as a pastor to approach singleness very specifically – whether it's a college student who hopes to marry someday, or a widower who lost her husband last month, being single encompasses a wide variety of people and circumstances.

“Everybody will be single for at least part of their life. Nobody is born as a priest or married to someone or a consecrated religious, so everyone will pass through being single,” he said.

“It's important to distinguish between people who are single because that's kind of where you're at when you're 16, versus someone who has really felt God calling them to give their life in service to the Church as a single person,” or various other circumstances.

For example, a single 19-year-old college student is probably not necessarily living a vocation of singleness in any settled way, Fr. Hasse said, but a person in their 40s who finds joy in serving Christ in their everyday circumstances of work and life “is not someone I would say lacks a vocation.”

“It would be different from the way we usually use the word because it wouldn't be defined, and made concrete by vows or promises,” he said.

“But the single accountant or school teacher could certainly live their life and see the work of their hands as something they're offering to God, and live that in a very spiritually fruitful way, and I wouldn't say – now here's a person without a vocation.”

Your vocation is given at baptism

Jason Coito, Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, told CNA that most of the debates surrounding singleness and vocation rely “on a very narrow definition of vocation, or confuses the term with what we refer to as 'states in life,'” he said.

He said when we become fixated on discerning our state in life, referred to in the Church as the primary vocation, “...we become so focused on the ranking of them, rather than looking at each day or the bigger picture and saying, here are all of these components of my life, now how am I called to live the promise of my baptism and of my life, and how do these things work together?”

It can be helpful instead to refocus these debates and conversations on the universal vocation to holiness that each Christian receives at their baptism, Coito said.

“I think this helpfully reframes the conversation and then asks us, 'How is God calling me to make a response to Him and to my brothers and sisters from within the state in life in which I find myself?'”

This respects every vocation, because it's a question anyone can answer on any given day in their life, regardless of their state in life, he said.  

“You do have a vocation. All baptized Catholics are called to live their lives as disciples of Jesus. This is the foundational call of our lives as Catholics,” he said.

“If you feel deeply called to get married, and you have prayerfully discerned and confirmed this call, then until you meet the person you feel called to get married to, you continue to live out your baptismal call, open to the people and circumstances that God puts in front of you each day. For those who are married, we do pretty much the same thing, except that we do this out of the sacramental relationship we have with our spouse,” he said.

In Lumen Gentium, one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI wrote about the universal call to holiness each Christian has:

“Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.”

Fr. Hasse reiterated the importance of the baptismal call to holiness, and said that this call is not something to “settle for,” but rather should be the primary focus of our lives as Christians.

“The call to holiness is not some second-string operation,” he said.

“It's not like – wow I really wish I had something important to work towards, but since I don't, sanctity will have to tide me over until the beatific vision.”

“So I think a reappropriation of the universal call to holiness, which is deeply, profoundly significant, it’s the one that matters in a sense, and we're all called to that,” he said.

The big lie: You are incomplete until you've made vows

Coito noted that one of the worst patterns of thinking that a Catholic can fall into when thinking about vocation is to believe that they are somehow less-than or incomplete until they are married, or are a priest or in a religious order.

When he taught high school religion, Coito said he would ask his students to recall the famous line from Jerry Macquire, when he tells his love interest (played by Renee Zellweger): “You complete me.”

“I would always tell them that from a Catholic perspective, that's ridiculous. It wasn't as though before marriage you were incomplete, or that a priest before his ordination is incomplete. God already made us whole and entire,” he said.

“We've been given everything as human beings that God intends us to have, so to begin to think of ourselves as somehow unfinished...we can joyfully be living out our vocation already right now.”

Part of this mentality has seeped in from the culture, he said, which tends to romanticize love and to view marriage as another achievement or milestone in life, rather than as a sacrament.

“I think it's important to address the mentality that if I'm not married or in a community or ordained that I’m this sort of 'Catholic arrested development' or 'suspended animation,'” he said.

The belief that marriage or religious life will also magically make us completely fulfilled is also a mentality that can set people up for disappointment, he noted.

“It ends up being a Disney sort of (mentality) of happily ever after, but it's much more Paschal mystery than happily ever after,” he said.   

Finding fulfillment: It's about self-gift

The reasons that there are more single people in the Church now than in other times in recent history are many and varied – an emphasis on education, a culture that values individualism, higher rates of divorce and economic factors are just some of the many reasons there are more singles in the pews.

But this doesn't mean that human nature has changed – we are still made for love, self-gift and service, Fr. Ben Hasse said.

“Trying to schedule events in our lives that will make us happy at some point that doesn't really work,” he said. “Happiness is richest and fullest kind of as a by-product of gifts of love and of service.”

“There's almost a way where you can attend to the basic dynamics of seeking to live a life of holiness, and that's the actually the path that’s going to leave you more and more disposed to receive his call,” he said.

In particular, acts of service can be a key way to find fulfillment regardless of one's state in life, he said.

“Look for opportunities to give of yourself,” he said. “It's also a good way to meet other people who have a similar disposition...doing that has very real potential to fill one's heart, and leaves you more and more receptive to (God's) call.”

Soley utilizing acts of service as a way to find a spouse would be unhealthy, Fr. Hasse added, but serving alongside like-minded people, and finding others who share your values is a good way to find authentic community, in whatever form that may take.

What the Church has to say about single people

Pope John Paul II, who wanted to be known as ‘the Pope of the family’, wrote in his familial document “Familiaris Consortio” that those without a family must be able to find their family within the Church. In fact, the entire final section of this document is dedicated to single people.

This is a subject with which John Paul II would have been intimately familiar – by the age of 20, all of his immediate family on earth had passed away, and he surrounded himself with good friends that essentially became his family.

In the document,he wrote: “For those who have no natural family the doors of the great family which is the Church-the Church which finds concrete expression in the diocesan and the parish family, in ecclesial basic communities and in movements of the apostolate-must be opened even wider. No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who 'labor and are heavy laden.'”

The Catechism of the Catholic also recognizes “the great number of single persons who, because of the particular circumstances in which they have to live – often not of their choosing – are especially close to Jesus' heart and therefore deserve the special affection and active solicitude of the Church, especially of pastors.” (CCC 1658).

Practical advice from single Catholics

Still, it can sometimes be difficult for single people to know where they fit in the Church. Parishes are often structured around family life, which can make it challenging for single people to find community.

Judy Keane is a 40-something single Catholic and author of “Single and Catholic,” a book in which she interviewed numerous single Catholics of a wide variety of ages, circumstances and backgrounds about their experiences in the Church.

“Mother Teresa once said that the greatest poverty is loneliness, and feeling discounted by society,” Keane said.

“So I would say (to married people in the parish): approach single people, connect with them, take that initiative to introduce yourself, not make them feel like because they don't have a spouse and children in the pew with them that they’re no less a member of the parish community,” she said.

MaryBeth Bonacci is a Catholic author and speaker who has often written on the topic of being a single Catholic. She said she loves it when people in her parish help her feel included in their families and lives.  

“Some people would say 'Oh well she wouldn’t want to go to a 1-year-old's birthday party.' Yeah I would!” she said. “We don't have our exciting singles lives that you think we have, I'm at home eating cottage cheese and watching Simpsons reruns, it’s not that exciting.”

Bonacci said she's also had a friend at her parish who told her she was invited to her family's dinner any time. And she didn't wait to make good on the invitation – she followed up with Bonacci every day.

“She would call me every day at 3:00 and say, am I setting a place for you? And I didn't go every night...but she actually called every day, and said if you want to come, we'll set a place for you, and I cannot tell you how much I appreciated that.”

She added that she appreciates when parishes make an effort to create a cohesive community, rather than always segregating people into groups according to their states in life.

Both Bonacci and Keane said that they especially have noticed that there are many single elderly Catholics who are alone, whether they’ve never been married or have since lost their spouse.

“If you're having a family Sunday dinner, why not try to befriend an elderly single person who may have lost their spouse and say we’re having our family dinner, would you like to join us?” Keane said.  

It's also important to remember that God acts in unexpected says, and oftentimes frustration with one's state in life stems from a place of thinking about vocation or God’s will too rigidly, Fr. Hasse noted.

“If I'm talking to someone who says well most of my friends seem to have found their vocation and I haven’t, what do I do? I usually say man, the saints are people that God caught in all kinds of unexpected situations and places,” Fr. Hasse said.

“So there's lots of precedent for thinking God has passed me by or hasn't answered my prayers” but then he shows up in unexpected ways, he said.

Charlie Gard's family allowed permanent US residency

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:41

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2017 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid the Gard family's legal battle in the U.K. to pursue experimental treatment for their infant son, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation granting them permanent residency in the states.

“We just passed amendment that grants permanent resident status to #CharlieGard and family so Charlie can get the medical treatment he needs,” Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) said in a July 18 tweet.  

The amendment was passed after Republican congressmen Trent Franks and Brad Wenstrup proposed legislation in favor of an additional treatment for Charlie, who suffers from a rare mitochondrial disease which paralyzes muscles and causes brain damage.

“Congressman Bradwenstrup and I have proposed legislation to grant lawful permanent status in the U.S. to Charlie Gard and his family, so they can at least pursue their best hope for Charlie,” Rep. Franks told Fox News July 11.

Charlie Gard has made headlines over the past few months as U.K. courts denied his parents the right to transfer him to other hospitals for treatment. The Gard family appealed to the EU court and was denied a hearing.

Claiming that prolonging Charlie's life would cause unnecessary suffering, British judges had ruled that London's Great Ormond Hospital could remove life support without the consent of the parents. The hospital granted Charlie an extension on life support so his parents may have a few more moments with him.

During the extension, a team of seven medical experts told the hospital that unpublished data on an experimental drug suggest a treatment which may improve the condition of Charlie’s brain. One of the experts is a neurologist and a researcher located at the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome – a Vatican hospital who's request to transfer Charlie to their facility was also recently denied.

Additionally, a U.S. specialist in mitochondrial diseases speculated in a video last Thursday that the experimental treatment, nucleoside therapy, has a success rate of at least 10 percent and a potential high of 56 percent.

Since experts have submitted new data that advocates for Charlie’s possible recovery, the Great Ormond Hospital has asked the courts to reopen the baby’s case that Charlie be transferred to the U.S. for nucleoside therapy, which his parents have successfully fundraised over $1 million for.

Charlie was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Depletion Syndrome – a fatal disease which progressively weakens the muscles and causes brain damage. The genetic disease is very rare, and Charlie is thought to be only one out of 16 people in the world diagnosed with the disease.

Despite Charlie’s low potential for survival, his parents have received U.S. and Vatican support for their right to fight for his life.

A statement was issued July 2 on behalf of Pope Francis, saying that the pontiff “prays for them, wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end will be respected.”

Archbishop Chaput: Civilta Cattolica got American Christianity wrong

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 12:15

Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 19, 2017 / 10:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A prominent Catholic journal’s critique of American religion and politics got quite a bit wrong, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said yesterday.

Archbishop Chaput said the article was “an exercise in dumbing down and inadequately presenting the nature of Catholic/Evangelical cooperation on religious freedom and other key issues.”

Writing in a July 18 column at CatholicPhilly.com, he noted that Catholic-Evangelical cooperation was “quite rare” when he was a young priest.

“The divide between Catholic and other faith communities has often run deep. Only real and present danger could draw them together,” the archbishop said. “Their current mutual aid, the ecumenism that seems to so worry La Civilta Cattolica, is a function of shared concerns and principles, not ambition for political power.”

Prominent Jesuit-run journal La Civilta Cattolica on July 13 published an analysis piece co-authored by its editor, Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., and Marcelo Figueroa, a Presbyterian pastor who is editor-in-chief of the Argentine edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the daily newspaper of Vatican City.

The piece, titled “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism” made a number of claims, alleging that many conservative Christians have united to promote an “ecumenism of hate” in policies that contradict Pope Francis’ message of mercy.

The piece’s analysis of American Christianity noted various influences like Christian fundamentalism, the “dominionism” of Presbyterian thinker Pastor Rousas John Rushdoony, the Prosperity Gospel, inspirational writer Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, and the polemical lay Catholic site Church Militant. It attempted to link these figures and trends with political trends and figures like Republican strategist Steve Bannon and Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

Fr. Spadaro and Pastor Figueroa acknowledged that the erosion of religious liberty is “clearly a grave threat within a spreading secularism,” but said religious freedom should not be defended “in the fundamentalist terms of a ‘religion in total freedom,’ perceived as a direct virtual challenge to the secularity of the state.”

They claimed that “Evangelical fundamentalists” and “Catholic Integralists” are being brought together in a “surprising ecumenism” by “the same desire for religious influence in the political sphere.”

Their article noted the American trend of “values voters” whose political decisions prioritize abortion, same-sex marriage, religion in schools and other matters. Both of these Catholic and Evangelical factions, they claimed, “condemn traditional ecumenism and yet promote an ecumenism of conflict that unites them in the nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state.” They charged that this collaboration also advances a “xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations” and thus an “ecumenism of hate.” These religious and political trends, they said, were based on “fear of the breakup of a constructed order and the fear of chaos” and “painting worrying scenarios beyond any realism.”

In Archbishop Chaput’s view, the article’s description of attacks on religious liberty as a “narrative of fear” might have made sense 25 years ago, but now sounds “willfully ignorant.” He charged that the article ignored the fact that “America’s culture wars weren’t wanted, and weren’t started, by people faithful to constant Christian belief.”

“So it’s an especially odd kind of surprise when believers are attacked by their co-religionists merely for fighting for what their Churches have always held to be true,” the archbishop said.

Without mentioning him by name, Archbishop Chaput cited the words of Tim Gill, a Colorado-based multi-millionaire businessman and political strategist who has poured millions of dollars into LGBT activism. Gill was a major funder behind the successful effort to recognize same-sex unions as marriages, while in recent years his grant-making has focused on limiting religious freedom protections he considers discriminatory.

Gill told Rolling Stone magazine that he now aimed to “punish the wicked.”

“In other words, to punish those who oppose the LGBT cultural agenda,” added Archbishop Chaput, saying that conflicts over sexual freedom and identity involve “an almost perfect inversion of what we once meant by right and wrong.”

The archbishop said Catholics must treat all persons with charity and justice, including “those who hate what we believe.”

“It demands a conversion of heart. It demands patience, courage and humility. We need to shed any self-righteousness. But charity and justice can’t be severed from truth,” he said, citing St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans and other biblical calls to “sexual integrity and virtuous conduct.”

For the archbishop, attempting to soften or detour around these calls would demean what Christians have always believed and “reduces us to useful tools of those who would smother the faith that so many other Christians have suffered, and are now suffering, to fully witness.”

Archbishop Chaput suggested that the article got points of American religion incorrect. American Baptists, for instance, see their faith as undermining the integration of Church and State.

“Foreign observers who want to criticize the United States and its religious landscape – and yes, there’s always plenty to criticize – should note that fact. It’s rather basic,” he said.

The archbishop praised religious liberty legal groups like Alliance Defending Freedom and Becket, saying they are “heroes, not ‘haters’.”

“And if their efforts draw Catholics, evangelicals and other people of good will together in common cause, we should thank God for the unity it brings.”

His column said the La Civilta Cattolica article was “rightly criticized” and “unfortunate comments,” voicing a broader warning against misunderstanding the political and religious situation.

 

Why religious leaders might be best at fighting extremism

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 08:01

New York City, N.Y., Jul 19, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious leaders, not secularists, are often in the best position to persuade violent religious extremists towards peace, the papal nuncio to the United Nations has said in response to an effort to prevent atrocities.

“The very existence of a plan directed toward religious leaders is also a humble recognition by the international community that those who are being incited by pseudo-religious motivations for violence aren’t going to be effectively persuaded out of it by secular argumentation from so-called infidels or by economic materialism,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza said July 14.

“They need, rather, valid religious arguments that show that extremists’ violence-inducing exegesis is unfaithful to the text and to the God they’re claiming to serve; they need persuasive counterarguments that plant the seeds of peace and eradicate the weeds of violence.”

Archbishop Auza is the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations. He spoke at the launch of a Plan of Action for religious leaders and other actors to prevent incitement to violence that could lead to atrocities.

The plan follows two years of consultations by Adama Dieng, the U.N. Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. Dieng told UN Radio that the plan had been designed to counter the kind of ideology that led to the Islamic State group’s genocide against the Yazidi people.

For the papal nuncio, the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity “requires the contributions and collaboration of each of us and all our communities and institutions.”
 
He noted that some religious leaders abuse their influence and authority “to spur or justify atrocities.” At the same time, many more religious leaders condemn these abuses and stress that “violence against others in the name of God is a great blasphemy against the name of God and the greatest disservice to religion itself.”

According to the nuncio, the United Nations’ plan and recommended practices can help religious leaders inoculate their congregations against “the half-truths that ideologues can use to incite them to hating rather than loving, and attacking rather than serving, their neighbor.”

Archbishop Auza noted that religion and violence can be delicate subjects.

“Acknowledging explicitly the religious dimension of some expressions of violent extremism is fraught with danger, and we can understand the reluctance of governments and international bodies to do so,” the archbishop reflected. “Thus, the most important contribution of religious leaders to this debate is to help people understand that acknowledging the religious dimension of some violent extremism, or more precisely the manipulation of religion for violent ends, does not mean equating religion, or a particular religion, or an entire religious community, with violence.”

“Understanding the motivations that lie at the root of terrorism and violence is complex and requires careful reflection and analysis, all the more so when there is a religious dimension to it,” he added. “Religious leaders are uniquely placed to offer such reflection. Pope Francis has helped to open up spaces for this reflection to occur so that religious leaders are able to contribute to the sensitive debate about religiously motivated terrorism.”

At the same time, the archbishop stressed that other bodies, like national governments, are more capable of stopping atrocities than religious leaders.

“There has been some focus recently on the role of religious leaders in preventing atrocity crimes — and this is good, because religious leaders have much to contribute — but, at the end of the day, religious leaders and organizations obviously do not have the resources by themselves to stop atrocities,” he said.

Religious leaders can influence behavior and mentalities, but do not control law enforcement agencies and armed forces. Rather, national governments and the international community have the primary responsibility “to act to protect the innocent from savage acts.”

Although the Holy See could not support all the elements of the United Nations’ action plan, Archbishop Auza said the plan is “a major, practical step forward” in fostering a culture and society consistent with the 2005 world summit on the Responsibility to Protect, a U.N. commitment to prevent genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity.

The latest action plan also notes the need for meaningful interreligious dialogue among religious leaders.

On this point, Archbishop Auza cited Pope Francis, who has called this dialogue “a necessary condition for peace in the world.”

In January the Pope told diplomats accredited to the Holy See that interreligious dialogue provides a paradigm to discuss differences, to grow in mutual appreciation of others’ perspectives, and to journey towards peace and other goals. The pontiff said that religiously motivated men and women can show adherents how to fight injustice, root out discord that can lead to war, renounce violence and vengeance, and transcend selfishness, hatred and lack of forgiveness.

Archbishop Auza emphasized this effort.

“That’s why the work of religious leaders and believers in general, and interreligious dialogue in particular, are crucial not just in preventing incitement to violence among susceptible coreligionists, but in fostering incitement to virtue and thereby creating the type of peaceful and inclusive societies in which atrocity crimes are ethically unimaginable,” he said.

Step outside the politics and encounter immigrants, bishop implores

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 05:05

El Paso, Texas, Jul 19, 2017 / 03:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A U.S. bishop on the border of Mexico hopes his new pastoral letter on migration will turn the hearts of Catholics to encounter their migrant brothers and sisters in a concrete way.

“It is first and foremost a reflection on the signs of the times by the light of faith,” Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso told CNA of his new pastoral letter on migration.

The letter is not meant to be “simply abstract,” he said, but “has to come down to the daily life and daily realities.”

Bishop Seitz’s letter on migration, “Sorrow and Mourning Flee Away,” was released on Tuesday.

He explained to CNA that the letter was prompted by reflection on the current situation for migrants in the U.S. At present in the country, there is a “great deal of fear in the midst of our migrant community,” he said.

“We had all hoped that maybe there would be a different tone when a new president came into office, and we really didn’t see much of a different tone” on immigration, he said.

It was by reflecting on this problem that his idea of a pastoral letter was born. The bishop hopes to teach Catholics and prod them to think about what Jesus said of the poor and the migrant.

“By sharing these reflections with people of faith, just by inviting them to step out of their preconceptions and the tendency that we have in this country to deal only with the level of politics,” the bishop hopes to encourage readers to “reflect from a standpoint of faith on what this might mean.”

“What does Jesus have to say about the poor, about the marginalized, about what they can actually teach us and how they are the really important ones in the Kingdom of God?” he reflected.

Bishop Seitz began his letter by stating some of the great challenges facing migrant communities in the U.S., and how the Church should respond to them.

“Since Jesus announced Good News to the poor, our Church has been called to stand with the suffering,” he wrote, saying that “migrants are living through a dark night of fear and uncertainty.”

“Recently we have witnessed indefensible, hateful words towards our neighbors in Mexico, the demonization of migrants, even of those children known as Dreamers, and destructive language about our border,” he said.

He also pointed to other problems – the breaking up of families by deportations, an increase in deportations of those without criminal records, and the detention of asylum seekers.

The journey north to the U.S. through Mexico is a dangerous one, Bishop Seitz said, with harsh desert conditions, drug trafficking, and smugglers all posing a danger to migrants. Yet once they reach the border, “increased militarization and more walls will only make this journey even more dangerous.”

“As God’s people here on the border, we are called to transform this desert, making refreshing pools of the burning sands of injustice and quenching the thirst of the oppressed,” he wrote.

The Diocese of El Paso has a long and storied Catholic history, he said, outdating the British colonies. Spanish migrants in the area held a Mass of Thanksgiving there in 1598, along with a feast with the local Manso indigenous tribe.  

“Life in the midst of an immigrant community is really much more pronounced,” Bishop Seitz told CNA, and has a “richness” to it “that I really couldn’t say I anticipated.”

The Catholic culture continues today, he wrote in the letter. “With our brothers and sisters across the bridge, we speak the same language. We wake up each morning to the same beautiful mountains, we dance to the rhythm of mariachis, and we share burritos and champurrado. With San Juan Diego, we stand together under the mantle of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

And Catholic ideals of hospitality and “encuentro,” or encounter, are practiced today in the services provided by the Diocese of El Paso to migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The Pope talks about accompanying the migrant,” the bishop told CNA, and he “talks about recognizing their face” and asks that people “see them as a fellow human being, and even more than that, as a brother and sister.”

“It’s just amazing, when that is allowed to happen, how the perspectives and the attitudes of people change,” he said. This theme of encounter is the focus of a significant part of the bishop’s letter.

Yet Catholics also must work to meet the needs of migrants in a concrete manner at the parish level, he said. This includes denouncing the injustices of today like “family separation,” “for-profit immigrant detention,” and “the disparagement of our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

And Catholics must also “address the plague of substance abuse afflicting our people” which is connected to “the drug trafficking destabilizing Mexico and Central America, driving migration to our border.”

Bishop Seitz emphasized the role of Catholic education in improving the lives of immigrants in the U.S., and promised to create a fund for tuition assistance at diocesan schools for children from migrant families.

He also recognized members of law enforcement for their “dedication and bravery in serving our community and protecting our country.” He exhorted them to uphold human dignity in their line of work and to uphold “the noble ideals in the Constitution of equal treatment under the law and due process.”

However, the bishop instructed parishes and schools to respectfully decline immigration officers access to churches in cases where there is no “imminent danger,” unless they have a warrant signed by a judge.

 

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