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Two dozen Catholic pages blocked from Facebook without explanation

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 19:09

Denver, Colo., Jul 18, 2017 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the last 24 hours more than twenty Catholic pages, some with millions of followers, have been blocked by Facebook for unknown reasons.

Of the known affected pages, 21 are based in Brazil, and four are English-language pages, with administrators in the U.S. and Africa. Most of the blocked pages had significant followings - between hundreds of thousands and up to 6 million followers each.

One of the blocked English-language fanpages was “Jesus and Mary”, which had 1.7 million followers. The page’s main cover photo was of the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Page administrator Godwin Delali Adadzie, a Ghanaian, told CNA he was on Facebook around 8 p.m. Central July 17 when he was asked to upload a photo of himself because his personal account had been “suspected of suspicious activities,” he said.

After several minutes, he was allowed back into his personal account, which had notifications informing him that his “Jesus and Mary” page had been disabled. He said every person who was approved as an editor on his page had to go through the same process.

Adadzie said he reviewed Facebook's policies "and, honestly, I do not see any that I have violated in order for my page to be withdrawn."

He has sent two appeals to Facebook but has yet to get a response.

Another blocked English-language page is “Catholic and Proud”, which had 6 million followers. Page administrator Kenneth Alimba of Nigeria told CNA his page was also blocked without explanation.

He has sent appeals to Facebook but is “not optimistic” about a response. He also told CNA that he noticed other Catholic Facebook pages that he runs, with fewer followers, are still online.

Another blocked English-language page is "Fr. Rocky," belonging to U.S. priest Fr. Francis J. Hoffman, executive director of Relevant Radio, whose page had 3.5 million likes. Fr. Hoffman could not be reached for comment by press time.

Facebook has yet to respond to requests for comment on the blocked pages. Facebook is the largest social network in the world, having recently reached more than 2 billion users.

While it remains unknown why these pages were blocked, some of the page administrators have said they wonder whether they are being censored.

In 2016, Facebook came under fire for allegedly censoring trends to news deemed "conservative."

On that occasion, Mark Zuckerberg rejected the allegations of censorship, and met with conservative U.S. leaders to assure them Facebook's neutrality.

In the past, user accounts have also been inadvertently blocked on Facebook due to system glitches, or numerous complaints against the page in a short time period. In these cases, Facebook restored the accounts after reviewing their content.


Brantly Millegan contributed to this report.

Senate committee considers Callista Gingrich nomination as Vatican ambassador

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 17:38

Washington D.C., Jul 18, 2017 / 03:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Callista Gingrich, nominated by President Donald Trump as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, laid out her priorities Tuesday at a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Grilled on issues such as immigration, climate change, relations with Cuba and terrorism, Gingrich insisted that Trump has not cut discussion on the climate change and refugee debates, and voiced her commitment to fight human trafficking and promote human rights and religious freedom.

During the July 18 hearing, the committee also listened to remarks from three other Trump nominees: George E. Glass as U.S. Ambassador to Portugal, Carl Risch as Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, and Nathan Sales as the State Department’s counter-terrorism coordinator.

In her opening remarks, Gingrich voiced her thanks to President Trump for the nomination, and said she is looking forward to the possibility of collaborating with an institution that is active “on a global scale.”

The Holy See, she said, “is engaged on every continent to engage religious freedom and human rights, to fight terrorism and violence, to combat human trafficking, to prevent the spread of diseases like Ebola and HIV/AIDS, and to seek peaceful solutions to crises around the world.”

The Vatican and its various entities, she said, play “an active role” in troubled areas throughout the world, such as Venezuela, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The latter two nations were initially on the Pope's travel itinerary this year, but were dropped due to security concerns.

“The Catholic Church is a unique global network, overseeing the world's second international aid organization, operating over 25 percent of the world's healthcare facilities and ministering to millions in every corner of the world,” Gingrich said, and emphasized her commitment to continue building stronger bilateral relations between the two countries, despite points of disagreement.

It is well known that Trump and Pope Francis differ sharply on the issues of immigration and climate change. Asked by Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire how she plans to engage the Vatican on immigration given President Trump's recent legislation, Gingrich insisted that the issue is a “grave concern” for Trump, and one he sees as “a priority.”

The U.S. isn't “disengaging” on the issue, she said, and stressed the fact that the U.S. is one of the greatest providers of humanitarian aid as a potential point of collaboration on the issue.

“I think we can communicate our commitment to help those most in need,” she said.

When it comes to counter-terrorism efforts, Gingrich pledged collaboration.

And while opinions of diplomatic partners may differ in terms of policy, Gingrich said she looks forward to working with the Vatican “on those issues of our shared policy opportunities.”

The nominee was also questioned about her opinion of the Pope's 2015 environmental encyclical “Laudato Si” and how to foster dialogue on the issue with the Vatican given Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement earlier this year.

In her responses, Gingrich said Trump has “a great concern for our environment” and wants to make American an “environmental leader,” especially when it comes to promoting clean air and water.

“We will disengage and pull out of the Paris agreement, and either re-enter the Paris agreement or an entirely new agreement; one that is fair to Americans,” she said, and voiced hope that she can work with the Holy See as the U.S. seeks “a balanced policy; one that promotes American jobs, prosperity and energy security.”

When asked about the issue a second time by Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who said he is less confident about Trump's commitment to the climate issue, Gingrich said that she personally believes that “climate change exists and that some of it is due to human behavior.”

“But I do believe that as President Trump pursues a better deal for Americans, we will indeed remain an environmental leader in the world,” she said.

Gingrich didn't know whether or not Trump has read the copy of “Laudato Si” given to him by Pope Francis during their meeting at the Vatican in May, and said that she has read “some of it” herself.

President Trump, she said, “wants the United States to be an environmental leader. We aren't backing off of that, but we are seeking the security of this country, to promote jobs for Americans and to have better prosperity, so the focus is slightly different, but we do want to be an environmental leader.”

Another topic Gingrich said would be key to her role is human trafficking, which she called “a horrific offense that threatens our global security.”

The issue has been a key priority for Pope Francis from the beginning, having specifically asked the Pontifical Academy for Sciences to study the issue after his election.

It has also been a priority for President Trump's daughter and high-profile adviser, Ivanka Trump, who after accompanying her father to his meeting with Pope Francis, met with victims of human trafficking helped by the Rome-based Sant'Egidio community.

When it comes to issues of global importance and partnerships in confronting them, Gingrich said that “it's so important that we reach out to places like the Holy See and to promote good in the world and to make it a better place to advance our peace and our freedom and our human dignity.”

President Trump announced his choice of Callista, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican in May.

She is the president of both Gingrich Productions in Arlington, Va. and the charitable non-profit Gingrich Foundation, and is a former Congressional aide.

Newt and Callista married in 2000, after having a six-year affair while Newt was married to his previous wife. Newt converted to Catholicism in 2009 and, in an interview that year with Deal Hudson at, explained how Callista’s witness as a Catholic brought him towards the faith.

He noted that he had attended Masses at the National Shrine where Callista sang in the choir, and she “created an environment where I could gradually think and evolve on the issue of faith.”

At the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2011, he also cited Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 visit to the U.S. as a “moment of confirmation” for him. At vespers with the Pope, where Callista sang in the Shrine choir, Newt recalled thinking that “here is where I belong.”

The couple worked on a documentary together that was released in 2010, “Nine Days That Changed the World,” that focused on Pope St. John Paul II’s 1979 pilgrimage to Poland when the former Soviet bloc country was under a communist government.

During the hearing, she referenced a second documentary film they recently produced titled “Divine Mercy: The Canonization of John Paul II.”

Should the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approve Gingrich after today’s meeting, her nomination will then move to the full Senate. If she is approved there, she'll likely arrive to Rome this fall, showing up as soon as September.


Would-be bride turns cancelled reception into feast for homeless

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 05:04

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 18, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Many couples spend thousands of dollars on their dream wedding. But what happens when you have to call it all off?

Faced with the question that no bride or groom would ever want to answer, Sarah Cummins and Logan Araujo had to decide what to do with the $30,000 non-refundable wedding reception they were left with after calling off their wedding for undisclosed reasons.

"It was really devastating," Cummins told the IndyStar. And besides getting some money back on the photographer, everything else seemed like sunk cost.

"I called everyone, canceled, apologized, cried, called vendors, cried some more and then I started feeling really sick about just throwing away all the food I ordered for the reception," she said.

After checking with Araujo, Cummins decided to invite people from four local homeless shelters to enjoy a fancy dinner and reception at the Ritz Charles in Carmel, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis. She hoped to fill the 170 spots they had reserved for guests.

"For me, it was an opportunity to let these people know they deserved to be at a place like this just as much as everyone else does," Cummins said.

She even arranged bus transportation to the venue from the various shelters, and greeted the guests as they arrived. She almost didn’t go, thinking it might be too painful, but changed her mind after one of the homeless program directors said they couldn’t wait to meet her.

"Thank you for having us," one of the guests, a homeless veteran, told Cummins as he arrived. "It means more than you know."

Cummins’ mother, along with some of her would-be bridesmaids, were also in attendance.

The guests dressed in their best and dined on the on hors d'oeuvres of bourbon-glazed meatballs, goat cheese and roasted garlic bruschetta, and the main dish of chicken breast with artichokes and Chardonnay cream sauce.

Cummins’ generosity inspired others, including Matt Guanzon of Indianapolis, who donated some suits from his own closet and recruited others to do the same, including a tailor and a gown shop, which contributed suits, dresses, and accessories.

Not much had changed about the routine of the reception, besides cutting the cake in the kitchen, and removing the head table.

Ritz center development director Cheryl Herzog was so touched by Cummins’ generosity that she reached out to the IndyStar about the story.

"I was so touched that Sarah had taken a painful experience and turned it into a joyful one for families in need," Herzog said. "It is truly a very kind gesture on her part."

Guest Erik Jensen, from a local mission, said it was “a great time."

"It's just a really great opportunity for us, that was going to be a huge tragedy in her life," he said.

"It's a great opportunity to spread love. Being homeless is kind of a big loss for all of these guys. This is just a very nice thing to do."

Satanic monument in city park a really bad idea, Minn. Catholics say

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 02:08

St. Paul, Minn., Jul 18, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A proposed Satanic monument in a city-run veterans’ park has drawn strong opposition from Catholics in Minnesota, who have led prayer rallies and spoken before the Belle Plaine City Council.

Susie Collins was among the attendees of a rosary rally in Belle Plaine’s Veterans Memorial Park to oppose the monument. She told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that the monument “is not the message of life and love, it is the message of death and decay.”

Other critics of the monument waved signs urging passersby to reject Satan. Several dozen people attended the rally, in a city with a population of about 7,000.

The Satanic Temple, based in Salem, Mass., had proposed to place its own monument in the city park. The monument, a black cube inscribed with pentagrams with an upside-down soldier’s helmet on top, was approved by the city.

In May city officials said that the application for the monument met the criteria of city policy. It has not yet been installed.

Lucien Greaves, a co-founder the five-year-old Satanic Temple, said his organization does not believe in the supernatural but sees Satan as a “metaphorical construct” of “the ultimate rebel against tyranny.” It claims 10,000 members worldwide, the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis’ newspaper The Catholic Spirit reports.

The group tried to organize a “Black Mass” at Harvard University in 2014 before a student group moved the event off-campus. It has created an after-school program based around its beliefs and worked to install a Satanic statue at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

A smaller group of supporters of the monument, from Minnesota’s Left Hand Path group, also demonstrated on Saturday. The group includes Satanists.

Koren Walsh, a member of the group, said the presence of the monument would show “all faiths have a voice in the city of Belle Plaine and the state of Minnesota,” the Minnesota CBS affiliate WCCO reports.

The protest of the monument was organized by the Pennsylvania-based group America Needs Fatima, a lay-run non-profit that says it promotes the message of Our Lady of Fatima.

The proposed Satanic monument adds to a previous controversy at the park concerning a two-foot-tall statue of a soldier praying over a grave marked with a cross. The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation had objected to the statue, which was initially put up without city approval by the Belle Plaine Veterans Club. The foundation objected that the cross on a public veterans’ memorial could create the impression that the city only cares about Christian soldiers.

According to the foundation, it aims to place its own memorial to honor non-religious service members, including “atheists in foxholes and other free-thinkers who have served their country with valor and distinction.”

The city council initially sought to remove only the cross, then removed the statue entirely in January. In April, its location in the park was then designated a free speech zone by the city council, allowing the statue to return. The city council voted to allow private organizations to place memorials featuring religious symbols in the designated area as long as they met certain requirements related to material and size.

On Monday the city council was set to debate a resolution to remove the free speech zone, and thus preventing either the praying soldier or the Satanic monument from being placed in the park.

Local Catholics had spoken out against the Satanic monument.

Father Brian Lynch, pastor of Our Lady of the Prairie Church, was joined in prayer at the park by more than 50 Catholics at the park June 3.

“Sometimes these things which are evil can really, maybe, wake some people up,” Fr. Lynch said, according to The Catholic Spirit. “We really have to take our faith seriously and live it.”

He testified against the proposed monument before the city council in early June. He cited atheistic Satanists’ use of Satan “as a symbol of the rejection of moral authorities and the constraints on human behavior these authorities teach and support.” He said they also use inverted pentagrams as a symbol “almost exclusively associated with opposition to God and goodness.”

According to Fr. Lynch, the presence of Satanic symbols would have a negative effect on the public and violate several sections of the city code, including laws against committing offenses against decency or public morals in parks or public lands.

Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, said both freedom of speech and religious freedom have legitimate limits.

“With rights come responsibilities,” he said, adding that more people should be shocked by the Satanist advocacy.

“You’re invoking Satan,” he said. “Traditionally, Christians have understood that when you invoke demons, you’re cursing yourself and your community.”

What Civilta Cattolica's analysis of US Christianity missed

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 18:44

Washington D.C., Jul 17, 2017 / 04:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An analysis piece in La Civilta Cattolica alleging an “ecumenism of hate” between Catholics and Evangelical Fundamentalists is seriously flawed in its presentation of religion in public life, experts said.

Speaking about the article, which claims religious and political elements of society should not be “confused,” Elizabeth Bruenig, a writer on Christianity and politics, said: “this is a departure from most of the historical writings the Church has produced on how Catholics should think about politics and religion.”

On Thursday, the journal La Civilta Cattolica published an analysis piece co-authored by its editor, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., and Marcelo Figueroa, a Presbyterian pastor who is editor-in-chief of the Argentine edition of L’Osservatore Romano.

The piece made a number of claims, alleging that many conservative Christians have united on political issues like immigration and have ultimately promoted an “ecumenism of hate” in policies that would allegedly contradict Pope Francis’ message of mercy.

With the U.S. motto “In God we trust,” adopted in 1956, the authors stated that “for many it is a simple declaration of faith,” but “for others, it is the synthesis of a problematic fusion between religion and state, faith and politics, religious values and economy.”

This “problematic fusion” has manifested itself in recent years with the “Manichean” rhetoric of politics “that divides reality between absolute Good and absolute Evil,” the authors said, drawing examples of this from the presidential administrations of George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

This rhetoric is rooted in the evangelical-fundamentalist movement beginning in the early-20th century, which continued through other problematic interpretations of Christianity like belief in the “prosperity gospel” and in the dominion of man over creation, beliefs “that have been gradually radicalized,” the authors said.

Furthermore, this Christianity feeds off of conflict where “enemies” are “demonized,” which would today include Muslims and migrants who are not welcomed into the U.S., the authors wrote.

Pope Francis, by contrast, has advocated for “inclusion” and “encounter,” and has been opposed to “any kind of 'war of religion,’” they wrote.

Thus, for Catholics, religion and politics should not “confused” lest Christians promote a fundamentalist theocracy which is being pushed in this case, the authors said.

However, religious experts have pointed out inaccuracies, exaggerations, and false summaries of Church teaching within the article.

Dr. Chad Pecknold, a professor of theology at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that although the authors alleged that many American Christians have a “Manichean” outlook on politics, of good versus evil, “the authors themselves sound quite Manichaean in their absolute opposition to their caricature of Christian conservatives in America.”

“The authors make a great number of errors, both historically, descriptively, and in their diagnosis of what ails America, and Christian conservatives more specifically,” he continued.

A chief flaw of the piece is its suggestion that religion and politics should be separated, Bruenig added. While distinctions should be made between the eternal, spiritual realm and the temporal one, the piece is “ahistorical and very un-Catholic” in how it approaches the relationship between religion and politics, she said.

Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa wrote that “the religious element should never be confused with the political one. Confusing spiritual power with temporal power means subjecting one to the other.”

The article also says that “[Pope] Francis wants to break the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church. Spirituality cannot tie itself to governments or military pacts for it is at the service of all men and women.”

This compartmentalization of faith and politics is part of flawed Enlightenment thinking, Bruenig said.

“The notion that politics and religion should basically function in separate domains is one of the original liberal Enlightenment positions on politics, and there’s a reason that most of the leading thinkers of the liberal Enlightenment were severely anti-Catholic,” she stated.

“There’s nothing special about the realm of governance that would cut it off from moral considerations, or give it its own special brand of irreligious moral consideration,” she continued, saying that politicians “are still beholden to the same moral precepts that they are in every other decision they make in their lives.”

Such a claim flies in the face of centuries of Church teaching, Bruenig continued.

P.J. Smith, who writes at the website, agreed that the article contradicted Church teaching on the relationship between faith and politics which was put forth by Bl. Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, Pius XI, and Ven. Pius XII, who wrote that the Church has the authority to speak on matters of economics and politics.

“More to the point, Spadaro and Figueroa set themselves against Pope Francis himself when they articulate a bizarre liberal atomization of man,” he wrote. “According to Spadaro and Figueroa, in church, man is a believer; in the council hall, he is a politician, at the movie theater, he is a critic; and he is apparently supposed to keep all of these roles separate.”

Smith cited Pope Francis who, at an April conference on Bl. Paul VI's 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio, said that no system, whether it be the family, economy, or work, “can be an absolute, and none can be excluded from the concept of integral human development which, in other words, takes into account that human life is like an orchestra that performs well if the various instruments are in harmony and follow a score shared by all.”

Furthermore, valid critiques can be made of the current administration and the political order “from a Christian position,” Bruenig said, exploring the policies of the administration that do not conform to Church teaching. This would have been “a much stronger argument,” she said.

However, “instead of saying that those are not Christian activities to be undertaking and they’re governing badly,” the authors “said they have confused a religious element with the political one.”

Furthermore, some of the claims made in the piece about U.S. Christianity are inaccurate, Pecknold and Bruenig said.

For instance, as an example of what’s wrong with the Catholic-Evangelical ecumenism, the piece cites the website cheering the election of President Donald Trump as an answer to the prayers of Americans, comparing him to the Roman Emperor Constantine whose military victory enabled the legal acceptance of Christianity throughout the empire.

This is an example of the flawed understanding of religion and politics, the authors said.

However, this is “a fringe publication” that the authors cited, Pecknold said, and not one that is representative of Catholics in the U.S.

The article warned about a “mingling of politics and religion” that is expressed, at times, in a Manichean rhetoric of good versus evil to justify political policies. Trump, for instance, acts in such a way by decrying the “very bad.”

However, Bruenig said, “Trump himself is almost comically indifferent to religion, and can’t even really explain what Presbyterians – what he’s supposed to be – believe.”

A CNN report had noted that, according to two Presbyterian pastors who met with Trump just before his inauguration, he apparently was uncertain that they were Christians until they affirmed to him that they were.

Also, although the article mentions the “prosperity gospel” and “dominionism” as problematic strains of U.S. Christianity today, it ignores a major tradition, Smith wrote.

It fails to “engage with the liberal tradition within American Catholicism, exemplified by the Jesuit John Courtney Murray, which might have provided an interesting strand in their argument—not least because it remains the dominant strand in American Catholicism,” Smith wrote.

Stephen White, a fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., wrote in the Catholic Herald that the authors’ critique of the Christian Integralists purports to be an accurate summary of mainstream religious problems, but is rather a critique of only a small population of Christians.

“Fundamentalism is not the mainstream of American Protestantism, nor does it have the influence in American politics that the authors imagine it does,” he said.

He wrote that “the suggestion that there’s some close affinity between the Biblical literalism of fundamentalism, on the one hand, and the God-wants-you-to-be-rich hucksterism of the Prosperity Gospel,” is false.

“America’s maddeningly complex religious landscape needs thoughtful analysis and critique,” he wrote, adding that such nuance is lacking in the piece.

Kids in a time of climate change – what's a Catholic to do?

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 06:31

Washington D.C., Jul 17, 2017 / 04:31 am (CNA).- Travis Rieder and his wife Sadiye have one child.

She wanted a big family, but he’s a philosopher who studies climate change with the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. One child of their own was all the world could environmentally afford, they decided.

In his college classes, Rieder asks his students to consider how old their children will be by 2036, when he expects dangerous climate change to be a reality. Do they want to raise a family in the midst of that crisis?

Many scientists concur that the earth is currently in a warming phase - and that if the earth’s average temperatures rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius, the effects would be disastrous.

The 2015 Paris Agreement, signed by nearly 200 countries within the United Nations, aims to address just that. Signatory countries agreed to work to keep the global temperature from increasing by two degrees through lowering their greenhouse gas emissions, and to work together on adapting to the effects of climate change that are already a reality.

But reproductive solutions, such as the ones proposed by Rieder, are wildly controversial for the ethical and moral questions they raise.

Penalizing parents

In his book “Toward a Small Family Ethic,” Rieder and two of his peers advocate for limited family size because of what they believe is an impending climate change catastrophe.

They suggest a “carrots for the poor, sticks for the rich” population control policy, which they insist is not like China’s harsh one-child policy.

For poor developing nations, they suggest paying women to fill their birth control and widespread media campaigns about smaller families and family planning. For wealthier nations, they suggest a type of “child tax,” which would penalize new parents with a progressive tax based on income that would increase with each new child.

“(C)hildren, in a kind of cold way of looking at it, are an externality,” Rieder told NPR. “We as parents, we as family members, we get the good. And the world, the community, pays the cost.”

While it might sound strange, the idea that climate change and overpopulation morally necessitate couples to limit their family size (or to have no children at all) is not new.

Since the 1960s, some scientists have been advocating for smaller families for various reasons – overpopulation, climate cooling, the development of Africa – and now, global warming and climate change.

And while the idea isn’t new, neither are the moral and ethical concerns associated with asking parents to limit their family size for the sake of the planet.

Should Catholics limit their family size?

Ultimately, Catholics ethicists said, while environmental concerns can certainly factor into lifestyle choices, those who would ask people to completely forego children simply due to their carbon footprint are approaching the topic from the wrong perspective, not realizing the immeasurable worth and dignity of every human person.

“The proposals (on limited family size)...need to be assessed with a perspective as to the very nature of the human person, marital relationships, and society,” Dr. Marie T. Hilliard told CNA.

Hilliard serves as the director of bioethics and public policy at The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), a center designed specifically to answer the moral bioethical dilemmas that Catholics face in the modern world.

What’s problematic about the policies proposed by Rieder and other scientists is that they ask married couples to frustrate one of the purposes of their sexuality, Hilliard said.

“(T)he procreative end of marriage must be respective. Couples cannot enter into a valid marriage with the intent of frustrating that critical end, and one of the purposes of marriage,” she said. If couples are not open to the possibility of a child, “it frustrates at least one of the two critical ends of marriage: procreation and the wellbeing of the spouses.”  

Dr. Christian Brugger is a Catholic moral theologian and professor with St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. He clarified that while the Church asks couples to be open to life, it does not ask that they practice “unlimited procreation.”

“The Catholic Church has never held – and has many times denied – that responsible parenthood means ‘unlimited procreation’ or the encouragement of blind leaps into the grave responsibilities of child raising,” he said.

“It does mean respecting marriage, respecting the moral principles in the transmission of human life, respecting developing human life from conception to natural death, and promoting and defending a social order manifestly dedicated to the common good.”

Considering the common good can include considering the environment, as well as a host of other factors that pertain to the flourishing of the human person, when couples are considering parenting another child, Brugger said.

But he cautioned Catholics against the moral conclusions of scientists whose views on life and human sexuality differ greatly from Church teaching.

“Catholics should not make decisions about family size based upon the urgings of these activists,” he said.  

“Why? Because they hold radically different values about human life, marriage, sex, procreation, and family, and therefore their moral conclusions about the transmission of human life are untrustworthy.”  

“(P)opulation scare-mongering has been going on in a globally organized fashion for 70 years. The issues that population activists use to promote their anti-natalist agendas change over time...But the urgent conclusion is always the same: the world needs less people; couples should stop having children,” he said.

And many worry that legislated policies encouraging and rewarding smaller families could open up a host of ethical and moral problems.

Rebecca Kukla of Georgetown University told NPR that she worries about the stigma such policies would unleash on larger families. She also worried that while a “child tax” might not be high enough to be considered coercive, it would be unfair, and would favor the wealthy.

Hilliard agreed.

“(A) carte blanche imperative to limit family size can lead us to the dangers the (NPR article) cites, as discrimination and bias and government mandates can, and have, ensued,” Hilliard said.

Women in particular would bear the brunt of the resulting stigmas of such policies, Brugger noted.

“(W)omen will and already do suffer the greatest burden from this type of social coercion. Women have always been the guardians of the transmission of human life. They share both the godlike privilege of bearing life within them and the most weighty burdens of that privilege. Anti-natalist demagoguery is always anti-woman, always,” Brugger said.

All things considered, the Catholic Church would never take away the right and responsibility of parents to determine their family size by supporting a policy that would ask families to limit their size because of climate change, he said.  

It’s not people, it’s your lifestyle

William Patenaude is a Catholic ecologist, engineer and longtime employee with Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management. He frequently blogs about ecology from a Catholic perspective at

The idea that we must choose between the planet or people, he told CNA, is a “false choice.” The problem isn’t numbers of people – it’s the amount each person is consuming.

“The US Environmental Protection Agency reports that in 1960 the United States produced some 88 million tons of municipal waste. In 2010 that number climbed to just under 250 million tons—and it may have been higher had a recession not slowed consumption. This jump reflects an almost 184 percent increase in what Americans throw out even though our population increased by only 60 percent,” he wrote in a blog post about the topic.

There is a similar trend in carbon emissions, which increase at a faster rate than the population.

“We can infer from this that individuals (especially in places like the USA) are consuming and wasting more today than we ever have, which gets to what Pope Francis has been telling us about lifestyles, which is consistent with his predecessors,” Patenaude told CNA.

Climate change has been one of the primary concerns of Pope Francis’ pontificate. While not the first Pope to address such issues, his persistence in addressing the environment has brought a new awareness of the urgency of the issue to other Church leaders.

In May 2015, Pope Francis published “Laudato Si,” the first encyclical devoted primarily to care for creation.

In it, the Holy Father wrote that the earth “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.”

But never does the Pope ask families to have fewer children. Instead, he urges Catholics to address pollution and climate change, to make simple lifestyle changes that better care for “our common home” and to work toward a better human ecology.  

“It seems that voices that urge fewer children aren’t interested in new and temperate lifestyles. In fact, they are implicitly demanding that modern consumption levels be allowed to stay as they are – or even to rise. This seems selfish and gluttonous, and not at all grounded in a concern for life, nature, or the common good,” Patenaude said.

Furthermore, the good of any individual person outweighs the damage of their potential carbon footprint, he said.

“The good and dignity and worth of every human person is superseded by nothing else on this planet. If we don’t affirm that first, we can never hope to be good stewards of creation, because we will never really be able to appreciate all life,” he said.

“On the other hand, one way to affirm the dignity of human life – collectively and individually – is to care for creation. Because as I noted earlier, creation is our physical life-support system, and so to authentically care for it is to care for human life.”

Dan Misleh is the executive director of Catholic Climate Covenant, which was formed in 2006 by the United States Catholic Bishops in order to help implement Church social teaching regarding climate change.

Misleh agreed that while reducing the consumption of fossil fuels is “imperative” to reducing negative effects of climate change like droughts and rising sea levels, that does not mean mandated population engineering and smaller families.

“As for population, places like the U.S., Japan and many European countries have both high carbon emissions and relatively low population growth and birth rates. So there is not a direct correlation between low-birth rates and fewer emissions. In fact, the opposite often seems to be true: countries with the highest birthrates are often the poorest countries with very low per-capita emissions,” he told CNA.

What is needed is a true “ecological conversion,” like Pope Francis called for in Laudato Si, Misleh said.  

“(P)erhaps we Catholics need to view a commitment to a simple lifestyle not as a sacrifice but as an opportunity to live more in keeping with the biblical mandate to both care for and cultivate the earth, to spend more time on relationships than accumulating things, and to step back to appreciate the good things we have rather than all the things we desire.”


This article was originally published on CNA Oct. 27, 2016.


In new school, Byzantine spirituality meets Montessori method

Sun, 07/16/2017 - 18:01

Denver, Colo., Jul 16, 2017 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With the goal of encountering children on a more personal level to meet their academic and spiritual needs, a Montessori school influenced by the Byzantine Catholic tradition is opening in Denver, Colorado.

Pauline Meert, who co-founded Sophia Montessori Academy along with Irene O'Brien, said the two “wanted to combine Montessori and Catholicism because it just made so much sense.”

Meert said the school aims to help children fulfill their God-given potential, and that “the Montessori message really makes that possible for each child, not just for a classroom as a whole, but for each individual.”

Students in Montessori schools work in periods of uninterrupted time – ideally three hours – having the freedom to choose from an established range of options. The Montessori Method uses hands-on techniques in presenting concepts to individual children, rather than a group oriented, lecture-based approach to learning. The student's involvement in his or her own work then gives the teacher the freedom to spend time with each child and cater to each of their needs.

Sophia Montessori of Denver is in its final stages of its development, pending licensing and a few business inspections. But classes for children aged between three and six are expected to start in the fall of this year, and both Meert and O'Brien hope the school, currently with 11 families enrolled, will grow in number and into the high school level.  

When asked about the origin of the school's idea, Meert discussed her connection to children and her dream helping bring about a child’s full potential. She began her Montessori training in high school, and later envisioned Catholic teaching and the Montessori Method together.

Meert said the school has been four years in the making, but that she added the Byzantine spirituality aspect within the past year after she became a parishioner at Holy Protection Parish in Denver.

“The Byzantine faith is going to be the foundation,” she said, noting that the day will begin with a form of the Jesus prayer.

Montessori schools often begin the day with the “silence game,” in which children learn how to be calm and quiet in a time period of about 30 seconds to two minutes. Many schools have interpreted this freely, but she expressed a desire to tie this into the Byzantine's Jesus Prayer.

“The beauty about being Byzantine is that we do that through the Jesus prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on us, your children,’ she said, “You know because it’s kind of hard to call them sinners right away.”

The school will also have the kissing of icons and will teach according to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

“The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a very hands-on way of teaching the children about who Jesus is in time and space: through the parables, through infancy narratives, and through learning the nomenclature of the church.”

Children want to be a part of the world of adults and understand the liturgy, she said, and so the teachers aim to give them direct experiences related to the tabernacle and liturgical seasons.

“If we just tell them to be quiet and read a book during mass and during liturgy then we are not meeting their needs. They just want to know, they just want to be a part, they want to be welcomed by the church.”

She said many people would be surprised at the theological discussions she's had with four-year-olds as well as the harmony created in the classroom. The environment is “surprisingly peaceful and calm, even though there are 20 three-to-six year-olds together.”

Meert also described the trust needed to allow children the freedom to make choices within prescribed limitations. “Three year-olds can do so much!” she said.

Meert defined this freedom as “not the freedom to do whatever you want, but…the freedom that Saint Thomas Aquinas talks about – having freedom within responsibility, within boundaries and within awareness of other people.”

In her interview with CNA, she also voiced her hope to establish afternoon classes for homeschooled kids and support for parents.

“We want to give parents tools and support. Some of the Montessori approach is common sense, but sometimes it's a little trickier and parents just need extra support (or) someone to bounce ideas off of,” she said.

“We really want to be that support with those tools, and create a community that is often missing in our life.”

As US hits refugee cap, bishops ask Trump administration to do more

Sun, 07/16/2017 - 08:01

Washington D.C., Jul 16, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With the United States government’s cap on refugees having been reached for the year, the nation's bishops have issued a plea to the Trump administration to increase the limit in a time of a global refugee crisis.

“Now, these vulnerable populations will not be able to access needed protection and will continue to face danger and exploitation,” said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin July 14.

“Pope Francis reminds us that ‘refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity.’ We must be mindful that every refugee is more than just a number, they are a child of God.”

Speaking in his role as chair the US bishops' conference Committee on Migration, Bishop Vasquez said he reacted with sadness to the news that the new refugee admissions cap of 50,000 people had been reached for this year.

“While certain refugees who have ‘bona fide relationships’ will still be allowed to arrive, I remain deeply concerned about the human consequences of this limitation and its impact on vulnerable refugees such as unaccompanied refugee children, elderly and infirm refugees, and religious minorities,” the bishop said.

The bishops’ conference added that this year’s cap was “historically low.”

Bishop Vasquez urged the cap for the next fiscal year to be increased to 75,000 individuals.

In March 2017, Bishop Vasquez and the U.S. bishops criticized an executive order of President Donald Trump that reduced the numbers of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. to 50,000 from 110,000 per year.

His latest statement repeated those words, saying such a limit “does not reflect the need, our compassion, and our capacity as a nation.”

“We firmly believe that as a nation the United States has the good will, character, leadership, and resources to help more vulnerable people seek refuge,” he said. He voiced the Catholic Church’s continued willingness to serve refugees and show solidarity with them.

Bishop Vasquez said the Church would welcome and accompany them “on their journey to protection and safety.”

There are about 22.5 million refugees seeking protection around the world.

Holy Homebrew: Catholic priest wins brewing's highest honor

Sat, 07/15/2017 - 18:02

Fort Worth, Texas, Jul 15, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Long blessed by Catholics as a “healthful drink for mankind,” one Texas priest has managed to take beer to new heights – winning the highest award in the United States for home-brewed beverages.

“It’s surreal,” Fr. Jeff Poirot told the Fort Worth Star- Telegram. “After we were done screaming from excitement when we won, it was hard to put it into words what winning the Ninkasi means to us.”

Yet, for the brewing priest, his hobby doesn’t detract from his vocation.

“This is a hobby, and it’s a hobby I’ve done all right with. So I would never want it to eclipse what I do ... because my role as a priest takes precedence,” he told the newspaper.

“You can have a busy life. You can have commitments with family and work, but you can still do something you love.”

Fr. Poirot serves as pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in Fort Worth, and brews with his homebrewing partner Nick McCoy, who is also a Catholic. Together one of their beers has won the 2017 Ninkasi Award from the American Homebrewers Association, and is the highest award for the best drink judged in the annual National Homebrew Competition.

Together their beer was chosen as the best drink submitted among all 33 categories of beers, meads, and ciders submitted for the competition. Over 8,500 beers were submitted in the competition.

Submitting under then name “Draft Punk,” a play on the French Electronic duo Daft Punk, Fr. Poirot and McCoy's brew club also won first place in the Specialty IPA and Trappist Ale and Strong Belgian categories at the National Homebrew Awards in Minneapolis. This was the third year Fr. Poirot and McCoy have entered beers into the competition.

The winning beer, a Belgian Quadrupel, drew its inspiration from the Trappist tradition.

Generally winners of the Ninkasi award go on to open their own shops or to write books, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Fr. Poirot and McCoy will be staying where they are.

“For me, I always want to balance [brewing] with being a priest, because being a priest is primary, first and foremost for me,” Poirot told the newspaper.

Court sides with NY archdiocese in major religious liberty decision

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 19:00

New York City, N.Y., Jul 14, 2017 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal court ruled Friday that the Archdiocese of New York had the right not to hire a diocesan school principal in a First Amendment religious freedom decision.

“The court saw right through this blatantly anti-Catholic lawsuit, agreeing with the Supreme Court that the church, not the state, should pick religious leaders,” Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at Becket, which represented the archdiocese in court, stated July 14 in reaction to the decision.

The case before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals involved St. Anthony’s school in Nanuet, N.Y., 35 miles north of New York City.

The school had decided in 2011 not to renew the contract of its then-principal Joanne Fratello because of her alleged “insubordination” shown to the pastor of St. Anthony’s parish.

Fratello later alleged that the contract decision was a case of sex-based discrimination, and she filed a lawsuit against the school and the archdiocese. She said that she had been hired in a lay capacity, and thus the archdiocese would not be exempt from a discrimination lawsuit under the “ministerial exception.”

The “ministerial exception” forbids the government from intervening in the employment of a minister by a church, as part of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The exception was upheld in 2012 in the Supreme Court’s Hosanna-Tabor decision, which clarified that the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School’s decision to fire a teacher who had the title of “minister” and who worked in a ministerial capacity could not merit an employment discrimination claim.

Regarding Fratello’s claim, the archdiocese argued in court that she had indeed been hired on a ministerial basis and that their decision not to renew her contract was protected under the ministerial exemption.

Becket clarified that Fratello was given a “lay” contract for her job as a principal not because her job was a secular position, but because she was not a religious who had taken a vow of poverty. A diocesan priest would have received a similar contract for the job, Rassbach explained.

On Friday, two judges for the Second Circuit and one district court judge upheld a district court decision that favored the archdiocese.

“We conclude that the plaintiff?s claims are barred because she is a minister within the meaning of the exception,” the opinion said.

“Although her formal title was not inherently religious, the record reflects that, as part of her job responsibilities, she held herself out as a spiritual leader of the school and performed many religious functions to advance its religious mission.”

Judges cannot ultimately determine whether ministerial cases constitute true discrimination, the opinion stated.

“Judges are not well positioned to determine whether ministerial employment decisions rest on practical and secular considerations or fundamentally different ones that may lead to results that, though perhaps difficult for a person not intimately familiar with the religion to understand, are perfectly sensible – and perhaps even necessary – in the eyes of the faithful,” the opinion said.

“In the Abrahamic religious traditions, for instance, a stammering Moses was chosen to lead the people, and a scrawny David to slay a giant.”

The Hosanna-Tabor case presented several standards to determine one’s ministerial capacity, the judges said, including the “formal title” of their job, the use of that title by both the subject and employer, and the “religious functions” of the job.

Fratello met these conditions as a minister, they wrote, as she performed a myriad of religious duties as a principal and had even touted her own “strong Catholic faith” when she applied for the position.

Her religious duties included organizing and leading public prayer over the school loudspeaker, helping plan school Masses and religious assemblies, and encouraging students to attend Mass and grow in their spiritual lives.

In her evaluation by the parish pastor at the end of her first term as principal, Fratello was reviewed on her ability to establish a “Christian atmosphere” at the school, how well she had fostered a “comprehensive religious education program,” and whether she had promoted “a strong program of evangelization.”

According to the archdiocese’s administrative manual for the archdiocesan schools, a cover letter written by the late Cardinal Edward Egan of New York stated that the school principals had “accepted the vocation and challenge of leadership in Catholic education.”

In conclusion, the judges stated that “although Fratello?s formal title was not inherently religious, the record makes clear that she held herself out as a spiritual leader of the School and performed many important religious functions to advance its Roman Catholic mission.”

“The ministerial exception thus bars her employment?discrimination claims because she was a minister within the meaning of the exception,” they said.

Fratello’s lawyer had drawn controversy for a scathing reply he had authored in response to an amicus brief filed on behalf of the archdiocese by the Orthodox Church of America.

He wrote that “organized religion” is a threat to “enlightened rationality,” and called the Roman Catholic Church “the most powerful church on earth.”

The American founders, he said, were “people of the Age of Enlightenment” and believed that “that organized religion and religious dogma are dangerous to a society, and what a society needs is enlightened rationality.”

He said that “our American democracy” could be “undermined if religious groups religious groups can propagandize and indoctrinate school children without the constraint of a loyal American citizen and educator (e.g., a lay school teacher or principal) insisting that secular curriculum be properly taught.”

Florist takes religious liberty case to US Supreme Court

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 18:32

Yakima, Wash., Jul 14, 2017 / 04:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Flower shop owner Barronelle Stutzman is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to protect her from a Washington state court ruling that could destroy her financially because her religious beliefs prevented her from serving a same-sex wedding ceremony.

“If the government can ruin Barronelle for peacefully living and working according to her faith, it can punish anyone else for expressing their belief,” said Stutzman’s attorney Kristen Waggoner, a senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group.

“The government shouldn’t have the power to force a 72-year-old grandmother to surrender her freedom in order to run her family business. Anyone who supports the First Amendment rights that the U.S. Constitution guarantees to all of us should stand with Barronelle.”

“Our nation has a long history of protecting the right to dissent, but simply because Barronelle disagrees with the state about marriage, the government and ACLU have put at risk everything she owns,” Waggoner charged.

The attorney said the court decision not only endangered Stutzman’s business. It also endangered her family’s savings, her retirement fund, and her home.

Waggoner said her client, who is Southern Baptist, faced “burdensome penalties” simply for exercising a right of free expression.

The legal petition was filed July 14 with the U.S. Supreme Court. The complaint contends that the Washington courts’ reasoning is so broad that it “extends to nearly all speech created for profit” and is “particularly hazardous.” Also dangerous is the “extreme nature” of the punishment for the store owner, which threatens to bankrupt her personally.

The state courts ruled that she must pay penalties and attorneys’ fees for declining to make floral arrangements for a customer who wanted her to create designs for a same-sex ceremony. Her fines and fees could surpass $2 million.

“This Court’s review is needed to prevent the state from silencing professional speech creators with dissenting religious views,” the petition asks the Supreme Court.

In 2013, Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash., declined to serve the same-sex wedding of a long-time customer who had requested her service. She cited her Christian religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman. She recommended her customer to another nearby floral shop.

Stutzman said she and her client have been friends for years.

“There was never an issue with his being gay, just as there hasn’t been with any of my other customers or employees,” she said July 14. “He just enjoyed my custom floral designs, and I loved creating them for him.”

“But now the state is trying to use this case to force me to create artistic expression that violates my deepest beliefs and take away my life’s work and savings, which will also harm those who I employ. I’m not asking for anything that our Constitution hasn’t promised me and every other American: the right to create freely, and to live out my faith without fear of government punishment or interference.”

After hearing of the incident, the office of the state attorney general wrote her that she was violating the state law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and asked her to stop declining such weddings. Stutzman refused out of conscience.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the state of Washington eventually sued her. A lower court ruled against her, ordering her to pay a fine and legal costs.

She took her case to the Washington State Supreme Court, which unanimously upheld the lower court’s decision in February. It said that as a business owner Stutzman had to abide by the state’s anti-discrimination law despite her religious beliefs.

Waggoner said the case was similar to a Colorado cake shop owner Jack Phillips, who declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and also faces “burdensome penalties.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is asking the high court to consolidate Stutzman’s case with Phillips’ case.

Black Catholic congress emphasizes unity, action

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 16:41

Orlando, Fla., Jul 14, 2017 / 02:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- More than 2,000 participants from across the country gathered in Orlando, Fla. last week for the 12th National Black Catholic Congress, exploring themes of racism and reconciliation, and hearing speakers who stressed the importance of being active to work for change.

Held July 6-9, the congress drew its theme from the prophet Micah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: act justly, love goodness, and walk humbly with your God.”

A preamble with principles for a pastoral plan of action, unveiled at the gathering, elaborated on this theme.

“We believe the Holy Spirit, who is Lord and Giver of Life, is upon us,” the document said. “Because of this, we recommit ourselves to live our Baptism as Catholics, be ‘authentically Black and truly Catholic’ and seek leadership in our Church on all levels.”

“We commit ourselves to act justly by living in proximity with those who are suffering and neglected,” it continued. “Specifically, we seek to promote the dignity and life of everyone person from the unborn to natural death. We commit ourselves to dismantle racism in all forms, which is an obstacle to justice and evangelization. We also commit ourselves to address the challenges of mental illness, mass incarceration, domestic violence and others.”

The document voiced a commitment to finding creative ways to share the faith, supporting local Catholic schools, and promoting the canonization causes of the five black men and women being considered for sainthood.

It reaffirmed the universal call to holiness through all vocations in the Church, and recognized a need to listen and respond to young adults in the community.

The National Black Catholic Congress, which is held every five years, stems from an 1889 meeting between President Grover Cleveland and a group of nearly 100 black Catholic men. The gathering was organized by journalist Daniel Rudd.

The 12th congress comes at a time of continuing unrest and racial tension in many parts of the country, ignited in 2014 with the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

In his keynote address, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana addressed themes of unity and reconciliation.

“When Pope Francis speaks, he doesn’t speak to nations, races and tribes. He speaks to humanity, invited to be disciples of Jesus,” the cardinal said. “There is no Gospel for Africans. There is no Gospel for Americans. There is no Gospel for Italians or Europeans. There is one Gospel for all of us, created in the image and likeness of God.”

None of God’s children should be marginalized or excluded, said Cardinal Turkson, who is the prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Other speakers at the gathering included Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois; Dr. Tricia Bent-Goodley, director of the Ph.D. Program at Howard University School of Social Work; Public interest lawyer Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama; and Father Maurice Emelu of Nigeria, founder of Gratia Vobis Ministries, Inc.

Topics ranged from family life, young adults and vocations to Catholic social teaching, mental health and theology of the body. Unity, reconciliation and responses to violence were prominent themes throughout the conference.

Rather than simply a 5-day conference, the event was intended “to generate ideas that encourage creativity, freedom and innovation,” which can then be put into practice locally and regionally in the coming months.

In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, a Day of Reflection will be held Aug. 5 at the Basilica of St. Mary to discuss ways to implement the ideas that came out of the congress.


Bishop lauds bill to fight human trafficking

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 18:40

Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2017 / 04:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An upgrade to a key anti-trafficking bill passed the U.S. House on Wednesday, and has been praised by one U.S. bishop as “an important step” in the fight to abolish modern-day slavery.

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, called H.R. 2200 “an important step Congress can take to help prevent human trafficking and protect victims as it provides important service provisions that will aid victims.”

The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention, Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2017 makes upgrades to existing legislation, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. The new bill is named after Frederick Douglass, who was born a slave in 1818 but escaped to freedom and who spent his time thereafter fighting to abolish the institution of slavery in the U.S.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the House global human rights subcommittee, is the author of the act, with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), ranking member on the committee, being the bill’s lead sponsor.

The proposed legislation would increase funding for existing anti-trafficking programs in the U.S. and abroad by over $500 million.

Grants will be given to educational programs for students and teachers on how to detect and avoid the trafficking of young people for work or sex. Also, the U.S. government is encouraged under the bill to have employees stay at hotels that have taken concrete steps to prevent trafficking on their property.

Additionally, funding will go to victim assistance like temporary housing, legal advocacy, and mental health treatment.

Funding for victims is important, Rep. Bass insisted, because trafficking victims can be quite young and helpless.

“The majority of underage trafficking victims are girls in foster care, where the average age of a girl entering into sex trafficking is 12 years old,” Bass noted. “One of the major reasons girls cannot escape is because they do not have housing.”

Human trafficking is a global problem that claims almost 21 million victims worldwide, according to the International Labor Organization. Many victims are women and children. Trafficking includes many forms of forced labor and sex slavery.

Fewer than 10,000 trafficking convictions per year are made, according to the State Department. Trafficking spans many industries, such as Indonesians working in slave-like conditions on fishing boats, debt bondage in Afghanistan, and forced prostitution in the U.S.

The International Labor Organization estimates that $150 billion a year in profits in the U.S. alone is the result of forced labor.

“Human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said at a Wednesday press conference at the U.S. Capitol. Trafficking is a “national problem,” he added, and requires “a national effort to solve it.”

One chief aim of the the original Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, authored by Rep. Smith, was to introduce an annual report by the State Department where countries would be ranked in a tier system based on how they met minimum standards set by the law for fighting and preventing trafficking.

The State Department had legal tools at its disposal, like sanctions, to push the countries with the worst records on trafficking to improve.

The Trafficking In Persons report is also updated under the new bill. Countries on the Tier 2 Watch List, the level just below the worst offenders on Tier 3, may only stay on the watch list for a limited period of time before falling to the Tier 3 level if they do not improve their record on fighting trafficking.

Also, countries using child soldiers may not partner with the U.S. military until they discontinue the practice, under the new bill.

Bishop Vasquez stated his support for the proposed legislation on Tuesday, and advocated for citizens to contact their member of Congress to support it as well.

“The Catholic Church has a longstanding role in the prevention of human trafficking and the rehabilitation of victims,” he explained in a letter to members of Congress.

The bill’s actions to support victims of trafficking are especially important, he said, as well as those actions which aim to cut trafficking from economic supply chains.  

“As Pope Francis has stated: ‘[Trafficking] victims are from all walks of life, but are most frequently among the poorest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters,’” he said.

“I believe that these exploited individuals deserve the care and support of our communities and our government and that such support will help them heal and become survivors.”

Members of Congress reiterated on Wednesday the importance of the bill funding prevention efforts, helping victims, and strengthening prosecution of traffickers.

In particular, they insisted, Americans must be aware that trafficking occurs in their own communities and on easily-accessible websites.

“If we call ourselves anti-trafficking advocates, we cannot give a free pass to the websites that sell our women and children,” Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) said on Wednesday, pointing to a Washington Post story explaining how the site is “creating and soliciting illegal sex ads.”

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) noted how authorities in her home state, acting undercover, posted a sex ad which “in less than two days” garnered “over 100 responses to purchase these girls for sex.”

“Every human life is of infinite value,” Rep. Smith said on Wednesday. “We have a duty to protect the weakest and most vulnerable from harm.”


Why this Catholic takes issue with 'gay' and 'straight' labels

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 05:01

Denver, Colo., Jul 13, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Chastity actually means fulfillment, not suffering – and labeling people in terms of their sexual inclinations or attractions first is ultimately a reduction of their human dignity.

These ideas form the basis of a provocative new book by Daniel Mattson, a Catholic who finds identifying as “gay” unhelpful in the dialogue on the issue, and who also believes that living the Church's teaching on sexuality leads to the most profound experience of peace and freedom.  

“The Church must truly have a missionary zeal in proclaiming chastity as an invitation to a more fulfilling life for all men and women,” Mattson told CNA.

He said that Catholics need to reach out “to those who identify as LGBT to truly 'come out,' and let the masks of the world's sexual identity labels fall from them, and see themselves as God sees them: solely as men and women, beloved children of God.”

“The dividing line of human sexuality is not between gay and straight, but rather between male and female, as we see in the Creation account of Genesis,” said Mattson.

In his new book, “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” Mattson delves into the story of his upbringing: how he was raised in a Christian family, his experience of sexual confusion and social rejection in his early childhood, an addiction to pornography and an anger towards God. Living out his same-sex desires later in his life only made him more unhappy and lonely, and it wasn't until he turned to the Church that he found true fulfillment.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has called Mattson's book “powerful” and Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, said Mattson's voice is one “seldom heard” in discussions surrounding same-sex attraction.  

Mattson said a major reason why he wrote the book was to take on the notion of people identifying themselves first in terms of straight or gay. When Mother Teresa was asked about “homosexuals” in an interview, he said she refused to refer to anyone with same-sex attraction as anything else but “a child of God.”

“Even though men and women may be living outside of God's plan for them, their dignity as children of God calls them to love others as Christ loved us,” Mattson said. “As a Christian, that means sex must always be reserved for use only in true marriage, which is always open to life. The Church needs to have enough confidence in Her beautiful vision of human sexuality to help people believe God says no to sex outside of marriage because He loves us.”

In the book, he describes how he can trace the contours of his life that lead to his same-sex attractions, which contrasts with the assumption that homosexuality is innate.

But while understanding where his same-sex attractions came from was helpful for Daniel, he says it's not necessary for everyone. Though the Church teaches in the Catechism that homosexuality has a “psychological genesis,” how same-sex attractions come into a person's life is a minor question. The Church, Mattson says, is “more concerned about providing a path to a fulfilling life in the future.”

In his interview with CNA, Mattson emphasized that his adherence to the Catholic view on human sexuality isn't rooted in moralism or a suppression of desire.

“The biggest reason I have embraced the Church's teaching as good, true and beautiful is because following the world’s vision of happiness in the realm of human sexuality brought far more suffering into my life,” he said. Today, he finds in the Church’s vision of human sexuality true happiness and liberation.

“The Church recognizes that there is a ‘theology of the body,’ and our bodily reality as male and female points to the path of both what is normal and healthy in human sexuality, as well as to what is moral.”

In his book, Mattson references the self-identified lesbian feminist and scholar Camille Paglia, who agrees that same-sex attraction is not of the norm, but as a self-labeled pagan, says that the fulfillment of man comes with conquering what she sees as the confines of nature. Mattson disagrees with her view of morality, but he finds her acknowledgment of the true nature of sexuality refreshing.

“At least she’s honest about the fact that everyone’s sexuality is truly ordered toward procreation.” Mattson said.

But what Paglia’s view of sexual liberation ignores, Mattson argues, is that “there is far more pain and suffering in the lives of those who live outside of God’s design and ordering for human sexuality than those who choose to live within it.”  

He also noted that self-denial is an essential part of chastity, which everyone – not just people with same-sex attraction – are called to. For example, single men and women attracted to the opposite sex “are taught by the virtue of chastity to refrain from any sexual activity, too, and though this can be challenging, there is less suffering – and even more importantly, more peace – in one’s life when one follows the path set before us by God than if we go our own way.”

It's not an issue of who suffers more but rather a shared connection of “the common human experience of suffering,” which stems from “rejection from other people, dashed hopes and dreams, heartbreak and loneliness.”

Mattson said that one reason he wrote his book is to help pave a path forward for those who have suffered from heartbreak and loss in their own relationships.

These sufferings, Mattson said, are universal to the human experience and not something particular to people with same-sex attraction. He referenced Cardinal Ratzinger's 1986 “Letter on the Pastoral Care of the Homosexual Person,” which helped him refrain from self-pity and “thinking that somehow my various forms of suffering associated with living out a single and celibate life are more challenging than anyone else's challenges.”

Through his book, Mattson says he wants to help the Church to, as he puts it, “reclaim sexual reality” and to help the Church and the world move beyond a view of the person which is ultimately “based on a reductionist label of sexual identity rooted in one’s sexual attractions and feelings.”

“In the eyes of the Church, there is no 'us' and 'them,' there is just us, and this is one of the great gifts of the Church.”

Mattson also offered a key distinction between Catholics being welcoming and shifting on magisterial teaching. He said that often the homosexual community has viewed the Church as ostracizing “for the reason that the Church won't affirm them in their chosen way of living their lives.”

“The Church must be as welcoming and as loving as possible, but we cannot be more welcoming or loving than Jesus was who does not condemn us for our sins, but always calls us to go and sin no more.”

This call to change one’s moral life can be challenging, but it's a calling which invites people to conversion and “is a sign of true love and compassion.”

Despite Melinda Gates' wishes, the Pope can't change Church teaching

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 17:55

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2017 / 03:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis cannot change Church teaching on contraception, despite the hopes of Melinda Gates.

In a recent BBC interview, Gates has said she is “optimistic” that the Catholic Church will change church teaching on contraception in order to help women in developing countries.

“We work very extensively with the Catholic Church and I’ve had many discussions with them because we have a shared mission around social justice and anti-poverty,” Gates said.

“And I think what this Pope sees is that if you’re going to lift people out of poverty, you have to do the right thing for women,” she said, even though “we have agreed at this point to disagree” on contraception.

Her comments come as her charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is currently co-hosting an international summit in London on the issue of access to contraception in the developing world.

She said she was “optimistic” that the Catholic Church would re-examine its teachings on contraception and that they might change over time.

But such change is impossible, said John Grabowski, associate professor of moral theology and ethics at Catholic University of America.

“The Church’s teaching on opposing contraception isn’t a recent teaching, it’s not something made up by Pope Paul VI in 1968,” he told CNA.

In 1968, Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae, an encyclical “on the regulation of birth” that spells out Church teaching on family planning and contraception as it applies to the modern world.

This teaching is also articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states in paragraph 2370 that contraception implies “not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality...The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle...involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.”

But the 1960s was not the first nor the only time the Church has affirmed that the marital act has inseparable unitive and procreative meaning, Grabowski said.

“This has been the teaching of the Church from its beginning, so the Church (including Pope Francis) can’t change constant, universal, authoritative teaching.”

Furthermore, Grabowski added, “Pope Francis has shown no indication that he wants to. He’s been absolutely emphatic in reaffirming the teaching of the Church in this area.”

In his encyclical Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis said that: “From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself. Hence no genital act of husband and wife can refuse this meaning, even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life.”

“So he’s been absolutely clear,” Grabowski said.

One of his predecessors, Pope John Paul II, also taught extensively that contraception is not only a violation of natural law, but of sexuality and marriage as revealed to humanity through Scripture, Grabowski noted.

“So if this is a truth entrusted to the Church in revelation, then the Church has no authority to change it,” he said.  

Moreover, scientific data does little to prove that contraception is truly what’s “right for women” as Gates has said, Grabowski added.

“I’d start with physical health - even current low-dose oral contraceptives are a Class 1 carcinogen, they significantly raise women’s chances of suffering from heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism. There’s all kinds of health risks associated with most contraceptives,” he said.  

“So, good for women? The data doesn’t support that,” he said.  

Instead of contraception, the Church proposes various methods of fertility awareness, or Natural Family Planning, to help families plan their children in such a way that does not separate the procreative and unitive aspects of sex.

While these methods have been effective in developing countries where it is taught and promoted well, the Church could do yet more to support people who want to follow Church teaching, Grabowski noted.

“Could the Church doing a better job of talking about these methods of fertility awareness and their benefit? Absolutely,” he said.

“We’ve got a culture that is promoting and empowering contraception and the Church (needs to) articulate a clear enough alternative with a vision and how we can realize it.”

After Marine Corps plane crash, military archbishop calls for prayer

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 17:09

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2017 / 03:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Prayers and an exhortation never to forget the sacrifice of military service members were the response of the US military archbishop to a deadly Marine Corps plane crash on Monday.

“I express my heartfelt condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this terrible accident,” Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services said July 11. “My heart also goes out to their colleagues and others who worked with them. They also suffer the loss and ask questions.”

“I ask the faithful to join me in prayer for the repose of those who died and the consolation of their families,” he continued.

A KC-130 Hercules plane crashed in western Mississippi July 10, killing 15 Marines and a Navy corpsman. It had departed from a Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina, CNN reports. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Six of the Marines and the sailor were from the Second Marine Raider Battalion, an elite unit based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. They were traveling to Arizona for training. The other nine Marines were from Orange County, New York.

The archbishop said he was “shocked and saddened” to hear of the deadly crash.

Archbishop Broglio noted the military was also affected by the recent deaths in the June 17 collision between the U.S.S. Fitzgerald and a cargo ship off the coast of Japan.

“Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to defend our great nation and the freedoms we cherish,” he said. “We should keep them in our prayers always, and never take their sacrifice for granted.”

Bishops preach hope, solidarity amidst opioid epidemic

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 12:48

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2017 / 10:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Amidst a growing epidemic of drug overdose and opioid addiction, Catholic bishops have been speaking out on the need for prayer and solidarity with those suffering from addiction.

“The closer you get to the Catholic Church, the closer you get to the wounds of Christ,” Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas said during a June 14 press conference at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ recent meeting in Indianapolis.

“And it’s important for us to recognize that we accompany many people who are wounded,” he added. “It’s the very essence of the Church to reach out to those who are wounded.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared that opioid abuse is an “epidemic” in the United States. Every day, 91 Americans die of an opioid-related overdose. The drugs include those used in prescription painkillers like oxycodone, codeine, and morphine, but also heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Overdoses have also become the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50. Opioids are involved in over 60 percent of overdoses nationwide, the CDC noted, and opioid-related overdoses quadrupled between 1999 and 2015.

Many Americans have reported first using prescription drugs before they used heroin, and rates of “past month” and “past year” heroin use, as well as heroin addiction, went up among 18-25 year-olds from 2002-2013, the CDC found, as heroin has become more widely available and purer.

Heroin-related deaths have more than tripled between 2010 and 2015, driven in part by an increase in synthetic opioids like fentanyl being added to heroin and cocaine to increase the potency of the drugs, the CDC reported.

At the U.S. bishops’ annual spring meeting in Indianapolis, held June 14-15, several bishops addressed the rising opioid crisis and discussed what the Church is doing to help those addicted to opioids, and their families. “The problem is becoming just so massive,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

In Vermont, parishes are trying to reach out to victims on the local level, but are making sure to reach the families of victims as well, Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vt. explained at the June 14 press conference.

“Oftentimes we are kind of limited in what we can do on a state level,” he acknowledged. “But at our parishes, and in our agencies in our parishes, we can continue to reach out to addicted families,” he noted, adding, “not just those who are in recovery, but also their families.”

This also involves finding foster parents for children of addicted parents, particularly those whose parents have overdosed and those who suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Ultimately, Catholics must “recognize that it’s not just the addicts; it’s the whole family that suffers,” he continued.

Catholic Charities in the Galveston-Houston archdiocese is “already on to this question,” Cardinal DiNardo noted, and is providing “the kinds of charity and help and counseling for them and their families that Catholic Charities by its professional expertise brings.”

On June 29, Bishop Edward Malesic of Greensburg, Pa. published a pastoral letter on the opioid crisis. In his diocese in Western Pennsylvania, over 300 opioid-related deaths had ravaged the communities in the previous year.

In his “Pastoral Letter on the Drug Abuse Crisis from Death and Despair to Life and Hope,” Bishop Malesic affirmed that in response to the crisis, “we can either sink down into despair or rise up in hope.”

“This is a plague that has come into the homes and families of every city, town, and even the rural areas of our diocese,” he acknowledged. Yet Catholics must choose hope, he added.

“Hope is the certain belief that God will provide what we need to overcome the struggles we are now facing. If we are not guided by hope, we will give up before the battle is won. We must have hope!” he insisted.

And Catholics must give hope to those mired in the despair of addiction, he said. “We accompany them with courageous faith. We offer them the comforting presence and power of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Jesus will provide.”

Bishop Malesic exhorted priests, religious, and deacons to “reach out” in Christ’s name to those suffering from drug addiction, and “let them know that they are not alone.”

Catholics must pray for and with those suffering from addictions, he added.

“With the power of prayer, we can lift up our needs and the needs of those who are addicted to a loving God who is concerned for all of us. We know that prayer, this heartfelt and intimate communication with God, can make a dramatic difference in the life of someone coping with an addiction crisis.”

The bishop also announced initiatives the diocese was taking to respond to the crisis, including educational initiatives at the parish level and developing family recovery groups.

Last March, Massachusetts bishops also issued a statement in response to the state’s rising drug-overdose crisis, after the rate of overdose deaths had reached record levels there.

“We encourage our sisters and brothers who are suffering addiction or the addiction of loved ones to turn to their faith community for support, counsel and compassion, and we pray that those most affected will receive the physical, emotional and spiritual help that they need,” the state’s bishops stated.


Sacramento's Bishop Gallegos venerable and beloved by many

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 08:07

Sacramento, Calif., Jul 12, 2017 / 06:07 am (CNA).- It’s been nearly 26 years since Auxiliary Bishop Alphonse Gallegos’ funeral at Sacramento’s Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, but his nephew Rey vividly recalls the fellow who came up to him that day with his family.

“He told me, ‘Your uncle saved my marriage and my life,’” Rey Gallegos said with a smile, while waiting for a Memorial Mass in his late uncle’s honor to begin last June 24 at Mary Star of the Sea Church in Oxnard.

“He told me how messed up he’d been, how my uncle had shown him kindness and brought him back to live a good life. Then he introduced me to his wife and son, who he’d named after Uncle Alfonso, and said, ‘He was the most fantastic man I ever met.’

“And that’s who my uncle was: a man of love and mercy and grace. There was a time I was doing drugs and alcohol myself, and Uncle Alfonso never judged me. All he did was show how much he loved me, because he was all about bringing God into people’s lives.”

The man who brought God, and God’s healing, to so many in such a short time was celebrated June 24 in a church filled with parishioners, family members and members of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, the religious order in which Alphonse Gallegos was ordained to the priesthood in 1958.

Last July 16, Pope Francis declared Bishop Gallegos “Venerable,” an important step on the road to canonization. The life of the man who, in his ministry as priest and bishop, dressed in a 99-cent sombrero and T-shirt to minister at night to gang members, lowriders and at-risk youth in poor areas of Los Angeles and Sacramento, should have a lasting impact on all who proclaim themselves as followers of Christ, Archbishop José H. Gomez said.

“Bishop Alfonso was always seeing the face of God in the poor, the homeless, the immigrant, the prisoner, in everyone he met,” Archbishop Gomez said. “As we celebrate the life of this local saint, let us follow his example, and become beautiful witnesses of God’s love and mercy in our world.”

Following the Mass, Archbishop Gomez blessed a statue of Bishop Gallegos, created by Sacramento sculptor Jesus Romo and located in the garden of St. Augustine Priory adjacent to Mary Star Church, where the bishop often went on retreats during his priestly ministry.

Born in New Mexico, Alphonse Gallegos moved with his family to Los Angeles and attended San Miguel Church in Watts, where he built an altar in their house, prayed the rosary daily and dreamed of becoming a priest. He entered at Augustinian Recollect Monastery in Kansas City in 1950 and, despite severe myopia, persevered in his studies until he was ordained in 1958.

In 1972, he returned to San Miguel as pastor, working day and night to bring young people back to church, arranging for sports equipment and academic supplies for the parish school and earning his reputation as a “priest of the lowriders” for his fearlessness in meeting with those that society regarded as “seedy elements” and “bad influences.”

He did the same when he became pastor of Cristo Rey Church near Glendale in 1978, then moved to Sacramento as director of Hispanic Affairs for the California Catholic Conference. In 1981, he was named auxiliary bishop of Sacramento by Pope John Paul II, and served the diocese until his death in an auto accident on Oct. 6, 1991. His funeral procession included hundreds of lowriders.

His episcopal motto, “Love one another,” drew many to him in life and afterward. Reports of people who have said they were healed from illnesses after praying for Bishop Gallegos’ intercession led, in 2005, to a movement to declare him a saint. The cause for his canonization received its biggest boost last July with Pope Francis’ declaration.

At the start of the June 24 Mass, Augustinian Recollect Father Samson Silloriquez, postulator of the cause, read a Decree of Heroic Virtues for Bishop Gallegos.

“Father Alfonso was an authentic image of Christ, who loved the little ones, the poor, the immigrant,” said Father Silloriquez. “He was attentive to the needs of all, responding quickly and generously, and he left an indelible memory on all he touched.”

Including his nephew Rey, son of the bishop’s older brother Leonard, who was one of many who responded to his uncle’s never-ending love and relentlessly positive attitude.

“Everyone has his own definition of a saint,” said Rey with a smile. “In my mind, Uncle Alfonso is already a saint, for all he did to help me and so many others.”


This article was originally published at Angelus News, the publication of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.


How should a Catholic bishop tweet?

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 05:01

Orlando, Fla., Jul 12, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church may be thousands of years old, but its bishops are rapidly adjusting to the demands of 21st-century communication.

If the Church is to effectively evangelize in the modern world, a group of bishops argue, its leaders must be engaged online – but in the right way.

What's most important is for Catholics engaging online, particularly priests and bishops, is to be sure to bring Christ with them online, said Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas.

“If we aren't talking about the Gospel and what Jesus said today, then all the other stuff is going to be simply polemical, and our young people are tired of polemics,” he said during a panel discussion.

Young people, he added, want to know what Jesus has to say about the various issues and discussions happening online.

“I think, actually, we have kind of an obligation to sanctify social media,” the bishop said.

Bishop Flores spoke on social media use at a press conference during the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” event on July 2 in Orlando, Florida. Joining him in the press conference were Dr. Hosffman Ospino, associate professor of theology and religious education at Boston College; Archbishop Wilton Daniel Gregory of Atlanta; and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C.

Consultant and member of the Vatican's Secretariat for Communication Kim Daniels also brought up the opportunity presented by social media in a July 3 speech at the convocation. In many ways, she commented, social media is a modern “periphery” where many whose needs are overlooked gather together.

“It's clear that we need to engage people where they are, and the place where people are is social media on their own devices,” she said. “We know this is a great advantage for us to have this opportunity to reach out.”

Daniels also said that the Church has millennia of experience in communicating and bringing people together that it can give to online spaces.

“We know what it is to be a global interconnective network. We know that these kinds of communities need stability, and they need fidelity, and they need mercy, and relation and we can bring those gifts there.”  

For an example of these kinds of gifts being used in the Church today, Daniels said to look at Pope Francis as an “extraordinary communicator.” His enthusiasm, honesty, frank discussion, and resistance to jargon makes him effective at bringing the Gospel to the peripheries, even online, she said.

“He brings something very substantive.”

Bishop Flores agreed with the need to bring substance and Christ to online spaces. “There's one thing I do every day, and that's that I will tweet out the Gospel of the day,” he said of his own personal Twitter use.

“If there's anything I want people to know about the bishop it's that the first thing he does in the morning is tell you about something Jesus said in the Gospel, because that's the context from which we have to speak.”

“Maybe you're not going to get a lot of followers if you comment on the Gospel every day, but it has an effect.”

However, bishops and Catholics can use social media in other worthwhile ways, Bishop Flores stressed. “I have a Twitter and I probably have more fun with it than I should,” he joked.

He said that he often takes group pictures of his confirmation classes, and the confirmande will share his photos online and discuss their confirmation.

“It gives them a chance to say that they're happy to be Catholic.”

Their diocese also helps high school students utilize social media to develop skills in journalism through the diocese's Mobile Journalism Project.

“We help get some mobile equipment for high school students who want to learn about journalism, because they're out there everywhere,” Bishop Flores said.

After the students take pictures or write stories, the diocesean communications office will share them and give feedback. “It helps them get the idea that they can do this,” he said of the program's impact on students.

Cardinal Wuerl also pointed to the need for bishops to play a more active role on social media, acknowledging the challenges it brings for those who didn't grow up online.

“We need to be able to be a part of the conversation,” he urged. “If the Church is not part of their conversations, we're not speaking to them.”

Dr. Ospino pointed out, however, that in many places in the country, this collaboration between generations is not the norm for social media use in the Church. He noted that there is a large “discrepancy” between people in leadership positions in the Church and those who are using the media constantly, with most lay leaders, priests and religious being in their mid 50s, 60s, and 70s, respectively.  

“It is more than likely that these people are not tweeting day and night,” he said. Instead, he encouraged Catholic leaders to learn how young people are interacting with social media and the kinds of conversations they are having.

Archbishop Gregory had a different warning. While he agreed that bishops and Catholics should use social media more effectively, he also worried that it has its limitations.

“There is a great challenge though with social media and I think it's that it emphasizes one-on-one relationships. It doesn't provide the opportunity of a sense of belonging to a group larger than yourself,” he said.

He noted that in his diocese, many young people will say that they don't need to attend Mass because they can watch Mass on their smartphones, which runs counter to the Church's understanding of Mass and the Church.  

“The Church is this community that is comprised of all of us together, and without that capacity to highlight that and to give expression to that, the best social media in the world will be missing a unique dimension of what it means to be the Church,” Bishop Gregory said.

“It doesn't mean that we don't use it, but we also have to recognize its limitations in delivering the Gospel message.”

Funding for abortion to become more compulsory in Oregon

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 02:03

Salem, Ore., Jul 12, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Oregon governor is expected to sign into law a proposal requiring Oregon insurers to cover abortion on demand and increasing taxpayer funding for abortion, drawing strong criticism from Catholic leaders.

“By insisting on complete insurance coverage of abortion, including late-term and sex-selective abortions, the legislature shows itself intolerant of widely-held opposing views and will compel thousands of Oregonians to support what their conscience rejects,” the Oregon Catholic Conference said.

“House Bill 3391 forces insurance companies to cover abortion on demand and it forces all Oregon taxpayers to help finance an extremist abortion agenda that does not enjoy majority support.”

The Oregon House of Representatives passed the bill July 5 by a 33-23 vote. The Senate passed the bill 17-13.

The initial version of the bill’s religious exemptions were so narrow that the Catholic-run Providence Health System threatened to exit the state’s insurance market. The bill’s backers increased exemptions to the bill, but some objecting lawmakers said the provisions did not go far enough, the Catholic Sentinel reports. The exemptions apply to churches and other religious nonprofits.

Under the bill, the Oregon Health Authority must now provide abortion coverage where religious organizations will not.

The bill aims to counter expected changes in federal health care policy. It increases state spending by $10.2 million, most of the funding aiming to provide free coverage of exams, drugs, devices, and procedures. Abortion is considered a procedure under the law.

Under the Oregon Medicaid program, over $2 million is spent each year to pay for about 3,500 abortions, the Associated Press reports. The proposed bill sets aside about $500,000 over the next two years to expand free reproductive health coverage, including abortion, to immigrants.

The Oregon Catholic Conference voiced hope that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will not sign the law.    

The conference encouraged citizens opposed to H.B. 3391 to support the proposed 2018 ballot initiative called the Stop Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The proposal would bar state funds for any abortion that is not medically necessary or when spending is required by federal law.

The petition needs 117,000 signatures from registered Oregonian voters in order to qualify for the ballot.