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Fulton Sheen’s final resting place not yet final

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 17:00

New York City, N.Y., Feb 8, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s niece has said her uncle’s remains belong in Peoria, but a lawsuit seeking his internment there has been returned to a lower court for further consideration.
“I just hate that this is dragging on and on and on,” Joan Sheen Cunningham said, according to the New York Times.
Cunningham, a Yonkers, N.Y. resident now aged 90, has suggested Sheen’s body be divided into relics.
“Let it go to Peoria for a few months, and then bring back some of the relics to New York and leave some in Peoria,” she said. “It’s just too bad it can’t just be settled without all this fuss.”
In 2016 she filed a legal complaint seeking to have her uncle’s remains moved to Peoria, Ill. Sheen was born in the Peoria diocese and served as an altar boy at its cathedral, where he was ordained a priest in 1919. He served New York City as an auxiliary bishop from 1951-66 before becoming Bishop of Rochester, and retired to New York City before his death in 1979 at the age of 84.
New York State Appeals Court has ruled that a lower court’s decision upholding Cunningham’s lawsuit failed to give sufficient attention to a sworn statement from a colleague of Archbishop Sheen, Monsignor Hilary C. Franco. Msgr. Franco had said that Sheen told him he wanted to be buried in New York and that Cardinal Terence Cooke, New York’s then-archbishop, had offered him a space in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“There are disputed issues of material fact as to Archbishop Sheen’s wishes,” the appeals court said Feb. 6 in a 3-2 ruling. It has ordered “a full exploration” of the archbishop’s desires.
Cunningham has said Sheen had never told her about Cardinal Cooke’s reported offer.
Sheen’s will had declared his wish to be buried in the New York archdiocese’s Calvary Cemetery. Soon after Sheen died, Cardinal Cooke asked Cunningham, Sheen’s closest living relative, if his remains could be placed in the New York cathedral’s crypt, and she consented.
Cunningham has said that Sheen would have wanted to have been interred in Peoria if he knew that he would be considered for sainthood.
The Peoria diocese opened the cause for Sheen’s Canonization in 2002 after the New York archdiocese said it would not explore the case.
In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI recognized the heroic virtues of the beloved archbishop, who served as host of the “Catholic Hour” radio show and the television show “Life is Worth Living.” He now has the title “venerable.”
Despite the progress of the cause for beatification, the fate of Archbishop Sheen’s body became the subject of an impasse.
Peoria’s Bishop Daniel R. Jenky suspended the beatification cause in September 2014 on the grounds that the Holy See expected Sheen’s remains to be in the Peoria diocese.
The Archdiocese of New York, however, has said that Vatican officials have said the Peoria diocese can pursue Sheen’s canonization regardless of whether his body is at rest there.
In the wake of Tuesday’s decision, both the Peoria and New York dioceses predicted success.
“We believe that Archbishop Sheen clearly stated his intention in his will, written just days before his death, that he be buried in New York, where he conducted his ministry, and where he lived most of his years, including at the time of his death,” the Archdiocese of New York said in a statement.
Msgr. James E. Kruse, vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria, discussed the case in a Feb. 7 update to the priests of the diocese, reported in the diocese newspaper the Catholic Post.
“We are confident that the new hearing and ruling will be completed in short time,” he said. “Please continue your prayers for the success of these legal issues and for the Cause of Canonization for our brother, Venerable Fulton Sheen.”
Msgr. Kruse of Peoria predicted that the future ruling would favor Cunningham’s position. Her attorneys “are very confident the new hearing will end in re-affirming the original ruling,” said the priest, who added that the same judge who sided with Cunningham’s argument will preside at the evidentiary hearing.
New York archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling voiced hope that the Peoria diocese will reopen the beatification cause, the New York Post reports.
Cunningham has praised the efforts of Bishop Jenky to pursue the beatification, arguing this work means he “deserved the honor” of hosting Sheen’s remains.
In addition to his pioneering radio and television shows, Archbishop Sheen authored many books, with proceeds supporting foreign missions. He headed the Society for the Propagation of the Faith at one point in his life, and continued to be a leading figure in U.S. Catholicism until his death.
Archbishop Sheen’s intercession is credited with the miraculous recovery of a pronounced stillborn American baby from the Peoria area.
In June 2014, a panel of theologians that advises the Congregation for the Causes of Saints ruled that the baby’s recovery was miraculous.
The baby, later named James Fulton Engstrom, was born in September 2010 showing no signs of life. As medical professionals tried to revive him, his parents prayed for his recovery through the intercession of Fulton Sheen.
Although the baby showed no pulse for an hour after his birth, his heart started beating again and he escaped serious medical problems.


Catholic symposium – how music, food, and friendship ground us in reality

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 15:00

Kansas City, Kan., Feb 8, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Prairie Troubadour gathering will be full of good music, food, and discussions with Catholic leaders addressing how to live a healthy human ecology in a digital age.

“[Prairie Troubadour] springs out of a desire among Catholics to live the good life [and] to navigate their way through the digital world,” said Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., who will be a speaker at the event.

Located at the Liberty Theatre in Fort Scott, Kansas, the third annual Prairie Troubadour will take place on Feb. 9-10. The event will feature talks and conversation, access to the sacraments and prayer, and musical performances.

“There will be people from all different walks of life looking to live … the healthy human ecology,” Conley told CNA, “[Celebrating] everything from what we eat, to how we entertain ourselves, friendship, music, wine – the good things in life.”

Among the conference speakers will be Christopher Check, president of Catholic Answers; William Fahey, president of Thomas More College; and Kevin O’Brien, founder of Theater of the Word.  

An informal musical session will follow the discussions on Friday where a variety of instruments will be passed around between musicians in attendance. On Saturday, a musical duo called the Vogts Sisters will be brought in for a late-night conversation session to be enjoyed with whiskey and cigars.

Tickets range from $85-175, and all the proceeds from the event will go to St Martins Academy, a unique all-boys boarding school opening this fall, that will focus on a classical education and teach students all aspects of running a working farm.

Daniel Kerr, who is hosting the gathering, told CNA that the symposium is in honor of his late father, Gerald Kerr, who was nicknamed the Prairie Troubadour for his poetry and songwriting.

This symposium is themed “Field and Family: Reflections on a Healthy Human Ecology,” and it will focus on human happiness in an increasingly disconnected digital age.

“We find ourselves immersed in technology, in a society that’s obsessively preoccupied with entertainment and the pursuit of pleasure,” Kerr said.

“Despite the rapid advancements in technology and availability in technology, people aren’t happy.”

Christopher Check agreed, and told CNA that a constant absorption with screens and digital media has separated people from reality. The Catholic Church aims to help overcome that, he said.

“Number of afflictions in the post Christian age … one of them is the separation from reality: The separation of man from what is real.”

“The Church, in her qualities of truth and goodness and beauty, has guardianship of what is real. Included with that is an understanding of man’s relation to the natural world, or what once went by the name of creation, and his role in it.”

How does people find their role? By seeking the Catholic faith and the naturally good things, said Bishop Conley.

“We intentionally live tapping into the great legacy of our Catholic faith, first of all, but we also tap into the riches and treasures of western culture by the way of truth, goodness, and beauty, and how they manifest themselves in natural things: good work, good play, good conversation, good friendship, good food, and good drink.”

The bishop continued to discuss the qualities of truth, beauty, and goodness, and, said that relativism challenges human experiences of truth and goodness.

“[However,] beauty has not been compromised and when we recognize it and see it we are drawn towards it, whether it be in art or music, literature, poetry or friendship.”

This symposium, he said, is an opportunity to celebrate the desires which truly make up the human person – the transcendental properties of truth, beauty, and goodness.

“We all desire truth; ultimately in Jesus Christ; we all desire goodness, which is love made visible; and we all desire beauty,” he said.


Trump at prayer breakfast: 'Faith is central to American life and to liberty.'

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 12:58

Washington D.C., Feb 8, 2018 / 10:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- President Donald Trump lauded the importance of faith in American life as a foundation for freedom in his speech at the 66th annual National Prayer Breakfast this morning.

“Faith is central to American life and to liberty,” Trump began, “Our founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence.  Our currency declares, ‘In God We Trust.’ And we place our hands on our hearts as we recite the Pledge of Allegiance and proclaim we are ‘One Nation Under God.’”

During his remarks, the president emphasized the interconnection between freedom of religion and a flourishing society.

“When Americans are able to live by their convictions, to speak openly of their faith, and to teach their children what is right, our families thrive, our communities flourish, and our nation can achieve anything at all.”

Trump also committed America to the defense of religious freedom worldwide saying “We know that millions of people in Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, and other countries suffer under repressive and brutal regimes. America stands with all people suffering oppression and religious persecution.”

“Our rights are not given to us by man, our rights come from our creator,” Trump said to the estimated 3,000 attendees at this year’s prayer breakfast.

The president said that he has seen God’s grace in the good works of American citizens who serve their communities, such as teachers, police officers, services members, and parents.

He also commended those Americans who responded to the tragedies that befell our country in the past year, particularly those who served others suffering amid hurricanes, forest fires, the Las Vegas shooting, and the opioid epidemic.

Following President Trump’s speech, U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, who was shot during practice for the Congressional Baseball Game last June, spoke about the role of his Catholic faith in his work in politics, his prayer life, and the power of prayer in his recovery.

“When you pray for somebody that you don’t know, they feel it. I felt that prayer, the prayers of so many people that I had never met before,” said Scalise.

Scalise reiterated the president’s comments on the integral relationship between faith and liberty. “If you go to the Jefferson Memorial right now, go read this inscription from Thomas Jefferson, ‘God, who gave us life, gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?’”

Another prayer offered at this morning’s gathering came from Democratic Senator Chris Coons who prayed, "Bless the world with better leaders," he said, "Who seek your wisdom.”

The U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director, David Beasley, who prayed for sustainable policies to address world hunger, read a passage from Matthew 25, and emphasized that "every human on the face of the earth was made in [God's] image."

Republican Senator James Lankford prayed,  "We don't know everything, but we're so grateful to know the One who does.”


The rules of the streets: Which laws help - and hurt - the homeless

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 07:00

Denver, Colo., Feb 8, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Walk down 16th Street Mall in Denver, Colo., and you’ll probably see people who are homeless sitting on the ground with cardboard signs.

Walk down that same street with a cop, and you’ll probably notice that those same people stand up when they see you coming.

That’s because Denver has banned urban camping - and sitting for too long in public places could technically be considered “camping”, and could land a person with a ticket, a fine or even an arrest.

For the most part, the homeless do their best to comply, said Philip Couture, Director of Formation with Christ in the City, a Catholic homeless outreach in Denver.  

The police officers are generally “of good will, not trying to cause any trouble but trying to enforce the law,” Couture said. But the camping ban does prevent the Christ in the City missionaries from sitting down with their friends on the street.

“We want to cooperate with the government while also serving our friends on the street, understanding that the government largely, while its a very complex issue, is trying to help the homeless - we really have confidence in that,” Couture said. “But it’s true that some laws that intend to help [the homeless] actually hurt them, and some laws that intend to get them off the streets punish them for being on the streets. Even people like us who are trying to help them, we are caught up in that as well sometimes.”

Laws and ordinances that impact the homeless are varied and complex. Some of them, like the camping ban, are an unintended consequence of laws aimed at specific groups - the camping ban was enacted to break up Occupy Denver, a spin-off of Occupy Wall Street, back in 2012.

Another Denver ordinance, aimed at minimizing the often-rowdy 4/20 marijuana rallies, had the unintended consequence that Christ in the City now has to pay $150 each month in order to use City Park for their ‘Lunch in the Park’ to feed their friends who are homeless.

Sometimes, however, the laws are more direct. Last month, about a dozen volunteers were arrested in El Cajon, California for feeding the homeless. Just a few months prior, the city council had passed an ordinance prohibiting the distribution of food on city property.

According to the San Diego Tribune, council members said the ordinance was to prevent the spread of hepatitis A, while critics said the ordinance was an attempt to criminalize homelessness.  

Linda Plitt Donaldson is an associate professor at the National Catholic School of Social Service, at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She teaches a class on homelessness, and prior to teaching, spent 10 years working with the homeless as a social worker.

Catholic social teaching instructs the faithful to see the human dignity of all, especially the poor, and treat them like another Christ, while some laws that impact the homeless tend to do the opposite of that, Donaldson said.

“These laws that criminalize homelessness prevent people from encountering [the poor], or try to make these populations invisible,” she told CNA. “So a lot of these kinds of laws are about making this kind of human suffering that we feel more comfortable.”

Donaldson said while she understands that there can sometimes be legitimate public health concerns, these laws are also applied in a discriminatory manner.

“It’s criminalizing food sharing for a certain group of people - nobody’s breaking up family picnics,” she said.

Mary Sullivan is an outreach worker with the St. Francis Center, a homeless shelter in Denver. She also spent two years working with and befriending the homeless as a Christ in the City missionary.

Often, these ordinances aimed at the homeless are a “band-aid solution” to a deeper problem, Sullivan said.

“What happens is these laws - they start out as public health concerns which are usually legitimate,” she said, but then sometimes they are carried out to a point where they threaten the well-being of people who are homeless.

For example, in the case of the food ban to prevent hepatitis A, “a lot of cities have taken to getting the vaccination for it out to the community, because that’s the most effective way to stop the spread of a disease,” Sullivan said.

“When you get to a point where you’re taking away food - people need to eat to survive, and a lot of people on the streets get their food and the things they need to survive from local charities or organizations,” she said.

Criminalizing these essential things “doesn’t really work” to solve the problem of homelessness, she added.

Couture said he saw a “qualitative difference” between laws that take away essentials - like food and water - and laws like the camping ban, which are more of a mixed bag in terms of the impact on the homeless.

“The camping ban that exists right now is to keep the streets safe, not only for those who aren’t homeless, but even for those who are,” he said.

“[The government] doesn’t want the homeless to form colonies because when the homeless gather, they tend to bring chaos. This is not to say that the homeless are bad, or that all the homeless are addicts, or mentally ill or anything like that, but that when you get a certain volume of people, you do get a number of people” who can act out or be dangerous, he said.

Sometimes the homeless will even ask their Christ in the City friends to call the police about other homeless people if they feel unsafe, Couture noted.

“They want the park to be safe for themselves as well, so if you have someone who’s high, or having a terrible day and acting out, or who is mentally ill, they want them to move off the premise so that they can enjoy their lunch or their conversation with the missionaries or just have a free moment from the stresses of the streets,” he said. “So that’s just one example of how complex it can be - in some sense it punishes the homeless, many of whom didn’t ask to be on the streets, but on the other hand the enforcement of it also helps keep things from compounding and becoming more complicated and dangerous for everybody on the street, including the homeless.”

When it comes to policies that help the homeless, Donaldson said she encourages her students as well as her fellow Catholics to advocate for Housing First projects, which prioritize affordable and accessible housing for all.

Some cities, such as Salt Lake City Utah, have completely eliminated veteran homelessness with this model, and have seen great successes with the rest of their homeless population, she noted. In 2015, the entire state of Utah reduced homelessness by 91 percent, in large part because of their Housing First projects and other developments.

“The primary cause of homelessness is a lack of affordable housing,” Donaldson said. “If we had enough affordable housing, we would not have a homelessness problem.”

Couture said he agreed that affordable housing was a “huge” problem, but cautioned that Housing First should not be understood as “housing only.”

“Calling it Housing First is really a misnomer,” Couture said. “It’s really providing a space that the homeless need, but with proper accompaniment.”

A closer look at the Utah models, for example, shows that the reason Housing First was so successful is because it was carried out with close accompaniment by social workers and other outreach providers who stayed close to their clients throughout their transition into housing, which can be a difficult thing for those who are used to living on the streets, Couture said.

“Once they’re inside, if they’re just left alone there, it becomes more like a prison,” Couture said. “It may seem strange, but when you’re outside you have people who care for you, who love you...some sort of community. When you’re inside, your friends are out there... so you feel trapped,” and many people leave if they don’t have the proper continuing support.

“So from what I see of Housing’s yielding great fruit, but it shouldn’t be confused with housing only, that’s not the same thing,” he said.

Sullivan said that her experiences as a missionary and as an outreach worker have taught her “the importance of relationship and acknowledging the dignity of the human person, that’s been at the forefront of both,” she said.

As a missionary, she learned a lot about “the spiritual poverty and the woundedness that people experience, spending that time in relationship with people, getting to the heart of the person,” she said.

But being an outreach worker, and attempting to connect her homeless clients with resources, has opened her eyes in a new way “to the system in which people have to operate, and it’s really a lot more complicated than an individual and their problems,” she said.

Sullivan said she would encourage Catholics to remember the human dignity and the personhood of the homeless community when they are voting on laws that impact them.

“It’s really willing the good of the people on the margins, and I’ve see how a lot of these things that intended to be helpful aren’t actually for the good of the people in these situations, they just continue to make their lives more miserable,” she said.

Often, when it comes to these policies, there is a misperception that some people want everything to be a “free-for-all”, and others want to punish the homeless because they believe poor decisions led them to a life on the street, Sullivan said.

“In reality, it’s a much more complicated, nuanced thing,” she said. “Try to find the reasonable middle ground.”

Catholics should also understand that homelessness will never be completely solved with politics, Couture said.

“The homeless situation is as complex as the human person, and any attempt at a one-dimensional answer is simply inadequate,” he said.

“I think any person who [wants to help] needs to move forward with the tranquility and trust in God, and throw out the naivety that this one solution will fix everything, this will do it all, and understand that this is a multi-faceted issue that requires many answers,” he said.

To better understand the homeless and their needs, Catholics need to encounter them face to face as friends, Couture said.

“Whatever we vote for, we should have an understanding that it’s not going to be enough to fix the homeless situation in and of itself, and what that implies is action on our part,” he added.

“Whatever we vote for, we also need to recognize that we have to act, to befriend the homeless - obviously while being safe and having common sense - but with a willingness to put some skin in the game personally, to truly encounter the homeless.”

EWTN’s Michael Warsaw honored for evangelization in media

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 18:13

Orlando, Fla., Feb 7, 2018 / 04:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).-
Recognized for evangelization through Catholic media, EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw received the Bowie Kuhn Special Award for Evangelization during the recent 2018 Legatus Summit in Orlando, Fl.

“All of us as Catholics, and particularly those of us in Catholic media, have a responsibility to reach out to the peripheries of society and to address the needs of people who are living in spiritual poverty,” Warsaw said during his acceptance speech, according to an EWTN press release.

“Sometimes, that means reaching out and serving people somewhere across the globe, but more often than not it’s about reaching out to our neighbors next door or down the street who are living in the depths of spiritual poverty and sharing with them the beauty, truth and goodness of the faith,” Warsaw added.

The Legatus Summit was held Jan. 25-27 in Orlando. The conference included speakers Ryan Anderson and Scott Hahn, and was sponsored by Legatus, a membership organizations for Catholic business leaders, which champions the motto, “Ambassadors for Christ in the marketplace.”

The award was presented to Warsaw by Tom Monaghan, Legatus Chairman and Founder of Domino’s Pizza, and Jack McAleer, member of EWTN’s Board of Governors and Legatus Secretary.

Past recipients of the award include Curtis Martin, founder of the Catholic campus ministry FOCUS; Tim Busch, attorney and philanthropist; Thomas Peterson, President and Founder of Catholics Come Home; and Luisa Kuhn, wife of the late baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

EWTN Global Catholic Network is the largest media network in the world, with 11 television channels on broadcast in multiple different languages, reaching more than 275 million households in over 145 countries. EWTN platforms also include radio, news services, and a publishing division. EWTN’s electronic and print news services include Catholic News Agency, The National Catholic Register newspaper, and several global news wire services; as well as EWTN Publishing, its book publishing division.


University of Notre Dame adds ‘simple contraceptives’ to insurance plan

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 17:46

South Bend, Ind., Feb 7, 2018 / 03:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The University of Notre Dame has announced that it will fund “simple contraceptives” through its insurance plan.

In November 2017, the university had announced that students or employees and students on its insurance plans would be eligible to receive through a third-party insurance administrator.

That move came as a surprise to many because the university was one of several Catholic organizations that filed suit over the 2012 federal contraceptive mandate, and in October had announced it would cut contraceptive coverage from its insurance plans.

The university’s most recent decision was announced today in a letter from university president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. Catholic News Agency obtained a copy of the letter.

In the letter, Jenkins said that while the school should remain “unwavering in our fidelity to our Catholic mission,” the other religious beliefs and practices of members of the Notre Dame community should be respected. This is why, in November, the university decided that it would continue to provide contraceptive coverage for those who had “made conscientious decisions about the use of such drugs.”

However, Jenkins has now taken issue with the range of drugs covered under this third-party provider, which, “includes the provision of abortion-inducing drugs.”  Jenkins said such drugs are “far more gravely objectionable in Catholic teaching.” Jenkins did not delineate exactly which contraceptive drugs he considered to be more objectionable than others.

Due to the inclusion of these drugs, Jenkins has that the school’s own insurance plan will directly cover a limited range of contraceptive drugs.

“Instead, the University will provide coverage in the University’s own insurance plans for simple contraceptives (i.e., drugs designed to prevent conception),” as well as funding for Church-approved natural family planning methods, said Jenkins. He did not name which drugs would be covered by the school’s plan.

Prior to the 2012 mandate, the school did not provide contraception coverage in its insurance plans, except when prescribed to treat a medical condition. Jenkins’ letter said that Notre Dame’s participation in the suit was an effort “to protect its ability to act in accord with its religious mission,” and the positive outcome had secured the school’s “right to decide.”  

Jenkins said that in November he had “thought it allow the government-funded provision of these drugs and services to continue so that our employees could have access without University funding or immediate and direct involvement in their provision.”

“The government-funded program, however, also includes abortifacients, which, because they involve the destruction of innocent human life, are most gravely objectionable in the Catholic tradition. With further thought, wider consultation and more information, I concluded that it was best to reconsider this decision.”

The letter also said that Notre Dame “will provide to all who sign up for health care benefits a statement of the Catholic teaching on contraceptives, so that the Church’s teaching is clearly presented.”
“Although Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical letter, Humanae vitae, written nearly fifty years ago now, has been controversial within and without Catholic circles since its publication, its prophetic quality is clear,” Jenkins wrote.

About 17,000 people, including employees of the school as well as students who are not covered by their parents’ plans due to either age or some other factor, use Notre Dame’s insurance plans.

Nearly two years after the Affordable Care Act was passed in March 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate saying that contraception drugs must be covered under insurance policies. The mandate offered narrowly-defined exemptions for religious employers. In October 2017, the Trump Administration issued broad exemptions to the mandate, giving relief to religious non-profits and others with deeply held religious or moral convictions regarding contraception.



Dreamers will not be targeted, White House official says

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 18:38

Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2018 / 04:38 pm (CNA).- White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said on Tuesday that even if existing protections for “Dreamers” expire and Congress is unable to come up with a solution, they would not be targeted for deportation. Kelly made these comments to a group of reporters at the Capitol.

A “Dreamer” is someone who was brought to the United States illegally as a child. President Donald Trump’s immigration proposals have tied a path to citizenship for these people with funding for additional border security, including a wall on the Mexican border, and cuts to other immigration programs.

In 2012, then-President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was expanded in 2014 to cover more people brought to the United States as children. The work permits distributed through DACA expire on March 5, 2018.

Kelly further elaborated that he does not think Trump will extend the DACA deadline, as this is possibly beyond the scope of executive power. However, Congress can pass a bill that would ensure these protections.

In a Jan. 10 column, Archbishop José Gomez expressed concern for the estimated 125,000 DACA recipients who live within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, all of whom could face deportation when the program ends in March.

“It would be cruel to punish them for the wrongs of their parents, deporting them to countries of origin that they have never seen, where they may not even know the language,” Archbishop Gomez wrote.

Could Mississippi expand its abortion ban?

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 18:31

Jackson, Miss., Feb 6, 2018 / 04:31 pm (CNA).- An abortion ban is up for debate in Mississippi, where the House of Representatives has passed a bill that would bar most abortions after 15 weeks into pregnancy.
House Bill 1510 passed by a Feb. 2 vote of 79-31, with some Democratic support in the Republican-controlled House, the Associated Press reports. The bill allows exceptions for when a woman's life is in danger or when an unborn child has a severe abnormality.
“Women deserve real health care, not some fake health care that involves the destruction of human life and a woman's health,” said Rep. Andy Gipson, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary B Committee.
State records indicate about 200 abortions a year are performed on women 15 to 20 weeks pregnant, he said.
Rep. Becky Currie, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill is appropriate because most women discover they are pregnant months before the pregnancy reaches 15 weeks.

According to Felicia Brown-Williams, state director for Planned Parenthood Advocates Southeast, the bill is unconstitutional because the U.S. Supreme Court will not allow abortion bans earlier than the age of fetal viability.
Bill opponent Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, a Democrat, said the proposal is “just another fancy way of telling a woman what to do with her body and when to do it.”
The bill must now pass the Senate.
Both Mississippi and North Carolina bar abortion at 20 weeks into pregnancy, measured from a woman’s last menstrual period. Other states start from a date two weeks later.
The state’s only abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, does not perform abortions as late as 20 weeks and so it did not challenge the current law, clinic owner Diane Derzis told the Associated Press. The clinic does perform abortions three weeks past the proposed ban limit.
It is unclear whether such abortion limits will pass scrutiny in federal court.
CNA sought comment from the Dioceses of Jackson and Biloxi but a response was not available by deadline.


Ambassador Brownback: “Religious freedom is the most important foreign relations topic today”

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 17:46

Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2018 / 03:46 pm (ACI Prensa).- In his first public appearance as US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback spoke to Muslim, Jewish, and Christians leaders gathered to discuss their shared commitment to promoting peace and protecting religious minorities in the Muslim world.

“I think religious freedom is the most important foreign relations topic today,” Brownback told the delegates at the Alliance of Virtue for the Common Good Conference in Washington, DC.

“The world needs reconciliation. It needs it between the Abrahamic faiths,” the ambassador  said.

The three-day event is hosted by the Middle East-based Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, and will culminate in the signing of a declaration on religious freedom the morning of Feb. 7.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the Archdiocese of Washington is on the steering committee for the interfaith conference, along with Rabbi David Saperstein and other Muslim and Evangelical leaders.

The Washington Declaration will build upon the 2016 Marrakesh Declaration, which affirmed the rights of religious minorities in Muslim majority countries, by adding an additional call to respect Muslims living in the U.S.

The Marrakesh Declaration was signed by hundreds of Muslim scholars and leaders from more than 60 countries, according to the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies.

“Forty years after the Helsinki Accords, the Muslim community developed an agreement on the freedom of religion and equal citizenship that was true to Islam’s history and teachings,” reflected the founder and president of the forum, Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, in his keynote address.

The Skaykh is a scholar of all four major Sunni schools of jurisprudence, and is known as an outspoken critic of terrorism.

Finland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Timo Soini, spoke of his experience as a Catholic minority in a Lutheran-majority country during remarks immediately following Brownback.

Soini, who has worked with Iraqi Christian refugees in Finland, told CNA “the Christian minorities are the most persecuted people at the moment. And that must be said aloud...this is something for us western and European people to be outspoken [about].”

Sister Agatha O. Chikelue of Nigeria was invited to speak at the conference about her peacebuilding work among Christians and Muslims. “I want to hear the experiences of others from different parts of the world on how they managed their conflict, how the improved their interreligious dialogue, so that I can bring this back home to Africa,” Sr. Agatha told CNA.

The Executive Director of the Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace (COFP), works with refugees displaced by the Boko Haram. She has also created a network for Christian and Muslim women to work together to stand up against violence.

In her presentation to Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faith leaders, Chikelue said that the Marrakesh Declaration reminds her of the Second Vatican Council document Nostra Aetate, “which gave us the room to embrace people, to extend our hands in fellowship to other people from other religious communities, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists.”

Sister Agatha continued, “If we, the Catholics, have seen this 50 years ago, and the Muslims have seen it now, and understood the need for us to work together, then what stops us from doing that? So, it is only left to us to use this Marrakesh Declaration, use the Second Vatican Council, to build a platform for us to discover our commonalities.”


U.S. bishops kick off National Marriage Week

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 17:26

Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2018 / 03:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This year’s National Marriage Week USA kicks off on Wednesday, Feb. 7, and will continue until Feb. 14, St. Valentine’s Day.

In a letter to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., said that the week’s celebrations are an annual opportunity to “focus on building a culture of life and love.”

Chaput, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, added that he hoped the week could nurture “an ever-deeper appreciation for the gift of marriage and the blessings of family life.”

National Marriage Week USA is part of a larger international movement seeking to celebrate and strengthen marriage.

The celebration of National Marriage Week began in 2010, and each year includes World Marriage Day, which is celebrated each year during the second Sunday of February.

This year, World Marriage Day will be held on February 11, the same day as World Day of the Sick.

Throughout National Marriage Week this year, couples will be able to partake in daily online retreats on the USCCB’s “For Your Marriage” website and its social media channels. These daily retreats have the theme “Marriage: School of Life and Love.”

Other resources, including books and prayer cards, are also available on the USCCB website.

?As part of the week’s celebrations, the USCCB will also be live-streaming a rosary for engaged and married couples, as well as for families in need of healing on its Facebook and Twitter feeds. 

Germain Grisez had ‘a lively sense of Providence,’ long-time friend says

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 11:55

Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2018 / 09:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A longtime friend of distinguished theologian Germain Grisez will celebrate the scholar’s funeral Tuesday, at St. Anthony Shrine Roman Catholic Church in Emmitsburg, Md. Grisez died Feb. 1, at the age of 88.

Grisez was professor emeritus at the Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, and the author of dozens of books and articles. He was widely regarded as an astute and original ethicist and moral theologian, and a vocal defender of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae.

Father Peter Ryan, SJ, a professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, met Grisez after his brother, Bill Ryan, was taught by the scholar at Georgetown University. The men developed a friendship while Fr. Ryan was studying theology in Rome, and the friendship became a relationship of scholarly collaboration.  

 “The Lord saw fit to give me many years of friendship and close collaboration with Germain,” Ryan said. “It’s been a real blessing.”

When their friendship began, Grisez asked Ryan to review draft chapters of "Living a Christian Life," the second volume of his landmark work of moral theology, “The Way of the Lord Jesus,” which includes three printed volumes.  The volumes also appear on Grisez’s website along with hundreds of pages of a fourth volume and many of his other works.  

After the second volume was published, Ryan continued to collaborate with Grisez; the pair published articles together and consulted with one another regularly about individual projects.  

In fact, Ryan told CNA that he will continue to work on a theology text—a book on eschatology—that he and Grisez began together. “It will be very much inspired by his thought,” Ryan said.

Ryan said that Grisez’s scholarship was rooted in his deep spirituality.

“He was very interested in having us see that morality is not about extrinsically ‘laying down the law,’ but is rather the implication of loving persons, wanting all that is good for persons, desiring their true fulfillment,” he told CNA.

For Grisez, morality is best understood as “striving for what is truly good for you and others,” Ryan said. “It’s beautiful to live that way—and not always easy!”

Ryan told CNA that Grisez wrote a good deal about personal vocation--that idea that “God has a unique, unfolding plan for everyone’s life.” Following the Lord’s plan means “always seeking God’s Kingdom first, or living out what Grisez calls ‘evangelical life.’”

For motivation to live that way in the face of difficulties, Ryan cited Romans 8:18, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”
“I think Germain really tried to live that,” he said.

Ryan said his “mentor and collaborator,” was “a remarkable man, a very firm believer. He had a strong and unswervingly orthodox faith, which he defended with great lucidity. And he was loyal.  He loved his family and was a faithful friend.”

“I think he had a lively sense of Providence.’

He also, said Ryan, loved to work.

“He was a workhorse. He was 20 years older than me, and he would be working as if he were 20 years younger. I would think, ‘if he can do it, I should be doing it.’”

Ryan said the witness of Grisez’s life helped him know how to preach at his friend’s funeral.

“He was very concerned that we need to be prepared for death, and to live with confidence that the Lord really will destroy sin and death, and that we will be able to live with Him in great joy.  He knew that the definitive Kingdom that God is preparing is real and very much worth devoting one's entire life to,” he said.

Ryan also told CNA that he would not be starting from a blank slate as he prepared the funeral homily.  Grisez, Ryan said, had some “thoughts sketched out about what it would be good to talk about—and he was thorough!”


RISE up and be a man – 30 day challenge builds masculine and Catholic habits

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 07:00

Denver, Colo., Feb 6, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new 30-day challenge maps out daily actions for men hoping to live authentic masculine Catholicism by reclaiming the identities of sons, brothers, fathers, and spouses, its creators say.

“This program is rooted in four primary identities that sum up masculinity … that all men share in the call to fatherhood, all men are sons, all men are brothers, and all men are spouses,” said Chris Stefanick, host of EWTN’s “Real Life Catholic” and co-creator of RISE.

“Not that [men] are all married and have kids, but those are the ways that we love, the ways that we follow Christ, relate to the Trinity, and serve the Church,” he told CNA.

RISE is co-created by Bill Donaghy, a curriculum specialist at Theology of the Body Institute.

The next 30-day challenge begins on Ash Wednesday, February 14, when Stefanick said he will be starting it himself.

Each week of the challenge is themed: fatherhood, sonship, brotherhood, and spousal masculinity.  Every day offers reflections and daily video challenges, which are tailored to participants’ states in life: single, married with or without children at home, divorced, separated, or windowed.

Weekly videos of men giving testimony to these identities will be included.

The challenges are encouraged to be undertaken in groups of men at parishes, with at least 3-5 men suggested for each group. The challenge includes points of discussion and reflection for men’s groups.

“We want to form a communion of men praying for one another as they go through these challenges,” said Stefanick.

Stefanick said the challenges are practical and basic, ranging from simple prayers to steps in building authentic brotherhood. Unlike other Catholic male initiatives, he said the program looks to instil sustainable, life-long habits not temporary trails.

“A lot of men’s movements are very ‘ra-ra’ that feel like a testosterone blast combined with ministry,” he said. “But what changes your life is the power of habits.”

“It doesn’t take much to go deeper.”

The challenges will include simple prayers a man might say in preparation for work or practical steps on building authentic male friendships. These steps to male friendships aren’t complicated either, Stefanick said, but are specific, intentional actions.

“The ways to find friendships … is to be the friend you want to have,” said Stefanick. “The specific kind things they do to let their co-worker, who they love in Christ, know that this person matters to them.”

When asked about the crisis of masculine identity within contemporary culture, Stefanick said the reasons are not as important as the solution.

“I don’t think it matters as much as the solution, which is men being intentional about living out who they are in Christ in their lives every day. That’s the solution.”

There is a kind of spousal love and fatherhood that is particular to male identity, he said, and this contains a call to “living out the love of Christ” by leading, protecting, and providing.

“There is a call to fatherhood [and] to spousal love. There is a thing inside of a man who specifically wants to love by laying down his life for his beloved, [like] slaying a dragon [or] going on an adventure.”

Marriage Encounter movement celebrates 50 years of strengthening marriages

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 19:00

Denver, Colo., Feb 5, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Here’s a story about Dick and Diane.

“We met in December of 1965,” Diane said.  

“December 7,” Dick specified.

Dick and Diane Baumbach have been married for more than 50 years - but not every year was happy, they say.

After something of a whirlwind romance - “We told each other we loved each other after three weeks” - they were married by September of 1966, just nine months after they’d met.

Seven years later, they were each at wits’ end in the marriage and were ready to call it quits, just before they found themselves on a weekend retreat with Worldwide Marriage Encounter.

Dick was working as a journalist, and had been doing some freelancing for the local Catholic paper in New York, when he and Diane heard about Worldwide Marriage Encounter retreats through an event he’d been asked to cover. Although they weren’t going to Church at the time, the couple decided to sign up for a weekend.

“From then on our lives were totally different, we put God in our relationship and it’s made all the difference,” Diane told CNA.

Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME) began as a Catholic movement in Spain in the 1950s when a priest, Fr. Gabriel Calvo, began developing a series of conferences aimed at strengthening marriages. By the late 1960s, the marriage enrichment weekends were also being offered to couples in the United States, and continue to be offered today in various languages and in nearly 100 countries throughout the world.  

The encounters typically consist of weekend retreats, which begin on Friday evening and end on Sunday afternoon. Couples who attend the retreats are encouraged to turn off their cellphones, and are guided through various aspects of their relationships through a series of talks by couples and priests. They are also given time to discuss everything they’ve learned privately with their spouses. Priests are also encouraged to attend a WWME weekend, to gain new insights and perspectives on marriage, in order to better pastor married couples.

This year, the movement is celebrating the 50th anniversary of marriage encounter retreats in the United States, with a special anniversary convention with the theme “We Remember, We Celebrate, We Believe.” According to the leadership team, couples and priests are registering from as far away as New Zealand and South Korea.

As many as 500 couples are expected to attend the June 22-24 weekend in Lombard, Illinois.

Since their life-changing weekend 45 years ago, the Baumbachs have been helping with the movement in some capacity ever since, giving presentations and now serving as the North American media relations coordinators.

Diane said that after nearly every weekend, there are amazing stories of transformations in the couples that have attended.

One of the highlights of the WWME 50th anniversary event will be highlighting the stories of couples or priests who have impacted, or have been impacted by, a WWME weekend.  

Diane said that she particularly remembers the story of one couple who were planning to get divorced the day after their marriage encounter retreat weekend ended - they had an appointment with their lawyer at 10 a.m. on Monday, and the divorce papers all filled out and ready to go.

“They had told their children: we’re going away for this weekend, this is our last try, but while we’re gone you need to decide which person you’re going to live with - mom or dad,” Diane recalled.  

But by the time the couple left their marriage encounter weekend, “they had torn up their divorce papers and they were going home to their kids as a couple,” she said.

Diane said she thinks the structure of the weekend, as well as the intensive focus on the relationship away from distractions, makes marriage encounter weekends particularly powerful.

“You’re away from the busyness of the world, you’re in a protected setting. We ask them not to get on their cellphones, just try and focus on each other,” she said.  

The basic message of the weekend hasn’t changed much in 50 years, she noted, but “the atmosphere of nurturing support, and a lot of prayers, and the fact that the holy spirit is really with them on that weekend” can often provide what some couples are unable to find in counseling or therapy.

Dick and Diane said their involvement in WWME has also made them hopeful about the future of marriage - they said they see many couples who recognize the challenges that marriages and families face in today’s society, and they are earnestly seeking to strengthen their marriages.

“I think people are realizing - just like we get re-certified for our profession, we read and studied and are mentored for our the world’s pressures get greater and the attacks on the family and marriage are greater, that it’s important also that these couples get as much help as they can (in their marriages), and I think we’re seeing that,” Diane said.

Dick said if he could offer couples today any advice, it would simply be: “Love one another.”

Diane added: “Love is a decision.”

The 50th anniversary event in June is for couples who have already made at least one WWME weekend together.

"What we are hearing and reading over and over is that WWME truly impacted the lives of tens of thousands of couples and priests. We hope that as many as possible will be at the 50th Anniversary of the movement. They can then share with others the wonderful adventures they have experienced as a result of the weekend," the convention leadership said in a press release.

“It’s a chance to try and connect all of us as we move forward in the next 50 years, it’s a time to get together with friends, but it’s also a time to look ahead to how we move forward for the next half a century,” Diane added.

Couples who have already attended at least one WWME weekend can find more information about the 50th anniversary event at Couples interested in attending a WWME weekend can find more information at:

Bishops praise bipartisan work on immigration, say agreement needed urgently

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Feb 5, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced a bipartisan immigration plan on Monday that would provide a path to citizenship for “dreamers” who have been in the country since 2013, and increase border security. The bill would not immediately provide the funds for a wall or enact any new measures on “chain migration” or the diversity lottery.

President Donald Trump’s past proposals would put an end to the visa lottery and limit “chain migration,” the policy which allows immigrants to the US to sponsor the immigration petitions of family members, and would have provided funding towards the construction of a wall on the Mexican border.

A representative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops told CNA Monday that the conference is in favor of bipartisan collaboration to solve this issue, and that they hope that a solution can be found quickly.
“The USCCB is reviewing the proposal, but we welcome the bipartisan effort to find a solution to protect Dreamers and pragmatically address and assess border security needs. We urge Congress to act to find a humane solution as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said.

The USCCB has offered mixed reviews of Trump’s past proposals. On Jan. 26, a bishops’ conference spokesperson told CNA that while the conference was pleased with the proposed plan for a path to citizenship for about 1.8 million people, they were less enthused with possible restrictions on family migration and with the amount of money allocated for a border wall.

The White House has already rejected the McCain-Coons proposal, calling it a “total waste of time.”



As alumni claim sexual assault is mishandled, Christendom College vows to improve

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 17:45

Front Royal, Va., Feb 5, 2018 / 03:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following allegations that Christendom College mishandled student sexual assault reports, the college’s administration has said it is committed to doing better.
Donna Bethell, chair of the college’s board, told CNA that Christendom takes recent reports seriously, and has hired an outside firm to conduct a review of the college’s policies regarding sexual assault prevention and reporting.
“We have brought in a professional group that is expert in sexual assault policies and procedures, and they are reviewing our entire program and will give us a report on whether we are meeting best practices – not just Title IX, those are regulatory minimum requirements – but best practices in providing our students with the protection and services they need.”
In mid-January, the small Catholic college in Front Royal, Virginia was rocked by allegations that the administration had mishandled several cases of sexual assault in the Christendom community. The initial allegations were published in a series of blog posts by Catholic writer Simcha Fisher.
Among those who came forward with their stories is Adele Smith, who says that she was raped by her then-boyfriend during a date in Shenandoah National Park in 2009. Smith was a sophomore at Christendom, where her boyfriend was also a student.
Smith told CNA it took her a while to process what had happened to her. She eventually filed a report with both local police and the park service, but was told that there was very little chance of a conviction.
Meanwhile, she said, her alleged rapist was continuing to verbally harass her on campus, and her physical and mental health were suffering.
“I developed major depressive disorder and rape-related PTSD,” she told CNA. “I’ve been on medication ever since. I’ve struggled a lot with self-harm and suicidal ideations. Medication and therapy is the only thing that’s been helpful in coping with that.”
Smith told CNA she approached the administration during her junior year. She said she was told that because there was no policy against sexual assault in the student handbook, and because the alleged rape took place off-campus, the school could only investigate the harassment charges.  
Christendom notified the male student that he was being charged with harassment following what was described as “a prior incident” between the students, according to a July 19, 2011 letter obtained by CNA. The letter said that he was not allowed to talk to Smith or transmit messages to her through other people, during the ensuing investigation.
Christendom found the male student guilty of harassment, according to an Aug. 8, 2011 letter also obtained by CNA.

According to the letter, the college sanctioned the student with a year’s housing suspension, two semesters of disciplinary probation, a prohibition from contact with Adele Smith, and restricted access to campus for one semester.  

Initial reports said the student was restricted from on-campus housing for only a semester, though the letter sanctioning the student explicitly stated that he would be subject to “Housing Suspension for 1 year.” A representative from Christendom College told CNA she was unable to clarify the term of the student’s suspension from on-campus housing.

Initial reports also said that the student lived with a founding professor of the college during his housing suspension, though CNA was unable to verify this

Smith acknowledged the complexity of her situation. “I don’t have any proof, because I have no witnesses,” she told CNA.

She said it was several points in the investigative process that made her feel her concerns were being dismissed.

“[T]he sense that reputation was more important was just pretty damaging to my faith and to my confidence and to my self-esteem, because you’ve already been victimized by one person, and then a whole institution just kind of tells you that you don’t really matter.”

She noted that documents charging and sanctioning the male student, which were reviewed by CNA, did not mention the rape allegations. Smith said that omission was “shattering.”
When she reached out to the administration for updates on the investigation, “it was always really slow getting a response.”
She also believes the school should have been proactive in ensuring that she did not have to attend classes with the male student while the investigation was ongoing.
“The burden of me not encountering my rapist was entirely on me. They handed me his class schedule and the time that he would be allowed in the library.”
It was up to her to avoid him, she said, and on a small campus, this was often difficult.
There were usually two different sessions of a class, Smith said. “I would go to the 9:30 for example, and if he was there, I would leave and I would go back to the 10:30 class.”
Smith also said that when her father wrote a letter to college president Dr. Timothy O'Donnell, the president responded with a letter, obtained by CNA, which mentioned Smith by her first name, but referred to her alleged rapist with the formal title “Mr.”  
“I thought it was incredibly insulting,” Smith said. “It was just kind of another subtle message to us that we didn’t matter, that I didn’t matter to the school, that I wasn’t even deserving of that small indicator of respect.”
She also said that she raised the question of why a policy against sexual assault was not part of student handbook.
“I was told that these sort of things take time, and that there were a lot of other factors involved in terms of changing the code of student conduct,” she said. A policy against sexual assault was added to the handbook for the 2013-2014 school year.

Donna Provencher is vice president of communications & victim outreach for the Christendom Advocacy and Support Coalition (CASC), a group not affiliated with the college. She told CNA that Smith’s story is not unique.
CASC has “spoken to 12 victims whom the [Christendom] administration personally failed,” Provencher said. She says the group is also aware of six more potential victims via friends or family members.
In total, the group alleges there occurred “18 known rapes and sexual assaults between the 1980s and 2016, 16 of those between 1998 and 2016 under [current Christendom president Timothy] O'Donnell.”
In a Jan. 24 statement, O’Donnell acknowledged failings, and announced that a thorough review process was being undertaken.
“We have failed some of our students,” he said. “I am grateful to each woman who has come forward with her story… To those students who have been harmed, I am deeply sorry. We will do better.”

CASC has called for additional steps to both prevent sexual assault on campus and improve how reports of assault are addressed.
Although the college does not accept federal funding and is therefore not bound by Title IX regulations, the advocacy group believes the school should voluntarily adhere to reporting regulations so that prospective students and families can see the statistics regarding sexual assault cases.
The group has called for faculty and staff training to help them recognize signs of abuse, and for a full-time nurse to be made available to students.
In addition, it says, an independent panel should be used to assess rape cases, because the president and dean of the college could have conflicts of interest between protecting students and protecting the reputation of the school.
Amanda Graf, director of student affairs at Christendom, said that many of these recommendations have been implemented by the college in recent years, or are currently being considered.
A presentation is given to students during freshman orientation outlining the college’s expectations regarding student behavior, policy on assault – including definitions – and instructions on how to file reports, she said.
Faculty members, student life staff, and resident assistants are trained in how to receive reports of assault, and to recognize signs of it.
“Obviously, it’s not just, ‘Do you have a process in place? Do you have the right paperwork?’ But it’s ‘Do the students trust the people that they’re reporting to? Do they actually believe that when a report is made, something will happen?’” Graf said.
She said efforts in the last several years have included adding more female staff members on campus, creating more formation events, and spending more time getting to know the students “so they are really confident and comfortable bringing us any reports they might have.”
Questions of whether to increase the nurse practitioner’s office hours and who should adjudicate cases of sexual assault will be discussed with the firm conducting the review of Christendom’s practices, Graf said. She noted that adjudicating cases of sexual assault currently falls under the Student Affairs Department at Christendom, which she said is in line with practices as most colleges.

“We’re really interested in doing an in-depth study of how effective our education has been and how we can improve it,” she said. “Going forward, we have this great firm that is going to make sure we’re doing everything in the best way to serve our students and to serve our mission.”
Graf stressed the importance of discussing challenging topics in order to move forward and improve.
“We always need to be having these conversations,” she said.
Members of CASC have called for President O'Donnell’s resignation, pointing to numerous reports of poorly handled assault cases during his tenure.
Bethell told CNA that from what she has seen, the Christendom community “very strongly” supports the president.
“While nobody for a minute says bad things could not have happened, they also want to say that this is an excellent institution that has played a very important and positive role in their lives, and you don’t want to lose sight of that,” she said.
In recent days, Bethell said, the college has issued an open invitation to alumni who want to discuss anything that happened to them while they were students, and meetings have begun being held.
“We’re hoping to help to heal, and also to learn how we can improve our practices and policies, and recognize what happened,” she said. “The truth is what’s most important to us, and the welfare of our students and alumni. That’s an ongoing process, and it’s already begun to bear fruit.”


Portland archbishop celebrates marriage Mass after call for new family initiatives

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 16:53

Portland, Ore., Feb 5, 2018 / 02:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday, Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon celebrated a Mass for marriage, after calling for new marriage initiatives in his archdiocese last fall.

“…Marriage is a bond, it’s the covenant, it’s the union between a man and a woman. It should be built upon a strong foundation of faith, rooted in prayer,” Archbishop Sample said in his homily on Feb. 3 at St. Mary Cathedral in Portland, according to the Catholic Sentinel.

He asked the couples gathered, “How many married couples pray together?” saying “prayer is so important, especially in the difficult times,” and is the foundation for a strong marriage.

The Portland archbishop blessed the couples that were gathered at the Mass and also noted that their marriages were giving him strength and hope for the future.

Sample held the Mass for marriage after committing the archdiocese to four new marriage and family initiatives in September. These new efforts come in response to the Church’s 2014 and 2015 worldwide synods of bishops on the topic of marriage, which the archbishop noted was a “major priority for the whole Church throughout the world.”

The first initiative proposed for the Archdiocese of Portland was establishing the ministries of Courage and Encourage, which together provide a support network for same-sex attracted persons who are looking for chaste ways to live their lives, as well as their families.

“We must respond with love, respect and sensitivity to these persons and their families,” Sample said, according to the Catholic Sentinel.

“The Church must do a better job of educating and forming young people and adults according to the teachings of Christ, Scripture and the moral doctrine of the Church,” Sample continued.

The second new effort within the archdiocese was “for our local Church to do a better job of preparing people for marriage.”

Sample said marriage prep begins in youth, through religious education and the ways children grow to view marriage through high school, college and adulthood. He also noted that the archdiocese would be seeking out programs that would best fit existing parish and vicariate-level preparation programs.

The third initiative focuses on “providing sound resources to Catholics seeking out the services of mental health professionals that will support their life of faith,” particularly in struggling marriages.

The final focus for the archdiocese was “aimed at strengthening marriages and family life in a broader sense.” This included providing resources, materials and programs that will proactively help build strong marriages and family lives.

“If we are successful in building all of these initiatives in our Catholic schools, religious education programs, adult faith formation, parishes, vicariates and especially in our families, we will go a long way toward addressing this critical need as identified by the universal Church in our times,” Sample said.

“It will be a challenge, but with your prayers and moral and financial support, we can make it happen.”


Catholic school principal named new auxiliary bishop of Atlanta

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 14:00

Atlanta, Ga., Feb 5, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has appointed Marist School principal Father Joel Konzen, S.M., to serve as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Bishop-elect Konzen is an Ohio-native, but has served in the Archdiocese of Atlanta for 28 years. He has led the Marist School in Atlanta as its principal since 1999 and previously held administrative positions at Marist from 1980 to 1989.

Konzen is the recipient of the 2015 National Catholic Educational Association’s Educational Excellence Award and recently helped to found two new Catholic schools in Atlanta, Notre Dame Academy and Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School.

“He has been an effective and generous administrator and advisor to the educational ministry of thousands of young people and their parents,” said Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory at the announcement of Konzen’s appointment Monday morning.

Konzen said preparing for Atlanta’s Banquet for Education Mass when he first received the call from Apostolic Nuncio Christophe Pierre asking him to accept the appointment.

“We Marists are supposed to avoid ecclesiastical honors. That’s in our Constitution. That’s not easy to do when the papal nuncio tells you that this is the will of the Holy Father,” Konzen said at the Feb. 5 press conference.
Father Konzen took first vows in the Society of Mary in 1975 and was ordained a priest in 1979. The Marists are a religious order founded in post-Revolution France by Jean-Claude Colin.

“A Marist is to think, act, judge, and feel as Mary would,” explained bishop-elect Konzen reflecting upon how his order’s charism has impacted his priesthood, “...humility, hospitality, prayerfulness, union with God and with one another...these are the virtues that Father Colin wanted to instill in the first Marists.”

He clarified that there are two different religious orders named the Society of Mary in the Church today with the same initials: S.M. Both were founded in France around the same time, the Marists by Father Colin and the Marianists by Blessed William Joseph Chaminade.

Auxiliary bishop-elect Konzen holds a bachelor of arts in English from St. Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad, IN, a master of divinity from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, and both a master of arts in systematic theology and a master of arts in educational administration from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

During his time in D.C., he served as vicar provincial of the former Washington Province of the Society of Mary.

Konzen’s episcopal ordination will be on Easter Tuesday. He will be joining Bishop Bernard Shlesinger, who was appointed as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Atlanta in May of 2017.

We must become 'new men,' Archbishop Chaput says

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 07:00

Phoenix, Ariz., Feb 4, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the Catholic Men’s Fellowship Conference, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia challenged more than 1,300 men to remember how masculinity was lived in the past by faithful Christian men.

“We’re here to recover what it means to be men, and especially how to live as Christian men of substance and virtue,” he said at the Feb. 3 conference in Phoenix.

The conference was themed “Into the Breach,” after a recent pastoral letter from Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, who released his new book “Manual for Men” at the event.

Among the event’s speakers were Father Sean Kilcawley, Diocesan Director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Lincoln; Hector Molina, an international Catholic speaker; and Terry Kennedy, former All-Star Major League Baseball catcher.

Chaput said that history plays an important role in Christian culture. “Just as memory anchors each person’s individual story, history plays the same role for cultures, nations and communities of faith. History is our shared memory. … A community dies when its memory fails,” he said.

Pointing to the Poor Brothers of the Order of the Temple of Solomon, The Knights Templar, Archbishop Chaput expressed the need for men to remember the order’s courageous commitment to charity, truth, and chastity.

The Knights Templar began 900 years ago, after the First Crusade recaptured Jerusalem from Muslim rule in 1099. The religious community was established to defend pilgrims journeying on the roads near Jerusalem, protecting them from Muslim raiders and highway criminals who robbed, raped, killed, and kidnapped, Chaput said.

“As warriors, the men had skills,” he explained. “The men had taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to the Patriarch of Jerusalem. And their first task, under obedience, was to patrol the roads.”

Archbishop Chaput said this was a “new knighthood,” different from those medieval knights who were “heavily armed male thugs – men obsessed with vanity, violence, and rape.”
The church took knighthood and made it into something holy, he said, noting that while some men didn’t live up to Knights Templar ideals, most embraced the prayer, courage, and chastity the order called for.

“[Knighthood] provided the animating ideal at the core of the Templars: to build a new order of new Christian men, skilled at arms, living as brothers, committed to prayer, austerity, and chastity, and devoting themselves radically to serving the Church and her people, especially the weak.”

Christianity is still a “fighting religion,” said Chaput, borrowing the phrase from C.S. Lewis, because “living the Gospel involves a very real kind of spiritual warfare.”

“Our first weapons should always be generosity, patience, mercy, forgiveness, an eagerness to listen to and understand others, a strong personal witness of faith, and speaking the truth unambiguously with love,”  he added.

The archbishop said “Christian equality” understands “the reality of the differences and mutual dependencies of real men and women.”  

“As men, we’re hardwired by nature and confirmed by the Word of God to do three main things: to provide, to protect, and to lead – not for our own sake, not for our own empty vanities and appetites, but in service to others.”

How do men reclaim Christian masculinity?

Chaput said men must become the living proof of what the church teaches: “the personal example of her saints.”

“Do love the women in your life with the encouragement, affection, support and reverence they deserve by right. Do be faithful to your wife in mind and body. Do show courtesy and respect to the women you meet, even when they don’t return it. …. Finally, those of you who marry, do have more children, and do invest your time and heart in them.”

He condemned the recent sexual harassment scandals involving celebrities as the “symptom of an entire culture of unhinged attitudes toward sex. Women are right to be angry when men treat them like objects and act like bullies and pigs.”

But a change in culture will only come through changes of the heart, he said, when a man  “discovers something to believe in that transforms and gives meaning to his life; something that directs all of his reasoning and desires.  In other words, when he becomes a new man.”

“A real reform of male behavior will never come about through feminist lectures and mass media man-shaming by celebrities and award ceremonies. ... A man’s actions and words change only when his heart changes for the better.”

“So my prayer for all of us today is that God will plant the seed of a new knighthood in our hearts – and make us the kind of ‘new men’ our families, our Church, our nation, and our world need,” concluded Archbishop Chaput.  


Debate IRL: Douthat/Faggioli debate moves from Twitter to Fordham campus

Sat, 02/03/2018 - 13:00

New York City, N.Y., Feb 3, 2018 / 11:00 am (CNA).- After public disagreement in dueling op-eds, and frequent disagreements on Twitter, one could be forgiven for expecting the debate between New York Times columnist Ross Douthat and Villanova Professor Massimo Faggioli to be a little fiery.

The two met on January 31 on Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus. The event, titled “Francis@Five: Assessing the Legacy of Pope Francis Five Years After His Election,” was a 90-minute discussion some observers described as “tense.”

Though their discussion was civil, and no one was accused of heresy, the two presented sharply contrasting assessments of what the first five years of Pope Francis’ papacy have meant for the Church and its future.

The discussion was moderated by David Gibson, the director of Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture.

The differences centered around the roles of tradition and doctrine--and whether and how they should shape the future of the Church.

The central point of debate was the now-infamous “Footnote 351” in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which, some interpreters claim, contradicts the Church’s teaching on marriage.

On the issue of communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, Douthat had a far more alarmed take than Faggioli. While acknowledging that the debate was an “elite battle” that most ordinary Catholics don’t really know much about, he said it was part of a larger “civil war” between liberal and conservative Catholics.

Douthat he said that he feared that Francis’ perspective on communion for those who are divorced and remarried without an annulment, as he understood it, could have the potential to cause a schism, with the “losing side” of that debate simply forming their own faith.  

Faggioli admitted that he had “underestimated” the resistance to some interpretations of Amoris Laetitia, adding that, in his view, resistance to the Second Vatican Council is also a “North American problem.”

Douthat said that the Church has no obligation to “evacuate teachings” (on marriage) under the guise of being “pastoral,” and that this was the “core tension” of Pope Francis’ papacy. He warned that this could potentially create a proto-Anglican model for the Church, where teachings are different in different parts of the world.

Faggioli disputed this, saying that Pope Francis was not seeking to undermine marriage, and that Jesus had spoken out against divorce. On the contrary, he said it is necessary for the Church to minister to the needs of people who are already divorced--which was the point of the 2015 Synod on the Family that preceded Amoris Laetitia.

Douthat warned that pastoral changes unchecked by doctrine have the potential to turn the Church into “liberal Protestantism in Catholic dressing,” but that it will take years before the Pope’s impact is truly understood.

Faggioli argued that “adjustments” on certain Catholics teachings were not a sign of an imminent rupture of the faith. Faggioli said that with 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce, 50 percent of children might never see their parents receive the Eucharist, which is not ideal for either evangelization or for the Gospel. This, he argued, is a reason why the Church must change her pastoral practice.

“There are different responses to the same question in different times,” Faggioli said, when asked whether withholding communion to the divorced and remarried had always been wrong.

While disagreement between the two was sharp, they found agreement on two issues: the Pope’s 2015 environmental encyclical Laudato si --both are fans of it, albeit for different reasons--and the importance of women in the Church’s life.

Faggioli said he would approve of ordaining female deacons “tomorrow,” whereas Douthat said he was “agnostic” on the issue of women in the diaconate, but did concede that putting women in positions of ecclesial responsibility is one of the “more reasonable” parts of liberal Catholicism.

Neither gave a true closing statement to finish off the night, but Faggioli perhaps summed up the dispute best when he described Catholic teaching and tradition as an “animal” capable of moving and adapting.

While he only grinned wryly in response, Douthat probably had a different take.

Denver archbishop spotlights Humanae Vitae in new pastoral letter

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 21:00

Denver, Colo., Feb 2, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a new pastoral letter honoring the 50-year anniversary of Humanae Vitae, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver underscored the perennial significance of the church’s sexual teachings, saying they are a gift and a light in darkness.

“I write this pastoral letter to you, my brothers and sisters, to affirm the great beauty of the Church’s consistent teaching through the centuries on married love, a love that is so desperately needed today,” Archbishop Aquila wrote in his Feb. 2 pastoral letter.

“Defending this love in our culture requires strong commitment,” Aquila continued, saying “it is crucial to reaffirm our commitment to the truth, goodness and beauty of Christ’s teaching on marriage and sexuality.”

According to Archbishop Aquila, Blessed Pope Paul VI “prophetically defended the integrity of married love and warned us against the danger of reducing sexuality to a source of pleasure,” in his landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae.

Published in 1968, Humanae Vitae will celebrate its 50th anniversary on July 25 of this year.

Aquila noted in the years since its publication, the Church has remained steadfast in her teachings on truth, as theological reflection on Humanae Vitae has continued to develop.

One positive development, according to Aquila, was Pope St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” which has “deepened our understanding of the great gift of human sexuality, which requires nothing less from us than a complete gift of self.”

Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, Aquila said, have also been instrumental in further reflection on Humanae Vitae’s theology of love. Additionally, Aquila pointed to the “great advancements” in natural family planning, which has been a helpful resource for countless families over the years.

“NFP… enables couples to accurately understand their fertility, maintain openness to life, and grow in the kind of self-control that is necessary for a happy marriage,” Aquila said, noting that sacrificial love is crucial to the practice of NFP.

Aquila explained that contraception disrupts the procreative nature of the marital act, which “harms the unitive dimension of sex.” Blessed Paul VI did not reject contraception simply because it was artificial, Aquila said, but because it fundamentally damaged the most intimate part of the conjugal act between spouses.

The archbishop also lamented cultural decline over the past 50 years, which, he said, was predicted by Blessed Paul VI. He specifically pointed to the widespread use of contraception, which has led to higher divorce and abortion rates.

Pornography, sex trafficking, government-imposed contraception, a rise in STDs, low birth and marriage rates are also some negative consequences, according to the Denver archbishop. He added that technology has become a major player in the realm of sexuality, causing more complications.

“Sex itself has been changed from a gift and source of life in the family to a means of pleasure and self-satisfaction,” Aquila said.

“Once sex and marriage has been redefined and trivialized in this way, it is possible to change the definition and makeup of marriage or anything related to sexuality,” he continued.

However, Aquila believes that Humanae Vitae and the theology of the body reveal the antidote to “the widespread false ideas of freedom and the purpose of sexuality that so many are suffering from today.”

“Blessed Paul VI teaches us the truth about married love, listing its four essential qualities: it needs to be fully human, total, faithful and fruitful,” Aquila said, also noting their inseparable connections.

Despite the cultural distortion of sexuality and marriage over the years, Aquila noted that the goodness of sexuality remains through the dignity of each human person.

“We also know from Scripture…that our dignity comes from being made in his image and likeness,” Aquila said.

“God, the source of all life and love, planned from the beginning that the love between a man and a woman should image his own love and bring forth new life in the context of family,” he continued.

Humanae Vitae teaches procreative love is an “extremely important mission” with both “supernatural and eternal” effects, the archbishop said. Aquila calls this the “very nature of married love,” which also prompts a husband and wife together towards holiness.

“Through the sincere gift of themselves, spouses discover their authentic identities as children of God the Father, and their love radiates beauty and the splendor of the truth,” Aquila said.

While Humanae Vitae proclaims the bold beauty behind the Church’s teachings on sexuality, it also reminds the faithful of the Church’s mission of evangelization, Aquila noted.

“Every Catholic has a mission to live and share the good news of God’s plan for human sexuality,” Aquila said, saying this proclamation requires courage.

“We evangelize first by witnessing to what God has done in our own lives and by living out Christ’s teaching in our family and work,” he continued, saying that “pointing people to the teaching of Jesus is not confrontational, but an act of love.”

The first evangelizers of society, Aquila said, are parents and married couples, who are the primary educators of children. Because of this, parents and couples have the responsibility to faithfully teach their children in the truths of the Church.

Unfortunately, today’s children are bombarded with distorted sexual ethics at a young age, with exposure to pornography and the lure of casual sex, the archbishop said. These dangers present new challenges to parents in their efforts to raise children of God, but Aquila encouraged honest conversations with children to promote healthy relationships.

He also pointed out that priests and deacons are called to evangelize to their own flocks. Aquila advised priests to be “gentle and merciful in confession,” and re-commit themselves to their work with engaged and married couples.

Aquila also addressed individuals in the workforce, encouraging them to give witness to the truth in their everyday lives. He also specifically addressed engaged couples, asking them to “make the most of your preparation for marriage.”

Aquila concluded his pastoral letter by mentioning the endless measure of God’s love, and encouraged individuals and couples everywhere to reflect this true love through “a complete gift” of themselves.

He challenged married couples to be generous in their love and to imitate Christ’s ultimate sacrificial love as the way “to find true happiness.” Aquila also pointed back to Humanae Vitae, saying its 50th anniversary is the perfect occasion for a renewed commitment to sharing the liberating truth that it proclaims about sexuality.

Humanae Vitae was a gift for the Church and for the world, a courageous prophesy about the beauty of human life and married love,” Aquila said, calling the encyclical “a great light in the midst of a dark and confused world.”

“We ask for the prayers of Blessed Paul VI as we look to his guidance for handing on and living according to the teachings of Christ in the world today.”