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Christian leaders in Jerusalem respond to vandalism by settlers

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 18:27

Jerusalem, May 7, 2018 / 04:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Church leaders are defending the need for a Christian presence in the Old City of Jerusalem, as some report increased vandalism, verbal abuse, and aggressive property acquisition by Jewish settlers.

“Today the church faces a most severe threat at the hands of certain settler groups. The settlers are persistent in their attempts to erode the presence of the Christian community in Jerusalem,” said the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, in an interview with the Guardian.

“These radical settler groups are highly organised. Over the last years we have witnessed the desecration and vandalism of an unprecedented number of churches and holy sites and receive growing numbers of reports from priests and local worshippers who have been assaulted and attacked,” he continued.

Catholic institutions and individuals have also been subject to such attacks, according Jerusalem-based Catholic priest, Father David Neuhaus, an affiliate of the Pontifical Biblical Institute.

“What Patriarch Theophilos describes is correct in that church properties and Christian individuals have been attacked,” Father Neuhaus told CNA.

“The attackers make no distinction among the Christian denomination,” explained Fr. Neuhaus. “Of course, Catholic institutions and individuals have had their share in bearing the brunt of these attacks.”

Most of the Christians in Israel are Arabs belonging to either the Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, or Roman Catholic Churches.

The Benedictine Dormition Abbey has been vandalized on five different occasions in recent years, with anti-Christian graffiti written in Hebrew.

Vandals shattered stained-glass windows and destroyed a statue of Mary in St. Stephen Church in the Beit Jamal Salesian monastery, 25 miles west of Jerusalem, in September 2017.

The Order of the Holy Sepulchre recently contributed funds for a fence project to protect another vandalized Catholic church in Nazareth, 90 miles north of Jerusalem, from future attacks.

However, Fr. Neuhaus said that it is important to remember that “these attacks are equally against Muslims” and “many more mosques are targeted than churches.” He says that the settler violence is directed against all non-Jews.

“The question of settler and right-wing vigilante violence is an important phenomenon in Israeli society and deeply affects Christians and Muslims,” said Fr. Neuhaus.

The Executive Director of “In Defence of Christians,” Philippe Nassif, told CNA he is “concerned about Christian holy sites in Jerusalem being targeted by extremists on all sides.”

“It is important that Christians feel free to worship, work, and live in Israel without the fear of violence from a handful of extremists, and we urge the Israeli government to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice,” continued Nassif.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem also emphasized the importance of the Christian community in Jerusalem last week.

“The identity of Jerusalem would not be complete without a living and vibrant Christian presence. The Holy Places and the presence of many pilgrims are not enough to affirm the Christian character of the City: without the presence of a local community, alive and active, there cannot be a Church,” wrote Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the patriarchate, in a letter to the Latin Parish in Jerusalem May 3.

Archbishop Pizzaballa said the Church is considering creating a second parish in Jerusalem to strengthen the Christian presence.

“It is a priority and fundamental for all of us, therefore, to not only preserve, but rather to strengthen our presence in Jerusalem and preserve the Christian character of the Holy City,” wrote the archbishop.

On May 14, the United States will open its new embassy in Jerusalem, making the U.S. the first country to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel since the state was established in 1948.

After President Donald Trump announced the change last December, Pope Francis expressed his “deep concern” and issued an appeal to the international community to ensure that “everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations.”

Pope Francis also urged the necessity of maintaining the status quo in his meeting with Theophilos III in October 2017, in which the two discussed the patriarch’s concern for the Christian community amid aggression by Jewish settlers.

The pope said, “any kind of violence, discrimination or displays of intolerance against Jewish, Christian and Muslim worshipers, or places of worship, must be firmly rejected. The Holy City, whose Status Quo must be defended and preserved, ought to be a place where all can live together peaceably; otherwise, the endless spiral of suffering will continue for all.”

Two Franciscan friars plead guilty to endangering children in Pennsylvania

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 14:58

Altoona, Pa., May 7, 2018 / 12:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two Franciscan friars who served as superiors of their community in Pennsylvania have pled guilty to charges of endangering children, for allowing a friar suspected of sexual abuse to continue to work with children.

Father Robert D’Aversa, 70, and Father Anthony Criscitelli, 63, were each charged with first-degree misdemeanors for their role in assigning Brother Stephen Baker to positions in which he had access to children, even after several credible accusations of abuse were brought against him.

The friars belong to the Third Order Regular, Province of the Immaculate Conception in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, which has undergone a recent investigation for the cover-up of past sexual abuse.

In 2016, a grand jury released a “staggering and sobering” report on years of reported abuse and cover-up within the diocese, affecting hundreds of victims. Most alleged offenders have either died or have been unable to be criminally charged, due to most cases having passed the statute of limitations.

Baker was working at a local Catholic high school, Bishop McCort, from 1992-2000, during which time the bulk of his sexual abuse reportedly occurred. D’Aversa, who was provincial in 2000, transferred Baker to another assignment after having learned of a credible accusation against Baker, but did not disclose the reason for the transfer.

Criscitelli succeeded D’Aversa as provincial, and assigned Baker to other positions where he would have access to children, despite knowing that Baker had several credible accusations against him as a sexual predator.

“These defendants knew the abuser was a serious threat to children - but they allowed him to engage with children and have access to them as part of his job within their order,” Attorney General of Pa. Josh Shapiro said in a statement. “They chose time and time again to prioritize their institution’s reputation over the safety of victims. I won’t stand for that in any institution - and any person who fails to protect and safeguard children in their care will answer to me.”

This case is the first time members of a religious order have been sentenced for the cover-up of clerical abuse in the state of Pennsylvania. Shapiro told a local newspaper that the convictions of the friars will send a message that “(enablers) will be held accountable for covering up rampant sexual abuse of children.”

D’Aversa and Criscitelli were both sentenced to five years’ probation and $1,000 fines each, plus court fees.

Baker reportedly committed suicide in 2013 by stabbing himself in the heart when abuse allegations against him were made public. He had been accused of abusing victims in Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota in addition to Pennsylvania.

Accusations of child endangerment were also brought against a third friar, Father Anthony “Giles” A. Schinelli, for assisting in the cover-up of Baker’s abuse, but the charges were dropped because the statute of limitations had been reached. Settlements have been reached with more than 90 of Baker’s Bishop McCort High School victims.

In January 2018, the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown created an Office of Child and Youth Protection, which “is responsible for implementing and overseeing the full Diocesan response to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and compliance with the law.”

The charter, implemented in 2002, obligates all compliant dioceses and eparchies to provide resources both for victims of abuse and resources for abuse prevention. Each year, the USCCB releases an extensive annual report on the dioceses and eparchies, including an audit of all abuse cases and allegations, and recommended policy guidelines for dioceses.



Alliance Defending Freedom booted from Amazon Smile program over 'hate group' label

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 13:16

Washington D.C., May 7, 2018 / 11:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal organization that promotes life, marriage and religious liberty, has been removed from the “AmazonSmile” charitable giving program after being designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

AmazonSmile is a program that allows users to choose a nonprofit foundation to receive a small percentage of their Amazon purchases. ADF has been part of the program since its inception in 2013.

Recently, however, the group said it was told that this was no longer the case, due to the SPLC’s designation of the group as an “Anti-LGBT” extremist group.

Alliance Defending Freedom, which has won hundreds of legal victories, including seven cases at the Supreme Court, focuses on “defending religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.”

ADF President and CEO Michael Farris sent a letter to Amazon May 3, explaining the kind of work his firm does. He said he was “surprised and disappointed” that his organization was removed from AmazonSmile, and that he found it “concerning” that the SPLC was behind this decision.

The SPLC has ADF listed on its website as a hate group alongside the Ku Klux Klan, racist skinhead organizations, and black nationalist groups.

“ADF recently drew the ire of SPLC because of its religious beliefs and advocacy,” said Farris in the letter. “Although the SPLC did good work many years ago, it has devolved into a far-left propaganda machine that slanders organizations with which it disagrees and destroys the possibility of civil discourse in the process.”

He also argued that the group has been “discredited” due to its tactics, and said that he hopes to meet with Amazon to explain why ADF is not a hate group and should be allowed to benefit from AmazonSmile.

Additionally, Farris offered to assist Amazon with the creation of a policy for AmazonSmile “that does not ban legitimate, well-respected, faith-based organizations like ADF.”

In an additional statement published on ADF’s website, Farris accused Amazon of “hiding” behind the SPLC, a group he says “fills its ever-increasing coffers by attacking veterans, Catholics, Muslims who oppose terrorism, and even nuns.”

“SPLC is not a neutral watchdog organization,” he said.

SPLC was founded in 1971 and originally monitored persons and groups fighting the civil rights movement. It began to track racist and white supremacist groups like neo-Nazis and affiliates of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s. It also claims to monitor other “extremist” groups like “anti-immigrant” and “anti-Muslim” groups.

More recently, the SPLC has listed mainstream Christian groups like the Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom as “hate groups” for their “anti-LGBT” stance.

The Ruth Institute has also been included in this list by SPLC, and was also told that it was ineligible for the AmazonSmile program because of the designation.

Last year, the SPLC came under fire after it named Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim who has spoken out against Islamic extremism, and Maajid Nawaz, a former Muslim extremist himself, on a list titled “The Field Guide To Anti-Muslim Extremists.” The page was eventually removed from the SPLC’s website this past April.

SPLC has also recently faced questions regarding its financial administration, after reports that the non-profit has transferred millions of dollars to offshore accounts and investment firms.

Bishop Fabre to head US bishops' anti-racism committee

Fri, 05/04/2018 - 18:31

Washington D.C., May 4, 2018 / 04:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism will have a new chairman, following Bishop George Murry’s resignation from the position after being diagnosed with acute leukemia.

“Our most heartfelt prayers are with Bishop Murry and his loved ones,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We ask all people of faith to join us in praying for his full recovery.”

The cardinal has named Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, La. to serve as the chairman until the end of the term, the U.S. bishops’ conference website reports.

“I am grateful to Bishop Fabre for his dedication and commitment to now lead the work of the Ad Hoc Committee,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

The ad hoc committee was established in August 2017 in the wake of increasing racial tensions and white nationalist activism. Its work has included a press conference last fall at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the creation of resources for the Sept. 9 Feast Day of St. Peter Claver as an annual day of prayer for peace within communities.

The committee also promotes education, resources, communications strategies, and care for victims of racism. A pastoral letter from the committee is expected to be released later this year.

On Monday the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio announced that Bishop Murry has been admitted to the Cleveland Clinic.

“He will undergo intensive chemotherapy for the next four weeks,” said the diocese’s statement, which called for prayer.

Murry also chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, which provides guidance for all Catholic educational institutions in the country.

CNA contacted the U.S. bishops' conference seeking information about whether the bishop would remain on this committee but did not receive a response by deadline.

Bishop Shelton Fabre was born October 25, 1963 in New Roads, La. He was ordained a priest in 1989 and became an auxiliary bishop of New Orleans in February 2007. In September 2013 he became Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux in southern Louisiana.

He is current chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on African American Affairs, on which he has served since 2010. Since 2013, he has served as a member of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church.

The bishop is a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Peter Claver, a historically African-American Catholic fraternal organization which he serves as national chaplain. He is also a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus.


Iowa governor signs Fetal Heartbeat Bill into law

Fri, 05/04/2018 - 17:56

Des Moines, Iowa, May 4, 2018 / 03:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) on Friday afternoon signed into law the Fetal Heartbeat Bill, which prohibits doctors from performing an abortion after the detection of the baby’s heartbeat.

The law would require any women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound to determine whether a fetal heartbeat can be detected, a milestone usually detected around the sixth week of pregnancy. The legislation does make some exceptions for pregnancies conceived through rape or incest, as well as fetal abnormality, or if a doctor determines that a woman’s life is in danger.

It would also ban all persons from knowingly acquiring, providing, transferring, or using fetal remains in Iowa. This would not apply to medical diagnostic samples, or forensic investigations, or to fetal body parts donated for medical research after a miscarriage or stillbirth.

Previously, abortion was legal in Iowa until the 20th week of pregnancy. The new law is the strongest abortion regulation in the country.

The bill passed through the Iowa House of Representatives on Tuesday by a vote of 51-46, and passed the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 27-19. The bill has been significantly controversial in the state, and there have been many protests.

In a statement published on the governor’s website, Reynolds said she signed the bill as she felt it was “immoral to stop an innocent beating heart,” as well as “sickening to sell fetal body parts.”

“I believe that all innocent life is precious and sacred, and as governor, I pledged to do everything in my power to protect it. That is what I am doing today,” she said. She credited her faith as the force that “leads her to protect every Iowan, no matter how small.”

The law will most certainly be challenged in court, and is unlikely to go into effect without approval from the Supreme Court. Acknowledging this, Reynolds said that her actions on Friday were “bigger than just a law,” and that she will not be backing down.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU promised a lawsuit against Reynolds before she signed the bill, criticizing the governor for signing a bill they say is “so clearly unconstitutional.”

If this bill is taken to the Supreme Court, it could potentially force the justices to reconsider the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, praised the law, saying it “will not only save lives, it also reminds us that abortion stops a beating heart.”

“We thank Iowa for recognizing that every life is a gift and that personhood has inherent dignity from the moment of conception,” she said.



Bethlehem emigrants open shop to support Christian artisans in Holy Land

Fri, 05/04/2018 - 00:08

Denver, Colo., May 3, 2018 / 10:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic goods shop opened its first brick and mortar store last month, presenting a wide variety of merchandise which supports artisans in the Holy Land.

The store, Bethlehem Handicrafts, is owned by the Bannoura family, who produce a majority of the items at a factory in Bethlehem along with a number of other families.

The shop opened in 2000 as a website. In 2003, the Bannouras moved to Denver, selling items at numerous parishes and mall kiosks throughout Colorado. Fifteen years after settling in the state, the family were finally able to open their first physical shop in Aurora, Colo., April 2.

“We never ever showed everything in one spot because we have a lot of items. Especially now because we carry some very large items, some of them even for churches,” co-owner George Bannoura told CNA.

“We came to Denver, and at that time we [had] almost no tourists coming to Bethlehem, and we collected the finished wood from various families around us and we came to Denver, and we opened here.”

Most of the ware is chiseled out of olive wood, a type of timber common in the Bethlehem region and used in Palestinian tradition. The store offer items such as olive wood crosses, crucifixes, rosaries, saint statues, and kitchen ware. Additionally, the shop holds ceramic items and soap from the region as well.  

Bannoura said that among the most popular items are the crucifixes, which have little windowed compartments filled with Holy Land soil, stones, frankincense, and flowers.

Many pieces are made by his own family in the Holy Land, where he goes back to visit almost every summer and helps out in the factory. Bethlehem Handicrafts works with almost 400 artisans and collaborates with numerous Christian families, each with their own niche.

“For example, we don’t do much work with the crosses; we buy the crosses from a number of families, the rosaries, we get them from the ladies who make the rosaries and the bracelets; the ceramic from the community who makes the ceramic; kitchen utensils, we have a wonderful group that does nothing but kitchen utensils for years.”

Besides aiding families in the Holy Land, Bannoura said he enjoys that the excellence of their merchandise raises the bar for the quality of work from other families. “We have a great influence on many families on how to improve the quality,” he said.

In 2000, Bethlehem was off limits to the general public due to the Palestine-Israel conflict. Because Christians already make up a small portion of the area, Bannoura said the lack of tourists affected the communities, who depended on the tourism as a major source of income.

“Bethlehem had closed for almost three years, and we basically had almost no tourists coming to Bethlehem. So we had no income for three years, not just me and my family, other families as well. A majority of the Bethlehem people had no income for three years.”

Bannoura lamented the conflict, which has driven many Christians away. Without the Christian community, he said the churches and holy sites would become closer to museums than places of worship.

“We want to live in a peaceful community, we want to live in a peaceful environment. We pray for peace, and our Lord himself, asked us to pray for our enemies … My hope is the three major religions – Jewish, Muslim, and Christian – will have Jerusalem for everyone … Jerusalem can hold the three religions.”

Bishop praises ‘life-giving intent’ of Iowa’s fetal heartbeat bill

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 21:00

Sioux City, Iowa, May 3, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Iowa bishop said that a bill banning abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat “affirms the life-giving intent” of the state’s pro-life efforts.

Known as the “fetal heartbeat” bill, the measure was attached to state. legislation banning the sale and transfer of fetal remains. The bill was passed by the state’s legislature this week.

Bishop Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa, told CNA he supports the legislation’s aims.

“We are grateful that, right now, it looks like it would stop some trafficking of fetal body parts following an abortion,” he said. “It also affirms the life-giving intent of our stance in pro-life activities.”

The bill, passed in the Iowa House of Representatives May 1 and the Iowa Senate May 2, now awaits approval from Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, who has not commented on whether she will sign the legislation into law.

The law would require any women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound to determine whether a fetal heartbeat can be detected, a milestone usually detected in the sixth week of pregnancy. The bill does make some exceptions for pregnancies conceived through rape or incest.

The bill would also ban all persons from knowingly acquiring, providing, transferring, or using fetal remains in Iowa. This would not apply to medical diagnostic samples, or forensic investigations, or to fetal body parts donated for medical research after a miscarriage or stillbirth.

“We support the life-giving intent of the provisions in the bill and we want to do everything we can to support that,” Bishop Nickless said.

Bishop Nickless told CNA that the state’s bishops recognize that some provisions of the bill might not withstand judicial scrutiny. He added that Catholics might disagree about the strategy of supporting legislation that could be overturned by courts.

At the same time, the bishop encouraged creative pro-life advocacy, saying that Iowa’s bishops had encouraged Catholics to discern those questions carefully. He said the message of the state’s bishops had been: “If you’re a Catholic and your conscience tells you to support this, please do.”

“The Catholic Church has always been pro-life and we’ll continue to be,” he added.

Nickless reaffirmed that the Catholic Church supports the health and rights of all women, including those in the womb. “If we are talking about women we need to make sure we are talking about unborn females as well, and protecting them for sure,” he said.

“Catholics respect all human life, from natural conception to natural death, and we are trying to respect the females among us as well,” he added.

House chaplain rescinds resignation, Ryan agrees to let him stay

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 18:22

Washington D.C., May 3, 2018 / 04:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- About two weeks after resigning, Chaplain of the House of Representatives Fr. Patrick J. Conroy, S.J. rescinded his resignation and informed Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) that he intends on staying in his role through his term.

In a letter sent to Ryan on May 3, Conroy said that if the speaker still wished for him to leave his role, he would have to fire him. The priest said that he would not be submitting another letter of resignation.

In a statement released later that day, Ryan said that he accepts Fr. Conroy’s letter and has “decided that he will remain in his position as Chaplain of the House.”

“My original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution,” Ryan said. “To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves. It is my job as speaker to do what is best for this body, and I know that this body is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important post.”

Ryan said he plans to meet with Fr. Conroy next week to discuss moving forward “for the good of the whole House.”

Conroy had tendered his resignation as House chaplain on April 15. In his letter Thursday, he said that Ryan’s Chief of Staff Jonathan Burks had told him that the speaker was asking him to resign. He said that Burks told him, “maybe it’s time we had a Chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic,” and commented on his prayer in November that was perceived as critical of the Republicans’ tax bill.

The Jesuit priest said that he had never been disciplined, and had received zero complaints about his ministry during his nearly seven years as House chaplain, but felt as though he was being forced into resigning by Ryan.

“At that point, I thought I had little choice but to resign, as my assumption was that you had the absolute prerogative and authority to end my term as House Chaplain,” Conroy wrote.

However, Conroy wrote that he changed his mind about his resignation after Ryan began speaking to the media. Ryan said last week that some House members had concerns about Conroy, and that he was not able to adequately tend to the spiritual needs of some Congressmen.

Conroy disputed this allegation, and said that he would have made an effort to adjust his ministry in order to better serve the House.

“In fact, no such criticism has ever been leveled against me during my tenure as House Chaplain. At the very least, if it were, I could have attempted to correct such ‘faults,” he said.

“In retracting my resignation I wish to do just that.”

Conroy then insisted that not only would he not be resigning, but also that if Ryan in fact wanted him removed from his position, he would have to terminate him. Otherwise, he will remain as House Chaplain throughout the remainder of his two-year term, which is up in 2019.

“Therefore, I wish to serve the remainder of my term as House Chaplain, unless terminated ‘for cause.’”

Conroy also said that he intends to run again for his role at the end of his current term, if he is not fired by Ryan.

Conroy’s resignation was due to go into effect on May 24. He has served as House chaplain since May 25, 2011.

On National Day of Prayer, Trump establishes new faith-based initiative

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 17:08

Washington D.C., May 3, 2018 / 03:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order creating a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative within the Executive Office of the President.

The executive order highlights that “the efforts of faith-based and community organizations are essential to revitalizing communities,” and reiterates that “the Federal Government welcomes opportunities to partner with such organizations through innovative, measurable, and outcome-driven initiatives.”

The White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative will “consult with and seek information from experts and various faith and community leaders,” and will provide guidance on reducing “the burdens on the exercise of free religion.”

The initiative will also seek to arrange a partnership between faith-based and other community organizations in order to combat poverty.

Previous presidents have similarly instituted faith-based initiatives, focusing on ensuring that religious charities had access to federal funding and could be involved in government. George W. Bush created the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which Barack Obama renamed the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. That head position in that office has remained vacant since Trump assumed the presidency.

The new initiative will have a stronger explicit focus on religious freedom. It will also create the position of “Advisor to the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative” and will require executive departments to designate a liason to the initiative.

Speaking in the Rose Garden with several religious figures, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl from the Archdiocese of Washington, Trump discussed the goals of the new initiative.

“The faith initiative will help design new policies that recognize the vital role of faith in our families, our communities, and our great country,” he said.

“This office will also help ensure that faith-based organizations have equal access to government funding and the equal right to exercise their deeply held beliefs.”

During the speech, which fell on the National Day of Prayer, Trump highlighted Jon Ponder, a member of the audience who turned his life around while in prison for bank robbery.

After hearing a Rev. Billy Graham sermon on the radio, Ponder decided that night to dedicate his life to Christ and started spreading the Bible to his fellow inmates. After he was released from prison, he started a ministry that has helped over 2,000 former inmates rejoin society.

“You are a living testament to the power of prayer,” Trump said.

Trump reiterated his administration’s commitment to religious freedom, recalling that he was the first president to address the March for Life in a live video message.

“Our country was founded on prayer. Our communities are sustained by prayer.  And our nation will be renewed by hard work, a lot of intelligence, and prayer.”

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer from The Catholic Association praised the executive order for recognizing “the benefit to be had for all when the federal government partners with community and faith-based organizations to care for the needy.”

“People of all faiths, and those with no faith at all, find compassion and professionalism in the care they receive from groups motivated by faith. Today’s executive order hails their work — a wonderful product of the rich religious pluralism of our country.”

Lawmakers petition for rules keeping Title X funds away from abortion groups

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 15:52

Washington D.C., May 3, 2018 / 01:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Better rules are needed to ban Title X federal family planning funds to organizations that also perform abortions, Members of Congress said in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services this week.

“Abortion is not family planning and yet, the largest abortion provider in our country receives a significant amount of federal family planning grant funding,” said Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri). She said regulations are needed to “draw a bright line between family planning and the abortion industry to ensure no federal tax dollars go to abortion providers.”

“We have an opportunity to restore program integrity and to safeguard the vulnerable lives of unborn children,” she said.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) characterized Title X as “a slush fund for Planned Parenthood.”

“Planned Parenthood dismembers or chemically poisons a baby to death every two minutes – killing over 7 million innocent children since 1973,” he said. “I hope that the Administration will finally turn off this funding stream for Planned Parenthood – ‘Child Abuse Incorporated’.”

Both Hartzler and Smith are among the 153 U.S. representatives who signed an April 30 letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. In separate letters, 41 members of the U.S. Senate and over 80 pro-life leaders echoed the members of Congress.

The U.S. Representatives said the regulations for the Title X program have been largely unchanged for about two decades and are in need of reform.

While federal law prohibits federal funding of programs that treat abortion as a method of family planning, the regulations governing the Title X program have blurred that line by requiring all grantees to refer for abortion,” said their letter. This deters applicants who do not accept abortion as a method of family planning.

“New regulations should remove abortion referrals from the program,” said the letter. The members of Congress criticized locating family planning programs in the same facility as abortion providers, which creates the risk of misuse of funds for abortion and conveys the message that abortion is a means of family planning. Title X service sites should be physically and financially separate from abortion facilities, they said.

The letter voiced “deep concern” that Planned Parenthood has received close to $60 million annually from 2013-2015 under the Title X program.

“Once again, we see that federal funds are being funneled to abortion service sites when the majority of Americans are opposed to this industry,” said Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), another signer of the letter. She called for a review and update of regulations to stop funding for programs like Planned Parenthood’s, which she said “disgustingly dub abortion ‘family planning’.”

“It is family destruction, and it’s time to ensure that our money is funding actual family planning programs, and not our nation’s largest abortion provider,” Black said.

A 1991 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld similar rules implemented under the Reagan administration to ensure that Title X funding did not go to programs where abortion was considered a form of family planning, the letter said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Population Affairs is the subject of two lawsuits, NPR reports - one from Planned Parenthood and another from National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The lawsuits objects that the Office of Population Affairs guidance, released in February and known as a Federal Opportunity Announcement, does not specifically mention contraception but does mention “fertility awareness” in its call for a broad range of family planning services under Title X.

In February of this year, the HHS department also announced $260 million available for family planning methods and services, and included contraception explicitly.

Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit seeks to block the guidance document. The suit was filed on behalf of its affiliates in Utah and Ohio. These are states where Planned Parenthood serves a majority of patients under Title X who receive services including contraception and STD and cancer screenings.

Tanya Atkinson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, claimed the policy was a “radical shift that could have a big impact on people’s health.” As written, she said, it “flies in the face of the best medical practice.”

Clare Coleman, president & CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, told National Public Radio the approach was “disrespectful” to low-income parents and undermines Title X because, in his view, it has a “narrow, ideological vision of how people should live their lives,” including the view that there should be no sex until marriage.

Among the critics of the lawsuits was Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications for the Susan B. Anthony List. She charged that Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit was “ridiculous.”

Speaking to NPR, she similarly claimed that Planned Parenthood treats the Title X Family Program as “their personal slush fund” to which “only they are entitled for propping up their massive abortion enterprise.”


Benedictine nuns' new album an offering to Saint Joseph

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 05:04

Kansas City, Mo., May 3, 2018 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A newly-released album by a chart-topping community of Benedictine nuns in rural Missouri is devoted to the hearts of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, but is dedicated in a particular way to Saint Joseph's paternity.

“St. Joseph has shown himself a father to us very poignantly in recent months, both spiritually and temporally, so this CD is our little votive to his paternal heart,” Mother Cecilia, prioress of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, told CNA.

The Hearts of Jesus, Mary & Joseph at Ephesus was released to coincide with the May 1 feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Funds from the sale of the album will support the construction of the expanding community's priory church, which has $2 million remaining.

The album can be purchased from the nuns' website at or at Amazon. Digital copies are available from iTunes.

Construction of the priory church.

Mother Cecilia reflected that “Devotion to the Pure Heart of St. Joseph seems to be burgeoning in popular piety as connected with the Two Hearts. While there have not yet been official approbations of its explicit revelations … there is nevertheless a strong case in favor of this general devotion especially in the addresses of out recent popes.”

“The heart being the symbol of love and of conformity to the Divine Will, and St. Joseph being the patron of the Universal Church, it seems an apt devotion especially in our times amidst a crisis of fatherhood.”

She added that the theme of the album was suggested by Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura, who was leading a retreat at the priory.

The cardinal “asked about a recording, to which I replied that we had thought of doing one in honor of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, but were torn since we had also promised one to St. Joseph,” Mother Cecilia recounted. “His Eminence turned to us and said simply, 'You know what you should do is one to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the most Pure Heart of St. Joseph.' The Sisters spontaneously broke into applause at the direct answer to the dilemma.”

The album includes 22 tracks, eight of which are original pieces.

One of the original compositions, “Hymn to the Three Hearts”, is by a guest composer, Lisa Nardi, who was introduced to the community's music through her classical radio station, WQXR. The song includes lyrics written by the sisters at the priory.

“She was so taken by what she heard, that she reached out to us with a proposition to compose a piece for a future recording,” explained Mother Cecilia. “We happily took her up on her kind offer after hearing some of her other works, which were beautiful.”

The Sacred Heart of Jesus, being the oldest of the three devotions – revealed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 1670s – included on the album, has a great deal of music dedicated to it, the prioress said.

“We had a hard time narrowing down which songs to do. We included our originals, 'For Love of Me' and 'The Heart of the Infant King.' The lyrics of the former was actually a poem by St. Alphonsus, and the latter by one of our Sisters, who had just read the writings of Mother Louise Margaret de la Touche, author of The Sacred Heart and the Priesthood. We included a hymn by the great American champion of Gregorian chant, Dr. Theodore Marier, who wrote a very moving hymn to the Sacred Heart in his days at Manhattanville, and the well-known 'Cor Dulce' with propers of the Mass.”

Hymns to the Immaculate Heart of Mary “were a little more sparse,” she said. Among those chosen for inclusion on the album is “I Am Thine”, an original which has been sung at profession and investitures at the priory, “so it is very much beloved by our community.” The 'Sub Tuum' “was a challenging piece by Charpentier,” a French baroque composer. It is one of the community's “first ventures” into music of that era, “but one we enjoyed very much.”

“We had an original, 'The Blessed Heart,' written 2006 in memory of a seventeen-year-old young lady who was to join us, but suffered a stroke shortly before her entrance at the age of seventeen,” Mother Cecilia added.

Mother Cecilia said the nuns “were a little dismayed by the generally narrow repertoire of Hymns to St. Joseph, especially songs that mentioned his heart, so sought to remedy the situation!”

The community has sung the “Hymn to St. Joseph” every Wednesday since 2007. And “Blessed Be St. Joseph” is an “entirely new piece,” the chorus of which was inspired by the invitatory for the feast of St. Joseph. The song's verses “came from Fr. Olier's prayer quoted by St. Peter Julian Eymard in his Month of St. Joseph,” Mother Cecilia explained. “Fr. Olier had a profound influence on St. Louis Marie de Montfort, and it was really a delight to set such beautiful words to new music.”

Life in the community is marked by obedience, stability, and “continually turning” towards God. They have Mass daily according to the extraordinary form, and chant the psalms eight times a day from the 1962 Monastic Office.

The nuns also support themselves by producing made-to-order vestments, as well as greeting cards.

Though the community practices limited enclosure, their music albums have brought them international renown and popularity – they have been Billboard's Best-Selling Classical Traditional Artist several years in a row, and their albums have topped Billboard's Top Traditional Classical Albums.

Sales of The Hearts of Jesus, Mary & Joseph at Ephesus will support construction of the priory church, which was begun in May 2017, and is due to be completed in September.

“In two short years, we have been blessed to raise $4 million dollars in funding, but we still have about $2 million left to go,” Mother Cecilia said. “We have great confidence that St. Joseph, to whom we entrusted the entire project, will see it through to the end, inspiring souls to assist us in raising this last amount.”

California bishops: We must accompany those with mental illness

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 18:08

Sacramento, Calif., May 2, 2018 / 04:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50 is not car accidents or cancer, but drug overdoses.

Suicide is not far behind, as the second-leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults, and the tenth cause of death overall in the U.S. Researchers are now collectively calling suicide and overdose deaths “deaths of despair.”

Amid these sobering statistics, and at the beginning of national Mental Health Awareness Month, the Catholic bishops of California have issued Hope and Healing, a pastoral letter on caring for those who suffer from mental illness, calling Catholics to accompany them and to offer them Christian hope.

“Christ’s public life was a ministry of hope and healing. As Catholics, in imitation of our Lord, we are called to provide hope and healing to others,” they said.

“We profess that every human life is sacred, that all people are created in the image and likeness of God and, therefore, a person’s dignity and worth cannot be diminished by any condition, including mental illness.”

The bishops called the spike in mental illness, suicide, and drug overdoses a “heartbreaking” crisis, and urged Catholics to help end the social stigma for those seeking support and help in these areas of their lives.

“Persons with mental illness often suffer in silence, hidden and unrecognized by others,” the bishops said.

“We clearly proclaim that there is no shame in receiving a diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder. We affirm the need for education in our communities to remove the unjust prejudice and stigma often associated with mental illness,” they said.

Instead, all Catholics should use their unique gifts and talents to help alleviate these problems and to accompany those who suffer, the bishops noted, whether by providing friendship, spiritual support, or professional support if appropriate.

They also encouraged a “both-and” approach to the healing of mental illnesses that accounted for the whole human person – spiritually, physically, and psychologically.

“Some Christians harbor suspicions about psychiatry or clinical psychology and question their compatibility with the Catholic faith. Discernment is necessary since not all psychological approaches claiming to be ‘scientific’ are in fact supported by sound evidence,” they said.

“However, good science that recognizes the life and dignity of people and the Catholic faith are never at odds. Medical science has discovered many useful treatments to help those with mental illness, and Catholics should welcome and make use of these – including medications, psychotherapy and other medical interventions,” they added.

The bishops also emphasized that Catholics who experience mental illness or addiction should not feel like spiritual failures, and noted that “Indeed, men and women of strong moral character and heroic holiness – from Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill to St. Thèrése of Lisieux, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, St. Francis of Rome, and St. Josephine Bakhita – suffered from mental disorders or severe psychological wounds. As Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, who lost a family member to suicide, said: ‘your chemistry is not your character’ and ‘your illness is not your identity.’”

Several popes in recent years have spoken or written about the importance of caring for those with mental illness, including St. John Paul II, who said during a 2003 address about depression that it is important to “stretch out a hand to the sick, to make them perceive the tenderness of God, to integrate them into a community of faith and life in which they can feel accepted, understood, supported, respected; in a word, in which they can love and be loved.”

Pope Francis in 2013 said that God is in everyone’s life, “Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else – God is in this person’s life.”

Furthermore, Francis’ continual call to reach out to those on the “peripheries” include those who have experienced mental illness, the bishops noted.

“People who suffer from severe and persistent mental illnesses are among the most misunderstood, ignored, and unjustly stigmatized members of our society. For them, our communities and parishes should be places of refuge and healing, not places of rejection or judgment,” they said.

“Our apostolic work should always bring us to those who are on the peripheries of society. We must venture out to the margins, rather than waiting for the marginalized to come to us.”

While recognizing the difficulty and sensitivity of discussing issues such as mental illness and addiction, the bishops urged Catholics to show that they are not afraid to accompany those who suffer.

They also said that while suffering usually does not make sense, Catholics can look to Christ for hope and healing, because he, too, knew great suffering when he was on earth.

“...we know that God never allows us to suffer alone. We believe that in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, God descended to our level: He comes to meet us in our suffering, our illness and our affliction. We profess that God walked among us as one of us: In the person of Christ, he endured our human pain with us to the end. On the cross and in his agony, our Lord suffered not just our physical afflictions, but our mental anguish as well,” they said.

“Out of the depths we cry to him and he reaches down into these depths to raise us up. Christ’s kingdom has not yet reached its fullness, but we know in faith that it will at the end of time. On that day, all things will be made new.”

The bishop’s letter, in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, was posted to the website of the California Catholic Conference, along with a list of mental health resources and suicide hotlines available in California.

Catholic psychologists in your area can be found by searching at or at The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

The Hispanic Catholic population is growing. Here’s how the Church is learning to respond.

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 21:00

Denver, Colo., May 1, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In 2015, the average American Catholic was a middle-aged white woman married to a Catholic spouse, according to sociologists researching Catholic demographics.

But in a few years’ time, changing demographics mean that the average American Catholic is likely to be younger, less likely to be married, and will probably be more devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe than to Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Patrick of Ireland, or St. Bridget of Sweden

In 2016, the Hispanic population in the U.S. reached 58 million, comprising 18 percent of the population and the second-largest ethnic group behind whites. As the Hispanic population of the nation changes, the makeup of the Church will change too.

Hispanics made up about 40 percent of the Church in the United States in 2016, with especially large representation among youth and young adults: 50 percent of Catholics ages 14 to 29 are Hispanic; and 55 percent of Catholics under 14 are Hispanic. Though immigration rates from Hispanic countries have begun to slow in recent years, the percentage of Hispanic Catholics in the US is expected to continue growing during the next decade.

In response to these shifting demographics, the U.S. bishops have called for a meeting called the V Encuentro- Fifth Encounter- a national gathering of U.S. Hispanic leaders and ministers held in order to consult with Hispanic Catholics and respond to their pastoral needs. The first Encuentro was held in 1972, and the most recent was held in 2000, with a related youth meeting held in 2006.

According to a letter issued by the U.S. bishops’ conference, the V Encuentro is an opportunity “to listen with profound attention to the needs, challenges and aspirations that the growing Hispanic/Latino population faces in daily life. It especially prepares us as a Church to better recognize, embrace, and promote the many gifts and talents that the Hispanic community shares in the life and mission of the Church and in the society.”

Over the past several months, local and regional meetings have convened to prepare for the national V Encuentro (Fifth Encounter), to be held in Grapevine, Texas Sept. 20-23.

“The main objective (of Encuentro) is to find new ways of responding to the Hispanic and Latino presence in the Church, and for Hispanics and Latinos to better respond as missionary disciples in service to the entire Church,” Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, Assistant Director of Hispanic affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said in a video message produced by the bishops’ conference.

The themes of these meetings have centered on encountering the needs of Hispanic Catholics, and empowering them to become missionary disciples.

They have also particularly focused on reaching out to young Hispanics, especially second- and third- generation Hispanics who have inherited their parents’ Catholicism but have been immersed in the culture of the United States for their whole lives. An estimated 60 percent of Catholics under the age of 18 are Hispanic.

“That means that the Catholic Church in the U.S. really needs to invest in this population, because whatever happens with these young women and men will have an impact in the life of the church,” Dr. Hosffman Ospino, assistant professor at Boston College, said in the video message.

Many of the regional Encuentros took place in March and April, in preparation for the September gathering. Areas of pastoral concern raised at the gatherings included the evangelization of youth and young adults, faith formation for families, and immigration, among other concerns.

Delegates from numerous regional encuentros said they were optimistic about the national meeting following the regional gatherings.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis attended the regional gathering of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota in April.

“I was so impressed with the spirit of the people here and their enthusiasm, especially for ‘going out.’ …To see the enthusiasm and their fire for that is so encouraging,” Cozzens said, according to The Catholic Spirit.

Cozzens said that after the meeting he wanted to focus specifically on strengthening families, youth formation and evangelization. He encouraged attendees who have had an encounter with Jesus Christ to become missionaries to others.

“Sending out missionary disciples is not just changing the lives of others. It is changing our own lives, the lives of our fellow parishioners and also of the lives of the people we meet,” he said. “When we have these types of experiences, we feel that Christ is with us, and these moments are so important because we can experience exactly what the disciples experienced. We can be, in these important moments, prophets of hope that the world desperately needs.”

Abelardo Hernandez, a delegate from Rhode Island at the Northeast regional gathering in March, told Rhode Island Catholic that what struck him about the gather was “that everything flowed with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We could feel the love of God that manifested within us as we shared with brothers and sisters from different parishes in dialogues focused on continuing our evangelization.”

Fr. Michael Tobin of Kentucky said in an editorial for The Record that the regional gathering in Florida in March brought “forward the voices of the faithful. Our hard work to advise our bishops on what is flourishing in ministry and what is lagging will promote fresh action across the southeast and the entire country.”

Pope Francis also issued a video message for the national V Encuentro, and said he had been “impressed by the vitality and the diversity of the Catholic community,” in the United States that he witnessed during his 2015 visit to the U.S. for the World Meeting of Families.

“Throughout history the church in your country has welcomed and integrated new waves of immigrants...they have shaped the changing face of the American church,” he said.

Not only does V Encuentro seek to “acknowledge and value the specific gifts that Hispanics have offered and continue to offer to the church in your country”, he said, “it’s more than that. It’s part of a greater process of renewal and missionary outreach, one to which all of your local churches are called. Our great challenge is to create a culture of encounter which encourages individuals and groups to share the riches (of their culture).”

He assured Encuentro participants of his prayers for the meeting and commended the work to Mary Immaculate.

“I ask you to consider how your local churches can best respond to the growing presence, gifts and potential of the Hispanic community,” he said. He also prayed that the Encuentro would “bear fruit for the renewal of American society and for the Church’s apostolate in the United States.”



As Pittsburgh churches consolidate, bishop urges strong communities

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 18:43

Pittsburgh, Pa., May 1, 2018 / 04:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Diocese of Pittsburgh moves to condense its 188 parishes into 57 multi-parish groups, Bishop David Zubik hopes the new communities will become inspiring witnesses to the Catholic faith.

“The first and most important thing each of those groupings have to do is come together and form a single community to develop relationships with each other,” Bishop Zubik told CNA.

“We are doing this…for evangelization purposes to try and invite people who’ve left the Church to come back, to try and invite people who are in the Church to become more excited about our faith,” and possibly inspire non-Catholics to want to know more about Catholicism, he said.

The initiative, called “On Mission for the Church Alive!” began in April 2015 with a year of prayer for the whole diocese. Since the second year of the program, over 300 parish consolation meetings have been held and more than 30,000 religious, clergy and laity have participated.

The integration process will formally start in October of this year and will extend over the next two to five years. The 57 parish groups will consist of two to seven neighboring churches; no churches will be closed yet.

A clerical team, led by a pastor, will serve the needs of several parishes during the transition. The team will include parochial vicars, parish chaplains, and deacons, while retired priests will assist as they are able.

A temporary Mass and confession schedule will go into effect on October 15. The number of weekend Masses will depend on the number of priests assigned to that parish group, but each priest will not be able to exceed three Masses, as proscribed by canon law.

After relationships have been built between the different communities, the bishop will receive three suggestions for each parish’s new name and recommendations for the programs needed for the parish.  

Bishop Zubik emphasized to CNA his hope that this consolidation of communities will be an effective tool for evangelization, generating excitement within the Church and strengthening resources to be used for outreach programs.

“By consolidating the resources of parishes in a grouping, what we’ll do is make sure every parish has all of the programs that it needs to be a parish so every parish will have a religious education program, every parish will have some association with a Catholic school, every parish will have an organized program for reaching out to the poor,” he said.

Some of the parishes have already completed the process, Bishop Zubik said, pointing to four churches in south Pittsburgh that were merged to become Holy Apostle Parish in 2016. The churches had been struggling with finances and attendance, and one pastor was reassigned five years prior to lead the parish group.

The initial transition posed a struggle to the churches, the bishop said, but as parishioners came together and relationships where built, the community gladly agreed to become one parish.

“They are so excited now about being together that they are not so concerned about the things there were concerned about five years ago,” he said. “I think that that’s kind of my dream for what is going to happen in all of the 57 groupings.”

In an April 28 statement, Bishop Zubik recognized that the reorganization will be a difficult process. However, he challenged the whole diocese to keep the faith alive by refocusing on the theological virtues.

“No matter how the Church is structured, it is the responsibility of all the faithful – bishops and priests included – to make faith, hope and love remain alive in the world around us.”

More than the church’s structure or Mass times, Bishop Zubik emphasized the need to ground faith in an active relationship with Christ, to be motivated by hope, and to recognize the true nature of charity.

“It is a relationship first with Jesus and then with others that seeks to unite us as one. It cannot be a passive endeavor, but an active trust in God that grows deeper each day and is shared with others by a courageous, vibrant and authentic witness. Hope is what spurs us on in life,” he said.

“Love is rooted in the realization that we are all God’s children, created in his image and, as such, we all deserve to be treated with respect and compassion. It seeks to follow the will of God and reach out to others, neighbor and stranger alike.”


Commentary: St Joseph the Worker in the 21st century

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 05:01

Washington D.C., May 1, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA).- As the father of Alfie Evans fought to defend his son’s life, I could not help but think of St. Joseph fleeing the threat of King Herod’s tyranny with the Christ child in his arms.

“Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was,” wrote Leo XIII in 1889 in Quamquam pluries, an encyclical letter on devotion to St. Joseph. “He guarded from death the Child threatened by a monarch's jealousy, and found for Him a refuge.”

Leo XIII presented St. Joseph as a model at a time when the world and the Church were wrestling with the challenges posed by modernity at the turn of the century. A few years later, the pope went on to publish Rerum novarum, an encyclical on capital and labor which outlined principles to ensure the dignity of laborers.

St. Joseph is also an apt recourse for the unique troubles facing society in the 21st century.

For a modernity that sanctions euthanasia, we turn to St. Joseph, the patron of the dying.

As the modern workplace reckons with the fallout of the sexual revolution and the #MeToo movement, we can turn to the chaste leadership of St. Joseph the Worker.

Faced with the breakdown of the family in society, the head of the Holy Family models faithful fatherhood.

In what Pope Francis has called a “throwaway culture,” we have Joseph the artisan and craftsman.

As society condones abortion, St. Joseph stands guard over expectant mothers.

At a time when the number of refugees worldwide has hit record highs, St. Joseph, himself once a refugee, watches over immigrants.

In what Cardinal Sarah has called “the dictatorship of noise,” Joseph is a saint of humble silence.

The globalized 21st century needs St. Joseph, whom Bl. Pius IX named patron of the universal Church in 1870.

“If you want to be close to Christ, I repeat to you 'Ite ad Ioseph': Go to Joseph! ” said Ven. Pius XII in 1955 as he instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker to be celebrated on May 1.

The new feast was intentionally placed on the calendar to counter the communist May Day rallies, but this was not the first time the Church had presented St. Joseph’s example as an alternative path toward workers’ dignity.

In 1889, the International Socialist Conference instituted May 1 as a holiday for labor in remembrance of Chicago’s “Haymarket affair” labor protests.

In that same year, Leo XIII warned the poor against the false-promises of “seditious men”, calling them to turn instead to St. Joseph with a reminder that mother Church “each day takes an increasing compassion on their lot.”

According to the pontiff, the witness of St. Joseph’s life taught the rich “what are the goods most to be desired,” while the everyday workmen could claim St. Joseph’s recourse as their “special right, and his example is for their particular imitation.”

“It is, then, true that the condition of the lowly has nothing shameful in it, and the work of the labourer is not only not dishonouring, but can, if virtue be joined to it, be singularly ennobled,” wrote Leo XIII in Quamquam pluries.

In 1920, Benedict XV prayerfully offered St. Joseph as the “special guide” and “heavenly patron” of laborers “to keep them immune from the contagion of socialism, the bitter enemy of Christian principles.”

And, in the 1937 encyclical on atheistic communism, Divini Redemptoris, Pius XI placed “the vast campaign of the Church against world Communism under the standard of St. Joseph, her mighty Protector.”

“He belongs to the working-class, and he bore the burdens of poverty for himself and the Holy Family, whose tender and vigilant head he was. To him was entrusted the Divine Child when Herod loosed his assassins against Him,” Pope XI continued. “He won for himself the title of ‘The Just,’ serving thus as a living model of that Christian justice which should reign in social life.

Yet, despite the 20th century Church’s emphasis on St. Joseph the Worker, it cannot be emphasized enough that Joseph’s life was not defined by his work, but by his vocation to fatherhood.

“For Saint Joseph, life with Jesus was a continuous discovery of his own vocation as a father,” wrote Saint John Paul II in his book “Rise, Let Let Us Be On Our Way.”

He continued, “Jesus Himself, as a man, experienced the fatherhood of God through the father-son relationship with Saint Joseph. This filial encounter with Joseph then fed into Our Lord’s revelation of the paternal name of God. What a profound mystery!”

John Paul II saw firsthand communist attempts to separate the family unit and undermine parental authority in Poland. He said that he looked to St. Joseph’s fatherhood as a model for his own priestly fatherhood.

Alfie Evans’ father, Tom, wrote that he was “absolutely heartbroken” that his son had died on April 28. This father was denied his opportunity to seek refuge for his sick son in Italy at a Vatican-linked hospital by UK courts.

For fathers who face the same grief as Tom Evans, we can pray Leo XIII’s prayer to St. Joseph: “Aid us from on high, most valiant defender, in this conflict with the powers of darkness. And even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the peril of His life, so now defend God's Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity.”

Bishop Murry of Youngstown diagnosed with leukemia

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 18:07

Youngstown, Ohio, Apr 30, 2018 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio has been diagnosed with a form of acute leukemia, the diocese announced Monday.

“He was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic on Sunday, April 29, 2018.  He will undergo intensive chemo therapy for the next four weeks,” said a statement from the diocese.

The statement asked for prayers for the bishop, and said that periodic health updates will be released. At this time, doctors are not allowing visitors, the diocese said.

Bishop Murry currently serves as chair of the U.S. bishops’ new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, which was established last year.

The ad hoc committee’s work has included a press conference last fall at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the creation of resources for the Sept. 9 Feast Day of St. Peter Claver as an annual day of prayer for peace within communities.

The committee is also working to promote education, resources, communications strategies, and care for victims of racism. A pastoral letter from the committee is expected to be released later this year.

Murry also chairs the conference’s Committee on Catholic Education. In his statement for National Catholic Schools Week this year, he emphasized the role of Catholic schools in forming both the minds and hearts of students nationwide.

Bishop Murry was born in Camden, New Jersey, in 1948. He entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1972, and was ordained to the priesthood seven years later. Murry holds a M.Div. degree from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, California, and a Ph.D. in American Cultural History from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

He served in administrative roles in two Washington, D.C., high schools, as well as serving as a professor of American Studies at Georgetown University and as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Detroit-Mercy.

In 1995, Pope John Paul II appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. In 1998, the pope appointed him Coadjutor Bishop of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and on June 30, 1999, appointed him bishop of the diocese.

Bishop Murry has led the Youngstown diocese since 2007.

State Department removes 'reproductive rights' section from human rights report

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 17:32

Washington D.C., Apr 30, 2018 / 03:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. State Department has removed the term “reproductive rights” from its annual human rights report, drawing praise from pro-life leaders who say that the phrase had become a thinly veiled reference to abortion.  

“‘Reproductive rights’ has long been a euphemism for destroying human life in the womb,” said Lila Rose, founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action.

“A phrase that sounds like empowerment is a really only code for the subjugation of preborn children.”

The U.S. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 were released last week, and now feature statistics on “coercion in population control” instead of “reproductive rights.”

Michael G. Kozak, a senior official with the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said in a press briefing that the changes are “not a diminishment of women’s rights or a desire to get away from it,” but rather were done in order “to stop using a term that has several different meanings that are not all the ones we intend.”

Previously, the “reproductive rights” section of the report included information about the legality of abortion within a country as well as the availability of contraception. The “Reproductive Rights” section was first included under the Obama presidency in the report that was released in 2012.

The new “Coercion in Population Control” section is under a larger section of each country’s report, titled “Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons.” The new section appears under the subsection for “women” and features reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization procedures, and “other coercive population control methods.” There are also links to maternal mortality figures as well as the prevalence of contraceptives in a country.

In the report for China, for instance, there are several paragraphs highlighting instances of forced abortions and sterilizations. China current has a two-child policy that prohibits couples from having more than two children.

“As in prior years, population control policy continued to rely on social pressure, education, propaganda, and economic penalties, as well as on measures such as mandatory pregnancy examinations and, less frequently, coerced abortions and sterilizations,” reads the report.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told CNA that she thinks the State Department was correct in making this change, and that abortion is an “inappropriate indicator of human rights.”
“Likewise, it is making the right decision in recognizing the way abortion is used as a tool of coercion. The decision to do so further reflects the importance of having a pro-life administration such as this one,” said Hawkins.

The Trump Administration has drawn praise for several other pro-life policies over the last year. In his first days after taking office, Trump re-implemented the Mexico City Policy, which states that foreign non-governmental organizations may not receive federal funding if they perform or promote abortions as a method of family planning.
Additionally, Trump appointed pro-life Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

The president also addressed the 2018 March for Life in Washington, D.C. via a live video feed. The previous year, Vice President Mike Pence became the first sitting vice president to speak in person at the March for Life rally.



Commentary: Lessons from Monsignor Green

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 15:12

Denver, Colo., Apr 30, 2018 / 01:12 pm (CNA).- Monsignor Thomas Green, a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., died peacefully on Saturday morning. He was 79 years old.
Monsignor Green was the Stephen Kuttner Distinguished Professor of Canon Law at the Catholic University of America. Among canon lawyers, he was renowned as an expert in the Church’s penal law and processes, and he was among the general editors of the “New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law,” an invaluable resource for the study and practice of canon law. He served previously as editor of the The Jurist, the premier English-language journal of canonical scholarship.

In more than ten years of canonical practice, I regularly sought guidance from Green’s scholarship, as do nearly all canon lawyers involved in the Church’s administrative, procedural, or penal affairs.

Monsignor Green was also my teacher. I studied canon law at CUA from 2005-2007, and took several courses from him. His lectures were brilliant. His insights were unparalleled. His tests- always oral exams- were legendary. Green would invite students into his book-lined office, sink into a comfortable chair, and invite students to begin a “conversation” about the course material. The conversation would continue until the student, inevitably, found himself beyond his depth- no amount of studying could prepare students to keep pace with Green on the technical minutiae of the Church’s canon law. When he was satisfied with the conversation, Green would extend his hand, offer a kind word, and suggest some additional reading or further reflection.

He was a good teacher. He was also a good man. Monsignor Green was affable, warm, and charitable. He made himself available- he took my calls well after I had graduated, and was willing to spend time on the phone talking through a thorny canonical problem, until a path forward became clear. He took students’ ideas seriously, and engaged them with respect, and with openness to the idea that his own positions might change, or his own skills could be further sharpened, even with decades of scholarship and practice under his belt.  

But the most important lessons Msgr. Green taught me were not technical ones about canon law. They were lessons about the communion of Christ and his Church.

Green was ordained in 1963. He earned his doctorate from the Gregorian University in 1968. By style, by temperament, by intellectual disposition, even, he was a man of his time. It was rare to see him in ordinary clerical garb - he was more comfortable in a turtleneck, or wearing a corduroy or plaid blazer of some vintage. His gait reflected a kind of easygoing ethos that reminded me of Simon and Garfunkel’s folksy lyric: “feelin’ groovy.” And, more seriously, I sometimes disagreed with him about theological matters- about the meaning of the Second Vatican Council, or its place in the broad context of the Church’s doctrinal tradition and teaching.

But Monsignor Green loved Christ and his Church. He gave his life to its service. His scholarship reflected true faith seeking real understanding. He was not afraid to defend his positions, and his mastery of the sources made it difficult to win a debate. But he engaged in disagreement with civility and respect- in the spirit that fellow Christians should try, earnestly, to understand what the Lord had taught, and what the implications of that teaching might be.

Following the world’s lead, the Church has entered an era of untenable polarization. In that environment, disagreements are too often intensely personal and deeply vitriolic. Of course, that is not unprecedented in the Church’s life- but it is not the Lord’s will for us. What Christ desires for his Church is that we approach disagreements in fraternity, with humility, charity, and docility to the Holy Spirit.

A friend remarked today that Monsignor Green didn’t let his own ecclesiastical proclivities get in the way of a fair fight. That was the lesson for me. I began studies at CUA young, brash, and self-assured. I had a tendency to write-off those who didn’t come from my own “tribe”- to see a priest in a turtleneck instead of a cassock, and make judgments before giving his views a fair shake.

Tribalism is a problem in the Church, and Monsignor Green’s modus vivendi challenged me to overcome my own- to replace snap judgments with serious reflection and conversation on the teachings of the Church, and the meaning of the Gospel.

Monsignor Green didn’t convince me of all his theological viewpoints. But he taught me that disagreement didn’t make him my enemy. That seeking the truth, even when issues are thorny or contentious, is important. But that seeking the truth is worthwhile only when it’s done in love. That is the lesson of a true and holy teacher.

Join me in praying for Christian unity, and for the repose of the soul of Monsignor Thomas Green- a brilliant scholar, a great teacher, and a priest of Jesus Christ.


How graduates can thrive, according to one Catholic entrepreneur

Sun, 04/29/2018 - 18:14

Atlanta, Ga., Apr 29, 2018 / 04:14 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While colleges students may frequently find themselves offered worn-out adages on how to find success, a book by entrepreneur and philanthropist Frank J. Hanna goes beyond the clichés to help graduates focus on the things that really matter in life. 

Hanna, the CEO of Hanna Capital, is the author of "A Graduate's Guide to Life: Three Things They Don't Teach You in College That Could Make All the Difference."

In addition to his success as a merchant banker, Hanna is known for his philanthropy, particularly his commitment to Catholic education and evangelization. He is an EWTN board member. CNA is part of the EWTN family.

Amazon describes the book, released last year, by saying, “The college years are often referred to as the best years of your life. Author Frank J. Hanna believes your best years are still ahead of you, but only if you have a strategy for living that goes beyond what you learned in school.”

“According to Hanna, wealth and success are not what you think. Drawing on a lifetime of business experience, he proposes a radically different approach. He shows that wealth is not merely money, competition has a higher purpose than simply getting ahead, and a life of happiness is simpler to attain than we imagine.”

CNA interviewed Hanna about his book, his inspiration in writing it, and the advice he would offer college students today. The text of the interview is below:

You state in your book to young college students that “I want to change how you think about your future.” Why?

Unfortunately, we now live in a world of immediacy. This means that much of the advice we give to young people is catchy, and fits into a tweet or Facebook post, but at best it is often shallow, and at its worst, it is often wrong. Most college students have been filled with this kind of thinking for most of their lives, and so they are not thinking about their future in the manner most likely to lead to success.

You have a problem with the usual comment that college will be “the best years of your life”...

This is one of the clichés that happens to be bad advice. We want to encourage young people, as they head off to college; however, when we tell them that the next four years are going to be the best four years of their lives, we send two faulty messages. First, we imply that after college, the next fifty years are all downhill. And secondly, we put pressure on them while they are in college to try to live in a risky, extraordinary fashion – if these are the best four years of their lives, shouldn’t they be doing extraordinary things every day? This sort of adrenaline-seeking FOMO approach to life is not the way to happiness.

Why did you feel the need to describe human competition as opposed to animal competition?

All mammals compete for food, water, and mates. Humans do too. But if humans do not infuse their competition with love and prudence, they act like animals. If they compete like humans, they can bring out the best in one another.  

How are hope and meaningful community connected to wealth in life?

For many years, I have studied wealth in business, and happiness trends among really wealthy people. I found that the common denominator for wealth in business was hopefulness in the future, and I found that the common denominator for happiness among rich people was not how much money they had, but whether they had good relationships with others, and hopefulness about the future of those relationships. I dive into more of the background of this issue in the book, and how to develop these sources of wealth, but these are the factors that the data shows produce well-being, which is actually the essence of wealth.

Could you comment on the current education system and why it inspired you to write this book?

I think our current education system, especially higher education, does a pretty good job of transmitting information. College and high school graduates today have more information than their parents or grandparents had. However, our colleges sometimes mistake information for knowledge, and so students may not have as much knowledge as they ought. Moving even beyond knowledge, it is wisdom that leads to human flourishing. But because wisdom is so often tied to questions related to transcendence, many of our colleges not only fail to impart wisdom – some of them even deny its existence, for to acknowledge wisdom is to acknowledge truth, and in a culture of relativism, many do not want to, or are afraid to, acknowledge absolute truth.  


An earlier version of this article was published on CNA June 30, 2017.

Report finds dramatic increase in anti-Semitic harassment in the West

Sat, 04/28/2018 - 18:30

Washington D.C., Apr 28, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A drastic uptick in anti-Semitic harassment in the West has left many Jews feeling threatened, to the point where many have either fled their home countries or relocated within them, a new report finds.

The report, published by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, found a worldwide 9 percent decrease in violent anti-Semitic attacks from 2016 to 2017. However, this decrease coincided with a significant increase in harassment of Jews in the United States and many countries in Europe.

“A certain corrosion of Jewish communal life has been noticed, and Jews suspect that anti-Semitism has entered a new phase: expressions of classic traditional antisemitism are back, and for example, the term ‘Jew’ has become a swear word,” the researchers wrote, according to The Times of Israel.  

“(O)nce there are Jews who do not participate in Jewish traditional gatherings, or do not appear in the public sphere identified as Jews, the ability to live a full Jewish communal and individual life is jeopardized,” they added.

The increase in harassment has a committee of U.S. representatives calling for further study of and increased protections for the Jewish population in the United States.

“We are gravely concerned by the staggering increase in anti-Semitism across Europe,” the co-chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism for the U.S. House said in a statement. The co-chairs include Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Kay Granger (R-TX), and Marc Veasey (D-TX).

“It is inexcusable that Jews in Europe are living in fear of violence, harassment, and abuse in 2018 for no reason other than their faith. When widespread anti-Semitism goes unchecked in Europe, the results are heinous, sometimes even deadly, and we must redouble our efforts to reverse the trend of such bigotry,” they added.

In the United States, the Anti-Defamation League also reported an increase in overall anti-Semitic incidents - 1,267 in 2016 to 1,986 in 2017 - with a decrease in violent attacks from 36 to 19. They also reported a doubling of verbal abuse of Jews for the second year in a row in schools and on college campuses.

The report comes after a February survey of 1,350 American adults, by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, found that 41 percent of respondents and 66 percent of millennials could not identify Auschwitz as a concentration camp, leading to concerns about Holocaust education in the U.S.  

It also comes after U.S. President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December, after which there were numerous upticks in anti-Semitic activity, the Tel Aviv report noted.

In light of the Tel Aviv report, the U.S. House Task Force called on the Senate to pass H.R. 672, the Combating European Anti-Semitism Act, which would “require the State Department to document the security challenges of European Jewish communities, U.S. partnerships with European law enforcement agencies to counter anti-Semitism, and efforts by European governments to acknowledge, adopt and apply a working definition of anti-Semitism.”

They also urged the Administration to immediately appoint a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, and called on the U.S. House to pass H.R. 1911, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act, which would “strengthen and elevate the Special Envoy position.”

The Tel Aviv report attributed the decrease in worldwide violent anti-Semitic attacks to “Better security and intelligence, more protective measures, allocation of government budgets, less Jews with identifying signs on the street, the immigrants diverting right wingers’ attention.”

However, the necessity for increased protection has left many Jews feeling threatened, the report notes, “because the presence of security measures means that they are a necessity, and because it is overshadowed by the many verbal and visual expressions, some on the verge of violence, such as direct threats, harassments, insults, calls to attack Jews and even kill them en masse.”

Among the countries that have seen increases in anti-Semitic incidents are the United Kingdom, which saw a 3 percent increase; Australia, which saw a 9.5 percent increase; and Poland, which saw an overall increase in racist incidents, though their reporting office did not distinguish between anti-Semitic attacks from others.

Bucking the trend of a decrease in violence but an increase in other incidents were Germany and France. Germany saw an increase in all types of anti-Semitic incidents, while France saw an overall decrease in all incidents but an uptick in violent incidents over the last year.  

Also troubling, the report notes, is the “internal exodus” happening in France and Belgium, where tens of thousands of Jews are relocating in order to avoid anti-Semitism.

“In France and in Belgium it is hard to find a Jewish child in a public school, despite the heavy budgets that the governments in both countries have invested in security and educational programs,” the report noted.

The report said that a specific cause could not be clearly identified for the increase in anti-Semitic incidents, which occurred across political platforms and cultures, including “rightist anti-EU and anti-immigrant parties” as well as among left-leaning activists, and recent Muslim immigrants and refugees.