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This Catholic school made $24 million by investing in Snapchat

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 08:06

Mountain View, Calif., Mar 8, 2017 / 06:06 am (Church Pop).- St. Francis Catholic High School in Mountain View, California recently revealed that it invested just $15,000 in a very early seed round of funding for Snapchat (now known as Snap) back in 2012.

Snap just went public with an IPO, and the school sold some of their shares for a whopping $24 million.

They only sold two-thirds of their shares, saving one-third in hopes that the share price will continue to rise.

The school president said the money would be used to carry out their strategic plan, which includes expanding financial aid and growing their science and technology programs.

So why was the school investing in Snapchat in the first place? The school has a special growth fund that they’ve used to make investments since the 1990s as a way of generating additional income. In 2012, a father of two girls at the school who ran a venture capital firm recommended the school make the investment in the fledgling start-up.

 

This article originally appeared on ChurchPop.com. Not for redistribution.

This fleet of food trucks serves up respect for Austin's homeless

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 04:50

Austin, Texas, Mar 7, 2017 / 02:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Austin, Texas, like any hipster city worth its organic, non-GMO salt, is known for its food trucks.

There are about 1,000 food trucks that roam the streets of the Texas capital, offering barbecue, breakfast tacos, and gourmet grilled cheese to the masses of Pabst Blue Ribbon-swilling millennials who have recently flocked to the city.

But among them, and before them, there was Alan Graham and Mobile Loaves and Fishes.

Mobile Loaves and Fishes is a Christian non-profit founded by Graham and five other men that delivers about 1,200 meals and essentials from 12 food trucks to homeless people on the streets of Austin every night.

The ministry also recently started a village called Community First!, a place where the formerly homeless, volunteers and those desiring a simpler life live together in a village of tiny homes and recreational vehicles in what Graham calls “an RV park on steroids.”

In his newly released book Welcome Homeless, Graham recalls the story and the people behind his ministries, in his raw, straight-shooting, and often humorous voice.    

In October 1996, Graham, a convert to Catholicism, had gone tentatively on a men’s retreat. At first, he was counting down the hours until the “hugs and hand-holding” were over. The retreat was too emotional for his then-very intellectual faith.

But by the end, he experienced a profound change of heart and adopted a philosophy of “just say yes.”

Several yesses and a couple of years later, Graham and his wife, Tricia, found themselves having coffee with a friend who was telling them about an initiative in Corpus Christi, Texas, where multiple churches would pool their resources to provide food for the homeless on cold winter nights.

An entrepreneur at heart, Graham immediately envisioned a catering truck that could deliver meals to the homeless (this was before the food truck boom; at the time ,Graham called them “roach coaches”).

“I woke up the next morning knowing we could franchise it, and bring it to every church, every city, and every state to feed the homeless,” he recalls in his book. “This is how entrepreneurs think: one truck becomes a thousand.”

Through his church group, he recruited six more men to join him and invest in a food truck for the homeless (they started calling themselves “The Six Pack”). One of these men turned out to be an especially key player: Houston Flake.  

Socks and popsicles

Houston, who met Graham through the men’s group at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, was poorly educated and illiterate, but understood the Gospel like no one Graham had ever met.

Houston had experienced chronic homelessness throughout his life, and became a key tour guide for Graham and his crew, who were “clueless” about life on the streets as they began their ministry.

During one meeting, the group had discussed how great it would be if they could get phone cards (pre-cellphone times) to hand out to the homeless whom they would meet.

“Houston looked at us and said, ‘That is the dumbest idea on the face of the planet. They don’t need phone cards. No one wants to talk to them. They don’t want to talk to anybody. You need to put socks on that truck,’” Graham recalled.

To this day, socks are the most desired item on the trucks.

Houston also took Graham out to his “conference room” - to meet some of the homeless who were his friends. It changed Graham’s whole perspective on the population he was about to serve.

Not long after Mobile Loaves and Fishes began, Houston was diagnosed with bladder cancer and given mere weeks to live.

For his dying wish, Houston didn’t want to travel or eat a fancy steak dinner – he wanted to deliver 400 popsicles to homeless children on a hot summer day, a treat those kids rarely experienced.

“He wanted them to choose: Pink? Red? Blue? Purple? Green? He wanted to give that which they did not need but might want. He wanted to give them abundance in fruity, tasty, frozen form,” Graham wrote.  

That philosophy carried over to the food trucks. The people they serve are given options - PB&J, ham and cheese, tacos? Milk, coffee, orange juice? Oranges or apples? It’s a shift from the scarcity mentality found in soup kitchens founded in the Great Depression, to an abundance mentality that is possible in the most abundant country in the world, Graham explained. They are “the little bitty choices that people who live a life in extreme poverty don’t get to make often.”

The solution to homelessness is not just housing

Since the first truck run, the ministry quickly grew. Hungry people would chase down the food trucks as they saw them making their way through the streets of Austin.

The ministry has now expanded to the cities of San Antonio, Texas; Providence, Rhode Island; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. To date, Mobile Loaves & Fishes has served over 4 million meals, and with more than 18,000 volunteers, it is the largest prepared feeding program to the homeless and working poor in Austin.

But it didn’t stop there. A little over 5 years into the ministry, Graham envisioned an “RV park on steroids”, with the philosophy of “housing first”, which holds that the homeless need housing before they can solve any of their other problems.

However, Graham knew that mere houses were not enough. What these people need and desire, like everyone, is to be known and loved – they needed community. He envisioned a place where people lived life together, knew and cared for each other, sharing kitchens and gardens and conversation.

“It developed from this idea back in 2004, where we went out and bought a gently used RV and lifted one guy off the streets into a privately owned RV park,” he said.

Because of zoning laws and other issues, it took awhile to get the idea off the ground, but the Community First! Village project was finally able to break ground in 2014.

Today, 110 people, most of them formerly homeless, call the village home. Soon, there will be enough housing for 250 people. There are brightly colored tiny homes that would give HG-TV a run for their money, as well as recreational vehicles and “canvas-sided” homes (sturdy tents with concrete foundations).

The homes provide the basics – they are essentially bedrooms – while everything else is communal. There is a communal kitchen and garden and bonfire, and places everywhere to sit and have a conversation.

 

  Our @mobileloaves_genesisgardens chicken coop was definitely a top destination for everyone visiting #CommunityFirstVillage today. We loved having y'all out here, and the chickens definitely loved all the attention! ???? #divas

A post shared by Mobile Loaves & Fishes (@mobileloaves) on Apr 2, 2016 at 2:21pm PDT

 

“It’s all centered on Genesis 2:15,” Graham said. “Just after God created the Garden of Eden, he took the man, and centered him in the garden to cultivate and care for it. And so the foundation for our entire philosophy of the community is centered on God’s original plan for us, to be settled, to be at peace with each other, to live in community, to be cultivating with the gifts that he has given us, and to serve him by caring for each other.”

What needs to change

The solution to homelessness, Graham said, is not going to be found in new government policies or agencies, but rather in Christians and other people who choose to take care of each other.

“I believe it’s like the old African adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’” Graham said. “We have to step in, the village should step in and care for its own. What we’re doing right now is abdicating that responsibility to our government, which … tries to resolve this issue transactionally, but I believe it’s a relationship issue. Our Kingdom desire is to be wanted by each other, not ‘if you buy me a house I’m going to be happy.’ That’s not where our happiness comes from.”

One of the foundational goals of the ministry is to change the stereotypes that people have about the homeless, so that they are seen as brothers and sisters rather than as other, Graham added.

He recommended that anyone who wants to help the homeless start building relationships with them –  say hello, ask their name, shake their hand, give them a sandwich or a gift card to Chick-fil-A. And then find an organization to volunteer with in your city.

“There’s a giant stereotype around the homeless, and we’re very good as Americans at stereotyping, and so the homeless population (is projected) to be drug addicts, mentally ill, criminals; they’re usually depicted as unkempt or that they don’t pay attention to hygiene, so we develop these preconceived notions that won’t even allow us to roll down our windows anymore to say ‘Hello’ or ‘God Bless,’” he said.

“Those things just aren't true,” Graham said.

“We have five major corporate goals, and goal number one is to transform the paradigm of how people view the stereotype of the homeless. When we change that paradigm, it changes our culture so as to be able to go and love on our brothers and sisters.”

That’s one of his hopes for the book, and the reason he made sure to tell the stories of so many homeless men and women who have directly touched his life.

“What we want to do is spread the kingdom message of a better way to love on our neighbors, so I’m hoping the book will go broad and deep, and people will be inspired to go out there and begin doing what it is that we’re doing, that’s what I hope.”

Because “what’s happening here in Austin, Texas is nothing short of a miracle.”



Minnesota diocese, facing abuse lawsuits, files for bankruptcy

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 02:02

Minneapolis, Minn., Mar 7, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Facing over one hundred lawsuits concerning sex abuse claims dating back to the 1950s, the Diocese of New Ulm has filed for bankruptcy and plans a reorganization.

“I have come to the conclusion that financial reorganization is the fairest way to compensate victims and survivors of sexual abuse while continuing the good work of the Church in our communities,” Bishop John LeVoir of New Ulm said March 3.

“Filing for financial reorganization is not an effort to avoid responsibility. But rather, it is the only way the diocese can assure that available assets are fairly utilized to resolve all the pending sexual abuse claims against it,” the bishop said.

“If we were to resolve the cases on a piecemeal basis, available diocesan assets could be exhausted in the first few cases, leaving nothing for the remaining claimants.”

There are a total of 101 lawsuits against the New Ulm diocese and some of its 75 parishes. The diocese, located in south-central Minnesota, serves about 60,000 Catholics.

Most of the lawsuits concern incidents that allegedly took place from the 1950s through the 1970s. The suits were filed under a Minnesota law that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for cases of sexual abuse of children. The diocese said no priests accused of abuse are presently in public ministry.

Bishop LeVoir acknowledged concerns about the reorganization. He said parishes, schools and other Catholic organizations are not part of the reorganization.

The bishop described the reorganization as “a step towards the future... a future that I pray brings healing for victims and survivors as well as renewed hope for parishioners and our communities.”

He again voiced his “deepest apologies” to those sexually abused by clergy.

“It takes great courage to come forward to share your experiences. You deserve not only our compassion but also fair compensation to help you in your healing,” Bishop LeVoir said.

He added that abuse victims are in the diocese’s daily prayers.

The bishop cited “great strides” in efforts to provide safe environment for children, noting the diocese’s training for young people, volunteers and employees.

“We must remain faithful to Jesus Christ and diligent in this work, so that this tragic chapter in our Church’s history is never repeated,” he said. “Guided by our faith in the Lord, let us move forward together as a church family, never forgetting the past but always hopeful for the future.”

He prayed that God’s grace may bring “hope, healing and peace.”

The New Ulm diocese is the third in Minnesota to file for bankruptcy. Fourteen U.S. dioceses have declared bankruptcy, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.

Minnesota is one of four states to approve a temporary legal window to allow the filing of historic sex abuse claims.

Don't shut US doors to refugees, bishops plead

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 17:50

Washington D.C., Mar 6, 2017 / 03:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With people fleeing humanitarian crises around the world, President Donald Trump’s new executive order halting refugee admissions is wrong, Catholic bishop and aid groups maintain.

“We remain deeply troubled by the human consequences of the revised executive order on refugee admissions and the travel ban. While we note the Administration's efforts to modify the Executive Order in light of various legal concerns, the revised Order still leaves many innocent lives at risk,” Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin stated March 6. Bishop Vasquez chairs the U.S. bishops' committee on migration.

“The U.S. Catholic Bishops have long recognized the importance of ensuring public safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to accomplish that goal,” he said.

“However, based on the knowledge that refugees are already subjected to the most vigorous vetting process of anyone who enters the United States, there is no merit to pausing the refugee resettlement program while considering further improvement to that vetting process.”

Bill O’Keefe, vice president for advocacy and government relations at Catholic Relief Services, said that “with the most refugees in the world since World War II, now is not the time for the world’s leader in refugee resettlement to back down.”

Trump issued a revised executive order on immigration and refugee admissions on Monday, revoking his old order that was blocked by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A 120-day ban on all refugee admissions remains in the revised executive order, and Trump capped the total number of refugee admissions at 50,000 for fiscal year 2017. In contrast, the Obama administration accepted 85,000 refugees in FY 2016, including more than 12,000 from Syria.

35,000 refugees have already been accepted this fiscal year, O’Keefe noted, which means that under the new policy very few refugees will be accepted from March through September.

“Resettling only 50,000 refugees a year, down from 110,000, does not reflect the need, our compassion, and our capacity as a nation,” Bishop Vasquez stated. “We have the ability to continue to assist the most vulnerable among us without sacrificing our values as Americans or the safety and security of our nation.”

There are several humanitarian crises around the world, O'Keefe said. The Syrian civil war, raging since 2011, has already displaced over 11 million and created almost 5 million refugees, but there are also large conflicts in Iraq, Nigeria, and Ukraine. Four famines in Africa and the Middle East are also worsening, he said.

With all this, “the U.S. needs to be increasing our humanitarian assistance and helping people where they are, as well as taking more of the most vulnerable people who are fleeing violence as refugees, and we can safely take.”

Although the order says that the 120-day ban on refugee resettlement gives the administration time to review the security of the program, the process is already secure, O’Keefe insisted.

“Refugees, though, are already subjected to extreme vetting to get here,” he said, adding that the process often takes at least two years and involves the work of 13 federal agencies.

The indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, featured in the first executive order, is not in the new one. Neither is the prioritization for refugee admissions for those of minority religions who suffer religious persecution.

O’Keefe praised the omission of both policies.

“Being a Syrian doesn’t predispose one to any of the things that our vetting system would look out for,” he said of there being no indefinite ban on Syrian refugee resettlement.

Also, religious-based persecution is already one of five criteria of vulnerability for those refugees who are being vetted for admission to the U.S., he noted, adding that some “local church leaders” have said that a special designation “wouldn’t be helpful” and “actually exposes them to greater danger.”

However, some have been pushing for a special refugee status for persecuted religious minorities, especially those in Syria.

Persecuted Christian minorities, including genocide victims, must have a “fair outcome” when looking to resettle elsewhere, Andrew Walther, vice president of communications and strategic planning at the Knights of Columbus, explained to CNA.

“As part of the review of the refugee admissions procedure, the UNHCR referral process for refugees should be closely scrutinized, and the serious inequities in the number of Syrian refugees admitted from communities targeted for genocide should be rectified,” he said. Refugees must first register with the UNHCR to be eligible for resettlement.

Yet although Christians make up only a small percentage of the Syrian population, the percentage of Christian refugees from Syria who are resettled in the U.S. is even smaller, Walther noted.

“The Obama administration policy was to prioritize these groups, but despite this they remain severely underrepresented in U.S. refugee admissions, so it’s clear that a fair outcome is even more important than a stated priority,” he said.

Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan of Antioch has warned that Christians hoping to be resettled in the U.S. or Canada have never even had the chance.

“I personally heard on several occasions  from  many of our Christian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, that their applications for refugee visas, either to the USA or Canada,  are without any response, if not refused by the consulates of the USA and Canada,” he stated.

Elsewhere in the executive order, a ban on entry by most foreign nationals into the U.S. from six countries is still in effect. The countries are Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan, while Iraq, which was formerly on the list, is now omitted.

Exceptions to the visa ban include refugees already admitted to the U.S., lawful permanent residents, those who received visas before 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 27 – the date of the original executive order – and those travelling on diplomatic visas.

Yemen and Somalia have “developing famines” and their own conflicts, so “it strikes us as cruel, actually, to restrict the number of people who can come,” O’Keefe said.

Catholic Charities, USA, whose affiliates partner with the government to help resettle refugees in the U.S., spoke out strongly against the temporary refugee ban.

“At the heart of the work of Catholic Charities is the Gospel mandate to welcome the stranger and care for the most vulnerable among us,” Sister Donna Markham O.P., president of Catholic Charities, USA, stated on Monday.

“Today’s executive order not only hinders that work, but also effectively abandons, for four months, the thousands of endangered refugees fleeing violence, starvation and persecution,” she said.

The group “is leading an ambitious $8 million campaign to support the work of local Catholic Charities agencies in caring for refugees.”

Thousands pray for 13-year-old struck by falling tree in California

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 17:39

Orange, Calif., Mar 6, 2017 / 03:39 pm (National Catholic Register).- On Friday, Feb. 17, a rainstorm was raging in Orange County, California. During a lull in the storm, at around 5:00 p.m., Teresa Johnston left to walk an elderly neighbor’s dog.

“She was always like that—making or doing things for our neighbors. She would pick flowers from one neighbor’s garden, and she would give them to another neighbor who was sad, had a trauma, or was sick. That’s why they called Teresa the ‘neighborhood’s sunshine,’” said Teresa’s father, Dr. Roch Johnston, D.C.

When Teresa failed to return home around an hour later, her parents, Roch and Vera, became worried. “She was always like clockwork: leave our house, go to the neighbors, walk the dog for 30 minutes, and be back 40 minutes after she left our house,” says Roch.

After calling the owner of the dog that she was supposed to have been walking, the Johnstons learned that their daughter had never arrived to get the dog. “That’s when our radars went up. Our first concern was that she had been abducted,” he says.

Frantically, the Johnstons searched their neighborhood for Teresa. “One of my sons and I ran through all of the different paths and trails where she walks, and we climbed over the very tree that struck her,” says the father of seven.



Transported to the Hospital

What the Johnstons hadn’t known was that their daughter was already at the hospital. Teresa had walked only a few minutes away from their home when the 60-foot tree struck her.  According to a Los Angeles Times article, a neighbor, who had heard the tree fall, came to Teresa’s rescue. While waiting in the rain for emergency response to arrive, the neighbor covered the unconscious girl with a blanket and held an umbrella over her. Firefighters removed Teresa from the scene without having to dig her out or to move any tree branches. Teresa was being transported to the hospital before her family even had an inkling that anything was wrong.

Unsettling Diagnosis

During their hunt for Teresa, Roch flagged down a policeman, who quickly verified that Teresa had been found, but he didn’t tell the Johnstons about the condition of their daughter. “We saw her in the emergency room just before they transferred her to CCU,” he recalls. “I felt faint when I saw her, and when they read the diagnosis, I almost passed out.”

The Johnstons learned that Teresa suffered multiple cranial facial fractures. On their YouCaring page, Misha Johnston, Teresa’s older sister, writes, “The base of her ocular orbit is fractured with possible damage to the optic nerve. There are fractures of her maxillary bone, her zygomatic arch, her mandible, her hard pallet, her clavicle, and possible compressions of her T6, T7, and T8. Also, there is intracranial bleeding in her right frontal lobe and right occipital lobe.”

The outlook looked bleak for Teresa, and she appeared to be declining because of swelling on her brain. The Monday after the accident, doctors took Teresa off the medical coma drugs, so she could undergo a five-hour surgery, which involved removing part of her skull to alleviate intracranial pressure due to excess blood. During the operation, doctors feared that she might have had a stroke—if this was the case, then it was likely that Teresa would never wake up from her deep comatose state.

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

Most of us have stories proving how God has protected us in our moment of need, so it can be easy to think that prayer will keep us immune from accidents and tragedies. Fr. Alan Benander, O. Praem, Dean of St. Michael’s Prep in Silverado, California, has kept many vigil hours at Teresa’s bedside. Her parents are Third Order Norbertines, so they are particularly close to Norbertine community of St. Michael’s. He told NCR, “Prayer does not make us immune from accidents and tragedies simply because sometimes it is not part of the Will of God that we avoid a given evil. God allows such evils to occur to us in order to bring about a greater good (e.g., the salvation of more souls).”

Fr. Benander continues, “Thus, for example, Our Lord Himself […] asked that the 'chalice of suffering' be removed from Him (though adding, importantly, 'not my will, but Thine be done'). However, this chalice was not removed simply because that was not part of the Divine Will; the Divine Will allowed Christ to suffer in order that a greater good might be obtained, namely, the eventual glorification of Christ, in his Sacred Humanity, in the Resurrection and Ascension, and the redemption of the entire human race.”

Tragedy Becomes Catalyst for Conversions

Within hours after Teresa’s injury, thousands of people all over the of the world—including in Australia, Norway, France, England, Scotland, Czech Republic, Israel, Jordan and Brazil—began praying for the young girl, who is known for her smile and generosity. As messages started pouring in, the Johnstons learned that their daughter’s accident has been the catalyst for conversions. “I have family members who were away from the church for years and have gone to confession. One of my daughter’s teachers sent me a letter saying she had stopped praying because she felt separated from God. Now she’s back praying on her knees for Teresa.”

He continues, “Another lady told us that she got on her knees immediately and started praying for our daughter. She thought of another friend that has cancer and then another friend. Teresa’s accident is causing people to pray for others not just our daughter.”

The consistent presence of the Norbertine Fathers at the hospital has also impacted strangers. “Not only has Teresa been able to receive the graces of priestly blessings and the Sacraments, but, also, other persons, both Catholic and non-Catholic (i.e., other patients, visitors, even hospital staff and media), have had opportunity to receive the Sacraments, blessings, and prayers from us priests, and simply an opportunity to talk to a priest about God and the Catholic Faith,” Fr. Benander explains.

Because the Norbertine priests were there visiting Teresa, they had the opportunity to administer the last Sacraments to dying people in the hospital and console their families. “All these graces have been given to souls there precisely because of the situation involving Teresa,” Fr. Benander says.  

Teresa’s mother, Vera Johnston, writes on their YouCaring page, “There have been so many visible touches from above with His grace that bring us peace and consolation through this all. Our little queen is enthroned in the hospital bed, and God is using her now to shower His graces upon us all.”

Asking for the Intercession of Blessed James Kern

The family is asking that people pray for the intercession of Bl. James Kern, so that Teresa may have a complete healing. “At first, I didn’t want to leave anyone out, I wanted to pray to all of the saints for their intercession, but one of the Norbertine priests said that’s the wrong way to think about it. Whenever you pray for the intercession of any particular saint, all of the saints join in especially when this could be a miracle that could raise the canonization process,” Roch explains.

Bl. James Francis Kern (1897-1924) entered the Norbertine Order because he wanted to be a victim soul and to make reparation for a schism.

In 1916, while serving in the Army during World War I, he received a bullet wound in his lung that doctors thought would be fatal. He surprised them by living. Though he was still unwell, he went on to join the seminary of the Archdiocese of Vienna. “About this time, a sad event occurred in the Czech Republic. A group of Catholics separated themselves from Rome and founded the schismatic Czech National Church. Isidore Bogdan Zahradnik, a Norbertine canon of Strahov and a doctor of philosophy, also fell away and became a leader of the schism. […] James was deeply shocked by all this and decided to offer himself in atonement for Isidore,” according to Premontre.org, a Norbertine website.

In 1924, Fr. James Kern ultimately died due to his war injuries. On June 21, 1998, he was beatified by Pope John Paul. He only needs one more miracle to further his cause for canonization.

Eyes Open

As the Johnstons, and tens of thousands of other people, continue to invoke Bl. James Kern, Teresa's condition has taken a turn for the better.

As of February 27th, Teresa’s sister Misha writes, “Teresa opened her eyes today—she is waking up!  And she was moving her legs and arms around a bit (and getting annoyed at the nurse shining lights in her eyes, hitting the flashlight away with her hand)! I spoke to her a bit (telling her the whole world loves her and is praying for her), not sure if she understood any of that, but she is waking up!  Thanks be to God!”

To help pay for Teresa’s medical expenses, visit her YouCaring page. As of Feb. 28, 1,154 donors have donated more than $95,000. 

 

This article was originally published by the National Catholic Register.

Supreme Court sends transgender student case back to lower court

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 12:43

Washington D.C., Mar 6, 2017 / 10:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Supreme Court will not hear the case of a transgender student’s demand to access public school single-sex bathrooms, instead sending it back to the lower courts for reconsideration.

Announced Monday, the decision to send the case back to a lower court was based on the Trump administration’s recent announcement that it was withdrawing the Obama-era guidance which had stated that students should have access to the facilities of their self-perceived gender identification.

“The first duty of school districts is to protect the bodily privacy rights of all of the students who attend their schools and to respect the rights of parents who understandably don’t want their children exposed in intimate changing areas like locker rooms and showers,” Kerri Kupec, legal counsel for the group Alliance Defending Freedom, stated in response to the Court’s decision.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled last April that Gavin Grimm, a transgender student in Virginia’s Gloucester County School District, must be allowed access to public school single-sex male facilities. Grimm was born a girl but currently identifies as a boy, receiving hormone therapy and a name change.

The school district board had decided to allow Gavin access to a unisex bathroom facility at school, after proposing that students in the district had to use locker room and restroom facilities according to their birth gender.  

Grimm’s lawyers rejected this policy, saying it would “make him feel even more stigmatized” and that “being required to use separate restrooms sets him apart from his peers, and serves as a daily reminder that the school views him as ‘different.’”

The case was about how transgender persons can “participate in public life” through access to public facilities, Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project, stated in a Feb. 23 conference call with reporters.

Grimm asked for an injunction on the policy, but that was denied by a district court. The Fourth Circuit overruled that decision and sent it back to the lower court, which eventually ruled in Grimm’s favor. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed in October to hear the case.

The Obama administration last year stated that public schools should allow transgender students access to single-sex facilities – like locker rooms and restrooms – of their current gender identity.

However, after a federal court ruled against this guidance, the administration of President Donald Trump refused to challenge that decision, and eventually withdrew the guidance. Based on this action, the Supreme Court sent Grimm’s case back to the Fourth Circuit for reconsideration.

“The Fourth Circuit Court, which will now rehear the case, should allow local schools to find solutions that benefit everyone's safety and privacy,” said Ryan Anderson, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Kupec praised the Trump administration for rejecting “the faulty directive.”

Furthermore, she added, federal Title IX law doesn’t mandate such access to single-sex facilities for transgender students, as the Fourth Circuit had previously decided. Rather, it “protects boys’ and girls’ privacy in locker rooms, showers, and restrooms.”

“School officials should be free to protect their students’ privacy, safety, and dignity without federal government interference,” she said.

 

Trump pushes education choices in visit to Florida Catholic school

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 18:26

Orlando, Fla., Mar 3, 2017 / 04:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- President Donald Trump visited a Florida Catholic school on Friday, praising the Catholic education system and touting his support for school choice programs.

“You understand how much your students benefit from full education, one that enriches both the mind and the soul. That’s a good combination,” the president told Bishop John Noonan of Orlando at St. Andrew Catholic School March 3.

He toured the pre-K-8th grade school, located in Orlando’s Pine Hills neighborhood, and spoke with students, who presented him with two cards. He visited a fourth grade class, the Associated Press reports.

President Trump responded to a girl who told him she wanted to own her own business, saying she’s “gonna make a lot of money. But don't run for politics.”

His tour was followed by public comments attended by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Florida Gov. Rick Scott, various Catholic school officials and Bishop Noonan.

There, President Trump reflected on the contributions of Catholic education.

“St. Andrew’s Catholic school represents one of the many parochial schools dedicated to the education of some of our nation’s most disadvantaged children, but they’re becoming just the opposite very rapidly through education and with the help of the school choice programs,” he said.

He praised the school principal, Latrina Peters-Gipson, for her work, saying, “The love of what you do is really fantastic.”

The visit marked the president’s first official trip to a school since he took office. According to the Washington Post, about 300 of the school’s 350 students are beneficiaries of a Florida tax credit program that funds scholarships for families with limited resources.

Henry Fortier, superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Orlando, said the visit was an “exciting opportunity to share the good news and the work that we do.” He said school choice has also been an important part of his career in previous administrative roles in the archdioceses of New York and Baltimore.

“I know that there’s a lot of controversy about school choice for parents and lots of people have different opinions, but I see it as a partnership,” Fortier said. “It’s not a situation of us versus them, it’s a situation of us providing opportunities to our parents so that they have the right to choose an education that is appropriate for their children.”

“It shouldn’t be for just the wealthy that can afford it,” he said, lamenting that many working class families do not have the opportunity to choose the education for their children.

Fortier said the diocese’s schools work closely with their public school counterparts.

He said 25 percent of students in the Diocese of Orlando are in the state of Florida’s Step Up tax credit scholarship program. Of those 25 percent, 727 graduated in 2016, a graduation rate of 100 percent with a 99 percent placement in college or the military.

The superintendent touted the schools’ higher-than-average school scores on college entrance exams and student tests.

President Trump, repeating a campaign phrase, said education is “the civil rights issue of our time.”

“It’s why I’ve asked Congress to support a school choice bill. We’ve come a long way, I think. We’re ahead of schedule in so many ways when it comes to education.”

He predicted schools like St. Andrew would have “a fantastic relationship” with the Secretary of Education that would create “a lot of good things for your school and for the entire system.”

Bishop Noonan prayed for the president, his family, and everyone present.

“We pray for this day in dialogue that we may share the good news, and the future of our students,” he said.

President Trump thanked the bishop for his “uplifting prayer” and praised the bishop’s support for schools like St. Andrews.

The president’s visit drew criticism from some public school advocates like Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who characterized the president’s visit as a continuation of an “ideological crusade.”

Weingarten said that many voucher programs do not improve students’ academic outcomes and are not transparent in their spending and teaching policies.

Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor at The Catholic Association, said the president’s visit was appropriate given Catholic schools’ “record of success.” She said Catholic high school students are twice as likely as public school students to graduate college and their high school education is half the cost as public schools.

According to Ferguson, Catholic high schools in inner cities have a 99 percent graduation rate.

 

Catholic chapel in NJ shopping mall closes its doors

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 08:36

Paterson, N.J., Mar 3, 2017 / 06:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic chapel that has served a New Jersey shopping mall since 1970 has scheduled its final Mass.

St. Therese’s Chapel at the Bergen Town Center in Paramus, N.J. was set to close on Ash Wednesday. The chapel, also called the Chapel on the Mall, was run by Carmelite priests.

Father Eugene Joseph Bettinger, 70, served as the chapel’s executive director, the New York Times reports.

“It will be a Lent of the hunting,” he told his congregation during Mass. “After Ash Wednesday, it will be quite the desert experience for us.”

The chapel drew close to 1,000 people each week for its Masses, held three times a day Monday through Saturday. At times, people would go to the chapel in groups to say the rosary or to pray silently.

The chapel, its offices, and its gift shop took up 5,000 square feet. Ten years ago it moved from a cramped location in the mall basement on condition that its lease would go month-to-month.

The mall’s management recently decided to end the lease.

Parishioners are hoping to find a better space. Fr. Bettinger said new locations have been scouted, but cost may be prohibitive. A new monthly lease could cost as much as $10,000, compared to the $2,000 the chapel had been paying.

A new location would also disrupt the community that has built up at the chapel.

Susan Munroe, a 56-year-old consecrated virgin, has volunteered at the chapel for several years. She told the New York Times the chapel has shown “prayerfulness” and has built community.

One chapel regular, 83-year-old Mary Rogers, had been coming for decades. She is hoping for a new location soon.

“We’re praying to St. Therese, the patron saint,” she said. “My days just don’t go as well if I don’t go to Mass.”

The Carmelites also run a chapel in a mall in Peabody, Mass.

 

 

What's the point of fasting, anyway?

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 05:02

Washington D.C., Mar 3, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- God commanded it, Jesus practiced it, Church Fathers have preached the importance of it – fasting is a powerful and fundamental part of the Christian life.

But for many Catholics today, it's more of an afterthought: something we grudgingly do on Good Friday, perhaps on Ash Wednesday if we remember it. Would we fast more, especially during Lent, if we understood how helpful it is for our lives?

The answer to this, say both saints of the past and experts today, is a resounding “yes.”

“Let us take for our standard and for our example those that have run the race, and have won,” said Deacon Sabatino Carnazzo, founding executive director of the Institute of Catholic Culture and a deacon at Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Mclean, Va., of the saints.

“And...those that have run the race and won have been men and women of prayer and fasting.”

So what, in essence, is fasting?

It's “the deprivation of the good, in order to make a decision for a greater good,” explained Deacon Carnazzo. It is most commonly associated with abstention from food, although it can also take the form of giving up other goods like comforts and entertainment.

The current fasting obligation for Latin Catholics in the United States is this: all over the age of 14 must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays in Lent. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, adults age 18 to 59 must fast – eating no more than one full meal and two smaller meals that together do not add up in quantity to the full meal.

Catholics, “if possible,” can continue the Good Friday fast through Holy Saturday until the Easter Vigil, the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference adds.

Other Fridays throughout the year (aside from Friday within the Octave of Easter) “are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church,” according to Canon Law 1250. Catholics once abstained from meat on all Fridays, but the U.S. bishops received permission from the Holy See for Catholics to substitute another sacrifice or perform an act of charity instead.

Eastern Rite Catholics, meanwhile, follow the fasting laws of their own particular church.  

In their 1966 “Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence,” the National Conference of Catholic Bishops exhorted the faithful, on other days of Lent where fasting is not required, to “participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting.”

Aside from the stipulations, though, what's the point of fasting?

“The whole purpose of fasting is to put the created order and our spiritual life in a proper balance,” Deacon Carnazzo said.

As “bodily creatures in a post-fallen state,” it's easy to let our “lower passions” for physical goods supersede our higher intellect, he explained. We take good things for granted and reach for them whenever we feel like it, “without thinking, without reference to the One Who gives us the food, and without reference to the question of whether it’s good for us or not,” he added.

Thus, fasting helps “make more room for God in our life,” Monsignor Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter/St. Cyprian Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. said.

“And the Lord said at the well, with the (Samaritan) woman, He said that 'everyone that drinks from this well is going to be thirsty again. Why don't you let me go to work in your life and I’ll give you a fountain welling up to Eternal Life.'”

While fasting can take many forms, is abstaining from food especially important?  

“The reason why 2000 years of Christianity has said food (for fasting), because food's like air. It's like water, it's the most fundamental,” Deacon Carnazzo said. “And that's where the Church says 'stop right here, this fundamental level, and gain control there.' It's like the first step in the spiritual life.”

What the Bible says about it

Yet why is fasting so important in the life of the Church? And what are the roots of the practice in Scripture?

The very first fast was ordered by God to Adam in the Garden of Eden, Deacon Carnazzo noted, when God instructed Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17).

This divine prohibition was not because the tree was bad, the deacon clarified. It was “made good” like all creation, but its fruit was meant to be eaten “in the right time and the right way.” In the same way, we abstain from created goods so we may enjoy them “in the right time and the right way.”

The fast is the weapon of protection against demons - St. Basil the Great.

Fasting is also good because it is submission to God, he said. By fasting from the fruit of the tree, Adam and Eve would have become partakers in the Divine Nature through their obedience to God. Instead, they tried to take this knowledge of good and evil for themselves and ate the fruit, disobeying God and bringing Original Sin, death, and illness upon mankind.

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus abstained from food and water for 40 days and nights in the desert and thus “reversed what happened in the Garden of Eden,” Deacon Carnazzo explained. Like Adam and Eve, Christ was tempted by the devil but instead remained obedient to God the Father, reversing the disobedience of Adam and Eve and restoring our humanity.

Following the example of Jesus, Catholics are called to fast, said Fr. Lew. And the Church Fathers preached the importance of fasting.

Why fasting is so powerful

“The fast is the weapon of protection against demons,” taught St. Basil the Great. “Our Guardian Angels more really stay with those who have cleansed our souls through fasting.”

Why is fasting so powerful? “By setting aside this (created) realm where the devil works, we put ourselves into communion with another realm where the devil does not work, he cannot touch us,” Deacon Carnazzo explained.

It better disposes us for prayer, noted Monsignor Pope. Because we feel greater hunger or thirst when we fast from food and water, “it reminds us of our frailty and helps us be more humble,” he said. “Without humility, prayer and then our experience of God really can't be unlocked.”

Thus, the practice is “clearly linked by St. Thomas Aquinas, writing within the Tradition, to chastity, to purity, and to clarity of mind,” noted Fr. Lew.

“You can kind of postulate from that that our modern-day struggles with the virtue of chastity, and perhaps a lack of clarity in theological knowledge, might be linked to an abandonment of fasting as well.”

A brief history of fasting

The current fasting obligations were set in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, but in previous centuries, the common fasts among Catholics were stricter and more regularly observed.  

Catholics abstained from meat on all Fridays of the year, Easter Friday excluded. During Lent, they had to fast – one meatless meal and two smaller meatless meals – on all days excluding Sunday, the day of the Resurrection. They abstained from meat on Fridays and Saturdays in Lent – the days of Christ's death and lying in the tomb – but were allowed meat during the main meal on the other Lenten weekdays.

The obligations extended to other days of the liturgical year. Catholics fasted and abstained on the vigils of Christmas and Pentecost Sunday, and on Ember Days – the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of St. Lucy on Dec. 13, after Ash Wednesday, after Pentecost Sunday, and after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in September – corresponding with the four seasons.

In centuries past, the Lenten abstention was more austere. Catholics gave up not only meat but also animal products like milk and butter, as well as oil and even fish at times.

Why are today's obligations in the Latin Rite so minimal? The Church is setting clear boundaries outside of which one cannot be considered to be practicing the Christian life, Deacon Carnazzo explained. That is why intentionally violating the Lenten obligations is a mortal sin.

But should Catholics perform more than the minimum penance that is demanded? Yes, said Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., who is currently studying for a Pontifical License in Sacred Theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

The minimum may be “what is due to God out of justice,” he explained, but we are “called not only to be just to God,” but also “to love God and to love our neighbor.” Charity, he added, “would call us to do more than just the minimum that is applied to us by the Code of Canon Law today, I think.”

In Jeremiah 31: 31-33, God promises to write His law upon our hearts, Deacon Carnazzo noted. We must go beyond following a set of rules and love God with our hearts, and this involves doing more than what we are obliged to do, he added.

Be wary of your motivation

However, Fr. Lew noted, fasting “must be stirred up by charity.” A Catholic should not fast out of dieting or pride, but out of love of God.  

“It’s always dangerous in the spiritual life to compare yourself to other people,” he said, citing the Gospel of John where Jesus instructed St. Peter not to be concerned about the mission of St. John the Apostle but rather to “follow Me.” (John 21: 20-23).

In like manner, we should be focused on God during Lent and not on the sacrifices of others, he said.  

Lent (is referred to) as a joyful season...It’s the joy of loving Him more.

“We will often fail, I think. And that’s not a bad thing. Because if we do fail, this is the opportunity to realize our utter dependence on God and His grace, to seek His mercy and forgiveness, and to seek His strength so that we can grow in virtue and do better,” he added.

And by realizing our weakness and dependence on God, we can “discover anew the depths of God’s mercy for us” and can be more merciful to others, he added.

Giving up good things may seem onerous and burdensome, but can – and should – a Catholic fast with joy?

“It’s referred to in the preface of Lent as a joyful season,” Fr. Lew said. “And it’s the joy of deepening our relationship with Christ, and therefore coming closer to Him. It’s the joy of loving Him more, and the more we love God the closer we draw to Him.”

“Lent is all about the Cross, and eventually the resurrection,” said Deacon Carnazzo. If we “make an authentic, real sacrifice for Christ” during Lent, “we can come to that day of the crucifixion and say 'Yes Lord, I willingly with you accept the cross. And when we do that, then we will behold the third day of resurrection.'”

This article was originally published on CNA Feb. 20, 2016.

Mike Pence to deliver commencement address at Notre Dame

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 12:18

South Bend, Ind., Mar 2, 2017 / 10:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will be this year’s commencement speaker at the University of Notre Dame, it was announced Thursday.

This will mark the first time a sitting vice president delivers the commencement address at the university. Pence will also receive an honorary degree at the May 21 ceremony.

“It is fitting that in the 175th year of our founding on Indiana soil that Notre Dame recognize a native son who served our state and now the nation with quiet earnestness, moral conviction and a dedication to the common good characteristic of true statesmen,” said Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. in a statement.

“With his own brand of reserved dignity, Mike Pence instilled confidence on the state level then, and on the world stage now. We are proud to welcome him to represent the new administration.”

Pence was born in Columbus, Indiana, and served as governor of the state before becoming vice president.

Raised Catholic, he identified in 1994 as a “born-again, evangelical Catholic.” He started attending an evangelical megachurch with his family in the 1990s. It is unclear which church Pence attends now.

Known for his adamant pro-life stance, Pence stressed during the vice presidential debate that his Christian faith hinges upon upholding the “sanctity of life.”

“It all for me begins with cherishing the dignity, the worth, the value of every human life,” Pence said on the debate stage. “For me the sanctity of life proceeds out of the belief that ancient principle that where God says before you were formed in the womb I knew you.”

He harshly criticized Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine for their support of abortion.

“The very idea that a child that is almost born into the world could still have their life taken from them is just anathema to me. And I can’t conscience about a party that supports that,” he said.

Earlier this year, Pence became the first sitting vice president to address the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Pence is also known for his support of traditional marriage – he favored passage of a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

He also signed a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to establish legal protections for all those who conscientiously support traditional marriage and wish to live out their beliefs.

After a national uproar over the law’s perceived intolerance, Pence signed an amended version, one that Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation argued effectively gutted religious freedom protections for entities other than non-profits. In conflicts involving sexual orientation and gender identity, the law only protected non-profits and their extensions.

Pence also had a public disagreement with the Archbishop of Indianapolis Joseph Tobin over the archdiocese’s role in resettling Syrian refugees.

After it was alleged that a terrorist posing as a Syrian refugee was responsible in part for the Paris terror attacks last November, the governor asked for a temporary halt to resettlement programs in the state for Syrians.

Before he met with Governor Pence to discuss the matter a few weeks later, Archbishop Tobin asked Catholic Charities to resettle a Syrian refugee family in Indiana.

After the meeting, Pence’s office responded that the governor “respectfully disagrees with their decision to place a Syrian refugee family in Indiana at this time.” The dispute between the governor and the archbishop drew significant media attention in the days that followed.

 

Exorcists warn against Wiccan spell to bind Donald Trump

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 07:49

Washington D.C., Mar 2, 2017 / 05:49 am (National Catholic Register).- Witches in the U.S. are offering a solution to those who say Donald Trump is not their president: cast a spell on him. It’s a planned monthly event that began Friday, Feb. 23 at the stroke of midnight Eastern Time.

Witches from around the country are casting a mass spell to drive Trump from office. The plan is to continue every night of a waning crescent moon until he is no longer president.

Organizers set up a Facebook page, called “A Spell to Bind Donald Trump and All Those Who Abet Him.” The spell is publicized on the Internet and includes a supply list such as an unflattering photo of Trump, a tarot card, a stub of an orange candle, and earth.
 
Evil Will Not Do Good

The ritual calls on spirits, which include the “Demons of the infernal realms,” and commands to “bind Donald J. Trump so that he may fail utterly…”

The words in the spell: “That he may do no harm,” sugarcoat the reality that the devil wants the destruction of mankind and never has our best interest at heart.

The Power of Spells

Spells can have power, according to Father Vincent Lampert, the designated exorcist for the archdiocese of Indianapolis since 2005 and also the pastor for St. Malachy in Indianapolis. “I think there’s power, but it’s not coming from God,” Father Lampert said. “Anyone who would dare say they want to challenge that God is in charge is using the power of evil as their own. They should realize that we can’t use the devil; the devil uses us. People can’t control it and the devil ends up using them for his own purposes.”

Spells, according to Father Lampert, only have an effect in people who are spiritually weak. If we are anchored in God, he said Scripture tells us we have nothing to fear. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Father Lampert pointed out that in Deuteronomy 18:10-12, using witchcraft is condemned as detestable to God. He has known a few people who derive a sense of power and make money from people paying to have spells cast. Hundreds of people have come to Father Lampert for help after spells were cast on them.
 
The Solution

“You can’t stop someone from placing a curse, but as a Christian, if you are you praying to God and going to him, the curse will have no power,” Father Lampert said. For Catholics, he said going to Mass, receiving the Eucharist and going to Confession, is strong protection against evil. “Curses are effective when people are weak,” Father Lampert explained. “People are fearing devil more than trusting God.”

As for the call for those casting the spell, Father Lampert said they are relying on evil that feeds on anger and revenge. “The end result of all this for people will be to find themselves more deeply entangled with the devil,” he said. “Their lives will continue to spiral out of control because they do not have God as an anchor.”

Prayers for protection are very effective, according to Father Lampert, but we should not just be reactionary. “We should always be proactive in our faith and praying for our leaders—both civic and religious—as a normal part of our everyday action,” he said. “I would hate to think our faith is just reactionary. Scripture tells us to pray unceasingly.”
 
Coming out in the Open


Msgr. John Esseff, a priest for 63 years and an exorcist in the Diocese of Scranton, Pa. for over 40 years, said the face of the devil that is becoming more clearly seen in public. Previously, he said we saw more of what he calls an apathetic demon that appeals to the lower weaknesses of human nature such as the sexual revolution and all that comes with it.

“Then, came the apostate demon,” Msgr. Esseff said, “that denies the sacrificial nature of human life is possible. We are told we will never able to achieve this kind of holiness or goodness or unity—it just can’t be done,” he said. “This is a real apostasy; not just in politics but also in churches, convincing people that holiness is unattainable.”

Now, according to Msgr. Esseff, we are seeing the stage of the antichrist where the evil one is not afraid to show himself to humanity. Msgr. Esseff referred to Scripture: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1 John 4: 2-3)

“It’s not Trump they are against but Jesus,” Msgr. Esseff said. “The devil is saying, ‘no way are you reigning in this country, we are coming out against you!’”

The spell is nothing to fear if our trust and our hope is in God, Msgr. Esseff said. “Anyone who would even begin to put God back into place is going to have the forces of hell against them,” he said. “Our Lady of Fatima has given us the key to deal with this: Increase prayer and reparation [such as making Five First Saturdays].

“It’s the Fatima message and it’s coming at this time of the 100th year anniversary much more clearly,” Msgr. Esseff said. “Our Lady warned us about it at Fatima where she said the final battle will be against marriage and the family. This is not about politics, it’s about God.”

 

This article was originally published by the National Catholic Register.

Head Knight of Columbus honored for aiding persecuted Christians

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 20:08

Belmont, N.C., Mar 1, 2017 / 06:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Praising his “resolute defense of persecuted Christians,” an institute at Belmont Abbey College has awarded its Benedict Leadership Award to Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.

The Benedict Leadership Institute cited Anderson’s leading role in advocating protection for Christians facing genocide in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. The Knights of Columbus have raised more than $11 million for humanitarian relief for Christian refugees in the Middle East.

“This is an area of great concern to the Board, and it is our hope that your award will bring attention and relief to persecuted Christians and move the public to act more decisively in their behalf,” Conor Gallagher, executive director of the institute, told Anderson in a statement.

The award aims to recognize men and women whose achievement reflects the heroism and leadership of St. Benedict. Recipients will deliver a public address and will receive a $10,000 cash award.

Anderson’s award will be presented in a public ceremony at Belmont Abbey College March 24.

The Benedict Leadership Institute was founded in 2016 with the goals of developing Catholic leaders who can transform society in light of their faith.

Its website is http://benedictleadershipinstitute.org.

After Trump’s address to Congress, pro-lifers stress protections in health care

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 17:47

Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2017 / 03:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After President Donald Trump addressed a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, pro-life leaders wished he had spoken more to their concerns of federal abortion funding in health care.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, lauded Trump for his emphasis on “the inherent dignity of the human person” in expressing concern for “persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East” and the need to care for military veterans.

“We are concerned, however, that we have not heard about pro-life protections in the healthcare replace plan from the White House and we would have liked to have heard that addressed last night,” Mancini said.

President Donald Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday covered many topics, including border security, the “drug epidemic,” inner cities, aging infrastructure, and school choice, but he left out any specific mention of abortion or pro-life policies.

Congress is currently considering plans to repeal and replace the current health care law, but pro-life groups are concerned that problematic parts of the law – federal funding of abortions – may remain intact in the replacement plan.

These groups insist that the nation’s largest abortion provider Planned Parenthood be stripped of Medicaid funding as part of any repeal-and-replace plan – something House Speaker Paul Ryan promised would happen -- but add that protections against federal funding of abortion coverage must also be extended in the replacement plan.

“The courts have ruled that abortion is health care,” the vice president of government affairs of the March for Life Tom McClusky explained to CNA.

“The American people, I believe, disagree with that, but until the courts are changed and the tax code is changed, any health care legislation, to be pro-life, needs to specifically address the pro-life issue,” he said.

One large concern of pro-life groups is that under the Affordable Care Act, federal subsidies were quite possibly funding abortion coverage in health plans offered on state exchanges.

When the Affordable Care Act was finally passed in 2010 and signed into law, the last Democrats to hold out in opposition changed their vote when President Obama promised an executive order forbidding funding of abortion coverage under the law. Pro-life leaders insisted that the promise would not have sufficient authority to stop such funding.

A 2014 Government Accountability Office report had found that the protocol set up to ensure separate billing of abortion coverage in health plans offered on the state exchanges was not being followed. This allowed for the possibility that federal subsidies for health coverage were directly funding abortion coverage.

Also, in several states, every plan offered on the exchanges included abortion coverage, an outrage to pro-lifers shopping for health plans that did not cover abortions.  

McClusky explained other problematic areas of abortion funding in health care, including the use of refundable tax credits to purchase abortion coverage or plans with abortion coverage, and the need to extend abortion funding prohibitions to any increase in funding of community health centers.

Another concern he had was that “pro-life language” in a replacement bill could get stripped away by the Senate Parliamentarian.

However, something must be done to directly address these concerns, he insisted, because to do nothing would ensure the status quo.

“There’s no way that pro-life groups could oppose a bill that expands abortion in the U.S., meaning Obamacare, because the Democrats pass it – and then sit idly by, because the Republicans are passing this one it’s okay,” he insisted.

Mancini praised other pro-life actions by President Trump from his first 40 days in office, including his nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and his reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which forbids the U.S. from funding international non-government organizations that perform or promote abortions.

“We look forward to the continued commitment to pro-life priorities and urge Congress to pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and the Pain Capable 5-month abortion ban, and for the President to sign both into law,” she added.

Elsewhere in his Monday speech, Trump mentioned school choice, calling education “the civil rights issue of our time.”

“I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children,” he stated.

“These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious, or homeschool that is right for them.”

School choice is an issue that affects many Catholic families, as many parents may wish to send their child to Catholic school or homeschool them for religious reasons.

For instance, in January, Jason Calvi of EWTN News Nightly reported on Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C., a Catholic school where “half of the 380 kids receive a voucher” to attend through a D.C. scholarship program.

Speaking for homeschoolers, William A. Estrada, director of federal relations at the Home School Legal Defense Association, said he was “very pleased” that President Trump mentioned school choice and said that “it’s a measure of how successful home schooling is and how it has evolved.”

Two million students are homeschooled in the U.S. according to Department of Education estimates, he said.

Estrada insisted that families who choose to homeschool their children must be free to do so, untethered from federal funding which can carry hidden mandates on education. For that reason, the association opposes the bill H.R. 610 in Congress which would give vouchers to homeschooling families.

Also, with the Federal Higher Education Act homeschooled students who complete high school nevertheless are classified as those without diplomas. Certain state college systems in New York and California do not accept homeschooled students, he noted. Such students should be allowed to receive diplomas for completing all their high school courses, he insisted.

“That’s actually a real-world example of where Congress could act to improve freedom for homeschool families and homeschool graduates,” he said.

 

Congress can do more for religious liberty abroad, scorecard finds

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 17:02

Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2017 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States Congress can do more to prioritize international religious freedom, and ensuring that bills come up for a vote is key to that, an advocacy organization has found in its new scorecard for Senators and Representatives.

At a time when the three-fourths of the world’s population lives in countries where freedom of religion is significantly restricted, members of U.S. Congress must be held accountable on how much importance they give to protecting and promoting this freedom abroad, The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative maintained.

“Congress can do more to prioritize international religious freedom,” the Wilberforce Initiative concluded from its scorecard for the 114th session of Congress.

The card was announced last year as a way to hold members of Congress accountable for their activity – or lack thereof – in promoting religious freedom abroad.

“Most of the major international religious freedom initiatives over the past few decades came from Congress,” stated Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who earned the top score among members of the U.S. House.

The top scorer in the Senate was Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

The Wilberforce Initiative announced that “collectively, more people are persecuted for their faith now than at any other time in the world’s history. This includes more than 100 million people killed under repressive secularist and communist regimes in the 20th century.”

“Federal legislators can help our nation lead in the protection and promotion of religious freedom by publicizing various issues and cases, by passing bills in support of religious freedom, and, in some instances, by exerting pressure in support of religious freedom. It is critical that legislators use their influence to support those who are persecuted for their faith.”

So the Wilberforce Initiative's scorecard tracks legislators' votes on bills and their sponsorships or co-sponsorships of legislation, as well as their membership in religious freedom caucuses like the International Religious Freedom Caucus, the House Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

Most bills are not ultimately voted on, the Wilberforce Initiative maintained, so they make sure to keep track of members’ sponsorship of bills in an effort to bring up a vote on an important religious freedom issue. And many items, especially in the Senate, have not yet been voted on and provide “ample opportunity” for members to prove their commitment to religious freedom in 2017.

What were some of the most pressing matters of religious freedom in 2016?

Two of the biggest score items, according to the Wilberforce Initiative, were H. Con. Res. 75, a congressional resolution stating that the Islamic State was committing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria, which passed the House in March; and the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which passed both houses in December.

Some of the other items included the Combatting European Anti-Semitism Act of 2016 and Senate resolutions calling for sanctions on Vietnam’s human rights abusers, and condemning “the Government of Iran’s state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority.”

House resolutions included a call for the U.S. to support a Nineveh Plain province for its inhabitants who were persecuted by the Islamic State and a “call for the global repeal of blasphemy laws.”

Most of the highly-recognized leaders on the issue are members of the House, as “the Senate has been less engaged in promoting religious freedom than the House,” the Wilberforce Initiative noted.

The Wilberforce Initiative also noted that low scores “do not necessarily indicate disagreement with international religious freedom, but reflect that it was not a high priority for that legislator. Conversely, high scores demonstrate that a given legislator actively supported international religious freedom legislation and has made support of international religious freedom a priority.”

It also stated that a scorecard “is an imperfect tool” and that “there are are additional factors that cannot be reflected,” such as quiet diplomacy and casework.

Of legislators who earned an “A”, 56 percent were Republicans and 44 percent were Democrats. Those with “B” and “C” ratings were also majority Republican. But among legislators who scored a “D”, 62 percent were Republicans and 38 percent were Democrats. No legislators earned an “F”.

Marco Rubio was the only Senator to receive an “A+”, while 13 Representatives received the score: Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Joseph Pitts (R-Penn.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), David Trott (R-Mich.), and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.).

Aside from Rubio, 2016's presidential contenders did not fare so well on the list. Sens Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) got “C” marks, and Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) received “D” ratings.

Archbishop Gomez calls on faithful to 'show forth image of God' in pastoral letter

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 14:51

Los Angeles, Calif., Mar 1, 2017 / 12:51 pm (CNA).- The answer to society’s dysfunctions can be found in one person: Jesus Christ.

That message is at the core of Archbishop José H. Gomez’ new pastoral letter – “For Greater Things You Were Born” – released March 1, Ash Wednesday. The letter is a 16,000-word meditation on human nature, which the archbishop maintains can only be understood in relation to God.

“Jesus Christ alone knows who we are and he is the one teacher of life,” he writes. “He alone shows us the way to live in order to lead a truly human life.”

The elections revealed rifts in American society. The archbishop notes in particular “the persistence of racist thinking,” class divisions, “cruel indifference to the sufferings of immigrants” and efforts to “normalize” abortion and euthanasia. The “divisions and dysfunctions” in American society expose unanswered questions about the meaning of life, the archbishop writes. By forgetting God, society has lost a common foundation on which to build.

“So many of our neighbors seem to be not really living but only existing,” the archbishop writes. But, recalling that human beings are created in the image of God, he writes “God made us for greater things!”

The title of the pastoral letter is from Venerable Mother Maria Luisa Josefa, who founded the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. As he mentioned in his first homily in Los Angeles, she would “tell everyone: ‘For greater things you were born!’”

The letter — broken into 40 sections — covers the vast implications of a Christian anthropology: the duty as stewards of creation, love for others as brothers and sisters, the beauty of marriage and the call to saintly life in imitation of Christ. The archbishop also outlines a “plan of life,” including reading the Gospels, going to Mass and confession and carrying out acts of service.

The letter relies heavily on Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the teachings of the saints, like St. Junípero Serra, Blessed Oscar Romero and Servant of God Dorothy Day. The archbishop also quotes Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.

“We are made out of love, a thing of beauty in God’s eyes and the glory of his creation,” he writes. “We are made to share in his divine nature as his beloved children. We are made to be holy, to be saints!”

Republished with permission from Angelus News.

Colorado church ministers to Native Americans, homeless, and deaf

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 08:24

Denver, Colo., Mar 1, 2017 / 06:24 am (Denver Catholic).- St. Bernadette Parish, the pioneer Catholic church of Lakewood, Colorado, outgrew its first worship space just 18 years after being founded in 1947. Today, the half-century-old church remains large enough but needs updating to better serve its exceptionally diverse congregation.

In addition to ministering to the faithful of central Lakewood, the parish heads Colorado Catholic Deaf Ministry, is home to St. Kateri Native American Community, runs a school and soon will be host to Marisol Home, which will provide transitional housing to homeless women with children.

“One holy, Catholic and apostolic church is a pretty good description for our parish,” said the pastor, Father Tom Coyte.

“Catholic means universal,” added pastoral associate Julie Plouffe, “and there is so much diversity represented in this one worship space: the deaf, Native Americans, service to the poor and the homeless, and to our school.”

Deaf ministry

When Father Coyte was named pastor of St. Bernadette’s two and a half years ago, he quickly realized his handsome church was in need of repairs and renovations – from the essentials of updating the heating, cooling and electricity, to improving the sanctuary for comfort and hospitality.

He wants all of his parishioners, including the deaf, to be able to enjoy full, active participation in the church liturgies. When Father Coyte arrived to St. Bernadette’s, the deaf community, which he’s led for 45 years, came with him.

“We became aware of how difficult it is to participate visually in our liturgies here,” Father Coyte said.

Because it’s essential for the deaf to see what’s being signed, the parish plans, among other improvements, to elevate the altar platform to increase visibility for the congregation. (The change will also aid seeing the schoolchildren when they take part in liturgies.)

Deaf ministry enables the hard of hearing to serve as lectors, ushers and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. It offers interpretive services for weddings, funerals and religious education classes, and organizes retreats.

“Deaf ministry is an archdiocesan outreach to all deaf persons and their families to be fully involved in parish and Church life,” Father Coyte said.

Services include religious education and interpretive outreach, and signed weekly Masses at two other parishes – one in the Colorado Springs Diocese.

“We also go to Pueblo and have been to other states,” Father Coyte said.

St. Kateri Community

The St. Kateri ministry, in which some 60 people from across the archdiocese representing about 10 Native American tribes celebrate a weekly Mass incorporating Indian traditions, has been at St. Bernadette’s since 1985.

“They’ve been embraced by the St. Bernadette community,” Father Coyte said. “They have a beautiful spirituality.”

Kateri ministry exists to evangelize and serve the archdiocese’s Native American community and provides religious education and community building.

Aid to the poor, homeless

Last fall, the Kateri community, which had turned the parish’s old convent into a chapel, moved their weekly Mass into the church proper. Catholic Charities is leasing and transforming Kateri’s former home for worship into a home for single-parent mothers with children. Marisol Home, set to open this year, will be able to shelter up to 18 families at once.

“St. Bernadette’s will be providing a lot of meal support and volunteer hours,” Plouffe said of the Marisol ministry.

Ministry to the poor and homeless has long been a cherished activity of the parish, which helps a near daily stream of indigent from Lakewood’s Colfax corridor with food, rent assistance and resource referrals.

“We reach out to many needy families in our school as well,” Father Coyte said.

Vast outreach

This spring the parish is launching a three-year, $1.5 million capital campaign to fund necessary improvements to make St. Bernadette’s more beautiful, functional and welcoming for its diverse congregation.

Just as the church’s unique ministries stretch beyond its parish boundaries, Father Coyte said so, too, does its need for donations.

“Our outreach is much larger than St. Bernadette Parish,” he said. “We’re a relatively small parish of 700 to 800 families, yet our ministries are quite ambitious.”

 

Reprinted from the Denver Catholic.

These 17th century monks did a beer fast for Lent

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 04:25

Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2017 / 02:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Ash Wednesday kicks off the Lenten season, Catholics enter into 40 days of abstaining from sweets, technology, alcohol and other luxuries.

But did you know that Catholic monks once brewed beer specifically for a liquid-only Lenten fast?

Back in the 1600s, Paulaner monks moved from Southern Italy to the Cloister Neudeck ob der Au in Bavaria. “Being a strict order, they were not allowed to consume solid food during Lent,” the current braumeister and beer sommelier of Paulaner Brewery Martin Zuber explained in a video on the company’s website.

They needed something other than water to sustain them, so the monks turned to a common staple of the time of their region – beer. They concocted an “unusually strong” brew, full of carbohydrates and nutrients, because “liquid bread wouldn’t break the fast,” Zuber noted.

This was an early doppelbock-style beer, which the monks eventually sold in the community and which was an original product of Paulaner brewery, founded in 1634. They gave it the name “Salvator,” named after “Sankt Vater,” which “roughly translates as ‘Holy Father beer,’” Zuber said.

Paulaner currently serves 70 countries and is one of the chief breweries featured at Munich’s Octoberfest. Although its doppelbock is enjoyed around the world today, it had a distinctly penitential origin with the monks.

Could a beer-only fast really be accomplished? One journalist had read of the monks’ story and, in 2011, attempted to re-create their fast.

J. Wilson, a Christian working as an editor for a county newspaper in Iowa, partnered with a local brewery and brewed a special doppelbock that he consumed over 46 days during Lent, eating no solid food.

He had regular check-ups with his doctor and obtained permission from his boss for the fast, drinking four beers over the course of a work day and five beers on Saturdays and Sundays. His experience, he said, was transformative – and not in an intoxicating way.

Wilson learned “that the human body is an amazing machine,” he wrote in a blog for CNN after his Lenten experience.

“Aside from cramming it [the body] full of junk food, we don’t ask much of it. We take it for granted. It is capable of much more than many of us give it credit for. It can climb mountains, run marathons and, yes, it can function without food for long periods of time,” he wrote.

Wilson noted that he was acutely hungry for the first several days of his fast, but “my body then switched gears, replaced hunger with focus, and I found myself operating in a tunnel of clarity unlike anything I’d ever experienced.” He ended up losing over 25 pounds over the course of the Lenten season, but learned to practice “self-discipline.”

And, he found, one of his greatest challenges was actually fasting from media.

As he blogged about his fast, Wilson received numerous interview requests from local and national media outlets, and he chose to forego some of these requests and step away from using media to focus on the spiritual purpose of his fast.

“The experience proved that the origin story of monks fasting on doppelbock was not only possible, but probable,” he concluded.

“It left me with the realization that the monks must have been keenly aware of their own humanity and imperfections. In order to refocus on God, they engaged this annual practice not only to endure sacrifice, but to stress and rediscover their own shortcomings in an effort to continually refine themselves.”

Catholics are not obliged to give up solid food for Lent, of course, but they must do penance during the season of Lent in the example of Christ’s 40-day fast in the wilderness, in commemoration of His death, and in preparation for Easter.

Catholics in the U.S., if healthy adults aged 18-59, must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and are encouraged to continue the Good Friday fast through Holy Saturday to the Easter Vigil.

“No Catholic Christian will lightly excuse himself from so hallowed an obligation on the Wednesday which solemnly opens the Lenten season and on that Friday called ‘Good’ because on that day Christ suffered in the flesh and died for our sins,” the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote in their 1966 pastoral letter on fasting.

Fasting is interpreted to mean eating one full meal and two smaller meals that, taken together, do not equal that one full meal. There may be no eating in between meals, and there is no specific mention of liquids in the guidelines.

In their pastoral letter, the bishops also maintained obligatory abstinence from meat for all Catholics on Fridays in Lent, and “strongly recommend participation in daily mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting” on other Lenten days, as well as almsgiving, study of the Scriptures, and devotions like the rosary and the Stations of the Cross.

 

Dorothy Day, as seen by her granddaughter

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 02:08

New York City, N.Y., Mar 1, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement whose cause for canonization has been opened, is the subject of a new book by her own granddaughter, Kate Hennessy.

“My grandmother and my mother really thought carefully and closely about some pretty basic things that I think we have lost sight of,” Hennessy said. “One is: what am I meant to do, what is each of us meant to do, in terms of occupation and vocation? What skills can I offer the world? They both felt that that was so important.”

Day was also captivated by “this idea that we each have a role to play, that each are capable of doing something,” she said. “I think that’s very, very hopeful. In these times people are unsure of what to do – I mean the problem seems so big. My grandmother was saying [that] what we can do is so little, but that is what we are given to do. That’s only what we can do, so let’s move forward and do what we each think that we can do. That’s what I hope people will come away with from this story.”

Hennessy is the youngest of Day's nine grandchildren, through her daughter Tamar. She spoke to CNA about her book Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty, a biography-memoir about her grandmother.

Born in Brooklyn in 1897, Day was baptized Episcopalian at the age of 12. She displayed signs at a young age of possessing a deep religious sense, fasting and mortifying her body by sleeping on hardwood floors.

She was strongly influenced by Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and she worked as a journalist for a socialist publication. She had a series of disastrous romances, and procured an abortion.

She had a profound conversion, and had her daughter baptized as a Catholic. She was herself received into the Church in 1927.

She co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement with Peter Maurin in 1933, starting soup kitchens, farm communities, and a Catholic newspaper.She dedicated her life to aiding and advocating for the poor and leading a life characterized by voluntary poverty and works of mercy.

Her legacy lives on today in some 185 Catholic Worker communities in the U.S. and around the globe.

The Catholic Worker was meant “to bring the word that the Church had a call among social action,” Hennessy reflected.

Hennessy considers Day's profound influence on others to be the clearest evidence of her sanctity.

“So many people have said to me that when they met my grandmother, when they read her books, or when they worked at the Catholic Worker, that it had just changed their lives forever … What is my vocation, what should I be doing as an occupation? Or how should I be treating people, how should I be as a moral person?”

Holy persons like Day “help us, they lead us to change our perception of reality, in a way, and become more engaged in the world.”

Hennessy recalled the beauty of a Catholic Worker Farm where she had spent summer breaks in upstate New York. She said Day had a powerful eye of observation and was able to see beauty anywhere.

“One of the things that I think my grandmother was so good at, and really teaches us, is how she could see beauty anywhere. She would see beauty in a tree that was struggling to grow in the middle of the city. She could see beauty in any little bit of nature that she could see … or eating from a lovely plate that had been donated.”

That beauty can be found at the Catholic Worker houses, she said: “Just being able to invite people in, and set them down with a cup of coffee and a bowl of soup, is also a form of beauty.”

How assisted suicide discriminates against the poor and disabled

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 16:01

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2017 / 02:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While physician-assisted suicide is promoted as empowering terminally-ill patients, it could result in the poor being coerced to take their lives, experts warned at an event this week.

“When you deal with the issue of poverty, this immediately rises up – care is expensive, assisted suicide is not,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said at a Monday panel on physician-assisted suicide at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

The elderly sick may also be taken advantage of, the senator added. They may be told by their families that they are a “burden” on others, or they may simply feel that way.  Then “this becomes a guilt issue” as they consider requesting a lethal prescription, he said.

Physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in the District of Columbia and in six states – Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont, and Colorado via state laws, and in Montana through a state supreme court ruling.

Some 24 states areconsidering legalizing it, according to the group Death with Dignity that promotes these laws around the country. These so-called “Death with Dignity laws” allow patients diagnosed with a terminal illness with six months or less to live to request a lethal prescription from a doctor.

These laws have “otherwise been rejected by the people,” noted Ryan Anderson, the William E. Simon senior research fellow in American principles and public policy at the Heritage Foundation. The “vast majority of the states have considered” the laws already and rejected them, he added.

Critics have also warned about loopholes in the laws that provide room for dangerous abuses to take place.

Patients may “doctor-shop” until they find a physician who approves their request for a lethal prescription, even though the doctor may barely know their medical history. Or one witness for the patient’s decision to request a prescription may be a financial beneficiary of their death.

However, groups like Compassion and Choices and Death with Dignity are pushing for these laws to be introduced in state legislatures. And if legalized, physician-assisted suicide could prove especially dangerous to vulnerable populations like the poor, the elderly, and the disabled whose health care costs are seen by some as burdensome.

“Already because so many coverage decisions are based on financial considerations, people with disabilities have difficulty accessing the care we need,” Lindsay Baran, a policy analyst at The National Council on Independent Living, said in a written statement read at Monday’s panel.

In Oregon, she said, “we have several stories from people who have had doctor-recommended treatments denied only to be offered the assisted suicide drug as one of their covered alternatives” by insurance providers.

Physician-assisted suicide can indeed be “promoted” as a “cost-effective treatment,” Dr. G. Kevin Donovan, M.D. M.A., professor at Georgetown University Medical Center,  warned at the panel.

Modern palliative care is capable of limiting the physical pain of terminally-ill patients, he added, answering one of the chief arguments of assisted suicide proponents about patients suffering pain for months on end as they prepare to die.

Palliative care is still “underrepresented in the practice of medicine right now,” Donovan said, yet “with additional funding” it could become more commonplace.

“Will palliative care be made more accessible when physician-assisted suicide is a legal option? Those who provide funding for health care know that death is always cost-effective,” he cautioned.

In California, Catholic opponents of assisted suicide were “told repeatedly by legislators” that “this will never be a publicly-funded benefit,” said Kathleen Buckley Domingo, associate director of life ministry for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Yet $2 million was set aside for these drugs by the state of California while 13 million people on the state’s Medicare fund are not covered for palliative care, she noted.

“Especially in our immigrant communities…especially in our poor inner city communities, there’s a huge disparity in the kind of health care that people are receiving,” she said. “They’re on MediCal, and this is now the cheapest and easiest option.”

The drugs are cheap and also easily available, she said, noting that they can be shipped directly to people’s homes.

One woman, Stephanie Packer in Orange, Calif., reported being denied chemotherapy treatment by her insurer while being offered cheap coverage for a lethal prescription, in a documentary produced by the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network.

The elderly sick are also vulnerable to such laws because they may be told by their families that they are a “burden” on others or they may simply feel that way.  

In fact, in 2014 the State of Washington reported that of those who died in the state’s Death With Dignity program, almost 60 percent said they were concerned about being a “burden on family, friends/caregivers.”

“We have privileged assisted suicide over good medical care,” Donovan said, so much so that in California, by law if a hospitalized psychiatric patient has a terminal medical diagnosis, they “have to be released” if they request a lethal prescription.

“This is somebody who isn’t entitled to make decisions for themselves. That’s why they’re in a psychiatric hospital,” Donovan said.

Ultimately, assisted suicide laws are not about empowerment but rather about special interests, the panel said.

Legalizing it “doesn’t really give patients any new rights or protections,” Donovan insisted, as suicide is currently “legal in all 50 states,” but “it’s just not legal to help someone or promote it.” Rather, “it’s a physician-protection law,” he said.

The laws are supported by “very few people” who tend to be more well-educated and wealthier, but “those who are put at risk” are many, especially the elderly and those in lower-income brackets.

“I think those are usually called special interest bills,” he said.

The bills are also based on a “false reasoning” of autonomy, he added.

“If these bills wanted to honor choice, free choice,” he continued, “then how do we justify restricting this to people who are going to be dead in 6 months?” Why not those with nine or 12 month diagnoses, he asked, or the chronically ill or emotionally ill.

Even though proponents of assisted suicide argue that it saves patients from enduring months of painful suffering at the end of their lives, Donovan explained that many physicians may offer incomplete or even incorrect terminal diagnoses.

Two acts physicians do not perform well, he argued, are to “prognosticate the end of someone’s life” and “overdose our patients, lethally.”
 

Bishop Conley: Mass deportations will not fix our immigration system

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 17:24

Lincoln, Neb., Feb 27, 2017 / 03:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Controversial immigration policies issued by United States President Donald Trump’s have thus far prompted numerous critiques from concerned U.S. Catholic bishops.

The most recent order, issued Feb. 20, directed officials to more aggressively find, arrest, and deport illegal immigrants, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.

In his most recent column, “Standing in Solidarity”, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln joined other bishops in their criticism of the order, saying it would do “very little to resolve the immigration problems in our country.”

“Nor will it meaningfully impact the security of our nation, or the safety of our citizens,” he said. 

He noted that the previous administration also oversaw numerous deportations, which had little effect on the security of the nation.

“Mass deportation is a panacea: the appearance of an answer without really resolving anything,” he said.

In his column, Bishop Conley explained that the Catholic Church’s teaching on immigration is based on three principles: “(T)hat families have the right to migrate for economic opportunities, for freedom, or for safety; that nations have the right to security, to fixed borders and ordered policies for immigrants; that as an obligation of justice and mercy, nations who can receive immigrants without detriment to the welfare of their citizens should do so.”

Bishop Conley argued that the United States government “does not adequately address its citizens’ right to safety,” nor does it “adequately respect the natural right of families to migration.”

“In short, our immigration system is broken, and that broken system is the cause of serious injustice,” he wrote.

“Whatever the reason for it, our broken immigration system is an injustice to immigrants and to all Americans.  That injustice has tragic consequences in the lives of real families, who reflect the image of the Trinity.”

The state of Nebraska and its capital city of Lincoln, where Bishop Conley is based, are known for being particularly welcoming to refugees. Last year, Nebraska led the nation in resettling the most refugees per capita, according to federal government data. The state is a strong draw for refugees because of its stable economy and accessibility to jobs.

In 2016, Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska resettled 231 people (72 families), and placed 47 people in employment within three months of their arrival to the U.S. These refugees were primarily from the countries of Burma, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Afghanistan. Four of these countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Sudan – are Muslim-majority countries listed on the previous visa ban issued by President Trump.

Bishop Conley urged Catholics to remember that nearly 40 percent of Hispanics in the United States are Catholic, and that the Catholic Church in America is an immigrant Church. There was once a time in the history of the nation where Catholic immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Bohemia, Italy, and many other nations were similarly attacked, he said.

He urged the faithful to stand in solidarity with their fellow members of the Body of Christ when they are unfairly stereotyped as “thuggish criminals or economic liabilities,” and encouraged them to “expect better” policies from their government than mass deportations and extreme policies that hurt the vulnerable.

“I stand in solidarity with immigrant families living in fear of what might be coming for them. I stand in solidarity with American citizens, looking for real security, instead of political showmanship and rhetoric. I stand in solidarity with those politicians and law enforcement agents working to find fair and humane solutions to complex problems. I stand in solidarity with those living in poverty or danger, seeking some promise of safety, and opportunity for their children,” he wrote.

“As Catholics, we must continue to call for real, comprehensive, safe, and just immigration reform. But we cannot accept the panacea of mass detention and deportation. Americans, immigrants, and the Church should expect something better than that.”

President Trump is expected to issue a new executive order on immigration this week, after his first executive order on immigration was temporarily blocked by a federal judge Feb. 4.

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