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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
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Government to update court on parental reunions as Catholics cite dignity of families

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Government officials are due in federal court Thursday to deliver a list of parents held in ICE detention considered ineligible for reunification with their children. The update comes as Catholics and other organizations continue to call for policies that prioritize the family.

While government officials insist that in some cases there may be security concerns about parents, prominent Catholics have called for end to the separation of families.

Dr. Joseph Capizzi, a professor of moral theology at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that the “vast majority” of families in separation cases pose no threat to U.S. security. Instead, Capizzi said that Catholics should look to fix the reasons people are leaving their home countries for the United States. Otherwise, he said, there will be no end to the immigration issue.

Many of the parents are seeking asylum in the United States, citing violent or deprived conditions in their home countries.

Capizzi said the United States “needs always to couple our border policies with compassion for the dignity of families and of human beings.”

“As Bishop Flores [of Brownsville, Texas] said, we must join with other countries in Central America and address the ‘push’ factors that lead to the risky and numerous emigrations of so many people from those countries.”

“Until we look at this as a problem involving the unhealthy ‘human ecologies’ of these places, the U.S. will continue to face immigration issues.”

The government has until July 26 to reunite children currently in custody with their parents, but progress has been limited. Health and Human Services officials told a district court judge on Monday that they were unable to locate or identify the parents of 71 children in custody.

Appearing before Judge Dana Sabraw on Monday, Jonathan White, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response, admitted that of the 2,551 children in federal custody believed to be separated they had only confirmed matches with 2,480 parents, 1,609 of whom are also in custody.

Efforts to reunite families have been hindered by the government vetting process for undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers, which relies on DNA verification and criminal background checks, but questions have been raised about the standards being applied.

The American Civil Liberties Union, acting for the families, asked Judge Sabraw to clarify what kind of crimes make a parent ineligible for reunification, noting that some, like petty theft, have no bearing on the ability to care for their child but may factor in judging eligibility.

Of the 46 children under 5 still in government custody, 22 are considered ineligible for reunion with parents due to safety concerns.

Government officials insist that these cases involve serious criminal history by the parent, including suspected child abuse, or instances where the child was brought to the United States by someone other than a parent.

Also Monday, in answer to concerns that the government was expediting deportations of separated families once they are reunited, Judge Sabraw ordered a halt to deportations of adult family members for at least a week after reunification. The order came in response to an emergency motion filed by the ACLU.

Despite some concerns about the pace of reunification, efforts to meet the July 26 deadline continue. Judge Sabraw has said that he is “very encouraged” and “optimistic” about the “real progress” being made. "Reunification can happen quickly and safely,” he said, noting, in reposes to government concerns about proper vetting procedures, that speed and safety are “not mutually exclusive.”

“HHS is responsible for this and can do it well."

Last week, the Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the USCCB issued a joint statement with Catholic Charities USA detailing their efforts to assist with the reunification efforts.

"As we have long done, CCUSA and Migration and Refugee Services of USCCB are lending our experience and expertise to support Catholic Charities agencies in their efforts to reunite families and care for immigrant children during this sensitive time,” the organizations said.

MRS and CCUSA said they were “strongly opposed” to the policies that resulted in families being separated, and they will “remain committed to working to ensure their safe reunification.”

“Protection of families is a foundational element of Catholic Social Teaching and this moment calls on all people of good will to lend a hand to reunite these children with their parents."

Ed Condon contributed to this report.

US bishops conference approves project funding for Africa, Eastern Europe

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 02:28

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2018 / 12:28 am (CNA).- Subcommittees at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have approved more than $6 million for pastoral projects in Africa and Central and Eastern Europe.

The grants partner with local bishops’ conferences and Church organizations in dozens of countries to respond to specific needs within the communities.

“The Catholics of the United States show that we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Africa and recognize their courageous commitment to peace, justice, reconciliation, and Christian hope throughout the continent,” said Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who chairs the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa.

The subcommittee recently approved 54 grants providing $1.4 million for pastoral efforts in Africa, which include religious formation, seminarian and lay leader education, evangelization, and family ministry. Money for the grants comes from the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa.

Among the projects funded by the grants will be the establishment of child protection measures in the Diocese of Wa, Ghana. The new Child Protection Office in the diocese is organizing training sessions on the protection of children and vulnerable adults, safe environment creation, policy development and collaboration with government agencies.

Funding will also be given to the bishops’ conference in Rwanda, which is continuing its peace and reconciliation efforts after the 1994 genocide in the country by translating conflict prevention resources for use in local Catholic schools.

In Lesotho, a grant from the U.S. bishops’ conference will support Radio Maria in establishing three new transmitting stations, so that their educational faith programs can reach the entire national population.

In addition, the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe has approved $4.9 million in funding for 209 projects in 22 countries. Used to support the Church in nations that previously saw oppression under communism, the funding will go toward construction projects, formation of Church leaders, and education and evangelization efforts.

These include a seven-week formation program to help develop youth ministries in Romania, where only one-third of the parishes in the Archdiocese of Alba Iulia currently have youth programs, and the expansion of a homeless day center run by Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Rijeka, Croatia.

A rehabilitation center for children with cancer in Minsk, Belarus, will also receive a grant. The facility, run by Caritas, offers free housing and psychological support for poor families whose children are going through cancer treatment.

Youth summer camps for children internally displaced by war in East Ukraine will also receive funding. Caritas Donetsk will host two summer camps for 100 young people, who will be offered medical health care from professionals and spiritual care from priests.

“As the people of Central and Eastern Europe continue to build a new future after decades of repression, we are all inspired by the example of great hope they give to the world that it is possible to bring healing to the wounds of the past,” said Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.

“We can take pride that our steadfast support makes a significant contribution to all their efforts in renewing their communities and passing on the faith of their ancestors to the next generation,” he said.

The grants are funded by the annual Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, which is generally collected in churches throughout the U.S. on Ash Wednesday each year.

 

Planned Parenthood sues Idaho over new abortion law

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 18:15

Boise, Idaho, Jul 18, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Tuesday opposing a new Idaho law that requires abortion providers to report abortion-related medical complications to state authorities.

The Abortion Complications Reporting Act went into effect July 1. It mandates that abortion providers to report complications that occur during or after an abortion procedure. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands filed a lawsuit arguing that the law is unconstitutional and requires “invasive reporting that has nothing to do with protecting patient health care."

The act specifies 37 potential abortion complications that clinics must report to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. These include cervical perforation, hemorrhages, and endometritis, as well as any psychological or emotion conditions the patient discloses after the procedure, such as depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts.

Patient identity remains confidential in the reporting process, but the physician must be identified. Other information, such as the gestational age of the unborn baby, and the mother’s age, race, and number of previous abortions must also be included, according to the law. 

Planned Parenthood, who filed the suit in Idaho’s U.S. District Court on July 17, stated that the law “violates constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection by arbitrarily singling out one particular medical procedure” and puts “patient and provider privacy at risk.”

“Previous laws targeting abortion rights have been struck down in Idaho and other states, with some courts saying there isn’t enough information about alleged complications of abortions to justify the laws,” reports the Associated Press.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research and policy organization founded by Planned Parenthood, 27 states require abortion providers to report post-abortion complications.

The text of the legislation cites the Supreme Court decisions Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and Akron v. Akron Ctr. for Reproductive Health, asserting the state’s “legitimate interest” in protecting women’s health from “the outset of pregnancy,” and its “legitimate concern with the health of women who undergo abortions.”

The stated aim of the law is to gather “essential” information to enable scientific studies and research on the safety of abortion.

 

Is this cross-shaped WWI memorial unconstitutional?

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Jul 18, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A petition has been submitted to the United States Supreme Court as part of an appeal to prevent the destruction of the Peace Cross, a 93-year-old war memorial because it is in the shape of a cross.

The petition was filed by Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, following a ruling by the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2017 that declared the monument unconstitutional.

The cross, erected in 1925 by the mothers of fallen World War I servicemen, is located in Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. It bears a plaque listing the names of 49 residents of Prince George’s County who lost their lives serving in that war. The seal of the American Legion is prominently displayed at the center of the cross. The sides of the cross are inscribed with the words “valor,” “endurance,” “courage,” and “devotion.”

The monument was the subject of a 2014 lawsuit brought by the American Humanist League. The suit was originally rejected by the District Court, which held that it was “uncontroverted” that the maintenance and display of the memorial was not “driven by a religious purpose whatsoever.”

The American Humanist League appealed the case, and the Fourth Circuit found the memorial to violate the establishment clause of the Constitution, which guards the separation of church and state.

In a divided opinion, the circuit court judgment held that because the memorial was in the shape of a cross - “the preeminent symbol of Christianity” - it lacked any meaningful “connection” to national history and government and was inherently “sectarian.” The decision also held that even minimal expenditure by the Commission to maintain the monument “entangled” the state in religion and would lead “any reasonable observer” to conclude that the state was placing “Christianity above other faiths” or viewed “being American and Christian as one and the same.”

The petition to the Supreme Court argues that there has been no previous challenge to the shape of the memorial, which has been in continuous use by the American Legion as a site for patriotic events in honor of fallen soldiers. Moreover, the petition argues, it has never been used for a religious ceremony and the only known connection of the monument to a religious event was 87 years ago.

The monument has been under the management of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission since 1961, as part of its management of the roadway median where it is located.

Unless the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, the cross must have its arms knocked off, be moved off public land, or destroyed completely.

Lawyers for the Park Commission argue that the cross was not erected to promote or convey a religious message, but to resemble the World War I cemeteries of Europe. They also point out that the “absolutist” approach taken by the circuit court decision would be immediately applicable to memorials across the country, including Arlington National Cemetery.

Fourth Circuit Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote a dissenting opinion. He and other dissenting judges noted that the decision, if it stands, would invalidate virtually any public display in the shape of a cross, including military medals, regardless of how longstanding the usage or neutral their purpose.

Public monuments with religious symbols have been repeatedly challenged by secularists, and the Fourth Circuit decision represents a split with earlier court findings which have recognized the passive nature of such memorials and the lack of religious intent by the state in maintaining them. It is expected that this divergence of judicial findings could make the case ripe for Supreme Court consideration.

 

Augustinians reach $1m settlement with sex abuse victims

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 15:07

Boston, Mass., Jul 18, 2018 / 01:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Order of Saint Augustine has reached a $1 million settlement with eight people who were sexually abused by two members of the religious order in the 1970s and '80s.

The victims' lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, announced the payment July 17, the Boston Globe reported.

“Because we are committed to justice in upholding the dignity of every person, and in a desire to promote healing, we have concluded the claims made against our Province,” the Augustinian Province of St. Thomas of Villanova stated. “At the same time, we continue to work diligently to ensure the safety and protection of all children and adults.”

The victims were five men abused by Fr. Robert Turnbull at Austin Preparatory School in Reading, 14 miles north of Boston, and three women abused by Fr. John Gallagher at St. Mary of the Assumption parish in Lawrence, 30 miles north of Boston. The victims were between the ages of 9 and 13.

Both Fr. Turnbull and Fr. Gallagher have died.

The Augustinians reached the settlement with the victims outside of court last month, after two years of negotiations.

One of Fr. Gallagher's victims wrote in 1992 to Cardinal Bernard Law, then-Archbishop of Boston, detailing the abuse she suffered.

Law was appointed Archbishop of Boston in 1984, and resigned Dec. 13, 2002, after reports revealed that he did not disclose multiple allegations of clerical sexual abuse to the police or to the public, or intervene to remove priests accused of sexual abuse from priestly ministry.

The sexual abuse scandals in the Archdiocese of Boston led to nationwide outrage regarding practices which failed to protect children from abuse in the Catholic Church.

In June 2002, the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops passed The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, known as the “Dallas Charter,” which established procedures and policies for addressing allegations of sexual abuse in the Church, and for fostering safe environments for children and other vulnerable individuals.

Don’t let Philadelphia shut down Catholic foster agency, appeal says

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 14:15

Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 18, 2018 / 12:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The City of Philadelphia is selectively targeting religious foster agencies that cannot place children with same-sex couples, and a federal court wrongly ignored the legal protections affirmed in recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions like Masterpiece Cakeshop, lawyers for the Philadelphia-based Catholic Social Services and several foster parents have said in an appeal.

“The city’s policy prohibits Catholic Social Services from placing at-risk children in available homes solely because the city disagrees with the foster agency’s religious beliefs about marriage,” the legal group Becket said July 17.

The legal group saw a contradiction between the city’s policy and its call in March for 300 more homes willing to foster children, 6,000 of whom are in the city’s foster system.

“This discriminatory policy has caused devastating problems for at-risk children,” Becket said. “Although Catholic Social Services has dozens of open homes available right now, city officials won’t allow any children to be placed in them because they think the agency’s religious beliefs, which drive its mission to help children, are outdated and need to change.”

City officials have said that the Catholic agency’s refusal to place children with same-sex couples violates the Fair Practices Ordinance that prohibits city contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker on July 13 denied a request for a temporary restraining order that would allow the agency’s foster care work to continue, saying that “the pool of foster parents and resource caregivers is as diverse and broad as the children in need of foster parents.”

In response to the appeal, Deana Gamble, a city spokesperson, said “We are committed to ensuring that government services are provided in an accessible way to all Philadelphians and we must ensure that the foster care services CSS provides are done so in a non-discriminatory way according the Fair Practices Ordinance and our contracts.”

Sharonell Fulton, who has fostered over 40 children in 25 years through the agency, is also a party to the lawsuit.

“Catholic Social Services has meant so much to me and to the children I’ve loved and cared for,” she said. “I don’t understand why the city is threatening to shut down the agency that has given hope and a family to so many children.”

According to Becket’s July 16 motion to appeal Judge Tucker’s ruling, the city’s action violates both Pennsylvania law and the U.S. Constitution. The motion objected that the U.S. district court did not cite recent Supreme Court religious liberty and free speech decisions like Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer.

A June hearing showed that the city policy is “directly motivated by religious hostility” and showed that “high-ranking City officials have criticized Catholic Social Services’ religious beliefs,” Becket’s motion charged.

The Catholic agency has been “the target of coordinated actions by every branch of city government,” Becket’s motion continued. It cited the city council’s passage of a resolution against “discrimination that occurs under the guise of religious freedom,” as well as other actions.

For instance, the Philadelphia Department of Human Services commissioner summoned the Catholic agency’s leadership to its headquarters, accused them of not following “the teachings of Pope Francis,” and telling them it was “not 100 years ago.”

The city told the agency that future contracts would explicitly require agencies to certify same-sex couples and that the city “has no intention of granting an exception” to the Catholic organization. The motion to appeal charged that the refusal to grant an exemption failed to pass legal scrutiny, given the existence of other relevant secular exemptions. It added that the city targeted religious agencies, not secular ones, for investigation.

The Catholic program will be forced to close if the contract isn’t restored. It has asked the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to issue an order by Aug. 2. The new policy has already forced the agency to move two employees to other offices in the archdiocese, Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Windham praised foster parents like Cecelia Paul, who has fostered over 100 children, and is another plaintiff in the suit.

“Foster children deserve loving homes, and foster parents like Ms. Paul have been waiting with open arms to welcome them,” said Windham. “But the trial court allowed the city to continue its harmful policy – a decision we expect to change with this appeal.”

Catholic Social Services has worked in the city for more than a century and has partnered with the City of Philadelphia for 50 years. The agency cannot provide foster services at all without a city contract. The agency aids the foster families it works with through provision of resources, training and guidance. The agency does this work because of its religious beliefs, Becket said.

In 2017 the Catholic agency placed 266 children and aided more than 2,200 children in the Philadelphia area.

Catholic Social Services has not been the subject of discrimination complaints by same-sex couples. The agency says that it assists all children in need, regardless of a child’s race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

In March, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News reported that both the Catholic agency and Bethany Christian Services had a policy not to place children with same-sex couples. In response, Bethany Christian Services changed its policy. The city works with 29 foster care agencies in all.

At the time of the March news report, Department of Human Services spokeswoman Heather Keafer said both groups’ positions was “deeply concerning,” considering the city’s ongoing effort to recruit more self-identified LGBTQ people to become foster parents.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has backed the city and has said the case could have consequences for similar cases in Michigan and Texas.

The conflict comes amid a strong political push to limit religious freedom protections. Millions of dollars in grants have helped fund efforts to argue against religious freedom considered discriminatory on LGBT issues and reproductive rights. CNA has recorded about $8.5 million in foundation grants earmarked for such purposes, including grants to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Catholic adoption and foster agencies in other states have been shut down or defunded because they do not place children with same-sex couples.

Oregon Catholic school leader charged with embezzling $50K

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 13:57

Eugene, Oregon, Jul 18, 2018 / 11:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A former advancement director at a Catholic school in Oregon has been charged with embezzling more than $50,000 from the school and its scholarship program.

Sean Jones, 42, was indicted on July 12 by a Lane County jury on numerous counts of theft, computer crime, and forgery.

Jones was the advancement director for O’Hara Catholic School in Eugene, Oregon, and served on the board of directors for the Open Door Foundation, which sponsors students from low income families at the school.

Eugene police said Jones embezzled $3,900 from the school itself and $50,800 from the scholarship organization. Jones has pleaded not guilty.

According to the local CBS affiliate, the authorities said, “It is believed that he used his position to forge documents and fraudulently obtain access to financial accounts in order to divert funds for his personal use during a three year period.”

The police also said the school and scholarship organization have given their full cooperation in the case.

“O'Hara Catholic School and the Open Door Foundation discovered fraudulent banking activity in May of this year. Since then, the foundation and the school have been working diligently with the Eugene Police Department on the investigation of this fraudulent activity,” said a joint statement by O’Hara Catholic School and the Open Door Foundation.

“While this has been a difficult time for the foundation and the school, we are grateful for the expertise and guidance from the Eugene Police Department and the Archdiocese of Portland.”

Chicago workshop seeks to expand immigrant-led ministry nationwide

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 05:21

Chicago, Ill., Jul 18, 2018 / 03:21 am (CNA).- A five-day training session in the Archdiocese of Chicago last week gathered leaders from across the country to learn about starting an immigrant-led service ministry in their dioceses.

The goal of the gathering, according to the archdiocesan website, was to “train diocesan, pastoral and lay leaders from across the United States on how to start this immigrant-led ministry for service, justice and accompaniment in parish communities to serve the needs of immigrants.”

Delegates from 11 dioceses attended the July 11-15 Instituto Pastoral Migratoria at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

Created in 2007 by the Chicago archdiocesan Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity, Pastoral Migratoria seeks to respond to needs created by the lack of comprehensive immigration reform.

The parish-based ministry develops lay leaders who are able to identify and serve immigrants’ social and pastoral needs at a local level. In Chicago, more than 200 Hispanic lay leaders at 40 parishes are involved in the ministry.

The work they do is broad – from workers’ rights issues to financial literacy education to substance abuse awareness and prevention – “anything related to the immigrant community,” said Elena Segura, senior coordinator for immigration in the archdiocese.

“These are leaders who work in cooperation with professional organizations, who come to the parishes and provide the information and critical resources for people to learn and also to become positive members of society, to be integrated in this country,” she said.

Segura stressed that the program empowers immigrants to be leaders in their own parishes, “actors of their own development,” responding to the needs around them and transforming their communities.

“Immigrants have gifts and…they are people who are responding to their baptismal call to engage in bringing the resources needed in their parish communities,” she told CNA.

Often times, the immigrant leaders who are working to serve and accompany their brothers and sisters have themselves experienced a need for accompaniment in making the transition to life in the United States.

“It’s a journey of empowerment, it’s a journey of hope, it’s journey of compassion,” Segura said.

The July 11-15 training session is part of an effort to expand Pastoral Migratoria across the country. In the last year, the Dioceses of Kansas City–Saint Joseph and Stockton launched the program, and organizers hope to begin in three additional dioceses within the coming year.

“The ministry’s goal is to create a nationwide network of Catholic parish-based immigration ministries,” the Archdiocese of Chicago said in a press release.

Participants in the training session received formation and resources rooted in Catholic social teaching to help them implement Pastoral Migratoria in their home dioceses and form collaborative relationships with community partners. They visited Chicago parishes where this ministry is in place, and took part in a prayer vigil at a detention center. All sessions were conducted in Spanish.

Among the dioceses represented at the event were Atlanta, Des Moines, Kansas City–Saint Joseph, Little Rock, Los Angeles, New York, San Bernardino, St. Louis, and Stockton.

Kavanaugh’s friends describe man of humility, service, faith

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 17:04

Washington D.C., Jul 17, 2018 / 03:04 pm (CNA).- Long-time friends and associates of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh say he is a sincere Catholic, committed to living the tenets of his faith.

Last week, President Trump nominated Kavanaugh to serve as Associate United States Supreme Court. In a short speech following the announcement, Kavanaugh highlighted his commitment to his faith and his family.

“I've known Brett - Judge Kavanaugh - for 20 years,” Shannen Coffin, an attorney in Washington, D.C., told CNA. “He's a very smart person, but he's a regular guy, too. He's a devoted father, and spouse.”

Judge Kavanaugh has spent the last 12 years on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals but despite that formidable judicial record, Coffin says that there are “no airs about” him and he has a “humility in his approach to judging.”

“He's also the guy who after a day of long meetings with senators, you know, and without fanfare, was serving food to the homeless.”

Coffin said that Kavanaugh “views the role of a judge in the constitutional system not as a political job, but as a job of interpreting statutes and interpreting the Constitution.”

On the topic of religious liberty, Coffin was quick to dismiss anyone who had doubts that Kavanaugh would be a staunch protector of religious freedoms.

“I think they’re fools,” he said bluntly. “I don't have any hesitations in thinking that this is a great appointment for those concerned about religious liberty.”

Kavanaugh is a “vigilant defender of religious liberty,” Coffin said, as evidenced by his line of questioning in the recent court case brought against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, (WMATA) by the Archdiocese of Washington. While that case has yet to be decided, Kavanaugh’s questions and reasoning made it clear that he thought WMATA had acted illegally by prohibiting religious-themed advertisements.

“What really should impress Catholics is that this is a guy who is committed to the fundamental text of the Constitution and protecting those liberties preserved in the Constitution.”

Msgr. John Enzler, CEO and president of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., is another longtime friend of Kavanaugh. Enzler told CNA they first met when Kavanaugh was just 10 years old. At the time, Kavanaugh was a member of Little Flower Parish in Bethesda, where Enzler was serving as a priest.

“He was always a wonderful young guy,” Enzler told CNA.

Kavanaugh attended an all-boys Catholic elementary school before moving on to Georgetown Prep. At Georgetown Prep, Kavanaugh played sports, captaining the basketball team in his senior year.

“They weren’t that talented that particular year, but he was still the captain,” said Enzler.

Like Coffin, Enzler was quick to note that Kavanaugh is “really just a regular guy,” who loves sports, and loves being with friends.

Enzler said he did not know that Kavanaugh would be the president’s Supreme Court nominee until about three hours before the official announcement, but it was Enzler’s presence at the announcement that tipped off some people that Kavanaugh was Trump’s pick.

“When they saw me, they knew Brett was the guy, because they knew I was a friend of Brett's," said Enzler. "I kind of blew the cover, by being there for my friend."

Enzler said that when they first discussed Kavanaugh’s possible nomination, the judge was concerned about breaking his volunteering commitments. Kavanaugh asked if he could still come to serve the homeless later that week, saying he said wanted to do so regardless of the nomination result.

Kavanaugh called Enzler on Sunday, and said there was a “50-50” chance he would be the nominee, and that he would like for him to attend the announcement were he picked.

“By the way, if I'm chosen or not, I'd still want to come on Wednesday night to serve food, is that okay with you?”

Kavanaugh has been a consistent volunteer at Catholic Charities, coming to serve the homeless about “15, 16 times” over the last few years, Enzler said.

“He’s been here a bunch of times and serving, and nobody knew who he was,” said Enzler. “Not just a one-time thing.”

After the announcement was made last Monday, Enzler said he received another call from Kavanaugh two days later, checking if it would still be okay for him to volunteer that evening. On this occasion the media came too, and Kavanaugh definitely wasn’t the unknown volunteer he had been before.

"This is the guy next door, this is what he's like,” said Enzler. “He's not like some intellectual powerhouse you'd never talk to. This is a guy who's very friendly, very outgoing, very nice, lot of laughter, big smile, wonderful father, wonderful husband, man of faith, lives his faith, goes to church every week."

While Enzler said he was “very happy” for his long-time friend, he is concerned about what his family will face during the nomination proceedings.

“The process is very difficult,” explained Enzler. “Your family and you personally take a lot of heat from people who don’t agree with you.”

Most of all, Enzler believes that Kavanaugh is a “man of complete integrity, and a man of complete honesty” who will make his decisions in court based upon what is best for the nation and what is in-line with the Constitution.

"I'm very proud of him," said Enzler. "He will be a superb justice of the Supreme Court."

 

'Weeping' statue of Mary investigated by N.M. diocese

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 15:15

Las Cruces, N.M., Jul 17, 2018 / 01:15 pm (CNA).- A New Mexican diocese is investigating a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that some Catholics say has been “weeping” for more than a month.

Bishop Oscar Cantú of the Diocese of Las Cruces gave a public update July 15 about the diocesan investigation into an allegedly “weeping” statue of the Virgin Mary. The cast bronze image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been drawing crowds to the church named in her honor in Hobbs, N.M. 


A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hobbs, N.M., appears to be weeping. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Las Cruces.

Parishioners first reported seeing tears appearing to stream down the hollow statue in May.

Giving an update on the investigation launched that same month, Bishop Cantú said on Sunday that some had also reported a pleasant smell around the statue.

“Some of the witnesses claimed it smelled of roses, so something similar to the oil I bless and consecrate each year that we use for baptism, for confirmations and for ordination of the priests.” So far, the investigation seems to support these reports. As part of the efforts to determine the origin and nature of the tears, samples were sent for chemical analysis. The results determined that the tears were made of a scented olive oil.

The statue itself is also being examined.  "We examined the interior of the hollow statue," Cantú told reporters. "There's nothing on the interior that's not supposed to be there, except for cobwebs. So we took pictures; we examined it."

It was thought by investigators that the tears might have been the result of residual wax from the casting process, but this appears to have been ruled out. Cantú said that the manufacturers had assured them that the heat of the casting process made it impossible for there to be any moisture left in the statue. Addressing the possibility that the weeping statue could be an hoax, he noted that if it was he could not see how it was being accomplished.

On July 11, it was announced that Bishop Cantú was being transferred to  take up the post of bishop coadjutor in the diocese of San José, California. He is scheduled to take up that post at the end of September. Before he leaves, Cantú said he intends to visit the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe to see the statue for himself.

Before making any final decision on the miraculous nature of the weeping statue, the bishop said he would be seeking advice from a higher authority. “I'm checking best practices," he told reporters. "Certainly, I have a final say, but I would defer to the wisdom of Pope Francis."

In the meantime, the Hobbs church continues to see a steady stream of visitors. Even without formal recognition by church authorities, many are finding it a moving experience.

“I've read most of those written testimonies, and they are stories of tremendous faith, people who have been dealing with terrible suffering in their lives and have felt a tremendous spiritual consolation that Mary walks with us in our tears” Cantú said.

He noted that for many Catholics in the border diocese of Las Cruces, the image of Our Lady crying with them was deeply powerful. “I can't help but think of my own shedding of tears for the poor people who come to our border, fleeing life-threatening situations. The tears of those children who are separated from their parents. There are many reasons we would shed tears, and God stands with us in those moments.”

The diocesan investigation continues.

 

 

 

Overturning ‘Roe’ no ‘magic bullet,’ NY archdiocese lawyer says

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 21:00

New York City, N.Y., Jul 16, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Director of Public Policy for the Archdiocese of New York has said that overturning the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision should not be the seen as the final objective for pro-life advocates in the United States.

In a blog post written before President Donald Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, Mechmann warned that during the confirmation process for any nominee, “the rhetoric will be heated and likely ugly, and may even include a large dose of religious intolerance.”

Mechmann’s post explained that the advance of secularism and moral relativism have detached judicial decisions from the principles of natural law. Without this foundation, Mechmann argued, judicial interpretation lacks a “moral and legal compass” to guide decisions.

The result is that the judicial process and the Supreme Court are increasingly accepted as politically tainted, something the framers of the Constitution never intended, he said.

If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Kavanaugh is expected to join the more conservative wing of the Supreme Court. He is widely considered to be an “originalist,” interpreting the Constitution according to its plain-text reading and the intentions and understanding of the founding fathers themselves.

This standard is then applied when “originalist” judges evaluate whether legislation conforms to the Constitution.

Originalist thinkers are often seen to oppose so-called “living” readings of the Constitution, in which legal rights and principles are inferred to exist in the light of modern values, even if they are not contained in the text itself.

In the context of abortion, the decision Roe v. Wade rested on the Court’s inference of a “right to privacy” for women seeking abortions, something which is explicitly not found in the Bill of Rights. The subsequent decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, delivered in 1992, affirmed the right to privacy and the legal protection it affords abortion. That decision was co-authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who last month announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, creating the current vacancy. If confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh could create what many have predicted to be a 5-4 majority on the Court in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade.

But Mechmann, a Harvard educated lawyer who previously worked in the United States’ Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, noted that an originalist majority did not necessarily mean Roe would be overturned.

Roe, said Mechmann, did not just “emerge fully formed from the brow of Justice Blackmun” [author of the decision]. Rather, it was “the result of decades of prior decisions, reaching back to the 1920's.” Consequently, overturning Roe would involve repudiating a deeply embedded body of legal argument, he said. Such a dramatic step would “set off a political explosion that would undermine the legitimacy of the Court in the eyes of a large number of Americans.”

Such a “political explosion” might already have begun,  as abortion advocates react to the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh. Terry McAuliffe, the former Governor of Virginia, said July 9 that Kavanaugh’s nomination “will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come.”

Even if a “pro-life” appointee were confirmed, Roe v. Wade is not certain to be overturned, Mechmann argued. Several of the more conservative Supreme Court Justices often prefer to make decisions on narrowly defined questions relevant to particular cases. Mechmann noted this tendency in past decisions from Chief Justice John G. Roberts, and Justices Alito and Gorsuch, and suggested there could be a succession of such rulings which chip away at legal protections for abortion, but stop short of a single dramatic reversal.

The strength of expectation around a possible reversal of Roe v. Wade has led many to assume it would result in abortion becoming illegal overnight, yet this is not the case, Mechmann said. In the event that the Supreme Court reversed itself and removed the inferred constitutional protection for abortion, the issue would again be subject to state-by-state legislation. This, Mechmann pointed out, would yield very mixed results.

“A number of states already have laws on the books that would essentially permit abortion on demand for some, if not all of pregnancy. New York's statute, for example, permits abortion on demand prior to 24 weeks of pregnancy. According to one expert on abortion law, if Roe and Casey were overruled, only eleven states would have laws that would completely outlaw abortion, and over 80% of Americans would live in states where the situation would be essentially unchanged -- abortion would still be legal for all nine months of pregnancy for virtually any reason and with little effective regulation.”

As many as twelve states already recognize a Constitutional right to abortion.

A Supreme Court majority willing to overturn Roe v. Wade is not, Mechmann warns, “a magic bullet that will make all things new.” While it would be a significant victory for pro-life advocates, their work would need to continue at the state level. This would involve political and legislative efforts to protect the unborn state-by-state, and, just as important, include cultural efforts.

“We have to work harder to create a social infrastructure that would replace the culture of contraception and abortion and promote a vision of women's health that truly respects her fertility and genuine freedom. We still have a lot of work to do.”

 

Our Lady of Mount Carmel aids in spiritual warfare, bishop says

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 19:11

Lincoln, Neb., Jul 16, 2018 / 05:11 pm (CNA).- The Blessed Virgin Mary aids Catholics in spiritual warfare, the bishop of Lincoln, Neb., told a monastery of Carmelite nuns Monday, at a Mass celebrating the Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

“Our Lady of Mt. Carmel reminds us of the importance of our interior lives- not only for our own salvation, but the salvation of souls through Christ’s Church,” said Bishop James Conley, while celebrating Mass July 16 at the Carmelite Monastery of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Valparaiso, Neb.

Mentioning the Biblical prophet Elijah, who is said to have resided in a cave on Israel’s Mount Carmel, the bishop said that “Carmel was the place from which Elijah exercised the great prophetic charism to which the Lord had called him.“

In particular, the bishop mentioned an encounter on Mount Carmel between Elijah and prophets of the idol Baal, recounted in 1 Kings, in which an altar at which prayed to God was lit aflame, a feat which the Idol’s prophets were not able to replicate.

In a similar way, the bishops told the nuns, “Carmel is the place where the Lord calls you, often, to real spiritual warfare for the salvation of souls. Carmel is the place where the glory of the Lord is revealed through you. And Carmel is the place from which you are called to exercise the prophetic ministry to which every member of Christ’s body is called, and to which you, in a special way as nuns, are called.”

“Our Lady is with you- she whose very soul proclaimed God’s greatness, who bore in her womb the salvation of the world. She too is in Carmel.”

The bishop also mention devotion to the scapular, long associated with Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who is said to have conveyed a scapular to St. Simon Stock in the 13th century.

“Our Lady of Mt. Carmel clothed St. Simon Stock with the scapular. In so doing, she reminds us that she clothed the child Jesus, lovingly protecting him and wrapping him in her own mantle.”

Quoting St. John Paul II, he said Catholics must ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to “clothe each of us with the wisdom and love of her divine Son.”

Finally, the bishop mentioned that the scapular, like other sacramentals and devotions, are “a reminder that the Church is the sacrament of our salvation, and that the tangible expressions of the faith the Church gives us are gifts, meant to guide us to intimacy with Jesus, and, ultimately, to salvation.”
  

Tenn. bishops speak out against executions

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 19:10

Nashville, Tenn., Jul 16, 2018 / 05:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of Tennessee issued a letter to the state’s governor Friday, encouraging him to halt upcoming executions expected to use a controversial three-drug lethal injection. 

“It is within your power to establish your legacy as a governor of Tennessee who did not preside over an execution on your watch,” the bishops wrote July 13 to Governor Bill Haslam. “We urge you to use your authority as governor to put an end to the fast-track executions planned for later this year.”

The bishops emphasized the value of all human life, even that of those convicted of horrendous crimes, offering themselves a resource to the governor for any questions regarding Catholic teaching on the subject.

The letter was signed by Bishop Mark Spalding of Nashville, Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville, and Bishop Martin Holley of Memphis. The request came ahead of the pending execution of Billy Irick, who is scheduled to die August 9 by lethal injection.

Irick was convicted of the rape and murder of Paula Dyer, a seven-year-old girl. His execution would be the first in Tennessee since 2009, and the first to use the three-drug combination of midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride (or, for legal reasons, slight variations of those drugs).

The bishops’ letter follows a July 9 lawsuit contending that the use of the three-drug cocktail constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment.” Tennessee currently has 62 men and one woman on death row, more than 30 of whom are party to the lawsuit. 

Tennessee transitioned to the three-drug cocktail in January when pentobarbital, the previous drug used in lethal injection, was no longer available. In a request to the Tennessee Supreme Court, state Attorney General Herbert Slater unsuccessfully sought to fast-track eight executions before some of the drugs expired on June 1. 

Concerns have been expressed about the new drugs’ effectiveness. In an email to state officials, a consultant charged with acquiring the new drugs highlighted midazolam’s weak analgesic effects, according to the Nashville Scene

“Here is my concern with Midazolam,” the consultant wrote in an email last September. “Being a benzodiazepine, it does not elicit strong analgesic effects. The subjects may be able to feel pain from the administration of the second and third drugs. Potassium chloride, especially.”

Midazolam has been cited as a cause in previous botched executions. In 2014, Clayton Lockett was administered the three drugs and declared unconscious in Oklahoma. He was then found to be able to speak and attempted to raise himself off his stretcher. Lockett died of a heart attack 43 minutes into the execution. 

Currently, state supplies of two of the three drugs have now expired, leading Tennessee to seek compounded drugs, custom-made by pharmacies, as substitutes.

However, experts have warned against the dangers of compounded drugs, adding to previous concerns about midazolam. In June, lawyers for death row inmates in Tennessee pointed to the execution of Ricky Gray in Virginia last year. 

“Blood found on his lips indicated that blood entered Gray’s lungs while he was still breathing,” wrote the attorneys, noting the compounded drugs used in the execution may have caused a similar experience to “drowning or a sarin gas attack.”

Speaking beyond specific concerns with lethal injections, the Tennessee bishops wrote that capital punishment contributes to the erosion the dignity of the human person. The Tennesee bishops’ efforts echo Saint John Paul II’s stance against capital punishment, which in 1999 helped persuade Missuori Governor Mel Carnahan to commute the sentence of Darrell Mease to life in prison. 

“It is simply not necessary as the only means to protect society while still providing a just punishment for those who break civil laws,” the bishops wrote. “Rather than serving as a path to justice, the death penalty contributes to the growing disrespect for human life.”

Federal appeals court sides with Texas bishops in privacy case

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 15:45

Austin, Texas, Jul 16, 2018 / 01:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal court of appeals sided with the Texas Catholic bishops in a July 15 ruling blocking a request from abortion groups to access the bishops’ private communications regarding abortion.

“Hitting churches with subpoenas to win the culture wars was a bad idea from the start,” said Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, which represents the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We are glad that the Fifth Circuit recognized the deep problems with allowing lawyers to use the power of the court system to probe the private religious discussions of religious groups,” he continued. “That is especially so here, where the plaintiffs oppose the Texas Catholic bishops' right to participate equally in public discourse.”

Whole Woman’s Health, a chain of Texas abortion facilities, filed suit against the State of Texas two years ago over a law that requires aborted fetal remains to be either buried or cremated. Previously, the remains were treated as medical waste and thrown into a landfill.

Although the bishops are not party to the lawsuit, Whole Woman’s Health attempted to acquire various communications from the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops concerning abortion. These included private email and internal communications between bishops.

The bishops had previously offered to bury aborted fetal remains for free in Catholic cemeteries in Texas.

A trial court initially ruled that the bishops must hand over the emails and other documents. The bishops then requested emergency protection from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which last month granted temporary protection and ordered additional briefs to be submitted by June 25.

The July 15 decision permanently blocks the order for the bishops to hand over the documents.

In his concurring opinion, Circuit Judge James Ho stressed the importance of religious liberty.

“The First Amendment expressly guarantees the free exercise of religion—including the right of the Bishops to express their profound objection to the moral tragedy of abortion, by offering free burial services for fetal remains,” he said. “By contrast, nothing in the text or original understanding of the Constitution prevents a state from requiring the proper burial of fetal remains.”

The Texas bishops have emphasized the importance of being able to deliberate privately and freely.

“Children are not disposable,” said Bishop Edward J. Burns from the Diocese of Dallas, comparing the lawsuit to the policy of separating undocumented children from their parents at the U.S. border.

“We believe that life is sacred from the moment of conception. We also believe that we have a right to discuss in private how to address this issue and uphold the dignity of every human life, and that while upholding the sacredness of life may seem at odds with some people, our religious liberties and religious rights should not be eroded.”

 

As study claims benefits to porn, atheist author raises questions on methodology

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 18:09

Washington D.C., Jul 14, 2018 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A study has claimed porn as necessary to men’s health, but author of Your Brain on Porn and self-proclaimed atheist Gary Wilson said the statistical system used in many of these surveys is inaccurate.

“The abstract tells you what is completely crazy: if you are not using porn it is having a negative effect in your life,” he told CNA. However, the same studies claim “that more porn-use leads to greater positive and greater negative effects.”

“How can that be?” he asked. “Is every study published in the last 25 years wrong or is there something wrong with the PCES?”

Wilson dissected the errors of the Porn Consumption Effect Scale (PCES) – a self-perceived measurement of 47 questions used to study the health effects of pornography. This includes a study conducted in the July edition of Psychology of Men and Masculinity, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the American Psychological Association.

Titled “Self-perceived effects of pornography consumption among heterosexual men,” the study asked men in countries like the U.S. and Australia to survey the perceived effects of porn in their life. The study used the smaller version of the PCES with 14 question.

It analyzed the positive and negative effects porn has on sex life, attitudes towards sex, views on the opposite gender, sexual knowledge, and overall life. The survey also analyzed a participant’s religious background and level of religiosity.

The study concluded that a higher rate of use in pornography and masturbation to a more positive lifestyle and that negative results are more often tied to the infrequent and religious porn-users. It determined that religiosity did not affect the users’ quantity, but it did result in fewer perceived positive effects.

The PCES is 47-item questionnaire first used by Gert Hald and Neil Malamuth in 2008. Each question is organized into positive or negative categories and measured by the impact of the result on a Likert Scale of 1-7, with one being the least stimulating.

Wilson began fighting against porn after men in 2006 expressed concern on his wife's blog about pornography’s effects, including erectile dysfunction.

He said the PCES has repetitively demonstrated that greater pornography leads to more positive results while, at the same time, showing that more porn leads to more negative results. It contradicts itself and numerous other studies, he said, because men report on a decrease of sexual and relational satisfaction.

“When you go to the 55 studies on sexual and relationship satisfaction….all the ones on males say more porn use leads to poorer relationship and sexual satisfaction.”

Having previously been a pathology and physiology professor, Wilson said the test does not take into the account the biological components of addiction. Rather, it follows a biased view of religion and porn from Joshua Grubbs.

A teacher at Bowling Green State University, Grubbs created the Perceived Pornography Addiction Questionnaire, which religious people tend to score higher on because a majority of the questions involve shame. The survey sought to prove that the addictive aspects of pornography are not results of the substance, but shame and guilt.

However, Wilson said, “it’s just a biological effect.” He said the negative effects of pornography become more noticeable two to three weeks out from the last session. Because religious porn-users often try to stop looking at porn, he said, the effects are more apparent than regular users who have not tried to take a break.

“When you remove the addictive substance, food or drug, the brain starts to change and the level of changing it actually sprouts more connections that occur about two weeks out from your last use…[And] it makes the cravings greater and it also leads to higher levels of binging.”

Wilson also highlighted two areas of the PCES that lead to a less accurate study: self-perception mixed with false equivalencies and an irrelevantly determined categories of positive or negative.

The PCES determines the substance of each question to be equivalent when they are not equal, he said, noting how “learning about anal sex” does not balance the negative “problems in your sex life.”  

“You can’t take the average of a one to seven over on the good side and a one to seven over on the so-called negative side, and then say they got higher on this side. They are not equivalent.”

The manner by which the questions were organized into positive and negative also appears to be arbitrary, he said, noting the researchers made assumptions they did not validate.

“If you look at their current study they have 2.62 on the positive effect of life in general. …But just step back a little bit, what is the highest you can get on that? Seven that is the highest average. So what does a 2.62 even mean?”

In an example from the questionnaire, the survey ranked “Has made you less sexually liberal” a negative question and “Has made you experiment more in your sex life” a positive question, but Wilson expressed doubt that everyone would agree with either of the determined charges.  

Wilson said the questionnaire mathematically lean towards a positive result because the survey includes a greater quantity of positive questions.

“In other words, more questions that show a positive effect of porn than a negative effect of porn. So it’s actually mathematically leaning that way and you don’t have any counters to sexual knowledge.”

Psychologist John Johnson referred to PCES as a “psychometric nightmare,” and expressed doubt on survey’s accuracy.

"If I had been a reviewer on this manuscript, I would have probably rejected it on the basis of inadequate statistical methodology as well as various conceptual problems...It is impossible, given the nature of the data, to draw firm conclusions.”

Commentary: Catholic media, and the truth that sets us free

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 19:18

Denver, Colo., Jul 13, 2018 / 05:18 pm (CNA).- This week at CNA, we published an article about a bishop under investigation in India after a religious sister accused him of rape. The story is still developing, facts are not yet clear, and, of course, the bishop deserves the benefit of due process. CNA’s article explained those things.

But after the story was published, I received notes and messages from some readers, asking why we had published the story. Some said that it was scandalous to write the story before the allegations were proven. Or that we were causing mistrust. Or that articles like that one might cause people to lose their faith.

Those criticisms are nothing new. In fact, I hear them from some readers every time we publish a story about an allegation of sexual abuse, financial mismanagement, doctrinal infidelity, or some other negative charge against Church leaders.

I understand why readers have those concerns. And I think they deserve a reasonable response. Why would Catholic journalists- in fact, a Catholic news agency- publish negative stories about the Church?

Here’s why:

As Catholic journalists, our job is to do more than simply write about the Church. As Catholic journalists, our job is to report about the Church and the world as Catholics. This means that we presuppose that the Church’s doctrinal claims are true. Our coverage aims to write about the world from a perspective that takes Catholic teaching seriously, and tries to recognize the way in which grace is operative and evident in the world.

But it is not our job to be public relations agents for the Church. It is our job to look for the truth, and to report it. Sometimes the truth about the Church and her members is discouraging, or ugly, or scandalous. But we can’t ignore that. In fact, as Catholic journalists, we need to be especially zealous for the truth, because we know that the truth will set us free.

As Catholic journalists, we believe in sin, and we believe in redemption. We that God’s grace is real. We know his mercy can be transformative. We know that every person is made for holiness, and that God’s grace can make each one of us holy. But we know that holiness is rooted in mercy. And mercy depends on repentance. And repentance depends on acknowledging the truth about ourselves.

If we ignore, hide, or spin the ugly truth, it won’t go away on its own. Sin, like mold, festers in the darkness. Sunlight is a disinfectant. By bringing the truth into the light, we hope that the Church will acknowledge the places where sin has infected the Body of Christ- that Catholics will repent when necessary, that Church leaders will reform structures and institutions when necessary, and that God’s grace will make each one of us holy.

We have to write about the truth. Our job is to inform, to inspire, to encourage, and to elucidate. I hope that our work helps Catholics to think, see, and act in the world as Catholics. St. Paul tells believers to be “transformed by the renewal of your minds.” I hope our work helps minds to be renewed, and hearts to be transformed.

But all of that depends on telling the truth. The Christian life can never be based on falsehoods, lies, or PR "spin."

Catholic journalists need to tell the truth about the great things happening in the Church- the ways in which the Holy Spirit is moving - and about the things in need of reform, the places in which the Church must repent.

When we know the truth, we know where we stand before God. We know what we must do to become holy. We know the good that fellow believers are doing, and we learn that we can imitate them. When we know the truth, we also know when we should ask for forgiveness, and when we should reform ourselves.

To be “iron sharpening iron,” we must see the places where we have grown dull or rusty.

The sexual abuse crisis in the Church is a scandal. It is heartbreaking and infuriating. And most people know that if the media had not asked questions, and uncovered the places where Church leaders had acted negligently, the Church in the U.S. might not have begun the long process of reform. We’re still in the midst of that process, and so we need to continue asking questions.

Heterodoxy is also a scandal. So is pastoral negligence. We need to ask about those things, precisely because we believe what the Church teaches, and because we believe that God’s grace is real.

But our mission is also to tell the stories of God’s redemption, of his generosity, of his grace. We love to tell the stories of new apostolic projects, of bold and creative disciples of Jesus, of the New Evangelization in action. We love to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. That’s also part of telling the truth.  But to do that with any credibility- to be believed- our readers deserve to know that we won’t be compromised. That we’re a free press. That we are servants of the truth, and that we’ll follow it, wherever it leads.

Wherever the truth leads, we know that in Jesus Christ, it leads to our freedom.

 

JD Flynn is editor-in-chief of CNA. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Catholic News Agency.

Priest says new degree in Church administration builds servant-leaders

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 18:17

Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2018 / 04:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Seminaries will train priests in theology and philosophy, but how does priestly formation in the U.S. handle the business side of parishes?

Father Justin Fulton, a recent graduate in Ecclesial Administration and Management at Catholic University’s Busch School of Business, said this program develops management skills for leadership.

“It’s given me the nuts and bolts way of being a servant leader in the parish,” said Father Fulton, who is the assistant pastor of St. Teresa’s Parish in Lincoln, Neb.

A priest is “a steward of God’s mysteries and… a steward of the Church’s resources,” he told CNA. “I think this program helps quantify in ways that weren’t afforded in the seminary.”

The Busch School graduated its first class in this pastoral leadership program last week, with nearly 20 priests earning master's degrees.

The year-long program is worth 30-credits and consists of mostly online courses, as well as a week of intensive classes in August in Washington D.C. The courses review parish finances, human resource management, and strategic planning.

Father Fulton, who is also preparing to be the assistant director for Catholic Social Services in Southern Nebraska, said the program helps prevent issues such as financial dishonesty and burned-out priests.

“Within a year or two or three of being ordained, [priests] are basically mayors of a city. They become pastors of parishes with 3,000, 5,000 families,” he said. This degree will assist “guys get some core competencies and relieve some of the stresses of parish life.”

He said the program will give priests the tools to lead a parish to tackle collectively the same goals – “education of kids, salvation of souls, serving in the community, serving in the parish.”

“This program helps give you the tools to effectively present a mission and a vision to … work together, to get input from all of those different stake holders, and ultimately build a family united under the same umbrella looking for the same goal.”

Although most of the classes are taken online, Father Fulton said the degree still builds a strong camaraderie among the classmates, which is comprised of priest from across the U.S.  

“It kind of forms friendship … the guys that you studied with are designed to be there with each other, throughout the priesthood, to bounce ideas off of and be co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord.”

Another graduate of the program, Father Carl Beekman, who is the pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Rockford, Ill., said most priests do not have training in the administrative aspect of parish life.

“I think there is an assumption in the Church that you know exactly what you are getting into both administratively and spiritually, but, as we see, most do not know what they are really assuming in the office,” he told CNA.

“The program is very practical. It works from anywhere of crisis management to fundraising,” he said. “I had been praying for a program like this most of my 18 years of priesthood, and before.”

The curriculum was developed as a combined effort by Catholic University schools of Theology and Religious Studies, Canon Law, and Architecture and Planning.

The program is endorsed by numerous U.S. bishops, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, and Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen.

According to Catholic University of America, Cardinal Wuerl said the program is “a welcome resource to guide pastor and their finance councils through a planning and budgeting cycle with an eye to good consultation, collaboration, and communication."

Kansas ministry brings Adoration Under the Stars

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 05:04

Wichita, Kan., Jul 13, 2018 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Kansas-based ministry led more than a thousand people in Eucharistic adoration last week, allowing Catholics and non-Catholics to worship the Creator among the stars.

Wichita Adore Ministries hosted “Adoration Under the Stars” July 5 at the cemetery outside St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Ost, fewer than 30 miles northwest of Wichita.

Jesse Elpers, president of WAM, said the event is a simple yet profound encounter with God.

The event ties “together the creation of God with he who created it on an altar in the middle of nowhere underneath a starlit sky,” he told CNA. “[It] has a beautiful simplicity to it.”

“If nothing else, in such a serene place like that, just to be face to face with your Lord … it’s a beautiful thing.”

An estimated 1,300 people, including 24 priests, attended the event, which also included confession and music.

Elpers said confession is one of the most important aspects of the event. More than 500 people received absolution at the event last year.

Father Dan Duling, pastor of St Joseph's, has been at the church for the past two years. The event is important, he said, because it teaches young people the value of adoration and emphasizes the glory of God in all creation.

It’s “teaching our young people about adoration and giving them an environment [in which] they can pray and adore Jesus,” he told CNA. “I think the important thing for the people is knowing God’s presence out there in his creation and everything around us.”

The event began six years ago with just over 60 attendees and was one of the first ministries of WAM. The organization is a non-profit solely run on volunteer time.

Last year, WAM handled more than 100 events, including parish adoration and diocesan conferences. The company will also lend out production equipment to parishes to put together adoration events themselves.

Elpers said the non-profit’s mission is to lead people to encounter Christ, promoting conversion and personal engagement with the loving creator.    

“The ultimate goal of every effort we do, both in adoration events and in the production ministry, is to give each soul a chance at an encounter with Christ” he said, using adoration to bring people “face to face with the heart of the one who made [them], the heart of the one who longs for them.”

Catholic Charities Hawai'i to build housing for low-income seniors

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 02:08

Honolulu, Hawaii, Jul 13, 2018 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Charities Housing Development Corporation (CCHDC) recently purchased several acres of land in Kahului on the island of Maui in order to build a rental housing complex for low-income senior citizens.

They closed the deal with Alexander and Baldwin, a Hawaiian real estate company, June 27. Catholic Charities Hawai'i received 3.86 acres, but no other terms were revealed.

“We are pleased to have played a role in helping Catholic Charities Hawaii to bring more affordable housing to Maui, in particular for Maui’s seniors, who are very important to A&B,” said A&B chief real estate officer Lance Parker, as quoted in a July 10 Maui News article. “We are confident that Catholic Charities understands the needs of this special group and will provide housing that they all can truly call home.”

Called the “Kahului Lani senior affordable rental project,” the complex will have over 160 units accompanied by 260 parking stalls. The first of two building phases, it will be funded by low- income housing state and federal tax credits and a multi-family bond.

The second phase includes an 83-unit, six story complex, along with a two-story multipurpose building for Catholic Charities management offices. Construction will begin at the end of this year, and it is projected to be completed in 2020. Costs will total nearly $48 million.

Seniors ages 55 and up who “earn 60 percent or less of the county’s area median income,” according to a July 9 Pacific Business News article, are eligible to stay in the complex. The project will provide “an affordable permanent living option, offering complementary amenities” for seniors, said the Maui News.

“We are excited that this land purchase will allow us to move ahead in the development of this important facility,” CCHDC President Rick Stack said in a statement.

House committee moves to protect religious adoption agencies

Thu, 07/12/2018 - 18:45

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2018 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- The House Appropriations Committee moved to protect the conscience rights and religious freedom of faith-based adoption agencies on Wednesday.

The committee adopted an amendment to an upcoming funding bill that would preserve federal funding for agencies who do not want to place children with same-sex couples.

The amendment was introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL). In a statement published on his website, Aderholt said that the opioid epidemic has caused the number of foster care cases to “skyrocket,” and that religious charities are needed to assist with this crisis.

However, “several states and localities across the country are not allowing religious organizations, such as Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian services, to operate child welfare agencies,” due to their refusal to place children with same-sex couples, in accord with their religious beliefs.

Alderholt said this amendment will aim to prevent religious discrimination against those agencies. The amendment mandates that the Department of Health and Human Services withhold 15 percent of federal funds for child welfare services in states that do not allow religiously-based child welfare agencies to operate in accordance with their beliefs.

Faith-based agencies in several states have had to shut down their adoption divisions because they did not want to violate their religious beliefs.

Catholic Charities of the Boston archdiocese ceased handling adoptions in Massachusetts in 2006, a little less than two years after the state legalized same-sex marriage. Catholic Charities in California followed suit later that year. In 2011, Catholic Charities of Illinois also stopped handling adoption cases.

In Illinois, about 2,000 children were displaced when Catholic Charities shut down, forcing other agencies to take on their cases.

The city of Philadelphia is being sued by several foster mothers after it stopped working with Catholic Social Services to place foster children. While Catholic Social Services would not place children with a same-sex couple, no same-sex couple ever made a complaint about the agency before its relationship with the city was severed.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) accused Republicans of pushing a “bigoted, anti-LGBTQ agenda” that could result in children being without homes.

In a statement released July 11, she pledged to fight the “disgusting, deeply immoral and profoundly offensive effort,” and said there was “no place for bigotry.”

This, says Heritage Foundation Research Assistant Melanie Israel, is falsehood.

"The other side is falsely saying that this prevents LGBT couples from adopting. That's not true," said Israel. "They are still welcome to foster and adopt from a plethora of agencies, in particular the state-run agencies, and even some faith-based agencies. Not all faith-based agencies take issue with placing children outside of a home with a married mom and dad."

Faith-based agencies can play a supportive role for a child’s birth-mother as well, said Israel. These women, and families that are seeking to foster and adopt, “deserve the chance to be able to work with an agency that’s going to share their faith, and their values.”

“For many birth-moms, the decision to give a child up for adoption, it's a very loving decision, it's a very brave decision, but it's also very scary,” she told CNA.

A faith-based agency could provide assistance to her spiritual needs in addition to anything else that would arise during the adoption process, and could provide assurance that the child would go to a family with a similar set of values, Israel added.

 

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