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

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 21:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

As Pittsburgh churches consolidate, bishop urges strong communities

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 18:43

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Commentary: St Joseph the Worker in the 21st century

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 05:01

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop Murry of Youngstown diagnosed with leukemia

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 18:07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop Murry has led the Youngstown diocese since 2007.

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

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 17:32

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Commentary: Lessons from Monsignor Green

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 15:12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How graduates can thrive, according to one Catholic entrepreneur

Sun, 04/29/2018 - 18:14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Sat, 04/28/2018 - 18:30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New York forum considers faith-consistent investing

Fri, 04/27/2018 - 17:11

New York City, N.Y., Apr 27, 2018 / 03:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This week, nearly 100 financial advisers, fund managers and Catholic Chief Financial Officers gathered at the Second Annual Faith Consistent Investing Forum in Midtown Manhattan.

The two-day forum, hosted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, included conversations about the health of the economy and forecasting financial markets. It was driven by Pope Benedict XVI’s reflection in Caritas en veritate that “every economic decision has a moral consequence” and the responsibility of Catholics to invest according to Catholic Social Teaching principles.

James Ryan, managing director at Merrill Lynch and host of the forum, identified two problems that plague many Catholic organizations: Their investment portfolios often do not reflect their financial goals, and their investment choices do not always mirror their religious and philosophical beliefs.

Essentially, many faith-based organizations have “outsourced their conscience” when it comes to investments, Ryan said.

When he first began working with Catholic organizations, Ryan sat down with an abbot of an abbey to help him review their investment portfolio. He found that it was a poorly crafted portfolio that failed to adequately respond to the investment goals of the abbey. Even more concerning, he said, was that some of the underlying investments were in companies that went against the abbey’s Catholic beliefs.

Ryan began helping the abbey build an investment portfolio according to its Catholic beliefs. He consulted “Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines,” a set of principles to aid Catholics on investing, released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2003.

In this document, the USCCB identifies six investing priorities: protecting human life, promoting human dignity, reducing arms production, pursuing economic justice, protecting the environment, and encouraging corporate responsibility.

Screening out so-called “sin stocks” – companies that are involved with alcohol, tobacco, arms trading, pornography, etc. – was not the only goal that Ryan set out to accomplish in building a portfolio that reflected the abbey’s Catholic faith. The U.S. bishops also call on Catholics to actively participate in issues of corporate responsibility.

One of the main tools that Catholics have to positively affect corporate responsibility is through Proxy Voting – a vote to elect directors to the board, approve a merger or acquisition, or vote on other governance issues on behalf of a shareholder of a corporation which occurs during a shareholder meeting.

Pamela Macrogliese, partner at Clearly Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and expert on corporate governance matters, spoke at the forum about the impact that active proxy involvement can have on positively impacting corporate governance on issues important to Catholic organizations.

Some proxy voting issues that were of high importance in 2017 included the reduction in environmental pollutants, transparency on the sale of weapons and arms, reduction of pay gap based on gender, race and religion, the establishment of human rights committees, and transparency on labor practices.

In addition, options now exist for Catholics to participate in “impact investing” funds that aim to fund companies or projects with the intention of a positive social or environmental impact along with a financial return.

In 2014, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development hosted the first Vatican Impact Investing Conference. Participants included financial advisors from around the world.

Pope Francis exhorted those present, “It is important that ethics once again play its due part in the world of finance and that markets serve the interests of peoples and the common good of humanity. It is increasingly intolerable that financial markets are shaping the destiny of peoples rather than serving their needs, or that the few derive immense wealth from financial speculation while the many are deeply burdened by the consequences.”

Impact investors were called on to specifically put their resources to use for the promotion of the economic and social good, to help “satisfy basic needs associated with agriculture, access to water, adequate housing and reasonable prices, as well as with primary health care and educational services.”

While progress has been made in the financial sector – both in elevating the issue of social responsibility and in educating Catholic organizations on values-based investing – more needs to be done, forum participants said.

“There’s a lot of talk and little action by faith-based organizations on impact investing,” lamented Asad Mahmood, CEO of Impact Investing firm Social Investment Managers and Advisors (SIMA).

And while the Impact Investing Market has grown to $250 billion, according to UBS Assent Management, this still represents a very small portion of the nearly $85 trillion overall investment market.

The Vatican is scheduled to again host the Impact Investing Conference July 8-11 to “evaluate blended finance models and investible vehicles to address systemic challenges of great importance to both the Catholic Church and the global community: Climate Change, Health, Migrants and Refugees, and Youth Unemployment.”

 

Chicago discipleship building group coming to three new cities

Fri, 04/27/2018 - 02:39

Chicago, Ill., Apr 27, 2018 / 12:39 am (CNA).- Originally created as an organization to form disciples in the Chicago area, L’Alto Catholic Institute is now expanding to three new cities, with local teams working to instill a culture of discipleship at a local level.

“The mission of Jesus Christ to form disciples is given to the Church and then that mission is carried out in local dioceses and local parishes,” L’Alto President Tim Glemkowski told CNA.

“The point was never me flying around the country consulting with different parishes. What we are trying to do is multiply leaders to give them the vision and the tools, and some of our process and structures, but empower them to do that work.”

Established last year, L’Alto was founded to invigorate Catholic leaders to evangelize in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The organization stresses the importance of recognizing each parish’s unique situation and goals, rather than using a generic one-size-fits-all formula.

Over the past year, the group has worked in a coaching partnership with several parishes to help created a missionary culture.

The organization also worked with other parishes, conducting “Schools of Prayer,” a four-part series teaching churches on personal prayer, and numerous leadership projects aimed at forming these parishes’ core evangelization teams.

On April 25, L’Alto announced its expansion into St. Paul, Minnesota; Dallas, Texas; and the Northern Kentucky-Cincinnati area. These territories will each have teams who know the people and parish history of the region.

As soon as the organization was launched, Glemkowski said L’Alto received requests from dioceses around the country to aid their churches in establishing a mission-oriented culture. However, he was cautious about moving forward without local teams in each parish.

He stressed that the group was not intended to provide brief consultations via a quick plane ride or Skype session, because so much was dependent upon the culture and people of the Church in each territory.

“South Carolina Bible Belt Catholicism, it’s a very different culture there than a very secular culture like [the] Pacific Northwest … [and] what is going to be effective in those parishes [is different too].”

Having first reached out to the respective dioceses for approval, L’Alto created teams of locals with parish experience, who know the three new areas well.

“Someone who lives in that area and grew up in that area is going to be an expert in… that culture of the local area, and be able to be the most effective tool then to bring about that change.”

The purpose of L’Alto Institute is to take common principles, like techniques, vision, and shared responsibility for the New Evangelization, and apply them to local situations, helping parishes in forming disciples.

Glemkowski said he has been inspired to see different parishes throughout the U.S. show a strong conviction and desire to form disciples.

However, he cautioned, it takes time and discipline to get whole parishes to see through a mission-oriented lens.  

“Culture change is not an overnight thing,” he said. Rather, “we are going to launch you on a path and then continue to coach you along the journey.”

Glemkowski said he is excited for L’Alto’s expansion and hopes to accompany more parishes in building a culture conducive to the New Evangelization and missionary discipleship.

“The big dream would be, in 10 years, to have people working on the ground in every populous area around the country, to walk with parishes, to do this kind of work.”

 

Memorial to the Unborn moves forward in Tennessee legislature

Fri, 04/27/2018 - 02:00

Nashville, Tenn., Apr 27, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A bill approving a memorial to the unborn was passed by the Tennessee Senate on Monday by a 23-3 vote.

If approved, the memorial will be privately funded but erected on the state’s capitol grounds, and will include the inscription: “Tennessee Monument to Unborn Children, In Memory of the Victims of Abortion: Babies, Women, and Men.”

The bill, HB 2381, is sponsored by Republican legislators Rep. Jerry Sexton and Sen. Steve Southerland and was first introduced in March.

Tennessee has some of the strongest pro-life laws in the nation, including legislation requiring women to receive in-person informed consent counseling, a 48-hour waiting period prior to getting an abortion, hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors, and parental consent for teen abortions.

In 2014, the legislature passed a pro-life state constitutional amendment which says:
"Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother."

The amendment is currently being challenged in federal court.

If passed, the proposed monument will be the second such memorial to the unborn in the state of Tennessee. In 1994, the National Memorial for the Unborn was built in Chattanooga on the site of a closed abortion clinic. It is “dedicated to healing generations of pain associated with the loss of aborted and miscarried children” and includes a wall of names “where anyone who has lost a baby to abortion may come to honor their child and find forgiveness, hope, and healing.”

When the bill for the new memorial was first introduced, state Rep. Bill Dunn said the monument is in the same vein as other memorials to African slaves or victims of the Holocaust, which also “recognize the atrocities occurred because human beings were treated as less than human,” he said, according to Memphis Daily News.

“In both cases, the vulnerable and defenseless were subjected to the will of the powerful. The taking of life of the baby in the womb is related to this brand of inhumanity,” Dunn added.

“While the baby can be seen as the obvious victim, this memorial will also be for other victims, the women coerced into abortion, the fathers who can’t protect their unborn child, the brothers and sisters who lose a sibling and the society as a whole who becomes coarsened because life is cheapened.”

A version of HB 2381 passed the Tennessee House last week by a 63-15 vote. It will now be sent back to the House for approval of amendments before heading to the desk of Tennessee governor Bill Haslam (R).

 

Tucson bishop speaks up after border agent cleared in Mexican teen's death

Thu, 04/26/2018 - 17:28

Tucson, Ariz., Apr 26, 2018 / 03:28 pm (CNA).- The ‘not guilty’ verdict for a U.S. border agent who shot and killed a Mexican teen is “deeply troubling” and raises “serious issues of justice and accountability,” said Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of Tucson, Ariz.

“I find myself in a close bond of fraternity and solidarity with the family of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez and the many who have been unable to achieve the kind of authentic justice upon which our nation was founded,” the bishop said April 24.
 
“While we are privileged to live in a nation whose greatness is rooted in its democracy and fair treatment of all, such decisions reveal that our democratic institutions are not without flaws and occasionally grave injustices,” he said.

The bishop also acknowledged the difficult job of border patrol agents, as well as their important contributions.  

Elena Rodriguez, 16, was reportedly among a group on Mexican territory throwing rocks across the border at the border fence in the city of Nogales the night of Oct. 10, 2012. Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz was accused of shooting through the fence, killing the teen.

The agent allegedly fired his pistol 16 times in 34 seconds from three different locations. Rodriguez was hit eight times in the back and twice in the head. Federal prosecutors said the fact that Swartz continued to shoot after the teen was on the ground showed that he acted deliberately or recklessly in disregard of human life.

The agent’s attorneys said the shooting was justified and given that the teen was killed by one of the first shots, the other shots are legally irrelevant. They said the agent was in a chaotic scenario in a dangerous area known for smuggling. Swartz in his testimony said he had to make a split-second decision whether to defend himself and his fellow law enforcement officers at night.

Jurors deliberated for four days after a weeks-long trial in U.S. District Court, finding Swartz not guilty of second-degree murder. On April 23 they told Judge Raner Collins they did not believe they could reach a unanimous verdict on the two lesser charges of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Bishop Weisenburger reflected on both the situation of border patrol and of the treatment of other people on the border.

“We must keep in mind that customs and border control agents are oftentimes placed in situations of great danger,” he said. “Too, there are times when their efforts have resulted in saving the lives of those in great peril. We rely upon their high degree of professionalism and integrity.”

“However, I respectfully call for continued scrutiny of the methods and procedures employed by those who secure our nation’s borders, for transparent accountability, for a renewed sense of dignity and the humane treatment of all persons regardless of their legal status, and for authentic justice when human rights are denied.”

The bishop said that although law enforcement is the primary issue in the jury decision, the case is “yet another reminder of our broken immigration system.” The U.S. bishops and the Arizona Catholic Conference are both committed to advocating comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, he said.

This proposed reform is based on key values like affirming human dignity regardless of a person's legal status, the right to have a well-regulated border, the right of people to immigrate, and “an orderly process to welcome new immigrants whose inalienable human dignity must always be respected.”
 

The Catholic Association voices support for Alfie Evans' parents

Thu, 04/26/2018 - 13:42

Washington D.C., Apr 26, 2018 / 11:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A group dedicated to offering a Catholic voice in the public square has spoken out on behalf of Alfie Evans and his parents, as the court battle surrounding the toddler continues.

“It’s confusing and disappointing to see the Catholic leadership in the U.K., both the bishops and lay leaders like Austen Ivereigh of Catholic Voices U.K., abandon Catholic social teaching and split from the Pope by defending the government instead of Alfie and his family,” said Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association.

“The Church has long been the first and only voice to speak out for truth and defend the vulnerable. True to that legacy, the Pope spoke out in defense of Alfie Evans and the fundamental human rights of his parents to do all they can to save the life of their child.”

In an April 26 statement, McGuire thanked Pope Francis for his leadership and called on UK Catholics “to join him in standing for Church teaching.”

The Catholic Association, a group that is “dedicated to being a faithful Catholic voice in the public square,” voiced support for the parents of British toddler Alfie Evans, who has been at the center of a months-long court battle.

Just shy of two years old, the young boy is in what physicians have described as a “semi-vegetative state” due to a mysterious degenerative neurological condition that doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, England have not been able to properly diagnose. He has been hospitalized since December of 2016.

Although Italian officials have granted Alfie citizenship and a Vatican-linked hospital has offered to take the toddler for further diagnosis and treatment, UK courts have repeatedly refused to allow the transfer, ruling that it is not in the child’s best interest.

With permission of the court, but against the will of Alfie’s parents, the hospital earlier this week removed Alfie’s ventilator and withheld food and water from the child.

Although the toddler was only expected to live for a few minutes, he was able to breathe on his own for a number of hours, until doctors administered oxygen and hydration. They later administered nutrition as well, after the boy went almost 24 hours without food, according to Alfie’s father.

Local Archbishop Malcolm McMahon has defended the hospital, saying that it has done “everything humanly possible” for Alfie. UK commentator and co-founder of Catholic Voices Austen Ivereigh also defended the arguments of the courts on Twitter.

Pope Francis, however, has been outspoken about supporting the child’s parents.

The pope, who met with Alfie’s father last week, has offered public prayers for Alfie and his family several times, including at a general audience and in several Twitter posts.

“Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted,” he said on Twitter Monday.

Rallies in support of Alfie’s parents have been held in London, Washington, D.C., New York, and other locations in recent days.

“The Catholic faithful along with citizens of good will around the world have rallied and stood with the Pope and with Alfie and his parents in defending their rights and defending the beauty of Catholic social teaching – which expressly condemns exactly what the U.K. government is doing: denying Alfie’s parents their rights to what is best for their child and forcing the child to suffer in his last moments,” McGuire said in her statement.

“The parents of Alfie Evans have a natural right to accept the Vatican hospital’s offer to try to extend the life of Alfie and provide more humane car,” added Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, policy advisor for The Catholic Association. “Baby Alfie and his parents should not be prisoners of a British hospital.”

“The failure of the British Catholic Bishops and so-called leaders like Catholic Voices of England to recognize these simple and basic truths is disgusting and shameful,” she continued. “We urge all faithful Catholics to stand with Pope Francis, who called on the British government to allow Baby Alfie’s parents to seek the alternative treatment that has been generously offered.”

New report paints worrying picture of global religious freedom

Thu, 04/26/2018 - 12:45

Washington D.C., Apr 26, 2018 / 10:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious freedom conditions worsened across the globe in the past year, according to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom’s 2018 report, released April 25.

Violations against religious freedom were particularly acute under authoritarian regimes in the Eastern Hemisphere. With the exception of Cuba, all of the 28 countries USCIRF designated as the worst perpetrators in 2017 lie east of the prime meridian.

The worst abuses against religious freedom included genocide, enslavement, rape, imprisonment, forced displacement, forced conversions, property destruction, and bans on religious education of children.

The commission recommended that 16 countries be recognized by the State Department as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), a label that identifies foreign governments that engage in or tolerate “systemic, ongoing, and egregious” religious freedom violations. Receiving this designation from the State Department opens the door to consequences including trade and funding sanctions.

These 16 are the same countries that USCIRF recommended last year with the State Department going on to recognize 10 as CPCs in December 2017: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

However, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom urges that religious freedom violations in Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Nigeria, Vietnam, and the Central African Republic were so severe that these countries also merit CPC designation.

Of these six unrecognized countries, USCIRF Chair Daniel Mark is particularly concerned about the state of religious freedom in Pakistan.

“What we have said for many years is that Pakistan is the worst country in the world that's not designated for CPC. Pakistan is a world leader in imprisonment and convictions, prosecutions for blasphemy and apostasy, and those sorts of things,” Mark told CNA.

According to the report, approximately 40 people sentenced under blasphemy laws are awaiting the death penalty or serving life sentences, including Asia Bibi, a Christian mother and field laborer.

In December 2017, Islamic State affiliated suicide bombers attacked a church in Quetta, Pakistan killing nine people.
The upcoming national elections in July 2018 have exacerbated religious tensions in the country.

“Conditions in Pakistan are not just bad at the level of law, where for example, Amadis are out in the Constitution for second-class citizenship, but also at the level of civil society where a culture of impunity has grown,” continued Mark, who explained that vigante mobs have been attacking people on the basis of blasphemy accusations.

In lieu of CPC designation, Pakistan was placed on a “Special Watch List” by the State Department in December 2017. This list is a new category created by the 2016 amendments to the International Religious Freedom Act.

“Matters concerning Pakistan are very sensitive on account of the fact that they are a partner of ours in combating terrorism around the world in the war in Afghanistan and so on. But, given the rise of extremism in Pakistan...we really do think that pressure should be kept up, notwithstanding the cooperation that our two countries need,” said Mark.

The USCIRF chairman told CNA that he is concerned that both Russia and China intensified repression of religious freedom over the course of 2017.

“Russia, which we recommended for designation for the very first time last year, continued to deteriorate. The repression in some of the post-Soviet Central Asian states have followed Russia's model, sadly,” said Mark.

The report notes that Russia is the only country to have expanded its repressive policies to a neighboring territory by means of military invasion. Crimean Tatar Muslims are being kidnapped, tortured, and imprisoned in Russian-occupied Ukraine.

“Russia is such a big player on the world stage. It is really important that the message be sent clearly,” said Mark referring to religious freedom.

The report also mentioned religious persecution in China, including persecution of Catholics, noting that 2017 marked 60 years since the creation of the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

In 2017, China increased government control over its recognized religions as a part of President Xi Jinping’s campaign to “manipulate all aspects of faith into a socialist mold infused with ‘Chinese characteristics.’”

Two regions of China with significant ethnic and religious minority populations, Xinjiang and Tibet, “increasingly resemble police states,” the report said.

“Monks and nuns who refuse to denounce the Dalai Lama or pledge loyalty to Beijing have been expelled from their monasteries, imprisoned, and tortured.”

The report also cites mounting revelations of the Chinese authorities torturing other prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders to force confessions and compel individuals to renounce their faith.

In its 2018 report, USCIRF also recognized 12 additional countries with a Tier 2 status of less severe or systemic religious freedom violations: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, and Turkey.

USCIRF recommends in the report that the U.S. government prioritize efforts to advocate for the release of prisoners of conscience. Chairman Daniel Mark pointed to the recent trip of Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback to Turkey on behalf of imprisoned Christian pastor Andrew Brunson as a good example.

Mark also highlighted that there have been some improvements in international religious freedom efforts during the past year.

“The pushback against ISIS in Iraq and recapturing all or almost all of the territory from them has been absolutely critical in saving lives. And another thing that gets much less noticed is international cooperation. It was great to see that on January 1st Denmark opened a new office with an ambassador representative covering this issue and we hope to see more countries follow,” he said.

The Islamic State was one of the non-state actors that USCIRF report recommended to be designated as an Entity of Particular Concern, along with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and al-Shabaab in Somalia. The Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act passed in December 2016 requires the U.S. government to also identify these non-state actors as Entities of Particular Concern or EPCs.

 

 

US bishops endorse bill to provide legislative fix for DACA recipients

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 20:02

Washington D.C., Apr 25, 2018 / 06:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge ruled on Tuesday evening that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program must be re-opened to new applicants, and the following day the USCCB announced support for the “Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act of 2018,” which would codify DACA into law.

DACA is an Obama-era federal program that protects people who were brought to the United States illegally as children from being deported and also provides for work permits. DACA recipients, who are commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” must renew their DACA status each year.

President Donald Trump has sought to end DACA, saying that the initial program was only an executive order that went beyond the scope of presidential powers.

While other court decisions have ordered that the federal government begin to accept DACA renewals, the April 24 decision by Judge John Bates was different in that it re-opened the program for new applicants. Bates said that he did not believe the Trump administration provided a strong enough case for why the program should end.

Trump has urged Congress to pass a law that would combine some of DACA’s provisions along with immigration reform, but so far these efforts have not been successful.

Bates’ decision will go into effect in 90 days, unless the Trump Administration issues new reason as for why it is ending DACA.

The USCCB’s Committee on Migration issued a letter of support April 24 for H.R. 4796, dubbed the “Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act of 2018.”

The bill would shield “Dreamers” from deportation and would provide for a path to citizenship for certain qualified persons. Additionally, the USA Act of 2018 would increase border security and would seek to address corruption in Central America – a major cause of “irregular migration.”

The bill was introduced by Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX) and Pete Aguilar (D-CA), and is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of representatives.

The letter is signed by Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, who is chairman of the USCCB’s committee on migration.

“While a larger solution is still needed to fix our broken immigration system, we urge Congress to first focus on passing H.R. 4796, as written, or similar bipartisan and narrowly-tailored legislation,” said the letter.

“Any legislation passed should provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship, not undermine our family-based immigration system or terminate existing protections for vulnerable migrants, and ensure that border security measures are just, proportionate, and humane.”

Vasquez said it was a “moral duty” to protect Dreamers, and that they are “valuable members of our communities.”

Franciscan University highlights sexual assault policies following criticism

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 16:27

Steubenville, Ohio, Apr 25, 2018 / 02:27 pm (CNA).- Franciscan University in Steubenville has said it is committed to reporting and investigating all allegations of abuse in alignment with Title IX requirements and the school’s Catholic identity, following claims that it has mishandled abuse cases in the past.

“While many schools provide Title IX training that meets requirements, here, we hold our students to a higher standard,” David Schmiesing, vice president of Student Life, told CNA in email comments.

“We frame our Title IX training within the context of a Catholic understanding of human sexuality and the dignity of the human person. For example, during Orientation Weekend for all new students and parents, we provide a talk on the truth and beauty of human sexuality that sets the stage for our online training on the specifics of our sexual misconduct policy,” Schmiesing said.

Schools that receive federal funding are obliged to comply with Title IX, a federal law that requires schools to have appropriate reporting procedures in place for allegations of sexual harassment and abuse.

Franciscan University came under fire in an April 16 article in the National Catholic Reporter, which included claims from some alumni of the University, who alleged that some instances of past sexual harassment or assault were mishandled by the school.

The article was produced through a grant from The Media Consortium, which has partnered with Bitch Media to produce the “DIShonor Roll,” a series of stories on the handling of sexual assault at college campuses following the #MeToo campaign.

The Media Consortium is a 501c3 non-profit “dedicated to values-driven journalism. Founded in 2006, the Media Consortium's mission is to support and grow the impact of the independent and community news sector.”

Its leadership includes Julie Falk, Executive Director of Bitch Media, and Caitlin Hendel, CEO of the National Catholic Reporter. The Media Consortium has reportedly been the recipient of several grants from the Open Society Foundation, funded by progressive billionaire George Soros.

According to the description on Media Consortium’s website, the DIShonor Roll project, launched in February, seeks “to solve the problem of sexual violence on campus” with “consistent, powerful storytelling that puts a human face on campus sexual violence.”

“To that end, the Media Consortium, partnering with Bitch Media, is launching #DishonorRoll. Twice a month, a wide consortium of news outlets, working with project editors at Bitch Media, will publish stories on different aspects of campus sexual assault.”

Grants of $500 are available through Media Consortium to any media outlets or journalists who want to participate in the project. Other articles in the project include “Is Campus Rape Activism Accessible?”, “I Kissed Consent Goodbye: Purity Culture and Sexual Violence on Evangelical Christian Campuses” and “Everything Scold is New Again”, published on Bitch Media, and “Christendom College alumni call for Title IX response to sexual assaults” published by the National Catholic Reporter.

According to its 2016 tax filings, the mission of Bitch Media is “to provide and encourage an engaged, thoughtful feminist response to mainstream and popular culture.”

Author Jenn Morson, writing for the National Catholic Reporter, found several stories of mishandled sexual assault or harassment incidents at Franciscan on an alumni Facebook page.

According to the Reporter, Annie, a Franciscan alumnus whose name had been changed, shared in the Facebook group that when she was raped in the spring of 2007, she was encouraged by a priest at Franciscan to seek counseling, but not encouraged to contact the authorities.

Another student, Jennifer, claimed that in 2008, Franciscan’s then-Director of Student Life, Catherine Heck violated her privacy by forcing her to call her parents after an incident of sexual assault, and by sharing the story with other RAs at the time.

Another student, Margaret, claimed a mishandling of a 2005 sexual assault incident.

"I had to tell my story several times to different faculty members and a review board made up entirely of men," Margaret said. "They asked me why I was drinking in the first place, what my dress looked like, and if I had any other encounters with [the male student] before this happened."

According to Margaret, the review board took no action against the male student after they believed there was no proof that the incident was not consensual.

Franciscan officials told CNA that in order to protect the privacy of those involved, it could not speak about specific cases in the past or present involving sexual abuse.

“We can say that if a case involves criminal actions, we strictly follow our policy and encourage students to report alleged criminal sexual misconduct to law enforcement agencies,” Brenan Pergi, vice president of Human Resources and deputy Title IX/EEO coordinator, told CNA.

Since 2011, Franciscan has also reviewed and improved existing policies and procedures in reporting sexual misconduct, John Pizzuti, Franciscan’s Title IX/EEO coordinator and director of Campus Safety and Compliance, told Franciscan Magazine. The school has also established Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with the Steubenville Police Department and sexual victims advocate group Alive Inc., outlining the terms and details of handling cases of sexual misconduct.

“In total, since 2011, almost two dozen new programs, designed to ensure the safety of all students, have gone into effect at Franciscan. Key staff members have received comprehensive training in helping victims of sexual misconduct. And the entire process of reviewing complaints - from reporting to adjudicating and appealing decisions—has been strengthened and clarified,” Emily Stimpson Chapman wrote in Franciscan Magazine.

Some sources in the Reporter article also claimed that the emphasis in Title IX training at Franciscan was Church teaching on sexuality and the prevention of being in situations that could lead to sexual assault, rather than on reporting incidents.

"Everything at (Franciscan University) is talked about with a religious lens. Even the way they discuss sexual assault and harassment focuses on what the church teaches on premarital sex, modesty and avoiding situations that lead to sexual assault, as opposed to taking the report for what it is," said Marisa Bortz, worked as a sexual assault advocate and prevention educator for ALIVE, Inc., in the same county as Franciscan.

Catherine Heck, assistant vice president of Student Life and deputy Title IX/EEO coordinator, noted that “FUS encourages both prevention and reporting. Like most colleges and universities we work hard to prevent the tragedy of sexual misconduct from occurring in the first place. Equally important is our immediate support and action if a complaint is made. If we receive a report of sexual misconduct, we investigate and resolve the complaint in a timely manner.”

“All University employees (with the exception of counselors and certain pastoral staff) are obligated to promptly report actual or suspected discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct to our Title IX coordinator or deputy,” Pergi added. “Franciscan University encourages students and staff members to immediately report any and all cases of sexual misconduct. When a report is made, the University seeks to provide ongoing support to the student or staff member making the report.”

Furthermore, Franciscan officials said that their policies reflect the Catholic culture and identity of the school, when it comes to such topics as the Title IX issue of “consent.”

“We carefully and thoroughly describe the concept of ‘consent’ for students and emphasize that non-consensual sexual activity is a violation of our policy and an attack on human dignity,” Heck said. “We also make it clear that all sexual contact outside of the covenant of marriage is inconsistent with Catholic teaching and the University’s expectations for our students - consent is certainly necessary, but it is not sufficient.”

The full list of policies and procedures can be found on the University’s website, and are “based on our respect for the dignity of the human person as expressed in Church teaching as well as being guided by federal, state, and local statutes,” Pergi noted.

“We seek to respect the rights of everyone involved, while creating a safe and positive learning environment for students, staff, and faculty members,” he said.

Why Catholics should beware as high-tech 'deepfake' videos emerge

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 05:01

Dallas, Texas, Apr 25, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Like any figure of importance, there is high likelihood that the Pope or another Catholic leader could be the subject of a fake video using a rapidly improving technology—and everyone needs to take care not to empower such a hoax, said Rudolph Bush, director of journalism at the University of Dallas.

“It’s very likely to happen, I think, and the consequences could be serious,” Bush told CNA April 23. “Depending on who is targeted by this, depending on how ripe that target is to be manipulated, it could be very damaging.”

For Bush, the prospect is “really worrisome,” given reports that social media have been used to incite societies during elections or times of racial or ethnic tensions. These tensions are manipulated to foment “not only political strife but war and in some cases genocide.”

Bush has worked as a professional journalist since 1997, serving as Dallas and Enterprise editor at the Dallas Morning News. He has written for the Chicago Tribune and the Dallas Morning News on politics and crime.

He spoke in response to the development of so-called “deepfake” videos, which are created with artificial intelligence software. One video published by Buzzfeed appeared to feature former U.S. President Barack Obama in a public service announcement about fake news.

“We’re entering an era in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything at any point in time — even if they would never say those things,” Obama’s image said.

“So, for instance, they could have me say things like, I don’t know, ‘Killmonger was right!’” said the digitally modified president, referring to the antagonist in the 2018 hit movie “Black Panther” who aimed to launch a global African uprising.

In the video, Obama appears to insult President Donald Trump and make fun of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, before it is revealed that the president’s image is a digital modification. His lips have been synchronized with those of filmmaker Jordan Peele, who has acted as an Obama impersonator.

“This is a dangerous time. Moving forward, we need to be more vigilant with what we trust from the internet,” Peele’s Obama says.

The footage of President Obama was manipulated and set to a script. Adobe After Effects and a program called FakeApp were used. Rendering of the clip took about 56 hours. Peele, a filmmaker who won an Oscar for the movie “Get Out,” conceived the video with his brother-in-law BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti.

With the prospect of such videos, Bush said, one has to work to “straighten out what is fake news and what is real news.”

“What it does is sow seeds of distrust and worry in societies,” he said. “And of course democracies are based on communal trust, the idea we can get together and solve our problems peacefully.”

The rise of the “deepfake” video also poses the question: will falsehood triumph?

“There used to be an old saying that the truth will win out. That is something that we based our societies on, our journalism on: over time, what is true will carry more weight than what is false,” Bush continued. “That’s being tested now.”

“We live in an age when there is so much false information, at such a volume, that it can be hard to sort out what is true,” he said. “We have a responsibility as consumers to verify what is true, and when we understand what is true, to share it with our fellow parishioners.”

He advised readers to find trusted sources of information within their community, whether in their church community or in the local newspaper, and to rely on those.

“This is a really difficult conversation in our society: whether people will trust the so-called traditional media or mainstream media,” Bush said. “A great deal of effort has been put into sowing distrust in those organizations.”

“Know from where your news comes. That’s very important.”

Both the fundamentals of Catholic teaching and of journalism and communication have shared priorities: “we seek truth, and we also verify truth,” said Bush.

“That has to be a priority when we go and we communicate. It’s a responsibility to communicate truthfully, to make sure the information we’re disseminating is truthful, it’s verified, that it’s critically appraised, before we start disseminating it,” he said.

“Otherwise we just become part of the problem.”

For Bush, it is hard to say whether the new video technology will fundamentally change the media environment or simply continue current trends.

People have become more savvy about relatively new technological hoaxes, such as scam emails promising money from a Nigerian prince, he noted.

“Nobody believes that kind of stuff anymore. So we do adapt,” Bush said. “At the same time, as these things become more sophisticated, particularly if they’re used by state actors or groups with a high level of understanding of what it takes to manipulate a society or a group, then we’ll see whether we can parse what’s real or not real.”
 

New Cardinal Newman Guide helps families navigate college search

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 02:10

Arlington, Va., Apr 25, 2018 / 12:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Cardinal Newman Society on Monday released its annual guide to help young Catholics make an informed choice as they navigate their search for colleges.  

The organization noted that this year marks 10 years since Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States. The pope addressed the importance of Catholic education during that trip.

“First and foremost, every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God, Who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth,” Pope Benedict XVI told educational leaders at The Catholic University of America on April 17, 2008.

One year later, the Cardinal Newman Society published its first Newman Guide to Catholic Colleges, which the organization’s president, Patrick Reilly, presented to Pope Benedict in Rome.

Every year since, the Cardinal Newman Society has released an annual guide of recommended colleges, chosen based on strong Catholic identity and fidelity.

This year’s guide lists 17 recommended residential Catholic colleges in the U.S.: The Catholic University of America, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Walsh University, University of St. Thomas, Benedictine College, University of Mary, De Sales University, Mount St. Mary’s University, University of Dallas, Belmont Abbey College, Ave Maria University, Christendom College, Thomas Aquinas College, John Paul the Great Catholic University, Wyoming Catholic College, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, and Northeast Catholic College.

It also lists 11 non-residential, international, or online colleges in the country.

Each institution also includes a profile highlighting its unique characteristics, such as educational approach and culture on campus.

The Cardinal Newman Society explained that different types of colleges may fit different students’ personalities, interests and needs, and the guide is intended to help them compare options to find the best fit for their situation.

A copy of the guide is currently available online, and a printed copy will be accessible in the fall.

The organization is also promoting its “Recruit Me” program, where high schools students can be recruited by Catholic colleges, find tips on the college decision process, and take part in the Newman Society’s $5,000 Essay Scholarship Contest.

The society also runs www.CatholicEdJobs.com, a website for Catholic schools to be connected with faithful Catholic job candidates.

Founded in 1993, the Cardinal Newman Society advocates for faithful Catholic education at all levels.

 

Michigan diocese brings in retired judge for investigation, recommits to cooperation

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 19:03

Saginaw, Mich., Apr 24, 2018 / 05:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A retired judge who will be overseeing the internal investigation of the sex abuse scandal in the Diocese of Saginaw said he is committed to reporting abuse allegations to the proper authorities.

Earlier this month, Bishop Joseph Cistone of Saginaw announced the appointment of Judge Michael Talbot as an independent delegate appointed to oversee the internal investigation of the diocese, following numerous allegations against priests in the diocese, including one who has been criminally charged.

In March, police raided the home of Bishop Cistone, as well as the chancery and its cathedral rectory, citing a lack of cooperation on the part of the diocese in the ongoing clerical sex abuse investigation.

Talbot said in a statement released by the diocese that he will adhere to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a set of policies and procedures for handling instances of sexual abuse approved by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002.

"As delegate, I intend to comply with the mandatory requirements of The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the Catholic bishops of the United States," he said. "As soon as the Diocese of Saginaw receives such a complaint it will be reported to the county prosecutor where the abuse is alleged to have occurred."

Talbot, a Catholic, currently serves in the Archdiocese of Detroit on the Board of Trustees of Sacred Heart Major Seminary and is the Chair of the Board of Madonna University.

He was also a founding chairperson of the Detroit Archdiocesan Review Board in 2002, and assisted in writing the first Victim’s Rights Law for the State of Michigan, which he was responsible for implementing in Wayne County courts.

“On the occasion a person contacts the Diocese Victim Assistance Coordinator to make a complaint of sexual abuse of minors by clergy or other diocesan representative, that person will be told about the diocesan reporting obligation and also will be encouraged to directly report the allegation to civil authorities,” Talbot said in the statement.

“I also intend to seek formal reporting agreements with the 11 County Prosecutors in the Diocese of Saginaw. Beyond the legalities involved, it has been my experience that communication and full cooperation with local law enforcement serves this process well,” he added.

At a press conference following his appointment, Talbot asked that anyone with accusations of sexual abuse against diocesan authorities to come forward.

However, law enforcement involved in the investigation said afterward in a statement that people should report sexual abuse and misconduct directly to police, and not to the diocese.

According to police involved in the investigation, the diocese "cannot and should not be used as a clearing house for the reporting of crimes by victims."

"That is the function of law enforcement. Any victims of abuse or other crimes should report their allegations directly to law enforcement as opposed to the Diocese or Judge Talbot, its independent delegate."

Two priests have been placed on leave from their duties after a recent wave of accusations of sexual abuse against priests in the Saginaw diocese.

In February, Fr. Robert DeLand, pastor of St. Agnes parish in Freeland, was charged with one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of gross indecency between male persons, and one count of attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct/personal injury, following the accusations of a 21-year-old man and a 17-year-old high school student.

In early April, DeLand was charged with two additional counts of felony sexual misconduct against a minor, as well as one count of possessing a controlled substance and one misdemeanor count of furnishing alcohol for a minor, according to local media.

On March 8, the diocese released a statement clarifying that further review of records determined that the diocese had been informed of rumors about DeLand in 1992, and that in 2005 a woman contacted the diocese about the possibility that DeLand might have sexually abused her brother, who since had died, in the 1970s.

The diocese said it had contracted an investigator to assess the matter, and that “the independent Diocesan Review Board, Bishop Robert Carlson, who was Bishop of Saginaw at the time, as well as the family agreed that the suspicion against Father DeLand was unfounded.”

DeLand, who also served as judicial vicar for the Diocese of Saginaw, has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation. He is also banned from school properties and from presenting himself as a priest.

The second priest to be placed on leave in the recent investigation is Father Ronald J. Dombrowski, following an accusation that he sexually assaulted a minor. According to the diocese, the alleged victim first brought the complaint to the diocese, which contacted the authorities.

While Dombrowski has not been criminally charged, he has also been banned from school properties and from presenting himself as a priest during the investigation.

In 2012, Cistone was accused of misleading a grand jury about his compliance in the destruction of documents containing the names of priests suspected of child molestation in 1994, while he was a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Cistone was not criminally charged in the incident.

New York assisted suicide bill draws fire from disability rights group

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 05:00

New York City, N.Y., Apr 24, 2018 / 03:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Disability rights activists are speaking out in opposition to a proposal in New York that would legalize physician assisted suicide.

The Medical Aid in Dying Act, or bill A.2383-A, would amend the current public health law to legalize assisted suicide for mentally competent, terminally ill patients in the state of New York. The bill was heard in the New York Assembly Health Committee on Monday, where a number of opposing groups testified against it.

“The mere suggestion that disability acquired as the result of illness is cause enough to end one’s life is a devaluation of disabled peoples’ lives, and it’s offensive,” said Kathryn Carroll, an attorney and policy analyst with the Center for Disability Rights, who was invited to testify at Monday’s hearing.

“Our focus should be on expanding access to services and supports that allow people to live with dignity, rather than assisting their suicide,” Carroll continued.

She warned of the danger posed by economic incentives for insurance companies and caregivers to push assisted suicide on the terminally ill as the cheaper option, instead of longer term end-of-life care.

“As long as these external influences exist, the promise of a choice to end one’s life is a lie,” Carroll said.

Carroll was joined by other disability advocates, including Mel Tanzman, the executive director of Westchester Disabled on the Move and the chair of the health committee at the New York Association on Independent Living.

Tanzman gave his testimony on Monday on behalf of over 40 organizations who serve individuals with disabilities in the state of New York.

“Fears of becoming disabled and facing functional loss, whether the cause is injury or illness, are often reported by doctors as reasons patients request assisted suicide in states where it is legal,” Tanzman said.

“The disability community strongly opposes the belief that requiring the assistance of another individual for activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing and toileting, is undignified or a legitimate reason for New York State to legalize physician assisted suicide,” he continued.

Tanzman additionally pointed to the possibility of “coercion and abuse” in such legislation, noting reports that similar assisted suicide measures in other states have experienced “ineffectual safeguards” against abuses for the terminally ill or disabled.

The bill’s New York City hearing is scheduled to take place on May 3, where Not Dead Yet, a disability rights activist group, will be testifying.

The Medical Aid in Dying Act is not the first attempt to legalize physician assisted suicide within New York. Last fall, an appeals court in the state ruled against a lawsuit which stated that citizens have a right to choose doctor-assisted suicide.

The lawsuit claimed that the state’s law against helping another individual commit suicide does not apply to doctor-assisted death, arguing that the ban on physician assisted suicide is unconstitutional because it denies patients the right to self-determination.

However, seven judges of the New York Court of Appeals unanimously shut down the case, saying the current law against assisting with suicide did not make exceptions for doctors. The judges also said the measure would induce undue pressure on terminal patients to end their lives.

Physician assisted suicide is now legal in a handful of states, including California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

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