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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 22 min 19 sec ago

Vatican at UN: Nukes won't save us – let's seek a better path

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 22:02

New York City, N.Y., Sep 22, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nuclear weapons are a force for instability and any claims they promote peace are chasing illusions, the Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States told leading diplomats seeking a nuclear test ban treaty.

“While having no illusions about the challenges involved in achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, the challenges posed by the status quo ante of growing tensions, continuing proliferation, and new modernization programs are far more daunting,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher said.

“Nuclear arms offer a false sense of security. The uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence has time and time again proved a tragic illusion. Nuclear weapons cannot create a stable and secure world. Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of annihilation.”

The U.K.-born archbishop's words came in remarks to the 10th Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, held at the United Nations in New York City. The Holy See signed the treaty in 1996.

“The rising tensions over North Korea’s growing nuclear program are of special urgency,” he said. “The international community must respond by seeking to revive negotiations. The threat or use of military force have no place in countering proliferation, and the threat or use of nuclear weapons in countering nuclear proliferation are deplorable.”

“We must put behind us the nuclear threats, fear, military superiority, ideology, and unilateralism that drive proliferation and modernization efforts and are so reminiscent of the logic of the Cold War,” he said.

Putting the treaty into force is even more urgent considering contemporary threats to peace, he said, citing continued nuclear proliferation and some nuclear states’ major new modernization programs.

Archbishop Gallagher said political analysis that relies on nuclear weapons is misleading. The supposed peace based on a balance of power and “threats and counter-threats, and ultimately fear” is “unstable and false.” He called for the replacement of “a logic of fear and mistrust” with “an ethic of responsibility” that would foster multilateral dialogue and consistent cooperation between all members of the international community.

The archbishop said the Holy See is troubled by “the continued lack of progress” in making sure the treaty enters into force. The two decades since the treaty’s launch have been a lost two decades in achieving “our common goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

The Holy See welcomes the opportunity to join other states that have ratified the treaty in appealing to remaining states whose ratification is necessary, he added.

“In ratifying this treaty, these States have an opportunity to demonstrate wisdom, courageous leadership, and a commitment to peace and the common good of all,” he said.

The comprehensive test ban is “a critical component to broader nuclear disarmament efforts.”

He cited Pope Francis' Sept. 25, 2015 speech urging the U.N. General Assembly “to work for a world free of nuclear weapons” and for a full application of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that aims for “a complete prohibition of these weapons.”

“An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as ‘nations united by fear and distrust,” the Pope said.

Pope Francis has also written to Elayne Whyte Gómez, president of the U.N. conference seeking a nuclear weapons ban, urging the international community to go beyond nuclear deterrence and adopt “forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security.”

On Thursday, the Holy See was among the first to sign and ratify a new treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons. Archbishop Gallagher signed on behalf of the Holy See and Vatican City at the U.N. in New York, Vatican Radio reports. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Weapons has over 40 signatories and it will take effect 90 days after at least 50 nations formally ratify it.

That treaty bars the development, production, testing, acquisition, possession or stockpiling of nuclear weapons or other nuclear devices. It also bars the use or threat of use of these weapons. Most nuclear powers did not take part in the negotiations.

Denver event hopes to change how society views homeless people

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 20:00

Denver, Colo., Sep 22, 2017 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- When volunteers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development counted the number of homeless people in Colorado one night last year, they found more than 10,000.

Christ in the City, a Denver-based outreach program, hopes to positively impact some of those people – not just with food or shelter, but with friendship.

The organization sees one of its primary goals as getting to know homeless people on the streets.

Young adult missionaries walk the streets of Denver in teams of three. They seek to encounter the homeless people who are often ignored. Over time, as they have conversations and meet regularly with the people on the streets, friendships develop.

“The people society usually ignores are called by name, treated with authentic love, and are reminded of their innate dignity. Their posture becomes more upright, their eyes begin to shine, and their hearts are softened as missionaries treat them with the tender care Christ modeled,” the organization said in describing its mission.

Currently, Christ in the City has 24 missionaries, ages 18-27. The organization operates in Denver, but has had requests to expand in the Archdioceses of Lincoln, Neb., and Philadelphia, Penn.

Also critical to the group’s approach is formation of the missionaries and efforts to help change the way society views the poor.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, Christ in the City will host “A Night of Encounter,” an event that will offer a glimpse into what it’s like to serve the homeless not only in their material needs, but through friendship.  

Hosted by Holy Name Parish in Englewood, Colo., the event will include an outdoor cocktail hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m.

Missionaries will sit with guests, who will have the opportunity to hear their stories of encountering homeless people on the streets of Denver.

Tickets for “A Night of Encounter” can be purchased at: http://christinthecity.co/annualcelebration/

Villanova 'culture warrior' professor accepts Douthat debate invitation

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 18:55

New York City, N.Y., Sep 22, 2017 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- New York Times columnist Ross Douthat invited Villanova theologian Massimo Faggioli to a debate, and Faggioli has said that he would be open to the idea.

“I am really looking forward to meeting him in person, as soon as is possible. I don’t know if this event is going to happen, in what form. I am totally open to it,” Dr. Massimo Faggioli, a theology professor at Villanova University, told CNA of Ross Douthat’s invitation to a debate.

Douthat, a Catholic, is an author and op-ed columnist at the New York Times, writing on religion, politics, morality, and culture. Faggioli is a theology professor, church historian, and Catholic commentator at Villanova University. Douthat and Faggioli have both been referred to as “culture warriors,” one a conservative, the other a liberal.

In a Sept. 20 column, “Expect the Inquisition,” Douthat noted two recent examples of priests or theologians losing academic positions or speaking engagements because of online campaigns opposing them.

Instead of “conflicting inquisitions, liberal and conservative,” Douthat proposed more “serious argument” and “respectful debate” amongst academics, theologians, and bishops.

In particular, Douthat invited Faggioli – with whom he has previously engaged in online debates, most notably in October of 2015 during the Synod on the Family – to a debate. “I myself am only a train ride away from Professor Faggioli’s Villanova and would happily allow him to educate me on my theological deficiencies on a platform of his choosing,” he said.

Faggioli told CNA on Thursday that he would be open to such a debate.

Faggioli noted that he would not want a debate that would resemble a “boxing match,” but rather “just two individuals there to present a much bigger debate.”

“I think it’s much bigger than Ross and Massimo. But it’s certainly a step forward from two years ago, when there was a much harsher exchange,” he said. Faggioli said he would be open to meet “at Villanova, or at Commonweal, or wherever that can happen.”

“We have to find a way to meet and talk,” Faggioli said, “but there’s a lot of noise that is really part of the environment. And that is still violent. That’s the problem. And we have to find a way to neutralize those violent voices who have no interest of exchange of ideas.”

“What’s a bit disturbing,” he added, is that “if you read the comments that their readers post on their column or their messages against me following Douthat’s article yesterday, that is scary, honestly,” he said.

In an interview with CNA, Faggioli questioned Douthat’s ability to comment on theological and ecclesial issues. “It is striking that he’s commenting with this cavalier attitude on important issues with a fundamental lack of knowledge, I would say.”

“And about what’s going on in Francis’ pontificate, it seems to me that he has a very sketchy idea with very little knowledge of the real people appointed by Francis, what they have published, what they have said, their curriculum, who they are,” Faggioli said.

Although Douthat’s recent column was “a bit less arrogant, a bit less aggressive, looking for a dialogue with people like me with whom he has disagreed for a couple of years now,” he said, “there’s the same lack of knowledge and of curiosity for what this Pope is doing.”

“He doesn’t know, he doesn’t read what the other people are doing. And it’s deeply, deeply unfair and false to make a caricature of them as the bolshevik of Pope Francis,” he said.

Douthat and Faggioli have recently clashed over response to “Building a Bridge,” a book by Fr. James Martin, SJ, addressing LGBT issues in the Church.  Fr. Martin was recently disinvited to address seminarians at Theological College, a seminary in Washington, DC, after outcry and protests from online groups Faggioli has called “cyber-militias.”

In a September 18 essay published by La Croix, Faggioli criticized the “campaign of hatred and personal attacks” against Fr. Martin, and said that “this sort of vitriol is profoundly changing the communion of the Catholic Church.”

“It signals a new kind of censorship that uses verbal violence to intimidate individual Catholics, as well as institutions within the Church,” he said.

In his September 20 column, Douthat responded that “Professor Faggioli’s sudden concern about online campaigns was interesting to me, because it was just a short while ago that the professor was himself busy organizing an online campaign against myself.”

Douthat was referring to an October 2015 letter to the New York Times, written by Faggioli and more than 50 other academics, objecting to a column by Douthat. Among the signatories was Nicholas P. Cafardi, a civil and canon lawyer who served as chairman of “Catholics for Obama,” and characterized President Barack Obama as “pro-life” in 2012.

In the criticized column “The Plot to Change Catholicism,” Douthat speculated that the Pope sided with the proposal of Cardinal Walter Kasper that the divorced and remarried be allowed to receive communion, without first receiving a declaration that their first marriages were invalid. Pope Francis picked synod delegates who would be sympathetic to such a position, Douthat said.

In subsequent comments on Twitter, Douthat criticized supporters of the so-called “Kasper proposal” at the synod. “If you take a view the church has consistently rejected, you don't get to whine when the ‘h’ word comes up,” Douthat said, adding, “Own your heresy.”

The response letter questioned Douthat’s credibility. “Aside from the fact that Mr. Douthat has no professional qualifications for writing on the subject, the problem with his article and other recent statements is his view of Catholicism as unapologetically subject to a politically partisan narrative that has very little to do with what Catholicism really is,” the letter stated.

In response to that letter, Bishop Robert Barron defended Douthat, writing at the Word on Fire website: “If a doctorate in theology were a bottom-line prerequisite, we would declare the following people unqualified to express an opinion on matters religious: Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Lewis, William F. Buckley, W.H. Auden, or to bring things more up to date, Fr. James Martin, George Weigel, and E.J. Dionne. In point of fact, it is often the case that those outside of the official academy often have the freshest and most insightful perspectives, precisely because they aren’t sequestered in the echo-chamber of politically correct faculty lounge discourse.”

While no debate has been scheduled, CNA has learned that details for the possibility of a debate are being explored, and may soon be announced.  

Faggioli told CNA, “As long as it’s not a debate like Muhammad Ali versus George Foreman; I don’t want this to become a personal thing. But I’ll be happy to meet with him and discuss with him.”

Douthat also affirmed his openness to a debate. “I meant what I wrote,” he told CNA. “I’m happy to debate him when our schedules, as fathers of young children, will allow for it.”

Douthat told CNA that serious conversation about issues is important for Catholics. In his September 20 column, he wrote, “There is no way forward save through controversy. Postpone the inquisitions; schedule arguments instead.”

If Douthat and Faggioli meet for a debate, controversy may well point a way forward.

 

Why Catholic News Agency? Our mission

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 18:07

Denver, Colo., Sep 22, 2017 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- Five days after he was elected Pope, John Paul II met with journalists from around the world. The Pope was a scholar, a man of letters, and an actor. He understood the power of words and images, and he understood the power of media.

In his own country, Poland, John Paul had seen the state-run Communist media obscure the truth to create confusion and cement power. He had also seen the underground media – the resistance – risk lives and freedom to tell the truth. John Paul II knew that words and images could sow the lies of Satan, or bring the freedom that comes from living in truth.

When he met with them, he told journalists that they should use the freedom of the press “to grasp the truth,” and to help readers, listeners, and viewers “to live in justice and brotherhood, to discover the ultimate meaning of life, to open them up to the mystery of God.”

The Pope told reporters that they should try “to grasp the authentic, deep and spiritual motivations of the Church's thought and action,” and “to elevate…the spirit and the heart of men of good will, at the same time as the faith of Christians.”

The mission of Catholic media is to seek the truth, and to share it, especially in light of eternal and enduring truths. We use words to reveal the Word himself, Jesus Christ. St. Paul says that encountering that Word transforms us, by “the renewal of our minds.”

Less than a month ago, I began working as editor-in-chief of Catholic News Agency, an apostolate dedicated to discovering the truth, and reporting it. Our team of writers, producers, and editors is committed to using our craft for the sake of the Gospel, to revealing the truth, and to helping Catholics understand the events of world through the lens of faith, guided by enduring truths of the Gospel. We want to help Catholics see, judge, and act in the world as it really is.

The public square in the United States has become chaotic. Our political culture is often vindictive and small-minded, preferring power politics to the common good. Media often incites conflict, rather than reporting facts. Public discourse has becoming a shouting match. It has become difficult to know what is true.

Our mission is to point to the truth. We want to inform, to educate, and to inspire. We want to point to what is good, so that it can be supported and replicated. We want to point to what is evil, so that Catholics can respond. We want to point to the Church’s work in the world, and we want to explain the factors that influence the Church’s life and ministry. We want to point to the ways that God is moving in the world.

We want to help Catholics to know the truth, to believe it, and to practice it.

In our age, media and news reporting are changing quickly. At CNA, we want to report the news in ways that reach Catholics, wherever they are. Our wire service provides news stories and analysis to diocesan newspapers, to our partners the National Catholic Register and EWTN News Nightly, to our sister news agencies in other languages throughout the world, and to other news and media apostolates. Our website provides up-to-the-minute news about the Church and the world. On social media – Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – we’re learning new ways to report the news. We’ll continue to provide news wherever people look for it, and we’ll look for new ways to share the truth.

Our mission is, most of all, a mission of charity. We do our work because we love the Lord, and because we love our readers. We want to give you, our readers, the information, perspectives, and contexts that help you to live as Catholics in our times. As we continue our mission, we hope you’ll continue to pray for us, and share with us your ideas and perspectives. We hope that as we continue our work, we will be united with you in the search for truth.

 

US bishops: Newest health care proposal fails moral test

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 13:08

Washington D.C., Sep 22, 2017 / 11:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Leading U.S. bishops have applauded pro-life provisions in the newest GOP health care proposal, but said that substantial changes are needed in other areas to make the bill morally acceptable.

“Without significant improvement, this bill does not meet the moral criteria for health care reform outlined in our previous letters,” four committee chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote to U.S. senators on Thursday.

They asked the senators “to think of the harm that will be caused to poor and vulnerable people.”

The four bishops who wrote the letter to the U.S. senators were Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the bishops’ pro-life activities committee; Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chair of the ad hoc religious liberty committee; Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the migration committee; and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Fla., chair of the domestic justice and human development committee.

Senate Republicans introduced the Graham-Cassidy health care proposal last week as the latest attempt by Republican lawmakers to repeal the current Affordable Care Act and replace it with another health care law.

Under the proposal, the old individual and employer health insurance mandates of the Affordable Care Act would be repealed, as well as the Medical Device Tax. Patients with pre-existing conditions would still be protected, the senators sponsoring the bill said.

States would receive more freedom and flexibility to innovate health care policies and lower costs, the senators claimed. The proposal would replace the expansion of Medicaid payments to the states with a “per capita cap” on the federal Medicaid payments based upon the population of the respective states.

However, these changes to Medicaid would “fundamentally restructure this vital program” and “result in deep funding cuts and lost coverage for millions of people,” the bishops wrote.

The bill would also replace other federal subsidies and grants to the states – like ACA premium tax credits and cost-sharing reduction subsidies – with block grants to states, the bill’s sponsors said. This would help reduce the inequality between the states that chose to partake in the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and those that did not. Just three states received “37 percent of Obamacare funds,” the senators claimed.

However, “while flexibility can be good at times, these block grants will result in billions of dollars in reductions for those in health care poverty,” the bishops wrote.

States facing budget deficits may be forced to cut more programs benefitting low-income citizens if they do not receive the additional aid from the federal government, the bishops said.

Pro-life provisions in the bill are laudable, they noted, especially those protecting against taxpayer funding of abortions in health care, and redirecting Medicaid dollars away from abortion providers like Planned Parenthood toward other health clinics that do not provide abortions.

“The legislation does correct a serious flaw in the Affordable Care Act by ensuring that no federal funds are used for abortion or go to plans that cover it. This improvement is praiseworthy, and it is essential that any improved final bill retain these key provisions,” the letter said.

“We also applaud that Graham-Cassidy redirects funds from organizations that provide abortion,” the bishops said.

Looking ahead, the bishops told the senators to avoid being hasty in passing a comprehensive health care bill that could affect the coverage of millions of Americans.

“The Senate should only proceed with a full report concerning just how many people will be impacted,” the bishops said of the changes to Medicaid.

“Decisions about the health of our citizens – a concern fundamental to each of us – should not be made in haste simply because an artificial deadline looms,” the bishops said. Members of Congress should pass a bill with bipartisan support, one “that addresses the life, conscience, immigrant access, market stability and affordability problems that now exist.”

 

'Zero tolerance' on child abuse must apply to laity too

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 11:38

New York City, N.Y., Sep 22, 2017 / 09:38 am (CNA).- In his September 20 remarks to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Pope Francis stated the important point that “the Church, at all levels, will respond with the application of the firmest measures to all those who have betrayed their call and abused the children of God.” That reaffirmation of the Church's commitment to child protection cannot be said too often or too strongly.

The Holy Father then went on to say something new and very significant: “The disciplinary measures that the particular Churches have adopted must apply to all those who work in the institutions of the Church... Therefore, the Church irrevocably and at all levels seeks to apply the principle of 'zero tolerance' against the sexual abuse of minors.”

This is an unambiguous call to action. The Church in the United States has been a world leader in child protection, and we have an opportunity now to lead again.

Since its adoption in 2002, the Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People has been the foundation for the Church's immensely successful efforts to provide a safe environment for children in our institutions and to ensure accountability for the implementation of those efforts. As successful as the Charter has been, however, it has always been missing a very significant piece -- on its face, it only applies to cases of misconduct by clergy and not by laypeople.

For example, the term “sexual abuse” is defined in the Charter by reference to a canon law provision that applies only to the clergy. The definition is ambiguous, and fails to provide sufficient guidance about what behaviors are proscribed. This leaves diocesan officials to rely on an ad hoc standard of their own creation or on potentially differing opinions of theologians, civil or canon lawyers, or review board members.  

This is not a good practice -- “sexual abuse” cannot mean one thing in one diocese and a different thing in another, one thing when it applies to clergy and another when it's a lay person.

The Charter's definition of “child pornography” suffers from the same problem. The only guidance in the Charter is a reference to a Vatican document that has an empty and unhelpful definition that is limited to conduct by clerics. An ambiguous standard for this heinous crime isn't acceptable, and it must apply to laity as well.  

In addition, although the Charter discusses procedures for handling cases involving the clergy, it says nothing about how to handle cases about lay persons. And most importantly, while the Charter clearly applies the “zero tolerance” policy of permanently removing an offending priest or deacon, there is no defined penalty for lay persons who have committed an offense.

This is a very significant gap. We must assure everyone that no person, lay or cleric, will be permitted to be with children if they have committed an offense. Failing to do so leaves an erroneous impression that sex abuse is uniquely a problem with the clergy, which ignores all the evidence of the incidence of sex abuse and unfairly stigmatizes our priests and deacons.  

This omission could have an impact on the credibility of our child protection programs. The annual audit requires information about background check and training of lay people and detailed information about clergy abuse cases, but no information is gathered about cases involving lay people. Including the laity explicitly under the Charter will ensure a greater level of accountability and trust.

One would expect that every diocese has already adopted policies that cover lay people as well as clergy. We certainly have in the Archdiocese of New York. But local policies don't send a strong enough message. The Charter is the public expression of the United States Church's full commitment to child protection. It is imperative that we make absolutely clear that the same rigorous standards apply to all who work with children, across our entire nation.

This is not hard to do. Clear and usable definitions of “sexual abuse” and “child pornography” can be developed that unambiguously cover laypeople. We can draw on the vast experience reflected in state and federal law, which define numerous sexual offenses with great detail and specificity. Uniform disciplinary procedures for handling lay cases do not have to be developed at the national level, since those will be shaped by local personnel policies and laws. Nor do we have to worry about inconsistency with canon law, since that only applies to clergy cases.

It can also be stated plainly that all allegations will be immediately reported to law enforcement and full cooperation will be given to the authorities. All dioceses probably already do this -- in the Archdiocese of New York we have strong protocols for cooperation with law enforcement. But again, a strong statement in the Charter will demonstrate our commitment across the nation.

Most important, after the Holy Father's mandate, it is vital that the “zero tolerance” policy clearly applies to the laity. There can be no room for doubt about that.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been working on a revision of the Charter, and it has not yet been finalized. The Holy Father's timely call to action now gives the Church a great opportunity to be proactive and ensure that our rigorous policies apply equally to all who work with our children.

 

Edward Mechmann, Esq., is the Director of Safe Environment for the Archdiocese of New York. His opinions are his own, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Archdiocese of New York.

 

Ending human trafficking requires everyone's efforts, archbishop says

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 02:47

New York City, N.Y., Sep 22, 2017 / 12:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At a United Nations gathering in New York City, a Holy See official stressed the need for a multi-pronged approach in fighting human trafficking and aiding victims.

“The issue of trafficking in persons can only be fully addressed by promoting effective juridical instruments and concrete collaboration at multiple levels by all stakeholders,” Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher told global leaders at a United Nations event on Tuesday.

Archbishop Gallagher is the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States. He spoke at a High Level Leaders Event hosted by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, entitled, “A Call to Action to End Forced Labor, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.”

The archbishop emphasized the importance of “multi-pronged strategies” to prevent more of these crimes and aid the affected victims, and he noted the special role of women and religious personnel in offering an avenue of trust.

“Experience has shown that many victims are wary of trusting law enforcement authorities, but that they confide their stories more easily to religious personnel, especially religious sisters, who can build their trust in the legal process and provide them safe haven and other forms of assistance.”

Ending this “modern slavery” has been a major priority for Pope Francis, said Archbishop Gallagher, and the Catholic Church is collaborating “with both the public and private sectors, including with government authorities.”

Grace Williams, executive director of Children of the Immaculate Heart in San Diego, agreed that women in the Church have an important role in working with trafficking victims.

William’s organization serves women who have been victims of human trafficking. Focusing on rehabilitation, Children of the Immaculate Heart offers opportunities for education, counseling, recreational therapy, and housing.

She explained that their program enables a greater level of trust for victims because the staff members are nearly all women.

“It provides them with a safe environment,” Williams told CNA. “It’s easier for them, in the beginning, to trust” and to open up about their experience.

Due to traumatic past experiences, one of the clients at the organization is unable to ride alone with a man in the car, said Williams, noting that the woman cannot use ridesharing services like Uber for this reason.

Having primarily women on staff is particularly important when it comes to professionals, such as case managers, therapists, and doctors, she said.

Sharing office space with Saint Anne Catholic Church in San Diego, Children of the Immaculate Heart also works closely with parish priests to provide spiritual counseling and advice.

In his address, Archbishop Gallagher said that the Church has played a major role in helping victims heal, but stressed that collaboration is needed on all fronts to “halt these heinous crimes,” he said.

“The global nature of the crimes of forced labor, modern slavery and human trafficking require from all of us a commensurate response of collaboration, fraternity and solidarity.”

Pope Francis has spoken out against human trafficking repeatedly during his papacy. Just a few months after becoming Pope, he called for a group of experts to meet at the Vatican in order to discuss ways to fight human trafficking.

In speeches and homilies, the Pope has referred to human trafficking as “a disgrace” and a “shameful wound... a wound unworthy in a civil society.”

“It is not possible to remain indifferent before the knowledge that human beings are bought and sold like goods,” he said in a 2014 message.

“I think of the adoption of children for the extraction of their organs, of women deceived and forced to prostitute themselves, of workers exploited and denied their rights or a voice, and so on. This is human trafficking!”

 

Archbishop Chaput: Fr. Martin deserves respectful criticism, not trash-talking

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 22:02

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 21, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Some of the verbal attacks on Father James Martin, S.J. have been “inexcusably ugly,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has said in response to reactions to the controversial priest.

“Fr. Martin is a man of intellect and skill whose work I often admire. Like all of us as fellow Christians, he deserves to be treated with fraternal good will,” the archbishop said.

“It’s one thing to criticize respectfully an author’s ideas and their implications. It’s quite another to engage in ad hominem trashing.”

Writing in a Sept. 21 essay on the First Things website, the archbishop said that everyone who claims to be Christian has “the duty to speak the truth with love.”

“Culture warriors come in all shapes and shades of opinion,” the Archbishop of Philadelphia said. “The bitterness directed at the person of Fr. Martin is not just unwarranted and unjust; it’s a destructive counter-witness to the Gospel.”

Fr. Martin, media personality and editor-at-large of the Society of Jesus’ America Magazine, serves as a consultor to the Secretariat for Communication at the Vatican.

He has been the focus of controversy since the publication of his 2017 book “Building a Bridge,” which outlined how he thought the Catholic Church and the LGBT community should relate to each other. His book received the endorsements of several senior Catholic Church leaders, but also criticism from leaders like Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Some critics have faulted his book for avoiding discussion of the Church’s teaching on sexuality and for its lack of engagement with Catholics who identify as LGBT and accept Church teaching on chastity and other issues.  Others have expressed concern that his public lectures about the book have repudiated Catholic teaching.

Several Catholic organizations had canceled speaking invitations they had extended to the priest. His most recent canceled appearance was at the Theological College, a seminary affiliated with the Catholic University of America. The seminary cited “increasing negative feedback from various social media sites.”

Archbishop Chaput reflected on reaction to that controversy, saying professor and Catholic commentator Massimo Faggioli was right to worry about the vitriol that is “profoundly changing the Church,” Faggioli wrote in an essay in La Croix’s online international edition.

The professor had noted the archbishop’s own rebuke of groups like the Lepanto Institute and Church Militant ahead of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

However, Archbishop Chaput questioned Faggioli’s claim that these “conservative cyber-militias” were fostered by a generation of bishops appointed under Popes John Paul II and Benedict, who in Faggioli’s words re-shaped “the U.S. episcopate in the image of the ‘culture warrior’.”

The archbishop, himself an appointee of Pope John Paul II, emphasized the Christian duty to speak truth with love.

He also added that Fr. Martin is not above criticism.

“The perceived ambiguities in some of Fr. Martin’s views on sexuality have created much of the apprehension and criticism surrounding his book. There’s nothing vindictive in respectfully but firmly challenging those inadequacies. Doing less would violate both justice and charity.”

“Clear judgment, tempered by mercy but faithful to Scripture and constant Church teaching, is an obligation of Catholic discipleship – especially on moral issues, and especially in Catholic scholarship,” he added.

The archbishop compared contemporary contentiousness to the widespread unrest ahead of the Protestant Reformation.

“The details of our moral and ecclesial disputes are very different from those of five centuries ago – none of the Reformers, Protestant or Catholic, could have imagined what they would loose or where it would lead – but the gravity of our arguments is just as real, and the results will be just as far-reaching.”

“If we’ve learned anything over the past five hundred years, we might at least stop demonizing each other,” he said. “On matters of substance, bad-mouthing the other guy only makes things worse.”

How the JPII Institute helped alumni 'become more fully and radically human'

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 18:27

Washington D.C., Sep 21, 2017 / 04:27 pm (CNA).- Alumni of the early years of the Washington, D.C. “session” of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family say it gave them a strong formation for the New Evangelization.

“What struck me as I read about the institute and its goal: it was to go deeper into understanding the teachings of the Church,” said Dr. John Brehany, director of institutional relations for the National Catholic Bioethics Center and an alumnus of the institute’s D.C. campus.

The institute aimed to see Church teaching “as life-giving,” he told CNA, and “to understand it, not to apologize for it, and to bring it to more effective dialogue.”

After the 1980 Synod on the Family, the publication of Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio “on the role of the Christian family in the modern world,” and the series of weekly audiences he gave on the human person, marriage, and the family – now known as “Theology of the Body” – the Pope established the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Pope St. John Paul II planned to announce the formation of the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family on May 13, 1981, but he was shot in St. Peter’s Square on that day and the announcement was delayed for over a year.

The Washington, D.C. campus of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family was started in 1988, offering a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.).

Today, the campus offers degrees of a Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.), Doctorates of Sacred Theology (S.T.D.), and specializations in Marriage and Family and Person, Marriage, and Family (Ph.D.).

The original mission of the institute, as some of the early alumni saw it, was to bring the rich teachings of the Church on marriage, the family, and the human person into an engagement with the modern world, but never from an uncharitable or apologetic standpoint.

Pope St. John Paul II “would often say the future of the world and of the Church passes through the family,” said Fr. John Riccardo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and popular Catholic speaker, who attended the D.C. campus from 1999-2001.

“And so the mission of the institute was to respond to what John Paul II called the crisis of modernity, actually, which was the degradation and the polarization of the dignity of the human person,” he told CNA.

This crisis was occurring both in Communist Russia but also in the West with “rampant materialism.”

Pope St. John Paul II’s establishment of the Rome institute came after “a rolling wave, it seemed, of dissent” from Church teaching in the 1960s, especially in the wake of Bl. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, Brehany said.

In that period of time before the institute was founded, there had been much apology for and regret over Church teaching, he said. The institute “was a confident, very constructive approach to understanding and sharing the teachings of the Church on marriage and the family.”

Dr. Mark Latkovic, a professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, was in the original graduating class of the D.C. campus.

As the campus was founded in 1988, only several years after the founding of the Pontifical Institute in Rome, it attracted world-class theologians – something that did not go unnoticed by prospective students.

Some of the early faculty and lecturers included renowned scholars like William May, a moral theologian who had renounced his original dissent from Humanae Vitae; Scripture scholar Fr. Francis Martin; philosophy professor Ralph McInerny; then-president of the Rome Institute and future-Cardinal Carlo Caffara; and theologian Fr. Benedict Ashley, OP.

“The faculty who were there in those first years were top-notch,” Brehany recalled, adding that the rigorous curriculum gave him a solid foundation for when he later pursued his Ph.D. in health care ethics at St. Louis University.

“I think it was the highest-quality education I received anywhere,” he said.

In 1988, Latkovic had just received his Master’s degree at Catholic University and was preparing to study for his Ph.D. there when he received mail from the new John Paul II Institute, which was about to begin enrolling students.

“The faculty they had assembled was probably the best faculty you could ever have in one place in the world. There’s no way I could have gotten this faculty if I went to Oxford, or I went to Notre Dame,” he said.  

Latkovic felt called to attend the institute and took a “leap of faith,” joining the first graduating class. He studied under Fr. Ashley for two years as a graduate assistant, earning his S.T.L. in 1990. The Knights of Columbus covered his tuition.

“I never met a man like him before,” Latkovic said of his teacher, the late Fr. Ashley, “conversing with modern science inside-out. And so we were constantly in the classroom engaging current theories in science, sociology. He was literally an encyclopedia, an encyclopedia of knowledge.”

Brehany agreed that Fr. Ashley was a transformative teacher. “He did a lot of work in essentially understanding what was going on in modern science, acknowledging a lot of the data, but interpreting that data in light of a sound philosophy and faith,” he said.

When Fr. Riccardo attended the institute several years later, May and Fr. Martin were still on the faculty, along with Dr. Kenneth Schmitz, Jill Atkinson, and David Schindler, Sr.

They were “people that really transformed my mind,” he said. “They really solidified everything in my life that I understood in a way that I think I’d never understood before, why God’s plan for happiness, for the human person, just makes sense.”

Although the faculty were all faithful to Church teaching and to the mission of the institute, there was a positive diversity of opinions among them, the alumni said, which contributed to rich discussions and debates.

“We were exposed to so many different viewpoints,” Latkovic said, of Dominicans and Jesuits, of New Natural Law theorists and traditional Thomists. “There was just great dialogue and conversations across different disciplines.”

The original curriculum of the institute was quite theology-heavy, alumni said, and yet from the standpoint of Catholic theology and anthropology, they engaged with many current theories and arguments in the sciences.

“The institute was always very theological, and always very scientific in its approach to these disciplines,” Latkovic said. “There was very much a broad spirit, an openness to so many currents of thought,” he said, “and I don’t see how the institute could have been anything less, because John Paul II himself was a Thomist and a phenomenologist.”

“There were a number of disciplines that surrounded the topic of marriage and family, but it was all oriented to engaging the world,” Brehany said.

Fr. Riccardo said that in his time at the institute, the curriculum dealt with the practical issues that prepared him for a life of ministry.

“The Scripture is never abstract. And moral theology, quite frankly, is not abstract,” he said. “I would not describe what we got there, by any stretch of the imagination, as abstract. It was one of those things where I couldn’t wait to first apply this to my own life, and then to run to tell others.”

Fr. Ashley in particular led his students to engage with many different scientific texts.

“We were reading sociology,” Latkovic said, “we were reading modern scientists, we were reading different people, Christian, non-Christian, Protestant,” but always “through the lens of the Catholic tradition, St. John Paul II’s theology, and so on.”

That experience helped Latkovic develop a course on technology while teaching at seminary, something he probably would not have done without his prior education from Fr. Ashley, he said.

“He had a deep interest in science, and a variety of fields in science,” Brehany said. “He was very much rooted in the world of many practical issues.”

It was all in the spirit of “engaging modernity, engaging the culture,” Latkovic said, which he has carried with him into his teaching at Sacred Heart seminary today, “trying to see the good fruits, the good things that are out there.”

The institute prepared its first students to evangelize the society they lived in, yet many of the social problems in the years after Familiaris Consortio and the foundation of the institute are still present today.

“I think that the John Paul II Institute as founded, it seems to me that the vision and goals are even more relevant today than when they came into being,” Brehany said.

The original mission of the institute is still needed, he said, “a confidence that the teachings of the Church are true and well-founded, a constructive approach to appreciating them more, and taking that understanding out, taking that faith out in a very constructive manner, and doing it with excellence.”

“The whole legacy of the program is giving us the tools, the way of thinking properly” to face current-day problems, Latkovic said. “I don’t see John Paul II’s thought being limited to one particular era.”

“We’ve had troubled families, we’ve had to administer pastoral care to families for centuries. Not much has changed there. But I see John Paul II’s thought as part of the perennial philosophy,” he said.

Alumni of the institute now teaching bioethics and moral theology, or ministering to married couples or living in religious life, have counted the deep theological curriculum, the professors, and their engagement with contemporary issues as formation for their respective vocations.

“I did feel prepared intellectually to engage with anybody,” Brehany said, but “the spirit was to do it constructively” without apologizing for the Church’s teachings.

Fr. Riccardo draws upon his time at the institute in his priestly ministry.

“I can still remember a day really studying and praying with John Paul’s words,” he recalled. “I literally felt like my spine got strong, as I was just praying with truth, and understanding what it is the Scriptures are revealing and what God’s plan is,” he said. “I just felt like the Lord started to heal me in all sorts of areas of my life”

That has carried over into his ministry to others. “I’ve just seen example after example after example of marriages that have been healed, simply because of what I got there [at the institute] and what I’ve been able to pass on.”

Mother M. Maximilia Um, F.S.G.M., provincial superior of the Franciscans of the Martyr St. George, earned a Masters in Theological Studies (M.T.S.) at the institute from 2003-05. The institute taught her about the human person and relationships, which she says helps her in her vocation as a mother superior.

It also helped her foster a contemplative outlook on life, she said. She recalled the words of her professor David L. Schindler as he spoke to the new class on why they were at the institute.

They were there to “become more fully and radically human,” she said.

 

Bishop Conley: martyred Oklahoma priest showed courage that comes from prayer

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 18:50

Lincoln, Neb., Sep 20, 2017 / 04:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Oklahoma priest martyred in Guatemala will be beatified on Saturday, and his life has much to teach us, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln has said.

“To trust God can be risky and even dangerous at times,” Bishop Conley said in a Sept. 22 column for the Southern Nebraska Register.

“It requires courage. To be courageous requires that we know the Lord. To know him requires that we pray. Not all of us are called to martyrdom, as Father Stanley Rother was. But each one of us is called to trust the Lord, and to know him, love him, and serve him bravely.”

The priest’s life “gives me pause to reflect on my own courage, or lack thereof, in following the Lord,” the Nebraska bishop said. “Fr. Rother was so confident in what the Lord wanted of him. He was unwavering in courage. He walked into danger, even when others warned him against it. At the heart of his courage and confidence was his intimacy with the Lord in prayer.”

Father Rother’s beatification Mass will be said Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City. Before his last Christmas, the priest wrote home about the dangers in Guatemala: “The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.”

Fr. Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, was from the town of Okarche, Okla. A few years after ordination, he became a missionary to Guatemala, where he would spend 13 years of his life. The dioceses of Oklahoma City and Tulsa had established a mission in Santiago Atitlan, a poor rural community of mostly indigenous people, largely Tz’utujil Mayan Indians.

Drawing on life growing up on his family’s farm, the mission priest would work the fields and repair broken trucks. He built a farmer’s co-op, a school, a hospital, and the area’s first Catholic radio station.

The dangers of Guatemala’s civil war approached the village in 1980, and Fr. Rother supported his friends and parishioners even as many were abducted and killed – “disappeared” in the local phrasing. In January 1981, his name was found on a hit list. He returned to Oklahoma for a few months, but after receiving his bishop’s permission he went back.

On the morning of July 28, 1981, armed men broke into Fr. Rother’s rectory. They were from the non-indigenous ethnic group called the Landinos, who had been in conflict with Guatemala’s indigenous people and rural poor since the 1960s.

The men intended to disappear him, but he resisted. He struggled but did not call for help, so others at the mission would not be endangered. Fr. Rother was shot dead and the attackers fled.

Pope Francis officially recognized his death as a martyrdom in December 2016.

For Bishop Conley, Fr. Rother’s life and death provokes many questions. The priest did not have to be in Guatemala and could have stayed in Oklahoma.

“How many of us would choose to follow the Lord to a near certain martyrdom? Or, if we heard that a friend believed God was calling him to serve in a dangerous mission in a violent country, how many of us might try to stop him?” he asked.

“It would be natural to do so, and reasonable. And yet Fr. Rother knew what the Lord called him to do, and he proceeded faithfully and fearlessly. His bishop, and his family, and his friends, had courage too: the courage to trust that the Holy Spirit was leading him, even when following the Lord into the violence of Guatemala was dangerous.”

“None of us should relish danger for its own sake. None of us should be reckless without purpose,” Bishop Conley said. “But the Christian life is about following the will of the Lord, without counting the cost. And to do that, we need to know and hear the Lord’s voice, and we need to understand the movements of the Holy Spirit.”

Bishop Conley will attend Fr. Rother’s beatification Mass with dozens of bishops, scores of priests, and thousands of other Catholics.

“We will remember the holiness of Fr. Rother, and thank the Lord for the gift of his selflessness,” the bishop said. “We will pray that we might have the same courage that he did, and the same love for our mission, and for the Lord.”

“May Fr. Rother pray for us, as we turn to the Lord, seeking the courage to do his will.”

For the first time in 30 years, Sistine Choir to perform in US

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2017 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Sistine Chapel Choir will perform the U.S. for the first time in three decades, and will sing compositions that one expert says are an important heritage of the American church.

Italian priest Father Massimo Palombella directs the Sistine choir, which will be singing works by Renaissance composers such as Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Antonio Allegri and Tomás Luis de Victoria.

“As in Rome, this style of Renaissance polyphony would be adopted by the Churches of the New World as the standard style of music, especially for the Mass,” Dr. Grayson Wagstaff, dean of the Latin American Music Center at the Catholic University of America, explained to CNA.

On Sept. 20, a free concert will be hosted at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. next to Catholic University of America.

After attending Italy's prestigious conservatory and spending years as a theology and music teacher, Fr. Palombella became the director at the Pontifical Music Chapel, and began conducting the choir in 2010.

Dr. Wagstaff applauded the Salesian priest's efforts to use the Vatican's historic repertory and rejuvenate this style of music into the daily life of the Papal Chapels.

Fr. Palombella will be performing sounds iconic of the Mexico City Cathedral and the many works of the Spanish composers which had made their way to the “new world.”

“These works by Spanish composers would be the core of music transmitted, taught and copied in manuscripts in Mexico,” Dr. Wagstaff said. “Young boys from Mexico (then 'New Spain') would be selected to receive training in music and become boy choristers for the cathedrals.”

He added that this music is very significant to the “Church's artistic patrimony,” and now has the ability inspire “parishes to focus on quality music and learning about the Church’s legacy of art,” especially from Latin America.

Fr. Palombella studied philosophy and theology at the Salesian Pontifical Unversity, and trained under organ players Luigi Molfino and Bishop Valentino Miserachs Grau. He also attended the Conservatory of Turin.

Ordained a priest to the Salesian order in 1995, he began teaching dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Salesian University and the Language of Music at Sapienza University of Rome. He then succeeded Father Giuseppe Liberto as director of the Sistine Chapel Choir.

In his remarks to CNA, Dr. Wagstaff noted the importance that the upcoming concert has to the university.

“For us, this is a celebration of CUA's role as one of the great centers in the world for teaching and preserving this musical legacy of Catholic tradition as well as our wonderful tradition of musicology and research on the history of music in Rome.”

US Senate committee advances bill to aid Christians in Iraq

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 12:02

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2017 / 10:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Senate committee on Tuesday voted to advance a bill that seeks to ensure U.S. aid reaches Christian genocide victims in Iraq.

“The vote from this morning is an important step toward providing relief for those victims of the genocide committed by ISIS,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), one of the sponsors of H.R. 390, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017, stated.

Christians in Iraq who were forcibly displaced from their homes by the expansion of Islamic State in 2014, and many of who have been living in Iraqi Kurdistan, have been dependent on the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil and aid groups like the Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need for basic needs like rent, heating, and food.

Although Mosul and surrounding towns on the Nineveh Plain have been liberated from Islamic State control by coalition forces, some families have not yet been able to return to their homes since they may not have the resources or security to repair their homes and resume their normal lives.

The U.S. has declared that Islamic State committed genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and Shi’a Muslims in Iraq and Syria but, despite being genocide victims, Christians in Iraq have also reported that they have not been receiving official U.S. aid. The aid from NGOs is “not enough,” Smith has said; the Christians need to have access to official U.S. humanitarian aid.

“We’re not asking for new money,” Smith said at a June press conference before his bill passed the U.S. House. “We’re asking to make sure the money that’s in the pot is provided to those who have been left out and left behind for about three years.”

Christians could have much greater access to the aid if it was allowed to go through churches and church organizations, who are able to reach Christian populations, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), another sponsor of the bill, said at the press conference.

“The State Department would not allow any U.S. dollars to flow to church organizations. And this legislation allows for that,” she said.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Sept. 19 to advance the bill out of the committee, moving it closer to a floor vote. Smith praised Tuesday’s vote, saying the bill provides much-needed support to the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil, which has hosted Christian victims of Islamic State for several years.

“Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda has been sustaining more than 95,000 Christians who escaped ISIS – almost one third of Christians remaining in Iraq,” Smith said.

“It is incomprehensible that the U.S. has not done more to help,” he said, noting that the bill should be passed soon, as “lives are depending upon it.”

And time is running out to ensure that Christians get the assistance they need. Since the Christian families have been away from home for three years and their children are going without education for another year, the Knights of Columbus said they received reports that families could leave Iraq for good by the fall if they do not have a viable way of returning home.

What it's like to gather relics of Fr. Stanley Rother

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 05:23

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 20, 2017 / 03:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Fr. Stanley Rother, a missionary priest from Okarche, Oklahoma, was killed by rebels in Guatemala, his body was transferred back to the United States to be buried by his family.

But his heart remained in Guatemala.

Literally.

The native Guatemalans loved their pastor so much that they enshrined his heart at the mission parish in Santiago Atitlan.

On Sept. 23, that heart will go from being a disembodied remain to a first-class relic, a sacred artifact of someone who has been beatified by the Catholic Church.

The keeping and venerating of relics is perhaps one of the more bizarre Catholic practices, but it’s a scripturally-backed practice of the Church since its beginning.

There are three classes of relics recognized by the Church. First-class relics are bodily remains of a saint, such as bones or flesh or hair. Second-class relics are belongings of the saint, such as clothes or other personal items. Third-class relics are items that have been touched to a first- or second-class relic of that saint.

When Archbishop Paul Coakley was installed as head of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese in 2011, he inherited the task of the cause of canonization for Fr. Stanley Rother. As part of this undertaking, he also inherited the task of his gathering relics, a process that officially commenced once it was clear that the martyred priest’s beatification was imminent.

The second-class relics were easy. Over the years, the archdiocese had collected a handful of personal items of Fr. Stanley, donated by friends and family, including some of his clothes, and a pipe that he smoked. Once he is beatified, these things become second-class relics.

But when it came to exhuming the body to collect first-class relics, Archbishop Coakley admits he was a little lost.

“We had to do a lot of research,” the archbishop told CNA. “This happens so rarely, we didn’t know how to go about preparing for this.”

First, he obtained permission and rights to Fr. Stanley Rother’s remains from the priest’s two surviving siblings.

Then, according to Vatican protocol, he gathered the proscribed team of witnesses and medical experts who would help with the canonical exhumation and examination of Fr. Stanley’s body.

The medical team consisted of a pathologist and an orthopedic surgeon, both local Catholics. They helped examine and describe the remains, and compile a report sent to the Holy See. Among other things, the Church looks for signs of incorruptibility, when a body does not decompose. The condition has been found among some saints, although by itself, it is not enough to prove sanctity.

“They had expertise that would be helpful in describing what would be found when his tomb was opened, because we didn’t know what we could find,” Archbishop Coakley said.

Both the exhumation and examination are done “with great dignity and reverence, and there is a process by which we exhumed his body from the family plot at the parish cemetery in Okarche,” the archbishop added.

“And in that process we took one of his ribs, and that’s what we used for preparing first class relics,” he said.

His body was then transferred to a temporary resting place in Resurrection Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery next to the pastoral center in Oklahoma City, while his rib was sent to Rome.

“There is an Augustinian monastery of St. Lucia in Rome, and they are custodians of relics and have experience in preparing relics, so we sent our relic of Fr. Rother to them,” Archbishop Coakley said.

The sisters there will divide the rib into many tiny fragments, which will be encased in reliquaries, available to bishops who wish to obtain relics of Fr. Rother for public veneration. First-class relics are no longer distributed to lay persons, in order to protect the relics from negligence or abuse.

Meanwhile, the task of preparing the third-class relics (sometimes referred to as “touched relics”) of Fr. Stanley fell to the Carmelite Monastery of Rochester, New York, a congregation of 11 discalced, cloistered Carmelite nuns.

Mother Therese, the prioress of the convent, told CNA that while the sisters had done smaller “touched relic” projects for Carmelite saints, this was the first major relic project the convent has undertaken.

“A sister from Oklahoma City mentioned to me that the archdiocese was looking for someone to put together relic cards for Fr. Stanley’s beatification,” she said. “I said, ‘Well we’ve not done this on a huge scale but we are familiar with this process’...so that’s how it came about, a simple question from one of our Carmelite nuns.”

Often, third-class relics distributed at beatifications come in the form of a little piece of cloth embedded in a holy card.

“When the body was exhumed, the bones were wrapped in a very large and special cloth,” Mother Therese said.

This cloth was signed and dated by Archbishop Coakley during the exhumation in May and then sent to the nuns, who are punching small holes in the holy cards of Fr. Stanley and affixing the pieces of cloth – which will become relics once Fr. Stanley is beatified – to the cards.

The holy cards also have a picture of Fr. Stanley on the front, and a prayer for his canonization on the back – some in English and some in Spanish. The sisters have already made 10,000 and are expecting to make several thousand more.

“It’s a very great privilege for us,” Mother Therese said. “It has brought us very close to Fr. Stanley...we feel that he will intercede for us and that he will bless our community and the Church in the U.S. as well, because he’s the first American-born martyr.”

Archbishop Coakley said working on Father Stanley’s cause has been an honor, especially as someone who graduated from the same seminary as Fr. Stanley (though years later) and has been interested in his story for quite some time.

“I took that as a great privilege to be coming into the Oklahoma City Archdiocese at such a time,” he said.

“I...entrusted my ministry to him and prayed for his assistance and intercession as I undertook this ministry, I’ve felt a very near kinship with him since I was a seminarian and a priest and as the archbishop now.”

 

 

 

Catholic health care growth a benefit, not a threat, ethicist says

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 02:03

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A research paper that depicts the growth of Catholic health care as a threat to reproductive health ignores the attraction of Catholic hospitals and downplays the ethical concerns about procedures like abortion and sterilization, one commentator has said.

The number of hospitals that are Catholic-sponsored or Catholic-affiliated has increased 22 percent from 2001 to 2016, including through mergers or changes of ownership. This growth is the focus of a September 2017 working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, “Medically Necessary but Forbidden: Reproductive Health Care in Catholic-owned Hospitals.”

“The ‘problem’ that the authors of this study are examining results from the fact that Catholic hospitals and Catholic healthcare systems have been remarkably successful in America's competitive market,” Edward Furton, an ethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA Sept. 18.

“Catholic hospitals tend to be better managed, are governed by a sense of social duty, perform greater amounts of charitable care, and have strong ethical safeguards in place to protect their patients.”

Furton attributed the growth of Catholic healthcare to patients’ appreciation for these features.

The National Bureau of Economic Research is an  influential domestic policy think tank based in Cambridge, Mass. Its working paper estimated that the expansion of Catholic hospitals reduces by 30 percent the annual rates per-bed of inpatient abortions. The rates of tubal ligations or sterilizations drop 31 percent.

Elaine Hill, a co-author of the working paper, is a professor of health economics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She said access to procedures is part of how to “reduce unwanted pregnancy.”

“Policies addressing the ways in which ownership of hospitals might impede access could be very beneficial to the population of women affected,” she told STAT, a health, medicine and scientific research publication from Boston Globe Media.

Furton, however, said the working paper was written by “a group of economists, not healthcare workers.” He questioned the paper’s use of the phrase “medically necessary but forbidden.”

“Neither abortion nor permanent sterilization can be properly described as a medical necessity. They are typically chosen for reasons other than maintaining health,” he said.

“Often times, studies such as this are designed to highlight supposed impediments to health care access within Catholic institutions. In other words, they suffer from an inherent bias,” he added. “In this case, the authors assume that all Americans want unlimited access to abortion and sterilization. That is obviously not true.”

He also defended the presence of Catholic ethics in health care.

“Many people see the reduction in abortion and sterilization as positive goods. The authors assume that denying access to these ‘services’ represents a moral failing of some sort, but not many people would agree,” he said.

“Abortion is obviously of great concern to most people, and few among the general public are fooled by the claim that the lack of sterilization procedures in Catholic hospitals is going to affect contraceptive use among American women,” said Furton. “Contraception is widely available and the refusal to offer permanent sterilizations in Catholic hospitals is not going to change that fact.”

The study estimated that there are about 9,500 fewer tubal ligations each year because Catholic hospitals do not perform them. It charged that this represents “a substantial cost to women, who must subsequently rely on other, more inconvenient suboptimal forms of contraception.”  It claimed that black and Hispanic women were disproportionately affected by these restrictions.

The same working paper found that Catholic hospitals showed no statistically significant increase in complications from miscarriages or sterilization procedures.

Data used in the study came from the states of Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, California, New York, and Washington.

The study said that Catholic ethics are not always followed or it would have found a 100 percent reduction in abortions and sterilizations.

Furton said it is regrettable that not all Catholic hospitals follow Church teaching. However, he suggested that some of the procedures cited in the paper’s data could reflect actions that would not violate Catholic ethics.

“For example, some of what the authors of this paper would call abortions are in fact actions in which the child is unavoidably lost while the medical team is performing a procedure that has some hope of saving either the child, the mother, or both. These should not be classified as abortions. They are justifiable under the principle of double effect.”

Some opponents of the expansion of Catholic hospitals that operate according to Catholic teaching include the American Civil Liberties Union and the group the MergerWatch project. They co-authored a 2013 report that claimed the growth of Catholic hospitals was a “miscarriage of medicine.”

St. Louis archbishop leads prayer for peace after violent protests

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 18:55

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 19, 2017 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of St. Louis led an interfaith group of religious leaders in prayer for peace and justice on Tuesday, after protests over the weekend turned violent.

“It is in this humble spirit of peace that we gather together as one human family this afternoon to both pray and reflect. Each one of us brings a heavy heart, but also a faith-filled heart,” Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis said at the Ecumenical Prayer Service for Peace in downtown St. Louis.

Archbishop Carlson led the prayer service after several days of protests took place in the city over the acquittal of a former police officer in a 2011 shooting.

St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Timothy Wilson on Friday acquitted former officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder charges, stemming from a 2011 shooting of 24 year-old Anthony Lamar Smith after a car chase.

According to a court document reported by the Washington Post, the district attorney charged that Stockley was heard threatening to kill Smith during the car chase, and, once he drove into Smith’s car, got out and shot five times into the car, killing him.

“This Court, in conscience, cannot say that the State has proven every element of murder beyond a reasonable doubt, or that the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense,” Judge Wilson said, reported by CNN.

After Friday’s ruling, Archbishop Carlson called for prayer and forgiveness, and exhorted members of the community not to react with violence.

“We must ask God for peace in our own hearts and share it with those around us,” he said. “Violence does not lead to peace and justice – they are opposing forces and cannot coexist. I implore each of you to choose peace!”

Protests of the ruling began on Friday evening, and also occurred on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Protests on Saturday and Sunday reportedly began peacefully, but turned violent after dark when buildings were damaged and police officers were assaulted. Reports claimed that a small contingent of the protesters were violent.

The city’s police department reported making 123 arrests on Sunday, after orders to disperse were ignored by some individuals who blocked street intersections.

At Tuesday’s interfaith prayer service, Archbishop Carlson thanked those in attendance for showing a “sign of your commitment to peace,” and thanked other religious leaders present for their “leadership” and “moral witness.”

According to St. Paul, “we are one in the Lord,” the archbishop said, exhorting the audience to remember their “truest identity as children of God, capable of bringing God’s peace to every corner where division and violence would seek the upper hand.”

He said that “peace is not an unrealistic dream that would blind us to the sin and brokenness of humanity,” but rather that peace and justice go together.

“One cannot cry for peace and ignore justice, and vice versa,” he said. “We do not demand justice without peace in our hearts.”

Other religious leaders from Christian denominations, as well as a Jewish rabbi and an imam, cited long-standing issues in the city of “endemic racism,” poverty, gun violence, and inequality of education, as well as the history of slavery in the area in the 1800s.

Fr. Ronald Mercier, SJ, Provincial superior of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province, also cited the need to address the roots of injustice.

To “seek only an end to violence without addressing its roots” would be “dangerous,” he said. “The fruit of injustice is violence.”

“For too many people,” he said, “justice is an unfulfilled reality.” He noted that “the sin of racism” present in the area “deprives all of us of an inability to feel at home.”

“Yes, we need to pray today for the gift of peace,” he said, “a peace that God wants to give us.”

 

How Christians can accompany those with same-sex attraction

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 18:09

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2017 / 04:09 pm (CNA).- Have compassion and empathy: especially for those dealing with struggles which are different than yours.

This is the message Dan Mattson hopes all believers will take from his book, which encourages a new sense of compassion for those who have same-sex attractions.

“I’d encourage them to have compassion and empathy,” Mattson said of his message to believers. “Maybe they can’t empathize, but they can have compassion.”

In his book, “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” Mattson discusses his objection to the use of the term “gay” – as well as the term “straight” – in reference to human sexuality.

The Church’s traditional view of sexuality – which does not define persons by their attractions – presents a fuller vision of human identity and life, he said. Taken alongside other teachings on suffering and chastity more broadly, this vision for sexuality leads to true happiness for all persons, including those who experience same-sex attractions.

His writings have gained the support of Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, who wrote the foreword for the book and mentioned his support for the book in a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.  

Mattson encouraged those who experience same-sex attractions, along with their family and friends, to have faith in the Church and the Gospel. “Have confidence that the Church is the place for all of (your) loved ones, on any teaching on these issues of such contention these days,” he said. “It’s the source where we’re going to find freedom and true joy. We really have to believe that chastity is the Good News.”

He also encouraged people with loved ones experiencing these attractions “to journey along with them, accompany them in love.” He advised family to “listen to their story” before talking about morality. “Trust that God, in the fullness of time, is going to bring this person back, but equip yourself with good ways to talk about the Church’s teaching as Good News and trust that God will give the opportunity and give you that chance to help bring them home.”

Mattson explained that he wrote the book as a way of making sense of his own experiences with same-sex attraction, and questions he had when he was younger. “Hopefully it will help some other people who love God and want to follow him,” he offered.

He said that, in his experience, the modern way of talking about sexuality in which people are considered as either “gay” or “straight” misses the context the Church provides, which looks at a person as a whole. The same element of Church teaching which deals with sexuality also says “that we all have challenges to growth,” Mattson explained. “Well, this is a challenge to growth for me, but the Catechism tells me what to do and the Church is there to guide me, just like everyone else.”

One of the challenges to growth that Mattson hopes his experience can illuminate is the challenge of loneliness – “a fundamental question that anyone with same-sex attraction has to ask.”

He explained that readers of all backgrounds have offered that they found his testimony to the experience of loneliness fruitful and enlightening, and said that the struggles of loneliness faced by those with same-sex attraction can help others who may be single or widowed or divorced facing the same battle.

“I have found that I write quite a bit about friendship and how good, healthy friendships have helped me, but also I’ve come to realize that loneliness can be a gift we can enter into,” he said.

 

In talk at Facebook, Bishop Barron tackles how to debate religion

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 17:53

Menlo Park, Calif., Sep 19, 2017 / 03:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- People need to learn how to argue better on the internet, especially about religion, Catholic media personality and Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron said in remarks at Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters.

“Seek with great patience to understand your opponent’s position,” he advised, adding that it can be “very tempting just to fire back 'why you’re wrong.'”

Instead of going after what’s wrong, he said, one should seek also highlight what your opponent has right. This is an “extraordinarily helpful” way to get past impasses.

Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire website and media content reach millions of people each year over the internet. The bishop spoke to Facebook employees at the company's Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters on the topic “How to have a religious argument.” The event was live-streamed to around 2,500 viewers.

“If we don't know how to argue about religion, then we’re going to fight about religion,” he said.

For Bishop Barron, argument is something positive and “a way to peace.”

If one goes on social media, he said, “you'll see a lot of energy around religious issues. There will be a lot of words exchanged, often angry ones, but very little argument.”

Bishop Barron praised the intellectual tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas and his time's treatment of disputed questions. A professor would gather in a public place and entertain objections and questions.

“What's off the table? Nothing as far as I can tell,” the bishop summarized. He cited the way St. Thomas Aquinas made the case for disbelief in God before presenting the arguments for rational belief in God.

“If you can say 'I wonder whether there's a God,' that means all these questions are fine and fair,” Bishop Barron continued. “I like the willingness to engage any question.”

Aquinas always phrases the objections “in a very pithy, and very persuasive way.” In the bishop's view, he formulates arguments against God's existence even better than modern atheists and sets them up in the most convincing manner, before providing his responses to these arguments.

Further, St. Thomas Aquinas cites great Muslim and Jewish scholars as well as pagan authorities like Aristotle and Cicero, always with great respect.

Bishop Barron said that authentic faith is not opposed to reason. It does not accept simply anything on the basis of no evidence.

He compared faith to the process of coming to know another human person. While one can begin to come to know someone by reason, or through a Google search or a background check, when a relationship deepens, other questions arise.

“When she reveals her heart, the question becomes: Do I believe her or not? Do I trust her or not?” he said.

“The claim, at least of the great biblical religions, is that God has not become a great distant object that we examine philosophically,” the bishop said. “Rather, the claims is that God has spoken, that God has decided to reveal his heart to his people.”

Bishop Barron addressed several other mindsets that he said forestall intelligent argument about religion.

The mentality of “mere toleration” keeps religion to oneself and treats it as a hobby. However, religion makes truth claims, like claims that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

“Truth claims, if they really are truth claims, cannot be privatized,” he said. A truth claim always has a universal scope, a universal intent.”

“The privatization of religion is precisely what makes real argument about religion impossible.”

While science has created great knowledge that should be embraced, there is the mindset of “scientism” which reduces all knowledge to scientific form.  

“It results in a deep compromise of our humanity, it seems to me,” he said, contending that religious truths are more akin to those of literature, poetry and philosophy. The scientistic mindset would have to argue that Shakespeare’s plays or Plato’s philosophical dialogues do not convey deep truths about life, death, faith and God.

Scientism also mistakes its subject when attempting to consider God. “The one thing God is not is an item within the universe,” Bishop Barron said.

The bishop also faulted a mindset that is “voluntarist,” which believes that the faculty of the will has precedence over the intellect. In a religious context, this holds that God could make two plus two equal five. This gives rise to a view of God as arbitrary and even oppressive.

In response, some people believe humanity’s will trumps the intellect and determines truth through power. According to Bishop Barron, they see God as incompatible with human freedom and, in the words of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, see freedom as the inherent liberty to determine the meaning of one’s own concept of existence, the universe, and human life itself.

Addressing the Facebook employees about their work, he said that their company’s social media network shows an “extraordinary spiritual power” in connecting all the world.

“I think that it’s a spiritual thing that you’re bringing everybody together,” he said.

Faith, science, beauty: what doctors can learn from Catholic art

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 05:04

Denver, Colo., Sep 19, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The intersection of art, medicine, and faith in the Catholic tradition has a lot to teach today, especially if you’re a doctor.

“Catholic art has a long history of demonstrating the beauty of the human person, beauty both in its health as well as its disease,” Dr. Thomas Heyne, M.D. told CNA. “Catholic artists have been very effective observers and demonstrators of that dual beauty.”

“In looking closely at artwork, we’re able to have a window into what disease looked like many centuries ago as well as how our patients still look today.”

Heyne, who works in the pediatrics department of Massachusetts General Hospital, spoke at a breakout session “Did Michelangelo have Gout?” at the Catholic Medical Association’s annual educational conference, held in Denver earlier this month.

Reviewing historic artwork helps doctors review the presentations of forgotten or rare diseases, he said. It helps improve their observational skills, and remember how patients behaved when lacking simple treatments like pain-relieving ibuprofen.

Citing several studies on medical training, he said that medical examination of art can help make doctors better through honing their observation skills, tolerance for ambiguity, mindfulness, communication skills, and empathy.

Heyne also contended that teaching medicine through art also advances a deeper appreciation for Catholicism’s role in both art and medicine.

“You’re taking a bunch of secular people and making them look at Catholic art half the time,” he said. “To me, this is a pretty helpful thing for the new evangelization.”

His presentation drew on many studies and arguments from doctors and art scholars, including his own research.

Among his examples of diagnosing health conditions in art was Giovanni Lanfranco’s work from about 1625: “St. Luke healing the Dropsical Child.” It shows St. Luke taking the pulse of a child with a distended belly, as a woman looks on. A book of the ancient medical writer Hippocrates rests on a nearby table with an icon of a woman saint.

Heyne suggested that the child’s symptoms as painted by Lanfranco could be the earliest known depiction of congenital heart disease.

At the same time, any interpreter must take into account the interplay between realism and stylistic convention. Despite the child’s stomach, the child appears to have a healthy musculature. Lanfranco tended to paint all children beautifully, Heyne explained.

Even the standard iconography of saints can show Catholic awareness of medical problems. St. Roch, a patron saint of plague victims, is often shown with the tell-tale bulba of plague.

In Istanbul’s Chora Church, a fourteenth century mosaic depicts Christ healing a multitude. One person depicted has crutches, another is blind, another appears to have rickets.

The work also shows a sitting man with a bulge nearly the size of a basketball in his groin area. According to the doctor, this is likely a massive inguinal or scrotal hernia.

“This artist put a giant scrotum on the top of a church. This is pre-Puritan,” said Heyne, interpreting the art as saying, “Jesus came to save everyone.”

“I think this is remarkable: ‘No shame: come out and you will be healed’,” he said. “I think it is a remarkable testament to what the human body was back then.”

The mosaic could be the first depiction of a hernia.

The art history of European Christianity shows diseases now associated only with the developing world.

Other artworks show signs of longstanding diseases like leprosy, while others trace the arrival of diseases new to Christian Europe. A 1496 sketch from Albrecht Dürer shows a man with syphilis, just four years after the disease is believed to have spread to Europe from the New World.

Some figures in famous paintings show signs of finger deformities suggesting rheumatoid arthritis, like the hands of the nude women in Peter Paul Rubens’ 1639 painting The Three Graces.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa portrait shows the famous subject in great detail. The 25-year-old woman appears to show an accumulation of cholesterol under the skin in the hollow of her left eye. Her hand shows a fatty tissue tumor. She is known to have died at age 37.

Heyne took these conditions together and asked whether Mona Lisa died of a cardiovascular event.

As for master artist Michelangelo, his training in anatomy helped give deeper artistic significance to his work. For instance, his statue Night from 1531, depicting a bare-breasted woman personifying Night, and perhaps death, appears to show signs of a breast tumor.

Heyne did criticize some interpretations of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. While some suggested the bulging of some figures’ eyes was intended to represent disease, he said it rather simply represented astonishment at the arrival of the apocalypse.

Review of art also helps doctors understand how patients with particular diseases or health conditions were viewed throughout history.

There is the example of the seventeenth-century Spanish painter Diego Velazquez, who painted at least ten portraits of people with dwarfism. These show their “dignity and beauty,” and don’t depict them as “court buffoons,” Heyne said, suggesting this is another role for Christianity in art.

Archbishop calls for peace amid protests over St Louis verdict

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 18:29

Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2017 / 04:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of St. Louis called for prayer and peace after a judge acquitted a former St. Louis police officer in the shooting of a man in 2011.

“If we want peace and justice, we must come together as a community through prayer, mutual understanding, and forgiveness,” Archbishop Robert Carlson said Sept. 15. “While acknowledging the hurt and anger, we must not fuel the fires of hatred and division.”

On Friday, St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted former officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder charges in the shooting of 24 year-old Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011. Stockley, a white officer with the St. Louis Police Department, fatally shot Smith after a car chase.

The case received special attention in the wake of another high profile case in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, where police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot 18 year-old Michael Brown. Riots occurred in the area, pointing to longstanding racial tensions and alleging a history of police abuse.

Over the weekend, demonstrations in protest of Friday’s ruling took place in the city’s downtown area. Marchers called for reforms to the justice system and called attention to racism. The mayor’s house was reportedly damaged in the protests.

Demonstrations on Saturday began peacefully but turned violent after dark, the St. Louis Police Department reported on its Facebook page on Saturday night. Nine officers had been injured by late Saturday night, and tear gas was deployed after officers had been pelted with bricks and other objects, the department said.

On Sunday, the police reported making arrests after protesters blocked street intersections and orders to disperse were ignored; the department reported over 100 arrests made, according to the Washington Post. The Guardian reported that a group of police officers in riot gear chanted “Whose street? Our street” on the side of a street on Sunday. On Monday morning, the demonstrations were peaceful and no arrests were made, the department said.

Archbishop Carlson said that prayer and solidarity are the answers to the verdict, not violence and discord. “We must ask God for peace in our own hearts and share it with those around us,” he said.

“Violence does not lead to peace and justice – they are opposing forces and cannot coexist. I implore each of you to choose peace! Reject the false and empty hope that violence will solve problems. Violence only creates more violence,” he said.

An interreligious prayer service for peace has been planned for 3 p.m. on Tuesday at Kiener Plaza, led by Archbishop Carlson and other religious leaders.

“We must work together for a better, stronger, safer community, one founded upon respect for each other, and one in which we see our neighbor as another self,” the archbishop said.

Take in more refugees, not fewer, bishops urge White House

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 18:07

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2017 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Trump administration is reportedly planning to further reduce the number of refugees the U.S. will accept in the coming fiscal year, drawing concern from the U.S. bishops and others.

“We’re strongly urging the administration, the President, to set a Presidential determination of at least 75,000 [refugees],” Matt Wilch of the Office of Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told CNA of reported changes to the number of refugees the U.S. plans to accept in the 2018 fiscal year.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Trump administration is planning to further reduce the number of refugee admissions for the 2018 fiscal year, “according to current and former government officials familiar with the discussions.”

For the 2017 fiscal year, the Obama administration had planned to take in 110,000 refugees after accepting 85,000 in 2016, including more than 12,000 Syrian refugees.

However, in a March executive order, President Donald Trump ordered a four-month halt to U.S. refugee admissions so that the resettlement program could be reviewed for its security. He set a cap on refugee admissions for the fiscal year at 50,000, well short of the 110,000 originally planned.

In addition, Trump barred most travel from six countries for 90 days – Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Sudan.

Now the administration may be reducing its refugee quota even further, to below 50,000.

The Executive Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a written statement Tuesday that they were “troubled and deeply concerned” at reports that the administration was considering the reduction, which they called “inhumane.”

“We implore the administration to show mercy and compassion for those seeking refuge, and to advance the American value of freedom through providing safe harbor to those fleeing tyranny and religious persecution,” the bishops said.

The conference proposed a goal of 75,000 refugees instead. “We think it’s really time to get back to the serious business of saving lives, and we urge the administration to have the total this coming year be 75,000,” Wilch told CNA Thursday.

In 2016, then-chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Dr. Robert George said the refugee resettlement program was secure, and that the U.S. should ultimately look to increase the number of Syrian refugees it resettles to 100,000.

A reduction in refugee admissions would come at a time when the number of displaced persons across the globe is at an all-time high, the group Human Rights First said.

“While ten percent of the world’s 21 million refugees are estimated to need resettlement, only about one percent have access to resettlement,” they said.

Furthermore, several countries neighboring Syria like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, are hosting the bulk of refugees fleeing the six year-long conflict there, the largest refugee crisis in the world, HRF said.

If the U.S. and other countries decide to accept fewer refugees, it could contribute to the destabilization of Syria’s neighbors who are already at or nearing capacity for hosting refugees.

“The United States’ refugee admissions program is not a zero-sum game; we are more than capable of providing safety to those fleeing violence and persecution around the world,” Eleanor Acer of Human Rights First stated.

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