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When Robert F. Kennedy's mourners found refuge in the rosary

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 05:01

Washington D.C., Jun 6, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was shot in a California hotel on June 5, 1968, his supporters prayed.

“After Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, many supporters got down on their knees and prayed the rosary. A famous picture from the time shows a busboy, Juan Romero, pressing rosary beads into Kennedy’s hands in the kitchen of the hotel. Imagine Catholics doing that today,” Mark Stricherz, political reporter and author of the 2007 book Why the Democrats are Blue, told CNA.

Kennedy’s own life had similar devotion. He was born the seventh of nine children to Joseph and Rosemary Kennedy in Brookline, Mass. After serving in the Navy during the Second World War, he married Ethel Skakel, with whom he would have eleven children – the last of whom was yet unborn at the time of his death.

Kennedy was often considered one of the more devout Kennedy brothers, with his house full of devotionals, bibles, and crucifixes, and regular prayer with his wife and children. He served as an altar boy as a young man and even at points during his career of public service, biographer Larry Tye said in his 2017 book Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon.

Kennedy’s life also included some clashes with clerics, including an argument as a student with controversial Harvard Catholic chaplain Father Leonard Feeney.

In 1952 he served as manager for his brother John F. Kennedy’s U.S. Senate run. He was a Senate subcommittee staffer under U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy and would later write a report critical of his approach to anti-communism, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

After managing his brother’s successful 1960 presidential campaign, he was named U.S. Attorney General. Following his brother’s 1963 assassination, he left the presidential cabinet and went on to run successfully for U.S. Senator from New York.

Kennedy entered the 1968 presidential race following Johnson’s announcement he would not seek re-election. Facing a primary foe in U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy, his campaign featured labor outreach to leaders such as Cesar Chavez and to African-American leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., despite his previous tensions the Kennedy family.

For Stricherz, Kennedy’s 1968 electoral coalition was unique. He focused on working-class whites and blacks, which the senator called a “black-blue” or “have-not” coalition.

With the possible exception of Jimmy Carter’s 1976 victory, Stricherz told CNA, “no politician has pulled off that cross-racial, populist alliance of supporters.”

“To be sure, Bobby benefited politically from the death of his brother John, whom the country was still mourning. 1968 was a crazy year and many voters wanted a return to the stability of the early 1960s.”

Much like his president brother, Kennedy’s death with his life seemingly unfulfilled made him an object for the hopes of many who wanted a different path through the late 1960s and 1970s on war, race relations, and poverty.

It is possible the assassination changed the course of the country on abortion, Stricherz suggested.
“Kennedy’s stand on the sexual revolution is unknowable,” he said.

“Social conservatives have said a 1964 meeting he attended would have made him a supporter of abortion rights. But his sister Eunice was an unquestioned pro-life supporter who participated in the last great push to move the Democratic Party away from its abortion-rights stance in 1992. And Kennedy was the father of 11 children.”

Stricherz also doubted some depictions of Kennedy as a pioneer on racial justice.

“One reason President Johnson despised Bobby was he was ‘all hat no cattle’ on racial issues,” he said. “While Johnson passed more legislation to help blacks than any president, Kennedy made speeches. That said, no political candidate, not even President Obama, has attracted the adulation from black crowds that Kennedy did in 1968. But Kennedy sought to balance the interests of blacks and his white constituents. In a debate before the California primary in June 1968, Kennedy and McCarthy differed on the extent to which the federal government should support racial integration in housing.”

However, Kennedy’s April 4, 1968 remarks in Indianapolis upon the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. are sometimes credited with redirecting tension and anger over the killing. Indianapolis was among the few major cities to be spared riots in the wake of the killing.

“Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort,” Kennedy said in an African-American neighborhood that night.

“For those of you who are black – considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people responsible – you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization, black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.”

“For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling,” Kennedy said. “I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.”

Just months later Kennedy too would be fatally shot. His assailant, Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian Arab from a Christian background, was angered over Kennedy’s support for Israel.

Juan Romero, a 17-year-old Mexican busboy in the Ambassador Hotel, was shaking hands with the senator as he was shot. Romero cradled the wounded Kennedy in his arms on the floor of a hotel kitchen. He put his own rosary into Kennedy’s hands.

Kennedy lingered for about a day. He died early the morning of June 6, 2018 in the presence of his wife Ethel, two of his sisters, and a brother-in-law. He was 42.

CUA board approves much-debated academic renewal plan

Tue, 06/05/2018 - 19:07

Washington D.C., Jun 5, 2018 / 05:07 pm (CNA).- A hotly-debated renewal plan for the Catholic University of America, which included the elimination of 35 faculty positions, the reorganization of some departments and a recommitment to the arts, was approved by the school’s board of trustees Tuesday.

The Academic Renewal proposal has undergone deliberation and study since September, and was first approved in May by a 35-8 vote of the Academic Senate, a group of administrators, deans, and elected faculty members and student representatives. After passing the Academic Senate, the proposal was sent to the Board for final approval.

The plan includes, among other things, the opening of a new school of music, drama, and art in fall 2018, the establishment of a new Center for Teaching Excellence, plans to add new programs and faculty in areas of growth, and renovations to several facilities on campus.

“I am grateful to the Board of Trustees for its support for Academic Renewal, and especially to Provost Abela, the Academic Senate, and all of the faculty and students whose participation in the process, ideas, and recommendations were invaluable to the development of the final plan,” Catholic University President John Garvey said in a press release following the board’s decision. He added that the plan will now “immediately move forward.”

Whether debate surrounding the plan will be assuaged in the following days and months remains to be seen.

The crux of the debate surrounding the plan was whether the elimination of 35 faculty positions would mean the termination of tenured faculty.

In the week leading up to the board’s vote, an unofficial ad-hoc group called the “Faculty Assembly” released the results of an anonymous electronic poll it conducted, which purported to show that numerous faculty members had “no confidence” in Provost Andrew Abela or President John Garvey regarding the renewal plan or the future of the university.

The group sent the poll to 448 people, including ordinary professors, associate professors, faculty emeriti and contract faculty. The 15 faculty who report directly to the provost were not included in the poll.

CUA representative Susan Gibbs told CNA that the university has 391 full-time faculty members, and because some faculty members were not polled by the group, only 376 of those who received the poll could have been full-time faculty members.

38 percent of those who received the survey, 171 people, said they had “no confidence” in Provost Andrew Abela. 176 people, 39 percent of those surveyed, said the same for President John Garvey. Roughly half of those surveyed, 225 people in total, responded to the poll, The Washington Post reported.

A lack of confidence “stems from concerns from faculty across campus regarding the strategic vision and direction of the university, lack of shared governance, and financial stewardship and management of the university’s resources,” Binh Tran, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at CUA and another leader of the assembly, told The Washington Post.

In a statement following the release of the poll, Catholic University said it was “difficult to respond to an anonymous opinion poll” and that it would instead rely on the votes of the elected officials of the Academic Senate and on faculty and student feedback received throughout the proposal process.

“The proposal was developed in consultation with committees of the Academic Senate, which also oversaw a campus-wide consultation widely attended by faculty and students,” CUA said in the statement. “Input from this consultation resulted in additional initiatives and revisions that were incorporated into the final document.”  

Gibbs told CNA that while the school’s administration and Academic Senate understands that job elimination is a sensitive issue, nearly all of the eliminations of the faculty positions have been made through voluntary terminations and buyouts, and that the involuntary termination of tenured faculty had thus far been avoided.

“They’re wrapping up a few loose ends and finalizing a few things,” Gibbs said, but “it’s virtually done” and has all happened through voluntary means.

Dr. John Grabowski, associate professor of moral theology and ethics and a member of the Academic Senate at CUA, told CNA that while he understood the Faculty Assembly’s initial concerns over tenured positions, he believed those concerns should be allayed by the revised final edition of the proposal.

“I feel like I can see both sides,” he said, since he is a faculty member that was part of the Academic Senate involved in deliberation over the plan.

“But I can also see the concern generated among the faculty, because as it was initially described, it seemed like it was going to willy-nilly terminate faculty in certain units, whether they were adjunct, contract or tenured faculty, so that in many people’s minds set off alarm bells that the university is arbitrarily firing tenured faculty,” he said.

“I don’t think that was the intention” of the administration, he added, and after hearing the concerns of faculty, students and the broader CUA community regarding tenured positions, “a lot of the ambiguities of that language was cleared up.”

“By the time the Academic Senate approved the proposal, we were told that the provost was eliminating 35 faculty positions, and he had gotten to about 31 or 32 through voluntary retirement or severance. People were not being willy-nilly terminated, and he was confident that he could get the number he needed to make it work financially without having to involuntarily terminate any tenured faculty,” he said. “So in other words, we don’t even need to go there.”

Dr. Chad Pecknold, associate professor of systematic theology at CUA, told CNA that while he received the electronic poll from the Faculty Assembly, he chose not to participate in it since they are not an officially recognized group.

He added that he “strongly supported” the Academic Renewal proposal, especially after he felt that his concerns about tenure were heard.

“I serve on the Committee for Faculty Economic Welfare, and helped draft my only concern which was to safeguard tenure,” he said. “Once the Provost clarified that tenure would not be harmed, the proposal passed the Academic Senate by a wide margin.”

Grabowski said that he responded to the electronic poll that he had confidence in the provost and the president, though he said he experience technical difficulties with the link and is unsure if his vote was cast.

Furthermore, he said he was not sure if the faculty assembly was “sufficiently cognizant” of numerous efforts made by administration and the Academic Senate to consult faculty across the campus throughout the creation of the Academic Renewal proposal, during which may students and faculty did weight in to express their concerns.

“I think their concerns were heard and registered and the proposal that was put forward was heavily amended, and I think we ended up with a position that brought the two sides a lot closer together than when they started out,” he said.

The Faculty Assembly told CNA in an email that even if the plan were to be approved and proceed without the firing of tenured faculty, the proposal process “highlighted multiple serious deficiencies in the leadership of the Provost and the President” and that their concerns “extend well beyond this proposal to issues broadly and deeply related to leadership and direction of the university.”

They said they planned to hold a meeting with the board and the Executive Committee of the Faculty Assembly in order to relay their concerns “related to the future of shared governance, financial management, executive performance and compensation, and still other serious issues.”

Gibbs told CNA the group declined an opportunity to meet with the Board of Trustees on June 4, one day before the board’s vote on the proposal.

A related group of concerned faculty, students and alumni called “Save The Catholic University of America” (or Save Catholic) recently started a website to express their lack of confidence in CUA leadership and to call for change.

“We believe change is urgently needed; indeed, we embrace change. But we also believe that the changes we make must be the right ones,” the group said in their statement. “The actions taken under President Garvey have significantly weakened the financial situation of the university and damaged our ability to recruit students. We have no confidence that the Provost Abela’s Academic Renewal Proposal will make the university’s situation better. Indeed, we are quite certain that it will deepen and compound our challenges.”

Grabowski said that the reports of CUA’s imminent demise suggested by some articles and the language of Save Catholic have been “greatly exaggerated.”

“I don’t think this is the end of the world, I think this is an adjustment in terms of the University’s resources,” he said. “In a big picture sense it makes sense, every business goes through this.”

In light of the electronic poll and the complaints of the Faculty Assembly and Save Catholic, the Board of Trustees also issued a statement of confidence in CUA leadership on June 5, noting improvements in outside contributions, recruitment, renovations and other improvements.

Michael P. Warsaw, EWTN Chairman and CEO, is a member of the university’s Board of Trustees. Catholic News Agency is a service of EWTN.

According to CUA numbers, undergraduate enrollment increased in fall 2017 and is on track to grow again for fall 2018, and student retention is at its highest level in more than 20 years.

Joseph L. Carlini, Chairman of the Board of Trustees said in the statement that the Board has full confidence in President John Garvey, and “looks forward to our continued collaboration with President Garvey. Academic Renewal is about growth and investing in our future.”

Pecknold told CNA that despite efforts to politicize CUA and the Academic Renewal plan, the University is first and foremost committed to following Christ.

“We are neither right nor left, but we’re a university born out of the heart of the Church, and centered in Christ.”

US Supreme Court throws out undocumented minor abortion ruling

Tue, 06/05/2018 - 19:02

Washington D.C., Jun 5, 2018 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday the Supreme Court vacated an appellate court's decision from October which permitted an undocumented minor held in federal custody to an obtain an abortion.

This move by the court means there will no longer be a precedent should a similar case arise.

The June 4 order in Azar v. Garza was unanimous, though the initial case had been rendered moot as the minor had already had an abortion. The Supreme Court took up the case in January.

The minor in question, identified only as “Jane Doe,” obtained an abortion Oct. 25, 2017, after an appeals court ruled that the government had to provide her with one. Doe was from Central America, and was arrested after illegally crossing the U.S. border. She learned she was pregnant after she was in custody. Doe is now 18 years old and is no longer in federal custody. She was represented in court by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Trump administration argued that it was not the role of the government to assist with an undocumented minor’s abortion. In an appeal filed last year, Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote that the government is “not obligated to facilitate abortion,” and that “the government acts permissibly when it does not place an undue burden in a women’s path.”

While the ruling did not go as far as some pro-life activists would have preferred, they were still pleased with the decision.

Charlotte Lozier Institute President Chuck Donovan told CNA that although the court did not determine whether the federal government must assist undocumented minors with abortions, he felt it was a setback for those in favor of abortion rights.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling in this case doesn’t answer the fundamental question – does the federal government have an obligation to help an undocumented teen abort her unborn child – but it does deny the ACLU a major victory in their drive to promote abortion on demand,” he said.

"Solicitor General Noel Francisco and the Trump Administration deserve the greatest thanks for waging this fight and helping our nation honor the right to life of every human being, born and unborn, who reaches our shores,” Donovan stated.

Kerri Kupec, Justice Department spokeswoman, welcomed the court's decision. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear that the federal government is not required to facilitate abortions for minors and may choose policies favoring life over abortion. We look forward to continuing to press the government’s interest in the sanctity of life.”

The Supreme Court's decision detailed the timeline of the case.

The appellate court ruled Oct. 24, 2017 that the government make Doe available to obtain the counseling required by Texas law and to obtain an abortion. Texas requires pre-abortion counseling with the same doctor who will perform the abortion to take place at least 24 hours in advance of the procedure.

Doe's representatives scheduled an appointment for her, and arranged for her to be transported to the clinic Oct. 25 at 7:30 a.m.

The government planned to ask the Supreme Court for emergency review of the appellate court's ruling, and said it would file a stay application early in the morning of Oct. 25, believing an abortion would not take place until Oct. 26.

“The details are disputed, but sometime over the course of the night both the time and nature of the appointment were changed,” wrote the Supreme Court.

A doctor who had performed counseling for Doe earlier was available to perform an abortion, and her 7:30 a.m. appointment was moved forward to 4:15 a.m.

The government was informed at 10 a.m. Oct. 25 that Doe had procured an abortion that morning.

The Supreme Court declined to discipline Doe's lawyers, whom the Trump administration alleged had committed misconduct, making “what appear to be material misrepresentations and omissions … designed to thwart this Court's review.”

“Not all communication breakdowns constitute misconduct,” the court wrote.

Audio drama of St. Francis takes Audie Award

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 21:00

Denver, Colo., Jun 4, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A spoken-word drama about the life of St. Francis of Assisi has won an Audie Award from the Audio Publishers Association.
“It truly is an honor for us to be considered worthy to receive this award,” said Paul McCusker, the audio drama’s writer and director. “I’m deeply grateful to all the talented people who invested themselves in making ‘Brother Francis.’ And I’m thankful to Francis for his inspiring life.”
Augustine Institute Radio Theatre’s “Brother Francis: The Barefoot Saint of Assisi” tells the “tumultuous and astonishing” life of the 13th century Italian saint and reformer across 10 episodes.
“As the son of a wealthy merchant, he knew splendor. As a young soldier, he encountered suffering. As a victim of war, he began a search for inner-meaning that would tear his family apart and redirect his life. As a holy beggar, he embraced lepers, challenged a Pope, debated a Sultan, and shook his world to its very core,” says the series’ description on the Augustine Institute Radio Theatre’s website.
The audio drama was recorded at The Sound House in London, using a cast of award-winning actors and original music by Jared DePasquale.
The Audie Awards recognize distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment. The award for “Brother Francis,” in the category of best audio drama, was announced May 31 at the 23rd annual Audies Gala at the New York Historical Society in New York City.
The awards are sometimes called the “Oscars of spoken-word entertainment,” the Audio Publishers Association said.
“Each of the nominees and winners are to be commended for the tremendous contributions they have made to our flourishing industry and this special event is the perfect venue for us to show appreciation to each and every one of them,” Linda Lee, the Audio Publishers Association president, said of the awards.
Other dramas produced by Augustine Institute Radio Theatre include “Ode to St. Cecilia” and “The Trials of St. Patrick.” The radio theater is an initiative of the Denver-based Augustine Institute, a graduate theological school.
McCusker has previously received Audie Awards for his work on “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Luke Reports,” which drew from the Gospel of Luke. His audio dramatization “Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom,” which he wrote and directed, has won a Peabody Award.


Understanding the Supreme Court's Masterpiece Cake ruling

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 18:21

Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2018 / 04:21 pm (CNA).- Religious freedom advocates have mostly celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, although some commentators have expressed concern that the case was a “narrow” victory - won on specific facts of the case, not addressing broad Constitutional questions.

What exactly happened in the case, and what does it mean?

The case revolved around Coloradan Jack Phillips, who in 2012 declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, because of his religious objections to same-sex marriage. Phillips stressed repeatedly that he will happily create other products – such as birthday cakes or graduation cakes – for gay clients, but reiterated his opposition to gay marriage. A devout Christian, he also refuses to bake cakes for bachelor parties or Halloween.

After a complaint was filed, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ordered him to change his company policies and undergo anti-discrimination training. That decision was appealed, and today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Phillips by a 7-2 margin. Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, typically viewed as progressives, sided with the Court’s more conservative cohort, and Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.

Much of the initial media coverage focused on how “narrow” today’s ruling was. It’s true that the case was decided on narrow legal grounds. The majority opinion did not decide the free speech claims in the case.

Instead, the Court ruled against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, saying that in its proceedings with Jack Phillips, the commission “showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection.”

The Court came to this decision for two main reasons. First, the justices said, several statements made by commission members during formal, public hearings “endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, implying that religious beliefs and persons are less than fully welcome in Colorado’s business community.”

One commissioner said that Phillips is free to believe “what he wants to believe,” but cannot act on these religious beliefs “if he decides to do business in the state.” Some commissioners “disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable and characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.”

Because of this, the Supreme Court found, “the Commission’s consideration of Phillips’ case was neither tolerant nor respectful of his religious beliefs” and lacked the religious neutrality required by the Constitution.

Second, the Court cited inconsistent treatment by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, noting three other local cases in which a customer asked bakeries to create cakes with an anti-gay marriage message, and the bakeries refused on the grounds that they disagreed with the message. In Phillips’ case, the commission ruled that a message requested on a cake is attributable to the customer, not the baker. In the other cases, however, the commission did not address this point.

But while the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Masterpiece case was decided narrowly, it is nonetheless significant. Today’s decision does not offer a definitive answer to how cases involving same-sex marriage and religious freedom will be decided going forward. But it does reject the extreme approaches of those who would treat religious freedom as a second-class Constitutional right.

In a 2006 interview, EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum’s said that when religious liberty clashes with issues of sexuality, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.” That comment seems to reflect the popular idea that religious people need to “get over” their views in order to accommodate popular support for same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court dismissed this idea in the Masterpiece ruling. It reaffirmed religious freedom as an essential civil right, one that must be given proper respect and consideration.

To what extent will this ruling affect other cases?

The Masterpiece Cake case was just one of several recent cases involving the collision of gay marriage and the freedoms of speech and religion. Florists, photographers, and other wedding industry professionals have also been involved in lawsuits about whether they can be required to create works of art for same-sex weddings to which they hold religious objections.  

Because the Court’s decision does not offer a definitive ruling on the free speech and conscience issues involved, it is not entirely clear how other cases may be decided in the future.

The majority opinion says, “The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”

This does not offer the wide veil of protection conservatives may have been hoping for, but it does insist that courts and other panels approach cases in a neutral way, without any bias against those trying to live out their religious convictions. That should be a reason for cautious optimism among advocates of religious freedom.


Religious freedom groups praise Supreme Court's Masterpiece ruling

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 17:29

Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2018 / 03:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious freedom groups cheered Monday’s 7-2 Supreme Court decision that a Colorado baker had his rights violated when the state civil rights commission said he was required to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

"Today's decision confirms that people of faith should not suffer discrimination on account of their deeply held religious beliefs, but instead should be respected by government officials,” said leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“This extends to creative professionals, such as Jack Phillips, who seek to serve the Lord in every aspect of their daily lives. In a pluralistic society like ours, true tolerance allows people with different viewpoints to be free to live out their beliefs, even if those beliefs are unpopular with the government."

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the bishops’ religious liberty committee, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, head of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, chair of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, released a joint statement Monday applauding the Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, saying that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed a constitutionally unacceptable hostility toward religion when it ruled that he had discriminated against a same-sex couple who requested a wedding cake from his bakery back in 2012.

Phillips, a devout Christian, said repeatedly throughout the case that he would have no issue serving gay customers in a context outside of a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. In adherence to his religious beliefs, he also refuses to make Halloween cakes, products with alcohol, and cakes for bachelor parties.

“The Court reached the right outcome,” Princeton law professor Robert George told CNA.

He said Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, writing in concurring opinions, “got there for the right reasons,” while the majority opinion, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, was “valid but incomplete, and leave[s] issues unresolved that would have been resolved properly had the key points in the Gorsuch opinion been added.”

The Court stopped short of setting a major precedent, and instead tailored the decision to this particular case. However, supporters of Phillips said the decision still marked an important victory.

“Government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society, yet the state of Colorado was openly antagonistic toward Jack’s religious beliefs about marriage. The court was right to condemn that,” said Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which was representing Phillips.

“Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a society like ours. This decision makes clear that the government must respect Jack’s beliefs about marriage,” Waggoner said in a statement.

The opinion was authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented, something that surprised Brian Miller, an attorney for the Center for Individual Rights.

“Even before getting to the text, the decision comes with surprises. Despite being one of the most controversial cases of the term, the justices didn't split along partisan lines,” said Miller.

While Ginsburg and Sotomayor are typically on the Supreme Court’s liberal wing, Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer do not generally lean conservative. Some commenters were surprised to see that they sided with the court’s conservative wing in this case.

“The Court's holding is narrow,” Miller told CNA, “and insists that it is possible to both protect against discrimination and protect religious freedom. That principle will be important for states to remember going forward."

Becket Law President Mark Rienzi expanded further on this, saying, “The Court has said 7-2 that the Constitution requires us all to try and get along. There is room enough in our society for a diversity of viewpoints, and that includes respecting religious beliefs too.”

George warned that the reasoning behind the majority’s ruling could be used to oppose religious freedom in the future.

“As it stands, there is a danger that state officials will interpret the decision as licensing discrimination against Christians and other religious people so long as those officials don’t reveal their anti-Christian or anti-religious animus in public statements,” he cautioned.

Still, he said, the decision offers an optimistic look at the court’s newest addition, Justice Gorsuch.

“This case shows that Justice Gorsuch is not only a faithful constitutionalist, he has the potential to be one of history’s greatest Supreme Court justices,” George said.


BREAKING: Supreme Court rules in favor of baker who declined to serve gay wedding

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 10:19

Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2018 / 08:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012.

The 7-2 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission could be a landmark ruling for freedom of religion and conscience cases.

The majority opinion was delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a separate opinion concurring in part, and concurring in the judgment.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop case dates back to July 2012, when owner Jack Phillips was asked by two men to bake a cake for their same-sex wedding ceremony.

He explained to the couple that he could not cater to same-sex weddings – to do so would have been a violation of his Christian beliefs. He said he has also declined to make a number of other types of cakes, including cakes for Halloween, bachelor parties, divorce, cakes with alcohol in the ingredients, and cakes with atheist messages. 

The couple then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for discrimination.

The commission ordered Phillips to serve same-sex weddings and to undergo anti-discrimination training. In a hearing in 2014, the civil rights commissioner Diann Rice compared his declining to serve same-sex weddings to justifications for the Holocaust and slavery.

Alliance Defending Freedom took up Phillips’ case in court. He lost before an administrative judge in 2013, who ruled that the state could determine when his rights to free speech unlawfully infringed upon others’ rights.

Phillips then appealed his case to the state’s human rights commission, which ruled against him. He appealed again to the state’s court of appeals, which also ruled against him. The Colorado Supreme Court did not take up Phillips’ case.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court. It was re-listed repeatedly throughout the winter and spring of 2017, before the Court decided to take the case.

Phillips had said that he started his Lakewood, Colorado business in 1993 as a way to integrate his two loves – baking and art – into his daily work. Philipps named his shop “Masterpiece” because of the artistic focus of his work, but also because of his Christian beliefs. He drew from Christ's Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, specifically the commands “no man can serve two masters” and “you cannot serve both God and mammon.”

“I didn’t open this so I could make a lot of money,” Phillips said of his business, speaking at a panel event last September. “I opened it up so that it would be a way that I could create my art, do the baking that I love, and serve the God that I love.”

Throughout the ordeal, Phillips said, he has paid a heavy price for his stand, losing 40 percent of his family’s income and more than half his employees.

Phillips said he began receiving threatening phone calls shortly after the couple left the store. One death threat was so severe, his sister and niece at the store had to hide in the back room until police arrived.

Attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom argued that the First Amendment protects Phillips’ right to freedom of expression as an artist.

“[J]ust as the [Human Rights] Commission cannot compel Phillips’s art, neither may the government suppress it,” the legal group said, adding that the conflict between Phillips’ freedom as an artist and the wishes of his customers should be solved by the citizens themselves, and not by the government.

The ruling is expected to have far-reaching results, particularly in determining the extent of religious liberty protections following the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. Florists, photographers and other wedding vendors have also faced lawsuits alleging discrimination for declining same-sex ceremonies.

“There is far more at stake in this case than simply whether Jack Phillips must bake a cake,” the US bishops' conference and other Catholic groups had stated in an amicus brief. “It is about the freedom to live according to one’s religious beliefs in daily life and, in so doing, advance the common good.”

“[T]his could be one of the most important First Amendment cases in terms of free speech and the free exercise of religion in a century or more, and it could be a landmark, seismic kind of case of First Amendment jurisprudence,” Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) said last September in a press conference at the U.S. Capitol.

Why this Catholic takes issue with 'gay' and 'straight' labels

Sun, 06/03/2018 - 05:01

Denver, Colo., Jun 3, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Chastity actually means fulfillment, not suffering – and labeling people in terms of their sexual inclinations or attractions first is ultimately a reduction of their human dignity.

These ideas form the basis of a provocative book by Daniel Mattson, a Catholic who finds identifying as “gay” unhelpful in the dialogue on the issue, and who also believes that living the Church's teaching on sexuality leads to the most profound experience of peace and freedom.  

“The Church must truly have a missionary zeal in proclaiming chastity as an invitation to a more fulfilling life for all men and women,” Mattson told CNA.

He said that Catholics need to reach out “to those who identify as LGBT to truly 'come out,' and let the masks of the world's sexual identity labels fall from them, and see themselves as God sees them: solely as men and women, beloved children of God.”

“The dividing line of human sexuality is not between gay and straight, but rather between male and female, as we see in the Creation account of Genesis,” said Mattson.

In his recent book, “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” Mattson delves into the story of his upbringing: how he was raised in a Christian family, his experience of sexual confusion and social rejection in his early childhood, an addiction to pornography and an anger towards God. Living out his same-sex desires later in his life only made him more unhappy and lonely, and it wasn't until he turned to the Church that he found true fulfillment.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has called Mattson's book “powerful” and Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, said Mattson's voice is one “seldom heard” in discussions surrounding same-sex attraction.  

Mattson said a major reason why he wrote the book was to take on the notion of people identifying themselves first in terms of straight or gay. When Mother Teresa was asked about “homosexuals” in an interview, he said she refused to refer to anyone with same-sex attraction as anything else but “a child of God.”

“Even though men and women may be living outside of God's plan for them, their dignity as children of God calls them to love others as Christ loved us,” Mattson said. “As a Christian, that means sex must always be reserved for use only in true marriage, which is always open to life. The Church needs to have enough confidence in Her beautiful vision of human sexuality to help people believe God says no to sex outside of marriage because He loves us.”

In the book, he describes how he can trace the contours of his life that lead to his same-sex attractions, which contrasts with the assumption that homosexuality is innate.

But while understanding where his same-sex attractions came from was helpful for Daniel, he says it's not necessary for everyone. Though the Church teaches in the Catechism that homosexuality has a “psychological genesis,” how same-sex attractions come into a person's life is a minor question. The Church, Mattson says, is “more concerned about providing a path to a fulfilling life in the future.”

In his interview with CNA, Mattson emphasized that his adherence to the Catholic view on human sexuality isn't rooted in moralism or a suppression of desire.

“The biggest reason I have embraced the Church's teaching as good, true and beautiful is because following the world’s vision of happiness in the realm of human sexuality brought far more suffering into my life,” he said. Today, he finds in the Church’s vision of human sexuality true happiness and liberation.

“The Church recognizes that there is a ‘theology of the body,’ and our bodily reality as male and female points to the path of both what is normal and healthy in human sexuality, as well as to what is moral.”

In his book, Mattson references the self-identified lesbian feminist and scholar Camille Paglia, who agrees that same-sex attraction is not of the norm, but as a self-labeled pagan, says that the fulfillment of man comes with conquering what she sees as the confines of nature. Mattson disagrees with her view of morality, but he finds her acknowledgment of the true nature of sexuality refreshing.

“At least she’s honest about the fact that everyone’s sexuality is truly ordered toward procreation.” Mattson said.

But what Paglia’s view of sexual liberation ignores, Mattson argues, is that “there is far more pain and suffering in the lives of those who live outside of God’s design and ordering for human sexuality than those who choose to live within it.”

He also noted that self-denial is an essential part of chastity, which everyone – not just people with same-sex attraction – are called to. For example, single men and women attracted to the opposite sex “are taught by the virtue of chastity to refrain from any sexual activity, too, and though this can be challenging, there is less suffering – and even more importantly, more peace – in one’s life when one follows the path set before us by God than if we go our own way.”

It's not an issue of who suffers more but rather a shared connection of “the common human experience of suffering,” which stems from “rejection from other people, dashed hopes and dreams, heartbreak and loneliness.”

Mattson said that one reason he wrote his book is to help pave a path forward for those who have suffered from heartbreak and loss in their own relationships.

These sufferings, Mattson said, are universal to the human experience and not something particular to people with same-sex attraction. He referenced Cardinal Ratzinger's 1986 “Letter on the Pastoral Care of the Homosexual Person,” which helped him refrain from self-pity and “thinking that somehow my various forms of suffering associated with living out a single and celibate life are more challenging than anyone else's challenges.”

Through his book, Mattson says he wants to help the Church to, as he puts it, “reclaim sexual reality” and to help the Church and the world move beyond a view of the person which is ultimately “based on a reductionist label of sexual identity rooted in one’s sexual attractions and feelings.”

“In the eyes of the Church, there is no 'us' and 'them,' there is just us, and this is one of the great gifts of the Church.”

Mattson also offered a key distinction between Catholics being welcoming and shifting on magisterial teaching. He said that often the homosexual community has viewed the Church as ostracizing “for the reason that the Church won't affirm them in their chosen way of living their lives.”

“The Church must be as welcoming and as loving as possible, but we cannot be more welcoming or loving than Jesus was who does not condemn us for our sins, but always calls us to go and sin no more.”

This call to change one’s moral life can be challenging, but it's a calling which invites people to conversion and “is a sign of true love and compassion.”


This article was originally published on CNA July 13, 2017.

Push to expand surrogacy practices in US raises questions

Sat, 06/02/2018 - 08:02

Washington D.C., Jun 2, 2018 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A proposal introduced earlier this year aims to expand the practice of surrogacy within the U.S. in an effort to include same-sex couples as surrogate parents and to loosen state supervision over surrogacy contracts.

The measure was proposed by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) with the goal of updating the Uniform Parentage Act, which provides the current model legislation for the legal rights of surrogacy practices within the U.S.

A recent article by Professor Helen Alvare was published by the Institute for Family Studies which addresses the contention over the new push to remove state involvement with surrogacy practices, as well as opening the door to surrogacy for same-sex parents.

Alvare outlined the traditional route for parentage laws in the U.S., which were determined by virtue of the mother’s giving birth to the child and the biological relationship between them, while the father’s legal rights were determined by his biological relationship with the child.

Parentage laws became more complicated over time with the introduction of surrogacy, a process which includes multiple parties – a donor egg, a donor sperm, a surrogate womb – in addition to the intending surrogate parents. With the intricacies of such relationships, most states have relied upon courts in governing surrogacy contracts.

However, Alvare notes the new proposal would remove certain language stating couples intending to parent through surrogacy would be made up of one man and one woman, and instead allows surrogacy for parents without regard of sexual orientation. This update would expand surrogacy practices to same-sex couples.

Additionally, the new proposal would eliminate court oversight in surrogacy contracts, essentially removing state supervision from the picture. Currently, most states treat the surrogacy process much like that of adoption, and requires court appearances, a home study, and the chance for the birth mother to change her mind after the baby is born. These requirements would be removed, with the one exception of traditional surrogacy, when the mother can still determine her own parental rights for the first 72 hours after the birth.

Alvare also points out that the ULC, which introduced the updates, also holds views which remain widely disputed among a large portion of citizens and state legislators, including the legality of surrogate motherhood.

While the proposal has been enacted in Washington and Vermont, and introduced in Rhode Island, many still remain sceptical of the measure on the grounds of the controversy surrounding surrogacy itself.

“In addition to facilitating same-sex parenting, the new UPA’s expansion of surrogacy is controversial due to increasing concerns over surrogacy and ART in general,” said Alvare, who is a professor of law at George Mason University.

“The international debate over surrogacy – including its physical and psychological effects upon surrogate mothers and children – is far from over, especially given new films and testimonials recounting the experiences of the women and children involved,” she continued.

Alvare highlighted the various effects which face surrogate mothers, including increased pregnancy risks, such as gestational diabetes, fetal growth restriction, pre-eclampsia, and premature birth.

Other studies have shown the significant emotional attachment that a surrogate mother has with the baby, making their pregnancy a “high-risk emotional experience,” according to researchers in the Iranian Journal of Reproductive Medicine.

Dr. Jennifer Lahl at the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network believes that surrogacy “is another form of the commodification of women’s bodies…and degrades a pregnancy to a service and a baby to a product.”

Abuses, including fraud and exploitation of poor women, as well as lawsuits, have also been commonly associated with the surrogacy process, leaving many to wonder why state supervision would be removed in the new UPA measure.

The Catholic Church taught about the moral problems with surrogacy in the 1987 instruction Donum vitae, in which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that surrogacy “represents an objective failure to meet the obligations of maternal love,” calling it a “detriment” to the family and the dignity of the human person by divorcing “physical, psychological and moral elements which constitutes those families.”

The United Nations also condemned surrogacy in 2015.

In an age of #MeToo, women take a ‘second look’ at the sexual revolution

Fri, 06/01/2018 - 18:43

Washington D.C., Jun 1, 2018 / 04:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Fifty years after the sexual revolution promised female empowerment through casual sex “without consequences,” scholars are looking into the far-reaching social effects of that revolution.

“Unlike our forerunners in 1968, those of us living today now have access to something they didn't -- 50 years of sociological, psychological, medical, and other evidence about the revolution's fallout,” said author and scholar Mary Eberstadt in the opening speech at a conference entitled, “The #MeToo Moment: Second Thoughts on the Sexual Revolution.”

“The time has come to examine some of that evidence,” said Eberstadt.
Eight female scholars presented research on birth control, infertility, the hook-up culture, sexually transmitted diseases, pornography, surrogacy, and sex trafficking at the May 31 conference, co-sponsored by the Catholic Women’s Forum and Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture.

“The #MeToo movement has forced us to confront the reality that when it comes to sexual politics, women remain very much at risk," said Dr. Suzanne Hollman, a professor of clinical psychology at George Washington University.

Seventy-eight percent of women said they regretted their most recent hookup encounter, according to a 2012 study cited by Hollman.

When Dr. Monique Chireau was in medical school at Brown University training to be an obstetrician-gynecologist 20 years ago, cases of venereal warts were extremely uncommon.

“Now it is a common disease,” said Chireau, who discussed the rise in sexually transmitted diseases and their lasting effects. Sexually transmitted diseases have reached an all-time high in California, according to data released by the California Department of Public Health earlier this month, which showed more than 300,000 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2017. These sexually transmitted diseases can lead to infertility, explained Chireau.

“Women spend [their] 20s trying to avoid pregnancy and their 30s trying to become pregnant,” said Dr. Marguerite Duane, an adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University in her discussion of research on birth control versus fertility awareness based methods.

“The explosion of sexual activity thanks to the pill has also been accompanied by levels of divorce, cohabitation, and abortion never seen before in history,” observed Eberstadt. “It has also, as the #MeToo movement shows, contributed to a world in which 24/7 sex is assumed to be a sexual norm to the detriment of those who resist any advance for any reason."

“The belief that sex is a casual, non-intimate, recreational, adversarial behavior” and pornography use among men are two of the main predictors of sexual violence against women, said another psychologist, Mary Anne Layden, who has treated both rapists and rape victims in her cognitive therapy practice.

Pornography provides the “perfect learning environment” to train men to force sex on women, deafening their ability to perceive consent, according to Layden, who directs the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

She cited multiple studies that have found that pornography’s overwhelmingly violent content leads to violence against women.

One study of students 18 to 21 years old found that the earlier the male child was exposed to pornography, the more likely it is that he will engage in non-consenting sex as a young adult.

“The libertarian conceit that pornography is a victimless crime is over,” said Eberstadt, who called pornography “the sexual revolution’s bastard son.”

The sexual revolution empowered “the already strong and makes the weaker parties more vulnerable than before. This is true, for example, of the young women who were recruited for and demeaned by egg harvesting,” continued Eberstadt. “It is true of the women and children exploited in the frightening rush to normalize prostitution.”

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found an 846 percent increase in reports of suspected child sex trafficking online in a period of only five years, said Professor Mary Leary, who specializes in criminal law and human trafficking and teaches at The Catholic University of America.

Women are also being exploited in the surrogacy industry, another arena in which “bodies are commodified,” explained Jennifer Lahl, the founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl has testified at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women on surrogacy and egg trafficking.

“The global fertility industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar a year industry,” said Lahl. “Earlier this week, Market Watch announced this industry will reach $30 billion dollars by 2023.”

"As the years go by we have larger sample sizes and more studies being published, we are learning more and more about the very real harms to women who serve as surrogates or egg donors and also the children that were born of these technologies,”  Lahl explained.

“Bodies of women in particular are valued for their reproductive capacities -- their eggs, their wombs. Children become objects of design and manufacture when highly desirable eggs are sought from women of certain intelligence, features, capabilities are brought together with carefully picked sperm and often gestated by another woman, even a stranger in another country, a third world country,” she continued.

“This is the largest social human experiment of our time -- we are learning as we go of the harms to women and children. Where else in medicine do we allow such things to happen?” asked Lahl.

Gendercide is another global consequence of the sexual revolution’s promotion of abortion, said Mary Eberstadt. “Around the planet millions more unborn girls are killed every year than boys. They are killed because they are girls.”

“This grotesque outcome could not have been foreseen half a century ago, but we see it now. It is as anti-female as it is possible to be,” she continued.

In responding to the victims of the sexual revolution, the Church must remember that “our responsibility is healing,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. in a keynote address.

The cardinal encouraged Catholics to reach out to reach out through encounter and “accompaniment of this generation.”

“Our task is not only to have clear in our mind the teaching, but to be able to reach out to them in a way that they begin to hear us,” he said.

Bishop Murry released from hospital following chemo treatment

Fri, 06/01/2018 - 16:43

Youngstown, Ohio, Jun 1, 2018 / 02:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio was released from the Cleveland Clinic Tuesday evening, following a month of intensive chemotherapy treatment, the diocese said.

“Diagnosed with acute Leukemia earlier in the month, Bishop Murry’s physicians are pleased with his response to chemotherapy and the leukemia cells have been suppressed. He will return to the clinic weekly to monitor his recovery,”the diocese said in a statement May 30.

The statement said that the bishop is grateful for the prayers of the community, but cannot currently receive visitors or calls.

Bishop Murry was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic on April 29 for four weeks of intensive chemotherapy.

Following his leukemia diagnosis, the bishop stepped down from his role as chair of the U.S. bishops’ new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, which was established last year, as well as his role as chair of the conference’s Committee on Catholic Education.

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

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

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

Bishop Murry has led the Youngstown diocese since 2007.

Iowa judge temporarily blocks heartbeat abortion ban

Fri, 06/01/2018 - 13:28

Des Moines, Iowa, Jun 1, 2018 / 11:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An Iowa judge is temporarily blocking the state’s newly-signed “heartbeat bill” from going into effect, he announced on Friday.

Judge Michael Huppert issued a temporary injunction against the law after a coalition of pro-abortion groups filed suit, saying it was unconstitutional.

The law, which bans abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat - usually around the sixth week of pregnancy - was signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) in early May. Limited exceptions for abortion would be allowed in cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormality, or to protect the health of the mother.

In a statement after signing the bill, Gov. Reynolds said that while there would likely be legal challenges to the law, she will “not back down.”

“This is bigger than just a law, this is about life,” she said.

Shortly after the passage of the bill, the American Civil Liberties Union as well as Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed suit to block the bill. Iowa’s Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, said that he would not defend the bill in court because he does not agree with it.

Instead, the state will be represented by the Thomas More Society, a pro-life national public interest law firm.

The law was set to go into effect on July 1. Now, the attorneys representing the state hope the law will go quickly before a judge, who will determine whether or not it is constitutional.

Prior to the passage of this bill, abortion was legal in Iowa until the 20th week of pregnancy.

The Iowa bill is part of a wave of pro-life legislation in recent months.

On Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, signed a bill that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks in the state. The Louisiana law is modeled after a similar measure in Mississippi, and will go into effect only if a federal judge upholds the Mississippi law, the Associated Press reported.


Maine bishop had 'no alternative' but to leave state ecumenical group

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 18:01

Portland, Maine, May 31, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After the Maine Council of Churches changed its decision-making process earlier this year, the Bishop of Portland was forced to withdraw from the group, the Portland Press-Herald reported Tuesday.

The council had previously required unanimous agreement before advocating on a public policy issue, but in February adopted a simple majority vote. This meant that continued membership in the group could have forced the Diocese of Portland to be represented by views at odds with Catholic teaching.

Bishop Robert Deeley wrote to Bonny Rodden, president of the Maine Council of Churches, to announce the withdrawal of the Portland diocese, Gillian Graham wrote in the Portland Press-Herald May 29.

“As the Bishop of the Diocese I find this unfortunate, but I see no alternative. Our continuing participation could result in me advocating for two different, and even contradictory, positions,” Bishop Deeley wrote, according to the Press-Herald.

“What I advocate for cannot be simply determined by a majority vote. It is expected that my advocacy is grounded in the teachings of the Church. Any other position would be contrary to my responsibility as the bishop of Portland.”

The bishop added that “As we do with the many activities of our parish communities and, of course, the tremendous good done by Catholic Charities, we will be working to serve the needs of the poor, the disadvantaged and the migrants among us, and keep before the people of our state the need to serve the common good through our care for one another.”

The members of the Maine Council of Churches, found in 1938, “act as one voice to advocate for the disenfranchised, the downtrodden and the protection of God’s creation,” according to the organization's website.

The Maine Council of Churches currently says it has seven member denominations: Episcopal, Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Quakers.

The Diocese of Portland had joined the council in 1982. The Press-Herald reported that its membership will officially end June 30.

Jane Field, executive director of the Maine Council of Churches, told the Portland Press-Herald that the decision to change the council's decision-making process came amid disagreements over LBGTQ issues. Field is a minister at a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

During debates over same-sex marriage, the council would not take a stand, “in order to keep everyone at the table,” she said. “When it came to certain areas, in particular issues affecting the LGBTQ community, they would invoke this practice (of staying silent)”.

In a March 14 letter to the editor in the Portland Press-Herald, Field wrote, in her capacity as executive director of the Maine Council of Churches, that “Sexual orientation and gender identity are a gift from God – not a condition that needs treatment, not a choice that needs conversion, not something broken that needs repair.”

Field said there is a “deep sadness” over the Portland diocese's decision to leave the council, “but at the same time, I feel the council still has a vital role to play in the state. I believe we will find ourselves side by side with the diocese on certain issues like hunger and human trafficking.”

The Catholic Church is the largest religious institution in the state. In 2010, the Diocese of Portland included 203,000 persons, while there were nearly 94,000 mainline Protestants in Maine.

Minn. archbishop hopeful that abuse settlement will help bring healing

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 16:35

St. Paul, Minn., May 31, 2018 / 02:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Announcing a $210 million agreement with sexual abuse victims, Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis said he hopes the settlement will mark a new beginning for abuse survivors and the local Church.

“With the settlement today, we reaffirm our efforts to protect children and vulnerable adults,” Archbishop Hebda said at a May 31 press conference.

“Even in this moment of taking another step toward providing justice to survivors of abuse, we know our work in this regard is not complete,” he said. “Our Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment team will continue its work on demonstrable actions to ensure that our churches, schools and communities are safe places for all.”

He noted that the December 2015 child safety policies established by the archdiocese – which include training every volunteer and employee who works with children about how to recognize and prevent abuse – continue to be the national standard for maintaining safe environments.

Thanking the victims who have come forward to share their stories, he offered an apology on behalf of the Church.

“I recognize that the abuse stole so much from you – your childhood, your innocence, your safety, your ability to trust, and in many cases, your faith,” he said, voicing hope that the settlement, which comes after more than two years of deliberation, will bring closure for victims and allow them to take the next step in the healing process.

The agreement announced by the archdiocese Thursday includes a plan for abuse compensation as well as for bringing the archdiocese out of bankruptcy.

The amount of the settlement is $210 million, said Tom Abood, chair of the Archdiocesan Finance Council, who negotiated the agreement. This is an increase of more than $50 million from the proposal that the archdiocese had originally submitted.

In January 2015, the archdiocese had filed for bankruptcy, saying many abuse claims had been made possible under Minnesota legislation that opened a temporary window for older claims to be heard in civil court.

The initial plan proposed by the archdiocese included $156 million for survivors who filed claims. That plan would have drawn about $120 million in insurance settlements and $30 million from the archdiocese and some of its parishes. Victims’ attorneys said it was inadequate and did not include insurers and parishes sufficiently.

In January 2018, a federal bankruptcy judge ordered a return to mediation for all the parties involved.

Under the final plan, the majority of the money – about $170 million – comes from insurance carriers for the archdiocese and individual parishes. The other $40 million is from diocesan and parish sources, such as cash-on-hand and the sale of interests in land.

Details of the final plan will be released in the coming days, Abood said.

Sources close to the archdiocese told CNA that between 33 and 40 percent of the settlement amount is likely to be consumed by plaintiffs' attorney fees.

According to attorney Jeff Anderson, whose firm represents the abuse survivors, this is the largest settlement ever reached in a Catholic abuse case.

Anderson said that 450 survivors were included in the bankruptcy reorganization case, and 91 offenders were exposed and listed as credibly accused offenders who had never before been listed and exposed.

Jim Keenan, who was sexually abused by a priest at age 13, called the settlement “an absolute triumph” for victims.

He emphasized the need for continued vigilance in preventing abuse, but added, “I do believe we have made the world safer in terms of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis.”

Marie Milke, another victim, spoke about the power of healing that renewed her desire to be alive.

“We’re all aware of bad priests, but I have to acknowledge a few good priests,” she added, pointing to her uncle, who is a priest, and two other priests who fight for victims. “I think it’s important to know that there are still good priests, I want to thank you for not being afraid and to keep fighting for us.”

Abood noted that this settlement will bring a resolution to all pending abuse litigation against the archdiocese, parishes, and other Church entities.

Archbishop Hebda said he hopes that the settlement, which will also complete the archdiocese’s bankruptcy process, can mark a new beginning and allow for atonement, healing and restoration of trust.

“I sure hope, for those who have been harmed in the past, that this brings closure for them,” he said, stressing that the Church wants to be partners in healing, and not adversaries.

“I ask that we enter this new day together, in hope and in love,” he said.


Philly mom feels 'rejected' by ban on referrals to Catholic foster agency

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 16:31

Philadelphia, Pa., May 31, 2018 / 02:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Over the past 25 years, Sharonell Fulton has been a mother to more than 40 children through foster parenting in Philadelphia.

She has opened her heart and home to children who have suffered abuse and trauma, offering them an oasis of love and comfort during tumultuous times.

“I have devoted my life to opening my home as a safe harbor,” Fulton wrote in an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer May 24.

“For the last 25 years, I have sheltered and loved more than 40 children, helping them piece their lives together and move on from hurt-filled pasts,” she said. “It was my faith that led me to become a foster mother to children, particularly children that society had abused and discarded.”

When Philadelphia recently severed ties with Catholic Social Services, Fulton said that she felt fully “the pain of rejection.” Fulton, who had been using the Catholic Social Services program for her own foster parenting, said that seeing “the city condemn the foster agency that has made possible my life’s work fills me with pain.”

On March 15, Philadelphia Councilwoman Cindy Bass authorized an investigation into organizations which do not place foster children in the care of LGBTQ individuals, on the grounds of discrimination. Among the organizations, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and Human Services found Catholic Social Services at fault, saying their foster placement was discriminatory, and cut ties with the faith-based agency.

“As a single mom and woman of color, I’ve known a thing or two about discrimination over the years,” Fulton remarked.

“But I have never known vindictive religious discrimination like this, and I feel the fresh sting of bias watching my faith publicly derided by Philadelphia’s politicians,” she continued.

Fulton also underscored the hypocrisy in the city’s recent decision to sever their connection with Catholic Social Services, since Philadelphia had announced a growing and dire need for more foster families only weeks before.

The opioid crisis in Philadelphia has contributed significantly to the immediate need of foster families in the city, as many parents have fallen victim to the drug epidemic. Fulton said that there are “rosters of children without safe homes” because of the widespread crisis.

“Last year, [Catholic Social Services] supervised more than 100 foster homes, and its service to at-risk children in the city goes back more than an entire century,” Fulton said.

“Why deny that service when homes for vulnerable children are needed now more than ever? The fate of hundreds of children and foster families hang in the balance.”

In light of the recent ban on Catholic Social Services, Fulton has joined a number of other foster families in suing the city on the grounds of religious discrimination. If the city declines to renew its current contract with Catholic Social Services, which ends in June, there is a chance the foster children placed by CSS will be uprooted from their homes.

Fulton expressed concern over the lawsuit, saying that if the contract is not renewed, she will “worry every night” about her foster children, particularly the two special-needs kids who are currently under her care. She has spent a lot of time building up a trusting relationship with them and noted that they require significant devotion because of their extensive needs.

“To know that the City of Philadelphia may soon take from me the work that brings me the greatest joy frightens me. And to think that the city would rather score political points than to offer true hope and a future to our city’s most vulnerable children makes me angry,” said Fulton.

“The 6,000 and counting at-risk children waiting in Philadelphia’s foster care system deserve much better than having their futures jeopardized by our city’s leaders playing politics. They deserve hope, they deserve love, they deserve a city doing all it can to find them a home.”

Abuse survivors, Twin Cities archdiocese reach settlement in bankruptcy case

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 14:23

St. Paul, Minn., May 31, 2018 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After more than two years’ deliberation, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and abuse survivors have agreed to a plan for abuse compensation as well as for bringing the archdiocese out of bankruptcy.

A statement released on Thursday by Jeff Anderson & Associates law firm, which represents the abuse survivors, called the settlement the “largest settlement ever reached in a Catholic bankruptcy case”, though they did not at the time disclose a dollar amount.

A source close to the archdiocese told CNA May 31 that the settlement amount reached was $210 million.

In the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the U.S. Bishop’s Conference in 2002, the bishops committed to full transparency on abuse settlement amounts. The charter notes that dioceses "are not to enter into settlements which bind the parties to confidentiality unless the victim/survivor requests confidentiality and this request is noted in the text of the agreement."

Sources close to the archdiocese told CNA that between 33 and 40 percent of the settlement amount is likely to be consumed by plaintiffs' attorney fees.

Anderson and abuse victims are holding a press conference, and the archdiocese is expected to do so shortly.

In January 2015 the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy, saying many abuse claims had been made possible under Minnesota legislation that opened a temporary window for older claims to be heard in civil court.

The committee representing abuse survivors composed a plan at the time calling for tougher settlements with insurance companies and much larger contributions from the archdiocese. The archdiocese, parishes and insurance companies objected to the plan, saying its effect would be “liquidating” the archdiocese.

From the archdiocese came a proposed plan that included $156 million for survivors who filed claims. The plan would draw about $120 million in insurance settlements and $30 million from the archdiocese and some of its parishes. Victims’ attorneys said it was inadequate and did not include insurers and parishes adequately.

In January 2018, a federal bankruptcy judge ordered a return to mediation for all the parties involved.

The rise of the sex robot: Will technology solve our loneliness problem?

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 05:09

Denver, Colo., May 31, 2018 / 03:09 am (CNA).- Earlier this year, a 25-year-old man smashed his rental van into innocent pedestrians in downtown Toronto on a Tuesday, killing 10 and injuring more than a dozen.

The driver was not part of the usually-suspected terrorist networks. Instead, he was found to be part of the “incels” - short for involuntary celibates - an obscure online community of mostly men who blame women and society for their lack of a sex life. They believe the distribution of sex in the world to be unfair - particularly to them.  

Their once dark and largely-unknown corner of the internet has since garnered some attention following the attack, prompting New York Times columnist Ross Douthat to posit that sex robots will be society’s answer to the incels - the logical way to pacify their lust before they turn more vans on innocent civilians.

“Whether sex workers and sex robots can actually deliver real fulfillment is another matter,” Douthat wrote. “But that they will eventually be asked to do it, in service to a redistributive goal that for now still seems creepy or misogynist or radical, feels pretty much inevitable.”

A subsequent cover story on sex robots featured in New York Magazine noted that some research has predicted that by 2050, sex robots will not just be for the angry incels, but for society at large. People will have - and possibly prefer - intimate relationships to sex robots than to people, the story predicted.

Are we more than an orgasm?

Sr. Mary Patrice Ahearn is a psychologist and a religious sister with the Religious Sisters of Mercy in Alma, Michigan.

Ahearn said that the rise in communities like incels and the prospect of relationships with sex robots points to the fact that society has forgotten God, or the transcendental aspect of the human experience.

“I think what they’re both pointing to, which nobody talks about, is the transcendental desire or part of each of us,” she said. “(W)hen we take out this transcendental part, or dare I say faith or God, you have to fill that void with something.”

People need to seriously grapple with the transcendental ache and longing that they feel in their lives, and come to terms with what that might mean, rather than looking to fill the void with sex robots or other technology, she said.

“So I would ask the question: Is the deepest desire in your heart to be sexually satisfied, to have an orgasm? Is that the deepest desire of my heart? And people have to seriously ask those questions,” she said.

“Everyone has this desire for sex,” Ahearn said, “but so do the cows we drive by on the road, we all have that.”

Not only is society increasingly irreligious and unwilling to acknowledge the transcendental, but humanity is also losing some of the basic bonds of family and friendship to technology, bonds which used to allow people to experience intimacy outside of sexual relationships, she added.

“We’re more connected than ever if you think of technology and all the ways that we can communicate,” she said. But it doesn’t always lead to deeper human relationships because it’s “this constant checking with their devices, just constant restlessness with it.”

The rise of the incels and the sex robot seem to be indications (albeit extreme ones) of another societal problem - we’re really, deeply lonely.

The loneliness problem

Recent research has shown that Americans are lonelier than ever, and technology may be the biggest culprit. A 2016 study found a strong correlation between amounts of time spent on social media and depression in young adults - the longer one lingered on sites like Facebook and Instagram, the more depressed they were.

Last year, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy began warning of a loneliness epidemic, a public health crisis he says has gone largely ignored but that nonetheless has detrimental impacts on people’s physical and emotional well-being.

Just last month, a survey of Americans conducted by Cigna insurance company also found that people are lonelier than ever - especially the young. At least half of the survey respondents identified themselves as lonely, and the average American scored a 44 on the UCLA-created “loneliness” scale, qualifying them as, well, lonely. The Cigna survey also found that how people used social media mattered - those who used it to reach out and make real connections were less lonely than those who just passively scrolled through feeds.

Cristina Barba is the founder and executive director of The Culture Project, an organization which sends teams of young people to high schools and youth groups to “proclaim the dignity of the human person and the richness of living sexual integrity, inviting our culture to become fully alive.”

In their work with young people, Barba said they have found that technology is exacerbating the already-emerging problems of social isolation in American culture to the extreme. Not only are young people more lonely, she said, they often do not know how to make authentic, real-world connections.

“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” Barba told CNA. “The breakdown of family and marriage, families move far apart from each other, people not even having their parish worship communities like they used to...those are all broader societal issues.” “But I think what is most pervasive and most recent is technology,” she added. “Technology has just taken this to the next level, much more quickly.”

Barba’s findings match up with what researcher and psychologist Jean Twenge found among what she calls iGen, the generation after Millennials that grew up never knowing a world without the internet and smartphones.

“Social-networking sites like Facebook promise to connect us to friends. But the portrait of iGen teens emerging from the data is one of a lonely, dislocated generation,” Twenge said in a September 2017 article for The Atlantic. “Teens who visit social-networking sites every day but see their friends in person less frequently are the most likely to agree with the statements ‘A lot of times I feel lonely,’ ‘I often feel left out of things,’ and ‘I often wish I had more good friends.’ Teens’ feelings of loneliness spiked in 2013 and have remained high since,” Twenge said.

The Culture Project itself started out as a community of friends that came together, bonding over the fact that they had tried the culture’s path to happiness in various ways and had found it wanting, Barba noted.

Instead of “sitting around and moaning” about it, Barba said that group of friends decided to do something to make a difference. They started living in community, and forming the mission of The Culture Project, which gives talks to teens throughout the country about chastity and living lives of sexual integrity.

But while community has been a “key pillar” for The Culture Project, they’ve found that technology has made it so that teens today do not know how to form community or even friendships among themselves, let alone romantic relationships.

“We’ve had parents coming to us and say, ok it’s great that you’re talking about virtue and dating, but my kids don’t even know what it means to have a friend. Can you talk about friendship?”

Today’s teens are a generation that has been raised on the internet and social media, Barba said, which means that their idea of friendship equates to that of a follower.

“It’s like a show that you’re putting on,” she said, “it’s people that follow you and people that you follow. It’s not an interaction, the only interaction is to make others jealous, or to be cooler than or to prove yourself. There isn’t actually a meeting of common interests, or someone you do stuff together with, someone you care about. All of those things are lost through social media at a young age.”

'Encounter' as a solution

Culture Project missionaries address the friendship crisis in multiple ways throughout their encounters with teens, Barba said. One of the most effective ways to address this crisis has been simply modeling authentic, healthy friendships among the Culture Project teams.

“It’s actually them seeing the interactions of our missionaries - a couple guys who are normal, fun, attractive young men and women who are a little bit older than them...and they see these people interacting and it’s a beautiful, healthy, normal dynamic of friendship,” she said. “What we model in our interactions is what is profound and shocking to them.”

They also take the time to address social media, and bring to their students’ attention how much time they are probably spending on social media, and how it could be impacting their relationships.

Pornography and sexting - major pitfalls for young adults in a technology driven world - are also important to address.

The idea is not to bash technology, which is a neutral tool, Barba said, but to raise awareness of how addicted they have likely become to their devices, and to offer practical tips to counter that with more human interaction in their lives.

“We just bring to their attention - what are the ways that we use this? And wow, how many hours a day am I really on that?”

The challenge students to do media fasts - whether that’s an hour a day, or even a week, that they don’t use social media, and see how they feel during that time.

They also challenge them to fill that time with real human interaction - and they’ve had to come up with basic friendship guidelines to teach students how to do this.

“We’re literally making suggestions - and I just have to laugh - it’s the way people need dating guides right now, but it’s like friendship guides,” Barba said. “Like what do friends do? You could meet and go to the mall. You could meet and go to the movies. You could meet and go for a walk. I’m not even kidding.”

While the problem is not one that is easily fixed, Barba said she and her missionaries have found that little efforts can make a big difference.

“I think even just providing a space for young people, whether its a physical space or an event, but providing activities they can do together,” she said.

“It’s so basic, just basic human things, like families and parents spending time together. Or basic community, what parish life used to be or should be - people living near each other, that care about each other, that worship together, that have fun together, that have meals together, things like that,” she said.


Catholics respond to global forced migration crisis

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 19:06

Washington D.C., May 30, 2018 / 05:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An unprecedented 66 million people worldwide have been forced from their homes by conflict and violence, according to a report released Wednesday the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The May 30 report, “Confronting the Global Migration Crisis”, found that developing countries host the majority of forced migrants, meaning that poor communities which lack resources are supporting a disproportionate amount of refugees and migrants.

Catholic Relief Services staff have seen this occur on the ground in Africa, where the CSIS report documented that “almost 94 percent of all forced migrants in Africa stay in Africa.”

“The refugee crisis has put a tremendous strain on host communities, many of which struggle to meet their own population’s needs. Around 85 percent of refugees are in low or middle income countries. It’s really important to make sure that when we provide support to the displaced that we don’t forget about the needs of the people hosting them,” Emily Wei, the deputy director for policy development at CRS, told CNA.

Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, and Uganda are the countries that hosted the greatest share of refugees in 2016. According to United Nations refugee agency, Uganda hosted more than 1 million South Sudanese refugees in 2017.

“In Uganda,” continued Wei, “Catholic Relief Services is supporting nearly 100,000 people within both the host and refugee communities with shelter, clean water and livelihoods. Refugees and host community members work alongside each other, build houses together.”

CRS has found that building relationships between the host and refugee communities in developing countries helps reduce potential tensions from strained resources.

“As the number of refugees and displaced continues to grow, we need to continue to find ways to help host communities and refugees work together to build a more sustainable future for everyone,” said Wei.

A “forced migrant” falls into one of three categories: refugee, internally displaced person, or asylum seeker. The majority of 66 million people forced from their homes in 2016 were people displaced within their own countries by violent conflict, disaster, or human rights violations. These IDPs made up 40.3 million of forced migrants globally.

The number of refugees, 22.5 million globally in 2016, was the highest it has been since World War II. There were also an additional 3 million people seeking asylum in another country, according the CSIS report authored by Erol K. Yayboke and Aaron N. Milner.

Armed conflicts, political persecution, natural and human-induced disasters, and food insecurity were among the most common drivers of forced migration cited in the report.

Forced migrants are intrinsically vulnerable communities, however the report highlighted that female migrants face “sexual assault and exploitation, rape, child marriage, and all types of violence not only as a cause of their displacement but also during their journey, while simultaneously and independently caring for children.”

When confronting this global crisis, the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference Migration and Refugee services representative told CNA that it is important to look toward long term solutions and address the root causes of displacement.

“In this era of unprecedented forced migration, we need to think about durable solutions to ensure people are able to live safely and decently and with their families. This includes looking for peace-building solutions to ensure people who do not want to migrate can also have that chance,” said Ashley Feasley, the director of policy for the U.S. Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services.

“The global Catholic community has long been involved in helping advance this goal - whether it be from resettlement to humanitarian aid and community integration,” Feasley added.

She encouraged Catholics to look to Pope Francis, who encourages the welcoming of those fleeing persecution and displacement. “Catholics here in the US can follow the Holy Father’s example on a local level, through supporting newly arriving immigrants and refugees in the community, and looking to foster encounter with them at their parishes,” encouraged Feasley.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services have put together a toolkit to help parishes celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20. It includes prayers for refugees and an list of specific ways Catholics can engage their local communities to aid refugees.

Did Planned Parenthood cover up child abuse and sex trafficking?

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 18:34

Washington D.C., May 30, 2018 / 04:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In 2011, after undercover footage appeared to show Planned Parenthood officials failing to report suspected sex abuse of minors, the organization pledged to do more to train employees to recognize signs of abuse and trafficking.

But according to Ramona Treviño, a former Planned Parenthood manager from Texas, this training did not happen. Instead, Treviño says that she was taught about how to recognize when she was being surreptitiously filmed.

“[The trainer] immediately shot me down and she said, ‘We’re not here to talk about that [identifying sexual abuse victims], Ramona. We’re here to teach you how to identify if you’re being videotaped or recorded or entrapped in any way’,” Treviño said.

Now, Live Action, the investigative group that released the undercover footage in 2011, has a new report alleging that cover up of child sexual abuse and sex trafficking at Planned Parenthood has taken place at locations across the country.

The report, titled “Aiding Abusers: Planned Parenthood’s Cover-Up of Child Sexual Abuse” features nearly two decades-worth of research and contains testimonials from former Planned Parenthood employees, court cases where Planned Parenthood was accused of negligence in failing to report suspected abuse, undercover video footage from prior investigations, and statements from women whose abuse was not reported to authorities by Planned Parenthood.

Live Action is calling for a Congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood to determine just how widespread this issue may be, as well as the removal of all taxpayer funding for the corporation.

As a Title X funding recipient, Planned Parenthood clinics across the country have a legal obligation to report any suspected child abuse. Planned Parenthood receives $60 million each year in Title X funds, although the organization may lose its eligibility for this money under a proposed Trump administration change if it continues to perform abortions.

“Because the cases in this report span many years, it is unknown whether a particular offending Planned Parenthood center or the Planned Parenthood regional affiliate overseeing it was a Title X grant recipient at the time of the offense,” says the report, noting that the cases cited are only known because someone outside Planned Parenthood spoke out.

“This is another reason an HHS investigation needs to be initiated.”

The report cites numerous examples of girls who were under the age of consent and brought to a clinic for an abortion. Girls as young as 12 and 13 received abortions, which were not reported to authorities, Live Action said.

The examples in the report are not localized to any particular region of the country, and some of the cases date back decades.

In 2004, a 16-year-old woman named Denise Fairbanks was brought to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Ohio after she became pregnant following sexual abuse by her father. Despite the fact that Fairbanks told three employees at the Planned Parenthood that she had been forced into sex, this was not reported to authorities, the report said, and she was sent back to her father’s home, where the abuse continued. Her father was later arrested a year and a half later, when her basketball coach uncovered the abuse. She later filed a civil suit in 2007, and settled in 2012.

Similar situations in Washington state, Arizona, California, and Colorado are cited in the report. In the Colorado case, a Planned Parenthood employee said in a deposition that “being 13 and pregnant alone is not a red flag” of sexual abuse. The age of consent in Colorado is 17.

In 2010, a 13-year-old California girl underwent an abortion from Planned Parenthood after she became pregnant when her father, a man named Edgar Ramirez, repeatedly raped her. She told the workers at the clinic that she had gotten pregnant from a made-up boyfriend.

The age of consent in California is 18. It is illegal in the state to have sexual contact with a minor, unless a person is married to that minor.

Instead of going to the authorities, the report says, the victim was advised by a clinic employee to abstain from sex for three weeks after her abortion. Her father continued raping her, and she was pregnant again a few months later.

This time, according to the report, Planned Parenthood gave her an abortion as well as an IUD to prevent any additional pregnancies. Ramirez was eventually arrested after one of his other daughters reported her abuse to the police.

Testimony from former employees, including clinic managers, suggested an indifference to the legal requirement that the clinics report sexual abuse to authorities.

“We were all required to be mandatory reporters, but, if we saw a case – questionable abuse or even for sure, I mean, this kid is being abused – we really were discouraged from calling it in, just because they didn’t want to have the trouble – the angry parent, the angry boyfriend, whatever it was,” said Sue Thayer, a former Planned Parenthood manager from Storm Lake, Iowa. “So, more than once I was told, ‘No, that is not reportable. You don’t need to call it in.’”

Monica Cline, a former health educator who helped train employees at Planned Parenthood in the southwest, said that she believes the organization did not actually care about rescuing girls who were trafficked.

Cline said the employees had adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy where they would refrain from asking about the age of a young girl’s sexual partner so that they would not have to report it.

“I went back to my office and I told my supervisor, listen, I’m trying to teach them about key concepts on Title X; they’re admitting that they’re not going to report cases of statutory rape,” said Cline.

A 2014 study by Loyola University Chicago’s Beazley Institute for Health and Law Policy found that aside from emergency rooms, Planned Parenthood locations were the most-visited facilities by trafficking victims. One trafficking victim interviewed for that report said that Planned Parenthood “didn’t ask any questions” that would have revealed the abuse.  

A video released with the report makes up the first part of a docuseries on the same subject. Additional videos in the docuseries will be released in the coming weeks.


Baptist congregation votes Jesus statue out for being 'too Catholic'

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 18:01

Charleston, S.C., May 30, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Jesus is being evicted from a South Carolina church, and he must be out by the end of the month.

Red Bank Baptist Church in Lexington, about 120 miles northeast of Charleston, has voted to remove a  statue of Christ and its accompanying reliefs after 11 years, because they are believed to be too “Catholic in nature”.

The white, hand-carved statue in question shows Christ with his outstretched and stepping out of the wall, while the reliefs depict images from Christ's life, death and resurrection.

Red Bank Baptist Church leaders sent a letter to the artist, Bert Baker Jr., earlier this month, informing him that the congregation had voted to remove the statue because it was being perceived as a Catholic icon and was causing confusion among churchgoers.

“We understand that this is not a Catholic icon, however, people perceive it in these terms. As a result, it is bringing into question the theology and core values of Red Bank Baptist Church," church leaders Jeff Wright and Mike Dennis said in the letter.

Baker, a former member of the church’s congregation himself, was commissioned to make the statue for Red Bank in 2007.

In a response letter, Baker told the church leaders that he wanted the Christ statue to appear to be stepping out in a symbol of the Lord’s commission, and that the other images in the reliefs were based on basic facts about Christ's life which can be found in the Bible.

“Under each arm the reliefs depict scriptural and historical events that we as Christians believe represent the life of Christ. There should be no confusion on the facts of Jesus’ birth, life events, the miracles, His crucifixion, death and most importantly His resurrection,” Baker said in his letter.

In comments to local newspaper The State, Baker said he was “not interested in stirring the pot, but people not liking it because it looked too Catholic is crazy, man. It's been up there for 11 years."

"I don't agree with the letter, it bothers me," he added.

Rhonda Davis shared photos of both the church’s letter and Baker’s response in a Facebook post, and commented that she found it “truly sad” that the statues were going to be removed for reasons that singled out Catholics.

She called the decision “disturbing and sad that in a time when we are all needing to come together as brothers and sisters in Christ to project and reflect His love to a lost and dying world…”

In his response letter to the church, Baker said that he was “stunned that your letter both insults the intelligence of the Red bank community (as not intelligent enough to know that Red Bank Baptist Church is a Baptist church despite having a large sign stating as much) and, more disturbing, singling out the Catholic church in such a manner as to suggest that their denomination is deficient in theology and lacking in Christian core values to the point that you wish to prevent or avoid any perceived association with them.”

“In a world that is dying with prejudices, it is disappointing for (a) church that claims Christ as its head would exclude any of His followers.”

Red Bank offered Baker the chance to remove the statues himself before May 31 if he wanted to reclaim them, but Baker said that he made the statue and reliefs for the church and that it was their choice to do with them as they wished.

However, he said he hoped the art would not be destroyed and that it instead might be donated to another church or sold to support a mission.

"I was commissioned to make the sculpture, and whatever they choose to do with it is their prerogative," Baker told The State. "I just didn't want it destroyed. I don't want to take it down personally, but I hope they find another place for it."