CNA News

Subscribe to CNA News feed CNA News
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 24 min 27 sec ago

LA archdiocese hosts youth conference to inspire sanctity

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 02:03

Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 9, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- More than 1,600 youth gathered at the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles this weekend for the third annual City of Saints conference, where local teenagers participated in workshops, the sacraments, and fellowship.

“City of Saints is a festival of hope,” stated Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles.

“The faith of these young people – their love for Jesus, their desire to live their faith and share their faith – is a beautiful witness. And it is contagious,” he continued.

The Aug.4-6 event was hosted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and included workshops, praise and worship, and the opportunity to participate in Mass and confession. The youth were also encouraged to engage in the Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic procession, and facilitated group time.

Teenagers from 80 different parishes throughout the Los Angeles archdiocese participated in the City of Saints.

Speakers at the event included Life Teen’s David Calavitta and Steve Allgeyer, as well as mental health counselor Roy Petitfils, youth minister Chika Anyanwu, and Sister Miriam James Heidland of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.

Archbishop Gomez celebrated the opening Mass at the De Neve Auditorium, where he told the youth during his homily that God has a specific plan for each individual person.

“The purpose of our lives is to be transformed and transfigured. To become more like Jesus every day of our lives,” the archbishop said, and encouraged the youth gathered to “let Jesus be your teacher – your life coach.”

“Two practical things in my life that have helped me listen to Jesus – prayer and reading the Gospel,” he told the youth, and urged them to “develop these two habits in your life.

Archbishop Gomez also pointed to the Bible App, and challenged them to check the Gospel instead of Instagram. He also told the youth that their faith was inspiring, and encouraged them to be transfigured by God’s loving plan through the Blessed Mother.

“Let us always go to Our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary. May she help us listen to Jesus and to be transfigured,” Archbishop Gomez stated.

“And may she help us to transfigure our world into a City of Saints!”

In wake of Civilta Cattolica piece, Evangelicals seek papal chat

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 17:49

Washington D.C., Aug 8, 2017 / 03:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Some U.S. evangelical Christian leaders want to talk with Pope Francis about a prominent Jesuit-run journal’s essay on Christianity and American politics that depicted some Catholic-Evangelical collaboration as an “ecumenism of hate.”

“Rather than being offended, we have chosen to attempt to make peace,” Johnnie Moore said, according to Time Magazine. “We would be willing to get on a plane tomorrow to Rome to meet with whoever, whenever to create a space for dialogue instead of conflict.”

Moore, a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals and past president of the Virginia-based Liberty University, requested the meeting with the Pope and other Vatican leaders on behalf of some U.S. Evangelical leaders, including some close to President Trump.

He is part of a group of evangelical Christian leaders who are informal advisors to President Trump. Only parts of the letter were made public.
 
Moore voiced surprise at the essay, considering the Pope's reputation as a “bridge-builder,” the Washington Post reports. His letter alluded to contemporary “ongoing persecution, political division and global conflict,” saying there are “efforts to divide Catholics and Evangelicals.”

“We think it would be of great benefit to sit together and to discuss these things,” said the letter. “Then, when we disagree we can do it within the context of friendship. Though, I'm sure we will find once again that we agree far more than we disagree, and we can work together with diligence on those areas of agreement.”

Moore sent the request to Pope Francis as well as to the Archdiocese of Washington and other possible intermediaries on Aug. 3.

The Rome-based Jesuit-run journal La Civilta Cattolica on July 13 published an analysis piece co-authored by its editor, Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., and Rev. Marcelo Figueroa, a Presbyterian pastor who is editor-in-chief of the Argentine edition of L'Osservatore Romano, the daily newspaper of Vatican City.

The essay, titled “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism” made a number of claims, alleging that many conservative Christians have united to promote an “ecumenism of hate” in policies that contradict Pope Francis' message of mercy. They claimed that that “Evangelical fundamenta lists” and “Catholic Integralists” are being brought together in a “surprising ecumenism” by a shared desire for religious influence in politics.

The piece's analysis of American Christianity listed various influences like Christian fundamentalism, the “dominionism” of Presbyterian thinker Pastor Rousas John Rushdoony, the Prosperity Gospel, inspirational writer Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, and the polemical lay Catholic site Church Militant. It attempted to link these figures and trends with political trends and figures like Republican strategist Steve Bannon and Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

The essay did not mention by name any of President Trump’s religious advisers.

The essay noted the American trend of “values voters” whose political decisions prioritize abortion, same-sex marriage, religion in schools and other matters. Both of these Catholic and Evangelical factions, the authors claimed, “condemn traditional ecumenism and yet promote an ecumenism of conflict that unites them in the nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state.” They charged that this collaboration also advances a “xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations” and thus an “ecumenism of hate.”

However, the essay drew criticism from several quarters, including the editors of Commonweal Magazine, themselves unsympathetic to U.S. Catholic conservatism.

In a July 25 editorial, they described the essay as “a mishmash of wild and erroneous claims, made in a disjointed, almost impenetrable style,” whose authors “seem woefully ignorant of American religious history.” They said the essay was a “lost opportunity” to criticize the partisan use of religion in a way that might engage “those who do not yet have ears to hear.”

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia characterized the essay as “an exercise in dumbing down and inadequately presenting the nature of Catholic/Evangelical cooperation on religious freedom and other key issues.” He characterized this cooperation as “a function of shared concerns and principles, not ambition for political power.” The archbishop said it was surprising “when believers are attacked by their co-religionists merely for fighting for what their Churches have always held to be true.”

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat half-panned the essay as “bad but important.” Despite its apparent intention to warn about “the darker tendencies in Trumpism,” he said it reflected a superficial understanding of American religion and missed the fact that both Catholic-Evangelical alliances and liberal religious politics have failed. Douthat saw an increase in “disillusionment and homelessness” among Catholic thinkers, while the contradictions of political liberalism seem to make the moment “ripe for serious Catholic rethinking.”

For his part, Catholic commentator George Weigel suggested the publishing of the article reflected poorly on the competence of La Civilta Cattolica and the Vatican Secretariat of State, which vets its articles.

The essay drew support from Prof. Miguel H. Diaz, a U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under the Obama administration. Writing at Crux, he said the essay rejects “human indifference” that is “politically manifested and religiously justified.”

Anthony Annett, a climate change and sustainable development advisor at the Center for Sustainable Development – Earth Institute at Columbia University, wrote in Commonweal July 28 that the essay showed a light on “the pathologies of a certain brand of American Catholicism.” Its basic point, he contended, was that “a small but vocal and influential segment of American Catholicism is now far more comfortable with the world of right-wing political evangelicalism than with global Catholicism.”

Planned Parenthood investigators appeal case to US Supreme Court

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 12:33

Washington D.C., Aug 8, 2017 / 10:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- David Daleiden, the undercover journalist behind the 2015 Planned Parenthood videos, has appealed to the US Supreme Court for the release of more undercover footage from National Abortion Federation conventions.

 “We are appealing to the highest court in quest of justice,” Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society, which is representing Daleiden in court, stated Friday.

“This lawsuit was brought against Mr. Daleiden by National Abortion Federation, the abortion industry’s trade group, because he dared to expose the truth about their members’ profiting from an illegal trade in the remains of human beings,” Brejcha said Aug. 4.

“But what is ultimately at stake here is whether those who ‘blow the whistle’ on illegal or inhumane misbehavior in any industry may be silenced and even punished for telling the truth to the public at large and to those charged with enforcing criminal and regulatory bans on nefarious practices.”

Daleiden is the project lead at the Center for Medical Progress, a citizen journalist group that has worked to document the role of Planned Parenthood, other abortion providers, and tissue procurement companies in the trade of body parts of aborted babies.

Beginning in July 2015, CMP began releasing undercover footage of Planned Parenthood officials and current and former employees of the company StemExpress, which obtained fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood clinics for compensation.

The journalists posed as representatives of a fetal tissue procurement company and discussed prices for fetal tissue of aborted babies with Planned Parenthood officials. The officials also described the gruesome practice of abortion procedures and of obtaining the tissue from aborted babies.

Federal law allows for reasonable compensation to clinics for fetal tissue of aborted babies used for research purposes. The amount of compensation cannot be for “valuable consideration,” but can only cover operating costs like preservation of tissue and transport.

Daleiden’s group had more undercover footage taken at 2014 and 2015 National Abortion Federation conventions which CMP gained access to by paying the admission fees and providing false personal identifications and the name of a non-existent medical supply company.

NAF filed a suit to prevent Daleiden from releasing the footage to the public, alleging a breach of contract that attendees could not publish undercover footage of the convention. CMP, meanwhile, said convention proceedings were not secret, in that hotel staff were privy to conversations and speeches yet they did not have to sign confidentiality agreements.

An emergency “gag” order by U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick III in February 2016 prevented the footage from being released to the public. The judge’s order was extended indefinitely. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the lower court’s order.

The district court had said that “there is no doubt that members of the public have a serious and passionate interest in the debate over abortion rights and the right to life, and thus in the contents of defendants’ recordings,” but Orrick ruled that to release the footage to the public could result in violence against abortion clinics in retaliation for the content in the videos.

Then in May, CMP released footage from the NAF conventions in Baltimore and San Francisco.
Attendees were shown to be casually discussing how they encountered fetal body parts like eyeballs and skulls in abortion procedures.

Footage also showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing monetary compensation for fetal tissue from aborted babies, and attendees apparently admitting to performing illegal partial-birth abortions.

In response, Orrick held Daleiden in contempt of court and fined him, CMP, and his lawyers $136,000 for releasing the footage that was held under the gag order.

CMP said the footage was “the same video evidence” as “the California attorney general is using in his prosecution [against Daleiden].”

In its appeal to the Supreme Court, the center said that the order barring the release of the videos was “imposed specifically for the purpose of hiding information from the public, precisely because the information is of such significant public interest and concern – the procurement and sale of aborted fetal body parts.”

The Ninth Circuit’s upholding that order, CMP said, was unprecedented in that it barred “the publication of information of legitimate public interest, based solely on the private agreement of parties.”

Furthermore, in upholding the lower court’s order, the Ninth Circuit used a standard of review “patently inconsistent with this Court’s established First Amendment jurisprudence.”

The making of a Catholic travel documentary

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 08:01

Denver, Colo., Aug 8, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Candid Camera, the show that caught video of unwitting people in bizarre situations, premiered in 1984 and is considered by most to be the birth of the reality TV genre.

Today, the genre dominates a large corner of both regular and cable programming, with entire channels dedicated to reality shows. But there’s an element of life that nearly all of these shows consistently fail to address – faith.

That was something Catholic speaker, author, and youth minister Chris Stefanick wanted to change.

“Most reality TV leaves out the most important things,” he told CNA.

“It struck me watching (reality TV chef) Anthony Bourdain's trip to the Philippines, and Catholicism didn’t come up once,” he said. Approximately 86 percent of the country identifies as Catholic.

“I thought, man, you have to try really hard to go the Philippines and avoid Catholicism. We’re not really getting reality when we turn the TV on, so I thought, I want to show the full picture.”

That’s why, when approached by EWTN about creating a new Catholic TV show, Stefanick pitched the idea of “Real Life Catholic”, a travel documentary of sorts that involves telling the stories of people’s lives and faith in their own element.

The idea, and the name, are based off his experiences with his ministry “Real Life Catholic”, for which he as traveled extensively and met Catholics all over the US and the world. Stefanick said he felt called to share the stories of Catholics he had seen in his travels.

For the project, Stefanick partnered with film production company Lux Lab, founded by Nick Falls and John Wojtasek, two filmmakers who first met as missionaries for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

The team then started scouting locations, planning episodes, and looking for stories of faith to tell around the country for the new show.

Filming would take them all around the US and the world, including Krakow with Pope Francis and more than a million young people for World Youth Day.

Throughout the episodes, Stefanick has adventures with the Catholics he encounters, such as surfing in Hawaii, flying over cranberry bogs in Wisconsin, or walking the streets of Denver and meeting the city’s homeless. He gets his hands dirty in order to learn and showcase the Catholic culture of the particular area where he finds himself.

“It’s an incarnational going out into real life, experiencing the world of real life Catholics,” said Falls, who directed the show.

It was important, Stefanick said, to encounter Catholics and their culture in their own homes and lives, rather than talk about them from a studio. The experience has given him a new appreciation for Catholicism in his country, he said.

“A lot of the country doesn’t know just how Catholic south Louisiana is, or how amazing New Mexico is, and that it has a unique Catholic culture that is not Mexican but New Mexican.”

Stylistically, Wojtasek said it was important for him as a filmmaker that the show be as accessible as possible.

Since travel documentaries and other kinds of reality TV shows are so popular, he said he wanted the show to have a similar look and feel in order to pique people’s interest, even if they might not be Catholic.

“We wanted it to be something that someone could find and relate to, even if they came in late,” he said. “So we put those stories (of faith) within the framework of something that is very much in style and form like any other documentary or travel show or cooking show that people might want to watch and stick around for.”

“But we also don’t shy away from the deepest reality, in that we’re all made human, and we all have a spiritual component and a desire for God.”

Besides Stefanick having fun by getting out of his element, woven into every story and conversation with the people in each episode is how their Catholic faith has impacted their lives.

Through these real stories, the show tackles topics like how disabled people impact those around them, what it means to really serve the homeless, and what death with dignity means in a culture that increasingly promotes assisted suicide.

The death with dignity episode in particular “was sacred material for me,” Stefanick said, because he knew the family personally, whose wife and mother passed away within the course of two different filmings of the episode.

“To go into someone’s life and family and see how they’re coping with the death of a mom of young children, and the single dad raising the kids himself...to go into that and to see just how amazing grace is, the love, the faith, the hope that’s still there, that’s because the message of the Gospel is as real as ever,” he said.

God’s presence was felt not only on camera, but off camera as well. Wojtasek said that while he and Falls both are filmmakers by trade, they are also Catholics by faith, and God made his work and timing evident throughout the filming process.

“There’s a component of this where we recognize that there’s only so much planning we can do” before God’s timing and plans take over, he said.

For example, the last episode, which airs Aug. 8, shows Stefanick surfing in the icy-cold waters of Lake Michigan off the shores of Sheboygan, Wisc. in February, when the surrounding temperature was just 35 degrees.

On the afternoon of the shoot “it started dropping snow like crazy,” said Falls, which worried him and Wojtasek, whose film equipment isn’t waterproof.

“It was terrifying, the snow was terrifying especially for Chris, but he just had this grace that made him tackle this surfing in Lake Michigan with heavy snow falling. We couldn’t even really see through our cameras because of it, but he did it easily, the adrenaline just kind of kicked in and forced him to do it, to sacrifice for the shot,” he said.

“We were freezing, we couldn’t see, so we just had to trust we were getting the right shot,” he said. After they checked the tape, they realized the shots turned out beautifully.

“It was amazing to have the climax of our show,” he said.

Wojtasek said the show demonstrates that the universal Church is alive and active throughout the country and the world.

“To see the family of the Church has been profound, because everyone has their own story, their own journey, but we’re all pilgrims on the same road. Watching the show, what it boils down to is we’re all living life the best we can, united in this common faith,” he said.

Stefanick said the process of creating the show taught him that he needs to be more aware of the presence of God in his everyday life, and he hopes that viewers take that away from the show as well.

“It was my job as the host to put away the notes, the agenda, my email and my phone, and to pay attention to the grace of God in that moment, so that I could alert the viewer to God’s presence in the life of the person in front of me,” he said.

“And practicing that helped me a better person, and I hope people watching the show come away with that and that I continue to do that. Because life is very busy, and it's difficult to do, but God’s calling us to find him in the moment.”

The final episode of Season 1 of “Real Life Catholic” airs Aug. 8, but episodes will be re-run on EWTN through October.

The future of the show is uncertain, depending on funding and on feedback received from viewers. The team already has plans to pitch the show to Netflix, and they have also received many invitations from the U.S. and abroad for future episodes.

Stefanick said he is encouraged by the number of people who have approached him with new ideas for episodes, because that means the show was successful at giving people a voice.

“I think of the show ‘Dirty Jobs’ and its popularity - it gave a voice to people who usually don’t have one in terms of media,” he said. “When people give me show ideas, that’s encouraging because it shows me that it successfully gives a voice. The show isn’t about me, it’s about the people that we’re highlighting.”

It’s also about reclaiming the narrative about Catholics that too often has been hijacked by secular media, who often portray Catholics as driven by guilt, or as followers of ancient and strict rules and rituals.

“The purpose was to give the average Catholic a voice and say, this is who we are, this is what we look like, it’s something beautiful, joyful, it gives us life to the full. It presents faith as something attractive, and there’s a real evangelistic power to that witness.”

Philadelphia just got a group of young Carmelite nuns

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 05:01

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 8, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The archdiocese of Philadelphia voiced joy and gratitude for 10 young Discalced Carmelite nuns and a new chaplain who have recently transferred to the local Carmelite monastery.

“The support provided by the Carmelites to the mission of the local Church is inestimably valuable,” said Ken Gavin, director of communication for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

In comments to CNA, Gavin noted the youth and vitality brought by the new sisters, who are all in their 20s and 30s.

“As women who have dedicated their entire lives to contemplation and prayer for the good of others, they constantly seek intercession on behalf of all members of the Church, for the conversion of hearts to Christ, and for the ministries and good works of the Church to bear fruit,” he said.

The monastery increased their community from three to 13, in a recent transfer of six nuns from Valparaiso, Nebraska, and four more nuns from Elysburg, Pennsylvania.

As a member of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, Father William Allen will also be welcomed as the monastery's new chaplain.

A Mass was celebrated on July 26, the Feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, to welcome the new sisters and introduce them to the community. The liturgy fell on the anniversary of the first Mass for the Carmel community in Philadelphia, marking 115 years since their arrival from Boston to Philadelphia.

A nun from the community who requested anonymity said the transferring sisters weren't aware of the anniversary, and that it served as a beautiful confirmation for them.

“It was a joyous surprise for everyone. God does those little things, just to say 'Here I am,'” she told   CNA/EWTN in an Aug. 3 interview.

She noted that the addition of the sisters is not only a wonderful event that will increase both the membership and youthful zeal within the community, but something central to Philadelphia's Catholic identity that will aid the diocese and the world by means of prayer and penance.

“Through prayer and sacrifice. We came to Carmel because we love the Church, and we love the world, we love people. And we come to sacrifice or to consecrate our lives to Jesus, who gave His life for the salvation of souls.”

“Generally, we come here for the work of redemption, which is the work of the Church of course. And that's our major work.”

The nuns offer their work and prayer for Christians throughout all of the world: the intentions of the Holy Father, the cardinals, and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, but especially for the conversion of sinners.

This is an important aspect of the message of Saint Teresa of Avila and Our Lady of Fatima, she said, noting the Christian obligation to aid sinners who cannot help themselves.

“Those souls in mortal sin cannot help themselves. It's as though their hands are tied behind their backs. They cannot feed themselves, it is up to us, and through our prayer, to nourish them with God's mercy, to beg God's mercy upon them.”

Additionally, the community will praise God for the goodness he pours out into the world and for all those who receive his blessings.

They will also specifically pray and sacrifice for the sanctification of all their local priests – a practice of Saint Teresa, who wanted “her sisters to be warrior champions of the church to fight the spiritual battle.”

Having been involved in the French Carmelite tradition, the nun said the transition has brought about a beautiful correspondence between the French and Hispanic tradition of the Discalced Carmelite order.

The Philadelphia community stemmed from the French tradition of the Carmelites, which came to the United States from Belgium in 1790. The community of Elysburg and Valparaiso stem from the Mexican tradition of the Carmelites, which fled to San Francisco, California in fear of Mexico's religious persecution during the Cristero War in the 1920s.

Little differences in the way the sisters wear their habits or attend Mass in Latin, she said have been a delight to experience.

Former Phoenix bishop 'categorically denies' sex abuse claim

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 14:37

Phoenix, Ariz., Aug 7, 2017 / 12:37 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Thomas O’Brien, the former bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix, has denied allegations he sexually molested a young boy in the late 1970s and early '80s.

“Bishop O’Brien categorically denies the allegations,” the diocese said Aug. 3. “According to Diocese of Phoenix records, Bishop O’Brien was never assigned to any of the parishes or schools identified in the lawsuit, and no specific information has been presented which connects Bishop O’Brien to the plaintiff.

Bishop O’Brien, 81, is accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing the alleged victim several times at parishes in Phoenix and Goodyear, Ariz. from 1977-1982.

His accuser, now 47 and living near Tucson, has said he started having flashbacks of the abuse in September 2014 as he prepared for his son’s baptism, his lawyer Tim Hale told the Associated Press.

“It has turned his life upside down,” Hale said.

The Phoenix police department is investigating the allegation.

The diocese said it contacted the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office “immediately” upon learning of the allegations in September 2016.

Because the matter is pending litigation, the diocese said it would not share additional information. It expressed commitment to protecting all young people.

“We are dedicated to providing a safe environment in which every individual is valued and honored as created in the image and likeness of God. Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or who may have information concerning these crimes is encouraged to call a local law enforcement agency.”

The diocese promised continued prayers for victims of childhood abuse and pledged continued vigilance to protection efforts.

Bishop O’Brien’s handling of sex abuse charges against church employees resulted in a 2003 immunity deal. He acknowledged that he allowed employees accused of sex abuse to continue to have contact with children.

That deal said a grand jury investigating sex abuse allegations against the Church did not find evidence that the bishop engaged in sexual misconduct. But the deal did not prevent bringing charges against the bishop if there were evidence he committed sexual abuse.

After 21 years as Bishop of Phoenix, Bishop O’Brien resigned in June 2003, after being accused of striking and killing a 43-year-old man with his car in a hit-and-run accident. The bishop did not stop to help the man or to report the accident. He told investigators he didn’t realize he had hit a person, thinking the collision was with a dog, a cat, or a rock thrown at his window.

He was convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, then sentenced to probation and 1,000 hours of community service.

 

Assisted suicide for mental health issues? A Catholic response

Sat, 08/05/2017 - 18:01

Denver, Colo., Aug 5, 2017 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With awareness of mental health conditions on the rise, how is the Church called to respond to those who do not simply wish to end their lives, but push for the right to do so legally?

Adam Maier-Clayton was a young Canadian activist who suffered from a variety of mental health issues and began campaigning for just such a law after his symptoms worsened.

The 27-year-old, who spent the final years of his life promoting such activism, from childhood had suffered from anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. He had been to therapy and tried medication.

However, his symptoms worsened drastically at age 23, when he experimented with marijuana. He spent about a week in and out of the hospital, his father told the BBC, and began suffering severe physical pain. Any cognitive activity, such as reading, writing, or even sustained conversation, would trigger the pain, which had no evident physical cause.

Adam's new symptoms were ultimately attributed to a somatic symptom disorder. The condition is little understood, but the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) notes that it is often co-morbid with depressive disorders.

As a result of this condition, Adam developed suicidal thoughts, according to the BBC piece. For someone in his situation, this is far from unusual, according to the DSM-5.

“Our first response to somebody who is suicidal really needs to be compassion,” Dr. Jim Langley of St. Raphael's Counseling in Denver told CNA of suicidal tendencies. “For someone to want to take their own life, they must be suffering to a large degree. The drive for survival is very, very strong in us.”

In June of last year, Canada passed Bill C-14, the country’s right to die legislation. The law allows adult persons perceived to be at the end of their life whose deterioration has been deemed irreversible to request euthanization. The Church is opposed to all forms of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

Adam began campaigning for a change to the law, so that its provisions would be extended to people with mental disorders. He expressed frustration with the crippling nature of the disease.

However, finding a new way of life accommodated for the illness is key to finding meaning amid the suffering, Langley emphasized. That meaning is important in recovery and developing the ability to bear the suffering and thus continue living.

“Somatoform disorder can take all sorts of different forms,” he said, “but when it happens it definitely can incapacitate people in things that mean a lot to them… I'd be working with him to find more useful things that he could do with himself, whatever that is. It might even be raising awareness about somatoform disorder.”

According to Langley, “People who in general have meaningful relationships can overcome all sorts of different pain. My guess is, even if he had parents who were supportive of him taking his own life, he must have felt like he had fallen out of his community.”

Adam, however, became devoted to advocating the legalization of physician-assisted suicide for those with mental conditions perceived to be unbearable. His parents supported him in this effort.

“The legislation literally forces people to kill themselves in an undignified manner,” he said on his YouTube channel.

However, the logic of a “death with dignity” by suicide is flawed, according to Dr. Greg Battaro of the CatholicPsych Institute.

“Where they're claiming the right to choose to die, based on the dignity of the person, is an error in their logic. It's because precisely of the dignity of the person that we don't have the right to choose how we’re born or die. The dignity of the person is greater than what they presume it to be.”

Adam ultimately took his life using an illegally imported drug mixture April 13, 2017, after checking into a motel room that morning.

“My son deserved to die with dignity, with his family and his friends beside him, in his own, comfy bed,” his mother, Maggie Maier, says in her closing remarks in a YouTube video, having just read the letter he had written her before taking his life.

In that eulogy, she noted that had she and Adam's father been present, they could have been criminally prosecuted. She characterized her son as having been forced to take his own life by himself by Canada’s law.

Battaro also described the legalization of euthanasia as a “complete and utter failure of the medical system and of the government in providing the hope that people would need to actually get better.”

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) refused to comment for this story. Both the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. and the KidsHelpPhone in Canada did not respond to CNA’s request for comment.

The Center for Disease Control’s guidelines on media coverage of suicide warn against “(p)resenting suicide as a tool for accomplishing certain ends” or “(g)lorifying suicide or persons who complete suicide,” as such coverage is “likely to contribute to suicide contagion.”

“Such actions may contribute to suicide contagion by suggesting to susceptible persons that society is honoring the suicidal behavior of the deceased person, rather than mourning the person's death,” the guidelines state.

A video accompanying the BBC piece contains speakers who suggest that the exclusion of mental health cases from the Canadian law stems from a stigma around psychiatric issues.

However, legalizing suicide will not serve to fight existing stigmas around mental issues, as the advocacy of Adam and his parents suggested, but will only legitimize that aversion to mental issues further, said Battaro.

“It’s taking that avoidance to the extreme,” according to Battaro. “We’re just going to make these people disappear.”

Additionally, the “moral stigma,” as Langley described, around suicide can often save lives.

“Sometimes, it's just the desire to not want to make an immoral decision that keeps people alive, if they're suffering from a mental illness,” he said, although we must also keep in mind that their pain is often so great that moral decision-making is impaired.

How can suffering be redemptive?

In Adam's case, Battaro said, “(t)here was a total absence of understanding of anything good coming from suffering. Helping somebody process the meaning of their suffering would help move towards a different conclusion. There’s really almost nothing as unbearable as suffering without meaning, or purposeless suffering.”

Both Battaro and Langley emphasized the need to find purpose, meaning, and redemption amid the suffering of our lives.

First, as Christians, we believe that our suffering is redemptive as it is joined to Christ’s suffering on the cross, Langley said.

“If you look at the cross, that is the perfect answer to the problem of suffering. Jesus is up there on the cross, and he’s saying, ‘Me too. I suffer too.’”

But what does this purpose, this meaning of suffering look like? How do we lift our view past the notion that pain is meaningless and to be avoided at all costs?

According to Battaro, “we're talking about the invitation to join to the suffering of Christ, and to be united to him in his suffering. We see that our human concept of fulfillment is really limited unless we open it up to the Resurrection, that understanding that death is not the end, and there’s something past it, but it’s only through the doorway of suffering that we enter into the Resurrection.”

But communicating this redemptive image of our mental and physical anguish to those who do not share our beliefs requires conviction on the part of Christians, Battaro said.

“The first thing we need to do is work on ourselves, change our own understanding and pray for the grace of faith so that we can really believe in the hope of redemptive suffering ourselves, and not live lives which are catered to avoiding every ounce of suffering we can,” said Battaro.

This redemption of suffering can be found in even the hardest of cases, according to Battaro.

“For most disorders, even the one that Adam suffered from, there's hope.”

Mental illness and euthanasia – what's it like where it is legal?

The proposal to include mental illness in the criteria for euthanasia and assisted suicide is not new. Such provisions already exist both in Belgium and the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, from 2010 to 2015, euthanasia in the case of psychiatric disorders grew from just two cases to 56.

From 2014 to 2015, 124 cases of euthanasia in Belgium involved patients with a “mental and behavioral disorder.” Five persons diagnosed with autism were killed.

According to a piece from February 2016 in the New York Times, most of those euthanized in Belgium for psychiatric reasons suffered from depression or, even more prevalent, loneliness. The depression cases were often co-morbid with issues such as substance abuse, dementia, or physical pain.

Why this Catholic priest objects to the 'private exorcist' trend

Sat, 08/05/2017 - 05:02

Denver, Colo., Aug 5, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A recent article in the Economist has some disturbing news about the rise of so-called “professional exorcists” in France and elsewhere, according to one Catholic exorcist.

“It almost seemed like the main focus was on entertainment,” Fr. Vince Lampert of the International Association of Exorcists told CNA, speaking on one of the problems with the phenomenon.

“For the purpose of any exorcism, one of the steps would be for the person to re-connect with their faith or to discover their faith for the first time. It almost seemed like people there were just thinking of evil as something that you can kind of play around with.”

Fr. Lampert is the exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, having functioned as such since 2005. While the identities of most exorcists are kept secret, Fr. Lampert often gives talks on the subject.

The Economist piece details the practice of “private exorcists” independent of the Church, claiming that the reason for a rise in popularity is two-fold: a perceived lack of interest from the Church and the benefits customers believe they receive from the “rituals.”

As far as lack of interest from the Church goes, Fr. Lampert responded that in his view, this is not the case. Rather, the Church simply wants to be cautious with cases potentially involving demonic activity, rather than rush to a quick judgment as some may want.
 
“The Church always wants to move very cautiously,” he said.

He described times when he has seen people who seem to desire a quick-fix to their problems or a superstitious solution, such as those offered by sangomas, a sort of shaman in South Africa that Fr. Lampert believes may be connected to the French phenomenon due to immigration.

“I will say that oftentimes I encounter people that really don’t want any connection with faith,” said Fr. Lampert.

“They just want to treat the priest-exorcist as a shaman as well. ‘There’s evil in my life, make it go away; I don’t really want there to be any responsibility on my part to pray or to grow in faith for the Church.’ They don’t want to change any aspect of their life, they just expect the priest exorcist to make all this go away.”

The business of “private exorcists” can be booming. The Economist article references one of these “professionals” as claiming to make €12,000 (over $14,000) a month from the business. True exorcisms conducted by the Church, however, never have monetary costs associated.

“The Church does view exorcism as a ministry of charity, so she helps anyone who’s in need,” said Fr. Lampert.

Additionally, the perceived positive effect of these “rituals” may actually be dangerous.

“If it’s evil at work, then somehow evil is giving the illusion that somehow what they’re doing is being efficacious, if you will, as a way to continue to play and toy with the people that somehow believe that they can combat the forces of evil independent of the presence of God,” Fr. Lampert said.

These “professionals” mistakenly seem to claim that it is through their power that they exercise their supposed spiritual authority, Fr. Lampert noted.

“Certainly, I didn’t hear any reference to Christ. It almost seemed like it was the individual who was the one casting out evil. But certainly from a Catholic perspective the exorcist would be operating within the name and the power and the glory of Christ. It’s not any power or authority that I possess on my own.”

He describes how this functions in a true exorcism.

“Ultimately, Christ would be the exorcist, because you’re calling on his name, his power, the authority that comes from Christ, and then the priest, the exorcist then, is an instrument that Christ is using.”

Furthermore, these fake rituals can do more harm than good for the person desiring them if they have issues arising from sources other than the demonic, he added.

“The Church could end up causing more harm than good if it labels a person as being possessed, and that label doesn’t allow the person to get the true help that they need, perhaps from their medical doctor or from a mental health professional. You could have these professionals who are just preying on people’s misery, and they could actually be making things a lot worse.”

Fr. Lampert described the process which someone who suspects that demonic activity has entered their life should go through.

“The number one place where people should always begin is with their local pastor, so if they’re Catholic they should talk to the local parish priest who can listen to their story. If you just call somebody blindly and say, ‘I think I’m possessed,’ you might get a non-favorable response from them. But if you go in and you say, ‘OK, there are certain things go on that I can’t figure out, can you help me?’ then that priest is going to be better equipped to make the connection between the exorcist of that diocese and that person.”

He compared this to going to a doctor for physical ailments.

“It’d be like if you need to see a medical professional, a cardiologist, you don’t just walk in and see one; you go through your family doctor who then makes the connection for you. A person should always rely on their local pastor.”

Fr. Lampert also listed a desire for “immediate gratification” as well as resistance to following Church procedures on exorcisms as reasons people turn to unqualified professionals.

If someone seeking help isn’t a practicing Catholic, “then people have to be willing to follow the procedures and the protocols that the Church has in place. Sometimes, people don’t like that, and that’s when they can turn to these so-called professionals because they will give them immediate gratification, if you will.” The Church often assists non-Catholics with these problems.

Many dioceses have an exorcist assigned within them by the local bishop. For safety purposes, their information is usually not made public, hence the need to consult first with a local pastor.

In a piece first published in the National Catholic Register in March, Fr. Lampert noted that demonic activity and the need for exorcist services in the U.S. is on the rise as well.

“The problem isn’t that the devil has upped his game, but more people are willing to play it,” Father Lampert said in reference to pornography, illegal drugs use, and the occult. “Where there is demonic activity, there is always an entry point.”

“As the acceptance of sin has increased, so, too, has demonic activity,” said Msgr. John Esseff of the Pope Leo XII Institute, which trains priests “to bring the light of Christ to dispel evil.” Msgr. Esseff was quoted in the Register article.

Fr. Lampert in the March piece noted that while true possessions are rare, exorcists also assist in the case of demonic infestation, vexation, and obsession.

According to the register piece, “(h)e explained that demonic infestation happens in places where things might move and there are loud noises. With vexation, a person is physically attacked and might have marks such as bruises, bites or scratches. Demonic obsession involves mental attacks, such as persistent thoughts of evil racing through one’s mind.”

However, he cautions against the faithful focusing too much on the devil. “The focus should be on God and Jesus Christ,” he said in the Register piece. “When I remind myself that God is in charge, it puts everything in perspective, and the worry and fear dissipates.”

“If people would build up their faith lives, the devil will be defeated.”

Why the Knights of Columbus will resettle Iraqi Christians

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 16:55

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 4, 2017 / 02:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The urgency of the problems facing displaced Iraqi Christians has driven a new campaign by the Knights of Columbus to resettle an entire village in their homes, says a spokesman for the Knights.

The roughly 200,000 Christians still in Iraq – down from 1.5 million in 2003 – “are increasingly feeling a sense of hopelessness over the situation,” Andrew Walther, vice president of communications for the Knights of Columbus, told CNA on Thursday.

Even with Islamic State swept out of most of Iraq, many Christian families who lived in Mosul or on the nearby Nineveh Plain are not yet able to return to their homes, three years after being displaced by the group.

With their lives as internally displaced persons surpassing the three-year mark, “it was made very clear that if there weren’t concrete steps that showed people that moving home was possible in the next 30 to 60 days, there was a very good chance that many of them would just leave for other countries in the region, for wherever they could go,” Walther said.

The Knights of Columbus announced this week that it was beginning a $2 million drive to raise and donate money to resettle an entire village of families in Karemlesh, a town on the Nineveh Plain 18 miles outside Mosul. Most of the families are Chaldean or Syriac Christians, with some Shabak families, Walther said.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson announced the drive during his annual remarks on Tuesday at the 135th annual international convention of the Knights of Columbus. The group is an international Catholic men’s organization with over 1.9 million members in councils all over the world.

“Now we will ensure that hundreds of Christian families driven from their homes can return to these two locations and help to ensure a pluralistic future for Iraq,” Anderson said on Tuesday announcing the drive.  100 percent of the funds raised would go to help Christians rebuild their homes.

The Islamic State swept through large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, giving families of Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities an ultimatum – convert to Islam, die, or leave.

“When ISIS took the town, everybody fled,” Walther said, and militants began their campaign of cultural genocide: burning homes, desecrating parishes, destroying Christian symbols, and even digging up the body of a local priest to desecrate his grave.

“They wanted not just to erase the Christians from the town, they wanted to erase whatever was reminiscent of Christianity from the town as well,” Walther said.

Many Christians fled eastward to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where around 70,000 Christians were living in and around the city of Erbil, dependent upon aid groups for their basic needs.

Since 2014, the Knights have already provided over $13 million in aid to Christians in Iraq and Syria who have suffered persecution, most notably at the hands of Islamic State.

The Knights also helped produce a report for the U.S. State Department, which requested it, detailing the violence and forced displacement inflicted upon Christians in Syria and Iraq. The report helped lead to the State Department declaring in March of 2016 that Islamic State was committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims in Iraq and Syria.

The Islamic State has since been forced back from much of the territory it gained, including the Nineveh Plain and Mosul. “With the departure of ISIS as a meaningful military force, you have a lot of new opportunities, in terms of rebuilding and resettling, that you didn’t have six months ago, three months ago,” Walther said.

Now, however, many Christians have still not been able to return to their homes, which were vandalized, damaged, or destroyed by Islamic State militants. Their future is in question as they are currently living as displaced persons in Kurdistan. The situation is so bleak that local Church leaders are saying that if something is not done to remedy the problem, Christians could leave Iraq for good.

If that is the case, it would be an ideological victory for Islamic State, whose “program was the de-Christianization of Iraq, the total obliteration of any religious minorities,” Walther said.

Furthermore, with Christians gone, it could further destabilize Iraq by helping eliminate religious pluralism. “Christians are an enormous example of forgiveness, and they’ve been praised by imams in Iraq, by television commentators in Egypt, for this capacity of forgiveness,” Walther said.

And if the Christians have no more roots in the land where they have lived for centuries, a priceless cultural vestige could be gone as well.

The government of Hungary has already given $2 million to move around 1,000 families back to the town of Telskuf, Walther said, providing a working example that such a plan can be successful.

“We have a proof of concept, we know this can work, and we know that if it worked in Telskuf, there’s no reason that it wouldn’t work in a town also in Nineveh that is also predominately Christian that also has its population in Erbil,” he said.

The money would go to provide materials for Christians to repair their homes from the destruction that Islamic State inflicted. “The families are actually putting their own lives back together with a little bit of assistance,” Walther said. “The idea is to make these houses habitable.”

And although a goal of $2 million is lofty, it is entirely within reach if parishes and communities all over the world pitch in, Walther said.

“An individual can do this,” he said. “A prayer group can do this. 20 people put in $100, you can send somebody home. This is one of those things where people can do a concrete, tangible action that is a meaningful step in saving Christianity in the Middle East.”

“It’s a model that can allow Christianity to be transplanted back to where it was,” Walther said. “It’s an early step, but it’s an important step if Christianity is going to survive in Iraq.”

Donations to the project can be made at www.christiansatrisk.org or via phone at 1-800-694-5713. Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law, the Knights said.

Study finds more Americans are approving of polygamy

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 08:02

Washington D.C., Aug 4, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new poll shows that seventeen percent of people in the U.S. now find polygamy to be morally permissible, citing an increase of acceptance among non-religious people as a major factor.

“Though polygamous societies often justify their lifestyle on religious grounds, it is Americans who do not identify with any religion who are most accepting of the practice,” said Andrew Dugan, an analyst for Gallup.

“Between 2011 and 2017, 32 percent of Americans who do not associate with a particular religion or have no religion at all said polygamy was 'morally acceptable,'” he said in a July 28 statement.

In a Values and Beliefs poll issued May 3-7, Dugan commented that while public opinion hasn't shifted greatly on certain moral issues such as abortion, polygamy's approval rating has steadily increased 10 percent since 2003.

Despite the practice of polygamy being often found in fundamentalist sects of religion, it grew most of its acceptance from non-religious people due to LGBT and pro-abortion advocacy gaining cultural traction.  

Yet no legislation has yet been passed in polygamy's favor, with the state of Utah in fact passing a bill increasing the penalty for convicted polygamists.

Statistically those actually practicing polygamy are usually in small sects of the Muslim and Mormon faith, but Dugan suggested that the raising sympathy has been a byproduct of the media.

He pointed that the approval rating really only increased after a polygamy reality show started to air in 2010. Now in the middle of its seventh season, Dugan said the show “Sister Wives” has drawn sympathy from the public by humanizing a polygamist family.

Additionally, Dugan said the increase after 2010 followed a change in the meaning of the word, switching from patriarchal and masculine centered idea to a gender neutral definition – a married individual has more than one spouse.

He doubts the practice of polygamy has increased much, but expressed it is the results of “the general tendency for those who are less religious to be more liberal on social issues.”

Civilta Cattolica inspired counterproductive debate, American critics say

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 00:08

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2017 / 10:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A prominent Jesuit publication’s essay on American religion and politics continues to provoke responses from critics concerned its two authors fundamentally misunderstand the situation of Catholics in the United States.

“Their essay is bad but important,” said New York Times columnist Ross Douthat Aug. 2, saying its apparent intention is to warn about Catholic support for “the darker tendencies in Trumpism” like xenophobia, stigmatization of enemies, the “prosperity-gospel inflected worship of success,” and a “crude view of Islam.”

For Douthat, however, the authors’ understanding of American religion “seems to start and end with Google searches and anti-evangelical tracts.” In his view, secularization and political polarization have made the place of Catholics in the U.S. “more difficult and perplexing.” Both Catholic support for Trump and more radical Catholic critiques “are not the culmination of the Catholic-evangelical alliance but rather a reaction to its political and cultural failures — and the failures of liberal religious politics as well.”

On July 13 the Jesuit-run journal La Civilta Cattolica published an analysis piece co-authored by its editor, Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., and Marcelo Figueroa, a Presbyterian pastor who is editor-in-chief of the Argentine edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the daily newspaper of Vatican City.

The piece, titled “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism” made a number of claims, alleging that many conservative Christians have united to promote an “ecumenism of hate” in policies that contradict Pope Francis’ message of mercy. They claimed that that “Evangelical fundamentalists” and “Catholic Integralists” are being brought together in a “surprising ecumenism” by a shared desire for religious influence in politics.

Douthat said the essay’s authors seemed to be motivated by “fear and ignorance.”

Their attack on Trump-friendly positions expands and conflates “very different political and religious tendencies, indulging in paranoia about obscure theocratic Protestants and fringe Catholic websites, and ultimately critiquing every kind of American religious conservatism.” Their critique includes “the largely anti-political Benedict Option and the pro-life activism fulsomely supported by Francis’ papal predecessors.”

“None of this makes any sense,” Douthat said. “The post-1970s evangelical-Catholic alliance has been flawed in various ways, but it is neither theocratic nor illiberal.”

He said both American Catholics and Protestants feel “their leaders and thinkers have spent decades rallying to the republic, trying to bring about its moral and political renewal … only to see republican virtues decaying, liberalism turning hostile to religious faith, and democratic capitalism delivering disappointment and dislocation.”

Douthat saw an increase in “disillusionment and homelessness” among Catholic thinkers. Older Catholic approaches to politics seem to be out of energy and influence. Western liberalism seems “at once hostile to traditional religion and beset by internal contradictions,” which seems to make the moment “ripe for serious Catholic rethinking.”

In both the rhetoric of Pope Francis and among unsettled American Catholics are hints that American politics is in a transition point. Douthat argued that Fr. Spadaro and Rev. Figueroa missed this.

“In their evident paranoia about what the Americans are up to, you see a different spirit: a fear of novelty and disruption, and a desire for a church that’s primarily a steward of social peace, a mild and ecumenical presence, a moderate pillar of the establishment in a stable and permanently liberal age,” Douthat claimed, saying that those who desire such a Church need to do better to understand “why so many of their flock, in Europe and the United States, find this vision insufficient to the times.”

Catholic commentator George Weigel, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, questioned the decision to publish the essay.

Writing at First Things Aug. 2, Weigel noted that La Civilta Cattolica is often read because it is vetted by the Secretariat of State. Its articles are assumed to have “quasi-official” status and are commonly believed “to reflect the cast of mind of the current pontificate.”

“What kind of vetting did this misbegotten article get? Were any knowledgeable experts on U.S. Catholicism or American evangelical Protestantism consulted on what the overseers must have known would be an incendiary piece?”

If the article really represents the views of the Secretariat of State, Weigel asked, he questioned how to interpret the speech of apostolic nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Cristoph Pierre, whose address to the U.S. bishops “bears no resemblance to the wasteland of madcap pseudo-theology and hatred.”

Weigel approvingly summarized other critics of the article for an “ill-informed misrepresentation of American religious history”; for “surreal descriptions” of 21st century Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism; its “obsessions with marginal figures in contemporary American religious life”; and its “misreading” of how religion informs public debate in the U.S.

He suggested that the journal and the credibility of the Secretariat of State could be better served by severing the connection, warning that the interpretations of the article “raise deeply disturbing questions about the competence of both parties.”

The New York Times depicted the Civilta Cattolica essay as “A Vatican Shot Across the Bow for Hard-Line U.S. Catholics.” The essay has drawn defenders in publications such as Commonweal Magazine and the National Catholic Reporter.

However, the editors of Commonweal Magazine, themselves unsympathetic to U.S. Catholic conservatism, are also among the critics.

In a July 25 editorial, they described the essay as “a mishmash of wild and erroneous claims, made in a disjointed, almost impenetrable style,” whose authors “seem woefully ignorant of American religious history.” They said the essay was a “lost opportunity” to criticize the partisan use of religion in a way that might engage “those who do not yet have ears to hear.”

Proposed legal immigration limits draw strong criticism from US bishops

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 18:21

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2017 / 04:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Senate proposal for immigration limits backed by President Donald Trump would hurt family unity and exclude too many vulnerable people, the U.S. Catholic bishops have said.

“Had this discriminatory legislation been in place generations ago, many of the very people who built and defended this nation would have been excluded,” said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration.

Bishop Vasquez voiced strong opposition to the legislation introduced by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.). The proposed bill is called the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, also known as the RAISE Act.

The legislation announced on Wednesday would cut by half the number of legal immigrants the U.S. accepts each year. It would limit green cards for foreign nationals seeking to reunite with their families, and halve the number of refugees allowed to enter the country. The diversity visa lottery, which gives visas to countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S., would also be eliminated, National Public Radio reports.

“The United States supports families and should not throw up obstacles to their unity,” Bishop Vasquez said Aug. 2, charging that the legislation “would have our nation turn its back on this long and storied tradition of welcoming families setting out to build a better life.”

The bishops objected to the permanent cap on the number of refugees who are allowed safe passage through the country, saying this would prevent the flexibility needed to respond to humanitarian crises.

“As a Church, we believe the stronger the bonds of family, the greater a person’s chance of succeeding in life. The RAISE Act imposes a definition of family that would weaken those bonds,” Bishop Vasquez said.

The bishops urged the Senate to reject the measure and asked Congress and the president to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

“I believe that such reform must recognize the many contributions that immigrants of all backgrounds have made to our nation, and must protect the lives and dignity of all, including the most vulnerable,” said Bishop Vasquez.

President Donald Trump said the bill would reduce poverty, increase wages, and save “billions and billions of dollars” in taxpayer money. The bill would bar new arrivals from receiving welfare.

The president said the proposal would favor applicants “who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.”

The prospects for the bill’s success are not clear and at least two Republican senators are likely opponents, National Public Radio reports.

Knights of Columbus 'modernize' Fourth Degree uniforms

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 16:56

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 3, 2017 / 02:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The classic ceremonial hats and capes of Fourth Degree members of the Knights of Columbus that you may have seen at Mass or at parish events will now be getting a major alteration.

“This fraternal year, we make another historic change. The Board of Directors has decided that the time is right for a modernization of the Fourth Degree uniform,” Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus Carl Anderson announced on Tuesday at the Knights’ 135th annual international convention in St. Louis, Mo.

 

Aaaand the new color guard unis, which are getting some attention on social media... pic.twitter.com/vALB7QVSix

— Matthew Hadro (@matthadro) August 3, 2017  

The Knights of Columbus is an international Catholic men’s organization with over 1.9 million members worldwide. The organization promotes four virtues of fraternity, unity, charity, and solidarity among its members.

The Fourth Degree uniform is worn by those who have reached the highest levels of the Knights of Columbus, are at least 18 years of age and have been a Third Degree member in good standing.

Each degree is associated with one of the four virtues of the Knights, with patriotism being associated with the Fourth Degree.

Members of the Fourth Degree serve in honor guards for liturgical processions or in color guards at ceremonial events, hence the distinctive nature of their uniform.

The uniform of the Fourth Degree has changed throughout the history of the Knights, as previous versions included a top hat and a tuxedo with tails. However, it has remained relatively the same since 1940 – a plumed chapeau which can be worn with plumes of different recognized colors, a tuxedo, a cape, and a ceremonial sword.

Now, however, the Knights will be leaving behind the classic uniform for a “modernized” version, a blue blazer with the Fourth Degree emblem and dark gray slacks, a blue Fourth Degree tie, and a beret.

Vice supreme masters processed into Mass on Tuesday at the convention wearing the new uniform. Anderson then officially announced the change while delivering the annual report of the Supreme Knight.

The board of directors for the Knights decided for the change, Anderson said, to “modernize” the dress uniform that is typically worn at ceremonial or solemn events.

“On a limited basis, assemblies may choose to continue using the traditional cape and chapeau for color corps at public events and for honor guards in liturgical processions,” Anderson said on Tuesday.

“However, the preferred dress for the Fourth Degree – including color corps and honor guards – is now the new uniform of jacket and beret.”

Will Democrats’ future include pro-lifers? The debate continues.

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 05:04

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A leading Democratic Party campaigner has signaled openness to pro-life candidates, continuing months of controversy over the party’s future.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in charge of helping Democratic congressional candidates, told The Hill there would be no “litmus test” for candidates on abortion when it comes to funding their campaigns.

The comments drew support from Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America.

“We have been advocating for years that the Democratic Party needs to open itself up to the viewpoints of more than 20 million pro-life Democrats,” Day said Aug. 1.

“Our party, which advocates for diversity and inclusion, has been sending mixed messages about inclusion for its pro-life members,” said Day, adding the statement shows “that Democrats are serious about winning again."

Democrats for Life cited the loss of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, traditionally strong Democratic states, in the 2016 presidential election. The states are “very pro-life,” the organization said.

Lujan’s remarks focused on winning a majority of 218 votes in the House of Representatives, which would require winning 24 seats in the 2018 elections.

“There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” he told TheHill.com. “As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.”

“We’ll need a broad coalition to get that done,” he said. “We are going to need all of that, we have to be a big family in order to win the House back.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List and an advisor to the Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign, said the Democratic party’s official abortion stand has cost it.

“Democrats’ extreme pro-abortion platform has lost more votes than it has gained and led to defeat in the last two election cycles,” she said, citing a Gallup poll reporting that 32 percent of Democrats consider themselves pro-life.

At the same time, Dannenfelser said Lujan’s comments are “not the same as concrete policy endorsements.”

“Only changes in the party platform that represent majority views and momentum, like that of the Pain-Capable bill, will signify true change,” she said, referring to a bill that bars abortion when the unborn child is believed to feel pain.

Pro-abortion rights groups, however, criticized Lujan’s comments and downplayed any claimed advantage in backing pro-life candidates.

NARAL Pro-Choice America national campaigns director Mitchell Stille rejected as “sadly mistaken” any claim that President Trump and Republican candidates won in 2016 because of opposition to abortion.

The Democratic Party’s abortion support was a focus of controversy in the early 2017 campaign of Health Mello, a Democratic candidate for mayor of Omaha, Neb.
 
In mid-April former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez publicly supported Mello. Mello had supported abortion restrictions in the past as a state senator, and was endorsed by Nebraska Right to Life in 2012, but received a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska in 2015.

Mello had pledged not to do anything as mayor that would restrict “access to reproductive health care.” Nonetheless, pro-abortion rights groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America criticized the Perez and Sanders endorsements as “politically stupid.”

DNC chair Tom Perez responded to criticism by appearing to strongly reject any openness to pro-life candidates.

“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” he said April 21. “This is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”

At the time, a DNC aide told The Hill this statement did not represent a litmus test.

Dannenfelser said Aug. 1 that some Democrats are starting to recognize their vulnerability on abortion, even though “abortion lobby leaders are beside themselves over the mere suggestion that a pro-life Democrat be permitted to run.”

In 2006, the last time the Democrats won the House of Representatives from Republican control, the party recruited and supported several pro-life Democrats.

What a missionary to North Korea told the Knights of Columbus convention

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 17:20

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 2, 2017 / 03:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Service to the poor on the peripheries of society was a theme of the 2017 Knights of Columbus States Dinner held Tuesday evening in St. Louis.

“I stand before you in deep gratitude for your love and concern for hearing the cry of the poor,” Fr. Gerard Hammond, M.M. told those in attendance at the States Dinner at the annual Knights of Columbus international convention Aug. 1.

“May we always embrace those who need our mercy and compassion.”

Fr. Hammond, a Maryknoll missionary to North Korea, received the Gaudium et Spes Award from Supreme Knight Carl Anderson at the dinner.

The award, named after Vatican II's pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, is the highest honor bestowed by the Knights of Columbus and is given to persons “for their exemplary contributions to the realization of the message of faith and service in the spirit of Christ.”

St. Theresa of Calcutta was the first person to receive the award in 1992. On the award medal is an image of Venerable Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, comforting a widow and an orphan.

The Knights of Columbus is a worldwide Catholic men’s organization founded in 1882 by Fr. McGivney “to strengthen the faith of Catholic men” and to “protect their families,” in the words of Supreme Knight and CEO Carl Anderson. Since its founding it has grown into an international organization with over 1.9 million members.

This week, around 2,000 Knights from North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe meet in St. Louis for the 135th international convention. The theme of this year’s convention is “Convinced of God’s Love and Power.”

Fr. Hammond received his award for his missionary work in North Korea. He has made 50 trips into the country since 1995 to treat patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

Although he is not allowed by the North Korean government to proselytize, he still tries carry out his priestly mission through serving the sick as an “apostle of peace” and to bring “hope for the voiceless.”

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, introducing Fr. Hammond at the dinner, said that in the spirit of Gaudium et Spes, Fr. Hammond “has taken upon himself the ‘griefs and anxieties’ of those who are ‘poor and afflicted,’ as he seeks to share with them, through compassionate action, the ‘joys and hopes’ of faith in Jesus Christ.”

Fr. Hammond has “exemplified the call of Pope Francis to go to the peripheries,” Archbishop Lori said.

“God’s heart has a special place for the poor, so much so that he himself ‘became poor’,” the archbishop said. “The entire history of our redemption is marked by the presence of the poor.”

Later on Tuesday evening, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop Emeritus of Krakow and former personal secretary to Pope St. John Paul II, praised the Knights for spreading the messages of mercy and the Gospel all over the world.

“The Knights of Columbus embraced the message of Divine Mercy proclaimed by the Pope from Kraków, and they proclaim this message in a world affected by various forms of injustice and violence,” he said in his remarks at the dinner.

Pope Francis has taught us to see to see “the other,” our neighbor,” as a “gift,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, said on Tuesday at the dinner.   

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, he said that the two men who passed by the wounded man were “looking to self-interest, looking to other things.” The Good Samaritan, however, “tosses aside any consideration except love of neighbor. His help and generosity is excessive.”

Furthermore, he said, Christ teaches that “there is no more boundary when it comes to ‘who are you neighbor to’?” The Knights of Columbus live this teaching out, he said, helping everyone – the immigrant, the refugee, or the Christian displaced from their home.

Cardinal DiNardo also urged those in attendance to join in solidarity with Eastern Rite Catholics who are fasting before the Great Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. He asked Latin rite Catholics to pray and fast for persecuted Christians in the days leading up to the Assumption.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Vatican sent a message to the convention assuring those in attendance of the “good wishes” and prayers of Pope Francis.

“The Holy Father has often observed that in our own day a new world war is being fought piecemeal, as an ungodly thirst for power and domination, whether economic, political, or military, is leading to untold violence, injustice and suffering in our human family,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, said in his written message delivered at the opening business session of the convention.

Pope Francis, he said, “has asked Christians everywhere, truly convinced of the infinite power of God’s love, to reject this mentality and to combat the growth of a global culture of indifference that discards the least of our brothers and sisters.”

Cardinal Parolin asked the Knights to “respond generously to this challenge” through working for the “sanctification of the world from within” in their lay vocation.

He also noted Pope Francis’ appreciation for the Knights upholding “the sanctity of marriage and the dignity and beauty of family life,” as well as the organization’s aid to persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

Knights of Columbus to raise $2 million to rebuild Iraqi town

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 12:10

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 2, 2017 / 10:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Knights of Columbus on Tuesday announced it will raise and donate $2 million to re-settle Iraqi Christian families displaced by the Islamic State in their home town of Karemlesh on the Nineveh Plain.

“The terrorists desecrated churches and graves and looted and destroyed homes,” Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said in his Aug. 1 remarks announcing the $2 million project.

“Now we will ensure that hundreds of Christian families driven from their homes can return to these two locations and help to ensure a pluralistic future for Iraq,” he said. In order for Iraq to have such a future, he said Christians must be treated as “free and equal citizens” and not suffer the “religious apartheid” of previous years.

Anderson addressed the 135th annual convention of the Knights of Columbus held in St. Louis, Mo. Aug.1-3. 90 bishops and 12 cardinals were present, along with Knights councils from all over the world.

The Knights of Columbus is an international Catholic men’s organization founded, in Anderson’s words, to “strengthen the faith of Catholic men” and “protect their families.” Over 1.9 million are members of the organization, founded in 1882 by Venerable Fr. Michael J. McGivney.

The four pillars of the organization are charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism.

An international aid organization as well, the Knights’ Christian Refugee Relief Fund has provided over $13 million in aid to persecuted Christians since 2014, mostly in Iraq and Syria. In 2014, forces of the Islamic State overran large swathes of Syria and Iraq, killing or displacing many Christian families.

The group has since been forced back, losing much of its territory, including the Nineveh Plain where many Christians lived.

Around 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq before the U.S. invasion in 2003, but that number has fallen to below an estimated 250,000. The situation for Iraqi Christians is so dire, Anderson said, that “without substantial assistance” in the next two months, many of them might leave Iraq for good.

Christians have lived in the area for centuries, tracing their communities back to almost the beginning of Christianity. Some speak Aramaic, the language Jesus would have spoken, and various ancient shrines existed in the region, including the tomb of the prophet Jonah which was destroyed by Islamic State.

“These Christian communities are a priceless treasure for the Church and for humanity,” Anderson said on Tuesday. He called the Knights’ drive to raise money for them a “concrete step” to aid the beleaguered Christians.

The amount of $2 million would also match the donation of the government of Hungary, which has helped resettle around 1,000 families in the Iraqi village of Telskuf.

The Knights will partner with the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil to help rebuild Karemlesh, which is just 18 miles east of Mosul.

Anderson said that while the town was controlled by Islamic State, homes were vandalized or destroyed and churches were desecrated. “We will give them and many others hope for the future,” he said.

The Knights will also partner with the U.S. bishops' conference to sponsor a national day of prayer and a “week of awareness” for persecuted Christians, starting Nov. 26.

Those wishing to make a tax-deductible donation to the project for Karemlesh can do so at www.ChristiansAtRisk.org, or by phone at 1-800-694-5713. 100 percent of the donations will go to the project.

In his annual address, Anderson noted other work the Knights had accomplished, including more than $177 million in donations and over 75 million volunteer hours.

Local Knights councils had responded to various disasters and tragedies, including providing drinking water and sandbags to families in Louisiana after over 60,000 homes had been flooded by record rainfall, Anderson said. The Knights provided more than $100,000 in emergency relief after Hurricane Matthew caused hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in damage in the Caribbean and the United States.

The Knights also worked to provide for the spiritual life of families, he said, as the family which Fr. McGivney grew up in “was a true domestic Church.”

He said that Knights councils had organized pilgrimages in various dioceses for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and had introduced a spiritual program for men based on a pastoral letter by Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, “Into the Breach.”

Knights had also organized “Warriors to Lourdes” pilgrimages, taking wounded veteran soldiers to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes for healing.

Anderson called the Knights to stand against the “polite persecution” of secular society, quoting Pope Francis.

First human embryos edited in the USA. Here's why it's problematic.

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 05:04

Washington D.C., Aug 2, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Researchers in Oregon have announced that they have successfully altered genes in a human embryo for the first time in the United States, but Catholic ethicists warn that the procedure was morally objectionable for many reasons.

“Very young humans have been created in vitro and treated not as ends, but as mere means or research fodder to achieve particular investigative goals,” said Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Director of Education for the The National Catholic Bioethics Center, in a statement to CNA.

“Their value as human beings is profoundly denigrated every time they are created, experimented upon, and then killed. Moreover, if such embryos were to grow up, as will doubtless occur in the future, there are likely to be unintended effects from modifying their genes,” Fr. Pacholczyk continued.

A team of scientists led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov at Oregon Health and Science University announced this week that they used a technology known as CRISPR to edit sections of the human genome, performing the procedure on embryonic humans. The technology, which selectively “snips” and trims areas of the genome and replaces it with strands of desired DNA, has previously been used on adult humans and other species.

Researchers in China have also announced that they have used the technology on embryos, but the edited genes were only present in some of the embryonic subject’s cells.

While researchers laud the breakthrough as a step towards the birth of genetically modified humans and the potential ability to treat inherited genetic diseases, the embryonic humans created and tested in both the US and Chinese experiments were all destroyed within a few days of the procedure. If allowed to survive, the subject embryos would have carried the edits they received in their own egg and sperm cells, and thus have the ability to pass those edited genes down to future generations.

CNA also spoke to John DiCamillo, an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, in February about CRISPR technology more broadly, and the ethics surrounding the technique. He stressed that while Catholics “need to be attentive to where the dangers are” surrounding CRISPR technology generally, he cautioned Catholics not to “automatically consider any kind of gene editing to be automatically a problem.”

He pointed to gene therapy trials for disorders such as sickle cell disease and cancer that show promise for treating difficult disorders. He also noted that there “could be limited situations that could exist where the germ line could be legitimately edited. In other words, making changes to sperm, to eggs, or to early embryos as a way of potentially addressing diseases – inheritable diseases and so forth.”

However, permitting edits to germ line cells - such as embryos, eggs, and sperm – could also be “very dangerous on multiple levels,” DiCamillo warned. Since the technology is so new, patients or their descendants could experience a range of “unintended, perhaps harmful, side effects that can now be transmitted, inherited by other individuals down the line.” An embryo who experiences gene modification could also carry and pass on edited genes.

Echoing similar concerns, Fr. Pacholczyk pointing as well to the guidance from the National Academies of Sciences' 2017 report on human gene editing. In the report, he said, the scientists point out that this kind of gene editing is controversial “precisely because the resulting genetic changes would be inherited by the next generation, and the technology therefore would cross a line many have viewed as ethically inviolable.”

Fr. Pacholczyk  also stressed the importance of limiting gene editing to therapeutic purposes, with the subject's best interests in mind. He stated that human beings should never be subjected to the research without themselves or their guardians being offered informed consent and without the treatment being ordered to the patient’s health and healing.

In the cases in Oregon, however, the parents of the children created were not able to give valid consent because ethical consent “by definition excludes any approval of directly causing their death or otherwise using [subjects] as mere means to an end.”

“These experiments were nontherapeutic, as the goal was ultimately to destroy the embryos,” Fr. Pacholczyk continued. “Consent is particularly important when dealing with very vulnerable research subjects, and human embryos are among the most vulnerable of God’s creatures.”

Currently, Food and Drug Administration regulations require that all embryos who experience gene editing are later destroyed.

Furthermore, to be ethical, any applications or experiments utilizing CRISPR or other gene editing technology cannot use any other methods in its process which are themselves intrinsically immoral, Fr.Pacholczyk said. The Catholic Church forbids immoral methods of removing spermatozoa and ova from the body outside of intercourse and conception of new human beings through in vitro methods because both techniques dissociate procreation from the integrally personal context of the conjugal act.

In August, watch this meteor shower named for a saint

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 02:01

Denver, Colo., Aug 2, 2017 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Star-gazing might not be the first thing that comes to mind when Catholics think of St. Lawrence, the early Christian martyr who was cooked to death by the Romans on an outdoor grill.

But every August, Catholics have the chance to see a meteor shower named in his honor.

The Perseids meteor shower, also called the “tears of St. Lawrence,” is a meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which drops dust and debris in Earth’s orbit on its 133-year trip around the Sun. (The comet poses no immediate threat to Earth, at least not for several thousand years.)

As Earth orbits the Sun, it hits pieces of left-behind debris from the comet, causing them to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

This creates a prolific meteor shower that can best be seen in the Northern Hemisphere from late July to early August, usually peaking around Aug. 10, the feast of St. Lawrence.  

During it’s peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour.

The name “Perseids” comes from the constellation Perseus, named for a character in Greek mythology, and the radiant of the shower or the point from which it appears to originate.

The name “tears of St. Lawrence” came from the association with his feast day and from the legends that built up around the Saint after his death.

Saint Lawrence was martyred on Aug. 10, 258 during the persecution of the emperor Valerian along with many other members of the Roman clergy. He was the last of the seven deacons of Rome to die.

After the pope, Sixtus II, was martyred on Aug. 6, Lawrence became the principal authority of the Roman Church, having been the Church's treasurer.

When he was summoned before the executioners, Lawrence was ordered to bring all the wealth of the Church with him. He showed up with a handful of crippled, poor, and sick men, and when questioned, replied that "These are the true wealth of the Church."

He was immediately sent to his death, being cooked alive on a gridiron. Legend has it that one of his last words was a joke about his method of execution, as he quipped to his killers: “Turn me over, I’m done on this side!”

Catholics began calling the meteors the “tears of St. Lawrence,” even though the celestial phenomenon pre-dates the saint.

Some Italian lore also holds that the fiery bits of debris seen during a meteor shower are representative of the coals that killed St. Lawrence, and some traditions hold it that if one waters a basil plant and sets it out on the night of the meteor shower, they will find coal chips underneath the plant next day from St. Lawrence’s tears.

Anyone in the Northern Hemisphere should be able to view the “tears of St. Lawrence” best after midnight on Aug. 11-12 this year. The meteors will shower from various points in the sky rather than from one particular direction.

For the best viewing, it is recommended to go to a rural area away from light pollution.

Judge nixes Alabama abortion law involving parental consent

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 18:43

Montgomery, Ala., Aug 1, 2017 / 04:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge has struck down an Alabama law requiring more scrutiny for minors who seek an abortion without parental consent.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Russ Walker said that the law governing judicial bypass requests unconstitutionally imposes an undue burden on a minor who seeks an abortion. She said the law violates the minor’s confidentiality by possibly bringing other people from her life into the process, the Associated Press reports.

The State of Alabama had argued the law would allow a meaningful inquiry to judge the minor’s maturity while providing a “confidential, and expeditious option for a teenager who seeks an abortion without parental consent.” Other backers of the law said it helped give guidance to the minor.

State law requires minors who can’t secure parental consent for abortion to seek court permission. The 2014 law modified the process to allow a judge to appoint a guardian “for the interests of the unborn child.” The law allows the local district attorney to call witnesses and question the girl to determine her maturity level. If the minor’s parents or guardians learn of the hearing they may also be involved.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama had filed the lawsuit in 2014 on behalf of the Montgomery abortion clinic Reproductive Health Services.

Judge Walker cited the case of a 12-year-old pregnant girl who had been raped by a relative. She was 13 weeks pregnant when she went before a family court judge, who approved the abortion on June 27. The district attorney appealed the decision on the grounds the fifth grader was not mature enough to make an informed decision. On July 12 the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals ruled in the girl’s favor.

The judge said that a minor seeking permission for abortion could face both a lawyer appointed for the unborn baby and the chief prosecutor in her county, who is “empowered by the act to represent the state's public policy to protect unborn life, and backed by substantial state resources.”

The Alabama attorney general’s office said it is reviewing the decision.

Who founded America? Our Lady of Guadalupe, Archbishop Gomez says

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 17:58

Santa Rosa, Calif., Aug 1, 2017 / 03:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The impact of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the Americas should encourage Christians in the U.S. to continue to evangelize, even when their country seems headed in the wrong direction, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has said.

“Guadalupe is the true ‘founding event’ in American history. And that means it is the true founding event in the history of our country — and in the history of all the other countries in North and South America,” Archbishop Gomez said July 27. “We are all children of Guadalupe.”

“In God’s plan, this is one continent. It is meant to begin new civilization. A new world of faith,” he reflected.

“Our Lady did not appear only for the Mexican people. Her intentions were continental and universal,” the archbishop said. He cited the account based on St. Juan Diego’s testimony, in which Mary described herself as “truly your compassionate Mother; your Mother and the Mother to all who dwell in this land and to all other nations and peoples.”

The impact of Our Lady of Guadalupe was immense, he added. Within just a few years of the Marian apparition, millions had been baptized, and missionary efforts like St. Junipero Serra’s fanned out from Mexico.

“A great wave of holiness swept through the continents — raising up saints and heroes of the faith in every country,” Archbishop Gomez said.

He spoke at the Napa Institute Summer Conference in Napa, Calif., about 40 miles southeast of Santa Rosa. The conference aims to consider challenges facing Catholic leaders in contemporary America

“My simple point today is that each one of us is a part of that story — part of the great mission to America that began with the visitation of the Virgin of Guadalupe,” the archbishop continued.
 
“The Church in this country — and every one of us — has the responsibility to continue the task that the Virgin gave to St. Juan Diego. To ‘build a shrine’ with our lives. To build a society that glorifies God and is worthy of the dignity of the human person,” he said.

For the archbishop, Our Lady of Guadalupe can reach a “post-Christian” society and provides “a way to think about our Christian lives and mission in the years ahead.”

Recognizing a common “sense of urgency” about the direction of the country, he suggested, “it is like we all woke up to discover that American society is being progressively ‘de-Christianized’.”

For Archbishop Gomez, American institutions and national self-identity were meant to be shaped by “the vision and values of the gospel.” America promised a commitment to human dignity and freedom under the Creator.

At the same time, he granted, “there are too many ways our nation has never lived up to Christian values.” He named slavery, the mistreatment of native peoples, and ongoing injustices such as racism and abortion.

Even with past influence of Christianity, “all that is changing right now.”

“We face an aggressive, organized agenda by elite groups who want to eliminate the influence of Christianity from our society,” Archbishop Gomez said, noting that Christian beliefs are being labeled as hatred or intolerance. He pointed to lawsuits against Church institutions which believe what Christ  taught and which do not want to cooperate with “practices we find immoral or dehumanizing.”

“My friends, we do not have the luxury to choose the times we live in. These are hard times. There is no denying it,” he said. “But the saints remind us that all times in the Church are dangerous times.”

The archbishop said Christians must ask these questions: “how does God want us to shape our times? What is the path that Jesus Christ would have us follow in this moment in our nation’s history?”

“We need to follow the path that the Virgin sets before us — the path of building a new civilization of love and truth in the Americas,” he said.

Archbishop Gomez reflected on several themes from the story of Guadalupe: vocation, education, life, culture and family. These themes suggest a strategy for Christian living

Just as Our Lady of Guadalupe asked Juan Diego to build a shrine “to show, praise and testify to God” where people could find God’s love, compassion, help and salvation, God is calling Christians “to ‘build a shrine’ with our lives,” the archbishop said.

“Through our work and the way we live. God is calling us to bear witness to his salvation, to the difference that Jesus Christ makes in our lives,” Archbishop Gomez continued. “He is calling us to show his love and compassion to our brothers and sisters.”

St. Juan Diego had objected to the Virgin Mary that he was not strong enough or holy enough to do what she wanted.

Her response was: “Understand that I have many servants and messengers who I could send to deliver my message and do my will. But it is absolutely necessary that you yourself go.”

The Los Angeles archbishop exhorted his audience to evangelize: “We are here to share this beautiful treasure of our relationship with the living God — who became a man for us, who gave his life to save us and to make us into a new humanity. Who is living with us now and walking with us as our Friend.”

Pages