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Updated: 48 min 32 sec ago

CUA appoints new dean of music, drama, and art

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 14:40

Washington D.C., May 30, 2018 / 12:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic University of America announced Tuesday that Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw has been appointed dean of the university's school of music.

“I am pleased to appoint Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw as the new dean,” said John Garvey, president of Catholic University, May 29. “She is a noted educator who has the leadership and experience to guide the school at a significant time in the history of the University.”

A proposal to create the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art, by joining the drama and arts departments to the music school, is pending, and is expected to take effect in the upcoming fall semester. The new school is intended “to bring together all on-campus arts faculty to foster cross-disciplinary efforts and anchor the University’s commitment to the arts,” the university said in a statement.

As dean of the school, Leary-Warsaw will be in charge of its promotion and growth, offering academic and administrative leadership, while representing the school to the university and the arts world, according to a university statement. Her appointment takes effect June 18.

“I am very honored and humbled to join The Catholic University of America community and to be a part of this very historic time as we prepare to launch the new School of Music, Drama, and Art,” said Leary-Warsaw. “I am eager to work with the University’s world-class performing and fine arts faculty at this time of progress through new artistic pursuits and a renewed commitment to the future of the arts at Catholic University.”

Leary-Warsaw succeeds Grayson Wagstaff, who has been dean of the music school since 2010.

Garvey thanked Wagstaff for “his many contributions to the school during his tenure as dean.”

Leary-Warsaw has served as chair of the department of music at Birmingham-Southern College, as well as an associate professor of music, and artistic director of the Conservatory of Fine and Performing Arts.

She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Louisville, a Master of Music from CUA, and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University. She is also known for her work in research.

Leary-Warsaw is a classical soprano, and has performed in opera, oratorio, solo, and chamber recitals throughout the United States, Europe, and South America.

Some of her favorite roles performed include Sophie (Werther), Adele (Die Fledermaus), Isabelle/Madeline (The Face on the Barroom Floor), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Baby Doe (Baby Doe), Lucy (The Telephone), Kathryn (The Reformed Peasant), Nella (Gianni Schicchi), Nora (Riders to the Sea), Mrs. Gobineau (The Medium), and Judith in the world premiere of Erni's Still Life, according to her bio.

Leary-Warsaw has been host, producer, and writer of the EWTN Global Catholic Television Network's In Concert television series for 25 years.

She is a founding member of CUA's Catholic Arts Council, and has worked for years with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to produce the Annual Christmas Concert for Charity.

Leary-Warsaw is the wife of Michael Warsaw, who is chairman and CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network, of which CNA is a part.
 
 
 

 

US Secretary of State announces major religious freedom meeting

Tue, 05/29/2018 - 18:33

Washington D.C., May 29, 2018 / 04:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. government will host its first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom this summer, newly-confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced May 29.

“Religious freedom was vital to America’s beginning. Defending it is critical to our future,” Pompeo said at the announcement, which coincided with the release of the State Department’s annual report on the state of international religious freedom in 200 countries and territories.

“Our Founders understood religious freedom not as the state’s creation, but as the gift of God to every person and a fundamental right for a flourishing society. We’re committed to promoting religious freedom around the world, both now and in the future,” he continued.

The ministerial meeting of government and religious leaders, rights advocates, and civil society leaders will take place in Washington on July 25-26. It will be the first ministerial that Pompeo will host as Secretary of State, which he said is “very intentional.”

Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback also spoke at the State Department’s report release on May 29.

“For far too many, the state of religious freedom is dire,” said Ambassador Brownback, who highlighted religious freedom violations in China, Burma, Turkey, Eritrea, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, and Pakistan that are documented in detail in the State Department report.

According to the State Department, hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims in China have been forcibly sent to re-education centers. New religious regulations that went into effect in 2018 have increased the Chinese government's surveillance and monitoring of both Muslim and Christian minorities.

The report also documents the arrest of hundreds of Christians in Eritrea, where the government reportedly coerced numerous individuals into renouncing their faith.

“Saudi Arabia does not recognize the right of non-Muslims to practice their religion in public and imprisons, lashes, and fines individuals for apostasy, blasphemy, and insulting the state’s interpretation of Islam,” said Brownback.

“We also remain very concerned about religious freedom or the lack thereof in Pakistan, where some 50 individuals are serving life sentences for blasphemy, according to civil society reports. Seventeen are awaiting execution,” he continued.

In the annual religious freedom report, the State Department documents instances of religious persecution without comment or analysis. The report is a reference tool used by policy makers and civil society leaders to understand what occured within the last year in each country.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary since the enactment of the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998 -- the passage of which created the ambassador-at-large for religious freedom position that Brownback now holds.

Ambassador Brownback said that it remains important for Americans to be informed and engaged in confronting these religious freedom violations.

“We all have a stake in this fight. One person’s bondage is another person’s burden to break. We’re all people with beautiful and undeniable human dignity. Our lives are sacred. Our right to choose the road our conscience takes is inalienable.”

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the House Subcommittee on Global Human Rights, welcomed the report and the announcement of the ministerial meeting.

“Religious freedom is under siege globally, challenging U.S. interests. It is no coincidence that the worst violators of religious freedom globally are also the biggest threats to our nation—those who wish to do Americans the most harm, and those who most want to tear down the pillars of democratic societies,” Smith said in a statement.

“Thus, a robust religious freedom diplomacy not only reflects American values, but advances U.S. national security interests.  It seems the Administration understands these facts, I look forward to working with them on this critical issue.”       

Smith, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is the author of the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016, which added to the original International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

The 2016 legislation gave additional tools to the State Department to promote religious freedom abroad. It expands religious freedom training for diplomats, ensures that the ambassador-at large for religious freedom can report directly to the Secretary of State, and allows for the naming of non-state actors who violate religious freedom.

“Getting the facts right on the global state of religious freedom is essential for the shaping of U.S. policy and priorities, and that is why the State Department’s annual report is so important,” Smith said in his May 29 statement.

 

US Supreme Court won't hear challenge to Arkansas abortion pill law

Tue, 05/29/2018 - 18:01

Washington D.C., May 29, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Supreme Court will not hear Planned Parenthood’s challenge to a 2015 law in Arkansas that requires doctors administering abortion pills to have contracts with physicians with hospital admitting privileges.

The court on Tuesday denied certiorari to Planned Parenthood of Arkansas & Eastern Oklahoma v. Jegley, a suit filed shortly after the law was passed.

The law states that any physician who “gives, sells, dispenses, administers, or otherwise provides or prescribes the abortion-inducing drug” would have to have contracts with another physician who has admitting privileges at a hospital. Proponents of the law argue that it is necessary to ensure that women who may experience a complication from their abortion are able to receive medical care.

This order means the law will stand as is, and two Planned Parenthood locations in the state announced May 29 that they will no longer be performing chemical abortions.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, said that Arkansas was “shamefully responsible for being the first state to ban medication abortion” and that the law was dangerous.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Arkansas is now shamefully responsible for being the first state to ban medication abortion. This dangerous law immediately ends access to safe, legal abortion at all but 1 health center. If that’s not an undue burden, what is? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SCOTUS?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SCOTUS</a></p>&mdash; Dawn Laguens (@dawnlaguens) <a href="https://twitter.com/dawnlaguens/status/1001473199270490112?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 29, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Planned Parenthood has said that they will continue fighting the Arkansas law, despite the Supreme Court's decision.

The Supreme Court’s order was praised by prominent pro-life leaders, who lauded the move as one that would protect women’s health.

“Planned Parenthood’s efforts to remove even the most minimal protections for women and babies continue to reveal the fact that their top priority is profit, not healthcare,” said March for Life President Jeanne Mancini.

“We are grateful to see the Supreme Court refuse to engage this case which would weaken health regulations for women seeking chemical abortion.”

Steven Aden, chief legal officer and general counsel with Americans United For Life, said that Planned Parenthood was acting as an “abortion extremist” in their suit against the Arkansas law, and that the Supreme Court made the right call to not review the case.

“Thankfully, the Supreme Court’s decision not to review the Jegley case has signaled that federal courts still have to follow basic legal procedures, even in abortion cases, in deciding Constitutional cases,” Aden told CNA.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said that “I have fully defended this law at every turn and applaud the Supreme Court’s decision against Planned Parenthood today. Protecting the health and well-being of women and the unborn will always be a priority. We are a pro-life state and always will be as long as I am attorney general.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, commented: “Today’s action by the High Court represents a judicious course of action that will result in the trial court being forced to conduct a more searching analysis before striking down a duly enacted legislative measure designed to protect women.”
 
The law is set to go into effect in July, unless there is another emergency order granted that would block its implementation.

Do the Title X changes really threaten women's healthcare access?

Tue, 05/29/2018 - 17:49

Washington D.C., May 29, 2018 / 03:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal government proposal to remove Title X funding from programs and facilities that perform abortions has drawn considerable media attention, raising questions of whether such a move would impact women’s access to health care.

On May 18, President Donald Trump formally announced that his administration is proposing a new rule that would prevent Title X family planning funds from going to clinics that perform or promote abortions.

The move was lauded by pro-life advocates, while pro-abortion groups called it an attack on women that would be devastating to the availability of women’s healthcare.

Planned Parenthood, the largest performer of abortions in the U.S., would be eligible for continued Title X funding if it stopped doing abortions, or if separated - both physically and financially - its abortion facilities from the rest of its operations.

Outgoing Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards rejected the idea of the organization cutting ties with abortion during a meeting with White House personnel last year.

Planned Parenthood blasted the new proposal as “an attempt to take away women’s basic rights” and a move “would block patients from healthcare.”

But is this really the case?

Last year, according to its annual report, Planned Parenthood received over $543 million in taxpayer dollars. About $60 million of that funding comes from Title X. The remainder is from other government grants, including Medicaid payments for services.

The 13,000 federally qualified health centers outnumber Planned Parenthood's 650 facilities by a ratio of 20 to 1.

However, government funding makes up only 37 percent of Planned Parenthood’s revenue. The organization also fundraises, and has claimed that the threat of defunding has increased its contributions from private donors. Planned Parenthood reported $98.5 million in excess revenue last year.

Over the last decade, Planned Parenthood’s government funding increased significantly: in 2006, the organization received $336.7 million in government money. While its public funding increased, however, the organization saw fewer patients and provided fewer overall services during that time frame. Prenatal care and cancer screenings offered from 2006-2016 decreased, while the number of abortions increased by more than 10 percent.

For this reason, and because many alternatives to Planned Parenthood exist for women’s health care, it is unlikely that women would be negatively affected the new proposal, said Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director who now works as a pro-life advocate.

“There over 13,000 federally qualified Health Centers that serve entire families and offer many more services than Planned Parenthood offers, not including abortion,” Johnson told CNA.

“Planned Parenthood is trying to scare women with their rhetoric, when in reality, women will have more options with greater affordability, instead of resorting to the abortion industry, where money is put above all other goals.”

The 13,000 federally qualified health centers outnumber Planned Parenthood's 650 facilities by a ratio of 20 to 1. They do not perform abortions, but provide other medical care, and could be eligible for an increase in funding under the new Trump administration rule.

Given that these facilities provide more types of medical care than Planned Parenthood facilities, and are far more widespread throughout the nation, the changes to Title X are a smart move for women, Johnson said.

“Our government is wisely choosing to remove tax dollars from the nation’s largest abortion provider and redirect them to actual healthcare providers who seek to serve the same demographic of Americans,” she told CNA.

In recent years, Planned Parenthood has been mired in controversy.

While federal law prohibits federal funding from being used directly for abortions, a report from the Charlotte Lozier Institute and Alliance Defending Freedom suggested that, according to federal and state audits, taxpayer dollars were funding abortion-related expenses in several states.

Furthermore, a 2015 report from Alliance Defending Freedom said that Planned Parenthood clinics in several states had failed to report suspected cases of sexual abuse of minors, as they are required by law to do.

Undercover video reporting in recent years has also appeared to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the transfer of aborted fetal tissue for money, a practice that violates federal law.

The organization has also drawn criticism for repeatedly claiming to offer mammograms, a statement that fact-checkers have repeatedly rejected.

Planned Parenthood claims that abortions account for only three percent of the total services they provide, although fact-checkers – at the Washington Post among others – have taken issue with that claim, pointing out that Planned Parenthood counts each small procedure like a pregnancy test or a pap smear as a service provided, but abortion accounts for much greater cost and revenue for the organization.

 

Flying on Sunday? Many airport chapels offer Mass

Mon, 05/28/2018 - 02:07

Washington D.C., May 28, 2018 / 12:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Flying on Sunday and need a place for Mass? A recent study revealed that 40 percent of major US airports have chapels offering Sunday Mass times for travelers and airport employees. 

Taking data from the 30 busiest airports in the U.S., the Pew Research Center identified airports offering Mass and other forms of Christian worship as well as Jewish and Muslim prayer services. 

The 2015 Pew study found that more than half of the largest hub airports in the U.S. contain chapels. Eighteen out of the 30 busiest hubs in the nation have chapels orientated towards some faith, and 14 of those have regular services. Four airports have irregular prayer services and offer rooms for mediation. Additionally, 12 airports offer Catholic Mass. 

Among the airports absent from the list was Los Angeles International, the second largest airport in the nation.

The study only considered data from large hubs, those that handle at least one percent of annual passenger boarding in the U.S. These airports range from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, where 45 million people travel annually, to Portland International, where more than 7 million travel. 

The first airport chapel was instituted at Boston’s Logan International Airport a little over 60 years ago, according to the Pluralism Project by Harvard University. Titled “Our Lady of the Airways,” it was a Catholic chapel, like many to follow. Airports saw a rise in chapels from the ‘60s until the ‘80s. 

Chapels with services from various different religions became popular in 1990s. Dallas/Fort Worth International has an interfaith chapel for each of its five terminals. 

Some airports, including smaller hubs in Florida and New York, have religiously neutral “mediation rooms,” which offer no services but only a space for prayer or reflection. 

Other airports have places of worship associated with distinct religions. For example, John F. Kennedy International includes a Catholic Church, Protestant chapel, synagogue, and mosque and has services multiple times throughout the day. 


This article was originally published on CNA June 1, 2017.

What Catholic communities can do to support foster children

Sun, 05/27/2018 - 18:01

Washington D.C., May 27, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the opioid crisis has left nearly half a million children in need of homes, Catholic leaders are calling their families and parishes to a work of mercy that is both pro-life and fruitful: supporting vulnerable children in foster care.

"Foster care and adoption is another way that God is calling couples to be open to life, and not just infertile couples, but couples that have biological children who can welcome another child into their family," said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas at an event on foster care after the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, who hosted the May 24 event titled “Fostering A Culture of Hope,” told CNA she hopes it will get more Catholics around the country talking about foster care at a time when the opioid crisis has made it more urgent.

“It is key to our identity. We are adopted daughters and sons of the Father, and we shouldn’t have orphans in our midst,” said Lopez, who has written about pro-life issues for the National Review for two decades.

From 2000 to 2012, the number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, the withdrawal infants experience after their pregnant mothers’ drug use, increased by 383 percent, according the White House Associate Director of Drug Control Policy Charmaine Yoest, who also spoke at the National Review Institute event.

"I want the pro-life community to acknowledge more what is going on with the foster care crisis in this country. I feel very strongly that in a lot of ways it is connected to our desire to eradicate abortion,” said Lisa Ann Wheeler, the president of Carmel Communications. Wheeler has had five children, and has fostered 15.

For Sarah Zagorski, the connection between foster care and pro-life work is very clear.

“My mother consulted with an abortionist for my delivery,” said Zagorski. “She was a Hispanic woman, very vulnerable woman, who already had seven kids in and out of foster care. They were already experiencing abuse, neglect, you name it.”

After her mother chose life, Sarah said that “life got very complicated very quickly because I entered a family environment that was unstable.”

“Foster care saved my life, just like the choice that my birth mother made saved my life," said Zagorski.

When Catholic couples adopt or foster a child, they are living out the Gospel call for a “radical welcoming of the stranger, the orphan,” shared Elizabeth Kirk, the keynote speaker at “Fostering a Culture of Hope.”

"Pope Francis stated … that the choice of adoption and foster care expresses a particular kind of fruitfulness in the marriage experience," continued Kirk. “Pope Francis urged even those with biological children to find other expressions of fruitfulness that in some way prolong the love that sustains them. Christian marriages, he says, are fruitful by their witness.”

“Now is an important moment for the Catholic Church to step forward and really embrace fostering,” explained Kathleen Domingo, who led a foster care initiative in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles after Catholic Charities was driven out of foster care and adoption in California due to a lack of conscience protection laws.

“Fostering is definitely a work of mercy,” said Domingo, “and works of mercy are transformative.”

“Having families in your parish involved in fostering with the rest of the parish coming around them to surround them and support them, can be that transformative element that can help our parishes to overcome polarization,” she said.

There is a lot of untapped potential in our Catholic communities, according to Domingo, who together with Archbishop Jose Gomez launched a campaign to raise awareness of foster care needs in the Los Angeles archdiocese last October.

They organized presentations at just 15 parishes in the archdiocese, and “the response was overwhelming,” said Domingo.

“We had over 300 families in just 15 parishes come forward to register to get trained as foster families,” she continued.

Even if someone is not called to foster or adopt a child, there are many things that Catholics can do to support these children.

"You can do anything from cooking a meal to providing transportation or even taking some of those children into your home. You can serve as a mentor. You can work and find ways to get your church involved,” suggested Natalie Goodnow, a research fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.

One concrete way anyone can help is through respite care, recommends Goodnow. Respite care involves watching a foster family’s kids for a couple days to a week, allowing the foster parents to have a break.

People can also volunteer as “court appointed special advocates,” or CASA for short. Through CASA, a person is matched with a foster child's case, and advocates for the child throughout the duration of their time in the child welfare system. Goodnow pointed out that there is no legal experience required to participate.

Another organization Goodnow recommends is “Safe Families for Children”, which supports struggling families at risk of being separated through foster care.

Tutoring and mentoring a teen in foster care can also make a transformative impact, said Goodnow, who continued:

"There is tremendous potential for the faith community to do even more. I don't think that we have fully tapped into what this community is capable of.”

Pro-refugee sentiment drops, especially low among white Evangelicals

Sun, 05/27/2018 - 06:43

Washington D.C., May 27, 2018 / 04:43 am (CNA).- Americans’ belief in a duty to accept refugees has dipped, according to a survey showing that white Evangelicals are among the least favorable to refugees.

While 50 percent of Catholics said they think the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees, only 25 percent of white Evangelicals did. The white Evangelical response was statistically identical to the percentage of Republicans who saw a duty toward refugees.

Of black Protestants, 63 percent saw a duty to accept refugees. However, only 43 percent of white mainline Protestants did. About 65 percent of the religiously unaffiliated see a national duty toward refugees.

“Opinions about whether the United States has a responsibility to accept refugees – which were already deeply polarized – have grown even more so,” said the Pew Research Center, which conducted the recent survey.

Decline in support for refugee admissions among Republicans and Republican-leading independents drove the number lower, the Washington Post reports. About 74 percent of Democrats believe in an American duty to refugees.

In February 2017, a time of controversy over the Trump Administration’s new limits on refugee admissions, 56 percent of Americans said the U.S. had a responsibility to accept refugees. The figure is now at 51 percent. Republican pro-refugee sentiment dropped nine percentage points, while Democratic pro-refugee sentiment rose about 3 points.

In a March 26 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and to the U.S. State Department, Bishop Joe Vasquez, speaking as chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, lamented the low number of refugee admissions.

“As Christians, our concerns for refugees is integral to our life of faith,” the bishop said.

“Most often they are at-risk women and children who are too vulnerable to remain in the region and/or in situations too dangerous for them to wait in the host country until the conflict at home has ended.”

Broken down along race and ethnicity, 67 percent of blacks believe the country has a duty toward refugees, compared to 59 percent of Hispanics and 46 percent of whites, Pew said.

The Pew survey of 1,503 U.S. adults conducted April 25-May 1 claims a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Refugee admissions to the U.S. have declined sharply in the first half of fiscal year 2018. Muslim refugee numbers fell to 1,800, compared to about 22,900 in all of fiscal year 2017.

This is in part due to Trump administration policy that caps admissions to 45,000 people per fiscal year, the lowest cap since 1980, when Congress created the current refugee program, Pew says. The administration also restricted admissions for several months as part of a security review.

About 10,500 total refugees, and about 6,700 Christians entered the U.S. in the first half of the fiscal year. At the same point in fiscal year 2017, there were 39,100 admissions, with 18,500 Muslims and 16,900 Christians.

Major growth for group highlighting faith-science harmony

Sat, 05/26/2018 - 18:20

Wilmington, Del., May 26, 2018 / 04:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In his 1988 letter to the Director of the Vatican Observatory, Pope John Paul II called scientists who are members of the Church to “serve as a key resource” by providing a “much needed ministry” to those who find faith and science at odds.

Now, a group of scientists is rising to the late pope’s challenge through what is known as the Society of Catholic Scientists.

Dr. Stephan Barr of the University of Delaware, founder and president of the society, explained that the group was created in 2016.

“Its main purpose was to promote spiritual and intellectual fellowship among faithful Catholics who work in the natural sciences, and also display the harmony between faith and science in an era when many doubt it,” Barr told CNA.

Two years after its founding, the Society of Catholic Scientists has grown from a small group to an organization with more than 700 members, which include Catholic individuals who either have a doctorate in a natural science or who are in school for a science degree as a graduate or undergraduate student.

While primarily focused in North America, the organization has members in 35 countries and all seven continents.

The Society’s motto, taken from the writings of St. Bonaventure, is “knowledge with devotion, research with wonder.” The organization strives to foster fellowship among Catholic scientists, give witness to the harmony between faith and science, host forums for scientific and theological discussions, and be a resource for the laity, Barr said.

“For too long, a false impression has been allowed to grow that the world of science is a religious wasteland where faith cannot grow,” he said.

“Even religious scientists can have this impression and feel isolated, because they are unaware that many of their colleagues share their faith – this is especially true of younger researchers and students, so providing mentoring and role models is another goal of SCS.”

In June, the Society of Catholic Scientists is hosting its second annual conference that will focus on the theme of “Physicalism and the Human Mind.” It will explore the idea held by some within the scientific field that only the physical world really exists.

The society’s first conference was held in April 2017 in Chicago with the theme “Origins,” and was attended by over 80 members of the organization, as well as dozens of other scholars. This year, the 2018 conference is expecting 135 scholars to attend, including 110 Catholic scientists and students.

The upcoming conference will be held at The Catholic University of America from June 8-10 and will feature 11 speakers from various fields, including neuroscience, quantum physics, mathematics, and philosophy. While most of the speakers are Catholic, some are not, including the distinguished Prof. Peter Koellner of Harvard.

Continuing a tradition established last year, one scientist will be singled out and honored with the St. Albert Award, named after the patron of scientists. This year’s award will be presented to Juan Martin Maldacena of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton for his distinguished work linking gravity and quantum field theory.

Noting that the Society of Catholic Scientists has grown tremendously in its first two years, Barr said he believes the organization “continues to grow rapidly” because scientists are feeling isolated in their fields and are looking for an outlet to discuss the connection between their faith and science.

The society has been recognized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and has Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia as its episcopal moderator.

Letter to George Clooney: Help stop frivolous 'hate group' charges

Fri, 05/25/2018 - 17:59

Los Angeles, Calif., May 25, 2018 / 03:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Southern Poverty Law Center is wrongly targeting social conservative organizations as “hate groups,” and George Clooney, a major financial supporter of the law center, should demand better, one commentator said this week.

Chuck Donovan is an author, policy researcher and president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research and education arm of the pro-life political advocacy group the Susan B. Anthony List.

However, he wrote to Clooney in a personal capacity, encouraging the star to use his influence to help persuade the SPLC to avoid its “embittering and unproductive campaigns to label any political or social issue opponent as a hate group.”

“This tactic is injurious both to the reputations of some outstanding people and to the flourishing of the common good,” Donovan charged in an open letter published May 20 at the Public Discourse website. It is a betrayal of “the honorable history of the SPLC’s founding in opposition to the denial of civil rights to African Americans, he said.

Last year, the Clooney Foundation for Justice announced a $1 million gift for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Based in Montgomery, Ala., the SPLC was founded in 1971 with the original stated aim of monitoring persons and groups fighting the civil rights movement. It began to track racist and white supremacist groups like neo-Nazis and affiliates of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s. It monitors other groups it considers extremist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim.

More recently, however, it has labeled as “hate groups” Christian organizations that believe in marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

In recent months, several groups were removed from the charitable donation program Amazon Smile based on the SPLC’s designation of them as “hate groups.”

Amazon told the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian religious liberty legal organization, that the “hate group” designation made it ineligible for the program.

The SPLC has also listed as “hate groups” other mainstream Christian-backed advocacy groups like the Family Research Council and the Ruth Institute, a non-profit group that studies and explains the effects of the sexual revolution. The SPLC said they have an “anti-LGBT” stance.

Donovan suggested that George Clooney can lead the way to help civilize public life.

“There is great ugliness on the national scene. God has given you the ability to speak to millions of people around the world and to capture their attention,” he said in his letter, encouraging the star to “take a closer look at a good number of the SPLC’s scattershot targets, including Alliance Defending Freedom, the Ruth Institute, Coral Ridge Ministries, and many more.

“The vituperation the SPLC levels at some public policy groups it disagrees with is part of the problem, not the solution,” said Donovan.

He focused on the “hate group” label placed on the Family Research Council. After finding this designation on the SPLC website, a man named Floyd Corkins decided to attack the Christian organization in 2012. Corkins entered the Family Research Council building with a gun and shot building manager Leo Johnson in the arm before Johnson wrestled him to the ground. Corkins later told authorities that he wanted to kill as many employees as possible because of the group’s opposition to gay marriage.

Donovan said Johnson “recognized the humanity of the attacker in front of him, and he refrained from violence.”

“This is the accurate picture I know of Leo and the other people at FRC. They have deep convictions. They hate no one,” he said in his letter to Clooney.

“It should be to our credit that we can debate deep differences and emerge from these debates with mutual respect and a willingness to continue discussions in the interest of building a better nation.”

In Donovan’s view, Clooney roots his views in his Midwestern upbringing and hard work throughout his life. He asked Clooney, “please keep in mind that there are people just like you in all these respects who, because of different views on some questions, are being unfairly and even dangerously vilified.”

Donovan said he is sure he and Clooney do not differ about “truly odious groups” that the SPLC opposes, like the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

However, he encouraged Clooney to reject efforts to depict Christian views on life and marriage as akin to bigotry and hatred.

“Certainly, each of these issues generates argument and disagreement, but for the life of me I cannot fathom, and completely reject, the idea that these values have anything to do with abhorrent racism and hatred.”

 

After punishing Christian cake baker, Colo. civil rights board revised

Fri, 05/25/2018 - 02:08

Denver, Colo., May 25, 2018 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new law will revise the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, after the commission gained attention when its decision in a free speech case involving a Christian cake baker was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Before the Colorado law was changed, the governor was allowed to appoint all seven commission members, with no more than four being from the governor’s own party.

The new law, signed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper May 22, now limits the governor to appointing three Democrats, three Republicans and one unaffiliated as commissioners. Four members must be from classes protected by law, three members must be considered workers, and three members must be serving as business owners.

The commission will now be subject to legislative audit as well. The new law says that if a commissioner has been rejected by the state senate, the governor cannot re-appoint him or her to the commission for a period of two years, the Denver Post reports.

The changes come following a February vote by Republicans on the Colorado legislature’s Joint Budget Committee to withhold funding from the commission until legislative changes were made. The commission reviews allegations of discrimination and makes policy recommendations.

Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission was involved in a case that is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case involves baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakes in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.

In 2012, Phillips was sued by a same-sex couple after he declined to make a wedding cake for them on the grounds that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. Phillips had offered to create a different cake for the couple. The couple was able to obtain a rainbow-themed cake from a bakery near Phillips’ cake shop.

Colorado law did not recognize same-sex unions as marriages at the time.

The couple took the case before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ruled that by declining to make the cake, the baker had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law categorizing sexual orientation as a protected class.

In the commission’s unanimous vote against the baker, then-Commissioner Diane Rice said: “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we ... can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use—…to use their religion to hurt others.”

The lawsuit was decided in favor of the plaintiffs in 2013, and a Colorado judge ordered Phillips to receive anti-discrimination training and to serve same-sex weddings or stop serving weddings altogether.

He chose to stop serving weddings through his bakery, which he had opened in 1993.

Phillips lost appeals at the state level, and the Colorado Supreme Court declined to take the case. In June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, known as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Attorneys for the baker have argued that forcing Phillips to advance a message about marriage that is contrary to his faith violates the Constitution’s protections for free speech.

In oral arguments in December 2017, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy had asked whether the commission decision could stand if at least one member based his or her decision “in significant part” on grounds of “hostility to religion.”

Kennedy appeared critical of the commission, saying, “Tolerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual… It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs.”

At the same time, the justice had wondered whether a victory for the plaintiff’s argument would enable discrimination.

“It means that there’s basically an ability to boycott gay marriages,” said Kennedy, who is considered a swing vote in the case.

“If you prevail, could the bakery put a sign in its window, ‘We do not make cakes for gay weddings’?” Kennedy asked Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco. “And you would not posit that an affront to the gay community?”

Francisco, who backed Phillips’ case, suggested that the baker could say he does not make “custom-made wedding cakes for gay weddings, but most cakes would not cross that threshold.” While there are dignity interests at stake, Francisco said, and he would not minimize the same-sex couple’s dignity interests, “there are dignity interests on the other side here too.”

Phillips declines to bake other kinds of cakes that promote ideas at odds with his beliefs, such as cakes that portray anti-American, atheist, or racist messages or disparage members of the LGBT community, his attorneys said. Phillips also declines to create custom cakes for other events he is uncomfortable supporting, such as Halloween and bachelor parties.

Since the litigation started, Phillips has said that he has lost more than 40 percent of his business due to his inability to serve any weddings. As a result, he has lost nearly half of his employees, and now struggles to keep in business.

He has also received death threats and has voiced concern for the safety of family members.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Phillips.

Be missionary disciples, Archbishop Naumann encourages Catholic prayer breakfast

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 18:30

Washington D.C., May 24, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States is in need of another great awakening and religious revival, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas told the crowd at Thursday morning’s 14th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

In his keynote address May 24, Naumann bemoaned the state of culture in the United States, and said it is necessary to re-embrace truth, as well as the living Christ.

Additional speakers at the event in Washington, D.C., included Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sam Brownback, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

Naumann expressed concern over the “large number of Millennials” who either do not believe in God at all, or who instead consider themselves to be “spiritual, but not religious.” The archbishop said this new mentality of a non-religious spiritualism is akin to “a new paganism,” where the God of revelation has been transformed into a god or gods who are created to re-inforce individual desires.

“Our culture is indeed experiencing a crisis of faith that leads to a denial of truth,” said Naumann. “Once the relationship between man and God is severed, man becomes just a highly developed organism.”

Without this relationship with God, humans are simply objects with a value determined only by how useful they can be to others, explained Naumann, who is the incoming chairman of the US bishops' pro-life committee.

A lack of relationship with God leads to hedonism, with “the pursuit of pleasure becoming the highest goal,” with people seeking to avoid suffering and death at all costs, he said. This further leads to a mentality that it is “acceptable to eliminate the one suffering,” whether it be someone who is elderly, unborn, or otherwise sick and unable to be cured effectively.

It is necessary to have a personal encounter with Christ in order to be able to live a virtuous life as Catholics, said Naumann.

“Without this personal encounter, our dogma and doctrine makes no sense,” he said.

The world has been plagued with sin since the Garden of Eden, but “God’s response to humanity’s rebellion is mercy,” and Christ rescued humanity when he became “one with us in all things but sin.”

“Like a special operations soldier dropped behind enemy lines, Jesus entered fully into our humanity, enduring unspeakable suffering because of our sin.”

Naumann ended his keynote with a call for the crowd of well over 1,000 people present to be “missionary disciples” who spread the word of the Risen Christ to everyone, particularly people on the peripheries of society.

“We are called to renew our nation, not primarily by enacting laws, but by announcing the joy and hope of the Gospel of Jesus to individuals in desperate need of its good news. It is our task to reclaim our culture one mind, one heart, one soul at a time.”

In his remarks at the prayer breakfast, Ryan emphasized the importance of Catholic social teaching, while Brownback discussed religious freedom as a “God-given right.”

Appeals court denies stay of ruling against California assisted suicide law

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 18:02

San Bernardino, Calif., May 24, 2018 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A state appellate court on Wednesday denied a request for an immediate stay of a ruling which said California's assisted suicide law was wrongly passed in a special legislative session.

The May 23 decision by California's 4th District Court of Appeal did give the state attorney general, Xavier Becerra, more time to provide arguments as to why the lower court's ruling should be overruled.

Judge Daniel Ottolia of the Riverside County Superior Court had ruled May 15 that lawmakers had unconstitutionally passed the law in a 2015 special session of the legislature dedicated to health care funding.

Ottolia's ruling was welcomed by the California Catholic Conference, whose executive director, Ned Dolejsi, said May 18 that “Our opposition to assisted suicide is no secret, but this legislation was also opposed by a broad coalition of doctors, nurses, seniors and the disabled community, who fought this bill for many, many reasons.”

“Health care professionals … questioned why the state was embracing doctor-assisted suicide as the standard of care for people who needed respect and support,” he said. “Others were offended at the way Medi-Cal patients - often refused coverage for palliative care – were offered coverage for lethal prescriptions instead.”

Dolejsi also noted that “At an oversight hearing in January to review the implementation of the End-of-Life Option Act, even though presented with clear evidence of poor data collection and other implementation uncertainties, legislators openly discussed ways that physician-assisted suicide could be expanded – especially to poor and minority communities.”

Under the law, lethal prescriptions may be given to adults who are able to make medical decisions if their attending physician and a consulting physician have diagnosed a terminal disease expected to end in death within six months.

The initial legislative effort to pass an assisted suicide bill failed in committee during the 2015 regular season. It was subsequently passed during a special legislative session later the same year which was called to address state health care funding shortages.

Opponents of the law have charged that it was rushed through the special session and lacks safeguards against abuse, such as an adequate definition of terminal illness.

In the first six months after the law took effect, 111 people in California committed assisted suicide under its provisions. Assisted suicide has also been legally sanctioned in Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia.

Pro-life pregnancy center demands removal from 'libelous' video

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 17:15

Denver, Colo., May 24, 2018 / 03:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A video that frames a Colorado women’s clinic as a bogus, sub-par healthcare provider is libelous, said the clinic’s directors and lawyer, who are demanding that it be corrected.

Last week, Attorney Michael J. Norton issued a cease and desist letter on behalf of Marisol Health, a network of women’s health care clinics in Denver created by Catholic Charities of Colorado.

The letter demands the removal of the clinic’s image and name from a video that suggests it is among crisis pregnancy centers that do not provide medically trained staff or accurate medical information.

“Marisol Health is justifiably proud of the services it provides to women and families and is thus disturbed by the false representations about Marisol Health in a ProgressNow video entitled ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’...with the description ‘Crisis pregnancy centers masquerade as medical facilities,’” Norton wrote in the letter.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Norton said that “Having reviewed the video and having significant knowledge about Marisol and the comprehensive, quality, professional healthcare services that Marisol Health provides, we found...great offense with that video, and we found it to be extremely defamatory, misleading and misrepresentative [of Marisol].”

The video, created about a year ago by progressive advocacy group ProgressNow, has been posted to the group’s facebook page, viewed more than 130,000 times, and republished by numerous affiliates of the organization.  

The video tells the story of 40-year-old Aubrey, an art teacher who recalls her unexpected pregnancy in college. At high risk because of a seizure disorder, Aubrey says in the video that she was referred to an unspecified crisis pregnancy center that lacked any trained medical professionals besides an ultrasound tech.

“I felt like they were really playing on my emotions and as I was walking out they handed me a bible,” Aubrey said in the video.

“The fact that they sent me to some crisis pregnancy center where there was no medical staff, that really bothers me, it really concerns me,” she added. “You had a political motivation or maybe a religious one that you felt was more important than my health.”

Footage in the video shows four different pregnancy centers around Colorado, including the building and name of Marisol Health, which was founded in 2016 - years after Aubrey’s pregnancy. It also includes text that states that crisis pregnancy center staff “rarely have any medical training” and that they “often lie or refuse to provide accurate information.”

At the press conference, Jan McIntosh, vice president of Marisol Services, said it was “outrageous” and “deceptive” to include Marisol in the video and to imply that it does not provide comprehensive health care with licensed medical professionals.

“Marisol Health is a network of clinics that are fully equipped to provide women with comprehensive health care and help them make informed decisions about their reproductive health,” she said. “With Marisol’s special partnership with Bella [Natural Women’s Care], we have fully licensed medical professionals who assist women in need with life-affirming medical care.”

Marisol Health. Credit: Marisol Health.

Among the services provided at Marisol are comprehensive OB/GYN and prenatal care, fertility awareness and infertility care, STD testing, counseling, ultrasounds, and mental health services.

Care is provided regardless of a woman’s ability to pay, McIntosh noted. According to Marisol, 45 percent of their patients have no income or an income of less than $15,000 a year, while 76 percent are on Medicaid or are without insurance.

“We want to take back the true meaning of reproductive care for women,” McIntosh added. “Marisol Health has what women deserve, a clinic that is staffed by licensed medical professionals and offers compassionate care.”

Dede Chism is the co-founder and executive director of Bella Natural Women’s Care and Family Wellness, which partners with Marisol Health.

She said that both Bella and Marisol “exist to fill the need for dignified, life-affirming healthcare, providing a broad scope of comprehensive obstetric and gynecological health care.”

The need for this kind of care is great among women of all religious, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, Chism said, citing the 5,000-plus patients that have come to Bella in the past three and half years since they opened their doors.

“Across the lifespan of women from early adolescence through menopause, as a staff of board-certified and board-eligible physicians, midwives, nurse practitioners, certified ultrasonographers, registered nurses, we focus on the highest standards, cutting edge research that actually takes place within our facilities, and scientific methods that are both natural and cooperate with a woman’s body,” she said.

Chism invited anyone with doubts about Marisol or Bella’s quality of care to visit the clinics and see for themselves and “experience what is health care is all about.”

Norton said as of May 23 he had not received a response from ProgressNow regarding his May 17 cease and desist letter, and added that he is prepared to continue to prosecute ProgressNow in order to repair any damage caused to Marisol and Bella by the video.

Earlier this month, Marisol also responded to billboards in Denver that warned against crisis pregnancy centers, calling them “Fake Health Centers.” The billboards, in English and Spanish, were sponsored by the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), a group also associated with the creation of the ProgressNow video, which it has embedded on its website.

A representative from COLOR told Fox News in Denver that they considered the crisis pregnancy clinics fake because they do not offer “abortion care” in their facilities and often lack trained medical professionals.  

The video from ProgressNow also comes at a time when the Supreme Court is deciding a case called National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, which will decide whether a California law mandating that pro-life pregnancy centers post information about abortion is a violation of the First Amendment and free speech rights.

Similar laws, such as one in Baltimore, have been struck down in courts as unconstitutional.

Archbishop Chaput highlights voices of young adults ahead of synod

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 16:36

Philadelphia, Pa., May 24, 2018 / 02:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an effort to highlight the voices of young people ahead of the Synod on Youth this fall, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia is periodically offering his column space in the diocesan newspaper to young adults over the next four months.

“With a synod of the world’s bishops focusing on young people scheduled for this October, hearing directly from the young and those engaged in guiding them can be a great resource,” he wrote.

The 2018 Synod will take place this October. Bishops from around the world will meet to discuss the theme, “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.”

In preparation for the gathering, the Vatican sent out a survey asking young people around the world about their experiences and beliefs. In March, 315 young adults were invited to the Vatican for a pre-synod gathering. They released a document summarizing their discussions at the end of the meeting.

Since Archbishop Chaput decided to open his column to young adults earlier this month, he has shared the comments of two young people: Regina Luczyszyn, a 26-year-old graduate from Temple University Law School who is currently engaged, and Brother Bryan Kerns, a 29 year-old seminarian who will be ordained this summer.

Last week, Luczyszyn reflected on the need for young adults to be accompanied by faithful mentors. In a world marked by confusion, she said, many people bear wounds from a damaged past, so guides are necessary to help navigate the way.

“Finding Christ in the darkness isn’t always an easy journey,” she said. “Christ gave us the answer by showing us the importance of mentorship and discipleship – a model the Church needs to revive if she expects young adults to follow Christ.”

She highlighted chastity as one issue in which mentorship would be helpful, particularly in guiding questions during dating about appropriate boundaries and ways to express love in virtue.

Luczyszyn suggested that priests, religious, and laity can all be mentors to help navigate young adults through these trails. Just as Christ spent three years forming his disciples, she said the Church must accompany her members by “strengthening them, loving them, and teaching them.”

This week, Brother Kerns reflected on the Church’s need to for strong witnesses, leading the Church towards the value of silence and rest. When the world is overwhelmed by noise, he said, people are unable to truly know themselves.

“The world is drowning in noise – the young in particular. And the noise is not the worst problem; it’s a symptom of our failure to understand our nature. We use noise as an antidote to our restlessness, when what we really need is rest.”

He said the Church needs to evaluate how young adults can be encouraged make silence in their lives to face the burdens of this world and rely on the Church for silent strength. Brother Kern said the answer is not another document or program – although those things may be helpful – but witnesses willing to lead by example.

“Our world, our Church, and especially our young people, need witnesses. Witnesses who prove irrefutably, through their words and actions, that Jesus Christ dwells with quiet fire in their hearts.”

 

Reform bill the ‘first step’ to restorative prison justice, advocates say

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 07:00

Washington D.C., May 24, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. House of Representatives has passed prison reform legislation that would integrate faith-based programs into federal prisons to help prisoners prepare to successfully reenter society.

The First Step Act was authored by Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and has the goal of incentivizing prisoner participation in vocational and rehabilitative programs. Lawmakers approved the bipartisan legislation by a 360-59 vote on May 22.

“I'm thrilled to see such bipartisan support for the First Step Act,” said James Ackerman, president of Prison Fellowship, the largest prison ministry in the United States.

“We have a duty as a society,” continued Ackerman, “to implement a more restorative approach to criminal justice -- one where people become healthier and more productive citizens when they return to society after serving time in prison then when they went into prison.”

The First Step Act calls for the implementation of individualized risk assessment interviews in federal prisons to better address each inmate’s personal needs, Prison Fellowship Vice President Craig DeRoche explained to CNA.

“For one person it, it might be addiction, for another it might be anger management and other issues to work through while they are incarcerated so that when they leave they are transformed and better suited for employability and success," said DeRoche.

This has proven successful at the state level in places like Texas, where it has “reduced expense and it has transformed lives in restored families and healing communities,” according to DeRoche.

Prison Fellowship operates in 428 prisons throughout the country. Their staff have seen many prisoners lives transformed by their faith-based programming.

Tiheba Williams-Bain previously served time in a federal prison in Texas. She explained to CNA that the skill-building and faith-based programming that she participated in positively impacted her life.

“I took advantage of every opportunity that was accorded to me while I was in prison to help me get better,” said Williams-Bain.

“It helped me navigate through the system, as well as my own self-doubt and insecurities that I had about myself,” she continued.

 Williams-Bain added that rehabilitation requires more than programs available, saying “it comes from the mindset of the person that utilizes the programs.”

Prison Fellowship Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Craig DeRoche said that it was only through Christ that he was able to recover from 29 years of addiction.

He said that is why he believes it is significant that the First Step Act “affirmatively states that faith-based programs will be welcomed into the prisons as a solution.”

“No person is beyond Christ's touch and healing grace and offer of redemption,” said DeRoche.

“It doesn't matter if it is a non-violent criminal or a low-level  or a violent criminal that has done horrible things, we've seen that Christ can make a person new again,” he continued.

The First Step Act will likely face opposition from both sides in the Senate, but it has President Donald Trump’s support.

At the White House Prison Reform Summit on May 18, President Trump said, “At the heart of our prison reform agenda is expanding prison work and the programs so that inmates can reenter society with the skills to get a job. We also want more mental health services so released inmates can cope with the challenges of life on the outside.”

The president continued, “Get a bill to my desk.  I will sign it.”

 

A Catholic mom made a big difference in her community – by speaking up

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 02:29

Denver, Colo., May 24, 2018 / 12:29 am (CNA).- Abriana Chilelli is a Catholic mother of four children who lives in Denver, Colo.

Every day on their daily route to school, she and her kids would drive by a strip club downtown that featured a parked van with pornographic images of two women.

While disturbed by the images, especially on behalf of her children, Chilelli initially believed she would not be able to do anything to change it.

“The van was parked on the club’s private parking lot, but was directly facing the street passing by. It infuriated me when I saw it, but we live in a city and society which I assumed would not be offended by the image,” Chilelli told CNA.

“So, I figured what could I possibly do on a city level to get it taken down?” she continued.

However, the images on the van continued to bother Chilelli. She tried distracting her kids every time they passed by the strip club, but eventually they noticed the overt poster of two women “engaged in an obviously sexual act.”

“I got mad – furious – that my children, residents of this city, have an offensive image directed at their eye level every day that advertises the objectification of women and uses women’s bodies to advertise pornography,” Chilelli said.

Motivated to make a change, she began to research city zoning codes and found a few that she believed the strip club might be violating. She called the police non-emergency line to file a report against the club, but the police officer told her that the poster was “not violating public indecency laws in regards to clothing.”

Chilelli did not stop there, however. She took her complaints to her city councilman, who then passed her along to another councilman. Eventually, she received a response saying that the issue was being investigated.

“I expected the councilman to echo what the police officer initially told me over the phone,” she said.

But a few weeks later, Chilelli received news that the city’s Community Planning and Development Zoning board “found the club’s billboard to be out of compliance with Denver Zoning Code,” and was issuing a formal notice to the strip club.

A few days later, the van with the pornographic images was gone.

Looking back on the experience, Chilelli reflected on the need for Catholics to speak up “to proclaim what is true, good and beautiful.”

“It’s important to speak up about issues like these…I often lament the immorality of our culture at large, which for me often ends in just that – lamenting,” Chilelli said, noting that to simply “wish away the problem…doesn’t actually help.” 

“I am quick to forget that I also exist in these public spaces – that my opinion and understanding about the truth of the body also exists in this public sphere we all exist together in, and that my rights as a citizen to not have to view offensive images should also be respected by our city, state, and federal codes and laws,” she continued.

Chilelli hopes that others will be encouraged by the idea that just one voice can promote change.

“[The experience] helped me realize that we can impact and affect change, despite how insurmountable the degradation of the culture seems,” she said. 

Chilelli added that this particular issue was especially important to speak out against because of the confusion fostered by a culture that believes the body is for sexual gratification, exploitation, and consumption.

“I want to encourage others to not passively accept the lies our culture tells us about our bodies, to not passively accept the lies our culture tries to teach our children about their bodies.”

She particularly called upon Catholics to share the truths of their faith, which she sees as a logical response to much of the world’s confusion.

“What I do think is important is that Catholics speak the language of the culture and do their best to identify areas where our culture is seeking truth, so we can speak the Gospel message to our very confused society, bringing light to what is so very dark about our culture’s understanding of the body and human sexuality.”
 
 
Editor’s note: Chilelli is related to CNA’s editor-in-chief, JD Flynn, who was not involved in the reporting or editing of this article.

 

 

Augustine Institute releases video series on the Eucharist

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 00:49

Denver, Colo., May 23, 2018 / 10:49 pm (CNA).- The wealth of the Catholic Church’s teachings and traditions can be challenging for many to understand, which is why the Augustine Institute has released a new video series focused on the Eucharist.

“Catholicism is so vast and deep, learning it can be overwhelming,” Dr. Tim Gray, president of the Augustine Institute, in an interview with CNA.

“But if there is one thing that we can teach Catholics, one thing that holds all our faith together and makes it stick for folks, that is understanding God’s presence in the Eucharist,” Gray continued, adding that “no other teaching can be so uplifting and tangible for people’s spirituality than this mystery, which is why the Church calls it the sum and summit of our faith.”

The Augustine Institute is a Denver-based graduate school and organization which aims to serve the Church through academic and parish programs in light of St. John Paul II’s call to the New Evangelization.

The video series, titled “Presence,” is available for purchase and was released by the Augustine Institute as part of their sacramental video series. It follows the succession of their previous video programs on marriage, baptism, and reconciliation.

“The next in line was the Eucharist,” Gray said.

“We did not want to start with the Eucharist because we knew it was the most important, so in a sense the other sacramental programs prepared us to approach this treatment of the Eucharist so that we could give it our best treatment,” Gray continued.

The series explores the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist through its institution at the Last Supper and its role in the Catholic faith. It is available in two editions – one for personal use and one for group use in parishes.

The personal edition includes three episodes and an explanation of the Mass for children. The parish edition is aimed at sacramental preparation and catechesis and also includes an apologetics section. The series also comes with leader kits and guides, as well as a personal participant guide.

Gray explained that each episode begins with a true story “that is both compelling and dramatic.” His personal favorite of the series are the beginning segments of episodes two and three, “which shows the incredible story of an amazing protestant minister and Jewish woman who encounter the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist.”

Gray went on to say that he hopes viewers will deepen their understanding of the Eucharist through the video series and be reawakened to the beauty of its mystery.

“The Mass and Eucharist is central to Christian life, but too often we assume that everyone understands this mystery when they don’t,” Gray noted.

“This series aims to help open eyes to understand the depth of mystery found in God’s amazing presence, but also rekindle a fire for those of us who believe but need to be reawakened to the tremendous gift we have in the Eucharist,” he continued.

“If Catholics understand this one thing, they will not leave the Church.”

Foreign bishops respond to German intercommunion proposal

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 20:04

Philadelphia, Pa., May 23, 2018 / 06:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several bishops from outside Germany have critiqued a proposal to allow Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive communion in German dioceses under some limited circumstances, citing the proposal’s effects on their own local Churches.

The proposal has been championed by Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, who announced in February that the German bishops’ conference would publish a pastoral handout that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics "in individual cases" and "under certain conditions" to receive Holy Communion, provided they "affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist”.

But the proposal was questioned by seven German bishops, who asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith whether the question can be decided on the level of a national bishops' conference, or if rather "a decision of the Universal Church" is required in the matter.

When several bishops from Germany visited Rome May 3, an inconclusive meeting ended with the Vatican sending the Germans back, saying Pope Francis wants the bishops to come to an agreement among themselves.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia was pointed in his criticism of the proposal in an essay published May 23 at First Things, raising doctrinal concerns regarding what it would mean to allow these non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist.

Chaput explains that while bishops everywhere have disagreements, he believes the situation in Germany to be different due to both the “global prominence of the controversy,” as well as the doctrinal issues. He added that “What happens in Germany will not stay in Germany. History has already taught us that lesson once,” citing the effects of Martin Luther’s schism.

“The essence of the German intercommunion proposal is that there would be a sharing in holy communion even when there is not true Church unity,” writes Chaput, noting that there are serious difference between Protestant theology and Catholic theology, including debate over the divinity of Christ among some more liberal Protestants.

Chaput disagrees with the proposal, as it would fundamentally redefine what the Church is as well as who she is, given that the Eucharist “is the sign and instrument of ecclesial unity.”

The German proposal would, “intentionally or not”, then, be “the first stage in opening communion to all Protestants, or all baptized persons, since marriage ultimately provides no unique reason to allow communion for non-Catholics.”

Admitting Protestant spouses of Catholics to Communion would "adopt a Protestant notion of ecclesial identity" for the Catholic Church, in which only baptism and a belief in Christ would be necessary to receive. Chaput questions if the Protestant spouse would have to also profess belief in other sacraments, such as holy orders. If this were not the case, Chaput suggests that perhaps the German bishops do not believe this sacrament relies on apostolic succession, which would be a “much deeper error.”

The proposal also “severs the vital link between communion and sacramental confession,” he stated.

“Presumably it does not imply that Protestant spouses must go to confession for serious sins as a prelude to communion. But this stands in contradiction to the perennial practice and express dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church, the Council of Trent, and the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the ordinary magisterium. It implies, in its effect, a Protestantization of the Catholic theology of the sacraments.”

Chaput writes that the intercommunion practice would do nothing more than insert a lie into what should be a profound encounter with Christ.

“To insert a falsehood into the most solemn moment of one’s encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist -- to say by one’s actions,’I am in communion with this community’ when one is demonstrably not in communion with that community -- is a lie, and thus a serious offense before God.”

Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht was critical of the pope’s request that the German bishops come to a consensus. Writing in the National Catholic Register May 5, Eijk said Pope Francis’ response was “completely incomprehensible,” as the doctrine of the Eucharist has not changed and cannot change, even with unanimity among a bishops’ conference.

“The practice of the Catholic Church, based on her faith, is not determined and does not change statistically when a majority of an episcopal conference votes in favor of it, not even if unanimously,” wrote Eijk.

Instead, Eijk says that he thinks Pope Francis should have been more direct to the German episcopal conference, and should have instead given them “clear directives, based on the clear doctrine and practice of the Church.”

Eijk’s comments were echoed by Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, who said May 23 at the Catholic Register it was “puzzling” that Pope Francis instructed Germany’s bishops to come to a unanimous decision on the issue.

“This kind of open communion is against Catholic teaching and from what I can see in non-Catholic congregations that follow a discipline of ‘open communion,’ it is also spiritually and pastorally unfruitful,” said Prendergast.

He noted that people in his local Church have already been asking about the German proposal.

Prendergast believes there should be more teaching on the benefit of attending Mass without receiving the Eucharist, as well as what it means “to be properly disposed and in the state of grace.”

“We need to invest more in receiving the sacraments worthily and fruitfully. This is true for the Eucharist, but also for Baptism and Confirmation,” Prendergast added.

“In Holy Communion we receive the Lord, and so, to receiving worthily, we need to be fully open to Him and connected to His Church, visibly and invisibly, institutionally and internally. That and nothing less is Catholic teaching.”

As a fellow Jesuit, Archbishop Prendergast also spoke to Pope Francis, thanking him “for reminding us that accompanying people through their lives, especially in dark times, is essential for being a priest.”

“We Jesuits always have to remember that most Catholics are not Jesuits — a fact we tend to overlook sometimes,” he added. “Our spirituality is not for everyone … For me, becoming a bishop was a real change, for then I had to recognize the whole spectrum of theologies, spiritualities, ministries and charisms present in the diocese entrusted to me. Through this I came to realize what a great gift doctrine is for the Church, enabling it to be one, holy, and catholic.”

The Code of Canon Law already provides that in the danger of death or if “some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

Trump at SBA gala: 'Vote for love' and 'vote for life'

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 14:23

Washington D.C., May 23, 2018 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Delivering the keynote address at the Susan B. Anthony List’s Campaign for Life Gala, President Donald Trump emphasized the importance of electing pro-life candidates in the upcoming November midterm elections.

“Between now and November,” said Trump, “we must work together to elect more lawmakers who share our values, cherish our heritage, and proudly stand for life.”

Susan B. Anthony List is a network of organizations that includes a PAC supporting the election of pro-life candidates to Congress.

Trump’s May 22 address highlighted the steps his administration has taken to preserve and promote pro-life values and religious liberty, including the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which prevents taxpayer dollars from funding abortion overseas.

That move, said Trump, was “a little reminiscent of Ronald Reagan.”

“We’ve appointed a record number of judges who will defend our Constitution and interpret the law as written,” explained Trump, saying that he was likely to have the “all-time record for the appointment of judges.”

Early in his presidency, Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch, widely supported by pro-life advocates, wrote a 2004 dissertation at the University of Oxford on euthanasia and assisted suicide, under the supervision of Catholic legal scholar John Finnis.

Trump used the gala to officially announce that his administration has proposed a rule to prohibit Title X funds from going to abortion clinics.

“For decades, American taxpayers have been wrongfully forced to subsidize the abortion industry” through these funds, Trump told the crowd, who gave him a standing ovation.

“We have kept another promise.”

If the rule becomes policy, clinics such as Planned Parenthood would not be eligible to receive federal Title X funds for family planning services unless they decide to stop performing abortions.

Shifting gears to the upcoming elections, Trump said that his goal is to pass a nationwide ban on abortion after 20 weeks gestation. A bill to that effect has already passed the House of Representatives, but remains stalled in the Senate and is unlikely to pass.

In order for this bill to become law, Trump said the country needs to elect Republicans to Congress, because “the Democratic Party is far outside the American mainstream.” He specifically cited Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Heidi Heitcamp (D-ND), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) as four senators up for reelection who voted against the abortion bill. Each of those senators represents a state Trump won in the 2016 election.

“We are nine votes away from passing the 20-week abortion bill in the Senate, so we have to get them out there,” Trump told the crowd.

“Democrats like to campaign as moderates at election time, but when they go to Washington, they always vote for the radical Pelosi agenda down the line,” said Trump to applause, before adding “Can you imagine having Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House?”

Trump warned the crowd against growing complacent going into this November’s midterms, saying that unless the Republicans are able to maintain their majorities in the House and senate, it will be impossible to appoint pro-life judges and pass pro-life legislation.

“Every values voter must be energized, mobilized, and engaged, said the president. “You have to get out there.”

“So this November, vote for family. Vote for love. Vote for faith and values. Vote for country. And vote for life.“

Although Trump’s remarks were decidedly partisan, the Susan B. Anthony List is not directly affiliated with a political party, and has supported pro-life candidates from both major political parties. The PAC supported Rep. Steve Lipinski (D-IL) in a contentious 2017 primary election.

 

Ninja priest? Meet the unlikely new contestant on a hit TV show

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 02:45

Little Rock, Ark., May 23, 2018 / 12:45 am (CNA).- Among the contestants on season 10 of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, there’s one who stands out.

In addition to being a physical trainer, Father Stephen Gadberry is also a Catholic priest. He hopes that his participation in the upcoming season of American Ninja Warrior will make the clergy appear more human and available.

Physical activity can be a “simple way to start a conversation with a spiritual leader, with a pastor, where [people] may be too nervous or hesitant to start [deeper] conversations right off the bat,” he told CNA.

Contestants on the hit NBC show compete in obstacles courses of increasing difficulty, testing their strength, agility, and skill for a shot at $1 million and the title of “American Ninja Warrior.” The final round takes place on the Las Vegas strip, where participants must complete – among other obstacles – a 75-foot rope climb in under 30 seconds.

Fr. Gadberry was challenged to apply for the show by Sean Bryan, a two-time previous contestant who drew attention for donning a shirt bearing the colors of the papal flag and words “Papal Ninja.”

The Arkansas priest applied for the show in December and two months later received an invitation to participate in the preliminary round in Dallas. Fr. Gadberry said he “would be a bad steward of God’s gifts if [he] didn’t humbly and gratefully accept this opportunity as a moment” to proclaim the Gospel.

“[Evangelizing] is the primary reason for me doing this. The Lord tells us to go out and make disciples of all nations,” he said. “As this platform has stumbled into my lap…I can further deliver the message of the Gospel that I am supposed to as a priest.”

The priest serves as pastor for two parishes in the Arkansas Delta: St. Cecilia Church in Newport and St. Mary Church in Batesville. Having been raised on a farm, Gadberry said he grew up loving hard physical labor. Later in the military, he said he was introduced to the fitness regimen CrossFit.

Gadberry works out for 1-2 hours per day, but said that his workouts do not interfere with his priestly ministry, because he rarely watches television and schedules his exercise regime around his duties as a priest.

While he knows other priests who relax by watching television or building in their workshop, Father Gadberry said exercise has become for him a form of recreation that opens doors for spiritual conversations in the community.

“It has given people opportunities … to start conversations on faith, where before they may have been too intimidated to approach a priest or go to church.”

People periodically ask for his advice on lifting techniques, and once dialogue has been established, conversations sometimes turn toward spiritual and personal questions – ranging from struggles with adultery to trouble with teenagers at home.

Additionally, he said, physical activities take him to what Pope Francis has called “the peripheries.” Besides attending to sick and visiting patients in hospital, the priest is heavily involved with prison ministry. There, he has been able to exercise with inmates, building trust and initiating vulnerable conversations.

“The whole time, we are talking about life problems and struggles,” he said. “The guards loved it because they saw it was changing the guys I was working out with.”

The priest cautioned against judging people who exercise as prideful, stressing that taking care of the body is a form of stewardship.

“Often times, people will stereotype a priest or religious or someone who is devout in their faith as being uber spiritual,” to the point of neglecting the body, he said, warning that this not Catholic teaching.

He added that dietary and exercise disciplines have a correlation to the spiritual life “because virtues are developed through physical discipline.”

Whether they face physical or spiritual obstacles, Fr. Gadberry advised individuals to take challenges one step at a time, rather than stressing too much about the end goal.

“The whole mood of this ninja warrior thing is all about conquering obstacles. You’re not going to get the last obstacle, to hit the buzzer, until you get over the obstacle that is right in front of you,” he said.

“You have enough to worry about, so it doesn’t make sense to stress about the obstacles way off in the future. Just deal with the one you got right in front of you.”

The 10th season of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior will premiere on May 30.
 
 

 

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