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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 1 hour 46 min ago

At USCCB conference, advocate explains immigrant recruitment fraud

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 21:00

Washington D.C., Dec 6, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- An immigrant rights group hopes the Maryland legislature will protect migrant workers in the state from labor trafficking and fraud by banning recruitment fees, licensing recruiters for jobs, and prohibiting discrimination in recruitment.

It is fairly common for migrant workers to be charged a fee by a recruiter to be matched with a job in the United States.

But some migrants have reported paying the fee for a promised job that does not really exist. In other scams, a job is real, but the work is very different than the initial job description.

Rachel Micah-Jones, founder and executive director of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc., a transnational migrant rights organization based in Mexico and the United States, explained to CNA that a labor trafficking and fraud bill is important for Maryland because of the number of foreign workers in the state.

Michah-Jones says a labor-trafficking bill could create a system of licensing for recruiters, and a registry of recruitment agencies. This bilingual registry would be a way for a potential worker to verify that the job they are being offered actually exists and that the terms of employment are what they are expecting. This registry would also be a way to track employers, create a level of oversight, and crack down on labor trafficking.

Micah-Jones spoke Dec. 6 on a panel at the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services “Justice for Immigrants” conference held in Arlington, Va.

While similar bills have been passed in California and New Jersey, Micah-Jones highlighted the importance of this legislation for the Old Line State. Maryland is “a big destination state” for international workers, she explained, and has “the full alphabet soup” of visa holders who work in industries across the state.

“This bill is really important because it would prohibit the charging of fees for workers who are recruited to work in the state of Maryland,” she said. These recruitment fees make migrant workers more vulnerable to abuse, as they are indebted to their employer. Other times, these workers may be discouraged or afraid to speak out about abuse on the job due to fear of losing their visa.

These types of fees “need to be eradicated,” said Micah-Jones. Nearly 37,000 guest workers came to work in Maryland in 2016. The largest percentage of these workers were in the United States on J-1 visas, and worked as au pairs, camp counselors, or in internships.  

In addition to the elimination of fees, a bill could also add transparency to the international labor recruitment system, which Micah-Jones said is “crucial” for the prevention of fraud.

Micah-Jones thinks that the passage of such a bill would be a “huge step forward” to increasing transparency and accountability for recruiters who are bringing workers to Maryland.

“Many workers are recruited for jobs that oftentimes that don’t exist, (even) after paying for those jobs,” she added.

 

What is the Apostles' Creed, anyway? A CNA Explainer

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 20:01

Denver, Colo., Dec 6, 2018 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- During Wednesday's funeral for George H.W. Bush, US President Donald Trump made headlines when he did not recite the Apostles' Creed. Supporters and critics of the president speculated on what his omission might have meant.

But the occasion raises another important question: What is the Apostles’ Creed, and what does it mean?  

The Apostles' Creed is a developed expression of the faith handed down by the apostles, which originated in Rome and is used by the Catholic Church and the ecclesial communities of the West.

The creed took shape in the second or third century in connection with baptism, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Benedict XVI, wrote in his 1968 work Introduction to Christianity.

Catechumens in those centuries were asked successively if they believed in each of the three persons of the Trinity, responding, “I believe”.

“Thus the oldest form of the confession of faith takes the shape of a tripartite dialogue, of question and answer, and is, moreover, embedded in the ceremony of baptism,” Ratzinger wrote.

The middle section of the creed, concerning God the Son, was expanded in the second, or, probably, third century, and it was in the fourth century that a continuous text, detached from the question and answer format, began to emerge.

The text of the Apostles' Creed was finalized in Gaul during the ecclesiastical reforms of Charlemagne in the ninth century. That text was received in Rome, and the creed has been used in the same form ever since.

Ratzinger noted that the Apostles’ Creed is focused on salvation history and Christology, and is rooted in the ecclesiastical form of faith: that “faith demands unity and calls for the fellow believer; it is by nature related to a Church.”

The creed was treated by the early Church as a kind of symbolum, a tradition whereby a ring, staff, or tablet would be broken in half, and the corresponding halves used as identification for guests, messengers, or treater partners.

“Possession of the corresponding piece entitled the holder to receive a thing or simply to hospitality. A symbolum is something which points to its complementary other half and thus creates mutual recognition and unity. It is the expression and means of unity,” according to Ratzinger.

“In the description of the creed or profession of faith as the symbolum we have at the same time a profound interpretation of its true nature. For in fact this is just what the original meaning or aim of dogmatic formulations in the Church was: to facilitate a common profession of faith in God, common worship of him.”

The Apostles' Creed's connection to a dialogue between the Church and a catechumen during the ceremony of baptism is thus reflective of the communal nature of faith, which arises in the Church.

It also demonstrates that it is in worship that doctrine “assumes its proper place,” Ratzinger wrote, and that the Church “belongs necessarily to a faith whose significance lies in the interplay of common confession and worship.”

According to the Pope emeritus, the Church herself “holds the faith only as a symbolum ... which signifies truth only in its endless reference to something beyond itself, to the quite other.”

This profession of faith was called the Apostles' Creed at least as early as 390, when a council headed by St. Ambrose used the term in a letter to St. Siricius.

A legend holds that it is known as the Apostles' Creed because it includes 12 articles, each of which was contributed by an apostle before their dispersal.

This legend “has the disadvantage of calling attention to a division ... into twelve articles,” Henri de Lubac wrote in The Christian Faith, “whereas the structure of the Creed is tripartite because Christian faith is essentially faith in the indivisible Trinity.”

Moreover, this legend was discredited when at the Council of Florence in the 15th century, the Latins were surprised to find that the Greeks did not use the Apostles' Creed.

The Apostles' Creed has not been received by the Eastern Orthodox because it was not a subject of the first seven ecumenical councils; their sole profession of faith is the Nicene Creed. This has led at least a few journalists to wonder if perhaps Trump is seeking admission to an Eastern Church.

The Apostles' Creed was used liturgically in the Latin rite of the Church until 1955. Prior to that year's reform of the general calendar and the rubrics of the Roman Breviary, it was recited at the beginning of Matins and Prime, at the end of Compline, and during the preces of Prime and Compline during certain seasons.

 

Statistical analysis seeks context for Pa. grand jury report

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 19:13

Philadelphia, Pa., Dec 6, 2018 / 05:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A new statistical analysis seeks to contextualize data about child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania, four months after a grand jury report detailed hundreds of abuse allegations in six of the state’s diocese, spanning nearly eight decades.

To “properly understand the import” of the grand jury’s findings, the statistical analysis compares the number of abuse allegations to other institutions during similar time periods, and seeks to better understand when most of the cases of alleged abuse took place.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia commissioned the analysis, which was conducted by the law firm Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP.

The 884-page grand jury report, released Aug. 14, was written by 23 grand jurors who spent 18 months investigating the six dioceses with the help of the FBI, examining half a million pages of documents in the process. The six diocese are Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton.

The report claimed to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 301 credibly accused priests and presents a devastating portrait of efforts by Church authorities to ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations - either to protect accused priests or to spare the Church scandal.

Despite the high number of abuse cases mentioned in the grand jury report, the statistical analysis focused on “factual information related to 680 separate allegations of abuse over an 84 year period,” spanning from 1934 to the present.

The details of the remaining cases, such as dates of the alleged abuse, the analysis said, were so “deficient” that they could not be included.

Of the 680 cases studied whose cases were tied to specific years, 23 cases, or roughly 3 percent, involved allegations of abuse that took place after the 2002 adoption of the Charter for the Protection Children and Young People. The Diocese of Greensburg did not report any alleged incidents that took place after 2002.

The most recent alleged abuse incident described in the grand jury report, to the extent that dates for the allegations were provided, is from 2013. The average year that each alleged incident of abuse in the grand jury report ended was 1979, the analysis says.

The analysis notes that while the grand jury report did not identify any priests with substantiated claims of sexual abuse of minors who are still in active ministry, there are three active priests from the Diocese of Pittsburgh who have been accused of sexual abuse, but the allegations were not substantiated.

By means of comparison, the authors write that in 2016, the year the grand jury began its investigation, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services identified over 3,000 total substantiated allegations of sexual abuse during the calendar year— more than three times the number of total allegations against the Catholic Church, both substantiated and unsubstantiated, identified by the grand jury over an eighty year time span.

“What is true in Pennsylvania is also true on a national level,” the analysis reads, noting that nationally, 24.7 percent of women and 16 percent of men have experienced sexual abuse during their childhood.

“Evidence shows that sexual abuse of minors is a huge epidemic that touches every major institution in society. Further, by all accounts, few institutions have done as much as the Catholic Church to learn from past failures and take steps to prevent abuse going forward.”

Citing a 2007 New York Times report, the analysis says that insurance companies receive around 260 reports per year of sexual abuse of a minor in U.S. Protestant churches.

“This annual number is more than the total accusations against Catholic clergy since 2005,” the authors assert.

And according to a 2004 Education Week study, 290,000 students experienced some sort of physical sexual abuse by a public school employee from 1991 to 2000.

The analysis also compared this figure to the estimated 10,677 allegations of abuse against priests and deacons from 1950 to 2002, which was detailed in a 2004 report from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

 

'Have to kill me first': Florida woman refuses to remove Guadalupe from mobile home

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 17:39

Bradenton, Fla., Dec 6, 2018 / 03:39 pm (CNA).- Millie Francis almost died once. She’s willing to do it again.

This time, she says, it would be for Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Property managers at the retirement community trailer park where Francis lives in west-central Florida have reportedly demanded that she remove a piece of plywood from her mobile home, on which she has painted an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

But from the sound of it, they will have a hard time getting her to comply.

“They’ll have to kill me first,” Francis, 85, told the property management authorities, according to the Bradenton Herald.

“You’re not going to tell this old lady what to do,” she told the newspaper. “This is America. As long as I have two arms and two legs, I’m going to do it.”

Francis said she feels blessed to even be alive, after a scrape with death during surgery 16 years ago, during which she says she was declared clinically dead for 15 minutes.

Her fierce devotion to her Catholic faith and to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron saint of the Americas, have remained strong, and she said she’ll go to court if she has to. She does not plan to remove her painting.  

The painting of the Virgin Mary was done on a piece of plywood that replaced a window Francis had removed from her mobile home. She said wanted to replace the window with plywood because of a nosy neighbor, and because light from security guards’ flashlights bothered her at night.

Francis said she obtained permission for the removal from Vanguard Property Management at Bradenton Tropical Palms, the 55+ trailer park where she lives.

The inspiration for the image came to her during Mass, she said, when she was praying about what to do with the piece of plywood that would cover the space where he window once was.

“I don’t want to say I had a vision or anything like that, but felt enlightened and received the inspiration from our Lady of Guadalupe to paint her image. So I promised that I would,” she told the Bradenton Herald.

Janet Nowakowski, a Vanguard property manager based in Tampa, demanded that Francis remove the painted plywood, allegedly because Francis did not have the window removal project completed by Oct. 31, per her agreement with property management.

Vanguard representatives also told reporters that Francis did not fill out an architectural request form, or seek permission from the trailer park's architectural review committee, before painting the Blessed Virgin Mary on the plywood that replaced the window.

Francis said that the window removal was completed on time, and believes the order to remove the plywood image is an act of discrimination against her Catholic faith.

Other neighbors have decorated their lawns and trailers with all kinds of things, she said, and her painting “isn’t hurting anyone.”

“There’s all kinds of stuff out there, but this is because I’m Catholic and it’s wrong,” she said. “With all the things going on in the world, I would think there would be more important things to worry about than this.”

On November 9, lawyers representing Vanguard gave Francis 30 days to remove the image. The deadline is fast-approaching - and falls three days before the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is on December 12.

 But Francis refuses to budge.

According to reporting by Mark Young at the Bradenton Herald: “Documents indicate that Francis did have permission from the committee to replace the window, and she was inspired to have the painting done while at church at the last minute. Francis said she not only completed the project on time, but also there is nothing in the park rules regarding decorating after the fact.”

CNA has contacted Tropical Palms trailer park for a copy of their property guidelines, but did not receive a response by press time.

More than 22 million Americans live in manufactured housing, the Manufactured Housing Institute reports. Manufactured home residents have a median annual income of less than $30,000. Mobile home parks are often owned by large corporations or distant landlords, and managed by third-party property management corporations.

Francis believes she has followed the rules at the trailer park where she lives.

While the stress of going to court has been affecting the octogenarian's health, she said she plans to decorate for Christmas and shine a laser on the image.

She does not plan on re-applying for permission for the project. She said she has appealed to her local Knights of Columbus chapter, through her parish at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, for help.

“I just don’t know anything about this legal stuff,” she told the Bradenton Herald.

“They say I’ll have to pay their attorney fees if they prevail in court. I can’t afford this. I need help and I don’t know what will happen to me, but I do know I’m not taking it down.”

Hours before execution, Tennessee governor rejects killer’s plea for mercy

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 15:43

Nashville, Tenn., Dec 6, 2018 / 01:43 pm (CNA).- Hours before David Miller is scheduled to be executed in Tennessee’s electric chair, the state’s governor has rejected Miller’s request that his sentence be commuted to life in prison.

Gov. Bill Haslam released a one-sentence statement Dec. 6, saying that “after careful consideration of David Earl Miller’s clemency request, I am declining to intervene in this case.”

Miller, 61, was convicted of the 1981 murder of Lee Standifer, whom he bludgeoned to death and stabbed. He was sentenced to death, and chose to be executed by the electric chair rather than by the state’s controversial lethal injection protocol.

Attorneys for Miller filed a clemency petition with the governor last week. The petition said that Miller “accepts responsibility for the death of his friend.”

The petition also argued that Miller suffers from “severe mental illness” that renders him “far outside that group of offenders who are the worst and for whom the death penalty is reserved.”

Miller’s attorneys said that sentencing courts had not considered “years of horrific physical abuse, sexual assault and neglect,” or their ensuing effects, when the man was sentenced to death.

Court records say that as a child Miller was routinely beaten by an alcoholic stepfather, and Miller says he was serially sexually abused by family members, including his mother, beginning at age 5. His family disputes his claims.

According to The Tennessean, Miller attempted suicide at age 6, and spent most of his childhood in state institutions. After a brief stint in the Marine Corps, he became a drifter, doing manual labor and hitchhiking.

In the early 1980s, Miller lived briefly with a Baptist pastor and his family in Tennessee, and during that time he met Standifer. She was, like Miller, in her early twenties. She was mildly brain damaged, and lived at the YWCA in Knoxville. The two became friends.

On May 20, 1981, Miller killed her. He was using LSD at the time, and drinking. He claims not to know exactly what happened, though he acknowledges his responsibility for Standifer’s death. He fled, and was arrested a week later, passing counterfeit bills in Ohio.

Miller’s attorneys have argued that Standifer’s death was the result of a psychotic fury, the result of post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological illnesses, manifested amid an argument between the two.

He was convicted in 1982 and sentenced to death.

Tennessee's bishops say that while “there was absolutely no justification for the crime Mr. Miller committed 38 years ago,” the death penalty is not necessary.

In a Dec. 5 statement, Bishops Richard Stika of Knoxville, Mark Spalding of Nashville, and Joseph Kurtz, apostolic administrator of Memphis, wrote that “the Church teaches that the death penalty is simply not necessary when society has other means to protect itself and provide a just punishment for those who break civil laws. Rather than serving as a path to justice, the death penalty contributes to the growing disrespect for human life.”

“We believe that all those convicted of terrible crimes still retain their human dignity and deserve a chance to live,” they added.

“To recognize the dignity of the lives of those on death row is not to deny the dignity of the lives of their victims or their grieving loved ones left behind. The lives of victims and sinners alike should be respected; the taking of another life will serve no purpose but vengeance.”

Pope Francis is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty, revising in August the Catechism of the Catholic Church to classify its use as “inadmissible.”

The pope’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, called leaders in 2011 to “make every effort to eliminate the death penalty.”

Pope St. John Paul II prayed publicly for universal abolition of the death penalty.

In the 1995 apostolic exhortation Evengelium vitae, he wrote that governments “ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

Haslam has declined to stop two other executions in 2018.

Miller’s legal team has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution. He is scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m., Dec. 6.

 

How one diocese is inviting people back to the Church this Christmas

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 02:54

Detroit, Mich., Dec 6, 2018 / 12:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As part of a recent evangelization outreach, the Archdiocese of Detroit is launching a Christmas campaign to welcome Catholics who may have been away from the Church.

“This is the way that we are responding to the invitation to share the Gospel with others. This is part of the transformation of being a mission-oriented diocese,” Edmundo Reyes, the archdiocese’s communication director, told CNA.

The campaign is called “Part of the Family.”  Its goal is to create a welcoming environment at Mass and encourage evangelization among the parishioners through virtual tools.

Reyes said these efforts are an extension of the pastoral letter “Unleash the Gospel” released at Pentecost last year. The letter followed several years of preparation, including a year of prayer in 2014 and a synod meeting in 2016.

He said the campaign includes three parts: evangelization training, videos, and a newly published website, specifically focused on Christmas Mass times.

“Our hope is that, with these combined efforts, people that attend Mass once a year or are there for the first time, they experience what we are calling radical hospitality,” he said.

“We target at Christmas knowing there are people who come there for the first time or they haven’t been with us for a while,” he said. “One of the things is we want to be unusually gracious and hospitable for people that come to our churches.”

The first component of the campaign was a day-long evangelization event that included discussions, training, and resource material. More than 800 people from over 120 parishes in the archdiocese attended.

According to the Detroit Catholic, one of the speakers broke down the Gospel into four essential parts. Fr. John Riccardo, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, said the Gospel’s message is on the goodness of God found in his creation, sin and its repercussions, God’s response to sin, and mankind’s response to God.

Hospitality was another major focus of the event, which was held Nov. 16. Regular Mass-goers were presented with simple steps to make people feel welcome, like greeting strangers and sitting in the middle of the pews to allow room on the outsides.

The second element of the campaign is a series of Christmas videos, focusing on the universal Catholic family and God’s incarnation, Reyes said.

“We are all part of the same family, and it’s hard to imagine, but we are celebrating God becoming part of our family. So let’s do it together,” says the narrator in the video. “This Christmas, we are thankful that you are one of us, a Catholic, part of the family.”

The first video was released on Saturday, Reyes said, and it has already received roughly 30,000 views. He said more videos will be released weekly.

In addition, paid ads will be run on spotify, youtube, and social media, inviting people to attend Christmas Mass and bring their friends and family. The ads will use geoparameters to reach people in areas near churches in the archdiocese.

The third aspect of the campaign, Reyes said, is a new website, massfinder.org, to help people navigate Christmas Mass times in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He said the website is accessible, giving people an easy way to discover Mass times and invite friends and family.

“If we want to be truly hospitable, the first encounter the people have with us is going to be trying to find out what time Christmas Mass happens.”

The website includes “share buttons” for people to send links of a specific Mass time via social media, email, or text. When it is shared, the user has access to a virtual reminder of that Mass and a map to the parish.

Especially during this season of giving, Reyes said, the most important gift that can be given is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the love of the Father.

“This is a time we celebrate the Nativity of the Lord, God becoming part of the family. And that's the theme - Part of the Family. We want make sure that people feel welcome and invited in the celebration of Jesus' birth.”
 

 

Satanist statue erected for the holidays in Illinois capitol

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 18:35

Springfield, Ill., Dec 5, 2018 / 04:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Between a Christmas tree and a menorah display in the Illinois state capitol, a statue from the Satanic Temple is standing for the holiday season.

The display shows an apple upheld by an arm which has been encircled by a snake. The words “Knowledge is the greatest gift” is written across the front of the black base.

The satanic tribute was erected at the statehouse rotunda in Springfield. Near the display is an explanation from the local government.

“The State of Illinois is required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to allow temporary, public displays in the state capitol so long as these displays are not paid for by taxpayer dollars,” it reads.

“Because the first floor of the Capitol Rotunda is a public place, state officials cannot legally censor the content of speech or displays.”

The Satanic Temple in Chicago ran a campaign on GoFundMe, calling it Snaketivity. The project funded just over its goal of $1,500. The leftover proceeds are expected to be donated to the Satanic Temple.

Organizers said the goal of the display is to “no longer allow one religious perspective to dominate the discourse in the Illinois State Capitol rotunda during the holiday season.”

The Satanic Temple was founded in 2012 in Salem, Massachusetts. The group describes itself as non-theistic and does not believe in a literal Satan. On the website, the organization said the group’s goal is to “exercise reasonable agnosticism in all things.”

The group has launched similar campaigns in the past.

In 2015, they proposed a display on the grounds of the Oklahoma state capitol. Shortly afterward, a court ordered the removal of a Ten Commandments monument on the capitol grounds, and the temple’s request was withdrawn.

They have also filed a lawsuit against the state of Missouri, challenging informational pamphlets that the state requires abortion providers to distribute. The literature reads, “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.” The Satanic Temple argued that the requirement violated its members’ religious freedom, because they believe in the inviolability of one’s body.
 

Amazon founder gives $15 million to Catholic Charities

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 17:30

Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2018 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Three Catholic charitable organizations were named as winners of $5 million grants from the charitable organization of Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos.

 

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, and Catholic Community Services of Western Washington were three of the 24 organizations selected to receive grants by the Bezos Day 1 Families Fund.

 

A total of $97.5 million was distributed amongst the selected organizations, with the grants awarded at either the $5 million or $2.5 million levels.

 

The Amazon founder and CEO launched the Bezos Day 1 Fund in September. It operates two seperate funding streams: the Families Fund which distributes grants to nonprofits combating homelessness, and the Academies Fund which seeks to create a network of preschools in low-income areas.

 

On the fund website, Bezos explains that the goal of the awards was to “shine a light and support the organizations that are doing compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter for young families in communities across the country.”

 

The selected organizations, Bezos explained, “are working on a number of initiatives that support families in need,” including the administration of homeless shelters and assistance with finding permanent housing.

 

“We hope these grants provide the additional resources these leaders and their organizations need to expand the scope and impact of their efforts.”

 

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami issued a statement expressing their gratitude to have been one of the organizations selected. The money will be used by Catholic Charities to assist the homeless in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Monroe counties.

 

“We are grateful to Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos for their generous and timely Day 1 Families Fund grant that allows Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami to be at the forefront of providing social services to children and families experiencing homelessness in the tri-county area of South Florida,” said Peter Routsis-Arroyo, CEO of Catholic Charities.

 

This grant will allow Catholic Charities to help even more children and families out of poverty, explained Routsis-Arroyo. He said that their selection “demonstrates Catholic Charities’ continued commitment and history of service to those in need.”

 

Catholic Community Services of Western Washington expressed similar sentiment. Agency Director Denny Hunthausen told Northwest Catholic that the grant is “an encouraging sign that together, we are committed to addressing this challenge” of ending homelessness in their area.

 

“[The grant] will have a considerable impact on family homelessness in Pierce County,” said Hunthausen. Over the next four years, Catholic Community Services is expected to help more than 3,600 families experiencing homelessness with the money from the grant.

 

Catholic Community Services of Western Washington operates a network of shelters, including day shelters and overnight shelters. Currently, they are not able to assist every family in need, but are hoping the grant will allow them to open up an expanded day center. They are also looking to create a mobile unit to help assist homeless families.

 

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, in a published statement on their website, also expressed gratitude at their selection. The money “will help us meet the needs of so many families experiencing homelessness in our community,” said Sister Marjorie Hebert, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans.

 

There are currently hundreds of people in New Orleans who are in need of a place to live, explained Hebert, and her organization is “committed to serving those in need.”

 

“This grant will be critical in helping us continue to provide a comprehensive network of social services that connects our clients to resources and acts as a springboard to self-sufficiency.”

National Institutes of Health to not renew contract over fetal tissue use

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The National Institutes of Health will not renew a contract with the University of California San Francisco over concerns about the project’s use of fetal tissue.

 

The National Institutes of Health informed UCSF it will not renew a contract to conduct research into therapies for various ailments, including AIDS and Parkinson's disease, over concerns about the project’s use of fetal tissue.

 

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the decision was communicated to UCSF last week following instruction from the “highest levels.” The contract was worth approximately $2 million per year.

 

As recently as October, the expectation had been that the seven-year project would be extended for a further year. The contract, which expires Dec. 5, will now continue for a further 90 days, with not clear indication of its future beyond that point.

 

The work in the UCSF lab involves testing on what are known as “humanized mice” that have been implanted with tissues from fetal remains. This causes the mouse to develop an immune system that is similar to that of a humans.

 

The fetal tissues used in these experiments and research is obtained through abortions.

 

The decision not to renew the contract follows what the federal government called in a September statement a “comprehensive review” over the funding of research involving the use of fetal tissue. At that time, HHS said that it was seeking “adequate alternatives” to the use of fetal tissue altogether.

 

In the September statement, HHS wrote that they will work to “ensure that efforts to develop such alternatives are funded and accelerated.”

 

In November, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giror characterized the Trump administration as being “pro-life, (and) pro-science” in a letter to Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). Meadows chairs the House’s Freedom Caucus and is outspoken in his pro-life views.

 

The non-renewal of the UCSF contract comes just over two months after the government canceled a significantly smaller contract between Food and Drug Administration and Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. that also involved the creation of humanized mice.

 

Following media scrutiny of the existing contract between the FDA and Advanced Bioscience Resources, which has admitted to the “upselling” of some fetal parts obtained through abortion, the contract was canceled and HHS announced that they would review all similar programs.

Why some Camp Fire victims don't ask for help, and what parishes are doing

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 16:43

Sacramento, Calif., Dec 5, 2018 / 02:43 pm (CNA).- Though a series of devastating wildfires in California is nearly contained, Catholics engaged in relief efforts are warning that the recovery process will be long, and will disproportionately affect undocumented immigrants and the poor, who may not be able to avail themselves of government-provided services.  

Nearly 90 have died in the Northern California fire known as the Camp Fire, though the number of people still missing has dropped from thousands to a list of just 11. The fire began Nov. 8 and as of Dec. 3, the blaze was entirely contained, after having consumed 150,000 acres of land and 18,000 structures.

John Watkins, director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Sacramento, told CNA that several local aid organizations have been coordinating efforts to help survivors, setting up booths and holding events at the Disaster Resource Center (DRC) in Chico, CA.

Participating groups include local St. Vincent de Paul chapters, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Charities of California and Northern Valley Catholic Social Service (NVCSS). The Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the local Mexican Consulate are also involved.

“NVCSS will primarily be involved in the second phase of the disaster recovery with Crisis Counseling and Disaster Case Management,” Watkins told CNA in an email.  

“They will likely be hiring dozens of disaster case managers to respond to the Camp Fire. This may not happen for another 4-6 months. The [disaster case management] program will accompany the families for 24 months until they are stabilized.”

In the meantime, Watkins said, the agency is seeking to hire a coordinator to serve families who will not qualify for federal assistance, many of whom are undocumented. He said the NVCSS immigration table at the relief center has helped at least 50 people who lost their immigration documentation in the fire.

The diocese is also providing free school tuition to about 20 students displaced by the fire.

Father Michael Ritter, pastor at St. John the Baptist parish in Chico, told CNA that over 160 members of his parish have been volunteering at the disaster center in Chico through the leadership of St. Vincent de Paul.

“They're doing intake and assessment, they're doing gift cards, we've been giving out some donated goods that we've received, and hygiene kits and whatnot...as of a couple of days ago we had done intake for more than 2,000 families,” Ritter told CNA.  

Ritter said the parish has its own drop-in center, open Friday evenings and Sundays, to help bring a variety of services to people in need. The need for housing, gift cards for groceries, and gasoline is still particularly acute, but prayer for the victims of the fire is also greatly needed, he said.

Ritter said for many undocumented members of the community in need, and even for legal immigrants who may have lost their documentation in the fire, there is a discomfort with approaching FEMA— a federal agency— at the DRC.

“Our hope is that the parish provides a place of greater confidence or trust, where people who maybe wouldn't be able to approach a federal agency for support can get the same kinds of service,” he said.

Ritter said although the parish events and resources are meant to provide help for anyone, and are not being particularly marketed to the undocumented, it is clear that “the parish provides a safer place for people who would have concerns going directly to FEMA, or for people who FEMA wouldn't be able to help.”

“What the Church does offer is help for anyone who needs help, and whether one's documented or not is not a question,” he said.  

“Our strength, particularly as a parish, is the human element in terms of meeting people and empathy, and our effort to be present...It really is incredible to be a witness to some of the great solidarity that we're seeing. This has definitely changed the culture of Butte County.”

Outside of Chico, the small California city of Paradise was almost completely destroyed by the fire. Nearly all the buildings belonging to St. Thomas More Parish succumbed to the blaze.

Jim Collins, leader of relief efforts at the parish, said volunteers have set up a call center to contact parishioners who are still unaccounted for. As of last week, the volunteers had made contact with just twenty percent of the parish list; the rest were unaccounted for, or had likely lost their landline service in the fire.

“We have an expectation of about 80% [of our 800 parishioners] burned out of their homes, and maybe 20% [of their homes] still standing,” Collins told CNA. “About 80% across the board have lost everything.”

“What we’d like to do now is to direct donations to those most in need, so we worked out kind of a triage to identify those most in need who would normally be those who did not own homes, who were living in rentals that were totally destroyed, and have no insurance compensation coming,” Collins said.

“And also those living in trailers or trailer parks, and that’s a substantial number of our parishioners because it’s kind of a low-income area up in Paradise.”

Ritter said that ongoing support will be important for people in communities like Paradise.

Although there is generally “a huge and very emotional” outpouring of support for victims of a disaster within the first 48 hours, he said, resources will still be needed in six months or a year after the fire.

While individuals and corporations have made generous donations in response to the disaster, “my big ask for people is not to lose that enthusiasm because we're talking about many months or even years for a real recovery here,” he said.

“The need for aid is going to be just as real [six months or a year from now] as it is now.”

 

'Mass of the Americas' to premiere at San Francisco cathedral

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 16:05

San Francisco, Calif., Dec 5, 2018 / 02:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Mass of the Americas, a newly-commissioned Mass composed by Frank La Rocca, will premiere Saturday for the feast of the Immaculate Conception at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco.

“The Mass of the Americas is a simultaneous tribute to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (the patroness of the United States) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (the patroness of both Mexico and all the Americas),” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has said. “It is in the high sacred music traditions of the Church, yet incorporates traditional Mexican folkloric hymns to Mary.”

The Mass will be said Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. (PST), and will be televised and livestreamed by EWTN.

La Rocca is composer-in-residence at the Benedict XVI Institute, which was founded by Archbishop Cordileone in 2014 to provide practical resources to help parishes have more beautiful and reverent liturgies, and to promote a Catholic culture in the arts.

Archbishop Cordileone had requested the Mass, desiring a Mass setting that would reflect the multicultural diversity of the Church in the Americas.

The Mass of the Americas is a parody Mass, primarily using La Guadalupana, a Mexican folk song celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is written in Spanish, Latin, English, and Nahuatl – the Uto-Aztecan language in which Our Lady of Guadalupe addressed St. Juan Diego.

In an interview at the Benedict XVI Institute's website, La Rocca noted that he and Archbishop Cordileone “were both aware, in general terms, of the musical models used by missionary priests in Mexico, or later, California; they incorporated beloved popular tunes into the total experience of the Mass,” and that the archbishop suggested the use of La Guadalupana.

“La Guadalupana has always been, and it sounds like, a typical Mexican Mariachi tune … The challenge before me was to make the tune recognizable enough so anyone paying attention would sit up and say, ‘I know that’ but stripped of the sombreros, the guitars, the crooning violins and of course the words,” La Rocca said.

He noted that such a use of folk music in classical compositions is nothing new, and was actually a notable feature of German romanticism.

The Mass of the Americas is written for a 16-voice mixed chorus, along with organ, string quartet, bells, and marimba (a percussion instrument native to the Americas).

The Communion meditation is a Nahuatl setting of the Ave Maria which uses the marimba; La Rocca has said that “there are ways of getting the marimba to sound that are unfamiliar to most people, a way that will fit right in, and that’s what I have done.”

The Mass concludes with the Marian antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater; following the singing of the antiphon, the organ continues with its tune, and the strings harmonize it with La Guadalupana.

Through its combination of sacred music traditions, folk music, and several languages, the Mass of the Americas “embodies the way Mary, our Mother, unites all of us as God’s children,” Archbishop Cordileone said.

American priest arrested in the Philippines for sexual abuse

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 12:37

Naval, Philippines, Dec 5, 2018 / 10:37 am (CNA).- An American priest was arrested in the Philippines Wednesday, amid allegations that he sexually assaulted dozens of boys over a period of decades.

The priest, Fr. Kenneth Hendricks, was arrested Dec. 5 inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Naval, Biliran, a province in the eastern part of the Phillippines. Hendricks, 78, has been in ministry in the region for nearly 40 years.

Hendricks was arrested by a joint task force of local police and U.S. Homeland Security Agents. According to PLN News, a warrant for Hendricks’ arrest was issued Nov. 11 by the U.S. District Court  for Court of Ohio. Hendricks faces federal charges for engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country, a U.S. crime.

"He did not resist arrest," provincial police director Julius Coyme told The Straits Times.

Coyme told reporters that at least seven complaints about Hendricks have been filed with police. Subsequent investigations revealed that the priest might have had as many as 50 young male victims, The Straits Times reported. Some of his alleged victims reportedly served as sacristans and altar servers for the priest.

A Diocese of Naval directory lists Hendricks as the “priest-in-charge” at the St. Isidore the Worker Mission Chapel. A 2009 report in the Cincinnati Catholic Telegraph identifies Hendricks as a Franciscan from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, headquartered in Cincinnati, could not be reached for comment.  

Hendricks is alleged to have sexually abused boys as young as 12, and police say that additional allegations continue to be investigated. He is now being held in Manila.

 

Editor's note: This story's headline originally referred to Hendricks as a "Franciscan." The headline has been changed, as reports that the priest is a member of a religious order have not been confirmed.

What does it really mean to observe Advent?

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 05:04

Denver, Colo., Dec 5, 2018 / 03:04 am (CNA).- With the first Sunday of Advent behind us, the liturgical season of preparing for Christmas is well underway.    But what does it actually mean to “observe Advent?” The observation of other liturgical seasons may be more readily apparent – Lent is clearly a time for prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving, while Christmas and Easter are clearly times for celebration.    Search Pinterest for “how to celebrate Advent” and everything from ideas for a do-it-yourself Jesse Tree, to instructions for a handmade Advent calendar bunting, to a tutorial on “how to make your own wreath from foraged materials” appears.   The penitential time of preparation before Christmas seems to have taken on a crafty life of its own over the last few years, thanks to websites such as Pinterest and Instructables. Add in a few glowing shots of your friend’s handcrafted nativity set on her Instagram feed and you’ve got a recipe for some serious Advent-envy. 
While all of these crafts and activities can help one better celebrate Christmas, it’s important not to let them distract from the true purpose of the season: preparation for the Incarnation, said Fr. Mike Schmitz, chaplain for the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth.   Fr. Schmitz told CNA that one of the things that gets easily overlooked about Advent is “that it’s actually a season of penance” and as such, the Church asks us to practice prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.    “That’s kind of like the buzzkill of Advent because it’s like, ‘OK, don’t have too much fun because, remember, this is a penitential season’,” he said.    However, just because it’s a season of penance doesn’t mean we need to be somber.    “I think there’s some great ways that a person or a family can make that – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – a part of the celebration of preparation for Christmas. It doesn’t have to be a dour kind of experience,” he said.   The simplest way Catholics can prepare for Christmas, Fr. Schmitz suggested, is by going to confession during Advent.    “During Advent the faithful are asked not only to prepare themselves to celebrate Christmas, but we’re called to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus at the end of time,” he said.    “There’s a lot of good ways to do that, but I think one of the best ways a person could possibly do that is to go to confession.”   For Kathryn Whitaker of the blog, “Team Whitaker,” observing Advent is all about knowing what works best for your family.    “There are lots and lots of beautiful ideas on Pinterest and other places, but I think you have to find what suits your family and then not apologize or feel badly because someone else is doing it differently,” she said.    In an attempt to dial back the frenzy of Christmas morning, she said her family began to look for ways to serve others and be grateful for what they already have in the weeks leading up to it.   “I think for us, it’s just been about pouring a little bit more love, particularly in these next four weeks, in everything that we do.”   The Whitakers pick a local family in need to “adopt” each year by providing gifts and food, or they donate presents to Brown Santa – a tradition named for the brown uniforms members of the Travis County, Texas Sheriff’s Office wear that provides assistance to underprivileged residents, particularly during the Christmas season.   That, plus “lighting” her kindergartner’s Advent wreath – made from tissue paper and toilet paper rolls – and having a Jesse Tree, an ancient tradition of decorating a tree with ornaments that represent the story of salvation, will make up their Advent, which also includes Mass and confession.    Over the years, Whitaker and her family have adapted their Advent season to their “family season.” The year that she and her husband brought their premature son home from the hospital, for example, all they could do was put up the Christmas tree with some ornaments.   “And that was OK,” she said. “And then knowing next Advent, or the next liturgical season that comes up, you can do more. Or you can do less.”   Much like Whitaker, Bonnie Engstrom of the blog “A Knotted Life” said that the best way for a family to observe Advent is by “looking through the options and seeing what will work for them, what will help them create meaningful lessons and memories during that season of their family's life.”   “Then you just gotta walk away from the rest, appreciating that it works for some but confident that you're doing a good job.”   In recent years, the Engstroms have “scaled back our Advent activities by a ton” by just focusing on the Advent wreath and a few saints’ feast days. Festivities that many Americans typically do in the time before Christmas – such as looking at light displays, drinking cocoa and watching Christmas movies – are all saved for the actual Christmas season.    “It has greatly bolstered Christmas beyond December 25th and has brought a lot more peace and joy to our home, while greatly reducing the stress,” she said, which is a definite “win-win.”   Gradually filling the nativity scene, adding ornaments to their Jesse Tree and celebrating St. Nicholas’ feast day with her kids are all fun ways that Engstrom said she can “trick them into learning about their faith.”   While engaging her kids in celebrating Advent is important, she said observing this season has also helped her grow in her relationship with God.   “The silence, the simple beauty, the focus on preparation,” she said, “those things have really helped me create the still in my interior and exterior life for God to speak to me.”    Essentially, there’s not just one way to do Advent, and that’s fine.

This article was originally published on CNA Dec. 5, 2015.  

South Carolina lawmakers plan to advance pro-life bills

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 21:00

Columbia, S.C., Dec 4, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Several lawmakers in South Carolina have announced they will introduce pro-life bills in the state’s upcoming legislative session, set to begin next month.

Three anti-abortion laws are expected to be filed – a  bill forbidding abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, a “bill establishing fetal personhood, and a bill restricting dismemberment abortions.

Pro-life lawmakers in the state say they have been encouraged by the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the 2017 election of conservative Governor Henry McMaster.

“There’s been nobody more committed to pro-life legislation than Gov. McMaster, and there’s absolutely no reason to expect that to change in the coming legislative session,” McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes told The State.

Fetal heartbeat bills will be filed by state Rep. John McCravy and state Sen. Larry Grooms.

If it becomes law, the legislation would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which usually occurs at around six weeks.

Similar proposals introduced in prior years have required that a doctor examine for the heartbeat of a fetus before performing an abortion. If one is detected, the doctor would be prohibited from performing the abortion, with the exceptions of rape, fetal abnormalities, incest, and as a requirement to save the mother’s life.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported that over 60 percent of the abortions conducted in South Carolina in 2017 occurred after six weeks of pregnancy.

“It’s a common-sense bill. If a heart stops beating permanently, the person is dead,” said McCravy, according to The State.

“Common sense should tell us that when a heart is beating, we have a precious human life that should not be terminated.”

The fetal heartbeat bill failed to make it through the legislature in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Last year, Democratic legislators held a filibuster to stall a vote until the proposal was dropped.

Sen. Margie Matthew, an opponent of the bill, said a push for the measure would “waste its legislative capital on doing something just to please the fringes of a political party and pandering to just a few people,” The State reported.

Matthew said the state’s priorities are misplaced, noting that legislators’ efforts would be better spent toward education, port accessibility, and workforce development.

Rep. Gary Simrill, the state’s House majority leader, said the bill has a strong chance of passing through the state’s House.

State Rep. Lin Bennett  said she plans to refile a bill that will seek to ban dismemberment abortions. The procedure is used to remove the fetus in pieces and is usually served to handle abnormal fetuses or medical complications.

Senator Richard Cash will refile the Personhood Act. The bill recognizes that the right to life begins at conception and would almost outlaw abortions across the board.

According to The State, opponents to those bills have expressed that, if passed, the legislation would be likely overturned in court. Similar laws have been overturned by federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to reexamine lower court rulings.

With the recent additions to the Supreme Court, conservative legislators said the timing is right for pro-life actions.

“We have a moral obligation to defend life,” Long told The State.

“The court system is primed and ready for a good piece of pro-life legislation. Now is the time we need to be pushing and fighting to get legislation like this passed. The tide is turning.”

 

Cost of raising children a major obstacle for US families, study finds

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 19:44

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2018 / 05:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The overwhelming majority of U.S. families with children at home worry about paying their bills each month, and the cost of raising a child today is a significant factor in deciding whether to become parents, according to a recent study.

Fifty-three percent of respondents to the 2018 American Family Survey said that the cost of raising a family today is not affordable for most people.

The survey, released last week, is the fourth annual poll of American families by Deseret News and Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. The nationwide survey of 3,000 Americans examined attitudes toward marriage, family, and policy issues.

For both men and women who do not currently have children, the cost of raising a child was the top consideration in deciding whether to become parents, ranking ahead of current relationship status, desire to raise a child of one’s own, and difficulty of balancing family and career.

In addition to attaining financial stability, the majority of respondents said it is “extremely important” to be in a committed relationship – although not necessarily married – and to have good health insurance before having children.

Of those who have children at home, 73 percent say they worry about being able to pay at least one monthly bill, and 44 percent have faced an economic crisis in the last year – being unable to pay an important bill or going without food, medical care or housing due to financial difficulty.

Of those who do not have children at home, 56 percent were worried about being able to pay bills, and 30 percent had faced an economic crisis in the last year.

Among women with children who responded to the survey, 40 percent are not currently married. However, the majority of those polled in the American Family Survey – 65 percent – agreed that children are better off if they have two married parents. Majorities also agreed that marriage has financial benefits for couples and is necessary to create strong families. Only 14 percent said that marriage was a burden, and that it was out-of-date.

Republicans and black Democrats were more likely to say that it is ideal to be married before living together and having sex, while white Democrats were more likely to favor cohabitation and marriage after sex. However, the groups’ behavior was all similar – sex generally preceded living together and marriage.

Overuse of technology was seen by parents as the top issue facing teenagers. The majority of both fathers and mothers cited too much tech use as a concern, ahead of issues such as bullying, mental health, divorce, and pressure to use alcohol or drugs.

“Parents estimated that their teenage sons spent a little more than 24 hours a week playing video games, while parents of teenage girls estimated that their teenage girls spent a little less than 24 hours a week on social media,” the survey found.

The survey also examined views on migrant families who cross the border illegally, requesting asylum. Eighty-three percent of those polled said parents and children should be kept together.

Overall, the survey’s publishers said, this year’s poll shows that “respondents continue to have positive views of their own relationships and families, though they are far less optimistic about the state of marriage and families generally.”

It found that “people place much more importance on their identity as a parent or partner than other identities, such as their religion, political party, or career.”

“In this time of deep partisan identities and divisions, it can be easy to label someone as ‘right’ or ‘left,’” said Boyd Matheson, opinion editor of the Deseret News, “but our survey shows that personal experience and family life can greatly influence a person’s political beliefs, and not on strict conservative or liberal lines.”
 

'Holding the line' Pro-lifers look ahead to new Congressional session

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Pro-life legislators and organizations remain optimistic about ongoing efforts to ban abortion in the United States, despite an incoming House of Representatives, led by a Democratic majority committed to the practice.

 

Although leadership elections have not yet taken place, former Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is widely expected to replace outgoing speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who has retired from Congress. Pelosi is in favor of abortion rights, and once defended her refusal to support a bill banning late-term abortion by saying “As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me.”

 

With a Pelosi-led Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, pro-life advocates predict it will be much harder, if not impossible, to pass further protections for the unborn. At the same time, they remain confident that their work will continue to be effective.

 

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), told CNA that he and other pro-life legislators would have to be “as persuasive as we possibly can to bring up the negative aspects” of abortion and try to change minds on the issue.

 

Wenstrup added that while it will certainly be a challenge to do anything legislatively with a new majority in the House, he said that there are other issues the pro-life movement can pursue that might garner support from members of the Democratic Party, such as legislation addressing assisted suicide or limiting the use of fetal tissue in experiments.

 

In addition to being a congressman, Wenstrup is also a physician, which he partially credits for his values, along with his Catholic faith. He said that it was essential that pro-lifers continue to “make the case for what is ethical, what is right” but conceded that there is no practical chance of further legislation to curb abortion during the current lame duck session of Congress.

 

Pro-life leaders say that there will be significant challenges ahead now with a new party in control of the House of Representatives.

 

"Well, I think our biggest challenge in the coming two years with a Democratic, pro-abortion Democratic control of the House will be to protect the Hyde Amendment,” National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias told CNA.  Tobias said that she believes that the repeal of the Hyde Amendment will be a “top priority” for the new House leadership.

 

“We know that the American public strongly opposes using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion, but I still expect the Democrats to try very hard to repeal the Hyde Amendment and try to force taxpayer funding on America," said Tobias.

 

Tobias was, however, confident that the Senate would be able to continue to confirm pro-life judges to the federal bench. She told CNA that Trump and the Senate have done a “fantastic job” at this over the last two years.

 

“We are thrilled that pro-life members have actually increased in the Senate after the election, so we will be expecting that to continue,” she explained.

 

“Which is great news for the future."

 

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, met with President Donald Trump last week and urged him to take action during the “lame duck” session of Congress, before the new members officially begin their terms.

 

Hawkins said she asked the president to refuse to sign any budget that includes funding for the abortion provider Planned Parenthood, and that she hopes Trump will formalize new pro-life protections in Title X regulations “as soon as possible.”

 

She also encouraged the president to “continue to appoint judges who respect life in law” and to cease the funding of fetal tissue research through the Department of Health and Human Services.

 

Additionally, Hawkins told Trump that she hopes that the government is able to “sever the connection between sex education and abortion vendors.”

 

This could be done through new restrictions on federal grants. Currently, Planned Parenthood recieves grants to teach sexual education in schools, Hawkins said.

 

Hawkins compared the use of the grants to “their own personal marketing slush fund” through which teens are taught to acquire contraceptives from the organization, and then to go back for an abortion “when their advice and products fail.”

 

In a statement to CNA, Students for Life said that pro-life advocates have to “hold the line” on issues such as the Hyde Amendment and the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

 

“There is growing momentum across the country for commonsense limits on abortion and state laws such as protecting women's lives and health with safety regulations,” Students for Life told CNA.

 

“People are ready to vote on human rights issue of our time, and that is what will happen when Roe v. Wade becomes an historical footnote.”

 

Another pro-life leader had a different approach to the upcoming legislative session.

 

Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood clinic director who now leads the pro-life ministry And Then There Were None, told CNA that she hopes “those legislators that pro-lifers elected to Congress should keep their promises to defund Planned Parenthood.”

 

“However, that’s not where And Then There Were None focuses our energy - if there are no more workers at abortion clinics, they will close and taxpayers will no longer need to worry about their money going to support these clinics,” said Johnson.

Why God can tell you what will happen, but your astrological sign cannot

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 18:48

Denver, Colo., Dec 4, 2018 / 04:48 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Bible is full of prophecies regarding future events, that typically come from God through angels or prophets.

In the book of Isaiah, the prophet predicts the coming of Christ when he tells Ahaz: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.”

In the New Testament, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream to tell him of God’s plans for Mary and Jesus, and tells him that Jesus “shall save his people from their sins.”

But while God uses prophets and angels to announce future events, he also rejects false prophets and anything to do with human predicting of the future throughout the Bible.

Strong rejections of such things can be found in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 18: “Let there not be found among you anyone who...practices divination, or is a soothsayer, augur, or sorcerer, or who casts spells, consults ghosts and spirits, or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the Lord.”

The Catholic Church, through the teachings of the Church Fathers and other saints, has repeatedly rejected the use of any mediums, such as psychics or astrology, to predict the future.

Despite this, a recent Pew survey found that 33 percent of Catholics in the US said they believe in the use of astrology, while 46 percent said they believe in the use of psychics.

But if God can use prophets and angels to foretell future events, why can’t Catholics read their daily horoscopes or consult with psychics about the future?

The issue of predicting the future, particularly through astrology, is one that Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, an American research astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory, frequently encounters.

“The first problem is the one identified in many places in scripture: putting your faith in such mystical powers means not putting your faith in God,” Consolmagno told CNA.

“If you think that the positions of the planets controls your fate, then you are both denying God’s power and denying human free will. Both are bad news, theologically.”

The Church doesn’t reject the study of the cosmos, he noted, but rather recognizes that everything in the created universe is subject to the will of God.

Similarly, false prophets such as psychics are rejected by the Church because they attempt to rely on their own power and not on that of God.

“Remember, the prophets are chosen by God to speak the word of God,” Denise Gustafson, an instructor with the Denver Catholic Biblical School, told CNA.

“Prophecy is a charism, a divine grace, a gift from God that imparts to human beings knowledge which we aren’t capable of attaining by our own power,” she added.

Psychics, on the other hand, “are part of the occult and never, never speak the word of God. I would say they are instruments of Satan. Scripture is very clear on such matters,” she said.

Daniel Campbell, another instructor with the Denver Catholic Biblical School, told CNA that the Jewish people were forbidden to consult with psychics in order to set themselves apart from the pagans, who believed in demonic powers.

“It is demonic – a psychic may very well be telling you something that is true, but the source of that is a demon (irrespective of whether the psychic realizes it or not, desires demonic influence or not),” he said.

“That is, after all, the origin of all pagan religions that these practices are a part of – behind every idol is a demon, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10. Hence, all exorcists say that messing with this New Age stuff is a surefire way to come under demonic influence.”

The second problem with the desire to predict the future is that of gnosticism, or the desiring of “secret knowledge” in order to have an advantage over others, Consolmagno said.

“There is something fundamentally not Christian about seeing the world as a contest of me-against-you, where all’s fair including ‘cheating’ by using secret knowledge that no one but you has access to,” he said.

The third problem is that astrology is false, Consolmagno noted.

“...astrology is wrong in the sense that it is a lie, it promises what it cannot deliver,” he said. “The people who sell your their knowledge are lying. And relying on it is like relying on a snake oil medicine: by putting your hopes in a lie, you can very well be kept from using a medicine that is true.”

St. Augustine rejected astrology as a “ridiculous waste of time” and demonstrably false, in part because twins born under the same astrological sign could have widely varying personalities and behaviors.

The cosmos have also shifted significantly since the signs of astrology were first created, and they have never been updated to allow for such shifts, Consolmagno noted.

Psychics and astrologists also often prey on the poor and the vulnerable, he added.

“If astrology were actually true, the fortune tellers would all be rich or at the very least controlled by the rich. Instead you find them preying on the poor, offering answers that are easy but false,” he said.

“The bottom line,” Gustafson said, is that those who put their trust in fortune-telling mediums “are putting their trust in something other than God.”

“We are to trust in the Lord God alone; He tells us so.”

Ohio 'heartbeat abortion' bill nears Senate vote amid veto threat

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 18:01

Columbus, Ohio, Dec 4, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Ohio Senate is expected to pass legislation banning abortion on an unborn baby after he or she has a heartbeat, and there could be enough votes to override Gov. John Kasich’s promised veto, amid questions over whether the proposal could withstand US Supreme Court scrutiny.

Republicans control the Senate with 24 votes to 9, and the “heartbeat abortion ban” only needs 20 votes to override a veto. The bill could face a full vote as soon as Thursday.

House sponsor State Rep. Christina Hagan told the New York Times the legislation is designed to challenge the pro-abortion rights U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, claiming Ohio is “best positioned to send this through the Circuit Courts and to the federal Supreme Court.” She said she is confident backers have enough votes.

If H.B. 258 becomes law, it would ban abortions at around six weeks into pregnancy, once a baby’s heart beat is detectable. The law allows exceptions to prevent a woman’s death or bodily impairment, or in cases of medical emergency.

The bill’s text makes clear that a pregnant woman who undergoes an abortion is not considered in violation of the law. Rather, it allows her to take civil action against the abortion doctor involved if it is proven he or she broke the law, related to the “wrongful death of the unborn child.”

An abortionist who performs an abortion in violation of the law would commit a fifth-degree felony, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine, the New York Times reports.

The bill also requires the Ohio Department of Health to inspect medical records of abortion facilities to ensure they are compliant with reporting requirements.

The bill also establishes more ways to promote adoption.

The Ohio Catholic Conference on Nov. 15 said it supports “the life-affirming intent of this legislation,” but stopped short of endorsement. The conference said it will continue to assist efforts to resolve “differences related to specific language and strategies.”

“In the end, the Catholic Conference of Ohio desires passage of legislation that can withstand constitutional challenge and be implemented in order to save lives,” the Catholic conference said.

The recent vote in the House was 60-35, exactly the number of votes needed to override a veto.

The legislature first passed the bill in 2016, but it was vetoed by Kasich, a Republican set to leave office for governor-elect Mark DeWine, a Republican who supports the legislation.

“I believe that the essential function of government is to protect the most vulnerable members of society. That includes the unborn,” DeWine said in an October gubernatorial debate with Democrat Richard Cordray.

Kasich has a strong pro-life record, signing into law at least 18 abortion regulations or restrictions, including a 20-week ban. The heartbeat bill is the only one he has vetoed.

State Rep. Catherine Ingram, D-Cincinnati, has said the bill would bring back dangerous methods of abortion procedures, while other critics have faulted its lack of exceptions for women pregnant by incest or rape. The Ohio State Medical Association has said it is very concerned about the possibility that doctors could face criminal penalties for what could be considered a standard of care.

Pro-abortion rights groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice have opposed the bill. Foes of the bill planned to rally Tuesday during Senate hearings. Rally speakers included members of the Ohio Senate and House, a rabbi, and Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, vice-president of Catholics for Choice, Cleveland.com reports.

While Catholics for Choice self-describes as Catholic, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have repeatedly said the group is not affiliated with the Church in any way.

In the past, the heartbeat bill was supported by pro-life organizations such as the Susan B. Anthony List. However, Ohio Right to Life pushed back against the bill, noting that similar legislation in other states have been overturned by the courts.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said in 2016 that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear appeals to those cases. At the time, he said legal scholars believed another effort to present a heartbeat law to the Supreme Court would cause “irreparable harm” to the pro-life movement.

Since 2016, U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy have been replaced with two new justices appointed by President Donald Trump. Though Kennedy was considered a swing vote in many abortion cases, it is still unclear what the new composition of the court could mean for specific pro-life legislation.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, abortions increased last year by 1 percent compared to the previous year. Out of the 20,893 abortions performed in 2017, the report stated, almost half were performed after nine weeks of the pregnancy.

Eighteen Ohio Republicans in the legislature have sponsored a different bill, H.B. 565, to define “any unborn human” as a human person under state law.

“I believe life begins at conception so the goal of this bill is to, first of all, continue to get the word out that life does begin at conception and move the debate in that direction and to protect unborn Ohioans from being aborted,” bill sponsor Rep. Ron Hood said when the bill was introduced, CNN reports.

This proposal has drawn criticism and negative media coverage claiming it could mean pregnant women who get abortions could be charged with murder and potentially face the death penalty, claims that backers deny.

Survey asks women what they needed instead of abortion

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 16:05

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2018 / 02:05 pm (CNA).- Women have spoken about their personal and near experiences of abortion and the lack of resources and support which led them to the tragic decision.

 

A recurring theme in the responses to a survey conducted by the website FemCatholic was the lack of practical information about the support available to young mothers, and also the fear of rejection by family and loved ones.

 

One respondent said that what she desperately wanted, but could not find, were “practical resources, inspiration, and information.”

 

“How can I finish my degree and be a parent? Where can I live? Can I continue in dorm housing? Are there other mothers out there with thriving careers who started out with an unplanned pregnancy as a single woman?” the respondent wrote.

 

In many cases, the reason that women chose to have an abortion was, they said, because no one told them the could continue on with their lives and be a young mother.

 

The same respondent wrote that after she had an abortion,she discovered there was special housing and financial aid at her college for ‘non-traditional’ students and that she could have completed her degree in a modified way.

 

“It makes me sick to think about it. If that information had been readily available, I would have a ten year old today,” she said.

 

FemCatholic draws its founding inspiration from Pope St John Paul II’s “effective and intelligent campaigns for the promotion of women.” The website says the survey was taken anonymously, with aim of making support to vulnerable women considering abortion more effective.

 

A number of women detailed similars experience of finding almost no resources aimed at supporting them in life as a young mother.

 

“Not a single person around me told me it would be ok to have the baby. No one showed any confidence in me,” wrote one woman.

 

“I believed the lies of the culture that abortion was the most responsible decision for a young woman in college to make,” another said.

 

One woman wrote that “Everything pointed to choosing abortion because of poverty, being single, being in high school, not being able to give a child a good life, it’s too hard, you will be shunned, you won’t have help, you’ll live off the government forever, no one will want you anymore.”

 

While in all the cases quoted by FemCatholic, the women did, tragically, choose abortion, some wrote about how their own experience helped to resolve them to help other women choose life.

 

“In my tiny town the only resources available was at the health department with a hateful nurse and junk provided by Planned Parenthood,” one woman wrote. “This is why I now volunteer at crisis pregnancy clinics.”

 

Many of the women, and more than one man, also spoke about the fear of the mother that she would be rejected by her family when it was discovered that she were pregnant. Several describe the “terror” of rejection by parents and the wider community.

 

“I come from a very, very traditional family. I felt so lonesome, scared. I knew my parents would kick me out of the house, and my partner ran away,” one woman recalled.

 

One contributor related the experience of her sister, saying that while their mother hand handed down firm teachings against premarital sex, this only inflamed her sense of isolation and shame when she found out she was pregnant.

 

“I think we need a cultural shift in how we speak about sex and pregnancy so that women in these positions don’t feel so ostracized and shamed into trying to undo the situation without anyone knowing,” she wrote.

 

The results of isolation and fear are that women feel they have no place to turn, the contributor wrote. “I wish [my sister] had known about other pregnancy resource centers besides Planned Parenthood because they were all too willing to take her in and confirm her fear that her only option was abortion.”

 

Others said they worried about social stigma or pressure to marry the father, even if they did not want to. In the end, the responses concluded, there were many different reasons why a woman might feel she must choose an abortion but they are “all based in extreme terror.”

 

The survey also asked women about the lasting impact abortion had left on their lives. Many related the ongoing physical and mental health problems they had been left with, including damage to their womb, panic attacks, and grief over their lost children.

 

“I still think about my child every June when s/he would have been born. I should get help. I just pray for healing,” one still-grieving woman wrote.

 

While the pain was still intense for many, others spoke about the support the had received from husbands, family, priests, and from the example of Catholic figures like Dorothy Day.

 

“I feel spiritually and physically healed,” one woman wrote in response to the survey.

“Confession and joining the Church helped tremendously. What still hurts – I miss my kid. But now I have even more motivation to strive for heaven so I can meet my child!”

Pa. court orders 11 names permanently redacted from grand jury report

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 14:19

Harrisburg, Pa., Dec 4, 2018 / 12:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Citing due process, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday wrote that the names of 11 former and current priests in a grand jury report on allegations of clerical sexual abuse of minors are to remain permanently redacted.

The 11 names will be kept redacted as “the only viable due process remedy  … to protect their constitutional rights to reputation,” Justice Debra Todd wrote in the court's Dec. 3 majority opinion.

More than 300 priests were named in the report.

“We acknowledge that this outcome may be unsatisfying to the public and to the victims of the abuse detailed in the report. While we understand and empathize with these perspectives, constitutional rights are of the highest order, and even alleged sexual abusers, or those abetting them, are guaranteed by our Commonwealth's Constitution the right of due process.”

Article 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution enshrines a person’s right to possess and protect their good reputation, placing it on the same footing as life and liberty.

Six of court's justices were joined in the majority opinion, while Chief Justice Thomas Saylor filed a dissenting opinion.

Several individuals named in the report, including some priests, have objected to being included in the document. They argued that the grand jury report links their names to terrible crimes or cover-up efforts, but that they had not been afforded the chance to respond to allegations made against them, or given the benefit of due process of law.

A redacted version of the report was released Aug. 14. It detailed sexual abuse allegations in six of Pennsylvania's eight Latin-rite dioceses, following an 18-month investigation into thousands of alleged instances of abuse spanning several decades.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro responded to the Supreme Court's decision saying it “allows predator priests to remain in the shadows and permits the Church to continue concealing their identities,” and that “the public will not relent in its demand that anyone involved in this widespread abuse and cover up be named.”

The grand jury report was adopted and issued by the grand jury, but its text was drafted by Shapiro's office.

In his dissent, Saylor argued that the petitioners' due process concerns could be remedied by having a judge conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether disputed matters in the report were supported by the evidence.

This suggestion was rejected by the majority of the court because they held it is not authorized by the statute governing Pennsylvania's grand juries, and because the supervising judge would be evaluating diverging types of evidence.

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