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Updated: 27 min 46 sec ago

What Mary Eberstadt told Notre Dame about 'Humanae Vitae'

5 hours 9 min ago

South Bend, Ind., Mar 20, 2018 / 04:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Author Mary Eberstadt told students at the University of Notre Dame Tuesday that a 50-year-old document on contraception is critical to understanding the state of contemporary culture.

Eberstadt, a senior researcher at the Faith and Reason Institute, spoke at Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture, explaining that the prophetic message of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae has become a reality.

“Contraceptive technology, as Paul VI foresaw, opens a Pandora’s box of mischief in which the stronger have the advantage,” Eberstadt told Notre Dame students March 20.

“For some while now, it’s been apparent that the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s bids fair to become one of the most formative disruptions in human history,” Eberstadt argued. “It’s having massive repercussions across the world – microcosmic, macrocosmic, moral, religious, political, and otherwise.”

Eberstadt mentioned an article she wrote a decade ago, published in the journal First Things, at the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. “It’s the same conclusion that was visible ten years ago, and that will remain visible ten, or one hundred, or two hundred years from now,” said Eberstadt. “It’s simply this: The most globally reviled and widely misunderstood document of the last half century is also the most prophetic and explanatory of our time.”

Fifty years ago, Eberstadt said, supporters of contraception argued that abortions and births to unmarried parents would diminish as a result of reliable birth control. Rather, she said, they have increased.

“Far from preventing abortion and unplanned pregnancies, contraception’s effects after the invention of the pill ran quite the other way: Rates of contraception usage, abortion, and out-of-wedlock births all exploded simultaneously.”

Eberstadt argued that abortion rates have increased as a result of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and contraception in particular. She offered a series of proofs to support her claim.

First, she said abortions have increased because the responsibility of pregnancy has been increasingly placed on woman alone. While women may appear freer, she said, contraception has diminished men’s sense of responsibility for pregnancy, and therefore eroded their sense of responsibility toward pregnant women.

“By making the birth of the child the physical choice of the mother, the sexual revolution has made marriage and child support a social choice of the father,” she said, citing analysis by George Akerlof, Janet Yellen, and Michael Katz.

She next argued that contraception promotes abortion-on-demand because it encourages career plans that depend on delaying children until later in life. If an unexpected pregnancy interrupts such plans, she said, abortion is more likely to be considered.

Eberstadt also argued that the legalization of contraception and abortion are tied to another. She said movements towards the legalization of abortion always begin as birth control devices become more popular and available.

“Legal reasoning justifying freedom to contracept has been used to justify freedom to abort. You can’t have one without the other.”

Eberstadt mentioned that support for contraception is not universal.
She said many African nations have “resisted the attempts of reformers to bring them into line with the secular Western sexual program.”

She quoted an open letter written by Nigerian-born author Obainuju Ekaocha in response to a contraceptive initiative by billionaire Melinda Gates: “I see this $4.6 billion buying us misery. I see it buying us unfaithful husbands. I see it buying us streets devoid of innocent chatter of children…. I see it buying us a retirement without the tender loving care of our children.”

In contrast to Africa’s resistance to contraception, Eberstadt noted the demographic decline of Japan, where, she said, loneliness is pervasive, especially among the elderly, who often die alone.

As the destructive results of the sexual revolution become more obvious, Eberstadt said that many Protestant Christians have reconsidered prior positions on contraception.

“More and more people outside the Church are concluding from that same wreckage that Catholic moral teaching has called many things right, not only as of Humanae Vitae, but for the preceding millennia of consistent teaching.”

In conclusion, Eberstadt said that while people in the world will continue to oppose to the Church’s stance on contraception, the truth of Humanae Vitae will not stop pointing towards the destruction of the sexual revolution.

“To discern the record of the last half-century is to see that the Catholic Church was right to stand as a sign of contradiction to the devastation the sexual revolution would wreak; that accommodating top the revolution has been an epic fail for the churches that have tried it; and that the truths of Humanae Vitae and related documents burn all the more brightly against the shadowy toll of the destruction out there.”

“Be proud in the right way of your Church for getting one of the most important calls in history right,” Eberstadt encouraged. “And never let anyone put a kick-me sign on you for being an unapologetic Catholic.”


'We are the Church of hope' - Vatican youth delegates speak up

5 hours 32 min ago

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Young people from around the world have begun a meeting at the Vatican by voicing their hopes and expectations from the Church regarding the challenges they face and the questions life poses.

Specifically, they have said they want to know they are taken seriously, and they want the Church to talk to them about difficult issues, among them same-sex marriage, euthanasia and the role of women in the Church.

The young people are delegates to a special pre-synod meeting of youth, which is taking place March 19-24 and has drawn some 300 representatives from around the world to talk about key themes ahead October’s Synod of Bishops on “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.”

CNA spoke with several young participants at the pre-synod meeting, hailing from Japan, Australia, Mexico, Iraq and the United States.

They spoke about issues important in their countries of origin, including persecution, the refugee crisis, suicide and drugs.  


For 22-year-old Angelas Markas, a Chaldean Catholic living in Australia, youth need to “move forward, we need to be brave in addressing topics like same-sex marriage, euthanasia, sexuality – what does it mean to embrace our sexuality as Catholics, and the role of women – how important are we, how empowered are we?”

Markas was one of five young people to give testimonies in front of Pope Francis during the March 19 opening session.

In her speech, she highlighted, among other things, her life as part of the Iraqi Chaldean diaspora, her work with indigenous communities in Australia, and her hope that the Church would engage with young people on important issues, especially the role of women, who she said “need to feel our sense of empowerment.”

In comments to CNA, Markas said these are all the topics she wants to discuss during the event, and voiced hope that the stories and experiences she shares “will be embraced.”

On the role of  women, Markas said she believes they are already “embraced and empowered” in the Church, but thinks this sense of empowerment should be “more obvious.”

She also spoke of the tragedy of clerical abuse -- which has plagued Australia for years and tarnished public perception of the Church -- saying that while it is a problem, she trusts the Church “is going to find her path in this.”

“We are a Church of hope, if we aren't a Church of hope, how are we really going to grow from this?” she said. “We are the witnesses of the Resurrection, so we have to have hope that this will all heal and we have to work toward it.”

Markas also voiced appreciation for Pope Francis' appeals on behalf of migrants and refugees, which hold special significance for her because of her own heritage. The Pope, she said, “is so great in that he always addresses the littleness, the smallness of the youth from wherever we come from.”

“He's doing such a brilliant job,” she said.  Recalling a brief handshake with Francis after giving her speech, Markas said she was still in disbelief: “I can't believe I shook his hand and kissed his cheeks, I'm not going to wash my face! It was brilliant.”

Francis has a dynamic way of engaging the youth, she said, noting that many young people still crave connection with the Church, especially those who lack hope or who have experienced suffering or loss.

She challenged the Church to listen and engage more with young people, calling for a “transformation” of approach. This isn't something that will happen immediately, she said, “but we are meeting this culture that desires to be connected and we need to address it in a more universal and listening way.”

The pre-synod gathering, she said, “is the perfect example” of how this connection and listening can take place. “It's a real change, it's not something that is delusional or a fantasy. Young people want to feel a sense of value and purpose, they want to hear and understand and be able to understand.”


Shaker Youhanan Zaytouna, a 24-year-old seminarian from Iraq, told journalists March 20 that one of the biggest challenges the local Church faces is that many young people are leaving the country, opting to move abroad due to the threat of extremist violence and the country's ongoing political instability.

This presents a unique challenge for the future of the country, he said, explaining that “it's very hard to tell the Church to not allow youth to leave Iraq.” Security is a big problem, he said, because one can ask the youth to stay, but there’s no guarantee that they won’t be killed later.

A Chaldean Catholic studying in Rome, Zaytouna said the Church has a big role to play in encouraging youth to stay in Iraq and helping provide the conditions for them to stay. However, “the problem is that the government needs to initiate this step.”

Iraqi youth are being welcomed into other countries, but many want to return, he said. “[And] if the government isn't helping the heart, if they aren't providing that security, how can these youth return?” he said, adding that finding work is also a problem for many young families.

The seminarian also voiced concern over the fact that many young people, from various religions, are becoming either atheist or agnostic, calling it “a [big] a problem” for the future that will have to be addressed.

He also touched on the topic of vocations, saying the Church “must commit herself more to listening...and not only, but to learn to accompany.”

Noting that he is still a young seminarian himself, Zaytouna said better accompaniment is needed, because “if the bishop doesn't accompany us, if the priests don't accompany us, or someone else, how can I stay on this path?”

At times parents try to prevent children from pursuing consecrated vocations, he said, noting there are cultural pressures that make it difficult to accept or follow such callings. However, he said there have also been times when formators pressure someone discerning, telling them they are not cut out for religious life.

Those discerning need to be encouraged and accompanied, Zaytouna said, explaining that “listening comes first; learn to listen, accompaniment comes and then the discernment.”


Also participating in the pre-synod meeting is Yoshikazu Tsumuraya, a Japanese Buddhist from Fukushima who currently lives in Rome and works with the Japanese Buddhist Lay Movement. Before coming to Rome, he taught in a Buddhist seminary.

In comments to CNA, Tsumuraya said his organization has strong ties with the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and was invited to participate in the meeting as a representative of the Buddhist community.

“When I received this invitation, I was really happy, because having a knowledge of Christianity, it pushed me to get to know Christian youth,” Tsumuraya said, explaining that he has worked with a lot of Christians and is very committed to interreligious dialogue.

Tsumuraya said he came primarily to listen and understand the different realities of youth from around the world.

In the case of Japan, he said the major challenges for youth are a widespread competitive and consumerist mentality, as well as the immense cultural pressure to be successful. And if youth don't give into this way of thinking, they might feel estranged from their peers or that they don't fit in, Tsumuraya said.

In cases when this happens, young people react in a variety of ways, he said, explaining that one big problem is that youth who feel that they don't quite fit in “are no longer able to go to school,” due to the stigma they face, “so they stay home closed in their rooms.”

Other major problems for Japanese youth are premature death due to “excessive work,” he said, as well as suicide, which is a common phenomenon among teenagers in the country.

Tsumuraya voiced appreciation for Pope Francis' frequent references to the problem of teen and young adult suicide, which “is not just a Japanese problem, but it's a global problem.”

“So thinking about this phenomena which affects the whole world, we must face it, above all in knowing the reality, then to think about how to accompany youth to avoid this terrible [phenomena],” he said.

The Americas

Nicholas Lopez, a 27-year-old campus minister from Dallas, Texas, is also participating in the meeting as one of three representatives from the United States.

Lopez gave his testimony during the opening session, pointing to various challenges young people have faced during his experience working with youth on campus.

In comments to CNA, Lopez said the major topics he wants to bring to the table during the pre-synod meeting are “the concerns of the Hispanic Americans in the United States, and the solidarity between us and them.”

The topic is particularly timely in the U.S. as concerns continue to mount over President Donald Trump’s strict immigration policies. Many, including a high number of college students whose parents are immigrants, have voiced fear about deportation.

In addition to issues affecting the Hispanic community, Lopez said he also plans to discuss mental health issues, the higher education system in the United States and “the way young people are impacted on college campuses.”

Also participating in the meeting is 25-year-old Corina Fiore Mortola Rodriguez of Mexico. She came with a large group of other youth from Latin America, which is one of the youngest and most Catholic continents in the world.

In comments to CNA, Mortola Rodriguez said the message she wants the Church to hear this week is that young people like herself are “valid interlocutors,” and they need to be listened to and helped to go deeper in finding solutions to the problems they face, such as drugs, violence, poverty and unemployment.

Pointing to Pope Francis' visit to Mexico in 2016, she said his encouragement to youth and his appeals to avoid hopelessness and the allure of gangs was “a call not of tension, but to action.”

Her reflection echoed the Pope's March 19 opening speech, in which he told youth they need to approach problems with a “head, heart, hands” mentality. The call to “think, feel and act,” Mortola Rodriguez said, is also a call to be “unified” and to make concrete resolutions in confronting the problems they face.

As an example, Mortola Rodriguez said she helps lead a theater workshop for incarcerated youth in Mexico, which has helped them to “heal the wounds that have caused through the crime they committed.”

“[Through us] they can heal this pain that they have in order to be able to return to society and find a new form of work,” because healing is essential for a person's reintegration into society, she said.

Speaking of the contribution of the Latin American Church, Mortola Rodriguez said one thing she hopes her continent can offer the universal Church is “joy,” because Latin Americans are “ known for our joy.”

“I think youth should be more joyful,” she said, and noted how there are many young people who reflect what Pope Francis says when he talks about youth who seem old because they have lost their joy and happiness.

Another topic Mortola Rodriguez said she wants to discuss is vocation, because many people think of their vocations as only the choice of a state of life.

“But no. The vocation is a call, a call today, to the present, to be active, to be happy and to do concrete actions that benefit my society,” she said, and voiced her desire to fight against social evils such as human trafficking, and to fight to “stop the things that harm us.”



Catholics decry Swedish political party's plan to close all religious schools

5 hours 44 min ago

Stockholm, Sweden, Mar 20, 2018 / 03:48 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic educators in Sweden have denounced a political party’s promise to ban all religious schools as a political maneuver capitalizing on people’s fears in order to obtain votes.

The Social Democratic Party in Sweden has proposed banning all religious schools (known as “confessional schools”) in the country, in what the party says is an attempt at better integration of students.

The party has formed a coalition government with the Green Party, and a general election is to be held in September.

The Social Democrats have expressed concern that confessional schools contribute to the segregation of students, by religion and gender, and that they don’t teach children democratic values.

"In our schools, teachers and principals should make the decisions, not priests or imams," Minister for Upper Secondary School and Adult Education and Training Anna Ekstrom said at a press conference.

The Social Democrats said last week that the proposed policy would be a priority were they re-elected in September.

But Catholic educators in the country are concerned that the proposal would constitute a wide-ranging infringement on religious freedom and on already-restricted religious education in the country. Religious schools cannot charge tuition, and receive government funding.

“...there is a very negative public debate with a lot of pre-judgements against us and religion in general. We are very worried of course as the proposal is an aggressive assault against our Catholic community,” Paddy Maguire, principal of Notre Dame Catholic School in Gothenburg (located fewer than 300 miles southwest of Stockholm), and Daniel Szirányi, a board member of the same school, said in a joint statement.

Religious education in the country is already under strict restrictions. Current law in Sweden does not allow for catechesis or prayer to take place during regular school hours - it must take place either before or after school, on a voluntary basis.

However, Maguire told CNA that most people in Sweden are unaware of this law, that religious schools also follow the state-issued curriculum, or how religious schools are run in general.

“We have to (abide by) Swedish law, they don’t understand that. They just think we’re run by priests and imams, as they put it,” Maguire said.

Maguire added that the issues that the Social Democrats want to solve are problems that are occurring in Muslim schools, “but they are too cowardly to say so.”

Sweden, which has a historically open-door policy for asylum seekers, saw a dramatic increase in Muslim refugees from countries such as Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan in the past few years, with numbers more than doubling between 2014 and 2015 alone.

This dramatic increase in the number of Muslims in Sweden, and practices of some of their schools – such as sex segregation – is the primary motivation behind the religious school ban, Maguire said.

Rather than fixing individual problems, however, “they want to throw the baby out with the bath water,” she said.

Kristina Hellner, communications officer for the Diocese of Stockholm, told CNA, “It’s presented as a quick and simple solution to a problem that is quite limited.”

“The absolute majority of the religious schools in Sweden show excellent results but a small number of them (and these are Islamic schools) have had different kinds of problems. Instead of doing something about these specific schools, certain politicians would like to solve it by closing all religious schools,” she said.

There are 71 religious schools in the country, of which 59 are Christian, 11 are Muslim, and one is Jewish.

Hellner added that Cardinal Anders Arborelius of Stockholm will be working closely with other Christian groups in Sweden to oppose this proposal “with one voice through the Christian Council.”

If the ban were to be enacted, the Socialist Democrats have said that they would make the religious schools into secular schools. However, Maguire noted that most Christian schools would be forced to close, as they are tied to trust funds, through which the schools promised to provide a Christian education.

This would leave approximately 10,000 students without a school, a number the public school system is not adequately prepared to absorb, she said.

“It’s a badly sorted out policy, it’s just a play for populism as we see it,” Maguire said.

Thus far, the proposal is supported by the Social Democrats, the Left Party, and some of the Liberals. The Moderate Party and the Christian Democrats support confessional schools. Some among the Liberals support a policy that would maintain existing religious schools, but would prevent new ones from being founded.

The Green Party and the Centre Party have remained neutral on the issue.

Maguire said she didn’t believe the policy would ultimately pass, because the Social Democrats are losing political power, while right wing parties are gaining power. The Social Democratic Party has lost support in recent polls to the Moderate Party, the largest group in the opposition.

However, she added that educators and Catholic leaders in the country are prepared to fight the proposal all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, and to fight for the rights of parents, designated by the United Nations, to send their children to schools with distinct religious or philosophical leanings.

Pro-life pregnancy centers hopeful after arguing before Supreme Court

6 hours 54 min ago

Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2018 / 02:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Attorneys for a pro-life pregnancy center resource group are optimistic following Tuesday’s oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court, in the case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra.

In the pouring rain, the attorneys spoke to a crowd of supporters outside of the court, and said that they were pleased with the day’s events and remained hopeful that a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to provide information about free or low-cost abortions would be struck down.

“We hit a home run today in the court,” said NIFLA President Thomas Glessner. “In fact, [Alliance Defending Freedom CEO] Michael Farris hit a grand slam home run.”

Glessner added that he was “very optimistic” that the court would rule against California.

According to Farris, the Supreme Court justices were especially concerned about the provision in the law that mandated unlicensed, non-medical pregnancy centers to post a lengthy disclaimer in 13 languages on its advertisements.

“If you have just an ad that says ‘life counts’ with the name of your facility and a phone number, then you have to – in the same size as the ad itself, the main words – put a 29-word disclaimer in multiple languages. That crowds out the message,” said Farris.

“They’re not trying to inform anyone about anything, they’re trying to delude a message so that nobody ever comes to one of these facilities.”

According to Farris, multiple justices – including members of the court’s more liberal wing – were concerned that that this law was too far-reaching.

Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of ADF, agreed with Farris, and added that the government’s “last resort” should be to compel speech. Waggoner said she was hopeful that the court would agree that no one should be forced to promote something that violates their beliefs.

“We are hopeful, based on the comments of the court today, that they recognize that important principle. And we are hopeful that they will rule on the behalf of life.”

The attorneys told the crowd that they presented their argument to the court as one primarily based on free speech, not necessarily about abortion.

The First Amendment applies to all, NIFLA Vice President of Legal Affairs Anne O’Connor said, and the specific targeting of pro-life pregnancy centers by the Reproductive FACT Act should be troubling for everyone, regardless of political beliefs or feelings about abortion.

“Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice or whatever on the line, we should all be concerned about when a government can compel anybody to say something that violates what they believe,” said O’Connor.

Her sentiment was echoed by Josh McClure, the executive director of a California pregnancy clinic.

“No American should be forced to preach a message or speak a message that they don’t agree with. That’s the basis of why we’re here,” said McClure.

O’Connor also said that while the justices posed “challenging” questions, she believed that at least eight would rule in favor of NIFLA.

“But 9-0 is what we’re praying for.”

Pro-life advocates braved the freezing temperatures and rain to show their support for pregnancy centers.

Kelly Picardi, a non-denominational Christian, told CNA that she and her husband are in the process of adopting a child conceived in rape, due to be born next month.

“The conception of our daughter’s life came about through a difficult and unfortunate situation, but the decision of the birth mom not only choose life but to choose adoption is the most respectable thing I can think of,” Picardi says.

“That kind of decision is our inspiration, and an example to [my family] of what love looks like. Even though she’s had a really hard life, [the birth mother] is still making the kind of decision that will benefit someone else. That example of love is what we’ll live by every day.”

Picardi says she hopes that her family’s decision to adopt can serve as an example for others, ultimately helping to normalize the practice of adoption in society. “As hard as the adoption journey is, it’s really been affirmed by the people in our community,” she said. “Good can always come from broken situations.”

Rosemary Geraghty, a new media coordinator for Rehumanize International, said her beliefs as a self-identified feminist put her at odds with the pro-choice side of the argument.

“It’s hard for me to understand why someone who would call themselves pro-choice would be against the groups that give women more options than just abortion,” she told CNA. “To attack these pregnancy centers that are giving direct aid and resources to low-income women and pregnant’s just anti-’pro-life people.’ It’s viewpoint discrimination.”  

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, stressed the important work that pregnancy care centers offer to serve women in need.  

“The bottom line is that abortion hurts women; it doesn’t do a service for women, and these centers can provide women what they need in a very stressful moment,” she said. “Things like diapers, but also more complex things like housing, education...these things are critically important.”


Jonah McKeown contributed to this report.


Polish bishops applaud bill to ban abortions based on disability

8 hours 41 min ago

Krakow, Poland, Mar 20, 2018 / 12:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As pro-life legislation moves forward in Poland, the nation’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference applauded the measure, stressing that every human person has the right to life.

On Monday, a civic draft law called “Halt Abortion” received committee approval from the parliamentary Committee on Justice and Human Rights, by a vote of 16-9. This measure, if passed, would prohibit the practice of eugenic abortions – those chosen due to a congenital disorder or genetic deformity in the unborn child.

“Every conceived child has the right to birth and to life, regardless of innate diseases and genetic defects. The role of the state is to provide protection for every citizen, also in its first stage of life,” said Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Pozan, president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

“The right to life is a fundamental human right, there is no doubt in this matter,” Archbishop Gadecki continued in a recent statement.

He voiced gratitude for the committee’s favorable ruling on the draft law, saying, “I would like to thank the parliamentarian Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which, giving a positive recommendation to the civic draft law ‘Halt Abortion’ signed by over 830,000 Poles, confirmed this right.”

Abortion in Poland is currently legal only in cases of rape, incest, if the mother’s life or health is threatened, or if the baby has received a prenatal diagnosis of a disorder or deformity.

According to Reuters, the majority of abortions performed within Poland are due to a prenatal diagnosis of a disability or disorder in the unborn baby. In 2016, 1,042 of the nation’s 1,100 legal abortions were reportedly performed for this reason.

During parliamentary discussion on the “Halt Abortion” bill, MPs quoted article 38 of the country’s Constitution, which states: “The Republic of Poland guarantees to everyone the legal protection of life.”

The “Halt Abortion” bill was introduced by the Law and Justice party (PiS), which has been in power since 2015. The party has sponsored multiple pro-life measures over the years, and has cut off public funding for in-vitro fertilization. They also enacted restrictions on the morning-after pill, which now requires a prescription.

Archbishop Gadecki thanked “many nuns and priests as well as lay people in Poland” for their prayers on the legislation. He said the Church must be “the voice of those who do not yet have a voice.”

“Legal protection of human life is not a question of religion or worldview, but above all a question of science, which clearly shows that human life begins at the moment of conception,” Gadecki said.

“Modern biology, especially genetics, leaves no doubt as to the humanity of the human embryo and its distinctiveness from the moment its genome was conceived.”

The “Halt Abortion” bill will now move forward to the Committee of Social Politics and Family on March 21, and from there will go on to Parliament.


Judge temporarily blocks Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban

9 hours 2 min ago

Jackson, Miss., Mar 20, 2018 / 12:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order Tuesday against a Mississippi law which bans most abortions after 15 weeks into pregnancy.

It is the most restrictive abortion law in the US.

US District Judge Carlton Reeves temporarily blocked the Gestational Age Act March 20, one day after it was signed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.


I was proud to sign House Bill 1510 this afternoon. I am committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child, and this bill will help us achieve that goal.

— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) March 19, 2018


A suit was filed against the law within hours of its signing by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The center argues that a “state may not ban abortion before viability.” Viability is currently typically placed at around 24 weeks.

Dr. Sacheen Carr-Ellis of the Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's only abortion clinic, saying a woman at least 15 weeks pregnant was scheduled to have an abortion Tuesday afternoon.

The state argued that it has an interest in protecting the life of the unborn, as well as maternal health.

The law was passed by the state legislature earlier in the month. It permits abortion past 15 weeks when the mother's life or major bodily function is in danger or when the unborn child has a severe abnormality which is incompatible with life outside the womb at full term. Exceptions are not granted for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

Under the law, physicians knowingly in violation can lose their state medical licenses, and receive a civil penalty of up to $500 if they falsify records about the circumstances of the procedure.

State records indicate about 200 abortions a year are performed on women 15 to 20 weeks pregnant; according to the suit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Jackson Women's Health Organization performed 78 abortions past 15 weeks in 2017.

Prior to the passage of the new law, Mississippi barred abortion at 20 weeks into pregnancy. It also requires that those performing abortions be board-certified or -eligible obstetrician-gynecologists, and that a woman receive in-person counseling and wait 24 hours before receiving an abortion.

Signing the bill, Bryant said that “We are saving more of the unborn than any state in America, and what better thing we could do? We'll probably be sued here in about a half hour, and that'll be fine with me. It'll be worth fighting over.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">It’s a great day in Mississippi as we move to make our state the safest place in the nation for an unborn child. I was proud to stand with members of the pro-life community as Gov. <a href="">@PhilBryantMS</a> signed the ban on abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) <a href="">March 19, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn said at the signing that the state would be prepared for pay to defend the law in court: “I don’t know if you can put any value on human life. We are all about fighting to protect the unborn. Whatever challenges we have to take on to do that, is something we’re willing to do.”

Pope Francis' Holy Thursday Mass will be at a prison

11 hours 28 min ago

Rome, Italy, Mar 20, 2018 / 10:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Continuing his custom of saying Holy Thursday Mass outside a sacred place, Pope Francis this year will visit one of Rome’s most well-known prisons, the Regina Coeli, located in the historic Trastevere neighborhood.

The Pope will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper March 29. During the ceremony he will wash the feet of 12 inmates. He will also meet with prisoners and visit sick inmates in the prison’s infirmary.

Originally the site of a 17th-century convent, from which it gets its name, the Regina Coeli prison was constructed in 1881 by the Italian government after the country’s unification. A women’s prison, called the Mantellate, was later built nearby, also on the site of a former convent.

The prison has been visited by popes on three former occasions: by St. John XXIII in 1958, by Bl. Paul VI in 1964, and by St. John Paul II in 2000.

Like most prisons throughout Italy, Regina Coeli has had issues with overcrowding and inmate suicide in recent years.

For Pope Francis, this will be the fourth time during his pontificate that he has celebrated Maundy Thursday Mass at a prison. The first was in 2013, just after becoming Pope, when he visited the Casal del Marmo youth detention center.

This occasion was notable for being the first time a Pope included females and non-Christians among those whose feet he washed. At the time, liturgical law permitted only men's feet to be washed in the Holy Thursday ceremony.

In January 2016, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments modified the Roman Missal to allow for women's feet to be washed at the Holy Thursday Mass, though it added that those chosen are to be “from among the People of God.”

The Roman Missal's text was modified to say that “those chosen from among the People of God are accompanied by the ministers,” while it had previously read: “the men chosen are accompanied by the ministers.”

“People of God” is an ecclesiological term adopted by the Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, to indicate the Church of Christ, which “subsists in the Catholic Church.”

Pope Francis said Holy Thursday Mass at a center for asylum seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, a municipality just north of Rome, in 2016. There he washed the feet of refugees, among whom were Coptic Orthodox, Muslims, and Hindus.

In 2015 the Pope went to Rome’s Rebibbia prison, and in 2017 he visited Paliano prison located south of Rome.

In 2014 he visited people with disabilities, saying Mass at the Don Gnocchi center for the disabled.

Pope Francis sends condolences for death of Cardinal O’Brien

13 hours 54 min ago

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2018 / 07:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis offered his condolences for the death of Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, the disgraced former archbishop of Edinburgh, who died Monday at the age of 80 in a hospital in northern England.

The Pope's March 20 message was addressed to Archbishop Leo Cushley, who was appointed to head the archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh in 2013 after O’Brien stepped down following his acknowledgment that he participated in inappropriate sexual conduct during his ministry.

In the brief message, Francis said he was saddened to hear of O’Brien’s death and offered his heartfelt condolences to his family and those who mourn him.

“Commending his soul to the merciful love of God our Father, and with the assurance of my prayers for the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and consolation in our Lord Jesus Christ,” he wrote.

The funeral and burial arrangements for the cardinal are still being determined. Scottish newspaper The Herald reported March 20 that the Holy See will be a participant in the decision, as well as Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who the Pope appointed to manage the O’Brien scandal in 2013.

According to The Herald, an archdiocesan spokesperson said O’Brien’s funeral arrangements “will be decided in the days to come.”

“There will be consultation between the Holy See – the Holy Father will have an input – and Keith O’Brien’s family as to where his requiem Mass takes place and when and where he is buried.”
Born in Ballycastle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1938, O'Brien was named archbishop of St. Andrews & Edinburgh by St. John Paul II in 1985.

From 2002-2012, O’Brien served as President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. He was made a cardinal by John Paul II in 2003 and participated in the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict XVI.

He stepped down as Archbishop of St. Andrews & Edinburgh in 2013 at the age of 74 after allegations went public that he had participated in inappropriate sexual behavior with other men in the 1980s.

After the claims surfaced that February, the cardinal's request for retirement – originally submitted to Benedict XVI in November 2012 for reasons due to age and health – was accepted immediately by Benedict, going into effect Feb. 25, 2013.

O'Brien did not participate in the March 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis, and in May 2013, after speaking with the newly-elected Pope, he left Scotland for a time of prayer, penance and reflection.

Two years later, Francis accepted his resignation of the rights and privileges of cardinal – a rare circumstance which can only be approved by the pope.

The female nuclear physicist who created a fertility app

18 hours 30 min ago

Stockholm, Sweden, Mar 20, 2018 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Meet Elina Berglund: a nuclear physicist who will be known as the woman who developed the first natural cycle fertility app to have been internationally certified as an effective means of avoiding pregnancy.

“It feels incredibly exciting that there is now an approved alternative to conventional pregnancy prevention methods, and that it’s possible to replace medication with technology,” Berglund told Business Insider.

The app, called Natural Cycles, was founded in Switzerland by Elina Berglund and her husband Raoul Scherwizl. They created the app as a way to go “beyond contraception,” and to “get to know your body and unique cycles,” according to their website.

“At Natural Cycles, we are all about combining scientific research and mobile tech to empower every woman worldwide with knowledge about her body, menstrual cycle and fertility.”

The app works on a sympto-thermal based system. Using mathematics and advanced technology, the app tracks a woman’s recorded daily temperature through an algorithm which determines fertility, making it a competitive alternative to hormonal birth control and contraception for women who would otherwise use them.

This information allows women to know exactly where they are in their cycle, and even considers factors such as temperature fluctuations and cycle irregularities in order to make accurate predictions about ovulation.

While the Catholic Church teaches that the use of contraception is immoral, because it intentionally separates procreation from the sexual act, it does approve of fertility mapping methods like natural family planning. Though Berglund's app was developed to be used as a contraceptive, it can be used as a form of natural family planning.

Natural family planning methods, such as the Billings Method or Creighton Model, help women and families achieve pregnancy – or prevent pregnancy, if there is a just reason to avoid it – by tracking natural cycles, which is similar to the concept behind the Berglund's app.

Business Insider pointed to a clinical study which concluded that the Natural Cycles prevention method is as effective as the pill in spacing pregnancies – without the side effects.

However, getting to this point was not easy for Berglund and her husband. Not long after its founding, the Natural Cycles app began to receive severe investigatory restrictions from the Swedish Medicinal Products Agency.

Eventually, the app recently received official recognition and approval from Tüv Süd, a German inspection and certification agency.

In the future, Natural Cycles has big plans to make up for lost time: they are targeting the U.K. with a big marketing sweep, and have their eyes on the United States – if the app gets approved by the FDA.

The app currently has more than 150,000 users in over 160 countries around the world.


An earlier version of this article ran on CNA Feb. 16, 2017.

Canons of St. John Cantius founder to face review board after removal amid misconduct claims

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 8:00 PM

Chicago, Ill., Mar 19, 2018 / 06:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The pastor of Chicago’s St. John Cantius Church was removed from office last week for unspecified “credible” allegations of misconduct involving adult men, a response the Chicago archdiocese says is typical in such cases.
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago removed Father C. Frank Phillips, founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius and pastor of Chicago’s St. John Cantius Church.
“I am aware that this is difficult news to receive, but the Archdiocese of Chicago is committed to ensuring those serving our parishioners are fit for ministry,” the cardinal said in a statement. “Know that this decision was made after careful consideration. I will continue to pray for you and am confident the Lord will sustain the St. John Cantius community as you make this transition.”
Cardinal Cupich said he had to withdraw the priest’s faculties to minister in the archdiocese “after learning of credible allegations of improper conduct involving adult men.”
Susan Thomas, communications director for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told CNA that the priest is not accused of a canonical crime, known as a “delict,” and to the archdiocese’s knowledge he is not being investigated for a civil crime.

The archdiocese has referred the matter to Fr. Gene Szarek, C.R., the provincial superior of the Resurrectionists, to deal with the allegations and to decide on any further action. Phillips, though the founder of the Canons Regular, is canonically a member of the Resurrectionists.

Phillips’ attorney, Steve Komie of Komie and Associates, told CNA that he has been informed that the Resurrectionist provincial has directed a review board to review the priest’s situation.

“Father Philips has asked me to say that he’s looking forward to the convocation of the board under the decree of the provincial and he’s looking forward to appearing in front of the board, and he’s looking forward to have the board work its way through the claims being currently made,” Komie said.
“He looks forward to the report and in the meantime he’s praying for the peace and reconciliation of all involved.”
“That’s the extent of his statement, because at this time under the rules he is not allowed to comment further,” said the attorney.

In some Catholic circles, St. John Cantius Parish has become well-known for its liturgy and music. It celebrates some Masses in Latin, including the Extraordinary Form.
Phillips had served at the parish since 1988. In 1998 he founded the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, with the approval of Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George and the Congregation of the Resurrection. It follows the Rule of St. Augustine and seeks to “preserve and foster the devotional, musical, catechetical, and artistic traditions of the Catholic Church,” its website says.
Phillips will live away from the parish at a residence to be determined by his order.
Thomas told CNA that removal is “a typical response for misconduct of this nature.”
“Other cases have been handled in the same way,” she said.
The priest was removed in accordance with “the standard Archdiocesan process in addressing allegations of improper conduct with adults.” The allegations do not concern minors.

In 2015, Rev. Marco Mercado was removed from a Chicago archdiocesan parish because of what the archdiocese called an “inappropriate relationship with an adult man.” His priestly faculties were also revoked.

In the same year, Rev. Brendan Curran, O.P, was removed from ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago after he was reported to have had an inappropriate relationship with an unmarried adult woman. In addition to parish ministry, Curran was known as an immigration rights activist in the Chicago area.
Cardinal Cupich has appointed Fr. Scott Thelander, S.J.C., as administrator of St. John Cantius Parish and interim superior of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius.
“He is an experienced pastor who is committed to ensuring that the spiritual, pastoral and administrative services of your parish will continue without interruption,” the cardinal said. “The current services offered at the parish and schedule of Masses will continue.”
The service and training of the Canons Regular and members in seminary formation will continue, the cardinal said.

Supreme Court to hear arguments about California abortion law

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 7:00 PM

Washington D.C., Mar 19, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, to decide if a California law mandating that pro-life pregnancy centers post information about abortion is a violation of the First Amendment and free speech rights.

California’s “Reproductive FACT Act” requires pregnancy centers that do not provide abortion services to display a notice informing patients about California programs that, among other things, can provide a free or low-cost abortion for eligible women.

The law also mandates that any non-medical pregnancy center, such as one that distributes free maternity clothing or baby items to a pregnant woman, must display a notice explaining that it is not licensed as a medical facility in the state of California. There is no current licensing scheme in the state of California for non-medical facilities who distribute baby supplies.

The Reproductive FACT Act was passed in 2015. Pregnancy centers filed suit shortly afterwards. NIFLA argues that pro-life employees at pregnancy centers should not be compelled to share information about abortion services. After a series of appeals, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in 2017.

Pro-life pregnancy centers are often located near abortion facilities and sometimes provide sonograms and other medical care for pregnant women, free of charge. They do not provide abortion services or abortion referrals, and counselors at these centers encourage a woman to continue her pregnancy.

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

Is abortion really safe? Critics respond to new study

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 6:22 PM

Washington D.C., Mar 19, 2018 / 04:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A report calling the practice of abortion in the U.S. a safe procedure was published last week, causing multiple critics to question the accuracy of its findings.

The study, “The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States”, was conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. It ultimately concluded that abortions offered within the U.S are safe medical procedures.

“I would say the main takeaway is that abortions that are provided in the United States are safe and effective,” stated Ned Calonge, co-chair of the committee which authored the report, according to NPR.

However, Dr. Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said that abortion is never safe.

“Abortion is not safe for women. Safe means free from risk, free from harm. And abortion harms women,” Harrison told CNA, adding that “abortion is never safe for the unborn child. It is lethal for the unborn child.”

Harrison said that abortion is harmful to women on a number of different levels. First, it can “harm women physically by damaging their uterus, and causing them to have pre-term birth in subsequent pregnancies.”

While the study, approximately 200 pages in length, also reported that complications due to abortions are “rare,” Harrison highlighted a number of risks that are associated with the practice.

“Abortion can harm women immediately with the risks of bleeding and damage to their womb and other pelvic organs,” she said, also underscoring long-term effects such as harming women “psychologically, increasing their risk of suicide, drug abuse, and hospitalization from depression.”

Other harms, such as an increased risk for breast cancer, are also very real, according to Harrison, since abortion affects the maturity of breast tissue development, prematurely halting the production of milk and making the tissue more susceptible to cancer.

However, the report claimed that abortion does not effect a woman’s well-being or overall health, saying there is no evidence that breast cancer follows abortion.

“A politically motivated study doesn’t change the reality that abortion hurts women,” Harrison said.

The study also made claims that some state laws which regulate the practice of abortion can cause a road block to “safe and effective care.”

The report pointed to various state laws which require doctors to notify their patients about the risk of breast cancer when receiving an abortion, or requiring a 24-hour waiting period before going through with the procedure. Other states require an ultrasound before an abortion, while some states only allow physicians to perform the termination.

These regulations, according to the study, hinder the effectiveness of abortion and could “put the patient at greater risk of an adverse event.”

Abby Johnson, president of the pro-life organization “And Then There Were None,” said these state requirements “are not a hardship” and would not cause additional harm to the mother.

“None of the provisions made by the states, who have the right to regulate abortion, are to make abortion unsafe or inaccessible,” Johnson noted.

“Any surgery requires pre-op. Abortion should be no different,” she continued.

The study also made claims that nurse practitioners should be able to perform the procedure, saying it would not be necessary for the termination to be strictly performed by a licensed physician.

However, Harrison called this casual view of a significant medical procedure “irresponsible,” according to NPR.

“The tendency to look at abortion as though it were not a serious medical procedure is irresponsible,” Harrison said.

Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, noted some discrepancies in the report’s findings.

Hawkins said “there is no national reporting law requiring that the outcome of abortion be tracked.” In fact, Hawkins noted that all abortion data within the U.S. is voluntarily reported by the abortionists themselves, which could leave room for a significant bias in overall reporting.

“One must assume that the public relations gloss on the report covers up the reality that we can’t determine all the harms of abortion in the United States because we only know what abortionists want to tell us,” Hawkins said in a recent press release.

“What we have is the word of abortion partisans, and not real, verifiable data,” Hawkins continued, saying, “if abortion is so safe, then let’s have a national abortion reporting law that tracks all abortions and all abortion outcomes.”

How the Big Easy celebrates St. Joseph

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 5:31 PM

New Orleans, La., Mar 19, 2018 / 03:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic culture is everywhere in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is the city’s defining celebration. The city’s cathedral is one of its most well-known landmarks. And in the days leading to March 19, the people of New Orleans take up a Catholic tradition that began in the Middle Ages - they build “St. Joseph altars.”

This year, nearly 60 New Orleans Catholic schools and parishes have constructed devotional altars, as an expression of gratitude to St. Joseph, and as a labor of love for parishioners, friends, and neighbors.

"The original [St. Joseph’s] altar was built by the people of Sicily in thanks for his prayers to bring an end to their famine," said Sarah McDonald, communications director of Archdiocese of New Orleans.

"Today, they are considered a labor of love. As you are supposed to be working on the altar you are praying to St. Joseph to bless your family and to hear your intentions and pass them on," she told CNA.

The tradition began in Sicily, where St. Joseph's intercession is said to have helped the island through a severe famine almost 1,000 years ago. According to legend, people thanked St. Joseph for his prayers by building prayer altars, on which they placed food, pastries, flowers, wine, and, especially, fava beans.

The beans, which are said to pair well with Chianti, were the first crop Sicilians are believed to have grown once their drought ended.

The altars became a custom in Sicily. They came to New Orleans during a wave a Sicilian migration in 19th century.

"In New Orleans we have a very large Sicilian immigrant population coming over in the late 18th century/early 19th century, and with the Sicilian immigrants came the tradition ... of St. Joseph's altars,” McDonald said.

McDonald said the altars were first built in people's homes, for celebration with neighbors and families. They have now moved to parishes and are even found in some businesses, including grocery stores and concert venues.

Constructed over several days, the altars typically are made in the shape of a cross, with three tiers to represent the Trinity. A picture of St. Joseph is placed on the top tier. Altars are typically blessed by a priest.

The altars are covered with baked goods, flowers, candles, fruits, vegetables, and meatless meals. Many of the pastries and cookies have a symbolic meaning: some cookies are shaped as carpenter's tools or the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The food is an expression of gratitude for the local harvest, McDonald said, noting that after the festival canned goods and money are donated to those in need.

To complete the day, many parishes stage a reenactment of the Holy Family's search for shelter in Bethlehem, after which a feast is served.

Called "Tupa Tupa" or "Knock Knock," the custom has children representing the Holy Family knocking on the parish door looking for shelter. Two times the procession is denied shelter, and on the third knock everyone is let in for the feast.

UK bill seeks to protect conscientious objection for medical practitioners

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 5:13 PM

London, England, Mar 19, 2018 / 03:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A bill in the British Parliament would clarify the rights of conscientious objection for medical professionals, protecting them from participating in medical procedures to which their beliefs are opposed.

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Act 2017 would defend healthcare workers in England and Wales from partaking in the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, IVF or similar fertility treatments, or abortion if they have a conscientious objection to doing so.

The bill, now at the committee stage in the House of Lords, was introduced by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, a peer from Northern Ireland, who believes medical professionals should not be discriminated against for their personal beliefs.

O’Loan said the bill seeks to “affirm as a matter of statute that no one shall be under any duty to participate in activities they believe involve the taking of human life,” according to News Letter UK.

“Conscientious objection is a matter of liberty, equality and morality,” said O’Loan, who denied claims that the bill’s underlying motive is to restrict access to abortion or other medical procedures.

The protection of conscientious objection dates back to 1757 in the UK, and was again defended in the Human Rights Act 1998, which proclaims that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

During the two world wars, more than 76,000 conscientious objectors in the UK were accommodated for their beliefs on war and killing, according to Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton and member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

“Reasonable accommodation of conscientious objection is therefore a long-respected matter of liberty and equality in this country, and this respect should be as relevant as ever today,” said Bruce, who is advocating for the bill’s passage.

The bill would bar employers from discrimination or victimization of employees who make use of conscientious objection, and medical practitioners would be able to demonstrate conscientious objection simply by stating so under oath.

A 2016 report by the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group found that some doctors and nurses have faced discrimination in their workplace due to their personal beliefs against certain procedures. O’Loan particularly noted a legal case involving midwives Mary Doogan and Connie Wood, both of whom refused to supervise abortions because of their personal beliefs.

O’Loan also noted many other aspiring healthcare workers who want to pursue a career in obstetrics or gynecology, but do not do so because of their personal objections to abortion.

Some opposition to the bill has arisen from various groups, including the British Medical Association, which has filed a brief against the bill, saying objections to abortion will risk “patient access to safe and timely care.”

Other objections have been raised in the House of Lords, where some peers voiced concern over privileging religious beliefs.

However, Bruce noted that conscientious objection is not only a product of religious beliefs, but can also be formed on other bases.

“Conscience can equally be informed by a person’s philosophy, morality, beliefs, or scientific understanding,” Bruce remarked.

“To suggest that, for example, conscience is something applicable only to those with religious beliefs would be a grossly restrictive understanding of the concept,” she continued.

Toni Saad, a medical student at Cardiff University, noted that conscientious objection will not affect a doctor from doing what is best for their patient.

“I doubt there is any conscientiously objecting doctor who believes he is not acting according to his patient’s best interests,” Saad wrote at The Spectator Feb. 23.

The bill, Saad said, “deserves the attention and support of those interested in liberty and tolerance, and those in a position to establish these in our statute books.”

If the measure is passed, it would affect all healthcare workers on the registers of the General Medical Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Health and Care Professions Council and the General Pharmaceutical Council in England and Wales.

The bill was introduced in the House of Lords and has passed its first and second readings. It is scheduled for a committee debate March 23. It would then face further scrutiny in the House of Lords before passing to the House of Commons, the consideration of amendments, and then the royal assent.

“Baroness O’Loan’s Bill is both timely and welcome, seeking as it does to clarify and affirm that, as a matter of law, no one with a conscientious objection should be compelled to be involved in activities which they believe involve the taking of human life,” said Bruce.

“[The bill] would be a concrete example of our commitment to a diverse and inclusive society, and would serve to strengthen the morale of those involved in healthcare, something surely no one – in all conscience – could deny is a good thing.”

Courage of St. Joseph highlighted at Mass for Congressional staffers

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 4:13 PM

Washington D.C., Mar 19, 2018 / 02:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- St. Joseph is a model of courage for those in political life today, Fr. Carter Griffin told attendees of Monday’s second-annual Gold Mass for Congressional Staff.

The Mass was celebrated at St. Joseph’s Church on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on the March 19 Solemnity of St. Joseph. Fr. William Gurnee, chaplain of the Congressional Catholic Staff Association, was the principal celebrant. Fr. Griffin was the homilist.

In his homily, Griffin focused upon St. Joseph’s many virtues, but specifically noted his courage in choosing to stay with Mary and help raise Jesus.

“It took an enormous amount of courage to do what Joseph had to do,” said Griffin.

“In the Gospel reading, we have the angel of the Lord coming to him, telling him not to be afraid, to take Mary into his home. He was to assume responsibility for the Chosen One – for the Son of God and his beloved mother. He was to have responsibility for the Holy Family.”

This relates to the lives of Congressional staffers, said Fr. Griffin. He encouraged Congressional staffers to remain steadfast in their faith, stressing that it is not skills, or talents, or political convictions that shape the world – but rather, holiness.

“What makes the greatest difference in the world, without exception, without question, is holiness,” he said.

“Courage is a prerequisite for every virtue. I think uniquely for what you do, in public service.”

This courage, said Fr. Griffin, is especially needed today, in order for people working in Congress to “remain faithful to the Gospel” and to “become the saints that God wishes us to be.”

“These are times for saints,” the priest said, “for those of you serving in the public realm, sanctity is what we need most from you.”

Staffers should especially turn to St. Joseph as a “beacon of light” in rough times. This courage and faithfulness will transform the country and “ignite a revolution,” Griffin said.

“And like St. Joseph, your courage will pave the way for a life of genuine holiness, which in turn will help ignite a revolution, a revolution of grace that will truly change our country and the world, one soul at a time, to the glory of God, forever and ever.”


If a bishop doesn't pray, he's not doing his job, Pope Francis says

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 3:17 PM

Vatican City, Mar 19, 2018 / 01:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis marked Monday's Solemnity of St. Joseph by ordaining three new bishops, telling them prayer is a primary ecclesial duty, and if they do not maintain a strong spiritual life, they are not fulfilling their vocation.

“Announce the Word in every occasion: opportune and inopportune. Admonish, rebuke, exhort with all magnanimity and doctrine. And through the prayer and sacrificial offering of your people, draw from the fullness of the holiness of Christ the manifold richness of divine grace,” the Pope said March 19.

Prayer, he said, “is the first task of a bishop. A bishop who doesn't pray does not fulfill his duty, he does not fulfill his vocation.”

Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on the March 19 feast of St. Joseph, which also marks the fifth anniversary of the inauguration of his papacy.

During the ceremony, he ordained as archbishops three recently appointed nuncios, including Archbishop Waldermar Sommertag, apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua; Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, papal envoy to Korea and Mongolia; and Archbishop Josè Avelino Bettencourt, the Pope's new ambassador to Georgia and Armenia.

The pope's brief homily for the day was taken from the section for the ordination of bishops of the Roman Pontifical.

In the homily, he said that while the three men were ordained bishops, “it is Christ who in the ministry of the bishop continues to preach the Gospel of salvation and sanctify believers through the sacraments of faith.”

“It is Christ who in the paternity of the bishop increases his body, which is the Church. It is Christ who in the wisdom and prudence of the bishop guides the people of God in the earthly pilgrimage until eternal happiness,” he said.

Francis reminded the bishops in off-the-cuff comments that they were “chosen among men and for men. You are not called for business, worldliness, or politics: the episcopate is the name of a service, not an honor, as the bishop is more competent for serving than for dominating.”

He told them to love their flock with the love of both a father and a brother, especially priests and deacons.

“Closeness to the priests, please!” he said, and encouraged them to also be close to the poor and defenseless.

“Keep vigil with love on the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit places you to govern the Church of God,” he said, and told them to do this “in the name of the Father, whose image you make present; in the name of Jesus Christ, his Son, by whom you are made masters, priests and pastors. In the name of the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the Church and with its power sustains our weakness.”




Pope encourages young people to ask tough questions at pre-synod launch

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 12:43 PM

Vatican City, Mar 19, 2018 / 10:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis opened this week's pre-synod meeting telling youth to hold nothing back and to have the courage to ask the “raw” and direct questions about life, love, and vocation.

In the March 19 opening session for the event, Francis told youth to let their questions come “without anesthetizing” them.

“The strong questions of ours can have a process of being played down in tone,” or asked in a “polite way,” he said, but urged the young attendees to “be courageous” and to “say the raw truth, to ask the raw questions.”

He spoke to French youth Maxime Rassion, who is not baptized. Rassion said he was facing doubts about his career and struggles to find a deeper meaning in life, asked what he can do to figure out where to start.

In his answer, Pope Francis noted how many youth have fears about similar questions, and said there is a need for discernment. However, “at this point, many ecclesial communities don't know how to do it or they lack the ability to discern.”

“It's one of the problems we have,” Francis said, and urged those in positions of pastoral authority not to be afraid to let youth “take everything out” that they are thinking or feeling, and to listen to the blunt questions that young people may pose.

“Accompany them so they don't err,” he said; and on the other hand, he encouraged youth to find someone they can talk to about their experiences.

Talking is important, but “you can't talk to everyone about everything,” he said, and told them to find someone “who is wise, who isn't scared and who knows how to listen” to help them sort through the questions they have.

“It's important to open everything, to open everything, not to put make up on your feelings,” he said, and cautioned against closing in on oneself, which “weighs you down and takes your freedom.”

“Let your feelings come up, don't anesthetize them, don't downplay them; look for someone wise [to talk to] and discern.”

Pope Francis spoke at the opening session of the March 19-24 pre-synod meeting, which has drawn some 300 youth from around the world to talk about major themes for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.”

Youth in different states in life are in Rome to participate in the event. Priests, seminarians, and consecrated persons will also participate. Special attention will also be given to youth from both global and existential “peripheries,” including people with disabilities, and some who have struggled with drug use or who have been in prison.

At the end of the gathering, notes of the various discussions throughout the week will be gathered into a comprehensive concluding document, which will be presented to Pope Francis and used as part of the “Instrumentum Laboris,” or “working document,” of the October synod.

In his opening speech for the March 19 session, Pope Francis told youth that “your contribution is indispensable” for the preparation of the October synod gathering.

Too often young people are talked about without being spoken to, he said, stressing the importance of having a “face to face” meeting where they can share their thoughts and desires.

“It's not enough to exchange some messages or share some nice photos,” he said, adding that “youth must be taken seriously!” Too often youth are left alone, he said, and cautioned that in the Church, “it must never be like this.”

“We need to regain the enthusiasm of the faith and of the flavor of the search. We need to find again in the Lord the strength to recover from failures, to go forward, to strengthen confidence in the future.”

“We need to dare [to take] new paths, even if it involves risks,” he said, adding that risk is necessary because “love knows how to risk; without risk a young person grows old, and it also makes the Church grow old.”

Because of this, “we need you young people, living stones of a Church with a young face, but not using makeup: not artificially rejuvenated, but revived from within,” he said, explaining that the purpose of the synod is to accompany youth.

“Be assured: God trusts you, he loves you and he calls you,” Francis said, saying the Church, in the synod, must learn to have “new ways of presence and closeness.”

After his opening address, Francis heard testimonies from five young people: Tendai Karombo from Zimbabwe, Nicholas Lopez from the US, Cao Huu Minh Tri from Vietnam, Annelien Boon from Belgium, and Angela Markas from Australia.

The Pope was then asked questions from five youth, one of whom was a young Nigerian woman named Blessing Okoedion who was brought to Italy four years ago as a victim of human trafficking.

After suffering the “hell” of forced prostitution, she was finally able to escape and find healing with an order of religious sisters. In her question to the Pope, Okoedion said many of her clients were Catholics, and asked how youth can be made aware of the problem of trafficking, and how to fight the “sick” mentality that reduces women to being the property of men.

In his response, the pope said human trafficking is “a crime against humanity” which is ultimately “born from a sick mentality.”

“The woman is exploited,” he said, noting that “today there is no feminism that has been able to take this out of the unconsciousness” in societal thought. “It's a sickness of mentality, it's a sickness of social action, it's a crime against humanity.”

Pope Francis then asked forgiveness “for all the Catholics who commit this criminal act.”

“I think of the disgust these young women must feel when these men make them do anything,” he said. What women endure is “unbelievable,” he said, and called the practice a form of “slavery.”

In response to a question posed by Argentine youth Maria de la Macarena Segui, who asked about education initiatives and what youth can do to make their encounter with the Lord last over time, the pope stressed the need for an integral education.

Francis said there is need for educational initiatives that follow a “head, heart, hands” model, and which “harmonize” these three aspects into a solid foundation for the person that takes intellectual and charitable formation and turns them into action.

He also responded to a question posed by Ukrainian seminarian Ylian Vendzilovych, who asked how young priests should act amid the “complex realities” of modern society, and questioned how someone preparing for ordination can differentiate between what is good and what is wrong in society.

Francis stressed the importance of community in the life of a priest, and pointed to the many priests who serve their parishes alone or in remote areas. In these cases, it's important for both the priest and the parishioners to make an effort to build a communal relationship, he said.

“A priest is a testimony of Christ to the extent that he is a member of that community,” he said, adding that if there is not community in a parish, “the bishop needs to intervene.”

He also spoke out against the “terrorism” of gossip and clericalism, which he called a “sick mentality” that confuses the people and drives them away. “Attitudes that are not paternal, not fraternal, also worry me,” he said, explaining that when a priest becomes too rigid or worldly, “there is no witness of the mercy of Christ.”

“I prefer that a young person loses their vocation rather than being a bad religious,” he said.

Sr. Teresina Chaohing Cheng, a religious sister from China, asked how young consecrated people can balance their cultural formation and spiritual lives while fighting against a materialistic society.

In his answer, Pope Francis said good formation for a consecrated person is built on four pillars: the spiritual, intellectual, communal, and apostolic.

This means making sure religious are aware of cultural habits and trends, even those that are bad, while also having a solid foundation to help distinguish and discern what is harmful, he said.

Francis cautioned against keeping religious too sheltered and in the dark about what's happening in culture and society, saying to “overprotect” them is not formation, but “annuls” their understanding and does them a disservice.

He said to do this “castrates” a person and takes away their freedom, and told Cheng to fight against this in her community. “Don't overprotect,” he said, because doing so prevents people “from maturing psychologically” and from responding to people in need.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, disgraced Scottish prelate, dies at 80

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 9:49 AM

Vatican City, Mar 19, 2018 / 07:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien, who stepped down as Archbishop of Edinburgh in 2013 after admitting to inappropriate sexual conduct throughout his ministry, died Monday at the age of 80.

In a brief statement marking the prelate's March 19 passing, the current head of the St. Andrews & Edinburgh diocese, Archbishop Leo William Cushley, offered prayer for the repose of O'Brien's soul, for his family and for all those affected by the scandal.

“In life, Cardinal O’Brien may have divided opinion,” Cushley said. “In death, however, I think all can be united in praying for the repose of his soul, for comfort for his grieving family and that support and solace be given to those whom he offended, hurt and let down. May he rest in peace.”

Born in Ballycastle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1938, O'Brien was named Archbishop of St. Andrews & Edinburgh by St. John Paul II in 1985.

Ordained a priest in 1965, he had a bachelors degree in chemistry and mathematics, and served as a spiritual director of St Andrew's College in Drygrange and rector of St Mary’s College in Blairs before being named archbishop.

From 2002-2012, O’Brien served as President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. He was made a cardinal by John Paul II in 2003, and participated in the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict XVI.

He stepped down as Archbishop of St. Andrews & Edinburgh in 2013 at the age of 74 after allegations went public that he had participated in inappropriate sexual behavior with other men in the 1980s.

After the claims surfaced that February, the cardinal's request for retirement – originally submitted to Benedict XVI in November 2012 for reasons due to age and health – was accepted immediately by Benedict, going into effect Feb. 25, 2013.

O’Brien, who did not participate in the March 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis, subsequently admitted that “there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.”

In May 2013, after speaking with the newly-elected Pope, O'Brien left Scotland for a time of prayer, penance and reflection. In March 2015, Francis in a rare move accepted his resignation of the rights and privileges of cardinal.

Only a Pope can approve a cardinal resigning his official status, and the move is extremely rare in Church history.

The closest parallel to the 2015 event took place in 1927 when French  Cardinal Louis Billot resigned from the Sacred College of Cardinals following a stormy meeting with Pope Pius XI. His resignation was accepted by the Pope eight days later.

The ruling by Pope Francis stems from his decision in 2014 to send Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna as his personal envoy on a fact-finding mission to Scotland. It was after that investigation – the content of which is fully known only to the Pope and Archbishop Scicluna – Francis reached his canonical conclusion.

In wake of O'Brien's resignation, Pope Francis in July 2013 named Archbishop Cushley as the next leader of the St. Andrews and Edinburgh Archdiocese.

According to a March 19 press release from the archdiocese, O'Brien died at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne after receiving last rites, and was surrounded by his family and friends.

Catholics in Indonesia will be alert during Holy Week in light of church attacks

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 8:01 AM

Jakarta, Indonesia, Mar 19, 2018 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As there has been an increase in violence committed against parishes throughout Indonesia, Church officials in the country have urged Catholics to be vigilant, especially during Holy Week.

“We call on each parish and mission station to stay alert ahead of the observance of Holy Week and Easter. This is very important,” Fr. Felix Atmojo, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Palembang, March 13.

“We don’t want the church attack to reoccur,” he added, according to UCA News.

His warning came after a church in the Palembang archdiocese was damaged earlier this month; two more attacks on Christians had occurred the preceding month.

On March 8, six men broke into the Chapel of Saint Zacharias in South Sumatra’s Ogan Ilir district, where part of the church’s walls were damaged and statues were burned. The perpetrators have not been identified.

A few weeks earlier, on Feb. 27, two Indonesian Christians were publically flogged in Aceh province. Each man had been whipped a dozen times for reportedly violating Islamic law by playing a children’s game.

Additionally, a man armed with a sword attacked members of St Lidwina’s Church during Mass Feb. 11. The man injured two parishioners, a Dutch priest, and a policeman at the church in Sleman, Yogyakarta. The man was then shot by the police.

Following the attack at St. Lidwina’s, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Semarang, Fr. Franciscus Wignyosumarta, encouraged Catholics to stay alert and to increase security measures.

“Security in churches must be tightened and cooperation with police and security personnel must be improved,” he said, according to UCA News.

Fr. Atmojo encouraged Catholics to seek peace with people of other religions, saying, “we can learn from [the attacks], we need to continue to promote togetherness. Let it become our common goal.”

Archbishop Anicetus Sinaga of Medan also urged Catholics to avoid actions that would create enemies.

“Be inclusive, don’t create enemies,” he said.

According to UCA News, Archbishop Sinaga said a 12-member security force was created for the Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral in Medan after a nearby church was attacked by a teen in August 2016. The attacker had attacked a priest with an axe after a bomb in his backpack failed to detonate.

Indonesia is the largest Muslim-majority nation in population. Alongside the 87 percent of its population who are Muslim, 10 percent of the population is Christian, and 2 percent are Hindu. Discrimination and attacks on religious minorities occur not infrequently.

The Pope's Cat: New book series introduces kids to papal office, Rome

Sun, 03/18/2018 - 6:24 PM

Vatican City, Mar 18, 2018 / 04:24 pm (CNA).- Margaret, the fictional stray cat adopted by a fictional Pope in a new children’s book series, gets an up-close and personal look at the Vatican and the Papal office that most Catholics could only imagine.

In “The Pope’s Cat,” a new children’s book series by Jon M. Sweeney, Margaret is just another stray cat on the streets of Rome until the Holy Father finds her on his early morning stroll, scoops her up into his arms and decides to adopt her as his own.

The ensuing shenanigans are what one might expect from a feline who suddenly finds herself in the Pope’s life - she sleeps on his furniture (a lot), gets a glimpse at the general audience from the papal apartment window, and even interrupts an important dinner with the Queen of England.

The Pope in the series reacts to his new friend with bemusement and good humor, all while going about his busy schedule as the leader of the Vatican and the Catholic Church.

“I find that we as adults are often thinking about the Pope and talking about the Pope and listening to what he has to say, but that young children don’t really understand and often just think of the Pope as an image on the refrigerator,” Sweeney told CNA, “and I wanted to see if I could do one little thing to change that.”

His new series about Margaret the cat aims to teach children about the pope and his duties, to make him seem more relatable and human, and to also give them a taste of the Roman culture that permeates many aspects of life in the Vatican.

“It’s a fictional Pope who introduces kids to what Popes do, to the fact that the Pope is the head of state, to the fact that a Pope is a very human person who experiences anxiety and nervousness...and is someone who is invested with enormous responsibilities as the leader of the Catholic Church, with more than one billion people,” he said.

The Pope in the story also frequently speaks to Margaret in Italian phrases (such as ‘dai’, meaning ‘come!’), because “how else would you speak with a Roman stray other than to speak to her in her native tongue?”

“Rome is a meaningful place to me,” said Sweeney, who is “a little bit Italian” and whose visits to Rome helped inspire his journey into the Catholic Church a decade ago. “I wanted to give kids that feeling of Rome as well, I love the Roman side of Catholicism,” he said.  

Margaret was not inspired, as one might think, by the beloved cats of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, of which Sweeney knew nothing until the series was already under way.

“Somehow I missed all of that completely,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said he chose to tell the story of the Pope and Rome through a cat because of his own personal love for felines, even though he doesn’t own one at the moment.

“I don’t get to have a cat because our dog Max would chase it and probably eat it,” he said.

“I think that if you know cats and you read ‘The Pope’s Cat,’ you will see or get the feeling that I understand cats, that I’ve lived with cats a lot,” he said. “That the cat would sort of turn away from the Pope at first and not come when he calls - that’s part of what I love about cats instead of dogs actually.”

The illustrations for ‘The Pope’s Cat’ were done by Roy DeLeon, a Benedictine oblate and retired graphic designer from Seattle.

“He’s done a beautiful job,” Sweeney said. “He’s putting a lot of himself into it, and a lot of research into what it might look like in the Pope’s apartment, or what the Swiss guards look like.”

‘The Pope’s Cat’ is the first book in a series of four books so far. The next book, ‘Margaret’s Night in St. Peter’s Square,’ is a Christmas story with fully colored illustrations. Books three and four will see Margaret venture into the Vatican’s Holy Week festivities and to Assisi with the Pope.

The series’ intended audience if for 1st-4th graders, and is published by Paraclete Press.