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

1 hour 17 min ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishops urge Nicaraguan president to investigate violence against protestors

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 7:10 PM

Managua, Nicaragua, May 24, 2018 / 05:10 pm (ACI Prensa).- Nicaragua's bishops urged president Daniel Ortega Tuesday to comply with a recommendation that he investigate April's violence in order to facilitate talks between the opposition and his government.

The Nicaraguan bishops' conference's May 22 letter encouraged Ortega to create “a mechanism of international investigation of the acts of violence which occurred, with guarantees of autonomy and independence to ensure the right to the truth and duly identify those responsible.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited Nicaragua May 17-21 to document human rights violations in four cities and to issue recommendations.

The commission found that since protests began April 18, there were at least 76 deaths and 868 injured, the vast majority “in the context of the protests.” Five of those injured “remain in the hospital in critical condition.” In addition, “438 people were arrested, including students, civilians, men and women human rights advocates and journalists.”

A priest of the Diocese of Matagalpa was wounded by shrapnel May 15 while trying to separate protestors and security forces, the AP reported.

In their letter the bishops stated that “only by fulfilling this recommendation of the IACHR” will the stakeholders be able “to continue making progress toward a good outcome to the national dialogue.”

They also stressed that agreeing to this “becomes imperative for the well being of the nation” and so that the talks produce “fruitful results of truth, justice, freedom and true and lasting peace for all Nicaraguans.”

Finally, the bishops offered their disposition "to collaborate in the path to peace, with justice.”  

“We respectfully greet you, imploring the light of the Holy Spirit for you and the intercession of the Virgin Mary so that you can make the best decisions,” they concluded.

On the same day, May 22, the bishop's conference charged in a statement that bishops and priests are being discredited by attacks orchestrated by the government and that they have been receiving death threats through “anonymous social media” posts.

The bishops stated that Nicaragua is currently  going through “one of the worst crises in its history after the blatant crackdown by the government, which is trying to evade its responsibility as the main actor in the various attacks.”

Talks to overcome several weeks of anti-government protests and riots in Nicaragua which have been met harshly by security forces began May 16 under the mediation of the Catholic Church.

Protests began April 18 after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests have only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces.

Demonstrators have called for freedom of expression, an end to violent repression, and for Ortega to step down from office. The Church in the country was quick to acknowledge the protestors' complaints.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

He was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Be missionary disciples, Archbishop Naumann encourages Catholic prayer breakfast

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 6:30 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appeals court denies stay of ruling against California assisted suicide law

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 6:02 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 5:15 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marisol Health. Credit: Marisol Health.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Archbishop Chaput highlights voices of young adults ahead of synod

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 4:36 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nationwide protests in Nigeria ask government to improve church security

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 2:38 PM

Abuja, Nigeria, May 24, 2018 / 12:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics from across Nigeria participated in peaceful protests on Tuesday, calling for greater government protection following a recent attack at a Catholic Church that left 19 dead.

Thousands of people in 54 cities across Nigeria participated in protests May 22, corresponding with the burial of two priests and 17 parishioners killed by Fulani herdsmen, who opened fire at a daily Mass on April 24. The herdsmen then flooded the streets, attacking pedestrians and setting fires to some 50 homes.

White caskets of those killed in the attacks were carried through the streets of the Benue state’s capital city, Makurdi, near Saint Ignatius Church, where the attack took place. Christians in other cities carried signs on the same day to proclaim the sacredness of life and a greater need for government aid.

The state of Benue shut down operations May 22 to honor those who died, Nigeria’s PM news reported. Several dozen bishops attended the burials and spoke at rallies across the nation.

Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, spoke at a requiem Mass in Ayatu, Benue, according to local media. He questioned, “If we are not safe in our place of worship centers, where else can we be safe?”

Bishop Lucius Ugorji of Umuahia spoke at a peaceful protest in Abia state. In his speech, local media reported, he decried a lack of respect for life within the nation.

“Life has lost its meaning in Nigeria. And I wonder our fate if the government continues to fail in their core responsibility of providing adequate security of lives and properties in Nigeria,” he said.

“The Catholic Church in Abia state is in prayer solidarity with our brothers in Benue. The Government must do [what is necessary] to save Nigerians from herdsmen and Boko Haram attacks.”

Bishop Wilfred Anagbe of Makurdi, where the attack took place, particularly criticized Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, according to Deutsche Welle.

“[President Buhari] should wake up to his responsibilities. He was elected as a president for the people of this country, not for any particular group, not for any tribe,” he said, noting Buhari is the president of “a nation with about 200 million people, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and pagans.”

Violence between Fulani herdsmen and farmers has increased in recent years, as climate issues have pushed herders further south. By mid-January this year, more than 100 deaths had been attributed to the herdsmen.

 The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria voiced grave concern about the violence in a January statement. They recognized the challenges faced by the herdsman, but expressed the need for better alternatives to open grazing.

“Government should rather encourage cattle owners to establish ranches in line with international best practice,” the bishops said.

“Farmers and herdsmen have a lot to contribute to the socio-economic prosperity of our nation. A more enduring strategy must be worked out for their peaceful co-existence and mutual respect.”

 

Report: Pope Francis affirms Church practice against admitting gay men to seminary

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 1:08 PM

Vatican City, May 24, 2018 / 11:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a closed-door speech to Italian bishops on Monday, Pope Francis spoke about the number and quality of seminary candidates, including concerns about their sexual orientation.

At the start of his May 21 audience with Italian bishops, Pope Francis voiced three areas of concern for the Church in Italy, the first of which was the lack of vocations.

Francis' brief remarks on his concerns, which also touched on evangelical poverty and transparency and the incorporation of Italian dioceses, were televised; however, his discussion with the bishops afterward was not.

In his public remarks on vocations, Pope Francis lamented the culture of the provisional, of relativism, and of the dictatorship of money, which hinder young people from discerning consecrated life. He also proposed that Italian dioceses with an abundance of vocations lend some of their priests to those Italian dioceses lacking in priests.

But in the discussion that followed the pope told the bishops to care more for the quality of seminary candidates than the quantity. Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve, president of the Italian bishops' conference, confirmed Francis' comments about homosexuality in a May 24 press conference.

The Pope touched on the topic of homosexuality, particularly when it comes to individuals with “deep-seated tendencies” or who practice “homosexual acts”, yet who want to enter the seminary.

In these cases, “if you have even the slightest doubt it's better not to let them enter,” Francis said, according to Vatican Insider, because these acts or deep-seated tendencies can lead to scandals and can compromise the life of the seminary, as well as the man himself and his future priesthood.

Pope Francis' comments were made during the opening May 21 session of the 71st general assembly of the Italian bishops' conference.

However, the pope's statements on the issue of homosexuality and the seminary reflect the Church's teaching on the topic.

In the 2016 edition of the Congregation for Clergy's ratio on priestly formation, the dicastery had written that “in relation to people with homosexual tendencies who approach seminaries, or who discover this situation in the course of formation, in coherence with her own magisterium, 'the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called “gay culture”.'”

The ratio quoted from the Congregation for Catholic Education's 2005 instruction “Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders.”

The instruction noted that those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the gay culture “find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”

It distinguished those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies from those “with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem - for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded.”

Men with transitory homosexual tendencies could be admitted to seminary, the congregation wrote, though “such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.”

The instruction drew, in turn, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a 1985 memo from the Congregation for Catholic Education, and a 2002 letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Though Pope Francis has not addressed the topic publicly, he alluded to problems of homosexuality in seminary formation during a recent meeting with Chilean bishops.

In a letter written to the bishops which was leaked to Chilean media, the pope issued a sharp correction of his brother prelates for a systematic cover-up of clerical abuse in the country.

One footnote in the letter noted how abuses were not limited to just one person or group, but was rather the result of a fractured seminary process.

In the case of many abusers in Chile, Francis noted how problems had been detected while they were in seminary or the novitiate, but rather than expelling these individuals, some bishops or superiors “sent priests suspected of active homosexuality to these educational institutions.”

After five decades, Pacem in terris is still relevant, Francis says

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 7:29 AM

Vatican City, May 24, 2018 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking about St. Pope John XXIII’s encyclical on establishing universal peace, Pacem in terris, Pope Francis said that even 55 years after its publication, the document still stands as “a permanent commitment” to peace.

Even if the way war is carried out has changed since the time when the encyclical was written, and today there appears to be more violence and conflict than in the past, St. John XXIII’s reflections “remain valid,” he said.

In an interview published May 24 in “L’Eco di Bergamo,” a newspaper of the northern Italian town of Bergamo, Francis said he is concerned about the ways violence occurs, not only with weapons, but with “mechanisms of oppression.”

Imbalances linked to the “reckless exploitation of men and of the resources of nature” are a cause for concern today, he continued, underlining that peace cannot only “be linked to the absence of war,” but must involve the “integral development of people and populations.”

The job of the Church is not to “make governments change,” he said, but to bring the “logic of the Gospel into the thinking and gestures” of those who govern.

It must be understood that “the commitment for social groups and states is to live relationships of justice and solidarity that cannot be just words.” Instead, “every form of selfishness, individualism, group interest” must be overcome at all levels of society.

The pope granted the interview for the occasion of a visit of St. John XXIII’s remains to the Diocese of Bergamo.   

Exposed for veneration at an altar inside St. Peter’s Basilica, the saint’s body has returned to his home diocese May 24-June 10 to mark the 55th anniversary of his death and the publication of the encyclical Pacem in Terris.

This visit is “a gift and an occasion” for a new journey of faith, the pope said. Especially for the elderly, poor, and sick, or anyone else who may not be able to visit St. Peter’s Basilica to venerate the saint.

St. John XXIII, he said, was “a man, a saint who did not know a contrary word, who did not like words like crusades or proselytism and who instead always sought what unites, who trusted in God and in man in his image.”

The ‘Good Pope,’ Francis said, believed that the Church is called to serve all people, “not only Catholics,” and to “defend above all and everywhere the rights of the human person…aware that the pope must build bridges.”

St. John XXIII also invites people “to look at what really matters,” he said, noting how his predecessor would keep a crucifix hanging opposite his bed so that it was the first thing he would see when he woke in the mornings.

The saint knew that “Christianity is not an ideal to follow, a philosophy to adhere to or a moral to be applied,” but “an encounter with Jesus Christ that makes us recognize in the flesh of brothers and sisters his very presence,” Pope Francis stated, encouraging people to serve the poor and sick – anyone who cannot give anything in return.

The story of St. John XXIII is filled with examples of “these gestures of closeness” with people who suffered, whether they were Catholics, Orthodox, or Jews, he said.

In the interview Francis also spoke about the future of Christianity, stating that identifying Christianity with Western culture in an absolute fashion “no longer makes sense” and that the future of Christianity will be “more concretely Catholic, universal, fully ecclesial,” and respectful of other cultures – for example in Africa, Asia and Latin America – or else risk “irrelevance.”

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

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 7:00 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 2:29 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Church in Peru launches collection to help Venezuelan refugees

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 1:01 AM

Lima, Peru, May 23, 2018 / 11:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- The bishops of Peru have launched a campaign to collect funds to provide for the basic needs of Venezuelan refugees living in the country.

The Peruvian bishops’ conference announced the collection will take place June 3, during the day's scheduled Masses.

According to Caritas International, about four million people have left Venezuela due to the grave economic crisis marked by a major shortage of food and medicine under the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro, the president of the country since 2013. Maduro was re-elected May 20 in questionable elections.

Maduro is the hand-picked successor of socialist president Hugo Chavez.

The main destination of the millions of refugees is Colombia, along with other countries such as Peru, Chile, and Argentina.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies stated that the average Venezuelan lost about 24 pounds in 2017, in a population where almost 90 percent live below the poverty line.

The lack of medicine has caused an resurgence of diphtheria and an increase in measles and malaria, diseases that had almost been eradicated in Venezuela.

Cases of Malaria have skyrocketed while measles has claimed the lives of 26 children just in the Orinoco Delta area.

Venezuela closed 2017 with an inflation rate of 2,616 percent and a drop in Gross National Product of 15 percent. The International Monetary Fund forecasts inflation at 14,000 percent for 2018 which would be the highest index of inflation among emerging markets for this year and the next.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Your vote is the unborn child's voice, pro-lifers say in Irish abortion debate

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 1:00 AM

Dublin, Ireland, May 23, 2018 / 11:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of Ireland’s abortion referendum on Friday, pro-life and pro-abortion rights debaters have squared off in a country where voters will be asked to remove constitutional protections for the unborn, known as the Eighth Amendment.

“What the government has proposed is an extreme law, stripping every right in the constitution for the unborn... taking away the right to life for the right to kill,” said Maria Steen, a speaker with the Iona Institute. “What the government is asking us to do is to become judge and jury over the lives of babies in the womb.”

The May 23 debate on Ireland TV3’s The Pat Kenney Show comes ahead of a May 25 referendum on whether to repeal the pro-life language in the Republic of Ireland’s constitution, which recognizes the equal right to life of mother and unborn child. The language dates back to a 1983 referendum passed with the support of 67 percent of Irish voters.

In the four-person debate, Ireland’s Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty of the Fine Gael party claimed that abortion opponents failed to provide abortion alternatives and “haven’t been willing to look or support anything in 35 years.”

Doherty, who describes herself as "pro-life" despite her support for the repeal, charged that keeping the amendment means ignoring women in crisis, reported the Irish news site BreakingNews.ie.

A “yes” vote would remove the constitution’s pro-life language, while a “no” vote would preserve it.

In a March 2018 case that some have compared to the Irish Roe v. Wade, the country’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously that unborn children have no other rights except those guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment.

If the repeal vote is successful, Irish lawmakers are expected to propose legislation allowing unlimited abortion up to three months into pregnancy, and up to six months into pregnancy in cases where there might be risk to a mother’s physical or mental health.

About 3,000 Irish women travel to the U.K. for abortions each year. The procedure is largely illegal in Northern Ireland as well.

At one point in the TV3 debate, Independent Senator Ronan Mullen rejected the claim that there is evidence that mental health is valid grounds for abortion. He also cited a woman who was considering traveling to the U.K. for abortion, but then reconsidered.

“This woman told me ‘the time it took me to arrange an abortion in England is the time it took for me to change my mind’,” he said.

Doherty contended that the 72-hour waiting period in the draft legislation provides a period for women to reconsider an abortion.

Another debater, Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty Ireland, said “the Eighth Amendment has not stopped abortion. It has stopped some abortions, but it has forced others to continue pregnancies.”

Steen summed up her argument against repeal: “Women who need their health looked after deserve better than an abortion. We think this is a step too far. We all think taking the rights of all unborn children is fundamentally unjust.”

A Tuesday night debate on the show RTÉ Prime Time was a two-person debate between Minister for Health Simon Harris of the Fine Gael party and Sinn Féin Member of Parliament Peadar Tóibín.

“Wanted, unwanted. There are not two classes of people--we are all one. The child is the weakest individual. She has no voice.” Tóibín said, according to BreakingNews.ie.

Harris charged that opponents of the referendum sought to force rape victims to carry their pregnancies to term.

For his part, Tóibín cited his experience working with rape victims in County Meath.

“Meath will have legalized abortion in Meath before it has a rape crisis center,” he said.

Tóibín charged that repeal would allow a general practitioner with only six months of psychiatric training to decide whether a woman may have abortion on mental health grounds. He charged that repeal would mean abortion on demand.

The repeal effort is backed by Ireland’s major political parties.

Overseas involvement has also been a matter of controversy.

Financier and philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and its pro-abortion rights grantees Amnesty Ireland, Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland, and the Irish Family Planning Association have run afoul of Irish political finance rules barring foreign funding of political campaigns.

Ireland is part of the foundations’ broader strategy against pro-life Catholic countries, according to a document reportedly hacked from the foundations and posted to the site DCLeaks.com.

“With one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, a win there could impact other strongly Catholic countries in Europe, such as Poland, and provide much needed proof that change is possible, even in highly conservative places,” said the foundations’ proposed 2016-2019 strategy for its Women’s Rights Program.

The internet giant Facebook has banned foreign-backed ads related to the Irish referendum, including small ad purchases from Irish-American pro-life advocates. Google has banned both foreign and domestic ads.

The latter move was seen as a blow to the Irish pro-life cause. The Save the 8th campaign's strategy relied on intensifying its internet ad campaign in its final weeks, Pat Leahy, politics editor of the Irish Times, said in a May 10 analysis.

The Irish Times suggested that companies have become afraid that if voters reject the referendum, they will face blame and further scrutiny for allegedly influencing elections.

Augustine Institute releases video series on the Eucharist

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 12:49 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foreign bishops respond to German intercommunion proposal

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 8:04 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘The most welcoming place’ - How the Church can reach out to the LGBT community

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 7:00 PM

Vatican City, May 23, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Daniel Mattson is accustomed to talking about same-sex attraction.

He’s written a book on the subject, and he speaks to audiences often about his experience as a Catholic striving to follow the Church’s teaching about chastity. In a recent interview with CNA, Mattson offered some lessons the Church can learn about engagement with the LGBT community.

The first of these, he told CNA May 23, is having "the confidence that what the Church has is truly good news for the LGBT community.”

“That is what is lacking, and I just wish that we would not be afraid of it,” he said, encouraging Catholics to be open in talking about Church teaching.

The goal is not to proselytize, he said but to explain the truth and beauty of Church teaching on the issue - “not what you think it is, but what it really is,” he said.

Mattson mentioned the Gospel scene when in Jesus stops the execution by stoning of a woman caught in adultery.

“We cannot be more compassionate than Jesus,” he said, explaining that he often identifies with the woman in the story, who, though broken, meets Jesus and is invited to something more for her life.

The Church, Mattson said, must have “that welcoming message of Christ that says 'I do not have any condemnation for you, but go and sin no more.'” And part of sinning no more, he said, is an invitation “to a richer life.”

“I want to get the Church excited to talk about this,” Mattson said.

Mattson is the author of the 2017 book “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” which describes his experience with same-sex attraction and his decision to live according to Catholic moral teaching.

Visiting Rome for the launch of the Italian-language version of his book, Mattson gave a speech May 23 at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, during which he offered his testimony, sharing that he was raised in a Christian family, his experiences being bullied as a child, and the experience of sexual confusion during his childhood and teenage years.

He also spoke about an addiction to pornography and an anger towards God over his same-sex feelings, prompting him to leave his faith later in life, and live out his same-sex desires in partnerships. Mattson said doing so only made him feel unhappy and lonely, and said it wasn't until he turned to the Church that he found true fulfillment, by living out her teachings.

In his comments to CNA after, Mattson said personal witness is the key to reaching out to people experiencing same-sex attraction.

In this sense, he said, the Church needs to give more visibility to the people with same-sex attraction who have opted to live celibate lives. He pointed to Courage International, an organization that counsels individuals with same-sex attraction who chose to live according to Church teaching.

“We're just sitting over here quietly abiding by every word of the Catholic Church and finding it to be the recipe for happiness, and we don't get much attention,” Mattson said.

The people who have tried living the LGBT lifestyle and “found it empty,” he said, “want to share what we found with the LGBT community and invite them into the full community of the family of God.”

Mattson said that while he has been called “crazy” or “internally homophobic” for speaking out, “I just have to laugh that off.”

Mattson said those who describe Catholicism as “homophobic” usually imply that the Church is somehow a “hateful place” with no room for people with same-sex attraction.

However, “the opposite is exactly the case for me. I have never felt more welcomed in my life than in the arms of Holy Mother Church.”

“It's the most welcoming place,” he said, “and it's sad if people want to use the language of the world to say that, to use that word and say that the Church doesn't have a place or that it isn't welcoming. For me, it's been the exact opposite.”

When asked by a priest in the audience how pastors ought to react to people who come to them and confide having same-sex attraction and feelings, Mattson stressed the importance of creating “an environment that is safe,” since many of these people already carry many wounds.

The fact that a person feels they can open up to begin with is a positive sign, he said, explaining that most people with same-sex attraction are afraid that “they will be treated with disgust” if they open up about it, so knowing they have a safe space to talk is key.

Mattson also mentioned Pope Francis, telling CNA Pope Francis has been clear about the Church's teaching, and explaining his belief that Francis' message is often manipulated by the media “to serve their own agenda.”

Mattson said he always remembers the pope's comments on his flight back from Rio de Janeiro in 2013 when he said that he is “a son of the Church.”

“If you really look at what he's said, he's been very clear about same-sex marriage over the years, he's been very clear that chastity is an important virtue,” he added.

“He's said he's a son of the Church and I'm confident in that,” Mattson said, and voiced his hope that one day he would be able to meet the pope and tell him “how the Church has been a mother to me and has guided me to happiness and freedom.”

Mattson also expressed support for the view that sexuality doesn't define a person's life, and stressed that using labels such as “gay” or “straight” reduce a person to their sexuality, since in the end everyone is ultimately a child of God.

“The truth is that my sexual identity is (that of) a man, just like Adam, just like Abraham, David, just like every other man that has walked the face of the earth, I'm not a different sort of sexual person than they were,” he told journalists.

“The Church's teaching is that you are identified as a beloved son of God, that has been the experience for me.”

 

China may lift its two-child policy - here's what that could mean  

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 6:29 PM

Beijing, China, May 23, 2018 / 04:29 pm (CNA).- Amid reports that China may be considering putting an end to its two-child policy, experts are questioning the extent of a possible law change, and the effects it would have.

According to Bloomberg, the Chinese government had commissioned research on the childbirth restrictions in the country, and on the potential effects of lifting them. An announcement on the removal of the policy could come by the end of the year, or next year, the outlet reported, citing anonymous sources.

Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, said that removing the policy “would be a momentous victory for human rights and a vindication of the application of international pressure as a strategy to affect change within that totalitarian regime.” 

“But I am holding off on this celebration,” she told CNA, noting that “the Chinese government just commissioned a study. It has not yet enacted the new law.”

She also voiced concern that birth penalties may still be enacted for pregnant women who are not married.

“In some places, an unmarried woman who is pregnant may be forced to pay a ‘social compensation fee’ of up to 10 times her annual salary,” Littlejohn said. “If she cannot pay the fine, she may be required to abort.” 

Littlejohn has spent the last decade fighting against forced abortion, gendercide, and sex slavery in China. She and other human rights activists have documented abuses committed against women in China who become pregnant without permission from the state. In some cases, these women are forcibly removed from their homes and strapped to a table in a forced abortion procedure, and are sometimes forcibly sterilized as well.

China’s one-child policy was initially mandated in the 1970s in an effort to limit the country’s population growth. Recent numbers, however, show an aging demographic that could pose serious fiscal problems for the country’s future. Around 25 percent of the population is expected to be at least 60 years old by 2030, nearly double the percentage of that age in 2010.

The one-child policy was amended in 2013, permitting couples to have a second child if either of them were an only child themselves. In 2015, it was amended again, allowing all couples to have a second child.

Despite these changes, however, birth rates in the country have remained low, falling 3.5 percent last year, according to the Bureau of National Statistics.

After four decades of restrictive birth limits and national messaging aimed at convincing Chinese parents that one child is best, some experts wonder whether removing the policy will result in higher birth rates.

Huang Wenzheng, a senior researcher at the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization, suggested that the change in policy will likely have little effect on the birthrate in the country. According to Bloomberg, he cited the relatively low numbers of women of childbearing age in China and a low desire to have multiple children.

Littlejohn warned that the “devastating legacy” of the one-child policy will remain even if the restrictions are lifted. Babies born now will not enter the workforce for decades, she noted, meaning that the shortage of workers will not be alleviated for years.

Another consequence of the policy has been couples resorting to abortion or infanticide if they discover their child is a girl. A strong male-preference exists in China, as boys can keep the family name and run the family business or farm.

Consequently, China has faced a serious imbalance in their gender ratio, with over 30 million more males living in China than females.

“Tens of millions of men will never marry because their future wives were selectively eliminated,” Littlejohn said.

The country has also seen a steep rise in senior suicide, with the suicide rate for the over-65 age group four to five times higher than the general population, according to a study in the American journal Aging and Disease.

Littlejohn has attributed the high suicide rate in part to the lack of family support for the aging population, due to the one-child policy. She told CNA earlier this year that she had once encountered an elderly woman in China who told her that “some days she only ate salt and she had bought a rope to hang herself with when life got too tough.”
 

 

Bigotry and politics: what this British MP said about faith in the public square

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 5:01 PM

London, England, May 23, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Conservative Party member of the British parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg is in the spotlight this week for recent comments he made regarding anti-religious bigotry in the public square.

Rees-Mogg, a Catholic, said that as an MP he will not shy away from his religiously-informed views on abortion and same-sex marriage.

“I believe that life begins at the point of conception, that has always been the policy of the Catholic Church,” Rees-Mogg said in a May 22 interview on BBC’s Daily Politics program with host Jo Coburn.

“I think it is a deep, deep sadness that there are 190,000 abortions in this country in a year,” he continued, saying abortion was “one of the great tragedies of the modern world.”

During the interview, Rees-Mogg also spoke to his views on gay marriage, saying “the sacrament of marriage is one that’s defined by the church and not by the state – and that the sacrament of marriage is one that is available to a man and a woman.”

While Rees-Mogg noted the law in the UK is “not going to change,” he nevertheless expressed opposition to both same-sex marriage and abortion within the nation, since it remains in opposition with “the teaching of the Catholic church, which I accept.”

“The law is not going to change. The issue is actually about what society thinks,” he said, adding that “it would be a wonderful thing if society came to a different view on abortion.”

While some have called the MP’s stance hardline on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, Rees-Mogg went on to note a level of hypocrisy in the apparent pursuit of tolerance within culture and politics. He asked the host why she was picking “on the views of the Catholic Church and say they have no place in modern politics?”

“You’re saying that tolerance only goes so far and that you should not be tolerant of the teaching of the Catholic Church – so isn’t this stretching into religious bigotry?” he asked.

“The act of tolerance is to tolerate things you do not agree with, not just ones you do agree with, and the problem with liberal tolerance is it has got to the point of only tolerating what it likes,” he continued.

The upcoming abortion referendum vote in Ireland was also a topic of discussion during the interview. Rees-Mogg, who acts as the Conservative MP for North East Somerset, said that it was “terrifying” that hundreds of thousands of on-demand abortions were performed in the UK annually, while Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson called his view “extreme.”

However, Rees-Mogg said that he will “make no bones about the fact that I’m a practicing Catholic and I believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Rees-Mogg, who was a “Brexiteer” and is a serious contender for the Conservative Party leader position, has often come under fire in the media for his Catholic views in politics.

Last autumn, he was questioned repeatedly by Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on the television show Good Morning Britain for his views on abortion and same-sex marriage.

“It is all very well to say we live in a multicultural country, until you’re a Christian, until you hold the traditional views of the Catholic Church,” Rees-Mogg said.

“And that seems to be fundamentally wrong.”

Humanae Vitae needs no update, commission chair says

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 4:00 PM

Vatican City, May 23, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The professor who chaired a Vatican study group on Humanae Vitae stressed that the Bl. Paul VI’s encyclical “needs no updating.”
 
Professor Gilfredo Marengo, of the Pontifical Theological Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, spoke with CNA at the presentation of his latest book, “Chiesa senza storia, storia senza Chiesa” (Church without history, history without the Church), which explores the implications and consequences of Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world.
 
Professor Marengo told CNA that, according to his studies, “one of the biggest knots in drafting Humanae Vitae was really that of going beyond the polarization between doctrine and pastoral issues.”
 
Professor Marengo added that Blessed Pope Paul VI “focused on this knowledge, and worked a lot to take the encyclical out of that polarization.”
 
Unfortunately, he said, polarization has increased in recent years, but, added that “the question cannot be solved by imagining a new doctrine or a new pastoral activity, but by going beyond the polarization.”
 
Professor Marengo stressed that “Humanae Vitae is an authoritative document of the Catholic Church, and it is part of the tradition. We are called to welcome it as it is, and to apply it with an intelligent pastoral plan.”
 
However, despite being “the most discussed encyclical in the last 50 years,” there is “no need to update it,” Professor Marengo stressed.
 
In the end, all that discussion might be framed into a general debate that took place after the Second Vatican Council, he said.

Professor Marengo heads a study group undertaking a historical-critical investigation into the drafting of Humanae Vitae. The aim is to reconstruct, as well as possible, the whole process of drafting the document.
 
As is widely known, the drafting of Humanae Vitae endured several pressures before its publication and even after its publication.

Beyond Professor Marengo, the study group on Humanae Vitae is reportedly composed of Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, head of the John Paul II Institute, Philippe Chenaux, a professor of Church history at the Pontifical Lateran University, and Msgr. Angelo Maffeis, head of the Paul VI Institute in Brescia.

In 2017, Professor Marengo told reporters that the group was given access to the Vatican Secret Archives for mid-1960s, the time of Humanae Vitae's drafting.
 
Professor Marengo told CNA that “the Second Vatican Council has facilitated the resolution of polarization between pastoral and doctrinal issues.”
 
He added that Pope Francis “is investing a lot in this resolution,” as “one of the most meaningful aspects of Pope Francis’ biography is that he is the first post-conciliar pope: all the [recent] previous popes participated to the Council, but this pope did not, and so he can look at the Council with a less emotional viewpoint.”

 

Clerical abuse arose from misuse of authority, Chilean priest says

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 2:32 PM

Santiago, Chile, May 23, 2018 / 12:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- One of the Chilean priests affected by the abuses of Fr. Fernando Karadima who will meet with Pope Francis in June said Wednesday that such abuses stemmed from misuse of authority.

Fr. Francisco Javier Astaburuaga Ossa accompanied one of Karadima's victims, Juan Carlos Cruz, for nearly 20 years before Cruz went public with his suffering.

He is among the group of nine people who will visit Pope Francis June 1-3, and was one of three priests who spoke at a May 23 press conference in Santiago.

Astaburuaga said it is clear that Karadima's abuses, particularly the abuse of conscience, “started from a poor use of authority … he violated personal freedom, he restricted [his victims] and conditioned them.”

“This is the mark of an abuse,” he said, explaining that this, as well as the structural problems which allowed the crisis to happen in the first place, is something that will likely come up in their discussions with the pope.

Astaburuaga was joined at the Vatican press conference by  Fr. Alejandro Vial Amunátegui and  Fr. Eugenio de la Fuente Lora.

Six other people will also be present at the June meeting with Francis; all of them are either victims of Karadima's abuse of power, conscience, or sexuality, or have helped to accompany the victims. Two of the other priests who will meet with the pope are Fr. Javier Barros Bascuñán and Fr. Sergio Cobo Montalba; the remaining four participants have chosen not to go public.

The meeting is part of an effort to respond to Chile's clerical sex abuse crisis, and follows an similar encounter at the Vatican in April among three more of Karadima's victims: Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton, and Andres Murillo.

“There was a problem, a crisis in the Chilean Church, everyone can see it,” de la Fuente said, explaining that in his view, the process Pope Francis has begun with these meetings “is a very lucid one and we are thankful.”

The three priests said the Roman Pontiff is moving in the right direction, and that their upcoming visit is a sign of hope and a chance to begin repairing the harm done to the Church in Chile. They also noted their joy at the consolation of receiving an invitation from the pope.

The meeting will take place in a “spirit of collaboration” aimed at repairing “the damages done” to the Church in the scandal, Vial said.

Fr. de la Fuente commented that “The meeting itself gives a marvelous [opportunity] to share our personal experience with [Pope Francis], and from this lived experience … to propose solutions to solve this big problem,” of abuse and cover-up, which is largely a problem of power and the misuse of authority.

In a statement signed by Astaburuaga, Vial, de la Fuente, Barros, and Cobo, the priests voiced hope that their stories “can help give a voice to many others who have suffered abuse or who have accompanied people who have been abused.”

After presenting the statement, the priests noted the delicacy of the situation, and that the pope invited them so he could listen to them and give them a chance to share their personal experiences.

Fr. de la Fuente said the pope was clear in his original letter apologizing for having misjudged the situation, saying that the process of re-building the Church in Chile must happen “in short, medium and long term” phases.

Speaking of Cruz, Hamilton, and Murillo, Fr. de la Fuente voiced gratitude for “their testimonies, their courage and their friendship. They have helped the Church a lot.”

The solutions outlining a path forward for the Church in Chile have yet to be decided, he said, explaining that this is something they will discuss with Pope Francis.

Fr. Vial said that while they want to give a voice to victims of abuse, “each case of abuse is different. I could never pretend to represent someone who was abused in a different way and in a different context.”

One of the main goals of their meeting with the pope, he said, is to discuss how to “do as much as possible to avoid the existence of victims of abuse. For us it is very important to collaborate so that there are no more victims of abuse.”

In his comments, de la Fuente stressed that while abuse and pedophilia are problems not exclusive to the Church, they are more serious when they happen in an ecclesial environment “because it is a place of life called to give life and fullness.”

“There is a structure that creates this type of abuse,” he said, explaining that the Church “must be a house of healing.”

The goal is “to try to work at something so that the Church is what Jesus wanted it to be.”

Likewise, Vial stressed the need for pastors to be close to their flocks, and asked the press to be respectful of the communities most impacted by the crisis, “because they are communities, like the whole Church, which are going through a difficult time with a lot of suffering.”

The priests said that given the desire to maintain privacy and confidentiality, they do not plan to make any other public statements until after they return to Chile following their meeting with Pope Francis.

The Holy See press office had announced the group's meeting with Francis May 22. The encounter was scheduled a month ago, and it was said that the pope “wants to demonstrate his closeness to abused priests, to accompany them in their pain and to listen to their valuable views to improve the current preventive measures and the fight against abuses in the Church.”

The nine Chileans will stay at the Vatican's Santa Marta guesthouse. Pope Francis will say Mass for the group June 2, after which there will be a group meeting, followed by private conversations with the pope.

Karadima was convicted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011 of abusing minors, and sentenced to a life of prayer and penance. He has not been sentenced by civil courts because of Chile's statue of limitations.

A sacerdotal association which Karadima had led, the Priestly Union of the Sacred Heart, was suppressed within a year of his conviction.

Attention to Karadima's abuse has heightened since the 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid to the Diocese of Osorno. Barros had been accused of covering up Karadima's abuses.

Pope Francis initially defended Barros, saying he had received no evidence of the bishop's guilt, and called accusations against him “calumny” during a trip to Chile in January. He later relented, and sent Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta to investigate the situation in Chile.

After receiving Scicluna's report, Francis apologized, said that he had been seriously mistaken, and asked to meet the country's bishops and more outspoken survivors in person.

He met with Chile's bishops May 15-17. As a result, each of them tendered letters of resignation, which Pope Francis has yet to accept or reject. The pope also gave the bishops a letter chastising them for systemic cover-up of clerical abuse and calling them to institute deep changes.