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As Zimbabwe election approaches, Christian leaders stress peace, civility

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 6:24 PM

Harare, Zimbabwe, Jun 13, 2018 / 04:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Christian leaders in Zimbabwe are stressing the need for civility and a peaceful transition as the country prepares for a major presidential election next month.

Leaders from different Christian groups met on May 28-30 in the capital city of Harare for a conference themed “Religious Leaders Supporting the Zimbabwe Peace Process.”

The conference was attended by major religious leaders, including the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, and Union for Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe.

Participants analyzed the peace processes in neighboring countries that have faced election violence, such as South African and Kenya.

Paul Muchena, national coordinator for the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe, said the conference’s main goal was “to enhance the church’s participation in peace processes through such initiatives as dialogue, mediation, peace and reconciliation leading to national transformation.”

The July 30 elections will be the first since former president Robert Mugabe was ousted from power last November, ending his 37 years in office.

Mugabe had been in power since 1980. At the beginning of last November, thousands of protestors called for Mugabe’s resignation after he fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The Zimbabwe National Army then staged a coup and Mugabe was placed under house arrest while an impeachment hearing was opened against him. He announced his resignation on Nov. 21, and Mnangagwa assumed power. 

Charges were brought against the former president by the Zanu-PF Members of Parliament. He was accused of violating the constitution in past elections and of illegally granting his wife, Grace Mugabe, political power.

The president was also accused of economic mismanagement. According to the BBC, the average Zimbabwe citizen is now 15 percent poorer than before Mugabe took power.

Mnangagwa posted a tweet on May 30 announcing the upcoming elections.

“These elections will be free, fair and transparent, and the voice of the people will be heard,” he said. “I call on all candidates to campaign peacefully and focus on the issues that really matter.”
Zimbabwe has formally invited the European Union to send an election observation mission, the first time in 16 years that the EU will be monitoring an election in the country.

During the conference of religious leaders, Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro of Gokwe, chairman of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe, decried slandering political practices. He cautioned that hate speech and slogans can motivate violence and are un-Christian.

“The behaviours and mannerisms we develop in politics especially when we are sloganeering, remove the Christian life and values we purport to have,” he said.

The bishop said Christians cannot place political ambitions over the desire for God. He urged people to remember that every person is created in the image and likeness of God.


Apostolic nuncio encourages US bishops in 'listening'

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 5:12 PM

Miami, Fla., Jun 13, 2018 / 03:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting on Wednesday, Archbishop Christophe Pierre urged the importance of listening: to youth, to the Hispanic population, and to the Holy Father.

“Spiritual fatherhood and effective evangelization require listening,” the apostolic nuncio to the United States said June 13 at the opening of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s general assembly in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

He said young people “need to be a priority for the Church in the United States” and that “we need to listen attentively to their voices”, which call for a real encounter with Christ, a welcoming community, “authorities who will accompany them and help them discover what truly interests and attracts them”, and an openness to their contributions.

Youths want a “personal, living encounter with Christ,” he said, “rather than a faith reduced to teaching and moralism.”

The archbishop said young people, he believes, desire “not merely Catholic content but holistic formation.”

He emphasized the importance of community in the face of social media and other problems. “Practical efforts to make parishes more welcoming and supportive might create the environment for young people to feel that the Church is where they belong.”

Responding to criticisms of the preparatory document for the youth synod, which was composed with help from young people, as a manifestation of their weak faith or “a wish list of what young people want rather than what they need,” he said it is “an honest expression of the reality of young people, which includes their frustration with institutional bureaucracy and the unwillingness of others to take them seriously.”

Archbishop Pierre suggested that the bishops must “listen and offer our experience and wisdom, attracting them by our fidelity and the witness of our lives … We need to adhere more faithfully to the Tradition, against which they can, through experience and their encounter with us, test the coherence of the Catholic Faith.”

The youth synod will be an opportunity “to examine whether we have done something in our dioceses to facilitate the encounter with Christ,” he said, and evaluating our ability “to attract young people to Christ.” It is also a chance “to be innovative in creating ways for young people to contribute something to the Church.”

The nuncio also said there is a need to listen to the “emerging Hispanic and Latino population” in the US, focusing on the Fifth National Encuentro process.

The Encuentro process has helped to identify leaders within the Hispanic community, as well as pastoral priorities, he said.

It should also be a chance to re-examine strategies for fostering priestly and religious vocations among Hispanic youth, Archbishop Pierre noted.

“How can it be that when the majority of young Catholics in the United States is now Hispanic or Latino, there are so few seminarians, priests and religious of Hispanic descent?”

The nuncio finally emphasized the importance of listening to Pope Francis, in particular his recent apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, saying holiness is the “lifeblood of the New Evangelization.”

He pointed in particular to the importance of the beatitudes and to the pope’s warnings against Pelagianism and gnosticism.


American Medical Association urged to keep stance against assisted suicide

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 4:27 PM

Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2018 / 02:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The American Medical Association voted this week to return to committee a report recommending continued opposition to physician assisted suicide - a move that commentators have called a missed opportunity to stand up for the value of human life.

“For more than two decades the nation’s most prominent and largest association of physicians vocally opposed physician-assisted suicide,” Dr. Peter T. Morrow, M.D., president of the Catholic Medical Association, said June 12. He said the national delegates’ refusal to accept the recommendation was “hugely disappointing and frankly disturbing.”

Morrow said that since the AMA’s founding in 1847, its ethics code has seen physician-assisted suicide as always “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.”

“Our mission at the CMA is to continue to focus on educating our patients on palliative care and hospice and improving access to those much-needed end of life services that include emotional and spiritual support,” he added.

AMA’s House of Delegates, meeting in Chicago June 11, narrowly voted not to accept the report recommending that they continue their stance of opposing physician assisted suicide. About 56 percent of delegates voted for the report to undergo further review. The association has about 240,000 members in the U.S., with membership including medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic medicine, and medical students.

The rejected AMA committee report is the product of two years’ work. It cited concerns that assisted suicide’s use might expand from mentally competent, terminally ill adults to children, people with psychiatric disorders, or people with socioeconomic challenges.

The report backed continued use of the phrase “assisted suicide” rather than in “aid in dying” or “death with dignity.” Justifying this decision, it said “ethical deliberation and debate is best served by using plainly descriptive language.” It added: “despite its negative connotations, the term ‘physician assisted suicide’ describes the practice with the greatest precision.”

Marie T. Hilliard, a nurse who is director of bioethics and public policy at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said her organization would have preferred the committee report be accepted.

“But the good news is the AMA did not change their position,” she said. “They’re going to study their council’s recommendation for another year. It means we continue to work.”

During the AMA’s debate on the assisted suicide report, its backers said a change in position would go against thousands of years of medicine, including the Hippocratic Oath.

“It’s the antithesis of why you want to become a doctor or a healer,” said delegate Dr. Thomas Sullivan, Massachusetts Medical Society president, according to the Chicago Tribune. Sullivan advocated better palliative and hospice care and better psychological support rather than assisted suicide.

Some delegates said they thought it was important to support members who aid in assisted suicide where it is legal.

Dr. Theodore Mazer, president of the California Medical Association, objected that the guidance puts these physicians “at risk of being in conflict with the (AMA’s) code of medical ethics.”

Physician-assisted suicide is legal by law in the District of Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont, and Colorado; and in Montana through a state supreme court ruling. It will become legal in Hawaii next year. A bill to legalize assisted suicide is under consideration in Indiana.

Matt Valliere, executive director of the Patients’ Rights Action Fund, said the AMA vote is “a lost opportunity and a failure to stand against a policy that has grave consequences for everyone, but especially persons living with illness, disabilities, or socio-economic disadvantage.”

“Assisted suicide is not medical care,” Valliere said June 12. He said the vote decision “does not take into account that this bad public policy puts vulnerable patients at high risk for coercion, mistakes and even abuse.”

The AMA’s current guidance describes physician-assisted suicide as “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” It would be “difficult or impossible to control” and would pose “serious societal risks.”

While it is “understandable, though tragic” that some patients in extreme duress from their suffering may decide that death is preferable to life, “permitting physicians to engage in assisted suicide would ultimately cause more harm than good.”

The guidance says physicians should not abandon a patient once a cure is determined impossible. They must respect patient autonomy, provide good communication and emotional support, and must provide appropriate comfort care and pain control.

Speaking to CNA, Valliere said there could be many reasons why certain delegates didn’t vote to affirm the report.

Like-minded physicians who oppose assisted suicide should join the AMA and become active in their state delegations and work to become delegates, he added.

“They can and should also be discussing with their colleagues the very real dangers that assisted suicide public policy and practice pose,” he said. Many voting delegates come from other areas of medicine with limited involvement with death and dying.

Organizations like the 140,000-member American College of Physicians, the second-largest national physicians’ organization, recently reaffirmed their opposition to assisted suicide.

The decision comes amid a significant increase in suicide in the U.S. On June 7, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the suicide rate has risen steadily in almost every U.S. state, and 25 percent nationwide, in the period from 1999 to 2016. Nearly 40,000 Americans died by suicide in 2016, twice the number of homicides that year.

Valliere reflected on the tension behind opposing some suicides and advocating suicide for others.

“When some people get suicide prevention, and others get suicide help based on health or disability status, that’s a clear problem of unequal protection under the law,” he said.

He warned that assisted suicide could undo decades of efforts by disability activists. Many in the disability community, for instance, live “full professional lives,” have children, and are active members of their communities.

“And yet, if they didn’t have a ventilator, they’d be dead,” he said.

The legal definition of “terminal illness” is different than the clinical definition. Some laws such as Oregon’s consider diabetes a qualifying terminal illness for assisted suicide.

“So if someone like my father, who has diabetes and has been on insulin for half his life, could be having a bad year, fall into deep acute depression, and go off his insulin, they would declare him terminal according to assisted suicide public policy. He would qualify for the law,” warned Valliere.


Cardinal DiNardo: New US asylum policy erodes the right to life

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 9:36 AM

Miami, Fla., Jun 13, 2018 / 07:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the opening of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ general assembly on Wednesday, the conference president issued a statement condemning the Trump administration’s adoption of stricter asylum policies and its policy of family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life,” read the June 13 statement from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. The bishops gathered at the spring plenary meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, 30 miles north of Miami, indicated their widespread assent to the statement.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a 31-page ruling June 11 indicating that domestic violence and gang violence are no longer grounds for seeking asylum in the U.S. He said that domestic abuse and gang violence claims alone should not be considered grounds for an asylum claim, unless there is also evidence of persecution by government actors based on one’s social group.

The BBC reports that around 10,000 people annually receive asylum in the U.S. due to domestic abuse or gang violence in their home countries

Session’s decision “elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection,” Cardinal DiNardo stated.

“These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country. This decision negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women.”

Cardinal DiNardo stated that “unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors.”

The U.S. bishops urged both courts and policy makers “to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life.”

The cardinal’s statement also discussed the Trump administration’s policy of separating minors from their parents who enter the U.S. illegally as part of its zero-tolerance policy.

“Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma.”

Because families are “the foundational element of our society,” they “must be able to stay together,” he reflected.

“While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

“Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

Papal advisors finish first draft of new constitution on the Roman Curia

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 9:22 AM

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2018 / 07:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In their latest round of meetings, Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals has finished and approved the first draft of what will be a new apostolic constitution outlining the role and functions of the Roman Curia.

The tentative title of the document is “Predicatae Evangelium,” meaning “Preach the Gospel.” The new constitution will eventually replace “Pastor Bonus,” the apostolic constitution issued by St. John Paul II in 1988, which currently governs the Roman Curia.

In comments to the press, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the title of the new constitution is subject to change, as is the rest of the text, a first draft of which was voted on and presented to Pope Francis by his Council of Cardinals during their June 11-13 meeting at the Vatican.

Burke stressed that there is “a lot of work to do still” on the text, and that right now the cardinals “are refining” it. The pope, he said, will make whatever changes he sees fit and “can give it to whomever he wants as an expert” for either opinions or contributions.

The bulk of this week’s round of meetings was dedicated to finalizing the draft of Predicatae Evangelium, though updates were given on the status of both the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and the Council for the Economy.

British Msgr. Brian Ferme, secretary for the Vatican's Council of the Economy, gave the group an update on the reform of the financial structures of the Holy See and the Vatican Governorate, which is economically independent from the Holy See and oversees the Vatican museums, the Vatican gardens, and the gendarmerie.

Ferme outlined the goals and fundamental principles of the Vatican’s financial reform, among which are the avoidance of waste, promoting transparency, ensuring that accounting principles are properly applied, and ensuring that international standards and the principle of dual control are followed.

Ferme also highlighted several positive aspects of the reform to date, which include a gradual change in mentality on the need for transparency and accountability; a uniform procedure for preparing budgets and final balances; a greater attention to waste and a greater cooperation with and understanding of the financial reform currently in progress.

Each of the nine members of the pope’s advisory body were present for the meeting, with the exception of Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, who is currently in Australia preparing to face trial for charges of historical sexual abuse, to which he has pled “not guilty.”

Established by Pope Francis shortly after his election in 2013, the Council of Cardinals – colloquially known as the “C9” – is an advisory body on Church governance and reform.

Their next round of meetings will take place Sept. 10-12 at the Vatican, shortly before Pope Francis leaves for a Sept. 22-25 trip to the Baltic states. 

Pope taps Lansing priest as new bishop for Salina diocese

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 7:27 AM

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2018 / 05:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis has named Michigan-native Msgr. Gerald Vincke as the new bishop of the Diocese of Salina, Kan., pulling him from several roles in the Diocese of Lansing, Mich.

In a June 13 statement on Vincke's appointment, Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing said the diocese is “very happy” about the priest's nomination.

“The priests of our diocese as well as myself will deeply miss our brother priest as he moves into this new ministry,” he said, and voiced his “love and gratitude” to Pope Francis for the appointment.

Vincke “is a fine priest, a man of deep faith in Jesus Christ, and a gentle soul,” he said, adding that Lansing's loss is Salina's gain.

Born in Saginaw, Mich., in 1964, Bishop-elect Vincke is the ninth of 10 children and has a degree in public relations and marketing from Ferris State University in Big Rapids.

He studied philosophy at the Thomas More College in Crestview, Ken., before going on to study theology at the Athenaeum Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, and at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Lansing June 12, 1999, after which he served in various pastoral roles. In 2003 he was named as the diocese's Director of Seminarians and Vocations Director, roles he held until his 2010 appointment as spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

Vincke was given the title “monsignor” by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, and in 2015, while still in Rome, he obtained a licentiate in Sacred Theology. The title of his thesis, which places an emphasis on spiritual theology, is “Following the Path of St. John Vianney for the New Evangelization with Evangelii Gaudium as a Guide.”

After returning to Lansing later in 2015, he was assigned as pastor to Holy Family parish in Grand Blanc. He currently serves on the diocese's Presbyteral Council and the College of Consultors.

The date and time of Vincke's ordination as a bishop and installation have yet to be announced.

As Miss America cancels swimsuit contest, more Americans approve of porn

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 5:09 AM

Atlantic City, New Jersey, Jun 13, 2018 / 03:09 am (CNA).- While the nation’s largest beauty pageant is proudly covering up in the name of women’s empowerment, Americans increasingly believe pornography to be morally acceptable - a trend that one commenter finds to be incoherent.

“On one hand, it seems like the media wants to say ‘yes, you shouldn’t treat people just according to their bodies’, and on the other hand, they seem to be saying ‘it’s actually a very liberating thing if you want it to be a liberating thing’,” said Matt Fradd, a Catholic apologist, speaker and author whose work focuses largely on the consequences of pornography.

A Gallup poll released on June 5 found that 43 percent of Americans find pornography to be “morally acceptable.” This is a 7 percent increase in the past year - more than the cumulative increase over the previous seven years combined.

The poll was published on the same day that Miss America Organization Board of Trustees announced its termination of the swimsuit competition portion of the pageant. Instead of the swimsuit competition, women will have the opportunity to verbally highlight their strengths and passions in conversation with judges.

A press release from Miss America said that candidates “will no longer be judged on outward physical appearance.”

Chair of the Miss America Board of Trustees Gretchen Carlson was quoted in the press release as saying, “We’re experiencing a cultural revolution in our country with women finding the courage to stand up and have their voices heard on many issues. Miss America is proud to evolve as an organization and join this empowerment movement.”

Fradd noted the irony in a culture that decries the objectification of women in some contexts while accepting the same objectification when it occurs in pornography. He suggested that this demonstrates contradictions within the cultural mindset.

“So, at one minute, we are being told that if a woman wishes to undress and engage in pornography or pornography-like actions, that this is somehow liberating,” he told CNA. “But on the other hand, we seem to be championing this… Miss America contest and saying that this is a real victory for women, that we’re not just judging them on their bodies.”

Participation in Miss America swimsuit competitions was a voluntary action, he noted, yet contestants presumably did not find it liberating - hence its removal from the program.

The “cultural revolution” that Carlson referenced - the recent #MeToo movement criticizing the sexual harassment and objectification of women - “has done some good things, but it hasn’t gone nearly far enough,” said Fradd. It doesn’t “address why pornography and consuming it degrades the human person and is therefore always inappropriate.”

Church teaching aside, he said, decades of scientific research have proven pornography to be physically, mentally and emotionally detrimental.

“Right now, there are 38 neuroscience-based studies on porn uses,” said Fradd. “Every single one of them supports the addiction model. And that leads to all sorts of complications, like erectile dysfunction in men, sexual dysfunction in women. It leads to depression, nervousness, irritability, marital breakdowns--the list goes on.”

However, Fradd also supports the Church’s reasoning against pornography.

“I would say we should trust the Catholic Church when it comes to human dignity and morality for the same reason we should trust a nutritionist when it comes to what food is good for us,” he said.

“The reason is the nutritionist knows the material of the human body, like, the material cause. Certain foods are good for us or bad for us because it’s who we are and what we’re made of, and I think, analogously, the Church knows who we are and why we are, and therefore, it knows what acts are at odds with our human dignity, or which lead to our flourishing.”


What is the biggest threat young people face? Mediocrity, Pope says

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 5:02 AM

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2018 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that the greatest danger modern youth face is not the array of problems that surround them, but rather, the temptation to mediocrity – preferring to stay immobile rather than making a leap toward the next step.

Pointing to the Gospel reading from Mark in which a rich young man kneels in front of Jesus and asks how to obtain eternal life, the pope said this question “is the challenge of every existence: the desire for a full, infinite life.”

Many young people today seek life, but end up destroying themselves by pursuing worldly desires, he said, noting that some people would say it is better “to turn this impulse off, the impulse to live, because it's dangerous.”

However, “I would like to say, especially to young people: our worst enemy is not concrete problems, no matter how serious or dramatic: the greatest danger is a bad spirit of adaption, which is not meekness or humility, but mediocrity, timidity.”

A young person who is mediocre has no future, Francis said in off-the-cuff remarks, explaining that “they don't grow, they won't be successful” because they are “afraid of everything.”

“We need to ask the heavenly Father for the youth of today to receive the gift of a healthy restlessness, the ability not to be satisfied with a life without beauty, without color,” he said, adding that “if young people are not hungry for an authentic life, where will humanity end up?”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his weekly general audience, during which he began a new series of catechesis dedicated to the Ten Commandments.

The dialogue between Jesus and the rich young man in Chapter 10 of Mark's Gospel, the pope said in his address, is “a pedagogical process” in which Jesus wants to guide the man from youth into maturity, beginning with a question about the commandments, and ending with an invitation for the man to sell his belongings.  

This process of maturity, Francis said, can only take place “when one begins to accept their own limits. We become adults when we become aware of what is lacking.”

When Jesus asked the man to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, the man could not do it, and was forced to recognize that what he was able to give could not go beyond a certain limit.

The truth of mankind's limits is one that has been rejected throughout history, often with “tragic consequences,” the pope said, noting that in the Gospels, Jesus offers his help, saying he did not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to “fulfill them.”

“Jesus gives fulfillment, he comes for this,” he said, adding that the rich man was taken to “the threshold of a leap, where the possibility was opened of ceasing to live for himself and his own works, his own goods, and – precisely because he lacked eternal life – to leave everything to follow the Lord.”

The invitation to the man to sell everything he owned was not a proposal of poverty, but rather “of wealth, the true kind,” Francis said, asking: “who, being able to choose between an original and a copy, would choose the copy?”

“This is the challenge: to find the original, not the copy. Jesus does not offer surrogates, but true life, true love, true wealth!”

In his closing remarks, Pope Francis also prayed for the beginning of the World Cup, which will take place June 14-July 15 in Russia.

Francis offered his greeting to the players and organizers of the games, as well as those who will watch the matches on television or through social media. He prayed that the event would be “an occasion of encounter, of dialogue and fraternity between different cultures and religions, favoring solidarity and peace among nations.”

Immigration ruling 'closes the door' to victims of abuse, gang violence

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 2:04 AM

Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2018 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A ruling by the U.S. attorney general that victims of domestic abuse and gang violence may no longer qualify for asylum could “close the door” on the most vulnerable, warned a refugee official with the U.S. bishops’ conference.

On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a 31-page ruling which overturned a 2016 decision granting asylum to a woman who had been “emotionally, physically and sexually” abused by her husband in El Salvador. For the sake of anonymity, the woman is known as Ms. A-B in court papers. 

Sessions said that domestic abuse and gang violence claims alone should not be considered grounds for an asylum claim, unless there is also evidence of persecution by government actors based on one’s social group.

The decision “strips life-saving protection from Ms. A-B herself, and also potentially many other women who lack adequate protection and will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country,” said Ashley Feasley, the director of policy at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migrant and Refugee Services.

“Similarly, this decision could close the door on those fleeing gang violence in their home country from escaping persecution,” Feasley told CNA, adding “this action also overrides extensive prior legal precedent.”

Currently, individuals can seek asylum in the U.S. if they fear persecution in their home country on the basis of race, political opinion, nationality, religion or social group. The U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals found that Ms. A-B qualified for asylum under the “social group” definition, but Sessions overturned the ruling, saying it was “inherently ambiguous,” according to the BBC.

“Asylum was never meant to alleviate all problems – even all serious problems – that people face every day all over the world,” said Sessions on June 11, according to NPR.

“The asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune,” Sessions continued, who stressed the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” border policy.

The case of Ms. A-B was sent back to an immigration judge to order her deportation, although her lawyers said they have plans to challenge Sessions’ decision in federal court.

The BBC reports that around 10,000 people annually receive asylum in the U.S. due to domestic abuse or gang violence in their home countries, and the New York Times reports that credible fear claims reported at the border have skyrocketed 1,700 percent from 2008-2016. Sessions’ ruling could mean that many of these asylum cases will be blocked moving forward.

Many groups voiced their concern over the attorney general’s decision, saying it will only harm the already vulnerable.

“Turning our backs on victims of violence and deporting them to grave danger should not be the legacy sought by any administration,” said Beth Werlin of the American Immigration Council, saying the decision will “no doubt result in sending countless mothers and children back to their abusers and criminal gangs.”

The ruling is most strongly affect asylum seekers from Latin American countries, where gang violence has been rampant in recent years. The U.N. has said these countries have some of the worst rates of violence against women in the world.

Thousands of asylum seekers are waiting for legal entry into the U.S. and have camped near border crossings, although authorities have told them to continue waiting in Mexico before applying for asylum.

An immigration spokesman said the entry delays are expected to be “temporary,” according to the New York Times, but many of the asylum-seekers are running out of resources as they wait in limbo at the U.S-Mexican border, according to reports.


Most Americans support restrictions on abortion

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 6:41 PM

Washington D.C., Jun 12, 2018 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Americans who think abortion is morally wrong outnumber those who see it as morally acceptable, said a new Gallup poll, released Monday.

This result is consistent with Gallup’s findings since it first started surveying Americans about the issue in 2001.

In this year’s poll, 48 percent of respondents believe abortion to be wrong, and 43 percent say it is acceptable.

Abortion, said the poll report, is one of a small handful of issues “about which Americans' views have not become more liberal over the past two decades.”

Asked whether they identify as “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” respondents were evenly split, with 48 percent siding with each label. Over the last three years, “pro-choice” respondents outnumbered “pro-life” respondents by an average of about three percentage points.

Most Americans favor at least some restrictions on abortion, the poll found. Fifty percent said abortion should be legal “only under certain circumstances,” while 29 percent said it should be legal in all circumstances, and 18 percent said it should be illegal in all cases.

“In a follow-up question asked of those [50 percent] in the middle ‘legal under certain circumstances’ group, most of these respondents say it should be legal ‘only in a few’ rather than in ‘most’ circumstances.”

The poll on abortion was part of the Gallup’s Values and Beliefs survey, which is conducted yearly. The poll was based on telephone interviews of 1,024 adults ages 18 and up, conducted in early May. The margin of sampling error is 4 percentage points.


In Osorno, Pope's investigators offer legal advice on responding to abuse

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 6:02 PM

Osorno, Chile, Jun 12, 2018 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The archbishop tasked with investigating the Chilean clerical abuse crisis said the main objective of his visit to the diocese of Osorno is not only to express Pope Francis' closeness to the local Church, but to help provide the legal structures needed to handle abuse accusations.

“In respect to our pastoral mission, we wish in first place to be a sign of the closeness of the pope to the people and Church of Chile,” Archbishop Charles Scicluna said in a June 12 statement read aloud to the press in Santiago.

Another goal of the visit, he said, is “to provide concrete technical and legal assistance to the diocesan curias of Chile, so that they can give adequate responses to each case of sexual abuse of minors committed by priests or religious.”

The archbishop stressed Francis' particular closeness to the Diocese of Osorno, saying the visit will be carried out in a spirit “of service and of communion, in a context of prayer, of liturgical celebration and of mutual listening and cordiality.”

Scicluna, who heads the Archdiocese of Malta, is the Vatican's top authority on sex abuse appeals cases. In addition to his post in Malta, Scicluna in 2015 was tapped by Francis to oversee the team in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith charged with handling appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse. He served as the congregation’s Promoter of Justice for 17 years beginning in 1995, and is widely known for his expertise in the canonical norms governing allegations of sexual abuse.

The archbishop is currently on a June 12-19 pastoral mission to the Chilean Dioceses of Osorno and Santiago with Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu, an official of the Vatican’s doctrine office.

The two men, who have been tasked with advancing “the process of healing and reparation for victims of abuse” in Chile, will spend June 14-17 in the Diocese of Osorno, and the remainder of their time in the Archdiocese of Santiago.

In February the pair was sent to Santiago to investigate the clerical abuse crisis in Chile, which in the beginning largely surrounded accusations of cover-up on the part of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, who was named to the Osorno diocese in 2015. His appointment was widely opposed, with many accusing the bishop of covering the crimes of notorious Chilean abuser, Fr. Fernando Karadima.

The Vatican announced Monday that Pope Francis has accepted Barros’ resignation and that of two other Chilean bishops. Every active bishop in Chile had submitted his resignation at the close of a May 15-17 meeting between the pontiff and the country's bishops, during which Francis chastised them for systematic cover-up.

Francis had initially defended Barros, saying he believed the accusations against him were “calumny” during a visit to Chile in January. However, after new evidence was presented and news of old evidence resurfaced following his trip, the pope sent Scicluna and Bertomeu to Chile to investigate, resulting a 2,300 page report on the crisis which prompted the pope to pen a letter to Chilean bishops in April saying he had made “serious errors” in judging the case.

Since then, Pope Francis has met with all Chilean bishops and two groups of Chilean abuse survivors at the Vatican.

In his statement to the press, Scicluna entrusted the Osorno mission to the intercession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, to the Venerable Servant of God Francisco Valdes Subercaseaux, first bishop of Osorno, and to Chilean Saints Alberto Hurtado and Teresa of the Andes.

Quoting from Pope Francis' recent letter to Chilean Catholics, Scicluna said the pope's appeal for them to take action “is not a functional resource or a gesture of goodwill; on the contrary, it is to invoke the anointing that as God's people they possess.”

“With you, the necessary steps can be made for ecclesial renewal and conversion which healthy and long-term. You can generate the transformation that is so needed. Without you, nothing can be done,” the archbishop said.

Continuing to quote the text, he urged all Chilean Catholics “not to be afraid to get involved and walk impelled by the Spirit in search of a Church which is everyday more synodal, prophetic and hopeful; less abusive because it knows how to put Jesus at the center in the hungry, in the prisoner, in the migrant, in the abused.”

Scicluna closes his statement thanking Chilean Catholics for their welcome and for the opportunity that “in community, we will give in these days of grace to continue rebuilding justice and ecclesial communion in Chile, as Pope Francis has asked us all.”


Korean bishops call for prayer amid ‘joy’ after Trump-Kim North Korea summit

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 5:58 PM

Washington D.C., Jun 12, 2018 / 03:58 pm (CNA).- At a highly-anticipated summit on June 12, President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un signed a joint-statement making commitments “to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”

The meeting on Singapore’s Sentosa Island was the first time that an American president met with a North Korean leader.

South Korean Archbishop Kim Hee-Jung of Gwangju called the outcome of the summit “a surprise and a joy,” in a June 12 statement.

Peaceful negotiation is an ongoing process, the archbishop said, quoting the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et spes:

“Peace is never attained once and for all, but must be built up ceaselessly.”

The South Korean bishops have called for Catholics to pray a novena for North Korea from June 17 - 25 with specific prayer intentions for each day. This includes prayers for the North Korean people, separated families, North Korean refugees, evangelization of the North, and the peaceful reunification of the peninsula.

Trump faced several questions in the press conference following the summit about whether he had addressed North Korea’s human rights abuses in his private discussion with Kim Jong Un. The question of whether to prioritize peace negotiations, security, or human rights concerns has been a frequent point of contention among North Korea experts.

Trump replied that human rights were “discussed relatively briefly compared to denuclearization.” However, he also said that North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens, and the regime’s persecution of Christians were brought up in his conversation with Kim. The roughly 45 minute conversation was unrecorded and through an interpreter.

“Christians, yes. We … brought it up very strongly.  You know, Franklin Graham spent and spends a tremendous amount of time in North Korea.  He’s got it very close to his heart.  It did come up, and things will be happening,” said Trump. Franklin Graham is the son of the late American evangelist Billy Graham and the CEO of the Samaritan’s Purse organization.

After a one-on-one meeting with Kim Jong Un, Trump participated in an expanded bilateral meeting, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chief of Staff John Kelly, and National Security Advisor John Bolton. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Ambassador Sung Kim, and National Security Council Senior Director for Asia Matt Pottinger joined after for a working lunch.

The outcome of these meetings was a joint-statement signed by both leaders with four specific parts to the agreement.

First, both the U.S. and North Korea agreed to “establish new U.S.-DPRK relations.”

Trump said that he sees himself meeting with Kim again in the future, and told the press, “I also will be inviting Chairman Kim, at the appropriate time, to the White House.”

Second, “the United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”

In part, this seems to include the end of U.S. military exercises with South Korea, which Trump called “war games.” It does not mean a reduction in military capabilities, he clarified.

Third, Kim Jung Un committed to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” a reaffirmation of the Panmunjom Declaration, the statement he signed with South Korean President Moon Jae-In on April 27.

As with the Panmunjom Declaration, many scholars critiqued this June 12 joint-statement for lacking concrete details and a timeline to ensure the complete implementation and verification of denuclearization.

Lastly, the two leaders committed to “recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”

This relatively unexpected outcome came as the result of  “countless calls and letters and tweets” the president said he received from Americans that wanted “the remains of their sons back.” To his suggestion that the remains be repatriated, Trump said that Kim Jung Un replied, “It makes sense.  We will do it.”

The American president seemed confident that the North Korean leader will keep his promises.

“We signed a very, very comprehensive document, and I believe he’s going to live up to that document,” said Trump.

Trump also said that Kim had a “great personality and very smart -- good combination.”

Trump attempted to help Kim envision a brighter economic future for North Korea through a short video, which he said he showed the North Korean leader on an iPad toward the end of their meeting.

“The past doesn’t have to be the future. Out of the darkness can come the light, and the light of hope can burn bright,” said a voice in the video over images of the planet, prosperous urban cities, and photos of Trump and Kim.

Trump also claims to have attempted to persuade Kim to see his situation “from a real estate perspective.”

North Korea has “great beaches” said Trump, who continued “You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean, right?  I said, ‘Boy, look at the view.  Wouldn’t that make a great condo behind?’  And I explained, I said, ‘You know, instead of doing that, you could have the best hotels in the world right there.’”

President Trump said that he already has plans to meet next week with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and his “entire team” to begin implementing the negotiated terms.

“The biggest challenge will be developing a robust verification and inspection regime — an endeavor that will test the resilience of the fledgling U.S.-North Korea working partnership,” said John Park, the director of Harvard’s Korea Working Group, in a statement released by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

“A key obstacle ahead will be some actors’ use of the “Sentosa Statement” as a justification to further ease implementation of sanctions without linkage to denuclearization actions to maximize narrow national interests,” Park continued.

In the press conference, Trump said that he would not consider removing the current sanctions on North Korea until “we are sure that the nukes are no longer a factor” and there is “significant improvement” in the human rights situation.

“You can imagine how anxiously the Korean people and the church here in Korea are experiencing this truly historic moment,” Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, apostolic nuncio to South Korea and Mongolia, told Vatican News June 12.

“It marks the beginning of a still long and arduous journey, but we are hopeful because the start has been very positive, very good,” he said.

South Korea’s novena will end June 25, South Korea’s memorial day, and an annual day of prayer in South Korea for reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The day will likely be celebrated with particular urgency this year.  

“Since 1965, the Korean Catholic Church has been praying for the true peace of the two Koreas and the reconciliation of the nation on June 25 every year,” wrote Archbishop Kim following April's Inter-Korean summit.

In recent months, the country’s bishops have also called for daily rosaries for peace each day at 9pm in South Korea, which are expected to continue after today’s meeting.



Pro-lifers in Argentina make final push against abortion bill

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 5:11 PM

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 12, 2018 / 03:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As legislators in Argentina prepare to vote tomorrow on a bill that would legalize first-trimester abortions, pro-life groups have been working adamantly to oppose the legislation.  

Argentina’s House of Representatives will vote June 13 on a bill to allow legal abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. The vote is expected to be close.

If the bill passes in the House, it will be sent to the Senate, and then to President Mauricio Macri, who has encouraged “responsible” debate over the topic and said that he personally opposes the legislation but will not veto it if Congress approves it.

The current law in Argentina prohibits abortion, except when the mother’s life or health is determined to be in danger, or in cases of rape.

On June 5, some 417,000 signatures were presented to Congress in support of the right to life of the unborn. More signatures are being collected, to be delivered on June 12 by children and young people with disabilities. Pro-life groups have emphasized that babies with disabilities will be at risk for abortion if the legislation passes.

Tens of thousands of people turned out June 10 for pro-life marches in the country's main cities. A previous march held May 20 drew an estimated 3,600,000 participants in 270 cities.

Unidad Provida, (Pro-Life Unity), an Argentine NGO that serves as an umbrella group for some 100 pro-life organizations, has launched a Twitter campaign for the day of the vote with two hashtags, #Salvemoslas2Vidas (Save Both Lives) and #NoAlAbortoEnArgentina (No to Abortion in Argentina).

“We need the support of our Latin American brothers and sisters in this crucial time for our country…We don't want this throwaway politics. We believe abortion is never the solution and we are standing up for 'Let's Save Both Lives,'” Pro-Life Unity said in a press release.

Other pro-life efforts include the Jericho for Life prayer campaign, which will surround the capitol starting at 5:00 p.m. local time June 12, pray the rosary and conclude with a consecration of Argentina to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, led by clergy.

That effort will be followed by a prayer vigil entitled “40 Days for Life Argentina Prays for Both Lives.” The vigil will run from 6:00 p.m. June 12 to 8:00 a.m. June 13, in front of the nation's capitol building.

Opposition came in even from Iraq, where Argentine missionary Fr. Luis Montes posted an open letter to members of Congress on Facebook, in which he compared abortion to ISIS atrocities, saying that in both cases, victims are “dehumanized.”

Previous efforts to oppose the abortion bill included a day of prayer and fasting called by the Argentine Conference of Bishops on June 7. The bishops also called for a prayer campaign from May 13 to June 3 which was supported by the Argentine Conference of Men and Women Religious.

A column published May 30 in La Nación daily and signed by more than 1,000 doctors argued against the legalization of abortion.

“Far from resolving problems,” the doctors wrote, “abortion is a failure for medicine.”


Boko Haram burns Catholic building previously destroyed by Boko Haram

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 5:09 PM

Madagali, Nigeria, Jun 12, 2018 / 03:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic catechetical building was damaged by Boko Haram militants during an attack Monday on a village in northwestern Nigeria.

Terrorists connected with the Islamist militant group burned 22 buildings during the raid, including part of the Catechetical Training Centre in Kaya, according to the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri. Reportedly, the terrorists had been looting and searching for food.

The Diocese of Maiduguri reported that the catechetical center had been previously destroyed during a violent Boko Haram takeover of the region in 2014, and had only recently been rebuilt. Boko Haram militants have fought with government forces in the region since at least 2012.

Monday’s attack was stopped by Nigerian security forces and a group of locals from the Adamawa State. One member of Boko Haram was killed during the raid, Nigerian media reported.

Ahmad Sajoh, the Adamawa Commissioner of Information and Strategy, applauded the people’s resilience and asked the public to remain calm, according to Punch News.

“The current operations by the security agencies are intended to ensure enhanced security situation all over the state ahead of the end of Ramadan Sallah celebrations,” he said. “The general public is therefore requested to remain calm and be law-abiding.”

Archbishop Valerian Okeke of Onitsha, along with a committee of the Nigerian bishops’ conference,  issued a statement in May condemning Islamic violence in the country, following a conference for seminary rectors addressing “Christian Witness in the Face of Islamic Militancy.”

“The Church in Nigeria is passing through a very trying time more than ever before. The recent massacre of two Catholic priests and some parishioners during Holy Mass in Benue State and similar killings in other parts of the country strike deep note on the ears of the populace,” the statement said.

The conference condemned recent violence in the area, including attacks by Fulani herdsmen who massacred two priests and 16 parishioners in April.

Okeke’s statement said that poverty, unemployment, and a paucity of schools across Nigeria contribute to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. The archbishop encouraged broad educational efforts by the country’s government and by the Church, and called for sustainable empowerment programs aimed at reducing unemployment.

“It is very important to see Islamic violence within the context of the historical evolution of the Nigerian State,” the statement said. “The Church and other noble agencies should continue to correct the distorted historical narrative of fundamentalist’s ideology which identifies colonialism and western civilization with Christianity.”

The statement encouraged Catholics to “work closely with peace-loving Muslims to tackle the problem of injustice that fuels fundamentalism.”

“Understanding fundamentalists groups, their ideologies and how to counter these ideologies should an integral part of seminary formation and general Christian formation;” Okeke added.

“Government should be held accountable for the life of every citizen irrespective of religion or ethnic group.”

Fr. James Martin to give keynote at World Meeting of Families

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 2:55 PM

Dublin, Ireland, Jun 12, 2018 / 12:55 pm (CNA).- The World Meeting of Families being held in Dublin this August will include a presentation from American author Fr. James Martin, S.J., who will discuss ways “parishes can support families with members who identify as LGBTI+.”

Fr. Martin's presentation was included among the highlights of the event during a June 11 press conference in Maynooth, about 20 miles west of Dublin. Another highlighted address is on the meaning of Pope Francis' phrase “throwaway culture,” by Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila.

The World Meeting of Families will be held in Aug. 21-26 with the theme “The Gospel of the Family, Joy for the World.” It is organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and will include the participation of Pope Francis.

Fr. Martin is an editor at America Magazine, and in 2017 was appointed a consultor to the Vatican Secretariat for Communications.

He is also author of “Building a Bridge,” which addresses the Church's engagement with those who identify as LGBT and which has drawn significant criticism.

Some critics say the book does not directly address Catholic teaching on celibacy and chastity or engage with Catholics who identify as LGBT while observing the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

Fr. Martin has suggested that same-sex attraction should be referred to as “differently ordered” rather than “intrinsically disordered,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states.

“We have to be sensitive to the language we use. We can't pretend that language like that isn't harmful,” Fr. Martin told CNA in September 2017.

The priest's book has drawn praise from Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, as well as Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who said the book “marks an essential step in inviting Church leaders to minister with more compassion, and in reminding LGBT Catholics that they are as much a part of our Church as any other Catholic.”

New Ways Ministry, a dissenting Catholic group that has been the subject of warnings from the U.S. bishops and the Vatican for confusing Catholic teaching, awarded Fr. Martin in 2016 for having “helped to expand the dialogue on LGBT issues in the Catholic Church.”

In September 2017, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia wrote an essay saying that “perceived ambiguities in some of Fr. Martin’s views on sexuality have created much of the apprehension and criticism surrounding his book. There’s nothing vindictive in respectfully but firmly challenging those inadequacies. Doing less would violate both justice and charity.”

“Clear judgment, tempered by mercy but faithful to Scripture and constant Church teaching, is an obligation of Catholic discipleship – especially on moral issues, and especially in Catholic scholarship,” the archbishop added.

The Irish government has exerted pressure on the World Meeting of Families, with one government minister warning it should not express “intolerance” of LBGT groups or same-sex couples.

“There should be a welcome for all. And never again should public statements or remarks which seek to isolate certain families be tolerated,” said Katherine Zappone, the Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, according to the Irish Times.

Cardinal Farrell has noted his hopes for the meeting, saying that the event should revitalize family life and will not exclude anyone.

“This encounter… is to promote the Christian concept of marriage, and the Catholic concept of marriage, and will focus on that. All people are invited, we don’t exclude anybody,” stated Cardinal Farrell.

Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia is the guiding theme of the World Meeting of Families and of all the topics chosen for presentation during the event.

In a May 2017 interview with CNA, Cardinal Farrell had said in reference to Amoris laetitia that the document is about the beauty of marriage and the family, and that “we need to say what our teaching is, and that’s not a yes and no answer.”

The World Meeting of Families developed after St. John Paul II requested an international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration for families. The first took place in Rome in 1994. It is held every three years.


Rally supporting Masterpiece Cakeshop draws hundreds

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 2:39 PM

Denver, Colo., Jun 12, 2018 / 12:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Hundreds of people attended a rally outside Masterpiece Cakeshop last week, showing support for a U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the religious freedom of the shop’s owner.

“This is a really good, solid ruling. They overturned everything the Civil Rights Commission accused us of, and it’s a good ruling for religious liberty,” shop owner Jack Phillips told CNA.

A devout Christian, Phillips declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2012. He said that while he is happy to serve gay customers, he cannot support gay marriage, due to his faith. Phillips has also declined to create cakes for other themes he finds objectionable – including bachelor parties, divorce celebrations, and Halloween.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ordered Phillips to change his company policies and undergo anti-discrimination training.

On June 4, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Phillips. The court determined that the Civil Rights Commission had shown “elements of a clear and impermissible hostility” toward Phillips’ religious beliefs.

A line of people wrapped around the block of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado on June 8 to show their support for Phillips. They purchased cookies and cakes, and a rally was held in parking lot, where a few speakers gave a short address.

“I serve all who walk through my doors, people from all walks of life. I’ve spent many years honing my craft as a cake artist, combining baking with my love of sculpting, painting, and sketching. And I love my work because a cake is a canvas on which I express ideas, celebrate events, and bring joy to people’s lives,” said Phillips at the rally.

“The Court’s decision makes clear that tolerance is a two-way street. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to others with whom we disagree about important issues like the meaning of marriage.”

Carrying signs bearing slogans such as “Stand up for religious freedom” and “Love free speech,” supporters drove from all over the state to show their support for religious liberty. A small group of counter protesters also showed up on Friday, but both parties were respectful.

One supporter, Wendy Smith, told CNA that she and her husband drove up from Colorado Springs for the rally, because they were “very thankful for Jack and we do want to stand behind him because he has been an example for all of us.”

She also expressed hope for more opportunities to “sit down and talk to [the opposition] and find common ground, and just be respectful, even in the midst of disagreeing.”

Justin Wright of Loveland, Colo., said he came to endorse the court’s decision as well.

“I pretty much came to support him because, as a gay person, I feel like for a large portion of us the left speaks for us, which isn’t the truth. Honestly, religious freedom is just as important to everybody in this country...Just because [the gay community has] rights doesn’t mean they trump [Phillips’] rights at the end of the day.”

Phillips said he has received an outpouring of positive support since the case began. People have sent encouraging emails and have stopped by the shop offering their prayers.

However, Phillips and his family have also received threats and cruel messages throughout the judicial process, he said, noting there was a time when his wife had been nervous about coming to the shop.

“We started getting hate mail, emails that were really vicious and vulgar, and phone calls, death threats,” he said. “We are still getting phone calls and emails that are blatantly violent and they are awful, but then you can look around and you can see that we have received a lot of support.”

Despite the negative response, Phillips stressed that the two men whose inquiry about the cake had led to the court case would be welcome in his shop any day.

“I serve everybody who comes into my shop… but we don’t create every cake for every message people ask me for,” he said.

When asked further about this distinction, Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Phillips, said it is a question of the cake’s message rather than the customer.

“It’s the difference of the what vs the who. For Jack, it is only the what that matters - what are you asking me to create? I think our society will benefit if we accept that distinction.”

Tedesco noted that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had told other bakeries that they have the right to refuse to craft a cake with an anti-gay marriage message. These same rights should be extended to Phillips, he said.

“We just have to extend that same tolerance and respect to people like Jack,” he said. “I think the most important thing is this decision underscores the need for tolerance and respect, and the fact that people who believe – like Jack does – that marriage is between a man and a woman are good and decent and honorable people who belong in our society.”

Tedesco voiced hope that this ruling will lead to a positive outcome in other similar cases and restore a sense of respectful dialogue in the public sphere.

He noted that the Supreme Court, in its ruling, emphasized “that we need to extend tolerance and respect to people who disagree with us, especially those we disagree with most vehemently.”

“It is just an essential aspect to what makes our society great, and I don’t want to see us lose it,” he said.


For Poland's bishops, Pope Francis continues Catholic teaching on the family

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 5:04 AM

Warsaw, Poland, Jun 12, 2018 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ thought on the family reveals the importance of “tenderness and closeness” in pastoral ministry and should be read in the spirit of continuity with previous popes, the Polish bishops said in their pastoral guidelines for Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

When read in this spirit, Amoris laetitia “not only includes, but above all, completes and updates the previous statements of the Church’s Magisterium on marriage and the family,” the Polish Bishops’ Conference said in guidelines they adopted June 8 at their plenary assembly.

The Polish bishops said the pope’s exhortation is “an expression of his concern for the good health of marital love in the family.”

While debate over the reception of Holy Communion by the divorced-and-remarried has dominated some discussions of the exhortation, the Polish bishops’ conference press office said the guidelines document “does not address the issue of Holy Communion for people living in non-sacramental relationships.”

The guidelines show Pope Francis’ teaching in the context of previous Popes, such as Bl. Paul VI’s Humane vitae, St. John Paul II’s writings such as Familiaris consortio, Reconciliatio et paenitentia, and Veritatis splendor, and Benedict XVI’s Deus caritas est and Sacramentum caritatis.

Further, Pope Francis recognizes that “pastoral and missionary conversion in the promotion of marriage and the family cannot ignore those in need and living in difficult situations,” the guidelines said. In his exhortation, the bishops said, is “an inspirational actualization of the ‘Gospel of the Family’ that the Church constantly announces and attempts to pursue.”

The Polish bishops said Pope Francis’ pastoral criteria for the engaged, spouses and families, and those in irregular relationships have four elements: “acceptance, accompaniment, discernment, and integration.”

Amoris laetitia and the follow-up discussion have helped bring to view “the richness of the Church’s activities in Poland supporting fiancées, spouses, and families.” These have also made the bishops aware of “the need and urgency” for pastoral care for engaged couples and families who are often affected by “the crisis of faith and love.”

For the Polish bishops, discernment for those in irregular situations should first work to establish whether the first marriage is null. In a situation where nullity cannot be established, they said, “it is necessary to continue the pastoral analysis.”

Discernment can still lead to “different, ever deeper forms of integration with the ecclesial community.” It should be “individualized, consistent, and long-term spiritual guidance.”

“We must characterize the pastoral ministry with closeness, a respectful and compassionate look that simultaneously heals, liberates, and encourages growth in Christian life,” the bishops said.

Pastoral love is ready to go out to meet everyone, especially those who have left the Church. An evangelical community must be “supportive to a man in all his experiences, no matter how difficult or lengthy these may prove to be.” A person’s integration with him or herself and with the Church community is the goal of pastoral discernment.

The bishops’ guidelines also reflected on how pastors should respond to those whose marriages appear to have failed, saying, “a loving look and support should be shown to people whose spouses have abandoned or left them, but who are now making efforts to return to the sacramental spouse, through continuous love, loyalty, and prayer.”

This pastoral approach must also be shown to those faithful who have entered into civil unions and whose previous marriage bond is an obstacle, but who try to live “in a Christian way.” Such people are “raising their children in faith, and, wanting to fully participate in the sacrament of the Eucharist, have decided to live as brother and sister.”

Discussing pastoral discernment and “the logic of integration” in the eighth chapter of Amoris laetitia, the Polish guidelines reflect on the pope’s attention to the “countless diversity of situations” of those who have divorced and entered a new civil union. The bishops say Pope Francis speaks about “the need to refer the general norm to real people and their specific situations. In this way, he develops the thought of John Paul II, who pointed to the need to take into account the complexity of the situation of divorced faithful living in new civil unions.”

What to expect when the USCCB heads to a Florida beach this week

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 9:00 PM

Denver, Colo., Jun 11, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of the United States will meet in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., this week, less than one mile from A1A-Beachfront Avenue, the Florida road made famous by a 1974 Jimmy Buffett album, and the peerless 1990 Vanilla Ice single “Ice, Ice Baby.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops conducts two meeting annually- the fall meeting is held in Baltimore, while the spring meeting rotates through conference centers and hotels across the country.

The spring meeting’s agenda is typically light; in fact the meeting is replaced by a retreat every three years.

There are exceptions to the light spring load - last year’s meeting, for example, featured a fiercely-debated vote on the bishops’ religious liberty advocacy. Most famously, the spring meeting of 2002 served as the launching-point for the US bishops’ response to the Church’s burgeoning sexual abuse crisis.

While most of the expected agenda in Fort Lauderdale is a mix of updates, housekeeping items, or votes unlikely to be contentious, two items up for discussion are worth your careful attention.

First, the housekeeping and updates: the bishops will discuss a forthcoming document regarding the pastoral care of Pacific Islander and Asian Catholics, along with the progress of the V National Encuentro, a process of parish, diocesan, and regional meetings for Hispanic Catholics, which will culminate in September with a national meeting held in Texas, and the upcoming Vatican synod on young people, faith, and vocational discernment. The bishops will also vote on new translations of certain sections of the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer book prayed daily by priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters.

According to several sources, the bishops will vote on the publication of short letters, prayers and videos to accompany Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship- the bishops’ 2007 guide to voting and political life.

Faithful Citizenship has been the subject of criticism in recent years, and some have called for a significant reworking of the text, even though it was last revised only three years ago, in 2015. New revisions would likely involve a working group of bishops and USCCB staff members, consultation with experts from academia and political life, and a process of nearly two years. More important, further revisions would likely require the bishops to engage directly in serious debate about political subjects on which they are divided.

The contentious 2016 debate over the bishops’ religious liberty committee pointed to sharp disagreement over the political issues the USCCB has prioritized, and over an approach to political engagement that some see as excessively partisan. Revising Faithful Citizenship would open a direct, public debate about those issues, which could end in gridlock. Sources close to the USCCB have told CNA that many bishops hope to avoid that debate.

It seems more likely the bishops will approve the publication of short statements and videos on political life, using Faithful Citizenship as a kind-of base text from which to work, at least for the foreseeable future.
There are two issues likely to spark some debate in Fort Lauderdale- new installments in long-standing discussions about sexual abuse and Catholic healthcare. The USCCB has announced that the bishops will debate proposed revisions to two documents: the Charter for the Protection of Children andYoung People, the Church’s guiding document on sexual abuse, and the Ethical and Religious Directives, which govern Catholic hospitals and healthcare providers.

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, first issued in 2002, was revised in 2005 and again in 2011. A new revision process began in 2013. Over the past five years, bishops, consultants, the independent National Review Board, and other interested parties have offered suggestions for the document. Though major edits are not expected, debate over the revised text will be the first time the bishops publicly discuss clerical sexual abuse since controversy erupted over Pope Francis’ handling of a sexual abuse crisis in Chile, and since the #MeToo movement burst into international consciousness.

It should be mentioned that the USCCB’s 2017 report on Charter compliance notes that allegations of clerical sexual abuse “decreased significantly” last year, and that the National Review Board said that “the commitment and efforts of the bishops stands out as a model to be emulated by other institutions” working to address the problem of sexual abuse.

Still, some bishops have told CNA they’re concerned about “audit creep”- a name some use to describe the concern that annual Charter compliance audits have become increasingly invasive in recent years, attempting to expand the scope of audits beyond their original purpose. Others have asked whether the document calls for enough screening and formation of seminarians and diaconal candidates before they are ordained, especially with regard to chaste sexuality.

Discussion about the document, if it raises those issues, could be interesting. Child protection is not an issue of ideological division among the bishops- but each of them has the experience of meeting with victims, overseeing background checks and prevention training, engaging with priests accused of malfeasance, and working with the independent compliance auditors who evaluate diocesan practices. Their perspectives about what’s working- and what’s not- will certainly be worth watching.

On the healthcare front, the bishops are expected to debate revisions to the Ethical and Religious Directives that pertain to institutional collaboration between Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals. One-in-six acute care hospital beds in the United States is in a Catholic hospital. Catholic healthcare systems, through mergers, have become among the largest healthcare providers in the nation, and though they're overseen by a Vatican congregation and local bishops, they straddle the fence between more typical Catholic apostolates and billion-dollar corporations.

Catholic healthcare is big business in the United States, and overseeing hospitals can be a challenge for bishops, who usually have less money and personnel than the hospitals in their dioceses. Some critics have said that understanding Catholic healthcare systems in the United States, and trying to govern them, has been an even bigger challenge for the Vatican.

As Catholic hospital systems merge with, or acquire, non-Catholic hospitals, ethical questions have become increasingly complicated. New sections of the Ethical and Religious Directives are expected to address those collaborative relationships.

Sources close to the process have told CNA that the document’s revisions aim to clarify the role of bishops and the Vatican in evaluating healthcare partnerships, and to clarify the limitations on partnering with institutions that perform abortions, sterilizations, gender reassignment surgery, etc. At issue will be whether those clarifications offer enough to gain support from bishops concerned about the influence of the “contraceptive mentality” and “gender ideology” in Catholic healthcare, and from those who want to ensure that bishops are empowered to exercise real oversight of the hospitals in their territory.

The past few months have seen the US bishops addressing controversies at the Vatican, vigorously advocating on immigration and religious liberty issues, and navigating a tenuous and unpredictable relationship with the Trump Administration. Their meeting in Fort Lauderdale will not be without some excitement, but the agenda might also provide them a chance to breathe, take in the sun, and visit the famous- or, if Vanilla Ice is to be believed, infamous- Beachfront Avenue.

Church leaders in Nicaragua appeal for unity, peace as crisis continues

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 7:01 PM

Managua, Nicaragua, Jun 11, 2018 / 05:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- As unrest centered on protests of president Daniel Ortega continues unabated in Nicaragua, bishops in the country are calling for unity and peace.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says that at least 127 people have been killed in the protests. Demonstrators have called for freedom of expression, an end to violent repression, and for Ortega to step down from office.

Bishop Silvio José Báez Ortega, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, called June 11 for a free Nicaragua “without tyrants, or victims, like a great house in which all of us live joyfully, without tears or blood, in liberty and social justice.”

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 only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces initially.

The Church in Nicaragua was quick to acknowledge the protestors' complaints, and mediated a short-lived dialogue between the government and protestors.

Barricades and roadblocks are now found throughout the country, and clashes frequently turn lethal.

Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos of Matagalpa exhorted Nicaraguans during his June 10 homily to join “the immense majority” of the population which is asking for an urgent change in the country since “Nicaragua can no longer tolerate this.”

“The people of God must beware the lies that try to divide,” Bishop Álvarez said. “This is the hour for unity in Nicaragua.”

Fr. Vicente Martínez Bermúdez, a priest of the Diocese of Matagalpa, has reported that over the weekend he was detained by a group of 20 hooded men and threatened with death. Another prirest of the Matagalpa diocese was wounded by shrapnel May 15 while trying to separate protestors and security forces, the AP reported.

In Jinotega, Bishop Carlos Enrique Herrera Gutierrez brought the body of a 17-year-old protestor home to his mother June 9.

Bishop Herrera said that he was asked by the national police to intercede during protests the prior evening so that people who were manning barricades would not continue to advance, “and remain peaceful.”

The bishop spoke to the protestors, and “when I left I had reached an agreement that the demonstrators at the barricades would advance no further,” he stated.

But minutes later “they reported to me giving evidence that paramilitary groups controlled by the city government, coming from outside the city, attacked those at the barricades, who remained  peaceful until they were attacked,” Bishop Herrera said.

“In addition the townspeople insisted the riot police opened fire on the civilians who were at the barricades,” he reported.

He spoke to the mayor of Jinotega and the head of the national police, who “denied their involvement in the repressive actions.”

“I was left with no other choice but to personally go out (accompanied by some priests and faithful) at 11 o'clock at night to care for the injured and to transport the body of young Abraham Antonio Castro Jarquín, who sadly died as a result of these confrontations,” he stated.

Bishop Herrera urged demonstrators to “show tolerance and act with respect,” and asked the municipal authorities “not to use violence” because “you will bring on more mourning and an uncontrollable spiral of violence which we will all regret.”

Bishop Herrara asked the faithful to continue to pray for peace, “keep up your petitions and practice mercy with all the needy, especially in emergency situations. We area all responsible to provide assistance in times of crisis, to give a better response to this crisis.”

“I hope that we will all contribute to build peace and stability in our city, where we may have  guarantees to freely express our opinions,” he said.

Nicaragua's bishops met with Ortega June 7 to discuss the country's crisis and possible resumption of the suspended national dialogue. The dialogue among the Ortegas, business owners, students, and farmers began May 16 and collapsed May 23.

They issued a statement afterwards conveying to him “the pain and anguish of the people in face of the violence suffered in recent weeks” and to give him “a proposal that brings together the sentiments of many sectors of Nicaraguan society and expresses the strong desire of the vast majority of the population.”

The prelates stated that when the president “has formally responded, we will convene the full session  of the national dialogue to assess that response and therefore the feasibility of continuing with the same national dialogue.”

The dialogue cannot be resume while Nicaraguans continue to be denied the right to demonstrate freely and are “repressed and assassinated”, the bishops stated.

Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solorzano of Managua called on Catholics to pray the rosary daily for peace in the country.

The Nicaraguan government has suggested that protestors are killing their own supporters so as to destabilize Ortega's administration.

The pension reforms which triggered the unrest were modest, but protests quickly turned to Ortega's authoritarian bent.

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.

Cardinal Dolan: Let's not capitulate to the abortion culture

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 5:23 PM

New York City, N.Y., Jun 11, 2018 / 03:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Responding to Fr. Thomas J. Reese's recent suggestion that the pro-life movement abandon efforts to make abortion illegal and focus instead on reducing the number of abortions, Cardinal Timothy Dolan voiced grave concern with the proposal.

“As chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, I want to indicate my serious reservations about Reese’s strategy, considering it a capitulation to the abortion culture, and a grave weakening of the powerful pro-life witness,” the Archbishop of New York wrote in a June 8 opinion piece at RNS.

“Catholic tradition and basic human rights teach us that every human being has an inalienable right to life that must be recognized and protected in law. While the law is not the only means of protecting life, it plays a key and decisive role in affecting both human behavior and thinking. We cannot give up!” Dolan continued.

RNS had published an opinion piece by Reese May 27 asserting that the recent vote for the legalization of abortion in Ireland was a sign the pro-life movement “needs a new strategy.”

Noting that most pro-choice laws are victorious when taken to the ballots, Reese believes the pro-life movement should stop fighting the “impossible goal” of criminalizing abortion and shift their efforts to a reduction in the number of abortions and supporting “programs that give women a real choice.”

“In short, the pro-life movement must support any program that lessens the burden on mothers and their children,” said Reese.

Reese, a Jesuit priest, also highlighted the role of the Church in his proposed strategy, saying it should treat an unwed pregnant woman as a “hero, not a whore,” while schools should design programs and affordable housing to meet the needs of mothers and their children.

He stated that the pro-life movement “has to support birth control as a means of avoiding unwanted pregnancies.”

“Planned pregnancies do not get aborted; many unplanned pregnancies do,” he asserted.

“Those who consider artificial contraception to be wrong must also recognize that abortion is a greater evil. When forced to choose, one must choose the lesser of two evils.”

Cardinal Dolan wrote that this is “one of Reese's most troubling assertions.”

“In addition to rejecting the church’s teaching that contraception is itself morally flawed, and the fact that it can be medically harmful to women, his reasoning is questionable,” Dolan pointed outed. In fact, only a good is a licit object of the will; an evil, however lesser, can never be chosen.

Dolan noted that contraception cannot be effectively chosen as a way to avoid choosing abortion: “In reality, more than half of women seeking abortion were actually using contraception during the month they became pregnant, and studies have shown that once contraception is more widely available, abortion rates may actually rise!”

Reese also wrote that “closing [Planned Parenthood] clinics that provide health care and birth control to women before replacements are up and running is irresponsible and counterproductive.”

“Working together, we could reasonably get abortions down to under 100,000 per year [in the U.S.] – far too many, but an achievable goal and better than where we are today,” Reese said.

While Dolan noted support for some of Reese’s suggestions, such as offering much-needed support to pregnant mothers, the New York cardinal said Reese’s strategy ultimately reminds him of “those in the mid-19th century who proposed amelioration as a way to reduce slavery in our country.”

“Thank God, those who believed that slavery was a moral horror, a cancer on our country, and contrary to the higher values of a lawful republic, could never accept this capitulation.”

Reese's assertion that the pro-life movement should give up efforts to give legal protection to unborn humans and instead work only to reduce the number of abortions “is an unnecessary dichotomy,” Cardinal Dolan wrote.  

Reese pointed to some polls which indicated decreased support for restricting abortion laws, but Dolan highlighted other research which noted an increase of Americans wanting more limits on abortion, adding moreover that polls should not control which issues to fight for.

“Reese would be rightly disappointed, as would I, if pro-immigration reformers were to give up because polls discourage them,” Dolan said.

While the end to abortion may seem an impossible goal, Dolan said that through God, all things are possible.

“Abortion is a grave injustice. We must do everything in our power to legally protect babies and to provide for the needs of mothers,” the New York cardinal said.

“May we never give in to the culture of death or lose faith in our efforts to build a culture of life in our world.”