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What Mary Eberstadt told Notre Dame about 'Humanae Vitae'

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 6:23pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pro-life pregnancy centers hopeful after arguing before Supreme Court

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 4:38pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But 9-0 is what we’re praying for.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jonah McKeown contributed to this report.


Judge temporarily blocks Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 2:30pm

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

It is the most restrictive abortion law in the US.

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


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

— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) March 19, 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supreme Court to hear arguments about California abortion law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is abortion really safe? Critics respond to new study

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the Big Easy celebrates St. Joseph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courage of St. Joseph highlighted at Mass for Congressional staffers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What US Catholics see as Pope Francis' most notable action

Sat, 03/17/2018 - 6:35pm

Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2018 / 04:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- What has been Pope Francis’ most notable action so far in his papacy?

A group of some 300 U.S. Catholics was recently asked this question in a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, drawing a multitude of responses.  

Participants were asked to explain in their own words the most noteworthy thing Pope Francis has accomplished during his past five years as pope, despite their personal opinions of him.  

Nine percent said that Pope Francis has set a solid example of humility and overall Christian behavior. Another 9 percent believes he has made the Church more accepting and welcoming.

“He seems to get the idea across that all people are important and worthy of attention and rights,” said one participant, according the Pew Research.

Eight percent noted the pontiff’s particular focus on the poor, while 7 percent said he is noteworthy for his attention towards the LGBT community. Six percent applauded the extent of his global travel, through which he has made himself available to people all around the world. Another 5 percent believes he has united the Catholic community through dialogue.

Other categories receiving 1-4 percent each said that the Holy Father’s most significant action has been environmental care, peacemaking, addressing sex abuse, welcoming the divorced and remarried, spreading the faith, reforming the Vatican, or addressing immigration.

Similarly, 4 percent said the pope’s most notable action was a negative or neutral action, 3 percent said the answer is unclear, and 4 percent said that he has not yet done anything noteworthy.

One participant said that Pope Francis “gets too involved in things that don’t concern the Church,” while another said he is “more liberal than the popes before him.”

The largest group of respondents, 29 percent, declined to answer or did not come up with a response.

Pope Francis marked the fifth year of his pontificate this week, and he continues to receive an overall favorable opinion from U.S. Catholics, at around 84 percent.

The majority of U.S. Catholics, approximately 58 percent, also believe the pope is making major changes to benefit the Church, while around 94 percent view him as compassionate.


Ohio AG will appeal to maintain law banning Down syndrome abortions

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 7:09pm

Columbus, Ohio, Mar 16, 2018 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge has blocked a law from taking effect next week which bans abortions after a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

After the law was blocked by Judge Timothy Black March 14, the Catholic Conference of Ohio expressed disappointment in decision but also hope that it may be overturned after an appeal by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

“We are disappointed, we do think that it was an appropriate first step to point out, specifically, that so many Down syndrome children are aborted,” said Jim Tobin, Associate Director of the Department of Social Justice at the Catholic Conference of Ohio.

“We are still hopeful that there are other appeals that are available here and that we may be able to yet overturn this decision,” he told CNA.

The law, which was due to go into effect March 23, bans abortions solely due to a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis. It imposes criminal penalties on medical professionals, but women procuring abortions are not penalized.

The law was signed by Governor John Kasich in December 2017.

On behalf of Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in February against the Ohio Department of Health, county prosecutors, and members of the state medical board.

Black blocked the law's implementation as a privacy violation: “It violates the right to privacy of every woman in Ohio and is unconstitutional on its face,” he wrote.

Supporters of the law have questioned Black’s impartiality. He had served as president of Cincinnati’s Planned Parenthood in 1988 and as its director from 1986-1989.
He recused himself from a case involving Planned Parenthood in 2014.

Tobin lamented the blocking of the law, calling it a tragic case disrespectful to human life.

“It’s just tragic that, particularly in the case of Down syndrome, folks would decide that [these babies] are better off aborted than lovingly cared for or placed for adoption,” he said, noting these cases show “a loss of respect for the dignity of all human life and their value.”

In a March 15 statement, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said will appeal Black’s decision.

“I strongly disagree with the district court's ruling that there is a categorical right to abortion that prevents even any consideration of Ohio's profound interests in combatting discrimination against a class of human beings based upon disability. We will be appealing.”

How the Irish built Catholic America

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 6:12pm

Denver, Colo., Mar 16, 2018 / 04:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The history of Catholic America is, in many ways, an Irish story, with immigrant congregations and their descendants putting their stamp on many churches across the country.
“It was the Irish who made the Church grow,” said Michael McCormack, National Historian of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish-American Catholic fraternity, noting the early anti-Catholicism of America’s British colonies.

Christopher Shannon, a Christendom College history professor, said the Irish were “the most powerful ethnic group in the Catholic Church” in the U.S. during a wave of mass migrations from the mid-1800s to the early 20th century.
“They were disproportionately represented among the clergy, and especially over-represented among the episcopacy,” Shannon told CNA. “By the mid-nineteenth century, Irish clergy had taken the lead in church building to serve the immigrant populations of the industrial cities of the East Coast and the Midwest.”
“Except for churches founded explicitly by non-Irish groups seeking to maintain their distinct ethnic traditions, every church in the immigrant city was a little Irish,” he continued. “The great cathedrals of these cities—the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore, the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, and of course, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City—were most certainly Irish-built.”
McCormack, a Long Island resident, also cited the Irish role in raising New York City’s famous cathedral named for Ireland’s patron saint.
“They weren’t very rich, they settled in the poorest part of the city, but their pennies built St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” he said.
For Shannon, Old St. Patrick’s Church on West Adams Street in Chicago is “an example of one of the most Irish churches in America.” For his part, McCormack invoked the work of Irish-born frontierswoman and gold prospector Nellie Cashman, who helped build churches from Tombstone, Ariz. to Anchorage, Alaska.
Several years ago the Ancient Order of Hibernians launched a project to gather information on what Irish-Americans had donated to the Catholic Church.
“We got a slew of information from churches that had been built by the Irish all across the country,” said McCormack. “Railroad workers, canal diggers, whatever you want to call them, they built the Church. We started collecting photographs of stained glass windows donated by the Irish to the churches that they built. We were absolutely floored by the numbers that came in.”
They collected over 500 photographs of windows in churches that had been donated by Hibernian groups.
“This was a significant indication that it was the Irish who not only built but supported the churches, but continued ongoing support of the churches,” said McCormack.
Churches served as community centers when Irish-born immigrants and their families were low in social and economic status and faced prejudice.
“The church provided a gathering place for them, to get together and socialize. It brought communities together, to a large degree,” McCormack said.
“For the Irish, the parish was the center of their lives, and the church building was the center of the parish,” Shannon explained. “The church was far more than just a place to go to Mass on Sunday. It was a social center with a full range of activities—from devotional societies and charity organizations to sports and recreation. And of course, many parishes also had parochial schools.”
Shannon noted that before the dominance of the automobile, the parish was “a walkable community.”
“Between church and school, Irish children could grow up largely within a fairly self-contained, local Catholic community,” he said. “If this could for some appear oppressive and claustrophobic, for most the immigrant and ethnic parish provided a sense of security, community and identity that few parishes, indeed few social institutions of any kind, can claim in America today.”
McCormack finds these communities endure in the small towns of upstate New York.
“Those parishes are funded by fundraisers that are run by Irish organizations and Irish people. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, for one, is a strong Irish Catholic organizations that donates and continues the food drives at the Catholic churches across the states,” he said.
Shannon said the strength and vitality of urban parish life was the foundation of Catholic vitality in America from 1850s to the 1950s.
“We should welcome the new emphasis on personal spirituality that has grown since the Second Vatican Council, but the historic experience of the urban ethnic parish is the most powerful reminder that the Church is not simply a collection of individual seekers, but a communion of saints, the Body of Christ,” said Shannon.  
“The poor still realize this in their daily struggle to survive. Middle-class Catholics who have achieved a degree of material security may not need the parish in the way that immigrants once did, but one does not have to look too far to see the spiritual and cultural poverty that have accompanied middle-class prosperity.”
McCormack said the unity of these immigrant Irish parishes is a lesson for today.
“We are one people, we are one community. The unity that holds the community together is largely centered around the faith,” he said.
While many young people are starting to lose that sense, McCormack said that the Ancient Order of Hibernians finds that as young people get older they start to accept their faith and heritage and start to come back.
“They mature in their faith, they mature in their heritage, and when they do that they head straight to the church. And that’s a good thing,” he said.
Speaking ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, McCormack lamented that the media and the general public use the day to “poke fun at the Irish, thinking it’s a big joke.” He noted the “nasty Irish jokes” such as Irish-themed T-shirts with “Drunk-meters” on them, “which are really not the Irish people” and “really not the Irish heritage.”
Shannon suggested that contemporary Catholics should learn from the experience of the Irish and other immigrants “a desire to commit themselves to making the parish the center of their lives, encompassing the full range of life activities, from the serious to the trivial.”
The ability to walk to one’s parish church can be very important, he suggested: “Community will never survive or thrive as a state of mind—it must be a physical place.”


Philly Catholic Social Services hopes to continue working with city

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 6:00pm

Philadelphia, Pa., Mar 16, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After the City of Philadelphia announced it has stopped using Catholic Social Services’ foster care program because it does not place children with same-sex couples, the archdiocese has said it hopes to resume a partnership with the city.

On March 15, Philadelphia Councilwoman Cindy Bass introduced a resolution authorizing the city’s Public Health and Human Services to investigate the city’s partnership with organizations that do not place foster children with LGBTQ people, calling it discriminatory.

Due to the resolution, the city’s Department of Human Services ceased new foster care child intakes with Catholic Social Services and with another faith-based agency, Bethany Christian Services. Earlier this month, Philadelphia officials issued a public service announcement expressing the city’s urgent need for 300 foster families.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia's chief communications officer, Kenneth Gavin, told CNA that Catholic Social Services hopes the foster care partnership with the city will resume.

“Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (CSS) recognizes the vital importance of the foster care program in our city and is proud to provide safe and nurturing foster environments to young people in need,” said Gavin. “We hope to continue our productive relationship with the City of Philadelphia to serve those among us in need.”

“CSS is, at its core, an institution founded on faith based-principles. The Catholic Church does not endorse same-sex unions based upon deeply held religious beliefs and principles. As such, CSS would not be able to consider foster care placement within the context of a same-sex union,” Gavin said.

Catholic Social Services provides foster care services to any young person in need of assistance regardless of background and without making inquiry as to their sexual identity or orientation, according to Gavin. “That’s important to note as it is also a deeply held religious belief for us to provide care for all those in need with dignity, charity, and respect,” he explained.

“Given its affiliation with the Archdiocese, CSS cannot provide services in any manner or setting that would violate its institutional integrity, core values, and Catholic beliefs. That fact is a well-established and long-known one in our relationship with DHS,” continued Gavin.

In a CSS annual report released in 2016, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia remarked that “I’ve been blessed on numerous occasions to witness firsthand how Catholic Social Services (CSS) promotes the dignity of the persons they serve, particularly the weak and vulnerable.”

“The long history of CSS foster care and adoption services is replete with stories of their paving the way for new parents to open the doors of their hearts to children,” Chaput continued.

Catholic Social Services will continue to care for the 241 children that it has currently placed in foster arrangements due to child referrals from the city.

Pro-life leaders deliver letter to Irish prime minister: Choose Life

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 4:26am

Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2018 / 02:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A group of 17 American pro-life leaders delivered a letter to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Thursday urging him against repealing the country’s 8th Amendment.

Ireland’s 8th Amendment recognizes the right to life of both a mother and an unborn child. This means that abortion is illegal in the country with extremely limited exceptions. Ireland will hold a referendum on May 25 to possibly repeal this amendment and bring legal abortion to the country up until the 12th week of pregnancy. Past attempts at repeal have failed.

One of Varadkar’s first acts on his first day as prime minister was to start the process for the repeal vote.

Varadkar is in Washington, D.C. and visited the White House as part of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration. Abortion was not discussed during the visit.

Pro-life leaders from groups around the country joined together to sign and deliver a letter defending the 8th Amendment and calling on Ireland to lead the way in respecting women and their babies.

Co-signers of the letter included Lila Rose of Live Action, Jeanne Mancini of the March for Life, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America, and Marjorie Dannenfelser of Susan B. Anthony List.

The letter calls Ireland one of the safest places in the world for pregnant women, noting that it has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates - without relying on abortion. Additionally, the letter says that over 100,000 lives have been saved as a result of the 8th Amendment.

The repeal of the amendment, the pro-life leaders assert, would be a disaster for Ireland. While Varadkar has said that he supports abortion in limited circumstances, the letter--citing the United States’ example of the Roe v. Wade decision--warned that this could lead to widespread abortion throughout the country.

“Since then, millions of women have been negatively affected by abortion, some have even died, and we are missing over 55 million children in America today simply because of a law that was initially said to permit abortion only in certain cases.”

Further, the Roe v. Wade decision has impeded even “common sense” pro-life laws, including a 20-week ban, the pro-life leaders said.

It referred to Ireland as a “beacon of hope for the entire world” and as a leader in “demonstrating life-affirming laws and medical treatment.” These policies should be praised, not repealed, they said.

“You (Varadkar) have the power to continue Ireland’s excellence in life-affirming laws and healthcare.”

“Ireland has been a beacon of hope for America, that one day we too could have life-affirming laws that promote excellent healthcare for women and their children,” the co-signers said.

Haspel CIA nomination raises questions about ‘enhanced interrogation’ and torture

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 9:00pm

Washington D.C., Mar 15, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, oversaw a secret prison in Thailand where US intelligence targets were reportedly subject to waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation” techniques.

As Haspel prepares to face Senate questions about her work with the agency, a national debate over whether “enhanced interrogation” techniques amount to torture has reignited.

It is not clear whether Haspel directly participated in the "enhanced interrogation" of intelligence targets. But at the Cat’s Eye, the code-name for the CIA compound Haspel took over in 2002, al-Qaida suspects were subjected to new interrogation techniques implemented shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks. These methods of “enhanced interrogation” included sleep deprivation, humiliation, painful stress positions, and simulated drowning, known as “waterboarding” in an effort to obtain information about terrorist organizations.

Haspel is also suspected of pushing to destroy videotape evidence of "enhanced interrogations" conducted by CIA operatives.

In the 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor, Pope St. John Paul II taught that torture is “intrinsically evil.”  What does that say about the morality of waterboarding or other methods of “enhanced interrogation?”

“When an interrogator in some other way imposes physical or psychological pain, at least significant pain, until the one being interrogated ‘breaks’ and talks, then I think this is clearly torture and morally evil,” Dr. Kevin Miller, a moral theology professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, told CNA.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.”

“I think that this would clearly encompass some things that the US did in the early or mid 2000s, most especially waterboarding, but very likely some of our other ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques also,” Miller said.

Miller clarified that even if these interrogation techniques were not defined precisely as “torture,” the Church would still object to them due to its firm defence of the dignity of each human person created in the image of God.

The theologian referenced Gaudium et Spes, Vatican II’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world: “Whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself...all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed.”
He noted that “attempts to coerce the will itself,” are condemned in the passage, one that Saint John Paul II repeatedly quoted.

“If one is inflicting physical or psychological distress in order to – and to a degree that one thinks will likely succeed in – getting someone to answer questions that he/she would not otherwise agree to answer, then one is engaging in an attempt to coerce the will – whether or not the distress being inflicted rises to the level of torture. And this is intrinsically evil – contrary to both justice and charity,” said Miller.

An intrinsic evil is an evil that is wrong in the chosen act itself, independent of one’s intentions or the surrounding circumstances, Miller explained.

“Returning to Gaudium et Spes,” continued Miller, the “general principle underlying its condemnation of various evil acts is ‘reverence for man,’ grounded in the need to see every human person as one’s brother or sister, with whom one has been offered a communion that is a participation in the Trinitarian communion.”

The U.S. bishops’ conference has condemned the use of enhanced interrogation techniques for years, particularly after the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released part of its 2014 report on CIA’s use of interrogation in the years following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“The acts of torture described in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report violated the God-given human dignity inherent in all people and were unequivocally wrong,” stated Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, who was chair of the U.S. bishops’ international justice and peace committee at the time.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on October 2017, Bishop Cantú affirmed American bishops’ support for “legislation to make torture, which some euphemistically refer to as ‘enhanced interrogation,’ illegal.”

President Barack Obama prohibited the CIA and military from using waterboarding and similar interrogation techniques when he took office in 2009. During a debate during his presidential campaign, Donald Trump said that he supported reinstituting the use of waterboarding “and more.”

“Current U.S. law is clear in banning enhanced interrogation techniques. Any nominee for Director of the CIA must pledge without reservation to uphold this prohibition, which has helped us to regain our position of leadership in the struggle for universal human rights—the struggle upon which this country was founded, and which remains its highest aspiration," said Senator John McCain in a statement released shortly after Trump announced Haspel as his pick for CIA Director on March 13.

“Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process,” continued McCain.

“The torture of detainees in U.S. custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American history,” said McCain, who was himself a victim of torture during the Vietnam War.

“In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, our government squandered precious moral authority in a futile effort to produce intelligence by means of torture. We are still dealing with the consequences of that desperately misguided decision,” McCain added.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke out against any type of torture in a 2007 address, “I reiterate that the prohibition against torture ‘cannot be contravened under any circumstances.”

John Paul II presented an even more vivid condemnation in a speech in 1982, “With regard to torture, the Christian is confronted from his childhood with the reading of the passion of Christ. The memory of Jesus stripped naked, hit, mocked while suffering his agony, should always make him refuse to see similar treatment applied to one of his brothers in humanity.”

If confirmed, Haspel will be the first female director in CIA history. At 61, she has had an extensive career within the spy agency, which she has worked for since 1985.

US bishops voice support for First Amendment Defense Act

Wed, 03/14/2018 - 5:55pm

Washington D.C., Mar 14, 2018 / 03:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops have voiced their strong support for a bill protecting individuals and institutions from discrimination by the federal government based on their beliefs about marriage, regardless of what those beliefs are.

"We welcome and applaud the recent reintroduction of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA),” wrote Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville and Bishop James Conley of Lincoln in a March 14 statement. Archbishop Kurtz chairs the US bishops' Committee for Religious Liberty, while Bishop Conley is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

“In a pluralistic society, faith-based charitable agencies and schools should not be excluded from participation in public life by loss of licenses, accreditation, or tax-exempt status because they hold reasonable views on marriage that differ from the federal government's view,” explained the bishops.

“FADA is a modest and important measure that protects the rights of faith-based organizations and people of all faiths and of no faith who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

The bill, which was introduced March 8 by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), provides legal protections for individuals or institutions facing federal discrimination based on their definition of marriage or beliefs about premarital sex.

“What an individual or organization believes about the traditional definition of marriage is not – and should never be – a part of the government’s decision-making process when distributing licenses, accreditations, or grants,” said Senator Lee. “And the First Amendment Defense Act simply ensures that this will always be true in America – that federal bureaucrats will never have the authority to require those who believe in the traditional definition of marriage to choose between their living in accordance with those beliefs and maintaining their occupation or their tax status.”

FADA equally protects those with differing views of marriage. For example, “All Federal definitions of marriage are protected under FADA. FADA would protect a liberal institution that promoted gay marriage, just as it would protect a conservative institution that wanted to promote traditional marriage,” according to Senator Lee’s website.

The bill was previously introduced in the Senate in 2015, but did not make it out of committee. However, the current bill no longer includes protections for federal employees and publicly traded for-profit companies.

The 2015 version of the bill would have protected only those who believe marriage to be the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.

Archbishop Kurtz and Bishop Conley wrote a letter to Lee March 12 expressing their gratitude and support for the bill.

“In a climate of increasing intolerance, these protections are urgently needed,” wrote the bishops, “Persons who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman are increasingly having their religious freedoms jeopardized and even forfeited.”

“The teaching of the Catholic Church about marriage is based on both faith and reason. Using right reason, one can know that given the nature of the human person, created as male and female, marriage is the union of one man and one woman. The leadership of our Church will continue to promote and protect the natural truth of marriage as foundational to the common good,” the bishops concluded.

FADA currently has 22 co-sponsors, including Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Jim Risch (R-ID), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Rounds (R-SD), John Barrasso (R-WY), Ben Sasse (R-NE), John Hoeven (R-ND), John Thune (R-SD), Rand Paul (R-KY), David Perdue (R-GA), Tim Scott (R-SC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Boozman (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Jerry Moran (R-KS).

How some Catholic schools approached the National School Walkout over guns

Wed, 03/14/2018 - 5:09pm

Denver, Colo., Mar 14, 2018 / 03:09 pm (CNA).- On Wednesday, thousands of students throughout the United States walked out of classrooms as part of National School Walkout, a demonstration calling for safer schools and increased gun control, in the wake of the February high school shooting that left 17 Florida students dead.

Many of the walkouts were planned to last 17 minutes, in honor of each of the students who were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14. Many Catholic schools used the day as a chance to call their students to prayer, either in addition to or instead of a walkout.

Schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans were asked to hold 17 minutes of prayer in solidarity with shooting victims and the walkouts. The prayer services included the rosary, as well as the archdiocesan prayer against violence, murder and racism, which is recited regularly at Masses in the region.

“We didn’t hear of any schools or students participating (in the walk-out), but we were hearing from our school communities, ‘What could we do, what could we offer in support of lessening gun violence?’” Dr. RaeNell Houston, superintendent of Catholic Schools in New Orleans, told the Clarion Herald.

“Our children deserve to be safe in our school communities,” Houston added. “But we felt intentional, dedicated prayer would yield more fruitful results than a walkout. I am a witness to how God answers prayer. And we felt our time was best utilized and our statement would be bold if we dedicated that 17 minutes of prayer on behalf of the Florida victims and our country and for the safety of our children.”

Cardinal Ritter College Prep, a Catholic urban high school in St. Louis, participated in an organized school event.
Students left campus at 9:30 am and walked to nearby St. Francis Xavier Church on the campus of St. Louis University. Ronnie Robinson, the father of a recent graduate, was invited to participate in the march. Robinson and his family have lost two sons to gun violence in recent years.

After a period of prayer and silence, students returned to their classrooms to discuss the events of the day, to review the school’s active shooter policy, and to resume classes.

Elias Mendoza, principal of St. Francis Catholic High School in Sacramento, California sent a memo to parents in early March, in anticipation of the walkouts, noting that school officials recognized both the students concerns and as well as their own obligation as school employees to remain politically neutral.

Instead of a walkout, St. Francis offered a prayer service for peace and healing, noting safety concerns regarding students leaving campus in the middle of the school day.

“Together with students and school leaders, we’re working to provide students with an alternative avenue to express their viewpoints in a constructive and meaningful way, while remaining on campus, where safety measures are in place to ensure supervision and security,” Mendoza said in his letter.

“At St. Francis, we care about our (students), our families, and the faith-based community we represent.  Moving forward, I ask for your prayers and partnership in doing all that we can to reassure our students and to make them strong resilient young women,” he concluded.

The Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey said on Twitter that several of the schools participated in the national walk out, and held prayer services afterward.



Today, #Catholic Schools throughout the Archdiocese of Newark took a stand against gun violence by participating in the #NationalWalkoutDay. Several schools, including St. Mary of the Assumption and Saint Dominic Academy, held prayer services following the #Walkout. #Enough

— Newark Archdiocese (@NwkArchdiocese) March 14, 2018



Sister Brittany Harrison, FMA, is the Theology Department Chair at Mary Help of Christians Academy in New Jersey.

In an interview about the walkouts with Relevant Radio, Harrison said that she was inspired by the students throughout the country who were “deciding to rise up, make their voices heard, and make social change.”

“As a Salesian, that’s what I believe in, the power of young people. So to see them doing that is just an incredible thing for me,” she said.  

Harrison said that while the official walkout, sponsored by the organizers of the national Women’s March, was focused on gun control legislation, her students wanted to make their event less political and more focused on school safety in general.

Rather than the walkout, the school held a prayer service and also gave students time to write government officials about the changes they’d like to see.

“As Catholics we can really model what it is to affect social change, and our young people really want to do that,” she said.

The Diocese of Peoria, Illinois encouraged its students to take part in some kind of alternative, prayerful show of solidarity rather than the walkout, citing concerns about some of the sponsors of the national walk-out as well as safety concerns.

“Unfortunately, some of the sponsors of the National School Walkout advocate for positions that are contrary to the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of human life in all of its stages,” the Office of Catholic Schools stated in a letter to diocesan Catholic school officials.  

“Due to this fact, as well as concerns for student safety on this day of national attention, our schools are directed to not permit students to stage a walkout.”

Instead, the letter suggested that diocesan schools hold Masses or prayer services for the victims.

Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit held memorial services for the victims of the Parkland shooting, including posters with pictures and brief biographies of the victims.


Students and faculty at @Shrine_Schools gathered this morning for a memorial service in honor of the victims of the #ParklandSchoolShooting #NationalWalkoutDay

— Detroit Archdiocese (@DetroitCatholic) March 14, 2018



Queen of Angels elementary school in the Archdiocese of Atlanta said on Twitter that they were hosting a “walk in” rather than a walkout, and used the day as a time to encourage their students to focus on ways they could be kinder and more inclusive.



#WalkIn-Today at 10 AM while students across the nation #walkout in protest of gun violence, QA students will spend 17 minutes reaching out to others that we don't spend enough time getting to know, and praying that all young people feel included in their communities.

— QA Catholic School (@QASchool) March 14, 2018



In Erie, Pennsylvania, two Catholic schools - Cathedral Preparatory School and Villa Maria Academy - held school-wide Masses and prayer services for the victims and for peace. Father Scott Jabo, president of the schools, told Fox News that the schools considered how they could approach the walkout day differently as a Catholic school.

“By praying for the victims, we could bring a great focus to the victims in this situation, and by unified prayer, we could have a powerful impact,” Jabo said.

He added that at the prayer service, the names and a short biography of each of the 17 Parkland victims would be read aloud, “to make it real that these are real people who died.”

“(We’re) doing something that was a Catholic school we can and should do and that is pray, and unleash that power of prayer,” he said.


Minnesota archbishop: Catholics belong in the public sphere

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 6:24pm

Minneapolis, Minn., Mar 13, 2018 / 04:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said it is the duty of the laity to represent the Catholic faith in the public arena, especially pointing to the current debate surrounding immigration.

“Within the Church, it is the laity who are called upon to ‘especially assist with their Christian wisdom’ the shaping of the temporal order in order to both further the common good and prepare the way for the Gospel,” said Archbishop Hebda, citing the “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity” from the Second Vatican Council.

The archbishop’s call to action in a March 8 column for The Catholic Spirit comes in preparation for the second of three “Capitol 101” workshops, focusing on educating and encouraging the Minnesota faithful to better participate in the legislative process.

The first session was held by the Minnesota Catholic Conference on Feb. 26, and follow up sessions will be held March 16 and April 17. At the workshops, attendees are able to meet Minnesota Senators and Representatives and learn about relevant policies and the legislative process.

Outside of the event, the Minnesota Catholic Conference has encouraged Catholics to offer an hour of adoration or a rosary for lawmakers and ask for the intercession of Saint Thomas More, patron of statesmen.

The first workshop coincided with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s National Catholic Call-In Day in Support of Dreamers, which took place on Feb. 23.

The Call-In Day encouraged Catholics to contact their representatives in Washington, D.C., asking them to work toward a fair and compassionate solution for Dreamers – immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

A program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) had offered protection for these individuals, but the policy is set to expire. The U.S. bishops have called for a solution that protects Dreamers from deportation and provides a path to citizenship.

“Many of the Dreamers, through no fault of their own, had been brought here as infants or toddlers; the United States is accordingly the only home that they have known, and the prospect of deportation to an unknown country is devastating,” said Archbishop Hebda.

While political philosophies and perspectives differ, he said, it is always the obligation of Catholics to aid the process of peace.

He quoted the U.S. bishops’ document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which says, “Catholics may choose different ways to respond to compelling social problems, but we cannot differ on our moral obligation to help build a more just and peaceful world through morally acceptable means so that the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended.”

Noting that America’s Founding Fathers sought to protect the practice of faith in public life, the archbishop rejected the argument by some that separation of church and state means that religion should be excluded from the public square.

“They misread our Constitution as requiring a division between personal belief and public action, or between moral principles and political choices.”

Archbishop Hebda expressed gratitude for the success of first “Capitol 101” workshop and encouraged participation in the next two workshops, noting it is a responsibility of every Catholic to pray for the vulnerable and build a just community.

“All of us share the responsibility of striving to build a just community in which the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended. Let us pray for one another in undertaking this important work.”


George Weigel: Virtue, cultural renewal necessary for democracy

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 6:07pm

Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2018 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As populists across the U.S. and Europe express discontent with the current state of democracy, George Weigel has pointed to the importance of family and civil society in encouraging and cultivating the virtuous citizenry necessary for democratic renewal.

“Democracy is not a machine that can run by itself,” said George Weigel in the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s 17th annual William E. Simon Lecture held March 6 in Washington, D.C.

“The vitality of the public moral culture is crucial to the democratic project because it takes a certain kind of people, living certain virtues, to make free politics and free economics work so that the net result is genuine human flourishing.”

“The ‘culture of Me’ is incapable of defending the claim that the democratic project, for all its discontents and flaws, is nonetheless morally superior to the various authoritarianisms on offer in the 21st-century world, because it is itself committed to the authoritarianism of the imperial autonomous Self,” warned Weigel, who cited the continued influence of the 1960’s “unbridled self-absorption” and rejection of traditional virtues on today’s public culture.

Two elements of modern American culture that hinder democracy are moral relativism, the idea that “your truth” can be different than “my truth,” and expressive individualism, a certain self-centered notion that “the good” is defined by what an individual wills or wants.

Weigel pointed out that “a truth-starved and morally anorexic culture is incapable of sustaining free politics and free economics because it cannot answer the questions, why be civil and tolerant and why accept the electoral choice of the majority?”

A self-absorbed “culture of Me” is also linked to consumerism, in which “human worth is measured by what a person has rather than who a person is,” said Weigel.

The foundation for rebuilding a virtuous moral culture are the family, religious communities, and civil associations, according to Weigel, who stressed, “the family is of immense importance, because stable families are the first schools of freedom rightly understood as freedom for excellence, freedom for nobility, and freedom for solidarity.”

“The deconstruction of the family by the sexual revolution is closely correlated to many phenomena that now threaten the democratic project, from crime and substance abuse to aggressive forms of identity politics that seek to shut down public debate,” continued Weigel, pointing to the research of Mary Eberstadt.

“Americans must once again affirm that there are self-evident truths that can be known by reason; that knowing these truths teaches us both our obligations and the limits of the legitimate role of the state in our lives; and that affirming these truths is what makes an 'American', irrespective of anyone’s grandparents’ country-of-origin,” he continued.

Weigel says he has hope for a renewal of virtue in America’s democracy, but “both conservatives and progressives in these United States need a thorough examination of conscience about their respective responsibilities for our current democratic discontents, which are no longer just a matter of frustration with Washington political dysfunction.”

“Statesmanship requires a firm commitment to certain built-in truths about human beings and their communities, and the skills taught by the virtue of prudence in making those truths live in our common life. So let us measure ourselves, and those who would lead us, by those truths and by that virtue.”

Botched execution shows death penalty must end, Catholic group says

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 5:34pm

Montgomery, Ala., Mar 13, 2018 / 03:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As a death row inmate in Alabama sues the state over a botched execution last month, a Catholic advocacy group said the case emphasize inherent flaws in capital punishment itself.

“The events surrounding this execution attempt highlight the brokenness of the death penalty,” said Catholic Mobilizing Network, which works to end the death penalty. “The horrific violence that Doyle Lee Hamm experienced should serve as a poignant reminder of the need to end the death penalty once and for all.”

Doyle Lee Hamm, who was sentenced to death in 1987 after being convicted of murder and robbery, was scheduled to be executed on Feb. 22. Hamm, who is 61 years old, has spent about half of his life on death row.

Hamm is asking for his death sentenced to be vacated and to not be given another execution date. His lawyers are arguing that executing him now would be a violation of double jeopardy laws and would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

On his execution date, Hamm was strapped to a gurney for two and a half hours as prison medical officials were unable to find a suitable vein for the lethal injection. Hamm’s lawyers say they found 11 puncture wounds, including six in his groin area, following the execution attempt. The execution was halted shortly before midnight, when the death warrant was due to expire.

Hamm’s lawyer has indicated that they are looking to settle “in the near future.” Otherwise, the case would go to court in late October. It is uncertain if the settlement will include a prohibition on another execution date.

Previously, Hamm’s lawyers argued that his lymphatic cancer, as well as past intravenous drug use, had rendered his veins unusable for a lethal injection, and that attempting to do so would be “cruel and unusual punishment.” They, along with Hamm, had requested an “oral lethal injection” instead. This request was denied. Alabama uses lethal injection as its method of execution unless the electric chair is requested.

Catholic Mobilizing Network said in a statement to Catholic News Agency that there was “no justification for Alabama allowing this cruel and unnecessary execution attempt of Doyle Lee Hamm to take place,” and that the death penalty itself is broken and flawed.

Catholic Mobilizing Network’s sentiment was echoed by Griffin Hardy, communications manager for Sr. Helen Prejean, an anti-death penalty activist. Hardy described the execution attempt as completely unnecessary “barbarism,” and said that Alabama was being “reckless and inhumane” in their effort to execute a cancer patient.

“We hope that Alabama will abandon any future efforts to kill Mr. Hamm and reinstate his cancelled cancer treatments immediately,” said Hardy.

Alabama has executed 61 people since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. The most recent execution was in October 2017. There are 182 people currently on death row in Alabama.


Commentary: Praying for Francis

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 2:28am

Lincoln, Neb., Mar 13, 2018 / 12:28 am (CNA).- Five years ago, I stood in the refectory of St. John Vianney Seminary of Denver, with colleagues, friends, and a few hundred seminarians, watching on television as a much larger crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square. When Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, appeared on a balcony above the square, we erupted into cheers, and then we fell silent as the pope asked the world to pray for him, and offered us his blessing.

From there, we went to “Francis-fest,” a rally at the state capitol organized by friends, and then to Mass, where we prayed for Francis, as he had asked. We kept the party going at a nearby Argentine restaurant, eating chimichurri pizza and toasting our new pope.

From the beginning, the pope has inspired me and my family. When his simplicity of life and love for the poor became obvious, our family decided to donate to the poor some things we loved, in his honor. We tried to give from our need, as he seemed to do, instead of from our excess. His emphasis on “accompaniment” has transformed our approach to evangelization, and his thought on "ideological colonization" and the "existential peripheries" has called me to greater solidarity with marginalized people and communities.

Last year, I had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis, and talk with him for a few minutes. I was awestruck by the experience of standing before St. Peter’s successor – touched by the continuity of the papacy and the Lord’s guidance and protection of his Church. And I was struck by the pope’s pastoral attention: in broken Spanish, I asked him to pray for our family, and thanked him for his love for disabled people. When our short conversation ended, I knew that he had heard and understood me, and I was moved.

The pope has also confounded me. I’ve struggled to understand his theology and approach to canon law. I’ve not always seen the continuity between his perspective and the doctrine of the Church. And I’ve lamented the division, and scandal, that some issues during his papacy have caused. I’ve tried, as the Church calls me, to be humble, to be faithful, to discern carefully how God is calling me to serve the Church, and to trust.

The pope has challenged me to think carefully about what the papacy is, and what it isn’t, and about how the Holy Spirit works through and for the Church. His papacy has called me, and many of us, to spiritual maturity, to a deeper faith, and to trust in the Lord’s Providence.

I sometimes wonder how history will remember the papacy of Pope Francis. Of course, only time will tell.

But history will certainly remember that Francis is the 265th successor to St. Peter, the 266th Vicar of Christ. The papacy is a gift to the Church – a witness of our unity, our continuity with those who have come before us, and a sign that the Lord – who promised that the keys of hell would not prevail against the Church – keeps his promises. History will remember that Francis has continued the chain of leadership begun with Peter, called by Christ to be head of the Church. It will remember that Pope Francis worked to respond to that call – to teach, govern, and sanctify the Body of Christ.

On the anniversary of his papacy, our family will celebrate with empanadas and Argentine wine. We’ll toast Pope Francis and his ministry. We’ll take a few minutes to examine our lives, and to consider how we can better love, as he does, those on the margins, the “existential peripheries.” We’ll thank God for the gift of the papacy. And just as he asked us to, we’ll pray for our pope. I hope that you will too.

JD Flynn is editor-in-chief of CNA.