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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 2 hours 34 min ago

US bishop says Trump budget at odds with Catholic, American ideals

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 19:22

Louisville, Ky., May 26, 2017 / 05:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The former head of the US bishops decried President Trump's budget plan, claiming its cuts to social services conflict with both the Catholic faith and American principles.

“Whether through Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps or foreign aid, our nation has recognized that our worth is judged by how we treat the most vulnerable among us,” Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky said in a May 24 article published by Courier-Journal.

“The concept is shared by many religions and has become part of the ethos of the United States.”

President Trump issued 2018’s budget proposal, “The New Foundation for American Greatness,” on Tuesday. The proposal would defund many aid programs benefiting the poor, the environment, and the foreign aid, drawing outcry from organizations like Catholic Charities and Catholic relief services.

The budget proposes 4.1 trillion dollars for 2018, with budget cuts expected to affect nearly $19 billion in global aid according to Reuters.

Catholic leaders have applauded that federal funding will be redirected from Planned Parenthood to women's health centers that do not perform abortions. But they lament the decrease in funding to US charitable programs.

“Our church has always said that we fulfill our responsibility to the poor not only through personal charity, but also through our support for just governmental policies,” Archbishop Kurtz said.

“The work of these agencies to serve the most vulnerable people depends on both private contributions and public support.”

Archbishop Kurtz, who served as president of the U.S. Bishops' Conference from 2013-2016, discussed the benefits of foreign aid, especially to schools which provide both food and education.

“Right now in many developing countries, hundreds of thousands of kids get a nutritional meal every day at school … Sometimes that’s the reason they go to school. It’s a win-win situation: They get fed, and they get educated. They benefit. Their country benefits.”

He continued to give the example of Thomas Awiapo, who went to school solely because he was hungry. Receiving an education, he now works at Catholic Relief Services providing similar relief to other children.

After his father died, Awiapo was forced to live with his extended family. The family was already struggling with food, including family members who died from malnutrition. He then saw his friend returning from school with sorghum, a grain often used to feed US cattle. Attending school, he worked was able to receive food and education, and eventually he received his master’s in public administration.

The programs not only work, said the archbishop, but are part of U.S. history and serve to affirm the inherit dignity of the person. He expressed hopes that Congress would consider this and reject the proposal.

The budget cut would affect both Catholic Relief Services, an international aid program established in 1943, and Catholic Charities, a national relief program established in 1910. The programs rely on funding from private and public donations.

A budget cut for the next 10 years will decrease funding to national welfare programs by over $270 billion and $72 billion to disability programs in order to prepare for the increase in national defense.

Included in the proposal is an additional $54 billion to US military funding and $2.7 billion to immigration control. Military funding will have a total of $639 billion. Over $44 billion will go towards the Department of Homeland Security and nearly $28 billion to the Department of Justice.

This parish is hosting a benefit concert for children with cancer

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 18:12

Charleston, W.Va., May 26, 2017 / 04:12 pm (CNA).- A young girl in Charles Town, West Virginia was undergoing treatment for bone cancer when she dreamed about meeting a beautiful princess.

She later identified that princess as St. Philomena, and when she eventually recovered from bone cancer after extensive treatment, her family attributed the recovery to the intercession of St. Philomena, who is known as the patron of difficult situations, especially for youth.

In honor of her experience, the Catholic parish of St. James in Charles Town, West Virginia is holding their second annual St. Philomena Medical Benefit Concert, which will aid cancer victims and their families.

“The people of St. James have done their best to provide support to alleviate the strain that families naturally feel during these difficult times,” stated Angie Cummings, a member of the parish.

“Many have reported that, as they have done their best to exercise the faith during these trials, they have felt the presence of God grow stronger in their lives,” she continued.

Over the years, multiple individuals in the St. James community have experienced cancer, including three children, and many have lost family members to the disease.

St. James Catholic Church will donate all of the proceeds from the benefit concert to the Father McGivney Medical Assistance Fund. Founded by the local Knights of Columbus, the fund will be used to help out with medical expenses for local cancer patients.

The concert will feature the world-famous Irish band Scythian, with other music groups such as New Tides, the Santiago Mountain Band, and Holy Trinity Choir.

The benefit will take place on Saturday, June 10 at St. James Catholic Church in Charles Town. The doors will open at 6:15, and all tickets can be purchased online at Eventbrite.

More information can be found at RadioHeart Media.

Military chaplains help traumatized soldiers, but who helps them?

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 17:02

Washington D.C., May 26, 2017 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As military veterans and victims of violence are treated for psychological trauma, the emotional wounds of missionaries and military chaplains might be overlooked, but are just as present.

And with mass shootings, suicides, and acts of terrorism on the rise, more and more first responders like policemen, firemen, hospital workers, and clergy will “continually bear the brunt” of experiencing these horrors.

That's according to Monsignor Stephen Rosetti, a psychologist and former president of the St. Luke Institute, who spoke to CNA.

“The priests are helping others, and the question is who helps them?” he asked.

Monsignor Rosetti led the St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., an organization that provides psychological care for priests and religious in need of treatment for mental illness, addiction, and other disorders.

Part of the institute’s ministry is helping military chaplains and missionaries who have served in war-torn areas, but also religious who have ministered to victims of trauma at home – amidst events like natural disasters and mass shootings.

Military chaplains suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other mental illnesses related to their ministry shared their struggles with the Washington Post last year. Repeatedly serving as a listening ear for the dark problems of soldiers, combined with experiencing the horror of battlefield combat and seeing the dead bodies of friends, can take its toll on a priest’s psyche.

“Just about all” priests and religious returning from a war-torn areas will need “some sort of support,” Monsignor Rossetti noted, like a “detoxing” in their transition from a stressful environment to life back in the U.S.

However, a few will require special attention, he said. These are cases where someone has experienced a particularly appalling atrocity or ongoing violence or stress, “almost too much for the human soul to bear.”

“I think especially of missionaries who are in violent areas,” he said, those who have witnessed “mass murders” or “unbelievable poverty and disease.”

For any clergyman traveling to a poor or war-torn area, “we try to train them as best we can to deal with such trauma” before they depart, the monsignor said, “but sometimes the situation is just so horrible that there’s a real human toll to it.”

Trauma – inflicted especially through acts of terrorism, mass shootings, and suicides – is on the rise, he said. The suicide rate in the U.S. is the highest in decades; the number of mass shootings are also on the rise.

Catholics cannot act as if the first responders like parish priests or military chaplains won’t be affected, he insisted. We must “help train them” to deal with trauma, he said, noting the need for “qualified laypeople” in fields like psychology.

Also, he added, “I think we shouldn’t isolate our chaplains.” Rather, we should be working to connect “first responders” like police, emergency medical technicians, hospital nurses and priests, who can talk about their experiences with each other and “support each other,” he said.

Tragedies can make or break someone’s faith, he added. If a person who has experienced trauma is treated with professional psychological care and a network of support, it can help sustain one’s faith and not break one’s spirit.

“Unspeakable sufferings do challenge our faith, and in times when our faith is a little bit too glib, it kind of bashes that and challenges it,” he admitted. “So these kind of events really challenge us to move deeper into the Lord’s passion and eventually, hopefully, His resurrection.”

“It can build up your faith in a new, deeper way, or sadly sometimes people lose their faith.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA June 5, 2016.

What can we learn from the newest priests? Encourage vocations

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 08:04

Washington D.C., May 26, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Members of the newest priestly ordination class in the United States were closely connected to the Church growing up through their Catholic school or parish, according to a new survey of the 2017 ordinands.

“They’re much more likely than Catholics in general to have attended Catholic school. A third of them have a relative who’s a priest or religious. They come from pretty active Catholic families,” Dr. Mary L. Gautier, co-author of “The Class of 2017: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood,” told CNA.

“They have more opportunity to be aware of and around priests,” she added.

The annual survey of ordinands is conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University (CARA).

This year’s survey featured 444 respondents, 343 of whom are entering the diocesan priesthood, from 140 dioceses. 101 of the respondents are entering the religious priesthood. The survey was conducted in March 2017.

According to the U.S. bishops’ conference, CARA compiles data every year for the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

The average age of ordination has continued a slight, yet steady downward trend in age from 1999, as the 2017 class average was 34 years, down from 36 years in 1999. 16 was the average age the ordinands first began considering the priesthood.

Most of this year’s ordinands – 82 percent – were “encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life,” most often by a parish priest, although others reported being encouraged by a friend, family member, parent, teacher, or parishoner.

That “staggering number” should spur the faithful to be aware of their role in encouraging vocations, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, stated in response to the survey.

“That statistic should motivate all the faithful to be sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit, who may wish to use them to extend the invitation to ordained ministry,” he said.

Conversely, almost half the respondents (48 percent), including 60 percent of those in religious life, reported being dissuaded from entering the seminary by someone else.

Encouragement of young men to enter the seminary is indeed a “very important” factor in their decision, Gautier said, encouragement “from family, friends, the parish priest, the teachers in the school, all of that makes a difference.

Seminarians were more likely than the average Catholic child to be involved in their parish and attend Catholic school, according to several statistics taken together.

“Between 40 and 50 percent” of the respondents went to Catholic school at some point in their life – anywhere from kindergarten through tertiary education -- and almost six in ten (59 percent) received religious education at their parish, “for seven years, on average,” the study said.

They were much more likely than the average Catholic adult to attend Catholic school, especially as they grew older.

Half of respondents attended Catholic grade school (K-8), 11 percentage points higher than the national average of 38 percent among adult Catholics. 41 percent of respondents attended a Catholic high school compared to the national average of just 19 percent, and 40 percent attended a Catholic college, much higher than the national average of 10 percent among adult Catholics.

Many ordinands were involved in their parish, either in their prayer life and/or through ministries.

Three-fourths were altar servers at their parish, and 52 percent of respondents served as lectors at Mass. 43 percent were Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Almost four in five regularly prayed at Eucharistic Adoration and almost seven in ten prayed the rosary.

And many were involved in group prayer, as almost half attended a regular prayer group or Bible study. Almost half “participated in parish youth groups,” and 34 percent were part of Catholic campus ministry or a Newman Center in college.

Regarding family life, the ordinands had an average of three siblings in their family, and are “very unlikely to be only children,” Gautier said. They are often the oldest siblings in their family, but in 2017 more respondents were middle children than were oldest children in their families.

Demographically, the class did not reflect an increasingly large Hispanic Catholic population in the U.S., and this is a challenge for vocations directors, Gautier acknowledged.

Seven in ten respondents were Caucasian, while only one-fourth were foreign-born. Meanwhile, the Hispanic Catholic population is growing, making up 34 percent of the overall Catholic population in the U.S. and 46 percent of Catholic Millennials, according to Pew Research in 2015.

“I think vocation directors are aware of the challenge and are actively working to increase vocations in the Hispanic community, but it’s not reflected in the numbers of ordinands, at least this year,” Gautier explained.

43 percent of the respondents listed an undergraduate degree from a college or university as their highest education level before entering seminary, and 16 percent said a graduate degree was their highest level. Those in religious life were on average more highly educated, as the vast majority (86 percent) of respondents in religious life had received an undergraduate or a graduate degree, compared to 52 percent of diocesan ordinands.

Almost one third (28 percent) of the respondents “carried educational debt, which averaged $28,318, at the time they entered the seminary,” the study showed.

Of those who carried such debt into seminary, they “were able to reduce it to an average amount of $25,830 which is 9 percent less than when they entered (unadjusted for inflation),” the study showed.

Respondents who were in religious life were actually able to reduce their student debt by almost half (46 percent) while in seminary, as almost three-fourths of them received assistance for this from their religious community. Meanwhile, the average debt for seminarians preparing for diocesan priesthood increased slightly.

How a nun's home is helping girls freed from sex trafficking

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 05:33

Baton Rouge, La., May 26, 2017 / 03:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The numbers are staggering. Each year in the U.S. alone, some 300,000 minors are victims of sex trafficking.

In Louisiana, state estimates indicate that about 40 percent of juvenile victims are being trafficked by their primary care giver: a mother, father, foster parent, uncle, a mother’s boyfriend.

Father Jeff Bayhi has heard unspeakable stories of sex trafficking victims over the years.

That’s why the pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Zachary, La. has worked to open Metanoia Home, a Baton Rouge-area shelter for sixteen women under age 21.

Caring for the victims are four Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy from India, Nigeria, the Philippines and Madagascar.

“They’re not there as social workers or therapists,” but as mother figures, Fr Bayhi said. “They’re going to be there, and be a safe place for these children to be. To be loved, to be nurtured, to be made felt special again in the sight of God.”

The project is modeled after the initiatives of Sister Eugenia Bonetti. The Milan-based Consolata Missionary sister heads the Slaves No More association. She has trained responders to help trafficking victims. Her former students work around the world.

“We have worked with her a great deal,” Fr. Bayhi said of Sr. Bonetti. “She has been here and addressed our legislature. She’s our model.”

Given the grim reality of human trafficking, thousands more people are needed to follow that model.

Trafficking problems in Louisiana are often attributed to its 15 million annual tourists who visit the state, especially New Orleans. The interstate highway that passes through Southern Louisiana runs across the country from Florida to California.

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services reported that more than 350 trafficking victims were found in 2015, and nearly 450 in 2016. Half of the victims were children, the CBS affiliate WAFB reports.

Young victims come from families that are not intact and have little supervision. Those raised by someone with a drug or alcohol addiction face some of the greatest risks.

Even so, traffickers target girls and women from all backgrounds.

“We have kids being seduced out of our high schools,” Fr. Bayhi said, citing the case of a 17-year-old senior at a white suburban high school who trafficked two 13-year-old freshman girls.

He said traffickers can target their victims through convincing them to engage in “sexting,” sending sexually explicit photos via phone.

“After that stuff gets out, these people own you,” he said. Other forms of blackmail can involve drugging the victim and filming her in a compromising act.

What do trafficking victims need?

“They need a safe place to be made human again,” said Fr. Bayhi. “When you’re 15 years old, and you’ve performed 3,000 sexual favors, you’re no longer a person, you’re nothing more than a receptacle in your own eyes.”

“Our response is the religious sisters who are there,” he said. “These nuns are the heroes. How do you pay people in eight hour shifts to convince a 15-year-old who has been abused that they really love them? You can’t do it. That’s why the nuns are just so incredibly important to this.”

The nuns of Metanoia Home will have the assistance of other professional volunteers including physicians, nurses, social workers and educators to complement their own expertise in helping victims.

“We need to get them stable, we need to get them to believe in themselves. We need to reconnect these children with God,” Fr. Bayhi said, noting that the house is open to anyone regardless of religion.

The potential beneficiaries could have very different experiences. Recovery for a 17-year-old victim who was trafficked for three months will be much different than for a 14-year-old who has suffered for four years in captivity.

“We will want the children to finally have someone in their life that we trust,” said the priest. Metanoia Home aims to help victims recover from their experience and re-integrate into society.

Increasing efforts are being made to work against human trafficking in Louisiana. Anti-trafficking programs in the state include special training for police officers to help them recognize victims of sex traffickers, rather than treat them as criminals. Fr. Bayhi praised the collaborative work between legislators, the governor, law enforcement, members of the judiciary and state agencies.

In January a delegation of Louisiana anti-trafficking leaders attended Pope Francis’ Wednesday general audience, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards led the delegation, which included Fr. Bayhi.

“It’s really a tragic circumstance and we have to really do much better in Louisiana and around the country,” Gov. Edwards told Vatican Radio in January.

Father Bayhi told CNA that the delegation had a very brief moment with Pope Francis, who thanked them and encouraged them to continue. The delegation spent considerable time with Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, whom Fr. Bayhi described as the Pope’s anti-trafficking point man.

The priest commented on inhuman trends in society that he sees as creating a breeding ground for trafficking.

“The sad fact is, there’s a market,” he said. Older men seek out little girls or boys as young as 12.

“One of the things I think you have to understand: human trafficking is not a problem. Human trafficking is a symptom,” he added. “We live in a society where we determine who has the right to be born. We live in a society where we get to decide who dies and when, with our elderly. And now there’s some recent things about Planned Parenthood, we’re talking about selling baby parts and making $52,000/week on baby parts.”

“For God’s sake, we have so devalued the dignity of human life that by and large as a society we see human life as a matter of profit, pleasure or possession,” he said. “Human life has become a commodity. Human trafficking is one more aspect of that.”

In January Fr. Bayhi told Vatican Radio that internet pornography is not a victimless crime.

“Someone is there making those kids do that stuff,” he said. “They are not there voluntarily and you’re paying the money that makes it worthwhile to kidnap these kids and force them into that. You may have never picked up one of these children on a roadside but you make that possible.”

The priest suggested to CNA that the Church and the U.S. bishops’ conference could engage in more education and outreach efforts to help trafficking victims.

“We need to respond to the needs of these kids,” he said, urging people to recognize the signs of trafficking.

“Someone 35 years-old with four 16-year-olds around him, shopping at Wal-Mart, if they’re hanging on him like he’s the best thing since sliced bread, something’s wrong with that picture. Something’s really wrong,” he said.

A Church response could involve the observance of the Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, an ex-slave from Sudan. Her feast day coincides with the Feb. 8 International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.

Fr. Bayhi suggested priests should be taught about human trafficking and how to preach about it. For their part, the U.S. bishops’ conference could dedicate more resources to anti-trafficking work.

As for Louisiana’s Metanoia Home, the nuns moved in on May 20. They are prepared to be mothers to young women in need.

Metanoia Home’s website is http://metanoia-inc.org.

 

New video shows graphic discussion of aborted baby parts

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 02:42

Washington D.C., May 26, 2017 / 12:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Preview footage released recently by the Center for Medical Progress appears to show participants at a national abortion convention casually discussing the skulls, eyeballs and other baby body parts they encounter in abortion procedures.

“An eyeball just fell down into my lap, and that is gross!” says one panelist in the video, to laughter from the crowd.

“When the skull is broken, that’s really sharp!” another says.

The footage also appears to show a person acknowledging, “We certainly do intact D&Es,” a presumed reference to dilation-and-extraction, or partial-birth abortions, which are illegal under federal law.

Planned Parenthood employees also appear in the footage discussing baby organs that are given to biotech firms for money.

“They’re wanting livers,” one abortion provider says. “Sometimes she’ll tell me she wants brain,” another medical director says.

The Center for Medical Progress – an investigative journalism group – released the undercover footage, which it says was collected at the 2014 and 2015 National Abortion Federation conventions.

It’s the latest in a series of videos the group has released. Previous videos have appeared to show employees in the abortion industry discussing the sale of body parts from aborted babies and talking about altering abortion procedures in order to obtain the best “specimens” of baby parts.

Other videos have also appeared to show employees setting abortion quotas at some clinics, and suggesting that they decide how to handle babies born alive after botched abortions based on “who’s in the room” at the time.

The Center for Medical Progress videos have given great momentum to efforts to end state and federal taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, which receives about half a billion dollars in federal funds annually, about 40 percent of its operating budget. While this money is forbidden by law from funding abortions, critics charge that these rules may not always be followed, and that any federal funding frees up other money for abortions.

In January 2017, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives Select Investigative Panel investigating fetal tissue procurement released its report declaring that there are abuses and possible criminal violations in the area. The procurement of fetal tissue for profit is illegal.

Although a dozen states opened investigations into the organizations involved, they did not find legally admissible evidence of wrongdoing.

Backers of Planned Parenthood have charged that the videos were deceptively edited, a charge Daleiden has strongly contested, releasing the full videos to support his claim.

Daleiden is currently facing criminal charges for filming people without their consent in California. He claims that he is protected as an undercover journalist.

 

 

Can you be pro-life and anti-war? In Pittsburgh, apparently not.

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 20:00

Pittsburgh, Pa., May 25, 2017 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- On Tuesday, a “Consistent Life Ethic” group was booted from sponsorship of the Pittsburgh March Against War after Facebook complaints against their pro-life stance.

Rehumanize International, previously Life Matters Journal, is a group that opposes all violence against human beings, including abortion, war, euthanasia, torture, capital punishment and human sex trafficking.

They were invited to co-sponsor the Pittsburgh March Against War, set to take place this summer, and were then removed from sponsorship after a vote of the other co-sponsors, following several complaints on the event’s Facebook page.

By Wednesday afternoon, the Facebook page for the March event had been deleted.

The Pittsburgh March Against War was organized by the Pittsburghers in Solidarity Against War, a coalition consisting of several organizations: the Anti-War Committee of the Thomas Merton Center, Veterans for Peace, CAIR Pittsburgh, International Socialist Organization - Pittsburgh, Socialist Alternative, Party for Socialism and Liberation, ANSWER Coalition, WILPF Pittsburgh, the Democratic Socialists of America, and Redneck Revolt.  

CNA reached out to all of the co-sponsor groups and the March event’s main e-mail for comment on this story, but did not receive any responses, aside from the Thomas Merton Center, by press time.

Aimee Murphy, Executive Director of Rehumanize International, said that she was first invited by one of the co-sponsors to a meeting about the Pittsburgh March Against War, a grassroots event scheduled to take place July 1 at the Schenley Plaza. Murphy previously hadn’t heard about the March, but wanted her organization to get involved after attending the meeting.

Murphy said she introduced herself, as well as the vision of Rehumanize, at the meeting and handed out her card to multiple people before her organization was added to the sponsors of the event.

“I handed out my card and said yeah, we’re kind of new to this, but check us out. So people in the roundtable had ample opportunity to vet us before they ever added us to the event, and they didn’t,” Murphy told CNA.

Once the group was added to the list of sponsors on the Facebook event, attendees began researching the group and complaining about Rehumanize’s pro-life stance in Facebook comments.

While the event page was deleted Wednesday, Murphy saved screenshots of some of the comments.

“...I can’t and won’t march alongside a group that equates my choices as a person with a uterus and my work as a scientist with war and imperialism. It’s dehumanizing and detrimental to the anti-war and anti-imperialist movement overall…” Abby Cartus wrote in Facebook comments on the event.

“I definitely believe Rehumanize was passed off as an anti-war group,” wrote another commenter, who amended her comment to be “an anti-war group only.”

In a Medium post, Patrick Young said that most people involved in Rehumanize “seem like caring and loving people. I do believe that they genuinely intend to be loving and compassionate in their work. They’ve gone to great lengths to separate themselves from the hateful and aggressive anti-abortion advocates that have been so persistent for decades and train volunteers on what they believe is a compassionate approach.”

Nevertheless, he said, they engage in the “abhorrent” practice of approaching women outside of abortion clinics “to guilt and shame women out of choosing to have an abortion,” and therefore he believes they were rightly removed from co-sponsorship of the anti-war march.

The Thomas Merton Center (TMC), which created the event Facebook page, responded that they were listening to concerns and that many of the groups planning the event only became aware of Rehumanize’s ideology “that stand against our human rights” after the Facebook comments.

On Tuesday night, a democratic vote was held with the co-sponsors of the event on whether or not to remove Rehumanize from sponsorship. Murphy said she was included in the call, and the thread of the conversation was whether or not an anti-abortion group could be allowed to sponsor the anti-war March.

As stated on the event page, before it was deleted: "The votes consist of 8-remove, 1-abstain, 2-absent, and 1-remain. Rehumanize International was removed as a member of the organizing group and sponsor of the Pittsburgh March Against War."

A statement on the Rehumanize International Facebook page reads: "Though we know that this is not meant as a personal slight against us, we are disappointed in the decision to exclude pro-life anti-war organizers as we fear it sends a signal to grassroots pro-peace, pro-life people that they are not welcome in the anti-war movement. [As with any social movement dedicated to the abolition of violence,] in order to end the atrocity of war, we need everyone committed to peace."

Murphy said she was “flabbergasted” that a representative of the TMC voted to "remove" Rehumanize, because Thomas Merton was a Catholic, pro-life Trappist monk who believed in a consistent life ethic.

"It seems a little strange that we are so wildly exercised about the ‘murder’ (and the word is of course correct) of an unborn infant by abortion... and yet accept without a qualm the extermination of millions of helpless and innocent adults... I submit that we ought to fulfill the one without omitting the other," Thomas Merton wrote in a letter to fellow activist Dorothy Day on Dec. 20, 1961.

Antonio Lodico, Executive Director of the TMC, told CNA that the involvement of the center in the March was largely through their anti-war committee, which consists of volunteers. Lodico said the TMC did not cast a vote regarding whether or not to remove Rehumanize because they had not had a chance as an organization to meet and discuss beforehand.

The TMC vote was likely a provincial vote cast by a representative of the volunteer group, but one that is considered binding unless the group changes their vote in the future. CNA asked the TMC to be put in contact with their volunteer anti-war committee but did not receive a response by press time.

Lodico added that while the TMC created the Facebook event for the March, they had given admin access to several of the co-sponsor groups and are unsure which group deleted the event.

“You may have received a notification that the Thomas Merton Center deleted the Pittsburgh March Against War Facebook event page. We did not approve deleting this event. A co-host deleted the event. The groups involved in planning this event are just finding out about this now. We acknowledge the labor that went into the education and conversation on the Facebook page and we regret that this effort was lost,” the TMC said in a Facebook post on their page.

This is not the first time that Rehumanize International has been excluded from sponsoring or organizing marches and protests. According to a press release from the group, “leading up to the Women's March earlier this year, they were summarily ignored despite their support of women's rights and nonviolence (while their sister group New Wave Feminists was accepted, then removed as a partner).”

Murphy noted in the press release that Rehumanize will attend the anti-war march regardless of whether or not they are sponsors.

"We are anti-war for the same reason we are anti-abortion: we believe in the inherent dignity of human beings and therefore, that all violence against them is contrary to that dignity," Murphy said.

"Because those who are bombed, aborted, and killed by other acts of aggression cannot afford for us to cease our holistic, human-centered work, we will march on July 1, even if we are unwanted. We will be there, supporting a message for peace and all life."

Following the deletion of the Facebook event, it is unclear whether the March will continue.

Pro-lifers slam Christian school for punishing pregnant teen

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 13:34

Hagerstown, Md., May 25, 2017 / 11:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Students for Life of America had strong words for a Maryland Christian high school that banned a pregnant student from walking at her graduation – a move they say will only deter women from being pro-life.

“Not allowing Maddi to walk in her graduation ceremony sends the message that being pregnant in a Christian school is an embarrassment that should be hidden away,” president Kristan Hawkins wrote in a May 23 letter.

“…this example may be the turning point causing many students to turn away from the pro-life and Christian message.”

The letter was sent to principal David Hobbs of Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland. The private school refused to let senior Maddi Runkles walk at her graduation due to violating a moral clause she was obligated to sign.

Eighteen-year-old Maddi had a 4.0 grade point average, was involved in her student council and other leadership programs, and played soccer.

She found out she was pregnant in January this year and entertained the idea of an abortion. However, Maddi encountered the loving support of her parents and the Christian community at her church and chose to keep the baby.

Originally, Maddi was going to be expelled from campus and placed on independent study, but the degree of punishment was lessened after her family and 25 other parents and classmates appealed to the principle in person.

Principal Hobbs had said in a statement on the school's website that “we love Maddi Runkles,” but that the “best way to love her right now is to hold her accountable for her immorality that began this situation.”

According to Students for life, Hobbs was planning on telling the school that the student had broken the rules, “but Maddi didn't want the information to go through a secondhand source.”

“So instead, she voluntarily got up in front of the entire high school and tearfully told them what she did and that she was pregnant.”

Even with the lessened punishment, Hawkins criticized the school board for deciding that graduation “is too great of an honor…on which to present a pregnant girl with her earned academic achievements.”

Hawkins argued that the public nature of the punishment is unnecessary, given Maddi's suspension and stripped leadership roles – as well as the sheer difficulty of pregnancy.

“It appears that the school is not satisfied that she has repented of and been held accountable for her initial offense, and that satisfaction of such only comes at a public cost.”

She insisted that the public punishment will only work to shame other women who will go or are going through a similar situation. Students for Life was founded with the mission of ending the need for abortion by educating youth, engaging with the students on campuses throughout the U.S., and lobbying for campus pregnancy programs.

A study released by the Guttmacher Institute shows that over 50 percent of women who procured an abortion in 2014 consider themselves to be part of a Christian denomination – nearly half of the group identifying as Catholic.

Another study, according to Care Net, said that 76 percent of women did not feel they were able to discuss their abortion with members of their church. Additionally, 65 percent felt judged by parishioners, and 41 percent did not believe their church was prepared to counsel them through pregnancy decisions.

Religious freedom cited in first US female genital mutilation case

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 05:02

Detroit, Mich., May 25, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A U.S. federal law prohibiting female genital mutilation will be challenged for the first time in a case in Detroit, where lawyers plan to cite religious freedom as a defense of the practice.

In the case, two physicians and one of their wives are charged with subjecting young girls to genital cutting. The three adults are members of the Dawoodi Bohra, a small Indian-Muslim sect located in Farmington Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), or the cutting or removal of a female’s clitoris and labia, has officially been illegal in the United States since 1997, under the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act.

Until modern times, the cutting or removal of female genitalia was considered a “cure” for various ills - hysteria, excessive sexual desire, lesbianism, etc. and was covered by some insurance providers well into the 1970s.

Now, FGM is widely understood by the United Nations and numerous other international human rights groups as a “harmful traditional practice”. The procedure has no health benefits for women, multiple health risks, and is considered a human rights violation.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the defense “maintains that the doctors weren't engaged in any actual cutting — just a scraping of the genitalia — and that the three defendants are being persecuted for practicing their religion by a culture and society that doesn't understand their beliefs and is misinterpreting what they did.”

Court documents state that the two Minnesota girls in the case had scarring and abnormalities on their clitorises and labia minora as a result of the procedure.

"According to some members of the community who have spoken out against the practice, the purpose of this cutting is to suppress female sexuality in an attempt to reduce sexual pleasure and promiscuity," a Homeland Security Investigations special agent wrote in an April 20 court filing, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Although it is the first case specifically challenging the law on female genital mutilation, experts believe it is unlikely that the religious freedom defense will work in this case.

“I don’t think the religious freedom argument will work. Based on Jehovah Witness cases of denying blood transfusions to children, the court should decide this type of case on the basis of what’s in the best interest of the child,” Nina Shea, an international human-rights lawyer and director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, told CNA.

Religious freedom has failed as a defense in numerous cases where a child has either been abused or denied healthcare, because the government has an overriding compelling interest in what is best for the child, a basic standard in the family law codes or statutes of most Western nations.  
 
A complicating factor in cases of FGM is that it is sometimes presented as the female equivalent of male circumcision.

However, “FGM is very different in purpose in that it is to deprive the woman of sexual enjoyment throughout the rest of her life.  Also unlike male circumcision, there are no health benefits and there are health risks to FGM,” Shea said.  

Some of those health risks include severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

"I can't imagine any court that would say that the parents' right to practice their religion gives them the right to inflict this harm on their daughters," First Amendment expert and constitutional law scholar Erwin Chemerinsky told the Detroit Free Press.

"It's going to come down to medicine, and if (the procedure) really inflicts great, lifelong harms on those who are subjected to it — that's what is going to decide this case," he said.

Despite the risks, the practice remains deeply ingrained in some cultures and religions where it is seen as a sort of “rite of passage” for young women, who often opt for the procedure themselves, rather than being forced into it by males in the community.   

Anthropologists have found that even educating mothers about the health risks of FGM is not enough to deter the practice in some areas, where it is a matter of cultural pride and a way of ensuring a girl’s future and acceptance in a society where this has been a long-accepted practice.

“What we're coming to realize is that programs that target individual mothers (about the harms of FGM) are completely ineffective. Mothers are not solely in charge of the decisions for their daughters,” Bettina Shell-Duncan, an anthropology professor at the University of Washington, told The Atlantic in 2015.

“We need to be targeting people who are in the extended family, and we know that we need to figure out who are the figures of authority in these families, and who are the influences on them in the community. We need to do male elders, but also female elders.”

“It’s about a conversation about, What is the best way to secure the future for your children? The future for their girls might not be best secured by being circumcised any longer,” she added.

Stronger religious freedoms in Texas could boost Catholic foster care

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 02:04

Austin, Texas, May 25, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church in Texas will work to promote more foster parenting, following the state legislature’s approval of strong legal protections for religious adoption and foster care agencies.

“Now Catholics can join other people of good will and serve Texas’ children in good faith,” said Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops.

This fall, the bishops’ conference has said, it will work with diocesan offices on a campaign to encourage Catholic families to be foster parents.

“Most Catholic Charities in the state had withdrawn from serving foster children,” the bishops’ conference said May 22. “The new law removes a significant barrier to Catholics serving children in the foster care system and will trigger greater recruitment efforts by Catholic parishes and ministries.”

The bill, called the Freedom to Serve Children Act, could protect the ability of organizations and individuals in Texas’ foster care system who have sincerely held religious beliefs to remove themselves from actions that would directly violate their faith.

It has multiple applications. It could allow groups opposed to abortion to avoid helping a minor obtain an abortion. It could allow groups that believe children should be placed only with a married adoptive mother and father to provide foster services without facing lawsuits from same-sex couples.

The bill passed the Texas Senate May 22 on a 21-10 vote. Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville joined Republicans to support the bill, saying it would help add more private adoption agencies to Texas’ system: “It's about increasing capacity, it's about providing homes for kids.”

The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign the bill.

The Texas House of Representatives had passed the bill by a 93-49 vote on May 10, largely along party lines.

Private foster care and adoption agencies receive about 25 percent of child placement funding in the state, the Associated Press reports. Some groups had suspended services for fear of discrimination lawsuits.

In other states and the District of Columbia, long-serving Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down by laws against sexual orientation discrimination or new state funding rules that would have required them to place children with same-sex couples.

A Texas Department of Family and Protective Services report indicates that 314 children slept in state offices, hotels, shelters and other temporary housing between Sept. 1 and March 31, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

The bill drew opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union and LGBT activist groups like the Human Rights Campaign.

Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, charged that the bill would “prioritize discrimination over the best interest of kids in the child welfare system.”

Critics voiced concern the bill would allow foster parents to prevent children from being vaccinated. Some critics objected to protecting foster parents’ abilities to limit children’s access to contraceptives and abortion.

South Dakota passed a similar bill in March, but no other states currently have similar legislation.

Catholic academics urge protection of undocumented students

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 22:02

Washington D.C., May 24, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of increased government crackdown on immigration, a letter was sent to the Department of Homeland Security voicing Catholic support for programs promoting deferred deportation.

“As leaders of Catholic colleges and universities, we are dedicated to educating students from all backgrounds,” read the May 23 statement with over 65 signatures from presidents of Catholic colleges throughout the U.S.

“In keeping with this commitment, many of our institutions are home to young men and women who are undocumented and have met the criteria for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). We are deeply concerned about the futures of our undocumented students.”

The letter was addressed to John Kelly, secretary of the DHS. It requested that he meet with leaders of Catholic colleges to discuss greater involvement and understanding of current immigration policies aimed at protecting undocumented migrants with no criminal activity.

“We would like to better understand how immigration enforcement agencies in the Department of Homeland Security, including ICE and Customs and Border Patrol, approach DACA holders during targeted enforcement actions, police encounters or in public.”

The statement responds to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement which said that the reprieve granted to undocumented childhood arrivals isn't necessarily legally binding, but that they are less of a priority to deport than undocumented immigrants with criminal charges.

“DACA is not a protected legal status, but active DACA recipients are typically a lower level of enforcement priority,” the group said in a tweet in March.

Individuals who are registered for DACA are also known as “DREAMers,” since many meet the general requirements of the 2001 Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was a policy put in place by the Obama administration in 2012. The policy promised to defer deportation for two y ear periods to those who qualified underneath the program’s guidelines.

In order to apply for DACA a person must be under the age 31 before June 2012, moved to the US before turning the age of 16, has a high school degree or are aiming to receive one, and has no record of felony charges, significant misdemeanors, or three smaller misdemeanors.

According to a study released in January by the Pew Research Center, over 750,000 undocumented migrants have received either deportation relief or work permits since the program’s establishment.

The current administration has a stricter interpretation of immigration policy than Obama's, but President Donald Trump has stated that he would not revoke the DACA program. He said targets for immigration enforcement will be criminals and not “DREAMers.”

Cracking down on immigration was a major platform of President Trump’s campaign. According to ICE, over 41,000 suspected undocumented immigrants have been arrested this year, a nearly 38 percent increase since this time last year.

However, just because “DREAMers” aren't targeted does not mean they are not affected.

The letter cited that 10 DACA recipients have been arrested and one has been deported since President Donald Trump took office this year.

DACA does not commission legal protection or defines legal status of the individual. But the policy is rather an omission by the DHS in order to ignore legal action, which they may have been carried out as defined by the immigration laws.

The policy does not necessarily bind the government to inaction, and even though the Trump administration has stressed the arrest of DACA immigrants to be of minute importance, there is still a danger that “DREAMers” will still be subject to punishment.

John Kelly confirmed a statement from President Trump that migrants like “Dreamers” will not be targeted, but only the immigrants with criminal records. However, Kelly acknowledged that laws were already broken in illegally crossing the border, and said “Dreamers” may still be subject to negative ramifications.

“People fall into our hands incidentally that we have no choice in most cases but to go ahead and put in the system,” said Kelly in an April 23 interview with CBS.

The letter stated that protecting the vulnerable is a Christian obligation, and applauded the policy’s ability to help undocumented students within the US.

“The DACA policy has enabled our students to continue their studies and pursue careers in their chosen fields, from education to medicine, despite great anxiety and uncertainty.”

Budget proposal draws concern for cuts to poverty programs

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 19:11

Washington D.C., May 24, 2017 / 05:11 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump’s budget requests, although applauded for their pro-life measures, were largely met with concern from Catholic aid groups, particularly for their cuts to welfare programs and international aid.

“Rather than balancing the budget on the backs of those who are poor while shoring up military spending, our budgetary policies should reflect compassion for those most fragile and, at the same time, should allocate funds to protect safety and the common good,” Sister Donna Markham, O.P., president and CEO of Catholic Charities, USA, stated on Tuesday.

President Trump released his FY 2018 budget proposal “The New Foundation for American Greatness” on Tuesday, calling for a $54 billion increase in defense spending and an increase in immigration enforcement and border security funding.

To balance the budget over 10 years, these increases would supposedly be offset by cuts elsewhere, including to international aid, the State Department, a $191 billion cut in food stamp funding over 10 years, and cuts to other welfare programs.

The administration also announced a proposed budget increase in fighting the opioid epidemic, including “$12.1 billion for treatment and prevention efforts” and “$10.8 billion in treatment funding.”

In anticipation of the budget proposal, leading U.S. bishops wrote Congress on Tuesday outlining their serious concerns. The goal of reducing the deficit was legitimate, they said, but such deficit reduction must include a comprehensive set of cuts and not just cuts in programs tailored for low-income groups while increasing spending in other areas.

Particularly concerning to them were cuts to international aid programs at a time when conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa threaten to destabilize whole regions, along with droughts and famines. Famine has already been declared in South Sudan, and three other countries are on the brink of famines.

Overall, the proposed cuts to diplomacy and development amount to almost $60 billion, Catholic Relief Services says.

“This budget also shifts attention to short-term ‘strategic’ issues and countries,” Bill O’Keefe, vice president of advocacy for Catholic Relief Services, stated on Tuesday of the proposed cuts. “The danger is that problems elsewhere ignored today become the expensive strategic challenges our military has to address tomorrow.”

“The people who say aid does not work should come stand in my shoes here in Somalia,” said Mohamed Dahir, CRS’ country manager in Somalia. “They should talk to a woman who walked with her children for days and days, trying to escape drought, only to lose some of those children along the way.”

“In previous droughts, people like her found water in the major rivers, but this drought is so bad even the rivers have dried up,” Dahir said. “How can we abandon them – good, hardworking, innocent people who have done nothing wrong? Our aid not only brings them life, it brings them another commodity that is very precious in Somalia – hope."

Cuts to diplomacy are also distressing, CRS and the bishops said, as the international community still has yet to come together to negotiate a peace to end the six year-long conflict in Syria.

 Other Catholic aid groups largely were concerned over the domestic budget proposals.

Catholic Charities, USA “supports efforts to improve vital safety-net programs needed to move people out of poverty and protect life,” Sister Donna Markham said.

Yet “the disastrous, albeit cruel, cuts to anti-poverty programs such as SNAP, Medicaid and jobs training will have a devastating effect on millions of vulnerable individuals and families who depend on them,” she continued.

The Catholic Climate Covenant also expressed serious concerns about Trump’s proposed budget, calling the cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency “dramatic and unwarranted” and saying that they hurt the poor.

This is because the EPA has done “excellent work” for the environment, “yet far too many families, especially in low-income and of color communities, live near heavily polluted areas such as Superfund and brownfields sites, incinerators and coal-fired power plants,” the group explained.

Trump’s budget would cut programs having to do with clean-up of these areas and enforcement of environmental laws, rendering poor people in these communities more “vulnerable” to pollution.

“These cuts threaten the future of our children not only in the U.S. but around the world,” Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, bishop liaison to the group’s board of directors, stated on Wednesday, pointing to cuts of programs working “to help reduce greenhouse gases, the major cause of the global warming we are experiencing.”

“Pope Francis has made it clear that the threat of climate change demands that ‘the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay’,” he said, quoting the encyclical Laudato Si’ paragraph 165.

The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, however, approved of the proposal that funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, would be redirected to community health centers. That funding would be estimated at $422 million.

“We’re encouraged to see that the budget released today prevents federal funds from going to the nation’s largest abortion chain, Planned Parenthood,” the group’s president Marjorie Dannenfelser stated on Tuesday. “Taxpayers should not have to prop up Planned Parenthood’s failing, abortion-centered business model.”

 

St. Louis rule creates legal traps for pro-lifers, lawsuit charges

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 08:18

St. Louis, Mo., May 24, 2017 / 06:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A St. Louis city ordinance that could force Catholic schools and pro-life pregnancy centers to hire employees who support abortion has drawn legal opposition from the Archbishop of St. Louis and several pro-life organizations.

“As Catholics, we know that all life is a gift from God and our parents, and must be protected at any cost,” St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson said May 22. “Sadly, legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed by the Supreme Court in 1973.”

“Now, some of our St. Louis politicians have made a protected 'class' out of 'reproductive health,' which is merely a politically correct euphemism for abortion,” the archbishop said at a press conference on the steps of the federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis.

He said the archdiocese will not comply with the “vile bill.”

Archbishop Carlson was joined by Peggy Forrest of Our Lady’s Inn, which promotes abortion alternatives for pregnant women, archdiocesan newspaper the St. Louis Review reports. Also present was Sarah Pitlyk, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, which has filed the lawsuit seeking judicial review.

The Archdiocesan Elementary Schools of St. Louis, Our Lady’s Inn, and the private company O’Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC are parties to the lawsuit concerning St. Louis Ordinance 70459, also called Board Bill 203 Committee Substitute. The ordinance, enacted in February, creates a protected status for anyone who has “made a decision related to abortion,” even in cases where the abortion was not their own. The protections apply to corporations and all businesses, not only individuals.

Opponents said the bill would bar any individual or entity, including Christian organizations, from refusing to sell or rent property to individuals or businesses that promote or provide abortions. It could require Catholic schools to hire abortion supporters or potentially be sued.

The lawsuit notes the archdiocesan schools require teachers and employees to sign a statement saying they will not publicly support abortion and will otherwise live in harmony with Catholic teachings in their professional and personal lives. Organizations that require such a statement face criminal fines under the city bill, while individuals who enforce it face a fine and even jail time.

“The passage of this bill is not a milestone of our city’s success. It is, rather, a marker of our city’s embrace of the culture of death,” said Archbishop Carlson.

Pitlyk of the Thomas More Society further criticized the ordinance.

“The City of St. Louis, by pushing an abortion agenda, is clearly out of step with the rest of the state,” she charged. “The city has taken the protections typically granted to prevent discrimination for ‘race, age, religion, sex or disability’ and applied them to those who have made or expect to make ‘reproductive health decisions’,” she said.

Forrest said that the ordinance would bar Our Lady’s Inn from hiring only individuals who support its mission to provide abortion alternatives.

She said that since the ordinance was passed, her organization has received several suspicious calls that seemed like possible legal traps. She said there is a great possibility “that women either pretending to need services or knowing full well they don't want the services that we provide will engage us just to see if they can catch us in violating the ordinance.”

“It’s insincere and takes up time for women who really are interested in our services,” Forrest added. “We support women who have already made a choice for life. And if that's not the choice they’ve made then our services don’t match them.”  

The ordinance would also require businesses to include abortion coverage in employee health care plans, even if owners object. The Thomas More Society said this requirement is unlawful under the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving Hobby Lobby’s challenge to a federal rule mandating coverage of contraceptive drugs, including drugs that can cause abortion.

The Catholic-owned O’Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC, was also part of the Hobby Lobby case.

The St. Louis legal complaint said the ordinance violates other constitutional protections involving free speech, free association, the religion clauses of the First Amendment, due process rights, and equal protection, as well as several state laws.

Pitlyk also faulted the ordinance’s “extremely limited” religious exemptions for housing and employment, and its lack of exemptions for individuals who have “sincere religious, moral or ethical objections to abortion.”

“That is unconstitutional, and directly violates both federal and state law,” she said.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson defended the law in a statement, saying, “We don’t believe the ordinance infringes on the rights of the Archdiocese,” according to the Associated Press.

While backers of the ordinance said it aimed to address discrimination against individuals who have had, or were planning to have abortions, they could not find examples of such.

Pitlyk said the ordinance was “a remedy in search of a problem.”

 

Cardinal Dolan finds lesson in humility in life of Irish migrant who saw Our Lady

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 02:04

New York City, N.Y., May 24, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An Irish immigrant named John Curry passed away in 1943 in New York City after a modest life.

But when he was reburied earlier this month, a large congregation gathered to remember the man who had witnessed the apparition of Our Lady of Knock.

Among those who honored his memory was Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who delivered the homily for Curry’s May 13 reburial Mass at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan.

“We remember this sincere, honest, holy immigrant John Curry, who we come to bury today with reverence for who he was, with reverence for the country from whence he came, with reverence for the nation where settled, with reverence for what he saw that August 21, 1879,” the cardinal said in his homily.

On that evening, fifteen men, women, and children, mainly from the village of Knock in County Mayo, saw an apparition at Knock parish.

They ranged in age from 5 to 74 years old. Curry was the youngest, there with his cousin Patrick Hill.

Some of the witnesses reported figures that appeared to be the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. John at the parish church’s gable wall. Amid luminous lights, they saw the figure of a lamb and a cross on an altar. In the pouring rain, the witnesses stayed, praying the rosary.

Cardinal Dolan said Curry beheld the apparition “with the simplicity and sincerity of a little five-year-old boy.” Throughout the rest of his life, Curry was “a man whose only quiet boast was that he was an altar boy, from his childhood at Knock to his death at Sacred Heart Home with the Sisters of the Poor, rarely if ever missing daily Mass and Holy Communion.”

Curry would later leave Ireland for the United States, then spent time in London before moving once again to New York. He spent his last years with the Little Sisters of the Poor at Sacred Heart Home and was buried in a donated, unmarked grave at Pine Lawn Cemetery on Long Island.

His reburial at Manhattan’s historic old cathedral drew Irish and Irish-American leaders. Their numbers included a group of Irish pilgrims from Knock, including relatives of the never-married Curry.

As an immigrant who first came to New York at the age of 21, Curry “really only distinguished himself by his simplicity, his humility, his kindness and his piety,” Cardinal Dolan said at the Mass. John Curry’s faith in Christ “animated his tender care for the sick” at the New York hospital where he later worked.

At the age of 63, the cardinal recounted, Curry testified “that he recalled the vision of Jesus the Lamb of God, silently adored by his mother, St. Joseph and St. John, as if it were last night.”  

“Jesus, Mary, Joseph and St. John,” said the cardinal. “They’re here, and the communion of saints, as is true at every Eucharist... as is the spirit of John Curry.”

“Our eyes are on Mary, are they not?” Cardinal Dolan asked. “The mother of Jesus, given by him to us as a parting gift from his cross on Calvary as our own mother too. Our eyes are on Mary as she appeared in that little village in County Mayo, Knock, on Aug. 21, 1879 in company with her spouse, St. Joseph, her spiritual son St. John, all three of them in silent adoration of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

He also reflected on the place of immigrants in the United States.

“Our eyes this this morning as well are on the immigrant, as Jesus, Mary and Joseph were refugees once in Egypt,” he said.

“John Curry was but one of the millions of immigrants who came here to America, from Ireland to be sure, but from almost every nation in the atlas, to enrich this country mightily, and to make this nation a light to the world, through its embrace of the John Currys of the world--a light, my friends, we can not allow to grow dim today.”

According to Cardinal Dolan, Curry would say the day is not about him, but about Jesus and the Virgin Mary, of whom St. Elizabeth said, “Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s promise to her would be fulfilled.”

The day of the reburial Mass coincided with the May 13 observance of the centenary of the Our Lady of Fatima apparition.

New York City event to discuss how faith, modernity intersect

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 22:01

New York City, N.Y., May 23, 2017 / 08:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An event exploring the interaction of the Christian faith with the modern world – in light of the writings of the founder of Communion and Liberation – will take place in New York City this summer.

The June 22 event, titled Christianity: An Encounter that Shapes Life, is the second annual Giussani series on Faith and Modernity. It will be presented by global ecclesiastical movement Communion and Liberation, Crossroads Cultural Center, and the Sheen Center in New York City.
 
The event is free and will focus on the heart of the Christian faith and true human encounter as described by Monsignor Luigi Giussani in his book, “Generating Traces in the History of the World.”

An Encounter that Shapes Life will feature discussions from Father Solanus Benfatti, a professor of Spirituality and Franciscan Traditions at St. Joseph's Seminary in the Archdiocese of New York, and Michael Waldstein, PhD, a professor of theology at Ave Maria University in Florida.
 
Communion and Liberation began to emerge in 1954 by Italian priest, Catholic thinker, and educator Msgr. Luigi Giussani. The movement focuses on the actualization of man's faith by living the Christian presence within community.

In his 1995 book “The Risk of Education,” Msgr. Giussani described the movement as “showing the relevance of faith to life's needs, and therefore – and this 'therefore' is important – showing that faith is rational, implies a specific concept of rationality.”

“When we say that faith exalts rationality, we mean that faith corresponds to some fundamental, original need that all men and women feel in their hearts.”

Crossroads Cultural Center was established in 2004 as an extension of Communion and Liberation. The group's mission is to foster knowledge of reality and life's meaning, as seen through the lens of Christian faith.

The event will be held at Sheen Center located in East Village of downtown New York City. The center is named after the previous archbishop of Rochester, Fulton Sheen, and hosts events which align to the truth, beauty, and goodness as expressed by the Catholic Church.

A life stream of the conference will be made available at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Sheen Center’s website: https://sheencenter.org/shows/giussani2/

US bishops welcome Trump administration's reprieve for Haitian migrants

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 18:38

Washington D.C., May 23, 2017 / 04:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Trump administration’s decision to allow 50,000 Haitian earthquake victims to remain in the United States prompted gratitude from the U.S. bishops’ conference, which stressed the need for continued work to aid Haitians here and in their home country.

“While this extension is helpful, it still leaves many Haitian families in the United States in an insecure and vulnerable position, particularly with respect to ensuring legal work authorization,” Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, said May 23.

The Department of Homeland Security’s decision extended the Obama administration’s protections for Haitians who had arrived in the U.S. within a year of the massive 2010 earthquake. They may remain with work authorizations until January 2018.

Sources in the department told Reuters that Secretary John Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security believes that conditions in Haiti are improving, but Haitians in the U.S. still need protections.

At the same time, there is no commitment to extending protections past January. Officials recommended that Haitians with temporary protective status begin seeking travel documents to return to Haiti.

In a May 23 letter to Secretary Kelly, Bishop Vasquez said that extending temporary protective status serves an important humanitarian role by promoting the safety and stability of Haitian families in the U.S.

“We encourage our government to work proactively with the Haitian government to provide life-saving aid and recovery assistance,” he said. “Haiti will continue to struggle to receive back those who are temporarily protected, even those who may be returned in the near future.”

The bishop said that Catholic service networks in the U.S. will continue to aid Haitian families and the rebuilding process in Haiti. These networks will also look for opportunities to collaborate with the Church in Haiti and with the U.S. and Haitian governments.

The earthquake killed an estimated 220,000 people and affected over 3.5 million more.

Temporary protected status may be provided to citizens of countries that are suffering from severe violence, disease and natural disasters. At present countries designated for that status include Sudan, Somalia, Syria, El Salvador, Nepal, and Yemen, Reuters reports.

Ventura softball star: Encountering Christ through service

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 07:46

Los Angeles, Calif., May 23, 2017 / 05:46 am (CNA).- To a pitcher, a little situation like bases loaded, full count and trying to protect a one-run lead in the late innings is no big deal — not if you’ve been doing this since you were 8 years old.

And not if, like St. Bonaventure High School pitching star Jessica Gomez, you’re aiming for a career in pediatric nursing, where matters of life and death will mean something a lot different than they did on a softball field.

And certainly not if, like this senior scholar-athlete, you are a lifelong Catholic who believes Christ is present in every part of your life, which is why she chooses to serve others, willingly and joyfully.

“As someone who’s been raised Catholic, I’ve always been involved in service activities,” said Gomez, who tutors kids with learning disabilities and helps serve the hungry through the Many Meals feeding program at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Ventura. “It just really touches me when I encounter the love of Christ through service.”

That’s one reason Gomez was named an archdiocesan Christian Service Award recipient for 2017, and why she’s headed for the nursing program at Villanova University.

“Nursing is a healing occupation, and it’s the kind of ministry I really feel drawn to,” said Gomez. “I’ve always felt a call to help and serve wherever I can, plus I’m interested in science, and the nursing program at Villanova seems like a wonderful opportunity.”

Pressure performer

This week, Gomez - who has posted a 27-14 won-lost mark, 2.27 earned run average, and .302 batting average - will lead her St. Bonaventure team into the CIF-Southern Section softball playoffs. The Seraphs finished 16-8 and shared the Tri-Valley League title with Fillmore, made possible when Gomez tossed a three-hit, 11-strikeout, 5-0 win over Fillmore in the regular season finale.

“I respond well under pressure,” she said with a smile. “I have a very competitive nature, and my drive to win influences me when I get into tough situations. I enjoy the challenge of coming through in tight spots - which I’m hoping will serve me well in nursing.”

Those “tight spots,” she adds, are eased through prayer. In fact, the Seraphs as a team take a quiet moment before each game “to ask God for freedom from injury, the strength to play well and, if it’s in God’s will, for victory. And we really try to play the game the right way, to practice good sportsmanship and to be charitable and respectful, on and off the field.”

That attitude carries into off-the-field service projects. Gomez, her coaches and her teammates have visited a nearby youth correctional facility, meeting and talking with the female inmates “on how we have tried to deal with and adapt to challenges and struggles in our lives. Mainly, we want them to know that someone cares about them.”

As student body vice president, Gomez takes seriously her role as a leader, in class and on the softball diamond, and tries to impart “positive messages” to younger students and teammates, just as others did for her.

At Our Lady of the Assumption - which she, parents Bill and Candace and older brother Joseph (a sophomore at Georgetown) have attended since she was in sixth grade - Gomez enjoys another form of service, through singing in the Life Teen band that leads music at Sunday evening liturgies, “which is really fun and a wonderful way to connect with God and the community.”

Soon, Gomez will head back east to begin her next adventure at Villanova, a journey she anticipates with typical open-mindedness and determination.

“It’s a little scary,” she admitted, “but I’m excited by the opportunities in front of me. And I know that God is going to be with me every step of the way.”

 

This article originally appeared at AngelusNews.com, the news website for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Here's why the US bishops are distressed about military spending

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 05:13

Washington D.C., May 23, 2017 / 03:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Leading U.S. bishops have expressed serious concerns with President Donald Trump’s reported budget proposals for the 2018 fiscal year, noting among other fears that the proposals would decrease funding for diplomacy efforts while increasing military spending.

“The human consequences of budget choices are clear to us as pastors,” leaders of various committees of the U.S. bishops’ conference wrote to members of Congress in a May 19 letter.

“The moral measure of the federal budget is how well it promotes the common good of all, especially the most vulnerable whose voices are too often missing in these debates,” the bishops continued.

President Trump’s budget proposal for FY 2018 – to be released on Tuesday – will reportedly make deep cuts to Medicaid and other programs, and would eliminate entirely some programs that are tailored toward low-income persons, while increasing military spending and immigration enforcement funding.

Food stamps could see $193 billion in cuts over a decade, according to the AP. Farm subsidies could also be cut.

Leading bishops wrote members of Congress on May 19 saying that proposals in the budget would be “profoundly troubling.”

The signatories included Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, head of the committee on pro-life activities; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, chair of the committee on international justice and peace; Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chair of the domestic justice and human development committee; and Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the migration committee.

Especially troubling, the bishops said, are the increases to military spending, when the U.S. already outspends all other countries in this area, and cuts to foreign assistance and diplomacy at a time when conflicts around the world threaten to destabilize whole regions.

The Syrian civil war, for instance, has displaced more than 11 million and created almost six million registered refugees.

“Our nation should elevate diplomacy and international development as primary tools for promoting peace, regional stability and human rights, not adopt deep cuts to these budgets,” the bishops wrote.

The U.S. already spends more on its military than at least the next seven countries combined, according to estimates from the fact-checking website PolitiFact.

When considering hikes to defense spending, the U.S. should remember that just wars can only be waged as a “last resort” and “within strict moral limits of proportionality, discrimination and probability of success,” the bishops emphasized.

Also, they added, the U.S. must exercise gratitude toward the members of the military and remember “the stress of repeated deployments over the years.” The bishops reminded Congress that they have “repeatedly called for robust diplomatic efforts to end longstanding conflicts in a range of countries, including Syria and Iraq.”

“It is hard to reconcile the need for diplomacy and political solutions with significant cuts to the State Department budget,” the bishops wrote.

And cuts to foreign international aid programs might not only hurt the poor, but could pose threats to the security of areas afflicted by war, drought, and famine, as well as to U.S. national security, they added. Famine has already been declared in South Sudan, and famines could be breaking out soon in three other countries.

The bishops maintained the legitimacy “of reducing future unsustainable deficits that would harm all citizens,” yet insisted upon “a comprehensive approach” to reduce deficits and not one that cuts only in certain areas while increasing spending in others.

“A just framework for sound fiscal policy cannot rely almost exclusively on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons,” they wrote.

“The Catholic Bishops of the United States stand ready to work with leaders of both parties for a federal budget that reduces future deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people, and advances peace and the common good,” the letter concluded.

 

Why head transplants won't disprove the existence of God

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 05:04

Denver, Colo., May 23, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With plans for the first human head transplant surgery looming in the next year, a lead doctor on the formidable project has high hopes for the procedure.

Along with the aim of finding a new body for a yet-to-be-selected patient, the physician says that the surgery – as a first step toward immortality – will effectively disprove religion.

But Catholic critics have called into question not only the ethics of such a risky procedure, but the dubious claim that such a development would render belief in God irrelevant.

“The actual trying of the surgery at this point I think would be unethical because of the tremendous risk involved, and it is an unproven surgery,” Dr. Paul Scherz, assistant professor of moral theology and ethics at The Catholic University of America, told CNA.

Sherz made his remarks following the news that Italian doctor Sergio Canavero is aiming to carry out the first human head transplant surgery within the next 10 months. It's a process Canavero hopes will pave the way for the process of transplanting cryogenically frozen brains – and ultimately, in his view, to the eradication of death.

Canavero serves as director of Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group and has teamed up with Harbin Medical Centre and Doctor Xiaoping Ren, an orthopedic surgeon who was involved with the first successful hand transplant in the U.S. The first surgical attempt for the head transplant is expected to take place in China, where the group says they're more likely to find a donor body.

Cryonics involves the freezing of the brain or even the whole body of patients, with expectations that future science will have the means to restore the frozen tissue and extend life.

Because conscious minds will have experienced “life” outside of death, Canavero said the surgery would then remove the fear of death and the people's need for religion. He said if the process succeeds, “religions will be swept away forever.”

However, Sherz responded that even if the surgery was a success, it would not disprove the Catholic faith.

“There is nothing in the Catholic tradition of how we understand the soul that would think that if you moved a head or moved the brain that that wouldn’t allow the person to come back to life,” he said.

Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group has already claimed that a successful head transplant has been carried out on a monkey, but not all scientists agree that the operation can be recorded as a success.

Before the monkey's head was stitched back together, it was removed, cooled, and the blood of the transplant body was cross circulated with an outside source. Canavero and his group claimed the supply of blood was then connected to prove the surgery succeeded without brain damage, but the spinal cord was left unattached.

How the connected blood supply proves the surgery is possible without brain damage was not described, and many bioethicists are skeptical of the publication of the surgery's success without proper peer review and of the issues around the severed spine.

Because the technology has not yet been developed, the bioethicists worry that the severed spine may never be reconstructed, leaving the patient worse off than before.

Despite the pervasive belief in the surgery's failure, Canavero claims there's a 90 percent chance that the human head transplant will succeed. And not only that, its success would allow humans to “no longer need to be afraid of death.”

Father Tad Pacholczyk, who serves as a bioethicist for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, disagreed with Canavero's definition of being “brought back to life.”

He said to assume death as a necessary product of either the head surgery or brain surgery is gullible and mistaken, as there is potential for the patient to be merely unconscious.

“The patient undergoing the head transplant is not dead, only unconscious,” he told CNA. “There is not any 'bringing back to life'…There is merely a restoration of consciousness, briefly lost during the movement of the head from one human body to the other.”

Scherz also said that the Church accepts an intimate and mysterious relationship between soul and body, and that the procedure's success wouldn't necessary disprove the soul or religion.

“Our neurological tissue has important part to play in our soul…The soul is always intimately related to the body. We are not just souls that are disembodied, right? We are embodied spirits or spirited bodies.”

Most physicians agree that the proposed surgery's success rate is infinitesimal, and they've questioned the morality of a procedure that's doomed to fail – and the unrealistic hope life extension projects could give to people.

“I am concerned that the rights of vulnerable patients undergoing cryonics cannot be protected indefinitely,” Dr. Channa Jayasena, a lecturer in Reproductive Endocrinology at Imperial College in London, told the Telegraph.

Cryonics, she said, “has risks for the patient, poses ethical issues for society, is highly expensive, but has no proven benefit.”

And the hope for immortal life, Scherz weighed in, isn't a realistic desire in a fallen world. “Living forever in bodily form is not going to satisfy anyone,” he said.

“If the goal is not to help someone to get back bodily movement or things like that, but to try to live forever on this earth, then I think if you really want to get over the fear of death then you will have to come to terms with the fact that we are mortal.”

“That what's going to help you to live a better life because you are going to be willing to give your life to things like service.”

In fact, he said that people in transhumanist movements have admitted they would most likely avoid risky behavior in order to preserve their lives.

“If life extension projects come into being there is so much more to lose – and you committed yourself to trying to live on this earth for as long as possible, which stands in contrast to the Catholic tradition and a lot of the philosophical traditions,” Scherz noted.

Knights of Columbus leader talks Pope Francis, Trump in new interview

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 02:32

Bridgeport, Conn., May 23, 2017 / 12:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The leader of the nearly 2 million-member Knights of Columbus recently spoke about the importance of his group's fidelity to Pope Francis, as well as his hopes for a successful upcoming meeting between the Roman Pontiff and U.S. president Donald Trump.

In a new interview, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson touched on these topics as well as his organization's commitment to persecuted Christians, problems with how some media treats issues within the Church, and what the Knights make a priority in their charitable giving.

The organization recently celebrated its 135th anniversary at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., the church where Fr. McGivney founded the Catholic fraternity that now has 1.9 million members worldwide.

Please read below for CNA's full interview with Carl Anderson:


The Pope will be meeting the United States president this week; what should people expect from that meeting?

The pope has made clear that he is seeking common ground with the president, and I would assume the president will do the same. Some in the media focus only on the differences between the thinking of these two men, but, there is also much common ground on issues like abortion, religious liberty, persecuted Christians and human trafficking.

In what ways have the Knights worked with Pope Francis over the past few years?

From our earliest days, the Knights of Columbus has always been loyal to the Holy Father. We have a wonderful relationship with Pope Francis and have helped sponsor a number of conferences and projects with the Vatican during his tenure on topics including relief work in Haiti, the Church in America, and the continental Jubilee of Mercy. I’ve had the privilege to meet with Pope Francis privately each year and to review with him our priorities and new initiatives. Each time, I’ve come away deeply inspired by his love for the poor and those on the margins of society.

We see supporting the pope, his ministry and his charitable endeavors as central to who we are as an organization.  I have repeatedly told our K of C leaders to take his words to us as our agenda, and I’ve personally assured him he can count on our support.

What are the main causes the Knights support?

We support causes large and small, but our primary focus over the past two years has been helping Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East who were targeted by ISIS. Because these communities are so small, they are too often overlooked by U.S. Government or UN aid programs and risk disappearing. We also have been supporting clean water projects in Africa, inspired by Laudato Si, and we just finished a project to improve the energy efficiency of our headquarters.

Two of the projects I’m very proud of are our work in Africa to educate and support AIDS orphans, many of whom are themselves HIV positive, and our efforts in Haiti to provide artificial limbs to children who lost their legs because of the earthquake there.

Also, at the local level, our members accompany their fellow parishioners and the members of their communities, supporting their needs in ways large and small. From food programs, to housing and clothing programs, to disaster relief, when people need us, we are there.

We also strongly support the right to life. Laudato Si section 120 states that without opposition to abortion, defending the rest of the vulnerable is increasingly difficult: “Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.”

In our country today, abortion takes more lives each year than any other cause of death. But we certainly don’t focus all our charity efforts on beginning-of-life issues. For example, we continued to give away more than 80,000 new winter coats and more than 8,000 wheelchairs in 2015, and we are constantly engaged in tens of thousands of projects around the world to help clothe, feed, shelter and meet other pressing needs of our neighbors. Last year we gave away $175 million and 73.5 million hours to charitable causes. We also support the Vatican and national bishops’ conferences in numerous ways, including in the defense of religious liberty, especially – but not only – when assaults on religious liberty also implicate the lives of the most vulnerable among us.

How dire are things for the Christians in the Middle East and why did you choose that issue?

For the first time in nearly 2,000 years, we are reaching a point where Christians could literally cease to exist in a country like Iraq. The situation is incredibly dire, and in the next few days, we will be announcing a new initiative to help stabilize these communities because there is a real concern that they will not survive. We have been providing assistance with food for thousands of families, we have provided funding for medical clinics, for apartment buildings, rental assistance, clothing, education, etc. But even more is needed. We simply cannot allow Christianity and pluralism to be eliminated from this region by those using terrorism and genocide to achieve their ends.

I am among the many who hope that the meeting between the pope and the president this week in Rome may include breakthrough solutions and closer cooperation between the American government and its aid programs and the Church to help ensure that these people survive, and that ISIS’ goal of eliminating religious minorities is not realized. As at least one commentator has also pointed out, no two organizations are more critical to surivival of these people than the U.S. government and the Vatican.

In terms of how we chose this issue, it came naturally to us, since the Knights of Columbus has been concerned about religious persecution throughout our history. We spoke up for Catholics being persecuted in Mexico in the 1920s, for Jews being persecuted in Germany in the 1930s, for people of faith being persecuted in the Cold War, and now, for these victims of ISIS.

You also mentioned your pro-life work. There have been some real advances in that area recently - what trends do you see?

We have seen some great strides in this area over the past months including moves to stop the taxpayer funding of abortion including via the Mexico City Policy. Appointments to the court and several cabinet positions are also very pro-life and this is very heartening as well.

As our polling shows, support for abortion restrictions is bi-partisan. For example, 70 percent of Democrats and 94 percent of Republicans support banning taxpayer funding of abortion abroad. In addition, about 6 in 10 Democrats, 7 in 10 Independents and 9 in 10 Republicans support substantial restrictions on abortion, and would limit it – at most – to the first three months of pregnancy.

Practicing Catholics are united in support for abortion restrictions in overwhelming numbers as well.

Some may see abortion as a political or divisive issue, but that does not mean that it is. And we do not see or intend our opposition to it as political. For us it is a matter of morality and values.

In fact, it is my fondest hope that both of our country’s major parties would embrace a pro-life platform. If that were to happen, the issue could cease to be seen as partisan, and voters could move on to other issues. We’ve been working on this for more than four decades, with nearly 60 million abortions since Roe v Wade. The scandal is that too many Catholics in public office have refused to take action to protect unborn children. As Catholics we are called to build a culture of life and that certainly includes more than abortion. But I do not see how it is possible to build a culture of life with public officials who insist on maintaining a legal regime that results in a million abortions a year.

I have personally voted for pro-life candidates of both parties. Those who criticize our pro-life work as partisan miss the fact that far from being partisan, it is consistent with our help of the defenseless and marginalized. It exactly fits with Pope Francis’ statements in Laudato Si and also in Evangelii Gaudium, where he stated    in section 213: “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development.”

How can we help poor individuals and families, the intellectually disabled, and refugees from ISIS and ignore the unborn? It's not possible. We are talking about a million lives each year that are lost, and that demands our attention.

The same outlook applies to our work in defense of religious freedom – in which we have been supported by Pope Francis. This isn’t a new – or political – endeavor for us. It is the defense of a fundamental right that we have engaged in for more than a century.

What is your opinion of how the news media covers the Church today?

Pope Francis, in his book, On Heaven and Earth, was very hard on the media. He pointed out that too often the media tries to generate conflict and misinforms. He said: “Today, there is misinformation because only part of the truth is said, only what interests them is taken for their convenience, and that does a lot of damage because it is a way of favoring conflict.”

We see this with some reports leading up to his meeting with the president. Some push what they see as points of conflict, ignoring the points of common ground.

Unfortunately, in this country too, we frequently see reporting focused on advancing a political agenda instead of getting the facts right.

We ourselves have even sometimes had partisan reporters or commentators complain about a donation or two that we made that they don’t agree with. In such cases, they typically ignore the majority, totality and context of what we do – in other words, the literally hundreds of donations we make that they probably would support as well.

As Pope Francis said, those in the media can tell a half truth and do damage by generating conflict, and let me give you one example that really illustrates the point. A commentator recently intimated that a $1.5 million dollar donation we gave to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia a couple of years ago somehow showed sympathy to opposition to Pope Francis. Leaving aside the many ways in which that assertion is problematic on its face, in fact, exactly the opposite of what was asserted was true.

The money donated was actually in support of Pope Francis’ trip to the United States as part of the Vatican’s World Meeting of Families in that city. At best what can be said about this kind of thing is that it reflects what lawyers might call a reckless disregard of the truth.

What makes such episodes of misleading or untruthful reporting particularly sad is that it seems that often what drives this reporting is dissent or disagreement with Church teaching, not just disagreement with us. But the media should not stoop to politicizing the pope or trying to drive wedges between him and faithful Catholics who love him.  

The pope is pro-life, he is in favor of religious liberty. He visited the Little Sisters of the Poor and has spoken about “polite persecution” in Western countries to underscore the importance of religious freedom. These aren’t political positions for him – or for us. They are values positions based on our Catholic faith.

It is worth noting that we support a number of Catholic media outlets – large and small – because we see the importance of quality Catholic journalism.

The Knights of Columbus is unique as a business entity. Can you talk a little about that?

Unlike non-profits that are charities with fundraising operations, the Knights of Columbus is also one of the nation’s largest – and best rated – life insurers. We have an arm that takes donations, but many of the dollars we donate come from the business side.

We were founded by the Venerable Father Michael McGivney to help provide Catholic families with support for their faith and in their financial future. The faith side is obvious, and the financial future side has grown into a Fortune 1000 insurance operation exclusively focused on our members and their families. Many people are surprised by the size of the Knights of Columbus insurance program. We sell more than $8 billion of insurance each year. We have over $106 billion of insurance in force and we have over $23 billion of assets under management. Our members have entrusted us with their hard earned cash, and they count on us to be there to provide for the future of their families.

We have a responsibility to their future, and we take this responsibility seriously on both fronts. One way that we do this is to seek to invest in ways that are sustainable, and to use Catholic screens on our investments so that we are not putting our members’ money into enterprises that run counter to our faith.

To do that, we hire top professionals to manage our business and our investments. We have about 900 employees at our headquarters in New Haven and we are one of the city’s largest private employers.  Given that we are operating at such a high level in the financial services industry, while we pay our executives less than the market average, we also understand that we have to pay competitively enough to attract the caliber of talent needed to run a Fortune 1000 company and to successfully manage the financial futures of our members and their families. People’s livelihoods depend on us hiring and retaining the highly competent people able to deliver at the highest level, and our members deserve nothing less than the best professionals we can hire.

This has been our approach to the business side of the Knights of Columbus for decades. And it has worked. We have consistently received top ratings for our financial strength.

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