CNA News

Subscribe to CNA News feed CNA News
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: 54 min 16 sec ago

Defining our values: What Catholics can take from Bush's speech

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 18:01

New York City, N.Y., Oct 20, 2017 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- In a rare political speech on Thursday, former president George W. Bush had blunt words for America: Remember your identity or lose your freedom.

Bush spoke Oct. 19 at the “Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World” event at the Lincoln Center in New York.

Almost nine years removed from the nation’s highest political office, Bush offered a reflection on the current state of the country. At the heart of his reflection was a diagnosis – and a powerful wake up call:

“We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.”

Bush’s words ring true in a country still deeply divided one year after a contentious presidential election that polarized families, friends, and neighbors. In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, 80 percent of respondents categorized the U.S. as “mainly divided” or “totally divided.”

From birth control to gun control, from questions of undocumented immigrants to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, America is fractured. And that division has become vitriolic, manifesting itself in insults spewed across comment boxes and hostile clashes in the media.

After exploring a litany of symptoms – from bigotry and nativism to fake news and gang violence – Bush offered his remedy for the polarization plaguing America: “we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.”

But in a country so divided, what are our values?

In his address to the United States Congress in September 2015, Pope Francis laid out a set of values that he thinks define America at its best.

“A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as (Abraham) Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to ‘dream’ of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton,” the Pope said.

Catholics have an important role to play in shaping the values that define society. Deus Caritas Est, the first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, teaches, “The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society is proper to the lay faithful.”

The U.S. bishops, in their document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, note, “This duty is more critical than ever in today's political environment.” While there may be a temptation for retreat or discouragement, the bishops say, this is actually “a time for renewed engagement.”

In the early Church, Christians stood out from the rest of the Roman Empire. They took care of orphans and widows. They founded hospitals and schools. They cared for the poor. They didn’t work on Sundays. They loved their enemies.

Today, the U.S. Church is called to stand out, too. In a nation torn apart and confused about its own identity, people are exhausted from fighting and weary from talking past one another without ever being heard. People are looking for a better way.

Amid the political and social turmoil, Catholics can offer that better way. They can offer what the bishops describe as “a different kind of political engagement: one shaped by the moral convictions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good, and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable.”

And they can do it by engaging with others civilly, by creating the “culture of encounter” that Pope Francis refers to so often.

This lesson is critical for America’s future. Will the next generation be raised in a culture of encounter, or in what Bush describes as a culture of “casual cruelty,” marked with animosity and dehumanization? The former president notes with urgency that “our young people need positive role models” because “bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.”

George W. Bush is right. America does need to return to her values. But first she needs to figure out what they are. And Catholics can help lay the groundwork for that, by working to create a society where people can dialogue without fear, where they discuss their different views without being attacked or demonized, ultimately a society where people can encounter truth.

As we approach the one-year mark after the most contentious election in recent history, Catholics have an opportunity to show Christian charity in their interactions with others. It’s a small gesture. But it could be the first step in helping people recognize, as the former president put it, “the image of God we should see in each other.”

 

Georgetown pro-marriage group faces sanctions after students complain

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 11:53

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2017 / 09:53 am (CNA).- A pro-marriage student group at Georgetown University is in danger of being defunded and barred from campus facilities, after fellow students have petitioned that it be recognized as a “hate group.”

The Hoya, Georgetown’s student newspaper, reported on Oct. 20 that Love Saxa, a student organization promoting Catholic doctrine regarding marriage, will undergo a Student Activities Commission hearing on Oct. 23, to defend itself against charges that the group fosters hatred and intolerance. The hearing is a response to a petition filed by a student-senator in the Georgetown University Student Association, and supported by leaders of gay pride student organizations at Georgetown.

Love Saxa intends to petition for a delay before the hearing takes place. The group told CNA they were only officially informed of the hearing’s date on the evening of Oct. 19, giving them an insufficient amount of time to prepare. The group also says they haven’t been given a copy of the petition, or an exact rendering of the charges against them.

Lova Saxa’s student-president Amelia Irvine told CNA, “I believe that Love Saxa has the right to exist, especially at a Catholic school. We exist to promote healthy, loving relationships at Georgetown.”

In a Sept. 6 column in The Hoya, Irvine wrote that “we believe that marriage is a conjugal union on every level – emotional, spiritual, physical and mental – directed toward caring for biological children. To us, marriage is much more than commitment of love between two consenting adults.”

Leaders of gay pride student organizations at Georgetown denounced this language as “homophobic,” and claimed it violated university standards.  

The university’s Student Organization Standards state that: “Groups will not be eligible for access to benefits if their purpose or activities … foster hatred or intolerance of others because of their race, nationality, gender, religion, or sexual preferences.” Love Saxa is accused of fostering hatred and intolerance, because of its support for Catholic teaching regarding marriage.

Love Saxa receives $250 of funding from the university, and is permitted to use university facilities for its activities, according to The Hoya. Results of the hearing could lead to loss of funding and facility access, among other sanctions, the newspaper reported.

Irvine told CNA that Love Saxa is hopeful about the results of the hearing. “We're optimistic that the university will uphold our right to exist, given that we share the Catholic view on marriage,” she added.

In an Oct. 20 editorial, The Hoya’s editorial board advocated for Love Saxa’s defunding. The editorial board wrote that Love Saxa fosters intolerance by “actively advocating a limited definition of marriage that would concretely take rights away from the LGBTQ community.”

Georgetown is a Catholic university in Washington, D.C., founded by the Society of Jesus in 1789.

 

Commentary: Redefining gender while California burns

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 05:01

Sacramento, Calif., Oct 20, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA).- California is still burning.

At this point, 42 people are dead. Some 217,000 acres are devastated. Thousands of homes are destroyed. Entire towns are now charred wreckage. As the fires burned their hottest, trees glowed a seething orange behind their bark, before exploding. Families took shelter wherever they could find it; one couple spent a long, cold night submerged to their necks in a neighbor’s pool, seeking refuge from falling embers.  

The fires are now mostly contained. But the cleanup will be massive. It will take political cooperation at the local, state, and federal levels to allocate funds, organize rebuilding, and provide relief to the tens of thousands of people who are now displaced – homeless – with no certainty about their future. It will take leadership, compromise, and statesmanship. It will take selflessness.

Even in ordinary times, the political cooperation and organizational infrastructure required after a disaster of this magnitude are a challenge. The political infighting after Hurricane Katrina is the stuff of legend. And these are not ordinary times. After a particularly brutal hurricane season, federal recovery dollars will be hard to come by. And Washington has never been more polarized, or less stable. California is beginning a gubernatorial primary season, which brings with it the kind of posturing and grandstanding that make it difficult to get real work done. At the same time, finger-pointing has begun, as Californians try to explain the causes of the massive wildfires that consumed so much of the Napa Valley. Governor Jerry Brown is already being blamed for the fires, after vetoing a bipartisan 2016 bill intended to make power lines less likely to contribute to the spread of wildfire in residential areas.

In such extraordinary times, facing such a monumental task, it’s natural to hope for a singularly focused, consensus-building political leader, who would cut through partisanship and pettiness to help rebuild lives, homes, and communities across California. Governor Brown, who has a very long record of public service in California, and has few political limitations in the year before his final term expires, should be the man for the job. That is why it is so disappointing that on Sunday night, while the wildfires were still spreading, the governor took time to sign California’s Gender Recognition Act, which allows Californians to choose a “non-binary” gender identity on drivers’ licenses, and to change name and gender on state identification documents with ease.

Signing the bill will cement Brown’s legacy among libertines and elites, who already revere him because of his support for gay marriage and assisted suicide. But while the Gender Recognition Act will win him adulation from progressive pundits, it won’t make it easier for Brown to solve the real and immediate problems his state is facing. In fact, he’s made that job harder.

In the face of a crisis requiring broad cooperation, especially from churches and religious social service agencies, Brown chose to remind Californians of faith that their views don’t matter, and that they have no place in his vision for California. Instead of building the consensus that would help real Californians, Brown chose to secure his place in the pantheon of progressive demagogues, consequences be damned. Instead of facing the reality of California’s needs, Brown spent his time trying redefine what’s real, to usher in a new world in which reason is supplanted by confusion, masquerading as freedom.
 
In the classic 1951 film Quo Vadis, based upon Henryk Sienkiewicz’ novel, the emperor Nero is a mad narcissist: licentious, insecure, and cruel. Nero is far more concerned with securing his place in history – with being remembered as a genius, and an artist – than he is with leading his people. They suffer for his madness, and for his neglect.  

Eventually, Nero’s Rome burns to the ground, in a fire which the emperor himself began. But he is impervious to the suffering of his citizens. He stands overlooking his burning city, plucking a harp, and obsessing about his place in history, and a new world he’ll create in his own image – Neropolis.

“That is my epic,” Nero tells his courtiers. “To change the face of the world. To demolish and create anew.”

California is burning. Brown is not the cause of the fire. But he should be singularly focused on helping his people. Instead, he seems more concerned with plucking a harp for his place in history, redefining reality with his pen. “To change the face of the world. To demolish, and create anew.”

 

How Los Angeles Catholics help the homeless

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 02:04

Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 20, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With growing numbers of people suffering homelessness in the expensive megalopolis of Los Angeles, Catholics and people of other religions are working together to provide a serious response.

“The faith community is really a giant part of the services provided to the folks in need,” Kathleen Domingo, Director of the Los Angeles archdiocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, told CNA.

There’s a reason Catholics help the homeless.

“We’ve been told that our salvation depends on how we treat those in need,” said Domingo. “Our faith isn’t just in praying and personal spirituality, it’s actually in what we put into action.”

She said the homeless are “the face of Christ, especially in Los Angeles.” Many residents live in such prosperity that “to turn our backs on the homeless is really to turn our backs on Christ.”

“We really need to ask ourselves: are we willing to sacrifice our salvation, literally, for our own convenience or our own comfort at not getting involved?” Domingo said.

Leaders of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities gathered at the University of Southern California campus Oct. 18 for a roundtable discussion that aimed to find new ideas and a united approach to responding to homelessness.

Among the scheduled speakers was Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. He joined other religious leaders, homeless experts, and representatives from Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti’s office.

In a June 6 column, Gomez warned that an increase in homelessness shows a failure to foster a strong “human ecology.” It reflects a widening gap “between those who have what they need for a dignified life and those who do not.”

“I worry that we are getting accustomed to these sights in our city,” he said. “We cannot allow ourselves to accept a Los Angeles where sidewalks become permanent residences for our neighbors.”

A May 2017 report from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found a 23 percent increase in homelessness in Los Angeles County since the previous year. According to the Associated Press, about 7,700 volunteers counted about 58,800 homeless people, an increase of 11,000.

The number of homeless veterans had increased 57 percent. The number of homeless aged 18 to 24 increased 64 percent, while the number of those under 18 increased 41 percent.

The report did find improvements in the number of homeless families who have shelter. The number of families without shelter decreased 21 percent.

Officials said there is increasing financial stress on renters in the Los Angeles area. Over 2 million households spend half their income or more on housing costs.

The roundtable is sponsored by four USC organizations, including the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies. Father James L. Heft, founder and president of the institute, said there are many different religions in Los Angeles working to ameliorate the homelessness crisis.

“People in these different religions are doing good things to address this crisis. But they often work by themselves,” he said. “I thought it would be good for the leaders of the different religions to talk with each other, learn from each other, and through these conversations find even better ways to work at solving the crisis of homelessness.”

According to Heft, the roundtable aims to help advance understanding of the “complex issue of homelessness” and learn the most effective ways to address it.

“We want to promote greater cooperation among religions in addressing a serious challenge that our whole community faces,” the priest said.

For Domingo, Catholic action for the homeless in Los Angeles already has a record of success.

In 2016, Catholic Charities of Los Angeles and the St. Vincent de Paul Society worked together to place about 300 people in permanent housing. Though the numbers seem small compared to the problem, the beneficiaries are given a sustainable place to live and the means to stay there for the long-term. They also receive help with job placement and other support resources.

The work of individual parishes is significant, but sometimes difficult to report, Domingo said. “Much of it is done just in a manner of course as the parishes operate.”

Domingo noted a five-parish cluster in the archdiocese’s eastern San Gabriel region which collectively offers cold weather shelter to the homeless. The parishes also offer food, including some meals homemade by parishioners.

In addition, parish outreach seeks barbers, stylists and manicurists for these beneficiaries to “make them feel good and look good while they’re here,” she said.

The parishes involve homeless guests in Christmas activities, including Las Posadas, the traditional Mexican Advent season commemoration of the journey of the Holy Family, in which they found no room at the inn of Bethlehem.

Local schoolchildren make prayer cards, placemats, and table settings to help welcome the hosted families. A jazz band from the local Catholic high school also comes to play.

“You could just see this exhaustion melt away as people listen to music that maybe they haven’t been exposed to for years,” said Domingo, who added: “These are really amazing moments. It doesn’t get a lot of press, but it’s really the parish coming together to do something impactful.”

Some parishes collaborate with the nationwide Family Promise program to house families that have just become homeless. When they secure permanent housing quickly, they have a better chance of not becoming homeless again.

Domingo praised the “housing-first” approach to homelessness. This approach, developed in recent decades, aims to provide permanent housing immediately for those in need, rather than put them through transitional programs whose conditions are sometimes counterproductive and harder to fulfill for someone without permanent housing. She suggested the archdiocese would be happy to pursue such an approach.

“That’s also an approach that’s very much in keeping with Catholic social teaching, with the dignity of the person,” she said. Getting someone a house is something basic that does not need many restrictions.

“Just get people housed. That’s a very good step in the right direction,” said Domingo.

Many Catholic charities, St. Vincent de Paul organizations, and parishes in Los Angeles are taking part in a process called the Coordinated Entry System. It helps to ensure some knowledge about who is getting services and to ensure that some people are not “falling through the cracks.”

Domingo attributed the shortfall in housing for those at risk of homelessness to the “not in my backyard” mindset. Many projects have been halted due to local opposition.

“As Catholics we could help to shift the conversation on that,” she suggested. Catholics could help rally their neighbors to welcome homeless families to their neighborhood just as they’d welcome any family.

She also stressed the need for people to educate themselves about the options specifically available for homeless minors and the elderly so that they could help those the encounter find temporary assistance.

“It seems small in a sense, but they’re realistic steps, and I think that they can be incredibly effective,” she said.

Government must allow abortion for undocumented teenager, judge rules

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 14:50

Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2017 / 12:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a controversial decision, a U.S. district judge ruled that the government must facilitate an abortion for an undocumented teenager under federal custody in Texas. The federal government has appealed the ruling, asking for a stay on the judge’s order.

On Oct. 18, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that a 17-year-old from Central America, known only as “Jane Doe,” must be allowed to get an abortion. The girl has been in federal custody since early September, and is living in a south Texas shelter operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement – an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Currently 15 weeks pregnant, the girl has secured outside funding for the abortion, and has obtained state permission to get the abortion – a requirement for any minor in Texas who does not have parental permission for an abortion procedure.

The ACLU has alleged that the government is utilizing an “unconstitutional veto power” by not allowing Doe to obtain an abortion, and has filed a suit against HHS. The administration has countered that the government has “exercised a legitimate choice to refuse to facilitate an abortion,” and argues that the girl could leave the country voluntarily to obtain the procedure. It also argues that since the girl is in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, it has the right to determine what is in the best interest of the teenager.

The government also says that the United States has an interest in “not providing incentives for pregnant minors to illegally cross the border to obtain elective abortions while in federal custody.”

Under the judge’s ruling, the administration must allow the minor to attend an abortion counseling appointment on Oct. 20, and have the abortion the following day or over the weekend. If the administration does not comply, it will be held in contempt of court, the ruling states. A decision on the appeal is expected Thursday evening.

Pro-life organizations criticized the judge’s decision, warning of the precedent it sets.

“Today’s ruling is outrageous and sets a dangerous precedent,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services took a simple position that it would protect the life and dignity of the teenage girl and her unborn child while in their care,” she said in a statement. “Shame on this judge for overruling compassionate care and instead mandating that the U.S. government help facilitate an abortion for a teenage girl.”

“This ruling plays into the broader agenda of the ACLU, which is recklessly exploiting a teenage girl in order to make the United States a sanctuary state for abortion,” she added.

Catherine Glenn Foster, President and CEO of Americans United for Life, also objected to the ruling, saying that because the government would have to expend resources to provide access to the abortion clinic, the decision “mandates that taxpayer funds be expended to facilitate the destruction of an innocent human life, in violation of the Hyde Amendment and the consciences of millions of American citizens.”

English nuns offer free meals – but there's a catch

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 14:08

London, England, Oct 19, 2017 / 12:08 pm (CNA).- A group of religious sisters are offering free meals in a trendy neighborhood of London, but on one condition: the customers must forfeit the use of their phones and converse with fellow diners.

“We give you a little food for soul. We don’t just mean the food that you eat, but something for you to take away and reflect in your life,” said Sister Anna, according to Business Insider.

As part of the new reality TV series “Bad Habits: Holy Orders,” the Daughters of Divine Charity have left their homes in rural Norfolk to serve food at “Nundos” in Shoreditch from Oct. 17-19.

The pop-up restaurant is a play on words for the peri-peri chicken chain Nando’s, but rather than serving African cuisine the holy restaurant offers chicken broth, lentil soup, breads, and homemade pies.  

If the costumer’s phone is put aside, the wholesome meals are offered free of charge as a means to deter people from the distractions of social media.

The Channel 5 series takes five millennial women and follows their transition from a party lifestyle to the simple life of the convent. The girls' beliefs are then challenged by the religious community as they participate in the nun’s activities, like early morning prayers and works of charity.

Founded in 1868, the Daughters of Divine Charity seek to make God visible through acts of charity, like attending to the sick and elderly and aiding children in preparation for the sacraments.

Central Americans fleeing violence can't return home yet, bishops warn

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 19:04

Washington D.C., Oct 18, 2017 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As a temporary immigration permit program for families fleeing violence in Honduras and El Salvador is set to expire, the U.S. bishops warn that requiring immigrants to return to unsafe countries is unjust.

“There is ample evidence to suggest that current TPS recipients from Honduras and El Salvador cannot return safely to their home country at this time,” said Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Migration.

He urged the faithful to keep the people of El Salvador and Honduras, including those with Temporary Protective Status “in your thoughts and prayers,” while introducing a report on the issue, released by the USCCB this week.

The bishop and the report expressed support for an extension of TPS – a kind of temporary immigration status– for people from Honduras and El Salvador, and called for a long-term legislative solution to the situation.

Temporary Protective Status allows people who are unable to safely return to their home nations because of armed conflict, other violence, natural disasters or other extraordinary and temporary circumstances to remain in the United States while the situation in their home country resolves.

In August, a group of researchers from the USCCB’s Office of Migration and Refugee Services traveled to Honduras and El Salvador to assess the circumstances TPS recipients returning to their home countries would face.

The trip was inspired by the upcoming expiration of TPS status for Salvadoran and Honduran nationals. The TPS designation for Honduras is set to expire on January 5, 2018, and El Salvador’s will end on March 9, 2018, unless the Department of Homeland Security authorizes an extension. If the designations expire, more than 200,000 people from El Salvador and 57,000 people from Honduras will need to return to their home countries. These temporary immigrants are parents to more than 270,000 children who are United States citizens.

In El Salvador, gang-related violence has led to widespread crime and extortion, the bishops’ report said. In addition, children and their families are targeted for gang recruitment. This has also led to the displacement of between 200,000 and 400,000 persons in El Salvador.

In Honduras, the bishops’ report said, high homicide rates and internal displacement of families has led to the designation of TPS status for some Honduran refugees. Currently, there are at least 174,000 people who are internally displaced within the country.

Many of the affected families sought TPS as part of the Central American Minors refugee program in order to protect their children from violence and gang recruitment.

The bishops observed that the security situations in both countries has not been fully resolved, and their report warned that the end of TPS might “negatively impact regional security, and have negative economic and humanitarian consequences” in El Salvador and Honduras, as well as in the United States. They also observed that neither country is prepared to receive and reintegrate the full population of citizens that would need to return.

The bishops warn that forcing families to return, including those families whose children are US citizens, would leave returned people at grave risk of violence and targeted gang action.

On top of the policy ramifications of the political situation in Honduras and El Salvador, the destabilization and insecurity in these two countries has made it more difficult for the Church to operate and adequately minister to those in need, the bishops’ conference reported.

The report quoted Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador: “It is truly unfortunate and painful that the Church cannot work because of this atmosphere of insecurity and anxiety that shakes our beloved country.”

The bishops offered a number of policy recommendations for the United States, as well as to the impacted countries and Church leaders. To the US government, they encouraged the extension of the TPS program for 18 months, and also backed efforts to ensure permanent lawful status for some, namely those who are parents of U.S. citizens or who have found employment in U.S. businesses.

The bishops also urged the U.S. to work with both Honduras and El Salvador to help the countries end the violence – particularly violence that targets youth – and form a solid plan to reintegrate families who will need to return. The U.S. government, they said, should “support anti-gang, anti-corruption and systematic integration efforts to ensure greater regional stability and human security.” They encouraged the Central American countries to improve job access and help ensure that Internally Displaced Persons can also return to their homes.

The bishops encouraged the Church and charitable organizations to help with humanitarian aid and supporting a solution to displacement – an issue which will be essential for “possible future TPS returnees.” They also encouraged Church-government partnerships to help people returning to their home countries, as well as any who might seek legal status in the United States and Canada.

“We look forward to working with Congress, the Administration and others in pursuing humane and just solutions for the long-term TPS beneficiaries currently residing in the United States,” the bishops concluded.

Wealthy donors working to limit 'inappropriate' religious freedom

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 04:51

Denver, Colo., Oct 18, 2017 / 02:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A network of wealthy donors is funding a series of well-organized lobbying campaigns to restrict legal protections for religious freedom, in order to advance access to abortion and LGBT causes.

Since 2013, a network of funders has earmarked at least $8.5 million in grants for projects intended to limit religious freedom provisions in federal, state, and local law, according to a CNA investigation of grant listings and tax forms.

Many of these funders are part of the Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative, a grantmaking fund launched by the Proteus Fund in March 2017. The collaborative opposes “the inappropriate use of religious exemptions to curtail reproductive health, rights and justice, discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community, and otherwise undermine fundamental rights and liberties essential to a healthy democracy,” the fund’s website says.

The new anti-religious freedom collaborative was created to oppose “ongoing and growing efforts in too many states to ‘legalize’ discrimination and restrict fundamental human and civil rights under the guise of protecting ‘religious liberty’,” according to the fund’s website.

The Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative has given grants to pro-abortion groups and LGBT advocacy groups at the state, federal and international levels; religious groups including Catholics for Choice; legal advocacy groups like the ACLU and Lambda Legal; and aligned academics, including those at Columbia Law School’s “Public Rights, Private Conscience Project.”

One donor, the Arcus Foundation, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to John Podesta’s Center for American Progress initiatives. These grants seek to redefine religious liberty as “a core progressive American value that includes LGBT equality and women’s reproductive health and rights,” according to its latest grant listed at the Arcus Foundation website.

The collaborative’s network also spends millions on leadership development, donor development, anti-violence and anti-discrimination projects, and LGBT and pro-abortion rights advocacy.

The Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative says it will serve as “a vehicle for broader donor education and mobilization in order to achieve deeper funding alignment as well as enhanced donor collaboration.”

The collaborative aims to nurture strategies and organizations that foster collaboration between “the reproductive equity and LGBTQ movements, especially at the state and local level.” It aims to boost the influence of faith leaders and religious communities that it says will support “equal rights and opportunities for everyone while also protecting legitimate constitutionally protected religious liberty rights.” Its website also claims that “discriminatory practices fostered by overly broad religious exemptions” have a disproportionate impact on racial minorities.

The collaborative’s funding partners, listed on the Proteus Fund’s website, are the Alki Fund of the Rockefeller Foundation, the Arcus Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the Gill Foundation, the Groundswell Fund, the Irving Harris Foundation, the Moriah Fund, the Overbrook Foundation, and anonymous donors.

The Proteus Fund appears to have had previous success. Its Civil Marriage Collaborative, closed in 2015, was a leader in the push for legal recognition of gay marriage. The fund’s “Hearts & Minds” report says that the consortium of foundations invested $153 million over 11 years in many states and at the national level in marriage-related advocacy.

CNA contacted the Proteus Fund for comment, but received no response by deadline.

Religious freedom laws: ‘not a blank check’

Richard Garnett, a professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School, disagreed with the fund’s claims that religious freedom legal accommodations and exemptions are illegitimate. He said this claim is “inconsistent with our history and with our longstanding commitment to religious liberty as our ‘first freedom.’

“Reasonable exemptions do not ‘undermine fundamental rights and liberties,’ they protect and promote them,” he told CNA.

“Unfortunately, there are powerful and well-funded interests who, with broad support in the academy and in media, have been working hard to associate our ‘first freedom’ with discrimination and prejudice,” Garnett said.

He reflected on the state of religious freedom advocacy.

“Proponents of religious freedom, broadly and generously understood, will need to work hard to remind our fellow citizens that religious liberty – which has to mean religious liberty for all, and not just for ‘people like us’ – is itself a fundamental human right, and a protection for democracy,” he said. “And, of course, to make religious freedom more appealing, it is important that religious-freedom proponents conduct their efforts in a civil, charitable, and inviting way.”

For Garnett, the fund’s rhetoric about discrimination concerns did not accurately represent the current state of the law.

“In fact, only a tiny number of religious-exemptions claims involve antidiscrimination laws and these claims almost always fail,” he said. “The claim that religious-liberty laws undermine important anti-discrimination protections in the marketplace, the workplace, or in public accommodations is false.  

“Instead, what these laws do is call for sensible accommodations for religious conscience, in cases where the accommodations will not undermine compelling public interests. These laws call for a balance, not a blank check.”

Religious freedom protections have become more controversial in recent decades. In 2012, the Obama administration attempted to mandate that all employers, including religious employers, cover sterilization and contraceptive drugs, including drugs that can cause abortions. The mandate burdened many Catholic dioceses and organizations, including EWTN Global Catholic Network, and was only changed by a recent Trump administration action.

There is also an ongoing push in some states to require insurance coverage of abortions, and some medical professionals and hospitals have faced pressure to cooperate in providing abortions.

Garnett thought abortion would be a prime focus of the Proteus funding network.

“My sense is that what efforts like the Proteus Fund are really aimed at is undermining the longstanding protections in American law for religious health care workers and institutions who cannot in conscience participate in abortions,” he said. “These protections are falsely labeled as ‘discriminatory’ when, in fact, they reflect the commonsense notion that it would be deeply unjust to require, as a condition of working as a healer, a pro-life medical professional to participate in a procedure she believes to be gravely wrong.”

Some Christian adoption agencies have been forced to close because placing children with same-sex couples violates their religious convictions. There is an ongoing debate over whether small businesses in the marriage industry must cater to same-sex ceremonies if they have religious objections to them.

Ryan T. Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and co-author of “Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination,” reflected on the current situation.

“Anti-gay and anti-transgender bigotry exists and should be condemned,” he told CNA. “But support for marriage as the union of husband and wife isn’t anti-gay. Nor is the conviction that sex is a biological reality anti-transgender.

“Just as we’ve combatted sexism without treating pro-life medicine as sexist, any public policy necessary to help people who identify as LGBT meet their needs should be crafted so as to respect the consciences of reasonable people, acting on good-faith beliefs about marriage and gender identity,” said Anderson. “Not every disagreement is discrimination. And our law shouldn’t suppose otherwise.”

‘We’re going to punish the wicked’

The Proteus Fund’s collaborative brings together several organizations with experience in effective political advocacy.

One of its funding partners, the Colorado-based Gill Foundation, was launched by the politically savvy former businessman Tim Gill. He has pursued strategic LGBT advocacy through funding both non-profits and political campaigns.

“We’re going into the hardest states in the country… we’re going to punish the wicked,” Gill said in a June interview with Rolling Stone magazine about his LGBT activism.

In March 2015, Tim Sweeney, a former president and CEO of the Gill Foundation,  told leading business executives and others attending the Out & Equal Workplace Advocates executive forum in San Francisco about the need to ensure their fight against religious exemptions is finished quickly.

“We are at a crossroads where the choices we make will mean we will fight religious exemptions for two to three years or have a protracted twenty year struggle on our hands,” he said.

The New York-based Arcus Foundation, founded by billionaire heir Jon Stryker, has dedicated millions of dollars to opposing religious freedom protections and to funding LGBT advocacy within world religions, including dissenting Catholic groups like Catholics for Choice, New Ways Ministry and Dignity USA.

One board member of this foundation is Darren Walker, past vice-president of the Rockefeller Foundation and current president of the deeply influential Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation has funded some projects against religious liberty protections, but is not listed as a direct member of the collaborative based at the Proteus Fund.

However, the Oakland, Calif.-based Groundswell Fund board of directors is chaired by Rocio L. Cordoba, a past program officer for the Ford Foundation’s Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Justice Program. The Groundswell Fund claims to fund more reproductive justice organizations than any other foundation.

Another partner, the Rockefeller Family Fund, was launched in 1967 by members of the prominent American family, including then-New York governor and future vice-president Nelson Rockefeller. Its mission statement says it “initiates, cultivates, and funds strategic efforts to promote a sustainable, just, free, and participatory society.” The fund did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

The San Francisco-based Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund is a private family foundation with half a billion dollars in assets. Since 2014 it has earmarked at least $1.4 million in grants for projects related to religious exemptions, according to a CNA review of its grant listings.

The New York-based Overbrook Foundation, founded in 1948 by financier Frank Altschul and his wife Helen, has a gender rights program to fund those who oppose “overly broad religious exemptions.” Its website listed $220,000 in grants related to religious freedom: a $100,000 grant to the Proteus Fund’s collaborative, and two $60,000 grants to Lambda Legal.

The Chicago-based Irving Harris Foundation, created by the businessman and philanthropist, awards $10 to $15 million in grants annually, InsidePhilanthropy reports. The Washington, D.C.-based Moriah Fund dedicated over $10.6 million to program spending in fiscal year 2016. Neither grant maker's website listed grants related to religious freedom.

 

 

 

 

A modern horror: global persecution of Christians at historic peak, report says

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 17:02

New York City, N.Y., Oct 17, 2017 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Anti-Christian persecution is “worse than at any time in history” and in many cases genocide and other crimes against humanity “now mean that the Church in core countries and regions faces the possibility of imminent wipe-out,” says a new report from Aid to the Church in Need.

The report, titled “Persecuted and Forgotten?”, covers the years 2015-2017. Its contents are bleak, describing Christianity as “the world’s most oppressed faith community.” Anti-Christian persecution in the worst regions has reached “a new peak” and its impact is “only now beginning to be felt in all its horror.”

“In 12 of the 13 countries reviewed, the situation for Christians was worse in overall terms in the period 2015–17 than within the preceding two years,” said the report’s executive summary, released Oct. 12.  

John Pontifex, the report's editor, commented that “In terms of the numbers of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history. Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.”

China, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria were ranked “extreme” in the scale of anti-Christian persecution. Egypt, India, and Iran were rated “high to extreme,” while Turkey was rated “moderate to high.”

The report’s ratings draw from analyses like the Pew Forum’s Social Hostilities Index and Open Door’s World Watch List, in addition to other factors and sources, including fact-finding trips.   

In some countries the state is the principal persecutor, while in other countries social groups are culpable, while in still others a combination of both are responsible.

Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic pastoral charity, provides emergency and pastoral relief in 140 countries. Its U.S. affiliate published the report.

The report’s foreword was written by Archbishop Issam John Darwish of the Melkite Archdiocese of Zahlé and Furzo, a Lebanese archdiocese near the Syrian border. He recounted the stories of Christian refugees fleeing the six-year-old Syrian civil war.

“Many refugees have told terrible stories of persecution: like the man whose brother, a priest, was kidnapped – and despite the family paying the ransom they killed the priest. They sent his family a box containing his severed wrist, tattooed with a cross, to show he was dead,” the archbishop said.

The Middle East is a major focus for the report.

“Governments in the West and the U.N. failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway,” the report said. “If Christian organizations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”

The exodus of Christians from Iraq has been “very severe.” Christians in the country now may number as few as 150,000, a decline from 275,000 in mid-2015. By spring 2017 there were some signs of hope, with the defeat of the Islamic State group and the return of some Christians to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.

However, the departure of Christians from Syria has also threatened the survival of their communities in the country, including historic Christian centers like Aleppo. Syrian Christians there suffer threats of forced conversion and extortion. One Chaldean bishop in the country estimates the Christian population to be at 500,000, down from 1.2 million before the war.

Many Christians in the region fear going to official refugee camps, due to concerns about rape and other violence.

The Islamic State group and other militants have committed genocide in Syria and Iraq. While Islamic State and other groups have been defeated in their major strongholds, many Christian groups are threatened with extinction and would not survive another attack.

In northern Nigeria, the radical Islamist group Boko Haram has engaged in genocide against Christians.

There are reports from North Korea of forced starvation of Christians and forced abortion. Some Christians have been hung on crosses over fire, and others have been crushed by steamrollers. Protestants and Catholics are ranked among those least sympathetic to the state, which limits their access to food, education, and health care. Christianity is linked with American influence, and Christians are executed as spies.

In Sudan, the government’s pursuit of an extremist Islamist agenda led to orders to tear down Christian churches. Christians are arrested for alleged proselytism, and women face fines for wearing “obscene” or immodest dress. The government stripped citizenship rights of people with origins outside Sudan, leading many to leave for their ancestral homelands in South Sudan. Many had lived in their homes for three decades or more.

In January 2017 the U.S. put a six-month waiver on human rights sanctions against Sudan, on condition that the country improve its human rights and religious freedom record.

In Pakistan, banned fundamentalist cells pose a great threat to Christians, but some charge that the government’s failure to crack down on these groups worsens the problem of violence. On Easter Sunday 2016 as many as 24 Christians were killed in targeted violence in Lahore. A faction of the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

In India, persecution has increased since 2014, with the rise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Like-minded groups frequently accuse Christians of forced conversion, a charge local Christian leaders strongly deny. An India-based Catholic group reported 365 serious anti-Christian atrocities in 2016, with 10 people killed and more than 500 clergy or church leaders attacked for their faith.

Some Christians have faced pressure to convert under threat of force, while others have been forced to take part in Hindu rituals and deny their faith.

In China, church communities face increased hostility. Authorities in some provinces have removed crosses from some churches and destroyed church buildings. In some regions, Christmas trees and greeting cards have been banned.

President Xi Jinping has depicted Christianity as a means of “foreign infiltration” into China and has advocated more state control and targeting of unofficial churches. There are fears that China’s 2016 announcement of categorization of citizens based on political, commercial, social and legal “credit,” will create a system that disadvantages Christians in a way similar to North Korea.

Christians in Egypt suffered a major suicide bombing attack in December 2016 and again on Palm Sunday in April 2017. Dozens were killed and more injured in both attacks, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

Saudi Arabia has come under criticism from western powers and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. However, President Donald Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal with the country, a deal which had been held up under the Obama administration due to human rights concerns. The Aid to the Church in Need report said sources in the country are supplying arms and finances to Sunni extremist groups including the Islamic State, known in the region as “Daesh.”

“Given that Islamist groups such as Daesh are likely to be heavily reliant on undeclared external sources for weapons and intelligence, there is an urgent need to step up action to stop all entities collaborating with them,” the report continued. “Persecuted Christians are among the many who stand to be beneficiaries of progress in this area.”

Archbishop Darwish said it is imperative to help persecuted Christians.

“When the Christian families who have turned to us need the very basics for daily life – food, shelter and medical care – how can we refuse to help?” he asked, lamenting a lack of aid from the U.N. and other humanitarian organizations.

He praised Aid to the Church in Need’s efforts to report anti-Christian persecution and aid those persecuted.

US bishops call for health care protection for the most vulnerable

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 08:04

Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of an executive order issued by the Trump administration halting federal assistance for certain insurance plans, the U.S. bishops reaffirmed that helping to protect low-income persons and the vulnerable is of the utmost importance.

“This is of grave concern. The Affordable Care Act is, by no means, perfect, but as leaders attempt to address impending challenges to insurance market stability and affordability, they must not use people’s health care as leverage or as a bargaining chip,” said Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chairman of the U.S. bishops’  Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development in a statement.

“To do so would be to strike at the heart of human dignity and the fundamental right to health care. The poor and vulnerable will bear the brunt of such an approach.”

Trump's decision will end a series of subsidies for lower-income enrollees in Affordable Care Act plans, which help those people reduce their cost share. The subsidies were expected to total more than $9 billion in 2018, and Congress has never appropriated the money for these cost-sharing subsidies in particular.

Trump’s decision has been met with criticism from both the Democratic party and some members of the Republican party, while other members of the president’s party, like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), praised the move.

Bishop Dewane explained that in addition to cutting federal funds for insurance subsidies for low-income buyers, Trump also issued a directive whichallow the sale of insurance plans across state lines and expand options for certain kinds of plans that are lower-cost, but contain fewer benefits.

There is also concern among healthcare policy experts that if enough healthy people leave their current plans for such high-deductible plans, those remaining in other Affordable Care Act plans would be, on the whole, sicker, and eventually face higher premiums. These costs would eventually impact the economy at large.

Dewane said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will monitor how the order is implemented, and its impact on vulnerable persons.

“In general, robust options for people to obtain health coverage, as well as flexibility and approaches aimed at increased affordability, are important strategies in health care,” he said of the other elements of the executive order. “However, in implementing this executive order, great care must be taken to avoid risk of additional harm to those who now receive health care coverage through exchanges formed under the Affordable Care Act.”

In addition to opening up new areas of concern, the executive order “ignores” other severe problems in the health care system, Dewane said.

“Congress must still act on comprehensive reform in order to provide a sustainable framework for health care, providing lasting solutions for the life, conscience, immigrant access, market stability, and underlying affordability problems that remain unaddressed.”

Department of Justice announces settlement in HHS mandate suits

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 23:45

Washington D.C., Oct 16, 2017 / 09:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A week after issuing new religious freedom guidelines to all administrative agencies in the federal government, the U.S. Department of Justice has settled with more than 70 plaintiffs who had challenged the controversial HHS contraceptive mandate.

The Oct. 13 agreement was reached between the government and the law firm Jones Day, which represented more than 70 clients fighting the mandate. Made public Oct. 16, the agreement states that the plaintiffs would not be forced to provide health insurance coverage for “morally unacceptable” products and procedures, including contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.

“This settlement brings to a conclusion our litigation challenging the Health and Human Services’ mandate obliging our institutions to provide support for morally objectionable activities, as well as a level of assurance as we move into the future,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. in an Oct. 16 letter to priests of the archdiocese.

The mandate originated with the Obama administration. Issued through the Department of Health and Human Services, it required employers – even those with deeply-held religious objections – to provide and pay for contraceptive, abortifacient and sterilization coverage in their health insurance plans.

The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., was one of more than 300 plaintiffs who had challenged the mandate, arguing “that the practice of our faith was inextricably tied to the ministries that put that faith into action,” and that as such, they should not be forced to violate their faith to continue their ministries, Wuerl recalled.

The archdiocese and six other plaintiffs had argued their position before the Supreme Court in the case Zubik v. Burwell. In 2016, the high court ruled against the government’s requirement that certain employers provide and pay for the morally objectionable services.

“While the Trump Administration’s Executive Order on Religious Liberty and new guidelines and regulations are extremely helpful, the settlement of the Zubik litigation adds a leavening of certainty moving forward,” the cardinal added.

The Department of Justice’s new settlement “removes doubt” and closes these cases challenging the mandate, the cardinal continued. “The settlement adds additional assurances that we will not be subject to enforcement or imposition of similar regulations imposing such morally unacceptable mandates moving forward,” he stated.

On Oct. 6, the Department of Justice revised its guidelines for all government agencies in light of existing religious freedom laws, releasing a set of principles which stated clearly that the government cannot substantially burden religious practices, unless there is a compelling state interest in doing so and those burdens use the least-restrictive means possible.

Thomas Aquinas College, a Catholic college in California and another plaintiff against the HHS mandate also celebrated the protection the settlement brings.

“While we welcomed the broadening of the exemption from the HHS mandate last week by the Trump administration, we have under our agreement today something even better: a permanent exemption from an onerous federal directive – and any similar future directive – that would require us to compromise our fundamental beliefs,” said Thomas Aquinas College president Dr. Michael F. McLean in an Oct. 16 statement.

“This is an extraordinary outcome for Thomas Aquinas College and for the cause of religious freedom.”

In addition to settling the case, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury have also decided to provide partial coverage of the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and costs of the lawsuits.

“This financial concession by the government only reinforces its admission of the burdensome nature of the HHS contraceptive mandate and its violation of the College's free exercise of religion,” stated Thomas Aquinas College General Counsel, Quincy Masteller.

Callista Gingrich confirmed as US Ambassador to the Vatican

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 18:46

Washington D.C., Oct 16, 2017 / 04:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as the next U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. The vote was 70-23.

In a July 18 hearing, Gingrich had voiced her commitment to fight human trafficking and promote human rights and religious freedom. She had said that immigration and protecting the environment are both issues that the Trump administration is taking seriously, although taking a different approach from the previous administration.

Callista Gingrich is the president of both Gingrich Productions in Arlington, Va. and the charitable non-profit Gingrich Foundation, and is a former Congressional aide.

She is also a long-time member of the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Newt and Callista married in 2000, after having a six-year affair while Newt was married to his previous wife. Newt converted to Catholicism in 2009 and explained, in an interview that year with Deal Hudson at InsideCatholic.com, how Callista’s witness as a Catholic brought him towards the faith.

He noted that he had attended Masses at the National Shrine where Callista sang in the choir, and she “created an environment where I could gradually think and evolve on the issue of faith.”

At the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2011, he also cited Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 visit to the U.S. as a “moment of confirmation” for him. At vespers with the Pope, where Callista sang in the Shrine choir, Newt recalled thinking that “here is where I belong.”

The couple worked on a documentary together that was released in 2010, “Nine Days That Changed the World,” that focused on Pope St. John Paul II’s 1979 pilgrimage to Poland when the former Soviet bloc country was under a communist government.

The documentary explained how the Pope invigorated the faith of the Polish people in Jesus Christ during his pilgrimage there, and how the visit precipitated the fall of Communism.

In an Easter message posted on the website of Gingrich Productions, the couple noted that “we should remember the many threats facing Christians today,” including “a growing secularism, which seeks to place human desires ahead of God and His will,” and “radical Islamism” that “seeks to destroy Christianity across the globe.”

“But in the face of this evil, we remember the words of Saint John Paul II, who throughout his papacy urged us to, ‘Be not afraid’,” the statement continued.

As ambassador, Gingrich will follow Ken Hackett, the former head of Catholic Relief Services who served during President Obama’s second term as president.

In a January interview with CNA, Hackett opined that there would be areas of difference and of collaboration between the U.S. and the Holy See under the Trump administration.

One of the possible areas of tension might be on immigration and refugees, he said, as Trump criticized Pope Francis on the campaign trail in 2016 after the Pope celebrated Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border and urged everyone to pray for conversion of hearts over the suffering of forced migration.

Trump, who repeatedly promised to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and make the Mexican government pay for it, said last February that the Pope was a “pawn” of the Mexican government and “is a very political person, I think he doesn't understand the problems our country has.”

He also issued an executive order shutting down refugee admissions for four months at a time when Pope Francis has taken in refugees and U.S. bishops have called for the country to continue accepting refugees fleeing violence.

Meanwhile, there are other possible areas of collaboration between the U.S. and the Holy See, Hackett said in January, including on human trafficking, peace in the Middle East, a solution to the worsening crisis in Venezuela, and efforts to alleviate global poverty.

Pope Francis and President Trump met at the Vatican in May. According to a Vatican communique, they expressed satisfaction “for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience.”

During the “cordial discussions,” the two expressed hope for peaceful collaboration between the government and the Catholic Church in the United States, that it may be “engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants,” the Vatican statement said.

The two leaders also exchanged views “on various themes relating to international affairs, the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities.”

 

 

'No science' behind transgender therapy for kids, doctors warn

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 17:57

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2017 / 03:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Children who struggle to match their gender identity with their biological sex should not be pushed into transgender therapies, but given treatments that help treat the underlying cause of the dysphoria, said doctors in the field.

From a medical standpoint, deciding not to offer hormonal therapy to children who experience gender dysphoria is “not a judgment” on the child, but a matter of the best medical healthcare, said Dr. Paul Hruz, associate professor of Pediatrics, Endocrinology, Cell Biology and Physiology at the Washington University of Medicine.

“It’s the best outcome, because they’re not exposed to all these harms that we know they will experience if they move forward” with the hormone treatments, he said.

Dr. Hruz also voiced serious concerns about treating young people with intense and potentially dangerous off-label hormone therapy, without subjecting the regimen to rigorous scientific testing.

This falls short of the scientific standards used to evaluate other treatments, he said. “We search for the truth by testing it with experimental evidence.”

Hruz spoke at an Oct. 11 panel on Gender Dysphoria in Children at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. Also speaking at the event were Dr. Michelle Cretella, president of the American College of Pediatricians, and Dr. Allan Josephson, professor and division chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

Gender dysphoria is a psychological condition in which a person’s experience of the psychological and cultural associations of their gender differ greatly from their biological sex. It is unclear how many children in the United States experience gender dysphoria, but the condition is relatively uncommon.

Cretella explained the health risks of putting children on puberty blockers and hormones associated with the opposite sex. The use of these drugs, she said, “is treating puberty like a disease, arresting a normal process which is critical to normal development for kids.”

She pointed out that there had never been long-term studies on hormone repression drugs, and their impact – particularly on children – is unknown. What is known, however, is the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and growth disruption associated with hormone therapies used for cross-sex treatment.

She also pushed back against the claims that affirming a patient's perceived gender leads to improved outcomes to children, saying that “those studies are extremely short term” with small study groups and poorly designed controls. Cretella pointed to former patients who change their minds “at age 28 or so and saying, ‘Oh my gosh, what was done to me?’”

Emphasizing the importance of rooting medical practices in science rather than ideology, Hruz noted that no randomized controlled trial or consistent findings have shown that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are the best treatments for children with gender dysphoria.

“The reality is there is no science to back this drastic change.” He also noted that as many as 90 percent of youth outgrow gender dysphoria by the end of adolescence and realign their identity with their biological sex.

Josephson focused on the psychological element of childhood gender dysphoria, noting that at its root, the disorder is a social and psychological phenomenon.

He contested that relying on hormonal therapies leaves aside a full investigation of the root psychological causes underlying the dysphoria, which therefore halts the most effective treatment before it starts.

Josephson pointed to the treatment of one patient who came in for counseling on gender dysphoria and ended up uncovering deep wounds of childhood abuse underlying their discomfort. “When doctors see pain or distress we try to find the cause of it and map out a treatment. We don’t try to ignore it,” he urged.

And treatment does not mean avoiding all forms of stress or trial, Josephson said. “In the process of development we’re always subjected to some kind of stress or developmental crisis.”

The key is to adequately diagnose and treat the underlying causes of gender dysphoria, he said. “If we ignore pain, the bottom line is that we might miss a diagnosis and chance for developmental progress.”

Most of all, Josephson said, children going through gender dysphoria need to be affirmed and loved.

“Of course you affirm a child and love a child,” he said. “But you don’t affirm a bad idea.”

US bishops laud attorney general's new religious freedom protections

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 15:46

Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2017 / 01:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following an announcement by the U.S. Attorney General detailing 20 principles of religious liberty for all government agencies and executive departments to follow, the U.S. bishops have praised the government’s reaffirmation of religious freedom protections.

“The Attorney General’s guidance helpfully reaffirms that the law protects the freedom of faith-based organizations to conduct their operations in accordance with their religious mission,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, in a statement.

“The guidance also reaffirms that the federal government should never exclude religious organizations from competing on an equal footing for government grants or contracts, and religious entities should never be forced to change their religious character in order to participate in such programs,” he continued.

“We appreciate the Attorney General’s clarification of these matters, which will protect faith-based organizations’ freedom to serve all those in need, including the homeless, immigrants, refugees, and students attending religious schools.”

The guidance was issued on Oct. 6 by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, responding to an executive order to “issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law.” The document highlights key issues surrounding religious freedom in the United States and points to the importance of religious freedom in the country, as well as existing laws and precedents which protect the fundamental right.

At the memo’s outset, the document notes that religious freedom “is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs or even to worship in a sacred place. It also encompasses religious observance and practice.” The guidance reaffirms a broader definition of religious freedom, which has come under pressure as the previous Obama administration promoted the much narrower phrasing “freedom of worship.”

....

Read CNA's analysis of the new religous freedom guidance to learn more:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The government&#39;s new religious freedom guidance: What does it mean?<a href="https://t.co/MgD9ixcaoK">https://t.co/MgD9ixcaoK</a></p>&mdash; Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) <a href="https://twitter.com/cnalive/status/917102798113853442?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 8, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

 

How parishes can help address the epidemic of domestic abuse

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 05:02

Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Domestic violence is a hidden epidemic that many clergy and laypersons need additional training to address, says one priest who runs the country’s largest parish-based ministry to counter the problem.

“When you start talking about it, that’s when people will start coming forward,” Fr. Chuck Dahm, O.P., who directs domestic violence outreach for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told CNA about the problem of domestic abuse.

Fr. Chuck said that many priests and deacons have little preparation to assist victims of domestic violence, and that more seminary training would be helpful for both preparing priests and raising awareness on the issue.  

 He said that “When I Call for Help,” a pastoral letter on domestic violence from the USCCB, is a helpful resource for clergy looking for more understanding.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to the CDC, “intimate partner violence” can be physical, sexual, or even emotional, as with instances of stalking or “psychological aggression.”

Some 27 percent of women in the U.S. have suffered intimate partner violence at some point, along with 12 percent of men, the CDC has reported.

There are many physical and psychological effects of domestic violence on victims – physical injuries and disabilities and bodily effects of stress, but also anxiety, depression, and trust issues. Children witnessing violence in the home may grow up with emotional problems like anger, or may even become abusers themselves when they are adults.

In his apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis wrote of the problem of domestic abuse:

“Unacceptable customs still need to be eliminated. I think particularly of the shameful ill-treatment to which women are sometimes subjected, domestic violence and various forms of enslavement which, rather than a show of masculine power, are craven acts of cowardice. The verbal, physical, and sexual violence that women endure in some marriages contradicts the very nature of the conjugal union.”

He also insisted upon the need for parishes and priests to be ready to deal properly with these problems: “Good pastoral training is important ‘especially in light of particular emergency situations arising from cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse’,” he added, citing the final document from the 2015 Synod on the Family.

Catholics have responded to this dire need in various ways, from organizing a prayer campaign for domestic abuse victims to working to spread awareness of the problem and educate clergy on how to properly deal with instances of abuse.

A symposium on domestic abuse took place last year at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., hosted by the university’s School of Social Service.

A “toolkit” for fighting domestic abuse has been provided by the Catholics for Family Peace, Education, and Research Initiative, which includes prayers and directions for helping a victim of domestic abuse.

In recent years, the group has marked Domestic Violence Awareness Month by asking people to pray at 3 p.m. daily for domestic abuse victims, and has called for a day of prayer on Oct. 28, the feast of St. Jude the Apostle, the patron saint of hopeless cases.

Fr. Chuck Dahm has created a parish-based ministry to combat domestic violence. A key part of his work is simply preaching about it, he says, because it is a widespread problem that hides in plain sight.

There is an “overwhelming lack of recognition that the problem is more frequent, more common than people think,” he told CNA. Many priests are completely unaware of cases of it, Fr. Chuck noted, although “there are people in their parishes who are suffering.”

“I have gone to 90 parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago,” he said. “And after I preach about it, people walk out of the church and they tell me ‘thank you for talking about this. This is long overdue. And my sister, my daughter is in it, or I grew up in it.’ And this is so much more common than anybody realizes.”

Sometimes, Fr. Chuck said, priests are not well trained and do not know how to handle situations in which parishioners come to tell them about abuse. They may offer inadequate advice and solutions.

Fr. Chuck participated in the symposium on domestic abuse at Catholic University last year. Since then he’s seen the fruits of the conference, spreading awareness of the problem.

“A significant number went home with the plans of doing something in their diocese or their respective organizations,” he said of conference participants.

The Archdiocese of Washington held a workshop for priests to learn how to deal with incidents of domestic abuse and 31 priests attended, he said. Two representatives of Catholic Charities in Vermont are starting a workshop for priests there, and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City held a workshop attended by several priests and a meeting for priests with Fr. Chuck.

Still, sometimes priests do not attend these events, Fr. Chuck acknowledged, and raising awareness about the importance of the problem is key.

Unfortunately, it’s been negative incidents that have driven the conversation about domestic abuse, he said. For instance, when surveillance videos surfaced of former NFL running back Ray Rice punching his fiancée, and then dragging her off an elevator while she was unconscious, the “subsequent outrage” after that and other incidents like it “helps create more awareness about the problem.”

Then “people feel a little bit more comfortable and required to speak out about this and do something about it,” Fr. Chuck explained. “The publicity about negative events or harmful events is quite helpful in raising awareness.”

“We’re really behind on this,” he said of the Church’s efforts to combat the problem, but at the same time, “we’re making progress.”


An earlier version of this article originally ran on CNA Oct. 24, 2016.

The future of the US Church is missionary encounter, nuncio says

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 02:02

Jefferson City, Mo., Oct 13, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The American cultural situation poses great challenges, but these can be overcome through a missionary renewal following Pope Francis’ proposed “culture of encounter,” said the apostolic nuncio to the U.S.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre spoke Oct. 7 at an event marking the 50th anniversary of the Missouri Catholic Conference.

“Reading the history of the Missouri Catholic Conference, one cannot help but marvel at how the Spirit of God has been at work in you in the defense of Catholic school students, marriage and family life, in protecting the unborn, disabled and vulnerable members of society, and in your genuine concern for the poor and migrants,” he said.

“Today is a day to give thanks to God, but it is also a time to reflect on the future of your journey together.”

The archbishop spoke at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Jefferson City, Missouri for the anniversary celebration of the Catholic conference, which handles public policy for the Catholic Church in Missouri.

In his remarks, Pierre cited Pope Francis’ desire for a “synodal Church,” a Church that journeys together on the paths of history “towards the encounter with Christ the Lord.” He said the Catholic conference has been “building up the Kingdom of God by living and acting in a collegial way.”

He also surveyed American cultural changes, drawing on Boston College professor Hosffman Ospino’s keynote at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders held earlier this year.

The roles, expectations and practices of family life have been reconfigured; communal life has been eroded in favor of individualism, including in religious practice and Mass attendance; culture wars have led to “the demonization of those with whom we disagree”; and rising secularization has meant that 25 percent of Americans and about half of baptized Catholics under age 30 identify as having no religious affiliation, he noted.

“The challenges are great, but not insurmountable,” said Pierre, drawing on his experience as nuncio to Mexico.

He cited Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” as a key to understanding the Church’s missionary dimension.

“If something should rightly disturb us, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life,” the Pope said in his exhortation.

Similarly, Pope Francis told the U.S. bishops in a November 2016 video message: “Our great challenge is to create a culture of encounter, which encourages individuals and groups to share the richness of our traditions and experiences, to break down walls and to build bridges.”

Archbishop Pierre added: “If we are to propose God’s Word to the World, and the Holy Father reminds us that ‘no one is to be excluded from the joy brought by the Lord,’ then we must do so positively – with the joyful ‘Yes’ of our whole life! This is exactly what the Blessed Virgin Mary, the model missionary disciple, did with her life.”

The nuncio drew on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and its roots in the victory of Christian forces at the Battle of Lepanto despite being outnumbered and outgunned by an Ottoman fleet.

Archbishop Pierre said reflection on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary might help the faithful better understand the Church’s mission and help the Catholic conference better reflect on how the Gospel might have “a greater impact on the life and structures of individuals, the Church, and the world in a rapidly changing environment, marked by secularization, individualism, and isolation.”

“We learn from Mary that we find true joy in obedience to God’s Word – according to His plan and in His time. As disciples, at times, we want our vocation on our terms. Mary teaches us that everything must be surrendered to God. This lesson – which really involves our conversion – is best learned in silence and contemplation.”

Mary showed active engagement in the world, and could not keep her joy to herself.

The Nativity of Christ, because it was witnessed by people on the peripheries, such as shepherds, showed that the encounter with Christ at the peripheries opens new horizons. It prompts one to ask how Christ is present at the margins, like in prisons and jails or on death row.

Pierre praised the Missouri Catholic Conference’s work combating the “throwaway culture” and its creation of communities and conditions “in which every life and all of creation is valued.” The nuncio also stressed the importance of work on migration, work that promotes the common good, and the preferential option for the poor that is not merely social activism but “loving attentiveness.”

“The Church must go forth to meet people unafraid of encountering those families facing difficulty,” he said.

Pope Francis expressed “cordial greetings and good wishes” to those gathered, according to a message from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State. The cardinal conveyed the Pope’s apostolic blessing “as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.”

“His Holiness prays that this anniversary will be the occasion not only of gratitude for the blessings and accomplishments of the past half century, but also of a renewed effort to favor the pastoral effectiveness of the Church’s mission in the State of Missouri amid the challenges and the opportunities of the present time,” Cardinal Parolin said in a message read by Pierre.

 

Iowa district judge praised for upholding three-day wait for abortions

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 16:23

Des Moines, Iowa, Oct 12, 2017 / 02:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Iowa judge upheld the state’s three-day waiting period for abortions last week, drawing praise from local pro-life organizations such as the Iowa Catholic Conference, who called the ruling a “positive move.”

“We are very pleased by the decision, because we think to allow women to have a reflection time before an abortion means that some of them will take that time to at least think about the decision that they are making,” stated Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, in an interview with CNA.

“Some of those women will decide in favor of life, so we were very pleased to see the judge’s decision and hope it will stand up if there are further appeals,” Chapman continued.

The act, which was passed last spring, requires a mandatory 72-hour waiting period and two consultations with doctors before receiving an abortion. It would also require the option of viewing an ultrasound and educational materials about risks associated with the procedure.

In May, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa sued against the Iowa Act, calling it a “malicious, politically motivated, anti-woman legislation.”

Judge Jeffrey Farrell of the Polk County District Court ruled against the petitioners Oct. 2, saying the law “complies with the constitutional standard” and did not place “undue burden” on women seeking abortion.

“The evidence at trial focused on the hardships women face when dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, but the public’s interest in potential life is an interest that cannot be denied under law. Both of these interests are important,” stated Farrell.

Following the court’s ruling, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a notice that they will appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Farrell's ruling states the act will go into effect after 30 days, unless the Iowa Supreme Court grants a stay or an injunction.

Iowa is not the only state to enforce waiting periods before abortions – 27 other states have similar postponement requirements, and have been met with similar controversy.

According to Chapman, one of the benefits of enforcing a waiting period would be to potentially help women who feel pressured to make a more informed decision. He also said it could prevent guilt or regret that some women experience post-abortion.

“I think if people look at what the actual facts are and the studies that have been done, there are certainly women who regret their abortions,” Chapman said.

According to Iowa Right to Life, studies have shown that within a few months after an abortion, 31 percent of women had regrets about their decision. The study also found that 55 percent of women expressed guilt, while 44 percent of women experienced nervous disorders.

“It certainly seems from the data that abortion can very much cause regrets for families – because remember, we are talking about the unborn child, we are talking about the woman herself, and we are talking about the people surrounding the mother. All of those can be affected by this decision,” Chapman noted.

“I think this is a very positive move from the court to recognize this and we are very supportive of this and hope it will stand up in court if it gets appealed.”

Farrell had also upheld in 2014 an Iowa Board of Medicine rule that would have effectively barred the use of a telemedicine system to dispense abortion-inducing pills. The Iowa Supreme Court reversed his ruling in 2015, ruling the ban unconstitutional.

A Boston mall chapel will house the relics of three saints

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 08:04

Boston, Mass., Oct 12, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Relics of St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and St. John Paul II will be coming to a Boston mall’s Catholic chapel, and a local priest hopes they will help mall patrons encounter the reality of Christian love.

“Our hope is that these relics will be a source of spiritual wealth for the Church of Boston,” Father James Doran, O.M.V., told CNA. “We hope that all the faithful who live and work in Boston and all those who travel there will know that right in the heart of the city they have access to the two greatest treasures the Church possesses: the Sacraments and relics of the saints.”

Father Doran is director of the St. Francis Chapel at Boston’s Prudential Center mall. The mall, located in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, hosts more than 75 shops and restaurants.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley will celebrate an Oct. 16 Mass there just after noon as part of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, who run the chapel. Venerable Pio Bruno Lanteri founded the oblates in Turin in 1817.

The Mass will launch public veneration of the relics, which will remain at the mall chapel.

Father Doran reflected on the character of the saints whose relics the chapel will house.

“These three saints in particular encountered modernity with the full force of Christian love, sometimes in confrontation but also in invitation,” he said. “The mall is a place where encounter and exchange happens, not just of material goods but personal goods even more importantly.”

“With the relics of these saints here we hope the faithful will find a place for contemplative refreshment, gospel formation and the challenge to take up in full freedom the responsibility and privilege of finding God in all things and living by the movements of the Holy Spirit and His gifts and not by blind market forces,” the priest continued.

St. Maximillian Kolbe had served as a missionary priest in Japan and ran a printing press in the face of Nazi occupation. In August 1941, he volunteered to take the place of an innocent husband and father about to be executed at a concentration camp.


The Polish nun St. Faustina Kowalska saw apparitions of Christ and brought the devotion of the Divine Mercy to the world.

The pontificate of St. John Paul II, the first Polish Pope, included the collapse of the Soviet Union and the effort to evangelize around the world.

“What we learn from these great saints is especially relevant for our modern times, that is, to not be afraid,” Dolan commented. “Clearly, that was a theme of St. John Paul’s entire pontificate but manifested also in the lives of Faustina and Maximilian. Fear is the result of the absence of love.”

The relic of St. Maximillian Kolbe, hair from his beard, was obtained from his monastery in Poland. The relic of St. John Paul II is also a piece of hair, obtained by an Oblate priest in Rome, the Boston Pilot reports.

The third relic, a chip of bone from St. Faustina, came to the oblates as a surprise. They had been trying to obtain a relic of the saint, but could not meet the requirements of her convent.

A woman who was a frequent attendee at the chapel came forward with a relic of the nun she had obtained when St. Faustina was beatified. She said she felt God wanted her to donate it.

The Prudential Center chapel was founded in 1969. Staffed by the Oblates of the Virgin Mary since the early 1980s, it offers daily Mass, Confession, and Eucharistic Adoration.

“The chapel is known as an oasis of prayer, silence and mercy in the heart of the city,” Doran said.

Bishop Vasa on California fires: 'Our diocese has been hit hard'

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 05:01

Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct 12, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While firefighters in northern California are currently battling 17 wildfires in five counties, Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, one of the hardest hit areas, is typing updates and messages of support from his car, in between visits to evacuation centers.

“Our diocese has been hit hard, as you know well, and is in an ongoing state of uncertainty,” he said in his Tuesday message.

The fires, made worse by dry conditions and unrelenting winds, have already scorched at least 100,000 acres and have killed at least 21 people since the beginning of the week. Thousands more have been displaced, their homes and businesses destroyed.

Much of the area of the Diocese of Santa Rosa has been under mandatory evacuation, including the chancery and the local Catholic Charities office. One of the diocese’s Catholic high schools has been almost completely destroyed by a fire, and an elementary school has sustained significant damage.

“Most of our parishes are fine,” Bishop Vasa wrote. “The one exception is Cardinal Newman High School and Saint Rose elementary which share a campus.”

A “significant portion” of the high school was destroyed, he noted, along with the preschool building and the roof of the elementary school.

Graham Rutherford, principal of Cardinal Newman High School, sent a letter to parents and students, assuring them that all students and staff had been accounted for and were safe, and asked them to respect the evacuations and not go near the campus until officials have given the all-clear.

“Thank you for the many kind and generous efforts made by countless members of our community to help each other and to help others in this hour of need,” he added. “We are proud to see our school year motto, ‘One School: Undivided’ lived out with such compassion.”

Bishop Vasa also noted that he has visited several evacuation centers and spoken with many people whose homes and businesses have been destroyed.

“The sense of great helplessness is palpable,” he wrote. “When people ask how they can help I answer that I really do not know. I do know that prayers are the greatest source of solace and help.”

In his Wednesday message, he offered his prayers for those who had lost loves ones in the fires.

“We pray for your consolation and for eternal rest for your lost loved ones. Our hearts go out to all of you,” he said.

“At the same time, we acknowledge the sense of loss and suffering experienced by those who have lost their homes, or businesses, or places of employment. We pray that you do not lose hope, nor the sense of God’s presence and ultimate goodness. You must know that the hearts of the entire community, though it can neither feel what you feel, nor undo the loss, do go out to you.”

He also thanked the firefighters and police, both those from California and throughout the country who have offered their help.

“...I commend you for that patience and professionalism which I have seen so often and for which I commend you. As I very often advise. Persevere!” he said. “Thousands of volunteers are spending countless hours showing their desire to share in the suffering of those displaced by the fire. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. My prayers are with all of you as well.”

Christopher Lyford, director of communications for the Santa Rosa diocese, stopped by St. Eugene's Cathedral, which is being used as an evacuation center coordinated by the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa and other parishioners. Once there, he found a homeless man doing his best to comfort the distraught evacuees.

“A homeless man named Paul, who lives near the cathedral in a creekbed, happened by and offered some consolation through his gift of music” by playing the piano inside the shelter, Lyford told journalists. “The poignancy of the moment is not lost.”

Father David Jenuwine, Parochial Vicar of St. Apollinaris Catholic Church in Napa, California recounted some of his own experiences with the fires in e-mail comments to CNA in between helping out at evacuation centers.

On Monday, the first day of the fires, Jenuwine said he started smelling smoke around 4 a.m. and realized the area had lost power.

“When I figured out what was going on, I exposed the Blessed Sacrament around 5:00 am and started praying. People started showing up for morning Mass at 6:15 am. I went inside (again still dark - no power), and got ready for Mass” he said.

“Mass in complete darkness, knowing your friends and parishioners are in jeopardy, is an awe inspiring experience. The prayers took on an eminence and an importance,” he said.

The verse that “jumped from the page” of the day’s readings was: “Who is my neighbor?”

“I spoke briefly about that verse, and how that would be our clarion call for the next several days,” Jenuwine said. “Because without limit, right now, EVERYONE is our neighbor.”

Over the next two days, he said, the parish started taking in evacuees from the area and accepting food donations.

“The faces of the donors and the recipients reflected a surreal joy. Giving and receiving are both opportunities to share in the divine life of the Most Holy Trinity. And it is apparent in what we have witnessed over the past few days,” he added.

As of today, access to power and communications are back, but the fires are still far from contained, Jenuwine noted.

“I have to cut this short, because I’m needed at the Red Cross shelter to comfort those who have lost someone in the fires. Pray for us,” Jenuwine said.

“Many parishioners have lost everything. The overwhelming feelings of the loss of so many is offset by the overwhelming generosity of individuals giving food, bedding, clothes, and water.”

“Pray for us,” he added again. “Pray that the winds die down, and the fires can be abated. Pray that we have strength to persevere.”

Fr. Jenuwine’s parish has set up a Paypal donation page that is acting like “a rolling second collection” for fire relief, though Father noted the immediate issues of evacuations, shelter, food and water were being addressed before the exact recipients of the relief money could be determined.

Updates from Bishop Vasa and the Diocese of Santa Rosa can be found on the diocesan website as well as the diocesan Facebook page.

Don't ignore children suffering war and separation, Holy See tells UN

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 02:08

New York City, N.Y., Oct 12, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Armed conflicts brings out “the most vicious forms of violence against children” and the world must act to aid the young victims of violence and all unaccompanied children worldwide, the Holy See has said at the United Nations.

“Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such violent brutality: children used as soldiers, suicide bombers, sex slaves, and disposable intelligence-gatherers in the most dangerous military operations,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza lamented. “The deliberate destruction of their schools and hospitals in total disregard of international humanitarian law has become a strategy of war.”

Archbishop Auza, the apostolic nuncio heading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations, spoke Oct. 10 to the U.N. General Assembly’s Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee, also known as the Third Committee. He spoke regarding the promotion and protection of the rights of children.

The Holy See and the Catholic Church have worked with the U.N. and others to oppose the use of children as combatants and violence against children. They aim to help relieve their suffering and “accompany them on the road to full reintegration with their families and society.”

“Children are first and foremost human beings with fundamental human rights,” Auza said. “They cannot be left voiceless and invisible. Their best interests must be recognized and respected. Their protection and integration must therefore be a primordial concern for all.”

He cited a 500 percent increase in the number of unaccompanied refugee and migrant children from 66,000 in 2010 to at least 300,000 in 2016. The proportion of children among migrants and refugees is growing, the nuncio added.

“An estimated 535 million children live in countries suffering from conflicts, ethnic or religious persecutions, violence, natural disasters and extreme poverty,” he said. “Millions of desperate children are fleeing their home countries without the protection of their families. Parents are constrained to see their children leave without them, hoping that after a perilous journey they will find welcome and protection somewhere.”

Unaccompanied children are among the 250 million migrants who have crossed international borders, and 65 million of these are refugees.

“They have fled from their countries desperate to find safe haven from persecutions and violent conflicts,” Auza continued. “They have abandoned once fertile lands which are turning into deserts, or they simply want a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, most especially for their children.”

Auza recounted Pope Francis’ emphasis on the importance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide a basis to protect child migrants from homelessness and exploitation. Its legal obligations for states that adhere to it cannot be disregarded arbitrarily.

These include measures like proper identification and registration for children, the designation of guardians, and the rights to education and health care.

Specific efforts to protect child migrants include family re-tracing and reunification, education, and other long-term programs. There are child migrant advocacy efforts in schools and parishes. Many efforts also target the root causes of child migration.

“The Holy See and the Catholic Church throughout the world always strive to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate those who flee from adverse conditions, in particular children who are most vulnerable,” Auza said.

Pages