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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 2 hours 31 min ago

Commentary: Is anyone 'ready' for Christmas?

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 15:22

Denver, Colo., Dec 21, 2018 / 01:22 pm (CNA).- After communion at Mass this morning, our parish school choir began one of my favorite hymns.

The first line filled my heart.

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand.”

It was darling to hear those solemn words intoned by the cherubic voices of third and fourth graders, already giddy for Christmas break to begin.

I looked at my wife and smiled-- at her, at the baby in her arms, and at the thought of our older children kneeling in prayer with their classes, indistinguishable in the sea of plaid jumpers and navy sweaters, somewhere in the pews ahead of us.

The moment felt to me like the end of Advent should feel-- Christ is coming, our family will be together, work and school and activities will be put on hold for a few days of feasting, and resting.

But then the school choir sang the next lines:

“Ponder nothing earthly-minded, for with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to demand.”


I realized then that I had spent most of Mass pondering “earthly-minded” things.

I had been thinking about the work I had to get done before Christmas could begin. I had been thinking about the presents I still wanted to buy. I had been thinking about friends I hoped to see, and books I hoped to read over Christmas break, and for a while, I had gotten sidetracked thinking about why our den is so drafty and what I can do about it.

None of that seemed to me like “full homage” of Christ, our God. If God was demanding that I should be thinking only of celestial things- of angels and saints, perhaps- I was failing.

My warm feelings about Advent eroded quickly. My mortal flesh had not kept silent. I was not, I realized, ready, in a spiritual way, for Christmas.

But the extraordinary thing about Christmas is that no one was ready for it. Mary and Joseph were not ready to be expecting a baby. Bethlehem innkeepers were not ready to welcome the Holy Family. Herod was not ready to receive the news that the Messiah had come.

Christmas came- Christ came- no matter who was ready.

There’s a reason for this. The reason is that while Christ warns us to be ready- ready for his coming, ready for our deaths, ready for our judgment- Christ also is the one who makes us ready.

We cannot be ready for the things that matter most unless Christ has come into our lives, and transformed them.

We cannot be ready to respond to hatred with love unless Christ has tamed our tongues and quieted our hearts. We cannot be ready to give without counting the cost unless, in Christ, we know that self-denial gives us real joy. We cannot be ready to go out and make disciples unless Christ has made us disciples.

And we cannot be ready to give up pondering “earthly-minded” things unless Christ has lifted our sights, transformed our vision, filled us with a love that consumes all else.

That transformation takes a lifetime. It is the transformation of becoming a saint. We have a part to play. Mostly our part is to ask for grace, to try, to fail, to repent and try again. To trust that our efforts are not in vain, and that, by grace, our habits will become virtues and our virtues will perfect our intellects, our appetites, and our wills.

But all of that starts with Christ. With grace. With his coming into our lives- through the sacraments, and Scripture, and the Church- just as he came into the world in Bethlehem.

In his 2010 Christmas homily, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that in the Christmas message, two "elements belong together: grace and freedom, God’s prior love for us, without which we could not love him, and the response that he awaits from us, the response that he asks for so palpably through the birth of his son."

He continued: "God has anticipated us with the gift of his Son. God anticipates us again and again in unexpected ways. He does not cease to search for us, to raise us up as often as we might need. He does not abandon the lost sheep in the wilderness into which it had strayed. God does not allow himself to be confounded by our sin. Again and again he begins afresh with us. But he is still waiting for us to join him in love. He loves us, so that we too may become people who love, so that there may be peace on earth."

Things start small. With a glimpse of hope, or a moment of self-mastery- with an act of charity that surprises us, or a moment of clarity we didn’t expect. Faith grows. Hope grows. Love grows.

God doesn’t move in our lives because we are perfect, God moves in our lives to make us perfect.

We may not be ready for Christmas, but Jesus Christ is ready for us.

 

'A call from God' - Why these Catholic couples became foster parents

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 12:30

Denver, Colo., Dec 21, 2018 / 10:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- It was a quiet Thanksgiving for Kerry.

She and her husband had just retired from the military, and they were home in Colorado Springs with Kerry’s mother-in-law, whom they were taking care of at the time. But the house, with two extra, empty bedrooms upstairs, felt just a little too quiet.

Kerry had no children of her own, but it was around that time that she felt God calling her to foster parenting.

“I just saw this article in the paper for a foster agency and it really spoke to me and I said ‘Ok God this is what you want me to do? Because I’m a little bit old for this.’ But...I felt I was just really made to do this and God said, you can do this!”

It’s something that many Catholic foster parents have in common - the feeling that God called them to open their homes and hearts to foster parenting.

Kerry and her husband began fostering through a local Christian agency called Hope and Home, and after meeting the licensing requirements, embarked on a six-year foster care journey, in which they fostered a total of 10 kids, adopted two, and provided respite care for several other “kiddos,” as Kerry affectionately calls them.

“Foster care is a learning experience, and is probably the hardest yet most rewarding thing I've ever done,” Kerry told CNA.

For foster care awareness month, CNA spoke with four Catholic foster parents about their stories, and the faith that inspired them along the way. Only first names have been used to protect the children who have been or are still in their care.

“The greatest of our foster-heartbreaks has become my life's work” - Kerry, Colorado Springs

Kerry’s family learned a lot, the hard way, from their first foster care placement, a two-year-old named Alex.

“It was hard, as Alex had suffered abuse and neglect and was terrified of all things to do with bedtimes,” Kerry said. “We spent the first week sitting outside the door of his bedroom, because he was terrified to have us in there and yet terrified to be alone.”

About seven months after Alex had been placed in their care, he was returned back to his biological father. Kerry strongly objected to that plan, telling their caseworker that she believed the father was not ready to take his son back.  

Kerry’s objections were overruled, and Alex went home with his biological dad. Nine months later, Kerry learned that Alex had died of severe head trauma while in the care of his dad’s girlfriend. It was because of Alex that she began to research and advocate for the prevention of child abuse.

“The greatest of our foster-heartbreaks has become my life's work,” Kerry said. “I am part of our county's Not One More Child Coalition, the secretary for our local Safe Kids Colorado chapter, and the Chair of the Child Abuse Prevention Committee for our local chapter of the Exchange Club,” she said.

“We are also working to establish a child abuse prevention nonprofit called Kyndra's Hope - named for another local foster girl who actually entered foster care in hospice, as she was not expected to live due to the severe physical abuse by her biological parents. Thanks to the prayers of her adopted mom, Kyndra is now a lively 10-year-old who, despite her disabilities, has beaten the odds.”

Kerry has adopted two of the 10 of her foster children, and provided respite care for numerous others.

Kerry said she felt relief and belonging in her local Catholic parish, because several other families have adopted children and blended families, “so to just go and sit and be a normal family with all the other people there was just really wonderful some days,” she said.

One of the main patron saints she leaned on as a foster parent was St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes.

“I was always praying to him for myself and for my kiddos who were really lost, just to help us all find ourselves,” she said.

“What do my pro-life duties entail?” - Scott; Lincoln, Nebraska

Scott and his wife were newlywed “classic, orthodox Catholics” living in Lincoln, Nebraska. While they had no known medical issues, they tried for six years to get pregnant, but it just wasn’t happening.

After mourning the loss possible biological children, the couple began to talk about adoption. While the idea of foster care surfaced at the time, “It scared us a little bit,” Scott told CNA.

They knew that many of the children they would encounter would come from difficult situations, and as first-time parents, they weren’t sure they would be able to handle that.

They adopted a son, Anthony, but they still felt the desire for more children. When they considered a second adoption, they were encouraged to look more seriously into foster care.

They took the foster parent preparation class, but still felt some hesitation, and so they “kicked the can down the road” a little longer. But something happened at their city’s annual Walk for Life that stayed with Scott.

“We go to the Walk for Life every year, and there’s a lady there every year, she had this sign and it basically said ‘Foster, adopt or shut up.’ That was what she was saying as a counter-protest to a pro-life group,” Scott recalled.

“It’s something that stuck with me because I thought you know, what do my pro-life duties entail?”

Soon after, he and his wife felt called by God to open up their home to foster children. They told the agency, thinking they would wait another year or two before getting a placement.

Ten days later, a little two-year-old named Jonathan came to stay with them. Even though he was young, the family has had to work with him on some deep-seated anger issues and speech delay problems.  

“This is really pro-life,” Scott said of foster care and adoption.

“This birth mom chose life, but she can’t raise this child, and so my wife and I are going to take the ball and we’re going to do the hard work and we’re going to get through this.”

“I really feel like God called us to this, and called us to this little boy,” he added. “You can’t ignore the call - or you shouldn’t - it’s similar to a vocational call in my opinion.”

Something else that struck Scott throughout the process was how much foster parenting is promoted in Evangelical churches, including those sponsoring their family’s agency- and how infrequently he heard it mentioned in Catholic ones.

“I would say that [Evangelicals] do a fabulous job in their churches as far as promoting foster care and getting lots of families to participate,” Scott said. “And we’ve got the one true faith, so I want our families and couples to learn about this and possibly participate in it,” he added.

“I know it’s not for everybody, but there’s lots of different things other than taking a child that you can do,” he said, such as mentoring a child or offering support to other foster parents.

“We’ve always had a special spot in our heart for kids in foster care” - Jami; Omaha, Nebraska

Jami’s family, like Scott’s family, experienced a time of infertility before deciding to look into foster care or adoption as a way to grow their family.

But they were also drawn to it in other ways. Before they were married, Jami and her husband had volunteered at a summer camp that united foster care kids with siblings living in other foster homes.

“We volunteered for that as camp counselors, so we’ve always had a special spot in our heart for kids in foster care, so we wanted to try it out for that reason also,” Jami told CNA.

Jami had also grown up in Omaha, Nebraska, the home of Boystown, a temporary home for troubled boys and youth founded in 1917 by Servant of God Father Edward Flanagan.

“I have a special relationship with him, even when I was younger, I used to think he was so cool,” Jami said. “And all through us fostering, I would pray to him and through him because he knows, he helped these kids in trauma.”  

Jami and her husband took an infant, Bennett, into their home. His older sister was placed in a different foster home while they waited to see if the children could be reunited with their mother.

It was an “emotional rollercoaster,” Jami said, because she knew she needed to bond with Bennett, while she also had to be prepared to let him go at any moment.

“I would pray through Fr. Flanagan and tell him just ‘please.’ I trust God and his choice in whether this kid goes home or not, because that was also really hard - I was feeling guilty for wanting to keep the baby, because it’s not yours. We’re there to help the parents,” she said.

“So I really believe that (Fr. Flanagan) was holding this whole situation, he just took care of it,” she said.

“The most challenging thing is letting yourself go, letting yourself bond with the child and not trying to protect your own heart,” Jami said, “and then coping with the emotional roller coaster because that can put a lot of stress on yourself, your husband, the whole family.”

“But the most rewarding part is helping these families, helping the parents have the time they need to overcome whatever challenges they’re facing,” she said. “And getting to bond with the (child) is such a gift because literally if you don’t give it who will? And that is such a gift to give a child.”

“This is hardcore Gospel living” - Michaela; St. Louis, Missouri

Michaela’s foster parent journey differs from many others. She and her husband already had children - four of them, all in grade school or younger - when she felt God was calling her to consider adoption.

When the topic of adoption was brought up during her bible study, “my heart just started burning for adoption, the Spirit was moving within me, but I knew that was not something I could just impose on my family or my marriage,” Michaela, who lives in St. Louis, Missouri, told CNA.

She decided to keep the inspiration quiet, and told God that if this is something he really wanted from her family, then her husband would have to voice the same desires first.

So she never mentioned it to her husband. But one day, some time later, he came to breakfast and said out of the blue: “I think we’re being called to adoption.”

As their research into adoption began, they realized that they didn’t feel called to infant or international adoption - two of the most common routes. They realized that God was actually calling them to foster care.

“It was exactly the desire of our heart, it was where God was calling,” Michaela said.  

The prerequisites for foster care include classes that prepare foster parents for worst-case scenarios - children who come from broken, traumatic situations who will exhibit difficult behaviors.

But to Michaela’s surprise, “They come and they’re just the most innocent children, this pure innocence comes from a broken life, they don’t resemble the brokenness that they come from.”

Michaela’s family is relatively new to fostering - in the first six months, they'd already had four children between the ages of one and seven placed with their family.

One of the most rewarding things about foster parenting has been the lessons her biological children are learning from the experience, Michaela said.  

“These aspects of the Gospel we cannot teach our children - I cannot teach you how to lay down your life for someone else. But I can show you with this,” Michaela said.

“This is Gospel, this is hardcore Gospel living.”

The hardest part about foster parenting can be letting go - the goal of foster parenting is not to keep the children, but to provide them a temporary home while their biological family can get back on their feet, Michaela said.

Michaela said that’s a concern about foster parenting that she often hears: “What if I get too attached? Isn’t it too hard?”

“These children deserve to be attached to, so they deserve us to love them so that it hurts us when they leave,” she said.

For this reason, she asks case workers to let herself and her children accompany the foster child to their next home - whether that’s with their parents or with another foster or adoptive family.

“It’s super hard for us, but it’s really good for the kids to see us cry, to know that they are loved that much, that someone would cry over them,” she said.

Michaela said she found great support as a foster parent through the Catholic Church and also through other Christian denominations.

“Our own church totally opened their arms to us, and brings over clothes and car seats and was just hugely supportive and welcoming when new kids come to church,” she said.

“Other churches have provided meals - there’s just such a community within the church, within foster care. They’re all telling us they’re praying for us - so it’s the bigger body of Christ within the foster community,” she said.

Michaela encouraged couples who are considering becoming foster parents to trust God and lean on their faith, even when it may seem like a difficult or impossible task.

“When he calls us to those scary, unknown places he provides, he just shows up in ways that we could have never planned for or imagined,” she said. “He does, he makes a way.”

Adoption and foster care programs for Catholic families can be found through local Catholic Charities or Catholic Social Service branches.

 

This article was originally published on CNA May 18, 2018.

 

 

Why a famous social justice priest opposed birth control

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 07:00

Washington D.C., Dec 21, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA).- During the early cultural battles over birth control in 1920s America, social thinker Monsignor John A. Ryan brought a unique perspective to the debate: he argued that contraception hurt solidarity and other efforts to ensure a decent living for workers and their families.
 
“In the late 19th and early 20th century workers were many times exploited by those who employed them. The working class was subjected to poor working conditions, low wages, and long hours. Ryan was their defender,” Prof. Clement A. Mulloy, a history professor at Arkansas State University, told CNA July 24. “Ryan believed workers were entitled to a normal family life which he equated with children, preferably in a large family.”
 
Ryan thought payment of a “living wage” to workers was a moral obligation of employers. This living wage meant “a decent livelihood” for a worker and his family, not merely subsistence pay. He took this position from papal encyclicals like Leo XIII’s Rerum novarum, which condemned abuses of capitalism and defended the worker.
 
Critics of this “living wage” approach found inspiration in thinkers like Thomas Malthus, who claimed population growth would tend to outpace the ability for a society to provide support. They would counter that workers had too many children and “if they could just limit the size of their families, then they would have enough money to support themselves.”
 
“Ryan believed this to be a clever dodge, whereby those who were affluent would point out that the reason why people were poor is they could not restrain themselves,” Mulloy said. “In other words, their poverty was their own fault. Consequently, those who were affluent were relieved of any responsibility to help the poor.”
 
Ryan was not a socialist. Rather, he backed Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. His support was so strong that he became known as the “Right Reverend New Dealer.” Born in Minnesota in 1869, the priest was ordained for the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis and later became a professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He became a prominent advisor for the U.S. bishops before his death in 1945 at the age of 76.
 
The priest is not well known for discussing birth control, but he wrote about it in many articles and in his most famous book “A Living Wage.” Mulloy discusses this aspect of Ryan’s thought in his essay “John A. Ryan and the Issue of Family Limitation,” which appeared in the 2013 issue of the Catholic Social Science Review.
 
“Ryan advocated ‘social justice’ in the sense that he believed government and employers had a duty to improve conditions and not just blame the poor for their plight,” Mulloy said. “Ryan believed there was plenty of wealth to support the population, if it was just distributed properly.”
 
Birth control advocates in the 1920s particularly wanted birth control practiced by the working class. In their view, the Industrial Revolution had produced uneducated, unskilled and “unfit” workers who were “breeding out of control.”
 
These attitudes were not purely scientific. Rather, they were accompanied by ethnic and religious animosity.
 
“The working class tended to be Catholic, while the wealthy tended to be white Anglo-Saxon Protestants and tended to have small families,” Mulloy said. “So there existed a certain fear or animosity.”
 
“Ryan, again, was the defender of the working class. He referred to the working class as the ‘saving remnant’ of civilization. He stated they were fit, morally fit, because they engaged in the sacrifice and hard work of raising large families.”
 
For Ryan, widespread use of birth control would have long-term detrimental effects on society, not just individuals. He predicted that birth control would lead to “enervating self-indulgence” across society. Husband and wife would treat each other as instruments of pleasure, and not cooperate with God to produce children. People would limit their families “to selfishly satisfy their material wants” and shirk “in the hard work of raising a family,” Mulloy explained.
 
“As a result, he predicted that people would lack integrity, a work ethic would deteriorate, people would become less patriotic, and more concerned with making money and not higher pursuits,” said Mulloy.
 
Population decline would also have harmful effects, in Ryan’s view, including damaging economic effects.
 
Mulloy reflected on these predictions.
 
“Our culture, though there has been great progress, has also become immoral and decadent in many ways, so Ryan’s predictions have some validity,” he said. A case can be made that high divorce rates, a rise in children born out of wedlock, and depopulation in places like Europe are in part due to birth control.
 
“A case could be made that women, despite the gains that have been made socially and economically, are not held in high regard,” he said.
 
Ryan wrote amid a push for “eugenics,” the reputed application of science to improve the quality of the human population. Birth control advocacy was among the strategies advanced by this movement, alongside marriage restrictions or involuntary sterilization. The last strategy was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1927 and over 60,000 people were forcibly sterilized out of the belief their ability to have children was a threat to social welfare.
 
The priest argued that involuntary sterilization was unnecessary and would have harmful effects on society. If “imbeciles,” the then-scientific term for the mentally disabled, would be forcibly sterilized, then other socially marginalized groups, such as Mexicans and African-Americans, would be targeted next.
 
“In some ways Ryan’s arguments against sterilization are more interesting than other Catholic theologians because Ryan considers the harmful effects to society from involuntary sterilization which the other theologians do not bother with,” Mulloy said.
 
In the 1920s, Ryan was among a minority of Catholic theologians who did not believe that involuntary sterilization was an evil in itself. It had not been defined as such in Church teaching. When Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Casti connubii condemned the practice as inherently evil in 1930, the priest accepted this teaching.
 
While Ryan acknowledged and made use of “natural law”-style arguments, Mulloy wrote in his Catholic Social Science Review essay, “Ryan realized this would have little impact on most Americans, since it was a purely intellectual argument with no reference to utility or social welfare.”
 
Pope Paul VI reaffirmed Catholic teaching on contraception in his 1968 encyclical Humanae vitae, but the hostile reaction from many Catholic and non-Catholic leaders continues to this day.

This article was originally published July 25, 2018.

Spokane diocese was told 7 accused priests lived at Gonzaga

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 17:24

Spokane, Wash., Dec 20, 2018 / 03:24 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Spokane said Thursday it was unacceptable that Jesuit priests credibly accused of sexual abuse were unsupervised on the campus of Gonzaga University. While Spokane’s current bishop had no knowledge the priests had been living at the university, the diocese said its prior bishop was informed of their presence in 2011.

“The Diocese of Spokane shares the concern of those who are angry and saddened to learn that the Oregon Province of Jesuits—now part of the Jesuits West Province—placed Jesuits credibly accused of sexual abuse at the Cardinal Bea House on Gonzaga University’s campus without informing the Gonzaga community,” a Dec. 20 statement from the diocese read.

In June 2011, “the Jesuit Provincial, Father Patrick Lee, informed then-Bishop Blase Cupich that seven priests with safety plans in place were living at Bea House,” the diocesan statement added.

“Bishop Thomas Daly—who was installed in 2015—was not informed by the Jesuits or Gonzaga University that these men were living at Cardinal Bea House.”

While the Jesuit province informed the diocese that the accused priests “were living on campus with safety plans requiring such things as chaperones for any trips out of Cardinal Bea House and restricting their public ministry,” recent media reporting “indicates that these credibly accused Jesuits were free to come and go on campus,” the statement read.

“This was an unacceptable situation.”
 
Since at least 2003, several Jesuit priests accused of sexual abuse were housed at the Cardinal Bea House on the campus of Spokane’s Gonzaga University, according to a series of investigative reports published this week by Northwest News Network, and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The sexual abuse accusations against the priests living on Gonzaga’s campus were not made known publicly by the university, the Jesuit province, or the diocese. Most of the accused priests were reported to be living at the Gonzaga residence in retirement or due to their declining health.
 
The house is a residence owned by the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, and not overseen by the university. The credibly accused priests living there were reportedly subject to “safety plans” which forbade them from engaging with students.

According to the media reports, at least some credibly accused priests had regular unsupervised access to the university campus and unsupervised visits with students, and were permitted to lead prayer services in other settings, including Native American reservations.

No priests known to have been accused of abuse are now living in the campus house. The last priest known to have been accused of abuse was moved from the facility in 2016.

A diocesan spokesman told CNA that the diocese believes the priests were permitted by the Jesuits only to perform ministry “within the Regis Community of Jesuits at the Bea House,” and therefore they did not request permission from the diocese for permission to celebrate Mass or other sacraments in other contexts.

“Priests residing in the diocese but not involved in active ministry would not be granted faculties unless they requested faculties. Credibly accused Jesuit priests such as James Poole were restricted by the province.”

However, a policy change approved last month by Spokane’s current head, Bishop Thomas Daly requires any priest to undergo a background check before being permitted even to reside in the diocese, regardless of whether or not the priest intends to perform ministry.

The spokesman that the diocese is “in the process of implementing the new policies and requirements for all extern priests resident in the diocese.”

Among the priests accused of sexual abuse who lived on the Gonzaga campus was Fr. James Poole, SJ.

In 2005, an Anchorage woman, Elsie Boudreau, settled for $1 million a lawsuit against Poole, his Jesuit province, and the Diocese of Fairbanks.

Boudreau’s lawsuit claimed that she was molested by Poole, who was stationed in her home of Nome, Alaska, from the time she was 10 years old until she was 19, when she told him she would never be alone with him again.

The Fairbanks diocese paid half of the settlement, and the Oregon province paid the other half, according to a 2005 report in the Spokesman Review.

At the time of the settlement, Jesuit provincial Fr. John Whitney told the Spokane Spokesman Review that Poole had admitted the abuse, and was moved to Gonzaga campus in 2003, after his admission.

Poole would not be permitted to leave his residence on the Gonzaga campus unaccompanied, nor would he be permitted to be alone with visitors, Whitney said.

Whitney also told the Spokesman Review in 2005 that until Boudreau came forward, the Jesuit province had no idea that Poole had committed sexual abuse.

The Spokesman-Review, however, reported that Jesuit authorities knew since at least 1960 Poole had acted inappropriately in conversations with children about sex. Jesuit authorities said at that time that Poole had “a fixation on sex; an obsession.”

And, despite Whitney’s 2005 remarks, Jesuit officials were informed in 1997 by Bishop Michael Kaniecki, SJ, of Fairbanks that Poole had a history of sexual misconduct and abuse allegations; a fact that had been known to Kaniecki, himself a Jesuit, since 1986.

Whitney did not inform Gonzaga administrators or Spokane police that Poole and other residents were accused of sexually abuse. Despite the restrictions Whitney imposed on him, Poole regularly went to Gonzaga basketball games and its library, and met alone with a female student at least once.

On Dec. 18 Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh said he had not notified of that priests credibly accused of abuse were living on the university’s campus until 2016, although he had learned “in the years following” 2011 that priests with safety plans had previously lived there.

McCulloh said that he was wounded to learn that “the Society of Jesus had knowingly sent a man with Poole’s record of sexual abuse to live in their facility within the parameters of our campus — which serves not only as the home of college students, but regularly hosts grade-school children and visitors of all ages — without notification by the Province to the University.”

“I have asked that we be guaranteed that no Jesuit against whom credible allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse have been made ever be assigned to Gonzaga or the Jesuit communities here,” McCulloh added.

A spokesman for the Jesuits West Province, which was formed by a 2017 merger of the Oregon and California provinces of the order, said Dec. 18 that "Jesuits West guarantees that no Jesuit with a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is currently or will ever be knowingly assigned to Gonzaga University or the Jesuit community on its campus."

Such priests will instead live in a health care facility in California, the province said.

FEMM aims for data-driven approach to fertility awareness

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 17:00

Washington D.C., Dec 20, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- For some, the idea of “fertility awareness” can seem daunting- full of charts and confusing formulas. The FEMM Health App seeks to change that, by providing an easier way for women to understand their fertility, and their overall health.

FEMM, which is an acronym meaning “Fertility Education & Medical Management,” describes itself as a “comprehensive women’s health program that teaches women to understand their bodies, and hormonal and other vital signs of health.”

The health app was launched on iOS in 2016. In addition to the app, FEMM offers classes and connections with medical professionals in order to help women better understand their hormonal cycles.

FEMM is a partner of the World Youth Alliance, an NGO that says it is “committed to building free and just societies through a culture of life.”

All women, regardless of age, are able to use the FEMM Health App.

On the app, women can record data about their menstrual cycles, as well as trackable observations about their emotional and physical well-being.
 
Using the data provided to the app, each cycle will be analyzed via an algorithm. FEMM can then offer predictions for the start of the woman’s next menstrual period or ovulation date, or provide alerts if something appears to be out of the ordinary, such as an abnormally short luteal phase.

Armed with this knowledge, a woman can seek out a FEMM teacher familiar with the app to further sort out any issues, and seek further medical treatment if a problem arises.

“There isn't a single problem that I've encountered in my medical practice that can't be mitigated by using the FEMM work-up,” Dr. Mary Martin, an OB/GYN based in Oklahoma City who works with FEMM, told CNA in an interview.

“So, the best thing about it is for people who don't have as much experience, let's say, in this area, can simply go to the materials and know exactly what to order, and using the treatment algorithms, have treatment success” without having to utilize more invasive techniques or procedures.

While the algorithms prove useful for identifying underlying problems, this information can also be used by couples who are seeking to become pregnant--or for those seeking a natural way to avoid pregnancy without the use of artificial contraceptives.

Martin was rebuff to any skeptics or naysayers who say that using an app to avoid pregnancy is foolish.

"I've wagered my credibility on this," said Martin. "It works. It's based on the science of Billings ovulation method.” The FEMM Health App, she said, makes it even easier for couples to use this technique, as it will remind the woman each day at 8 p.m. to record that day’s observations.

The app also has advantages for those struggling to conceive, said Martin.

"I use the FEMM app as well for my infertile patients, so they can identify the potentially fertile days."

The advantages of FEMM, Martin explained, is that it provides a way for doctors like herself to provide actual diagnoses for issues such as endometriosis or abnormal bleeding. All of these conditions have result from an endocrine issue that must be addressed, but doctors liker herself are “not actually challenged to diagnose the underlying issue.”

“This is a breakthrough.”


Addie Mena contributed to this report.

This article was originally published on CNA July 26, 2018.

Illinois AG report says dioceses failed abuse victims

Wed, 12/19/2018 - 19:13

Springfield, Ill., Dec 19, 2018 / 05:13 pm (CNA).- Illinois’ attorney general released a report Wednesday outlining the early findings into an investigation into clerical sexual abuse in the state’s six Catholic dioceses.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan began an investigation in August, following the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing seven decades of clerical sexual allegations in six dioceses of that state.

Madigan’s Dec. 19 “status update” was released to provide “an overview of the investigation to date.”

While the report charged the dioceses of Illinois with failing to assist victims of clerical sexual abuse, follow Church policy, and sufficiently report abuse allegations, it did not identify particular instances of misconduct, or identify the scope and scale of the problems it reported.

The report said that the attorney general’s office had received hundreds of communications through a hotline it had established, many of which came from survivors of clerical sexual abuse.

“In many instances, the sexual abuse people suffered as children destroyed their lives. Survivors reported battling alcoholism, drug use, mental health crises, and suicide attempts. They spoke of failed careers, broken marriages, and strained relationships with loved ones, including their own children. Frequently, survivors shared that the abuse they suffered as children prevented them from ‘living up to their full potential.’” the report said.

“Even survivors who have gone on to lead productive lives still carry this burden. Many chillingly detailed how they followed the movements of their abusers, as the clergy were transferred around Catholic parishes. They often kept track of their abusers through the clergy’s retirement and death. The stories are heartbreaking.”

According to Madigan’s report, some survivors told the attorney general’s office that they had reported abuse to diocesan offices.

“Most shared that the diocese they contacted failed to take action against the clergy they accused of sexual abuse, or failed to follow up when they requested information about the accused. As a result, survivors have struggled to heal receive justice, and find closure. In their view, the Catholic Church continues to fail at addressing decades of clergy sexual abuse,” the report said.

Madigan’s report did not disclose how many victims of clerical sexual abuse had contacted her office, nor did it indicate how many said they had been failed by dioceses.

While Illinois’ six Catholic dioceses have publicly identified 185 clerics “credibly” accused of sexual abuse, the names of more than 500 priests or deacons accused of abuse have not been publicly disclosed, the report said.

The report did not indicate the time frame in which those allegations were made, or otherwise indicate the time frame under investigation by the attorney general’s office.

The unreported names are those of clerics who faced allegations that were either not substantiated or not investigated, the report said. Among most common reasons why some allegations would not be investigated, it found was “the fact that a clergy was either deceased or had resigned from ministry when the allegation was first reported to the diocese.”

Dioceses had also insufficiently investigated some allegations, the report said, adding that the attorney general’s office “believes that additional allegations should be deemed ‘credible’ or ‘substantiated’ by the Illinois Dioceses.”

The investigation also “found multiple examples where the Illinois Dioceses failed to notify law enforcement or DCFS of allegations they received related to clergy sexual abuse of minors.”

While its findings were only preliminary, the report said that the attorney general’s office “has reviewed enough information to conclude that the Illinois Dioceses will not resolve the clergy sexual abuse crisis on their own. It appears that the Illinois Dioceses have lost sight of both the key tenet of the Charter and the most obvious human need as a result of these abhorrent acts of abuse: the healing and reconciliation of survivors.”

“Long after legal remedies have expired, the Catholic Church has the ability and moral responsibility to survivors to offer support and services, and to take swift action to remove abusive clergy. The actions taken by the Catholic Church should always be survivor-focused and with the goal of holding abusers accountable in a transparent manner,” it concluded.
 
In response to the report, the Archdiocese of Chicago said that it was unsure whether, or how, the report might apply to its conduct.

“The nature of the report makes it difficult to discern which generalized findings apply to the Archdiocese of Chicago,” a Dec. 19 statement from the archdiocese read.

“The Archdiocese of Chicago has been at the forefront of dealing with the issue of clergy sexual abuse for nearly three decades,” the statement added.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese told CNA that its policies require it to investigate and report every allegation of clerical sexual abuse it receives, regardless of whether the accused cleric was living at the allegation was made.

“The idea that clergy sexual abuse of minors is more extensive than [we] reported is just false,” archdiocesan attorney William Kunkel told the Washington Post.

“It’s not fair to put out a list of people accused, any more than it would be fair to put out a list of accused reporters,” he added.

The Diocese of Joliet said Dec. 19 that it had “received no formal or informal indication from the Attorney General that we failed to adequately investigate any allegation of abuse and/or report it to authorities.  The Attorney General has also not informed the Diocese of Joliet of any inaccuracies or omissions in our files that would prompt additions or corrections to the list of priests with credible allegations that is on our website.”

“The Diocese of Joliet expresses its genuine regret and profound sympathy to any victims and survivors of sexual abuse by clergy in the Diocese of Joliet and elsewhere. We are committed to promoting the healing and reconciliation of survivors.”

The Diocese of Springfield also expressed regret.

“Revisiting the pain caused to victims of abuse has motivated us to redouble our commitments to the reforms undertaken many years ago and to sustain our vigilance,” Bishop Thomas Paprocki said in a Dec. 19 statement.

“Reviewing these past cases has also reminded us that many years ago people didn’t publicly discuss the kind of salacious allegations documented in these files,” Bishop Paprocki added.

“A virtuous intent to protect the faithful from scandal unfortunately prevented the transparency and awareness that has helped us confront this problem more directly over the past fifteen years. We are continuing to learn and strive to improve our assistance for those who are victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.”

Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich added similar sentiments.

"I want to express again the profound regret of the whole church for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse,” Cupich said.

“It is the courage of victim-survivors that has shed purifying light on this dark chapter in church history. Their bravery spurred my predecessor Cardinal Joseph Bernardin to establish an archdiocesan Special Commission in 1991 to examine this terrible crisis, and to develop a robust set of procedures to protect young people from predators and to establish supportive services for victim-survivors and their families.”

Those efforts continue today in the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, which is staffed by lay professionals with backgrounds in investigative services, education, social work, and therapeutic services. They work daily to protect and heal. There can be no doubt about the constant need to strengthen our culture of healing, protection, and accountability. While the vast majority of abuses took place decades ago, many victim-survivors continue to live with this unimaginable pain,” Cupich concluded.

The report did not indicate whether Madigan, the state’s chief prosecutor, had uncovered potential crimes in the course of her investigation.

Only half of US children are being raised by their married parents

Wed, 12/19/2018 - 17:35

Washington D.C., Dec 19, 2018 / 03:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- One in two: that is the current number of children in the U.S. who are being raised by both their married biological parents throughout their childhood.

“This figure is based on the proportion of 17-and-18-year-old high school students who were reported to be living with both their married birth mothers and biological fathers in 2016,” noted a report issued by the Institute for Family Studies.

“The fact that they were still living in such families at the culmination of their schooling means that the vast majority of them grew up in them since birth,” the report continued.

The report was authored by researchers Nicholas Zill and W. Bradford Wilcox, and published by the Institute of Family Studies in February. It analyzed data from a survey released by the U.S. Department of Education.

With lower marriage rates in the U.S., declining rates of children living with married parents are not a surprising find for researchers.

However, the study considered the numbers in light of several different factors, particularly including education and race.

“Among high school seniors whose parents or guardians had a college education or more, 64 percent lived with married parents throughout childhood in 2016,” the study noted.

“The more education a woman or man has, the more likely she or he is to get married and stay married when raising children.”

Only 29 percent of children whose parents or guardians had less than a high school education still lived with married parents from their birth through the end of high school.

Race was also examined in the study. Asian-American children were found to be the most stable group, with two-thirds of them living with married parents throughout their childhood. Fifty-eight percent of white children could say the same.

However, less than one-quarter of African-American children experienced a married, two-parent household, and only 45 percent of Hispanic children grew up with married parents. The study noted an additional multiracial group, of which 35 percent experienced a childhood with both married parents.

The report also examined the 50 percent of children who did not grow up with both married parents.

Overall, 23 percent of children were raised by only their birth mother. Eleven percent were raised by a birth parent and a stepparent. Six percent were raised by their birth father only. And the other 10 percent were mixed between grandparents, foster care, cohabiting birth parents, adoption, and same-sex couples.

The report also highlighted the “abundant evidence” that children fare better when both of their biological, married parents raise them throughout childhood.

“As shown in numerous analytic studies, students with stably-married parents are more likely to do well in school and less likely to cut classes, repeat grades, be suspended or expelled, or drop out,” the report said.

“Rich or poor, this is a type of advantage which parents from all social classes can bestow upon their children: the privilege of growing up in a stable, married two-parent family.”

The authors advised that American society would do well to place more efforts in promoting the marital privilege of parents for children in the country, saying the success and future of children will depend on it.

“Because the type of family in which children are raised matters a great deal to their well-being and future success, we should seek ways to enable less-educated and less-affluent parents to raise their children together in a stable family.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA March 7, 2018.

U.S. bishops 'distressed' at death of 7-year-old asylum seeker

Wed, 12/19/2018 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Dec 19, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The death of a seven-year-old asylum seeker in federal custody is a reminder that immigration policies can have life and death consequences, the U.S. bishops’ conference migration committee chairman said Tuesday.

“We are extremely distressed at the news of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin’s death shortly after crossing the U.S./Mexico border with her father and turning themselves into CBP in search of asylum in the United States. Our prayers and heart-felt condolences go out to Jakelin’s family,” Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the USCCB committee on migration, said in a Dec. 18 joint statement with Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso and Bishop Gerald Kicanas, temporary administrator of the Las Cruces diocese.

“The death of a child is always a moment of great sadness, a jarring disruption of the natural order of life.”

“From this tragedy, we must remember this profound human consequence of our failed immigration policies, including also that restrictions on the flow of asylum seekers at the border can push more families to seek entrance between ports of entry which place them at greater risk, the statement added.

Maquin died Dec. 8 in an El Paso hospital. She was apprehended two days earlier with her father, along with 161 other asylum seekers who turned themselves in to U.S. agents near a port of entry south of Lordsburg, N.M.  She and her father had traveled to the U.S. border from the small village of Raxruha, Guatemala. The journey to the U.S. took nearly a week. The pair were not a part of the so-called “migration caravans” that have sought entry into the United States in recent weeks.

In Guetemala, the girl lived a “tiny wooden house with a straw roof, dirt floors, a few bedsheets and a fire pit for cooking, where Jakelin used to sleep with her parents and three siblings. The brothers are barefoot, their feet caked with mud and their clothes in tatters,” according to the Associated Press.

At that house, “a heart constructed out of wood and wrapped in plastic announces Jakelin’s death,” the Associated Press reported.

Maquin began having seizures more than eight hours after she was apprehended. She had a fever that exceeded 105 degrees, and according to Customs and Border Protection officials, she “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”

She was airlifted to Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso, however, she went into cardiac arrest and died less than 24 hours later.

Federal officials says that Maquin’s father did not report that he or his daughter were ill when they were apprehended. Her father, Nery Gilberto Call Cruz, has insisted that the girl had food and water during the journey, according to the Guardian.

“Jakelin’s father took care of Jakelin, made sure she was fed and had sufficient water. She and her father sought asylum from border patrol as soon as they crossed the border. She had not suffered from a lack of water or food prior to approaching the border,” a statement from Cruz’ lawyer said.

Cruz’ lawyer has also claimed that forms requesting information about his daughter’s condition were made available only in English, which Cruz does not speak or read. While Cruz apparently spoke with border agents in Spanish, his primary language is Mayan Q’eqchi’, a fact which may have added to a failure of communication between Cruz and federal officials.

While federal officials say that food and water was available to Maquin while she was in custody, some have reported that available water in immigration detention facilities is often dirty and in limited supply.

Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen told reporters Friday that federal officials did all they could in the situation.

“What happened was they were about 90 miles away from where we could process them. They came in such a large crowd that it took our border patrol folks a couple times to get them all. We gave immediate care, we’ll continue to look into the situation, but again, I cannot stress enough how dangerous this journey is when migrants choose to come here illegally,” Nielson said Dec. 14.

On the same day, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said that Macquin’s was “a needless death, and it's 100 percent preventable. If we could just come together and pass some common sense laws to disincentivize people from coming up from the border and encourage them to do it the right way, the legal way, then those types of deaths, those types of assaults, those types of rapes, the child smuggling, the human trafficking that would all come to an end. And we hope Democrats join the president.”

When asked whether the presidential administration bore any responsibility for Macquin’s death, Hogan responded rhetorically: “Does the administration take responsibility for a parent taking a child on a trek through Mexico to get to this country? No.”

For their part, Vasquez and the U.S. bishops’ conference are awaiting the results of a federal investigation.

“We welcome the investigation of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. We recognize the work and commitment of CBP officers to ensure our safety, but urge CBP leadership to critically review policies regarding the care of vulnerable populations in their custody. We pledge our assistance to help CBP do so.”

“As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus, himself a child whose parents were told ‘there is no room,’ we continue to recognize and affirm that seeking asylum and protection is legal. As a nation, we have the obligation to receive distraught individuals and families with welcome, compassion, and humane treatment. We must heed the words of Christ that ‘Whatsoever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,’” the bishops concluded.

“Jakelin’s death is a tragic reminder of the desperate situation that many fleeing violence, persecution, and poverty face - both in their home countries and now at our border.”
 

 

How one organization helps the Church welcome Catholics with disabilities

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 19:52

Washington D.C., Dec 18, 2018 / 05:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Around 14 million Catholics in the U.S. are living with a disability.

Since 1982, the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) has been working to make sure those Catholics are welcomed as members of the Church and have opportunities to participate in the faith.

“The goal of NCPD is to ensure that people with any disability…can actively and meaningfully participate in the faith by using their gifts and interests,” said Janice Benton, executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability.

“By virtue of baptism, everyone belongs to the body of Christ, and our work is to make sure that we are doing that with the proper attitude and spirit to make sure everyone can feel at home in their parishes,” she told CNA.

The organization works in in a variety of ways to “affirm the dignity of every person,” Benton said.

For example, they support people with Down syndrome by supporting campaigns that fight against discriminatory legislation, such as disability-selective abortions, while also working with individuals with Down syndrome as they prepare for sacraments and take an active part in the their faith.

“We remind church communities that people with Down syndrome and other disabilities are agents of evangelization and people gifted in their own right,” Benton said.

Founded in light of the 1978 document, “Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops of People with Disabilities,” the group has been promoting the pastoral guidelines for individuals with disabilities, particularly through access to the sacraments and Church life.

The National Catholic Partnership on Disability is a collaborative organization made up of various councils to serve people who live with physical, intellectual, sensory, mental or emotional disabilities. They also partner with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Archbishop Kurtz serves as their episcopal moderator.

“We work very closely with the bishops and the offices at the USCCB,” Benton said, noting that the bishops currently do not have a disabilities office, so the NCPD plays a huge role in this area.

One of the organization’s primary tasks is working closely with publishers to provide resources for catechists and leaders who are working directly in faith formation, but they also are involved in a number of different councils and speaking engagements around the nation.

The ministry provides catechesis, resources, spirituality and awareness building tools, trainings, conferences, and ministry models to dioceses throughout the country, and additionally offers online tools such as YouTube training videos.

“We are really set up to support the people in the dioceses, and even directly in parishes, to provide the support, resources, and training that the church might need,” Benton said.

She noted that the NCPD played a major role in the revision to the “Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments,” which now aids priests, catechists and Church leaders in preparing the proper reception of the sacraments for individuals with disabilities.

While primarily ministering in the U.S., the disability resource group also works internationally with the Vatican and other groups. Esther Garcia, the outreach director for organization, said that she works with minorities, such as Asian, African, and Hispanic groups within the Church.

“The NCPD is working to ensure we are meeting the needs of families with disabilities in the Hispanic community,” Garcia said.

“We are all children of God…and it is our responsibility as a Church to provide resources and ways to ensure that [those with disabilities] have ways to receive the sacraments,” Garcia continued.

Moving forward, Benton told CNA that they are currently working on an app for sacramental preparation and Mass attendance for people with autism and other intellectual disabilities.

“We are always trying to develop resources that can easily be made available.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA March 21, 2018.

Salt Lake City diocese releases list of priests credibly accused of abuse

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 16:39

Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec 18, 2018 / 02:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following suit with many other Catholic dioceses throughout the United States in recent months, the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah has released a list of all priests credibly accused of sexual abuse involving minors since 1950.

Of the 19 men on the list, 17 were priests at the time the alleged abuses occurred. Of the two remaining, one was a seminarian at the time of alleged abuse, and the other a religious brother.

“The list of credible allegations is one step toward providing the transparency that will help repair at least some of the wounds left by the wrongful actions of priests who have abused their sacred trust,” Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake said in a statement reported by The Salt Lake Tribune.

“We continue to pray for the victims and their families and ask their forgiveness for our failure to protect them,” he added. The Diocese of Salt Lake City covers the entire state of Utah, and is home to more than 300,000 Catholics.

According to KSL News, the diocese said that it considered credible those allegations for which there was “sufficient evidence” to verify that the abuse may have occurred “such as the accused and the accuser being in the same area around the time the conduct is alleged to have happened.”

The diocese told KSL that a credible allegation is not the same as a guilty verdict, but does call for further investigation.

One priest on the list, Father David R. Gaeta, faced three accusations this year - two from the 1980s, and one from 2018.

In June of this year, Gaeta was accused of lying in bed with a minor in 1982.

In August of this year, a separate accusation was filed with the diocese against Gaeta, accusing him of offering alcohol to four minors and suggesting that they undress, also in 1982. In July of this year, Gaeta was accused of touching a child’s buttocks while pushing a swing. The case was civilly investigated, but no criminal charges were filed.

Gaeta has been placed on leave since August, and this week the diocese announced that Gaeta will retire “without faculties” on Jan. 1, meaning he will be unable to publicly present himself as a priest or publicly celebrate the sacraments.

Of the men on the list, eight are deceased - seven priests and the religious brother. Of the men who are still alive, 10 were either laicized, retired without faculties, or left the priesthood. The seminarian accused of abuse was dismissed from seminary. According to the list, no active priests credibly accused of abuse remain in active ministry in the diocese.

One of the accused men, James Rapp, was laicized and is in prison in Oklahoma. He was accused of sexually abusing four minors in Utah, and was imprisoned for abuse of minors outside of Utah. While the majority of the alleged abuses occurred prior to 2002, when the U.S. Bishops issued the Charter for Child and Youth Protection, many accusations came to light during or after that year.

In a statement on their website, the Diocese of Salt Lake said that an independent committee of lay people will review the diocese’s internal files and verify the accuracy of the information on the list. If needed, the diocese said it will update the list and publicly release any additional information provided by the lay committee.

The diocese added that it is “committed to ensuring the health and safety of young people within its community. Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or exploitation by clergy, religious or lay Church personnel and has not yet reported the incident is encouraged to do so.”

The full report can be found on the diocesan website.

Meet Lidia Bastianich, the woman who cooked for two popes

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 12:30

Brooklyn, N.Y., Dec 18, 2018 / 10:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- If you were asked to cook for the pope, what would you choose to make? This was a real question for chef Lidia Bastianich in both 2008 and 2015 – the years in which Benedict XVI and Pope Francis visited the United States.

“I remember vividly,” Bastianich told CNA. “It was an extraordinary experience.”

“When I got asked to cook for Pope Benedict, I didn’t believe it was going to happen. I remember I laughed and said, sure, Monsignor, I would love to, but is that a reality?”

Bastianich, 71, is a chef, cookbook author, and restaurateur. An Italian immigrant who came to the United States as a young girl, she is an expert in Italian-American cuisine who has hosted several cooking shows on public television. Her memoir My American Dream was published earlier this year.

The process of cooking for a pope during an apostolic journey begins well before he arrives, with the formation of a team of chefs and wait staff. From there, the menu of the meals is planned and sent to the Vatican for approval.

Benedict XVI

Doing research, Bastianich learned that Benedict’s mother had been a cook and she thought that he would have “some good food memories” from that time in his life, which she wanted to evoke.

For Benedict XVI they were scheduled to prepare two meals: a large dinner for the pope and around 50 cardinals and bishops the first night, and on the second night a smaller dinner that would also be his 80th birthday celebration.

For the first big dinner the menu included string bean salad with sheep’s milk ricotta, pickled shallots, and toasted almonds; ravioli with pecorino and pears; risotto with nettles, fava beans, and ramps; whole roasted striped bass with boiled fingerling potatoes and a frisee salad. And for dessert: apple strudel with honey vanilla ice cream.

For the dinner celebrating his birthday and his third anniversary as pope, they prepared asparagus salad with pecorino, fava beans, and green chickpeas with lemon and olive oil; and a round, flat pasta filled with meat, called “agnolini,” in chicken broth.

The main dish was a beef goulash with a side of pan-fried potatoes and onions, served with sauerkraut and sour cream for a German touch. Dessert was an apricot and ricotta crostata and a chocolate-hazelnut cake with the words “Tu es Petrus”, topped with a two-foot-tall marzipan mitre.



After the meal, Benedict told Bastianich that the meal was “very good. The flavors of my mother.”

“I was so happy that he ate, that he enjoyed it, that the memories were those of his childhood,” she said. “I wanted to make him feel at home.”

One special moment she recalls was when they brought in his birthday cake and sang “Happy Birthday” in English and Italian. They handed him the knife to cut the cake, but when he hesitated, Bastianich reached over. “I actually helped him cut it!” she laughed.

Another touching moment, Bastianich noted, took place after the dinner: a diplomat performed a violin sonata and Benedict invited the whole kitchen staff to come, sit down, and listen to the music with him.

Pope Francis

For Pope Francis, Bastianich’s first instinct was to go with an Argentine theme and serve lots of meat, but the Vatican turned down her first menu proposal because Francis must eat lighter things for his health.

Instead she chose to focus on his northern Italian heritage, preparing heirloom tomatoes, house-made burrata, and steamed lobster; capon soup with Grana Padano raviolini, veal medallions, Boscaiola, porcini, corn, and fresh tomato; and concord grape sorbet with angel food cake for his first dinner in New York.

Bastianich and her staff were also in charge of preparing Francis’ breakfasts, though all he wanted each morning was some fresh orange juice, tea, and toast.

They also prepared his bedside table at night with a glass of water and a banana, she said. “I put a few cookies, too. I wasn’t supposed to, but I put a few cookies.”

Friday’s lunch consisted of cooked and raw vegetable salad with ricotta; risotto with porcini, summer truffles, and Grana Padano Riserva; and roasted pears and grapes with vanilla gelato.

At dinner they served pear and pecorino-filled ravioli, aged pecorino, whole roasted striped bass, late summer vegetables with extra virgin olive oil and lemon, and apple crostata with local honey ice cream.



One memory of Pope Francis’ visit stands out for Bastianich in particular. After lunch on Friday, he went to rest in his room, she said. The staff were in the kitchen taking a coffee break and discussing their plans for the next meal when they suddenly heard the pope’s security staff running and shouting “Papa, Papa!”

“And all of a sudden, we see [Pope Francis] enter the kitchen,” she said. “And he peered in and said, “Posso avere un caffe, per favore?” – “Can I have a coffee, please?”

“He sipped on his espresso and he talked to each one of us. He spent a good 20 minutes with us in this simple kitchen, us dressed in our chef clothes. It was so intimate, so wonderful.”

Before leaving, she recalled that “he reached into his pocket and pulled out a rosary for each one of us, and handing it to us said, ‘pregate per me,’ pray for me … It was extraordinary.”

Her Catholic faith

Bastianich has been a Catholic from birth and said that personal prayer is very important to her. “I feel that ever more… I need to talk to God because I need his guidance,” she said.

She also noted that she has a special devotion to the Madonna of the Miraculous Medal, which she carries with her every day.

Despite growing up in communist Yugoslavia, “the faith was always a part of me, I always believed,” she said. Unfortunately, at this time, her family could not go to Mass and she had to be baptized in secret. Her grandmother taught her and her brother prayers when they would visit.

When she was 10 years old, Bastianich’s family escaped back into Italy, staying for two years in a camp for political refugees before immigrating to the U.S.

A benefactor paid for her to attend a Catholic school run by a religious order and she said that those two years were when she really learned about her faith. During this time, she would also cook with the sisters in the school’s kitchen.

Those years in the refugee camp, when food was scarce, have given her a greater appreciation for helping people out of her abundance, she said. “He gave me so much, but what he gave me is not mine to keep, I have to share, he has to show me the way that I can share what he has given me with others.”

....

Watch EWTN News Nightly's interview with Lidia Bastianich:



This article was originally published on CNA April 5, 2018.

Full of Grace Cafe: Small-town parish opens thriving coffee shop, community center

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 06:16

Baton Rouge, La., Dec 18, 2018 / 04:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Fr. Josh Johnson arrived as pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church over a year ago, he slept in a room above the choir loft.

The church and rectory had been ravaged by a flood a couple years prior that had destroyed or damaged 95 percent of the small town of St. Amant, Louisiana. The pastor of Holy Rosary had also left due to health reasons, leaving the wrecked parish without a pastor.

Knowing he was coming into a difficult situation, Johnson called in the big guns: he asked communities of cloistered nuns to surround his new parish in prayer.

“I immediately reached out to the cloistered convents and was like: ‘Hey y'all, here's the deal. I'm going to this parish that's just been devastated, can y'all please adopt this parish as spiritual mothers and intercede for these people?’” Johnson told CNA.

Then he bumped up the amount of time that the sacraments would be available to his parishioners. He rearranged the schedule so that his staff could start their day with Mass and adoration.

Fast-forward to today - the prayers of those nuns, and of the people of the parish of Holy Rosary, have come to fruition in the booming and thriving Full of Grace Cafe, a one-stop-shop community center run out of the renovated rectory.

The full name of the rectory-turned-community-center is: Full of Grace Cafe: Quenching God’s Thirst for Charity & Justice.

And the name fits, because it’s hard to come up with a service that Full of Grace Cafe doesn’t offer.

It’s a coffee shop, but it’s also a food pantry and a soup kitchen and a diaper drive and a laundromat. There are volunteer Human Resources specialists, psychological counselors, a hair stylist, a Creighton FertilityCare specialist and an ultrasound machine. There’s a room for small groups and bible studies. There’s a fireplace and a pool table and a courtyard for outdoor movie nights and socials after Mass.

That wasn’t the original vision. At first, Johnson had the simple idea to move the existing food pantry to a more prominent location, and to maybe one day open a coffee shop.

“I had a very small vision at first, just put the food pantry up front, that way when people come to our campus, you see a beautiful church, and then you see a space for service of the poor,” he said.

“And then from that, different parishioners just began to share their dreams.” All of the services are offered pro bono by parishioners who wanted to share their gifts with the community, Johnson said.

“One lady came to me and said I have the gift of doing hair, and then she said my friends do too, and we would love to come and do hair for free there. And so I said ok, cool, it can be a food pantry and a salon.”

As word got out about the cafe, the offers of help just kept coming.

“And then someone said why don't we make it a soup kitchen too? I love to cook. These people out here can cook well! So I was like ok, we can do that. Then another woman who works with me, she's a Creighton fertility care specialist, and she was like, I can walk with couples and do Creighton FertilityCare for people who are infertile or who have endometriosis or cysts on their ovaries or who want to do Natural Family Planning.”



Johnson also recruited the help of local branches of Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul, and other non-profits in the area to bolster the services and to provide legal help and counseling.

He said he hopes to bring Jesus to people in a way that is non-threatening, in a way that informs, but doesn’t force anything. He said he wants people to feel heard, and for them to know that the cafe is a place where people can come and mutually share their gifts and their lives.

“The goal is really to have a place where the body of Christ can come together to give and receive,” he said.

“I'm going there to receive too, I'm certainly going to give in there, but I'm also receiving. Like when I do a bible study with our parishioners, God speaks to me through their wisdom and through their love for the Lord. And whenever I'm with the poor I'm receiving as much as I'm giving, so its a place of mutuality, where I can give to you and I can receive your gift and we can accompany each other toward heaven.”

Johnson is not foreign to mission work. Before he became a priest, he spent time serving with Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity, in Calcutta, India. He’s served the poor with a religious order in Jamaica, and several years ago he was on mission at the U.S.-Mexico border.

But the cafe is just a means, Johnson said, not an end. The goal is to point people to Jesus, and ultimately, to make saints.

“On the wall for (Mother Teresa’s) home for the dying and the destitute, there's a quote on the wall that Mother Teresa said to God,” Johnson said. “She said: I will give Holy Mother Church saints. And I remember when I saw that quote it pierced my heart, so it’s on my ordination card...and this is my way of drawing people to the sacraments.”

Johnson himself left the Church when he was young. What brought him back, he said, was the Eucharist.

“The Eucharist is what brought me back to Jesus and so I believe if I could just get people to come to our campus, then I have the opportunity to point them to Jesus and the Eucharist because the Eucharist is where transformation happens,” he said.

“The Eucharist is going to do everything else, I've seen Jesus work miracles, it’s so cool,” he said.

He’s invited Protestants to come to Eucharistic adoration at his parish, and “I've just seen legit transformations... people who don't even know what's going on have these hardcore transformations because Jesus is alive, and I think we just need to believe that Jesus is God and that he can do what he says he does.”

Johnson has endless stories of all kinds of providential encounters that have happened through the Full of Grace Cafe. There was Micky, a homeless man who wanted community and is now connected to a bible study. There was a distressed young man in the parking lot who needed a job - and was able to take a roofing job that another man had told Johnson about the day before.

Something else Johnson wanted to emphasize was the evangelizing aspect of the Full of Grace Cafe. He didn’t just want to offer food or laundry services to people in need without also trying to tell them about Jesus, he said.

“One thing I noticed in seminary, helping out at Catholic apostolates, when they did work for the poor and with the poor, they wouldn't evangelize well,” he said. “They would give people food, like handouts and stuff, but they wouldn't try to tell people about the story of salvation, and share Jesus with people and really proclaim the faith.”

That’s why in every room of Full of Grace Cafe, there are scripture verses on the wall and pictures of saints. “And they're really diverse saints, because I want everyone who comes to see a saint who looks like them,” he said, from Our Lady of Kibeho to Our Lady of Guadalupe to Fr. Augustus Tolton, St. Jose Sanchez, St. Dymphna, Saints Peter and Paul and more.

“So whether you're white, black, Asian or Hispanic, you're going to see someone who looks like you who's a saint, so you're going to be inspired. You're going to see scriptures on the wall. You're going to meet people who aren't just going to give you a hand-out, but who are going to ask you your story and ask if they can pray with you. I want it to be a place where people would legit encounter Jesus.”

He’s also hoping that he will find an order of religious sisters who will fill the convent in the back of the cafe and help out at the parish.

“I want nuns!” he said. So far he’s had a few different orders of religious sisters come and visit to see if the parish would fit them.

“I want nuns who love Jesus and who love the poor and who love the Blessed Sacrament,” he said.

Johnson said one of the most rewarding things about Full of Grace Cafe has been seeing how willing his parishioners are to pitch in and share their gifts with the community.



“They're like my kids,” he said of his parishioners. “It’s like wow, I'm younger than them because I’m only 31, but I'm like oh man, look at my kids, they're happy about this, they're excited about doing ministry.”

“I recognize I am a limited member of the Body of Christ,” he added. “I'm a necessary member for sure, but I'm very limited, my role is limited, so if I can just build up my parishioners to say yes to being the particular member of the body of Christ that they're called to be, I've done my job well because then we're gonna run, we're gonna thrive.”

The projects at Holy Rosary parish and Full of Grace Cafe have only just begun.

Taking another cue from Mother Teresa, the next step for Johnson is, unsurprisingly, building an adoration chapel and setting up perpetual adoration.

“I've been telling people ok, now, we have to set up perpetual adoration because I don't want any of us to become a bunch of heretics out here thinking we're gonna work our way to heaven,” he said. “We've got to focus on the Eucharist and we're going to see so much more supernatural fruit.”

He said that when Mother Teresa’s sisters prioritized time in prayer in front of the Eucharist, they saw their order and apostolates flourish in new ways.

“We're going to follow the model of saints,” he said. “We're going to next focus on getting an adoration chapel built so that we can have really hardcore time of just Jesus and I, and adore the Lord and watch him work! Watch the Lord do his thing, and he will, he will. It’s so exciting.”

All photos courtesy of Fr. Joshua Johnson.

California priest convicted of sexually assaulting San Diego seminarian

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 18:26

San Diego, Calif., Dec 17, 2018 / 04:26 pm (CNA).- A California priest was convicted Monday of sexually assaulting a seminarian. After his conviction, Fr. Juan Garcia Castillo will be listed on California’s sex offender registry, and could face up to six months of incarceration.

During a week-long trial, the San Diego seminarian assaulted by Castillo testified that the priest approached him Feb. 4 in a restaurant bathroom and groped his genitals twice.

The assault followed a night in which Castillo took two seminarians to a bar and restaurant after an event at St. Patrick’s Parish in Carlsbad, where the priest served as parochial vicar. The seminarian said they had several drinks, and that Castillo encouraged him to drink to excess.

The seminarian testified that he went to the bathroom sick after midnight, and that Castillo approach him from behind and groped him.

In September, a spokesman for the Diocese of San Diego told CNA that the diocese had not publicly commented on the allegations because “we need to see what happens to the criminal case because the issue of consent is so important and if it’s not clear, we wait for that to get made clear.”

Castillo's defense did not address consent, but instead denied that contact between the men was sexual.

The priest told jurors Dec. 14 that when he touched the seminarian, he was trying to put pressure on the man’s stomach in order to help him stop vomiting, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Castillo told jurors he put one hand on the seminarian’s back and then “tried to put my other hand on his stomach.”

“My mom always put pressure on my stomach to calm down, stop the vomiting. That’s what I was taught as a kid,” he said. Castillo added that he might have “accidentally” touched the seminarian’s genitals, but that he couldn’t recall.

Castillo sent text messages to the seminarian after the incident, offering apologies, but not specifying what the apologies were for, San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Castillo told jurors he was apologizing for encouraging the seminarian to drink to excess. However, in one exchange, a seminarian accused the priest of “sexually com[ing] on to seminarians.”

Castillo responded: “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

A jury decided Dec. 17 that Castillo’s contact constituted misdemeanor sexual battery. He is expected to be sentenced within a month.

Castillo, who is also known as Juan Gabriel Castillo, is a member of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, a religious community of priests also known as the Eudists. The priest, 35, was born in Honduras, and in 2011 was ordained a priest at St. Patrick’s Parish by Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego said that “upon reviewing the facts regarding the allegation of sexual assault against Father Castillo, the diocese of San Diego removed him from ministry in the diocese immediately and permanently.”

“We are deeply saddened by the victimization of one of our students, and the damage to society and the Church that it represents.”

Pro-life group concerned over NIH head’s support of fetal tissue research

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 16:53

Washington D.C., Dec 17, 2018 / 02:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A pro-life group dedicated to electing pro-life officials is calling on U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration to “correct” comments supportive of fetal tissue sales and research, recently made by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins.

At a meeting of an NIH advisory panel in Maryland on Dec. 13, Collins said that while fetal tissue sales are currently being audited by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and alternatives to fetal tissue are being explored, fetal tissue “will continue to be the mainstay” of federal scientific research.

“There is strong evidence that scientific benefits can come from fetal tissue research, which can be done with an ethical framework,” he added.

His comments come at a time when HHS, the parent agency of NIH, has terminated contracts with groups over their use of fetal stem cell tissue, has declined new contracts with other groups over the same, is auditing the use of fetal stem cell tissue throughout the department, and is exploring alternatives to the use of fetal tissue research.

For the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, a pro-life group that works to end abortion and elect pro-life officials, the remark drew deep concern.

The comments from Collins “put him at odds with HHS and the whole Trump Administration in the audit process and begs the question of whether anything can truly change while he’s in charge at NIH,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA List, said in a statement.

“We urge HHS to correct his comments, which are dramatically out of step both with President Trump and the pro-life voters who elected him,” Dannenfelser said.

In comments to reporters, Collins argued that fetal tissue is necessary for certain kinds of research, and said that “even for somebody who is very supportive of the pro-life position, you can make a strong case for this being an ethical stance...That if something can be done with these tissues that might save somebody’s life downstream, perhaps that’s a better choice than discarding them.”

Dannenfelser said in her statement that “there is absolutely no moral or ethical justification for treating these children like commodities to be chopped up and sold piece-by-piece to anyone - especially the federal government with taxpayers footing the bill.”

“These hearts, eyes, livers and brains belong to fellow members of the human family. They are ‘harvested’ following abortions that deprive these unborn boys and girls of their right to life,” she said.

She urged correction of Collins, noting that pro-life voters are looking to the administration for pro-life action.

“Pro-life voters across America reject the use of their tax dollars to purchase the ‘fresh’ body parts of unborn children and are looking for a pro-life policy change.”

 

Pennsylvania diocese opening faith-based addiction recovery high school

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 05:34

Allentown, Pa., Dec 17, 2018 / 03:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, is opening a drug and alcohol recovery high school for students, combining education, counseling, and faith in promoting healing.

Kolbe Academy will start its first term in September 2019. It will be a Catholic high school for students dealing with addiction, looking to recover from drug or alcohol abuse.

The academy is named after St. Maximillian Kolbe, who is the patron saint of people struggling with addiction.

Before entering the school, a student must have reached at least 30 days of sobriety. The school’s tuition will be about $16,000, which is similar to a 28-day treatment program. According to the diocese, it expects to establish scholarships to assist students with tuition.

Brook Tusche, the diocesan deputy superintendent of secondary and special education, told CNA that she had first discovered recovery schools after working in the public school system. She said the lack of effective resources in public schools for students with substance abuse was frustrating.

Normally, students who undergo treatment have only a 20 percent chance of sustaining their sobriety when they re-enter school. In comparison, she said recovery high schools have an 85 percent success rate maintaining sobriety.

After serving as a special education supervisor and director at a public school, Tusche was asked to join a recovery charter school. However, she found that secular recovery schools were still missing an important aspect – faith, described by Alcoholics Anonymous and similar groups as accepting a higher power.

“Many of these models were private, public, or charter, and they were not engaging a faith component,” she said. “Being actively engaged in my faith family and my work, I learned so much about addiction and recovery that the faith component is it. That’s the missing piece.”

Tusche pointed to a study conducted by the Pew Foundation, which highlighted the role of faith in the healing process. She said the study looked at those who reached long term recovery, 10 years or more of sobriety, and uncovered a widespread connection to faith.

“Those addicts in the recovery said the single reason they were able to maintain their sobriety and continue to grow in their recovery was because of their faith.”

In 2017, there were more than 72,000 drug overdose deaths in the nation, Tusche said, and Pennsylvania was the state with the fourth-highest overdose rates.

Kolbe Academy will accept about 80-90 students, in order to ensure an environment conducive to healing.

“That is done very deliberately to keeping a very small environment so that we really can cultivate the family component as well as the students’ individual healing and recovery,” Tusche said.

The program is a trifecta of sorts, promoting healing through a strong diocesan curriculum, intensive counseling, and a plethora of spiritual and sacramental opportunities.

Part of the education, she said, will be an online component. This is especially important for students whose school life has been impaired through their addiction or the initiation of their recovery. The virtual class option will allow students to catch up on the credits they may have missed.

The school will also utilize a variety of mental health professionals, including certified recovery specialists, certified coaches, and drug and alcohol certified counselors.

Part of the school’s goal, Tusche said, is to direct students to develop a peer-to-peer fellowship model.

“Recovery is more than just putting down the substance…[it’s] really understanding who they are themselves, understanding their strengths, some of their triggers for them.”

A major aspect of the counseling process will be family counseling and the development of a family support system. Because addiction affects family, friends, and the community, Tusche said, it is important to undergo healing along with the community.

“In order for true healing to happen, we all have to experience that healing, and families and friends need to be a part of that process because [the addicted] struggle with a stigma, with their own sense of guilt and shame, their own enabling.”

The family support will deal with a spectrum of experience levels – parents who may never have previously encountered addiction in their lives or parents who themselves struggle with addictive habits. The school will look to connect those families with other resources in the community, such as Catholic Charities.

The final aspect of the recovery program is spiritual – the school will include frequent prayer and service opportunities, seeking to reach students of all faiths.

It will be an “authentically Catholic experience with Mass, sacraments, with prayers in every class, with service, with campus ministry, and opportunit[ies] for kids who are Catholic and who are not Catholic to come in and experience what higher power is,” Tusche said.

While many high schools have a zero-tolerance policy, meaning students are expelled if they are caught even once with drugs or alcohol, Kolbe Academy will work with students to discover the reasons behind the relapse. Tusche clarified that the school will not tolerate terrorist threats, weapons, or intent to distribute.

“For individual use or relapse that may or may not have happened on campus, we are going to work with students for their safety and for their continued healing,” she said. “That may mean increased drug testing, increased accountability, [and] increased counseling sessions.”

Relapse does not always occur, but if it does happen, it is important for students to recognize the reasons behind the relapse, she said. Students can learn to identify the triggers which appeared before the relapse and the behavior that set them up for that regression.

“The most important thing in a relapse isn’t the actual day they brought the substance into their system, it’s looking back prior to that because a relapse really is behavioral, the thinking behind a relapse starts before they actually ingest that chemical.”

With the statistics pointing to rapidly increasing overdose deaths nationwide, Tusche voiced hope that faith-based recovery schools will be modeled throughout the country.

“Clearly, there is opportunity for and a need for more of this model, not only here locally, but when you look at those staggering statistics – 72,000 lives lost – this could be a national model in integrating quality academics, intensive recovery support in a faith based environment to help these kids heal, and really embrace their true identity and God’s purpose for their life.”

 

The cycle of porn and loneliness

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 18:46

Richmond, Va., Dec 16, 2018 / 04:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Andy*, a devout Catholic and recently married man in his twenties, encountered a vicious cycle of pornography in high school and some college – a cycle of porn and loneliness.  

“[Porn] would create this whole loneliness, but then, [because of] that loneliness itself, I was seeking for some sort of connection and I was seeking that through the use of pornography, like this reciprocating cycle,” he told CNA.

Starting sophomore year of high school and ending sometime in college, Andy’s porn use would also make him feel shame about interacting with people. It would lead him to be more anti-social, then to loneliness, and ultimately to more porn use. He said it was real, human connection which broke that cycle.

“I found that one of the things that actually helped me break that cycle was actually more interaction with people that were really good friends and people that were there for me.”

Andy’s experience is not uncommon, according to a recent study from the Institute of Family Studies.

IFS linked greater porn use to increased loneliness and higher levels of loneliness to more porn use, pointing to a vicious and unhealthy cycle. One of the men behind the study, Mark Butler, wrote an article describing the research.

“If loneliness can lead to pornography use, and pornography use may bring about or intensify loneliness, these circular linkages may create a vicious cycle, pulling the user even further from health-promoting relationship connections,” he wrote July 3.

The study surveyed more than 1,000 people from around the world, and a statistical model was developed to analyze the potential reasons behind this cycle of loneliness and porn use.

Butler wrote that “each incremental increase in loneliness was associated with an increase in pornography use (by a factor of 0.16), and each incremental increase in pornography use predicted a significant increase in loneliness (by a factor of 0.20).”

“While the magnitude of effects was small, they were statistically significant,” Butler wrote. “Interlocking partnerships like this are worrisome since they represent an entrapment template associated with addiction.”

The model highlights the biological experience and results of the sexual system that ought to produce greater relational connection through pleasure and comfort.

“First, there’s the physical pleasure of arousal, intercourse, and climax – the engine designed to ensure offspring. Then, after climax, partners experience the brain’s 'love' plan for pair bonding, when oxytocin … is released, producing feelings of comfort, connection, and closeness.”

However, without a partner with whom to bond, the sexual activity produces a false relationship experience, “offering temporary ‘relief’ from lonely feeling, but soon enough, the user again faces a real-world relationship void,” he said.  

The mental fantasy of a relationship experience invited by pornography “only tricks the brain for a while,” Butler said.

“The user can’t escape the fact that when the experience is over, they’re still alone in an empty room. So, when sexual intoxication wears off, the experience may only end up excavating a deeper emptiness – a setup for a vicious cycle.”

The temporary escape from the long term loneliness creates a false-belief that porn is a “fix” for loneliness, he said, noting that it is similar to drug addictions.  

“The sexual system’s combination of two very different rewards – intense sensual gratification during arousal and climax, followed by oxytocin’s relief and comfort during the resolution period – could be thought of like a combined cocaine-valium experience and ‘hook.’”

“We hypothesize that this experience could create the potential for getting trapped in the short-term, feel-good escape of pornography joined with long-term loneliness.”

Butler also pointed to other studies that show a decrease in porn use after marriage, suggesting that human connection contrasts with this vicious cycle.

“Married persons use pornography less than single persons. The fact that pornography use decreases after marriage may hint at a link between pornography, relational success, and loneliness.”

 

*Name changed to respect privacy

This article was originally published on CNA July 11, 2018.

How this classical Catholic school welcomes children with Down syndrome

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 16:47

Louisville, Ky., Dec 16, 2018 / 02:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Students with Down syndrome study Latin and logic alongside their classmates at Immaculata Classical Academy, a Catholic school in Louisville, Ky., that integrates students with special needs into each of their pre-K through 12 classrooms.

The school emphasizes “education of the heart,” along with an educational philosophy tailored to the abilities of each student. About 15 percent of students at Immaculata have special needs.

“When you look at these students with Down syndrome in a classical setting, it is truly what a classical education is all about -- what it truly means to be human,” the school’s founder, Michael Michalak, told CNA.

“You can't learn compassion in a book,” Michalak explained.  He said the students at Immaculata are gaining “the ability to give of yourself to help others” through mutual mentoring constantly taking place in the classrooms.  

Michalek founded the academy along with his wife, Penny, in 2010. The couple saw a need for a Catholic school in which students like their daughter, Elena, who has Down syndrome, would not be segregated from her siblings. They wanted to keep their children together without compromising educational quality or spiritual formation.

“A classical education is, I think, the best education for a child with special needs because it is an education in everything that is beautiful, true, and good. It is perfect for these children,” Penny told CNA.

The school’s course schedule is configured so that students can move up or down grade levels by subject at each class hour, according to individual needs. “A second-grader might go to third grade math class and a child with Down syndrome in second grade might go over to first grade or might stay in second grade,” Michael Michalak explained. “Nobody is looking around and saying, 'Oh, they are going to special classroom.’ They are just going where they need to be.”

“In the midst of all of this we are not leaving students behind,” Penny added, “We keep our high academic standards while integrating students with special needs.”

Since its founding, the independent Catholic school has grown to a student body of 160. Other Catholic schools across the country have begun looking to Immaculata as a model, the Michalaks say.

“Whenever anyone visits our school, they always say, ‘Oh my goodness the joy of this place!’” Penny told CNA.

The couple attributes the school’s sense of joy to the Holy Spirit and “the joy of belonging.”

“Inclusion is more of a buzzword these days, but it is true that we all want to belong and we all want to be loved,” said Michael Michalek.

"Prayer is the air that we breathe. We start the day with prayer. Every class starts with a prayer and ends in a prayer,” said Penny, who entrusted the school to our Our Lady at the school’s founding with St. Maximilian Kolbe as its patron.

"Our whole philosophy is to teach every child as if we were teaching the Christ child, so that is how we handle each and every student," Penny continued.

A developing religious community, the Sisters of the Fiat, also teach at Immaculata. The sisters take an additional vow to serve those with with special needs, along with the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

The school’s founders say they are aware of their unique witness and role in a world where many children with Down syndrome are aborted. The estimated termination rate for children prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome in the United States is 67 percent; 77 percent in France; and Denmark, 98 percent, according to CBS News.

At the annual March for Life in Washington, DC, students from Immaculata Classical Academy hold signs that read, “Abortion is not the cure for Down syndrome." The students are united in mission as “a pro-life school” and pray together for an end to abortion for their brothers and sisters with Down syndrome around the world, Michalak said.

The Michalaks have also adopted three children with Down syndrome.

Michael sees the founding of a school like Immaculata as the natural Catholic response at a moment in history when children with Down syndrome are especially at risk.

"Look at what the Catholic Church has done throughout history: We see orphans; we build orphanages. We see sick people; we build hospitals. It is in this particular time and place that we saw the need to take the lead on this and to start a school that incorporates the whole family.”

His wife adds, “When you are doing something that you feel called by God to do, it is a vocation, it is a mission, it is a calling...how can you not be full of joy when you know that this is the will of God. It is very rewarding.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA Feb. 2, 2018.

New Jersey bishops finalizing plans to compensate sex abuse victims

Sat, 12/15/2018 - 19:42

Newark, N.J., Dec 15, 2018 / 05:42 pm (CNA).- In the wake of sex abuse allegations against a former cardinal, the Catholic bishops of New Jersey have announced the creation of a fund to compensate victims of clergy sex abuse, while details of similar funds in Pennsylvania are also being finalized.

The New Jersey program aims to compensate “eligible victims of child sexual abuse including those whose financial claims are legally barred by New Jersey's statute of limitations,” the New Jersey Catholic Conference said in a Dec. 14 statement. “This program follows the many initiatives adopted by the Catholic dioceses in New Jersey since 2002 to implement safeguards and procedures to provide safe environments for children and to provide assistance to victims.”

Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille Biros will design, implement and administer the statewide compensation program. Feinberg is an attorney and mediator who headed the September 11 victims’ compensation fund.
 
He and Biros have adminsitered sex abuse victims compensation programs for many diocese in New York and Pennsylvania. New Jersey’s bishops described them as “respected internationally.”

The program will accept submissions of individual claims of sexual abuse of a minor, evaluate the claims, and settle them. It will be independent of any participating diocese. Program administrators will have “complete autonomy” to determine if a claim is eligible and what amount to compensate a victim.

The Catholic Church in New Jersey has already paid out $50 million in settlements to abuse victims, mostly involving claims where lawsuits are barred by the statute of limitations on civil actions, the Catholic bishops of the state said.

“This will give victims a formal voice and allow them to be heard by an independent panel,” the Newark archdiocese said last month in an announcement that the program was under development.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark said last month that “the program also will assure that victims who have not received any financial compensation will be paid, regardless of whether their claims meet the time requirements of the statute of limitations.”

Tobin added that New Jersey’s dioceses will “undertake a complete review of their files” and release the names of all priests and deacons who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. The list is expected to be released in early 2019.

In September, New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the creation of a task force in the state to investigate the allegations of sexual abuse and cover up.

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop emeritus of Washington, headed the Newark archdiocese from 1986 to 2000 and was the first Bishop of Metuchen when it was founded in 1982.

In the early 2000s, the Archdiocese of Newark and the dioceses of Trenton and Metuchen paid settlements to men who alleged they were abused by McCarrick when they were adults studying in seminary. These settlements were not public knowledge until the summer of 2018, after two men came forward to say that they had been abused by McCarrick as minors.

Cardinal Tobin told journalist Mike Kelly he had heard rumors of McCarrick’s sexual misconduct soon after he became Archbishop of Newark in 2017, but did not investigate because he found the rumors unbelievable.

In neighboring Pennsylvania, a grand jury report published in August claimed to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 300 credibly accused priests. It presented a devastating portrait of efforts by Church authorities to ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations, either to protect accused priests or to spare the Church scandal.

The accusations concerned incidents that are often decades old. Most of the priests accused of abuse have died.

Seven of the eight Roman Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania have said they will create compensation funds for victims of clergy sex abuse. The Altoona-Johnstown diocese started its own victim assistance program in 1999.

Bishop Lawrence Persico of Erie, Pa. announced details of a victims’ compensation fund on Friday, the Erie Times-News reports. That fund will also be administered by Feinberg and Biros, who are administering other funds in Pennsylvania.

“It is my sincere hope that the establishment of the Diocese of Erie’s Survivors’ Reparation Fund will provide some measure of justice, closure and validation for the terrible acts that victims endured,” Persico said. “Although money will never fully heal the deep wounds felt by survivors, this fund is a crucial step in the diocese’s ongoing reconciliation and reform efforts.”

Victims could have access to the fund by mid-February, with a claims period open for six months.

Known victims of abuse, whether by diocesan clergy, lay employees or diocesan volunteers, will be notified by letter.

Those victims not known to the diocese may submit a form on the Diocese of Erie’s website. Those who claim abuse will be asked to submit documents backing their claim.

Both minors and vulnerable adults will be eligible for the first phase of compensation, but not those who were victimized by members of religious orders.

The fund administrators will determine compensation based on many factors including the severity and duration of abuse; the age of the victim at the time of abuse; whether the diocese failed to act on prior knowledge of the accused abuser; when the abuse was reported; and the credibility of the claim.

Victims who accept compensation will be required to waive any rights they have against the diocese related to sex abuse allegations.

Persico emphasized that victims who accept compensation will not be obligated to refrain from public comment or public disclosure of abuse.

The estates of deceased victims and victims of non-diocesan personnel could be compensated in a second phase, depending on future contributions from insurance companies and religious orders.

Persico has said he favors such a compensation fund rather than a two-year window for victims of past sexual abuse to sue in cases where the statute of limitations for civil action has expired. Such legislation is stalled in the Pennsylvania legislature.

The diocese has argued that even if the statutes of limitations is lifted, the first claimants could receive significant judgments that leave little compensation for the majority of other victims.

Persico has backed an end to the abolition of statute of limitation for criminal penalties for sex abuse.

Pennsylvania AG files challenge to new federal religious freedom rules

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 23:01

Harrisburg, Pa., Dec 14, 2018 / 09:01 pm (CNA).- New rules are set to ensure strong religious exemptions to federal mandates requiring employer health care plans to provide birth control coverage, but Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s legal challenge could derail them.

“Families rely on the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee to afford care,” Shapiro said Dec. 14. “Congress hasn’t changed the law, and the president can’t simply ignore it with an illegal rule.”

He filed an amended complaint Friday challenging the Trump administration’s final religious exemption rules, set to take effect Jan. 14, 2019. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal joined the complaint, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Shapiro’s complaint makes several claims, including charges that the new rules violate the separation of church and state and allow employers to discriminate on the basis of sex.

On Nov. 7, the Trump administration released two updated rules concerning conscience protections for organizations and individuals in relation to the Department of Health and Human Services’ so-called contraception mandate.

The rules allow colleges, universities, and health insurance companies to decline to cover contraceptives, including drugs that can cause abortion, whether for religious or non-religious moral objections.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the new rules as “common-sense regulations that allow those with sincerely held religious or moral convictions opposing abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception to exclude such drugs and devices from their health plans.”

Mark Rienzi, president of the Becket religious liberty legal group, praised the new rules, saying they signaled the end of a “long, unnecessary culture war.” Rienzi’s legal group represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have challenged mandates requiring them to provide such coverage to employees.

“All that is left is for state governments to admit that there are many ways to deliver these services without nuns, and the Little Sisters can return to serving the elderly poor in peace,” Rienzi said last month.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are currently being sued by the attorneys general of Pennsylvania and California, which challenge their religious exemptions allowing them to decline to provide the coverage to which they object.

The U.S. Supreme Court had barred enforcement of the mandate on closely held private companies in its 2014 case involving Hobby Lobby, which is owned by an Evangelical Christian family that objected to some of the mandated drugs.

In May 2016, the Supreme Court voided the federal circuit court decisions involving other plaintiffs challenging the mandate and sent these cases back to their respective federal courts. The court directed the lower courts to give all parties time to come to an agreement that satisfied their needs.

The Little Sisters of the Poor case, Zubik v. Burwell, is named for Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, who is a plaintiff.

Bishop Zubik came under fire for his diocese’s handling of sex abuse cases after Shapiro’s office in August released a grand jury report on six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, citing allegations of abuse over a span of decades.

The Trump administration’s 2017 religious exemptions to the HHS rule were still being litigated in court. A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel on Thursday lifted a district court’s preliminary nationwide injunction against the 2017 religious exemptions, but allowed the injunction to stand in the five states that have filed legal challenges.

The majority decision by Ninth Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace acknowledged that free exercise of religion and conscience are “undoubtedly, fundamentally important.”

“Protecting religious liberty and conscience is obviously in the public interest. However, balancing the equities is not an exact science,” the decision continued. The majority said the appellate court lacked sufficient basis “to second-guess the district court and to conclude that its decision was illogical, implausible, or without support in the record.”

The decision faulted federal officials for not satisfying the rules of the Administrative Procedure Act, including requirements for public comment on new rules.

A nationwide injunction against the 2017 rules was still in effect in Pennsylvania, however.

Last month the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a 2014 District Court decision against EWTN Global Catholic Network, the parent company of Catholic News Agency, in its lawsuit against the mandate.

Under the terms of the settlement with Department of Health and Human Services, EWTN will not be required to provide contraception, sterilization, or abortifacients through its employee health care plan.

Minn. archbishop announces moves to end culture fostering clergy abuse

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 22:01

St. Paul, Minn., Dec 14, 2018 / 08:01 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis announced Friday several changes meant “to change the culture that fostered the clergy abuse crisis.”

Among these are the creation of a new position within the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to ensure that “the voice of survivors of clergy sexual abuse will be regularly heard within Archdiocesan leadership,” Hebda wrote in a Dec. 14 letter.

“To strengthen that voice, I want to say again today that any survivor who at any time entered into a settlement agreement containing a confidentiality provision is released from that provision,” he added.

“I also reiterate my pledge to meet with any survivors who would like to do so.”

Hebda wrote that he plans to make himself available to survivors of abuse all Friday afternoons in February, March, and April, as well as other times and places. Planning for spiritual outreach in 2019 is also underway, he said.

Hebda reiterated that he strongly favors a “lay-led mechanism for investigating and assessing any allegations made against me or any other bishop.”

Hebda’s predecessor, Archbishop John Nienstedt, was the subject of a misconduct allegation involving adult males in 2014. Nienstedt delegated the investigation to his senior auxiliary bishop, who submitted the investigative materials to then-Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò after seeking the counsel of two law firms. In addition, the allegations against Nienstedt were provided to the county attorney’s office.

However, the situation remains “unresolved for the accusers, for Archbishop Nienstedt and for the public” because Hebda said as far as he knows, the Vatican’s effort into the investigation ended when Archbishop Nienstedt resigned his office in June 2015.

Archbishop Viganò has since denied that he ordered the Vatican’s investigation of Nienstedt to be halted.

Hebda wrote of the investigation: “I share the frustration that is felt by them, and believe this situation highlights the need for a better-defined process and independent mechanism to resolve allegations made against bishops.”

An additional allegation emerged that then-bishop of New Ulm Nienstedt, at a 2005 World Youth Day event in Germany, had invited minors to his hotel room, proceeded to undress and had invited them to do the same – an account which Nienstedt denies. Hebda said he transmitted information about this allegation to the nuncio in 2016.

“I have been asked repeatedly whether there are any restrictions on Archbishop Nienstedt’s ministry,” Hebda wrote.

“My answer has always been that although I do not know of any, I am the wrong person to ask: Bishops report to the Holy Father, not to each other. I have no general juridical authority over Archbishop Nienstedt or any other bishop outside the Archdiocese.”

However, Hebda did offer clarification that Nienstedt, like any priest facing misconduct allegations, “would not be free to exercise public ministry in this Archdiocese until all open allegations are resolved.”

Hebda said he would continue to advocate for an independent review board, and would commit to transmitting the entire 2014 archdiocesan investigation to whatever national or regional review board is created.

“In order to fully address bishop accountability, the Church needs a national or regional board empowered to act, much as our well-respected Ministerial Review Board has been empowered to address allegations involving our priests and deacons,” the archbishop wrote.

“The Church cannot fulfill its mission without public trust.”

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