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Updated: 1 hour 37 min ago

In wake of elections, Archbishop Gómez calls for peace amid protests

Mon, 11/14/2016 - 12:03

Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 14, 2016 / 10:03 am (CNA).- Archbishop José H. Gomez called for mercy and an end to deportations during an interfaith prayer service Nov. 10 for peace, solidarity and unity at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

“In this country, we need to start building bridges and bringing people together,” he said. “We need to reach out to those who are hurting. Now is the time to build unity and heal communities, through our love for our neighbor and our care for those in need. That’s what tonight is about. Not politics. It’s about people.”

The archbishop and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti organized the prayer service as a sign of unity and solidarity amid the uncertainty and fear that has followed the Nov. 8 elections. The archbishop drew particular attention to immigrant communities.

“Tonight in America, children are afraid. Men and women are worried and anxious, thinking about where they can run and hide. This is happening tonight, in America,” the archbishop said.

“The answer is not angry words or violence in the streets. It never solves anything. It only inflames it more. We need to be people of peace, people of compassion. Love not hate. Mercy not revenge,” he added. “These are the tools to rebuild our nation and renew the American dream. Tonight we promise our brothers and sisters who are undocumented — we will never leave you alone.”

During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump vowed to undo what he called President Barack Obama’s “overreaching” executive orders. Those executive actions included protections for children of undocumented immigrants. Despite Obama’s measures, as the archbishop noted, more than two million have been deported in the last eight years.

“No one seems to care. Except that little girl or little boy who comes home at night — and he or she knows his or her father isn’t there anymore,” he said. The U.S. bishops have been calling for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system for more than 15 years.

“Let’s pray tonight, in a special way — that our leaders will find it in their hearts to make a beautiful, humanitarian gesture,” the archbishop added. “Let’s pray that they can come together, in a spirit of national unity, and agree to stop the threat of deportations — until we can fix our broken immigration system.”  

Mayor Garcetti called for solidarity among all people of faith.

“People turn to God in moments like this, he said. “The divisions of this last week, and for these past months, have in many ways torn us apart.”

While hundreds prayed in the cathedral, hundreds of Trump protestors gathered in the streets of Downtown Los Angeles for a second consecutive night. The mayor, while applauding the “new generation” for “expressing themselves,” asked that they “respect people’s property” and be more careful with where they marched.

“It’s never good to play on the freeway,” he said, referring to the Nov. 9 protestors who blocked the 101. “I hope President-elect Trump will hear our feelings, not just in this city, but in our country, and that he will seek to understand.”

The archbishop and the mayor were joined by Rabbi Sharon Brous, founder and senior rabbi of the Ikar Jewish Community of Los Angeles, Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Reverend Najuma Smith-Pollard of the Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement and Father Alexei Smith, a Melkite Greek Catholic priest who heads the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

“These are no longer ordinary times,” Rabbi Brous said. “Now it is upon all of us to respond to the millions of immigrants, to the Muslims, to the people of color, to LGBT people and people with disabilities — all of those who have been threatened by the vicious rhetoric of the past year and a half. We are with you now and every day for the next four years and far beyond that.”

This story originally ran on L.A.'s Angelus News.

MIT to host first 'Gold Mass' for Catholic scientists

Sat, 11/12/2016 - 18:01

Boston, Mass., Nov 12, 2016 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Society of Catholic Scientists will hold its first ever Gold Mass on Nov. 15, the feast day of St. Albert the Great, patron saint of scientists.

  The Mass will be held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) chapel on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m., and both science educators and students are welcome to attend. The event is co-sponsored by the Tech Catholic Community, the Catholic Student group at MIT.

  The Society of Catholic Scientists is a recently formed group of American Catholic scientists as well as undergraduate, graduate or postdoctoral students pursuing research in a natural science. It is under the guidance of Archbishop Charles Chaput and a board of seven scientists.

  Although many people tend to see a contradiction between faith and science, the Society of Catholic Scientists says on its website that it exists to “witness to the harmony between the vocation of scientist and the life of faith.”

  The group also aims to foster fellowship among Catholic scientists and to serve as a resource and discussion forum for those who have questions about science and faith. The Society also states that it “adheres to the faith of the Catholic Church and will always operate with due regard to her magisterium.”

  Pope John Paul II once encouraged this very kind of collaboration among Catholic scientists in a 1979 speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in which he said:

  “Those members of the Church who are either themselves active scientists, or in some special cases both scientists and theologians, could serve as a key resource. They can also provide a much-needed ministry to others struggling to integrate the worlds of science and religion in their own intellectual and spiritual lives.”

  According to The Boston Pilot, the reason the Society’s first Mass is being called a Gold Mass is because it is the color of the hoods worn by those graduating with a Ph.D. in science and because St. Albert the Great was an alchemist who worked to turn base metals into gold.

  St. Albert, a 13th century German Dominican friar, is one of 36 doctors of the Church. His interests and study included the natural sciences as well as mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, ethics, economics, politics, and metaphysics. His 40 volumes of writing on the natural sciences served as an encyclopedia at the time, and he was also instrumental in pioneering the inductive method of reasoning and introducing the writings of Aristotle to the West.

  The Gold Mass follows the tradition of Masses for other professions, such as Red Masses for lawyers, White Masses for medical professionals, and Blue Masses for police officers.

  Father Nicanor Austriaco, O.P. who will celebrate the first Gold Mass, told The Boston Pilot that he hopes the Mass and Society will show young people that they do not have to choose between science and their faith.

  "Faith and reason are both gifts from God. Science is just one expression of how the human person uses reason to interrogate reality," he said.

  His sentiments echo those of Pope John Paul II, who said in his encyclical “Fides et Ratio” that “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”

  MIT's Catholic chaplain Father Daniel Moloney told The Boston Pilot that St. Albert the Great and other Catholic scientists have long understood that God added a rationally discernable order to the universe.

  "Lots of people assume that if you are a religious believer, you're either stupid or that you turn off your rationality when it comes to the questions to which religion is the response," he said. "Very often scientists work in an environment today that is almost always indifferent but sometimes even hostile to their faith."

  However, he said, "Catholic scientists can be a bridge between the world of faith and the world of science."


'Remarkable' resilience of persecuted Christians focus of new film

Sat, 11/12/2016 - 10:08

South Bend, Ind., Nov 12, 2016 / 08:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Christian persecution around the world is the focus of the documentary short film Under Caesar’s Sword, and the people it portrays.

“What is remarkable about persecuted Christians is their resilience. They are not just victims. Understanding this is the key to being in solidarity with them,” said Daniel Philpott, a political science professor at the University of Notre Dame and the movie’s co-director.

The 26-minute film shows Christian communities in Turkey, India and elsewhere which suffer religious freedom violations. It interviews Christian families, refugees and regional leaders as well as scholars.

Under Caesar’s Sword focuses on their “creative strategies” to survive, build alliances and resist persecution, Notre Dame News reports.

The erasure of Christian culture in the Middle East is one focus, as is human rights activism among Christians in India.

In the Kandhamal riots of late 2007 and early 2008, rioters in the eastern India state of Odisha killed 45 people and destroyed more than 80 churches. Christians were targeted for forced conversion to Hinduism.

In the film, the widow of a man who refused to convert recounted how he was tortured and killed in front of her and their two children.

“They beat my husband badly as we pleaded with them to stop,” she said. “They dragged him for a kilometer with a cycle chain around his neck.”

Timothy Shah, associate director of Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project, reflected on many Christians’ response to persecution.

“Christians have spontaneously responded to their own suffering by enlarging their concern and compassion and work for justice to include others as well,” Shah said.

“It’s important because that’s what their faith calls them to, but it’s important too in that I think many Christians realize the only world in which they are going to be more secure is a world in which everyone is more secure.”

Open Doors USA, an advocacy group that serves persecuted Christians in over 60 countries, said more than 7,100 Christians were killed for their faith in 2015. An estimated 100 million Christians endure some form of persecution each year.

The documentary film was directed by Jason Cohen Productions. It was produced by the Under Caesar’s Sword initiative, a partnership of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture and Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project.

The Under Caesar’s Sword film is available at no cost on-line, as is a discussion guide for groups. It can be seen at the website

Clinton ignored pro-lifers at her own peril, Democrats say

Fri, 11/11/2016 - 16:40

Washington D.C., Nov 11, 2016 / 02:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of Hillary Clinton's electoral defeat in Tuesday's presidential election, pro-life Democrats and faith voters criticized the party's pro-abortion support and lack of religious outreach.

“Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party decisively lost Tuesday’s election, thanks in large part to the party’s extreme abortion position, which alienated would-be Clinton voters,” the group Democrats for Life of America stated in a press release on Wednesday.

“We cautioned in our DNC Report – Make Room for Pro-Life Democrats & Achieve Party Goals Nationwide – that the party is slowly dying and on the way to being irrelevant if it does not start a dialogue with its pro-life members,” Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, stated.

On Nov. 8 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, earning a majority of electors to become the next president although Clinton narrowly won the popular vote.

Trump, who in 1999 had supported partial-birth abortion, campaigned on a pro-life platform that included promises like a late-term abortion ban and the appointing of pro-life Supreme Court justices.

Clinton, meanwhile, championed access to abortions for women and supported the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, a 40 year-old policy that prohibits federal tax dollars from funding abortions.

Democrats lost many potential voters because of their party’s extreme pro-abortion platform, Day insisted.

She said that in key traditionally-Democratic states that Trump picked up like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Clinton lost many voters like “soft Republicans; anti-abortion Independents, and millions of pro-life voters in her own party” who might have listened to her had she not supported abortion so staunchly.

“One of the reasons she lost these groups is that she championed an extremist abortion platform,” Day said.

The abortion plank of the platform – criticized even by President Obama’s 2012 campaign director of faith outreach Michael Wear as “morally reprehensible” – supported late-term abortions, the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, and also the repeal of the Helms Amendment which prohibited the funding of abortions in foreign aid.

Abortion was mentioned 19 times in the party’s platform, Dr. Matthew Bunson, EWTN senior contributor, told EWTN News Nightly during the Democratic National Convention in July, adding “that itself gives us an idea of the seriousness of this issue for them.”

Many voters – especially those in traditionally-Democratic Rust Belt states that surprisingly fell for Trump – were turned off by this “extremist abortion platform,” Day said.

“Americans want to see wages rise, and they want to see more people protected with health insurance, and they want to protect the environment, but they absolutely do not support abortion-on-demand,” she said. “The Democratic Party is going to be the party of coastal, urban elites if it does not change course and respect the social conscience of pro-life voters.”

One young voter agreed that the pro-abortion platform and rhetoric from Democratic circles was toxic to many Democrats and Republicans.

“The abortion plank of the platform was a figurative middle finger, not only to the 21 million plus pro-life Democrats, but also to those who vote Republican purely because of abortion and the tens of millions of other Democrats who favor some restrictions on abortion,” Robert Christian, editor of Millennial journal, told CNA/EWTN News.

“In a tight election, a lot of things would have pushed Hillary over the top, but we can be certain that abortion absolutism was one that cost her the election,” he added.

Christian said that he heard “from dozens upon dozens of fellow pro-life Democrats and progressives” and “young Catholics who sincerely believe in Catholic moral and social teaching” who could not vote for Hillary due to her pro-abortion policies and rhetoric.

Others complained that the Clinton campaign had overlooked certain religious voters. For example, Clinton lost White Catholics to Trump by 23 points, the largest margin of defeat for that voting bloc for a major presidential candidate since at least the 2000 election. Clinton lost Catholics overall by seven percent.

Michael Wear tweeted on Thursday that “The most basic understanding of religious demographics in America suggested Trump’s only path to victory was Rust Belt White Catholics.”

Wear also implied that the Democrats’ support for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment hurt their standing with Evangelical voters.

“I believe there was an absolute failure to reach out to people of faith by the Clinton campaign,” Christian said, noting that Clinton “rarely talked” about her faith.

“It is tough to overstate how foolish this decision was,” he added.

“Bourgeois liberalism, rooted in enlightened self-interest, social libertarianism, and technocratic pragmatism, is not the right answer to populist nationalism.”

“Democrats need to recommit to solidarity, human dignity, and genuine human equality and rebuild the party around a shared vision of social, economic, and global justice; this can only be done by working with religious humanists of all faith traditions to rebuild the party from the ground up.”  

Christopher Hale, executive director of the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, tweeted that last year, “one Dem official told me that they were going to pursue a ‘post-Christian’ outreach strategy.”

“That worked well,” he tweeted sarcastically.

The hilarious, fake candidate who won Catholic Twitter

Fri, 11/11/2016 - 08:02

Washington D.C., Nov 11, 2016 / 06:02 am (CNA).- While Donald Trump has unequivocally won the U.S. presidency, the 2016 election race remains one of the most divisive in recent history.

Polls throughout the election process showed nearly unprecedented disapproval ratings for both Trump and former Secretary Hillary Clinton.

Due in part to these historic levels of unpopularity, many individuals cast their support – or at the very least, public appreciation – for parody candidates such as Harambe the Gorilla and wrestling star Stone Cold Steve Austin.

CNA spoke to one such candidate – Sweet Meteor O'Death, or SMOD – a sharp-witted, scathingly funny asteroid who claims to offer the world “a better alternative in the form of the end of human civilization.”

Over the course of the campaign SMOD gained a large following – including a sizable Catholic contingent – on Twitter. (SMOD also claims to have been raised Catholic itself – though Church teaching states that only persons made in the image and likeness of God can be baptized.)

SMOD also gained attention when placed up against the major and third-party candidates: in a July poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, SMOD gained the support of 13 percent of millennial voters – more than the third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.

CNA spoke with SMOD about the election results, and its plans to “probably destroy all Earthly life,” now that the campaign is over. (This interview has been edited for clarity).

CNA: How do you feel about election results?

Sweet Meteor O'Death: I lost the popular vote and I lost the electoral vote. Nevertheless, I feel great about the results and look forward to rendering Earth devoid of human life.

CNA: What are your plans for what comes next? Do you plan on running in the future?

SMOD: Yes. Like Sisyphus, my work is never finished. An extinction-level asteroid impact is next.

CNA: A big focus of the discourse looking forward after the election is national unity. What will you do to unify the country, and how will you continue to work for unity as a concerned citizen of the galaxy?

SMOD: I will unify the carbon molecules in every human body, joining them together in one contiguous layer of coal.

CNA: Many voters are filled with regret. Do you have any regrets as a candidate?


CNA: Many saw you running as much against the system as against Cthulhu, who also promised destruction. What do you think set your two campaigns apart this year?

SMOD: Two things. First, I promise natural, scientifically-premised destruction. Second, I don't have face tentacles.

CNA: This election has brought out a lot of divides from within the religious community – what can you offer religious voters at the polls or watching election results?

SMOD: In many ways, this election helps illustrate the philosophy Søren Kierkegaard. The world (especially the political world) is absurd, and when faced with such absurdity sometimes the best move is to a make a leap of faith.

CNA: How is your relationship with the Catholic Church? What do you think of Pope Francis?

SMOD: Some of the Earth's earliest radio broadcasts were from Italy, so I guess you could say I had a Catholic upbringing. Francis is a great Pontiff from everything I've read about him. I'm also a big fan of St. Francis of Assisi.

CNA: You are an unabashedly pro-death candidate. What do you have to say to pro-life voters. Will you combat the Culture of Death and if so, how?

SMOD: Death is a part of life. It is inevitable. Tragically, not everyone dies at the same time, thus those who pass away will still leave others behind to mourn their absence. I offer the opportunity for natural, worldwide simultaneous death; death without grief or suffering. The only life to remain, small colonies of bacteria, will feel neither pain nor sadness.

CNA: Much of your campaign focused on preparing for the demise of humanity. It is also November- the month where the Church remembers the dead. Do you have any advice for preparing for a happy death and for remembering those who died before your arrival?

SMOD: Life is short. Make your emotional investments wisely – i.e. not in politics or professional sports.

No one's talking about the trauma of abortion by pill

Fri, 11/11/2016 - 05:40

Washington D.C., Nov 11, 2016 / 03:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While the number of abortions in the United States has declined, a recent report shows that women seeking abortions are increasingly preferring medical abortions, rather than surgical ones.

According to data from Planned Parenthood, in a report from Reuters, medical abortions – those by pill – made up 43 percent of all abortions in the U.S. in 2014, up from 35 percent in 2010.

In some places, the demand for the abortion pill tripled after March, when the FDA expanded the use of the abortion pill (mifepristone or RU486 misoprostol used together with misoprostol) to include pregnancies up to 10 weeks. Previously, only women who were up to seven weeks pregnant were able to take the pill, due to concerns about side effects.

Some have hailed it as a victory – the popping of two pills seems more accessible and less invasive, expensive and time consuming than a surgical abortion, which requires anesthesia, multiple appointments and walking past picket lines.

But for those who have worked with post-abortive women, and for doctors who perform abortion pill reversals, the rise in medical abortions is nothing to be celebrated.

Vicki Thorn is the founder of Project Rachel and the National Office for Post Abortion Reconciliation and Healing, and has worked with post-abortive women for decades.

Thorn said while a medical abortion may seem like an easier method, in reality, it can actually be more traumatic for women and families, in large part because women who take these pills abort their babies in their own homes.

The trauma of aborting at home

Because of this expanded use, Thorn said, the fetuses that are aborted this way look more and more like recognizable babies than just clumps of cells.

“I’ve talked to these women – some of them get really panicked because they see the baby,” she said, which typically doesn’t happen during a surgical abortion.

Dr. John Bruchalski is an obstetrician-gynecologist with the Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, Virginia. A former abortion doctor, he is now part of a network of doctors that provide abortion pill reversals.

Dr. Bruchalski also said that seeing the baby, which is the size of a blueberry at seven weeks, and the size of a kumquat at ten weeks, is what makes medical abortions possibly more traumatic than surgical abortions for women.

“When you subject a woman who’s pregnant to watch the process happen, it’s a challenge, it can be brutal,” he told CNA. “There’s lots of contractions without anesthesia, lots of clots, that’s not even the issues that come with seeing the tissue with the baby.”

“Now these women are miscarrying at home? And you call that more empowering?” he added.

Clinics that prescribe abortion pills instruct women to flush their baby down the toilet. But many women panic once they see their baby and don’t know what to do.

Thorn said some women she has worked with did not own the property they lived on, and so did not want to bury their baby at a place that wasn’t their permanent residence. Some women were at such a loss that they kept their baby in the freezer.

This problem compounds when a teenage girl takes the abortion pill without the knowledge or permission of her parents, which is legal in many states. She may leave her baby in the bathroom at her high school or other public places, Thorn said.

Some Catholic cemeteries offer special burial services for aborted or miscarried babies, but many women either don’t know about them or are too ashamed to call and ask.

The place in the home where the baby was aborted – often the bathroom or a bedroom – also often becomes a place of trauma and recurring memories for these women, Thorn said.

“Women talk about how the place where they lost the baby becomes traumatic to them, so the bathroom at home where they lost the baby, they can’t use that bathroom anymore, because it triggers the memory,” she said.

Another “advantage” of the pill versus surgical abortions touted by abortion proponents is that a woman can take the second pill and medically abort at home with her partner. But men also experience trauma after seeing their aborted children, Thorn said.

“What happens to him? Because fathers involved in miscarriages grieve profoundly. And they see the baby,” Thorn said.

“It’s an incredibly complex thing, and there’s no good answer.”

Reversing the abortion pill

A medical abortion consists of a woman taking two different medications within about 48 hours of each other – the first, mifepristone, blocks the progesterone that makes the womb an inhabitable place for a baby. The second, misoprostol, is taken 48 hours after the first pill, and makes the uterus contract and expel its contents – the baby.

But what happens if a woman takes the first pill and regrets her decision?

Several doctors throughout the country, including Dr. Bruchalski, do abortion pill reversals, though women are not likely to hear about them from Planned Parenthood or other clinics that prescribe abortion pills.

Typically, women are told that the abortion begins the hour they take the first pill (mifepristone), Dr. Bruchalski said, which is not true.

While the mifepristone blocks progesterone to make the womb uninhabitable, it does not directly affect the fetus or have any direct side effects to the fetus. A woman who takes mifepristone and decides not to take the second pill still has a 7-20 percent chance that her baby will survive.

If she receives abortion pill reversal treatment, which typically involves progesterone injections, her baby’s chances of survival increase to 60 percent.

“So all is not always lost,” said Dr. Bruchalski.

Dr. Edwin Anselmi in Centennial, Colorado also performs abortion pill reversals.

He told CNA that of the babies who survive the first abortion pill and the reversal procedure, the outlook is very good – he is not aware of birth defects in children who have survived the treatment.

Both Dr. Anselmi and Dr. Bruchalski are part of a network of doctors that provide abortion pill reversal throughout the country. If a woman looking to undo the procedure Googles “abortion pill reversal,” the first result is, a website that is a project of Culture of Life Family Services in San Diego, California, which includes a hotline that connects women to doctors in their area who can perform abortion pill reversal procedures.

Since the launch of the abortion pill reversal hotline in 2012, more than 200 babies have been saved, and over 100 more are expected to be born in the coming months, a representative from the hotline told CNA.

Dr. Anselmi said he is willing to meet with these women at any time, because the sooner they start the reversal process, the better.

“(When) they know that they don’t want to go through with (the abortion), I’ll meet them at the office as soon as possible, in the evening or on the weekends, to get the process started,” he said.

Dr. Bruchalski said that besides medical treatment, his clinic offers patients counseling to deal with any trauma that they may have experienced throughout the process.

“It’s about meeting this woman in a place where you can give her positive affirmation and hope in the middle of a very difficult situation,” he said.

“There’s many different types of counseling, but you have to meet the woman where she is, and you can’t push her, you can’t rush her, she has to do it on her own, and you have to accompany her.”

Follow-up for completed medical abortions can also be problematic, Dr. Bruchalski explained, because women often don’t have a relationship with the clinic where they received the abortion pills, making them less likely to go back for regular follow-up appointments or if they experience complications.

“They’re only going there for a service, they’re not going there for their regular care, usually. It’s like a vending machine. I want an abortion, I go here,” he said.

It’s even more difficult in third-world countries, where abortion pills are increasingly being used in order to expand women’s access to abortion, but where women are less connected to a system of support – many of them don’t have their own phones, or reliable access to transportation, Dr. Bruchalski said.

The after-effects of an at-home abortion

Thorn said that immediately following an abortion, it’s normal for many women to feel relief. It’s afterwards – in the following months and years – that trauma can hit, perhaps when a woman is trying to conceive again, or when she thinks about the person who may be missing from her family.

With medical abortions, the feelings of guilt can be even more intense than women who had surgical abortions, Thorn said.

“A surgical abortion in some respects is much easier on the woman,” Thorn said. “She’ll grieve eventually, but it happened somewhere else, it happened at that clinic, I don’t have to go that clinic anymore, somebody else did it, I for the most part didn’t see the baby.”

“But the issue women have with medical abortion is: ‘I did it’,” she said. “There is no outside party that I can blame or hold accountable...and that bothers women.”

Abortion pill rates are much higher in Europe than in the United States, although its proponents in the U.S. would like to see its use increase. Proponents of the pill argue that it’s easier, more private, and normalizes the procedure of abortion, making it seem more like a normal medical procedure than an intrusive surgery.

But the rhetoric that treats abortion like a non-event is dismissive of the scores of women who experience serious trauma after the procedure, Dr. Bruchalski said.

“In the pejorative, abortion is talked about as no big deal, as this really common procedure. But the reality for me as a doctor? It’s visceral, it goes through my hands and my heart. For these women, it’s going to happen in the privacy of their own home – and it’s not always ‘that easy’.”

Another reason women have a hard time forgetting abortions is because they carry cells from their children inside them for the rest of their lives, Thorn said – a phenomenon known as microchimerism. During an abortion, studies show that more cells from the baby transfer to the mother than during a full-term pregnancy.

“The fact of the matter is there’s still footprints in her body from her baby,” Thorn said. “I carry cells from that child, I can’t forget it, and at some point, I have to resolve it.”  

That women are not told the full truth about the trauma they may experience after taking an abortion pill is highly problematic, Thorn added.

“It’s the continuing theme that, in the apparent guise of freedom for women, we get used and abused all the time on all kinds of health issues,” she said.  

“The reality of this is that this is not a non-event, which is what people try to portray it as.”

How the hook-up culture is making women miserable

Thu, 11/10/2016 - 05:02

New York City, N.Y., Nov 10, 2016 / 03:02 am (CNA).- Leah Fessler considers herself a feminist.

And the standard feminist narrative is that women can have, and indeed enjoy, casual sex without consequences – physical, emotional, or otherwise.

But when her experience with hookup culture (and that of her friends') in college failed to live up to its empowering promises and left her emotionally empty, Fessler decided to look a little deeper.

In an article written for Quartz, Fessler explains her quest to examine what it was about the prominent hookup culture, and the ill-defined, non-committal “pseudo-relationships,” at her Middlebury college campus that were making her miserable.

“Far more frequent, however, were pseudo-relationships, the mutant children of meaningless sex and loving partnerships. Two students consistently hook up with one another – and typically, only each other – for weeks, months, even years,” Fessler wrote.

“Yet per unspoken social code, neither party is permitted emotional involvement, commitment, or vulnerability. To call them exclusive would be 'clingy,' or even 'crazy.'”

These pseudo-relationships would typically follow the same cycle, she notes. She’d meet a guy she was interested in, they’d start texting, meet up in their dorms late at night to discuss their mutual interests and hobbies and families, and have sex. This would happen off and on over the course of a few months with the same guy, then the relationship of sorts would just fizzle and die. Wash, rinse repeat with the next. Fessler wrote that she experienced this with at least five men by her senior year.

She felt used and desperate for emotional intimacy. At the same time, she felt bad for being unable to reconcile the fact that she couldn’t achieve the carefree, empowering feeling that her feminists beliefs told her was possible.

Fessler decided to devote her senior thesis to this phenomenon that was taking its toll on herself and so many of her friends, who for all other intents and purposes were successful, involved, well-rounded students.

Fessler interviewed 75 male and female students and conducted more than 300 online surveys. She found that 100 percent of female interviewees and three-quarters of female survey respondents stated a clear preference for committed relationships. Only 8 percent of about 25 female respondents, who said they were in pseudo-relationships, reported being “happy” with their situation.

“The women I interviewed were eager to build connections, intimacy and trust with their sexual partners. Instead, almost all of them found themselves going along with hookups that induced overwhelming self-doubt, emotional instability and loneliness,” she wrote.

The male responses were just as complex, she adds. Most men interviewed and surveyed also preferred a committed relationship, but felt pressured to have casual sex with numerous beautiful women in order to discuss these “escapades” with their friends and boost their status in a culture where hookups are the norm.

Perhaps it’s time that casual sex ceases to be the progressive norm, and that women recognize the connection between their need for an emotionally fulfilling relationship and their sex lives, Fessler notes.

“The truth is that, for many women, there’s nothing liberating about emotionless, non-committal sex. The young women I spoke with were taking part in hookup culture because they thought that was what guys wanted, or because they hoped a casual encounter would be a stepping stone to commitment.”

“In doing this, we actually deny ourselves agency and bolster male dominance, all while convincing ourselves we’re acting like progressive feminists. But engaging in hookup culture while wholeheartedly craving love and stability was perhaps the least feminist action I, and hundreds of my peers, could take.”

Fessler’s thesis, “Can She Really ‘Play That Game, Too’?” recently became available for download and is available at her website:


This article originally ran on CNA May 20, 2016.

What was the breakdown of the Catholic vote Tuesday?

Wed, 11/09/2016 - 18:34

Washington D.C., Nov 9, 2016 / 04:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics voted once again for the winning presidential candidate in Tuesday’s election, as they have done in recent elections.

“Catholics continue to be the only major religious voting block that can shift from one election to the next,” Dr. Mark Gray of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University stated on Wednesday.

“This is what makes the Catholic vote such an important swing vote. Presidential candidates who win the Catholic vote almost always win the presidency,” he added.

The few election polls that did list respondents by religion showed results for Catholics that varied widely depending on the day. Polling experts who warned of “volatility in the polls” insisted that the Catholic vote would be almost impossible to predict before the election.

For instance, one Investor’s Business Daily tracking poll showed Trump winning Catholics by 16 points on Nov. 4, only to have Clinton winning Catholic voters by three points on Nov. 7.

After President Obama narrowly carried the Catholic vote by two points in his 2012 re-election bid, Trump won the Catholic vote by seven points on Tuesday, according to exit polls. The Pew Research Center reported on the religious voter data. This marks the fourth straight election that Catholics have voted for the winning president.

In 2000, Catholics also voted for the winner of the popular vote Al Gore, who narrowly lost the Electoral College. Trump lost the popular vote, thus breaking the trend of Catholics voting with the popular vote in presidential elections.

Trump’s margin of victory among White Catholics on Tuesday was striking. While that bloc normally votes Republican – Mitt Romney won it by 19 points in 2012 – Trump went even further and won it by 23 points according to  exit polls, the highest margin of victory in that bloc since before the 2000 election.

As expected, Trump lost the Hispanic Catholic vote decidedly – 67 to 26 percent – but still at the lowest margin of defeat for a Republican presidential ticket for that bloc since the 2004 election. And, the group noted in its post-election statement, “among non-Spanish speaking Latino Catholics the margin was likely significantly closer.”

Dr. Gray cautioned that, although Catholics clearly supported Trump in the exit polls, more data may be needed for the full context. “What we don't know yet is why Catholics voted as a majority for Donald Trump,” he told CNA.

Historically, Catholics vary in their ultimate party preference – usually voting for the winning party in an election. “No other major religious group does this,” Dr. Gray emphasized. “Other Christians reliably vote majority Republican. Those of non-Christian affiliations or no religious affiliation vote consistently Democrat.”

There was a divide in support among weekly churchgoing Christians and those who do not attend church as frequently. Exit polls showed Trump winning among weekly churchgoers 56 to 40 percent, while among those attending a “few times a year” there was basically an even split.

Clinton enjoyed a large victory (31 points) among those who do not attend religious services.


For assisted suicide foes in Colorado, a loss at the ballot box

Wed, 11/09/2016 - 16:53

Denver, Colo., Nov 9, 2016 / 02:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a lopsided Election Day vote, Colorado voters decided to legalize assisted suicide. Foes of the ballot measure warned that it will have grave consequences for the vulnerable.

“The mission we have as citizens of Colorado should be to help people live with dignity – not to offer them more options to kill themselves,” the Colorado Catholic Conference said Nov. 9.

Colorado voters approved assisted suicide by a vote of 65 percent to 35 percent.

The conference said the passage of the assisted suicide measure was “a great travesty of compassion and choice for the sick, the poor, the elderly and our most vulnerable residents.”

The ballot measure, modeled on a 22-year-old Oregon law, is called the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act. It uses the language of “medical aid in dying.”

It will allow an adult with a terminal illness to request a lethal prescription from their physician. The person must be deemed mentally competent and two physicians must diagnosis the person as having six months or fewer to live. The measure requires self-administration of the drug, called secobarbital, which is also used for lethal injections in some states.

The ballot measure requires the official cause of death to be listed as a patient’s underlying condition, not as an assisted suicide.

Barbara Coombs, president of legal assisted suicide advocacy group Compassion and Choices, said the vote was “an especially tremendous victory for terminally ill adults who worry about horrific suffering in their final days,” the Associated Press reports.

The state's Catholic conference rejected depictions of assisted suicide as a private choice: “killing, no matter what its motives, is never a private matter; it always impacts other people and has much wider implications.”

The measure will deepen divisions of race, ethnicity, and income, the conference charged.

“As Pope Francis has noted it only furthers a ‘throwaway’ culture,” it said. “Proposition 106 has legalized the ability of a doctor to write prescriptions for the sole purpose of killing another human being and the ability of insurance companies to refuse treatment of patients they consider terminal.”

Divine Mercy Supportive Care, a Colorado-based nonprofit hospice and palliative health care provider, declared itself a “no-kill provider” in the wake of the vote. The Catholic organization’s policies follow the U.S. bishops’ ethical and religious directives for Catholic health care.

The organization presented itself as “the antidote to assisted suicide.” It said advances in pain and symptom management have helped alleviate the suffering of advanced illness.

At the same time, it said several other Colorado hospice agencies have said they are willing to accommodate assisted suicide.

Proponents of legal assisted suicide failed to pass bills in the Colorado legislature in 2015 and 2016, before placing the proposal on the ballot.

The ballot measure’s supporters raised $4.8 million from groups like the Compassion & Choices Action Network, the Denver Post reports. It presented the story of Brittany Maynard, who killed herself in Oregon in 2014 while suffering an aggressive brain tumor.

Catholic, Mormon, and Evangelical leaders played a role in the opposition to the ballot measure. Opponents raised $2.3 million, including contributions from the Dioceses of Denver, St. Louis, and Arlington.

Five other states have similar laws or court action permitting assisted suicide: Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, and Vermont.

Three states keep death penalty in high-stakes election

Wed, 11/09/2016 - 13:52

Washington D.C., Nov 9, 2016 / 11:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The death penalty was up for a vote in California, Nebraska and Oklahoma on Tuesday, but stands against capital punishment proved unpopular with voters in all three states.

In California, Proposition 62 promised to end the death penalty and reduce death sentences to life in prison without parole.

California’s Catholic bishops had strongly backed the measure.

“In a culture of death, I believe mercy alone can be the only credible witness to the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person,” Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said in September.

A contrary proposal, California ballot measure Prop. 66 limited the appeal process for death row inmates and shortened the time from sentencing to execution.

In voting results, Prop. 62 went down to defeat, taking only 46 percent of the vote. Prop. 66 won 50.9 percent of the vote.

Another death penalty fight took place in Nebraska, whose unicameral legislature had repealed the death penalty earlier this year.

The Nebraska vote on the death penalty required anti-death penalty voters to vote “retain” to secure the legislature’s anti-death penalty veto. A “repeal” vote would have overridden the legislature.

Nebraska’s three bishops backed a “retain” vote.

But the ballot measure to repeal the Senate’s anti-death penalty stand succeeded by a vote of about 61 percent, with nearly 800,000 people voting.

“We express our disappointment that the death penalty will be reinstated in Nebraska,” Nebraska’s three bishops, led by Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, said in a joint statement Nov. 9.  “We will continue to call for the repeal of the death penalty when it is not absolutely necessary to protect the public safety.”

In May, the Nebraska Senate had overridden Gov. Peter Ricketts’ veto of a death penalty repeal by a vote of 32-15.

Gov. Ricketts, a Catholic, personally donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the pro-death penalty group Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, according to media reports. At one point in the campaign, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln asked the group to retract advertisements he said distorted his words.

In Oklahoma, a state with the highest execution rate per capita, voters decided on State Question 776. The measure affirmed the death penalty’s use and declared it not to constitute “the infliction of cruel or unusual punishment.”

The state had faced controversy given the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, who took 45 minutes to die. The Oklahoma death penalty protocol had survived a Supreme Court challenge from inmates who charged it constituted was cruel and unusual punishment.

The Oklahoma measure passed by a vote of 66 percent.

US bishops encourage unity, prayer after election night

Wed, 11/09/2016 - 12:22

Washington D.C., Nov 9, 2016 / 10:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishops in the United States called on Catholics to pray for elected officials on the morning following the 2016 presidential election, and exhorted them to work for unity and to promote the common good.

“Now is the moment to move toward the responsibility of governing for the common good of all citizens,” Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated Wednesday following Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s electoral victory.

“Let us not see each other in the divisive light of Democrat or Republican or any other political party, but rather, let us see the face of Christ in our neighbors, especially the suffering or those with whom we may disagree,” he added Nov. 9.

Trump scored a surprising victory in the Electoral College Tuesday night, ascending to the presidency despite being projected to lose the popular vote to his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

Trump picked up traditionally-Democratic states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and swept through swing states like Ohio and Florida. In states not yet called for one candidate by late Wednesday morning, he held narrow leads in New Hampshire, Michigan, and Arizona, and trailed Clinton slightly in Minnesota.

Republicans kept the Senate as well as their lead in the House, winning key Senate races in Wisconsin, Missouri, and Pennsylvania to hold their majority.

According to New York Times exit polls, Catholics overall voted 52 percent for Trump and 45 percent for Clinton. NBC News exit polls showed the results fell sharply along racial lines: Trump won white Catholics by 23 percentage points, 60 to 37, while Clinton won Hispanic Catholics 67 percent to 26 percent.

In his victory speech at a hotel in Manhattan, Trump called for unity. “Working together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation and renewing the American Dream,” he told his audience.

Clinton, in her concession speech later Wednesday morning, said Trump is owed “an open mind and a chance to lead,” adding that “We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought.”

Other bishops called for prayers for the newly-elected and re-elected officials.

“We are now called to commend our new president and all other newly elected officials to God, that they may be guided by Our Lord as they prepare to take office and serve the common good of those entrusted to their care,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington staed.

“Congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump. May God grant you good health, wisdom and courage during your presidency,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston tweeted.

“Jesus Christ is sovereign King; yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” Bishop James Conley of Lincoln tweeted on Wednesday.

Archbishop Kurtz cited Pope Francis’ 2015 address to Congress, in which he urged members to promote the common good and human dignity.

“Yesterday, millions of Americans who are struggling to find economic opportunity for their families voted to be heard. Our response should be simple: we hear you,” the archbishop said. “The responsibility to help strengthen families belongs to each of us.”

He reaffirmed the bishops’ commitment to upholding the sanctity of all human life, welcoming “migrants and refugees,” and defending religious freedom at home and abroad.

Pro-life groups applauded the victory of pro-life Senate candidates and expressed their desire to work with Trump’s administration to pass pro-life legislation.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, called it “an historic moment for the pro-life movement” and said that “four critical pro-life goals now within our reach: end painful late-term abortions, codify the Hyde Amendment, defund Planned Parenthood, and appoint pro-life Supreme Court Justices.”

“Acknowledging the divisiveness in our country we also commit to working for the day when all Americans know that abortion is unthinkable, and to building a lasting culture of life,” Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, stated Wednesday morning. “We applaud candidates that took a stand on the most critical human rights issue of today, abortion,” she said.

In Defense of Christians, an advocacy group for persecuted Christian minorities in the Middle East and North Africa, congratulated Trump on his victory and asked that he “make the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East a foreign policy priority for the United States.”

“The Christian values of tolerance and coexistence, and the innovations that these communities have contributed to their societies for so many centuries are essential for a stable and secure Middle East, which is in the national security interests of the United States and the world,” the group’s executive director Philippe Nassif stated.

Do you buy shrimp? You might want to know about this

Wed, 11/09/2016 - 02:14

Washington D.C., Nov 9, 2016 / 12:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When we purchase bananas at the grocery store or eat at a seafood restaurant, we might not think twice about it.

But many of the everyday products that we use may be the result of forced labor.

“The world is now focused on slave labor again,” said Justin Dillon, CEO of the group Made in a Free World, which seeks to inform businesses about slave and child labor in their supply chains.

Earlier this year, a new federal law was enacted to prohibit importation of goods made with forced labor into the U.S., a big boost in the fight against labor trafficking.

Since the 1930 Tariff Act, which prohibited such importation, one clause exempted this prohibition for when “consumptive demand” required such goods be imported. Critics have argued that this exemption became a wide loophole and the law’s intent was rarely enforced, resulting in the proliferation of slave-made goods in the U.S. economy.

The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, passed by both parties in Congress, struck that clause, and President Barack Obama signed the act into law this February.

The law is a “positive step” in the fight against trafficking because it “closes a rather large loophole” and is a statement that “we as a country are against products produced by forced labor – full stop,” said Mary Leary, a human trafficking expert and law professor at The Catholic University of America.

However, she told CNA, “other problems remain about our ability/political will to investigate allegations of forced labor.”

Although it may be impossible to estimate the exact number of goods produced with forced or child labor that are available to U.S. consumers, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has provided some context.

Almost 21 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor, the ILO says. 19 million of them are exploited by private corporations; 2 million suffer at the hands of the state. An estimated $150 billion a year is made in profits from forced labor.

The abuse extends across industries, Leary said: agriculture, manufacturing, shipping, service industries like janitorial services, construction, and fishing. Whether the culprits are sweat shops in Bangladesh, slave fishing in Indonesia, or mines in India, the raw materials gathered or processed by forced labor end up in U.S. stores.

Verité, a fair labor NGO and State Department grantee, released a report this year documenting the role of forced labor or child labor in 43 different commodities that are circulated worldwide, like flowers, produce, seafood, and metals. The report listed the chief offending countries for each commodity and the countries from which the U.S. imports these goods.

Investigations by The Guardian and the Associated Press in 2015 also made headlines, uncovering a shadowy network of slave fishing in Southeast Asia and Thailand which exports seafood worldwide.

The AP investigation traced some of this seafood all the way to U.S. businesses. Shrimp caught and processed with slave labor ended up in the supply chains of U.S. grocery stores, food distributors, and restaurants.

Conditions are horrible for forced laborers in Thai fishing boats and processing factories. The State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons report explained the details.

“Thai, Burmese, Cambodian, and Indonesian men are subjected to forced labor on Thai fishing boats; some men remain at sea for several years, are paid very little or irregularly, work as much as 18 to 20 hours per day for seven days a week, or are threatened and physically beaten. Some victims of trafficking in the fishing sector were unable to return home due to isolated workplaces, unpaid wages, and the lack of legitimate identity,” the report explained.

Migrants from other countries like Burma and Cambodia are looking for work, and so they pay a broker who promises them a job but instead sells them to boat captains, Verité reported.

Other commodities like metals, diamonds, and produce that are imported into the U.S. may also be gathered and processed by child or slave laborers.

Flowers, for instance, are grown and picked in Ecuador with child labor and sent to the U.S. Around Valentine’s Day, when demand is greatest, workers endure up to 20-hour days with no overtime pay. Women are subjected to sexual violence and harassment with no ability to speak out.

With such a deep and nefarious global supply chain affecting almost every product that may be sold in U.S. stores, what exactly can Catholic consumers and businesses do to mitigate the influence of foreign companies who profit from labor trafficking?

Ultimately, ending human trafficking and slave labor will not come through charitable donations, but through the market, Dillon told CNA. $120 million is given annually to fight trafficking, but over a thousand times that is made in profits per year from slave labor – $150 billion.

Dillon’s group, Made in a Free World, works to help businesses fight trafficking by predicting where there might be forced labor in their supply chains. They do this through “predictive modeling” of almost 54,000 goods, services, and commodities and where the materials come from through trade routes. Their modeling tool is software called “FRDM” – “forced labor risk determination and mitigation” – available to businesses online.

The problematic companies that employ child laborers and forced laborers are more easily identified this way.

“The game we’re playing is to reverse the power of the marketplace to start to create transparency and make it more and more difficult for the bad guys, the bad companies, to be profitable,” Dillon said.

Businesses should be held accountable for their purchases, but no one is perfect, he continued.

Consumers shouldn’t be demonizing U.S. businesses where slave-produced goods unknowingly end up on shelves, but should rather be encouraging them as much as possible to investigate their supply chains and supporting the businesses who are making the best effort to do so, he said.

“We need the global marketplace on our side, not attack it.”

“Most companies have almost no idea what’s behind their initial purchase,” he continued.

For example, a U.S. company that sells tablet computers might buy finished tablets from a Chinese supplier.

However, “the optics beyond that supplier A, that first company where you’re buying, are almost invisible,” Dillon said. “You have very little idea of where supplier A is buying their components’ parts, and maybe even commodities to be able to produce that tablet computer for you.”

The most pragmatic thing for companies to do is “start to understand what your purchases are,” he said. Companies are starting to investigate their supply chains but it will take time to create a new marketplace, he cautioned. The most difficult struggle his group faces is from people who want a solution now.

“It’s very easy to be indignant and have a lot of bluster and demand justice, but the reality is this is going to take time,” he said. “Justice systems are just that, they are systems…built over time.”

Consumers can do two things now, he said. First, “be patient.” And second, “buy in the direction of freedom,” or support businesses with goods made with free laborers. Made in a Free World provides a list of businesses who are

They can also visit, a project of Made in a Free World, to get an estimate of how many forced laborers produced the products they consume.

“I believe that we’re at the front third of a very, very important movement,” Dillon said, adding that “it’s not something we can do overnight.”

“I believe that justice is vigilance. It’s not an accomplishment. It’s a condition,” he said.

This article was originally published on CNA March 6, 2016.

For US bishops, new environmental plan a step in the right direction

Tue, 11/08/2016 - 21:35

Washington D.C., Nov 8, 2016 / 07:35 pm (CNA).- A new action agenda from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has drawn praise from the U.S. bishops as a step towards the “integral ecology” taught in Pope Francis’ encyclical on creation.

“The concern for the good of people, especially the poor and vulnerable communities, is one of the central messages in Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“We welcome efforts by the EPA that recognize what the Pope calls 'integral ecology,' where respect for human life and wellbeing go hand in hand with environmental protection,” he said Nov. 4.

The EPA’s Environmental Justice 2020 Action Agenda builds on its 2014 effort to integrate “environmental justice considerations” into all its agency programs. It aims to strengthen the agency’s collaboration with partners and “demonstrate progress on significant national challenges facing minority and low-income communities.”

The agenda aims to improve environmental results for overburdened communities.

In 2015, Pope Francis published his encyclical “Laudato Si” on the care for creation. He covered a wide range of topics in relation to the environment – from climate change, species extinction, and resource depletion to waste, economic structures and global inequality.

The encyclical praised St. Francis of Assisi for living out an “integral ecology” with joy and authenticity.

“He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast… He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace,” the Pope wrote.

Saying that the earth “is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” the Pope stated, “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.”
He also spoke of developed nations’ obligations involving renewable resources and the development of poorer countries.

The same encyclical criticized abortion, population control and gender ideology.

With crippling fines still looming, Little Sisters serve 'one soul at a time'

Tue, 11/08/2016 - 18:23

Arlington, Va., Nov 8, 2016 / 04:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Despite ongoing religious freedom threats, humility and cheerfulness in serving the poor are at the heart of the mission for the Little Sisters of the Poor, the order’s vocations director said.

“One soul at a time – this is what we’re about,” Sister Rosemarie Yao, director of vocations for the Little Sisters of the Poor, said at a religious freedom discussion at Marymount University in Arlington, Va. on Saturday, three days before the 2016 election.

“To value the dignity of the human person, to care for them with love and respect until Almighty God calls them home to Himself, not one minute before or one minute after,” she continued, outlining the mission of the sisters.

Sister Rosemarie addressed an audience at the event titled “Is America Still the Land of the Free?” It was sponsored by the Arlington Diocesan Council of Catholic Women and the diocesan Office for Family Life.

The speakers, which included author Mary Eberstadt and Fr. Paul Scalia of the Arlington Diocese, discussed religious freedom concerns, particularly the case of the Little Sisters that was before the Supreme Court last term before being sent back down to the federal level. That case of Zubik v. Burwell was a bundle of cases of charitable organizations like the Little Sisters opposing the Department of Health and Human Services.

“The punitive treatment of today’s religious believers in a time of secularist ascendancy is unjust,” Eberstadt stated of the cases, and other cases where charities or business owners are being forced by the government to violate their consciences and obey a secularist mandate.

“Beneath the merciless vindictiveness of today’s anti-religious inquisitors, is something deep and new in history,” she added. It is “the development of a rival faith that does not acknowledge itself as faith,” she explained, which “sees Christianity as a rival to be crushed.”

In Zubik v. Burwell, the religious groups opposed the Obama administration’s so-called “accommodation” offered to objecting non-profits to comply with its birth control mandate.

In this “accommodation,” employers would notify the government of their religious objections to the mandate to provide cost-free coverage in employee health plans for contraceptives, sterilizations, and drugs that can cause abortions. After receiving their notice of objection, the government would have the employer’s insurer -- or third-party administrator of their own health plan – provide the coverage.

The plaintiffs in the case, which included the sisters, the Archdiocese of Washington and the Bishop of Pittsburgh, said that proposal still forced them to unacceptably cooperate with an immoral act of providing contraception coverage to others.

In a highly unusual move in the middle of a case, the Supreme Court asked both the plaintiffs and the government to outline how they might come to a compromise where the religious freedom of the objecting parties was respected, but their employees still received contraception coverage as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

The sisters and fellow non-profits said that if they notified their insurer of their objection, and their insurer then provided the coverage outside of their health plan and at a separate cost, that would be an acceptable compromise. Another acceptable way would be for the government to have insurers set up the coverage themselves, outside of the health plans.

All coverage would have to be “truly independent” of the health plans, they insisted, with separate cards, payment, and enrollment.

The compromise between the government and the sisters has not been finished yet, the lead attorney for the sisters Mark Rienzi said. “We are still in the midst of that process and the Little Sisters remain hopeful that the government will obey the Supreme Court’s order and find a reasonable alternative,” he stated.

During his 2015 visit to the U.S., Pope Francis visited the sisters’ home for the elderly in Washington, D.C. to encourage them while their legal case against the mandate was ongoing.

According to their foundress Sister Jeanne Jugan, the sisters are called to “be very little before God,” Sister Rosemarie stated on Saturday. She pointed to Sister Jugan’s witness of helping the poor before she “died in oblivion.”

“Her silence gave flesh to the recurring counsels to the novices, ‘Be little. Be very little before God’,” Sister Rosemarie explained.

She has seen this charism lived out in her 33 years as a sister, she added.

“I have witnessed for myself many holy sisters who have worked day and night at the beck and call of the residents. Always very humble, very cheerful in their countenance.”

“I learned from them that what we do for the old people we do for Jesus. And more so, we are working for souls. We are gathering souls for heaven, they told me. And one of the counsels of St. Jeanne Jugan is ‘knock at the door of heaven for souls’.”


Scripture: It's not just for Protestants, says papal nuncio

Tue, 11/08/2016 - 08:53

Philadelphia, Pa., Nov 8, 2016 / 06:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While reading the Bible may be associated with Protestantism in the minds of some, love of Scripture is at the core of the Catholic Church, said the apostolic nuncio to the United States.

“The love and veneration of the Word of God is an expression of the heart of the Catholic Church which is increasingly promoting a ‘new hearing’ of God’s Word through the new evangelization of our cultures,” Archbishop Christophe Pierre said Oct. 26. “This new hearing is a recovering of the centrality of the divine Word in our Christian life and in our dialogue with those who do not share our Catholic faith.”

The archbishop addressed a gathering of the American Bible Society in Philadelphia, where the 200-year-old organization is now based. The non-denominational organization is dedicated to translating, publishing and distributing editions of the Bible.

Among those present for the nuncio’s remarks were Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles J. Chaput and Dr. Roy Peterson, the president and CEO of the American Bible Society.

Archbishop Pierre said Sacred Scripture is “at the very heart of the Christian life.” He noted the ancient Catholic tradition to teach and pray Sacred Scripture. The Church Fathers venerated God’s word and prayed it through the practice of Lectio Divina.

“The nature of the Sacred Scriptures calls for an audience of faith who opens the sacred texts to discover the presence of the living God speaking to the soul of the believer,” he said.

This has helped drive the Church’s concerns for proper renditions and translations of the sacred texts, the nuncio recounted.

Different Latin variants of Sacred Scripture in the early Church put at risk the shared story of the Church. In the year 382, responding to concerns about the variant texts of the Bible, Pope Damasus I commissioned St. Jerome to revise the texts for a new version “that would embrace more faithfully the truth of the revelation,” the archbishop noted.

“His dedication to Scripture motivated Jerome to further study the Hebrew and the Semitic tradition involved in the sacred texts. Thus Jerome grew in a deeper and more profound union with the mystery of God though the knowledge of Scriptures,” Archbishop Pierre said.

Over time, the Latin language itself became an obstacle to spreading the Biblical message, as Latin’s use became restricted to a small group of educated people. The Latin Vulgate maintained its dominance as the official version of Scripture in the Roman Catholic Church, while other translations were regarded with suspicion for misleading the faithful.

“The love and devotion of the Catholic Church was, and continues to be, the true motivation behind the faithful custody and zealous preservation of the truth that God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation,” the archbishop said.

He reflected on Martin Luther’s “painful separation” from the Catholic Church. Though he praised the Protestant leader’s dedication to accessible Scripture, he noted that Luther modified the biblical canon from 46 books to 39 and modified the Letter of the Romans’ text to add his concept of “through faith alone.”

The response to the Protestant movement by the Council of Trent established that all Sacred Scripture “must be read according to the spirit in which they were written.”

“This implies that Scripture must go hand-in-hand with the holy Tradition preserved in the ecclesiastic experience of the faith of the apostles,” Archbishop Pierre said.

The development of different languages continued to separate people from a close reading of the Latin Scriptures and, the archbishop said, separated them from “having a personal encounter with the risen Lord manifested in the Bible.”

“The separation produced by the Protestant Reform left a painful wound in the mystical body of Christ and as a consequence of this, the belief that a personal reading of the Bible is a typical Protestant practice grew in the common Catholic mindset,” he said. “The reality manifested in our Roman Catholic Tradition, however, indicates that this common assumption is far from the truth.”

Archbishop Pierre recounted developments since the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII. In the mid-20th century, Pope Pius XII opened the way for translation of Scripture to help Christians return to the sources of faith, while the Second Vatican Council opened the way to dialogue with Protestant Christians in its main document on Scripture, “Dei Verbum.”

“During the decades after ‘Dei Verbum,’ the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church has insisted on the continued study, research, and education of Holy Scripture by the faithful people of God, establishing stronger bonds of ecumenical dialogue and relationships of unity with our brothers and sisters of different denominations,” he said.

The archbishop cited the work of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the Biblical studies in Rome’s pontifical universities, and the biblical institutes throughout the Catholic world that train pastors and the laity to bring biblical truth “to those who are hungry for the nourishment of God’s Word.”

The nuncio praised the American Bible Society as “a providential instrument that exemplifies the ecumenical bonds built upon the treasure of the Scriptures.” He welcomed its collaboration with Catholic ministries, saying its propagation of the Word of God is “a vivid expression of the love of God that unifies us with the purpose of inspiring hunger and thirst for the Scriptures.”

The Bible society supported the October 2008 Synod of Bishops and has created a polyglot Bible. It has distributed Bibles to Spanish-language Catholic communities and has supported Catholic pastoral activities like the World Youth Day events in Poland and Brazil. The society also collaborated with the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

It is presently working with the U.S. bishops’ conference to present the Bible as the Book of Mercy for National Bible Week Nov. 13-19.


Priest slammed for using dead baby as 'political prop'

Mon, 11/07/2016 - 18:44

New York City, N.Y., Nov 7, 2016 / 04:44 pm (CNA).- Fr. Frank Pavone, head of the controversial pro-life group Priest for Life, came under fire Monday for a video of him standing behind an altar with an aborted baby in an effort to support Donald Trump.

Ed Mechmann, director of public policy for the Archdiocese of New York, said the use of an aborted baby “as a prop” is “absolutely appalling, and deserves to be repudiated by all of us who consider ourselves to be pro-life in the fullest meaning of that word.”

On Nov. 7, Fr. Pavone posted a video on Facebook supporting Donald Trump for president. The video includes a naked, dead baby lying on an altar, as Fr. Pavone stands behind the altar, talking about abortion.

“A human being has been sacrificed and the altar of God has been desecrated, all for politics,” Mechmann said in a blog post on the Archdiocese of New York website. “Everyone who respects the dignity of every human person should reject and disavow this atrocity.”

“A priest of the Catholic Church publicly displayed on a sacred altar a dead baby who was the victim of a terrible crime as part of a propaganda video in favor of a political candidate,” he said. “It is hard for me to express in calm, measured terms, the revulsion I feel about this.”

While there has long been debate within the pro-life movement about whether to show images of aborted babies in order to reveal the graphic reality of abortion, that discussion is “beside the point,” Mechmann said.

“The real question is, what about that baby as a human being? That baby is an individual human person, someone’s son or daughter, made in the image and likeness of God, unique and unrepeatable, and deserving of our love and mercy,” he said. “To use her body in this way is to treat that poor lost girl or boy as an object to be used – which is the antithesis of love – and not as a brother or sister to be mourned.”

Fr. Thomas Petri, vice president and academic dean of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., echoed Mechmann.

“The issue here is the dignity of the child that was used, and violating the dignity of his or her body on an altar of God – which is supposed to be used for divine worship. It really is a profane violation,” he told CNA.

“The Catholic Church is very strict that human bodies are to be treated reverently after a person dies.”

The video also drew fire in the Catholic blogosphere. In a Nov. 7 blog post, Mary Pezzulo, a blogger on Patheos, noted that the baby’s body had not even been cleaned or dressed before being placed on the altar.

“It is wrong to use dead people as political props. Most people know that,” she said, pointing to the teaching of the Catechism that “The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity.”

“Human bodies are not objects for us to exploit. As we do to them, we do to Christ,” Pezzulo said.

Blogger Mark Shea also rejected the treatment of the baby.

“(T)he Church does indeed insist on the right to life of the unborn baby,” he said in a post on Patheos. However, he continued, “That does not mean that in the name of fighting abortion, you get to use the unborn’s naked body as a prop for attacking your culture war enemies on the eve of an election. It does not make the unborn’s body a thing for you to manipulate as political imagery.”

Scott Eric Alt, a third Patheos blogger, called for Fr. Pavone to have his faculty to celebrate Mass suspended. He pointed to Canon law, which stipulates: “An altar, whether fixed or movable, is to be reserved for divine worship alone, to the exclusion of any secular usage.”

“The altar is intended for a sacramental purpose, as the place where the priest celebrates Mass,” Alt said.

“There is no other way to put it than that this is a sacrilege and a scandal. The human person is not a prop for a political stunt. This is an offense to the purpose for which priests are ordained to use the altar.”

Furthermore, Alt charged, “what Fr. Pavone did is the opposite of pro-life.”

“Being pro-life is about respecting the dignity of the human person. It is the antithesis of respect for the dignity of the human person to use a dead child as a political prop to lobby for your presidential candidate the day before an election. This does no honor to the dead.”

Although Priests for Life claims to be in good standing with the Vatican, Fr. Pavone has previously sparked controversy over his contentious relationship with Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of Amarillo – whose jurisdiction he is under – given charges that he had disobeyed the bishop and had failed to allow the Priests for Life to undergo auditing.

Fr. Pavone also had a severe run-in with Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York - where Priests for Life is headquartered - in 2014. That November, Cardinal Dolan wrote in a letter to fellow bishops that he wanted “nothing further to do” with Fr. Pavone given the priests refusal to cooperate in “several necessary reforms” of the organization after requests made by the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy.


What does the Catholic Church say about voting?

Mon, 11/07/2016 - 12:10

Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2016 / 10:10 am (CNA).- As Americans across the country prepare to step into the voting booth tomorrow, what are the most important principles for Catholics seeking to form their consciences according to Church teaching?

The answer can’t be reduced to a single issue, but is a matter of weighing candidates’ positions on the different topics at stake, examining the moral hierarchy of issues and rejecting intrinsically evil acts.

The U.S. bishops’ conference attempts to offer guidance through its document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

“It is our hope that by reading the document, they will inform their own consciences as to Church teachings which require us, to make sound moral judgements based on the truths and tenets of our faith,” said Norma Montenegro Flynn, assistant director of media relations at the U.S. bishops’ conference Office of Public Affairs.

She said that while the document is “not a ‘voter’s guide’,” it does seek to form Catholics’ consciences and explain the responsibilities Catholics have in our democracy.

“As Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship reminds us, while the Church is involved in the political process and shaping policy, it is not partisan and therefore, cannot support or recommend any candidate or party,” Montenegro Flynn told CNA in a statement. “Nor can we compromise basic principles or moral teachings.”

“Our cause is the defense of human life and dignity as well as the protection of the weak and the vulnerable. Therefore, we continue our call to Catholics across the U.S. to faithful reflection and discernment as we approach the elections.”

Forming Consciences lays our principles of Catholic thought, reminding Americans that in “the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.”  

But the Church’s vision of political engagement differs from the partisanship and maneuvering of power that tends to define secular politics, the bishops’ document says, emphasizing the importance of well-formed consciences shaped by fundamental moral truths more than party affiliation.

Forming Consciences discusses the idea of “intrinsically evil” actions, those that are “so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons.”

“There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor,” it says. “They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned.”

A prime example of an intrinsically evil action is the intentional taking of innocent human life, such as through abortion or euthanasia, the document says.

Other acts listed in Forming Consciences as always unjustifiable include human cloning, destructive research on human embryos, genocide, torture, the targeting of noncombatants in acts of war, acts of racism, treating workers as a mere means to an end, intentionally subjecting workers to subhuman living conditions, treating the poor as disposable, and redefining marriage to deny its essential meaning.

It is important to note that not all issues are morally equivalent, the document emphasizes. “The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many.”

At the same time, the “necessary moral distinctions” between issues must not be used to dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity.

“As Catholics we are not single-issue voters,” the bishops’ document states. “A candidate's position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter's support. Yet if a candidate's position on a single issue promotes an intrinsically evil act, such as legal abortion, redefining marriage in a way that denies its essential meaning, or racist behavior, a voter may legitimately disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”

It is always wrong for Catholics to vote for candidates who support policies promoting intrinsic evils “if the voter's intent is to support that position,” Forming Consciences explains.

However, it adds, “(t)here may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate's unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.”

The document also notes the possibility of a situation in which all candidates hold positions that promote an intrinsically evil act. In such a case, the bishops say, voters “may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.”

Reflecting on the document’s underlying themes, Joseph E. Capizzi, associate professor of Moral Theology at The Catholic University of America, said that the guidance the bishops offer in how to form the conscience is the most important – and most challenging – point the bishops make.

“Too often we think of our consciences as immune to – and free from – external sources of guidance,” told CNA. “Our particularly American understanding of ‘self-reliance,’ and even ‘self-creation’ balks at the idea that a ‘well-formed conscience’ is a conscience tutored by the world; by experiences shared by others, by reason and the natural law, and by the teachings of the Church that express that law.”

But these principles are important, he maintained, because without them, “we have no way of distinguishing conscience as the voice of God guiding us toward freedom and fulfillment from conscience as the voice of self, unintentionally and unknowingly leading us in circles.”

This is not to say, however, that Catholics will be able to find candidates, Capizzi said. “I think it’s unavoidable that Catholics choose among candidates holding problematic views,” he explained, but he added that the document’s guidance on forming one’s conscience can help Catholics work “to limit the harms in such situations.”

And the principles outlined in the bishops’ document apply not only to national races but to all kinds of political actions that call Catholics to consider and discern issues at hand. The point of the Forming Consciences document, Capizzi said, “is to help in conscience formation. A well-formed conscience, one that seeks to advance the common good and contribute to the ‘human ecology’ necessary for human flourishing.”

Capizzi suggested that Catholics read the document and to “pray deeply after thinking about the principles explained in the document and the issues it mentions.”   

“The faithful should focus in particular on their own biases and weaknesses, exploring those areas where they find themselves most challenged by the guidance the bishops provide,” he offered. He also said that Catholics should not limit their political involvement to voting, but to continue in their commitment and involvement with others.   

“We are always growing and learning in our engagement with others,” he encouraged. “So, vote next Tuesday and regardless of the outcome, keep up the good work of Christ!”


Knights of Columbus head: Catholics must be a source of post-election unity

Mon, 11/07/2016 - 04:06

Arlington, Va., Nov 7, 2016 / 02:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Following a tumultuous and divided election season, Catholics in the U.S. should find ways to create unity and healing, said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus.

“(T)he question we should ask ourselves is in what way Catholics in America can be a future source of unity and reconciliation or whether we will be a cause of further division and hostility,” Anderson said Nov. 5.

“The answer to that question will depend in large measure upon what it means today to be a Catholic in America.  In other words, what is fundamental to our identity as Catholics?”

Anderson spoke in Arlington, Virginia at the Catholic Distance University Founder’s Award Dinner, where he was the recipient of the Founder’s Award.

He referenced the WikiLeaks emails involving John Podesta, campaign manager for Hillary Clinton.

In one leaked email, Podesta discusses the idea of planting seeds for a possible “Catholic Spring” in which the laity would revolt against the bishops to demand changes in Church moral teaching.

In another email, Center for American Progress fellow John Halpin, himself a Catholic, calls conservatism among Catholics “an amazing bastardization of the faith,” and Podesta suggests that conservative Catholics are attracted to the Church’s intellectual tradition because “They can throw around ‘Thomistic’ thought and ‘subsidiarity’ and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they're talking about.”

Part of what is so troubling about these emails, Anderson said, is that some of the disparaging comments about Catholics were made by other Catholics.

“This episode presents a serious challenge to Catholics,” Anderson said, “regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s election, our country will remain deeply divided and those divisions are, to a very real extent, also reflected within our own Catholic faith community.”

The solution to this, he continued, will require “faithful Catholics to fully exercise their responsibilities as citizens” at a time when many are disheartened and frustrated. 

“Now is the time for more – not less – Catholic values in our electoral process.  Now is the time for more – not less – Catholic values in our nation.”

Anderson proposed six concrete areas where Catholicism in the United States has an opportunity to grow and promote unity. 

First, he said, is “the renewal of parish life as a true Eucharistic community,” with a greater appreciation for the Eucharist as the source and summit of unity, charity and Christian life. 

Next, a “renewed evangelization of family life” is needed, “centered upon the calling of every Catholic family to be a domestic church which, in solidarity with other families, would be a source of unity, charity and reconciliation.”

In addition, Anderson said, Catholics should grow in their devotion to Mary as the Patroness of the U.S., seeing in her a model of “understanding our responsibilities toward our neighbors and for the common good as citizens.” 

Also necessary is a “deeper understanding of those moral principles and issues that are non-negotiable for us as a faith community,” which leads to a deeper understanding and application of the Church’s Social Doctrine.  

A greater commitment to authentic Catholic education that forms the entire person at every academic level is also important for Catholic identity, he said.

Finally, he concluded, the Church in the U.S. needs “a greater appreciation of the office of bishop as the source of unity for the local church” and deeper communication among clergy, religious and laity.  

Who will win the Catholic vote this week? It's hard to predict.

Sun, 11/06/2016 - 16:02

Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2016 / 02:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A new poll released Friday shows Donald Trump winning the Catholic vote by 16 points – but is it an accurate prediction of how Catholics will vote next Tuesday?

“We just don't have enough data to say anything very reliable this year,” cautioned Dr. Mark Gray of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, which conducts social science research on the Catholic Church, at Georgetown University.

“The Exit Polls will provide better insight but we won't see these until after the fact,” he told CNA.

Of all the general election polls, only a few of them have reported the religious affiliations of respondents. And for those that have, their revelations of the Catholic vote vary widely.

The latest survey of likely voters by Investor’s Business Daily and TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence shows Catholics supporting Trump by a 16-point margin – 54 to 38 percent, with three percent supporting the Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. Four percent are “not sure” who they will support.

While an Oct. 21 IBD/TIPP survey had Trump winning Catholic voters 49 to 36 percent, with five percent voting for Johnson, Trump’s lead narrowed to just 46 to 41 percent on Oct. 28, with Johnson’s support increasing to eight percent.

However, after the FBI announced Oct. 28 that it was again investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server from her time as Secretary of State, Trump’s margin of support among Catholics increased again to 16 percent by Friday, Nov. 4.

Other polls – conducted before the FBI’s Oct. 28 announcement – show markedly different results in the Catholic vote.

A Pew Research poll, released Oct. 27, showed Clinton narrowly winning the Catholic vote among registered voters, 46 to 44 percent.

The Public Religion Research Institute, meanwhile, showed Trump winning among White Catholics 48 to 41 in a compilation of surveys from Sept. 22 to Oct. 17, but Clinton winning Latino Catholics by a vast margin, 84 percent to 12 percent.

What is to be made of these poll numbers?

“There is so much volatility in the polls in what appears to be a close race,” Dr. Gray noted, and in what is expected to be a close race, that “volatility” will be magnified.

“We also have fewer polls this year than in previous elections,” he added, and “on top of that the Catholic sample is typically 18 percent to 25 percent of survey respondents so the problems with margin of error are even bigger. You get more volatility with a smaller sample.”

Thus, it is hard to accurately predict how the general public will vote, much less a sub-group like Catholic voters, he said.

Joshua Mercer, co-founder of, agreed that the Catholic vote is hard to predict with certainty right now.

There has been “a lot more fluidity” in the public’s support for the candidates this year than in 2012, he noted. “Overall, there’s a lot less polling,” he added, which means that “there’s a lot less information to go around.”

Ultimately, the election result may come down to several key swing states like Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, and Ohio, he said, and those states have sizeable Catholic populations. “They are all states where Catholic voters are going to decide the next president,” he insisted.

Catholics are expected to vote as the rest of the populace votes, as this has been the case in recent elections.

Catholics have voted along with the popular vote in the last few presidential elections, choosing Al Gore in 2000 when Gore won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote, as well as voting for George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, always mirroring the rest of the electorate.

In the mid-term elections, Catholics went for the victorious party, voting for Democrats in 2006 when the party took control of Congress, and then voting for the victorious Republicans in 2010 and 2014.