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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.
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O’Malley sent concerns about NY priest to apostolic nuncio after NY Times report

Sat, 12/29/2018 - 23:29

Boston, Mass., Dec 29, 2018 / 09:29 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Boston this month forwarded to the pope’s U.S. representative concerns sent to him about a New York priest who was in active college and parish ministry while under investigation for charges of sexual abuse.

The cardinal forwarded the correspondence the day after media reports emerged detailing the allegations made against the priest.

On Dec. 21, Cardinal Sean O’Malley sent to Archbishop Christophe Pierre correspondence he had received regarding Rev. Donald Timone, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York who was being investigated by the review board of that archdiocese.

“I note the seriousness of the allegations [redacted] presents with regard to Rev. Timone,” O’Malley wrote, in a letter published Dec. 28 by Spanish Catholic news site Religión Digital.

The cardinal said he had received a letter expressing concerns about Timone in early November, though the author of that letter was redacted. Sources familiar with the letter told CNA that the person who wrote to O’Malley about Timone’s ministry was himself a victim of sexual abuse by a New York priest.

The cardinal said he had not forwarded the correspondence sooner because he was “away from the Archdiocese for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last month, [for] commitments in other dioceses, and meetings with the Holy Father in Rome this month.”

O’Malley acknowledged in his letter that “today the New York Times has published an extensive report concerning the allegations against Rev. Timone.”

Timone is accused of sexually abusing two teenage boys during the late 1960s and early 1970s. On Dec. 20, the New York Times reported Timone was allowed to continue to publicly minister as a priest despite allegations made against the priest, and a 2017 settlement with two of Timone’s alleged victims. The priest was prohibited from ministry shortly after the report was published.

CNA subsequently reported that the archdiocese sanctioned the priest’s continued college ministry even while he was under investigation, telling a California college that Timone had never been accused of abuse.

In August, O’Malley apologized after reports emerged that his office had received a 2015 letter detailing accusations of sexual abuse against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, and failed to pass it on to Church officials.

The apology came after media reports revealed that New York priest Father Boniface Ramsey had tried to warn church officials about McCarrick multiple times, including in the 2015 letter, which he sent to O’Malley because of his role as President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

O’Malley said his secretary Father Robert Kickham received the letter and responded to Ramsey himself, saying that the accusations fell outside of the jurisdiction of O’Malley’s office, as they did not involve minors. O’Malley said he only found out about Ramsey’s letter after the recent media reports.

O’Malley promised at that time to revise the policies of his office to ensure that all complaints of sexual abuse or episcopal negligence sent to him would be forwarded to appropriate authorities.

How CRS is changing life for disabled children in Vietnam

Sat, 12/29/2018 - 12:54

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Dec 29, 2018 / 10:54 am (CNA).- Life used to be very isolated for Ho Ngoc Linh, an 11-year-old girl living in central Vietnam.

She lived at home with her family and went to school with her peers. But she could never make the connections she wanted - and needed - because she was deaf.

“If you can imagine; you’re 11 years old, you aren’t able to communicate with your family or your friends or your teachers, you can’t hear anything,” said Leia Isanhart, a senior technical advisor for Catholic Relief Services.

“That’s going to be pretty frustrating. Especially as you get into this adolescent age.”

But Linh’s world shifted this year when she became one of the more than 5,400 children to benefit from Catholic Relief Services’ programs for children and adults with disabilities in Vietnam.

In February, Catholic Relief Services paired Linh with a speech therapist who taught her to read lips. Lip reading was the best option for Linh because her hearing loss was too profound for a hearing aid and nobody in Linh’s community knows sign language.

Linh attends a government-run school where neither her peers nor her teacher know how to communicate with her. But when Linh returns home, her speech therapist helps her to practice lip reading while reviewing lessons from the classroom.

When Linh began speech therapy in February, she was completely nonverbal. By June, she was making dozens of sounds.

“That’s a huge jump...she’s a very bright girl,” Isanhart said.

Isanhart visited Linh’s home in the Thang Bing district of Vietnam’s Quang Nam province in June. She said Linh’s new skills have transformed the 11-year-old’s home life.

Isanhart said Linh’s parents seem less frustrated, because they are finally able to effectively communicate with their daughter. Linh’s parents also have more support thanks to a parent association organized by CRS for parents of children with disabilities. Parents meet in their neighborhoods to learn positive parenting skills and techniques to handle common behavioral challenges, Isanhart said.

“We’re giving these families and children access to speech therapy that then is opening up their world and helping them to communicate,” Isanhart said. “That lessens some of the frustrations within the home.”

But Linh was also making meaningful connections with other children in her neighborhood.

During her visit in June, Isanhart watched as Linh’s speech therapist gathered Linh, Linh’s siblings and several neighbor children into a circle. The therapist then lead all the children in several popular Vietnamese games.

In one game, the children repeated one word while pointing to the object that word defined. Linh was able to look at her siblings and peers to see what that sound or word looked like on the lips of different people while also making associations between the words and the objects they described.  

“Promoting social inclusion through play; it was quite impressive,” Isanhart said.

Linh’s story is just one of thousands from Catholic Relief Services’ long-running program for children and adults with disabilities in Vietnam.

CRS, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary of service this year, has several projects in Vietnam; including tracking unexploded landmines from the Vietnam War, disaster risk reduction and a clean water initiative. But Julie Keane, CRS’ country manager for Vietnam, said work with children and adults with disabilities is CRS’ flagship project in the country.

For more than 20 years, CRS has worked to offer direct services to people like Linh and her family, while also advocating for large-scale changes to make life in Vietnam more welcoming to those with disabilities. Their work ranges from providing ramps and handrails at schools to programs training children with disabilities to recognize and report abusive behavior.

“It’s kind of that dual approach that is really successful and helpful because you’re not just delivering a service that then is done when we’re done, but it’s really changing the overall system of support for children and adults with disabilities,” Keane said.

CRS is also introducing this year organized play and organized sports for the disabled in Vietnam. Through a partnership with the Special Olympics, CRS was able to host an inclusive soccer match and bocce ball competition this June for 100 children with disabilities and dozens of their peers.

“There are so many benefits that come to the child’s development through sport,” Isanhart said. “We’ll be tracking the benefits to all the kids who are playing together and forging friendships between kids.”

CRS’ ultimate goal is to empower communities to organize inclusive sports clubs, Isanhart said. The provinces that hosted the June events procured more than $800 in donations from members of the community.

“It was really great to see the buy-in of so many stakeholders from within the community to support these kids to have the opportunity to play and build their friendships through organized sport,” Isanhart said.  

For Keane, CRS’ program for the disabled in Vietnam is one of the most life-changing programs she has seen in her more than a decade with the Catholic aid agency.

“In Vietnam, it (having a disabled child) is still truly very much still a stigma and so often parents don’t go and get help for their children...and that early intervention is so important,” she said.

“I think for us - for CRS - it’s really about ensuring that all human beings have a life that has value and that the most vulnerable are not left behind. There’s still a lot of work to be done … we are making progress on de-stigmatizing life for people with disabilities but there’s still a ways to go.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA July 27, 2018.

NY archdiocese issued suitability letter for priest under abuse investigation

Fri, 12/28/2018 - 19:39

New York City, N.Y., Dec 28, 2018 / 05:39 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of New York told a California college this month that a local priest had never been accused of sexual abuse, even while the priest was being investigated by the archdiocese for several abuse charges. An administrator at the college called the letter “a lie,” and said she can no longer trust assurances from the archdiocese.

On Dec. 4, the New York archdiocese issued a letter stating “without qualification” that Fr. Donald Timone had “never been accused of any act of sexual abuse or misconduct involving a minor.”

In fact the archdiocese first received in 2003 an allegation that the priest had sexually abused minors, and it reached settlements with alleged victims in 2017.

The archdiocesan letter was received Dec. 13 by John Paul the Great University in Escondido, California, where Timone served. According to the university, the letter was not rescinded until after university officials contacted the Archdiocese of New York, following a Dec. 20 New York Times report on the history of allegations against Timone.

Allegations were first made against Timone in 2003 but they were dismissed as “unsubstantiated” by the archdiocese following an investigation by the archdiocesan review board. New allegations were made against the priest during a 2017 investigation by the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program of the Archdiocese of New York.

Last week, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York told CNA that the archdiocesan review board had reopened its formal investigation into Timone in early autumn 2018.

The officially retired priest, still active at the university and in other contexts, was removed from ministry Dec. 21, according to the New York Times.

Timone has served for the last decade as a visiting priest at the university during the winter and summer terms. His duties included saying Mass and hearing confessions. He taught a class during the summer term of 2018 and was scheduled to lead a seminar in the coming term.

University Vice President for Administration Lidy Connolly told CNA that she was “thrown for a loop” when she heard about the allegations against Timone.

“Fr. Timone has been coming here for more than a decade and New York never told us anything about [the allegations] against him,” Connolly said.

Letters of suitability are issued by dioceses around the world for priests traveling outside of their home dioceses. They have assumed a far greater importance in recent decades, especially in the United States, following the sexual abuse scandals of the last twenty years.

“What do these letters of suitability and good standing mean if they say there’s never been an allegation and there clearly have been?” Connolly asked.

“Does this mean we can no longer have priests come visit from New York? At the moment the archdiocese’s word means nothing.”

The Dec. 4 letter was signed by New York’s archdiocesan director of priest personnel, Msgr. Edward Weber.

“I have carefully reviewed our personnel and other records which we maintain,” Weber wrote.

“I assure you that Reverend Donald Timone [is] a person of good moral character and reputation and is qualified to serve in an effective and suitable manner as a priest. I have no reason to suspect that the above-mentioned priest is unfit for service as a priest.”

Weber wrote that he could “certify and affirmatively represent without qualification” Timone had “never been accused of any act of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct involving a minor,” and “manifested no behavioral problems in the past that would indicate he might deal with people, including minors, in an inappropriate manner.”

The letter also attests that Timone has “never been involved in an incident which called into question his fitness or suitability.”

In 2017, the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program paid settlements in response to substantiated allegations that Timone had sexually abused two teenage boys, one of whom eventually committed suicide.

A spokesman for the archdiocese told CNA that, after the Dec. 4 letter was issued, archdiocesan officials conducted an internal discussion about Timone’s status in active ministry.

“The question of Father Timone remaining active in ministry did arise when a letter of suitability was requested for his trip to California,” archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling told CNA.

“He was initially instructed not to publicly exercise his ministry or present himself as a priest while there; it was followed a few days later with a further restriction of ministry for whenever he returns to New York, while the matter is under review by our review board.”

Connolly told CNA that John Paul the Great University had received letters attesting to Timone’s suitability for more than a decade. She expressed shock and outrage on behalf of the university.

“I’d defend the Church come hell or high water,” Connolly told CNA, “but there is no defending this - the [Dec. 4] letter is a lie.”

Connolly said she contacted the Archdiocese of New York after reading media reports about Timone, to ask why he had been given a clean bill of health.

“They totally evaded my questions,” Connolly told CNA.

The Archdiocese of New York declined to comment on why it issued letters for years indicating that no allegations had been made against Timone, even after settlements were paid by the IRCP and Timone became the subject of a renewed investigation by the archdiocesan review board.

The Dec. 4 letter explicitly states that all the relevant archdiocesan files had been checked before it was issued. The Archdiocese of New York declined to comment on whether this had happened in Timone’s case and, if not, whether similar letters had been issued for other priests accused of abuse or misconduct.

Zwilling told CNA that “lessons were being learned” and that a new process had been instituted in the light of the case.

“As a result of our experience with Fr. Timone’s case, in the future, before any letters of suitability will be issued by the archdiocese the request will be passed through the offices of the archdiocesan civil attorney and the Safe Environment Officer,” Zwilling said.

Empty cradle, empty pews? What the low birth rate means for Catholics

Fri, 12/28/2018 - 17:15

Washington D.C., Dec 28, 2018 / 03:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Demographic reports indicate that the U.S. birth rate is at a 40-year low, with significant declines among Hispanic women. That low birth rate could mean declining Mass attendance because couples with children are more likely to attend church, one demographer says.

“It is the case that Catholics, Hispanic or not, tend to become more active in their faith when they marry and have children,” said Dr. Mark Gray, senior research associate at the Georgetown University-affiliated Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

“Thus, going to Mass frequently may not necessarily make a couple more open to having more children. Instead, having children may encourage parents to incorporate their faith in their family life more and thus lead to higher levels of attendance.”

Hispanic Catholics who attend Mass weekly on average have 2.89 children, compared to non-Hispanic Catholics who have 2.35, said Gray, citing General Social Survey figures.

“So it is accurate to say that more frequently Mass attending Catholics have more children,” Gray told CNA. “Hispanics who are not Catholic have 1.8 children, on average. Nearly half of Hispanic adults are not Catholic, 46 percent.”

At the same time, there are other aspects of the birth rate to consider.

“A growing rate of disaffiliation from Catholicism among Hispanics along with slightly lower rates of Mass attendance among Hispanic Catholics over the last decade could be having an effect on fertility decisions,” Gray added. “The economy is also important.”

The U.S. reached a 40-year low in the fertility rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control provisional estimate for 2017. There were about 3.85 million births last year, a total fertility rate of about 1.76 births per woman.

By comparison, the total fertility rate in 2007 was 2.08 children born per woman, with total births numbering as high as 4.31 million.

Lyman Stone, a research fellow at the Charlottesville, Va.-based Institute for Family Studies, said the Hispanic birth rate appears to have declined the most.

“Solidly half of the missing kids over the last decade would have been born to Hispanic mothers, despite the fact that Hispanics only make up about a quarter of fertility-age women,” Stone said at the Institute for Family Studies website.

From 2008-2016, Hispanic women’s age-adjusted fertility rate fell from 2.85 births per woman to 2.1. They had about 19 percent fewer babies than they were on pace to have before 2008. This numbers about 2.2 million “missing births,” according to Stone.

By comparison, non-Hispanics’ fertility rate fell from 1.95 births per woman to 1.72. About 2.3 million “missing births” would be from these mothers.

Stone credited the birth rate decline among all groups mostly to changes in marriage and marital status.

“Births to never-married women are down more than births to ever-married women,” he said.

Since 2007, the age-adjusted fertility rate for married women is down 14 percent, while the never-married fertility rate is down 21 percent.

The statistics indicate the birth rate is falling more slowly for women with graduate degrees than women with bachelor’s degrees, while the birth rate is falling most for women with no bachelor’s degrees.

“Fertility declines are most strongly associated with factors that are race- or region-specific, not broadly class-specific, as different economic classes appear to have quite similar trends,” Stone said. “This doesn’t rule out all economic causes: there are important interactions between race and socioeconomic class.”

He suggested that economically-oriented solutions may have only “modest direct effects” on the birth rate.

The CARA research blog, edited by Gray, took a look at a similar time period, 2010-2016. It found a net loss in the U.S. Catholic population of 0.9 percent.

“This is a dynamic that is happening at the level of the family where it meets the parish community. Something is disconnected,” Gray said in a March 12, 2018 post.

Decline in marriage rates between Catholics and non-Catholics also mean a decline in non-Catholic spouses who convert to Catholicism. In 1996, 31 percent of all marriages were between Catholics and non-Catholics, compared to only 23 percent in 2015, Gray said.

“The most common reason given by adults converting to Catholicism for switching their religion is that they are marrying a Catholic. Fewer marriages in the Church between Catholics and non-Catholics will result in fewer adult entries into the faith.”

The retention rate among Hispanic Catholics appears to be slipping.

In 2010, 77 percent of Hispanics who were raised Catholic remained Catholic when surveyed, compared to 64 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics. By 2016, only 69 percent of Hispanic Catholics remained Catholic, compared to about 63 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics.

In 2010, 63 percent of all Hispanic adults in the U.S. self-identified as Catholic, compared to 54 percent six years later.

“Declining affiliation among Hispanic Catholics should be of great concern to the Church because a majority of Catholics under the age of 18, those of the iGen, are Hispanic,” said Gray, referring to the generation after the Millennials as “iGen.”

He suggested that descendants of immigrants from predominantly Catholic countries often show diminishing religious affiliation over time.

“Coming from a very Catholic country to one with abundant religious pluralism … is a dramatic cultural change,” he said.

The numbers could also reflect differences among Hispanics by national origin.

“In the United States, majorities of self-identified Mexicans, Dominicans, and Salvadorans self-identify their religion as Catholic,” said Gray. “However, minorities of Cubans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans say they are Catholic.”

More Mexican residents of the U.S. are returning to Mexico than entering, with a net population decline of about 140,000 U.S.-residing Mexicans from 2009 to 2014.

Catholic immigrants’ numbers are also on the decline compared to other immigrants.

 

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

Cristo Rey Network puts low-income students to work--and on to college

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 16:30

Washington D.C., Dec 27, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As urban Catholic schools nationwide are closing their doors, it may come as a surprise that the Catholic Cristo Rey Network says it is on-pace to expand to a total of 50 schools within the next decade. The network says that it can provide Catholic education in low-income areas for a fraction of the cost of other high schools.

What’s the secret? Through a unique arrangement called the Corporate Work Study Program, Cristo Rey students are placed in entry-level corporate positions for five days a month. Instead of being paid for their work, students earn their tuition.

The Corporate Work Study Program began in the mid-1990s, when Chicago Jesuits were seeking to better serve the city’s Latino community. After surveying residents, they discovered that they most desired a college-prep high school in their neighborhood. When issues of funding came up, the Jesuits assigned to create this new school reached out to a “very creative, original thinker” for ideas.

“They asked [the consultant] for some ideas about how to sustain a private school for students and families who could not afford to pay for it. He came back with the suggestion that every student have a job,” Fr. John P. Foley, S.J., founder of the Cristo Rey Network, told CNA.

“That was the origin of the Cristo Rey concept.”

Students are allowed to work despite being underage due to a law that permits students enrolled in school-supervised and authorized work-study program to be lawfully employed.

More than 3,000 businesses, including Deloitte, PwC, CIBC, Jones Day, United Airlines, and Ernst & Young, employ Cristo Rey students throughout the school year. Initially, the Jesuits reached out to business-owning alumni of Jesuit schools to propose the idea of the Corporate Work Study Program.

According to Foley, the Jesuit connection provided a great assist to the program.

“It almost seemed enough for those alumni to hear that this was something the Jesuits were thinking about doing for them to say yes, they would give a job. It was almost a blind act of faith in their former teachers,” said Foley.  
 
The first Cristo Rey school, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, opened in Chicago in 1996, with Foley as president. There are now 32 Cristo Rey schools across throughout the country, and the Cristo Rey Network is currently on target to open an additional eight schools by 2020.

About 10,000 students attend Cristo Rey schools, and on average, their parents pay about $1,000 annually in tuition fees. Nearly eight out of 10 Cristo Rey students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and almost all students are people of color.

Unlike other networks of Catholic schools, Cristo Rey schools are administered by a variety of religious communities, including the Jesuits, Dominicans, Salesians, and Franciscans. Others are run by a particular diocese, such as Cristo Rey Boston High School.

About 40 percent of students in the Cristo Rey Network are not Catholic, and students are welcome to attend the school regardless of what faith they practice, or if they’re not religious at all.

“All of our schools teach a standards-based religious studies curriculum in which all students must complete four years of religious studies courses,” said Alyse Faour, an advancement associate with Cristo Rey, in an interview with CNA. In addition to the required religion classes, there are student ministry programs on campus to assist with spiritual formation.

According to its website, students are admitted to Cristo Rey schools regardless of their abilities, and the average student begins high school about two grade levels behind. Despite this, about nine out of 10 graduates will enroll in college, which is a higher rate than enrollment levels of some high-income students.

“Cristo Rey graduates (...) are completing bachelor’s degrees at more than twice the rate of high school graduates from low-income families nationwide,” said Faour. “We’re making strong progress towards them earning college degrees at national rates comparable to students from families in the highest income quartile.”

Cristo Rey schools currently exist in 21 states, plus the District of Columbia. Schools in Texas, California, Florida, Virginia, Nevada, and Oklahoma are currently in development and on target to open within the next three years.

This article was originally published on CNA Feb. 1, 2018.

Ohio senate fails to override veto of 'heartbeat abortion' bill

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 13:44

Columbus, Ohio, Dec 27, 2018 / 11:44 am (CNA).- Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio on Dec. 21 vetoed a bill that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, but today the Republican-led Ohio House of Representatives voted 60-28 successfully to override the governor’s veto.  

The Ohio senate subsequently failed to override the governor’s veto Dec. 27, with just 19 senators voting in favor of the bill, with 20 votes needed for an override.

Democrats in the house reportedly argued that House Bill 258 iis unconstitutional, an assertion with which Kasich ultimately agreed.

“As governor I have worked hard to strengthen Ohio’s protections for the sanctity of human life , and I have deep respect for my fellow members in the pro-life community and their ongoing efforts in defense of unborn life,” Governor Kasich wrote Dec. 21 in a message accompanying the veto.

“However, the central position of [the bill], that an abortion cannot be performed if a heartbeat has been detected in the unborn child, is contrary to the Supreme Court of the United State’s current rulings on abortion.”

Kasich went on to write that passage of the bill would result in a costly legal fight for the state of Ohio, which would result in the state losing and being forced to pay “hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activists’ lawyers.”

Groups like Ohio Right to Life had previously remained neutral on the bill due to constitutional concerns, but today the pro-life group announced their full support for the heartbeat abortion ban.

Ohio Right to Life also announced their intention to send a new heartbeat bill to the governor’s desk during the next legislative session, now that the senate has failed to override the veto.

This is the second time Kasich has vetoed a bill of this kind, the first of which arrived on his desk two years ago.

This time around, the Ohio Senate passed an amendment clarifying that the bill would not require the use of a transvaginal ultrasound to detect a heartbeat, which would extend the period of pregnancy before a heartbeat can be detected. It removed language that would have allowed the state to suspend a doctor’s medical license before a crime related to abortion is proved in court, and made it clear that a pregnant woman who undergoes an abortion is not considered in violation of the law, but rather allows her to take civil action against the abortion doctor involved if it is proven he or she broke the law.

The law allows exceptions to prevent a woman’s death or bodily impairment, or in cases of medical emergency.

Local media reports that Kasich has signed at least 20 abortion-limiting measures into law since taking office in 2011, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, based on the point when an unborn child can feel pain.

The same day he vetoed the heartbeat bill, Kasich signed several measures related to abortion into law, including a ban on so-called “dismemberment abortions” that drew praise from pro-life advocates.

"Ohioans can sleep easier tonight, knowing that the horrendous practice of dismemberment abortions is behind us," Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, was quoted as saying.

Senate Bill 145, also signed into law Dec. 21, bans the dilation and evacuation abortion procedure, which involves the dilation of the cervix and extraction of the unborn child. The penalty for violating the new law could be fourth degree felony charges, prison time and fines.  

Ten states have now passed bans on the common procedure, though nearly all the laws are facing legal challenges and are not currently in effect in eight of those states. Apart from Ohio, only Mississippi and West Virginia have currently effective “dilation and evacuation” bans, both of which took effect in 2016.

Ohio Governor-elect Mike DeWine, a fellow Republican who takes office in January, has reportedly expressed support for the passage of a heartbeat abortion ban.

Smartphones are driving a rise in teen sexting

Wed, 12/26/2018 - 20:04

Washington D.C., Dec 26, 2018 / 06:04 pm (CNA).- Teen sex may be down, but widespread access to smartphones is driving an increase in teen sexting, recent research has found.

According to an analysis of studies by JAMA Pediatrics, as many as one in seven teens, or about 15 percent, are sending sexually explicit text messages, while one in four teens (25 percent) have reported receiving sexts.

The analysis was compiled from the findings of 39 international studies dated between 2009 and 2016, with a combined total of 110,380 young participants with an average of 15 years of age.

“Sexting over the last decade has been on the rise, which is consistent with the rapid growth in the availability and ownership of smartphones,” noted Sheri Madigan and Jeff Temple in an article about the study. “Teen sex, on the other hand, has been on the decline over the last decade.”

The authors of the study define sexting as the “sharing of sexually explicit images and videos through the internet or via electronic devices such as smartphones.”

Most teen sexting does occur on smartphones, the study noted, which aligns with the increased access that teens have to the devices. In 2015, Pew Research Center found that the majority of teens had access to a smartphone - 73 percent - while 15 percent only had access to a basic phone, and 12 percent did not have access to a cell phone.

The research also showed that older teens were more likely to be sexting, and that boys and girls participated equally in the sending and receiving of texts.

Despite equal participation, another recent study from JAMA Pediatrics also found that girls report feeling more pressure to sext, and may have more sexual partners compared to girls who do not sext. Another recent study found that many girls who sext or are asked to sext react with confusion, but also believe that these requests are normal and struggle to turn them down.

Madigan and Temple recommend that parents have ongoing, “proactive” conversations with their children about “digital citizenship” and the consequences of sexting. However, they say that preaching abstinence regarding sexting “does not work.”

In contrast, Alysse ElHage with the Institute for Family Studies suggested in a blog post that perhaps a better message for parents to send their teens is that sexting is still only done by a minority of teens, and should not be accepted as normal behavior.

“Not only does [Madigan and Temple’s] response seem to disregard research linking teen sexting to other risky sexual behaviors, it also presents sexting as common teenage behavior, even though the present study indicates that only a minority of teens are sending and receiving sexually explicit images,” ElHage wrote.

“Although the increase in the prevalence of teen sexting is worrisome, it is still not the norm. Given that young people face tremendous peer pressure to sext because ‘everyone is doing it,’ perhaps a better message is that the majority of their peers are not sexting,” she emphasized.

“Justin Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center says that our education efforts need to emphasize ‘the abnormality’ of sexting behavior along with the dangers: ‘[R]emind the youth in your life that most teens are not asking for nude photos (or sending them),’ Patchin advises. ‘That is the norm, and one we should continue to encourage.’”

 

This article was originally published on CNA March 12, 2018.

The life of a hermit: A glimpse inside the little-known state of life

Mon, 12/24/2018 - 18:01

Portland, Maine, Dec 24, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The word ‘hermit’ might conjure up some strange images, a la John the Baptist living reclusively in the desert, wearing a hair shirt and eating locusts and honey.

The word itself comes from the Greek ‘eremos’, meaning wilderness or an isolated place. The vocation of a hermit became most popular among early Christians, who, inspired by Old Testament saints such as Elijah and John the Baptist, desired to live a life set apart and therefore withdrew into the desert in order to live lives of prayer and penance.

But the vocation is still a recognized calling in the Church today, and is about so much more than seemingly-odd ascetic practices and isolation.

In the interview below, Brother Rex, a hermit at Little Portion Hermitage in the Diocese of Portland, told Catholic News Agency what it is like to live the eremitic life in the 21st century.

 

What does it mean to be a hermit?

According to the Church's latest Code of Canon Law the canonical definition of a hermit is as follows:

Can. 603 §1. In addition to institutes of consecrated life, the Church recognizes the eremitic or anchoritic life by which the Christian faithful devote their life to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through a stricter withdrawal from the world, the silence of solitude, and assiduous prayer and penance.

§2. A hermit is recognized by law as one dedicated to God in consecrated life if he or she publicly professes in the hands of the diocesan bishop the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by vow or other sacred bond, and observes a proper program of living under his direction.

A shorthand and non-canonical definition that I use is to say that a hermit is a woman or man who lives alone expressly for the glory of God, the good of the Church and the salvation of souls. Some hermits are consecrated by the Church per Canon 603 above and live their vocation in the name of the Church; some hermits live out their calling without publicly professing their commitment in the hands of the diocesan bishop. I am hermit of the former kind, i.e. according to Canon 603.

How did you find out about this way of life, and what drew you to it?

Grace drew me to this life. The example of the Desert Fathers and Mothers drew me to this life. The example of many of the great saints throughout history - Francis of Assisi, just to name one well-known saint who lived as hermit for a time before he was called to found a religious fraternity of Brother - drew me to this life. Through all and with all and in all of this it was God's grace calling me to this particular way of discipleship.

How does one become a hermit? Was there someone you followed or learned from? How is the formation process different than that of a religious in community?

If a person wishes to discern a vocation to the eremitic life according to Canon 603, that person will want to contact the chancery of the diocese in which they live to determine whether or not the Ordinary of the diocese is open to the possibility of having a hermit under his canonical jurisdiction. If he is, the Ordinary or his representative in conversation with the would-be hermit will determine how the discernment process is to proceed.

What does a day in the life of a hermit look like?

Each hermit has his or her own schedule. My schedule looks like this:

My day begins around 4:00 a.m. I make a daily Holy Hour from 5:00-6:00 a.m. during which I pray the Morning Office. I attend daily Mass at a local parish at 7:00 a.m. After returning from Mass I have breakfast and spend the rest of the morning engaged in spiritual reading, Lectio Divina, and meeting occasionally with any person who has made an appointment to see me for spiritual direction. After Noonday Prayer and lunch, the afternoon (approximately 1-5 p.m.) consists of a work period during which I respond to email, and take prayer requests via email or regular mail. I pray the Evening Office at 5:00 p.m., my evening meal is at 5:30pm, Night Prayer is at 7 p.m., and lights out by 8 p.m. most nights.

This schedule is rigid enough to provide stability for my vocation in the silence of solitude, yet flexible enough to accommodate running errands, doctor's appointments, accomplishing tasks around the hermitage and so forth.

How isolated are hermits, in practice? How often or in what context do you encounter other people?

It varies. Some hermits rarely venture out of their hermitage. Some hermits venture out a couple of days a week to some form of work to provide financial support. The amount of time a hermit spends outside the hermitage or otherwise encounters other people is determined to a large degree by the interpretation of Canon 603 in dialogue with their Ordinary or his representative, and the hermit's Rule or Plan of Life.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about this way of life that you have encountered?

The biggest misconception I have encountered is that people seem to think that hermits are misanthropes who dislike other people and so hide away from them; that our life is not so because we love God, but because we can't get along with other people (at best) or dislike humans altogether (at worst).

I remember one person telling me I couldn't possibly be a hermit because I am too outgoing and friendly toward others! That being said, I would argue that eremitic life and misanthropy are two very different things. Eremitic life is a calling from God and includes a love of others. Misanthropy on the other hand is a psychologically maladaptive response to the world. This is not to say that all hermits are friendly and outgoing - being friendly and outgoing are a matter of temperament - but it is to say that hermits in a healthy and Christian sense do not, indeed cannot, "dislike humankind" which is the very definition of misanthropy.

What are some of the most joyful aspects of the life of a hermit?

One of the most joyful aspect of my life as a hermit is the opportunity God has given me to spend long periods in the silence of solitude to practice being present to God and to my neighbor through prayer. Paradoxically perhaps, another joyful aspect of my vocation is the part I am blessed to play in the lives of other people as they invite me to join them on their life journey through the ministry of intercessory prayer. Thus, in a particular way i am able to fulfill Our Lord's command to love God and neighbor.

Are there other hermits in the U.S. that you know of, or have met? Is there a hermit network of sorts?

I'm sure someone somewhere keeps an official tally of the total number of consecrated hermits in the Church throughout world, but I don't know who or where. In the diocese where I live there are five or six other hermits listed in the official Diocesan Directory. I am also aware of hermits, both male and female, in other dioceses in the U.S. and abroad. As for a ‘hermit network,’ I know of nothing official, but some of us do keep in touch via an occasional email, or letter or phone call. As I said, we not misanthropes. Not most of us, anyway!

Is there anything that you wish other Catholics, Christians or society at large knew about being a hermit?

What I pray for other Catholics, non-Catholic Christians and society at large is that they, like me, come to experience the freedom, happiness and joy that comes from submitting one's will and life to the loving lordship of Jesus Christ in whatever state of life they find themselves.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Assure your readers that I live my vocation as a prayer for them. Ask them to please pray for me, a sinner.


 

Prayer requests for Brother Rex, as well as his spiritual reflections and links for financial support, can be found at Friends of Little Portion Hermitage.

This article was originally published on CNA April 15, 2018.

Where is Jesus in the midst of the Church's sex abuse crisis?

Mon, 12/24/2018 - 13:16

Washington D.C., Dec 24, 2018 / 11:16 am (CNA).- Fr. Thomas Berg is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, a former Legionary of Christ, and professor of moral theology, vice rector, and director of admissions at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, NY.  He is author of Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics. He spoke recently with CNA’s Courtney Grogan about the challenges Catholics face amid the Church’s sexual abuse and misconduct scandals. The interview is below, edited for clarity and length.

 

With everything that has been coming out in the news recently about sexual abuse in the Church, how do you think that your book, “Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics,” could be helpful?

In the wake of the McCarrick scandal and ongoing revelations of priest sexual abuse, a very common reaction is one of betrayal.

That's what I have heard a lot of from persons who have reached out to me, especially persons who for years have collaborated with bishops, worked in chanceries, worked for bishops, collaborated in apostolates, have headed-up bishop’s capital campaigns, have been donors and so on. Part of the very common experience is this raw emotional wound of betrayal.

Much of my book speaks directly to that experience. That's where I really hope that persons who are going through that betrayal, profound discouragement, disappointment, the bewilderment of the moral failures of bishops, who either failed to report what they should have reported or did not act on what was reported to them.

That is scandalous and that opens up a wound of betrayal really in the whole mystical body.

I very much believe that the book can, hopefully, point to where is the good news in this -- Where is the hope in this? Where is Jesus in the midst of this crisis?

Where is Jesus in the midst of this crisis?

Jesus is the healer of wounds, and Jesus does not leave the members of his mystical body without healing when we seek it.

We are in the midst of a massive crisis, notwithstanding some resistance to that idea by some of our prelates.

And those wounds are opened up. This is where not only can Jesus bring healing, but he can also use that experience of woundedness, whether that is personally or institutionally or spiritually as the body of Christ. He uses those wounds to bring greater good, to bring grace and healing to His Church.

Part of what I do in the book is just to reflect, often with these individuals [victims of abuse] and sometimes in their own words, on this mystery that the Jesus who comes into this experience is Jesus who appeared with his glorious wounds. The wounds were still there. The wounds are mystically important and we can unite our wounds to Jesus and allow him to unite those in a mystical way, in a redemptive way to His redemptive work.

So, where is Jesus in all of this? Jesus is continuing in the midst of our brokenness, in the midst of the utter moral failures of our pastors, in the midst of our own sinfulness and brokenness. The risen Good Shepherd comes with his glorious wounds by which he intends to bring about healing in his Church and to bring about a much greater good and a much more glorious future precisely in and through the tragedies that we are experiencing.

We will also experience this in a much more glorious and beautiful day for the Church in the future, and certainly for the Church when all time has been consummated and we are all, by God's grace, caught up in the glory of the heavenly kingdom.

You discuss in the book how uprooting a betrayal of trust can be and how we really need to be grounded in Christ's love. What are some concrete ways that Catholics can really root themselves in Christ's love and find that grounding in a time when they might feel destabilized in the Church?

First, very practical immediate answer: Eucharistic adoration. No doubt about it.

That was essentially my homily when we were talking about the McCarrick thing from the pulpit. It means, as always in crisis, we need to be earnestly and deeply seeking the Lord by frequenting Eucharistic adoration and intensifying one's life of prayer.

In my own story, I had to go on retreat. I had to just go take some time to just be by myself to get that down to the solid foundation of what did I stand on. What was the foundation that everything that I believed stood on?

What one can come to in those experiences is that experience of Jesus -- the experience that our risen and glorious Lord still stands present in the midst of our lives. He is there.

When we are hurting, we need to do whatever it takes: adoration, retreat, increased prayer, asceticism, solid spiritual reading, all of the things that we can avail ourselves of God's grace to re-experience ourselves as rooted and grounded in His love.

God has a very big safety net for us and it is that reality of being truly rooted and grounded in Him and in His love that encompasses us.

It is just that when we are hurting, when we are scandalized, when we are angry, when we are experiencing all of this emotional turbulence, it is just -- it takes time and prayer and I think a lot of coming to silence and coming to quiet to get through that and to realize that our Lord is still there. Our Lord is still holding his hands out to us. Our Lord is still there to embrace us and pick us up and guide us and help us to move forward.

What would you say to the priest who just doesn't know how to address this from the pulpit, who is dealing with his own feelings of hurt and confusion, and maybe is on the fence about whether he should address it in a homily?

I think that the best thing that priest can do is to talk about that in his homily. It is emotionally exhausting for most of us. It is heartbreaking. When I preached, I got emotional. I think it is very healing and good if priests allow themselves to feel and show that emotion. Feel and show how personally upsetting it is. If a priest is angry, tell your people, 'Yeah, I'm angry too, and you should be angry.' It should start there.

It is absolutely essential that this is addressed. No priest should be waiting for some directive from his bishop. I would hope that across the country most priests have already addressed this from the pulpit. If not, it absolutely has to happen.

People are very angry right now, and I do not think that they are identifying that anger as a hurt. Many people are channeling their anger into what needs to change in the Church. Some channel it at specific people in the Church.

You address healthy anger in the book, and I want to hear your thoughts on it in this context. What would you say to people who are very angry?

There is certainly such a thing as just anger. I would hope that most of the anger that what most committed Catholics are experiencing right now is precisely that -- “just anger.” I have experienced a good deal of bit of it in the past few weeks.

Hopefully that anger does get channelled into good positive, action steps that I think Catholics are taking. But people should also be very honest with themselves: This hurts.

I think that our brothers and sisters who are going through this right now, and they are many, need to own up to that.

That is a very healthy starting point to getting to a better place. In this context, it is an important part of rightly channeling our energies and our reactions prayerfully and in docility to the Holy Spirit. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to come fully into that experience of hurt in this ecclesial context.

The immediate victims of McCarrick, those who have suffered sexual exploitation, they are hurt in a very unique way, but in some sense this has inflicted a hurt on all of us. And those who failed, those who enabled him, those who pulled him up the ecclesiastical ladder, if they did so with knowledge of his sexual predation, that inflicts a real emotional hurt on all of us, and we should just admit that.

Many Catholics first faced these initial feelings of betrayal, shock, bewilderment in 2002. After positive steps forward like the Dallas Charter, these Catholics found some consolation in the fact that the Church had made positive changes. Now there are layers of hurt there, particularly the hurt of thinking that things were better and then discovering that they are not.

The Church might not change in our lifetimes. Reform in the Church takes so long. The Church is very good at reforming herself, but it can take centuries sometimes. I'm worried for people who are looking for a quick fix.

I think that you are hitting at the heart of the problem. One thing that we are being faced with in this crisis is the reality that effective change within the Church takes a very, very long time. Even within organizations, people talk about changing the internal culture of a business, even that in itself can take a long time.

First of all, there is no reason why we cannot continue to take genuine pride in the programs that have been set in place with the sacrifice and dedication by the way of hundreds of lay Catholic men and women who have jumped into this breach and who have instituted requirements for background checks, safe environment training, safe environment programs, who serve the Church as sexual abuse assistance coordinators in dioceses (these are people who deal one on one especially with victims of clergy sexual abuse.) So we have every reason frankly to be confident that we are in a much better place then we were 15 years ago to protect our children. There is no reason to doubt that.

What people are still reeling from, and this has been the real revelation, is that there has been, especially within the episcopacy, there has been an internal culture which allowed -- and I am not faulting all bishops here, but McCarrick is the child of an old boys school mentality, a culture where bishops too often understood themselves as members of this kind of privileged caste who used power and authority to manipulate and frankly to bring about all kind of harms and hurts in people's lives. Bishops have sadly often been the perpetrators of much of the hurt that has been experienced on many levels and in many forms in the Church. And that is a sickly culture and it has to change.

The Church desperately needs a healing in its episcopacy. This is very much a crisis of the episcopacy. The current ethos is in so many ways it is failing us. It is failing the Church. What we have is, in far too many cases, a kind of managerial approach. Bishops simply seek to manage, to contain, to bureaucratize our apostolates, and that is not a culture where the Church is going to thrive.

Is that going to change anytime soon? No, but I think that we have an opportunity. This crisis is putting a spotlight on that problematic culture within the episcopate. I think that we can be hopeful for some kind of change, maybe even sea change.

There are good and holy bishops out there who are as incensed about this as you or I or any of us are. It is my prayer and hope that they will begin to exercise some very kind of unprecedented leadership within the body of bishops and certainly within their own dioceses.

So what do Catholics do meanwhile? Well, we are challenged to exercise the supernatural virtue of hope. We are challenged to believe that that kind of change, if it is meant to be, will take time, but we have to support every bishop who shows signs that they are getting it.

We have to support every bishop who shows signs that they understand and that they are taking unprecedented steps towards transparency, toward addressing even the faults of their own brother bishops.

We need to be supportive and helpful, and I guess that is a long way of saying that we need to hang in there and trust in the Holy Spirit. Change does take a long time in the Church. We are called to continue to exercise hope and it is by sustaining hope and sustaining a healthy pressure on the bishops that can bring about some really positive change here, maybe faster than we think.

As outrageous as it is, I can imagine the temptation a leader might feel to keep something so scandalous secret, to think that they were protecting Catholics from scandal by a sort of false charity, if you will. How does a leader find the courage or strength to come forward with the truth after they have covered up?

In the context of the Church, bishops who get it have come to understand that the scandal has been the supposed effort to “avoid scandal.” The scandal has been covering this stuff up. The scandal has been keeping this stuff quiet.

This is what I always tell our seminarians. Transparency is your friend. Light and truth are our friends. Institutionally, I think that we are understanding that. In the context of seminary formation, I really believe earnestly that the vast majority of our men understand that.

And I think understanding that also makes it easier to come clean when there has been a failure of any sort. In a sense, it all boils down to the old adage, 'Honesty is the best policy.'

Obviously, when you are talking about something as complex as sexual abuse and exploitation, that is obviously much more complex because sometimes you are dealing with victims who desire to remain anonymous.

It takes an enormous amount of courage for victims of abuse to come forward and go public. That's been one sad part of this whole tragedy. It is so difficult. The courage there is just amazing sometimes. I think the message of what we are learning in the sexual abuse crisis is that transparency is the only way to go.

Honestly trying to protect the requirements of justice and people's reputations is a difficult balance and it definitely requires that transparency.

What do you recommend for those who are specifically dealing with disillusionment? How do Catholics keep their eyes open to the truth without totally succumbing to cynicism?

I think that the level of cynicism and disillusionment right now is off the charts.

You know people often use that image of having a bandage ripped off a wound. I don't think that we have yet healed from -- I know we haven't healed from 2002. This isn't having a bandage ripped off. This is having that wound ripped open and stamped on.

I'm fully expecting that the level of disillusionment and just shear kind of numb confusion is going to be a very common experience. I think that there will be different outcomes. I hope that Catholics can believe that there is a way forward here, especially committed Catholics.

It leads you to question your faith. I have been there. I have had that experience. The more you expose yourself to this, the more faith is going to be severely challenged.

I would just hope though that Catholics can understand that Jesus can lead them through that fire. He can lead us through this fire and make it a purifying fire, so that we can emerge from this really sad and really critical chapter of crisis in the Church, that we can emerge from this as stronger disciples and more committed Catholic Christians.

What transformation the Holy Spirit brings about, I hope we could no matter how hard this is, I hope we could kind of look forward to that with a sense of hope and expectation and maybe even the sense that as bad as it is, I want to be a part of what happens now. I want to be a part of the renewal that the Holy Spirit is going to necessarily going to bring about. I want to be a part of the action here. I want to be a part of what the Holy Spirit is going to do now in the Church.

I am absolutely convinced that the Holy Spirit is working in and through this crisis in a very real way. I have experienced it myself. I have seen it and I have heard it from others.

We have to allow the Holy Spirit to bring us beyond this very profound disillusionment.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 16, 2018.

What went wrong in the Sexual Revolution? This documentary takes a look

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 18:51

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 23, 2018 / 04:51 pm (CNA).- The story of a donor-conceived woman. The Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. The development of birth control. And a papal document that shocked the world. These themes come together in a new documentary, Sexual Revolution--50 Years Since Humanae Vitae.

The film’s director, Daniel diSilva, told CNA that the documentary focuses on three main messages: addressing the broken ideals of “free love” that were promised in the Sexual Revolution; examining the consequences of the “free love” movement in light of Humanae Vitae; and outlining the historical development of the birth control pill and Natural Family Planning.

Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI, affirms the Church’s teaching against contraception. It talks about the dignity of human life and sexuality, and outlines the use of Natural Family Planning as a morally valid method of planning and spacing children.

The Sexual Revolution, said diSilva, introduced a new concept of love “with no strings attached, no babies, no consequences.” But it “went off track…and it has broken every promise that it made to our culture.”

“We, as a culture, were lied to left and right, and we all went with it,” he said. “I think the sexual revolution was, in a certain sense, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Pope Paul VI, who was canonized a saint this October, “was the antithesis, if you will, of the sexual revolution,” he continued. In Humanae Vitae, the pope warned society against the widespread use of artificial contraception, saying it would lead to an increase in marital infidelity and general decline of moral standards, the possibility of governments using coercive measures to force contraceptive use upon people, a loss of respect for women, and a general decrease in humility regarding humanity’s dominion over the human body.

“And he was ridiculed. He was laughed at,” said diSilva. “That document, to this day, is probably…one of the most hated papal documents...in history.”

But in the end, he continued, the pope’s warnings about the consequences of contraception for society would prove to be true.

The film also delves into the history of the pill in contrast with Natural Family Planning. For those who have not explored Natural Family Planning, diSilva said, its history is revealed in the film as a “beautiful and organic, super scientifically effective method,” especially in a time “when people are so focused on what’s organic and what’s natural.”

Tying these elements together is the story of the film’s narrator, Alana Newman, whose exploration of her life as a donor-conceived individual led to her conversion to the Catholic Church.

The inspiration for the film came during a conversation between diSilva and Newman’s husband, Richard, during the screening of diSilva’s previous work, The Original Image of Divine Mercy.

“I’ve been pitched a million ideas for films,” he said, but Newman’s idea stuck out to him.

The idea was even more special to diSilva because it began during the screening of a film based on God’s mercy.

“It’s highly significant because of what mercy means,” he said. “It’s an incredible link from Divine Mercy to this film.”

It also tips its hat to the pro-life movement. “It’s a work of art that is a culmination” of all pro-life efforts, he said.

The film features commentary from prominent Catholic leaders, including Professor Janet Smith of Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Princeton law professor Robert George, Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft, Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, director of the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project Brad Wilcox, George Mason law professor Helen Alvare, and author Mary Eberstadt.

But diSilva hopes its message will reach far beyond a Catholic audience.

The film, he said, is “an invitation to revisit Humanae Vitae now, 50 years later…Nobody can ridicule the pope for what he said in Humanae Vitae anymore - those days are over. Because everything he said came true. He was right about everything. He couldn’t have been more accurate in Humanae Vitae.”

 

This article originally published on CNA July 4, 2018.

How an abortion clinic became a medical center for the poor

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 17:00

Manassas, Virginia, Dec 23, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Four years ago, a medical office in Manassas, Virginia was one of the area’s largest abortion clinics. Today, it is a free medical clinic for the poor, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic opened its doors on Dec. 6, 2017. Supported by the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington (CCDA), the clinic provides free medical care to uninsured or underinsured adults living in Northern Virginia.  
 
The abortion clinic previously at the site, Amethyst Health Center for Women, closed in September 2015, when its owner retired. The building was purchased in 2016 by the BVM Foundation (BVM being an abbreviation for “Blessed Virgin Mary”), who passed it on to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. In August, the diocese announced that the newly transformed clinic would open later that year.

The clinic is run by a volunteer force of doctors, nurses, and translators, and is open weekly for patient care, provided completely for free. The clinic also does referrals for other services.

Most of the patients served by the clinic do not know about the building’s past use, but all of the volunteer workers are aware of its former life.
 
Medical director Dr. Scott Ross told the Washington Post that he thought the volunteers had been “energized” by how they would be part of “something good” coming from the same place where abortions had been performed for years.
 
Ross told the Post that he is hoping to expand the clinic’s hours with the help of additional volunteers, and that he hopes the clinic is able to make agreements with other medical providers to further serve patients in need of assistance.
 
Many of the patients served at the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic are recent immigrants who have not yet obtained insurance or cannot afford medical insurance, Ross said. The clinic is partnered with Novant Health UVA Health System, where Ross works as a family physician.  Catholic Charities says this partnership will provide even more low-cost medical care to those who qualify.
 
In addition to medical care, Ross told the Post the he hopes to eventually expand the clinic to offer food assistance to patients, and mental health counseling. Ross said that he has been surprised by the number of people who visited the clinic with complications from poorly-managed diabetes, and wants to assist these patients with meal-planning and education.

“We are starting as a drop in the bucket,” said Ross.
 
When it was an abortion clinic, Ross used to regularly pray outside of the building. He told the Post that it was “eerie” going into the building before it was renovated into its current state.
 
While the clinic is now running, the initial sale of the building to the BVM Foundation was criticized by abortion proponents. The former building owner says she was “duped” into the sale, and said she was unaware that the BVM Foundation was a Catholic group intent on shutting down the abortion clinic.

Sean Garvey, one of the founders of BVM, and Jim Koehr, the secretary/treasurer, say their group was entirely transparent throughout the sale process and communicated with Amethyst’s owner many times about what they intended to do with the office.

Controversy also arose after the abortion clinic’s closure, when its former telephone number, still active at the site, was routed to the crisis pregnancy center located next door. Koehr said that women who were calling a closed abortion clinic needed to hear “someone who cared” on the other end of the line.

 

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

Archdiocese faces questions over accused New York priest

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 19:00

New York City, N.Y., Dec 21, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of New York is facing questions about the sequence of events which led to the recent removal from ministry of one of its retired priests, Fr. Donald Timone. Fr. Timone is accused of sexually abusing two teenage boys during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

 

In a story published by the New York Times on Dec. 20, it was reported that Timone was allowed to continue to publicly minister as a priest despite allegations first being made against him in 2003 and an independent commission paying compensation to two of Timone’s alleged victims last year.

 

The awards were made by the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP), a body established by Cardinal Timothy Dolan in 2016 to compensate victims of clerical sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of New York.

 

Timone, 84, retired from full-time ministry in 2009 but has continued to say Mass in parishes and a Catholic university.

 

Initial media coverage of the case suggested that the handling of the allegations against Timone showed a failure in archdiocesan procedures. But a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York told CNA that the Timone case was “an example of the effectiveness of the Church’s procedures” and that the archdiocese had removed Fr. Timone from ministry in 2003 when the first allegation against him was received, and again this month following new complaints and more information becoming available.

 

“Sixteen years ago, after conducting their own investigation, the Dutchess County District Attorney referred to the Archdiocese of New York an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor made against Fr. Timone,” Joseph Zwilling told CNA.

 

“As is our protocol,” Zwilling explained, “Fr. Timone was removed from ministry, the allegation carefully investigated, and the entire matter turned over to our Review Board. They determined, after studying the case and interviewing both the person bringing the allegation and Fr. Timone, that the allegation was not substantiated. Thus, Fr. Timone was returned to ministry.”

 

Speaking to sources in the Archdiocese of New York, CNA was told that the 2003 allegation included the names of two other potential victims, but that neither of these responded when approached by the archdiocese.

 

The alleged victim committed suicide in 2015, following battles with addiction. He published a memoir in 2006 in which he detailed his alleged abuse but only named Timone as “Fr. X.”

 

In 2017, the IRCP awarded compensation for a claim submitted by the accuser’s widow, as well as to another alleged victim of Timone - both settlements were reported by the New York Times to be in excess of $100,000.

 

Controversy over the case has centered on how Timone’s apparent victims could be compensated by the IRCP while he was allowed to continue ministering as a priest during his retirement, both in New York and California where he spends part of the year.

 

Zwilling told CNA that the IRCP was set up to be a truly independent body and, as such, it applied its own standards to handling cases and there was no automatic mechanism to forward information between it and the archdiocese.

 

“Because it is a compensation program, not a legal one, it has a different standard of proof and review. The original complaint about Fr. Timone [found unsubstantiated by the Archdiocesan Review Board] was brought to the IRCP and in the course of its investigation new information came to light,” Zwilling said. He told CNA that, following the IRCP decision to make the award, the archdiocese asked the Review Board to re-examine the case, and that it had begun doing so in the Fall of 2018.

 

The second accuser compensated by the IRCP in 2017, quoted but unnamed by the New York Times, said that he had made allegations against Timone directly to the archdiocese in 2002.

 

The Archdiocese of New York declined to comment on this second accuser. “When the IRCP was set up by Cardinal Dolan in 2016, a commitment was made that the archdiocese would never do or say anything that could even inadvertently lead to the disclosure of a potential victims identity,” Zwilling said.

 

“At the risk of that happening, the archdiocese can’t comment on an allegation supposedly made in 2002, who might have made it, or under what circumstances.”

 

Zwilling did confirm to CNA that although the Archdiocesan Review Board had reopened  Timone’s case at least by October of 2018, his priestly faculties had only been limited earlier this month, ahead of his scheduled departure for California.

 

Christine Rousselle contributed to this report.

Senators quiz nominee about membership of ‘extreme’ Knights of Columbus

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Dec 21, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have questioned a candidate for the federal bench over his membership of the Knights of Columbus, with some calling the group’s Catholic views on abortion and same-sex marriage “extreme.” Senators also questioned if belonging to the Catholic charitable organization could prevent judges from hearing cases “fairly and impartially.”

Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) raised membership of the Knights as a point of concern during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of Brian C. Buescher, an Omaha-based lawyer nominated by President Trump to sit on the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska.

In written questions sent to Mr. Buescher by committee members Dec. 5, Sen. Hirono stated that “the Knights of Columbus has taken a number of extreme positions. For example, it was reportedly one of the top contributors to California’s Proposition 8 campaign to ban same-sex marriage.”

Hirono then asked Buescher if he would quit the group if he was confirmed “to avoid any appearance of bias.”

“The Knights of Columbus does not have the authority to take personal political positions on behalf of all of its approximately two million members,” Buescher responded.

“If confirmed, I will apply all provisions of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges regarding recusal and disqualification,” he said.

Kathleen Blomquist, spokesperson for the Knights of Columbus, told CNA that the senators’ questions echoed the kind of anti-Catholicism seen in previous generations.

“We were extremely disappointed to see that one’s commitment to Catholic principles through membership in the Knights of Columbus—a charitable organization that adheres to and promotes Catholic teachings -- would be viewed as a disqualifier from public service in this day and age,” Blomquist told CNA.

President Trump nominated Buescher to serve on the U.S. District Court on Nov. 3. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Buescher’s nomination Nov. 28, sending written questions to him on Dec. 5. 

The Knights of Columbus is present in 17 countries world-wide. In 2017, members carried out more than 75 million hours of volunteer work and raised more than $185 million for charitable purposes. Successive popes, including Pope Francis, have written to the group praising them for their charitable work and the manner in which they articulate Catholic faith and values.

“Our country’s sad history of anti-Catholic bigotry contributed to the founding of the Knights of Columbus, and we are proud of the many Catholics who overcame this hurdle to contribute so greatly to our country,” Blomquist said.

In her questions to the nominee, Sen. Harris described the Knights as “an all-male society” and asked if Buescher was aware that the Knights of Columbus “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and were against “marriage equality” when he joined.

Responding to the senator’s questions, Buescher confirmed that he has been a member of the Knights since he was 18 years old, noting that his membership “has involved participation in charitable and community events in local Catholic parishes.”

“I do not recall if I was aware whether the Knights of Columbus had taken a position on the abortion issue when I joined at the age of 18,” he wrote in response.

Harris highlighted a statement by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson that abortion constituted “the killing of the innocent on a massive scale” and asked Buescher if he agreed with Anderson.

Buescher said he was not responsible for drafting statements or policies made by the Knights and that, as a federal judge, he would consider himself bound by judicial precedent regarding abortion.

“I did not draft this language. If confirmed, I would be bound by precedent of the United States Supreme Court and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and would not be guided by statements made by others,” Buescher told the senator.

In reaction to the questions put to Buescher, Blomquist told CNA that asking a judicial nominee to defend his membership of a major Catholic charitable organization was disturbing.

“We believe that membership in the Knights of Columbus, which helps everyday men put their Catholic faith into action, is worthy of commendation and not something a nominee for public office should be asked to defend," she said.

In 2014, Buescher ran as a candidate in the Republican primary election for Nebraska attorney general. During that campaign he described himself as “avidly pro-life” and said that opposition to abortion was part of his “moral fabric.” 

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) noted the nominee’s previously outspoken opposition to abortion and asked “why should a litigant in your courtroom expect to get a fair hearing from an impartial judge in a case involving abortion rights?”

Buescher responded that “as a candidate for Nebraska Attorney General in 2014, I did what candidates for any major state or federal office do, which is to take political positions on a variety of issues of the day.” 

“However, there is a difference between taking political positions as a candidate for elective office and serving as a federal judge. I believe a judge’s role and obligation is to apply the law without regard to any personal beliefs regarding the law,” Buescher wrote.

“If confirmed, I will faithfully apply all United States Supreme Court and Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals precedent on all issues, including Roe v. Wade."

Buescher also fielded questions from senators about Trump administration policy on Title X funding for clinics providing abortions and referrals, as well as on the application of anti-discrimination law to gay people and on LGBT questions. 

The nominee underscored that, as a judge, it was not for him to advance personal or political opinions but to make fair and impartial rulings based on the law and judicial precedent. 

If confirmed by the Senate, Buescher will fill the vacancy left by Judge Laurie Smith Camp, who assumed senior status - a kind of judicial semi-retirement - on Dec. 1.

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.

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