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Florist takes religious liberty case to US Supreme Court

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 18:32

Yakima, Wash., Jul 14, 2017 / 04:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Flower shop owner Barronelle Stutzman is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to protect her from a Washington state court ruling that could destroy her financially because her religious beliefs prevented her from serving a same-sex wedding ceremony.

“If the government can ruin Barronelle for peacefully living and working according to her faith, it can punish anyone else for expressing their belief,” said Stutzman’s attorney Kristen Waggoner, a senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group.

“The government shouldn’t have the power to force a 72-year-old grandmother to surrender her freedom in order to run her family business. Anyone who supports the First Amendment rights that the U.S. Constitution guarantees to all of us should stand with Barronelle.”

“Our nation has a long history of protecting the right to dissent, but simply because Barronelle disagrees with the state about marriage, the government and ACLU have put at risk everything she owns,” Waggoner charged.

The attorney said the court decision not only endangered Stutzman’s business. It also endangered her family’s savings, her retirement fund, and her home.

Waggoner said her client, who is Southern Baptist, faced “burdensome penalties” simply for exercising a right of free expression.

The legal petition was filed July 14 with the U.S. Supreme Court. The complaint contends that the Washington courts’ reasoning is so broad that it “extends to nearly all speech created for profit” and is “particularly hazardous.” Also dangerous is the “extreme nature” of the punishment for the store owner, which threatens to bankrupt her personally.

The state courts ruled that she must pay penalties and attorneys’ fees for declining to make floral arrangements for a customer who wanted her to create designs for a same-sex ceremony. Her fines and fees could surpass $2 million.

“This Court’s review is needed to prevent the state from silencing professional speech creators with dissenting religious views,” the petition asks the Supreme Court.

In 2013, Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash., declined to serve the same-sex wedding of a long-time customer who had requested her service. She cited her Christian religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman. She recommended her customer to another nearby floral shop.

Stutzman said she and her client have been friends for years.

“There was never an issue with his being gay, just as there hasn’t been with any of my other customers or employees,” she said July 14. “He just enjoyed my custom floral designs, and I loved creating them for him.”

“But now the state is trying to use this case to force me to create artistic expression that violates my deepest beliefs and take away my life’s work and savings, which will also harm those who I employ. I’m not asking for anything that our Constitution hasn’t promised me and every other American: the right to create freely, and to live out my faith without fear of government punishment or interference.”

After hearing of the incident, the office of the state attorney general wrote her that she was violating the state law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and asked her to stop declining such weddings. Stutzman refused out of conscience.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the state of Washington eventually sued her. A lower court ruled against her, ordering her to pay a fine and legal costs.

She took her case to the Washington State Supreme Court, which unanimously upheld the lower court’s decision in February. It said that as a business owner Stutzman had to abide by the state’s anti-discrimination law despite her religious beliefs.

Waggoner said the case was similar to a Colorado cake shop owner Jack Phillips, who declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and also faces “burdensome penalties.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is asking the high court to consolidate Stutzman’s case with Phillips’ case.

Black Catholic congress emphasizes unity, action

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 16:41

Orlando, Fla., Jul 14, 2017 / 02:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- More than 2,000 participants from across the country gathered in Orlando, Fla. last week for the 12th National Black Catholic Congress, exploring themes of racism and reconciliation, and hearing speakers who stressed the importance of being active to work for change.

Held July 6-9, the congress drew its theme from the prophet Micah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: act justly, love goodness, and walk humbly with your God.”

A preamble with principles for a pastoral plan of action, unveiled at the gathering, elaborated on this theme.

“We believe the Holy Spirit, who is Lord and Giver of Life, is upon us,” the document said. “Because of this, we recommit ourselves to live our Baptism as Catholics, be ‘authentically Black and truly Catholic’ and seek leadership in our Church on all levels.”

“We commit ourselves to act justly by living in proximity with those who are suffering and neglected,” it continued. “Specifically, we seek to promote the dignity and life of everyone person from the unborn to natural death. We commit ourselves to dismantle racism in all forms, which is an obstacle to justice and evangelization. We also commit ourselves to address the challenges of mental illness, mass incarceration, domestic violence and others.”

The document voiced a commitment to finding creative ways to share the faith, supporting local Catholic schools, and promoting the canonization causes of the five black men and women being considered for sainthood.

It reaffirmed the universal call to holiness through all vocations in the Church, and recognized a need to listen and respond to young adults in the community.

The National Black Catholic Congress, which is held every five years, stems from an 1889 meeting between President Grover Cleveland and a group of nearly 100 black Catholic men. The gathering was organized by journalist Daniel Rudd.

The 12th congress comes at a time of continuing unrest and racial tension in many parts of the country, ignited in 2014 with the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

In his keynote address, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana addressed themes of unity and reconciliation.

“When Pope Francis speaks, he doesn’t speak to nations, races and tribes. He speaks to humanity, invited to be disciples of Jesus,” the cardinal said. “There is no Gospel for Africans. There is no Gospel for Americans. There is no Gospel for Italians or Europeans. There is one Gospel for all of us, created in the image and likeness of God.”

None of God’s children should be marginalized or excluded, said Cardinal Turkson, who is the prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Other speakers at the gathering included Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois; Dr. Tricia Bent-Goodley, director of the Ph.D. Program at Howard University School of Social Work; Public interest lawyer Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama; and Father Maurice Emelu of Nigeria, founder of Gratia Vobis Ministries, Inc.

Topics ranged from family life, young adults and vocations to Catholic social teaching, mental health and theology of the body. Unity, reconciliation and responses to violence were prominent themes throughout the conference.

Rather than simply a 5-day conference, the event was intended “to generate ideas that encourage creativity, freedom and innovation,” which can then be put into practice locally and regionally in the coming months.

In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, a Day of Reflection will be held Aug. 5 at the Basilica of St. Mary to discuss ways to implement the ideas that came out of the congress.


Bishop lauds bill to fight human trafficking

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 18:40

Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2017 / 04:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An upgrade to a key anti-trafficking bill passed the U.S. House on Wednesday, and has been praised by one U.S. bishop as “an important step” in the fight to abolish modern-day slavery.

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, called H.R. 2200 “an important step Congress can take to help prevent human trafficking and protect victims as it provides important service provisions that will aid victims.”

The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention, Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2017 makes upgrades to existing legislation, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. The new bill is named after Frederick Douglass, who was born a slave in 1818 but escaped to freedom and who spent his time thereafter fighting to abolish the institution of slavery in the U.S.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the House global human rights subcommittee, is the author of the act, with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), ranking member on the committee, being the bill’s lead sponsor.

The proposed legislation would increase funding for existing anti-trafficking programs in the U.S. and abroad by over $500 million.

Grants will be given to educational programs for students and teachers on how to detect and avoid the trafficking of young people for work or sex. Also, the U.S. government is encouraged under the bill to have employees stay at hotels that have taken concrete steps to prevent trafficking on their property.

Additionally, funding will go to victim assistance like temporary housing, legal advocacy, and mental health treatment.

Funding for victims is important, Rep. Bass insisted, because trafficking victims can be quite young and helpless.

“The majority of underage trafficking victims are girls in foster care, where the average age of a girl entering into sex trafficking is 12 years old,” Bass noted. “One of the major reasons girls cannot escape is because they do not have housing.”

Human trafficking is a global problem that claims almost 21 million victims worldwide, according to the International Labor Organization. Many victims are women and children. Trafficking includes many forms of forced labor and sex slavery.

Fewer than 10,000 trafficking convictions per year are made, according to the State Department. Trafficking spans many industries, such as Indonesians working in slave-like conditions on fishing boats, debt bondage in Afghanistan, and forced prostitution in the U.S.

The International Labor Organization estimates that $150 billion a year in profits in the U.S. alone is the result of forced labor.

“Human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said at a Wednesday press conference at the U.S. Capitol. Trafficking is a “national problem,” he added, and requires “a national effort to solve it.”

One chief aim of the the original Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, authored by Rep. Smith, was to introduce an annual report by the State Department where countries would be ranked in a tier system based on how they met minimum standards set by the law for fighting and preventing trafficking.

The State Department had legal tools at its disposal, like sanctions, to push the countries with the worst records on trafficking to improve.

The Trafficking In Persons report is also updated under the new bill. Countries on the Tier 2 Watch List, the level just below the worst offenders on Tier 3, may only stay on the watch list for a limited period of time before falling to the Tier 3 level if they do not improve their record on fighting trafficking.

Also, countries using child soldiers may not partner with the U.S. military until they discontinue the practice, under the new bill.

Bishop Vasquez stated his support for the proposed legislation on Tuesday, and advocated for citizens to contact their member of Congress to support it as well.

“The Catholic Church has a longstanding role in the prevention of human trafficking and the rehabilitation of victims,” he explained in a letter to members of Congress.

The bill’s actions to support victims of trafficking are especially important, he said, as well as those actions which aim to cut trafficking from economic supply chains.  

“As Pope Francis has stated: ‘[Trafficking] victims are from all walks of life, but are most frequently among the poorest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters,’” he said.

“I believe that these exploited individuals deserve the care and support of our communities and our government and that such support will help them heal and become survivors.”

Members of Congress reiterated on Wednesday the importance of the bill funding prevention efforts, helping victims, and strengthening prosecution of traffickers.

In particular, they insisted, Americans must be aware that trafficking occurs in their own communities and on easily-accessible websites.

“If we call ourselves anti-trafficking advocates, we cannot give a free pass to the websites that sell our women and children,” Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) said on Wednesday, pointing to a Washington Post story explaining how the site is “creating and soliciting illegal sex ads.”

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) noted how authorities in her home state, acting undercover, posted a sex ad which “in less than two days” garnered “over 100 responses to purchase these girls for sex.”

“Every human life is of infinite value,” Rep. Smith said on Wednesday. “We have a duty to protect the weakest and most vulnerable from harm.”


Why this Catholic takes issue with 'gay' and 'straight' labels

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 05:01

Denver, Colo., Jul 13, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Chastity actually means fulfillment, not suffering – and labeling people in terms of their sexual inclinations or attractions first is ultimately a reduction of their human dignity.

These ideas form the basis of a provocative new book by Daniel Mattson, a Catholic who finds identifying as “gay” unhelpful in the dialogue on the issue, and who also believes that living the Church's teaching on sexuality leads to the most profound experience of peace and freedom.  

“The Church must truly have a missionary zeal in proclaiming chastity as an invitation to a more fulfilling life for all men and women,” Mattson told CNA.

He said that Catholics need to reach out “to those who identify as LGBT to truly 'come out,' and let the masks of the world's sexual identity labels fall from them, and see themselves as God sees them: solely as men and women, beloved children of God.”

“The dividing line of human sexuality is not between gay and straight, but rather between male and female, as we see in the Creation account of Genesis,” said Mattson.

In his new book, “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” Mattson delves into the story of his upbringing: how he was raised in a Christian family, his experience of sexual confusion and social rejection in his early childhood, an addiction to pornography and an anger towards God. Living out his same-sex desires later in his life only made him more unhappy and lonely, and it wasn't until he turned to the Church that he found true fulfillment.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has called Mattson's book “powerful” and Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, said Mattson's voice is one “seldom heard” in discussions surrounding same-sex attraction.  

Mattson said a major reason why he wrote the book was to take on the notion of people identifying themselves first in terms of straight or gay. When Mother Teresa was asked about “homosexuals” in an interview, he said she refused to refer to anyone with same-sex attraction as anything else but “a child of God.”

“Even though men and women may be living outside of God's plan for them, their dignity as children of God calls them to love others as Christ loved us,” Mattson said. “As a Christian, that means sex must always be reserved for use only in true marriage, which is always open to life. The Church needs to have enough confidence in Her beautiful vision of human sexuality to help people believe God says no to sex outside of marriage because He loves us.”

In the book, he describes how he can trace the contours of his life that lead to his same-sex attractions, which contrasts with the assumption that homosexuality is innate.

But while understanding where his same-sex attractions came from was helpful for Daniel, he says it's not necessary for everyone. Though the Church teaches in the Catechism that homosexuality has a “psychological genesis,” how same-sex attractions come into a person's life is a minor question. The Church, Mattson says, is “more concerned about providing a path to a fulfilling life in the future.”

In his interview with CNA, Mattson emphasized that his adherence to the Catholic view on human sexuality isn't rooted in moralism or a suppression of desire.

“The biggest reason I have embraced the Church's teaching as good, true and beautiful is because following the world’s vision of happiness in the realm of human sexuality brought far more suffering into my life,” he said. Today, he finds in the Church’s vision of human sexuality true happiness and liberation.

“The Church recognizes that there is a ‘theology of the body,’ and our bodily reality as male and female points to the path of both what is normal and healthy in human sexuality, as well as to what is moral.”

In his book, Mattson references the self-identified lesbian feminist and scholar Camille Paglia, who agrees that same-sex attraction is not of the norm, but as a self-labeled pagan, says that the fulfillment of man comes with conquering what she sees as the confines of nature. Mattson disagrees with her view of morality, but he finds her acknowledgment of the true nature of sexuality refreshing.

“At least she’s honest about the fact that everyone’s sexuality is truly ordered toward procreation.” Mattson said.

But what Paglia’s view of sexual liberation ignores, Mattson argues, is that “there is far more pain and suffering in the lives of those who live outside of God’s design and ordering for human sexuality than those who choose to live within it.”  

He also noted that self-denial is an essential part of chastity, which everyone – not just people with same-sex attraction – are called to. For example, single men and women attracted to the opposite sex “are taught by the virtue of chastity to refrain from any sexual activity, too, and though this can be challenging, there is less suffering – and even more importantly, more peace – in one’s life when one follows the path set before us by God than if we go our own way.”

It's not an issue of who suffers more but rather a shared connection of “the common human experience of suffering,” which stems from “rejection from other people, dashed hopes and dreams, heartbreak and loneliness.”

Mattson said that one reason he wrote his book is to help pave a path forward for those who have suffered from heartbreak and loss in their own relationships.

These sufferings, Mattson said, are universal to the human experience and not something particular to people with same-sex attraction. He referenced Cardinal Ratzinger's 1986 “Letter on the Pastoral Care of the Homosexual Person,” which helped him refrain from self-pity and “thinking that somehow my various forms of suffering associated with living out a single and celibate life are more challenging than anyone else's challenges.”

Through his book, Mattson says he wants to help the Church to, as he puts it, “reclaim sexual reality” and to help the Church and the world move beyond a view of the person which is ultimately “based on a reductionist label of sexual identity rooted in one’s sexual attractions and feelings.”

“In the eyes of the Church, there is no 'us' and 'them,' there is just us, and this is one of the great gifts of the Church.”

Mattson also offered a key distinction between Catholics being welcoming and shifting on magisterial teaching. He said that often the homosexual community has viewed the Church as ostracizing “for the reason that the Church won't affirm them in their chosen way of living their lives.”

“The Church must be as welcoming and as loving as possible, but we cannot be more welcoming or loving than Jesus was who does not condemn us for our sins, but always calls us to go and sin no more.”

This call to change one’s moral life can be challenging, but it's a calling which invites people to conversion and “is a sign of true love and compassion.”

Despite Melinda Gates' wishes, the Pope can't change Church teaching

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 17:55

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2017 / 03:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis cannot change Church teaching on contraception, despite the hopes of Melinda Gates.

In a recent BBC interview, Gates has said she is “optimistic” that the Catholic Church will change church teaching on contraception in order to help women in developing countries.

“We work very extensively with the Catholic Church and I’ve had many discussions with them because we have a shared mission around social justice and anti-poverty,” Gates said.

“And I think what this Pope sees is that if you’re going to lift people out of poverty, you have to do the right thing for women,” she said, even though “we have agreed at this point to disagree” on contraception.

Her comments come as her charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is currently co-hosting an international summit in London on the issue of access to contraception in the developing world.

She said she was “optimistic” that the Catholic Church would re-examine its teachings on contraception and that they might change over time.

But such change is impossible, said John Grabowski, associate professor of moral theology and ethics at Catholic University of America.

“The Church’s teaching on opposing contraception isn’t a recent teaching, it’s not something made up by Pope Paul VI in 1968,” he told CNA.

In 1968, Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae, an encyclical “on the regulation of birth” that spells out Church teaching on family planning and contraception as it applies to the modern world.

This teaching is also articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states in paragraph 2370 that contraception implies “not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality...The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle...involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.”

But the 1960s was not the first nor the only time the Church has affirmed that the marital act has inseparable unitive and procreative meaning, Grabowski said.

“This has been the teaching of the Church from its beginning, so the Church (including Pope Francis) can’t change constant, universal, authoritative teaching.”

Furthermore, Grabowski added, “Pope Francis has shown no indication that he wants to. He’s been absolutely emphatic in reaffirming the teaching of the Church in this area.”

In his encyclical Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis said that: “From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself. Hence no genital act of husband and wife can refuse this meaning, even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life.”

“So he’s been absolutely clear,” Grabowski said.

One of his predecessors, Pope John Paul II, also taught extensively that contraception is not only a violation of natural law, but of sexuality and marriage as revealed to humanity through Scripture, Grabowski noted.

“So if this is a truth entrusted to the Church in revelation, then the Church has no authority to change it,” he said.  

Moreover, scientific data does little to prove that contraception is truly what’s “right for women” as Gates has said, Grabowski added.

“I’d start with physical health - even current low-dose oral contraceptives are a Class 1 carcinogen, they significantly raise women’s chances of suffering from heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism. There’s all kinds of health risks associated with most contraceptives,” he said.  

“So, good for women? The data doesn’t support that,” he said.  

Instead of contraception, the Church proposes various methods of fertility awareness, or Natural Family Planning, to help families plan their children in such a way that does not separate the procreative and unitive aspects of sex.

While these methods have been effective in developing countries where it is taught and promoted well, the Church could do yet more to support people who want to follow Church teaching, Grabowski noted.

“Could the Church doing a better job of talking about these methods of fertility awareness and their benefit? Absolutely,” he said.

“We’ve got a culture that is promoting and empowering contraception and the Church (needs to) articulate a clear enough alternative with a vision and how we can realize it.”

After Marine Corps plane crash, military archbishop calls for prayer

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 17:09

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2017 / 03:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Prayers and an exhortation never to forget the sacrifice of military service members were the response of the US military archbishop to a deadly Marine Corps plane crash on Monday.

“I express my heartfelt condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this terrible accident,” Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services said July 11. “My heart also goes out to their colleagues and others who worked with them. They also suffer the loss and ask questions.”

“I ask the faithful to join me in prayer for the repose of those who died and the consolation of their families,” he continued.

A KC-130 Hercules plane crashed in western Mississippi July 10, killing 15 Marines and a Navy corpsman. It had departed from a Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina, CNN reports. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Six of the Marines and the sailor were from the Second Marine Raider Battalion, an elite unit based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. They were traveling to Arizona for training. The other nine Marines were from Orange County, New York.

The archbishop said he was “shocked and saddened” to hear of the deadly crash.

Archbishop Broglio noted the military was also affected by the recent deaths in the June 17 collision between the U.S.S. Fitzgerald and a cargo ship off the coast of Japan.

“Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to defend our great nation and the freedoms we cherish,” he said. “We should keep them in our prayers always, and never take their sacrifice for granted.”

Bishops preach hope, solidarity amidst opioid epidemic

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 12:48

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2017 / 10:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Amidst a growing epidemic of drug overdose and opioid addiction, Catholic bishops have been speaking out on the need for prayer and solidarity with those suffering from addiction.

“The closer you get to the Catholic Church, the closer you get to the wounds of Christ,” Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas said during a June 14 press conference at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ recent meeting in Indianapolis.

“And it’s important for us to recognize that we accompany many people who are wounded,” he added. “It’s the very essence of the Church to reach out to those who are wounded.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared that opioid abuse is an “epidemic” in the United States. Every day, 91 Americans die of an opioid-related overdose. The drugs include those used in prescription painkillers like oxycodone, codeine, and morphine, but also heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Overdoses have also become the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50. Opioids are involved in over 60 percent of overdoses nationwide, the CDC noted, and opioid-related overdoses quadrupled between 1999 and 2015.

Many Americans have reported first using prescription drugs before they used heroin, and rates of “past month” and “past year” heroin use, as well as heroin addiction, went up among 18-25 year-olds from 2002-2013, the CDC found, as heroin has become more widely available and purer.

Heroin-related deaths have more than tripled between 2010 and 2015, driven in part by an increase in synthetic opioids like fentanyl being added to heroin and cocaine to increase the potency of the drugs, the CDC reported.

At the U.S. bishops’ annual spring meeting in Indianapolis, held June 14-15, several bishops addressed the rising opioid crisis and discussed what the Church is doing to help those addicted to opioids, and their families. “The problem is becoming just so massive,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

In Vermont, parishes are trying to reach out to victims on the local level, but are making sure to reach the families of victims as well, Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vt. explained at the June 14 press conference.

“Oftentimes we are kind of limited in what we can do on a state level,” he acknowledged. “But at our parishes, and in our agencies in our parishes, we can continue to reach out to addicted families,” he noted, adding, “not just those who are in recovery, but also their families.”

This also involves finding foster parents for children of addicted parents, particularly those whose parents have overdosed and those who suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Ultimately, Catholics must “recognize that it’s not just the addicts; it’s the whole family that suffers,” he continued.

Catholic Charities in the Galveston-Houston archdiocese is “already on to this question,” Cardinal DiNardo noted, and is providing “the kinds of charity and help and counseling for them and their families that Catholic Charities by its professional expertise brings.”

On June 29, Bishop Edward Malesic of Greensburg, Pa. published a pastoral letter on the opioid crisis. In his diocese in Western Pennsylvania, over 300 opioid-related deaths had ravaged the communities in the previous year.

In his “Pastoral Letter on the Drug Abuse Crisis from Death and Despair to Life and Hope,” Bishop Malesic affirmed that in response to the crisis, “we can either sink down into despair or rise up in hope.”

“This is a plague that has come into the homes and families of every city, town, and even the rural areas of our diocese,” he acknowledged. Yet Catholics must choose hope, he added.

“Hope is the certain belief that God will provide what we need to overcome the struggles we are now facing. If we are not guided by hope, we will give up before the battle is won. We must have hope!” he insisted.

And Catholics must give hope to those mired in the despair of addiction, he said. “We accompany them with courageous faith. We offer them the comforting presence and power of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Jesus will provide.”

Bishop Malesic exhorted priests, religious, and deacons to “reach out” in Christ’s name to those suffering from drug addiction, and “let them know that they are not alone.”

Catholics must pray for and with those suffering from addictions, he added.

“With the power of prayer, we can lift up our needs and the needs of those who are addicted to a loving God who is concerned for all of us. We know that prayer, this heartfelt and intimate communication with God, can make a dramatic difference in the life of someone coping with an addiction crisis.”

The bishop also announced initiatives the diocese was taking to respond to the crisis, including educational initiatives at the parish level and developing family recovery groups.

Last March, Massachusetts bishops also issued a statement in response to the state’s rising drug-overdose crisis, after the rate of overdose deaths had reached record levels there.

“We encourage our sisters and brothers who are suffering addiction or the addiction of loved ones to turn to their faith community for support, counsel and compassion, and we pray that those most affected will receive the physical, emotional and spiritual help that they need,” the state’s bishops stated.


Sacramento's Bishop Gallegos venerable and beloved by many

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 08:07

Sacramento, Calif., Jul 12, 2017 / 06:07 am (CNA).- It’s been nearly 26 years since Auxiliary Bishop Alphonse Gallegos’ funeral at Sacramento’s Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, but his nephew Rey vividly recalls the fellow who came up to him that day with his family.

“He told me, ‘Your uncle saved my marriage and my life,’” Rey Gallegos said with a smile, while waiting for a Memorial Mass in his late uncle’s honor to begin last June 24 at Mary Star of the Sea Church in Oxnard.

“He told me how messed up he’d been, how my uncle had shown him kindness and brought him back to live a good life. Then he introduced me to his wife and son, who he’d named after Uncle Alfonso, and said, ‘He was the most fantastic man I ever met.’

“And that’s who my uncle was: a man of love and mercy and grace. There was a time I was doing drugs and alcohol myself, and Uncle Alfonso never judged me. All he did was show how much he loved me, because he was all about bringing God into people’s lives.”

The man who brought God, and God’s healing, to so many in such a short time was celebrated June 24 in a church filled with parishioners, family members and members of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, the religious order in which Alphonse Gallegos was ordained to the priesthood in 1958.

Last July 16, Pope Francis declared Bishop Gallegos “Venerable,” an important step on the road to canonization. The life of the man who, in his ministry as priest and bishop, dressed in a 99-cent sombrero and T-shirt to minister at night to gang members, lowriders and at-risk youth in poor areas of Los Angeles and Sacramento, should have a lasting impact on all who proclaim themselves as followers of Christ, Archbishop José H. Gomez said.

“Bishop Alfonso was always seeing the face of God in the poor, the homeless, the immigrant, the prisoner, in everyone he met,” Archbishop Gomez said. “As we celebrate the life of this local saint, let us follow his example, and become beautiful witnesses of God’s love and mercy in our world.”

Following the Mass, Archbishop Gomez blessed a statue of Bishop Gallegos, created by Sacramento sculptor Jesus Romo and located in the garden of St. Augustine Priory adjacent to Mary Star Church, where the bishop often went on retreats during his priestly ministry.

Born in New Mexico, Alphonse Gallegos moved with his family to Los Angeles and attended San Miguel Church in Watts, where he built an altar in their house, prayed the rosary daily and dreamed of becoming a priest. He entered at Augustinian Recollect Monastery in Kansas City in 1950 and, despite severe myopia, persevered in his studies until he was ordained in 1958.

In 1972, he returned to San Miguel as pastor, working day and night to bring young people back to church, arranging for sports equipment and academic supplies for the parish school and earning his reputation as a “priest of the lowriders” for his fearlessness in meeting with those that society regarded as “seedy elements” and “bad influences.”

He did the same when he became pastor of Cristo Rey Church near Glendale in 1978, then moved to Sacramento as director of Hispanic Affairs for the California Catholic Conference. In 1981, he was named auxiliary bishop of Sacramento by Pope John Paul II, and served the diocese until his death in an auto accident on Oct. 6, 1991. His funeral procession included hundreds of lowriders.

His episcopal motto, “Love one another,” drew many to him in life and afterward. Reports of people who have said they were healed from illnesses after praying for Bishop Gallegos’ intercession led, in 2005, to a movement to declare him a saint. The cause for his canonization received its biggest boost last July with Pope Francis’ declaration.

At the start of the June 24 Mass, Augustinian Recollect Father Samson Silloriquez, postulator of the cause, read a Decree of Heroic Virtues for Bishop Gallegos.

“Father Alfonso was an authentic image of Christ, who loved the little ones, the poor, the immigrant,” said Father Silloriquez. “He was attentive to the needs of all, responding quickly and generously, and he left an indelible memory on all he touched.”

Including his nephew Rey, son of the bishop’s older brother Leonard, who was one of many who responded to his uncle’s never-ending love and relentlessly positive attitude.

“Everyone has his own definition of a saint,” said Rey with a smile. “In my mind, Uncle Alfonso is already a saint, for all he did to help me and so many others.”


This article was originally published at Angelus News, the publication of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.


How should a Catholic bishop tweet?

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 05:01

Orlando, Fla., Jul 12, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church may be thousands of years old, but its bishops are rapidly adjusting to the demands of 21st-century communication.

If the Church is to effectively evangelize in the modern world, a group of bishops argue, its leaders must be engaged online – but in the right way.

What's most important is for Catholics engaging online, particularly priests and bishops, is to be sure to bring Christ with them online, said Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas.

“If we aren't talking about the Gospel and what Jesus said today, then all the other stuff is going to be simply polemical, and our young people are tired of polemics,” he said during a panel discussion.

Young people, he added, want to know what Jesus has to say about the various issues and discussions happening online.

“I think, actually, we have kind of an obligation to sanctify social media,” the bishop said.

Bishop Flores spoke on social media use at a press conference during the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” event on July 2 in Orlando, Florida. Joining him in the press conference were Dr. Hosffman Ospino, associate professor of theology and religious education at Boston College; Archbishop Wilton Daniel Gregory of Atlanta; and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C.

Consultant and member of the Vatican's Secretariat for Communication Kim Daniels also brought up the opportunity presented by social media in a July 3 speech at the convocation. In many ways, she commented, social media is a modern “periphery” where many whose needs are overlooked gather together.

“It's clear that we need to engage people where they are, and the place where people are is social media on their own devices,” she said. “We know this is a great advantage for us to have this opportunity to reach out.”

Daniels also said that the Church has millennia of experience in communicating and bringing people together that it can give to online spaces.

“We know what it is to be a global interconnective network. We know that these kinds of communities need stability, and they need fidelity, and they need mercy, and relation and we can bring those gifts there.”  

For an example of these kinds of gifts being used in the Church today, Daniels said to look at Pope Francis as an “extraordinary communicator.” His enthusiasm, honesty, frank discussion, and resistance to jargon makes him effective at bringing the Gospel to the peripheries, even online, she said.

“He brings something very substantive.”

Bishop Flores agreed with the need to bring substance and Christ to online spaces. “There's one thing I do every day, and that's that I will tweet out the Gospel of the day,” he said of his own personal Twitter use.

“If there's anything I want people to know about the bishop it's that the first thing he does in the morning is tell you about something Jesus said in the Gospel, because that's the context from which we have to speak.”

“Maybe you're not going to get a lot of followers if you comment on the Gospel every day, but it has an effect.”

However, bishops and Catholics can use social media in other worthwhile ways, Bishop Flores stressed. “I have a Twitter and I probably have more fun with it than I should,” he joked.

He said that he often takes group pictures of his confirmation classes, and the confirmande will share his photos online and discuss their confirmation.

“It gives them a chance to say that they're happy to be Catholic.”

Their diocese also helps high school students utilize social media to develop skills in journalism through the diocese's Mobile Journalism Project.

“We help get some mobile equipment for high school students who want to learn about journalism, because they're out there everywhere,” Bishop Flores said.

After the students take pictures or write stories, the diocesean communications office will share them and give feedback. “It helps them get the idea that they can do this,” he said of the program's impact on students.

Cardinal Wuerl also pointed to the need for bishops to play a more active role on social media, acknowledging the challenges it brings for those who didn't grow up online.

“We need to be able to be a part of the conversation,” he urged. “If the Church is not part of their conversations, we're not speaking to them.”

Dr. Ospino pointed out, however, that in many places in the country, this collaboration between generations is not the norm for social media use in the Church. He noted that there is a large “discrepancy” between people in leadership positions in the Church and those who are using the media constantly, with most lay leaders, priests and religious being in their mid 50s, 60s, and 70s, respectively.  

“It is more than likely that these people are not tweeting day and night,” he said. Instead, he encouraged Catholic leaders to learn how young people are interacting with social media and the kinds of conversations they are having.

Archbishop Gregory had a different warning. While he agreed that bishops and Catholics should use social media more effectively, he also worried that it has its limitations.

“There is a great challenge though with social media and I think it's that it emphasizes one-on-one relationships. It doesn't provide the opportunity of a sense of belonging to a group larger than yourself,” he said.

He noted that in his diocese, many young people will say that they don't need to attend Mass because they can watch Mass on their smartphones, which runs counter to the Church's understanding of Mass and the Church.  

“The Church is this community that is comprised of all of us together, and without that capacity to highlight that and to give expression to that, the best social media in the world will be missing a unique dimension of what it means to be the Church,” Bishop Gregory said.

“It doesn't mean that we don't use it, but we also have to recognize its limitations in delivering the Gospel message.”

Funding for abortion to become more compulsory in Oregon

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 02:03

Salem, Ore., Jul 12, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Oregon governor is expected to sign into law a proposal requiring Oregon insurers to cover abortion on demand and increasing taxpayer funding for abortion, drawing strong criticism from Catholic leaders.

“By insisting on complete insurance coverage of abortion, including late-term and sex-selective abortions, the legislature shows itself intolerant of widely-held opposing views and will compel thousands of Oregonians to support what their conscience rejects,” the Oregon Catholic Conference said.

“House Bill 3391 forces insurance companies to cover abortion on demand and it forces all Oregon taxpayers to help finance an extremist abortion agenda that does not enjoy majority support.”

The Oregon House of Representatives passed the bill July 5 by a 33-23 vote. The Senate passed the bill 17-13.

The initial version of the bill’s religious exemptions were so narrow that the Catholic-run Providence Health System threatened to exit the state’s insurance market. The bill’s backers increased exemptions to the bill, but some objecting lawmakers said the provisions did not go far enough, the Catholic Sentinel reports. The exemptions apply to churches and other religious nonprofits.

Under the bill, the Oregon Health Authority must now provide abortion coverage where religious organizations will not.

The bill aims to counter expected changes in federal health care policy. It increases state spending by $10.2 million, most of the funding aiming to provide free coverage of exams, drugs, devices, and procedures. Abortion is considered a procedure under the law.

Under the Oregon Medicaid program, over $2 million is spent each year to pay for about 3,500 abortions, the Associated Press reports. The proposed bill sets aside about $500,000 over the next two years to expand free reproductive health coverage, including abortion, to immigrants.

The Oregon Catholic Conference voiced hope that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will not sign the law.    

The conference encouraged citizens opposed to H.B. 3391 to support the proposed 2018 ballot initiative called the Stop Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The proposal would bar state funds for any abortion that is not medically necessary or when spending is required by federal law.

The petition needs 117,000 signatures from registered Oregonian voters in order to qualify for the ballot.

Why Nathanial Hawthorne's daughter is now called a Servant of God

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 15:34

Hawthorne, New York, Jul 11, 2017 / 01:34 pm (National Catholic Register).- Nathaniel Hawthorne added the “w” to his last name because one of his ancestors was John Hathorne, a Salem witch trial judge, and he wanted to distance himself from that legacy. Raised in a Calvinist milieu, Hawthorne was not a regular churchgoer, but as anyone who read The Scarlet Letter in high school knows, he was conversant with religious themes of sin, judgement, forgiveness, and mercy.

A supporter of Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States, he was rewarded with a diplomatic post – the consulship in Liverpool, England. The Democratic Party did not nominate Pierce to run for a second term, however, and the Hawthorne family toured Portugal, France and Italy in late 1850’s after leaving that post.

Hawthorne’s wife, Sophia Peabody, had been raised a Unitarian and both Nathaniel and Sophia were influenced by the Transcendental Movement, being friends with Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. They had three children, Una, Julian, and Rose.

Nothing in the family background could have prepared them for the conversion of their youngest child to the Catholic Church – except perhaps those years in Europe where they encountered “the Roman Church” in art and architecture, music, culture and prayer.
Marriage, Conversion, and Separation

Rose Hawthorne’s conversion to Catholicism in 1891 shocked the family. Her father had died in 1864 and her mother moved the family to Dresden, Germany, where Rose met George Parsons Lathrop. Because of Franco-Prussian War, Sophia moved again, back to England. There she died in 1871; Rose and George were married later that year in an Anglican Church over the objections of her brother and sister; they thought it was too soon after their mother’s death and that Rose was too young and vulnerable to marry.

They had a troubled marriage; he abused alcohol and their only child Francis died of diphtheria in 1881. George edited The Atlantic Monthly and Rose wrote poetry. They lived in New London, Connecticut and took instruction from a Paulist, Father Alfred Young, and were received into the Church. Like many new converts, they were filled with zeal and worked for the Church together on several projects, including the Catholic Summer School Movement and a history of the Visitation Convent in Georgetown.

In 1895, Rose and George took the extraordinary step of asking the Catholic Church for a permanent separation – not an annulment of their marriage – because of George’s instability and alcoholism which endangered Rose. Neither would be free to marry until the other died, so they demonstrated their belief in the indissolubility of marriage and in the Sacrament of Matrimony even as they separated. George died of cirrhosis of the liver three years later.
A New Cause; A New Vocation

Rose had witnessed the decline and death of the poet, Emma Lazarus, who wrote the poem inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty, “The New Colossus.” Rose noted that although there had been no cure for Emma’s cancer, she had been comfortable and cared for during her illness. Rose began to think of those who suffered from the same disease without the same palliative care and studied nursing the New York Cancer Hospital. She went out to the poor in their tenements and opened Sister Rose's Free Home on the lower East Side with the assistance of Alice Huber.

At the same time that she was engaged in such practical nursing and care for the poor. Rose attended daily Mass, went to Confession frequently, prayed, wrote (publishing a collection of family letters as Memories of Hawthorne), and worked to raise funds. At the urging of Father Clement Thuente, O.P., Rose and Alice became Third Order Dominicans.

On December 8, 1900, with the approval of the Archbishop of New York, Michael A. Corrigan, Rose founded a new religious order, the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer, and became its first Mother Superior with the name Mother Mary Alphonsa. She died on July 9, 1926 when she was 75 years old. Her parents had been married on July 9 in 1842.
Servant of God

The late Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York, approved the opening of her cause for canonization in 2003. She is now called a Servant of God.

Her story, with its hints of literary romance and reality of separation and sorrow, demonstrates how strong the call to holiness can be. Out of her disappointment and grief from her failed marriage, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop as Mother Mary Alphonsa found a new vocation and a way to serve the poor and destitute in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, as her order is known today, offers this prayer for her canonization on their website:

Lord God, in your special love for the sick, the poor and the lonely, you raised up Rose Hawthorne (Mother Mary Alphonsa) to be the servant of those afflicted with incurable cancer with no one to care for them.  In serving the outcast and the abandoned, she strove to see in them the face of your Son.  In her eyes, those in need were always “Christ’s Poor.”

Grant that her example of selfless charity and her courage in the face of great obstacles will inspire us to be generous in our service of neighbor.  We humbly ask that you glorify your servant, Rose Hawthorne, on earth according to the designs of your holy will. Through her intercession, grant the favor that I now present (here make your request).

Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


This article was originally published by the National Catholic Register.


Don’t send Chaldeans back to persecution in Iraq, advocates plead

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 20:41

Detroit, Mich., Jul 10, 2017 / 06:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a federal judge again halted the deportation of over 1,000 Chaldeans from the U.S., advocates for the detainees insisted their deportations should be stopped until conditions in Iraq improve.

“We’re just hopeful that people continue to pray for these that are being detained, and understanding that this is a humanitarian crisis and that the administration steps in and puts a halt to these deportations,” Martin Manna of the Chaldean Community Foundation told CNA.

On July 6, U.S. district court judge Mark Goldsmith extended by two weeks a halt on the deportations of Iraqi nationals from around the country.

He wrote that “there is good cause to extend the stay order beyond July 10, 2017. The Court orders that the stay of removal for all members of the class, both original members and those added by way of the expanded definition, shall now expire on July 24, 2017 at 11:59 p.m., unless otherwise ordered by the Court.”

Advocates for the detainees insisted that the stay of deportation was important, as they need extra time to prove to a judge their credible fear of persecution if deported back to Iraq.

Beginning on June 11, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement began rounding up Iraqi nationals living in the Detroit metropolitan area, at their homes in front of their families or in public places. The Chaldeans, mostly Christian, had come to the U.S. legally, and were expected to complete a five-year process for eventual citizenship.

However, the Iraqis either failed to complete the process by applying for green cards, or committed a misdemeanor or felony which disqualified them from eventual citizenship. They received a final order of deportation from a federal judge.

Many of the crimes committed were decades ago, Martin Manna of the Chaldean Community Foundation insisted, and the Chaldeans served their time in jail and have been responsible members of the community since then, regularly checking in with ICE as they are required to do.

They make up a “community of entrepreneurs,” he said, contributing almost $11 billion per year to the state’s economy and are involved in their communities.

“The overwhelming majority of this population poses little or no threat to the United States,” former acting director of ICE John Sandweg stated in a June 6 conference call with reporters.

“The use of discretion in this case is more than appropriate. When you’re talking about 30-year-old nonviolent offenses, in no way, shape or form does it make sense to remove them at this time.”

For instance, one of the detainees is a woman who came to the U.S. as a 5 year-old and now has three children who are U.S. citizens. She received her final order of removal in 1986 and had committed misdemeanor fraud, serving probation time and being released “on an order of supervision.”

She had been “complying with this order,” Manna said, yet now she is set to be deported to Iraq.

Iraq had initially refused to accept the Chaldeans, but recently agreed to do so as a condition of the U.S. removing Iraq from the list of countries on President Donald Trump’s travel ban. In that executive order on national security, President Trump had listed several countries from which nationals could not enter the U.S. except with certain diplomatic visas.

Since June 11, over 1,000 Iraqi nationals from all over the U.S. have been detained by ICE and slated for deportation to Iraq.

U.S. bishops have advocated for a halt to the deportation of the Chaldeans, at least until they would no longer have a credible fear of persecution in Iraq.

In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the bishops’ migration committee, and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., chair of the bishops’ international justice and peace committee, insisted that the administration stop the deportations.

“Returning religious minorities to Iraq at this time, without specific plans for protection, does not appear consistent with our concerns about genocide and persecution of Christians in Iraq,” they wrote.

“For decades, many of these Christians sought legal refuge in the United States. Like other refugees from various countries of origins, they have become integrated into American communities.”

Advocates for the Chaldeans have also been in talks with officials in the Trump administration, and have asked for a temporary protected status to be granted to the detainees from the President or the Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.

Overall, the situation for Christians in Iraq has deteriorated significantly since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and fell sharply with the rise of ISIS in 2014. While an estimated 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq in 2003, less than 200,000 live there now. There were over 340 churches in Iraq in 2003, and only just over 40 today.

Christians have also been victims of genocide. In 2016, the U.S. State Department declared that the Islamic State was committing genocide against Christians, Shi’a Muslims, and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria. ISIS still controls territory in Iraq.

And recently, a prominent Shi’a leader in Iraq, Sheikh Alaa al-Moussawi, was sued by Christian families for remarks he made that Christians there were “infidels.” He called for “jihad” against Christians.

“The threat of persecution is real and severe in this case,” Sandweg insisted of the deportations of the Iraqis, adding that “the U.S. government has long used its discretion to delay the removal of vulnerable populations until such time as those individuals face no threat in their home country.”

“Iraq cannot guarantee the safety of these Christians and many face persecution and death for their religious beliefs,” Martin Manna stated on a June 6 conference call with reporters. “There is no homeland remaining for the Christian community in Iraq because of the ongoing persecution.”

The ACLU of Michigan, which represented some of the Detroit-area Chaldeans in court, applauded the additional two week stay, adding that “we must ensure that our immigration policy doesn’t operate as a death sentence for anyone.”


House passes pair of bills aimed at tighter immigration enforcement

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 16:17

Washington D.C., Jul 10, 2017 / 02:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States House of Representatives on June 29 passed two bills in an effort to crack down on undocumented immigration and sanctuary cities.

The “No Sanctuary for Criminals” Act, also known as HR 3003, would strip federal grant eligibility from sanctuary cities which seek to harbor and protect undocumented immigrants from federal immigration authorities. It would ban any legal authority from seeking to prohibit or impede the enforcement of or compliance with national immigration law.

Dozens of such cities exist throughout the country, largely concentrated in California, which have some law or set of laws seeking to inhibit local cooperation with national policies.

The topic had been addressed just weeks before by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Cardinal DiNardo said June 9 at a migration conference that local law enforcement authorities should not be compelled to enforce federal immigration law, as this “would fundamentally alter the relationship between our local law enforcement officials maintain with our local communities, especially immigrant communities.”

He also warned that this “burden” would “tak(e) away from their efforts to ensure public safety” as they “pursu(e) those who are otherwise-law abiding.”

The House also passed a bill dubbed “Kate’s Law” which would establish mandatory minimum sentencing for deported immigrants who return to the country.

According to the Washington Post, the American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the bill for penalizing those fleeing persecution in their home country.

The U.S. bishops have spoken up repeatedly in recent years on the subject of immigration. In 2003, they issued the pastoral letter “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.” In the document, they defined the rights of persons to migrate, as well as nations to control their borders. They called for refugees and asylum seekers to be protected, and for respect for the human rights of undocumented migrants.

The bishops have been very vocal in recent months in speaking out against the Trump administration’s immigration policies and proposals, calling for a balance of national security and welcoming migrants.

In a November 11 statement, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary of Seattle, congratulated Donald Trump on his election and called for the protection of immigrant families. In the letter, he expressed the bishops’ desire “to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans.”

Following the president’s January executive orders to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and increase immigration detention centers, Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, Texas warned that “(t)he policies announced today will only further upend immigrant families.”

Acting in his role as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, Bishop Vásquez stated that the bishops “strongly disagree” with a decision to halt refuge admissions in a similar order.

In a similar letter in response to two memoranda implementing January’s orders, Bishop Vásquez “recognized “the importance of ensuring public safety” and called for “reasonable and necessary steps to do that.”

However, he condemned the memoranda, saying that “the policies contained in these memoranda will needlessly separate families, upend peaceful communities, endanger the lives and safety of the most vulnerable among us, breakdown the trust that currently exists between many police departments and immigrant communities, and sow great fear in those communities.” He also warned against “the militarization of the U.S./Mexico border.”

The U.S. bishops’ conference voted to give permanent status to their working group on migration at their annual spring meeting in June. The leader of the group, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, stated that “(t)here was a desire to express solidarity with and pastoral concern for those at risk, but also a desire to avoid encouraging exaggerated fears.”

On June 18, Archbishop Gomez celebrated a Mass in Recognition of All Immigrants and in his homily praised “the immigrant spirit that makes America wonderful.” In a July 2 interview, Crux reported, the archbishop came close to tears when recalling that “(i)n the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, many times children don’t want to go to the Catholic schools because they think that their parents are not going to be home in the evening.”

The current administration has deported nearly 66,000 undocumented immigrants, according to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly. This constitutes a spike from President Obama’s final years in office.


This Oklahoma priest was a martyr – and he'll be beatified this year

Sat, 07/08/2017 - 18:02

Oklahoma City, Okla., Jul 8, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- “Padre, they've come for you.”

Those were some of the last words heard by Father Stanley Francis, spoken by someone staying at the mission in Guatemala who had been led, at gunpoint, to where “Padre Francisco” was sleeping.

It was 1:30 in the morning on July 28, 1981, and Guatemala was in the throes of a decades-long civil war. The three ski-masked men who broke into the rectory were Ladinos, the non-indigenous men who had been fighting the native people and rural poor of the country since the 60s. They were known for their kidnappings, and wanted to turn Father Stanley into one of “the missing.”

But Father Stanley refused. Not wanting to endanger the others at the parish mission, he struggled but did not call for help. Fifteen minutes and two gunshots later, Father Stanley was dead and the men fled the mission grounds.

“How a 46-year-old priest from a small German farming community in Oklahoma came to live and die in this remote, ancient Guatemalan village is a story full of wonder and God’s providence,” writes Maria Scaperlanda in her biography of Father Stanley, “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run.”

The five-foot-ten, red-bearded missionary priest was from the unassuming town of Okarche, Okla., where the parish, school and farm were the pillars of community life. He went to the same school his whole life and lived with his family until he left for seminary.

Surrounded by good priests and a vibrant parish life, Stanley felt God calling him to the priesthood from a young age. But despite a strong calling, Stanley would struggle in the seminary, failing several classes and even out of one seminary before graduating from Mount St. Mary's seminary in Maryland. 

Hearing of Stanely’s struggles, Sister Clarissa Tenbrick, his 5th grade teacher, wrote him to offer encouragement, reminding him that the patron Saint of all priests, St. John Vianney, also struggled in seminary.

“Both of them were simple men who knew they had a call to the priesthood and then had somebody empower them so that they could complete their studies and be priests,” Scaperlanda told CNA. “And they brought a goodness, simplicity and generous heart with them in (everything) they did.”

When Stanley was still in seminary, Pope St. John XXIII asked the Churches of North America to send assistance and establish missions in Central America. Soon after, the diocese of Oklahoma City and the diocese of Tulsa established a mission in Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala, a poor rural community of mostly indigenous people.

A few years after he was ordained, Fr. Stanley accepted an invitation to join the mission team, where he would spend the next 13 years of his life.

When he arrived to the mission, the Tz'utujil Mayan Indians in the village had no native equivalent for Stanley, so they took to calling him Padre Francisco, after his baptismal name of Francis.

The work ethic Fr. Stanley learned on his family’s farm would serve him well in this new place. As a mission priest, he was called on not just to say Mass, but to fix the broken truck or work the fields. He built a farmers' co-op, a school, a hospital, and the first Catholic radio station, which was used for catechesis to the even more remote villages.

“What I think is tremendous is how God doesn't waste any details,” Scaperlanda said. “That same love for the land and the small town where everybody helps each other, all those things that he learned in Okarche is exactly what he needed when he arrived in Santiago.”

The beloved Padre Francisco was also known for his kindness, selflessness, joy and attentive presence among his parishioners. Dozens of pictures show giggling children running after Padre Francisco and grabbing his hands, Scaperlanda said.

“It was Father Stanley’s natural disposition to share the labor with them, to break bread with them, and celebrate life with them, that made the community in Guatemala say of Father Stanley, ‘he was our priest,’” she said.

Over the years, the violence of the Guatemalan civil war inched closer to the once-peaceful village. Disappearances, killings and danger soon became a part of daily life, but Fr. Stanley remained steadfast and supportive of his people.

In 1980-1981, the violence escalated to an almost unbearable point. Fr. Stanley was constantly seeing friends and parishioners abducted or killed. In a letter to Oklahoma Catholics during what would be his last Christmas, the priest relayed to the people back home the dangers his mission parish faced daily.

“The reality is that we are in danger. But we don’t know when or what form the government will use to further repress the Church…. Given the situation, I am not ready to leave here just yet… But if it is my destiny that I should give my life here, then so be it.... I don’t want to desert these people, and that is what will be said, even after all these years. There is still a lot of good that can be done under the circumstances.”

He ended the letter with what would become his signature quote:

“The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger. Pray for us that we may be a sign of the love of Christ for our people, that our presence among them will fortify them to endure these sufferings in preparation for the coming of the Kingdom.”

In January 1981, in immediate danger and his name on a death list, Fr. Stanley did return to Oklahoma for a few months. But as Easter approached, he wanted to spend Holy Week with his people in Guatemala.

“Father Stanley could not abandon his people,” Scaperlanda said. “He made a point of returning to his Guatemala parish in time to celebrate Holy Week with his parishioners that year – and ultimately was killed for living out his Catholic faith.”    

Scaperlanda, who has worked on Fr. Stanley’s cause for canonization, said the priest was a great witness and example, particularly for the Year of Mercy.

“Father Stanley Rother is truly a saint of mercy,” she said. “He fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, visited the sick, comforted the afflicted, bore wrongs patiently, buried the dead – all of it.”

His life is also a great example of ordinary people being called to do extraordinary things for God, she said.

“(W)hat impacted me the most about Father Stanley’s life was how ordinary it was!” she said.  

“I love how simply Oklahoma City’s Archbishop Paul Coakley states it: ‘We need the witness of holy men and women who remind us that we are all called to holiness – and that holy men and women come from ordinary places like Okarche, Oklahoma,’” she said.  

“Although the details are different, I believe the call is the same – and the challenge is also the same. Like Father Stanley, each of us is called to say ‘yes’ to God with our whole heart. We are all asked to see the Other standing before us as a child of God, to treat them with respect and a generous heart,” she added.

“We are called to holiness – whether we live in Okarche, Oklahoma, or New York City or Guatemala City.”

In June 2015, the Theological Commission of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted to recognize Fr. Stanley Rother as a martyr. Pope Francis recognized his martyrdom in early December 2016, after meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Fr. Rother will be beatified Sept. 23 at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. The Mass will be said by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and concelebrated by Archbishop Coakley.


An original version of this article was published on CNA Feb. 18, 2016.

Our elders are lonely – do we care?

Sat, 07/08/2017 - 08:02

Denver, Colo., Jul 8, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- It was August in Rome, the dog days of summer, and most people had left the Eternal City for the beach or another summer holiday destination.

It happens every year, essentially slowing the city to a crawl for a good two weeks or more. It can be a lonely time, especially for the elderly who no longer travel.

That’s when, last year on August 2, Italian police discovered Jole, 89, and Michele, 94, a couple living in the Appio neighborhood of Rome. Feeling particularly lonely, having had no visitors for some time, the couple’s sobs became so loud that concerned neighbors called the police, who found no crime on their arrival, just two very lonely people.

Besides offering medical assistance, the police decided to offer some comfort as well.

“They improvised a cozy dinner. A plate of pasta with butter and cheese. Nothing special. But with a special ingredient: Inside, there is all their humanity,” the Facebook post from the Italian police says.

Sadly, the problem of loneliness among the elderly is not just confined to the summer holidays in Rome - it is a growing problem around the world.

Last year, Katie Hafner for the New York Times reported that in Britain and the United States, roughly one in three people older than 65 live alone. In the United States, half of those older than 85 live alone. Studies in both countries show the prevalence of loneliness among people older than 60 ranging from 10 percent to 46 percent.

While not a physical sickness in and of itself, chronic loneliness can also be detrimental to physical health. Several studies show that social isolation or feelings of loneliness can lead to an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and even an earlier death.

Sr. Constance Veit is communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic sisters whose mission is “to offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself.” They currently operate more than 25 homes for the elderly in the United States, as well as homes all over the world.

Sr. Constance told CNA that the lonely elderly often pine for those who have preceded them in death, or perhaps family members who live far away or from whom they have been estranged.

“(W)e recognize that in a very real way you can never really replace those who are gone, so for most people there’s always going to be an unfilled hole left, so to speak,” she said. “But we do the best we can.”

Sr. Constance said that the Little Sisters and their staff are always on the lookout for signs of loneliness and isolation among their residents, and that they do the best to connect with them both through group activities and through one-on-one relationships.

“We recognize that we’re not just here to minister to people’s physical or medical needs, but the whole person,” she said.

The New York Times article featured several different service and organizations in the UK that are working to combat loneliness among the elderly. Although similar programs exist in the United States, the research and awareness of the topic in the UK is still much further ahead than it is in the U.S.

“In the U.S., there isn’t much recognition in terms of public health initiatives or the average person recognizing that loneliness has to do with health,” Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, told the New York Times. Her own research has also linked loneliness to deteriorating health.

John Lewis, a British retailer known for its heartwarming Christmas advertisements, partnered with Age UK, a charity for older people, to raise awareness of loneliness among the elderly, particularly during the holidays.

In the video, a young girl discovers with dismay that there’s an old man all alone on the moon for Christmas. Determined to show him he’s not alone, she sends some airborne Christmas gifts his way.

Statistics compiled in the UK have found that a million seniors go as long as a month without talking to anyone. The statistics in the United States are probably similarly shocking, Sr. Constance said.

“To think of an older person going a month without speaking to friends or family, that’s pretty bad,” she said.  

Pope Francis would agree. The pontiff once called neglect of the elderly a “mortal sin” after visiting an elderly woman in August who hadn’t seen her family since Christmas.

“It is a mortal sin to discard our elderly…The elderly are not aliens. We are them – in a short or in a long while we are inevitably them, even though we choose not to think about it,” he said during a general audience in March 2015.

“Children who do not visit their elderly and ill parents have mortally sinned. Understand?” he added.

The Holy Father himself had a very close relationship with his grandmother when he was growing up, and has urged Catholics many times to not neglect the elderly or the sense of memory that they bring to their families and to society.

Pope Francis has said that “we don’t have a sense of memory, of appreciation of a family history and family tradition, the things that used to bind the generations together in families,” Sr. Constance said.

We’ve also lost a sense “of filial piety, that we do have a duty to one another in a family and especially to our elders,” she added.

Another part of the problem can be that older people who don’t know how to use new technologies get left out of the loop, Sr. Constance said. A family that stays in touch through a texting group may be unintentionally leaving out older folks who don’t text.

But the blame lies not just with young people - it’s a reciprocal problem, Sr. Constance noted.

“The older generation, relatively speaking, of baby boomers also hasn’t nurtured bonds,” she said.

“They’ve been much more independent and have had more disposable income and have kind of done their own thing, but when something happens and they become frail, they haven’t really set up the networks themselves or those strong bonds, so I think it’s really’s just kind of sad, it leaves us all a bit isolated.”

Social isolation can also become a self-perpetuating problem. Studies show that, counter-intuitively, social isolation often causes people to go into a kind of defense mode, where rather than reaching out for the support they need, they instead close themselves off further from society.

The most important thing that people can do is to combat the problem is to look for meaningful ways to connect with the elderly in their lives, Sr. Constance said.

“Even if you feel like you don’t have elderly people in your life, chances are you do have elderly people in your neighborhood or in your parish, maybe in your extended family of aunts and uncles,” she said.

“Reach out to them and relate to them and to create bonds with them intentionally, whether it’s visiting them or offering them a ride to church or shopping, or include them in various things,” Sr. Constance added.

For those who live at a distance, teaching the elderly how to use Skype or some other technology that would help them say in touch is also important, she said.

The Little Sisters of the Poor home in Washington, D.C., where Sr. Constance is based, is right across the street from The Catholic University of America, which sends student volunteers to the home four nights a week.

While the young people are there to offer friendship to the elderly, it’s a very reciprocal relationship, Sr. Constance said.

“Sometimes I gaze out and realize what’s really going on is that the students are telling their trials, tribulations, joys and anxieties to these little old ladies, and the students feel listened to,” she said.

“So it’s very reciprocal, the residents are receiving something from the students, but the students - whether it’s relationship woes or academic worries, the elderly are going to listen in a different way than your friends who have been hearing it all the time. The elderly can really lend a more sympathetic ear to the angst of younger people, and be a great support for them if they would take the time to realize that.”

The Little Sisters in D.C. are also launching an initiative called “Youth & Aged for Life,” a prayer movement for the Gospel of Life that brings together the young and the old.

Strengthening bonds between generations - or what John Paul II once called the “covenant between generations” - is one of the most pro-life things Catholics and Christians can do, Sr. Constance added.

“It’s only by reestablishing that or strengthening (those bonds) that we can fight the temptation for abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide, by bonding together more strongly and cherishing one another’s lives, both the very young and the very old.”

This article originally ran on Sept. 25, 2016.

New bill expands already-liberal abortion laws in Oregon

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 10:01

Portland, Ore., Jul 7, 2017 / 08:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new bill in Oregon would expand the state’s already-liberal laws, requiring insurance companies to pay for abortions and other reproductive services at zero cost to the patient.

House Bill 3391, or the “Reproductive Health Equity Act Of 2017”, requires that insurance companies provide coverage for abortions and reproductive services to undocumented immigrants, and regardless of income or gender identity.

It allows for almost $500,000 to be spend on cost-free abortions and reproductive health services for immigrants who previously would have been ineligible for those services under the Oregon Health Plan.

In the past 14 years, according to state health records, already-expansive abortion laws dictated that almost $24 million in state funds were spent on more than 52,000 abortions.

The bill is also uniquely expansive in that, while some states allow for cost-free abortions that are deemed medically necessary, the Oregon bill allows for coverage of abortions for virtually any reason, including sex-selective and late-term abortions.

While some religious exemptions are provided for, such as in the case of churches and some religious non-profits per federal law, the bill states that the government would step in to pay for coverage in the case of such gaps.

It also codifies the right to abortion access, even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. Oregon is the only state without current restrictions added to provisions of Roe v. Wade.

The bill passed the Democrat-controlled Oregon Senate on Wednesday, and now heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown.

The liberal law comes at a time when President Donald Trump’s administration is passing restrictive legislation on abortion and reproductive services, including allowing states to withhold federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

After the vote, Senate Republicans issued a statement saying the bill is "nothing more than a political statement and a political gift card to Planned Parenthood that brought unnecessary drama and divisiveness to the end of the legislative session."

Bill Diss, leader of pro-life group Precious Children of Portland, called the proposed law “fundamentally an abortion bill that will boost the coffers of abortion providers like Planned Parenthood,” according to Oregon’s Catholic Sentinel.  

Diss said other portions of the bill could be accomplished “without further funding and promoting the killing of unborn children.”


This fleet of food trucks serves up respect for Austin's homeless

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 05:05

Austin, Texas, Jul 7, 2017 / 03:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Austin, Texas, like any hipster city worth its organic, non-GMO salt, is known for its food trucks.

There are about 1,000 food trucks that roam the streets of the Texas capital, offering barbecue, breakfast tacos, and gourmet grilled cheese to the masses of Pabst Blue Ribbon-swilling millennials who have recently flocked to the city.

But among them, and before them, there was Alan Graham and Mobile Loaves and Fishes.

Mobile Loaves and Fishes is a Christian non-profit founded by Graham and five other men that delivers about 1,200 meals and essentials from 12 food trucks to homeless people on the streets of Austin every night.

The ministry also recently started a village called Community First!, a place where the formerly homeless, volunteers and those desiring a simpler life live together in a village of tiny homes and recreational vehicles in what Graham calls “an RV park on steroids.”

In his recently released book Welcome Homeless, Graham recalls the story and the people behind his ministries, in his raw, straight-shooting, and often humorous voice.    

In October 1996, Graham, a convert to Catholicism, had gone tentatively on a men’s retreat. At first, he was counting down the hours until the “hugs and hand-holding” were over. The retreat was too emotional for his then-very intellectual faith.

But by the end, he experienced a profound change of heart and adopted a philosophy of “just say yes.”

Several yesses and a couple of years later, Graham and his wife, Tricia, found themselves having coffee with a friend who was telling them about an initiative in Corpus Christi, Texas, where multiple churches would pool their resources to provide food for the homeless on cold winter nights.

An entrepreneur at heart, Graham immediately envisioned a catering truck that could deliver meals to the homeless (this was before the food truck boom; at the time, Graham called them “roach coaches”).

“I woke up the next morning knowing we could franchise it, and bring it to every church, every city, and every state to feed the homeless,” he recalls in his book. “This is how entrepreneurs think: one truck becomes a thousand.”

Through his church group, he recruited six more men to join him and invest in a food truck for the homeless (they started calling themselves “The Six Pack”). One of these men turned out to be an especially key player: Houston Flake.  

Socks and popsicles

Houston, who met Graham through the men’s group at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, was poorly educated and illiterate, but understood the Gospel like no one Graham had ever met.

Houston had experienced chronic homelessness throughout his life, and became a key tour guide for Graham and his crew, who were “clueless” about life on the streets as they began their ministry.

During one meeting, the group had discussed how great it would be if they could get phone cards (pre-cellphone times) to hand out to the homeless whom they would meet.

“Houston looked at us and said, ‘That is the dumbest idea on the face of the planet. They don’t need phone cards. No one wants to talk to them. They don’t want to talk to anybody. You need to put socks on that truck,’” Graham recalled.

To this day, socks are the most desired item on the trucks.

Houston also took Graham out to his “conference room” - to meet some of the homeless who were his friends. It changed Graham’s whole perspective on the population he was about to serve.

Not long after Mobile Loaves and Fishes began, Houston was diagnosed with bladder cancer and given mere weeks to live.

For his dying wish, Houston didn’t want to travel or eat a fancy steak dinner – he wanted to deliver 400 popsicles to homeless children on a hot summer day, a treat those kids rarely experienced.

“He wanted them to choose: Pink? Red? Blue? Purple? Green? He wanted to give that which they did not need but might want. He wanted to give them abundance in fruity, tasty, frozen form,” Graham wrote.  

That philosophy carried over to the food trucks. The people they serve are given options - PB&J, ham and cheese, tacos? Milk, coffee, orange juice? Oranges or apples? It’s a shift from the scarcity mentality found in soup kitchens founded in the Great Depression, to an abundance mentality that is possible in the most abundant country in the world, Graham explained. They are “the little bitty choices that people who live a life in extreme poverty don’t get to make often.”

The solution to homelessness is not just housing

Since the first truck run, the ministry quickly grew. Hungry people would chase down the food trucks as they saw them making their way through the streets of Austin.

By early 2017, the ministry had expanded to the cities of San Antonio, Texas; Providence, Rhode Island; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. To date, Mobile Loaves & Fishes has served well over 4 million meals, and with more than 18,000 volunteers, it is the largest prepared feeding program to the homeless and working poor in Austin.

But it didn’t stop there. A little over five years into the ministry, Graham envisioned an “RV park on steroids”, with the philosophy of “housing first”, which holds that the homeless need housing before they can solve any of their other problems.

However, Graham knew that mere houses were not enough. What these people need and desire, like everyone, is to be known and loved – they needed community. He envisioned a place where people lived life together, knew and cared for each other, sharing kitchens and gardens and conversation.

“It developed from this idea back in 2004, where we went out and bought a gently used RV and lifted one guy off the streets into a privately owned RV park,” he said.

Because of zoning laws and other issues, it took awhile to get the idea off the ground, but the Community First! Village project was finally able to break ground in 2014.

Today, 110 people, most of them formerly homeless, call the village home. Soon, there will be enough housing for 250 people. There are brightly colored tiny homes that would give HG-TV a run for their money, as well as recreational vehicles and “canvas-sided” homes (sturdy tents with concrete foundations).

The homes provide the basics – they are essentially bedrooms – while everything else is communal. There is a communal kitchen and garden and bonfire, and places everywhere to sit and have a conversation.


  Our @mobileloaves_genesisgardens chicken coop was definitely a top destination for everyone visiting #CommunityFirstVillage today. We loved having y'all out here, and the chickens definitely loved all the attention! ???? #divas

A post shared by Mobile Loaves & Fishes (@mobileloaves) on Apr 2, 2016 at 2:21pm PDT


“It’s all centered on Genesis 2:15,” Graham said. “Just after God created the Garden of Eden, he took the man, and centered him in the garden to cultivate and care for it. And so the foundation for our entire philosophy of the community is centered on God’s original plan for us, to be settled, to be at peace with each other, to live in community, to be cultivating with the gifts that he has given us, and to serve him by caring for each other.”

What needs to change

The solution to homelessness, Graham said, is not going to be found in new government policies or agencies, but rather in Christians and other people who choose to take care of each other.

“I believe it’s like the old African adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’” Graham said. “We have to step in, the village should step in and care for its own. What we’re doing right now is abdicating that responsibility to our government, which … tries to resolve this issue transactionally, but I believe it’s a relationship issue. Our Kingdom desire is to be wanted by each other, not ‘if you buy me a house I’m going to be happy.’ That’s not where our happiness comes from.”

One of the foundational goals of the ministry is to change the stereotypes that people have about the homeless, so that they are seen as brothers and sisters rather than as other, Graham added.

He recommended that anyone who wants to help the homeless start building relationships with them –  say hello, ask their name, shake their hand, give them a sandwich or a gift card to Chick-fil-A. And then find an organization to volunteer with in your city.

“There’s a giant stereotype around the homeless, and we’re very good as Americans at stereotyping, and so the homeless population (is projected) to be drug addicts, mentally ill, criminals; they’re usually depicted as unkempt or that they don’t pay attention to hygiene, so we develop these preconceived notions that won’t even allow us to roll down our windows anymore to say ‘Hello’ or ‘God Bless,’” he said.

“Those things just aren't true,” Graham said.

“We have five major corporate goals, and goal number one is to transform the paradigm of how people view the stereotype of the homeless. When we change that paradigm, it changes our culture so as to be able to go and love on our brothers and sisters.”

That’s one of his hopes for the book, and the reason he made sure to tell the stories of so many homeless men and women who have directly touched his life.

“What we want to do is spread the kingdom message of a better way to love on our neighbors, so I’m hoping the book will go broad and deep, and people will be inspired to go out there and begin doing what it is that we’re doing, that’s what I hope.”

Because “what’s happening here in Austin, Texas is nothing short of a miracle.”

This article was originally published on CNA March 7, 2017.

In wake of North Korea threat, bishops call for elimination of nuclear weapons

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 13:21

Washington D.C., Jul 6, 2017 / 11:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Just days after North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach Alaska, bishops in the United States and Europe have called for the “total elimination of nuclear weapons.”

“Even a limited nuclear exchange would have devastating consequences for people and the planet. Tragically, human error or miscalculation could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe,” the Bishops said in a joint declaration on Thursday.

“We call upon the United States and European nations to work with other nations to map out a credible, verifiable and enforceable strategy for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.”

Entitled “Nuclear Disarmament: Seeking Human Security,” the declaration was issued to coincide with the conclusion of a meeting hosted this week by the United Nations “to negotiate a legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.”

While the United States and most European nations are not participating in the U.N. meeting, the bishops urged any country that is building up their nuclear arsenal to reconsider the effectiveness of this as a security strategy.

“...our world has become increasingly multipolar with a variety of threats reaching from terrorism, asymmetrical conflicts, cybersecurity to environmental degradation and poverty, which raises doubts about the adequacy of nuclear deterrence as an effective response to these challenges,” they said.

The also noted that building up a nuclear arms base is a waste of money, reiterating a point Pope Francis made in 2014, when he said that prioritizing spending on nuclear weapons “is a mistake and a misallocation of resources which would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against extreme poverty.”

In another message in March 2017, Pope Francis said that peace and security were not built on a race to power and arms, but on “on justice, on integral human development, on respect for fundamental human rights, on the protection of creation, on the participation of all in public life, on trust between peoples, on the support of peaceful institutions, on access to education and health, on dialogue and solidarity.”

Francis is joined by numerous other Catholic leaders including Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI who all opposed the development of nuclear weapons.

The bishops closed their statement with another statement of Pope Francis, who said in 2014: “Nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutually assured destruction cannot be the basis for an ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence among peoples and states. The youth of today and tomorrow deserve far more. They deserve a peaceful world order based on the unity of the human family, grounded on respect, cooperation, solidarity and compassion. Now is the time to counter the logic of fear with the ethic of responsibility, and so foster a climate of trust and sincere dialogue."

The statement was signed by Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich, president of the Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions, and by Bishop Oscar Cantú, chairman of the committee on International Justice and Peace for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Security footage shows man threatening to kill nun in a Brooklyn church

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 11:11

Brooklyn, N.Y., Jul 6, 2017 / 09:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Police are investigating a possible hate crime after a man allegedly threatened to kill a nun who was praying inside a Catholic Church in Brooklyn yesterday afternoon.

The nun is the Mother Superior of her community, according to the Diocese of Brooklyn, and was praying inside the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph around 2 p.m. when a shirtless man approached her.

In the video, the man can be seen meandering through the entrance and the nearly-empty church before he stops in at the pew in front of the praying nun.

He told the nun: “I don’t believe in this because you don’t help the poor.” When she did not respond, he said, “What did I say?”

At that moment, the nun looked around the church at a woman in another pew.

“She can’t help you. I’m going to kill you,” the man said, according to the Diocese of Brooklyn. The video then shows the nun running out of the church to call for help.

The incident was caught on surveillance video.

In a press release, the Diocese described the man as African-American, bald, about 6’ tall with a medium build. He was wearing khaki shorts and white sneakers, and was carrying a white baseball-style cap in his hand and a shirt in his back pocket.

The nun was praying in the church while another sister from the parish is leading a service mission to assist the poor in West Virginia.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.

CNA has reached out to the Diocese for additional comment.

In the US South, the Church is in 'growth mode'

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 08:11

Charleston, S.C., Jul 6, 2017 / 06:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Church growth and expansion was the topic when leading bishops of the Catholic Church’s Atlanta province met recently in South Carolina.

“We are all in a growth mode. That’s a good thing,” Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta told the Diocese of Charleston’s newspaper The Catholic Miscellany.

“We are spending part of our time here talking about the need to establish new parishes, expand pastoral outreach, and respond to growing numbers both from immigration and those moving here from other parts of the country,” the archbishop continued. “We all are sharing in this growth.”

The growth in part reflects the number of Catholics moving south from northern dioceses. Though this results in the closures of churches and schools in former Catholic strongholds, it is driving new expansion in the U.S. South.

The provincial meeting, held in Charleston June 26-28, was attended by bishops, auxiliary bishops, and one auxiliary bishop-elect from the Savannah and Charleston dioceses as well as from the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Another focus of the province’s bishops was how legislation and the political climate are affecting immigrant populations.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston said the issue is especially important because most of the Hispanic immigrants are Catholic.

“We realize that we have those who are documented and undocumented, and they are all our brothers and sisters,” he told The Catholic Miscellany. “We have to see how we can be of assistance to them.”