CNA News

Subscribe to CNA News feed CNA News
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 1 hour 45 min ago

Priests and scientists talk neuroscience, cosmology, and philosophy - with pie

Sun, 06/10/2018 - 07:00

Washington D.C., Jun 10, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA).- A Thomistic philosopher, an evolutionary biologist, and a Harvard astronomy professor walk into a bar. Well, not a bar.

But they did walk into a Washington, D.C. symposium this week, at which graduate students, professors, religious sisters, and other curious Catholics discussed highly technical scientific questions over bourbon and pecan pie, late into the night.

The three-day conference, co-sponsored by the Thomistic Institute and the Society of Catholic Scientists, brought together nearly 70 professors and graduate students from Princeton, Harvard, Yale, MIT, the University of Chicago, and other universities across the country to examine the intersection of faith and science.

“The typical contemporary view assumes that there is going to be some deep tension between faith and science. From our perspective that's an illusion. There is not really a conflict there, but it does require you to work carefully through some of these issues,” said Fr. Dominic Legge, OP, the Thomistic Institute’s director.

The idea behind the conference was to bring high-level scientists together with some very good philosophers and theologians to talk through questions about integrating specialized scientific research with a broadly grounded philosophical perspective, Legge told CNA.

Scholars presented lectures on neuroscience, physics, cosmology, biology, and philosophy. The Thomistic Institute plans to post lectures from the symposium on iTunes.

Dr. Karin Öberg teaches astrophysics at Harvard University, where she researches the interstellar medium and star formation. Öberg seeks to discover “how chemistry and physics interact during star and planet formation to shape the bulk and organic compositions of nascent planets.” She is also one of the founders of the Society of Catholic Scientists.

At the Thomistic symposium, Öberg lectured about exoplanets and the possibility of extraterrestrials.

“The big scientific development that has happened in the past 10-20 years is that we have found out that planets are very common around other stars. Basically, every star that you see in the sky is its own solar system, so that's a change in the cosmology that we live in. This obviously for most people begs the question, 'Are they also living systems like our earth?'”

Öberg told CNA that it would be “super cool” to discover even non-rational life because “it would teach us something about how you go from inanimate to animate matter, which is currently very poorly understood.”

“But I think from a spiritual point of view what people are excited about is the possibility of other intelligent beings that could potentially inhabit some of these worlds,” Öberg continued.

“That's where you get into some of the most controversial and exciting meeting points of the scientific pursuit of what may or may not exist, intelligent extraterrestrial life, and what we can deduce from Scripture or Church teachings on the likelihood of their existence. What kind of aliens would be compatible with the interpretation of Scripture?”

Neurology professor Dr. Stephen Meredith from the University of Chicago; Dr. William Carroll, a research fellow at Oxford; and Dr. Daniel de Haan, a divinity professor at Cambridge, also presented lectures.

Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, OP, presented on evolutionary theory.

“My question is how do you explain the appearance of novel traits in the biological realm from a biological perspective that appeals to four causes, one of which is efficient?” said Austriaco, who received his Ph.D., in biology from MIT.

“To invoke a first cause would make no sense to many of my colleagues at MIT who are doing science, but the attempt there is to try within a particular conceptual framework to make intelligible sense of what is actually happening,” he continued in a discussion among all of the lecturers.

On the theory of evolution, Legge explained that God's creative activity is not in competition with explanations for the origins of being that are framed with the created universe.

“Creation means not just a first moment in time, but a relation of radical ontological dependence on God as creator. And, at the same time he endows creatures with the power to cause, and that means that creatures really can cause things to change in the world,” said Legge.

“We can investigate what's happening with creaturely causes, including a theory of evolution about how you have the diversification of species over time and the emergence of more complex forms of life. That doesn't threaten in any way the fact that God creates the world or that God has a providential plan,” he continued.

Dr. Jonathan Lunine, vice-president of the Society of Catholic Scientists and a professor of astronomy at Cornell University, elaborated on that point.

"Science provides us with a way of understanding the natural universe, the processes that occur, how that universe has evolved through time, but it doesn't give us the metaphysical question of why are we here and what is behind it all," he told CNA.
 
Unlike most scientific conferences, this symposium included an option for daily Mass and a holy hour, giving it a distinctly Dominican flavor.

Catholic speaker Matt Fradd, who has a graduate degree in philosophy, told CNA that the meeting “has been like drinking water from a fire hydrant with people who are about 17,000 times smarter than me giving talks on neuroscience and evolutionary theory, so it has been great."

Legge told CNA that the symposium aimed to help participants grow in love for God through scientific understanding.

“To learn to love the Lord with your mind means to devote everything, all of the resources of your mind, to understanding what God has created and, ultimately, trying to understand as much as it is possible for us -- God himself,” Legge told CNA.

“I think that is an important thing for every Catholic who is engaged in the life of the mind,” he said.

Satanist loses legal challenge to strip 'In God We Trust' from currency

Sat, 06/09/2018 - 18:28

Chicago, Ill., Jun 9, 2018 / 04:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A U.S. appellate court has ruled against a self-described Satanist from Chicago who had filed a lawsuit seeking to remove the motto “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency.

The ruling, released May 31, found that “a reasonable observer would not perceive the motto on currency as a religious endorsement.”

Kenneth Mayle, who describes himself as a non-theistic Satanist, filed the original lawsuit in May 2017. A lower court had dismissed the suit, and Mayle appealed.

The 36-year-old told the Chicago Tribune that carrying and using money with the motto “In God We Trust” makes him feel compelled to take part in a “submissive ritual” by spreading a religious message with which he disagrees.

He does not like to use credit or debit cards due to late and overdraft fees, as well as the potential for security breaches, and says that he would ideally prefer to use cryptocurrency for all transactions.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the currency motto “is similar to other ways in which secular symbols give a nod to the nation’s religious heritage,” such as the line “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.  

A similar suit received a ruling on May 29 from the 6th Circuit Court of U.S. Appeals.

In that suit, a group of atheists and humanists argued that the motto on the currency required them to “bear, affirm, and proselytize an objectionable message in a way that…violates their core religious beliefs.”

One Jewish plaintiff also argued that “participation in any activity that ultimately leads to the superfluous printing of G-d’s name on secular documents or to the destruction of G-d’s printed name is sinful.”

A lower court had dismissed the case, saying that cash-only transactions did not compel proselytization.

The court of appeals agreed with the lower court’s ruling. It said that plaintiffs had failed to “show a specific governmental intent to infringe upon, restrict, or suppress other religious beliefs” through the motto on U.S. currency.

Although the plaintiffs said they preferred to use cash over credit or debit cards, the court said that the existence of these alternatives meant that the plaintiffs were not forced “to choose between violating their religious beliefs or suffering a serious consequence” and therefore could not demonstrate a substantial burden on their free exercise of religion.

The phrase “In God We Trust” is the official motto of the United States. It first appeared on certain U.S. coins as early as 1864. A 1956 law required all U.S. currency to bear the printed phrase.

The motto has faced several lawsuits since 1970, which have been repeatedly rejected by courts.

Civil court rules Fulton Sheen’s remains can go to Peoria

Sat, 06/09/2018 - 14:33

New York City, N.Y., Jun 9, 2018 / 12:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Superior Court of New York ruled Friday in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham, who had petitioned to move the body of her uncle, Venerable Fulton Sheen, to the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria. The body of the late archbishop is currently in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

The Diocese of Peoria welcomed the decision.

“This is the second time that the Superior Court of New York has ruled in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham’s petition,” read a June 8 statement from the Peoria diocese.

The judge, Arlene Bluth, ruled that “the location of Archbishop Sheen's final resting place would not have been his primary concern” and that “it makes no sense, given his lifelong devotion to the Catholic Church, that he would choose a location over the chance to become a saint.”

The Peoria diocese opened the cause for Sheen’s canonization in 2002 after Archdiocese of New York said it would not explore the case. In 2012, Benedict XVI recognized the heroic virtues of the archbishop.
 
However, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria suspended the beatification cause in September 2014 on the grounds that the Holy See expected Sheen’s remains to be in the Peoria diocese.
 
The Archdiocese of New York, however, has said that Vatican officials have said the Peoria diocese can pursue Sheen’s canonization regardless of whether his body is at rest there.

Sheen was born in Illinois in 1895, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria at the age of 24. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of New York in 1951, and he remained there until his appointment as Bishop of Rochester in 1966. He retired in 1969 and moved back to New York City until his death in 1979.

Sheen’s will had declared his wish to be buried in the Archdiocese of New York Calvary Cemetery. Soon after Sheen died, Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York asked Cunningham, Sheen’s closest living relative, if his remains could be placed in the New York cathedral’s crypt, and she consented.

Cunningham has said that Sheen would have wanted to have been interred in Peoria if he knew that he would be considered for sainthood. In 2016, she filed a legal complaint seeking to have her uncle’s remains moved to Peoria.

An initial court ruling had sided with Cunningham, but a state appeals court overturned that ruling, saying it had failed to give sufficient attention to a sworn statement from a colleague of Archbishop Sheen, Monsignor Hilary C. Franco, a witness for the New York archdiocese.
 
Msgr. Franco had said that Sheen told him he wanted to be buried in New York and that Cardinal Cooke had offered him a space in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The appeals court ordered “a full exploration” of the archbishop’s desires.

The Diocese of Peoria said that the New York superior court ruled this week that Msgr. Franco “testified completely in line with the testimony of Joan Sheen Cunningham. Therefore, both supported their understanding that above all else Archbishop Sheen would not have objected to his remains being transferred to Peoria.”

“Furthermore, the Archdiocese of New York could not supply any further testimony against Joan Sheen Cunningham’s petition. The court ruled that their testimony was fundamentally the same,” the Peoria diocese said.

Bluth ruled that “Mrs. Cunningham has offered a sound reason and a laudable purpose for her petition” and that Sheen “would care much less about the location of his earthly remains than his ability … to continue to serve man and God on a grand scale after his earthly demise.”

The Peoria diocese expressed their hope that the Archdiocese of New York “will cease their legal resistance and respect the ruling of the Superior Court. Bishop Jenky hopes that the New York Archdiocese will cooperate with … the practical matters as to moving the remains of Venerable Archbishop Sheen to Peoria, Illinois. It is the hope that this process will begin immediately.”

The Diocese of Peoria said that moving Sheen’s body to Peoria will be the next step towards bringing his beatification to completion.

“Bishop Jenky encourages everyone to pray for a renewed spirit of cooperation in the effort to beatify Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen.”

Sheen served as host of the “Catholic Hour” radio show and the television show “Life is Worth Living”.
 
In addition to his pioneering radio and television shows, Archbishop Sheen authored many books, with proceeds supporting foreign missions. He headed the Society for the Propagation of the Faith at one point in his life, and continued to be a leading figure in U.S. Catholicism until his death.
 
Archbishop Sheen’s intercession is credited with the miraculous recovery of a pronounced stillborn American baby from the Peoria area.
 
In June 2014, a panel of theologians that advises the Congregation for the Causes of Saints ruled that the baby’s recovery was miraculous.
 
The baby, later named James Fulton Engstrom, was born in September 2010 showing no signs of life. As medical professionals tried to revive him, his parents prayed for his recovery through the intercession of Fulton Sheen.
 
Although the baby showed no pulse for an hour after his birth, his heart started beating again and he escaped serious medical problems.

Denver celebrates Mass on 100th anniversary of Julia Greeley's death

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 18:27

Denver, Colo., Jun 8, 2018 / 04:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Denver hosted a special Mass on Thursday in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the death of Julia Greeley, who is the first person from Colorado to be proposed for sainthood.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila said Greeley was a holy woman who suffered as a former slave and was riddled with arthritis, but still embraced the love of Christ and lived it out.

“How difficult her early life must have been in terms of experiencing slavery, watching her own mother being beaten, losing her own eye,” Archbishop Aquila told CNA.

“And then, her encounter with Jesus Christ...She knew the love of Christ for her, she knew that she was truly a daughter of the Father, and she lived that out.”

The Mass in Greeley’s honor took place at Denver’s Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on the evening of June 7. Archbishop Aquila celebrated the Mass and, among others, was joined by Capuchin Friar Father Blaine Burkey, who wrote a biography of Greeley.

Numerous organizations were represented at the Mass, including the Julia Greeley Guild, a group raising awareness of her canonization cause; the Secular Franciscans, a lay Catholic community with whom she had been involved; and Denver’s fire department, which provided special honor guards to recognize her service to the community’s firefighters.

A letter from Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado was also read declaring this week, June 3-9, 2018, to be “Julia Greeley Week.”

Born a slave in Hannibal, Missouri sometime between 1833 and 1848, Greeley endured horrific treatment – once, a whip caught her right eye and destroyed it as a slave master beat her mother.

One of many slaves freed by Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Greeley’s work with the family of William Gilpin, Colorado’s first territorial governor, brought her to Denver in 1878. Influenced by Gilpin’s wife, who was a devout Catholic, Greeley converted to Catholicism in 1880.

She was an enthusiastic parishioner, a daily communicant, and became an active member of the Secular Franciscan Order starting in 1901. The Jesuit priests at her parish recognized her as the most fervent promoter of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

During her four decades in Colorado, Greely became known as the “Angel of Charity.” After leaving the Gilpins' service, Greeley found odd jobs around the city. She would beg for goods and then offer them to the poor.

Pulling a red wagon behind her, she would hand out clothes, foods, and medicine to the impoverished, acting at night so as not to embarrass those she helped.

Mary Leisring, president of the Julia Greeley Guild, told CNA that “at one point, someone said they saw her walking down the street with a mattress on her back because she knew that someone needed a mattress.”

Having a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart, Greeley would also deliver Sacred Heart pamphlets to the local firefighters to provide spiritual nourishment. She would travel on foot every month to the fire departments around Denver.

Archbishop Aquila said Greeley was an inspiration because, despite her pains and difficulties, she embraced the love of Christ.

“[She] became extremely generous in the outpouring of her own life, even in the midst of her physical condition, was not shy at all about proclaiming Christ and the good news of the Gospel, and especially with her generosity with the poor,” he said.

Her cause for canonization was officially opened in December 2016, and, on the 99th anniversary of her death, her remains were interred in the cathedral. The local investigation into Greeley’s canonization will likely be closed by this August. A few alleged miracles, credited to her intercession, have been reported and are being reviewed.

 

Why some Catholics are skeptical of Pride Month

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 19:08

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2018 / 05:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While the month of June is marked by LGBT pride events, some Catholic critics have voiced wariness and concern that the events draw people away from God’s plan for humankind.

“Pride Month fills me with sadness, for gay pride parades are events that ultimately show how much man has forgotten God and how much he loves us, as a loving Father who created us in his image, solely as male and female,” Daniel Mattson, author of the book “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” told CNA.

“Gay Pride Parades are masquerades that obscure man’s dignity, rather than honor it,” he said.

Mattson voiced gratitude for the opening words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s section on Life in Christ, a passage from a sermon of St. Leo the Great, which says “Christian, recognize your dignity.” Mattson also voiced gratitude that the Church “points the path away from pride in what are ultimately socially constructed identities to the truth of our nature.”

Mattson suggested that parade marchers will find true happiness only through “humility before God, their creator, recognizing the inherent dignity he gave them, as his sons and daughters, created male and female.”

LGBT pride parades and other observances are held in June to commemorate the June 1969 riots and protests against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn bar in New York City. This month’s events range from low-key events, marches and advocacy, major corporate-backed events, and events that include public nudity and immorality.

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island has also commented on the observances.

“Catholics should be very wary of events in the June LGBTQ month. It’s not a fun-filled, family-friendly celebration of respect,” Tobin said in a June 1 Twitter post. “It promotes a lifestyle and agenda that, in the extreme, is morally offensive.”

Mattson said he was grateful for Bishop Tobin’s “clarity and warning” about attending the events.

“I pray that many will heed his words of caution,” he said.

Pride events also drew comment from Father James Martin, S.J., editor-at-large of America Magazine. In several June 2 Twitter posts that seemed to counter Bishop Tobin’s remarks, Father Martin said: “Catholics need not be wary of June’s Pride Month. It’s a way for LGBT people to be proud that they are beloved children of God, they have families who love them as they are, and they have a right to be treated with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity’ after years of persecution.”

Father Martin received an award from the dissenting Catholic group New Ways Ministry and his speech to the group became the basis for his 2017 book “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.” The book drew praise from Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, as well as Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark.

However, the Guinean-born Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, criticized the book in a September 2017 editorial in the Wall Street Journal, saying that Catholic outreach to LGBT individuals must always include the truth about Catholic teaching and chastity.

“As a mother, the Church seeks to protect her children from the harm of sin, as an expression of her pastoral charity,” the cardinal said.
 
Mattson, who did not comment on Martin’s tweets specifically, suggested that the Church’s message for those who self-identify as LGBT should be “Recognize your dignity and reject the limiting reductionist sexual labels of the world.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that those who experience same-sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” while explaining that LGBT individuals, like all Catholics, are called to the virtue of chastity with regard to the sexual expression.

“You were called into being by God the Father who knit you in the womb, made male and female, in His likeness. Claim your true nature, in humility, recognizing that you are a creature, made by God,” Mattson said. “Humility, not pride, is the only path to peace and true human freedom.”

He suggested another appropriate response to pride parades is “sorrow, bowed heads, and prayers for all those who march around the world.” These prayers should be “guided by the confident hope that through the grace of God, they might one day come to know the Father’s love for them, and in his tender gaze, finally understand who they truly are.”

“Such has been the gift the Church has given to me,” Mattson told CNA.

 

UN Human Rights Office condemns US border separation of families

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 17:42

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2018 / 03:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Maria had been a victim of sex trafficking and abuse by a local gang when she fled Guatemala. Taking her 3-year-old son, Jose, she made the trek to the U.S. border, seeking asylum in the United States.

But when she arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in December 2017, she was apprehended by Customs and Border Protection. Agents separated her from her son, who was grouped together with “unaccompanied minors” by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, while Maria was transferred to adult detention.

Maria’s story, as related by the Migration and Refugees Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is not unique.

At least 700 migrant children have been separated from adults claiming to be their parents since October 2017, according to data from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which takes custody of the children. More than 100 of these children were under the age of 4.

Katie Kuennen is the associate director of children’s services for the U.S. bishops’ migration and refugee services, which operates a shelter for unaccompanied children in Texas.

“The vast majority of the kids coming into our residential programs are experiencing the trauma of family separation,” said Kuennen, who has observed increasing numbers of family separations at the border in recent months.

“We know from our work here in child welfare and social work that the impact of such a separation … can be extremely devastating both developmentally and psychologically on the child,” Kuennen explained in an online webinar on family separation on May 30.

On June 5, the United Nations human rights office condemned the U.S. practice of separating migrant children from their parents at the border as “a serious violation of the rights of the child.”

“The practice of separating families amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life,” said UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani, who called on the U.S. to “ immediately halt this practice of separating families.”

Prior to the UN condemnation, the U.S. bishops released a statement on June 1, urging the U.S. government to keep migrant families together.

“My brother bishops and I understand the need for the security of our borders and country, but separating arriving families at the U.S./Mexico border does not allay security concerns,” wrote Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin.

“Rupturing the bond between parent and child causes scientifically-proven trauma that often leads to irreparable emotional scarring,” continued Bishop Vasquez, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration.

“Children are not instruments of deterrence but a blessing from God,” said the bishop.

On May 4, the Department of Homeland Security began referring all people crossing the border illegally to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.

This “zero-tolerance policy” was implemented in response to a report that there had been a 203 percent increase in unauthorized border crossings in the past year. The majority of people arriving at the U.S. border had fled Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, according to the UN.

The goal of the policy is prosecuting 100 percent of the people who cross the border illegally, said Melissa Hastings, a policy advisor for the U.S. bishops’ migration and refugee services.

While adults over the age of 18 await prosecution in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, any children who had been traveling with them will be designated as “unaccompanied” and transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The policy “does not have any exceptions for families who are coming in and willingly turning themselves over to border patrol seeking protection” by applying for legal asylum, said Hastings.

“In the majority of these cases it is noted that CBP had never asked the parent if they could verify the relationship at the time of apprehension,” added Kuennen, who said that parents are not being asked for documentation or evidence of their kinship before separation.

Once a child is separated and their parent detained, Kuennen has found it to be very challenging to facilitate communication between family members because the shelters caring for the children have to identify where the separated parent has been detained and establish contact.

“We recently had a 5-year-old girl from El Salvador who was separated from her biological mother. In this particular case, it took over 30 days to establish initial contact with the mother,” said Kuennen, noting that the child had been extremely traumatized by the initial separation.

“We've heard also some cases of extremely young children, infants, nursing babies who have been separated from their parents and caregivers,” said Kuennen.

For young children, this traumatic separation can lead to long-term physical and mental health consequences, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which released a statement condemning family separation in May.

“[H]ighly stressful experiences, like family separation, can cause irreparable harm, disrupting a child's brain architecture and affecting his or her short- and long-term health. This type of prolonged exposure to serious stress - known as toxic stress - can carry lifelong consequences for children,” the academy warned.

There is also an issue of judicial efficiency, added Ashley Feasley, director of policy for the U.S. bishops’ migration and refugee services.

Previously, a mother could claim her children as derivatives on one asylum application and court claim. The family separation policy forces each individual to have their own claim, multiplying the number of court cases at a time when “our judicial immigration system is already overrun,” Feasley said.

She encouraged Catholics to help by contacting Congress, volunteering with immigrants through their local Catholic Charities, or even volunteering to foster a separated or unaccompanied child.

“Right now, in this initial phase, given the strong statements by DHS and the fact that Congress does have a small, but important oversight role, we are really pushing Congress to push back on this issue at this time,” she said. “We think it is crucial.”

Congressmen call for investigation into Planned Parenthood abuse cover-ups

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 16:04

Washington D.C., Jun 7, 2018 / 02:04 pm (CNA).- Several members of Congress have asked the federal government to investigate allegations that Planned Parenthood has covered-up acts of sexual abuse.

At a press conference held Thursday outside the Capitol Building, the members of Congress, along with pro-life group Live Action, asked the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate Planned Parenthood and other Title X fund recipients to determine if there is a widespread practice of covering up sexual abuse.

Planned Parenthood is the largest recipient of Title X family planning funds, and is required by law to report any suspected abuse.

Last week, Live Action released the first videos of its ongoing docuseries “Aiding Abusers: Planned Parenthood’s Cover-Up of Child Sexual Abuse,” as well as a report containing decades worth of examples of Planned Parenthood acting negligently in failing to report sexual abuse. Many of the stories detailed in the report were re-told on Thursday by members of Congress.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) was blunt in his criticism of Planned Parenthood, saying that he thinks the organization has shown “gross negligence” in not only failing to report abuse, but in many cases returning the abuse victim to their abuser. Smith, who authored a bill in 2000 to protect victims of human trafficking, said that he finds the purported complicity with abuse to be “appalling.”  

Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the United States, and performs about 900 abortions each day. It receives over half a billion dollars in taxpayer funding, about 10 percent of which are Title X funds.

The Trump Administration announced a new rule in late May that would prohibit Title X funds from going to organizations that perform abortion. In order for Planned Parenthood to remain eligible for Title X funds, it would need to discontinue offering abortions, or create a stand-alone, financially segregated organization exclusively providing abortion.

“This is something we have been working on and I applaud the administration for taking that step,” said Rep. Diane Black (R-TN).

“The integrity of our tax dollars should never be in question, especially those intended for actual family planning and women’s healthcare.”

Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, shared stories of her own undercover visits to two Planned Parenthood locations in the Los Angeles area, posing as an abuse victim. In neither case was her abuse reported to law enforcement authorities, and instead, she was encouraged to lie about her age. Rose believes that Planned Parenthood uses abortion as a tool to destroy physical evidence.
“Abortion is something that is then used to enable the abuse of young girls and cover up their abuse,” said Rose.

In one case cited in the report, a young teen girl who said she was being raped by her father received two abortions at Planned Parenthood. She was also given an IUD after the second abortion to prevent additional pregnancies. In neither case was her abuse reported to the authorities, despite being far below the age of consent.

“Planned Parenthood’s failure to report these heinous crimes does not empower women or our children. It empowers their abusers,” said Black.

“These stories are sickening, and we're calling on HHS to investigate Planned Parenthood and every Title X funding recipient to determine how widespread this reporting failure is."

 

After major immigration raid, Ohio bishop decries 'broken system'

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 15:24

Cleveland, Ohio, Jun 7, 2018 / 01:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. immigration system is broken and in need of reform, said the Bishop of Cleveland after more than 100 immigrants were arrested by authorities on Tuesday.

“This latest event in Erie County again makes clear that our current immigration system contributes to the human suffering of migrants and the separation of families,” said Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland.

“The bishops of the Catholic Church have a duty to point out the moral consequences of a broken system.”

On June 5, about 200 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents held a sting operation at two locations of Corso’s Flower & Garden Center. Authorities arrested 114 undocumented immigrants.

Those arrested are likely to receive criminal charges for tax evasion and identity theft. No charges have been brought against the company, but a large number of business documents were confiscated and an investigation is under way, according to the Associated Press.

While recognizing “the role of our government in enforcing current immigration law,” Bishop Perez also voiced “great sadness for the families whose lives have been disrupted following the large-scale immigration action.”

Corso’s is a gardening company with locations in seven states. The family-owned business offers landscaping services and grows annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, and other types of plants.

A red flag was raised last October when a woman was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol for giving stolen identity documents to job applicants, leading authorities to Corso’s. The records of 313 employees were then examined and 123 people were marked for suspicious behavior. Some Social Security numbers were found to be taken from dead people.

Bishop Perez expressed concern for the families who may be separated as a result of the immigration raid. These sufferings point to a broken system, he said.

“The Church is advocating for comprehensive and compassionate reform of our immigration system so that persons are able to obtain legal status in our country and enter the United States legally to work and support their families. Since this is a responsibility of our Congress, I would encourage you to speak with your legislators advocating for reform of our present system.”

The bishop encouraged his audience to pray that these families may stay together and concluded his statement recalling the words of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew.

“We do this remembering the words of Jesus as he calls upon us to ‘welcome the stranger,’ for ‘what you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me’,” he said.

What’s the secret sauce in Wichita’s vocations boom?

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 07:00

Wichita, Kan., Jun 7, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA).- Father Chad Arnold, vocations director in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, is hesitant to dole out advice about how a diocese can increase its priestly vocations.

He recognizes that he’s been blessed.

At a time when bishops and vocations directors across the universal Church are wringing their hands about a dire shortage of priests, Wichita has ordained 10 men to the priesthood for the second year in a row, upping their priestly population by about 20 percent.

“I wish there were an easy, A-B-C sort of answer, but in reality it’s so many things we are blessed with that I believe aid our vocations,” Arnold told CNA.  

One of those things is a commitment to perpetual adoration chapels in diocesan parishes.

“We have a high number of perpetual adoration chapels throughout our diocese, so we have a lot of young men spending time before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “That moment of silence is so critical to hear the Lord speaking to them, so that availability is there.”

The diocese has also been blessed with priests “who work hard and live their faith and take joy in their priesthood and provide tremendous examples and models for the young men in the parishes,” Arnold added, as well as good and faithful bishops who have directed the diocese well.

Six men who were ordained as priests of Wichita have since become bishops, including Bishop Shawn McKnight, who was installed in February as Bishop of Jefferson City, Mo.

The diocese, which sits in the southeast corner of the state, covers 20,021 square miles over 25 counties, and is home to 114,195 Catholics in 90 parishes. While most of these parishes are covered by one priest, the recent bumper crops of priestly ordinations means that some larger parishes with hundreds of families are able to have two or even three priests.

“It’s extra camaraderie, working as a team to get together and assess certain situations and try to come up with a positive, spirit-filled response rather than just one person himself mulling over a task or a challenge,” Father Jerome Spexarth, who just gained a new priest at his parish, told The Wichita Eagle.

“It’s been a great aspect of teamwork. Jesus does send out the Apostles two by two,” he added.

The diocesan Catholic school system, which includes 35 grade schools and 4 high schools, also helps to foster vocations, Arnold noted.

“I think people teaching the faith in those schools who take their faith seriously and earnestly and have a joyful, loving faith with our Lord and are able to pass it on,” he said.

The culture of the Midwestern plains state is also one of those “intangibles” that nonetheless is an important contributing factor that encourages vocations, Arnold noted.

The diocese is mostly made up of small, rural towns where churches are often the center of social life, big families aren’t an anomaly, and the idea of stewardship is embedded in the culture.

“It’s deeply embedded in the spirituality of this diocese that the gifts that we have - whether those are material or personal or what have you - come from God and we have an obligation to return them to God in some fashion,” he said.

Wichita also offers catechetical programs and initiatives through which young people get to interact with priests and seminarians. Among the offerings is Totus Tuus, a summer program founded in the Wichita diocese in which teams of college students and seminarians teach religious education at parishes. Similarly, Prayer and Action sends high school students and seminarians throughout the diocese to perform works of corporal and spiritual mercy.

“Totus Tuus...allows the men an opportunity to live their faith in a profound way,” Arnold said. “It gets the seminarians out in front of the kids and shows them that they’re enjoyable and normal people.”

Arnold said there are also several retreats and events throughout the year that are specifically aimed at young men who may be interested in considering the priesthood. He said he also makes regular visits to the Catholic schools and major colleges in the area to talk about vocations and to answer any questions that young people may have.

“I am fond of telling people I don’t do a lot of recruitment, I just facilitate,” he said, noting that his job is simply to provide opportunities for young people to encounter priests and seminarians who are already joyfully living their vocations.

“Sometimes I worry in vocations work that we can get gimmicky, and I don’t think that serves what we need,” he said. “I think again it just comes back to living the faith as well as we can...it comes from an authentic renewal of our own priesthood, living the faith sincerely and in line with the teachings of the Church, seeking the Lord’s assistance and taking joy in the gift that he has given us in our own priesthood.”

When he meets young men who are considering the priesthood but are hesitant, Arnold says he encourages them by telling them that “the Lord is never outdone in generosity.”

“The most common words of our Lord in the Gospels that he says over and over again are ‘Be not afraid.’ So if we can take that courage and say yes to the Lord...whatever we give to the Lord, no matter how big of a sacrifice we think we’re making, it’s nothing in comparison to what he wants to give to us.”

NY bill no help for victims of sex abuse at public institutions - legal analyst

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 19:02

Albany, N.Y., Jun 6, 2018 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Backers of a New York bill to open a lawsuit window for civil action from victims of past sexual abuse are wrong to say it would apply to public institutions, a former judge has said.

In a May 21 legal analysis of the proposed Child Victims Act, Judge Susan Phillips Read, former associate judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, said that if it becomes law, “a 34-year old man whose high school wrestling coach sexually abused him 20 years ago would not be time-barred from recovering damages from his high school if the man attended a private school and sued within the one-year window, but he would be precluded from recovering damages if he attended a public school instead of a private school.”

Read wrote the analysis at the request of Richard Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, which opposes the bill in its current form.

“While the sponsors have professed that their bill does not shield public schools from exposure, Judge Read’s comprehensive analysis clearly shows otherwise,” Barnes said June 5, charging that the bill has a double standard which would “create a pernicious further injustice.”

The bill has been proposed in previous legislative sessions. In the current session, it passed the New York Assembly with strong bipartisan support but stalled in committee in the Republican-controlled Senate. The bill could pass the Senate next year if Democrats reclaim a majority in that body, the New York Daily News reports.

The bill would allow childhood victims to file civil actions before the age of 50.

Under the law’s current provisions, plaintiffs seeking to file claims against public entities must file a “notice of claim” of their intention to sue within 90 days of the incident, or forever lose the right to their claim.

The proposed bill will remove this limitation in the section of the bill regarding future abuse cases, but it makes no mention of it in a section that lifts the statute of limitations on lawsuits for a temporary, one-year window.

In Read’s view, it is unlikely that a court would regard the omission as “anything other than intentional.”

Attempts to enact the bill as drafted would mean that survivors of abuse in public institutions would see their legal claims rejected in court. They “will end up without a remedy as happened in California,” Read said.

While California legislators in 2002 claimed their retroactive bill was all-inclusive, the California Supreme Court ruled that a school district could not be sued because the victim did not file a timely notice of claim as required by law.

The California legislature passed a similar bill in 2013 and 2014, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed them on the grounds that the extension of the statute of limitations was “simply too open-ended and unfair” because legislators chose not to apply the extension to public institutions.

Barnes stated, “Sexual abuse is a crime that is not confined to private institutions. We as a society have a moral obligation to prevent it and to punish abusers. Doing so requires a comprehensive approach that treats all victims and survivors equally and holds public and private institutions equally accountable. The New York State Legislature must not pass and Governor Cuomo must not sign any bill that would create two classes of victims.”

In March, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York met in private with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to discuss the bill. He contended that the temporary window lifting the statute of limitations would be “toxic” and “very strangling.” Such a window means “the only organization targeted is the Catholic Church,” he said, according to the Buffalo NPR news station WBFO.

The cardinal backed a version of the bill that did not include the window lifting the statute of limitations.

The bill also faces opposition from Orthodox Jewish community leaders, the Boy Scouts of America, and insurance companies, who fear financial hardship from the lawsuits.

As of December 2017, nearly 200 sex abuse victims of clergy in the New York archdiocese had received more than $40 million in compensation through its Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.

In other states that have created temporary windows allowing past sex abuse cases, dioceses and other organizations have faced hundreds of millions of dollars in legal decisions or settlements, with some cases involving decades-old incidents.

Some Republican legislators in New York have proposed an alternative bill to compensate victims with public money instead of from perpetrators or institutions where the crimes may have happened. The money would come from a $300 million asset forfeiture fund under the control of the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The compensation would be available only to those who have not been previously compensated for abuse or who qualify for traditional legal recourse, the Albany Times-Union reports.

Cuomo, who supports the Child Victims Act, was critical of the proposal, saying the fund would likely not have enough funds to compensate victims justly.

Similar legislation is the subject of public debate in Wisconsin, where gubernatorial candidate Matt Flynn has come under criticism from his Democratic primary competitors. Flynn represented the Archdiocese of Milwaukee against victims of sex abuse by its clergy during his work as an attorney, the Wisconsin newspaper the Capital Times reports.

As wildfires burn in southwest US, Catholics offer prayer, support

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 18:05

Denver, Colo., Jun 6, 2018 / 04:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As ongoing wildfires rage through the southwest region of the United States, local dioceses are offering their prayers and support for victims.

“I pray for all those in harm’s way and for all first responders and volunteers fighting the fire,” said Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe in a June 1 statement.

“The Archdiocese of Santa Fe joins all in prayer and stands ready to support those who are affected by this emergency,” he continued.

In New Mexico, the Ute Park Fire has forced thousands into evacuation in and around the town of Cimarron, near the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. The fire, which was filtering into the town from nearby Ute Park, has burned 36,000 acres since it began on May 31.

Mandatory evacuations were set in place on Sunday, and one local priest, Rev. Dom Mayeul Thu, was among those evacuated. Archbishop Wester offer particular prayers for “those who have been evacuated, that they are able to seek shelter during this time.”

On Monday, some relief was offered to locals as the fire became 25 percent contained and the mandatory evacuation orders were lifted. Concerns remain, however, regarding the smoke, air quality, and hot weather in the forecast.

A 1,400-acre fire is also raging in Agua Dulce, California, just northeast of Los Angeles. Multiple homes have been under mandatory evacuation, and more than 350 firefighters are trying to contain the blaze. As of Wednesday afternoon, the fire is 30 percent contained.

Colorado is also experiencing a 2,400-acre wildfire near Durango, dubbed the 416 Fire, where nearly 825 homes have been under evacuation since the start of the blaze on Friday. As of Wednesday afternoon, the fire remains approximately 10 percent contained.

The Diocese of Pueblo has seen a tremendous outpouring of prayer and support for the victims of the blaze, according to Michelle Hill, the director of development for the diocese.

Hill told CNA they have heard many “stories of those who immediately step up to help when fires threaten.”

“A non-parishioner who came to our food bank at St. Columba Parish in Durango offered to give her bag of food to someone who is being impacted by the fire,” Hill said.

“Some of our parishioners in the Bayfield area have offered space in their homes to house anyone without a place to stay. The spirit of charity is always alive in Southern Colorado,” she continued.

While local communities are lending a helping hand during the wildfire, Hill said the diocese has also been praying for those affected by the fires and remains grateful that no lives have been lost.

“We continue to pray for an end to the drought conditions that cause such extreme concern and necessitate burn bans,” Hill said.

“We are thankful as well that the recent fires in northern Pueblo County and Baca County were contained and that all those in the area are safe.”
 
 

 

Maryland town met with support, prayer in aftermath of devastating flood

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 16:27

Baltimore, Md., Jun 6, 2018 / 02:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Perched on a hill overlooking the rivers and railroad tracks in Ellicott City, Maryland, stands St. Paul’s Catholic Church – a place where many Catholics in the Archdiocese of Baltimore go to pray.

Since a devastating flood hit the city over Memorial Day weekend, the church has also been used as a safe haven for victims of the deluge and a hub of service for those in need.

“Fr. Warren was here when the flooding happened,” said Deacon George Krause of St. Paul’s, who told CNA that when the flooding started May 27, the church was “the first place that people headed,” because of its high location on the hill.

“Fr. Warren was able to open up the buildings here and the church to let people in from the rain and gave them the opportunity to make phone calls and make arrangements with loved ones and things like that,” Krause said.  

Fr. Warren Tanghe is the pastor of St. Paul Catholic Church, which became a center of service to Ellicott City during the recent flooding.

According to Krause, St. Paul’s was “the first hub of the Catholic faith to reach out and pray for everyone that was impacted” during the flood. He also noted the Knights of Columbus members of St. Paul’s were providing meals to the first responders and police officers in the days following the flood.

On May 27, the Baltimore area was hit with severe thunderstorms which soon turned into flood warnings. Ellicott City, just 13 miles west of downtown Baltimore, was hit the worst, as the water in the streets began to rise throughout the course of the day, reaching its peak near 6:00 in the evening. At this time, water was rushing down main street, destroying cars and stores along its path.

One man, National Guard Sgt. Eddison Hermond, was killed by the flood’s raging waters as he tried to help a local pet store owner.  A similar flood had hit Ellicott City in 2016, and many of the city’s residents are still recovering from the first deluge, which killed two people.

Ellicott City is a historic cultural center located in Howard’s County between Baltimore and Washington, most of which sits alongside creeks and below towering hills. While some blame the rising river as a contributor to the flooding, the most recent floods were caused by water rushing in from above.

As many residents are beginning to re-start their lives in the aftermath of the flood, Krause said St. Paul’s continues to serve those impacted by the storm in their community. He noted the parish is currently collecting cleaning supplies for shop owners, as well as money donations to help with damages.

In addition, the church offered their parking lot to Baltimore Gas and Electric crews as a command center in the weeks following the flood, which was used to address gas leaks and power outages throughout the city. The church’s parking lot is also currently being used by shop owners who park their cars on the hill and are escorted by police down to their stores.  

“We are just here to help and provide,” Krause said.

Fr. Warren additionally told the Baltimore Catholic Review the weeks following the flood would be primarily focused on accompanying victims with their grief and sense of loss.

On the eve of the feast of Corpus Christi, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore visited St. Paul’s in an effort to offer the community prayers and support as they deal with the damages of the flood.  

“I came today just to be with you, to pray with you, to offer you a word of love and encouragement, and in this difficult time, to remind you of the abiding presence of the Lord in our midst,” said Archbishop Lori in his June 2 homily.

“A principal message of today’s feast might be summed up in this way: as Jesus is present to us in the Eucharist, so we need to be present to those in need,” Lori continued.

In an effort to comfort those impacted by the storm, the Baltimore archbishop encouraged those gathered to lean on each other during tragic times and to sacrifice themselves for others. He particularly pointed to the presence of Christ in the Eucharist as a way to gain strength and grace during difficult times.

“That is the key to rebuilding not merely our town, but indeed our very lives,” Lori said.

“So let the Lord’s Eucharistic presence make us more present to one another and may his sacrificial love – his body and his blood given out of love for us – enable us, even in the most trying of times, to give of ourselves to others.”

When Robert F. Kennedy's mourners found refuge in the rosary

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 05:01

Washington D.C., Jun 6, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was shot in a California hotel on June 5, 1968, his supporters prayed.

“After Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, many supporters got down on their knees and prayed the rosary. A famous picture from the time shows a busboy, Juan Romero, pressing rosary beads into Kennedy’s hands in the kitchen of the hotel. Imagine Catholics doing that today,” Mark Stricherz, political reporter and author of the 2007 book Why the Democrats are Blue, told CNA.

Kennedy’s own life had similar devotion. He was born the seventh of nine children to Joseph and Rosemary Kennedy in Brookline, Mass. After serving in the Navy during the Second World War, he married Ethel Skakel, with whom he would have eleven children – the last of whom was yet unborn at the time of his death.

Kennedy was often considered one of the more devout Kennedy brothers, with his house full of devotionals, bibles, and crucifixes, and regular prayer with his wife and children. He served as an altar boy as a young man and even at points during his career of public service, biographer Larry Tye said in his 2017 book Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon.

Kennedy’s life also included some clashes with clerics, including an argument as a student with controversial Harvard Catholic chaplain Father Leonard Feeney.

In 1952 he served as manager for his brother John F. Kennedy’s U.S. Senate run. He was a Senate subcommittee staffer under U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy and would later write a report critical of his approach to anti-communism, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

After managing his brother’s successful 1960 presidential campaign, he was named U.S. Attorney General. Following his brother’s 1963 assassination, he left the presidential cabinet and went on to run successfully for U.S. Senator from New York.

Kennedy entered the 1968 presidential race following Johnson’s announcement he would not seek re-election. Facing a primary foe in U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy, his campaign featured labor outreach to leaders such as Cesar Chavez and to African-American leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., despite his previous tensions the Kennedy family.

For Stricherz, Kennedy’s 1968 electoral coalition was unique. He focused on working-class whites and blacks, which the senator called a “black-blue” or “have-not” coalition.

With the possible exception of Jimmy Carter’s 1976 victory, Stricherz told CNA, “no politician has pulled off that cross-racial, populist alliance of supporters.”

“To be sure, Bobby benefited politically from the death of his brother John, whom the country was still mourning. 1968 was a crazy year and many voters wanted a return to the stability of the early 1960s.”

Much like his president brother, Kennedy’s death with his life seemingly unfulfilled made him an object for the hopes of many who wanted a different path through the late 1960s and 1970s on war, race relations, and poverty.

It is possible the assassination changed the course of the country on abortion, Stricherz suggested.
“Kennedy’s stand on the sexual revolution is unknowable,” he said.

“Social conservatives have said a 1964 meeting he attended would have made him a supporter of abortion rights. But his sister Eunice was an unquestioned pro-life supporter who participated in the last great push to move the Democratic Party away from its abortion-rights stance in 1992. And Kennedy was the father of 11 children.”

Stricherz also doubted some depictions of Kennedy as a pioneer on racial justice.

“One reason President Johnson despised Bobby was he was ‘all hat no cattle’ on racial issues,” he said. “While Johnson passed more legislation to help blacks than any president, Kennedy made speeches. That said, no political candidate, not even President Obama, has attracted the adulation from black crowds that Kennedy did in 1968. But Kennedy sought to balance the interests of blacks and his white constituents. In a debate before the California primary in June 1968, Kennedy and McCarthy differed on the extent to which the federal government should support racial integration in housing.”

However, Kennedy’s April 4, 1968 remarks in Indianapolis upon the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. are sometimes credited with redirecting tension and anger over the killing. Indianapolis was among the few major cities to be spared riots in the wake of the killing.

“Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort,” Kennedy said in an African-American neighborhood that night.

“For those of you who are black – considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people responsible – you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization, black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.”

“For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling,” Kennedy said. “I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.”

Just months later Kennedy too would be fatally shot. His assailant, Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian Arab from a Christian background, was angered over Kennedy’s support for Israel.

Juan Romero, a 17-year-old Mexican busboy in the Ambassador Hotel, was shaking hands with the senator as he was shot. Romero cradled the wounded Kennedy in his arms on the floor of a hotel kitchen. He put his own rosary into Kennedy’s hands.

Kennedy lingered for about a day. He died early the morning of June 6, 2018 in the presence of his wife Ethel, two of his sisters, and a brother-in-law. He was 42.

CUA board approves much-debated academic renewal plan

Tue, 06/05/2018 - 19:07

Washington D.C., Jun 5, 2018 / 05:07 pm (CNA).- A hotly-debated renewal plan for the Catholic University of America, which included the elimination of 35 faculty positions, the reorganization of some departments and a recommitment to the arts, was approved by the school’s board of trustees Tuesday.

The Academic Renewal proposal has undergone deliberation and study since September, and was first approved in May by a 35-8 vote of the Academic Senate, a group of administrators, deans, and elected faculty members and student representatives. After passing the Academic Senate, the proposal was sent to the Board for final approval.

The plan includes, among other things, the opening of a new school of music, drama, and art in fall 2018, the establishment of a new Center for Teaching Excellence, plans to add new programs and faculty in areas of growth, and renovations to several facilities on campus.

“I am grateful to the Board of Trustees for its support for Academic Renewal, and especially to Provost Abela, the Academic Senate, and all of the faculty and students whose participation in the process, ideas, and recommendations were invaluable to the development of the final plan,” Catholic University President John Garvey said in a press release following the board’s decision. He added that the plan will now “immediately move forward.”

Whether debate surrounding the plan will be assuaged in the following days and months remains to be seen.

The crux of the debate surrounding the plan was whether the elimination of 35 faculty positions would mean the termination of tenured faculty.

In the week leading up to the board’s vote, an unofficial ad-hoc group called the “Faculty Assembly” released the results of an anonymous electronic poll it conducted, which purported to show that numerous faculty members had “no confidence” in Provost Andrew Abela or President John Garvey regarding the renewal plan or the future of the university.

The group sent the poll to 448 people, including ordinary professors, associate professors, faculty emeriti and contract faculty. The 15 faculty who report directly to the provost were not included in the poll.

CUA representative Susan Gibbs told CNA that the university has 391 full-time faculty members, and because some faculty members were not polled by the group, only 376 of those who received the poll could have been full-time faculty members.

38 percent of those who received the survey, 171 people, said they had “no confidence” in Provost Andrew Abela. 176 people, 39 percent of those surveyed, said the same for President John Garvey. Roughly half of those surveyed, 225 people in total, responded to the poll, The Washington Post reported.

A lack of confidence “stems from concerns from faculty across campus regarding the strategic vision and direction of the university, lack of shared governance, and financial stewardship and management of the university’s resources,” Binh Tran, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at CUA and another leader of the assembly, told The Washington Post.

In a statement following the release of the poll, Catholic University said it was “difficult to respond to an anonymous opinion poll” and that it would instead rely on the votes of the elected officials of the Academic Senate and on faculty and student feedback received throughout the proposal process.

“The proposal was developed in consultation with committees of the Academic Senate, which also oversaw a campus-wide consultation widely attended by faculty and students,” CUA said in the statement. “Input from this consultation resulted in additional initiatives and revisions that were incorporated into the final document.”  

Gibbs told CNA that while the school’s administration and Academic Senate understands that job elimination is a sensitive issue, nearly all of the eliminations of the faculty positions have been made through voluntary terminations and buyouts, and that the involuntary termination of tenured faculty had thus far been avoided.

“They’re wrapping up a few loose ends and finalizing a few things,” Gibbs said, but “it’s virtually done” and has all happened through voluntary means.

Dr. John Grabowski, associate professor of moral theology and ethics and a member of the Academic Senate at CUA, told CNA that while he understood the Faculty Assembly’s initial concerns over tenured positions, he believed those concerns should be allayed by the revised final edition of the proposal.

“I feel like I can see both sides,” he said, since he is a faculty member that was part of the Academic Senate involved in deliberation over the plan.

“But I can also see the concern generated among the faculty, because as it was initially described, it seemed like it was going to willy-nilly terminate faculty in certain units, whether they were adjunct, contract or tenured faculty, so that in many people’s minds set off alarm bells that the university is arbitrarily firing tenured faculty,” he said.

“I don’t think that was the intention” of the administration, he added, and after hearing the concerns of faculty, students and the broader CUA community regarding tenured positions, “a lot of the ambiguities of that language was cleared up.”

“By the time the Academic Senate approved the proposal, we were told that the provost was eliminating 35 faculty positions, and he had gotten to about 31 or 32 through voluntary retirement or severance. People were not being willy-nilly terminated, and he was confident that he could get the number he needed to make it work financially without having to involuntarily terminate any tenured faculty,” he said. “So in other words, we don’t even need to go there.”

Dr. Chad Pecknold, associate professor of systematic theology at CUA, told CNA that while he received the electronic poll from the Faculty Assembly, he chose not to participate in it since they are not an officially recognized group.

He added that he “strongly supported” the Academic Renewal proposal, especially after he felt that his concerns about tenure were heard.

“I serve on the Committee for Faculty Economic Welfare, and helped draft my only concern which was to safeguard tenure,” he said. “Once the Provost clarified that tenure would not be harmed, the proposal passed the Academic Senate by a wide margin.”

Grabowski said that he responded to the electronic poll that he had confidence in the provost and the president, though he said he experience technical difficulties with the link and is unsure if his vote was cast.

Furthermore, he said he was not sure if the faculty assembly was “sufficiently cognizant” of numerous efforts made by administration and the Academic Senate to consult faculty across the campus throughout the creation of the Academic Renewal proposal, during which may students and faculty did weight in to express their concerns.

“I think their concerns were heard and registered and the proposal that was put forward was heavily amended, and I think we ended up with a position that brought the two sides a lot closer together than when they started out,” he said.

The Faculty Assembly told CNA in an email that even if the plan were to be approved and proceed without the firing of tenured faculty, the proposal process “highlighted multiple serious deficiencies in the leadership of the Provost and the President” and that their concerns “extend well beyond this proposal to issues broadly and deeply related to leadership and direction of the university.”

They said they planned to hold a meeting with the board and the Executive Committee of the Faculty Assembly in order to relay their concerns “related to the future of shared governance, financial management, executive performance and compensation, and still other serious issues.”

Gibbs told CNA the group declined an opportunity to meet with the Board of Trustees on June 4, one day before the board’s vote on the proposal.

A related group of concerned faculty, students and alumni called “Save The Catholic University of America” (or Save Catholic) recently started a website to express their lack of confidence in CUA leadership and to call for change.

“We believe change is urgently needed; indeed, we embrace change. But we also believe that the changes we make must be the right ones,” the group said in their statement. “The actions taken under President Garvey have significantly weakened the financial situation of the university and damaged our ability to recruit students. We have no confidence that the Provost Abela’s Academic Renewal Proposal will make the university’s situation better. Indeed, we are quite certain that it will deepen and compound our challenges.”

Grabowski said that the reports of CUA’s imminent demise suggested by some articles and the language of Save Catholic have been “greatly exaggerated.”

“I don’t think this is the end of the world, I think this is an adjustment in terms of the University’s resources,” he said. “In a big picture sense it makes sense, every business goes through this.”

In light of the electronic poll and the complaints of the Faculty Assembly and Save Catholic, the Board of Trustees also issued a statement of confidence in CUA leadership on June 5, noting improvements in outside contributions, recruitment, renovations and other improvements.

Michael P. Warsaw, EWTN Chairman and CEO, is a member of the university’s Board of Trustees. Catholic News Agency is a service of EWTN.

According to CUA numbers, undergraduate enrollment increased in fall 2017 and is on track to grow again for fall 2018, and student retention is at its highest level in more than 20 years.

Joseph L. Carlini, Chairman of the Board of Trustees said in the statement that the Board has full confidence in President John Garvey, and “looks forward to our continued collaboration with President Garvey. Academic Renewal is about growth and investing in our future.”

Pecknold told CNA that despite efforts to politicize CUA and the Academic Renewal plan, the University is first and foremost committed to following Christ.

“We are neither right nor left, but we’re a university born out of the heart of the Church, and centered in Christ.”

US Supreme Court throws out undocumented minor abortion ruling

Tue, 06/05/2018 - 19:02

Washington D.C., Jun 5, 2018 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday the Supreme Court vacated an appellate court's decision from October which permitted an undocumented minor held in federal custody to an obtain an abortion.

This move by the court means there will no longer be a precedent should a similar case arise.

The June 4 order in Azar v. Garza was unanimous, though the initial case had been rendered moot as the minor had already had an abortion. The Supreme Court took up the case in January.

The minor in question, identified only as “Jane Doe,” obtained an abortion Oct. 25, 2017, after an appeals court ruled that the government had to provide her with one. Doe was from Central America, and was arrested after illegally crossing the U.S. border. She learned she was pregnant after she was in custody. Doe is now 18 years old and is no longer in federal custody. She was represented in court by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Trump administration argued that it was not the role of the government to assist with an undocumented minor’s abortion. In an appeal filed last year, Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote that the government is “not obligated to facilitate abortion,” and that “the government acts permissibly when it does not place an undue burden in a women’s path.”

While the ruling did not go as far as some pro-life activists would have preferred, they were still pleased with the decision.

Charlotte Lozier Institute President Chuck Donovan told CNA that although the court did not determine whether the federal government must assist undocumented minors with abortions, he felt it was a setback for those in favor of abortion rights.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling in this case doesn’t answer the fundamental question – does the federal government have an obligation to help an undocumented teen abort her unborn child – but it does deny the ACLU a major victory in their drive to promote abortion on demand,” he said.

"Solicitor General Noel Francisco and the Trump Administration deserve the greatest thanks for waging this fight and helping our nation honor the right to life of every human being, born and unborn, who reaches our shores,” Donovan stated.

Kerri Kupec, Justice Department spokeswoman, welcomed the court's decision. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear that the federal government is not required to facilitate abortions for minors and may choose policies favoring life over abortion. We look forward to continuing to press the government’s interest in the sanctity of life.”

The Supreme Court's decision detailed the timeline of the case.

The appellate court ruled Oct. 24, 2017 that the government make Doe available to obtain the counseling required by Texas law and to obtain an abortion. Texas requires pre-abortion counseling with the same doctor who will perform the abortion to take place at least 24 hours in advance of the procedure.

Doe's representatives scheduled an appointment for her, and arranged for her to be transported to the clinic Oct. 25 at 7:30 a.m.

The government planned to ask the Supreme Court for emergency review of the appellate court's ruling, and said it would file a stay application early in the morning of Oct. 25, believing an abortion would not take place until Oct. 26.

“The details are disputed, but sometime over the course of the night both the time and nature of the appointment were changed,” wrote the Supreme Court.

A doctor who had performed counseling for Doe earlier was available to perform an abortion, and her 7:30 a.m. appointment was moved forward to 4:15 a.m.

The government was informed at 10 a.m. Oct. 25 that Doe had procured an abortion that morning.

The Supreme Court declined to discipline Doe's lawyers, whom the Trump administration alleged had committed misconduct, making “what appear to be material misrepresentations and omissions … designed to thwart this Court's review.”

“Not all communication breakdowns constitute misconduct,” the court wrote.

Audio drama of St. Francis takes Audie Award

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 21:00

Denver, Colo., Jun 4, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A spoken-word drama about the life of St. Francis of Assisi has won an Audie Award from the Audio Publishers Association.
 
“It truly is an honor for us to be considered worthy to receive this award,” said Paul McCusker, the audio drama’s writer and director. “I’m deeply grateful to all the talented people who invested themselves in making ‘Brother Francis.’ And I’m thankful to Francis for his inspiring life.”
 
Augustine Institute Radio Theatre’s “Brother Francis: The Barefoot Saint of Assisi” tells the “tumultuous and astonishing” life of the 13th century Italian saint and reformer across 10 episodes.
 
“As the son of a wealthy merchant, he knew splendor. As a young soldier, he encountered suffering. As a victim of war, he began a search for inner-meaning that would tear his family apart and redirect his life. As a holy beggar, he embraced lepers, challenged a Pope, debated a Sultan, and shook his world to its very core,” says the series’ description on the Augustine Institute Radio Theatre’s website.
 
The audio drama was recorded at The Sound House in London, using a cast of award-winning actors and original music by Jared DePasquale.
 
The Audie Awards recognize distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment. The award for “Brother Francis,” in the category of best audio drama, was announced May 31 at the 23rd annual Audies Gala at the New York Historical Society in New York City.
 
The awards are sometimes called the “Oscars of spoken-word entertainment,” the Audio Publishers Association said.
 
“Each of the nominees and winners are to be commended for the tremendous contributions they have made to our flourishing industry and this special event is the perfect venue for us to show appreciation to each and every one of them,” Linda Lee, the Audio Publishers Association president, said of the awards.
 
Other dramas produced by Augustine Institute Radio Theatre include “Ode to St. Cecilia” and “The Trials of St. Patrick.” The radio theater is an initiative of the Denver-based Augustine Institute, a graduate theological school.
 
McCusker has previously received Audie Awards for his work on “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Luke Reports,” which drew from the Gospel of Luke. His audio dramatization “Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom,” which he wrote and directed, has won a Peabody Award.

 

Understanding the Supreme Court's Masterpiece Cake ruling

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 18:21

Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2018 / 04:21 pm (CNA).- Religious freedom advocates have mostly celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, although some commentators have expressed concern that the case was a “narrow” victory - won on specific facts of the case, not addressing broad Constitutional questions.

What exactly happened in the case, and what does it mean?

The case revolved around Coloradan Jack Phillips, who in 2012 declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, because of his religious objections to same-sex marriage. Phillips stressed repeatedly that he will happily create other products – such as birthday cakes or graduation cakes – for gay clients, but reiterated his opposition to gay marriage. A devout Christian, he also refuses to bake cakes for bachelor parties or Halloween.

After a complaint was filed, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ordered him to change his company policies and undergo anti-discrimination training. That decision was appealed, and today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Phillips by a 7-2 margin. Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, typically viewed as progressives, sided with the Court’s more conservative cohort, and Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.

Much of the initial media coverage focused on how “narrow” today’s ruling was. It’s true that the case was decided on narrow legal grounds. The majority opinion did not decide the free speech claims in the case.

Instead, the Court ruled against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, saying that in its proceedings with Jack Phillips, the commission “showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection.”

The Court came to this decision for two main reasons. First, the justices said, several statements made by commission members during formal, public hearings “endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, implying that religious beliefs and persons are less than fully welcome in Colorado’s business community.”

One commissioner said that Phillips is free to believe “what he wants to believe,” but cannot act on these religious beliefs “if he decides to do business in the state.” Some commissioners “disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable and characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.”

Because of this, the Supreme Court found, “the Commission’s consideration of Phillips’ case was neither tolerant nor respectful of his religious beliefs” and lacked the religious neutrality required by the Constitution.

Second, the Court cited inconsistent treatment by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, noting three other local cases in which a customer asked bakeries to create cakes with an anti-gay marriage message, and the bakeries refused on the grounds that they disagreed with the message. In Phillips’ case, the commission ruled that a message requested on a cake is attributable to the customer, not the baker. In the other cases, however, the commission did not address this point.

But while the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Masterpiece case was decided narrowly, it is nonetheless significant. Today’s decision does not offer a definitive answer to how cases involving same-sex marriage and religious freedom will be decided going forward. But it does reject the extreme approaches of those who would treat religious freedom as a second-class Constitutional right.

In a 2006 interview, EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum’s said that when religious liberty clashes with issues of sexuality, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.” That comment seems to reflect the popular idea that religious people need to “get over” their views in order to accommodate popular support for same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court dismissed this idea in the Masterpiece ruling. It reaffirmed religious freedom as an essential civil right, one that must be given proper respect and consideration.

To what extent will this ruling affect other cases?

The Masterpiece Cake case was just one of several recent cases involving the collision of gay marriage and the freedoms of speech and religion. Florists, photographers, and other wedding industry professionals have also been involved in lawsuits about whether they can be required to create works of art for same-sex weddings to which they hold religious objections.  

Because the Court’s decision does not offer a definitive ruling on the free speech and conscience issues involved, it is not entirely clear how other cases may be decided in the future.

The majority opinion says, “The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”

This does not offer the wide veil of protection conservatives may have been hoping for, but it does insist that courts and other panels approach cases in a neutral way, without any bias against those trying to live out their religious convictions. That should be a reason for cautious optimism among advocates of religious freedom.

 

Religious freedom groups praise Supreme Court's Masterpiece ruling

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 17:29

Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2018 / 03:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious freedom groups cheered Monday’s 7-2 Supreme Court decision that a Colorado baker had his rights violated when the state civil rights commission said he was required to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

"Today's decision confirms that people of faith should not suffer discrimination on account of their deeply held religious beliefs, but instead should be respected by government officials,” said leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“This extends to creative professionals, such as Jack Phillips, who seek to serve the Lord in every aspect of their daily lives. In a pluralistic society like ours, true tolerance allows people with different viewpoints to be free to live out their beliefs, even if those beliefs are unpopular with the government."

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the bishops’ religious liberty committee, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, head of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, chair of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, released a joint statement Monday applauding the Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, saying that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed a constitutionally unacceptable hostility toward religion when it ruled that he had discriminated against a same-sex couple who requested a wedding cake from his bakery back in 2012.

Phillips, a devout Christian, said repeatedly throughout the case that he would have no issue serving gay customers in a context outside of a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. In adherence to his religious beliefs, he also refuses to make Halloween cakes, products with alcohol, and cakes for bachelor parties.

“The Court reached the right outcome,” Princeton law professor Robert George told CNA.

He said Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, writing in concurring opinions, “got there for the right reasons,” while the majority opinion, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, was “valid but incomplete, and leave[s] issues unresolved that would have been resolved properly had the key points in the Gorsuch opinion been added.”

The Court stopped short of setting a major precedent, and instead tailored the decision to this particular case. However, supporters of Phillips said the decision still marked an important victory.

“Government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society, yet the state of Colorado was openly antagonistic toward Jack’s religious beliefs about marriage. The court was right to condemn that,” said Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which was representing Phillips.

“Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a society like ours. This decision makes clear that the government must respect Jack’s beliefs about marriage,” Waggoner said in a statement.

The opinion was authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented, something that surprised Brian Miller, an attorney for the Center for Individual Rights.

“Even before getting to the text, the decision comes with surprises. Despite being one of the most controversial cases of the term, the justices didn't split along partisan lines,” said Miller.

While Ginsburg and Sotomayor are typically on the Supreme Court’s liberal wing, Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer do not generally lean conservative. Some commenters were surprised to see that they sided with the court’s conservative wing in this case.

“The Court's holding is narrow,” Miller told CNA, “and insists that it is possible to both protect against discrimination and protect religious freedom. That principle will be important for states to remember going forward."

Becket Law President Mark Rienzi expanded further on this, saying, “The Court has said 7-2 that the Constitution requires us all to try and get along. There is room enough in our society for a diversity of viewpoints, and that includes respecting religious beliefs too.”

George warned that the reasoning behind the majority’s ruling could be used to oppose religious freedom in the future.

“As it stands, there is a danger that state officials will interpret the decision as licensing discrimination against Christians and other religious people so long as those officials don’t reveal their anti-Christian or anti-religious animus in public statements,” he cautioned.

Still, he said, the decision offers an optimistic look at the court’s newest addition, Justice Gorsuch.

“This case shows that Justice Gorsuch is not only a faithful constitutionalist, he has the potential to be one of history’s greatest Supreme Court justices,” George said.

 

BREAKING: Supreme Court rules in favor of baker who declined to serve gay wedding

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 10:19

Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2018 / 08:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012.

The 7-2 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission could be a landmark ruling for freedom of religion and conscience cases.

The majority opinion was delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a separate opinion concurring in part, and concurring in the judgment.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop case dates back to July 2012, when owner Jack Phillips was asked by two men to bake a cake for their same-sex wedding ceremony.

He explained to the couple that he could not cater to same-sex weddings – to do so would have been a violation of his Christian beliefs. He said he has also declined to make a number of other types of cakes, including cakes for Halloween, bachelor parties, divorce, cakes with alcohol in the ingredients, and cakes with atheist messages. 

The couple then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for discrimination.

The commission ordered Phillips to serve same-sex weddings and to undergo anti-discrimination training. In a hearing in 2014, the civil rights commissioner Diann Rice compared his declining to serve same-sex weddings to justifications for the Holocaust and slavery.

Alliance Defending Freedom took up Phillips’ case in court. He lost before an administrative judge in 2013, who ruled that the state could determine when his rights to free speech unlawfully infringed upon others’ rights.

Phillips then appealed his case to the state’s human rights commission, which ruled against him. He appealed again to the state’s court of appeals, which also ruled against him. The Colorado Supreme Court did not take up Phillips’ case.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court. It was re-listed repeatedly throughout the winter and spring of 2017, before the Court decided to take the case.

Phillips had said that he started his Lakewood, Colorado business in 1993 as a way to integrate his two loves – baking and art – into his daily work. Philipps named his shop “Masterpiece” because of the artistic focus of his work, but also because of his Christian beliefs. He drew from Christ's Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, specifically the commands “no man can serve two masters” and “you cannot serve both God and mammon.”

“I didn’t open this so I could make a lot of money,” Phillips said of his business, speaking at a panel event last September. “I opened it up so that it would be a way that I could create my art, do the baking that I love, and serve the God that I love.”

Throughout the ordeal, Phillips said, he has paid a heavy price for his stand, losing 40 percent of his family’s income and more than half his employees.

Phillips said he began receiving threatening phone calls shortly after the couple left the store. One death threat was so severe, his sister and niece at the store had to hide in the back room until police arrived.

Attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom argued that the First Amendment protects Phillips’ right to freedom of expression as an artist.

“[J]ust as the [Human Rights] Commission cannot compel Phillips’s art, neither may the government suppress it,” the legal group said, adding that the conflict between Phillips’ freedom as an artist and the wishes of his customers should be solved by the citizens themselves, and not by the government.

The ruling is expected to have far-reaching results, particularly in determining the extent of religious liberty protections following the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. Florists, photographers and other wedding vendors have also faced lawsuits alleging discrimination for declining same-sex ceremonies.

“There is far more at stake in this case than simply whether Jack Phillips must bake a cake,” the US bishops' conference and other Catholic groups had stated in an amicus brief. “It is about the freedom to live according to one’s religious beliefs in daily life and, in so doing, advance the common good.”

“[T]his could be one of the most important First Amendment cases in terms of free speech and the free exercise of religion in a century or more, and it could be a landmark, seismic kind of case of First Amendment jurisprudence,” Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) said last September in a press conference at the U.S. Capitol.

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

Sun, 06/03/2018 - 05:01

Denver, Colo., Jun 3, 2018 / 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 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 recent 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.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA July 13, 2017.

Pages