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Chaput: ‘Rebuild a Christian society without divided loyalties’

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 19:00

Winona, Minn., Apr 12, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The once Christian culture of the West has forgotten its roots, Archbishop Charles Chaput said Friday, warning that basic principles of human dignity and freedom are now at risk.

The leader of the Philadelphia archdiocese told an April 12 gathering of priests, seminarians, and lay people at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minn., that it is the sacred responsibility of the Church to be actors in history, steering society back to the path toward God.

“We need to understand that, increasingly, the main moral principles of the Declaration of Independence – things about which the Founders could say, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident’ -- are not at all self-evident or permanent to many of our intellectual and political leaders,” Chaput said, while he received the 2019 Immaculate Heart of Mary Award at the seminary's annual Bishops and Rector Dinner.

“The natural rights that most of us Americans take for granted mean nothing if there’s no such thing as a permanent human nature – a nature which many of those who seek to rule us, or already rule us, already reject. And that has consequences.”

The archbishop noted an increasing public hostility to the values of natural law and said that “secular inquisitors” seek to enforce a new orthodoxy which rejects basic human truths.

“Sex is their weapon of choice,” Chaput said, “a kind of Swiss Army knife of gender confusion, sexual license, and ferocious moralizing against anything that hints of classic Christian morality, purity, modesty, fertility, and lifelong fidelity based on the sexual complementarity of women and men.”

“To put it another way: The real enemies of human freedom, greatness, imagination, art, hope, culture, and conscience are those who attack religious belief, not believers.”

Chaput said that American society increasingly rejects the faith in God which was once its distinctive trait, calling faith the lost source of American “decency and vitality.”

“Unbelief– whether deliberate and ideological, or lazy and pragmatic – is the state religion of the modern world.  The fruit of that orthodoxy is the starvation and destruction of the human spirit, and a society without higher purpose.”

“Whatever our nation once was, today it risks becoming more and more obviously a new Rome with all of the inhuman flaws that implies,” he said.

The archbishop said that Christians are not called to be passive witnesses to the times. He reminded Catholics that each person is both the subject and author of their place in history.

Christians, he said, have the duty to remake society in the image of Christ by standing in firm contradiction to the prevailing culture, remembering that each person’s actions have consequences.

“To the degree we try to fit into a culture that’s more and more hostile to what Catholics have always believed – which is what we’ve been doing for decades now – we repudiate by our actions what we claim to hold sacred with our words,” Chaput said.

“No person, and no Church, can survive for long with divided loyalties.”

Chaput told the audience that Catholics had the duty to “serve the truth by telling the truth as joyfully and persuasively as we can.”

“Our faith changed the course of history and gave meaning to an entire civilization. And in the Risen Christ, God is now calling us, right now, starting with those of us here tonight, to do the same.”

The archbishop said that it was through faith in God that society appreciated the dignity of human nature and the freedom of the human soul. If American Catholics no longer know their faith, or their privilege of discipleship, or their call to mission, then “we have no one to blame but ourselves,” he said.

“The problem in American Catholic life is not a lack of money or resources or personnel or social influence,” Chaput said.

“The central problem in constructing a Christian culture is our lack of faith and the cowardice it produces. We need to admit this. And then we need to submit ourselves to a path of repentance and change, and unselfish witness to others.”

“Your diocese, your wonderful seminary, and each of your lives, needs to be an engine of that renewal.  That’s our purpose.  That’s our vocation.  That’s why God made us and put us here.”

Catholic apple farmer sues over market ban

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 17:30

Lansing, Mich., Apr 12, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- A farmer is suing the city of East Lansing, Michigan, after he was prohibited from selling organic apples at the city’s farmer’s market in what he claims is discrimination against his religious beliefs.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division, will hear a summary judgment hearing for the case Country Mill Farms v. City of East Lansing on Friday, April 12.

Steve Tennes, the owner of Country Mill Farms in Charlotte, Michigan, had sold apples at the East Lansing’s farmer’s market without incident from 2010 until midway through the 2016 season. In August of that year, someone posted on the farm’s Facebook page, inquiring if they would host a same-sex wedding. Tennes, a Catholic, said that he would not, due to his religious beliefs.

In response to this Facebook posting, Tennes was initially blocked from attending future farmer’s markets due to concerns about protests. Afterwards, the East Lansing city manager introduced a new civil rights ordinance that would bar any vendor who engaged in any discriminatory practices from selling at the farmer’s market.

The Facebook description on the Country Mill Farm’s page says “Our family farm seeks to glorify God by facilitating ‘family fun on the farm’ and feeding families.” In addition to apples, the farm also grows peaches, blueberries, and pumpkins, and has a winery.

Country Mill Farms was rejected from the 2017 farmer’s market due to this ordinance, the East Lansing mayor explained at the time, saying that the city rules applied to Tennes, even though the farm is located 22 miles away from East Lansing.

Later in 2017, a judge granted a temporary order that allowed Tennes and Country Mill Farms to return to the farmer’s market for the rest of the 2017 season. In the order, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division, wrote “On the evidence before this Court, the City amended its Vendor Guidelines and then used the changes to deny Country Mill’s vendor application.”

This court found that there was a “substantial likelihood” that Country Mill could claim to have been discriminated against due to their religious beliefs and past speech. Following the court order, East Lansing also granted Tennes a vendor license for 2018. The 2019 farmer’s market begins in June.

Country Mill Farms briefly stopped hosting weddings in response to the backlash, but has since resumed.

Tennes is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm that describes itself as “an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.”

Former NFL player turned pastor lines up for pro-life cause

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 15:00

Washington D.C., Apr 12, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Former NFL player turned megachurch pastor Derwin Gray has spoken about how his church’s support of a pregnancy resource center was inspired by his own mother’s decision to choose life. Derwin spoke about his personal experience of abortion in an interview this week on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

A former linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts, the married father of two studied to become a pastor after leaving the league in 1998. Gray made headlines earlier this year when he announced that his Transformation Church donated had $50,000 to the Women’s Enrichment Center, a pro-life pregnancy resource center in South Carolina.

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But Gray said that he was surprised the donation went viral because the Christian church has been working with and serving the pregnancy resource center for several years.

The decision to partner with the Women’s Enrichment Center, Gray said, is a personal one, describing how his mother was encouraged to have an abortion when she became pregnant with him at just 16 years old.

“She went to the school nurse and she said that she was pregnant, and the school nurse said to her, ‘Well, you should go to California where they perform abortions, because this could ruin your life,’” he said. “And so I’m thankful that my mom, in essence, said a cuss word to the school nurse, and said no.”

Gray said his mother only recently shared this story about her pregnancy with him, and her “courageous” decision “influenced my perspective,” showing him how important it is to mentally, emotionally, and spiritually support women and families facing unplanned pregnancies.  

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">.<a href="">@DerwinLGray</a>, a former NFL player-turned-Christian pastor, joins <a href="">@EWTNProLife</a> tonight.<br>His mother rejected abortion at the age of 16 to give him life and he&#39;s giving back to the pro-life movement today! <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Catherine Hadro (@CatSzeltner) <a href="">April 11, 2019</a></blockquote>

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“Who are the kids that could have been born who are like me, that grew up in an at-risk environment, a troubled environment, and yet God in His grace has used that now to utterly transform my life, and so we just want to be a part of seeing Christ bring Life into the world,” he said.

Christians, Gray said, “should be on the front lines of serving these men and women at pregnancy centers who are right in the midst of it.”

“We should be there providing volunteers, we should be there providing spiritual support, we should be there providing financial support, like, we live in a world where adoption costs thousands of dollars, and an abortion is relatively cheap,” he said. “And so the church has an important role.”

Gray said he’s grateful for the platform the NFL gave him in sharing Christianity, and he wants to “steward that platform well.”

“You know what, the NFL may stand for National Football League, but God’s NFL stands for New Found Life,” Gray said. “And he wants people to live because we are his image-bearers.”

Kate Scanlon is a producer of EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

North Dakota bans common abortion procedure

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 13:00

Fargo, N.D., Apr 12, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- North Dakota’s governor signed into law Wednesday a bill that outlaws the common abortion procedure known as “dilation and evacuation.” Mississippi and West Virginia also outlaw the procedure.

Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women’s Clinic, the sole abortion facility in North Dakota, told reporters that before deciding whether to file suit against the law’s constitutionality, she will wait until the verdict of an appeal of a similar 2017 law passed in Arkansas is reached.

The practice of dilation and evacuation is the most common type of abortion performed in the second trimester.

The new law would not prosecute women who undergo or attempt to undergo the procedure. Instead, doctors performing a dilation and evacuation abortion outside of emergency cases could be charged with a felony and punished by a $10,000 fine and up to five years' imprisonment.

In addition to Arkansas, similar laws face injunctions in Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio, Louisiana, and Texas.

The new law was signed just one day before the signing of an Ohio law that bans abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Laws similar to that one are being considered in the legislatures of five other states, in a year when abortion has become a hotly debated topic in state legislatures across the country.


Bishop Malone apologizes in Buffalo diocese, says he was part of no cover-ups

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 12:52

Buffalo, N.Y., Apr 12, 2019 / 10:52 am (CNA).- The Bishop of Buffalo said in a statement Thursday that despite media reports to the contrary, he has not been part of any cover-up of clerical sexual abuse, though he does intend to be more transparent about clerical sexual abuse and its financial impact on his diocese.

“For all the progress the Church and this diocese have made in preventing child sexual abuse today and in addressing abuse in the past, I recognize that more needs to be done. Of course, I am acutely aware of the times when I personally have fallen short,” Bishop Richard Malone said in his April 11 statement.

“On behalf of the diocese, I apologize to all those who have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of abuse in the past,” the bishop added.

The bishop's statement did not respond directly to calls for his resignation, though it made clear that he intends to remain in his position.

The statement, Malone said, was a response to a local group called the Movement to Restore Trust, which has called the diocese to implement a slate of reforms, including greater collaboration with laity and financial transparency, while also calling the bishop to “revive the Spirit of Vatican II” in the diocese.

The group says it is comprised of “concerned, committed Catholics who are brokenhearted, disillusioned and, yes, angry about the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States, and particularly in our Diocese.”

The group’s organizing committee is comprised mostly of business and non-profit leaders, along with John Hurley, the lay president of Canisius College, a Jesuit school in Buffalo.

The Diocese of Buffalo has said it will work with Movement to Restore Trust to discuss lay collaboration in the diocese, and Malone emphasized that in his statement.

Malone came under fire in Buffalo after a whistleblower — his own former secretary— leaked diocesan documents and alleged in August 2018 that the bishop had omitted the names of some priests accused of abuse or misconduct from a list the diocese released last March.

The bishop has since faced calls for his resignation; the president of nearby St. Bonaventure University issued such a call April 12.

Malone maintains that he acted in good faith, and did not cover up any allegations.

In his statement, he said that allegations of cover-ups were “demonstrably false,” and said that the criteria used in compiling the Diocese of Buffalo’s list “resulted in many more priests being disclosed than if we had applied the criteria used” in nearby dioceses, including, Malone said, the Archdiocese of Boston.

Malon said that some have even criticized his list for naming some deceased priests accused of abuse, “but I decided on the rule to err in favor of transparency.”

“I am also mindful of the requests by some for even more transparency. The Movement to Restore Trust has asked me to be more transparent about several issues, including the abuse crisis's financial impact on the diocese. I have taken those requests to heart, and I intend to be more transparent on a number of those issues as well.”  

The bishop’s statement, nearly 3,000 words in length, noted the good record of the Diocese of Buffalo in handling allegations of abuse, and said that most reports made about priests in recent years have concerned situations that allegedly happened decades ago.

The bishop also lamented the scope of child sexual abuse in upstate New York.

“One report of abuse by a member of our clergy is one too many, and every Catholic in this diocese, including me, is horrified by each report. But even if the diocese is aware of only half of the total number of people who were abused by priests as children, that total number constitutes only a small fraction of one percent of the child sexual abuse that has occurred in this area,” he said, estimating that as many as 121,000 adults in his region may have been the victims of childhood sexual abuse.

“Most abuse will never be reported because it was perpetrated by family members, family friends, or neighbors. Also, because there is no institution associated with those abusers, most of that abuse will never be the subject of a lawsuit or a front-page story. But to forget or to ignore the vast majority of victims of child sexual abuse would be a tragedy.”

Malone said that local media has “provided minimal reporting” on nationwide efforts to end childhood sexual abuse, “all while providing constant coverage of decades-old clergy sexual abuse cases in Buffalo. The 9,000 children being abused here every year deserve better, and our community deserves reporting on the full panorama.”

“I provide this perspective not to minimize the horrific scale of the abuse perpetrated by priests in the past but rather to place it in the context of a wider societal problem of child sexual abuse that deserves more attention from the media and from us all. Child sexual abuse definitely has received attention from the Church. While the Church in the United States can be faulted for not having done enough in the past to address child sexual abuse, no other institution has done more in recent years to prevent such abuse from occurring,” he added.

The bishop ended his letter apologizing for a particular incident: his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

“Lessons have been learned,” Malone said. 

“I personally need to repent and reform, and it is my hope that this diocese can rebuild itself and learn and even grow from the sins of the past. I ask you to pray for me, pray for the Church, and pray for all those who suffered and suffer as a result of abuse as we go forward together to address the worldwide problem of child sexual abuse.”


Mass. bans therapists from efforts to change minors' orientation or gender identity

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 20:01

Boston, Mass., Apr 11, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker signed into law Monday a broadly worded bill banning therapy for minors with same-sex attraction that seeks to change their behavior.

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference opposed the bill, saying it “attempts to create a solution to a problem which does not exist.”

It added that it will “deny the right of parents to engage therapists who could help their child who is experiencing gender dysphoria and is confused and uncomfortable with this experience.”

The bill passed almost unanimously in the Massachusetts legislature, with only eight members of the House of Representatives voting against the bill. In a Senate vote March 28, the bill passed with 34 in favor; five Republican Senators voted “present”, and there was one abstention.

It was signed into law April 8.

House Bill 140 forbids health care providers from engaging in “sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts” during sessions with minors.

“Sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts” are defined in the law as “any practice by a health care provider that attempts or purports to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including but not limited to efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

Under the law, health care professionals will be permitted to “provide acceptance, support, and understanding” of a minor’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, to “facilitate an individual’s coping, social support and identity exploration and development”, or seek “to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices”, as long as they “do not attempt or purport to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Those who are found to have engaged in “sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts” may have their licenses to practice revoked or suspended.

In a March 5 letter to state legislators, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference said H.140 is unnecessary because “licensed clinical professionals are highly trained in their field and guided by ethical principles. Those principals fundamentally form the foundation of their respective professions. Today it is unethical for a counselor to discriminate against anyone, or try to push a goal in therapy that is destructive to the client or contrary to the clients stated desires.”

It noted that minor who has “unwanted same sex attraction or gender identity, this law would prevent a licensed professional from counseling the minor towards a resolution to those unwanted urges … these professionals, with years of education and experience dealing with mental health issues, would be removed from the process of helping a young client struggling with these highly personal issues.”

The conference also noted the impact on parents, who “have the primary responsibility for the welfare and education of their children. Parental rights would be completely eroded by this Bill. This fact is particularly true if their child is struggling with feelings that are unwanted or causing the child confusion and the parents want and need the help and guidance of a professional.”

Massachusetts' bishops were also concerned over the bill's impact on religious liberty, saying the broad wording like goes beyond its intent.

The Massachussetts Catholic Conference stated: “As an example, a conscientious Catholic, working as a licensed professional, would counsel a minor, heterosexual or homosexual, to abstain from sexual activity. Would this violate the bill’s specific prohibition efforts to 'change behaviors'? The language in the definition of the Bill certainly seems to prohibit such counseling.”

“The Church’s teaching acknowledges that the phenomenon of a person’s discomfort with his or her biological sex can be a genuine and complex reality that needs to be addressed by psychological professionals with compassion and honesty,” the conference added.

Senator Vinny deMacedo, who did not vote in favor of the bill, said that he does “not support coercive therapies,” and that “if there were evidence of these practices taking place in Massachusetts, we would wholeheartedly support banning them.”

However, “the vague wording of the legislation provides too much room for interpretation,” he added, according to the Boston Globe.

The Massachusetts Family Institute, which has opposed the law from the beginning, issued a statement on their website that they would be pursuing legal action on behalf of families and counselors impacted by the law. The Massachusetts Family Institute said the law was an attack on free speech.

“In the meantime, rest assured that the fight is not over,” said the statement. “We are working with local families and counselors and national legal experts to challenge this extraordinarily invasive assault on the rights of parents and the free speech of mental health providers.”

The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, who authored “When Harry Became Sally: Responding To The Transgender Moment,” told CNA that he thinks the law is not rooted out of concerns for patient safety, but is meant to prevent people with traditional viewpoints from expressing those views.

“Of course the state has authority to regulate medicine to ensure safety, but that’s not what this law is about,” said Anderson. “This law imposes an ideological ban because the state disagrees with the viewpoint of certain professionals. It’s not targeted at harmful practices, but at particular values.”

There is also a bill in the Massachusetts legislature, H.110, that would ban health care providers from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of adults.

Massachusetts is the 15th state to pass a law banning conversion therapy.

Massachusetts' law contains wording identical to that of a California law passed in 2012.

California's law prohibits any therapy “to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex” among minors.

A 2009 American Psychiatric Association task force recommended that the appropriate response to those with same-sex attraction involves “therapist acceptance, support, and understanding of clients … without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome,” and that efforts to change orientation “involve some risk of harm.”

The American Psychiatric Association considered homosexuality to be a mental disease until 1973. A former president of the APA said in a 2012 video interview that within the organization, political stances “override any scientific results.”

Once a fugitive, former New Mexico priest convicted of sex abuse

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 19:13

Albuquerque, N.M., Apr 11, 2019 / 05:13 pm (CNA).- A federal jury found a former priest of New Mexico guilty on multiple charges of sexual abuse involving minors, Reuters reported.

Arthur Perrault, who was a priest in Albuquerque for 26 years, was found guilty of six counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact with a minor after an 8-day federal trial.

Prosecutors said Perrault was found guilty of “repeatedly abusing” a minor between the years of 1991 and 1992 while he was serving as military chaplain at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, Reuters reported.

Perrault served in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe from 1973 to 1992. Prior to that, Perrault had spent time at a treatment center in New Mexico in 1965 for sexually abusive priests, after being accused of molesting minors as a priest in Connecticut. In 1966 he was released after a psychologist recommended him for a teaching position at St. Pius X High School.

He then became a “serial child molester who abused numerous victims,” according to a motion filed last September with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico. The Albuquerque Journal reported at the time that nearly 40 people have come forward, claiming to be victims of Perrault, as well as the mother of one young man who claimed her son committed suicide following abuse from Perrault.

Perrault fled the United States in 1992 to Morocco, just days before an attorney filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Albuquerque for the abuse.

His whereabouts were unknown until 2016, when he was found working at a Morocco English-language school for children, a position from which he was then fired.

Perrault was taken into the custody of Moroccan authorities after the U.S. Department of Justice filed an indictment against him on Sept. 21, 2017. He was extradited back to New Mexico to face the charges against him in September 2018, to which he pled not guilty.

Perrault’s sentencing date has not yet been set, but Reuters reported that he faces maximum life imprisonment for the aggravated sexual charges, and a maximum of 10 years imprisonment for the charge of abusive sexual contact.


Ohio passes twice-vetoed law to ban abortions after fetal heartbeat

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 17:07

Cincinnati, Ohio, Apr 11, 2019 / 03:07 pm (CNA).- Ohio Governor Mark DeWine on Thursday signed a law banning abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Former Governor John Kasich had twice vetoed similar legislation.

“Government’s role should be to protect life from the beginning to the end,” DeWine said before signing the law, which is set to go into effect in July, according to

The Ohio House had voted 56-40 and the Senate 18-13 on Wednesday to send Senate Bill 23 to Gov. DeWine’s desk. State Senator Kristina Roegner was the bill’s primary sponsor.

The new law makes it a fifth-degree felony offense in Ohio to induce or perform an abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, except in a case of medical emergency. In addition, a doctor who performs an abortion could face sanctions and fines by the State Medical Board of Ohio, including the suspension of their medical license.

Women can also sue abortion providers for wrongful death under the new law, and a doctor cannot use unconstitutionality of the law as a defense unless a court rules the law unconstitutional.

“The legislature and Governor DeWine have declared that no longer should the beating hearts of humans too young to be born be violently torn apart by abortion,” said Mark Harrington, president of the national anti-abortion group Created Equal.

“If pro-abortion lobbies present a legal challenge to this Act, we will defend these babies all the way up to the Supreme Court.”

Five other states have now passed similar “heartbeat bills,” with two so far being blocked by the courts, the Associated Press reports. Georgia’s legislature has passed a heartbeat bill but Governor Brian Kemp has not yet signed it.

Pro-abortion groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio hae vowed to challenge Ohio’s new law in court.

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed a similar bill late last year, and the Republican-led Ohio House of Representatives voted 60-28 to override the governor’s veto. The Ohio Senate subsequently failed to override the governor’s veto, and the bill did not pass.

Democrats in the House reportedly argued that the bill was unconstitutional, an assertion with which Kasich ultimately agreed.

Kasich, who had supported other pro-life legislation as governor, reasoned at the time that passage of the bill would result in a costly legal fight for the state of Ohio, which would result in the state losing and being forced to pay “hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activists’ lawyers.”


Catholic schools should affirm the person, not gender ideology, scholars advise

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 17:01

Denver, Colo., Apr 11, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- Amid questions at some Catholic schools about how to approach problems related to LGBT identity, philosophy professors told CNA that Catholic schools must remain true to their mission of helping parents to raise their children in the faith.

"At the end of the day, the philosophy underlying transgenderism is radically opposed to Christian anthropology,” Dr. Theresa Farnan, a professor of philosophy at St. Paul Seminary, the minor seminary of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, told CNA.

Part of the mission of Catholic schools, she said, is to help students develop self-mastery, to grow in virtue, to understand that the body has meaning and significance, and to understand that a person’s happiness lies with their relationship with God, their creator.

In contrast, Farnan said, transgenderism involves a rejection of a person’s God-given body.

"Transgenderism involves a child with a healthy body rejecting that body,” she said.

"There is no way that a school can facilitate or support a gender transition without violating its mission and identity...we need to be very clear about this," Farnan said.

In addition, Farnan advised that a Catholic school should not use “preferred pronouns,” as this will signal to other students that a gender transition has in fact taken place.

"It doesn't mean you don't support the student, but you need to say to the student: we love you, we want to have you here as a student, but understand we can't support this."

At public schools in particular, Farnan said, kids are absorbing the message that some people are born in the wrong body, and some people can change from being a boy to being a girl.

"For a school to buy into that, or to in any way endorse it, is something that is very harmful to everyone's faith," Farnan said.

In 2010 and 2011, Benedict XVI described transgender ideology as "an erroneous view of the person" that would have long-term implications.

Pope Francis addresses the problem in Amoris laetitia and Laudato si', Farnan pointed out, and has expressed dismay about the teaching of gender theory to children.

In the long run, Farnan said, a Catholic school facilitating or supporting a gender transition isn't compassionate for the child, partly because they are agreeing to a radically life-altering process that doesn't resolve underlying problems, such as mental illness.

"It's damaging to the other students in the school but also for that student, because you're affirming something that runs contrary to reality, and involves affirming the child in rejecting the givenness of their creation," she said.

The medical process by which a transgender person “transitions” is often referred to as “gender-affirming” therapy.

Both Farnan and Dr. Susan Selner-Wright, who holds the Archbishop Chaput Chair in Philosophy at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, offered an alternative, Catholic view of “affirmation.”

“For us, 'affirming' the person – and I hesitate to even use that word, since it's been so co-opted...but understanding that people want to show compassion and love to the person, the best way to show compassion and love toward the person is helping them to realize that their dignity lies in their relationship to God," Farnan said.

"The difference lies in a different understanding of the dignity of the person. So for us as Catholics, your dignity comes from the fact that you are a created child of God. And God loves you so much that he created you as an embodied person.”

Selner-Wright had a similar insight.

"For a Catholic, what it means to 'affirm' someone is to affirm them in their dignity as a person created in the image and likeness of God, and we are completely for that," Selner-Wright said.

"But what the other side wants to do is say: no, to affirm someone you not only have to affirm them in their person, you have to affirm everything that they think about themselves and everything that they good parent thinks that that is what affirmation is."

Selner-Wright commented on a recent case in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas that made national news, in which a Catholic school denied admission to a child of a same-sex couple.

The school had deferred to the archdiocese for guidance, which advised against the students’ enrollment.

“Our schools exist to pass on the Catholic faith. Incorporated into our academic instruction and spiritual formation, at every grade level, are the teachings of the Catholic Church,” a statement from the archdiocese read.

“It is important for children to experience consistency between what they are taught in school and what they see lived at home. Therefore, we ask that parents understand and be willing to support those teachings in their homes,” the statement continued.

It added that “the Church respects that some may disagree with essential elements of our moral teaching. We do not feel it is respectful of such individuals, nor is it fair, loving or compassionate to place their children in an educational environment where the values of the parents and the core principles of the school conflict. For these reasons, the Archdiocese has advised against the admission into our Catholic schools of children of same sex unions.”

Selner-Wright commented: “Because we have a tradition of welcome and openness, there are a lot of other people who are not Catholic using our Catholic schools, and that's great.”

“But people have to remember that the purpose of Catholic schools is to assist Catholic parents, who are the primary teachers of their children, in executing the parents' duties.”

Their recommendations are not “one size fits all,” and there are some situations in which a child could be admitted, Selner-Wright emphasized.

For example, there could be a situation in which a single parent – who experiences same-sex attraction but is trying to live a chaste life – wants to enroll their child in a Catholic shool. The attraction itself isn't the issue, Selner-Wright said, as long as the parent is not living in a way that generates a contradiction between what the child learns in school and what they learn at home.

Similarly, if a child enrolling in a Catholic school claims to be in the “wrong body,” Selner-Wright said, but the parents are faithful Catholics who are not on board with it, then the school could be a good place for the child and it may even be “a corporal work of mercy” to enroll them, she said.

A very different scenario, she said, would be one where the parents are fully on board with the child’s transition.

"I think it's important for the Catholic Church to be that voice of reason," Farnan commented.

"The Catholic Church has always been clear, unequivocally clear, about the sanctity of human life, and I think right now, given the statements of our Popes...I think our Church is providing that voice of clarity that is much needed in this debate."

Don’t deport people who don’t deserve it, Catholic bishops tell Senate

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Apr 11, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- American residents deserve permanent legal protection from deportation and a pathway to citizenship if they came to the U.S. as minors or are from countries facing emergencies, natural disasters and political oppression, the U.S. bishops have said, noting that many such people contribute to their communities and Catholic parishes.
These residents are “vital members of our community who are going to school, working to make our communities better and raising families,” Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, said in an April 10 statement.

“We need a permanent legislative solution for those who have spent their lives contributing and living in the United States, the country they know as home.”
Vasquez wrote two separate letters to the Senate in support of two bills: the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act and numbered S. 874; and the Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and Emergency Act, known as the SECURE Act and numbered S. 879.
The DREAM Act, sponsored by Sens. Linsey Graham, R-N. Carolina, and Richard Durbin, D-Ill., would protect “numerous immigrant youth” from deportation, especially the 700,000 who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status under the Obama Administration. It focuses on youth who entered the U.S. as minors, whom advocates characterize as “dreamers.”
“It is both our moral duty and in our nation’s best interest to protect these youth and allow them to reach their God-given potential,” Vasquez said in one April 10 letter, adding that many of these youth know America “as their only home.”
“My brother bishops and I believe in protecting the dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children,” he added. “The Catholic bishops have long supported these immigrant youth and their families who are contributors to our economy, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes. These youth have grown up in our country, some even choosing to put their lives on the line to serve in our armed forces. They truly exemplify the extraordinary contributions that immigrants can provide to our nation.”
Eligible residents, including recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival protections, must meet several qualifications, including continuous U.S. residence for four years. They must pass a background check; demonstrate English proficiency; and seek post-secondary education, honorable military service, three years of U.S. employment, or otherwise prove hardship.
The DREAM Act was first proposed in 2001 but has never passed Congress.
The SECURE Act, sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., would apply to residents with Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure status. It would create a pathway to lawful permanent status.
Temporary protected status protects from deportation and allows lawful work for nationals whose home country is unsafe due to natural disaster, political turmoil or other reason designated by law. About 320,000 residents who had TPS status have seen it canceled in recent years and depend on ongoing litigation to continue their legal residence. They are parents to over 273,000 children who are U.S. citizens.
“We support legislative efforts to fully integrate hard-working Dreamers and temporary protected status holders into the United States,” Vasquez said
Deferred enforcement departures are granted by the U.S. president to individuals from designated countries on a temporary, discretionary basis.
Residents with either status are “business owners, professionals and community leaders,” said Vasquez. “We know these individuals to be hardworking contributors to American communities, Catholic parishes, and our nation.”
A legislative solution for these residents and their families is “critical for humanitarian and regional stability.” Their future is “a family unity and human dignity issue,” said Vasquez.
SECURE Act provisions would allow present or past TPS-eligible residents, or residents with deferred enforcement departure status extended beyond Sept. 28, 2016, to proceed with lawful permanent resident status if they meet qualifications like continuous presence in the U.S.; ability to pass a background check; and ability to meet all criminal and national security requirements for eligibility.
Vasquez added that Pope Francis exhorts Catholics to “act in solidarity with refugees, migrants, and all those seeking safety from the ravages of violence, environmental disasters, and despair.”
He pledged the U.S. bishops’ willingness to work with Congress “to reform our immigration system in a humane, just, and common-sense manner” and the Catholic Church’s readiness to welcome eligible U.S. residents and their families into parishes and communities.
There are about 200,000 Salvadorans, 50,000 Haitians, 2,500 Nicaraguans and 1,000 Sudanese who have temporary protected status, the Washington Post reported earlier this year, though the Trump administration has declared that such status will expire for many of these people in upcoming months and years.

Additionally, the bishops have spoken on behalf of Liberians and Hondurans and have sought protected status for Venezuelans, among others.

The U.S. bishops have launched an online campaign dedicated to public education on immigration issues and advocacy of immigration and refugee legal reform.

In a changed country, poor Americans miss the benefits of marriage most

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 02:03

Denver, Colo., Apr 11, 2019 / 12:03 am (CNA).- Marriage has major benefits for children, adults, and society as a whole, said a marriage scholar this week, and the poor and less educated are suffering most from the widening class divide between those who get married and those who don’t.

“What we’re seeing today in America is that upper middle-class Americans are much more likely to get and stay married compared to less educated, working class Americans - that’s the marriage divide in brief,” Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociology professor and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, told CNA April 9.

This divide in family structure is not just a private matter.

“Kids who are born and raised in a stable married family are much more likely to do well in school, to flourish in the labor market later on in life, and themselves to forge strong stable families as adults,” Wilcox said. “Coming from a strong stable family gets kids off to the best start, typically.”

Wilcox spoke on the American marriage divide Tuesday evening at Colorado Christian University in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.

There were “minimal class divides” in American married life 50 years ago, but not today. While 56% of middle- and upper middle-class adults are now married, only 26% of poor adults and 39% of working-class adults are.

The divorce rate has generally decreased since the 1970s, but the most educated married couples tend to divorce the least. Highly educated Americans became much more likely to favor restrictive attitudes towards divorce, while the least educated became much less likely to do so.

“We live in an increasingly segregated country where people tend to live in neighborhoods or communities that mirror their own class, and family makeup,” Wilcox said. Many middle-class Americans live in neighborhoods “dominated” by married families.

By contrast, working-class and poor Americans live in communities with many single people, cohabiting couples and single parent families. From their perspective, “marriage is in much worse shape,” Wilcox said. People in more affluent communities, perhaps without realizing it, “live in a social world where families are pretty stable, most kids are being raised in two-parent families, and everyone benefits from that reality.”

Out-of-wedlock births also show class divides: 64% of poor children are born to an unmarried mother, compared to 36% of the working class and 13% of the middle and upper middle classes. While in 1953, only 20% of children of women with a high school degree or less lived in a single-parent home, that number had risen to 65% in 2012.

While the college educated and affluent tend to have relatively high-quality, stable marriages, poor and working-class Americans are more likely to be struggling.

Today’s upper-middle class stresses marriage before childbirth and rejects “easy divorce.” They have the most families with a male breadwinner and are the most active in religion and civic life.

Wilcox attributed these changes to factors including cultural shifts; changes in the economy due to a post-industrial foundation; a general withdrawal of individuals from social institutions; and public policy.

Children raised in intact, married homes are more likely to avoid poverty, prison and teen pregnancy. They have better economic upward mobility than children raised by a single parent. There is less risk of downward mobility. Child poverty would be about 20% lower if marriage rates had remained as high as in the 1970s, Wilcox said.

Children of cohabiting couples face worse outcomes than children raised by single parents in areas like substance abuse, high school graduation rates, and psychological well-being. They face a higher risk of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Cohabitation features less adult commitment, less trust, and less fidelity than married parents and suffers more family instability.

Divorce is one of the practices that leads to cohabitation, said Wilcox.

The decline in religious attendance among working class Americans is far more severe than among upper middle-class or college-educated Americans.

“The story here is in part an economic story: when people feel they can’t maintain a decent middle class lifestyle economically, they’re less likely to go to church,” Wilcox told CNA. “They’re more likely to feel they don’t belong in a church community.”

The significant shift in sexual mores, family stability, and non-marital childbearing has affected working class Americans “especially hard” and their lifestyle doesn't fit a church ideal, Wilcox suggested.

“If you’re divorced, if you’re cohabiting, if you’re a single mother or a non-essential father, the church can seem like an off-putting place for you,” he said.

Clergy tend to be college-educated and have a natural affinity with some instead of others. Preaching, teaching and ministry has a middle-class or upper middle-class gloss. Wilcox pointed to young adult ministries among Catholics and Evangelicals that secure significant resources to serve those in college, but lack resources for non-college track young adults.

He suggested that preaching geared toward the upper middle class tends toward the “therapeutic and comforting,” whereas “clearer and bolder” preaching and teaching might appeal more to the working class.

The rise of quality, inexpensive entertainment also means it is more likely for people to stay home from worship services, regardless of beliefs.

One possible reason for the changes in class-segmented opinions and behaviors in the past 50 years is upward or downward mobility based on success or failure to form families. Those who follow a “success sequence” could have risen in economic class and education level.

“Part of the story is that in the 1970s, working-class Americans were more heterogeneous in terms of religion, work, and family orientation, whereas today, working-class and poor Americans, if they’re native-born, tend to be less religious, more erratic in family life, and more distant from community and civic institutions,” said Wilcox.

To help bridge this family divide, it is important to cultivate “friendship and civic ties across class lines, and for our churches and civic institutions to do more to integrate people across class lines.”

“Unless poor and working class people have more access to strong and stable models of family life and access to social networks that middle class folks have in terms of job opportunities and the like, we’re not going to address very successfully this marriage divide in America,” he said.

Other civic institutions, like youth athletic leagues, tend to cater to the middle or upper middle class, who provide significant financial support for their children’s sports.

“We should challenge our local athletic non-profits and civic trusts to do more to make sure they are economically integrated,” Wilcox suggested.

Public policy also has “marriage penalties” that hinder people at the upper limits of eligibility for welfare, child care subsidies, and tax credits.

“Nobody intended this but it’s a perverse reality built into the system.” Wilcox said.

While marriage was formerly penalized among the poorest Americans because welfare was targeted at them, the eligibility threshold has risen since the ‘80s. The lower middle class, those in the second-lowest economic quintile, are now the most likely to be penalized and face disincentives to marry, and even incentives to divorce to secure their economic situation.

A couple living together with children might put off marriage because it could harm their children’s access to health care or their access to child care subsidies.

According to Wilcox, communities with weak commitments to marriage and family would benefit from public recognition of a permanent marriage for the sake of children in ways that shape people’s thinking and behavior.

Younger adults in these communities tend to suffer from more marginal employment opportunities, and young men especially need stronger opportunities for education and vocational training. Young men need “a stronger sense of their own self-worth as workers and providers” which can improve their ability to think of marriage as a legitimate option and their ability to be seen as marriageable, he said.

With a lifelong Catholic at the helm, Oregon eyes prison reform

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 16:20

Portland, Ore., Apr 10, 2019 / 02:20 pm (CNA).- The head of the Oregon prison system is looking to make significant changes to the way the state views punishment, and she insists that Catholics and other people of faith have an important role to play.

Colette Peters is the director of the Oregon Department of Corrections and a cradle Catholic. She is currently heading up a 10-year plan in the state that draws largely from the Norwegian prison system. The collaboration is part of the European Prison Project, which was initiated in 2017.

Peters told CNA that the project seeks to humanize the penitentiary experience. Following the Norwegian structure, she said the act of going to prison should be the penalty, rather than prison being a place where further punishment is administered. Jail time should emulate the community outside of prison, she said, with services including employment departments and libraries.

“Your liberties being taking away, being away from your family is your punishment. Everything else once you arrive in that prison system should model your community life. It should look as much [as possible] like the community that you left, in terms of programing, treatment, education, work, connectivity with your family,” she said.

This requires involvement from the outside community, including a greater presence of volunteers, Peters said.

About three-quarters of the 2,000 volunteers in prisons throughout Oregon are religious volunteers, she said. While there are paid chaplains on staff, religious leaders are relied on to lead spiritual ceremonies and provide other services.

Peters pointed to a 2012 study from the Minnesota Department of Corrections, which found that prisoners’ interaction with the outside community greatly reduced the chances of an inmate’s return to prison. This was true for prisoners who were visited by friends, family members, mentors and other community members. Visits from ex-spouses were a notable exception – they increased the risk of recidivism. According to the study, the best results involved the visitation of siblings, in-laws, fathers, and clergy.

“The primary element that they found was that visits reduced recidivism,” Peters said. “Families were at the very top of the list of course, but so were religious leaders.”

The European Prison Project is not so much a program as it is an exploration into a new outlook on the prison structure, in which the dignity and respect of the adults in custody (AIC) are prioritized, Peters said.

“This concept recognizes an AIC’s right to visiting, programming, treatment, and work, as well as their right to make complaints, to make use of community services, and to have access to an ombudsman or public advocate who will represent their interests and safety,” read an overview of the program.

The Oregon Department of Corrections has sent personnel to Norway twice as part of the initiative. The first trip involved Peters, a team of administrators, and a group of legislators to observe Norway’s prison structure. Last September, Peters took a team of 15 frontline correctional officers to the country to immerse themselves into prison jobs and other aspects of society, like churches and home life.

Norway’s citizen are very proud of its system, said Peters, noting that the country’s recidivism rate is about 20 percent, half that of Oregon. She added that in Norway, the “word inmate isn’t a scarlet letter,” but rather, time in prison is viewed as an opportunity for rehabilitation.

“Because [they] want them to be good neighbors … the community actually reaches into the prisons, engages with them in a way that’s pretty profound.”

In the U.S., Peters said, there are serious obstacles that restrict an inmate’s integration back into society. This includes “fear mongering” and a stigma surrounding a criminal record, which can make it difficult for former prisoners to find jobs, apply for housing and rebuild their lives.

A majority of inmates want to leave prison as good and functioning members of society, she stressed.

“Figuring out how to change that dynamic and change that perception, it’s only going to happen by bringing people inside,” she said.

“These volunteers will tell me that it is a spiritual experience for them – life altering and life changing – to hear the stories of individuals who most of them want to come home and be good, tax-paying citizens,” she added.

As all state prison facilities have opportunities for volunteer work, Peters encouraged Catholics to get involved with a local prison ministry. She said there are opportunities for individuals to meet with groups at a local jail or bring the Eucharist to Catholic inmates.

“I would love, just as our beautiful pope has proclaimed, that we … increase our Catholic communities’ involvement inside our prisons, not just in Oregon, but around the world.”

New York archdiocese opens new affordable housing

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 02:00

New York City, N.Y., Apr 10, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The site of a former church in New York City has been transformed into affordable housing units, and the Archdiocese of New York plans to develop 2,000 affordable units from its building stock over the next decade.

The St. Augustine Terrace, located in the Bronx, was formally opened on Monday, and was blessed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan. The new low-income housing development is administered by Catholic Homes New York, part of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.

At the April 8 opening ceremony, Dolan, along with Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, announced that St. Augustine Terrace will be the first of many new developments opened as part of a new affordable housing initiative.

St. Augustine Terrace contains 112 units of affordable housing, including 77 units for families. The other 35 studio units have been designated for people with chronic mental illness. Residents will receive on-site services from Catholic Charities’ Beacon of Hope House, which provides programming for people with mental illnesses.

Although the Archdiocese of New York owns the land of the building and services are administered by Catholic Charities NY, residents are not required to be of any particular faith.

Family units are reserved for people earning 60% or less of the area’s median income.
“As a City and State-funded project, the family units are marketed through the NYC Housing Connect website,” Paul Costigliano, director of communications at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA.

Eligible residents will be selected for housing via a lottery system, Costigliano explained.

There is a pressing need for additional affordable housing units in New York City, with approximately 700 people currently applying for each available affordable unit. In 2017, about 60,000 New Yorkers were living in homeless shelters, even as the state’s unemployment rate dropped during that time.

Speaking at the opening, Monsignor Sullivan said the St. Augustine Terrace is just the latest instance of the Catholic Church assisting the less fortunate.

“When the war on poverty began some 50 years ago, the Catholic Church enlisted very strongly in being the voice for the poor, yes, but being an actor on behalf of the poor. It began more or less around that time of the creation of affordable housing in so many different parts of New York City,” said Sullivan.

Ground broke on the project in 2015. The land was formerly home to St. Augustine Parish, which consolidated with another parish in 2010. St. Augustine’s original church bell is present at the site of the new apartment building.

Additional units are being developed throughout the Archdiocese, with five locations already slated for new apartment buildings in the next decade. Four are located in the Bronx, and one is in Manhattan.


Abortion takes center stage in state legislatures

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 18:28

Washington D.C., Apr 9, 2019 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- With 2019 well underway, states across the country have seen an increase in bills related to abortion, as pro-life advocates seek more success and abortion rights backers fear Supreme Court decisions.

“There is likely more activity this spring than there has been in many years. Perhaps ever. Each year in the past several years we thought the wave had crested. But it hasn’t,” Steven H. Aden, general counsel at Americans United for Life, told CNA April 8.

“There’s a great deal of interest in laws that protect women from abortion’s harms and risks, and that protects babies in the womb,” he said.

Laws limiting abortion as early as 15 weeks into pregnancy have passed in Mississippi and Louisiana. At least six states have approved or are seriously considering legislation barring abortion based on the detection of the baby’s heartbeat, six to eight weeks into pregnancy.

“All of this shows that states have a great deal of political will to protect life and to take different avenues to do it,” Aden said. He credited a perception that the U.S. Supreme Court is “more open to abortion limits than it has been in the past.”

“For the first time in decades you do not have a majority on the Supreme Court that is committed to seeing abortion as a fundamental right. You have a pro-life majority.”

This has helped foster interest in pushing the limits, to see what cases the Supreme Court might take to decide whether and what kinds of new limits are constitutional.

“It’s a very healthy thing,” he said. “The Supreme Court will make its own decisions.”

In January, controversy arose over a Virginia state bill that a sponsor admitted would allow abortion up through birth. The outcry was further inflamed when Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, suggested that if a woman in labor decided to abort and the baby was delivered alive, the baby would be “kept comfortable,” given medical attention “if that’s what the mother and the family desired,” and “a discussion would ensue” between the woman and her doctor on what to do next. The bill ultimately failed.

Aden suggested there is a “strong response” to the “extreme pro-abortion bills” seen in states like Vermont and New York, where “abortion is being legalized, for all intents and purposes, any time up to nine months, for any reason, and paid for by state taxpayer dollars as well.”

One such proposal is under consideration in Massachusetts, where the pro-abortion rights Republican Gov. Charlie Baker appears to have balked at a proposal to further strengthen abortion.

“I don’t support late-term abortions. I support current law here in Massachusetts,” Baker said, the State House News Service reports.

Abortion is currenty legal in Massachusetts after 24 weeks when the pregnant woman’s life is at risk. However, the ROE Act would also allow for abortions explicitly in cases of threats to a woman’s physical or mental health - a phrase that critics say has been interpreted broadly to essentially allow for abortion on demand - or “in cases of lethal fatal anomalies, or where the fetus is incompatible with sustained life outside the uterus.”

Planned Parenthood has claimed about 92 House members and 22 Senate members as co-sponsors of the legislation, numbered H. 3320 and S. 1209. These backers include Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler and Speaker Pro Tempore Pat Haddad.

Jim Lyons, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, characterized it as an “extreme infanticide bill” that “removes all practical limitations on aborting unborn babies.” The bill would mean “absolutely nothing would be done to protect or even comfort a baby who survives a late-term abortion,” he objected.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston stressed that abortion involves vital questions of human dignity and cannot be described in “purely medical terms.”

“While the procedure has significant clinical dimensions, there is also a human reality that deserves more adequate recognition at any stage of development. By depersonalizing the reality, the legislation dehumanizes the decision faced by women, their families and physicians,” the cardinal said April 6.

O’Malley said even those who back the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which helped mandate legal abortion nationwide, should oppose the state law proposals.

He criticized provisions that allow legal abortion in “all nine months of pregnancy;” ban requirements that abortions be performed in hospitals, even late into pregnancy; bar requirements to care for a child who survives an attempted abortion; and prevent any requirement that a minor receive parental consent before undergoing an abortion.

Haddad, one of the co-sponsors, still backed the bill.

“Late-term abortions are for very specific reasons that should be decided with a medical professional and the family involved,” she said, according to the State House News Service. She objected said that women presently leave the state to seek abortion in cases of fatal anomaly.

“We’re talking a fetus that can’t survive outside the womb. We’re talking about a fetus that has no future,” said Haddad, denying the legislation constituted “abortion on demand.”

For Aden, of Americans Untied for Life, pro-abortion legislation of “radical extremism” only produces “a strong reaction on the other side.”

“You see many more states this legislative season looking to protect life at the earliest possible stages,” he said. “That’s why you see a lot of interest in personhood bills, a lot of interest in heartbeat bills.”

He suggested that pro-abortion rights advocates have been slow to see the importance of state legislatures and to recognize “what Americans United for Life and other pro-life groups have known for years: that politics is local, and that anything that happens in large part to move the ball down the field against abortion happens in state houses.”

In strongly pro-abortion rights legislatures, he said, abortion advocates are “not really breaking new ground.”

“They’re just looking to solidify gains that have been in those places for many years,” he said.

While New York’s bill was, in Aden’s view, one of the most radical, “ the truth is I don’t know what really more New York could do more to promote abortion.

“It pays for it with state Medicaid funds, there are virtually no restrictions on abortion facilities in New York, they make life very hard for pro-life pregnancy centers, and yet the numbers of abortions in New York have been dropping steadily year by year,” he told CNA. “No matter what they do, it seems, the right to life and the commitment of many others to the culture of life is still winning, in New York and other places.”

While the Republican Party has tended to support abortion restrictions in recent decades, with the Democratic Party strongly on the side of abortion, some Democrats have backed recent bills at the state level.

In early March, Tennessee State Rep. John DeBerry of Memphis was one of three Democrats in the House of Representatives to vote for a ban on abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detectable, according to The Tennessean newspaper.

“This was the first chance I’ve had in 25 years that I had to go on record and say I disagree with abortion,” said DeBerry, who has served in the House since 1995. The heartbeat bill in that state did not have the support of pro-life groups and the state Catholic conference, due to concerns it would be struck down as unconstitutional and further enshrine abortion in law.

Florida is considering a bill to require physicians to secure consent from a parent or legal guardian of a minor seeking an abortion before performing the procedure. More than half of U.S. states have such laws.

The Republican-controlled Kansas legislature has passed a bill requiring abortion doctors to tell women who take the two-part abortion drug regimen known as Mifepristone or RU-486 that the process can be reversed after taking the first pill, the Associated Press reports.


Abortion survivor testifies before Senate committee as bishops back bill

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 17:30

Washington D.C., Apr 9, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops have urged support for legislation to limit abortion on the same day as abortion survivor Melissa Ohden appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ohden testified before the committee Tuesday during hearings on the Pain-Capable Child Protection Act, telling senators that “abortion doesn't spare a child from suffering, it causes suffering.”

“I have lived every day since discovering the truth about my survival at the age of 14 knowing that, sadly, children just like me are being subjected to similarly horrific, painful abortion procedures that lead to their death,” she said.

The bill would prohibit abortion after the 20th week of a pregnancy, at which point there is broad consensus that unborn babies are capable of feeling pain.

Ohden survived a saline-infusion abortion when she was at 31 weeks’ gestation. She said her birthmother, who was a teenager, was pressured into having an abortion she did not want.

Five days after being injected with the saline solution, Ohden’s mother gave birth to her. She weighed only 2 pounds and 14 ounces.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s pro-life comittee, said that the bill highlights the “shameful reality that the United States is one of only seven nations worldwide that allows the barbaric practice of late-term abortion, when a child likely feels pain and might even live outside the womb with appropriate medical assistance.”

The legislation was introduced by committee chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who has sponsored similar legislation each year since 2013.

"I don't believe abortion five months into the pregnancy makes us a better nation. America's at her best when she's standing up for the least among us,” said Graham during the hearing.

During her own opening remarks, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) accused Graham of trying to play politics with women’s health, and that the bill itself is unconstitutional.

“The Supreme Court has made clear, repeatedly, that laws banning abortion before viability are unconstitutional,” Feinstein said, noting that similar state-level bans at 20 weeks have been struck down.

Ohden offered the senators a graphic account of how saline abortions like the one she survived are intended to kill the unborn child.

“As the toxic salt solution of the saline infusion abortion was injected into the amniotic fluid surrounding me in the womb, attempting to scald and poison me to death, I wonder how long it took for the pain to set in,” she said.  

“If you read about it online or in medical journals, you will find children like me called the ‘red skinned,’ or ‘candy-apple babies,’ because that toxic solution would turn the skin bright red, as it peeled it away and moved internally into the organs.”

Ohden said that her medical records state that “a saline infusion for an abortion was done, but was unsuccessful,” meaning that she was born alive. A nurse noticed her breathing, she explained, and brought her to the neonatal intensive care unit. Only then was any effort made to reduce the amount of pain she was in.

“I can only imagine how my pain finally began to subside as medical treatment was provided to me,” she said.

Due to the effects of the abortion and premature birth, Ohden had numerous medical issues, including jaundice, seizures, and respiratory issues. She has since recovered, and says her life is “a set of many miracles.”

Ohden, the founder of the Abortion Survivors Network, said she has connected with 281 abortion survivors. She suspects there are many more abortion survivors, as proper statistics on aboriton survival are not kept.

“Every child deserves better than to suffer the pain of an abortion,” she said.

Archbishop Naumann said in a statement circulated by the U.S. Bishops Conference Tuesday that such procedures are dangerous to the woman, and noted that the vast majority of Americans are opposed to late-term abortions.

“It is time for Congress to pass this bill,” he said.

“I also pray that consideration of this bill moves our country closer to recognizing all unborn babies as legal persons worthy of our love and respect,” said Naumann.

The other six countries that permit late-term abortion are Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Judge rules asylum seekers cannot be forced to remain in Mexico

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 14:30

San Francisco, Calif., Apr 9, 2019 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- Asylum seekers crossing the southern border may no longer have to return to Mexico while their cases are heard after a federal judge blocked the Department of Homeland Security’s Migrant Protection Protocols.

Judge Richard Seeborg of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled April 9 that Homeland Security’s new protocols, announced in December 2018, did not adequately protect the safety of asylum applicants.

Shortly after the Migrant Protection Protocols were announced, the American Civil Liberties Union and immigration advocacy organizations filed a suit on behalf of 11 people seeking asylum in the United States from Central America.

The suit alleged that preventing the asylum seekers from staying in the United States is a violation of international law regarding humanitarian protections.

The protocols would have kept those seeking asylum in the United States in Mexico while their cases were being decided. Asylum seekers were to remain in Tijuana, near the border with the United States, and would be bussed to San Diego for court appearances.

The policy was intended to prevent asylum seekers from missing court appearances in favor of remaining in the United States illegally.

"Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in December.

“Instead, they will wait for an immigration court decision while they are in Mexico. 'Catch and release' will be replaced with 'catch and return,'" she said.

Nielsen resigned from the Department of Homeland Security on April 7, but remains in post until Wednesday. Her replacement has not yet been announced. Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, will serve as acting secretary.

Seeborg said that the policy did not properly ensure the safety of asylum applicants while their cases were being decided. The decision does not have immediate effect and the administration has until Friday afternoon to decide if they will appeal.

In November 2018, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration issued a joint statement with the presidents of Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Legal Immigration Network stating they concern at the Trump administration’s policy about asylum-seekers.

“While our teaching acknowledges the right of each nation to regulate its borders, we find this action deeply concerning,” said the statement.

“It will restrict and slow access to protection for hundreds of children and families fleeing violence in Central America, potentially leaving them in unsafe conditions in Mexico or in indefinite detention situations at the U.S./Mexico border. We reiterate that it is not a crime to seek asylum and this right to seek refuge is codified in our laws and in our values.”

The signatories said they hoped the administration would “seek other solutions” to improve the integrity of the immigration system, as well as protect children and families.

“The Catholic Church will continue to serve, accompany and assist all those who flee persecution, regardless of where they seek such protection and where they are from,” they said.

Calif. parish hopes parking lot signs will foster fruits of Holy Spirit

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 12:37

San Diego, Calif., Apr 9, 2019 / 10:37 am (CNA).- Hoping to curb incidents of after-Mass road rage, a Catholic church in San Diego has posted signs throughout the parking lot reminding parishioners of the graces they have received during Mass.

On Thursday, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church erected nine placards listing the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Each sign lists a different fruit, taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The parish’s pastor, Father Anthony Saroki, told CNA that the goal is to help parishioners focus on a life with Christ and the acquisition of spiritual fruits.

“Even just those words, the power of those words – reading them, thinking about them – brings us into that contact with that reality which is that life in Christ and the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are a good representation of what that life is.”

The idea arose following a number of bad reviews about the church parking lot on Yelp. Although the parish is vibrant, said Saroki, the parking can leave people feeling bitter, due to its constricted traffic outlet.

The parish has implemented traffic directors to keep cars moving along smoothly, but the parking situation still leaves parishioners feeling frustrated.

Saroki hopes the new placards will lead parishioners to reflect on sacramental grace and opportunities to live out this grace in practical and immediate ways.

For example, he said, the signs should prompt thoughts such as, “I can be patient, have self-control, exhibit gentleness and love, and have joy in my heart, even while I wait in a parking lot.”

The priest said the fruits of the Holy Spirit are powerful insights into an authentic Christian life, and standards for people to evaluate their spiritual development.

“My prayer routine, and the way I’m serving God, and the way I’m relating to others – if these are in alignment with God’s will, then I should be experiencing the fruits of the Spirit. If I’m not, then that is a cause to examine,” he said.

“It is just calling to mind these realities, and being open to them and therefore letting them have power in our lives.”

Saroki said the signs also tackle a bigger goal – promoting and maintaining reflection after Mass. Too often, he said, people receive Jesus in the Eucharist and do not meditate on the encounter.

The busy pace of life can pose distractions for those exiting the church building. But the graces received during Mass are not meant to stay in church, the priest said. Rather, they are intended to pour into every area of life.

“We do not savor God enough in our encounters with Christ and the sacraments. We rush through things, we use things and consume things, and we don’t savor,” he said.

“The idea is that the grace of the Mass will extend, it’s not meant to be just left there. It’s meant to extend through our whole life. We are meant to become who we receive. We need to be intentional about that.”

Abortion reversal hotline sees 'Unplanned' spike in calls

Tue, 04/09/2019 - 11:45

Washington D.C., Apr 9, 2019 / 09:45 am (CNA).- The release and success of the pro-life film Unplanned is being credited with an uptick in women seeking information on reversing chemical abortions.

The Options Line, run by Heartbeat International’s Abortion Pill Rescue Network, has seen a recent spike in calls from women seeking to reverse their abortions since the film’s release.

Following the release of Unplanned in theaters on March 29, the hotline registered a 30% increase in calls compared to a normal weekend.

Andrea Trudden, the director of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International, told CNA that the sudden surge of interest was “definitely very interesting.”

“We do believe that [the sudden surge] was attributed to Unplanned, specifically."

Calls to the hotline have been both from women inquiering about reversing their abortions, and from people interested in learning more about abortion pill reversal and how they can spread the word, said Trudden.

Unplanned tells the story of former Planned Parenthood Clinic Director Abby Johnson’s ideological transformation into a pro-life advocate.

In the film, Johnson’s own chemical abortion is featured on screen, and on screen dialogue explaions how such abortions can be reversed. A number shown on screen at the end of the film connects viewers with various resources, including the Aboriton Pill Rescue Network.

The APRN was founded in 2012 and merged into Heartbeat International last year. The spike in interest following the release of Unplanned is part of a trend of continually rising interest.

Following Heartbeat International’s involvement, the APRN website was overhauled to include a live chat feature. Since then, they have seen the number of calls per month quadruple.

Trudden explained to CNA that calls to the APRN hotline have to be screened for hoaxes, but that the women are then connected to medical professionals who will work with the caller to reverse the effects of the abortion pill.

A chemical abortion is a two-step process that involves the injestion of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first drug, mifepristone, effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the hormone progesterone. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later and induces labor.

The abortion can be reversed after a woman takes mifepristone, but before she takes misoprostol-- though this must be done quickly, Trudden explained.

If an ultrasound confirms the unborn baby is still viable, the mother is given a large dose of progesterone to reverse the effects of mifepristone, with additional doses of progesterone needed throughout the first trimester.

As part of the process, APRN also refers all women to a help center for support throughout the remainder of the pregnancy.

Trudden told CNA that there’s a “64-68 percent success rate” for women seeking to reverse their chemical abortions.

A study of sucessfully reversed abortions indicated good health outcomes for the children, Trudden said, with no increase in birth defects and even an overall lower preterm delivery rate than the general population.

Since 2012, when the APRN was established, more than 500 babies have been born after their abortions were reversed. Trudden told CNA that there are currently 150 women expecting babies in the near future after reversing their abortions.

Chuck Kozelman, co-writer and director of Unplanned, called the increase in the number of women seeking to reverse their abortions “wonderful.”

“We are in a moment of heightened awareness that abortion is the termination of a human being,” Kozelman told CNA.

“Many women who have chosen abortion wish they could go back and change their decision. What we’re seeing is that many of the women who still are capable of reversing that decision are doing so, and we think it’s wonderful.”

Buttigieg takes aim at faith of Trump administration, social conservatives

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Apr 8, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has criticized Vice President Mike Pence for his views on gay marriage, saying that his civil marriage to his same-sex partner has led him closer to God.

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, contracted a civil marriage with his partner Chasten, in a June 2018 Episcopalian ceremony.

Before he became vice president, Pence was Indiana’s governor from 2013 until 2017. In that office, he supported an attempt to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, and signed the 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. The act was criticized by gay rights activists as permitting discrimination by religious organizations.

“My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man,” said Buttigieg, speaking April 7 at a fundraiser for the Victory Fund, an organization dedicated to electing homosexual political candidates.

“And yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God.”

Buttigieg said that he wishes “the Mike Pences of the world would understand” that he was born gay and that he cannot change this. “Your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator,” Buttigieg said.

Both Pence and Buttigieg are baptized Catholics, but neither attends Mass. Buttigieg describes himself as a devout Episcopalian. Pence attends an evangelical church and has described himself as an “evangelical Catholic.”

Earlier this year, a brief controversy arose after it was announced that Pence’s wife, Karen, had taken a job teaching art at Immanuel Christian School. Immanuel Christian School considers homosexual sex acts to be “moral misconduct,” and employees are not permitted to engage in or support these activities.

Pence has denied criticisms that he is “homophobic,” saying that his support for traditional marriage law and religious freedom initiatives, including Indiana’s 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, are not borne of homophobia.

Pence said in 2015 that Indiana law “does not allow businesses the right to deny services to anyone."

In 2015, he said on Twitter that “If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn't eat there anymore.”

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a lifelong partnership between one man and one woman. While teaching that homosexual acts are in themselves disordered and sinful, the Church also says that of those who experience same-sex attraction must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.

Fr. Thomas Petri, O.P., Petri, vice president and academic dean at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, told CNA that the Church’s view on human sexuality is rooted not only in tradition and scripture, but also in the natural law.

“Quite simply, the Catholic tradition going back not only to Judaism but to the natural law is that sex is ordered to procreation and the raising of children. Sex brings a man and a woman together in a union that is not only life-giving but also bond-creating. It’s a union that cannot be simulated by any other type of genital activity,” Petri said.

“Insisting that sex can or should work any other way is to lie to oneself in a desperate attempt to justify a disorder of sexuality and self-image.”

Petri told CNA that he rejects Buttigieg’s claim that God creates anyone to have a homosexual sexual orientation.

“To further conclude that God positively wills people to have disordered desires approaches the line of material heresy and flies in the face of what Christians have believed about God for two thousand years,” he said.

Last week, Pope Francis said that experiencing homosexual desire is not itself sinful, likening the experience to a disposition to anger, and underscoring the Church’s teaching that only acts, including acts of the will, constitute sin. The pope also noted an increasing sexualization of young people in society, and cautioned parents against making assumptions about their children’s sexual orientation.

On Meet the Press on Sunday, Buttigieg also defended earlier remarks in which he appeared to question President Donald Trump’s belief in God, suggesting that Trump’s Evangelical Christian supporters are hypocrites.

Trump, said Buttigieg, is not following scriptural imperatives for believers to care for widows and immigrants, and therefore is not behaving in a Christlike manner.

“The hypocrisy is unbelievable,” said Buttigieg. “Here you have somebody who not only acts in a way that is not consistent with anything that I hear in scripture in church, where it’s about lifting up the least among us and taking care of strangers, which is another word for immigrants, and making sure that you’re focusing your effort on the poor--but also personally, how you’re supposed to conduct yourself.”

Self-described white born-again/evangelical Christians voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, with 81 percent in favor compared to only 16 percent voting for Hillary Clinton.

Historically, white evangelical support for Republican presidential candidates has never fallen below 74 percent. In 2016, the Protestant/other Christian vote split was nearly identical to the 2012 election.

Catholics, particularly Hispanic Catholics, supported Trump in 2016 at higher levels than they did Mitt Romney in 2012. The last time a Republican presidential candidate won majority support among Catholic voters was George W. Bush in 2004.

In response to Buttigieg’s comments on biblical imperatives, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked the mayor about his thoughts on abortion. Buttigieg, who considers himself pro-choice, said that he thinks abortion is a moral question that should be decided by a woman and her doctor, not by “a male government official imposing his interpretation of his religion.”

The Church teaches that abortion is the deliberate ending of an innocent human life, and is a grave sin.

Dr. Chad Pecknold, associate professor of systematic theology at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that Buttigieg offered “a very selective account of Christianity.”

“Mr. Buttigieg invokes Christian authority wherever it can be made to agree with his politics, and yet finds it irrelevant wherever it disagrees,” said Pecknold.

“This approach makes Christianity into a political plaything. This is perfectly illustrated by the way Mr. Buttigieg claims that public policy should favor the poor, but not the unborn. When he calls out other politicians for their Christian hypocrisy, it’s less a matter of theological expertise than a case of the pot calling the kettle.”

“Authentic Christian political thought does not choose between those who need to be protected and defended,” Pecknold said.

College campus abortion pill mandate reintroduced in California

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 16:02

Sacramento, Calif., Apr 8, 2019 / 02:02 pm (CNA).- A California Senate committee has passed a bill requiring student health clinics on college campuses to provide abortion pills.

Senate Bill 24 would require all public universities in the state to offer medication abortions on site, beginning Jan. 1, 2023.

Former Governor Jerry Brown, a public supporter of abortion, vetoed a similar bill last September, saying it was was “not necessary,” as abortion services are already “widely available” off campus.

The California State Senate Health Committee passed the bill by a 7-2 vote April 3. The bill will be referred to the State Senate’s Education Committee before going before the full Senate for a vote.

The bill would also create a fund to provide a $200,000 grant to each public university student health center to pay for the cost of offering abortion pills, with money coming from nonstate sources such as private sector entities and local and federal government agencies.

The bill would only take effect if $10.2 million in private funds are made available by Jan 1, 2020.

Student health centers at California’s public universities do not provide abortions, but they do offer contraception and provide referrals to abortion facilities. Many of these centers do distribute the “morning-after pill,” which can block fertilization or prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a uterus.

More than 500 women at public universities in California seek a medication abortion every month, according to KQED news.

California’s current governor, Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said before his election that he would have supported the abortion pill mandate, but has not commented on the new version of the bill since he took office.

“Students should not have to travel off campus or miss class or work responsibilities in order to receive care that can easily be provided at a student health center,” said State Sen. Connie Leyva, the bill’s sponsor, in an April 3 statement.

Kathleen Buckley Domingo, senior director of the Office of Life, Justice & Peace for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said last September that she was grateful Brown vetoed the previous version of the bill.

“He recognized that this bill was unnecessary for California and did not empower our college women, but only offered more abortion for our state,” Domingo said.

Instead, Domingo said she hoped the state would pass bills to assist college students who are already parents. Such legislation would “ensure women’s Title IX protections for pregnancy are known and understood, and to make childcare and family housing for student mothers and fathers readily available and accessible for California women.”

Andy Rivas, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, said he was not surprised by the veto and that students “were not pushing for passage” of the bill. Universities “did not want the responsibility of providing abortion pills to students,” he said.

Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United For Life, said at the time of Brown’s veto that he had “made California safer for women, and college campuses safer for their unborn children.”

“Governor Brown recognized that in a state where Medicaid already pays for elective abortions, there is no issue of access, since, as he said yesterday, ‘the average distance to abortion providers in campus communities varies from 5 to 7 miles, not an unreasonable distance,’” Foster said last September.

Foster also pointed out that “college health clinics are not equipped to handle the very serious risks of chemical abortion drugs,” which can include heavy vaginal bleeding and infection.

Medical abortions involve the taking of two pills - the first pill, mifepristone, blocks progesterone, which is essential for maintaining the health of the fetus. The second pill, misoprostol, is taken 24 hours after mifepristone and works to induce contractions in order to expel the fetus.

Medication abortions make up about one third of all abortions performed in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration reports that 22 deaths have been associated with the use of abortion pills in the US as of the end of 2017.