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Hundreds of Catholic employers win injunction against contraception mandate

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 18:29

Washington D.C., Apr 2, 2018 / 04:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge ruled in favor of the Catholic Benefits Association last week, issuing a permanent injunction and declaratory relief against the Department of Health and Human Services’ contraception mandate.This means that organizations belonging to the CBA do not have to provide coverage of drugs, the use of which they believe to be immoral, as dictated by the mandate.

The CBA represents more than 1,000 Catholic employers, all of whom seek to provide health insurance for their employees without violating their religious beliefs. In 2014, the CBA filed two federal lawsuits against the HHS mandate which required all insurance plans to cover contraception, sterilization procedures, and emergency contraception. More than 88,000 people work for companies that are part of the CBA.

Companies that are not part of the CBA are still subject to the mandate, which remains in place as-is. The Catholic Church teaches that contraception and direct sterilization are “morally unacceptable” means of regulating birth.

The CBA argued that this mandate, which was not part of the Affordable Care Act, was forcing Catholic employers to violate their deeply-held religious beliefs. U.S. District Court Judge David Russell agreed, and issued the permanent decision. This injunction will prevent the federal government from enforcing the mandate, and Russell also ruled that this mandate had been in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by attempting to force employers to provide contraception and sterilization, in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Failure to comply with the mandate meant that businesses were subject to fines. The companies that make up the CBA had collectively accrued $6.9 billion in fines, which were eliminated with the ruling.

In a statement provided to CNA, CBA CEO Douglas G. Wilson, Jr. said the association was “most grateful” by the decision, and he urged other Catholic employers who are struggling with complying with the mandate to join the CBA. Wilson said that this ruling was a win for religious freedom.

“The ruling directly protects all current and future CBA members,” said Wilson, adding that he was grateful that the CBA is “now in a position to protect even more Catholic ministries and businesses.”

What’s more, said Wilson, is that Russell’s ruling is an “important judicial validation of religious liberty” in the context of the First Amendment and of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Wilson believes that this will pave the way for other religious groups to protect themselves against the mandate.

“His ruling creates a precedent which, we are sure, will be cited by religious faiths across America in their own resistance to these immoral intrusions.”

Since the HHS mandate was announced in 2012, several groups have filed suit against the government in opposition to its demands. The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that closely-held corporations with religious employers opposed to the mandate cannot be forced to comply with it. Hobby Lobby is a craft store owned by Christians who were opposed to certain drugs included in the mandate.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic women religious who operate nursing homes for the elderly poor, also filed against the mandate. The Little Sisters of the Poor were granted an exemption from the mandate, but were back in court in November 2017 to argue their case once again.

Bishop Olson: Liturgical fidelity fosters unity, discipleship

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 17:00

Fort Worth, Texas, Apr 2, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At the Chrism Mass celebrated during Holy Week, a Texas bishop offered reflections on the Church’s liturgical life, telling priests the straying from liturgical texts can be detrimental to the unity of Catholicism.

“The importance of Christ-centered and shared repetition in our collaborative mission as the Church requires that we avoid the addition of words or gestures that are alien to the rites and liturgical texts provided us by the Church,” said Bishop Michael Olson of Ft. Worth, Texas.

“Even though such liturgical abuses might at first glance appear to begin as good willed efforts to avoid redundancy and tedium for a people with attention spans made numb by contemporary modes of communication, such efforts remain destructive because they take us away from the repetition that bears fruit in Catholic unity,” he continued.

The bishop’s words came during the Chrism Mass celebrated at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Ft. Worth, TX on March 27.

Olson described the difference between redundancy and repetition, saying “redundancy can enslave us; repetition can liberate us.”

Redundancy, Olson said, is the practice of doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of a different outcome. On the other hand, he said that repetition fosters the formation of character and “develops our incorporation into the mystery of God.”

“Redundancy has to do with vicious circularity (doing the same thing again and again without making progress or accomplishing anything except narcissistic absorption);” he explained. “Repetition has to do with the spiral: there is always forward growth and momentum in a spiral even as it circles again and again over similar words, patterns, ideas, and themes.”

“The bitter fruits of redundancy are isolation, complacency, and entitlement; the sweet fruits of repetition are gratitude, humility, and joy,” Olson continued.

The practice of faithful repetition in the liturgy is crucial to the integrity of all Masses since it unifies the universal church, Olson said.

The Texas bishop also noted that straying from liturgical norms will produce “a greater sense of isolation and entitlement to our own individual preferences and opinions,” and will lead to the dangers of redundancy, causing “a sense of confusion of Catholic identity.”

“This can destructively differentiate our parish from other parishes to the point of exclusion by maintaining unique and aberrant liturgical practices,” Olson continued.

While fidelity to the liturgy may not always be received with “a favorable response” and may lead to rejection, Olson said that fidelity to the Church’s liturgical texts “grounds us effectively in Christ.”

Olson additionally encouraged growth in pastoral leadership, which he said involves the “protection of the sheep both from the cunning of the wolf and the complacency of the hired hand who complains about the perceived redundancy of his ministry.”

“Redundancy in the spiritual life of a priest leads him to functional minimalism; repetition in the spiritual life of a priest leads him into deeper waters of conversion and configuration with the life of Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church,” Olson explained.

“The essential difference in the life of the baptized Catholic between redundancy and repetition is the centrality of Jesus Christ, true God and true man,” he added.

Liturgical repetition, he said, is an antidote to the danger of redundancy.
“If we are to remain faithful to the mission of Christ, the mission of redemption entrusted to us through our anointings, we must repeat together the prayers of the liturgy in solidarity with every Catholic liturgical assembly in the Diocese and throughout the world in order to be saved from the slavery of redundancy.”


Women's ministry group hosts workshop on infertility, miscarriage

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 14:44

Phoenix, Ariz., Apr 2, 2018 / 12:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An upcoming online workshop hosted by the Catholic women’s ministry Blessed Is She will be discussing the topic of infertility and miscarriage.

The workshop, “Love and Longing: A Conversation on Infertility and Miscarriage,” will be led by Katie Waldow, a wife, youth minister, and blogger, and Molly Walter, a Catholic convert, wife, and mother.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015, over 12 percent of U.S. women ages 15-44 struggle with infertility and more than 7 million of the same age group have sought infertility services.

Additionally, around 15-20 percent of all pregnancies within the U.S. end in a miscarriage, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

The upcoming class on miscarriage and infertility is free for Blessed Is She members and $15.00 for non-members. It will take place the evening of April 5.

Blessed Is She is a Catholic ministry founded by Jenna Guizar in the Diocese of Phoenix and which has been endorsed by Bishop Thomas Olmsted. The ministry is focused on building community for women while also “deepening a life of prayer starting with daily Scripture devotionals and supportive sisterhood,” according to their mission statement.

Blessed Is She also offers daily devotionals, merchandise, a blog, and various workshops, resources and retreats.

Retreat fosters healing for adult children of divorce

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 05:39

Washington D.C., Apr 2, 2018 / 03:39 am (CNA).- According to the Pew Research Center, only 46 percent of Americans under the age of 18 live in a traditional family with two parents in their first marriage.

For those who are now adults and grew up in a divorced family, the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. is seeking to help heal wounds that remain after parents divorce.

Many suffer silently from their parents’ divorce, according to Daniel Meola, who leads the ‘Recovering Origins” healing retreats for the shrine.

“Regardless of the amount of individual love our parents give us, what we've lost is the love of our parents together,” Meola explained to CNA, drawing on his own experience of his parents’ divorce. “We have to recognize that we have something to grieve.”

“Children of divorce are not, as a rule, asked how they feel about their parents’ divorce -- not as a child and not in the decades that follow,” Catholic writer, Leila Miller, wrote in her 2017 book, “Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak.”

“Our society says that the kids should be alright. There should be no problem. There's a lot of happy divorce talk … so that can kind of silence us,” explained Meola.

Although many children of divorce learn to silence their feelings, their wounds really begin to show themselves in young adulthood and in the ability to form and maintain relationships, according to Meola.

There can be “this deeper anxiety that many of us have that any good thing can turn bad at the drop of the hat or always expecting the piano to fall,” said Meola, who added that trust issues, anger, and depression are other common struggles.

Many participants in past retreats have expressed fear of repeating their parents’ mistakes. The key to addressing this concern is practicing the Church’s teaching of merciful love, Meola said.

“The form of marriage is merciful love … I think that if we can forgive our parents or even just start to forgive them that we will be starting a really good foundation for our own love and our own marriages,” he commented.

“You can love your parents and still hate the divorce,” explained Meola. “We have this beautiful distinction in the Church, at least I found very comforting, between the person and his acts. I found this very comforting actually for grieving that 'Ok, I can hate this act my parents did, but I can still love this person deeply and profoundly.'”

“I've always found it really beautiful and fascinating that Christ's strongest words on marriage in Matthew 19, saying it is indissoluble, are preceded by his strongest words on forgiveness in Matthew 18 where he tells people to forgive 77 times 7 times,” he continued. “I think that what the Scripture is suggesting there is that the form of indissolubility is merciful love.”

The Church’s teaching on self-giving love in marriage can also seem counterintuitive to adult children of divorce. “I think that one of the temptations when you are wounded is you just want to self-protect rather than give, even though giving is what is key for happiness, especially in love,” explained Meola. “Another sign of self-protecting is leaving at the first sign of problems and not addressing conflicts.”

“Cohabitation can also be a form of self-protecting,” he added.

The goal of the retreats is for the participants to bring these wounds and anxieties to Christ’s healing love. “As John Paul II said in Salvifici Doloris, if we have eyes of faith and we encounter Christ in the wound, then it can awaken love. That is the deepest level of healing that we are looking for.”

At the heart of each retreat is a detailed meditation on the Our Father. Small group discussions focus on more practical aspects of navigating healthy boundaries with one’s parents and in relationships after divorce.

“When your parents divorce, they are in survival mode and so are you, and what often happens is that you feel like you need to be the parent to the parent, rather than the child. And what I mean by that is that they often turn to you as their emotional confidant because they do not have their spouse any longer, so what happens is you don't feel the permission to share your feelings with them because they are dumping so much on you and you feel the need to help them figure out their emotional life. But in a healthy marriage, it is flipped -- the child is supposed to be getting direction about their emotional life from the parent … when you are married, you need to be each other's emotional confidant... We do have to draw a boundary,” explained Meola.

“We tend to think of boundaries as pushing the other person away, but they are actually at the service of reconciliation and having a good relationship. Because what is going to push you away is if you have an unhealthy relationship. You are going to collapse and get really angry. Boundaries are actually at the service of a good relationship with your parents,” he continued.

“Verbal abuse can be very prolific. Because we are a child of both parents, when one parent bashes the other parent, that really hurts us, because we are a fruit of that, we have qualities of that parent that they might be bashing,” continued Meola who said that the retreat can empower young people to speak up when this occurs.

“Each parent is half of who the child is. When the parents reject each other, they are rejecting half of the child. They may tell the child, ‘We still love you; we just don’t love each other.’ The child cannot make sense of this impossible contradiction. In my opinion, this is the underlying reason for the well-documented psychological, physiological, and spiritual risks that children of divorce face,” wrote Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, the founder and president of the Ruth Institute, in the introduction to Miller’s book on adult children of divorce.

The “Recovering Origins” healing retreat was born out of an earlier symposium hosted by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in 2012 that brought together scholars who have studied the impact divorce has had on children, including Elizabeth Marquardt, whose groundbreaking book, “Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce,” was one of the first studies on the impact of divorce on young people.

Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, saw how fruitful the symposium was, and decided that the Church should offer more opportunities for healing. The Knights of Columbus and the John Paul II Institute developed the retreat, which was first held in 2016.

Each retreat is usually capped at 25 participants to encourage discussion. Speakers at the last retreat at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine on March 23-25 included Fr. Jim McCormick, MIC and Dr. Jill Verschaetse, both of whom are adult children of divorce.

The next retreat is scheduled for September 7-9 in Arlington, Virginia.


For former inmates, returning to society comes with challenges

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 18:18

Washington D.C., Mar 29, 2018 / 04:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For the fourth time in his pontificate, Pope Francis will wash the feet of inmates at a prison on Holy Thursday this year.

The pope, who will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Regina Coeli prison in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, has previously spoken of the importance of reintegrating former prisoners back into society.

In the United States, 65 million people have a criminal record, which can limit access to employment, housing, and education, according to James Ackerman, the president and CEO of Prison Fellowship, the nation’s largest Christian ministry serving prisoners.

“Nearly 700,000 men and women will return to our communities this year alone. Thus, it is smart...for us to implement a more restorative approach for to criminal justice, re-entry, and, in particular, employment for people with a criminal record,” said Ackeman at a prison reform panel at the National Press Club on March 28.

Lily Gonzalez was one of the panelists at the “Second Chances: Removing Barriers to Returning Citizens” event. She shared the difficulties she faced in pursuing an education after being released from prison, in which she spent extensive time in solitary confinement.

Homeboy Industries, a ministry founded by a Jesuit priest, Father Greg Boyle, helped her through their “pathways to college program.”

“It really did take a village,” reflected Gonzalez, who said that the generosity of others helped her pay for her books and parking. However, she continued to face obstacles due to her criminal record after she graduated from college.

“I had a bachelor degree and no one wanted to hire me,” she said.

This barrier to employment and other necessities to reintegrate into society can often feel like a “second prison” after one has served their time, according to Ackerman. A conviction can become a life sentence to joblessness, which can increase the likelihood of future arrests.

This issue has led several U.S. states pass laws that “Ban the Box,” which prevents inquiries about someone’s criminal record on initial job applications, postponing the inquiries until later in the application process.

“I think that when you have a box on the application you are asking the person, 'Tell me about the worst thing that you have ever done in your life,' and then as a recruiter I'm going to judge you based on that. I wouldn't ask anyone that, and I don't need to know that at that point in the process,” said a human resources executive with Butterball Farms, Bonnie Mroczek.

She shared the positive results Butterball has seen hiring former inmates.

“We've been hiring returning citizens for 23 years. We've had tons of success with it and we are sharing information with other companies about the success that we've had,” she said.

“In states and localities where there has been an evaluation of Ban the Box programs, we see that there is about a 40% increase in people with records getting hired as a result of simply postponing an inquiry about their record,” added Judy Conti, who is the federal advocacy coordinator at the National Employment Law Project.

“If you haven't met me, you haven't had a chance to talk to me and get to know who I am,” said Dennis Avila, one of the former prisoners who shared his story.

“I have convictions that involve drugs and firearms … If you just look at some of the worst things that I have done, you would just think that I was this crazy person, which isn't true at all ...coming out of prison and trying to get a job to sustain me and my family was really really hard.”

Avila had a son when he was convicted, and he was not alone in that fact. There are 2.7 million children in the U.S. with a parent in prison, according to Prison Fellowship.

Avila eventually went on to found his own nonprofit organization that uses music to positively impact people from challenging backgrounds and circumstances.

“We are proud that today a full 25% of our field staff are people who were once caught up in the cycle of crime and incarceration, but today are now part of the cycle of renewal,” shared the CEO of Christian Prison Fellowship, who spoke of the importance of engaging prisoners in “a dignified manner and help them to become healthier and more productive citizens.”

Prison Fellowship is currently active in 428 prisons across the country. According to their website, the ministry is “founded on the conviction that all people are created in God's image and that no life is beyond God's reach. As Christians, we believe that Jesus - Himself brought to trial, executed, buried, and brought to life again - offers hope, healing, and a new purpose for each life. He can make even the most broken people and situations whole again.”

The fellowship was founded in 1976 by Charles Colson in 1976 after he served seven months prison for his involvement in Watergate as a former aid to President Richard Nixon.

Colson rediscovered his faith during his time in prison. In a book entitled “Loving God: The Cost of Being a Christian,” Colson wrote the following about founding a prison ministry that has impacted the lives of thousands of people:

“My life of success was not what made this morning so glorious -- all my achievements meant nothing in God's economy. No, the real legacy of my life was my biggest failure -- that I was an ex-convict. My greatest humiliation -- being sent to prison -- was the beginning of God's greatest use of my life; He chose the one thing in which I could not glory for His glory.”





How a Church on the 'peripheries' celebrates Easter

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 13:21

Gallup, N.M., Mar 29, 2018 / 11:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Catholic Church prepares to receive thousands of Catholic converts this Easter, Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup, N.M., is preparing to receive seven. Gallup’s bishop says he is grateful to celebrate the Triduum in a place many describe as the “periphery” of American culture.  

“We go back to the first Mass being celebrated here in 1539 by the Franciscan friar, Marcos de Nizo, down at the Zuni Pueblo,” Bishop James Wall of Gallup told CNA, referring to a Native American village about 40 miles outside of Gallup.

“They were some of the first people to receive the good news here, so it’s important that [this] culture and that act of worship and praise of God in the Church’s liturgy is present,” he told CNA.

Wall has served as Gallup’s bishop for nine years. The diocese includes territory in New Mexico and Arizona, over 55,000 square miles, with 53 parishes, 5 social centers, and 13 schools. Native American reservations comprise much of its territory. 64,250 Catholics live in the diocese, 12.5 percent of the area’s total population.
Wall said the diocese includes Hispanic families living in the area for 14 or 15 generations, along with one of the country’s highest diocesan populations of Native Americans.  The diocese has extraordinary poverty rates. Census data shows that more than 25 percent of people in the diocese live in poverty, compared to a national average near 13 percent. In some areas of the diocese, particularly on reservations, the poverty rate climbs even higher.
Wall said the community, though poor, is generous, and contributes musical talents and artistic gifts to celebrate the Easter Triduum.

“They are giving from their poverty, and they are giving what they are able to give. So it might not be a humongous check, but they are really giving of themselves.”

“They give up their time. They give of their talents,” said Bishop Wall. “They will do whatever they can to make the liturgy beautiful, to give of themselves, because we know that the liturgy itself is all for the glory and praise of God.”

The Easter liturgies, Wall said, will include authentic Native American drums and indigenous Catholic songs, reflecting the cultures of the Acoma, Navajo, and Laguna tribes living in the area.

Many tribes celebrate the Triduum in their home parishes, Wall explained, but the Chrism Mass at Gallup’s cathedral included songs in the language of the Laguna. Pottery and rugs from other tribes are also displayed at the cathedral.

“We try to incorporate it as best as possible in our environment. We will have Native American rugs. We’ll have pots made from the Native Americans. We’ll use some of the visuals to incorporate the cultures,” said the bishop.
Of 196 dioceses in the United States, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has received 85 reports from U.S. dioceses on the number of catechumens - those who will be baptized - and candidates - baptized Christians who will be confirmed - who are expected to enter the Church this year. “Based on these numbers, more than 30,000 people are expected to be welcomed into the Church at Easter Vigil Masses this Saturday,” the bishops’ conference reported.

Bishop Wall told CNA that Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup will welcome seven people into the Catholic Church this Easter, and other parishes in the diocese will receive new converts on as well.

Large dioceses like Los Angeles, Houston, and Atlanta will induct thousands of candidates and catechumens this Easter, but Wall said that, though small, the diversity and history in a diocese like his contribute to the beauty of its Easter liturgies.
Wall reflected on his own favorite moments of Holy Week, saying that it is moving to see Catholics return year after year to Triduum liturgies, to receive new Catholics, and also to experience Chrism Mass and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper as a priest and bishop.

“Especially as a bishop [and] as a priest, [Holy Thursday] is very, very special because of that institution of the Eucharist and the institution of the priesthood.”

“And those are the two great gifts to the Church because without the priesthood we don’t have the Eucharist, and what does the Eucharist do? It feeds us with the presence of our Lord, who is substantially present to us by his body, blood, soul, and divinity.”


Knights of Columbus announce Easter pledge to aid persecuted Christians

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 00:08

Hartford, Conn., Mar 28, 2018 / 10:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In light of Holy Week, the Knights of Columbus announced that it will be donating more than $1 million to aid persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

“As we recall the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, it is particularly timely for us to remember and support our brothers and sisters in Christ who have, in places like Iraq and Syria, endured so much persecution for their faith,” said Carl Anderson, Knights of Columbus CEO, in a recent statement.

“Having faced suffering and even death at the hands of ISIS, we hope that our assistance will help these communities to rise up again and rebuild for the future,” Anderson continued.

The funds contributed by the Knights of Columbus will be used in a variety of different ways. Around $500,000 will go toward a food program run by the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil.

Another $300,000 has been committed to the Syriac Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, which aids upwards of 3,000 families from Iraq and Syria who have been affected by conflict in their homelands. They offer food, clothing, shelter, and aid with education or medical care.

As part of an ongoing initiative to rebuild the Iraqi town of Karemlesh in the Nineveh Plain, the Knights of Columbus are additionally contributing $250,000 to financially aid the process. Karemlesh was destroyed when it was overtaken by the Islamic State, but has since been recaptured. Since then, locals have been committed to rebuilding the primarily Christian town.

While this Easter initiative amounts to over $1 million in financial aid, the Knights of Columbus have now contributed a collective $19 million to support Christians and minorities in the Middle East since 2014.

Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil noted the significance of the funds, saying that financial support from the Knights of Columbus has contributed significantly to the ongoing presence of Christianity in the area.

“Our people know that without the direct support from the Knights of Columbus to Christians in the region, and without assistance in making our case to the United States government, Christianity might already have been driven out of Iraq completely,” Archbishop Bashar said.

Additionally, Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Joseph III Younan said he has relied on the “compassion and understanding” from the Knights of Columbus in “our plight in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq.”

The Knights of Columbus is an international Catholic men’s organization with over 1.9 million members, founded upon the pillars of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism.

Why fathers matter to the future of young black men

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 21:00

Denver, Colo., Mar 28, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A recent study shows that when it comes to upward economic mobility, family and community makes a notable difference in the lives of black boys.

The study found that significant gaps exist between black and white boys when it comes to upward economic mobility throughout their lifetimes, while these differences are nearly non-existent between black and white girls.

While racism is widely considered to be a factor in that economic disparity between white and black boys, numerous other factors are also at play, according to the study conducted by researchers Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Maggie Jones, and Sonya Porter at The Equality of Opportunity Project.

Black boys on the whole face an upward economic mobility gap even when raised in similar neighborhoods, families and income levels as white boys, the study found.

But the study found one notable exception - black boys from impoverished neighborhoods do as well as white boys from similar neighborhoods when there are a lot of black fathers and married couples present in the community. The study found that the presence of fathers matters at a community level, meaning that even black boys without resident fathers did as well as white boys, if they came from communities with high concentrations of black fathers and married couples.

“That is a pathbreaking finding,” William Julius Wilson, a Harvard sociologist who studies economic struggles of black men, told the New York Times. “They’re not talking about the direct effects of a boy’s own parents’ marital status. They’re talking about the presence of fathers in a given census tract.”

Some responses to the study have claimed that family structure matters minimally for the upward mobility of black boys. However, Dr. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, told CNA that those takes ignore this important finding about marriage structure at the neighborhood level.

Those “are obviously two important family structure indicators that matter at the neighborhood level, so the point there is it's not just what happens in the individual households, but what's sort of happening to the family in your neighborhood or your community that would seem to matter for mobility,” Wilcox told CNA.

Wilcox also noted in an article on the study that on the whole, young black men are much more likely to be raised in single-parent homes than young white men, so “if you control for household income growing up, you miss the ways in which racial differences in family structure affect outcomes for boys via their impact on family income.”

Furthermore, the study compares the household income of black boys to their individual income as grown men. Wilcox said a more accurate comparison would be to compare the household income of black boys to the household income of those same boys when they reach adulthood, in order to measure the impact that marriage and family structure continues to have on income.

“I think you would find a very different story, because as they note in the study, blacks marry at much lower levels than do whites, do find that the family structure plays a major role in accounting for the contemporary family income gap, or household income gap between blacks and whites today,” he said.

Bishop Shelton Fabre, chair of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee for African-American Catholics, told CNA that this study shows the need to support and encourage marriage and fatherhood in all communities.

“I know that its manifestation in the African American community is unique, but I think in many cultures, that the whole notion of what it means to be a father, and how to support men who are fathers, and to call men to fatherhood, I think that that's a need,” he said, “more than just in the African American community.”

The Church can and does encourage fatherhood and married couples especially through marriage preparation programs, Fabre said, as well as Marriage Encounter retreats that support couples throughout their marriage.

Furthermore, the rise of apostolates geared toward men, such as “That Man is You”, show the growing need for providing support for fathers and men in the Christian community, Fabre noted.

“That Man is You” is a Catholic ministry for men that says it “honestly addresses the pressures and temptations that men face in our modern culture, especially those relating to their roles as husbands and fathers.”

The Church is also able to fill in some of the gaps in places where fewer fathers are present, Fabre noted, through mentorship programs at the parish level or through organizations such as the Knights of St. Peter Claver. The Knights of St. Peter Claver is the largest African American Catholic lay organization in the United States, and “provides mentorship and opportunities for young black men to come to know their faith, and that mentorship certainly would get into what does it mean to be a good father,” Fabre said.

It’s important that the Church emphasize the unique things that fathers and mothers bring to families, Fabre added.

“A mother's love, and a mother's example, are unique. But the role of father is unique as well. The father brings that sense of security and stability, and other things that young men need to come to know,” he said. “I think mothers provide a lot, but for a young man to have a father to guide him, and to just listen to him and bounce ideas off of him, and help him to learn from his mistakes, and to make his choice that much sweeter, I think that's the role of a father. I think it's because a father has a particular role, and a mother has a particular role in the family. And children need that.”


US bishops: 'Extraordinarily low' refugee limits harm the innocent

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Mar 28, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops have voiced concern over the abnormally low levels of refugees admitted to the U.S. under the Trump administration, saying that it puts those fleeing danger at risk, and fails to comply with Christian teaching on welcoming the stranger.

“The current level of refugee arrivals leaves thousands of vulnerable people in harm’s way and searching for protection,” said Bishop Joe Vasquez, speaking as chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee On Migration. “Most often they are at-risk women and children who are too vulnerable to remain in the region and/or in situations too dangerous for them to wait in the host country until the conflict at home has ended.”

The bishops’ March 26 letter was sent to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and to the U.S. State Department.

“As Christians, our concerns for refugees is integral to our life of faith,” the bishops said. “In this spirit, we urge the Administration to renew a bipartisan commitment to resettlement for refugees, including religious minorities.”

Historically, the average number of refugees admitted to the United States exceeded 95,000 per year. For fiscal year 2018, the administration has set a target at 45,000, but only 9,616 were resettled by March 16. This places the U.S. on pace to resettle less than 20,000 refugees, 25 percent of the number who arrived in fiscal year 2016.

The Trump administration refugee admission target is “historically low,” as is the “extraordinarily low” number of refugees it is on pace to resettle, said the bishops.

Among those denied admittance were 87 Christian refugees and other persecuted minorities from Iran. This is despite previous years in which refugees from Iran had a 99 percent admission rate.

These trends “signify an abdication of our nation’s leadership in humanitarian protection through resettlement and in championing international religious freedom,” the bishops charged.

They cited Jesus’ words from the Gospel of Matthew, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” as well as the Old Testament’s exhortations to care for the stranger.

They called on the Trump administration to admit at least 45,000 refugees in this fiscal year and to issue a presidential determination allowing 75,000 refugees to enter the country next year. They again requested a meeting with Trump to discuss how to address refugee processing.

A similar March 26 letter was sent to the heads of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. State Department. It was signed by over 1,600 Catholic organizations and individuals, including priests, men and women religious, lay leaders, and Catholic Charities affiliates.

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition, a group of nearly 50 faith-based organizations that work to support the dignity of refugees and migrants, held a rally in front of the White House on March 28 to oppose the low resettlement numbers.

The rally included a foot washing service and speakers who shared the stories of refugees impacted by the administration’s policies.

Indiana law requires doctors to report abortion complications

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 18:52

Indianapolis, Ind., Mar 28, 2018 / 04:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Doctors in Indiana must report legally specified complications that might arise from abortions under a law signed by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.

“This bill does what two other states have done to gather information on these procedures without restricting access to them,” Holcomb said, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Under the law, Senate Enrolled Act 340, doctors must report to state authorities any of 26 complications associated with abortions. These include infections, cardiac arrest, psychological or emotional issues, sleeping disorders, and anxiety.

Doctors must report the complications even if they don’t work in an abortion clinic. If they fail to report complications they could face charges of a Class B misdemeanor, up to 180 days in prison, and fines of up to $1,000, the U.K. newspaper The Independent reports.

Under the reporting standards, doctors are not to report identifiable information like the names of patients. If there are complications, doctors must report the woman’s race, age, marital status, education level, and county and state of residence; the type of abortion performed; and the facility where the abortion was performed.

They must also report how many abortions a woman who has suffered complications has had.

Three legislatures have approved such laws on abortion complications. The Idaho legislature passed a similar law last week.

Rep. Peggy Mayfield, a Republican sponsor of the bill, said it is needed for public health reasons because the state is the only oversight for abortions.

During debate over the bill, Democrats said legal challenges to the legislation could be costly.

There is currently a legal challenge to a bill that Holcomb signed in 2017 that makes it more difficult for minors to seek an abortion, while court rulings that other abortion legislation was unconstitutional resulted in $170,000 in legal fees paid by Indiana to the American Civil Liberties Union in 2013, and another $123,000 in 2015.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has said it may file a legal challenge against the law.

Other foes of the legislation included the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians, which saw the reporting requirements as too burdensome on doctors and the doctor-patient relationship, even for doctors who do not perform abortions.

“We opposed this bill and felt compliance was onerous for physicians, especially in light of non-compliance being treated as a criminal violation including jail time,” said Richard Feldman, a family physician who is legislative chairman for the group.

He said the complications list is “astonishingly long” and many on the list are “inappropriate in regard to current standards of care, research value, clinical relevance, or reasonable time frames for patient contact.”

The new Indiana law also requires annual inspections of abortion clinics. It legalizes the use of “baby boxes” at fire departments, where a parent may give up an infant anonymously without fear of legal consequences.

Another bill Holcomb signed into law, Senate Enrolled Act 203, allowed murder charges to be filed against those who kill an unborn child in a crime, regardless of the age of the unborn child.
The law does not apply to abortions, but pro-life advocates saw it as a victory because it gives some legal recognition to the unborn child.

Several states continue to pass legislation restricting or regulating abortion. Last week, the Kentucky Senate passed a bill barring dilation and evacuation abortions after 11 weeks into pregnancy, except in cases of medical emergency. If the bill becomes law, it would become the most restrictive in the U.S.

Utah and Pennsylvania are considering bans on abortions motivated solely by a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

In Ohio, two Republican legislators have proposed a bill that would bar abortions without exception and recognize the legal personhood of the unborn child under state law for the purposes of murder and manslaughter charges and wrongful death lawsuits, reports.

'Opportunities for conversion' - the liturgies of Holy Week

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 16:55

Denver, Colo., Mar 28, 2018 / 02:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Any priest will tell you that Easter Sunday Mass is one of the most highly attended of the year, alongside Christmas Mass and, at least in the United States, Mass on Ash Wednesday. But Easter Sunday Mass, while popular, is not the only important or beautiful liturgy celebrated during the days of Holy Week and the Easter Triduum.

In fact, the liturgies of Holy Week are designed to foster in Catholics an intimate and historical connection to the Church, and to death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Timothy O’Malley, director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, gave CNA insight into the symbolism and foundations to the Chrism Mass, Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Tenebrae, Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, and Easter Vigil.

Chrism Mass:

The Chrism Mass is one of the largest annual gatherings of the priests in each diocese. During the Mass, clergy are encouraged to renew the promises made at ordination, and laity are invited to renew their baptismal promises.

Traditionally celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday, the diocesan bishop blesses three sacred oils: the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens, and the Chrism Oil. The oils are distributed to the parishes in the diocese and are used for the sacraments of anointing of the sick, ordination, confirmation, and baptism.
The Oil of Catechumens “will be used for anointing before baptism, as well as anointing catechumens throughout the process in which they enter the Church” O’Malley explained.

Chrism “is the traditionally fragrant oil which is used for the ordination of priests, used for post-baptismal anointing for infant baptism, and is used for the sacrament of confirmation,” he added.

Oil of the Sick is used in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.

O’Malley emphasized the importance of the symbolism of oil in the Old Testament for royalty and healing and the importance of Jesus’s identity as the “anointed one.”

The blessed oil is “evidence of Christ being there as the anointed one who comes to anoint in the threefold vocation as priest, prophet, and king, but also anoint in healing, to anoint those who are suffering so that the oil becomes an image of Christ.”

Mass of the Lord’s Supper:

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and includes a physical reenactment of Christ washing his apostles’ feet.

O’Malley said the Mass focuses on three aspects of Christ’s life: the gift of the Eucharist, the Passion, and the foot washing.

“For the Mass of the Lord’s Supper there is the gift of Christ in the Eucharist, this gift which is an image of his own gift upon the Cross. The liturgy itself, it concludes with this kind of Eucharistic procession and then we wait with Christ in the midst of his Passion.”

The foot washing, O’Malley said, “is actually very interesting, it was often done in monasteries, where the guests would have their feet washed. It entered into the liturgy itself, where there would be the washing of the feet of the 12, as the sort of image of washing of the 12 apostles."


Latin for 'darkness,' Tenebrae is a form of the Liturgy of the Hours on the eve of Holy Thursday, which prepares the participants for the coming darkness of Christ’s death and his descent into hell.

With roots in the ninth century, Tenebrae vigils were once celebrated at most parishes throughout Holy Week, and included Psalms and Lamentation readings and the extinction of candles.

“It involved the reading of Lamentations, the gradual extinction of candles, and then the sort of beating of the pews that you would hear to represent the noise of Christ descending into darkness to transform it,” said O’Malley.

Tenebrae liturgies are still celebrated in many parishes.

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion:

The Good Friday liturgy is not a Mass, but a service reflecting on the Passion of Christ and the power of the cross.

Participants listen to the scripture of Christ’s passion and venerate the cross. Worshipers kiss the cross, a practice recorded by the fourth-century pilgrim Egeria. While the cross is kissed, O’Malley said, two ancient hymns are sung: the Reproaches and the Pange Lingua.

The Reproaches, or the Improperia, are a series of chants and responses, which reflect on Christ’s lamentations during his Passion. One of the lines is “I led you out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom, but you led your Savior to the cross.”

Written by the St. Fortunatus, the Pange Lingua celebrates the life-giving power of Christ’s Passion. O’Malley said the hymn “describes the cross as this flowering of new life, the tree of life rather than the tree of death.”

Good Friday’s liturgy does not include the Eucharistic consecration, O’Malley said, but the Holy Eucharist is already sanctified and distributed to the worshipers.

Easter Vigil:

At the Easter Vigil, the Paschal candle is blessed and lit outside the Church, and worshippers assemble with unlit candles. As the priests process to the altar, the fire of Christ’s light is passed from candle to candle within the Church.

The Easter Vigil is the pinnacle of the Triduum, said O’Malley, drawing attention to Christ’s light, which abolishes darkness, and to his salvation, which is now opened to the catechumens.

“All candles have been extinguished, all darkness has descended, now new light is lit in this Easter fire.”

Worshipers hear the story of salvation through seven Old Testament readings, Psalms, and then a Gospel passage recounting Christ’s resurrection. Converts to Catholicism are baptized and confirmed, welcomed into the communion of the Church.

Participants “listen to the fullness of salvation that is revealed finally in Christ, culminating in a reading of the Gospel of the resurrection,” said O’Malley. “Then of course there is the celebration of the Eucharist, this sort of concluding sort of moment in which the Church is illuminated and sings in praise.”

A Triduum of Conversion

The US bishops’ executive director of the Secretariat for Divine Worship, Father Andrew Menke told CNA that the liturgies of the Triduum are an opportunity for conversion.

“I suggest trying to have a strong sense of what it would have been like in Jerusalem during those days, what it would have been like to have been one of the apostles and one of the Lord’s friends or would have been someone in the crowd to have seen these things,” Menke said.

Menke said that during the Holy Week liturgies, “people have had a deeper experience of how much sin costs and why it’s so horrible – why I want to live a better life for example. That’s the sort of thing contemplating on Good Friday would move a person towards. Or how much my Lord loves me, [as we] relive him washing the apostles’ feet, for example. I think a lot of people have had a conversions to a deeper sense of the Eucharist through what our Lord did at the Last Supper.”

He also said that life experience can deepen the experience of worship during the Triduum. “Some people, especially people who have suffered a lot, the resurrection takes on a whole new meaning. You learn these things when you were a kid, but sometimes having life experiences as an adult, having lost people you love, Easter can have a big impact on a person. Enkindle a deeper kind of hope and trust in the Lord’s Providence, [as we] see how he conquers death.”



Misunderstanding NFP: Where Catholics and non-Catholics get it wrong

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 13:06

Atchison, Kansas, Mar 28, 2018 / 11:06 am (CNA).- The encyclical Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI shocked the world when it was published in 1968.

While society was in the midst of the sexual revolution, the pope wrote that couples could not morally use contraception as a means of planning or spacing their children.

“It was an explosion in the Church,” said Dr. Janet Smith, a professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and a Catholic speaker and author on marriage and family.

In the 50 years that followed, she said, the Church has worked to explain its teaching to a world that often refused to accept it.

“But we’ve made some great strides,” she noted. “The fact that you can get 60 scholars to come and talk about Humanae Vitae? In Kansas? It’s fantastic!” Dr. Smith was one of four keynote speakers at Benedictine College’s seventh annual Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelization. The theme of this year’s symposium was “Humanae Vitae 50 Years Later: A Call to Self-Gift.”

While Humanae Vitae states that couples may not use contraception, it affirms that they may make use of the natural fertile and infertile times of a woman’s menstrual cycle, measurable through Natural Family Planning (NFP), in order to achieve responsible parenthood.

But there are problems even within the Christian and Catholic community of understanding exactly how NFP works and what it means to use it morally, Smith noted.

For example, there are certain groups within the Church whom Smith called “Providentialists” - they believe that NFP should only be used by couples to limit family size for “grave reasons,” while the original Latin text of Humanae Vitae and the Catechism use the words “serious” and “just” reasons.

“Providentialists hold that unless grave reasons present themselves, such as very serious health or financial ones, spouses should just let the babies come,” Smith said.

“They’re beautiful people who really want to do God’s will in a very radical, self-giving way, though I think they reason falsely about these matters,” she said.

With Natural Family Planning, couples work together with a woman’s cycle to determine - through methods such as body temperature and cervical mucus observation - the fertile and infertile phases of her cycle. Typically, a woman’s menstrual cycle is around 28 days, and she is fertile for just a handful of those days, though the specifics of the number of days of each phase varies woman to woman.

Couples using Natural Family Planning discern through prayer and practical reasons whether to have sex during the fertile or infertile phases of a woman’s cycle, depending on whether or not they believe it is a good idea for them to get pregnant at that time. As long as couples do not impede the possibility of pregnancy through artificial means (contraception) or natural means (withdrawal), they act according to Church teaching, Pope Paul VI notes in Humanae Vitae.

Where Providentialists go wrong, Smith said, is in believing that couples should be required to have sex during every phase of a woman’s cycle, and that NFP should only be used to avoid pregnancy if a woman is on her deathbed, or the family is in financial ruin.

It’s moral to abstain from sex for other, somewhat trivial reasons, Smith noted - a spouse with a headache, someone would like to finish a book, someone wants to catch a sports game, the walls are too thin, etc.

“So I have a simple question for you. Why would it be wrong not to have sex because it’s not a good idea to have a child at that time?” she said.

“I’m certainly going to affirm that children are the primary purpose of marriage and commend the Providentialists for their devotion to that good,” Smith said, “but I’m going to challenge the claim that [just reasons to abstain] only mean the woman’s near death or the family’s financial ruin.”

The culture at large, on the other hand, misunderstands sexuality as something “nasty and naughty,” and sees children as an optional means of personal fulfillment or a hobby, Smith said, rather than as a supreme gift from God resulting from the gift of sexuality within the context of marriage.

“They don’t see [sex] as a huge gift from God that God has given to spouses as a means to let them help him create new human souls,” she said.

“[Children] are a supreme gift of marriage, they give people meaning, purpose, joy, unbelievable laughter...and bills to worry about and all kinds of things,” Smith said. If Christians believe they are raising up souls for God, “why wouldn’t they want to have a lot of children?”

But while the Church recognizes children as a gift and asks couples to be generous in their openness to life, it also allows for couples to abstain from sex during the fertile phase for “serious” and “just” reasons, including “physical, economic, psychological and social conditions,” Humanae Vitae states.

Furthermore, it notes that “responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.”

What counts as serious or just enough reasons? “It’s between you and God,” Smith said. “One thing you have to do [to use NFP] is to learn how to pray, and to learn how to say, ‘What do you think, God?’”

It is possible to use NFP selfishly, Smith noted, but she added that the cure for that selfishness can also be found within the use of NFP, since it facilitates conversations between the couple about their family and relationship. Furthermore, she said, most people want to have sex, meaning that abstaining from sex requires a self-mastery that is not characteristic of selfish people.

“If you believe you’ve got good reasons [to abstain], go ahead and use NFP, but keep praying, and tell God: ‘If we’re being selfish with NFP, let us know,’” she said.

When asked what the biggest hurdles are for Catholics and non-Catholics alike when it comes to accepting Church teaching on this issue, Smith said it is a misunderstanding of both contraception and NFP within both groups.

“They don’t have any idea the damage that the hormonal contraceptives do to a woman’s body, so they don’t even know they should be looking for something else,” Smith told CNA. Furthermore, “they don’t understand the many benefits that abstinence brings to a relationship, and it needs to be acknowledged that it’s difficult. It’s as difficult as dieting, and budgeting and exercising regularly, but everybody knows that those bring great benefits to those who do those things. And if you have a necessity to do them, they’re that much easier, because you have a necessity,” she said.

It’s important that the Church keep teaching the truths of Humanae Vitae even 50 years after its original publication, Smith said, because most people still don’t know the truth, and it has also become “more and more overwhelmingly clear that it was right, that contraception would be devastating to relationships and to cultures.”

Smith added that she was encouraged by the symposium at Benedictine. “It was astonishing, and these were young people for the most part in some way defending Humanae Vitae,” she said. “People who oppose Humanae Vitae seem to think its a dead letter, but we need to show that young people are confirming its truth rather than rejecting it.”  

Symposium: 'Humanae Vitae' teachings essential for stable marriages, families

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 04:48

Atchison, Kansas, Mar 28, 2018 / 02:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The promise of the sexual revolution and contraception was total sexual freedom for everyone.

“Sex is for fun and now women can have just as much fun without the consequences,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said about the claims of the sexual revolution in a recent talk.

“That was the cry of the day, and yet somehow it didn’t work out that way,” he said.

What went wrong? It’s a question that the archbishop and other presenters attempted to answer at a symposium on Humanae Vitae and the New Evangelization at Benedictine College in Kansas this past weekend. Cordileone was one of four featured keynote speakers, along with Dr. Janet Smith from Sacred Heart Major Seminary; Dr. Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia; and Dr. Jennifer Roback-Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute.

The symposium covered a wide range of topics related to marriage and family life, and looked at why the teachings of the Church in Humanae Vitae are the answer to many of the current cultural and societal problems surrounding sex, marriage and family.

In his talk, Archbishop Cordileone noted the dissonance in a society that on the one hand accepts divorce, contraception and all kinds of sexual deviance as normal, and on the other hand is baffled when thousands of women complain of sexual harassment as part of the #MeToo movement.

“This is another major head scratcher for me. The whole point of these last 50 years was supposed to be liberation,” Cordileone said. But “no one dares to suggest that the problem is the very narrative [from the sexual revolution] itself.”

Dr. Brad Wilcox, professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, also noted this cultural inconsistency in his talk about marriage inequality in America.

Wilcox noted that while the upper and middles classes say they are increasingly tolerant of family structure diversity and deviance from the two-married-parent household norm, they are usually more traditional in practice, while the poor are left to suffer the consequences of a culture that no longer values marriage and family.

“We’re seeing what Charles Murray has called a fault line now dividing Americans on marriage,” he said, noting that studies show that Americans who are college-educated and relatively more affluent tend to get and stay married.

“By contrast, poor and working class Americans are less likely to sustain high quality marriages and their kids are more likely to be exposed to some kind of instability,” he said, whether that’s single parenthood, cohabitation, divorce and even abuse.

“For me, all of this really matters because it has a direct impact on our kids,” he said, noting that children who experience unstable families on average have lower graduation and employment rates, are more likely to end up in trouble with the law, and are more likely to become pregnant as teenagers.

This significant class divide over marriage did not exist 50 years ago, but economic and policy shifts as well as a shift away from the secular and civic institutions that used to be a key part of American civil life have played a significant role in creating this divide, Wilcox said.

The interest and participation levels in these institutions that “used to supply money, moral direction, and social support to marriage are quite fragile today, particularly for Americans who don’t have that college degree,” he added.

In her talk, “What the Contraceptive Ideology has done to America,” Morse said that the sexual revolution had three main objectives: to separate sex from babies, to separate both sex and babies from marriage, and to wipe out all differences between men and women.

While Wilcox noted that the poor and working class are suffering the most from a decline in marriage and family, Morse added that children are the ones who lose the most in a society that embraces contraception and divorce.

“We’re talking about a whole society built around the premise that adults can have whatever sexual activity they want and never have a baby, unless they want the baby. That is irrational to believe that that is possible. That is a fantasy,” Morse said.  

“If you’re having sex with somebody who’s [not your spouse] and would be...completely inappropriate for you to co-parent with, what are your options if your contraception fails, which it will about 13 percent of the time?”

The options for these couples are a shotgun wedding, single parenthood, adoption, or abortion, Morse noted, and in many cases, the child suffers from the parents’ actions.

Because of the devastating impacts that the sexual revolution has had on marriage and family, it is all the more important for the Church to continue preaching the truths of Humanae Vitae and the beauty of marriage and family life lived out according to God’s design, Archbishop Cordileone said.

In the encyclical itself, Pope Paul VI admits that this teaching will not be easily accepted by all: “It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a ‘sign of contradiction.’ She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.”

However, those who make the best disciples and evangelizers of the truths of Humanae Vitae are those who have lived by the “secular code of conduct” and have found it lacking and even harmful, Cordileone noted.

“One of the most common responses of young people who are granted the grace of this understanding is, ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me sooner? It would have saved me untold suffering,’” he said.

“Such people make the most ardent disciples, and provide a much needed witness for many cradle Catholics.”

Humanae Vitae is not easy to live out, Archbishop Cordileone said, but it will lead couples to the most happiness and therefore must be taught in a way that is winsome and effective, without shying away from the suffering involved.

“The worst thing we can to soften or downplay the hard parts of our faith, those teachings where we encounter the most resistance or hostility in our culture. How could we do such a thing if we are convinced that this is true, and for the true good of all people?” he said.

“We leaders in the Church do a grave disservice to our people by giving them excuses for taking the easy way out, such as misleading them with the false idea of what conscience means, or failing to assist them in forming their conscience correctly. Much to people’s surprise it is actually the hard way out that is the most effective evangelizing strategy,” he added.

“Rather than offering excuses for fleeing the cross, what we need are creative new ideas to help people understand the wisdom and beauty of God’s design.”  

The point of the symposium is to bring people together who can do just that, said Dr. Matthew Muller, assistant professor of theology and an organizer of the event through Benedictine College’s Gregorian Institute.

“The Symposium is a think-tank for the New Evangelization, so what is important now, I think, is that leaders at the diocesan, parish, and ministry levels, as well as the scholars and graduate students who attended, continue to reflect on the ideas they heard and develop ways to implement those ideas in their professional or scholarly work,” Muller told CNA.

“The reception of Humanae Vitae is an ongoing process in the Church, and events like the Symposium help to encourage a deeper appreciation and integration of the Church’s teachings concerning the goodness of the human person, sexuality, marriage, and family.”


Two years after her death, Mother Angelica remembered for faith, determination

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 18:45

Irondale, Ala., Mar 27, 2018 / 04:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Catholics marked the second anniversary of the death of Mother Angelica, foundress of EWTN Global Catholic Network.

“Mother Angelica’s spirit continues to guide all that we do at EWTN. It’s easy to feel her presence. She was a remarkable woman of faith and courage whose goal was to lead people to heaven,” said Michael P. Warsaw, EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

“Every day we hear from people around the world whose lives have been changed by EWTN, long after Mother stopped making programs. It’s clear that the work of EWTN and the mission of our Foundress continue to accomplish her goal,” Warsaw told CNA, which is part of the EWTN family.

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation died at the age of 92 on March 27, 2016, after a 15-year struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke.

Warsaw believes that sharing stories and memories of the network’s foundress has played an important role in maintaining the culture she fostered at EWTN.

“I was blessed to be with Mother nearly every day for the last ten active years that she had at EWTN before her stroke. Sharing those stories provides a great way for people to understand a little something about her. It’s an important way of helping our employees to understand that EWTN has always been a work of God’s Providence,” Warsaw said.

Warsaw also believes that Mother Angelica has left a lasting legacy within the U.S., by reminding Catholics of “the importance of fidelity to the traditional teachings of the Church” and “the importance of keeping Christ at the center of our lives through the Eucharist.”

“She had seen that there was so much confusion in the world and that the Church had answers to that chaos,” Warsaw remarked, adding, “she wanted everyone to know the joy that comes from that intimate relationship with our Lord.”

Warsaw said he hopes that younger and future generations will aspire to Mother Angelica’s frequently recited motto: “Dare to do the ridiculous so that God can accomplish the miraculous!”

In Rome, a memorial Mass was celebrated Tuesday in remembrance of the anniversary of Mother Angelica’s death.

The Mass was celebrated in the Choir Chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, was the principal celebrant. During his homily, Cardinal O’Brien fondly remembered the EWTN foundress.

“A worldly-wise contemplative, a handicapped hobbler, an unsophisticated but highly intelligent charismatic voice still touching the hearts of millions around the world, Mother Mary Angelica would surely be an unexpected choice to enable God’s word to reach to the ends of the earth,” O’Brien said.

“Her every living moment was spent in a scrupulous discernment of God’s will in her life – an active life of contemplation guided by the Eucharist and that well-worn Bible always clutched in her arms,” he continued.

In his homily, Cardinal O’Brien referenced Mother Angelica’s sufferings, both physical and interior, saying that despite challenges, her “steel-willed, tenacious determination resulted in amazing achievements.”

The strokes which left Mother Angelica speechless and physically powerless brought some of the most difficult years of her life, O’Brien said, which led her to “the life of a true contemplative.”

“We can but imagine what graces which those years of silent suffering have won for the spread of the Eternal Word, even as we speak,” O’Brien remarked.

The cardinal spoke to CNA about Mother Angelica’s legacy of putting “herself completely at the will of God and the Church,” which positively “affected the lives of many, many Catholics.” He also noted that “no one can really ascertain the long-range effect that [her legacy] will continue to have on the Church and throughout the world.”

Doug Keck, EWTN President and Chief Operating Officer, told CNA that Mother Angelica’s memory lives on through EWTN viewers.

“Not a day goes by that we do not get calls, emails, and/or letters extolling not only the importance of EWTN in their spiritual lives but specifically in the teachings of Mother Angelica on her classic, timeless live shows,” Keck said.

Keck believes that viewers relate so deeply to Mother Angelica because she “meets them where they are, in all their pain and brokenness, but refuses to leave them there. Instead, she lovingly accompanies, getting them on the right path that leads to her spouse, Jesus Christ.”

The EWTN foundress left a legacy remembered beyond her viewers. She will also be remembered by the communications community for her lasting achievements, Keck said.

“Mother Angelica defined what it meant to be a media revolutionary and cable pioneer. She went forward, with one step in the air and a queasy feeling in her stomach, into a communications jungle,” Keck said.

“She astonished the experts and proved to an industry of mavericks that faithfully following your mission despite all obstacles could lead to great rewards.”

Mother Angelica launched EWTN Global Catholic Network in 1981. Now the largest religious media network in the world, today it reaches more than 275 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.

In addition to 11 television channels in multiple languages, EWTN platforms include radio services through shortwave and satellite radio, SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 AM & FM affiliates. EWTN publishes the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency, produces daily news show EWTN News Nightly, operates a religious goods catalogue, and in 2015 formed EWTN Publishing as a joint venture with Sophia Institute Press.



Washington archdiocese's bus ad case heard by appeals court

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 18:35

Washington D.C., Mar 27, 2018 / 04:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Washington was in court on Monday, arguing that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s ban on any religious-themed advertisements is unconstitutional.

The case was brought to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and argued March 26.

In October 2017, the WMATA rejected a series of ads from the archdiocese which featured a biblical scene and a message about attending Mass and donating to charity. The ads were intended to run during the Christmas season. The archdiocese filed suit in late November, alleging discrimination.

The ads read “Find the Perfect Gift,” and contained a link to a website containing content about Mass times and opportunities for charities. The website also stated that “JESUS is the perfect gift.”

In 2015, WMATA had banned all advertisements that concerned religion, including those both promoting or condemning a particular faith. This ban came after a group attempted to place anti-Muslim advertisements on busses and subway cars.

Despite the supposed ban on religious-themed advertisements, WMATA displayed an advertisement for the Salvation Army after it rejected the Archdiocese of Washington’s advertisements. The Salvation Army is an ecclesial community which has a large charity drive during the Christmas season.

Previously, a district court sided with WMATA and denied the archdiocese's request for an injunction, saying the case would not likely succeedd on religious freedom or free speech grounds.

“The Archdiocese has consistently sought to protect and defend our constitutional right of free speech and expression of our faith in the public square,” said Ed McFadden, secretary of communications for the Archdiocese of Washington.

“We were pleased that our legal team had the opportunity to do just that in the appeals court, and are grateful for the court’s consideration of the matter.”

The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in support of the Archdiocese of Washington in January.

“WMATA’s policy constitutes unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. The policy directly contravenes Supreme Court precedents that preclude the government from disfavoring speech from a religious perspective,” wrote the Department of Justice.

“The result is that messages encouraging religious exercise—a right also protected by the First Amendment—are singled out as unacceptable.”

Amid budget fight, survey says Nebraskans oppose taxpayer-funding for abortion

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 16:00

Lincoln, Neb., Mar 27, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nebraska’s unicameral legislature is deadlocked over a provision in the state’s budget bill that would strip Title X funds from abortion providers.

The provision, supported by Gov. Pete Ricketts, would allow access to federal funding for family planning and health services only to Nebraska providers “objectively independent” - physically and financially separated - from clinics providing abortions.  

The state’s legislators have twice failed to pass the proposed $8.8 billion budget after debating the provision, which was introduced following reports from the state’s auditor that some Title X funds have wrongly gone to abortion-related expenses in health clinics.

Last week, Ricketts told CNA that “What we have seen in Nebraska is that these Title X dollars, according to a couple of our audits, have been used to fund abortions.”  

Results from a poll conducted over the weekend suggest that 64 percent of surveyed Nebraskans oppose taxpayer funding for abortion. Seventeen percent of those surveyed report being undecided on the matter, and 19 percent say they support taxpayer funding for abortion. As the legislature remains deadlocked on the issue, 66 percent of those surveyed say that state legislators have a duty to vote on the budget, rather than allow it to be filibustered.
The poll was conducted by Public Survey Research, an Iowa-based polling firm.

“Nebraska is a pro-life state, and that our budget ought to reflect that,” Ricketts told CNA March 22. “I believe that abortion is inherently wrong, so personally I do not want to see those dollars to go to that, but in general even those who are pro-choice understand that it’s bad policy to have federal tax dollars fund something that is so controversial and really ought not be funded by fed tax dollars.”

'The shenanigans' at Mother Angelica's first vows

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 14:03

Irondale, Ala., Mar 27, 2018 / 12:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- If you picture a nun's first profession of vows, you probably picture a serene, peaceful affair with the sisters singing harmoniously and everything running joyfully and smoothly.

However, the day of Mother Angelica's first vows was anything but.

Outside, a blizzard spit snow and ice, snarling roads and delaying the guests and the presiding bishop, James McFadden.

Inside, different storms were brewing.

As then-Sister Angelica knelt behind the grille, trying to pray before taking her vows, the organist sister and the choir director, Sr. Mary of the Cross (with whom Sr. Angelica had sparred in the past), began arguing about musical technique, within earshot of the already-arrived guests.

As the incident is recalled in her biography:

Voices slowly escalated. Suddenly the two nuns were at each other: the organist refusing to play, Mary of the Cross threatening to throw her into the snow if she didn’t.

“And I’m sitting there trying to re-collect myself for my vows,” Mother Angelica recalled. “The people must have thought we were nuts.”

Then came the bug, scampering across the wooden floor in front of the sisters.

Mary of the Cross rose up, lifted the kneeler with both hands, and pounded it on the ground, attempting to annihilate the insect. Like a madwoman with a jackhammer, she repeatedly wielded the prie-dieu (kneeler), hurling it and herself at the crawler. The organist, thinking the display an underhanded critique of her playing, pounded the keys all the harder. Sister Angelica could not believe what she termed “the shenanigans.” Then the bishop walked in.

Wet and cold from walking several blocks where he had to leave his stalled car, Bishop McFadden requested a fresh pair of socks, which Sr. Mary of the Cross sent Sister Angelica to get.

When it came time to place the profession ring on Sr. Angelica’s fingers, the bishop couldn’t fit it past her knuckle – her hand was swollen from a shower handle in the convent that had crumbled and cut her hand several days prior.

“With everything going on there, I’m thinking, Oh Jesus doesn’t love me. You know?...I mean, it was a real spiritual experience!” Mother Angelica said. “But that’s the way God works with me. As I look back, before anything big that was coming, something happened to me.”

Despite “the shenanigans” of the day, Sr. Angelica took her vows seriously, writing in a letter to her mother that “the espoused” and “royal couple” (herself and Jesus) “wished to express their gratitude to their friend and member of their personal court...The spouse has asked the Bridegroom to fill you with his peace and consolation.”

She signed the letter: “Jesus and Angelica.”

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of EWTN, died on March 27, 2016 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.

This article originally ran on March 28, 2016.

We asked and you answered: How Mother Angelica touched your lives

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 05:07

Irondale, Ala., Mar 27, 2018 / 03:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, founder of EWTN, passed away in 2016, on Easter Sunday, after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.

Mother Angelica founded EWTN out of a garage in Alabama in 1981, and it has since become the largest religious media network in the world. Her work touched the lives of many people across the world. We asked our readers to share their stories of how Mother Angelica influenced them, and we were overwhelmed by the flood of responses. Here are just a few of the stories from our readers, edited for clarity:

“I remember about seven years ago, I was suicidally depressed. I did not want to live, I could not even think of a reason to go on. Just utter blackness all around. I came across one of Mother Angelica's books. She helped bring me out of the darkness with her firm faith, wisdom and love. It made all the difference and with the Virgin Mary's help, I have a whole new life in Christ today. A solid joyful life! Thank you Mother Angelica!”

“I was going through a difficult time physically (I became disabled with a chronic med problem), emotionally, and spiritually - I had lost my way and was floundering. Mostly in bed for many months, I began channel surfing and found EWTN. Mother Angelica began leading me back to the Church. EWTN is one of the main reasons I returned to the Church, and my faith has never been stronger. I went to Confession in 2009 for the first time in decades. I sponsored my son-in-law when he converted and my daughter finally made her confirmation - they were married in the Church after being married civilly for 10 years. My husband also returned after decades and my grandson made his Communion at the age of 10. I am so grateful to Mother and EWTN, and she has provided much inspiration via her books also. RIP Mother.”

“My mom first saw Mother Angelica on TV in 1989 as she was flipping through the channels to find her soap operas. My mother would tell you that she felt compelled to watch because she hadn't seen a nun in a habit in so long, and it rekindled in her the spark that helped our entire family become more faithfully practicing Catholics. I can honestly say that I don't know who or where I would be today if it wasn't for Mother Angelica, EWTN, and the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration who prayed for me at my mother’s behest through many challenging years.”

“I met her at EWTN, attending her show. After the show, my wife told her it was my birthday. She held my hands with such tenderness and said: ‘Oh it's your birthday - Happy Birthday.’ She looked at me as if I was the only person in the room. I've never forgotten that experience.”

“The Praying the Rosary devotion, it was either a Tuesday or a Friday and I turned on EWTN to watch the Sorrowful mysteries. That was a day that changed my life and that's the day where I began a greater devotion to Our Lady.”

“In the Spring of 2014, I was in a confused state of my life. My husband left our matrimonial home and without my knowing, he began another relationship in our country home, Nigeria. I was plunged into despair. But before my discovering this, I had the opportunity of hearing The Word, The Eternal Word from Mother and all of EWTN. Mother did not just teach me to forgive, trust and love until it hurts, she made me grow deeply in my faith every day. Today, though my husband is still in the wilderness, I have not stopped believing, and this is because of my love and dedication to our Catholic devotion preserved by Mother Angelica through this cable television network. I love Mother and everyone else God is using through this channel. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, Amen.”

“When I was born again, I came back to the Church and got sober. I would often watch her on EWTN when I was anxious or depressed. I remember reciting the rosary along with her one night and gaining a great deal of strength and comfort. I also read a book of hers during that time. God rest her soul.”

“My daughter wrote a letter to her when I had cancer, and drew a few yellow roses to her, and she answered back. It was a lovely surprise!”

“In 2008, my twin daughters at 5 years old were taken by the state due to false allegations…. I was misrepresented. I couldn't even function for a year. Everything was a blur as I had no control over my life or my children's anymore. My mother had always prayed the rosary with Mother Angelica. I started praying again, two sometimes three times a day. Mother Angelica became my stronghold. I had no idea how important a role Christ and His Mother would play in my life. She brought me there. She helped me put my armour back on...My story is not over yet, but thank you Mother Angelica for your spirit, your determination, your insight. For bringing me back to the church. To Christ and His Mother. It's been eight years and I am on the cusp to one child coming home permanently (she has cerebral palsy) and so far joint custody with the other. I just sent an email to Mother Angelica two weeks ago telling her how much my disabled daughter loves her. I hope she got it. She has been absolutely infatuated with her for a year now. She laughs with her and just listens with a big smile. We watch her together. God Bless you Mother Angelica. We love you so much. You are so loved and missed. You are Home.”

“Ten years ago, I moved to Texas. It was a very hard move. As I was settling down, I turned on our T.V. and to my surprise I saw a Catholic channel! It was EWTN, and seeing this nun talking about Jesus' love just took my heart and gave me so much understanding, and I fell in love with her cute personally. Mother Angelica pray for us.”

“She was the coolest nun. When I was little, we would watch her on EWTN and I was so amazed that there was a nun with her own television show, an incredible sense of humor, and a true understanding of the Faith. An inspiration.”


This article was originally published March 31, 2016.

Ambassador Brownback: World faces a 'critical moment' for religious minorities

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 18:11

Washington D.C., Mar 26, 2018 / 04:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- “It is more dangerous now than any time in history to be a person of faith,” said Ambassador Sam Brownback at an event marking the second anniversary of U.S. recognition that the Islamic State committed genocide against religious minorities, including Christians, in Syria and Iraq.

Brownback, who was sworn-in as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom last month, said that religious freedom should be advanced in U.S. national security policy, assistance programs, and economic strategies.

“I would like to see religious freedom be for this administration what climate change was for the last,” said Brownback at the March 23 event hosted by the Heritage Foundation.

ISIS’ Genocide of Christians: The Past, Present and Future of Christians in the Middle East” brought together human rights experts, academics, and religious freedom advocates to examine how best to address the threats posed to religious minorities by extremist groups such as the Islamic State.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously “that the atrocities perpetrated by ISIL against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria include war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide” in March 2016. Shortly after, Secretary of State John Kerry named Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims as victims of genocide in the region.

While the panel discussions focused on Christians in the Middle East, Brownback also spoke of threats to religious liberty throughout the world. He highlighted the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma, Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims in China, and Catholic leaders in Venezuela, who came under fire from President Nicolas Maduro for speaking out about the country’s current crisis.

Brownback called for alliances between the political left and right in working towards greater religious freedom abroad urging, “We are at a critical moment for the future of religious minorities globally.”

He also asked for prayers for the persecuted and for those involved in religious freedom causes.

"By God's grace, life always triumphs over death, freedom overcomes oppression, and faith extinguishes fear. This is the source of our hope and our confidence in the future,” said Brownback.

Humanae Vitae is needed now more than ever, say conference attendees

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 17:45

Atchison, Kansas, Mar 26, 2018 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- Fifty years later, the teachings of Humanae Vitae are more relevant and necessary for the life of the Church than ever, participants at a recent symposium on the encyclical said.

The encyclical by Pope Paul VI affirms, among other things, the Church’s teaching on natural family planning methods and rejects contraception as a morally valid method for the planning and spacing of children.

The encyclical was the topic of the seventh annual Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelization at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas last weekend, a gathering of dozens of scholars, philosophers, theologians, students and lay people from throughout the United States.

The keynote speakers included Dr. Janet Smith from Sacred Heart Major Seminary; Dr. Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco; and Dr. Jennifer Roback-Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute.

While the message and teachings of Humanae Vitae on marriage and family are 50 years old, they remain a key part of the New Evangelization in today’s culture, participants said.

“I think we all know that it touches us at our core and we all know that it’s the answer to what has so gone wrong in our culture,” Teresa Kenney, a woman’s health nurse practitioner with the Pope Paul VI Institute and symposium speaker, told CNA.

But it’s not enough to just talk about Humanae Vitae, Kenney said, it needs to be lived out in the Christian community.

She said that she experiences the teachings of Humanae Vitae in the interactions that she has with each woman she encounters. “I feel so blessed and so grateful to be doing what I’m doing.”

The Pope Paul VI Institute is an international research, education, medical, and service center based in Omaha, Nebraska that provides women with fertility care via the Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System and NaProTechnology reproductive care, which “embodies the best principles of medicine and offers superior treatments to women and challenges mainstream medicine, which relies on contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and abortion.”

In her work there, Kenney said she has found that the biggest hurdle preventing people from accepting Church teaching and natural family planning methods is the false idea of full autonomy and freedom offered by contraception.

“We’re born and bred in this culture that you have personal freedom, and that really you should be able (to do whatever) as long as you’re not hurting anybody else,” Kenney said. But the best way Kenney has found to reach women “is just letting them know that it’s important to know about their body,” and by talking about the negative side effects of contraception that many women have personally experienced.

“We have to (help people) perceive the connection between love and life as an ultimate good, and we have to have people move toward it,” she added. “And as they move closer to the foundation of Humanae Vitae, we don’t need to do anything else because it changes the culture itself.”

Joel Feldpausch works as a missionary with The Culture Project International, a mission organization that speaks to high school and middle school students about virtue, dignity and sexual integrity.

As a missionary working with young people, Feldpausch said he decided to come to the symposium because understanding and communicating the truth of Humanae Vitae is essential in his mission to youth.

“The most fascinating thing about my job in dealing with middle schoolers and high schoolers is that Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s vision, the warnings of Our Lady of Fatima, the writings of John Paul II - they become more relevant,” he said.

Feldpausch said his approach to speaking to young people is to flip on its head the cultural narrative that suggests total autonomy and the freedom to do whatever one chooses are the keys to happiness.

“You’re finding now in our world, people are accomplishing those things that they think will make them happy, and they’re getting to that point and they’re realizing that they’re not happy,” he said.

“So it’s beautiful and enlightening to introduce them to [Humanae Vitae] and say hey, I understand where you're coming from...but what if this Church and this faith and this beauty and love and truth...what if that is where your freedom lies? What if that is your fulfillment lies? Just think about that, just think for a minute.”

Reghan Methe, a student at Benedictine College, said she came to the symposium to learn how she could practically apply the teachings of Humanae Vitae in the world.

“I am interested in how to implement all these things that we’re learning here, because we have all of these great classes but that can keep it in a very abstract or intellectual level,” she told CNA. “So a lot of people here, with the primary focus being evangelization, it helps to make what you’re learning more concrete.”

Michele Chambers, who teaches Natural Family Planning in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, told CNA that she found that the symposium was a time to learn from and reconnect with like-minded people before going back to the mission field.

“To have these myriads of people here all on the same team - which when you’re in your individual dioceses and parishes, you don’t see that as much - it's nice to come and get filled so you can go back and try and do your job a bit better,” Chambers said.

She said the teachings of the encyclical continue to be relevant “because even 50 years later, we’re still struggling, and we struggled for years before,” she said. “Trying to live Humanae Vitae is a very difficult thing no matter what year you’re born in, and we have to give people that sign of hope that it can be done.”