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WASHINGTON—After the U.S. Senate introduced a "discussion draft" of its health care bill, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, highlighted certain positive elements in the bill, but reiterated the need for Senators to remove unacceptable flaws in the legislation that harm those most in need.
The full statement follows:
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is examining very closely the new Senate "discussion draft" introduced today and will provide more detailed comments soon.
It must be made clear now, however, that this proposal retains many of the fundamental defects of the House of Representatives-passed health care legislation, and even further compounds them. It is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written.
An acceptable health care system provides access to all, regardless of their means, and at all stages of life. Such a health care system must protect conscience rights, as well as extend to immigrant families.
The Bishops value language in the legislation recognizing that abortion is not health care by attempting to prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortion or plans that cover it. While questions remain about the provisions and whether they will remain in the final bill, if retained and effective this would correct a flaw in the Affordable Care Act by fully applying the longstanding and widely-supported Hyde amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill.
However, the discussion draft introduced today retains a "per-capita cap" on Medicaid funding, and then connects yearly increases to formulas that would provide even less to those in need than the House bill. These changes will wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported.
Efforts by the Senate to provide stronger support for those living at and above the poverty line are a positive step forward. However, as is, the discussion draft stands to cause disturbing damage to the human beings served by the social safety net.
The USCCB has also stressed the need to improve real access for immigrants in health care policy, and this bill does not move the nation toward this goal. It fails, as well, to put in place conscience protections for all those involved in the health care system, protections which are needed more than ever in our country's health policy. The Senate should now act to make changes to the draft that will protect those persons on the peripheries of our health care system. We look forward to the process to improve this discussion draft that surely must take place in the days ahead.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, American Health Care Act (AHCA), respect for life, human dignity, health care, affordability, abortion, poverty, immigration, conscience.
WASHINGTON—The President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as well as the Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, John F. Kelly, urging him to defer deportation of those persons to Iraq, particularly Christians and Chaldean Catholics, who pose no threat to U.S. public safety.
The letter has been sent to specifically address the pending deportation of dozens of Christian and Chaldean Catholics in Michigan and Tennessee.
While the bishops recognize that some of the individuals may have orders of deportation because they have committed criminal offenses in the past, they are gravely concerned that they would then be sent back to a country where religious persecution and persecution against ethnic minorities remains an ongoing threat. The letter states that "the fact that they have a significant risk in experiencing persecution, and even possible bodily harm because of their faith is, from our moral perspective, an important factor to be weighted in the calculation to deport."
The full letter to Secretary Kelly can be found here: https://justiceforimmigrants.org/uncategorized/1287/
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Secretary John F. Kelly, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez , Bishop Oscar Cantú, Committee on Migration, Committee on International Peace and Justice, Christians, Chaldean Catholics, deportation, legal refuge, refugees, religious persecution, ethnic minorities.
WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, Bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs have issued a joint statement in response to Sunday's attack on worshipers outside a mosque in London.
The attack occurred after a van plowed into a crowd existing a mosque after Ramadan prayers near Finsbury Park located in north London.
The full joint statement follows:
"We would like to express our deepest condolences to the people of London who once again woke to the news of a terrorist attack. Our prayers extend especially to the community of Muslims from Finsbury Park Mosque in North London whom it appears were the intended victims of the attacker.
Once again, in this now sad reality of regular acts of terror that are meant to destroy life and to crush hope, we remember that light has overcome darkness once and for all. Let us be united in hope and with one voice reject utterly all forms of terror and violence that seek to dissuade us from the pursuit of a culture of life and solidarity.
The Bishops of the United States unequivocally reject such acts of violence and plead with all people to cease from committing or plotting to commit further acts.
In this dark hour for the people of London, especially the Muslim community, please know that we stand in solidarity with you, mourning for the loss of life and praying for the victims, their families, and the entire nation."
Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, mosque attack, Muslim community, Finsbury Park, London, terror attack, culture of life, solidarity, violent extremism, peace.
WASHINGTON—President Donald J. Trump recently announced modifications to existing U.S. policy towards Cuba that will impact travel by U.S. citizens to the island, as well as U.S. commercial relations with Cuban government-controlled entities.
In the following statement, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, expressed regret at the scaling-back of U.S. engagement with Cuba, while also appreciating the President´s concern for the human rights situation on the island.
Full statement follows:
"On the eve of my pastoral visit to Cuba at the invitation of the Cuban bishops, I was saddened to learn that President Trump scaled-back our country's bilateral engagement with the island nation. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in solidarity with the bishops of Cuba and the Holy See, has long held that human rights and religious freedom will be strengthened through more engagement between the Cuban and American people, not less. For decades, we have called for the U.S. travel ban and embargo against Cuba to be lifted.
In my capacity as international chairman, I urge that as the implementing regulations are drafted the President consider the ramifications for many ordinary Cubans who have taken advantage of new opportunities to support their families. The President is correct; serious human rights concerns persist. The Cuban government must be urged to respect religious freedoms and to extend greater social, political and economic rights to all Cubans. The fruits of investment in Cuba should benefit individuals and families, and not the security forces.
Pope Francis helped our nations to come together in dialogue. It is important to continue to promote dialogue and encounter between our neighboring nations and peoples."
For more information about the Committee on International Justice and Peace regarding Cuba, please visit the following page on the USCCB website: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/latin-america-caribbean/cuba/
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, President Donald Trump, Bishop Oscar Cantú, Cuba policy, bilateral engagement, Pope Francis, Holy See, religious freedom, human rights, economic rights, investment, security, dialogue, encounter.
WASHINGTON—World Refugee Day 2017 will take place June 20th with celebrations noting the contributions of refugees occurring locally, nationally and globally. The international day provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the global refugee situation and the success of resettled refugees. The world is experiencing the largest forced migration crisis since World War II with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes, including 21 million refugees worldwide.
"World Refugee Day is a day where we highlight the achievements of refugees. Refugees are like all people, unique children of God," said Bill Canny, Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Migration and Refugee Services. "We hope to see this year's celebration of World Refugee Day create greater awareness and appreciation on both the community and national level."
As part of the 2017 World Refugee Day celebration, the USCCB will be hosting a World Refugee Day Kick – Off event at the National Press Club on Monday, June 19th, featuring Bishop Mario Dorsonville of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC and Admiral Garry Hall Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for International Organizations and Alliances, National Security Council. Additionally there will be two panels, one which focuses on the domestic aspects of refugee resettlement and the other which highlights the international protection needs of refugees.
This year will be the 17th year that the United Nations has officially recognized June 20th as World Refugee Day. Many nations around the globe celebrated World Refugee Day prior to 2001, with one of the most widespread events being Africa Refugee Day, which had been celebrated on June 20.
Educational materials and other resources for World Refugee Day are available for download at https://justiceforimmigrants.org/take-action/world-refugee-day/. For more information on events in your area or to submit an event, email USCCB/MRS Communications Manager Mark Priceman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe Vazquez, Committee on Migration, refugees, migrants, immigrants, human trafficking, National Migration Week
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INDIANAPOLIS—Recognizing the continued urgency for comprehensive immigration reform, a humane refugee policy and a safe border, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has extended the bishops Working Group on Immigration.
Cardinal DiNardo made the announcement on the second day of the 2017 Spring General Assembly in Indianapolis.
The working group is chaired by Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles. Other members of the working group include the chairmen of the following USCCB committees: Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Social Development; Auxiliary Bishop Nelson J. Pérez of Rockville Centre, New York, chairman of the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs; Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, chairman of the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants; and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace.
Activities carried out by member-chairmen of the working group included statements responding to executive orders on interior enforcement, sanctuary cities, and refugee resettlement; and on legislation including the BRIDGE Act, which would provide temporary relief from deportation to youth previously protected through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The group also facilitates diocesan resources such as policy reports, prayers, educational materials, action alerts and pastoral accompaniment, and has held frequent communications among the members to discuss concerns and priorities. They also share episcopal guidance with outside partners such as Catholic Relief Services; Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.; Center for Migration Studies; and Catholic Charities USA.
Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Vásquez presented an oral report to the full body of bishops on the activities of the working group on June 14.
Keywords: USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, June meeting, Spring General Assembly, Indianapolis, Committee on Migration, U.S. Bishops' Working Group on Migration, migration, migrants, refugees, Strangers No Longer, asylum, protection, human dignity, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo
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Norma Montenegro Flynn
INDIANAPOLIS—"Persecution has a face," said Bishop Oscar Cantú, of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, as he presented an oral report to the full body of bishops on the situation of religious discrimination and persecution in Asia and the Middle East.
The oral report is based on his participation last year at the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conference Plenary Assembly in Sri Lanka, where he represented the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). During the year, Bishop Cantu also took part in other solidarity visits to India, Iraq and the Holy Land, where he met with bishops, refugees and persecuted people.
"Tragically, religious persecution and harassment is not limited to one or two regions in our world," said Bishop Cantú. Citing statistics from the Pew Research Center, Cantu noted that "Christians are harassed in the largest number of countries, 128, followed closely by Muslims in 125 countries. This is partly due to the fact that Christians and Muslims are the largest religious groups in the world."
Harassment consists of both social hostilities and government restrictions. It can include physical assaults, arrests and detentions, desecration of holy sites, and discrimination in housing, employment and educational opportunities. In Asia, Bishop Cantú learned about concerns in countries like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Malaysia.
"At times, it rises to persecution and genocide," Bishop Cantú said. Regarding the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq, he called it "a crisis within a crisis" and argued that "to focus attention on the plight of Christians is not to ignore the suffering of others." A focus on Christians and other minorities strengthens "the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all" and is "inclusive" of a concern for "both minorities and majorities, both Christians and Muslims."
Bishop Cantú highlighted the efforts of the local Church in Iraq to reach out to all in need in partnership with Caritas Iraq and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). He also pointed to the importance for the U.S. Church in following the lead of the local Churches enduring persecution in expressing solidarity, particularly in Syria and Iraq.
Even in the midst of persecution there are moments of joy. He contrasted the image of "a tent camp for Christians" covering "the Church grounds across the street from our hotel" in Erbil with attending "the ordination of three deacons in Erbil" where "the Cathedral erupted [in joy] when a displaced man from Mosul was ordained."
In his report, Bishop Cantú also highlighted the following recommendations for the U.S. government that include:
He also invited the Church and Catholics in the United States, who wish to help, to:
Bishop Cantú also shared with the bishops the research study In Response to Persecution, conducted by the University of Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture, the Religious Freedom Institute, and Georgetown University's Religious Freedom Research Project. The study is available at: http://ucs.nd.edu/assets/233538/ucs_report_2017_web.pdf.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Oscar Cantú, Committee on International Justice and Peace, Christians, religious persecution, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Malaysia, Syria, Iraq, Caritas Iraq, Catholic Relief Services, CRS, CNEWA, Aid to the Church in Need, Knights of Columbus, genocide, Muslims, resettlement, U.S. government
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Norma Montenegro Flynn
INDIANAPOLIS—The U.S. bishops voted on and approved a number of items including, establishing a permanent Committee for Religious Liberty and the revised Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities, during their Spring General Assembly in Indianapolis, June 14.
The bishops voted to approve establishing a permanent Committee for Religious Liberty. The proposal received a vote of 132 votes in favor, 53 votes against and 5 abstaining. The USCCB's Committee for Religious Liberty seeks to strengthen and sustain religious freedom by assisting the U.S. bishops, individually and collectively, to teach about religious freedom to the faithful and the broader public, and to promote and defend religious freedom in law and policy.
The revised Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities were approved by a 180-1-0 vote. The document is a revision of an earlier version, last updated in 1995. These new Guidelines take into account medical and technological innovations of recent years, and emphasize the importance of the inclusion of all members of parishes. While not legislative in nature, they will be a helpful resource for dioceses and parishes. This vote required support of the majority of the Latin Church members of the USCCB.
The bishops also voted 178-3-0 in favor of a new translation of the Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism. This brief ritual is used each year at the Chrism Mass, which is celebrated during Holy Week in most dioceses. This vote also requires a two-thirds vote of the Latin Church members of the USCCB with subsequent confirmation by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
The Bendicional: Sexta Parte, a collection of blessings in Spanish for use in the United States, which will complement English texts already included in the Book of Blessings. The proposal received 171 votes in favor, 2 votes against and 2 abstaining, falling short of the required two-thirds vote of the Latin Church members of the USCCB. Therefore, the voting will be completed by mail ballot with the Latin Rite bishops who are not present. After passing, it also requires subsequent recognitio by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
The U.S. bishops' Spring General Assembly is livestreamed and available at: www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/index.cfm.
USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, June meeting, Spring
General Assembly, Indianapolis, Ad-Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty,
Sacraments, persons with disabilities, Oil, Chrism, Bendicional
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Norma Montenegro Flynn
INDIANAPOLIS—The chairmen of the U.S. Bishops' Working Group on Immigration, and the Committee on Migration, presented an oral report to the full body of bishops on the work done to advance collaboration in developing spiritual, pastoral and policy advocacy support for refugees and immigrants. The presentation took place at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Spring General Assembly in Indianapolis, June 14.
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, respectively, spoke about the origins, activities and continued collaboration of the working group, which was established following the November 2016 General Assembly.
"There was a desire to express solidarity with and pastoral concern for those at risk, but also a desire to avoid encouraging exaggerated fears," Archbishop Gomez said.
Other group members include: Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Social Development; Auxiliary Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Rockville Centre, New York, chairman of the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs; Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, chairman of the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants; and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace.
Activities carried out by member-chairmen of the working group included statements responding to executive orders on interior enforcement, sanctuary cities, and refugee resettlement; and on pieces of legislation including the BRIDGE Act, which would provide temporary relief from deportation to youth previously protected through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The group has also facilitated diocesan resources such as policy reports, prayers, educational materials, action alerts and pastoral accompaniment, and has held frequent communications among the members to discuss concerns and priorities. They have also shared episcopal guidance with outside partners such as Catholic Relief Services; Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.; Center for Migration Studies; and Catholic Charities USA.
Although this oral report concludes the formal work of the Working Group on Immigration, the coalition of USCCB committees will continue collaborating as needed under the leadership of the Committee on Migration.
"In short, it is to convey a comprehensive vision for immigration reform, to paint a fuller picture of what justice means, and what mercy means, with respect to migrants and refugees in our country today," said Bishop Vásquez. "Our purpose will be to move beyond simple reaction to the various negative proposals we have seen lately—and expect to see for some time to come, albeit at a slower pace—and to proactively raise and advance the issues that we would prioritize."
Bishop Vasquez also highlighted the importance to seek initiatives based on the five principles of the 2003 pastoral letter Strangers No Longer, which states:
More information on the work of the USCCB's Committee on Migration, recent statements and other resources are available at: www.justiceforimmigrants.org.
The U.S. bishops' Spring General Assembly is livestreamed and available at: www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/index.cfm.
Keywords: USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, June meeting, Spring General Assembly, Indianapolis, Committee on Migration, U.S. Bishops' Working Group on Migration, migration, migrants, refugees, Strangers No Longer, asylum, protection, human dignity
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Norma Montenegro Flynn
INDIANAPOLIS — Four new members have been appointed to serve on the National Review Board (NRB) by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The NRB advises the bishops' committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, and the Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection at the USCCB. The NRB was established by the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People, which the bishops adopted in 2002.
As Cardinal DiNardo said in a letter sent to all newly appointed members, "The National Review Board plays a vital role as a consultative body assisting me and the bishops in ensuring the complete implementation and accountability of the Charter… The whole Church, especially the laity, at both the diocesan and national levels, needs to be engaged in maintaining safe environments in the Church for children and young people."
The four new NRB members include those with expertise in communications, psychology and victim outreach, and the medical field and they are as follows:
Ms. Amanda Callanan, Director of Communications for the Claremont Institute, has occupied several positions in the communications field—including digital and broadcast development for The Heritage Foundation, public relations for Fortune 500 clients at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, corporate branding and strategy with a boutique agency in Baltimore, and direct-response marketing for the National Association of Corporate Directors' educational events and programs. She attended Loyola University in Maryland, is married and resides within the Archdiocese of Washington.
Ms. Suzanne Healy was the Victims Assistance Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from 2007 through 2016. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with experience in private practice and as a high school counselor. Healy also has 18 years of business management and strategic planning experience with AT&T Pacific Bell. Healy has a BS in Psychology and an MS in Counseling, M.F.C.C. option, with a Pupil Personnel Services Credential with Advanced Specializations in School Counseling and Child Welfare and Attendance Services, both from California State University at Los Angeles. Healy was an Executive Board Member of the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health Faith Based Advocacy Council, and a Committee Member for Los Angeles City Attorney Office Cyber Crime Prevention Symposium in Los Angeles from 2008 – 2016. In 2016, Healy received the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Department of Health Affairs Excellence Award. She is married with two adult children and currently volunteers as a counselor.
Dr. Christopher McManus is the owner and President of CP & RP McManus, MD, Ltd where McManus practices Internal Medicine in the Diocese of Arlington, VA. He is active in the Northern Virginia Guild of the Catholic Medical Association and is a charter member and current leader for Privia Medical Group. McManus was a professor for Georgetown University Medical School from 1998-2006 and has served as a Physician Advisor for Quality Resource Management. McManus served his residency training at the University of Vermont and received his degree from the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He currently serves on the Arlington County Executive Board and has previously served as President of the Arlington Medical Society. Other volunteer activities for McManus include serving at the Arlington Free Clinic, volunteering in the Medical Reserve Corps for the Arlington County Health Department, and local service to his home parish. He has been married for over thirty years, has four adult children, and enjoys spending time outdoors with his family.
Ms. Eileen Puglisi held the position of Director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Diocese of Rockville Centre where from 2003-2014. Her prior work history involves director level work at various Psychiatric Centers in New York, including Deputy Director of the Queens Children's Psychiatric Center. Puglisi received a Professional Degree in School Psychology from St. John's University in New York and an M.S. in Guidance and Counseling from Hunter College in New York. She has direct experience as a psychologist and is an avid golfer.
Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D., president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, will continue to chair the NRB until his term expires in 2020.
Details regarding the National Review Board, its functions and other members can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/about/child-and-youth-protection/the-national-review-board.cfm
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, National Review Board (NRB), Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, sexual abuse, child and youth protection, Charter for Protection of Children and Young People.
INDIANAPOLIS—On June 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit largely affirmed a nationwide preliminary injunction against implementation of sections of the Administration's executive order that attempted to suspend and limit the U.S. refugee resettlement program and also attempted to ban the entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries.
A statement from Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chair of the Committee on Migration regarding the Ninth Circuit ruling follows:
"I am heartened by the decision of the 9th Circuit to maintain the temporary halt implementing certain provisions of the March 6th Executive Order. Upholding the injunction will allow us to continue welcoming and serving refugees fleeing persecution. Together with my brother bishops, we believe it is possible to simultaneously provide for the security of our country and have a humane refugee policy that upholds our national heritage and moral responsibility. We remain dedicated to accompanying and supporting our brothers and sisters who for various reasons have been forced to leave their homeland. We follow the example of Pope Francis and pledge to them "a duty of justice, civility and solidarity."
Keywords: USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, executive order, refugees, resettlement, injunction, court, Muslim, countries
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Norma Montenegro Flynn
WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Bishop Charles Thompson, of Evansville, Indiana, as Archbishop of Indianapolis.
The appointment was publicized in Washington, June 13, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Archbishop-designate Thompson, was born April 11, 1961, in Louisville. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in accounting from Bellarmine College, a master of divinity degree from St. Meinrad School of Theology, and a licentiate in Canon Law from St. Paul University in Ottawa. He was ordained a priest for the Louisville Archdiocese in 1987 and was ordained and installed as Bishop of Evansville on June 29, 2011.
As a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he is currently a member of the Administrative Committee, the Committee on Priorities and Plans, and the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has been a vacant see since November 7, 2016. The Archdiocese comprises 13,758 square miles and it has total population of 2,621,455 people of which 223,815 or nine percent, are Catholic.
Keywords: bishop appointment, Pope Francis, Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Bishop Charles Thompson, Archbishop of Indianapolis, Diocese of Evansville
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Norma Montenegro Flynn
WASHINGTON—Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, has urged the Senate to pass the "Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act" (H.R. 390). The proposed legislation calls for much needed assistance for survivors of genocide, especially in Iraq and Syria, and would allow faith-based organizations (such as Catholic Relief Services) that are already providing humanitarian assistance to these populations, to access U.S. government funding in their work, increasing aid to those desperately in need.
In a letter to U.S. Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Benjamin Cardin, Ranking Member, Bishop Cantú wrote, "I commend you for your efforts to support those suffering persecution in Iraq and Syria and trust that swift Senate consideration and passage of H.R. 390 will contribute to a longer-term solution to the crisis in the region."
A link to Bishop Cantú's full letter can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/letter-to-senate-on-iraq-syria-genocide-emergency-relief-act-2017-06-09.cfm
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Bishop Oscar Cantú, Committee on International Justice and Peace, Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act (H.R. 390), Genocide Resolution (H.Con.Res. 75), Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Syria, Iraq, Christians, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, Middle East, genocide, persecution, Catholic Relief Services, humanitarian assistance, U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, Catholic Church.
Washington—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People has released their 2016 Annual Report – Findings and Recommendations on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
The 2016 report for audit year July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016, states that 1,232 adults that came forward with 1,318 allegations. This increase is focused within six dioceses: two dioceses with bankruptcy proceedings and four where the state extended the statute of limitations. These six dioceses received an additional 351 allegations compared to the 2015 audit year. Also, it notes that 1,510 victim/survivors received ongoing support.
Also noted in the report is the ongoing work of the Church in continuing to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults. In 2016, over 2.4 million background checks were conducted on our clerics, employees, and volunteers. Over 2.3 million adults and 4.2 million children have also been trained on how to identify the warning signs of abuse and how to report those signs.
All dioceses and eparchies that received an allegation of sexual abuse during the 2016 audit year reported them to the appropriate civil authorities.
Twenty-five new allegations came from minors. As of June 30, 2016, two were substantiated, eight were still under investigation, and eleven were unsubstantiated or unable to be proven. Of the remaining four, two were referred to a religious order, one was referred to another diocese, and one investigation was postponed due to an order of confidentiality from the bankruptcy court.
Regarding Charter Compliance, the reported noted the following:
· Two eparchies did not participate in the audit this year, but have expressed their intention to participate in next year's audit.
· 191 dioceses and eparchies were found compliant with the Charter.
· All dioceses/eparchies participating in the 129 data collection audits were found compliant with the process.
· Of the sixty-five dioceses/eparchies participating in the on-site audits, all were found compliant except for two dioceses and one eparchy.
· One diocese was found non-compliant with respect to Article 2 and one diocese with respect to Article 3. One eparchy was found non-compliant with respect to Articles 2 and 12.
The Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People continues to emphasize that the audit and maintaining zero-tolerance policies are two important tools in the Church's broader program of creating a culture of protection and healing that exceeds the requirements of the Charter.
This is the fourteenth such report since 2002 when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People making a promise to protect and a pledge to heal.
The full Annual Report can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/upload/2016-Annual-Report.pdf
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, 2016 Annual Report – Findings and Recommendations, children, young people, vulnerable adults, dioceses/eparchies, sexual abuse, religious orders, Charter compliance, Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, safety, protection, healing.
WASHINGTON—Sister Tracey Horan has been named as the winner of the 2017 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award, sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). CCHD is the anti-poverty program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Sister Horan will be honored at a reception Wednesday, June 14, during the bishops' annual Spring General Assembly in Indianapolis.
Sr. Horan is a mission novice with the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She currently serves as a community organizer for the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network (ICAN) and the Justice for Immigrants Campaign of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. In these roles, she has worked to promote the common good alongside immigrants, returning citizens and people living in poverty. A graduate of the University of Dayton, Sr. Horan is a former intern at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence, and has taught middle school children at St. Pius X Catholic School in El Paso, Texas while living with Sisters of Charity at Casa de Caridad in New Mexico.
"We are pleased to honor Sr. Tracey Horan's commitment to solidarity with the people living in poverty and those who are most vulnerable. Her work and her witness embody the mission of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development – to end the cycle of poverty by developing the capacity of the most vulnerable to act on their behalf," said Bishop David P. Talley, chairman of the bishops' CCHD subcommittee.
Each year, the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award honors a Catholic between the age of 18 and 40 who demonstrates leadership in fighting poverty and injustice in the United States through community-based solutions. It is named for the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who served as archbishop of Chicago from 1982 till his death in 1996. He served as the first general secretary of the U.S. bishops from 1968-1972 and as third president of the U.S. bishops from 1974-1977. More information about the award is available online: www.usccb.org/about/catholic-campaign-for-human-development/cardinal-bernardin-new-leadership-award.cfm.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award, Catholic Campaign for Human Development, CCHD, Bishop David P. Talley, General Assembly, Baltimore, Pope Francis, the Sisters of Providence, Sr. Tracey Horan
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Norma Montenegro Flynn
WASHINGTON—As they begin the Spring General Assembly, Bishops from across the U.S. will gather at Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis for a Mass of Prayer and Penance for survivors of sexual abuse within the Church. The Mass is being held in response to a call from Pope Francis for all episcopal conferences across the world to have a Day of Prayer and Penance for victims of sexual abuse within the Church and will be held June 14, 2017 at 5:00 pm at Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.
The bishops will gather together in solidarity to pray for victims and to acknowledge the pain caused by the failures of the Church in the past. The Mass will mark the opening for the June Plenary Assembly of bishops taking place June 14-15 in Indianapolis. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will be the principal celebrant. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, of Atlanta, and former President of the USCCB, will be the homilist.
In an act of penance and humility, the bishops will also kneel and recite a commemorative prayer that has been written for survivors of abuse in their healing. Intercessory Prayers of the Faithful will also be offered for those who have suffered due to clergy sex abuse. All dioceses and eparchies have been provided the suggested intercessory Prayers of the Faithful for use at any time of their choosing after June 14.
In addition to this specific Day of Prayer and Penance, many dioceses and eparchies will also schedule their own Masses or other events to promote healing within their diocese/eparchy throughout the year.
The Mass is scheduled to be livestreamed. The livestream link will be available on the USCCB website.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, National Day of Prayer and Penance, Pope Francis, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, June Plenary Assembly, Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Indianapolis, clergy sex abuse, Mass, episcopal conferences, diocese/eparchies, prayers of the faithful.
WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued the following statement following last night's terror attack which has left seven people dead and at least 48 injured. This is the third terrorist attack on British soil in as many months.
Cardinal DiNardo's full statement follows:
"The Vigil of Pentecost had barely begun when the world was burdened yet again, this time by the sinister attacks on innocent men and women in the heart of London. In such tragic hours we implore the Holy Spirit to pour out His gift of comfort on those who grieve the loss of loved ones and on the dozens who were so tragically injured in this horrible attack. At the same time, we see in the courage of the first responders the true and courageous spirit of our brothers and sisters, the people of Great Britain. May God grant strength, wisdom and protection to the men and women who safeguard our families and may He convert the hearts of all who follow the path of evil extremism. Our solidarity in Christian hope and commitment to peace is a bond that cannot be broken.
Together with my brother bishops and with Catholics throughout the United States, we join the prayerful intercession made already by Pope Francis: 'May the Holy Spirit grant peace to the whole world. May He heal the wounds of war and of terrorism, which even this [Saturday] night, in London, struck innocent civilians: let us pray for the victims and their families.'"
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, terror attack, London, extremism, war, Vigil of Pentecost, Holy Spirit, Pope Francis, Great Britain, United States.
WASHINGTON—As the U.S. Senate begins to discuss health care reform, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin provided moral principles to help guide policymakers in their deliberations.
In a letter sent on June 1, the Chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stressed the "grave obligations" that Senators have "when it comes to policy that affects health care." While commending the bill passed by the House of Representatives, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), for its protections for unborn children, the Bishops emphasized the "many serious flaws" in the AHCA, including unacceptable changes to Medicaid.
"The Catholic Church remains committed to ensuring the fundamental right to medical care, a right which is in keeping with the God-given dignity of every person, and the corresponding obligation as a country to provide for this right," the Chairmen wrote. "[T]hose without a strong voice in the process must not bear the brunt of attempts to cut costs."
Cardinal Dolan is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Lori chairs the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop Dewane heads the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Vásquez is the chairman of the Committee on Migration.
The Bishops outlined key principles for Senators such as universal access, respect for life, true affordability, the need for high quality and comprehensive medical care, and conscience protections.
If the Senate takes up the House bill as a starting point, the letter urges that lawmakers "must retain the positive elements of the bill and remedy its grave deficiencies." Specifically, the Chairmen called on the Senate to: reject dramatic changes to Medicaid; retain the AHCA's life protections; increase the level of tax assistance, especially for low-income and older people; retain the existing cap on costs of plans for the elderly; protect immigrants; and add conscience protections, among other things.
The full letter to Congress can be found at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/Senate-Principles-letter-Health-Care-Reform-2017-06-01.pdf
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Cardinal Dolan, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop William Lori, Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop Joe Vásquez, Committee on Migration, American Health Care Act (AHCA), respect for life, human dignity, health care, affordability, abortion, poverty.
WASHINGTON—President Donald J. Trump announced today that the United States will not honor the Paris agreement on climate change. The United States and China, the two largest carbon emitters, and 195 other nations, signed the agreement that was ratified in November 2016. The Paris agreement establishes that nations must reduce their carbon dioxide emissions in order to keep global temperatures well below a two-degree Celsius increase in relation to pre-industrial levels.
In the following statement, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, stresses that, although the Paris agreement is not the only possible mechanism for addressing global carbon mitigation, the lack of a current viable alternative is a serious concern.
Full statement follows:
"The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), along with Pope Francis and the entire Catholic Church, have consistently upheld the Paris agreement as an important international mechanism to promote environmental stewardship and encourage climate change mitigation. The President's decision not to honor the U.S. commitment to the Paris agreement is deeply troubling.
The Scriptures affirm the value of caring for creation and caring for each other in solidarity. The Paris agreement is an international accord that promotes these values. President Trump's decision will harm the people of the United States and the world, especially the poorest, most vulnerable communities. The impacts of climate change are already being experienced in sea level rise, glacial melts, intensified storms, and more frequent droughts. I can only hope that the President will propose concrete ways to address global climate change and promote environmental stewardship."
The USCCB has voiced support for prudent action and dialogue on climate change since its 2001 statement: "Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good". In a letter to Congress in 2015, the U.S. Bishops, along with the presidents of Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services, encouraged the United States to sign the Paris agreement. They have since reiterated their support on several occasions. Pope Francis and the Holy See have also consistently voiced support for the Paris agreement.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Paris Climate Agreement, President Donald J. Trump, Bishop Oscar Cantú, carbon dioxide emissions, stewardship, Pope Francis, Holy See, Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services.
WASHINGTON– Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, has issued an initial response to the apparent draft interim final regulations that were recently leaked, pertaining to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring health insurance coverage of sterilization, contraception, and drugs and devices that may cause abortions:
"While they have yet to be formally issued and will require close study upon publication, the leaked regulations provide encouraging news. If issued, these regulations would appropriately broaden the existing exemption to a wider range of stakeholders with religious or moral objections to the mandated coverage—not just houses of worship. This not only would eliminate an unwarranted governmental division of our religious community 'between our houses of worship and our great ministries of service to our neighbors,' but would also lift the government-imposed burden on our ministries 'to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions.' United for Religious Freedom (2012).
Relief like this is years overdue and would be most welcomed. Regulations like these reflect common sense, and what had been the consistent practice of the federal government for decades to provide strong conscience protection in the area of health care. We look forward to the final version of the regulations with hope that they will remain strong. At that time, we will analyze those regulations more carefully and comment on them more formally. Throughout, our goal will remain to protect both the conscience of individuals and our mission of sharing the Gospel and serving the poor and vulnerable through our ministries."
This HHS mandate was first announced in 2011, triggering dozens of lawsuits, including by the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop William E. Lori, religious freedom, religious liberty, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS mandate, religious exemption, federal government, executive branch.
WASHINGTON— According to White House officials, President Donald J. Trump is reviewing the United States' commitment to the Paris agreement on climate change. The president tweeted that he will make an official statement on the agreement today.
In recent weeks, the United States Conference of Bishops (USCCB) and the president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) have urged administration officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, to support U.S. international leadership on climate change.
Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, has issued the following statement to emphasize the importance of honoring the Paris Agreement in order to "mitigate the worst impacts of climate change" on our planet.
Bishop Cantú's full statement follows:
"The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is on record supporting prudent action to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. Our Conference of Bishops has vigorously promoted the teaching of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, on care for our common home. The Holy Father's encyclical letter, Laudato si', was timed in order to urge the nations of the world to work together in Paris for an agreement that protects our people and our planet. We hope the United States will honor the commitment it made there."
The full letters to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, and National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster can be found at:
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, President Trump, Paris climate agreement, Bishop Oscar Cantu, Pope Francis, Laudato si', climate change, Catholic Relief Services, United States.
WASHINGTON—The annual Peter's Pence collection will be taken in many dioceses across the United States the weekend of July 1-2. Funds from this collection support Pope Francis' charitable outreach to the suffering and marginalized around the world.
"The Peter's Pence collection is a tangible way to be a witness of the tenderness and mercy of God," said Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Alabama, chairman of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. "We join our brothers and sisters in the United States and around the world to support Pope Francis as he cares for those most in need."
The Peter's Pence collection is taken up worldwide to help Pope Francis provide relief to victims of war, religious persecution, and natural disasters. More information about the collection can be found at www.usccb.org/ppc and shareable resources for the collection can be accessed at www.usccb.org/ppc/collection.
Keywords: Peter's Pence, National Collections, USCCB, U.S. bishops, Pope Francis, pope, Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi, charity, poor, suffering, war, oppression, natural disaster
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Norma Montenegro Flynn
WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Father William A. Wack,C.S.C., 49, as bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida. Father Wack is a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross and pastor at St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, Texas.
The appointment was publicized in Washington, May 29, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
William A. Wack was born June 28, 1967, in South Bend, Indiana. He entered the Novitiate for the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1989. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in government and international relations (1989), and a master of divinity (1993), from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He professed final vows in 1993 and was ordained a priest on April 9, 1994.
Assignments after ordination included: associate pastor at Sacred Heart Parish, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1994-1997; associate director of vocations, 1997-2002; director of Andre House, Phoenix, Arizona, 2002-2008; pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish, 2009-present.
Other assignments include: board member of: Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission, Colorado Springs, 1996-1998; Holy Cross Associates, Notre Dame, Indiana, 1998-2002; Holy Cross College, 2002-2003; Catholic Charities, Phoenix, Arizona, 2003-2008. And a member of the Presbyteral Council, Diocese of Austin.
The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee has been a vacant see since November 2016. The Diocese comprises 14,044 square miles and it has total population of 1,463,116 people of which 67,316 or five percent, are Catholic.
Keywords: bishop appointment, Pope Francis, William A. Wack , Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Congregation of Holy Cross
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Norma Montenegro Flynn
Full statement follows:
"They were children on their way to Mass. They were mothers and fathers taking their children to Mass. And this morning they became targets of yet another horrendous attack on Christians, murdered as they rode to Church together. Dozens of others were injured in the attack today in Egypt on Coptic Christians. Only a few short weeks ago, on Palm Sunday, many Christians were slaughtered simply because they were worshipping God. Now, as we approach Pentecost, the same unspeakable evil emerges again and repeats itself. Pope Francis, during his recent visit to the noble land of Egypt said, ' ... the innocent blood of defenseless Christians was cruelly shed: their innocent blood unites us.' Though our grief is unbearable, our unity grows all the more strong. That unity is the way to peace.
On behalf of the Bishops of the United States, on behalf of Catholics and all people of good will across our nation, I commend the souls of those who have died to the loving arms of the Lord Jesus and entrust those who are injured and those who mourn to the embrace of Our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Mercy."
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Egypt, terror attack, Coptic Christians, Mass, children, bus attack, Jesus, innocent blood, Our Lady of Mercy.
WASHINGTON—According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate's (CARA) annual survey, 82 percent of the 2017 class of men ordained to the priesthood were encouraged by about four people in their lives including parish priests, friends or other parishioners. The report also says that ordinands were, on average, 16 years old when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood, and religious ordinands reported they knew the members of their religious institute an average of six years before entering.
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR, of Newark, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, notes that the CCLV Committee has commissioned this annual study since 1998. It remains part of the ongoing work of the CCLV to highlight various ways that vocations to the priesthood have been and can be encouraged. The CCLV website features resources that are available for vocations promotion throughout the United States.
"A staggering number of the 2017 ordination class report to have been encouraged by others to consider a priestly vocation," Cardinal Tobin said. "That statistic should motivate all the faithful to be sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit, who may wish to use them to extend the invitation to ordained ministry."
The total number of potential ordinands for the class of 2017, 590, is slightly up from 548 in 2016 and down from 595 in 2015.
The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate gathered the data for "The Class of 2017: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood." CARA collects the data annually for the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Approximately 75 percent of the 590 potential ordinands reported to CARA. These 444 respondents include 343 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood, from 140 different dioceses and archdioceses, and 101 ordinands to the religious priesthood.
The full report can be found online: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/index.cfm.
Among the survey's major findings:
On average, they lived in the diocese or eparchy for which they will be ordained for 16 years before entering seminary.
″ The average age for the Class of 2017 is 34. Since 1999, the average age of responding ordinands has decreased by approximately two months each year, from an average of 36 in 1999 to the current average age of 34.
″ Seven in ten ordinands are Caucasian and three in four were born in the United States. One in four respondents were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland and Vietnam. On average, respondents born in another country have lived in the United States for 12 years.
″ Most ordinands have been Catholic since infancy, and eighty percent report that both of their parents are Catholic and more than a third (35 percent) have a relative who is a priest or a religious. The average age of conversion was 21, among those who became Catholic later in life.
″ Nearly half completed college (43 percent) before entering the seminary. One in six (18 percent) entered the seminary with a graduate degree. The most common fields of study for ordinands before entering the seminary are theology or philosophy, liberal arts, and business.
″ Nearly half of responding ordinands (between 40 and 50 percent) attended a Catholic school for at least some part of their schooling, and 59 percent participated in a religious education program in their parish for an average of seven years.
″ About six in ten ordinands (57 percent) report some type of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education. One in twenty ordinands report prior service in the U.S. Armed Forces. About one in eight ordinands (12 percent) report that either parent had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces.
″ Four in five (75 percent) indicate they served as altar servers and about half (52 percent) report service as a lector. Forty seven percent of responding ordinands reported participating in "Come and See" weekends at their seminary or religious institute.
″ About seven in 10 report regularly praying the rosary (73 percent) and participating in Eucharistic adoration (77 percent) before entering the seminary.
″ About half (51 percent) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood by at least one individual, most commonly a friend, classmate or family member other than parents.
Keywords: ordination, class of 2016, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, priesthood, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, diocesan priesthood, religious life, USCCB
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"I told him not to tease your elder," Cardinal-elect Ling Mangkhanekhoun said of the first congratulations he got. But he wonders if an earlier meeting with Pope Francis dropped hints.
Spiritual Reflections: Today’s readings call us to reconsider our Christian vocation. Each of us was baptized to share in Christ’s prophetic ministry.
St. Francis de Sales Award: Matt Schiller, the outgoing CPA president, has been nominated three times for the award.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio calls the program, modeled after the New York Archdiocese's, "a concrete expression of our contrition and our desire to make amends" to sex abuse victims.
NCR Today: June 6, 2017, marked an ignominious anniversary, the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War and the subsequent 50-year Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Asking Rich Lowry for advice about the Democratic Party is a little like asking a vegetarian whether you should go with the veal chop or the ribeye. But, in this essay at Politico, he makes some good points about how the cultural signals Democrats send are all wrong if they want to compete in places like Georgia's 6th congressional district.
In Conversation: GSR contributor Tracy Barnett on the Web of Life eco-spiritual retreat and NCR's Peter Feuerherd and Dan Morris-Young on the Field Hospital series.
Rome: The composition of the advisory body may change at some point this fall, as the original three-year terms granted to individuals in the group expire.
We say: If Congress truly wanted to become a body that talks and listens, right now at this time, there is no better issue to open for discussion than health care reform.
Britain's pharmacy regulator has declared that Catholic pharmacists should not be forced to dispense lethal drugs against their consciences.
Cardinal-designate Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, said his appointment isn't a job promotion but a call to be more like Jesus, who came to serve the poor and marginalized.
About 300 gunmen of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, known as BIFF, attacked the Pigcawayan village of Malagakit, resulting in the displacement of hundreds of residents.
Pope's quotes: Some of our favorite quotes from Pope Francis.
A federal judge ruled Thursday that the 114 Iraqi immigrants facing deportation can stay in the U.S. for at least two more weeks as he sorts out whether the court has jurisdiction.
"I have served as a bishop for almost 30 years," he said in his retirement in 1995. "In these turbulent times no corporate CEO or university president remains under the pressure of office anywhere near that time."
Distinctly Catholic: The Senate's "repeal and replace Obamacare" legislation, finally unveiled, is especially harmful to the young and elderly. It is a plague upon the U.S. people.
Vatican City -- Dalla Torre told Francis he was particularly moved by the encounter and had been following his papacy closely.
NCR Today: Thirteen guys in the Senate have a health care plan; NCR's former editor/publisher wins top Catholic press honor; Global Sisters invite you to take a virtual retreat.
Faith and Justice: Youth, religious freedom, health care, immigration -- the bishops discussed important matters at their meeting. How much progress they made is another issue.
Journalism has always been a sacred mission for me. That mission began in Vietnam and has continued through my career, most fittingly at NCR for over 35 years.
Republican Senators have deliberately decided to Do Harm. Their sham of a health care "replacement" bill takes cold blooded aim at depriving medical treatment for millions of the poorest among us. This is no unintended consequence but a direct shot at destroying human well-being. Much political strategy is murkier and legitimately arguable. This isn't. It's a despicable selling out to cruelty and greed. Taking away health care is terrible enough, but using those cuts to fund a massive tax bundle to the rich multiplies the wrong doing.
It is with the greatest sadness that we learned Archbishop John Quinn died suddenly this morning. He took ill in November had just gotten out of the hospital so all of his friends were hoping he was on his way to a full recovery, and the final edits of a forthcoming book. He was a giant. He was also the most faithful reader of this blog. In his memory, listen to Mirella Freni singing the "Libera me" from Verdi's Requiem:
Initial reaction from religious leaders was negative to the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the Senate's health care reform measure that was unveiled June 22 in "discussion draft" form by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
Thomas Fox received the Bishop John England Award on June 22 from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, the association's highest honor for publishers.
Church leaders have expressed solidarity with ethnic Gorkha people who are on an indefinite strike protesting for a separate homeland in the Darjeeling area of eastern India.
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- “Ultimately, this report is about the sanctity of all human life.”
This remarkable line opens up an international police group's flagship document on how to improve incidents of officer-involved shootings and the kinds of non-armed crisis situations that take place regularly across the United States.
“The essence of policing is the preservation of life,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, D.C., told CNA.
“That's why we exist; life is very precious, and we have to remind ourselves of that.”
This ethic of protecting human life extends even to the use of force in responding to incidents, Wexler argued: “Everything should be what we have to do to preserve human life – especially in the area of use of force.”
This principle, that human life is sacred has found itself at the core of PERF's work as an independent research and policy organization that looks at best practices in policing, as well as assistance, education and advice for law enforcement agencies.
With the idea that “the sanctity of human life should be at the heart of everything an agency does” at the center of the organization's 30 Guiding Principles on the Use of Force and training guide, the group is already revolutionizing the way police departments approach policies on force and the response to crisis situations.
Keeping everyone safe
The pro-life approach to police work is part of a years-long project undertaken by PERF, which has more than 2500 members from around the globe.
Wexler explained that the organization was inspired to readjust their recommended policies and training after high-profile cases of police violence in Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere sparked a national conversation on the appropriate force.
“We needed to take a hard look at what we were doing,” he said.
It's hard to capture the scope of the issue of police-involved shootings in the United States, because there is no data or source of official reports that's collected on a national level.
FBI Director James B. Comey explained in a 2015 speech at Georgetown University that the federal agency can't even investigate the issue because “reporting by police departments is voluntary and not all departments participate. That means we cannot fully track the number of incidents in which force is used by police, or against police, including non-fatal encounters, which are not reported at all.”
This means that any information available is at best unreliable, and hampers both investigating and addressing the issue, the director said.
In its report, PERF pointed to attempts by journalists at the Guardian and the Washington Post to help fill this void of data by documenting the number of people killed in officer-involved shootings in the United States. The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., also collects data on allegations of police misconduct, including shootings, at the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project.
PERF furthermore noted that according to the data collected by the Washington Post, nearly one-third of fatal police-involved shootings in 2015 could have a significant potential for de-escalation, either because the subject killed was mentally ill, unarmed, or armed with a weapon that was not a firearm.
Wexler was assisting colleagues in Scottish police departments when these issues rose to public prominence in 2014. It occurred to Wexler that these colleagues – most of whom are not armed in departments in the United Kingdom – still must respond to and stay safe when dealing with incidents involving weapons like bats or knives, without the option of deadly force.
“For me it was an epiphany,” Wexler said. He asked himself, “If they can do it, why can't we?”
PERF had researchers spend time studying police tactics in Scotland as well as in special emergency units in New York City and other departments around the United States. While the organization’s later research made a point not to blame most of the officers at the center of these events, PERF reassessed the training and policies surrounding the use of force in challenging situations.
“It really got us to think about how to re-engineer use of force policy and training,” Wexler said.
The result of their research was a document outlining guiding principles on the use of force and a training guide to teach officers how to better diffuse situations where de-escalation is possible. The guiding principles document notes that in most non-firearm cases “the threat is not immediate and the officers will have options for considering a more methodical, organized approach,” and many lives have the potential to be saved.
All of this is about trying to de-escalate a situation, giving officers the tools they need to do that.
It is this potential for saving lives – and not only the lives of civilians who interact with the police – which is the focus of the revised guidelines and tactics. PERF's research states that changing approaches to incidents can increase officer safety, too.
“Rather than unnecessarily pushing officers into harm's way in some circumstances, there may be opportunities to slow those situations down, bring more resources to the scene, and utilize sound decision-making that is designed to keep officers safe, while also protecting the public,” the report states.
In its findings, the document emphasizes the sanctity of human life as well as administering life-saving aid, transparency in reporting officer-involved shooting, use of less lethal options, and promoting effective means of managing mental illness in crisis situations.
The documents also criticize “line in the sand” policies and other training and field tactics which they found escalated, rather than calmed, crisis situations not involving firearms.
Wexler also said the principles of proportionality and effective communication are key to protecting the lives of all involved.
“All of this is about trying to de-escalate a situation, giving officers the tools they need to do that,” emphasizing the importance of teamwork, tactical skills and crisis intervention. “What's really important is the safety of the officer and the safety of the person you're dealing with.”
From the church to the streets
These policies aimed at respecting the dignity of life are not just formulated in an abstract environment, but with feedback from around the world.
“We have consulted with literally hundreds of police officers and police departments. We met and studied best practices around the country,” Wexler said.
The research organization consulted with hundreds of police chiefs for over two years, and looked at countless case studies and reports to put together their findings and then their training program.
“We would not be recommending something if we didn't think it would work, and we've seen enough cases in the United States and in other countries where some may already be doing it or are in the process of implementing it.”
One of the other sources Wexler and PERF president, Scott Thompson, consulted in putting together the report was the archbishop of the largest city in the United States, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.
“The person who we thought would really be interested in this concept was Cardinal Dolan in New York,” Wexler recalled. “We went to see Cardinal Dolan because we thought our principles, and in particular that principle, would be very significant to him.”
Cardinal Dolan was elected as the chairman-elect of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life activities beginning his term as chair in 2015.
“We had a really good meeting and he really understood and embraced” the core principle of protecting life, Wexler said. “It was something he could be very supportive of.”
There has been pushback from a lot of the major organizations.
PERF mentioned that Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago has also lent his support in helping the group's training programs for the Chicago Police Department.
While the police policy guidelines have been met with support among the hundreds of departments who worked with PERF, the organization’s focus on prioritizing the sanctity of the lives of all persons involved in police incidents has not been without controversy.
“There has been pushback from a lot of the major organizations,” Wexler acknowledged.
When PERF first released its guidelines in March 2016, it was met with harsh criticism from both the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Fraternal Order of Police.
“We cannot reasonably expect law enforcement officers to walk away from potentially dangerous situations and individuals in the hope that those situations resolve themselves without further harm being done,” the organizations said in a joint response to PERF’s initial report.
A year later, however, national police organizations have started to adopt consensus principles that echo many of the ideas emphasized by PERF.
In a document laying out “National Consensus Policy” on the use of force, released in January 2017, 11 national police organizations – including the FOP and IACP – emphasized the importance of de-escalation policies, “reasonably prudent” responses, and less-lethal force. The policy also asks that departments around the country openly state that the “policy of this law enforcement agency is to value and preserve human life.”
While Wexler said he could not comment on these adaptations, he did say the shift in focus to emphasize the dignity and value of all lives – even in the most challenging situations – is a “difficult” shift in perspective: “The changes we're recommending are probably some of the biggest changes in police tactics that we’ve seen in 25 years.”
And the size of the policing community in the United States – more than 18,000 departments – only adds to the challenge.
Still, while the values and emphasis in police policy might still face some debate, PERF's training and concrete policies have met with wide acceptance.
“We've had no pushback from our training,” he said, pointing to the hundreds of departments who have come to their training workshops in New Orleans, Baltimore, and Los Angeles.
With this support in the year since putting out the guidelines and what they've seen in the research process, Wexler is confident that they can create a culture that defends the sanctity of human life in all aspects of its police work.
“I'm optimistic that in five years, this will no longer be controversial,” Wexler said. “This will be the way people handle these situations.”
This article was originally published on CNA April 7, 2017.
Detroit, Mich., Jun 23, 2017 / 03:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A district court judge on Thursday halted the deportation of more than 100 Iraqis, including many Chaldean Christians, who were recently picked up by immigration officers and detained.
“We are thankful and relieved that our clients will not be immediately sent to Iraq, where they face grave danger of persecution, torture or death,” Michael Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, which represented the Iraqi nationals, stated in response to the ruling.
On Sunday, June 11, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement began picking up Iraqi nationals in the Detroit metropolitan area who had previous criminal records.
Ultimately, 114 Iraqis were picked up, some reportedly at their homes in front of their families and others in public places like restaurants. They were detained and informed of their immanent deportation.
Many of the detainees were Chaldean Christians, and members of the local Chaldean Church were dismayed at the arrests.
ICE stated that the detainees had criminal records and although they had entered the U.S. legally and had not yet become citizens, they were no longer eligible for full citizenship. Furthermore, they had been ordered for removal by a federal judge, although in some cases the orders were reportedly decades old.
Iraq had previously refused to accept the Chaldeans, “in some cases, for humanitarian reasons,” Thursday’s decision read.
However, they recently agreed to accept them as part of a deal with the U.S. that removed Iraq’s place on a list of countries where foreign nationals were barred from traveling to the U.S., except in special cases, as part of President Donald Trump’s immigration executive order.
Bishop Francis Kalabat of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit insisted that many of those who were detained were responsible residents since they had served their time in prison, and that many of the crimes had been committed decades prior to the June 11 arrests.
Pleas to stay the deportations reportedly reached the highest levels of government. The ACLU represented the Chaldeans in court, filing a habeas corpus action petition on their behalf, while the Knights of Columbus and members of Congress wrote Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.
Leading U.S. bishops also wrote Secretary Kelly, advocating for a stay on the deportations until Iraq could guarantee the safety of religious minorities.
“Returning religious minorities to Iraq at this time, without specific plans for protection, does not appear consistent with our concerns about genocide and persecution of Christians in Iraq,” a letter by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston-Galveston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, chair of the U.S. bishops’ international justice and peace committee, and Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the bishops’ migration committee, stated.
“The persecution that the Christian and Chaldean Catholic community has faced in Iraq is well- documented,” they added. “The deportations to this same country, under such scrutiny for abuse and genocide of Christian and other minorities, seems to run counter to what is happening in other parts of our government.”
Lawyers for the detainees insisted that under the Convention Against Torture they should not be sent back to a country where they have a reasonable expectation of persecution.
Furthermore, since the detainees have already served their prison sentences for their previous crimes, “we believe it would not be just or humane to deport a person who has integrated into American life and poses no evident risk to the local community,” the bishops continued.
This past week, Bishop Kalabat noted in a Facebook post that Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako was also involved in the efforts to halt the deportations, and “spoke with an international Catholic organization that are in contact with Vice President Pence directly.”
Bishop Kalabat also said he had appealed to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to pardon all those who had state felonies.
Then on June 22, Judge Goldsmith granted a two-week stay on the deportations of the Iraqi nationals “within the jurisdiction of the Detroit ICE Field Office with final orders of removal, who have been, or will be, arrested and detained by ICE.”
“In light of these complex jurisdictional issues, and the speed with which the Government is moving to remove Petitioners, it is necessary to stay Petitioners’ removal pending the Court’s determination regarding its jurisdiction,” Judge Goldsmith stated.
He also cited the threat of “irreparable harm” claimed by the detainees through the “significant chance of loss of life and lesser forms of persecution” if they were to be deported to Iraq, as well as “the public interest” in due process that their requests for relief be heard by a federal court before their deportation.
“The court took a life-saving action by blocking our clients from being immediately sent back to Iraq,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, stated. “They should have a chance to show that their lives are in jeopardy if forced to return.”
Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2017 / 11:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops' conference has warned that the proposed Senate health care bill will put serious burdens on poor families and is “unacceptable as written.”
After the draft of a Senate health care bill was finally released on Thursday, Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, stated that “this proposal retains many of the fundamental defects of the House of Representatives-passed health care legislation, and even further compounds them.”
He had previously explained, in a March letter to members of Congress, how the House bill was problematic for vulnerable populations such as the poor, the seriously ill, and the elderly.
After the Senate draft, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, was released June 22, he reiterated that “it is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written.”
After the House narrowly voted May 2 to pass its own version of a health care reform bill, the US bishops wrote to Senators urging them to reject the “grave deficiencies” of the American Health Care Act.
The bishops had asked the Senate to reject major changes to Medicaid, to retain protections for human life, to increase tax assistance for those with low-income and the elderly, to retain a cap on health care plan costs for the elderly, to protect immigrants, and to add health care protections.
Senate Republicans released the draft version of their bill after weeks of anticipation and controversy that the draft was being worked on behind closed doors. The bill would repeal much of the Affordable Care Act.
A major sticking point for pro-life groups and the U.S. bishops was Hyde Amendment-language protecting taxpayer subsidies from being used to pay for abortions.
However, pro-life leaders are concerned – or are even certain – that the pro-life language will be removed by the Senate Parliamentarian before the bill reaches the Senate floor.
This could happen because the language might be determined to be not pertaining to the rules of budget reconciliation. Since the bill may be passed through the budget reconciliation process – thus requiring a simple majority vote, rather than the normal 60 votes needed to bring it to the floor for a vote – its measures would need to be ruled as pertaining to the budget.
Senate Republicans can also afford no more than two members of their party voting against the bill, as no Democrats are expected to support it. Several moderate Republicans in the chamber have voiced concern about the bill, and four conservatives have said the draft does not go far enough in repealing the Affordable Care Act.
The draft also strips Planned Parenthood of taxpayer funding and redirects that funding to community health centers which do not provide abortions.
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, approved of the Planned Parenthood language but added that “the reality is that necessary pro-life protections in this bill will be stripped by the Senate Parliamentarian, as we have now publicly heard from two Senators.”
The Washington Examiner reported Wednesday that Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) both admitted that the Senate Parliamentarian would not approve of the pro-life language being used in a bill passed by reconciliation.
“If this happens, one of the most egregious aspects of Obamacare – tax credits for plans covering abortion – will continue under this Administration and Congress,” Mancini continued.
Pro-life groups have insisted that the Affordable Care Act ushered in a massive expansion of abortion funding through tax credits paying for abortions and federally-subsidized plans offering abortion coverage, without sufficient guarantees that the subsidies were not being used themselves to pay for the abortion coverage.
While President Obama issued an executive order forbidding taxpayer dollars from funding abortions under the health care law, many – including then-president of the U.S. bishops, the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago – insisted that would not offer sufficient guarantee against taxpayer dollars funding abortions.
A 2014 GAO report found that in five states, all the taxpayer-subsidized plans offered on the health exchanges covered abortions, thus leaving no choices for those who wanted a health plan on the exchanges which did not include abortion coverage.
Furthermore, the report found that 15 insurance issuers and one state exchange were not billing abortion coverage separately from other coverage in federally-subsidized plans, thus leaving open the possibility that federal dollars were going to fund abortion coverage.
“The expectations of the pro-life movement have been very clear: The health care bill must not indefinitely subsidize abortion and must re-direct abortion giant Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding to community health centers,” Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said in a joint statement released Friday.
“The Senate discussion draft includes these pro-life priorities, but we remain very concerned that either of these priorities could be removed from the bill for procedural or political reasons,” they added.
“We are working closely with our pro-life allies in the Senate to prevent this from happening as it could result in our opposition.”
Bishop Dewane echoed those concerns that the pro-life language could be stripped from the bill. He insisted as well that “full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill.”
Moreover, there are other serious problems with the Senate draft legislation that carry over from the House bill, he maintained.
Changes to Medicaid could cut vital coverage for low-income families; conscience protections for everyone in the health care system are lacking; and access for immigrants to health care would not be furthered, he said, which the bishops pointed out as one of the problems in the Affordable Care Act when it was passed in 2010.
The “per-capita cap” on Medicaid dollars to states would limit Medicaid funding based on the populations of the states themselves, “and then connects yearly increases to formulas that would provide even less to those in need than the House bill,” the bishop stated.
“These changes will wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported,” he stated.
While efforts to assist people “living at an above the poverty line” are laudable, he continued, the proposed bill “stands to cause disturbing damage to the human beings served by the social safety net.”
The bill would phase out the expansion of Medicaid more gradually than did the House's version, but the program would see larger cuts in the long run under the Senate's plan.
Bread for the World, a social welfare organization of Christians that advocates for the ending of hunger the US and abroad, was also critical of the Senate bill's changes to Medicaid, saying it will increase hunger and poverty domestically.
“Rolling back the Medicaid expansion at a slower rate still means that millions of vulnerable Americans will lose their health care coverage,” said David Beckmann, Bread for the World's president. “Without health insurance, people must often choose between putting food on the table and receiving the medical care they need.”
He charged that “any senator who supports this bill will be voting to take away health insurance from the elderly, people with disabilities, and children.”
Bishop Dewane also said the bill “fails, as well, to put in place conscience protections for all those involved in the health care system, protections which are needed more than ever in our country's health policy,” he stated.
For instance, the bill could set up conscience protections for religious organizations that refuse to comply with previous mandates that coverage for sterilizations and contraceptives be provided in their employee health plans, the bishop noted. Or doctors who conscientiously refuse to perform abortions or gender-transition procedures could be protected against federal or state mandates that they do so.
“The Senate should now act to make changes to the draft that will protect those persons on the peripheries of our health care system,” Bishop Dewane stated.
Reno, Nev., Jun 23, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Dr. T. Brian Callister chose to become a physician for the reason many choose to go into the medical field – to make a difference in people’s lives.
But that difference has recently been cut short by assisted suicide legislation.
An internal medicine specialist and the National Medical Director at The LifeCare Family of Hospitals based in Reno, Nevada, Callister sees many patients from out of state, since the Reno-Tahoe area is a vacation destination.
Recently, he had two patients within two months who both needed life-saving procedures.
In both cases, he requested a hospital transfer to their home state: one in California and one in Oregon, both of which have legalized assisted suicide.
Both patients were denied the requested transfer and requested life-saving procedure by their insurance companies, who instead asked Callister if he had offered his patients assisted suicide.
“I was just floored. The best I could muster was ‘uh, that’s not legal here yet.’ And they said if you get them back home we can take care of it,” Callister told CNA.
He said he had not at any point indicated that he or his patients would be interested in assisted suicide. It was offered simply because it was the cheapest option.
HIPPA laws, which govern the privacy of patient information, limit the specifics that Callister can go into on these cases.
However, he said one of these patients ended up going to a lower level of care but did not get the lifesaving procedure, and the other got so frustrated that they left the hospital.
Neither received the care recommended by their doctor.
Callister said in both cases, the recommended care was a standard medical procedure and not an experimental therapy, which are often not covered by insurance companies for other reasons.
“Most people look at (assisted suicide) as a freedom and autonomy thing, and it really is the opposite when you look at my cases, since access to care and choices are being limited by this law,” Callister said.
“It’s cutting your choice, not adding to it.”
Physician-assisted suicide is legal in a handful of states, gaining momentum ever since the high profile suicide of cancer patient Brittany Maynard in 2014.
Many prominent Catholic leaders, such as Pope Francis, have spoken out against assisted suicide, calling it “false compassion.” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has said assisted suicide “represents a failure of solidarity” and abandons the most vulnerable in society.
Callister’s cases are not the first time patients have been denied care and offered death instead.
Stephanie Packer, a terminally ill wife and mother, was recently denied chemotherapy, but was offered assisted suicide by her insurance for just $1.20.
Packer said it was the ultimate slap in the face: her insurance company denied the coverage of critical chemotherapy treatment that her doctors recommended for her condition.
Particularly concerning is that the insurance company had initially suggested that they would cover the chemotherapy drugs. It was one week after assisted suicide was legalized in 2016 that they sent Packer a letter saying they were denying coverage. Despite multiple appeals, they continued to refuse.
Often, proponents of assisted suicide will argue it is necessary for people to avoid unending pain or unbearable suffering at the end of their life.
This argument ignores the advances made in palliative and hospice care which can control pain and symptoms at the end of life, Callister noted.
“In this day and age, we have outstanding palliative care, hospice care, we have the education, the skill and the drugs to keep you comfortable,” he said.
Opponents of assisted suicide say there are not enough legal safeguards possible to guard against coercion and abuse, whether by insurance companies or by family members who may benefit financially from the death of a family member.
“It’s illegal for a family to coerce the patient. How are they going to regulate that? The coercion police are going to go to your house? It all sounds good on paper, but none of it is practically enforceable; it really isn’t,” Callister said.
Another argument used by proponents of assisted suicide is that they follow the same guidelines as do doctors for referring patients to hospice and palliative care – they only suggest assisted suicide for patients with a terminal diagnosis with six or fewer months to live.
But the problem with that, Callister said, is that doctors are often wrong when it comes to terminal diagnoses: the margin for error is 50-70 percent. Some patients die sooner than expected, while many also go on to outlive their prognoses, sometimes by years.
“My take on it is: if we’re not sure how much quality time you have left, why would you throw that away? And the second part of that is once it becomes clear that you are dying, you’re in your last weeks, we have the ability to keep you comfortable. So why do we need this law?”
He added that as a physician for 30 years, he has seen the end of life be some of the most important times in a family for healing, for reconciliation, for self-giving love.
“I see more self-giving love for other people, I see more families healed and brought together, and bad rifts healed and reconciled at the end of life than any other time.”
Denver, Colo., Jun 23, 2017 / 03:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- If a recent Vanity Fair issue is to be believed, there's some disheartening news for single people: the “dating apocalypse,” brought on by wildly popular dating apps like “Tinder,” is upon us.
Young singles are too busy swiping left and right on their phones making shallow, transient connections, rather than finding real love with real people. Romance is dead, proposes author Nancy Jo Sales, in the September 2015 issue of the publication.
What sets Tinder apart from most other dating app or online dating experiences is speed and brevity. Based on a photo, first name, and age alone, users decide whether to swipe left (to pass) or right (to like). With GPS tracking, the app also tells users exactly how far away potential matches may be, making life even easier for those just looking for a quick hook-up.
Shallowest dating app ever?
The biggest criticism of Tinder? It's a seriously shallow app that turns people into quickly-judged commodities on a screen.
In a 2013 article by The Guardian, “Tinder: the shallowest dating app ever?” author Pete Cashmore explains the ick-factor, yet addictiveness, of Tinder when compared to another dating app called Twine.
“Of the two apps, though, Tinder sounded worse, just because it seemed so contemptuously superficial. There are hundreds upon thousands of women, about whom you know almost nothing, and you snap-appraise them with a single swipe. It's a finger-flicking hymn to the instant gratification of the smartphone age. It's addictive.”
Matt Fradd is a Catholic speaker and author and founder of The Porn Effect, a website with a mission to “expose the reality behind the fantasy of pornography and to equip individuals to find freedom from it.” In his ministry, he’s heard a lot of stories from young people about their struggle to overcome objectifying people through porn.
Fradd had some harsh words for Tinder.
“Tinder exists for those who would rather not purchase a prostitute,” he told CNA.
“I would imagine most people who use that app aren’t there because they’re looking for a chaste relationship,” he added.
And indeed, quite a bit of colloquial evidence backs him up. Alex in the Vanity Fair article said dating apps have turned romance into a competition of “Who's slept with the best, hottest girls?”
“You could talk to two or three girls at a bar and pick the best one, or you can swipe a couple hundred people a day—the sample size is so much larger,” he said. “It’s setting up two or three Tinder dates a week and, chances are, sleeping with all of them, so you could rack up 100 girls you’ve slept with in a year.”
But Tinder doesn't always have to be that way, users argue. It is possible to find people on the app who want to go on some good old-fashioned dates.
Tinder users speak
Ross is a twenty-something Nebraska-to-New York City transplant and a cradle Catholic who’s used his fair share of both dating apps and sites. When signing up for Tinder, Ross said, probably the most important factor in whether someone will find potential dates or hook-ups is location, location, location.
“Your region matters so much,” he told CNA in an e-mail interview. “In Nebraska, women date on Tinder. They really do… In New York, (most) want a distraction, attention, and/or a hook up. Not emotion or connections.”
Holly, a twenty-something devout Catholic living in Kansas City, said she has had success finding a date – and a pretty decent one at that – on the app.
“I went on a great Tinder date. Granted it was the only Tinder date, but we even went out a few times before things ended. At the time Tinder sort of freaked me out, but I decided to jump in head first and it was an enjoyable experience over all,” she said.
Many young people who've used Tinder also argue that the “shallow” critique is a bit overblown, considering that dating always takes into account whether or not a potential mate is physically attractive.
“How is me swiping right on a guy that I find attractive, and swiping left (on those) that I'm not that into any different than someone approaching a guy that I find attractive in a bar? We make snap judgements all the time. Why is it suddenly so much worse if I'm doing it online?” asked Michelle, a twenty-something practicing Catholic who lives in Chicago.
While she's definitely experienced the creepier side of Tinder – with guys sending her “rankings” on a scale of 1 to 10 and other, um, less-than-endearing messages, she said she found the app could be used as a way to maybe meet some new people in person and to get recommendations of things to do in the city.
“I think to immediately classify Tinder or any other dating app as a 'hook-up' app or as a very bad thing goes against the idea that things are morally neutral,” Michelle said. “Just like alcohol is not inherently bad but can be used for evil, I don't think Tinder is inherently evil as well. I definitely think you can use Tinder if you're using it to meet people – not to hook up with people.”
The morality of Tinder
It's admittedly a bit difficult to find someone who can speak with moral authority specifically to dating apps in the Catholic world. Because of the very recent explosion of smartphones, followed by the subsequent explosion of dating apps, or because of vows of celibacy, many clergy and moral experts have actually never used dating apps themselves.
Fr. Gregory Plow, T.O.R., falls into that category. Even though he's a young priest and friar who’s never used Tinder, Fr. Plow works with hundreds of young people every day as the director of Households at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio (kind of like Greek houses, but faith-based).
Fr. Plow said when Catholics determine the morality of any act or tool, like Tinder, three things must be considered.
“Whenever discerning the morality of an act not explicitly defined by Church teaching, we must examine the object, the intention, and the circumstances,” he said, referencing paragraph 1757 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“Regarding the 'object,' apps – in general, as an invention – are not bad in and of themselves. Like most other technologies, they are morally neutral in and of themselves,” he said. “Apps do, however, possess a certainly quality of being transitory that can factor in to the other two components (intention and circumstances) that factor in to judging the morality of an act.”
The transitory, cursory nature of swiping based on one picture in Tinder can be morally dangerous if that same mentality transfers to relationships with people, he said. Instead of pausing and taking the time to form real relationships, some people may decide to move on to the next best thing because they have so many options.
“Therefore, in as much dating apps are impersonal and transitory, or are used with the intention for receiving gratification and pleasure, they are immoral,” he said. “If, however, online dating apps or services assisting people in leading them to find another person to share the love of God with in the uniqueness of a dating relationship or marriage, it can be (morally) good.”
Mary Beth Bonacci, a Catholic speaker and author on John Paul II's Theology of the Body, said what's concerning about Tinder when compared to online dating sites such as CatholicMatch is the rapidity with which people can be turned into objects.
“The entire realm of dating is full of opportunities to turn a human person into a commodity. We get so wrapped up in thinking about what we want for ourselves that we forget we are dealing with another human person – and image and likeness of God. It's always been a temptation,” she said.
“But the rapid-fire nature of Tinder's 'scan and swipe' makes it easy to turn many, many human persons into commodities in a short period of time. That is what is scariest to me.”
Bonacci said while it's possible to find someone who’s interested in a virtuous dating relationship through apps like Tinder, the chances of that happening are probably pretty low when compared with online dating sites that have more extensive profiles.
Meeting someone in person as soon as possible is also key, she said, in determining whether or not a match made online or in an app has a chance of turning into a dating relationship. But apps like Tinder aren’t exactly helping breathe new life into romance, she said.
“Everything is instant. The nearly-anonymous sex is of course the antithesis of anything romantic or respectful. In the old days of the 'meat market' singles' bar, a person had to get dressed up, leave the house, buy a few drinks and at least pretend to have some real interest in the other person.”
The Church has a duty, she said, to offer young people better alternatives in the dating world than the instant gratification that they find in the current culture.
“The Vanity Fair article reminded me once again that we have to offer teens and young adults an alternative to the degrading, hook up world that surrounds them. We can't scare them out of it. They need to be inspired, to fall in love with the real beauty of the Christian vision of human sexual morality,” she said.
“They need to see their own dignity, their own importance, and how respecting their bodies and the beautiful language of human sexuality is the only way to finding real love. We have to. We can’t allow another generation of kids to fall into this cesspool.”
This article was originally published on CNA Sept. 13, 2015.
San Francisco, Calif., Jun 22, 2017 / 04:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A California court on Wednesday dismissed 14 of 15 criminal charges against an undercover journalist behind the video exposé of Planned Parenthood’s role in the fetal tissue trade.
“This is a huge victory to have 14 criminal counts dismissed,” Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which defended Sandra Merritt in court as she faced 15 felony charges. One charge of conspiracy to invade privacy has still not been dismissed.
“We will now turn our attention to dismissing the final count,” Staver continued. “Sandra Merritt did nothing wrong. The complaint by the California Attorney General is unprecedented and frankly will threaten every journalist who provides valuable information to the public.”
In March, California Attorney General Xavier Beccerra charged Merritt and her colleague David Daleiden with 14 criminal counts of recording others without their consent in a confidential conversation, and one count of conspiracy to invade privacy.
Merritt and Daleiden were undercover journalists at the Center for Medical Progress, a group which seeks to expose the role of Planned Parenthood clinics and tissue harvesters in the trade of fetal tissue of aborted babies. The group began releasing videos in July of 2015 that were undercover video recordings of conversations with Planned Parenthood officials.
CMP alleged that Planned Parenthood clinics illegally broke the law by profiting off of the transfer of the fetal tissue to harvesters. Federal law does allow for reasonable compensation for fetal tissue in cases where it is procured for medical research purposes. The compensation cannot be for “valuable consideration,” but may cover operating expenses like storage and transfer costs.
The recorded conversations Merritt and Daleiden had took place as they posed as representatives of a tissue procurement company BioMax seeking to possibly partner with Planned Parenthood clinics and other representatives in the abortion industry to obtain body parts of aborted babies.
In the criminal complaint against Merritt and Daleiden, Beccerra had alleged that both persons had recorded confidential conversations without the consent of other parties involved. Each of the 14 counts involved a separate conversation that allegedly took place.
Eight of the charges had to do with secretly recorded conversations with attendees at a National Abortion Federation conference in San Francisco. Other conversations with Planned Parenthood officials and tissue procurement representatives were recorded at other times.
California is a “two-party consent” state, which means that both parties of a conversation, where it is expected to be private and confidential, must agree to it being recorded.
An affidavit from a California Peace Officer claimed that, according to accounts from multiple persons to whom Daleiden and Merritt allegedly talked, they recorded conversations that were believed to be confidential by the other party.
Liberty Counsel, on the other hand, said that the “the videos produced by Merritt and Daleiden exposed unethical and potentially illegal conduct by Planned Parenthood, and Planned Parenthood itself has admitted, under oath, that the recorded conversations took place in ‘non-confidential’ and public venues,” such as restaurants.
Beccerra also charged Daleiden with conspiracy to invade privacy, alleging that Daleiden used a password from a former employee at the tissue procurement company StemExpress, accessed the company’s email system, and took documents.
The affadavit also alleged that Daleiden and Merritt set up a tissue procurement company of their own – BioMax Procurement Services, LLC – and used false names to “pose” as representatives of the company and to be admitted to a National Abortion Federation conference in San Francisco, “where they secretly video recorded conference speakers, vendors, and attendees.”
On Wednesday, the San Francisco Superior Court dismissed the 14 recording charges, but the charge for conspiracy to invade privacy has not yet been dropped.
Beccerra, a former Democratic congressman, had previously received small donations from Planned Parenthood as a candidate for Congress amounting to around $6,000 over the last 20 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
“Sandra did not break any law and the criminal complaint against her is legally deficient, vague and full of inconsistencies,” Horatio Mihet, Liberty Counsel's vice president of legal affairs and chief litigation counsel, stated.
“No other citizen journalist or organization has ever been charged with a crime for undercover recordings,” he added.
After Center for Medical Progress began releasing its recorded conversations with officials at Planned Parenthood and tissue procurement companies, Congress and several states launched investigations into Planned Parenthood to find out whether it broke the law in the fetal tissue trade.
A final report from a House select investigative panel released in January detailed various abuses in the abortion industry in the fetal body parts trade.
Consent forms required by law were not obtained from mothers to have the fetal tissue of their aborted child used for research. Private medical information may have been shared between abortion clinics and tissue procurement companies in a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
In another case, the University of New Mexico established a possibly illegal relationship with a local abortion clinic where students and fellows performed abortions at the clinic and the clinic’s abortionists were reportedly granted “volunteer faculty” status at the university where they received benefits like insurance coverage and access to university facilities.
Manchester, N.H., Jun 22, 2017 / 09:05 am (CNA).- Chiara Corbella Petrillo lived a short life. She met her husband Enrico Petrillo at age 18, became the mother of three children, and died at the age 28. But what happened within those 10 years has touched the hearts of thousands across the globe. Chiara's sainthood cause was opened last week, five years after her death. Her story is told in the 2015 book, “Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy,” published by Sophia Institute Press. “In the story of the Petrillo couple, many people recognize a providential consolation from heaven,” said Simone Troisi and Christiana Paccini, close friends of the Petrillo's who wrote the biography of Chiara's life. “They discover that in any situation, there is no real reason to be sad. This is because Chiara shows that if you have God as your guide, misfortunes do not exist,” they told CNA. Chiara and Enrico married in Italy on September 21, 2008 after having met at Medjugorje in 2002. During the early years of their marriage, the young Italian couple faced many hardships together, including the death of two children, who both died only 30 minutes after birth. Chiara became pregnant a third time with their son, Francesco. However, the joyful news of their pregnancy also came with a fatal diagnosis of cancer for Chiara. Her cancer was an unusual lesion of the tongue, which was later discovered to be a carcinoma. Chiara rejected any treatment that could have saved her life during pregnancy because it would have risked the life of her unborn son. As the cancer progressed, it became difficult for Chiara to speak and see clearly, eventually making her final days on earth particularly excruciating. “Her [Chiara's] suffering became a holy place because it was the place where she encountered God,” Troisi and Paccini recalled. Although many couples face hardships, Troisi and Paccini remembered something different about the Petrillos - they leaned on God’s grace which made their family particularly serene. They made peace with the reality that Chiara would never grow old with Enrico or watch Francesco grow up. During Chiara’s last days, Enrico embraced God’s grace just as Chiara did, saying, “If she is going to be with Someone who loves her more than I, why should I be upset?” Chiara died on June 13, 2012 at home in her wedding gown, surrounded by her family and friends. Although her earthly life was over, Chiara would continue to be a witness to joy. Troisi and Paccini believe that Chiara’s legacy is still living on because she gave witness to the truth that “love exists.” Neither she nor Enrico were afraid of love, marriage, or of committing themselves to their family. According to the authors, the young couple showed how “the purpose of our life is to love... to be married is a wonderful thing, an adventure that opens you up to Heaven in the home.” Chiara and Enrico's remarkable story is “a story of salvation in which God shows himself as a faithful God: they trust in Him and are not disappointed,” they stated. However, they were quick to note that Chiara was not “an extraordinary young woman, in a way that makes her different from us.” Rather, she struggled with many human fears and anxieties, especially with thoughts of pain, vomiting, and purgatory. “She had the same questions that we have, the same objections and struggles, the same fears,” Troisi and Paccini noted, saying what made her different was her “capacity to cast everything on the Father, to welcome the grace needed for whatever step she had to make.” With Chiara, the ordinary always became the extraordinary. Troisi and Paccini have fond memories of everyday life with the Petrillos, when a conversation about cooking chicken would end in talking about heaven. “We would share simple things like dinner, chatting, games on the rug with little Francesco... always very simple, without masks,” they remembered. “But when we were together, there was no difficulty in believing that eternal life was here and now!” Chiara has been called “a saint for our times.” Although her death was only five years ago, her legacy lives on and has inspired others around the world to be the same witness to joy. “Today, this joy is visible in those that lived alongside her: even if they miss her, they experience a mysterious and profound joy,” Troisi and Paccini stated. “We cannot insist enough on the fact that Chiara did what she did, not trusting in her own strength, but trusting in the grace and the consolation of God... She never doubted God's faithfulness to His promise of happiness for her story.” An earlier version of this article was originally published on CNA Dec. 2, 2015.
Mountain View, Calif., Jun 22, 2017 / 05:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A pro-life activist walks into Google’s headquarters and delivers a speech so compelling that within 24 hours, the online video of it surpassed a similar speech given by the head of Planned Parenthood.
It may sound like the start to a far-fetched joke, but on April 20th, pro-life speaker and activist Stephanie Gray did just that.
Gray was the co-founder of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform and served as its executive director for several year before starting the ministry which she now runs, Love Unleashes Life.
She spoke in April as a part of the Talks at Google series, a program that brings a variety of speakers to the company’s headquarters to discuss their work. Gray has participated in more than 800 talks and debates on abortion.
Gray’s talk centered around the idea that there are three qualities that lead us to call someone “inspiring:” They place others ahead of themselves, have “perspective” on their sufferings and situation in life, and do the right thing even in difficult situations. She linked these criteria to the process of dialoguing with others about abortion, emphasizing question asking.
She began by contrasting two stories, that of the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia in Italy in 2012 and the “Miracle on the Hudson” emergency plane landing in 2009. In the first story, she explained, the captain had jumped ship along with the rest of the crew. In the second, the pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, had been the last off the flooding vessel, ensuring his passengers all exited safely.
In comparing the two stories, she noted that Sullenberger was lauded as a hero, and the captain of the Concordia internationally shamed.
“If you agree that it was correct for the pilot to put the passengers ahead of himself, to prioritize the needs of his dependents,” she said, “then wouldn’t it follow, that when it comes to the topic of abortion and an unplanned pregnancy, that a pregnant woman ought to prioritize the needs of her dependent?”
However, she noted that the comparison was only valid “depending on, indeed, whether embryos and fetuses are human beings, like the passengers on the airplane.”
To determine whether or not a fetus is a human being, Gray displayed an image of a human fetus and posed the question, “What are her parents?” It would logically follow that two human parents’ offspring must be the same species, she said.
Despite the ambiguity around the origin point of human life when it comes to abortion, she said, in discussing other topics “we have great clarity.” For example, an IVF specialist or dog breeder would agree that the life they attempt to create begins at fertilization.
Taking a look at what qualifies as “personhood,” Gray considered the terms used by pro-infanticide philosopher Peter Singer, that a person is a being which is “rational, conscious, and self-aware.” She contrasted a human embryo with an amoeba: the embryo lacks these qualities “because of how old she is,” where the amoeba lacks them “because of what it is.”
“Should personhood be grounded in how old we are, or should personhood be grounded in what we are?” she asked.
“The quality of age shouldn’t be the basis for which someone has personhood status,” she answered, noting that the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the rights of “all members of the human family.”
She then addressed the question of the fetus’ dependence, arguing that the fetus’ greater dependent status as a weaker entity than a baby entitles it to greater, not less, protection. She related this to the story of a friend’s husband who, faced with the choice between rescuing a mother or her baby first from the roof of a sinking car, made the “obvious” choice to take the baby.
“Since you believe that we should prioritize weaker and more vulnerable people ahead of stronger people, then shouldn’t we actually prioritize the needs of the pre-born child?” she said.
She recalled meeting a Rwandan genocide survivor who, seeing a picture of a child killed in the conflict next to an aborted fetus, pointed to the image of the fetus and said, “That’s worse, because at least my family could try to run away.”
Considering the concept of perspective, she posed another question: “How can we change our perspective in an unplanned, crisis situation?” She recalled dialoguing with a college student whose stepmother had an abortion upon learning her baby was expected to die at birth. Responding with a thought experiment involving a terminal cancer diagnosis, she answered the student, “Why would we cut short the already short time we have left? Instead, wouldn’t we want to savor every moment of every day of the next 20 weeks (of the pregnancy)?”
Moving to her final criterion for what makes a person inspirational – “do the right thing” – she listed a number of circumstances that make pregnancy hard and often lead to abortion, including poverty or rape. But when we look at parents raising an already-born child in the same circumstances, she said, we can see that we ought to have the same attitude towards carrying an unborn child as towards parenting a child in the same situation.
Gray closed with a number of stories from people she knows personally, including a woman who was raped and had a child at age 12, a woman who cared for her baby daughter with respiratory issues, and a woman who regretted her own abortion and ended up counseling another woman to carry her baby to term.
“They’re inspiring because they put others ahead of themselves, because they had perspective, and because they did the right thing, even when it was hard,” she said of all the stories she had told throughout the talk. “And that’s the challenge that I leave all of you with today.”
In a question-and-answer session after her talk, she recommended that audience members seek to start dialogue on the difficult topic of abortion with open-ended questions, and to “seek to understand where (another) person is coming from.” She also used the analogy of a person choosing rape to address the thought that pro-life views cannot be “forced on” pregnant women, saying that just as it is illegal to make the choice to rape someone, it ought to be illegal to choose to end the life of a fetus.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards also gave a Talk at Google, in a video published March 7. Gray’s talk, published June 19, had surpassed Richards in views within 24 hours of being uploaded.
Washington D.C., Jun 22, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With the justice system rife with abuse, there is still much work to be done to call the faithful to minister to prisoners, victims, and their families, Christian leaders maintained on Tuesday.
“We need to raise this as a priority within the Church,” Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Death Penalty, told CNA of criminal justice reform and ministries to prisoners and their victims.
“Our Pope has been very outspoken about that, and spoken numerous times about our need to visit those imprisoned, and then accompany and journey with those that are affected by crime, all aspects, the perpetrators family, and the victims’ families,” she continued.
Clifton was one of a number of Christian leaders who spoke out against injustice in the justice system during a June 20 press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The panel included Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as Harry Jackson of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches. They unveiled the “Justice Declaration,” which calls for “a justice system that is fair and redemptive for all.”
It also calls for Christians to be more active in advocating for more humane conditions in prisons, “proportional punishment” for offenders, better educational and economic opportunities for poor people as crime prevention, and to “invest in the discipleship” of prisoners.
Christians must “treat every human being as a person made in God’s own image, with a life worthy of respect, protection, and care,” they stated.
“The Church has both the unique ability and unparalleled capacity to confront the staggering crisis of crime and incarceration in America and to respond with restorative solutions for communities, victims, and individuals responsible for crime,” the declaration said.
Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, is among the signatories, along with Karen Clifton.
Over-incarceration, racial disparity, and disproportionate sentencing are only some of the injustices that underscore the urgency for reform of the justice system, panel members insisted.
The U.S. is home to five percent of the world’s population, but holds 25 percent of the world’s prison population. 2.2 million are behind bars, leaving 2.7 million children with an incarcerated parent. African-Americans are incarcerated at a rate six times that of whites, according to the NAACP. 65 million Americans suffer from the collateral consequences of a conviction, which include difficulty in finding a job or renting a home even after they serve their prison sentence.
All this has produced a “crisis” to which the Christian community must respond, the leaders insisted.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2266 states that “punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.”
Pope Francis has also advocated for the eventual reintegration of prisoners into society, warning against only focusing on justice as an “instrument of punishment.”
Criminal justice reform measures had been gaining bipartisan momentum at the federal level as members of Congress in both parties supported various policies like ending mandatory minimum sentencing and limiting the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons.
However, with the advent of the new administration that momentum has slowed.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions dropped the Obama administration’s “Smart on Crime” initiative and has directed prosecutors to pursue stricter mandatory minimum sentences, which reform advocates say gives judges less flexibility to adjust one’s sentence based on the details of their case.
“We believe that it removes from the judge the ability to do his or her job,” James Ackerman, CEO of Prison Fellowship Ministries, said on Tuesday.
Christians are be on board with certain aspects of criminal justice reform, but for many there still remains a “disconnect” between their views on justice and reform of the justice system, Prison Fellowship claims in its report “Responding to Crime & Incarceration: a Call to the Church.”
In a recent poll commissioned by Prison Fellowship, 88 percent of practicing Christians answered that the primary goal of the justice system should be “restoration for all involved: the victim, the community, and the person responsible for the crime.”
However, in the same poll, 53 percent of practicing Christians answered that “it’s important to make an example out of someone for certain crimes” even if that entailed punishing them more harshly than they deserved.
“Disproportional punishment is not consistent with our values,” Ackerman stated.
How can the Church better bridge this “disconnect” in polling answers?
The Church must educate laypeople on the importance of the issue, and mobilize them to act through parish ministries, Clifton insisted.
“I want to say, ‘where are our resources?’” she asked. “There is so little funding for prison ministry, for care for victims, for programs for victims,” she said, and for incarceration prevention programs.
There is a “challenge to the churches to bring the stories to the pulpit,” she said, “to convert those in the pews, and know that this is the Gospel message, to be a voice to the voiceless and to go to the margins and the peripheries and be present in accompanying those back into society.”
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm, agreed.
“Our criminal justice system exists in order to restrain evil, and in order to rehabilitate and to reform those who have committed crimes,” he said.
If, however, the system “doesn’t stop crime, but in many cases actually furthers crime, making criminals out of those who are not yet criminals, ignoring those who have been victims of crime, not dealing with issues of addiction,” he continued, “then we have a criminal justice system that doesn’t work and ought to be fixed.”
“When we have family members who are left behind, waiting for those who are incarcerated and wondering if anyone remembers them, the church of Jesus Christ needs to be at the forefront of that,” he said.
Harry Jackson maintained that Christians must be actively fighting the racial disparity in the justice system.
“In this hour of racial tension, the most important step of healing that we could take at this point is to deal with the fact that there is an increasing, permanent underclass that’s coming out of black and Hispanic people being incarcerated,” he said, “and their lives being in a sense marked off the list of potential, or the list of achievers in our culture.”
“We have the opportunity now to make a difference,” he added. “I believe this is the most important civil rights step that we will take in our lifetimes.”
Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2017 / 09:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops have launched a website and video to mark the beginning of this year’s Fortnight for Freedom, focusing on religious freedom issues both at home and abroad.
The video, about ten minutes long and viewable on the Fortnight for Freedom website, features a number of legal, religious, and other personalities discussing the importance of religious liberty. The Fortnight for Freedom takes place June 21 - July 4.
“Religious freedom is one of the basic freedoms of the human person because without religious freedom, the freedom of conscience, all other freedoms are without foundation,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami says at the beginning of the video.
“A government that doesn’t acknowledge limits on its own power to regulate religious institutions is probably going to come after other institutions as well,” said Professor Rick Garnett of the Notre Dame Law School.
The video chronicles the struggle between the Little Sisters of the Poor and the HHS mandate of the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s over three now that this issue has been pursuing us,” says Sr. Constance, L.S.P.
Testimonies from beneficiaries of the Sisters’ work are showcased in the video.
“There is a spiritual component in the way that they live their lives that adds to not only enrichment of the residents’ lives but to those who are in contact with them, who work with them, who just hear about them,” says Carmel Kang.
“When religious freedom goes away, and there is no transcendent authority, then the law is the only norm, and the people in power now are always the only power,” says Professor Helen Alvare of George Mason University Law School.
The video emphasizes the United States’ historical connection to freedom of religion.
“The United States is the greatest country in the history of the world precisely because of the exceptional character of its relationship to faith which permeates every dimension of its evolution,” says Eugene Rivers II, an activist and Pentecostal pastor.
The video also highlighted the struggle of religious peoples in other parts of the world.
“Tragically, we see the killings, the martyrdom of Christians in Iraq, and Libya, and Egypt, Syria,” says Archbishop Wenski. The video then showed clips from the video of 21 Coptic Christians being martyred by the Islamic State in early 2015.
Professor Thomas Farr of Georgetown University noted the increased threat since the Obergefell vs. Hodges Supreme Court decision in June 2015, and also observed that viewpoints motivated by religion are being silenced.
The video also summarized Dignitatis humanae, the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious freedom, as well as noting Pope Francis’ concern for persecuted Christians around the world.
“We have to bring not just optimism, but genuine Christian hope,” says Archbishop Lori of Baltimore, head of the USCCB’s Committee on Religious Liberty, which was made a permanent structure of the conference at their annual spring meeting last week.
The video closed with a montage of scenes and figures including the Selma to Montgomery March, St. John Paul II, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
The USCCB’s Fortnight for Freedom website provides a host of prayer and practical resources on the topic of religious freedom.
The prayer resources are based in Scripture as well as the examples of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, and are available in both English and Spanish.
Among the practical resources is a brief guide to the issue, which seeks to defend and clarify the bishop’s views, responding to concerns that defense of liberty is an affront to treating people “with equal dignity.”
Also included are summaries of religious liberty concerns in the United States and internationally. Domestically, issues listed include the HHS mandate, the right to practice faith in business, and religious institutes’ right to aid undocumented immigrants. Internationally, concerns are presented from the Central African Republic, Myanmar, and Mexico.
On May 4, the National Day of Prayer, President Trump signed an executive order on religious liberty while surrounded by faith leaders, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl of D.C. and the Little Sisters of the Poor. The order called for agencies to consider different enforcement of the mandate and looser enforcement of the Johnson Amendment. It was modified from an earlier, leaked version which critics claimed would have allowed for unjust discrimination of LGBT people.
On May 31, a draft rule providing blanket protection from the mandate was leaked.
The bishops’ website does not include the Johnson Amendment among its concerns.
Atlanta, Ga., Jun 21, 2017 / 04:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Abortion rights groups invested heavily and lost in Tuesday night’s runoff special election for a Georgia House seat, and pro-lifers maintain the outcome proves the futility of the pro-abortion agenda.
In the June 20 special election to replace former congressman and now HHS Secretary Tom Price in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional district, Republican candidate Karen Handel was victorious, holding off Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff with 52 percent of the vote to his 48 percent.
“I think that this is really encouraging for pro-life candidates,” Mallory Quigley, communications director for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, told CNA Wednesday of the race in the Atlanta suburbs. “Planned Parenthood has just suffered another humiliating loss.”
Ossoff ran on arguably a moderate fiscal platform with ostensibly mild rhetoric, promising to fight wasteful spending and bring more tech jobs to the Atlanta metropolitan area, and vowing to work with Republicans on areas of agreement.
However, from the start of the abbreviated campaign he did zero in on Handel's opposition to taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, stating that “with all due respect to Karen, I think her record on women's health issues is lacking,” according to WXIA local news.
On the matter of abortion, he cast himself as a defender of a woman’s right to choose. “I would never disparage anyone who has differing views on the issue,” he said, as reported by WXIA, adding that “it's precisely that complexity at the ethical and medical level that makes it unacceptable for federal bureaucrats to be getting between women and families and their doctors.”
Handel, meanwhile, was vocally pro-life. She was previously the vice president of Susan G. Komen For the Cure, an organization that raises breast cancer awareness and funds research and which is also a prominent funder of Planned Parenthood.
In 2011, the foundation temporarily cut its grants to Planned Parenthood citing Congress’s investigation into the organization. The investigation was launched over concerns that Planned Parenthood’s federal funding might be used for abortions, and that it allegedly did not report suspicious cases of sexual abuse of minors.
After a widespread backlash in the media, Susan G. Komen quickly backtracked and promised to continue funding Planned Parenthood. Handel then resigned from the foundation.
Ossoff focused on this in a campaign ad, attacking Handel for trying to cut off Planned Parenthood funding and falsely claiming that Planned Parenthood provides breast cancer screenings. A moderator corrected Ossoff on this claim in a recent debate; Planned Parenthood provides referrals for screenings, not the screenings themselves.
Planned Parenthood’s political arm bragged of Ossoff’s strong support on its website. He had promised to be “an unyielding defender of Planned Parenthood,” and had insisted that “my commitment to reproductive health and family planning, as essential to the health of this community, is very strong.”
Abortion rights groups poured cash into the race. Planned Parenthood was the second-largest contributor to Ossoff’s campaign, with $820,000, behind only the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to OpenSecrets.org.
The National Abortion Rights Action League ran a six-figure onslaught of video ads, phone calls, and mail outreach in the last days before the election, hoping that accusations of Handel being “extreme” in her opposition to Planned Parenthood would resonate with voters.
Susan B. Anthony List was also active in the race, reaching “65,000 inconsistent voters who are pro-life through mail, phone calls, and digital advertising” and pointing to Ossoff’s “extreme pro-abortion agenda.”
Ultimately, Handel won the day by four percentage points, in a district that Price won by 23 percentage points last election cycle. The seat has not been held by a Democrat since 1979.
The race was the single most expensive House race in history, with spending at $56 million.
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, insisted that promoting abortion rights continues to be a losing issue for Democrats in states outside of the Northeast and the West Coast.
“Any time you do that in a pro-life district, you risk alienating voters who might otherwise vote for you,” she told CNA.
“We need to be helping people, not spending $25 million on an election that we’ll lose,” she added, referring to the record-setting level of campaign spending for a single House race.
“What are we doing to promote helping those in need?” she asked. “We’ve lost our focus on the little guy.”
The outcome of the election proves that “extreme pro-abortion positions” are losing, Quigley said. She pointed to a recent Susan B. Anthony List poll of voters in states that are considered to be battlegrounds for 2018 Senate races, saying that a majority of voters in select states opposed taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood.
Raiford, Florida, Jun 21, 2017 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Editor’s note: The following content may be disturbing to some readers. Reader discretion is advised.
He was one of the worst serial killers in U.S. history. An infamous murderer, rapist and necrophile in the 1970s, Ted Bundy’s life continues to attract the interest of psychologists today, who speculate about what drove the promising young law student to commit such horrific crimes.
Bundy admitted to committing 30 homicides of young women and girls in the 1970s, though he may have been guilty of many more. He appeared charming and approachable, which allowed him to lure his victims into brutal and often fatal assaults. Many of his victims were young, attractive, college women in the Pacific Northwest.
But what exactly led Bundy to commit these heinous acts? According to the serial killer himself, violent pornography was a huge motivating factor.
While the testimony of a serial killer – widely believed to be a psychopath – is clearly suspect, his account aligns with numerous other instances of violent criminals having strong connections to pornography.
On the day before he was put to death by electric chair in 1989, Bundy received hundreds of interview requests from media outlets nationwide. He declined these requests and granted his final interview to Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, to whom he said he believed he had something to say.
In their exclusive interview, Bundy discussed pornography as a possible explanation for what drove his behavior.
“I was essentially a normal person, I had good friends, I led a normal life except for this one small but very potent, very destructive segment of it that I kept very secret and very close to myself and I didn’t let anybody know about it,” he said.
Bundy said he first discovered “soft core pornography” in grocery stores, and was compelled to consume more, and increasingly violent, forms.
“...like an addiction, you keep craving something harder, which gives you a greater sense of excitement, until you reach a point where the pornography only goes so far.”
It was an “indispensable link in the chain of behavior” that led to the assaults and murders that he carried out on dozens of victims, he said. It also was a common factor among other violent offenders that he encountered during his stays in prison.
“I’ve lived in prison for a long time now and I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence just like me and without exception, every one of them was deeply involved with pornography. Without question, without exception, deeply influenced and consumed by addiction to pornography,” he added.
When asked about his fate, he said: “I think society deserves to be protected from me and from others like me. That’s for sure.”
However, “well-meaning people will condemn the behavior of a Ted Bundy while they’re walking past a magazine rack full of the very kinds of things that send young kids down the road to being Ted Bundys. That’s the irony,” he added.
While causation has been difficult to prove, a strong relationship with pornography exists for many violent offenders including numerous high profile murderers.
Brian Mitchell, who kidnapped and assaulted 14 year-old Elizabeth Smart in 2002, also had a pornography addiction. In 2016, after her release, Smart spoke to anti-pornography group Fight the New Drug about the effect that pornography had on her captor.
“Looking at pornography wasn’t enough for him. Having sex with his wife, after looking at pornography, it wasn’t enough for him,” Smart said. “And then it led him to finally going out and kidnapping me. He just always wanted more.”
She recalled one time when her captor “was just really excited and really kind of amped up about something.”
It turned out his excitement was over hard-core pornography, which he forced her to watch and reenact.
“I remember he would just sit and look at it and stare at it,” Smart said. “And he would just talk about these women. And then when he was done, he would turn and he would look at me, and he would be like, ‘Now we’re going to do this’.”
“It just led to him raping me more. More than he already did, which was a lot.”
Smart said she doesn’t know whether Mitchell would have kidnapped her had pornography not been involved.
“All I know is that pornography made my living hell worse.”
Studies show a correlation between pornography viewing and violent crimes. A 1995 analysis of 33 different studies showed that viewing pornography increases aggressive behavior, including having violent fantasies and even actually committing violent assaults. A University of New Hampshire study showed that states with the highest readership of pornographic magazines like Playboy and Penthouse, also have the highest rape rates.
Other violent criminals who frequently watched pornography and became violent offenders include Mark Bridger, who abducted, sexually assaulted and killed five-year-old April Jones, and kept explicit images of child sex abuse on his laptop.
In addition, U.K. serial killer Stuart Hazell amassed images of child abuse and bestiality, and took naked, sexual photographs of one 12-year-old victim. There is evidence he sexually assaulted her before killing her.
Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer also once said in an interview that part of his routine before searching for his next victim included viewing pornography.
Online pornography is one of the fastest growing addictions in the United States, on par with cocaine and gambling.
Once confined to the pages of a smuggled Playboy magazine, pornography can now be in the hands of anyone with a smartphone, and is more prolific and anonymous than ever. PornHub, one of the world’s largest sites with porn video streaming, reports that it averages 75 million viewers per day, or about 2.4 million visitors per hour.
With growing access has come growing awareness of pornography addictions, however, with several celebrities speaking out against it, numerous states declaring it a public health crisis, and grassroots anti-pornography groups sprouting up to help the addicted quit pornography.
Resources to fight pornography addictions include the online Fortify video program, Covenant eyes internet accountability and filtering software, and websites with information and support for individuals, spouses and communities facing addiction.
Phoenix, Ariz., Jun 21, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In recognition of their promotion of religious freedom, the founder of Alliance Defending Freedom and his wife will be inducted next week into the Order of St. Gregory the Great.
Alan and Paula Sears will receive the honor, granted to individuals for extraordinary service to the Church, at a June 29 service led by Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix at St. Bernadette parish in Scottsdale, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix.
Bestowing the honor on the Sears “is a well-deserved recognition of their many years of defending religious freedom, standing up for the true meaning of marriage and family life, defending the dignity and right to life of every human person, and faithfully living their lay vocation in their home, their parish, and the public square,” Bishop Olmsted has said.
The Order of St. Gregory the Great is granted to individuals for extraordinary service to the Catholic Church. It is one of several orders of pontifical knighthood, which the Church bestows to continue chivalric traditions and recognize merit and service. It can be given to both Catholics and non-Catholics, and was established in 1831 by Gregory XVI.
Previous recipients include Leo Nester, professor emeritus of choral and sacred music at the Catholic University of America; Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics; Chen Chien-jen, vice president of Taiwan; Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus; and Polish composer Henryk Gorécki.
Alan Sears founded Alliance Defending Freedom in 1994. The non-profit legal organization advocates for religious liberty, and has defended the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family, and has upheld the rights to free speech and conscientious objection.
“Paula and I are more than humbled by this honor. Christians and people of goodwill everywhere should have the freedom to live what they believe and to follow their conscience, what James Madison called ‘the most sacred of all property,’” Sears said in a June 15 statement.
“We have counted it a privilege, with God’s grace, to do our part to protect these freedoms. Pope Francis repeatedly has spoken strongly about religious liberty, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life, so it is a distinct honor to be recognized by him for our work in those areas.”
Paula added that “the world benefits when the Gospel is freely preached and lived … We are blessed to have had the opportunity to support and encourage those who have sacrificially shared that message and their lives with others. We are very humbled and grateful to Pope Francis for this honor and additionally thank him for his leadership in these areas.”
Since founding Alliance Defending Freedom alongside several other Christian leaders, Alan Sears served as the organization's president, CEO, and general counsel until the beginning of 2017. He has since transitioned into a founder's role at the non-profit.
He was succeeded as president, CEO, and general counsel in January by Michael Farris.
Farris commented that “I am personally grateful for Alan and Paula’s 23 years of sacrificial service to ADF and, therefore, also grateful to Pope Francis for bestowing them with this incredible honor. It’s amazing to be part of an organization that would not be where it is today without their tireless efforts and service to the body of Christ and beyond.”
Alan Sears served in several positions under the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations in the Departments of Justice and the Interior. He earned his doctorate in law from the University of Louisville School of Law, and had previously graduated from the University of Kentucky.
He is a member in good standing with the American, Arizona, California, District of Columbia (inactive), and Kentucky bar associations.
Washington D.C., Jun 20, 2017 / 10:28 am (CNA).- Omar al-Muqdad wanted to help the Iraqi refugees who were displaced from their homes in 2004. He volunteered to help with refugee resettlement, aiding those who came in finding housing, clothing and schools in Syria, where he lived.
Little did he know that just a few years later, he himself would be a refugee fleeing civil war in his own country.
“I had to flee for my life,” Omar told CNA. Six years ago, the Syrian journalist ran away from security forces who were threatening him. His crime? Reporting on the early days of what would come to be the Syrian Civil War.
First, he found refuge in Turkey. Then, once his refugee claim was processed, he found permanent resettlement in the United States.
March 15 marked the sixth anniversary of the start of the Syrian Civil War. What began as peaceful demonstrations protesting ongoing human rights abuses and suppression of free speech erupted into a war that has killed hundreds of thousands and forced millions from their homes.
Six years later, an end to the violence is nowhere in sight. The majority of Syria’s population has been displaced. New threats that have grown out of the situation – most prominently ISIS – have only added to the chaos. Together with other conflicts and famines in Somalia, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic and elsewhere, the world is now facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II.
Syria back then was considered a safe country.
For refugees like Omar, leaving home wasn’t something they had wanted or were prepared for: it was a choice between life and death.
Now 37 years old, and a resident of the United States for five years, Omar hopes Americans can come to understand some of what he experienced.
“Refugees are not your enemy,” he said. “They don’t know they are coming to the US,” he added, explaining that often refugees have little choice in where they are sent once they flee home. Instead, he urged compassion and acceptance as “a human responsibility as Americans.”
Maggie Holmesheroan, program manager for Catholic Relief Services’ operations in Jordan, agreed. “These are normal people like you and me,” she said.
“They lived normal lives before the conflict. They are now in a position where they’ve lost everything. Frankly, they’ve displayed incredible resilience in the face of a terrible situation.”
“Sometimes the instinct is to feel that they’re very different from us,” she continued, “but we should definitely find our common humanity.”
The seeds of a crisis
Before March 2011, Syria and its people looked very different from the images of rubble and terrified citizens associated with the country today.
Holmesheroan told CNA that before the war, the Syrian people were very similar in many ways to Americans, in terms of education, industry and social class.
“They had a very highly educated population – very diversified in terms of industry,” she said, noting that in her work, she regularly encounters refugees who were former government bureaucrats, blue collar workers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and nurses. “It’s really a representative range, just like we have here in the United States,” she said.
In fact, less than 15 years ago, some of the areas most damaged by airstrikes and bombing raids were the very places refugees from other conflicts were sent for safety and a new life.
“Syria back then was considered a safe country,” explained Omar.
However, many people – including Omar – were unsatisfied with the ruling Assad family’s policies. The family and its Ba’ath party had held control of the country since 1971. Critics from a range of religious sects and ethnic backgrounds have protested against both former president Hafez al-Assad and his son and current president, Bashar al-Assad for their anti-democratic policies and denial of basic human rights like freedom of speech and assembly. In addition, the Assad family has drawn strong opposition from Islamist movements who objected to various aspects of the family’s rule.
I had to start over from nothing.
In his work as a journalist, particularly reporting on economic and human rights struggles in the south of Syria, Omar ran into opposition from the government. “The Syrian authorities don’t generally tolerate any form of criticism against the government and institutions,” he said. “They consider that an act of treason if you dare to say something against the government or you ask for reforms.”
For reporting on these issues, as well as starting up a private magazine not controlled by the State, Omar was apprehended by Syrian security forces. After questioning and a military trial, he was sentenced to three years in a military prison. “They did not like what I was writing there and they considered it an act of treason against the state,” he said.
By March 2011, Omar had been released from prison and was working again as an undercover journalist, when protests began. Many of these demonstrations were initially focused on the government’s treatment of underage student protesters in the southern city of Daraa, and other political prisoners. Socioeconomic inequality, intense droughts and food shortages also heightened the tensions within Syria in the months leading up to the start of the conflict.
On March 15, 2011, protesters filled the streets of Damascus to demand the release of political prisoners and other human rights reforms. Within a few days, more and more demonstrators started gathering to demand broader democratic and human rights reforms. When the Syrian government cracked down in response to the initial protests, the demonstrations only grew stronger, bolstered by the success of pro-democracy movements elsewhere in the Middle East.
“The peaceful demonstration started taking over the streets, and people started demanding freedom,” Omar recalled. “I was covering this event.” But then he realized that he was once again being followed by Syrian security forces.
“I knew that if they could catch me, that would be the end.” Omar fled to Turkey.
Meanwhile, tensions continued to escalate in Syria and various opposition groups solidified against the Assad regime. Both government and opposition forces began to take up arms against one another as the conflict grew. By early 2017, it was estimated that at least 400,000 Syrians had been killed, at least 6.3 million displaced internally, and some 5 million had fled the country as refugees.
Close to home – yet far from it
When Omar fled to Turkey as a refugee, he registered immediately with the U.N. Human High Commissioner for Refugees. While his claim was being processed, he was able to work as a freelance journalist for CNN and other news outlets covering the war.
At the same time, other refugees from Syria started to leave, pouring into neighboring countries. More than 1 million refugees have fled to Jordan, and at least 2.2 million are now residing in Lebanon. This has placed considerable strain on the countries, which previously had populations of just 6 million and 4 million, respectively.
In some areas, refugees have moved into camps administered by various aid agencies. In other areas, like Jordan, the majority of refugees live in cities and urban areas. Still others take refuge in unofficial settlements.
Maggie Holmesheroan and her colleagues at Catholic Relief Services work with refugees who are trying to integrate in urban areas of Jordan. Refugees here face a number of challenges just getting by from day to day. “They’re trying to live life in a city, but basically, with no resources,” she said.
Many of the refugees fled violence at a moment’s notice with nothing but the clothes on their backs. In many cases, families were split up, and the men were often forced to stay behind. In most cases, documents, identification, birth certificates, diplomas, and bank cards were left behind.
When the refugees reach a safe place and apply for refugee status, they are generally not allowed to work, and must live off the allotment granted by the United Nations. Often, that is not enough to buy food and clothing, pay rent, cover medical expenses and send their children to school.
“You don’t have access to any of your resources, even if you were diligent and saved up money,” Holmesheroan said. “All those safety nets are gone for people. So they’re just surviving on whatever help they can get from a wide variety of organizations that are here.”
The majority of Syria’s population has been displaced.
In Jordan, CRS works with Caritas Jordan and Caritas Internationalis to provide refugees with aid in finding a livelihood, healthcare, non-food humanitarian support, psychological and social services, rent and cash subsidies to help make ends meet.
Recently, the situation in Jordan has improved slightly for some refugees, due to the country’s policy change allowing refugees to seek work permits in the garment manufacturing, agriculture, domestic work and construction industries. However the hundreds of thousands of refugees without those skills – for example, those who previously worked in the fields of teaching or medicine – still don’t have employment opportunities.
“They’re in limbo,” Holmesheroan said, with a very long wait ahead of them: the average refugee stays displaced for 17 years. Many of the refugees wish to return home, but there is no end in sight to the wars in Syria or Iraq.
“So, how do you handle the day-to-day stress of living in a situation where you’re in extreme poverty, you don’t have access to the resources that you need to do basic life, and then on top of that, you have no idea when anything might change?”
Until the conflict is resolved, the countries and agencies helping aid the millions of war refugees need adequate support and funding, Holmesheroan said. “We need to have a conversation about our fair share.”
She also stressed the importance of realizing that refugees are victims of violence. “The people who have run away from this war are running for their lives and are running away from extremism,” she said. “They are largely minorities and moderates who are running away from the violence. They don’t want to live in a country of extremists any more than we do.”
After a year of waiting in Turkey, Omar made it through the immigration process. Although the wait was long, he believes he “was one of the lucky ones” – the average waiting time for most refugees applying for resettlement is between 18 and 24 months. Omar added that he knows several people who have waited over three or even five years to be resettled.
In this time, Omar underwent interviews and waited for his status to be processed. Eventually his case was picked up by the International Catholic Migration Commission, which helped link his case with his new home country – the United States. Originally, Omar al-Muqdad expected to be sent to Canada or a different country for resettlement, so the news was a surprise. “I didn’t know I would be sent to the United States,” he said.
After he was referred to the United States, Omar underwent what he described as “extreme vetting,” consisting of interviews, health screenings and numerous background checks. In addition to the rigorous 20-step vetting process for those whose applications are initially accepted, Syrian refugees face further screening review from U.S. Immigration Services.
After passing all of these steps, Omar finally made it to the United States. “I was sent to Northwest Arkansas, to a small town called Fayetteville, where I started my life here.”
Ashley Feasley, director of policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, described to CNA the process of helping to resettle refugees in communities like Fayetteville around the country.
The bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services is one of nine private agencies that oversee all the resettlement of refugees in the United States. For the last five years, the agency has placed between a quarter and a third of all refugees who come to the U.S.
After refugees are placed with a community, the local office – typically run through Catholic Charities or another Catholic organization – is responsible for welcoming them and providing or linking them with basic services, such as housing, food, and medical care while they acclimate to the United States. Churches and other groups help them learn English, find employment, and integrate into their new community.
The average refugee stays displaced for 17 years.
This year, Trump’s executive order – if it withstands scrutiny by the courts – is expected to reduce the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. from 85,000 to at most 50,000. The administration’s 120-day freeze on all refugee admissions will also impact total refugee numbers, as well as the bishops’ ability to process and place them, due to a lack of reimbursements and personnel losses during the freeze.
Feasley objected to these policies. “There are so many vulnerable individuals who have been in the pipeline starting the process, who really are seeking refuge,” she told CNA. “This is obviously going to prevent them from doing that here in the United States.”
“In some cases, it really is going to prevent family reunification.”
Feasley also noted that in her experience, many refugees have been “benefits not only to their parishes, but to their communities.” She pointed to a number of former refugees who are now social workers in Catholic Charities and resettlement offices as an example.
Within the community of Syrian refugees specifically, she noted that the bishops have “seen great heartbreak but also great resiliency.” Most of them have fled extreme circumstances, and yet built stable lives here in the United States.
In this regard, she praised the Trump administration’s second executive order for removing the ban on Syrian refugees that was found in the initial order. “I think that it’s very important to welcome all nationalities,” she said.
When he was first assigned to resettle in Arkansas, Omar said he was concerned because of stereotypes he had heard about the South being unwelcoming to newcomers. Fortunately, he learned that that was a misconception.
“My experience there was really incredible. People there were very warm,” Omar said, adding that in his first few weeks in Fayetteville, he was welcomed into the community, and even into one of the local family's homes. “Back then there wasn’t ISIS…So, people were really open to helping refugees.”
Surrounded by warmth and welcomed into the community, Omar said that he “didn’t really feel alone.” A key part of the friendly atmosphere were the parish and Church agencies who helped with his resettlement. “I’m still grateful for them,” he said.
Eventually, Omar moved to the Washington, D.C. area in order to resume his career as a journalist. That path has not been easy.
“I had to start over from nothing,” he said. Although he already had a college degree in political science from Damascus University, he left his diploma at home when he fled Syria. When he came to the U.S., he had to start college over again.
Starting from scratch in his 30s was difficult. Still, in between reporting for a variety of national newspapers, Omar is on track to complete his studies soon. He plans on pursuing a Master’s degree next.
The people who have run away from this war are running for their lives.
Obaida Omar, a community supervisor and health case manager at the Catholic Family House in Rochester, NY, described the challenges of leaving one’s entire life behind and trying to start over.
She herself fled as a refugee from Afghanistan 25 years ago. Later, she became a social worker. “I just love helping refugees,” she told CNA. “They’re really good people. They’re very strong.”
Today, she aids people from Syria as well as other countries. Obstacles abound. Few of her clients have family or friends in the area, and it can take time to settle into a new community. Interpreters are provided as refugees learn the language of their new home, but building trust with the interpreter takes time.
Her clients also face a range of medical issues from the violence they have experienced. Some have lost limbs in war. Others are wheelchair bound or suffer from PTSD and other mental health challenges. And still others have various levels of hearing loss, creating an extra layer of difficulties when trying to arrange for an interpreter.
CNA attempted to contact a number of dioceses, Catholic Charities offices and relief agencies to talk to other Middle Eastern refugees. Many refugee families – both in the United States and abroad – declined to be interviewed, fearing discrimination or negative repercussions of being identified in print as a refugee or a Middle Easterner.
Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, located in the Archdiocese of Detroit, was one of several agencies that cited recent changes in government policy as causing personnel cuts, which meant that remaining staff were unable to contact families due to other increased responsibilities.
Resettling more than 700 refugees in 2016 alone, Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan is one of the largest resettlement projects in the United States. The area has a significant existing Middle Eastern population.
Between 2014 and late 2016, the overwhelming majority of the refugees directed to the area were Chaldean Catholics from Iraq – most of whom were fleeing persecution at the hands of ISIS. In late 2016, the office experienced a surge of Syrian refugees coming into the area.
However, the rapid decline in refugee admissions for 2017 has resulted in a budget shortfall of $131,000, the agency said. Bill Blaul, institutional advancement director, told CNA that the group was “hanging onto our absolute core in the hope that we can start relocating refugees here again.”
And other agencies around the country are facing similar budget constraints. Many staff members have been laid off. In some cases, vital programs will be able to continue for a few more months.
Omar al-Muqdad is one of the lucky ones. While other refugees are still waiting to hear if they will be accepted by a host country, he is ready to make his residence in the U.S. permanent.
“I just filed my citizenship application and America is my new home,” he said. He added that he felt he owed it to the Arkansas community who took him in “to pay the community back for the kindness that they showed to me when I first came here.”
“I’m trying, but it’s not easy,” he said of his journey so far. “I’m trying to do my best here.”
This article was originally published on CNA March 15, 2017.
Newark, N.J., Jun 20, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Last month Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark welcomed a pilgrimage of self-identified LGBT pilgrims, with an archdiocesan spokesman saying it should be seen in the context of welcoming everyone, not as archdiocese sponsorship of the event.
“I think that the central point that is missing from the majority of the media coverage and blog postings about this pilgrimage is that the cardinal was asked whether he might welcome a group of pilgrims who identify as LGBT. He said yes, we welcome all in the name of Christ,” James Goodness, communications director for the Archdiocese of Newark, told CNA.
“This was not an event sponsored by the archdiocese, and we did not promote or advertise it,” Goodness said. “It was a purely private event.”
Some news coverage of the pilgrimage depicted it as a shift within the Church.
Cardinal Tobin did not concelebrate Mass or preach at the pilgrimage, which Goodness described as a private event.
“He simply offered a word of welcome as he would do for other groups of pilgrims,” the spokesman said. “It is important to note that the cardinal feels very strongly that welcoming people is a first step in any relationship, and that, as Pope Francis says, we have to meet people and minister to them where they are.”
The group included self-identified LGBT Catholics from around New York and New Jersey. The May 21 visit included a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart and a tour of the cathedral.
The cardinal greeted the group at the Newark cathedral. “I am Joseph, your brother,” he said. “I am your brother, as a disciple of Jesus. I am your brother, as a sinner who finds mercy with the Lord.”
“The word I use is ‘welcome’,” Cardinal Tobin said in an interview before the Mass, the New York Times reports. “These are people that have not felt welcome in other places. My prayer for them is that they do. Today in the Catholic Church, we read a passage that says you have to be able to give a reason for your hope. And I’m praying that this pilgrimage for them, and really for the whole Church, is a reason for hope.”
The cardinal said it was appropriate “to welcome people to come and pray and call them who they were. And later on, we can talk.”
Goodness told CNA there is a chapter of Courage in the Newark archdiocese, which has been active “for many years.”
Courage ministers to Catholics with same-sex attraction and their friends and family who want to live according to Catholic teaching.