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Pope's homily: Become small to hear the voice of the Lord

Jun 23 2017

(Vatican Radio) In order to hear the voice of the Lord, you need to make yourself small. That was the message of Pope Francis in his homily at the daily Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Friday morning, as the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Lord has chosen us, He has “mixed Himself up with us in the journey of life,” and has given “His Son, and the life of His Son, for our love.” In the first Reading, taken from the book of Deuteronomy, Moses says that God has chosen us “from all the nations on the face of the earth to be a people peculiarly His own.” Pope Francis explained how God is praised because “in the Heart of Jesus He gave us the grace to celebrate with joy the great mystery of our salvation, of His love for us”; that is, celebrating “our faith.” In particular, the Pope dwelt on two words contained in the reading: “to choose,” and “smallness.” With regard to choosing, the Holy Father said it is not we who have chosen God, but rather, God has made Himself a “our prisoner”:

“He has attached Himself to our life; He cannot detach Himself. He is strongly yoked! And He remains faithful in this attitude. We were chosen for love and this is our identity. ‘I have chosen this religion, I have chosen…’ [we might say]. No, you have not chosen. It is He Who has chosen you, has called you, and has joined Himself to you. And this is our faith. If we do not believe this, we don’t understand the message of Christ, we don’t understand the Gospel.”

For the second word, “smallness,” Pope Francis recalled how Moses said that the Lord had chosen the people of Israel because it was “the smallest of all nations”:

“He was enamoured of our smallness, and for this reason He has chosen us. And He chooses the small: not the great, the small. And He is revealed to the small: ‘you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.’ He is revealed to the little ones: if you want to understand something of the mystery of Jesus, lower yourself: make yourself small. Be mindful of being nothing. And He not only chooses and reveals Himself to the little ones; He calls the little ones: ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.’ You that are the smallest – because of suffering, because of fatigue – He chooses the little ones, He is revealed to the little ones, and He calls the little ones. But the great, does He not call them? His heart is open, but the great do not recognize His voice because they are not able to hear it because they are full of themselves. To hear the voice of the Lord, you must make yourself little.”

And thus we come to the mystery of the Heart of Christ, which is not a “holy card” for the devout: the transfixed Heart of Christ is “the heart of revelation, the heart of our faith, because He made Himself small, He has chosen this way”: that of humbling Himself, of emptying Himself “even to death on the Cross.” It is, the Pope said, “a choice for smallness, so that the glory of God might be manifest.” From the Body of Christ transfixed by the soldier’s lance, “blood and water” flowed out, the Pope reminded us; and “this is the mystery of Christ” in today’s celebration of “a Heart that loves, that chooses, that is faithful,” and that “is joined to us, is revealed to the little ones, calls the little ones, makes itself little”:

“We believe in God, yes; yes in Jesus too, yes… ‘Is Jesus God?’ [someone asks.] ‘Yes,’ [we respond]. This is the manifestation, this is the glory of God. Fidelity in choosing, in joining Himself and making Himself little, even for Himself: to become small, to empty Himself. The problem of the faith is the core of our life: we can be so much, so virtuous, but with little or no faith; we must start from here, from the mystery of Jesus Christ, Who has saved us with His faithfulness.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily with the prayer that the Lord might grant us the grace to celebrate in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, “the great acts, the great works of salvation, the great works of redemption.”

Listen: 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to Serra International: Keep moving forward with courage

Jun 23 2017

(Vatican Radio) “Keep moving forward with courage, creativity and boldness.” Those were Pope Francis’ words to Serra International whom he met on Friday on the occasion of their 75th convention.

Listen to our report: 

To quote St John Paul II, Serrans “accept as their responsibility the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life”, and on Friday, his successor to the See of Peter,  Pope Francis said that above all else a Serran, “is a special friend whom the Lord has brought into the lives of seminarians and priests.”

The Holy Father made the comment during an address to the 600 participants attending the 75th Convention of Serra International taking place in Rome this week.

Speaking about friendship, the Pope said friends stand at our side, they listen to us closely, and can see beyond mere words; they are merciful when faced with our faults; they are non-judgmental. 

This, Pope Francis commented is, “also the kind of friendship that you seek to offer to priests.”  The Serra Club, he added,  “helps foster this beautiful vocation of being laity who are friends to priests.” 

The Holy Father noted another phrase that is used to describe the Serrans, that is Siempre adelante!  or Keep moving forward!  Like you, the Pope went on to say, “I believe that this is a synonym for the Christian vocation.”

Vocation, Pope Francis said “is an invitation to go forth from ourselves, to rejoice in our relationship with the Lord, and to journey along the ways that he opens up before us.”

But he stressed, “we cannot make progress unless we take a risk, and have the courage to dare, not to let fear stifle creativity, not to be suspicious of new things, but instead to embrace the challenges which the Spirit sets before us, even when this means changing plans and charting a different course.”

In conclusion, the Pope invited those gathered to keep moving forward with courage, creativity and boldness.  “Do not rest on your laurels, he said, but be ever ready to try new things.” 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to ROACO recalls suffering of Eastern-rite Christians

Jun 22 2017

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday met with members of ROACO, (Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches) who have been holding their 90th plenary assembly in Rome this week.

The meeting brings Church leaders from countries across the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe together with donor organisations which raise funds for Christians in the Eastern-rite Churches.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:

The four day meeting has been focused on the difficult situation of Christians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Holy Land, as well as reflecting on the training of priests and seminarians in all the Eastern-rite Churches.

In his message to participants, Pope Francis thanked them for their constant work of charity and solidarity over the past half century in support of Latin and Eastern-rite communities under the care of the Vatican’s Congregation for Oriental Churches.

Persecution and emigration

These Churches of the Middle East, as well as in Eastern Europe, he said, have often suffered from “terrible waves of persecution and pain”. Emigration has also significantly weakened the presence of these Churches in places where they flourished for centuries.

Freedom has now returned to some of those regions, the Pope said, but others, particularly in Syria, Iraq and Egypt, are still devastated by “wars and absurd violence perpetrated by fundamentalist terrorism.” These experiences are a source of both suffering and salvation, he said, as we experience the Cross of Christ.

Temptations of social status

Speaking about the formation of priests and seminarians, Pope Francis noted the dedication and heroic witness of so many prelates. But he also warned about the temptations of seeking social status that is associated with the priesthood in some parts of the world.

The Congregation for Oriental Churches and donor agencies must continue to support projects and initiatives which build up the Church in an authentic way, the Pope said. We must remember we are living stones, built around Christ as our corner stone, he added.

Witness to the Gospel

Finally, the Pope remembered all those Christians – Catholics, Orthodox or Protestant – whose blood continues to be spilled because of their witness to the Gospel. When Eastern-rite Christians are forced to emigrate, he said, they must be welcomed in their new countries and allowed to continue their worship according to their own traditions

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Mass: Discern and denounce evil, care for others

Jun 22 2017

(Vatican Radio) A shepherd must be passionate, must know how to discern and how to denounce evil. Those were Pope Francis’ words during Mass on Thursday at the Casa Santa Marta, where he focused on the figure of the Apostle Paul and then turned his attention to the example offered by Don Milani. Like the parish priest of Barbiana, the Pope said, one should take care of one’s neighbour.

"The Good Shepherd gives his life for his sheep," said Pope Francis during his homily, drawing inspiration from the readings of the day and dwelling on the characteristics that a shepherd should have. The Pope noted in Saint Paul, the figure of the "true shepherd", who does not abandon his sheep unlike a "mercenary". The first quality, therefore, the Holy Father indicated, is that St Paul  is "passionate". Passionate,  he added, "to the point of telling his people, 'I feel for you all a kind of divine jealousy'." He  is "divinely jealous," the Pope commented.

The true shepherd knows how to discern, on guard against at the seduction of evil

A passion therefore becomes almost "madness", "stupidity" for his people. "And this – the Pope added - is that which we call apostolic zeal: he cannot be a true shepherd without this fire." A second characteristic, he continued, the pastor must be "a man who knows how to discern":

"He knows what seduction in life is. The lying father is a seducer. The Shepherd, is not. The shepherd loves. Instead, the snake, the father of lies, is a seducer. He is a seducer trying to turn away from fidelity, because that divine jealousy of Paul was to bring the people to a single groom, to keep the people loyal to their bridegroom. In the history of salvation, in Scripture many times we turn away from God, disloyalty towards the Lord, idolatry as if it were a maternal infidelity. "

You must know how to report evil, not be naïve

The Shepherd’s first characteristic, then, "is to be passionate, zealous, zealous". The second feature is, "someone who knows how to discern: to discern where the dangers are, where the graces are... where the real road is". This, the Pope said, "means he always accompanies his sheep: in beautiful moments and even in bad moments, even in moments of seduction, with patience he brings them to the fold." And the third feature: is "the ability to denounce":

"An apostle cannot be naive: 'Ah, it's all right, let's go ahead, eh? It's all right ... Let's party, everyone ... everything is possible ...'. because there is the fidelity to the only groom, to Jesus Christ, to be defended. And he knows how to condemn it: that concreteness, to say ' no,' like the  parents say to the baby when he starts to clap and goes to the electric socket to put his fingers in : 'No, no! It's dangerous!'. But, I think so many times of that 'tuca nen' (do not touch anything ndr) that my parents and grandparents told me at those moments where there was a danger. "

Take care of others  as Don Milani did

 "The Good Shepherd – Pope Francis said - can denounce, by name and surname" as St. Paul did.

The Holy Father returned to his visit to Bozzolo and Barbiana, this week, referring, "to those two good shepherds of Italy." And speaking of Don Milani, he recalled his "motto" when he "taught his boys":

"I care. But what does it mean? They explained to me that he wanted to say 'I care'. He taught that things were to be taken seriously, against the fashion motto at that time that was 'I do not care,' but said in another language, which I dare not say here. And so he taught the kids to move on. Take care: take care of your life, and this no! '"

Paul's apostolic zeal, was passionate, zealous. Man, commented the Holy Father knows how to discern because he knows the power of seduction and knows the devil seduces.

The Pope then concluded with a prayer "for all the shepherds of the Church, for Saint Paul who intercede before the Lord, for all of us pastors in order to serve the Lord."

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope donates funds to support aid projects in South Sudan

Jun 21 2017

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has pledged to donate about half a million dollars to support Church-run education, healthcare and agricultural projects in South Sudan.

At a press conference in the Vatican on Wednesday, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the office for Integral Human Development, led a panel of speakers giving details of those humanitarian projects, run by Caritas and by missionaries from different religious institutes. The cardinal also outlined numerous initiatives that the Holy See has taken to stop the war, which flared across the country in 2013.

Listen to Philippa HItchen's report:

Pope Francis may have postponed a planned visit to war-torn South Sudan this year, but he’s clearly more determined than ever to raise awareness about the need to support those suffering from conflict and starvation.

Over half the population doesn’t have enough food to eat, a million and a half people have fled their homes, thousands are suffering from a cholera epidemic and untold numbers are victims of killings, rapes and other violent crimes.

Faces behind the statistics

But beyond the shocking statistics of this largely forgotten war, it’s vital to remember the individual victims – that’s why aid workers have started a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #southsudanwecare

Among those speaking at the Vatican press conference was Sr Yudith Pereira-Rico, from Solidarity with South Sudan, an organisation founded by male and female religious congregations over a decade ago:

We don’t talk about numbers, we talk about individuals who are suffering….any time a young man or woman in South Sudan clicks this hashtag they will know how many people care.....this moral support is very important"

Part of the pope’s donation will go to support a college in Yambio run by Solidarity with South Sudan to train teachers, nurses, midwives, farmers and community leaders. As well as learning vital job skills, the students from many different ethnic groups learn about the values of diversity and collaboration, an important sign of hope for the country which gained independence in 2011.

Caritas and Comboni missionaries

Other beneficiaries of the initiative entitled ‘The Pope for South Sudan’ include two hospitals run by Comboni missionaries and an agricultural project, run by Caritas, to provide livelihoods for 2.500 families in the dioceses of Yei, Yambio and Torit. Michel Roy, secretary general of Caritas Internationalis, told journalists that while peace must be the priority for South Sudan, the international community must also do more to save lives of those dying from hunger and disease

The UN has launched an appeal, right now it is half funded, there’s a real need for the international community to engage more, much more. This cannot be just another forgotten conflict, like Darfur…”

Holy See mediation efforts

Asked about Vatican initiatives to try and stop the fighting, Cardinal Peter Turkson said he had been personally involved in two mediation efforts to bring together warring leaders President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar. Amid concerns that the conflict was spreading across the region, the nuncio in Kenya also met with Machar last December to urge the parties to come to the negotiating table.

Planned peace pilgrimage

So far, these attempts have failed to bring peace, but Cardinal Turkson stressed the Holy See continues to do all it can to stop the fighting in South Sudan. That’s a key condition before a planned visit to the region by the pope and by Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, can take place. While they had hoped to travel together in October to endorse peace efforts of all Christians in the region, that trip has been postponed until at least 2018.

(from Vatican Radio)

CNA Daily News

A doctor prescribed a procedure, but insurance offered death

Jun 23 2017

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.”

Dating apps and the death of romance – what's a Catholic to do?

Jun 23 2017

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.

Stop sharing fake news, Filipino bishops implore

Jun 23 2017

Manila, Philippines, Jun 23, 2017 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fake news is a problem everywhere, including in the island nation of the Philippines.

So much so that the bishops of the Catholic-majority country have released a first-of-its-kind pastoral letter to their people imploring them: Please stop sharing fake news.  

“At (Jesus’) trial, the question of truth figured prominently. ‘What is truth?’ asked a bewildered Pilate, because he failed to recognize in Jesus, THE TRUTH!” the bishops said.

Therefore, they said, Christians are called to recognize truth in all forms, and to not participate in deceit for falsehoods in any way.

“A fact,” the bishops helpfully explain, “is anything that is or that happens.”

“If one man kills another, it cannot but be a fact that the deed was done, and any 'alternative fact' that would have it so that no killing was done is simply false, and, when meant to deceive, a lie!”

The bishops lamented that there are those “who have given themselves to the service of reporting what never happened, concealing what really happened, and distorting what should be presented in a straightforward manner.”

They also observed that social media “has become the unfortunate site of 'alternative facts' and 'fake news'. Not only does this offend against the orientation of the human intellect to the truth. It is, more fundamentally, a sin against charity because it hinders persons from making right and sound decisions and induces them, instead, to make faulty ones!”

The letter, issued by Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Filipino bishops' conference, includes four obligations for Catholics regarding the truth.

“Catholic faith obliges us to: 1. To refrain from patronizing, popularizing and supporting identified sources of ‘alternative facts’ or ‘fake news,’” they said, referencing a phrase from a media faux pas made by Kellyanne Conway, counselor to U.S. President Donald Trump, earlier this year.

Secondly, Catholics are obliged “To rebut and refute falsehood whenever they are in possession of facts and of data.”

Catholics also must “refuse to be themselves purveyors of fake news and to desist from disseminating this whether on social media or by word of mouth or through any other form of public expression.”

And finally, Catholics must “identify the sources of fake news so that our brothers and sisters may be duly alerted and may know which media and which sites to shun,” they said.

The letter comes during the same month that a “fake news blocker” was launched in the country by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. Their newly-created Google Chrome plug-in “Fakeblok” flags fake news and misinformation on Facebook.

A recent study found that Filipinos spend the most time online and on social media of any country in the world.

The pastoral letter also comes at a time when opposing political camps in the Philippines are using fake news to advance their agenda, including controversial President Rodrigo Duterte, according to Philippine news source Rappler.

“A number of officials and agencies of the Duterte administration, such as Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, have also been accused of spreading fake news. Uson and many pro-Duterte bloggers have also discredited legitimate journalists as ‘presstitutes,’” Rappler reported.

The bishops of the country went so far as to say that sharing fake news is not only an offense against human intellect, but a “sin against charity” because “it hinders persons from making right and sound decisions and induces them, instead, to make faulty ones!”

“We your bishops join the Lord Jesus in His prayer that we all be consecrated in the truth, because the Word of the Lord is truth!”

Calif. court drops 14 charges against Planned Parenthood investigator

Jun 22 2017

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.

US military archbishop prays for victims of USS Fitzgerald collision

Jun 22 2017

Yokohama, Japan, Jun 22, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday the Archbishop for Military Services, USA offered his prayers and condolences for the sailors who perished on USS Fitzgerald after colliding with a container ship off the coast of south east Japan last week.

“Deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life on the USS Fitzgerald, I ask all of the faithful to remember in prayer the victims and their families,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio said in a June 21 statement.

“I express my heartfelt sympathy to the families whose loved ones perished in this unfortunate incident,” he added.

Twenty-five minutes after a Filipino container ship, the ACX Crystal, made a sudden U-turn, it crashed into the starboard side of the USS Fitzgerald, a destroyer, in the early hours of June 17 near Shimoda, Japan.

The hull of the destroyer was penetrated below the waterline, causing water to flood into the radio room, machinery, and two sleeping quarters for the crew. The captain’s cabin was also damaged.

Seven sailers died in the collision. Three men were also injured; they were quickly evacuated by helicopter.

Archbishop Broglio also expressed his sympathy for the survivors of the collision, saying: “My heart also goes out to all of the members of the crew who not only lost their esteemed shipmates, but also all of the personal belongings they had on board with them.”

“The Naval community at Yokosuka has responded with great care in attempting to meet the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of those who survived the collision,” he added. “May Almighty God give them continued fortitude in the days ahead.”

Most men out of the 350 person crew on the USS Fitzgerald were asleep, but sailors still acted heroically according to Seventh Fleet Commander Joseph Aucoin. He said the ship could have taken on more water and potentially sunk, but the crew worked well to keep the water from spreading.  

The ACX Crystal sustained lighter damage to its port bow, and none of its crew of 20 were injured.

The USS Fitzgerald was first commissioned in 1995, and in 2005 it was deployed to counteract missile crises around the globe.

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