Pope Francis invites young economists, entrepreneurs to Italy in 2020

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Vatican City, May 11, 2019 / 11:04 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has personally invited young economists and entrepreneurs to join him in Assisi, Italy, in 2020, to discuss how to bring the culture of life and care for the common good to the global economy.

In a letter published May 11, the pope extended an invitation to an “event that will allow me to encounter young men and women studying economics and interested in a different kind of economy: one that brings life not death, one that is inclusive and not exclusive, humane and not dehumanizing, one that cares for the environment and does not despoil it.”

“With you, and through you,” he said, “I will appeal to some of our best economists and entrepreneurs who are already working on the global level to create an economy consistent with these ideals. I am confident that they will respond.”

“And I am confident above all in you, young people, who are capable of dreaming and who are prepared to build, with the help of God, a more just and beautiful world.”

Called “Economy of Francesco,” the event is set to take place March 26-28, 2020, in Assisi, the hometown of St. Francis located in central Italy.

The pope said Assisi was chosen as the location because it is the place St. Francis left behind worldliness “in order to choose God as the compass of his life.”

St. Francis’ “decision to embrace poverty,” he continued, “also gave rise to a vision of economics that remains most timely. A vision that can give hope to our future and benefit not only the poorest of the poor, but our entire human family.”

According to Pope Francis, St. Francis of Assisi is an “outstanding example of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology.”

“I think of the words spoken to him from the Crucifix in the little church of San Damiano: ‘Go, Francis, repair my house, which, as you see, is falling into ruin.’ The repair of that house concerns all of us. It concerns the Church, society and the heart of each individual,” he stated.

In the face of an urgent need, Pope Francis encouraged people to rethink their “mental and moral priorities, to bring them into greater conformity with God’s commandments and the demands of the common good.”

In his letter, the pope also referenced his 2016 encyclical on the environment Laudato si, in which he emphasized the need for care of the environment to be connected to a concern for justice for the poor and answers to the structural problems of the global economy.

“We need to correct models of growth incapable of guaranteeing respect for the environment, openness to life, concern for the family, social equality, the dignity of workers and the rights of future generations,” he said, adding that he believes few have yet heard this appeal or worked to set into action an economic model based on fraternity.

The March 2020 event will be open to Catholics and to people “of good will” of any faith and of any nationality.

The event will promote “a common ‘covenant,’ a process of global change,” Francis said, through people “inspired by an ideal of fraternity attentive above all to the poor and excluded.”

“I await you and even now, I greet you and I give you my blessing,” he concluded the letter. “Please, do not forget to pray for me.”


Canadian MPs fight to protect doctors, patients against euthanasia

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Ottawa, Canada, May 11, 2019 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Canadian members of parliament are attempting to pass a law that would protect the conscience rights of doctors, as government leaders look to expand access to euthanasia in the country.

Conservative MP David Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Saskatchewan) introduced bill C-418 in October as a private member’s bill, seeking to protect medical practitioners unwilling to euthanize their patients or provide referrals for medically induced deaths.

Anderson told CNA that he was inspired to submit the bill after hearing complaints from doctors that Canada’s “medical assistance in dying” (MAID) policies were a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

“One [part] of that oath is ‘we will not administer poison,’” Anderson told CNA in an interview. “So it’s clear, right? And yet, now the medical system is expected to be the ones who actually administer these drugs that terminate people’s lives.”

The legislation would make it illegal to “intimidate a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional for the purpose of compelling them to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assistance in dying.”

The bill would also make it an offence to fire someone for refusing to take part in MAID. Canada’s healthcare system is government-run, tying doctors' working conditions and practice closely to ministerial policy.

Last year, MAID accounted for 1.12 percent of all deaths in Canada. Although Canadians have an option to self-administer the drugs to end their lives, only a single person chose this option.

Anderson told CNA that he is concerned that MAID, coupled with Canada’s aging population and increasingly expensive healthcare system, could result in dehumanization.

Presently in Canada, women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of disability are "encouraged to abort [their preborn child] so they're not part of our medical system beyond that one event,” Anderson said.

The MP is worried that this attitude could be expanded to view the elderly and persons with disabilities as unnecessarily expensive costs to the healthcare system.

“Certainly, seniors, disabled people cost the system more than the healthy people do,” Anderson said.

“You can see people justifying assisted suicide, euthanasia in the future in order to save money, and we don't want to get to that point."

Anderson said there are currently posters in hospitals that explain MAID, and also explain who can request that their doctor end their life.

He told CNA that he thinks this is “entirely inappropriate,” and that people “shouldn’t go into the hospital in order to facilitate (their) death.”

Currently, only people who are over the age of 18, have been deemed to be “mentally competent,” and have been diagnosed with a terminal physical illness by two doctors or two nurse practitioners are eligible to receive MAID.

But these restrictions could be changed, Conservative MP Michael Cooper of St. Albert-Edmonton warned CNA.

The existing MAID policy that was passed into law is “far more limited” than the version originally recommended by the joint legislative committee, Cooper said.

“My concern at this point in time is that the limited safeguards that have been put in place...All of that now is potentially on the table to be opened up, whereby there would be virtually no safeguards in place,” Cooper said. 

Potential changes being considered, Cooper explained, include allowing those with mental illnesses as well as “mature minors” to request MAID, and the creation of an “advanced directive” whereby a person can give instructs for their own death as a contingency plan.

“At this point, there has been no indication that further changes to the law are going to be made,” said Cooper.

“But I'm not optimistic that over the long term that won't be the case.”

Both Cooper and Anderson expressed concern about the state of palliative care in Canada as a result of the MAID law and a lack of clear conscience rights for doctors.

“We do have a strong palliative care community in Canada, who have been encouraging governments to really commit to that,” Anderson said.

“One of the things that concerns me is that I’m hearing about doctors who have been involved in palliative care in the past who are shutting down their practices because of the threat of being forced to participate in assisted suicide.”

This results in fewer palliative care doctors in Canada, “in a time when we probably should be encouraging it and strengthening it.”

“This government has basically window-dressed when it comes to palliative care,” said Cooper, the Albertan MP.

“There’s very little movement on the palliative care front.”

Cooper told CNA that he thinks it “essential” that palliative care be expanded in Canada and that it is not currently available to most Canadians, a problem he said predates the passage of MAID.

“Absent palliative care, many individuals may feel there is no other choice but to go down the road of physician assisted dying, or may even feel pressure from family members or friends who may be otherwise in a position of looking after them,” Cooper said.

‘God weeps’: Catholic leaders help community cope with STEM school shooting

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Denver, Colo., May 11, 2019 / 03:38 am (CNA).- When Fr. Gregory Bierbaum heard about a shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, just two miles up the road, he drove to Rock Bottom, a restaurant where students who had escaped the school were gathering.

“One of my staff’s grandsons is one of them who escaped, so I went over just to be present,” he told CNA.

On Tuesday, May 7, one student was killed and eight others were injured when two shooters reportedly opened fire at STEM high school in Highlands Ranch, a suburb south of Denver.

The STEM school falls within the boundaries of Bierbaum’s parish, St. Mark’s Catholic Church, and about a dozen of his parishioners are students at the school. The priest spoke with CNA on Thursday, May 9, which the parish designated as a day full of prayer, counseling, adoration and Mass for those impacted by the shooting.

While Bierbaum’s student parishioners at STEM were not physically injured in the shooting, they were in “close proximity” to the room of the shooting, and have endured some serious psychological trauma, he said.

“We just want to provide a safe haven for people to come and be together and interact with counselors if they need to,” Bierbaum said.

Two suspects in the shooting are now in custody, and have been identified by authorities as Devon Erickson, and juvenile Maya McKinney, who identified as male and went by Alec, according to reports.

While a motive is yet unknown, the Washington Examiner reported that the now-deleted Facebook account of Erickson included a post in which he expressed his “hate” for “Christians who hate gays.” On Instagram, he reportedly posted that he was “covered in ink and addicted to pain.”

Bierbaum said he credited Kendrick Castillo, and the other students who reportedly rushed one of the shooters, for the small number of fatalities and injuries. Castillo, an 18 year-old senior and a Catholic, active as an usher and with the Knights of Columbus, was the lone fatality of the shooting and is being hailed as a hero for his life-saving actions.

Bishops from around the country offered their sympathies and prayers after news of the shooting broke.

Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, who chairs the U.S. bishop’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said in a May 8 statement that the shooting “reminds us yet again that something is fundamentally broken in our society when places of learning can become scenes of violence and disregard for human life.”

“As Americans we must deeply examine why these horrific occurrences of gun violence continue to take place in our communities. Action is needed to attempt to reduce the frequency of these heinous acts. I call on Catholics around the country to pray for the dead, injured and for the loved ones left behind and for healing in the community,” he said.

“May Jesus who came that we might all have life in abundance, bring consolation and healing at this time of great sadness.”

Bishop Michael Sheridan is the bishop of Colorado Springs, diocese in which the STEM school falls.

In a May 8 statement, Sheridan echoed Bishop Dewane’s sentiments that lamented the frequency of school shootings.

“I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the shootings that occurred yesterday at STEM School in Highlands Ranch,” he said.

“I call on all the faithful in our diocese to pray and offer sacrifice for the students, teachers and families impacted by this tragedy, that through the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, they may find healing and consolation.”

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said in a statement posted to Twitter on May 7 that “my heart goes out to all those school children, parents & teachers who were killed & injured in the tragic shooting at #STEMSchoolHighlandsRanch. Let us pray for them in this time of sadness and grief.”

Bishop Robert Cunningham of Syracuse, New York also tweeted his condolences.

“Yesterday a tragic shooting took place just miles from Columbine High School. Along with the @USCCB I call on Catholics around the country to pray for the deceased, injured, and for healing in their community,” he said on May 8.

At St. Mark’s Catholic Church on Thursday, the day of prayer and counseling included adoration in the morning, Mass at noon, more adoration in the afternoon, and then a prayer service in the evening, which included counselors, priests, and fire and police chaplains who were available to talk with people.

“All of us are just here to listen, to talk, to allow everyone to come together, whether you and your kids were and are directly affected or if it was indirect. We are a family and we come together always, but especially in times like these, because one of the ways that God’s compassion is felt to us and known to us is with each other,” Bierbaum said in his homily during the noon Mass on Thursday.

Pax Christi, another nearby Catholic parish, hosted an hour of adoration and confessions on Thursday night for those impacted by the STEM shooting.

Ave Maria Catholic parish in Parker, Colorado hosted a night of prayer and conversation about the STEM shooting on Wednesday, May 8.

“I had always hoped I would never have to face a situation like the one we are facing in our community today. Whether your kids attend STEM or if you know someone who does, this has impacted our community, our youth,” Angelle M. Schott, MSW, the youth ministry coordinator for the parish, said in a post about the event on Facebook.

“I am not pretending to know what to say or even how to say it but I want our youth to know they are loved and to give them a safe place to share their concerns, worries, and/or fears without judgment,” she added.

Fr. Bierbaum told CNA that he was aware that times of tragedy like these are usually critical moments in people’s faith - it can draw them closer to God or push them further away.

He said that he encourages Catholics dealing with tragedy to beg God to make his presence felt in their lives during these times. He also said he wanted to emphasize that death and tragedy are not what God wants.

“God doesn’t desire death. This was not his plan,” Bierbaum said.

“(God) gives everyone complete and total free will because he wants us to love him freely, and the counterpoint to that is that free will can be used evilly, and Satan wants to take advantage of that,” Bierbaum said.

“So we legitimately say, God why do you allow this? Well, he allows it because if he didn’t, we wouldn’t truly be free...we wouldn’t be loving him freely,” he said.

“So that’s the key point that I try to emphasize is that God doesn’t will it, he doesn’t desire it, he weeps just like he wept at the tomb of Lazarus, even though he was about to raise him from the dead.”

“God would have wept for his son dying on the cross even though he sent him to do it. So it’s a matter of both-and, God loves us, but he also allows us to choose.”

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter

1 week 1 day ago
Reading 1 Acts 9:31-42 The Church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria
was at peace.
She was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord,
and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit she grew in numbers.

As Peter was passing through every region,
he went down to the holy ones living in Lydda.
There he found a man named Aeneas,
who had been confined to bed for eight years, for he was paralyzed.
Peter said to him,
“Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed.”
He got up at once.
And all the inhabitants of Lydda and Sharon saw him,
and they turned to the Lord.

Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha
(which translated is Dorcas).
She was completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving.
Now during those days she fell sick and died,
so after washing her, they laid her out in a room upstairs.
Since Lydda was near Joppa,
the disciples, hearing that Peter was there,
sent two men to him with the request,
“Please come to us without delay.”
So Peter got up and went with them.
When he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs
where all the widows came to him weeping
and showing him the tunics and cloaks
that Dorcas had made while she was with them.
Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed.
Then he turned to her body and said, “Tabitha, rise up.”
She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up.
He gave her his hand and raised her up,
and when he had called the holy ones and the widows,
he presented her alive.
This became known all over Joppa,
and many came to believe in the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm ps 116:12-13, 14-15, 16-17 R.(12) How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?
R. Alleluia.
How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD
R. How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?
R. Alleluia.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
R. How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
R. How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?
R. Alleluia.
Alleluia See Jn 6:63c, 68c R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Jn 6:60-69 Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer walked with him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

High school founded by former NFL star aims to make virtuous students

1 week 1 day ago

Minneapolis, Minn., May 11, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Not everyone who goes to high school will go to college, the founders of a new Minnesota high school say, but everyone should be prepared for leadership, service, and virtuous lives.

Preparation for a good life, no matter what comes after graduation, is the goal of Unity High School, set to open this fall in Burnsville, Minnesota.

Matt Birk, a retired football player who played with the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens, and Tom Bengtson, the owner of a small publishing company, are the founders of the school.
“At Unity, we are sure a lot of kids will go into college, some will go into the workforce, some will go into the military, some will discern religious vocations, and we think there is equal dignity in all of those things,” Birk told CNA.
“We are college prep but we are not only college prep. Not everybody is a candidate for college, people choose different paths and we believe that there is equal dignity in any of these paths. We are happy to prepare kids for post high school life regardless of what it looks like,” Bengtson added.
Birk has been involved with education programs in underprivileged communities since 2002, when he was playing professional football. As a father of eight, he said he knows that not all kids thrive in a competitive academic environment, noting that a “high-stakes” test-taking culture is not for everyone.

“If you look back at the genesis of the American education system, I think the original charter says the goal of education is to teach knowledge and develop character. As the U.S. keeps falling on the global list of test scores, we just keep focusing more and more on the testing,” he said.
“Character has been pushed out of mainstream education because it is all about the test now,” he added.
Birk said that because public school funding is tied to test scores, education models focus on test-taking skills, instead of adapting to the needs of each learner.
Birk added that while not every student is meant for college, every person can be formed for success.

“If we are only doing it to show how well we can take a test, what’s the point?” he asked.

“If you go to an Ivy League schools is that a guarantee to a great life? No, no it’s not. I would say the most important thing to me … is that they would have a firm foundation in their Catholic faith, that would be number one, and then, number two, I would say to be equipped with some skills to be able to help them with whatever path they choose.”

Birk added that digital technology has been detrimental to some areas of ingenuity - communication, teamwork, and social and emotional intelligence. As a result of increased technology and media influence, he said students are suffering more narcissism and depression, while developing less empathy and abilities to handle anxiety.
Unity will aim to address those issues when it opens this fall at Mary, Mother of the Church Parish in Burnsville. To start out, the school will only teach high school freshmen, but it plans to add a new grade each year, until the first incoming class graduate as seniors.
The school will start small. It has about a dozen students enrolled right now, and its founders hope to bring in around 25 for the first year. It is also working to be recognized as an official Catholic school in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Unity will focus on practical opportunities for students to develop skills in academics, character, leadership, and service.

Birk said the school will “be vigorously Catholic,” including opportunities for students to engage with an instructor who can foster “interior life and their personal relationship with Jesus.”

The former NFL center's own faith is central to his life, he said. He is especially active in pro-life work. In 2013, after Birk's team won Super Bowl XLVII, he declined to attend a reception at the White House.

"I have great respect for the office of the presidency, but about five or six weeks ago, our president made a comment in a speech and he said, 'God bless Planned Parenthood.' Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions a year. I am Catholic, I am active in the pro-life movement and I just felt like I couldn't deal with that. I couldn't endorse that in any way," Birk said.

He said he hopes Unity School will form students who are committed to faithful Catholicism.

“We really want the faith to be alive, to really be a part of the kids’ lives, not just taking a religion class,” said Birk.

Citing the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude, Birk said, the Catholic faith has a great framework for building character. To foster character development, the school will be involved with long term service projects, like monthly outings to nursing homes, where the teens can get to know the people they are serving.

A major component of the school will be its “Real World Wednesdays.” On those days, the students will take “life skills” classes and character development, including opportunities to listen to guest speakers and undergo field trips and service projects.

The teens will learn entrepreneurship, leadership, interview techniques, resumes, and financial literacy. The students will also be exposed to trades, through courses and workshops in auto maintenance, metal or wood shop, or home economics.

The school will also partner with an organization called Pursuit Academy, which teaches ethical enterprise, encouraging students learn to become entrepreneurs, to plan and manage their future goals, and to be leaders in their communities. Among other things, the teens will learn about engaging with peer pressure, managing risk, and public speaking.

Birk said a focus of the “Real World Wednesdays” will be developing what he calls “the-other-people-matter” mindset.

By identifying the good in themselves and in other people, students will establish better relationships in the community and a better relationship with God, he said.

Developing leadership skills and character “might not necessarily help them get an A on a test or score higher on their SAT, but they are going to be equipped with skills that they can use in their lives, whether it is in the careers or their marriages or as parents or as communities members.”

“Let’s get them some of that stuff,” he added.

In light of the school’s emphasis on both academic and practical skills, Unity has chosen two patron saints: John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. These saints are not only modern figures for students to model after but fantastic examples of the school’s goals, Bengtson said.

“John Paul II had all this rich philosophy of the dignity of the human person, which we will be teaching at Unity High School, including Theology of the Body,” Bengtson said.

“Then you got someone like Mother Teresa who took that theology and put it into practice - reached out to the poorest of the poor and saw dignity in folks who were in extremely dire circumstances.”

“In my mind, I seem them as both the hands and the heart at work together,” he added.  

Bengtson said the school is convenient financially and geographically. Tuition will be $6,500 for the first year, which is half or even a third of the prices at other Catholic schools, Bengtson said. He also said the school will fill a neighborhood need in the southern metro area of the Twin Cities.  

“It’s a large geographic area with 10 Catholic grade schools, through eighth grade, who collectively are graduating 300 students per year. Most of those students will go into public schools,” he said.

“About 75 students will stay in the Catholic school system and they have to travel quite a distance to Catholic high school.”

The lower price does mean there will be tradeoffs, Bengtson said, noting that the school will have to improvise for a gymnasium, science lab, and auditorium. However, the school will have a thoroughly Catholic culture, he said, with Mass three times a week and a holy hour once a week, which is not offered at all Catholic schools.

Birk expressed enthusiasm for the new venture.

“We are still very much like a typical school in a lot of ways, but we are tweaking the model. I don’t know where this goes, but hopefully it will show people that there is a better way to do it.”


Alabama senate delays final vote on abortion bill; rape and incest exception removed

1 week 2 days ago

Montgomery, Ala., May 10, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The Alabama Senate has delayed a vote on a bill to outlaw abortion, following a disagreement between Republican and Democratic state senators on Thursday over whether an exception for cases of rape or incest should be included in the bill.

The Human Life Protection Act (HB314) would make attempting or performing an abortion a felony offense. Doctors who perform abortion would be charged with a Class A felony and could face between 10 years and life in prison.

The penalty would apply only to doctors, not to mothers, who, according to the bill’s sponsors, would not face criminal penalties for undergoing abortions.
Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, who presides over the Alabama Senate, removed the rape and incest exception amendment after a voice vote Thursday, meaning there is no record of how Senators voted— something the Democratic Senators wanted.

“I know this bill is going to pass. You’re going to get your way,” Democratic Sen. Vivian Davis Figures protested.

“At least treat us fairly and do it the right way. That’s all that I ask.”

If the amendment had been added, the bill would have gone back to the House for a vote, leading to a delay, according to CBS News. Still, the president pro tem of the Senate moved to delay vote on the bill until next week to allow the senators to think it over. The Senate reconvenes May 14.

The Alabama House on April 30 passed the bill by a margin of 74-3. That version included an exception that would allow abortions in the case of a “serious health risk” to the mother. The Senate added, and then removed, the exception for rape and incest.

The legislation is designed to be a direct challenge to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v Wade, which found a constitutional right to abortion.

Unlike so-called “trigger laws” passed in other states, which would outlaw abortion in the event that the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v Wade is overturned, the Alabama measure would come into effect within a year. Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Mississippi all have “trigger laws” on the books.

Supporters of the Alabama bill have said their intention is to use the ensuing court battle to force the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v Wade. If the Human Life Protection Act becomes law, it would face an immediate challenge and likely be prevented from coming into force.

"The heart of this bill is to confront a decision that was made by the courts in 1973 that said the baby in the womb is not a person," sponsor State Rep. Terri Collins (R - Decatur) was quoted as saying by CBS News.

"This bill addresses that one issue. Is that baby in the womb a person? I believe our law says it is."

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to sign the bill into law.

“Ultimately, [the bill] is going to pass, and Alabama is going to lead the nation in protecting the sanctity of life,” State Senator Clyde Chambliss told the Washington Post.

“Planned Parenthood can try to derail the bill, as they did in spending over a million dollars to unsuccessfully oppose a pro-life ballot measure last fall in Alabama. But the outcome will be the same: Alabamians will stand on the side of life.”

Several states, including most recently Georgia, have also passed so-called “heartbeat bills” which would prohibit abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The Alabama bill would prohibit performing abortions at any stage of pregnancy.





Proposed changes to poverty calculations could strip federal aid from millions

1 week 2 days ago

Washington D.C., May 10, 2019 / 06:05 pm (CNA).- A new proposal from the Trump administration would change the way the national poverty threshold is calculated, potentially leading millions of low-income Americans to lose federal assistance.

Earlier this week, the Office of Management and Budget announced a proposal to change the inflation measure used to calculate the poverty line in America. The proposed formula would show slower inflation growth over time. The administration is currently seeking public comment on the idea.

If enacted, the changes would likely mean fewer Americans would qualify for Medicaid, food stamps and other federal aid programs.

Currently, the poverty threshold sits at a $26,000 income for a family of four. The consumer price index is used to help calculate inflation in adjusting the poverty line each year. However, the administration has suggested switching to the “chained CPI,” which shows slower inflation because it assumes that individuals will buy cheaper goods if prices of items rise.

Both Barack Obama and George W. Bush attempted to use the chained CPI in calculating federal benefits. They met with strong opposition and were unsuccessful in implementing the changes.

Critics of the change argue that it would adversely affect vulnerable Americans, in particular families who are already struggling to make ends meet amid cost-of-living increases.

Last December, the 2018 American Family Survey found that the vast majority of Americans raising children are facing financial difficulties.

Of those who have children at home, 73 percent said they worry about being able to pay at least one monthly bill, and 44 percent have faced an economic crisis in the last year – being unable to pay an important bill or going without food, medical care or housing due to financial difficulty, the survey found.

Financial concerns were also cited as a significant factor in choosing not to kids, the survey found.

Amid federal budget discussions last year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warned against proposed cuts to federal assistance programs.

“We urge Congress – and every American – to evaluate the Administration’s budget blueprint in light of its impacts on those most in need, and work to ensure a budget for our country that honors our obligations to build toward the common good,” said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the USA Military Services, who chairs the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, who heads the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

They called for budget decisions to be “guided by moral criteria that safeguard human life and dignity, give central importance to ‘the least of these,’ and promote the well-being of workers and families who struggle to live in dignity.”


Pro-life rally draws 1,000 after Rep. Brian Sims' Planned Parenthood videos

1 week 2 days ago

Philadelphia, Pa., May 10, 2019 / 05:10 pm (CNA).- More than 1,000 people gathered May 10 for a public demonstration against recent social media videos that depicted a Pennsylvania lawmaker berating pro-life witnesses.

The “Pro-Life Rally Against Bullying” took place in front of a downtown Philadelphia Planned Parenthood facility. On May 2, state Rep. Brian Sims livestreamed video from the same location, posting two videos in which he denounced two women, three teenagers and a man.

Sims called for donations to Planned Parenthood while offering money to viewers who could provide the identities and addresses of the witnesses.

Shortly after the videos emerged on social media, the national organization Live Action organized the rally. It featured representatives from a number of local and national groups, including the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Family Council, 40 Days for Life, Students for Life, Sidewalk Advocates for Life, Sidewalk Servants and the Susan B. Anthony List.

Lila Rose, founder and president of Live Action, served as the gathering’s moderator. While calling for Sims’ resignation, Rose noted in her opening remarks that the event had been organized “for a much bigger reason … (to) stand for the dignity of human life,” a point emphasized throughout the speakers’ presentations.

Rose said “over 900 babies are killed every day at Planned Parenthood facilities across the U.S., and 2,600 across the nation at abortion clinics” on a daily basis in total.

Author and speaker Matt Walsh, who had called for the rally through a series of Twitter posts, said “abortion is not a reproductive issue, but a parenting decision,” since “by the time the abortion happens, reproduction has already occurred.”

Walsh said he hoped the rally would become a regular event.

Ashley Garecht, one of the women who had been confronted in Sims’ videos, drew cheers as she commended the longtime efforts of pro-life demonstrators and volunteers, noting they “are standing on the side of the angels.”

Garecht also observed that the demonstration took place just blocks from the one-time home of James Madison, a primary author of the U.S. Constitution, which enshrines “a self-evident, inalienable right to life,” she said.

Several speakers directly addressed Sims’ claims that the pro-life advocates he had filmed were racist.

Richara Krajewski of the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia said she stood before the crowd “as a pro-life black woman.”

Noting that “it’s so popular now to call out racism,” Krajewski wished to clarify that application of the term, particularly “in the context of pro-abortion politics.”

“Real racism,” she said, “is co-opting the language of liberation to advocate for the destruction of the lives of the most vulnerable. Real racism is a so-called white ally telling black and brown women that they need to choose between their dreams and their babies.”

Toni McFadden, founder of Relationships Matter, described her own experience as an African-American teenager who had turned to Planned Parenthood for an abortion induced through an abortifacient prescription. Through speaking engagements, McFadden now shares her insights on post-abortion healing and spiritual development “so that no more babies need to die because of convenience.”

Abby Johnson, author of the book “Unplanned” and a nationally recognized pro-life advocate, met with an enthusiastic response as she announced she is now 37 weeks pregnant.

A former Planned Parenthood employee, Johnson took the organization to task for “covering up statutory rape of minors, not sterilizing instruments that are being used woman to woman” and repeatedly failing health inspections.

“That is the antithesis of health care and the antithesis of feminism,” said Johnson.

Earlier in the week, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput in a statement had encouraged people to attend the rally and "meet the hateful actions of Representative Sims with the love of Christ and let us fervently pray for respect for life from conception to natural death."

Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop John J. McIntyre delivered a final blessing at the gathering, which had been marked throughout by the prayers of the attendees. Many of them carried rosary beads, while a few held crucifixes aloft in the crowd.

Some 20 patient escorts from Planned Parenthood, wearing bright yellow and pink vests, lined the sidewalk during the rally; they declined to offer comment on the rally.

Margaret Kuhar, a Philadelphia resident who has just finished her freshman year at the University of Mary, said the event was remarkable for its “shoulder-to-shoulder turnout” and the rapid manner in which it had been organized.

She has attended the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. more than 15 times with her family, and said she has seen “a big turnaround” in the attitude of younger generations to abortion, with more young adults less willing to seek it out.

A tourist to Philadelphia from Cape Coral, Florida, attended the rally by chance. Stacey McMahon stood against the exterior wall of the Planned Parenthood facility throughout the event as she silently “prayed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” she said, for both attendees and the abortion clinic’s staff.

“I prayed for a young lady who had been shielded by escorts to enter Planned Parenthood during the rally,” said McMahon, a Catholic.

“I was being the hands and feet of Christ, not making myself known as any type of Christian. That’s what Christ asks you to do, to stand silently for those who need him, the vulnerable.”

Montana governor vetoes Born-Alive Infant Protection Act

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Helena, Mont., May 10, 2019 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- A leading national pro-life group has criticized Montana’s governor for vetoing a bill that would require medical professionals to save babies who survive an abortion attempt.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, decried Governor Steve Bullock’s veto of the Montana Born-Alive Infant Protection Act.

“Once again Governor Bullock sides with abortion extremists, going so far as to veto compassionate, popular legislation designed to provide care for children who survive failed abortions,” she said in a press release.

The veto was among seven measures blocked by Bullock this week.

Sponsored by Republican Sen. Al Olszewski, the bill passed through the Senate and House in April. The legislation would have required medical professionals to provide “appropriate lifesaving or life-sustaining medical care” to any baby who survives an abortion attempt.

Under the bill, doctors would have been required to administer medical care to a baby, provided there was evidence of life - breathing, heart beat, definite movement, or umbilical cord pulsation. Medical professionals who failed to comply could have faced up to a $50,000 fine and 20 years in prison.

Critics of the bill argue that it would block late-term abortions, as doctors would be obligated to save a viable fetus. According to the Associated Press, Bullock stated that the bill would interfere with “deeply personal medical decisions.”

“If this bill were enacted, a woman could be subjected to forced caesarian section or inducement of labor if continuing her pregnancy after viability threatened her life – in violation of established legal precedent,” the governor said.

During a Senate Judiciary committee hearing in March, Olszewski stressed the important role this bill has in opposing infanticide, according to the Billings Gazette.

“There is a national debate attempting to legitimize the intentional killing of a baby born alive if the medical provider and the parents deem or decide that it is necessary or should happen,” he said.

In February, a federal Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act failed to achieve the 60 Senate votes necessary to move forward. At the state level, similar legislation has been introduced this year in Texas, Kentucky, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Kansas.

A nationwide poll taken SBA List found that 77 percent of voters support legislation that ensures medical treatment for babies who survive abortions.

SBA List said that its current $200,000 ad campaign “exposes the extremism” of poltiicans like Bullock when it comes to abortion.

“Governor Bullock is no moderate when it comes to abortion, and we’re exposing his extremist record to the voters,” said Dannenfelser.

Georgia boycott falls flat after heartbeat bill passes

1 week 2 days ago

Atlanta, Ga., May 10, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Following the passage of the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act in Georgia earlier this week, a promised boycott by film and television figures has failed to materialize.

Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed the bill into law on Wednesday. Actress Alyssa Milano wrote an open letter Kemp in March, threatening a widespread entertainment industry boycott should the LIFE Act pass. The letter was co-signed by about 50 Hollywood actors.

At the time of the bill's signing, Kemp said that “I realize that some may challenge [this bill] in the court of law. But our job is to do what is right, not what is easy.”

So far, only the three companies--Blown Deadline, Killer Films, and Duplass Brothers Production-- have said that they will only consider filming in Georgia if the law is overturned. None have previously worked in the state.

Milano herself is still filming for her current project “Insatiable,” which is shot in Atlanta. While she remains on set, the former child star of “Who’s the Boss?” told BuzzFeed News that she would not return to the show if it were to be renewed for a third season, unless production was moved from Georgia.

The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents entertainment companies such as Walt Disney Studios, Paramount Pictures, and Netflix, all of whom actually film movies and television shows in Georgia, has not taken any position on the boycott.

MPAA spokesman Chris Ortman told the Hollywood Reporter that the organization had taken no decision to boycott the state, citing its deep ties to the local economy and the likely legal challenges the law will face.

“It is important to remember that similar legislation has been attempted in other states, and has either been enjoined by the courts or is currently being challenged. The outcome in Georgia will also be determined through the legal process,” said Ortman, adding, “We will continue to monitor developments.”

Actress Ashley Bratcher, who lives in Georgia, did not join in on the calls for boycott. Bratcher, who starred as pro-life activist Abby Johnson in the film “Unplanned,” wrote a rebuttal to Milano defending the legislation and the sanctity of life. During the filming of Unplanned, Bratcher learned that she was herself nearly aborted.

The Supreme Court found in the 1973 decision Roe vs. Wade that a woman in the United States has a constitutional right to abortion. Since that decision, laws that criminalize abortion prior to fetal viability have typically been overturned as unconstitutional.

The so-called “heartbeat bills” have faced challenges in every state where they have been passed. These legal battles have prompted some pro-life advocates, including Catholic bishops, to withhold endorsing the legislation.

Tennessee’s Catholic bishops chose to oppose their state’s heartbeat bill over concerns that it would not stand up to judicial scrutiny. They voiced concern that it was an imprudent approach to fighting legal abortion, citing other states where legal challenges to such bills ended up further enshrining a legal “right to abortion” and forcing the state to pay significant sums of money to the lawyers representing the pro-abortion challengers to the laws.

The Georgia law is set to go into effect on January 1, several pro-abortion organizations have promised to challenge it in court.

The entertainment industry also threatened to boycott Georgia should Kemp be elected governor. This boycott did not materialize.

50 Years of Abortion: Where does Canada go from here?

1 week 2 days ago

Ottawa, Canada, May 10, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- On May 14, 2019, abortion will have been legal in Canada for half a century. Since it became legal, approximately six million Canadians have died by abortion, and about 300 preborn babies are killed each day.

CNA spoke to influential pro-life Canadians to discuss where the country might go from here, and what can be done to promote a culture of life.

Abortion is legal in Canada throughout the entirety of a woman’s pregnancy, for any reason. Canada is one of a handful of countries with no legal restrictions on abortion, at all. Abortion is regulated in Canada like any other medical procedure, but is not permitted or restricted by any other law.

“When you tell Canadians that there actually is no abortion law in Canada, their initial response is they actually don't believe that,” Conservative Member of Parliament David Anderson told CNA.

Anderson believes that the pro-life community in Canada has not done a good enough job to inform Canadians about abortion, and that “when they find out what the reality of the situation is, they're much more likely to support (the pro-life) position.”

Canada lacks an abortion law because the country’s parliament simply refused to write one. Abortion was illegal entirely in Canada, until Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s government passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1968-1969, which allowed for abortion under limited circumstances after approval from a “Therapeutic Abortion Committee.” Trudeau’s son, Justin, is the country’s current prime minister.

In 1988, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled in the decision R v Morgentaler that the Therapeutic Abortion Committee requirement was unconstitutional, and ordered Parliament to write a law regarding abortion.

In the 30 years since that decision, Parliament has yet to write a law.

"Because of (Parliament’s inaction), we have no abortion laws in Canada restricting or granting access to abortion. By default, abortion has become available to Canadians by our medical system," said Anderson.

Canada’s single-payer healthcare system means that abortion is available free of charge to Canadians.

Anderson thinks that a better-informed Canadian population would be more accepting to pro-life viewpoints.

"As people get informed, there is a much more broader acceptance of the fact that there are restrictions in other places and it's reasonable to have restrictions in Canada," he said.  

Informing the public about abortion may prove difficult, as multiple members of parliament told CNA that they have faced hostility from the government over their pro-life views.

“Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau has made it really clear that his way of thinking is perceived to be the right way, and if MPs don't fit within his framework of values, then he has no use for them and no appreciation and really, him and his caucus show little to no respect of them," Conservative Member of Parliament Rachael Harder told CNA.

In 2014, Justin Trudeau made it a requirement that all candidates from his party, the Liberal Party, vocally support abortion rights. Last summer, he introduced a controversial new requirement that excluded any organization with a pro-life viewpoint from receiving government funding for a summer jobs program--even if the organization did no actual pro-life work. That measure was scrapped after considerable outcry.

Harder herself was voted down as chair of the House of Commons’ Status of Women committee in 2017, entirely, she said, over objections to her pro-life views.

“Liberal committee members walked out on me when my name was put forward as chair, and then they subsequently voted me down,” she said. When asked why they refused to endorse Harder as chairwoman, “one of the members remarked that due to my value for the preborn, there’s no way I could possibly represent all women in Canada.”

Trudeau said that he thought her appointment as chair was “the wrong choice,” something that Harder thought was “actually quite sad.”

“It's actually really sad that the prime minister would have the audacity to dictate what women should or shouldn't believe in this country," she added.  

Anderson also spoke to CNA about hostility created by the Trudeau government, saying that the prime minister’s administration has refused to even have a debate on the issue.

“Clearly, that (attitude) permeates right through their party, when the present prime minister made it clear that anyone who held views that were contrary to his have no place in the liberal party,” said Anderson.

Abortion in Canada is “a deeply embedded reality,” Archbishop Thomas Cardinal Collins of Toronto told CNA.

To change this culture, Collins thinks pro-lifers need to form effective cooperative coalitions, even if religious beliefs differ among members.

“I can do certain things as Archbishop of Toronto,” said Collins. “But I think others can do more effective work--you know men and women, young men, young women, lay people, people of other faiths, and I would say also, people of no faith.”

At the moment, there is a push to ensure conscience rights for medical practitioners. Even this is an uphill battle, Collins explained, as “there’s a lot of pressure against it” and “lots of this politically-correct stuff.”

Harder and Anderson also told CNA that any sort of change must stem from the Canadian people, not members of parliament passing legislation.

Anderson said that it is “unrealistic of the pro-life movement to expect that the success of a pro-life movement in Canada is going to come through a very small group of Members of Parliament.”

"I think the push for change is going to have to come from a large group of the Canadian population,” he said. “Some governments are reluctant to move on this issue, probably because it's a very contentious issue, and typically governments are not going to engage in issues where they're not going to get some sort of clear agreement on the way forward."

Harder concurred, and thinks that change must come from Canadian citizens, through extensive communication and dialogue.

"I don't believe that we can ‘make’ people do anything. I do believe that Canadians have an opportunity though to value the preborn; have an opportunity to share their beliefs in a respective manner, and engage in productive dialogue,” said Harder.

She continued, saying “I believe that through that engagement, that greater education can take place and a deeper understanding can be produced, with regard to the value of the preborn. And as those conversations take place, and a greater understanding is created, I believe that culture can be shifted. But this is a matter of the human heart and conscience more than anything."


Exorcist: Temptation – not possession – is the most significant demonic activity

1 week 2 days ago

Vatican City, May 10, 2019 / 10:54 am (CNA).- Though dramatic representations of demonic possessions, as seen in Hollywood, can make them appear to be the primary method of the devil, one Dominican priest and exorcist has warned that the greater and more common threat to a person’s salvation is the temptation to sin.

“The most common manifestation of the demonic is temptation, which is much more significant than possession,” Fr. Francois Dermine, OP, told CNA May 10.

An exorcist for over 25 years, he explained that possession is not a spiritual threat in the same way temptation is, and that a person who has been possessed by the devil may still make “extraordinary spiritual progress,” and could even one day be a saint.

This is because demonic possession of a person’s body occurs without that person’s knowledge or consent. The possession in and of itself does not make the victim morally blameworthy.

“We must not undervalue the significance of temptation. It’s not as spectacular as possession, but it’s far more dangerous [to the soul],” Dermine said.

“To resist temptation is simple,” he encouraged, although it might not always be easy. “You must avoid the occasions of temptation, of course, and you must have a Christian and spiritual life. You must pray, you must try to behave correctly, and to love the people you meet every day and the people with whom you live.”

Dermine said the next most common form of demonic activity is oppression. Sometimes, people can have many problems, often of a health, business, or family nature, which cannot be explained by natural causes.

If the cause is deemed to be demonic oppression, these problems are called “preternatural,” and may require the assistance of an exorcist.

“This is the most common extraordinary action of the devil,” Dermine said, while temptation is considered an “ordinary” demonic action.

Dermine warned that people should not immediately conclude that physical problems or suffering are a result of demonic oppression, because they are most often explainable by natural causes.

If someone has visited a doctor, or a psychologist if applicable, and no natural explanation could be found, then they may visit an exorcist. “When a person comes and asks for a blessing for a specific problem, the first thing an exorcist must ask is, did you see the doctor?” the priest said.

Dermine, who is French Canadian, has lived in Italy since shortly before his priestly ordination in 1979. An exorcist since 1994, he serves in the Italian Archdiocese of Ancona-Osimo.

He spoke about the life of an exorcist during the 14th course on exorcism and prayers of liberation, which is organized by the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum university and GRIS (The Socio-Religious Information and Research Group).

The week-long course, which ended May 10, does not train new exorcists, but is intended to provide a general formation to priests and lay people on what exorcism is and related topics. Dermine said that many of the laypeople attending the course are there at the request of their bishop, so they can learn how to better support and assist priests at exorcisms.

Dermine told CNA that his lecture will also address some of the common mistakes exorcists make, one of which is to confuse preternatural (demonic) manifestations for supernatural charisms, which come from God.

“It’s a very important difference,” he said. “We have a human nature and cannot know things without learning through our senses.”

“God created us to operate in a certain way. If you have extra-sensorial perceptions, and things like this, and they are not meant to help or to provoke a spiritual result, then they cannot come from God,” he warned. People with these perceptions are often described as “mediums” in secular culture.

These types of preternatural sensations or manifestations can be “a cause of many problems” for people, so they will need some help from an exorcist, Dermine said.

The priest noted that there is a cultural value to holding a course on exorcisms for priests and select laypeople, and this is because the topic is often mysterious, so the desire to understand it is important.

“Most of the people who come here, they come here because they have an intention not to become exorcists, necessarily, but to understand,” he said.

EWTN to launch African news agency

1 week 2 days ago

Rome, Italy, May 10, 2019 / 07:55 am (CNA).- EWTN Global Catholic Network announced Friday that it will launch a news service for the African continent.  

ACI-Africa will be a Nairobi, Kenya-based Catholic news agency, publishing content in English, French and Portuguese.

EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw formally introduced the project during a May 10 event at EWTN’s Vatican bureau. The news agency will officially begin operations on August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption, the same date on which EWTN Founder Mother Angelica launched EWTN in 1981.

“The Church in Africa is vibrant and continues to see exponential growth.  My hope is that this new service from EWTN will help continue to build up the African Church and also ensure that the voice of the African Church is heard more clearly around the world with content that is shared through EWTN’s other news platforms.”

ACI-Africa will be headed by Father Don Bosco Onyalla, a priest of the Diocese of Rumbek in South Sudan.

Onyalla is a journalist who established and previously oversaw the Catholic News Agency For Africa (CANAA), a project of the African bishops conference. Onyalla’s work has included producing websites, newsletters and social media updates for the bishops, as well as working with diocesan, national and regional episcopal communication directors throughout Africa.  He speaks English, French, and Swahili, as well as the local languages of Luhya and Dinka.

“I look forward to interacting with fellow Catholic journalists under the EWTN umbrella, to facilitating the telling of Africa’s story by Africans, and to the challenges involved in setting up a news agency in the vast and multi-cultural context that is Africa,” Onyalla said.

ACI-Africa will be a part of the ACI Group which was acquired by EWTN in 2014 and includes ACI Prensa, the world’s largest Spanish-language Catholic news organization with headquarters in Lima, Peru; ACI Digital, the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil-based news organization, which serves the Portuguese-speaking world; and ACI Stampa, the Italian-language news organization based in Rome. ACI Group is part of the larger EWTN News, Inc. division, which also includes Denver-based Catholic News Agency (CNA), the German language news service, CNA Deutsch, and several other Catholic news outlets.

“We were honored to welcome Vatican officials, journalists, and distinguished guests to our event announcing the birth of ACI-Africa,” said Alejandro Bermudez, Executive Director of the ACI Group.  

“This new agency aimed at covering all Africa for Africa and the world is an expression of the growing role African Catholicism is having in the universal Church. This is a significant step forward for the ACI Group as well as for the larger EWTN News family.”

The launch of ACI-Africa is the latest development in EWTN’s efforts to continue to expand its news presence in the global Catholic digital and multimedia marketplace, EWTN representative said.

In 2013, the Network launched “EWTN News Nightly,” a daily news program from Washington, D.C. covering news and world events from a Catholic perspective. In 2011, EWTN acquired The National Catholic Register, the largest Catholic newspaper in the United States. In addition, EWTN’s radio and digital media services have significantly expanded their news content in recent years.

EWTN Global Catholic Network, in its 38th year, is the largest religious media network in the world. EWTN’s 11 global TV channels are broadcast in multiple languages 24 hours a day, seven days a week to over 300 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.

EWTN platforms also include radio services transmitted through SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 domestic and international AM & FM radio affiliates; a worldwide shortwave radio service; one of the largest Catholic websites in the U.S.; electronic and print news services, including Catholic News Agency, The National Catholic Register newspaper, and several global news wire services; as well as EWTN Publishing, its book publishing division.

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

1 week 2 days ago
Reading 1 Acts 9:1-20 Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him
for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that,
if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus,
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
"Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"
He said, "Who are you, sir?"
The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do."
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,
for they heard the voice but could see no one.
Saul got up from the ground,
but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;
so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.
For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias,
and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias."
He answered, "Here I am, Lord."
The Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight
and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.
He is there praying,
and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias
come in and lay his hands on him,
that he may regain his sight."
But Ananias replied,
"Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man,
what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.
And here he has authority from the chief priests
to imprison all who call upon your name."
But the Lord said to him,
"Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine
to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel,
and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name."
So Ananias went and entered the house;
laying his hands on him, he said,
"Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me,
Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came,
that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes
and he regained his sight.
He got up and was baptized,
and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus,
and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues,
that he is the Son of God.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 117:1bc, 2 R. (Mark 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
R. Alleluia.
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
glorify him, all you peoples!
R. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
R. Alleluia.
For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.
R. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
R. Alleluia.
Alleluia Jn 6:56 R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood,
remains in me and I in him, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Jn 6:52-59 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my Flesh is true food,
and my Blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
For the readings of the Optional Memorial of Saint Damien de Veuster, please go here.
- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Bishop Olmsted sees 'renewal' in priestly formation, despite scandal

1 week 2 days ago

Phoenix, Ariz., May 10, 2019 / 12:08 am (CNA).- Despite the scandals of clerical sexual abuse that the Catholic Church has suffered in past decades, the Church in the United States has also enjoyed a “renewal” in priestly formation, says Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona.

In a monthly series of columns, Olmsted has been considering various aspects of the Church scandal, as well as ways to move forward in purification.

“Having addressed some of the causes of the scandals and certain questions about the priesthood, I would like now to look at the renewal that we are seeing in priestly formation,” Olmsted wrote April 16 in the Catholic Sun.

“This is good news since much of the scandal that has so hurt the Church had its beginnings in deficient seminary formation.”

The priesthood, like secular professions, requires preparation for the duties required, he wrote. In the Catholic Church today, this takes the form of training and formation within seminaries, but priests were not always prepared in this way.

“While the formation of the clergy in the early Church took the form of an apprenticeship, it grew to include more education at the monasteries and cathedral schools in the Middle Ages,” Olmsted noted.

“Then, at the Council of Trent in the mid-16th century, the Church called for seminary houses where men would be instructed especially in philosophy and theology in order to serve well as priests.”

St. Pope Paul VI, in the 1965 Vatican II document Optatum Totius, called for a “program of priestly training” be set up in each country under the purview of the country’s bishops’ conference, and that young men be trained “in such a way that the students might learn to live in an intimate and unceasing union with the Father through His Son Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.”

St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II developed these ideas, Olmsted wrote, as they later called for synods on the priesthood. John Paul II issued the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis in 1992, which Olmsted said lays out the four pillars of formation for the priesthood.

These four pillars include: human formation— the augmentation of the men’s personalities and moral character to help them grow in virtue; spiritual formation— helping the men to experience God’s grace through the liturgy, Scripture, the Sacraments and prayer; intellectual formation— acquiring knowledge about Jesus and preparing the men for the teaching office of the priesthood; and finally pastoral formation— compassionately engaging in service to others within parishes, hospitals, schools, prisons, etc.

“The guidance of St. John Paul II in Pastores Dabo Vobis was a tremendous help for seminaries, putting specific criteria and policies in place that would protect us from the errors of the past,” Olmsted wrote.

In the United States, the bishops’ conference distilled the exhortation’s teachings into the Program for Priestly Formation which more specifically addresses the needs of the Church in the U.S.

Olmsted warned that priestly formation should not focus solely on academics, but on the “human and spiritual development” of the young men as well.

“It is important to note that the young men who are now considering such a call have grown up in a vastly different society from that of the Baby Boomers or Gen Xers. The stability of family life, the cultural mores and the laws of our land are not the same as in the past,” Olmstead wrote.

“Seminary life cannot simply assume good personal health and human competence on the part of those applying today and only focus on the academics. Instead, a special focus is needed on human and spiritual formation.”

The bishop said he has been pleased to see many seminaries “making good use of faithful counselors that can augment the work of seminary personnel and spiritual directors,” as well as having seminarians live in parish households where they can learn from and share in the work of pastors.

These developments, Olmsted said, are cause for hope in a new generation of priests. He also noted the importance of prayers from the laity in supporting priests and seminarians.

God will provide strength through persecution, new Filipino bishop says

1 week 3 days ago

Dagupan, Philippines, May 9, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- A new bishop in the Philippines has called for Catholics to show courage in the face of violence and persecution.

Speaking at his own consecration, Bishop Fidelis Layog addressed the difficult circumstances facing the Church in the country, but called them an opportunity to witness to the strength of God and his Church.

Pope Francis appointed Layog to serve as auxiliary bishop in the diocese of Lingayen-Dagupan last month. He was consecrated on April 8, at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Dagupan City.

“This is the time for us to show how strong we are in faith and how strong the foundation of our Church is,” the new bishop said, according to the Manilla Bulletin.

“Let us not fear knowing that we are never alone. God is with us. God will prevail.”

Thousands of people attended the liturgy, led by Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who leads the archdiocese where Layog will serve as auxiliary bishop and chair the Commission on Bible Apostolate.

According to social media posts from St. John Evangelist Cathedral, Villegas said the event was a witness to hope and faith at a time “when bishops are bashed, threatened, and cursed.”

“Who would want to be a bishop these days?” the archbishop asked the assembly.

“Yet, [Layog] is called by God, set aside to be a bishop by the successor of Peter himself, and today we make an act of faith that the powers of hell cannot prevail against the Church.”  

Layog’s consecration comes amid a series of violent threats, attacks, and killings of clergy in the Philippines. The willingness of some priests and bishops to speak out against  human rights abuses in the country has set them at odds with both organized crime and President Rodrigo Duterte, whose controversial policies in the war on drugs have been accused of leading to thousands of extrajudicial killings.

Three priests were shot and killed by gunmen in 2018. Father Mark Ventura, Father Marcelito Paez, and Father Richmond Nilo were killed at different times throughout the year.

In the last few months, Archbishop Villegas and Bishop Pablo David of Kalookan have both received death threats. Authorities have offered both bishops protection, which they have so far declined.

“Being threatened and attacked has always been the experience of the Catholic Church from the very beginning. The Church has faced persecution in the past and even up to this time,” said Layog.

Persecution of the kind facing the Church in the Philippines has tested and will continue to test the foundations of the Church, the new bishop said, while calling it an opportunity that must be embraced, and which leads to a greater relationship with God.

“We must accept and face these challenges because it builds a stronger Church and a deeper faith,” he said.

“It leads us to a deeper relationship with God, a deeper prayer life where we find ourselves praying more and asking for God’s help in the face of many social ills and challenges.”