Washington D.C., Dec 8, 2013 / 04:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, has welcomed Pope Francis’ new commission to fight the sexual abuse of minors, pledging his help and support in…
Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2013 / 01:14 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Church leaders in the United States offered prayers for the late Nelson Mandela, remembering both his courageous anti-apartheid leadership and his promotion of one of the world’s most liberal abortion laws.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, called Mandela “a hero to the world.”
“His bravery in defending human rights against the great evil of apartheid made him a symbol of courage and dignity, as well as an inspiration to people everywhere.”
He noted that Bl. John Paul II, in his visit to South Africa, called Mandela “a silent and suffering ‘witness’” of his people’s “yearning for true liberation.” The Pope had said Mandela had to “shoulder the burden of inspiring and challenging everyone to succeed in the task of national reconciliation and reconstruction.”
Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services, said the U.S.-based international relief agency mourns Mandela’s passing, calling him “a champion in the struggle for justice and equality for all.”
“His life inspires all of us to re-dedicate ourselves to helping the oppressed find their voice and their way to lives of meaning and dignity. His personal example of forgiveness and non-violence will challenge us to work for peace and reconciliation even in the midst of deep conflict.”
Mandela, who served as South Africa’s president from 1994 to 1999, died Dec. 5 at the age of 95 of a lung infection. The former prisoner won world recognition for opposing the oppressive racial segregation of the South African government’s apartheid policy.
Mandela had been a campaigner against apartheid since 1952, when he organized protests across South Africa against the policy. He was arrested on treason charges in 1956, and acquitted after a five-year trial. He then secretly sought help from other African nations and in England.
After the South African government banned the party in 1960, the movement against apartheid became an armed struggle led by Mandela. In 1962 he was sentenced to five years in jail for inciting a strike and for leaving the country without a passport. Additional charges of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government in 1964 led to a sentence of 27 years behind bars.
Mandela’s then-wife Winnie and other campaigners worked to end apartheid and secure his freedom, helping transform him into an icon of human rights. He was released in 1990. In 1993, he won the Nobel Peace Prize with white South African president F. W. De Klerk, who also worked to end apartheid.
Political violence killed over 4,000 people ahead of the country’s first post-apartheid elections in 1994, when South Africa’s black population voted overwhelmingly for Mandela. Upon his election as president, Mandela worked to help reconcile white and black South Africans.
However, pro-life advocates also noted a dark side to Mandela’s legacy, observing the key role he played in pushing for abortion in the country.
“In 1996, Mandela signed into law the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Bill, which permits abortion on demand,” John Smeaton, director of Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, noted in a Dec. 6 post.
He warned against the temptation to become “swept away by personality cults,” saying that Catholics must “stand up to public figures with anti-life and anti-family records,” to defend these fundamental and foundational rights.
Mandela signed the 1996 Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Bill, which the New York Times said at the time “replace(d) one of the world’s toughest abortion laws with one of the most liberal.” The law granted state-financed abortion on demand up to the 12th week; abortion on demand to the 20th week; and abortion for “serious medical reasons” until birth.
The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion group, wrote in 2000 that in South Africa, “the liberalization of abortion became possible only after the 1994 elections” which made Mandela president and ended apartheid.
Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2013 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Obama administration is being accused of violating federal law by directing members of Congress and congressional staff to over 100 health insurance plans that pay for elective abortions.
Smith Lake, N.M., Dec 5, 2013 / 03:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A human rights organization is teaming up with a Catholic mission this Advent to help offer free, clean water to an area of the world that often gets overlooked when fighting water poverty: the…
South Bend, Ind., Dec 5, 2013 / 12:06 am (CNA).- Lawsuits from the University of Notre Dame and the Fellowship of Catholic University Students are challenging the HHS mandate for forcing them to violate Catholic teaching or face crippling fines.
Notre Dame’s president Father John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said the university’s lawsuit is about the freedom to “live out a religious mission” with broader significance than a debate about contraception.
“For if we concede that the government can decide which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission, then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately will undermine those institutions,” Fr. Jenkins said in a Dec. 3 statement.
John Zimmer, FOCUS vice president of training and formation, said his student missionary organization works to provide “just and affordable healthcare for its employees” in accord with Catholic principles.
However, the federal mandate requiring organizations to provide employees access to health coverage for sterilization and contraception, including abortion-causing drugs, would force the organization to violate “our most sincere religious convictions” and participate in actions that it considers “gravely immoral.”
“If we resist these demands, we face exorbitant fines that would severely cripple, if not destroy, our organization and its missionary activities,” he said in a Dec. 3 blog post on the FOCUS website.
The mandate, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, requires Notre Dame, FOCUS and similar religious organizations to provide the controversial coverage in insurance plans or through third-party administrators. The mandate’s narrow religious exemptions apply only to houses of worship, and not religious non-profit ministries, schools, hospitals or charities.
Notre Dame has re-filed its May 2012 lawsuit, which was dismissed in December 2012 on the grounds it was premature. Its new filing asks the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana to declare that the HHS mandate violates the university’s rights under the First Amendment and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The Washington, D.C.-based Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the Colorado-based FOCUS pro bono. It filed its suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on Dec. 3.
“Faith-based organizations should be free to live and operate according to the faith they teach and live,” said Mike Norton, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom. “If the government can fine Christian ministries out of existence because they want to uphold their faith, there is no limit to what other freedoms it can take away.”
Fr. Jenkins said the university concluded that the mandate’s rules would “require us to forfeit our rights, to facilitate and become entangled in a program inconsistent with Catholic teaching and to create the impression that the University cooperates with and condones activities incompatible with its mission.”
He said that if one presidential administration can override Notre Dame’s religious purpose and “use religious organizations to advance policies that undercut our values,” then so can other presidential administrations on other policies for the sake of following “some concept of popular will or the public good.”
This would mean that religious organizations “become mere tools for the exercise of government power, morally subservient to the state, and not free from its infringements.
Should this happen, the university president warned, it will be “the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name.”
Zimmer said FOCUS was resolute, noting Catholic the saints and martyrs who resisted unjust laws.
“We fight not just for ourselves, but for the hundreds and thousands of other organizations that are opposed to this mandate but do not have the resources or capacity to stand up for religious freedom,” he said.
“We did not ask for this fight. Indeed, Church leaders have done all in their power to avoid it. But this mandate has left us no choice. We call upon you for your prayers. We ask you to intercede for our apostolate and for the cause of religious liberty for a nation that was founded upon these important principles.”
Fr. Jenkins said the university believes its discussions with the Obama administration were “in good faith.” He expressed gratitude for “its efforts to accommodate its concerns.”
However, other lawsuits challenging the mandate suggest that the administration never intended to revise the mandate in response to Catholic concerns.
EWTN Global Catholic Network’s October 2013 lawsuit against the mandate noted that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke about the rule in an April 8 presentation at Harvard University in a way that indicated that concerns voiced during the mandate comment period from Feb. 1 to April 8, 2013 would not be addressed. Sebelius told her audience that “every employer,” including Catholic universities, will follow the mandate with the exception of churches and church dioceses beginning Aug. 1.
“It is clear from the timing of these remarks that defendants gave no consideration to the comments submitted,” the EWTN lawsuit said.
At least 87 cases representing 200 plaintiffs, including Protestant-owned institutions and businesses, have challenged the HHS mandate in court, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reports.
Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2013 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A lawsuit against the U.S. bishops for teaching Catholic hospitals not to perform direct abortions ignores religious freedom protections and laws, a legal expert has said.
New Albany, Ind., Dec 4, 2013 / 04:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious freedom is an important component in aiding those in need, and imposing upon religious liberty harms groups that work for social justice, said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore.
“As we seek to meet the immediate needs of the poor and vulnerable and as we engage in efforts to promote authentic human development, we do no one a favor by compromising religious freedom,” Archbishop Lori said during a Nov. 29 talk.
It is the poor who will ultimately suffer, he said, if the faithful accept “the creation of a society where more and more the government can privatize religious faith or otherwise discourage it by promoting an overarching and aggressive secularism.”
Archbishop Lori spoke on “The Defense of Religious Liberty and Service to the Poor” at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, in New Albany, Ind., which was his childhood parish.
In his address, the archbishop observed a connection between religious liberty and the Christian call to serve those in need.
Pope Francis has reminded Catholics “that serving the poor goes to the heart of evangelization, the Church’s mission of spreading the Gospel,” he said.
However, free exercise of religion is critical for faith-based groups and individuals to be able to carry out their work to aid the poor and vulnerable, he explained. When religious liberty is attacked, the ability of religion to serve the poor is also threatened.
Today in the United States, the archbishop said, the federal HHS mandate threatens both religious freedom and the Church’s ability to serve the poor. The mandate requires employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and some early abortion drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
“No one concerned about the Church’s mission – a mission to proclaim and act upon the Gospel ‘in its entirety’, as Pope Francis has said – thinks this mandate is a good thing,” Archbishop Lori reflected.
He explained that the mandate threatens the continued existence of Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable agencies, and said that the bishops are currently “striving to develop creative steps to avoid the extremes of compliance and shutting down” services that help those in need.
“In other words, we are looking for every legal avenue to provide good health insurance to our employees that is also in accord with the Church’s teaching while robustly carrying forward our ministries of service,” he clarified.
“We would rather have spent that time and energy working with both political parties toward providing accessible health care to all, especially the poor, a goal that the bishops have advocated since 1919.”
However, the “bishops did not say that the time and energy spent on defending against the HHS mandate was ill-spent,” Archbishop Lori continued. “Religious liberty is worth defending, even if it is threatened by something as arcane as a federal rule.”
“Religious liberty is something we value as believers who see it as essential to human dignity and as citizens of a nation committed to the constitutional protection of this and other fundamental liberties.”
The archbishop stressed that the Church is driven to care for the poor and vulnerable by the same religious principles driving its opposition to contraception mandate: a recognition of all persons as being “made in the image and likeness of God and endowed by the Creator with inviolable dignity.”
“In a word, our hospitals, charities, and schools are extraordinary precisely because they recognize the transcendent dignity of the human person, and conduct their affairs, internally and externally, in a way that demonstrates the depth and sincerity of that conviction, that basis for mission,” he explained.
“In addition, the Church’s mission to proclaim the Gospel by working toward integral human development demands that her mission be kept whole – such that no social force, including government, would force a false separation between the Church’s faith and worship and her service to the poor and the needy,” he continued.
Therefore, the “struggle against the HHS mandate is not about the small print. It is about protecting the Church’s ability to serve the poor in dignity and truth, in proclaiming and acting upon the Gospel, as Pope Francis has said, ‘in its entirety.’”
The mandate poses a threat to human dignity and to the Church’s ability to serve the needy as whole persons, Archbishop Lori explained.
Such a separation of faith and service turns the poor into “objects, not subjects, of our supposed largesse,” he said.
“Robbing those we serve of the transcendent basis of their dignity and rights is simply not the path to true charity and authentic human development.”
New York City, N.Y., Dec 3, 2013 / 04:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said he thinks the Catholic Church has been “out-marketed” in the public discussion of marriage, giving a misleading representation of the Church’s beliefs.
“We’ve been caricatured as being anti-gay,” Cardinal Dolan told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Dec. 1, adding that “we’re pro-marriage, we’re pro-traditional marriage, we’re not anti-anybody.”
“When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-molders that are behind it, it’s a tough battle,” he explained.
The cardinal lamented the “stampede” to implement same-sex marriage, saying he wished it were not the case. Regardless of the culture, however, the Catholic Church is “not going to give up” on the issue.
He noted that change in a positive direction has proven possible on other controversial issues, such as abortion.
The 1973 Supreme Court decision that allowed for legal abortion nationwide prompted many to believe abortion was an issue that was “going to go away,” he said.
“To this day, it remains probably the most divisive issue in American politics,” he continued. However, it is now clear that there are “changing attitudes” on abortion and the pro-life message is reaching young people.
When “Meet the Press” host David Gregory asked the cardinal whether he thinks the marriage debate is over, he replied: “I don’t think it’s over. No.”
Cardinal Dolan also reflected on the papacy of Pope Francis.
He said that the Pope represents a change of “tone” and “strategy.” While a Pope cannot make doctrinal changes, he can change the manner in which the faith is presented.
The cardinal said he gave the Holy Father “a standing ovation” for criticizing an approach to the faith that focuses only on issues like abortion, “gay marriage” and contraception.
“I don’t know if it’s so much the Church is obsessed with that, it’s the world that’s obsessed with those things,” Cardinal Dolan noted, adding that it is “rare” for him to preach on these issues.
He emphasized that in his view, Pope Francis is saying “First things first. First let’s talk about God, about his mercy, about his love, about his forgiveness, about his invitation, about his embrace, about his promise of life eternal through his son Jesus. You talk about that, and then morals, doctrine, that will fall into place.”
The Pope has reminded Catholics of the “latitude of Catholic beliefs and Catholic principles,” he explained.
While Catholic teaching on controversial issues is “important” and “unwavering,” Pope Francis has also noted the importance of “the way we forgive, the way we help the poor, the way we help the immigrant, the way we reach out to the sick and to the refugee and to the forgotten, those at the side of the road,” Cardinal Dolan said.
“That is as strong and as cogent a moral imperative as anything else.”
The New York cardinal reflected on the popularity of Pope Francis, noting that many people now stop him to express their love for the Holy Father.
“I think Jesus is coming to us as Catholics, and again to the world through the humanity, the simplicity, the sincerity, of Pope Francis,” he said.
Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 30, 2013 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez and local political leaders have held a 24-hour fast to pray for immigration reform and to remember families who are separated from each other at Thanksgiving.
“Today we are standing up for those who won’t be sharing Thanksgiving dinner with their families and loved ones – those who are suffering because of our broken immigration system,” Archbishop Gomez said Nov. 25 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
He called for a “conversion of hearts” to fix U.S. immigration law.
The archbishop was joined in the Nov. 25-26 fast by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, labor leader Maria Elena Durazo, L.A. Chamber of Commerce Chairman Alan Rothenberg and other religious, civic and business leaders.
They announced the Los Angeles Fast for Families, an effort which joins other national action to support changes in U.S. immigration law as immigration bills have stalled in Congress.
“We can’t remain indifferent to so much suffering. And we can’t let our leaders avoid the issue for another year,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We need immigration reform now.”
The archbishop lamented the deportations in the last four years of nearly two million people, 25 percent of whom are taken away from their families.
“These aren’t statistics. These are people. These are kids left without a mom or a dad. These are parents who may not see their children again for years,” he said.
“Millions of our brothers and sisters are suffering – and they have been for years now. People are dying in the deserts outside our border. Millions of workers are living without rights.”
Archbishop Gomez affirmed the importance of fasting, noting that it is a sign of penance and a way to show “solidarity with those in need” for both Jews and Christians.
“What we are doing here today is very little. We know that. But we do it with love – love for God and love for those he loves, the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters,” the archbishop said.
“Our little acts of acts of sacrifice and self-denial have great spiritual power. So we’re inviting everyone to fast and pray for immigration reform. Let us share our bread with the hungry. And let us make our voices heard for those who have no one to speak for them.”
Some Catholics in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City are observing a period of prayer and fasting from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2 for immigration reform in an effort called the Hungry 4 Justice Project.
Archbishop Paul Coakley invited the more than 120,000 Catholics of his archdiocese to take part. He said Nov. 22 that the project provides “an opportunity to support our brothers and sisters who are caught up in this impasse.”
“I want to help move our great nation toward a more just solution to the situation that keeps so many of our brothers and sisters living in the shadows of our society,” he said.
A group of young adults from the group Dream Act Oklahoma will eat only one meal each day for 11 days, marking the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. They will also engage the public at Oklahoma City’s Holy Angels Catholic Church through information workshops, movies, and discussions. They will host open mic nights for immigrants to share their stories of detention and deportation as well as stories of hope.
Father Tim Luschen, pastor of Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Oklahoma City, said Nov. 22 he hopes the project will make people aware of the need for immigration reform and help them “see that those who suffer from the broken system are people who are here and seeking the same life that all people seek.”
“They are all our brothers and sisters in Christ and they have a human face,” he said.
Archbishop Coakley prayed a novena for immigration reform from Nov. 23 to Dec. 31. On Nov. 24, he blessed a prayer procession from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to Holy Angels Catholic Church.
On Nov. 25, Archbishop Gomez asked Our Lady of Guadalupe to protect those who are “forced to live at the margins of this great country.”
“Friends, as we give thanks to God this week with our families, let’s pray for all those who can’t be together on this holiday. Let’s pray for a new spirit of welcoming and generosity – so that everyone can join us in the promise of America.”
Washington D.C., Nov 27, 2013 / 04:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The relocation of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See has come under fire from past U.S. ambassadors who say the move will diminish its influence, though State Department officials defend the deci…
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