Author Archive

Police and Knights of Columbus join forces to fight the cold

New Haven, Conn., Dec 19, 2014 / 02:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Knights of Columbus is joining forces with the New Haven Police Department in the Coats for Kids initiative to make winter a little warmer for children and families in need this year.

&…

With winter knocking for displaced Iraqis, supplies fall short of needs

Washington D.C., Dec 18, 2014 / 02:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As millions of displaced Iraqis are caught in the dead of winter, the international community has a long way to go to cover their basic needs, according to a panel testimony before Congress las…

O Holy Night! Most Americans believe in Christmas story

Washington D.C., Dec 16, 2014 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- Christmas carols echo reality for most Americans, who believe in the historical accuracy of several Gospel descriptions of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Pew Research Center’s survey, published …

For Archbishop Chaput, Holy Family holds lesson on immigration

Philadelphia, Pa., Dec 16, 2014 / 04:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Faithful Catholics “need to remember that the Holy Family too was once a family of immigrants and refugees,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

He stressed: “we need to treat the undocumented among us with the mercy and justice we expect for ourselves.”

Archbishop Chaput’s Dec. 12 statement connected the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt to the stories of many immigrants today.

“Mary – our mother; the mother of the Church – had an intimate understanding of suffering, flight, homelessness and uncertainty,” he said.

The archbishop said that Mary’s honorific titles are “richly deserved” but “can sometimes obscure the human reality of Mary’s life.”

She was “a young woman of the rough Galilean hills, pregnant, with a seemingly implausible story before her marriage to Joseph, who gave birth to her child in the cold in a stable far from home and then, hunted by Herod, was forced to flee to Egypt.”

“At Guadalupe, Mary appeared not to the rich or powerful, or even to the local bishop, but to the poor peasant Juan Diego,” the archbishop continued. “Her tenderness to the poor is something we need to remember this Advent, because our Christian faith is more than a set of ideas or beautiful words. It’s meant to be lived. It’s meant to transform our thinking and our actions.”

While acknowledging that “the current White House has taken actions that a great many faithful Catholics regard as damaging,” Archbishop Chaput defended President Barack Obama’s decision to defer deportation for many undocumented immigrants and their families, saying it was “the right thing” to do.

On Nov. 20, Obama issued an executive order staying the deportation of certain undocumented immigrant parents for up to three years and allowing them to work legally.

About 4 million people are eligible under the order’s requirements: five years of U.S. residency, having children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents, passing a criminal background check and agreeing to pay taxes.

The order also extended some benefits of temporary residence to more children of undocumented immigrants. The president said he would increase resources for border security and deport undocumented immigrants who had recently crossed the border.

“This action prevents the break-up of families with mixed immigration status,” Archbishop Chaput said of the executive order. “It also protects individuals who were brought to the United States as children, and have grown up knowing only American life and nothing of their parents’ native land.”

The archbishop said that the U.S. bishops have advocated a “just and sensible” immigration policy reform for over 10 years. He said both major U.S. political parties bear “a generous portion of the blame” for the failure to secure a just immigration policy.

“Whatever the timing and motives of the current executive action might mean, deferring deportations serves the survival and human dignity of the families involved. And it may, finally, force the White House and Congress to cooperate fruitfully,” he said.

 

Voucher backers to Colorado high court: don’t exclude religious schools

Denver, Colo., Dec 14, 2014 / 04:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs has joined several other Christian schools and organizations in a legal brief to support a county voucher program, saying the Colorado Supreme Court should not exclude schools that are “too religious.”

“To exclude otherwise qualifying schools based solely on religious criteria is to engage in unconstitutional religious discrimination,” the brief says. “It may also lead to unconstitutional religious inquiries.”

The case concerns Douglas County’s school voucher program, called the Choice Scholarship Program. It allows parents of students to receive 75 percent of the district’s per-pupil revenue to attend private schools the district has approved to participate in the program, the Denver Post reports.

Legal challenges halted the program in 2011, just before over 300 children were set to enroll in it. Most of the students intended to attend religious schools.

A provision in the Colorado constitution bars aid to private schools and churches for “any sectarian purpose.”

The Diocese of Colorado Springs’ brief argues that the state constitutional provision mandates “religious discrimination” by treating religion as a “disqualifying characteristic.” It may also mandate “excessive religious inquiries” to determine whether a school’s programs and activities have “religious meaning or significance.”

Religious private school partners of the program are fully accredited and their graduates are “fully qualified” for additional education or work opportunities, the brief notes, adding that the scholarship program was “religiously neutral” and the constitutional provision should not be interpreted to prohibit it.

The Denver District Court ruled against the program, while the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld it in February 2013 by a 2-1 vote.

The Colorado Supreme Court is now considering the issue.

Matthew Douglas, a lawyer representing opponents of the program, said in court Dec. 10 that the Colorado Constitution’s “plain language” means that taxpayer money cannot fund parents’ choice of religious education for their children.

Jennifer Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, said the conference has not taken an official position on the legal case. However, the conference generally supports legislative initiatives that “promote parental choice.”

She told CNA Dec. 12 that vouchers are “a good tool that can be used to further advance parental choice in education.”

She cited the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Christian Education, which said “Parents who have the primary and inalienable right and duty to educate their children must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools.”

Colorado’s provision against school or church aid for “sectarian” purpose makes the state among the more than 30 U.S. states which have Blaine Amendments in their constitutions. The amendments are named for the 19th century politician and Republican 1884 presidential nominee James G. Blaine.

Kraska said that opponents of school vouchers who cite such provisions should know “they were intended to suppress Catholic schools in favor of Protestant dominated public schools.”

“Blaine Amendments are used as weapons to discriminate against sectarian schools and the opponents of the Douglas County voucher program have used Colorado’s Blaine Amendment to do the same,” she said.
 

Healing and hope: Newtown’s Catholic parish two years after shooting

Newtown, Conn., Dec 14, 2014 / 05:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- It was two years ago that Monsignor Robert Weiss rushed to the scene of the Sandy Hook elementary shooting, where nine of his littlest parishioners lost their lives, along with 11 of their schoo…

Pro-life ad group sees unprecedented success in 2014

Austin, Texas, Dec 12, 2014 / 07:09 pm (CNA).- Heroic Media is celebrating their most successful year yet, reporting their pro-life ads have generated more than 360,000 responses, the highest number in the apostolate’s ten-year history.

“This is more than a number for us – every woman we are able to connect with a pregnancy center means a potential life saved,” Joe Young, vice president of operations at Heroic Media, said in a Dec. 9 statement.

Heroic Media is a pro-life organization that uses a variety of media outlets to connect pregnant women to life-affirming resources, utilizing information and pregnancy centers to provide women with alternative choices to abortion.

“Heroic Media is committed to serving women with positive messages. Our team of media experts works to produce and place research-based messages to meet women right where they are,” stated Marissa Cope, director of marketing for Heroic Media.

The more than 360,000 persons who contacted Heroic Media because of its advertising were given access to information about pregnancy resources and support. Contacts included texts, chats, online clicks, website visit, and calls to pregnancy centers.

“We empower women with information and access to hopeful, life-affirming resources,” Cope stated.

Those who responded to Heroic Media were given access to pregnancy centers across the country for support and information. Various pregnancy centers nationwide teamed with Heroic Media to spread life-affirming messages, promoting adoption instead of abortion as a viable option.

Currently, the organization is connected with pregnancy centers in ten states.

The increase in responses led to an 88 percent increase in connections to life-affirming resources: 336,000, up from 178,000 in 2013.

Heroic Media uses television commercials, billboards, and internet advertisements, and in an effort to continue its success is launching three new television commercials for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
 
These advertisements will promote life-affirming alternatives to abortion for pregnant women who are seeking other options. Currently, Heroic Media’s television commercials air on 975 networks every month.

“We are overjoyed with these numbers and are already considering how we can reach even more women who may be considering abortion, to connect them with life-affirming resources and information,” Young stated, hopeful that Heroic Media would continue their success in reaching pregnant women.

Congress gets personal as support surges for disabilities act

Washington D.C., Dec 11, 2014 / 05:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Congress got personal at a bipartisan press conference on Thursday, with parents of disabled children sharing their stories to push for a bill that would help some disabled persons save for their expenses.

“There’s been a glass ceiling for disability people that’s existed in a way they could look through or look out, and they saw something that they were excluded from,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) who has a 20 year-old son Alex with Down Syndrome.

“The closer to 60 I get – and I hope I make 70 and 80, perhaps 90 – and Alex will go from 20 to 30  to 40, we need to make sure we can take care of not just Alex, as our family responsibility, but others can also,” he said of the ABLE Act.

The ABLE Act, a bill eight years in the making, would create tax-exempt accounts for persons with disabilities, enabling them to save for disability-related expenses like education, transport, and medical care while still remaining eligible for benefits like Medicare.

“It means so much to me,” said Sara Wolff of Moscow, Pa., a board member of the National Down Syndrome Society who herself has Downs.

“To put my life in perspective, last year my mom passed away. And it’s going to be two years in February,” Wolff told EWTN News Nightly. She said she is worried of what will happen if her father passes away.

“It feels really great to have this piece of legislation to help with certain things like medical assistance, or transportation, save money for the future.”

The ABLE Account savings of people with disabilities would also not factor against their eligibility for benefits like Medicaid, normally available to someone with assets under a certain level. One of the biggest complaints from the bill’s supporters was that persons with disabilities had to live with assets totaling less than $2,000 in order to be eligible for Medicaid.

“Most folks don’t realize that people with disabilities, from the moment they’re born or the moment they’re diagnosed, are put into poverty essentially, to qualify for their benefits,” said Sara Weir, the interim president of the National Down Syndrome Society.

“And what we’re trying to do with this legislation is basically become less dependent on the federal government, and achieve more independence for people with disabilities by allowing the families and individuals to save for the future.”

The bill passed the House by an overwhelming 407-17 margin and currently has 75 co-sponsors in the Senate. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.), a major supporter of the bill, said he expected it to be passed before the Senate leaves for Christmas but would not say when the vote will be.

The ABLE Act is “legislation that speaks up for people that can’t always speak for themselves,” said Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), who has a 25-year-old son with Fragile X Syndrome. He hopes that bills like the ABLE Act will become the “prototype” for federal legislation.

“What we’re really doing is helping them help themselves. And it seems to me that is a prototype of how we ought to do more things in Washington.”

Bishop condemns acts of torture detailed in damning Senate report

Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2014 / 12:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Beatings. Sleep deprivation. Death by hypothermia. Isolation. A Senate report released Tuesday exposed a dark underbelly of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program that oversaw 119 detainees between 2001 and 2009.

“The acts of torture described in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report violated the God-given human dignity inherent in all people and were unequivocally wrong,” stated Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, head of the U.S. bishops’ international justice and peace committee.

“The Catholic Church firmly believes that torture is an ‘intrinsic evil’ that cannot be justified under any circumstance,” he added in a statement released by the National Religious Campaign against torture.

Bishop Cantu responded to a 500-page report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Dec. 9.

The report documented findings and conclusions of a much larger study that began in 2009 on the CIA program started at the outset of the War on Terror in 2001.

According to the report, the program saw extensive abuse of prisoners, lack of CIA oversight, and a wall of ignorance stretching all the way to the Oval Office as President George W. Bush was reportedly kept in the dark about the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” until 2006.

Much of the information about the program – from the interrogation of prisoners to their conditions to the effectiveness of the program – was distorted, watered down, or kept secret from policymakers, members of the Bush administration, and the American public, according to the report.

“The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others,” one of the findings stated.

Among the myriad of listed abuses, treatment of prisoners included sleep deprivation, beatings, extended isolation, forced “rectal hydration,” and psychological abuse including threats of death and sexual abuse to family members of detainees.

Some prisoners were kept awake for as many as 180 hours “usually standing or in stress positions.” According to the report, “at least five detainees experienced disturbing hallucinations during prolonged sleep deprivation.”

At one of the detention facilities, detainees “were kept in complete darkness and constantly shackled in isolated cells with loud noise or music and only a bucket to use for human waste.” One of the prisoners died in November 2002 of “suspected hypothermia” after being “partially nude and chained to a concrete floor.”

Some detainees were subjected to the practice of waterboarding, which resulted in “convulsions and vomiting” and in the case of 9/11 plot leader Khalid Shaykh Mohammed resulted in a “series of near drowning.” Mohammed was waterboarded a reported 183 times.

Yet the abuses were due in part to a lack of oversight from the CIA itself, the report suggested. At one of the detention facilities, it found that “untrained CIA officers at the facility conducted frequent, unauthorized, and unsupervised interrogations of detainees using harsh physical interrogation techniques that were not – and never became – part of the CIA’s formal ‘enhanced’ interrogation program.”

At multiple detention sites, CIA personnel reported having “very little” information on prisoners at the sites. Persons with “no applicable experience or training” were given “senior detention and interrogation roles.”

In addition, the agency outright deceived the Bush administration and the public about the program, giving “inaccurate information” to the Department of Justice, the National Security Council chiefs, and the White House, the report charged. Even President Bush was not briefed on the “enhanced interrogation techniques” practiced until 2006.

“According to CIA records, no CIA officer, up to and including CIA Directors George Tenet and Porter Goss, briefed the President on the specific CIA enhanced interrogation techniques before April 2006,” the report stated. “By that time, 38 of the 39 detainees identified as having been subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques had already been subjected to the techniques.”

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, who previously headed the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, had supported Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine) in their efforts to declassify the study in a letter back in April.

“It is time for the United States to take a clear stance against torture. Release of the full report on CIA interrogation practices will help our country strengthen its moral credibility,” Bishop Pates said at the time.

U.S. President Barack Obama and members of Congress also expressed outrage and disappointment at the report’s findings.

“The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests,” stated President Obama on Tuesday.

“Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was himself a victim of torture during his service in the Vietnam War, delivered a stinging rebuke of the practices on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

“I have long believed some of these practices amounted to torture, as a reasonable person would define it, especially, but not only the practice of waterboarding, which is a mock execution and an exquisite form of torture,” he said.
 
“Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored.”
 

World Meeting of Families calls for host families near Philly

Philadelphia, Pa., Dec 9, 2014 / 11:50 am (CNA).- Organizers for the World Meeting of Families have asked people to open their homes to host attendees and other visitors for the event, which will mark Pope Francis’ first visit to the U.S.

“The excitement for the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’ visit cannot be overstated,” Donna Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families-Philadelphia 2015, said Dec. 3.

She said there has been a “tremendously positive” response to the opening of registration for the event and to the announcement of the papal visit.

She added: “we will need every housing option available.”

The Philadelphia World Meeting of Families will take place Sept. 22-27, 2015. It is a global Catholic event which seeks to support and strengthen families. St. John Paul II founded the event in 1994, and it takes place every three years.

More than 10,000 delegates from 150 countries are expected to attend the Congress of the World Meeting of Families at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Pope Francis’ visit from Sept. 26-27 could draw over two million people.

Organizers are asking residents from the Philadelphia metro region, including south New Jersey, Delaware and the Lehigh Valley, to host a family. Information about hosting is available at the World Meeting of Families website www.WorldMeeting2015.org under the “Get Involved” section.

The event has partnered with the Ireland-based travel company Homestay.com, which helps resolve housing shortages during large-scale local events. Through the World Meeting of Families website, hosts can register a guest bedroom, a furnished apartment or a vacation house within a 120-mile radius of Philadelphia’s Center City region.

Visiting individuals and families can then search a secure database of registered housing to find a match.

Visitors will pay a nightly fee to host families that can be used to offset costs or returned to the visitors, as the host family sees fit.

Farrell said the partnership with HomeStay.com provides “a terrific, cost-effective housing option.”

“We often pride ourselves on the brotherly love and sisterly affection that defines our region,” she said, adding that hosting a family is “an excellent way to show exactly that.”

Alan Clarke, CEO of Homestay.com, said that the family hosting program can encourage community and promote family while enriching the cultural experience of World Meeting of Families attendees.
 

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