Denver, Colo., Sep 1, 2014 / 12:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Some 500 Catholic leaders and their pastors from across the United States met recently at the first-ever Amazing Parish conference in Denver to brainstorm and swap ideas about improving parish lif…
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Washington D.C., Aug 30, 2014 / 02:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life advocates have strongly objected to PBS’ decision broadcast the documentary “After Tiller,” saying it wrongly downplays the “gravely unjust” and deadly nature of abortion.
“When we hear PBS talk about ‘humanizing’ late-term abortionists, we wonder: who is ‘humanizing’ the viable babies these men and women kill?” Lila Rose, president of the investigative group Live Action, told CNA Aug. 29.
“Will PBS show programming in this vein, or will it just take taxpayer dollars to boost Big Abortion?”
“The abortion process is barbaric and gravely unjust at any stage, as it results in the intentional killing of an innocent, helpless human being,” she added. “But late-term abortions are particularly visually nauseating: in most procedures, abortionists will stab babies’ hearts or skulls with a thick needle containing digoxin, a toxin that induces a massive heart attack.”
“Then they will let the child float, dead, in his mother’s womb, and send the mother home for several days, possibly to deliver her dead child alone.”
PBS is airing the 2013 documentary as part of its POV series. The broadcaster is promoting the 2013 documentary as “a deeply humanizing and probing portrait of the only four doctors in the United States still openly performing third-trimester abortions in the wake of the 2009 assassination of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas.”
The documentary will air on Labor Day and will be available on the PBS website through Oct. 1.
The PBS website encourages viewers to organize a “premiere party” for the documentary and provides lesson plans to guide discussions.
Rose said that hundreds of pro-life advocates have criticized the decision to air the documentary. Several have organized petitions protesting PBS’ decision to broadcast the film.
One user-submitted petition at CitizenGo.com gained more than 18,000 signatures within one day calling on PBS to cancel the showing or “give equal time to a documentary that shows third-trimester abortions from the opposite perspective.”
Rose contended that the decision to broadcast the documentary reveals PBS as “a publicly funded abortion propaganda organ – in direct violation of fundamental human rights.”
She said that Live Action investigations have uncovered “horrific abuses” in U.S. abortion facilities.
The group’s investigations send undercover journalists into abortion clinics to film how doctors and staff treat women, including those they believe to be underage girls who are seeking abortions. Some investigations have exposed late-term abortionists’ willingness to let babies who survive abortions die. Other investigations have exposed abortion clinic staffers voicing a willingness to avoid mandatory reporting laws in cases of possible statutory rape.
“The abortion industry puts profit above all other motives, and is willing to lie, injure and kill mothers, and rampantly slaughter innocent children to keep its multi-billion-dollar enterprise afloat,” Rose said.
She charged that LeRoy Carhart, a Nebraska abortionist profiled in the documentary, left a woman to die alone during a late-term abortion procedure that lasted several days.
“She suffered complications and could not get in touch with him because he had left the state and turned off his phone,” Rose said.
Montgomery County, Maryland officials declined to press charges for the February 2013 death, which involved a New York woman 33 weeks pregnant. She died from complications in an abortion that Carhart performed. Tiller’s murder drew vocal condemnation from Catholic leaders and other pro-life advocates.
In her remarks, Rose was also clear to reject violence against those who perform abortions.
“Our goal is to change hearts and minds – even those of abortionists – and persuade all people through logic, scientific evidence, and heartfelt personal stories that all human life is precious, with inherent dignity, and deserves to be protected.”
Washington D.C., Aug 28, 2014 / 12:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops are encouraging commemorations of the 50th anniversary of milestones in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, saying they should inspire further work for the common good….
Denver, Colo., Aug 27, 2014 / 02:01 am (CNA).- The release of the complete adult faith formation series “Symbolon: the Catholic Faith Explained” hopes to offer a profound way of encountering the truths of the Catholic Church.
Sacramento, Calif., Aug 26, 2014 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid backlash from religious liberty and education advocates, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has ordered abortion coverage in health insurance plans for two Catholic universities.
“California Catholics are no longer safe to practice their faith within their own institutions. Gov. Brown’s decision demonstrates that, in California, tolerance does not extend to people of faith and moral conscience,” David Luke, co-founder of Renew LMU, told CNA Aug. 26.
Luke’s group aims for the renewal of Catholic identity at the Los Angeles-based Loyola Marymount University, from which he graduated in 1993.
He said that Gov. Brown and his administration has given the university leadership “a unique opportunity to prove that being a Catholic institution still means something.”
Brown, he noted, “has given them an opportunity to stand in defense of innocent human life and religious freedom. I hope they take advantage of that opportunity.”
Luke’s comments follow California government officials’ scrutiny of health care plans designed to remove some abortion coverage from health plans that Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University provide to their employees.
On Friday, Michelle Rouillard, director of California’s Department of Managed Health Care announced that health plans that restricted abortion coverage were illegal under state law.
Her Aug. 22 letter to health care companies active in the state instructed them to cover abortion on the grounds that it is “a basic health care service.” She said that some contracts “limiting or excluding coverage for termination of pregnancies” may illegally discriminate against women.
Under California’s Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975 and judicial rulings applying the California state Constitution, Rouillard’s letter said, “all health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally.” The letter instructed health care companies to remove “discriminatory coverage exclusions and limitations,” including those that limit coverage to “therapeutic” or “medically necessary” abortions.
The department’s action, however, could face legal challenges.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal religious liberty advocacy group, co-authored with the Life Legal Defense Foundation a letter to the California department objecting to the action. The two groups said that the action is a “clear violation” of the federal Weldon Amendment, which bars states that accept federal funds from discriminating against institutions and health care entities that do not provide coverage of abortion or refer for abortions.
The California government department “cannot deny approval to or otherwise penalize a health insurance plan for failing to provide coverage of some or all abortions,” said the letter, which was written on behalf of the Cardinal Newman Society.
“When Congress enacted the Weldon Amendment, it sought to ensure that the government could never strong-arm pro-life employers into paying for abortion coverage; therefore, California’s decision is illegal,” Matthew Bowman, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, said Aug. 22.
“No state can ignore federal law in a pursuit to conform everyone to the state’s own ideology on abortion,” Bowman added. “Faith-based organizations should be free to operate according to the faith they espouse and live out on a daily basis.”
The letter threatened to file complaints with the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Peter Warren, an assistant director of communications at Loyola Marymount University, told CNA Aug. 25 that the university is waiting to hear from its insurance companies on how the decision affects the university.
Deepa Arora, communications director at Santa Clara University, said Aug. 25 that the university has reached out to its insurers.
“We will confer with them to ensure that our health plans continue to be fully compliant with state and federal law,” Arora said.
A fight for Catholic identity
Christopher Kaczor, a philosophy professor at Loyola Marymount, told CNA/EWTN News Aug. 19 that California government officials’ scrutiny of abortion coverage in health plans are hindering Catholic colleges’ ability to be consistently Catholic.
“A Catholic university, if it is to retain its identity, must be distinctive in its fidelity to fundamental truths.”
Kaczor cited the Society of Jesus’ 2003 document “Standing for the Unborn,” saying that “the defense of human life prior to birth is a justice issue.”
He said Loyola Marymount, a Jesuit university, “should not, in any way, facilitate abortion.”
In fall 2013 both Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara announced that they planned to stop paying for employees’ elective abortions, the Associated Press reports. They said their insurers, Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente, had secured approval from state officials.
In an October 2013 letter, Santa Clara University president Father Michael E. Engh, S.J., said that the Catholic university’s “core commitments” are incompatible with abortion coverage.
State officials revisited their decision following agitation from pro-abortion rights faculty and staff at the universities, as well as activism from pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Santa Clara University faculty voiced their rejection of the changes to the health care plan by a vote of 215 to 89 in December, the California Lawyer magazine reports. Before the policy was revised, Santa Clara’s abortion coverage also applied to dependents of faculty and staff.
The universities’ revised health plans still offer supplemental coverage for abortion through a third party.
Kaczor said that Loyola Marymount’s health coverage change is a “significant, meaningful improvement” over the previous policy that covered elective abortion. He said university president David Burcham’s initial proposed policy was “a wonderful affirmation of our Jesuit character.”
However, he said the change actually implemented by the university’s board of trustees was not as strong because it still cooperated in the provision of abortion.
Luke, of Renew LMU, agreed that the university’s current policy still makes it “morally complicit” in the procurement of abortion.
He said it was “not clear” that Loyola Marymount’s leadership “has the commitment to Catholic mission required to oppose an assault on religious freedom.”
He noted that the president of Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles was invited to speak on campus despite the protests of concerned students, faculty, alumni and others.
Luke said that Loyola Marymount’s Catholic mission and identity “have been in decline for years.” He charged that the university’s leadership “would rather bow to a loud, secular faculty majority than do the right thing.”
“The faculty who lobbied Governor Brown were not satisfied with the affordable abortion coverage provided by their Catholic employer,” Luke said. ”They will only be satisfied when their Catholic employer actively participates in the killing of the unborn.”
He encouraged prayer for the restoration of the university’s Catholic character.
Toledo, Ohio, Aug 26, 2014 / 11:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Tuesday named Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Philadelphia to be the next bishop of Ohio’s Diocese of Toledo.
“I express my profound gratitude to Pope Francis for his confidence and trust in appointing me the shepherd of the Lord’s flock here in northwest Ohio,” Bishop Thomas said at an Aug. 26 press conference in Toledo. “Aware that I am not worthy of the office, I trust in God’s Holy Will as expressed through the Successor of Peter and in the grace and mercy of Jesus the Good Shepherd.”
“What is important is not so much my name, but who I am for you, a father, brother, and friend in the faith,” the bishop said.
He added: “it is my fervent hope and prayer that the weak and the vulnerable, the poor and the needy, indeed all of us, might experience more deeply the love and mercy of Christ.”
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia praised the appointment, saying that the Toledo Diocese “has been given a true gift in Bishop Thomas.”
“The appointment being announced today demonstrates the confidence our Holy Father has in Bishop Thomas’ pastoral and administrative skills,” Archbishop Chaput said in a statement. “I have worked with him closely since my arrival in Philadelphia nearly three years ago and have witnessed his wisdom, intelligence, personal warmth and keen affection for the people of God.”
“I know he will serve them joyfully as a faithful shepherd and spiritual father.”
Bishop Thomas was born June 11, 1959 in the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia.
He was ordained to the priesthood for the Philadelphia archdiocese in 1985 by Cardinal John Krol. He was named an auxiliary bishop in 2006. He served as a parochial vicar and a pastor at several Pennsylvania parishes, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reports.
The bishop holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Philadelphia’s St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He served in the Congregation for Bishops at the Vatican and was adjunct spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College Seminary in Rome.
During the press conference, Bishop Thomas said that he looked forward to participating in the life of the diocese.
“Most of all, I look forward, as your bishop, to preaching the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to celebrate the sacraments, especially the Most Holy Eucharist, to teach and defend our Catholic faith, to lead and strengthen you so that together we might be more vibrant and courageous disciples of the Lord.”
Bishop Thomas will be the eighth Bishop of Toledo. He succeeds Leonard P. Blair, who was named Archbishop of Hartford, Conn. in October 2013.
Archbishop Blair said he was “very pleased” to hear of Bishop Thomas’ appointment.
“He is a man of wide pastoral experience, deeply committed to Christ and the Church. The clergy and people of Toledo will be well served by the many gifts Bishop Thomas brings as their new shepherd,” the archbishop said in a statement.
Bishop Thomas voiced his prayers for the people of the diocese and said he prayed that he will be “a faithful, humble, holy and ardent bishop for Toledo.”
The Diocese of Toledo has about 320,000 Catholics in a population of over 1.4 million.
Washington D.C., Aug 22, 2014 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious groups have voiced concern over the latest set of suggested changes to the federal contraception mandate, while saying they will examine the proposals fully in order to give an in-dep…
Washington D.C., Aug 22, 2014 / 10:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Department of Health and Human Services issued on Friday new rules regarding its contraception mandate, which address both non-profits and closely held for-profit entities.
The new rules create a new way for non-profit groups to voice their objections to the required coverage, prompting their insurance company to offer the coverage free-of-charge. For closely held for-profit companies such as Hobby Lobby, the federal department said it is asking for ideas on how to extend the same accommodation offered to non-profits.
Sylvia Burwell, HHS secretary, said Aug. 22 that the new rules will ensure access to free contraception, “while respecting religious considerations raised by non-profit organizations and closely held for-profit companies.”
The HHS department has issued a mandate under the 2010 Affordable Care Act which requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.
It has been particular burden for Catholics and others with pro-life religious and moral convictions. Non-compliance with the mandate is punished by severe fines.
While the mandate includes a narrow religious exemption for houses of worship, non-profit organizations had been offered an “accommodation,” under which a religious employer would sign a form authorizing another company or third party to provide payments for the products they find objectionable.
The new rules announced Friday “are in response to recent court decisions,” the HHS stated.
For non-profits, the newly issued rules “lay out an additional way for organizations eligible for an accommodation to provide notice of their religious objection to providing coverage for contraceptive services,” the Health and Human Services department stated Aug. 22.
“The rule allows these eligible organizations to notify the Department of Health and Human Services in writing of their religious objection to providing contraception coverage. HHS and the Department of Labor will then notify insurers and third party administrators so that enrollees in plans of such organizations receive separate coverage for contraceptive services, with no additional cost to the enrollee or the employer.”
“The interim final rule solicits comments, but goes into effect upon publication.”
Regarding closely held for-profits, such as Hobby Lobby, the HHS said it is “issuing a proposed rule soliciting comments on how it might extend” to them “the same accommodation that is available to non-profit religious organizations.”
“Under the proposal, these companies would not have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds. The proposal seeks comment on how to define a closely held for-profit company and whether other steps might be appropriate to implement this policy.”
On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that closely held for-profit corporations – such as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Services – are protected against the mandate by the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The two closely-held businesses, run by Protestant and Mennonite owners, objected to aspects of the HHS rule that require them to provide coverage for drugs that they believe can cause abortions.
The ruling quickly led to the introduction in the Senate of a bill aiming to thwart the Supreme Court’s decision, co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.).
The HHS department’s Aug. 22 release noted that the Obama administration “continues to encourage Congress to act to ensure that women affected by the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision have access to the same coverage options offered to others.”
At least 100 lawsuits filed by more than 300 plaintiffs have challenged the constitutionality of the HHS mandate. In the wake of the Hobby Lobby ruling, the closely-held entity Mersino Management Company won an injunction against the mandate from the Sixth Circuit Appeals Court, and the Supreme Court granted a similar injunction to Wheaton College, a Protestant liberal arts college in Illinois.
Cincinnati, Ohio, Aug 22, 2014 / 09:35 am (CNA).- Chances are you’ve viewed at least one video this week of someone dumping a bucket of ice water over their head and challenging others to do the same.
The now-viral “ice bucket challenge” was started by the ALS association, a leader in funding research for prevention, treatment and an eventual cure of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a fatal neuro-degenerative condition for which there are no proven treatments or cure.
But when Jim Rigg, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, accepted the ice bucket challenge Aug. 20, the archdiocese announced its donations would be going toward the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa rather than the originator of the challenge.
In a statement released Aug. 20, the archdiocese voiced concerns over the ALS association’s support of embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of embryonic life.
“The archdiocese is not dissuading individual Catholics from making donations, but they are encouraged to be fully informed and make their own prudential judgments.”
“The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has determined that its Catholic schools will not, as organizations, donate to that particular charity,” it read.
“To quote St. John Paul II, ‘Any treatment which claims to save human lives, yet is based upon the destruction of human life in its embryonic state, is logically and morally contradictory, as is any production of human embryos for the direct or indirect purpose of experimentation or eventual destruction.’”
The John Paul II Medical Research Institute (JP2MRI) is a secular non-profit research institute “grounded in a pro-life bioethic that respects the dignity of every human life,” according to their website. They conduct research to advance technology to treat diseases such as ALS, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other more rare diseases.
The JP2MRI wrote on Twitter Aug. 20, “Over the past 5 days – The Institute has received 350 donations for $15,000 dollars. Thank you.”
Orlando, Fla., Aug 22, 2014 / 02:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Actor Gary Sinise’s respect and admiration for military men and women goes far beyond his role as Lieutenant Dan in the popular 1994 film, “Forrest Gump.”
For generations, members of his family and his wife’s family have served their country, which inspired Sinise to support veterans for years and ultimately start the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011.
This past year, the Knights of Columbus donated $200,000 to help build a “smart home” for U.S. Army Corporal Kyle Hockenberry, who lost three of his limbs in combat.
“They are a great, tremendous charitable organization and have demonstrated that for over one hundred years,” Sinise told CNA Aug. 7, “so to get their support is very meaningful and appreciated by me and the members of my foundation team.”
The words – “For those I love, I will sacrifice” – were tattooed on Hockenberry’s side when he lost both legs and his left arm to an IED attack in Afghanistan. His new home, where he will live with his wife Ashley in Ohio, is custom-built to accommodate a wheelchair and other needs he faces.
“You have shown that you will be a shining light of hope for those who have served and sacrificed like Kyle Hockenberry when they are in their darkest moment,” Sinise told the Knights in an address at their Supreme Convention in Florida.
In his touching and personal talk, Sinise told of his memories of veterans in his own life. A high school student during the Vietnam War, Sinise said he didn’t fully realize the gravity of the sacrifices being made by his friends and family in the military at the time.
“I had been more interested in girls, a band I was involved in, just enjoying my freedom in life as a kid without thinking much about the cost of that freedom,” he said.
But after spending time with the veterans in both his family and his wife’s and listening to their stories, he felt compelled to take action.
“I let those early failures drive me for a new mission,” Sinise said. “That mission is to have the courage to take determinate action for those who have sacrificed so much in defense of our freedom and liberty, and to stay that course no matter how the political winds may blow, or even though it might not be the most popular thing to do in the place you work or the circles you run in.”
He started working with a local veterans group in the Chicago area in the 1980′s, and saw the chance to play Lieutenant Dan as a way to serve veterans by telling an amusing story of a veteran who eventually succeeds in life after war. He continued serving veterans after the film by forming the Lieutenant Dan band and traveling to entertain troops.
“It is simply the right thing to do for those who volunteer to fight our nation’s wars and we must learn the hard lessons from Vietnam and the shameful way our county treated our veterans returning from that war and ensure that that never happens again.”
Sinise also told the story of the faith journey of his family, starting with his wife rediscovering her Irish Catholic roots and attending Mass regularly as a family. The Church became the family’s sanctuary as the Sept. 11 attacks brought on a new war, and Sinise grew closer to the faith. In December 2010, he was officially confirmed in the Catholic Church.
“I see now that my work with veterans over the past 30 years and my journey being confirmed in the Catholic Church are very much a part of the same story.”
Shortly after being confirmed, Sinise felt there was still more he could be doing to serve veterans.
“I felt called by God and compelled to use all the tools and notoriety that I had been blessed with and all the work I had done with the military over the years to serve in a more substantial way to create something that could be here for the long haul,” Sinise said, and in 2011 the Gary Sinise Foundation began.
Besides building custom Smart Homes for numerous veterans, the foundation provides multiple programs and resources honoring and helping veterans and their families successfully adjust to life after combat. The partnership of the Knights of Columbus will continue as well.
“They made a commitment to helping us in the future and I’m very grateful for that, looking forward to a great teaming up of the two organizations in support of our veterans,” Sinise said. “It’s very important that we take care of these heroes.”
Those interested in learning more about the Gary Sinise foundation can find more information on the website www.garysinisefoundation.org.