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Catholic World News

Ahead of US visit, Pope Francis is popular among Americans

Washington D.C., Aug 31, 2015 / 09:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Most Americans have a favorable view of Pope Francis and think he has a message for all the country’s citizens, but most also know little about him and aren’t sure news reports about him are accurate, a new survey reports.

“On his trip to the United States, not only will Pope Francis get to know the American people, but the American people will also get to know him,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus said Aug. 26.

“The Pope is popular among Americans, and especially among Catholics, and there is a hunger for his message, with the vast majority of Americans understanding that he brings a message for all of us.”

The Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll surveyed Americans about the Pope ahead of his visit in late September.

Almost 60 percent of respondents said they had a favorable or very favorable view of Pope Francis. This is about the same rating Benedict XVI had before his 2008 visit to the U.S. Ten percent of respondents voiced an unfavorable view of the Pope, while about 32 percent said they were unsure, or had not heard of the Pope.

Among all Catholic respondents, 77 percent viewed Pope Francis favorably. Practicing Catholics were most favorable, with 83 percent rating him favorably or very favorably.

Respondents approved of the Pope’s role as a spiritual and a world leader. They rated him highly for his work on inter-religious relations, and thought he was someone who cares about people like them.

The Pope will visit the U.S. Sept. 22-27, with stops in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. He will address Congress and the United Nations, and say the closing Mass for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

However, almost three quarters of Americans say they know little or nothing about the Pope’s U.S. visit. About 55 percent of practicing Catholic respondents said the same.

At the same time, 72 percent of Americans said the Pope has a message for all Americans, as did 90 percent of practicing Catholics.

The survey found that about 63 percent of Americans said they rarely or never follow news about the Pope. By contrast, 67 percent of practicing Catholics and 60 percent of all Catholics said they follow news stories about him.

Over half of Americans and 60 percent of practicing Catholics said they think reporters’ own points of view shape news about Pope Francis. Only about 35 percent of each group said papal news is “mostly accurate.”

Overall, the survey’s respondents were sceptical toward both major news outlets and Catholic media. Only about 40 percent of survey respondents trusted these news sources for accurate news about the Pope. However, about 70 percent of practicing Catholics said they trusted Catholic media outlets for accurate reports on Pope Francis’ visit.

About 66 percent of Americans approved of the Catholic Church, including 95 percent of practicing Catholics and 90 percent of Catholics overall.  Poll respondents tended to approve of the Church’s contribution to people and communities in the U.S.

The survey’s sponsor, the Knights of Columbus, are a Catholic fraternal organization with almost 1.9 million members worldwide. The survey was conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

The survey of 1,027 U.S. adults and 222 U.S. Catholics was taken Aug. 4-17. It claims a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for the overall result. and 6.6 percentage points for the Catholic result.

The results also draw on an April 2015 survey of 3,002 U.S. adults and 702 U.S. Catholics.

Catholic US News

Pop Artist. Provocateur. Catholic. Who was Andy Warhol?

Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2015 / 03:04 am (CNA).- Chances are you’ve heard of the phrase “15 minutes of fame.” And you’ve probably seen the neon-colored canvases of Campbell soup cans or Marilyn Monroe’s face – even if you don’t know the artist behind them.

For those who’ve never studied Andy Warhol and his prolific body of work, they’ve still most likely encountered it in many of the pop icons of the late 20th Century.

But while Warhol may be known best for the his visionary depiction of fame and popular culture, his art can also be understood as iconic – in another, much more literal, way.

Why? Because he was an ardently practicing Byzantine Catholic, say those close to the artist and his work. In fact, they say, Warhol’s art is actually best understood through the lens of faith and iconography.  

However, these same voices warn that both the art world and Catholics alike have tended to oversimplify or ignore aspects of the man that, to this day, refuses to be categorized.  

“Warhol’s a very complicated person and whatever angle we really try to take to his art, we can take one angle to come from but it’s always going to be incomplete if we don’t take another angle as well,” said art historian Dr. James Romaine.

Romaine, who also serves as president of the international Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art, said that the widespread read on Warhol’s work – that it’s largely a critique of consumerism – actually isn’t at odds with a more religious interpretation of his art.  

“The more popular description of Warhol’s work being concerned with popular culture, commodity culture, I think that’s all true,” he told CNA.

“And I don’t see it as being inconsistent in any way with what we’ve already talked about with sacred art,” he said. “I see these same sides of Warhol’s work as enhancing each other.”

So who was Andy Warhol? Or should we say – who was Andrew Warhola?

A Humble Beginning

The artist who would become Andy Warhol was born as Andrew Warhola on Aug. 6, 1928, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His parents, Ondrej and Julia Warhola immigrated to the United States in 1914 and 1921, respectively, from what is today Slovakia. They raised their family of three sons in the Byzantine Catholic Church. Andrew was often sick as a child, and spent much time bedridden, collecting pictures and drawing. His father passed away in an accident when he was just 13.

After high school, Warhol studied commercial art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, later renamed Carnegie Mellon University. Following graduation in 1949, he moved to New York City, where he worked in magazine illustration and advertising, and also started signing his last name “Warhol,” rather than “Warhola.” His mother joined him in New York in 1952, where she lived with her son until her death in 1972.

Throughout the 50s and 60s, Warhol gained attention for his painting techniques, and later photography, film, installments and multi-media exhibitions. The late 1960s also brought Warhol close to death when he was shot near the entrance to his Factory workspace. After the shooting, Warhol continued to work prodigiously, co-founding Interview Magazine, designing record covers, producing television programs, and continuing to paint both commissioned works and his own artistic series.

He passed away suddenly on Feb. 22, 1987, during a routine gallbladder surgery.

In the nearly 30 years since the artist’s death, his art has left a lasting impact on society not only due to the vast popularity of his work, but the major themes he wrestles with and explores.

“Warhol has been celebrated by critics and art historians for his ability to probe some of the most challenging themes of modern society: identity politics, celebrity, death, religion, desire, and the capitalist machine,” said Jessica Beck, assistant curator for The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

“From the very beginning of his career, Warhol had a particularly keen understanding of the power and weight of images,” she told CNA, “and he was able to produce a body of work that remains extremely relevant and accessible to contemporary audiences.”

But while a small amount of religious work has been explored by scholars such as Lynne Cooke and Jane D. Dillenberger, largely these themes – “relative to the Pop paintings of Campbell’s Soup and Coca-Cola or the celebrity portraits” – are “somewhat under-researched,” Beck said.

An Abiding Faith

For Warhol, faith was an integral part of family life and a daily practice – and both of these remained important to the artist until his death, according to his nephew, Donald Warhola.

While many assume he was non-religious, Andy Warhol “was far from an atheist,” Warhola told CNA. “He was a practicing Byzantine Catholic, and actually attended a Roman church later in his life.”

This dedication to the faith was a critical part of Andy’s daily life. Warhola recalled that his uncle would visit his neighborhood Roman Catholic parish in New York City “and pray every day.” After Warhol passed away, the priest approached the Warhola family at his memorial “and said to us that he was going to miss his daily talks with Uncle Andy.”

From among Warhol’s personal collection displayed in the Warhol Museum after his death are religious items such as a sculpture of the Sacred Heart.

But for the Warhola family, the Catholic faith was more than daily practice, and was a key part of their family life and source of personal strength.

“Sunday was meant for worship,” Donald said. He added that his grandparents – Andy Warhol’s parents – raised their sons to place Church and visiting with family first on Sundays. Even when Andy Warhol moved from Pittsburgh to New York City in order pursue his art career, faith remained an important familial touchstone.  

“Always he would ask if I went to Church because it was a Sunday,” Warhola said of his phone calls with his uncle. “He was very religious: it was a very big part of his upbringing as well as mine.”

“I know Uncle Andy was the character who had that through his upbringing and I know that he depended on God for strength.”

Donald Warhola also got to know his uncle in a working environment was well, installing a computer system for Andy for several months before his death at Andy Warhol Enterprises in New York. At work, Donald describes his uncle as “quiet” but also a hard worker and fair employer, bringing their family emphasis on hard work into the workplace.

“He wasn’t too much different, but it was interesting to see Uncle Andy in that element and his work element as opposed to the more casual, laid back visiting at his place.” These “really basic and old school” lessons from his uncle stuck with the then-24-year-old Warhola.

Donald recounted meeting someone in New York who wanted to design the young worker a “fancy business card” to use for future job searches. Uncle Andy told him “a fancy business card won’t get you work,” but promised that if he did a good job at his work, he would write his nephew a good referral and help find him a good job.

“The funny thing is that after that, on jobs that I took, it seems that I never got business cards,” he laughed. “Subconsciously something landed in my mind to avoid business cards.”  

Other colleagues of Warhol also noticed the artist’s Catholic faith and devotion, such as Bob Colacello. He relayed that Warhol’s faith “was not an act,” after attending Mass with Warhol and visiting the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, according to Jane Dillenberger’s work in “The Religious Art of Andy Warhol.”

Warhol’s diaries also provide a record of his internal religious life, documenting weekly Mass attendance, volunteer work at a parish soup kitchen, and his experience of meeting and shaking hands with then-pontiff Saint John Paul II in 1980.

He also recorded his anxiety being surrounded by the “scary” crowds in St. Peter’s Square waiting for the Pope, although he fought off his nervousness in order to sign autographs for several nuns. Warhol additionally wrote that he screamed after the assassination attempt on John Paul II in 1981.

Art as Iconography

Just as faith played an important place in Warhol’s life so too did it surface as an important topic in his art. He worked on several explicitly religious pieces, including appropriations and reinventions of Raphael’s “Madonna” and da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” A camouflage version of the latter, Romaine observed, can be interpreted as “bringing back the halo on and over Christ’s head,” which was removed in da Vinci’s original humanist painting.

For Romaine, however, Warhol’s religious themes run into all his work – even that thought of as non-religious. “If I had to describe Andy Warhol’s work in just one or two sentences, I would describe it as the world seen not as it is, but the world seen as it might be transformed by grace.”

Romaine explained that in the Eastern Catholic churches, religious icons play a vital role in worship and spiritual life. As opposed to altar pieces or other sacred art in the Western Church, “the icon is more of a specific presence of the saints there with an icon,” he said. “The sacred image is not directly bringing the Virgin Mary into the Church, whereas with the icon, the presence of the saints is believed to be more directly there.”

He said that by viewing Warhol’s work – particularly his paintings – with an eye towards iconography, “I see all of Warhol’s work as potentially sacred.” As an example, Romaine pointed to the now-iconic printing of the Campbell soup can.

“Soup cans are disposable food,” he said. “But the way Warhol depicts them, he removed them from a time and place context in which they’re disposable, into a timeless realm in which they’re almost like icons.”

The soup can also had a ritual tie to Warhol’s life. He recalled Warhol’s brother mentioning “Andy eating Campbell’s soup every day, having a soup and sandwich soup every day, and the importance of religious imagery in their home” – including over the kitchen table where Warhol ate his soup.

Similarly, Romaine said, people are presented in a glorified, redemptive manner in Warhol’s paintings.

The artist finished the now-classic screen print of Marilyn Monroe shortly after the actress’s sudden death after a tumultuous life. Yet, Warhol’s work “doesn’t depict her as a tragic figure,” he remarked, “not that we shouldn’t have sympathy for her.”

“He celebrates her. He sees her in a way as being, in fact, beautiful.”   

Warhol also portrays Elizabeth Taylor, another actress dealing with scandal at the time of the painting.

“He’s depicting those women at critical moments in their lives. Warhol depicts her as kind of redeeming her through his imagery.”

“If you’re familiar with the Christian concept of the transfiguration…Christ appears to his disciples not as he is, but in a glorified way. He’s not just this guy walking around, but he’s glorified.  

Romaine commented that in the way the soup can or Marilyn Monroe, or Liz Taylor are presented, it reminds him of the Transfiguration, where Christ is presented to the disciples in the fullness of His glory. Likewise, in these images, Romaine said, “I kind of see Warhol seeing the whole world as potentially glorified.”

This glorification of the popular is one of the markers of Warhol’s art, Romaine noted. “His work is so much connected with the lowest of the low commodity culture makes the transfiguration that takes place in his work, all the more miraculous, all the more important.”

“If he’s depicting the Virgin Mary as sacred, it’s sort of obvious already, but if you’re depicting the soup can as sacred, it’s really transformative.”

Daniel Warhola agreed that, while “we never had a conversation on that topic,” it makes sense to him that Eastern iconography would have an influence on his uncle’s artwork.

“Perhaps I’m jaded because I grew up in the same environment but to me it seems obvious: the Byzantine Catholic Church is all about Heaven on Earth and you are stimulating the various senses and your eyes with the various icons and beautiful stained glass windows, and you know that the smell of incense and the sounds,” he stated.

Among the important sensory parts of the liturgy, he continued, are “the icons, sort of the celebrities of religion.”

“To me it’s very obvious that the way he presented his pop art, you take these iconic figures out of society, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and make them iconic in the way he presented them.”

A Complicated Man

However, while Andrew Warhola was a man of faith and his Catholic understanding of the world did make its way into his art, Andy Warhol also dealt intimately with themes such as fame, popular culture, mass production and sexuality – that would become nearly ubiquitous in the 30 years after his death.

“I’ve just always thought Uncle Andy was able to predict what was going to be popular ahead of his time,” Donald Warhola said. He called his uncle’s work “progressive” in that it “was ahead of his time.”
 
“From a standpoint of when I look at the body of work that he did in the 60s and 70s, even 80s, he was always touching on what was going to be popular in the future.” Warhola pointed to his uncle’s prediction that “in the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” and art projects such as the filming of ordinary people living their lives.

“I think if you look at reality TV, some people, not everyone, are intrigued by just watching someone live their life,” he said, adding that while Warhol was exploring the medium of what has become reality TV in the 60s and 70s,  at the time.“it was not popular and it was controversial and not understood.”

“It was almost like he was looking for future trends in his art.”

Some of the trends Warhol explored extensively were that of sexuality and sexual orientation, which he revisited throughout his professional career.

“There’s no question that Andy Warhol was homosexual,” Romaine said. Indeed, several scholars, such as Dillenberger, have documented that he was open about his attractions since the 1950s, and several of his art projects explore his fascination with voyeurism and the sexually explicit.

However, in interviews late in his life Warhol also proclaimed that he was “still a virgin” and eschewed participation in the acts he depicted. “After twenty-five,” Warhol told Scott Cohen in a 1980 interview, “you should look, but never touch.”

“I don’t know exactly what that means for him, but because of his religious upbringing but even more so because of his intense shyness he wrestled with any sort of a sexual relationship,” Romaine commented. “His art then becomes a means by which he can realize some of the sexual longing that he has that he’s not able to realize in relationships.”

These tensions between faith and sexuality, introversion and explicitness wrapped themselves around some of Warhol’s work with identity, Romaine said, bringing up the series “Ladies and Gentlemen,” portraits of drag queens and transsexual attendees at New York clubs.

“It’s a sort of play on the perception and the answer is ‘yes’ – it’s both a lady and a gentleman: there’s this slippage of identity.”

The “and” in the title, Romaine continued, is “insightful” and important to understanding the point Warhol explored in the piece. “It’s sort of the one image that portrays being a drag queen as a sort of divided identity,” Romaine continued, and in putting both parts of the “lady” and the “gentleman” portrayed together in one series he’s attempting to resolve “a conflict.”

In looking back, Warhol’s nephew also sees the question of identity as one that concerned his uncle personally and that Andy Warhol explored in his work.

“I’ve always thought,” Warhola told CNA, “that there’s two personas: there’s the Andrew Warhola persona that I, for the most part, got to know, and the Andy Warhol persona.”

“And I think that the Andy Warhol persona that almost gave my uncle the permission to do the things that Andrew Warhola would not feel comfortable doing or being.”

“It’s almost like an actor who goes out and plays a role, then they’re able to act out maybe different aspects of their personality or life that they’re not totally comfortable with as their own individual,”  Donald said. “That’s just my own interpretation: I just think that maybe Uncle Andy experienced that.”

Warhola also suggested that perhaps some of the character Andy Warhol became and the work the artist produced was itself a type of creation. This persona, Warhola added, grew and changed with public expectations and “wherever people took that, he was okay with it.”

“Almost like he could see himself as a work of art, and let you create the narrative,” his nephew said. “‘I’ll put out the information out there and you can create the narrative as you see fit. I’ll be what you almost want me to be,’ in some ways.”

There may be another reason for allowing for a tension between his public and personae, Warhola added: business. “Also my uncle saw that controversy sells, and that if you’re getting  attention, it doesn’t matter if it’s positive or negative – that’s what you need to be out there.”

Art as Reconciliation

Towards what would be the the end of his life, however, Andrew Warhola shifted focus from feeding the expectations others had for Andy Warhol.

“He wasn’t painting necessarily for other people, but was more painting from his soul, and he did a lot of various religious works,” Donald Warhola noted, bringing up “The Last Supper” paintings and the “Heaven and Hell” series.

“The themes kind of changed – at least what caught my attention changed,” he said. “It seemed like again he wasn’t worried so much about ‘gee, what can I paint that everyone’s going to like?’ It was more like he was trying to make statements with his artwork.”

Warhola added that while earlier in his uncle’s career, the artist was concerned with staying “totally relevant” to avoid fading from popularity like other contemporary artists, later on Warhol eventually stopped orienting his artwork around other’s expectations. “At a certain point, he just figured ‘I’m going to paint what I want to paint.’”

“After that it was more subtle, and then I think he became more profound closer to his death.”

Romaine suggested, however, that the resolution of identity and other themes in Warhol’s work can be seen throughout his career – and underlying that resolution is a distinctly Catholic theme.

He directed attention to the resolution of male and female identities in “Ladies and Gentlemen” and other paintings, brought together with the understanding of iconography he sees in Warhol’s corpus.

The resolution, Romaine said, is “this striving for grace in a broken world.”

Another example of an artistic imagining that not only elevates the base, but resolves conflict and redeems a subject, Romaine said, are the prints of Marilyn Monroe.

“Marilyn Monroe at the time he paints her is a picture of identity conflict,” he said, “And in his image, I think he tries to pull her together.”

“This desire in his depictions of Marilyn, to reconcile these different Marilyns with each other I think projects from his own desire in his own life of having so many internal conflicts: of being on the one hand successful, and on the other feeling like a failure, on being on the one hand desirous of relationships and being unable to realize them,” Romaine said.

“These conflicts that exist at the very core of Warhol’s being, then drive him to create an art in which these conflicts are reconciled. Conflicts that can’t be reconciled in life can be reconciled in a work of art.”

Catholic World News

A tech company may have received whole fetuses for tissue harvesting

Washington D.C., Aug 26, 2015 / 04:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Is a fetal tissue supplier receiving whole fetuses from abortion clinics? That’s what one citizen journalist group claims from video of a secretly-recorded conversation released Tuesday.

At issue is a statement by the CEO of the California-based fetal tissue supplier StemExpress, Cate Dyer. In a dialogue about procuring liver tissue, Dyer said that StemExpress receives “intact cases” from abortion clinics.

Whether by “cases” she meant intact livers or intact fetuses is debated. The group that recorded and produced the video, the Center for Medical Progress, claims she is clearly referring to wholly-intact fetuses, which if true could mean that abortion clinics are performing live-birth abortions, they say.

StemExpress, however, replied in a written statement that Dyer was specifically referring to intact livers and that the company has never received a whole fetus from an abortion clinic.

The Center for Medical Progress released the video Sept. 25 after a federal court’s temporary injunction was lifted on Friday. StemExpress had secured the injunction in July to prevent undercover videos featuring its top executives from being made public.

At the beginning of the discussion on liver tissue, Dyer asked one of the actors posing as a tissue “buyer” what volume of liver tissue they could provide her.  

“So liver, and what about intact specimens,” the buyer responded. A problem for fetal tissue suppliers is ensuring that tissue obtained from abortions is “intact” enough to be used for research.

“If you have intact cases, which we’ve done a lot, we’ve sometimes shipped those back to our lab in its entirety and that would also be great if you have those,” Dyer said.

“The entire case?” one of the actors replied. “Yeah, yeah,” Dyer responded, because tissue procurement at abortion facilities, she added, “can go really sideways, depending on the facility, and then our samples are destroyed, and we’re like, ‘Really?’”

StemExpress said in a written statement that the company “has never requested, received or provided to a researcher an ‘intact fetus’.”

The term “intact case” is routinely used in a “clinical abortion context,” David Daleiden, project lead for the Center for Medical Progress, explained to CNA.

“In the [abortion] clinics, they have problems with the procurement [of tissue],” he said, and Dyer admits that the abortion procedure often does not leave the tissue intact. Thus, StemExpress would need a wholly-intact fetus from which to procure fetal tissue, CMP claims.

Elsewhere in the conversation, Dyer refers to “cases” as whole abortions and not just body parts such as livers, Daleiden said. In two separate instances, she appears to refer to a “case” as a whole aborted fetus from which StemExpress procures fetal tissue.

Regarding the abortion procedure and its damaging effect on fetal tissue, Dyer says that at a clinic “the suction destroys everything and it gets to the point where you could look at 60 cases and get nothing.”

Elsewhere, she talks about the number of abortion “cases” that clinics might perform in a day, and the quality of fetal tissue that may be procured there.

“If you’re a physician in Nebraska, well, not Nebraska but somewhere else right? Minnesota or something and you’re doing ten cases a day, you know, and you can take your time and do a thorough job and go home at the end of the day, that might be good for you and the tissue would be good. Then you go to Planned Parenthood six blocks away, they’re doing fifty cases a day and you couldn’t collect one thing, if you tried.”

Planned Parenthood considers a “case” to be one whole aborted baby from which multiple organs can be extracted, according to one of its top doctors.

In another undercover video previously released by the Center for Medical Progress on July 14, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, was asked what the organization considers one “specimen.”

“One case,” she answered. She clarified that “if you end up shipping four individual specimens, that’s still one patient.”

“Yea, that’s what I was going to say. If we take kidney, liver, thymus and say bone marrow –” one of the actors posing as a tissue “buyer” responded, and Nucatola interjected “Yeah, to us it’s all just one.”

Dyer made other admissions in the Aug. 25 video, that sanitary conditions at some abortion clinics are quite poor and StemExpress is also a big supporter of abortion rights.

“I’ve seen really rampant, rampant problems with bacteria in certain clinics,” she said. “ I’ve seen staph come out of clinics.”

“You know, we’re so much more the advocate, we’re like the total pro-choice advocate, NAF [National Abortion Federation] supporters,” she admitted, “we sponsor events, we sponsor NAF, we give money to these organizations. We’re totally committed to everything, with supporting the clinics.”

She also joked about the harvesting of body parts of aborted babies, noting that researchers are uncomfortable when receiving fetal tissue at laboratories.

“They’ll open the box, go, ‘Oh God!’” Dyer noted, laughing. “So yeah, so many of the academic labs cannot fly like that, they’re not capable.”

Tuesday’s video is the latest in the “Human Capital” series produced by the Center for Medical Progress, a three-year investigation into the fetal body parts trade. The group began releasing the videos on an almost-weekly basis beginning on July 14.

Previous videos featured secretly-taped conversations with top Planned Parenthood doctors, who told of how their affiliates supply body parts of aborted babies to fetal tissue procurement companies.

In one of the videos released July 30, the vice president for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Dr. Savita Ginde suggested that babies are delivered at clinics before an abortion can be performed, leaving open the question of whether clinics were performing live-birth abortions.

“Sometimes, if we get, if someone delivers before we get to see them for a procedure, then we are intact, but that’s not what we go for. We try for that to not happen,” she said.

In the first video in the series released July 14, Nucatola was seen discussing compensation prices for the fetal body parts and describing in grisly detail the process of obtaining fetal tissue from an aborted baby.

In the second video released the following week, the president of the organization’s medical directors council, Dr. Mary Gatter, joked about the pricing of fetal body parts, saying she wanted a “Lamborghini.” Additionally, Gatter suggested that the abortion procedure could be changed to better obtain an “intact specimen.”

CMP had also taped conversations with StemExpress executives about their participation in the fetal body parts trade, but these specific videos had been temporarily banned for release by the federal court order.

The group did feature testimony of a former StemExpress technician, Holly O’Donnell, about the company’s partnership with Planned Parenthood clinics, in videos released Aug. 12 and Aug. 19.

Fetal tissue was extracted from aborted babies without the mother’s consent, O’Donnell claimed in the video released Aug. 12.

She also told of her having to harvest tissue from a baby whose heart was beating after an abortion. “I’m sitting here and I’m looking at this fetus, and its heart is beating, and I don’t know what to think,” she said. “I don’t know if that constitutes it’s technically dead, or it’s alive.”

Catholic US News

What does servant leadership look like on a global scale?

Baltimore, Md., Aug 25, 2015 / 02:14 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For Catholic Relief Services’ president Dr. Carolyn Woo, the way to lead others is to humbly admit when you don’t know something.

“You need to accept the fact that there are a lot of things you don’t know. There are a few things you do know, and you have to use what you do know for the good of others,” she told CNA in a recent interview about her new book, Working for a Better World, published by Our Sunday Visitor.

Woo didn’t come to her position by a traditional route; she was on the Board of Directors for CRS from 2004 to 2010, but her background is in business and academia. She served as the dean of the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame from 1997 to 2011. Before that, she was the vice president of academic affairs at Purdue, where she also earned several degrees and taught as a professor.

But after she missed one of her search committee meetings to find a new CRS president, her colleagues told her she should be open to being a candidate for the position.

“I thought somewhere along the line they would send me one of those ‘thank you very much for your interest’ letters. And, it’s just that the letter never came.”

It wasn’t until she was one of the three remaining candidates from a pool of some 400 people that she realized she might actually be chosen for the position.

“When I was not eliminated, it was like, ‘Aha! Perhaps this might be more real. Perhaps I would have to end up making a decision of whether I would or would not go to CRS.’”

So when she took her place in 2012 as head of the 5,000 person organization, she knew she would step aside for those who were experts in their fields.

She learned from one of her mentors that “you have to trust that people know what you know and they know what you don’t know.”

That’s an approach that CRS has long embraced. The organization goes into a particular area with the support of the local bishop, while also partnering with other, sometimes better established, aid groups in a particular region.

While half of all organizations that CRS partners with are Catholic, the other half is made up of other religious groups or NGOs.

For example, Woo said, while on a recent trip to Ethiopia CRS was working on reducing harmful practices for young girls such as early marriage and genital mutilation. Although CRS has a strong relationship working with the Bishops Conference of Ethiopia and the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa, they also work with local elders and religious leaders.

“To have that type of impact you really have to approach faith leaders of different faiths, because they are the elders and the teachers and it’s their influence and their encouragement that can get these practices to stop,” she said. “For transformation to come, you have to work across the society.”

Working alongside members of other religions not only helps provide material support to the local area, but can bring peace and stability to a region as well.

“Interfaith relationships are very important,” Woo said. “If those are poor or those are hostile, it tends to break out into violence … wherever there is a relative degree of stability, we want to enhance that stability. We want to enhance that we are not rivals, and we’re not enemies. We work together.”

Even though there are always more people in need throughout the world, Woo said she doesn’t get discouraged or depressed.

“Mother Teresa was right: she didn’t solve poverty, but all she did was what she could at the moment that the need was there,” she said. “And then there is a tomorrow.”

And that’s something CRS has been doing for the past 72 years: doing what they can, where they can.

What began as a service to help resettle European refugees from World War II has now grown to serve people in 101 countries with everything from helping obtain impact investing to disaster relief to education.

Woo likened CRS’ work to that of planting a seed. It’s a very small task, but when you take a step back and look at what it’s grown into you think, “I didn’t do that part of it,” she said. “That’s what you see all the time.”

Catholic World News

#PopUpPope brings hope to the inner city ahead of papal visit

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 24, 2015 / 04:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In his nearly two-and-a-half year papacy, Pope Francis has spoken countless times about bringing the hope of Christ to society’s most wounded and forgotten. With a life-sized cut-out of the Pope, and a combination of social media and street evangelization, one small initiative is doing just that.

The website for PopUpPope features hundreds of photos of people posing with cardboard cut-outs of Pope Francis. However, for co-founder Christa Scalies, the initiative is more than giving people the chance to take a “selfie” with the pontiff. It’s all about the encounter.

“We have sort of the curiosity-seekers,” said Philadelphia-native Scalies in an interview with CNA, “the tourists, the people who love Pope Francis, and other people that will just be drawn in.”

“If we could utilize a cardboard image of the Pope, on the street, to engage people in conversation, if they’re interested in coming, getting a photo, talking with us, and it gives them a happy moment,” she said, it “engages them in some sort of conversation.”

The most meaningful interactions are with the suffering: the homeless, the drug-addicted, and those suffering from mental health issues, she said.  Co-founder Paul Turner, a catechist, wheelchair bound, and formerly homeless himself, is able to direct the poor and homeless they meet to resources they might need.

“For me, those are the best encounters,” Scalies said, because these are the people who may be hopeless.

“They might not believe in God. “They might not have any faith. But, (it is having) an encounter with another human being that says: I see you, I recognize you.”

“We ask them their name,” she said.

PopeUpPope was inspired partly by Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to the U.S. September 22-27, which will culminate in his visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families.

The idea further materialized when Scalies and Turner, who are both currently based in Wilmington, Delaware, found images of people in the Philippines posing with cardboard cut-outs of Pope Francis, posted around the time of his pastoral visit to the Asian nation.

“Our concept is that we want to be able to engage with people right there, on the spot, and have a conversation with them, pray with them,” Scalies explained, adding that they will sometimes quote from the Bible and other inspirational sayings.

“Our intention isn’t to proselytize and take out a Bible and say, ‘You have to believe this!’ It’s about connecting, and love, and mercy. That’s really what it’s about for us.”

Going out as a team into the streets of Wilmington, Delaware, they are prepared if the conversation goes in the direction of faith, she said. “Paul is a catechist, and can engage in those conversations.”

“On the other hand we thought, if it gives us the opportunity of something that’s new, to engage somebody that might not normally be drawn to a cardboard image of a Pope, it gives us a chance to engage them in conversation, and give us an opportunity to offer them some personal hope.”

Unlike other initiatives which set up “selfie stations” for people looking to take their photo with the cardboard Pope facsimile, Scalies and Turner go out to the streets with the Pope Francis cut-out, and use people’s reactions as an opportunity to interact with them.

Scalies recalled one instance of a man named Joseph who approached them during one day of street evangelization. “We talked to him. He looked over to me and said: ‘Can I have a hug?’”

In another instance, a woman came up to the PopUpPope team, mesmerized by the image of Pope Francis, Scalies said.

“She started to engage us in conversation, and was explaining to us – even though she wasn’t Catholic – how much she loves the Pope, and admires the Pope, and how touched she was.”

While taking a photo with the cardboard Pope, “she just stood up and looked at him,” she said. “You could tell there was something spiritual happening for her at that moment.”

Scalies attributes these encounters, not to herself, but to the image of Pope Francis. “It was because we were out on the street engaging people, and opened ourselves up to having that encounter with people on the street.”

“That’s what the Pope has asked us to do,” she said: “To literally take it to the street.”

This enthusiasm surrounding Pope Francis served, in part, as the inspiration behind the name, PopUpPope. “Because it’s cardboard, it literally folds on itself, and then pops into place,” she said.

“The other part of that logic was, when the Pope ‘pops up’ somewhere in the world, people get excited.”
 

Catholic US News

Archbishop Cordileone thankful for San Francisco teacher contract agreement

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 23, 2015 / 06:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Efforts to promote Catholic culture in the San Francisco archdiocese’s high schools and to agree on a contract acceptable for the schools’ teachers concluded on Wednesday with a new contract.  

The months-long dispute months drew protests, interference from activist groups, and the attention of wealthy critics of Catholic teaching.

“I want to thank the union and administration negotiating teams for their hard work over the past few months in coming to this agreement. They have negotiated just wages and benefits for our high school teachers, who are among the finest teachers in northern California,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said Aug. 19.

The archbishop said he appreciated “very much” the negotiations’ “rich discussion about the mission and purpose of Catholic education and the vital role that our high school teachers play in carrying out that mission.”

He said the discussions “reinforced and clarified” the purposes and roles that were referenced in previous contracts.

“I pass on my special thanks to all our teachers who ratified this agreement,” Archbishop Cordileone said.

The teachers ratified the three-year contract by a vote of 90 to 80. The contract covers teachers at the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s four Catholic high schools. It provides a two percent pay raise in each of the three years. Disputes over teacher conduct both in the workplace and outside of the workplace would be governed by grievance procedures, SFGate.com reports.

The contract says the purpose of Catholic schools is “to affirm Catholic values through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” It says that teachers are expected to support the school’s purpose “in such a way that their personal conduct will not adversely impact their ability to teach in our Catholic high schools.”

The contract did not include specific morality clauses, the news site SFGate.com reports. The archdiocese’s first proposed of the teacher contracts identified teachers as having a “ministerial role.” The language echoed a 2012 Supreme Court decision which recognized that teachers at religious schools can be held to standards of behavior without putting religious schools at risk of employment lawsuits.

The initial version of the San Francisco archdiocese faculty handbooks also explained Catholic teaching on controversial issues such as Catholic religious doctrine, sexual morality, and the ethics of assisted reproductive technologies, such as IVF. These passages were particularly criticized and the archdiocese later modified the handbooks.

The emphasis on Catholic teaching caused strong reaction among some in San Francisco, a city known for its dedication to LGBT advocacy and for its strong taboos against traditional Christianity and sexual morality.

The agreement on the contract closes a period of protests and critical media coverage.

Ted deSaulnier, an executive member of the teachers’ union and a religion teacher at Archbishop Riordan High School, supported the contract.

“I believe in the end the archbishop compromised and that we negotiated in good faith and he did as well,” he told SFGate. “I want the most protection for any Catholic school teacher to have the fullest and most complete private life they can have,” adding that “Our contract is not going to solve the conflict between a 2,000-year-old religious institution and the changing landscape of civil rights in the United States.”

Nina Russo, the archdiocese’s interim superintendent of schools, said the archdiocese looks forward “to our students returning to a year of learning and rich, meaningful experiences in both academics and school life.”

“We appreciate the concerted efforts of teachers and school leadership to prepare for this new school opening with the highest degree of commitment and professionalism,” she said.

In the initial controversy, some local politicians threatened legal action against the archdiocese, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution critical of the handbook changes. More than 350 employees, about 80 percent of the staff and faculty at the archdiocese’s four high schools, signed a petition against the handbook additions. Some students, teachers, and parents also engaged in several protests.

Archbishop Cordileone also drew support from many Catholics, including hundreds of supporters who attended a May picnic. Some of the archbishop’s supporters did not speak out for fear social and career pressure.

Sam Singer, founder of the influential San Francisco-based communications firm Singer Associates, told the SF Weekly in February that “concerned parents” were paying for his services in their dispute with the archbishop. Singer’s social media accounts publicized negative interpretations of the archbishop and the archdiocese while promoting stories siding with the protesters.

At one point, dozens of prominent San Franciscans, including several Catholics, took out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle. The ad, an open letter, asked Pope Francis to remove Archbishop Cordileone.

Long before the schools controversy, some critics have faulted the archbishop for his support of marriage as a union of one man and one woman in state law.

Archbishop Cordileone has headed the San Francisco archdiocese since 2012, and has served on the U.S. bishops’ committee for the defense of marriage, as well as on a governing body for Courage, a ministry for people with same-sex attraction who want to live a life consistent with Catholic faith and morals.

The archbishop is one of the U.S. bishops’ alternate delegates to the 2015 Synod on the Family.

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