Catholic World News

Pro-life groups condemn Planned Parenthood shooting, pray for victims

Colorado Springs, Colo., Nov 30, 2015 / 04:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After Friday’s shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic killed three but with an official motive for the act not determined, pro-life groups have condemned any act of violence against abortion clinics.

“We condemn violence of any kind against Planned Parenthood, abortionists, or any abortion industry workers,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, in a statement issued hours after the Nov. 27 shootings. “People using violence to promote their views should be held criminally liable for their actions. Period. We pray for the victims and their families of this senseless act.”

The pro-life advocacy group Susan B. Anthony List also offered prayers for the shooting victims and their families. “Violence is never justified. The actions of the shooter are in complete contradiction to the aims of the pro-life movement,” stated Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, on Monday.

They also praised police officer Garrett Swasey, who was killed in the line of duty responding to the shooting.

“Officer Garrett Swasey embodies the spirit of the pro-life movement in this tragedy,” Dannelfelser said, adding that he “charged headfirst into danger to protect lives inside their [Planned Parenthood’s] clinic. He believed, as we do, that all lives are equally valuable and worthy of protection.”

The alleged shooter, 57 year-old Robert Lewis Dear, killed three and injured nine at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, and surrendered himself to police after a five-hour standoff. He injured five police officers who responded to the shooting, and killed one. Dear is from North Carolina but lived in an RV in Hartsel, 65 miles west of Colorado Springs.

According to law enforcement sources, he allegedly said “no more baby parts” while in police custody as just one of many remarks, NBC reported. Officials have not confirmed Dear’s motive for the shooting.

That alleged phrase may have been made in reference to a series of videos released by a citizen journalist group Center for Medical Progress detailing Planned Parenthood’s role in offering fetal body parts of babies aborted at their clinics to tissue harvesters for compensation.

Planned Parenthood’s advocacy arm has already circulated a petition connecting the shooting to larger “opposition to Planned Parenthood and access to abortion,” adding that “acts of domestic terrorism do not exist in a vacuum.”

Their petition was addressed to “those who go to unimaginable extremes to close our doors.”

“We fight your legislation to limit reproductive rights and health care in every corner of our country,” the petition stated. “We believe your actions and words hurt women — whether by making it impossible to seek health care or by creating a climate of disrespect and hostility that fosters extremist violence.”

The Center for Medical Progress responded to the shooting with a Dec. 28 statement condemning the “barbaric” act “by a violent madman.”

“We applaud the heroic efforts of law enforcement to stop the violence quickly and rescue the victims, and our thoughts and prayers are with the wounded, the lost, and their families,” the statement added.

Ultimately, “it’s just a little unclear” what, if anything, is behind the shooting, said Jon A. Shields, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, in an interview with CNA. Shields’ areas of expertise include abortion and American culture & politics.

Police have not established an official motive, he insisted, and from the current information Dear’s shooting appears more like other mass shootings perpetrated by a mentally ill lone-wolf gunman than a religiously-motivated act of violence against an abortion clinic.

Dear’s history, which includes arrests for domestic violence and being a “peeping tom,” testimony from a neighbor to the AP that he was incoherent in his conversations, and an alleged interest in BDSM, would not fit with the typical profile of an anti-abortion radical attacking an abortion clinic, Shields added.

“The police officers, as far as I can tell, haven’t established a motive,” he said. “Precisely because [Dear’s] conversations with them seemed utterly incoherent. So I think that too suggests that he’s a schizophrenic or he’s truly disturbed and crazy.”

In contrast, radicals who attacked abortion clinics in the 1980s and 90s, like assassin Paul Hill, “were sort of coldly rational” in their violent agenda, he added, “while Mr. Dear, whatever else he is, he’s not a sober, rational mind. So he does seem different to me.”

Organized acts of violence against abortion clinics, as part of a fringe faction of the pro-life movement, peaked and then fell in the 1980s and 90s, Shields explained in a Monday op-ed for the Washington Post, with an “exception” being the assassination of late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller in 2009 which was probably an anomaly and not part of any violent trend.

“The shootings in Colorado Springs give us little reason to suspect that a renewed network of violent radicals is targeting abortion providers as they once did in the 1990s,” he concluded.

Dear appeared in court Nov. 30, where he was told he would be charged with first degree murder.

Catholic US News

Struggle with porn? The Church can help you, US bishops say

Washington D.C., Nov 29, 2015 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For the first time, U.S. bishops have issued a historical pastoral letter specifically addressing the global crisis of pornography, looking at how the industry is affecting the parishioners in their pews and what the Church can do to offer mercy, healing, and hope to recovering pornography users.

“We offer this statement to give a word of hope and healing to those who have been harmed by pornography and to raise awareness of its pervasiveness and harms,” the statement reads, saying the Church wants to offer healing to the families destroyed by pornography and to the individuals who have been exploited by it.

The USCCB officially approved the pastoral letter created by the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth called “Create in Me a Clean Heart” on Nov. 17. The letter addresses the crisis of porn and how the Church is reaching out with mercy to those who fall prey to the thriving billion-dollar pornography industry, which creates an increasing slew of victims and perpetrators every year.

Pornography’s wide acceptance and even at times promotion in today’s global culture has prompted the U.S. bishops to address the crux of the issue: the failure to recognize every human’s innate call to love.

According to the pastoral letter, “every man and woman, whether called to marriage or not, has a fundamental vocation of self-giving, fruitful love in imitation of the Lord.”

The bishops describe pornography, however, as the opposite of love – the love for which every individual is created. Instead, pornography creates “a disordered view of the person, because it is ordered toward use, as of a thing, rather than love, which pertains to persons.”

Pornography also “rejects the equal dignity and complementarity between man and woman and strikes at the heart of God’s plan for communion between persons,” the letter stated.

The bishops also linked pornography as a gateway to other problems, such as: masturbation, addiction, adultery, prostitution, domestic violence, abuse, and sex trafficking. It also leads to a distorted view of human sexuality, and in some cases, damages the capacity for healthy, human intimacy.

Engaging in pornography might appear to some like a harmless, private affair, but the bishops pointed to multiple victims who are involved in the making. Many individuals and children portrayed in pornography are victims of human trafficking and also forced into prostitution, the bishops wrote, citing a study by former litigation attorney and anti-porn advocacy leader Noel Bouche.

The crisis of pornography inflicts deep wounds on many individuals, spouses, and families – including faithful Catholics, they said. Recognizing this danger and the reach of pornography within their own pastoral corners, the U.S. bishops were quick to point out that the Church is waiting to welcome those who are hurting.

“No wound is so deep, however, as to be out of the reach of Christ’s redeeming grace. The Church as a field hospital is called to proclaim the truth of the human person in love,” the letter stated.

“You are beloved sons and daughters of the Father. Be not afraid to approach the altar of mercy and ask for forgiveness. Many good people struggle with this sin. You are not alone,” the bishops said.

For many, use of pornography has become an addiction, or at the very least, desensitizing. Because of this, many individuals will have to seek other help in addition to confession or spiritual direction.

“We wish to specifically address Catholics in a range of circumstances and present opportunities for guidance, healing and grace,” the statement continued.

The bishops recommended counseling, coaching, accountability groups, conferences, and retreats as good options for recovering pornography users. Other tools like online monitoring software, couples therapy, and chastity education are also good resources.

“Freedom from pornography is a daily choice and calls for ongoing formation,” the pastoral letter noted.

Parents also have a responsibility to protect their sons and daughters from the modern-day scourge of pornography. The bishops noted that the average age of children who are exposed to pornography is age eleven, meaning that there are many children who are even younger.

“Parents and guardians, protect your home! Be vigilant about the technology you allow into your home and be sensitive to the prevalence of sexual content in even mainstream television and film and ease by which it comes through the Internet and mobile devices,” the letter stated.

In addition, the bishops encouraged intensified seminary and priestly formation on pastoral care to treat those involved with pornography. Priests, they noted, have a crucial role to play in creating authentic relationships and fraternal support with individuals who want to defeat their struggle with porn.

“God’s grace and concrete help are always available. Healing is always possible,” the bishops noted.

“Trust in and be led by the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s mercy and forgiveness are abundant!”

A full list of USCCB-approved resources on recovering from pornography is available at:

Catholic US News

Resist the urge to scapegoat Syrian refugees after Paris attacks, bishops advise

Washington D.C., Nov 18, 2015 / 04:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several bishops are saying we must resist the temptation to scapegoat all Middle Eastern refugees, since they themselves are fleeing violence similar to what happened in Paris last Friday.

“We cannot and should not blame (refugees) for the actions of a terrorist organization,” Bishop Eusebio Elizondo Almaguer, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, said Nov. 17 during the United States bishops’ general assembly.

“These refugees are fleeing terror themselves—violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives,” said the bishop, who is chair of the bishops’ committee on migration.

Coordinated gun and bomb attacks linked to militants of the Islamic State killed 129 people in Paris Nov. 13, and wounded some 350 others. Officials have identified one of the suspected terrorists as a Syrian national who they believe posed as a refugee to gain entry into France. Several other suspected attackers, however, are French nationals.

Bishop Elizondo condemned the Paris attacks, saying, “I offer my deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the November 13 attacks in Paris, France and to the French people. I add my voice to all those condemning these attacks and my support to all who are working to ensure such attacks do not occur again – both in France and around the world.”

In response to the Parish attacks, some federal and state officials, including the governors of more than 30 states, have called on an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.

Bishop Elizondo commented that the screening process for refugees to gain entry into this country contains more security checks and interviews “than any arrival to the United States,” highlighting that the process can take more than two years.

Shutting out those seeking refuge from violence in their homeland is not the answer, Bishop Elizondo said. Instead, the U.S. should consider “strengthening the already stringent program,” while at the same time continuing to “welcome those in desperate need.”

He added that public officials should continue to unite in making sure the Syrian civil war reaches a peaceful resolution soon.

“Until that goal is achieved, we must work with the world community to provide safe haven to vulnerable and deserving refugees who are simply attempting to survive.”

Similarly, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence issued a statement Nov. 16 saying that “it would be wrong for our nation and our state to refuse to accept refugees simply because they are Syrian or Muslim. Obviously the background of all those crossing our borders should be carefully reviewed for reasons of security.”

“Too often in the past, however, our nation has erroneously targeted individuals as dangerous simply because of their nationality or religion. In these turbulent times, it is important that prudence not be replaced by hysteria.”

Bishop Tobin added that “as is our well-established practice, the Diocese of Providence stands ready to assist in a careful and thoughtful process of refugee resettlement.”

And the Diocese of Cheyenne responded Nov. 18 to Governor Matt Mead’s call to stop Syrian refugee resettlement saying it is “appreciative of Governor Mead’s responsibility to ensure the safety and security of all of Wyoming’s citizens.”

The statement of Deacon Mike Leman, the diocese’s legislative liaison, added that “we hope the governor has in mind a means in which the vetting process can be measured in an expedient manner, so that a resettlement option for those fleeing from war can once again be considered.”

“It is important to remember that these are our fellow human beings who are fleeing the same kind of terror that occurred last week in Paris. By denying them sanctuary, we play into the hands of terrorists. We believe that this is not an either or issue. Measured steps can and should be taken to ensure safety while also allowing that Wyoming continues to be a welcoming place.”

Since the Syrian civil war began in March 2011, more than 4.1 million Syrians have fled their homeland. Most are in Turkey and Lebanon, but many are seeking asylum in Europe and the United States.

In September the Obama administration announced that the United States was to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. To date, the country has already accepted about 1,800 refugees from Syria.

Candidates for resettlement are vetted by several federal agencies, which takes 18-24 months on average. According to the BBC, about half of applicants are approved for resettlement, and the American process is much stricter than that in Europe.

But some officials, such as FBI director James Comey, worry that United States intelligence in Syria isn’t good enough to prevent “gaps” in the process.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate, told ABC, “There is no background-check system in the world that allows us to find that out, because who do you call in Syria to background-check them?”

House Speaker Paul Ryan called Nov. 17 for a “pause” in Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States to allow Congress to “verify that terrorists are not trying to infiltrate the refugee population.”

Ryan added that “Our nation has always been welcoming. But we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion. This is a moment where it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.”

Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has introduced a bill that would place new restrictions on the entry of Iraqi and Syrian refugees to the United States.

Several governors, however, have indicated they will continue to welcome Syrian refugees, including those of Utah, Colorado, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Washington, Vermont, and Hawaii.

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