Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - As new statistics show the accelerated growth of the Hispanic population in many areas of the country, the U.S. bishops’ conference has launched a Spanish-language Facebook page.
Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, who heads the U.S. bishops' communications committee, explained that “Hispanics make up 16 percent of the total U.S. population, almost 40 percent of U.S. Catholics, and 50 percent of U.S. Catholics under age 25."
"It is critically important to engage this demographic, especially through the expanding field of social media, and provide them with accurate, quality information that encourages them to grow in their faith," he said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has operated an English-language Facebook page for about three years, reaching more than 40,000 people.
The bishops’ conference is also active on Twitter in both Spanish and English.
The new Spanish-language Facebook page will seek to reach out more effectively to Hispanic Catholics. It features news stories from within the bishops’ conference and the broader Catholic world, as well as quotes from saints and information on faith-building resources.
Also posted on the social media page are pictures and information about Mother Teresa’s missionary work in Latin America.
The Facebook page’s launch corresponds with National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs Sept. 15 - Oct. 15.
The U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Cultural Diversity recently released new statistics on the growth of Hispanic populations in dioceses throughout the country.
These statistics indicate that 1 in 4 counties have doubled their Hispanic population since 2000, and there are now more than 10 million Hispanic family households in the U.S.
Among younger generations, the Hispanic population is particularly prominent, making up more than half of U.S. adult Catholics born after 1982.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, states including Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Carolina and Tennessee have seen more than 100 percent growth in Hispanic presence over the last ten years.
By 2050, the Census Bureau predicted, 30 percent of the total U.S. population will be Hispanic.
Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ cultural diversity committee, addressed the Hispanic community in a Spanish video message on the new Facebook page.
The bishops "are grateful for the rich contributions of culture and faith that Hispanics bring to this country and to our Catholic Church," he said.
He welcomed the Hispanic community to use the new page to "communicate and dialogue with us."
Denver, Colo., Sep 20, 2012 (CNA) -
Artificial reproductive technology is “absolutely” the commercialization of the female body and especially harmful to children, a medical expert and documentary filmmaker says.
“I am bold enough to go on record to say it's buying and selling children,” Jennifer Lahl, founder and president of Center for Bioethics Culture told CNA Sept. 18.
Lahl said that although the argument could be made that surrogate parents or egg and sperm donors are being paid for their “time and effort” and not the children they help produce, ultimately “there's money changing hands and there's children being passed around.”
“I think today, we've just become more and more concerned in our desire to be more tolerant and more inclusive, we've become so intolerant and so exclusive, especially when it comes to children.”
Attempts to popularize such forms of medical technology, as seen in NBC's new fall sitcom “The New Normal,” are “dangerous” because they “delude us into thinking there's no risk,” she said.
The show, which focuses on a same-sex couple who use a “desperate and broke – but also fertile” single mother to surrogate a child for them, touts the tagline of “Surrogate mother, surrogate family.”
“Here's a young woman who's a single mom,” who “needs money, here's these two gay men,” Lahl said. “They want the child, she needs the money, everybody is happy.”
However, artificial reproductive technology is not as simple as the sitcom lets on, Lahl said.
Aside from the known health risks, she said that with these methods have deconstructed men and women's bodies and reproductive capacities, which have in turn, “disintegrated the family to the point where the NBC show is saying, 'This is the new normal.'”
The show, which aired Sept. 11, has even received criticism from some secular media outlets as being overtly offensive.
Lauren Bans of GQ has described it as “gay characters excusing a cotton bale's worth of cringeworthy, racist jokes,” Sept. 4.
Willa Paskin of Salon wrote Sept. 10 that the pilot episode left her unsure of whether one of the main characters and fathers “wants a kid or a fashion accessory,” when it is revealed that his desire to have a child is rooted in wanting, “to have baby clothes and a baby to wear them.”
Lahl noted that because customers are paying large sums of money to produce a child –sometimes as much as $100 thousand– they would like “the best possible outcome.”
As a result, customers may have “children made by design,” since they can “pick and choose” which desirable traits they would like their child to have.
Another consideration that Lahl said people should take into account is the impression a surrogate mother has on any biological children she may already have.
“What does (surrogate pregnancy) do to a young child being raised by a mom who has babies and gives them away?” Lahl asked, “And who has babies and gives them away for money?”
Lahl, who has 25 years experience as a pediatric clinical care nurse, wrote and directed the 2011 award-winning documentary “Eggsploitation” exposing the dangers of the infertility industry. She also directed the 2011 documentary, “Anonymous Father's Day,” which features interviews with people who are the children of sperm donors.
Currently, she is in the pre-production stages of a documentary exploring the stories of surrogate mothers.
“There's really just a lot of people out there that aren't really happy about these technologies who have experienced them up close and personal,” she said.
Lahl said that one of her main concerns with egg donation is the lack of research on the long term health risks associated with powerful fertility drugs used on already fertile women and the danger of egg extraction on a woman's body.
Studies on the impact of fertility drugs on an infertile woman have been conducted, but none on women who are fertile, such as those who are used for egg donation or surrogate pregnancy, she said.
“One of the realities is that this is a relatively new practice,” Lahl said, “and we've never done any comprehensive, long term studies on the long term effects on young women who are taking these drugs and undergoing these procedures.”
Lahl said it is “appalling” that the infertility industry is “preying on young, healthy women who we know need the money to undergo a procedure we know has some risk.”
More safety and health precautions exist in for clinical trial participants than for egg donors or surrogate mothers, Lahl said.
“If you look at how clinical trials are done and how human subjects are used in research in a new clinical trial, there's all kinds of protection in place,” she said.
Vatican City, Sep 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict called on a group of newly-consecrated bishops to boldly present the Gospel to everyone, so that they encounter Christ and the faith becomes stronger around the world.
In keeping with Jesus’ command to the apostles, Pope Benedict told the bishops that he is asking them to “boldly invite the people from every walk of life to an encounter with Christ and to render more solid the faith.”
“Evangelization, in fact, is not the work of some specialists, but of the entire People of God, under the guidance of the Pastors,” he added.
His comments were made the morning of Sept. 20, at a conference organized by the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. Each year, new bishops who were appointed in the past 12 months make a pilgrimage to Rome and attend a conference to learn about their new role as shepherds.
The pilgrimage is meant to help them to experience “communication and communion” with their brothers in the episcopate and to strengthen their ties to the Pope.
Pope Benedict focused on the New Evangelization for much of his talk. In opening his statement he referenced the upcoming Year of Faith and General Synod on the New Evangelization, as well as the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.
These events are opportunities for the bishops to strengthen the faith of which they are “teachers and heralds,” he said.
Interestingly, Pope Benedict pointed to Vatican II as the precise beginning of the New Evangelization, which aims to reintroduce the faith to historically Christian countries and societies.
He quoted Blessed Pope John XXIII at the opening of the council, who said, “it is necessary that this certain and unchangeable doctrine, which must be faithfully respected, be both deepened and presented in a way that meets the needs of our time.”
While bishops are the shepherds and leaders in their dioceses, Pope Benedict said, all of their faithful are called to evangelize. “Each believer, in and with the ecclesial community should feel responsible for announcing and witnessing to the Gospel.”
The bishops were called upon to form their people in doctrine, spirituality and holiness so that when they evangelize, “their testimony is more credible.”
The Pope also urged the bishops to be mindful of those who do not yet have the faith, being ready to give reason for their hope to those who “are in search of faith or the ultimate meaning of life.”
He also stressed the importance of the faith being properly adapted to each culture it encounters, so that it is explained in a way that is “systematic and organic” and responds to the questions posed by “our globalized and technological world.”
In regards to their priests, Pope Benedict exhorted the bishops to act as loving fathers to them by supporting, encouraging and forgiving them. He reminded the bishops that they must also care particularly for the poor and suffering, and must be first of all servants of God.
“The Bishop, the first witness of faith accompanies the journey of believers offering the example of a life lived in trusting in God.”
“He, therefore, in order to be an authoritative teacher and herald of the faith, must live in the presence of the Lord, as a man of God,” the Pope said.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 20, 2012 (CNA/Europa Press) -
The organization Right to Life in Spain announced next month's 3rd International March for Life, which aims to bring about “profound” reform and “zero abortions” in the country.
The Oct. 7 march will take place in Madrid and in 63 other cities across Spain, as well as in some 30 additional countries.
Right to Life spokeswoman Gador Joya said the organization wants to “support and encourage the government in its until-now stated intentions to protect human life, and to demand that this reform be profound.”
Joya called the abolition of abortion in cases of fetal deformation “good news” and said the exception for health of the mother should also be abolished because “it has become a loophole.”
During the announcement, the executive director and founder of European Dignity Watch, Sophia Kuby, spoke via internet from Brussels. She noted that Europeans see a “contradiction” between the protection of life spelled out in their countries' constitutions and the laws that are enacted.
What happens in Spain, she said, “has an impact beyond its borders.”
Vatican City, Sep 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - In celebration of three upcoming Jewish holy days, Pope Benedict XVI sent a message of prayer and friendship to Riccardo Di Sengi, the chief rabbi of Rome.
The Pope expressed his best wishes to the Jewish community for three holy days which are all celebrated in the month of September.
Marking Rosh Hashanah, the New Year; Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement; and Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles, Pope Benedict expressed his desire for “peace and goodness to the entire Jewish community of Rome.”
He then prayed that God would provide “copious blessings for the New Year.”
The Pope also took the opportunity to encourage growth in the relationship between Jews and Christians, citing the fact that they worship the same God. As Jews and Christians “grow in mutual respect and friendship,” the Pope said he hopes they will “bear witness in the world to the values that arise from adoration of the One God.”
Di Segni was elected chief rabbi of Rome in 2001 and attended the funeral of Bl. John Paul II. He and Pope Benedict have had meetings on improving interfaith relations.
Denver, Colo., Sep 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A scrap of Egyptian papyrus that might depict Jesus with a wife has drawn media attention, but a scripture professor says it should not affect Christians’ understanding of Jesus.
Mark Giszczak, Assistant Professor of Sacred Scripture at the Augustine Institute in Denver, said that those who use sources like the papyrus to continue a controversy over whether Jesus was married are “really seeking to revive the ghost of Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ novel.”
He told CNA Sept. 19 that some of the interest in these sources derives from an “obsession with making Jesus seem like nothing special, a mere human teacher rather than the Son of God.”
“Jesus, the incarnate Word, confronts every generation anew with his radical claims to be God and to die for the world,” he stated. “The story of his life should not be rewritten, but received and believed in.”
The text in question is a fragment of papyrus written in the Egyptian Coptic language. The fragment is about 1.5 inches by 3 inches.
It bears the phrase “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife ...’” and on the next line it allegedly says “she will be able to be my disciple.”
The origin of the fragment is not known, though it was first examined in the 1980s. It appears to date to the fourth century and likely came from Egypt. Its owner remains anonymous and is trying to sell his collection to Harvard.
Harvard Divinity School historian Karen L. King reported on the fragment in Rome on Sept. 18 at the International Congress of Coptic Studies.
Giszczak said the Catholic Church has never taught that Jesus was married and the New Testament does not say he had a wife.
“A fourth century text that reports that Jesus said ‘my wife’ does not change what we know about Jesus from the New Testament,” he said. “Rather, it shows that certain fourth century Coptic-speakers might have believed that Jesus was married, a belief which contradicts the account of the gospels.”
Some Old Testament figures like the prophet Jeremiah and first-century Jews practiced celibacy, while Jesus himself encouraged the practice in Matthew 19, Giszczak noted.
King has consulted with experts who say that the fragment is likely not a forgery. She has suggested that the fragment is copied from a second-century Greek text.
However, other Coptic experts have questioned the fragment’s authenticity, according to the Associated Press. They are critical of its appearance, grammar, script, lack of context, and ambiguous origins.
In remarks to The New York Times, King cautioned against using the fragment as proof that Jesus was in fact married. She said the text was likely written centuries after Jesus lived and Christian literature does not say anything about whether Jesus was married.
However, major media sources like The New York Times have said the discovery could “reignite” debate about whether Jesus was married. They also say the fragment could cause debate over whether Jesus may have had a female disciple.
Giszczak rejected this view. He noted that the New Testament shows Jesus had female followers who were with him at the crucifixion, including Mary Magdalene, but no wife is mentioned. Women, including his mother Mary, were also with the apostles after the Ascension.
“Jesus clearly had women among his disciples,” he said, adding that they were not counted among the12 apostles whom Jesus specially appointed to preach and judge.
Giszczak said Catholics should be “wary” of reputed new discoveries and “wait for all the facts to come out.” New texts should be “weighed in light of the New Testament and the teaching of the Church.”
Non-canonical documents about Jesus have been a source for sensationalism in the past.
A National Geographic Society investigation on the Gospel of Judas, a second-century text written by a heretical Gnostic sect, resulted in a documentary broadcast on Palm Sunday in 2008.
The project claimed the text showed Judas in a positive light, but prominent scholars accused the documentary of mistranslation, commercial exploitation and scholarly malpractice.
Denver, Colo., Sep 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Francis Arinze said Sept. 18 that evangelization is at the center of the Church’s mission and that acts of charity are an indispensable part of this effort.
“If the Church did not evangelize, it would end up in the Vatican Museum,” he told the audience.
The cardinal delivered his remarks to a standing room-only crowd at Bonfils Hall on the grounds of the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization in Denver, Colo. The talk was part of the Archbishop's Lecture Series, a Denver tradition instituted by its former archbishop, Charles J. Chaput, now of Philadelphia.
Cardinal Arinze is originally from Nigeria, and served as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship from 2002 to 2008.
The cardinal explained to CNA that his message for the talk was that charity is essential for evangelization because “charity is the mother of all the virtues. Without charity all the others fall away.”
Charity, he added, “orders all the others” (virtues) and that it is “preceding the Gospel” in the work of evangelization.
Cardinal Arinze said that evangelization, announcing the good news of salvation in Christ to every human person, is the reason the Church exists.
Quoting Paul VI's apostolic exhortation “Evangelii nuntiandi,” he said, “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.”
And when it comes to defining charity, the cardinal said it is preaching the truth. Christ forgave sins, restoring people to God's peace and the truth “even before healing their bodily ailments,” he noted.
Yet the poor were always at the forefront of Jesus' consideration in his ministry. When he sent his disciples on their “trial run evangelizing tour,” Jesus told them to pay attention to those who needed healing, external and internal, body and soul.
Cardinal Arinze reminded the audience that charity to the poor is not merely caring for bodily necessities. “Spiritual needs have priority” he said, adding that the spiritual works of mercy -- such as instructing the ignorant and comforting the afflicted -- are charity of a “higher order.”
“Those who share the truths of our Catholic faith … these are exercising charity of a very high degree. May God bless those who share the bread of the Gospel.”
Cardinal Arinze also insisted that faith must be expressed in works. He said that attending Latin High Mass isn't enough when the poor are cold and hungry, and that Mother Teresa didn't give fundamental theology lectures.
The cardinal was president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue for 18 years, and was asked about charity and other religions. He said he “encouraged collaboration” between Christians and those of other faiths in charitable works because there “isn't Christian corruption or Muslim drought.”
Cardinal Arinze finished his talk by reiterating the necessity of faith expressing itself in charitable works. The Blessed Virgin “knew it wasn't enough just to conceive” Jesus – she immediately went to visit Elizabeth, he recalled.
Rome, Italy, Sep 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic media network Aleteia.org has launched a new website to present a collection of the “best print and multimedia content” from Catholic organizations across the globe.
“Today we're announcing that more than 1,000 Catholic institution movements and media are joined together launching a network to answer all the questions and information that people are looking for in the Internet,” Jesus Colina, Chairman of Aleteia said Sept. 20 at the website's Rome launch.
Aleteia.org, which is a project of the Foundation for Evangelization through the Media, aims to promote a “global conversation on faith, life and society for all 'truth-seekers'” through the Internet.
Launching in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and Arabic, Aleteia is just one part of the foundation's response to the Pope's call to bring the New Evangelization into the digital world.
The website will act as a platform for all things Catholic, featuring print, video, radio and news from partners worldwide.
“We want only to serve, we are not producers,” Colina explained in a Sept. 20 interview with CNA. “We're the servants of the institutions and our vocation is to serve.”
Although each source on their site has its own “identity” and “diversity,” Aleteia will be “unifying their effort” to spread the message of the Gospel.
Heading up the project as CEO is Andrea Salvati, an Italian who has spent the past six years on Google Italy’s leadership team.
“This is a huge opportunity for me to be in my job and helping this company to become an online giant,” he said, “ but above all” it offers him a chance to “stay close to my values.”
Although he will not officially join the team until January, Salvati will begin cooperating with the site in October.
Salvati hopes the launch of Aleteia will provide a greater opportunity for Catholic content to “be shown to many more people” than before.
In addition to the multimedia website, Aleteia is also offering a network of advertisers that “respect an ethical code” while also bringing in revenue, Colina said.
Often times, he noted, Catholic websites shy away from using revenue generating advertisements because there is no way to filter the content of the ads.
This month will mark the pilot of the advertising network in Italy, which they hope to expand to other countries.
Although the website has no official affiliation with the Vatican, Colina said they have “a very good relationship.”
“We have good collaboration with some Vatican institutions, pontifical councils, media outlets as (well as) other Catholic media,” he said.
Aleteia is currently made up of a team of 45 people around the world who serve as writers, translators, social media managers and digital experts with offices in Rome, Paris and Washington, D.C.