Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2012 (CNA) - Archbishop Harry J. Flynn has called on U.S. Catholics to help support retired religious brothers and sisters, voicing his deep appreciation for “the sacrifices that they have made in order to serve God’s people in our country.”
“I have thought, and thought often, as to where the Church would be if it were not for the women religious and the men religious,” said Archbishop Flynn, the archbishop emeritus of St. Paul-Minnesota. “Where would the Church be in the United States without them?”
Archbishop Flynn recalled the role religious sisters played in his life.
“My father died when I was six years of age. My older brothers were away in the military service in September of 1945. I was home alone with my widowed mother,” he recalled.
“On the day after Labor Day I woke up to begin my seventh grade at St. Columba School in Schenectady, New York. That morning is very clear in my memory. I found my mother dead,” Archbishop Flynn wrote.
With all of his family dead or away from home, he relied upon Sister William Edmund, a Sister of St. Joseph at St. Columba School in Schenectady, N.Y.
“She received me warmly and shepherded me through that seventh grade,” the archbishop said. “I often wonder how I would have made it without her tender caring.”
He also remembered the work of Mother Maris Stella, the principal of his high school and superior of a convent with over a dozen nuns. She encouraged him to take the necessary exams to secure a New York State Regent’s Diploma.
“She was outstanding in her generosity and I think of that generosity to this day,” he said.
Archbishop Flynn recounted how religious men and women have dedicated themselves to works of charity, teaching in schools and service in hospitals in a Dec. 4 post on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ blog.
He asked Catholics to respond to their generosity and help meet their current needs.
“They do not have the numbers coming into the religious life to support the elderly who need care. They worked for small stipends and any other surplus income was reinvested in community ministries,” he said. “As a result they need our help now and they need it badly.”
The archbishop shared his story ahead of the Catholic Church’s 25th annual collection for retired religious which is taking place the weekend of Dec. 8-9.
The collection supports the National Religious Retirement Office, whose website is www.retiredreligious.org. The office raises funds for retired religious and helps religious institutes assess and implement retirement planning.
The office says that by 2022, vowed religious over age 70 will outnumber those under age 70 by nearly four to one. By 2023, religious orders could face more than $20 billion in unfunded retirement liabilities.
Sacramento, Calif., Dec 5, 2012 (CNA) - A federal judge has temporarily blocked a California law that bars therapy to change the behaviors or orientations of those with same-sex attractions under 18, ruling that a lawsuit against it will likely succeed on free speech grounds.
Opponents of the law praised Monday’s ruling.
Brad Dacus, President of the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute, said Dec. 3 that the decision “sends a clear signal to all those who feel they can stifle religious freedom, free speech and the rights of parents without being contested.”
On Sept. 29 California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law S.B. 1172, a broadly worded law that bars any therapy “to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex” among minors. The law applies even if a minor and his or her parents desire the therapy.
U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb ruled on Dec. 3 that the plaintiffs are “likely to succeed” with their claims that the law violates their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.
He blocked the enforcement of the law against the plaintiffs until he could evaluate the case further. The plaintiffs are psychiatrist Anthony Duk, marriage and family therapist Donald Welch, and Aaron Bitzer, a former patient who intends to specialize in the kind of therapy affected by the law, the Associated Press reports.
Homosexual advocates expressed disappointment with the ruling.
Backers of the law charge that the therapies it bans are unproven and potentially harmful. They say the therapies may increase the risk of depression and suicide, and the California legislature agreed.
However, the judge disputed the legislature’s finding, saying it was based on “questionable and scientifically incomplete studies.”
Bill May, President of the San Francisco-based Catholics for the Common Good, said in his view the law is “unconstitutional on so many grounds.”
May told CNA Dec. 4 that he was surprised the judge limited the injunction only to the three plaintiffs. He said the law abridges the right of physicians or psychologists to “act in the interest of their patients based on their professional training and experience.”
He added that the law prevents parents from seeking treatment for their children and prevents children from seeking treatment for “unwanted same-sex attraction and gender confusion.”
According to May, the law would also affect Catholic counselors and bar them from “treating the whole person in accordance with their faith.”
Other plaintiffs are challenging the law. A federal judge in Sacramento is considering a legal challenge from four counselors, two families and a professional association of Christian counselors.
Denver, Colo., Dec 5, 2012 (CNA) - The Duchess of Cambridge’s stay in the hospital for severe morning sickness could help other women avoid aborting their children, according to author Ashli McCall, who has experience with the condition.
In a Dec. 3 announcement, a representative for the Royal Family confirmed the pregnancy of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but also said that Kate Middleton has been hospitalized with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
The illness, which is a severe form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, affects less than two percent of pregnancies and is often under-diagnosed, causing some women to abort their children.
“While it isn't Kate's responsibility to become the international spokesperson for HG awareness, it could be her gift,” said Ashli McCall, an author and Hyperemesis Gravidarum sufferer.
McCall, who is a home-schooling mother and cancer survivor, said that her bout with the illness during her four pregnancies was the “most atrocious physical ailment” she has ever experienced.
She described the illness as “hell on earth that others simply cannot imagine unless they themselves have been where Kate Middleton and so many of us have been.”
Depending on the severity of the illness, women may suffer from frequent vomiting, a 10 percent loss of body weight, dehydration and even hallucinations, all of which can put the health of mother and child at risk.
During her first pregnancy, McCall knew something was wrong when she suffered from constant nausea and vomiting.
Her doctor failed to properly treat the illness, assuming it was just morning sickness. Four months into her pregnancy, McCall had lost 14 percent of her body weight, could not eat or drink and was experiencing hallucinations.
Doctors were skeptical of her illness and said she must be suffering so much because the child was unplanned and that she made up the illness in her mind.
“There is very little sympathy for this disease, because too many people truly believe it to be normal morning sickness,” she said.
Although her fourth pregnancy was the worst case of the illness her doctor had ever seen, it was her first pregnancy that “ended very regretfully in abortion.”
While family and friends were supportive of her during cancer recovery, McCall said that during her first pregnancy “the people in my life did not understand what was happening to me.”
Her experience “triggered a desperate search for information,” but she was surprised to find no body of research compiled on the disease.
Determined to help other women and children avoid her experience, McCall researched and wrote the “first and currently only comprehensive guide” to the illness for patients and family members, “Beyond Morning Sickness: Battling Hyperemesis Gravidarum.”
“If I had possessed such information in my first pregnancy it would not have ended the way it did,” she said.
Aside from the physical anguish women can experience with this illness, there is also a “negative and crippling social aspect” that is “often ignored.”
“Not only was I sick with the most bewildering and horrible illness I had ever had in my life, I was also victimized by unfounded prejudice, and on occasion harmful comments,” she said.
McCall has authored a children's book, “Mama Has Hyperemesis Gravidarum (But Only For A While).” Another book, "The Chronicles of Nausea," is currently in the works and will be released in Jan. 2013. All proceeds of her books go to helping others suffering from the illness.
Thanks to her personal research and the publication of her book, McCall has been able to connect with other women who have battled similar cases as hers.
“The feedback I received was phenomenal, and I have the priceless gift of having been in the delivery room watching children who were scheduled to be aborted be born instead,” she said.
McCall said she hopes that good may come out of Kate Middleton’s illness as well, by raising awareness about Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
“For a person of her visibility to point others to her own personal story and to helpful resources would save countless lives.”
Had she known about the proper treatment for the illness, McCall and her first child could have been spared the tragedy of an abortion.
“If people could get the care they needed,” she said, “more mothers and children would be spared the pain of exacerbated suffering and unwanted abortion,” she said.
While every pregnancy is different, McCall said, women who have experienced the illness on one occasion seem to be more susceptible for it reappearing.
“This could be bad news for Kate Middleton,” McCall said. “Hopefully, she will be one of the lucky ones and have normal future pregnancies.”
For more information about Hyperemesis Gravidarum, please visit beyondmorningsickness.com and helpher.org.
Vatican City, Dec 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, announced that his office is designing a new app on Pope Benedict for smartphones.
Called “The Pope,” the new app for iPhones and iPads will be sent to Apple for approval next week, said Gustavo Entrala of the Spanish communications firm 101.
The app will allow users to follow the Pope's speeches and homilies live and to see what is happening at the Vatican, Castelgandolfo and the pontiff's getaway spots outside Rome, thanks to a series of webcams.
It will be available free of charge at Apple's app store by the end of the year. A version for Android is also currently being designed.
Users will also be able to receive notifications about the Pope's activities and link up with various Vatican entities, such as Vatican Radio and the news site www.news.va.
Vatican City, Dec 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the Church celebrates the season of Advent, Pope Benedict said that Catholics should remember “God is present” and recall his “plan of loving goodness.”
"Advent invites us, in the midst of many difficulties, to renew the assurance that God is present," he told thousands in his general audience at the Vatican on Dec. 5.
Pope Benedict XVI called Advent the time which prepares us for the coming of Christ, which he said is "the great plan of loving goodness," which God wants to use to draw us to him.
"He came into the world, becoming a man like us, to fulfill his plan of love and God demands we become a sign of action in the world," he told the pilgrims at Paul VI Hall.
"This ‘plan of loving goodness’ hasn't remained in God's silence, in the height of his heaven, but he has revealed it by engaging in a relationship with man, whom he has revealed himself to," he said.
Pope Benedict noted that God has not delivered simply a set of truths, but has communicated himself to us by becoming one of us.
"God reveals his great plan of love entering into a relationship with man, coming close to him, to the point of being himself man," he added.
"Saint John Chrysostom, in a famous comment on the beginning of the Letter to the Ephesians, invites people to enjoy all the beauty of this ‘plan of loving goodness’ of God revealed in Christ with these words.
"What do you miss? You have become immortal, you have become free, you have become a child, you have become righteous, you're a brother, you have become a joint heir with Christ to reign and with Christ to glorify," the Pope said, quoting the saint.
The Pope also reflected on how communion in Christ through the Holy Spirit is not something that overlaps with our humanity but is the fulfillment of the deepest human longings.
It is the desire for the infinite that dwells in the depths of the human being and opens it to an eternal happiness, he said.
The pontiff also remembered Blessed Pope John Paul II's point that "revelation sets within history a point of reference which man can't ignore, if he wants to come to understand the mystery of his existence."
According to Pope Benedict, who has been delivering a series of reflections on faith at the weekly general audiences, faith is man's response to God's revelation, and we must do as St. Paul says and be obedient to faith.
Faith is an attitude and a change of mentality in which man freely commits himself to God, leading to a "fundamental change in how we relate to the whole of reality, as everything appears in a new light," he noted.
Seeing with God's eyes, Pope Benedict asserted, is what makes life solid and allows us to stand and not fall.
"Through our faith, our hope, our love, he wants to enter the world again and again, he wants to shine his light in our night," he concluded.
The Pope then greeted the pilgrims in different languages, including those from Australia and the United States, specifically mentioning those from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Lima, Peru, Dec 5, 2012 (CNA) -
Radio Programas del Peru, the largest radio network in the country, has chosen two priests to receive its annual award for their work in “inspiring the country.”
Father Jose Chuquillanqui Yamamoto and Father Jose Ignacio Mantecon were chosen for the honor for their initiatives with the poor and underprivileged in the capital city of Lima.
Through sports and educational programs, Fr. Mantecon has helped more than 400 young people escape from a life in gangs and has helped rehabilitate them into Peruvian society.
Fr. Chuquillanqui’s programs aimed at helping those trapped in poverty have given hope to hundreds over the past sixteen years. In 1999 he began a formation program for young people that has helped more than five hundred boys and girls to get an education and learn trade skills.
Vatican City, Dec 5, 2012 (CNA) - The Pope has repeated his plea for international humanitarian aid in the Democratic Republic of Congo just two months after his last appeal for the country.
"I renew my call for dialogue and ask the international community to work to provide for the needs of the population," he told the thousands of people at the Dec. 5 general audience.
Pope Benedict XVI previously appealed for the country's peace during his Angelus on Sept. 30, when he said he was “particularly close” to suffering of the refugees, women and children who are in “deep distress because of the persistent armed clashes.”
The eastern part of the African nation is being convulsed by a second wave of violence and spreading hunger, leading the Pope to describe the situation as “worrying news.”
"It has become the scene of armed clashes and violence for months," said the pontiff.
"A large part of the population lack the primary means of subsistence and thousands of residents were forced to flee their homes to seek refuge elsewhere," he added.
On Dec. 2, M23 rebel movement withdrew from the city of Goma, which is in the province of North Kivu.
M23 is comprised of former Tutsi rebels that entered Congo's army during after an agreement eight months ago. The force took over the city for 11 days after government forces, supported by the U.N., had fled.
Its name comes from a failed March 23 agreement of three years ago, but its campaign began in May this year when it turned against the Congolese army.
U.N. officials said gunmen seized a camp about 10 miles from Goma nearly two weeks ago in an attack that involved several women being raped women and food being stolen.
But according to U.N. Security Council experts, the Rwandan Defence Force gave M23 support to in its assault of occupation of Goma.
The experts also accuse Rwandan government of training and overseeing the M23 rebel movement in the eastern part of Congo.
Congo's borders have seen almost 20 years of violence fueled by power struggles for control of the region's gold and tin, as well as ethnic and political disputes.
Peace talks are expected to take place during the next few days, but the U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA says over 841,000 people have been displaced so far.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, which has a population of over 70 million, reports that a majority of its inhabitants are Christians and half of them are Catholic.
Blessed Pope John Paul II visited the country in 1980, the first time a Pope stepped foot in the nation.
Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Leaders of Catholic charities in the U.S. reaffirmed Pope Benedict's recent message on the need to remain firmly rooted in the Gospel and Catholic identity while reaching out to serve those in need.
“The Church's charitable work is directly tied to our love of God,” said Don Clemmer, assistant director of media relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Love of God and love of neighbor are intricately connected, Clemmer told CNA on Dec. 5. He observed that this theme, highlighted in Pope Benedict XVI’s new apostolic letter, is also present in his 2005 encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est.”
In his recent message, the pope explained that Catholic charity groups must not be “just another form of organized social assistance,” but that charity must instead “express a genuine love for people, a love animated by a personal encounter with Christ.”
Released Dec. 1, the “motu proprio” document was written on the Pope's own initiative and issues new rules on the organization of Church charitable agencies.
The work of Catholic charitable organizations partakes in “the sharing of all the faithful in the mission of the Church,” the Pope said. These initiatives, while diverse, must conform to Church teaching, and the bishops must be responsible for ensuring this fidelity.
Pope Benedict asked the bishops to foster charitable efforts that are rooted in Gospel spirituality and faithful to Catholic identity, ensuring that such groups do not contradict Church teaching or lead the faithful into confusion and error.
Concerns over the Catholic identity of some charitable institutions have been raised in recent years, along with fears that some groups may be functioning more as secular social service organizations than Church agencies motivated by faith.
In 2008, staff members at Commonwealth Catholic Charities of Richmond, Va., helped a 16-year-old girl obtain an abortion. In 2010, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, run by U.S. bishops’ conference, launched a program of “review and renewal” after being criticized for erroneously funding organizations that promote abortion and homosexuality.
At the same time, pressure from government and secular groups has limited the work of many Catholic organizations in the United States. Catholic Charities in both Washington, D.C., and Illinois announced that they would be forced to close their foster care and public adoption programs due to laws requiring them to place children with gay couples.
Last fall, the Refugee and Migration Services run by the U.S. bishops' conference was denied a federal grant renewal to serve human trafficking victims after new regulations demanded cooperation with the provision of contraception, sterilization and abortion.
Catholic groups across the country are currently threatened by the federal contraception mandate, which will soon force them to offer health insurance plans covering products and procedures that violate Church teaching. Numerous charitable instructions have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate for violating their religious freedom to maintain their Catholic identity.
Clemmer explained that the Church's charitable efforts must not be “confined,” because such work is not merely a side activity, but a key part of the Christian vocation that is “mandated in the Gospel.”
Catholic Relief Services, the international relief and development agency of the U.S. bishops' conference, welcomed the Pope's message.
In a statement provided to CNA, the organization said that it “takes its Catholic identity very seriously and will look to the new guidance from the Holy Father to further inform our efforts.”
Catholic Relief Services is a member of the Caritas federation, which the pope praised for its “generous and consistent witness of faith and ability to respond to the needs of the poor.”
Pro-life groups also applauded the apostolic letter. Father Shenan J. Boquet, president of Human Life International, hailed the motu proprio as “a welcome move toward improving the Church's ability to speak with one voice in the defense of the poor and displaced, the unborn and the elderly, and all who are marginalized.”
In recent years, the “secular development industry” has managed to connect assaults on life with aid to the poor, he lamented in a Dec. 3 statement, and this poses a threat and a challenge to the identity of Catholic groups seeking to help those in need.
Fr. Boquet observed that in modern aid efforts, “emergency shelter somehow requires legalized abortion, food comes with condoms and incredible pressure to reduce birth rates, economic assistance requires adoption of a radical sexual and political agenda.”
While dialogue and cooperation are important, he acknowledged, they must done without lending aid to activities that violate the teachings of the Church.
Now, he said, leaders of Catholic charitable groups have the opportunity to respond to the Pope's call by developing “a dynamic, creative and evangelistic new paradigm for the work they are called to do in the name of Jesus Christ and His Church.”