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Archive of January 15, 2013

Fight against porn starts with the heart, new columnist writes

Denver, Colo., Jan 15, 2013 (CNA) - CNA's new columnist Matt McGuiness offers a different approach to the widespread problem of pornography through an “education of desire,” or examining what the human heart truly longs for.

“We really have to look within ourselves and see what it is that we want...Christ wants our hearts, he wants us to go to the depths of the questions that are deep within our hearts,” McGuiness said in Jan. 9 interview.

His series of three columns, called “A second look at porn,” will appear on CNA starting Jan. 15.

In his first installment, McGuiness critiques popular attempts at combating porn use, which tend to “focus on the moral question in isolation,” he says. Some of these methods include 12-step-type programs, sheer willpower or frequent confession without examining the root of the problem.

When Catholic speakers give bristly fire and brimstone talks on the evils of pornography, for example, McGuiness thinks they have failed to take the human condition seriously.

While certainly acknowledging the immorality of pornography – “for Pete's sake I'm not saying throw out the ten commandments,” he assured – McGuiness believes moralizing “tends to preach to the converted” and is neither attractive nor useful.

“The deeper question is, what is it that men are seeking? There's some lack...and pornography is a sign of that...it is a sign of our desire for happiness.”

McGuiness says he penned his new columns in the hope that “people would just be more honest” about their struggles with pornography; a now multi-billion dollar industry that continues to skyrocket as internet availability increases worldwide.

“What I hope, is people would be open to seeing that porn is just a symptom of a deeper need that's in everyone's heart. And that's the desire for happiness. If we take that desire for happiness seriously, I think porn loses its allure.”

This focus on happiness – or, human flourishing which everyone hopes for – is the means which can help men to overcome the allure of pornography, McGuiness holds.

“If we take the comparison of here's what I want, and here's what porn offers, it's a simple question...do I desire my happiness or don't I? And if I do, porn can't help me, but in a sense is just a distraction from that, and then it loses its attractiveness.”

McGuiness maintains that while this “education of desire” involves a risk, “the risk is lesser than the danger of not taking desire seriously.”

“Desire, is a curious thing. If you follow it willy-nilly, it takes you to all kinds of dark places. If you try to suppress or deny it, it comes out and bites you on the butt; so I think the only way to deal with it is head-on.”

The education of desire, McGuiness says, is inspired by the Gospels and “involves staying with the question, 'What do I want?'”

He recalled the episode in John's Gospel in which two disciples of John the Baptist followed Christ, and he questioned them, “What seek you?”

“I think he does that with us,” McGuiness reflected. “I look at the Gospels and I don't just see a historical record. I see that this is how, because of the Incarnation, God deals with men.”

“There are archetypical moments that are present in our lives, and are opportunities, and I think porn is really an opportunity to say, 'What do you want?' Christ is asking guys, 'Really, what do you want?'”

Ultimately, an encounter with Christ's beauty is what can tear men away from pornography, McGuiness believes.

“Encountering the gaze of Christ, whether that's through Adoration or a conversation with a friend, and I make the comparison of what Christ offers and what porn offers, its obvious: Christ is the answer.”

McGuiness also says his approach reflects a sound theological anthropology, grounded in the creation account of Genesis.

“We're made in the image and likeness of God. And if that's true, then the things I desire are connected somehow with that. Yes there's sin, but we're not Calvinists...it's not as if the divine image has been totally annihilated or pulverized, we're wounded.”

Flight from all desire is not characteristic of Christianity, but of far eastern traditions, the columnist noted. “If I say what I have to do is suppress all my desire, then I'm becoming a Buddhist; if not in name, in fact.”

“Because if desire is so dangerous it has to be suppressed, what I'm really saying is, Christ can't save me,” McGuiness added. “It's too much, he can't handle my lust. He's too weak.”

“But if desire comes into the light of day, then you can have a conversation with it, and say, 'What are you after? What is it you really want?'”

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Facebook abortion ads prompt call for pro-life action

London, England, Jan 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Facebook must be called on to refuse abortion ads that target U.K. women, says a pro-life leader who warns the practice “threatens to further commercialize the killing of unborn children.”

“Facebook advertising will only serve the abortion industry’s money-spinning trade which hurts women through killing their unborn children,” Anthony Ozimic, communications manager with the London-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told CNA Jan. 14.

“A large body of opposition on Facebook itself is essential to get Facebook to take action,” he said, calling on pro-life advocates to use their Facebook networks, pages and groups to “build up awareness of the ads and the objections to the ads.”

His comments come after Willard Foxton, social media blogger for the British newspaper The Telegraph, reported that many British women found targeted ads for “an abortion provider near you” beginning on New Year’s Day. The ad linked to a U.S.-based website that is a directory of doctors and facilities that offer “abortion care.”

Foxton said some women reacted to the ad with humor, while others wondered what in their profile made Facebook’s automated system decide to target them with the ads.

A Facebook spokesperson told Foxton that the social network’s rules allow “advertising of post-conception advice services.”

“Unlike other media, if people don’t like an advert they see on Facebook they are able to dismiss it by clicking ‘X’ on the corner of the ad,” the spokesperson said.

Foxton said he thought the ad was “seriously mistargeted”  and could have cost the advertiser close to $5 U.S. dollars per click. “If I were Facebook, I think I'd tighten up the rules around who sensitive adverts like this can target,” he wrote.

In his comments to CNA, Ozimic voiced even stronger objection to the presence of the abortion advertisements. “Facebook should no more carry ads for abortion than it should carry ads for infanticide,” he said.

“What sort of culture are we handing on the next generation, where killing babies are offered alongside car insurance, or holiday packages, or wedding dresses?”

He charged that abortion agencies “mislead women.” They tell them that their unborn babies are “just the products of conception” and that “abortion is not killing but simply ending a pregnancy,” he said.

Ozimic said there is an “unfair playing field” in advertising favoring those who promote abortion over those who oppose it.

Pro-life pregnancy services in the U.K. are non-commercial and the costs of advertising on Facebook, mainstream newspapers, television and radio are too high. U.K. abortion groups, however, can “dominate advertising” with their income from private and government-funded abortion fees.

He said U.K. advertising regulators have previously shown “bias” against the pro-life movement.

Facebook’s website says it allows advertisers to target ads to users “most likely to be interested in your product or service.”

Ozimic said he was not surprised that the ads targeted specific users. He compared the targeting to the practice of locating abortion clinics in “poor, black areas of cities” in both the U.S. and the U.K.

He said that a boycott of Facebook would not be effective or well supported, but he predicted an awareness campaign on Facebook would have some success. He said users should “complain to Facebook directly.”

CNA contacted Facebook to determine whether the ads run in the U.S. but did not receive a reply by deadline.

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Report shows children crucial to California's future

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new report has found “fresh impetus” for nurturing California children due to the combination of falling birthrates, retiring Baby Boomers, and reduced immigration in the state.

“Children have always been important and deserving of our most diligent care, but the stakes have never been higher,” read “California's Diminishing Resource: Children,” released Jan. 8 by the Lucile Packard Foundation and the University of Southern California.

The challenge is that the urgency of these issues is not yet recognized among all policymakers or the public at large,” the analysis noted.

“If California is to prosper in the decades to come, every child must have the necessary support and opportunities to become a maximally contributing member of society.”

The report urged that, “as the vital foundation for that success, California's policies, programs and investments must promote the health and well-being of the state's most valuable resource – its children.”

Demographers at the University of Southern California studied the changes in the child population of the state, and found startling figures. Children represent a shrinking portion of the state's population, at the same time as there is an “upcoming major shift in the ratio of seniors to working age adults.”

“The social and economic well being of California's future residents therefore will depend on how well we nurture the current generation of children,” wrote the president of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health.

The report emphasizes the role of children as being future economic entities, filling “adult roles as employees, citizens and consumers.”

The report advocates for childrens' health care and education, and the reduction of poverty: “we need all our children to be healthy and ready to learn so that they may become flourishing and productive adults.”

While acknowledging that “all children, of course, have intrinsic personal value,” the report focuses on the “growing social and economic importance of today's children.”

The birth rate in California has dropped below the replacement level, and is experiencing a “homegrown revolution,” because fewer and fewer people are choosing to move to California.

Because there are significantly fewer children in California than there were in the past and the Baby Boomers are reaching retirement, the states workers face an increased social burden in coming years.

From 1970 to the present, the ratio of seniors to working adults has consistently been around 21 seniors per 100 working age adults. That ratio will increase to 28 in 2020, and to 36 in 2030. “These future, supporting adults are today's children,” the report noted.

Children born in 2015 will have “fully twice the weight of social and economic responsibility” of children born in 1985, the report said.

The report finds that California women are not having enough children to maintain the state's population. The “replacement rate” is 2.1 births per woman, a rate not seen in the state since 2000. At that time, the average lifetime births per woman were 2.14; in 2010 that rate fell to 1.94, and is projected to be 1.89 in 2020.

While 0.2 births per woman seems like a small change from 2000 to 2010, this figure “equates to roughly 1 million fewer children between ages of 0 and 9,” noted the report.  

The report urges that public policymakers have these issues in mind as they look at policies affecting families and children. Without immigration or increased births, California's economic prospects are bleak and getting more so every day.

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Vatican official surprised by Italian bank's credit card halt

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Bank of Italy's decision to not accept credit cards from foreign banks anymore at the Vatican has stunned a Vatican official, who reiterated the Holy See's financial transparency.

As of Jan. 1, the Vatican's main operator, Deutsche Bank Italian unit, has not been authorized to transact foreign credit cards in the tiny state – a move that could affect the millions of tourists who visit each year.

“I'm surprised by the measures taken by the Bank of Italy to block all credit card services of the Deutsche Bank in the Vatican,” said the Holy See's Financial Information Authority director René Brülhart in an interview with Corriere della Sera.

The Vatican underwent a third financial evaluation by the Moneyval Committee of the Council of Europe in July, passing nine of 16 “core and key recommendations,” which Brülhart called a “good report card.”

He explained that the Vatican was not subject to any special measures for monitoring money laundering by Moneyval or any other international body.

“We don't have problems with other European countries,” added the top expert on anti-money laundering.

“On the contrary, we have close collaboration and no other country in the world has adopted similar measures, which is why I'm truly surprised.”

But on Jan. 10 the Bank of Italy published a note on its website saying it maintains that “the presence of an effective anti money laundering regime have still not been proved” and cited the Moneyval report.

“The reality is that, considering the particular nature of the Vatican City State, adequate measures have been adopted for vigilance, prevention and fighting money laundering and financing terrorism,” countered Brülhart, who has been director of the AIF since November.

Last year the European Union requested the Vatican City to combat money laundering.

But according to the native Swiss, the Holy See has done so by implementing the “third EU directive,” which relates to anti money laundering and terrorist financing, along with the other European Union member states.

“In some cases the Holy See adopted a superior and more severe standard for the Moneyval evaluators than the one requested by the directive,” said the 40-year-old, who also labeled relations with the United States financial authorities as “excellent.”

The AIF began negotiations with 20 countries after joining Belgium and Spain in an international exchange of information called “Memoranda of Understanding” last year.

It will also join another international network for the exchange of confidential financial information, called the “Egmont Group,” which will include over 130 countries.

“The Holy See is committed to adopting further measures in the coming months because, as you know, fighting money laundering is always a work in progress,” said Brülhart.

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Alabama Supreme Court recognizes unborn as 'children'

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - An Alabama Supreme Court decision recognizing the unborn as persons deserving of legal protections could have significant implications in ending abortion in the U.S., say pro-life advocates.

“The Alabama Supreme Court has dealt a massive blow to the constitutional fraud of Roe v. Wade by recognizing that the preborn child is a person,” said Personhood USA legal analyst Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D., in a statement.

On Jan. 11, the Alabama high court ruled that unborn children are protected by the state’s chemical endangerment law.

The case involved two women who placed their unborn children at risk through the use of illegal drugs during pregnancy. One of the women acknowledged that she had smoked meth three days before her son was born prematurely. The child died 19 minutes later of “acute methamphetamine intoxication.”  

Under Alabama law, it is a crime to chemically endanger a child by exposing him or her to a controlled substance. The women's attorneys argued that the chemical endangerment law does not apply to unborn children.

However, the court disagreed, observing that “the only major area in which unborn children are denied legal protection is abortion, and that denial is only because of the dictates of Roe.”

The court noted that 40 states and the District of Columbia “permit recovery of damages for the wrongful death of an unborn child when post-viability injuries to that child cause its death before birth.”

The ruling cited a South Carolina case in which a court arrived at a similar ruling, determining that “it would be absurd to recognize the viable fetus as a person for purposes of homicide laws and wrongful death statutes but not for purposes of statutes proscribing child abuse.”

It also agreed with the appeals court that pointed out, “Not only have the courts of this State interpreted the term 'child' to include a viable fetus in other contexts, the dictionary definition of the term 'child' explicitly includes an unborn person or a fetus.”

The Supreme Court emphasized that in upholding legal protection for the unborn, it was being consistent “with the widespread legal recognition that unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law.”

It also noted that its decision is in keeping with the state constitution’s Declaration of Rights, which proclaims that “all men are equally free and independent; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Alabama attorney general Luther Strange applauded the decision.

“The Court has ratified our argument that the public policy of our state is to protect life, both born and unborn,” he said in a statement. “It is a tremendous victory that the Alabama Supreme Court has affirmed the value of all life, including those of unborn children whose lives are among the most vulnerable of all.”

While the Jan. 11 ruling does not directly apply to abortion regulations, pro-life advocates are encouraged by the decision, saying that it could contribute to the growing recognition of the unborn as human persons with legal rights.

“In personal injury, criminal, and wills and estate law, the trend has been to recognize the unborn child as a human with legal protections, not merely a ‘potential’ human being,” said Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit litigation and policy organization that filed a brief in the case.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion cases are an aberration to law and stand on an island by themselves, and that island will one day disappear,” he asserted.

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Bishops announce prayer, pilgrimage campaign for life

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops are inviting the faithful to participate in “Nine Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage” surrounding the 40th anniversary of legalized abortion throughout America.

“In addition to our current everyday pro-life efforts, a nation-wide commitment to prayer and penance is essential to ushering in a culture of life,” said Tom Grenchik, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

In a Jan. 4 post on the website for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he emphasized the need to “respond to 40 years of the culture of death with great confidence and hope.”

The bishops have announced a call to prayer, penance and pilgrimage for life on Jan. 19-27 this year. Materials have been published on the bishops’ conference website for those who want to participate in the campaign.

Jan. 22 marks 40 years since the Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout the nation with its decision in Roe v. Wade.

More than 55 million unborn children have been killed through abortion since that ruling. Hundreds of thousands of pro-life supporters are expected to flood Washington, D.C., on Jan. 25 for the annual March for Life.

The bishops are asking Catholics to pray and fast for a renewed respect for life in America during the days surrounding the anniversary and the march.

The initiative is part of a larger movement by the bishops to encourage prayer for the defense of life, marriage and religious liberty in the United States.

The nine-day campaign focuses on the theme of pilgrimage, particularly for those who will be making trips to commemorate four decades of legalized abortion in America.

As hundreds of thousands prepare to travel to the nation’s capital in support of life, the bishops’ conference has published both English and Spanish blessings for pro-life pilgrims before their journey. Other prayers and materials are also included to help transform the trip into a pilgrimage.

The Jan. 19-27 call to prayer features a youth-friendly novena with daily intercessions, reflections and acts of reparation, as well as facts about abortions.

Over the course of nine days, participants will pray for the conversion and healing of all parents, medical professionals and politicians who have been involved in abortion in America.

Those who wish to receive novena materials through daily text messages can sign up by texting “9days” to 99000. The prayers will also be available online and on social media website.

The initiative also includes a Pro-life Profile activity for young people. It encourages them to take photos of themselves holding signs with a simple explanation of why they are pro-life and to use these photos as their profile pictures, or default pictures, on Facebook, from Jan. 19-27.

In addition, the bishops’ conference is holding a video contest for high school students throughout America. Students can submit videos of less than a minute in length from a pilgrimage, rally or other pro-life event surrounding the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

The videos should illustrate “what it means personally for that student to take part in the pro-life pilgrimage” and to support the pro-life movement and the dignity of human life, as well as “why their participation has special meaning for them during this Year of Faith,” the contest instructions said.

The conference has also issued prayers for a Eucharistic Holy Hour for Reparation and Healing for parishes to use to conclude the novena.

Prayers during the holy hour ask God to “awaken in every heart new reverence for the least of your children, and renew among your people a readiness to nurture and sustain your precious gift of human life.”

Recognizing that God alone has “the power to forgive sins against human life, and to heal the wounds caused by these sins,” the prayers also profess trust in the Lord and ask “that the world and all its inhabitants may be saved.”

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Over 1,000 English priests write letter defending marriage

London, England, Jan 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - More than one thousand priests signed a letter to a British daily urging local lawmakers “not to be afraid to reject” a proposed measure which would allow for same-sex “marriage” in the country.

“Legislation for same-sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences,” warned the letter, which was published Jan. 12.

The move would “severely restrict” Catholics' ability to “teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship,” the priests said.

In December the Conservative government announced plans to introduce legislation allowing for same-sex “marriage” before 2015. The prime minister, David Cameron, said religious groups would be allowed but not compelled to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

The 1,067 signatories represent a quarter of the priests of England and Wales. They include eight bishops, as well as the ordinary of the group for Anglican converts and four Benedictine abbots.

The letter opens by remembering that Catholics were persecuted for centuries in Britain, and only in recent times have been able to “be members of the professions and participate fully in the life” of the country.

Until 1829 Catholics in Britain were prohibited from entering some professions, and the Church in England was left without bishops from the time of Elizabeth I until 1850. Professing Catholicism remains the only faith which would bar a member of the Royal Family from becoming the reigning monarch.

“It is meaningless to argue that Catholics and others may still teach their beliefs about marriage in schools and other arenas if they are also expected to uphold the opposite view at the same time,” they wrote.

Commenting on the letter, one of its signatories, Father Timothy Finigan, wrote that “the question of teaching something as true is at the heart of the debate over the freedom of the Church to teach.”

Lawyers have warned that should the legislation pass, Catholic schools could lose funding, teachers could be disciplined or fired for refusing to promote same-sex marriage, and chaplains at hospitals, prisons and military bases could face legal reprisal.

The priests' letter pointed to the “natural complementarity” of the male and female sexes which leads to marriage as a “lifelong partnership” between a man and woman.

This partnership is the “foundation and basic building block of our society,” they wrote, because of the “home, children and family life” to which it gives rise.

Bishop Philip A. Egan of the Portsmouth diocese signed the letter, and told The Telegraph that while the letter uses “strong language,” something “like this is totalitarian.”

“I am very anxious that when we are...teaching in our Catholic Schools or witnessing to the Christian faith of what marriage is that we are not going to be able to do it – that we could be arrested for being bigots or homophobes.”

The more than 1,000 signatures were collected in mere weeks, and was initiated not by Church hierarchy, but was a “grassroots” effort, according to The Telegraph. The priests who signed the letter reportedly come from a wide array of viewpoints in the Church.

“Congratulations to the young and dynamic priests who organized this highly significant act of witness,” wrote Fr. Finigan.

“This issue, and the firm and dear witness of our Bishops in the matter, has united the Catholic Church in our country.”

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Lk 12:35-38

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