Lincoln, Neb., Aug 7, 2013 (CNA) - Reflecting on the pornography addiction of a man recently sentenced for the abduction of three women, Bishop James Conley said that the pervasive porn problem is rooted in loneliness and isolation.
On Aug. 1, Ariel Castro was sentenced to more than 1,000 years in prison for the abduction, imprisonment and rape of three women for over ten years. He held the women captive in his Ohio home, beating one of them when she was impregnated by him until she miscarried some five times.
“When Castro stood shackled in a Cleveland courtroom, he confessed a common American problem,” the bishop of Lincoln, Neb. wrote in an Aug. 6 column at First Things.
“'I believe I am addicted to porn,' he said, 'to the point where I am impulsive, and I just don’t realize that what I am doing is wrong.'”
“Pornographic addiction is powerful, destructive, and all too typical,” Bishop Conley said.
“Ariel Castro’s addiction is no excuse for his actions, but it points to a deep and sobering reality: Free, anonymous, and ubiquitous access to pornography is quietly transforming American men and American culture.”
Bishop Conley pointed to studies that have found a correlation between the use of pornography and the sexual coercion of women, as well as its being a factor in more than half of divorce cases.
“It is increasingly unreasonable to argue that pornography use is ever harmless or victimless.”
The bishop lamented the easy access to free pornography that is offered by the internet, and by mobile devices in particular.
The problem with pornography, he said, is that it robs its users of the ability – the “freedom” – to have personal relationships which recognize the subjectivity of other human persons.
“In a mind addicted to pornography, personal subjectivity is replaced by a dehumanizing, objectifying, abusive kind of relationality.”
He noted that the recognition of pornography's harm is not limited to religious minds. On July 22, the British prime minister announced that by default, pornography will be filtered on U.K. internet connections by default and rape pornography will be illegal.
These policies, Bishop Conley said, are a “starting place” for deterring sexual violence and abuse, which should be supplemented by “active parenting” and accountability.
He looked further to the root cause of lust and porn addiction: lonelineness. “Lust begins with loneliness … lust begins with a yearning for love,” he wrote.
“If we want to combat the social consequences of pornography, we must begin with a commitment to love.”
Christianity's offering in the fight against pornography is its understanding of grace and of the communal nature of the human person, Bishop Conley said.
He wrote that the Rule of St. Benedict, which formed Western monasticism, shows that “temptation is more easily addressed in a community.”
The encounter with other persons in their subjectivity, which is fostered by living in community, “undermines, supplants and replaces objectification,” according to Bishop Conley.
The lesson of Benedict's Rule, he said, is that interpersonal subjectivity is a “necessary component of the Christian life.”
“Christian community is also the context in which the virtues of modesty, temperance, and chastity can be proposed and modeled with credibility. To propose an alternative to pornography’s temptation, we must model the freedom of the ordered life,” forming authentic families and communities.
While Castro spends the remainder of his life in prison, Bishop Conley said, “lonely young women and men across America will search for pornography – seeking to replace loneliness with the fantasy of human connection.”
“Christians have something far richer to offer: the freedom of fraternity, accountability, and beauty that abides in the Body of Christ.”
Washington D.C., Aug 7, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As bombings against Christian churches in Nigeria continue, a religious liberty scholar is calling on the U.S. government to recognize the scope of the problem and take steps to end the violence.
Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the D.C.-based Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, explained that Nigeria has experienced “increased religious violence and attacks on Christians for about 12 years.”
He told CNA on August 5 that the violence has been “worsening a great deal in the last three years, with the rise of Boko Haram – an al Qaeda affiliated militia, that has been targeting Christians, amongst others.”
But despite this rise in violence, he warned, the United States government has yet to “recognize the religious element of the conflict” and take strong steps against the extremist organization.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sinful,” has been responsible for thousands of deaths in recent years, according to human rights groups. The organization has previously stated that its goal is to “purify Islam” and that it intends to “continue to wage war against the Nigerian state until we abolish the secular system and establish an Islamic state.”
A July 29 attack on Christ Salvation Pentecostal Church and two other Christian communities in the northern town of Kano left nearly 50 people dead, the latest in a wave of ongoing violence in the region. Local military forces have said that the attacks appear to be the work of Boko Haram, though the organization has not claimed responsibility for the violence.
Marshall noted that more than 1,000 Christians were killed in 2012, and U.S. State Department reports have noted mass movement of Christians away from the country’s predominantly Muslim north.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has in its 2011 and 2012 reports highlighted the group’s terrorist attacks against both Christians and Muslims, and stated that the organization has led to “a dramatic deterioration of religious freedom and stability in Nigeria.”
The commission has repeatedly asked the State Department to label Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern,” thus allowing the U.S. government to take more forceful action to promote religious freedom in the nation. However, the State Department has not done so.
Marshall commented that Nigerian Christians have a “large and strong community” that may be able to withstand persecution. He took hope in the fact that the “U.S. military is training government forces in West Africa on combatting terrorism.”
But overall, he said, there is “little international activity” in fighting Boko Haram and violence in Nigeria more broadly.
He suggested that the global community target Boko Haram’s aims and modes of attack, adding that the U.S. could “also help in supporting good education in the north of Nigeria” in order to curtail the organization’s recruitment efforts.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 7, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
As his fellow Argentineans gathered to celebrate the feast of Saint Gaetano, the country's most popular saint, Pope Francis urged them to encounter and touch the poor, rather than helping them in a distant way.
"With Jesus and Saint Gaetano, we go to meet the most needy!" Pope Francis said, repeating the theme for this year’s procession in a video message to participants.
“It speaks of meeting people who have the greatest need, of those who need you to give them a hand, those we look at with love, with whom we share their pain or their anxieties, their problems.
“But the important thing is not looking at them from afar, or helping from afar. No, no! It is going to encounter them. This is the Christian! This is what Jesus taught: to go meet the most needy,” the Pope said in his Aug. 7 Spanish-language message.
He illustrated his point for the thousands of devotees in the Liniers neighborhood of Buenos Aires by explaining what he asks people about giving to the poor.
“Do you give alms?
“They tell me, ‘Yes, Father.’
“And when you give alms do you look in the eyes of the people you give them to?
‘Oh, I don’t know, I don’t notice.’
“Look, he has not met the people. He threw the alms and left. When he gives the alms, does his hand touch (the hand of the poor) or does he toss the coin?”
“No, you throw the coin. And you have not touched, and if you did not touch him, you did not meet him.”
Pope Francis then told those at the procession, “What Jesus teaches us is first to meet, and (after) meeting, to help. We need to know how to meet. We need to build, to create, to construct a culture of encounter.”
“Your heart, when you meet those most in need, will begin to grow, grow, grow! Because the meeting multiplies our capacity to love. The encounter with the other enlarges the heart. Courage! 'By myself I just don't know what to do.' No, no, no! With Jesus and San Gaetano!
Saint Gaetano of Thiene was born in Oct. 1480 in the northern Italian town of Vincenza. He dedicated his life to the poor and is the most popular saint in Argentina. He studied philosophy and theology, and then earned his doctorate in Civil and Ecclesiastical Law, before being ordained a priest in 1516. He died on Aug. 7 1547 in Naples and was canonized in 1671.
After the economic crisis of 1929, he became the patron saint of bread and labor and still has a particular following among Argentinean workmen.
Rome, Italy, Aug 7, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Vatican’s judicial authorities have requested that their Italian counterparts interrogate Monsignor Nunzio Scarano about withdrawals he made from his Vatican bank account, putting a brand new agreement between the two countries to its first test.
The request to have the Italian authorities question the monsignor was made last week by Giampiero Milano, the Promoter of Justice for the Vatican Court, just days after the two countries signed an pact to exchange information related to the prevention of money laundering.
Msgr. Scarano is currently being held in an Italian jail for allegedly planning to smuggle 20 million euros ($26 million) from Switzerland to Italy aboard an Italian government airplane.
He is also being investigated by the public prosecutor in his home town of Salerno, Italy for supposedly laundering 560,000 euros ($744,000) that he took from his account at the Institute for Religious Works – the so-called Vatican bank – to pay off the mortgage of a house in Salerno.
This second case led the Vatican authorities to freeze Msgr. Scarano’s funds on July 9 and suspend him from his job in early June. The case against Msgr. Scarano, a suspended accountant for the Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, first became public June 28 when he was arrested by the Italian authorities for the smuggling attempt.
According to a Vatican financial source familiar with the case, who spoke to CNA on Aug. 2 and asked for anonymity, the request to have the Italian authorities interrogate the monsignor is primarily tied to the money transfer he made to pay off the mortgage.
Msgr. Scarano reportedly pulled the money out of his Vatican account in a series of transactions that always added up to around 15,000 or 20,000 euros.
Those transactions plus others tied to the Vatican’s investigation of Msgr. Scarano’s financial activities are recorded in an 89-page dossier, a thick file that was visible, although not open for analysis, during a July 31 background briefing at the Institute's headquarters.
Markus Wieser, one of the Institute’s spokesmen, said in a July 31 conversation, “the commitment of President Ernst von Freyberg is to do away with the rumors of opacity and of illicit operations that surrounded the Institute over the years.”
What form that will take in regards to the so-called Vatican Bank was a topic that Pope Francis spoke about during his now famous July 28 in-flight press conference with journalists coming back from World Youth Day in Rio.
"In reference to that question you asked me about the IOR," Pope Francis said, using the Italian acronym for the Institute as he responded to a question from EFE's correspondent Juan de Lara, "I don’t know how the IOR will end up."
"Some say that, perhaps, it’s best that it be a bank, others that it be an aid fund, others say to close it. ... But the characteristics of the IOR ... (must be) transparent and honest. This must be so," he stated.
The recent background briefing with journalists was part of an “open door policy” that was started under Benedict XVI.
The first meeting with the media took place on June 28, 2012 when Paolo Cipriani, then general director of the Institute, met a selection of 50 journalists in the Institute’s headquarters to explain its purpose, the status quo of the investigations and the process of reform.
The Institute for Religious Works has also launched its own website as part of its transparency effort. Visitors to the site, www.ior.va, can learn about the history of the Institute, its key personnel, and read its balance sheet for 2011 and 2012.
San Antonio, Texas, Aug 7, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis issued a letter to the Knights of Columbus on the occasion of their 131st annual convention, praising them for their charitable works and encouraging them to defend the faith.
Sent by Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone on behalf of Pope Francis, the letter expressed the Pope’s “esteem for the ideals of faith and fraternity” that the Knights embody, as well as their “commitment to the Church’s mission, and the many works of charity and evangelical witness” they have undertaken.
The letter was directed to the more than 2,000 Knights and their families who attended the San Antonio conference for the purpose of prayer, planning, recognition and fellowship. Present at the August 5-8 conference this year were Knights from dozens of countries, as well as more than 100 members of the Catholic hierarchy, including numerous bishops and 11 cardinals.
Pope Francis reminded the Knights of the importance and responsibility of the lay faithful in the Church, and encouraged every Knight and council to continue “to bear witness to the authentic nature of marriage and the family, the sanctity and inviolable dignity of human life, and the beauty and truth of human sexuality.”
“In this time of rapid social and cultural changes, the protection of God’s gifts cannot fail to include the affirmation and defense of the great patrimony of moral truths taught by the Gospel and confirmed by right reason, which serve as the bedrock of a just and well-ordered society.”
The Pope also conveyed his appreciation for the Knights’ “clear public witness” in the forum of religious freedom, and for “protecting the right and duty of believers to participate responsibly, on the basis of their deepest convictions, in the life of society.”
The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 by Father Michael McGivney, a parish priest in New Haven, Conn.
With charity as its central commitment, the organization has grown to 1.8 million members worldwide. During the past year, Knights donated more than $167.5 million and more than 70 million hours of service to charitable causes.
The theme for this year’s conference, “Be Protectors of God’s Gifts,” was drawn from Pope Francis’ inaugural homily in March.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 7, 2013 (CNA) - The Spanish civil liberties website MasLibres is criticizing the Spanish government for failing to advocate on behalf of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Catholic sentenced to die under the country's blasphemy law.
During a visit to Morocco in mid-July, King Juan Carlos of Spain is believed to have petitioned King Mohammed VI for the pardon of four dozen Spanish prisoners, which was granted on July 30.
Among the prisoners was Daniel Galvan, who was sentenced in 2011 to 30 years for sexually abusing 11 children. After widespread protest, Galvan's pardon was revoked and he was re-detained in the Spanish city of Murcia.
Galvan's case contrasts sharply with that of Asia Bibi, the Catholic mother who gained worldwide attention in 2010 when she was condemned to death for allegedly violating Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
Despite repeated requests from organizations such as MasLibres, the Spanish government has yet to intercede on behalf of Bibi, who is awaiting a ruling on the appeal of her death sentence.
The spokesman for MasLibres, Miguel Vidal, said the organization has asked Spain's Foreign Affairs Minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, “to employ at the least the same effectiveness shown with the pedophile to save the life of Asia Bibi.”
In his message, Vidal noted that “eight months ago, we asked the government for help in liberating Asia Bibi and bringing her to Spain. We have never received an answer.”
“Why has the Spanish government moved with such effectiveness to liberate a Spanish pedophile imprisoned in Morocco and is silent about Asia Bibi?” Vidal asked.
“On December 13, 2012, we went with the family of Asia Bibi to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ask that they intercede in her case and to begin the process for accepting her in Spain the moment she is released.”
“The interview we had at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Bibi's husband and oldest daughter was very positive: they explained to us the steps that needed to be taken for the granting of asylum and they appeared favorable to taking some measures,” Vidal said.
He acknowledged that it was made clear during the meeting that international relations move at their own pace.
“However, eight months have passed and we still have no news,” he said.
San Antonio, Texas, Aug 7, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The biggest obstacle to the success of the New Evangelization is the reluctance of individual Catholics to let themselves be converted by the faith, according to Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley.
This dynamic is a “hesitancy to accept that each one of us has the obligation to further our own personal conversion and at the same time to share our faith,” the Archbishop of Boston told CNA Aug. 7.
He emphasized that many Catholics “don’t feel equipped” to share the Gospel, and that “we need to help them to be disciple-makers and to have the confidence, and also a sense of responsibility” to spread the faith.
“This Year of Faith is a wonderful opportunity for us; the Holy Father is inviting us to learn more deeply the concept of our faith, but also to share that teaching with others and realize that having the faith is a responsibility and is a mission.”
Cardinal O'Malley spoke to CNA at the Knights of Columbus' supreme convention in San Antonio, where he gave the keynote address the evening before on the New Evangelization in Pope Francis' pontificate.
In that Aug. 6 address, he emphasized the importance of being witnesses to mercy in a secularized culture, and of working to promote a civilization of love.
The cardinal began his speech by recounting his experience at the recent World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, saying, Pope Francis is challenging us to “embrace the New Evangelization with new ardor, with new boldness” and “with great love for all those who God places in our path.”
In reference to this great love, he spoke specifically about immigrants, who face the constant difficulty of being “a stranger in a strange land,” and who “experience countless humiliations and deprivations” as they try to provide for their families.
“The immigrants turn to the Church as their spiritual family,” he said, “and for their part have contributed so much joy and vitality” to the Church.
Cardinal O’Malley also spoke of the increasing secularization of the West, stating that if missionaries were to be assigned to the most difficult mission in the world today, they would not be sent to such far-off territories as Papua New Guinea, but rather to “the U.S., England, France or Canada,” where “secularism and dechristianization are gaining ground.”
“This is the challenge of the New Evangelization. It is much harder to preach the Gospel in a culture that seems to be vaccinated against the Faith.”
In the United States, the cardinal said the challenge is that “so many Catholics have stormed off, dozed off or simply drifted away from the Church.”
Pope Francis' call for the New Evangelization, he explained, is for each of us to be “missionaries in our own communities.”
“Business as usual is not enough. We must be a team of missionaries, moving from a maintenance mode to a missionary one.”
Cardinal O'Malley said Americans must recognize that they live “in a culture of unbelief” which is profoundly hard to evangelize because “it does not even know it does not believe,” since the society “still lives on the residue of Christian civilization.”
Seeing this, he said, will guard against the “self-referential Church turned in on itself,” of which Pope Francis warns us.
Pope Francis “tells us to open the doors, to invite others in so that we can go out and invite.”
He spoke of the need for communities in which those who “walk the walk” of faith are engaging with other Catholics. He also addressed the importance of love as the motivation behind the Church’s “concern about unborn children.”
Noting that some think Pope Francis “should talk more about abortion,” the cardinal said that the Holy Father “speaks of love and mercy” so as to “give the context for the Church's teaching on abortion.”
“We oppose abortion, not because we are mean or old fashioned, but because we love people. And that is what we must show the world.”
“We must be better people; we must love all people, even those who advocate abortion,” because “only love and mercy will open hearts that have been hardened by the individualism of our age.”
The cardinal warned against the “globalization of indifference” spoken about by Pope Francis at Lampedusa, saying, “we must overcome this indifference in our own lives and help people to see that the Church’s teaching is about loving and caring for everyone.”
Again quoting Pope Francis, O’Malley stated, “We need a Church capable of rediscovering the maternal womb of mercy.”
He said mercy and truth must accompany one another, and gave the post-abortion apostolate Project Rachel as an example of “just that kind of a combination of mercy and truth that the Church's pro-life efforts need to be about.”
“Our capacity to love” is what our efforts to heal society depends on, Cardinal O'Malley insisted.
“The Holy Father is showing us very clearly that our struggle is not just a political battle or a legal problem, but that we must evangelize and humanize the culture; then the world will be safe for the unborn, the elderly and the unproductive,” he concluded.
“The Gospel of Life is a Gospel of mercy. If we are going to get a hearing in today’s world, it will be because people recognize the authenticity of our lives and our dedication to building a civilization of love.”