Princeton, N.J., Sep 8, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As college students around the country kick off a new school year, one national organization is working to change prevailing campus attitudes that accept casual sexual encounters as the norm.
Cassandra Hough, founder of the Love and Fidelity Network, explained that “on the majority of college campuses, there’s a one-sided view” on questions of marriage, family and sexuality, “and there’s a lot of pressure for students to conform.”
“The Love and Fidelity Network looks to balance that conversation and challenge the sexual norms on campus by providing an alternative,” she told CNA.
Hough founded the network in 2007 after helping to start the Anscombe Society, a Princeton University group promoting chastity and sexual integrity on campus.
“It became apparent when I was a student leader at the Anscombe Society that a national organization was needed to provide college student leaders with the resources, arguments, leadership training, support and the network to start student groups and effectively defend marriage, family and sexual integrity on their college campuses,” Hough explained.
Since its beginnings with two student groups on two college campuses, the Love and Fidelity Network has grown in the past six years to have active student groups on 23 campuses nationwide, with 10 additional schools in various stages of forming student groups.
“We have a growing membership” and a continually expanding range of conferences, campaigns and resources for students, Hough said.
Caitlin Seery, director of the Love and Fidelity Network, said that the group’s mission “is to challenge the sexual orthodoxy that has a foothold on American universities.”
The prevailing mindset, she told CNA, “separated sex from any meaning,” and since it was adopted by many members of the university community, it “has had a transforming influence on the rest of the culture.”
Seery said that she is excited about the organization’s growth, and is looking forward to the coming school year.
The group held a leadership seminar for the first time this past summer, gathering more than 20 student leaders from 15 campuses in order to learn from one another and from scholars in the field about reasons and methods to promote traditional sexual ethics on campus.
“Up until this point, I think people felt connected to us, but not to each other,” Seery stated, adding that after the summer conference, there has been “really a growing sense of a national movement.”
Now, going into the fall semester, she said, “the students are so motivated.” The first nationwide campaign this fall will involve hanging posters during student orientation sessions to display “a positive message that there is an alternative to the hookup culture.”
“A lot of people do want more” than casual sexual hookups, Seery said, and they should be able to “expect more than the message they usually receive during freshman orientation week.”
Other initiatives throughout the year will include a Valentine’s Day poster campaign and the 6th annual National Love and Fidelity Conference this November.
However, even with several annual campaigns and a growing corps of dedicated students, the university setting is a challenging battleground for the organization.
Some ideas that came out of the sexual revolution “really got a foothold in American universities,” Seery said, explaining that this “orthodoxy of the sexual revolution” has permeated the culture in which young people are formed, and is supported by established leaders in the academic field.
“We’re dealing with a culture that is becoming a lot more hostile to voices defending marriage as the institution between one man and woman,” she observed. “In some ways it’s becoming more difficult to promote sexual integrity on campus because our vision is an all-encompassing one,” including not only abstinence, but also marriage, fidelity, and other issues that create controversy on college campuses.
Seery said that it is “inspiring” to see students face the challenge of campus dialogue in a respectful yet firm manner.
She added that it is heartening to see the network’s campus groups offering alternative community and “a uniquely safe space” for students with same-sex attractions whose viewpoints in support of chastity and a traditional understanding of marriage are “discriminated against in other circles.”
“That’s something that our groups offer that no one else does.”
Despite the many challenges within university communities today, Seery said that the organization has high hopes. She would like to see colleges “actually help encourage healthy behavior that will help lead to the flourishing of individual students and the student community,” just as they try to promote healthy lifestyles regarding stress, tobacco and alcohol.
Such changes will take time, Seery admitted. “We know that we’re playing for the long game, and that the culture is not going to be changed overnight,” she said.
However, she continued, “ideas form culture, and if we change the ideas that are false but taken for granted at these universities, then we can actually in the long run have a meaningful impact on the culture.”
Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 8, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Archbishop Charles Chaput says his first two years in Philadelphia witnessed “tough news,” but he encouraged his flock to continue renewal and to “shape the future with the message of Jesus Christ.”
“The future depends on what we do right now, and right now we need to be willing to continue the hard work of personal conversion and institutional reform that we’ve already begun,” the Philadelphia archbishop said in his Sept. 6 column for CatholicPhilly.com.
“There’s no other path to a vigorous and fruitful Catholic presence in Philadelphia in the decades ahead.”
Archbishop Chaput became head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on Sept. 8, 2011, shortly before his 67th birthday.
His latest column reflected on the challenges faced by the archdiocese in recent years.
Philadelphia Catholics have witnessed the “suffering of abuse victims and their families” as well as two grand jury reports about sexually abusive clergy and the removal of priests from ministry. Church attendance has declined over the past decade and the archdiocese suffered the ill effects of both “well-intentioned but poor financial management” and “outright embezzlement.”
The archbishop said these problems had been compounded by “complacency, inertia and too little transparency and accountability at almost every level of Church life.”
These things are “painful to say and difficult to hear,” Archbishop Chaput said. However, they are worth remembering because “we’re on a different course now, a better one; and we’ve come a long way in a short time.”
“The past two years have seen difficult times. More challenges will surely come. But the people of this extraordinary Church … have been, and are, and will always be, the greatest gift from God in my life as a pastor.”
The archbishop urged “prudence and clear thinking” for renewing the archdiocese, warning of its “real and severe” financial needs.
“The future depends on our willingness to learn the right lessons from our history and apply them honestly to the new realities we face, here and now,” he added.
Archbishop Chaput said the 205-year-old Philadelphia archdiocese has “roots that go to the heart of the American Catholic experience and to the core of our nation’s best ideals.”
“And if God can use poor instruments like you and me to rekindle the fire of the Gospel in the churches of Philadelphia, then he can work that miracle anywhere. I want my life as a Christian to be part of that story; and again and again over the past two years, I’ve met good people in parishes across the archdiocese who want exactly the same.”
“Generations of Philadelphia Catholics proved their faith by their suffering, generosity and hard work. We need to recover that same kind of vigorous faith in our own lives – a zeal to renew the Church in the present, and to shape the future with the message of Jesus Christ.”
Vatican City, Sep 8, 2013 (CNA) - Pope Francis’ four-hour Saturday prayer vigil is part of a “major peace initiative” that is receiving a favorable reaction across religious lines, a leading Vatican communications figure has said.
“Pope Francis wants to keep this issue alive to make sure everything possible could be done to put an end to the violence, and not to increase it,” Greg Burke, senior communications adviser to the Holy See’s Secretariat of State, said Sept. 7.
“The response has been really positive, not only from Catholics, but from other Christians and non-Christians as well.”
The prayer vigil drew an estimated 100,000 people to St. Peter’s Square on Saturday evening. They prayed the Rosary with Pope Francis in the presence of the famous Marian icon “Salus Populi Romani,” the Protectress of the Roman People. Those gathered also prayed in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Pope Francis’ remarks at the vigil strongly condemned war.
“We bring about the rebirth of Cain in every act of violence and every war. All of us,” he said. “Even today we raise our hand against our brother. Even today we let ourselves be guided by idols, by selfishness, by our own interests.”
“Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace?” the Pope asked. “Yes, it is possible for everyone!”
Catholics and others held thousands of similar prayer events around the world in response to the Pope’s Sept. 1 call for a vigil for “the whole Church.”
“There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 1.
Burke said that Pope Francis’ numerous actions show how important peace is to him.
“If you look at the Pope’s tweets, his letter to Putin and the G-20, and the diplomatic activity in the course of the week, this has been a major peace initiative on the part of Pope Francis,” Burke said before the vigil. “Today he’s asking everyone to join in by praying. The Pope will be praying not only for Syria but for peace in the Middle East and the entire world.”
The U.S. government has threatened military strikes on Syrian government forces, which it blames for a massive chemical weapons attack that killed over 1,400 people. The Syrian conflict between government and rebel forces has killed more than 100,000 since March 2011.
In a Sept. 4 letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin, the host of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, Pope Francis urged world leaders to “overcome the conflicting positions” and “lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution.”
He said that “one-sided interests” have “hindered the search for a solution that would have avoided the senseless massacre now unfolding.”
Vatican City, Sep 8, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis spoke to crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for Sunday’s Angelus, encouraging them to follow Christ on the way of the cross.
“Following Jesus does not mean participating in a triumphal procession!” he said on Sept. 8. “It means sharing his merciful love, entering into his great work of mercy for each person and for all mankind. And this forgiveness passes through the cross.”
The Pope reflected on the gospel, in which Jesus “insists on the conditions to be his disciple: to not place anything before love of him, to take up one’s own cross, and to follow him.”
Although there are many who want to follow Jesus, especially when there are miracles, “Jesus does not want to deceive anyone,” explained Pope Francis.
Jesus “knows well what awaits him in Jerusalem, what the way is that the Father asks him to walk,” the Pope continued. “It is the way of the cross, of sacrifice of himself for the forgiveness of our sins.”
Yet “Jesus does not want to complete this work alone,” he added.
Christ “wants to include us also in the mission that the Father has given him.”
After the Resurrection, Jesus gives his mission to the disciples, who “renounce all the goods” of their lives because they have found in Christ “the greatest good, in which every other good receives its full value and significance.”
In “the logic of the Gospel, the logic of love and service” the Christian both “detaches himself from everything and recovers everything,” said Pope Francis.
Like the disciples, Christians who give up family, relationships, work, and cultural and economic goods, all for the sake of Christ, rediscover them anew in Jesus.
The Angelus followed Saturday evening’s massive prayer vigil for peace throughout the world, especially in war-torn Syria and the Middle East. An estimated 100,000 people prayed with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square and thousands of similar events took place around the world.
Pope Francis thanked those who had participated in the vigil.
He emphasized the need to pray for the countries of Lebanon “that it may find its hoped-for stability” and Iraq “so that the sectarian violence may lead to reconciliation.”
The Pope also asked for prayers for “the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians” and for Egypt, “so that all Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, may commit themselves to build up together a society dedicated to the good of the whole population.”
He reiterated his strong opposition to war, noting that there is a much more profound personal war that each person must fight.
This war entails “a strong and courageous decision to renounce evil and its seductions and to choose the good, ready to pay the price” for such a choice.
Such sacrifice is a true “taking up of the Cross.”
“And what good is it to wage war, so much war, if you don’t have the capacity to wage this (more) profound war against evil?” the Pope lamented.
“The search for peace is long and demands patience and perseverance!” He exclaimed. “Let us keep praying for this!”