Washington D.C., Oct 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Although largely unrecognized, sex trafficking in the U.S. is a serious problem, and its victims needs the loving support that the Catholic Church can give, says the head of a D.C.- based ministry.
“We need to get people to pay attention to the plight of American girls,” said Candace Wheeler, founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Restoration Ministries, which seeks to bring Christ’s love and aid to victims of sex trafficking.
“These girls need the body of Christ, and the body of Christ needs them.”
Human trafficking is a pressing problem in the United States. According to the Department of Justice, 82 percent of reported U.S. human trafficking between January 2008 and June 2010 involved sex trafficking allegations, and as many as 300,000 children are at risk of sexual exploitation each year.
“Every country has this problem,” Wheeler told CNA on Oct. 1, but there is a lack of awareness, and many people “are more concerned with foreign women and girls being trafficked than with their own.”
People often assume that women and children who are trafficked “choose to be there” and have “written them off,” saying that “they’re bad girls, they’re runaways and throwaways,” she added.
However, many of the girls at risk for sex trafficking are from broken homes or the foster system, and “they have typically been violated before the age of five.”
“When they have been violated by a family member, by someone who is supposed to be taking care of them, they have linked love and sex together,” Wheeler explained, adding that these girls “are easy prey” because “by the time she’s 11 or 12, traffickers can just spot a girl who has no self-worth.”
Because of their troubled family situation, “all they’ve ever known, in most cases, is brokenness,” she said, and as a result, “healthy feels scary for them.”
While it is possible to escape from the “mindset” of trafficking and abuse, it is difficult, she continued, requiring both consistency and an understanding of what normalcy is.
Wheeler’s organization, Restoration Ministries, works to identify victims of trafficking, going regularly into prisons and mental institutions, where victims of sex trafficking are often held, in order to build relationships with people.
“Just sitting down and listening gives them value and validation as people,” she said.
From there, Restoration Ministries works to intervene in current cases of trafficking and prevent future cases.
Ultimately, fighting sex trafficking requires a big-picture, cooperative approach, Wheeler said.
“We have to have the right laws in place, but the laws have to be enforced,” she explained. But a legal solution alone is not enough. Factors leading to sex trafficking often start with the family, and it is crucial that a long-term solution take the family into account as well.
Many times, Wheeler said, girls are sent back to abusive homes with a court order to participate in family therapy, but “the families don’t participate, or it’s lip service.”
Another challenge is that psychological therapy for victims takes times – often years – to be effective, she said. Many cities become frustrated when therapy, which can be expensive, does not quickly yield results, and therefore limit or end funding for it.
Despite these challenges, however, Wheeler remains hopeful. She said the Church has come together to help trafficking victims in recent years.
“We don’t need government money, and they don’t really have any anyway,” she said, calling for religious and church communities to “really come together and be strategic,” while at the same time offering up “prayer and fasting” to aid victims of sex trafficking and eliminate its root causes in the U.S.
Washington D.C., Oct 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A year-long initiative from the U.S. bishops is calling the faithful to respond to the needs of the unborn, supporting life in its most vulnerable stages.
“We are called to love and respect one another as Christ does,” said Cardinal Séan P. O’Malley of Boston, who heads the pro-life committee for the U.S. bishops’ conference, in an Oct. 4 video.
In the video, posted online, he delivered a message for Respect Life Sunday, which took place this year on Oct. 6 in dioceses across the country.
Respect Life Sunday kicks off Respect Life Month, the cardinal explained, as well as “a full year of programs devoted to promoting and upholding the dignity of every person’s life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death.”
The U.S. bishops’ conference has said that Respect Life Month and the following year of pro-life activities will take place in parishes throughout the nation, focusing on prayer and education.
The theme for the 2013-2014 program is “Open Your Hearts to Life,” the cardinal noted, “following the call given to us by Pope Francis.”
“We are called to promote a culture of life where people are more important than possessions and where no child is denied the right to life,” Cardinal O’Malley stressed.
“We are called to show understanding care and concern for women in a crisis pregnancy, and to help them choose life for their children,” he continued.
At the center of the pro-life cause is a reflection of Christ’s love for humanity, the cardinal observed.
“In all these ways we give witness to the presence of the Lord in our midst, and to the never-failing love of Jesus Christ, who loved us first, loved us last, and loves us always.”
Rome, Italy, Oct 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Italian journalist Nello Scavo has released a book entitled “Bergoglio’s List,” recounting the efforts of Pope Francis to help hundreds escape persecution by Argentina's military dictatorship.
Scavo told CNA that his book was based on interviews with numerous eyewitnesses and on testimonies reconstructed after thorough research in Argentina.
“From all these stories emerges a list of persons saved by (then-Father) Bergoglio, which by conservative estimates includes more than 100 people.”
During much of the 1970s, Argentina was ruled by a right-wing military government, which “disappeared” thousands of left-wing activists and militants, accusing them of communism.
From 1976 to 1981, the country's de facto president was General Jorge Rafael Videla, whose regime disappeared as many as 30,000 Argentines, and may have murdered as many as 15,000. Kidnappings, torture, and other violations of human rights were rampant.
During the Videla regime, numerous priests and religious were killed for their work in the poor neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, which was considered a communist act.
During this time, from 1973 to 1980, Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio - now Pope Francis - was the Jesuit provincial in Argentina.
Fr. Bergoglio used his position to create an underground network of assistance and escape for those targeted by Videla's government. Scavo says the list of witnesses of Fr. Bergoglio's efforts continues to grow, and new stories continue to surface about how he helped dozens through his network.
“The witnesses tell us that the driving force behind this network was Fr. Bergoglio,” Scavo explained.
Scavo recounts in “Bergoglio's List,” published Oct. 1 in Italian, that the future Pope “knew that if he wanted to help these people, he had to cover his tracks.”
The title of the book harkens to the famous list maintained by Oskar Schindler, the German businessman who saved some 1,200 Jews from being murdered during the Holocaust. His story is the basis for the award-winning film, “Schindler's List.”
Schindler, incidentally, lived for nearly 10 years in Argentina following World War II, while Pope Francis was a teenager and young adult.
Scavo makes clear that “Bergoglio's list” “itself does not exist; it is only in the heart and mind of Pope Francis, who never wanted to speak about these things.”
Many of those helped by the future Pope were sent by cargo ship to neighboring Uruguay, where Jesuits there provided them safe passage to other neighboring countries, or to Europe.
Those aided expected to live in misery as refugees, but “Bergoglio’s network” provided them with food, shelter and other aid.
They were never made aware of the network until after having boarded the cargo ships, Scavo relates, when they were finally told they had been saved through the efforts of Fr. Bergoglio.
“It was impossible for these Jesuits in the rest of the countries of Latin America to operate autonomously without an order from the head of the Jesuits in Argentina, whose superior was Jorge Mario Bergoglio,” Scavo says.
“He acted with prudence, audacity, and almost like a secret agent during a difficult time.”
Vatican City, Oct 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During his weekly general audience Pope Francis explored the different elements of what makes the Church Catholic, reflecting on why we call ourselves by that name.
“Dear Brothers and Sisters: In the Creed, we profess that the Church is ‘catholic;’ in other words, she is universal,” the Pope said during his Oct. 9 audience in a rainy St. Peter’s Square.
He told the thousands of pilgrims present that the Catholic identity of the Church can be understood in many ways, first of all because “she proclaims the apostolic faith in its entirety.”
“She is the place where we meet Christ in his sacraments and receive the spiritual gifts needed to grow in holiness together with our brothers and sisters.”
He then explained that the Church is universal because “her communion embraces the whole human race,” urging that “she is sent to bring to the entire world the joy of salvation and the truth of the Gospel.”
“She reconciles the wonderful diversity of God’s gifts to build up his People in unity and harmony.”
He concluded his reflections by urging those gathered with to pray to God, asking him to “make us more catholic.”
“Enable us, like a great family, to grow together in faith and love, to draw others to Jesus in the communion of the Church, and to welcome the gifts and contributions of everyone, in order to create a joyful symphony of praise to God for his goodness, his grace, and his redemptive love.”
The Holy Father then offered his greetings to pilgrims from several different countries including Australia, England, Ireland, Nigeria and the United States.
Rome, Italy, Oct 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the Papal delegate overseeing Regnum Christi and the Legion of Christ, has announced that consecrated women of Regnum Christi will have their first general assembly later this year.
“The General Assembly should represent the whole association and, by analogy with what the Code of Canon Law establishes for general chapters of religious institutes, should be 'a true sign of its unity in charity,'” Cardinal De Paolis wrote in an Oct. 4 letter to Regnum Christi's consecrated women.
“The upcoming Assembly comes at the end of a long journey of spiritual renewal, is the first in the history of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, and its principal purpose will be to conclude the revision of the Statutes.”
Cardinal De Paolis was appointed as governor of the Legion and of Regnum Christi by Benedict XVI in 2010, after an apostolic visitation determined the order needed “profound re-evaluation.”
In 2006, the movement's founder, Fr. Marcel Maciel, had been removed from public ministry and invited to a life of penitence and prayer, as it was discovered he had led a secret life of impropriety.
Cardinal De Paolis said in his letter that he “thought that it would be good to announce the Assembly on the day that the Church celebrates the memory of St. Francis of Assisi. Let us place this important event under the protection of the Poor Man of Assisi.”
“It comes at the at the conclusion of a long journey of spiritual renewal and effort revising the Statutes.”
The assembly will take place before January's general chapter of the Legion of Christ, from Dec. 2 to Dec. 15, and will be preceded by a week of spiritual exercises. It will be held in Rome among representatives of the movement.
Participants will include both members who take part by virtue of their office and members elected by their peers.
Cardinal De Paolis reminded the consecrated women that “this Assembly’s main tasks will be the election of a new Government for the Association and the approval of the Statutes, which will have to be presented to the Holy Father.”
He added that other questions will be considered, within the time constraints, and that any member of the movement can freely send her wishes and suggestions to the general chapter.
“Let us prepare spiritually for this moment of grace,” Cardinal De Paolis exhorted the consecrated women, “begging for the Holy Spirit’s assistance and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession.”
“I hope the Lord brings you every good thing. I am keeping you in my prayers.”
Vatican City, Oct 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In a recent interview, theology professor Fr. Bryan Lobo urged that dialogue itself is not enough to end religious violence, and stressed the importance of coming together as a community to resolve tensions.
“Today dialogue has become a repeated word, so I would like to call it 'interreligious interaction,'” the theologian explained in a Sept. 27 interview with CNA.
“It’s not just asking questions about each other’s religions and concepts, but it’s working with each other, helping each other for world peace and harmony to a better world.”
Fr. Bryan Lobo S.J., originally from India, is the director of the Theology of Religions department at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and has just begun a new course on the subject.
“Interreligious dialogue is important but to stop terrorism and violence, that is different. It is a very complex issue,” he noted, expressing that religious violence cannot be stopped by interreligious dialogue alone, because there are also “political issues involved,” in the matter.
Citing the recent suicide bombing in an Anglican Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, the priest emphasized that one of the main reasons the act took place “was not interreligious violence,” but that “They said they were against the drone attacks of the United States in the northwest of Pakistan. So it’s a very political issue out here, but they’ve targeted a religious group.”
When asked why religion has been used to intensify conflict, Fr. Lobo reflected that it is something of value, which has the potential to easily arouse emotion.
“Religion in itself has a very emotional and sentimental value to it, it’s very close to the heart,” he explained, noting that “It becomes a very powerful tool to excite the emotions of the people.”
Once this is understood by leaders “who want to gain power and who want to probably create a certain situation so that they may become powerful also,” the priest explained, they use religion “to unite the community against the enemy.”
“And who can be the enemy? The other religion.”
The theologian noted that there are often many misconceptions and biases regarding other religions that can also lead to violence, explaining that because of this, interreligious dialogue is able to “help us understand that there are so many good things in the other religion that we aren’t able to see because of our prejudices.”
However, he urged, “It also helps us to interact with each other.”
“You’ve got to have a think tank community to come together, a group of specialists to come together and try and see the problem, what exactly they want and how they’re going about their role to of trying to gain.”
Fr. Lobo revealed the methodology behind his new course on the theology of religion by expressing that in light of how religion is abused politically “we thought that a study of religions and cultures are important, but also to challenge ourselves; to challenge our faith or to look at our faith with a broader perspective.”
“You need different views. Therefore the study of other religions and cultures helps us to do that.”
Solving the problem of religious violence and terrorism “is something that is very complex,” the priest stressed, “We have to sit together and see what can be done.”
“There are so many other Muslim friends who speak well of Christianity, who like to have a dialogue, who like to have an encounter,” he urged, “we have got to change the mindset.”
Washington D.C., Oct 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
New guides by the Cardinal Newman Society provide guidance for Catholic families looking at higher education for their children as they seek out faithful Catholic colleges.
“For those students seeking a college education, I cannot recommend enough that they take a close look at the broad range of faithful colleges recommended in The Newman Guide,” said Thomas Mead, executive vice president of the Newman Society and managing editor of the guide and magazine, in a press release.
“While strong Catholic campus ministries at secular colleges can minimize the well-documented and too often destructive secular influences at public colleges and universities, only at a faithful Catholic college will a student be able to find a truly Catholic education.”
The Cardinal Newman Society is a non-profit organization aimed at promoting Catholic education. It publishes the "The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College" and “My Future, My Faith” magazine.
Together, the publications offer updated information on how to best choose a faithful Catholic college, as well as suggestions of 28 colleges, universities and online programs for families to consider as they make college choices.
"The Newman Guide" recommends 22 Catholic colleges and universities from around the country, as well as 4 English-language programs abroad and two online programs, for their strong Catholic identity and their outstanding academic experience for undergraduate students.
"My Future, My Faith," a magazine accompanying the guide, offers advice to parents and students on making the transition from high school to college student in a Catholic way. The magazine gives tips on making one's way through the financial and academic questions families may have as a child moves off to college, as well as on personal questions such as how to maintain one's faith in a campus setting and dating life.
All of the information is available for free online at The Cardinal Newman Society's website, as well as in their print editions of the guide and magazine.
In addition, the online versions of the guide and magazine provide additional information on the "academics, spiritual life, residence life and student activities," at the colleges covered, The Cardinal Newman Society explained in a press release.
The new online edition will contain news about each college, as well as photos, videos, social media links and a questionnaire for each college. The 100-question survey covers a variety of campus life topics, including college majors, campus clubs, Mass and confession times, and a number of other areas of student life.
“Because every Catholic college is unique, families need more than simple checklists or government-collected data to make decisions,” explained Patrick J. Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society.
“Whereas most other guides rely on the same data, The Newman Guide digs deeper and draws upon our 20 years of promoting and defending faithful Catholic education,” he added.
“I am excited to recommend the fine academic institutions in the 2014 edition of the Guide and to help parents and students put the college search into context with the articles in My Future, My Faith magazine, the ultimate roadmap for successfully carrying, and holding onto, the faith in college.”
Washington D.C., Oct 9, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Maintaining marriage as a union between a man and a woman is a matter of social justice, said Ryan Anderson, a political scholar and editor of the online journal Public Discourse, in a recent talk.
Speaking to students at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Anderson acknowledged that efforts to redefine marriage are often characterized as being rooted in a sense of justice.
However, he said, the case against redefining marriage is actually an argument based upon justice, “precisely because marriage exists as the prime institution of social justice that guarantees and protects the rights and well-being of children.”
“If you care about social justice and you care about limited government; if you care about the poor and you care about freedom – it's better served by a healthy marriage culture than by government picking up the pieces of a broken marriage culture.”
Anderson, a Ph.D. candidate in political philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, is also co-author of the book, “What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.”
Determining marriage’s definition and limits is the primary concern of the marriage debate, Anderson said in his Oct. 9 talk.
“Everyone wants marriage equality: we all want the government to treat all marriages as equal, but that begs the question – what is marriage?
He explained that many of those who promote the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples understand marriage to be an intense kind of romantic relationship between sexual partners. In this view of marriage, adult desires and sexual needs are of primary concern, and the needs of children produced by such a union are secondary.
However, this understanding of marriage is lacking, Anderson said, as it does not take into account the needs of children, “nor can it describe or define or defend” the norms surrounding marriage, such as why government is involved in it; its restriction to two people; why it is sexual; and why it should be permanent.
This understanding of marriage “makes it more about the desires of adults and less about children” and their needs, said Anderson, adding that “the consequence of redefining marriage is that more people will think of their relationship in those terms and that it will produce bad social outcomes, especially for children.”
But across diverse societies and throughout history, he contended, marriage has been understood as a “comprehensive union” in which man and woman become “one flesh,” particularly in their ability to create children. As a whole, in this understanding, “marriage is ordered to the comprehensive good in the creation and raising of children.”
This understanding is also “based on the social reality that children deserve a mother and a father” and that “there's something about gender that matters” in the raising of children.
“There is no parenting in the abstract: there is mothering and there is fathering,” he said, and both mothers and fathers “bring different gifts” to children.
He pointed to studies examining socio-economic factors, which show that children raised by their biological mothers and fathers fare better than those raised by other family structures, particularly same-sex parents.
In addition, Anderson observed that “the breakdown of the family” in the latter half of the 20th century was accompanied by a rise in social dysfunction, marked by a widespread number of indicators ranging from school performance to crime rates to decreased adult happiness. These indicators show a marked correlation with fatherlessness rates in the home.
Mothers are always present at a child's birth, the scholar continued. “The question for culture is whether a father will be present, and if so, for how long?”
“If you redefine marriage in law, there will be no institution left that even holds as an idea the right of a child to have a relationship with both a mother and a father.”
Such a redefinition “holds up in law that men and women are functionally interchangeable” thus preventing the law from teaching “that fathers are essential.” Rather, it “will make fathers optional,” likely compounding the already-existing consequences of fatherlessness in society.
“If you care about the poor, what can we do to make it more likely that these men commit to the women that they are in relationships with, and then take responsibility for the children that they create?” Anderson asked.
“The reason why the state is in the marriage business is to maximize the opportunity that every child will be raised by a mother and a father, and preferably by the mother and the father that created the child,” he said.
“The state wants to ensure that a man and a woman commit to each other as husband and wife, permanently and exclusively,” he stressed, “and when this doesn't happen, the social costs run high.”