Baltimore, Md., Nov 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops’ chairman on defense of marriage issues encouraged continued efforts to strengthen the institution of marriage, which is rooted in biology and is crucial for the health of society.
“(S)trengthening a marriage culture serves the common good of our country,” said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, who heads the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
In a recent update to his fellow bishops on the U.S. Church’s efforts in defense of marriage, he emphasized the need to educate the faithful and general public on the reason behind Catholic teaching on marriage.
“We are no doubt at a critical point in this country when it comes to the promotion and defense of marriage in the law,” he warned.
Archbishop Cordileone suggested that in explaining the Church’s reasoning on marriage, it can be helpful to “begin with biology” and build out the argument from there.
“Every child comes from a man and a woman. That’s a biological fact,” he noted. “Do we need an institution that unites the child to the man and the woman that brought them into the world or not? If we do, then it’s marriage, because there’s no other institution that does that.”
The archbishop observed that it has been four months since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage for federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman.
The court also ruled that defenders of California’s Proposition 8 – an amendment to protect marriage in the state – did not have legal standing, a decision that deferred to a lower court’s judgment and effectively allowed for the redefinition of marriage in California.
These decisions “have renewed our determination to witness to the truth that marriage can only be union of a man and a woman,” Archbishop Cordileone said.
“The language of the decisions is particularly disheartening, setting a troubling precedent for increasing efforts to redefine marriage.”
He suggested that the rulings will have “significant” legal and practical effects, and that over time, the reach of the court’s ruling will likely extend to state marriage laws as well.
Currently, 15 states and the District of Columbia have redefined marriage to include same-sex couples, and the bishops the expect redefinition legislation and ballot initiatives in other states as well.
However, the archbishop said, it is important to remember that 35 states still hold to the definition of marriage as a man and a woman, and only three of the states that have redefined the institution have had voter approval to do so.
Other troubling efforts include a push in Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, he said, cautioning that while the bill appears to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation, it also presents serious problems for religious freedom and undermines the biological basis of gender.
Similar laws at the state level have contributed to the erosion and redefinition of marriage, he observed.
Redefining marriage also poses a serious threat of discrimination against those who cannot accept the new definition, the archbishop said, pointing to a Christian-owned photography studio in New Mexico that was recently told by the state Supreme Court that it must agree to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.
He voiced support for legislative efforts to protect religious freedom in the wake of such rulings.
As a push to redefine marriage continues, Archbishop Cordileone emphasized the need for education on the Church’s teaching.
The bishops’ conference runs an initiative entitled Marriage Unique for a Reason to aid in this goal, and recently prepared a telenovela film in Spanish, which will be released next month.
The archbishop explained that the film centers on a 50th wedding anniversary and explores the four themes being emphasized by the bishops’ defense of marriage subcommittee: sexual difference and complementarity, the good of children, the common good, and religious liberty.
Chicago, Ill., Nov 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Obama administration’s defense of the HHS mandate is “unsound and extraordinary” for contending that business owners cannot have religious freedom protections.
“The government’s argument is premised on a far-too-narrow view of religious freedom: Religious exercise is protected in the home and the house of worship but not beyond,” the court’s Nov. 12 decision in Grote Industries v. Sebelius said.
“Religious people do not practice their faith in that compartmentalized way; free-exercise rights are not so circumscribed.”
Compelling businesses owners and their companies to provide services such as abortion-causing drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception “substantially burdens their religious exercise rights,” the court wrote.
The government’s argument that religious exercise claims are irrelevant to commercial activity would “leave religious exercise wholly unprotected in the commercial sphere.”
“On the government’s understanding of religious liberty, a Jewish restaurant operating for profit could be denied the right to observe Kosher dietary restrictions.”
“That cannot be right. There is nothing inherently incompatible between religious exercise and profit-seeking.”
The case concerned Indiana-based Grote Industries, a manufacturer and marketer of vehicle lighting and safety systems. The company’s Catholic owners object to the federal HHS mandate, which requires employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, argued before the court on behalf of the company.
“The decision rightly foresees the dangers of allowing government to have this kind of power,” he stated Nov. 12. “If the government can force family business owners to act contrary to their deepest convictions under the threat of fining them out of business, it is a danger to everybody.”
Bowman said a majority of other rulings on the mandate have found it to “excessively conflict with our nation’s guarantee of religious freedom to all Americans.”
“All Americans, including job creators, should be free to honor God and live according to their faith.”
The decision suspends the HHS mandate for the Grote family and Grote Industries. It also suspends the mandate for the Kortes family and their construction company, Illinois-based K & L Contractors.
The appeals court ruled that corporations qualify as legal persons under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and may invoke its protections.
The HHS mandate is the subject of dozens of cases across the country, involving nearly 200 plaintiffs. Several courts, including appellate courts, have ruled in favor of those seeking injunctions against the mandate's enforcement upon them.
On Nov. 1 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the appellants in Gilardi v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The court found that the mandate places a “substantial burden” on the religious freedom of Francis and Philip Gilardi, two brothers who are Catholic and who own of Freshway Foods and Freshway Logistics, granting the Gilardis a preliminary injunction against the mandate's enforcement.
The court said the Gilardi brothers are “trying to run their business in accordance with their religious beliefs,” though it did not rule that the companies themselves have free exercise rights.
Circuit Judge Brown, writing the court's opinion, said, “we conclude (the Affordable Care Act) does … trammel the right of free exercise – a right that lies at the core of our constitutional liberties.”
Moreover, that decision noted that some of the contraceptives are classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization and indicate an increased risk for breast, cervical and liver cancers, saying that “the science is debatable and may actually undermine the government's cause.”
The International Agency for Research on Cancer – part of the World Health Organization – lists estrogen-progestogen oral contraception as a Group 1 known carcinogen, the same category as asbestos, tobacco products and ultraviolet radiation.
Paris, France, Nov 15, 2013 (CNA) - Congratulating them on their 25th anniversary, Pope Francis has expressed his appreciation for the devotion to the Bishop of Rome exhibited by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter.
“It was in a moment of great trial for the Church that the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter was born,” read an Oct. 28 letter from Archbishop Luigi Ventura, apostolic nuncio to France, to Fr. Vincent Ribeton, French district superior of the fraternity.
“The Holy Father encourages them to pursue their mission of reconciliation among all the faithful, whatever may be their sensibility, and this to work so that all welcome one another in the profession of the same faith and the bond of an intense fraternal charity.”
The letter, translated into English at Rorate Caeli, opened by stating that “Pope Francis joins the thanksgiving of her members for the work accomplished in this quarter-century spent at the service of ecclesial communion 'with Peter and under Peter'.”
“In a great spirit of obedience and hope, her founders turned with confidence to the Successor of Peter so as to offer the faithful attached to the Missal of 1962 the possibility of living their faith in the full communion of the Church.”
The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter was founded in 1988 by 12 priests of the Society of St. Pius X. The founders left the Society of St. Pius X to establish the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter after the society's leader, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, consecrated four bishops without the permission of Blessed John Paul II.
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter forms priests for the use of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, and having formed them, deploys priests in parishes for the service of the Church.
The letter from Archbishop Ventura continued, noting the importance of the FSSP in the work of the Second Vatican Council.
“By the celebration of the sacred Mysteries according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite and by the orientations of the Constitution on the Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, as well as by passing on the apostolic faith as it is presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, may they contribute, in fidelity to the living Tradition of the Church, to a better comprehension and implementation of the Second Vatican Council.”
The nuncio noted that Pope Francis “exhorts them, according to their own charism, to take an active part in the mission of the Church in the world of today through the testimony of a holy life, a firm faith, and an inventive and generous charity.”
The letter concluded by noting that Pope Francis granted “with an open heart” an apostolic blessing upon pilgrims who visited Lourdes or St. Sulpice parish in Paris for the fraternity's 25th anniversary.
Vatican City, Nov 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
It was announced earlier today that Pope Francis cancelled all of his morning meetings due to a cold, but still presided over a scheduled Mass in which he ordained a bishop in the afternoon.
In a statement issued to journalists on Nov. 15, Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi noted that although the Pope had four audiences scheduled with various heads of dicasteries within the Curia, he decided to postpone them because the officials live in Rome and can be met with at any time.
However, despite his illness, Fr. Lombardi revealed that the Pope still decided to preside, as previously planned, over a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the afternoon.
During the Mass, which occurred at 4:30pm local time, Pope Francis ordained Monsignor Fernando Vergez Alzaga, Secretary General of the Vatican City State’s Governing Body, as a bishop.
Msgr. Alzaga is a member of the Legionaries of Christ, and was appointed to his position as Secretary General by the Pope earlier this fall.
It was noted upon his appointment that bishop-elect has not been appointed as a titular bishop, which is a traditional custom for the position, causing some to question the possibly that this is a signal of a new policy of Pope Francis.
Born in Salamanca in 1945, Msgr. Vérgez made his perpetual profession with the Legionaries in 1965, receiving his priestly ordination in 1969. He studied philosophy and theology at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, and obtained a diploma from the School of Archives at the Vatican’s Secret Archives.
Fr. Vérgez first began his work for the Vatican over forty years ago, in 1972, at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Afterwards, in 1984, he was transferred to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, before becoming the head of the Holy See’s internet office ten years later. He served there until becoming head of the telecommunications office in 2008.
There are no current dates set for the morning’s audiences to be re-scheduled.
Vatican City, Nov 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Numerous clergy and lay people from across the world will gather together at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe to discuss common concerns, and to help forge stronger bonds between continents.
“We go as pilgrims to pray with existence, as Pope Francis says. Pray to Our Lady with existence, Our Lady who is the alliance of life between people and who listens to her pilgrims,” said Prof. Guzman Carriquiry in a Nov. 11 interview with CNA.
Carriquiry is the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and is in charge of the organization of the meetings that will be taking place during the gathering.
The pilgrimage, entitled “Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of the New Evangelization,” will begin with a video message from Pope Francis on Nov. 16th and will last until Nov. 19th, allowing time for both prayer and discussion of current issues within the Americas.
The pilgrimage is co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, and will include an addresss by Carl Anderson, the group's Supreme Knight.
Anderson said that "at Guadalupe, Mary's message was one of love and reconciliation, which can be seen echoed in Pope Francis' efforts to reach out to the poor and marginalized, to the fallen-away and those who have never really followed Christ."
"Pope Francis has focused on the New Evangelization with a model that is clearly related to the American model embodied by Our Lady of Guadalupe -- a model based on loving outreach, on charity and on concern for the spiritual and physical well-being of all."
Reflecting on previous meetings under different pontiffs, Carriquiry explained that they hope to continue past initiatives, giving “more links, communion” and “collaboration between the churches in Latin America, the United States” and Canada.
Being in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the three-day encounter is particularly significant, noted Carriquiry, because it is “the place of meeting, the place of significance, of the unity of people, of all the American continent, the Star of first New Evangelization, the Empress of America.”
The secretary also explained that an intercontinental vision between the Americas can be difficult to comprehend due to the fact that they are often distinguished by their separate continents.
“The faith embodied in the different realities of the Latin America” he highlighted, “by a process of enculturation” are “diversified,” but thanks to the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “faith is in all our land.”
“Our nationalities” are also lived in diverse ways, he added, particularly in the development of “cultural, social, economic,” and “political” areas.
“What seems fundamental to me is to have a coming together with the diversity to bring them the biggest unity possible,” Carriquiry expressed.
“We think that the biggest communion between the churches of the United States and Canada and the churches of Latin America will be carried out through solidarity of people and nationalities of the whole continent.”
In order for this to happen, he noted, the participation of all, the bishops specifically, is “very important.”
Among the three hundred officials invited who will be attending the meetings will be the new cardinals recently named by Pope Francis, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and close to 80 others from Canada to Argentina.
Also attending the meetings will be Cardinals Sean P. O’Malley from Boston and Oscar Maradiaga from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, who are both members of the Council of Eight Cardinals created by the Pope earlier this year to assist in reform and governance of the Church.
Themes that will be reflected on include the collaboration and communion of local churches within all of America, culture and society, and the reference of Mary as Mother of the Church in the context of the fiftieth anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council.
Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for the Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, will lead the discussions and reflections, which will also include the next synod topic, marriage and the family.
“We hope that in this link with collaboration,” Carriquiry expressed, the participants “can grow, that they can face more openly” all of the challenges present “in the Latin American continent.”
Beijing, China, Nov 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Recent news that the Chinese government is easing its one child policy is “very misleading” because they do not address the human rights violations at the policy's core, a leading critic says.
“The core of the policy is coercion,” Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, told CNA Nov. 15.
“The problem is, that the government is telling people how many kids they can have, and it is enforcing that limit coercively, including forcibly aborting women up to the ninth month of pregnancy.”
“Earlier this month a woman died in a forced abortion,” Littlejohn added, saying this fact is “startlingly absent” from the latest news report from the Chinese government-run news agency Xinhua.
The Chinese government on Nov. 15 said it would allow couples in which one parent is an only child to have a second child, Reuters reports. The change could affect millions of families.
The policy was implemented in the 1970s to control population growth. Officials now believe the policy harms economic growth and has rapidly aged the population without young people to support them, Reuters reports. China’s working age population decreased in 2012 for the first time in many years.
The population control measures have also created a sex imbalance. Due to a cultural preference for boys, unborn baby girls are more likely to be aborted. There are now 118 boys born for every 100 girls.
Some Chinese officials’ use of coercive abortion to meet population goals has also drawn significant domestic and international opposition.
Wang Feng, a sociology professor at Fudan University who specializes in demographics, said the policy change will have “minimal” impact on demographics but has “substantial” political significance.
“This is one of the most urgent policy changes that we've been awaiting for years. What this will mean is a very speedy abolishment of the one-child policy,” Wang told Reuters.
However, Littlejohn characterized the policy change as “a mere tweaking” based only on economic and demographic considerations, not a rejection of coercion.
“We have not seen any reduction in forced abortion or forced sterilization in the countryside,” she said. “It’s still rampant.”
She also criticized sex-targeted abortions that disproportionately kill unborn girls, terming this “gendercide,” and adding that major media should not ignore the coercive aspects of the policy.
“It’s really hard to sustain a movement to end a human rights atrocity when everyone thinks it’s ended already,” she said. “It’s really destructive to human rights for them to fail to address the human rights aspect of the one-child policy.
Previous news reports have also wrongly claimed an end to the policy was near, Littlejohn noted.
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A conference and pilgrimage held this weekend at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City will feature Carl Anderson, the Knights of Columbus' Supreme Knight, among its speakers.
“At Guadalupe, Mary's message was one of love and reconciliation, which can be seen echoed in Pope Francis' efforts to reach out to the poor and marginalized, to the fallen-away and those who have never really followed Christ,” Anderson said Nov. 15.
“Pope Francis has focused on the New Evangelization with a model that is clearly related to the American model embodied by Our Lady of Guadalupe – a model based on loving outreach, on charity and on concern for the spiritual and physical well-being of all.”
“Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of the New Evangelization,” will begin with a video message from Pope Francis on Nov. 16 and will last until Nov. 19, allowing time for both prayer, and discussion of current issues within the Americas.
The event is being led by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and is co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the Guadalupe basilica, and the Instituto Superior de Estudios Guadalupanos.
The conference is inspired by John Paul II's 1999 post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in America.” Speakers will include Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and Monsignor Eduardo Chavez, director of the Guadalupe studies institute.
Among the 300 persons who will be attending the meetings are Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, and Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa.
Themes that will be reflected on include the collaboration and communion of local Churches across the Americas; culture and society; and the reference to Mary as Mother of the Church.
Denver, Colo., Nov 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Colorado ad campaign to encourage young people to purchase the insurance plans offered under Obamacare have garnered criticism for their glib attitude and promotion of risky behaviors.
Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado, a subsidiary of Planned Parenthood, tweeted Nov. 12 that an ad entitled "Let's get physical" was "unfortunate" for its "#slutshaming #women who use #birthcontrol," incorrectly assuming that the campaign was a parody by "anti-obamacare folks."
It was only after two hours that PPVotesColorado realized the ads were not parodies, and tweeted that “to be clear, ads encouraging women to be healthy are good! So is dialogue about birth control.”
The ad in question featured a "Hot to Trot" millennial woman with a date and birth control pills, who expressed that she hoped the man is "as easy to get as this birth control," and that all she has "to worry about is getting him between the covers."
"It's degrading to women, and it says a lot about what they think of America's youth today," said Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., to Fox News.
The ads were commissioned by Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and ProgressNow Colorado Education, targeting younger generations to join the Affordable Care Act's healthcare exchanges.
The exchanges have been the subject of criticism since their opening on Oct. 1 due to their expense, lack of coverage, difficult-to-navigate website, and the cancelation of millions of already-existing plans due to new regulations.
As of Nov. 13, little more than 106,00 people have signed up for an Obamacare plan, the majority of them middle-aged or older, and policymakers have expressed concern over the program's future because of a lack of healthy, young people participating in the exchanges to offset the healthcare costs of the older individuals.
The ad campaign featured a tongue-in-cheek treatment of young persons engaging in risky behavior, including two bloodied pre-teen girls gathered together after a particularly violent game of soccer; college "bros" doing keg stands; ayoung boy carving a pumpkin with a machete; women taking "shotskis" off of skis; and two young women looking to "run away" with a cardboard cutout of Ryan Gosling after gaining "easy access to birth control."
One of the ads featuring college-aged men drinking, entitled "Brosurance," proclaimed: "Kegstands are crazy. Not having insurance is crazier. Don't tap into your beer money to cover those medical bills."
Adam Fox, the director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative told Business Insider that it has "been fun to watch how it all plays out."
"We wanted to come up with a campaign that would attract attention and inject a bit of humor, and try to approach educating people about health insurance a little bit differently," he continued.
"It was really just brainstorming, 'OK, what are some of those risky activities we could work with that would tie it all together?'"
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, Senior Fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, however, commented that the emphasis on risky behavior was less than entertaining. On a Nov. 13 post on the Concerned Women for America Facebook page, Crouse questioned the "encouragement for young people to destroy themselves and their futures."
She explained that among youth, "there is an STD epidemic (20 million NEW cases every year in the 15-25 bracket)," and binge drinking among youth sends many "teens to the hospital with alcohol poisoning — some to their deaths, not to mention the assaults, depression, suicide and wasted years," that come with risky behavior.
She added that the glorification of people's desires was not a positive trend for culture at large.
"While we glorify all sorts of strange, weird, off the wall 'spiritual' ideas, we denigrate and poke fun at Judeo-Christian values and the people who live by those tenets of faith," she commented.
"While we claim to love children and give them every material thing they could possibly want, we deny them the chance for meaningful, fulfilling lives. While we claim we want to empower women, we treat them as though they are ignorant, non-thinking fools and/or sex objects."