Archive of January 19, 2014

Rankings show pro-life 'momentum' in US state laws

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Organizers of a recent report monitoring pro-life laws in states throughout the country said that the data shows a trend towards the legal protection of women and their unborn children.

“Real pro-life momentum is reshaping the country as legislators craft protections for both mother and child, the victims of an avaricious abortion industry,” Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United For Life, said Jan. 14.

“Common-sense pro-life legislation saves lives and has broad public support in light of what we’re learning about the health risks of abortion for women.”

Americans United for Life, which works to develop and promote model pro-life legislation for states, recently released its 2014 “Life List,” which ranks various states by the degree to which their laws protect women and unborn children from abortion.

Yoest said the report tracks progress toward “achieving a nation in which everyone is welcomed in life and protected in law.”

Louisiana ranked as the most pro-life state, continuing its five-year stretch of leading the annual list. Americans United for Life described the state as having a “decades-long history” of “common-sense limitations on abortion.” The state has comprehensive freedom of conscience protections in healthcare and is among the few states with “meaningful regulations” on destructive embryo research.

The 2014 list also includes Oklahoma, Arkansas, Arizona and Pennsylvania in its top five. The least pro-life state is Washington state, followed by California, Vermont, New York and Connecticut.

The most improved states include Texas, Illinois, North Carolina and Kansas. The report cited Texas’ special session in July 2013 that prohibited late-term abortions and “telemed” abortions while also mandating higher patient care standards at abortion clinics.

Legal action in Illinois during the past year invalidated  a 2005 executive order requiring pharmacists and pharmacies to dispense “emergency contraception,” which can cause early abortions if conception has already occurred. The state’s parental notice requirement for abortion also took effect in the past year after decades of legal disputes.

North Carolina has barred sex-selective abortions and has applied higher standards to abortion facilities. It has limited abortion funding through health insurance exchanges and has enacted rules about the provision of abortion-inducing drugs.

Kansas has placed new limits on late-term abortions while limiting state funding for abortions. The state has barred sex-selection abortions and enhanced its informed consent requirements.

Americans United for Life also listed the “all-stars” of its Women Protection Project. The states of Texas, Missouri, Alabama, Arizona and Arkansas have done “the best in enacting protections for both mothers and unborn children, the victims of abortion industry horrors,” the organization said.

Among the legislative efforts implemented by these states are measures aimed at protecting women's right to information and consent, increasing patient health standards at abortion clinics and requiring all cases of suspected statutory rape or sexual abuse to be reported.

Pointing to documented abuses occurring within abortion clinics, Yoest praised efforts to protect and promote women's health. She explained that the “life-saving” legislation in these states protects women and children from “an abortion industry more committed to its financial bottom line than protecting women from a dangerous procedure that is too often performed in substandard facilities.”


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Pleasure is part of the moral life, priest's new book details

Los Gatos, Calif., Jan 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - “Reasonable Pleasures,” the latest book from scholar Father James Schall, examines the “valuable but subordinate role” pleasure plays and how it can contribute to a life that is both fulfilled and good.

The Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle believed “that the human being has a variety of tendencies…all of which have some kind of pleasure connected with it,” Fr. Schall, emeritus professor of philosophy at Georgetown University, told CNA.

“So the reasonable man, if he is virtuous, will put the proper pleasure on the proper ends of his activities, so the pleasure itself is a consequence of, is involved in every action you do,” he said.

“These pleasures are to be experienced, they are are good things; yet it's not the pleasure that's important, it's the cause of the pleasure that's the important thing.

“So you get to the understanding that pleasure is part of the moral life; that's whats the moral life is partly about: putting the proper pleasure on the proper activity. And the thesis of this book…is that the highest pleasure is the one which has to do with thinking, and loving and a consequence of that.”

Published by Ignatius Press, the book “flows out of Aristotle,” Fr. Schall said. The philosopher noted that human persons – rational animals – can experience pleasures related to both their body and soul, and that when one does not take the time to engage in intellectual acts and enjoy their pleasures, he will “start to find his pleasures in other kinds of things, which are deviations from the good.”

Fr. Schall, a priest of the Society of Jesus, reflected on the importance of the act of reading good books for “the delight we take in knowing the truth of things” by relating a story about St. Augustine.

“In the Confessions, when he was about 19,” St. Augustine relates how “he happens to come across a book of Cicero, the Hortensius…a dialogue on philosophy. And when Augustine finished it, he said, 'I'm going to be a philosopher. That's what I'm going to do with my life. That's what I've been looking for.'”

“That is one of the most momentous moments in the history of thought, when Augustine says, 'I am going to be a philosopher.'”

While it took St. Augustine another 15 years “to figure it out,” Cicero – who had died 400 years earlier – “changed the world” by his writing.

“This tradition comes down to us when we sit down and read a story. That's what I tell my students: that's what it's all about, when you see that that's what you want to do – to know the truth.”

In a sense, Fr. Schall said, there is a pleasure connected with seeking the truth, “and also an angst, a restlessness, as Augustine says, because you know that any truth you get leads to others, and you're living a life seeking the truth, but at the same time are unsettled because you know ultimately you don't have it.”

“And so the subtitle (The Strange Coherences of Catholicism) is precisely about that point, that it does cohere, once you do have a clarity with regard to the end as it is presented to you in revelation and in reason.”

“Reasonable Pleasures” means to show that reality does make sense, and does make sense as it is explained by the Church; that revelation is an answer to the questions asked by reason; and that human persons are ordered to a transcendent destiny in the resurrection of the body and a new creation.

Our bodiliness places each of us in a unique situation “in which you work out your freedom…and carry out your purpose,” and makes possible for us the pleasures of sport and play.

“I think that sports for example do have a very important place in our lives,” Fr. Schall said. “The closest a young man comes to contemplation is watching a good ball game. Why? Aristotle says contemplation is thinking about the highest things, enjoying them, and being outside of yourself, because it's not yourself you're talking about; you're beholding something beyond yourself.”

“It's the same thing in a good game,” he reflected, discussing a college football game he had watched recently. “You don't know what's going to happen; you step back and you don't know until it's finished, and you're absorbed in that, and you say, 'what was I doing those two hours?'”

“Well, I wasn't 'doing' anything. I was contemplating that thing as it unraveled before me. That kind of see that's what Aristotle says is the contemplative act that we are most ordained to.”

Next to Aristotle, the book's most influential thinker is G.K. Chesterton. Fr. Schall quoted the 19th century writer as saying that mankind's end when we're together conversing in “the tavern at the end of the world.”

“That's precisely the highest thing. The end of civilization is a few people sitting in a room talking. That's exactly what it's all about. Why talking? It means pursuing the highest things.”

Fr. Schall then went on to discuss Josef Pieper, whom he said “points out that you can't set out to find joy. Joy is a by-product of doing something that ought to be done, of doing, or possessing something that is good…you don't go to out to have joy. Joy is the result of something you're doing which is right, the good which is in the thing itself which you are experiencing.”

“The joy of conversation…it's not the conversation, but the conversation is taking place 'about' things…so that the perfection of human nature is precisely this common pursuit together of conversations about what are the most important things,” he added.

“Very often the analogies of heaven are not only of vision, but the delight of truth also; the delight of knowing, of conversation, speaking about it, giving it back.”

Fr. Schall put it thus: “The best thing a college has is a pub, where you go and talk; you know, not going out to be drunk, but to relax and to talk about the important things. And you more often talk about the most important things, not with your professors, but with your colleagues, your buddies, your friends, and for most of us the best part of college life is precisely this. Why? Because it's precisely what our nature is.”

Yet our orientation to “the tavern at the end of the world” is just that. The “ultimate inn” is not in this world.

“Unless you realize that's your end, you will be frustrated the rest of your life trying to find it somewhere else, which is what the history of mankind is partially about: trying to find it someplace else” than in eternal life.

The book concludes that man's perfection relies on his accepting his being and his ordination to sharing in the inner life of the godhead, and that to accept this is “to find the true location of our home even when we catch intimation of it in the homes in which we are born, dwell, and live our mortal lives.”

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Christians must be disciples of the Lamb of God, says Pope

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his Angelus address today, Pope Francis reflected on Christ as the “Lamb of God,” focusing on the need for Christians to be welcoming and to live an attitude of solidarity.

“What does it mean for the Church, for us, today, to be disciples of Jesus the Lamb of God? It means replacing malice with innocence, force with love, pride with humility, prestige with service,” Pope Francis proclaimed Jan. 19 in St. Peter's Square.

“To be a disciple of the Lamb does not mean to live like a ‘besieged citadel,’ but as a city placed on a hill, open, welcoming, and sympathetic,” he explained on Jan. 19.

Meditating on the Baptism of Christ, during which John the Baptist proclaims “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” Pope Francis said this “taking away” is literally Christ's “lifting up” the sin of the world, “taking it upon himself.”

“Jesus came into the world with a precise mission: to free us from the bondage of sin, charging the faults of humanity,” the Roman Pontiff said, by “loving.”

“There is no other way of overcoming evil and sin except with the love that springs from the gift of one’s own life for others.”

Christ is “the true paschal lamb, who immerses himself in the river of our sin, in order to purify us,” he stressed.

This image of Jesus as the sacrificial lamb may be stupefying, reflected Pope Francis: “an animal that is certainly not characterized by strength and robustness is loaded on its shoulders with a burden so oppressive.”

“The enormous mass of evil is removed and taken away by a creature weak and fragile , a symbol of obedience, docility and helpless love, who comes at last to sacrifice himself. A lamb is not a ruler, but is docile; not aggressive, but peaceful; it shows no claws or teeth in the face of an attack, but it suffers and is submissive.”

“And so is Jesus! So is Jesus, as a lamb.”

Following the Lamb of God, he concluded, means Christians, as the city set on a hill, are called not “to assume attitudes of being closed-off” but to propose the gospel “to everyone, witnessing with our lives that to follow Jesus makes us more free and more joyful.”

Following the Angelus address, Pope Francis noted it was the World Day for Migrants and Refugees, saying, “we think of many immigrants - many - many refugees, of the suffering of their life, many times without work, without documents, (with) many sorrows,” decrying the “merchants of human flesh” who seek to “enslave immigrants.”

“I would like to thank those who work with immigrants, who welcome them, who accompany them in their difficult moments,” he added, and who defend them from becoming “pawns on the chessboard of humanity”.

“Don’t lose the hope of a better future!” he urged.  “I hope for you to live in peace in countries that welcome you, guarding the value of your culture of origin.”

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