Managua, Nicaragua, Feb 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes Solorzano of Managua, who will be made a cardinal at the Feb. 22 consistory, is said to personify the image of a humble shepherd of “a Church that is poor and for the poor.”
“At first I felt a nervousness, I was tempted to mourn … because I want to maintain always my origins, simple origins,” Archbishop Brenes said shortly after his appointment as a cardinal was announced Jan. 12.
Pope Francis “has set upon this humble servant, and therefore I wish to remain that pastor whom you know,” he added.
Pope Francis and Archbishop Brenes, who is 64, met in 2006 at the fifth conference of Latin American bishops; at the time, the two were presidents, respectively, of the Argentine and Nicaraguan bishops’ conferences.
Archbishop Brenes was born into a poor family in 1949 in Ticuantepe, a small town south of the Nicaraguan capital, whose shepherd he now is. He was ordained a priest of the Managua archdiocese in 1974, and began his ministry at an isolated parish in central Nicaragua.
He was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese in 1988, and was then made Bishop of Matagalpa in 1991. He served there for 14 years before returning to Managua as its archbishop in 2005.
Archbishop Brenes’ auxiliary, Bishop Silvio Baez Ortega, said in a Jan. 12 statement that his nomination as cardinal “is a recognition of his noble and generous pastoral labor for so many years in the Church in Nicaragua, of his disposition as a man of God, of his prudent and wise words, and of his loving nearness to the people.”
The archbishop is known for his desire that all Catholics be evangelizers: at his installation as head of the Managuan Church, he said that “what the Gospel needs most is personal witnesses of the faith,” calling for a “missionary and pilgrim” Church.
Along with the other Nicaraguan bishops, he has also been at times in opposition to the Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, and his Sandinista administration.
Archbishop Brenes lives with and cares for his 86-year-old mother, Lilliam Solorzano Aguirre, who affectionately refers to him as “Leopoldito.” He is her firstborn child, and is particularly precious to her, according to Managua’s El Nuevo Diario, because she suffered six miscarriages before he was born.
She told the paper Jan. 14 that her son’s nomination as cardinal is “a moment of joy,” and related that when he received the news by telephone, he immediately went down from his room to tell her.
“Leopoldito was nervous, but was instantly filled with joy,” she said.
The prelate is the second Archbishop of Managua to be named a cardinal; he follows in the footsteps of his immediate predecessor, Cardinal Miguel Obando Bravo, who is 88. According to Lilliam Solorzano, Cardinal Obando foreshadowed her son’s appointment by giving him, some years ago, a red cassock, saying, “take it, in case some day they make you a cardinal.”
She also related to El Nuevo Diario that her son knew from an early age that he was called to be a priest: “When Leopoldito was three he would say: ‘I am ‘padle’, because he could not say ‘padre.’”
Archbishop Brenes is among 19 men who will be given the red hat of a cardinal at the Vatican later this month. He is among five Latin Americans, and is the sole new cardinal from Central America.
Olympia, Wash., Feb 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state has issued a moratorium or temporary prohibition on executions, drawing praise from a priest who has written against the death penalty.
“This is a step in the right direction,” Monsignor Stuart Swetland told CNA Feb. 12. “The bishops of the United States...have said that there are no conditions under which the death penalty should be used.”
“We hope for the banning of the death penalty in every state,” said Msgr. Swetland, a professor of Christian ethics at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Gov. Inslee announced the moratorium in a Feb. 15 press conference. He said the suspension will last as long as he is governor and he will issue a reprieve on any death penalty case that comes to his desk.
“There are too many flaws in the system. And when the ultimate decision is death there is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system,” he said.
Washington state has executed five prisoners since 1976. The Democratic governor outlined the reasons for his action, saying capital punishment is “unequally applied.”
Though he said there are “many good protections” in the state's death penalty law, he noted that 60 percent of death penalty sentences in Washington state have been overturned. One man was set free and 18 other convicts' sentences were converted to life in prison.
The governor said death penalty convicts are rarely executed. He noted that it costs more to prosecute a capital case than to imprison someone for life without parole. He said there is “no credible evidence” that the death penalty is a deterrent to murder. He added that the death penalty is not always applied to “the most heinous offenders.”
The decision drew criticism from some family members of crime victims.
“I think if it was his family he would perhaps feel a lot differently,” Pam Mantle, whose daughter, son-in-law and two young grandchildren were fatally shot on Christmas Day 2007, told the Seattle Times.
The governor did not commute the sentences of the nine men presently on death row.
Msgr. Swetland said that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is “quite clear” about conditions when prisoners can be incarcerated in a way that they will not threaten innocent life. “
“Not only does it state that the death penalty should not be used, but that it must not be used in those cases,” he said.
“I’d like to see this state-by-state, moving in the right direction,” said the monsignor, who is a contributor to the 2013 book “Where Mercy and Justice Meet.”
Washington state legislators do not plan to work on the death penalty during the legislature’s 2014 session, the Seattle Times reports, though some plan to advance a death penalty ban in 2015.
There are 32 U.S. states that allow capital punishment. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a moratorium similar to Washington’s in 2011.
Denver, Colo., Feb 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Olympic cross-country skier Rebecca Dussault recently spoke to a large crowd of young adults in Denver, exhorting them to put their Catholic faith above everything else in life.
“Be Catholic first and anything that flows from that is a rich bonus,” she said in Feb. 10 talk given at Katie Mullen's Irish Pub in downtown Denver as part of the archdiocese's Theology on Tap program.
Because there are over a billion Catholics in the world, Dussault added, if someone is a “successful Catholic” they will most likely also be a “significant Catholic” which is why it it so important for prominent people in the Church to be good examples.
“We're going to be looking up to you,” she said.
The home-schooling mother of four spoke about her life and experience in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
A Colorado native, Dussault grew up skiing in the Rocky Mountains, but felt ostracized by her peers because she was pursuing a physically and spiritually healthy life, shunning the party attitude. Fighting the secular culture, she found herself retiring from racing at the age of 19.
She married and had her first child when she found herself once again competing and winning, restarting her career and passion for competition. She called up her sponsors and they took her back, knowing that it wasn’t just her anymore, but her entire little “domestic church.”
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassatti, a fellow skier and sports enthusiast who lived in the early 20th century, became her patron saint on the slopes. She even wrote his name on her skis during the Olympics in Turin, his home town.
The young Italian did not make it his full time job to shout his faith from the rooftops, Dussault said. Rather, he simply “lived in the now and he totally poured himself out” in the service of others.
Bl. Pier Giorgio died at the young age of 24 from polio – and the fact that his funeral procession had 10,000 followers is a testament to his “magnetic personality because he had God,” she told CNA.
His example has continued to serve as an inspiration for her work after the Olympics, especially as a mentor with her program, MassStart.org, which aims to helps Catholics lead spiritually and physically healthy lives.
“It's not like I've arrived and I've got this all figured out – I'm an experiment daily and I do waiver between vanity, I waiver between lack of commitment. I'm totally human, but really when I can see a bigger picture than just myself, I can have motivation,” she said.
She encouraged aspiring athletes and coaches to make the Sacraments their first priority, saying that they are “the only thing that keep you, you.”
A new book chronicling Dussault's experience as a Catholic wife, mother and athlete called, Mass Start, is available on her website.
Vatican City, Feb 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In an encounter with the American Jewish Committee, Pope Francis highlighted the strong unity of Jews and Catholics, stating that their shared roots obligate them to work together in building a just society.
“I am very grateful to you for the distinguished contribution you have made to dialogue and fraternity between Jews and Catholics, and I encourage you to continue on this path,” the Pope expressed during the Feb. 13 encounter.
Speaking to members of the committee, which was established in 1906 in order to safeguard the welfare and security of Jews worldwide, the pontiff extended his greetings to the organization, giving special emphasis to their “good relations with the Holy See and with many representatives of the Catholic world.”
He then drew attention to the fact that next year commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the Second Vatican Council document “Nostra Aetate,” which is the Council’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions.
The document, he noted serves as “the sure point of reference for relations with our ‘elder brothers,’” observing that from it “our reflection on the spiritual patrimony which unites us and which is the foundation of our dialogue has developed with renewed vigor.”
Emphasizing that this foundation is a “theological” one, the pontiff highlighted the importance of ensuring “that our dialogue be always profoundly marked by the awareness of our relationship with God.”
“In addition to dialogue, it is also important to find ways in which Jews and Christians can cooperate in constructing a more just and fraternal world,” he continued, calling attention to the shared concern of Jews and Catholics in serving “the poor, the marginalized and those who suffer.”
“Our commitment to this service is anchored in the protection of the poor, widows, orphans, and foreigners as shown in Sacred Scripture,” the pontiff observed.
Concluding his address, the Pope stated that in order to keep their efforts from becoming “fruitless,” it is “important that we dedicate ourselves to transmitting to new generations the heritage of our mutual knowledge, esteem and friendship which has…grown over these years.”
“It is my hope,” he stated, “that the study of relations with Judaism may continue to flourish in seminaries and in centers of formation for lay Catholics.”
Pope Francis also expressed his hope “that a desire for an understanding of Christianity may grow among young Rabbis and the Jewish community.”
Turning to his upcoming visit to the Holy Land, the Pope noted that “in a few months I will have the joy of visiting Jerusalem, where – as the Psalm says – we are all born (cf. Ps 87:5), and where all peoples will one day meet (cf. Is 25:6-10).”
He then asked members of the committee to “accompany me with your prayers, so that this pilgrimage may bring forth the fruits of communion, hope and peace. Shalom!”
Vatican City, Feb 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During a recent interview, Archbishop Stanislaw Budzik reflected on his ad limina visit to Rome last week, explaining that in the midst of a media crossfire, the Pope affirmed his support for the Church in Poland.
"In our talks we told the Holy Father that he has good media coverage in Poland, but the Polish Catholic Church was criticized," Archbishop Budzik told CNA in a Feb. 8 interview, adding that "the Media said the Church is, in comparison to his (Pope Francis) openness, backward and immobile."
Archbishop Stanislaw Budzik is head of the Lublin diocese in Poland, and was present in Rome last week for an “ad limina” visit, in which residential diocesan bishops and certain prelates with territorial jurisdiction meet with the Pope and report on the state of their dioceses or prelature.
During their meetings with the Holy Father, which were largely dedicated to the upcoming canonization of Bl. John Paul II on April 27 and World Youth Day in Krakow in 2016, Archbishop Budzik revealed that they also discussed ongoing media tensions regarding the Catholic Church in Poland.
The Church, he explained, is receiving violent attacks in the media due to abuse cases as well as its staunch rejection of gay “marriage,” despite the press’ widespread support of Pope Francis.
Upon hearing of the situation, Archbishop Budzik recalled that “the Holy Father laughed and reassured us that he is very close to us and that he, of course, does not want to change anything essential in our faith and that he stands firmly by the Church's teaching.”
“He has only changed the language by the way he proclaims or announces,” the archbishop noted, adding that “it is always the Church’s problem: they must stand firmly by the faith and they are not allowed to shake the foundations of the faith.”
However, he observed that the Church also “needs to find a language, that tells the unchanging message of the Gospel in today’s culture, so that the Gospel reaches people and touches their hearts and transforms their lives and open up to God and to people.”
“The Holy Father,” affirmed the archbishop, “understands that very well.”
Of the various meetings they had with the Pope, Archbishop Budzik emphasized that “most important encounter” happened last Thursday, when close to 100 bishops from the Polish Episcopal Conference were present.
“We were divided into five parts and our part, our three ecclesiastical provinces from eastern Poland sat together with the Holy Father on Friday and ate and spoke with him for one hour and a half,” he noted.
“It was an unforgettable experience,” the archbishop continued, observing that “the Holy Father met us more as a brother than as a father, with huge humility, with great simplicity, with great empathy, with great understanding of the church.”
Among the other topics discussed was the positive state of Catholicism in Poland, particularly in the sense that “people are still firmly beside their belief, they visit the churches and receive the sacraments,” Archbishop Budzik stated.
Despite the fact that there are not “sufficient priestly vocations,” the archbishop noted that there are “more than” there were “ten years ago,” and that there are “also signs of activity of the laity.”
Calling to mind how the bishops at one point asked the pontiff if he was tired after speaking to them so often that week, he recalled that Pope Francis said “No, because you bring me good news!”
Today there are roughly “2.5 million people in the Church” who engage in various “movements and groups,” the archbishop explained, which is a strong sign of life, although there are still the “problems that we spoke about” earlier.
Voicing his greatest hope for the fruits of this visit, Archbishop Budzik expressed that the bishops seek to “find out the universal Church’s proper perspective in order to proclaim the Gospel with joy, as the Holy Father Francis has asked us.”
Palai, India, Feb 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
At their plenary assembly held Feb. 5-12, the Indian bishops discussed pastoral challenges in the nation and continuing the implementation of the Second Vatican Council.
At the conclusion of the assembly, Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Syro-Malankarese Major Archbishop of Trivandrum, was elected as president of the Indian bishops’ conference. He succeeds Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, who served as conference president for four years.
The assembly was held in Palai, in the south-west Indian state of Kerala, and was called “Renewed Church for a Renewed Society: Responding to the Call of Vatican II,” and focused four documents from the council.
The four were Lumen Gentium, on the Church; Ad Gentes, on the Church’s mission activity; Gaudium et Spes, on the Church in the modern world; and Apostolicam Actuositatem, on the apostolate of the laity.
The meeting, which is held every other year, gathered 185 bishops from India’s 167 dioceses, who represent not only the Latin rite, but also the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, both of which are native to India.
At the opening Mass of the assembly, India’s apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, emphasized the renewal of the Church as a sure path to greater faithfulness to Christ and the gospel, recalling Pope Francis and noting that Church renewal must be oriented to missioning.
During the meeting, Cardinal Gracias referred to Bl. John XXIII’s exhortation at the opening of Vatican II to bishops that they be holy, so that in turn priests and laity will also be holy. He also referred to the documents of Vatican II as the source for reflection for the renewal of the Church and society in India.
Archbishop Albert D’Souza of Agra reported on interreligious dialogue in the nation, saying it is “essential in order to achieve the evangelizing mission of the Church.”
The bishops attended a presentation on Apostolicam Actuositatem given by Alexander Jacob, director general of police in Kerala. Jacob discussed, from his own experience, what committed Catholic laymen can do in society to witness to their faith in Christ.
Cardinal George Alencherry, Syro-Malabarese Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, discussed during a homily the problem of Catholics becoming “disinterested in the life of the Church” or leaving it altogether, adding that the Church needs more people of committed faith and living witness.
The host of the assembly, Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt of the Syro-Malabarese Diocese of Palai, wrote that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India “reflects and deliberates on issues invariably related to Christian values and the people of India at large,” adding that the bishops are characterized by “openness to the people.”
“The quintessence of CBCI is unity in diversity,” he continued. “Despite the enormous cultural, linguistic, ecclesial and traditional diversities and divergences of the regions and the churches represented by the bishops in this vast subcontinent of India, CBCI envisages weaving a myriad fabric of harmony and unity.”
Bishop Kallarangatt also noted the Church’s work for justice, including a preferential option for the poor and its defense of Dalits “and other oppressively marginalized sections of society.”
In their conclusions, the bishops wrote that “the Church, following in the footsteps of Christ, cannot close its eyes to the suffering and injustice that penalize the poor, marginalized, and excluded.”
New York City, N.Y., Feb 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A recent United Nations report criticizing the Catholic Church on sex abuse and its moral teachings should be understood in the context of efforts to diminish the Vatican’s pro-life influence at the U.N., a scholar has said.
Anne Hendershott, a Franciscan University of Steubenville sociology professor, said Feb. 10 in Crisis Magazine that the U.N. will likely continue its abortion advocacy, efforts to expand contraception access, and efforts to normalize homosexuality.
“The Catholic Church is one of the few remaining barriers to this expansion,” she said. “There will be continued attacks and the Church needs to prepare for them as the United Nations will continue to attempt to diminish the authority of the Church by resurrecting old clergy abuse cases and inflating statistics on past misdeeds by priests.”
She said the Holy See has been “the major barrier” to U.N. advocacy of worldwide abortion and contraception distribution and there are efforts to “diminish the influence of the Church on life issues.”
In a Feb. 5 report, the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child claimed that the Vatican had “systematically” adopted policies allowing priests to rape and molest children. The report said the Church should open its files on previous cases of abuse. It criticized Catholic teaching on abortion, contraception and homosexuality. The report also advocated changes in Catholic doctrine on life and sexuality.
The report drew significant media coverage and critical responses from the Holy See’s representatives.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, who heads the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations in Geneva, said that the report was in some ways outdated and ignored recent efforts to prevent abuse. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the committee appeared to exceed its boundaries and gave disproportional attention to organizations with “well-known” anti-Catholic prejudices.
Hendershott, who has written extensively on the politics of abortion, said it was likely that the report was “payback” for Catholic opposition to abortion and contraception.
Citing Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, she said the Catholic Church’s successful work to block a “right to abortion” at the 1994 U.N. Population Fund Cairo conference has thwarted the work of the Population Fund, the Norwegian government, and other abortion advocates like Catholics for Choice.
The Population Fund works with governments to expand abortion and contraception access. It has drawn significant support from wealthy sources like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Catholics for Choice, a group backed by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, in 1999 led an effort to remove the Holy See as a permanent observer at the U.N. That effort drew significant resistance and had no support from any U.N. member states, though the group has recently re-launched the effort.
Hendershott suggested it is time for the Catholic Church and the Catholic laity to “stand up to the bullying by the various committees of the United Nations” and expose the U.N.’s “real agenda” of abortion and contraception expansion while defending the Church as the “true protector of children.”
“While the Church was unable to convince all countries – including the United States – of the evils of abortion, the Vatican, as a sovereign state, continues to play an important role at the negotiating table in areas in which the Church has a stake in helping to ensure the right to life and the dignity of the person,” she said.
Princeton, N.J., Feb 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A nationwide campaign leading up to Valentine’s Day is encouraging college students to seek meaningful relationships and develop a healthy understanding of love and sexuality.
Young men and women today truly “want a love story,” said Caitlin Seery, director of the Love and Fidelity Network.
Surveys consistently show that “college men and women still aspire to get married someday, even if ‘someday’ is still several years in the future,” she told CNA, adding that even in college, researchers have found “that very few students, when given privacy to speak honestly, are satisfied with the hook-up culture.”
Unfortunately, Seery explained, “between the carnage of the campus hook-up culture and the broader cultural breakdown of the family, these young men and women have seen so few examples of successful stories – and so many examples of broken relationships and marriages – that too few students today even believe this kind of a love story is possible.”
“We hope our campaign helps them start to believe that it is.”
Based in Princeton, N.J., the Love and Fidelity Network works on dozens of college campuses across the country to promote the unique roles of marriage and family in society, as well as the integrity of human sexuality.
This is the seventh year that the network is planning a campaign to offer an alternative to the “hookup culture” and sexual revolution mindset among college students. It hopes to instead encourage an understanding of authentic commitment-based love and the dignity of human sexuality.
The initiative involves placing thousands of posters on college campuses throughout the U.S. in the days leading up to Feb. 14. In addition, students are encouraged to spread the campaign’s message through social media efforts, editorials, resources, speakers and other campus events.
“For too many students, Valentine’s Day on campus means being bombarded with messages that promote commitment-free hookups and distort the true meaning of human sexuality,” Seery said in a Feb. 7 press release.
“Sex Week and condom giveaways are common features of mid-February campus programming, and we think students deserve better than that.”
“Sex Week” events surrounding Valentine’s Day have become notorious on college campuses for their vulgar components, including seminars featuring sex therapists and pornography actors, lewd film festivals, gay advocacy and promotion of sexual experimentation.
To counter this message, the Love and Fidelity Network is focusing its efforts this year on the theme of “#love: Make Yours a Story, Not a Tweet.”
The organization explained that its goal is to show how the “hookup culture” can degrade the authentic pursuit for love, reducing it to “superficial and depersonalized interactions.”
“This year’s theme highlights the rich and unique nature of authentic love, something that is missing from casual encounters,” Seery explained, adding that the campaign is seeking to “spark dialogue and inspire students to think more deeply about what it means to write their own story.”
Vatican City, Feb 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his daily homily Pope Francis encouraged all present to pursue God rather than their own passions, noting how the Old Testament figure Solomon “lost his faith” to idolatry despite being wise.
“His heart was weakened, it was weakened and he lost faith. He lost faith. The wisest man in the world has left in order to pursue an indiscreet love, without discretion,” the Pope said Feb. 13.
Addressing those gathered in the Vatican's Saint Martha guesthouse, the pontiff began his homily by recalling the Gospel reading taken from Mark in which a Cananite woman begs Jesus to heal her daughter, who was possessed by a demon.
Highlighting how the days readings make us think in a “twofold” way of both the “idolatry of the living God” and the “the living God of idolatry,” the Pope drew attention to the “courageous” woman who, although she is a pagan, asks Jesus for this favor.
“A mother in front of the health of a child, does everything,” he observed, drawing attention to the harsh way in which Jesus tells her that he came first “to the sheep of Israel” when he says “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
This woman “who had certainly not gone to college, she knew how to respond,” noted the Pope, adding that she responded “not with her intelligence, but with her mother's womb, with her love.”
In pleading with Jesus and saying that “even the dogs eat what falls from the table,” she was “not ashamed” of her faith, the pontiff explained, and Jesus gave her “a miracle.”
“She was exposed to the risk of making a bad impression, but she insisted, and from paganism and idolatry she found health for her daughter and for her she found the living God.”
“This is the path of a person of good will, that searches for God and finds him. The Lord blesses,” the Pope emphasized, commenting that “how many people make this journey and the Lord waits!”
However, he observed that “it is the same Holy Spirit that leads us forward to making this journey,” and that “every day in the Church of the Lord there are people that make this journey, silently, to find the Lord, because they let themselves be carried forward by the Holy spirit.”
Reflecting on the opposite attitude, the Pope turned his attention to Soloman, the son of David, in the first reading, who was the “wisest man on Earth” and who had “universal fame,” stating that he was “a believer in God, but what happened?”
Slowly he let his heart be “diverted” from God by women and by his concubines, the pontiff said, noting how “these women weakened” Solomans heart so that it was no longer just, like his father.
“The wisest man in the world has left in order to pursue an indiscreet love, without discretion; he left to pursue his own passions,” the Pope said.
Although some might say “But father, Soloman didn't lose his faith, he believed in God and was able to recite the Bible,” the Pope responded: “Yes, it’s true, but to have faith does not mean to be able to recite the Creed. You can recite the Creed having lost faith.”
Observing how Solomon was just as much of a sinner as his father David, Pope Francis explained that the difference between the two is that Solomon allowed himself to be “corrupted” by vanity, while David “was humble and asked for forgiveness.”
“The evil seed of his passions grew in Solomon's heart and he was brought to idolatry,” the pontiff repeated, calling to mind the “beautiful advice” given in the hymn of the Alleluia “'Welcome the Word with docility' – with docility – 'many the Word that was planted in you bring you to Salvation.'”
Concluding his homily, the Pope encouraged all present to “make this journey with that Canaanite woman, that pagan woman, accepting the Word of God, that was planted in us, and that will bring us to salvation.”
“May the Word of God, powerful, guard us on this path,” he said, “and not permit that we end up in the corruption that leads us to idolatry.”
New York City, N.Y., Feb 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
'Pro-life advocates say the portrayal of pregnancy care centers in the film “Gimme Shelter” should inspire concrete action to support pregnant women in crisis pregnancies, and their children.
“I think more than anything, the film gives the viewers pause to look at their own lives and see how they can make a difference,” Molly O'Connor, communications director at the New York-based Chiaroscuro Foundation, told CNA Feb. 13.
“We should work to ensure that our parishes, our schools, and community organizations provide an overwhelming message of support for both mother and child.”
“Gimme Shelter” focuses on Agnes “Apple” Bailey, portrayed by Vanessa Hudgens. Apple, whose character is based on a real person, is a pregnant 16-year-old who runs away from her abusive mother. She lives on the New Jersey streets, sleeping in unlocked cars and eating out of dumpsters.
After a car accident lands her in the hospital, a Catholic priest played by James Earl Jones visits Apple and challenges her to begin a new life. He directs her to find help at a local pregnancy shelter. Initially resistant, Apple agrees. At the shelter she finds hope, security, and sisterhood in preparing to become a mother.
The film was inspired by the work of Kathy DiFiore, who founded New Jersey’s Several Sources Shelters in the 1980s. The shelters offer assistance to the poor and marginalized, especially at-risk pregnant women who need a safe place to prepare for motherhood and to raise their children.
Alveda King, director of African-American outreach with Priests for Life, said the movie shows the work that pro-life advocates do.
“We really desire to help people, to help families,” she said Feb. 13.
She thought it was “absolutely beautiful” that the movie showed a pregnancy care center that also houses the pregnant women and girls.
“Pregnancy care centers deserve attention and help. If people in our communities want to help to rescue women and their babies, to build strong families, one of the best ways to do that is to support our local pregnancy care centers.”
O’Connor concurred, saying, “Just like Kathy DiFiore, we can look to see how our own talents, resources, and experiences best equip us to fill this need.”
She added that “Gimme Shelter” helps remind viewers that women like Apple Bailey and their babies are “more than just a statistic.”
Hudgens' performance as Apple has won praise from movie critics such as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Cary Darling, who said she captures “both the defiance and fear of a girl at this life crossroads.”
Some scenes, such as when Apple and other shelter residence break into the shelter office to read their files, are “revealing and touching without being histrionic,” said Darling.
O’Connor said the film “does a great job of letting Kathy DiFiore’s work speak for itself.”
“Kathy's personal experiences inspired her to open these centers in New Jersey and affect the lives of many young women.”
O'Connor's work at the Chiaroscuro Foundation involves raising awareness about high abortion rates in New York City. There are over 73,800 abortions each year in the city – some 40 percent of viable pregnancies there. In some areas, abortions outnumber live births.
She said it is difficult to get accurate abortion data in New Jersey, the setting of “Gimme Shelter,” because reporting requirements are among the “least stringent.”
O'Connor added that it is “critical” to give more prominence to pregnancy centers.
“The more we as local communities are aware of them and their work, the more we can get pregnancy centers staffed with pro-life medical personnel for prenatal and maternity care, as well as equipped for counseling.”
“Imagine how effective our pregnancy centers would be if more people were aware of their great work and contributed their financial resources and talents to it.”
King noted that pregnancy centers are already numerous. “Today, there are more pregnancy care centers in America than there are abortion killing centers.”
“I think that’s wonderful.”
Washington D.C., Feb 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholics across the U.S. are joining in a celebration of National Marriage Week to promote the sacrament and vocation upon which society is built.
“National Marriage Week provides an opportunity for the Church, and for the entire nation, to affirm and support married couples and to promote the vocation and sacrament of marriage,” said Bethany J. Meola, assistant director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.
The week, she told CNA, is a chance “for the Church to remind married couples of the dignity of their vocation” and to reassure them “that the Church is in their corner and provides numerous supports for them.”
The U.S. Bishops are inviting Catholics to observe National Marriage Week from Feb. 7 to 14, joining with Catholics around the globe in celebrations for World Marriage Day, held on Feb. 9.
National Marriage Week has been celebrated in the United States since 2002, springing out of Marriage Week International and World Marriage Day.
At the week's conclusion, Pope Francis will hold an audience with engaged couples, entitled “The Joy of Yes Forever.”
In the United States, the week includes a variety of initiatives to advance marriage, including the “For Your Marriage” and “Por Tu Matrimonio” websites, which offer marriage and relationship advice to couples, as well as “Marriage, Unique for a Reason,” which explains the purpose of marriage in society.
In addition, the bishops are hosting a virtual marriage retreat during the week, presenting daily themes for reflection, meditation and spiritual nourishment.
In a Jan. 17 letter to the bishops of the United States, Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo praised the week's role in helping to “promote and strengthen marriage both as a natural institution” and as a sacrament.
Bishop Malone, who chairs the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, stressed the need to recognize the proper role and value of marriage in the modern world.
“Marriage and the family face many challenges in our contemporary society,” he said, pointing to threats ranging from pornography to political attempts to redefine marriage.
He urged the bishops to remember “that in the midst of ongoing challenges, there are always opportunities to proclaim the Gospel more clearly,” pointing toward the upcoming Extraordinary Synod on the Family to take place in Rome in October 2014.
Meola explained that marriage is essential both because it is a vocation and “the first form of communion between persons.” Marriage, she said, “is the foundation of the family, which is the building block of society,” and faithful, fruitful married love “provides stability to society, and especially to a couple’s children.”
As a vocation, she added, marriage “reveals in a unique way the human person’s call to love, to give oneself completely to another person in mutual and lasting fidelity.” This loving fidelity is “bolstered by divine grace,” revealing “Christ’s self-sacrificial love for His Church” in the sacrament of matrimony.
She also pointed to the importance of marriage preparation, which “is an opportunity for the Church to say to each couple very personally that their marriage matters enough to invest time and resources into making it strong, healthy, and holy.”
These marriage preparation programs provide not only practical communication and financial skills, but instruction on marriage's sacramental nature.
Meola stressed that this focus “helps couples understand what their mission and identity will be as a married couple and the importance of keeping God at the center of their marriage.”