Archive of May 15, 2014

Warren Buffett’s billion-dollar abortion funding draws fire

Washington D.C., May 15, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pro-life advocates have drawn attention to a report showing that businessman Warren Buffett’s charitable foundation has given more than $1.2 billion to abortion providers and advocacy groups.

Buffett is “ensuring the destruction of millions of children worldwide,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told the Media Research Center’s Culture and Media Institute.

She characterized Buffett as the “sugar daddy of the entire pro-abortion movement.”

Buffett, chairman of the Berkshire Hathaway investment company, is one of the wealthiest men in the world; his estimated wealth peaked at $62 billion in 2008.

The Culture and Media Institute uncovered the details of Buffett’s abortion funding by examining tax forms for the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which Warren Buffett heads. The foundation has several billion dollars in assets, and is named for his deceased first wife and was previously called the Buffett Foundation.

The institute’s report, drawing on forms for the years 2001 to 2012, found that Buffett’s foundation has given over $289 million to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S.

Another $211 million went to U.K.-based Marie Stopes International, $85 million to the National Abortion Federation, $29 million to the Guttmacher Institute, and $24 million to NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The foundation has given over $32 million to EngenderHealth, which performs sterilizations in Vietnam.  Another $23 million has gone to the Population Council, which helped begin the clinical trials to win FDA approval of mifepristone, an abortifacient drug.

The foundation provided millions of dollars to Catholics for a Free Choice, now known as Catholics for Choice; the U.S. bishops' conference has said that the organization is not a Catholic organization, and promotes positions contrary to Catholic teaching.

The Culture and Media Institute said that of the 545 stories about Buffet and interviews with him on ABC, CBS and NBC since 2001, only one mentioned his link to abortion funding.

Lila Rose, president of the pro-life advocacy group Live Action, said the funding of abortion groups is a “huge scandal,” suggesting that Buffett’s business could be damaged if his abortion funding became better known.

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Russian prison chaplain witnesses stories of conversion, hope

Moscow, Russia, May 15, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Despite its challenges, prison ministry in the Russian Federation is an important apostolate, changing lives and leading to conversions, a local Orthodox priest recounted to a Catholic charity.

“When we started our pastoral work in the prison in 1998 we only had a small room in the washhouse to pray in,” Fr. Igor Pokrovskij recently told Aid to the Church in Need.

“Six months later a group of them already met separately for morning and evening prayers. When I came on Sunday to celebrate the Holy Liturgy they had prepared themselves for confession and Holy Communion during the week by fasting and praying.”

The Orthodox priest, who has been doing prison ministry in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia’s fifth-largest city, for 16 years, described his efforts to establish a chapel at the local prison. In that time, he has baptized nearly 400 inmates.

“We bought some paint and coated the walls. Prisoners who were artistically talented then painted icons on the walls. In a separate chamber I heard confession.”

“I soon noticed many changes in the souls.”

The prisoners are responsible for maintenance of the chapel, requiring dedication and dependability.

While some prisoners attend pastoral care simply for advantages in the prison, many of Fr. Pokrovskij’s penitents have converted, have been released, and now have families and attend Liturgy regularly.

“We had someone here from a local authority who was serving time for corruption,” he told Aid to the Church in Need. “He had previously been hostile to the Church. If someone wanted to build a place of worship in his district, he would refuse permission.”

Yet now that he has been released, the man attends Liturgy regularly, the priest reported.

Fr. Pokrovskij also recounted one of his parishioners, Aleksandr, “who was converted in prison.”

“He married, moved to a village, now has three children and every year at Christmas he brings me two geese.”

The biggest challenge in prison ministry, he said, is encouraging the imprisoned to confess their guilt so that they can convert.

“I say to them: ‘I am God's witness, not a public prosecutor. I have the authority to absolve you of your sins in His name. But to enable me to do this you must confess your guilt before God. This is essential if your soul is to be healed from sin.’”

Despite this, the brokenness in the lives of prisoners can make them the most receptive to grace and to God, Fr. Pokrovskij said.

“In fact many people who have offended are well disposed towards the Church. In my experience, in their sin they think a lot about the meaning of life. People whose lives run smoothly often think they don't need God.”

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A Christian without the Church is purely idealistic, Pope says

Vatican City, May 15, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis reflected in his daily Mass on how the apostles evangelized by first telling the history of God’s people, explaining that it’s impossible to understand a Christian without this association.
“You cannot understand a Christian outside of the people of God. The Christian is not a monad,” but “belongs to a people: the Church,” the Pope observed in his May 15 homily.

“A Christian without a church is something purely idealistic, it is not real.”

Beginning by looking to the first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, the Roman Pontiff addressed those gathered in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse by recalling how when Paul preached in Antioch, he did so by first recounting the whole of Israel’s salvation history.

“Jesus does not make sense without this history” because he “is the end of this story, (the end) toward which this story goes, toward which it walks,” he noted, so “you cannot understand a Christian outside of the people of God.”

“You cannot understand a Christian alone, just like you cannot understand Jesus Christ alone” the Pope went on to say, explaining that “Jesus Christ did not fall from the sky like a superhero who comes to save us.”

“No. Jesus Christ has a history. And we can say, and it is true, that God has a history because He wanted to walk with us. And you cannot understand Jesus Christ without His history.”

Pope Francis then described how a Christian without a history, a nation or the Church “is incomprehensible,” saying that it’s “a thing of the laboratory, an artificial thing, a thing that cannot give life.”

Drawing attention to the importance of remembering this “dimension of history,” the Bishop of Rome observed that a Christian is “a living memory of his people’s journey, he is the living memory of his Church.”

“Then, where is this people going? Toward the ultimate promise. It is a people walking toward fullness; a chosen people which has a promise for the future and walks toward this promise, toward the fulfillment of this promise.”

In order to do this Christians within the Church must be men and women “with hope: hope in the promise,” the Pope went on, noting that “It is not expectation: no, no! That’s something else: It is hope.”

“Right, on we go! (Toward) that which does not disappoint.”

Explaining how a Christian is also someone who remembers, the pontiff encouraged all present to “seek the grace of memory, always” so that by doing so and also looking forward with hope they might be a Christian who “follows the path of God and renews the covenant with God.”

This type of Christian constantly tells the Lord “Yes, I want the commandments, I want your will, I will follow you” he continued, adding that “He is a man of the covenant, and we celebrate the covenant, every day” in the Mass, therefore a Christian is “a woman, a man of the Eucharist.”

Concluding his reflections, Pope Francis encouraged all present to “think about our Christian identity,” stating that “Our Christian identity is belonging to a people: the Church.”

“Without this, we are not Christians” he observed, noting how “we entered the Church through baptism: there we are Christians.”

“For this reason, we should be in the habit of asking for the grace of memory, the memory of the journey that the people of God has made,” the pontiff said, and “also of personal memory: What God did for me, in my life, how has he made me walk…”

Praying, the Roman Pontiff asked “for the grace of hope, which is not optimism: no, no! It's something else,” and asked “for the grace to renew the covenant with the Lord who has called us every day.”

“May the Lord give us these three graces, which are necessary for the Christian identity.”

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Pope Francis decries arms trade as hindrance to peace

Vatican City, May 15, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Upon receiving the credentials of seven new ambassadors to the Holy See, Pope Francis urged the diplomats to work for peace, particularly by the eradication of the arms trade and forced migration due to conflict.

“It would be an absurd contradiction to speak about peace, to negotiate peace, and at the same time promote and permit the arms trade,” the Pope told the new ambassadors in his May 15 address.

Pope Francis directed his words to Pierre Yves Fux of Switzerland, Rudolf P. von Balimoos of Liberia, Nega Tsegaye Tessema of Ethiopia, Nasreldin Ahmed Wali Abdeltif of Sudan, Margaret Ann Louise Jobson of Jamaica, Claudinah Ntini Ramosepele of South Africa and Mysore Kapanalah Lokesh of India upon the official presentation of their letters of accreditation.

In his speech to the diplomats the pontiff observed how the word peace “summarizes all the assets to which every person and all human societies aspire,” and that “It is a target that is never fully reached, and that must be continually sought after by every generation, facing the challenges presented in every age.”

“Everyone talks about peace” and “everyone claims to want it,” the pontiff observed, but “the proliferation of weapons of every type leads in the opposite direction.”

Noting how the arms trade both complicates and distances us from finding solutions to conflicts, especially because “it takes place to a great extent outside the boundaries of the law,” the Pope expressed his hope that they would be able to join together in the effort to fighting the exchange.

“We can unite our voices in expressing hope that the international community may make new, concerted and courageous efforts against the proliferation of weapons and to promote their reduction,” he said.

Pointing out another challenge which often prevents the construction of peace, the Roman Pontiff lamented the trend of forced migration, which “unfortunately takes on, in certain regions and in certain moments, the nature of a full-blown human tragedy.”

Acknowledging the complexity of the issue and giving recognition to efforts which are already being made by the international community, Pope Francis cautioned that “we cannot limit ourselves to reacting to emergencies.”

“The moment has arrived” to face this growing phenomenon “with a serious and responsible political outlook, involving all levels” he said, “global, continental, macro-regional, in relations between nations, and finally at national and local levels.”

Drawing attention to the “marvelous cases of humanity, of welcome, of encounter” where “people and families have succeeded in leaving behind these inhuman situations and have rediscovered dignity, freedom and security,” the Roman Pontiff explained that there are still other cases “that make us weep for shame.”

“Human beings, our brothers and sisters, children of God who, inspired by the wish to live and work in peace, face harrowing journeys and are subjected to blackmail, torture and harassment of every kind, and at times end up dying in the desert or at the bottom of the sea.”

This issue, he continued, is “closely linked to conflicts and wars, and therefore also to the problem of the proliferation of weapons.”

Referring to these topics as “the wounds of a world that is our world, in which God has placed us to live today,” the Pope reminded the ambassadors how God “calls us to be responsible for our brothers and sisters.”

“We could also consider it to be in a certain sense cynical to proclaim human rights and at the same time ignore or fail to take account of the men and women who, forced to leave their homeland, die in the attempt or are not welcomed by international solidarity,” he said.

Bringing his comments to a close, Pope Francis assured the new ambassadors and their countries of the Holy See’s “firm resolve” to continue collaboration in taking “steps forward in these areas and along all the roads that lead to justice and peace, on the basis of universally recognized human rights.”

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Pornography faulted as a root of human trafficking

Washington D.C., May 15, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - An expert in combating human trafficking urged congressmen last week to focus their efforts against the scourge on reducing the demand for commercialized sex, including pornography.

Laila Mickelwait, manager of policy and public affairs for Exodus Cry, an international anti-human trafficking organization, told CNA May 9 that while it is important to “rescue and rehabilitate” victims of human trafficking, “work of prevention is the most important thing we can do in the fight against the global injustice of sexual slavery.”

She added that preventing people “from ever ending up in those exploited positions” would be “the greater victory.”

The “most critical component of sex trafficking prevention is reducing the demand for commercial sex,” Mickelwait noted.

Mickelwait had spoken at a May 7 presentation, hosted by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R- Ill.), a recently selected member of the Congressional Human Trafficking Task Force,  for congressmen and their staff.

Hultgren noted that the issue of human trafficking “extends even to our own backyards.”

“We cannot turn a blind eye to what’s going on in the shadows, and what is at the root cause of it” he stressed. “Learning about what exacerbates the problem of human trafficking is a difficult topic, but we must address the evidence before us. If we could save one child, one woman, one life, then our efforts would be worth it.”

Mickelwait’s presentation emphasized the enormity of the problem of  human trafficking - an industry that generates over $32 billion in crime each year and includes some 10-30 million people held in some form of “slavery” today, performing  a wide array of tasks including sexual slavery, forced or bonded labor, involuntary domestic service, child soldiering, and organ trafficking.

She added that while several forms of human trafficking occur in developing nations, sex trafficking occurs mostly in developing nations. Victims of sex trafficking are forced into the industry by a variety of means, including online recruitment, romantic interests or family members using their relationship to sell the victims, and abduction.

Mickelwait stressed that connection between the prostitution and sex trafficking industries.

“Sex trafficking and prostitution are linked,” she said, noting the connection between the legalization of prostitution, and an increase in human trafficking in a given area.

“In order to combat sex trafficking we must also reduce demand for prostitution.”

She noted that one of the most effective means of combating human trafficking is to decrease the demand for the commodification of sex. Pointing to Norway and Sweden, which have enacted laws “criminalizing the purchase, not the sale, of sex,” she noted the decrease not only in prostitution, but in the number of men who buy sex and a decrease in sex trafficking rates.

In further fighting sex trafficking, Mickelwait argued that laws and policy must focus on combating the “root cause” of pornography, because of its role in creating a demand for sex.

This demand is further commodified in society through advertisements and popular culture.

“Pornography is ubiquitous and self perpetuating,” Mickelwait offered, and results in a system that is “both creating and supplying demand for commercial sex and thus sex trafficking” through its addictive effects on the brain.

In addition, pornography is filmed prostitution and oftentimes human trafficking itself; she warned that victims of human trafficking are often recorded during sexual acts, such as in “live web cam pornography”, and that the growing medium of child pornography is always a form of sexual trafficking.

Quoting a former pornography filmer Donny Pauling, she explained that pornography “is not a whole lot different from human trafficking”, in that “you start seeing people for the amount of money that they could make you.”

Mickelwait also rejected the protection of pornography as a form of free speech, saying the medium is “increasing demand for commercial sex, trafficking through production and distribution and perpetuating a culture of complicity in commodifying women and children’s bodies.”

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