Archive of June 4, 2014

UN may risk a 'deficit of democracy', nuncio says

Vatican City, Jun 4, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy See’s envoy to the United Nations in Geneva has no doubt that the body is useful in the pursuit of the common good, but he also says it is important that law prevail over ideologies.

The U.N. system “is very complex and sometimes muddled,” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said in a May 30 interview with CNA.

This character, he added, “may present the risk of a deficit of democracy if experts replace states in making decisions.”

Archbishop Tomasi was responding to a question about the tendency of the U.N. Committee on the Convention Against Torture to highlight themes “which might strike some as only tenuously connected to the actual text and the intent of the Convention Against Torture,” as the permanent observer stressed in a May 4 press release.

As the Holy See’s permanent observer to the U.N.’s Geneva office, Archbishop Tomasi spoke at a May 6-7 hearing concerning the Holy See’s implementation of the Convention Against Torture.

The final observations were issued May 24 by the panel of 10 committee members. The observations emphasized that the Holy See had not violated the convention at any time.

But at the same time, the committee strongly criticized the Vatican’s response to sex abuse of minors by members of the clergy.

The committee also praised the Church for steps taken over the last decade to combat sex abuse, including recent establishment of a Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The committee’s recommendations also included a request to modify agreements with states; they asked for the extradition of Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who was apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic until his August resignation, when accusations of his sexual misconduct against a minor came to light.

Archbishop Wesolowski is under investigation by both the Vatican the Dominican Republic, and the Vatican has already stated its willingness to hand him over to Dominican civil authorities if requested to do so.

Furthermore, the committee asked that the Holy See provide data on the collaboration of priests worldwide with civil authorities.

The requests show that the committee deems the Holy See to be directly responsible for any crime perpetrated by priests throughout the world, and that it tends to treat the Holy See not as a sovereign state, but rather as a non-governmental organization.

According to Archbishop Tomasi, “experts often do not distinguish the way the Holy See fulfills its responsibilities.”

“For what concerns the Convention against Torture, the Holy See ratified it in 2002 solely for Vatican City State, and no state made an objection to this.”

The nuncio explained that “on the other hand, the Holy See carries on a universal pastoral mission which shares the Convention Against Torture’s principle and goals,” and fosters them “with its teaching in the vast network of schools it manages in the world.”

The Holy See “does not in any way interfere with the sovereignty of states,” he clarified. “These latter – according to international law – should judge people living in their territory when they commit a crime.”

In juridical and legal terms “the Holy See has an effective control” within the territory of Vatican City, while it does not have “a legal, effective control” on clergy living outside the Vatican; merely “a spiritual control exercised through canon law.”  

“This important distinction is not understood, or there is a will not to understand it,” Archbishop Tomasi underscored.

Archbishop Tomasi stressed that “the Church unequivocally condemns every form of sexual abuse and every violation of human dignity.”

According to Archbishop Tomasi, focusing solely on the Church when considering the sexual abuse of minors “risks being a poor service to the protection of minors. Consider that the World Health Organization data registers at least 40 million cases of sex abuse of minors every year.”

“We should rather converge all our efforts on protection of minors. The Holy See and the local Churches have taken effective measures and introduced a new culture of zero tolerance toward these crimes, and tangible attention to victims.”

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Gay multi-millionaire activist funds Catholics United

Denver, Colo., Jun 4, 2014 (CNA) - The Catholics United Education Fund, a Democrat-leaning advocacy group which began criticizing Church opposition to same-sex “marriage” in 2012, received most of its operational budget that year from a gay activist foundation run by influential multi-millionaire Tim Gill.

“I would say it is very obvious that Mr. Gill does not agree with the Catholic Church and Her teachings on the issues of homosexuality and marriage,” Jennifer Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, told CNA May 29.

“His attitude toward the Church on these issues is definitely one of extreme disagreement.”

Tax forms show the Colorado-based Gill Foundation made a $100,000 grant to the Catholics United Education Fund in 2012 for “general operating support.” The Catholics United Education Fund’s tax forms show that its entire revenue for that year totaled $111,819. The Gill Foundation’s 2012 annual report lists the education fund grant in its “communications projects” section.

The Gill Foundation’s founder and chairman, Tim Gill, is former CEO of the software publishing company Quark, Inc. Gill has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into charitable donations and political activism to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) causes.

At a 2008 meeting of the Democratic National Convention’s LGBT Caucus, Gill told delegates from around the U.S. to target their political donations to where they will most likely change the outcome of elections, at the state or local level, in order to stop the careers of their political opponents at an early stage.

He urged activism to ensure Democratic control of state legislatures and to win “the battle for the soul of the Republican Party.”
Gill’s targeted spending and alliance-building work have been credited with helping change the political landscape in his home state of Colorado, in addition to several other states. He has also backed “gay marriage” advocacy across the U.S.

Kraska told CNA that Gill is a “culture warrior” in the sense that “he has a very clearly stated goal to change culture to become accepting of gays and lesbians and he is using his power, influence and money to enact that cultural change.”

She said that the acceptance of the grant gives the perception that Catholics United “shares a common goal with the Gill Foundation and does not have any issues with positions and activities the Gill Foundation is involved with that are in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Church.”

“Likewise I would find it hard to believe that the Gill Foundation would give that much money to an organization that was operating with goals and objectives completely contrary to their own.”

Catholics United had largely avoided openly challenging Church teaching on marriage until October 2012, when it attacked the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, for supporting ballot measures to defend the legal definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

Catholics United claimed the Knights of Columbus, which has 1.8 million members in 14,000 councils worldwide, was funding a “far-right political agenda” against “marriage equality.”

However, the Knights have been following the lead of the Catholic bishops, including their Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who specifically urged the defense of marriage in a November 2012 essay in Columbia magazine. In an August 2013 message, Pope Francis invited the Knights of Columbus “to bear witness to the authentic nature of marriage and the family.”

“The main thing to know about Catholics United is that they have a history of taking and advocating for positions that are direct contradiction to the bishops and Church teaching,” Kraska told CNA.

Catholics United continued to promote “gay marriage” in a March 2013 press release claiming that those who oppose the legal recognition for same-sex unions lack biblical support. On May 27, 2014, it criticized a Catholic high school in Georgia for firing a teacher who had posted to Facebook his intention to “marry” someone of the same-sex.

The organization appears to be following the lead of well-funded groups in other Christian denominations.

John S. A. Lomperis, United Methodist director at the Institute for Religion and Democracy, told CNA June 2 there is a pattern of the major “very wealthy gay rights organizations,” including the Gill Foundation, working to pursue “major, concerted efforts to engineer ‘hostile takeovers’ of American religious communities for their agenda.”  

“Thus, some of the most powerful secular political forces in America have been pouring significant amounts of money and energy into attempts to internally influence America’s churches.”

He pointed to the Gill Foundation’s support for the Movement Advancement Project, which in 2006 convened a coalition of major LGBT groups “to plot pro-gay strategy within various North American denominations.”

The Gill Foundation’s 2006 annual report said this project conducted a study that “detailed work underway in denominations, seminaries, clergy coalitions and media to counter religious opposition.” The report noted the project’s collaboration with the Arcus Foundation in “funding work involving religion and values.”

The Arcus Foundation, founded by billionaire LGBT activist Jon Stryker, is a known donor to groups that campaign against Catholic teaching, including Dignity USA, New Ways Ministry and the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual.

“These are secular, political organizations with little interest in things like helping people become disciples of Jesus Christ,” Lomperis said. “But they understand that Christian churches in America are the last significant bulwark of dissent from their social agenda.”

The first reported incident of cooperation between Catholics United and the Gill Foundation appears to have taken place in April 2012, when Catholics United groups protested the withdrawal of a Catholic Campaign for Human Development grant to the Colorado-based immigrant aid group Companeros.

The Catholic campaign – an initiative of the U.S. bishops – withdrew the grant because the immigrant aid group maintained membership in a coalition that supports the legal recognition of homosexual relationships.

The Gill Foundation subsequently gave a $30,000 matching grant to the immigration aid group while Catholics United Education Fund gave $7,000.

Catholics United expanded into Colorado in 2012, adding a state chapter. In April 2014, the national group’s website announced that its education fund is seeking to hire a full time organizer in Pennsylvania to organize “social justice Catholics who are willing to engage in the public debate on social justice issues, especially as it relates to LGBT equality, labor solidarity, environmental protection, and immigrant rights.”

The organization claimed 50,000 members as of 2014.

Catholics United was founded in 2005. As a 501(c)(4) organization, it may participate in political campaigns under tax law. It had total revenue in 2012 of about $150,000, slightly more than its 501(c)(3) education fund.

Both Catholics United groups are headed by James M. Salt. CNA contacted Salt for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.

Lomperis said that even without groups acting as “outside agitators,” his denomination would still have LGBT activism “from a minority of United Methodists.”

“But these internal dissenters’ efforts to undermine the church’s faith and morals from within would not have been nearly as powerful if they did not enjoy the generosity of their secular allies in the form of direct donations, strategic and media assistance, and other ‘in-kind’ support.”

He noted the Gill Foundation-backed Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation provided communications and media support for an LGBT activist Methodist coalition at the United Methodist Church’s 2012 General Conference, the denomination’s global policymaking gathering.

Lomperis said the tactics of Catholics United appear to be somewhat different.

“They seem to be savvy enough to recognize that the Church’s official teaching, for a global one billion members, is not going to be changed by a bunch of outside agitation in one country. But there seems to be an effort to change the ‘public teaching’ of the Church.”

While the Church’s official teaching might remain the same, he said, activist tactics “seem to basically intimidate, bully, and put all kinds of emotional pressure to silence bishops and other parachurch Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus.”

He suggested that Catholics United and like-minded groups have tried “to do everything they can” to “pressure and undermine” Catholic organizations, to deter them from “any efforts to support traditional Christian teachings on issues like sexual morality or the sanctity of human life.”

Catholics United has also been involved in election issues.

Ahead of the 2012 elections, Catholics United wrote to priests in Florida saying it was monitoring alleged illegal political activity in churches. Salt, the group’s executive director, claimed there had been “numerous IRS violations” in local Catholic parishes. The group claimed to have recruited “a network of local volunteers to monitor parishes and document the nature of all partisan activity taking place there.”

The Gill Foundation grant is the second-largest publicly-recorded grant that Catholics United groups has received, according to a CNA analysis.

The Gill Foundation’s tax forms for 2012 also show a $25,000 grant to the media strategy group Faith in Public Life’s “Faithful America” project. The project has organized petitions protesting individual U.S. bishops’ comments.

The Gill Foundation declined to comment to CNA.

CORRECTION 3:04 PM MST June 5, 2014: A previous version of this article erroneously identified Faith in Public Life’s “Faithful America” with a group with the same name that is is sponsored by the CEL Education Fund. That group is currently leading a petition campaign against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s new morals clause contract for teachers in its Catholic schools. CNA regrets the error.

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UK bishop: Defeat relativism with 'authentic humanism'

Portsmouth, England, Jun 4, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A leading bishop in the U.K. says that the modern, troubling view of humanity which stems from relativism is best countered by Christians living the Church's full vision of the human person.

Bishop Philip Egan has led the Diocese of Portsmouth on England's south coast along the Channel since the autumn of 2012, and has distinguished himself for his consistent efforts at teaching his flock and for his care for evangelization.

To learn more about his thought, I spoke to him by phone earlier this year. Over the course of our chat, he gave a compelling case for the need for Christians to present, as an alternative to the nihilism and relativism of contemporary culture, an “authentic humanism.”

Here follows a transcript of our conversation, edited for clarity.

Your excellency, I've been very edified by your efforts to teach in your diocese, with the number of pastoral letters you’ve issued of late; thank you for that.

You know, obviously, a bishop has three roles: the triple munera of sanctifying, teaching, and governing – being a pastor. But I think in this day and age, that role especially of proclaiming the Word and teaching is so critical. Not just for its own sake, because we have to proclaim the truth of Christ, but also because of the culture in which we live. In many ways I think the Church has a kind of therapeutic mission in contemporary culture, and the truth is what we have, and I think it’s important to proclaim it.

Here in the States we’re in the midst of legal battles in our courts around the funding of contraceptives, and the nature of marriage, and arguments are often made on the basis of religious freedom or freedom of conscience; but I think a firmer grounding for an argument would be appealing to the reasonableness of our positions.  

It is a very complex field, and I would have to say that I haven’t thought through all the elements of it; it’s sort of something we’re discovering as well, so there’s an element of trial and error. But particularly with the contraceptive thing, it’s a splitting of the procreative and the unitive. I can understand why someone could put forward the freedom of conscience and freedom of religion grounds. It’s a ground, a good ground, but often our arguments are cumulative. As Newman would speak of, they’re links in a chain; all the bits together form the strong argument.

It shows why we're preferring to put forward an alternative version of the human person, because I think ultimately that’s the issue. The secularism found in contemporary culture is a fertile breeding ground for a new conception of humanity – it’s sort of utilitarian anthropology, a new version of what it means to be human. And I think our task is to show that the Christian, the Catholic approach is the natural way of life, graced in Christ – which is the way to an authentic humanism, a true happiness; it’s a happy way, and this is the full vision of the human person.

In your address in March at King's College London, you said, “Christianity proposes an authentic humanism,” which I appreciate because the term humanism has been so co-opted, it's good for we Christians to realize that humanism is not a bad word.

I don't know that I want to be as strong as this, Carl, but when we say the Creed at Mass, 'we believe' – or 'I believe,' as we now say – but 'We believe in one God,' we really mean also, we believe in man, we believe in human beings, we believe in the full vision of the human person, redeemed in Christ, and that is the way to authentic happiness and the authentic humanism that we're speaking of now.

I think it's important to say 'authentic' humanism, but it's all there in St. Paul really: it's Christ the new Adam, it's the new man; it's 'Gaudium et spes': Christ is the perfect man, he is the model, or type, of the new creation, which we're called to. And by following that, it's an alternative anthropology to the kind of nihilism that underlies so much of contemporary culture.

Please don't misunderstand me in this, because I think we live in a wonderful world, and a fascinating world, a world of new discoveries, and a fascinating century now, the 21st century. Yes, there are many injustices and huge problems humanity needs to face, but I'm not wanting to say the world is bad, or contemporary culture is bad. Many of those secular values of course are derivative from underlying Christian values, but they're often distorted in different ways; so I'm not taking a sort of black-white approach here, but I am very anxious that little by little, we're moving into a new type of anthropology here in contemporary culture, a new vision of man that's very, very different from the tradition we'd received, and from what I’d call the natural way of life in Christ.

Have you read C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy?

I have; it's a little while ago, actually, but yes, I have; and I'm just re-reading 'Mere Christianity' by C.S. Lewis at the moment, and enjoying that.

What you said, about the new type of anthropology, reminded me of the trilogy, especially the last book -- and 'The Abolition of Man,' it’s a theme running through a number of his works, really.

Yes, yes, the thing with C.S. Lewis – and I know you're interested in apologetics – which I find very problematic, to be honest, is that at the time of C.S. Lewis and those mid-20th century apologists, they belonged to a culture in which there was 'common sense' which people went with; the phrase in England was 'the man on the Clapham omnibus' – the person you can speak to, appeal to; that everyone understands x or y, and everyone would agree with this or with that. But the problem, in a way, since the Second World War, but certainly since the 1960s – and we've got it over here in a big way – is the sheer globalization of pluralism, of contemporary western cultures, where there doesn't seem to be the common language anymore, whereas C.S. Lewis could appeal to something everyone knows, that we all agree with.

That makes apologetics today much more complex, and I'm not saying we can't do it, but the real apologetic is the authenticity, to use that word again, of the Christian witness. I think that speaks very strongly to people in the heart, it makes a big impact upon them. The 'gosh, that man or that woman, they believe what they say, and they live by it. There's something of the holy, something really genuine about them.' That can be very convincing. But written, rational apologetics is problematic, because the demise of faith is also the demise of reason.

In what sense?

Well I think in the postmodern thing, there is a lack of conviction, which has become popularized. Philosophers' ideas have filtered down onto the popularized level – that somehow the truth is now very relative. As you said before, the relativism, and the liberalism that comes with that, we can't appeal (against); even reason is no longer robust, because 'you say this, I say that,' and then someone says, 'well hang on, what about that …'

Now natural law: if I use a concept like natural law, as Catholics we probably agree on that, but all of a sudden it's impossible to talk about it outside Catholic discourse. You say it's natural for a man and a woman to get married, because the response is 'why can’t two men get married? I know someone, he fell in love with him, and she fell in love with her'; and they bring up all the exceptions, or they appeal to anthopologists, and say, 'well there’s a tribe in so-and-so that acted in that way.' It's quite difficult actually, even to use terms like natural law outside of Catholic discourse.

As a convert, having had no religious upbringing, it was that problem of relativism that drew me to objective truth and to the Catholic Church, so I always have trouble relating to this difficulty.

In a way you can't have faith without reason, which would be the Catholic position… But then I would also argue you can't have that conviction of truth in the way particularly Newman, and many of the great thinkers of Church history had it, without also having grace.

So we're back to the very things Pope Benedict was talking about, particularly here in the House of Commons in Parliament, and then the Regensburg lecture, and the Berlin Bundestag speech – some of that in the middle bit of the talk I gave at King's. So I think a passion for the truth is something graced, and as I was saying in the pastoral letter I put out to the diocese, the truth is always graced – when you speak the truth, it's laden with the Holy Spirit, piercing the heart of the listener, and wooing or inviting them to accept that truth. You can always refuse it, of course; the psalm has that: 'oh that today you would listen to his voice, harden not your heart.'

But if we speak the truth, and we do it lovingly, and gently, and appropriately, but also with conviction and prayer, there's always the hope that someone will actually accept it in their hearts; they might not do it there on the spot, but maybe later on, will actually hear that and appropriate it to themselves, and the words of God can transform that person.

Also in your address at King's College you mentioned the importance of developing an “effective Catholic apologetics,” and it reminded me of a series of posters made by Catholic Truth Society showing the importance of the faith in realms of scientific endeavor. Are those an example of what you mean by an effective apologetics?

I think that's excellent, yeah. There’s a series of booklets, it's a course for people becoming Catholic, but one of the pamphlets goes through in every chapter showing the impact on culture, on history, that Catholicism has had, including of course some of the greatest scientists. There is a kind of triumph of scientism, and scientific thinking, that’s captured us: that science gives us the truth, and it’s delivered all these wonderful advances; which of course we wouldn’t say it hasn't, but it’s only part of human knowing. So there’s a kind of epistemological argument that needs to be done; I think that would be part of apologetics too.

The thing I like about the posters you mentioned, is it's an example of capturing the imagination. I think that in the time of Pope John Paul, and the mid-to-late 20th century, there were big clashes of reason going on, but I'd say today, not only is that important, but also, who is capturing our imaginations? who is controlling our imaginations? how do we express the Gospel in a way that strikes the heart and captures the imagination and kindles good feelings? And of course as Catholics it’s been very difficult, with the abuse crisis and all of those things: lots of Catholics are hurting, and that makes it kind of a bit difficult really. So there’s an internal apologetics, as well as an external.

But I think there's a big thing about not only arguing the great arguments, the ideologies, but also dealing with, 'how do we capture people’s imaginations?' And as I return to the topic of apologetics: an authentic disciple of Christ can really be a powerful witness. Holiness really is central to apologetics.

You mentioned the importance of capturing imaginations. Is that why you said the most important part of the new evangelization is promoting our Christian patrimony?

I do think elements of our patrimony are very imporant, actually, in the new evangelization; an example of that is the use of Gregorian chant, and the Latin liturgy. I can't do the extraordinary form, but I’m very happy to support the use of that in the diocese where people want it. Certainly I’d be keen, in a gentle way, within the diversity of the whole liturgy of the diocese, to encourage the use of chant, Gregorian chant, and the Latin liturgy, because I think for younger people it’s very clear what that is: and it reminds everyone of the catholicity of the Church across space and time. So that’s an example of what I mean about appealing to the patrimony, and reviving it, and ensuring it’s part of the ongoing transmission of the faith – it moves the heart.

By 'Latin liturgy,' are you referring to the extraordinary form?

Not necessarily. I'm very happy the extraordinary form is available in the diocese, but I think most people won't be attracted to the extraordinary form. But I think in the ordinary form, the Novus Ordo Mass, it's very helpful, occasionally and in different places, to ensure that there is Gregorian chant and Latin; I think it's very attractive to young people.

Actually, at the moment, I'm engaged in the opposite enterprise to that here in the cathedral: I'm trying to put into place a very contemporary music ministry. But going with that is a second project, to establish a Gregorian schola, so we can ensure that we've got that as well. We're working on a Mass for our university students – we have huge numbers of students in Portsmouth – and so I think part of the outreach there is part of it.

More substantially, the centrality of the Holy Eucharist, and Eucharistic adoration, and falling love with Christ, and all the means of helping people to grow in prayer. All of that is part of a piece, really, but in terms of the patrimony, that's an example of what I mean by it.

Carl Bunderson resides in Denver, Colo., and serves as assistant editor for Catholic News Agency. He has studied at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, earning a baccalaureate in philosophy from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, and holds a B.A. in economics from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

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Gift of piety fosters fraternal solidarity, Pope observes

Vatican City, Jun 4, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his weekly general audience, Pope Francis reflected on the gift of piety, explaining that it is not just a superficial feeling, but rather a religious reality that leads us closer to God and to our neighbor.

“In this sense, piety includes the ability of rejoicing with those who are cheerful and of crying with those who cry, of reaching out to those who are alone or anxious, to correct those who err, to console the afflicted, to care for and help those who happen to be in need,” the Pope told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square June 4.

Continuing his catechesis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis began his weekly address stating that “we now turn to the gift of piety.”

“Through this spiritual gift we experience ever anew, with joy and gratitude, the loving relationship with God our Father which has been granted us in Jesus his Son,” the pontiff noted, adding that “It is this loving relationship which grounds and perfects our authentic worship of God.”

Reflecting on the meaning of the word piety, the Bishop of Rome stated that it “does not have here the superficial sense that we sometimes use: to pity someone. No, it does not have this meaning.”

“Piety, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, relates more to our relationship with God,” he observed, and “to the authentic religious spirit of filial trust which allows us to pray and worship him with love and simplicity, as a son that speaks with their father.”

“It's synonymous for friendship with God; that friendship into which Jesus introduces us, and that changes our lives and fills our soul with joy and peace.”

Going on, Pope Francis explained that the love “poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” helps us “to perceive the Lord’s presence and love in our lives, and moves us to respond joyfully in prayer and adoration.”

“This gift of the Holy Spirit,” he said, “makes us live as true sons of God, and also leads us to love our neighbor and to recognize him as a brother.”

Explaining how this sense of being a child of God allows us to truly care for others in both joy and sorrow, the Roman Pontiff prayed that “we may always be ready to offer a helping hand to others.”

He expressed hope that we be able to do this “in the joyful awareness of that solidarity which is born of our communion with God in the unity of Christ’s body, the Church.”

“We ask the Lord that this gift of his Spirit overcome our fears and doubts, and helps us to become courageous witnesses of the Gospel,” he said, praying that the Heart of Jesus, “which the month of June is particularly dedicated to, teach us to love God as children and our neighbors as brothers.”

Following his general audience address, Pope Francis extended personal greetings to pilgrims present from various countries around the world, including groups from England and Wales, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States, Spain, Argentina, México, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

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Bill against wrongful birth suits could protect disabled children

Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Every Child is a Blessing Act, a bill recently introduced in the House, aims to protect children with disabilities against lawsuits claiming they should have been aborted due to their condition.

“No child should ever have to hear they should have never been born,” said Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss), who sponsored the bill and introduced it to the House of Representatives, in a May 22 statement.

“I believe every child is a blessing, and should be treated as such. Wrongful birth cases are a waste of judicial resources and amount to nothing more than court-sanctioned child abuse. This bill will do away with these disturbing and discriminating lawsuits.”

The bill, which has 36 cosponsors from both the Democratic and Republican parties, aims to protect health care providers and other organizations from “wrongful birth” lawsuits in which parents sue for damages on the grounds that they would have aborted their child if they had known that he or she would be disabled.

The bill would also aim to prevent discrimination against disabled children in legal cases more broadly.

It would not affect the ability to file other medical malpractice suits in cases involving disabled children or doctors who withhold information from patients – including expectant mothers.

These lawsuits “have as their basis the assumption that life with a disability is not worth living,” explained a coalition of disabilities rights organizations in a 2012 letter to the American Civil Liberties Union criticizing the filing of “wrongful birth” suits.

“Such statements can be damaging to the child, the family, the disability community at large, and to society as it struggles to be respectful and inclusive of all its members.”

Suits in which parents were awarded tens of millions of dollars have been levied against health care practitioners across the United States, with the parents arguing they would have aborted their children had they known they would be born with a disability or genetic defect.

One couple in Washington was awarded $50 million after making this claim.

This idea that “abortion is preferable to life with a disability is incompatible with, and corrosive to, fundamental disability-rights principle,” said Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee, praising the bill.  

“Certainly such lawsuits cannot be reconciled with recognition that each unborn member of the human family has an intrinsic right to life.”

The president of Americans United for Life Action, Dr. Charmaine Yoest, pointed out that “more than 90 percent of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted.”

“This chilling slide toward eugenics – specifically the elimination of persons with certain hereditary characteristics - is deeply troubling.”

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Two Indians among those approved for canonization

Vatican City, Jun 4, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis has called an ordinary public consistory to set the canonization date for six Blesseds, including Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Eufrasia Eluvathingal of the Sacred Heart from India.

Slated to take place June 12, the consistory was announced May 30 and will gather together the College of Cardinals along with Pope Francis in order to discuss the canonization date of the four Italians and two Indians whose causes have been approved to advance by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Born in 1805 in Kainakary, India, Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara was a priest and the founder of the Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate.

Having begun his education under a Hindu teacher who taught him languages, different dialects and basic sciences, Bl. Chavara decided at the age of 10 to study under a parish priest, having felt the call to become a priest himself.

Following his education he entered the seminary at Pallipuram and was ordained a priest Nov. 29, 1829 in Arthunkal. He then spent some years involved in pastoral ministry, but eventually returned to the seminary to teach, and there joined the rector, Malpan Thomas Porukara, in founding a congregation.

After traveling to the Indian province of Mannanam to assist in the construction of the Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate’s first house, the blessed made his religious profession in 1855 along with 10 other companions, taking the name “Kuriakose Elias of Holy Family.”

Bl. Chavara served as Prior General for all of the congregation’s monasteries from 1856 until his death in 1871. He is remembered for his strong leadership, and is credited for having saved the Church in Kerala from schism in 1861.

The second Indian blessed whose cause has been approved for canonization is Mother Eufrasia Eluvathingal of the Congregation of Mount Carmel, who was born in 1877 in the village of Kattur, now Syro-Malabar, India.

When she was 12 years old, Bl. Eufrasia began attending a boarding school that was attached to the first Carmelite community in India. She entered the Congregation of Mount Carmel in 1897 when she took her headdress and received the name “Eufrasia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

After making her final vows in 1900, Bl. Eufarisa was appointed as assistant to the Novice Mistress, and although in poor health, was appointed Novice Mistress nine years later. She was eventually named Mother Superior of the community’s convent in Ollur, and came to be known as the “Praying Mother.”

The other four blesseds whose canonization will be set are all Italian, and consist of two priests, a religious and a layman.

Blessed Fr. Giovanni Antonio Farina was the bishop of Vicenza and the founder of the Institute of the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts.

Italian professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor and founder of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Elizabeth Bl. Ludovico de Casoria, as well as Bl. Nicola da Longobardi, a professed oblate of the Order of Minims, are also slated to be canonized.

The fourth Italian blessed among the group is Amato Ronconi, who was layman of the Third Order of St. Francis and the founder of the Hospital-Hospice for Poor Pilgrims of Saludecio. The hospital is now called the “Beato Amato Ronconi Nursing Home.”

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Arvo Part enthralls audiences as music blends ancient, modern

Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A delicate veil of voices floats on the air at the Kennedy Center, filling the packed concert hall with the captivating music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.

His pieces carry the listeners along at the venue in Washington, D.C., entering into the depths of Adam's lament following man's fall from grace; sinking down in heavy reverence before Christ the King; and floating away as a choir of voices proclaims "Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus," seemingly without end.

The May 27 concert, the first of four to be played in Washington and New York, sponsored by the Estonian Embassy in Washington, D.C. and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary in New York, was a glimpse into Pärt's unique role in today's classical world: a place from which he binds together an ancient tradition of sacred music in the West with modern techniques, reintroducing a love of beauty to contemporary modes of thought in music and emphasizing intellectual ideals in the emotive environment of today's sacred music.

Pärt was born in Paide, Estonia, in 1935, and has transformed over the course of his compositional career from a student of modern Soviet schools of music into an eminent figure within minimalist and sacred music.

Most recently, the composer's choral work "Adam's Lament," based on the spiritual meditations of Silouan the Athonite, a saint of the Orthodox Churches, won the 2014 Grammy for "Best Choral Performance."

A convert to Russian Orthodoxy from Lutheranism, he was appointed to the Pontifical Council for Culture by Benedict XVI in 2011 .

The Kennedy Center program included "Adam's Lament," as well as his 1977 compositions "Fratres" and "Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten", and his 1985 “Te Deum.”

While Pärt is the "most performed living classical composer" as Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves  noted before the concert, this performance was unique in that it was conducted by fellow Estonian and expert interpreter of Pärt's works, Tõnu Kaljuste and his ensembles, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra.

Most notable, however, was the composer's attendance at the concert, marking his first appearance in the United States since 1984.

According to Stephen Gorbos, a professor of music composition at Catholic University of America, this enthusiasm is demonstrative of the composer's broad appeal.

"This music is the music of our time," Gorbos said to CNA May 27, adding that it  "communicates to a very broad audience."

Stylistically, Gorbos explained, Pärt's music "is pretty abstract" and modern, and is "very much linked to the music of our own time.”

This use of modern systems makes the deep spiritual core of many of his works a surprising find in "someone that came out of a state-sponsored and really stylistically mandated system," Gorbos said.

Sara Pecknold, a PhD. candidate in music at the Catholic University of America who has studied the history of sacred music and Pärt, commented that while "his music still sounds modern" it is also "rooted in the tradition," building upon Gregorian chant techniques and ideas of musical progression.

She explained that his creation of the "tintinnabuli" technique mathematically builds a piece of music around one musical triad, or three-note chord, a style that "is both ancient and modern" in its reference to the Trinity and the "continued presence of God" as well as its "crunchy" dissonances.  

"There's this really intense intellectual thing going on," Pecknold said, but the ideas behind his music seek to create beauty.  

"I think the beauty still comes out as an aesthetic ideal."

While most "modern music wants to make everything intellectual," she continued,  "I think it's really important that beauty comes to the fore again in Pärt's music."

"He gives beauty back to the intellectual side of music," Pecknold said, musing that Pärt can also "give back (to the Church) the rigorous intellectual side of music for which we have so much need in this time.”

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Bishop: Preserving marriage is integral part of civic responsibility

Arlington, Va., Jun 4, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In response to continuing efforts to redefine marriage, Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Va., urged action to protect the union of man and woman that forms a basis for society and children. 

“We know that traditional marriage bolsters society and is best for children. The social science is clear that children do best when raised by a mother and father in a stable marriage,” Bishop Loverde said, emphasizing that marriage has a “unique and vital role” in society, and an “intrinsic worth proclaimed by the Church.”

In a May 28 column for the Catholic Herald, the bishop warned that “the unchanging reality of marriage is being tested right now, perhaps to the point of no return, and our diocesan participation is very necessary.”

Attempting to change marriage from its fundamental meaning and purpose will have profound detrimental effects “for the future of the family, the most fundamental social structure of our society,” he said.

The bishop reflected that redefining marriage is leading to a “dramatic and far-reaching break with history and Church teaching, with regard to the definition of the basic building block of families and communities.”

With 17 states and the District of Columbia having legally redefined marriage, Bishop Loverde said that “this is all the more reason for us to make the case for marriage and its importance to children, society, and yes, God’s plan for us all.”

He encouraged those who are questioning the significance of this matter to stand in defense of the true definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

The Virginia bishop also encouraged participation in the 2014 March for Marriage, which will be held in Washington D.C. on June 19.

“Preserving and promoting marriage is an integral component of our shared civic responsibility,” he said, and “this is a fight worth having.”

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Latin patriarch dedicates church at Magdala Center

Jerusalem, Israel, Jun 4, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem has consecrated a church at the inauguration of the Magdala Center, an archaeological park in Mary Magdalene’s hometown that contains a first century synagogue where Jesus Christ may have preached.

“I hope that, for the thousands of pilgrims who visit this place, it will be an opportunity to experience God made man who walked in these lands,” Patriarch Twal said May 28 at the Duc in Altum Church near the Israeli city of Migdal.

Four bishops and about 40 priests concelebrated the dedication Mass. Representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Church of Scotland and other Christian churches attended, as did several Jews, the Legion of Christ reports.

Pope Francis had blessed the church’s tabernacle during his visit to the Holy Land.

Magdala Center director Fr. Juan Solana, L.C., and the architect Rodolfo de la Garza gave the keys of the new church to Patriarch Twal, who thanked the Legion of Christ for their contributions.

The center, run by the Legion of Christ, aims to provide places of worship and hospitality for pilgrims. It will serve as a place for spiritual and interfaith dialogue, the Magdala Center’s website says. Planners intend the center to have a cultural and social impact, providing local jobs while hosting seminars and conferences.

The Magdala Center has four Catholic chapels, a spirituality center and a chapel for all faiths in addition to the church and the archaeological park.

The archaeological park inauguration took place in the ruins of the synagogue, which was uncovered in 2009.

About 600 people, including representatives of the different Christian groups in the Holy Land, Muslim representatives, and Israeli government officials attended the dedication. Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custos of the Holy Land, was also present.

Archaeologists working in the synagogue’s main hall discovered an unusual carving of a seven branched menorah. Researchers believe that it was carved by an artist who had visited the Second Temple before its destruction in the first century. The synagogue’s walls also had frescoes with vivid colors, CNN reported in 2009.

“The archeological discoveries of this center unite us to both Jews and Christians,” Fr. Solana said.

Israel Ambrosi, the mayor of Migdal, encouraged those gathered to continue to seek cooperation between Jews and Christians. He called the new site a blessing for the city.

Rabbi Ehud Bandel sang Psalm 117, “Praise the Lord, all you nations; proclaim him all you peoples.”

A Melkite priest read in Greek a gospel passage about Jesus’ preaching in the synagogues and curing the sick. Several Legion of Christ seminarians performed music during the dedication.

Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, the apostolic nuncio to Israel, cut the yellow ribbon dedicating the park.

Dr. Gideon Talgam, sub-director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, told those gathered that the project “has fallen into the best hands possible.”

“The developer and the archeologists have worked together,” he said, noting that the Mexican universities Universidad Anáhuac del Sur and the Universidad Autónoma de México both worked on the investigation. The site has helped reveal the relationship between Jews and early Christians.

“This is something unique,” Talgam said.

Fr. Solana said the Magdala Center is “called to foster reflection on the role of women in the Church and in society.”

The Duc in Altum Church chapel takes inspiration from Jesus’ ministry on the Sea of Galilee and from the role of women in evangelization.

“We believe that, just as Mary Magdalene experienced God’s mercy, as well many pilgrims will experience the love of God,” Fr. Solana said.

A name from a woman in the Gospel is featured on each pillar in the chapel atrium, except for one pillar that is empty.

De la Garza said that empty pillar is “dedicated to all the women who are pillars in their own families and who hand on the faith.”

The Magdala Center project hopes to add a hotel for pilgrims and a restaurant, though Fr. Solana said more funds are needed to complete these plans.

The Magdala Center website is at

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Chinese activist deplores Tiananmen Square cover up

Princeton, N.J., Jun 4, 2014 (CNA) - Marking the 25th anniversary of the massacre of protestors at Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng is lamenting the lack of change in the People's Republic of China.

“Twenty-five years later, instead of admitting its evils and facing history, the Communist Party of China continues to cover it all up, and continues its one-party dictatorship,” Chen wrote in a column published June 4 at The Witherspoon Institute.

“Calls for justice have still not been answered. The criminals who ordered the crackdown have still not been held accountable. This is a deep grief for the Chinese people. This is a grief for the whole world.”

Chen became a human rights lawyer in mainland China and was imprisoned for four years, and then placed under house arrest for two years. Escaping his house arrest in 2012, he took refuge at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, and now resides in the U.S.

He marked the pro-democracy protests  in China which were quashed in 1989 after 50 days when hundreds were killed June 3-4.

Chen commented that the “heroes who stood in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square” that year are among the many who have paid the consequence of death opposing the Chinese government.

“The patriotic movement of 1989 was carried out by students and ordinary citizens. They wanted democracy and freedom. They opposed government corruption … many young people died. Many fled the country.”

Chen noted that while China has seen “great economic progress” there “has been very little political reform,” with government officials living as “outlaws,” censoring media and filtering the internet, spending nearly $12 billion annually “not on looking after (China's) people, but in suppressing them.”

The Chinese government prohibits public references to the massacre, utilizing heavy security and online censorship. Only in in the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong were remembrances permitted; tens of thousands gathered there to attend a candlelight vigil in memory of the protests.

“A government that cannot face its own history is a government without a future,” commented Chen. “Will a government that cannot treat its people with kindness treat other countries any better? I think not.”

He lauded the recent opening of the June Fourth Memorial Museum in Hong Kong, saying it “reveals the truth of what happened, truth that people in mainland China are not allowed to hear.”

“Everything that makes us remember June Fourth, 1989 has its effect,” he said. “Every speech, every story on the radio or TV, every candlelight vigil makes the perpetrators shudder in fear.”

“It gives people courage to think and speak aloud again … today, many Chinese people are beginning to awake. They are overcoming their fear and working for democracy. China will change. But we must stop the Communist Party from brutalizing and suppressing the Chinese people during this inevitable change.”

Chen addressed the U.S. people and government, and “all freedom-loving countries,” encouraging them to “look beyond China's economic success.”

“I urge you to support the ordinary Chinese. Help them end Internet censorship. Help them break down the Great Firewall of China.”

Corrupt regimes, he said, are “a threat to us all … to our very human culture, our human civilization, and our universal human values.”

“To give future generations a free world, we must act now. Work with the human rights lawyers in China. Help the internet activists. Partner with all statesmen who support democracy and freedom.”

Chen concluded, saying, “at the rebirth of democracy in China, the whole world must stand firm.”

“If we speak loudly and clearly, a free China, a democratic China, a China with a constitutional government will come to pass. It must.”

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