Archive of June 17, 2014

Archbishop Gaenswein: thread of diplomacy links Benedict, Francis

Rome, Italy, Jun 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a recent interview with CNA, the prefect of the Papal Household and personal secretary to Benedict XVI recounted how the current and emeritus Bishops of Rome are connected by their diplomacy during apostolic journeys.

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein was at the June 5 conference “The Pope's journeys: between diplomacy and communication,” held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, and noted what is common to Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, even though their diplomacy has been interpreted according to their differing characters.

The conference was an occasion for presenting “Sull'aereo di Papa Benedetto,” a recent work by Italian journalist Angela Ambrogetti, which gathers Benedict's press conferences on the papal plane during his pontificate.

“When the Pope makes an apostolic journey, it is clear that diplomacy plays a key role, with regards to both words and gestures,” Archbishop Gaenswein said, calling diplomacy a “thread” in Benedict XVI's pontificate.

He stressed the importance of the five so-called ‘political speeches’ Benedict XVI held during his apostolic journeys, in front of the representatives of the world of culture and politics. He added that through these speeches, one can better understand the Bavarian's diplomatic sense – even if the sense of his words was rarely understood.

“In the beginning, it was always surprising to me how different were the newspaper reports about the same speeches,” Archbishop Gaenswein underscored.

While Benedict XVI was subjected “to several prejudices directed against him as the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” he noted, Pope Francis “gained the trust of journalists” from the time he first spoke on the loggia of St. Peter's.

“I myself must take into account that Benedict has been considered ‘the Pope of the word,’ while Pope Francis is considered ‘the Pope of gestures,’” Archbishop Gaenswein added.

“Pope Francis has made very eloquent and surprising gestures,” he noted.

The latest of these was his call to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli president Shimon Peres for a prayer for peace in the Holy Land held in the Vatican Gardens.

“Pope Francis invited the two leaders to the Vatican, to his home, to pray for peace, and this explains the inner meaning of his call: prayer is stronger than diplomacy,” Archbishop Gaenswein commented.

“As Pope Francis has explained, his gestures are not planned; he is struck by the Spirit. This is his character, and I see this every day, working with him, accompanying him, listening to him, speaking with him.”

This is “Pope Francis’ 'forma mentis', or 'way of thinking', since gestures are very significant for him, and this distinguishes him from Benedict XVI, being a man of thought.”

“In fact, even if Benedict XVI often spoke off the cuff, he was always prepared: this is his own 'forma mentis.'”

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Bosnia event touches on religious violence in light of WWI

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jun 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - International leaders within the Catholic Church have gathered in Sarajevo, Bosnia to discuss the consequences of the First World War, particularly its effect on terrorism and religious violence.

Convened by the Oasis foundation, an international organization seeking to foster greater dialogue between Christian and Muslim communities, the June 16-17 conference holds the theme of “The Temptation of Violence: Religions between War and Reconciliation.”

Commemorating the hundred year anniversary of the beginning of WWI in 1914, the conference is being held in Sarajevo as a reminder of where the war officially began with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife Sofia.

Although focusing on current instances of inter-religious violence, the conference will serve as a re-reading of the consequences of WWI, which served as a monumental event not only for Europe, but also for the Islamic world.

Bringing about the end of the Ottoman caliphate, an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader referred to as a caliph, the First World War also brought about the birth of political Islam, Arab nationalism, the strategic centrality of oil and the first genocides.

In light of this perspective, participants will explore the nature and challenges of war with an eye to transform conflict into peaceful dialogue.

An important point of reflection will be on how the period inaugurated by the WWI became characterized by contradiction, first looking to how there was a calling into question of war in a radical way that had since been unknown at a religious and secular level.

On the other hand, participants will discuss how it was an age when the great genocides began and when the classic understanding of war was gradually replaced by terrorism.

Regarding the topic of religious violence, conference attendees will discuss how despite the fact that religion was not a strong factor in WWI, it eventually led to later conflict amongst minorities, such as with Jihadism in the Middle East and in Africa.

They will also discuss how religiously motivated violence has now generated suspicion of the faiths in West, particularly of the monotheistic faiths who are accused of being inherently violent and intolerant.

A final point conference attendees will speak of the war in Bosnia, which lasted from 1992-1995, and which also fueled by both ethnic and religious dimensions.

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Archbishop Cordileone counters March for Marriage critics

San Francisco, Calif., Jun 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has rejected California politicians’ criticism of the March for Marriage, stressing his duty to teach “the truth about marriage” even when it may not be popular.

The June 19 March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., is “not anti-anyone or anti-anything,” Archbishop Cordileone said in a June 16 letter to political leaders, religious leaders, and leaders of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) activist groups.

“Rather, it is a pro-marriage march,” the archbishop continued. The march “affirms the great good of bringing the two halves of humanity together so that a man and a woman may bond with each other and with any children who come from their union.”

Archbishop Cordileone, who heads the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said that if the event intended to “single out a group of individuals and target them for hatred, I most certainly would not be there.”

The archbishop’s letter comes in response to a June 10 letter signed by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, several other leaders in the California and San Francisco governments, several dissenting Catholic groups, and several LGBT advocacy groups. Several non-Catholic clergy also signed the letter.

Their letter asked the Catholic archbishop to “reconsider his participation” in the march. They claimed that march organizers like the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council are “some of the nation’s most virulently anti-LGBT organizations and leaders.”

Archbishop Cordileone noted Pope Francis’ April 11 comments to the International Catholic Child Bureau, in which the Pope said, “We must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and mother.”

The archbishop also affirmed respect for “the intrinsic human dignity of all people.” He said that some of the critics’ comments about March for Marriage sponsors are “based on misinterpretation” or are “simply factually incorrect.”

He said he and the march’s critics have a “common disdain for harsh and hateful rhetoric,” but pointed out that supporters of marriage as a union of one man and one woman have also faced this rhetoric and even harsh action.

“Simply for taking a stand for marriage as it has been understood in every human society for millennia, people have lost their jobs, lost their livelihoods, and have suffered other types of retribution, including physical violence,” the archbishop said.

He rejected violence against persons with same-sex attraction, while also noting the violent attack on March for Marriage sponsor the Family Research Council. In August 2012, a gunman who was also an LGBT community center volunteer targeted the advocacy group, shooting and wounding a security guard before being wrestled to the ground.

Archbishop Cordileone said he is willing to meet with his critics “not only to dialogue, but simply so that we can get to know each other.”

“Please do not make judgments based on stereotypes, media images and comments taken out of context. Rather, get to know us first as fellow human beings.”

“It is the personal encounter that changes the vision of the other and softens the heart. In the end, love is the answer, and this can happen even between people with such deep disagreements,” he stated.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.), a self-identified Catholic from San Francisco, in a separate letter criticized the archbishop’s participation in the March for Marriage. She claimed that the march is “venom masquerading as virtue,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Thomas Peters, a writer for and former communications director for the National Organization for Marriage, responded to Speaker Pelosi and other critics of the archbishop.

“(I)t is a milestone for dozens of politicians to tell an American archbishop that he is so wrong about his own faith that he is morally at fault when he acts in the public square in accordance with his conscience,” Peters wrote June 16 at

Peters called on Catholics and others to support the March for Marriage by attending in person or showing support for the event through social media. He also suggested praying for the archbishop, writing letters of support to him, and showing support for him on social media.


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Shame of ongoing violence must stop, Jordanian priest affirms

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The spokesman for the Catholic Church in Amman, Jordan, has decried the continuous bloodshed in the Middle East, expressing his fear that refugees will develop an attitude of hatred and revenge.

“The main point I think is to stop the bloodshed, and then I think we will start to talk about the re-construction of Syria, the re-construction of Iraq, but we have to stop the bloodshed,” Fr. Rif’at Bader told CNA June 16.

“It’s really a shame on the Middle East and on the world” to allow such violence to continue.

Present in Sarajevo, Bosnia for a June 16-17 conference addressing the theme “The Temptation of Violence: Religions between War and Reconciliation,” Fr. Bader is the spokesman for the Catholic Church in Jordan as well as director of the country’s Catholic Center for Studies and Media. He also played a key role in organizing the visit of Pope Francis last month.

Speaking of the current situation in the Middle East, Fr. Bader explained that “Right now we have bloodshed in Iraq, in Syria and with these new stories of Daesh and Mosul,” and that because of this, there is a great influx of refugees into Jordan who are fleeing the violence in their home countries.

“I don’t say that we are suffering because of them, but we are suffering with them and for them because the situation is not easy in Syria, it’s not easy in Iraq,” he noted, explaining that there are currently 300,000 refugees in Amman, with 1,320,000 Syrians who have fled to Somal.

He explained that the number of refugees is concerning not because of financial, economic or water problems in Jordan, but rather because the camps are “not an institution of people but of families.”

Of particular concern are children, the priest said, who do not have access to proper education and who often suffer psychological trauma.

“This is a bad situation especially for the children. Which future and which future generation will we have? I think they will grow up with the mentality of revenge, and of hatred."

In order to curb the development of this attitude, the spokesman explained that it in addition to providing for their temporal needs, it is important to remember that “Everything is not in human hands,” but that “we have to put everything in God’s hands,” as Pope Francis did last week in the Vatican Gardens when he prayed with the Jewish and Israeli people and the Muslim people.

Drawing attention to how the Muslim Quran was read for the first time ever on Vatican grounds, Fr. Bader noted that “this is a good sign that we are doing our best as a Catholic Church, as Christians, to promote the values of justice, peace” and “contribution for the common good.”

“No peace will be stable without justice, and no justice will be without forgiveness,” he said, adding “will we have and will we see the horizon of peace build on justice and forgiveness? We have to pray to God to make this possible.”

Recalling the pontiff’s visit to Jordan at the end of last month, Fr. Bader said, “We are blessed by his presence and “proud that we are the only country that received four different popes in 50 years.”

“It was a strengthening for our faith and for our relations with our society, especially because with our co-citizens, the Muslims,” he explained, adding that “We need bridge builders,” and “Pope Francis is doing his best to increase this number of builders of bridges of collaboration, of unity, of harmony.”

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Illinois nuns take legal action against bordering strip club

Chicago, Ill., Jun 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo have taken legal action against a giant “adult entertainment” club built in their backyard – despite state law which prohibits such facilities within 1,000 feet of a place of worship.

“Strip clubs don't belong next to convents and single-family homes,” said Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel of the Thomas More Society.

The Thomas More Society is representing the convent in the lawsuit against the neighboring strip club which, according to the suit, violates Illinois zoning laws. The Village of Melrose Park has joined the sisters in their lawsuit against the Village of Stone Park, the adjacent village where the club is built.

The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo have made their home in their Melrose Park convent for over 70 years. The convent is made up of a home for elderly sisters, a school for novices and living space for the sisters, as well as three chapels. The back of the strip club is visible from one of the chapels and stands just a few feet away from the convent’s backyard fence.

The suit asserts that “Club Allure” – which was originally intended to be named “Get It” – has brought drunken violence, blaring lights and loud music until 5 a.m., litter such as liquor bottles, used condoms, used syringes, and “unruly late night pedestrian traffic” to the neighborhoods surrounding the club.

“The Sisters have every right to pray and work peacefully without disruption from a strip club in their backyard,” said Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel of the Thomas More Society. “We are fighting for the rights of the Sisters, neighboring families, and people of Melrose Park. The Illinois state zoning law provides for their protection, and they deserve to have the law enforced.”

In April 2010, the Village of Stone Park – the bordering village where the strip club stands – was sued by the club’s developer who accused officials of “shaking him down for cash and part ownership of the (c)lub in exchange for permission to build the facility,” according to one report from the Thomas More Society.

Although the lawsuit had little to do with zoning ordinances, the village agreed to repeal several of them as part of the settlement, including one similar to the state’s statute which prohibits adult entertainment facilities from being built within 1,000 feet of places of worship.

The sisters and residents from Stone Park and Melrose Park protested the strip club when it was discovered what kind of facility it would be.

The $3 million, 18,000 square foot “gentlemen’s club” eventually opened in Sept. 2013 after internal disputes between the landowner and the building owner.

The club boasts itself as “Chicago’s premiere adult playground” that is “constantly pushing the envelope with entertainment” and is perfect for bachelor, bachelorette, and divorce parties with both male and female “dancers.”

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New USCCB social development director aims to fight poverty

Colorado Springs, Colo., Jun 17, 2014 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have named Mark Rohlena, head of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, to direct the Office of Domestic Social Development for the U.S. bishops’ conference.

“Mark Rohlena has a proven track record as a leader and manager in putting the Church’s social teaching into action,” Monsignor Ronny Jenkins, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said June 17. “Mark has a heart for the poor and vulnerable and a critical understanding of the way public policy impacts the Church’s ground-level, charitable work.”

Rohlena welcomed the “wonderful opportunity” to be part of the Catholic Church’s legacy of service to those in need. He said he will join those who advocate that federal policymakers “recognize that each and every one of our neighbors is filled with dignity – worthy to be encountered, loved and cared-for.”

“It is a unique way to witness to the love of Christ, which, as Pope Francis reminds us, lies at the heart of our charitable work,” he added.

“The Church has been and must continue to be among the strongest voices in the public square on behalf of the poor, the sick, the weak and the suffering.”

As part of his new position, Rohlena will place a special emphasis on national poverty reduction efforts, the U.S. bishops’ conference says.

He is currently the president and CEO of the Colorado Springs-based Catholic Charities of Central Colorado. The agency works in 10 Colorado counties in poverty reduction, parish social ministry, family immigration services, adoption services, and disaster relief. It has played a leading role in helping those affected by devastating forest fires.  

The Catholic Charities agency has a budget of $3 million and 50 employees. About 1,600 volunteers per month assist in its work.

Rohlena began programs to help young adults address homelessness. He has served on the boards of the Catholic Housing Corporation and Partners in Housing of Colorado Springs. He was a founding board member of Denver’s Lighthouse Women’s Care Center.

He previously served as the senior ethics and conflict attorney for the Denver-based Holland and Hart, LLP. He has a law degree from Ave Maria School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from Christendom College.

Msgr. Jenkins said that Rohlena is “well-formed in the faith, and especially Catholic social teaching, which has inspired his strong commitment to service.”

Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, praised Rohlena’s “extraordinary advocacy” on behalf of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado and its clients.

“Mark took his love for the poor, the weak and suffering to the public square and often spoke on behalf of those who could not speak for themselves,” Kraska said June 16. “The bishops’ conference and the Church are fortunate to have Mark work on their behalf. Mark has touched the lives of many people in Colorado and he will be missed.”

Rohlena will start his new position in August. The previous director of the Office of Domestic Social Development, Kathy Saile, left her position to become associate director for government affairs at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C.

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Christian faith critical for World Cup star Clint Dempsey

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jun 17, 2014 (CNA) - U.S. soccer fans went wild on Monday as team captain Clint Dempsey scored a goal during the first minute of the club’s opening World Cup game against Ghana.

The goal is among the quickest in World Cup history and the fastest scored by an American during the World Cup games, adding to numerous records held by the acclaimed player, who is also the first American to score in three different World Cups.

Perhaps less well-known is the role that Dempsey’s Christian faith plays in his life.

“My faith in Christ is what gives me confidence for the future. I know that through both good times and bad, He is faithful and will watch over me,” he told Sports Spectrum in an article published May 16.

Dempsey started playing soccer at the age of 10 and quickly joined the Dallas Longhorns, a club team located three hours away from his home.

His parents worked hard to afford the expenses of club soccer, but he later gave up his sport so that his parents could support his sister Jennifer in her promising endeavors as a tennis player.

However, everything changed when Jennifer died at age 16 from a brain aneurism. Before she died, she told Dempsey, “(I)f I ever die I will help you get the ball in the net.”

Now, Dempsey plays in honor of his sister. “That’s why I look up to the sky now when I score – to remember her,” he told the Guardian in a 2010.

“I pray for strength to walk the road before me,” Dempsey told Sports Spectrum. “I play to the best of my abilities and am thankful for the many opportunities and amazing successes He has given me. Through it all, I want to do right, not make mistakes, and live a life that is pleasing to Him.”

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Christians, Shias face uncertain future in face of Iraqi violence

Baghdad, Iraq, Jun 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In the midst of advances by Sunni insurgents, Iraq’s remaining Christian community  and the country’s majority- Shia population face threats to their future, and continued violence.

In response to the developing situation, the United States is deploying 275 troops to protect its embassy in Baghdad and its citizens in the country, and is also removing a portion of its diplomatic presence.

Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a militant group that operates in Iraq and Syria with the aim of establishing a caliphate in northern Syria and Iraq, overtook the country’s second-largest city, Mosul, and the city of Tikrit, 95 miles north of Baghdad, on June 10.

The group had seized portions of Ramadi and Falluja earlier; Tal Afar was seized by ISIS June 16; and the group briefly held parts of Baquba, 37 miles outside of Baghdad, the following day.

ISIS currently controls much of the Sunni areas of northern and western Iraq, as well as cities along the Euphrates river in northwest Syria.

The organization, which had been called Al-Qaeda in Iraq, seeks to establish a Sunni state within the majority Shia region. In February 2014, Al-Qaeda cut ties with ISIS over disagreements regarding ideology.

According to National Public Radio, ISIS is “boasting of mass executions of Shiite members” of Iraqi security focus, and while the organization promises safety for civilians in areas they control, they must follow sharia and repent of previous cooperation with the Iraqi government, or face death or punitive amputation.

Shiite mosques have been the target of attacks and gunfire in Mosul and other ISIS-controlled regions; when the group took over Ar Raqqah in Syria last year, they imposed the jiyza tax on the city's Christian inhabitants.

Given the organization’s advance upon the capital, a “substantial number” of the personnel working at the American embassy will be moved to another location,  according to reports by the New York Times. The U.S. State department has not disclosed the number of staff members who will be relocated, but has said that the embassy is not scheduled to close.

The embassy, which boasts a staff of 5,500, is the largest United States embassy in the world, and was meant to act as a significant diplomatic presence in Iraq after American forces left Iraq in 2011.

Politicians and religious freedom experts are concerned that ISIS will pose a serious threat not only to Shias, but also to the country’s remaining Christians.

During the Iraq War, from 2003 to 2011, the country’s “Christian community has suffered intense religious persecution on top of the effects of the conflict and, as a result, it’s shrunk by well over 50 percent,” said religious freedom expert Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute in a June 10 article in National Review Online.

Many of the Christians who remained in the country relocated to Mosul, Shea explained, saying that the fall of Mosul to ISIS will have serious “implications for Iraq’s Christian community.”

In recent years, tens of thousands of Christians have moved from Mosul, Baghdad, and other Iraqi cities, to the relative security of Iraqi Kurdistan and its largest city, Arbil.

In a June 12 statement, Congressman Frank Wolf (R- Va.) worried that the violence in Iraq would affect innocents across the country, “not the least of which are vulnerable religious minorities which for centuries have inhabited these lands.”

Archbishop Emil Nona of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Mosul said June 11 to Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity, that he worried that "now there is probably no one left” in Mosul from the city’s Christian community.

“We have never seen anything like this, a large city such as Mosul attacked and in chaos.”

Despite these threats, Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad told Aid to the Church in Need June 16 that Iraqi leaders should work together – and not rely on international intervention – to resolve the crisis.

 “In responding to this crisis, the international community should think of the common good, not their own interests,” Archbishop Sleiman said. “They should think of peace.”

While ISIS “needs to be stopped,” he continued, “it needs the Iraqi leaders to work together to stop it. That is more important than getting the international community involved.”

“I hope Iraqi leaders will find a consensus about how to tackle this situation or there will be a tragic outcome. I don’t know what will happen next.”

“We should all pray for peace and solidarity and for a solution to the crisis,” he urged.

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Hispanic Catholic priests help build bridges, convention leader says

Houston, Texas, Jun 17, 2014 (CNA) - A national gathering of Hispanic Catholic priests in Houston aims to build community and affirm their role as “bridges” between the Hispanic and non-Hispanic faithful, one leading priest has said.

“We are the bridges between both communities,” Father Andres Mendoza, president of the National Convention of Hispanic Priests, told CNA June 16.

He said the upcoming national convention aims to help priests to understand that they are priests “not only for the Hispanic community, but also for the Anglo community.”

The National Convention of Hispanic Priests of the U.S.A. will hold its 25th national gathering at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Houston Sept. 29-Oct. 2.

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelium Gaudium” will be one focus of the convention.

The gathering will feature several Masses as well as conferences and workshops. Some convention sponsors will host tables relevant to ministry to Catholic Hispanics.

Fr. Mendoza said that the number of Hispanic seminarians is growing, as is the number of Hispanic priests participating in the convention. More non-Hispanic priests interested in learning about how to serve the Hispanic community are also attending the gathering.

Speakers will include Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, and Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock.

Auxiliary Bishop George Sheltz of Galveston-Houston will preside at the convention’s opening Mass at St. John Fisher Church in Richmond, Texas. Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin will deliver the homily.

The closing Mass, celebrated by Bishop emeritus Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., will honor religious sisters who minister to the Hispanic community. A banquet will honor Archbishop emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston with the “El Buen Pastor” award for his leadership and support of Hispanics and Hispanic priest in his archdiocese.

Fr. Mendoza said most Hispanic priests are bilingual and can serve both Spanish- and English-speaking communities.

“That helps us to have a greater vision of the Church in the United States,” he said.

According to Fr. Mendoza, Hispanic priests often suffer from a “lack of leadership” in the U.S. The convention intends to help address this through leadership programs that help Hispanic priests “be more immersed in the pastoral reality of this country.”

More information is available at the convention website

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Gates abortion funding drop met with praise, caution

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Although Melinda Gates' recent announcement that her charitable group will axe abortion funding has drawn praise, concern remains over money being funneled into projects that undermine human dignity.

In a June 2 blog post, Melinda, wife of billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, announced that she and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “has decided not to fund abortion,” citing concerns that the contention around the issue hinders global human development.

The move has been lauded by numerous pro-life outlets and advocates, including Leah Bromberg, communications director for World Youth Alliance.

“Abortion is a procedure that not only compromises both the dignity and the development of the unborn but also raises a host of problems for women,” she told CNA June 17.

She agreed with Gates' concern that including abortion in human development plans “slows ‘progress for tens of millions of women,’” adding that there are a number of “under-funded solutions and methods that are far better in meeting the needs of women.”

Abortion, Bromberg affirmed, “is a selective procedure that should not be conflated with women’s reproductive health, and so we applaud Melinda Gates’ decision to separate the two terms through her Foundation’s decision.”

Together with her husband, Gates formed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest philanthropic foundations in the world. Since its 1997 formation, the organization has focused on human development, including agricultural progress, education advancement and the eradication of polio and malaria around the globe.

However, as part of its reproductive health initiatives, the foundation has provided $71 million to the International Planned Parenthood Federation and other Planned Parenthood affiliates up to 2013.

Gates stated in her blog post that while abortion would not be funded, the foundation would shift its focus to other forms of health care for women and children, including “providing the contraceptives that they want,” as well as prenatal care and care for newborns and infants.

Austin Ruse, President of C-FAM, a Catholic Human Rights and international watchdog organization, told CNA June 16 that “there may be nothing new here,” explaining that he was not aware that the Gates Foundation had ever been involved in the direct funding of abortion.

“However, they are involved in the spread of UN-style family planning which includes abortifacients,” or drugs that cause abortions, he said.

“Moreover, as long as the Gates foundation is involved with international Planned Parenthood Federation as an integral partner in their work then they are clearly involved abortion,” Ruse added.

Despite these unanswered questions, Ruse applauded Gates’ decision to distance herself “from the nasty business of abortion,” saying her decision “shows how far the country has come.”

Gabrielle Jastrebski,  Program Manager of FEMM – a reproductive health non-profit that focuses on fertility awareness education by working along with natural cycles rather than suppressing them – voiced concern that despite Gates’ promises, the organization may still end up supporting abortion.

“The scope of this promise in regards to the full spectrum of abortifacients remains to be seen,” she told CNA June 17.

“Also,” Jastrebski added, “it remains to be seen if the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will fund abortions indirectly through the funding of various organizations that provide or promote abortions.”

Jastrebski also noted that the conflation of contraception and abortion with human development works against “the development of the person, which requires providing women with access to basic healthcare needs,”  a robust understanding of their own bodies and social needs such as “maternal and paternal employment leave, proper education, and more.”

She warned that the Foundation’s new position “ is, in fact, undermined by Gates’ insistence on contraceptive access in their development funding.”

By relying on contraception instead of addressing a full dance of social and health concerns, the Gates’ current approach leaves abortion as a so-called “need” when “ communities and societies aren’t conducive to proper protection and upbringing of children.”

“Authentic human development builds both the external support and provides women with the education necessary to prevent harming their bodies by means of contraceptives, and by learning how to observe and respect their own bodies and their signs of health and fertility,” Jastrebski said.

“The impact of this decision is impossible to determine,” she continued, adding that Gates’ decision may or may not “promote the authentic development of the whole person.”

Bromberg weighed in that she supported the organization's rejection of abortion and focusing of funding on “areas that have a 'broad consensus,'” stating that abortion “is an inadequate form of reproductive health care.”

“A healthy pregnancy is not a disease; in fact it signals that the systems in a woman’s body are working well,” she said. “Abortion is not a medicine or a treatment for disease.”  

“Attempting to address multi-faceted global women's issues by simply providing women with access to abortion, is not only a narrow vision of the person, it’s a flawed understanding of global health,” Bromberg said.

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EWTN to appeal after 'troubling' HHS mandate ruling

Irondale, Ala., Jun 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The EWTN Global Catholic Network has announced that it will appeal a June 17 ruling that would require it to facilitate products and procedures that go against Church teaching.

“We have no other option but to continue our legal challenge of the mandate,” said Michael P. Warsaw, chairman and CEO of EWTN. “We are making an immediate appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.”

U.S. District Court Judge Callie V.S. Granade of Mobile, Ala., ruled against EWTN in its challenge to a federal regulation that the network says require it to violate its Catholic faith.

“We are extremely disappointed with the decision reached by the court in this case,” Warsaw said.

“The opinion issued is clearly inconsistent with the decisions reached in nearly all of the cases decided to date. The fact that the court has dismissed the serious issues of conscience and religious freedom that EWTN has raised is very troubling.”

“As an organization that was founded to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church, we do not believe that contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and voluntary sterilization should be defined as health care,” he added. “We simply cannot facilitate these immoral practices.”   

The EWTN lawsuit challenges the federal HHS mandate, which requires most employers to either provide or facilitate employee insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

More than 300 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits across the country charging that the mandate violates federal and constitutional protections of religious freedom.

An important ruling about the mandate as it applies to for-profit businesses owned by individuals with religious objections is expected from the Supreme Court later this month.

In early 2012, EWTN filed an initial lawsuit against the regulation. However, that suit was dismissed on technical grounds in March 2013. The current lawsuit was filed in October 2013.

The Catholic network is being joined in its lawsuit by the state of Alabama.

“Alabama has a proud history of protecting our First Freedom,” said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. “We have been honored to continue that tradition by standing with EWTN and protecting rights of conscience for all Alabama citizens, and we will continue to support EWTN as it appeals the district court’s disappointing decision.”

Lori Windham, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is defending EWTN in court, noted that more than 80 percent of cases have received rulings protecting religious freedom of those objecting to the mandate.

“This decision is out of step with the overwhelming majority of decisions in similar cases nationwide,” she said.

Established 33 years ago, EWTN is the largest religious media network in the world, reaching over 230 million television households in more than 140 countries and territories.

The network includes television, radio and a publishing arm, along with a website and both electronic and print news services.

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