Archive of June 27, 2014

Major FBI bust highlights problem of human trafficking

Washington D.C., Jun 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The arrest of nearly 300 suspected pimps and rescue of 168 children in a national bust of child sex trafficking rings across the country has drawn attention to the problem of modern slavery.

“These are not children living in some faraway place, far from everyday life,” said FBI director James B. Comey during a June 23 press conference in Washington, D.C. “These are our kids. On our street corners. Our truck stops. Our motels. These are America’s children.”

“The lesson of Operation Cross Country is that our children are not for sale,” he stressed.

The crackdown on sex trafficking in 106 U.S. cities was labeled “Operation Cross Country VIII” and was part of an ongoing effort to stop the exploitation of minors through the Innocence Lost National Initiative. During the week-long series of enforcement, FBI, state and local authorities recovered 168 child victims of sexual exploitation and arrested 281 suspected pimps.

Since its 2003 inception with the FBI and Department of Justice, partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Innocence Lost National Initiative has identified and recovered approximately 3,600 minors and contributed to 1,450 convictions and seizure of $3.1 million in assets, the FBI said.

The bust coincided with the June 20 release of the 2014 State Department Trafficking in Persons report, which details the state of human trafficking in countries around the globe throughout the past year.

In addition to sex trafficking, the report also monitors compelled labor, child soldiers and human trafficking for other purposes through force, fraud, or coercion.

The annual report, which is required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, ranks countries in a three-tier system according to their compliance with minimum standards for combatting human trafficking.

By law, countries on Tier 3 – the worst category of offender – may face certain restrictions, including a withholding of non-humanitarian funding and cultural exchange programs, and U.S. opposition to those countries receiving assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

In the 2014 report, the countries of Algeria, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic Of the Congo, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, North Korea, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe were named to the Tier 3 list for their failure to “fully comply with the minimum standards” and inability to make “significant efforts to do so.”

Malaysia, Thailand and Venezuela were downgraded from the Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 3 because of their inability to take improve human trafficking responses enough to merit an upgrade in the past two years. Though Burma has been on the Tier 2 Watch List for more than two years, it received a waiver to avoid this downgrade. The report said that while the country’s efforts were inadequate, its government is “devoting sufficient resources to implement” a significant written plan to fight trafficking.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described the report as “a call to action.”

“It’s a call to conscience. It is a reminder of what happens in many dark places that need light,” he said at a June 20 press conference for the release of the Trafficking in Persons Report.

Warning that that there is “perhaps no greater threat to human dignity and no greater assault on basic freedom than the evil of human trafficking,” Kerry pledged that the U.S. will work to put an end to the practice, which he labeled “slavery, even in the 21st century.”

The Trafficking in Persons report detailed innovations and improvements in the response to human trafficking, including the use of the private sector, education among law enforcement personnel and the use of technology to aid victims and identify those involved in exploitation.

A broad response to the problem is necessary, Kerry said, because human trafficking “affects every country in the world, including ours.” He noted that “modern slavery does not exist in a vacuum,” but is connected to “many other 21st century challenges” including drug and arms trafficking and international crime.

He said the State Department will be working with non-profits to “develop a risk assessment tool” to alert business leaders of human trafficking risks in parts of their supply chains around the world, as well as to help businesses ensure fair wages and treatment for workers.

Rep. Chris Smith (R- N.J.), architect of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, praised the progress and promise the report showed, but criticized some of the its rankings – particularly the exemption of Burma from an automatic downgrade to Tier 3 and the upgrade of China to the Tier 2 Watch List.

“The importance of accurate Tier rankings and TIP [Trafficking in Persons] Report country profiles cannot be overstated,” Smith urged, arguing that a premature boost to Tier 2 may not only undermine progress, but “fail to inspire it among countries actually doing the hard work.”

Still, he said, the Trafficking in Persons report and its ranking system “is ensuring more accountability and progress than ever before” in the fight against human trafficking.

“This year’s report shows progress, but marks the way forward to rid the world of this gross violation of human dignity.”

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Life is not ours to end, Canadians say against suicide bill

Quebec City, Canada, Jun 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Quebec National Assembly on Thursday passed legislation creating a right to assisted suicide in some circumstances, drawing criticism from pro-life advocates who argue that life is sacred.

“We have no right to take our lives. Our lives are not ours. Our lives are a gift from God,” Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer of Canada's Campaign Life Coalition, told CNA June 26.

“We have no right to take our own life or to take anyone else's life. It violates the gift of the Creator,” Douglas said, noting that bill opponents “have to continue to emphasize the sacredness of human life.”

Quebec's legislature passed Bill 52 by a vote of 94-22. It allows terminally ill Quebecois enduring “unbearable suffering” to request medical assistance to kill themselves, CBC News reports.

Liberal lawmaker Christine St-Pierre opposed the bill, saying “I don't believe it's right to give (anyone) the power to kill somebody.”

Véronique Hivon of the Parti Québécois, however – a lawmaker who helped draft the bill – said “for me, dying with dignity means dying with the least amount of suffering.”

Douglas said her group and other bill opponents “worked very hard” to prevent the bill’s passage. She warned that the bill “opens the door to active euthanasia” on those who are unconscious or unable to make a decision.

She also countered views that suffering justifies assisted suicide, adding that Catholics and other Christians believe that human suffering has merit when it is “united to the suffering of Christ.”

However, she noted the difficulty of explaining this in a “pagan” culture where “so many people have no concept of faith or of the hereafter.”

The Catholic bishops of Quebec had urged opposition to the bill. “Killing is not care,” Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier of Rimouski, president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec, said in a May 27 statement.

He said phrases like “death in dignity” and “medical assistance in dying” are misleading and mean deliberately causing death.

Like other bill opponents, the archbishop warned that the bill would allow doctors to euthanize patients.

“We understand, certainly, the anguish and suffering that all experience when a loved one dies in agony,” he said. “No one can remain indifferent to this distress.”

Archbishop Fournier stressed that good palliative care, not assisted suicide, is needed for those who are suffering.

Some opponents of the bill, including the Physicians' Alliance Against Euthanasia and Living with Dignity, have said that the bill violates Canada's Charter of Rights and contradicts federal law, which recognizes euthanasia as homicide.

Douglas said that proponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia now hold prominent positions in Canadian society. “It's going to be very difficult to fight back, but like anything else we have to keep teaching the truth,” she reflected.

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Religious applicants fare worse in job hunt, studies suggest

Hartford, Conn., Jun 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Two studies suggest that religious self-identification on a job applicant’s resume can harm his or her job prospects, with Catholics receiving almost as few responses to job applications as Muslims in some parts of the U.S.

“What we found is that, when applying for a job, it’s better not to mention religion at all – but employers really don’t want you to mention being a Muslim,” University of Connecticut sociology professor Michael Wallace told the UConn Today blog June 16.

Wallace is a co-author of two studies on religious discrimination in job applications: one focused on New England and another on the U.S. South.

The Southern study, published in the journal “Social Currents,” said that religious-based discrimination complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have increased from 1,388 in 1992 to 3,790 in 2011.

That study, conducted in 2010, sent 3,200 resumes for 800 job positions in customer service, hospitality, media, retail, real estate, shipping and clerical work, the Washington Times reports.

The fictitious resumes from recent graduates were similar except for one resume line that randomly indicated whether the applicant participated in a university-related religious group.

The fictitious job applicants were atheists, Catholics, Evangelical Christians, Jews, pagans, Muslims, and an imaginary religious group called “Wallonians.” Resumes from a control group did not mention religious participation.

Researchers then measured and compared prospective employers’ responses sent by e-mail or voice mail.

Job applicants without religious identification on their resumes received the most phone responses from prospective employers. Self-identified religious applicants were 26 percent less likely to receive a response.

Among religious applicants, Jewish applicants were most likely to receive a response, followed by Evangelical Christians and pagans. Catholics ranked next, equal to “Wallonians,” followed by atheists and Muslims.

The New England study, conducted with a similar methodology, sent 6,400 resumes for 1,600 job postings in the Northeast U.S. in 2009.

Self-identified religious applicants performed more poorly than applicants whose resumes did not mention religious affiliation. That study found that resumes that mentioned any religious affiliation received about 25 percent fewer phone call responses.

Muslim applicants received 33 percent fewer responses than the control group.

“There was also evidence of discrimination against atheists, Catholics and pagans,” said the abstract of the New England study, published in the December 2013 issue of “Research in Social Stratification and Mobility.”

“We hope our work encourages future research on religious discrimination in the workplace,” said the researchers in their Southern study.

They said that further research should explore aspects of religious discrimination in work assignments, disciplinary action, promotion opportunities and benefits, as well as religious accommodation in the workplace.

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Peace in Middle East can flourish again, Pope assures

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In an audience with aid organizations assisting Oriental churches, Pope Francis explained that peace is a gift from God, which can be regained by offering hope through our solidarity with those who suffer.

“Those who would cultivate the plant of peace must never forget that God alone gives the growth. True peace, the peace which the world cannot give, is a gift to us from Jesus Christ,” the Pope observed in his June 26 audience with members of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches.

“For all the grievous attacks it endures today, peace can always flourish again.”

Pope Francis assured the assembly of his closeness to the churches of the East, explaining that their tears, fears and hopes are both his as well as those of the rest of the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis recently made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and held an invocation for peace in the Vatican earlier this month with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents. The three men planted an olive tree together that “is a symbol of that peace which is secure and enduring only because it is cultivated by many hands,” the Pope said. 

“I am grateful that you continue to 'make peace grow' through charity, which is the ultimate aim of all your organizations,” he continued.

“With unity and charity Christ’s disciples strive to be peacemakers everywhere, in all peoples and communities, and to overcome persistent forms of discrimination, starting with those based on religion.”

Members of the Oriental churches, he said, are the first among “those called to be peacemakers,” together with their pastors.

“Hoping at times against all hope, remaining in the place of their birth where the Gospel of the incarnate Son of God was first proclaimed, may they experience the blessedness reserved to those who are peacemakers: ‘they will be called children of God,’” the pontiff prayed.

The Bishop of Rome also voiced his hope that Christians in the Oriental churches would always find support in the universal Church, never losing their conviction that “the power of love can halt the fire of arms, hatred and vengeance.”

“Their tears and their anguish are ours, as well as their hope! We can express this through our solidarity, if it is one which is concrete and effective, capable of ensuring that the international community upholds the rights of individuals and peoples.”

The pontiff also assured the Church’s closeness to “the beloved people” of Ukraine and Romania in the midst of their ongoing “critical situation,” as well as with those suffering alongside their priests and bishops in Syria and Iraq.

He then encouraged the organizations to “continue your generous efforts” in assisting the people in those areas.

“Your works of relief and assistance in nations most affected by these crises respond to basic needs,” the Pope noted, “particularly of those who are powerless and most vulnerable, as well as the many young people tempted to leave their homeland.”

Concluding his address, the Roman Pontiff encouraged participants to actively pursue the goals set during their last plenary session, including the training of young persons and teachers. He then said the Holy Family can serve as a comfort and a guide. 

“The Holy Family of Nazareth, ‘which knew anxiety ... as well as the pain of persecution, emigration and hard daily labor,’” he said, “teaches us ‘to trust the Father, to imitate Christ and to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit.’”

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Vatican laicizes former nuncio to Dominican Republic

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Following abuse accusations last fall involving the former apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic, the Vatican has concluded the first part of his canonical trial with a guilty verdict and laicization.

Accusations of sexual misconduct were reported last year regarding the former nuncio Josef Wesolowski, which led to his Aug. 21 resignation.

Following the publication of the initial accusations, a 13-year-old boy from the country said in a television interview that the Polish former archbishop had solicited him for sexual favors in exchange for money. He was then taken into protective custody by Dominican Republic officials.

In September the Vatican expressed their willingness to hand the former nuncio over to civil authorities, even though they are not required to do so since there is no extradition treaty between the Vatican and the Dominican Republic, and since they possess the legal right to invoke diplomatic immunity in protection of the nuncio.

In a June 27 announcement making known Msgr. Wesolowski’s laicization, the Vatican explained that he now has two months in order to make an appeal, and that his penal trial before Vatican judicial authorities will begin again as soon as the canonical sentence is definite.

The Vatican also specified that as the former nuncio waits for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith’s verification of the charges made against him, he has been granted a certain flexibility in terms of his freedom of movement.

In wake of the sentence passed by the congregation, the Holy See assured that all the necessary procedures will be taken relating to Msgr. Wesolowski, according to the gravity of the case.

In a September letter signed by Cardinal Nicolás López Rodríguez of Santo Domingo and president of the Dominican bishops' conference after the nuncio’s accusation, the bishops called for a “purification of the Church and for the removal of those who unworthily exercise this ministry and do not deserve to be called priests.”

This purification, the letter read, should take place with “the collaboration of authentic priests, who are the majority, and of the church community.”

Members of the Church in the Dominican Republic are also recovering from the recent accusations of sexual abuse against Father Juan Manuel Mota de Jesus.

A “root problem” of clergy abuse, Cardinal López said, is “an undetermined number” of candidates preparing for the priesthood who “do not have an authentic vocation” and who “during formation are able to feign something that they are not, and if formation directors are not careful, they sneak into the clergy, and later the bishops pay the consequences for their excesses and turmoil.”

He then asked as president of the Dominican bishops for “forgiveness of the victims of the heartless men who have abused them and their families” as well as forgiveness “of the community of the Catholic Church, which is humiliated by this unspeakable abuse, and also of the entire Dominican nation which is witnessing this unfortunate spectacle.”

The cardinal entreated civil authorities to “act with conviction and clarity” in their investigations, and prayed that “those who have done wrong assume responsibly the consequences of their actions.”

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Pope Francis: love of God is both generous, active

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis focused his daily homily for the Feast of the Sacred Heart on the nature of love between God and his people.

“There are two aspects to this love. First, love is more about giving than receiving. Second, love is more about actions than words,” the Pope observed in his June 27 daily Mass in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse.

The Roman Pontiff described how this feast celebrates the love God has for us in his son, Jesus Christ.

“When we say it’s more about giving than receiving, it’s because love communicates, it always communicates. And it’s received by the one who is loved. And when we say that it’s more about actions than words, it’s because love always generates life and makes us grow.”

Pope Francis then said the type of relationship God wants with us is like that between a father and his child. In order to better understand God's love we must become like small children so that he can caress us and tell us that he is by our side. 

“This is the tenderness of our Lord and of His love; this is what He tells us and this gives us the strength to be tender,” he observed. “If we feel we’re strong, we’ll never experience those caresses from the Lord, those caresses from Him that are so wonderful.”

“‘Don’t be afraid, for I am with you and I’ll hold your hand’…These are all words spoken by the Lord that help us to understand that mysterious love He has for us,” the pontiff continued.

“And when Jesus speaks about Himself, he says: ‘I am meek and humble of heart.’ Even He, the Son of God, lowers himself to receive his Father’s love.”

The Pope also noted that God is always before us waiting for us and interceding so that we obtain the grace to enter into the mystery of his love.

“When we arrive, He’s there. When we look for Him, He has already been looking for us. He is always in front of us, waiting to receive us in His heart, in His love,” the pontiff noted.

“In order to communicate (love), He needs us to be like small children, to lower ourselves. And at the same time, He needs our astonishment when we look for Him and find Him there, waiting for us.”

Following his daily Mass, Pope Francis was slated to travel at 3:30 p.m. to visit Rome’s Agostino Gemelli hospital, attached to the University of the Sacred Heart, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of its foundation.

Named after the Franciscan friar who established it, the hospital serves as a medical school for the Milan-based university, and is the official hospital of the Holy Father, who has a special suite of rooms reserved there.

Pope Francis was to be the fifth pope to visit the hospital since its founding. However, he was forced to cancel the trip at the last minute due to a "sudden indisposition."

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Pope cancels hospital visit due to 'sudden indisposition'

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - As spectators were awaiting the visit of Pope Francis to a Roman hospital, it was announced by Bishop Claudio Giuliodori that the pontiff cancelled his visit due to a “sudden indisposition.”

Bishop Giuliodori, General Ecclesiastical Assistant of the University of the Sacred Heart, read the announcement to those waiting for the Holy Father. The cancellation was later confirmed by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J.

Pope Francis was scheduled to visit Rome’s Agostino Gemelli hospital, which is attached to the University of the Sacred Heart, at 3:30 p.m. in celebration of the 50th anniversary of its foundation.

Named after the Franciscan friar who established it, the hospital serves as a medical school for the Milan-based university, and is the official hospital of the Holy Father, who has a special suite of rooms reserved there.

After his arrival the pontiff was slated to say Mass in the square outside the faculty, which would have made him the fifth pope to visit the hospital since its founding. 

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Bishop cites teaching of Popes in push to protect migrant kids

Washington D.C., Jun 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, invoked the social teaching of multiple popes in a plea for Congress to address the “humanitarian crisis” of unaccompanied child migrants to the U.S.

“The Catholic Church’s work in assisting unaccompanied migrant children stems from the belief that every person is created in God’s image,” the bishop stated in his June 25 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

“In modern times, popes over the last 100 years have developed the Church’s teaching on migration,” he added, quoting Pope Pius XII and Pope Saint John Paul II before citing Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

“In Evangelii Gaudium, the Holy Father speaks particularly of the importance of work with migrants and notes that it is essential for Catholics ‘to draw near to new forms of poverty and vulnerability [including migrants and refugees] in which we are called to recognize the suffering of Christ’.”

Bishop Seitz said the increase in unaccompanied child migrants to the U.S. since 2011 has been “unprecedented.” He explained that many of them are fleeing “ongoing generalized violence” in their home countries, calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis” that “is getting more urgent.”

The bishop noted that previous popes have defended the right to migrate. Pope Pius XII made clear that everyone has the “right to migrate” if their present condition is unworthy of human life, and Pope Saint John Paul II upheld this right “even in cases of non-legal immigration.”

He also observed that “one of Jesus’ first experiences as an infant was to flee for his life from King Herod with his family to Egypt. Indeed, Jesus Himself was a child migrant fleeing violence. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were asylum-seekers and faced the same choice as the one facing thousands of children fleeing to the United States each year.”

According to U.S. officials, the numbers of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border illegally has doubled in the past year, and more than 250 minors are being apprehended on the country’s southern border each day.

Most of the migrants hail from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico, where the rates of violence are extremely high.

“Extortion, family abuse and instability, kidnapping, threats, and coercive and forcible recruitment of children into criminal activity perpetrated by transnational criminal organizations and gangs have become part of everyday life in all of these countries,” Bishop Seitz stated, adding that this has “created a culture of fear and hopelessness that has pushed children out of their communities and into forced transit situations.”

He recounted the story of one 16-year-old girl in El Salvador who had received death threats against herself and her family after witnessing a fellow student’s murder at the hands of a criminal gang. Although her family moved to the countryside, the gang found her, and eventually, she was forced to flee to the United States in order to protect her life.

In addition, many children come to the United States in an attempt to escape domestic abuse and violence, the bishop noted, citing a UNICEF survey indicating that 7 in 10 unaccompanied children reported abuse in their homes.

Bishop Seitz emphasized that the authorities must let religious groups and individuals minister to these children once they have arrived at the border patrol stations and shelters, noting that various requests to do so have been denied.

“Mr. Chairman, these vulnerable children should have access to pastoral services, including visitation by religious, including priests, ministers, and other faith leaders. To date, requests for visitation to the border patrol stations and shelters for this purpose has been denied by the Border Patrol and ICE.”

Among the bishop’s recommendations to Congress were investments in family reunification programs and efforts to address the root causes of violence in the countries from which migrants are coming. Some of the anti-violence programs could provide “job and educational opportunities and training programs.”

Congress must address the root causes of migration, Bishop Seitz stressed, because to simply deport the minors “is akin to sending these children back into a burning building they just fled.”

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Sudanese Christian woman released again

Khartoum, Sudan, Jun 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Meriam Ibrahim – a Christian woman who had previously been sentenced to death in Sudan for her faith – has been released after another detention for accusations of forging travel documents.

“The State Department has received confirmation that Meriam Ibrahim Ishag has been released on bail and is no longer being detained at a Sudanese police station,” said Marie Harf, deputy department spokesperson for the Department of State in a June 26 statement.

“She and her family are in a safe location and the Government of Sudan has assured us of the family’s continued safety,” she added.

In May, the 27-year-old woman was arrested and charged with abandoning Islam. Under Sudanese law, she was considered a Muslim due to her father’s Muslim faith, despite the fact that she was raised as a Christian by her mother after her father left the family when she was 6 years old.

Despite being sentenced to death, Ibrahim refused to renounce her Christian faith. She was released on June 23 after an appeals court dismissed her sentence, but was re-arrested on June 24 while at the Khartoum, Sudan airport for what Sudanese authorities claimed were forged travel documents.

Daniel Wani, Ibrahim’s husband, was granted U.S. citizenship when he fled Sudan to the United States as a child. He also holds South Sudanese citizenship.

The couple's young son Martin has lived in prison with his mother since February. Ibrahim gave birth to their second child, a baby girl, while in prison in May.

Besides the crime of apostasy – or the abandoning of the Islamic faith – Ibrahim was also charged with adultery. Her marriage to her Christian husband was not considered valid since she was legally considered a Muslim.

She was to receive 100 lashes for the adultery charge and was sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy.

More than 140,000 people have signed a petition calling for Ibrahim’s freedom. Numerous members of Congress and religious freedom advocates have asked the U.S. to intervene and ensure her safety, as well as that of her family.

Harf explained in an earlier press conference, before Ibrahim’s release, that while it is a “fluid situation,” the United States and Sudanese governments were communicating “to ensure that she and her family will be free to travel as quickly as possible.”

She added that “from our perspective, Meriam has all of the documents she needs to travel to and enter the United States.”

“It’s up to the Government of Sudan to allow her to exit the country,” Harf said. “As I said, we’re working with them on that right now.”

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Archbishop: Mandate ruling threatens Philly's vulnerable

Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said that he is “deeply disappointed” that a district judge has denied the archdiocese an initial injunction against the federal contraception mandate.

“Archdiocesan charities daily assist the homeless, the elderly, immigrants, the disabled, the developmentally delayed and many other segments of our population that are vulnerable,” Archbishop Chaput said.

“These services are provided regardless of an individual's religious beliefs or lack thereof. We are grateful for the privilege of ministering to those most in need. We seek only to do those works of mercy without government coercion or interference that would compromise our religious convictions.”

“It's a reasonable request, and for believing Catholics, a fundamentally important one,” he continued. “We'll continue to press it in every way and at every level of judicial appeal available to us.”

The archbishop said June 27 that an appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has already been filed on behalf of the archdiocese and its affiliated charitable entities after U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Buckwalter rejected their request for an injunction.

The judge’s decision comes in response to an archdiocesan lawsuit challenging the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, which requires most U.S. employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause abortions.

While an exemption to the mandate does exist, most religious employers do not qualify for it. Many religious groups object to the terms for a separate “accommodation” that has been offered to faith-based employers that say the mandate’s demands violate their religious convictions.

The mandate has resulted in more than 100 lawsuits representing over 300 plaintiffs, which include both for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations. Injunctions have been granted in the overwhelming majority of these lawsuits that have received rulings on the merits of the case.

The Supreme Court will weigh in June 30 with a ruling on a case involving Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, two for-profit businesses whose owners object to the mandate. Depending on the breadth of the ruling, other lawsuits could be impacted as well.

Archbishop Chaput noted that Philadelphia’s lawsuit “parallels dozens of other cases nationwide” that have been granted injunctions.

Without such relief, he warned, “on July 1, 2014, we will be forced to choose between violating our deeply held religious beliefs or grave financial distress that threatens our ability to continue to perform the good works and ministerial outreach to people in need throughout the Philadelphia region.”

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EWTN files for emergency mandate relief with Supreme Court

Washington D.C., Jun 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The EWTN Global Catholic Network has filed a motion for emergency relief with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking for an injunction to bar enforcement of the federal contraception mandate.

Michael Warsaw, chairman and CEO of EWTN, explained that the network has already requested this protection with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, “but that court has yet to respond to our petition.”  

Without an injunction offering protection from the mandate, EWTN would be forced to comply with its demands starting July 1. As a result, the network filed its motion for emergency relief with the high court June 27.

“We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will grant EWTN protection from this onerous rule that would force us to provide contraception and abortion-inducing drugs as part of our employee health plan,” Warsaw said.

“As we have said repeatedly, these drugs and procedures are not health care and EWTN should not be forced to provide them or face over $35,000 per day in penalties to the government for refusing to do so.”  

He explained that in addition to the emergency injunction request, “the Network is also filing a motion asking the Supreme Court to take up the full merits of our case.”

“We believe that the issues at stake are deserving of direct consideration by the highest court of the land,” he said.

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.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is defending EWTN in court, has observed that more than 80 percent of cases have received rulings protecting religious freedom of those objecting to the mandate.

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.

On June 17, U.S. District Court Judge Callie V.S. Granade of Mobile, Ala., ruled against EWTN, prompting its appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

EWTN has maintained that as an organization, it was founded to uphold Catholic teaching, which opposes contraception, sterilization and abortion. Warsaw has previously stated that the network “simply cannot facilitate these immoral practices.”   

“The government fought the Little Sisters of the Poor all the way to the Supreme Court, and now it is fighting Eternal Word Television Network all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund.

“It’s time for the government to stop its war on nuns and protect religious ministries from this unjust mandate. Our laws give EWTN the right to practice what it preaches.”

The Supreme Court will issue a decision on June 30 involving the mandate as it applies to for-profit businesses owned by individuals with religious objections.

That case, which was filed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, will not necessarily apply to EWTN, Warsaw noted.

“Therefore, we felt it important to move our own case forward now while we await the verdict in the Hobby Lobby case.”

“We ask our EWTN Family to continue to keep this matter in prayer.”

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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