Washington D.C., Jul 17, 2014 (CNA) -
Planned Parenthood is under fire after a new undercover investigation found staff members promoting bondage, whipping and other violent sexual practices to minors as young as 15.
Lila Rose, president and founder of Live Action, which conducted the investigations, warned that Planned Parenthood’s sex advice “glorifies kids acting out rape scenarios.”
“It's extremely dangerous counseling: they're undermining and invalidating the crucially important rule of no means no,” Rose said in a July 15 statement.
Live Action released two videos July 15 as part of an undercover investigation series called “SexEd,” which looks into Planned Parenthood’s support of violent sexual activities for minors, specifically in clinics that receive federal funding for sexual education programming.
The latest videos were released just days after the announcement of a lawsuit against a Colorado Planned Parenthood affiliate charging that it failed to report the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl.
The new footage shows Planned Parenthood workers from two clinics in the Denver area offering sex advice to undercover investigators, whom they believed to be underage patients coming for counseling. The staff members explained kink, bondage, gagging, asphyxiation, whipping, being “tied up,” sadism and masochism, and a range of other explicit sexual actions to the patients.
“So, it’s just like playing with the different power dynamics in the bedroom,” one worker said about bondage to a self-described 15-year-old girl during the undercover investigation.
One worker encouraged her teenage patient to search the internet, go to sex shops, and watch porn to discover new fetishes and “role playing” ideas. She acknowledged that these avenues might lead to computer viruses and discovery by parents, but suggested that the teen do her “research” on her phone to avoid parental oversight.
Both clinic workers also referenced the explicit sadomasochist book “50 Shades of Grey.” The staff member from the Lakewood Health Center said that while she found the book “anti-feminine” and “male-controlling,” and refused to read more than a few pages of it, it could be an “eye opening” resource for her self-described 16-year-old client.
“I might recommend that the two of you read it together, just to see if it’s something that the two of you would be willing to do,” she told the teenager.
Both clinic workers also advocated for the use of a “safe word” during sexual activity. One Planned Parenthood staff member explained that the word “stop” “can kind of get mixed up when you’re having intercourse.”
“Does she really mean 'stop,' or does she mean, you know, whatever,” she said.
The clinic workers were both supportive of experimentation, suggesting that there is no intrinsically “wrong” violent or dangerous sexual activities in which the teens could participate.
Sex, and specifically kink, is “more of a combination between pleasure and pain,” said one. “It’s kind of whatever you guys want to try or are willing to experiment with.”
Any sexual action, including choking, biting and whipping, the other said, was safe and normal so long as the teens had “open communication” with one another.
In releasing the undercover videos, Rose noted that the federal government gives more than $70 million per year for “sex counseling.”
“Here's an abortion corporation, which gets 45 percent of its budget from the taxpayers, telling 15- and 16-year-olds not only to have sex, but also to choke each other in the process. Police should be busting down its door,” she said.
Rose called on parents to speak up for the safety and protection of their children.
She referenced a case earlier this year in which a 16-year-old girl was charged with murder after police said she strangled her boyfriend to death during sex. The girl allegedly told investigators that they were involved in a “consensual sex act involving strangulation.”
“Parents need to get on the phone right now,” Rose said, “and ask their principals and superintendents, 'Do you have a relationship with Planned Parenthood? Are you okay with this sort of behavior being pushed on my children?'”
“This won't stop until people take action locally for their kids.”
Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Saint John Paul II's teaching on love and sexuality shows the dignity of the human body and how concrete acts of mercy are demanded of all of us, says priest and author Father Michael Gaitley.
“The heart of the Theology of the Body for me,” said Fr. Gaitley, “is the idea that the body matters,” and that “all of us are called in our bodies to reflect the self-giving love which is at the heart of the Trinity – which means putting mercy into action.”
Fr. Gaitley is the director of the Association for Marian Helpers and spoke July 10 at the Theology of the Body Congress in Philadelphia. His comments addressed the relationship between Vatican II and Pope John Paul II's teaching on marital love and the family.
The teaching, unofficially termed the “Theology of the Body,” was a series of over 100 talks on human love, sexuality, and the family delivered by Pope John Paul II between 1979 and 1984. Its relationship to Vatican II, Fr. Gaitley explained, was that both taught that faith is meant to be put into action through concrete, personal acts of faith and love.
As Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla implemented Vatican II by promoting the “enrichment of faith,” small communities of believers who took the teachings of the council home and had small-group discussions, carrying the truths from the head to the heart.
This knowledge of the heart “anticipates” the Theology of the Body, Fr. Gaitley explained. “We are the kind of beings that can take truths into our minds but then as we bring them into our hearts, the Word becomes flesh in us,” he said.
“We become, in a certain sense, other incarnations of the Word, which is sort of an anticipation of Theology of the Body, that we are these amazing beings that can take just these ideas but then make them flesh in our lives so that people can see us as living Gospels,” he added.
And the most important way to do this, he added, is to put “mercy into action.”
“I would suggest to you that the most important truth that needs to go from our heads to our hearts to our lives is the truth that God is mercy. The truth that God is love. The truth that God is merciful love.”
Fr. Gaitley gave five pillars of the Divine Mercy devotion: celebrating the Feast of Divine Mercy, venerating the image of Divine Mercy, praying the Divine Mercy novena, praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and commemorating the Hour of Mercy each day at 3 p.m. These are all concrete ways of carrying the message of Divine Mercy from our head to our hearts, he maintained.
“But the last and most important part for the message of divine mercy is that we all have to put mercy into action,” he added. “Deeds of mercy. Jesus told Faustina 'I demand from you deeds of mercy.'”
The priest then referenced Philadelphia archbishop Charles Chaput's remarks to the National Catholic Reporter in 2011, when he said: “If we don’t love the poor, and do all we can to improve their lot, we're going to go to Hell. It's very clear from the gospels that we have the duty to do that.”
As beings with both a soul and a body, we have to make “visible” the love of the Trinity in deeds of mercy, Fr. Gaitley emphasized.
“And part of the vocation of the human being is we’re not spirits like the angels, we’re embodied spirits, is that we’re to make visible the invisible reality of God, in families, making visible the invisible reality of the Trinity, in the self-giving love that’s fruitful.”
Vatican City, Jul 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Iraq has written a letter urging government officials to “waste no more time” in electing new leaders, and lamented the grim possibility of finding a peaceful solution to conflict.
“Only the president of the parliament was elected and later, maybe next week, there will be an election for the President of the Republic and also the prime minister,” Patriarch Sako told CNA July 16, following the July 15 election of Salim al-Jubouri as the new speaker of Iraq’s parliament.
“But you know many cities are not controlled by the government. It’s really chaos.”
Salim al-Jubouri’s election marks the end of a three-month deadlock in Iraqi elections, which has remained drawn out in wake of the attacks insurgents with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) have made to seize a sizeable amount of territory in north-western Iraq.
“There is a political solution” to the violence, Patriarch Sako affirmed, stating that “if they wanted to form a government of national unity they can,” however “it’s difficult.”
“The jihadists, the extremists are controlling several of the capital cities, so the government should have a professional army…to put them away, to change them,” he continued.
Members of ISIS, 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.
In his July 16 letter to members of Iraqi parliament, the patriarch joined his voice to “the honorable Shiites and Sunnites” in “begging” officials “to accelerate the elections of the three presidencies to save the country from the dangers of and disorganization and loosing.”
Referring to the elections as a “national, historical and moral responsibility,” he encouraged parliament to “start in presenting some ‘giving ups,’ and work hard to elect the three presidencies very quickly because the lives of the Iraqis and the unity of Iraq is in danger.”
“The future is very fragile, is very critical,” the patriarch told CNA, “and in some cities Christians are very few. For instance in Mosul they left the city, there are only about 200 people, individuals, and now really immigration is going on.”
“Now really the situation is not stable, the future is unknown, and everyone is waiting, not only Christians, but also Muslims.”
According to U.N. figures, acts of violence and terrorism have killed at least 2,400 Iraqis and 1,500 civilians in June alone. The violence has also driven more than 1 million people from their homes.
Kurdish forces have separately moved into cities like Kirkuk and other areas abandoned by the Iraqi Army. BBC news reported Monday that a political rift has opened between Iraq’s Kurdish leaders and others in the government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
“So Christians are a minority and they want a solution, but where is it?”
“In Iraq it’s a little bit difficult,” the patriarch noted, stating that “Really for the moment I am not feeling that” a peaceful solution is possible, because “the culture is a little bit different.”
In his letter to parliament, Patriarch Sako encouraged officials to pray together at the beginning of their next meeting that God help them to “use the dialogue between us and that we may understand each other to resolve the misunderstanding between us, far from restriction and sectarianism.”
“God help us to spread the peace and tranquility between our people, so that Iraq may come out from its problem victorious. Amen.”
Vatican City, Jul 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Vatican confirmed today that Pope Francis will travel twice to the city where an evangelical pastor from Buenos Aires is living, in order to meet with local Catholics in addition to visiting his old friend.
In a statement released July 17, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has added a day onto his already-planned trip to the city of Caserta in the Campania region of Italy to visit Pastor Giovanni Traettino, who is an old friend from his time in Buenos Aires.
The pontiff will travel to Caserta on the afternoon of July 26, where he has accepted the invitation of the diocese’s bishop, Giovanni D'Avise. Upon his arrival, the Pope will meet with local Catholics and celebrate Mass for the feast of St. Ann, most likely in the park of the Royal Palace of Caserta.
He will then make the trip back to Rome that evening so that he can recite the Angelus prayer with faithful in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, as he does every week.
The following day, July 28, the Bishop of Rome will return to Caserta to pay a private visit to his longtime friend, Evangelical pastor Giovanni Traettino, and his community.
In the initial July 10 announcement of the visit, the Vatican revealed that the idea of making the trip to pastor Traettino’s church of the Reconciliation in Caserta originally sprang from an encounter Pope Francis had with a group of evangelical pastors in the Vatican last month, during which the pontiff expressed his desire to visit the pastor’s church.
The visit with Pastor Traettino “will be a strictly private, simple and quick” encounter, the statement read.
Caserta lies in southern Italy and is a prominent agricultural, commercial and industrial commune. It is roughly a two-and-a-half hour drive from Vatican City.
Pope Francis’ visit to Caserta will mark his third trip to an Italian city outside of the Vatican this summer, the first being to the town of Cassano all'Jonio June 21, and the second to the Italian cities of Campobasso and Isernia July 5.
His next scheduled trip is his Aug. 14-18 visit to South Korea, during which he will meet with both government and religious leaders as well as Asian youth, and which will follow the theme “Rise Korea, clothe yourself in light, the Lord’s glory shines upon you.”
Washington D.C., Jul 17, 2014 (CNA) -
A Chinese province’s ban on the observance of the Ramadan fast among Muslim university students ignores the importance that religion can have for its followers, an American Muslim religious freedom advocate said.
“Religion is a fundamental human right. It is a fundamental aspect of humanity that gives our lives meaning,” Asma Uddin, legal counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said July 16.
“Religion informs what we do and how we do it,” she told CNA. “For many people it’s a question of their deepest relationship of all.”
“This strong, fundamental relevance of religion should be accommodated everywhere possible by government,” she added.
Three Muslim students told BBC News that they have been forced to have meals with professors to ensure they are not fasting. Those who refuse to eat risk punishment and official warnings that could affect their future careers or deny them their degrees.
“Most of us would like to fast,” one student told BBC News. “But with the current situation most of us have decided against it.”
The students said that the ban is in force at all universities across China’s western Xinjiang region.
Several government departments have also imposed a ban on Ramadan fasting.
Uddin said that the ban is “unfortunate” because fasting is “a huge part of the Muslim faith.”
She explained the fast is one of the five pillars of the religion. Fasting helps Muslims reflect “not just on their spiritual state but also on the physical sufferings people all over the world go through every day,” she said.
The Ramadan observance is also accompanied by charitable acts and events.
Xinjiang province is the home of the predominantly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority.
The bans come at a time when the Chinese government is blaming Muslim extremists and foreign terrorist groups for violent attacks in the region
Uddin said that Chinese restrictions on Muslims are not new and often go “much further” than a ban on fasting. Access to mosques is at times restricted under the rationale of fighting extremism. She said this is motivated by the belief that these restrictions will preclude religious gatherings “that can serve as a rallying point for different types of political opposition.”
However, she said this strategy is counterproductive.
“Where religious practice is suppressed, it actually leads to more unrest and public disorder, as opposed to creating the order that the government thinks it can achieve,” she said.
“The best way to prevent extremism and violence is to allow for a healthy public version of religious exercise.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In the run up to Pope Francis visit to South Korea next month, a Korean priest said he expects ground breaking changes there in terms of peace and the Church’s service to society.
“The Koreans are very excited and full with joy,” Fr. Denis Kim, S.J., a professor of sociology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, told CNA.
“There is also an expectation for a renewal of the Church in Korea. In other words, the Holy Father can bring refreshment and also give inspiration, a sense of direction to the Korean Church.”
Fr. Kim is a professor of sociology at the Jesuits' Roman university, and studied at the National University in Seoul, among other institutions.
He is convinced that the papal visit, slated for Aug. 14-18, will be important not only for his own country, but for all of Asia, where the people of Japan and China yearn for reconciliation in their own countries.
“The Church can contribute more, and in this regard Holy Father can inspire and stimulate; so there is tremendous excitement and expectation for his visit.”
The Church in South Korea has grown exponentially, marking 70 percent growth over the last decade. From 1949 to 2010, it expanded from 0.6 percent of the population, to 10.9 percent.
Fr. Kim suggested two reasons for the attraction of the Church.
“First there is a special hunger; so if you ask the Koreans who recently became Catholic, they will say: ‘I became Catholic because I wanted to find peace, peace of mind and heart.'”
Unlike other countries in which scandals connected to the Church prevail in media reports, she is portrayed as a positive force for South Korean society.
“Another reason for her attractiveness is that the Catholic Church has acquired credibility and a moral authority in comparison to other religions in the country,” Fr. Kim said.
“When you compare it with other Asian countries, the growth of the Church in Korea is really exceptional.”
Pope Francis' style wins over the hearts of the Korean people, he said, with his “reaching out, and his very honest way of speaking and interacting with others and his respect for them, especially for the marginalized and the poor. This really attracts the younger generations.”
“Therefore, the best message is the messenger himself.”
“Usually the younger generations are treated as object for mission, like students who need to learn and to be educated,” he explained, but Pope Francis “invites them, as a companion, for a mission.”
“Therefore younger people feel they are respected, they are recognized and they are invited to this very important mission, as companions.”
“We need new forms of discipleship,” Fr. Kim said. “New forms of martyrdom, new forms of witness.”
During his trip, Pope Francis will beatify 124 Korean martyrs who were persecuted in the 19th century, and who are role models for today's Catholics on the peninsula.
“We need disciples who are not afraid to witness the faith in this contemporary democratic and capitalistic world.”
The Church can contribute her part in facing such challenges as “a situation of insecurity of the youth, a precarious job situation, fragmented families, high divorce and suicide rates, and the lack of feeling understood among the youth,” continued Fr. Kim.
As a Pope focusing time and again on peace, Francis will have the possibility to set concrete signs of reconciliation for Korea, a divided country.
“A call for reconciliation during his message, and a call to reduce the arms race, that would be very significant.”
Fr. Kim also suggested that Pope Francis could encourage the bishops' conferences of Korea, Japan, and China “to walk together more closely for peace.”
Minneapolis, Minn., Jul 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
An auxiliary bishop of the Saint Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese says the affidavit of a former chancellor on the handling of sex abuse allegations is not necessarily consistent with the view of others involved.
“Her recollections are not always shared by others within the archdiocese,” Bishop Andrew Cozzens said July 15 of the affidavit filed by Jennifer Haselberger – who was chancellor of the archdiocese from 2008-2013.
Her sworn statement in a lawsuit concerning sexual abuse by a former priest was filed July 7, and charged that while she was employed there, the Saint Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese had a pattern of failing to deal appropriately with allegations made against clergy of sex abuse.
The lawsuit is filed by a man, known as Doe 1, who claims to have been abused as a minor by Thomas Adamson, then a priest, in 1976 and 1977. The suit had been filed against Adamson, as well as the Saint Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona.
Bishop Cozzens statement noted that the alleged abuse would have occurred “decades before Ms. Haselberger’s service to the archdiocese.”
Haselberger also served the archdiocese from 2004-2006 as a part of its tribunal. Her testimony states that when she raised concerns over sexual abuse allegations, she was dismissed and her suggestions ignored; she wrote, “my concerns were ignored, dismissed, or the emphasis was shifted to what was best for the priest involved.”
The bishop stated that her experience “highlights the importance of ongoing constructive dialogue and reform aimed at insuring the safety of children.”
“Since Ms. Haselberger’s departure, we have begun the implementation of the Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force Recommendations which address some of the concerns she has raised,” he added. “We continue to take concrete steps toward greater transparency and accountability in protecting children while offering hope and healing to victims.”
Haselberger had quit her role in the tribunal over concerns regarding the handling of sex abuse, returning after Archbishop John Nienstedt succeeded as the archdiocese's new head. She again left the chancery last spring, over the same issue.
A hearing in the lawsuit will be held Monday.
The court has already received depositions from Archbishop Nienstedt; Archbishop Emeritus Harry Flynn; and Archbishop Robert Carlson of Saint Louis, who was a priest of the Saint Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese from 1970 to 1983, and an auxiliary bishop there from 1983 until 1994.
In December, the judge in the case, John Van de North, ordered the archdiocese to submit a list of all priests accused of abusing minors since 2004, regardless of whether or not the accusations had been deemed credible.
Vatican City, Jul 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Institute for Religious Works, or 'Vatican Bank', has released its annual report for 2013, announcing the start of the second phase of its intended reform.
Ernst von Freyberg, the outgoing president of the institute’s board, said it will “continue to serve with prudence” and provide specialized financial services to the Church around the world.
“The valuable services that can be offered by the institute assist the Holy Father in his mission as universal pastor and also aid those institutions and individuals who collaborate with him in his ministry,” von Freyberg said in the nearly 100-page report.
von Freyberg will officially leave his position at the end of July. At the moment the Institute for Religious Works, known by its Italian acronym IOR, is in transition to a new president, Jean-Baptiste de Franssu.
de Franssu’s task is to lead the IOR through the reform’s second phase, which will deal with the institute’s integration into the Vatican’s new economic-administrative framework.
The first phase of reform consisted in screening accounts and making updates to the institute’s reporting standards.
As a result of the screening process, the IOR has ended around 2,600 dormant accounts and 400 customer relationship. The terminations reflect the decision to restrict customers to Catholic institutions, clerics, Vatican employees or former employees with salary and pension accounts, as well as embassies and diplomats accredited to the Holy See.
The IOR has suffered from several financial scandals and is working to increase its conformity to international standards of finance.
The annual report described a “typical customer”: a religious congregation that operates in a developing country to teach children, provide health care or serve in a missionary capacity.
In order to carry out this work, the congregation “relies on funding from other parts of the world – money that goes towards building churches, new schools, digging wells, or paying the salaries of local employees, for example.”
The IOR “serves the congregation by transferring these funds in a secure and cost-effective way, taking care of any necessary currency transactions, and guaranteeing compliance with anti-money laundering rules, embargo lists, and the like.”
The institute has no branches abroad, and so it relies on “trusted correspondent banks around the world to transfer the funds on the customer’s behalf.”
“The congregation will thus hold an account at the IOR in the Vatican City State where funds are collected for transfer, kept secure and conservatively managed until the funds are required,” the report stated.
The report included statements by the IOR president, the IOR cardinals’ oversight commission, and the IOR’s head prelate.
von Freyberg said that the IOR’s 2013 operating performance was “satisfactory,” though he said net profits and assets under management had been affected by “write-downs and the reform process.”
In 2013 the IOR showed a net profit of some $4 million – down from more than $117 million in 2012. Reform efforts added more than $11 million to its operating expenses.
The report discussed the fluctuation in the price of gold and in the stability of bonds, indicating that these factors are among the causes of the IOR’s poor net profit.
The report also disclosed the earnings of the IOR top managers. von Freyberg, for instance, earned some $282,000 for his one and a half years as president of the Board of Superintendents.
The report examined the geographical concentration of IOR investments. Its assets and liabilities have been reduced in almost every country, with the exception of Germany.
“No other countries represent more than five percent of total assets,” the report reads.
The IOR’s Italian assets have been almost halved, from about $1.58 billion to $925 million; the Spanish assets are down about 60 percent, from $796 million to $298 million. U.S. and Canadian assets have reduced as well.
Washington D.C., Jul 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Tens of millions of African orphans are in need of support and care from a loving, stable family said experts testifying at a D.C. congressional hearing on the orphan crisis on the continent.
“Behind every statistic about orphaned children, behind the pie charts and graphs, there is also a portrait in miniature,” said Congressman Chris Smith (R- N.J.), “a lonely child who is left without a mother or a father, perhaps dealing each night with the pangs of hunger pain, or just seeking a place where one can lay one’s head down in safety until the morning comes.”
“These children are in need of love and compassion, of simple needs being met,” he continued as he introduced speakers for a July 16 hearing before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, which he chairs.
“Those who do find loving homes and families are truly the lucky ones,” the congressman emphasized. “There is a little soul, a young person, whose inherent dignity has been scarred in a world itself wounded, where there is so much pain, suffering and darkness.”
Robert P. Jackson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary with the Bureau of African Affairs for the U.S. Department of State testified that more than 17.8 million children have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS alone, and that conflicts around the continent have also left children as orphans.
In addition, he said, many children in conflict-ridden areas are vulnerable to recruitment as child soldiers.
Dr. Shimwaayi Muntemba, Founder of Zambia Orphans Aid, an orphan aid organization added that oftentimes poverty, illness and natural disasters contribute to children losing one or both of their parents, leaving more than 50 million children and a humanitarian crisis that will last for decades if the many health and well-being needs of these children are not addressed.
Kelly Tillotson Dempsey, General Counsel and Director of Advocacy and Outreach for Both Ends Burning – a child advocacy organization – said that international adoption could be an important tool in protecting orphans. She explained that “every child needs and deserves a family,” and stressed that there was a “staggering need” for children to be placed in loving homes.
However, she noted that oftentimes, the current layout of State Department international adoption regulations hinders families’ abilities to adopt children in need of stable homes.
“Adoption is much more than a simple immigration matter and we must promulgate a foreign policy that does more for children in need,” she stressed.
Dempsey recommended the creation of a separate bureau or organization within the State Department that would help streamline exit and entry visas and help the thousands upon thousands of orphans caught in “limbo” in the adoption process.
Nancy E. Lindborg , Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance for the U.S. Agency for International Development said that while placement with a family – either adoptive or that of extended relatives – is ideal, there are other steps that can be taken to help children who can’t be placed in new homes.
Lindborg stressed the need for basic health care, nutrition and education to help children thrive and grow, as well as a safe and non-violent environment. The U.S. Agency for International Development, she said, provides a variety of programs that help families and children that face “violence, abuse and neglect face fundamental threats to their survival, well-being, and future.”
“If we do not focus on the child, we lose the person. Investments in a strong start for Africa’s children are critical to laying a foundation for a healthy, productive future for Africa itself,” she warned.