Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Leading U.S. bishops voiced strong criticism of an “unprecedented and extreme” new executive order, saying that it adds to discrimination problems rather than finding real solutions to them.
“In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination,” warned Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo.
“With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent,” they said in a July 21 statement.
“As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.”
Archbishop Lori is the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Malone chairs the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.
The bishops responded to President Barack Obama signing a July 21 executive order prohibiting what was described as discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” The president signed the order after efforts to pass a similar bill – the Employment Non-Discrimination Act – in Congress had repeatedly failed.
Despite petitions from a wide variety of religious figures, the executive order did not include any religious exemption.
Concerns had been voiced by vague terms included in the proposed legislation, which did not define the phrases “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” As a result, religious groups are worried that they may be disqualified from federal contracts unless they affirm same-sex partnerships as marriages against the teachings of their faith and pay for employees’ transgender “transitions.”
The U.S. bishops are among those who have opposed the executive order, particularly due to its lack of a religious exemption. They have emphasized the important role of religious freedom in allowing faith communities to contribute to the good of society.
In their July 21 statement, Archbishop Lori and Bishop Malone emphasized that “the Church strongly opposes…unjust discrimination against those who experience a homosexual inclination.”
However, they continued, the Church distinguishes between attraction and behavior. Catholic teaching opposes “sexual conduct outside of marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman.”
The bishops cautioned that the “executive order, as it regards federal government contractors, ignores the inclination/conduct distinction in the undefined term ‘sexual orientation.’” This could result in exclusion from federal contracts for those employers whose policies include “moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct.”
Furthermore, the federally unprecedented “gender identity” clause is based upon a false idea that “gender” is merely a social or psychological construct totally separated from notions of biological sex, they said.
In practice, this could result in problems of privacy and association, they added. “For example, a biological male employee may be allowed to use the women’s restroom or locker room provided by the employer because the male employee identifies as a female.”
Archbishop Lori and Bishop Malone pointed out that most states which have passed their own “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” statutes have included protections for religious employers, as did the U.S. Senate in its version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
“Indeed, all prior versions of ENDA had at least some religious liberty protections,” they said. “But the executive order is an anomaly in this regard, containing no religious liberty protections.”
“In this way, the order, which is fundamentally flawed in itself, also needlessly prefers conflict and exclusion over coexistence and cooperation,” they lamented.
Vatican City, Jul 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his weekly Sunday Angelus address Pope Francis mourned the fleeing of the last Christians from the Iraqi city of Mosul, who were told by ISIS forces last week to either convert, pay the Jizya tax or leave.
“They are persecuted; our brothers are persecuted, they are driven out, they have to leave their houses without having the possibility of taking anything with them,” Pope Francis voiced in his July 20 Angelus address.
“I want to express my closeness and my constant prayer to these families and these people,” he continued. “Dear brothers and sisters who are so persecuted, I know how much you suffer, I know that you are stripped of everything. I am with you in the faith of the one who has conquered evil!”
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, 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.
Thursday the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate declared to the remaining Christian community of Mosul that they either needed openly convert to Islam, pay an unspecified jizya tax in exchange for their safety while observing certain conditions, or leave their homes with only their clothes, nothing more.
Following Thursday’s declaration, the houses of Mosul Christians were marked with an “N,” signifying “Nazarenes.” As a result, the few remaining Christians have left, marking the first time in history the city has been without Christians.
Pope Francis encouraged those gathered in St. Peter’s Square as well as those watching on television to pray for “the situations of tension and conflict that persist in different parts of the world, especially in the Middle East and in Ukraine.”
“The God of peace will awaken in all the authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence will not win over violence. Violence is won over by peace!” he said, and led the pilgrims in a moment of silent prayer.
During his address before the traditional Marian prayer, the Roman Pontiff recounted the parable of the day’s Gospel, in which the owner of a field plants wheat, but one of his enemies comes during the night and plants weeds in the field as well.
Observing how the Hebrew root for the word “enemy” used in scripture is the same as that of “Satan,” the Pope described how the name gives the connotation of division, and explained that the devil “always seeks to divide individuals, families, nations and peoples.”
Observing how there is a twofold meaning to the parable, the pontiff noted that first of all it reveals to us that “the evil in the world does not come from God, but from his enemy, the devil.”
Another lesson we learn is when we look at “the contradiction between the impatience of the servants and the patience of the owner of the field, who represents God,” he continued, referring to how the servants wanted to burn all the weeds, but the field owner instead waited and had the wheat and weeds grow together so that he could save the good seeds later.
“Sometimes we are very quick to judge, classify, put the good over here, the bad over there,” the Bishop of Rome noted, stating that instead “God knows how to wait. God is patient” and “waits with heart in hand in order to welcome, to forgive. He always forgives if we go to him.”
Going on, the Pope drew attention to the attitude of the field owner, saying that it is that of the hope founded on the certainty that evil will have neither the first nor the last word.”
“It is thanks to this patient hope of God that the same weed, which is the evil heart with many sins, in the end can become wheat,” he said, “But be attentive: evangelical patience is not an indifference to evil; we cannot confuse good and evil!”
“In front of the weeds present in the world the disciple of the Lord is called to imitate the patience of God, and nourish the hope of the ultimate good, which is God.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis explained that “we will be judged with the same measure we have judged others.”
“The mercy that we have shown to others will also be shown to us,” he stated, and prayed that Mary, “our Mother,” help us “to grow in patience, in hope and in mercy with all of our brothers.”
Erbil, Iraq, Jul 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On the eve of an ultimatum issued by Islamists to Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul, the Chaldean bishop of Erbil, in nearby Kurdistan, urged prayers for the nation's remaining followers of Christ.
“We have hope that things will get better,” Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil said in an interview with CNA on July 16.
“But … from the circumstances, which we are following, it looks like it’s going to take some time.”
A militant Sunni organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has been steadily attacking cities and communities in north and northwestern Iraq since June. The attacks have begun dividing Iraq along religious and ethnic lines.
On Friday, July 18, ISIS issued an ultimatum to the Christians of the city of Mosul, which it captured more than a month ago: convert to Islam, pay the jizya, or be killed.
The cross a top the city's Syriac Orthodox cathedral was removed.
“They control the city and I think they made it very clear that there is no place for non-Muslims in the city,” Archbishop Warda said.
Thousands of Christians have fled Mosul, seeking refuge in Christian villages in the surrounding Nineveh Plains and in Kurdistan.
The charity Aid to the Church in Need sent a grant of more than $135,000 to provide food and shelter for the displaced in the region. Archbishop Amel Nona of Mosul told the charity in a recent interview that schools, church halls and abandoned houses have opened up to receive displaced persons from Mosul.
Recent U.N. estimates place the number of internally displaced Iraqis at 1.2 million, nearly half of whom have been driven from homes in the western province of Anbar. Many of those internally displaced are seeking refuge in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, which is known for its peace and stability.
Archbishop Warda said he has noticed an influx of refugees in Erbil over the past month. He said most refugees are renting out rooms or apartments from locals.
“(It's) crowded, yes, and expensive, which is also another issue” the archbishop explained. “But, that's the situation.”
He lamented that many Iraqis have been living in a state of crisis for many years.
“We hope that things will get better (and) will improve for the lives of those people,” he said.
“But from what we are observing, it's not promising.”
Lincoln, Neb., Jul 21, 2014 (CNA) -
In an upcoming issue of The Linacre Quarterly, the official journal of the Catholic Medical Association, an article entitled, “The Breast Cancer Epidemic: 10 Facts,” will explore the scientific evidence that connects artificial contraception to breast cancer.
Father Christopher Kubat, executive director of Catholic Social Services of southern Nebraska and a medical physician, is one of the co-authors. He was asked to contribute a small portion of the article by two of the main authors, A. Patrick Schneider II, M.D., M.P.H., and Christine Zainer, M.D.
Father Kubat became acquainted with Dr. Zainer when he was still practicing medicine in Milwaukee, before he entered the seminary. Drs. Schneider and Zainer also received contributions from Nancy K. Mullen, M.D. and Amberly K. Windisch, M.D.
“It was a collaborative effort that took considerable time,” Father Kubat said. “It’s very lengthy, and there are tons of references.”
With one in eight U.S. woman diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives, the article is addressing a crucial topic. Multiple medical studies have shown that women who use oral contraception experience an increased risk for developing breast cancer.
“The epidemiological data in the article is, for the most part, unknown to the general public,” Father Kubat said. “That evidence has largely been suppressed and ignored. This article is an attempt to overcome this and bring it to light.”
He added, “If one looks hard enough, they can find evidence in the medical literature between using chemical contraceptive drugs and having an abortion with breast cancer.”
Father Kubat said that even in the recent news about Hobby Lobby’s appeal to the Supreme Court to refrain from paying for four specific contraception options that cause abortion, there is a great deal of misunderstanding.
“The narrative suggests that some contraceptive drugs are not abortifacients and others are,” he said. “Make no mistake; all contraceptive drugs have as one of their mechanisms of action the abortive dimension – all of them.”
This article in The Linacre Quarterly also carefully provides the worldwide evidence for this link between an induced abortion and breast cancer.
“The recent increase in breast cancer began more than 40 years ago and was abrupt,” he pointed out. “This is no accident.”
Father Kubat said the article also will make it clear that “many of the cases of breast cancer in the world are preventable.”
It frustrates Father Kubat that in society, physicians remain ignorant of the facts and contraception has become the “sacred cow that must not be sacrificed.” He laments the heavy price that is being paid by the women who use it.
“This is the real war against women,” he maintained.
Father Kubat said he hopes that people will read the article and learn the truth. In the meantime, he is available to talk to parishes, women’s groups and anywhere else he is invited to discuss the medical evidence regarding contraception and female health. He can be reached at the Catholic Social Services office, (402) 474-1600.
Continuously published since 1934, The Linacre Quarterly is the oldest journal in existence dedicated to medical ethics. The Linacre Quarterly provides a forum in which faith and reason can be brought to bear on analyzing and resolving ethical issues in health care, with a particular focus on issues in clinical practice and research.
This article was originally published in the Lincoln, Neb., diocesan paper, the Southern Nebraska Register. Reprinted here with permission.
London, England, Jul 21, 2014 (CNA) -
Tony Palmer, a Protestant Christian leader and a close friend of Pope Francis, passed away in the U.K. on Sunday due to injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident.
The Order of the Ark Community, an internet-based Christian group overseen by Palmer, announced his July 20 death on its website.
Palmer was born in the U.K. and grew up in South Africa. He was a member of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, which views itself as “standing with in the Celtic and Anglican traditions” of Christianity.
He knew the Pope from his time in Argentina, when Bergoglio was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Palmer recounted his friendship with Pope Francis at a February gathering of Pentecostal leaders organized by the Texas-based Kenneth Copeland Ministries.
Palmer said he considered the Pope to be one of his three “spiritual fathers.” The two studied together and met often.
Palmer and Pope Francis had a meeting in mid-January during which they discussed Christian unity. Pope Francis suggested he record a video message on Palmer’s phone, and the message was then presented at the Pentecostal gathering.
In the message, the Pope described Palmer as “my brother,” saying the two have been “friends for years.”
“We have a lot of cultural riches and religious riches. And we have diverse traditions,” the Pope told the Pentecostal gathering. “But we have to encounter one another as brothers.”
He said that Christians had been separated by “sins” and “misunderstandings throughout history,” voicing his yearnings that the separation will end in communion.
“Let’s give each other a spiritual embrace and let God complete the work that he has begun,” Pope Francis said.
Palmer had urged Protestant Evangelical leaders to sign the 1999 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by representatives of the Church and of the Lutheran World Federation. He thought the document “brought an end to the Protest” of the Protestant Reformation.