Denver, Colo., Dec 10, 2017 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This week, TIME Magazine announced a group of women and men as their collective Person of the Year.
What do these people have in common? They are what TIME called “The Silence Breakers” - people who have blown the whistle on sexual assault and abuse within the workplace, largely in the industries of film, politics, and media.
In recent months an avalanche of abuse allegations have been brought to light against powerful figures, starting most notably with a piece in the New York Times in which several women accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. This sparked a flood of men and women coming forward with other allegations of abuse against numerous people in positions of power.
“These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought,” TIME reported.
Not long ago, the Catholic Church in the United States was reeling from its own sex abuse crisis. In the early 2000s, reporters at the Boston Globe broke the story of a former priest who was accused of molesting more than 100 boys over 30 years, which led to a large-scale uncovering of thousands more allegations of abuse in dioceses throughout the country.
Since then, the Church has taken care to provide numerous resources to such victims, and develop robust child protection policies.
Edward Mechmann, director of public policy and the safe environment office for the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA that the “silence breakers” who came forward and continue to come forward with accusations of abuse by clergy and Church personnel are key in maintaining a safe environment in the Church.
“I think the one thing we have to make sure we understand is who the whistleblowers are, and for the most part, the whistleblowers are victims,” Mechmann said.
“As much as the outside observers like the Boston Globe and the media in general contributed to our awareness of the scope of the problem, we would really be nowhere unless we had some of these courageous victims coming forward, because without them, we would have many more men in service who are victimizers,” he added.
It is especially important that victims come forward in order to protect others from abuse, he noted, because in some cases, abusers have victimized numerous people over the span many years.
Recently, the Church has seen victims coming forward “much more willingly now, because they see that we’re serious, they see that we’re not going to victimize them again, and they see concrete results” such as accused persons being removed from ministry, he said.
“The first and most important thing we do is we listen to them, and I can’t tell you how important that is,” Mechmann said.
“So many people that come in to see us are afraid, they’ve been victimized, they’re afraid they’re going to be victimized again, and just the fact that we listen to them is just an enormously healing thing,” he said.
Besides listening to victims, Mechmann said the Church also provides support through counseling and through talking with victims about the Church’s internal processes for dealing with cases of abuse.
“And we stay in contact with them, if they want to stay in contact with us, we walk with them,” he added.
Dr. Benjamin Keyes, a Catholic psychologist and Director for the Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies at Divine Mercy University, told CNA that supporting and encouraging victims who come forward is of the utmost importance.
“There’s a whole lot of relief that someone has finally heard the story...they’re no longer isolated with the information, and how well they fare afterwards really depends on what happens around them,” he said. “Are they supported, are there people in their network, whether it's family, friends, or co-workers, that really understand and really support them in the courage that it takes to do this?”
Sometimes it can takes months or even years for victims of abuse to break the silence on what happened to them, Keyes said, because there is usually “a lot of embarrassment, a lot of shame involved, and most people, women in particular, don’t want to expose that to the public or to others, even to those who are close to (them),” he said.
The fear of retaliation or retribution is also something that can keep victims from coming forward, especially if the abuse came from someone who is in a position of power over the victim, Keyes noted.
For these reasons, victims need encouragement and support from the Church in order to feel comfortable coming forward.
“The Church can be supportive, especially in the parishes, (by) making it safe for (whistleblowers) to be who they are, by acknowledging the courage that it took for them to do that, and to be supportive vocally within the body of the Church so that people hear that the Church is supporting it,” he said.
Supporting victims also involves “making sure that they stay networked into not only the activities that they’ve been involved with, but that they stay networked into the body of the Church, so that they don’t walk away,” he added.
The parish priest, as well as members of the parish community, are especially key in making victims feel welcomed and supported, he noted, which can be done simply by including them and befriending them.
“We’re taught in the Bible to love and to love unconditionally, and this is part of that,” Keyes said.
“It’s embracing the broken places and binding up the suffering and reaching out to the broken-hearted, and we’re called as Christians, not just as counselors, to do that,” he added.
Since the sex abuse crisis in the Church in the United States, the bishops have put into place numerous policies and practices to protect victims, and especially children from sexual abuse, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Charter for Child and Youth Protection, which calls for an annual audit and report of all the dioceses in the country.
The Church has also implemented safe environment trainings that call for a zero-tolerance policy of abuse in Church environments.
“I think a lot of what’s happening is really good,” Mechmann said, regarding the silence breakers in media and politics who have recently come forward.
“Maybe the world as a whole could learn a little bit from the way that we have handled this, in terms of creating a clear corporate culture of zero tolerance. Transparency is at the heart of what we’ve done, and I hope that some of these other industries can do the same.”
Vatican City, Dec 10, 2017 / 09:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s Dec. 6 notice that he will be moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Holy See has expressed its concern for recent violent outbreaks and urged leaders to promote peace and security.
A Vatican communique Dec. 10 pointed to concerns for peace and security in Jerusalem and reiterated its belief that “only a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians can bring a stable and lasting peace,” as well as “guarantee the peaceful co-existence of two states within internationally recognized borders.”
The brief statement was published just days after the news broke that President Trump would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a widely controversial decision that has provoked a mixed reaction from the international community.
The Vatican said it is watching the development of the situation closely, especially in Jerusalem, which is a “Sacred city for Christians, Jews and Muslims from all over the world.”
The statement also reiterated the Holy See’s position on the importance of maintaining the status quo in Jerusalem, as per the repeated requests of the international community, and the hierarchies of the Catholic and Christian communities of the Holy Land.
Renewing an appeal made by Pope Francis during his general audience on Dec. 6, the statement reiterated the Pope's “fervent prayers” for national leaders, that they be committed to promoting peace, justice and security and averting “a new spiral of violence” in the nation.
Israel has traditionally always recognized Jerusalem as its capital. However, Palestinians claim that the eastern portion of the city is the capital of the future Palestinian state. In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the U.S. is the first country to do so since the state was established in 1948.
Debate on the issue is in many ways the crux of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which is backed by Arab leaders, including Saudi Arabia, and the wider Islamic world.
According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is to be discussed in the late stages of peace talks. Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognized by the international community, and all countries with diplomatic relations have their embassies in Tel Aviv.
More than 30 Palestinians have been injured in clashes across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip amid protests against Trump’s decision.
The position of the U.N. on the Jerusalem issue is that East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory, and that the city should eventually become the capital of the two states of Israel and Palestine.
The Vatican has long supported a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and on a diplomatic level recognizes and refers to both “the State of Israel” and “the State of Palestine.”
Vatican City, Dec 10, 2017 / 05:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During Advent, we should prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus like we joyfully prepare our homes for a visit from a family member or friend, Pope Francis said Sunday, especially removing anything keeping us from Christ.
“When we await at home a visit from a loved one, we prepare everything with care and happiness. In the same way we want to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord: to wait for him every day with solicitude, to be filled with his grace when he comes,” the Pope said Dec. 10.
In his weekly Angelus address, Francis reflected on the day’s first reading from Isaiah, which says to “make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low.”
The Pope pointed out that the valleys in this passage can represent our sins of omission, such as failing to pray, or praying very little. The valleys could also be the ways we have failed to have charity toward others, especially those most in need of material or spiritual help.
In Advent, “we are called to be more attentive to the needs of others, those closest (to us). Like John the Baptist, in this way we can open roads of hope in the desert of the dry hearts of many people,” he said.
Therefore, Advent is a good time to fill these valleys in our life, he said; to pray more intensely, to prioritize your spiritual life.
On the other hand, when the verse says, “every mountain and every hill be lowered,” we are reminded of our faults of pride, arrogance and superiority, which must become attitudes of meekness and humility, just like our Savior is “meek and humble of heart.”
Then, when we’ve examined our conscience, “we are asked to eliminate all the obstacles we put into our union with the Lord” with joy, he said, because we are preparing for the coming of our Savior.
“The Savior we are waiting for is able to transform our life with the power of the Holy Spirit, with the power of love. Indeed, the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts the love of God, an inexhaustible source of purification, of new life and freedom,” Francis said.
May the Virgin Mary, he concluded, who prepared for the coming of Christ with her whole being and existence, “help us to follow her example and guide our steps to meet the Lord who is coming.”
Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2017 / 03:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops are encouraging Catholics to observe the upcoming Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a day of solidarity with immigrants.
In the nation’s capital, a 12:10 p.m. Mass at St. Peter's Church will mark the Dec. 12 feast day. The Mass will be celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington, D.C.
Additionally, more than 55 events – including prayers services, Masses, and processions – will be held throughout the U.S. this month. These events, the bishops’ conference said, will honor Our Lady of Guadalupe and will “seek to honor the accomplishments, hopes, fears, and needs of all families who have come to the U.S. seeking a better life.”
“As we enter the Advent season and Christmas approaches, we are reminded of the unique role and importance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a unifier and peacebuilder for communities,” said Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the migration committee at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“We honor her role as protectress of families, including those families separated and far from home,” he said in a Dec. 7 statement.
The conference is also offering resources for parishes looking to accompany migrants, including Our Lady of Guadalupe prayer cards and informational material. Other suggestions include ways to incorporate the intentions of the migrant community in parish prayer services, social media sharing, and efforts to support government policies such Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and the unborn, appeared to St. Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City in 1531, during a time of conflict between the Spanish and the indigenous peoples.
Our Lady took the appearance of a pregnant native woman, wore clothing in the style of the indigenous community, and spoke to Juan Diego in the native language of Nahuatl.
She asked Juan Deigo to appeal to the local bishop to build a church on the site of the apparition, stating she wanted a place where she could reveal to the people the compassion of her son. Initially turned away by the bishop, Diego returned to site asking Our Lady for a sign to prove the authenticity of her message.
She instructed him to gather the Castilian roses that he found blooming on the hillside, despite the fact that it was winter, and present them to the Spanish bishop. Juan Diego filled his cloak – known as a tilma – with the flowers. When he presented them to the bishop, he found that an image of Our Lady was miraculously imprinted upon his tilma.
Today, nearly 500 years later, the bishops said, we should still remember Mary’s words to Juan Diego: “Let your face and heart not be troubled, don’t be afraid … Am I not here who am your mother?”
The bishops’ statement said many immigrants from the Americas have relied on Our Lady of Guadalupe’s intercession for safety during their migrant journey. The statement included a prayer requesting her protection over the most vulnerable.
Villahermosa, Mexico, Dec 9, 2017 / 06:08 am (ACI Prensa).- A diocese in one of Mexico's most violence-ridden states has indicated it will avoid scheduling Masses for Christmas and its octave at “high risk” times. It has also asked the state's police to protect parishioners.
“With respect to the problem of insecurity, for the most part the established schedule has been kept, but we are trying to avoid scheduling certain times that could be high risk,” Fr. José Luis Compeán Rueda, vicar general of the Diocese of Tabasco, said at a Dec. 3 press conference in Villahermosa, capital of the Mexican state of Tabasco.
El Heraldo de Tabasco reported that Fr. Compean said he had met with the head of Tabasco's Department of Public Safety, Jorge Aguirre Carbajal, to talk about the problem of the lack of public safety and said that “they will take appropriate steps as needed.”
“We hope the different state or municipal authorities will take corresponding measures to provide protection, not exclusively to the Church, but to all of society,” he said.
Fr. Compeán noted that during the year end festivities crime increases because people are getting paid Christmas bonuses and buying Christmas presents.
A September report prepared by the Tabasco Citizens' Observatory revealed that in 2017 Tabasco occupied first place in the nation in kidnappings per capita.
“The State of Tabasco held first place in five categories of crime: kidnapping, aggravated robbery, robbery of businesses, holdups of passersby and livestock rustling” the director of Analysis and Statistics of the Tabasco Citizens' Observatory, Julia Arrivillaga, told Televisa.
The Catholic Multimedia Center released a report in August showing that Tabasco is one of the most dangerous states for priests, and that Mexico is the most violent country for priests in Latin America.
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Washington D.C., Dec 8, 2017 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With the blessing of its final mosaic, America’s Basilica – The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. – is finally complete after nearly a century of construction and adornment.
“This magnificent tribute in stone, glass, marble mosaic to Mary, Mother of Jesus, Mother of God and our Mother, invites all of us to recognize not only the special role of Mary in our life but the unique glory that is hers in her Immaculate Conception,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington in his Dec. 8 homily before the dedication of the basilica’s new Trinity Dome mosaic.
Blessing of Trinity Dome by Card. Kevin Farrell and @Cardinal_Wuerl at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception @MarysShrine pic.twitter.com/1V6IRYqOJz
— Addie Mena (@AddieMMena) December 8, 2017 Cardinal Wuerl blessed the dome with incense during Mass for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life attended the dedication as an envoy on behalf of Pope Francis and presented the cardinal and the rector of the Basilica, Msgr. Walter Rossi, with a letter of Apostolic Blessing from the Pope for the blessing.
The new dome and its mosaic, which depicts the Trinity, Mary, and nearly twenty saints and blessed who share a connection with either the Americas or the National Shrine itself, is the capstone which finishes 97 years of construction and decoration of the Basilica and its interior. Five cardinals, 23 bishops, nearly 90 priests, and over 4,000 people gathered to celebrate the event. Also present at the event were Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Callista Gingrich.
At @MarysShrine in DC for the Feast Day and also the dedication of the final piece of the National Basilica: the Trinity Dome pic.twitter.com/Akru6AN6ft
— Addie Mena (@AddieMMena) December 8, 2017 The construction of a National Shrine to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception was announced in 1918 and construction began in 1920. “People were invited all over the country to contribute in whatever way they could,” Cardinal Wuerl explained, and “some donated some pieces of old jewelry and others donated some precious stones.”
After the completion of the Crypt Church in 1931, construction on the Upper Church was paused for the Great Depression and World War II, but resumed in 1945. The Church’s structure was completed in 1959.
Since then, different side chapels depicting a variety of Marian apparitions, scenes from Mary’s life, and other mosaics on the ceilings and walls have been completed. In addition, St. John Paul II dedicated the church as a basilica in 1979, and both Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have visited the shrine during their pontificates.
During his September 2015 visit to the shrine for canonization of Junipero Serra, Pope Francis blessed the first section of the Trinity Dome mosaic. The largest dome in the entire shrine, the mosaic contains more than 14 million pieces of handmade Venetian Glass. The artwork for the dome was designed by studios in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and then fabricated in Italy into smaller puzzle-like sections. After being shipped over to the United States, the mosaic was then installed section by section onto the “crown jewel” of the shrine.
During his homily, Wuerl recalled an early gathering of United States bishops which chose the Blessed Mother of the Immaculate Conception to be the patroness for the young nation. “She is the supreme model of what our faith should be,” the cardinal said. “She was the vessel of the incarnation.”
The cardinal pointed to the new dome’s many pieces coming together as one piece of art, drawing upon its reflection of the unity within the universal Church as well the many different cultures that have come together in the United States.
“Just as there are chapels throughout this Basilica reflecting national heritages, ethnic backgrounds, all proclaiming in unison ‘Hail Mary,’ so, too, do we look across this great Church of God and see out of so many one great faith family,” Wuerl reflected.
Following his homily, Farrell read a special blessing from Pope Francis. Through his envoy, the Pope expressed his wish that all who gaze on Mary “show forth special love for the Church of Christ and the Gospel, even in our own age, and may distinguish themselves by their spiritual constancy.” Farrell also said that the Pope asks that the faithful consider “ the great honor and great gift that we have received from God’s mercy and God’s bounty.”
In addition to completing construction of the shrine, the blessing of the Trinity Dome is the first of a series of preparations for the upcoming 100th anniversary celebrations for the foundation of the basilica. A full series of centennial celebrations will take place around 2020.
Ventura, Calif., Dec 8, 2017 / 04:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The massive wildfires of California have drawn calls for prayer and assistance from the U.S. bishops, as Catholic Charities affiliates in the state work to aid victims.
“I am sure all the faithful join me in saying: we stand ready to help in the recovery,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said Dec. 8.
Dan Grimm, Santa Barbara/Ventura regional director for Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, also called for prayers.
“We are praying for a quick end to this 'trial by fire' but so grateful for the generosity of so many coming to the aid of their brothers and sisters in Christ,” he told CNA.
Six fires currently affect the state, having burned nearly 160,000 acres. About 190,000 people have been forced from their homes as over 5,700 firefighters combat the flames.
The worst blaze, the Thomas Fire, started late Monday near Santa Paula, Calif. It has burned 132,000 acres, about 206 square miles. In its first day, it spread at a rate of one acre per second.
Wind gusts are expected to continue to fan the flames through Sunday, CNN reports.
Calling for prayer, Cardinal DiNardo noted that on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Catholics “commit ourselves to the loving protection of Mary the Mother of God and patroness of America.”
“Let us remember, especially, her sons and daughters in danger from the terrible wildfires in California, both those whose homes are in the fire’s path and those courageous first responders and firefighters who are putting their lives at risk,” he said.
Grimm reflected on the response to the wildfires.
“The effect of the wildfires has been devastating, but people are responding with faith and generosity even before the flames have stopped, helping those displaced temporarily or permanently with food, water, clothing, bedding and other personal necessities,” he said.
“Catholic Charities has been one of the collection points for this great outpouring of generosity and we’re working extra to receive, store and distribute while taking care of our regular clients, both working low-income and homeless people,” he continued.
Grimm said the Red Cross and local cities have been “great” at running evacuation centers and first response operations.
“Now we are helping people as they regroup, return to clean up and protect their homes, and deal with lack of power, heat, safe water and adequate food,” the Catholic Charities official said.
The Catholic Charities of Los Angeles website, at catholiccharitiesla.org, is collecting funds to aid relief.
Catholic Charities’ Ventura Community Services Center is accepting in-kind donations for the victims of the Ventura County fire, while Catholic Charities’ Guadalupe Community Center is taking in-kind donations for victims of the Sylmar/Santa Clarita fire.
Grimm said the Ventura center in the course of one day received food, clothing and personal items that filled the client reception room. These donated goods are planned to be moved to a temporary distribution center in Casita Springs, staffed by Boy Scouts, so that residents in need may have easier access to them.
“As those whose homes were partially or completely destroyed seek to restart their lives, Catholic Charities is helping to find short-term housing,” he said.
The charities’ Santa Barbara thrift store will provide low- or no-cost furniture, clothing and household goods. The archdiocese’s Cardinal McIntyre Fund and a special fund for victims will help address uninsured housing repair and replacement costs.
Cardinal DiNardo made specific prayer recommendations, saying: “Please find a moment today, whether after Mass or while gathered as a family around the Advent wreath, to pray a Rosary in gratitude for Mary’s gifts to humanity and entrusting to her protection our sisters and brothers in the fire’s path.”
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dec 8, 2017 / 03:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Every day, thousands of people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are forced to flee their homes.
In recent months, violent clashes have escalated, creating a massive refugee crisis that has gone largely unnoticed in much of the Western world.
“Political and ethnic tensions have forced millions of Congolese to leave their homes in the past year alone. The vast majority of these people are internally displaced within the country, while a minority have become refugees upon fleeing to neighboring countries,” said Amakala Constantin Sodio, the Kinshasa-based Catholic Relief Services country representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Congo-Brazzaville.
Sodio told CNA Dec. 8 there has been a “rapid escalation” of conflicts in the regions of Kasaï, Tanganyika and South Kivu in 2016 and 2017. This has put 4.3 million people into a crisis situation, facing emergency levels of food insecurity.
More than 1.7 million people have fled their homes this year alone. The U.N. has classed the country refugee situation as Level 3, equal to Syria, Iraq and Yemen in its humanitarian need.
The situation is far from stabilizing. At least 14 U.N. peacekeepers and five Congolese soldiers were killed in an attack in North Kivu province Thursday night, believed to have been carried out by a rebel group.
“It's a mega-crisis. The scale of people fleeing violence is off the charts, outpacing Syria, Yemen and Iraq,” said Ulrika Blom, the country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council, according to the BBC.
“If we fail to step up now, mass hunger will spread and people will die. We are in a race against time,” Blom added.
New armed conflicts, an intensification of current conflicts, and the delay in elections has helped drive the crisis, according to a report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
Lambert Mende, the country’s minister of information, disputed the report and said that displaced people number less than 1 million. He said displaced people were in fact returning from nearby countries, the BBC reports.
About 5,500 Congolese people flee their homes each day, the report said. There are 4 million displaced people in the country and over 7 million who lack adequate food.
The average life expectancy in the country is under 60 years old, and more than 75 percent of the population lives on less than $2 per day.
Amid the current crisis, Catholic Relief Services aims to provide a rapid response to aid at-risk communities.
“With an initial focus on emergency response, CRS also carries out development programs focused on health, hygiene, nutrition, and agricultural interventions,” Sodio said. “CRS’ local partnerships and staff presence across the country ensures our ability to rapidly start up projects and reach people in remote areas.”
The Catholic relief agency has 182 staffers in the country and aided 1.3 million people with $27 million in resources programming in 2017, in collaboration with its partners.
The humanitarian emergency is complex and there are no simple solutions, Sodio said.
“Improvements to the quality of life of people displaced will happen slowly as countrywide efforts are made to strengthen local systems, so they may safely return home to rebuild dignified lives,” he said.
CRS has been in the country since 1961 and has maintained a continuous presence since 1993.
Sodio cited the words of Barbara Forbes, a DRC-based International Development Fellow at Catholic Relief Services, who noted that many Congolese refugees are expected to be among the 45,000 people resettled in the U.S. in 2018.
“Personally meeting refugees in the community is a great way for Americans to maintain perspective on this issue,” Forbes said.
“Americans can help these refugees thrive by offering them jobs and volunteering to drive them to medical appointments or explain their household bills,” she added. One refugee in the U.S. had told her of her dreams to go to college on a basketball scholarship and study law.
Such personal connections with refugees make clear the importance of advocacy for increased acceptance of refugee resettlement in the U.S., according to Forbes.
Washington D.C., Dec 8, 2017 / 03:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a formal investigation of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortions, for their role in the alleged sale of baby body parts.
“The Justice Department’s investigation of Planned Parenthood is a major turning point in the battle to hold the nation’s largest abortion business accountable,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said Dec. 8.
“Evidence shoes Planned Parenthood sought to squeeze every last opportunity for cash from the sale of hearts, brains, lungs, and livers of aborted children… that ends now,” Dannenfelser continued.
The Justice Department confirmed Dec. 7 they were formally looking into allegations against Planned Parenthood for the illegal sale of aborted baby body parts.
The investigation comes two years after undercover journalist David Daleiden released footage of Planned Parenthood employees negotiating the price and monetary compensation of fetal tissue from aborted babies. The footage also includes conversations from representatives of StemExpress, a company that provides biological material for medical research company.
“Over two years ago, citizen journalists at the Center for Medical Progress first caught Planned Parenthood’s top abortion doctors in a series of undercover videos callously and flippantly negotiating the sale of tiny baby hearts, lungs, livers and brains,” said Daleiden Dec. 8, according to Fox News.
“It is time for public officials to finally hold Planned Parenthood and their criminal abortion enterprise accountable under the law,” he continued.
While federal law allows compensation for fetal tissue to be used for research purposes, the amount of money received from clinics is not allowed to be of “valuable consideration,” and should only cover the costs of transportation and preservation.
Planned Parenthood and other clinics were recommended to the Justice Department for investigation by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in December 2016, after publishing the “Human Fetal Tissue Research: Context and Controversy” report.
Grassley reported that the committee found “substantial evidence” suggesting that Planned Parenthood and other parties “may have violated” the law by charging more money for fetal tissue and baby body parts than was actually recommended.
Stephen Boyd, the Justice Department assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, originally requested the unredacted documents from the Senate Judiciary Committee from the 2016 report. Last month, the FBI additionally requested these documents for investigative purposes.
“The Department of Justice appreciates the offer of assistance in obtaining these materials, and would like to request the Committee provide unredacted copies of records contained in the report, in order to further the Department’s ability to conduct a thorough and comprehensive assessment of that report based on the full range of information available,” stated Boyd, according to Fox News.
Planned Parenthood has denied accusations of breaking the law.
Washington D.C., Dec 8, 2017 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that abortion rates in the country are at a historic low since the nationwide legalization of abortion in 1973.
According to the study, abortion rates have fallen 22 percent between the years of 2005-2014. In 2014, the CDC cited 653,639 performed abortions, while over 1.4 million abortions took place in 1990.
“The CDC report indicates the percentage of abortion rates declined across all race, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds, which means pro-lifers are continuing to make great strides in protecting women and the unborn child,” Kathleen Neher, the president of the National Catholic Social Workers Association, told CNA.
The study included both surgical abortions and chemical abortions, which include abortifacient pills that end a pregnancy before 8 weeks gestation.
A number of different factors are playing into the overall decline in abortions. The CDC reported that “the proportion of pregnancies in the United States that were unintended decreased from 51 percent in 2008 to 45 percent during 2011–2013.” It pointed to increased use of long-acting contraceptives such as IUD and hormonal implants as one reason for this decrease.
However, another factor is the declining birthrate in the U.S. The National Center for Health Statistics found that the number of babies delivered in the U.S. has declined by about 1 percent over the past few years. It said that 3,941,109 babies were born in the U.S. in 2016, which was 37,388 fewer babies than were born in 2015.
Fertility rates hit a record low in the U.S. in 2016, bringing the number of births to 62.0 per 1,000 women, compared to the previous 62.5 births.
“People are choosing less frequently to be parents, and women who are pregnant are choosing less frequently to abort the baby,” said James Studnicki, a statistics expert from the Charlotte Lozier Institute, according to The Hill.
While Neher considers the overall decline of abortions to be a positive sign, she had additional concerns about the high number of women living in poverty who are still choosing abortion.
“This is a concern, as various factors contribute to these decisions – the day-to-day complexities of economic challenges, and the break-down of the family in our society, often leaving women to make these choices on their own,” Neher said.
“The response to this is to support and offer women alternative choices,” she continued, saying efforts to promote alternatives should include support for adoption, prenatal care, housing, and connecting women to programs that care for the dignity of both mother and child.
The number of abortions could potentially hit an even lower rate in the year to come. Of the abortions performed in 2014, about 1.3 percent took place after 20 weeks gestation. The practice of abortions after 20 weeks could be outlawed if the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act becomes a law. The bill has passed the House but is currently pending in the Senate.
While the CDC numbers do show an overall decline in abortions, the study is limited in its findings. States are not obligated to report their abortion data, and California, New Hampshire and Maryland did not include their numbers in the report.
Vatican City, Dec 8, 2017 / 10:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a video series for Italian television network TV2000, Pope Francis said that “lead us not into temptation” is a poorly translated line of the Our Father.
“This is not a good translation,” the Pope said in the video, published Dec. 6. “I am the one who falls, it's not (God) who pushes me toward temptation to see how I fall. A father doesn't do this, a father helps us to get up right away.”
He noted that this line was recently re-translated in the French version of the prayer to read “do not let me fall into temptation.”
The Latin version of the prayer, the authoritative version in the Catholic Church, reads “ne nos inducas in tentationem.”
The Pope said that the one who leads people into temptation “is Satan; that is the work of Satan.” He said that the essence of that line in the prayer is like telling God: “when Satan leads me into temptation, please, give me your hand. Give me your hand.”
Just as Jesus gave Peter his hand to help him out of the water when he began to sink, the prayer also asks God to “give me your hand so that I don't drown,” Pope Francis said.
The Pope made his comments in the seventh part of the “Our Father” television series being aired by Italian television network TV2000.
Filmed in collaboration with the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications, the series consists of nine question-and-answer sessions with Pope Francis and Fr. Marco Pozza, a theologian and a prison chaplain in the northern Italian city of Padua.
In each of the sessions, Fr. Pozza asks the Pope about a different line in the Our Father prayer, and the Pope offers his insights. A preview of the series was presented at the Vatican's Film Library by Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano, head of the Secretariat for Communications.
The show also led to the publication of a book titled “Our Father,” which was released by the Vatican Publishing House and Italian publisher Rizzoli Nov. 23, and is based on Pozza's conversations with the Pope in the video series.
Each of the first eight episodes of the series begin with an excerpt from conversation between the Pope and Pozza, which is followed by a second conversation between Pozza and another guest. The final episode will consist of the priest's entire conversation with Pope Francis.
In his question to Pope Francis on the line “lead us not into temptation,” Pozza noted that many people have asked him how God can lead someone into temptation, and questioned what the phrase actually intends to say.
The question is one of the reasons the French bishops decided to make a request for a new translation of the Our Father that they believe conveys the meaning more clearly.
According to the French episcopal conference, the decision to make the change was accepted by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in June 2013.
The new translation, released Dec. 3 to mark the first day of Advent and the beginning of the new liturgical year, now reads “ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation,” meaning, “do not let us fall into temptation,” versus the former “ne nous soumets pas à la tentation,” or “lead us not into temptation.”
The Pope’s remarks do not change the translations of liturgical texts. Such a change would begin with a resolution by an episcopal conference in English-speaking countries.
In a previous episode of the “Our Father” series, Pope Francis said “it takes courage” to recite the prayer, because it means calling on someone else and truly believing that “God is the Father who accompanies me, forgives me, gives me bread, is attentive to everything I ask, and dresses me better than wildflowers.”
“To believe is a great risk,” and means daring to make the leap of faith, he said. Because of this, “praying together is so beautiful: because we help each other to dare.”
Vatican City, Dec 8, 2017 / 08:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In an inauguration ceremony Thursday, the Vatican officially unveiled this year’s nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square, also lighting the 69-foot Christmas tree for the first time this year.
In an audience with the tree and nativity donors Dec. 7, Pope Francis reflected on the symbolism found in the two Christmas traditions, which he said are “signs of the compassion of the heavenly Father, of his participation and closeness to humanity” even in its “very difficulties.”
The branches of the tree, “reaching upward,” remind us to reach for “the highest gifts,” he explained. And in “the simplicity of the crib we meet and contemplate the tenderness of God” as manifested in the Child Jesus.
This year’s Vatican nativity scene was created by artisans in a local workshop and donated by an ancient Benedictine Abbey, the Sanctuary of Montevergine, which lies near Naples.
A special detail of this year’s scene: in one corner hangs a replica of the icon of Our Lady of Montevergine, a nod to the abbey which donated it. The original image, which is 12 feet tall, hangs in the chapel of the Sanctuary of Montevergine.
Outside of the traditional nativity figures of Mary, Joseph, the child Jesus, the Wise Men, shepherds, an angel, and animals, the other figures are represented in the act of performing the 7 Corporal Works of Mercy, such as burying the dead, visiting the imprisoned, and clothing the naked.
The approximately 6 1/5-foot-tall figures are made of colored terracotta and dressed in traditional eighteenth-century Neapolitan costumes. The whole scene is built on a platform about 861-square-feet in size.
In a change from past years, this one includes a technological element; visitors can connect to a special Wi-Fi access point in St. Peter’s Square and scan a QR code to watch a video to learn more about the nativity.
The Christmas tree is a northern European tradition which has only recently become more common in Italy. The tradition to have a tree in St. Peter’s Square was begun by St. John Paul II in 1982.
This year’s tree, which comes from Poland, is 69-feet tall and about 60 years old. Its tip was lost when it was struck by lightning several years ago.
It was donated by the Archdiocese of Elk and cut down by a local forestry service, which transported it by truck over more than 1200 miles in 12 days to reach Rome, traveling mostly by night, when traffic is less dense.
The ornaments which decorate the spruce were created by children with cancer and their parents from several hospitals in Italy, as well as by children from Italian zones affected by earthquakes the past two years.
The ornaments were created in clay by the children and then reproduced using synthetic materials which can stand up to the weather in St. Peter’s Square.
The nativity and tree will remain in St. Peter’s Square until Jan. 7, 2018, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
Vatican City, Dec 8, 2017 / 04:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis offered his own ‘beauty secret’ – with Mary as model – saying beauty does not come from age or appearance, but from living a virtuous life rooted in scripture.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, though a simple and humble person, “lived a beautiful life,” the Pope said Dec. 8, asking “what was her secret?”
The answer can be found in the story of the Annunciation, he said. “In many paintings, Mary is depicted sitting in front of the angel with a small book. The book is scripture.”
“The Word of God was her secret: close to her heart, it then took flesh within her womb. Remaining with God, dialoguing with Him in every circumstance, Mary made her life beautiful.”
In his special Angelus address for the feast day, Pope Francis emphasized that what makes someone’s life beautiful is “not appearance, not what passes, but the heart focused on God.”
Francis noted how Mary came from a simple family and lived in a humble fashion in Nazareth, which was an almost unknown village. She was not famous. “Our Lady did not even have a comfortable life,” he said. Yet the angel greets her with the words, “hail, full of grace!”
The Church extols the Mother of God as “all beautiful,” or “tota pulchra,” in Latin, the Pope continued. This is because her beauty is not found in her outward appearance, but in her total freedom from sin.
“There is only one thing that really does grow old: not age, but sin,” he emphasized. “Sin makes (us) old, because it fossilizes the heart. It closes it, makes it inert, it makes it fade. But the (woman) full of grace is empty of sin.”
Let us ask for her help to remain free of sin, he concluded, so that we too can live a beautiful life, saying “yes,” to God.
After reciting the Angelus, Pope Francis noted how later in the afternoon he will visit Rome’s Piazza di Spagna to venerate the statue of the Immaculate Conception overlooking the Spanish Steps.
He asked those gathered to join him spiritually in this act, “which expresses filial devotion to our heavenly Mother.”
The statue of Our Lady, which sits atop a nearly 40-foot-high column, was dedicated Dec. 8, 1857, just a few years after the Catholic Church adopted the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Since the 1950s, it has been a custom for popes to venerate the statue for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The statue is usually adorned with homages of flowers hung in the form of wreaths around Mary’s outstretched arms and laid at the base of the statue. Early in the morning Dec. 8, firemen placed a large wreath of white and yellow flowers upon Mary’s arm, reaching the statue with the ladder from a firetruck.
During his visit Pope Francis will place flowers at the base of the statue and recite a short prayer to Our Lady, made on behalf of the people who live in Rome.
After the visit to Piazza di Spagna, the Pope is scheduled to stop at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where he will venerate the image of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani.
San Isidro, Argentina, Dec 8, 2017 / 12:26 am (ACI Prensa).- Seventy-eight prisoners were baptized, confirmed, and received their First Holy Communion in an Argentine prison Dec. 1.
The inmates are entering the Catholic Church after working with the Diocese of San Isidro’s prison ministry, which operates in the greater Buenos Aires metropolitan area.
With the pastoral support of Bishop Oscar Ojea of San Isidro and Auxiliary Bishop Martín Fassi, the ministry is led by Sister María Cristina Albornoz and served by 20 volunteers. They have been active since 2007 in both male-only and mixed gender units of the Buenos Aires Province prison system.
The sacraments were administered to 68 men and 10 women during a Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Fassi and attended by the prison ministry volunteers.
In his homily, Bishop Fassi encouraged the inmates to take the same path as Jesus, uniting their lives to him.
“Jesus was rejected. But just as he did back then, he comes to us to change our mentality. He comes to us to bring a new way of thinking,” the bishop said.
The prison ministry offers catechesis, Mass, and other sacraments. In addition, it offers workshops in pottery, weaving and gardening.
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Orange, Calif., Dec 7, 2017 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Dominic Dinh Mai Luong, the first Vietnam-born bishop to serve in the U.S., died Thursday, Dec. 6, at the age of 77.
He had served as an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Orange, one of the largest dioceses in the country, until his 75th birthday in 2015.
The future bishop was born Dec. 20, 1940 in Minh Cuong, about 50 miles from Hanoi in what was then French Indochina. He was the second of 11 children. The family was forced to move many times due to political instability, the Orange County Catholic reports.
He attended a French-Vietnamese school and then a minor seminary. In 1956, at the age of 16, his bishop sent him to the U.S. to continue his priestly formation. He would not return home until 1979 because of the Vietnam War.
Luong was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Da Nang on May 21, 1966 by Bishop James A. McNulty at the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna, N.Y.
After ordination he received a bachelor’s degree in physics and master’s degrees in biology and psychology. He taught biology at a junior seminary in Buffalo, where he also served as associate pastor at Saint Louis Parish.
He served many refugees in New Orleans, where he would become director of the archdiocese’s Vietnamese apostolate and became founding pastor of Mary, Queen of Vietnam parish. He was incardinated into the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 1976.
He worked as director of the National Center for the Vietnamese Apostolate and directed the U.S. bishops’ pastoral care for migrants and refugees.
St. John Paul II named him a bishop in April 2003, as a response to the major growth of the Church in the Orange diocese and the growing numbers there of Catholics from Vietnam.
Bishop Luong had retired in 2015, but remained active at St. Bonaventure Church in Huntington Beach, Calif., which has a large Vietnamese community.
He had been writing a book on Marian apparitions in Vietnam and led the monthly Lectio Divina at St. Bonaventure.