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Posted on 06/19/2018 11:02 AM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Jun 19, 2018 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- According to the official working document for the upcoming synod of bishops on youth, the major questions for young people ahead of the October discussion surround issues of sexuality and gender, the role of women and the desire for a Church that knows how to listen.
The “instrumentum laboris” for the Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation,” was published June 19, and includes contributions from both young people themselves, and bishops conferences.
Key issues highlighted in the document are not only increasing cultural instability and violent conflicts, but many young people, both inside and outside of the Church, are divided when it comes to topics related to sexuality, the role of women, homosexuality and the need to be more welcoming to members of the LGBT community.
The document pointed to a “metamorphosis of the human condition” some analysts say the world is undergoing due to the rapid pace at which cultural and anthropological changes are happening.
In this regard, a key challenge for the Church that the document cited is the body and topics related to human sexuality. The body, the text read, has always been at an “intersection between nature and culture,” yet new biomedical technologies have given rise to different concepts of the body.
On one hand, the document pointed to the trend of technological experimentation, saying there is an increasing push for the integration of “body and machine, between neuronal and electronic circuits, which find their icon in the cyborg, favoring a technocratic approach to the body.”
But on the other hand, the trend of manipulating one's body goes beyond the technical realm, and also touches on issues related to biology, the text said, pointing to surrogacy and egg donation as examples.
Things such as precocious sexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography, displaying one's body online and sexual tourism, the text said, “risk disfiguring the beauty and depth of emotional and sexual life.”
Bishops, the document continued, recognize the importance of the body and of sexuality, particularly the differences and complimentary of men and women, but are often not able to communicate the Church's teachings well.
Church teaching on issues such as abortion, contraception, homosexuality, cohabitation and marriage for many youth are up for debate, both in the Church, and in society at large.
While there are young Catholics who find Church teaching to be “a source of joy” and who wish to follow this teaching despite how unpopular it is in the public eye, others want more clarification on these and other major issues, and have asked Church authorities not to be afraid to talk to them about “taboo,” topics such as gender and women.
“No bishops conference offers solutions or recipes” to these issues, the document said, but they are convinced that “the question of sexuality must be discussed more openly and without prejudice.”
On the issue of homosexuality, the document emphasized the need to be open and welcoming to everyone, including non-believers, those of other faiths, and also the LGBT community.
Some LGBT youth who participated in the online questionnaire or offered contributions through social media, the document read, said they want to experience “greater closeness and greater care on the part of the Church.”
In their responses, bishops conferences also questioned how to respond to young people who have chosen to live a homosexual lifestyle, but who also want “to be close to the Church.”
In comments to journalists at the June 19 presentation of the synod's working document, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, said the reason the Church is engaging with members of the LGBT community is because “we are open. We don't want to be closed in on ourselves.”
In the Church, “there are many areas, there is freedom for people to express themselves – on the right, left, center, north and south – this is all possible,” he said, adding that “this is why we are willing to listen to people with different opinions.”
Young people, the document said, are also concerned that at times the Church can seem distant, and have voiced a desire to have a Church that is close, transparent and up-to-date, and which is not afraid to talk about the tough issues.
Divided into three parts plus framed by an introduction and conclusion, the document offers an overview of the state of young people throughout the world today and possible pastoral responses.
The document is a compilation of contributions from four primary sources: a questionnaire sent out to bishops conferences in June 2017; a website for the questionnaire and social media accounts where youth were able to leave testimonies and answer questions; a September 2017 seminar on youth that took place in Rome; and the final document of the pre-synod meeting which took place in Rome in March, and drew participation from some
The first step was the questionnaire that was sent out to bishops’ conferences worldwide, and which was also posted online in order to make it more accessible to young people. It was released in June 2017 for people ages 16 to 29, of all faiths and backgrounds, asking about lives, attitudes and concerns about the world.
The answers to the questionnaire will be one of four key ingredients in the October synod, he said, with the other three being the website for the questionnaire and social media accounts where youth can leave testimonies and answer questions; a September 2017 seminar on youth that took place in Rome; and the final document of the pre-synod meeting.
The structure of the text follows a methodology frequently insisted upon by Francis in the process of discernment: recognizing, interpreting and then choosing.
The text noted that there are some 1.8 million people throughout the world between the ages of 16-29, however, the demographic, economic and social conditions of each country are different. Whereas youth are the majority in some countries, in others youth are a minority. In some places, lifespan does not exceed 60 years of age, whereas in others it extends well over 80.
Added to this is the disparity between rich and poor nations, and the access young people therefore have to education, healthcare and a stable home. In some areas they also face pressures such as drugs, corruption, violence and the challenges brought on by an increasingly globalized world.
For what regards the role of the family, the document said that responses to the online questionnaire showed that mothers are a key reference point for youth, while the subject of fatherhood requires a deeper reflection due to the “ambiguities and voids” left as a result of the lack of father figures, particularly in the west.
According to the document, family will be a key topic of discussion, especially in light of the conclusions on the 2014-2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family.
Bishops also noted that religion no longer holds the same weight that it did in the past, and that for many young people, simply being “spiritual” is enough.
In terms of the Catholic Church itself, the document noted that many youth are committed to the Church through different activities, and bishops conferences have affirmed that youth outreach is a key priority in most parishes.
However, on the flip side, the text also noted that in the pre-synod meeting, youth had voiced concern about feeling as if they were being put into a corner, and felt that generally they were not taken seriously, especially when it comes to leadership.
The document also touched on both the risks and benefits of technology and social media, including the dangers of the “dark web,” and the role of music, art and sport as forms of expression.
Work, young migrants and discrimination were all touched on in the document, including religious persecution, especially for Christians in areas where they are a minority, racism and discrimination against women.
Discrimination against women, even in ecclesial environments, was also addressed in the text, and was a key concern raised by youth themselves during the pre-synod meeting in March, during which they questioned how and where women can really, fully participate in the Church and in society.
The Church, according to the “can face these problems with a frank dialogue and a mind open to different ideas and experiences.”
The document also cited a growing paralysis on the part of young people when it comes to making a decision for their lives, whether it is due to a lack of opportunity, economic instability, or, at times, a the lack of a sense of meaning and purpose.
It also spoke of the need to listen to youth, who frequently lack good role models, and who want a Church which is “authentic” and which is capable of talking to them about the issues that matter.
In the second section of the document, the text spoke of “the blessing of youth” from a biblical standpoint, emphasizing the importance of accompaniment in the discernment process.
To follow Christ, it said, “is a call to risk, to lose what has already been acquired, to trust. It is a provocation to break with the planning mentality which, if exasperated, leads to narcissism and the closing in on oneself.
The section placed a heavy emphasis on the need to accompany young people in determining what path is best for their lives, saying the task of accompaniment “is not an option with regard to the task of educating and evangelizing youth.”
Rather, “it is an ecclesial duty and the right of every young person,” the document said, adding that only the presence of a “prudent and wise” guide can help youth to correctly interpret God's will for their lives.
The text then offered a brief reflection on the different vocational paths, including the vocation to the family, to ordained ministry and to consecrated life. However, it also touched on the increasing number of people who opt to stay single, without making a move toward consecrated life or marriage.
No concrete answer to the question of “singles” was given, but due to the growing number of singles in the Church and in the world in general, the document said “it is important that the synod reflect on this question.”
In terms of discernment, the document noted that it goes well “well beyond” simply deciding whether to get married or live a consecrated life. Rather, discernment is a broader concept, and also includes helping youth to determine their profession and what sort of social or political commitments to make.
But to discern well, accompaniment is needed, the document said, noting that youth themselves have voiced their desire for an accompaniment which is both free and authentic, while bishops said they wanted to provide a “broad” and varied accompaniment for young people equivalent to a sort of “Christian coaching” in life.
The text emphasized the need to provide both spiritual and psychological accompaniment, and a formation which reaches the family, educational and social aspects of life.
Those who accompany youth ought to be able to respect each person and what God is already doing in their lives, and who is able to influence “with who they are, before what they can do or propose.”
For youth in particular, the document said it is important that those who accompany them are committed in the Church and on the path to sanctity, but it is also crucial that they are able to recognize their own limits and who are able to walk with young people, rather than being put “on a pedestal.”
The document also stressed that accompanying young people is not a task limited to priests and religious, but is also something laity can do.
In terms of helping youth to make concrete choices that are right for their lives, the document stressed the need for an integral formation and education, and emphasized the role that Catholic schools and universities can play in helping to mold young people.
It also emphasized the importance of finding new models of development in terms of generating employment, fostering a better economy, and caring for creation. It also called for innovation in the technical sphere and for greater collaboration so that everyone has access to the resources and opportunities they need.
Faced with the challenge of modern society, bishops said it is increasingly important to form youth in politics and in how to be active citizens. Particular attention, the document said, ought to be paid to professional competence, opportunities for service, care for the environment and a better understanding of the Church's social doctrine.
Emphasis was also placed on the role of the internet and digital media outlets as a means of evangelization, and the need to accompany prisoners, young people who live in war zones or areas of conflict, especially women and migrants. The document also called for a greater attention to and accompaniment of young people who are sick or dying.
In terms of pastoral care, the document stressed the role of family and the education and formation of children. In this regard, bishops also presented their “best practices,” underlining the need to set aside daily times of prayer and silence for personal devotion, as well as pray in one's community.
Catechesis and opportunities to practice charity are also important, the document said, especially through mission trips, retreats or with movements and associations, all of which the document said help provide space for vocational discernment.
The document also stressed that those living a consecrated life live under the same cultural and societal conditions as other people their age, so a pastoral approach adapted to different local situations is needed.
It warned against the tendency to narcissism and self-sufficiency, particularly in consecrated vocations, which have a common root in “a potentially pathological concentration on oneself.”
It cautioned against the dangers of individualism, which is “centered on the autonomous subject, which excludes recognition, gratitude and the collaborating action of God,” and “emotionalism,” which the document said “closes the person in the virtual world an in a false interiority, where the need to deal with others and the community is excluded.”
The document closed emphasizing the universal call to holiness and inviting young people to become saints.
“Jesus invites each of his disciples to the total gift of life, without calculation or human self-interest,” the text said, and spoke of the need to highlight not only young Saints in the Church, but also the “youth of the Saints,” who all passed through the phase of being young.
Doing this, the document said, would make it possible “to intercept many youth situations which are neither simple not easy, but where God is present and mysteriously active.”
“To show his grace is at work through torturous paths of the patient construction of a holiness which matures in time through many unexpected ways,” the document said, “can help all young people, no one excluded, to cultivate hope in a holiness which is always possible.”
Posted on 06/19/2018 11:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
Denver, Colo., Jun 19, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- This week, the World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to its list of International Classification of Diseases, drawing praise from one mental health expert who applauded the crucial first step in addressing a mounting epidemic.
“The World Health Organization’s decision to acknowledge the video game addiction is a good first step in addressing a growing problem,” said Dr. Michael K. Horne, director of Clinical Services for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington and alumni of the Institute for Psychological Sciences at Divine Mercy University.
“At best, video games are a distraction that prevent genuine encounters occurring between friends, family, and loved ones. At worst, video game addiction can have severe negative ramifications on the health of the person,” Horne told CNA.
“Gaming disorder” will be known, according to W.H.O., as a clinical case of video gaming behavior which leads to distress or significant impairment in personal, family, social, education or occupational functioning.
This same disorder was recognized in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association as a condition for further study, and on Monday was officially added as an International Classification of Disease, which will be officially adopted in 2019.
The W.H.O. noted that gaming disorder “affects only a small proportion of people who engage in digital or video-gaming activities,” but those who play video games should be alerted to “the amount of time they spend on gaming activities, particularly when it is to the exclusion of other daily activities.”
The gaming industry was critical of the gaming disorder designation, saying there was not enough evidence to formalize a disorder, calling the W.H.O.’s classification “deeply flawed.” Instead, they argued that video games are “a useful tool,” to acquire “competencies, skills and attitudes required for a successful life in a digital society.”
The official W.H.O. designation was assigned in an effort to destigmatize the addiction, make video game addicts more willing to seek treatment, prompt therapists to provide help for the condition, and encourage insurance companies to cover treatment for it.
“I have patients who come in suffering from an addiction to Candy Crush Saga, and they’re substantially similar to people who come in with a cocaine disorder,” said Dr. Petros Levounis, chairman of the psychiatry department for Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, according to the New York Times.
“Their lives are ruined, their interpersonal relationships suffer, their physical condition suffers,” he continued.
Around 2.6 billion people around the world play video games, according to the Entertainment Software Association – two-thirds of which reside in the U.S. The industry itself rakes in billions in revenue, projecting to reach $180.1 billion globally within the next three years.
While more and more mental health professionals are seeing a connection between poor functionality and gaming addiction, there is little insurance coverage for people seeking treatment.
The condition can also present with other symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation, aggressive behavior and suicidal thoughts, making the disorder harder to diagnose – especially for health care professionals who have not been equipped to treat gaming disorder.
“We don’t know how to treat gaming disorder,” said Professor Nancy Petry of the University of Connecticut.
“It’s such a new condition and phenomenon,” she continued.
Currently, there are no formal organizations in existence to set treatment standards for gaming disorder. However, a few online groups have been formed to help addicts find community, such as StopGaming and the On-Line Gamers Anonymous forum. Some rehab centers in Asia have also been specifically designed to help gaming addicts.
The gaming disorder classification comes in the wake of other growing technology addictions. The New York Times reported that Apple recently released a new software to help consumers scale back on the amount of time they spend on their phones, while Facebook users have joined the #DeleteFacebook campaign in an effort to manage their privacy and social media addictions.
Posted on 06/19/2018 02:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
Trenton, N.J., Jun 18, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The Bishop of Trenton condemned gun violence and called for prayer in a statement following a shooting early Sunday that left one dead and 22 injured.
“The epidemic of gun violence has struck once again, this time close to home,” Bishop David M. O’Connell of the Diocese of Trenton said in a statement Sunday.
“The people of Trenton awoke this morning to the tragic news that twenty of our brothers and sisters - our families, neighbors and friends - were injured during a mass shooting in the early hours of Sunday morning…” he said.
According to reports from authorities, the shooting happened around 2:45 a.m. on Sunday, June 17 at the Art All Night-Trenton festival, a 24-hour art exhibit that has been displayed annually for 12 years.
A 33 year-old man, Tahaij Wells, was reportedly identified as a suspect and shot and killed by police. Wells had just been released from prison on homicide-related charges, according to CNN. Another man, Amir Armstrong, 23, has also reportedly been charged in connection to the incident.
“We pray for the injured and their families, for comfort and healing. We pray in thanksgiving for the first responders and emergency workers. And we pray for our community here in Trenton that God’s peace and our love for one another might prevail,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell’s sentiments echo those of bishops throughout the country who have found themselves looking for words to comfort their grieving communities in the wake of mass shootings.
He joins numerous other bishops who have had to respond to similar tragedies in the months since the October 2017 Las Vegas shooting, which killed 58 people and left hundreds more injured, and has been called the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
“Our hearts go out to everyone,” Bishop Joseph A. Pepe of Las Vegas said in his response to that shooting. He offered prayers for the victims and their families, as well as the first responders and all involved in the incident.
He added that he was “very heartened’ by the stories of the Good Samaritans amidst the tragedy, and prayed for an end to violence throughout the world.
The following month, at least two bishops responded to shootings in their dioceses, including Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, Texas, who offered his prayers and condolences following the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, which killed 26 people.
“We need prayers! The families affected in the shooting this morning at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs need prayers. The evil perpetrated on these who were gathered to worship God on the Lord’s Day – especially children and the elderly – makes no sense and will never be fully understood,” Garcia-Siller said at the time.
The following week, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento led the U.S. bishops' general assembly in prayer following a shooting in his diocese in which at least four people and several more were injured at several sites in and around Ranch Tehema Reserve, a small community located about 130 miles northwest of Sacramento.
“I would ask if we could take a moment to ask God's mercy not only on those affected by this [incident], but on all affected by gun violence in these times. Let us ask for Mary's intercession for these people,” he said Nov. 14, before leading the bishops in the Hail Mary.
In January 2018, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and two other bishops responded to two school shootings that occurred within the same week, one in Texas and one in Kentucky.
On Jan. 22 at Italy High School in Italy, Texas, about 50 miles south of Dallas, a teenage girl was injured in a shooting.
On Jan. 23, a student opened fire at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky., about 120 miles southwest of Owensboro, killing two students and injuring 20 others.
The shootings were “painful reminders of how gun violence can tragically alter the lives of those so precious to us – our school children,” DiNardo said in a statement at the time.
Bishop William Medley of Owensboro offered his prayers for the victims as well as for the shooter in the Marshall County shooting. “May the Lord bring comfort to the family who lost their loved one today, and to all of the students and their families who have to endure the aftermath of this school shooting. Let us all pray for peace across our nation,” he said in a Jan. 23 statement.
In response to the Benton shooting, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville offered his “deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and their friends, teachers and staff as well as the first responders and the whole community of Benton.”
“We know that God’s love overcomes all evil. May the souls of the departed rest in peace and may God’s merciful love sustain the victims and those who love and support them as they heal from the physical and emotional wounds of this senseless act of violence,” Kurtz added.
In February of this year, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami urged unity and strength in his diocese following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland which killed 17 students and injured dozens more.
“We pray for the deceased and wounded, for their families and loved ones, for our first responders and our entire South Florida community,” Wenski said at the time. He urged all Floridians to come together as a community, remain strong, and “resist evil in all its manifestations.”
Following the Parkland shooting, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., and Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio, also issued a joint statement calling for “common-sense gun measures” and dialogue about specific proposals that could reduce gun violence, improve school safety and improve access to mental health resources.
In May, DiNardo once again responded to a mass shooting, this time in his own diocese, when a shooter at Santa Fe High School outside of Houston killed 10 and injured 13 others.
“Sadly, I must yet again point out the obvious brokenness in our culture and society, such that children who went to school this morning to learn and teachers who went to inspire them will not come home,” he said. “We as a nation must, here and now, say definitively: no more death! Our Lord is the Lord of life. May He be with us in our sorrow and show us how to honor the precious gift of life and live in peace.”
Prayer as a response to shootings or other deadly incidents has in recent years been criticized by some commentators, called pointless or secondary in comparison to advocacy for gun control policies or mental health resources.
The day after a shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. killed 14 on Dec. 2, 2015, the cover of the New York Daily News said “God isn’t fixing this” - a response to politicians and public figures who offered “thoughts and prayers” after the tragedy, but allegedly took insufficient action to prevent such shootings from occurring in the future.
However, Monsignor Robert Weiss, who was pastor in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012 when a shooter killed 11 children at an elementary school, has said that turning to God is a necessary part of the response to tragedy.
“To whom do you go? Do you rely on yourself? Because there’s no way you can individually handle these kinds of experiences,” he told CNA in a 2017 interview following the Las Vegas shooting. He recalled professionals telling him in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting that “we can only do so much for these people” to help them heal from the tragedy.
“There is only one place to turn, and it’s to turn to the Lord and find some sort of understanding of this,” he said.
Police in Trenton have said that Sunday’s shooting seems to be gang-related, and not an act of terrorism.
“There is no motive, however, that can justify these ongoing, seemingly relentless acts of gun violence plaguing our cities. How many times can our hearts break?” O’Connell said. “Once again, we fall to our knees to beg the Almighty to help us end these senseless assaults on innocent life in our communities.”
Posted on 06/19/2018 00:02 AM (CNA Daily News)
Managua, Nicaragua, Jun 18, 2018 / 05:02 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Nicaraguan government and opposition groups agreed Friday to a truce during talks mediated by the Nicaraguan bishops, after nearly two months of protests that have left 170 dead.
Nevertheless, at least eight people died in violent incidents across Managua, the Nicaraguan capital, the following day.
The bishops of Nicaragua reconvened a national dialogue June 15 to make known the response of president Daniel Ortega to the proposals he was given in order to end the crisis. The talks (which began May 16) had been suspended May 23 for lack of consensus.
A 24-hour general strike had closed many businesses June 14, though some violent clashes were reported. Bishop Silvio José Báez Ortega, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, said a 15-year-old altar boy had been shot and killed by security forces.
Protests began April 18 after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces initially.
The Church in Nicaragua was quick to acknowledge the protestors' complaints. Barricades and roadblocks are now found throughout the country, and clashes frequently turn lethal.
Participating in the talks June 15 were representatives of the government, private businesses, students, universities, civil society, workers, rural residents, evangelical ecclesial communities, indigenous communities, and people of African descent. They were overseen by Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solorzano of Managua.
The ceasefire agreement calls for the establishment of a truth commission, the presence of international observers from several groups, and the removal of roadblocks.
The truth and security commission is to “verify if an atmosphere of peace and security exists for all Nicaraguans,” according to a communique from the National Dialogue, and to investigate all deaths and violence, and to identify those responsible.
The communique added that “process of the the democratization of the country, which includes the agenda items presented to the President of the Republic by the Bishops' Conference on June 7” will be among the conditions of continuing dialogue.
Their June 7 statement had said that dialogue could not resume while Nicaraguans continue to be denied the right to demonstrate freely and are “repressed and assassinated.”
Despite the signing of the ceasefire, a family of at least six died in an arson attack on their home and business in Managua June 16. Opposition groups have said a pro-government militia was responsible for the blaze, a charge the government has denied.
Two more people in Managua were killed the same day in incidents “attributed to masked pro-government groups backed up by armed police,” the BBC reported.
Bishops and priests across Nicaragua have worked to separate protestors and security forces, and have been threatened and shot.
The Nicaraguan government has suggested that protestors are killing their own supporters so as to destabilize Ortega's administration.
The pension reforms which triggered the unrest were modest, but protests quickly turned to Ortega's authoritarian bent.
Ortega has shown resistance to calls for elections to be held early. His term is scheduled to end in 2021.
Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.
He was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 06/18/2018 22:59 PM (CNA Daily News)
Denver, Colo., Jun 18, 2018 / 03:59 pm (CNA).- A Honduran woman says that federal immigration authorities took her daughter from her arms as she breastfed the child. When she reached out for her daughter, she says she was handcuffed; she stood powerless as her daughter was taken away.
The woman was in a detention center - a jail - in Texas. She was waiting to be prosecuted for illegal entry into the United States.
Her story, if true, is heart-wrenching. It cries out for justice.
Catholics see in every nursing mother an icon of our own mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who nursed the infant Jesus at her breast.
We see in the bond between mothers and their children a reminder of the life-giving and nurturing love of God, and the first means through which God’s love brings us into being, guides us, and protects us.
“You drew me forth from the womb,” the Psalmist wrote to the Lord, “made me safe at my mother’s breasts.”
We don’t know what happened after that Honduran girl was taken from her mother’s arms.
We don’t know if she was taken to a warehouse, to be housed with hundreds of other children who had been separated from their immigrant parents. We don’t know if she sat strapped in a car seat, squalling for her mother, near the big kids who let themselves cry only as they fall asleep on gym mats spread across the floor, behind a chain link fence.
We do know that policies that indiscriminately separate children from their migrant parents at our national border violate the sacred sovereignty of families. They need to be stopped.
But it’s not enough to condemn the treatment of a mother separated from her child without asking what should happen instead. There have been, unfortunately, too few solutions proposed to address a real problem: how should the identity of family members be verified at the border, to ensure that children are not being trafficked? That issue needs more than moralizing or grandstanding. It needs a real solution.
It’s also not enough to call for an end to family separation at the border without asking what led to this humanitarian crisis, and what kind of reforms will really make a difference.
For that reason, no matter how discouraged they are, Catholics need to lead efforts to develop comprehensive immigration reforms rooted in the principles of justice. Only serious reforms, which create a system that protects security and the right to migrate, will end humanitarian crises at the border, mass detentions and deportations, and the deaths of migrants crossing through the desert.
Among the principles of Catholic social teaching are five that seem particularly relevant to just immigration policy: That nations have a right to security; that families have the right to migrate for safety, freedom, or economic opportunity; that justice obliges countries who can receive immigrants without detriment to the welfare of their citizens to do so; that wealthy and stable nations ought to assist unstable and poor countries; and that the family is sacred, sovereign, and prior to the state.
The United States has the right to security: porous, unsafe, and uncontrolled borders do an injustice to those who cross them, and to our country’s citizens.
The United States also has the right to call on central and south American countries to reform their economies and to quell the violence and disorder that spurs emigration. The United States has the means, and the obligation, to help those countries work for stability, and to hold them accountable when they do not.
But the United States also has the capacity to receive legally many more immigrants than we do now. We’re facing a labor shortage that won’t be resolved by the restrictive caps and quotas we now place on immigration, or by the byzantine processes that make waiting times for legal migration longer than people’s lifetimes. And importing labor also expands our tax base and our domestic consumer base. Those benefits outweigh the costs - measured in the provision of social services - associated with increased immigration.
Beyond the economic reasons for making it easier to come to this country are the moral reasons. We are a wealthy and safe nation. Poor people, from poor countries, have the right to migrate for work and security. Our wealth and safety will not be fatally compromised by their arrival. This is not a matter of charity. It is a matter of justice. “The money you have hoarded,” St. Basil the Great wrote in the fourth century, “belongs to the poor.”
In 1948, Pope Pius XII wrote to the bishops of the United States. He said that he was “preoccupied” and following with “anxiety...those who have been forced by revolutions in their own countries, or by unemployment or hunger to leave their homes and live in foreign lands.”
“The natural law itself, no less than devotion to humanity, urges that ways of migration be opened to these people,” the pope wrote. “For the Creator of the universe made all good things primarily for the good of all. Since land everywhere offers the possibility of supporting a large number of people, the sovereignty of the State, although it must be respected, cannot be exaggerated to the point that access to this land is, for inadequate or unjustified reasons, denied to needy and decent people from other nations, provided of course, that the public wealth, considered very carefully, does not forbid this.”
Seventy years later, the pope’s words remain true, and important. The United States needs a program of immigration reform that recognizes our moral obligation to allow broader participation in our economy. Catholics must lead the way toward this reform.
We cannot hoard our prosperity. We cannot exaggerate our national sovereignty. Our land, our jobs, our prosperity itself exists primarily for the good of all. God did not make the land on which we live, or bless the country we call home, so that we could live in comfortable security while those outside our gates suffer violence, chaos, and hunger.
The rule of law matters - it’s not reasonable or safe to expect that law-breaking at the border should continue unabated, or go unnoticed. But the justice of our laws matter too: no one can call for would-be immigrants to follow our nation’s laws without being sure that those laws are just. Our laws, measured against the Church’s criteria, are not just.
Comprehensive immigration reform, though, will be a long-time coming. It will require statesmanship, sober reflection, and serious analysis - these are not things we have come to expect from our national leaders. That both parties have reprehensible records on this matter demonstrates just how difficult our task will be. But we have to work for justice.
In the meantime, we need to insist that the sovereignty of the family is respected. There are times when parents and children should be separated - when parents have been abusive or neglectful, or when they pose a danger to their children or others. Adults who enter this country with children should be scrutinized - for the sake of the children, we should ensure that those adults really are their parents, that the children are not being trafficked or abused. But we need to do this without taking children from the arms of their mothers, or sending toddlers to live in detention facilities.
Using family separation as a deterrent for migration is an intolerable and contemptible injustice.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” Pius XII wrote, “living in exile in Egypt to escape the fury of an evil king, are, for all times and all places, the models and protectors of every migrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind who, whether compelled by fear of persecution or by want, is forced to leave his native land, his beloved parents and relatives, his close friends, and to seek a foreign soil.”
Catholics are called to work for justice for the Honduran woman and her daughter, separated during the intimacy of nursing. We’re also called to work for a just system of migration to this country, to be its architects and champions. We are called, like Mary and Joseph, to be protectors of migrants, aliens, and refugees, especially those seeking peace as our neighbors.
This commentary reflects the opinions of the author, and does not necessarily reflect an editorial position of Catholic News Agency.
Posted on 06/18/2018 22:57 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2018 / 03:57 pm (CNA).- In recent weeks, changes to the U.S. enforcement of immigration policy have made headlines, as an effort to pursue criminal prosecution has led to family separations.
What exactly are the new policies? How did the changes come about? And how have Church leaders responded?
In May 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy that seeks to criminally prosecute 100 percent of immigrants who are caught crossing the border illegally.
Until that policy was announced, people caught crossing the border illegally were sent to an immigration judge, who would determine whether they would be deported. While waiting for a hearing, they would be held in immigration detention centers, or – due to lack of resources or legal limits on how long certain types of immigrants could be detained – be given a court date and released.
The Trump administration’s decision to pursue criminal prosecution means that immigrants are held in a federal jail until they go before a federal judge, who must determine whether immigrants will receive prison sentences for crossing the border illegally.
This shift to the criminal justice system is what leads to family separation, because children cannot be held legally in a federal jail with their parents.
The family separation policy has been described by Sessions as a deterrent to illegal immigration. “If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border,” he said May 7.
Once the children are separated from their parents, they are classified as unaccompanied minors and placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. The children are kept in government facilities while arrangements are made to release them to a relative in the country, if one can be identified, or to place them in foster care, while their parents’ immigration case moves forward.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, some 2,000 immigrant children have been separated from their parents in recent months. They are held along with detained minors who crossed the border unaccompanied by an adult.
In total, it is estimated that upwards of 10,000 migrant children are currently being held in over 100 shelters, which are at 95 percent capacity, according to a McClatchyDC report. The Department of Health and Human Services is reportedly considering the construction of “tent cities” to hold the children.
The Bush administration had enacted a similar “zero tolerance” policy to criminally prosecute illegal border crossings. However, it made an exception for unaccompanied minors or families with children. The Obama administration enacted zero tolerance for a short period, but did not separate families as a matter of policy.
Critics of previous administrations warned that legal exceptions for families, children, and asylum seekers created loopholes that could be abused by immigrants to cross the border without facing criminal prosecution, for example, that would-be migrants might travel with children unrelated to them and falsely claim to be a family. Critics also said that family loopholes could enable, or even encourage, child trafficking. President Donald Trump has said that he wants to close these loopholes.
However, immigration and human rights advocates say they are concerned that, like other families illegally crossing the border, asylum-seeking families are also being separated.
The right to claim asylum is recognized by international law. To claim asylum in the U.S., one must show a well-founded fear of persecution in his home country, on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or particular social group.
An individual can make an asylum claim at a U.S. port of entry. A judge will then determine whether to accept the asylum claim.
However, reports indicate that some people attempting to claim asylum legally at the border are turned away repeatedly, told that the system is unable to accept new applications to be processed. While prohibiting someone from making an asylum appeal is illegal under international law, delaying a claim, which essentially denies that it be made, is a legal grey area.
People can also claim asylum by crossing the border illegally and then turning themselves in to officials. While the act of crossing the border in this case is illegal, the right to claim asylum is still valid, under international law.
Immigration advocates and human rights groups say that legitimate asylum applicants are forced to cross the border illegally in order to make their claims, and are then separated from their children for breaking the law.
The United Nations has condemned the practice of family separation as “a serious violation of the rights of the child,” which “amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life.”
The U.S. bishops have been vocally opposed to the new policy, as well as a recent move to remove gang violence and domestic abuse from the list of asylum claims that will be accepted as valid.
Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration, has stressed that “Rupturing the bond between parent and child causes scientifically-proven trauma that often leads to irreparable emotional scarring.”
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston stressed that the U.S. government “has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma.”
Because families are “the foundational element of our society,” they “must be able to stay together,” he said. “While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety.”
Posted on 06/18/2018 22:15 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome, Italy, Jun 18, 2018 / 03:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Most Western Europeans identify as Christian, but say they do not, or seldom, attend church services – outnumbering those Christians who do attend church, a survey from the Pew Research Center has reported.
Released May 29, results found in 12 of the 15 surveyed Western European countries, non-practicing Christians (defined as those who self-identify as Christian but report attending church services less than once per month) made up the largest religious group, beating out both religious “nones” and churchgoing Christians.
The telephone survey was conducted in mid-2017 with more than 24,000 participants from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The median percentage of the population of Western Europe identifying as Christian was 71 percent, though only 22 percent of Western Europeans attend church at least monthly. Across all 15 countries surveyed, the median percent of those who had been baptized was 91, and 81 percent reported they were raised Christian.
Median percentages were analyzed across the 15 surveyed countries to gain a view of the region overall, though countries varied in total Christian identification by as much as 42 percentage points.
Countries such as Italy, Portugal, and Ireland reported total Christian identification around 80 percent, while Norway and Sweden reported Christian identification at slightly above 50 percent.
In every country surveyed except the Netherlands and Norway, where the religiously unaffiliated are the largest religious group, non-practicing Christians make up the majority of Europe’s Christians. Italy is also an exception, where non-practicing Christians and church-attending Christians are split.
Non-practicing Christians in Western Europe were also found to outnumber people of all other religions combined.
The 71 percent Christian identification of Western Europe matches up with Christian identification in the United States. Western Europe also parallels the United States' declining rates of Christians overall and the increase in “nones.”
Particularly in Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden, the difference in the percentage of the population raised Christian versus the percentage of the population who still practices Christianity is a difference of 22 to 28 percent.
In the same countries, the percentage of people who now identify as religiously unaffiliated is between 21 and 28 percentage points higher than those raised without a religion.
In comparison to the U.S., however, religious fervor overall in Western Europe is significantly lower. While close to half of Americans say religion is “very important” in their lives, the median percentage of Western European adults who say the same is 11.
This difference becomes even more marked between American Christians and European Christians. Sixty eight percent of American Christians report religion is very important to them, compared with only 14 percent of Western European Christians.
The Pew survey on Western Europe also compared the attitudes of non-practicing Christians, church attending Christians, and the religiously unaffiliated on certain political, cultural, and religious issues, such as views toward immigrants, religious minorities, nationalist sentiment, abortion, and same-sex marriage.
On some issues, the views of non-practicing Christians were found to align more closely with religious “nones,” while on others they aligned more closely with church attending Christians.
Most non-churchgoing Christians reported belief in God or a higher power and had favorable views toward churches and other religious organizations.
On abortion, same-sex marriage, and the role of religion in government, a majority of both non-practicing Christians and the non-religious said they support legal abortion in all or most cases and support legalizing same-sex marriage. They also think religion should be kept out of government policies.
Posted on 06/18/2018 21:16 PM (CNA Daily News)
Springfield, Ill., Jun 18, 2018 / 02:16 pm (CNA).- For Catholic high school students on their way to college, faith runs the risk of being lost in the shuffle of new roommates, classes, studying, and activities.
Campus ministries are often available to students in college – if they can get connected. One group is doing just that: helping high school students make a smooth faith transition into college by connecting them to their college’s Catholic center, even before they arrive.
“We reach out into the Catholic high schools and parishes to identify graduating seniors and where they are going off to college,” said Matthew Zerrusen, director and co-founder of The Newman Connection.
“We then get that information and send it to their respective campus minister. The idea is that the campus minister can then reach out to the student even before they arrive on campus,” Zerrusen told CNA.
The Newman Connection is a non-profit organization that provides national brand and support structure for campus ministries, assisting them in outreach, programming and organization development, said Zerrusen. Their main program is high school outreach, in which they contact Catholic high school students and connect them with the campus ministers at the colleges they plan on attending.
“We are essentially providing a list of warm leads for them [campus ministers] to boost outreach efforts,” said Zerrusen.
“We are changing the culture from a throw-darts-at-the-wall outreach plan to a strategic outreach plan that can target students based on the information given to us during high school,” he continued.
According to Zerrusen, around 80 percent of students stop practicing their faith in college. With such a substantial number of young people drifting away from the Church during formative years of their lives, Zerrusen believed something needed to be done.
“We have to change this,” he said, calling Newman Connection’s high school outreach program “a good start” in helping campus ministers connect with students and help them keep their faith on campus.
With the Newman Connection model, Zerrusen said students will already have a real, personal Catholic connection on their campus and will not have to rely on pamphlets or handouts to hear about Catholic events nearby.
JoAnn Shull, the campus ministry director for the St. Thomas More Newman Center at the University of Missouri, said the Newman Connection has allowed its campus outreach to focus more on actually ministering to students instead of spending time searching for them.
“When high schools and parishes communicate to the campus ministries through the Newman Connection, they provide a seamless transition for students to find their faith home in college,” Shull told CNA.
“From the campus ministry side, I see Newman Connection as another team member, albeit outsourced, that helps us find out Catholic students on campus,” she continued.
Over the past few years, Shull said she has seen significant strides in student outreach and remains “incredibly impressed” with the Newman Connection’s ability to make outreach more efficient. The St. Thomas More Newman at Mizzou has credited the Newman Connection for tripling its outreach numbers – taking their ministry from 400 students 5 years ago to over 1,200 students today.
Looking forward, Shull hopes more youth ministries, parishes and dioceses will come to understand the “critical nature of the mission of Newman Connection,” and its impact on the future of the Church, saying college students “need the Church’s support to help them grow in their adult faith.”
“Newman Connection can be a conduit for that process if parishes and dioceses can understand the critical importance of connecting these young adults to campus ministry,” she said.
The Newman Connection has been endorsed by almost 80 different dioceses and has connected upwards of 150,000 students to campus ministries in the past two years, according to Zerrusen. Moving forward, Zerrusen hopes their program can expand to even more parishes across the nation.
“We have to get out into the parishes. There are over 15,000 Catholic parishes in the U.S. and we want to reach them all,” Zerrusen said.
“It is aggressive but we think its achievable. Every year our numbers grow considerably, but getting more support from the public would certainly increase the speed at which we are able to operate.”
Posted on 06/18/2018 19:53 PM (CNA Daily News)
Canberra, Australia, Jun 18, 2018 / 12:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As Australian states and territories pass and consider laws requiring priests to break the seal of confession to report cases of child sex abuse, Catholic priests are saying they would go to jail rather than violate the seal.
“The state will be requiring us as Catholic priests to commit as what we regard as the most serious crime and I’m not willing to do that,” said Fr. Michael Whelan, a parish priest at St. Patrick’s Church in Sydney, according to local news.
Fr. Whelan added that he, along with other priests, would be “willing to go to jail” rather than break the seal of confession. When asked if the Church was above the law, Whelan said “absolutely not” and remarked he would only be protecting religious freedom.
“…when the state tries to intervene on our religious freedom, undermine the essence of what it means to be a Catholic, we will resist,” he said.
On June 7, the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly in Canberra passed a law which requires religious organizations to adhere to the requirements of the Reporting Conduct Scheme, which requires religious groups to report any allegations, offences or convictions of child abuse within 30 days. This legislation extends to the seal of confession, making it illegal for priests to fail to report the confession of a child sex abuse crime.
South Australia has adopted a similar law, which will take effect Oct. 1, and New South Wales is considering the measure.
Fr. Whelan believes the rest of the nation will follow the royal commission’s recommendation.
“I expect every jurisdiction in Australia now will follow that recommendation and I expect the church throughout will simply not observe it?” Whelan said.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “every priest who hears confessions is bound under severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him,” due to the “delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons.”
The Code of Canon Law states that “The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.” A priest who intentionally violates the seal incurs an automatic excommunication.
Whelan noted additional concerns with the law, saying the only way to ensure the law was being followed would be to “try and entrap priests.”
Instead, Whelan believes other precautions against child sex abuse should be taken, such as encouraging the perpetrator to confess to the police.
Clergy are not the only critics of the new legislation. Andrew Wall, a member of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, said forcing priests to break the seal of confession oversteps an individual’s “freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of religious rights.”
Posted on 06/18/2018 10:26 AM (CNA Daily News)
Toronto, Ohio, Jun 18, 2018 / 03:26 am (CNA).- Every single vocation story is different, but Sr. Rita Clare (Anne) Yoches is probably one of the more unusual.
Sr. Rita Clare, who this month will profess final vows with the Franciscan Sisters T.O.R. of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother, was a four-time national champion professional football player prior to entering the convent.
Yes, that’s American football. (She was a fullback.) Nowadays, the only football Yoches is playing is the annual two-hand touch game she organizes with the 38 T.O.R. sisters she lives with in Toronto, Ohio.
Although she was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools, Yoches said she never once considered becoming a nun. Her family attended Mass each Sunday, but that was about it in terms of her faith life. A talented athlete, Yoches earned a full basketball scholarship to the University of Detroit-Mercy, where she played for four years.
After college, she began her football career in 2003 after a successful tryout with the Detroit Demolition, a now-defunct women’s professional team. She left the team in 2006, and in March of 2007, the former self-described party girl experienced a calling to enter religious life. She ended her relationship with her boyfriend, and entered the Franciscans shortly after.
“(I) loved to stay out as late as could on Friday and Saturday nights, but always went to Mass on Sundays. But I never really listened to what God was saying,” said Yoches in a video about her conversion.
One Sunday, after a particularly moving homily, Yoches realized that she needed to drastically change her lifestyle.
“And I was like, that’s me. I’m sick and dying on the inside. So that convinced me to go to Confession for the first time in a long time.” Her priest provided her with guidance about reading scripture every day, and she began attending Eucharistic Adoration.
It was during Eucharistic Adoration that she felt truly embraced by God, and really began to get a sense of His plan for her life.
"And then I felt God the Father just wrap his arms around me and give me a hug, and just pulled me onto his chest like only a father can hug a daughter,” she said.
“And my life was forever changed. I just wanted more and more of Jesus."
She says while her family was supportive of her decision to enter the convent, her friends were surprised, as she had largely kept her faith life private.
“People were very surprised that this was really who and what I wanted to do and be,” she told the Detroit Free Press.
Sr. Rita Clare will profess final vows on June 30.