Browsing News Entries

CUA president applauds students' decision to block porn

Washington D.C., Apr 25, 2019 / 03:40 pm (CNA).- The president of The Catholic University of America has voiced his support for student government resolution that asked the university to block the 200 most popular porn sites from its internet system.

“I am so proud of our students,” CUA president John Garvey wrote in an op-ed for the Arlington Catholic Herald April 24.

“This month the student government association, the body that represents our undergraduates, passed a resolution asking the university to prohibit access through the campus network to the 200 most frequently visited pornography websites. I told them we'd be happy to.”

The non-binding resolution was passed by a vote of 13 to 12, and student body president Jimmy Harrington signed it April 1.

Student Sen. Gerard McNair-Lewis, a junior at the university, was the resolution’s sponsor.

Garvey noted that pornography has become more accessible than it once was; where in the past it could only be found in “leather-bound books in gentlemen's clubs and private libraries,” today “any 6-year-old can find it on a cellphone.”

In addition, pornography has become more graphic, and advances in technology not only make pornography more addictive, but also make it easier for people to slip into the mindset of: “We don't need one another for sexual fulfillment. We can summon imaginary partners at the touch of a button.”

“I think that basic human urges are fairly constant from one generation to another. But technology can change our stimuli and the way we respond. That's happening here,” Garvey said.

Reproductive technology such as artificial contraception have reinforced the idea, Garvey asserted, that if sex is merely a form of recreation, then “any partner will do: even a virtual one.”

“Our students are right to be concerned about the trend in this direction, because the digital revolution's ambition is to make virtual reality indistinguishable from life,” he noted.  

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes pornography as a “grave offense.”

It “offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other” and does “grave injury to the dignity of its participants,” the Church teaches.
 
“Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials,” the Catechism says.

Of course, Garvey acknowledged, blocking pornography on the university’s internet system will not solve students’ appetite for porn—they can still use their phones or access a site that is not yet blocked.

But, “it does communicate a point of view that our students say they want to hear,” Garvey wrote.

“It says that this is not the sort of relationship they should be looking for, and we're not going to lend our system to help them find it.”

Garvey’s op-ed did not include specific details about how and when the university would implement the pornography ban, but a spokesperson for the university told CNA that the block on top porn sites should go into effect “within weeks.”

“Our students asked President Garvey to block the top 200 porn sites, and he told them that he’d be happy to do so,” Catholic University spokesperson Karna Lozoya told CNA on Thursday.

“We are working on implementing those blocks, and should have the top sites blocked within weeks.”

When the university last considered banning porn from the network, they found it would have been both expensive and ineffective. Now, due to advances in technology, it is now more affordable to implement this kind of filter, Loyoza told CNA earlier this month.
 
While students may work around a firewall and continue to access porn, “the student resolution made a convincing argument that banning porn on the University network sends the right message to the student body.”

One of the resolution’s co-sponsors, Alexandra Kilgore, told CNA that she was surprised to learn action had not already been taken.
 
“I was honestly shocked to learn that such a ban wasn't already in place. Even my public high school blocked inappropriate content on its wi-fi, so I knew The Catholic University of America could do better,” she said.
 
“As a woman, I thought it was important to be a cosponsor to bring to light that pornography is not just a men's issue. Not only does the industry exploit and prey upon primarily women and girls, but females can struggle with addiction and consumption just as much as males.”
 
Kilgore described the resolution as a positive expression of corporate concern among the student body, not a condemnation.
 
“Our resolution is not intended to shame anyone or to make pornography addiction more isolating than it already is. Rather, it demonstrates the Student Government Association's commitment to the well-being of the student body and the University's continued demonstration of the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
 
Harrington rejected the idea that blocking pornography amounted to censorship or a violation of personal freedoms, saying “it is a regulation that the national University of the Catholic Church or any private institution ought to enact.”
 
Harrington pointed out in his statement that many secular organizations ban pornography from their networks, not only out of moral concerns, but also because such websites often contain viruses and other malware that can damage machines.
 
“If a secular company can block these sites from their networks and computers, then I am even more convinced that The Catholic University of America ought to be able to and should regulate these sites on its own network,” Harrington said.

Injunction against Title X funding rules draws pro-life criticism

Portland, Ore., Apr 25, 2019 / 03:32 pm (CNA).- Pro-life advocates have lamented a federal judge’s preliminary injunction against the federal Protect Life Rule, which bars family planning funds for clinics at the same location as abortion providers and for those which refer for abortion.

“Abortion is not healthcare, and that’s how we evaluate these kinds of decisions,” Todd Cooper, executive director of the Oregon Catholic Conference, told CNA.

“Coming from that perspective, it’s troubling,” he said. “I ask myself: why would medical professionals want to refer women to something that would cause untold harm and result in the death of a child?”

Lois Anderson, executive director of Oregon Right to Life, agreed.

“Abortion is not healthcare nor is it family-planning,” she said April 24 statement, characterizing abortion as “big business.”

“Planned Parenthood performs almost 40 percent of abortions in the country. They have a financial interest in keeping Title X funding coming their way,” she said. In her view, the new regulation would not cut any money from family planning, and “reflects the original intent of the program: helping people plan their families.”

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family planning, including contraception and other health screenings, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations.

The Protect Life Rule, finalized in February, requires that there be a physical and financial separation between recipients of Title X funds and facilities that perform abortions. Clinics that provide “non-directive counseling” about abortion can still receive funds, but cannot refer for abortion.

Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, is expected to lose about $60 million in federal funds due to its intention not to comply with the rule change, which would make it ineligible for funds for its family planning work.

On April 24 U.S. District Judge Michael McShane issued a preliminary injunction against the new rule’s ban on taxpayer funding for clinics that refer for abortion, calling it a “ham-fisted approach to public health policy,” The Oregonian reports.

Twenty states, including Oregon, and the District of Columbia, have challenged the rule change, joined by Planned Parenthood affiliates and the American Medical Association.

Fourteen other states back the rule change, which had been set to take effect May 3.

The plaintiffs in the case had sought a national injunction, but McShane said he was reluctant to set “national health care” policy. He said he would describe the injunction’s scope in a forthcoming formal written opinion.

The U.S. Justice Department has asked that the injunction apply only to the plaintiffs. There are four similar lawsuits pending in other states.

In his discussion of the case, McShane said the ban on abortion referrals prevent doctors from behaving like medical professionals. He ruled the new regulation would remove the full range of medical options for low-income women, create a “geographic vacuum” in reproductive health care, and would likely increase abortion numbers due to more unwanted pregnancies, The Oregonian reports.

The rule’s prohibition on federal funding for family planning clinics housed in the same location as abortion providers will also be the subject of an injunction, the judge said.

Attorney Andrew Bernie argued on behalf of the federal government, saying there was no proof of “irreparable harm” to the plaintiffs. The administrative record did not show a political motive for the changes.

Further, the changes are in line with the 1991 U.S. Supreme Court decision Rust v. Sullivan, which upheld federal regulations barring abortion counselling by employees of federally funded family planning facilities. The Department of Health and Human Services holds that the new rules best reflect a Title X section which bars abortion as a family planning method, said Bernie.

McShane, however, said “good health outcomes” are the standard.

“Are these rules going to bring about good health outcomes?” he asked Bernie, according to The Oregonian.

The judge said the government hadn’t provided data to counter medical experts’ claims that the rule’s restrictions on medical professionals regarding abortion referral would result in unwanted pregnancies, ineffective contraceptive use, and an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

Cooper, of the Oregon Catholic Conference, questioned the judge’s conclusion.

“Abortion is not a good health outcome,” he told CNA, asking for more evidence for the claim that the rule could result in more abortions.

Attorney Alan Schoenfeld, who represented Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association, said all Planned Parenthood providers would leave the Title X program because the rules, which they consider a “gag rule,” require unethical health care practice. Planned Parenthood operates about 40 percent of health care clinics in the U.S. If they reduce or close operations, Schoenfeld argued, some communities could not replace the resulting vacuum in health care, which would reduce low-income women’s access to cancer screening and other health services.

Anderson of Oregon Right to Life, however, rejected this argument. The refusal of Planned Parenthood to comply would mean the money would go to federally-qualified healthcare clinics, of which there are over 13,500 across the U.S., she said.

“In Oregon alone, there are 24 (federally-qualified healthcare clinics) for every single Planned Parenthood clinic,” said Anderson. “The idea that there would be a dearth of providers should this rule take affect is an outright lie.”

Enacting the rule, she said, “would ensure that family-planning funds go towards actual family-planning, not killing members of families.”

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum argued against the rule in court, saying that Title X funds are “a true safety net for low income individuals and those who would not be able to access care, due to a lack of insurance or other barriers.”

After the finalized rule was announced in February, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, praised the Trump administration for “reaffirming that abortion is not family planning.”

“Abortion ends the lives of families’ most vulnerable members, as well as damaging the spiritual, mental and physical health of mothers,” said the archbishop.

Previous regulations, written under President Bill Clinton’s administration, not only allowed for health clinics that were co-located with abortion clinics to receive funds, but also required that Title X recipients refer patients for abortions. That rule kept some organizations opposed to abortion from applying for grants.

Cooper gave an overview of the pro-life cause in Oregon, which he described as “difficult territory.”

“It’s just a challenge out here, because abortion supporters really want unfettered access to abortion,” he said. “They want to force this on society, they want to force this on women, they even want to force this on medical professionals.”

“For Catholics and many others here in Oregon that do not support abortion for different reasons, this is a battle that we are never going to give up on, regardless of where it goes in the near future. This is something that we’ll be relentless in fighting because of the harm it does to women.”

“Who wants a world where only certain children are welcome?” Cooper asked. “That’s not a world that is a good place to be.”

He pointed to efforts like the Renew Life Oregon coalition, which includes Oregon Catholic Conference and the Archdiocese of Portland.

“There are a lot of very committed people who are working in the trenches to support life, and ultimately help people recognize and understand the harm that abortion causes society and women in particular, and obviously the children who are being killed in their mothers’ wombs.”

According to Liberty Pike, communications director for Oregon Right to Life, almost 50 percent of abortions in the state are taxpayer-funded.

State law required all insurance plans to cover abortions without any deductible. A Catholic health care provider only secured an exemption after it threatened to leave the state.

“We are already spending an exorbitant amount of tax dollars on abortion,” she said.

Pike argued the new rule would not even force Planned Parenthood out, given it has a choice to give up the Title X funding or to comply with the funding rules.

IRS grants Satanic Temple recognition as a 'church'

Washington D.C., Apr 25, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A satanic group has announced they have been granted recognition as a church by the Internal Revenue Service.

In a statement published Thursday, the Massachusetts-based Satanic Temple said that they have received notice from the IRS and that the decision would grant the organization equal legal footing with other religious groups.

“This acknowledgement will help make sure the Satanic Temple has the same access to public spaces as other religious organizations, affirm our standing in court when battling religious discrimination, and enable us to apply for faith-based government grants,” the statement said.

The IRS has not commented on any conferral of status for the group, but guidance published on its website confirms that churches benefit from special tax rules, including automatic exemption from federal income tax.

IRS regulations draw a clear distinction between “churches” and other religious organizations. A church must have certain characteristics, according to IRS requirements, including: a recognized creed and form of worship; distinct ecclesiastical government; formal code of doctrine; ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study; established places of worship and regular religious services.

Despite its overtly demonic allegiance, the Satanic Temple was founded by professed atheists and articulates a set of secular humanist beliefs. Its satanic imagery appears to many to be a deliberate provocation in response to what the group perceive as interference by religion in the public square.

In a 2013 interview, the group’s spokesman, Douglas Mesner, described their intention to be a “poison pill in the Church-State debate.” They have previously mounted lawsuits to display satanic images and statues on public property alongside traditional Judeo-Christian symbols, such as the Ten Commandments.

In February of 2019, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled against a self-professed member of the Satanic Temple who claimed that a state law on “informed consent” before an abortion violated her religious beliefs.  

Mary Doe, as the plaintiff was listed in that case, argued that a booklet distributed to all women seeking abortion in the state was a violation of her religious beliefs and an articulation by the state of an alternative religious creed.

The case focused on the booklet’s statement that “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

The apparent recognition of the IRS comes after members of the Satanic Temple have had to defend themselves against accusations that their “church” is essentially a political stunt. A recent documentary entitled “Hail, Satan?” presented the group as sincere, despite ongoing suggestions that the temple was founded to make a “mockumentary” film and is essentially performance art and political theatre.

Whatever the sincerity of its founders, its conflict with the Catholic Church have been real.

In May 2014, the Satanic Temple was part of an attempt to organize a “black mass” on the campus of Harvard University. A spokesman for the group initially told the media that a consecrated Host would be desecrated during the event, although the temple and the Harvard club hosting the event both later denied this.

Following sustained outcry from Catholics and other religious groups, the event was first moved off campus and eventually cancelled.

Rwandan bishops apologize for letter urging pardon for genocide perpetrators

Kigali, Rwanda, Apr 25, 2019 / 11:47 am (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of Rwanda have apologized for calling for the release of old and ill prisoners convicted for crimes committed during the country’s 1994 genocide.

“We wrote to Christians, encouraging them to continue promoting unity and reconciliation, while also seeking forgiveness,” the bishops said in an April 7 statement signed by Bishop Phillippe Rukamba of Butare, the president of the Rwandan bishops' conference.

“This letter caused a lot of hurt, especially for what we requested on behalf of the elderly and sickest who are still in prison for the crime of genocide. We are saddened it offended people – this was not what we intended,” the bishops said.

The bishops had issued a pastoral letter March 25 commemorating the victims of the genocide, urging reconciliation and forgiveness in the face of violence, but including a sentence exhorting those responsible for older or sick perpetrators to “examine whether their sentences can be reduced.”

Twenty-five years ago this month, ethnic tensions in Rwanda boiled over as members of the Hutu ethnic majority took up machetes and turned on their minority Tutsi neighbors, friends, and colleagues, killing them based on the color of their skin and the width of their nose.

In the 100-day genocide that followed, it is estimated that 1 million people were slaughtered.

Rwandans marked the anniversary of the tragedy April 7 at the Genocide Memorial Center in the capital city of Kigali. President Paul Kagame and leaders from Africa and the European Union were in attendance, the Catholic Information Service for Africa reported.

The bishops apologized for issuing the pastoral letter during the period of commemoration.

"After this tragedy of genocide against the Tutsis, the light of the Lord's resurrection was not quenched –asking and giving forgiveness can become a means of building a tomorrow for everyone," the bishops said.

In the 1994 genocide, clergy members were included in the ranks of both perpetrators and victims. In some cases, Hutu priests, bishops. and religious helped to hide and protect Tutsis. In other cases, they took up arms against them, ushering them into church buildings with false promises of security and then trapping and betraying them, facilitating their massacre.

The Church has since played a large role in helping to promote reconciliation and forgiveness. More than half of Rwanda’s population is Catholic.

The country’s bishops in November 2016 issued an official apology for Christians’ role in the genocide.

“We apologize for all the wrongs the Church committed. We apologize on behalf of all Christians for all forms of wrongs we committed. We regret that church members violated (their) oath of allegiance to God’s commandments,” they wrote.

Bishop Donald J. Hying appointed to lead Madison diocese

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2019 / 04:04 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Thursday appointed Donald J. Hying the next bishop of Madison, Wis., following the death of Bishop Robert C. Morlino in November.

Hying, 55, has been the bishop of Gary, Ind. since 2014. Before that he was an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisc. for three and a half years.

He replaces Bishop Morlino, who died Nov. 24, 2018 at St. Mary Hospital in Madison after suffering a cardiac event while undergoing scheduled medical tests. He was 71.

Morlino was installed as the fourth bishop of Madison Aug. 1, 2003. Prior to his time in Madison, he was bishop of Helena.

Bishop Hying was born on Aug. 18, 1963 in West Allis, Wis. He is the youngest of six brothers. He was ordained a priest for the Milwaukee archdiocese in May 1989 at the age of 25.

He is fluent in Spanish. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history, philosophy and theology from Marquette University and a master’s of divinity degree from St. Francis de Sales Seminary.

From 2007 to 2011 he was the rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee.

As bishop of Gary, Hying called the diocese's first synod in 2017, following which he outlined the top pastoral priorities for the diocese over the coming years.

In support of those plans, Hying was making comprehensive visits to each parish in the diocese during 2019.

The Diocese of Madison was established in 1945 and has 104 parishes and 142 diocesan and religious priests.

The diocese has around 285,000 Catholics, which is just over 27% of the area's total population.

In the statement announcing the death of Morlino in November, the Diocese of Madison outlined his three priorities as bishop. These were to “increase the number and quality of men ordained to the diocesan priesthood,” to increase a sense of reverence throughout the diocese, and “to challenge Catholic institutions in the diocese to live out their professed faith in Jesus Christ” with their ministry in the secular realm.

In August 2018, Morlino released a pastoral letter saying the “homosexual subculture” within the Church was “wreaking great devastation.” He also called for additional Masses of reparation and fasting, and promised to respond firmly to any allegations of sexual misconduct by members of the clergy or seminarians.

 

Should Catholics care about poetry?

Denver, Colo., Apr 25, 2019 / 03:51 am (CNA).- Do you remember the last poem you read, or heard?

Statistics suggest it has probably been since high school that the average American took the time (or was forced by a teacher) to read a piece of poetry. The rise of the internet and the correlating decline in the number of people who say they’ve read a poem in the past year has fueled an ongoing debate among those who still care: is poetry dead? Whether it is dead, or dying, or not, should Catholics care?

“Yes, emphatically they should,” said Joseph Pearce, the director of book publishing at the Augustine Institute in Denver, and editor of The Austin Review and of the Faith & Culture website.

“Up until relatively recently in the history of Christendom, poetry was the main form of literature that people enjoyed and read,” Pearce said. “The best-selling works of literature up until Shakespeare’s time were poetry...so you can’t talk about the legacy or the heritage of Christian literature and leave poetry out of the equation without doing violence to what Christian literature is.”

What happened to poetry?

Poetry used to be memorized in schools and was a central, normal part of people’s literary lives - something they would just “bump into” on a regular basis.

“I can remember growing up...we would get Reader's Digest at home and it would have poetry in it, so would the newspapers, and The Christian Science Monitor...there were a lot of places where you would just bump into it,” said Tim Bete, who serves as poetry editor for the website Integrated Catholic Life (ICL). ICL is a website that provides articles, spiritual reflections, blogs and resources that strive to help Catholics better live lives of faith, according to its description.

So what, exactly, has contributed to its decline?

Pearce blames the so-called “death” of poetry on the “rather pathetic culture in which we find ourselves,” with decreased standards of literacy and decreased attention spans brought on by technology.

“The thing about our modern culture is that most of us spend most of our time wasting it in the dust storm and the desert of modern secular social media,” he added.

Dana Gioia is a Catholic by faith and a poet by trade, and has served as the Poet Laureate of California since 2015.

Gioia spent much of his career as a poet in the secular world, but told CNA that he has become an increasingly vocal Catholic, as it has become harder to be a Catholic in the world of poetry and literature.

The decline of Catholic poetry in the United States, for example, is in part because of Catholicism’s “very complicated position” in American literature since the beginning of the country, he said.

“Catholics were initially banned from coming to the U.S., and then they enjoyed very little rights where they were allowed at all for a long time,” he told CNA.  “And there persisted to be - persists to this day - a kind of anti-Catholic prejudice in the U.S. for a variety of religious, cultural, economic and political reasons.”

“American Catholics largely represent poor, immigrant communities from Europe, Latin America and Asia, and to this day if you go to most Catholic Churches you are sitting among the poor,” he added.

For these reasons, there was no “significant” Catholic American poetry (that is still being read today) until the 20th century, Gioia said. Then suddenly, around the 1950s, there is an explosion of Catholic literature in the United States, he said.

Writers such as Robert Lowell, Flannery O'Connor, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Walker Percy, William Tate and Brother Antonitus were leading the way (many of them converts from Protestantism), Gioia said, and Catholicism was being taken seriously for the first time in American cultural life.

“You have a huge list of these really significant thinkers who reshaped American intellectual life...a moment in the 1950s when Catholicism is part of the conversation of American literature,” he said.

But by the early 2000s, that was already gone.

“By 2000 it had fallen apart. In 2010, Catholics are marginalized in American literary lives,” he said.

The reasons for this were several, Gioia suggested: firstly, as Catholics became accepted into American society, they became increasingly secularized. Secondly, the world of art became increasingly anti-Christian, and finally, Vatican II caused “schisms” in the Catholic Church in America, turning her focus to internal debate rather than to an external, unified identity.

“I’m the uncomfortable truth-teller in the room,” Gioia added as an aside. “The contemporary Catholic Church in America, and everywhere, lost its connection with art and beauty.”

“For centuries, millennia really, the Church was a patron of the arts, and understood that beauty was an essential medium for its message,” he said.

“Now the Church is so caught up with practical necessities, that it considers beauty an unaffordable luxury. But beauty is not a luxury, it is a central and essential element of the Catholic faith. And we know this, because if we have anything at all to say about creation, it is that it is beautiful - nature is beautiful, the world is beautiful, our bodies are beautiful. So we’ve lost this essential connection because we’re so busy funding the parish school, keeping the homeless center running, and paying the mortgage on the church - all good things, but useless if the message of the Church is not heard among its own congregations and secondly in the modern world,” he said.

It’s a problem that has been identified by many in the Catholic Church who are concerned with the New Evangelization - Fyodor Dostoevsky’s maxim “beauty will save the world” has become the battle cry of many Catholics who want to reconnect the Church and the arts.

But “healthy” Catholic culture has two cultural conversations going at once, Gioia said - one internally, and one that reaches out to the world - “and both of those conversations have become greatly diminished in the last half-century.”

What poetry has to say to Catholics

The thing about being Catholic, Bete noted, is that if you’re going to Mass and reading the Bible, you are probably are more immersed in poetry than you realize.

“About 30% of all scripture is poetry,” Bete said. “Even (Catholics) that say oh, I never read poetry, well, if you're praying the Divine Office (a Catholic form of prayer centered on the Psalms), it's almost all poetry.”

“We're hearing poetry preached at Mass every week,” he added, and so becoming familiar with all kinds of poetry “helps you understand scripture better because it gets you in tune and trains you to think about metaphor.”

“So much of (scripture) is poetry but I think we kind of race through it sometimes and we don't really kind of appreciate it for being poetry,” he said.

“In my mind, one of the reasons that there's so much poetry in there is it's so difficult to define who God is, and God is so much greater than any author can put down on paper, but poetry...it provides a different type of truth.”

Bete added that poetry is often the fruit of silence and prayer, and vice versa - one can lead into the other. An example of this in scripture, he said, is the Canticle of Mary, when the pregnant Blessed Virgin Mary is visiting her cousin Elizabeth and bursts into poetic song about how God has blessed her by calling her to be the mother of Jesus.

“When Mary really has to explain to Elizabeth what is going on, what does she do? She speaks in poetry. It's very powerful...and so one of my hopes is that if people read current poetry, it trains them to look at things differently and will translate back to scripture and really help to bring the scripture alive for them,” Bete said.

Pearce said another reason Catholics should engage with poetry is because God himself is a poet.

“The word ‘poet’ comes from the word ‘poesis’ which means to make or to create,” he said.

“So when we are being poets in that broader sense of the word of being creative...it’s God’s creative presence in us, so we’re actually partaking in the divine when we write poetry or read it and appreciate it.”

Many great works of literature, from Beowulf to The Divine Comedy to The Canterbury Tales and the works of Shakespeare, are works of Christian and Catholic poetry, Pearce said.

Many saints, too, have written great works of poetry, Pearce said, such as St. Patrick’s breastplate poem or St. Francis of Assissi’s Canticle of Brother Sun.

Bete, a secular Carmelite, said he loves to read poetry by Carmelite saints - “it's actually hard to find one who was not a poet,” he said.

“Elizabeth of the Trinity, Therese the Little Flower, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, they all wrote poetry,” Bete said, including some that was prayerful and some that was more lighthearted.

“Almost always it came out of their prayer life,” Bete added. “I think it has to do with the closer that you get to God, especially if you're a writer, I think it just comes out.”

“I would say poetry is like going to Mass or saying your prayers,” Pearce said. “The writing of it and the reading of it is time taken and not time wasted, its something which is worth doing in its own right, as is prayer.”

Poetry 101: How can Catholics start a poetry habit?

Pearce has made it easy for Catholics who are looking for an introduction to Catholic poetry, with his book “Poems Every Catholic Should Know.”

“That book is very popular, and I think it’s popular because people are very aware that they don’t know poetry very well, because they haven’t really been taught it, and they are perhaps intimidated by it or they have misconceptions about it,” he said.

“So they see a book called ‘Poems Every Catholic Should Know’ and they think well, I should at least own one book of poetry and perhaps this is it,” he added.

The book goes through 1,000 years of Christian poetry, from the year 1,000-2,000, Pearce said, from both well-known and lesser-known poets, and it includes short biographies of each poet and how they fit into the broader context of the Christian poetry and literary world.

“A personal favorite of mine is a 20th century war poet, Siegfried Sassoon, who was a convert to the Catholic faith, so we published some of his post-conversion poetry in the book which I’m very fond of,” Pearce noted.

It was because of the sharp decline in the reading and writing of poetry that Bete pitched the idea for Integrated Catholic Life to start publishing poetry, to provide a new opportunity for visitors to the site to once again “bump into” poetry.

“The response has been great,” he said. “I think it just goes to show that when people see...beauty, and they see something that is of interest to them,” they respond, he said. “It doesn't take a huge time commitment. It's not like reading War and Peace or anything.”

Bete said he thinks it’s important for Catholics to come up with new and creative ways to reintroduce people to Catholic poetry.

“On Instagram where you're seeing some of these Instagram poets who are up and coming, and I haven't seen any Catholic ones yet, but I think what they're doing is they're putting poetry where people already are,” Bete said.

Another innovative concept that brings poetry to the people is the “Raining Poetry” project in Boston, Bete said, which paints poetry on the sidewalk with clear paint so that it only shows up when it rains.

“And I love that as a concept. Where are people, and then how do we find ways to get poetry in front of them? And I don't think we've been very good or innovative at that.”

Gioia said the most important thing Catholic creatives can do is to create communities for Catholic artists.

“This country is full of Catholic writers and artists who feel isolated,” Gioia said. “If we can create communities for them, they will understand their own art and its possibilities much better. We are stronger together than we are alone.”

Pearce, Bete and Gioia all said they have been heartened by what seems to be the start of a Catholic cultural revival, in which Catholics are talking more about the need for the Church to reconnect with beauty and the arts and to create great Catholic art again.

“I find this very encouraging,” Pearce said. “One of the things I’m doing with ‘Faith and Culture’ at the Augustine Institute and with the magazine The Austin Review...is to try to engage this new Catholic revival in the arts that we see going on. Certainly there’s a Catholic literary revival going on, so there’s an increase not just in the quantity, but more importantly in the quality with Catholic literature written today in the 21st century.”

Gioia said that while he’s encouraged by these movements, he would also caution against the notion of “homemade” culture.

“I worry that they sometimes have a kind of homemade version of culture that needs a shot of energy and perspective you only get by studying masterpieces, especially contemporary masterpieces,” he said. “Any serious writer must engage with the broader literary culture.”

“So I think one of the things to do is we need to identify the very best contemporary writers. What that doesn’t mean is saying here’s a list of 65 writers. It’s - who are the three or four best fiction writers? Who are the three or four best poets?”

“If we had a (Catholic literary) community, we’d invite everyone in, because that’s the right thing to do,” he said. “But when we write about literature we have to be ruthlessly discriminating, because the best work is what will speak most loudly. That’s what a critic does, that’s what an editor does, that’s what an anthologist does. Right now we do not have enough anthologies, or magazines; we do not have enough Catholic writers conferences. We need to build the infrastructure.”

Gioia started the first Catholic Imagination Conference for this reason - to bring together serious Catholic writers as a community.

“Four hundred people came, and they looked around and they were astonished and heartened by how many serious writers they saw in the same room,” he said. “Each one is bigger than the one before, and some of the people who came to the first conference created magazines, book clubs, discussion groups, and so once again, we’re stronger as a community than we are separately.”

The third such conference will be held at Loyola University this fall.

Ultimately, Gioia said, while he is concerned about the state of Catholic poetry and literature in the U.S., he has hope.

“I believe that our Church and our tradition embodies in it a great central truth of existence. And so if you believe that, how could you not be optimistic?”

Abortion language nixed from UN resolution after Trump admin threatens veto

Washington D.C., Apr 25, 2019 / 12:03 am (CNA).- Language referring to abortion was removed from a United Nations resolution on the care of sexual abuse survivors in wartime, after the Trump administration threatened to veto the measure.

U.S. officials said they oppose the UN Security Council resolution on the grounds of a phrase that implied support for abortion, according to the BBC. They threatened to veto the resolution if the abortion language was not dropped.

The phrase that was opposed by the U.S., and by Russia and China, was: “Recognizing the importance of providing timely assistance to survivors of sexual violence, urges United Nations entities and donors to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services, in line with Resolution 2106,” the BBC reported.

The phrase was dropped, and the resolution passed 13-0 without any references to sexual or reproductive health services, with Russia and China abstaining.

While the original resolution had been met with widespread support, council members and international leaders from various countries accused the U.S. of diluting the measure by removing the phrase.

“And we regret that the language on services for survivors of sexual violence, recognizing the acute need for those services to include comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care, including safe termination of pregnancies, did not meet with all the council members' support,” British diplomat Tariq Ahmad told NPR.

French UN ambassador Francois Delattre said it was “intolerable and incomprehensible” that the council “is incapable of acknowledging that women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict, and who obviously didn't choose to become pregnant, should have the right to terminate their pregnancy,” according to the BBC.

Jonathan Cohen served as acting ambassador for the United States at the meeting.

The move is the latest from the Trump administration to oppose the funding and promotion of overseas abortions. Efforts have focused largely on reversing Obama-era measures to expand abortion funding.

Within days of taking office, Trump reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy, ensuring that U.S. tax dollars are not funding the provision or promotion of abortion overseas in any U.S. global health spending. His administration has also defunded UNFPA on the grounds that it supports coercive abortion and sterilization in China.

Pope Francis Names Bishop Donald Hying as New Bishop of Madison

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named the Most Reverend Donald J. Hying, up until now Bishop of Gary, as the new Bishop of Madison. The appointment was publicized in Washington, DC, on April 25th, 2019 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Donald Hying, 55, was born on August 18, 1963 in West Allis, Wisconsin. He attended and received his bachelor's degree from Marquette University and his Masters of Divinity from Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on May 20, 1989.

On July 20, 2011, Bishop Hying was ordained the seventh Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Prior to being named Auxiliary Bishop, he served as rector of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary from 2007 to 2011, appointed by then-Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan.

Bishop Hying was installed as the fourth Bishop of Gary on January 6, 2015. He has also served as the Episcopal Liaison for National Association of Catholic Chaplains and as Episcopal Advisor to the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul. He is also a member of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, the Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People and the Committee on Catholic Education.

The Diocese of Madison is comprised of 8,046 square miles and has a total population of 1,052,835 million of which 286,047 or 27.17 percent, are Catholic.  

---

Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Bishop Donald Hying, Diocese of Madison, Diocese of Gary

###

Media Contact:

Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Commentary: Sri Lanka, martyrdom, and the light of faith

Washington D.C., Apr 24, 2019 / 05:35 pm (CNA).- On Saturday night, the Church celebrated its most solemn and joyful liturgy.

As it does every year, the Vigil Mass of Easter began when the paschal candle was lit from a fire burning outside the church.
 
That candle led the assembly in silent procession into the darkened church. The priest turned toward the faithful and announced “The light of Christ!”
 
“Thanks be to God,” responded the assembly, as the light of the paschal candle was passed throughout the assembly, flooding the darkened room with the new light of the resurrection, aglow in the small flames of hundreds of candles.
 
At the same time I attended the Easter Vigil Saturday night, a series of suicide bombs exploded in churches across Sri Lanka, killing nearly hundreds. The attacks were timed to coincide with Easter Sunday celebrations.
 
The transition of the vigil liturgy, from darkness to light, reflects the procession of the Church from death to life, illuminated by the light of the Resurrection.

The Easter Exsultet, sung across the world as the bombs detonated in Colombo, hailed the arrival of the “night in which Christ has destroyed death.”
 
Of course the blood-spattered walls and ceiling of St. Anthony’s Shrine in Sri Lanka offered what appeared to be a macabre juxtaposition to the empty tomb of the gospel. But through the eyes of faith, and of the Church, the horrific violence was a witness to the Resurrection of Christ.

Those Catholics mourning in Sri Lanka know that light — the light —  has come into the world, and darkness cannot overcome it.
 
Sri Lanka is not the only place where churches are burning and Christians are dying. From Mosul to Cairo, to France, to Kaduna and Columbo, Christians, the world over, face violence and persecution. But somehow, in many parts of the West, that reality goes unseen.

The reason is complicated.
 
The Anglican Bishop of Truro, Philip Mountstephen, has been charged by the British government with reviewing its foreign policy failures to address the persecution of Christians worldwide.

Ahead of the publication of his conclusions, and before the Easter bombings, he told the Times that there is an indifference in the secular liberal establishement to the plight of Christians around the world. It is, he suggested, a studied indifference, which misunderstands the Christian faith as “an expression of white western privilege,” undeserving of protection.
 
In a western secular culture defined increasingly by anti-Christian moral norms, the slaughter of Christians – or “Easter worshippers” to those too squeamish to use the word – presents a paradox: how can the religion of white western wealth and privilege be the faith of poor minorities around the globe? Can the suffering of Christians be legitimately understood as persecution?
 
“Actually,” Mountstephen observed, “the Christian faith is overwhelmingly a phenomenon of the global poor and people who, by their very socio-economic status, are vulnerable.”

Pope Francis has spoken often of his desire to see “a poor Church of the poor.” In reality, this is what the Church already is.
 
The killing of the Sri Lankan Mass-goers, like the execution of the Coptic martyrs in 2015, is a sign of contradiction to a world ready to believe – and in some cases to print – that Christianity is inseparable from a kind of capitalistic white supremacy. But the Church is called to be a sign of contradiction, and such a sign can bear great fruit.
 
The first Easter vigils in Rome were held in catacombs not cathedrals; an empire was converted by the witness of uncounted martyrs, whose unshakable confidence that Christ had risen, destroying death, was a sign of contradiction to the pagan world.
 
In his recent essay on the root causes of the sexual abuse crisis, the pope emeritus noted the “today's Church is more than ever a ‘Church of the Martyrs’ and thus a witness to the living God.” Joseph Ratzinger also famously recalled looking around the Vatican as a young priest and foreseeing a time in which the signs of wealth and status would be stripped away.
 
Caught between the hammer of violent oppression in many parts of the world and the anvil of a secularized West suspicious if not downright hostile to the Church, many Catholics see a besieged faithful fighting for survival.
 
But in reality, in the gathering darkness, the light of the faith - like the hundreds of candles light during the Easter vigil - becomes ever brighter. The violence of persecution stokes the fires of faith.
 
Many alive now may live to see Ratzinger’s prediction come true: Francis’ poor Church of the poor once more gathered in the catacombs, real or metaphorical.

While the world will, like the pagan emperors before, scorn her seeming defeat and irrelevance, the Church will instead draw renewed strength as she becomes ever more truly herself.

The witness of its suffering – as in Sri Lanka – offers the same witness the martyrs of the early Church offered pagan Rome, and it will achieve the same result. The experience of the Church in the first centuries of the third millennium will likely come to resemble that of the first centuries AD. And from the forge of persecution will come a New Evangelization to rival the old.
 
Wedded to her risen spouse and called to share in his glory, those now confidently burying the Church as a remnant of history are destined to find her tomb empty. Through death, Christ has already conquered death, and with him the Church rises victorious.

 

Arlington diocese launches addiction support for families

Arlington, Va., Apr 24, 2019 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- At the request of Bishop Michael Burbidge, the Diocese of Arlington has launched a multifaceted program to get parishes involved with the healing of addicts and their families.

Organized by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, the project is composed of five parts – clinician training, workshops, addiction resources, family support, and prayer.

Art Bennett, president of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Arlington, told CNA that the apostolate comes as the damages of opioid abuse have extended into the suburbs. Fairfax County, a generally well-off area, has the highest rate of opioid-related deaths in Virginia, he said.

“Bishop Burbidge has long been concerned about the opioid problem in our diocese; we cover 21 counties in the northern part of Virginia,” he said, noting that parishes have seen an increase in funerals for people who have overdosed.

After the bishop challenged the diocese to respond to the opioid crisis,  a conference was held in September to gather interested parties and to brainstorm. A psychologist was brought in to speak on the challenges faced in addiction recovery.  

There are four parishes involved: St. John the Evangelist in Warrenton, Good Shepherd in Alexandria, St. Bernadette in Springfield, and St. John Neumann in Reston.

As part of the program, 17 mental health clinicians have already been trained on the opioid crisis, its growing impact in the United States, and the best means to respond to it. These clinicians are now able to travel and run workshops for other parishes and Church staff.

Arlington's Catholic Charities has also piled together a virtual collection of resources for immediate intervention, including crisis intervention hotlines, case management services, and evaluations for treatment.

The new ministry will seek to add resources for families of addicts, including Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Families Anonymous, and parent support groups. It will also offer literature and the contact info of therapists.

“Catholic Charities has been asked to focus on providing clinical support to those secondarily impacted by the opioid crisis – providing counseling to the children, families, and loved ones of those struggling with addiction. This is a broadly under-served population in the current response to addiction,” Michael Horne, director of clinical services for Arlington's Catholic Charities, told CNA.

Bennett said two of the major components of this apostolate are the prayer teams who intercede on behalf of addicts, and parish resource committees to support families. Both will be discussed in upcoming workshops, he said.

The next seminar will take place April 29 at St. John Neumann and will continue at a different parish every quarter. Here, Bennett will give an overview of the project, and former nurse Sandi Sale will discuss the boundaries volunteers should put in place.

Susan Infeld, a parent of an addict and a parish nurse in charge of the project at St. John Neumann, will also discuss both successful measures and those that have failed in the past.

Bennett said prayer, while a simple way to support the addicted and their families, is “also the most powerful thing that can be done.”

The apostolate may bring about new opportunities for prayer, but it could also be tacking on the intentions to already-established prayer groups.

“Any parish can have that; they might already have Eucharistic adoration or rosary groups and they just add on the intentions of the families suffering from the opioid crisis so that healing power in prayer and Christ can be involved with them,” he said.

The parish committee programs will provide opportunities for the laity to be supportive of the families of addicts. “That support could be encouragement, referrals, or someone to talk to if there kid is in jail or very sick,” he said.  

Addiction is especially rough on the family, as young people are sometimes forced out of the house when they start supporting their addiction with thieving. The family of addicts is an untapped area for ministry, he said, noting that many parents feel ashamed and ostracized from the Church when a child is going through addiction.

“The families pretty much felt like they are hung out to dry,” he said. “They feel very harshly judged, they feel weak,” and he emphasized the importance of compassion in the situation.

At the Arlington Catholic Herald, Infeld gave insight into her own struggles as a parent of an alcoholic. She said addiction ministry is an opportunity to share the message of God’s mercy and to promote healing.

“Families are being destroyed by this disease. Grandparents are raising their grandchildren in retirement because the parents are addicts. Parents are going into debt trying to pay for rehab not just once, but sometimes multiple times. Families most often suffer in silence, not getting the tremendous support and tools that a (ministry or support group) can offer,” she said.