Washington D.C., Nov 13, 2015 / 03:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Supreme Court of the United States announced Friday that it will hear a challenge to Texas’ safety standards for abortion clinics, in what could be a significant abortion case. Pro-life advocates welcomed the opportunity for the court to uphold the law. “The Supreme Court now has the opportunity to confirm that states have a legitimate and compelling interest in better ensuring the safety and health of women who enter abortion clinics,” stated Sarah Torre and Elizabeth Slattery of the Heritage Foundation Nov. 13, in response to the Court’s announcement. The law enacts “sensible regulations” that show “a laudable concern for the safety of women,” said Dr. Grazie Christie of The Catholic Association in a statement. “The Supreme Court will now have the chance to put women’s health before the corporate financial interests of Planned Parenthood and their affiliates, as the citizens of Texas intended,” she added. The Texas law was passed in 2013 after a filibuster by then-senator Wendy Davis (D) helped delay the vote, receiving national attention. The law mandated higher safety standards for abortion clinics and banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, on the grounds that unborn babies of that age can feel pain. Specifically, the law holds abortion clinics in the state to the same health standards as those of ambulatory surgery clinics, and requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital in case of a post-abortion health emergency. Clinics must also provide a 24-hour hotline for women when such emergencies arise. The requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges was initially struck down by a federal district court in 2013, but was upheld by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in June. The Supreme Court afterwards, by a 5-4 margin, granted a temporary stay on the law going into effect, pending an appeal to the court by its opponents. In September, abortion clinics in the state had asked the Court to hear their challenge to the law. The petitioners argued in part that the law violates the court’s 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld a women’s right to abortion as “a fundamental liberty,” and that states cannot enact “unnecessary health regulations” that pose “a substantial obstacle” to this right. After the 2013 law’s passage, the number of abortion clinics in the state fell by more than half, the petition noted. Texas attorney general Ken Paxton’s office responded that the law is meant to “protect the health and safety of women and ensure abortion clinics in Texas meet basic standards.” Other supporters of the law’s passage pointed to evidence from the 2013 trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell showing the need for strong health regulations at abortion clinics. Gosnell was convicted in 2013 on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter after babies were killed after birth at his clinic. A police raid of his clinic had revealed horrific sanitary conditions, and the grand jury report claimed that if his clinic met the health standards of a surgery center, the life of one woman could have been saved. Read more

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2015 / 02:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For Pope Francis, the Eucharist is all that can satisfy humanity’s deepest hungers and longings, and is a source of hope, joy, and zeal in leading others to Christ. “Human beings all over the word today need nourishment. And this nourishment is not just to satisfy physical hunger,” the Pope said in his Nov. 10 video message for the opening of India’s 50th National Eucharistic Congress, being held in Mumbai. In addition to food, human beings also hunger for love, immortality, affection, being cared for, forgiveness, and mercy, he said. All of these hungers find their satisfaction in one thing: “the bread that comes from above,” Francis stressed, explaining that “Jesus himself is the living bread that gives life to the world.” The Pope sent his video message to those participating in India’s National Eucharistic Congress, being held in Mumbai, which will run Nov. 12-15 and reflects on the theme “Nourished by the Eucharist to nourish others.” As many as 5,000 people from across India are expected to attend the congress. Each of the 167 dioceses in India are sending five representatives to Mumbai for the event, where the Eucharist will be celebrated in the Latin, East Syrian, and West Syrian rites. Mumbai also hosted the 38th International Eucharistic Congress, in 1964, at which Bl. Paul VI presided. Pope Francis will be represented at the Eucharistic Congress by Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjit of Colombo. In his message, Pope Francis said the Eucharistic Congress is God’s gift not just for India’s Christians, but for the entire country, which contains a vast variety of cultures and spiritual traditions. “Over thousands of years India has been permeated by the desire for truth, the search for the divine, the effort at goodness and kindness,” he said, and recalled Bl. Paul VI’s 1964 reminder that the Eucharist is the commemoration of Christ and his love for all humanity. The love of Christ, he said, “is not a matter of the past,” but is meant to remain alive and present in the heart of each person. Also in India, Christ is important not only for the country’s Christian minority, but for “the millions of people who have come to know and love him as an inspiration of love and self-sacrifice.” The Eucharist, Francis continued, quting his own homily at Corpus Christi this year, “actualizes the covenant that sanctifies us, purifies us and unites us in the marvelous Communion with God. Thus we learn that the Eucharist is not only a reward for the good but also the strength for the weak and for sinners.” However, the Pope noted that the Eucharist doesn’t end with consuming the body and blood of the Lord. Partaking in the sacrament also leads us to have solidarity with others, he said. “Communion with the Lord is necessarily a communion with our fellow brothers and sisters. And therefore the one who is fed and nourished by the very body and blood of Christ cannot remain unaffected when he sees his brothers suffering want and hunger,” Francis explained. Once nourished by the Eucharist, those who receive it are called to bring the joy of the Gospel to those who haven’t yet received it, and to give hope to those who live in darkness and despair. “In the Eucharist the Lord makes us walk on his road; that of service, of sharing, of giving,” Francis said, adding that if shared, the little that we have and are then “becomes riches, for the power of God – which is the power of love – comes down into poverty to transform it.” Pope Francis closed his message by praying that the congress would be a beacon of light for all of India and “the harbinger of great joy and happiness,” as well as an occasion for all Indians to come together in unity and charity. Read more

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2015 / 01:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis cautioned against making idols out of earthly things, including our own habits, and stressed that while these will eventually fade away, their Creator is the only thing that will rema… Read more

Ottawa, Canada, Nov 13, 2015 / 03:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Allow yourself to be troubled by the plight of migrants and refugees around the world – this was the message of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to the faithful of their country in a new pastoral letter last month. Noting the refugee crisis across the globe, the bishops called on Catholics in Canada to welcome refugees and respond to their suffering with action, charity and prayer. “This pastoral letter is a challenge to Catholics in Canada to learn about the situation today, pray for those affected, and to mobilize themselves in order to make the greatest difference possible,” said the pastoral letter written by the Canadian bishops’ Commission for Justice and Peace on Oct. 26. During the past 20 years, 20,000 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in an effort to flee the violence of their home countries, the Canadian bishops said, pointing to oppression in Afghanistan, Somalia, Mali and North Africa that has left millions without a home or job. The desperation of these families often leaves them vulnerable and easily targeted by human traffickers, the bishops added. In addition, Christian refugees have been leaving Syria and Iraq in droves due to persecution, slavery and threats of death from the militant group ISIS. Lebanon is currently holding 1.2 million Syrian refugees, making up a third of the country’s population, the bishops warned. “This pastoral letter is being issued to renew the call to our consciences and to stir us into action to help these millions of people who struggle to survive and who search for living conditions that respect their dignity and freedom,” the Canadian bishops stated. “When it comes to welcoming refugees in our own country, our action cannot be limited to simply providing assistance and accompaniment during the long process of selection, but must be aimed at the full inclusion of these newcomers,” the letter continued. The bishops’ words underscored different ways of improving the current process of welcoming refugees, such as expanding the sponsorship procedures and making asylum more accessible. They also called for more priority to be given to family reunification and expanding access to healthcare services. “Even the child Jesus himself was a refugee when his family fled the persecution of King Herod,” the letter stated, pointing to numerous Biblical references about welcoming migrants, foreigners and refugees as neighbors and friends. “This is why we must stand in solidarity with refugees and offer help adapted to their real needs – because they are our family,” the letter continued, saying that every human being is a child of God in the Church’s family. However, Canadians cannot stop at simply welcoming the refugees, the bishops’ commission said. These families need further aid to establish their new lives, they pointed out. Most individuals seeking shelter have undergone trauma from persecution or torture and experience disorientation from their long, perilous journeys. Many will also have to accept minimum wage jobs even if they have professional qualifications. “These are all reasons why we must make our voices heard – clearly and loudly – to correct injustices and to call for the recognition and full inclusion of refugees into our communities and society,” the bishops noted. “We must respond to this crisis, here and now, as Christians, as Canadians, as human beings,” they continued. In the past, sponsors in Canada have responded charitably to refugees seeking a home. Although there are different policies in every country, some refugees within Canada benefit from the federal government. Others are sponsored by public or private members and receive assistance throughout the course of the year. During the past five years, Canada has resettled nearly 13,000 refugees per year. The Canadian bishops believe that this number could greatly increase if communities and religious organizations joined efforts and worked together. “For anyone attentive to human solidarity, and especially for any Christian, concern for the living conditions of our fellow human beings, particularly those who are in need, should become a way of life and a habit of thought, a practice of active compassion rooted in justice,” the bishops noted. Listing a series of practical actions to ensure a safe harbor for refugees and migrants, they asked Catholic Canadians to challenge the federal government to expand the acceptance of refugees to Canada, fix any flaws in the immigration system, and provide aid to refugee camps through prayer and financial support. They also suggested establishing pastoral ministries or diocesan services for migrants and displaced persons. In addition, they encouraged Catholics to raise awareness for refugees within their communities or gather funds to sponsor a refugee family. “Our faith calls us to let ourselves be moved – even disturbed – by our sisters and brothers who are refugees. They await our listening ears, our open hearts, and our outstretched arms to receive them,” the bishops’ letter stated. “Let us all pray that our hands and our hearts may be united with our voices in actions that will give a loving welcome to refugees in our country and in our Christian communities.” Photo Credit: Denis Rozan via www.shutterstock.com Read more

Rome, Italy, Nov 12, 2015 / 03:18 pm (CNA).- Spanish liberation theologian Fr. Jon Sobrino, whose works were censured by the Vatican nearly a decade ago, is slated to take part in an event this Saturday at Rome’s Urbaniana University. The gathering is aimed at republishing the “Catacombs Pact,” a document signed after the Second Vatican Council by various future members of the Marxist school of thought. It was condemned in 1984 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed at that time by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Fr. Sobrino, a Jesuit priest born in Spain in 1938, had his works censured by the congregation in 2007. After six years of analysis of his works – “Jesus the Liberator, A Historical-Theological Reading of Jesus of Nazareth” and “Christ the Liberator – A View from the Victims” – the Vatican held them to be contrary to Catholic doctrine. The Holy See warned at the time that in both works “various erroneous or dangerous propositions that can cause harm to the faithful” had been found. That same year, theologian Donato Valentino on Vatican Radio also outlined Fr. Sobrino’s problematic theological stance, particularly when it came to the divinity and incarnation of Christ. Fr. Sobrino wrote that in the New Testament, the divinity of Jesus is only present in “seed form.” He also suggested that there are two subjects in Christ. “The result,” Valentino warned at the time, “is it’s not clear that the Son is Jesus and Jesus is the Son.” While the Vatican’s 2007 statement recognized that Fr. Sobrino demonstrates in his works a concern for the poor, something shared “certainly by the entire Church” – it also said that “this option is not exclusive” and therefore “the Church cannot express herself through reductive sociological or ideological categories, that would make out of this preference a partisan option leading to conflict.” Additionally, the statement recalled that after an initial examination of his works in 2001, the dicastery sent Fr. Sobrino “a list of erroneous or dangerous propositions found in the abovementioned books.”  The next year Fr. Sobrino sent a response that was not satisfactory because doctrinal “errors still remain.” Fr. Sobrino was invited to participate at the Urbaniana University in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Catacombs Pact, a document which he reportedly would like to see re-proposed this weekend and promoted via conferences, a meeting with the press and a Mass in the Catacombs. Some local sources voiced concern to CNA that the event this weekend is an attempt to “revive” the ideas of Jon Sobrino, which the Vatican has not lifted its censure of. In its 2007 statement, the congregation noted that it “does not intend to judge the subjective intentions of the author, but rather has the duty to call to attention to certain propositions which are not in conformity with the doctrine of the Church.” Read more

Vatican City, Nov 12, 2015 / 03:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to the Slovak bishops on Thursday, Pope Francis reminded them that the Church is called to welcome immigrants and to reach out to ‘the other’, including by ministering particuarly to the Romani people. With globalization, he said Nov. 12, “at times we perceive threats to less populous nations, but at the same time elements that can offer new opportunities. One opportunity, which has become a sign of the times, is the phenomenon of migration, which demands to be understood and confronted with sensitivity and a sense of justice.” “The Church is required to proclaim and bear witness to the welcome of the migrant in a spirit of charity and respect for the dignity of the human person, in the context of the necessary observance of the law.” Pope Francis spoke to the Slovak bishops, who are in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visit, at the Vatican. His words on showing welcome to migrants comes as more than 750,00 migrants, many of them from war-torn Syria, have entered Europe this year. The influx of migrants has led to differing policies, and often a lack of welcome, in many European nations. “Faced with the prospect of an increasingly extensive multicultural environment, it is necessary to assume attitudes of mutual respect to promote encounter,” the Pope reflected. “It is to be hoped that the Slovak people will maintain their cultural identity and heritage of ethical and spiritual values, strongly linked to the Catholic tradition.” By doing this, the Slovaks, more than 60 percent of whom are Catholic, “will be able to open up without fear to exchange on the broadest continental and global horizon, contributing to a sincere and fruitful dialogue, also on themes of vital importance such as the dignity of human life and the essential function of the family.” “Today, more than ever, it is necessary to enlighten the path of peoples with Christian principles, seizing the opportunities that the current situation offers to develop an evangelisation that, using a new language, makes Christ’s message easier to understand,” Pope Francis said. “For this reason it important for the Church to give hope, so that all the present changes may be transformed into a renewed encounter with Christ, that guides the people towards authentic progress.” He recalled the importance of the lay people in evangelization, saying they are called to animate the world with the leaven of the Gospel, and so “they cannot refrain from opearing within the political process aimed at the common good.” “To be joyful witnesses to the Gospel in all environments, they need to feel themselves as a living part of the Church. It is your task,” he told the bishops, “to recognize their own role in the live of the ecclesial community, including with respect to the development and realization of pastoral projects.” Turning to speak of the family in more detail, the Pope said it “faces many difficulties, and is subject to many dangers.” Slovakia has one of the lowest birthrates in Europe – a fertility rate of 1.33 children per woman, well below the replacement level. Pope Francis said the Church’s efforts for families need to include “adequate accompaniment for all families, including those where members are not present, especially if there are children. As part of the pastoral care of the family, it is necessary to appreciate young people, the hope of the Church and society.” Noting young persons’ “strong desire to serve others and to work for solidarity,” he said this must be guided by pastors “for it to become a living encounter with Christ, in a committed project to spread the Gospel.” Youth “need to have from you a clear instructions about doctrine and morals, to build in the city of man, the city of God,” he added. The Pope encouraged the Slovak bishops to provide continuing formation for their priests, as they are, “for the majority of the People of God … the principal channel through which the Gospel passes, and also offer the most immediate image through which the mystery of the Church is encountered.” He said the Church, a “sign and tool of the unity of men with God and with each other, is called upon to be the house and school of communion, in which one learns to appreciate and welcome positive qualities in others.” Thi s attitude, he exhorted, “is very useful also in reference to the good connections which it is necessary to restore in Slovakia between pastors and consecrated persons, better appreciating the valuable contribution of all religious in pastoral care.” He also reflected on pastoral ministry to the Romani people (also known as Gypsies), who are often marginalized in Slovak society. “At the same time, the Church in your country must carry forth the pastoral care of the Roma, through extensive evangelisation that seeks to reach all these people who, unfortunately, continue to live in some ways separated from the rest of society.” Pope Francis concluded his address by conveying his affection to all Catholics of Slovakia, saying: “I entrust your pastoral concerns to Our Lady of Sorrows, Patroness of Slovakia, and I invoke her maternal intercession that the nation may prosper in peace and in conformity to the best values of its Christian tradition.” Read more

Santiago, Chile, Nov 12, 2015 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Technically, Greg Hall and his team of drilling specialists had done their job when they located 33 miners believed to be trapped – and possibly dead – in a collapsed mine in Chile in 2010. The Chilean government had recruited Hall and his team because their specialized drilling equipment could go nearly twice the depth as could the government’s equipment. But when Hall watched the emotional ‘virtual’ reunions of the trapped miners and their families, he knew he was in it for the long haul. “In watching that, it really made me feel like I was part of their family,” Hall told CNA. “As my wife would tell you, I couldn’t sleep at night. I just kept on getting up, thinking ‘What would I do if that were my son or my brother down there?’” “That gave me the impetus to go ahead and call the government … and that’s how we actually got involved in the final rescue.” “It was really God’s hand just prompting me to rescue my brother.” Hall, who owns several drilling manufacturers in Minnesota, Texas, and Chile, was the mastermind behind the rescue of 33 Chilean miners who were trapped after the collapse of a 100-year-old gold and copper mine in the nation. The search and rescue operation took nearly three months and captured the attention and prayers of the world. All 33 miners survived the collapse, but not without a little help from God, Hall said. “There was really no technology or design to get people out that deep – in the kind of conditions they were in,” Hall said. “All the computer models, all the calculations, showed that we would fail.” What was perhaps Hall’s greatest challenge came the day his equipment finally reached the miners. He and his team had drilled to within 400 feet from the space where the miners were trapped. At that point, their drill got stuck and it seemed they would have to defy the laws of physics to push onward. “All the calculations had proven out that we were just beyond the parameters of what was technically possible,” Hall said. In that moment, Hall prayed a prayer he said he would never forget.  “I told God, ‘We’ve done everything that we can do, Lord. Those are 33 of your children down there. We’ve done everything we can do. If you want to get them out, you’re going to have to send your holy angels down and dig my bit out, because we’re finished’.” And then, his bit began to move – which Hall maintains was a miracle.   “I’ve told everybody that that job can’t be done,” he said. “I didn’t do that job. God drilled that hole, and I just had a good seat. It just shows that our Lord … is working in this world … and a billion people saw it.” Last month marked 5 years since the dramatic rescue. The Chilean miners celebrated the anniversary at an audience with Pope Francis. Hall remembers one of the miners asking him several years ago why the world continues to be so enraptured with their story. “He asked me, ‘Greg, we’re poor lowly miners. Why did anybody care?’ Our Church teaches that all of us are created in the image and likeness of God … and I think this was a time when, worldwide, everybody could understand and relate to those miners.” “This was a time when we were actually able to come together as a people, as a family, and understand that we’re all brothers and sisters of the same Father.” Read more

Rome, Italy, Nov 12, 2015 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- One topic Ugandans expect Pope Francis to address in his upcoming visit to the country is the push by certain Western powers to enforce the use of contraception as a central means of fighting AIDS…. Read more

Vatican City, Nov 12, 2015 / 03:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The two Italian journalists who made headlines last week for authoring books on confidential Vatican financial documents are under investigation, and could face criminal charges. In a Nov. 10 s… Read more

Manchester, N.H., Nov 12, 2015 / 12:23 am (CNA).- Realizing that many educators don’t learn the history of teaching before they begin their career, a professor at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts has edited a compendium of selections from writings on education, from Plato to St. Thomas Aquinas, to St. John Paul II. “In my experience, educators who come out of teacher colleges rarely have a knowledge of the history of their discipline. This is tragic,” Dr. Ryan Topping, editor of Renewing the Mind: A Reader in the Philosophy of Catholic Education, told CNA. “For there to be genuine progress, educators must see their task as essentially conservative in nature. Think of it. To first disagree with anyone you need to know what they said. Apart from a historical knowledge of what the best minds have thought about education, you end up joining the conversation at the 11th hour.” Topping’s book, published earlier this year by The Catholic University of America Press, collects brief selections from thinkers on education both within and without the Catholic tradition. It is arranged in four sections: three dealing with the aim, content, and method of education, and the last demonstrating a contemporary renewal in Catholic education. “I certainly don’t agree with everything said in these selections, but my point was not to advance a single line of thinking. My aim, rather, has been to help students and teachers to equip themselves to join in a noble conversation,” Topping explained. He noted that “standard texts in the philosophy of education either jump from Plato to the moderns or, even more disastrously, begin with John Dewey. I claimed that the great break was between the moderns and everyone else. By presenting readers with Catholic philosophers from every era of our history I aimed to illustrate this truth.”Renewing the Mind includes selections from non-Catholics such as C.S. Lewis, the pre-Christian Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, and the Roman thinker Quintilian, to demonstrate the fundamental continuity and sympathy between the best of classical thought on education, and Catholic education, both of which involve the liberal arts. “Liberal education is, at heart, an education for freedom. It is an education that teaches one to understand not only the means to survival, but the purposes for life,” Topping said. “In ancient Greece and Rome, such an education was typically confined to wealthy classes. One of the noble ideas that has been nurtured in the West, due particularly to the influence of Christianity, is that all of us have an obligation to love God also with our minds. Therefore, insofar as a boy or a girl wonders: Why am I here? What makes a good friend? And, can I know God loves me? – he or she can benefit from a training in the liberal arts.” Discussing the continuity between education in the classical world and the Christian, Topping said, “It was the Church that taught the West how to unite head with heart; and it was the Church that took up the conversation about ‘what it means to be an educated human being’ and added new insights and provided new opportunities.” While maintaining the value of a liberal arts education as enabling students to think about the purpose to which their profession should be directed, Christian belief in the Incarnation expanded upon this, bringing a new assurance of the eternal purpose of human life, and of man’s ability to discover truth. “At the level of theory, the incarnation gave to philosophy a new confidence in reason, in the logos. At the level of practice, the Church has always been at the forefront of developing institutions that elevate and defend the life of the mind,” Topping reflected. “Specific examples are easy to locate. In the 6th century Benedictine monasteries preserved our texts; in the 13th century scholastic universities developed the scientific method; and in the modern era Jesuits spread parochial schools across the continents.”Renewing the Mind, Topping wrote in its introduction, is meant in the first place for Catholics in education colleges, as well as homeschooling parents and school teachers and administrators. Beside the both well-known (St. Augustine) and comparatively obscure (H.S. Gerdil) thinkers of the past, the final section includes writers of the 20th and 21st centuries. These include Chesterton, Ronald Knox, Dorothy Sayers, John Senior, Michael O’Brien, and Benedict XVI. Each selection is preceded by a brief introduction by Topping, and is followed by a few questions for review and discussion. Concluding, he said the importance of a liberal, Catholic education is perpetual, and particularly essential in our contemporary situation. “With the advent of aggressive secularism in North America, Catholics need to relearn the reasons for their hope. The sanctity of life, the goodness of marriage, the value of limited self-government, the splendor of J.S.Bach and Mozart and Rembrandt are among the goods that are no longer evident to our fellow citizens. Our civilization has entered into a night of forgetfulness. Catholic education aspires to theological aims. But it also aims to ennoble our experience of the ‘human things,’ to remind men and women of what is beautiful and true in this world.”   Read more

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