Browsing News Entries

Pope Francis meets with the King and Queen of the Netherlands

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2017 / 07:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis met with King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, discussing issues surrounding migration, poverty and the protection of the environment.

According to a June 22 Vatican communique, the three cordially discussed topics “of shared interest,” including protection of the environment, the fight against poverty and how the Holy See and Catholic Church are contributing in these areas.

Particular attention, it stated, was paid to “the phenomenon of migration, underlining the importance of peaceful co-existence between different cultures, and joint commitment to promoting peace and global security, with special reference to various areas of conflict.”

They also shared reflections on the prospects of the European project. The private portion of the audience, which included both the King and the Queen, lasted 35 minutes.

Queen Máxima, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, greeted Pope Francis in “porteño,” a dialect of Spanish spoken by people from the Río de la Plata basin of Argentina.

“How are you? Delighted to see you again,” she said.

During the visit Pope Francis gifted the royal couple a medallion depicting St. Martin of Tours, in the classic image of the saint dividing his cloak to give to a poor man.

He also gave them the customary gift of copies of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family “Amoris Laetitia,” and his 2013 exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” as well as a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace.

For their part, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima gave the Pope a gift of Dutch flowers, white and yellow tulips from their country.

Giving the gifts, they told Pope Francis that tulips aren't only for Easter, but could be planted in the Vatican.

Afterward, the two met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.

The Royal couple are in the midst of a state visit to the Italian Republic, taking place June 21-23.

Before their meeting with the Pope, the King and Queen visited the Church of Saints Michael and Magnus, the national church of the Netherlands in Rome. Located next to the Vatican, it was built in 1140 in the place where pilgrims from the Netherlands met back in the 8th century.

According to church statistics, Catholics currently make up 23 percent of the population of 17 million in the Netherlands.

This pro-life talk at Google's headquarters was a hit

Mountain View, Calif., Jun 22, 2017 / 05:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A pro-life activist walks into Google’s headquarters and delivers a speech so compelling that within 24 hours, the online video of it surpassed a similar speech given by the head of Planned Parenthood.

It may sound like the start to a far-fetched joke, but on April 20th, pro-life speaker and activist Stephanie Gray did just that.

Gray was the co-founder of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform and served as its executive director for several year before starting the ministry which she now runs, Love Unleashes Life.

She spoke in April as a part of the Talks at Google series, a program that brings a variety of speakers to the company’s headquarters to discuss their work. Gray has participated in more than 800 talks and debates on abortion.

Gray’s talk centered around the idea that there are three qualities that lead us to call someone “inspiring:” They place others ahead of themselves, have “perspective” on their sufferings and situation in life, and do the right thing even in difficult situations. She linked these criteria to the process of dialoguing with others about abortion, emphasizing question asking.

She began by contrasting two stories, that of the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia in Italy in 2012 and the “Miracle on the Hudson” emergency plane landing in 2009. In the first story, she explained, the captain had jumped ship along with the rest of the crew. In the second, the pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, had been the last off the flooding vessel, ensuring his passengers all exited safely.

In comparing the two stories, she noted that Sullenberger was lauded as a hero, and the captain of the Concordia internationally shamed.

“If you agree that it was correct for the pilot to put the passengers ahead of himself, to prioritize the needs of his dependents,” she said, “then wouldn’t it follow, that when it comes to the topic of abortion and an unplanned pregnancy, that a pregnant woman ought to prioritize the needs of her dependent?”

However, she noted that the comparison was only valid “depending on, indeed, whether embryos and fetuses are human beings, like the passengers on the airplane.”

To determine whether or not a fetus is a human being, Gray displayed an image of a human fetus and posed the question, “What are her parents?” It would logically follow that two human parents’ offspring must be the same species, she said.

Despite the ambiguity around the origin point of human life when it comes to abortion, she said, in discussing other topics “we have great clarity.” For example, an IVF specialist or dog breeder would agree that the life they attempt to create begins at fertilization.

Taking a look at what qualifies as “personhood,” Gray considered the terms used by pro-infanticide philosopher Peter Singer, that a person is a being which is “rational, conscious, and self-aware.” She contrasted a human embryo with an amoeba: the embryo lacks these qualities “because of how old she is,” where the amoeba lacks them “because of what it is.”

 “Should personhood be grounded in how old we are, or should personhood be grounded in what we are?” she asked.

“The quality of age shouldn’t be the basis for which someone has personhood status,” she answered, noting that the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the rights of “all members of the human family.”

She then addressed the question of the fetus’ dependence, arguing that the fetus’ greater dependent status as a weaker entity than a baby entitles it to greater, not less, protection. She related this to the story of a friend’s husband who, faced with the choice between rescuing a mother or her baby first from the roof of a sinking car, made the “obvious” choice to take the baby.

“Since you believe that we should prioritize weaker and more vulnerable people ahead of stronger people, then shouldn’t we actually prioritize the needs of the pre-born child?” she said.

She recalled meeting a Rwandan genocide survivor who, seeing a picture of a child killed in the conflict next to an aborted fetus, pointed to the image of the fetus and said, “That’s worse, because at least my family could try to run away.”

Considering the concept of perspective, she posed another question: “How can we change our perspective in an unplanned, crisis situation?” She recalled dialoguing with a college student whose stepmother had an abortion upon learning her baby was expected to die at birth. Responding with a thought experiment involving a terminal cancer diagnosis, she answered the student, “Why would we cut short the already short time we have left? Instead, wouldn’t we want to savor every moment of every day of the next 20 weeks (of the pregnancy)?”

Moving to her final criterion for what makes a person inspirational – “do the right thing” – she listed a number of circumstances that make pregnancy hard and often lead to abortion, including poverty or rape. But when we look at parents raising an already-born child in the same circumstances, she said, we can see that we ought to have the same attitude towards carrying an unborn child as towards parenting a child in the same situation.

Gray closed with a number of stories from people she knows personally, including a woman who was raped and had a child at age 12, a woman who cared for her baby daughter with respiratory issues, and a woman who regretted her own abortion and ended up counseling another woman to carry her baby to term.

“They’re inspiring because they put others ahead of themselves, because they had perspective, and because they did the right thing, even when it was hard,” she said of all the stories she had told throughout the talk. “And that’s the challenge that I leave all of you with today.”

In a question-and-answer session after her talk, she recommended that audience members seek to start dialogue on the difficult topic of abortion with open-ended questions, and to “seek to understand where (another) person is coming from.” She also used the analogy of a person choosing rape to address the thought that pro-life views cannot be “forced on” pregnant women, saying that just as it is illegal to make the choice to rape someone, it ought to be illegal to choose to end the life of a fetus.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards also gave a Talk at Google, in a video published March 7. Gray’s talk, published June 19, had surpassed Richards in views within 24 hours of being uploaded.

 

Euthanasia mindset looms over disabled baby's legal fight, ethicist warns

London, England, Jun 22, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Legal efforts to bar the parents of a British baby born with a disabling medical condition from seeking treatment overseas are based on deep ethical errors, a Catholic expert in medical ethics has warned.

“It seems to me completely wrongheaded that the state should be stepping in here when the decision that the parents are making is really aimed at the best interests of the child,” Dr. Melissa Moschella, a Catholic University of America philosophy professor, told CNA.

“It’s not crazy, it’s not abusive, it’s not neglectful. It’s the decision of parents who want to, however they can, to give their very sick child a chance for life.”

She said such a decision “should be completely within the prerogative of the parent,” citing the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to Moschella, that declaration “clearly indicates that the parents, not the state will have primarily responsibility.”

Charlie Gard, now aged 10 months, is believed to suffer from a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness. The disorder is believed to affect fewer than 20 children worldwide. Charlie has been in intensive care since October 2016. He has suffered significant brain damage due to the disease and is currently fed through a tube. He breathes with an artificial ventilator and is unable to move.

His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, have wanted to keep him on life support and transport him to the United States in order to try an experimental treatment.

However, their decision was challenged in court by hospitals and an attorney appointed to represent Charlie. The parents appealed a High Court decision, and their appeal to the U.K.’s Supreme Court was rejected.

Their final legal challenge is presently before the European Court of Human Rights. The court has said Charlie must continue to receive treatment until its judges make a decision.

Moschella said the legal decisions favoring ending life support for Charlie are effectively “telling the parents that their child’s life has no value and that therefore they should cease any effort to heal him of his disease.”

These decisions represent a “quality of life” ethic and an ideology that say human life is valuable only if it meets certain capacities.

“It’s the same ideology that underlies allowing euthanasia or physician assisted suicide,” she said. “That’s completely opposed to the Catholic view in which every human life has intrinsic value regardless of the quality of that life.”

 

  Patiently waiting........

A post shared by #charliesfight (@charliesfight) on Jun 19, 2017 at 7:28am PDT

 

Charlie’s parents have raised more than $1.6 million to help seek experimental treatment for him in the U.S. Their decision faced legal challenge from Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he is being treated.

In early April, the baby’s hospital challenged their efforts. The hospital’s experts argued in court that long-term life support should be withdrawn from the baby because his quality of life was so poor.

Charlie’s court-appointed lawyer argued before a High Court judge that any treatments in the U.S. would be experimental and long-term life-support would only “prolong the process of dying.”

Charlie’s parents had their own legal representative in the case, who argued that travel to the U.S. for treatment would not cause the boy significant suffering or harm and could give him another chance.

Yates, Charlie’s mother, has argued that she would welcome any treatment that could help him live. She also suggested anything learned during an experimental treatment could help treat future babies who suffer from the disorder.

According to Moschella, who has a background in parental rights and medical ethics, said parental rights derive both from the “special intimate relationship” they have with their child and from their primary obligations to care for their own children. Interfering with their conscientious best efforts is akin to violating religious freedom, she said.

“It is a deep violation of conscience, when, without a very serious reason, the state presents parents from fulfilling that conscientious obligation,” she said.

She noted that what Charlie’s parents are trying to do by helping secure extraordinary treatment is not ethically required by Catholic ethics.

“It would be perfectly morally acceptable should they choose to forgo seeking further treatment and take the baby off life support and allow him to pass away naturally due to the underlying disease,” the professor said. “But it’s also acceptable, on Catholic ethics, to do whatever you can to heal a person if you think that there’s any chance that a treatment could have a positive effect.”

She suggested that extraordinary treatment could be unethical only when “there is absolutely no hope of any benefit whatsoever” and the treatment is painful to the patient, or the treatment would take away “important resources that are needed to help other patients who could benefit.”

Moschella said there should only be legal intervention against the wishes of parents in cases “when there is a clear case of abuse or neglect or some significant threat to the public order.”

“Neither of those situations is the case here.”

We must speak, act more on criminal justice reform, Christian leaders insist

Washington D.C., Jun 22, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With the justice system rife with abuse, there is still much work to be done to call the faithful to minister to prisoners, victims, and their families, Christian leaders maintained on Tuesday.

“We need to raise this as a priority within the Church,” Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Death Penalty, told CNA of criminal justice reform and ministries to prisoners and their victims.

“Our Pope has been very outspoken about that, and spoken numerous times about our need to visit those imprisoned, and then accompany and journey with those that are affected by crime, all aspects, the perpetrators family, and the victims’ families,” she continued.

Clifton was one of a number of Christian leaders who spoke out against injustice in the justice system during a June 20 press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The panel included Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as Harry Jackson of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches. They unveiled the “Justice Declaration,” which calls for “a justice system that is fair and redemptive for all.”

It also calls for Christians to be more active in advocating for more humane conditions in prisons, “proportional punishment” for offenders, better educational and economic opportunities for poor people as crime prevention, and to “invest in the discipleship” of prisoners.

Christians must “treat every human being as a person made in God’s own image, with a life worthy of respect, protection, and care,” they stated.

“The Church has both the unique ability and unparalleled capacity to confront the staggering crisis of crime and incarceration in America and to respond with restorative solutions for communities, victims, and individuals responsible for crime,” the declaration said.

Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, is among the signatories, along with Karen Clifton.

Over-incarceration, racial disparity, and disproportionate sentencing are only some of the injustices that underscore the urgency for reform of the justice system, panel members insisted.

The U.S. is home to five percent of the world’s population, but holds 25 percent of the world’s prison population. 2.2 million are behind bars, leaving 2.7 million children with an incarcerated parent. African-Americans are incarcerated at a rate six times that of whites, according to the NAACP. 65 million Americans suffer from the collateral consequences of a conviction, which include difficulty in finding a job or renting a home even after they serve their prison sentence.

All this has produced a “crisis” to which the Christian community must respond, the leaders insisted.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2266 states that “punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.”

Pope Francis has also advocated for the eventual reintegration of prisoners into society, warning against only focusing on justice as an “instrument of punishment.”

Criminal justice reform measures had been gaining bipartisan momentum at the federal level as members of Congress in both parties supported various policies like ending mandatory minimum sentencing and limiting the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons.

However, with the advent of the new administration that momentum has slowed.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions dropped the Obama administration’s “Smart on Crime” initiative and has directed prosecutors to pursue stricter mandatory minimum sentences, which reform advocates say gives judges less flexibility to adjust one’s sentence based on the details of their case.

“We believe that it removes from the judge the ability to do his or her job,” James Ackerman, CEO of Prison Fellowship Ministries, said on Tuesday.

Christians are be on board with certain aspects of criminal justice reform, but for many there still remains a “disconnect” between their views on justice and reform of the justice system, Prison Fellowship claims in its report “Responding to Crime & Incarceration: a Call to the Church.”

In a recent poll commissioned by Prison Fellowship, 88 percent of practicing Christians answered that the primary goal of the justice system should be “restoration for all involved: the victim, the community, and the person responsible for the crime.”

However, in the same poll, 53 percent of practicing Christians answered that “it’s important to make an example out of someone for certain crimes” even if that entailed punishing them more harshly than they deserved.

“Disproportional punishment is not consistent with our values,” Ackerman stated.

How can the Church better bridge this “disconnect” in polling answers?

The Church must educate laypeople on the importance of the issue, and mobilize them to act through parish ministries, Clifton insisted.

“I want to say, ‘where are our resources?’” she asked. “There is so little funding for prison ministry, for care for victims, for programs for victims,” she said, and for incarceration prevention programs.

There is a “challenge to the churches to bring the stories to the pulpit,” she said, “to convert those in the pews, and know that this is the Gospel message, to be a voice to the voiceless and to go to the margins and the peripheries and be present in accompanying those back into society.”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm, agreed.

“Our criminal justice system exists in order to restrain evil, and in order to rehabilitate and to reform those who have committed crimes,” he said.

If, however, the system “doesn’t stop crime, but in many cases actually furthers crime, making criminals out of those who are not yet criminals, ignoring those who have been victims of crime, not dealing with issues of addiction,” he continued, “then we have a criminal justice system that doesn’t work and ought to be fixed.”

“When we have family members who are left behind, waiting for those who are incarcerated and wondering if anyone remembers them, the church of Jesus Christ needs to be at the forefront of that,” he said.

Harry Jackson maintained that Christians must be actively fighting the racial disparity in the justice system.

“In this hour of racial tension, the most important step of healing that we could take at this point is to deal with the fact that there is an increasing, permanent underclass that’s coming out of black and Hispanic people being incarcerated,” he said, “and their lives being in a sense marked off the list of potential, or the list of achievers in our culture.”

“We have the opportunity now to make a difference,” he added. “I believe this is the most important civil rights step that we will take in our lifetimes.”

US bishops launch 2017 Fortnight for Freedom

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2017 / 09:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops have launched a website and video to mark the beginning of this year’s Fortnight for Freedom, focusing on religious freedom issues both at home and abroad.

The video, about ten minutes long and viewable on the Fortnight for Freedom website, features a number of legal, religious, and other personalities discussing the importance of religious liberty. The Fortnight for Freedom takes place June 21 - July 4.

“Religious freedom is one of the basic freedoms of the human person because without religious freedom, the freedom of conscience, all other freedoms are without foundation,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami says at the beginning of the video.

“A government that doesn’t acknowledge limits on its own power to regulate religious institutions is probably going to come after other institutions as well,” said Professor Rick Garnett of the Notre Dame Law School.

The video chronicles the struggle between the Little Sisters of the Poor and the HHS mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s over three now that this issue has been pursuing us,” says Sr. Constance, L.S.P.

Testimonies from beneficiaries of the Sisters’ work are showcased in the video.

“There is a spiritual component in the way that they live their lives that adds to not only enrichment of the residents’ lives but to those who are in contact with them, who work with them, who just hear about them,” says Carmel Kang.

“When religious freedom goes away, and there is no transcendent authority, then the law is the only norm, and the people in power now are always the only power,” says Professor Helen Alvare of George Mason University Law School.

The video emphasizes the United States’ historical connection to freedom of religion.

“The United States is the greatest country in the history of the world precisely because of the exceptional character of its relationship to faith which permeates every dimension of its evolution,” says Eugene Rivers II, an activist and Pentecostal pastor.

The video also highlighted the struggle of religious peoples in other parts of the world.

“Tragically, we see the killings, the martyrdom of Christians in Iraq, and Libya, and Egypt, Syria,” says Archbishop Wenski. The video then showed clips from the video of 21 Coptic Christians being martyred by the Islamic State in early 2015.

Professor Thomas Farr of Georgetown University noted the increased threat since the Obergefell vs. Hodges Supreme Court decision in June 2015, and also observed that viewpoints motivated by religion are being silenced.

The video also summarized Dignitatis humanae, the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious freedom, as well as noting Pope Francis’ concern for persecuted Christians around the world.

“We have to bring not just optimism, but genuine Christian hope,” says Archbishop Lori of Baltimore, head of the USCCB’s Committee on Religious Liberty, which was made a permanent structure of the conference at their annual spring meeting last week.

The video closed with a montage of scenes and figures including the Selma to Montgomery March, St. John Paul II, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
 
The USCCB’s Fortnight for Freedom website provides a host of prayer and practical resources on the topic of religious freedom.

The prayer resources are based in Scripture as well as the examples of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, and are available in both English and Spanish.

Among the practical resources is a brief guide to the issue, which seeks to defend and clarify the bishop’s views, responding to concerns that defense of liberty is an affront to treating people “with equal dignity.”

Also included are summaries of religious liberty concerns in the United States and internationally. Domestically, issues listed include the HHS mandate, the right to practice faith in business, and religious institutes’ right to aid undocumented immigrants. Internationally, concerns are presented from the Central African Republic, Myanmar, and Mexico.

On May 4, the National Day of Prayer, President Trump signed an executive order on religious liberty while surrounded by faith leaders, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl of D.C. and the Little Sisters of the Poor. The order called for agencies to consider different enforcement of the mandate and looser enforcement of the Johnson Amendment. It was modified from an earlier, leaked version which critics claimed would have allowed for unjust discrimination of LGBT people.

On May 31, a draft rule providing blanket protection from the mandate was leaked.

The bishops’ website does not include the Johnson Amendment among its concerns.

Pro-lifers claim victory in Georgia House vote

Atlanta, Ga., Jun 21, 2017 / 04:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Abortion rights groups invested heavily and lost in Tuesday night’s runoff special election for a Georgia House seat, and pro-lifers maintain the outcome proves the futility of the pro-abortion agenda.

In the June 20 special election to replace former congressman and now HHS Secretary Tom Price in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional district, Republican candidate Karen Handel was victorious, holding off Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff with 52 percent of the vote to his 48 percent.

“I think that this is really encouraging for pro-life candidates,” Mallory Quigley, communications director for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, told CNA Wednesday of the race in the Atlanta suburbs. “Planned Parenthood has just suffered another humiliating loss.”

Ossoff ran on arguably a moderate fiscal platform with ostensibly mild rhetoric, promising to fight wasteful spending and bring more tech jobs to the Atlanta metropolitan area, and vowing to work with Republicans on areas of agreement.

However, from the start of the abbreviated campaign he did zero in on Handel's opposition to taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, stating that “with all due respect to Karen, I think her record on women's health issues is lacking,” according to WXIA local news.

On the matter of abortion, he cast himself as a defender of a woman’s right to choose. “I would never disparage anyone who has differing views on the issue,” he said, as reported by WXIA, adding that “it's precisely that complexity at the ethical and medical level that makes it unacceptable for federal bureaucrats to be getting between women and families and their doctors.”

Handel, meanwhile, was vocally pro-life. She was previously the vice president of Susan G. Komen For the Cure, an organization that raises breast cancer awareness and funds research and which is also a prominent funder of Planned Parenthood.

In 2011, the foundation temporarily cut its grants to Planned Parenthood citing Congress’s investigation into the organization. The investigation was launched over concerns that Planned Parenthood’s federal funding might be used for abortions, and that it allegedly did not report suspicious cases of sexual abuse of minors.

After a widespread backlash in the media, Susan G. Komen quickly backtracked and promised to continue funding Planned Parenthood. Handel then resigned from the foundation.

Ossoff focused on this in a campaign ad, attacking Handel for trying to cut off Planned Parenthood funding and falsely claiming that Planned Parenthood provides breast cancer screenings. A moderator corrected Ossoff on this claim in a recent debate; Planned Parenthood provides referrals for screenings, not the screenings themselves.

Planned Parenthood’s political arm bragged of Ossoff’s strong support on its website. He had promised to be “an unyielding defender of Planned Parenthood,” and had insisted that “my commitment to reproductive health and family planning, as essential to the health of this community, is very strong.”

Abortion rights groups poured cash into the race. Planned Parenthood was the second-largest contributor to Ossoff’s campaign, with $820,000, behind only the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to OpenSecrets.org.

The National Abortion Rights Action League ran a six-figure onslaught of video ads, phone calls, and mail outreach in the last days before the election, hoping that accusations of Handel being “extreme” in her opposition to Planned Parenthood would resonate with voters.

Susan B. Anthony List was also active in the race, reaching “65,000 inconsistent voters who are pro-life through mail, phone calls, and digital advertising” and pointing to Ossoff’s “extreme pro-abortion agenda.”

Ultimately, Handel won the day by four percentage points, in a district that Price won by 23 percentage points last election cycle. The seat has not been held by a Democrat since 1979.

The race was the single most expensive House race in history, with spending at $56 million.

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, insisted that promoting abortion rights continues to be a losing issue for Democrats in states outside of the Northeast and the West Coast.

“Any time you do that in a pro-life district, you risk alienating voters who might otherwise vote for you,” she told CNA.

“We need to be helping people, not spending $25 million on an election that we’ll lose,” she added, referring to the record-setting level of campaign spending for a single House race.

“What are we doing to promote helping those in need?” she asked. “We’ve lost our focus on the little guy.”

The outcome of the election proves that “extreme pro-abortion positions” are losing, Quigley said. She pointed to a recent Susan B. Anthony List poll of voters in states that are considered to be battlegrounds for 2018 Senate races, saying that a majority of voters in select states opposed taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood.

The little-known final interview of Ted Bundy: Porn motivated me

Raiford, Florida, Jun 21, 2017 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Editor’s note: The following content may be disturbing to some readers. Reader discretion is advised.

He was one of the worst serial killers in U.S. history. An infamous murderer, rapist and necrophile in the 1970s, Ted Bundy’s life continues to attract the interest of psychologists today, who speculate about what drove the promising young law student to commit such horrific crimes.

Bundy admitted to committing 30 homicides of young women and girls in the 1970s, though he may have been guilty of many more. He appeared charming and approachable, which allowed him to lure his victims into brutal and often fatal assaults. Many of his victims were young, attractive, college women in the Pacific Northwest.

But what exactly led Bundy to commit these heinous acts? According to the serial killer himself, violent pornography was a huge motivating factor.

While the testimony of a serial killer – widely believed to be a psychopath – is clearly suspect, his account aligns with numerous other instances of violent criminals having strong connections to pornography.  

On the day before he was put to death by electric chair in 1989, Bundy received hundreds of interview requests from media outlets nationwide. He declined these requests and granted his final interview to Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, to whom he said he believed he had something to say.  

In their exclusive interview, Bundy discussed pornography as a possible explanation for what drove his behavior.

“I was essentially a normal person, I had good friends, I led a normal life except for this one small but very potent, very destructive segment of it that I kept very secret and very close to myself and I didn’t let anybody know about it,” he said.

Bundy said he first discovered “soft core pornography” in grocery stores, and was compelled to consume more, and increasingly violent, forms.

“...like an addiction, you keep craving something harder, which gives you a greater sense of excitement, until you reach a point where the pornography only goes so far.”

It was an “indispensable link in the chain of behavior” that led to the assaults and murders that he carried out on dozens of victims, he said. It also was a common factor among other violent offenders that he encountered during his stays in prison.  

“I’ve lived in prison for a long time now and I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence just like me and without exception, every one of them was deeply involved with pornography. Without question, without exception, deeply influenced and consumed by addiction to pornography,” he added.

When asked about his fate, he said: “I think society deserves to be protected from me and from others like me. That’s for sure.”

However, “well-meaning people will condemn the behavior of a Ted Bundy while they’re walking past a magazine rack full of the very kinds of things that send young kids down the road to being Ted Bundys. That’s the irony,” he added.

While causation has been difficult to prove, a strong relationship with pornography exists for many violent offenders including numerous high profile murderers.

Brian Mitchell, who kidnapped and assaulted 14 year-old Elizabeth Smart in 2002, also had a pornography addiction. In 2016, after her release, Smart spoke to anti-pornography group Fight the New Drug about the effect that pornography had on her captor.

“Looking at pornography wasn’t enough for him. Having sex with his wife, after looking at pornography, it wasn’t enough for him,” Smart said. “And then it led him to finally going out and kidnapping me. He just always wanted more.”

She recalled one time when her captor “was just really excited and really kind of amped up about something.”

It turned out his excitement was over hard-core pornography, which he forced her to watch and reenact.

“I remember he would just sit and look at it and stare at it,” Smart said. “And he would just talk about these women. And then when he was done, he would turn and he would look at me, and he would be like, ‘Now we’re going to do this’.”

“It just led to him raping me more. More than he already did, which was a lot.”

Smart said she doesn’t know whether Mitchell would have kidnapped her had pornography not been involved.

“All I know is that pornography made my living hell worse.”

Studies show a correlation between pornography viewing and violent crimes. A 1995 analysis of 33 different studies showed that viewing pornography increases aggressive behavior, including having violent fantasies and even actually committing violent assaults. A University of New Hampshire study showed that states with the highest readership of pornographic magazines like Playboy and Penthouse, also have the highest rape rates.

Other violent criminals who frequently watched pornography and became violent offenders include Mark Bridger, who abducted, sexually assaulted and killed five-year-old April Jones, and kept explicit images of child sex abuse on his laptop.

In addition, U.K. serial killer Stuart Hazell amassed images of child abuse and bestiality, and took naked, sexual photographs of one 12-year-old victim. There is evidence he sexually assaulted her before killing her.

Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer also once said in an interview that part of his routine before searching for his next victim included viewing pornography.

Online pornography is one of the fastest growing addictions in the United States, on par with cocaine and gambling.

Once confined to the pages of a smuggled Playboy magazine, pornography can now be in the hands of anyone with a smartphone, and is more prolific and anonymous than ever. PornHub, one of the world’s largest sites with porn video streaming, reports that it averages 75 million viewers per day, or about 2.4 million visitors per hour.

With growing access has come growing awareness of pornography addictions, however, with several celebrities speaking out against it, numerous states declaring it a public health crisis, and grassroots anti-pornography groups sprouting up to help the addicted quit pornography.

Resources to fight pornography addictions include the online Fortify video program, Covenant eyes internet accountability and filtering software, and websites with information and support for individuals, spouses and communities facing addiction.
 
 

 

Meeting with NFL hall-of-famers, Pope Francis promotes teamwork

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 01:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis addressed members of the National Football League Hall of Fame on Wednesday, encouraging them to promote the values of sportsmen not only on the field but also within their communities.

“Teamwork, fair play and the pursuit of personal excellence are the values – in the religious sense, we can say virtues – that have guided your own commitment on the field,” said the Pope, meeting with the hall-of-famers on June 21.

“Yet these same values are urgently needed off the field, on all levels of our life as a community.”

He addressed the need for role models in the world, especially for youth, teaching them to live out their “God-given gifts and talents,” showing how to bring out the best in each person and leading the way to a better future.

“They are the values that help build a culture of encounter, in which we anticipate and meet the needs of our brothers and sisters, and combat the exaggerated individualism, indifference and injustice that hold us back from living as one human family.”

Established in 1963, the American Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton, Ohio, the same city where the NFL was created about 40 years earlier. It contains 310 members, 7 of whom will be formally inducted in August.

Present at the group meeting with Pope Francis was Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and six other hall of fame inductees: Chris Doleman, Franco Harris, Floyd Little, Ronnie Lott Curtis Martin, and Jim Taylor.

They presented him with a signed helmet and jersey with “Papa Francesco” written on the back.

In welcoming joke, the Pope noted his own love for soccer, which in much of the world is called “football.”

“I am an avid follower of ‘football’, but where I come from, the game is played very differently,” he said.

Pope Francis is a member of the Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro, located in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. The club, nicknamed the Saints of Boedo, was founded in 1908 by a group of young men, including a priest.

Being a fan of sports himself, the Pope has reflected on the virtues of sportsmanship before.

Last October, at a Vatican conference called “Sport at the Service of Humanity,” he said the values fostered by sports not only promote health and recreation, but also the ability to play on a team, and to humbly win or lose.

At the end of his address to the NFL Hall of Fame delegation, Pope Francis expressed hope that their visit to Rome will increase their gratitude for these gifts and enable them to share it with the rest of the world.

 

Pope Francis sends aid to a troubled South Sudan

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 11:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After the Vatican stated last month the postponement of Pope Francis’ proposed trip to South Sudan, they announced Wednesday that the Pope will instead send aid to the people suffering from worsening conditions.

The Vatican announced June 21 that Pope Francis will be aiding projects in the areas of education, healthcare, and agriculture, called the “Pope for South Sudan” Initiative.

The program will be coordinated through the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, headed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, and by Caritas International.

Because he is unable to travel to South Sudan in person, Pope Francis “wanted to express the tangible presence and closeness of the Church with the afflicted people,” Cardinal Turkson told journalists.

“It is an initiative that is to foster, support and encourage the work of the various religious congregations and international aid organizations that are present on the territory and tirelessly work to help the population and to promote the process of development and peace,” he said.

The projects of the Pope’s aid includes support for two hospitals: Wau Hospital in the Western Bahr el-Ghazal state, and Nzara Hospital in the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio.

Both hospitals have fewer than 130 beds between all of the departments, though the Wau Hospital treats around 300 patients a day on average, hospitalizing around 40,000 per year.

The aid will go toward support for medical and nursing staff, medicine and its transportation from Uganda to the hospital and management costs of the facilities.

Among the priorities of the Nzara hospital are the prevention and treatment of diseases such as tuberculosis, leprosy, and AIDS, as well as healthcare for children under the age of five.

Under education, the Pope's initiative will help support an association of religious congregations called “Solidarity with South Sudan” which is working to train teachers, nurses, midwives, local farmers, and community leaders.

Since 2010 they have offered a two-year full-time program for obtaining a primary school teacher diploma at their center in Yambio, recognized by the Ministry of Education of South Sudan. Since opening, they have welcomed 3,500 students.

Francis also sends 200,000 euros ($223,000) to support agriculture in the country. The aid will be directed toward giving families the tools and seeds to grow their own crops where it is possible, thus feeding themselves and their families and providing a sustainable source of food.

In comments to CNA, Cardinal Turkson emphasized that this initiative should not be presented in any way as the only and first time the Holy Father is showing interest in the situation in South Sudan.

Cardinal Turkson himself has already made two visits there on behalf of the Pope, and this is just "the latest gesture," he said.

"The Holy Father stays very close to the situation in South Sudan to try to a help, to be paternal to the situation over there and to try to afford the help that he can."

Since December 2013 there has been ongoing civil war in South Sudan, interrupted by tenuous peace.

Parts of South Sudan were declared to be under conditions of famine in February. The classification was lifted Wednesday following an increase in aid, according to a UN-backed report. It warns, however, that the situation remains desperate as the number of people at risk for starvation continues to increase.

Michel Roy, Secretary General of Caritas International, told CNA that in February they said 100,000 people were going to die of hunger, but now they think that number might be 1 million.

“The situation is worsening day-by-day and we tend to forget what the situation is because it's not new,” he said. “Now, the people of South Sudan are dying of hunger, of famine. Because there is no food and we cannot bring food to them because of security. So it's the worst thing that can happen.”

The Pope’s aid is not just important for the concrete help it gives, he said, but because it also again raises the attention of the international community to the plight in South Sudan.

“To save lives needs money,” he continued. “The UN have launched an appeal which is only half funded, so the other half has to be found. It's a lot of money, but we cannot just sit and look at people dying, so there's a real need for increasing humanitarian aid.”

The Vatican's aid to South Sudan was also welcomed by Catholic Relief Services, the US bishops' international charity agency.

Sean Callahan, the president of CRS, stated that “what is most important, is Pope Francis telling world not to give up on South Sudan, that we all must step up our commitment to help.”

Callahan recently visited South Sudan, and said, “I can tell you from my visit that there is hope. I saw that when people had peace, they got to work, planting their crops, building homes and roads, building the new nation.”

CRS has led a US government-funded program in the country which focuses on supporting infrastructure development by providing food rations to villagers building roads, schools, dykes, and waterways. The aid agency is urging Congress to continue funding such aid programs, as the Trump administration has proposed cutting or eliminating such programs.

“We’ve seen those programs work and make a huge difference in the lives of people in South Sudan,” Callahan stated. “Now is not the time to turn our backs. There’s still hope and we can still get things done.”

Cardinal Turkson added that South Sudan needs the intervention of the international community to help end the conflict and bring about peace, the only thing which will truly end the humanitarian crisis.

“Pope Francis is a universal shepherd who crosses borders,” Cardinal Turkson said in the press conference. “He feels the pressing need to raise awareness of the international community about this silent drama, calling for greater and renewed efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict.”

“The Holy Father does not forget the unheard and silent victims of this bloody and inhuman conflict, he does not forget all those people who are forced to flee their native country because of the abuse of power, injustice and war – he brings them all in his prayers and in his heart,” he said.

Can relics unite Catholics and Orthodox? Pope Francis thinks so.

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Common veneration of relics is one of the tools Pope Francis is using to foster ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In May, relics of St. Philip and St. Nicholas were transported to Turkey and Russia, respectively. They have been exposed for the veneration of the Orthodox faithful from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow.
 
The transportation of the relics of St. Nicholas from the Italian city of Bari to Moscow is particularly noteworthy. It is the first time in 930 years that a part of the body of St. Nicholas has left Bari for veneration abroad.
 
The novel action comes after a specific request Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow made to Pope Francis when they met in Havana, Cuba in February 2016.
 
Pope Francis consented to Patriarch Kirill’s request and forwarded the request to Bari’s Archbishop Francesco Cacucci. The archbishop then started the procedures to move the relics.

In the end, it was possible to detach a small particle of St. Nicholas’ left rib, which the archbishop noted was “close to the saint’s heart.”
 
Archbishop Cacucci discussed the letter Pope Francis had sent him to about the Patriarch’s request. The archbishop explained that, for Pope Francis, the veneration of relics is “an essential part of the path toward the re-establishment of full communion among all Christians.”

“The common veneration of saints help us to look at the ecumenical dialogue with a light of hope,” he said.

St. Nicholas was one of the most venerated saints in Christianity even before his relics were taken from Myra, Turkey, by 62 sailors from Bari in 1087.

Those sailors made an expedition to Myra to save St. Nicholas’ relics from Muslims who had conquered the city where St. Nicholas had lived and served as a bishop in the fourth century.

This year, St. Nicholas’ relics arrived in Moscow May 22. They were placed in a container specially crafted for the occasion. The relics were then placed in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior of Moscow. Patriarch Kirill himself celebrated a divine liturgy to welcome them.

St. Nicholas' relics will be in Moscow until July 12. They will then move to St. Petersburg for several weeks before returning to Bari July 28.

While the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate received St. Nicholas’ relics from the Church of Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on May 8 welcomed relics of St. Philip in the Turkish city of Izmir, better known by its ancient Greek name: Smyrna.
 
St. Philip evangelized that land and was martyred there.  

His relics had been secured in Rome’s Santi Apostoli Church since the sixth century. Last year, the relics were taken out and submitted to an examination. Then, they were exposed for a while for the veneration of the faithful.
 
Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople strongly advocated sharing the relics for veneration, as he is particularly devoted to St. Philip. The Catholic community joined the Patriarch in this request, and so one of St. Philip’s relic could return home. The Catholic Archbishop of Izmir Lorenzo Piretto personally forwarded the request to bring the relics to the Turkish city.
 
The common veneration of saints and relics is one area where ecumenism is performed today.
 
It echoes Pope Francis’ idea of “walking ecumenism,” which he described in an Oct. 12 meeting with members of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions.

In his remarks, the Pope said that “it is important that theologians study, that they find agreement and identify disagreements.”
 
But, he added, “ecumenism is done by walking and by walking with Jesus.” It is “a simple path, traveled with prayer and through helping one another.”
 
Another reflection came while the Pope presided at Vespers Jan. 25, 2016 at St. Paul Outside the Walls Basilica, a time that by tradition closes the week of prayer for Christian unity. Pope Francis said that “while we journey together toward full communion, we can begin already to develop many forms of cooperation in order to favor the spread of the Gospel – and walking together, we become aware that we are already united in the name of the Lord.”
 
This “walking ecumenism” is also emphasized through the veneration of the same saints. Patriarch Kirill seems to think the same.
 
Bari’s Archbishop Cacucci, having returned from Russia where he accompanied St. Nicholas’ relic, reflected on the phenomenon.

“In fact, the translation of the relic is already an ecumenical dialogue, and this Patriarch Kirill said more and more times. When ecumenism does not involve only the top ranks of Churches or theologians, but rather involves the people of God, then it is possible to move forward.”