Boy Scouts accepts gender identity as new standard for admission

February 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Dallas, Texas, Jan 31, 2017 / 05:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Citing legal and community changes, the Boy Scouts of America have said self-declared gender identity now determines youth eligibility for its scouting programs. The move could add new difficulties for Catholic sponsors of scout troops trying to adapt to the organization’s relatively new policy on homosexuality.

“Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application,” the Boy Scouts of America said Jan. 30.

The statement said its local councils will “help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child.”

The statement said Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting are “specifically designed to meet the needs of boys.” In previous years, the organizations have used individuals’ birth certificates to determine whether they are eligible for single-sex programs.

“However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state,” the statement said.

The new policy comes after a transgender child in New Jersey was asked to leave the Cub Scouts late last year. The child’s pack was hosted by Immaculate Conception parish in Secaucus. The child had told CNN that “it’s not fair because my friends get to do it, but I can’t.”

CNA contacted the National Catholic Committee on Scouting for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.

The Boy Scouts of America had announced in July 2015 that it would adopt a non-discrimination policy allowing homosexuals to be scout leaders and volunteers. The decision promised that churches with objections to homosexual behavior could set their own standards for affiliated organizations.

Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck, himself a former boy scout, in summer 2015 reluctantly told his North Dakota diocese to disaffiliate from the Boy Scouts of America due to the legal risks and the moral confusion its leadership policy could cause for Catholics.

He said the policy could risk lawsuits for church-sponsored troops that attempt to hold their leaders and volunteers to Catholic moral standards.

Bishop Kagan lamented the goals of those who sought the policy change to “redefine what is acceptable and unacceptable in society.”

At the same time, the bishop suggested that the Boy Scouts of America would not be able to defend the previous policy in court given trends in the American legal system.

However, Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, a leading member of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, had recommended “cautious optimism” towards that policy change, voicing hope that Catholic churches could still use Boy Scouts of America programs in a way consistent with Church teaching.

He said Catholic-chartered scouting units are “the only way we can have a direct influence” on Catholic youth involved in scouting.

At the same time, the bishop acknowledged there is no way Catholics can control the material in Boy Scout programs, merit badge material, and its Boys’ Life magazine.

Bishop Kagan recommended alternatives to the Boy Scouts, enumerating the Federation of North American Explorers, the Columbian Squires, and Trail Life USA. He also recommended alternatives to the Girl Scouts, listing American Heritage Girls, Little Flowers’ Girls Clubs, and the Federation of North American Explorers.

There are about 2.3 million members of Boy Scouts of America groups between the ages of 7 and 21. President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, Rex W. Tillerson, is a past national president of the Boy Scouts of America and served on its executive board in 2013 when it voted to lift the ban on homosexual scouts, The New York Times reports.

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Archbishop: There’s a ‘bloodbath’ going on in Venezuela

January 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 31, 2017 / 02:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When asked by a reporter about the threat of civil war in his country, Archbishop Ubaldo Santana of Maracaibo responded starkly: “there is already a bloodbath of considerable proportions in Venezuela.”

“We’re talking about 30,000 people murdered a year, and if we don’t manage to find peaceful ways to understand each other, that number can increase,” he said in a recent interview.

Archbishop Santana, the former head of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, made his remarks to the Alpha and Omega news weekly during a visit to Spain, in which he discussed various issues related to the grave crisis affecting Venezuela.

In the wake of Nicolas Maduro succeeding former socialist president Hugo Chavez after the latter died from cancer in 2013, the country has been marred by violence and social upheaval.

Poor economic policies, including strict price controls, coupled with high inflation rates, have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers and medicines.

Venezuela’s socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis. Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates.

The Venezuelan government is known to be among the most corrupt in Latin America, and violent crime in the country has spiked since Maduro took office.

In response to a question about the possibility of a civil war in the South American country, Archbishop Santana said that a potential conflict “would be in very asymmetrical terms.”

“The party that possesses weaponry belongs to the government,” he clarified. “I can’t say the opposition groups don’t have weapons, because today arms trafficking is uncontrollable, but perhaps not in the number and quantity of the other groups.”

“That doesn’t mean there can’t be a bloodbath. In fact, we can say that in Venezuela there already is a bloodbath of considerable proportions,” the archbishop said.

He noted added that “there are armed groups all over the country. In Maracaibo, we have in addition groups of criminals and gang members that would seem to enjoy a certain impunity. We know that there’s a lot of overcrowding in the prisons and at times the authorities have opted for a massive release of prisoners to reduce the congestion.”

There are also “extortion rings,” he noted, “that operate in the city, many are undercover in the security forces, not infrequently backed by operatives in some of those groups who by day keep order and at night are robbing.”

To this “is added is the presence of irregular armed groups on the border who come from Colombia,” he said. “They ensure protection, order and the resolution of small neighborhood conflicts
upon payment of what we call a ‘vaccine.’”

A “vaccine” is an illegal charge that armed groups in Venezuela and Colombia use to allow passage through territory they control. Archbishop Santana said that these are paramilitary groups, the National Liberation Army (ELN) and some factions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that have not demobilized.

Despite the country’s problems, a recent assembly of bishops and lay people held in Venezuela had an upshot that “was highly positive,” he said. “You could feel a great deal of consensus  in the lay people’s feeling regarding the need for political change in the country.”

“We talked about how the laity could play a more important role in the Church and in their transformative action in diverse social environments,” he said.

The meeting also discussed “the formation being offered to lay people and its impact because we see they are not sufficiently present as Catholics in the political, economic and cultural worlds. The time was short, but it resulted in proposals for future meetings.”

Pope Francis also met with President Maduro in October of last year, According to the official Vatican communique on the meeting, Francis invited the president “to undertake with courage the path of sincere and constructive dialogue.”

He also invited the Venezuelan dictator to make it a priority “to alleviate the suffering of the people – first of all, those who are poor – and to promote a climate of renewed social cohesion which would offer a vision forward with hope for the future of the nation.”

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With an excess of bad news, Pope tells media to offer a message of hope

January 24, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2017 / 03:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his annual message to communicators around the world, Pope Francis again condemned the tendency for media to focus on the “bad news,” saying journalists, while being accurate, must also offer a message of hope.

“We have to break the vicious circle of anxiety and stem the spiral of fear resulting from a constant focus on ‘bad news,’” such as war, terrorism, scandal and other human failures, the Pope said in his message for the World Day of Social Communications.

It was published Jan. 24 to mark the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers, journalists and the Catholic press. The actual day of communications will be celebrated May 28, and will focus on the theme of the Pope’s message: “Fear not, for I am with you: Communicating Hope and Trust in our Time.”

In his message, the Pope said steering clear of bad news “has nothing to do with spreading misinformation that would ignore the tragedy of human suffering,” and neither does in involve “a naive optimism blind to the scandal of evil.”

“Rather, I propose that all of us work at overcoming that feeling of growing discontent and resignation that can at times generate apathy, fear or the idea that evil has no limits,” he said.

Pointing to those in the communications industry who operate with the mentality that “good news does not sell,” and where evil and human suffering often become a form “entertainment,” Francis stressed that “there is always the temptation that our consciences can be dulled or slip into pessimism.”

He urged those who work in the field of communications to pursue “an open and creative style of communication that never seeks to glamourize evil,” but rather tries to focus “on solutions and to inspire a positive and responsible approach on the part of its recipients.”

“I ask everyone to offer the people of our time storylines that are at heart ‘good news,’” he said.

Pope Francis’ appeal for a more positive take on the news isn’t the first time he’s made such a request, nor is it the first time he’s condemned journalists who always focus on negativity and scandal.

In an interview with Belgian weekly magazine “Tertio” published Dec. 7, 2016, the Pope gave a stern warning to journalists to steer clear of the temptations of slander, defamation, misinformation and focusing excessively on scandal.

Using vivid language, he compared the latter to the disease of “coprophilia,” a mental illness in which a person has an abnormal interest in feces.

A few months earlier, Francis dedicated his prayer intention for October 2016, to praying for journalists, specifically asking that they be truthful and ethical in their reporting.

In his message for the world day of communications, the Pope noted that thanks to modern technology, media “makes it possible for countless people to share news instantly and spread it widely.”

“That news may be good or bad, true or false,” he said, recalling how early Christians compared the human mind to a “constantly grinding millstone.” In this image, it is up to the miller to decide what grind: “good wheat or worthless weeds.”

For those who are constantly “grinding out information” in their personal and professional lives, it’s important to engage in “constructive forms of communication that reject prejudice toward others and foster a culture of encounter,” he said, adding that this will help everyone “to view the world around us with realism and trust.”

When it comes to reporting the good news rather than always focusing on the bad, Francis said we have to change the lens thought which we view reality. For Christians, he said, this above all means viewing reality through the lens of “the Good News par excellence: the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God.”

“This good news – Jesus himself – is not good because it has nothing to do with suffering, but rather because suffering itself becomes part of a bigger picture,” he said, noting that this suffering is “an integral part of Jesus’ love for the Father and for all mankind.”

With Christ, “even darkness and death become a point of encounter with light and life,” he said, adding that from here a hope “accessible to everyone” is born and “does not disappoint,” since from this hope God’s enters our hearts.

“Seen in this light, every new tragedy that occurs in the world’s history can also become a setting for good news, inasmuch as love can find a way to draw near and to raise up sympathetic hearts, resolute faces and hands ready to build anew,” he said.

Pope Francis then used Jesus’ Ascension into heaven as an example of what our hope is based on, saying that even though the Lord might appear distant at the moment, “the horizons of hope expand all the more.”

With the help and power of the Holy Spirit, we can become both “witnesses and communicators” of a renewed and redeemed humanity throughout the world, he said.

Confidence in “the seed of God’s Kingdom” spread throughout the world ought also shape the way we communicate, he said, adding that this confidence allows everyone in the communications field to carry out their work with the conviction “that it is possible to recognize and highlight the good news present in every story and in the face of each person.”

In a Jan. 24 news briefing for the publication of the Pope’s message, Msgr. Dario Eduardo Vigano, Prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, stressed the importance of having “constructive communication,” that leans neither toward scandal nor optimism, but is realistic.

It’s important to not “make evil the protagonist,” even when reporting on tragic events, he said, and also warned journalists to steer clear of hypocrisy, which he called an “impure gaze” of reality that “impedes charity.”

Also present at the briefing was Delia Gallagher, Vatican correspondent for CNN, who said the Pope’s document was “an opportune message” that’s important for news agencies to keep in mind.

She focused specifically on the need to be accurate when reporting the news, saying one “can’t be a good journalist if they are not certain of the facts.”

Pope Francis’ message provides a path “if not of truth, precision – to give the news accurately,” she said, and used the Pope himself and how he is often reported as an example.

While it’s not always easy to convey his message due to translations and a variety of other challenges, it’s important to stick to the facts and “to give the context when he says something,” rather than just reporting on snippet of what he said without offering the reader the full picture.

“It’s a job that seems easy, but requires experience,” she said, encouraging her colleagues to be accurate and precise, adding that “from the good news can also come from this.”

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Christians assess damage on Iraq’s Nineveh plain, ravaged by ISIS

January 24, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Erbil, Iraq, Jan 24, 2017 / 12:03 am (Aid to the Church in Need).- “I don’t understand how people can harm each other so much,” sighs security guard Louis Petrus. Petrus recently returned to his hometown for the first time: the Christian city of Qaraqosh, near Mosul, which he had to flee in August 2014, when Islamic State captured the largest Christian city on the Nineveh plain.

He told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need: “Look at my house: it is damaged, most of my furniture has been stolen and my household effects are broken. Other inhabitants of Qaraqosh had prepared me for what I would find in the city. I had heard stories and seen pictures of the destruction caused by the jihadists. Now that I am seeing the city with my own eyes, I do not know what to feel. The terrorists have destroyed a lot of my possessions.”

Father Sharbil Eeso, a 72-year-old Syrian Catholic priest, also returned to the town, also known as Bakhdida. He found the seminary in shambles. In search of hidden treasures, the occupiers brought down ceilings and destroyed statues.

“We are not allowed to clear up the mess yet,” the priest said, adding that “first the damage needs to be assessed carefully and documented thoroughly, and that can only start when the city is safe. Last week, a jihadist emerged from the tunnel system which ISIS has built underneath the city. The army immediately shot and killed him: it was a 13-year-old boy.”

The jihadists made full use of the churches in Qaraqosh, even writing battle instructions on church walls. St. George’s Syrian Catholic Church was turned into a bomb factory; hundreds of bombs and grenades, in all shapes and sizes, are still lying there. There are also supplies of deadly chemicals, ingredients to make powerful explosives.

Like Father Eeso, Louis Petrus firmly intends to return to Qaraqosh. He said: “I don’t want to leave Iraq, unless all the inhabitants stay away and leave. But if two or three families return to Qaraqosh, I will too. This is my country. As soon as it is safe in the city and we receive permission to live here again, I want to rebuild my life in Qaraqosh. This is my place, I shall remain here until I die.”

“We really want to return to Qaraqosh, with our children,” said the mayor of the city, Nisan Karromi. But he added, “it will be a long time before all damages will be repaired.”

“We not only have to reconstruct and rebuild this city, but we also have to compensate the people for the damages they have suffered,” he said. “Now that the Iraqi government is in crisis, the international community will have to help make Iraq habitable again.”

Another concern Christians have is that both the Iraqi government and the Kurds – whose forces chased out the Islamic State – have designs on their land.

Manal Matti recently visited the blackened church of the Immaculate Conception. She is surprised by the mannequins that are spread out across the church grounds, shot through with bullets.

“The jihadists used the church as a shooting range, and the mannequins as targets,” she said, horrified. The woman used to run a beauty salon, just steps away from the church. She pondered: “I do not know when I will ever be able to see the inhabitants of Qaraqosh coming again to my beauty salon.”

 

Jaco Klamer writes for Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)

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