Pope Francis: I am always joyful when I see young priests

June 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jun 1, 2017 / 08:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis spoke with the Vatican department in charge of priests, saying he is always happy when he sees young priests, because they are important for Christ and represent the youthful face of the Church.

“I am always joyful when I meet young priests, because in them I see the youth of the Church,” the Pope said June 1.

He pointed to various young biblical figures, such as David, who was not presented by his father as a potential king because of his young age, and the prophet Jeremiah, who thought that he was too young for the mission the Lord entrusted to him.

Speaking directly to young priests, Francis said “you are chosen, you are dear to the Lord! God looks at you with the tenderness of a Father and, after making your heart fall in love, will not let your steps waver.”

“You are important in his eyes and he has confidence that you will be at the height of the mission to which you have been called,” he said, stressing that it’s important for young priests to find pastors and bishops “who encourage them in this perspective, and not only wait for them because there is need for a replacement and to fill empty places!”

Pope Francis spoke to members of the Congregation for Clergy currently participating in their plenary assembly.

The gathering takes place just six months after the promulgation of the congregation’s new “Ratio Fundamentalis,” the Vatican’s document on priestly formation, which was released Dec. 7, 2016.

This document, Francis said, “speaks of integral formation, capable of including all aspects of life; and so it indicates the path to form the missionary disciple. A fascinating and demanding path.”

In reflecting on the fascinating and demanding aspects of this path, the Pope said he immediately thought of young priests, who “live the joy of the beginning of ministry and, together, feel the weight.”

A young priest, he said, “lives between the enthusiasm of the first projects and the anxiety of apostolic fatigue, in which they immerse themselves with a certain fear, which is a sign of wisdom.”

While the joy and strength of his recent anointing is acutely felt, the new priest’s shoulders gradually become “burdened” by the weight of the responsibility of his various pastoral commitments and the expectations of his flock, the Pope observed.

“How does a young priest live all this? What does he carry in his heart? What does he need so that his feet, which run to bring the joyful announcement of the Gospel, are not paralyzed in front of the fear of the first difficulties?” the Pope asked.

He noted that young people today are frequently judged “a bit superficially, and are too easily labeled as a ‘liquid’ generation, deprived of passions and ideals.”

While there are certainly youth who are fragile, disoriented and “infected by the culture of consumerism and individualism,” this doesn’t mean that youth capable of generous service and involvement don’t exist, Francis said.

“With all their limits, they are always a resource,” he said, and urged participants to ask themselves how they, in their parishes, view young priests.

Turning again to the new Ratio, which speaks of the priest as “a missionary disciple in permanent formation,” Pope Francis underlined three attitudes he said are key for any priest, but especially those who are just beginning their ministry.

These attitudes, he said, are: to pray without ceasing, to always walk and to share with your heart.  

Consistent prayer is essential in the life of a priest “because we can be fishers of men only if we first recognize that we have been ‘caught’ by the tenderness of the Lord,” he said.

Like the fishermen of Galilee who dropped their nets and followed Jesus, priests have also left behind their own personal plans in order to take up their own nets and “catch” the faithful entrusted to them, the Pope said, adding that “if we are not strictly linked to (the Lord), our fishing will never be successful.”

To live in harmony in prayer, work and rest “represents a precious resource to face apostolic fatigues,” Francis said, stressing that “every day we need to stop ourselves, putting ourselves in a position to listen to the Word of God and to pause in front of the tabernacle.”

He also touched on the need to listen to one’s body, “which is a good doctor,” and which tells us when we’ve reached the limit.

On the need to always keep walking, the Pope said this is important because a priest never really “arrives,” but remains a disciple, a pilgrim “overlooking the threshold of the ministry of God and the holy ground of the people entrusted to him.”

A priest, Pope Francis said, can never “feel satisfied” or let go of a certain “healthy apprehension that makes him stretch out his hands to the Lord” in order to be trained and fulfilled.

He told priests to always “be open to the surprises of God,” adding that with this openness to what is new, young priests especially “can be creative in evangelization, frequenting with discernment the new places of communication, where faces, stories and the questions of people are met, developing the ability to socialize, to relate and to announce the faith.”

Finally, Francis pointed to the need to share with one’s heart, because “priestly life is not a bureaucratic office nor a collection of religious or liturgical practices to get through.”

Priests, he said, carry in their own flesh “the joys and anguish of the people,” spending time with them and listening “in order to heal the wounds of others, and offering the tenderness of the Father to all.”

New priests have a prime opportunity to live this experience by sharing with youth and teens, Francis said, explaining that this means being with them “not only as a friend among others, but as the one who knows how to share their life with his heart, to listen to their questions and participate concretely in the different ups and downs of their lives.”

“Youth don’t need a professional on the sacred or a hero who, from above and from the outside, responds to their questions,” he said. “Rather, they are attracted by whoever sincerely commits their lives, supporting them with respect and listening to them with love.”

To genuinely share their experiences “means having a heart full of passion and compassion, above all toward youth,” the Pope said, adding that these three qualities imply the priestly life is lived by “looking up and thinking big.”

“It’s not an easy task, but one can full trust in the Lord, because always precedes us on the journey!” he said, and asked for Mary’s intercession and guidance.

[…]

Planned Parenthood’s services are declining…except for abortion

June 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Jun 1, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The controversial abortion provider Planned Parenthood has lost over half a million unique patients in five years, but its abortion figures remain the same – a consistency its critics have blasted.

“While non-abortion services are declining, Planned Parenthood continues to perform a record number of abortions – over 300,000 per year,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, Susan B. Anthony List president.

“They’ve performed more than 1.6 million abortions in the last five years alone.”

The pro-life group, citing the abortion provider’s own annual reports, said that in the period from 2011-2016 Planned Parenthood’s number of unique patients have dropped by 600,000, a 20 percent decline. Cancer screenings have halved, while contraceptive services are down 18 percent. STD screenings have dropped five percent.

At the same time, its abortion numbers are stable. In the last five years, Planned Parenthood performed about 11,290 adoption referrals total. That makes a ratio of 145 abortions for each adoption referral.

“Women are turning away from abortion giant Planned Parenthood,” Dannenfelser said. “It’s time to re-direct Planned Parenthood’s funding to community health centers.”

“Taxpayers would be disentangled from the grisly abortion industry and get a better return on their investment in women’s health,” she said.

While the abortion provider enjoyed protection and influence under the Obama administration, the U.S. House of Representatives has now passed a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood for one year. The proposal would shift $422 million to community health care centers.

The Susan B. Anthony List backs the shift, saying that community health centers have strong bipartisan support and work in under-served communities. The centers provide mammograms, mental heath services, and other care for women that is not available at Planned Parenthood.

The abortion provider’s latest annual report said its website has received nearly 70 million visitors from 2015-2016. The report claims 75 percent of Americans support continued Medicaid reimbursement for preventive care at Planned Parenthood.

The report describes attacks on Planned Parenthood as having reached “fever pitch,” citing “a record number of state laws” regulating abortion. The organization claimed to have nearly 650 Planned Parenthood health centers in the year 2015.

The organization is struggling in some parts of the country. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains recently announced the closure of six facilities in its region due to financial concerns, including its only Wyoming clinic. Four Iowa facilities will also close.

The abortion provider is under scrutiny after the release of investigative reports beginning in 2015 appearing to show Planned Parenthood leaders involved in the illegal sale of unborn baby parts and other fetal tissue for profit. The reports prompted a multi-million dollar damage control campaign from Planned Parenthood and its allies like the Open Society Foundations, the Hewlett Foundation and the Democracy Alliance, records from the Open Society Foundations indicate.

[…]

Looking forward to 10 years of Summorum Pontificum

June 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Jun 1, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Ten years after Benedict XVI broadened access to the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, the document by which he did so is being hailed as a means of closing the rift of division following liturgical changes made after the Second Vatican Council.

“Sometimes there are these polemics, but I think Benedict tried to overcome these polemics, saying that even in the liturgy there is a certain progress … but clearly in full continuity with the tradition of the Church,” Fr. Vincenzo Nuara, OP, told CNA May 31.

Tensions were heightened after the Second Vatican Council’s reforms, and “unfortunately these situations of contrast, of opposition are created” even today, Fr. Nuara said.  

In light of this situation, Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which widened access to the pre-Vatican II liturgy, “was not an instrument to divide” or throw further fuel on the flames, he said.

Rather, “it was an instrument to unite. To unite, and to bring again that ecclesial peace that’s needed in this time.”

“I see it as a positive instrument, not negative,” Fr. Nuara said. “It’s not an instrument for going backwards. It’s an instrument to reconnect ourselves in continuity” with different ecclesial styles.

Fr. Nuara is president of the association “Priestly Friends of Summorum Pontificum” and founder and spiritual assistant of the “Youth and Tradition” association.

He is also one of the organizers of an upcoming Sept. 14-17 pilgrimage marking the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, and spoke to journalists at a working breakfast on the event. 

The motu proprio was issued July 7, 2007, and went into effect Sept. 14 of that year, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

The document established that the post-Vatican II Roman Missal, first issued by Blessed Paul VI, is the ordinary form of the Roman rite, and that the prior version, last issued by St. John XXIII in 1962 and known as the Traditional Latin Mass or the Tridentine Mass, is the Roman rite’s extraordinary form.

In the motu proprio, Benedict noted that the Traditional Latin Mass was never abrogated. He awknowledged clearly the right of all priests of the Roman rite to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962, and established that parish priests should be willing say the extraordinary form for groups of the faithful who request it.

Benedict also established that the faithful could have recourse to their bishop or even the Vatican if their requests for celebration of the extraordinary form were not satisfied.

The provisions of Summorum Pontificum for the use of the extraordinary form replaced those of St. John Paul II laid down in Quattuor abhinc annos and Ecclesia Dei.

According to that indult, priests and faithful who wished to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass had to get permission from their bishop to do so. It could only be for those who requested it, could not normally be said at parish churches, and the bishop could set days and conditions for its celebration.

After the Second Vatican Council, the Missal issued by Bl. Paul VI, also known as the Novus Ordo, was widely adopted. It was widely translated into vernacular languages, and is often celebrated with the priest facing toward the congregation.

However, not a few faithful continued to be attached to the earlier form of the liturgy, and Benedict’s motu proprio was considered a generous response to these faithful.

Benedict wrote in the motu proprio that the two forms “will in no way lead to a division” in the Church’s belief “for they are two usages of the one Roman rite.”

In his letter to bishops accompanying Summorum Pontificum, Benedict also noted that “the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching.”

Fr. Nuara reflected that since Summorum Pontificum, “those who have permission to use the ancient form of the liturgy have also at the same time rediscovered the sanctity of the new.”

This mutual enrichment is a discovery Fr. Nuara said he himself has made in his 25 years as a priest, during which he has celebrated both the new and ancient liturgical formulas.

But it is also a discovery “that many (other) priests have made.”

“Benedict is a positive man. Benedict, who reflects as a theologian and a pastor, realized that the ancient form that has grown in the history of the Church for years, can give new impetus to the new form,” he said.

The Mass “is the bridge where they meet, because the Eucharist is the point of encounter …  the sacrament of unity,” Fr. Nuara said, adding that what “must be avoided” is that people “take advantage of their particular trend or attention to one or the other liturgy, to create fences of division and separation.”

Benedict himself celebrated the new form of the liturgy “with great dignity,” but before his election as Bishop of Rome was also known to celebrate the ancient liturgy with the same esteem.

What Summorum Pontificum seeks to do, then, is to work for this unity, he said, adding that at 10 years since its publication, his hope is that people from both sides will work toward this goal.

“We want to send, to communicate this message,” he said. “Because the Church is a family, the family of God.”

When the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage takes place in September, it will be a privileged time to show this unity, he said.

The event’s first day, held at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, will feature keynote addresses from Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei; Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and president of the PCED;  and Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Pilgrims who come will participate in various other activities throughout the rest of the three days, including adoration and a Eucharistic procession presided over by Archbishop Pozzo on Sept. 16, followed by a Pontifical High Mass said by Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop Emeritus of Bologna.

Titled “Summorum Pontificum: A renewed youth for the Church,” the pilgrimage is being organized by the “Priestly Friends of Summorum Pontificum” and “Youth and Tradition” associations in partnership with the Coetus Internationalis Summorum Pontificum.

Speaking of the title in comments to journalists, Fr. Nuara noted that a “truly surprising” phenomenon is that the “true protagonists” of this new “season of the Church … are the youth.”

In his letter accompanying the motu proprio, Benedict had noted that while “it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.”

“Benedict XVI already in 2007 was aware that the new recipients of this liturgy, loved, desired and also sought, were the youth,” Fr. Nuara said.

Pope Francis has also commented on the fact that many of the enthusiasts for the Traditional Latin Mass are young people who never knew it growing up, but encountered it later.  

“Youth can’t be nostalgic for something they didn’t know,” Fr. Nuara said, adding that “this is very nice, because by experience I can say that the youth who draw near to the ancient liturgy of the Church love it” for the reverence and silence of the celebration.

In celebrating the ancient form, “you really understand who is at the center, who the protagonist is,” the priest said, noting that “youth understand very well that this liturgy speaks of … the essential truth of the faith.”

[…]

Looking forward to 10 years of Summorum Pontificum

June 1, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Jun 1, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Ten years after Benedict XVI broadened access to the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, the document by which he did so is being hailed as a means of closing the rift of division following liturgical changes made after the Second Vatican Council.

“Sometimes there are these polemics, but I think Benedict tried to overcome these polemics, saying that even in the liturgy there is a certain progress … but clearly in full continuity with the tradition of the Church,” Fr. Vincenzo Nuara, OP, told CNA May 31.

Tensions were heightened after the Second Vatican Council’s reforms, and “unfortunately these situations of contrast, of opposition are created” even today, Fr. Nuara said.  

In light of this situation, Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which widened access to the pre-Vatican II liturgy, “was not an instrument to divide” or throw further fuel on the flames, he said.

Rather, “it was an instrument to unite. To unite, and to bring again that ecclesial peace that’s needed in this time.”

“I see it as a positive instrument, not negative,” Fr. Nuara said. “It’s not an instrument for going backwards. It’s an instrument to reconnect ourselves in continuity” with different ecclesial styles.

Fr. Nuara is president of the association “Priestly Friends of Summorum Pontificum” and founder and spiritual assistant of the “Youth and Tradition” association.

He is also one of the organizers of an upcoming Sept. 14-17 pilgrimage marking the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, and spoke to journalists at a working breakfast on the event. 

The motu proprio was issued July 7, 2007, and went into effect Sept. 14 of that year, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

The document established that the post-Vatican II Roman Missal, first issued by Blessed Paul VI, is the ordinary form of the Roman rite, and that the prior version, last issued by St. John XXIII in 1962 and known as the Traditional Latin Mass or the Tridentine Mass, is the Roman rite’s extraordinary form.

In the motu proprio, Benedict noted that the Traditional Latin Mass was never abrogated. He awknowledged clearly the right of all priests of the Roman rite to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962, and established that parish priests should be willing say the extraordinary form for groups of the faithful who request it.

Benedict also established that the faithful could have recourse to their bishop or even the Vatican if their requests for celebration of the extraordinary form were not satisfied.

The provisions of Summorum Pontificum for the use of the extraordinary form replaced those of St. John Paul II laid down in Quattuor abhinc annos and Ecclesia Dei.

According to that indult, priests and faithful who wished to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass had to get permission from their bishop to do so. It could only be for those who requested it, could not normally be said at parish churches, and the bishop could set days and conditions for its celebration.

After the Second Vatican Council, the Missal issued by Bl. Paul VI, also known as the Novus Ordo, was widely adopted. It was widely translated into vernacular languages, and is often celebrated with the priest facing toward the congregation.

However, not a few faithful continued to be attached to the earlier form of the liturgy, and Benedict’s motu proprio was considered a generous response to these faithful.

Benedict wrote in the motu proprio that the two forms “will in no way lead to a division” in the Church’s belief “for they are two usages of the one Roman rite.”

In his letter to bishops accompanying Summorum Pontificum, Benedict also noted that “the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching.”

Fr. Nuara reflected that since Summorum Pontificum, “those who have permission to use the ancient form of the liturgy have also at the same time rediscovered the sanctity of the new.”

This mutual enrichment is a discovery Fr. Nuara said he himself has made in his 25 years as a priest, during which he has celebrated both the new and ancient liturgical formulas.

But it is also a discovery “that many (other) priests have made.”

“Benedict is a positive man. Benedict, who reflects as a theologian and a pastor, realized that the ancient form that has grown in the history of the Church for years, can give new impetus to the new form,” he said.

The Mass “is the bridge where they meet, because the Eucharist is the point of encounter …  the sacrament of unity,” Fr. Nuara said, adding that what “must be avoided” is that people “take advantage of their particular trend or attention to one or the other liturgy, to create fences of division and separation.”

Benedict himself celebrated the new form of the liturgy “with great dignity,” but before his election as Bishop of Rome was also known to celebrate the ancient liturgy with the same esteem.

What Summorum Pontificum seeks to do, then, is to work for this unity, he said, adding that at 10 years since its publication, his hope is that people from both sides will work toward this goal.

“We want to send, to communicate this message,” he said. “Because the Church is a family, the family of God.”

When the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage takes place in September, it will be a privileged time to show this unity, he said.

The event’s first day, held at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, will feature keynote addresses from Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei; Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and president of the PCED;  and Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Pilgrims who come will participate in various other activities throughout the rest of the three days, including adoration and a Eucharistic procession presided over by Archbishop Pozzo on Sept. 16, followed by a Pontifical High Mass said by Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop Emeritus of Bologna.

Titled “Summorum Pontificum: A renewed youth for the Church,” the pilgrimage is being organized by the “Priestly Friends of Summorum Pontificum” and “Youth and Tradition” associations in partnership with the Coetus Internationalis Summorum Pontificum.

Speaking of the title in comments to journalists, Fr. Nuara noted that a “truly surprising” phenomenon is that the “true protagonists” of this new “season of the Church … are the youth.”

In his letter accompanying the motu proprio, Benedict had noted that while “it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.”

“Benedict XVI already in 2007 was aware that the new recipients of this liturgy, loved, desired and also sought, were the youth,” Fr. Nuara said.

Pope Francis has also commented on the fact that many of the enthusiasts for the Traditional Latin Mass are young people who never knew it growing up, but encountered it later.  

“Youth can’t be nostalgic for something they didn’t know,” Fr. Nuara said, adding that “this is very nice, because by experience I can say that the youth who draw near to the ancient liturgy of the Church love it” for the reverence and silence of the celebration.

In celebrating the ancient form, “you really understand who is at the center, who the protagonist is,” the priest said, noting that “youth understand very well that this liturgy speaks of … the essential truth of the faith.”

[…]

Vatican soccer champs dedicate victory to Coptic Christians

May 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, May 31, 2017 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Upon winning the Vatican’s annual soccer championship last week, the victorious team honored Christians in Egypt who have faced increasingly brutal persecution in recent years.

“I would like to dedicate this trophy to our friends from the Coptic Church,” said Deacon Sama Joan Romeo of Cameroon, the team captain of the Urban Lions.

Catholic seminarians and clergy drew soccer teams from the pontifical universities and colleges of Rome May 27 for the 13th annual Clericus Cup competition.

The competition’s press officer, Felice Alborghetti, said the competition should be considered a “world cup” because players from five continents and 66 countries are on the teams, which went through four qualifying rounds to reach the finals.

“In the final we have at least 20 countries (represented),” he told the EWTN news show Vaticano. “There are a lot of Europeans, Spaniards, Rumanians, Germans, a Croatian and a Hungarian player.”

African players are  heavily represented on the team from the Pontifical Urban University, nicknamed “The Lions of Africa.” They hail from countries including Uganda, Cameroon, Tanzania and Botswana.

“All the world is playing in the field, not so much to highlight the word of soccer, as that of the Gospel,” Alborghetti said.

Over 400 players competed, but the May 27 finals came down to two teams: one from the Pontifical Gregorian University, called “Gregoriana,” the other from the  Pontifical Urban University, the “Urban Lions.”

Classmates and fans of the teams gathered to show support in the bleachers around a field in view of St. Peter’s Basilica. Some wore painted faces and played guitars. The rectors of both schools cheered on their teams.

Monsignor Nuno da Silva Gonçalves, rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, reflected on the nature of the competition.
 
“We’re very committed to supporting our own team,” he told Vaticano. “Our university is trying to give thorough training programs, with a global and academic reach – which is very important to us – but also human and spiritual training and sport is part of this thorough approach.”

The players have also “sacrificed a lot to be here,” said Monsignor Vincenzo Viva, rector of the Urban College. “We mustn’t forget that it’s the exam period now at the university, so they’ve really made a great effort.”   

Amid the festivities, the final match of 2017 began with a serious moment of prayer. Then the opening whistle blew.

The Urban Lions took advantage, scoring the first goal. With high passions, the bleachers roared. There were fouls and penalties. Then a corner kick led to a second goal for the Urban Lions.

They took the match, and the Clericus Cup, with a 2-0 win.

“We came here and we knew we could win because last year we almost won the cup, and anyway it was a great match and a match of brotherhood,” said Antonio, an Angolan a seminarian from the Urban College. “This is the joy of being here and taking part in all this.”

Pour Porbumbi, a Kenyan seminarian at the same college, noted the fans’ effort to sing and sing so that their team could play well.

Deacon Sama Joan Romeo added that the team is “not playing for honor or for any glory, we are just playing for friendship, for fraternity for our spiritual goals.”

The win marks the third time the Urban College’s team has won a Clericus Cup.

[…]

Trump admin ponders new religious freedom rule for HHS mandate

May 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., May 31, 2017 / 03:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A leaked draft of a federal rule that would protect religious organizations from the controversial federal contraception mandate has won the support of religious liberty advocates, who say that it is sorely needed. 

“What the rule ultimately says, is that, given how widely available these products already are, there is simply no need for the government to force unwilling religious groups who serve the poor to provide them or to pay massive fines that would shut down these types of ministries,” said Mark L. Rienzi, an attorney at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the legal group that represents the Little Sisters of the Poor.

“As I understand it, this rule shows the United States government finally acknowledging that people can get contraceptives without forcing nuns to provide them,” he said May 31.

Rienzi spoke to reporters in a Wednesday conference call about a 125-page draft memo of a religious liberty rule reportedly under consideration at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The rule would add to, not replace, an Obama-era HHS rule, announced in late 2011, that required employers’ health plans to include coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause abortion. The initial rule’s religious exemption was so narrow it only exempted houses of worship, drawing widespread objections and lawsuits from more than 300 plaintiffs. Among those suing over the mandate is EWTN Global Catholic Network. CNA is part of the EWTN family.

Subsequent revisions allowed some changes to the mandate for some religious entities. However, groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor objected that the rule still required their complicity in providing such coverage, which violates their religious and moral standards. Refusal to comply with the rule would result in heavy – potentially crippling – fines. 

The draft religious liberty rule would allow any employer to request an exemption based on moral or religious objections.

“Expanding the exemption removes religious and moral obstacles that entities and certain individuals may face who otherwise wish to participate in the healthcare market,” said the May 23 draft posted to the news site Vox.

Employers seeking an exemption would have to have a clear statement in their health plan documents that they do not cover contraception or related products. The rule would also allow health insurers to decline to cover contraception and allow individuals to object to participation in a health plan that covers birth control.

During his presidential run, Donald Trump had pledged to aid the Little Sisters of the Poor in an October letter to Catholic leaders.

And in a May 4 executive order, he asked three cabinet departments to consider amended rules that would “address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate.”

The same day, he hosted the Little Sisters of the Poor in the Rose Garden of the White House.

“With this executive order,” he said, “we are ending the attacks on religious liberty.”

However, their legal fight continues. Rienzi said the Little Sisters will still seek a court order to bar the government from imposing similar requirements in the future.

While a new federal rule protecting religious liberty would be “a very good thing,” he said, the Little Sisters have always wanted a court to definitively say that “the government cannot force them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception.”

“The alternative would be a world where the Little Sisters of the Poor and other groups, every four to eight years, have to be staring at the Federal Register, waiting and worrying to see whether the government is going to try to re-impose this.”

The Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision of 2014 ruled that the mandate violated the religious freedom of closely-held private companies, but this did not apply to the Little Sisters’ case, as their organization is a non-profit. In May 2016, the Supreme Court ordered a lower court to re-hear the nuns’ case, a decision considered a technical win for the Little Sisters.

One backer of the Obama-era rule, National Women’s Law Center vice president Gretchen Borchelt, told the New York Times she did not know the details of the new rule. Nonetheless, she charged that whatever the rule is, her group thinks it will “allow an employer’s religious beliefs to keep birth control away from women.”

She said her organization was preparing a lawsuit to challenge the proposed rule. Possible grounds for the lawsuit could be inadequate explanation or justification for the rule, which makes it “arbitrary and capricious.” She thought the lawsuit could argue that the 2010 Affordable Health Care Act bars discrimination in health programs that receive federal funds. The act also bars the health secretary from issuing any rule that “impedes timely access to health care services” or creates “unreasonable barriers” for individuals seeking “appropriate medical care.”

Rienzi said such lawsuits would not succeed, given that these groups did not challenge the Obama administration’s other non-religious exemptions from mandatory contraception in health plans.

“There’s nothing at all unreasonable about the federal government respecting religious liberty. Congress didn’t impose this requirement in the first place, the agency did,” he said.

The Kaiser Family Foundation said that before the mandate, more than 20 percent of U.S. women of childbearing age paid out-of-pocket for oral contraceptives. After the mandate, that number is now 4 percent.  

According to Rienzi, figures on contraception coverage and contraceptive use ignore that the Obama administration had already exempted about one in three Americans, either on grandfathered plans or other government plans like military families. Big companies like Chevron and Pepsi were exempted by Congress for reasons of finance and convenience.

“About 100 million Americans did not have plans subject to this mandate,” he said.

“Some of the criticisms of the rule, at least that we’re seeing so far, suggest that it will take contraceptives away from many people,” he added. “That is quite inaccurate.”

Rienzi estimated only 120,000 to 130,000 people were employed by religious employers that would qualify for exemptions.

“Obviously this country has a lot of ways to get contraception to people without forcing Catholic nuns to get involved. It’s certainly a big enough country that we have room both for religious Catholic nuns and for people who want access to contraception,” Rienzi said.

Other backers of the draft religious freedom rule included the Susan B. Anthony List.

“The taking of human life is the antithesis of health care,” the group said. “No one, including religious orders like the Little Sisters of the Poor, or groups like Susan B. Anthony List should be forced to be complicit in the provision of abortion inducing drugs and devices.”

 

[…]

Rome conference to tackle safeguarding children online

May 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, May 31, 2017 / 11:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An international congress in Rome this autumn will bring together experts to focus on the problem of online sexual abuse of minors and how to better safeguard children on the internet.

The Oct. 3-6 meeting is hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection and will conclude in an audience with Pope Francis during which he will be presented a “Declaration on Child Dignity in the Digital World.”

According to a May 31 statement, there are 3.2 billion internet users worldwide, children making up over one quarter of these – about 800 million users. These children and adolescents “are vulnerable to entirely new forms of harm and abuse such as trolling, cyberbullying, sextortion, and grooming for sexual exploitation.”

The international congress “will focus on the latest scientific research and technical understanding in this field, bringing together global experts and decision makers to discuss the risks and challenges of the digital age and its impact on the dignity of children.”

The invitation-only meeting intends to bring in more than 140 academic experts, leaders in business and civil society, high-level politicians, and religious representatives recognized around the globe.

The four days will include keynotes, plenary sessions, workshops, and a discussion forum focusing on the fields of cyber protection, cyber education, and cyber responsibility.

Afterward, the conference will issue a “Call for Papers” with the hope to stimulate innovative research and solutions to the problem of child protection online.

The congress is organized in partnership with WePROTECT Global Alliance, a movement dedicated to changing the handling of online child sexual exploitation around the world, and Telefono Azzurro, a non-profit whose purpose is the protection of minors from abuse and violence.

Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ, president of the CCP and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said in a statement that “the congress provides an outstanding opportunity to exchange knowledge and good practice on risks and prevention as children navigate this new digital world.”

Ernesto Caffo, the scientific coordinator of the congress, added that they “are proud to bring
together many of the world’s leading scholars and researchers in the field of child
victimization.”

Their goal for the conference being to “substantially expand the body of knowledge on these complex issues and generate true global dialogue.”

UK Minister for Internet Safety and Security Joanna Shields said that while our increasingly connected society greatly empowers children, it “also exposes them to risks that compromise their safety and wellbeing.”

“To address these escalating global threats we need a broad coalition of government, faith leaders, academia and industry, all committed to protecting the dignity of children in this digital age.”

The congress follows a day-long seminar held March 23 on the prevention of child abuse, hosted by the CCP and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The seminar narrowed in on the importance of education in schools and parishes in the safeguarding of children – not only for teachers, but for parents and children – and on the Church’s role.

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