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Vatican astronomer: solar eclipse recalls beauty, truth of creation

August 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Owensboro, Ky., Aug 21, 2017 / 11:23 am (CNA).- As Americans prepare to view a total solar eclipse passing from Oregon to South Carolina, the director of the Vatican observatory has reflected on what the event can teach us about God and his creation.

An eclipse “reminds us of the immense beauty in the universe that occurs outside of our own petty set of concerns,” Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, told Time magazine. “It pulls us out of ourselves and makes us remember that we are part of a big and glorious and beautiful universe.”

Brother Guy is in Hopkinsville, Ky., 80 miles southwest of Owensboro, one of the places where the Aug. 21 total eclipse will last the longest.

The eclipse reflects that “God chose to make a universe that was rational, so that we could predict these eclipses with enormous precision,” he said.

In addition, it shows that God made creation beautiful: “it is not only that the eclipse occurs just when it is supposed to, but that, along with the delight that our calculations are right, there is the delight at seeing the beauty that comes, that we can experience, while we are underneath this eclipse.”

The tradition of appreciating eclipses is a long one in the Catholic Church.

In the eighth century, St. Bede the Venerable, an English monk, described how a solar eclipse is caused by the moon hiding the sun’s light from earth.

At Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., another point of totality for the eclipse, the campus is holding a viewing and presentations by Vatican observatory officials.

On Aug. 20, the college’s new Daglen Observatory was inaugurated, and Fr. Christopher Corbally, SJ, president of the National Committe for Astronomy for the Vatican, spoke on the history of astronomy, science, and the Church.

 

The crowd is growing as people are packing into the @BenedictineKS gym to catch a speech by a Vatican Astronomer #SolarEclipse2017 @kq2 pic.twitter.com/s3nW7AwSul

— Brooke Anderson (@bandersonKQ2) August 21, 2017

 

The following morning, Fr. Paul Gabor, SJ, vice director of the Vatican Observatory Research Group, gave a presentation on the history of eclipses in human thought and observation, and how records of the phenomena have yielded scientific advances.

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An exorcist talks about ‘Annabelle’ and the power of evil

August 20, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 20, 2017 / 03:48 pm (National Catholic Register).- What children read, what they see on the screen, can inspire them toward greater faithfulness. Conversely, Father Robert warns, it can lead them into the sordid world of the occult, even opening them to demonic possession.

Father Robert is not exaggerating. A priest for more than 10 years and an experienced exorcist, he knows firsthand the unintended consequences when children or adults open the door to demonic activity. “Oftentimes,” he says, “[demon possession] begins because kids get curious after reading Harry Potter.” He explains that kids want the unusual powers that they see depicted on the screen.

One former Satanist whom Father Robert knew personally, a man who has turned away from his past life and embraced the Catholic faith, had begun his descent into Satanism at the age of nine or 10, when he began playing a game called “Bloody Mary.” From that simple beginning, he gradually became involved with others who were Satanists.

Respecting Confidentiality

An important part of Father Robert’s ministry is training other priests at the Vatican’s official Exorcism Institute in America. From across the country and around the world, Catholic priests come to the Institute to learn the secrets of this ancient rite, so that they too can exorcize demons and evil spirits. The nature of the work that Father Robert and the Institute are involved in is so hazardous that he has requested that the National Catholic Register not publish his full name or reveal his location.

A Decidedly “Catholic” Horror Film

I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Father Robert at a recent media preview of New Line Cinema’s latest horror production, “Annabelle: Creation,” which opens nationwide on August 11. Directed by David F. Sandberg (director of the short film “Lights Out”), “Annabelle: Creation” is actually a prequel to the highly successful 2014 release of “Annabelle” – which is itself a prequel to the 2013 cult favorite “The Conjuring” and the more recent “Conjuring 2” (2016). Father Robert had seen them all, and he agreed that “Annabelle: Creation” was largely faithful to the Catholic Church’s teachings with regard to possession and exorcism.

By Invitation Only: Satan Only Goes Where He Is Invited

Father Robert explained that the devil will only go where he is invited. He talked of two cases he knew of personally in which two young women, not realizing the gravity of their request, had invited “any spiritual being” to help them. The consequence was that they exhibited symptoms of demon possession and required an exorcism.

The writers of the film, Father Robert noted, had done their homework – they understood that the demon could only enter the home of dollmaker Samuel Mullins and his wife Esther if it was invited. In “Annabelle: Creation,” Esther and Samuel Mullins are mourning the loss of their beloved daughter Bee. Miranda Otto, who portrays the mother Esther in the film, explained,

Like most parents, they are devastated. But unlike most, they decided that they would do anything to have her back…absolutely anything at all. Basically, they prayed, calling out to any kind of power that would allow them to see her or feel her presence in any way. But by doing so, they evoked certain spirits that are not the kind you would welcome into your home.

Twelve years after the tragic accident, the grieving parents seek comfort by opening their home to Sister Charlotte and several girls from an orphanage that has been closed. When one of the girls peers into the closet and sees the possessed doll, Annabelle, the doll sets her sights on the girls and unleashes a storm of terror.

A Few Inaccuracies

Father Robert and I agreed that “Annabelle: Creation” was, for the most part, faithful to the Catholic understanding of exorcism. There were, however, a few scenes which caused us both to raise an eyebrow:

A Sister heard confession? – Most particularly, there was a scene in which Sister Charlotte, played by the talented Stephanie Sigman, listens to the confession of one of her young charges. Granted, there were differences from a regular confession: The Sister and the young girl sat back-to-back, not in a confessional. But the concept of confession was renewed when Sister Charlotte said, “Well, for your penance….” Particularly during the time period of the film, Father Robert considered it highly unlikely that a Sister would ever put herself in the position of appearing to perform a sacramental function that requires a priest.

Sister Charlotte wore a contemporary religious habit. – Based upon the clothing styles, classic automobiles, and the Victorian farmhouse, it would seem that “Annabelle: Creation” is set in the early 20th century. However, Sister Charlotte wears what appears a contemporary religious habit – with a knee-length skirt and a simple headpiece which exposed her hair. When I asked director David Sandberg and actress Stephanie Sigman (Sister Charlotte) about that during our interview, both seemed surprised, explaining that they had looked at photos of nuns in different habits and had chosen a simple costume which would make it easier to act the role.

Disposal of the possessed object – In “Annabelle: Creation,” two priests come to the home to bless the doll Annabelle and to sprinkle it with holy water before it is sealed away in a Scripture-lined closet. Good as far as it goes, Father Robert thought, but he was adamant that an exorcist would never leave the possessed object there intact, to be found by someone in the future. “You would take the curse off the object,” he explained. “You could burn it or take it apart; but it would be decommissioned somehow.”

As an example of a possessed object, Father Robert described a crucifix that hangs in his office which was burned from the bottom during an exorcism, the fire consuming the corpus and leaving only the arms of the crucified Christ. “It had a plastic corpus on it,” he explained. “The cross itself was blessed. It was put in the room with a woman who practiced Brujería witchcraft in Mexico. In the middle of the night, the cross caught fire. I decommissioned it. I would never permit anyone else to get near it, because it could be used in the future for something wrong.”

The scarecrow scene, and the Tasmanian devil – A scene in which a scarecrow was possessed by the evil spirit and moved from its original position seemed unlikely, according to Father Robert. Similarly, he was unconvinced when the demon began to grow and assumed a physical likeness of what he called a “Tasmanian devil.”

Only by invitation! – In one scene, a child becomes possessed when she finds herself in the presence of a demon that manifests itself as a little girl. Father Robert rejected the idea that an evil spirit could inhabit the body of a child who happened to be in its presence – since, as he explained earlier, an evil spirit will only enter a person if he is invited.

Five Signs of Possession

Father Robert listed five signs which may indicate that a person is suffering spiritual attack:

1.Hidden knowledge. If a person has knowledge which he or she should not have, such as private information which is known by only a few people, that may signal demonic possession.

2.Languages. A possessed person may be able to speak in an unfamiliar language which he or she would not normally know.

3.Superhuman strength. Father Robert reported one case in which a young girl who was 5’4” tall and weighed perhaps 110 pounds was able to throw a number of big guys off of her, preventing them from holding her down during the exorcism ritual.

4.Extreme aversion to the sacred. A person who is possessed may be unable to look at a crucifix, or to touch a rosary which has been blessed. Father Robert knew of one woman who couldn’t be in the presence of a cross of St. Benedict, or to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

5.Levitation. Father Robert had personal knowledge of a case in Louisiana, in which a person was seated in a chair and, powered by the evil spirit, was able to levitate with the chair and proceed down the hall.

“Annabelle: Creation” opened in theaters across America on August 11. Despite the small inconsistencies which Father Robert noticed, the film is respectful of faith. The film does an effective job of building tension, and there are repeated “frights”; but it is not really gory and depends on spiritual and psychological effects rather than blood. It’s likely to enjoy wide distribution among fans of the horror genre. Rated “R”, it seems unsuitable for small children; but others can attend, confident that their faith will not be challenged.

 

This article was originally published at the National Catholic Register.

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Court okays Ark. ban on Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid money

August 19, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Little Rock, Ark., Aug 19, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Arkansas may block tens of thousands of dollars in Medicaid funding from going to Planned Parenthood, a panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has said.

“All patients should have access to ethical, quality and responsible health care, and should never be beholden to a company that is only seeking to protect its profits,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in response to the decision, the Associated Press reports.

According to Rutledge, the Aug. 16 ruling found that Planned Parenthood and the three patients could not contest the state’s determination “that a medical provider has engaged in misconduct that merits disqualification from the Medicaid program.”

The 2-1 panel ruling comes two years after the state ended its contract with the organization over videos filmed by undercover investigators that appeared to show involvement in the illegal sale of fetal tissue for profit.

While federal law bars federal funding for most abortions, and Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the U.S., the organization receives federal money for other services.

In Arkansas, in the fiscal year before the contract was terminated, Planned Parenthood had received $51,000 in Medicaid funds. The organization runs health centers in Fayetteville and Little Rock.

The ruling said that the unnamed patients who filed the legal challenge to the defunding decision did not have the right to file a challenge. It did not directly address the state’s reasoning for terminating the contract. The ruling vacated a U.S. district judge’s order that continued payments to Planned Parenthood patients.

Judge Michael Melloy authored a dissenting opinion in the ruling, noting that several federal courts have blocked other states’ efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. He said the patients have a right to challenge the contract termination.

The case could go to the Supreme Court. Planned Parenthood said it is evaluating its options to challenge the ruling, which will take effect in one to two weeks.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson had ended the contract on the grounds he believed there was evidence of wrongful conduct.

He called Wednesday’s decision “a substantial legal victory for the right of the state to determine whether Medicaid providers are acting in accordance with best practices.” The ruling also affirmed the state’s prerogative to make judgments on the Medicaid program, he added.

Videos from the Center for Medical Progress appeared to show Planned Parenthood and other leaders in the abortion industry involved in the procurement of fetal tissue and unborn babies’ bodies for sale, which is illegal under federal law.

The videos energized abortion foes’ push to defund Planned Parenthood. For its part, the abortion provider and its allies dedicated millions of dollars in a campaign to counter the videos’ impact and charged that the videos had been heavily edited.

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No, Pope Francis did not beatify Roberto Clemente

August 18, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Aug 18, 2017 / 03:14 pm (CNA).- Sports fans in the U.S. and beyond may be disappointed to learn that reports of baseball Hall-of-Famer Roberto Clemente being recently beatified by Pope Francis are nothing more than fake news.

Vatican officials confirmed to the Washington Post that rumors of Pope Francis beatifying the Pittsburgh Pirates star are false.

The rumors appear to have originated with a Christian News Wire post late last month, and were slowly picked up by other media outlets and social media accounts.

The Christian News Wire article quotes Richard Rossi, who has been pushing for Clemente’s canonization after directing a film about the baseball star’s life, entitled “Baseball’s Last Hero.”

At the center of the claims is former Olympian high jumper Jamie Nieto, who played Clemente in the film. Nieto broke his neck in a back flip accident in 2016, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. After months of rehab, he was able to walk about 130 steps down the aisle with his bride on his wedding day.

According to the article, Rossi claimed that he had foreseen the healing in a vision, and had written to Pope Francis about it, and that the Pope agreed to beatify Clemente if the healing were to take place. Normally, one Vatican-approved miracle is necessary for beatification, and a second miracle is necessary for canonization, when the Church officially recognizes someone as a saint.

But while enthusiastic fans may be willing to take Rossi’s alleged claims at face value, the Vatican follows a very specific, formal process in determining the validity of an alleged miracle, with a commission of theologians and scientific experts examining the facts of the case.

When it comes to medical miracles, the Vatican must determine that the healing could not possibly have had any therapeutic or natural explanation, in order to ensure that the healing could only be attributed to divine intervention.

In Nieto’s case, however, doctors said there was a small possibility that he would be able to walk again, and he then spent months in rehab, working toward that goal.

The Vatican also must confirm that the healed person prayed exclusively to the potential saint in question, thereby determining that it was that individual’s intercession before God that resulted in the miraculous healing.

However, in the AP story detailing Nieto’s steps down the aisle for his wedding, the former Olympian does not mention praying to Clemente at all, instead saying, “I’ve worked really hard to get to this point.”

This is not the first time that false rumors have circulated regarding Clemente’s sainthood status. In early 2015, Catholic News Wire claimed that his canonization cause had received a “papal message of support.”

The article included a photo of a letter that it claimed was a show of support from Pope Francis for Clemente’s canonization cause.

However, the letter was in fact from an official at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and did not convey a papal message of support, but rather instructed Rossi that the local bishop, not the Pope, is the correct person to contact about potentially opening a canonization cause.

Translated into English, it reads:

“Distinguished Mr. Rossi, Recently you addressed a letter to Pope Francis calling attention to the figure of Roberto Clemente. Given the specific competence of this congregation, this letter was sent to this dicastery. In this regard, I wish to inform you that the competent authority to introduce a cause of beatification is the bishop where the person has died. Hence you would have to address your request to the Bishop of San Juan in Puerto Rico. Wishing you God’s blessing, Fr. Boguslaw Turek.”

Clemente, a devout Catholic, was known for both his immense talent on the ballfield and his extensive charitable efforts. He died in a 1972 plane crash on his way to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He was 38 years old at the time of his death.

With a legacy marked by his Catholic faith and humanitarian work, it is possible that the legendary right fielder could have his canonization cause opened. But the process would be lengthy, and each official step would be announced through authorized Church channels.

A beatification of the baseball star would undoubtedly be a highly anticipated event, especially on the largely Catholic island of Puerto Rico, where Clemente grew up. Sports fans can rest assured that should such a high-profile beatification occur, an official announcement would be made with enough notice for them to follow along, or even attend the historic event.

 

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Richmond’s Bishop DiLorenzo passes away at 75

August 18, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Richmond, Va., Aug 18, 2017 / 10:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo of Richmond has passed away at the age of 75.

“Please pray for the repose of the soul of Bishop DiLorenzo, for his family and friends, and for the people of… […]

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FOCUS expands to 15 new campuses this year

August 18, 2017 CNA Daily News 3

Denver, Colo., Aug 18, 2017 / 06:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) has announced that it will expand to 15 new campuses for the 2017-2018 school year.

This brings the total number of campuses with a FOCUS p… […]

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New petition calls for pro-life support against nuclear warfare

August 17, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., Aug 17, 2017 / 08:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As political tensions increase between the United States and North Korea, one pro-life group began a petition urging nuclear disarmament around the world.

Rehumanize International is asking pro-life advocates to join them in the fight against nuclear arms by signing a letter directed to President Donald Trump and attending an anti-nuclear weapons march outside the White House on Sept. 9.

“And with many pro-lifers around the world who understand that nuclear weapons can never be tools of a Just War, we call on the Trump administration and the governments of all nuclear-wielding nations to dismantle and destroy their nuclear arms!” read the letter, which was posted on Change.org Aug. 11.

Concern over nuclear warfare has recently escalated as North Korea has refused to halt its reported efforts for increased nuclear power as well as intercontinental missiles capable of reaching the U.S.

Among many smaller ballistic missile tests this year, North Korea last month tested its second intercontinental missile since the country was established, inciting the U.S. to increase economic sanctions against it.

Last week, North Korea mentioned the possibility of targeting U.S. territory Guam, but as of Aug. 16 the country’s main news agency said the plans have been paused.

Linking pro-life support to anti-nuclear arms advocacy, the letter begins by stating that nuclear war is opposed to human dignity and demands that more responsibility be taken to end it.

“As supporters of the inherent dignity and worth of all human beings from conception to natural death, and the intrinsic right to life of every member of our human family, we call for an end to nuclear warfare,” the letter read.

“We demand that our executive branch of government be more accountable for our existing nuclear arsenal and sign on to the U.N. treaty for nuclear disarmament.”
 
The U.N.’s 1968 Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons required its signatories to refrain from acquiring nuclear arms, besides the five countries who had attained them before 1967, including the U.S., the U.K., France, China, and Russia. The treaty went into effect in 1970, and was renewed indefinitely in 1995.

The letter is currently open for signatures which can be done electronically on Change.org. They will then be sent to President Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence as well as French, British, and United Nation leaders. Among other organizations, the American Solidarity Party and Feminists for Nonviolent Choices have both expressed support for the petition as well as the upcoming march.

“We will join together as powerful pro-life voices who work tirelessly to build a culture of life,” Ruhimanize executive director Aimee Murphy said in an Aug. 17 statement, “as we call on our government to make the truly pro-life policy declaration to condemn the usage of nuclear weapons, no matter who wields them.”

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Planned Parenthood investigator claims victory in Washington State appeal

August 17, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Aug 17, 2017 / 03:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Lawyers for Planned Parenthood investigator David Daleiden claimed a victory on Wednesday as the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court sent back a lower court’s ruling against him.

“The Court of Appeals, by reversing this decision and remanding this case back to District Court, has prevented a serious threat to the public’s right to know how their tax dollars are being spent,” said Peter Breen, special counsel for the Thomas More Society who argued the appeal for Daleiden.

David Daleiden is the project lead at the Center for Medical Progress, the group that released undercover videos of conversations with Planned Parenthood officials and others in the abortion industry, as well as interviews of a former clinician for a tissue harvester.

The videos claimed to report on the transfer of fetal tissue of aborted babies from clinics to tissue harvesters for research purposes.

Daleiden and other citizen journalists created a fake medical supply company company and adopted fake identifications to pose as representatives of a fetal tissue procurement company looking to possibly do business with Planned Parenthood clinics. They discussed possible prices for fetal tissue of aborted babies.

Compensation for fetal tissue of aborted babies that is used for research is allowed under federal law for, provided the amount of compensation is not for “valuable consideration” and is “reasonable,” to cover operating expenses like storage and transfer.

In the particular case decided on Monday, Daleiden had requested to view records from the University of Washington’s acquisition and use of fetal tissue of aborted babies for research in their Birth Defects Research Laboratory.

According to his lawyers, Daleiden requested that the names and personal contact information of persons in the records not be made public, but the university sued to block even more information like the job titles and departments from being made public.

“The government employees and the abortion personnel are seeking to force heavy redactions in public documents about their work procuring, processing, and transferring the organs and tissue of aborted human fetuses, in connection with the school’s taxpayer-funded Birth Defects Research Laboratory,” the Thomas More Society stated.

“Such heavy redactions render these public documents useless for investigative purposes,” the group said of the additional requested redactions.

A district court ruled in the university’s favor, issuing an injunction on the additional information being made public. Daleiden’s lawyers appealed to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Monday, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit unanimously ordered the lower court to explain further why it had allowed censorship of the public records.

The “Doe Plaintiffs” – or the persons whose information was contained in the records – would have to prove both that they “were engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment” and that they faced a “reasonable probability” of harm which could threaten their First Amendment rights, due to backlash once the records were made public, the court said.

The Ninth Circuit kept in place a temporary injunction on release of the information, to allow the district court time to find if the plaintiffs’ claims met the standards for the information to be censored.

“We remand for the district court to address how disclosure of specific information would violate the constitutional or statutory rights of particular individuals or groups of individuals,” the ruling said.

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