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Callista Gingrich confirmed as US Ambassador to the Vatican

October 16, 2017 CNA Daily News 2

Washington D.C., Oct 16, 2017 / 04:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as the next U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. The vote was 70-23.

In a July 18 hearing, Gingrich had voiced her commitment to fight human trafficking and promote human rights and religious freedom. She had said that immigration and protecting the environment are both issues that the Trump administration is taking seriously, although taking a different approach from the previous administration.

Callista Gingrich is the president of both Gingrich Productions in Arlington, Va. and the charitable non-profit Gingrich Foundation, and is a former Congressional aide.

She is also a long-time member of the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Newt and Callista married in 2000, after having a six-year affair while Newt was married to his previous wife. Newt converted to Catholicism in 2009 and explained, in an interview that year with Deal Hudson at InsideCatholic.com, how Callista’s witness as a Catholic brought him towards the faith.

He noted that he had attended Masses at the National Shrine where Callista sang in the choir, and she “created an environment where I could gradually think and evolve on the issue of faith.”

At the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2011, he also cited Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 visit to the U.S. as a “moment of confirmation” for him. At vespers with the Pope, where Callista sang in the Shrine choir, Newt recalled thinking that “here is where I belong.”

The couple worked on a documentary together that was released in 2010, “Nine Days That Changed the World,” that focused on Pope St. John Paul II’s 1979 pilgrimage to Poland when the former Soviet bloc country was under a communist government.

The documentary explained how the Pope invigorated the faith of the Polish people in Jesus Christ during his pilgrimage there, and how the visit precipitated the fall of Communism.

In an Easter message posted on the website of Gingrich Productions, the couple noted that “we should remember the many threats facing Christians today,” including “a growing secularism, which seeks to place human desires ahead of God and His will,” and “radical Islamism” that “seeks to destroy Christianity across the globe.”

“But in the face of this evil, we remember the words of Saint John Paul II, who throughout his papacy urged us to, ‘Be not afraid’,” the statement continued.

As ambassador, Gingrich will follow Ken Hackett, the former head of Catholic Relief Services who served during President Obama’s second term as president.

In a January interview with CNA, Hackett opined that there would be areas of difference and of collaboration between the U.S. and the Holy See under the Trump administration.

One of the possible areas of tension might be on immigration and refugees, he said, as Trump criticized Pope Francis on the campaign trail in 2016 after the Pope celebrated Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border and urged everyone to pray for conversion of hearts over the suffering of forced migration.

Trump, who repeatedly promised to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and make the Mexican government pay for it, said last February that the Pope was a “pawn” of the Mexican government and “is a very political person, I think he doesn’t understand the problems our country has.”

He also issued an executive order shutting down refugee admissions for four months at a time when Pope Francis has taken in refugees and U.S. bishops have called for the country to continue accepting refugees fleeing violence.

Meanwhile, there are other possible areas of collaboration between the U.S. and the Holy See, Hackett said in January, including on human trafficking, peace in the Middle East, a solution to the worsening crisis in Venezuela, and efforts to alleviate global poverty.

Pope Francis and President Trump met at the Vatican in May. According to a Vatican communique, they expressed satisfaction “for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience.”

During the “cordial discussions,” the two expressed hope for peaceful collaboration between the government and the Catholic Church in the United States, that it may be “engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants,” the Vatican statement said.

The two leaders also exchanged views “on various themes relating to international affairs, the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities.”

 

 

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News Briefs

‘No science’ behind transgender therapy for kids, doctors warn

October 15, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2017 / 03:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Children who struggle to match their gender identity with their biological sex should not be pushed into transgender therapies, but given treatments that help treat the underlying cause of the dysphoria, said doctors in the field.

From a medical standpoint, deciding not to offer hormonal therapy to children who experience gender dysphoria is “not a judgment” on the child, but a matter of the best medical healthcare, said Dr. Paul Hruz, associate professor of Pediatrics, Endocrinology, Cell Biology and Physiology at the Washington University of Medicine.

“It’s the best outcome, because they’re not exposed to all these harms that we know they will experience if they move forward” with the hormone treatments, he said.

Dr. Hruz also voiced serious concerns about treating young people with intense and potentially dangerous off-label hormone therapy, without subjecting the regimen to rigorous scientific testing.

This falls short of the scientific standards used to evaluate other treatments, he said. “We search for the truth by testing it with experimental evidence.”

Hruz spoke at an Oct. 11 panel on Gender Dysphoria in Children at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. Also speaking at the event were Dr. Michelle Cretella, president of the American College of Pediatricians, and Dr. Allan Josephson, professor and division chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

Gender dysphoria is a psychological condition in which a person’s experience of the psychological and cultural associations of their gender differ greatly from their biological sex. It is unclear how many children in the United States experience gender dysphoria, but the condition is relatively uncommon.

Cretella explained the health risks of putting children on puberty blockers and hormones associated with the opposite sex. The use of these drugs, she said, “is treating puberty like a disease, arresting a normal process which is critical to normal development for kids.”

She pointed out that there had never been long-term studies on hormone repression drugs, and their impact – particularly on children – is unknown. What is known, however, is the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and growth disruption associated with hormone therapies used for cross-sex treatment.

She also pushed back against the claims that affirming a patient’s perceived gender leads to improved outcomes to children, saying that “those studies are extremely short term” with small study groups and poorly designed controls. Cretella pointed to former patients who change their minds “at age 28 or so and saying, ‘Oh my gosh, what was done to me?’”

Emphasizing the importance of rooting medical practices in science rather than ideology, Hruz noted that no randomized controlled trial or consistent findings have shown that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are the best treatments for children with gender dysphoria.

“The reality is there is no science to back this drastic change.” He also noted that as many as 90 percent of youth outgrow gender dysphoria by the end of adolescence and realign their identity with their biological sex.

Josephson focused on the psychological element of childhood gender dysphoria, noting that at its root, the disorder is a social and psychological phenomenon.

He contested that relying on hormonal therapies leaves aside a full investigation of the root psychological causes underlying the dysphoria, which therefore halts the most effective treatment before it starts.

Josephson pointed to the treatment of one patient who came in for counseling on gender dysphoria and ended up uncovering deep wounds of childhood abuse underlying their discomfort. “When doctors see pain or distress we try to find the cause of it and map out a treatment. We don’t try to ignore it,” he urged.

And treatment does not mean avoiding all forms of stress or trial, Josephson said. “In the process of development we’re always subjected to some kind of stress or developmental crisis.”

The key is to adequately diagnose and treat the underlying causes of gender dysphoria, he said. “If we ignore pain, the bottom line is that we might miss a diagnosis and chance for developmental progress.”

Most of all, Josephson said, children going through gender dysphoria need to be affirmed and loved.

“Of course you affirm a child and love a child,” he said. “But you don’t affirm a bad idea.”

[…]

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News Briefs

US bishops laud attorney general’s new religious freedom protections

October 13, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2017 / 01:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following an announcement by the U.S. Attorney General detailing 20 principles of religious liberty for all government agencies and executive departments to follow, the U.S. bishops have praised the government’s reaffirmation of religious freedom protections.

“The Attorney General’s guidance helpfully reaffirms that the law protects the freedom of faith-based organizations to conduct their operations in accordance with their religious mission,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, in a statement.

“The guidance also reaffirms that the federal government should never exclude religious organizations from competing on an equal footing for government grants or contracts, and religious entities should never be forced to change their religious character in order to participate in such programs,” he continued.

“We appreciate the Attorney General’s clarification of these matters, which will protect faith-based organizations’ freedom to serve all those in need, including the homeless, immigrants, refugees, and students attending religious schools.”

The guidance was issued on Oct. 6 by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, responding to an executive order to “issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law.” The document highlights key issues surrounding religious freedom in the United States and points to the importance of religious freedom in the country, as well as existing laws and precedents which protect the fundamental right.

At the memo’s outset, the document notes that religious freedom “is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs or even to worship in a sacred place. It also encompasses religious observance and practice.” The guidance reaffirms a broader definition of religious freedom, which has come under pressure as the previous Obama administration promoted the much narrower phrasing “freedom of worship.”

….

Read CNA’s analysis of the new religous freedom guidance to learn more:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>The government's new religious freedom guidance: What does it mean?<a href=”https://t.co/MgD9ixcaoK”>https://t.co/MgD9ixcaoK</a></p>&mdash; Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) <a href=”https://twitter.com/cnalive/status/917102798113853442?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 8, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

 

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No Picture
News Briefs

Iowa district judge praised for upholding three-day wait for abortions

October 12, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Des Moines, Iowa, Oct 12, 2017 / 02:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Iowa judge upheld the state’s three-day waiting period for abortions last week, drawing praise from local pro-life organizations such as the Iowa Catholic Conference, who called the ruling a “positive move.”

“We are very pleased by the decision, because we think to allow women to have a reflection time before an abortion means that some of them will take that time to at least think about the decision that they are making,” stated Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, in an interview with CNA.

“Some of those women will decide in favor of life, so we were very pleased to see the judge’s decision and hope it will stand up if there are further appeals,” Chapman continued.

The act, which was passed last spring, requires a mandatory 72-hour waiting period and two consultations with doctors before receiving an abortion. It would also require the option of viewing an ultrasound and educational materials about risks associated with the procedure.

In May, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa sued against the Iowa Act, calling it a “malicious, politically motivated, anti-woman legislation.”

Judge Jeffrey Farrell of the Polk County District Court ruled against the petitioners Oct. 2, saying the law “complies with the constitutional standard” and did not place “undue burden” on women seeking abortion.

“The evidence at trial focused on the hardships women face when dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, but the public’s interest in potential life is an interest that cannot be denied under law. Both of these interests are important,” stated Farrell.

Following the court’s ruling, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a notice that they will appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Farrell’s ruling states the act will go into effect after 30 days, unless the Iowa Supreme Court grants a stay or an injunction.

Iowa is not the only state to enforce waiting periods before abortions – 27 other states have similar postponement requirements, and have been met with similar controversy.

According to Chapman, one of the benefits of enforcing a waiting period would be to potentially help women who feel pressured to make a more informed decision. He also said it could prevent guilt or regret that some women experience post-abortion.

“I think if people look at what the actual facts are and the studies that have been done, there are certainly women who regret their abortions,” Chapman said.

According to Iowa Right to Life, studies have shown that within a few months after an abortion, 31 percent of women had regrets about their decision. The study also found that 55 percent of women expressed guilt, while 44 percent of women experienced nervous disorders.

“It certainly seems from the data that abortion can very much cause regrets for families – because remember, we are talking about the unborn child, we are talking about the woman herself, and we are talking about the people surrounding the mother. All of those can be affected by this decision,” Chapman noted.

“I think this is a very positive move from the court to recognize this and we are very supportive of this and hope it will stand up in court if it gets appealed.”

Farrell had also upheld in 2014 an Iowa Board of Medicine rule that would have effectively barred the use of a telemedicine system to dispense abortion-inducing pills. The Iowa Supreme Court reversed his ruling in 2015, ruling the ban unconstitutional.

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Bishop Vasa on California fires: ‘Our diocese has been hit hard’

October 12, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct 12, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While firefighters in northern California are currently battling 17 wildfires in five counties, Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, one of the hardest hit areas, is typing updates and messages of support from his car, in between visits to evacuation centers.

“Our diocese has been hit hard, as you know well, and is in an ongoing state of uncertainty,” he said in his Tuesday message.

The fires, made worse by dry conditions and unrelenting winds, have already scorched at least 100,000 acres and have killed at least 21 people since the beginning of the week. Thousands more have been displaced, their homes and businesses destroyed.

Much of the area of the Diocese of Santa Rosa has been under mandatory evacuation, including the chancery and the local Catholic Charities office. One of the diocese’s Catholic high schools has been almost completely destroyed by a fire, and an elementary school has sustained significant damage.

“Most of our parishes are fine,” Bishop Vasa wrote. “The one exception is Cardinal Newman High School and Saint Rose elementary which share a campus.”

A “significant portion” of the high school was destroyed, he noted, along with the preschool building and the roof of the elementary school.

Graham Rutherford, principal of Cardinal Newman High School, sent a letter to parents and students, assuring them that all students and staff had been accounted for and were safe, and asked them to respect the evacuations and not go near the campus until officials have given the all-clear.

“Thank you for the many kind and generous efforts made by countless members of our community to help each other and to help others in this hour of need,” he added. “We are proud to see our school year motto, ‘One School: Undivided’ lived out with such compassion.”

Bishop Vasa also noted that he has visited several evacuation centers and spoken with many people whose homes and businesses have been destroyed.

“The sense of great helplessness is palpable,” he wrote. “When people ask how they can help I answer that I really do not know. I do know that prayers are the greatest source of solace and help.”

In his Wednesday message, he offered his prayers for those who had lost loves ones in the fires.

“We pray for your consolation and for eternal rest for your lost loved ones. Our hearts go out to all of you,” he said.

“At the same time, we acknowledge the sense of loss and suffering experienced by those who have lost their homes, or businesses, or places of employment. We pray that you do not lose hope, nor the sense of God’s presence and ultimate goodness. You must know that the hearts of the entire community, though it can neither feel what you feel, nor undo the loss, do go out to you.”

He also thanked the firefighters and police, both those from California and throughout the country who have offered their help.

“…I commend you for that patience and professionalism which I have seen so often and for which I commend you. As I very often advise. Persevere!” he said. “Thousands of volunteers are spending countless hours showing their desire to share in the suffering of those displaced by the fire. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. My prayers are with all of you as well.”

Christopher Lyford, director of communications for the Santa Rosa diocese, stopped by St. Eugene’s Cathedral, which is being used as an evacuation center coordinated by the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa and other parishioners. Once there, he found a homeless man doing his best to comfort the distraught evacuees.

“A homeless man named Paul, who lives near the cathedral in a creekbed, happened by and offered some consolation through his gift of music” by playing the piano inside the shelter, Lyford told journalists. “The poignancy of the moment is not lost.”

Father David Jenuwine, Parochial Vicar of St. Apollinaris Catholic Church in Napa, California recounted some of his own experiences with the fires in e-mail comments to CNA in between helping out at evacuation centers.

On Monday, the first day of the fires, Jenuwine said he started smelling smoke around 4 a.m. and realized the area had lost power.

“When I figured out what was going on, I exposed the Blessed Sacrament around 5:00 am and started praying. People started showing up for morning Mass at 6:15 am. I went inside (again still dark – no power), and got ready for Mass” he said.

“Mass in complete darkness, knowing your friends and parishioners are in jeopardy, is an awe inspiring experience. The prayers took on an eminence and an importance,” he said.

The verse that “jumped from the page” of the day’s readings was: “Who is my neighbor?”

“I spoke briefly about that verse, and how that would be our clarion call for the next several days,” Jenuwine said. “Because without limit, right now, EVERYONE is our neighbor.”

Over the next two days, he said, the parish started taking in evacuees from the area and accepting food donations.

“The faces of the donors and the recipients reflected a surreal joy. Giving and receiving are both opportunities to share in the divine life of the Most Holy Trinity. And it is apparent in what we have witnessed over the past few days,” he added.

As of today, access to power and communications are back, but the fires are still far from contained, Jenuwine noted.

“I have to cut this short, because I’m needed at the Red Cross shelter to comfort those who have lost someone in the fires. Pray for us,” Jenuwine said.

“Many parishioners have lost everything. The overwhelming feelings of the loss of so many is offset by the overwhelming generosity of individuals giving food, bedding, clothes, and water.”

“Pray for us,” he added again. “Pray that the winds die down, and the fires can be abated. Pray that we have strength to persevere.”

Fr. Jenuwine’s parish has set up a Paypal donation page that is acting like “a rolling second collection” for fire relief, though Father noted the immediate issues of evacuations, shelter, food and water were being addressed before the exact recipients of the relief money could be determined.

Updates from Bishop Vasa and the Diocese of Santa Rosa can be found on the diocesan website as well as the diocesan Facebook page.

[…]

No Picture
News Briefs

Repeal of Clean Power Plan will hurt poor communities, Catholic leaders insist

October 11, 2017 CNA Daily News 2

Washington D.C., Oct 11, 2017 / 12:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After the Trump administration announced a repeal of emissions standards, Catholic leaders warned it could hurt poor communities and thwart long-term efforts to fight climate change.

“Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato si’, calls us to action in caring for our common home. A national carbon standard is a critical step for the U.S. at this time,” Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, stated Oct. 10 after the Environmental Protection Agency announced a planned repeal of the Clean Power Plan.
Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced the repeal on Monday.

The Clean Power Plan, finalized in 2015 under the Obama administration, set goals for states to reduce carbon emissions from the utility sector, ultimately aiming to cut emissions by 32 percent by 2030.

President Obama announced the plan in August 2015, citing the need to curb pollution amid climate change and to reduce domestic health concerns such as asthma rates.

“By some estimates, a fully implemented Clean Power Plan could have prevented: 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths; 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children; and 2,700 to 2,800 hospital admissions,” the Catholic Climate Covenant, a national partnership that seeks to educate Catholics about Church teaching on the environment, said.

The plan was “an important step forward to protect the health of all people,” then-chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, stated.

However, in February 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court halted the plan being put into effect. President Trump ordered a review of it with the possibility of rescinding the plan in his executive order on energy independence in March, and Bishop Dewane warned that the order “effectively dismantles the Clean Power Plan.”

Pruitt, in a March 30 letter to state governors, told them that in light of the Supreme Court’s stay on the plan, they did not have to abide by the goals and standards set by the plan.

“It is the policy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that States have no obligation to spend resources to comply with a Rule that has been stayed by the Supreme Court of the United States,” Pruitt wrote. “The days of coercive federalism are over.”

On Monday, Pruitt announced the plan would be repealed, to the disappointment of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Climate Covenant.

The chief fault of Tuesday’s announcement was that there is no sufficient replacement plan, Catholic Climate Covenant said.

Furthermore, coming on the heels of the U.S. pulling out of the international Paris climate agreement, where participating countries pledged to cut pollution and contribute to the Green Climate Fund, the repeal “solidifies the already troubling approach of our nation in addressing climate change,” Bishop Dewane said.

Recent Popes along with bishops from all over the globe “have all accepted the reality of human-forced climate change,” Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, stated on Tuesday. “And we know that our burning of fossil fuels is among the biggest contributors to this moral dilemma.”

The Clean Power Plan offered “flexibility to allow states to meet carbon reduction targets in meaningful ways,” he said. “This repeal now throws all of these potential gains into question.”

Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato si’, on care for our common home, specifically called for policies to reduce carbon emissions, he added.

In paragraph 26 of the encyclical, Pope Francis warned that “some of the negative impacts of climate change … will continue to worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption.”

“There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy,” the encyclical stated.

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