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Smartphones are driving a rise in teen sexting

March 12, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Mar 12, 2018 / 03:04 am (CNA).- Teen sex may be down, but widespread access to smartphones is driving an increase in teen sexting, recent research has found.

According to an analysis of studies by JAMA Pediatrics, as many as one in se… […]

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What a new TV show gets wrong about ‘Living Biblically’

March 12, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Denver, Colo., Mar 12, 2018 / 02:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- These biblical commandments probably sound familiar: Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

These might not: Do not shave your beard with a razor. Do not wear garments of mixed fibers. Stone adulterers.

In a new T.V. show on CBS, main character Chip Curry, a film critic for a New York paper and soon-to-be father, sets out to improve his moral life by following every law in the Bible – all 613 of them – as literally as he possibly can, with the help of his ‘God squad’, which includes a rabbi and a Catholic priest.

The premise of the show is based on the 2007 New York Times bestseller A Year of Living Biblically, in which author A.J. Jacobs describes his real-life journey of taking the Bible as literally as possible for a year.

While the results in the show and the book are largely comical and portrayed in good humor (at one point a pebble is chucked at a cheating spouse), following every law ever given by God to the letter is nearly impossible, and not what Catholics are called to do, biblical scholar Andre Villeneuve told CNA.

“Good luck if you really want to try to live the Old Testament completely literally,” Villeneuve, who has a doctorate in biblical studies and teaches at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, Colo., told CNA.

“It would mean you would have to stone your son if he’s rebellious and doesn’t listen to you. You would have to stone adulterers. You would have to check every time you approach a woman that she’s not on her period because you’re not allowed to touch her,” he said, “a lot of these things that have to do with purity which are really frankly awkward and would be really problematic, if not impossible, to observe.”

The problem with such literal fundamentalism, he said, is that it doesn’t read and interpret the Bible in light of salvation history and in light of the intent of the laws given by God.

“The 613 commandments in the Old Testament, in the Hebrew Bible, they were given to Jews to begin with, so it’s ridiculous for anyone, whether a Catholic or Christian, to say they’re going to live by all of these commandments, because they were never given to Gentiles,” he said.

Some of these commandments still stand, however – most notably, the 10 Commandments. When Christ came and established a new covenant, the apostles decided which laws were still meant to be followed by Christians, and which laws pertained only to Jews, Villeneuve said.

“What the (apostles) did is…they saw the law as divided into three categories – the moral laws, the ceremonial laws, and the judicial laws,” he said. “So what has been considered to be universal and perennial and never to be changed are the moral laws, which are the 10 Commandments and their interpretation.”

The ceremonial laws related to Jewish worship, or the judicial laws related to matters such as what kind of compensation you can expect if your neighbor’s animal comes onto your property, are not binding for Christians.

Catholics can distinguish what laws of the Bible to follow and what it means to follow them by reading the Catechism and following the teachings and traditions of the Church, Villeneuve noted.

“The easy answer … is that today we have the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the third part is called Life in Christ, or the Moral Law. That’s where you can see the Catholic interpretation of the Ten Commandments in light of jesus’ teaching, and the apostles and the teachings of the Church,” he said. “It’s essentially extracting what is universal about the commandments without taking up all the specific commandments that were given to Jews in their times and culture.”

Even the Jews do not follow and interpret all of the 613 commandments in the Hebrew Bible exactly literally, Villeneuve noted.

As an example, he pointed out that the law “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” may seem cruel at face value, but it was never interpreted literally, even by the Jewish people.

“It doesn’t mean literally gouging out an eye, it means what is an eye worth as far as livelihood, quality of life … and therefore your neighbor should compensate you by so much, by paying you back,” he said. “It’s read and interpreted in a way that’s not literal.”

“The bottom line is that the fundamentalist reading of scripture doesn’t work; even the Jews don’t live that way,” Villeneuve added.

“We don’t read scripture in a vacuum, we don’t believe in ‘sola scriptura’ (the Protestant doctrine of ‘scripture alone’), but it’s always read in light of Christian tradition and the teachings of the Church and the magisterium.”


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Capuchins raise funds for victims of Papua New Guinea earthquake

March 11, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Denver, Colo., Mar 11, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As Papua New Guinea begins to recover from a major earthquake, the Capuchin Province of St. Conrad is raising funds in an effort to help those affected by the devastation.

Capuchins have served as missionaries in the country since 1955, and several of the missionaries currently in Papua New Guinea belong to the St. Conrad province, based in Denver, Colo.

“Sadly, dozens of our people lost their lives, mainly caused by landslides. Four young girls were crushed by a falling wall as they slept in their home in Mendi town. Also in Mendi, a young couple and their first-born child were killed by a landslide,” reported Bishop Don Lippert of Mendi, himself a Capuchin.

“Telephone and internet communications are severely limited and in many places access to water and electricity has been interrupted. Many roads have been blocked by major landslides,” Bishop Lippert continued.

He added that “Reports from the remote parishes paint a grim picture of major loss of infrastructure. The diocese’s network of schools and health centers has sustained serious damages throughout the rural, mountainous area.”

Capuchin missionaries to Papua New Guinea built some of the country’s first schools, hospitals, and medical clinics.

On Feb. 26, the Papua New Guinea highlands were struck by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, causing over 100 deaths and countless more injuries. The epicenter of the quake was in Enga province, in the vicinity of Wabag.

Days later, on March 6, Papua New Guinea was again hit by a 6.7 magnitude aftershock, leaving the country without electricity and access to communication systems. Over a dozen more deaths occurred during the aftershock, raising the initial death toll to approximately 117.

The Papua New Guinea Red Cross estimated that upwards of 143,000 people have been affected by the earthquake, leaving as many as 17,000 displaced from their homes. Many people are relying on air-drops for their food and water supply.

The earthquake has also damaged much of the islands’ infrastructure through landslides

The governor of the Southern Highlands Province, William Powi, said that the local government has reached its limit for relief efforts, saying, “it is beyond the capacity of the provincial government to cope with the magnitude of destruction and devastation,” according to the New York Times.

Although the islands have a long journey ahead in rebuilding their devastated communities, the Capuchins hope that their funding campaign will give the islands the aid they need.

Pope Francis recently expressed his concern over the situation, invoking “divine blessings of strength and consolation” to those affected by the disaster.


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House of Representatives passes bill targeting sex traffickers

March 10, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Mar 10, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The House of Representatives passed a bill this week that aims to combat online trafficking, targeting the sites that host ads relating to sex work. The bill has received a mixed reception, however, with some arguing it may be ineffective at achieving its goal.

The “Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” would allow survivors of human trafficking to sue websites like Backpage, where people post advertisements for prostitution. Some of these ads, supporters of the bill claim, are actually for people who are victims of traffickers.  

This new bill would amend the Communications Decency Act to allow lawsuits against websites like Backpage if they are found to be in violation of sex trafficking laws.

Knowingly promoting sex trafficking is currently a crime. Previously, however, the Communications Decency Act would have shielded the sites against these suits as websites were not considered to be liable for content posted by their users.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan Congressional group. It passed Tuesday by a vote of 388-25.

While the bill has clear bipartisan support, as well as support from some facets of the tech industry, the Department of Justice and a vocal minority of representatives from both parties have raised concerns that the legislation is unconstitutional and will be ineffective in actually fighting sex trafficking.

In a letter from Assistant Attorney General Stephen A. Boyd, the DOJ wrote that the bill’s requirements that prosecutors provide proof that a website benefited from sex trafficking, as well as evidence that the website knew the ad was for a minor or for someone who was coerced or otherwise forced into sex work, would make prosecution of the crime more difficult.

“While well intentioned, this new language would impact prosecutions by effectively creating additional elements that prosecutors must prove at trial,” said Boyd.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), the chairman of the House Liberty Caucus, said on Twitter that a provision in the bill that would allow for companies to be held liable for posts made before the law was passed rendered the bill unconstitutional.

“The Constitution reads: ‘No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.’ Congress just passed this ex post facto law by a vote of 388-25,” said Amash, explaining that he voted against the bill.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>The Constitution reads: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.” (Art. I, §9)<br><br>Congress just passed this ex post facto law by a vote of 388-25. (I voted no, of course.) <a href=””></a></p>&mdash; Justin Amash (@justinamash) <a href=””>February 27, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src=”” charset=”utf-8″></script>

Amash’s concerns were echoed by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), who said in a statement on his website that he felt as though the bill went too far and would hinder efforts to fight sex trafficking online.

“There are laws already on the books that have been successfully used by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to send executives of websites that promote prostitution to federal prison,” said Scott.

“Further, the bill will apply not only to online advertisers of sex trafficking, which Congress already criminalized in 2015 when we passed the SAVE Act (see 18 U.S.C. 1591),  and punishes conduct that is much less serious than what is ordinarily viewed as ‘sex trafficking.’”

Wagner disputes these claims in a statement, saying the bill will be a tool to put more people in jail for sex trafficking, and will deter websites from posting these kinds of ads.

“FOSTA will produce more prosecutions of bad actor websites, more convictions, and put more predators behind bars. It will give victims a pathway to justice and provide a meaningful criminal deterrent, so that fewer businesses will ever enter the sex trade, and fewer victims will ever be sold,” she said.

Grace Williams, president of the group Children of the Immaculate Heart, which serves those affected by human trafficking, believes that the bill could be beneficial.

In an interview with CNA, Williams said that the evolving nature of human trafficking – and its new reliance on various social media apps and websites – makes it tricky for authorities to arrest those who are responsible.

“[T]he problem is all of these platforms are making it a lot easier to reach victims and making it a lot harder for law enforcement to track down and prosecute because there’s no image trail, no paper trail,” said Williams.

She said the bill appears to “give attorneys more means to to be able to pursue legal action” for these sites.

More importantly, Williams thinks the law will send an important message to websites.

“[W]e’re sending a message to online forums, and various websites that using people for sex is not okay, and especially when their liberty is compromised or not even present.”


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Mississippi governor: stronger abortion ban protects unborn children

March 9, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Jackson, Miss., Mar 9, 2018 / 03:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Mississippi legislature has passed one of the strongest restrictions on abortion in the U.S., barring most abortions 15 weeks into pregnancy.

“As I have repeatedly said, I want Mississippi to be the safest place in America for an unborn child,” Gov. Phil Bryant said on Twitter March 6. “House Bill 1510 will help us achieve that goal.”

The Senate voted to pass the bill by a 35-14 vote.

The bill had been modified to remove criminal penalties involving jail time. Physicians who violate the law will lose their state medical licenses and receive a civil penalty of up to $500, National Public Radio reports.

The amended bill passed the Republican-controlled House by a vote of 75-34. An earlier version of the bill passed the House by a Feb. 2 vote of 79-31, with some Democratic support.

In a Feb. 8 message, Bishops Joseph Kopacz of Jackson and Louis Kihneman of Biloxi said the state’s legislature is “to be commended for voting to protect unborn human life.”

State records indicate about 200 abortions a year are performed on women 15 to 20 weeks pregnant, backers of the bill have said. Their bill allows exceptions for when a woman’s life is in danger or when an unborn child has a severe abnormality.

State Rep. Becky Currie, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill is appropriate because most women discover they are pregnant months before the pregnancy reaches 15 weeks.

The passage of the bill drew other praise.

“Mississippians are committed to protecting the lives of unborn children, and this law will be a major step in accomplishing that goal,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said, according to the Clarion Ledger. “I am committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child.”

Both Mississippi and North Carolina currently bar abortion at 20 weeks into pregnancy, measured from a woman’s last menstrual period. Other states start from a date two weeks later.

The state’s only abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, does not perform abortions as late as 20 weeks and so it did not challenge the existing law, clinic owner Diane Derzis told the Associated Press. The clinic does perform abortions three weeks past the legislation’s ban limit. If the bill becomes law, it will refer women seeking these abortions to out-of-state clinics.

Derzis told the Clarion Ledger she was not surprised by the Senate vote, adding that Bryant “has never seen an abortion bill he didn’t like.”

“We will be planning to sue,” she said, adding that pro-life groups are passing abortion restrictions in hopes of national changes through a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

According to Derzis, she and her allies are in “a very fragile place right now.”

“Roe is clearly in danger and that’s what they’re preparing for … They hope by the time they get to the Supreme Court they will have changed the Supreme Court,” she said.

It is unclear whether such abortion limits will pass scrutiny in federal court.

In their Feb. 8 message, Mississippi’s Catholic bishops lamented the failure of the U.S. Senate to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would bar abortion 20 weeks after fertilization.

“We Catholic Bishops of Mississippi wish to reaffirm the sacredness of human life from conception until natural death. With Pope St. John Paul II, we recognize abortion as ‘a most serious wound inflicted on society and its culture by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders’,” the bishops said, citing St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium vitae.

Legislators “have a duty to make courageous choices in support of life, especially through legislative measures,” they said.

“We ask continued prayer for a culture of life to prevail in our society, and we urge those who voted against this legislation – especially those who are Catholic – to reconsider.”