Vatican group meets to discuss situation of migrants around the world

June 14, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jun 15, 2017 / 12:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican section on Migrants and Refugees met this week with Church leaders from around the world to hear about the challenges of migration faced in different parts of the world and to work on the Church’s contribution to a UN global compact on the topic.

According to a press statement ahead of the event, the private meetings, held June 12-13 in the Vatican, included some 40 leaders “directly involved in the protection of migrants and refugees’ rights and in the fight against human trafficking.”

This session “is the first time that our new Migrants and Refugees section has had the chance to consult with leaders of the Church throughout the world, from all the different continents, from the various major bishops’ conferences, and from some national conferences,” Fr. Michael Czerny told CNA June 13.

“So we’ve had our first chance to take a look at the world situation of refugees and migrants through the eyes of those who are most concerned in the Church.”

Jesuit Fr. Michael Czerny is secretary of the new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2017, and includes a special section on migrants and refugees currently headed by the Pope himself.

The meetings provided the opportunity for collaboration, and to hear and learn from different perspectives. “I think we’re united in our common care, our common concern, but we’re just as anxious to hear what the different situations are in reality,” he said.

“For example, there were moments when we were concerned about how migrants were arriving, and there were bishops saying, yes, but why aren’t you asking why they are leaving? It’s not that one is the right question, and the other is the wrong, but from different points of view, different questions are vital.”

Another aim of the session was to begin the process of creating a working document for the Church’s participation in the United Nations global compact on migration, which will be the first agreement negotiated between governments covering all dimensions of international migration.

The UN process began in April 2017 and will conclude with an intergovernmental conference on international migration at the end of 2018 with the intention of adoption the compact.

“These points that we’ve discussed for two days,” Fr. Czerny said, “are the points that we will be urging upon the governments of the world, and upon the United Nations, so that the compact on migrants will be as open, as dignified, as effective, as possible.”

Among the points discussed are pastoral issues concerning migrants, refugees, displaced persons, asylum seekers and victims of trafficking. In addition to the UN project, they will likely be shared as well in departmental publications and messages of the Holy Father, he said.

This meeting was important, Fr. Czerny continued, because the Church “cares very deeply about those who are forced to flee, whatever the reason, and for those who are victims of human trafficking.”

“And if we can help in some way or another, that these people have an easier time of it, that they have less suffering, or encounter fewer obstacles, that they are safe and secure and can live their lives happily and productively – that’s bringing the Gospel, that’s bringing the Good News to people, and we’re happy to do that.”

 

 

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Bishops pray for Catholic Congressman shot at baseball practice

June 14, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2017 / 08:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Republican House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, 51, was among multiple persons shot in an incident at a Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, Wednesday morning.

Scalise, a Catholic, was shot at the hip and was transported to surgery. He is reportedly in stable condition.

“Prior to entering surgery, the Whip was in good spirits and spoke to his wife by phone,” Scalise’s office said in a statement. “He is grateful for the brave actions of U.S. Capitol Police, first responders, and colleagues.”

After hearing about the shooting, House Democrats at a separate baseball practice started a spontaneous prayer for the victims.

.@HouseDemocrats praying for our @HouseGOP @SenateGOP baseball colleagues after hearing about the horrific shooting. https://t.co/y2HEUaSuzd pic.twitter.com/6HBrlnxtey

— Rep. Ruben J. Kihuen (@RepKihuen) June 14, 2017

A total of five people were “medically transported” from the scene, according to authorities.

Shots were fired around 7:15 a.m. Wednesday morning while Republican lawmakers were practicing for Thursday’s Congressional Baseball Game.

U.S. Capitol Police shot and apprehended the gunman, who was taken to the hospital. Alexandria Police tweeted that the “suspect is in custody and not a threat.”

Congressman Scalise is a Republican who was elected to represent Louisiana in 2008. Before running for Congress, he had served in the Louisiana state senate for four months and in the Louisiana House of Representatives for 12 years.
 
He is married to the former Jennifer Letulle and they have an 8 year-old daughter, Madison Carol and an 8 year-old, Harrison Joseph.  

 

Scalise is a life-long Catholic. He and his wife are members of the St. Agnes Catholic Church. Two years ago he tweeted a photo of his daughter’s first communion.

Madison had her First Communion yesterday. Jennifer, Harrison and I are so proud of her. #Beaming pic.twitter.com/SJa53Le9yj

— Rep. Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) April 20, 2015

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which started its Spring General Assembly this morning in Indianapolis, opened their conference with a prayer for the victims of the shooting as well as the victims of a massive apartment fire in London last night. USCCB Vice President Archbishop Jose Gomez gave the prayer, which was also posted to Twitter.

The bishops begin their meeting with a prayer for those impacted by violence in Alexandria and London. #USCCB17 pic.twitter.com/jcsF1Byosu

— US Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) June 14, 2017

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. also tweeted that he was praying for the congressman.
 
Roughly 15-25 people were at the practice, including Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. Paul told MSNBC that “it would have been a massacre” if Capitol Police weren’t there.

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We don’t earn God’s love, it’s freely given, Pope Francis says

June 14, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2017 / 03:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, Pope Francis said that God’s love isn’t something we earn or deserve by our good works, but that it is free and unconditional – no matter what.

“God’s first step towards us is that of an anticipated and unconditional love. God loves first,” Pope Francis said June 14.

“God does not love us because there is some reason that causes love. God loves us because He Himself is love, and love tends to spread and give by its nature. God does not even tie his benevolence to our conversion: if anything this is a consequence of God’s love.”

“Saint Paul says it perfectly,” he continued: “‘God demonstrates his love for us in the fact that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rm 5:8).”

“None of us can live without love,” the Pope said, but to believe that love is earned is to fall into a type of slavery. “Perhaps much of the anguish of contemporary man comes from this: to believe that unless we are strong, attractive and beautiful, then no one will take care of us.”

“Behind such seemingly inexplicable behavior arises a question,” he continued: “is it possible that I do not deserve to be called by name? That is, to be loved?”

Pope Francis reflected on this question during the general audience Wednesday, considering what it is like when we do not recognize that we are loved and cherished by God or the people around us, especially as children.

“Many people today,” he said, “look for visibility only to fill an inner void: as if we were people eternally in need of confirmation. But, imagine it, a world where everyone begs for reasons to attract the attention of others, and no one is willing to love one another for free?”

“Imagine a world like this: a world without the freedom to love! It looks like a humane world, but in reality it is a living hell.”

How much selfish and narcissistic behavior comes about because of this loneliness? he asked. When a child is not loved or does not feel loved, he said, this is when in adolescence they can start to act out, or even become violent. Behind this behavior “is often a heart that has not been recognized.”

What can we do to help people know they are loved by God? Francis said that when love is given and received freely between people, even in just a simple look or smile, this is what transforms sadness and loneliness into happiness and joy.

An exchange of glance, of smiles, has the power to open those closed in sadness, he said. By looking someone in the eyes, we can open the doors of someone’s heart.

“What can make us happy if not the experience of love given and received?” he said,

Just like in the story of the Prodigal Son, fathers and mothers are often one of the greatest examples of a Christ-like love on earth, the Pope pointed out, explaining how he has known many mothers with children in prison, who continue day after day to visit them, never ceasing “to suffer for her child.”

Parents love their children even when they are sinners and “God does the same thing with us: we are his beloved children! But is it possible God has some children he does not love? No. We are all God’s beloved children.”

“In Him, in Christ Jesus, we have been loved, beloved, desired. There is Someone who has engraved in us a primordial beauty, that no sin, no wrong choice will ever erase completely.”

Because of the heat, Pope Francis began the audience by stopping to greet the sick and their families in the Pope Paul VI hall, where they could watch and hear the audience on screens, but inside the air-conditioned building.

“But we all remain together connected by the Holy Spirit, who is the one who always creates unity,” he said.

Concluding, Francis asked the crowd: “What is the medicine to change the heart of a person who is not happy?” “Love!” the crowd responded. “Stronger!” he said. “Love!” they shouted louder. “Very good, very good, everyone,” the Pope said smiling.

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What can priests practically do to combat the porn epidemic?

June 14, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2017 / 02:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Online pornography is one of the fastest growing addictions in the United States, on par with cocaine and gambling.

Once confined to the pages of a smuggled Playboy magazine, pornography can now be in the hands of anyone with a smartphone, and is more prolific and anonymous than ever.

PornHub, one of the world’s largest sites with porn video streaming, reports that it averages 75 million viewers per day, or about 2.4 million visitors per hour. In 2015 alone, the number of hours streamed from the site was double the amount of time human beings have populated the Earth, according to TIME Magazine.

And while pornography used to be a simpler problem for priests to address in the confessional – consecrate yourself to Mary, go to weekly adoration – the growing level of addiction makes it a much more complex problem for the Church to address.

That’s why Fr. Sean Kilcawley, the program directory and theological advisor for pornography ministry Integrity Restored, has started to put on intensive trainings for clergy, providing them resources and practical tips for how to address the growing crisis of pornography addiction.

How the trainings work

For an intensive training, Fr. Kilcawley takes a dozen or so priests for 3-4 days and immerses them in resources and training for the porn-addicted in their fold. He also facilitates shorter, one-day conferences.

“We try to equip the priest to get that person to come talk to them outside of confession, just to bring that into the light, so that the priest can then become the first responder in the field hospital of the church,” Fr. Kilcawley told CNA.

Smaller groups work best, he added, because it allows the priests space to process the information and to be more vulnerable with one another.

During these trainings, Fr. Kilcawley tackles the subject from an anthropological and theological standpoint, while Dr. Todd Bowman, a Christian psychologist and director of the SATP Institute, addresses the issue from a psychological viewpoint.

Modeling the relationship between a priest and a sex therapist during the trainings is key, Dr. Bowman said.

“I know that sounds like the start of a joke: a priest and a psychologist walk into a conference,” Dr. Bowman told CNA.

“But (it’s important) to demonstrate this relationship between soul care and care of the psyche or the mind, this process of healing often requires psychological care,” he said.

“So we’re trying to give priests the experience that not all psychologists are anti-church, or anti-Catholic. At the same time, not all Christian or Catholic therapists are equipped and qualified for this, so we’re trying to…(show them how to be) intentional in selecting therapists who will honor church teaching but who will also have the competence to do this work well with porn or sex addiction.”

Preventative action: Stopping porn addictions before they start

Practical things priests can do to address pornography addiction generally fall into two categories: preventative and interventional, Fr. Kilcawley noted.

One of the key things a priest can do to stop pornography addictions is to ensure that the parents of the parish are being provided with education and resources they need for pornography prevention in the home.

“We’ve always said that it’s the parent’s job to educate their children, but as a Church we haven’t done a great job teaching the parents how to educate their children,” Fr. Kilcawley said.

“And we now live in a world where it’s no longer optional to have those conversations.”

No longer optional, because studies show the average age of first exposure to pornography is 8 years old – and any kid with access to a phone or a tablet could accidentally stumble upon pornography, he said.

One thing he recommends is that parishes hold mandatory meetings for parents of children who are either receiving the sacraments or religious education at the parish, where they can give parents an overview of Theology of the Body, as well as tips and resources for internet safety and how to address pornography.  

It can be especially difficult to know how to talk about such a mature topic with such a young age group. However, several books have been written in the past several years to help parents know where to begin, Fr. Kilcawley said, and some parishes hand them out during meetings with parents.

One of his recommendations is “Good Pictures Bad Pictures,” a read-aloud picture book that helps parents address the issue with very young children.

Starting at the 4th grade level, Fr. Kilcawley recommends the book “Wonderfully Made! Babies” which puts the content within the context of theology of the body and the sacrament of marriage.

For the junior high and high school level, he recommends “Plunging Pornography,” a book to leave in the bathroom for teens to find that can serve as a conversation starter.

Fr. Kilcawley said in some parishes, groups like the Knights of Columbus have paid for some of these books to be handed out to every parent.

He also recommends internet filters like Covenant Eyes, which sponsors a special service for parents, parishes and schools.

Interventional: What to do about those who are already addicted

Probably the most common place a priest will first find out about a pornography addiction is in the confessional.

When someone confesses viewing porn, Fr. Kilcawley said one of the best things a priest can do is to ask a few guiding questions to help them make a good confession.

“Ask questions like, ‘How frequently do you fall into porn and masturbation in general?’” Fr. Kilcawley said. The question is not meant to pry – it helps determine whether the person needs additional help.

It’s also helpful to ask when the problem started.

“If it started before puberty, which is most common now, almost everyone who started before puberty is going to need extra help stopping, they might need counseling or group support, and spiritual direction,” Father said.

A third question to ask would be if they’ve tried to remove porn from their life – are they already using filtering software? Are they seeing a therapist or going to a 12-step group?

And then finally, Fr. Kilcawley advised priests in the confessional, ask them if they want to stop.

“Just to help them make a good firm purpose of amendment,” he said, adding that when they answer yes, that’s a good opportunity to offer them more resources.

But it’s important that the help be personal. Simply handing the person a flyer and telling them to call a therapist or a group typically doesn’t work, Father noted. It should either be the priest, or someone involved in that specific ministry at the parish, who is the first point of contact for that person, and can help them get in touch with additional resources.

Another thing priests can do is start a porn or sex addict support group in their parish. Fr. Kilcawley said he started one in his office once a week, with a small group of men who were all struggling with porn addictions.

“Most people who are stuck in addiction, they need a support group, whether it’s a 12-step group like Sexaholics Anonymous or a spiritual support group, where they are open and vulnerable and accountable about their lives. They need that, plus a counselor, plus a spiritual director that they’re working with regularly,” he said.  

Thou shalt not: The don’ts of porn ministry  

A mistake often made by untrained clergy in pornography addiction ministry is that they may suggest, explicitly or implicitly, that a pornography addiction is the fault of the spouse.

“It’s not the spouse’s lack of sexual interest that’s to blame for her husband’s sexual addiction,” Dr. Bowman said. Addicted persons will often try “blame shifting,” he added, which creates “a spiritual crisis that compounds the betrayal trauma” of the spouse.

The next mistake clergy could make would be to minimize the impact of the addiction on the spouse. Most people who find out their spouse has a sex addiction will experience varying levels of feelings of betrayal, Dr. Bowman said.

“There’s significant trauma in that loss of identity – but the Church can speak about identity as sons and daughters of God into that space,” he added. It’s when identity is only being informed by brokenness that bigger problems arise.

Another mistake would be to abandon those in recovery. If a priest commits to setting up support groups in his parish, he needs to follow through, Dr. Bowman said.

“If you are setting yourself up as a support that means take the phone call, schedule the meeting, even if it’s inconvenient, you’re going that measure and not abandoning folks in recovery,” he said.

Not a fringe ministry – this is evangelization 101

The biggest cardinal mistake that clergy can make in regards to pornography addiction ministry is never mentioning it, Dr. Bowman said.

It’s usually a more “omissive than commissive” problem, he commented. “It’s not like (clergy) are actively avoiding talking about this, but they may think, ‘My parishioners don’t want to hear about this, there are other things that are more relevant and important.’

But, according to Dr. Bowman, “There may be no more pressing topic for parishioners and priests alike…the only mistake would be not to bring it up.”

It may be helpful for priests to view this as part of evangelization, and not as a fringe ministry, Fr. Kilcawley said, because very likely, someone who is stuck in addiction is unable to have a good relationship with the Lord.

“Most people who are stuck in addiction believe they’re unlovable, and that if people really knew them they would reject them, and they don’t trust other people to meet their needs and so they have to meet their own needs, and their addiction is the best way to meet their need,” he said. “So if someone has those core beliefs, they can’t really know our Lord.”

“So anti-pornography work and anti-porn apostolates, they’re really the first stage of evangelization.”

Both Dr. Bowman and Fr. Kilcawley said they hope that increasingly, priests become aware of the urgent need to reach pornography addicts in their pews.

“We live in a culture where statistically, about half of Christians report looking at porn at least monthly,” Fr. Kilcawley said.

“So if that’s the case then, yeah we need a lot more (pornography ministry). It’s not a ministry for a few people, it’s more of a ministry for everyone.”
 

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