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Philly archbishop praised for revamping city’s Catholic schools

April 6, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Philadelphia, Pa., Apr 6, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic schools in Philadelphia have seen a revitalization in finances and quality of education thanks to the initiative of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, says a group that collaborated with him on the effort.  

“While fund-raising certainly helped, the faith and wisdom of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput was equally important,” the Faith in the Future foundation said.

“He recognized the passion of lay leaders – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – for these schools and he empowered them to take action.”
 
The archdiocese began a partnership in 2012 with the Faith in the Future to increase fundraising and new leadership in overseeing Catholic school management.

“We need to have ongoing interest on the part of the donor community – not only Catholics but people who share our commitment to education – the ongoing support of the archdiocese of course, and our people and our pastors are all included,” Archbishop Charles Chaput said at the time, according to the Catholic Philly.

The foundation is now in charge of 17 high schools and four special education schools. The program started off in 2012 with nearly 13 million dollars in donations and has increased to 19.4 million in 2016. In a recent column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the group’s leaders lauded Archbishop Chaput for his part in the growing success of the city’s Catholic schools.

Faith in the Future works to fund the school’s operational deficits then reinvests the surpluses into new programs. The organization also oversees improvements to operations and market strategies to further promote enrollment.

In the beginning of 2012, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was planning on closing 44 elementary schools, four high schools, and displacing nearly 24,000 students. Among other challenges, the archdiocese felt heavy financial strains from organizational issues and abuse scandals.

“The resources simply don’t exist. Many of our parishes are financially strained. The archdiocese itself faces serious financial and organizational challenges that have been developing for many years and cannot be ignored,” Archbishop Chaput had told the Catholic Standard & Times.

As part of the revamping initiative, many schools have undergone significant transformation. West Catholic was reborn as West Catholic Preparatory High School, and has since doubled its enrollment – adding engineering and technology programs as well as a partnership with Drexel University. The U.S. Department of Education also accepted Our Mother of Consolation into the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, which is an award recognizing academic excellence. Both schools were originally among those slated to close.

The foundation’s CEO, Samuel Carter, said that only three schools are now running on deficits. Carter noted they have accumulated a surplus over the past three years, and funds are being channeled back into new technologies and programs.

In a February 2016, Faith in the Future announced that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will extend their contract until 2022. At the announcement, Carter pointed to an information system that tracked the market analysis of potential students in order to better market the school’s qualities. He also discussed the increased strategies for access to assisted funding from areas like BLOCS or the Maguire Foundation, according the Catholic Philly.  

Besides increased funds by donors and better school organization, expansions to the EITC and OSTC of Pennsylvania’s tax systems have made tuition assistance more readily available for families. Both of the programs apply tax breaks or credits to businesses who provide a charitable donation. Businesses are able to receive 75-90 percent state tax credit for any amount up to $750,000.

Last year, Philadelphia’s Catholic school system saw 93 percent of their graduates attend college, and more than half were awarded with at least one scholarship. As reported by Catholic Philly, Archbishop Chaput expressed his gratitude for the foundation, the lay community’s involvement, and the Catholic identity guiding the schools.

“The foundation’s zeal for excellence in management, guided by a strong Catholic identity, has served our high schools and schools of special education exceptionally well. I’m confident the foundation will continue to strengthen our educational system for the benefit of the region’s children,” the archbishop said.

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Maryland bishops join fight against human trafficking

April 6, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Baltimore, Md., Apr 5, 2017 / 06:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Maryland’s bishops united in voicing their concerns over the evils of human trafficking, announcing their sponsorship of a statewide initiative aimed at raising awareness of the issue.  

“The evil of human trafficking is an international, national and local scourge, and a grave violation of the dignity and freedom of all its victims,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington said in an April 3 statement.

“As people of faith, this grave injustice cries out for a response.”

According to the U.S. State Department, upwards of 800,000 victims of trafficking are brought through the U.S. borders every year. Up to 17,500 individuals are also trafficked into the country annually. Globally, the number spikes into an estimated 20 million victims, according to the International Labor Organization.  

The bishops lamented that the state of Maryland also sees a number of trafficked victims, due to Interstate 95, which acts as a hub to other cities, especially with the Baltimore Washington International airport nearby.

The bishops’ statement, titled Proclaiming Liberty to Captives, highlighted the duty of Christians to “break the yoke of modern-day slavery,” by raising awareness and supporting organizations that aid victims.

Many efforts are already in place, which rescue trafficked victims and prosecute the perpetrators, such as Maryland’s Human Trafficking Task Force, who rescued almost 400 victims from trafficking in 2014.

The bishops voiced their support of these initiatives, and also announced their own sponsorship of regional trainings that will raise awareness of human trafficking around the state.

“The Catholic bishops in Maryland pledge to devote the resources of the Church to support, unify and expand these efforts wherever possible,” the bishops stated.

“To assist in those efforts, the Catholic Church will sponsor regional trainings throughout the state beginning in the spring of 2017, at which we will bring together national, state and local experts who will provide participants with effective tools for combating human trafficking in our local communities.”

As many victims are not aware of their own captivity, the bishops underscored the importance of these new training programs that would help individuals recognize and identify the signs of a trafficked victim.

“Perhaps the most distressing aspect of human trafficking is the cloak of silence gripping its victims,” the bishops said, noting that many victims are vulnerable, poor, or runaways.

“Often, victims are not even aware they are being exploited,” they said, and asked that Catholics in Maryland attend the new training sessions “to recognize, set free, embrace and empower our brothers and sisters who are victims of human trafficking.”

The Maryland bishops are not alone in their concern over the staggering number of human trafficking victims. Pope Francis has also spoken out against the evils of trafficking, calling the injustice a “shameful wound.”

The Holy Father also used his 2015 World Day of Peace address to speak out against trafficking, asking individuals to not “become accomplices to this evil,” but to “have the courage to touch the suffering flesh of Christ.”

“Our commitment to addressing this issue reflects the commitment of the world-wide Church and especially Pope Francis, who from the start of his papacy has spoken passionately about this ‘plague on the body of contemporary humanity,’” the bishops said.

The Maryland bishops urged local communities to learn more about human trafficking awareness through the new training programs, and also asked individuals to pray for the end of trafficking.

“We urge Catholics in Maryland to take advantage of these trainings in order to shine a light on this issue.”

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A letter from the Pope to the US president sunk in the Titanic

April 5, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Denver, Colo., Apr 5, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the fateful voyage that embarked from Southampton and never made it to New York City, a passenger on the RMS Titanic named Major Archibald Willingham Butt was tasked with a special mission.

He was to carry a letter from Pope Pius X and personally deliver it to United States president William H. Taft.

But the 45-year-old major perished along with more than 1500 other passengers the night of April 15, with the contents of the letter never to be known.

Born in 1865 in Augusta, Georgia, Major Butt began a career in journalism after graduating from the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee. He later worked as first secretary of the United States Embassy in Mexico. During the Spanish-American war, he joined the army and was later appointed in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt as his military aid. When President Taft was elected, Major Butt was kept on staff and promoted to the rank of major in 1911.

By the next year, his health began to deteriorate – some speculating that this was due to him wanting to stay neutral and supportive amid tense political rivalry between Taft and Roosevelt, the latter of whom was planning a re-election campaign.

On a leave of absence, Major Butt embarked on a six-week tour of Europe in March of 1912 with his friend, artist Francis Millet. President Taft gave the major a letter to deliver to Pius X while in Rome, which he did on March 21. In return, Pius X gave him a letter to deliver to the president, according to the U.K. National Archives.

The major boarded the RMS Titanic in Southampton on April 12.

When the ship struck an iceberg in the waters of the Atlantic on the evening of April 15, he was seen in the smoking room, playing cards with Millett, the two ostensibly making no attempt to save themselves. Other sources, however, report his heroism.

According to Biography.com, The New York Times reported survivor Renee Harris as saying that he helped the sailors place women and children safely into lifeboats – even threatening bodily harm to any man who tried to circumvent the process.  

“Women will be attended to first or I’ll break every…bone in your body,” he told one such unfortunate gentleman, according to Harris. The major helped “frightened people so wonderfully, tenderly, and yet with such cool and manly firmness. He was a soldier to the last,” Harris reportedly said.

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Forced abortion in China cost a UN agency millions in US funds

April 4, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Apr 4, 2017 / 05:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States has ended funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), saying the agency’s support for Chinese population control programs violates an amendment banning funds for partners of coercive abortion or sterilization programs.

“This determination was made based on the fact that China’s family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization, and UNFPA partners on family planning activities with the Chinese government agency responsible for these coercive policies,” the U.S. State Department said in a letter to U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker.

The move ends $32.5 million in funds for the 2017 fiscal year, Reuters reports. The money will instead go to the State Department’s Global Health Programs fund. Those monies are used by the U.S. Agency for International Development to support family planning and maternal and reproductive health.

In 2015, the U.S. government was the fourth-largest voluntary donor to the Population Fund, giving $75 million.

The population fund said the claims were erroneous, saying its entire work “promotes the rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination.” It said its work has saved tens of thousands of mothers from preventable deaths and disabilities.

The Kemp-Kasten Amendment bars funding for any organization or program that the U.S. President determines to support or participate in coercive abortion or sterilization programs.

Women’s Rights Without Frontiers founder and president Reggie Littlejohn, a longtime critic of the Population Fund, said the fund “clearly supports China’s population control program, which they know is coercive.”

Littlejohn had called for further investigation into the Population Fund at a March 23 panel her organization held at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Her remarks cited several instances of coercion in abortion and sterilization.

She cited a sterilization campaign begun in April 2010 in  Puning City in China’s Guangdong Province, which set a goal of sterilizing 9,559 people. Littlejohn charged that those who refused were detained, along with their family members.

She also cited a May 4, 2016 article from BBC News, “Reinventing China’s abortion police,” which describes a Chinese official in Shaanxi province as a “birth-control enforcer” screening women for illegal pregnancies and telling women who cannot afford the fines to have an abortion.

The coastal province of Shandong is particularly strict, with illegal detentions for those accused of having children without official approval.

“Under China’s One (now Two) Child Policy, women have been forcibly aborted up to the ninth month of pregnancy,” Littlejohn said April 4. “Some of these forced abortions have been so violent that the women themselves have died, along with their full term babies. There have been brutal forced sterilizations as well, butchering women and leaving them disabled. Where was the outcry from the UNFPA? In my opinion, silence in the face of such atrocities is complicity.”

In 2002 the U.S. ended federal funding for the Population Fund after an investigation under then-Secretary of State Colin Powell found that it was complicit with Chinese officials’ coercive implementation of the country’s one-child policy.

The Obama administration had restored this funding in 2009.

Women’s Rights without Frontiers offers a support network to Chinese women pressured to abort or abandon their daughters, providing monthly support for up to a year. It aims to combat the practice it characterizes as “femicide” or “gendercide,” the selective targeting of baby girls for abortion.

Littlejohn has said the Chinese government should implement a similar program to save baby girls.

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