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Daily Prayer: Too content with their own power

Friday of the Second Week of Lent Too content with their own power, many shall reject the Gospel for fear of losing all that they have gained in this life. Yet only by losing in this life shall one gain glory in the life yet to come. Only by accepting the Son of God as […]

The post Daily Prayer: Too content with their own power appeared first on Catholic Digest.

US Catholics' awareness of Christian persecution increasing

Washington D.C., Mar 21, 2019 / 03:54 pm (CNA).- Nearly half of American Catholics say global persecution of Christians is “very severe,” a 16 percent increase from a year ago, according to a new survey commissioned by the papal charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Despite this increase in awareness, the American Catholics surveyed ranked human trafficking, poverty and the refugee crisis as more urgent problems than the global persecution of Christians, the study says.

“It is heartening to see that U.S. Catholics have a growing awareness of and concern about the persecution of Christians,” said George Marlin, chairman of ACN-USA, in a March 19 statement.

“It is telling that human trafficking, poverty and the refugee crisis get more attention from U.S. Catholics than the persecution of Christians,” he added, saying that the survey “strongly suggests that the U.S. Catholic Church, both at the parish and diocesan levels, should get more engaged with the global persecution of Christians around the world.”

The study examined the extent to which American Catholics are aware of the persecution of Christians around the world; the countries and regions where they consider Christians to be most severely persecuted; specific measures and policies they want the U.S. and other Western governments to pursue to help and protect persecuted Christians; the extent to which they feel that the pope, their bishops and their parishes are prioritizing the persecution of Christians; and actions they believe they can and should take themselves.

Only 19 percent of the survey’s respondents said their parish is very involved with the issue of global persecution of Christians, down from 37 percent a year ago. In addition, 22 percent said they are unsure about their parish’s involvement in this area.

Similarly, only 24 percent of U.S. Catholics believe their bishop is “very engaged” with the issue of Christian persecution, though over half say they think Pope Francis is “very engaged” with this issue.

When asked what they themselves should do to help persecuted Christians around the world, American Catholics ranked prayer highest, followed by raising awareness at the parish level; donating to agencies that work to support persecuted Christians; and contacting their members of Congress. However, the report found that almost half of U.S. Catholics have not donated in the past year to an organization that helps persecuted Christians.

Regarding potential policies by the U.S. and other Western governments to deter the persecution of Christians, respondents ranked diplomatic pressure as most important, followed by economic sanctions; granting victims of persecution emergency asylum; and supporting persecuted Christian communities financially.

U.S. Catholics are least in favor of military intervention and the arming and training of persecuted Christians, but more than 60 percent of U.S. Catholics say that the Church must play a hands-on role in providing emergency and humanitarian aid to persecuted Christians around the world.

The study’s release comes amid increased persecution of Christians in many countries worldwide. ACN released a report last November that highlights 38 nations with significant religious freedom violations, and in more than half of those countries, conditions for religious minorities have deteriorated since 2016.

Some notable countries where persecution of Christians is taking place include China, where the Communist government is brutally cracking down on the practice of religion despite a September 2018 provisional deal with the Vatican meant to ease tensions between the faithful “underground” Church and the state-sponsored Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the report said.

In other countries including North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Eritrea, “the situation [for religious minorities] was already so bad, it could scarcely get any worse,” it added.

Islamic extremism, fueled by conflict between Sunni and Shia Islam, accounted for the persecution faced by minorities in 22 of the 38 countries highlighted.

Interreligious conflict has been especially acute in Nigeria of late, where clashes between Christian and Muslim herdsmen have killed at least 120 people in the past few weeks, and has claimed thousands of lives in recent years, according to local reports.

 

'We're in a very different time now': Montreal officials oust crucifix from City Hall

Montreal, Canada, Mar 21, 2019 / 03:32 pm (CNA).- Montreal’s City Hall doesn’t need Christ, officials have said.

A crucifix that has hung on the wall of Montreal’s City Hall since 1937, reminding city officials to let God guide their decisions, will be taken down for a renovation project, never to be put back, local sources have reported.

City councilor Laurence Lavigne-Lalonde made the announcement at an executive council meeting this week.

“The crucifix was installed during an era that was completely different than the one we live in today,” Lavigne-Lalonde told the council, according to CTV News Montreal.

“We now live in a society that has evolved and is represented by democratic institutions that must be secular, neutral and open to all citizens,” Lavigne-Lalonde added.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante agreed.

“I truly believe and based on all the discussion that has been done in the past, that it doesn't have to be in city council where it is a secular institution. This is a place where we make decisions and it was originally put there to support decision making,” she said at the meeting. “I think we're in a very different time now.”

Plante added that the decision is a “recognition of the role of secularism in the institution, and for me, there is a stark distinction between individual and institutional secularism," she said, according to the CBC.

City officials also said they will be removing another crucifix that is hung in a different room in city hall.

After the decision was announced, the Archdiocese of Montreal issued a statement saying that the crucifix is a symbol of the Christian roots of Canada and doesn’t need to be removed in a religiously pluralistic society.

“As a sign revered by Christians, the crucifix remains a living symbol. It symbolizes openness and respect toward all peoples, including toward other faith communities and religious traditions, which rightfully adhere to their own signs and symbols,” Archbishop Christian Lépine said in his statement. “Nevertheless, nothing forbids us, and our respective beliefs, from being present in the public space in an attitude of respect and openness, since we share the same common humanity,” he added.
 
“When it comes to transmitting spiritual and communal values in a spirit of togetherness and solidarity, the crucifix is laden with meaning, expressing and encapsulating what fortifies the population of Montreal since its foundation, a legacy of which we can be proud.”

Issues of religious freedom and the display of religious symbols have been prominent issues in Canada recently, and Montreal’s decision brought up an ongoing debate about the crucifix that hangs in the legislature building of Quebec. According to the CBC, Premier François Legault of Quebec has previously defended the crucifix’s place in the province’s National Assembly, even while he backed a bill that would have banned the wearing of religious symbols by civil authorities, such as cross necklaces or hijabs. The bill was recently tabled by the legislature.

But after the Montreal decision, he balked: "There are good arguments for and some arguments against, and right now we have a debate. We have to find a compromise," Legault told CBC. "I accept the decision of the City of Montreal."

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette of Quebec, who backed the religious symbols bill, told CTV News that the National Assembly does not have to follow the decision of Montreal to remove their crucifix.

"They can do what they want about that. The National Assembly has always decided to maintain (the crucifix) and that's the position of the government because it's a (historical) symbol," he said.

Indiana legislature fails to restore two genders to driver’s licenses

Indianapolis, Ind., Mar 21, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Indiana lawmakers did not act to restore gender options on driver’s licenses as “male” or “female” after the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles announced it would allow for a third “non-specified gender,” but instead chose to require a changed birth certificate, not a doctor’s note, to allow the change to the driver’s license to take place.
 
State Rep. Matt Hostettler, R-Fort Branch, had filed an amendment to Senate Bill 324, whose main focus is providing a special disabled parking placard to eligible military veterans in Indiana, instead of a disabled license plate.
 
The House of Representatives’ Republicans considered support for Hostettler’s amendment, among other proposals, during a March 19 afternoon meeting, the Times of Northwest Indiana reports.

After the House reconvened, Hostettler did not call his proposal for a vote and the bill advanced unchanged for final approval. Any lawmaker can propose inserting the language of the amendment into any germane legislation until the close of the legislative session, which must take place on or before April 29.
 
Under the bureau’s new policy set to begin this month, a third gender option will be indicated by an “X” on driver’s licenses and state ID cards, the NBC television affiliate WTHR reports.
 
Applicants seeking a “non-specified” option must provide a certified, amended birth certificate or a signed and dated physician’s statement attesting that they have permanently changed their gender.
 
The Bureau of Motor Vehicles said it made the changes based on resident requests and on credential standards recommended by the American Academy of Motor Vehicle Administrators.
 
On March 20 the House Roads and Transportation Committee voted to revise Senate Bill 182 so that only a certified and amended birth certificate may be used to change the gender listed on a driver’s license or a state identification.
 
The State Department of Health usually requires a court order to change the gender listed on an Indiana birth certificate. In cases where a baby’s sex is undetermined at birth, such as anatomically ambiguous genitals, the gender is listed as “U.” It is unclear whether a birth certificate can subsequently be changed to something other than “male” or “female,” the Times of Northwest Indiana reports.
 
Under current practice, applicants for a gender change may submit a state form completed by a licensed physician to confirm that an individual has undergone a treatment reputed to be a gender change. A physician may also submit a signed and dated statement on office letterhead to that effect, provided the wording is substantially similar to the language required by the state’s administrative code.
 
The vote in the Republican-controlled House committee was split along party lines.
 
State Rep. Holli Sullivan said she was not trying to eliminate the non-specific gender designation “X” but wanted the birth certificate to be the sole document to establish gender.
 
“It does not say that you cannot change your gender. They still have the process to do that,” she said, arguing that her proposal takes the motor vehicles department out of making medical decisions.
 
One opponent of the change, State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, said that reading a note is not a medical decision and compared the practice to how the Bureau of Motor Vehicles approves handicapped placards.
 
“What happens to the people that are in transition and they're not one or the other yet?” asked Candelaria Reardon. “They're in the middle of a transition. How do we address their concerns? How do they get a certified birth certificate?”
 
Sullivan said she did not intend to make anything more difficult, but wanted to put together a process that can be followed to ensure there won’t be questions about the process.
 
Katie Blair, director of advocacy and public policy at American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said the modification would force self-identified transgender people to undergo “the burdensome and costly legal process of changing their birth certificate in order to update their ID.”
 
Residents born in states that do not allow such modifications to birth certificates will be unable to get “accurate identification,” she said, according to the Times of Northwest Indiana reports.

Blair previously commented on Hostettler’s proposal to remove the unspecified gender option and restore two genders, calling this a “retrograde attempt” to “mandate a definition of gender that would have major, long-term implications for the transgender community.”
 
The amendment would “force gender non-binary people to carry identification that does not accurately identify them,” said Blair. “For people who are non-binary, identification that fails to affirm who they are can trigger the distress of gender dysphoria and contribute to widespread discrimination.” Identification that is “affirming and accurate” would help reduce discrimination, Blair argued.
 
Oregon, Maine, Minnesota, and California offer similar non-binary gender identification, in addition to Washington, D.C., and New York City. The Maryland and New York legislatures are considering proposals to change their identification regarding gender.

Catholic social teaching guides advocates in push for a 'moral' budget

IMAGE: CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The White House delivered a record $4.75 trillion "Budget for a Better America" for fiscal year 2020 to Congress March 11 and it continued a defining trend to boost military spending and border security while making deep cuts in most other federal agencies.

It was quickly dismissed by many members of Congress as being unrealistic. Congress routinely shapes the budget to reflect priorities that usually differ from the chief executive, although a president's preferences have not always been ignored.

With divided government -- Democrats in charge in the House and Republicans in the Senate and White House -- the budget debate from now through the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, and perhaps later, may become contentious as congressional committee hearings shape how tax dollars are spent.

However it unfolds, Catholic advocates plan to be part of the process.

Regular visitors to Capitol Hill expressed concern to Catholic News Service over the recent trend to promote Pentagon spending while reducing appropriations for environmental protection, housing, education, nutrition, foreign development and humanitarian aid, and other human needs.

They stressed that they plan to advocate for a budget that promotes human dignity -- as they consistently have for decades.

"We look at it (the budget) through the lens of Catholic social teaching, not by the issue. We look at the moral and ethical components of issues, how they affect the well-being of human beings and how they impact the poor," explained Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

"A budget is a moral document," he continued. "We've said that lots of times. There's a human dimension to the budget and sometimes we forget that."

Bishop Dewane and others representing the USCCB plan to testify at budget hearings and send letters to key House and Senate committee chairmen in the coming months to ensure that the Catholic Church's stances are known.

Bishop Dewane cautioned that the budget must not simply become "a math exercise."

"It's one of human promotion. It should be about recognizing the human person. Human dignity is not something we grant. Every person has human dignity and the budget is a way to recognize and not squelch or destroy the human dignity of God's creation," the bishop said.

The church's position has met with push back at times, largely from members of Congress who have said the U.S. must address its growing $22 trillion debt and the best way to do that is to cut spending.

Still, the USCCB and other organizations have challenged that view, noting that the drive to increase military and homeland security spending continues to the detriment of other important federal programs that face deep cuts.

"What we do say and what the bishops' conference says is if you are concerned about the growing national debt, you can't balance the budget on the backs of the poor," said Bill O'Keefe, executive vice president for mission, mobilization and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services.

O'Keefe told CNS the same principle applies in providing humanitarian and development assistance around the world.

"Because as a Catholic community we value the human dignity of all people, we want to see the moral appropriation of foreign assistance, the type that CRS and the USCCB are advocating for, to grow and meet the need and not to shrink," O'Keefe said.

Foreign assistance programs total about 1 percent of the federal budget.

Others, including Lucas Swanepoel, vice president of social policy at Catholic Charities USA, said the nation faces a moral choice as it mulls how it respond to human needs.

"We can invest in things that destroy, divide and kill or I think we can invest in things that educate, heal and feed people. It's what we're called to do in Matthew 25," Swanepoel said.

Matthew 25 recounts three parables told by Jesus including one about how to respond to "the least of these," including the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned and the stranger.

Beyond working with members of Congress, Catholic Charities and other organizations regularly share information with people in parish pews about the benefits of programs that address human needs from disaster aid to elderly services. Despite a growing economy and rising stock markets, the need remains significant in the U.S.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported 39.7 million Americans, about 12.7 percent of the population, remained in poverty in 2017, the most recent year statistics are available.

It's not just church-affiliated organizations that advocate to legislators and share information on budget concerns. Nonprofits such as the Coalition on Human Needs and Network, the Catholic social justice lobby, have invested significant resources and time to address widespread unmet needs.

"If we see church and ourselves as people of faith, we will be dedicated to the best of our church, which is Catholic social teaching," said Presentation Sister Richelle Friedman, director of social policy at the Coalition on Human Needs. "If we remind ourselves that Catholic social teaching calls us to respect the dignity of every person, we remember that our first priority needs to go to people who are poor and vulnerable."

While Sister Friedman isn't tasked with representing church teaching when she visits congressional offices, the positions the coalition takes largely align with that teaching.

At Network, Sister Simone Campbell, executive director, posed a simple question when describing federal spending priorities: How does a particular appropriation promote "the good of the community?"

"What the federal budget should be about is the quality of life in the United States and our relationships around the world," she told CNS.

Sister Campbell, a member of the Sisters of Social Service, said she finds inspiration for her work in Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," in which he stated that all of humanity has "a claim on all of the resources in our amazing world."

"It's not just the few, it's all," she said. "And the disproportionate attention to increasing the wealth of the few over the needs the many in the budget is clearly immoral."

Such questions are not easy to resolve. Shelley Inglis, executive director of the Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton in Ohio, urged members of Congress to remember the country's core values, which are reflected in Catholic social teaching.

"We are all responsible for contributing to the greater good of everyone," she said. "We can't lose sight of that concept.

"The discussion around the budget is an important way we can go back to basic thinking about where our values lie and what those values mean in decisions in how we invest in people globally and in our own social capital, our own people and our own society for the common good."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Survey: Number of Catholics concerned about Christian persecution rises

More than half of U.S. Catholics say they are very concerned about the persecution of Christians around the world, with this 58 percent figure up by 17 percent from a similar poll a year ago.

Pope Francis invites pediatricians to help shape culture

Vatican City, Mar 21, 2019 / 11:08 am (CNA).- Meeting with pediatricians at the Vatican on Thursday, Pope Francis encouraged the medical professionals to be “promoters of a culture of solidarity and inclusive health.”

“In our time, in fact, increasingly often prevention and treatment become the prerogative of those who enjoy a certain standard of living, and therefore can afford it,” he told members of the Italian Federation of Primary Care Pediatricians during a papal audience.

“I encourage you to work to ensure that this inequality is not added to the many others that already afflict the weakest, but rather that the health system assure assistance and preventative care to all, as rights of the person.”

The pope met with the group, which has been active in the country for some 40 years and offers support to over 5,500 family pediatricians.

Noting the range of talent and training required to care for children from birth through adolescence, Pope Francis praised those present for their commitment to remain constantly up-to-date with developments in the medical field, while also promoting “a culture more capable of protecting the health of people, especially little ones.”

“In our time, where the many comforts and technological and social developments are paid for with an increasingly invasive impact on the natural dynamics of the human body, it becomes urgent to implement a serious program of health education and lifestyles that respects the body, so that progress does not come at the expense of the person,” he said.

The pope encouraged the doctors to frequently read the Gospel passages in which Jesus encounters and heals the sick, seeing in these a constant source of inspiration.

“By virtue of the faith you have received, you are always called to regard Jesus, source of closeness and tenderness, as a model of humanity and dedication to others,” he said.

He recalled how Jesus welcomed the children who came to him and even pointed to them as a model for those who wish to enter the Kingdom of God.

Pope Francis reminded the doctors always to be attentive to the person they are encountering, whether it be the parent entrusting them with the health of a child, or patients receiving care.

Children in particular, the pope said, “have powerful antennas, and rapidly grasp whether we are well disposed to them or if we are distracted, because maybe we wish we had already finished the shift, would like to work faster, or find a patient who screams less ... You too are men and women, with your worries, but we know that you are also trained to smile, necessary to give courage and open a gap of trust in the little ones; and even medicines are more effective.”

Pediatricians can play a role in shaping the culture, and their work “represents a real mission, which involves both the mind and the heart,” he said, noting that while they may take vacations from their work, “your profession will always accompany you, and involves you for far longer and more deeply than during the hours you are at work.”

“With this style, you give Christian witness, because you seek to practice Gospel values and your sense of belonging to the Church,” the pope said, “but also for the breadth of your gaze, for the ability to imagine the social context and the health system most appropriate for the future, and for your desire to be at the service, with humility and competence, of every person entrusted to you.”
 

Pope to sign letter to young people at popular Marian sanctuary

The place Pope Francis chose to sign his letter to young people is an important and popular sanctuary housing the Holy House of Loreto.

How this classical Catholic school welcomes children with Down syndrome

Louisville, Ky., Mar 21, 2019 / 10:22 am (CNA).- Students with Down syndrome study Latin and logic alongside their classmates at Immaculata Classical Academy, a Catholic school in Louisville, Ky., that integrates students with special needs into each of their pre-K through 12 classrooms.

The school emphasizes “education of the heart,” along with an educational philosophy tailored to the abilities of each student. About 15 percent of students at Immaculata have special needs.

“When you look at these students with Down syndrome in a classical setting, it is truly what a classical education is all about -- what it truly means to be human,” the school’s founder, Michael Michalak, told CNA.

“You can't learn compassion in a book,” Michalak explained.  He said the students at Immaculata are gaining “the ability to give of yourself to help others” through mutual mentoring constantly taking place in the classrooms.  

Michalek founded the academy along with his wife, Penny, in 2010. The couple saw a need for a Catholic school in which students like their daughter, Elena, who has Down syndrome, would not be segregated from her siblings. They wanted to keep their children together without compromising educational quality or spiritual formation.

“A classical education is, I think, the best education for a child with special needs because it is an education in everything that is beautiful, true, and good. It is perfect for these children,” Penny told CNA.

The school’s course schedule is configured so that students can move up or down grade levels by subject at each class hour, according to individual needs. “A second-grader might go to third grade math class and a child with Down syndrome in second grade might go over to first grade or might stay in second grade,” Michael Michalak explained. “Nobody is looking around and saying, 'Oh, they are going to special classroom.’ They are just going where they need to be.”

“In the midst of all of this we are not leaving students behind,” Penny added. “We keep our high academic standards while integrating students with special needs.”

Since its founding, the independent Catholic school has grown to a student body of 160. Other Catholic schools across the country have begun looking to Immaculata as a model, the Michalaks say.

“Whenever anyone visits our school, they always say, ‘Oh my goodness the joy of this place!’” Penny told CNA.

The couple attributes the school’s sense of joy to the Holy Spirit and “the joy of belonging.”

“Inclusion is more of a buzzword these days, but it is true that we all want to belong and we all want to be loved,” said Michael Michalek.

"Prayer is the air that we breathe. We start the day with prayer. Every class starts with a prayer and ends in a prayer,” said Penny, who entrusted the school to our Our Lady at the school’s founding with St. Maximilian Kolbe as its patron.

"Our whole philosophy is to teach every child as if we were teaching the Christ child, so that is how we handle each and every student," Penny continued.

A developing religious community, the Sisters of the Fiat, also teach at Immaculata. The sisters take an additional vow to serve those with with special needs, along with the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

The school’s founders say they are aware of their unique witness and role in a world where many children with Down syndrome are aborted. The estimated termination rate for children prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome in the United States is 67 percent; 77 percent in France; and Denmark, 98 percent, according to CBS News.

At the annual March for Life in Washington, DC, students from Immaculata Classical Academy hold signs that read, “Abortion is not the cure for Down syndrome." The students are united in mission as “a pro-life school” and pray together for an end to abortion for their brothers and sisters with Down syndrome around the world, Michalak said.

The Michalaks have also adopted three children with Down syndrome.

Michael sees the founding of a school like Immaculata as the natural Catholic response at a moment in history when children with Down syndrome are especially at risk.

"Look at what the Catholic Church has done throughout history: We see orphans; we build orphanages. We see sick people; we build hospitals. It is in this particular time and place that we saw the need to take the lead on this and to start a school that incorporates the whole family.”

His wife adds, “When you are doing something that you feel called by God to do, it is a vocation, it is a mission, it is a calling...how can you not be full of joy when you know that this is the will of God. It is very rewarding.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA Feb. 2, 2018.

To impeach or not impeach

One could argue there is strong evidence to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. But the question has to be asked: To what end? What would be accomplished?