St. Mary's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

South Asia floods: 'Everything is coming to a complete standstill'

Patna, India, Jul 19, 2019 / 10:44 am (CNA).- Catholic Relief Services is working with local partners to provide aid amid severe flooding and landslides in parts of India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, the group said Thursday.

“The most immediate need right now is clean water and food,” said Caroline Brennan, director of communications for CRS’ humanitarian response team, in a July 18 statement.

“With wells flooded, people aren’t able to access water that’s safe to drink, safe to bathe with, or safe to give to their livestock. Until the water recedes, people in the heavily affected areas are going to need ways of getting enough food to feed their families. Their livelihoods, especially for farmers, are also at risk,” she said.

Heavy rainfall, beginning over a week ago, has led to flooding and landslides that have cut off routes for emergency aid, CRS says, necessitating the use of boats to provide aid in some areas. The aid group UNICEF estimates that more than 12 million people, including about five million children have been affected.

Estimates of the number of casualties vary widely, with officials from various affected countries reporting at least 227 dead, according to CNN. UNICEF is reporting at least 93 children are among the dead.

At particular risk are an estimated 1 million Rohyngia Muslim refugees, who have fled persecution in Burma and are currently in camps in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, CRS reports, roads have been washed away, houses have collapsed and croplands have been submerged leaving more than 20,000 families in urgent need of support. More than 4.3 million people are in urgent need of support in one northeastern region of India alone, the group says.

Access to food is a major concern, as many croplands in the region have been underwater for more than six days, leading to fears that farmers may not be able to harvest.

Update: Catholics focus on migrant children with rally, civil disobedience

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A few hundred Catholic activists, including dozens of women religious, gathered outside at the foot of the U.S. Capitol July 18 urging politicians to stop its "inhumane treatment" of immigrant children at the border and reminding people of faith to take a stronger stand against current U.S. border policies.

The rally, on a sweltering Washington morning, included times of prayer, a few songs and several speeches. At one point, someone in the crowd started chanting, "Where are the bishops?" which was echoed by many participants, but later in the program, speakers read excerpts from messages that had been sent to the group from several U.S. bishops, thanking them for participating and urging them to continue to speak up about the border crisis.

A message from Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego said in part: "We stand in a moment when our government has weaponized fear -- the fear being sown within our nation as a whole that refugees and immigrants, who have been America's historic lifeblood, have now become the enemy; and the even more reprehensible fear being unleashed upon the hearts and souls of immigrant mothers and fathers that they will be separated from their children purely as an act of intimidation."

Many of the speakers at the "Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children," organized by the groups Faith in Public Life and Faith in Action, were primarily women religious who stressed the need to end the current practice of placing children in detention centers at the border and emphasized that the need to start a new wave of protest against these policies should be viewed as a pro-life stance.

Sister Carol Zinn, a Sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, and executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, told the group: "Catholic sisters have a long history with immigrant communities. We have seen the pain, suffering, fear and trauma firsthand. In recent months, as the humanitarian crisis has escalated, we have joined the tens of thousands who are outraged at the horrific situation at our southern border."

She pointed out that women religious have been ministering to those in need and donated money to support those seeking safety, freedom, security and a better life for their families. "We are here today because of our faith. The Gospel commands, and the values of our homeland demand, that we act," she added.

The message of urgency was essentially speaking to the choir because these activists, who showed their support with rounds of "Amens!" were clearly not new to this issue and many attended the rally particularly for its finale: when the arrests of 70 people for civil disobedience took place at the adjacent Russell Senate Office Building.

Those arrested were charged with "incommoding, crowding, and obstructing" and had to each pay a $50 fine or request a court date. They were released that afternoon.

During the morning action, a young mother from El Salvador held her baby as she addressed the crowd in Spanish. In remarks, which were translated, she thanked the group for their efforts to help immigrants and said she is seeking sanctuary, but she is afraid she will be separated from her baby.

As groups of tourists walked by and men and women in business attire headed toward Capitol Hill, they couldn't help but see the signs held aloft with messages such as "Franciscans for Justice," "Let Children Be with their Parents" and "Catholics for Families: Together and Free" as well as placards with images of children who have died in U.S. custody at the border.

Mercy Sister Patricia Murphy, a 90-year-old from Chicago, who came to the event to take part in the civil disobedience, told Catholic News Service right before the rally that she "couldn't not be here."

The sister wore a purple shirt identifying her as a Sister of Mercy, a pin that said: "You are my Neighbor" and carried a placard with the face of Felipe Gomez Alonzo, an 8-year-old from Guatemala who died from illness while in U.S. immigration custody after crossing the border with his father.

Sister Patricia said this would be her sixth arrest and she hoped the action would move others to do more. For the past 12 years, she has kept vigil, praying and protesting outside an immigrant detention center in Chicago every Friday morning.

Prior to the civil disobedience arrests at the Russell Senate Office Building, participants continued to hold signs with their message and speak out in protest. After warnings from police that they would be arrested if they stayed in the building's rotunda, those who chose to stay recited the Hail Mary as they waited to be handcuffed and escorted out by police.

Moments before the arrests, Sister Donna Korba, a Sister of the Servants of Mary in Scranton, Pennsylvania, said her participation at the day's gathering stemmed from her life of activism including recently volunteering at the U.S.-Mexico border with other sisters last December and the 12 years she spent in Guatemala.

"There are no easy answers, but we need to look at root causes of immigration," she said, recalling that when she asked one father from Guatemala why he would make the arduous journey to the United States he told her: "Because my children are hungry."

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Dialogue with indigenous: Understanding that 'we are simple stewards'

IMAGE: CNS Photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- By convening a special synod on the Amazon at the Vatican in October, Pope Francis will be giving greater exposure to the church's deep concern for the people and the ecosystem on which they depend.

Like other synods with Pope Francis, the assembly is about listening and understanding the actual reality on the ground in order to find new paths for evangelization, meet people's pastoral needs, be a voice for the voiceless and promote greater respect and protection for all life, according to its working document released last month.

But this working document triggered fears in a few that it was somehow a call to changing church doctrine and to heresy -- an accusation made recently by German Cardinals Walter Brandmuller, retired president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, and Gerhard Muller, who served as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2012 to 2017.

The document "lacks theological reflection" and creates "great confusion" if it puts as the focus, not Jesus, but "human ideas to save the world," Cardinal Muller said July 11 in an interview with La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, an Italian Catholic online news site. He also critiqued the document in a more detailed 3,000-word essay published online July 16.

While the Jesuit journal, La Civilta Cattolica, published an article about the synod by Peruvian Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo, July 18, it was not a direct rebuttal of the German cardinal's doctrinal or theological concerns.

Emphasizing the importance of dialogue, Cardinal Barreto wrote the church believes that, "apart from any attitudes of suspicion," examining the "richness" in the Amazon region -- including its unique cultures, practices and spiritualities -- would help provide "a better understanding of a reality crying out" for attention.

One theologian from the Amazon region in Brazil said examining other cultures and what people believe and do is not a threat to the Catholic faith or doctrine, particularly when their practices help sustain and protect the so-called "lungs of the earth," as the Amazon rainforest produces about 20% of the earth's oxygen.

Jesuit Father Adelson Araujo dos Santos told Catholic News Service that being open to what indigenous cultures and spiritualities can teach about caring for "our common home" has "nothing to do with a return to paganism, nor does it deny the centrality of Christ and of humanity in the history of salvation."

"On the contrary, it helps us grow in our understanding that we are simple stewards of the gifts and resources that are not ours, but are works of God," he said in an email response to questions July 19.

Father dos Santos, a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University's Institute of Spirituality in Rome and at its center for teaching formators to the priesthood and religious life, also served as Jesuit regional superior of the Brazil-Amazon region.

"In their indispensable mission as evangelizers, Christians must be able to embrace, dialogue and respect these other religions and cultures, being enriched by them without losing their own identity," he said.

When St. John Paul II met with indigenous communities in Guatemala in 1983, he told them, "The work of evangelization does not destroy, but it is incarnated in your values," helping to grow that seed that was already sown "by the Word of God, who, before he became flesh in order to save all and to sum up all in himself, was already in the world."

Recognizing and preparing these seeds already sown has a kindred spirit in Ignatian spirituality that seeks to find God in all things.

St. Ignatius' spiritual exercises encourage contemplating the Incarnation as God's compassion and concern for "the situation of the human being," Father dos Santos said.

"God's compassionate eye does not see only what is bad in the world, it sees the possibility for transformation, growth toward the good," he said.

"From this perspective, all beliefs and cultures can be seen as having been touched by God in the Incarnation of his Son," he added.

While sacred Scripture and tradition make up the one sacred deposit of the Word of God, theology also teaches that the deepest most foundational layer that upholds the Christian identity lies not in texts or concepts, but "in the religious experience," Father dos Santos said.

"The great theologian, Pope Benedict XVI, said 'being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.'"

The triune God created humanity in his likeness, so that every person is "one, the same, but open to others and the world, including nature," Father dos Santos said.

That is why anything that "fractures this identity" or hinders a harmonious relationship with others, "hurts us profoundly."

Concerns about the environment and people's relationship with it are not calls to deny God or idolize nature, but rather are rooted in "the biblical prophesies warning against any disobedience to God's plan for the world he created," he said.

"This is the reason why dialogue with the religious views of the world's indigenous peoples, with their care and respect for other living things, help us restore, in our Christian faith and spirituality ... our identity as beings in relation with God, with others and with the world -- the place where we encounter Jesus Christ, the Lord of all creation and history," Father dos Santos said.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Planned Parenthood eschews federal funding to continue abortion referrals

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2019 / 12:31 am (CNA).- As a new regulation takes effect, barring Title X recipients from making abortion referrals, Planned Parenthood has reportedly decided to forego the federal funds in order to continue directing women to abortion.

“We are not going to comply with a regulation that would require health care providers to not give full information to their patients,” Jacqueline Ayers, the group's top lobbyist, said Tuesday as reported by ABC News.

The Trump administration announced July 15 that parts of the Protect Life Rule, which prohibits recipients of Title X family planning funds from referring or performing abortions, will go into effect immediately. Clinics that provide “nondirective counseling” about abortion may still receive funds.

Pro-life advocates have praised the regulations as a commonsense way to ensure enforcement of already-existing rules against taxpayer money being used for abortions.

“A strong majority of Americans have consistently voiced their opposition to taxpayer funding of abortion – it is even unpopular among Democrats and self-described pro-choice Americans,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List last week.

“Without reducing Title X funding by a dime, the Protect Life Rule simply draws a bright line between abortion and family planning, stopping abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood from treating Title X as their private slush fund.”

The Protect Life Rule will strip about $60 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood, whose clinics both refer for abortion services and are co-located with abortion facilities. Planned Parenthood presently receives about one-fifth of the total amount of Title X funds distributed and serves about 40 percent of all clients who benefit from Title X.

Title X does not pay for abortions, but recipients have in the past been able to refer patients for abortion.

The Department of Health and Human Services informed Title X fund recipients on July 15 that they will no longer be permitted to refer mothers for abortions, and must keep finances separate from facilities that provide abortions.

Planned Parenthood described the court’s decision as “devastating” and “crushing news,” though the organization remains eligible to receive $500 million in other federal funding.

As of March next year, abortion facilities will no longer be allowed to co-locate with clinics that receive Title X money.

HHS received $4.1 million in Title X funds in April to disburse to almost 70 service sites, many of which are Planned Parenthood affiliates, The Hill reports.

The rule is being challenged in federal court, but the administration says there is currently no legal obstacle to enforcing it, ABC News reports.

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations.

An independent family planning provider in Maine announced that it too would continue to refer for abortions and eschew federal funding.

Planned Parenthood’s president Dr. Leana Wen parted ways with the organization earlier this week, saying her employment had been ended due to “philosophical differences” with the board “over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood.”

Wen noted that when she was interviewed for the role of president, she asked the search committee whether they viewed the organization primarily as an advocacy organization “with medical services that are necessary to strengthen its impact” or as a health care organization “with advocacy as a necessary vehicle to protect rights and access.”

Wen said that she firmly believes Planned Parenthood to be fundamentally about health care, and has spent her eight months as president focusing on patient care and the promotion of reproductive rights as health care.

The board, however, wanted to move in a different direction, emphasizing abortion advocacy as their fundamental mission, she said.

Wen was appointed head of Planned Parenthood in September 2018, following the 12-year presidency of Cecile Richards. Political organizer Alexis McGill Johnson has been named as acting president.

 

Mexican bishop considers life sentence for 'El Chapo' to be just

Chilpancingo, Mexico, Jul 18, 2019 / 11:01 pm (CNA).- The bishop of one of Mexico's most violent areas has said that Wednesday's sentencing of drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera to life in prison plus 30 years is proper and prudent.

Guzmán, known as “El Chapo”, is a fomer head of the Sinaloa Cartel. He was sentenced July 17 by a judge in New York, after having been found guilty of 10 charges, including drug trafficking and money laundering.

“I believe there is justice by God and human justice,” Bishop Salvador Rangel Mendoza of Chilpancingo-Chilapa told ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency.

“I believe he was properly judged. I have more confidence in American laws than Mexican, and I believe that they judged it to be prudent to give him life in prison plus 30 years,” Bishop Rangel stated.

Guzmán's sentence “is the fruit of the criminal acts he committed, and in particular I believe this should help many other criminals to see that sooner or later they will have to face justice and the we all have to answer for the evil deeds we have done,” the bishop said.

“I believe it's a just sentence given to that man and especially so it's an example for everyone else.”

“Hopefully this will also rein in crime a bit here in Mexico,” he added.

Guzmán had been captured by Mexican authorities in 2014, but escaped from a maximum security prison in July 2015. He was re-captured in Junary 2016, and extradited to the US in 2017.

In addition to his prison sentence, Guzmán was also ordered to pay $12.6 billion in forfeiture.

The Department of Justice said that the drug trafficker's trial brought out the methods used by the Sinaloa Cartel to transport tons of drugs to the United States as well as the violence the organization  “relied on to maintain its power throughout the region and beyond.”

Mexico faces much violent crime, often related to drug trafficking. According to the Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice, 15 of the 50 most violent cities in the world during 2018 were in Mexico.

According to the Mexican daily El Universal, the first six months of 2019 have been the most violent on record in Mexico's history.

Bishop Rangel lamented that “the circumstances in Mexico are very tough. I believe what does the most harm is the corruption in the different levels of government, as well as in society itself, in business.”

“In the end, what's predominating is political and economic expediency, and I believe these criminal gangs will hardly go away as long as we don't get to the root of the problem: for example, the lack of opportunities in education and the economy,” he said.

For the Mexican prelate it is critical “to remake the social fabric, which has unraveled for us. And this, as we know, can only be achieved on the basis of principles and values.”

“We must shore up values within the family, the school, society, the Church. We must all aim at those values, because unfortunately we have generations lacking those values.”

After noting the violence with which organized crime tortures and murders it victims, Bishop Rangel stated that “we must teach them that we must love life, respect it, and care for it.”

Villanova historian says Chaput, Cordileone, and Strickland are ‘devout schismatics’

Denver, Colo., Jul 18, 2019 / 06:35 pm (CNA).- A Church historian at Philadelphia’s Villanova University has said three U.S. bishops are “devout schismatics” who try to diminish the authority of Pope Francis.

“They are devout in the sense that they publicly display their preference for a traditionalist Church and its devotions, such as the rosary. They are schismatics because they openly promote the undermining of the bishop of Rome among the Catholic faithful,” Massimo Faggioli wrote in a July 16 essay for La Croix magazine.

Faggioli made specific mention of three U.S. bishops among those he called “devout schismatics”: Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, and Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas.

The historian said the “schismatic instincts” of those bishops were manifested in August 2018, when they “sided with Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal nuncio to Washington who called on Francis to resign.”

Viganò released on Aug. 25, 2018 a “testimony,” which, among other things, accused Pope Francis of ignoring warnings about former cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual deviancy, and then raising McCarrick’s status within the Vatican.

After the testimony was released, Strickland issued a statement calling Viganò’s allegations “credible,” and Cordileone said he could confirm that some of Viganò’s statements were true.

Contrary to Faggioli’s claim, however, Chaput did not endorse Viganò’s allegations. A spokesman told reporters in August that Chaput “enjoyed working with Archbishop Viganò during his tenure as Apostolic Nuncio,” adding that Chaput found Viganò's time at the nunciature “to be marked by integrity to the Church.”

However, the spokesman said that Chaput could not comment “on Archbishop Viganò’s recent testimonial as it is beyond his personal experience.”

In July 19 comments to CNA, Faggioli said that he “did not state that the Archbishop called on Francis to resign or that he created a schism, only that he vouched for Viganò’s integrity. That seems like siding with Archbishop Viganò especially in the context of his continued silence about Viganò’s request for the resignation of the pope.”

Faggioli added that “Viganò put pressure on the pope to resign. One would expect a bishop - and especially an archbishop metropolitan who has twice received the pallium, a sign of special unity with Christ and of communion with the Successor of Peter - to defend the pope’s integrity and to say that no one has the right to ask the pope to resign.”

Shortly after Pope Francis was elected in 2013, Chaput told radio personality Hugh Hewitt that the election had made him “extraordinarily happy, because quite honestly, he is the man I was hoping would be Pope eight years ago.”

Two years later, Chaput hosted Pope Francis in Philadelphia for the 2015 World Meeting of Families. Reflecting in 2018 on that meeting, Chaput wrote that the pope’s “time with us was filled with powerful public moments and deeply grace filled intimate gatherings hallmarked by an overarching spirit of mercy, compassion, and charity.”

“[Pope Francis] has repeatedly challenged us to bear witness to Christ through concrete action—by serving the poor, by helping immigrants, by preserving families, and by protecting the sanctity of life. It’s the kind of challenge we can and should answer with a hearty yes each day,” Chaput added.

In his essay criticizing “devout schismatics,” Faggioli wrote that “dissent against this pope has become radicalized with schismatic instincts because this kind of political devotion is more about a partisan ideology than about the Church. Catholicism was exposed to ideological manipulation by those who do not really care for the Gospel, but who are more interested in a particular conservative political culture.”

Chaput, among those identified as a “devout schismatic,” has frequently emphasized his unwillingness to align with a political party, and criticized partisanship within the Church.

In 2016 he criticized Catholics, especially politicians, who accept “the transfer of our real loyalties and convictions from the old Church of our baptism to the new ‘Church’ of our ambitions and appetites,’ in order to achieve political or personal goals. he group of those who do so “cuts across...both major political parties,” Chaput said.

The Church's canon law defines schism, the charge Faggioli makes against the three bishops, as “the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

 

Ed. note: This story was updated July 19 to include comments e-mailed to CNA by Faggioli.

 

UK is 'hijacking' N Ireland on abortion, bishops say

Armagh, Northern Ireland, Jul 18, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- The bishops of Northern Ireland noted their alarm Wednesday at the British parliament's passage of a bill that will legalize abortion and same-sex marriage in the region, highlighting the value of human life and the importance of devolution.

The House of Lords approved the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill July 17. It had passed the House of Commons the week prior.

“With the thousands of others who have voiced their concern in recent days, we wish to express our alarm at the unprecedented way in which the Westminster Parliament has used the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill to rush through legislation which will have a devastating impact on the right to life of unborn children,” read a July 17 statement from the four bishops whose dioceses include territory in Northern Ireland.

“The equal right to life, and love, of a mother and her unborn child is so fundamental to the common good of every society that citizens deserve the fullest participation in the democratic debate about the legislation which governs it. This also applies to decisions regarding the nature of marriage.”

They noted that “what is happening in Westminster during these days recklessly undermines this fundamental right of citizens and the principle of devolution at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement. It should be a matter of grave alarm for every citizen in Northern Ireland and all who cherish the right to life as the most fundamental of all human rights.”

The bishops urged prime minister Theresa May and her government “to move to overturn this hijacking of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill for purposes for which it was never intended and to uphold the right of citizens in Northern Ireland, under the Good Friday Agreement, to decide these matters for themselves.”

They also asked that citizen in Northern Ireland “give expression to their commitment to the care of every mother and unborn child by asking their political representatives to ensure the equal right to life is upheld in our devolved legislation.”

The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill and its amendments legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage will take effect only if the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has been suspended the past two years due to a dispute between the two major governing parties, is not functional by Oct. 21.

The bill is meant to keep the region running in the absence of a functioning devolved government.

The House of Lords approved the amendment liberalizing abortion provision in Northern Ireland by a 182-37 vote.

May's government has said there will be an eight to twelve week consultation period to discuss how abortion provision is to be implemented.

The upper house also passed an amendment delaying the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland until January 13, 2020, allowing “the government and the Northern Ireland civil service more time to make necessary changes to legislation as well as the essential operational changes.”

Lord Tebbit said the bill had been introduced poorly and was “fatally flawed,” calling for devolution to be repealed and for Westminster to “take over in an honest manner.”

The bill returned to the Commons July 18, where an amendment was added meant to keep a new prime minister, due to be announced July 22, from suspending parliament to push through a no-deal Brexit.

Liz Parsons, advocacy director for Life Charity, told The Catholic Universe that “This Bill with its abortion amendments is a vicious slap in the face of the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives at Westminster. It represents a mad opportunistic rush by allies of the abortion lobby to exploit the current absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly to bully the people of Northern Ireland into accepting abortion.”

“We urge all parties in Northern Ireland to do the decent thing and resist this undermining of devolution by Westminster and return to the table before 21st October in order to stop these dangerous abortion amendments,” Parsons added.

Liam Gibson, a SPUC representatives in Northern Ireland, said, “it is outrageous that MPs and peers from England, Scotland and Wales cared so little for the rule of law that an overwhelming majority were prepared to disregard the right of the people of Northern Ireland to maintain legislation which has saved the lives of over 100,000 children since 1967.”

He stated: “By ramming abortion on demand down our throats Parliament has torn-up the devolution settlement and is treating Northern Ireland as a colony.”

Michael Robinson, another SPUC representative, commented that “Upon leaving office next week, Theresa May will only be remembered as the Prime Minister who undermined devolution in Northern Ireland and ushered in one of the most ruthless abortion regimes in the world. Anyone who values human life must urge the new Prime Minister to refuse to implement this inhuman and unconstitutional law.”

May said in the past that abortion should be a devolved issue for Northern Ireland.

Abortion and same-sex marriage are both legal in both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Elective abortion is legal in the rest of the United Kingdom up to 24 weeks, while currently it is legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother's life is at risk or if there is risk of permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health.

Bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.

Northern Irish women have been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.

The abortion amendment was introduced by Stella Creasy, a Labour MP who represents a London constituency. Earlier this year Creasy intended to propose an amendment to a draft Domestic Abuse Bill that would give the British parliament jurisdiction over abortion laws throughout the United Kingdom. However, the bill's scope was restricted to England and Wales by the Conservative government.

Creasy also introduced an amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018 to repeal Northern Irish law on abortion and gay marriage, which was defeated.

New study suggests link between autism and gender dysphoria

London, England, Jul 18, 2019 / 05:30 pm (CNA).- A new study suggests a link between autism, autistic traits, and identifying as transgender or non-binary, raising new questions about the growing use of so-called “gender transition” procedures as a treatment for gender dysphoria.

The study, which was released July 14 and will appear in the September issue of the academic journal European Psychiatry, was led by Dr. Steven Stagg of Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom. The study examined 177 people who identify as transgender, non-binary, or as the gender of their biological sex. 

A person who identifies as “non-binary,” which is also referred to as “genderqueer,” identifies as neither male nor female or on the male/female binary. A person who identifies as transgender identifies as the opposite sex than their biological sex. A transgender person may opt to undergo cross-sex hormonal or surgical treatments in order to better resemble the gender with which they identify.

Of the 177 people studied, four percent of those identifying their gender with their biological sex were diagnosed with autism. For the transgender or non-binary group, that figure rose to 14%. An additional 28% of the transgender or non-binary group exhibited traits that would result in an autism diagnosis, which the authors of the study say could mean that autism is potentially being underdiagnosed, particularly among girls.

Among the autistic traits identified by Stagg were a difficulty in empathizing, as well as “an overreliance on systematic, rule-based reasoning.”

"One of the striking findings was the number of individuals born female who met the cut off for autism spectrum disorder. This is particularly important given that individuals born female are twice as likely to be referred to gender identity clinics,” said Stagg. 

In England, girls make up 74% patients at the country’s only gender clinic for minors, Tavistock. In 2019, more than half the patients referred to Tavistock were under the age of 14. Data has shown that 2.8 girls are referred to Tavistock for every boy.

"People with autism are also more likely to seek unequivocal answers to the complex issues surrounding gender identity,” said Stagg. Given that the study also suggested that autism is underdiagnosed in girls, this could be contributed to the percentage of girls seeking gender reassignment.

The number of minor girls who have been referred to Tavistock has jumped from 32 in 2008-2009 to 1,740 in 2018-2019. In July, the UK government announced an inquiry into why so many young girls were seeking to change their gender. 

“The statistics we have been made aware of show that more and more young people, particularly girls, are using health services to explore changing their gender,” said Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Women & Equalities. 

“It is vitally important that we prioritize finding out why this is the case, making sure we gain an understanding of the driving factors behind this whilst doing everything we can to support these individuals and their families,” she said. 

Stagg suggested that gender clinics screen for autism before performing any sort of treatment, and then adapt their approach as necessary. 

While the Stagg study was small, it is not the first time that a link between autism and identifying as transgendered has been identified. A 2018 report from Slate noted that researchers began in the 1990s to study the co-occurence between gender dysphoria and autism spectrum disorder.

Slate reported a "growing consensus" in the medical community that there is a disproprortionate correlation between the two.

Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and the author of “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” told CNA that this study is further proof of how little understanding there is about the best means of treating cases of gender dysphoria.

"This is another in an ever-growing list of studies which reveal just how little we know about the underlying causes of gender dysphoria,” said Anderson. 

“It should prompt people to exercise great caution before making any life-altering medical interventions on the bodies of young people," he added.

In June, the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education released a document warning against the “radical separation between gender and sex, with the former having priority over the later,” and the damage it was doing to society and individuals. 

“In all such [gender] theories, from the most moderate to the most radical, there is agreement that one’s gender ends up being viewed as more important than being of male or female sex,” the document stated.

 

Religious persecution is a global problem, Pence and Pompeo tell Ministerial

Washington D.C., Jul 18, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Religious persecution is a concern for the entire global community, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a religious freedom gathering on Thursday.

“We’re gathered here, 106 nations strong, because we believe in the freedom of conscience—the right of all people to live out their lives according to their deeply held religious beliefs,” Vice President Pence told religious and civic leaders from around the world at the Second Annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C.

The Ministerial was hosted by the U.S. State Department from July 15-19. Religious and civic leaders from all over the world, as well as over 100 foreign delegations, gathered to bring attention to global religious persecution and discuss strategies to promote and defend religious freedom.

Survivors of religious persecution were present and shared their stories; these victims have endured prison sentences, mob violence and state-sanctioned terror,” Pence stated on Thursday, the last day of the Ministerial. For some others, they have been killed for their beliefs, he said.

Pence noted that “on a personal level, my faith in Jesus Christ has brought meaning and purpose to me and my family every day of my life.”

The Vice President was baptized Catholic, but said has said that while in college, his faith became “real” when he “made a personal decision for Christ”; in a 1994 interview he identified as an “Evangelical-Catholic,” began attending an Evangelical megachurch with his family and calls himself a “Christian.”

Also on Thursday morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered his keynote remarks at the Ministerial. He stated that “religious freedom isn’t just a Christian concern, a Jewish concern, a Muslim concern, a Buddhist concern, a Hindu concern, or a humanist concern. It’s all of our concern; it is everyone’s concern.”

In their remarks, Pompeo and Pence mentioned persecution of religious minorities in the Western Hemisphere in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, as well as anti-Semitism in Europe, genocide against Christians and Yezidis in Iraq and Syria, and the persecution of religious minorities in Iran, China, and North Korea, as well as the “ethnic cleansing” against Rohingya Muslims in Burma.

“In Nicaragua,” Pence said, the regime “condones thugs who repress and intimidate Catholic Church leaders for defending democracy and religious freedom.” Meanwhile, in Venezuela, “dictator Nicolas Maduro is using so-called ‘anti-hate’ laws to prosecute Catholic clergy who speak out against his brutal regime,” he added.

 Pence drew attention to the mass detention of more than one million Chinese Muslims and ethnic Uighurs in the Xinjiang province of China; they have endured brainwashing by Chinese authorities in what survivors have described as “a deliberate attempt by Beijing to strangle Uighur culture and stamp out the Muslim faith,” Pence said.

The Chinese Communist Party has targeted Uighur Muslims as well as Christians, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners in its brutal campaign of “sinicizaition” to forcibly bring religion under its control, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) stated in his remarks at the Ministerial on Wednesday.

“Under sinicization, all religions and believers must comport with and aggressively promote communist ideology—or else,” Smith said. The government has harassed, surveilled, detained and tortured believers, burning Bibles and crosses, destroying churches, and rewriting Bibles and religious texts, he said.

“Muslim-majority countries must protest these abuses even at the risk of endangering the benefits from China’s Belt and Road infrastructure projects,” Smith said.

Pence reaffirmed U.S. support for “people of faith in China” regardless of the outcome of U.S.-China trade negotiations. He also stated the administration’s support for religious freedom in North Korea while talks continue on the country’s denuclearization.

Certain countries actively suppressed or tried to intimidate attendees of the Ministerial, Pompeo said. Cuba prevented four Evangelical pastors from attending the Ministerial, and China tried to intimidate delegations from other countries into not attending.

“If you’re here today and you’re a country which has defied the Chinese pressure to come here, we salute you and we thank you,” Pompeo said.

The Secretary of State urged those in attendance to attend regional roundtables and conferences on religious freedom to be held in Albania, Columbia, Morocco, and the Vatican.

August 22 will be the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, as proclaimed by the UN General Assembly and “thanks to Poland’s efforts,” Pompeo said.

Both Secretary Pompeo and Vice President Pence announced funding for victims of religious persecution and actions the U.S. has taken to punish human rights abusers.

This week, the U.S. sanctioned four military officials in Burma, including two high-ranking leaders, and also placed additional sanctions on two leaders of Iranian-backed militias in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq, Pence said. Iranian-backed militias are harassing Christians in the Ninewa Plain as they return home from the ISIS genocide, and have posed some of the greatest security threats in the region to Christian minorities.

Meanwhile, the State Department “trained nearly 12,000 employees on how to identify religious discrimination and persecution and how to work closely with faith leaders all across the world,” Pompeo said. a 2016 law authored by Rep. Smith, the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, required training on international religious freedom for all foreign service officers.

In addition, the agency established an International Religious Freedom Fund for victims of persecution; the fund has helped with the medical bills of some of the survivors of the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, which targeted churches and hotels on the holiest weekend of the year for Christians, Pompeo said.

In addition, over $340 million in U.S. assistance has supported “vulnerable religious and ethnic communities in Iraq, particularly those that ISIS had targeted for genocide,” he said.

Faith is no trick up this magician's sleeve

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Giancarlo Bernini

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For Giancarlo Bernini, a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, things are not always as they appear and that's a good thing because it is how he plans to make a living.

The magician, who has done shows for colleges, corporate events and Catholic parishes and church-sponsored gatherings, recently got some nationwide exposure for his trade when he was featured on the season premiere of "Penn & Teller: Fool Us" on the CW network.

In the show, aspiring magicians try to impress the renowned magician duo Penn and Teller (Penn Jillette and Raymond Joseph Teller) with a trick, and if the two are unable to duplicate it, the guest magician wins a trip to Las Vegas to perform as an opening act in their show.

Bernini, who performed a time-travel trick on the television show, didn't completely hoodwink the pros, but the experience hardly made his imaginative spirit disappear. He said being on the show was a big moment in his life, along with watching the episode with family and friends. And a big highlight of the episode was that it also featured his longtime idol: David Copperfield.

In the show's opening, taped months before graduation, Bernini said he was a college student studying religious studies and he didn't see a conflict between his faith and magic "because illusions are all about discerning what's true and what's good."

He said the trick he chose for the show focused on time travel "the way that faith and reason kind of go together."

During college, he was doing a show or two a month and some magic on the street, and now he is devoting a lot of time to get more shows, which he admits might not seem the most stable career choice. But he said his parents have been supportive and are on board with him.

Bernini's first public magic act -- beyond performing for family members and friends -- was at a cancer clinic for children when he was 11. Years later he performed at a juvenile detention center as part of a Catholic retreat. He has since done a number of fundraisers and shows for young kids and adults.

"Little kids already believe in magic and want to be entertained," he said, "but adults are already skeptics, so it is fun to see the routines transforming them."

The magic bug bit him when he was in fifth grade and he dad showed him a card trick in his grandparents' backyard and more importantly, showed him how to do it.

"I showed it to everyone I know," Bernini told Catholic News Service in late May.

From the start, his motivation was to share something with others. He also loved the element of surprise and catching people off guard when they don't know what was going to happen. This effect doesn't happen magically though; it takes a lot of practice.

"For me, the most thrilling thing is seeing people experience something they haven't felt since they were kids," he said, which he describes as joy and wonder and something he feels has a big faith connection.

"Magic, like all forms of entertainment, are adventures to share the Gospel," he added.

Bernini also thinks that it doesn't matter what he did as a career, even if he were a doctor or a lawyer, he would view it as a ministry. "My magic shows are a ministry and to be good, I have to be the best I can," he said.

- - -

Editor's Note: For more information on Bernini, visit www.berninimagic.com.

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.