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After five decades, Pacem in terris is still relevant, Francis says

Vatican City, May 24, 2018 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking about St. Pope John XXIII’s encyclical on establishing universal peace, Pacem in terris, Pope Francis said that even 55 years after its publication, the document still stands as “a permanent commitment” to peace.

Even if the way war is carried out has changed since the time when the encyclical was written, and today there appears to be more violence and conflict than in the past, St. John XXIII’s reflections “remain valid,” he said.

In an interview published May 24 in “L’Eco di Bergamo,” a newspaper of the northern Italian town of Bergamo, Francis said he is concerned about the ways violence occurs, not only with weapons, but with “mechanisms of oppression.”

Imbalances linked to the “reckless exploitation of men and of the resources of nature” are a cause for concern today, he continued, underlining that peace cannot only “be linked to the absence of war,” but must involve the “integral development of people and populations.”

The job of the Church is not to “make governments change,” he said, but to bring the “logic of the Gospel into the thinking and gestures” of those who govern.

It must be understood that “the commitment for social groups and states is to live relationships of justice and solidarity that cannot be just words.” Instead, “every form of selfishness, individualism, group interest” must be overcome at all levels of society.

The pope granted the interview for the occasion of a visit of St. John XXIII’s remains to the Diocese of Bergamo.   

Exposed for veneration at an altar inside St. Peter’s Basilica, the saint’s body has returned to his home diocese May 24-June 10 to mark the 55th anniversary of his death and the publication of the encyclical Pacem in Terris.

This visit is “a gift and an occasion” for a new journey of faith, the pope said. Especially for the elderly, poor, and sick, or anyone else who may not be able to visit St. Peter’s Basilica to venerate the saint.

St. John XXIII, he said, was “a man, a saint who did not know a contrary word, who did not like words like crusades or proselytism and who instead always sought what unites, who trusted in God and in man in his image.”

The ‘Good Pope,’ Francis said, believed that the Church is called to serve all people, “not only Catholics,” and to “defend above all and everywhere the rights of the human person…aware that the pope must build bridges.”

St. John XXIII also invites people “to look at what really matters,” he said, noting how his predecessor would keep a crucifix hanging opposite his bed so that it was the first thing he would see when he woke in the mornings.

The saint knew that “Christianity is not an ideal to follow, a philosophy to adhere to or a moral to be applied,” but “an encounter with Jesus Christ that makes us recognize in the flesh of brothers and sisters his very presence,” Pope Francis stated, encouraging people to serve the poor and sick – anyone who cannot give anything in return.

The story of St. John XXIII is filled with examples of “these gestures of closeness” with people who suffered, whether they were Catholics, Orthodox, or Jews, he said.

In the interview Francis also spoke about the future of Christianity, stating that identifying Christianity with Western culture in an absolute fashion “no longer makes sense” and that the future of Christianity will be “more concretely Catholic, universal, fully ecclesial,” and respectful of other cultures – for example in Africa, Asia and Latin America – or else risk “irrelevance.”

Reform bill the ‘first step’ to restorative prison justice, advocates say

Washington D.C., May 24, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. House of Representatives has passed prison reform legislation that would integrate faith-based programs into federal prisons to help prisoners prepare to successfully reenter society.

The First Step Act was authored by Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and has the goal of incentivizing prisoner participation in vocational and rehabilitative programs. Lawmakers approved the bipartisan legislation by a 360-59 vote on May 22.

“I'm thrilled to see such bipartisan support for the First Step Act,” said James Ackerman, president of Prison Fellowship, the largest prison ministry in the United States.

“We have a duty as a society,” continued Ackerman, “to implement a more restorative approach to criminal justice -- one where people become healthier and more productive citizens when they return to society after serving time in prison then when they went into prison.”

The First Step Act calls for the implementation of individualized risk assessment interviews in federal prisons to better address each inmate’s personal needs, Prison Fellowship Vice President Craig DeRoche explained to CNA.

“For one person it, it might be addiction, for another it might be anger management and other issues to work through while they are incarcerated so that when they leave they are transformed and better suited for employability and success," said DeRoche.

This has proven successful at the state level in places like Texas, where it has “reduced expense and it has transformed lives in restored families and healing communities,” according to DeRoche.

Prison Fellowship operates in 428 prisons throughout the country. Their staff have seen many prisoners lives transformed by their faith-based programming.

Tiheba Williams-Bain previously served time in a federal prison in Texas. She explained to CNA that the skill-building and faith-based programming that she participated in positively impacted her life.

“I took advantage of every opportunity that was accorded to me while I was in prison to help me get better,” said Williams-Bain.

“It helped me navigate through the system, as well as my own self-doubt and insecurities that I had about myself,” she continued.

 Williams-Bain added that rehabilitation requires more than programs available, saying “it comes from the mindset of the person that utilizes the programs.”

Prison Fellowship Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Craig DeRoche said that it was only through Christ that he was able to recover from 29 years of addiction.

He said that is why he believes it is significant that the First Step Act “affirmatively states that faith-based programs will be welcomed into the prisons as a solution.”

“No person is beyond Christ's touch and healing grace and offer of redemption,” said DeRoche.

“It doesn't matter if it is a non-violent criminal or a low-level  or a violent criminal that has done horrible things, we've seen that Christ can make a person new again,” he continued.

The First Step Act will likely face opposition from both sides in the Senate, but it has President Donald Trump’s support.

At the White House Prison Reform Summit on May 18, President Trump said, “At the heart of our prison reform agenda is expanding prison work and the programs so that inmates can reenter society with the skills to get a job. We also want more mental health services so released inmates can cope with the challenges of life on the outside.”

The president continued, “Get a bill to my desk.  I will sign it.”

 

A Catholic mom made a big difference in her community – by speaking up

Denver, Colo., May 24, 2018 / 12:29 am (CNA).- Abriana Chilelli is a Catholic mother of four children who lives in Denver, Colo.

Every day on their daily route to school, she and her kids would drive by a strip club downtown that featured a parked van with pornographic images of two women.

While disturbed by the images, especially on behalf of her children, Chilelli initially believed she would not be able to do anything to change it.

“The van was parked on the club’s private parking lot, but was directly facing the street passing by. It infuriated me when I saw it, but we live in a city and society which I assumed would not be offended by the image,” Chilelli told CNA.

“So, I figured what could I possibly do on a city level to get it taken down?” she continued.

However, the images on the van continued to bother Chilelli. She tried distracting her kids every time they passed by the strip club, but eventually they noticed the overt poster of two women “engaged in an obviously sexual act.”

“I got mad – furious – that my children, residents of this city, have an offensive image directed at their eye level every day that advertises the objectification of women and uses women’s bodies to advertise pornography,” Chilelli said.

Motivated to make a change, she began to research city zoning codes and found a few that she believed the strip club might be violating. She called the police non-emergency line to file a report against the club, but the police officer told her that the poster was “not violating public indecency laws in regards to clothing.”

Chilelli did not stop there, however. She took her complaints to her city councilman, who then passed her along to another councilman. Eventually, she received a response saying that the issue was being investigated.

“I expected the councilman to echo what the police officer initially told me over the phone,” she said.

But a few weeks later, Chilelli received news that the city’s Community Planning and Development Zoning board “found the club’s billboard to be out of compliance with Denver Zoning Code,” and was issuing a formal notice to the strip club.

A few days later, the van with the pornographic images was gone.

Looking back on the experience, Chilelli reflected on the need for Catholics to speak up “to proclaim what is true, good and beautiful.”

“It’s important to speak up about issues like these…I often lament the immorality of our culture at large, which for me often ends in just that – lamenting,” Chilelli said, noting that to simply “wish away the problem…doesn’t actually help.” 

“I am quick to forget that I also exist in these public spaces – that my opinion and understanding about the truth of the body also exists in this public sphere we all exist together in, and that my rights as a citizen to not have to view offensive images should also be respected by our city, state, and federal codes and laws,” she continued.

Chilelli hopes that others will be encouraged by the idea that just one voice can promote change.

“[The experience] helped me realize that we can impact and affect change, despite how insurmountable the degradation of the culture seems,” she said. 

Chilelli added that this particular issue was especially important to speak out against because of the confusion fostered by a culture that believes the body is for sexual gratification, exploitation, and consumption.

“I want to encourage others to not passively accept the lies our culture tells us about our bodies, to not passively accept the lies our culture tries to teach our children about their bodies.”

She particularly called upon Catholics to share the truths of their faith, which she sees as a logical response to much of the world’s confusion.

“What I do think is important is that Catholics speak the language of the culture and do their best to identify areas where our culture is seeking truth, so we can speak the Gospel message to our very confused society, bringing light to what is so very dark about our culture’s understanding of the body and human sexuality.”
 
 
Editor’s note: Chilelli is related to CNA’s editor-in-chief, JD Flynn, who was not involved in the reporting or editing of this article.

 

 

Church in Peru launches collection to help Venezuelan refugees

Lima, Peru, May 23, 2018 / 11:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- The bishops of Peru have launched a campaign to collect funds to provide for the basic needs of Venezuelan refugees living in the country.

The Peruvian bishops’ conference announced the collection will take place June 3, during the day's scheduled Masses.

According to Caritas International, about four million people have left Venezuela due to the grave economic crisis marked by a major shortage of food and medicine under the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro, the president of the country since 2013. Maduro was re-elected May 20 in questionable elections.

Maduro is the hand-picked successor of socialist president Hugo Chavez.

The main destination of the millions of refugees is Colombia, along with other countries such as Peru, Chile, and Argentina.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies stated that the average Venezuelan lost about 24 pounds in 2017, in a population where almost 90 percent live below the poverty line.

The lack of medicine has caused an resurgence of diphtheria and an increase in measles and malaria, diseases that had almost been eradicated in Venezuela.

Cases of Malaria have skyrocketed while measles has claimed the lives of 26 children just in the Orinoco Delta area.

Venezuela closed 2017 with an inflation rate of 2,616 percent and a drop in Gross National Product of 15 percent. The International Monetary Fund forecasts inflation at 14,000 percent for 2018 which would be the highest index of inflation among emerging markets for this year and the next.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Your vote is the unborn child's voice, pro-lifers say in Irish abortion debate

Dublin, Ireland, May 23, 2018 / 11:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of Ireland’s abortion referendum on Friday, pro-life and pro-abortion rights debaters have squared off in a country where voters will be asked to remove constitutional protections for the unborn, known as the Eighth Amendment.

“What the government has proposed is an extreme law, stripping every right in the constitution for the unborn... taking away the right to life for the right to kill,” said Maria Steen, a speaker with the Iona Institute. “What the government is asking us to do is to become judge and jury over the lives of babies in the womb.”

The May 23 debate on Ireland TV3’s The Pat Kenney Show comes ahead of a May 25 referendum on whether to repeal the pro-life language in the Republic of Ireland’s constitution, which recognizes the equal right to life of mother and unborn child. The language dates back to a 1983 referendum passed with the support of 67 percent of Irish voters.

In the four-person debate, Ireland’s Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty of the Fine Gael party claimed that abortion opponents failed to provide abortion alternatives and “haven’t been willing to look or support anything in 35 years.”

Doherty, who describes herself as "pro-life" despite her support for the repeal, charged that keeping the amendment means ignoring women in crisis, reported the Irish news site BreakingNews.ie.

A “yes” vote would remove the constitution’s pro-life language, while a “no” vote would preserve it.

In a March 2018 case that some have compared to the Irish Roe v. Wade, the country’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously that unborn children have no other rights except those guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment.

If the repeal vote is successful, Irish lawmakers are expected to propose legislation allowing unlimited abortion up to three months into pregnancy, and up to six months into pregnancy in cases where there might be risk to a mother’s physical or mental health.

About 3,000 Irish women travel to the U.K. for abortions each year. The procedure is largely illegal in Northern Ireland as well.

At one point in the TV3 debate, Independent Senator Ronan Mullen rejected the claim that there is evidence that mental health is valid grounds for abortion. He also cited a woman who was considering traveling to the U.K. for abortion, but then reconsidered.

“This woman told me ‘the time it took me to arrange an abortion in England is the time it took for me to change my mind’,” he said.

Doherty contended that the 72-hour waiting period in the draft legislation provides a period for women to reconsider an abortion.

Another debater, Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty Ireland, said “the Eighth Amendment has not stopped abortion. It has stopped some abortions, but it has forced others to continue pregnancies.”

Steen summed up her argument against repeal: “Women who need their health looked after deserve better than an abortion. We think this is a step too far. We all think taking the rights of all unborn children is fundamentally unjust.”

A Tuesday night debate on the show RTÉ Prime Time was a two-person debate between Minister for Health Simon Harris of the Fine Gael party and Sinn Féin Member of Parliament Peadar Tóibín.

“Wanted, unwanted. There are not two classes of people--we are all one. The child is the weakest individual. She has no voice.” Tóibín said, according to BreakingNews.ie.

Harris charged that opponents of the referendum sought to force rape victims to carry their pregnancies to term.

For his part, Tóibín cited his experience working with rape victims in County Meath.

“Meath will have legalized abortion in Meath before it has a rape crisis center,” he said.

Tóibín charged that repeal would allow a general practitioner with only six months of psychiatric training to decide whether a woman may have abortion on mental health grounds. He charged that repeal would mean abortion on demand.

The repeal effort is backed by Ireland’s major political parties.

Overseas involvement has also been a matter of controversy.

Financier and philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and its pro-abortion rights grantees Amnesty Ireland, Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland, and the Irish Family Planning Association have run afoul of Irish political finance rules barring foreign funding of political campaigns.

Ireland is part of the foundations’ broader strategy against pro-life Catholic countries, according to a document reportedly hacked from the foundations and posted to the site DCLeaks.com.

“With one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, a win there could impact other strongly Catholic countries in Europe, such as Poland, and provide much needed proof that change is possible, even in highly conservative places,” said the foundations’ proposed 2016-2019 strategy for its Women’s Rights Program.

The internet giant Facebook has banned foreign-backed ads related to the Irish referendum, including small ad purchases from Irish-American pro-life advocates. Google has banned both foreign and domestic ads.

The latter move was seen as a blow to the Irish pro-life cause. The Save the 8th campaign's strategy relied on intensifying its internet ad campaign in its final weeks, Pat Leahy, politics editor of the Irish Times, said in a May 10 analysis.

The Irish Times suggested that companies have become afraid that if voters reject the referendum, they will face blame and further scrutiny for allegedly influencing elections.

Augustine Institute releases video series on the Eucharist

Denver, Colo., May 23, 2018 / 10:49 pm (CNA).- The wealth of the Catholic Church’s teachings and traditions can be challenging for many to understand, which is why the Augustine Institute has released a new video series focused on the Eucharist.

“Catholicism is so vast and deep, learning it can be overwhelming,” Dr. Tim Gray, president of the Augustine Institute, in an interview with CNA.

“But if there is one thing that we can teach Catholics, one thing that holds all our faith together and makes it stick for folks, that is understanding God’s presence in the Eucharist,” Gray continued, adding that “no other teaching can be so uplifting and tangible for people’s spirituality than this mystery, which is why the Church calls it the sum and summit of our faith.”

The Augustine Institute is a Denver-based graduate school and organization which aims to serve the Church through academic and parish programs in light of St. John Paul II’s call to the New Evangelization.

The video series, titled “Presence,” is available for purchase and was released by the Augustine Institute as part of their sacramental video series. It follows the succession of their previous video programs on marriage, baptism, and reconciliation.

“The next in line was the Eucharist,” Gray said.

“We did not want to start with the Eucharist because we knew it was the most important, so in a sense the other sacramental programs prepared us to approach this treatment of the Eucharist so that we could give it our best treatment,” Gray continued.

The series explores the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist through its institution at the Last Supper and its role in the Catholic faith. It is available in two editions – one for personal use and one for group use in parishes.

The personal edition includes three episodes and an explanation of the Mass for children. The parish edition is aimed at sacramental preparation and catechesis and also includes an apologetics section. The series also comes with leader kits and guides, as well as a personal participant guide.

Gray explained that each episode begins with a true story “that is both compelling and dramatic.” His personal favorite of the series are the beginning segments of episodes two and three, “which shows the incredible story of an amazing protestant minister and Jewish woman who encounter the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist.”

Gray went on to say that he hopes viewers will deepen their understanding of the Eucharist through the video series and be reawakened to the beauty of its mystery.

“The Mass and Eucharist is central to Christian life, but too often we assume that everyone understands this mystery when they don’t,” Gray noted.

“This series aims to help open eyes to understand the depth of mystery found in God’s amazing presence, but also rekindle a fire for those of us who believe but need to be reawakened to the tremendous gift we have in the Eucharist,” he continued.

“If Catholics understand this one thing, they will not leave the Church.”

Foreign bishops respond to German intercommunion proposal

Philadelphia, Pa., May 23, 2018 / 06:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several bishops from outside Germany have critiqued a proposal to allow Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive communion in German dioceses under some limited circumstances, citing the proposal’s effects on their own local Churches.

The proposal has been championed by Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, who announced in February that the German bishops’ conference would publish a pastoral handout that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics "in individual cases" and "under certain conditions" to receive Holy Communion, provided they "affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist”.

But the proposal was questioned by seven German bishops, who asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith whether the question can be decided on the level of a national bishops' conference, or if rather "a decision of the Universal Church" is required in the matter.

When several bishops from Germany visited Rome May 3, an inconclusive meeting ended with the Vatican sending the Germans back, saying Pope Francis wants the bishops to come to an agreement among themselves.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia was pointed in his criticism of the proposal in an essay published May 23 at First Things, raising doctrinal concerns regarding what it would mean to allow these non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist.

Chaput explains that while bishops everywhere have disagreements, he believes the situation in Germany to be different due to both the “global prominence of the controversy,” as well as the doctrinal issues. He added that “What happens in Germany will not stay in Germany. History has already taught us that lesson once,” citing the effects of Martin Luther’s schism.

“The essence of the German intercommunion proposal is that there would be a sharing in holy communion even when there is not true Church unity,” writes Chaput, noting that there are serious difference between Protestant theology and Catholic theology, including debate over the divinity of Christ among some more liberal Protestants.

Chaput disagrees with the proposal, as it would fundamentally redefine what the Church is as well as who she is, given that the Eucharist “is the sign and instrument of ecclesial unity.”

The German proposal would, “intentionally or not”, then, be “the first stage in opening communion to all Protestants, or all baptized persons, since marriage ultimately provides no unique reason to allow communion for non-Catholics.”

Admitting Protestant spouses of Catholics to Communion would "adopt a Protestant notion of ecclesial identity" for the Catholic Church, in which only baptism and a belief in Christ would be necessary to receive. Chaput questions if the Protestant spouse would have to also profess belief in other sacraments, such as holy orders. If this were not the case, Chaput suggests that perhaps the German bishops do not believe this sacrament relies on apostolic succession, which would be a “much deeper error.”

The proposal also “severs the vital link between communion and sacramental confession,” he stated.

“Presumably it does not imply that Protestant spouses must go to confession for serious sins as a prelude to communion. But this stands in contradiction to the perennial practice and express dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church, the Council of Trent, and the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the ordinary magisterium. It implies, in its effect, a Protestantization of the Catholic theology of the sacraments.”

Chaput writes that the intercommunion practice would do nothing more than insert a lie into what should be a profound encounter with Christ.

“To insert a falsehood into the most solemn moment of one’s encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist -- to say by one’s actions,’I am in communion with this community’ when one is demonstrably not in communion with that community -- is a lie, and thus a serious offense before God.”

Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht was critical of the pope’s request that the German bishops come to a consensus. Writing in the National Catholic Register May 5, Eijk said Pope Francis’ response was “completely incomprehensible,” as the doctrine of the Eucharist has not changed and cannot change, even with unanimity among a bishops’ conference.

“The practice of the Catholic Church, based on her faith, is not determined and does not change statistically when a majority of an episcopal conference votes in favor of it, not even if unanimously,” wrote Eijk.

Instead, Eijk says that he thinks Pope Francis should have been more direct to the German episcopal conference, and should have instead given them “clear directives, based on the clear doctrine and practice of the Church.”

Eijk’s comments were echoed by Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, who said May 23 at the Catholic Register it was “puzzling” that Pope Francis instructed Germany’s bishops to come to a unanimous decision on the issue.

“This kind of open communion is against Catholic teaching and from what I can see in non-Catholic congregations that follow a discipline of ‘open communion,’ it is also spiritually and pastorally unfruitful,” said Prendergast.

He noted that people in his local Church have already been asking about the German proposal.

Prendergast believes there should be more teaching on the benefit of attending Mass without receiving the Eucharist, as well as what it means “to be properly disposed and in the state of grace.”

“We need to invest more in receiving the sacraments worthily and fruitfully. This is true for the Eucharist, but also for Baptism and Confirmation,” Prendergast added.

“In Holy Communion we receive the Lord, and so, to receiving worthily, we need to be fully open to Him and connected to His Church, visibly and invisibly, institutionally and internally. That and nothing less is Catholic teaching.”

As a fellow Jesuit, Archbishop Prendergast also spoke to Pope Francis, thanking him “for reminding us that accompanying people through their lives, especially in dark times, is essential for being a priest.”

“We Jesuits always have to remember that most Catholics are not Jesuits — a fact we tend to overlook sometimes,” he added. “Our spirituality is not for everyone … For me, becoming a bishop was a real change, for then I had to recognize the whole spectrum of theologies, spiritualities, ministries and charisms present in the diocese entrusted to me. Through this I came to realize what a great gift doctrine is for the Church, enabling it to be one, holy, and catholic.”

The Code of Canon Law already provides that in the danger of death or if “some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

‘The most welcoming place’ - How the Church can reach out to the LGBT community

Vatican City, May 23, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Daniel Mattson is accustomed to talking about same-sex attraction.

He’s written a book on the subject, and he speaks to audiences often about his experience as a Catholic striving to follow the Church’s teaching about chastity. In a recent interview with CNA, Mattson offered some lessons the Church can learn about engagement with the LGBT community.

The first of these, he told CNA May 23, is having "the confidence that what the Church has is truly good news for the LGBT community.”

“That is what is lacking, and I just wish that we would not be afraid of it,” he said, encouraging Catholics to be open in talking about Church teaching.

The goal is not to proselytize, he said but to explain the truth and beauty of Church teaching on the issue - “not what you think it is, but what it really is,” he said.

Mattson mentioned the Gospel scene when in Jesus stops the execution by stoning of a woman caught in adultery.

“We cannot be more compassionate than Jesus,” he said, explaining that he often identifies with the woman in the story, who, though broken, meets Jesus and is invited to something more for her life.

The Church, Mattson said, must have “that welcoming message of Christ that says 'I do not have any condemnation for you, but go and sin no more.'” And part of sinning no more, he said, is an invitation “to a richer life.”

“I want to get the Church excited to talk about this,” Mattson said.

Mattson is the author of the 2017 book “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” which describes his experience with same-sex attraction and his decision to live according to Catholic moral teaching.

Visiting Rome for the launch of the Italian-language version of his book, Mattson gave a speech May 23 at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, during which he offered his testimony, sharing that he was raised in a Christian family, his experiences being bullied as a child, and the experience of sexual confusion during his childhood and teenage years.

He also spoke about an addiction to pornography and an anger towards God over his same-sex feelings, prompting him to leave his faith later in life, and live out his same-sex desires in partnerships. Mattson said doing so only made him feel unhappy and lonely, and said it wasn't until he turned to the Church that he found true fulfillment, by living out her teachings.

In his comments to CNA after, Mattson said personal witness is the key to reaching out to people experiencing same-sex attraction.

In this sense, he said, the Church needs to give more visibility to the people with same-sex attraction who have opted to live celibate lives. He pointed to Courage International, an organization that counsels individuals with same-sex attraction who chose to live according to Church teaching.

“We're just sitting over here quietly abiding by every word of the Catholic Church and finding it to be the recipe for happiness, and we don't get much attention,” Mattson said.

The people who have tried living the LGBT lifestyle and “found it empty,” he said, “want to share what we found with the LGBT community and invite them into the full community of the family of God.”

Mattson said that while he has been called “crazy” or “internally homophobic” for speaking out, “I just have to laugh that off.”

Mattson said those who describe Catholicism as “homophobic” usually imply that the Church is somehow a “hateful place” with no room for people with same-sex attraction.

However, “the opposite is exactly the case for me. I have never felt more welcomed in my life than in the arms of Holy Mother Church.”

“It's the most welcoming place,” he said, “and it's sad if people want to use the language of the world to say that, to use that word and say that the Church doesn't have a place or that it isn't welcoming. For me, it's been the exact opposite.”

When asked by a priest in the audience how pastors ought to react to people who come to them and confide having same-sex attraction and feelings, Mattson stressed the importance of creating “an environment that is safe,” since many of these people already carry many wounds.

The fact that a person feels they can open up to begin with is a positive sign, he said, explaining that most people with same-sex attraction are afraid that “they will be treated with disgust” if they open up about it, so knowing they have a safe space to talk is key.

Mattson also mentioned Pope Francis, telling CNA Pope Francis has been clear about the Church's teaching, and explaining his belief that Francis' message is often manipulated by the media “to serve their own agenda.”

Mattson said he always remembers the pope's comments on his flight back from Rio de Janeiro in 2013 when he said that he is “a son of the Church.”

“If you really look at what he's said, he's been very clear about same-sex marriage over the years, he's been very clear that chastity is an important virtue,” he added.

“He's said he's a son of the Church and I'm confident in that,” Mattson said, and voiced his hope that one day he would be able to meet the pope and tell him “how the Church has been a mother to me and has guided me to happiness and freedom.”

Mattson also expressed support for the view that sexuality doesn't define a person's life, and stressed that using labels such as “gay” or “straight” reduce a person to their sexuality, since in the end everyone is ultimately a child of God.

“The truth is that my sexual identity is (that of) a man, just like Adam, just like Abraham, David, just like every other man that has walked the face of the earth, I'm not a different sort of sexual person than they were,” he told journalists.

“The Church's teaching is that you are identified as a beloved son of God, that has been the experience for me.”

 

China may lift its two-child policy - here's what that could mean  

Beijing, China, May 23, 2018 / 04:29 pm (CNA).- Amid reports that China may be considering putting an end to its two-child policy, experts are questioning the extent of a possible law change, and the effects it would have.

According to Bloomberg, the Chinese government had commissioned research on the childbirth restrictions in the country, and on the potential effects of lifting them. An announcement on the removal of the policy could come by the end of the year, or next year, the outlet reported, citing anonymous sources.

Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, said that removing the policy “would be a momentous victory for human rights and a vindication of the application of international pressure as a strategy to affect change within that totalitarian regime.” 

“But I am holding off on this celebration,” she told CNA, noting that “the Chinese government just commissioned a study. It has not yet enacted the new law.”

She also voiced concern that birth penalties may still be enacted for pregnant women who are not married.

“In some places, an unmarried woman who is pregnant may be forced to pay a ‘social compensation fee’ of up to 10 times her annual salary,” Littlejohn said. “If she cannot pay the fine, she may be required to abort.” 

Littlejohn has spent the last decade fighting against forced abortion, gendercide, and sex slavery in China. She and other human rights activists have documented abuses committed against women in China who become pregnant without permission from the state. In some cases, these women are forcibly removed from their homes and strapped to a table in a forced abortion procedure, and are sometimes forcibly sterilized as well.

China’s one-child policy was initially mandated in the 1970s in an effort to limit the country’s population growth. Recent numbers, however, show an aging demographic that could pose serious fiscal problems for the country’s future. Around 25 percent of the population is expected to be at least 60 years old by 2030, nearly double the percentage of that age in 2010.

The one-child policy was amended in 2013, permitting couples to have a second child if either of them were an only child themselves. In 2015, it was amended again, allowing all couples to have a second child.

Despite these changes, however, birth rates in the country have remained low, falling 3.5 percent last year, according to the Bureau of National Statistics.

After four decades of restrictive birth limits and national messaging aimed at convincing Chinese parents that one child is best, some experts wonder whether removing the policy will result in higher birth rates.

Huang Wenzheng, a senior researcher at the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization, suggested that the change in policy will likely have little effect on the birthrate in the country. According to Bloomberg, he cited the relatively low numbers of women of childbearing age in China and a low desire to have multiple children.

Littlejohn warned that the “devastating legacy” of the one-child policy will remain even if the restrictions are lifted. Babies born now will not enter the workforce for decades, she noted, meaning that the shortage of workers will not be alleviated for years.

Another consequence of the policy has been couples resorting to abortion or infanticide if they discover their child is a girl. A strong male-preference exists in China, as boys can keep the family name and run the family business or farm.

Consequently, China has faced a serious imbalance in their gender ratio, with over 30 million more males living in China than females.

“Tens of millions of men will never marry because their future wives were selectively eliminated,” Littlejohn said.

The country has also seen a steep rise in senior suicide, with the suicide rate for the over-65 age group four to five times higher than the general population, according to a study in the American journal Aging and Disease.

Littlejohn has attributed the high suicide rate in part to the lack of family support for the aging population, due to the one-child policy. She told CNA earlier this year that she had once encountered an elderly woman in China who told her that “some days she only ate salt and she had bought a rope to hang herself with when life got too tough.”
 

 

Bigotry and politics: what this British MP said about faith in the public square

London, England, May 23, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Conservative Party member of the British parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg is in the spotlight this week for recent comments he made regarding anti-religious bigotry in the public square.

Rees-Mogg, a Catholic, said that as an MP he will not shy away from his religiously-informed views on abortion and same-sex marriage.

“I believe that life begins at the point of conception, that has always been the policy of the Catholic Church,” Rees-Mogg said in a May 22 interview on BBC’s Daily Politics program with host Jo Coburn.

“I think it is a deep, deep sadness that there are 190,000 abortions in this country in a year,” he continued, saying abortion was “one of the great tragedies of the modern world.”

During the interview, Rees-Mogg also spoke to his views on gay marriage, saying “the sacrament of marriage is one that’s defined by the church and not by the state – and that the sacrament of marriage is one that is available to a man and a woman.”

While Rees-Mogg noted the law in the UK is “not going to change,” he nevertheless expressed opposition to both same-sex marriage and abortion within the nation, since it remains in opposition with “the teaching of the Catholic church, which I accept.”

“The law is not going to change. The issue is actually about what society thinks,” he said, adding that “it would be a wonderful thing if society came to a different view on abortion.”

While some have called the MP’s stance hardline on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, Rees-Mogg went on to note a level of hypocrisy in the apparent pursuit of tolerance within culture and politics. He asked the host why she was picking “on the views of the Catholic Church and say they have no place in modern politics?”

“You’re saying that tolerance only goes so far and that you should not be tolerant of the teaching of the Catholic Church – so isn’t this stretching into religious bigotry?” he asked.

“The act of tolerance is to tolerate things you do not agree with, not just ones you do agree with, and the problem with liberal tolerance is it has got to the point of only tolerating what it likes,” he continued.

The upcoming abortion referendum vote in Ireland was also a topic of discussion during the interview. Rees-Mogg, who acts as the Conservative MP for North East Somerset, said that it was “terrifying” that hundreds of thousands of on-demand abortions were performed in the UK annually, while Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson called his view “extreme.”

However, Rees-Mogg said that he will “make no bones about the fact that I’m a practicing Catholic and I believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Rees-Mogg, who was a “Brexiteer” and is a serious contender for the Conservative Party leader position, has often come under fire in the media for his Catholic views in politics.

Last autumn, he was questioned repeatedly by Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on the television show Good Morning Britain for his views on abortion and same-sex marriage.

“It is all very well to say we live in a multicultural country, until you’re a Christian, until you hold the traditional views of the Catholic Church,” Rees-Mogg said.

“And that seems to be fundamentally wrong.”