Posted on 08/20/2017 23:48 PM (CNA Daily News)
Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 20, 2017 / 03:48 pm (National Catholic Register).- What children read, what they see on the screen, can inspire them toward greater faithfulness. Conversely, Father Robert warns, it can lead them into the sordid world of the occult, even opening them to demonic possession.
Father Robert is not exaggerating. A priest for more than 10 years and an experienced exorcist, he knows firsthand the unintended consequences when children or adults open the door to demonic activity. “Oftentimes,” he says, “[demon possession] begins because kids get curious after reading Harry Potter.” He explains that kids want the unusual powers that they see depicted on the screen.
One former Satanist whom Father Robert knew personally, a man who has turned away from his past life and embraced the Catholic faith, had begun his descent into Satanism at the age of nine or 10, when he began playing a game called “Bloody Mary.” From that simple beginning, he gradually became involved with others who were Satanists.
An important part of Father Robert's ministry is training other priests at the Vatican's official Exorcism Institute in America. From across the country and around the world, Catholic priests come to the Institute to learn the secrets of this ancient rite, so that they too can exorcize demons and evil spirits. The nature of the work that Father Robert and the Institute are involved in is so hazardous that he has requested that the National Catholic Register not publish his full name or reveal his location.
A Decidedly “Catholic” Horror Film
I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Father Robert at a recent media preview of New Line Cinema's latest horror production, “Annabelle: Creation,” which opens nationwide on August 11. Directed by David F. Sandberg (director of the short film “Lights Out”), “Annabelle: Creation” is actually a prequel to the highly successful 2014 release of “Annabelle” – which is itself a prequel to the 2013 cult favorite “The Conjuring” and the more recent “Conjuring 2” (2016). Father Robert had seen them all, and he agreed that “Annabelle: Creation” was largely faithful to the Catholic Church's teachings with regard to possession and exorcism.
By Invitation Only: Satan Only Goes Where He Is Invited
Father Robert explained that the devil will only go where he is invited. He talked of two cases he knew of personally in which two young women, not realizing the gravity of their request, had invited “any spiritual being” to help them. The consequence was that they exhibited symptoms of demon possession and required an exorcism.
The writers of the film, Father Robert noted, had done their homework – they understood that the demon could only enter the home of dollmaker Samuel Mullins and his wife Esther if it was invited. In “Annabelle: Creation,” Esther and Samuel Mullins are mourning the loss of their beloved daughter Bee. Miranda Otto, who portrays the mother Esther in the film, explained,
Like most parents, they are devastated. But unlike most, they decided that they would do anything to have her back...absolutely anything at all. Basically, they prayed, calling out to any kind of power that would allow them to see her or feel her presence in any way. But by doing so, they evoked certain spirits that are not the kind you would welcome into your home.
Twelve years after the tragic accident, the grieving parents seek comfort by opening their home to Sister Charlotte and several girls from an orphanage that has been closed. When one of the girls peers into the closet and sees the possessed doll, Annabelle, the doll sets her sights on the girls and unleashes a storm of terror.
A Few Inaccuracies
Father Robert and I agreed that “Annabelle: Creation” was, for the most part, faithful to the Catholic understanding of exorcism. There were, however, a few scenes which caused us both to raise an eyebrow:
A Sister heard confession? – Most particularly, there was a scene in which Sister Charlotte, played by the talented Stephanie Sigman, listens to the confession of one of her young charges. Granted, there were differences from a regular confession: The Sister and the young girl sat back-to-back, not in a confessional. But the concept of confession was renewed when Sister Charlotte said, “Well, for your penance....” Particularly during the time period of the film, Father Robert considered it highly unlikely that a Sister would ever put herself in the position of appearing to perform a sacramental function that requires a priest.
Sister Charlotte wore a contemporary religious habit. – Based upon the clothing styles, classic automobiles, and the Victorian farmhouse, it would seem that “Annabelle: Creation” is set in the early 20th century. However, Sister Charlotte wears what appears a contemporary religious habit – with a knee-length skirt and a simple headpiece which exposed her hair. When I asked director David Sandberg and actress Stephanie Sigman (Sister Charlotte) about that during our interview, both seemed surprised, explaining that they had looked at photos of nuns in different habits and had chosen a simple costume which would make it easier to act the role.
Disposal of the possessed object – In “Annabelle: Creation,” two priests come to the home to bless the doll Annabelle and to sprinkle it with holy water before it is sealed away in a Scripture-lined closet. Good as far as it goes, Father Robert thought, but he was adamant that an exorcist would never leave the possessed object there intact, to be found by someone in the future. “You would take the curse off the object,” he explained. “You could burn it or take it apart; but it would be decommissioned somehow.”
As an example of a possessed object, Father Robert described a crucifix that hangs in his office which was burned from the bottom during an exorcism, the fire consuming the corpus and leaving only the arms of the crucified Christ. “It had a plastic corpus on it,” he explained. “The cross itself was blessed. It was put in the room with a woman who practiced Brujería witchcraft in Mexico. In the middle of the night, the cross caught fire. I decommissioned it. I would never permit anyone else to get near it, because it could be used in the future for something wrong.”
The scarecrow scene, and the Tasmanian devil – A scene in which a scarecrow was possessed by the evil spirit and moved from its original position seemed unlikely, according to Father Robert. Similarly, he was unconvinced when the demon began to grow and assumed a physical likeness of what he called a “Tasmanian devil.”
Only by invitation! – In one scene, a child becomes possessed when she finds herself in the presence of a demon that manifests itself as a little girl. Father Robert rejected the idea that an evil spirit could inhabit the body of a child who happened to be in its presence – since, as he explained earlier, an evil spirit will only enter a person if he is invited.
Five Signs of Possession
Father Robert listed five signs which may indicate that a person is suffering spiritual attack:
1.Hidden knowledge. If a person has knowledge which he or she should not have, such as private information which is known by only a few people, that may signal demonic possession.
2.Languages. A possessed person may be able to speak in an unfamiliar language which he or she would not normally know.
3.Superhuman strength. Father Robert reported one case in which a young girl who was 5'4” tall and weighed perhaps 110 pounds was able to throw a number of big guys off of her, preventing them from holding her down during the exorcism ritual.
4.Extreme aversion to the sacred. A person who is possessed may be unable to look at a crucifix, or to touch a rosary which has been blessed. Father Robert knew of one woman who couldn't be in the presence of a cross of St. Benedict, or to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
5.Levitation. Father Robert had personal knowledge of a case in Louisiana, in which a person was seated in a chair and, powered by the evil spirit, was able to levitate with the chair and proceed down the hall.
“Annabelle: Creation” opened in theaters across America on August 11. Despite the small inconsistencies which Father Robert noticed, the film is respectful of faith. The film does an effective job of building tension, and there are repeated “frights”; but it is not really gory and depends on spiritual and psychological effects rather than blood. It's likely to enjoy wide distribution among fans of the horror genre. Rated “R”, it seems unsuitable for small children; but others can attend, confident that their faith will not be challenged.
This article was originally published at the National Catholic Register.
Posted on 08/20/2017 16:22 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Aug 20, 2017 / 08:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis prayed for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Spain, Burkina Faso and Finland, asking the Lord to bring peace and to end the violence of terrorism around the world.
After praying the Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis led the 10,000 people present in St. Peter’s Square in a moment of silence and in a 'Hail Mary' for those killed or wounded in the most recent terrorist attacks.
“In our hearts we bear the pain of the terrorist acts that in recent days have caused many victims in Burkina Faso, Spain and Finland,” he said Aug. 20.
“Let us pray for all the dead, for the wounded and for their relatives; and we plead for the Lord, God of mercy and peace, to free the world from this inhuman violence. Let us pray together in silence and, afterwards, to Our Lady.”
The night of Aug. 13 gunmen opened fire in a Turkish restaurant in Ouagadougou, the capital of the West African nation of Burkina Faso, killing at least 18 people and taking hostages before police ended the standoff early Monday morning.
On Thursday of that week, at least 13 people were killed and more than 100 injured in Barcelona Aug. 17 after a van sped into a crowd of people in the Las Ramblas tourist area.
Then, on Aug. 18, a stabbing in Turku in Finland left two people dead and injured eight others. Originally considered to be a murder, it is now being treated as an act of terror, according to police.
Before the Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel reading about the Canaanite woman who begs Jesus to heal her demon-tormented daughter.
At first, the Lord does not seem to hear her cry of pain, the Pope pointed out. But she does not let this discourage her.
"The inner strength of this woman, which allows her to overcome every obstacle, is found in her maternal love and in the confidence that Jesus can fulfill her request. And this makes me think of the strength of women,” he said.
We have all known many strong women, he continued, who with their fortitude have achieved great things. “We can say that it is love that moves faith and faith, on its part, becomes the reward of love.”
Francis explained how it is the woman's great love for her suffering daughter that leads her to persevere in her request for the Lord's healing, shouting: "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!"
"This evangelical episode helps us understand that we all need to grow in faith and strengthen our trust in Jesus,” Francis said. “He can help us find the way when we have lost the compass of our journey; when the road does not look flat, but hard and difficult; when it is difficult to be faithful to our commitments.”
“It is important to daily feed our faith, listening attentively to the Word of God, with the celebration of the Sacraments, with personal prayer as a 'crying' towards Him – 'Lord, help me!' – and with concrete attitudes of charity towards our neighbor,” he said.
In the Gospel, the woman’s perseverance and act of faith lead Jesus to heal her daughter. “This humble woman,” the Pope said, “is pointed at by Jesus as an example of unshakeable faith.”
"Her insistence on invoking the intervention of Christ is for us a stimulus to not discourage us, not to despair when we are oppressed by the hard tests of life.” The Lord does not turn away from us when we present our needs. If sometimes he seems insensitive to our demands for help, it is only to test and strengthen our faith.
And when this happens “we must continue to shout like this woman: 'Lord, help me! Lord, help me!' Thus, with perseverance and courage,” he said. “And this is the courage needed in prayer.”
"Let us trust in the Holy Spirit," Pope Francis concluded, "so that He will help us to persevere in the faith.”
“The Spirit infuses courage into the hearts of believers; he gives our life and our Christian witness the power of conviction and persuasion; he encourages us to overcome disbelief towards God and indifference to our brothers."
Posted on 08/20/2017 11:02 AM (CNA Daily News)
Wau, South Sudan, Aug 20, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the civil war in South Sudan heightens, millions are fleeing their homes for safer ground, which many have found at St. Mary Help of Christian's Cathedral in Wau, the country's second largest city.
“Those who flee believe that even rebels still fear God and would not slaughter civilians in the backyard of a church,” said Fr. Moses Peter, a priest at St. Mary's, according to IRIN News.
“Many other churches have also taken in hundreds of people,” he said.
South Sudan has been in the middle of a brutal civil war for the past three-and-a-half years, which has divided the young country between those loyal to its President Salva Kiir and those loyal to former vice president Reik Machar. The conflict has also bred various divisions of militia and opposition groups.
Since the beginning of the war, around 4 million citizens have left the violence-stricken country, in hopes of finding peace, food and work. This week, neighboring Uganda received the one-millionth South Sudanese refugee, highlighting the crisis as the world's fastest growing refugee epidemic.
For those who have not fled the nation, many internally displaced persons (IDPs) are seeking refuge in churches – including St. Mary's Cathedral, which is the country's largest church and is located Wau. Over 10,000 people now seek shelter there.
The city of Wau, in the northern part of the country, had gone years without being touched by the brutality of the war, which originally drew IDPs to the area. But that changed this spring, when the conflict widened its reach to the area.
Among the IDPs are usually women, children and those who have lost most of their families in the war. Many are too fearful to stay in their homes because they know they could be killed, tortured, raped or even forced into fighting.
“Soldiers burned our houses, took our cattle, and almost murdered my whole village,” said Maria, a disabled, elderly woman who has been living at St. Marys for the past year.
“I don't know why I was spared, but I was left alone and helpless,” Maria said.
A blind man named Juda, who is also staying at St. Mary’s, said that he “has nothing to return to, so I will wait here in the church.”
While the 61-year-old church welcomes those seeking refuge, it is running low on food supplies. It has been four months since the last food distribution from the World Food Programme.
Local bishops have also called for food aid and peace negotiations in the country, voicing their frustrations that their pleas have not been heard.
“Those who have the ability to make changes for the good of our people have not taken heed of our previous pastoral messages,” stated a Fed. 23 message from the South Sudanese bishops.
Despite successful partnerships between the local church, aid agencies and government, the refugees are still in need of a proper supply of food. However, the church has made recent upgrades, including water pumps, toilets, classrooms, and health offices, which were set up by international aid agencies.
While St. Mary's may feel like a safe haven for many, the war rages on only 20 miles from the city. Local relief workers have faced various threats, and security at the church consists of only one guard.
“Between hunger and insecurity, people face a lot of pressure here,” Fr. Peter said.
One local businessman, Hasan, said that the famine in the country is not due to food shortage, but rather a result of corruption, inflation and lootings.
“There could be enough for all,” he told IRIN, saying, “if people had money, food would be available to them.”
The refugee crisis will persist as long as the bloodshed and violence in the country continues. However, international peacemaking efforts have stalled and neither side of the conflict have made advances towards a truce.
“I am not confident about peace,” said Juda, the blind man at St. Mary's. “If it doesn’t come, I don’t know if I’ll ever have a place to call home again besides this church.”
Posted on 08/20/2017 00:04 AM (CNA Daily News)
Nairobi, Kenya, Aug 19, 2017 / 04:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With violent protests and several deaths in the wake of Kenya's Aug. 8 presidential election, the nation's bishops have lamented the violence and called for respect for the democratic process.
The re-election of Uhuru Kenyatta was announced Aug. 11, and international observers called the vote free and fair. Kenyatta's challenger, Raila Odinga, claims the election was rigged.
At least 24 persons have been killed during violent protests in the wake of the vote, according to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. Anti-riot police shot protesters, and some children are reported to have been struck and killed by stray bullets.
“Dear Kenyans, to lose even one life because of elections is abominable,” the Kenyan bishops wrote in their Aug. 17 statement signed by Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homa Bay, chairman of the bishops' conference.
“To injure and maim anybody is unacceptable. This must never be allowed in any civilized society like Kenya.”
The bishops castigated the riot police who confronted protesters, saying their actions resulted in “painful loss of life, the barricading of roads and the destruction of property.”
They said the violence was a reminder “of the post-election violence of 2007/2008 that we, as a Nation, had vowed never again to experience.”
Kenya’s 2007 elections resulted in nationwide ethnic violence that killed 1,300 people and displaced as many as 700,000. Odinga was also the challenger in that election.
Odinga has called for peaceful protest and strikes, and has said he will mount a legal challenge to the results in the courts. He claims computer fraud had given extra votes to Kenyatta.
The choice was welcomed by Kenya's bishops, who said, “All the aggrieved parties should use the legal means as provided in the Constitution to seek redress. It is only by respecting and having recourse to the established Constitutional institutions that we, as Kenyans, are able to enhance and strengthen the rule of law and the democratic process in our country.”
“As we await the determination of the disputed Presidential elections by the Supreme Court, we call upon our Government leaders, beginning with the President to take the lead in uniting the country.”
They urged “all Kenyans to avoid anything that incites others to violent protests.”
At a press conference presenting the bishops' message, Bishop John Oballa Owaa of Ngong stressed the need for the courts not to rubber stamp automatically the election outcome, saying: “We call upon the judiciary and other constitutional institutions to jealously protect their independence and discharge their mandate justly, in a fair and impartial manner, to act without any favour and not to give in to any form of coercion or intimidation.”
This, he said, “is the only way these institutions will earn the trust and confidence of all Kenyans.”
Bishop Anyola added that the “ugly divisions that we witness every election year, the tribal voting pattern that emerges, the hatred that is triggered by the winners and losers syndrome, and the win-it-all mentality that characterizes Kenyan politics are pointers to an electoral system that needs to be reviewed.”
The bishops' statement commended citizens' participation in the election, saying it reflected a “sense of patriotism and love for our nation.”
“We commend this country to prayer for peace, justice and prosperity,” they concluded.
Posted on 08/19/2017 11:02 AM (CNA Daily News)
Little Rock, Ark., Aug 19, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Arkansas may block tens of thousands of dollars in Medicaid funding from going to Planned Parenthood, a panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has said.
“All patients should have access to ethical, quality and responsible health care, and should never be beholden to a company that is only seeking to protect its profits,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in response to the decision, the Associated Press reports.
According to Rutledge, the Aug. 16 ruling found that Planned Parenthood and the three patients could not contest the state's determination “that a medical provider has engaged in misconduct that merits disqualification from the Medicaid program.”
The 2-1 panel ruling comes two years after the state ended its contract with the organization over videos filmed by undercover investigators that appeared to show involvement in the illegal sale of fetal tissue for profit.
While federal law bars federal funding for most abortions, and Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the U.S., the organization receives federal money for other services.
In Arkansas, in the fiscal year before the contract was terminated, Planned Parenthood had received $51,000 in Medicaid funds. The organization runs health centers in Fayetteville and Little Rock.
The ruling said that the unnamed patients who filed the legal challenge to the defunding decision did not have the right to file a challenge. It did not directly address the state’s reasoning for terminating the contract. The ruling vacated a U.S. district judge’s order that continued payments to Planned Parenthood patients.
Judge Michael Melloy authored a dissenting opinion in the ruling, noting that several federal courts have blocked other states’ efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. He said the patients have a right to challenge the contract termination.
The case could go to the Supreme Court. Planned Parenthood said it is evaluating its options to challenge the ruling, which will take effect in one to two weeks.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson had ended the contract on the grounds he believed there was evidence of wrongful conduct.
He called Wednesday’s decision “a substantial legal victory for the right of the state to determine whether Medicaid providers are acting in accordance with best practices.” The ruling also affirmed the state’s prerogative to make judgments on the Medicaid program, he added.
Videos from the Center for Medical Progress appeared to show Planned Parenthood and other leaders in the abortion industry involved in the procurement of fetal tissue and unborn babies’ bodies for sale, which is illegal under federal law.
The videos energized abortion foes' push to defund Planned Parenthood. For its part, the abortion provider and its allies dedicated millions of dollars in a campaign to counter the videos' impact and charged that the videos had been heavily edited.
Posted on 08/18/2017 23:14 PM (CNA Daily News)
San Juan, Puerto Rico, Aug 18, 2017 / 03:14 pm (CNA).- Sports fans in the U.S. and beyond may be disappointed to learn that reports of baseball Hall-of-Famer Roberto Clemente being recently beatified by Pope Francis are nothing more than fake news.
Vatican officials confirmed to the Washington Post that rumors of Pope Francis beatifying the Pittsburgh Pirates star are false.
The rumors appear to have originated with a Christian News Wire post late last month, and were slowly picked up by other media outlets and social media accounts.
The Christian News Wire article quotes Richard Rossi, who has been pushing for Clemente’s canonization after directing a film about the baseball star’s life, entitled “Baseball’s Last Hero.”
At the center of the claims is former Olympian high jumper Jamie Nieto, who played Clemente in the film. Nieto broke his neck in a back flip accident in 2016, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. After months of rehab, he was able to walk about 130 steps down the aisle with his bride on his wedding day.
According to the article, Rossi claimed that he had foreseen the healing in a vision, and had written to Pope Francis about it, and that the Pope agreed to beatify Clemente if the healing were to take place. Normally, one Vatican-approved miracle is necessary for beatification, and a second miracle is necessary for canonization, when the Church officially recognizes someone as a saint.
But while enthusiastic fans may be willing to take Rossi’s alleged claims at face value, the Vatican follows a very specific, formal process in determining the validity of an alleged miracle, with a commission of theologians and scientific experts examining the facts of the case.
When it comes to medical miracles, the Vatican must determine that the healing could not possibly have had any therapeutic or natural explanation, in order to ensure that the healing could only be attributed to divine intervention.
In Nieto’s case, however, doctors said there was a small possibility that he would be able to walk again, and he then spent months in rehab, working toward that goal.
The Vatican also must confirm that the healed person prayed exclusively to the potential saint in question, thereby determining that it was that individual’s intercession before God that resulted in the miraculous healing.
However, in the AP story detailing Nieto’s steps down the aisle for his wedding, the former Olympian does not mention praying to Clemente at all, instead saying, “I’ve worked really hard to get to this point.”
This is not the first time that false rumors have circulated regarding Clemente’s sainthood status. In early 2015, Catholic News Wire claimed that his canonization cause had received a “papal message of support.”
The article included a photo of a letter that it claimed was a show of support from Pope Francis for Clemente’s canonization cause.
However, the letter was in fact from an official at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and did not convey a papal message of support, but rather instructed Rossi that the local bishop, not the Pope, is the correct person to contact about potentially opening a canonization cause.
Translated into English, it reads:
“Distinguished Mr. Rossi, Recently you addressed a letter to Pope Francis calling attention to the figure of Roberto Clemente. Given the specific competence of this congregation, this letter was sent to this dicastery. In this regard, I wish to inform you that the competent authority to introduce a cause of beatification is the bishop where the person has died. Hence you would have to address your request to the Bishop of San Juan in Puerto Rico. Wishing you God's blessing, Fr. Boguslaw Turek.”
Clemente, a devout Catholic, was known for both his immense talent on the ballfield and his extensive charitable efforts. He died in a 1972 plane crash on his way to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He was 38 years old at the time of his death.
With a legacy marked by his Catholic faith and humanitarian work, it is possible that the legendary right fielder could have his canonization cause opened. But the process would be lengthy, and each official step would be announced through authorized Church channels.
A beatification of the baseball star would undoubtedly be a highly anticipated event, especially on the largely Catholic island of Puerto Rico, where Clemente grew up. Sports fans can rest assured that should such a high-profile beatification occur, an official announcement would be made with enough notice for them to follow along, or even attend the historic event.
Posted on 08/18/2017 18:16 PM (CNA Daily News)
Richmond, Va., Aug 18, 2017 / 10:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo of Richmond has passed away at the age of 75.
“Please pray for the repose of the soul of Bishop DiLorenzo, for his family and friends, and for the people of the Diocese of Richmond,” said the Richmond diocese’s vicar general, Monsignor Mark Lane.
“He was a faithful servant of the Church for 49 years and a Shepherd of the Diocese of Richmond for 13 years.”
In the neighboring Diocese of Arlington, Bishop Michael Burbidge also called for prayers.
“May we be united in our prayer for Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, Bishop of Richmond, and his eternal peace,” the bishop said on Twitter.
Bishop DiLorenzo passed away at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond on Thursday evening.
Bishop DiLorenzo was born in Philadelphia on April 15, 1942, the eldest of three children, his biography on the Richmond diocese’s website says. After studying at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia ordained him to the priesthood in May 1968. His service in the Philadelphia archdiocese included positions as high school chaplain and religion and biology teacher.
He began studies in Rome in 1971, earning a license in sacred theology from the Academy Alphonsiana in 1973 and a doctorate in sacred theology in 1975 from the Angelicum. Upon his return to the U.S., Father DiLorenzo was appointed chaplain and associate professor of moral theology at Immaculata College in Pennsylvania. He then served as vice-rector and rector at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
Pope John Paul II appointed him auxiliary bishop of Scranton, Penn. in 1988, where he served for five years. After becoming apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Honolulu, he became Bishop of Honolulu in October 1994. He was installed as Bishop of Richmond in 2004.
His work at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops include membership of its administrative committee its doctrine committee, and its ad hoc committee on bishops’ life and ministry. He was chairman of the conference’s Committee on Science and Human Values. He helped launch a series of teaching brochures on the relationship of science and religion and on bioethical issues like genetic testing and screening of embryos.
He had submitted his resignation upon reaching age 75, in accord with canon law.
There are about 220,000 Catholics in the Richmond diocese.
Posted on 08/18/2017 14:23 PM (CNA Daily News)
Denver, Colo., Aug 18, 2017 / 06:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) has announced that it will expand to 15 new campuses for the 2017-2018 school year.
This brings the total number of campuses with a FOCUS presence up to 137.
“I firmly believe God has called me to share this great joy He has given me through this experience to others, and I am absolutely delighted to now be able to do that through FOCUS!” said Natalie Larkins, a first-year FOCUS missionary at Western Kentucky, in a press release.
The new campuses for the upcoming academic year are Bowling Green State University (Ohio), Indiana University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Louisiana State University, Slippery Rock University (Pennsylvania), University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Rochester (New York), University of Southampton (England), University of Southern Mississippi, University of Toledo (Ohio), Valparaiso University (Indiana), West Chester University (Pennsylvania), Western Kentucky University, and Western Michigan University.
A campus outreach ministry, FOCUS works to inspire and equip college students to know, love and share their faith through intentional virtue-based friendships.
Missionaries stationed at campuses throughout the country and internationally invite students to grow in their faith through Bible studies, small groups, events, mission trips, and one-on-one discipleships.
FOCUS has more than doubled its campus presence since 2011.
The organization is hoping to again double the number of campuses it serves within the next five years, with a goal of reaching 250 FOCUS campuses by 2022.
Posted on 08/18/2017 10:54 AM (CNA Daily News)
Toronto, Canada, Aug 18, 2017 / 02:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Conscience protections for Catholic hospitals and other organizations could soon come under fire in the Canadian province of Ontario, with one assisted suicide group saying they may challenge this legislation in court.
Deacon Larry Worthen, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, warned that it becomes very difficult to defend objections to assisted suicide once it becomes legal.
“Of course our position would be that there should be no requirement for faith-based institutions to be involved in assisted suicide or euthanasia,” the deacon said. “It’s appropriate that not only the institution, but the individuals should be protected as well.”
“I think that conscientious objection in Canada, unfortunately, hangs by a thread,” he told CNA Aug. 17. “There are many of us fighting for this right, but the concern is that in a society where killing a patient is seen to be a compassionate and merciful act, then those who refuse to do it are by definition uncompassionate and uncharitable.”
“When you legalize euthanasia, and killing becomes moral, then that quickly becomes the norm, and those who deviate from that are seen to be outliers and unprofessional in their approach,” he added.
More than 630 people have killed themselves in Ontario under legal assisted suicide, but not at Catholic hospitals, CBC News reports. In Ontario, the law requires hospitals, hospices and long-term care centers that will not take part in assisted suicide to transfer the patient to a facility that will.
But Shanaaz Gokool, CEO of pro-assisted suicide group Dying With Dignity Canada, claims that the current Ontario law “gave an opt-out to basic and essential health care to hospitals that don't want to provide for the dying.” She said transferring patients may not be easy for people nearing the end of life, the older, the frail, and those already in pain.
Gokool’s group presently says individual doctors or nurses should be able to choose not to take part in assisted suicide, but organizations should not be able to do so.
For Deacon Worthen, however, the rights of individuals and of facilities are linked “very closely together.”
“Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals spend their whole lives being at the beds of the sick, with the point of view of helping them, supporting, them, helping them with their pain. To ask the same individuals then to participate in the deaths of those patients strikes me as being totalitarian and inhumane,” he said.
“No individual should be forced to go against their conscience, especially in something as personal and emotional as the taking of human life.”
Similarly, Deacon Worthen backed the right of faith groups to have facilities to provide health care according to their faith, culture and tradition.
“In order for that facility to have that ethos or mission, it needs to be able to be free to follow the tenets of its faith without any coercion from the state,” he said. “A diverse society would require that.”
Deacon Worthen added that there are good inherent reasons to oppose assisted suicide, dating back to the ancient physician Hippocrates.
When people find themselves wanting to end their lives, he said, “the doctor should be there to provide the support that that person needs, so that they can feel that life is worth living, as opposed to agreeing with them, and participating in ending their lives.”
Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins said he is confident there is sufficient access to assisted suicide.
“We're obviously monitoring it very, very closely and currently don't have those concerns in terms of access,” he said, noting that many assisted suicides take place outside an institutional setting. Hoskins said “about half of medical assistance in dying happens at home.”
Dying With Dignity Canada is also challenging rules against freedom-of-information officers releasing the names of facilities that do or do not assist in suicides. The present policy differs from the Alberta province, which requires public health institutions that do not assist in suicides to publish data each week showing how many patients are transferred for medically assisted suicide.
Deacon Worthen also warned of cases where physicians pressured patients into ending their lives, where they had not already made the decision to do so.
“We’ve heard stories where health care practitioners are already suggesting assisted suicide to patients, and even encouraging that, and discouraging family members from aiding the person continuing their lives,” the deacon said.
At least one Canadian medical school has incorporated the issue of conscientious objection to assisted suicide into its admission process. One applicant was asked by an actor to help them commit suicide. When the student recoiled from this, the actor continued to press until finally the student assented.
Some are reportedly advocating that conscientious objectors to assisted suicide should not be allowed in medical school.
Posted on 08/18/2017 08:02 AM (CNA Daily News)
Kampala, Uganda, Aug 18, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The tally of South Sudanese refugees entering Uganda for shelter and safety marked 1 million this week, in what is now the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.
“Families are escaping a living hell in South Sudan,” Muhumed Hussein, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Country Director for Uganda, stated Aug. 16.
“The stories they tell us when they arrive are truly horrific. The war in South Sudan continues to rage and the arrival of the one-millionth South Sudanese fleeing to Uganda is testament to this,” Hussein continued.
Conflict in South Sudan began around its founding in 2011, when the country gained independence from Sudan. Promise for the country’s bright future dimmed when political corruption and ethnic divisions overwhelmed the underdeveloped nation, causing famine and violence.
For the past three-and-a-half years, a civil war has been raging in the country. The nation is split between those loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to former vice president Riek Machar. The conflict has additionally created various divisions and factions of local militia.
Caught in the cross-fire of the war are families, women, and children, who make up around 85 percent of the refugees now fleeing to Uganda. If they remain in South Sudan, they are labeled as rebels and are either killed, tortured, raped, or forced into fighting.
Since 2013, it is estimated that as many as 4 million have fled, leaving behind tens of thousands dead. Almost 1,000 citizens have died between the months of May and July alone, according to the South Sudan Human Rights Observatory.
In March, the bishops of South Sudan advocated a “sincere and honest” call to prayer after Kiir called for a day of prayer to be held March 10. Bishop Barani Eduardo Hiiboro of Tombura-Yambio said the whole country would be watching the president closely to see whether his attitude will trend toward peace.
The bishops have charged that the political elite “don’t take their people in heart” and that both sides in the war have targeted civilians. They have also said the war has “no moral justification whatsoever.”
On average, 1,800 South Sudanese refugees have been crossing into Uganda every day for the past year.
Those who make the dangerous journey to Uganda are welcomed with plots of land, meals, and medical care such as vaccinations, and are also able to travel and work within the country.
“The government response to accepting the South Sudanese refugees has been overwhelmingly positive, progressive, and welcoming,” stated Sacha Manov, the deputy director in Uganda for the International Rescue Committee, according to Reuters.
Although Uganda is welcoming of refugees, they are wearing thin on food, supplies, and shelter. The U.N. agency is receiving only about 21 percent of the total cost needed to provide for the refugees.
Camps that shelter refugees in Uganda are also in dire need of development, and often lack basic necessities, such as finished toilets.
In addition to aid from the U.N., Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is also contributing their help for the refugee crisis in Uganda.
“We have been with the people of South Sudan throughout this time of hope and peril. And we are not deserting them now,” stated Jerry Farrell, the CRS Country Representative in South Sudan.
CRS has been offering refugee aid since 2015, by distributing over 6,600 tons of food to more than 250,000 people. The organization has also educated local farmers and trained the community in hygiene promoters to encourage a more sustainable future.
However, Farrell hopes that despite current efforts, the international community will do more to help the refugee crisis.
“The people of South Sudan, whom we have come to know so well, expect and deserve better. We hope that the international community will work to see their hopes are fulfilled,” Farrell said.
Refugees will continue to flee South Sudan into neighboring Uganda until the civil war ends and the country can begin to develop a safe homeland for its citizens. However, international peacemaking efforts have halted and there is no substantial talk of peace on the horizon.
“South Sudan is the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis,” stated Hussein.
“It will likely stay that way until people are no longer living in a state of terror and left with no other option than to flee. The barbaric violence endemic in this war guarantees it.”