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Living Our Faith: Natural Family Planning

February 17th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Javier and Gretchen Mena of Sterling Heights, Mich., who volunteer their time to teach others about natural family planning in the Archdiocese of Detroit, share a moment with their 19-month-old son, Javier Jr. (CNS photo/Joe Kohn, The Michigan Catholic)

Javier and Gretchen Mena of Sterling Heights, Mich., who volunteer their time to teach others about natural family planning in the Archdiocese of Detroit, share a moment with their 19-month-old son, Javier Jr. (CNS photo/Joe Kohn, The Michigan Catholic)

 

 

It’s a common misconception that the Catholic Church requires married couples to have an unlimited number of children.

The church asks couples to prayerfully and prudently discern what God is telling them by their circumstances and in their hearts as to the best timing and number of children he’s calling them to have.

Natural family planning is the general title for the scientific and moral methods of family planning that can help married couples cooperate with God’s plan to either achieve or postpone a pregnancy.

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Bishops urging Trump to protect religious liberty

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WASHINGTON — Catholic Church leaders in a Feb. 16 statement said they were encouraged that President Donald Trump may be considering an executive order to protect religious freedom and said they would be grateful if he would move forward with the pledge that his administration would “do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty”

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has joined with other U.S. bishops in urging President Trump to affirm his pledge to protect religious liberty. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has joined with other U.S. bishops in urging President Trump to affirm his pledge to protect religious liberty.
(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

“As Christians, our goal is to live and serve others as the Gospel asks. President Trump can ensure that we are not forced from the public square,” said the statement from committee chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The statement was jointly issued by: New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

The church leaders said an executive order would “implement strong protections for religious freedom across the federal government in many of the areas where it has been eroded by the preceding administration, such as health coverage, adoption, accreditation, tax exemption, and government grants and contracts.”

“We ourselves, as well as those we shepherd and serve, would be most grateful if the president would take this positive step toward allowing all Americans to be able to practice their faith without severe penalties from the federal government,” they said.

A draft version of the executive order was leaked in late January called “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom.” When it failed to appear on the president’s desk, rumors were circulating that a scaled-back version might appear at his desk but there has been no word about it from the Trump administration.

The U.S. bishops posted an online letter for Catholics to send to the president urging him to sign the order after the draft version was leaked.

The Feb. 16 statement said the order would restore “the federal government’s proper relationship with the First Amendment and other laws protecting conscience and religious freedom will enable us to continue our service to the most vulnerable of Americans.”

The statement stressed that U.S. Catholic bishops have long supported religious liberty, adding that during the last several years “the federal government has eroded this fundamental right,” most notably with the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate for religious employers who do not fit the mandate’s narrow exemption including the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The USCCB leaders urged Trump to keep his promise and put an end to regulations and other mandates by the federal government “that force people of faith to make impossible choices. 

“We express our fervent hope that with new leadership in the executive branch, basic protections for religious practice may be restored and even strengthened,” they said.

The statement said an immediate remedy to the threats against religious freedom is needed and without it the church’s freedom to serve others “will remain in jeopardy and needless conflict between the faith community and the federal government will continue.”

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Sunday Scripture readings, Feb. 19, 2017

February 16th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:

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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

 
Cycle A. Readings:
1) Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18
Psalm 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13
2) 1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Gospel: Matthew 5:38-48

 
A grieving mother, speaking to the press after her son was charged with a deadly act of terrorism, is incredulous. “I don’t know where this came from. We have a loving home. Our family always has been respectful and caring,” she says. “Why would he do this? That’s not who we are!” Read more »

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Living Our Faith: Prayer and Physical Health

February 13th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Can prayer, faith and belief in God make you healthy — physically, as well as spiritually and emotionally? Yes, according to dozens of studies over the past 20 years.

Ernesto Vega listens during a Nov. 10, 2016, prayer service at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. Duke University's Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health reported in 2015 that an analysis of more than 1,500 reputable medical studies indicates people who are more religious and pray more have better mental and physical health. (CNS photo/Patrick T. Fallon, Reuters)

A man listens during a prayer service at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles in 2016. Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health reported in 2015 that an analysis of more than 1,500 reputable medical studies indicates people who are more religious and pray more have better mental and physical health. (CNS photo/Patrick T. Fallon, Reuters)

Research shows a positive correlation between spirituality and health like lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Prayer can also enable patients to accept a diagnosis, reduce stress and focus energy toward healing.

The founder of a Christian fitness program says prayer and exercise work well together to help people develop strength of mind, body and soul.

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U.S. bishops call for solidarity with Middle East victims of violence, refugees

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WASHINGTON — Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board.

The damaged entrance of St. Mary's Church is seen in 2016 in Damascus, Syria. Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board. (CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

The damaged entrance of St. Mary’s Church is seen in 2016 in Damascus, Syria. Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board. (CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

“A concern for our Christian brethren is inclusive and does not exclude a concern for all the peoples of the region who suffer violence and persecution, both minorities and majorities, both Muslims and Christians,” said a Feb. 10 statement from four bishops.

“To focus attention on the plight of Christians and other minorities is not to ignore the suffering of others,” the statement said. “Rather, by focusing on the most vulnerable members of society, we strengthen the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all.”

The group included Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace; Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, New York, chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services.

The group pointed to the findings of a recent USCCB delegation to Iraq, which confirmed that Christians, Yezidis, Shiite Muslims and other minorities had experienced genocide at the hands of the Islamic State group.

“It is important for Syrians and Iraqis of all faiths to recognize this as genocide, for that recognition is a way to help everyone come to grips with what is happening and to form future generations that will reject any ideology that leads to genocidal acts and other atrocities,” the bishops said in their statement.

The bishops called on Americans to accept “our nation’s fair share” of vulnerable families, regardless of religion and ethnicity, for resettlement as refugees. They called for special consideration of the victims of genocide and other violence.

They urged the U.S. to encourage the Iraqi government and the regional government in Irbil, Iraq, to “strengthen the rule of law based on equal citizenship and ensure the protection of all.”

U.S. aid should assist local and national efforts to improve policing and the court system and encourage local self-governance, the bishops said. Similar efforts are needed in Syria as well, they said.

The U.S. also can provide “generous” humanitarian and development assistance to refugees, displaced people and Iraqi and Syrian communities as they rebuild, the statement said. Such funding can be directed in part to “trusted faith-based nongovernmental agencies” such as Catholic Relief Services and local Caritas agencies, the bishops said.

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Bishop welcomes federal court ruling against President Trump’s refugee ban

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WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration welcomed a federal appeals court ruling that upheld a temporary restraining order against President Donald Trump’s travel ban on refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries that also temporarily suspended the country’s refugee resettlement program.

Syrian refugee Baraa Haj Khalaf and her daughter, 1-year-old Shams, wave after arriving Feb. 7 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. (CNS photo/Kamil Krzaczynski, Reuters)

Syrian refugee Baraa Haj Khalaf and her daughter, 1-year-old Shams, wave after arriving Feb. 7 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. (CNS photo/Kamil Krzaczynski, Reuters)

“We respect the rule of law and the American judicial process. We remain steadfast in our commitment to resettling refugees and all those fleeing persecution,” Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, said in a statement Feb. 10.

“At this time we remain particularly dedicated to ensuring that affected refugee and immigrant families are not separated and that they continue to be welcomed in our country,” the statement said.

The bishop pledged that church agencies would continue to welcome people “as it is a vital part of our Catholic faith and an enduring element of our American values and traditions.”

In a decision issued late Feb. 9, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the government’s argument to lift the freeze on the president’s order and maintained that the court had jurisdiction in the case as a check on executive power.

Trump had argued that his order was a matter of national security and that the courts had no claim to adjudicate the issue.

The panel ruled otherwise saying that such an argument “runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.”

Further, the judges said, “although courts owe considerable deference to the president’s policy determinations with respect to immigration and national security, it is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.”

The administration is expected to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump said in a posting on Twitter minutes after the ruling was released: “see you in court, the security of our nation is at stake!”

He later told reporters that the judges had made “a political decision.”

The case was filed by the state of Washington, which argued that Trump’s order was unconstitutional because it discriminated against Muslims and that state agencies were harmed because students and employees were barred from re-entering the country. The state of Minnesota subsequently joined the lawsuit.

U.S. District Court Judge James Robart of Seattle halted Trump’s travel ban Feb. 3 by granting a temporary restraining order.

Several lawsuits have been filed challenging Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order that suspended the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and banned entry of all citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia — for 90 days.

Another clause in the order established religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.

In its 29-page ruling, the appeals court said the administration’s lawyers had provided no evidence that refugees from the seven countries named in the ban posed a national security threat through terrorism.

The judges also wrote that the government had not shown Trump’s order provides any avenue for those restricted from traveling to the U.S. to appeal the decision or seek a hearing to present their reasons for entering the country. The decision said that earlier court cases had determined that the protections established under the due process clause in the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment “apply to all ‘persons’” within the U.S. including aliens whose presence is “lawful, unlawful, temporary or permanent” as well as to people attempting to reenter the U.S. after traveling.

The court also considered the public’s interest in the case and determined that the public “has an interest in the free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families and in freedom from discrimination.”

 

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Verbal attacks on Hispanics in church followed by support from Portland community

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Catholic News Service

PORTLAND, Ore. — Father Raul Marquez had never seen anything like it. Eight men walked to the front door of St. Peter Church in Southeast Portland Jan. 29 and began bellowing during the Spanish Mass.

Father Raul Marquez of St. Peter Parish in Portland, Oregon, thanks people who came to stand vigil outside his church Feb. 5. The crowd formed a human shield a week after a group of eight men stood outside the front door of the church during a Spanish Mass and yelled insults about Catholicism, immigrants and the morals of the parish women. (CNS photo/Francisco Lara, Catholic Sentinel)

Father Raul Marquez of St. Peter Parish in Portland, Oregon, thanks people who came to stand vigil outside his church Feb. 5. The crowd formed a human shield a week after a group of eight men stood outside the front door of the church during a Spanish Mass and yelled insults about Catholicism, immigrants and the morals of the parish women. (CNS photo/Francisco Lara, Catholic Sentinel)

Dressed like hunters, they accused worshippers of not being true Christians, questioned the sexual morals of the women and harangued the congregation for being made up of immigrants.

The group, which calls itself “Street Preachers,” has been setting up counter-protests at events criticizing President Donald Trump, including a late January demonstration at Portland International Airport.

The St. Peter community, already living in fear because of federal immigration policy proposals, was shocked.

“All that Sunday I felt upset and didn’t understand,” said Father Marquez, a Colombian native who has been pastor of St. Peter for five years. “How I was going to be happy while I heard and remembered the verbal insult? I was looking for an answer.”

The Gospel reading of the day said, in part, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you.”

The following Sunday, Feb. 5, an answer to the priest’s question came and the fear was soothed as more than 300 people formed a human shield in front of St. Peter Church during Masses. News of the previous week’s attack had gone out on social media, drawing the crowd that stood in silence, holding signs.

“I didn’t expect this outpouring of love for us,” said Alberto Gonzalez, a native of Oaxaca, Mexico, who has been a member of St. Peter for 18 months. “This time is very difficult for us and here we are surrounded by love of all of the American people, who came to show they are here, we are one, we are one community.”

With tears in his eyes, Gonzalez said he has not felt supported until now. At first, he thought the large group of white people had come to hurl more invective, but then he saw they had come to protect their brothers and sisters.

“This is solidarity,” Gonzalez told the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Portland Archdiocese. “This is love.”

Parishioners got a lesson in nonviolent response to harassment. A table of coffee and sweets was put up near the front door of the church for protectors who came out despite chilly rain.

Joining Father Marquez in a sign of support were Father Ron Millican from nearby Our Lady of Sorrows Church and the Rev. Elizabeth Larson from St. Mark Lutheran Church.

“I wanted to come here and hug each person,” Rev. Larson said.

Father Millican invited his parishioners to come and show support. “We need to be together,” he said. “It is very sad that it takes something like this to make us come together. But it is beautiful, the outpouring of support for the dignity of everyone.”

Nona Carrasco was one of those outside who got completely wet. “This is my community,” Carrasco said. “I don’t stand for bigotry. I will stand for my community and this is what we do.”

Father Marquez received hundreds of messages of support. The first was a letter from Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample, who told the people of St. Peter Parish he stands with them.

“I was saddened beyond words to learn of the terrible experience that many of you encountered as you came to church last weekend,” the archbishop said in his letter. “It is so tragic that you were coming to celebrate God’s love and mercy and yet you experienced cruelty and hatred at the hands of severely misguided protestors.

“I am especially upset to learn of the verbal abuse heaped upon members of our Hispanic community” and also what was “directed against women in your community,” he said, calling it “vile behavior.” Archbishop Sample also noted that the same group was targeting other churches as well.

“Please be assured that I, as your archbishop and shepherd, stand firmly with you in the face of such ignorant and hateful words,” the archbishop told parishioners. “You are our brothers and sisters, and as members of the same family of faith, we must hold fast to our unity in Christ. … Be assured of my love.”

After the Feb. 5 Mass, Father Marquez walked out to thank supporters. He could barely move as people hugged him and asked for his blessing.

“This is the time to live the Gospel radically by praying for those men and their few sympathizers and to intentionally forgive them,” the priest said.

By Rocio Rios, editor of El Centinela, the monthly Spanish-language newspaper of the Portland achdiocese.

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Sunday Scripture readings, Feb. 12, 2017

February 8th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:

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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

            Cycle A. Readings:

            1) Sirach 15:15-20

            Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34

            2) 1 Corinthians 2:6-10

            Gospel: Matthew 5:17-37

 

Most people would agree that living an ethical life boils down to our personal choices between “good” and “evil.” Others might use different criteria, such as useful or not useful, pleasurable or not pleasurable, etc. Whatever our standards, we value the freedom to identify our own paths as one of the most treasured aspects of being human, and we resist someone else’s telling us what to do. Read more »

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Vatican’s U.N. nuncio urges action on poverty beyond economics

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UNITED NATIONS — Saying poverty is the greatest challenge facing humanity, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations called on nations to seek solutions to poverty not only based on economics but to also address personal, social and environmental factors that contribute to it.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza said that the world must also end conflicts and violence, which are major contributors to poverty. He made the comments during a presentation Feb. 6 to a meeting of the U.N. Commission for Social Development. Read more »

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New gender policy won’t affect Catholic Scouting groups, says committee

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IRVING, Texas — The Boy Scouts of America’s new policy to accept members based on their gender identity will have no impact on Scouting units sponsored by the Catholic Church, said the National Catholic Committee on Scouting. Read more »

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