Browsing News Entries

How a new Utah law is promoting marriage prep classes

Salt Lake City, Utah, Apr 20, 2018 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Utah is encouraging its citizens to better prepare for marriage by discounting the cost of marriage licenses for couples who complete marriage preparation classes.  

The law, signed March 20 by Utah Governor Gary Herbert, will discount marriage licenses by $20 for couples who complete at least three hours of premarital counseling or six hours of premarital classes at least 14 days before applying for a marriage license. These services may be provided by either religious or secular organizations.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Allen Christensen, said it is an effort to counter the high divorce rate.

“Typically, in Utah, we have 25,000 marriages a year. About 10,000 of those are going to end up in divorce,” he said, according to the Brigham Young University student publication.

The co-chair of the Utah Marriage Commission, Alan Hawkins, said the premarital services ought to address marital commitment, the factors within successful marriages, and communication skills.

In a blog post on the Institute for Family Studies, Hawkins emphasized the importance that these premarital services have on lasting marriages.

“A substantial body of research has shown that premarital education can help newlywed couples get off to a stronger start and reduce the risk of divorce in the early, high-risk years of marriage,” he said.

Hawkins said the Utah Marriage Commission is partnering with the state to help spread the word, and encouraged wedding retailers to show support for the bill by matching the $20 discount.

The Commission will initiate a study to determine the success of the project over the next five years, when the law will be up for renewal. Hawkins said the goal of the law is to increase participation in premarital services from its current 30 percent of marrying couples to 50 percent.

Nine other states have created similar laws to promote marital counseling. While the discount is small, Hawkins said, “anecdotal data from other states that have adopted a similar marriage-license-discount policy suggests that lower-income couples are especially responsive to these discounts.”

“Ultimately, however, the discount is less a financial incentive and more a cultural nudge for couples to take seriously the need for marriage preparation.”

 

Vietnamese pastor who was jailed for faith says it was 'God's gift to me'

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2018 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After surviving six years of imprisonment and torture, Vietnamese pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh told CNA that prayer sustained him through his physical suffering and pain.

In 2011, the evangelical pastor was charged with “undermining national solidarity” for conducting his Christian ministry with the Montagnard ethnic minority groups that live in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.

Chinh had long been an outspoken critic of the government’s ban on preaching in the region and a pro-democracy advocate.

During his imprisonment, Chinh spent nearly one month in solitary confinement and his health quickly deteriorated. He was denied treatment or access to medication, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), who advocated on his behalf.

Chinh told CNA that he experienced consolation in knowing that his suffering was in imitation of Christ.

"Even though I suffered physical suffering and pain, I felt in my soul happiness,” Chinh told CNA through an English translator at the USCIRF summit April 18.

"I viewed it as God's gift to me,” said Chinh. “It was like what Jesus Christ went through, the same suffering that his disciples experienced, and now I'm going through the same experience. That is how the good news comes out."

Chinh explained his hope that sharing his experience will help increase the faith of other Christians.

Prayerful communion with Christ “gave me courage to survive the prison conditions until the day that I saw freedom,” Chinh explained.

The Vietnamese pastor was released from prison July 28, 2017, about halfway through his 11 year sentence. His release came with the condition that he leave Vietnam, so Chinh currently resides in the U.S.

Several months before his release, Chinh’s wife, Tran Thi Hong, was beaten and interrogated because she met with the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the time, David Saperstein, who was advocating on her husband’s behalf.

At the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom summit, Chinh was the only released prisoner to take part in a panel highlighting the specific cases of prisoners of conscience detained throughout the world. USCIRF is currently advocating for the release of prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, China, Turkey, and Pakistan.

Several other prisoners of conscience were released in 2017, including Maryam Naghash Zargaran, an Iranian Christian convert from Islam who was arrested and imprisoned in 2013.

"Every time you return a prisoner of conscience to his family that truly is a victory,” former USCIRF Chair Robert George told CNA.

The USCIRF has actively advocated for Andrew Brunson, an American evangelical pastor incarcerated in Turkey since 2016. His trial in Istanbul this week was attended by Sam Brownback, the current U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Brunson will face another hearing in Turkey May 7.

“Since my release, the government has arrested more prisoners of conscience,” said Chinh on the prisoners of conscience panel.

Although religious freedom has improved in Vietnam since the 1970s, USCIRF still designates the country as a “country of particular concern” due to ongoing violations of religious freedom within the country.

David Adams, the Cross Catholic Outreach vice president for missions, explained the current situation in Vietnam to CNA.

“On the one hand, churches are allowed to operate with some freedom, depending on where they are located, like in the urban areas. But in other areas, like the Central Highlands where Pastor Chin was ministering to in this case a minority, the Montagnards … the government can get quite repressive and forbid any proselytizing or evangelization or even worship,” said Adams.

Cross Catholic Outreach actively supports Catholic ministries in Vietnam, with an emphasis on potable water, medical aid, and educating young people in the faith.

"Even in the most repressive societies, we have to keep hope alive. There are ways to support freedom, including religious freedom at the grassroots level,” said Adams.

Five things Catholics can do to support international religious liberty

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2018 / 03:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Summit on Wednesday, Robert George shared five steps Catholics can take to support religious freedom at home and abroad.

“We need to remember we are our brother's keepers,” George, a Princeton professor who has twice served as chairman of the commission, told CNA.

“That is true whether our brother is someone here at home who is being persecuted and discriminated against or whether that person is in the Sudan or in Syria or Iran or in Vietnam or in China or in North Korea,” he continued.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) marked the 20th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act this year with a summit in Washington, D.C., focusing on the challenges and progress made in the state of religious freedom around the world.

USCIRF is a bipartisan federal commission that monitors global religious freedom violations.

"Whenever I speak about international religious freedom across the country, people always ask me what they can do to help. I always tell them first, to pray,” said current USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark in his closing remarks at the summit April 18.

“First, pray … I want to second that motion,” George told CNA. The first step Catholics must take to address violations of religious freedom is prayer.

“Make your voice heard,” George pointed to as the second way to aid the cause of religious freedom. “Make clear to your elected representatives that religious freedom is a priority to you – domestic religious freedom and international religious freedom.”

“Third, there are wonderful organizations, including some that are Catholic, that deserve our financial support. People ask, ‘What can I do with my charitable giving? I'm not a millionaire. I don't have a lot of money, but I want to give back. I want to thank God for my blessings. I want to help others,’” said George, “I hope that some people think about religious freedom as a cause to support.’

Fourth, “educate yourself and then talk about these issues to people in your parish, people in your family, people in your community,” said George, “We now have the internet. Anybody can learn about religious freedom issues. Go to the USCIRF website.”

Finally, George recommends that religious leaders and communities work together for their shared values. He encourages leaders across historic, theological, and religious divides to communicate and to work together to make a positive impact on civil society.

Former USCIRF chairs Katrina Lantos Swett, Leonard Leo, and David Saperstein spoke on a panel along with George about the current state of international religious freedom.

The panel discussed current threats to religious freedom posed by non-state actors abroad,  such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and al-Shabaab. The mistreatment of Rohingya Muslims in Burma and the Uyghurs in China were also highlighted.

“While we focus on extinguishing the flames of sectarian conflict and oppression in countries like these, we cannot ignore the less-physical deeply religious freedom violations in our own backyard,” said Leonard Leo, who served as the USCIRF chair from 2009 - 2007.

“To maintain our standing in the world as a beacon against oppression, we also must put our own house in order by addressing subtler forms of coercion,” continued Leo.

George told CNA after the panel that the U.S. currently faces serious religious freedom challenges.

“Catholics now are in many cases victims of discrimination from the forces of secular progressiveness in our own country,” said George. “You see efforts to try to coerce Catholics and other pro-life physicians into performing abortions or to shut-down Catholic adoption agencies because they insist on places children with a mom and a dad. Or closing Catholic hospitals because they won't perform abortions. These are serious violations of conscience.”

The current USCIRF chairman, Daniel Mark, is a political science professor at Villanova University. Mark told CNA he is encouraged that the world is “increasingly coming to understand the critical role that religious freedom plays in peace, stability, and prosperity.”

“It is such a foundational freedom,” said Mark. “We see that religious freedom, perhaps more than anything else, is the right that people are most willing to suffer and die for.”

He continued, “There is always the argument that we need to start with democracy and then build toward human rights. We've seen some cases, like Burma, where that hasn't really worked. Maybe it turns out that the direction is the other way … that we need to start by pushing in these countries the core human rights, and from there, the right kind of culture and the right kind of governance will develop.”

Appeals court blocks Ohio law defunding Planned Parenthood

Cincinnati, Ohio, Apr 19, 2018 / 02:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Ohio law which blocked federal taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood clinics in the state was struck down by a federal appeals court on Wednesday.

The law, which was signed by Governor John Kasich in 2016, prohibited federal taxpayer money from going to clinics that perform abortions in the state of Ohio. That money, about $1.5 million, would be reallocated to organizations that do not perform abortions.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit unanimously overturned the Ohio law on April 18, saying that it overstepped Planned Parenthood’s “due process rights,” since Planned Parenthood would allegedly be using funds from six federal health programs for preventative health measures that are unrelated to abortion.

One of the panel judges, U.S. Circuit Judge Helene White, said that Planned Parenthood was simply claiming the “right not to be penalized in the administration of government programs based on protected activity outside the programs,” according to Reuters.  

White was joined by two other judges: Eugene E. Siler Jr. and Eric Clay.

However, the state of Ohio argues that Planned Parenthood is seeking “a constitutional guarantee to public funding – a guarantee that forces Ohio, against its own judgment, to give public money to large abortion providers. The Constitution contains no such guarantee.”

Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a regulation allowing states to choose whether to give federal funding to health clinics that perform abortions. Shortly before leaving office, former President Barack Obama’s HHS Department had issued a rule prohibiting states from denying funding on the grounds of a facility performing abortions.

A spokesman for the Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine, who defended the lawsuit in court, said they were reviewing the ruling to see if they should pursue further appellate review, Reuters reports.

The Ohio law was originally passed in February 2016 after a series of undercover videos were released the previous year, appearing to show Planned Parenthood engaging in misconduct, including the illegal sale of aborted baby tissue.

Kasich, has signed the original law, has also introduced other pro-life legislation in Ohio, including a 20-week abortion ban and a prohibition of abortions due to a Down syndrome diagnosis within the state.

 

Archbishop Chaput thinks you should read this young Catholic's letter

Philadelphia, Pa., Apr 19, 2018 / 11:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a time of cultural confusion and challenge, youth need clarity and guidance from the Church – and failure to give it could be disastrous, says a young father who wrote to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia.

For Archbishop Chaput, who reproduced the letter April 18 at First Things, the man’s thoughts are worth considering as Catholics “seek a fuller understanding of the pastoral challenges facing young adults in a changing world.”

The Catholic Church will hold a Synod on Youth this October, and Archbishop Chaput is among the Church leaders preparing for it. He received the letter just after a pre-synod meeting in Rome where about 300 young adults gathered to discuss how they view the Church and the faith.

“We young people crave the truth and clarity of good teaching,” said the unnamed author, a self-described 26-year-old father of three. He suggested this craving is proved by the swift rise of Canadian professor and author Jordan Peterson, whose videos on YouTube have drawn a large following.

“We crave the truth, no matter how blunt or difficult it is for us to swallow or for the shepherds of our flock to teach,” the young father said.

“We urgently need the Church’s clarity and authoritative guidance on issues like abortion, homosexuality, gender dysphoria, the indissolubility of matrimony, the four last things, and the consequences of contraception (moral, anthropological, and abortifacient). My generation has never, or rarely, heard these truths winsomely taught in the parishes.”

The author claimed young Catholics hear most forcefully from the U.S. bishops’ conference and from dioceses about the federal budget, border policy, gun control, and the environment. Efforts to reach out effectively to those who don’t affiliate with a religion, colloquially known as the “nones,” may also be at risk.

“Though the Church’s growing focus on evangelization of the ‘Nones’ is encouraging, there have been recent discussions emanating from several prominent figures in Rome and throughout Church leadership regarding a so-called ‘paradigm shift’ relative to doctrine, the supremacy of individual conscience, and pastoral accommodation,” the man continued.

“My wife and I find these developments disturbing and potentially disastrous for the evangelization of the young and the fallen-away.”

“Our culture is roiled in confusion concerning the basic tenets of human nature,” the author continued, citing controversies over gender, masculinity, the family, and “propaganda” that “desecrates the nature of sex and its fruits, especially the unborn child.”

This letter prompted Archbishop Chaput to reflect: “The future of the Catholic faith belongs to those who create it with their fidelity, their self-sacrifice, their commitment to bringing new life into the world and raising their children in truth, and their determination to walk Christ’s ‘narrow way’ with joy.”

The archbishop prayed that God would grant the fathers of the 2018 Synod on Youth “the grace and courage to lead young people on that path.”

Greeks for God: College ministry brings fraternities, sororities to Christ

Denver, Colo., Apr 19, 2018 / 12:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fraternities and sororities are widely known for two things on a college campus.

These communities, collectively known as Greek life, are known for attracting some of the highest achieving and most involved students. Some of the world’s most influential leaders, including numerous U.S. presidents, 40 Supreme Court justices, a majority of the members of Congress, and 43 out of 50 of the world’s most powerful CEOs were once involved in Greek life during their college years.  

But there is a flipside: Anyone who has been to college, or has seen movies about American college life, knows the stereotype of fraternities and sororities as the powerhouses of the party scene and hookup culture on a college campus.

Studies have shown that Greek college students are more likely to binge drink than their non-Greek peers, and are also twice as likely to engage sexually with someone without their consent.

It is within this intense culture of both achievement and partying that missionaries with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) embed themselves, building friendships with Greek students and inviting them to bible studies, Mass, and a relationship with Christ.

“We’re just trying to meet people where they’re at in the beginning, so we’re going onto campus and finding people where they’re naturally going to be hanging out already,” Katie Moran, a FOCUS Greek missionary at the University of Alabama, told CNA.

“So we’re going to their philanthropies and going to their fraternity and sorority houses and places where they’re going to spend their time,” she said.

According to their mission statement, FOCUS “is a Catholic collegiate outreach whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the gospel with college and university students...FOCUS missionaries encounter students in friendship where they are, inviting them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and accompanying them as they pursue lives of virtue and excellence.”

FOCUS’ main methods of outreach include bible studies, one-on-one student-missionary mentorships known as discipleships, mission trips, and other events. Within the organization, there are subgroups designed to reach more specific groups of students - such as FOCUS Greek for Greek students, or Varsity Catholic for student athletes.

The ultimate goal is to unite all students together at the Catholic Church, Moran said, but FOCUS Greek (and other subgroups) “helps expose (students) to others in Greek life who are experiencing the same things, and helps them to have a community of people striving for faith within the Greek community.”  

Moran has worked with FOCUS Greek on two different college campuses in the South. She said that while students in the South are fairly open to talking about Jesus, it can be a challenge to convince Greek students to prioritize their faith in their already-busy schedules.

“Naturally they’re all very strong leaders and involved not just in their house but in student government and other organizations on campus, and they have to have a certain GPA to be in a sorority or fraternity, so time is very limited,” she said.

Ashley Summerford was a nursing student and a member of Chi Omega sorority at the University of Alabama when she was first invited by friends to join Moran’s bible study.

While she wasn’t living according to her Catholic faith at the time, Summerford said that Moran’s friendship and bible study transformed her outlook on how she could live as a Catholic on a college campus.

“FOCUS helps us prioritize God into our college schedule and...talk to other college students about God without feeling uncomfortable,” she said. “It’s been really helpful to get students together to talk about God and how to live out your faith on a day-to-day basis.”

Now a senior, Summerford is putting her nursing career on hold for now and will join FOCUS as a missionary, where she hopes to continue to do more outreach with Greek college students.

“I’m excited to help college students live out their faith...because I needed that when I was in college,” she said. “Becoming a part of FOCUS Greek taught me way more (about living as a Catholic) than I would have ever been able to learn on my own.”

Alex Sanchez is a FOCUS Greek missionary at Kansas State University, and has served as a FOCUS Greek missionary on other college campuses for the past four years. While he was not Greek during his own undergraduate years, Sanchez says he thinks the FOCUS Greek ministry model is successful because it meets students in their natural environment and takes advantage of some of the positive aspect of Greek life.

“It just leverages what’s already in place,” he told CNA. “It’s a college-based ministry so the ministry looks at how the college campus is structured and it sends its missionaries strategically into these places as well. It acknowledges that the Greek world is really big on campus so it’s kind of like St. Paul, becoming all things to all people.”

Greek students, while they might not be in the most morally virtuous environments in their sororities or fraternities, are typically highly committed and loyal people, which are natural virtues that can be built upon in the Christian life, Sanchez said.

“A lot of Greek students go all out for their fraternity or sorority - they wear the letters, they go to the meetings, they’re committed to showing up to all the events, they’re committed to recruiting...and they’re contagious as well, they want to share what they have and bring other people to it, which is just a very natural foundation to build discipleship,” Sanchez said.

This year, Sanchez also got to serve as the master of ceremonies for a Legacy conference, the first conferences offered by FOCUS specifically for Greek students.

“It was for all Greek students but especially those on the fringe,” Sanchez said, “so it was cool because students who wouldn’t necessarily come to other conferences felt like this was a true open door. We had a lot of students who hadn’t gone to a bible study all year, had never gone to a conference, be open to coming.”

The conference was based on the basic questions of “What is the Christian life?” and “What does it look like to live the Christian life on a college campus?”

Summerford also attended a Legacy conference, and she said it was inspiring to be surrounded by Greek students who were all seeking God in some way.

“Just looking around when we’re in adoration and seeing other college students on their knees praying and realizing that you’re not alone when you’re living out your faith is really cool,” she said, “and I think that the conferences do a really good job of teaching us but also bringing us together.”

While Greek students often have the natural virtues of leadership and commitment, Sanchez added that FOCUS missionaries also address with their students what they call “The Big Three”: chastity, sobriety, and excellence.

“Obviously it can be a stereotype, but it’s also a reality that when you have a whole bunch of men or women living together there can be a lot of partying, drinking, the hookup culture, just really poor relationships in general,” Sanchez said.

There’s also the tendency to prioritize Greek life above all other commitments and to give in to moral temptation in order “to fit in, rather than to follow the relationship with the Lord,” Sanchez said.

But once Greek students start becoming friends with missionaries and seeing the fruits of the Gospel in their houses, they can become some of the most powerful evangelizers, Sanchez added.

Sanchez said that one of his students was leading a bible study in his fraternity, and one day realized that fraternity’s president, vice president and recruitment chair were all a part of his study.

“He started to realize - wow, if I really share the Gospel with these guys, it can change the entire culture of this fraternity from top to bottom and start to create good men who desire to follow the Lord,” he said.

“So it just clicked with him that once he started to really live for the Lord and allow the Lord into these relationships that he already had with these men, it would completely change the culture of the fraternity for God.”

“Once students in fraternities and sororities are reached, they just have such strong natural virtue and personal drive, that once they do have an encounter with the Lord, they can become huge witnesses on campus.”

 

Hartford archdiocese, Knights of Columbus partner to aid Islamic State victims

Hartford, Conn., Apr 18, 2018 / 10:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a partnership with the Knights of Columbus, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Hartford are fundraising money to aid the religious minorities persecuted by the Islamic State.

The Knights have supplied olive wood solidarity crosses, manufactured in the Middle East, to raise financial support for Christian towns in Iraq and Syria.

Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson applauded the cooperation of the Hartford archdiocese, particularly its high schools.

“We are very grateful to the Archdiocese of Hartford for its support of those who have been persecuted for their faith in the Middle East, and we have been truly inspired by these high school students who have taken time and energy to learn about this important issue and raise money to help,” he said in an April 15 statement.

All nine of Hartford’s Catholic high schools have sought to educate their students on Islamic State terrorism and the victims involved. Each school has also adopted a town in the Middle East to keep within their prayers.

At an April 15 Mass at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Catholic leaders applauded the project on its efforts to promote Catholic solidarity and preserve Christian culture. In his homily, Bishop Bawair Soro of the Chaldean Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto expressed his gratitude.

“The message that I have for the Knights of Columbus is one of admiration, that you are amazing. We thank you,” the bishop said.

“We are encouraged by your model, please continue. I know many of the good things that have been done have been influencing us and I know that what you see publicly is only 10 percent of the things that the Knights have been doing. We pray that this will continue and God bless you all.”  

A question-and-answer session followed the Mass. In attendance were Stephen Rasche, Counsel to Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil; Bishop Soro; Archbishop Leonard Blair of Harford; and Andrew Walther, the Knights of Columbus' vice president for communications and strategic planning.

“Our mission is to preserve the word and example of Christ in the Middle East, and this we are committed to do, whatever the cost,” said Rasche. “In this, we are grateful for the support and solidarity we have received from our brothers and sisters in Connecticut and elsewhere.”

In the past, the Knights have advocated for projects to aid Middle Eastern Christians. Since 2014, the organization has contributed $19 million to support the victims of the Islamic State. In 2016, the Knights of Columbus  campaigned for the U.S. Congress and Department of State to recognize the persecutions as an act of genocide.

In Alabama, EWTN remembers Bishop Foley’s service to the Church

Birmingham, Ala., Apr 18, 2018 / 04:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The death of Birmingham’s Bishop Emeritus David Foley prompted tributes from those he served, including the EWTN Global Catholic Network, where he served as a board member and television show host.

 
“All of us at EWTN are saddened by the death of the Most Reverend David Foley who served the Diocese of Birmingham as Bishop for over a decade,” Michael P. Warsaw, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Alabama-based EWTN Global Catholic Network, said April 18.
 
“I had the privilege of first knowing Bishop Foley thirty years ago when he was a pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington,” Warsaw continued. “Throughout his life and wherever his service to the Church took him, he was always known for his keen intellect, pastoral sensitivity and powerful preaching.”
 
“May God reward him for his life of service to the Church, and may he rest in peace,” he said.

Bishop Foley, who according to news reports had been fighting cancer, passed away Tuesday evening at the St. John Vianney Residence for Priests at the age of 88.

Foley served as Bishop of Birmingham from 1994 until his retirement in 2005. The Diocese of Birmingham said the bishop had a very active retirement.
 
“Bishop Foley’s retirement was in name only: he never stopped being a priest, which was the true love of his life. He would spend Christmas and Thanksgiving at prisons, celebrate Mass for any priest for any reason in any parish at any time, and would regularly help with confirmations,” the diocese said in a statement.
 
“Always humble, he quietly continued his ministry, which included visiting the sick at hospitals each week and celebrating Mass once a week for the elderly unable to travel,” said the diocese. “He lived a full and happy life as a priest, setting an example to all on how to live fearlessly following Christ.”
 
Bishop Foley and Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of EWTN Global Catholic Network, had been friends. Warsaw noted that Bishop Foley served on the EWTN Board of Governors.
 
“He also took great joy in hosting ‘Pillars of Faith,’ a weekly live call-in television program that examined the Catechism of the Catholic Church from cover to cover,” said Warsaw.
 
“Despite their occasional disagreements, when Mother Angelica suffered her stroke and brain hemorrhage in 2001, Bishop Foley was one of the first to be at her bedside and he remained a frequent visitor to pray for her,” Warsaw continued. “He never wavered in his respect for all that Mother had accomplished and was always supportive of the Network she founded.”
 
Born in 1930, Foley was ordained a priest May 26, 1956 by Washington Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle in Saint Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He served in various parishes for 30 years.
 
In 1986, he was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. He was installed as the third Bishop of Birmingham in 1994. He stepped down in 2005 upon reaching 75 years of age, but served as administrator of the Diocese of Birmingham until Bishop Robert Baker was installed as bishop in 2007.
 
Bishop Foley’s body will be received at Birmingham’s Cathedral of Saint Paul on Sunday at 2 p.m., followed by hourly prayers until 6:30 p.m. A rosary will be held at 4 p.m. Bishop Baker will preside over a Vesper service at 6:30 p.m., at which Abbot Cletus Meagher of St. Bernard Abbey will preach.
 
Bishop Foley’s Mass of Christian Burial will take place at the cathedral on Monday April 23 at 11 a.m. Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile will preside at the Mass. Burial will take place in the cathedral’s courtyard.
 
Memorial contributions are requested to be sent to the Birmingham diocese’s Seminarian Education Fund.

Critics blast US crackdown on protected Vietnamese immigrants

Washington D.C., Apr 18, 2018 / 02:54 pm (CNA).- Thousands of Vietnamese immigrants in the U.S. who were previously protected under an agreement largely for refugees fleeing post-war Vietnam could face detention and deportation in coming months.

The Trump administration’s efforts to remove the Vietnamese immigrants, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades, have drawn sharp criticism from immigration advocates.

“Often folks are being deported to dangerous situations and a country where they know neither the language nor have any community connections any longer,” Greg Walgenbach, director of Life, Justice and Peace from the Diocese of Orange, Calif. told CNA.

“Will families have the ability to make arrangements for them to be received in the country to which they are returned?” he asked. “These are all questions that in the haste to show a ‘tough on immigration’ approach, the U.S. government is casting aside humanitarian concerns and the dignity of the human persons involved.”

Walgenbach said individuals should have the chance to have their cases reviewed to see if anything has changed that might allow them to stay. Families should be able to communicate with their members and given time to make arrangements.

“Especially until immigration laws are changed to be more compassionate and just, the human dignity of every immigrant must be upheld,” said Walgenbach, whose diocese has a large Vietnamese community.

A 2008 repatriation agreement between the U.S. and Vietnamese governments states that Vietnamese citizens are not subject to return to Vietnam if they arrived in the U.S. before July 12, 1995 – the date when the two governments re-established diplomatic relations. Much of this population consists of refugees who fled post-war Vietnam, fearing persecution under the communist government.

Vietnam refuses to take back immigrants who fall under the agreement, meaning that those who have been detained with final deportation orders are in a legal limbo.

Most of the 1.3 million Vietnamese immigrants in the U.S. are legal residents and not in danger of deportation.

But about 8,600 of them are under final deportation orders and are at risk of imminent detention. Of these, 7,821 have criminal convictions, a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told Reuters.

However, Ted Osius, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam from 2014 to October 2017, said that “[t]he majority targeted for deportation—sometimes for minor infractions—were war refugees who had sided with the United States, whose loyalty was to the flag of a nation that no longer exists.”

Ambassador Osius spoke against the deportation policy in the April 2018 issue of The Foreign Service Journal, published by the American Foreign Service Association. He said U.S. government efforts against such immigrants were among the actions that had prompted him to resign.

“[T]hey were to be ‘returned’ decades later to a nation ruled by a communist regime with which they had never reconciled. I feared many would become human rights cases, and our government would be culpable.”

Many of the immigrants had supported South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese government would consider them a destabilizing force, Osius told Reuters.

“These people don’t really have a country to come back to,” he said.

Some of the immigrants had committed serious crimes, Osius acknowledged, although immigration advocates say that many of the convictions are decades old. Osius said that the repatriation agreement had meant that they would be left alone.

Immigration lawyers have said that some detained Vietnamese immigrants have been held for as long as 11 months because Immigration and Customs Enforcement cannot deport them.

Previously, arrested Vietnamese immigrants with final deportation orders who had arrived before 1995 would be released within 90 days, under supervision orders. In 2017, 71 Vietnamese people were deported to Vietnam, compared to 35 the previous year.

In February, several groups filed a class action lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court seeking to challenge the indefinite detentions.

One of those detained, Hoang Trinh, came to the U.S. in 1980 at the age of four when his family fled postwar Vietnam. He became a legal resident, married and raised two children in Orange County, Calif., the Washington Post reported in March.

He has spent at least seven months in detention under Immigration and Customs Enforcement. For a 2015 drug charge he spent a year in prison, then was arrested in 2017 for possession of marijuana. He was then ordered to be removed from the U.S. Trinh is a party to the lawsuit.

Phi Nguyen, litigation director with Asian Americans Advancing Justice--Atlanta, charged that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is acting “in complete disregard for the law.”

“The only thing that has changed is that our administration wants the Vietnamese government to completely abandon the repatriation agreement.”

Nguyen said that her parents fled Vietnam after her father was imprisoned for three years, during which he suffered from forced labor and starvation.

The fate of these immigrants is a subject of international discussion. Katina Adams, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s East Asia bureau, said the U.S. and Vietnamese governments continue to discuss their positions on Vietnamese citizens now in the U.S.

Reuters cited a senior Vietnamese official who said Vietnam needs to accept those who went to the U.S. after the war, not as a consequence of it.

For opposing gay marriage, she's facing death threats and million-dollar lawsuits

New York City, N.Y., Apr 18, 2018 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Barronelle Stutzman took a stand for her Christian beliefs nearly five years ago, she never imagined that she would eventually be appealing to the US Supreme Court to defend her decision.

But that’s exactly what happened.

“This was never on my bucket list,” Barronelle told CNA.

The 72-year-old grandmother is the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, and is currently involved in a lawsuit involving a customer of nearly 10 years, Rob Ingersoll.

Barronelle knew Rob was gay from the beginning. “It was never an issue,” she said. She enjoyed working with him, and said he would pick out creative vases and containers, and would come in with flower requests for birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions.

“I loved doing arrangements for Rob, because I got to think outside of the box, and do something special for him.”

But when Rob came in and told Barronelle that he had gotten engaged to his boyfriend, she took him by the hand and explained that she believed marriage to be a sign of the relationship between Christ and the Church, and so she could not do the floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

Initially, Rob said that he understood and asked if she could recommend another florist, which she did.

Later, however, his partner posted a message on social media about Barronelle declining to take part in the wedding, and it went viral. Soon, she was informed that she was being sued by the Washington State attorney general and the ACLU. Today, more than four years later, Barronelle is waiting to hear whether the US Supreme Court will take her case.

And while the actual damages being sought by the couple are only around $7 – the mileage cost of driving to another florist – Barronelle could be responsible for more than $1 million in legal fees to nearly a dozen ACLU lawyers opposing her in the case.

Barronelle, who is Southern Baptist, spoke at a panel discussion in New York City last November, hosted by ADF International, the global branch of the non-profit legal group that is representing her in court.

“Because I have a belief that is marriage is between one man and a woman, we could possibly lose everything we own, everything we’ve saved for our kids and grandkids,” Barronelle said.

She explained that while the decision to decline a same-sex wedding was difficult, it was the only way she could stay true to her beliefs. For her, weddings are much more than simply a job – they’re a deeply personal labor of love, and she pours her heart and soul into her work.

“I spend months – sometimes years – with the bride and groom. I get to know them personally, what they want to convey, what the bride wants, what her vision is. There’s so much personal involvement in this.”

At the wedding, Barronelle will often help greet guests and calm nervous parents. “When we get the bride down the aisle, then I know I’ve done my job,” she said.

With floral arrangements for weddings being such a personal endeavor, she knew that she would be betraying her relationship with Christ if she participated in a same-sex wedding ceremony.

Over the last four-and-a-half years, Barronelle has received an outpouring of support – customers coming in to offer a kind word or a hug, strangers telling her they are praying for her family, and messages of encouragement from 68 countries.

But she’s also received death threats. She’s had to install a security system and change her route to work.

“Even today, we're very aware of people who come in who might do us harm,” she said.

Also hard, she said, has been losing her relationship with Rob. She said she misses him and harbors no anger against him.

“I can tell you that if Rob walked into my store today, I would hug him, catch up on his life, and I would wait on him for another 10 years if he’d let me.”

She also has a message for her fellow Americans: stand up for religious freedom, before it’s too late.

“Don’t think this cannot happen to you,” she said. “I never thought that we would have a government that would come in and tell you what to think, what to do, what to say, what to create – and if you don’t do it, you’ll be totally destroyed.”

“If we don’t stand now, there will be nothing to stand for.”

 

An earlier version of this article was originally published on CNA Nov. 3, 2017.