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Bishop Paprocki explains Catholic teaching: Repentance is for everyone

Springfield, Ill., Jul 26, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A prominent media priest who criticized Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s restatement of norms regarding church funerals “gets a lot wrong,” the bishop said in a response noting the importance of repentance for everyone.

Bishop Paprocki explained his decree in a July 9 video on the Diocese of Springfield’s website. He reminded everyone with a ministry in the Church that “while being clear and direct about what the Church teaches, our pastoral ministry must always be respectful, compassionate and sensitive to all our brothers and sisters in faith, as was the ministry of Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd and our everlasting model for ministry,” the bishop said.

“People with same-sex attraction are welcome in our parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois as we repent our sins and pray for God to keep us in his grace,” he said.

On June 12 the Bishop of Springfield had issued an internal decree discussing same-sex marriage and pastoral issues in his diocese. The decree was leaked.

Father James Martin, S.J., an editor-at-large of America Magazine, had claimed on Twitter that the bishop’s diocesan norms regarding a ban on church funeral rites only focused on “LGBT people” and would not be applied to others living in public sin, such as a man and a woman in an irregular union, or private sin, such as users of birth control. Fr. Martin suggested such a focus constituted unjust discrimination.

Bishop Paprocki had said his decree was “totally consistent with Catholic teaching.” The decree was “a rather straightforward application of existing Catholic doctrine and canon law” in a new situation where same-sex couples are receiving a legal marital status in civil law, contrary to Catholic teaching.

“Father Martin gets a lot wrong in those tweets, since canon law prohibits ecclesiastical funeral rites only in cases of ‘manifest sinners’ which gives ‘public scandal,’ and something such as using birth control is a private matter that is usually not manifest or made public,” the bishop said.

Bishop Paprocki rejected the characterization of his decree as focusing on “LGBT people.” Rather, he said, it focused on “so-called same-sex marriage, which is a public legal status.”

“No one is ever denied the sacraments or Christian burial for simply having a homosexual orientation,” the bishop continued. “Even someone who had entered into a same-sex marriage can receive the sacraments and be given ecclesiastical funeral rites if they repent and renounce their marriage.”

The bishop said the priest-commentator missed the key phrase in the decree: the section saying that ecclesiastical funeral rites are to be denied to those in same-sex marriages “unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death.”

“This is a direct quote from canon 1184 of the Code of Canon Law, which is intended as a call to repentance,” Bishop Paprocki said.

He cited Christ's public proclamation in the Gospel of Mark: “This is the time of fulfilment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The bishop further explained the Church’s response to church burial rites.

“This does not mean that unrepentant manifest sinners will simply be refused or turned away,” he said. “Even in those cases where a public Mass of Christian Burial in church cannot be celebrated because the deceased person was unrepentant and there would be public scandal, the priest or deacon may conduct a private funeral service, for example, at the funeral home.”

Bishop Paprocki did find a point in the priest’s criticism.

“Father Martin’s tweets do raise an important point with regard to other situations of grave sin and the reception of Holy Communion. He is right that the Church’s teaching does not apply only to people in same-sex marriages,” he said.

Citing canon law, the bishop said everyone conscious of grave sin should not receive Holy Communion without first going to confession and receiving absolution. This is relevant to everyone who has committed a grave sin, whether it is sexual sin, missing Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation without grave cause, procuring an abortion, or having attempted remarriage after a divorce without obtaining a decree of nullity.

The bishop noted that a couple who agrees to live as brother and sister in an irregular union, if there is no public scandal, could receive Holy Communion after repenting, going to confession, and amending their lives. This similarly would apply to two men or two women who live chastely with each outher.

Bishop Paprocki’s decree drew significant media coverage.

“The fact that there would be such an outcry against this decree is quite astounding and shows how strong the LGBT lobby is both in the secular world as well as within the Church,” he said.

Citing Pope Francis’ comments against judgementalism, the bishop noted that the Pope had warned against any form of lobbies, including a “gay lobby.”

Burial rites were only one part of the June 12 decree, which concerned topics including the use of Catholic facilities and diocesan personnel in same-sex ceremonies, as well as the response to people in same-sex unions and to any children who live with such couples and are presented for the sacraments or Catholic education.

These Chicago Catholics have a game plan for evangelization

Chicago, Ill., Jul 26, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Taking its cue from the recent and massive Convocation of Catholic Leaders in the U.S., one Chicago-based organization is partnering with parishes to form missionary disciples.

The convocation took place in Florida July 1-4, drawing several thousand participants. Aimed at equipping and invigorating Catholic leaders, the event addressed challenges that inhibit parishes from evangelization, especially the deflating attendance of parishioners in Catholic churches.

In a July 20 interview with CNA, president of L'Alto Catholic Institute Tim Glemkowski said “the way this New Evangelization is going to be accomplished is by forming each lay Catholic as a missionary disciple, for normative Catholicism to be heroic Catholicism.”

Established this year, L'Alto works closely with the parishes of Chicago to form disciples according to each community, taking into account the goals and people of each parish rather than imposing a generic formula without understanding specific needs.

Glemkowski said the organization's goal is to walk with parishes who long to develop this culture of discipleship but face obstacles or do not know where to begin. Developing disciples is a lifelong process, he said, adding L'Alto may give parishes a starting boost, and help chart a course during a church's beginning stages.

Additionally to working closely with parishes, the organization has developed three other initiatives: a school of prayer, a bi-weekly discipleship group for high school women, and a three-day parish event filled with the sacraments and geared toward a personal encounter with Jesus.

When asked about his reference to a quote by Pope Emeritus Benedict the XVI, stating that true conversion follows an encounter with Christ as a person and not just as an ethical solution, Glemkowski said the Christian faith must contain a personal encounter with Christ because “the reality is, though, that people will find it difficult to die for a detached notion.”

“Catholicism requires sacrifice, at times the ultimate sacrifice of the martyrs, but even just every day sacrifices that result from living according to a belief system that runs contrary to the world.”

At the convocation, the Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, Robert Barron, said that every era's crisis is met by a movement of the church, a movement which Glemkowski believes will arise from a commitment to the “New Evangelization” by the clergy, religious, and especially the lay people.

“It is not the role of the clergy alone to form disciples. It is the task of the entire Church, lay included.”

Glemkoswki said that indifference and relativism are major problems within our culture today, noting a lack meaning in hearts of people which is substituted by inadequate things.

“The human heart cannot live without meaning. Where meaning is not found, all kinds of strange substitutes take its place, and what we are seeing in the world are the strange reactions to billions of human hearts desperately craving a reason to live.”

Even within the Church, there are a number of Catholics who do not know its teachings and are not interested. He referenced a 2008 study by Pew Research Center that showed that less than 50 percent of Catholics believe religion contains a personal relationship with God. Additionally, he said about six Catholics leave the Church per every convert who comes into the Church, according to another study by Pew Research Center in 2015.

The decrease in numbers and zeal paints a picture of a church that hasn't been creating disciples to spread the message of the Gospel, Glemkoswki said. He also pointed towards the encounter of the faith as identified in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles – saying that this is not a reality for people at Catholic parishes today, leaving the guest or parishioner to wonder if it's even the same faith.

“Community, shared life, joy, apostolic zeal; these things should be the normative experience for Catholics, and often, our communities just don't measure up,” he said.

“I don't think when most people walk into your average Sunday liturgy, they feel like they're worshiping God with a multitude of saints.”

Glemkowski said this was a major concern for the convocation in Florida. In reference to Pope Francis' 2013 encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, the conference strongly recognized the need for developing missionary disciples to spread the Gospel within the culture.  

“To be a disciple means to adopt the yoke of Christ meaning you have an active and growing prayer life, you participate frequently in the life of the Church, and you are attempting to conform your every moment to His teachings through ascesis and purgation.”

However, creating discipleship is more than an ethical problem – and Catholicism is more than “an intellectual system with a moral code attached to it.”

He said he understands why the Church at times mistakenly pushes a stringent morality as a response to a perceived ethical laxity on the part of Catholics.

But the faith can't be sustained solely as an idea, or even as the sacrifice required in the Christian life and as seen in martyrs and saints, he said. Rather, it's sustained through the love of the person of Christ.

Glemkowski quoted Saint John Paul II, saying: “It is necessary to awaken again in believers a full relationship with Christ. Only from a personal relationship with Jesus can an effective evangelization develop.”

Migration and sustainable development – what's the link?

New York City, N.Y., Jul 26, 2017 / 12:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Why do people migrate in the first place? And what if there was a way we could address the international crisis better by going after the root problems?

A priest at the United Nations spoke of the connection between migration and sustainable development, calling on the international community to help make migrants' homelands safer and the immigration process more welcoming.

“All of us know that poverty and the lack of prospects for development frequently spur so many individuals and families to seek ways to survive in distant lands,” said Fr. Michael Czerny, the Undersecretary of the Section for Migrants and Refugees Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

“The profound linkages between migration and development can first be seen, sadly, in the absence or breakdown of many of the pillars of sustainable development that have compelled millions to go on the move,” he said, pointing to hunger, violence, and poverty as many of the reasons why citizens have been uprooted from their homes.

Fr. Czerny's words were addressed to the UN session titled “Contributions of migrants to all dimensions of sustainable development: the linkages between migration of development” on July 24 at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Throughout his address, Fr. Czerny underscored the importance of the “right to remain” in sustainable development, saying that it is the duty of the international community to help citizens remain in their homeland by promoting efforts to improve the conditions within these countries.

“That makes migration a choice, not a necessity,” he said.

He also encouraged efforts that would allow citizens to actively participate in the sustainable development of their own countries, so that local individuals could contribute their talents to rebuilding their own communities.

Additionally, Fr. Czerny believes that when individuals do leave their homelands, they must be welcomed and treated with dignity when they enter a new country.

“Migrants must first be received and treated as human beings, with dignity and full respect for their human rights, and protected against all forms of exploitation or from being permanently socially, economically or legally cast-away,” he said.

Fr. Czerny noted that the success of migrants hinges on “whether they are helped to transition from objects of emergency care to dignified subjects of their own development.”

Because of this, when countries do receive migrants they should make efforts to welcome, protect, promote and integrate them in their community, Fr. Czerny said.  But he also noted that this endeavor should not take away from other, on-going efforts to help those in need on a local level.  

“One way to do this is through the adoption of development and donor policies that set aside a percentage of the direct assistance provided to migrants and refugees for local infrastructure and for the benefit of local families and communities experiencing economic and social disadvantages,” he said.  

He also encouraged migrants themselves to adopt an attitude of openness, saying that they should “respect the values, traditions and laws of the community that takes them in.”

Fr. Czerny then quoted Pope Francis, who recently said that “the presence of so many brothers and sisters who experience the tragedy of immigration is an opportunity for human growth, encounter, and dialogue between cultures in view of the promotion of peace and fraternity among peoples.”

By encouraging sustainable development in countries, Fr. Czerny believes that the international community will not only boost the success of local economies, but also help citizens stay in their homelands and eventually make migration a choice – not an emergency.

“No one should ever be forced to leave his or her home due to lack of development or peace.

Catholics oppose buffer zone around Kentucky's last abortion clinic

Louisville, Ky., Jul 25, 2017 / 02:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life activists in the Archdiocese of Louisville have spoken out against a city ordinance which resulted in the creation of a temporary buffer zone outside Kentucky's only facility where abortions can be procured.

The 15-by-7.5 foot buffer zone outside the EMW Women’s Surgical Center was proposed last week and implemented on a temporary basis Friday. A federal judge is expected to rule today whether it will remain permanently.

The pro-life activists cite concerns that the ordinance would prevent women seeking abortions from obtaining all information necessary for a decision, as it would restrict the activities of sidewalk counselors.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville sent a statement to the July 19 Metro Council meeting that discussed the buffer zone before its implementation.

“I have always counseled that our pro-life efforts should be courageous, compassionate, and civil and that activities at abortion clinics be conducted in a prayerful, peaceful, and respectful manner that includes respect for just laws,” the archbishop said in his statement. He also noted their goal is to “support the mother and child whenever possible.”

His statement was read by Ed Harpring, who has been a sidewalk counselor for 33 years. Harpring detailed his “call to the sidewalk,” which he said came after seeing ultrasound images of his oldest daughter.

“I felt that God was asking me about the other children in the womb at that same age — who might not ever see the light of day, the children that are losing their lives to abortion,” he said, as reported by the archdiocesan newspaper The Record.

Harpring expressed concern that the buffer zone would impede his ability to inform women of their alternatives. He refers women seeking abortions to the pregnancy center A Women’s Choice, next door to EMW. The center’s resources include free ultrasounds, as well as financial, medical, mental, and spiritual help during pregnancy.

Patricia Horton, a director of Louisville Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, also spoke at the meeting. Horton’s group prays in front of clinics.

“I know that when I have important decisions to make if it’s buying a home, having a hip replacement surgery or dying my hair we all want information,” she said. “You cannot make good decisions without information.” She also expressed concerned at her group’s right to free expression being curtailed.

The buffer zone began as a temporary measure on Friday in anticipation of a meeting of Operation Save America (OSA), a fundamentalist group protesting abortion in the state this week. The U.S. Attorney’s office in the city had filed a motion three days prior to enforce the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which bars protestors from blocking those seeking to enter abortion clinics.

The order comes after 11 people from OSA were arrested outside the clinic in May for blocking the clinic’s entrance, according to the Courier-Journal.

“The Lord filled me with his peace and I knew I was obeying his will," said Eva Zastrow, one of those arrested, in speaking to the Courier-Journal. "I chose to sit in front of the doors, I'm not going to balk from the consequences. I'm not going to complain or regret it."

As a result of the arrests, a judge issued a temporary restraining order to keep those arrested and their affiliates away from the clinic entrance. That restraining order led to Friday’s buffer zone.

As part of its week of abortion protests in the city, OSA plans to set up a JumboTron downtown to display an abortion procedure.

Louisville is seen as a key location in the fight against abortion, as it is home to the last clinic in Kentucky that performs abortions. Other clinics have been shut down due to a law requiring that clinics have hospital admitting privileges.

As Senate health care vote nears, will pro-life provisions be included?

Washington D.C., Jul 25, 2017 / 12:08 am (Church Pop).- As the Senate prepares to vote later today to begin the process of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, pro-life leaders are working to ensure pro-life language is included in the final version of the bill voted on.

“There is no reason for private non-governmental organizations, like Planned Parenthood, to receive millions of dollars every year in taxpayer money. I will keep working with my colleagues to include pro-life provisions in the healthcare bill because abortion is not healthcare,” Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) said.

The Senate is set to vote Tuesday on whether to proceed with repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, although it has not been announced which replacement bill will ultimately be voted on.

However, there are concerns that the final legislation voted on in the Senate will not include pro-life provisions.

On Friday, the Senate Parliamentarian sent out a guidance stating the pro-life provisions in the bill – stripping Planned Parenthood of Medicaid reimbursements for one year and prohibiting any tax credits from paying for insurance that includes abortion coverage – could be removed short of 60 votes.

Senate Republicans do not have the 60 votes usually required to move a bill to the floor for a vote, but they had planned to pass a bill under the process of reconciliation, where legislation pertaining to the budget can be passed with a simple majority of votes.

The Parliamentarian, however, advised on Friday that the pro-life provisions violated the “Byrd Rule,” which prevents language not pertaining to the budget from being included in a bill passed through the reconciliation process.

However, the language stripping Planned Parenthood of federal funds reportedly can be adjusted and re-inserted into the legislation voted on Tuesday. The language preventing federal funding of plans covering abortions, however, may still be blocked from a vote.

The 2016 Republican Party platform states that “we will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.”

“The news from the parliamentarian was another dip in the roller coaster ride,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, told the Washington Post on Sunday. “We have been reassured the problem can be fixed, so are in a tentative support mode still.”

The most recent Senate health care proposal, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, would reduce spending on Medicaid and put a cap on Medicaid payments to states based on their population. Federal subsidies for coverage would also be reduced, and the penalties imposed on people who are without health insurance, along with the employer insurance mandate, would be done away with.

Scored by the Congressional Budget Office, it was determined to reduce the deficit by $420 billion over a decade, but would increase the number of uninsured by 22 million.

However, some have cautioned that the CBO scores are “flawed” as they consider only government actions while ignoring the private sector. Thus, if a government requirement for persons to have health insurance – the individual mandate – were to be repealed, that would be considered by the CBO for scoring, but not the effect of incentives for persons to buy insurance like tax credits and health savings accounts.

Critics have pointed to the nearly identical scoring of both a simple repeal of the ACA, which judged by the CBO to result in 22 million more uninsured persons, and the House-passed American Health Care Act, a repeal-and-replace bill, which was also determined to result in 23 million more uninsured.

Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, meanwhile said that the first version of the Senate bill was “unacceptable” and that the revised version did not contain enough improvements to change that determination.

Regarding the first version of the bill, he said in June that “it is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written.”

“At a time when tax cuts that would seem to benefit the wealthy and increases in other areas of federal spending, such as defense, are being contemplated, placing a ‘per capita cap’ on medical coverage for the poor is unconscionable,” he said of the proposed per capita caps in Medicaid funding to states.

Regarding the repeal of the individual mandate, and its replacement with a penalty for going more than 63 days without coverage, he said that “many people are forced to use their resources to address immediate needs,” and that the penalty “will leave these individuals and families without coverage when they need it most.”

And the bill would also result in higher premiums and less relief for some of those who need it most, he said. “In many places, older and lower-income people will pay more than under current law because of decreased levels of tax credit support and higher premiums.”

When the revised plan was released, Bishop Dewane said in a July 13 statement that it was still unacceptable and that “more is needed to honor our moral obligation to our brothers and sisters living in poverty and to ensure that essential protections for the unborn remain in the bill."

Last week, short of the needed votes to pass the bill through the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ultimately announced that a vote would occur to repeal and replace the ACA.

However, the Senate on Tuesday will reportedly vote on a “motion to proceed” on the House bill, the AHCA, and then would attach amendments to repeal and replace the ACA.

These amendments would include language from the 2015 repeal bill and a version of the Senate’s recent health care proposal. That language would reportedly not include the protections against taxpayer funding of insurance plans with abortions.

On July 21, Bishop Dewane said that the Senate would need an acceptable health care plan to replace the Affordable Care Act if they voted to repeal the ACA.

He said that “in the face of difficulties passing these proposals, the appropriate response is not to create greater uncertainty, especially for those who can bear it least, by repealing the ACA without a replacement.”

“Yet,” he said, “reform is still needed to address the ACA's moral deficiencies and challenges with long-term sustainability.” The bishops had previously said that funding of abortion coverage in plans offered on the exchanges, as well as lack of coverage for immigrants, were among their concerns with the Affordable Care Act and their reasons for ultimately not supporting its passage.

Archbishop Gomez calls on Congress to pass Dream Act

Los Angeles, Calif., Jul 24, 2017 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Too many young people are threatened with deportation because their parents brought them to the U.S. without documentation, and Congress needs to pass the Dream Act to help them, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has said.

The proposed legislation “would permanently lift the threat of deportation that right now hangs over the heads of more than one million young people who were brought to this country illegally or are living in the homes of undocumented parents,” Archbishop Gomez said July 21.

“We are talking about people who have grown up in this country since they were young children. America is all they know,” he said. They are presently in “limbo”, without any legal status even as they work, go to college, and serve in the armed forces.

“It is long past time for us to welcome these young immigrants as citizens and give them the opportunities they need to flourish and to help our country grow. A just and compassionate society cannot continue to punish innocent children for the mistakes of their parents.”

The archbishop spoke the day after the introduction of the Dream Act of 2017 by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The bill would grant permanent legal status to over 1 million young people who arrived in the U.S. before they turned 18, provided they meet certain criteria. These criteria include enrolling in college, joining the military, or finding jobs. Applicants must have lived in the U.S. for four years. Its name derives from the acronym Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.

The proposal would make permanent the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was implemented by executive order in 2012 by President Barack Obama, who cited lack of action from Congress.

Archbishop Gomez emphasized the situation of those who would benefit from the legislation.

“Under this legislation, these young men and women would now have the chance to earn permanent residency status and eventually to seek citizenship in our country,” he said. “This is the right thing to do and the compassionate thing to do.”

“In my experience, these are good kids who want to use their lives to make a difference in our country. These young men and women want to share the American dream,” he continued. “They exemplify what is best about the immigrant spirit that makes our country exceptional.”

Archbishop Gomez pledged his support and that of the Catholic community in Los Angeles, praying that leaders in Washington would enact the bill quickly. He prayed that the legislation would mark the start of “a more comprehensive reform” of the U.S. immigration system that protects national borders, that “enables us to welcome newcomers who have the character and skills our country needs to grow” and that provides “a compassionate solution” for the undocumented who are “forced to live in the shadows of our society.”

The attorneys general of 20 states urged President Donald Trump to maintain the DACA program. In a July 21 letter to the president, they said it represents a “success story” for the more than 750,000 people registered for it.

Registration for the program requires the submission of an application, passing a background check, and applying for a work permit. The attorneys general said recipients of DACA status benefit from a 42 percent boost in hourly wages, which gives them purchasing power that benefits everyone.

Rescinding DACA would have “severe” consequences both for the hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries, their families, their employers, and their schools. If the program ends, the attorneys general said, there would be lost tax revenue and billions in turnover costs for businesses. They said DACA has helped young people report crime to police without fear of deportation.

The attorneys general cited “a number of troubling incidents” that raise concerns over whether Department of Homeland Security agents are adhering to DACA guidelines and to public assurances from the Trump administration that individuals eligible for DACA are not being targeted.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had been a vocal critic of DACA. White House officials suggested the president would not support the act, the Washington Post reports. At the same time the president recently told reporters aboard Air Force One that ending DACA is “a decision that’s very, very hard to make.”

A version of the Dream Act was first introduced in 2001 but has never passed both chambers in the same session. One version passed the House of Representatives in 2010 and passed the Senate in 2013 as part of a larger immigration bill.

In a June 29 letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, attorneys general from Texas and nine other states demanded the Trump administration end the DACA policy. The letter threatened to amend a lawsuit against another deportation deferral program in order to target the policy, Politico reports.

Nation's capital remembers former US Opus Dei head

Washington D.C., Jul 24, 2017 / 11:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic figures from Washington, D.C. are remembering the legacy of Fr. Arne Panula, former U.S. vicar of Opus Dei, and a beloved leader, mentor and friend of many throughout the city.

“Father Arne Panula is greatly identified with our Archdiocesan Catholic Information Center where he carried out a quiet, effective, evangelizing ministry that touched many including a large number of young professionals,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl Washington D.C. in a statement to CNA.  

“Both his erudition and spirituality were inviting qualities that helped so many others come to a deeper knowledge and love of the Lord. His priestly presence will be greatly missed.”

Cardinal Wuerl presided over Fr. Panula’s funeral Mass on Saturday, July 22 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Fr. Panula passed away at his Washington, D. C. home on July 19, 2017 after a long battle with cancer.

Born in Duluth, Minn., Fr. Panula graduated from Harvard University in 1967, before traveling to Rome to study Theology. While there, he lived with St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of the personal prelature Opus Dei.

Fr. Panula was ordained a priest in 1973 before serving as chaplain of The Heights School in Washington, D.C. He later served as the U.S. vicar of Opus Dei from 1998-2002.

Starting in 2007, Fr. Panula became the director of the Catholic Information Center in downtown Washington, D.C. The center includes a bookstore and chapel, offering Mass, adoration, confession and spiritual direction, as well as talks from Catholic speakers.

Under Fr. Panula’s guidance, in 2013 the center began offering an educational fellowship, the Leonine Forum, to help young professionals learn more about the Church’s Social Teaching and service.

Members of Washington D.C.’s Catholic community remembered the priest for his influence in their lives. The Embassy of Poland also mourned his death, linking to his obituary and posting a picture of Fr. Panula giving an opening blessing at an event.

Chad Pecknold, theology professor at The Catholic University of America and leader of several Leonine Forum sessions, remembered the priest on Twitter: “Fr. Arne Panula died today. A hero of the Faith, I'm proud to have called him friend & Father. May God's perpetual light shine upon him. RIP.”

Leonine Fellow and communications professional Elise Italiano commented on social media that Fr. Panula “treated Washington elite, the homeless at his doorstep, and many in between with equal dignity and compassion.”

Another Leonine Fellow, Catherine Szeltner, host of EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, recalled that “Fr. Arne Panula was a man whose eyes were piercing – but his kindness – even more so. It was an honor to know you. Requiem aeternam.”

George Weigel, biographer of Pope John Paul II and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, noted that Fr. Panula served as a spiritual director to many from all walks of life, many of whom had colorful and difficult journeys to the faith.

Weigel, who is a frequent speaker at the Catholic Information Center, said that Fr. Panula helped turn the center into a “vibrant” source of authentic Catholic life and evangelization amid a city associated more with House of Cards than the House of the Lord.

“He was a man deeply in love with the gift of the priesthood, who was, I would also say, completely unclerical. He fully understood that sanctity is not limited to the sanctuary, that everyone is called by baptism to be a saint and he helped people do that,” Weigel added.

“He was really one of the most remarkable priests I have met.”

 

NFP: It's not just a Catholic thing anymore

Washington D.C., Jul 24, 2017 / 03:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For some, it was a health-conscious decision. For others, it was environmental. For still others, it was faith-based.

But no matter the reason, more and more women are ditching the pill and opting for fertility awareness methods as a natural way to achieve or delay pregnancy.

“In the US, there does seem to be an increase in the interest in fertility tracking and understanding the signs and symptoms of our bodies to plan and prevent pregnancy,” said Dr. Victoria Jennings, director of the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University.

“Our work has shown that simple fertility awareness messages are extremely attractive to a wide range of women and can address their family planning needs,” Jennings told CNA.

July 23-29 is national Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, coinciding with the 48th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humane Vitae, which laid out the Church’s long-understood teachings on the sanctity of human sexuality.  

The Catholic Church has always taught that contraception is immoral, because it divorces procreation from the sexual act. However, the Church approves of Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods, which allow couples to remain open to life.

Through Natural Family Planning, a woman learns to understand her body’s natural monthly cycle. By tracking the signs of her own fertility each day, she is able to determine when she is fertile and infertile. Decisions about whether to engage in sexual activity can then be made, based upon this knowledge, and the couple’s desire to achieve or postpone a pregnancy.

While NFP is sometimes mistaken for the primitive “calendar method” of generations past, it is actually an umbrella term for a collection of modern fertility awareness methods. Carefully evaluating each woman’s individual body and cycle, modern methods are rooted in science and are 99.6 percent effective when used correctly – a number that competes with the pill, according to the Couple to Couple League, a group that promotes Natural Family Planning.

Additionally, these methods are free from the host of side effects and health risks accompanying hormonal contraception. They don’t pollute the environment. And they can even help women identify underlying health problems that may otherwise go undiagnosed.

And Catholics are not alone in their use of Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM). Increasingly, they are being joined by women of various faiths and no faiths at all, as the benefits of natural methods draw new awareness.

In recent years, many Evangelicals and other Protestants have started to find fault with artificial birth control, and are turning to natural fertility-based methods instead.

“All women – Protestant, Catholic, Atheists, and nones – can appreciate this hormone free (and conscience free) alternative to chemical contraception,” said Chelsen Vicari, the Evangelical Program Director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy, in an article last year.

Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the University of Utah found that more women, religious or not, are seeking alternatives to hormonal birth control without turning to surgery. And a 2015 study from the University of Iowa found that more than 1 in 5 women would be open to using fertility monitoring instead of the pill if they knew how it worked.

Methods for understanding fertility are also on the rise, and thanks to the help of modern technology and research, women are able to re-think the long list of side effects that can accompany hormonal contraception, such as depression, increased risk for stroke, and reported lower quality of life.

“Specifically in the app world, the use of fertility apps to track cycles or plan/prevent pregnancy is increasing exponentially,” Jennings said, noting that there are more than 1,000 fertility apps available on Apple and Google Play stores.

However, Jennings did warn that some of the apps have been proven to be inaccurate or “make claims that are either unsubstantiated or misleading, making it difficult for women to know which apps are most likely to meet their needs.”

Among the most well-respected fertility apps is Kindara. Launched in 2012, the iOS app offers charting tools to help women track when they are fertile by highlighting the ovulation period of a woman’s monthly cycle.

“Over the past couple of decades, fertility awareness has been studied a lot. We know scientifically, based on evidence now, that it does work, and it works very well if you use it correctly,” says Lauren Risberg, the Content Lead for Kindara.

Another fertility app, Natural Cycles, was started by a nuclear physicist in Sweden and was recently approved by the European Union as a certified method of birth control.

The growing interest in fertility awareness also comes at a time of concern over false expectations of reliability with artificial birth control.

New statistics released this month indicate that more than half (51%) of the abortions performed in the UK last year were due to failed contraception from the pill, implants or patches.

In an interview with the Telegraph, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service Ann Furedi said that by encouraging women to use contraception, “you give them the sense that they can control their fertility.”

“Our data shows that women cannot control their fertility through contraception alone,” Furedi stressed.

In contrast, Church teaching surrounding Natural Family Planning emphasizes an openness to life, steering away from the notion that women control their fertility and instead empowering them with the knowledge to understand their bodies and cooperate with them to the fullest possible extent.

Emphasizing the gift of fertility and the ability to be co-creators with God to bring about a new human life, the Church teaches that couples should only avoid pregnancy through NFP when they have a just reason to do so.

With fertility awareness continuing to grow in popularity, the medical community would do well to pay attention, Jennings told CNA.

“Significant numbers of women worldwide don’t use birth control due to fears of side effects, negative beliefs about contraception, and because they don’t think they need it at the time,” she said.

“We believe the reproductive health community must take women's concerns seriously – and also take seriously evidence-based methods that rely on people knowing their own fertility.”

 

Deaths in smuggler's truck 'completely senseless,' Texas archbishop says

San Antonio, Texas, Jul 23, 2017 / 09:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The deaths of at least nine people due to heat in an alleged immigrant smuggler’s truck parked in San Antonio are an occasion for tears, prayers, and action to end such situations, the local archbishop has said.

“There are no words to convey the sadness, despair, and yes, even anger, we feel today at learning of the completely senseless deaths of nine people who died as human smuggling or trafficking victims from heat exhaustion and suffocation in San Antonio overnight,” Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said July 23. “This is an incomprehensible tragedy.”

The San Antonio archbishop voiced prayers for the about 30 adults and children hospitalized with serious injuries due to heat.

“We pray for these victims and all victims of human smuggling and trafficking; that this monstrous form of modern slavery will come to a quick and final end,” he said. “God cries seeing this reality and many other situations such as this across our country and around the world.”

One U.S. official told the Associated Press that 17 of those rescued were being treated for injuries considered life-threatening.

The victims were found in a tractor trailer parked outside a San Antonio Walmart late Saturday or early Sunday. Someone from the truck approached a Walmart employee asking for water. The employee gave the person water and then called police. Authorities found eight people dead, and a ninth died at the hospital.

San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said the victims were ““very hot to the touch.”

“So these people were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water,” he said.

James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida, was taken into custody but officials would not say whether he was the alleged driver.

Initial interviews with survivors suggest more than 100 people may have been in the back of the 18-wheeler at one point, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director Thomas Homan. There were 39 in the truck when rescuers arrived, with the rest believed to have escaped or found rides to their next destination.

Homan said it was unlikely the truck was used to carry immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mexican consul general in San Antonio said Mexican nationals were among the survivors and those who died. At least two Guatemalans were on the abandoned trailer, Guatemala’s foreign ministry said.

For Archbishop Gustavo-Siller, the deaths are a “clarion call” for everyone, including churches, law enforcement, elected officials, civic orgaizations and others to prioritize immigration issues and “truly work together in new ways which have eluded us in the past for common sense solutions.”
 
“No more delays! No more victims!” he said.

The Texas Catholic Conference said the bishops of Texas joined Archbishop Garcia-Siller in offering their sincerest condolences to the families of the migrants. They also prayed for healings of the survivors among those who were human smuggling or trafficking victims.

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin stated July 24 that the US bishops are heartbroken by the news: " I also note our continued concern and prayers for the several other individuals identified, including school-aged children, who are reported to have life-threatening injuries."

"The loss of lives is tragic and avoidable," added Bishop Vasquez, who chairs the US bishops' migration committee. "We condemn this terrible human exploitation that occurred and continues to happen in our country ...  We together mourn for the lives lost and offer our prayers for these individuals and their families."

In 2003, 19 immigrants locked inside a truck rig died in Victoria, Texas. It was one of the deadliest smuggling-related incidents in recent history.

 

Updated 13:47 MDT, July 24, to include a statement by Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin.

Duterte's bloody war on drugs slammed as 'social cleansing'

Washington D.C., Jul 23, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and government officials are guilty of “social cleansing” under the guise of a war on drugs, advocates testified on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

“Duterte and other high officials of the land, having had to find a particular section of Philippine society worthy of elimination, have effectively put in place a de facto social cleansing policy whereby police and vigilantes are not only encouraged, but rewarded and forced to commit extrajudicial killings,” witness Ellecer Carlos told members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on Thursday.

The hearing on “The Human Rights Consequences of the War on Drugs in the Philippines” featured Carlos and two other witnesses from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. They testified on reports of extralegal killings in the Philippines as part of President Duterte’s “Operation Plan Tokhang,” the war on drugs.

The witnesses alleged that high-ranking officials in the Philippine government are complicit in human rights abuses where police officers and vigilantes, who may be working for and paid by the police, track down and kill those involved in the drug trade, with evidence present of other abuses like torture.

The targets are disproportionately poor people. “The vast majority of victims of drug-related killings come from the poorest segments of Philippine society,” Matthew Wells, senior crisis advisor at Amnesty International, stated in his written testimony before the commission.

Heads of poor families may be involved in the drug trade as a way to escape poverty, Wells said, or some may use methamphetamines to help stay awake and energized on a long work day. “The death of a breadwinner often puts families in a more precarious position, at times compounded by police officers stealing from them during crime scene investigations,” Wells said.

President Duterte ran for office on a platform of taking strong action against the drug trade in the country, making shocking statements to underline his commitment to action.

“Forget the laws on human rights. If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor,” the BBC reported him saying. Duterte was previously the mayor of the city of Davao, where he made a name for himself as the “death squad mayor.”

“You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because I'd kill you,” he said while running for president. “I'll dump all of you into Manila Bay, and fatten all the fish there.”

Duterte was elected president in May of 2016. Since then “his rhetoric quickly became all too real” in the war on drugs, Wells stated in his testimony before the commission.

Police officers and vigilantes had killed over 7,000 persons in the drug trade from July, 2016 through January, 2017, according to numbers provided by the Philippine National Police.

While the authorities kept statistics for the first few months of the spike in drug-related deaths, they stopped providing transparency, Wells said. According to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, there have been “blatant inconsistencies and a deliberate attempt to conceal the magnitude of the killings” in the war on drugs, Carlos said.

The killings allegedly undertaken by vigilantes were among the worst human rights problems in the country, the State Department noted in its most recent human rights report.

On Tuesday, Wells described how police officers are paid under-the-table for “encounters” with drug traffickers where “offenders are killed,” and that there is a pay scale for killing drug sellers and users. Vigilantes are also handed hit lists of suspects in the drug trade by police. They carry out the killings for the police, offering them some mode of cover.

Many of the killings are made at night, through home invasions or drive-by shootings. The “modus operandi” of the police is to barge in the door of a home of a suspect at night; in the encounter, the suspect is shot but the police can use the cover of darkness to claim that the suspect was the initial aggressor, Phelim Kine, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said.

More and more citizens have begun sleeping in the streets to be witnesses, taking video of the incidents to ensure that the truth is documented.

A Reuters investigation had uncovered “payments for killings” by police to vigilantes, and showed significant evidence that a “license to kill” had been granted from high levels of government, Wells said.

All this has been an “economy of murder created by the war on drugs, with the police at the center,” Wells said. And there is “scant accountability,” he said, as there have been no convictions of police officers in drug killings and the family members of those killed “face obstacle after obstacle” in seeking justice.

The testimony of a survivor of an extralegal killing, 29 year-old Efren Morillo, was also submitted to the record. Morillo is the lead petitioner before the Philippine Supreme Court in the first case against Operation Plan Tokhang.

Morillo described being at a friend’s house when five men and two women in civilian clothes arrived, armed with guns. They detained five members of the group and accused them of selling illegal drugs. Morillo recognized some of the men as police officers in civilian clothes. The armed men then shot the five civilians.

The Philippine bishops have been outspoken against the increase in killings, referring to it as a “reign of terror” in a Jan. 30 pastoral letter.

“If we neglect the drug addicts and pushers we have become part of the drug problem, if we consent or allow the killing of suspected drug addicts, we shall also be responsible for their deaths,” the bishops said.

“We cannot correct a wrong by doing another wrong,” they said. “A good purpose is not a justification for using evil means. It is good to remove the drug problem, but to kill in order to achieve this is also wrong.”

Duterte, however, responded to the letter by saying “You Catholics, if you believe in your priests and bishops, you stay with them,” while adding that “if you want to go to heaven, then go to them. Now, if you want to end drugs ... I will go to hell, come join me.”

Duterte has also “openly threatened human rights defenders” and “attacked the media and lawyers who have represented the families of extrajudicial killings,” Carlos said on Tuesday.  

Catholic priests have also offered their churches as “sanctuaries” for those who believe they are on the police hit lists, the Guardian reported in February.