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Posted on 12/2/2023 10:00 AM (EWTN News - US Catholic News)
CNA Staff, Dec 2, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).
As we begin Advent and prepare for the birth of Christ in all the practical ways — gift buying, tree trimming, decorating, meal planning, and more — it’s important to prepare to welcome Jesus into our hearts at Christmas. With the hustle and bustle of holiday festivities, it is easy to lose track of what truly makes this time of year so special.
Here are five resources to help you grow in your faith and dig deeper into the meaning of Advent.
Abiding Together is a weekly podcast hosted by Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT; Michelle Benzinger; and Heather Khym. Their weekly chats provide listeners with a sense of community and offers a voice of hope, peace, healing, and encouragement. During Advent you can join this podcast community by diving deeper into Caryll Houselander’s “The Reed of God,” which depicts the humanity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The four-part series starts on Dec. 4 and includes journaling and discussion questions that accompany the podcast episode.
Blessed is She
“A sisterhood of women who desire two things: prayer and community” is how the popular Catholic platform Blessed Is She (BIS) describes itself. Over the years, it has provided resources and products to help deepen one’s prayer life during liturgical seasons such as Lent and Advent. This year for Advent, BIS has a devotional for women called “Found.” Through daily reflections, Scripture, and lectio divina, women are invited to explore their journey with the Good Shepherd.
Prepare your hearts for the birth of Christ by joining Hallow’s Advent Pray25 with C.S. Lewis. Actors Jonathan Roumie of “The Chosen” and Liam Neeson, the voice of Aslan in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” movie, will guide listeners through daily prayers and reflections based on different works of Lewis including “The Four Loves,” “Mere Christianity,” “The Great Divorce,” and more.
She Reads Truth
She Reads Truth is a community of women who come together every day to read God’s word together. For Advent this year, those who join can take part in the “Advent: He Alone Is Worthy Study Book.” The book is filled with Advent prayers, reflections, daily Scripture readings, prayer prompts, journaling space, and even seasonal recipes and tips for hosting Christmas gatherings. If you would like to include your husband, father, or brother in this Advent journey, the He Reads Truth version of the study book is also available.
EWTN Religious Catalog
A brand-new book in the EWTN Religious Catalog is providing hope and inspiration for readers this Advent season. “Rejoicing in Our Hope: Meditations for the Advent and Christmas Seasons” by Bishop Robert Baker, retired bishop of Birmingham, Alabama, is filled with short stories, daily questions for reflection and action, and reflections on sacred Scripture, the saints, popes, and other famous individuals.
This Advent, let us all strive to prepare ourselves to allow the Christ Child to dwell in our hearts and rejoice in the beauty that is the Advent season.
Posted on 12/2/2023 08:00 AM (EWTN News - US Catholic News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 2, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).
For unique Christmas gifts that celebrate your Catholic faith there are many monasteries and religious communities that offer handmade gifts for sale online.
Buying presents from religious brothers and sisters has the added advantage of lending support to these communities, many of whom depend on a successful Christmas shopping season to continue their lives of prayer and service.
Here’s a guide to some of CNA staff members’ favorite gifts to give and receive.
The contemplative Sisters of the Monastery of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor, New York, support themselves by hand-painting chinaware. The exquisite, intricately-designed pieces make lovely Christmas gifts, and the china is dishwasher- and microwave-safe.
The sisters belong to the monastic Family of Bethlehem, of the Assumption of the Virgin and of Saint Bruno, which was founded in 1950 when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin, which states that Mary was elevated, body and soul, from earth into heaven. They create their beautiful chinaware in prayerful solitude. Plates, serving bowls, and platters from $31 and up make lovely gifts. Hand-painted porcelain egg cups for $23.97 are also available through EWTN’s Religious Catalog.
Wine from the first papal vineyard
The Benedictine monks and nuns of the Abbeys of Le Barroux, a vineyard established by Pope Clement V in 1309 in the Rhône Valley of France, now have a U.S. distributor for their Via Caritas wine. The wine is made in cooperation with local vineyards, and the proceeds help support these winemaking families. The monks’ award-winning wines are available to purchase for $21.99 and up.
EWTN’s Colm Flynn visited the vineyard and witnessed the winemaking process firsthand in this video.
Soap and candles
The nuns from the Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey, live a life of prayer through Eucharistic adoration and dedication to the rosary. To support this way of life they create handmade candles and skin-care products, which they sell at their Cloister Shoppe. Create your own Christmas gift bag of two bars of soap, a hand cream, a jar candle, a face moisturizer, and a handmade rosary made from olive wood beads from the Holy Land for $50.
Throw in a pair of Bayberry Christmas Eve Tapers for $18 to give your holiday table a festive glow.
Handmade friar’s rosary (supplies limited)
The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal handcraft these extra-large wooden rosaries (like the friars use), which are offered for sale through Spirit Juice Studios for $30. The friars live in community, carrying out their mission of evangelization and serving the poor in the tradition of St. Francis.
Check out their weekly Poco a Poco podcast here, where Father Innocent, Father Angelus, and Father Mark-Mary break open the Gospel and offer “practical spirituality” for all pilgrims.
These fruitcakes are not the sort that get regifted. The monks of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California, offer a fruitcake soaked in brandy and aged for three months. It “has converted many a fruitcake ‘atheist,’” according to its creators. Order a one-pound fruitcake for $26.98.
The Monks of the Abbey of Gethsemani in New Haven, Kentucky, offer a 20-ounce Kentucky Bourbon Fruitcake along with a jar of Trappist Apricot-Pineapple preserves and a jar of Trappist Quince Jelly, which make a lovely Christmas gift for $32.75.
The monks of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, make their famous fudge with premium chocolate and real butter. Try a 12-ounce gift box for $15. And for a taste of Georgia, try their Southern Touch fudge, “made with real peach morsels, pecans, and a touch of peach brandy.”
The Capuchin Poor Clare nuns make their famous butter cookies from their monastery in Denver. The “Clarisas” come in a beautiful gift box featuring an image of St. Clare and sell for $18 for a 1.5-pound box.
The contemplative nuns of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa, are known for their delicious caramels, which they make by hand in order to support their way of life. A 9-ounce box of sea salt chocolate-covered caramels sells for $15.55.
The Wyoming Carmelites of Mystic Monk Coffee hand-roast their beans in small batches to support their community. The website CoffeeReview.com ranks their coffee among the highest of the coffees it reviews. A 12-ounce bag of their most popular flavor, Jingle Bell Java, sells for $13.95.
Since they began their coffee business in 2007, the monks have been able to live out the Carmelites’ vocation of “hidden prayer and union with God for the sake of everyone throughout the Church and the world.”
The monks at Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas make a tangy hot sauce from the habanero peppers grown in the monastery’s gardens. Benedictine Father Richard Walz began making his “Monk Sauce” while he was stationed in Belize, Central America. In 2003, he brought back some seeds from the peppers he grew there and created a tangy sauce made from the chilies along with onions, garlic, carrots, vinegar, salt, and “a few prayers thrown in for good measure.”
How spicy is it? According to the abbey’s website, their Monk Sauce has a 250,000 Scoville Unit rating, while Tabasco’s habanero sauce earned a mere 7,000 Scoville Unit rating. Available in green, red, and smoked, the 5-ounce bottles sell for $11 each.
Posted on 12/2/2023 06:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The future of humanity depends on what people choose now, Pope Francis said in his message to global leaders at the World Climate Action Summit of the U.N. Climate Change Conference.
"Are we working for a culture of life or a culture of death?" he asked in his message. "To all of you I make this heartfelt appeal: Let us choose life! Let us choose the future!"
"The purpose of power is to serve. It is useless to cling to an authority that will one day be remembered for its inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so. History will be grateful to you," the pope wrote.
Excerpts from Pope Francis' full written message were read by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, Dec. 2 during the high-level segment with heads of state and government at the climate conference, COP28, being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 30-Dec. 12.
Pope Francis was to have been the first pope to attend the U.N. climate conference Dec. 1-3, but canceled his trip Nov. 28 after coming down with a serious bronchial infection.
The Vatican published the pope's full speech Dec. 2, although Cardinal Parolin read only excerpts at the summit to respect the three-minute limit on national statements. The text was submitted in full to the conference.
"Sadly, I am unable to be present with you, as I had greatly desired," the pope's text said.
The destruction of the environment is "a sin" that not only "greatly endangers all human beings, especially the most vulnerable," he wrote, but it also "threatens to unleash a conflict between generations."
"The drive to produce and possess has become an obsession, resulting in an inordinate greed that has made the environment the object of unbridled exploitation," the pope wrote. People must recognize their limits, with humility and courage, and seek authentic fulfillment.
"What stands in the way of this? The divisions that presently exist among us," he wrote.
The world "should not be un-connected by those who govern it, with international negotiations that 'cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good,'" he wrote, quoting from his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', On Care for Our Common Home."
The poor and high birth rates are not to blame for today's climate crisis, he wrote. "Almost half of our world that is more needy is responsible for scarcely 10% of toxic emissions, while the gap between the opulent few and the masses of the poor has never been so abysmal. The poor are the real victims of what is happening."
As for population growth, births are a resource, he wrote, "whereas certain ideological and utilitarian models now being imposed with a velvet glove on families and peoples constitute real forms of colonization."
"The development of many countries, already burdened by grave economic debt, should not be penalized," it said. "It would only be fair to find suitable means of remitting the financial debts that burden different peoples, not least in light of the ecological debt that they are owed" by the few nations responsible for the bulk of emissions.
"We have a grave responsibility," he wrote, which is to ensure the earth, the poor and the young not be denied a future.
The solution requires coming together as brothers and sisters living in a common home, rebuilding trust and pursuing multilateralism, he added.
The care for creation and world peace are closely linked, the pope wrote.
"How much energy is humanity wasting on the numerous wars" being waged, he wrote, and "how many resources are being squandered on weaponry that destroys lives and devastates our common home!"
The pope again urged governments to divert money away from arms and other military expenditures toward a global fund to end hunger, to promote sustainable development of poorer countries and to combat climate change.
"Climate change signals the need for political change" away from narrow self-interest and nationalism, he wrote.
There must be "a breakthrough that is not a partial change of course, but rather a new way of making progress together," he wrote. There must be "a decisive acceleration of ecological transition" regarding energy efficiency, renewable sources, the elimination of fossil fuels and "education in lifestyles that are less dependent on the latter."
He promised the "commitment and support of the Catholic Church, which is deeply engaged in the work of education and of encouraging participation by all, as well as in promoting sound lifestyles."
"Let us leave behind our divisions and unite our forces," Pope Francis wrote. "And with God's help, let us emerge from the dark night of wars and environmental devastation in order to turn our common future into the dawn of a new and radiant day."
Posted on 12/1/2023 20:20 PM (EWTN News - US Catholic News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 1, 2023 / 18:20 pm (CNA).
At a congressional hearing on Thursday, members of Congress and human rights activists urged Nicaragua dictator Daniel Ortega to immediately release imprisoned Catholic Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who they said is being mistreated and possibly tortured.
The hearing, which was held by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations and chaired by New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith, was titled “An Urgent Appeal to Let Bishop Álvarez Go.”
Among the witnesses testifying were several Nicaraguan exiles who had undergone or witnessed the inhumane treatment of political prisoners by the Ortega regime.
Mike Finnan, a representative for Smith, told CNA that the identities of these witnesses were kept secret “for their safety and the safety of their families.”
Smith said during the hearing that Álvarez, the 56-year-old bishop of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, “is an innocent man enduring unspeakable suffering.”
The regime, run by Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, has been targeting the Catholic Church in the country. Smith said that “bishops and priests as well as worshippers have been harassed and detained” and that the international community “can no longer turn a blind eye to what is happening to the people of Nicaragua, including and especially to people of faith.”
Álvarez, a beloved bishop in Nicaragua and a critic of the Ortega-Murillo regime’s human rights violations, was arrested by Nicaraguan authorities on Aug. 19, 2022. After refusing to go into exile he was convicted of treason on Feb. 10 and sentenced to over 26 years in prison.
For most of the time since then, Álvarez has been kept in Nicaragua’s Modelo prison, which is known for its particularly cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners, according to testimony given by Nicaraguan witnesses on Thursday.
A former prisoner of the Ortega-Murillo regime was among those who testified during Thursday’s hearing. The witness, who was exiled to the U.S. and arrived in the country in February, testified that while he was in prison he was mistreated by authorities and underwent more than 30 interrogations in which “they blackmailed me and threatened the lives of my relatives.”
“They wanted me to declare that the bishop was a member of an organization that wanted to promote a coup d’état against Daniel Ortega and that he received money from the U.S. government and the European Union,” the witness said.
Another witness who testified during the hearing, a parent of a Nicaraguan political prisoner, shared how on a visit to Modelo prison, she found young prisoners tortured and maimed and kept in poor, unsanitary conditions.
“There were some young men, maybe 15, 16 years old, you could see the tortures they had been subjected to,” the witness said. “I remember that one of them lifted up his pants and showed me his calf, it had been burned with acid; he could not bend the fingers of his hands due to the tortures.”
In response to demands for proof that Álvarez is still alive, the Nicaraguan dictatorship’s Ministry of the Interior released new video and images of the bishop on Tuesday.
In a Nov. 28 press release, the Ministry of the Interior stated that the video and photos show that “the conditions of [Álvarez’s] confinement are preferential and that the regimen of doctor’s appointments is strictly complied with as well as family visits, the sending and receiving of packages, contrary to what slanderous campaigns try to make you believe.”
According to Smith, however, the video of Álvarez released this week by the government of Nicaragua “raises serious questions and concerns about his well-being.”
Smith told CNA on Friday that he is going to continue pressuring the Ortega regime to release the bishop and cease its persecutions through increased sanctions.
He said that the video reminded him of a visit he made to a communist gulag under the Soviet Union in which prison officials tried to convince him that the detainees were well-fed and happy by staging food and forcing them to smile.
Though the video shows seemingly comfortable chairs and couches and food on a table, he said that witnesses who survived imprisonment by the Nicaraguan government informed him that “none of that’s real.”
“It’s all one big fat façade of disinformation because they live a horrible, horrible life in prison and with beatings and other kinds of maltreatment,” Smith said.
“He has lost weight; is he ill?” Smith asked during the hearing. “Is he being provided proper nutrition and basic medical care? We have no idea what is going on day to day.”
Throughout his captivity, Smith said, Álvarez has shown incredible courage and fortitude.
“I am in awe of his courage, faithfulness, and kindness,” Smith said. “And I know so many others in Congress, House, Senate, Democrat, Republican, people in the White House, we’re in awe of his goodness and his extraordinary strength. Bishop Álvarez deserves to be respected and revered and free, not persecuted and incarcerated.”
“We’re really going to keep ratcheting up the pressure,” Smith went on. “I’ve been asking to go and visit with him in prison to ascertain for myself and anyone who goes with me, his welfare, his whereabouts … and the biggest hope would be to walk out with him as a released prisoner.”
What are other groups saying?
The Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF), also joined in the push for the Nicaraguan dictatorship to release Álvarez this week.
Kristina Hjelkrem, an ADF Latin America legal counsel, said in a Thursday statement that the group was “grateful to the subcommittee for raising the critical issue of religious persecution in Nicaragua and for hosting this vital congressional hearing.”
“Bishop Álvarez has been harassed and unjustly imprisoned by the Nicaraguan government for simply fulfilling his duties as a Catholic bishop,” Hjelkrem went on. “No person should be punished or prosecuted for expressing their faith.”
Deborah Ullmer, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the National Democratic Institute, also testified at the hearing. She said Álvarez “has become the courageous face of resistance in Nicaragua.”
Ullmer said Álvarez’s imprisonment violates several international human rights laws and agreements and suggested several actions the U.S. could take to pressure the regime to release the bishop.
Among her suggestions, she said the U.S. should impose stricter sanctions on Nicaraguan officials and Nicaragua’s central bank. She also said that the U.S. should work more closely with friendly Latin American countries “to advance high-level regional dialogue toward a democratic transition.”
“The Ortega-Murillo regime continues to dismantle democratic institutions, erase the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, and consolidate its dictatorial power,” Ullmer said. “It is essential to call out the ongoing crimes against humanity and violations of fundamental human rights endured by Nicaraguans, including Bishop Álvarez.”
Posted on 12/1/2023 20:00 PM (EWTN News - US Catholic News)
ACI Prensa Staff, Dec 1, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).
In a Nov. 28 interview with “What We Need Now,” the Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver explained what motivated him to write a pastoral letter on the dangers of using recreational marijuana and drugs and proposed some principles to deal with this reality, which he himself has witnessed since the legalization of cannabis in Colorado in 2012.
In the interview posted on Substack, the archbishop warned that the legalization and cultural acceptance of drugs has been “devastating” for society and explained why he decided to write his Nov. 10 pastoral letter, “That They May Have Life.”
“I felt a need to speak about the devastating effects witnessed firsthand, especially since many states have followed Colorado’s lead. The legalization of marijuana and cultural acceptance of drug use has been disastrous to our society, and there are limited Catholic resources about it,” Aquila said.
Regarding the current perspective that there are “recreational” drugs, as some maintain, the prelate pointed out: “Understanding that we are persons created for loving communion, we can judge that drugs are only an apparent good. They are bad for us since they hinder our ability to know and to love.”
“Drugs diminish our self-possession by harming the very faculties that make us human: They inhibit our use of reason, weaken our will’s orientation toward the good, and train our emotions to expect quick relief from artificial pleasure,” he warned.
The archbishop of Denver noted that the Scriptures teach that “we are made in the image of God. And, as if this isn’t enough, we are invited to eternal union with him.”
“We can sum up the two foundational principles that explain why recreational drugs are immoral,” the prelate continued.
“1) Since the human person is of such value, it is wrong to use any substance that is harmful to human life. 2) Anything that diminishes man’s use of reason and will assails his dignity as a human person and is therefore harmful.”
Aquila also noted that “drugs assault the human person by negatively affecting him on physical, intellectual, psychological, social, and moral levels.”
Regarding the belief that marijuana is not harmful, the archbishop commented that in Colorado they have “witnessed a spike in addiction, with marijuana use disorder more than doubling in a span of less than 20 years. This is not surprising since Coloradans’ cannabis use has increased dramatically since legalization [in 2012].”
“More people using marijuana inevitably means more addiction,” he pointed out.
A response from a faith perspective
The archbishop of Denver said that at the “heart of drug use” two themes are usually found: “a crisis of values and a privation of relational connection that make the person open or susceptible to drug use.”
“While drugs offer fleeting pleasure,” Aquila explained, “Jesus wants to give us a fullness of love, joy, and peace that remains constant through life’s peaks and valleys. Rather than reaching for chemicals when we are feeling weary and burdened, Jesus invites us to turn to him, who promises rest and abundance.”
To conclude, he noted that “the most important thing we can do as Christians in response to a drug culture is to proclaim the Gospel.”
“It is through the love, mercy, meaning, and hope found in Christ that people will be deterred from drug use or inspired to break free of its influence,” Aquila stressed.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 12/1/2023 19:40 PM (EWTN News - US Catholic News)
CNA Newsroom, Dec 1, 2023 / 17:40 pm (CNA).
Former U.S. Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a swing vote who became a key part of the court’s longtime abortion-supporting majority, died Friday. She was 93 and had been suffering from dementia for several years.
Born Sandra Day in El Paso, Texas, in 1930, she grew up on a ranch in eastern Arizona. She was baptized an Episcopalian and later attended Episcopal churches as an adult.
She went to Stanford and Stanford Law School at a time when few women did either. As an undergraduate, she dated future Supreme Court colleague William Rehnquist and turned down an offer of marriage from him. Instead, she married another fellow law school student, John O’Connor.
As a female lawyer during the 1950s, she initially had trouble getting work but eventually joined a prosecutor’s office. She took five years off from practicing law after the birth of the second of her three children to tend to them.
In 1965 she joined the office of the Arizona attorney general, a Republican, after campaigning the year before for the Republican nominee for president, Barry Goldwater, a fellow Arizonan. In 1969 the governor appointed her to fill a vacancy in the Arizona Senate, where she rose to become majority leader. She left in 1974 for a state judgeship, eventually rising to the Arizona Court of Appeals, which is the second-highest court in the state.
O’Connor and abortion
President Ronald Reagan nominated O’Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court in July 1981, fulfilling a campaign promise to name the first woman to the nation’s highest court.
Reagan was unaware at the time of her selection that O’Connor as a Republican state senator in the 1970s supported abortion, according to conservative columnist Robert Novak’s 2007 autobiography “The Prince of Darkness.” When social conservatives erupted over the announcement, Reagan asked his attorney general to check on complaints about her.
The task went to a young aide, who called O’Connor and reported in a memo that she said she could not recall how she had voted on a 1970 bill seeking to legalize abortion in the state — even though she was a co-sponsor of it. (Before the Internet, it wasn’t easy to check such information.)
She also told the aide — Kenneth Starr, who later served as independent counsel investigating President Bill Clinton during the 1990s — that she “had never had any disputes or controversies” with the leader of the pro-life movement in Arizona, according to a memo Starr wrote. But the pro-life leader told Novak a couple of days later that she had frequently clashed with O’Connor, calling her “one of the most powerful pro-abortionists in the Senate.”
Even so, O’Connor’s nomination went forward and sailed through the U.S. Senate.
Once she joined the court, O’Connor’s position on abortion wasn’t immediately clear. In 1986, she voted with the minority in a 5-4 ruling that struck down a Pennsylvania law that required abortion providers to inform a woman seeking an abortion about fetal development and about “detrimental physical and psychological effects” and “particular medical risks” of an abortion.
O’Connor in her dissent called the court’s abortion decisions to that time “a major distortion in the Court’s constitutional jurisprudence” and said the majority’s decision in the case before it, Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “makes it painfully clear that no legal rule or doctrine is safe from ad hoc nullification by this Court when an occasion for its application arises in a case involving state regulation of abortion.”
But her most memorable abortion vote came in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which she joined the 5-4 majority in upholding what the court called the “essential holding” of Roe v. Wade that abortion is a “fundamental right” before a fetus is capable of living outside the womb.
In Casey, O’Connor co-wrote the plurality opinion that continued a federal right to abortion for another 30 years.
‘Loosen up, Sandy’
O’Connor was a key player in other landmark decisions as well.
In 1986, she joined the majority in the 5-4 decision Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld as constitutional a state statute in Georgia that criminalized sodomy. (The court overturned that ruling in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas; O’Connor joined the 6-3 majority, though she made a distinction between the two cases because Texas’ law banned sodomy only between two members of the same sex, while Georgia’s statute banned sodomy generally.)
In 2003, O’Connor wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld affirmative action based on race in public university admissions. (The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Grutter decision in June 2023 in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard.)
In 2005, she sided with the 5-4 majority in McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union that found that displays of the Ten Commandments at two state courthouses in Kentucky violated the Constitution.
She is perhaps better remembered, though, for what happened during a social occasion several years after she joined the court.
In 1985, O’Connor went to a black-tie event in Washington where she was seated near John Riggins, a Washington Redskins star running back, who had drunk “a few beers” and two double scotches before knocking over and spilling four bottles of wine on the table.
O’Connor had previously said she had to leave early and was in the process of doing so when Riggins, trying to get her to stay, piped up: “Loosen up, Sandy baby.”
He then passed out.
O’Connor got a kick out of it and got big laughs when she made a reference to it at the beginning of a speech a few days later.
O’Connor retired from the court in January 2006 at age 75 to spend time with her husband, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease around the early 1990s. (He died in 2009.)
O’Connor was replaced by Samuel Alito, who has since become one of the most conservative justices and who wrote the majority decision in Jackson Women’s Health Center v. Dobbs, which last year overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Posted on 12/1/2023 16:15 PM (EWTN News - World Catholic News)
CNA Newsroom, Dec 1, 2023 / 14:15 pm (CNA).
MacGowan was raised a Catholic and often used Catholic imagery in his songs, though he did not practice the faith for most of his adult life.
U.S. bishops urge public to petition Biden administration over rule denying funds to pregnancy centers
Posted on 12/1/2023 15:45 PM (EWTN News - US Catholic News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 1, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).
The U.S. bishops are urging the public to petition the Biden administration to revise a proposal that the bishops say would “unfairly cut off” federal assistance money from going to pregnancy resource centers.
In a statement published Thursday, the bishops called on Catholics to join them in urging the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to refrain from restricting Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding available to pregnancy centers.
In a rule change posted to the federal register in October, the Biden administration argued that some states have been using TANF funds “to pay for activities with, at best, tenuous connections to any TANF purpose.”
One of TANF’s purposes, the government said, is to “prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies.”
Organizations such as “crisis pregnancy centers” or “pregnancy resource centers” sometimes receive funding for that purpose, the government said. But if those initiatives only offer pregnancy counseling to women “after they become pregnant,” then TANF funds for that outreach “likely do not meet” the federal government’s standards.
The bishops’ statement this week said that the proposal “would strengthen TANF in multiple ways, making sure it gets to the people who need it most.” However, “this same proposal could also unfairly cut off TANF funds from pregnancy help centers.”
The prelates, through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of the General Counsel, argued in a petition to HHS that pregnancy centers “may provide information or counseling about chastity or natural family planning, to help prevent future out-of-wedlock pregnancies.”
The bishops asked the faithful to join them “in telling HHS to strengthen TANF without taking away support from the good work of pregnancy help centers.”
Public comments may be submitted to the HHS here. Comments must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 1.
A study published in 2021 by the pro-abortion group the Women’s Law Project said that “at least” 10 states send some TANF funding to pregnancy help centers.
In a statement last month, Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge — the chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities — called the work of pregnancy help centers a “lifesaving ministry” standing in “radical solidarity” with pregnant and parenting mothers and families.
Burbidge said that “when women in challenging circumstances do not know where else to turn, the loving staff and volunteers at pregnancy help centers embrace them with empathy and service.”
Pregnancy help centers “provide a spectrum of care, resources, and material goods to support new mothers,” Burbidge said, including diapers and layettes, babysitting and career services, referrals for housing and food assistance, and personal mentorship and support, as well as medical services, including ultrasounds and prenatal and postnatal care.
“Often, there is nowhere else a mother in need can go for this kind of comprehensive assistance,” the bishop said.
“The practical, loving service that pregnancy help centers offer extends far beyond the birth of the child, with relationships between mothers and help centers continuing for years.”
Other groups, such as the pro-life organization Human Coalition, have also condemned the Biden administration’s rule change.
Chelsey Youman, national director of Public Policy at Human Coalition, said in a Friday statement that pregnancy centers create a “giant safety net of care and assistance for women in need” and that the Biden administration’s policy change is “cutting this lifeline in the name of abortion.”
Youman also said that “stripping funding from these centers would hurt vulnerable women” and “undermine healthy families.”
“By attempting to remove pregnancy centers from funding, this discriminatory proposal callously blocks pregnant women in need from resources when they need it most,” Youman claimed. “The administration completely disregards the fact that these centers meet program goals by providing aid to needy families, promoting job preparation and marriage, and encouraging two-parent families.”
Posted on 12/1/2023 14:41 PM (EWTN News - US Catholic News)
CNA Staff, Dec 1, 2023 / 12:41 pm (CNA).
A defining theme of Pope Francis’ papacy has been his urging of humanity to better care for the natural environment, which he has done most prominently in his landmark 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ and numerous subsequent writings and speeches.
The pope’s emphasis on this topic — especially his foray into climate science via his recent encyclical Laudate Deum — has variously drawn both praise and consternation from Catholics in the United States, about half of whom do not share Pope Francis’ views on climate change, according to surveys.
In Laudate Deum, which was released in October as a continuation to Laudato Si’, Francis wrote that the effects of climate change “are here and increasingly evident,” warning of “immensely grave consequences for everyone” if drastic efforts are not made to reduce emissions. In the face of this, the Holy Father criticized those who “have chosen to deride [the] facts” about climate science, stating bluntly that it is “no longer possible to doubt the human — ‘anthropic’ — origin of climate change.”
The pope in the encyclical laid out his belief that there must be a “necessary transition towards clean energy sources, such as wind and solar energy, and the abandonment of fossil fuels.” This follows a call from Pope Francis in 2021 to the global community calling for the world to “achieve net zero carbon emissions as soon as possible.”
He further lamented what he called “certain dismissive and scarcely reasonable opinions [on climate change] that I encounter, even within the Catholic Church.”
In light of the new encyclical — which extensively cites the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — Pope Francis was invited to speak at this week’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP28. Though the 86-year-old pope was forced to cancel his trip due to health issues, the Vatican has indicated that he aims to participate in COP28 this weekend in some fashion. It announced today that Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin will represent the pope at the conference.
While various Catholic groups have welcomed the pope’s latest encyclical, some Catholics have reacted with persistent doubts, questioning whether the pope’s policy prescriptions would actually produce the desired effects.
How do Americans feel about climate change?
According to a major survey conducted by Yale University, 72% of Americans believed in 2021 — the latest available data year — that “global warming is happening,” and 57% believe that global warming is caused by human activity.
More recent polling from the Pew Research Center, conducted in June, similarly suggests that two-thirds of U.S. adults overall say the country should prioritize developing renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, over the expansion of the production of oil, coal, and natural gas. That same survey found that just 3 in 10 adults (31%) say the U.S. should completely phase out oil, coal, and natural gas. The Yale study found that 77% of U.S. adults support at least the funding of research into renewable energy sources.
Broken down by party affiliation, Pew found that a large majority of Democratic and Democratic-leaning independents — 90% — favor alternative energy sources, while just under half, 42%, of Republicans and Republican-leaning adults think the same. Within the Republican cohort, however, 67% of Republicans under age 30 prioritize the development of alternative energy sources, compared with the 75% of Republicans ages 65 and older who prioritize the expansion of oil, coal, and natural gas.
In terms of the expansion of alternative energy sources, two-thirds of Americans think the federal government should encourage domestic production of wind and solar power, Pew reported. Just 7% say the government should discourage this, while 26% think it should neither encourage nor discourage it.
How do America’s Catholics feel about climate change?
Surveys suggest that Catholics in the United States are slightly more likely than the U.S. population as a whole to be skeptical of climate change, despite the pope’s emphatic words in 2015 and since.
A separate Pew study suggests that 44% of U.S. Catholics say the Earth is warming mostly due to human activity, a view in line with Pope Francis’ stance. About 3 in 10 (29%) said the Earth is warming mostly due to natural patterns, while 13% said they believe there is no solid evidence the planet is getting warmer.
According to the same study, 71% of Hispanic Catholics see climate change as an extremely or very serious problem, compared with 49% of white, non-Hispanic Catholics. (There were not enough Black or Asian Catholics in the 2022 survey to analyze separately, Pew said.)
One 2015 study from Yale did suggest that soon after Laudato Si’ was released, U.S. Catholics were overall more likely to believe in climate change than before. That same study found no change, however, in the number of Americans overall who believe human activity is causing global warming.
Pope Francis’ climate priorities
Beyond his groundbreaking writings, Pope Francis has taken many actions during his pontificate to make his own — admittedly small — country, Vatican City, more sustainable, including the recent announcement of a large order of electric vehicles, construction of its own network of charging stations, a reforestation program, and the continued importation of energy coming exclusively from renewable sources.
Francis has often lamented what he sees as a tepid response from developed countries in implementing measures to curb climate change. In Laudate Deum, he urged that new multinational agreements on climate change — speaking in this case specifically about the COP28 conference — be “drastic, intense, and count on the commitment of all,” stating that “a broad change in the irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model would have a significant long-term impact.”
The pope lamented what he sees as the fact that when new projects related to green energy are proposed, the potential for economic growth, employment, and human promotion are thought of first rather than moral considerations such as the effects on the world’s poorest.
“It is often heard also that efforts to mitigate climate change by reducing the use of fossil fuels and developing cleaner energy sources will lead to a reduction in the number of jobs,” the pope noted.
“What is happening is that millions of people are losing their jobs due to different effects of climate change: rising sea levels, droughts, and other phenomena affecting the planet have left many people adrift. Conversely, the transition to renewable forms of energy, properly managed, as well as efforts to adapt to the damage caused by climate change, are capable of generating countless jobs in different sectors.”
‘Leave God’s creation better than we found it’
Dr. Kevin Roberts, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation think tank, told CNA that he has noticed a theme of frustration and confusion among many Catholics regarding the Holy Father’s emphasis on climate change.
A self-described outdoorsman and former president of Wyoming Catholic College, Roberts spoke highly to CNA of certain aspects of Laudato Si’, particularly the pope’s insights into what he called “human ecology,” which refers to the acceptance of each person’s human body as a vital part of “accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home.”
“I like to think [Pope Francis] personally wrote that, because I could see him saying that,” Roberts said of the passage, which appears in paragraph 155 of the encyclical. Roberts said he even makes a point to meditate on that “beautiful and moving” passage during a retreat that he does annually.
That portion of Laudato Si’ notwithstanding, Roberts said he strongly believes that it detracts from other important issues, such as direct ministry to the poor, when Pope Francis elevates care for God’s natural creation as “seemingly more important than other issues to us as Catholics.” He also said he disagrees with Pope Francis’ policy prescriptions, such as a complete phasing out of fossil fuels, contained in Laudate Deum.
“We of course want to pray for him. We’re open to the teaching that he is providing. But we also have to remember as Catholics that sometimes popes are wrong. And on this issue, it is a prudential matter. It is not a matter of morality, particularly when he’s getting into the scientific policy recommendations,” Roberts said.
Roberts said the Heritage Foundation’s research and advocacy has focused not on high-level, multinational agreements and conferences to tackle the issues posed by climate change but rather on smaller-scale, more community-based efforts. He said this policy position is, in part, due to the historical deference such multinational conglomerates of nations have given to China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases overall.
He said agreements within the U.S. itself, with businesses and all levels of government working together, have produced the best results so far when it comes to improving the environment. He also pointed to examples of constructive action that don’t involve billions of dollars, such as families making the choice to spend more time outdoors or engaging in local activities that contribute to environmental conservation and community life, such as anti-litter campaigns and community gardening. The overarching goal, he said, should be to “leave God’s creation better than we found it.”
Roberts — who said he personally believes humans likely have “very little effect” on the climate — said he was discouraged to read other portions of Laudato Si’, as well as Laudate Deum, that to him read as though they had come “straight out of the U.N.” Despite his criticisms, Roberts urged his fellow Catholics to continue to pray for the Holy Father and to listen to the pope’s moral insights.
“I just think that the proposed solutions are actually more anti-human and worse than the purported effects of climate change,” he added.
‘A far more complex issue’
Greg Sindelar, a Catholic who serves as CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a conservative think tank that studies the energy industry, similarly expressed concerns to CNA about the potential impact of certain climate change mitigation policies on human flourishing.
Like Roberts, Sindelar spoke highly of certain aspects of the pope’s message while expressing reservations about some of the U.N.-esque solutions proposed in Laudate Deum.
“I think the pope is right about our duty as Catholics to be stewards and to care for the environment. But I think what we have to understand — what we have to balance this with — is that it cannot come at the expense of depriving people of affordable and reliable energy,” Sindelar said in an interview with CNA.
“There’s ways to be environmentally friendly without sacrificing the access that we all need to reliable and affordable energy.”
Sindelar said TPPF primarily promotes cheap, reliable access to energy as a means of promoting human flourishing. The free-market-focused group is skeptical of top-down governmental intervention, both in the form of regulation and incentives or disincentives in certain areas of the energy sector.
When asked what he thinks his fellow Catholics largely think about the issue, Sindelar said many of the Catholics he hears from express the view that government policies and interventions rarely produce effective solutions and could potentially hinder access to energy for those in need.
“I think it’s a far more complex issue than just saying we need to cut emissions, and we need to transfer away from fossil fuels, and all these other things. What we need to do is figure out and ensure ways that we are providing affordable and reliable electricity to all citizens of the world,” he reiterated.
“When the pope speaks, when the Vatican speaks, it carries a lot of weight with Catholics around the world, [and] not just with Catholics … and I totally agree with him that we need to be thinking about the most marginalized and the poorest amongst us,” Sindelar continued.
“[But] by going down these policy prescription paths that he’s recommending, we’re actually going to reduce their ability to have access to that,” he asserted.
Sindelar, while disagreeing with Pope Francis’ call for an “abandonment of fossil fuels,” said he appreciates the fact that Pope Francis has spoken out about the issue of care for creation and has initiated so much public discussion.
“I think there is room for differing views and opinions on the right ways to do that,” he said.
Effective mitigation efforts
Susan Varlamoff, a retired biologist and parishioner at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in the Atlanta area, is among those Catholics who are committed to Pope Francis’ call to care for creation and to mitigate the effects of climate change. To that end, Varlamoff in 2016 created a peer-reviewed action plan for the Archdiocese of Atlanta to help Catholics put the principles contained in Laudato Si’ into action, mainly through smaller, more personal actions that people can take to reduce their energy usage.
The Atlanta Archdiocese’s efforts have since garnered recognition and praise, Varlamoff said, with at least 35 archdioceses now involved in an inter-diocesan network formed to exchange sustainability ideas based on the latest version of the plan from Atlanta.
“It’s fascinating to see what everybody is doing, and it’s basically based on their talents and imaginations,” Varlamoff said, noting that a large number of young people have gotten involved with their efforts.
As a scientist, Varlamoff told CNA it is clear to her that Pope Francis knows what he’s talking about when he lays out the dangers posed by inaction in the face of climate change.
“He understands the science, and he’s deeply concerned … he’s got remarkable influence as a moral leader,” she said.
“Part of what our religion asks us to do is to care for one another. We have to care for creation if we’re going to care for one another, because the earth is our natural resource system, our life support, and we cannot care for one another if we don’t have that life support.”
Responding to criticisms about the financial costs associated with certain green initiatives, Varlamoff noted that small-scale sustainable actions can actually save money. She offered the example of parishes in the Atlanta area that have drastically reduced their electric bills by installing solar panels.
“[But,] it’s not just about saving money. It’s also about reducing fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, and protecting the natural resources for future generations,” she said.
Moreover, Varlamoff said, the moral imperative to improve the natural environment for future generations is worth the investment. “When [Catholics] give money, for example, for a social justice issue like Walking with Moms in Need or special needs, the payback is improving lives. We’re improving the environment here,” she emphasized.
Posted on 12/1/2023 13:55 PM (EWTN News - World Catholic News)
CNA Staff, Dec 1, 2023 / 11:55 am (CNA).
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