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Gonzaga, Catholic Charities team up to offer immigration legal assistance

Spokane, Wash., Oct 17, 2019 / 12:08 am (CNA).- Gonzaga University Law School in Spokane is partnering with Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington to offer immigration legal assistance to low-income individuals, as well as training in immigration law for students.

Second- and third-year law students under faculty supervision will assist clients pro bono in the “Catholic Charities Immigration Clinic at Gonzaga Law School” starting this fall.

“We're viewing this almost like a joint venture between the two of us,” Jacob Rooksby, dean of Gonzaga Law School, told CNA.

“The attorney in charge has a vast network through her time at Catholic Charities. We envision the students and the attorney going on-site to different areas of the state to provide walk-up assistance, and that's going to start as we get further into the project,” Rooksby said.

The law school has several pro bono clinics already, including Indian Law, Elder Law, and Business Law. The students will work with Megan Case, an attorney who formerly worked with Catholic Charities.

Case told CNA that the center has a significant caseload at the moment, mostly on family reunification cases, whereby legal immigrants can petition for other family members to come and join them in the United States.

The center will also work with individuals seeking asylum. Additionally, they have an immigration court hearing scheduled for January in a deportation case.

Case noted that immigration law is one of the broadest and most complicated areas of U.S. law. She said during her time at Catholic Charities, she oversaw a number of naturalization cases, family reunification cases, and green cards, among others. They also helped individuals who qualified for victim-based visas.

She noted that the center assists both documented and undocumented individuals.

“There's definitely a need for attorneys to assist people in these types of cases, and there's a lot of work,” Case told CNA.

Rooksby said there is already student interest and client need for the program.

“As a Jesuit institution, I think we're taking seriously the Catholic Church's position on immigration as being one of the signature issues of our time,” he said. “So we see this as very consistent with our mission...the need is already there.”

Legal assisted suicide puts people with disabilities at risk, report finds

Washington D.C., Oct 16, 2019 / 01:24 pm (CNA).- Leaders in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops applauded the National Council on Disability for its recent research on the risks of assisted suicide for people with disabilities.

“Every suicide is a human tragedy, regardless of the age, incapacity, or social/economic status of the individual,” said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida.

Naumann is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Dewane heads the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“The legalization of doctor-assisted suicide separates people into two groups: those whose lives we want to protect and those whose deaths we encourage,” the bishops said. “This is completely unjust and seriously undermines equal protection under the law.”

Last week, the National Council on Disability released findings of a national investigation into the effects of assisted suicide laws on people with disabilities.

In its examination, the council said it found “that the most prevalent reasons offered by someone requesting assisted suicide are directly related to unmet service and support needs.” The agency called on lawmakers to remedy these unmet needs through changes in legislation and funding.

It added that in states where assisted suicide is legal, “safeguards are ineffective and oversight of abuses and mistakes is absent.”

In the U.S., assisted suicide is legal in California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, and in Montana by a court ruling. A law allowing it in Maine will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The National Council on Disability is an independent federal agency that advises lawmakers on how policies and practices affect those with disabilities. The council’s report, entitled “The Danger of Assisted Suicide Laws,” was released Oct. 9 as part of its series on bioethics and disability.

The report found that state regulations intended to prevent abuses in the practice of assisted suicide sometimes fall short. It pointed to instances of insurance companies denying costly, life-sustaining medical treatment while covering deadly drugs.

In addition, doctors rarely refer for a psychological evaluation before prescribing lethal drugs, the report found, despite the fact that depression is a leading factor in requesting assisted suicide.

Financial pressure may compromise patient freedom in making end-of-life choices, the report added, and misdiagnoses of terminal diseases may lead patients to end their lives under the mistaken assumption that they are close to death.

Neil Romano, chairman of the National Council on Disability, said in a press release that while fighting cancer, he was once given weeks to live. But today, years later, he is alive and thriving.

“I know firsthand that well-intending doctors are often wrong,” he said. “If assisted suicide is legal, lives will be lost due to mistakes, abuse, lack of information, or a lack of better options; no current or proposed safeguards can change that.”

“Assisted suicide laws are premised on the notion of additional choice for people at the end of their lives, however in practice, they often remove choices when the low-cost option is ending one’s life versus providing treatments to lengthen it or services and supports to improve it,” Romano stressed.

The agency’s report also documented suicide contagion in states that have legalized assisted suicide and pointed to an easing of safeguards initially intended to prevent abuses.

In Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal for two decades, the report noted that the practice has been expanded to include non-terminal illnesses, such as arthritis and diabetes.

The National Council on Disability opposed the legalization of assisted suicide. It called for federal investment into long-term services and supports as an alternative to assisted suicide. It also urged further research “on disability related risk factors in suicide prevention, as well as research on people with disabilities who request assisted suicide and euthanasia.”

In their statement, Archbishop Naumann and Bishop Dewane urged lawmakers and medical professionals to take seriously the recommendations in the report.

“The human rights and intrinsic worth of a person do not change with the onset of age, illness, or disability,” they said.

“We must do what we can to uphold the dignity of life, cherish the lives of all human beings, and work to prevent all suicides.”

 

Mississippi pro-lifers file suit against abortion clinic protest restrictions

Jackson, Miss., Oct 16, 2019 / 02:41 am (CNA).- Pro-life advocates in Jackson, Mississippi have filed a lawsuit against a new city ordinance that would restrict protesters’ ability to approach people and demonstrate outside abortion clinics.

The appellants, who are volunteers for a national organization called Sidewalk Advocates for Life, often congregate outside the state’s last abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That facility performs abortions up to 16 weeks.

Sidewalk Advocates for Life trains volunteers to offer women alternatives to abortion, and says that nearly 7,000 women nationwide have freely chosen not to abort in the past five years thanks to their advocacy. They describe their ministry as “prayerful and peaceful.”

The ordinance prohibits protesters from approaching within eight feet of another person— unless that person consents— for the purpose of handing a leaflet, displaying a sign, engaging in oral protest, or educating or counseling a person within 100 feet of a healthcare facility.

The Jackson City Council adopted the ordinance Oct. 1, and it is scheduled to take effect Oct. 31, the AP reports.

The ordinance also prohibits congregations or demonstrations within 15 feet of a healthcare facility entrance, as well as shouting and amplified sound with 100 feet as long as the area is marked as a “quiet zone.”

The lawsuit, filed by members of Sidewalk Advocates for Life and the Mississippi Justice Institute, notes that pro-life protesters often have to shout in order to be heard above the loud music that the abortion clinic plays in order to drown out the protesters’ speech.

Violators of the new ordinance could face a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 90 days in prison, or both.

The lawsuit argues that the ordinance has a chilling effect on the protesters’ speech, prevents them from engaging in peaceful assemblies, and “irreparably harms persons patronizing the abortion facility by denying them access to useful information regarding the alternatives to abortion.”

The suit also argues that the ordinance is a content-based regulation of speech, since it prohibits certain speakers from participating in certain types of speech while allowing others to engage in the same type of speech.

Brett Kittredge, director of marketing and communications with Mississippi Center for Public Policy, told CNA that the lawsuit could make its way to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The Mississippi Constitution provides for an even stronger protection of free speech than the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, he said.

“It says in our constitution that [free speech] is sacred— that it is something we hold with the utmost respect, treasure, and reverence,” Kittredge told CNA.

“And so we feel...that this is a free speech issue above all else. It's not about whether you support one issue or the other, whether you take one side or another on abortion, it's a matter of should people have the right to assemble, have the right to speak freely and convince others of their speech, and we believe that's central to a free society.”

Sidewalk Advocates for Life says in Jackson alone, 30 women this year have turned away from the abortion clinic and sought alternatives in the area.

“The sidewalk counselors aren't there to yell at anybody, aren't there to scream at anybody, they're just there to tell people that don't know there is another option that you don't have to do this,” Kittredge said.

“So we are ready to challenge this, and we are obviously looking forward to a positive ruling in favor of our clients.”

The AP notes that a federal appeals court in February 2019 upheld the constitutionality of a 2009 Chicago ordinance that created an 8-foot buffer zone outside medical facilities, while several other cities, such as Philadelphia, have had buffer zone ordinances struck down.

A 2007 Massachusetts “buffer zone” law forbade sidewalk counseling within 35 feet of an abortion clinic, but the Supreme Court in June 2014 unanimously ruled it a violation of the First Amendment. The law imposed “serious burdens” on the counselors, the court wrote, adding that sidewalks have traditionally been a forum for “the exchange of ideas.”

Colorado and Montana both have buffer zone laws in effect. Across the Atlantic, the High Court of England and Wales upheld a buffer zone order around a London abortion clinic in a July 2018 decision, which pro-life advocates are now appealing.

The appellants in the Mississippi lawsuit have requested a hearing date for the parties to appear and present oral arguments.

In face of California fire, LA archdiocese expands fund for victims

Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 15, 2019 / 07:24 pm (CNA).- As a large fire continues to burn in southern California, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has expanded one of its support funds for the victims of fires in the area.

The Saddleridge fire, which began about 30 miles from LA, began last Thursday night and quickly forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate their homes.

As of Tuesday morning, the fire was 45% contained, the LA Fire Department said. It has burned more than 8,000 acres, damaging or destroying at least 75 buildings.

In an Oct. 12 press release, the Archdiocese of LA announced the expansion of a special fund set aside for the 2017-2018 Thomas fire, which took two lives and destroyed 1,063 structures. The program offers support through the arhciodese’s parishes and schools.

“This fund was expanded to include those affected by devastating fires since the Thomas Fire and is now expanding to include those affected by the current fires in the San Fernando Valley and throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties,” reads the press release.

“Those in need of immediate temporary shelter, food or assistance, can contact the pastor of their nearest parish for help.”

The Saddleridge fire began in Sylmar, a neighborhood in San Fernando Valley, at around 9 p.m. on Thursday. By 7:30 the next morning, the fire spread over 7.3 square miles, jumping over two expressways: the 210 Freeway and the 5 Freeway.

An estimated 1,000 firefighters have been assigned to help combat the fire.

According to LAFD arson investigators, the fire originated in a 50- by 70-foot area below a high voltage transmission tower. Although the cause of the fire is still being investigated, NBC reported, Southern California Edison electric company said their system was “impacted near the reported time of the fire.”

Several other fires are also burning in the region, with at least three total deaths reported so far.

So far in 2019, more than 5,800 fires have been recorded in California, burning some 160,000 acres, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Last year marked the most destructive wildfire season on record in the state, with more than 8,500 fired burning a total of nearly 1.9 million acres.

In the Oct. 12 press release, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles encouraged Catholics to pray for those affected by the fire and for the first responders.

“Please join me in praying for our brothers and sisters caught in the Saddleridge fires and fires throughout Southern California,” said Gomez.

“We pray for the families who have lost their homes and those who have been evacuated, and all those who are still in danger. We pray especially for firefighters, police and others working to keep people safe and put these fires out. May Our Blessed Mary be close to all of them.”

Film to portray Catholic woman who saved Jewish children in WWII 

Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 15, 2019 / 06:47 pm (CNA).- The true story of Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic woman who helped smuggle thousands of Jewish children out of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw during World War II, will feature in a new historical thriller film produced by and starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot.

Gadot, an Israeli actress well-known for her 2017 role as Wonder Woman, is co-producing the film, “Irena Sendler,” with her husband Jaron Varsano as the first project for their new production company, Pilot Wave.

“As producers, we want to help bring stories that have inspired us to life,” Gadot and Varsano told Deadline. “Pilot Wave will create content that promotes the perspectives and experiences of unique people and produce impactful stories aimed at igniting the imagination.”

According to Deadline, the new film will focus on Sendler’s underground activities and her arrest, and “the drama becomes a race against time to save not only herself but the identities of the hidden thousands who’ll face certain execution.”

Irena Sendler was a 29 year-old social worker for the city of Warsaw when the German army occupied the city in September 1939. Using her connections from work, Sendler did what she could to help the persecuted Jewish people of Warsaw.

A little over a year later, nearly 400,000 Jewish people - almost all of the remaining Jews in Warsaw, and roughly 30% of the total population of the city - were rounded up and forced to live together in a cramped 1.3 square miles called the Warsaw Ghetto.

Conditions in the ghetto were grim - space was crowded, food was scarce, and the sanitary conditions were horrendous. It was sealed by a 10-foot wall with barbed wire on top and heavily guarded by German soldiers to ensure no one could get in or out.

Undeterred in her determination to help the Jews, and risking her own safety, Sendler was able to obtain a permit through her work connections that allowed her to enter the ghetto under the guise of inspecting its sanitary conditions, according to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

In reality, she was working with Jewish organizations inside the ghetto to smuggle out as many Jewish children as she could, who were then placed in either Christian homes or in institutions run by Catholic nuns.

According to The Irena Sendler Project, she was able to get children out of the ghetto in ambulances, or through the still-standing courthouse located on the edge of the ghetto, through the sewage system, and on a few occasions by using dogs. There was also a Christian church next to the ghetto guarded by the Germans, and a Jewish child who could convincingly recite some Christian prayers could sometimes use this as an escape route.

In 1942, Sendler, who went by the underground name of Jolanta, became an active member of the Council for Aid to Jews (Zegota), which helped rescue those still left in the ghetto after mass deportations took some 280,000 Jews to the extermination camp Treblinka.

Sendler eventually became director of Zegota’s Department for the Care of Jewish Children in September 1943, months after the Warsaw Uprising left the ghetto destroyed and thousands more Jewish people either killed or deported. It is estimated that Sendler and her associates were able to save 2,500 Jewish children from the ghetto.

In October 1943, Sendler was arrested for her underground activities and sentenced to death, though members of the underground resistance were able to bribe her prison guards for her release in February 1944. Before her arrest, she had been able to hide any information that would have led to the capture of the Jewish children she had helped to save or the people protecting them.

In 1965, Irena Sendler was recognized by Yad Vashem for her life-saving efforts, when she was named one of the Righteous Among the Nations, an honor bestowed on non-Jews for their efforts to help the Jewish people during the Holocaust at great personal risk. She was also granted honorary citizenship by Israel in 1991.

Sendler lived to be 98 and died on May 12, 2008.

'Transgender mandate' struck down by federal court

Dallas, Texas, Oct 15, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- A federal judge struck down the so-called “transgender mandate” on Tuesday, vacating an Obama-era requirement that doctors perform gender-transition surgeries upon request.

Judge Reed O’Connor of the North District of Texas—who had issued a preliminary injunction on the transgender mandate at the end of 2016—struck down the mandate Oct. 15 in the case of Franciscan Alliance v. Azar, after doctors around the country filed suit against the mandate on religious freedom grounds.

“Today marks a major victory for compassion, conscience, and sound medical judgment,” said Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, which represented plaintiffs that filed suit against the mandate.

“Our clients look forward to joyfully continuing to serve all patients, regardless of their sex or gender identity, and continuing to provide top-notch care to transgender patients for everything from cancer to the common cold,” Goodrich said.

In 2016, the Obama administration issued a regulation that would require most doctors throughout the country—900,000 physicians, by the agency’s estimate—to perform gender-transition surgeries upon request, despite any conscience-based or prudential objections.

The rule omitted any clear religious exemption for doctors, and did not allow doctors to refuse a request for surgery if they deemed it harmful to the patient; surgeries would also have had to be performed on children.

The regulation stemmed from Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination in health care on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. HHS interpreted “sex discrimination” under this rule to include gender identity, thus mandating the provision of gender-transition surgeries.

In response to the rule, an alliance of more than 19,000 health care professionals, nine states, and several religious organizations combined in two lawsuits against the mandate, saying that it unlawfully required doctors to, in cases of objection, violate their religious beliefs or the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm to the patient. Becket represented the plaintiffs.

In December of 2016, two different federal courts ruled against the mandate, and in May of 2019, the Trump HHS proposed a rule to roll back the inclusion of “gender identity” within the nondiscrimination rule. While the proposed rule has not yet been finalized, the previous regulation was still valid.

Another lawsuit against the mandate, New York v. HHS, is still pending in federal courts.

In other recent cases in California, two Catholic health systems are facing lawsuits from two women identifying as transgender men, who claim that they requested hysterectomies at Catholic hospitals but were denied the procedures.

Goodrich, in a series of tweets on Tuesday, said that two different federal circuit courts—the First and the Fifth Circuits—have said that no consensus in the medical community exists that gender transition surgeries should be mandatory.

“The doctors and hospitals in these cases argued that they shouldn’t be forced to perform procedures that violate their consciences and could harm their patients. The federal court today agreed,” Goodrich tweeted.

Study finds fertility below replacement rate is 'new normal'

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Fertility rates around the world are stalling at below the replacement level, a new study has shown, as countries with higher fertility rates have shown sharp decreases. 

A study from the Institute for Family Studies, authored by Lyman Stone, released Oct. 15, analyzed fertility rates from 2017, 2018, and projected 2019 rates for different regions around the world. Stone found that countries with fertility rates above 1.6 or 1.7 children were seeing decreasing rates over the past decade, but countries with fertility rates below that number were either stabalizing, or even increasing in some areas. 

“Current declines are probably not just cyclical, but likely reflect a ‘new normal’ with most countries having birth rates between 1.4 and 1.9 children per woman,” wrote Stone. 

Analyzing the most recent total fertility rate (TFR) data for each country, Stone found the steepest average annual changes in TFR since 2007 were in Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, and Honduras. The biggest gains were in Mongolia, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia. 

“The figure shows fertility fell the most in the highest-fertility regions, and it rose somewhat in lower-fertility regions. Put in statistical terms, the amount of variation among these 61 countries declined by half between 2007 and 2019,” Stone said.

“What we appear to be seeing is a global convergence around fertility rates of 1.6 or 1.7 children,” he said. 

While fertility rates are trending downward worldwide, Stone wrote that there has been significant progress made on increasing fertility rates in countries that had previously been facing demographic challenges. Japan, for example, now has the highest fertility rate in East Asia, with the exceptions of North Korea and Mongolia. 

“The perception of Japan as an ultra-low fertility, unfriendly-to-families, closed-to-immigration country is increasingly outdated,” said Stone. In order to boost fertility rates, Stone said that the Japaense government become “creative” in incentivizing births, as well as being more open to immigration and migration. 

Conversely, Stone said South Korea’s efforts to boost its 0.92 TFR is “misguided and failing,” and will do so without major changes made to the country’s workaholic culture. 

Elsewhere in Asia, there are other signs of hope. Mongolia, a country which experienced a “baby bust” of decreased fertility following the fall of the Soviet Union, has seen its TFR rebound substantially over the last 14 years. Presently, the Mongolian TFR is around three children per woman, which is an increase by a full child since 2005. Other former Soviet countries have experienced a similar bust-and-boom cycle of fertility rates, that now appear to be leveling off. 

The United Nations lists replacement-level fertility rates at 2.1 children per mother. With worldwide trends seeming to stabilize around 1.6 to 1.7, the long term effects for countries which depend on a large population and tax base to support social programs could be severe, experts have previously warned.

In May of this year, Jonathan V. Last, author of the book “What to Expect When No One is Expecting,” told CNA that there were no easy answer for societies facing a clear and steady population decline.

“Immigration offers a short-term solution to the problem of funding entitlement programs for governments, but it doesn’t solve the long-term problem,” Last told CNA.

“In a healthy model you want to see a kind of pyramid shape, with the largest cohort among the youngest people tapering up to the oldest. Relying on adult immigration creates a bulge around the middle, which doesn’t address the underlying problem or future effects of low fertility and an ageing population.”

While some governments have introduced measures to incentivise women and families to have more children, the IFS data indicates that governmental efforts to reduce the number of children born to a woman have proven far more successful than any pro-birth initiatives. 

“In other words, the ongoing global fertility slump suggests that the future human population will be smaller than expected,” said Stone. 

Last said that various policy solutions had been tried in different parts of the world, but without significant effects.

“Governments in all different parts of the world have experimented with policies to try to get people to have more children, but there isn’t any example which demonstrates real success – even in Singapore where the government basically offered $20,000 for people to have a kid, that only goes so far,” Last said.

“The bottom line is that having a child is a heavy lift, and no policy is going to make up someone’s mind to do it.”

‘Life Empowers’: March for Life unveils 2020 theme 

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The 2020 March for Life will honor the centennial of women’s suffrage in the United States, promoting a pro-life message of “empowerment” of women and taking aim at the false equation of abortion with independence. 

“Our hope and prayer for this year’s theme,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, at a Tuesday event on Capitol Hill unveiling the March’s 2020 theme, “is that it will be a healing remedy for the wounding and deceptive messages about women coming from the abortion industry and beyond.”

The theme of the upcoming March is “Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman.” Mancini announced the theme during a panel event Oct. 15 with pro-life and feminist leaders on Capitol Hill.

The year 2020 marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19thAamendment, which extended the right to vote in the United States to include women. 

Underscoring the link between the significance of the anniversary and the theme of “empowerment,” Mancini told CNA that “we primarily chose it because of the centennial.”

The March for Life is an annual pro-life gathering in Washington, D.C., with participants traveling from all over the country. The march has been held every January since 1974, the year after the Supreme Court found a legal right to abortion in all 50 states in its Roe v. Wade decision.

Joining Mancini on a panel at Tuesday’s event were Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, Gloria Purvis, a radio host and chairperson of Black Catholics United for Life, and Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life.

Abortion is currently “being promoted as essential to women’s freedom, to women’s empowerment, and to women’s progress,” Mancini said on Tuesday, citing the National Abortion Rights Action League’s (NARAL) #ShoutYourAbortion campaign that encouraged post-abortive women to publicly share the details of their abortion so as to normalize it.

Campaigns like NARAL’s aim to turn motherhood—something essential to being a woman—into something “to be ashamed of,” Mancini said. Instead, she said, motherhood is something that is “miraculous” and a “gift.”

“Our theme aims to change hearts and minds, to make abortion unthinkable in our culture,” she said on Tuesday.

The upcoming march will also be held in a presidential election year, a fact not lost on those planning the national pro-life event.

“We need to speak about confusing messages on women,” Mancini told CNA of the organization’s planned message for 2020. “Right now, as we know, none of the Democratic candidates are with us on this issue, and even more, they’re wildly out of touch with mainstream America on this issue.”

“To listen to their many, many, many debates, you come away with a very different understanding about what it means to be pro-woman,” she told CNA.

Speaking Tuesday, Serrin Foster said that “Feminism is a philosophy that embraces the rights of all human beings without exception,” noting that Susan B. Anthony, the feminist most identified with helping secure women’s suffrage in the U.S., was opposed to abortion.

“Those who see no moral problem with the taking of human life see abortion as the great equalizer,” said Victoria Cobb.

Abortion is the fruit of a mentality that sees a woman’s body and the inherent goodness of motherhood as an “enemy,” Gloria Purvis said. Furthermore, it is used as a distraction rather than a solution to the problems of workplace discrimination and poverty, she said.

The language of abortion rights makes a proposal to women akin to “in order to be equal to men in the workplace, you need this abortion,” Purvis said, which is a “deflection” from the need to “help them thrive and flourish in the workplace.”

“We have to make the greatest sacrifice just to be at the table,” Purvis said of women who have abortions because they feel they cannot afford to not work. “That is not being pro-woman.”

Abortion is also used to “deflect from real solutions to poverty,” Purvis said. “Killing the poor is not a solution to poverty.”

While the abortion rights movement is advocating for a woman’s choice without working “to help their struggling neighbor,” those the pro-life movement must look at their neighbor and ask “what is their need and how can I help them?” Purvis said.

US Secretary of State discusses international religious freedom threats

Nashville, Tenn., Oct 15, 2019 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- In a speech on Christian leadership Friday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted international religious freedom threats, especially in China, Iran, and Iraq.

Pompeo spoke Oct. 11 in Nashville to the American Association of Christian Counselors, discussing Christian leadership in disposition, dialogue, and decision making.

“Before you can help others, you need to have the right approach to yourself,” he began in speaking of disposition. “How you carry yourself is the first arena of Christian leadership.”

Pompeo noted he keeps an open Bible on his desk, and tries to read it each morning. “I need my mind renewed with truth each day. And part of that truth … is to be humble.”

He also noted the importance of forgiveness in one's disposition.

Turning to dialogue, Pompeo emphasized the importance of listening carefully and not rushing to judgement, but especially truth telling.

He noted that as Secretary of State “I’m especially telling the truth about the dire condition of religious freedom around the world. America has a proud history of religious freedom, and we want jealously to guard it here. But around the world, more than 80% of mankind lives in areas where religious freedom is suppressed or denied in its entirety.”

He said the Chinese Communist Party “is detaining and abusing more than one million Uighur Muslims in internment camps in the Xinjiang” and “Christian pastors today are being unlawfully arrested, beaten, detained inside the Islamic Republic of Iran. We need to speak about this.”

“Christian areas in northern Iraq that I’ve had the privilege to visit have been ravaged by ISIS, part of a greater trend of Christian persecution all across the Middle East,” he added.

Pompeo spoke of the State Departments efforts in recent years to emphasize religious freedom, saying, “we've hosted ministerials. We bring leaders from all around the world called the Ministerial on Religious Freedom at the State Department. We’ve told the world about these shortfalls and the success of nations when individuals are given their basic human dignity to practice their conscience, their faith, or to choose no faith if they so choose all around the world.”

Finally, the state secretary addressed decision making, focusing on faithful stewardship and intentional use of time.

“Decisions are a question of priorities, often … I am grateful that my call as a Christian to protect human dignity overlaps with America’s centuries-old commitment to the same mission in our foreign policy all across the world.”

Pompeo noted that “international organizations will try, from time to time, to sneak language into their documents claiming that abortion is a human right. And we’ll never accept that. We’ve worked diligently to find every dollar that might be going to that and we have worked tirelessly and successfully now to bring it nearly to an end.”

El Paso bishop encourages Catholics to overcome racism with acts of inclusion

El Paso, Texas, Oct 15, 2019 / 12:19 pm (CNA).- Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso issued a pastoral letter Sunday reflecting on the area's history of racism and encouraging Catholics to be a source of justice, after a mass shooting in the city some months ago.

Night Will Be No More was issued Oct. 13 “on the theme of racism and white supremacy to reflect together on the evil that robbed us of 22 lives.”

Bishop Seitz wrote that “God can only be calling our community to greater fidelity. Together we are called to discern the new paths of justice and mercy required of us and to rediscover our reasons for hope.”

An armed man opened fire at a shopping complex in El Paso Aug. 3, killing 22 and injuring more than two dozen. The shooter reportedly published a four-page document online in the hours before the attack, detailing his hatred toward immigrants and Hispanics.

“Hate visited our community and Latino blood was spilled in sacrifice to the false god of white supremacy,” said Bishops Seitz.

“I know God will never allow the hate that visited our community on August 3rd to have the last word. We must recommit ourselves to the hospitality and compassion that characterized our community long before we were attacked, with all the risk and vulnerability which that entails. We must continue to show the rest of the country that love is capable of mending every wound,” he added.

While a lack of gun control and mental healthcare contribute to mass shootings, the bishop said, he noted racism as the prime motivator for the attack in El Paso.

“This mystery of evil also includes the base belief that some of us are more important, deserving and worthy than others. It includes the ugly conviction that this country and its history and opportunities and resources as well as our economic and political life belong more properly to ‘white’ people than to people of color,” he said.

“This is a perverse way of thinking that divides people based on heritage and tone of skin into ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’, paving the way to dehumanization.”

He said that “the history of colonization can discern both the presence of a genuine Christian missionary impulse as well as the deployment of white supremacy and cultural oppression as tools of economic ambition, imperial adventurism and political expansion.”

The bishop asserted that “it was in the encounter between the Spanish colonists and Indigenous communities that fateful identities were co-produced and sinful notions of civilized versus uncivilized and the invention of the savage were born.”

He chronicled the history of racism and discrimination among various groups in the area.

“Older generations of El Pasoans still talk about entrenched attitudes against Latinos and how the system was stacked against them growing up. Latinos were excluded from political life by a closed network dominated by White, wealthy men. Latino children at school didn’t see themselves, not in the faces of their teachers or school leadership, but only custodial and cafeteria staff,” he said.

He called the wall on the US-Mexico border wall “a powerful symbol in the story of race” which “has helped to merge nationalistic vanities with racial projects.”

“It is not just a tool of national security. More than that, the wall is a symbol of exclusion, especially when allied to an overt politics of xenophobia … The wall deepens racially charged perceptions of how we understand the border as well as Mexicans and migrants. It extends racist talk of an ‘invasion’.”

For Bishop Seitz, the border wall “perpetuates the racist myth that the area south of the border is dangerous and foreign and that we are merely passive observers in the growth of narco-violence and the trafficking of human beings and drugs.”

It is the responsibility of Catholics to defend the immigrant, he said. He pointed to the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who asked Saint Juan Diego to build a church in her honor. In the image, Our Lady is depicted as a mestiza “who takes what is noble from each culture, elevates it and points out new ways towards reconciliation,” he said.

“Our Lady affirmed Juan Diego against dehumanization. And that affirmation came with a divine charge to make persistent petition before the authorities and build a temple.”

Likewise, he said Catholics must build a “Temple of Justice” through which solidarity, friendship, and charity may take place. He said the evil history of racism may be overcome with encounters of love.

“God offers us the chance to build a new history where racism does not prevail. The ‘manifesto’ of hate and exclusion that entered our community can be countered with a manifesto of radical love and inclusion. I want to see an El Paso that addresses both the legacy of racism and one which builds more just structures to eradicate and overcome that history.”

He said there must be practical steps of inclusion and love, overcoming unjust political measures and the racism of the past. There needs to be a new history of human rights and bridge building, he said.

“It is not enough to not be racist. Our reaction cannot be non-engagement. We must also make a commitment to be anti-racists in active solidarity with the suffering and excluded,” he said.

“We must take active steps to defend the human rights of everyone in our border community and their dignity against dehumanization as we work to forge a new humanity. What racism has divided, with the help of God, we can work to restore.”

To combat racism, he said, measures need to be taken to ensure equal educational opportunities, universal health care, immigration reform, improved wages, and environmental protections. He also emphasized the role of priests and the importance of the sacraments, which communicate anti-racist themes.

“In [baptism] we celebrate the radical transformation and equality that comes from renewal in Christ. In the anointing with holy oils we proclaim a reverence for human life without distinction. The strength of these symbols should flow into our daily parish life and work for justice,” he said.

“Likewise, in our celebration of Mass, pastors can lead our people to a deeper consciousness of the weight of communal and historical sin that we bring to the table of the Lord in the penitential rite. We should ask ourselves carefully who is yet not present, and whose cultures are not yet reflected at the banquet of the Lord that we celebrate at the altar,” he asserted.

He also encouraged President Trump, members of Congress, and the jurists of the highest U.S. courts, “in the absence of immigration reform … to listen to the voice of conscience and halt the deportation of all those who are not a danger to our communities, to stop the separation of families, and to end once and for all the turning back of refugees and death at the border.”