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House Democrats pass appropriations bill with Hyde Amendment intact

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The House of Representatives passed a combination appropriations bill on Wednesday afternoon that renews the Hyde Amendment, preventing federal Medicaid funds from being used for abortions.

The bill passed by a vote of 226-203 on June 19 and contains funding for four separate spending areas, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the provisions of the Hyde Amendment.

The vote was cast almost entirely along party lines. All but seven Democrats voted for the spending bill, and no Republicans voted for it. A last-ditch bill amendment effort by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) to remove the Hyde Amendment from the bill was rejected as a violation of the House procedural rules.

Democratic presidential candidates have expressed an increasing consensus in favor of overturning the Hyde Amendment, and scrapping the policy was part of the Democratic Party platform in 2016.

Former vice president Joe Biden, who currently leads the field of candidates for the Deomcratic nomination for president, recently announced a reversal of his position on the Hyde Amendment and now backs its repeal after over four decades of supporting the measure.

Despite widespread opposition to the policy within the Democratic Party, the Hyde Amendment was included in this year’s spending bill in recognition of the need for approval in the Republican-controlled Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump.

Senate Republicans have indicated that they would not vote for an appropriations bill without the Hyde Amendment, and it is considered unlikely that President Trump would sign such a bill.

The Hyde Amendment was first passed in 1977, and prohibited the use of federal money for abortions, except in cases where the woman’s life is at risk. The amendment was slightly modified in 1994, when exceptions were added for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest.

The Hyde Amendment applying only to federal funds, individual states are free to use their own Medicaid funds for abortions.

Venezuelan bishops concerned by risk of emigrant trafficking

Caracas, Venezuela, Jun 19, 2019 / 02:32 pm (CNA).- The Venezuelan bishops have expressed their concern for the risks to which Venezuelan emigrants, especially women, are exposed. More than 4 million Venezuelans have emigrated since 2015.

Under the socialist administration of Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval, with severe shortages and hyperinflation.

“The Justice and Peace Commission and Caritas urge the authorities in all branches of government to investigate, pursue, prosecute and sentence those responsible for human trafficking crimes,” the bishops said.

They also called for “guaranteeing the relatives of victims direct access and without any kind of obstacles to law enforcement and the justice system so they can present their cases.”

They also asked the authorities to provide the victims with “timely justice without any delay, as established by the Constitution and the different international agreements for the protection of human rights than have been signed and ratified by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

The commission warned that the vulnerable position of migrants fleeing from destitution could cause them to become victims of human trafficking.

“Migrants can be enslaved by 'the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs,'” they noted, citing a UN resolution.

In their statement, the bishops said that they met with relatives of the 28 people who disappeared in Güiria following the shipwreck of a boat that left April 3 heading for Trinidad and Tobago.

The relatives indicated that although the bodies of the victims have not been found, “the agencies in charge of carrying out the investigation have not given a timely response.”

“The Commission observes with concern the increase of this type of incident, not just in the eastern part of the country but also in the border areas of Falcón, Brazil and Colombia,” the bishops emphasized.

Another boat carrying 32 Venezuelan emigrants sank on its way to Curaçao earlier this month. Each had paid $400 for the crossing.

The bishops' commission warned that in the border areas there operate “criminal gangs that put in danger the life and physical integrity and dignity of women, especially youths and minors.”

This situation produces “enormous anxiety and despair” in the families, affecting the children who are left abandoned, they said.

They expressed their commitment to those affected, to whom they will continue to provide support in following up their cases, in order to obtain justice, timely information, and a determination of facts.

“Let us combat the sale of children, women and men as slaves for the purposes of begging, prostitution or forced labor,” they urged.

Some 1.3 Venezuelan emigrants are being hosted by Colombia, and some 800,000 are in Peru.

In a move to restrict the flow of immigrants, Peru mandated June 15 that Venezuelans have a passport and visa to enter the country; previously, only a national ID card was needed.

'Transgender' track rules violate Title IX, ADF says

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The governing body for high school sports in Connecticut is facing a federal complaint after allowing male students to compete in female events.

Three female students, supported by Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit group advocating for the defence of religious liberty, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights after male students were allowed to compete in the 2018 female outdoor track season.

The complaint alleges that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), which is a governing body for high school sports in Connecticut, is violating federal Title IX norms by allowing male athletes who identify themselves as females to compete in sports against female athletes.

CIAC member schools include many of the state’s Catholic high schools.

The two male students, who identify themselves as female, were allowed to compete during the track season and placed well ahead of their female competitors.

Since 2017, the CIAC allows athletes to compete in leagues consistent with “preferred gender identity.”

In the spring 2018 outdoor track season, a sophomore runner who had already competed in the 2018 indoor track season on the boys’ team changed his gender identification and was permitted to compete as a female.

In the 2018-2019 seasons, he, along with another female-identifying male runner, have consistently placed as the top-two finishers in their events against female runners. One of the males now holds 10 state records in female track events. Previously, these records were held by 10 different runners.

ADF is requesting that the Office for Civil Rights investigate alleged Title IX violations, and compel the CIAC to change its athlete policy.

Title IX of the 1972 Educational Ammendments Act states that "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

ADF asserts that allowing male athletes to compete in female events is discriminatory against female athletes.

Additionally, the ADF has requested that the CIAC retroactively recognize runners who would otherwise have won or qualified for events had they not been competing against males.

One of the three girls represented by the ADF complaint is Selina Soule, a 16-year-old from Glastonbury High School in Connecticut. Soule, who runs track, missed qualifying for the state finals in the 55-meter dash by one place. The top two finishers in the event were both males identifying themselves as female.

The other two complainants, who also run track, have chosen to remain anonymous.

“Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field. Forcing female athletes to compete against boys is grossly unfair and destroys their athletic opportunities,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb in a statement posted on the organization’s website.

“Title IX was designed to eliminate discrimination against women in education and athletics, and women fought long and hard to earn the equal athletic opportunities that Title IX provides. Allowing boys to compete in girls’ sports reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women under this law.”

Speaking on Fox News, Soule said that she has received “nothing but support” from her teammates and from other athletes, but she has “experienced some retaliation from school officials and coaches.”

In a 2018 interview after the state championships, Soule said that she had “no problem with [the male athletes] wanting to be a girl,” but that she did not think it was right that she had to race males.

“I think it’s unfair to the girls who work really hard to do well and qualify for Opens and New Englands,” she said in 2018. The New England championships serve as a scouting venue for many college-level coaches.

Earlier this month, the Congregation for Catholic Education issued a document laying out principles for Catholic engagement with so-called gender theory, which posits that biological sex and gender are intrinsically mutable and seperable.

The document, titled “Male and Female He Created Them,” called gender theory an effort “chiefly to create a cultural and ideological revolution driven by relativism, and secondarily a juridical revolution, since such beliefs claim specific rights for the individual and across society.”

“There is a need to reaffirm the metaphysical roots of sexual difference, as an anthropological refutation of attempts to negate the male-female duality of human nature, from which the family is generated,” said the document.

“The denial of this duality not only erases the vision of human beings as the fruit of an act of creation but creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who ‘chooses for himself what his nature is to be.’”

Pentecost pilgrimages in France, Middle East link Catholics in prayer

Paris, France, Jun 19, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Catholics walked through Syria’s Wadi al-Nasara, or “Valley of the Christians,” this Pentecost, praying the rosary, alternating between the Arabic and French prayers for each decade.

Their two-day pilgrimage, inspired by the annual Notre Dame-Chartres walk in France, coincided with Pentecost pilgrimages in Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt organized by the French humanitarian organization SOS Chretiens d’Orient as a gesture of prayer and solidarity.

“These few intense days of hiking and prayers will remain engraved in hearts as precious moments when Syrians and French were united by the same Spirit,” Madeleine, a French volunteer for SOS Chretiens d’Orient in Aleppo, Syria wrote on their blog.

“The pride of having traveled the kilometers with bravery, the long discussions shared, the services rendered together have been a reflection of the love that binds our two countries by the grace of God,” she said. “We were in communion with the pilgrimage of Notre Dame de Chretiente in Chartres.”

The Syrian pilgrims and volunteers came from Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo to walk the path along Mediterranean Sea toward the sanctuary of Saint Charbel in the village of Daher Safra.

Athar, a Syrian participant, reflected, “We shared with each other our life with the good times and the bad times. We prayed together. We walked together. It was great because we learned how to accept each other, how to help each other.”

In Iraq, the Pentecost pilgrimage through the Nineveh Plains led to the Rabban Hormizd Monastery in Alqosh, a Chaldean Catholic church founded in the 7th century.

Sistine, a French SOS Chretiens d’Orient volunteer in Iraq, described the experience:

“Arriving at the foot of the monastery, as night begins to fall, our songs to Mary resound magnificently in this calm and wild place. The whole group climbs the remaining few hundred steps in a final burst of energy to reach the small chapel. Finally, after so much effort, prayers, sweat and empty water bottles, we gather here to put all our intentions in Mary's arms.”

We “gather together to express our prayer intentions, entrusting our lives, vocations, Christians of the East and Iraq to our Heavenly Mother,” she said.

The Notre Dame-Chartres walk, which inspired the pilgrimages in the Middle East, drew more than 14,000 participants this year.

Benjamin Blanchard, director of SOS Chretiens d’Orient, told CNA that each of the pilgrimages in the Middle East used the same book of prayers and hymns used in the Notre Dame-Chartres walk.

Blanchard has led a group of volunteers and staff from the Middle East in the French pilgrimage to Chartres for the past four years.

“We are here to pray and to work with all of the pilgrimage, but we especially pray for the Christians of the Middle East, for all of the volunteers and donors of the organization,” he said.

Johnny Dagaly, a Chaldean Catholic from Iraq, told CNA that walking the pilgrimage in France with 14,000 other Catholics gave him a strong sense of the “Body of Christ” that is the Church.

“It has been a very good experience to be here, and when I come back to Iraq, I will share that with all of my friends, my family, with everyone,” Dagaly said.

“I am praying for peace, for peace in all the world and in my country, in Iraq, because we have not had peace from 40 years ago until now,” he said, adding, “I also prayed for my mom.”

Majd Kassouha, a 26 year-old Syrian Melkite Catholic, told CNA that he walked the 62-mile French pilgrimage with prayers for his country to rebuild, not just the infrastructure lost in the war, but also the hearts of the Syrian people.

“The suffering in the heart and the mind is much more painful than the ... physical suffering,”  Kassouha said. He and his family remained in Aleppo throughout the country’s civil war and said he witnessed the death of many of his friends and family.

“When we were attacked and I saw my friends dead … I started to think that without Jesus I can't continue, so I prayed to Jesus to encourage me, to give me the force to continue,” he told CNA.

“Our country, a beautiful country, deserves a condition better than now. Rebuilding the people because we are all destroyed in our hearts. Everyone has lost a lot of dear people,” he said.

“I hope that Syrian people find peace in their hearts and in the country in general,” he said. “I hope to go back to my home and to see it in peace.”

Efforts to ease tensions over Orange walks in Glasgow

Glasgow, Scotland, Jun 19, 2019 / 11:16 am (CNA).- Some figures in the Catholic Church and Protestant loyalist groups in Scotland are seeking to reach a compromise regarding Protestant marches passing by Catholic churches.

Opposition to Orange walks have increased since last July, when a priest, Canon Tom White, was spat at and verbally abused while greeting parishioners after Mass while an Orange march approached his Glaswegian parish, St. Alphonsus.

Orange marches are organized by the Orange Order, largely in Northern Ireland and Scotland, to commemorate the defeat of James II by William of Orange at the July 1, 1690 Battle of the Boyne. James had been deposed as king of England, Ireland, and Scotland in a 1688 revolution by the Parliament of England after he had expanded toleration of Catholics and Protestant nonconformists in the officially Protestant kingdoms.

In the past year, Orange walks have been rerouted by Glasgow city council to keep them from passing in front of Catholic churches. Organizers have cancelled some of the walks in response to their rerouting.

When Glasgow city council rerouted an Orange march in September, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Glasgow said, “We are grateful that common sense has prevailed. The re-routing of the march will bring relief to the people of St Alphonsus parish and the surrounding area, who viewed with anxiety and fear the prospect of another march past the church so soon after the disgraceful scenes earlier this summer.”

Archbishop Leo Cushley of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh recently told STV that “objectively,” Orange walks passing by Catholic churches “shouldn't be a problem. If it is done respectfully, I don't see where the problem is.”

“If it is done to taunt your neighbour that's a different question but it is difficult for me to look into the hearts of everyone who is going past a church,” the bishop, whose see is located 50 miles east of Glasgow, commented.

In response to Archbishop Cushley, a spokesman for the Grange Orange Lodge of Scotland said that “Roman Catholics, Protestants, and people from many other faiths and none, all live harmoniously in communities right across Scotland,” The Herald, a Glasgow daily, reported June 18.

The spokesman added: “This should mean that we can all share the same roads and streets as we each celebrate our own heritage and culture. We will certainly play our part in ensuring that our parades are respectful when passing any place of worship … it is our hope that we find a shared solution that demonstrates that it is perfectly ok to have different religious views and opinions, without the need for religious divisions and divides.”

Dave Scott of Nil by Mouth, an anti-sectarian charity based in Glasgow, commented that “Archbishop Cushley is providing clear-eyed and thoughtful analysis of the situation and the statement in response from the Orange Order would suggest they recognise this and the need for genuine dialogue moving forward.”

Call It Out, a campaign against anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism in Scotland, said on Twitter that “We intend no disrespect whatsoever to [Archbishop Cushley] but we very much doubt he has had much experience of anti-Catholic marches or has consulted the Catholic community across Scotland of their own experiences of these parades.”

Scotland has experienced significant sectarian division since the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century, which led to the formation of the Church of Scotland, an ecclesial community in the Calvinist and Presbyterian tradition which is the country's largest religious community.

Sectarianism and crimes motivated by anti-Catholicism have been on the rise in Scotland in recent years.

An April 2018 poll of Catholics in Scotland found that 20 percent reported personally experiencing abuse of prejudice toward their faith; and a government report on religiously-motivated crime in 2016 and 2017 found a concentration of incidents in Glasgow.

Call It Out has indicated it will organize counter-protests of any Orange walk passing by a Catholic parish, while some Orange groups have said they won't accept rerouting, according to The Herald.

In April the Protestant fraternal society the Apprentice Boys of Derry cancelled an an Easter walk after the Glasgow city council insisted that it not pass in front of St. Alphonsus.

Police Scotland have indicated that public disorder is likely if Orange walks take place in front of some Catholic churches in Glasgow, requiring a disproportionate number of officers to keep the peace.

California bishops call Catholics to 'ecological spirituality'

Sacramento, Calif., Jun 19, 2019 / 10:26 am (CNA).- On the fourth anniversary of Laudato Si’, the bishops of California challenged the community to grow in an “ecological conversion” that respects God, man, and creation.

The California Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a June 18 pastoral statement reflecting on Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On care for our common home.”

The bishops reflected on the call to stewardship of the environment and how concrete actions are necessary to exercise this stewardship in preserving the natural beauty of California.

“The astonishing diversity of landscapes across California - formed by the dynamic interplay of diverse natural forces - moves us to recognize God’s artistry in creation,” the bishops said.

“We propose a practical application of the Laudato Si’ message of ecological spirituality - that the ecological well-being of California is meant to be deeply embedded in a spirituality that unites all creatures and all creation in praising God.”

Man is responsible for caring for creation, the bishops said in their message. They encouraged people to find ways to prevent waste and ensure sustainability. They suggested Catholics invest in energy efficient appliances, residences, and vehicles. In two examples, the bishops said families may consider adding solar panels to their homes, and businesses may reflect on the environmental impact of thee products they produce.

In addition, the bishops highlighted the importance of dialogue about environmental issues and the development of educational materials to further awareness on the topic. They called for works of art that reflect the beauty of creation in order to “inspire a culture of ecological and human care in the light of the moral applications of the Pope’s encyclical.”

The California bishops said climate change harms both the environment and people, especially the most vulnerable. They noted that Pope Francis has included the issue in his admonitions of a “throwaway culture,” which also includes consumeristic excess, abortion, and euthanasia.

“The disruption of the earth’s climate is one of the principal challenges facing humanity today, with grave implications for the poor, many of whom live in areas particularly affected by environmental degradation and who also subsist largely on access to natural resources for housing, food, and income,” they said.

It is the responsibility of the local community to work together to overcome climate change, the bishops stressed, calling particularly on young people, businesses, and public officials to be involved.

“Subsidiarity presents an opportunity for all of us to act locally, but with an eye to broader social transformation to advance sustainability and climate protection,” they said.

In recent years, California has faced significant drought, as well as the largest fire in state history, which took place last year, when more than 400,000 acres were burned in and around Mendocino County. The state’s four hottest years on record occurred from 2014-2018.

To respond to these climate crises, the bishops said, it is important to ensure that people have access to clean, affordable water and to provide proper fire education and prevention measures.

They also called for efforts to strengthen aqueducts and water ways to withstand drought, as well as greater investment in attempts to better understand the effects of climate change on water systems.

“The Laudato Si’ call to live integral ecology means listening to creation and observing what is happening in it,” the bishops said. “To live out a spirituality of the common good, we must recommit ourselves to fostering greater harmony in our relationship with the earth.”

The state bishops promised to work with pastoral leaders to spread the message of Laudato Si’. They challenged parishioners and communities to undergo a spiritual conversion and grow in virtues which will positively affect the environment.

“At the heart of all spirituality is conversion. We all need to change for the better. Conversion is not just turning back to God, but always embraces new thinking and new decisions - a new way of life as we move into the future,” they said.

“Ecological conversion challenges us to advance in culture, to grow spiritually, and to be better educated about the world entrusted by God to our care. The heavens and the earth belong to God, but we have been called to be good stewards.”

 

Families are a radical witness to hope in modern society, Archbishop Gomez says

South Bend, Ind., Jun 19, 2019 / 07:30 am (CNA).- The Christian family must become a “radical” sign against a climate of despair and isolation Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said Tuesday.

Gomez, who serves as the vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered the speech June 18 as part of a four-day conference on Liturgy and the Domestic Church at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.

“Our society has rejected what twenty centuries of Christian civilization considered a basic fact of nature — that most men and women will find their life’s purpose in forming loving marriages, working together, sharing their lives, and raising children,” Gomez said.

The archbishop explained that in previous decades preserving and promoting the family involved a cluster of issues, including divorce, cohabitation, contraception and abortion, same-sex relationships, and the sexual confusion of society. Now, he argued, the basic human imperative to marry and have children is being abandoned.

“Many young people are debating whether it is ‘ethical’ to have kids in an age of global warming. There is an even larger conversation going on among millennials about the ‘value’ of starting a family,” Gomez said.

Just Google that simple question: ‘Should I have kids?’ It is sad, the results that come back. Not only that. It is sad how many people are asking these kinds of questions.”

“The truth is this: for whatever reasons, people have already stopped having children.”

Gomez said that the decline of birth rates, and the rejection of the concept and worth of family, is a sign of more than just selfishness: it is an indication of despair. Without minimizing the importance of climate change, Gomez said, a cultural narrative of coming dystopia has emerged, in which children are considered to be better off having never been born.

“These same kinds of bleak scenarios are being spun out daily in newspapers and magazines, in books, in the media, in classrooms,” Gomez said, and it is the mission of the Church, expressed through the witness of the Christian family, to respond.

“The question for us is: how are we going to live as Christians in this culture, and how are we going to raise our children and evangelize this culture? In these times, what case can we make for marriage, for the family, for children?”

In the Los Angeles archdiocese, he said, a community of more than five million Catholics was baptizing 50,000 infants every year. “These are not just numbers,” Gomez said, “these are souls, entrusted by God to our care. As a pastor, I do not want a single one to be lost.”

It is vital, he said, to discover and promoted the “Domestic Church” of the family, rooted in a parish able to sustain and support them.

“In my opinion, forming small faith communities is crucial,” Gomez said, while insisting that continuous sacramental and faith formation was essential to the life and mission of the Church.

“When we marry a couple or baptize a child — we need to see that as the beginning of a relationship. We need to find ways to nurture that relationship, to support that child and that couple, to help them grow in their love of Jesus and their commitment to living the Gospel in their families.”

Formation of families in the faith is, Gomez said, central to the Church’s mission at a time when the Gospel message is once more seen as antithetical to the culture.

“We need to rediscover the radical ‘newness’ of the Christian message about the family,” he said.

“Before Christianity, no one had ever spoken about marriage in terms of a love that lasts a lifetime, or as a calling from God, or as a path that can lead to holiness and salvation. It was a new and thrilling idea to speak of man and woman becoming ‘one flesh’ and participating in God’s own act of creating new life.”

The simplicity of the family, mirroring the hidden life of Christ in the Holy Family of Nazareth, offers the opportunity to evangelize by a witness to hope and to authentic human happiness – something which society is losing along with the will to have children.

“The first Christians evangelized by the way they lived. And the way they lived was to be in this world but not of this world. They lived the same lives as their neighbors, but in a different way,” Gomez said.

“They rejected birth control and abortion and welcomed children in joy as a gift from God and treated them as precious persons to be loved and nurtured and brought up in the ways of the Lord.”

“The first Christian families changed the world — simply by living the teachings of Jesus and his Church. And my friends, we can change the world again, by following the same path.”

Amid broad drop in charitable donations, giving to God down $3 billion last year

Charitable giving by individual Americans in 2018 suffered its biggest drop since the Great Recession of 2008-09, in part because of Republican-backed changes in tax policy, according to the latest comprehensive report on Americans' giving patterns.

Holy Spirit conducts symphony of communion, pope says at audience

Like an orchestra conductor leading a symphony of different sounds and harmonies, the Holy Spirit creates a masterpiece of unity and communion that extols God's love, Pope Francis said.

Vaccines preserve 'moral health' of communities, say church experts

Measles, chicken pox and other diseases are making a comeback as more parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children out of the fear of side effects, especially with regard to the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine.