Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

This historic black Catholic grade school could get shut down

Birmingham, Ala., Mar 27, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After 111 years of serving the community of Birmingham, Alabama, the city's only African American Catholic elementary school could close due to financial struggles.

Over its long history, Our Lady of Fatima has become an integral part of the community, serving students from all backgrounds: of its 64 children, 11 percent are Catholic, and 89 percent are non-Catholic.

“It's looked at as a community school,” the school's principal Al Logan told the Birmingham Times.

“Most of these children are neighborhood children and their parents are struggling to send them here for a Catholic education,” staff member Cynthia Pinkard noted, according to CBS WIAT.

Closing the school “would really hurt the neighborhood,” she said.  

Our Lady of Fatima is the oldest Catholic elementary school in Birmingham, serving students from pre-kindergarten through the fifth grade. The school is located in the Titusville area, and is also connected with Our Lady of Fatima parish in the Diocese of Birmingham.

“We've seen a decline in enrollment,” Logan said. “It's just because of the way our housing market went a few years ago. It all plays into that same arena. I don't think it has personally anything to do with Catholic or non-Catholic (schools); it just happens.”

Logan believes that the school can raise the necessary funds to keep the school open for at least another year. The school is asking for $150,000 in donations for the 2017-2018 academic year, which needs to be raised by August. The Diocese of Birmingham has chipped in over the years, but the school will need more to keep its doors open.

“I really think we will be able to keep it open,” Logan said, saying that they have already received donations from all across the country from places like Indiana and Florida.

“With the support of everyone who's interested in seeing a good, Catholic education be afforded to the kids, we'll find a way to keep the school open,” he added.

However, Our Lady of Fatima is not the only school on the chopping block. Across the country, private and Catholic schools in particular have faced financial trouble due to lower enrollment.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there has been a two percent enrollment decrease in private schools over the past 20 years for elementary or secondary students. Over 1,000 Catholic schools have also been forced to close or team up with other schools since 2006.

Looking to the future, Logan is hopeful that the school will receive the money necessary to keep the school open and asked for continued donations.

“We would like for the community to step up and to give us whatever they can donate, and likewise, anyone who would like to (donate) from any city or location in the country.”

Donations to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School can be received by phone at 205-251-8395 or through the mail at 630 1st Street S., Birmingham, AL, 35205.

In NYC, admissions error excludes Catholic school students

New York City, N.Y., Mar 27, 2017 / 06:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid charges that a selective public high school excluded Catholic school students from admission, the principal insists it was due to a clerical error but still faces heavy criticism.

Maspeth High School, in the New York City borough of Queens, gives admission priority to students who live nearby and attend information sessions or open houses.

The school selected about 250 prospective students out of 1,000 applicants in its lottery.

However, the principal had failed to mark for priority status 207 students of Catholic schools who had attended an information session for Maspeth. Priority status would have placed them in the random lottery.

Instead, none of those 207 students were accepted, the New York Post reports.

Principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir told parents the omission was due to a “clerical error.”

“There was an error. There was a problem,” the principal said at a March 16 meeting of the Juniper Park Civic Association, the Queens Chronicle reports. “So there is no vast conspiracy against any of the parochial schools. Some of our best students come from parochial schools.”

As controversy grew, New York City Department of Education officials then entered 207 of the applicants from parochial schools into a second lottery. It offered seats to 66 of these students, who would make up about 15 percent of the freshman class.

Critics of the system charge that it is vulnerable to abuse by principals who want to exclude or favor certain students.

The president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, Bob Holden, told the New York Post that the principal had in a phone call described parochial schools as “a problem” because “many of the students opt out and don’t go to my school,” which costs the school funding.

Holden called for an investigation.

Parents may ask the city to re-do the entire lottery for the high school.

Among the parents critical of the school was Jimmy Guarneri, whose son Michael was not accepted. “We’re very angry,” he told the New York Post.

His son will go to a Catholic high school, but only received a partial scholarship. “I’m working two jobs as it is,” he said.

The second lottery meant many students were rejected twice, including the son of parent Santo Vicino.

“I haven’t seen my son cry before and he’s cried twice this past week,” Vicino told the New York Post.

“I need this school for my son’s health, safety and well-being,” he added. “I’m demanding a seat. I want what’s right.”

Mother Angelica: A female powerhouse in a supposedly sexist Church

Birmingham, Ala., Mar 27, 2017 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- It was September 1987, and Pope John Paul II had just arrived in Los Angeles after traveling around the United States. The Pope was greeted in the City of Angels by a closed-door meeting with a group of progressive bishops who had a bone to pick with several Church traditions.

One of four chosen representatives, Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, spoke to the pope about female ordination:

“Women seek…(a church) that teaches and shows by example the co-discipleship of the sexes as instruments of God’s kingdom. They seek a church where the gifts of women are equally accepted and appreciated...where the feminine is no longer subordinate but seen in a holistic mutuality with the masculine as forming the full image of the Divine,” he said.

Meanwhile in Alabama, a woman of the Church named Mother Angelica had just thrown her cable network, which reached more than 2 million homes at the time, into 24-hour coverage territory. During the 1987 papal trip, the EWTN Network took on the then-unprecedented task of live, unedited, constant coverage of the Holy Father’s visit.

And when word reached the spunky nun of the Milwaukee bishop’s remarks to the Pope during the trip, she couldn’t help but chime in with her opinion.

“Women in the priesthood, that’s just a power play, that’s ridiculous,” Mother Angelica said the next day.  

“As it is women have more power in the Church than anybody. They built and run the schools. God has designed that men be priests, and we can’t afford to deny God his sovereign rights,” she said, as recalled in her biography by Raymond Arroyo.

If anyone has any doubts as to whether ordination is necessary for leadership and influence in the Church, they need look no further than the media mogul nun herself to be proven wrong, said Catholic talk show host and media consultant Teresa Tomeo.  

“Not only was she a prominent international media personality, because of her work on air and her great shows, but she was a foundress of a major religious network and she was a CEO of that network while being on the air, which is something that few women in the secular world accomplish,” Tomeo told CNA.

“And here she is accomplishing this in the Catholic Church, which is supposedly so sexist and backward according to the world. She’s breaking barriers that these powerful women in secular media can’t even touch.”

In 1981, at a time when women were still struggling for places of prominence in the world of broadcasting, Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation launched Eternal Word Television Network, which today transmits 24-hour-a-day programming to more than 264 million homes in 144 countries. What began with approximately 20 employees has now grown to nearly 400. The religious network broadcasts terrestrial and shortwave radio around the world, operates a religious goods catalog and publishes the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency, among other publishing ventures.

She’s breaking barriers that these powerful women in secular media can’t even touch.

Besides founding EWTN, Mother Angelica is also credited with building a monastery, a shrine, and establishing two religious orders.

Mother Angelica passed away on March 27, 2016 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.

After her passing, the praises of Mother Angelica were sung from both the secular and Church media, with many recognizing her as a strong example of female leadership.

In his tribute, John Allen of Crux wrote:  

“Today there’s a great deal of ferment about how to promote leadership by women in the Church in ways that don’t involve ordination, a conversation Pope Francis himself has promoted. In a way, however, debating that question in the abstract seems silly, because we already have a classic, for-all-time example of female empowerment in Mother Angelica.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, remembered her as a “devout believer and media pioneer" in a statement following her death.

"Mother Angelica reflected the Gospel commission to go forth and make disciples of all nations, and like the best evangelists, she used the communications tools of her time to make this happen. She displayed a unique capacity for mission and showed the world once again the vital contribution of women religious," he said.

Her vigorous leadership and vision in a Church with all-male clergy came from her security in knowing her identity before God, Tomeo added.

“Bottom line is that she knew who she was in Christ, she knew that she was designed in the image and likeness of God, that we’re male and female, we’re equal but we’re different,” she said.

“And she knew that God has a special role for her, and that he chose her for a specific reason, and that you can do all things through Christ as St. Paul tells us.”

Mother Angelica doesn’t stand alone in the line of formidable female figures in the Church, either, Tomeo noted. She succeeded other spiritual giants like St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena, and is joined by other women in the contemporary world, who are working to make a difference in the Church.

For years to come, Mother Angelica will be remembered for her authenticity and punchy humor, and her ability to preach the Gospel with love, Tomeo added.

“She was funny, she always gave me hope that no matter how many mistakes any of us make, God is always going to allow us to come home,” she said.

“I think that we have just begun to unpack her wisdom. I think...for decades and centuries, she’s going to be seen as one of the greatest evangelists in America.”

 

This article was originally published April 1, 2016.

Abortion bill makes unlikely alliance of Bolivian clergy, feminists

Sucre, Bolivia, Mar 27, 2017 / 03:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A bill in Bolivia that would allow abortions only for certain groups of women is uniting unlikely groups in opposition to the policy - namely, Bolivian bishops and pro-choice feminists.

Abortion is currently illegal in Bolivia except in certain rare cases, such as rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.

The new legislation, proposed by the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, would decriminalise abortion during the first eight weeks of pregnancy in situations of extreme poverty, and would allow students and women with three or more children to be eligible for an abortion up to eight weeks.

The Catholic Bishops of Bolivia have said that the new proposal “seriously threatened” the right to life found in the Bolivian constitution.

“Life is a gift from God and no one can dispose of it under any circumstances,” said Bishop Aurelio Pesoa Ribera, the Secretary General of the Bishop’s Conference, according to Vatican Radio.

He also decried the new policy as targeting children born into poor circumstances, and said that it does not address the issues that lead to poverty.

“The proposal introduces a foreign ideological colonization that discards boys and girls born in fragile situations and accepts the sad violence of abortion as a way of providing solutions to social and economic problems.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, pro-choice feminists also voiced opposition to the bill, in part because it targets poor women.

“They should then promote vasectomies for poor and irresponsible men,” the feminist group Mujeres Creando told The World Weekly.  

However, they believe that the government should allow access to abortion for all women up to  eight weeks of pregnancy.

Although President of Bolivia Evo Morales is a member of the Movement for Socialism party, he has distanced himself from the controversy surrounding the bill, saying that he has not been involved in the proposal process. Abortion was decriminalized under certain circumstances in the country under Morales in 2014.

Most countries in majority-Catholic Latin America have very strict laws on abortion, with some countries allowing for it in certain circumstances, and only four countries allowing for abortion without restrictions.

How the 'pirate nun' changed a gay man's life

Birmingham, Ala., Mar 27, 2017 / 12:02 pm (CNA).- Paul Darrow went to his first gay beach when he was 15.

Soon after, he hitchhiked his way to New York, where there was a thriving gay scene and where he could pursue a career in modeling. Once there, he landed a high-end job as an international model and rubbed elbows with celebrities at clubs in the city.

When he wasn’t at the studio or at the gym, Darrow spent his time looking for partners. He found himself going through dozens, and then hundreds, and then thousands of lovers.

“It became frantic, and it was never my intention...but I became insensitive to what it means to be with a partner, both body and soul,” he said in the documentary film, “Desire of the Everlasting Hills.”

But after the AIDS epidemic claimed around 90 percent of his friends, a disease he himself narrowly and miraculously escaped, Darrow decided to move to San Francisco for a fresh start. He met his partner, Jeff, there and they moved to a cabin in Sonoma County.

It was in their shared home that Darrow accidentally discovered a one-eyed, straight-talking “pirate nun” wearing an eye-patch who would change his life forever.

“It was so strange that I said 'Jeff Jeff come in here! You gotta see this!'” he said, pointing to the image on the T.V.

Unbeknownst to them at the time, it was Mother Angelica on EWTN. She had just had a stroke, which pulled the left side of her face into a slump and required her to wear a black eye patch over one eye.

“So (Jeff) comes in and I'm laughing mockingly at this nun with a patch over her eye, a distorted face…and a complete old fashioned habit,” Darrow said. “We both mocked her and laughed at her, you know, 'Gosh these crazy Christians.'”

Jeff left the room and Darrow was about to change the channel, when Mother Angelica “said something so intelligent, so real, and so honest, that it really struck me,” he said.

“You see God created you and I to be happy in this life and the next,” Mother Angelica said through slumped lips, her good eye still twinkling behind her glasses.

Mother Angelica's words struck a chord with Darrow that day, and he found himself secretively snatching glimpses of her episodes every chance he got.

“He cares for you. He watches your every move. There's no one that loves you can do that.”

Mother Angelica's words struck a chord with Darrow that day, and he found himself secretively snatching glimpses of her episodes every chance he got.

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), passed away on March 27, 2016 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.

“She really had…a huge influence on my life, and I learned to love her,” he said, “but at the same time, I had to hide her.”

“So when I turned off the TV, I would always change the channel so that when Jeff or whoever was watching that TV came in, they would never see that I was watching Mother Angelica. And it reminded me as I was doing this of when I used to turn the channel when I was watching porn because I didn't want Jeff or anyone else to see a porn station come up.”

Eventually, Mother Angelica's influence convinced Darrow to go back to church after decades of absence. It was a move that made Darrow very wary; he was sure he would lose friends and clients if they saw him going into a Catholic Church.

And in some ways, he was right.

“I lost clients, I lost friends,” he told CNA in a 2014 interview, at the premiere of the documentary.

“People were in shock that an educated, relatively intelligent man could believe in Jesus Christ. These were the few friends that were aware that I was back in the Church.”

But it's a move that he’s never regretted. Since his conversion, Darrow has shared his experience through talks and conferences. Mother Angelica also led Darrow to discover Courage International, the
Vatican-approved apostolate that reaches out to Catholics with same-sex attraction with the goals of growing closer to God, engaging in supportive friendships, and learning to live full lives within the call to chastity.

It was through Courage International that Darrow became involved with the film “Desire of the Everlasting Hills,” which he saw as a chance to share his story and to give others the same hope that he found in the Catholic Church.

“I was not discriminated against at the beginning of my journey back to the Catholic Church, I was never told that I was a bad person, that I was doing something wrong, even in confession,” he said.

“The Catholic Church really is, according to its teachings, open to everybody.”

Darrow said he felt he owed it to God to share his story through courage and through the film because of all that God had done in his life.

“I wanted to express my love to God and my appreciation for all that He has done for me,” Darrow said, “that He had never forgotten me during the decades that I had forgotten him or turned against him.”

The full documentary is available for free online at: https://everlastinghills.org/movie/

 

This article was originally published March 29, 2016.

As abuse survivor leaves, Vatican group aims to listen better to victims

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2017 / 10:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After a victim who suffered past clerical abuse resigned from the Vatican's anti-abuse commission, the group is aiming for more effective ways to communicate with survivors and include them in its work.

According to a March 26 press release from the commission, members “unanimously agreed to find new ways to ensure its work is shaped and informed with and by victims/survivors.”

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) met March 24-26 at the Vatican for their eighth Plenary Assembly since being formed by Pope Francis in Dec. 2013.

The session came less than one month after clerical abuse survivor Marie Collins resigned from her position on the commission, citing pushback from certain Vatican dicasteries, specifically from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as one of the main reasons for stepping down.

In a March 1 communique announcing her decision, the commission praised Collins as someone who has “consistently and tirelessly championed for the voices of the victims/survivors to be heard, and for the healing of the victims/survivors to be a priority for the Church.”

In their latest meetings, commission members again voiced “strong support” for Collins and for “her continuing work to promote healing for victims of abuse and the prevention of all abuse of minors and vulnerable adults,” the press release stated.

Members also expressed gratitude that Collins has agreed to continue working with the commission in their educational programs for new bishops and with other offices of the Roman Curia.

With relation on how to best include survivors as they go forward, the commission’s statement said that they are carefully considering several ideas that have been successfully implemented in other places for recommendation to Pope Francis.

In addition, the commission discussed the response to communications from survivors/victims directly to their office and other offices of the Holy See, agreeing that “acknowledging correspondence and giving a timely and personal response is one part of furthering transparency and healing.”

They talked over the importance of responding “directly and compassionately,” while acknowledging that this is a major undertaking due to the volume of this type of correspondence the Holy See receives.

Each letter also requires a large amount of attention in order to give the specific resources and assistance necessary.

However, the commission agreed to send further recommendations on this matter to Pope Francis for consideration.

The latest plenary session of the PCPM immediately followed an educational seminar held March 23 at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The event was co-hosted by the PCPM and the Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection.

The day-long educational seminar focused on what the local church and institutions are doing to combat abuse of minors specifically in schools and the home, and was attended by at least half a dozen heads of Vatican departments, with every Vatican department represented in some way.

Mother Angelica was a 'forerunner' of the New Evangelization

Rome, Italy, Mar 27, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A veteran Vatican official praised EWTN foundress Mother Angelica as a pioneer of the New Evangelization, saying the way in which the Church speaks to the men and women of today wouldn't be the same without her influence.

“I think Mother Angelica was a New Evangelizer ante litterum (before her time),” Monsignor Graham Bell told CNA.

An official of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization who has spent around three decades in Rome, Msgr. Bell said that while St. John Paul II coined the phrase some 30 years ago, Mother Angelica had been an active player “long before.”

“She just fits into that so well, because why do we have the New Evangelization? Not because the Gospel is new – the Gospel is ever-new, but it’s also unchanging, and the 'new' in the New Evangelization is essentially seeking to find new languages with which to communicate the Gospel to the men and women of our time.”

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation founded EWTN in 1981, and it has since become the largest religious media network in the world. She died March 27, 2016 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years-old.

Mother Angelica, Msgr. Bell said, was able to talk about even difficult or sensitive topics in a meaningful way that always brought people “back to the center, which is Christ.”

Please see below CNA's full interview with Msgr. Bell:

One of the reasons I wanted to speak to you about this is because of the frequent remarks you’ve made in the past about Mother Angelica and what she accomplished. Why is she such a striking and important person for you?

I came to Mother Angelica not through her television programs, but maybe at the beginning of the 2000s, there was a craze – maybe it was more popular then, I’m not sure, but there was a kind of podcast craze, and what EWTN did at that time is they would put out Mother Angelica live as a podcast, so I faithfully downloaded this every week. I didn’t know this nun before I started listening to the podcasts, and what immediately became clear is that there’s nothing original in Mother Angelica, she’s not trying to be original, all she’s trying to do is she’s taking the Word of God, she’s taking the teaching of the Church and she’s applying them to people’s lives. And the more I listened to this lady, the more I was reminded of Cardinal Newman’s motto: Cor ad cor loquitur, heart speaks to heart. And she has this phenomenal capability of speaking to your heart, and that comes across. Obviously I was listening to it as a podcast, I couldn’t see how people were reacting in the studio to what she was doing, but this great humanity came out. I think Newman got his motto from Saint Francis de Sales, and I think Francis de Sales said heart speaks to heart, whereas the tongue just hits the ear. You always had the impression with Mother Angelica that her heart was behind what she was saying. It struck people as true because she recognized it as true, and I think this is a phenomenal gift. It’s a gift every preacher should seek to have, but it’s also a gift that every Christian should seek to have. This phenomenal capacity to communicate and to communicate the unchanging truth of the Gospel in a way that’s relevant for men and women today, and that’s an art, it’s a grace.

Do you think this is a reason she’s been so attractive and appealing to so many people?

Yes, I do. Because language changes, and it changes now at a greater pace than it’s ever changed, and Mother Angelica in my opinion was able to bridge the gap. Sometimes the institutional Church isn’t good at speaking to people, but I think Mother Angelica, first of all with her many books, and then when she got the television and radio thing going, she was capable of bridging that gap. I can think of many things she said about people with addictions, you know? Sometimes the Church isn’t good at doing that, but she was good at looking at things which were difficult to talk about, but talking about them in a way that was very, very meaningful and always bringing people back to the center, which is Christ. I listened to all of her podcasts, and I just thought it was phenomenal. It certainly helped me in my preaching, and also helped me in the living of my priesthood.

In view from your position on the Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, how do you think Mother Angelica has influenced the New Evangelization? Clearly she’s been a huge personality …

I think Mother Angelica was a New Evangelizer ante litterum (before her time). I think John Paul II coined the expression himself in 1979 when he was in Poland, and what Mother Angelica had been doing long before that was certainly New Evangelization, certainly. She just fits into that so well, because why do we have the New Evangelization? Not because the Gospel is new, the Gospel is ever-new, but it’s also unchanging, and the “new” in the New Evangelization is essentially seeking to find new languages – I use the term language in the extended sense – with which to communicate the Gospel to the men and women of our time, who obviously have to hear the Gospel in a language which can understand. But the thing about Mother Angelica is, it was never the case of communicating a content which really didn’t concern her. Her communicating the Gospel was she was really communicating a part of herself, because Christ was so much a part of her and a part of her religious vocation. In communicating Christ through television, through radio, through her many books, she was actually communicating a part of herself, she was so identified with Christ, and I think that’s the heart of the New Evangelization. Obviously another thing I think is very close to the heart of the New Evangelization is the whole question of witness. Because how did Jesus communicate the Gospel to his disciples? He is the Gospel in himself and in his person. It was done through what he said and what he did, and what he said and what did find their center in his very person. So it must be for those who witness to the Gospel. It’s not enough just to speak about Christ, and it’s not enough just to do good works. There has to be a relationship so that what we say is explained by what we do, and what we do is explained by what we say. And I think in Mother Angelica, as in the great saints, this is exemplified, this is exemplified very, very strongly.

A lot of people see the impact she had specifically in the Church in the Unites States and say that she changed the Church in the U.S. during a really critical time, but we also see that this is spreading very internationally. With your experience and in your time following EWTN, how do you see that she’s influenced culture even here in Europe?

Mother Angelica, it must never be forgotten, was a woman religious. And women religious have a very, very, very important role to play in the New Evangelization and in the Church generally, because people react so favorably to them, because they express the maternity of the Church in a way in which priests and men religious really aren’t capable of doing. Mother Angelica, I think, is exemplary in this, and in her clarity of identity. What you see is what you got, there was no mystification there. You saw this nun with her habit, and she was always the same, the message was always the same, and this sense of authenticity I think absolutely captivates people. And I think that’s a big part of her secret and why she’s so popular. It’s this capacity of expressing maternity in an age in which maternity is not very fashionable.

Being here in the Vatican for so long – you’ve been here for about 30 years, right? – have you seen any impact that she’s made here specifically?

I don’t know about that, about what impact she’s made here. I think she’s made a positive impact to the extent that I think women religious always make a positive impact. When women religious are faithful to their vocations and faithful to the Church, they always make an impact, and I think the history of the Church demonstrates this. I wouldn’t be able to say what her impact has been on the various dicasteries. Certainly I do consider her one of the forerunners of the New Evangelization, and it would be difficult to imagine the New Evangelization without figures like her. I think one of the keys to the success of the New Evangelization will be how we can involve women religious in this project. I think the more we involve them, the more the New Evangelization will be successful.

So in your opinion, aside from EWTN, what do you think is the core of the legacy she has left that and that we’re continuing to see grow?

I would say this very, very humble, that I think today in the Church we are very much concerned, I would even say obsessed, by the question of communications, because we want to keep up with the times and we realize that this is very, very important; communications are a very important part of how the modern world works, and it’s important that the Church should be there. But what we must never forget, in my opinion, is that content always has a primacy over the technical aspect. The technical aspect is absolutely wonderful, but if you’ve got nothing to communicate it's completely useless, and I think Mother Angelica, she wasn’t just the person who founded this fantastic, hotshot television network that was financed completely by the people who listened to it. It wasn’t just that. It was the fact that she always put content first, and I think that’s a great part of her legacy. But I also think another equally important part of her legacy is the eternal truth of our Catholic faith. It always has been and always will be until Christ comes again, it’s a question of a man or a woman who believes in the Resurrection of Christ, looks into the eyes of another man or another woman and says ‘I believe’, and asks you to believe, too. And Mother Angelica exemplifies this; the transmission of the revelation, the transmission of our faith will always be an interpersonal relationship, and all of the hardware and all of the software and all of the gadgetry will never be able to replace that. And she never imagined that EWTN or her various initiatives would ever substitute this interpersonal transmission of the faith. So I think her legacy will be discovered 10, 20 years down the way. I really do.

Would you say that part of the appeal and effectiveness of how she communicated the Gospel and the Resurrection had to do with how she experienced it in her own life?

Yeah. She suffered. I can’t remember all the details of her biography, but I know early on in her life she had a serious medical conditions, and these were overcome and they were overcome through prayer. She might also have been the subject of a miracle, thinking about her very early life before she decided to become a nun. And then all through her life she battled through ill health. One of the things that makes her so authentic is that when you listen to – one of the things I used to love about EWTN was listening to all the podcasts, and you could hear her coughing, and she would put a cough sweet into her mouth, and if you look at the big, sleek media operations like the BBC, you very rarely hear people coughing and at EWTN you could hear all this, and it was so human. With technology, I think a television lens transforms everything, and it really is – if it’s the great observer, it’s also the great betrayer because you look at these television studios and how they come through the lens of the camera, but when you actually go there and you see how they’re built with all the cables everywhere that people never see, and the lighting makes it seem much bigger than it is, it’s smoke and mirrors, it really is from start to finish. You never got that impression with EWTN. You got the impression that here’s a lady in her parlor, speaking to you in your parlor, that’s what it came across as. So she coughed, and she put in a cough sweet and it was wonderful.

Did you ever get to meet her personally?

I didn’t, no. I always used to ask – sometimes we got people coming up from EWTN – I would always ask how is she, and I think the most of the latter half of her life she was bedridden. And sometimes you wonder what did God want from her in that time? What was her vocation in that time? That’s very difficult to discern.

It was striking to me that the culmination of those last few years and then to pass away on Easter after what I understand were very excruciating last days. There was clearly something at work …

Her oneness with Christ … Another chap who greatly influenced me when I was listening to Mother Angelica about 10-12 years ago was Father Benedict Groeschel, because he had Sunday Night Live. That would come out as a podcast and I would download that too. He is another one, I think they’ll both be saints. With Benedict, I know something happened at the end of his life, but that will be forgotten. In fact, it should probably be forgotten right away, because I don’t think he said what he was intending; an old man – and a young man – can make mistakes. But I am convinced that both of them will be beatified, I’m absolutely convinced.

What's the most convincing argument against porn? Science.

San Francisco, Calif., Mar 26, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In 2013, Beyonce Knowles topped GQ’s list of “The 100 Hottest Women of the 21st Century.”

That same year, the “definitive men's magazine” that promises “sexy women” along with style advice, entertainment news and more ran a shorter listicle: “10 Reasons Why You Should Quit Watching Porn.”  

The list included reasons such as increased sexual impotence in men that regularly viewed pornography, and a reported lack of control of sexual desires. It was inspired by an interview with NoFap, an online community of people dedicated to holding each other accountable in abstaining from pornography and masturbation.The site clearly states that it is decidedly non-religious.

Matt Fradd, on the other hand, is a Catholic. Fradd has spent much of his adult life urging people to quit pornography, and developing websites and resources to help pornography addicts.

But even though he’s Catholic, Fradd’s new anti-porn book, “The Porn Myth,” won’t quote the saints or the Bible or recommend a regimen of rosaries.

“I wanted to write a non-religious response to pro-pornography arguments,” Fradd said.

That’s not because he’s abandoned his beliefs, or thinks that faith has nothing to say about pornography.

“Whenever I get up to speak, people expect that I’m just going to use a bunch of moral arguments (against porn). And I have them, and I’m happy to use them, and I think ultimately that’s what we need to get to. But I think using science...is always the best way to introduce this issue to people.”  

“In an increasingly secular culture, we need arguments based on scientific research, of which there’s been much,” he said. It’s why he cites numerous studies on each page of his book, and why he’s included 50 pages of additional appendixes citing additional research.  

Fradd is careful to clarify in his book that it is not a book against sex or sexuality. What he does want to do is challenge the way many people have come to think about pornography, and question whether it leads to human flourishing.

“This book rests on one fundamental presupposition: if you want something to flourish, you need to use it in accordance with its nature,” Fradd wrote. “Don’t plant tomatoes in a dark closet and water them with soda and expect to have vibrant tomato plants. To do so would be to act contrary to the nature of tomatoes. Similarly, don’t rip sex out of its obvious relational context, turn it into a commodity, and then expect individuals, families and society to flourish.”

But why dedicate a whole book to the scientific effects of pornography?

Fradd said that the sheer volume of pornography consumption makes this an especially urgent book - and it’s at least two decades too late. According to one survey, about 63 percent of men and 21 percent of women ages 18-30 have reported that they view pornography several times a week - not to mention those viewing it slightly less often.

“If we have an iPhone we have a portable X-rated movie theater. And some studies suggest children as young as 8 are being exposed to it, so if I meet someone who’s 14, I know that they have looked at porn or are looking at it regularly,” Fradd said.

Fradd recalls in his book a study done by Melissa Farley, director of Prostitution Research and Education. When Farley’s team set out to do a study about men who buy sex, they had a difficult time finding men who don’t do so.

“The use of pornography, phone sex, lapdances, and other services has become so widespread that Farley’s team had to loosen their definition of a non-sex buyer in order to assemble a hundred-person control group for their research,” Fradd wrote.

Throughout the book, Fradd uses scientific research to debunk numerous and prevailing “myths” or arguments about pornography, including the ideas that pornography empowers women, that it isn’t addictive, and that it’s a healthy part of sexuality and relationships.

One of the most commonly believed myths is that pornography doesn’t hurt anyone, Fradd said. But he has found that pornography harms people personally, relationally, and societally.

On the personal level, a 2014 study from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin found that frequent pornography use in men was associated with decreased brain matter in certain areas of the brain.

The abstract explained that the association may not be causation, but correlation, “which means that if porn isn’t shrinking your brain, it would mean that people with small brains like porn more,” Fradd said.

“It’s not a feather in your cap, either way.”

As for whether or not pornography empowers women, Fradd said that while he agrees that a woman who consents to producing pornography is in some sense “better” than a woman who is forced or coerced, but not by much, because pornography is still being used by the consumer to treat another person as a means to an end.  

“No matter the level of consent, it is a manly thing to treat a woman who has forgotten her dignity with dignity nonetheless,” Fradd wrote.

Fradd also quotes Rebecca Whisnant, a feminist theory professor, who once refuted the myth of porn as female empowerment in a talk:

“Feminism is about ending the subordination of women. Expanding women’s freedom of choice on a variety of fronts is an important part of that, but it is not the whole story. In fact, any meaningful liberation movement involves not only claiming the right to make choices, but also holding oneself accountable for the effects of those choices on oneself and on others,” she said in a 2007 talk.

These women are also perpetuating a system that robs women, as a group, of empowerment, Fradd said, such as women who are sex trafficked while participating in the porn industry. By some estimates, two million women and girls are held in sexual slavery at any given time.

It’s part of the reason why Fradd is donating all of the proceeds of “The Porn Myth” to Children of the Immaculate Heart, a non-profit corporation operating in San Diego, Calif, whose mission is to serve survivors of human trafficking.

Porn also disempowers the women whose relationships are destroyed by men caught up in pornography addictions, Fradd noted.

“Ask the millions of women whose husbands habitually turn to porn. Do these women feel empowered by pornography?” Fradd asked.

Pornography use in marriage is one way that porn harms relationships. According to Fradd’s research, a survey of 350 divorce lawyers reported in 2003 that pornography was at least part of the problem in half of all divorce cases they saw.

Another commonly believed myth is that marriage will solve a porn addiction, which shows a misunderstanding of the psychology of addiction in the first place, Fradd explains.

But pornography can also damage the relationships of a single person looking for love.

A 2011 TED talk by psychologist Philip Zimbardo said that studies showed a “widespread fear of intimacy and social awkwardness among men,” and an inability to engage in face-to-face conversations with women, Fradd wrote.  

“Why? Zimbardo says this is caused by disproportionate Internet use in general and excessive new access to pornography in particular. ‘Boys’ brains are being digitally rewired in a totally new way, for change, novelty, excitement.’”

And Zimbardo is not alone in his observations. As Fradd notes, neuroscientist William Struthers wrote in 2009 that “With repeated sexual acting out in the absence of a partner, a man will be bound and attached to the image and not a person.”

In other words, men can start preferring pixels to people. According to NoFap’s statistics in 2013, about half of their users had never had sex with a real person, meaning their only experience of sexual intimacy has been digital.

That reason alone has been why many people, men especially, have sought to kick their porn habits, Fradd said.

“I know agnostics or atheists who quit porn literally because they couldn’t have sex with people they were hooking up with. That’s why they quit porn. And these guys are fit, good-looking young men, who couldn’t get an erection around a young woman. But they realized if the woman left and they opened up their laptop they’d get an immediate erection.”

Studies have also shown that pornography addiction is driven by the increase in amounts, and varieties, of material readily available to anyone with access to the internet.

“People find themselves viewing more and more disturbing pornography, and the reason for this is because of a decrease in dopamine in the brain, which happens because of the addiction one has, and they end up seeking out more graphic, violent forms of pornogrpahy just to boost the dopamine enough to feel normal,” Fradd said.

“People don’t wake up when they’re 30 and decide to look at child porn or feces porn or something disgusting like that. These are big things that people spiral into, and the industry has to keep pushing the envelope because it’s addictive,” he added.

While the statistics of pornography can be disturbing and depressing, Fradd stressed that there was still hope. He devotes several chapters in the book to protecting children from pornography, dealing with pornograpy in marriage, and getting help for those addicted to pornography.

Fradd himself has spent years in ministry to those with pornography addictions, and helps run the site Integrity Restored, which offers numerous resources to help those struggling with addictions and those in ministry to them.

The most effective steps for someone to follow for someone addicted to porn?

“They should find a spiritual director, they should go to therapy, and they should find a 12 step group (like Sexaholics Anonymous),” Fradd said. “With those three things together, we’ve seen the most success.”

Often well-meaning Christians will relegate pornography addictions to the spiritual realm, telling people that they simply need to pray more, Fradd said. And while prayer isn’t a bad thing, it doesn’t address the psychological aspect of addiction.

“When people do things like put a picture of Mary on their laptop or pray more, it doesn’t actually usually work. It’s not a solely spiritual problem, so what we don’t need is a solely spiritual answer,” he said.

Just as you should encourage a clinically depressed person to seek counseling and therapy, you should also encourage someone experiencing addiction to seek professional help, he added.

Fradd said he’s also been encouraged by the number of celebrities who have recently spoken out against pornography, such as Pamela Anderson, British comedian Russell Brand, actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Rashida Jones, and former NFL player and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actor Terry Crews, to name a few.

Slowly, he said, society is catching up to the science that shows how harmful pornography can be.

“We’ve reached a tipping point in our culture such that everyone either struggles with porn and/or knows someone who does, and we all see the negative effects,” he said.

“So the porn industry’s cronies can tell us that pornography is healthy for well-rounded adults,  but they now sound like the tobacco apologists sounded like in the 80s. In light of the evidence, their assertions seem increasingly ridiculous.”

Fradd’s book is available at: https://www.thepornmyth.com/

How an American bishop became a Korean martyr

Washington D.C., Mar 26, 2017 / 08:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Patrick James Byrne was born in the United States, but he died on a forced march in the harsh Korean snows under the watch of communist soldiers.

Now the Catholic bishops of South Korea are considering whether he should beatified among a group of Korean martyrs.

“Bishop Byrne is one of the unsung heroes of Maryknoll,” Father Raymond Finch, Superior General of the Maryknoll Society, told CNA. “We remember him as an example of a missioner who stayed at his post.”

As a newly ordained priest in 1915, Bishop Byrne joined the Maryknoll Society, just four years after its founding. He led the society's mission to Korea in the early 1920s, and he served as prefect apostolic of Pyongyang from 1927 to 1929.

In the 1930s he was transferred to Japan, and during World War II he was held under house arrest.

After the war's conclusion, he was named the first apostolic delegate to Korea, in April 1949. He was promptly ordained a bishop, at the age of 60.

His ordination came at a portentous moment early in the Cold War. Korea was splitting between the North Korean communists, backed by China and the Soviet Union, and the U.S.-backed South Korea.

With the rise of communism in northern Korea, many of the Catholics in the north, including Maryknoll clergy, had to escape to the south in order to continue to practice their Catholic faith.

But not Bishop Byrne.

“It was then, remaining at his post, that he was taken with many other religious priests and members of the Church, taken prisoner on a forced march,” Fr. Finch said. “And he died on that march.”

In July 1950, after the capture of Seoul by North Korean forces, Bishop Byrne was arrested by communists and put on trial. According to Glenn D. Kittler’s history “The Maryknoll Fathers,” he was threatened with death if he did not denounce the U.S., the United Nations, and the Vatican. He refused.

He and other priests were put on several forced marches with Korean men and women and captured American soldiers.

Bishop Byrne was known for trying to help others on the marches through the cold, wet Korean weather, Fr. Finch said.

Aiding others was risky. Some of the prisoners were shot for dropping out of line, while others were executed for aiding those who had become immobilized. Nonetheless, the bishop would help others. At one point he gave his entire blanket to a Methodist missionary who was suffering worse than he.

During a four-month-long forced march, suffering from bad weather and a lack of food and shelter, he began to succumb to pneumonia at Chunggan-up, not far from the Yalu River on the border with China.

He knew he was dying.

“After the privilege of my priesthood, I regard this privilege of having suffered for Christ with all of you as the greatest of my life,” he told his companions.

He received absolution from his secretary, Father William Booth, the bishop’s biography at the Maryknoll Mission Archives website says.

He died Nov. 25, 1950. News of his death took two years to reach the world, when U.N. prison camp inspectors found survivors of the march.

Bishop Byrne was buried by Msgr. Thomas Quinlan, an Irish-born Columban Father who placed his own cassock on the bishop. The monsignor was later named Bishop of Chunchon, South Korea.

Now, a special commission of South Korean bishops has begun a process that could make Bishop Byrne a candidate for beatification. The bishops have grouped him with Bishop Francis Borgia Hong Yong-ho of Pyongyang and 80 companions, who were killed in persecutions from 1901 to the mid-20th century.

Fr. Finch said the launch of the beatification process for Bishop Byrne was “a tremendous honor” and showed he was an example for the Maryknoll Society to follow.

“He answered the call to mission, from the very beginning, and stayed with it, and gave his life to that,” he said. “That’s what we want to do, one way or another, whether it’s through a lifetime, or in a moment in which supreme sacrifices are asked for.”

“We’re inspired,” the Maryknoll superior general said. “We’re inspired by him, and we’re inspired by a number of other Maryknollers who have given their lives over the years in Asia, in Latin America and in Africa.”

Other victims of the Korean conflict include Maryknoll Sisters like Sister Agneta Chang, who was kidnapped by the communist military in late 1950 and is believed to have been martyred.

“I believe they never found her body,” Fr. Finch said.

While the context of the conflict was very difficult, it led to “tremendous Church growth” in South Korea after the war from people who were dedicated to the Church.

“Korea is one of the tremendous success stories of Asia: a Church that started out with 20-25,000 of people of the faith at the start of the last century and ended up with 10 percent of the population today,” Fr. Finch told CNA.

Let go of 'false lights' that lead down the wrong path, Pope says

Vatican City, Mar 26, 2017 / 04:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis said Lent is a key time to open ourselves to the light of Christ and let go of all the “false lights” that lead us away from him, taking us instead down a path of darkness marked by our own selfishness.

“If now I were to ask you, do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe that he can change your heart? Do you think you can see reality as he sees it, not as we do? Do you believe that he is light, that he gives us the true light?” the Pope asked March 26, telling pilgrims to respond in silence.

The walk in the light of Christ means to convert, he said, explaining that this transformation means above all “abandoning false lights.”

One of these false lights, he said, is the “cold and fatuous light of prejudice against others, because prejudice distorts reality and builds hate against those who we judge without mercy and condemn without an appeal.”

Gossip is an example of this, he said, noting that to speak badly of others leads away from light, and down the path of darkness.

Another false light that is particularly “seductive and ambiguous,” he said, “is personal interest.”

“If we evaluate men and things based on the criteria of our profit, our pleasure, our prestige, we will not live the truth in relationships and in situations,” the Pope said. “If we go down this path of seeking only personal interests, we will walk in darkness.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address, focusing on the day’s Gospel reading from John which recounts the healing of man blind from birth who, after receiving his sight, recognizes and worships Jesus as the Son of God.

“With this miracle Jesus manifests himself as the light of the world,” Francis said, explaining that the blind man represents each of us, who, blinded by sin, “need a new light, that of the faith, which Jesus has given us.”

Referring to the Gospel passage, Francis noted that it was precisely by “opening to the mystery of Christ” that the man gained his sight.  

Francis pointed to the line in the passage where Jesus asks the man “do you believe in the Son of Man?” and tells him that “you have seen him, it is he who is speaking with you.”

The man then prostrated himself and worshipped Jesus, the Pope observed, saying the episode serves as an invitation to reflect on our own faith in Christ, and to remember the moment we received it in our Baptism.

Baptism “is the first sacrament of the faith: the sacrament which make us ‘come to the light,’ through rebirth in water and in the Holy Spirit,” he said, noting how the blind man’s eyes were opened after bathing in the Pool of Siloam, upon Jesus’ request.

The man’s need for healing and rebirth is a sign of the times when we fail to recognize “that Jesus is the light of the world, when we look elsewhere, when we prefer to rely on small lights, when we fumble in the darkness.”

The fact that that blind man didn’t have a name, Pope Francis said, “helps us to see ourselves with our face and our name in his story.”

We have also been “illuminated” by Christ through our Baptism, he said, explaining that because of this, we, like the blind man, “are called to act like sons of light.”

But to do this “requires a radical change of mentality, a capacity to judge men and things according to a new scale of values, which comes from God,” the Pope said, adding that Baptism itself requires “a firm and decisive choice” to let go of the false lights, and live as children of the true light of Christ.

Francis concluded his address by praying that Mary, welcomed Jesus as the “light of the world,” would intercede for us in obtaining the grace needed to really welcome “the light of faith” into our lives during Lent.

“May this new illumination transform us in attitude and action, so that also we, starting from our poverty, may be bearers of a ray of the light of Christ.”

After leading pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer, Pope Francis offered special thanks to the diocese of Milan for his March 25 pastoral visit.

He also gave a shout-out to Blessed José álvarez-Benavides y de la Torre and his 114 martyr companions, who were beatified yesterday in Spain.

“These priests, religious and laity were heroic witnesses of Christ and his Gospel of fraternal peace and reconciliation,” he said, and prayed that their example and intercession would “sustain the commitment of the Church in building the civilization of love.”