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Chicago workshop seeks to expand immigrant-led ministry nationwide

Chicago, Ill., Jul 18, 2018 / 03:21 am (CNA).- A five-day training session in the Archdiocese of Chicago last week gathered leaders from across the country to learn about starting an immigrant-led service ministry in their dioceses.

The goal of the gathering, according to the archdiocesan website, was to “train diocesan, pastoral and lay leaders from across the United States on how to start this immigrant-led ministry for service, justice and accompaniment in parish communities to serve the needs of immigrants.”

Delegates from 11 dioceses attended the July 11-15 Instituto Pastoral Migratoria at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

Created in 2007 by the Chicago archdiocesan Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity, Pastoral Migratoria seeks to respond to needs created by the lack of comprehensive immigration reform.

The parish-based ministry develops lay leaders who are able to identify and serve immigrants’ social and pastoral needs at a local level. In Chicago, more than 200 Hispanic lay leaders at 40 parishes are involved in the ministry.

The work they do is broad – from workers’ rights issues to financial literacy education to substance abuse awareness and prevention – “anything related to the immigrant community,” said Elena Segura, senior coordinator for immigration in the archdiocese.

“These are leaders who work in cooperation with professional organizations, who come to the parishes and provide the information and critical resources for people to learn and also to become positive members of society, to be integrated in this country,” she said.

Segura stressed that the program empowers immigrants to be leaders in their own parishes, “actors of their own development,” responding to the needs around them and transforming their communities.

“Immigrants have gifts and…they are people who are responding to their baptismal call to engage in bringing the resources needed in their parish communities,” she told CNA.

Often times, the immigrant leaders who are working to serve and accompany their brothers and sisters have themselves experienced a need for accompaniment in making the transition to life in the United States.

“It’s a journey of empowerment, it’s a journey of hope, it’s journey of compassion,” Segura said.

The July 11-15 training session is part of an effort to expand Pastoral Migratoria across the country. In the last year, the Dioceses of Kansas City–Saint Joseph and Stockton launched the program, and organizers hope to begin in three additional dioceses within the coming year.

“The ministry’s goal is to create a nationwide network of Catholic parish-based immigration ministries,” the Archdiocese of Chicago said in a press release.

Participants in the training session received formation and resources rooted in Catholic social teaching to help them implement Pastoral Migratoria in their home dioceses and form collaborative relationships with community partners. They visited Chicago parishes where this ministry is in place, and took part in a prayer vigil at a detention center. All sessions were conducted in Spanish.

Among the dioceses represented at the event were Atlanta, Des Moines, Kansas City–Saint Joseph, Little Rock, Los Angeles, New York, San Bernardino, St. Louis, and Stockton.

Kavanaugh’s friends describe man of humility, service, faith

Washington D.C., Jul 17, 2018 / 03:04 pm (CNA).- Long-time friends and associates of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh say he is a sincere Catholic, committed to living the tenets of his faith.

Last week, President Trump nominated Kavanaugh to serve as Associate United States Supreme Court. In a short speech following the announcement, Kavanaugh highlighted his commitment to his faith and his family.

“I've known Brett - Judge Kavanaugh - for 20 years,” Shannen Coffin, an attorney in Washington, D.C., told CNA. “He's a very smart person, but he's a regular guy, too. He's a devoted father, and spouse.”

Judge Kavanaugh has spent the last 12 years on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals but despite that formidable judicial record, Coffin says that there are “no airs about” him and he has a “humility in his approach to judging.”

“He's also the guy who after a day of long meetings with senators, you know, and without fanfare, was serving food to the homeless.”

Coffin said that Kavanaugh “views the role of a judge in the constitutional system not as a political job, but as a job of interpreting statutes and interpreting the Constitution.”

On the topic of religious liberty, Coffin was quick to dismiss anyone who had doubts that Kavanaugh would be a staunch protector of religious freedoms.

“I think they’re fools,” he said bluntly. “I don't have any hesitations in thinking that this is a great appointment for those concerned about religious liberty.”

Kavanaugh is a “vigilant defender of religious liberty,” Coffin said, as evidenced by his line of questioning in the recent court case brought against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, (WMATA) by the Archdiocese of Washington. While that case has yet to be decided, Kavanaugh’s questions and reasoning made it clear that he thought WMATA had acted illegally by prohibiting religious-themed advertisements.

“What really should impress Catholics is that this is a guy who is committed to the fundamental text of the Constitution and protecting those liberties preserved in the Constitution.”

Msgr. John Enzler, CEO and president of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., is another longtime friend of Kavanaugh. Enzler told CNA they first met when Kavanaugh was just 10 years old. At the time, Kavanaugh was a member of Little Flower Parish in Bethesda, where Enzler was serving as a priest.

“He was always a wonderful young guy,” Enzler told CNA.

Kavanaugh attended an all-boys Catholic elementary school before moving on to Georgetown Prep. At Georgetown Prep, Kavanaugh played sports, captaining the basketball team in his senior year.

“They weren’t that talented that particular year, but he was still the captain,” said Enzler.

Like Coffin, Enzler was quick to note that Kavanaugh is “really just a regular guy,” who loves sports, and loves being with friends.

Enzler said he did not know that Kavanaugh would be the president’s Supreme Court nominee until about three hours before the official announcement, but it was Enzler’s presence at the announcement that tipped off some people that Kavanaugh was Trump’s pick.

“When they saw me, they knew Brett was the guy, because they knew I was a friend of Brett's," said Enzler. "I kind of blew the cover, by being there for my friend."

Enzler said that when they first discussed Kavanaugh’s possible nomination, the judge was concerned about breaking his volunteering commitments. Kavanaugh asked if he could still come to serve the homeless later that week, saying he said wanted to do so regardless of the nomination result.

Kavanaugh called Enzler on Sunday, and said there was a “50-50” chance he would be the nominee, and that he would like for him to attend the announcement were he picked.

“By the way, if I'm chosen or not, I'd still want to come on Wednesday night to serve food, is that okay with you?”

Kavanaugh has been a consistent volunteer at Catholic Charities, coming to serve the homeless about “15, 16 times” over the last few years, Enzler said.

“He’s been here a bunch of times and serving, and nobody knew who he was,” said Enzler. “Not just a one-time thing.”

After the announcement was made last Monday, Enzler said he received another call from Kavanaugh two days later, checking if it would still be okay for him to volunteer that evening. On this occasion the media came too, and Kavanaugh definitely wasn’t the unknown volunteer he had been before.

"This is the guy next door, this is what he's like,” said Enzler. “He's not like some intellectual powerhouse you'd never talk to. This is a guy who's very friendly, very outgoing, very nice, lot of laughter, big smile, wonderful father, wonderful husband, man of faith, lives his faith, goes to church every week."

While Enzler said he was “very happy” for his long-time friend, he is concerned about what his family will face during the nomination proceedings.

“The process is very difficult,” explained Enzler. “Your family and you personally take a lot of heat from people who don’t agree with you.”

Most of all, Enzler believes that Kavanaugh is a “man of complete integrity, and a man of complete honesty” who will make his decisions in court based upon what is best for the nation and what is in-line with the Constitution.

"I'm very proud of him," said Enzler. "He will be a superb justice of the Supreme Court."

 

'Weeping' statue of Mary investigated by N.M. diocese

Las Cruces, N.M., Jul 17, 2018 / 01:15 pm (CNA).- A New Mexican diocese is investigating a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that some Catholics say has been “weeping” for more than a month.

Bishop Oscar Cantú of the Diocese of Las Cruces gave a public update July 15 about the diocesan investigation into an allegedly “weeping” statue of the Virgin Mary. The cast bronze image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been drawing crowds to the church named in her honor in Hobbs, N.M. 


A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hobbs, N.M., appears to be weeping. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Las Cruces.

Parishioners first reported seeing tears appearing to stream down the hollow statue in May.

Giving an update on the investigation launched that same month, Bishop Cantú said on Sunday that some had also reported a pleasant smell around the statue.

“Some of the witnesses claimed it smelled of roses, so something similar to the oil I bless and consecrate each year that we use for baptism, for confirmations and for ordination of the priests.” So far, the investigation seems to support these reports. As part of the efforts to determine the origin and nature of the tears, samples were sent for chemical analysis. The results determined that the tears were made of a scented olive oil.

The statue itself is also being examined.  "We examined the interior of the hollow statue," Cantú told reporters. "There's nothing on the interior that's not supposed to be there, except for cobwebs. So we took pictures; we examined it."

It was thought by investigators that the tears might have been the result of residual wax from the casting process, but this appears to have been ruled out. Cantú said that the manufacturers had assured them that the heat of the casting process made it impossible for there to be any moisture left in the statue. Addressing the possibility that the weeping statue could be an hoax, he noted that if it was he could not see how it was being accomplished.

On July 11, it was announced that Bishop Cantú was being transferred to  take up the post of bishop coadjutor in the diocese of San José, California. He is scheduled to take up that post at the end of September. Before he leaves, Cantú said he intends to visit the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe to see the statue for himself.

Before making any final decision on the miraculous nature of the weeping statue, the bishop said he would be seeking advice from a higher authority. “I'm checking best practices," he told reporters. "Certainly, I have a final say, but I would defer to the wisdom of Pope Francis."

In the meantime, the Hobbs church continues to see a steady stream of visitors. Even without formal recognition by church authorities, many are finding it a moving experience.

“I've read most of those written testimonies, and they are stories of tremendous faith, people who have been dealing with terrible suffering in their lives and have felt a tremendous spiritual consolation that Mary walks with us in our tears” Cantú said.

He noted that for many Catholics in the border diocese of Las Cruces, the image of Our Lady crying with them was deeply powerful. “I can't help but think of my own shedding of tears for the poor people who come to our border, fleeing life-threatening situations. The tears of those children who are separated from their parents. There are many reasons we would shed tears, and God stands with us in those moments.”

The diocesan investigation continues.

 

 

 

Overturning ‘Roe’ no ‘magic bullet,’ NY archdiocese lawyer says

New York City, N.Y., Jul 16, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Director of Public Policy for the Archdiocese of New York has said that overturning the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision should not be the seen as the final objective for pro-life advocates in the United States.

In a blog post written before President Donald Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, Mechmann warned that during the confirmation process for any nominee, “the rhetoric will be heated and likely ugly, and may even include a large dose of religious intolerance.”

Mechmann’s post explained that the advance of secularism and moral relativism have detached judicial decisions from the principles of natural law. Without this foundation, Mechmann argued, judicial interpretation lacks a “moral and legal compass” to guide decisions.

The result is that the judicial process and the Supreme Court are increasingly accepted as politically tainted, something the framers of the Constitution never intended, he said.

If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Kavanaugh is expected to join the more conservative wing of the Supreme Court. He is widely considered to be an “originalist,” interpreting the Constitution according to its plain-text reading and the intentions and understanding of the founding fathers themselves.

This standard is then applied when “originalist” judges evaluate whether legislation conforms to the Constitution.

Originalist thinkers are often seen to oppose so-called “living” readings of the Constitution, in which legal rights and principles are inferred to exist in the light of modern values, even if they are not contained in the text itself.

In the context of abortion, the decision Roe v. Wade rested on the Court’s inference of a “right to privacy” for women seeking abortions, something which is explicitly not found in the Bill of Rights. The subsequent decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, delivered in 1992, affirmed the right to privacy and the legal protection it affords abortion. That decision was co-authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who last month announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, creating the current vacancy. If confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh could create what many have predicted to be a 5-4 majority on the Court in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade.

But Mechmann, a Harvard educated lawyer who previously worked in the United States’ Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, noted that an originalist majority did not necessarily mean Roe would be overturned.

Roe, said Mechmann, did not just “emerge fully formed from the brow of Justice Blackmun” [author of the decision]. Rather, it was “the result of decades of prior decisions, reaching back to the 1920's.” Consequently, overturning Roe would involve repudiating a deeply embedded body of legal argument, he said. Such a dramatic step would “set off a political explosion that would undermine the legitimacy of the Court in the eyes of a large number of Americans.”

Such a “political explosion” might already have begun,  as abortion advocates react to the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh. Terry McAuliffe, the former Governor of Virginia, said July 9 that Kavanaugh’s nomination “will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come.”

Even if a “pro-life” appointee were confirmed, Roe v. Wade is not certain to be overturned, Mechmann argued. Several of the more conservative Supreme Court Justices often prefer to make decisions on narrowly defined questions relevant to particular cases. Mechmann noted this tendency in past decisions from Chief Justice John G. Roberts, and Justices Alito and Gorsuch, and suggested there could be a succession of such rulings which chip away at legal protections for abortion, but stop short of a single dramatic reversal.

The strength of expectation around a possible reversal of Roe v. Wade has led many to assume it would result in abortion becoming illegal overnight, yet this is not the case, Mechmann said. In the event that the Supreme Court reversed itself and removed the inferred constitutional protection for abortion, the issue would again be subject to state-by-state legislation. This, Mechmann pointed out, would yield very mixed results.

“A number of states already have laws on the books that would essentially permit abortion on demand for some, if not all of pregnancy. New York's statute, for example, permits abortion on demand prior to 24 weeks of pregnancy. According to one expert on abortion law, if Roe and Casey were overruled, only eleven states would have laws that would completely outlaw abortion, and over 80% of Americans would live in states where the situation would be essentially unchanged -- abortion would still be legal for all nine months of pregnancy for virtually any reason and with little effective regulation.”

As many as twelve states already recognize a Constitutional right to abortion.

A Supreme Court majority willing to overturn Roe v. Wade is not, Mechmann warns, “a magic bullet that will make all things new.” While it would be a significant victory for pro-life advocates, their work would need to continue at the state level. This would involve political and legislative efforts to protect the unborn state-by-state, and, just as important, include cultural efforts.

“We have to work harder to create a social infrastructure that would replace the culture of contraception and abortion and promote a vision of women's health that truly respects her fertility and genuine freedom. We still have a lot of work to do.”

 

Our Lady of Mount Carmel aids in spiritual warfare, bishop says

Lincoln, Neb., Jul 16, 2018 / 05:11 pm (CNA).- The Blessed Virgin Mary aids Catholics in spiritual warfare, the bishop of Lincoln, Neb., told a monastery of Carmelite nuns Monday, at a Mass celebrating the Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

“Our Lady of Mt. Carmel reminds us of the importance of our interior lives- not only for our own salvation, but the salvation of souls through Christ’s Church,” said Bishop James Conley, while celebrating Mass July 16 at the Carmelite Monastery of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Valparaiso, Neb.

Mentioning the Biblical prophet Elijah, who is said to have resided in a cave on Israel’s Mount Carmel, the bishop said that “Carmel was the place from which Elijah exercised the great prophetic charism to which the Lord had called him.“

In particular, the bishop mentioned an encounter on Mount Carmel between Elijah and prophets of the idol Baal, recounted in 1 Kings, in which an altar at which prayed to God was lit aflame, a feat which the Idol’s prophets were not able to replicate.

In a similar way, the bishops told the nuns, “Carmel is the place where the Lord calls you, often, to real spiritual warfare for the salvation of souls. Carmel is the place where the glory of the Lord is revealed through you. And Carmel is the place from which you are called to exercise the prophetic ministry to which every member of Christ’s body is called, and to which you, in a special way as nuns, are called.”

“Our Lady is with you- she whose very soul proclaimed God’s greatness, who bore in her womb the salvation of the world. She too is in Carmel.”

The bishop also mention devotion to the scapular, long associated with Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who is said to have conveyed a scapular to St. Simon Stock in the 13th century.

“Our Lady of Mt. Carmel clothed St. Simon Stock with the scapular. In so doing, she reminds us that she clothed the child Jesus, lovingly protecting him and wrapping him in her own mantle.”

Quoting St. John Paul II, he said Catholics must ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to “clothe each of us with the wisdom and love of her divine Son.”

Finally, the bishop mentioned that the scapular, like other sacramentals and devotions, are “a reminder that the Church is the sacrament of our salvation, and that the tangible expressions of the faith the Church gives us are gifts, meant to guide us to intimacy with Jesus, and, ultimately, to salvation.”
  

Tenn. bishops speak out against executions

Nashville, Tenn., Jul 16, 2018 / 05:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of Tennessee issued a letter to the state’s governor Friday, encouraging him to halt upcoming executions expected to use a controversial three-drug lethal injection. 

“It is within your power to establish your legacy as a governor of Tennessee who did not preside over an execution on your watch,” the bishops wrote July 13 to Governor Bill Haslam. “We urge you to use your authority as governor to put an end to the fast-track executions planned for later this year.”

The bishops emphasized the value of all human life, even that of those convicted of horrendous crimes, offering themselves a resource to the governor for any questions regarding Catholic teaching on the subject.

The letter was signed by Bishop Mark Spalding of Nashville, Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville, and Bishop Martin Holley of Memphis. The request came ahead of the pending execution of Billy Irick, who is scheduled to die August 9 by lethal injection.

Irick was convicted of the rape and murder of Paula Dyer, a seven-year-old girl. His execution would be the first in Tennessee since 2009, and the first to use the three-drug combination of midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride (or, for legal reasons, slight variations of those drugs).

The bishops’ letter follows a July 9 lawsuit contending that the use of the three-drug cocktail constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment.” Tennessee currently has 62 men and one woman on death row, more than 30 of whom are party to the lawsuit. 

Tennessee transitioned to the three-drug cocktail in January when pentobarbital, the previous drug used in lethal injection, was no longer available. In a request to the Tennessee Supreme Court, state Attorney General Herbert Slater unsuccessfully sought to fast-track eight executions before some of the drugs expired on June 1. 

Concerns have been expressed about the new drugs’ effectiveness. In an email to state officials, a consultant charged with acquiring the new drugs highlighted midazolam’s weak analgesic effects, according to the Nashville Scene

“Here is my concern with Midazolam,” the consultant wrote in an email last September. “Being a benzodiazepine, it does not elicit strong analgesic effects. The subjects may be able to feel pain from the administration of the second and third drugs. Potassium chloride, especially.”

Midazolam has been cited as a cause in previous botched executions. In 2014, Clayton Lockett was administered the three drugs and declared unconscious in Oklahoma. He was then found to be able to speak and attempted to raise himself off his stretcher. Lockett died of a heart attack 43 minutes into the execution. 

Currently, state supplies of two of the three drugs have now expired, leading Tennessee to seek compounded drugs, custom-made by pharmacies, as substitutes.

However, experts have warned against the dangers of compounded drugs, adding to previous concerns about midazolam. In June, lawyers for death row inmates in Tennessee pointed to the execution of Ricky Gray in Virginia last year. 

“Blood found on his lips indicated that blood entered Gray’s lungs while he was still breathing,” wrote the attorneys, noting the compounded drugs used in the execution may have caused a similar experience to “drowning or a sarin gas attack.”

Speaking beyond specific concerns with lethal injections, the Tennessee bishops wrote that capital punishment contributes to the erosion the dignity of the human person. The Tennesee bishops’ efforts echo Saint John Paul II’s stance against capital punishment, which in 1999 helped persuade Missuori Governor Mel Carnahan to commute the sentence of Darrell Mease to life in prison. 

“It is simply not necessary as the only means to protect society while still providing a just punishment for those who break civil laws,” the bishops wrote. “Rather than serving as a path to justice, the death penalty contributes to the growing disrespect for human life.”

Federal appeals court sides with Texas bishops in privacy case

Austin, Texas, Jul 16, 2018 / 01:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal court of appeals sided with the Texas Catholic bishops in a July 15 ruling blocking a request from abortion groups to access the bishops’ private communications regarding abortion.

“Hitting churches with subpoenas to win the culture wars was a bad idea from the start,” said Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, which represents the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We are glad that the Fifth Circuit recognized the deep problems with allowing lawyers to use the power of the court system to probe the private religious discussions of religious groups,” he continued. “That is especially so here, where the plaintiffs oppose the Texas Catholic bishops' right to participate equally in public discourse.”

Whole Woman’s Health, a chain of Texas abortion facilities, filed suit against the State of Texas two years ago over a law that requires aborted fetal remains to be either buried or cremated. Previously, the remains were treated as medical waste and thrown into a landfill.

Although the bishops are not party to the lawsuit, Whole Woman’s Health attempted to acquire various communications from the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops concerning abortion. These included private email and internal communications between bishops.

The bishops had previously offered to bury aborted fetal remains for free in Catholic cemeteries in Texas.

A trial court initially ruled that the bishops must hand over the emails and other documents. The bishops then requested emergency protection from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which last month granted temporary protection and ordered additional briefs to be submitted by June 25.

The July 15 decision permanently blocks the order for the bishops to hand over the documents.

In his concurring opinion, Circuit Judge James Ho stressed the importance of religious liberty.

“The First Amendment expressly guarantees the free exercise of religion—including the right of the Bishops to express their profound objection to the moral tragedy of abortion, by offering free burial services for fetal remains,” he said. “By contrast, nothing in the text or original understanding of the Constitution prevents a state from requiring the proper burial of fetal remains.”

The Texas bishops have emphasized the importance of being able to deliberate privately and freely.

“Children are not disposable,” said Bishop Edward J. Burns from the Diocese of Dallas, comparing the lawsuit to the policy of separating undocumented children from their parents at the U.S. border.

“We believe that life is sacred from the moment of conception. We also believe that we have a right to discuss in private how to address this issue and uphold the dignity of every human life, and that while upholding the sacredness of life may seem at odds with some people, our religious liberties and religious rights should not be eroded.”

 

As study claims benefits to porn, atheist author raises questions on methodology

Washington D.C., Jul 14, 2018 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A study has claimed porn as necessary to men’s health, but author of Your Brain on Porn and self-proclaimed atheist Gary Wilson said the statistical system used in many of these surveys is inaccurate.

“The abstract tells you what is completely crazy: if you are not using porn it is having a negative effect in your life,” he told CNA. However, the same studies claim “that more porn-use leads to greater positive and greater negative effects.”

“How can that be?” he asked. “Is every study published in the last 25 years wrong or is there something wrong with the PCES?”

Wilson dissected the errors of the Porn Consumption Effect Scale (PCES) – a self-perceived measurement of 47 questions used to study the health effects of pornography. This includes a study conducted in the July edition of Psychology of Men and Masculinity, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the American Psychological Association.

Titled “Self-perceived effects of pornography consumption among heterosexual men,” the study asked men in countries like the U.S. and Australia to survey the perceived effects of porn in their life. The study used the smaller version of the PCES with 14 question.

It analyzed the positive and negative effects porn has on sex life, attitudes towards sex, views on the opposite gender, sexual knowledge, and overall life. The survey also analyzed a participant’s religious background and level of religiosity.

The study concluded that a higher rate of use in pornography and masturbation to a more positive lifestyle and that negative results are more often tied to the infrequent and religious porn-users. It determined that religiosity did not affect the users’ quantity, but it did result in fewer perceived positive effects.

The PCES is 47-item questionnaire first used by Gert Hald and Neil Malamuth in 2008. Each question is organized into positive or negative categories and measured by the impact of the result on a Likert Scale of 1-7, with one being the least stimulating.

Wilson began fighting against porn after men in 2006 expressed concern on his wife's blog about pornography’s effects, including erectile dysfunction.

He said the PCES has repetitively demonstrated that greater pornography leads to more positive results while, at the same time, showing that more porn leads to more negative results. It contradicts itself and numerous other studies, he said, because men report on a decrease of sexual and relational satisfaction.

“When you go to the 55 studies on sexual and relationship satisfaction….all the ones on males say more porn use leads to poorer relationship and sexual satisfaction.”

Having previously been a pathology and physiology instructor, Wilson said the test does not take into the account the biological components of addiction. Rather, it follows a biased view of religion and porn from Joshua Grubbs.

A teacher at Bowling Green State University, Grubbs created the Perceived Pornography Addiction Questionnaire, which religious people tend to score higher on because roughly one-third of the questions involve shame. The survey sought to prove that the addictive aspects of pornography are not results of the substance, but shame and guilt.

However, Wilson said, “it’s just a biological effect.” He said the negative effects of pornography become more noticeable two to three weeks out from the last session. Because religious porn-users often try to stop looking at porn, he said, the effects are more apparent than regular users who have not tried to take a break.

“When you remove the addictive substance, food or drug, the brain starts to change and the level of changing it actually sprouts more connections that occur about two weeks out from your last use…[And] it makes the cravings greater and it also leads to higher levels of binging.”

Wilson also highlighted two areas of the PCES that lead to a less accurate study: self-perception mixed with false equivalencies and an irrelevantly determined categories of positive or negative.

The PCES determines the substance of each question to be equivalent when they are not equal, he said, noting how “learning about anal sex” does not balance the negative “problems in your sex life.”  

“You can’t take the average of a one to seven over on the good side and a one to seven over on the so-called negative side, and then say they got higher on this side. They are not equivalent.”

The manner by which the questions were organized into positive and negative also appears to be arbitrary, he said, noting the researchers made assumptions they did not validate.

“If you look at their current study they have 2.62 on the positive effect of life in general. …But just step back a little bit, what is the highest you can get on that? Seven that is the highest average. So what does a 2.62 even mean?”

In an example from the questionnaire, the survey ranked “Has made you less sexually liberal” a negative question and “Has made you experiment more in your sex life” a positive question, but Wilson expressed doubt that everyone would agree with either of the determined charges.  

Wilson said the questionnaire mathematically lean towards a positive result because the survey includes a greater quantity of positive questions.

“In other words, more questions that show a positive effect of porn than a negative effect of porn. So it’s actually mathematically leaning that way and you don’t have any counters to sexual knowledge.”

Psychologist John Johnson referred to PCES as a “psychometric nightmare,” and expressed doubt on survey’s accuracy.

"If I had been a reviewer on this manuscript, I would have probably rejected it on the basis of inadequate statistical methodology as well as various conceptual problems...It is impossible, given the nature of the data, to draw firm conclusions.”

 

Correction: This article erroneously stated that a majority of questions on the Perceived Pornography Addiction Questionnaire involve shame. In fact, about one-third of the questions involve shame.

Commentary: Catholic media, and the truth that sets us free

Denver, Colo., Jul 13, 2018 / 05:18 pm (CNA).- This week at CNA, we published an article about a bishop under investigation in India after a religious sister accused him of rape. The story is still developing, facts are not yet clear, and, of course, the bishop deserves the benefit of due process. CNA’s article explained those things.

But after the story was published, I received notes and messages from some readers, asking why we had published the story. Some said that it was scandalous to write the story before the allegations were proven. Or that we were causing mistrust. Or that articles like that one might cause people to lose their faith.

Those criticisms are nothing new. In fact, I hear them from some readers every time we publish a story about an allegation of sexual abuse, financial mismanagement, doctrinal infidelity, or some other negative charge against Church leaders.

I understand why readers have those concerns. And I think they deserve a reasonable response. Why would Catholic journalists- in fact, a Catholic news agency- publish negative stories about the Church?

Here’s why:

As Catholic journalists, our job is to do more than simply write about the Church. As Catholic journalists, our job is to report about the Church and the world as Catholics. This means that we presuppose that the Church’s doctrinal claims are true. Our coverage aims to write about the world from a perspective that takes Catholic teaching seriously, and tries to recognize the way in which grace is operative and evident in the world.

But it is not our job to be public relations agents for the Church. It is our job to look for the truth, and to report it. Sometimes the truth about the Church and her members is discouraging, or ugly, or scandalous. But we can’t ignore that. In fact, as Catholic journalists, we need to be especially zealous for the truth, because we know that the truth will set us free.

As Catholic journalists, we believe in sin, and we believe in redemption. We that God’s grace is real. We know his mercy can be transformative. We know that every person is made for holiness, and that God’s grace can make each one of us holy. But we know that holiness is rooted in mercy. And mercy depends on repentance. And repentance depends on acknowledging the truth about ourselves.

If we ignore, hide, or spin the ugly truth, it won’t go away on its own. Sin, like mold, festers in the darkness. Sunlight is a disinfectant. By bringing the truth into the light, we hope that the Church will acknowledge the places where sin has infected the Body of Christ- that Catholics will repent when necessary, that Church leaders will reform structures and institutions when necessary, and that God’s grace will make each one of us holy.

Our job is to inform, to inspire, to encourage, and to elucidate. I hope that our work helps Catholics to think, see, and act in the world as Catholics. St. Paul tells believers to be “transformed by the renewal of your minds.” I hope our work helps minds to be renewed, and hearts to be transformed.

But all of that depends on telling the truth. The Christian life can never be based on falsehoods, lies, or PR "spin."

Satan, the father of lies, seeks to confuse us, to hide what's real, to convince us that true is false and false is true.

Catholic journalists need to tell the truth about the great things happening in the Church- the ways in which the Holy Spirit is moving - and about the things in need of reform, the places in which the Church must repent.

We also need to tell the truth when the Church is misrepresented, mischaracterized, or misunderstood.

When we know the truth, we know where we stand before God. We know what we must do to become holy. We know the good that fellow believers are doing, and we learn that we can imitate them. When we know the truth, we also know when we should ask for forgiveness, and when we should reform ourselves.

To be “iron sharpening iron,” we must see the places where we have grown dull or rusty.

The sexual abuse crisis in the Church is a scandal. It is heartbreaking and infuriating. And most people know that if the media had not asked questions, and uncovered the places where Church leaders had acted negligently, the Church in the U.S. might not have begun the long process of reform. We’re still in the midst of that process, and so we need to continue asking questions.

Heterodoxy is also a scandal. So is pastoral negligence. We need to ask about those things, precisely because we believe what the Church teaches, and because we believe that God’s grace is real.

But our mission is also to tell the stories of God’s redemption, of his generosity, of his grace. We love to tell the stories of new apostolic projects, of bold and creative disciples of Jesus, of the New Evangelization in action. We love to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. That’s also part of telling the truth.  But to do that with any credibility- to be believed- our readers deserve to know that we won’t be compromised. That we’re a free press. That we are servants of the truth, and that we’ll follow it, wherever it leads.

Wherever the truth leads, we know that in Jesus Christ, it leads to our freedom.

 

JD Flynn is editor-in-chief of CNA. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Catholic News Agency.

Priest says new degree in Church administration builds servant-leaders

Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2018 / 04:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Seminaries will train priests in theology and philosophy, but how does priestly formation in the U.S. handle the business side of parishes?

Father Justin Fulton, a recent graduate in Ecclesial Administration and Management at Catholic University’s Busch School of Business, said this program develops management skills for leadership.

“It’s given me the nuts and bolts way of being a servant leader in the parish,” said Father Fulton, who is the assistant pastor of St. Teresa’s Parish in Lincoln, Neb.

A priest is “a steward of God’s mysteries and… a steward of the Church’s resources,” he told CNA. “I think this program helps quantify in ways that weren’t afforded in the seminary.”

The Busch School graduated its first class in this pastoral leadership program last week, with nearly 20 priests earning master's degrees.

The year-long program is worth 30-credits and consists of mostly online courses, as well as a week of intensive classes in August in Washington D.C. The courses review parish finances, human resource management, and strategic planning.

Father Fulton, who is also preparing to be the assistant director for Catholic Social Services in Southern Nebraska, said the program helps prevent issues such as financial dishonesty and burned-out priests.

“Within a year or two or three of being ordained, [priests] are basically mayors of a city. They become pastors of parishes with 3,000, 5,000 families,” he said. This degree will help “guys get some core competencies and relieve some of the stresses of parish life.”

He said the program will give priests the tools to lead a parish to tackle collectively the same goals – “education of kids, salvation of souls, serving in the community, serving in the parish.”

“This program helps give you the tools to effectively present a mission and a vision to … work together, to get input from all of those different stake holders, and ultimately build a family united under the same umbrella looking for the same goal.”

Although most of the classes are taken online, Father Fulton said the degree still builds a strong camaraderie among the classmates, which is comprised of priests from across the U.S.  

“It kind of forms friendship … the guys that you studied with are designed to be there with each other, throughout the priesthood, to bounce ideas off of and be co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord.”

Another graduate of the program, Father Carl Beekman, who is the pastor of the Church of St Mary in Sycamore, Ill., said most priests do not have training in the administrative aspect of parish life.

“I think there is an assumption in the Church that you know exactly what you are getting into both administratively and spiritually, but, as we see, most do not know what they are really assuming in the office,” he told CNA.

“The program is very practical. It works from anywhere of crisis management to fundraising,” he said. “I had been praying for a program like this most of my 18 years of priesthood, and before.”

The curriculum was developed as a combined effort by Catholic University schools of Theology and Religious Studies, Canon Law, and Architecture and Planning.

The program is endorsed by numerous U.S. bishops, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, and Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen.

According to Catholic University of America, Cardinal Wuerl said the program is “a welcome resource to guide pastor and their finance councils through a planning and budgeting cycle with an eye to good consultation, collaboration, and communication."