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Vetoed bill on reproductive health called 'massive overreach by NARAL'

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) -- Religious freedom advocates and pro-life leaders praised California Gov. Jerry Brown for vetoing a bill called the Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act that targeted religious employers and their faith-based codes of conduct for employees.

Assembly Bill 569 would have made it illegal for a California employer to discipline or fire employees for "their reproductive health decisions, including, but not limited to, the timing thereof, or the use of any drug, device or medical service."

Alliance Defending Freedom said the bill would have prohibited churches, religious colleges, religious nonprofit organizations and pro-life pregnancy care centers "from having faith-based codes of conduct with regard to abortion and sexual behavior."

The government "should not and cannot tell" employers that they cannot live out their beliefs within their own organizations, said Elissa Graves, legal counsel for the alliance, which is a nonprofit legal group that advocates for religious freedom and sanctity of life and on marriage and family issues.

"Gov. Brown was right to veto this immensely unconstitutional bill, which would have been an unprecedented overreach on the part of the state of California," she added in a statement about the governor's late-night action Oct. 15.

"The First Amendment doesn't allow the state to order churches and other faith-based groups to violate their most deeply held convictions," Graves said. "They have the freedom to live according to their faith and to require those who work for them to do the same."

The California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops, called the measure "a massive overreach by NARAL" and an attack on religious liberty. NARAL Pro-Choice America advocates for legal abortion and for expanding access to it.

After A.B. 569 was passed by the California Legislature as its 2017 session ended Sept. 18, the Catholic conference urged Catholics to send a message to Brown calling for him to veto it.

It said the bill "deliberately" targeted religious employers "in a false effort to stop widespread 'reproductive discrimination' but supporters cannot cite a single case in California where such discrimination has actually occurred."

"There are no substantiated claims of discrimination in the secular workforce against women who are pregnant or exercise 'reproductive choices' because such actions have been illegal for decades under the Fair Employment and Housing Act," the conference said.

It noted the bill's supporters could only point to one case in the state in the last decade "implicating a religious employer" and "that matter was settled out of court."

"In a reach unknown in any other legal system, supporters (of A.B. 569) have expanded those who can allege discrimination in court to include anyone in the employee's family and holds supervisors personally and legally responsible for enforcing the policy of employers," the conference said.

"With no restraint in sight," the conference said, the bill did not allow employers to enforce codes of conduct, "even those negotiated with employees as part of union contracts."

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope's pro-life challenge: Respect all life, oppose death penalty

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Jenevieve Robbins, Texas Department of Criminal Justice handout via Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' recent statement that the death penalty is incompatible with the Gospel focused less on a government's role in protecting its people and more on the need to defend the sacredness and dignity of every human life.

At least from the time of Blessed Paul VI in the 1960s, the Catholic Church has been increasingly critical of the use of capital punishment, even while acknowledging centuries of church teaching that a state has a right to punish offenders, including with the death penalty.

St. John Paul II, in his 1995 encyclical letter, "The Gospel of Life," wrote of his alarm at "the extraordinary increase and gravity of threats to the life of individuals and peoples," but said one sign of hope was the increasing opposition around the world to capital punishment.

"There is evidence of a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of 'legitimate defense' on the part of society. Modern society, in fact, has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform," he wrote.

Two years later, Pope John Paul had the Catechism of the Catholic Church revised to strengthen its anti-death penalty posture. The text now says that, "given the means at the state's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.'"

Opponents of the death penalty cheered St. John Paul's move, and theologians recognized it as a "development" of church teaching.

Death penalty opponents also welcomed Pope Francis' even stronger position against capital punishment, but his words set off a debate between those who saw his position as a further development of church teaching and those who saw it as a "change" that contradicted both the Bible and the traditional position of the Catholic Church.

Edward Feser, a professor of philosophy at California's Pasadena City College and author of "By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment," told Catholic News Service that St. John Paul's teaching was "a nonbinding prudential judgment," which was in line with centuries of church teaching recognizing the right of states to impose the death penalty.

And, writing in Britain's Catholic Herald Oct. 15, Feser said that if Pope Francis "is saying that capital punishment is always and intrinsically immoral, then he would be effectively saying -- whether consciously or unconsciously -- that previous popes, fathers and doctors of the church, and even divinely inspired Scripture are in error."

But Jesuit Father Jan Dacok, a professor of moral theology and theologian at the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court, said the church always insisted there were limits to the conditions under which a state could legitimately impose the death penalty. St. John Paul, he said, emphasized those limits to the point of saying that now that it is easier to keep a murderer in jail for life, the necessary conditions for legitimacy are "practically nonexistent."

Pope Francis took a further step forward, Father Dacok said. The pope "did not change church teaching, but places it on a higher level and points out the path toward its perfection."

"What is accomplished with the death penalty?" the Slovakian Jesuit asked. "Do you obtain the true repentance of criminals? Do you offer them the possibility of correcting their ways, of asking for forgiveness?"

"No," he said. "With the execution, the death, you irreversibly cancel the entire dynamic of hope" for repentance, conversion and at least some attempt at reparation.

"Obviously, Pope Francis cannot change the laws of individual countries, because that's the competence of legislators," Father Dacok said. "But he can continually encourage respect for the sacredness of every human life, because the death penalty truly is not necessary."

Because security and justice can be served without capital punishment, he said, the urgent matter today is to demonstrate respect for the sacredness of every human life, "even the life of public criminals responsible for the death of others."

Father Robert A. Gahl Jr., a priest of Opus Dei and a professor of ethics at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, said Pope Francis "continues the recent development of doctrine regarding the centrality of mercy for the Christian faith and the urgency to promote a culture of life in today's throwaway culture," where abortion and euthanasia are widely accepted.

"Pope Francis wants the church to offer a radical example of the defense of all human life," Father Gahl said. And "without condemning all past practices, he vigorously demands the elimination of the death penalty."

The priest noted the church's historic concern for the impact of the death penalty not just on the criminal, but also on judges and executioners.

In fact, the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which was in effect until 1983, listed as those generally barred from priestly ordination "a judge who passed a sentence of death" and "those who take up the task of (execution) and their immediate and voluntary assistants in the execution of a capital sentence."

On the question of whether Pope Francis' statement marks a "development" or a "change," Father Gahl said the pope probably intended to "shake up theologians and to force us to reconsider traditional formulations of permanent teaching in light of this new and authoritative development of mercy and human dignity."

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said Pope Francis was exercising his right and obligation to teach on faith and morals.

"Obviously, the church does not intervene on the level of civil legislation," the archbishop told CNS, "but today the pope authoritatively affirms that from a deeper understanding of the Gospel emerges the contradiction between the death penalty and the gospel of life."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope: Common witness of faith can strengthen Catholics, Methodists

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics and Methodists can strengthen each other through a shared witness of faith, especially through acts of love toward the poor and the marginalized, Pope Francis said.

The mutual call to holiness shared by both communities "is necessarily a call to communion with others, too," the pope said Oct. 19.

"When, as Catholics and Methodists, we join in assisting and comforting the weak and the marginalized -- those who in the midst of our societies feel distant, foreign and alienated -- we are responding to the Lord's summons," he said.

The pope met at the Vatican with members of the World Methodist Council who were in Rome to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Joint International Methodist-Catholic Dialogue Commission.

Welcoming the delegation members, the pope said that in the Bible, the 50th year is a significant moment for the people of Israel in which liberty is proclaimed throughout the land.

"We are grateful to God because we can say that, in a certain sense, we too have been freed from the slavery of estrangement and mutual suspicion," he said.

Citing the Second Vatican Council, the pope said that since then, both communities have striven to continue along the path of knowledge and mutual esteem through dialogue that is carried out "in a spirit of honesty and integrity" with "love for the truth, with charity and with humility."

"We are brothers and sisters who, following a long separation, are happy once more to see and learn about one another, and to move forward with open hearts," he said.

The pope also recalled the life and example of John Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, who dedicated his life to helping others "live a holy life."

By recognizing those who dedicate themselves to reading the Bible and to prayer, he said, Catholics "cannot fail to rejoice" when the work of the Holy Spirit is recognized "in other Christian confessions."

Like the disciples awaiting the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Catholics and Methodists must "remain together" in prayer and hope so that the Spirit of God may "bring about the miracle of reconciled unity."

"We have learned to see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ," Pope Francis said. "Now is the time to prepare ourselves, with humble hope and concrete efforts, for that full recognition that will come about, by God's grace, when at last we will be able to join one another in the breaking of the bread."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope: If world insists on success, then make life more just, humane

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Do not fall for the allure of money, which can enslave and alienate like a cult, Pope Francis told business school students.

"And it is also important that you be able to learn today the strength and courage to not blindly obey the invisible hand of the market," he said.

The pope spoke Oct. 19 at the Vatican to a group of students from a private Catholic school, "Institution des Chartreux," in Lyon, France. They are preparing for higher education in business and finance.

The pope said he was pleased they were receiving an education that touched on the "human, philosophical and spiritual" dimensions of life and said these aspects would be essential for their future professional life.

"Learn to remain free from the allure of money, from the slavery" that befalls those who "turn it into a cult," he said.

He called on them to promote and defend more fairness and to manage the world's resources adequately and justly.

"You are able to decide your future," he said, urging them to feel and become more responsible for the world and human life.

"Never forget that every injustice against a poor person is an open wound and diminishes your very dignity," he said.

"Even if this world expects that you strive for success, give yourselves the means and the time to follow paths of fraternity, to build bridges between people rather than walls" and to take part in the building of a more just and human world, he said.

 

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope promises to send special message to FAO meeting in Ethiopia

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis marked World Food Day this week with a visit to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) where he called on world leaders and policymakers to work for a concrete, practical consensus to prevent the most tragic effects of climate change hitting the weakest and most defenseless.

“We need to change our lifestyles, the use of resources, production and consumption patterns,” the Pope said, and he decried what he described as the “negligence” that is damaging the “delicate balances of the ecosystems” and the “arrogance of manipulating and controlling” the planet.

Hosting the Pope at FAO’s Headquarters in Rome was FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, who immediately afterwards spoke to Vatican Radio:

Listen

Da Silva points out that the Vatican has Permanent Observer Status at FAO but most important, he says, as the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church he represents values that FAO shares: solidarity, dignity, and hope in a better world.

“We share those values in FAO and Pope Francis is a continuing inspiration for us, and not only through ‘Laudato Sì’ where he approaches the issue of climate change – a very important common global value” he says.

He says that Pope Francis is one of those rare people who have dedicated their entire lives to promoting important values: “these people are indispensable”.

“I think that Pope Francis is one of those people who have worked hard all of their lives and that he is one of the few indispensable people in the world today” he says.

Before addressing his audience at FAO, da Silva says he had the opportunity to speak with Pope Francis personally about some of the programmes his organization shares with the Vatican.

“We discussed particularly the need to concentrate our efforts in Africa and to stop the conflicts, and also to deal with the impact of climate change” he says.

Da Silva also revealed that Pope Francis promised to send a special message for the meeting that FAO is organizing during the African Union Summit that FAO is organizing next January 2018 in Addis Ababa.      

 

(from Vatican Radio)

World Methodist Council: dialogue must reach local level

(Vatican Radio) Methodist and Catholic theologians are meeting just outside Rome this week, marking the 50th anniversary of the first ecumenical dialogue group following the Second Vatican Council. That first session of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission was held in the hill town of Ariccia in October 1967.

Pope Francis met with members of the current Commission on Thursday, together with leaders of the World Methodist Council, saying that half a century of dialogue has set us free from estrangement and suspicion and helped us to recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

South African Bishop Ivan Abrahams is General Secretary of the World Methodist Council. He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the concrete fruits of this ecumenical journey….

Listen:

He says two of the key ingredients that have marked this “50 year pilgrimage or journey” are the love and trust that has been built up and that are reflected in the seven joint reports that have been produced thus far.

One of the great challenges, he says, is to let the fruits of this dialogue “percolate to the local level and we need to see how we can do that much more effectively”.

'That they may be one'

He notes that the latest dialogue report entitled ‘A Call to Holiness: from glory to glory’ stresses that working for unity is “a fundamental part of our mission and our witness to the world, to see that Jesus’ high priestly prayer is made reality”.

Speaking about the situation in his native South Africa, Abrahams says that as he saw the demise of apartheid in his lifetime, “I’d hoped to see the reality of “that they may be one” in my lifetime”.

Autonomy in mission and witness

Talking about the Methodist model of governance, he says there’s no compromise on key issues of faith, but “we don’t apply the ‘one size fits all’ model”, leaving the various conferences autonomy to make their own decisions about mission and witness.

Asked about Pope Francis’ efforts to give local Catholic bishops’ conferences with more autonomy over pastoral decision making, Abrahams says “I think that it is really the only way to go, if we speak about the integrity of the Gospel, because every cultural context is uniquely different”.

Pope Francis embodies unity

While practical cooperation on issues like migration, refugees or climate change are important, he says, consensus in the theological dialogue remains crucial because “we need to clarify so we can walk together”.

Finally Bishop Abrahams praises Pope Francis’ way of reaching out to young generations, saying he is “a beacon of hope” and “somebody who embodies the unity that we’re seeking to live”.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope meets students, staff of “Institution des Chartreux”‎

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Thursday urged students of a French Catholic School to watch out against the lure and slavery of money, and train themselves to be promoters and defenders of equality and justice in the world. 

Some 80 students and staff of Institution des Chartreux of Lyons, in Rome as part of their semester, met the Pope in the Vatican.  Known commonly as Les Chartreux, the private school is managed by the Carthusians. 

Lure and slavery of money

The Pope expressed satisfaction that while they were preparing themselves to enter the big commercial schools to pursue professional careers in the world of finance, their current academic formation at Les Chartreux was providing them a strong human, philosophical and cultural dimension.  “It is essential,” he said, “that from now on and in your future professional life you learn to be free from the ‘lure of money’, from the slavery into which money shuts those who worship it.”    He said it is also important that they have the “strength and courage not to blindly obey the invisible hand of the market.”  “Hence,” he said, “I encourage you to make the best of your study time to train yourselves to become promoters and defenders of growth in equity, and artisans of an upright and adequate administration of our common home, the world.” 

Just and humane world

Pope Francis further exhorted them to become responsible for this world and for the life of every man, never forgetting that “every injustice against a poor person is an open wound and belittles your very dignity.”    He told the students to find the means and the time to take on the path of brotherhood to create bridges rather than walls among men in order to add their stone to building a more just and humane society.   He concluded encouraging them to work for good and be a humble seed of a new world.  

(from Vatican Radio)

Vatican hosts conference on Disability and Catechesis

(Vatican Radio) A global conference will open in Rome on Friday looking at best practices to help people with disabilities fully engage in the life of the Church.

The event entitled "Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church", is being sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization and partnered by The Kairos Forum, a UK based organization that focuses on the spiritual and religious needs of people with disabilities.

Over the course of the three day gathering 450 experts from around the world will share their insights.

Lydia O’Kane spoke to Monsignor Geno Sylva, English language official at the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, about the goals of the conference.

Listen to the interview:

 

Speaking about how the conference came about, Mons Sylva said, “this international conference is the fruit that was sewn during the Jubilee (of Mercy) with all the other discussions that took place afterwards.”

He underlined that, “the aim and the goal is for us as a Church and for this Pontifical Council to really learn what are the best practices that are already taking place throughout the world in catechizing people with special needs …”

The Church and Disability

But, Mons. Sylva also added that, what this conference is also meant to do is to “highlight the responsibility that we have as a Church to take into account the special needs for each of the baptized, so that we can present to him or her the catechism, the catechesis of our Church in a way that they can receive it; they can grasp the elements of it .”

The global conference, "Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church", will run from the 20th to the 22nd of October at the Urbaniana University in Rome.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis marks 50 years of Methodist-Catholic dialogue

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with leaders of the World Methodist Council on Thursday, celebrating fifty years of dialogue between the two Churches.

Noting that in the Old Testament, a golden jubilee was a moment to set slaves free, the pope said “we too have been freed from the slavery of estrangement and mutual suspicion”.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report: 

After fifty years of patient dialogue, he said, “we are no longer strangers” but rather, through our shared Baptism, “members of the  household of God”.

True dialogue, the pope continued, gives us courage to encounter one another in humility and sincerity” as we seek to learn from each other.

Wesley's example of holiness

Speaking about the 18th century preacher John Wesley, who, with his brother Charles founded the Methodist movement, Pope Francis said his words and his example of holiness brought many people to Christ. When we recognize the working of the Holy Spirit in other Christian confessions, he said, “we cannot fail to rejoice”, as they can “also help us grow closer to the Lord”.

Serving the poor together

The pope also noted how our faith becomes tangible when it takes the concrete form of love and service to the poor and marginalized. As Methodists and Catholics together, when we assist those who are alienated or in need, he said, we are responding to the Lord’s summons.

Become ministers of reconciliation

We cannot grow in holiness without growing in communion, Pope Francis concluded. As you begin a new phase of dialogue devoted to reconciliation, may your discussions be a gift for Christians everywhere to become ministers of reconciliation. Let us prepare ourselves with humble hope and concrete efforts, he said, for that full recognition which will enable us to join one another in the breaking of bread together.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Mass: The gift of God's salvation opens the door to all

The Lord gives us the memory of  God's salvation which is “a gift” and close to the concreteness of the works of mercy he wants us to do, whether they are "material or spiritual": so we will become people who help to "open the door" to ourselves and others. That was Pope Francis’ prayer at morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. Recalling the passage from Luke's Gospel in which the Scribes and Pharisees considered themselves righteous, and Jesus makes known to them that God alone is just, the Pope explained why law practitioners had "taken knowledge away" with "the consequence of not being able to enter the Kingdom nor let others enter either".

Listen to our report:

"This leads us to understand the revelation of God, to understand God's heart, to understand God's salvation - the key to knowledge - we can say it is very neglected. One forgets the freedom of salvation; forgetting the closeness of God and forgetting God's mercy. And those who forget the gift of salvation, the closeness of God, and the mercy of God, have taken away the key to knowledge. "

Therefore, this gift was "forgotten". It is "God's initiative to save us and instead stand on the side of the law": Salvation - said the Pope - "is there for them", thus arriving in "a bunch of prescriptions" which in fact become salvation. So, "they do not receive the power of God's righteousness." The law, however, is always "an answer to God's generous love", which has taken "the initiative" to save us. And, continued Pope Francis, "when you forget the gift of salvation you fall, you lose the key to the intelligence of the history of salvation", losing "the sense of God's closeness":

"For them, God is the one who has made the law. But this is not the God of revelation. The God of revelation is a God who has begun to walk with us from Abraham to Jesus Christ, God walking with His people. And when you lose this close relationship with the Lord, you fall into this dull mindset that believes in the self-sufficiency of salvation with the fulfillment of the law. The closeness of God ".

When the closeness of God is lacking, when prayer is lacking, the Pope emphasized "doctrine cannot be taught" and not even by "studying theology", much less "moral theology": The Pope reiterated that theology "kneels down, always close to God ". And the closeness of the Lord comes "to the highest point of the crucified Jesus Christ," being "justified" for the blood of Christ, as Saint Paul said. For this reason, the Pontiff explained, the works of mercy "are the stone of the fulfillment of the law," because they touch the flesh of Christ, "touch Christ’s suffering in a person, both corporally and spiritually." Also, when the key to knowledge is lost, one also becomes "corrupt". The Pope finally noted the "responsibilities" of shepherds, now in the Church commenting that  when they lose or take away the "key of intelligence", they close  "the door on themselves and on others":

In my country, said the Pope,  "I have heard several times of parish priests who did not baptize the children of the mothers because they were not born in  canonical marriage. They closed the door, why? Because the heart of these parish priests had lost the key to knowledge.

Three months ago, in a country, in a city, a mother wanted to baptize her newly born son, but she was married civilly with a divorced man. The priest said, 'Yes, yes. Baptize the baby. But your husband is divorced. So he cannot be present at the ceremony. ' This is happening today. The Pharisees, doctors of the law are not people of the past, even today there are many of them. That is why we need prayers for us shepherds. To pray that we do not lose the key to knowledge and do not close the door to ourselves and the people who want to enter. "

(from Vatican Radio)