"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
|A young Somali refugee at Dagahaley camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Thousands of refugees are entering Dadaab every week. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS|
World Mission Sunday will be celebrated on October 23. Pope Benedict XVI's message for the day, dated January 6, follows:
"On the occasion of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, at the beginning of a new millennium of the Christian era Venerable John Paul II forcefully reaffirmed the need to renew the commitment to bear the proclamation of the Gospel to everyone, sharing 'the enthusiasm of the very first Christians' (Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 58).
"It is the most precious service that the Church can render to humanity and to all individuals who are seeking the profound reasons to live their life to the full. This same invitation therefore resonates every year during the celebration of World Mission Day. Continuous proclamation of the Gospel, in fact, also invigorates the Church, her fervor and her apostolic spirit. It renews her pastoral methods so that they may be ever better suited to the new situations — even those which require a new evangelization — and enlivened by missionary zeal: 'missionary activity renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive. Faith is strengthened when it is given to others! It is in commitment to the Church's universal mission that the new evangelization of Christian peoples will find inspiration and support' (John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, n. 2).
This objective is continually revived by the celebration of the Liturgy, especially of the Eucharist which always concludes by re-echoing the mandate the Risen Jesus gave to the Apostles: 'Go...' (Mt 28:19). The Liturgy is always a call 'from the world' and a new missionary mandate 'in the world' in order to witness to what has been experienced: the saving power of the word of God, the saving power of Christ's Paschal Mystery.
"All those who have encountered the Risen Lord have felt the need to proclaim the news of it to others, as did the two disciples of Emmaus. After recognizing the Lord in the breaking of the bread, 'they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the Eleven gathered together' and reported what had happened to them on the road (Lk 24:33-34).
"Pope John Paul II urged the faithful to be 'watchful, ready to recognize His face, and run to our brothers and sisters with the Good News: "We have seen the Lord!" ' (Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte n. 59).
"The proclamation of the Gospel is intended for all peoples. The Church is 'by her very nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, she has her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit' (Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity Ad Gentes, n. 2).
"This is 'the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize' (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 14). Consequently she can never be closed in on herself. She is rooted in specific places in order to go beyond them. Her action, in adherence to Christ's word and under the influence of His grace and His charity, is fully and currently present to all people and all peoples, to lead them to faith in Christ, (cf. Ad Gentes, n. 5) "This task has lost none of its urgency. Indeed 'The mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion . . . an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service' (John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, n. 1). We cannot reconcile ourselves to the thought that after 2,000 years there are still people who do not know Christ and have never heard His Message of salvation.
"And this is not all; an increasing number of people, although they have received the Gospel proclamation, have forgotten or abandoned it and no longer recognize that they belong to the Church; and in many contemporary contexts, even in traditionally Christian societies, people are averse to opening themselves to the word of faith. A cultural change nourished by globalization, by currents of thought and by the prevalent relativism, is taking place. This change is leading to a mindset and lifestyle that ignore the Gospel Message, as though God did not exist, and exalt the quest for well-being, easy earnings, a career, and success as life's purpose, even to the detriment of moral values.
"The universal mission involves all, all things and always. The Gospel is not an exclusive possession of whoever has received it but a gift to share, good news to communicate. And this gift-commitment is not only entrusted to a few but on the contrary to all the baptized, who are 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people' (1 Pt 2:9), so that they may declare His wonderful deeds.
"All activities are involved in it. Attention to and cooperation in the Church's evangelizing work in the world cannot be limited to a few moments or special occasions nor can they be considered as one of the many pastoral activities: the Church's missionary dimension is essential and must therefore always be borne in mind.
"It is important that both individual baptized people and ecclesial communities be involved in the mission, not sporadically or occasionally but in a constant manner, as a form of Christian life. The World Mission Day itself is not an isolated moment in the course of the year but rather a valuable opportunity to pause and reflect on whether and how we respond to our missionary vocation; an essential response for the Church's life.
"Evangelization is a complex process and entails various elements. Among them missionary animation has always paid special attention to solidarity. This is also one of the objectives of World Mission Day which, through the Pontifical Mission Societies, requests aid in order to carry out the tasks of evangelization in mission territories. It is a matter of supporting institutions necessary for establishing and consolidating the Church through catechists, seminaries, and priests, and of making one's own contribution to improving the standard of living for people in countries where the phenomena of poverty, malnutrition — especially among children — disease, the lack of health care, and education are the most serious.
"This is also part of the Church's mission and in proclaiming the Gospel, she takes human life to heart fully. The Servant of God Paul VI reaffirmed that in evangelization it is unacceptable to disregard areas that concern human advancement, justice, and liberation from every kind of oppression, obviously with respect for the autonomy of the political sphere.
"Lack of concern for the temporal problems of humanity 'would be to forget the lesson which comes to us from the Gospel concerning love of our neighbor who is suffering and in need' (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, nn. 31, 34). It would not be in harmony with the behavior of Jesus Who 'went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity' (Mt 9:35).
"Thus, through co-responsiblity participation in the Church's mission, the Christian becomes a builder of the communion, peace, and solidarity that Christ has given us, who cooperates in the implementation of God's saving plan for all humanity. The challenges that this plan encounters calls all Christians to walk together and the mission is an integral part of this journey with everyone. In it – although in earthenware vessels – we bear our Christian vocation, the priceless treasure of the Gospel, the living witness of Jesus dead and Risen, encountered and believed in in the Church.
"May World Mission Day revive in each one the desire to go and the joy of 'going' to meet humanity, bringing Christ to all. In His name I impart the Apostolic Blessing to you and, in particular, to those who make the greatest efforts and suffer most for the Gospel."
(Editor's note: On September 5, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released its Labor Day statement, entitled "Human Costs and Moral Challenges of a Broken Economy." Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued the statement which follows.)
Each year Americans celebrate Labor Day as a national holiday to honor working people. This year, however, is less a time for celebration and more a time for reflection and action on current economic turmoil and hardships experienced by workers and their families. For Catholics, it is also an opportunity to recall the traditional teaching of the Church on dignity of work and the rights of workers. This Labor Day, the economic facts are stark and the human costs are real: millions of our sisters and brothers are without work, raising children in poverty, and haunted by fears about their economic security. These are not just economic problems, but also human tragedies, moral challenges, and tests of our faith.
As we approach Labor Day 2011, over nine percent of Americans are looking for work and cannot find it. Other workers fear they could lose their jobs. Joblessness is higher among African American and Hispanic workers. Wages are not keeping up with expenses for many. Countless families have lost their homes, and others owe more on their homes than they are worth. Union workers are part of a smaller labor movement and experience new efforts to restrict collective bargaining rights. Hunger and homelessness are a part of life for too many children. Most Americans fear our nation and economy are headed in the wrong direction. Many are confused and dismayed by polarization over how our nation can work together to deal with joblessness and declining wages, debt and deficits, economic stagnation, and global fiscal crises. Workers are rightfully anxious and fearful about the future. These realities are at the heart of the Church's concerns and prayers on this Labor Day. As the Second Vatican Council insisted, the "grief and anguish" of the people of our time, "especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way . . . are the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well" (Gaudium et Spes, no. 1).
All these challenges have economic and financial dimensions, but they also have unavoidable human and moral costs. This Labor Day we need to look beyond the economic indicators, stock market gyrations, and political conflicts and focus on the often invisible burdens of ordinary workers and their families, many of whom are hurting, discouraged, and left behind by this economy.
One-hundred-twenty years ago at the time of the Industrial Revolution workers also faced great difficulties. Pope Leo XIII identified the situation of workers as the key moral challenge of that time and issued his groundbreaking encyclical Rerum Novarum. This letter has served as the cornerstone for more than a century of Catholic social teaching and the inspiration for this year's Labor Day statement. This timely encyclical lifted up the inherent dignity of the worker in the midst of massive economic changes. Pope Leo's powerful letter rejected both unbridled capitalism that could strip workers of their God-given human dignity and dangerous socialism that could empower the state over all else in ways that destroy human initiative. This encyclical is best remembered for Pope Leo's prophetic call for the Church to support workers' associations for the protection of workers and the advancement of the common good.
When we look at the situation of unemployed people and many ordinary workers, we see not only individuals in economic crisis, but also struggling families and hurting communities. We see a society that cannot use the talents and energies of all those who can and should work. We see a nation that cannot assure people who work hard every day that their wages and benefits can support a family in dignity. We see a workplace where many have little participation, ownership, or a sense they are contributing to a common enterprise or the common good. An economy that cannot provide employment, decent wages and benefits, and a sense of participation and ownership for its workers is broken in fundamental ways. The signs of this broken economy are all around us:
These failures and challenges are not just economic, but also ethical. They are not just institutional, but also personal. The economy is an incredibly complex interaction of markets, interests, institutions, and structures shaped by people who make innumerable decisions, based on wide variety of obligations, expectations, motives, and choices. Financial institutions that were supposed to be responsible were not. Some sought short-term gain and ignored long-term consequences. Some individuals also made irresponsible choices, letting their desire for things, greed, and envy override good judgment and their financial capacity. As a result, people lost their jobs, their homes, their savings and retirement funds, and so much more. Most significantly, confidence and trust were lost. We are still paying terrible economic and moral costs for these failures. Dishonesty, irresponsibility, and corruption must yield to integrity, accountability, and what Pope Benedict calls "gratuitousness," a particular kind of generosity focused on the good of others and the good of all. As he said in Caritas in Veritate, "Without . . . mutual trust, the market cannot completely fulfill its proper economic function. And today it is this trust which has ceased to exist, and the loss of trust is a grave loss" (no. 35).
Our faith gives us a particular way of looking at this broken economy. From the prophets of the Old Testament to the example of the early Church recorded in the New Testament, we learn that God cares for the poor and vulnerable, and He measures the faith of the community by the treatment of those on the margins of life. Jesus in His time on earth taught us about the dignity of work and said we would be judged by our response to "the least of these" (Mt 25). Christians need to study carefully what Jesus taught about the use of money and wealth, a spirit of stewardship and detachment, the search for justice and care for those in need, and the call to seek and serve the reign of God. Based on these scriptural values, our Church has focused on work, workers, and economic justice in a series of papal encyclicals beginning with Rerum Novarum.
This long tradition places work at the center of economic and social life. In Catholic teaching, work has an inherent dignity because work helps us not only to meet our needs and provide for our families, but also to share in God's creation and contribute to the common good. People need work not only to pay bills, put food on the table, and stay in their homes, but also to express their human dignity and to enrich and strengthen the larger community (Gaudium et Spes, no. 34). Human labor represents "the collaboration of man and woman with God in perfecting the visible creation" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 378).
Over the last century, the Church has repeatedly warned about the moral, spiritual, and economic dangers of widespread unemployment. According to the Catechism, "Unemployment almost always wounds its victim's dignity and threatens the equilibrium of his life. Besides the harm done to him personally, it entails many risks for his family" (no. 2436). One of the most disturbing aspects of current public discussion is how little focus there is on massive unemployment and what to do to get people back to work. In Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council declared that "It is the duty of society to see to it that, according to prevailing circumstances, all citizens have the opportunity of finding employment" (no. 67). As Pope Benedict warns, "Being out of work or dependent on public or private assistance for a prolonged period undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family and social relationships, causing great psychological and spiritual suffering" (Caritas in Veritate, no. 25). A society that cannot use the work and creativity of so many of its members is failing both economically and ethically.
Beginning in Rerum Novarum, the Church has consistently supported efforts of workers to join together to defend their rights and protect their dignity. Pope Leo XIII taught that the right of workers to choose to join a union was based on a natural right and that it was the government's obligation to protect that right rather than undermine it (Rerum Novarum, no. 51). This teaching has been affirmed consistently by his successors. Pope John Paul II, in his powerful encyclical Laborem Exercens, noted unions "defend the existential interests of workers in all sectors in which their rights are concerned. . . . [They] are an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies" (no. 20). Most recently, in Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI said, "the repeated calls issued within the Church's social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers' associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past . . ." (no. 25).
There have been some efforts, as part of broader disputes over state budgets, to remove or restrict the rights of workers to collective bargaining as well as limit the role of unions in the workplace. Bishops in Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere have faithfully and carefully outlined Catholic teaching on worker rights, suggesting that difficult times should not lead us to ignore the legitimate rights of workers. Without endorsing every tactic of unions or every outcome of collective bargaining, the Church affirms the rights of workers in public and private employment to choose to come together to form and join unions, to bargain collectively, and to have an effective voice in the workplace.
The Church's relationship with the labor movement is both supportive and challenging. Our Church continues to teach that unions remain an effective instrument to protect the dignity of work and the rights of workers. At their best, unions are important not just for the economic protections and benefits they can provide for their members, but especially for the voice and participation they can offer to workers. They are important not only for what they achieve for their members, but also for the contributions they make to the whole society.
O Jesus, come back into our society our family life, our souls, and reign there as our peaceful Sovereign. Enlighten with the splendor of faith and the charity of Your tender heart the souls of those who work for the good of the people, for Your poor. Impart to them Your own spirit, a spirit of discipline, order, and gentleness, preserving the flame of enthusiasm ever alight in their hearts . . . May that day come very soon, when we shall see You restored to the center of civic life, borne on the shoulders of Your joyful people.
Blessed Pope John XXIII
This does not mean every outcome of bargaining is responsible or that all actions of particular unions — or for that matter employers — merit support. Unions, like other human institutions, can be misused or can abuse their role. The Church has urged leaders of the labor movement to avoid the temptations of excessive partisanship and the pursuit of only narrow interests. Workers and their unions, as well as employers and their businesses, all have responsibility to seek the common good, not just their own economic, political, or institutional interests.
The teaching that workers have the right to choose freely to form and belong to unions and other associations without interference or intimidation is strong and consistent. At the same time, some unions in some places have taken public positions that the Church cannot support, which many union members may not support, and which have little to do with work or workers' rights. Leaders of the Church and the labor movement cannot avoid these differences, but should address them in principled, respectful, and candid dialogue. This should not keep us from working on our own and together to advance common priorities of protecting worker rights, economic and social justice, overcoming poverty, and creating economic opportunity for all.
As we observe this Labor Day, our nation faces a contentious and necessary debate on how to reduce unsustainable debt and deficits, grow and strengthen the economy, and create jobs and reduce poverty. In this continuing discussion on how to allocate scarce resources and share sacrifice and burdens, our faith offers a clear moral criterion: put poor and vulnerable people first.
This is why the Catholic bishops of the United States have joined with other Christian churches in an unprecedented initiative to form a "Circle of Protection" to defend, improve, and strengthen essential programs that protect the lives and dignity of poor and vulnerable people. The statement calls for assessing "every budget proposal from the bottom up — how it treats those Jesus called 'the least of these' (Mt 25:45)." These Christian leaders also insist:
A fundamental task is to create jobs and spur economic growth. Decent jobs at decent wages are the best path out of poverty, and restoring growth is a powerful way to reduce deficits.
In our letters to Congress, the bishops write as pastors and teachers, not experts or partisans, acknowledging the duty to get our financial house in order and suggest:
A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.
We believe a moral measure of this budget debate is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless, or poor are treated. Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources.
In rebuilding trust in economic life, responding to the suffering of the jobless and the fears of so many in our nation, our Catholic faith offers a clear set of moral directions outlined in a "Catholic Framework for Economic Life." This useful framework insists, "The economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy" and echoes Pope John Paul II:
The Catholic tradition calls for a "society of work, enterprise, and participation" which "is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the state to assure that the basic needs of the whole society are satisfied" (Centesimus Annus, no. 35).
Sometimes economic troubles bring out the worst in us. Uncertainty and fear compel us to fight for our own interests and to preserve our own advantages. There is too much finger pointing and blaming of others and efforts to take advantage in political and economic arenas. We have seen efforts to limit or abolish elements of collective bargaining and restrict the roles of workers and their unions. Some demonize the market or government as the source of all our economic problems. Immigrants have been unfairly blamed for some of the current economic difficulties. Too often, the loudest voices often get the most attention and a predictable and unproductive cycle of blame and evasion takes place, but there is little effective action to address fundamental problems.
There is another way to respond to the difficult situation in which we find ourselves. We can understand and act like we are part of one economy, one nation, and one human family. We can acknowledge our responsibility for the ways — large or small — we contributed to this crisis. We can all accept our responsibility for working together to overcome this economic stagnation and all that comes with it. We can clearly respect the legitimacy and roles of others in economic life: business and labor, private enterprise and public institutions, for profit and non-profit, religious and academic, community and government. We can avoid challenging the motives of others. We can advocate our principles and priorities with conviction, integrity, civility, and respect for others. We can look for common ground and seek the common good. We can encourage all the institutions in our society to work together to reduce joblessness, promote economic growth, overcome poverty, increase prosperity, and make the shared sacrifices and — even compromises — necessary to begin to heal our broken economy.
The seriousness and the peril of the current economic situation require clear commitment from all sectors to come together to shape and rebuild a stronger economy that safeguards the lives and dignity of all, especially providing opportunities for work. No one entity alone can turn the economy around and every institution must move beyond their own particular interests. Structures for dialogue leading to comprehensive and coordinated action need to be established or strengthened among leaders in government, business, unions, investment, banking, education, health care, philanthropy, religious communities, the jobless, and those living in poverty so that the common ground can be laid for pursuing the common good in economic life. As the Catholic bishops have insisted, "The Catholic way is to recognize the essential role and the complementary responsibilities of families, communities, the market, and government to work together to overcome poverty and advance human dignity" (A Place at the Table, 18).
For Christians, it is not enough to acknowledge current difficulties. We are people of hope, committed to prayer, to help those facing hard time and to work with others to build a better economy. Our faith gives strength, direction, and confidence in these tasks. As Pope Benedict encourages us:
On this earth there is room for everyone: here the entire human family must find the resources to live with dignity, through the help of nature itself — God's gift to His children — and through hard work and creativity (Caritas in Veritate, no. 50).
We must remember that at the heart of everything we do as believers must be love, for it is love which honors the dignity of work as participation in the act of God's creation, and it is love which values the dignity of the worker, not just for the work he or she does, but above all for the person he or she is. This call of love is also a work of faith and an expression of hope.
On this Labor Day in 2011, in the midst of continuing economic turmoil, we are called to renew our commitment to the God-given task of defending human life and dignity, celebrating work, and defending workers with both hope and conviction. This is a time for prayer, reflection, and action. In the words of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI:
The current crisis obliges us to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment, to build on positive experiences, and to reject negatives ones. The crisis thus becomes an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future (Caritas in Veritate, no. 21).
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has written to members of Congress concerning rights of conscience in health care. He is archbishop of Galveston-Houston. His September letter follows:
"While I have written previously to encourage your support for the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467), recent events make this request more urgent.
"In an interim final rule published August 3, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has established a list of 'preventive services for women' to be required in almost all private health plans nationwide, under the authority of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Tragically, HHS missed its opportunity to focus on prevention of diseases and disabling conditions that truly pose serious risks to women's lives. Instead it decided to include mandatory coverage for: surgical sterilization; all prescription contraceptives approved by the FDA, including drugs like Ella (ulipristal) that can cause abortions in the early weeks of pregnancy; and 'education and counseling' to promote these to 'all women of reproductive capacity.'
"The new HHS mandate underscores a major deficiency in PPACA – it lacks a conscience clause to prevent the Act itself from being used to suppress the rights and freedoms of those who may have moral or religious objections to specific procedures. This omission is especially glaring in light of the fact that the Act does accommodate the religious beliefs of those who object to participation in government-run benefits programs altogether, those who wish to address illness solely by prayer, and those on Indian reservations who are committed to traditional tribal practices of healing.
"As you may know, the nation's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, actively campaigned for the mandate now issued by HHS, and supports mandated coverage of chemical as well as surgical abortion. Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups hope that once there is a national mandate for 'prevention' of pregnancy as if it were a disease inimical to women's well-being, this will build their case for promoting abortion as the 'cure.'
"Last fall the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops presented a detailed case against a nationwide contraceptive mandate on several grounds. For example, there are solid reasons to doubt claims that expanded contraceptive programs reduce abortions, or that prescription contraceptives enhance health for women (http://old.usccb.org/ogc/preventive.pdf). In this letter I wish to focus on the threat posed by such a mandate to rights of conscience and religious freedom, as Congress has protected these rights in the past and needs to do so again.
"This spring, to address the serious flaw in PPACA regarding lack of conscience rights, Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Dan Boren (D-OK) introduced the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179). This legislation would change no current state or federal mandate for health coverage, but simply prevent any new mandates under PPACA – such as HHS's new set of 'preventive services for women' —from being used to disregard the freedom of conscience that Americans now enjoy. This would seem to be an absolutely essential element of any promise that if Americans like the health plan they have now, they may retain it. I applaud the August 2 introduction of a Senate version of this legislation (S. 1467) by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and I urge members of both parties to add their names as co-sponsors to these urgently needed bills.
"Respect for rights of conscience in health care has been a matter of strong bipartisan consensus for almost four decades. Under the Church amendment of 1973, those taking part in a variety of federal health programs may not be discriminated against because they have moral or religious objections to abortion or sterilization, and in some circumstances to any other health service. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program exempts religiously affiliated health plans from any contraceptive mandate, and protects the conscience rights of health professionals in secular plans. The major federal legislation for combating AIDS in developing nations ensures the full participation of organizations that have a moral or religious objection to particular methods of AIDS prevention. This consensus is reflected in a variety of other federal laws as well (http://old.usccb.org/prolife/issues/abortion/crmay08.pdf).
"HHS's new mandate for contraception/sterilization coverage, by contrast, includes an incredibly narrow exemption for 'religious employers' that protects almost no one. For example, a Catholic institution serving the poor and needy would have to fire its non-Catholic staff, refuse life-affirming care to non-Catholic people in need, and devote itself instead to 'the inculcation of religious values' to qualify for the exemption. Individuals, insurers, and the sponsors of non-employee health plans (e.g., student health plans in Catholic schools) would have no exemption at all. This effort to corral religion exclusively into the sanctuaries of houses of worship betrays a complete ignorance of the role of religion in American life, and of Congress's long tradition of far more helpful laws on religious freedom.
"HHS's new list of mandated benefits makes it especially urgent for Congress to bring PPACA into line with the federal government's long legal tradition of respect for the rights of conscience. Those who sponsor, purchase, and issue health plans should not be forced to violate their deeply held moral and religious convictions in order to take part in the health care system or provide for the needs of their families, their employees, or those most in need. To force such an unacceptable choice would be as much a threat to universal access to health care as it is to freedom of conscience.
"Therefore I urge you to support and co-sponsor the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, to help preserve respect in federal law for the freedom to follow the dictates of one's conscience."
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012
If it is from the pro-abortion secular mainstream news media that you get most of your information, you probably have not heard the following:
"Your policy has been one which I fully understand – I'm not second-guessing – of one child per family," Vice President Joe Biden told an audience at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China.
According to a report in the Caixin Century magazine, population control officials in the Chinese province of Hunan seized at least 16 babies born in violation of the one-child policy, sent them to state-run orphanages, and then sold them abroad for adoption.
"Before 1997, they usually punished us by tearing down our houses for breaching the one-child policy, but after 2000 they began to confiscate our children," the magazine quoted villager Yuan Chaoren as saying.
Steven W. Mosher
The local family planning office sent them to local orphanages, which listed them as being available for adoption. The report added that the office could get 1,000 renminbi or more for each child. The orphanages in turn receive $3,000 to $5,000 for each child adopted overseas, money that is paid by the adoptive parents.
"This report," states Steven W. Mosher, China expert and president of the Population Research Institute, "is corroborated by research that PRI conducted on the ground in China back in 2009
"Of course," Mosher continues, "local officials deny any involvement in child trafficking. But it is well known that the so-called 'job responsibility system' requires them to rigorously enforce the one-child policy, and that their success (or failure) in this area will determine future promotions (or demotions). Abducting and selling an 'illegal' baby or child would not only enable an official to eliminate a potential black mark on his record, it would allow him to make a profit at the same time. (Population Research Institute)
"The current administration has shown indifference to the issue before: one of Obama's first actions as president was to reinstate $50 million in funding to a United Nations group that PRI's on-the-ground investigations found complicit in China's coercive population control tactics. The Bush administration had revoked the funding after a federal investigation confirmed the PRI findings." (LifeSiteNews.com, August 27, 2011)
"In nature, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. This ratio is biologically ironclad. Between 104 and 106 is the normal range, and that's as far as the natural window goes. Any other number is the result of unnatural events.
"Yet today in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the number is 121 – though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark. China's and India's populations are mammoth enough that their outlying sex ratios have skewed the global average to a biologically impossible 107. But the imbalance is not only in Asia. Azerbaijan stands at 115, Georgia at 118, and Armenia at 120.
"…There have been so many sex-selective abortions in the past three decades that 163 million girls, who by biological averages should have been born, are missing from the world. Moral horror aside, this is likely to be of very large consequence.
"…It is usually a country's rich, not its poor, who lead the way in choosing against girls. Sex selection typically starts with the urban, well-educated stratum of society. Elites are the first to gain access to a new technology, whether MRI scanners, smart phones – or ultrasound machines. The behavior of elites then filters down until it becomes part of the broader culture." ("The War Against Girls," written by Jonathan V. Last, in The Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2011)
"Humans have enough sense not to overstock a fish tank; surely God had enough sense to create a world that would more than meet our needs as our numbers grew. Ultimately, we believe that God made the earth, and He is capable of supporting all of us. To say that the world is not capable of supporting the population of human beings on the planet now or in the perceivable future is in one sense to doubt God's providence. He knew at the beginning of time how our numbers and needs would grow, and He has provided us with the resources to sustain that growth. With our intelligence, another gift from God, we unlock new ways to build a better world for ourselves and our children. The whole history of the human race shows that as our numbers have grown, our prosperity has grown even faster." (Lay Witness, May/June 2011, published by Catholics United for the Faith)
Recently, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards claimed that if PP is defunded, "Millions of women in this country are going to lose their health care access—not to abortion services—to basic family planning, you know, mammograms." The Live Action pro-life group then hired an actor who called 30 PP facilities in 27 states. Live Action reports, "Every Planned Parenthood, without exception, tells her she will have to go elsewhere for a mammogram, and many clinics admit that no PP clinics provide this breast cancer screening procedure." Live Action's tapes have been posted on www.YouTube.com. Its president, Lila Rose, commented, "It's not surprising that an organization found concealing statutory rape and helping child sex traffickers would represent its own services so brazenly, playing on a woman's fears in order to protect their tax dollars." (Celebrate Life, May-June 2011 – Published by American Life League)
Over 700 lawsuits against Merck Pharmaceuticals are moving forward in U.S. courts, even as the company is fending off accusations of ethical violations for its attempts to market the NuvaRing birth control device overseas, without making mention of its risks.
The lawsuits allege serious injury and death caused by the use of the NuvaRing - a small ring which is inserted into the vagina for three weeks, then removed for a week and reinserted. It sends a constant flow of hormones into the body in order to suppress fertility.
The device was approved by the FDA in 2001. Merck reported $559 million in NuvaRing sales last year.
According to the website aboutlawsuits.com, 730 lawsuits had been filed against Merck by the end of 2010 claiming side effects ranging from strokes and heart attacks to sudden death.
Planned Parenthood touts NuvaRing as a "safe, effective, and convenient" form of birth control on its website. (lifesitenews.com)
Bishop Samuel Aquila
"So many pressures are exerted on the sick already," states Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, "and the stress and sadness and the pain of being ill sometimes can be compounded by the very false feelings that when you're ill, you're a burden to your family, and you're a burden to society.
"I never forgot what Pope John Paul II said when he himself was very ill: 'A human person is never a burden.'" (The Catholic World Report, August-September 2011)
Responding to the question, "How should the Church respond to Catholic politicians who support legalized abortion," Bishop Samuel Aquila of North Dakota said: "Their particular bishops can use the process of correction that is given to us in Sacred Scripture. …Christ then says that if that person is still obstinate and will not change, treat them as a tax collector or Gentile. Expel him.
"We do this out of love for the person, seeking his conversion. He needs to understand that the salvation of his soul is in jeopardy because of the positions he is taking.
"The Church's teaching is clear. If we don't challenge public officials who reject this teaching, we leave them in their sins and confuse the faithful."
Thomas Peters of Catholic Vote.org applauded Bishop Aquila, stating, "Strong words, yes. But if we do not believe in and speak this strongly about protecting innocent life, how can we speak strongly about other important issues?" (The Wanderer, 8/25/11)
Some of the pilgrims from Cincinnati to World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid made a side trip to Fatima, Portugal. Some even visited Rome, Assisi, and Lourdes as part of their pilgrimage.
Magnificat Travel (www.holytravels.org) which specializes in "taking pilgrims to holy places" took a group of 16 from Cincinnati, among 130 pilgrims total, to Assisi on the feast of St. Clare and Lourdes on the feast of the Assumption.
"We were high on the Holy Spirit before we got there," said Pam Bettner, mother of three of the pilgrims. "It was one amazing God experience after another."
Taylor Marie Harbison, 17, one of the Bettner sisters' friends, describes the trip to Fatima as "gorgeous!!"
Along with hundreds of photos, she writes on Facebook, "It wasn't what I pictured it to look like, but it was still beautiful. People would crawl on their knees there for reparation of sins and it just moved you to tears, knowing that people really do care about their sins and really do want to be forgiven."
They saw a fireball while across the street from the basilica. They were awed also by the silent prayers of many penitents, and the candlelight procession.
"The Holy Spirit was palpable," Mrs. Bettner said.
Finally, after missing the plane, the pilgrims reached Madrid and "The Pope was there!!" as Miss Harbison writes.
"He talked to us. He had adoration with us, heck he stood in the pouring rain and lightning storm with us!! He was like our Father; he had our best interest at heart. He talked to us about Faith, and he gave us advice and his blessing."
Pilgrims from Presentation Ministries joined millions at World Youth Day in Madrid.
Some of the 84-year-old pope's more memorable quotes to the youth during the week-long "day" were: "The man can be happy being a man. Do not fear to imitate Jesus Christ! Do not live in fear, and give life!" and "The happiness that you seek has a name, a face: Jesus of Nazareth Who awaits you in the Eucharist," and "Only love guides and gives pain meaning. To suffer with others, for others, due to love is a sign of humanity."
Estimates of up to 1.5 million are said to have attended WYD 2011, but it wasn't the numbers that were important. Just in the Magnificat pilgrimage were pilgrims from Cuba, Ireland, and Korea as well as the U.S.
"People from around the world were there!" Miss Harbison explains. "We met people from Brazil, Ireland, Australia, Italy, Spain and those are just the people we talked to. You should have seen all the flags flying in the wind! The world was present that night in one place, without fighting. The world was united with Pope Benedict, even if it was just for a week. One day the whole world will be like that. You just have to have faith, sooner or later the world will realize that we need God, not just on Sundays but everyday!"
"Pope Benny really knows what he's talking about," Miss Harbison says.
Because of the storm, event organizers were recommending Pope Benedict cut short his planned speech on the sanctity of marriage, responding to Spain's recent legalization of so-called gay marriage.
Instead, as BBC's William Crawley wrote on his blog, "Pope Benedict stressed the value of spiritual friendships and encouraged young people — both Catholics and non-Catholics — to lead 'authentic lives, lives which are always worth living, in every circumstance, and which not even death can destroy.' "
At Guestview Jo-anne Rowley wrote, "Three hundred times more people traveled vast distances to celebrate their faith with the Pope than those who came to protest, but you wouldn't have known it. For us pilgrims, it was about unity, about remaining firm in the faith when faced with hardship."
"Leaving the stage briefly," she wrote, "the Pope returned with the Blessed Sacrament. Then amazingly the thunder, rain, and lightning stopped as if the Holy Father had pressed pause. 'Thank you for your joy and resistance. Your strength is bigger than the rain,' said the pope as the rain began to settle. 'The Lord sends you lots of blessings with the rain.'
"The pope thanks you," he said, "for your affection and sends you out as ambassadors of the joy that our world needs."
The pilgrims responded to the Pope's call. "What I experienced that night at the vigil," Rowley wrote, "was worth all of that because that night I fell in love with faith and God again."
As Mary Grace Strasser, 18, put it, "I don't really care if they label me a Jesus freak. There ain't no disguising the truth."
John Paul Hennessey, 16, could just simply say, "Awesome! I can't describe it."
Pam Bettner said, "It was a lightning show and a half." The young people she chaperoned were literally dancing in the rain in Spain, which cooled the unbearable 106° heat.
"His Church was there. Our Holy Father took care of us."
Although their group of pilgrims were among those who did not make it into their designated area, because of over-booking, they were able to make the Stations of the Cross with Pope Benedict via jumbotron. They did get back to their hotel in time to watch most of the Mass on TV, when the Host tent collapsed, and had a Mass of their own celebrated by fellow pilgrim Fr. Marty Mannion.
The next international World Youth Day will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2013 with the theme, "Go and make disciples of all peoples" (Matthew 28:19).
Somali refugee mothers give water and food to their malnourished children at a medical center in Dagahaley refugee camp, Kenya. Following a severe drought, many families faced starvation and left Somalia on foot. Thousands of refugees are flooding into Dadaab every week. Photo by Laura Sheahen/Catholic Relief Services
As the drought continues in East Africa, we pray that world leaders will work together to provide the most comfort, food, water, and shelter to those in need. Lord, allow us to be transformed so that we may discern what is the will of God.
May God's will guide us in our actions so that we may know how to embrace the sacrifices we are called to make and respond to God's call of solidarity and justice.
We ask this through Your son Jesus Christ Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
For the Church, that we may not grow weary of the suffering in East Africa and continue to work together and keep the needs of our brothers and sisters in the forefront of our hearts and minds, we pray to the Lord. Response: Merciful God, hear our prayer
For all world leaders that they remember the people of East Africa and their plight and work to provide assistance, we pray to the Lord. Response: Merciful God, hear our prayer
For people in East Africa who are traveling many miles in search of water and food or living in camps trying to find ways to feed their families, may the help they receive be a sign of God's promise, we pray to the Lord. Response: Merciful God, hear our prayer
For those of us gathered here, remind us of Your love so that we may know how to share this love with all of our sisters and brothers, we pray to the Lord. Response: Merciful God, hear our prayer
(Source: Catholic Relief Services)
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com