Euthanasia mindset looms over disabled baby’s legal fight, ethicist warns

June 22, 2017 by admin  
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London, June 22, 2017: Legal efforts to bar the parents of a British baby born with a disabling medical condition from seeking treatment overseas are based on deep ethical errors, a Catholic expert in medical ethics has warned.

“It seems to me completely wrongheaded that the state should be stepping in here when the decision that the parents are making is really aimed at the best interests of the child,” Dr. Melissa Moschella, a Catholic University of America philosophy professor, told CNA.

“It’s not crazy, it’s not abusive, it’s not neglectful. It’s the decision of parents who want to, however they can, to give their very sick child a chance for life.”

She said such a decision “should be completely within the prerogative of the parent,” citing the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to Moschella, that declaration “clearly indicates that the parents, not the state will have primarily responsibility.”

Charlie Gard, now aged 10 months, is believed to suffer from a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness. The disorder is believed to affect fewer than 20 children worldwide. Charlie has been in intensive care since October 2016. He has suffered significant brain damage due to the disease and is currently fed through a tube. He breathes with an artificial ventilator and is unable to move.

His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, have wanted to keep him on life support and transport him to the United States in order to try an experimental treatment.

However, their decision was challenged in court by hospitals and an attorney appointed to represent Charlie. The parents appealed a High Court decision, and their appeal to the U.K.’s Supreme Court was rejected.

Their final legal challenge is presently before the European Court of Human Rights. The court has said Charlie must continue to receive treatment until its judges make a decision.

Moschella said the legal decisions favoring ending life support for Charlie are effectively “telling the parents that their child’s life has no value and that therefore they should cease any effort to heal him of his disease.”

These decisions represent a “quality of life” ethic and an ideology that say human life is valuable only if it meets certain capacities.

“It’s the same ideology that underlies allowing euthanasia or physician assisted suicide,” she said. “That’s completely opposed to the Catholic view in which every human life has intrinsic value regardless of the quality of that life.”

Charlie’s parents have raised more than $1.6 million to help seek experimental treatment for him in the U.S. Their decision faced legal challenge from Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he is being treated.

In early April, the baby’s hospital challenged their efforts. The hospital’s experts argued in court that long-term life support should be withdrawn from the baby because his quality of life was so poor.

Charlie’s court-appointed lawyer argued before a High Court judge that any treatments in the U.S. would be experimental and long-term life-support would only “prolong the process of dying.”

Charlie’s parents had their own legal representative in the case, who argued that travel to the U.S. for treatment would not cause the boy significant suffering or harm and could give him another chance.

Yates, Charlie’s mother, has argued that she would welcome any treatment that could help him live. She also suggested anything learned during an experimental treatment could help treat future babies who suffer from the disorder.

According to Moschella, who has a background in parental rights and medical ethics, said parental rights derive both from the “special intimate relationship” they have with their child and from their primary obligations to care for their own children. Interfering with their conscientious best efforts is akin to violating religious freedom, she said.

“It is a deep violation of conscience, when, without a very serious reason, the state presents parents from fulfilling that conscientious obligation,” she said.

She noted that what Charlie’s parents are trying to do by helping secure extraordinary treatment is not ethically required by Catholic ethics.

“It would be perfectly morally acceptable should they choose to forgo seeking further treatment and take the baby off life support and allow him to pass away naturally due to the underlying disease,” the professor said. “But it’s also acceptable, on Catholic ethics, to do whatever you can to heal a person if you think that there’s any chance that a treatment could have a positive effect.”

She suggested that extraordinary treatment could be unethical only when “there is absolutely no hope of any benefit whatsoever” and the treatment is painful to the patient, or the treatment would take away “important resources that are needed to help other patients who could benefit.”

Moschella said there should only be legal intervention against the wishes of parents in cases “when there is a clear case of abuse or neglect or some significant threat to the public order.”

“Neither of those situations is the case here.”

- cna

John Piper on why Jesus Christ has not yet returned despite biblical prophecies

June 21, 2017 by admin  
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U.S., June 21, 2017: Reformed theologian John Piper tackled a question from a reader asking why Jesus has not yet returned despite promises made some 2,000 years ago in the Bible. Piper insisted that Christ is not a false prophet.

The listener, identified only as Ron, asked Piper on his “Ask Pastor John” podcast about the New Testament belief that Jesus is coming back to earth “very soon.”

“In the New Testament we find repeated evidence of people whom we would call inspired who evidently believed — and sometimes claimed — that Jesus would come back soon, even during the writer’s own lifetime. Examples would be 1 Peter 4:7; Matthew 24:34; 26:64; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17; and 1 Corinthians 15:51,” Ron stated.

“How can we still consider them authoritative while discarding modern-day messengers whose prophecies don’t materialize?” he asked, wondering how to explain why Jesus has not yet returned to His children.

Piper responded on Wednesday by stating that the issue has “several layers,” and needs careful and patient attention.

“It’s fairly easy to comb through the New Testament superficially and gather a lot of texts together that seem to indicate a false teaching about how quickly the second coming of Jesus would happen,” the theologian pointed out.

“But if you take each one, each text or each group of texts carefully, patiently, and study it out with the help of those who have perhaps given more thought to it, what I have found is that there are explanations of how to understand those texts that do not impute error or false prophecy to what Jesus or the apostles taught,” he added.

Piper then advised the listener to “read carefully” and look at foreshadowing in the biblical passages in question.

In regard specifically to the question of what “coming soon” means, Piper highlighted:

“Now, that Greek word tachu, ‘soon,’ does not always or necessarily mean what we ordinarily mean by the word ‘soon,’ that is, after a short space of time. Rather, it regularly means quickly, suddenly, unexpectedly, fast.”

He also noted certain biblical passages refer to “things leading up to the coming of Jesus” and not the very coming of Jesus.

“Here’s an example: Matthew 24:33, ‘So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.’ Next verse, and this is the problem verse for a lot of people: ‘Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place’ (Matthew 24:34).

“Now, notice carefully the phrase, ‘all these things’ that are going to take place within a generation, does not include the actual coming of the Lord, because in the previous verse it says, ‘When you see all these things,’ the very phrase of verse 34 used in verse 33, ‘You know that he is near,’ not already here. The fact that these things will happen within a generation, these preparations for his coming, does not mean that his coming would happen in a generation.”

He further argued that the time of Jesus’ return remains unknown.

“My main suggestion for Ron is that he be very slow to assume that the apostles and Jesus himself show themselves to be false prophets because of a quick and superficial reading of the New Testament,” Piper stated.

“Be patient and be careful. There are answers to these seemingly problem texts.”

Several big-name theologians, such as the Rev. Billy Graham, have in the past spoken about the prophetic return of Christ.

Graham said in September 2016 that the Second Coming will be made apparent to people throughout the world when the time is right.

“When Jesus returns, He will come from Heaven with power and glory, and the whole human race will see Him,” Graham wrote at the time.

“The Bible says, ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him. … All the nations will be gathered before him’ (Matthew 25:31-32).”

His son, the Rev. Franklin Graham, suggested in February last year that the growing wars and conflicts around the world could be a sign that Jesus is coming.

“One day He is going to wipe the slate clean and ‘create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind,’ (Isaiah 65:17). For those who have trusted His Son Jesus Christ by faith, there is an eternal future with Him to look forward to,” Franklin Graham suggested at the time.

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Man says he was sent by God to save California girl stripped naked, bitten by mother in exorcism

June 20, 2017 by admin  
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U.S., June 19, 2017: A local resident from Humboldt County, California, said that he was “sent by God” to save an 11-year-old girl on Friday who was stripped naked and almost choked and bitten to death by her mother in an exorcism.

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office said on Friday that the incident took place at Centerville beach near Ferndale, going by the description of a 911 call.

“The mother had stripped the child naked and was shoving handfuls of sand in the child’s eyes and into the child’s mouth. The mother stated she was trying to remove the Demons from the child,” the press release described.

“The mother, 45 year old Kimberly Felder of Ferndale, continued the assault by viciously striking, biting, and choking the child. This assault was being witnessed by a crowd of approximately 10 to 12 people,” the report added.

“When local citizen John Marciel arrived on scene, he immediately stepped in and attempted to restrain Felder and prevent further assault to the child.”

Marciel apparently managed to bring Felder to the ground, before a sheriff’s deputy arrived and placed the mother in handcuffs.

The child, who wasn’t named, reportedly sustained “severe damage to her right ear” during the attack, and was sent to a hospital for treatment.

David G. McAfee, a journalist and author who has written books on atheism, wrote in a blog for The Friendly Atheist on Saturday that he tracked down Marciel to ask him about his life-saving actions.

Marciel revealed that he believes in God, but said that despite the mother’s words, what she was really trying to do was kill her child.

“If one believes in God, the demons are there also, but there are actions that happened on that beach that I will not say until or if I have to go to court,” the man said.

“The things that lady was saying did not add up for it to be an exorcism or even a belief. Plain and simple, she was trying to kill that little girl.”

The man said that to his knowledge, from everything that he was taught in Sunday School and what his pastor taught him, the mother’s actions were not a real exorcism.

“No holy water, no crosses, no religious relics were present, and I feel in my heart God sent me there for a reason and it might have been that. Hopefully I passed in the Lord’s eyes,” Marciel stated.

Felder was taken to Humboldt County Correctional Facility and charged with attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, felony child abuse, and aggravated mayhem.

The sheriff’s office pointed out that if it wasn’t for Marciel’s actions, the child “would have been killed by her mother.”

Marciel is being recommended to be recognized with the Red Cross Life Saving Award for his assistance.

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Saving ancient Christian cultures…one story at a time

June 16, 2017 by admin  
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U.S., June 16, 2017: Ancient artifacts. Centuries-old legends. Prayers dating back to the time of Christ. An enemy seeking to destroy it all. And a team of dedicated scholars trying to save the memories before it’s too late.

It may sound like the start of the next Indiana Jones movie, but for the team behind the Christian Communities of the East Cultural Heritage Project, the reality of Christian communities disappearing from the Middle East is a pressing threat.

Faced with persecution at the hands of ISIS, more than a decade of war, and generations of economic struggle, these researchers are looking to record the memories and traditions of the Christian communities of Iraq before they are lost forever.

But instead of swinging through empty tombs or digging through rubble, these scholars are asking the community members themselves to engage in the rich Middle Eastern tradition of storytelling, sharing their memories and descriptions in their own native Arabic and Neo-Aramaic languages – some of them singing and speaking the same language Christ himself did.

Dr. Shawqi Talia, a lecturer on Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at The Catholic University of America explained that his colleagues’ quest to preserve the history and culture of Iraqi Catholics is essential for passing on their meaning, not only to the next generation, but for the world.

Talia, himself an Iraqi Chaldean Catholic, told CNA that he wants young people “to know how life was and what life was all about for the Christians – not just up north but in Iraq as a whole – in the ’50s and the ’40s and the ’30s, and to know that our history goes back for 2,000 years.”

Yet as Christians from the Nineveh plain continue to leave their homeland due to threats of violence, Talia hopes Middle Eastern Christians in diaspora will see the stories, songs, histories and memories contained in the project not only as a record, but as a tool. He wants Middle Eastern youth to “work in order to keep this kind of heritage alive, not just for the Christians from that part of the world who are now living in diaspora, but because it’s the history of humanity – for all of us.”

This history is not just for the Christian communities of the Middle East, but for all Christians and the whole world to learn from and preserve – especially as the ancestral lands continue to be embroiled in conflict. “You can read something in a history text, but now you see it, and you hear it in person,” Talia said of the recorded interviews.

Preserving the past

The idea behind Christian Communities of the East Cultural Heritage Project – a joint partnership between the Institute of Christian Oriental Research and the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America – was born over the course of years of conversations between Dr. Talia and Dr. Robin Darling Young, an associate professor of spirituality in the university.

“The reason that we started this project was that we wanted to put together materials that would make available to other people and to communities themselves records of various kinds of the life of Christian communities in the Middle East,” Darling Young told CNA.

Attacks by ISIS against Christian and other minority religious communities in northern Iraq heightened the sense of urgency in preserving this culture’s heritage and history.

Since 2003, violence in Iraq and Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more, including whole communities of Middle Eastern Christians. In the past 14 years, an estimated 1 million Christians have left their communities in Iraq, leaving less than 500,000 Christians in the lands inhabited by the faithful for 2,000 years.

To begin preserving their history before it completely vanishes, the group used Talia’s connections to the Chaldean Catholic community in the United States, particularly those in the Washington, D.C. area and in Southeast Michigan, where some 150,000 Chaldean Catholics have established new homes over the past century. Plans also exist to interview Iraqi Christian communities in Europe and elsewhere, as well as release a documentary funded by the Michigan Humanities Council.

After developing a detailed questionnaire, the team began to record interviews with members of the Chaldean communities in both English and Neo-Aramaic, a form of the language spoken by Christ. The researchers also collected photographs and documents to digitize and present online along with the recordings as part of a comprehensive online archive.

Ryann Craig, a doctoral student in the department of Semitics, explained that after consulting with oral history experts at the Library of Congress and elsewhere, the team sought to “draw out descriptions of communal life in their original languages” in the interview process.

“My challenge was to try to craft questions that would get people to answer in their native tongue.” One of the first questions, she said, was to ask community members to explain the meaning behind their family name and its importance in their home village. This same technique was also used in getting participants to sing special communal songs created for special occasions like marriages or births, as well as to describe childhood games, or record how family recipes were made and their importance.

Given the circumstances that have brought some Chaldean Christians to the United States, however, some interviews have captured a much different side of the Middle Eastern Christian experience: persecution and flight. Craig told CNA that some of the first interviews of the project were conducted with recent refugees, many of whom were still processing the traumatic circumstances leading up to their exodus.

“A lot of the questions we were asking just weren’t relevant for them,” she said of the questions about traditions and history on the group’s questionnaire. “At that point we just decided to let them tell whatever story they wanted to tell, and didn’t really prompt as much as we do with people who have been here for decades and feel more settled.”

In collecting both these stories as well as those from Chaldean Christians who moved to the United States decades ago for economic reasons, the group has been able to document a cross-section of Iraqi Christian life. Among those who came over in the 1950s-70s, the researchers have recorded histories by people from smaller Christian villages who spoke Neo-Aramaic and were very much connected to the Chaldean identity and more ancient traditions and ways of life.

Meanwhile, the majority of Chaldean refugees coming over to the United States as a result of violence and persecution are more likely to speak Arabic than Neo-Aramaic, and are also more likely to come from larger, more cosmopolitan cities. Still, among those persecuted, “there’s a profound sense of them being Christian, because they’re being persecuted for that reason.”

‘More than just memories’

Though Talia is not involved directly in the interview process, he stressed to CNA the importance of gathering oral histories due to their unique ability to capture the essence of what it’s like to be a Middle Eastern Christian.

Just as his mother painted the experience of growing up in her hometown for Talia and his siblings, so too do these oral histories transmit the feeling of being in the communities of northern Iraq. “When you see these memories put on audio or on video, you can feel as if you were, or are present.”

While Talia was raised in Baghdad, his mother came from a Christian village of around 5,000 people in the northern Nineveh plain, without electricity, but maintaining many ancient traditions in their daily lives, including use of the Neo-Aramaic language.

“It’s more than simply nostalgia,” he explained of the stories. “It’s more than just memories. It’s a way of life which has disappeared or is disappearing.”

For Talia, the importance oral history plays in Middle Eastern culture has all the more weight due to the uncertainty faced by many communities. Even those that have been freed from the hands of ISIS are often in ruins, and much of the Middle Eastern Christian community is now in diaspora. Talia wants to help ensure “that the community isn’t gone simply because it isn’t in the villages or the towns.”

The next generation

The preservation of their home cultures and traditions is also a major concern for young Middle Eastern Christians who want to know more about their roots.

Yousif Kalian is a second-generation Iraqi immigrant and a member of the Syriac Catholic Church. As an undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America, he was a young adult researcher on the Christian Communities of the East Cultural Heritage Project, and he has continued to work with the endeavor after graduation. He initially learned about the project while taking a class with Dr. Talia.

“I’ve always had an interest in the region from a professional point of view, on top of being Iraqi-American,” Kalian told CNA. He said that within both Catholic and secular culture in the United States, there is a lack of understanding about Middle Eastern Christians, as well as a culture gap between Middle Eastern parents or grandparents and their children or grandchildren. This, he said, has left a lot of questions about identity and culture among many of his Middle Eastern Christian peers.

Kalian sees this project’s blending of oral history and multimedia access as a way for young people to help change that knowledge gap.

“If you know anything about the Middle East, the oral tradition is the most prominent tradition there,” he said, pointing to the recitation traditions in Islam, Judaism and several Christian churches. Singing and storytelling are closely tied up with the identity of the people, he explained.

“I think not just preserving dates and numbers and facts, but really preserving the stories is the most important thing to preserve from Middle Eastern Christian culture,” Kalian stressed.

“We all grew up with stories. The monastery that my grandfather is named after was destroyed by ISIS in 2015,” he said. “And my grandfather’s name was Behnam.”

Saint Behnam and Saint Sara monastery was established in the 4th Century in the Nineveh plain, about 20 miles from the city of Mosul. In late 2014, ISIS fighters took control of the monastery, expelling the monks under threat of death. On March 19, 2015, the terrorist group released images of the destruction of the tomb of Saint Behnam and the surrounding buildings.

Yet, Kalian keeps the memory of the monastery with him, as a part of who he is. “The story goes that my great grandma couldn’t have a son,” he told CNA. “Kept having daughters, and in Middle Eastern culture having a son is a point of pride: he carries the name and the wealth and protection. So she went to St. Behnam monastery and was praying, ‘Please give me a boy, St. Behnam. I’ll name him after you if you give me a boy’.”

“Sure enough, she gave birth to a boy, and he survived,” Kalian said, “He survived, and she named him Behnam.”

“You can find a book on Christianity in Iraq, or you can find a book on this monastery. But stories like this: they’ll die with our parents or grandparents.”

“That’s why I think this project is so important: to get the recipes of the food that they cook and the history behind the food they cook, and the names of our parents and grandparents and where they come from, and these saints and stories and traditions…once we move here, to an extent it stays and is alive, but in another sense it gets lost,” he lamented. “That’s why I think that this project really is important.”

And he is not the only one who is excited about the chance to pass on these stories: his siblings and other friends from his Syriac Catholic community have been interested in having a template to interview their parents and grandparents, and a way to digitize their memories. Kalian himself hopes to interview his family members and priests to collect their oral histories.

“I think every young person, if offered the opportunity, would love to speak with their grandparents or parents, if you gave them a structure to find out more about their own history,” he said.

“If you make it an active thing to learn about your culture and not just have it be reading or watching documentaries. Being able to engage – having it be an active thing and have an active culture – will engage them more and therefore persevere our communities, our history, our culture and our language.”

Once completed, the Christian Communities of the East Cultural Heritage Project will be accessible at www.ccmideast.org and in the archives of the Institute of Christian Oriental Research at The Catholic University of America. Documentary video will also be distributed in Michigan at a later date.

- cna

Christian player withdraws after U.S. Soccer decides team will wear gay pride jerseys

June 15, 2017 by admin  
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U.S., June 7, 2017: Two weeks after U.S. Soccer announced that both their men’s and women’s national teams will be wearing rainbow-colored jerseys in support of gay pride in June, Christian soccer player Jaelene Hinkle has withdrawn herself from the U.S. roster for two international friendlies this month, citing “personal reasons.”

A release from U.S. Soccer said Hinkle, 24, who is a defender for the North Carolina Courage, was called into the national camp to play international friendlies against Sweden and Norway this month. She was not replaced on the roster after her withdrawal.

It is unclear if U.S. Soccer’s celebration of gay pride this month is related to Hinkle’s withdrawal but she wears her faith proudly on social media.

She proudly boasts Colossians 3:23 on Twitter which says: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

“If you live for people’s acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection,” the tagline also notes.

She also converted a gay pride logo into a celebration of the cross on Instagram the same day the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2015 while sharing her thoughts on the decision.

“Jesus didn’t come to save those who already believed in Him. He came so that the lost, rejected, and abandoned men and women would find Him and believe. I believe with every fiber in my body that what was written 2,000 years ago in the Bible is undoubtedly true. It’s not a fictional book. It’s not a pick and choose what you want to believe. You either believe it, or you don’t. This world may change, but Christ and His Word NEVER will,” she said.

“My heart is that as Christians we don’t begin to throw a tantrum over what has been brought into law today, but we become that much more loving. That through our love, the lost, rejected, and abandoned find Christ.”

Hinkle went on to declare that the rainbow, despite its current affiliation with the gay pride movement, is a symbol of God’s promise to mankind.

“The rainbow was a convent (sic) made between God and all his creation that never again would the world be flooded as it was when He destroyed the world during Noah’s time. It’s a constant reminder that no matter how corrupt this world becomes, He will never leave us or forsake us. Thank you Lord for your amazing grace, even during times of trial and confusion,” she said. “Love won over 2,000 years ago when the greatest sacrifice of all time was made for ALL mankind.”

LGBT advocates who later chastised her online for stating her Christian beliefs said they were looking forward to her wearing the gay pride jerseys.

U.S. Soccer is undertaking a number of initiatives in partnership with the LGBTQ advocacy group You Can Play Project to celebrate gay pride month.

“As the highlight, the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams will wear pride-inspired rainbow numbers during the June friendlies. The MNT will debut the look for the World Cup Qualifying tune-up against Venezuela on June 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The WNT will wear the kits in away friendlies against Sweden on June 8, and Norway three days later,” U.S. Soccer said.

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Horrors of women exploited by commercial surrogacy arrangements exposed in new film

June 14, 2017 by admin  
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U.S., June 14, 2017: Surrogate pregnancies are often portrayed in popular culture as a noble option for couples who are unable to conceive a child but these arrangements are routinely fraught with all kinds of abuses, says bioethicist and documentary filmmaker Jennifer Lahl.

Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, worked for 20 years as a pediatric critical care nurse and in hospital administration and has been blowing the whistle on the fertility and surrogacy industries for several years. Soon, she’ll be releasing a new film that aims to expose the horrors of commercial surrogacy.

In an interview with The Christian Post on Monday, Lahl shared the story of Kelly Martinez from South Dakota who reached out to CBCN after her last surrogate pregnancy went terribly wrong in almost every possible way.

Martinez found CBCN after having seen some of the group’s articles and emailed them in desperation after a couple who hired her to be their surrogate refused to pay her bills and moved back to Spain with the children she had carried to term. Living on a low-income, she didn’t have the financial means to hire an attorney to pursue a case against them. She was left saddled with $7,000 in medical expenses and facing financial ruin as creditors called demanding payments.

Martinez’s story was so compelling to Lahl she was moved to retell it by making a documentary film about the harrowing experience.

Just days after launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to make the film, 100 percent of the funds came in. Lahl and co-director Matthew Eppinette have now set a stretch goal to hire a professional editor and can still accept contributions since 17 days remain in the campaign. Donors who give $1,000 or more will have the opportunity to become an associate producer for the film.

When it comes to the theological implications of surrogacy, Lahl, who self-identifies as a “small-o orthodox Protestant” and has a master’s degree in bioethics, noted that in her line of work most religious people are either ignorant of or opt not to bring the teachings of their faith to bear on reproductive technology issues. This is true whether they be Jewish, Mormon, Roman Catholic, or evangelical, she said.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Roman Catholic Church both adhere to doctrine that explicitly states their opposition to surrogacy.  But evangelicals and Mainline Protestants often do not have an authoritative ecclesiastical body articulating a stance.

“But Protestants at least have Scripture,” Lahl said.

“I mean, for heavens sake, ‘I knit you together in your mother’s womb.’ Not some nice lady, not some woman you found on the internet who has offered to help you have a baby,” she added, quoting Psalm 139:13.

Lahl finds it especially frustrating when she speaks with clergy who never preach on the subject even though infertility issues frequently appear in the Bible. The first mention of a “barren womb” appears in Genesis.

“[Christians] have full permission to speak about how children come into the world. They are gifts, they are blessings,” she said.

But the Bible never says that we are somehow entitled to them, she noted, and most people today operate with “shallow theological thinking on the most profound matters of making human life.”

“Make no mistake, once we move into the laboratory, we are making children. They are not begotten, they are made. They are manufactured,” she argued.

In addition to the ethical questions present regarding when and how life begins, vulnerable women like Martinez are being exploited, she said.

In March, Lahl hosted an event in New York City called “Trading on the Female Body” where Martinez accompanied her and shared her story. They spoke again the following day at the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women.

Commercial surrogacy is a cause that secular left-wing feminists, women’s rights activists, and many Catholic and Christian social conservatives are united against, The Atlantic reported in March.

During Martinez’s last surrogate pregnancy she suffered serious health complications and was informed by her doctor that he would need to deliver her twins via C-section or she and/or the babies might die.

“Kelly’s story highlights almost everything you can imagine that is wrong with surrogacy arrangements,” Lahl says in the Kickstarter video, describing the turmoil Martinez endured. The economic disadvantages visited upon the young women who enter into surrogacy contracts are severe and complicated, and financial transactions often take place across international borders.

“I always say, you’ll never see a wealthy Hollywood celebrity offering to be a surrogate for her paid housekeeper,” Lahl quipped.

Lahl further noted that underpinning the romanticized view of the practice in culture is a kind of dismissal of the body as part of our very selves.

“We don’t have a sort of reverence, if you will, for the dignity of the human body,” she said. “We see it as a vehicle, an instrument that we can share, loan out, and let other people borrow.”

“And I think we have a fractured view of intimacy in marriage,” she added, noting that none of this is new, for even Sarah told Abraham to sleep with Hagar to conceive his child in the Old Testament.

The biblical mandate to be fruitful and multiply has become warped.

“Yes, God tells us to ‘be fruitful and multiply,’ but not at any cost,” she asserted.

Martinez, a three-time gestational surrogate, fits the common profile of a surrogate mother: a young woman who has a financial need and has carried other babies to term, Lahl said, noting that to be a surrogate one has to prove they can get the job done. These women often risk their physical and mental health and future well being for the promise of a sizable financial return.

But legal protections for women when such pregnancies go awry do not exist.

“I think our laws, our public policies, our faithful sensibilities should be to protect a young mother’s health and well-being, not exploit her,” Lahl said.

Lahl closely monitors the surrogacy debate in the United States and told CP that it’s “marching forward” but the states of New Jersey, California and New York have particularly bad surrogacy laws.

“And the church is asleep at the wheel, I’m sorry to say,” she lamented.

CBCN’s previous films, Eggsploitation and Breeders: A Subclass of Women? have earned praise from leading feminist activists and groups.

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Trump sending Christians back to Iraq where they face death; migrants cry out after mass arrests in Detroit

June 13, 2017 by admin  
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U.S., June 13, 2017: United States immigration officials have reportedly arrested dozens of Iraqi Christians in southeastern Michigan during a series of roundups. Christians are protesting and warning that believers sent back to Iraq could be slaughtered.

“My dad is Christian and Donald Trump is sending him back to a place that is not safe whatsoever,” said 18-year-old Cynthia Barash, speaking of the ongoing slaughter of followers of Christ at the hands of the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq.

CNN reported on Monday that her father, 47-year-old Moayad Barash, was one of 30 to 40 people seized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Sunday in Detroit, as part of deportation efforts.

“He did something wrong 30 years ago. He didn’t do anything today, yesterday, a year ago,” she said, noting that her father had been caught with marijuana two or three decades ago.

Jeremiah Suleiman separately said that his uncle had been living in the U.S. for 35 years before Sunday’s arrest.

“If my uncle gets sent back, it’s basically sending him to a death sentence, just like everybody else here,” Suleiman told CNN affiliate WXYZ.

“We’ve been here all of our lives,” he added, urging Trump to reconsider these mass deportations, given that the Chaldean community largely supported him during the presidential election.

ICE explained in a statement that Iraq has agreed to “accept a number of Iraqi nationals subject to orders of removal,” and noted that the people it is arresting have all been convicted of crimes.

“As part of ICE’s efforts to process the backlog of these individuals, the agency recently arrested a number of Iraqi nationals, all of whom had criminal convictions for crimes including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses,” the agency stated.

“Each of these individuals received full and fair immigration proceedings, after which a federal immigration judge found them ineligible for any form of relief under U.S. law and ordered them removed.”

Chaldean Americans have been speaking out against the arrests, however, The Associated Press reported. Detroit-area educational and community leader Nathan Kalasho pointed out that Iraqi Christians have been designated victims of genocide.

“Who could think that this deal could possibly be good?” asked Kalasho, whose family operates a charter school for Chaldeans and others from Iraq and Syria.

“Iraq assumes a few hundred former nationals — some of these people have spent nearly their entire lives here and some have committed minor offenses. They’ve paid their debt to society.”

Lundon Attisha, communications director at the Minority Humanitarian Foundation, added that some of those arrested on Sunday had been living in the U.S. for more than 30 years.

“These are American citizens by all intents and purposes, They’re not Iraqis. If they are put back to Iraq they face death, simple as that. A lot of individuals don’t have families there anymore. They have no protection. Their homes are likely run over by ISIS,” Attisha said.

Mark Arabo, president of MHF, argued that sending these Christians back to Iraq is “like sending cattle to a slaughter.”

“These are Christians that will be slaughtered as they arrive in Iraq. It’s inhuman, it’s unfathomable, it’s unbelievable and we will file a federal lawsuit asking for a stay,” Arabo said.

AP noted that close to 100 people protested on Sunday at a Detroit detention center, expressing similar concerns for those arrested.

Watchdog groups and reports have indicated that over 80 percent of Christians have fled Iraq in the last 13 years due to sectarian violence and the rise of the Islamic State. Iraq was home to about 1.5 million Christians in 2003 but now fewer than 300,000 remain.

Trump has issued two executive orders, temporarily suspending refugee resettlement and banning immigration from half a dozen Muslim-majority countries. Both have been blocked by federal judges. Many religious groups and evangelicals have denounced the executive orders, calling for compassion for those seeking to settle in the U.S., though some have backed Trump in his efforts to keep the nation safe.

As The Christian Post reported back in March, some conservative groups, such as the American Center for Law and Justice, suggested that limiting the country’s refugee intake will work to protect U.S. citizens from the dangers of terrorism.

Others, such as the Most Rev. Joe S. Vásquez, bishop of Austin and chair of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration, have said that welcoming and protecting the vulnerable is part of Jesus Christ’s calling of “welcoming the stranger” that believers are instructed to follow.

Amid Trump administration-led immigration raids across the country, some churches, including those in Detroit, have chosen to serve as a sanctuary to shelter undocumented immigrants.

“For me, this about doing what’s right and what is humane,” said the Rev. Louis Forsythe II, pastor at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Hamtramck.

- christian post

Pope Francis demands obedience from priests of Nigerian diocese

June 12, 2017 by admin  
Filed under lead story, newsletter-lead

Vatican City, June 12, 2017: Pope Francis met on Thursday with a delegation from a Nigerian diocese which for the last four and a half years has refused to recognize the bishop who was appointed as its shepherd.

He demanded that the clerics of the Diocese of Ahiara accept the bishop appointment that has been made, or face suspension and loss of office.

Fr. Peter Okpaleke was appointed Bishop of Ahiara in December 2012 by Benedict XVI. But the Ahiara diocese is dominated by the Mbaise ethnic group. As an outsider from the nearby Diocese of Awka, Fr. Okpaleke was rejected by much of Ahiara’s clergy and laity, who wanted one of their own to be appointed bishop over them.

The Mbaise are among the most Catholic of Nigerian peoples – 77 percent of the diocese’s population of 670,000 are Catholic. Nearby dioceses range between 19 and 70 percent Catholic.

Families in the rural diocese foster priestly and religious vocations, with at least 167 priestly ordinations for the diocese since its establishment in 1987.

With such a wealth of priests, the Ahiara diocese sends many as missionaries to Western countries, and many Mbaise hoped that one of its own would become their bishop.

In May 2013, an Mbaise emigrant to California and a representative of Mbaise USA, George Awuzie, told CNA that “The Mbaise people wanted their own bishop, who knows what’s going on within the community. They’re sending someone from a different community, a different village, that doesn’t know what we do within our area.”

Mbaise opponents of the appointment blocked access to Ahiara’s cathedral. Due to the strong opposition, Bishop Okpaleke was consecrated and installed outside his new diocese, at Seat of Wisdom Seminary in the Archdiocese of Owerri, May 21, 2013.

In July 2013 Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja was appointed apostolic administrator of Ahiara, but proved unable to solve the problem.

In light of the impasse, Pope Francis met with a delegation from Ahiara June 8 and gave them an ultimatum, saying he is “deeply saddened” by the events there and that the Church “is like a widow for having prevented the Bishop from coming to the Diocese.”

“Many times I have thought about the parable of the murderous tenants … that want to grasp the inheritance. In this current situation the Diocese of Ahiara is without the bridegroom, has lost her fertility and cannot bear fruit.”

“Whoever was opposed to Bishop Okpaleke taking possession of the Diocese wants to destroy the Church,” he charged. “This is forbidden; perhaps he does not realize it, but the Church is suffering as well as the People of God within her. The Pope cannot be indifferent.”

He expressed gratitude for the “holy patience” of Bishop Okpaleke, and said he had “listened and reflected much” on the situation, even considering suppressing the Ahiara diocese.

“I feel great sorrow for those priests who are being manipulated even from abroad and from outside the Diocese,” the Pope stated.

“I think that, in this case, we are not dealing with tribalism, but with an attempted taking of the vineyard of the Lord.”

The Bishop of Rome charged that “the Church is a mother and whoever offends her commits a mortal sin, it’s very serious.”

“I ask that every priest or ecclesiastic incardinated in the Diocese of Ahiara, whether he resides there or works elsewhere, even abroad, write a letter addressed to me in which he asks for forgiveness; all must write individually and personally,” Pope Francis said.

In their letters asking for forgiveness, the clergy of Ahiara must “clearly manifest total obedience to the Pope” and “be willing to accept the Bishop whom the Pope sends and has appointed.”

Moreover, the Pope demanded that each cleric’s letter be sent within 30 days – by July 9.

“Whoever does not do this will be ipso facto suspended a divinis and will lose his current office.”

Acknowledging that this measure “seems very hard,” Pope Francis said he must do this “because the people of God are scandalized.”

“Jesus reminds us that whoever causes scandal must suffer the consequences,” he told the delegation. “Maybe someone has been manipulated without having full awareness of the wound inflicted upon the ecclesial communion.”

At Bishop Okpaleke Mass of episcopal consecration, Bishop Lucius Ugorji of Umuahia had said that “acceptance of the papal appointment is a respect for the Pope, while the outright rejection and inflammatory statements and protests are spiteful and disrespectful of papal authority,” according to The Sun of Lagos.

Ahiara’s first ordinary, Bishop Victor Chikwe, served from 1987 until his death in Sept., 2010. The diocese was vacant for 26 months before Bishop Okpaleke was appointed.

Awka, whence Bishop Okpaleke comes, is located in the state of Anambra. Ahiara, meanwhile, is located to the south in Imo state. The Mbaise assert that the Nigerian hierarchy favors Anambra.

The Mbaise, who are proud of their identity and strong Catholicism, resent what they call the “Anambranization” of the Church in southeast Nigeria, believing there to be corruption within the Church in Nigeria and a “recolonization” of the Mbaise.

At the conclusion of the audience on Thursday, Pope Francis expressed his gratitude for the presence of the Mbaise who came to Rome, as well as for the patience of Cardinal Onaiyekan, and for Bishop Okpaleke, “whose patience and humility I admire.”

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, is planning to have the Ahiara diocese and its bishop make a pilgrimage to Rome to meet with Pope Francis “at the conclusion of this sequence of events,” the Vatican announced June 11.

- cna

Can the church help an addicted generation?

June 11, 2017 by admin  
Filed under lead story, newsletter-lead

U.S., June 8, 2017: Young Americans are dying at a rate not seen since the Vietnam War.

But they are not dying in combat – they’re dying of the effects of drug overdoses, alcoholism, mental illness and suicide, at a rate 200 percent higher than the 1980s in much of the United States.

A recent report from the U.S. surgeon general estimates that more than 27 million Americans have problems with prescription drugs, illegal drugs or alcohol. But just a fraction of those people, only 10 percent, get meaningful help.

And it’s not just substance addictions that are on the rise. Process addictions, related to behaviors, have also seen recent spikes. Pornography addiction in particular has reached what some view as crisis levels.

A 2011 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information estimated that roughly 47 percent of all American adults struggle with at least one of the 11 most common forms of process or substance addictions.

The prevalence of all kinds of addiction likely mean that most people in the pews of a Catholic Church on any given Sunday have experienced addiction in themselves or in a loved one.

So what is the Church doing to address the problem?

Understanding addiction

Dr. Gregory Bottaro is a clinical psychologist and the founder and director of Catholic Psych Institute in Connecticut. He frequently sees clients who are dealing with either substance or process addictions.

Part of the problem of addiction is a widespread misunderstanding of addiction as a lack of intellectual or spiritual willpower, Dr. Bottaro said.

“You have to recognize that there is an actual brain disease in effect,” he told CNA.

“So as much as you can sit and talk through the issues, you’re dealing with real brain chemicals that are out of balance, and a real disease that has occurred in the brain, so approaching it from a number of different angles is very important.”

Behaviors or substance abuse have to reach certain diagnostic marks to be considered addictions, Dr. Bottaro said. Generally, an addiction is occurring when a person is compulsively dependent on a substance or behavior, and continues to do it despite negative consequences and a desire to stop.

And just like addicted individuals can build up tolerances to substances and require more to achieve the same effect, process addictions also show tolerance buildups, such as when a pornography addict requires more hardcore viewing to achieve the same release.

Erik Vagenius is the founder of Substance Abuse Ministry Scripts, or SAM Scripts, a faith and scripture based ministry designed to help ease the process from recognition of addiction to seeking professional help.

Vagenius, who has been involved in addiction ministry for decades and is a recovered alcoholic himself, said that the first step to solving the problem is recognizing that there is one.

“I firmly believe so much for this (ministry) to be part of the church,” he told CNA. “(T)o have a church community that recognizes that they’re behind you, just as they would be if somebody had cancer, helps to destigmatize this thing.”

“Unfortunately the reactions I sometimes get are well, this isn’t really a Catholic problem. But I’ll bet everybody in the pew on any given day has had some relationship with the disease of addiction,” he added.

What does faith have to do with it?

Faith has long been a tenet of many addiction recovery programs. One of the most popular, Alcoholics Anonymous has strong Christian roots because it’s co-founder, Bill Wilson, had a spiritual awakening after he was hospitalized for his drinking in 1934. He joined the Oxford Group, a nondenominational Christian movement popular in the U.S. and Europe at the time, and helped found AA in 1935.

The AA tenets of self-examination, acknowledgment of character defects and restitution for harm done to others grew out of Oxford Group teachings.

Today, allegiance to a specific creed is not required for membership, though the group still considers itself a spiritual, albeit denominationally non-preferential group. Four of the 12 steps in the AA program mention God directly, and the 12th calls for a “spiritual awakening as a result of these steps.”

Vagenius also considers addiction a spiritual battle.

“We’re dealing with a spiritual disease, and that’s why the Church needs to be involved with it,” he said.

The website for SAM Scripts recognizes that “addiction is a spiritual illness that disconnects a person: from self, loved ones, and God. SAM’s mission is to help these individuals reconnect through education, prevention, referral, and family support.”

Dr. Bottaro said he also incorporates faith in his recovery programs for addicts.

He said he was especially inspired after hearing a talk by Catholic speaker Christopher West, who specializes in Theology of the Body.

“He said basically we have this desire, and our desires are insatiable. So God made us with this desire for more more more, and with that desire we can do one of three things…we can become a stoic, and addict or a mystic.”

A stoic ignores the desire or tries to repress it and pretend it doesn’t exist. An addict tries to fulfill their desires with the things of this world, and a mystic “directs their desires towards God, and that’s where we enter into that mysticism by transcending the finitude of this life,” he said.

That’s still an abstract way of looking at a very real disease, Dr. Bottaro said. However, there are several Catholic programs that offer concrete assistance to struggling addicts of all levels.

Catholic recovery programs

On the less intensive side, Dr. Bottaro has developed an 8-week online program that anyone can access from home called Catholic Mindfulness. It adds the Catholic understanding of abandonment to Divine Providence to a traditional mindfulness approach to healing.

“If you look into what mindfulness is, you’re basically training your brain to know that you’re safe, because the anxiety response is how God made us to react to danger,” he said. “The problem is we overuse that…we activate our anxiety response, but most of the time we’re not actually in danger. So mindfulness is basically paying attention to what’s actually real right now to convince your brain that you’re safe, and that corrects the brain chemistry.”

“The Catholic perspective as to why we’re safe is that we have a Father who loves us and who always keeps us in his hands, and we have a reason to trust that everything is going to be ok.”

Vagenius refers to those in his ministry as “SAM teams” who share their time and talent, typically through talks and meetings, to offering hope, healing and reconciliation to those touched by addiction. SAM teams provide a safe, confidential place for people to seek help and referral at the parish level.

Team members do not have to be in recovery but need to be acquainted with addiction, and must be approved by their pastor.

The ministry’s exact format varies from parish to parish, depending on those involved and the needs of the faith community. Vagenius’ trainings provide a basic format, and the parish SAM team develops its own dynamic from that outline based on specific needs.

Depending on the person, more intensive work may be necessary, including outpatient psychotherapy and group counseling, or even residential programs.

St. Gregory Retreat Center is a Catholic residential program for adults struggling with substance abuse located in Adair, Iowa.

The program offers separate residential facilities for men and women and offers a “holistic approach that combines the very best research in psychology, health, social support, and other methodologies.”

The program targets addiction behavior in four different aspects of life: biological, psychological, social, and spiritual.

Besides counseling, social activities and physical exercise, daily Mass and regular access to the sacraments are part of the residents’ normal routine.

Natalie Cataldo, Director of Admissions at St. Gregory, told CNA that incorporating spirituality in the recovery process has proven to be very effective.

“Research shows that people are more successful in overcoming addiction when they have an active spirituality in their lives,” she told CNA in an e-mail interview.

“Most people who come to us have had not a great past. With the sacrament of reconciliation, our guests are able to ask for forgiveness… Allowing them to feel like they are getting rid of the past, making new good habits for the future that they can start using and making better choices.  It also allows for self reflection and self evaluation.”

For those in post-recovery, there are programs available to help ease people back into their normal routine.

Dr. Bottaro works at one such facility, Ender’s Island in Connecticut, a residential program for young men “with or without faith” who are recently out of recovery. The program provides a community in which to practice the 12 steps and support for a better transition into regular life, as well as daily Mass and regular access to the sacraments.

The biggest barriers to seeking help for addiction can be denial on the part of the individual and a perceived stigma in seeking help. Increased education and understanding from everyone in the Church can help break these barriers, Dr. Bottaro said.

“It’s important to have support and understanding that there are other ways to fight these battles than just prayer, or just kind of sucking it up and hanging in there and seeing how far you can go before you get help,” he said.

“Once you’re looking for help, there’s a wide spectrum.”

- cna

Insurance denied her chemo treatment. But it covered drugs for suicide.

June 7, 2017 by admin  
Filed under lead story, newsletter-lead

U.S., June 6, 2017: Stephanie Packer cherishes every moment with her husband and four children. Living with a terminal illness in Orange, California, her goal is “to do everything I can to have one more second with my kids.”

When assisted suicide legislation was officially passed in California in 2016, Packer experienced the ultimate slap in the face: her insurance company denied the coverage of critical chemotherapy treatment that her doctors recommended for her condition.

Her insurance would, however, cover end-of-life drugs for just $1.20.

“It was like someone had just hit me in the gut,” said Packer, who shared her story in the documentary, Compassion and Choice Denied.

Produced by the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, the documentary details Packer’s experience of living with a terminal illness in an age where assisted suicide is cheaper than the fight for life.

Particularly concerning: the insurance company had initially suggested that they would cover the chemotherapy drugs. It was one week after assisted suicide was legalized that they sent Packer a letter saying they were denying coverage. Despite multiple appeals, they continued to refuse.

“As soon as this law was passed, patients fighting for a longer life end up getting denied treatment, because this will always be the cheapest option… it’s hard to financially fight,” Packer said in the documentary.

Physician-assisted suicide is legal in a handful of states, gaining momentum ever since the high profile suicide of cancer patient Brittany Maynard in 2014.

Many prominent Catholic leaders, such as Pope Francis, have spoken out against assisted suicide, calling it “false compassion.” Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez has said that assisted suicide “represents a failure of solidarity” and abandons the most vulnerable in society.

“We are called as people to support each other, to hold each other’s hand and walk through this journey,” Packer said, adding, “I want my kids to see that dying is a part of life, and the end of your life can be an opportunity to appreciate the things you didn’t appreciate before.”

Packer leads support groups for individuals with terminal and chronic illnesses. She said there was a clear morale change in many of the group members when physician-assisted suicide became legalized in her state.

“Normally, we would talk about support and love, and we would be there for each other, and just encourage them that, you know, today is a bad day, tomorrow doesn’t have to be,” she said.

But when assisted suicide was legalized, individuals became more depressed, with some saying that they wanted to end their lives.

“Patients are going to die because of this,” Packer said. “Patients need to know what this means, and the public needs to know that it’s going to kill these patients because they aren’t going to get the treatment they need to extend their life.”

She also said that assisted suicide proponents have twisted the meaning of suicide to make it sound “sweet and pretty,” and have also redefined what it means to live with a terminal illness.

“It makes terminally ill patients feel ‘less than,’ that they are not worthy of that fight, that they’re not worth it,” she said.

Packer believes that end-of-life drugs should never “be supported by physicians or run by the government. That’s not okay… because it affects me negatively and affects my fight and my ability to stay here longer with my children.”

Packer pointed to other resources, saying that there is a whole treasury of support for terminal patients – financially, psychologically, physically, and even if patients just need someone to talk to.

While life-affirming palliative care remains an expensive medical cost, Packer recommended that more energy and resources fund hospice care, instead of making death the cheaper option.

“We can start to fix our broken health care system, and people will start to live instead of feeling like they have to choose to die.”

- cna

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