Posted on 12/4/2023 20:30 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 4, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA).
The doors at the entrance to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., will function as a Holy Door throughout the Jubilee Year of 2025 — but what does that mean for pilgrims who walk through them?
Holy Doors are doors that are normally located at the entrance to a cathedral or basilica that have been officially sanctioned by the Vatican as a place of pilgrimage at which one can receive special graces during a year of jubilee.
The doors are sealed prior to the jubilee but are ceremoniously reopened by the pope or a bishop around the start of the jubilee for pilgrims to walk through.
As St. John Paul II explained in his papal bull Incarnationis Mysterium ahead of the 2000 Jubilee Year, to pass through a Holy Door “means to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [and] it is to strengthen faith in him in order to live the new life which he has given us.”
“Through the Holy Door … Christ will lead us more deeply into the Church, his body and his bride,” St. John Paul II said.
“In this way we see how rich in meaning are the words of the apostle Peter when he writes that, united to Christ, we too are built, like living stones, ‘into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God,’” he said, citing 1 Peter 2:5.
Another function of entering through the Holy Door is to obtain a plenary indulgence if all other conditions for such an indulgence are met.
A plenary indulgence eliminates all temporal punishments for one’s sins but can only be obtained through true repentance and must be accompanied by confession and other conditions.
One can receive a plenary indulgence if one walks through the Holy Door during the jubilee when that person has an interior disposition of complete detachment from both mortal and venial sin.
The person must also obtain absolution through a sacramental confession, receive the holy Eucharist, and pray for the intentions of the pope within 20 days before or after engaging in a pilgrimage through a Holy Door.
A person can obtain a plenary indulgence for himself or herself, or for a soul in purgatory, but a person cannot obtain a plenary indulgence for another living person.
A person who is unable to complete a pilgrimage can obtain a plenary indulgence through other means, and a person who is unable to complete a work associated with an indulgence because of some impediment can have that requirement commuted by a confessor.
A jubilee is a special year of grace and pilgrimage in the Catholic Church that is rooted in the Mosaic tradition of jubilee years, which were held every 50 years for the freeing of slaves and forgiveness of debts as manifestations of God’s mercy.
Pope Boniface VIII reintroduced the jubilee celebration in the 1300s. Under the current practice, jubilees recur every 25 years on a regular basis, but the pope can declare an extraordinary year of jubilee that occurs before the 25-year mark. The 2025 Jubilee Year, which is focused on the theological virtue of hope, is an ordinary jubilee year, but Pope Francis had previously declared an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which was in 2016.
Pilgrims will have the opportunity to walk through the Holy Door at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during the 2025 Jubilee Year. The basilica is one of the locations designated by Pope Francis.
On Sunday, Dec. 3, at the start of Advent, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, blessed and sealed two large doors at the entrance of the basilica. No one will be permitted to walk through the doors until the archbishop reopens them once the 2025 Jubilee Year has begun.
The basilica had also received the designation for the use of Holy Doors during the 2000 and 2016 Jubilee Years.
“To host the National Holy Year Door has been a great privilege for this National Shrine, first granted to us by St. John Paul II and again by Pope Francis,” Monsignor Walter R. Rossi, rector of the basilica, said in a statement.
“While it may seem unremarkable on the surface, to walk through a Holy Door is a moment of grace, and the opportunity to do so while entering Mary’s house is a special spiritual experience.”
The 2025 Jubilee Year will begin on Dec. 24, 2024 (Christmas Eve), and conclude on Jan. 6, 2026, lasting slightly more than a year.
Posted on 12/3/2023 11:00 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
CNA Staff, Dec 3, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).
During the holidays, Nativity scenes and Christmas trees decorate most Catholic homes, but what about Advent wreaths?
Advent wreaths are traditionally made from evergreen branches and have four candles. The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent — three candles are purple, and one is a rose color.
The purple represents prayer, penance, and preparation for the coming of Christ. Historically, Advent was known as a “little Lent,” which is why the penitential color of purple is used. During Lent, we prepare for the resurrection of Christ on Easter. Similarly, during Advent, we prepare for the coming of Christ, both on Christmas and at the second coming.
The rose candle is illuminated on the third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday. At Mass on the third Sunday, the priest also wears rose-colored vestments. Gaudete Sunday is a day for rejoicing and joy as the faithful draw near to the birth of Jesus, and it marks the midpoint of Advent.
“The progressive lighting of the candles represents the expectation and hope surrounding Our Lord’s coming into the world and the anticipation of his second coming to judge the living and the dead,” the USCCB says.
During the Advent season, the faithful will also notice a common theme in the Gospel readings. The readings focus on preparation or “making straight the path of the Lord,” penance, and fasting. All of these things remind us of the importance of preparing our hearts for the Lord and making room for his presence in our lives.
The Advent wreath originated from a pagan European tradition, which consisted of lighting candles during the winter to ask the sun god to return with his light and warmth.
The first missionaries took advantage of this tradition to evangelize the people and taught them that they should use a candlelit wreath as a way of preparing for Christ’s birth, to celebrate his nativity, and to beg Jesus to infuse his light in their souls.
The circle of the Advent wreath is a geometric design that has neither a beginning nor an end. It reminds us that God does not have a beginning or an end either, which reflects his unity and eternity. It is a sign of the unending love that the faithful should show the Lord and their neighbors, which must be constantly renewed and never stop.
The green color of the wreath represents hope and life. The Advent wreath reminds us that Christ is alive among us and that we must cultivate a life of grace, spiritual growth, and hope during Advent.
The blessing of an Advent wreath takes place on the first Sunday of Advent or on the evening before.
When the blessing of the Advent wreath is celebrated in the home, it is appropriate that it be blessed by a parent or another member of the family. To bless your Advent wreath at home, follow our guide: “How to bless your Advent wreath at home.”
This article was originally published on Nov. 21, 2021, and was updated Nov. 30, 2023.
Posted on 12/3/2023 10:00 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
CNA Newsroom, Dec 3, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).
Advent begins this year on Sunday, Dec. 3. Most Catholics, even those who don’t often go to Mass, know that Advent involves a wreath with candles, possibly a “calendar” of hidden chocolates, and untangling strings of Christmas lights. But Advent is much more than that. Here is an explainer of what Advent is really about.
The people of Israel waited for generations for the promised Messiah to arrive. Their poetry, their songs and stories, and their religious worship focused on an awaited savior who would come to them to set them free from captivity and to lead them to the fulfillment of all that God had promised.
Israel longed for a Messiah, and John the Baptist, who came before Jesus, promised that the Messiah was coming and could be found in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
Advent is a season in the Church’s life intended to renew the experience of waiting and longing for the Messiah. Though Christ has already come into the world, the Church invites us to renew our desire for the Lord more deeply in our lives and to renew our desire for Christ’s triumphant second coming into the world.
Advent is the time in which we prepare for Christmas, the memorial of Jesus Christ being born into the world. Preparations are practical, like decorating trees and gift giving, but they’re also intended to be spiritual.
During Advent, we’re invited to enter more frequently into silence, into prayer and reflection, into Scripture, and into the sacramental life of the Church — all to prepare for celebrating Christmas.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the goal of Advent is to make present for ourselves and our families the “ancient expectancy of the Messiah ... by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming.”
Advent comes from the Latin “ad + venire,” which means, essentially, “to come” to” or “to come toward.” “Ad + venire” is the root of the Latin “adventus,” which means “arrival.”
So Advent is the season of arrival: the arrival of Christ in our hearts, in the world, and into God’s extraordinary plan for our salvation.
Advent is a slightly different length each year. It starts four Sundays before Christmas. But because Christmas is on a fixed date, and could fall on different days of the week, Advent can be as short as three weeks and a day (like it is this year), or as long as four weeks.
The Church’s feasts and celebrations run on a yearlong cycle, which we call the “liturgical year.” The “liturgical year” starts on the first Sunday of Advent. So it’s a new liturgical year when Advent starts. But the Church also uses the ordinary calendar, so it would probably be a bit weird to have a “New Year’s Eve” party the night before Advent starts.
The Catholic Church has been using Advent wreaths since the Middle Ages. Lighting candles as we prepare for Christmas reminds us that Christ is the light of the world. And the evergreen boughs remind us of new and eternal life in Christ, the eternal son of the Father.
It is definitely true that Germanic people were lighting up candle wreaths in wintertime long before the Gospel arrived in their homeland. They did so because candle wreaths in winter are beautiful and warm. That a Christian symbol emerged from that tradition is an indication that the Gospel can be expressed through the language, customs, and symbols of cultures that come to believe that Christ Jesus is Lord.
There are four candles on the Advent wreath. Three are purple and lit on the first, second, and fourth Sundays of Advent. The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, which we call Gaudete Sunday. On that Sunday, in addition to the pink candle, the priest wears a pink vestment, which he might refer to as “rose.”
Gaudete is a word that means “rejoice,” and we rejoice on Gaudete Sunday because we are halfway through Advent. Some people have the custom of throwing Gaudete parties, and this is also a day on which Christmas carolers may begin caroling door-to-door.
The three purple candles are sometimes said to represent prayer, fasting, and almsgiving — the three spiritual disciplines that are key to a fruitful Advent.
No, but there are a lot of great Advent hymns and songs, such as “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” “O Come Divine Messiah,” “Come Thou Fount,” “Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding.”
When to put up the tree is a decision that families decide on their own. Some people put up their tree and decorate it on the first Sunday of Advent to make a big transformation in their home and get them into “preparing for Christmas” mode.
Some put up the tree on the first Sunday of Advent, put on lights the next Sunday, ornaments the next, and decorate it more and more as they get closer to Christmas.
Some put up the tree on Gaudete Sunday, as a kind of rejoicing, and decorate it in the weeks between Gaudate and Christmas.
When the tree goes up and gets decorated is up to the individual and family, but having a Christmas tree is a big part of many people’s Advent tradition.
This explainer was initially published in November 2019 and has been updated.
Posted on 12/3/2023 08:00 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 3, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).
How far would you go to serve God? Would you be willing to travel to the ends of the earth, with nothing but the guarantee of hardship, deprivation, and persecution?
While today, Dec. 3, is the first Sunday of Advent, it is also the feast of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of missionaries and missions who led an unlikely life of adventure and heroism, full of unexpected twists and turns, taking the faith to the ends of the earth.
Born in 1506 to a noble Navarrese-Basque family, Francis grew up in a land wracked with war. Wedged between the growing imperial powers of Castile-Aragon (Spain) and France, Navarre seldom knew peace during Francis’ childhood.
As a member of the nobility, Francis was expected to lead a warrior’s life along with his father and brothers. But at the age of 10, his life took its first dramatic and tragic turn. His father died, his homeland kingdom of Navarre was defeated by Spain, his brothers were imprisoned, and his childhood home, the Castle of the House of Javier (Xavier), was almost entirely destroyed.
With Francis’ family disgraced and nearly wiped out, his prospects for a bright future looked dim. But God still had incredible plans for young Francis.
Hoping to rebuild the family’s legacy, Francis was sent in 1525 to the center of European theology and studies — the University of Paris.
There, Francis quickly made a name for himself. Handsome, he also had a keen intellect and was an agile athlete with a particular gift for pole vaulting. The last thing on young Francis’ mind was a life of humble service to God and the Church. However, his life took a second dramatic turn after he met a fellow Basque noble, Ignatius of Loyola.
Headstrong and stubborn, Francis was initially repelled by Ignatius’ ideas of radical devotion to God. But Ignatius would remind him of Jesus’ words in the Bible: “For what doth it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul?” (Mt 16:26).
Inspired by Ignatius’ piety and fervor, Francis finally decided to dedicate his life to the service of God. In 1534, along with Ignatius and five others, Francis took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in a chapel at Montmartre in France.
Receiving Holy Orders alongside Ignatius in 1537, Francis had intended to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. But war in the region made such a journey impossible. Once again, God was about to unexpectedly and radically alter the course of Francis’ life.
Pope Leo III asked the newly founded Jesuits to send missionaries to the Portuguese colonies in India. Though Francis was originally not supposed to go, one of the Jesuits assigned to the mission fell ill, and Francis volunteered in his place. Through that courageous act of trust, God would use Francis to transform the entire Asian continent.
Francis set out for India in 1541, on his 35th birthday. Traveling by sea at this time was extremely dangerous and uncomfortable, and those who dared to do so risked disease with no guarantee of ever successfully arriving at their destination. Francis had to sail all the way around Africa, past the Cape of Good Hope, almost to the very bottom of the globe, just to cross the Indian Ocean and arrive in Goa, a province in India.
Upon his arrival in India in 1542, Francis immediately faced countless challenges in bringing the word of God to the people of this new and foreign region. For seven years Francis preached in the streets and public squares, laboring tirelessly across India and the Asian Pacific islands, contending with persecution from warlords and at times even from the Portuguese authorities meant to help him.
After converting tens of thousands and planting the seeds of a renewed and lasting Christian Church in India, Francis began to hear stories about an enchanting island nation known as “Japan.” His heart was set ablaze with the desire to bring the Gospel to Japan.
After he had ensured the faithful in India would be properly cared for, Francis set sail for the mysterious new land, becoming the first to bring the Christian faith to Japan, on the complete opposite side of the world from his home in Navarre.
In Japan, Francis and his companions traveled far and wide, often on foot and with almost no resources. Crisscrossing the nation, he built up a vibrant Christian community more than 6,000 miles from Rome.
Francis would then hear of the even more mysterious and closely guarded nation of China and there, too, he decided to bring the word of God. But before he could find a way into China’s heartland, he became ill and died in 1552 while on the Chinese Shangchuan Island.
Now considered one of the greatest of all the Church’s missionaries, St. Francis Xavier proved that one life lived in complete trust in God can transform an entire continent and the whole world.
This article was originally published on Dec. 3, 2022, and was updated Dec. 1, 2023.
Posted on 12/2/2023 12:00 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
CNA Staff, Dec 2, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).
As we begin Advent and prepare for the birth of Christ in all the practical ways — gift buying, tree trimming, decorating, meal planning, and more — it’s important to prepare to welcome Jesus into our hearts at Christmas. With the hustle and bustle of holiday festivities, it is easy to lose track of what truly makes this time of year so special.
Here are five resources to help you grow in your faith and dig deeper into the meaning of Advent.
Abiding Together is a weekly podcast hosted by Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT; Michelle Benzinger; and Heather Khym. Their weekly chats provide listeners with a sense of community and offers a voice of hope, peace, healing, and encouragement. During Advent you can join this podcast community by diving deeper into Caryll Houselander’s “The Reed of God,” which depicts the humanity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The four-part series starts on Dec. 4 and includes journaling and discussion questions that accompany the podcast episode.
“A sisterhood of women who desire two things: prayer and community” is how the popular Catholic platform Blessed Is She (BIS) describes itself. Over the years, it has provided resources and products to help deepen one’s prayer life during liturgical seasons such as Lent and Advent. This year for Advent, BIS has a devotional for women called “Found.” Through daily reflections, Scripture, and lectio divina, women are invited to explore their journey with the Good Shepherd.
Prepare your hearts for the birth of Christ by joining Hallow’s Advent Pray25 with C.S. Lewis. Actors Jonathan Roumie of “The Chosen” and Liam Neeson, the voice of Aslan in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” movie, will guide listeners through daily prayers and reflections based on different works of Lewis including “The Four Loves,” “Mere Christianity,” “The Great Divorce,” and more.
She Reads Truth is a community of women who come together every day to read God’s word together. For Advent this year, those who join can take part in the “Advent: He Alone Is Worthy Study Book.” The book is filled with Advent prayers, reflections, daily Scripture readings, prayer prompts, journaling space, and even seasonal recipes and tips for hosting Christmas gatherings. If you would like to include your husband, father, or brother in this Advent journey, the He Reads Truth version of the study book is also available.
A brand-new book in the EWTN Religious Catalog is providing hope and inspiration for readers this Advent season. “Rejoicing in Our Hope: Meditations for the Advent and Christmas Seasons” by Bishop Robert Baker, retired bishop of Birmingham, Alabama, is filled with short stories, daily questions for reflection and action, and reflections on sacred Scripture, the saints, popes, and other famous individuals.
This Advent, let us all strive to prepare ourselves to allow the Christ Child to dwell in our hearts and rejoice in the beauty that is the Advent season.
Posted on 12/2/2023 10:00 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 2, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).
For unique Christmas gifts that celebrate your Catholic faith there are many monasteries and religious communities that offer handmade gifts for sale online.
Buying presents from religious brothers and sisters has the added advantage of lending support to these communities, many of whom depend on a successful Christmas shopping season to continue their lives of prayer and service.
Here’s a guide to some of CNA staff members’ favorite gifts to give and receive.
The contemplative Sisters of the Monastery of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor, New York, support themselves by hand-painting chinaware. The exquisite, intricately-designed pieces make lovely Christmas gifts, and the china is dishwasher- and microwave-safe.
The sisters belong to the monastic Family of Bethlehem, of the Assumption of the Virgin and of Saint Bruno, which was founded in 1950 when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin, which states that Mary was elevated, body and soul, from earth into heaven. They create their beautiful chinaware in prayerful solitude. Plates, serving bowls, and platters from $31 and up make lovely gifts. Hand-painted porcelain egg cups for $23.97 are also available through EWTN’s Religious Catalog.
The Benedictine monks and nuns of the Abbeys of Le Barroux, a vineyard established by Pope Clement V in 1309 in the Rhône Valley of France, now have a U.S. distributor for their Via Caritas wine. The wine is made in cooperation with local vineyards, and the proceeds help support these winemaking families. The monks’ award-winning wines are available to purchase for $21.99 and up.
EWTN’s Colm Flynn visited the vineyard and witnessed the winemaking process firsthand in this video.
The nuns from the Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey, live a life of prayer through Eucharistic adoration and dedication to the rosary. To support this way of life they create handmade candles and skin-care products, which they sell at their Cloister Shoppe. Create your own Christmas gift bag of two bars of soap, a hand cream, a jar candle, a face moisturizer, and a handmade rosary made from olive wood beads from the Holy Land for $50.
Throw in a pair of Bayberry Christmas Eve Tapers for $18 to give your holiday table a festive glow.
The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal handcraft these extra-large wooden rosaries (like the friars use), which are offered for sale through Spirit Juice Studios for $30. The friars live in community, carrying out their mission of evangelization and serving the poor in the tradition of St. Francis.
Check out their weekly Poco a Poco podcast here, where Father Innocent, Father Angelus, and Father Mark-Mary break open the Gospel and offer “practical spirituality” for all pilgrims.
These fruitcakes are not the sort that get regifted. The monks of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California, offer a fruitcake soaked in brandy and aged for three months. It “has converted many a fruitcake ‘atheist,’” according to its creators. Order a one-pound fruitcake for $26.98.
The Monks of the Abbey of Gethsemani in New Haven, Kentucky, offer a 20-ounce Kentucky Bourbon Fruitcake along with a jar of Trappist Apricot-Pineapple preserves and a jar of Trappist Quince Jelly, which make a lovely Christmas gift for $32.75.
The monks of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, make their famous fudge with premium chocolate and real butter. Try a 12-ounce gift box for $15. And for a taste of Georgia, try their Southern Touch fudge, “made with real peach morsels, pecans, and a touch of peach brandy.”
The Capuchin Poor Clare nuns make their famous butter cookies from their monastery in Denver. The “Clarisas” come in a beautiful gift box featuring an image of St. Clare and sell for $18 for a 1.5-pound box.
The contemplative nuns of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa, are known for their delicious caramels, which they make by hand in order to support their way of life. A 9-ounce box of sea salt chocolate-covered caramels sells for $15.55.
The Wyoming Carmelites of Mystic Monk Coffee hand-roast their beans in small batches to support their community. The website CoffeeReview.com ranks their coffee among the highest of the coffees it reviews. A 12-ounce bag of their most popular flavor, Jingle Bell Java, sells for $13.95.
Since they began their coffee business in 2007, the monks have been able to live out the Carmelites’ vocation of “hidden prayer and union with God for the sake of everyone throughout the Church and the world.”
The monks at Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas make a tangy hot sauce from the habanero peppers grown in the monastery’s gardens. Benedictine Father Richard Walz began making his “Monk Sauce” while he was stationed in Belize, Central America. In 2003, he brought back some seeds from the peppers he grew there and created a tangy sauce made from the chilies along with onions, garlic, carrots, vinegar, salt, and “a few prayers thrown in for good measure.”
How spicy is it? According to the abbey’s website, their Monk Sauce has a 250,000 Scoville Unit rating, while Tabasco’s habanero sauce earned a mere 7,000 Scoville Unit rating. Available in green, red, and smoked, the 5-ounce bottles sell for $11 each.
Posted on 12/1/2023 22:20 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 1, 2023 / 18:20 pm (CNA).
At a congressional hearing on Thursday, members of Congress and human rights activists urged Nicaragua dictator Daniel Ortega to immediately release imprisoned Catholic Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who they said is being mistreated and possibly tortured.
The hearing, which was held by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations and chaired by New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith, was titled “An Urgent Appeal to Let Bishop Álvarez Go.”
Among the witnesses testifying were several Nicaraguan exiles who had undergone or witnessed the inhumane treatment of political prisoners by the Ortega regime.
Mike Finnan, a representative for Smith, told CNA that the identities of these witnesses were kept secret “for their safety and the safety of their families.”
Smith said during the hearing that Álvarez, the 56-year-old bishop of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, “is an innocent man enduring unspeakable suffering.”
The regime, run by Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, has been targeting the Catholic Church in the country. Smith said that “bishops and priests as well as worshippers have been harassed and detained” and that the international community “can no longer turn a blind eye to what is happening to the people of Nicaragua, including and especially to people of faith.”
Álvarez, a beloved bishop in Nicaragua and a critic of the Ortega-Murillo regime’s human rights violations, was arrested by Nicaraguan authorities on Aug. 19, 2022. After refusing to go into exile he was convicted of treason on Feb. 10 and sentenced to over 26 years in prison.
For most of the time since then, Álvarez has been kept in Nicaragua’s Modelo prison, which is known for its particularly cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners, according to testimony given by Nicaraguan witnesses on Thursday.
A former prisoner of the Ortega-Murillo regime was among those who testified during Thursday’s hearing. The witness, who was exiled to the U.S. and arrived in the country in February, testified that while he was in prison he was mistreated by authorities and underwent more than 30 interrogations in which “they blackmailed me and threatened the lives of my relatives.”
“They wanted me to declare that the bishop was a member of an organization that wanted to promote a coup d’état against Daniel Ortega and that he received money from the U.S. government and the European Union,” the witness said.
Another witness who testified during the hearing, a parent of a Nicaraguan political prisoner, shared how on a visit to Modelo prison, she found young prisoners tortured and maimed and kept in poor, unsanitary conditions.
“There were some young men, maybe 15, 16 years old, you could see the tortures they had been subjected to,” the witness said. “I remember that one of them lifted up his pants and showed me his calf, it had been burned with acid; he could not bend the fingers of his hands due to the tortures.”
In response to demands for proof that Álvarez is still alive, the Nicaraguan dictatorship’s Ministry of the Interior released new video and images of the bishop on Tuesday.
In a Nov. 28 press release, the Ministry of the Interior stated that the video and photos show that “the conditions of [Álvarez’s] confinement are preferential and that the regimen of doctor’s appointments is strictly complied with as well as family visits, the sending and receiving of packages, contrary to what slanderous campaigns try to make you believe.”
According to Smith, however, the video of Álvarez released this week by the government of Nicaragua “raises serious questions and concerns about his well-being.”
Smith told CNA on Friday that he is going to continue pressuring the Ortega regime to release the bishop and cease its persecutions through increased sanctions.
He said that the video reminded him of a visit he made to a communist gulag under the Soviet Union in which prison officials tried to convince him that the detainees were well-fed and happy by staging food and forcing them to smile.
Though the video shows seemingly comfortable chairs and couches and food on a table, he said that witnesses who survived imprisonment by the Nicaraguan government informed him that “none of that’s real.”
“It’s all one big fat façade of disinformation because they live a horrible, horrible life in prison and with beatings and other kinds of maltreatment,” Smith said.
“He has lost weight; is he ill?” Smith asked during the hearing. “Is he being provided proper nutrition and basic medical care? We have no idea what is going on day to day.”
Throughout his captivity, Smith said, Álvarez has shown incredible courage and fortitude.
“I am in awe of his courage, faithfulness, and kindness,” Smith said. “And I know so many others in Congress, House, Senate, Democrat, Republican, people in the White House, we’re in awe of his goodness and his extraordinary strength. Bishop Álvarez deserves to be respected and revered and free, not persecuted and incarcerated.”
“We’re really going to keep ratcheting up the pressure,” Smith went on. “I’ve been asking to go and visit with him in prison to ascertain for myself and anyone who goes with me, his welfare, his whereabouts … and the biggest hope would be to walk out with him as a released prisoner.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF), also joined in the push for the Nicaraguan dictatorship to release Álvarez this week.
Kristina Hjelkrem, an ADF Latin America legal counsel, said in a Thursday statement that the group was “grateful to the subcommittee for raising the critical issue of religious persecution in Nicaragua and for hosting this vital congressional hearing.”
“Bishop Álvarez has been harassed and unjustly imprisoned by the Nicaraguan government for simply fulfilling his duties as a Catholic bishop,” Hjelkrem went on. “No person should be punished or prosecuted for expressing their faith.”
Deborah Ullmer, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the National Democratic Institute, also testified at the hearing. She said Álvarez “has become the courageous face of resistance in Nicaragua.”
Ullmer said Álvarez’s imprisonment violates several international human rights laws and agreements and suggested several actions the U.S. could take to pressure the regime to release the bishop.
Among her suggestions, she said the U.S. should impose stricter sanctions on Nicaraguan officials and Nicaragua’s central bank. She also said that the U.S. should work more closely with friendly Latin American countries “to advance high-level regional dialogue toward a democratic transition.”
“The Ortega-Murillo regime continues to dismantle democratic institutions, erase the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, and consolidate its dictatorial power,” Ullmer said. “It is essential to call out the ongoing crimes against humanity and violations of fundamental human rights endured by Nicaraguans, including Bishop Álvarez.”
Posted on 12/1/2023 22:00 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
ACI Prensa Staff, Dec 1, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).
In a Nov. 28 interview with “What We Need Now,” the Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver explained what motivated him to write a pastoral letter on the dangers of using recreational marijuana and drugs and proposed some principles to deal with this reality, which he himself has witnessed since the legalization of cannabis in Colorado in 2012.
In the interview posted on Substack, the archbishop warned that the legalization and cultural acceptance of drugs has been “devastating” for society and explained why he decided to write his Nov. 10 pastoral letter, “That They May Have Life.”
“I felt a need to speak about the devastating effects witnessed firsthand, especially since many states have followed Colorado’s lead. The legalization of marijuana and cultural acceptance of drug use has been disastrous to our society, and there are limited Catholic resources about it,” Aquila said.
Regarding the current perspective that there are “recreational” drugs, as some maintain, the prelate pointed out: “Understanding that we are persons created for loving communion, we can judge that drugs are only an apparent good. They are bad for us since they hinder our ability to know and to love.”
“Drugs diminish our self-possession by harming the very faculties that make us human: They inhibit our use of reason, weaken our will’s orientation toward the good, and train our emotions to expect quick relief from artificial pleasure,” he warned.
The archbishop of Denver noted that the Scriptures teach that “we are made in the image of God. And, as if this isn’t enough, we are invited to eternal union with him.”
“We can sum up the two foundational principles that explain why recreational drugs are immoral,” the prelate continued.
“1) Since the human person is of such value, it is wrong to use any substance that is harmful to human life. 2) Anything that diminishes man’s use of reason and will assails his dignity as a human person and is therefore harmful.”
Aquila also noted that “drugs assault the human person by negatively affecting him on physical, intellectual, psychological, social, and moral levels.”
Regarding the belief that marijuana is not harmful, the archbishop commented that in Colorado they have “witnessed a spike in addiction, with marijuana use disorder more than doubling in a span of less than 20 years. This is not surprising since Coloradans’ cannabis use has increased dramatically since legalization [in 2012].”
“More people using marijuana inevitably means more addiction,” he pointed out.
The archbishop of Denver said that at the “heart of drug use” two themes are usually found: “a crisis of values and a privation of relational connection that make the person open or susceptible to drug use.”
“While drugs offer fleeting pleasure,” Aquila explained, “Jesus wants to give us a fullness of love, joy, and peace that remains constant through life’s peaks and valleys. Rather than reaching for chemicals when we are feeling weary and burdened, Jesus invites us to turn to him, who promises rest and abundance.”
To conclude, he noted that “the most important thing we can do as Christians in response to a drug culture is to proclaim the Gospel.”
“It is through the love, mercy, meaning, and hope found in Christ that people will be deterred from drug use or inspired to break free of its influence,” Aquila stressed.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 12/1/2023 21:40 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
CNA Newsroom, Dec 1, 2023 / 17:40 pm (CNA).
Former U.S. Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a swing vote who became a key part of the court’s longtime abortion-supporting majority, died Friday. She was 93 and had been suffering from dementia for several years.
Born Sandra Day in El Paso, Texas, in 1930, she grew up on a ranch in eastern Arizona. She was baptized an Episcopalian and later attended Episcopal churches as an adult.
She went to Stanford and Stanford Law School at a time when few women did either. As an undergraduate, she dated future Supreme Court colleague William Rehnquist and turned down an offer of marriage from him. Instead, she married another fellow law school student, John O’Connor.
As a female lawyer during the 1950s, she initially had trouble getting work but eventually joined a prosecutor’s office. She took five years off from practicing law after the birth of the second of her three children to tend to them.
In 1965 she joined the office of the Arizona attorney general, a Republican, after campaigning the year before for the Republican nominee for president, Barry Goldwater, a fellow Arizonan. In 1969 the governor appointed her to fill a vacancy in the Arizona Senate, where she rose to become majority leader. She left in 1974 for a state judgeship, eventually rising to the Arizona Court of Appeals, which is the second-highest court in the state.
President Ronald Reagan nominated O’Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court in July 1981, fulfilling a campaign promise to name the first woman to the nation’s highest court.
Reagan was unaware at the time of her selection that O’Connor as a Republican state senator in the 1970s supported abortion, according to conservative columnist Robert Novak’s 2007 autobiography “The Prince of Darkness.” When social conservatives erupted over the announcement, Reagan asked his attorney general to check on complaints about her.
The task went to a young aide, who called O’Connor and reported in a memo that she said she could not recall how she had voted on a 1970 bill seeking to legalize abortion in the state — even though she was a co-sponsor of it. (Before the Internet, it wasn’t easy to check such information.)
She also told the aide — Kenneth Starr, who later served as independent counsel investigating President Bill Clinton during the 1990s — that she “had never had any disputes or controversies” with the leader of the pro-life movement in Arizona, according to a memo Starr wrote. But the pro-life leader told Novak a couple of days later that she had frequently clashed with O’Connor, calling her “one of the most powerful pro-abortionists in the Senate.”
Even so, O’Connor’s nomination went forward and sailed through the U.S. Senate.
Once she joined the court, O’Connor’s position on abortion wasn’t immediately clear. In 1986, she voted with the minority in a 5-4 ruling that struck down a Pennsylvania law that required abortion providers to inform a woman seeking an abortion about fetal development and about “detrimental physical and psychological effects” and “particular medical risks” of an abortion.
O’Connor in her dissent called the court’s abortion decisions to that time “a major distortion in the Court’s constitutional jurisprudence” and said the majority’s decision in the case before it, Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “makes it painfully clear that no legal rule or doctrine is safe from ad hoc nullification by this Court when an occasion for its application arises in a case involving state regulation of abortion.”
But her most memorable abortion vote came in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which she joined the 5-4 majority in upholding what the court called the “essential holding” of Roe v. Wade that abortion is a “fundamental right” before a fetus is capable of living outside the womb.
In Casey, O’Connor co-wrote the plurality opinion that continued a federal right to abortion for another 30 years.
O’Connor was a key player in other landmark decisions as well.
In 1986, she joined the majority in the 5-4 decision Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld as constitutional a state statute in Georgia that criminalized sodomy. (The court overturned that ruling in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas; O’Connor joined the 6-3 majority, though she made a distinction between the two cases because Texas’ law banned sodomy only between two members of the same sex, while Georgia’s statute banned sodomy generally.)
In 2003, O’Connor wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld affirmative action based on race in public university admissions. (The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Grutter decision in June 2023 in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard.)
In 2005, she sided with the 5-4 majority in McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union that found that displays of the Ten Commandments at two state courthouses in Kentucky violated the Constitution.
She is perhaps better remembered, though, for what happened during a social occasion several years after she joined the court.
In 1985, O’Connor went to a black-tie event in Washington where she was seated near John Riggins, a Washington Redskins star running back, who had drunk “a few beers” and two double scotches before knocking over and spilling four bottles of wine on the table.
O’Connor had previously said she had to leave early and was in the process of doing so when Riggins, trying to get her to stay, piped up: “Loosen up, Sandy baby.”
He then passed out.
O’Connor got a kick out of it and got big laughs when she made a reference to it at the beginning of a speech a few days later.
O’Connor retired from the court in January 2006 at age 75 to spend time with her husband, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease around the early 1990s. (He died in 2009.)
O’Connor was replaced by Samuel Alito, who has since become one of the most conservative justices and who wrote the majority decision in Jackson Women’s Health Center v. Dobbs, which last year overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Posted on 12/1/2023 17:45 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 1, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).
The U.S. bishops are urging the public to petition the Biden administration to revise a proposal that the bishops say would “unfairly cut off” federal assistance money from going to pregnancy resource centers.
In a statement published Thursday, the bishops called on Catholics to join them in urging the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to refrain from restricting Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding available to pregnancy centers.
In a rule change posted to the federal register in October, the Biden administration argued that some states have been using TANF funds “to pay for activities with, at best, tenuous connections to any TANF purpose.”
One of TANF’s purposes, the government said, is to “prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies.”
Organizations such as “crisis pregnancy centers” or “pregnancy resource centers” sometimes receive funding for that purpose, the government said. But if those initiatives only offer pregnancy counseling to women “after they become pregnant,” then TANF funds for that outreach “likely do not meet” the federal government’s standards.
The bishops’ statement this week said that the proposal “would strengthen TANF in multiple ways, making sure it gets to the people who need it most.” However, “this same proposal could also unfairly cut off TANF funds from pregnancy help centers.”
The prelates, through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of the General Counsel, argued in a petition to HHS that pregnancy centers “may provide information or counseling about chastity or natural family planning, to help prevent future out-of-wedlock pregnancies.”
The bishops asked the faithful to join them “in telling HHS to strengthen TANF without taking away support from the good work of pregnancy help centers.”
Public comments may be submitted to the HHS here. Comments must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 1.
A study published in 2021 by the pro-abortion group the Women’s Law Project said that “at least” 10 states send some TANF funding to pregnancy help centers.
In a statement last month, Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge — the chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities — called the work of pregnancy help centers a “lifesaving ministry” standing in “radical solidarity” with pregnant and parenting mothers and families.
Burbidge said that “when women in challenging circumstances do not know where else to turn, the loving staff and volunteers at pregnancy help centers embrace them with empathy and service.”
Pregnancy help centers “provide a spectrum of care, resources, and material goods to support new mothers,” Burbidge said, including diapers and layettes, babysitting and career services, referrals for housing and food assistance, and personal mentorship and support, as well as medical services, including ultrasounds and prenatal and postnatal care.
“Often, there is nowhere else a mother in need can go for this kind of comprehensive assistance,” the bishop said.
“The practical, loving service that pregnancy help centers offer extends far beyond the birth of the child, with relationships between mothers and help centers continuing for years.”
Other groups, such as the pro-life organization Human Coalition, have also condemned the Biden administration’s rule change.
Chelsey Youman, national director of Public Policy at Human Coalition, said in a Friday statement that pregnancy centers create a “giant safety net of care and assistance for women in need” and that the Biden administration’s policy change is “cutting this lifeline in the name of abortion.”
Youman also said that “stripping funding from these centers would hurt vulnerable women” and “undermine healthy families.”
“By attempting to remove pregnancy centers from funding, this discriminatory proposal callously blocks pregnant women in need from resources when they need it most,” Youman claimed. “The administration completely disregards the fact that these centers meet program goals by providing aid to needy families, promoting job preparation and marriage, and encouraging two-parent families.”