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Amid curriculum controversy, Franciscan University president calls for unity

Steubenville, Ohio, Jan 18, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- The president of Franciscan University of Steubenville said Monday that the university is committed to a faithful Catholic approach to university education, and he invited university administrators, faculty members, and others to renew with him an oath of fidelity to the magisterium of the Catholic Church.

“As some persons raise questions about what it currently means to be faithful to the magisterium- what it means to be orthodox- it is important to remember that Catholic identity should thoroughly pervade our teaching, our research, and all other activities pursuant to which this university advances her mission,” Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR, said Jan. 14, in his homily at the university’s opening Mass for its spring semester.

“In recent months, critics of Franciscan University have accused us of compromising our Catholic mission and witness,” Sheridan said.

“Is anyone here perfect? No. do people here make mistakes? Yes. But our particular Franciscan charism is rooted in ongoing conversion. That we resolve to continue to do better everyday.”

Sheridan’s comments seemed to refer to a recent public controversy over the university’s curriculum. On Jan. 8, the ChurchMilitant website drew attention to a book that had been taught by a university English professor in the previous academic year. The book, “The Kingdom,” by Emmanuel Carrère, included passages that ChurchMilitant described as blasphemous and pornographic.

Sheridan issued a letter Jan. 9 stating that while he believed “the professor’s intention in using this book in his class was not malicious, the book is scandalous and extremely offensive.” He said the book would not again be assigned at the university, and offered an apology to “Our Blessed Mother and Her Son, and to anyone who has been scandalized by this incident.”

Sheridan’s letter added that “Catholic education should prepare students to stand for the truth of the Catholic faith and to do battle against the blasphemy and heresy rife in our culture today. To do so, the must be equipped with a firm knowledge of Catholic Church teaching as well as a thorough understanding of the views and philosophies of their opponents.”

Announcing that he had directed administrators to “review and revise our existing policy on academic freedom to prevent future use of scandalous materials,” Sheridan also wrote that university professors “must walk the fine line between underpreparing their students for the mighty tasks ahead and overexposing them to material that may cause them spiritual harm.”

The professor, Stephen Lewis, was subsequently replaced as chairman of the university’s English department.

“The Kingdom” was the subject of a December 2018 review in the magazine First Things. As the controversy erupted, First Things senior editor Matthew Schmitz took to Twitter Jan. 14 to opine that: “Mobs are not well qualified to make decisions about literary quality or moral risk. In a more civilized age we allowed popes to compile the Index, instead of giving the job to bloggers.”

In a Jan. 18 essay published by First Things, Lewis wrote that he had assigned the book “in an upper-level course to students whose maturity and intellectual preparation I knew well.”

“Our class read the entire text, focusing not on a few lurid passages but on its appropriation of Renan’s method and its related atheistic concept of witness, so as to understand the superiority of Christian methods and concepts. The aim was not to shock, but to edify. I share the revulsion Catholics rightly feel toward lewdness and blasphemy, but in the end I decided that my students could benefit by reading this text.”

While “certain websites have taken a handful of obscene passages from the book and presented them to the public in a manner intended to shock and scandalize,” Lewis wrote, “the book provided my students with both insights into and questions about the meaning of the collapse of faith for contemporary men and women, from the standpoint of both believers and unbelievers.”

“Discussion of the book ... helped the students to understand more deeply what it means when we Catholics affirm that Jesus Christ cannot be known outside the Church. The Church, as the ongoing presence of Christ among us, is the only way by which we gain knowledge of him,” the professor wrote.

Each of the five students in the class “has claimed to have grown in faith by reading the work, despite its ugly aspects,” Lewis stated. “One has even stated that she feels her current work as a missionary has been made more effective because she frequently encounters people who display features of Carrère’s mindset.”

Sheridan’s homily said that the controversy “has been a serious disruption to our unity. We have stopped trusting one another. And it pulling us apart as a university.”

“With the help of our shared governance council in the next few weeks, I will be working to set up an ongoing commitment to our fidelity and freedom, to advance higher education within our entire faithful, orthodox Catholic university,” Sheridan announced.

That project, he said, “will help to restore that break in our unity.”

Sheridan added that he would be consulting with the leaders of other Catholic universities and Catholics involved in higher education, as well as those connected for Franciscan University, and drawing on the scholarship presented at a university symposium on Ex corde ecclesiae, the 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic universities. Sheridan, a canon lawyer, wrote a doctoral dissertation on the document.

“It is the responsibility of everyone who belongs to the university family to advance the university’s Catholic identity. It is the responsibility of all of us to strive for unity within this university that we all love.”

In recent months, the university has also faced criticism amid 2018 reports that administrators have improperly addressed allegations of sexual assault, abuse, or misconduct. In response to those reports, Sheridan announced in August 2018 an independent review of university records by a law firm “specializing in Title IX compliance and sexual abuse and violence.”

A report from the firm will reportedly be delivered to the university’s board of trustees this month; university administrators have not announced whether it will be subsequently released publicly.

Sheridan’s homily encouraged a period of rebuilding.

“These days demand courageous Catholics who will stand up for our faith to go forth and rebuild. Our Church, our world, needs people who are willing to stand for truth,” he said.

Sheridan concluded his homily by inviting all members of the university community to join him in renewing the profession of faith and oath of fidelity he had taken upon assuming the university’s presidency in 2013. Members of the university’s theology and philosophy faculties already take the oath annually.

“God has entrusted his university to us to lead and guide,” Sheridan told university faculty members and administrators.

“May we always be courageous Catholics, empowered to fight together, for the fidelity of this university, and the work that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, has entrusted to us.”

 

'Every life is worth protecting,' President Trump, VP Pence tell March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- The March for Life again gathered myriad pro-life advocates to mark the anniversary of legalized abortion in America, and in a surprise appearance Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence introduced a pre-recorded message from President Donald Trump.

“This is a movement founded on love and grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life,” President Trump said in a pre-recorded message to the massive Jan. 18 rally, before the crowd began its march through the streets of Washington, D.C.
 
“When we look into the eyes of a newborn child we see the beauty of the human soul and the majesty of God’s creation, we know that every life has meaning and every life is worth protecting.”
 
“I will always protect the first right in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life,” he said.

Trump touted his administration’s new expansion of the Mexico City Policy, which restricts funds for international organizations that promote or perform abortions. He promoted his administration’s actions to protect religious freedom for medical professionals and religious charities, as well as support for adoption and foster care. Among new proposals are limits barring Title X funds for clinics that perform abortions; and making permanent the Hyde Amendment budget restrictions on abortion funding.

Trump is something of an unlikely ally for the pro-life movement. Before he launched his successful 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had a record of pro-abortion rights statements. That record, his personal character and other actions have drawn criticism and concern from some pro-life leaders. His presidency continues to be one of the most controversial in recent history, with his anti-immigrant crackdowns and rhetoric becoming major concerns for Catholic bishops.

For the 2018 March for Life, Trump had given a special live address to the March for Life rally from the White House Rose Garden.

This year, following the Republicans’ loss of control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 elections, Trump pledged to veto any legislation that would undermine “protection for human life.”

“Every child is a sacred gift from God,” he said. “Each person is unique from day one. That’s a very important phrase. Unique from day one. And so true… Together we will work to save the lives of unborn children.”

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence appeared in person to introduce the president and to give their own remarks.

“We gather here because we stand for life,” the vice president said. “We gather here because we stand for compassion. We gather here because we believe as our founders did because we believe all of us, born and unborn, are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights and first among these rights is the right to life.”

Pence said that the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision “turned its back on that right,” but that decision gave birth to “a movement born by compassion and love a movement animated by faith and truth, a movement that’s been winning hearts and minds every day since.”

Because of those gathered here, he said, “we know in our hearts that life is winning once again.”

Pence praised and thanked pregnancy center volunteers, adoptive families, and “courageous men and women who step forward to serve in public office” in the U.S. capitol and state legislatures. He urged pro-life advocates to “stand strong” and give reasons for their hope “with gentleness and respect.”

“They will attack you, they will question your hearts to silence others but don’t listen to them. Listen to the truth,” he said. He told marchers that God will not forsake them and they do not stand alone.

“Know that you have an unwavering ally in this vice president and this family. And you have a champion in the President of the United States, President Donald Trump.”

Pence similarly touted Trump administrative actions, saying Trump “kept his promise” on judicial nominees and signed legislation allowing states to defund abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

Karen Pence thanked marchers for “standing in the cold for something that you believe in.”

“Thank you for your stories of courage. Thank you for your stories of regret and forgiveness and starting over,” she said. “Thank you for your stories of hope. Thank you for your stories of inspiration. Thank you for your stories of truth.”

Other elected officials spoke at the event, among them U.S. Rep. Chris Smith R-N.J., a co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, announced the launch of what he said was “the first-ever pro-life caucus in the U.S. Senate.” This caucus, he said, “will allow us to accelerate the momentum of the past few years in promoting and protecting life.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., another co-chair of the House’s pro-life caucus, addressed the event. Lipinski is regarded as a leader among pro-life Democrats. In a tight 2018 primary election, he defeated a strong challenger who was pro-abortion rights.

“We don’t agree on everything We’ve got Republicans, Democrats, independents,” he said. “We all agree on one thing: every life is sacred. It needs to be protected. No one is expendable. Our highest priority has to defend life from the first moment. Everyone is unique from day one.”

“We will never ever give up,” said Lipinski. “Together we’ll march until one day life, especially the most vulnerable, are protected.”

Louisiana State Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat, claimed Louisiana was the most pro-life state.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican, black or white, we fight for life,” she told the crowd. “When people ask me ‘Why are you a black female Democrat fighting for life?’ I say ‘Because I’m a Christian first’,” Jackson said.

Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of a popular conservative podcast, faulted the Democratic Party’s strong pro-abortion rights stand, but also challenged Republican legislators’ failure to defund Planned Parenthood.

He depicted abortion as a betrayal of American efforts to secure “the promise of God-given rights, chief among them the rights to life and liberty.”

“We decided that we could safely blot out millions of souls who could not protect themselves,” he said. “We lied to ourselves, and then we built walls around that lie,” Shapiro continued, criticizing “anti-scientific arguments” about life’s origins and “euphemisms” like “termination of pregnancy, abortion, choice.”

“We stand between America and the darkness, and we will march until that darkness is banished forever and all our children can stand in the sunlight,” he told the marchers.
 
A video sponsored by the Knights of Columbus showed the pro-life work of the Catholic men’s organization, including its ultrasound machine donation program. Its head, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, spoke to the rally and cited a Knights-sponsored poll showing strong support for “substantial restrictions” on abortion and policies to “protect mother and child before birth.”

He also asked eligible men to join the Knights of Columbus, which has about 1.9 million members worldwide. The group’s many friends and allies spoke out after a controversial December Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which two Democratic senators had questioned a judicial nominee’s membership in the Knights due to their views on abortion rights and marriage.

Dr. Kathi Aultman, a former abortionist and fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, reflected on her journey away from performing abortions.

“If it was wanted, it was a baby. If it wasn’t wanted, it was a fetus,” she said.

While qualms about abortions arose during her neonatal rotation, when she tried to save babies the same gestational age as those she was abortion, only the birth of her daughter made her stop performing abortions.

After realizing that women who kept their babies did better compared to those who had sought abortions, and watching nearly aborted children in her church grow up instead, her views began to change further. Caring family and friends brought her fully to the pro-life cause.

The event emcee Jeanne Mancini said the country was “forever changed” by Roe v. Wade.

“Since that time, we have tragically lost over 60 million American children, little girls and little boys, to abortion. And many mothers and fathers regret having been involved in abortion,” she said.

“We’re marching to end the human rights abuse of our time, abortion,” Mancini told marchers. “That’s why we march. And that’s why you are so urgently needed.”

She encouraged marchers to share their story on social media, using the hashtag #WhyWeMarch.

Dr. Alveda King, a niece of slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., led the closing prayer.
 

 

Pope Francis tells Christians to share their gifts with each other

Rome, Italy, Jan 18, 2019 / 12:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The path to Christian unity takes a willingness to acknowledge and share in the gifts other Christian communities have also received, Pope Francis said at an ecumenical Vespers service Friday.

To take the first step toward unity requires humble recognition of the fact that the blessings Catholics and other Christians have received do not belong to them by “right,” but are a gift meant to be shared with others, he said Jan. 18.

“Then, we must acknowledge the value of the grace granted to other Christian communities,” he continued. “As a result, we will want to partake of the gifts of others. A Christian people renewed and enriched by this exchange of gifts will be a people capable of journeying firmly and confidently on the path that leads to unity.”

Held at Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the service marked the beginning of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the week’s theme, “Seek to be truly just,” inspired by the line from Deuteronomy which says: “Justice, justice alone shall you pursue, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord, your God, is giving you.”

One of the grave injustices of today, he said, is the vast disparity in wealth which exists in many countries around the world.

“When society is no longer based on the principle of solidarity and the common good, we witness the scandal of people living in utter destitution amid skyscrapers, grand hotels and luxurious shopping centers,” he said. “We have forgotten the wisdom of the Mosaic law: if wealth is not shared, society is divided.”

He pointed out that in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the same idea is applied to the Christian community: “those who are strong must bear with the weak.”

“Following Christ’s example, we are to make every effort to build up those who are weak. Solidarity and shared responsibility must be the laws that govern the Christian family,” Francis urged.

He also reminded Christians that it is a “grave sin to belittle or despise the gifts that the Lord has given our brothers and sisters, and to think that God somehow holds them in less esteem.”

“When we entertain such thoughts, we allow the very grace we have received to become a source of pride, injustice and division. And how can we then enter the promised kingdom?” he asked.

“It is easy to forget the fundamental equality existing among us,” he said, “that once we were all slaves to sin, that the Lord saved us in baptism and called us his children. It is easy to think that the spiritual grace granted us is our property, something to which we are due.”

“The gifts we have received from God can also blind us to the gifts given to other Christians,” he noted.

The Vespers was attended by representatives of various Churches and ecclesial communities, including the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, and students from the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey in Finland. Members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity were also present.

Senate fails to advance bill to ban federal abortion funding

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 10:56 am (CNA).- In a procedural vote on Thursday, the Republican-led U.S. Senate failed to advance a bill that would prohibit taxpayer funding for abortions.

The Jan. 17 vote to invoke cloture and end debate on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2019 (S.109) need 60 supporters. Only 48 senators, including two Democrats, voted in favor of cloture, with 47 legislators voting against it.

There are 53 Republican senators in the 116th Congress. Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against the measure, while Democratic Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted in favor of bring the bill to a vote.

Shortly after the bill failed to advance, Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of the pro-life SBA List, praised the vote itself, saying, “Today’s vote sends a strong signal that Leader McConnell and the pro-life Senate majority will be a ‘brick wall’ against pro-abortion House Democrats’ extreme agenda, which includes forcing taxpayers to pay for abortion on demand by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

“We are grateful to our Senate allies for standing with the majority of Americans who oppose taxpayer funding of abortion,” she added.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would make permanent the Hyde Amendment, a long-standing federal policy prohibiting tax dollars from paying for elective abortions. The Hyde Amendment, introduced in 1976 by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), is not a law, but rather has been passed as a rider to budget legislation every year.

The act would also have barred federal subsidies from being used to purchase insurance plans which include abortion coverage and ensure full disclosure of the extent to which insurance plans on Affordable Care Act exchange fund abortion.

The bill, which has the support of the White House, was sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

“As thousands gather in our nation’s capital this week to March for Life, it is well past time Congress passed a comprehensive solution to the patchwork of regulations prohibiting federal funding for abortion services,” Wicker said, according to Politico. “Our legislation would create a permanent, government-wide prohibition on abortion funding so that not one taxpayer dollar goes toward the destruction of innocent human life.”

The Hyde Amendment enjoyed decades of bipartisan support, but in recent years the Democratic party has called for its repeal.

Also on Thursday, three Congressmen introduced an analogous bill in the House of Representatives.

Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), and Andy Harris (R-MD) introduced HR 20 to the lower chamber, which is controlled by the Democratic party.

“The Hyde Amendment has saved at least two million lives: because public funds were unavailable to effectuate their violent demise, these individuals survived, and their mothers benefited from prenatal health care and support,” said Smith. “Two million survivors have had the opportunity to live and enjoy the first and most basic of all human rights – the right to life. It’s time to make the Hyde Amendment permanent law.”

Lipinski said the bill “would finally make sure the Hyde protections are placed in law. This is long overdue.”

An identical bill passed the House each of the last three years.

'You are renewing American society' nuncio tells Mass for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Young pro-life marchers are charged with renewing American society. This was the message apostolic nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre delivered to a packed arena Friday morning ahead of the March for Life in Washington, DC.

 

Addressing the assembly before beginning the Mass at which he was the principle celebrant, the pope’s personal representative in the United States thanked those present “for the witness of your Catholic faith both now at Holy Mass, later on in the streets of Washington, and even more importantly when you return home.”

 

“Know that you are making a solid contribution to the renewal of American society,” he said.

 

“For the future of this vast country lies in the hands of young people like yourselves who believe that it has been created as one nation under God, and no human authority has the right to challenge the law of God.”

 

More than 18,000 pro-life marchers filled the Capital One Arena in downtown Washington January 18 for the annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life. Lines had already formed by the time the doors to the area opened at 6:15 am.

 

The yearly event, organized by the Archdiocese of Washington, begins a day centered around the March for Life.

 

The rally began with more than two hours of speakers and devotional music, in English and Spanish. Bus-loads of groups from parishes, schools, and colleges from around the country sat in different sections, with many groups wearing matching hats and sweatshirts.

 

The arena, normally home to the Washington Capitals and Wizards sports teams, appeared full. As a religious sister called out from the stage to groups from states like Pennsylvania, Illinois, Tennessee, and Nebraska, cheering and crowd waves broke out, with the atmosphere more resembling a playoff game than an early morning prayer meeting.

 

Throughout the rally portion of the morning, long lines formed in the halls of the upper deck of the arena, where priests offered confession to the thousands of arrivals.

 

While the crowd was dotted with many priests, religious brothers and sisters, parents and teachers, the clear majority of the crowd were young people under 30 years old.

 

At 9am, the atmosphere shifted to devotional with the recitation of the rosary.

 

Mass began at 9:20, led by Archbishop Pierre, with Washington auxiliaries Bishop Mario Dorsonville and Bishop Roy Campbell representing the archdiocese. Among the other bishops present were U.S. bishops’ conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP of Sydney, Australia, who was greeted by some in the crowd waving inflatable kangaroos.

 

During his words of welcome, Pierre delivered a message from Pope Francis to the crowd-turned–congregation.

 

“His Holiness is deeply grateful for this outstanding witness to the right to life of the most innocent and vulnerable members of our human family,” Pierre read.

 

The pope wrote that upholding the inviolable dignity of human life and ensuring its protection in law was the challenge of every generation “and especially the young.”

 

“Respect for the sacredness of every human life is fundamental to the building of a truly good, just, and free society in which each person is valued and welcomed as a brother or sister,” the pope’s message continued.

 

The crowds emptied onto the streets of Washington after Mass, heading towards their assembly points for this afternoon’s march. As they made their way out of the arena, one religious priest was overheard encouraging the group he was leading.

 

“Today is about bringing life to people – we’ve been to confession and received Christ in the sacrament, that is the most life we can receive. Let’s bring life to someone else today.”

At pro-life Mass, Naumann calls for mercy

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2019 / 09:00 pm (CNA).- The pro-life movement must be one of mercy, said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City Thursday night, at the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

 

“The pro-life ethic challenges us to care about the sacredness of every human being throughout the life spectrum. We are called always and everywhere to promote the dignity of the human person,” Naumann said in his homily at the Mass, which preceded the nation’s annual March for Life Friday.

 

Attending the Mass were pro-life supporters, seminarians, priests and bishops from across the country ahead of tomorrow’s March for Life, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands from across the country.

 

The archbishop said the idea that pro-lifers care only about the unborn is “simply not true.” He pointed to the care and work of volunteers who give their time and money to support pregnancy centers and other programs to support pregnant women in difficult circumstances.

 

“We are concerned about the life and dignity of the human person wherever it is threatened or diminished,” said Naumann, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference pro-life committee.

 

“Anyone whose life is threatened and anyone whose human dignity is disrespected have a claim on our hearts.”

 

Mercy is a force that permeates the entirety of the pro-life movement, said Naumann. Pro-lifers should have mercy not only for an unborn child or for a frightened expectant mother, but also for post-abortive parents who “deeply regret authorizing the killing of their own child,” for abortion advocates “who verbally attack (pro-lifers) and label us extremists,” and for those who work in the abortion industry.

 

It was this mercy that led to “amazing Paul-like conversions of abortion advocates,” who have gone on to “become the powerful pro-life apologists,” said Naumann.

 

Naumann highlighted the examples of Norma McCorvey, who was the “Jane Roe” plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that legalized abortion, NARAL co-founder and former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, and former Planned Parenthood employee of the year Abby Johnson. All three had been staunch defenders of abortion until they experienced a change of heart, discovered Jesus’ love, and re-dedicated their lives to ending abortion.

 

“Pray that through God’s grace there will be many more Norma McCorveys, Bernard Nathansons, Beverly McMillans, Carroll Everetts, Ramona Trevinos, Abby Johnsons, who will come to know they are made in the Divine Image and that they are of such worth that Jesus died for them,” said Naumann.

 

“May our advocacy awaken the hearts of others to know Jesus’ desire for them to experience abundant life in this world and to share with him eternal life in paradise.”

 

Among the bishops concelebrating the Mass were Cardinal Séan O’Malley of Boston, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

Falling in Love with God

The awareness of God is like the awareness that you are falling in love with a beautiful person whose worthiness, goodness and beauty are so overwhelming that you wonder how so extraordinary a person could possibly love you, whose whole life up to this moment has been lived unworthily of such a love. And when that person is God, and you’re aware that God created you, died for you, and through the Holy Spirit is drawing you into deeper intimacy, you are flooded with regret for the infidelity of really not believing for so long what you now know: God is love, is, in fact, in love with you and wants your love in return.

 —from Mystics: 10 Who Showed Us the Way of God

Mystics by Murray Bodo

New birth control patch would administer contraception via self-injecting needles

Atlanta, Ga., Jan 17, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Scientists and researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta are working on a birth control patch that would inject a contraceptive drug into women’s skin through biodegradable microneedles.

The quarter-sized patch would be applied to the skin for five seconds, allowing the needles “painlessly” to pierce the skin and break away, remaining in the body to slowly administer the contraceptive hormone levonorgestrel.

Currently, the needles are designed slowly to release the contraceptive hormone over the course of one month, though the team of scientists has said that the goal would be to develop a six-month patch.

In an article on the patch recently published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, the authors said it could eventually be used instead of the birth control pill, or other forms of long-term birth control such as hormone shots or implantable devices such as IUDs.

“Non-hormonal contraceptive methods, such as condoms and diaphragms, provide physical barriers for pregnancy protection, but these barrier methods, even when accompanied by spermicide, usually have high failure rates due in part to poor patient acceptance and compliance with correct use,” the study, authored by Dr. Mark Prausnitz and team, states.

“Hormonal contraceptives, such as oral pills, vaginal rings, intrauterine devices, subdermal injections and implants, generally provide a better level of effectiveness, but either require frequent dosing, which has significant compliance problems, or delivery by healthcare professionals, which can be especially problematic in low-income countries,” it adds.

“Hence, there has been tremendous interest in a contraceptive that is safe and effective, enables long-term contraception, facilitates good patient access and compliance through self-administration, and has low cost suitable for use globally.”

In the study, the scientists expressed hope that the patch could make long-term contraceptives more widely available, especially in developing countries, since women will be able to apply the patch themselves.

“To provide greater access to contraception, we developed a delivery system for contraception based on a microneedle patch designed to enable self-administration of a long-acting contraceptive that is safe, effective and low cost,” they said.

The study, which was received by Nature Biomedical Engineering in March 2018, was made possible through funding from the United States Agency for International Development.

The Western push to increase access to contraceptives and abortion has been denounced by critics as ideological colonization.

“By what moral right do Westerners send the message that the world would be a better place with fewer Africans in it?” Mary Eberstadt, senior research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, told CNA in 2018. She was responding to a report from the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission, which declared a need for universal access to contraception and birth control within the next 12 years, particularly in the developing world.

“Such campaigns are going to look as ugly in history's rearview mirror as the twentieth-century eugenics movement does today,” she said at the time.

Nigerian Catholic Obianuju Ekeocha, the author of “Target Africa,” has also been an outspoken pro-life advocate who has opposed bringing contraceptives to Africa and other developing places.

“Unlike what we see in the developed Western world, there is actually very high compliance with Pope Paul VI’s Humanae vitae. For these African women, in all humility have heard, understood, and accepted the precious words of the prophetic pope,” Ekeocha wrote in a 2012 open letter to Melinda Gates.

The patch is still in development, and has only been tested on rats thus far. Scientists cited concerns about skin irritation at the site of the patch and the need for more clinical trials before the patch could be released to the general public.

The microneedle patch technology could also potentially be used to deliver vaccines throughout remote and underdeveloped areas as well, the study noted.

Indiana Catholic school opens 'adoration club'

South Bend, Ind., Jan 17, 2019 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- It’s not unusual for a school to offer an after school drama or Spanish club. Some schools even offer a robotics club. But few schools offer a club dedicated to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

St. Joseph Grade School in South Bend, Indiana does just that.

“Our main purpose for starting the adoration club is for students in Kindergarten all the way up to eighth grade to have time to spend time in Eucharistic adoration, to teach them how to use their time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and [to] really deepen their relationship with Christ,” Katherine Soper, a second grade teacher at the school told CNA.

Sober said she is excited to offer students an opportunity to pray weekly in the presence of the exposed Eucharistic host. There are now 22 students enrolled in the club, Soper said, but more are expected to join.
 
The club, which will launch on Jan. 31, will start each after-school meeting  with a mini lesson and snacks.

The first few lessons will discuss reverence, proper manners in adoration, and expectations. The next series of lessons will review adoration history and miracles.
 
Afterward, the students will head to the chapel for an hour of adoration. During adoration,  students will be led in a rosary, the Gospel, and reflections on scripture. Music will also be incorporated into club, using contemporary and Latin hymns.
 
“We will be praying a guided rosary where it will walk you through the mysteries and then we will have time for reflection. We will have a Gospel reading with a Gospel reflection and then more silence for students to pray.”
 
“The goal for the Eucharistic adoration time is to give the students a time to reflect and silence. We see a need for students to have a time for silence [and] prayer.”
 
Soper was involved with a similar club in a prior teaching position, at St. Anthony of Padua’s School in South Bend. Having started at St. Joseph Grade School this year, she decided to bring adoration club to the new school.
 
She said many of the students in her second grade class have shown excitement for the club.

“One of my students leaned over to me and said ‘when are we going back? I really want to go back,’ and when she said that to me I know I couldn’t give up on my idea on starting the Eucharistic adoration,” she said.

“These students have a burning desire to deepen their relationship with Christ and her little statement of ‘when are we going back,’ even though she was kind of distracted, I took that as a sign that she felt God’s peace and she felt God’s comfort in Eucharistic adoration.”

Vatican releases online guide to combat $150 billion human trafficking industry

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican said yesterday that the most significant cost associated with human trafficking is the exploitation and degradation of its victims.

 

With a new online guide, the Vatican seeks to combat the “ugly business” of human trafficking, which is estimated to generate $150 billion dollars a year, by examining the different levels of its complex international supply chains to target this grave evil at its roots.

 

“Approved by the Holy Father, this handbook reflects current Catholic teaching and courageous ministry, especially the ministry of the sisters on the front lines,” Father Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section, said on the guide’s release January 17.

  “These pastoral options offer a reading, a comprehension, ‘Why does the depravity of human trafficking persist in the 21st century?” he continued. “How does the ugly, evil, business -- and we underline the word business -- operate?”



 

The guide is the result of the Vatican Migrants and Refugee Section’s consultation with researchers and practitioners working in the field to address human trafficking and enslavement, and “the Church’s full response was considered, in terms of strengths, weaknesses, pastoral action and policy options,” according to Czerny.

 

The handbook -- named “Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking” -- is broken down into ten sections, each analyzing human trafficking from a different angle and providing recommendations.

 

These recommendations range from targeting and prosecuting consumers of human trafficking to aiding in the full spiritual and psychological recovery of its victims.

 

The Vatican will host a conference focused on the implementation of these guidelines in early April.

 

Targeting Demand

 

More attention needs to be placed on those consumers who drive the demand for human trafficking, in addition to the traffickers themselves who supply it, according to the Vatican office.

“People who generate the demand share real responsibility for the destructive impact of their behaviour on other human persons, and for the moral values violated in the process,” the guide states, noting that “the buying of so-called sexual services, in all forms including pornography, internet based cyber-sex, strip clubs and erotic dancing venues, is a serious offence against human dignity and human integrity.”

 

The guide goes on to recommend that states consider “criminalizing those who take advantage of prostitution or of other uses of sexual exploitation provided by those who have been trafficked.”

Last year, Pope Francis expressed a similar sentiment in his World Day of Prayer address, “If there are so many young women victims of trafficking who end up on the streets of our cities, it is because many men here — young, middle-aged, elderly — demand these services and are willing to pay for their pleasure. I wonder then, is the principal cause of trafficking really the traffickers? I believe the principal cause is the unscrupulous selfishness of the many hypocrites in our world. Of course, arresting traffickers is an obligation of justice. But the true solution is the conversion of hearts, cutting off demand in order to dry out the market.”

 

Ethical Supply Chains

 

The Vatican is calling for an ethical assessment of both business models and consumption, particularly in the industries such as agriculture, fishing, construction and mining where human trafficking is deeply embedded.

“The Church encourages both sides of the commercial relationship – entrepreneurs who provide and end-users who consume – to engage in this ethical reflection and then to make the changes that are called for,” the guide states.

 

“Purchasing is always a moral – and not simply economic – act,” Benedict XVI wrote in Caritas in Veritate in 2009. “Hence the consumer has a specific social responsibility, which goes hand-in-hand with the social responsibility of the enterprise.”

 

On a broader level, the Vatican office recommends that countries implement legislation that requires “all companies, particularly those working transnationally and outsourcing in developing countries, to invest in the transparency and accountability of their supply chains.”

 

Adding that there needs to be special and intense prosecution of organized crime engaged in people smuggling and trafficking nationally and transnationally, along with prosecution of connivance by local and national authorities.”

 

Ways of Hope

 

Along with the guidebook, a compilation of all of Pope Francis’ teachings on migrants, refugees, and human trafficking entitled “Lights on the Ways of Hope” was also released in hardcover and online in English and other languages. The searchable digital version will continue to be updated as the pope comments on human trafficking in the future.


“I hope that this collection of teachings may indeed illuminate our steps on the pathways of hope, providing food for inspiration and prayer, preaching and pastoral action,” Pope Francis wrote in the introduction to the book released Jan. 17.

The pope reflected on examples of migration and enslavement throughout the history of salvation, from the betrayal and sale of young Joseph by his brothers to Abraham and Sarah’s departure from their homeland in response to God’s promise.

“Indeed, like human history, the history of salvation has been marked by displacements of every sort – migration, exile, flight, exodus – and yet all reaching out with hope for a better future elsewhere. And even when the displacement is a criminal enterprise, as in the case of trafficking, let no one be robbed of the hope of being rescued and set free,” Francis said.