Browsing News Entries

A crash course in Miracles 101

Denver, Colo., Dec 15, 2017 / 03:32 am (CNA).- What do a grilled cheese sandwich and the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe have in common?

Both bore what appeared to be images of Mary. One was determined to be authentically miraculous, the other was not. Not to spoil any secrets, but it’s not Our Lady of the Grilled Cheese that converted Mexico and continues to draw millions of people on pilgrimage every year.

But have you ever wondered just how the Church determines the bogus from the divinely appointed?

In his book, “Exploring the Miraculous,” Michael O’Neill gives readers a crash course of sorts in “Miracles 101” - including common questions about the importance of miracles, an explanation of the approval process, and descriptions of the various types of miracles found within the Catholic Church.

“This is a very rare book in that it tries to cover the entire spectrum of miracles within the Catholic Church,” O’Neill told CNA.

Catholics by definition are people who have to believe in at least two miracles, O’Neill said - that of Christ’s incarnation and his resurrection, two pillars on which the Catholic faith rests.

For modern-day miracles, belief is never required of the faithful. The highest recognition that the Church gives to an alleged miracle is that it is “worthy of belief.” Investigations of reported miraculous events – which include extensive fact-finding, psychological examination and theological evaluation – may result in a rejection if the event is determined to be fraudulent or lacking in super natural character.

Or the Church may take a middle road, declaring that there is nothing contrary to the faith in a supposed apparition, without making a determination on whether a supernatural character is present.

But while official investigations can take years, the mere report of a miracle can bring Catholics from long distances, hoping to see some glimpse of the divine reaching into the human.

And it’s not just the faithful who find miracles fascinating.

“It's important for atheists and skeptics, those people who don’t believe, they’ve got to have an explanation for the inexplicable,” he said. “There’s something for everyone.”

The universal nature of the experience of the miraculous is also what draws people from all belief spectrums to these stories, O’Neill added.

“We all pray for miracles of one sort or another. They can be these really sort of small things like praying for an impossible comeback in a football game, or it can be a lost wallet or wedding ring,” he said.

“But they can also be these really big things, such as our loved ones, they fall away from the faith and we want them to return, or somebody from our friends or our family is very sick and we desperately implore God’s help for them. It’s something that everybody experiences.”

O’Neills own fascination with miracles started in college, when for an archeology assignment he studied the miraculous tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Marian apparition to which he’d inherited his mother’s devotion. He had heard stories about miracles associated with the image, both from within his own family and from the larger Church, and he wondered how much truth there was to the tales.

He also started learning about the larger tradition of miracles within the Church, and was struck by how the Church has carefully investigated thousands of claims over the years, only to select certain ones that it eventually deems as of divine origin.

“I thought that was fascinating that the Church would stick its neck out and say these things are worthy of belief,” he said.

Although he continued his engineering studies throughout college, a piece of advice at graduation from Condoleezza Rice, who was serving as vice provost at Stanford University at the time, stayed with him.

“She asked what we were going to do after graduation, and her advice was to become an expert in something,” he said.

“And I thought about what would be a great thing to study? My mind went back to all those hours I’d spent in the library and my promise to return to it someday and I said you know what? I want to be the expert on miracles.”

For a while he kept his studies private - he didn’t want to be seen as the guy who was obsessed with weird things like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. But eventually, he realized that many people were interested in miracles and found them helpful for their own faith.

“It’s a way that people feel connected to God, they know that God is a loving father watching out for them, so it’s one of those things - a miracle is a universal touchstone,” he said.

“No matter how strong we think our faith is or want it to be, we always want to know that God is there for us, and miracles are that sort of element that bridges the gap between our faith and our connection with God.”

In his book, O’Neill provides descriptions and examples of every basic category of miracle within the Catholic Church, including healing miracles from saints in the canonization process, biblical miracles, apparitions, locutions (audible messages from God or a saint), miraculous images, Eucharistic miracles, incorrupt bodies (those that either partially or fully do not decompose after death), and stigmata (the wounds of Christ appearing on some living people).

The most popular kind of miracle, and O’Neill’s personal favorite, are Marian apparitions - when Mary appears in a supernatural and corporeal way to a member of the faithful, most often with a message.  

There have been about 2,500 claims of Marian apparitions throughout history, and a major one that many people are currently curious about are the alleged apparitions happening at Medjugorje, about which the Church has yet to make a definitive decision of validity. Curiosity about Marian apparitions was also a large part of what spurred O’Neill to create his website, miraclehunter.com, where he files information about miracles in their respective categories and provides information on their origin story and whether or not they have been approved by the Vatican.

“The Vatican didn’t have a resource where you can find out what’s approved and what’s not, and what messages are good for our faith and what ones we should stay away from, so I tried to create a resource for the faithful for that,” he said. He’s now been running the website for more than 15 years.

O’Neill also loves Eucharistic miracles, because unlike several other types of miracles, whose validity are largely determined by faithful and reliable witnesses, science can be applied.

“They can check to see if it’s really human blood, and what type of blood, and in some cases you have heart muscle in these hosts that have turned into true flesh,” he said.

One of O’Neill’s favorite Eucharistic miracles occurred in Argentina while Pope Francis was still a bishop there.

It was August of 1996, and a priest in Buenos Aires, Fr. Alejandro Pezet, discovered a host in the back of his church, and so he took it and placed it in some water in the tabernacle to dissolve it. Over the next few days, days he kept an eye on it, and it grew increasingly red. The priest decided to present the case to Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, who ordered that the host be professionally photographed and eventually examined by a scientist in the U.S., who was not told the origin of the specimen he was testing.

The tests showed the sample to be heart muscle with blood type AB, the same blood type found on the Shroud of Turin.

“The scientist was an atheist and he said, why did you send me this heart muscle, what was the point of this? And they said it was a consecrated host, and actually that atheist scientist converted to Catholicism as a result of that study,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill also notes in his book that when considering miracles, it’s important to not go to extremes.

“The question of the role of miracles in our life of faith is an important one and requires avoiding two extremes: an overemphasis and credulity regarding the supernatural on the one hand and a denial of the possibility of divine intervention and a diminishment of the role of popular devotion on the other,” he wrote. Either way, obedience to the magisterium of the Church and their teachings on particular miracles is key.

Miracles are an important asset for the faith because of their ability to connect people with God, either as first-time believers or as long-time faithful who need a reminder of God’s presence.

“I like to think of miracles as a great way to engage young people, to get them excited about the faith,” he said. “They shouldn’t be the centrality of anybody’s faith, but it’s a way to open the door for people...so I think miracles can play a huge role in evangelization.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA May 8, 2016.

Guatemalan Supreme Court halts distribution of pro-abortion manual

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Dec 15, 2017 / 12:05 am (ACI Prensa).- The Supreme Court of Guatemala has ruled that the distribution of a manual promoting abortion must be stopped.

The manual, “Human rights, sexual and reproductive rights and healthcare for girls and adolescents,” had been financed by the UN Population Fund.

It had been promoted since 2015 by the Ombudsman for Human Rights at the time, Jorge De Leon Duque.

The Guatemalan judiciary issued its ruling Dec. 8. A press conference held by the Family Matters Association (FMA) and congressman José Rodrigo Valladares discussed the decision.

The Family Matters Association had filed for an injunction on June 22, 2017 against De Leon Duque “to invalidate the use of the manual and to demand the ombudsman's office stop promoting abortion.” Congressman Rodrigo Valladares subsequently joined the injunction filing.

The Supreme Court's ruling also ordered the Ombudsman's Office for Human Rights “to refrain from carrying out any activity which entails supporting or promoting abortion or abortion practices, their presentation (of it) as a right, the promotion of its legalization or the violation of the right to life from conception,” the FMA reported.

It also set a deadline of three months for the current ombudsman, Jordan Rodas Andrade, “to develop the necessary materials to counteract the harm done by the manual in question.”

In addition, the FMA stressed that the court has recognized that the ombudsman “has the grave and solemn obligation to defend life from its conception, an obligation he freely and voluntarily assumed by the oath to uphold the Constitution which he took in Congress at the time he accepted his office, if he wants to serve the nation.”

The court ruling states that “any report, study, investigation, publication, campaign or activity that the Ombudsman carries out must seek to defend the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. Otherwise he would be exceeding his authority as provided by law.”

The FMA also emphasized that the court enjoined Rodas Andrade to avoid “reverting to the actions of your predecessor, and to refrain from carrying out any activity which promotes abortion directly or indirectly” and to not join the campaigns or use the slogans “ of those who in the supposed defense of the rights of women in vulnerable situations are promoting abortion under the disguised label of 'sexual and reproductive rights.'”

Current Ombudsman Jordan Rodas posted on his office's website a statement in which he disclaimed any responsibility for the manual promoted by his predecessor.

He pointed out that the manual “was not developed under my management,” but “was presented, published and distributed by the administration of my predecessor, Jorge De Leon Duque.”

In addition, Jordan Rodas emphasized that “starting August 20, the day I took office, until this very day, at no time have I made a statement about abortion.”

The FMA offered that it is “at the disposal of the ombudsman and his entire team, to give priority to and timely compliance with the Supreme Court's order.”

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Proposed Catholic hospital mega-merger assessed by Church officials

Denver, Colo., Dec 14, 2017 / 08:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic ethics and church law must be at the center of a merger of two major Catholic health care systems that, if approved, will create the largest non-profit health system in the country, an archdiocesan official says.

Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives and San Francisco-based Dignity Health announced the proposed merger Dec. 7.

They aim to create a new Catholic healthcare system, set to be based in Chicago. The combined health system will be run by the CEOs of both companies. It will include 139 hospitals, employ 159,000 people, and have a combined revenue of $28.4 billion.

The merger requires regulatory approval—and also scrutiny that it does not violate Catholic ethical and canonical norms.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco are among those responsible for analyzing the moral and ethical considerations of the proposed merger for the health systems based in their respective cities, David Uebbing, chancellor for the Archdiocese of Denver, told CNA.

The USCCB’s “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” require that the merger of the healthcare systems receive a “nihil obstat” from the diocesan bishop in the places where the systems are headquartered.

Uebbing said the review process in Denver has already involved “an extensive, multi-month” analysis of the proposal and consultation with the bishops affected. The process has involved consultation with legal, canonical and health care ethics experts.

“A nihil obstat is a negative declaration that essentially says, ‘nothing stands in the way’,” Uebbing said. “A nihil obstat has limited scope, i.e., determining that there is nothing morally or doctrinally objectionable in the proposed corporate structure. It does not convey approval or agreement with the proposal.”

Both health care systems are sponsored by canonical organizations overseen directly by the Vatican, which, according to canon law, will also need to approve the merger.

A new name for the proposed system will be announced sometime after mid-2018, pending final approval from federal and state officials as well as Catholic officials.

The leaders of both health care systems said the proposed merger would be better for health care.

“We are joining together to create a new Catholic health system, one that is positioned to accelerate the change from sick-care to well-care across the United States,” said Kevin E. Lofton, the CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives.

He said the organization will have “the talent, depth, breadth, and passion to improve the health of every person and community we serve,” the Houston Chronicle reports.

Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of the San Francisco-based Dignity Health, said the merger will build upon a shared mission and will “expand our commitment to meeting the needs of all people with compassion, regardless of income, ethnicity, or language.”

“We foresee an incredible opportunity to expand each organization's best practices to respond to the evolving health care environment and deliver high-quality, cost-effective care,” he continued.

Currently Catholic Health Initiatives has hospitals in 17 states, while Dignity Health has facilities in 22 states, including those operating under brands such as U.S. HealthWorks, the Sacramento Bee reports.

CNA contacted Dignity Health, and the Archdiocese of Chicago for comment but did not receive a response by deadline. Catholic Health Initiatives was unable to respond to a request for comment.

In 2012 Dignity Health, adopted a new board structure and changed its name from Catholic Healthcare West, deemphasizing its ties to the Catholic Church. Then-Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco determined the changes were consistent with Catholic morals.

At the time, it was reported that the system’s Catholic hospitals would continue to adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

The system’s non-Catholic hospitals adhere to the system’s “Statement of Common Values.” Those rules prohibit abortion and in-vitro fertilization but not sterilization procedures like tubal ligations.

Catholic Healthcare West, later renamed Dignity Health, came under scrutiny following a 2009 incident at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, which is part of the health system. The hospital’s ethics board decided that a direct abortion could be performed on a woman who was suffering severe medical complications, in violation of Catholic teaching that direct abortion is inherently evil.

In December 2010 Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix revoked the Catholic status of the hospital after an investigation found both the hospital and its parent company involved in a pattern of behavior that violated Catholic health care ethics, including creating and managing a government program that offers birth control, sterilization procedures and abortion.

In January 2012 the health network’s CEO, Dean, said concerns about the system’s Catholic affiliation hindered potential agreements with other hospitals.

The expansion of Catholic hospitals operating according to Catholic teaching has drawn opposition from critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the MergerWatch project. Those groups co-authored a 2013 report that claimed the growth of Catholic hospitals was a “miscarriage of medicine.”

The report said the ACLU’s advocacy in the area was backed by various funders including the Arcus Foundation, which is a major funder of an influence campaign to restrict religious freedoms in areas that run counter to the foundation’s vision of LGBT advocacy and reproductive health.

Christmas cash for the homeless: The legacy of one Denver priest continues

Denver, Colo., Dec 14, 2017 / 04:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- It was a chilly Thursday in December, with a dusting of snow on the ground. But that didn’t stop hundreds of poor and homeless people from packing the Denver Cathedral for what the pastor calls “the greatest day of the year” for the parish.

It was the Father Woody Christmas cash giveaway, the annual event when the cathedral hosts a prayer service and gives $20 - in the form of two $10 bills - to all of the poor and the homeless who attend.

The idea behind the two bills? It gives the recipients the option of giving one of the bills away.

“I got kind of a crabby e-mail about this event, saying ‘Why are you giving the homeless money, they’re just going to spend it on alcohol or drugs,’” Fr. Ron Cattany, pastor of the Cathedral Basilica of Immaculate Conception in Denver, told CNA.

“And I responded back with a line from Father Woody: ‘Everybody needs a little cash in their pocket at Christmas,’” he said.

It gives them a sense of dignity, and a sense of generosity, he added.

“What’s beautiful is that sometimes what you’ll see here...is one of the guys will come up and say, ‘Today’s my birthday, will you give me a bunch of (McDonald’s) cards so I can take my buddies out to lunch on my birthday?’ And of course you do that because even from where they are, they’re giving and sharing with other people,” Cattany said.

The event all started 28 years ago, when an endowment fund was set up in honor and in the spirit of Monsignor Charles B. Woodrich - better known as Fr. Woody - a Denver priest renowned for his generous spirit and can-do attitude.

During his time as a priest, he established school lunch programs for poor children, opened up the doors of his parish to the homeless during cold winter nights (most famously during the blizzard of ‘82), and would routinely give his friends on the street the coats off his back and the cash in his pockets. Today, the name Father Woody is synonymous with charity in the Denver community.

The attendees of the Father Woody giveaway often line up outside the cathedral for hours before the event begins.

On Thursday, they filled the pews to standing room only, and attended a prayer service before receiving their cash, along with hugs and greetings of ‘Merry Christmas’ from numerous volunteers from the Christ in the City program, Regis University’s Father Woody program, and several other groups and private volunteers.

“It’s so cool to be here with so many people who experience homelessness, and so many of them we can call our friends, and to know that God loves them the same and that they are so welcome here,” Emma Rashilla, a missionary with Christ in the City, told CNA.

“These are the people who are usually on the outside looking in, and now they’re on the inside, and it doesn’t matter if they’re Catholic or Christian,” or have no faith, all are welcome, Fr. Cattany added.

After they receive their money and McDonald’s gift cards, hot chocolate, new socks and homemade hats are waiting for them outside.

“It shows the real meaning of giving, of sharing gifts and showing your emotional and spiritual awareness of the real reason for Christmas which is that Christ is born that day,” Kevin, one of the attendees, told CNA.

“When you don’t have much to give, you don’t feel so jolly, but when someone gives you something, it makes you feel more generous,” he added.

“It’s people getting together and seeing old friends, (I feel) highly favored and blessed,” said Wilma, another attendee.  

Odalis Hernandez, a senior at Regis University who was helping hand out colorful, homemade knit hats from the students in the university’s Father Woody program, said she was inspired to start helping people after seeing a movie about Fr. Woody.

“It’s something that I wouldn’t have done without the inspiration of someone like that,” she said.  

Lovey Shipp, a spunky nonagenarian who worked as Father Woody’s secretary for several years before he passed away in 1991, still cherishes the many “Father Woody-isms” that she remembers. She has participated in every cash giveaway since its official beginning 28 years ago.

“Father Woody used to say, ‘service is the rent you pay for the space you take up,’” she told CNA.

“He taught people with money how to give. It’s not yours, it’s by God’s grace that you have it, you could be one of the homeless if he saw fit to do so,” she said.

She encouraged anyone who desires to help the homeless this season to “keep an open mind and have your heart match. That’s what Father Woody did.”

“Just give,” she added. “Give from the heart. And smile!”

 

 

Israeli extremist sentenced for arson attack on Holy Land church

Jerusalem, Dec 14, 2017 / 04:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An arson attack on the church complex at the site of Christ’s multiplication of loaves and fish on the Sea of Galilee has resulted in prison time for the perpetrator.

Yinon Reuveni, 23, was sentenced to four years in prison and fined 50,000 shekels ($14,200) Dec. 12, Agence France Presse reports. He had been convicted in July of aggravated arson and two counts of criminal conspiracy.

He is from Baladim, an illegal Israeli outpost in the West Bank near Kokhav HaShahar. He is reported to be a Jewish extremist. Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that when he was indicted for the attack, his charge sheet stated that “Reuveni has extremist views. He sees Christians as idol worshippers and their destruction as a mitzvah.”

Reuveni’s lawyer contended that the sentence was too harsh and he planned to appeal.

The arsonist started a fire at the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha, located 120 miles north of Jerusalem, on June 18, 2015. The church is built on the site where Christ fed the 5,000 through the multiplication of loaves and fishes. It is joined to a Benedictine monastery. As a result of the arson, a monk and a staff member were hospitalized and treated for smoke inhalation.

Two rooms were badly damaged. The fire did extensive damage to the monastery, the church entrance, an office for pilgrims, and a book storage room. The church was closed until February; with fire damage was estimated at $1 million. The Israeli government contributed almost $400,000 for repairs.

Hebrew-language graffiti at the site read “all idols will be smashed”. According to The Times of Israel, the graffiti is a quote from the “Aleinu” prayer, which is prayed three times each day in Jewish services.

At the time of the attack, Catholic leaders and the Israeli president and prime minister condemned the incident.

Fr. Peter Vasko, OFM, president of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, said: “Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have visited here, have prayed here, have had Mass at this Holy Site. In many ways it was a haven of peace and tranquility which has now been disfigured by misguided zealots who have no respect for the religious beliefs of others.”

Various Jewish extremists have engaged in vandalism and assaults against Palestinian and Arab Israelis and Christian and Muslim sites.

The Church of the Multiplication had been vandalized in April the same year, when Jewish extremists destroyed crosses in the monastery’s outdoor prayer area, and threw stones at worshippers.

The present Church of the Multiplication was built in the 20th century, though a church was built on the site by at least the mid-fourth century. The present church includes mosaic floors from the fifth century, which were not destroyed in the arson.

The Benedictine monastery attached to the church was founded in the 20th century. The current building was opened in 2012, including a private oratory for the monks which was financed with support from the pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Keep internet neutral, U.S. bishops say

Washington D.C., Dec 14, 2017 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday, the Federal Communication Commission voted to repeal net neutrality regulations, which the U.S. bishops have called essential to fair use of the internet by for nonprofits and individuals.

“Without open internet principles which prohibit paid prioritization, we might be forced to pay fees to ensure that our high-bandwidth content receives fair treatment on the internet,” said Bishop Christopher Coyne, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Communications.

“Non-profit communities, both religious and secular, cannot afford to pay to compete with profitable commercialized content.”

The bishop’s statement was released on Nov. 28, after the FCC announced a proposal to repeal the protections, which were created in 2015. The rule was officially repealed on Dec. 14.

Net neutrality rules require internet service providers, like Comcast or AT&T, to provide equal access to the internet. This means internet providers cannot block, slow down, or charge for content from particular websites or web-based services.

For example, in 2007 Comcast was accused of providing slower internet service to subscribers who were using peer-to-peer file-sharing services. People using BitTorrent, which is a file-sharing network, claimed they had slower or blocked access when uploading files.

Net neutrality advocates have expressed concern that content providers who pay more money will be given better access to internet users, placing smaller companies and nonprofits at a disadvantage.

Bishop Coyne argued that fair access to the internet is critical for the Church to fulfill its mission in the modern world.

“Strong net neutrality protections are critical to the faith community to function and connect with our members, essential to protect and enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to use advanced technology, and necessary for any organization that seeks to organize, advocate for justice or bear witness in the crowded and over-commercialized media environment,” he wrote

Dioceses, schools, parishes, and other religious institutions, must have access to high speed internet to not only to communicate internally, but also to spread the Gospel through media, he said.  

Strong internet protections help the Church “to share religious and spiritual teachings, to promote activities online, and to engage people – particularly younger persons – in our ministries,” he said.  
According to NPR, the FCC’s new chairman, Ajit Pai, said the regulations prevented companies from improving the internet by stifling investments, but net-neutrality advocates have said that ending the regulations will give too much power to internet providers.

“I have heard from innovators, worried that we are standing up a 'mother-may-I' regime, where the broadband provider becomes arbiter of acceptable online business models,” said Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, according to NPR.

 

Why Does Mary Visit Her Cousin Elizabeth?

Why Does Mary Visit Her Cousin Elizabeth?

Q:  Why does Mary visit her cousin Elizabeth? It doesn’t make sense to me for a pregnant woman to take such a long journey. Any…

The post Why Does Mary Visit Her Cousin Elizabeth? appeared first on Busted Halo.

Ohio bill one step closer to prohibiting Down syndrome abortions

Columbus, Ohio, Dec 14, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, the Ohio State Senate passed a bill that would penalize doctors who perform abortions, if the abortion is chosen “in whole or in part,” because the unborn child has received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

The bill, which passed the Senate 20-12, will now be sent to Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has 10 days to sign the bill into law. The governor’s office noted that Kasich has called the measure “appropriate,” but has not yet confirmed that the governor will sign the bill.

Proponents of the law are optimistic that Kasich will approve the measure, given that the Republican governor has passed over a dozen laws which have limited abortion protections or funding in the past six years.

The law would charge physicians with a fourth-degree felony, and the potential of a revoked medical license, if they perform an abortion wholly or partially motivated by Down syndrome. Mothers would not face charges.

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused when an individual’s DNA contains an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21. Also known as trisomy-21, Down syndrome is a relatively common genetic disorder, affecting around one in 700 babies born in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has risen dramatically in recent decades, thanks to modern resources and healthcare. A 2011 study found that people with Down syndrome report high levels of happiness and personal satisfaction, as do their siblings and other family members.  

However, data from a 2012 study have shown that 75 percent of women who are pregnant with a child who has received a Down syndrome diagnosis will terminate the pregnancy.

While the measure has caused some backlash from advocates for abortion, who wore shirts with the message “Stop the Bans” during the vote on Wednesday, pro-life groups in the state have applauded the bill as a victory.

“Every Ohioan deserves the right to life, no matter how many chromosomes they have,” said Mike Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, according to Reuters.

Because it is unclear how the motivating factors for abortion can be proven, there will likely be some legal challenges to the bill if it Governor Kasich approves it. The ACLU has opposed the bill, calling it unconstitutional.

Similar measures were passed in Indiana and North Dakota, but the Indiana law was revoked by a U.S. District Judge in September after a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU. The North Dakota law has not faced legal challenges.

Chaplain says 40 years with bowl-bound Badgers 'a wonderful experience'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Father Nate Wills

By Mary C. Uhler

MADISON, Wis. (CNS) -- When the Wisconsin Badgers' football team travels to the Orange Bowl to play Miami Dec. 30, the players will take a 12-1 record with them -- one of the best in team history.

Accompanying them will be Msgr. Michael Burke -- better known as "Father Mike" to the coaches and players. He has been the team's chaplain for 40 years.

He began working with the team when he was on the faculty of Madison's Holy Name Seminary. The Badgers used the seminary fields and facilities for their summer training camp for many years.

Father Mike was a faculty member, rector, and vocation director during the years from 1977 until the closing of the seminary in 1995.

He remembers the training camps well. "The team was usually at the seminary for over three weeks," he recalled in an interview with the Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Madison. "They were locked in and had to stay there the entire time. They certainly got focused, since there were no distractions."

Father Mike believes he was the first team chaplain in the Big Ten Conference. Now, all but three of the schools' teams have chaplains.

Throughout his years as chaplain for the University of Wisconsin-Madison team, Father Mike has offered encouragement and support to the coaches and players of all faiths.

He has performed 104 weddings of players and of coaches and countless baptisms. "They still stay connected with me," he said. "They send lots of pictures."

"Football is very intense," Father Mike observed. "The players have to balance going to school, practicing, and keeping their head straight when they're 18 years old. Many of them have issues with their families."

He said the current head coach, Paul Chryst, and the assistant coaches let Father Mike know if players have personal problems. "It could be a father who's in jail or someone in the family has cancer. I can be there to offer support."

Father Mike said his work with the team is really another parish. "It's very rewarding," he said. "They keep me young."

Father Mike retired in July as pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison, where he served since 1996. Since retirement, Chryst told him, "We'll keep you busy."

The priest's encouragement of players "has happened thousands of times," Chryst told the Catholic Herald. "Father Mike really helps our team."

Father Mike prays with players of all faiths before the Badgers' games, including in position groups.

During the games, he stands on the sidelines with the players and coaches. He wears a clerical collar, and recently at the Wisconsin-Iowa game, he got hit and knocked down by an Iowa player.

He said the Iowa player noticed his collar and said, "Sorry, Father," and helped him up.

Father Mike said he has been impressed by the spirituality of the Badgers' players and coaches. He said the players' parents have noticed the change in their children, with many of them going to church more frequently.

The coaches and players also put their faith into action. This became evident this year when Wisconsin played Florida Atlantic University when Hurricane Irma hit their state.

The Florida Atlantic coaches and players ended up staying in Madison from game day on Saturday until the following Wednesday.

Wisconsin's athletic director, Barry Alvarez, and his wife, Cindy, along with Chryst's wife, Robin, and the wives of other coaches, made the Florida Atlantic crew welcome, as did Father Mike himself, who was out every day meeting with the visitors.

"It was impressive to see how we all helped the Florida Atlantic people. Many of them were worried about their families back home. Some of them wrote me thank-you notes when they got back," said Father Mike. "It was a win-win situation all around."

Asked to comment on the Badgers' best football season ever, Father Mike said, "This year, they are so focused. They are a determined group, care for each other, and work together. I've never seen a coaching staff and players who work so well together."

He believes a lot of the success is due to the strong spirituality among the coaches and players, starting with Chryst, who is Catholic himself and attributes much of his success as a coach to the influence of his father, the late George Chryst, who died 25 years ago.

Ordained a priest in 1974, Father Mike said he has been happy. "I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to do what God wanted me to do. I've been blessed with wonderful parents, brothers, sisters and friends. I've made so many wonderful friends over the years."

He retired in July but said he's busier than ever, ministering at a Catholic high school as well as at a Catholic-run nursing facility and a hospice. And he still makes time to serve as chaplain of the Badger football team.

"It's been a wonderful experience," he emphasized.

The Badgers' coaches and players thinks he's "the greatest" and hope he stays around for many more years.

- - -

Uhler is editor of the Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Madison.

- - -

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

Natural disasters prompt church to raise millions for aid, recovery

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, California and Mexico City, recovery was slow and deep pain remained from a string of natural disasters as 2017 ended.

Hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes from August through December caused widespread destruction and claimed hundreds of lives. Rebuilding in the affected areas will take years to complete.

Catholic agencies responded with emergency aid and undertook fundraising campaigns to help people of different walks of life who lost homes and livelihoods.

Perhaps no other place was harder hit than Puerto Rico, which was slammed in September by Hurricane Maria, the 10th most intense Atlantic storm on record. Electrical power was at 70 percent capacity and many communities continued to have no access to clean water in mid-December.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago visited the island in early December at the behest of Pope Francis. He toured the island with representatives of Catholic Extension, the papal society that has supported the church in Puerto Rico for decades.

He found once-bustling town centers and business districts shuttered in cities large and small, signaling a massive loss of income and livelihood. Collapsed buildings, flooded homes and roofless structures offered testimony to the severity of the storm.

The official death toll in Puerto Rico stands at 64. However, data obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting shows that at least 985 additional people died in the 40 days after the hurricane, which is a higher death toll than in 2016, a year without such severe storms.

Elsewhere, Hurricane Harvey, swamped southern Texas and southwestern Louisiana as it ambled offshore in the Gulf of Mexico for days in late August, dumping more than 50 inches of rain on some communities. Catholic parishes and schools were among entities affected by flooding. The storm was the first major hurricane to make landfall on the U.S. mainland since 2005 and caused nearly $200 billion in damage.

Then came the back-to-back storms in the Caribbean: first Hurricane Irma followed by Hurricane Maria. With winds topping 160 miles an hour, both storms devastated entire islands. Irma also caused flooding throughout Florida.

Beyond Puerto Rico, the U.S Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Antigua, Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Turks and Caicos were battered by the storms.

About the same time, earthquakes of magnitudes 8.1, 7.1 and 6.1 jolted Mexico Sept. 7, Sept. 19 and Sept. 23, resulting in 474 deaths and more than 6,300 injuries.

The temblors were followed in October and December by wildfires in California, driven by hot winds and fueled by hundreds of thousands of acres of dry timber, a consequence of a dry summer.

The most recent round of fires near Los Angeles followed by two months more than a dozen wind-whipped blazes in California wine country that destroyed thousands of homes in urban neighborhoods, causing 24 deaths and leaving hundreds of families homeless.

In response to the disasters, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA, Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Relief Services mobilized to raise funds to assist with emergency relief and long-term recovery.

The USCCB collected $38.5 million for hurricane relief and another $1.3 million for Mexican earthquake relief. Catholic Charities USA raised $24 million for disaster assistance. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul also was on the scene in various locales coordinating its response through parish and diocesan councils.

Other donors included Catholic Extension, which provided $400,000 in immediate support to the church in Puerto Rico following the hurricanes, and the Knights of Columbus, which pledged $1.4 million for church repairs in Florida, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization earlier provided $100,000 to the Archdiocese of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Caritas Mexico by the end of October had raised $900,000 for earthquake emergency aid. Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency and a partner in the church's Caritas Internationalis network, was on the ground providing disaster assistance.

The U.S. bishops' Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions made an emergency grant of $50,000 to the Diocese of Santa Rosa, California, to help with its response to the fires. In addition, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles began collecting funds even as wildfires raged in early December for families, parishes and schools affected by the fires in Los Angeles and Ventura countries.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 2017 was the seventh most active hurricane season on record dating to 1851 and the most active season since 2005.

Alan Betts, a Vermont-based climate scientist who has studied global weather and climate for more than 40 years, outlined his concerns about future weather patterns during a Nov. 2 Catholic Climate Covenant webinar.

Betts long ago concluded that earth is warming and that humans cause it because of their penchant for burning fossil fuels in large quantities.

During the webinar and a September presentation at St. Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont, Betts explained that a warming atmosphere holds more water vapor. More humidity in the atmosphere means a higher potential for downpours.

At the same time, the oceans are a storehouse for excessive heat. The Climate Special Report released by 13 federal agencies Nov. 3 found that the oceans have absorbed 93 percent of the excess heat caused by greenhouse gas warming since the mid-20th century, leading to altered global and regional climate.

The warmer the oceans, the more intense the hurricanes, Betts said.

The Catholic Climate Covenant and the Global Catholic Climate Covenant continued efforts throughout the year to call on people to advocate for action to cut carbon emissions, a leading cause of climate change.

In other climate-related actions, hundreds of Catholics from across the country joined the two organizations during the April 29 People's Climate March in Washington.

In sweltering heat -- the temperature reached 91 degrees at nearby National Airport, tying a record set in 1974 for the date -- an estimated 200,000 people walked from the Capitol to the Washington Monument to protest President Donald Trump's environmental agenda.

The Trump administration has begun the process of dismantling environmental regulations and rolling back the Clean Power Plan regulating carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants in the name of creating jobs and boosting the U.S. economy. Trump also followed through on a campaign pledge to begin the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

The U.S. bishops issued several statements throughout the year calling on the president to remain in the accord and keep the Clean Power Plan in place.

- - -

Follow Dennis Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

- - -

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