New ISIS pamphlet justifies militants abuse of ‘Unbelieving’ captives; says Allah allows it

December 15, 2014 by admin  
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Iraq, December 10, 2014: The Islamic State released a new pamphlet teaching jihadis why it is permissible, under Islamic law, to enslave, abuse, buy, sell and have forced sexual intercourse with religious minority female and child captives.

The Research and Fatawa (Islamic law) Department of the Islamic State released a set of guidelines last week in the form of a frequently asked questions-style pamphlet, which posed serious ethical questions about the militants’ sex slave practices. The questions are followed up with brief answers, using verses from the Koran and teachings of “Islamic scholars” to justify why Islamic law permits those actions. It also provides certain guidelines for the militants to follow.

According to the document, which was released on Dec. 3 and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, women of opposing religious views are viewed as a part of the al-harb (people of war). Once the women of the al-harb are captured, the pamphlet claims they are sexually permissible for fighters because of their state of “unbelief.”

“Unbelieving [women] who were captured and brought into the abode of Islam are permissible to us, after the Imam distributes them [among us],” the pamphlet reads. “It is permissible to have sexual intercourse with the female captive. Allah the almighty said: ‘[Successful are the believers] who guard their chastity, except from their wives or [the captives and slaves] that their right hands possess, for then they are free from blame [Koran 23:5-6].’”

Although the pamphlet claims that all women of unbelief are eligible to be taken captive and used sexually, the pamphlet says that Islamic scholars are undecided as to whether women who convert to Islam should be eligible for sexual intercourse with fighters.

“There is no dispute among the scholars that it is permissible to capture unbelieving women [who are characterized by] original unbelief, such as the kitabiyat [women believing in the Bible like Jews and Christians] and polytheists,” the pamphlet adds. “However, [the scholars] are disputed over [the issue of] capturing apostate women. The consensus leans towards forbidding it, though some people of knowledge think it permissible. We lean towards accepting the consensus.”

After explaining why it is divinely moral for their fighters to sexually abuse the captives, the pamphlet then addresses certain rules and rituals that militants must follow before using their newly captured religious minority woman or girl.

The pamphlet allows for fighters to have sex with a young captured girl who has not yet reached puberty, if “she is fit for intercourse.” But if she is not fit to have intercourse, the document says it is ok to have sensual relations with her in other ways.

The guide further explains that if a militant comes into possession of a captured virgin, he may immediately begin having sex with the woman, because her genital parts are already deemed pure. But if a fighter comes into the possession of a woman who is not a virgin, the woman must be cleansed.

“If she is a virgin, he can have intercourse with her immediately after taking possession of her. However, if she isn’t her uterus must be purified,” the pamphlet asserts.

The pamphlet also justifies jihadis beating female slaves as a form of disciplinary action but the militant cannot simply beat or torture female slaves just for his own gratification. Additionally, fighters may not hit the women in the face.

Since the captured women are deemed a possession of their master, ISIS justifies the selling of the women, which the militants do frequently with a trafficking center in their stronghold of Raqqa.

“It is permissible to buy, sell, or give as a gift female captives and slaves, for they are merely property, which can be disposed of [as long as that doesn't cause the Muslim nation] any harm or damage.”

There are a few guidelines that the pamphlet highlights that places clear restrictions on the militants. One such restriction is that if the fighter impregnates the captive, he can no longer sell her as she is now the mother of his child.

Also, fighters may not separate a mother from her child through the act or purchasing and selling. A mother or daughter can only be sold separately once the child is fully mature, although the pamphlet does not provide an age for the acceptable level of maturity.

Additionally, fighters may not have intercourse with a captive that is owned by more than one fighter. If two jihadis wanted to save money and buy one captive to share for sex, Islamic law would not allow them to have intercourse with the woman, according to the pamphlet.

- christian post

US teenager arrested & beaten by police for refusing to remove rosary beads

December 11, 2014 by admin  
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refusing to remove rosary beadsTexas, December 8, 2014: In what activists are claiming is a clear use of excessive police force and a violation of civil liberty, an eighth grader at a Texas middle school was arrested and slammed face-first in the ground by a police officer during a school football game after the student refused to remove his spiritually beloved rosary beads from his neck.

Jacob Herrera, an eighth grade student at Sam Houston Middle School in in Amarillo, Texas, was arrested and detained overnight by local police in late October after he argued with an officer over his right to wear rosary beads on school grounds. The rosary was given to him by his now-deceased brother and has religious and sentimental value to him.

While the Amarillo Police Department holds that rosary beads are symbolism for association with gang violence and asks that students in the Amarillo Independent School District not wear them on school property, Herrera had acquired prior approval from the school’s principal that allowed him to wear rosary beads underneath his clothing while in school.

Before Herrera attended one of the school’s football games on Oct. 29, he was granted further approval from administrators allowing him to wear and display his beads while at the football game, without having to keep them underneath his clothing, his mother claims.

At the game, Herrera was confronted by a police officer working security who told him to remove the beads. Herrera didn’t want to remove the beads and tried to explain to the officer that he had been given permission to wear them.

When Herrera refused to remove the beads, police statements indicate that Herrera was told to put his hands behind his back, which he refused. He additionally did not comply with any of the officer’s other demands, which ultimately led to his arrest and painful physical police treatment.

“My son passed away two years ago, 2012, and he was teaching Jacob, you know about God and how you know, he should wear the rosary to protect him. So Jacob believes that that rosary protects him and its of his remembrance to his brother,” Herrera’s mother, Lori Martinez, told a local CBS affiliate.

According to a witness, Herrera was detained and was treated cruelly by the officers. Later, he had to be taken to the hospital due to injuries inflicted by the officer.

“You know, he handcuffed him, and then crossed him across the street right there and slammed him again and he repeatedly slammed the child on the floor,” witness Marviell Chavez said.

Coming to the legal defense of Herrera, The Rutherford Institute, a legal group dedicated to the defense of civil liberties, sent a demand letter to the Amarillo Independent School District on Dec. 4 demanding that the district rescind its dress code policy that states that students may not wear anything deemed as “gang apparel” by local law enforcement.

The letter also asked the school district to encourage law enforcement to drop its criminal prosecution of Herrera, and also said that the school district should issue a statement condemning the police department’s use of excessive force on young students.

“I think it was excessive force. The school should not be allowing this to happen. He is just an eighth grader,” Rutherford Institute founder John Whitehead said in a Monday interview with The Christian Post. “I understand that this [could be seen as] a gang symbol, but you can’t repress the symbol. It is a matter of religious freedom and is a First Amendment right. I think that they are overreacting to the gang issues, and if you have somebody wearing it legitimately, yes, they should be allowed to wear it. I think it is an important issue or we wouldn’t be involved.”

The Rutherford Institute has given the school district until Friday, Dec. 12, to respond to their demads. If the school district does not respond or give in to the demands by then, Whitehead said the institute has found a local lawyer who will take up Herrera’s case and could pursue a lawsuit against the school and police department.

Although Whitehead said that the letter was sent last Thursday, the Amarillo Independent School District’s communications director, Holly Shelton, told CP that they did not recevied the letter until Monday morning and will conduct a review of the the district’s policy.

“We will be reviewing our policies with the concerns addressed in the letter in mind,” Shelton said.

Herrara’s case is just one case representing a larger issue of school boards and local governments wrongly implementing rules that infringe upon the religious expression rights of their students and even teachers, Whitehead further addedd.

“I have heard of schools that say teachers can’t wear a cross. They can’t wear a reef on their lapel. Well, no court cases have ever held that. It is just an overreaction for political correctness,” Whitehead asserted. “I can see concern over gang symbols, but when you are lumping rosary beads in there with it, and Christian symbols, you got a problem.

“Then, when you have the cops slamming somebody face-down, and he had to go to the hospital over it, an eighth grader, holding him in detention like he is a master criminal, just doesn’t make any sense to me,” Whitehead added.

- christian post

Christians join new militia to combat ISIS in northern Iraq

December 10, 2014 by admin  
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Christians join new militia to combat ISIS in northern IraqIraq, December 5, 2014: The Assyrian Democratic Movement has announced the formation of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, a militia largely comprised of Christian volunteers created to defend civilians from ISIS. The NPU also hopes to recapture land that was taken over by the terrorist organization.

There are reportedly between 500 and 1,000 Assyrian volunteers in training with the NPU, which was fomed by the Assyrian Democratic Movement, the primary political party of Assyrians in Iraq, according to Aletia.

“The mission of the NPU will be first to protect the remaining Assyrian lands from further attacks by ISIS, and then to participate in the necessary military campaigns to liberate the Assyrian homeland of the Nineveh Plain from these notorious terrorists,” reads a press release from the American Mesopotamian Organization, which is helping the project by raising awareness and support for the NPU.

“As a means of protection for themselves and other ethno-religious peoples under attack from ISIS, the Assyrian Democratic Movement is now actively recruiting and training young Assyrian volunteers for service in the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, readying them for combat with ISIS,” according to the press release.

David W. Lazar, a Baghdad native who runs the American Mesopotamian Organization, said that the program is being funded by “Assyrian communities in the diaspora,” specifically in the U.S. and Europe, and plans to eventually seek help from the U.S. and European governments.

“As the NPU grow in strength and size, they will become part of the official security forces of the proposed province, ensuring protection for the lands, homes and lives of Iraq’s minority populations,” according to the press release.

“They will be part of national guard, a project Iraq is putting together,” said Lazar. “We will be pushing for creation of Nineveh Plain Province because it’s our right.”

The units are being formed by Assyrian Christians out of frustration with the Iraqi government and military who they feel failed to protect them during the most critical times. They specifically hold the Kurds, a group that runs part of northern Iraq, responsible.

“Kurds told Christians: ‘Relax, stay in your house, we’ll take care of it.’ They got them to hand over their weapons, saying, ‘We can’t have a lot of weapons floating around; that might cause problems,’” claimed Jeff Gardner, who is helping the American Mesopotamian Organization with public relations.

While some Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters have been successful at pushing ISIS out of certain areas, including the village of Bakufa in northern Iraq, ISIS had driven the Christian population out of the area, which is comprised of 95 houses and is located 243 miles north of Baghdad.

However, after they took back the town, the Kurdish fighters began setting up village militia that was made up of about 70 volunteers. The militia, which is made up of many Christians, now patrol the area around the clock to keep the village free so that their families could return.

“We found ourselves helpless,” Caesar Jacob, deputy to the Christian militia’s commander, told The Associated Press. “We must defend ourselves to defend our land for now and the future.”

The Kurdish peshmerga fighters seem proud of their accomplishments in Bakufa.

“We came here to protect our Christian brothers and their homes,” said Abdul Rahman Kawriny, the local peshmerga brigade commander. “There is constant cooperation and assistance. We are always together.”

It is important to ensure safety once an area is cleared of ISIS, according to Michael Stephens, a Middle East expert at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies.

“One of the biggest problems is that when ISIS leaves an area, it leaves it full of roadside bombs and mines and traps everywhere, which makes the place uninhabitable for anybody who wants to move back,” he told Aletia.

The placement of bombs along roads, and inside homes and churches was also reported by The Christian Post in October.

Both sides of this fight will face a potential harsh winter and displaced people and refugees face an even greater challenge as the U.N. recently announced that its World Food Program ran out of funds and is cutting off its programs in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt.

- christian post

Korea: Giant Christmas tree returns to border

December 5, 2014 by admin  
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Korean Giant Christmas treeKorea, December 02, 2014: After months of controversy and judicial appeals, the government has granted the Christian Council of Korea permission to rebuild the huge Christmas tree on Aegibong peak. The hill, which is directly across the border with the North, is 165 meters high. Considered by some as a tool of “psychological warfare” with the North, the metal shaft and the cross that surmounts it will be visible to  North Korean people living up to 10 kilometers from the border.

The official announcement was made this morning by the Seoul Ministry of Defense, who also guaranteed “protection” to the Christian faithful who will gather for the lighting ceremony. The dimensions of the structure are still not clear, “between nine and 35 meters high.” Seoul has not yet decided whether or not to allow the Christian group to restore the original giant tree, demolished in November after 43 years.

For officials of the Park Geun-hye government the destruction of the old tree was “motivated by security reasons. The frame was old and dilapidated. We have not decided if the new can be as high as the original one or whether it will be smaller”. The lighting ceremony is scheduled for 23 December, when the members of the Council will gather for a church service and the singing of some Christmas hymns. The tree will remain lit and visible for two weeks.

Built in 1971 – at the height of tensions between the two Koreas – the huge frame was switched on or off according to the highs and lows of political relations between the neighbouring nations.  In 2004, to great fanfare, Seoul declared that the tree “would be lit up again” because “an agreement had been reached” with Pyongyang. However in 2010, after the sinking of the South Korean Cheonan which killed 43 people, the Christmas lights returned.

- asianews

Pope Francis prays in Turkey’s Mosque, head bowed toward Mecca

December 1, 2014 by admin  
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Pope and PatriarchTurkey, November 30, 2014: A day after calling for inter-religious dialogue to end Islamist extremism, Pope Francis on Saturday visited a 17th-century mosque in Istanbul and spent several minutes in a silent prayer with his head bowed in the direction of Mecca.

The pope made the gesture to promote Christian-Muslim relations at the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque, on Saturday, the second day of his three-day Turkey visit, according to the Vatican Radio.

He removed his shoes before entering the mosque with blue tiles on its walls. Standing next to him was the Grand Mufti, who explained about the Koranic verses illustrated on the stones pillars and the dome.

The pontiff also toured on Saturday the nearby Hagia Sophia, a Byzantine basilica which was turned into a mosque after the fall of Constantinople in the mid-15th century before being transformed into a museum.

The pontiff’s visit is being seen as an effort to foster inter-faith relations.

“Fanaticism and fundamentalism, as well as irrational fears which foster misunderstanding and discrimination, need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers,” the pope said Friday in a speech to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other political leaders on the first day of his pastoral visit to the cities of Ankara and Istanbul.

“It is essential that all citizens – Muslim, Jewish and Christian – both in the provision and practice of the law, enjoy the same rights and respect the same duties,” the pope added in his speech Friday. “They will then find it easier to see each other as brothers and sisters who are travelling the same path, seeking always to reject misunderstandings while promoting cooperation and concord. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression, when truly guaranteed to each person, will help friendship to flourish and thus become an eloquent sign of peace.”

Also on Saturday, Francis celebrated the only public Mass of his Turkey visit in Istanbul’s Latin Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Holy Spirit.

Surrounded by the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew and leaders of all the other Christian communities, Francis reflected on how the Holy Spirit creates unity among believers. When we let the Spirit unsettle us to move us out of our comfort zones, turning instead to our brothers and sisters “with that tenderness which warms the heart,” then we have been touched by the Holy Spirit, he was quoted as saying.

The pope’s emphasis on having dialogue and improving inter-faith relations comes at a time when the Christian and Yazidi minorities are being targeted and killed in Iraq and Syria, large territories of which are now controlled by the Islamic State, or ISIS, terror group.

The ISIS, an al-Qaeda offshoot, seeks to form an Islamic emirate in the Levant region through “jihad.” In Iraq, ISIS men have killed hundreds of civilians. Numerous members of the Christian and Yazidi minorities have also been killed, and tens of thousands of them have fled their homes. About 5,000 Yazidi girls and women were recently taken captive by ISIS to be sold or given to fighters as slaves.

- christian post

Debate: Should US Presidents call Islam a ‘Religion of Peace?’

November 26, 2014 by admin  
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IslamMiami, November 21, 2014: Two former George W. Bush administration officials, Elliot Abrams and Michael Gerson, debated Monday whether it is appropriate for presidents to call Islam a religion of peace.

“What is authentic Islam? Is ISIS an authentic form of Islam, or is it not? I think it’s very important that the United States government shut-up about that question,” Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, declared at the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Faith Angle Forum.

It used to annoy me enormously when President [George W.] Bush, for whom I was working, would say, ‘Islam is a religion of peace,’” continued Abrams, who served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser.

Abrams was speaking on a panel, “Religious Conflict and the Future of the Middle East,” with Shadi Hamid, a fellow with the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

The “real response” to Bush, and later President Barack Obama, declaring the Islam is a religion of peace, he said, should be “where is their theology degree from?”

“For American government officials to be telling Muslims, ‘I know real Islam’ … is ridiculous,” he added. “… It would be an outrage about Judaism and Christianity as well. … For government officials who are 99 percent Christians to be trying to find what is authentic in Islam seems to me to be a fool’s errand.”

Abrams’ comments came during the question and answer session and were not part of his prepared remarks. The whole session lasted about three hours and he made similar remarks later in the session in response to another reporter’s question.

When presidents say Islam is a religion of peace, “the average American thinks this is crap,” he said, because the average American reasons that “the only people doing the beheadings are Muslims, so don’t tell me it’s all wonderful.”

It would be better, Abrams continued, for political leaders to ask, “is there something in Islam that has led some Muslims to behave in a way we consider to be terrible? And what’s the debate within Islam?” Because, “that’s a real description of a real problem,” but, “saying ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ isn’t [realistic].”

After those remarks, Gerson asked for the floor to offer a different point of view.

“We do praise Christianity as a religion of peace on Christmas, we do praise Judaism as a religion of courage on Hanukah and other things. We praise Islam. And every president from now on will praise Islam on religious holidays because their are millions of peaceful citizens who hold this view,” he said.

Gerson was a speechwriter for Bush and may have helped craft the statements that Abrams found objectionable. He now works as a columnist for The Washington Post.

Presidential statements about Islam as a peaceful religion is not only proper due to the many peaceful Muslims who are American citizens, Gerson continued, it is also “theologically sophisticated” because presidents should promote the cause of those who hold values consistent with democratic governance, and this is not unique to Islam.

“Every religious tradition,” he said, “has forces of tribalism and violence in its history, background and theology; and, every religious tradition has sources of respect for the other. And you emphasize, as a political leader, one at the expense of the other in the cause of democracy.

“That is a great American tradition that we have done with every religious tradition that comes to the United States — include them as part of a natural enterprise and praise them for their strongly held religious views, and emphasize those portions that are most compatible with those ideals.”

Abrams countered that Islam is different due to its relationship to terrorists. By calling Islam a “religion of peace” after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Abrams said, Bush was “basically lying about the problem,” because, … the terrorists “view themselves as good Muslims.”

“How is that exclusively a problem with Islam?” Gerson responded, then mentioned other religious groups, such as Christians in Nigeria, who commit violence in the name of their faith.

Part of the role of political leaders, Gerson reiterated, is to acknowledge the parts of every religious tradition that “encourage respect for the other.”

Abrams conceded Gerson’s point but maintained that presidents are not doing that when they call Islam a religion of peace because the presidential statements lack the nuance of Gerson’s argument.

“I think you’re being much more sophisticated than the political statements that have been made, which are blanket statements that say, ‘this has nothing to do with Islam,’” he told Gerson.

“Well, it does have something to do with Islam … even if it is a perversion of it, it has something to do with it, and the sophistication of that statement I think would be interesting to hear from a political leader, but we have not had that.”

A similar debate between actor Ben Affleck and comedian Bill Maher recently gained national attention. Affleck accused Maher of being “gross,” “disgusting” and “racist” for claiming that most Muslims are unsupportive of Democratic norms.

That debate, however, saw both sides paint Islam with broad brushes. The Faith Angle Forum panel, on the other hand, highlighted the complicatedness of the religion and politics issues within Islam and especially in the Middle East.

“It was nice to see Ben Affleck defend Muslims,” said Hamid, an American Muslim, during his prepared remarks. “It was well intentioned and a lot of us were cheering him on because no one defends Muslims in the public sphere. At the same time, Ben Affleck’s analysis was a bit superficial. … I do think Islam is distinctive in how it relates to politics but I don’t think that is necessarily good or bad, I think it just is.”

- christian post

North Carolina: 16 Judges quit following state’s legalization of gay marriage

November 25, 2014 by admin  
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Same-sex marriage LegalizedNorth Carolina, November 22, 2014: Sixteen North Carolina judges have either resigned or retired after gay marriage became legal in the state last month when a judge ruled that an amendment to the state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

In October, U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn of Asheville struck down the ban and ruled the amendment unconstitutional in response to a Charlotte-based lawsuit.

Reports from the administrative office of the courts note that “between the ruling on Oct. 10 and the end of the month, 16 magistrates left their jobs, but the state wouldn’t release why they left,” Time Warner Cable News-Charlotte reports.

The cable network added that it’s “been able to determine that at least 10 of the 16 magistrates who left last month, did so because they will not perform same-sex marriages.”

“The number of North Carolina magistrates who have resigned or retired early because of their opposition to performing same-sex marriages is higher than previously reported,” TWC-Charlotte reports, adding that the judges are now required by law to perform same-sex marriages. … “The court system reports there are 672 magistrates across the state, so only about 1.5 percent have left because of the same-sex marriage ruling.”

In May 2012, North Carolina voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative that added an amendment to their state constitution defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.

The New York Times reported in 2012 that the amendment passed by a margin of more than 20 percentage points with 500,000 people voting early, which was a “record for a primary in the state.”

North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has said his administration is “moving forward with the execution of the court’s ruling [lifting the ban on gay marriage] and will continue to do so unless otherwise notified by the courts,” according to the CharlotteObserver.

Judges quitting over the striking down of the gay marriage ban is not the only example of resistance or stated opposition to the court decision. A few North Carolina counties have passed resolutions in support of the former ban and have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal.

Despite the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear a wave of appeals in October, many believe that with the Sixth Circuit’s recent upholding of multiple state level amendments banning gay marriage, the Court will have to rule on the issue.

- christian post

Science just keeps proving the Church is right

November 25, 2014 by admin  
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Science and ChurchIndiana, November 17, 2014: Catholic beliefs have long been challenged by that elite triumvirate of academia, media and government. Today, many of us are also finding our beliefs challenged in our daily lives — in our professional careers, our parenting and how we live.

Adult Catholics need to understand and intentionally embrace Catholic teaching with our intellects and reason. We can’t be content to believe and accept the teaching of the Church solely because our parents and teachers “said so”. In this process, we may struggle with particular teachings due to our own flaws, lack of good catechesis and other reasons.

And even as adults, our faith may be challenged when the lives and practices of people we respect and love contradict Catholic doctrine. When this happens, I try to see the relevance of my beliefs to their lives.

The values espoused by the Church can seem harsh and even unfair in our live-and-let-live ethos. It’s understandable that many today believe that the Church is out of step with the modern world and that its teachings are no longer relevant.

But what is amazing (and certainly unintentional) is the fact that modern science — which so many assume is the antithesis or even enemy of Catholic teaching — actually bears out the truth and value and relevance of what the Church has taught for 2,000 years. Here are ten examples to illustrate my point.

1. The Church teaches that pride is the root of all vices. Research studies in psychology show that narcissism and irrational thinking are on the rise, especially in our younger generation, and are creating a “community” that is disjointed, disenchanted and confused. The traits of narcissists — self-centeredness, inflated self-esteen, lack of empathy, aggressiveness — are harmful to others, to society, and eventually to the narcissists themselves.

2. The Church teaches that a valid marriage is forever and indissoluble. Science tells us that growing up in an intact family with one’s biological parents who are married to each other confers the greatest benefit to children and other arrangements result in varying degrees of social, psychological, emotional and academic harm.

3. The Church teaches that fear prevents love and that, above all, we should trust in God’s providential care and not be afraid. Studies show that anxiety is the number one psychological complaint in youth and adults (see, e.g., Cartwright-Hatton, McNicol, & Doubleday, 2006; Muris & Steerneman, 2001). At unhealthy levels, anxiety is associated with a myriad of negative health outcomes.

Jim Schroeder is a pediatric psychologist at St Mary’s Center for Children in Evansville, Indiana.

- jim schroeder

Exodus of Latin American Catholics to Evangelical congregations

November 20, 2014 by admin  
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Latin American CatholicsNovember 18, 2014: Increasing numbers of Catholics in Latin America are abandoning the Catholic Church in favour of Evangelical congregations or non-religious life, according to a new survey, making Pope Francis’ calls for renewed evangelisation efforts in the region ever more urgent.

The Washington CD-based Pew Research Center survey of 30,000 residents of 18 countries and Puerto Rico showed 69 per cent of respondents confirming they were Catholic, even though 84 per cent of people said they had been raised in the Church.

The Catholic population has slipped sharply over the past century, when their numbers topped 90 per cent. Evangelicals have attracted Mass-goers often by promoting what those converting would consider more attractive ways of worshipping the Lord, an emphasis on morality and solutions for their earthly afflictions – mostly poverty-related, said Andrew Chesnut, religious studies professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Some Central American countries and Uruguay now have almost as many Protestants or religiously unaffiliated people as Catholics in their populations. If the trend continues, “even Brazil, home to the largest Catholic population on earth, will no longer have a Catholic majority by 2030,” said Dr Chesnut, author of a book on Evangelicals in Brazil.

The survey underlines the urgency of the Pope’s pleas for action in Latin America, where Catholicism has been intimately associated with culture, governance and history for more than 500 years.

Pope Francis has called for Catholics to adopt a more missionary mindset and take their faith to people on the periphery of society – places where Protestants often find converts.

The Pew survey found Evangelicals showing more enthusiasm for their faith, expressed by attending church services and praying more frequently, adherence to moral teachings and the level to which religion is important in their daily lives.

The level of enthusiasm “often is more demanding in terms of personal commitment,” said Dr Chesnut, an academic consultant to the Pew survey.

Protestants now make up 19 per cent of the Latin American population, while another 8 per cent now profess no religious affiliation – a figure reaching 37 per cent in Uruguay. Roughly half these people did not grow up in their current congregations or in non-religious homes, according to the survey.

Some 65 per cent of Protestants in Latin America belong to Evangelical congregations.

“Christianity in Latin America is thoroughly ‘Pentecostalised,’ with 70 per cent of Protestants and 40 per cent of Catholics identifying as charismatic,” Dr Chesnut said. “If it weren’t for Charismatic Renewal, Catholic decline probably would have been even greater.”

In Brazil, where 60 percent of the population is Catholic, evangelical pastor Jay Bauman said the style of worship attracts people to Protestant congregations – along with the promotion of “prosperity Gospel” teachings by some Pentecostals.

Dr Chesnut said services at World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro showed more of a charismatic style, and it is being adopted by Latin American Catholics in increasing numbers.

Francis has proved popular among Catholics in Latin America, “but former Catholics are more sceptical,” with only majorities of ex-Catholics in Argentina and Uruguay expressing approval of the first Latin American pope, according to the survey.

Religious Affliliations of Latin AmericansA table from a survey published last week by the Pew Research Centre graphically illustrates the decline of Roman Catholicism in Latin America. Most dramatic is the finding that most of Central America is now only “half Catholic”, with Honduras “Less than half Catholic”. Pope Francis’ homeland Argentina just scrapes into the “Predominantly Catholic” category, whereas Brazil is on its way to becoming only “Half Catholic”. Uruguay, the least Catholic country in the region, has a secularist tradition going back to 1861. Overall, over 425 million Latin Americans identify as Catholic, or 69 per cent of the continent’s population and almost 40 per cent of the world’s Catholics. That means the number of Latin American Protestants – known as evangélicos – stands at around 117 million.

- the tablet

Vatican lifts ban on married priests for Eastern Catholic churches in US, Canada & Australia

November 20, 2014 by admin  
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Eastern Catholic churchesVatican, November 17, 2014: The Vatican has lifted a longstanding ban on the ordination of married men to the priesthood in the Eastern Catholic churches.

The tradition and discipline of the Eastern churches allows for the ordination of married men to the priesthood. (Bishops must be unmarried, however, and once ordained, a priest cannot marry.) The Vatican has repeatedly approved this tradition, while insisting on the importance of priestly celibacy in the Latin rite.

However, in the late 19th century, with the arrival of many Byzantine Catholic immigrants in Canada, Latin-rite prelates complained that the presence of married Catholic priests could create a “grave scandal.” The Vatican eventually ruled that the Eastern churches could not ordain married men in the countries where their communities form a minority of the Catholic population. The rule has historically applied primarily to Canada, the US, and Australia.

With a decree approved by Pope Francis, and signed on June 14 by Cardinal Leonard Sandri, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches has now rescinded that ban. Catholic bishops of the Eastern churches serving in eparchies (dioceses) in the West are explicitly authorized to ordain married men.

The decree requires a bishop of the Eastern Catholic Church to “give prior notice, in writing, to the Latin Bishop of the candidate’s place of residence, so as to obtain his opinion and any relevant information [regarding the candidate].” An Eastern-rite bishop who ordained a married man for service in another country is directed to inform the episcopal conference of that country, and the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, of this action.

In practice, the ban on married priests had been relaxed in recent years, with the tacit acceptance of the Holy See. Some married priests from the East have been assigned to serve parishes in the West, and some men from the West have traveled to the East to be ordained before returning to serve at home. In a few cases, bishops of the Eastern churches have simply ignored the ban, ordaining married American men to serve in American parishes.

The new Vatican document allowing for the ordination of married men notes that when the ban was originally imposed, thousands of Catholics of the Ruthenian Catholic community in Canada left to join the Orthodox Church. The document also notes that when Pope Benedict XVI issued Anglicanorum Coetibus, allowing for the reception of Anglican communities into the Catholic Church, he explicitly provided for the presence of married Catholic priests. In 2012, Pope Benedict remarked that “the ministry of married priests is a component of the ancient Eastern traditions,” which he encouraged the Eastern Catholic churches to maintain.

- catholic culture

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