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Guard slain outside Mexican cardinal's home

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 22, 2018 / 11:59 am (CNA).- An auxiliary policeman was shot and killed Sunday defending the home of Cardinal Norberto Rivera, the retired Archbishop of Mexico City.

The guard died on his way to hospital shortly after the shooting on Oct. 21. The cardinal was home during the attack but is reported to be safe and unharmed by the incident.

According to the Associated Press, the shooting was not an attempt on the cardinal’s life, but has been presumed to be an attempted robbery.

The guard had been approached by two unknown attackers, who were pretending to deliver a package. After the suspects rang the doorbell, the guard opened the door and was shot.

Reuters reported that at least one of the men had been dressed in military clothes, and, after gun fire broke out, the man was forced back as shots were returned by other guards.

The Mexican bishops’ conference expressed "its closeness, solidarity and support” to the cardinal, and offered prayers for the family and the soul of the slain officer.

Rivera retired as Mexico City’s archbishop in December 2017.

 

HHS considers defining sex based on birth, genetics

Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2018 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The Trump administration is considering reshaping some federal policies to define gender according to a person’s biology and genitalia, according to a new memo from the Department of Health and Human Services.

 

The department is seeking a definition based “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”

 

If adopted, the changed definition would clarify the application of Title IX, the 1972 civil rights law prohibiting gender-based discrimination in educational programs that receive government funding.

 

This change would be a departure from practices developed during the Obama administration, which recognize a person’s gender based on their own interpretation or identity rather than their chromosomal makeup or birth sex.  

 

A 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights noted that “gender based harassment” could include harassment based upon the “actual or perceived” “gender identity” of a person. A question-and-answer document from the same office, issued in 2014, stated that sex-based discrimination under Title IX extended to discrimination based on “gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity."

 

If the proposed changes come into effect, sex would be defined as “a person’s status as male or female based on the immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”

 

The sex on a person’s original birth certificate would serve as “definitive proof” of their sex, with exceptions for those who can provide “reliable genetic evidence” that states otherwise.

 

Approximately 1 out of every 1,500 to 2,000 births have abnormal sex chromosomes other than the typical XX for females and XY for males. The most common of these is Klinefelter Syndrome, which means that a male has two X chromosomes in addition to a Y chromosome. Many men with Klinefelter Syndrome are unaware they have the condition.

 

In the United States, an estimated 1.4 million people identify as “transgender,” self-identifying as a gender other than the one recorded at birth. Some such people have undergone surgery or hormonal treatments to physically resemble their gender of self-identification.

 

Critics of the proposed changes have argued that they would exclude those identifying as “transgender” from protection by Title IX and other anti-discrimination measures. Supporters of the proposal contend that it merely ensures such laws are applied to the whole population based on objective criteria and not subjective self-identification.

 

The Department of Health and Human Services is expected to present a version of the new policy to the Department of Justice before the end of the year. If the Justice Department considers the revised definition legally viable and enforceable, HHS can then approve and implement it as policy across a range of government agencies involved with Title IX enforcement.

'What is a youth?' A synod glossary

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2018 / 10:16 am (CNA).- The 15th ordinary Synod of Bishops is meeting now to discuss young people, the faith, and vocational discernment. Many have referred to this nearly month-long meeting as the “Youth Synod.” This raises a question: What is a youth?

In the eyes of the Vatican, a youth is defined as a person between the ages of 16 and 35.

This age range extends beyond what is typically considered a “youth” in the United States. Whereas American World Youth Day participants are frequently groups of Catholic high school students accompanied by chaperones, many have observed that World Youth Day participants from European countries tend to be in their 20s and 30s.

With that established, what is a synod? A synod is a meeting of bishops gathered to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, in order to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope.

The Synod of Bishops was created in 1965 by Pope Saint Paul VI, who was canonized earlier this week. Paul VI charted the synod to encourage close union between the pope and the world’s bishops and to “insure that direct and real information is provided on questions and situations touching upon the internal action of the Church and its necessary activity in the world of today.”

Ordinary synods happen every three years on issues voted upon by synod delegates elected or appointed from each continent, and from certain Vatican offices. There have been 15 ordinary synods to date. There are also extraordinary synods and special synods.

What makes a synod extraordinary? It is a matter of timing. Extraordinary synods are called by the pope outside of the usual timing as a matter of urgency.

Special synods address a particular topic and are usually regional. For example, next year there will be a Special Synod on the Pan-Amazonian Region.

Instrumentum Laboris is Latin for “working document.” It is developed before the meeting by a small working committee of Vatican officials and diocesan bishops, and frames synod discussions. During a synod, bishops make comments and observations on the working document, and meet in small discussion groups to propose changes to the text, or to suggest new texts and additional areas for consideration.

A Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation is a document produced by the pope after synod assembly concludes. It generally reflects the recommendations made by the synod in its final document submitted to the pope, along with his own reflections.

The most recent post-synodal apostolic exhortation was Amoris laetitia, which was released after the 2015 synod on the family.

New rules for the 2018 synod of bishops say that the pope may approve, as a part of the Church’s magisterium, the final report from the synod fathers instead of producing a separate exhortation. It is not yet determined whether Pope Francis will do this at the conclusion of the synod.

Synod Fathers are the bishops and others who participate and vote in a synod.

Auditors are people appointed by the pope to participate in synod discussions and interventions within the synod hall, but without a vote on documents. Laypeople and women religious participate in the synod as auditors.

In a historic first, the 2018 Synod of Bishops has invited 34 young people participating as auditors.

Circoli Minori are small discussion groups in which synod participants who speak a common language work together to produce a report on each section of the working document, along with modi, or proposals, to be included in the final document.

At the 2018 Synod of Bishops, there are 14 language groups -- four in English, three French groups, three Italian, two Spanish, one German group, and one Portuguese.

“Synodality” is generally understood to represent a process of discernment, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, involving bishops, priests, religious, and lay Catholics, each according to the gifts and charisms of their vocation. This phrase has been emphasized in Pope Francis’ pontificate. In May, the International Theological Commission released a document on “Synodality in Life and Mission of the Church.”

 

Synod bishop: 'John Paul II guided me through my youth'

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2018 / 08:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- John Paul II spent much of his papacy speaking to youth. Now some of those youth are bishops.

On the feast of Saint John Paul II, one synod bishop reflected on how the Polish pope inspired generations of young people, including himself, to pursue holiness.

“Catholic youth want to implement ‘the civilization of love’ that was promised by John Paul II,” French Archbishop David Macaire said at a Vatican press conference Oct. 22.

The archbishop of Saint-Pierre and Fort-de-France in Martinique is in Rome for the 2018 Synod of Bishops convened Oct. 3-28 to discuss young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.

“I attended my first World Youth Day when I was 19 years old in Santiago de Compostela,” Macaire said in French.

The 1989 World Youth Day in Spain was the fourth global meeting for young people established by the John Paul II, who went on to celebrate a total of 19 World Youth Days in his pontificate with millions of young people from all over the world.

“John Paul II guided me through my youth,” Archbishop Macaire said.

Synod fathers should convey the Gospel, he continued, because “young people will receive this legacy.”

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis prayed at the tomb of Saint John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica. In April 2014, Pope Francis canonized John Paul II along with Pope John XXIII.

The Synod of Bishops did not meet Monday, while committees complete writing the draft of the final document and the synod letter to young people.

The draft document of the post-synod apostolic exhortation will be presented Oct. 23 and synod fathers will be able to propose their changes individually or as groups, Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications, announced.

It is up to Pope Francis to decide when the document will be made available to the public, Ruffini added.

As the synod nears its close, Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut said Monday that bishops and other diocesan leaders need to bring “synodality” to the local level.

“The document that we will receive tomorrow ... is an attempt to speak to a global community,” Caggiano said.

“Let's be realistic, young people in Bridgeport have a very different experience from young people in Nairobi or young people in Caracas,” he continued.

One unique experience was shared by a young girl from Guinea, Henriette Camara, who told the synod her story of growing up in a Muslim family. Camara converted to Catholicism, despite parental disapproval, through the witness and community that she encountered in a Catholic scouting group.

“The pursuit of holiness is recognizing the will of God and choosing to do it,” said Bishop Caggiano. “This entire synod has been an ecclesial exercise to unlock that pursuit of holiness.”

 

Global Catholic tech: Online Arabic catechetical program unites Middle East Catholics

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A bishop from Lebanon shared at the 2018 Synod of Bishops how his online catechesis program in Arabic has helped him to unite young Catholics across the Middle East.

“Thanks to the web I am able to connect many young people from the Middle East. We've also had conversions of young people who have recognized Jesus through our social presence,” Bishop Joseph Naffah said at the a Vatican press conference Oct. 19.

Synod fathers from Africa, South America, and the Middle East spoke Friday about their hopes for the future of evangelization and catechesis in a digital age.

Bishop Naffah is the auxiliary bishop of the Maronite Catholic eparchy of Joubbé, Sarba, and Jounieh in Lebanon.

For five years Naffah has been running an online catechetical program that connects over 500 Arabic-speaking Catholic students in conversations about the faith.

Students in the online program include youth in prison, as well as young people with disabilities.

“I’ve been moved in particular by one person who is totally paralyzed,” Bishop Naffah said.

While positive about the potential of online catechesis, the Maronite bishop also expressed concern that there are websites that contain false Catholic teaching online.

Naffah sees a need for a mechanism for Vatican approval of catechesis and teaching shared online, such as a special office to monitor Catholic webpages and then certify sites that accurately reflect the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Bishop Kofi Fianu of Ho, Ghana has also found success connecting with young people in Africa through the daily online Bible reflections that he shares with them.

“From this apostolate of digital reflections I have been in contact with many of the youth,” said Bishop Fianu. “They interact with me. They ask questions about what I have written in the reflection.”

“All of us, first of all, we the bishops, clergy need to be real ministers of the word. When we are able to drink deeply into the word of God, when we are on fire for this word, we can transmit it faithfully and more actively to the youth and the rest of the members of the Church,” Fianu continued.

Father Valdir Jose Castro from Brazil said that young people know the language and the grammar of the world of social media and are crucial in assisting the Church to reach out and open the doors.
 
“The Church needs to study in depth and improve its understanding of technology and the internet in particular so as to discern how she should live there and where fertile soil can be found,” Father Castro said.

The internet is a venue where the Church can encourage young people to be “protagonists in evangelization, not just the beneficiaries.”

 

Christ's throne is the cross, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2018 / 05:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The throne of Jesus Christ is the cross upon which he gave his life for the world, and those who wish to follow him must be prepared to sacrifice everything, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“The message of the Teacher is clear: while the great of the earth build themselves ‘thrones’ for their own power, God chooses an uncomfortable throne, the cross, from which he reigns giving his life,” the pope said Oct. 21.

“Jesus says, ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”

In his mediation before the Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel, in which James and John ask Jesus to grant that they may sit one on his left and one on his right in the Kingdom of God.

“Jesus knows that James and John are animated by great enthusiasm for him and for the cause of the Kingdom, but he also knows that their expectations and their zeal are polluted by the spirit of the world,” he said.

So, Jesus tells them: “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

They must learn that to follow Christ requires sacrifice, the pope said, because “the way of love is always ‘at a loss.’”

This lesson, he continued, is not only for James and John, but for all the Apostles, and for Christians of all time, who are infected with the same worldly mentality. As Jesus said: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”

“It is the rule of the Christian,” Francis said. “The way of service is the most effective antidote against the disease” of searching to be first, “which infects so many human contexts and does not spare even Christians, the people of God, even the ecclesiastical hierarchy.”

“Therefore, as disciples of Christ, we welcome this Gospel as a call to conversion, to witness to, with courage and generosity, a Church that bows at the feet of the least, to serve them with love and simplicity,” he stated.

After the Angelus, Pope Francis led those present in St. Peter’s Square in praying a ‘Hail Mary’ for those who have given their lives for the faith.

He also praised the witness of Bl. Tiburcio Arnáiz Muñoz, a Jesuit priest and founder of the Missionaries of the Rural Parishes, who was beatified in Malaga, Spain Oct. 20.

“We thank the Lord for the testimony of this zealous minister of reconciliation and tireless announcer of the Gospel, especially among the humble and the forgotten,” the pope said.

“His example impels us to be agents of mercy and courageous missionaries in every environment; his intercession supports our journey.”

He recalled the day’s celebration of World Mission Day, and its theme of “Together with the young we bring the Gospel to all.”

“Together with the young: this is the way!” he emphasized. “And it is the reality that, thanks to God, we are experiencing in these days of the Synod dedicated to them: listening to them and involving them we discover many testimonies of young people who found the meaning and joy of life in Jesus.”

He concluded by greeting the participants of a Rome pilgrimage which took place earlier the same day, which was led by Caritas International and Cardinal Tagle.

The pilgrimage was part of an initiative called, “Share the Journey,” which promotes fraternity between immigrants and non-immigrants.

 

How St. John Paul II began his papacy, 40 years ago

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- St. John Paul II used the occasion of his first homily as pope to offer a fervent prayer that God would make him, first and foremost, a servant.

The former Cardinal Karol Wojtyla delivered the first homily of his 26-year pontificate before a packed assembly in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Oct. 22, 1978— 40 years ago this week.

His election was a few days before, on Oct. 16.

John Paul II began his homily by reaffirming the words that had once been uttered by the apostle Peter in the presence of Jesus: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

“Yes, Brothers and sons and daughters, these words first of all,” the newly-elected pope said. “He who is infinite, inscrutable, ineffable, has come close to us in Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary in the stable at Bethlehem.”

The pope exhorted those seeking God, those who already believe, and those struggling with doubt to pay attention to Peter’s profession of faith in Jesus. Peter’s faith and obedience to a higher calling led him to leave his simple way of life as a fisherman and journey to Rome.

“What else but obedience to the inspiration received from the Lord guided him and brought him to this city, the heart of the Empire?” the pope said. “Perhaps the fisherman of Galilee did not want to come here. Perhaps he would have preferred to stay there, on the shores of the Lake of Genesareth, with his boat and his nets. But guided by the Lord, obedient to his inspiration, he came here!”

“Son of Poland”

On the day he began his new mission as Bishop of Rome, Pope John Paul admitted he was “a bishop full of trepidation, conscious of his unworthiness.”

As a self-proclaimed “son of Poland,” John Paul was the first non-Italian pope in more than 400 years. In this moment, as he took over the See of Peter, he proclaimed that the unbroken tradition of the papacy had made him a Roman, too.

“Inscrutable is the design of Divine Providence!” he said. “How could one not tremble before the greatness of this call and before the universal mission of this See of Rome!”

To his fellow Polish Bishops and to the many Polish pilgrims present, John Paul II said:

“Everything that I could say would fade into insignificance compared with what my heart feels, and your hearts feel, at this moment. So let us leave aside words. Let there remain just great silence before God, the silence that becomes prayer...Remember me today and always in your prayers!”

Humility and service

John Paul II chose not to wear a papal tiara, or crown; the last pope to be crowned was Paul VI in 1963. He said he didn’t want to return to “an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes,” but rather to immerse himself in “humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.”

The “power” exercised by the popes is service, John Paul II said; service to help all the people of God share in the mission of Jesus as Priest, Prophet, and King. This power expressed itself in “charity and truth” rather than in “the language of force.”

“Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power,” the saint said. “Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ's power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind.”

“Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid.”

Though his homily was in Italian, John Paul II— a famous polyglot— also offered greetings to pilgrims in French, English,German, Spanish, Portuguese, Czechoslovakian, Russian, Ukrainian and Lithuanian, asking all of them for prayers.

 

 

 

Church needs fewer and better seminaries, says seminary prof

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- In the wake of recent reports concerning widespread sexual harassment and sexual abuse at seminaries, a seminary professor has suggestions for how the seminary process could improve.

Fr. Thomas Berg, a professor of moral theology and director of admissions at St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York, suggested in an Oct. 18 Washington Post column six ways the formation process of seminarians could be changed to ensure that they would be properly formed both spiritually and emotionally.

Berg criticized the current seminary system for an “overemphasis on academics” that leaves seminarians lesser formed emotionally and personally. He warned that those kinds of deficits do not form priests who are ready to effectively serve their parishes, and could result in additional misbehavior.

“Where focus on personal psychological integration is lacking, space opens for disordered living of precisely the type that has made headlines in recent months,” he said. Seminaries in several U.S. cities announced investigations into misconduct this summer.

Next, Berg said that there needs to be increased trust and transparency betweens seminarians and formation teams. He said it “pained [him] to hear” that some seminarians had felt as though they could not discuss recent abuse stories. This censorship was “utterly wrongheaded.”

He said that seminarians should be able to “freely, frankly and confidently express to the formation team their concerns about the seminary community, their opinions about the formation process and any other honest apprehension or contribution they want to make in the spirit of honest dialogue.”

Additionally, he called for seminaries to have clear sexual harassment policies and protocols, and said that a person associated with the seminary, lay or otherwise, should be appointed to contact the diocese regarding sexual harassment or abuse.

Berg additionally called for a possible minimum age for seminarians, and said that “bishops need to slow down the rush to ordination.” He suggested that an age of 22 may be an appropriate time to begin seminary studies, which would allow the seminarian to acquire a college degree and work experience before entering.

While the current seminary process takes about seven years, Berg suggested that the process be extended by another year. An initial year of formation would consist of “detoxing from the culture and social media,” and would result in “growth in self-knowledge, prayer, and a secure masculine identity.” The final year prior to ordination could consist of “intensive fieldwork” in pastoral ministry.

Bishops may not appreciate this idea, he said, but he believes it is necessary, as the Church cannot be well served by priests who are ordained before they are actually ready for the position. This spiritual immaturity could result in mental health crises or other issues among clergy.

“When years later some of them falter, with addictions or other personal struggles, we all pay a heavy price,” he explained.

Berg also expressed concern at what he described as “priests who lack the skill set and drive to become mentors, role models and moral guides” being assigned to seminaries as formators.

“A doctorate in theology does not render a priest automatically suitable for such ministry,” he said. Bishops need to require that the formators themselves undergo ongoing professional formation to better serve the seminarians.

For his final points, Berg addressed the number and quality of seminaries in the United States. He said that steps should be taken to identify which seminaries are successful in the formation of priests, and those that are failing at this task. He suggested that bishops should form a panel of “seasoned seminary formators” who will visit each seminary to review their processes.

Seminaries that are “failing in their mission” should be reformed or closed.

Finally, Berg said that the current number of seminaries in the United States--70--is far too high and that number needs to be consolidated. A third of those seminaries, according to a recent report, have fewer than 50 seminarians, whereas 11 of them have more than 100 men in formation.

Instead of this glut of seminaries that are clearly not needed, Berg suggested making “15 or 20” regional seminaries, staffed by the best-of-the-best formators from seminaries around the country who would work in teams.

The current times require a “radical rethinking” of seminaries, one that must be started by the bishops, he said.

 

Bishops talk abuse crisis, same-sex attraction at youth synod

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2018 / 08:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the youth synod wrapped up its third week, the bishops and auditors discussed the sexual abuse crisis in parts of the world and how to respond to young people experiencing same-sex attraction.

At a press briefing Oct. 20, Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne said the sexual abuse crisis, the failure of leadership to address abuse appropriately, and the failure of bishops to listen to and believe victims, have come up consistently in synod discussions since day one.

He said he believes one of the key things going forward is the need to apologize for failures, to acknowledge shortcomings, and to start implementing better practices. He noted that in Australia, they have had protocols in place for around 20 years for the accountability of bishops.

Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, said that if someone came forward with an accusation, or there was a charge against him, he would welcome an investigation and would not stand in its way.

What the bishops are hearing from young people, he said, is the need for accountability and transparency – that no one, especially clerics, are exempt from being held accountable for the actions or inactions.

Though the abuse crisis is “not on the front burner in some countries,” Cupich continued, “the bishops are seeing that it needs to be addressed well” and that it should include the laity, with their presence on review boards.

He also pointed out that many of the bishops present for the synod are the president of their local bishops’ conference and will therefore be back in Rome in February 2019 for a summit addressing abuse prevention.

He said he sees these conversations as a springboard for going forward. Though he said Catholics will have to wait and see how the Vatican organizes the February meeting of bishops, he has a lot of confidence in Pope Francis as “a man of action,” who will want concrete things to come out it.

“Yes, there’s a lot of anger out there,” Cupich stated, “but beneath that anger is a lot of sadness, a sadness that the Church should be better and should get this right.”

As part of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 3-28, small language groups presented reports on their discussion of the third part of the working document, called the Instrumentum laboris, for the assembly on young people, faith, and vocational discernment.

In the small group chaired by Cardinal Cupich, and which Comensoli and Cardinal John Ribat of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea are a part of, they discussed the issue of young Catholics who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria, proposing that there be a separate section for this issue in the final document of the synod.

The main objective of the section should be “pastoral accompaniment of these people which follows the lines of the relevant section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” the report states.

In the press briefing Oct. 20, Cupich said a number of the short speeches of synod participants, and small groups, have said they want the final report to say something inclusive of everyone and to address young people with same-sex attraction.

“I was asked a question: what is the final document going to have to say to people who have same-sex attraction, have this aspect to their life? My answer was I think the whole document has something to say to everybody,” Cupich said.

“We wanted to make sure everyone felt included by what we say. So whatever form that takes, our small group was for it.”

The cardinal also referred people to research presented in the John Jay report, which he said shows that the root of priestly sexual abuse is not homosexuality, but many different causes.  

Cardinal Ribat said they want to communicate that the Church is a home where everyone is welcome and accepted. He said young people have shared their experiences very freely and encouraged bishops to address it, “in the language they are using.”

They say, “call us and address us as this because this is who we are,” Ribat said.

The bishops were asked to clarify what they meant by welcoming and accepting young people with same-sex attraction. Bishop Alain de Raemy, auxiliary of Lausanne, Geneve, and Fribourg, Switzerland, said he is concerned with transmitting the Gospel to those who do not know it, and those who want to be Christian, but do not feel represented by the LGBT question.

Archbishop Comensoli said it is about recognizing that everyone is a sinner, and everyone needs to be found by God and receive his love.

“We are also the sinners who are called to be at the foot of the cross in our lives. So, in the sense of welcoming, of receiving, and of entering into the friendship of Christ, we also take our lives, me included, to the foot of the cross. And that’s every single person,” he said.

So, when he speaks with friends who might be homosexual or struggling with their sexual identity, he said, he speaks to the “with the friendship of Christ, as I ought to. And as a friend, I say, how do we progress together to the foot of the cross.”

Addressing a concern expressed by many people before the start of the synod, that the Instrumentum laboris was too concerned with sociological ideas and terminology, rather than with the language of faith, Comensoli said he has seen a real shift in the last week of discussions, away from sociology and toward an incorporation of the teachings of the Church, theologians, Scripture, and saints.

 

Having kids won’t doom your country, says #PostcardsForMacron creator

Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2018 / 04:00 am (ACI Prensa).- The idea that high fertility rates are a barrier to economic success is a contemporary myth, Catholic University of America economics professor, mother of eight, and viral hashtag creator Dr. Catherine Pakaluk told CNA.

Pakaluk started the viral “#PostcardsForMacron” hashtag on Monday in response to French President Emanuel Macron’s comment at a Gates Foundation event.

Macron suggested that educated women would not choose to have a large number of children if they had a choice. While Pakaluk thinks the comment was taken partly out of context, and tried to give Macron the benefit of the doubt, she still thought it was “so ridiculous.”

Pakaluk’s academic research area focuses in part on the effects of fertility on economic development.

“High fertility is not the product of ignorance,” Pakaluk told CNA. She said Macron’s comments represent an “underlying view” common in contemporary culture.

This attitude prevails both in Africa, and in other places such as the United States, she said. Women like herself who chose to have many children face a “pejorative attitude” from other people about their decisions to have lots of children.

“That's what I pop into, and say 'Hey, look, this is silly. Lots of women do choose this,’” she explained.

And while Pakuluk said most college-educated women do not choose to have that many children, “there are some.”

“So that was my main impetus to pick that [line of Macron’s speech] out."

Pakaluk was critical of Macron’s take that families with large number of children are holding Africa back developmentally. She described this mentality as “kind of a contemporary myth” that is not backed up with statistics.  

“There is no evidence that says countries cannot grow quickly, or steadily, with high levels of fertility,” she explained. “There are a lot of people, in response to this [...] out there kind of crunching the numbers on African fertility. And some have pointed out 'look, actually African fertility is not especially high relative to its income.'"

Across the continent, the average fertility rate does not climb to seven, eight, or nine, she said. In reality, the total fertility rate (TFR) throughout Africa is closer to the world’s median rate, “in the four range.”

"There simply is not mountains and mountains of evidence to say that if countries get their fertility rates down to the twos and the threes, all of the sudden you're going to just explode [economically]," she said.  

Nigeria, the country in Africa with the highest GDP, has the 12th-highest fertility rate in the world, with a TFR of 5.07. South Africa, which has the second-highest GDP on the continent, has a much lower fertility rate of 2.29.

Pakaluk told CNA that she was unhappy that Macron compared forced child marriage, which is “not something Christians could get behind or agree with,” to having large families.

She theorized that Macron’s views were similar to those of the Gates Foundation, which considers population growth to be a barrier to economic growth.

She expressed concern that this viewpoint could be used to force contraception on African women, “regardless of whether they are asking for this.”

“And I think that’s false, because other countries have grown quickly with a TFR in the range that [African countries] are in.”

While most social conservatives do not oppose the availability of contraception, she said, “what they’re against is kind of an aggressive policy” that wastes time and money that could be spent on other developmental programs.

Additionally, Pakaluk said that providing contraception to girls who were forced into marriage in their preteens “isn’t going to help” their situations. Instead, she suggested that more efforts be focused on opposing the cultural norms that approve of these situations.

She is also concerned that “an era of cheap and widely-available contraception,” in which it is easy for people to pick the size of their families, people are choosing to have fewer and fewer children.

Pakaluk lamented declining fertility rates in other parts of the world, mentioning especially Europe.

While France is home to Europe’s highest TFR at 1.96, it is still below the population replacement-level rate of 2.1. This is cause for concern for Pakaluk, who warned that the low birth rates would spell disaster for the continent’s extensive social programs.

She is also concerned that the anti-child mentality is a sign of bigger problems.

"People don't have kids to save their countries from demographic winter,” she said.

“They have kids because of a certain attitude towards meaning and the meaning of life and what it means to live a good human life."