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Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 103:1-4, 6-7

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
6 The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.

Gospel: Matthew 11:25-27

25 At that time Jesus declared, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes;
26 yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.
27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Servant of God Francis Garces and Companions

A contemporary of the American Revolution and of Blessed Junipero Serra, Francisco Garcés was born in 1738 in Spain, where he joined the Franciscans.After ordination in 1763, he was sent to Mexico. Five years later he was assigned to San Xavier del Bac near Tucson, one of several missions the Jesuits had founded in Arizona and New Mexico before being expelled in 1767 from all territories controlled by the Catholic king of Spain. In Arizona, Francisco worked among the Papago, Yuma, Pima and Apache Native Americans. His missionary travels took him to many places, including the Grand Canyon and California.Friar Francisco Palou, a contemporary, writes that Father Garcés was greatly loved by the indigenous peoples, among whom he lived unharmed for a long time. They regularly gave him food and referred to him as "Viva Jesus," which was the greeting he taught them to use.For the sake of their indigenous converts, the Spanish missionaries wanted to organize settlements away from the Spanish soldiers and colonists. But the commandant in Mexico insisted that two new missions on the Colorado River, Misión San Pedro y San Pablo and Misión La Purísima Concepción, be mixed settlements.A revolt among the Yumas against the Spanish left Friars Juan Diaz and Matias Moreno dead at Misión San Pedro y San Pablo. Friars Francisco Garcés and Juan Barreneche were killed at Misión La Purísima Concepción, the site of Fort Yuma.

London boys' schola tour brings music from Old Spain to the New World

London, England, Jul 16, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Franciscan mission priest St. Junipero Serra would perhaps recognize some of the music that will be sung in an upcoming tour of the London Oratory Schola Cantorum Boys Choir in Utah and California, which will include three of the Spanish missions.

The schola, perhaps best known for its work featured in the soundtracks for the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films, chose the missions for their next tour because of the many invitations they have received to sing in the area. But most of all, they chose them because they will be singing music from their new album entitled “Sacred Treasures of Spain.”

“The Spanish history behind the missions is of immense significance, and ties in with the repertoire which we are singing,” Charles Cole, the director of the boy’s choir, told CNA.

“Many pieces of Spanish renaissance music and indeed composers themselves crossed over to New Spain and have become part of an amazing and beautiful heritage which reaches into the chain of missions. So singing this music in those beautiful churches has a resonance and appeal which was too much to resist,” Cole added.

The music of the album which will be sung on the tour will include music from Spanish Renaissance composers such as Tomás Luis de Victoria and Francisco Guerrero, who were also priests, and Alonso Lobo, among others.

While the recording of the album itself took just three days, the music is well-known to the boys, because they have sung most of these songs during the liturgy, Cole said.

“In a sense the choir is always preparing for an album, because we return to these pieces over and over again in the context of the liturgy, and we try to refine and purify the performance singing over the long term,” he said.

The schola was founded in 1996, and the boys, ranging in age from 7-18, are educated in the Junior House of the London Oratory School. They rehearse and sing multiple times throughout their school day.

The Spanish album is the second such album recorded by the choir. The first, “Sacred Treasures of England,” was released in 2017.

Cole said there is a distinct difference between the English sacred music and the Spanish sacred music on the albums, even though both styles of music profess “profound truths” and are of “staggering quality.”

In the English album, “the music sometimes points to the struggle in times of adversity, hinted at by (William) Byrd’s inclusion of the text ‘have mercy on me’ at the end of his Ave Verum Corpus,” Cole said.

“On the other hand, Byrd’s contemporaries in Spain, some of whom are presented on Sacred Treasures of Spain, were working unimpeded in the most fertile Catholic conditions imaginable: under the powerful patronage of Philip II, their music has a sense of freedom and purity allowing them to achieve an extraordinary level of quality in their polyphonic writing which is staggeringly crafted.”

Some of the pieces on the album include Guerrero’s “O Sacrum Convivium”, “O Quam Gloriosum” by Victoria, and “Versa est in Luctum” by Lobo.

The boys choir has already toured Spain to perform these pieces, Cole said, and they are looking forward to bringing these works of sacred music to the U.S. missions.

“...these missions are so beautiful, but each one is unique and special in its own way. We are very excited to bring the choir there. It is wonderful to bring alive the sound world of these Spanish renaissance composers in so fitting a place as these missions...it will be a tour we will remember forever.”

The album, Sacred Treasures of Spain, can be found on both Amazon and iTunes, with the proceeds of sales going to support the choir program.

The schola’s 10-day tour of the Catholic missions on the West Coast of the U.S. begins on July 18. The tour begins with performances in Salt Lake City and continues in California, where they will be singing in Santa Paula, Santa Barbara, Carmel, and San Francisco.

Colorado petition seeks to bring late-term abortion ban to the ballot

Denver, Colo., Jul 16, 2019 / 04:53 pm (CNA).- A pro-life group in Colorado is leading a signature drive in the hopes of asking voters in 2020 whether to ban abortion after 22 weeks.

Last month, the Coalition for Women and Children filed an initiative to end late-term abortions with the Colorado Secretary of State. The organization must now collect nearly 125,000 signatures within a six-month time limit in order to have the question appear on the ballot in November 2020.

The ballot initiative filing cites “substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain by 22 weeks gestation,” noting that a child of this age will react to painful stimuli by recoiling or swimming away.

It also notes that with the help of modern science, babies born at 22 weeks gestation have been able to survive. “The state of Colorado and the people of Colorado have a compelling state interest in protecting the lives of children who feel pain and who can survive outside the womb,” it says.

Colorado currently has no laws regulating late-term abortion, either restricting the procedure or explicating protecting it. As a result, abortions can take place up until birth.

This is more extreme than the New York Reproductive Health Act that drew widespread attention earlier this year, Erin Behrens of the Coalition for Women and Children told CNA.

That law, passed in January 2019, declares abortion to be a “fundamental right,“ but only allows for the procedure after 24 weeks of pregnancy is the baby is not deemed viable or a doctor believes the mother’s life or health are at risk.

Organizers of the Colorado initiative, which they’ve dubbed “Due Date Too Late,” say they believe 22 weeks to be a reasonable limit on abortion, and that after this point, the procedure should be reserved to “to the rare case where a woman’s life is at risk.”

Keri Ebel, a volunteer of the Coalition for Women and Children, told CNA that she would actually like to see abortion restricted far before 22 weeks of pregnancy.

“I feel it should be illegal from conception,” she told CNA.

But Colorado does not have a good history of passing pro-life legislation, she said, and the 22-week ban seemed like a more realistic starting point than a broader restriction.

Earlier this year, the “Colorado Protect Human Life at Conception Act” was postponed indefinitely, just a month after being introduced to the Colorado House and assigned to the Health and Insurance committee.

Personhood amendments, which would define human personhood as beginning at conception and ban all abortions, have gone before voters in the state three times, failing by significant margins each time.

Amid internal dispute over mission, Planned Parenthood president resigns

Washington D.C., Jul 16, 2019 / 03:52 pm (CNA).- Citing disagreements with board leaders over whether Planned Parenthood should focus on health care or abortion advocacy, the organization’s president is stepping down.

Dr. Leana Wen took the reins at Planned Parenthood eight months ago. On Tuesday, she announced that she was resigning.

Wen’s statements about her departure suggested internal turbulence within the organization.

She initially posted on Twitter, “I just learned that the @PPFA Board ended my employment at a secret meeting. We were engaged in good faith negotiations about my departure based on philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood.”

A few minutes later, she posted an official statement.

“As a physician and public health leader, I came to Planned Parenthood to lead a national health care organization that provides essential primary and preventative care to millions of underserved women and families, and to advocate for a broad range of policies that affect our patients’ health,” she said.

“I believe that the best way to protect abortion care is to be clear that it is not a political issue but a health care one, and that we can expand support for reproductive rights by finding common ground with the large majority of Americans who understand reproductive health care as the fundamental health care that it is.”

Wen said that she is stepping down due to philosophical differences with the new board chairs over the direction that the organization should be moving.

In a memo to Planned Parenthood employees, Wen elaborated on her dispute with board leaders.

She noted that when she was interviewed for the role of president, she asked the search committee whether they viewed the organization primarily as an advocacy organization “with medical services that are necessary to strengthen its impact” or as a health care organization “with advocacy as a necessary vehicle to protect rights and access.”

Wen said that she firmly believes Planned Parenthood to be fundamentally about health care, and has spent her eight months as president focusing on patient care and the promotion of reproductive rights as health care.

“I came to Planned Parenthood to run a national health care organization and to advocate for the broad range of public health policies that affect our patients’ health,” she said.

But the new board chairs of Planned Parenthood Federation of American and Planned Parenthood Action Fund disagree with that emphasis.

“The new Board leadership has determined that the priority of Planned Parenthood moving forward is to double down on abortion rights advocacy,” Wen said.

Planned Parenthood announced on Tuesday that former board member Alexis McGill Johnson has been named acting president, adding that the organization hopes to appoint a new president by the end of 2019.

Wen was appointed head of Planned Parenthood in September 2018, following the 12-year presidency of Cecile Richards.

Wen moved to the United States from China at age eight. Before taking on her role with Planned Parenthood, she worked as an emergency room doctor and as the health commissioner of Baltimore. She was the first physician to lead Planned Parenthood in five decades.

Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the United States. In 2016, the organization performed about one out of every three abortions.

In the past decade, Planned Parenthood has seen its number of patients decline. The number of cancer screenings, contraceptives distributed, and prenatal services provided by the organization decreased as well.

Abortions, however, have increased by about 10 percent since 2006, despite Planned Parenthood seeing fewer patients.

The debate about Planned Parenthood’s public image as a health care provider or abortion advocacy group comes as cuts in funding and abortion restrictions in dozens of states across the country have put the organization on the defensive.

The appointments of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have brought the issue of abortion into the spotlight, amid speculation that the court could overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide.

In addition, a new rule under the Trump administration prevents Title X fund recipients from performing or referring for abortions, and bars abortion clinics from sharing facilities with entities that receive Title X money. Planned Parenthood stands to lose about $60 million in federal funding as a result of the rule, which was upheld by a federal court of appeals last month.

Planned Parenthood has also faced increased scrutiny following the release of a series of undercover videos in 2015 in which executives at the organization appear to be discussing the transfer of body parts from aborted babies for money, a practice that would violate federal law.

 

Amid continued controversy, Netflix edits suicide scene in 13 Reasons Why

Denver, Colo., Jul 16, 2019 / 01:23 pm (CNA).- Shortly before launching the third season of 13 Reasons Why, Netflix has announced that it is removing a scene depicting a graphic teen suicide from the show’s first season.

“We’ve heard from many young people that 13 Reasons Why encouraged them to start conversations about difficult issues like depression and suicide and get help - often for the first time,” Netflix said in a July 16 statement.

“As we prepare to launch Season 3 later this summer, we’ve been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show. So on the advice of medical experts, including Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we’ve decided with creator Brian Yorkey and the producers of 13 Reasons Why to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from Season 1.”

The move comes more than two years after the release of the show’s first season, which concludes with a controversial explicit scene showing the suicide of the main character. While the suicide still takes places in the show’s final episode, it is no longer shown.

Mental health experts had warned when the show initially launched that the graphic suicide depiction could result in suicide contagion, or “copycat” suicides.

According to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, there was a 28.9% increase in suicide rates in U.S. males ages 10-17 in the month (April 2017) following the debut of the show, although it was not possible to determine to what extent, if any, the increase was due to the show.

“The number of deaths by suicide recorded in April 2017 was greater than the number seen in any single month during the five-year period examined by the researchers,” the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported. Increases in suicide rates among youth were also found in the month leading up to the shows release, and through December 2017, nine months after its release.

“The findings highlight the necessity of using best practices when portraying suicide in popular entertainment and in the media,” NIMH stated in a press release on the study.

John Ackerman, PhD, a member of the American Association of Suicidology’s communications committee, praised Netflix for its decision to edit the controversial scene.

“Partnering with the media to help them portray suicide accurately and in a way that provides hope and resources for those impacted by experiences related to suicide can make a positive difference,” he said in a July 16 statement.

“There is more work to be done throughout the entertainment industry, but it is an encouraging step to see a high profile show making changes for the safety of viewers. We hope even more research and more media collaboration results from this decision.”

Released on Netflix in 2017, 13 Reasons Why became an instant hit. Based on the 2007 young adult novel by the same name, the show follows the story of Hannah Baker, a troubled 17-year-old who takes her own life.

Instead of leaving the typical note, Hannah leaves 13 cassette tapes, explaining the 13 reasons why she took her life - and each of these “reasons” is a person, who either did something to Hannah, or didn’t do enough, according to her.

The show quickly drew a mixed response - praise for opening up discussions on subjects like bullying, sexual assault, and suicide, as well as criticism for its failure to explicitly address mental illness and its role in suicide.

Creators of the show insisted that it was intended to be helpful in starting important discussions and helping teen viewers realize the silent suffering that their friends and acquaintances may be undergoing, as well as portraying the devastating impact of suicide on those around them.

But mental health experts warned when the show launched that the graphic depiction of Hannah’s suicide violated several of the “Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide,” a list of guidelines for media outlets developed by suicide prevention experts and journalists.

Dr. Jim Langley, a Catholic psychologist with St. Raphael Counseling in Denver, warned that Hannah’s suicide in the show is romanticized in a way that could leave the wrong impression on vulnerable teens.

At the same time, he cautioned, the story fails to adequately address the impact mental health played in Hannah’s decision to end her life.

“To some degree we all have responsibility to other people, but in some ways the show goes too far, and makes it sound like we have responsibility for the other person. We’re responsible to the people in our lives, to treat them well. But the people who hurt (Hannah) were not responsible for her choosing to commit suicide,” Langley told CNA shortly after the first season of 13 Reasons Why aired.

“Most people who commit suicide - almost everyone has a severe mental health problem. And the show does not portray this girl as having severe mental health problems in the way that somebody who is contemplating suicide almost always has,” he said.

Critics also noted that the adults in the show are mostly portrayed as responding to Hannah’s struggles in an inadequate and unhelpful manner. Hannah’s parents, while loving, are largely absent and unaware of their daughter’s suffering and negative experiences at school. The school counselor does not effectively respond to Hannah’s thoughts of suicide.

These depictions could prevent young people from approaching adults with their concerns, believing that they will only be ignored, experts warned.

The second season of 13 Reasons Why, released last year, met with a less enthusiastic response by viewers. It follows the students at Hannah’s school in the aftermath of her suicide, exploring issues including sexual assault, teen violence, and drug use. The third season of 13 Reasons Why is due out this summer.

Catholic psychologists and youth ministers have urged caution in watching the show, particularly for vulnerable teens or those who may not be well-formed.

If you think you or a friend are struggling with suicidal thoughts, ask for help from someone you can trust and/or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (available 24 hours everyday). For Catholic counseling, contact your local priest, diocese or your local branch of Catholic Charities.
 

Bishops condemn new asylum policy for U.S.-Mexico border

Washington D.C., Jul 16, 2019 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- The president of U.S. bishops’ conference issued a statement on Tuesday condemning a newly-announced rule on asylum eligibility at the southern border, suggesting that countries like Mexico are not a safe final destination for asylum seekers, and encouraging the Trump administration to change the policy. 

“The rule adds further barriers to asylum-seekers’ ability to access life-saving protection, shirks our moral duty, and will prevent the United States from taking its usual leading role in the international community as a provider of asylum protection,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, in a statement released July 16. 

Cardinal DiNardo also said that “initial analysis raises serious questions” about the new rule’s legal soundness. 

The new policy establishes that claimants are ineligible to apply for asylum in the United States if they failed to first apply for asylum in any third country they passed through after departing their country of origin. 

Practically, the new rule requires that asylum seekers traveling through Mexico from Central or South American countries must first apply for asylum in Mexico before being eligible to claim asylum in the U.S. The rule contains a number of exceptions.

Those who arrive at an American port of entry having passed through a country that has not signed up to certain refugee agreements are exempt, as are survivors of human trafficking.  Those who apply for asylum in a pass-through country and are denied there my still claim asylum in the United States. 

Similar asylum policies are already in force along the northern border of the United States, as well as in the European Union. 

The Canada-United States Safe Third Country Agreement, enacted in 2004, requires a person to claim asylum in either the U.S. or Canada, depending on which country they arrived in first. The Dublin Regulation in the European Union requires asylum seekers to register their claim in the first European country in which they arrive. 

Speaking to CNA about the new rule, Bill Canny, the executive director for the USCCB’s Migration Relief Services, told CNA that he does not believe that Mexico, or other Central American countries, can safely care for migrants or asylees.  

“We do not have an agreement with Mexico in the same capacity in which we do with Canada, and while some of the countries that Central American migrants are traveling through may have some protections, we do not believe they are adequate enough to provide the type of protection that is necessary to assure their safety,” Canny told CNA. “It would be immoral for us to keep those who seek asylum in harm’s way.”

The number of asylum claims has dramatically increased over the last decade, with very few asylees being allowed to stay. In 2009, there were 35,811 people who applied for asylum in the United States, and 8,384 were granted. In 2018, that number had more than quadrupled to 162,060 claims, with 13,168 actually granted. 

DiNardo also used his statement, issued through the USCCB, to denounce the “climate of fear” created by ICE enforcement raids which began over the weekend. The raids were announced by the administration as targeting more than 2,000 people who had exhausted all legal options to remain in the country. 

“Enforcement actions like those anticipated this week by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency separate families, cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents, and create widespread panic in our communities,” said DiNardo.

“I condemn such an approach, which has created a climate of fear in our parishes and communities across the country. I recently wrote the President asking him to reconsider this action.”

Appeals court hearing challenge to London abortion clinic buffer zone

London, England, Jul 16, 2019 / 11:44 am (CNA).- The Court of Appeal of England and Wales is hearing a challenge Tuesday and Wednesday to a buffer zone banning pro-life gatherings and speech near a London abortion clinic.

Three judges of the appellate court are hearing Dulgheriu and Orthova v. London Borough of Ealing July 16-17.

In April 2018, Ealing council passed a public space protection order that effectively bans public prayer and counselors who assist women within 330 feet of the Marie Stopes UK West London Centre, a leading abortion provider in London which performs around 7,000 abortions annually.

The PSPO was challenged by Alina Dulgheriu, who chose to forgo an abortion at the Ealing clinic after being offered pro-life support and who is now regularly involved in vigils run by the Good Counsel Network outside the clinic, and Andrea Orthova.

The High Court of England and Wales upheld the buffer zone in a July 2018 decision. While Justice Turner found that the ban interfered with the human rights of pro-life protesters, he ruled that the local government had a right to decide it was a “necessary step in a democratic society."

Dulgheriu and Orthova are appealing that decision, arguing that the PSPO unlawfully interferes with their right to freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights, the Press Association reported.

Dulgheriu told CNA soon after the High Courts decision that clinics like that in Ealing do not offer women any alternatives to abortion. She said her efforts to see the buffer zones overturned are as much for the protection of mothers as for children.

“If the vigils are removed – who will look out for the mothers who desperately do not want to go ahead with an abortion? These mothers can be in very vulnerable circumstances, sometimes in abusive relationships, and vigils can offer them housing and refuge that abortion clinics could never provide,” she said.

Shortly after the Ealing PSPO was passed, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said that “to remove from the environment of the abortion clinics alternative voices is to limit freedom of choice. Indeed, research shows that many women have been grateful for the last-minute support they have thereby received.”

In September 2018, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid rejected proposals for buffer zones around abortion clinics throughout England and Wales as disproportionate, after finding that most abortion protests are peaceful and passive.

Javid said that after reviewing the evidence, which included “upsetting examples of harassment … what is clear from the evidence we gathered is that these activities are not the norm, and predominantly, anti-abortion activities are more passive in nature.”

The typical activities of those protesting outside of abortion clinics “include praying, displaying banners and handing out leaflets,” Javid noted.

Furthermore, he noted that in 2017, only 36 of the 363 hospitals and clinics in England and Wales that offer abortions have experienced pro-life demonstrations near their facilities.