Archive for the ‘marriage’ Category
Institute’s New Director on Speaking Truth in Understandable Ways
By Kathleen Naab
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, JAN. 9, 2012 (Zenit.org).- A Philadelphia-based educational institute focused on promoting Blessed John Paul II’s theology of the body has named a new executive director.
The 7-year-old Theology of the Body Institute picked Damon Owens, a successful businessman turned marriage promoter. Included on his extensive resume is his work as the Archdiocese of Newark’s Natural Family Planning and Marriage Preparation Coordinator, and leadership with the Life Education And Resource Network (L.E.A.R.N.), the largest African-American, pro-life ministry in the country.
Owens is himself a certified Natural Family Planning instructor who has counseled more than 20,000 couples over the last 16 years. He often appears on Catholic television and radio, sharing various aspects of the theology of the body, as well as commentating on topics related to marriage and family. He and his wife, Melanie, have been married for 18 years and have eight children.
ZENIT spoke with Owens about the Theology of the Body Institute and its work, and the difficulties facing those who promote Blessed John Paul’s message.
ZENIT: The Theology of the Body Institute exists to promote John Paul II’s theology at the secular level, too. Is that truly possible and if so how?
Owens: Our mission is to train and educate men and women to understand, live and promote Blessed John Paul II’s theology of the body. While most of the individuals who come in contact with our programs are Catholic, our on-site and Certification courses regularly draw non-Catholics and non-Christians. It is not only possible, but it is critical that we evangelize the broader culture. Our preparation as believers for the “springtime of the new evangelization” includes a deeper grounding not only in the “what’s” of our faith, but the “why’s” behind them.
As believers, we accept even what we cannot fully understand about God’s revelation, because we love and trust him. Still, our faith is reasonable. There is a tremendous amount of truth that can be encountered before an assent of faith. There is a tremendous amount of beautiful and compelling meaning that can be successfully proposed even to a darkened intellect and hardened heart.
Rooted in objective truth, the theology of the body provides a personalistic approach that is well-suited for evangelizing in the modern culture. Our sexuality — masculinity and femininity — carries deep meaning for the identity and vocation of every human person. It is also the place of deep wounds for so many. The Theology of the Body Institute desires to help persons in every state of life gain an understanding of what it means to be created in God’s image and to live out their call to love as he loves. Only from this foundation can an authentic culture of life and love take root and flourish.
ZENIT: Linked to the previous question, statistics about Catholic married couple’s use of artificial contraception seem to indicate there is plenty need for Catholics as well to hear and accept John Paul’s theology. What are your thoughts in this regard? Must we first clean up our own camp before engaging the secular world?
Owens: Beginning with your last question, evangelization is, of course, intimately connected with catechesis (the head) and conversion (the heart). It is always a messy, personal, and inefficient work! Our witness is hurt by our own sin, ignorance, and lack of faith. On one hand, our ongoing conversion strengthens our witness. On the other hand, we have to be careful about setting too high a standard of personal perfection before witnessing to perfection. Without question, contraception is a tap-root of nearly every modern evil. Moreover, the prevalence of Christians contracepting is both a cause and an effect of the rise of other grave evils such as pornography, divorce, violence against women, abortion, fornication and homosexuality. These were the predicted consequences of their widespread use, and the subsequent result of their widespread acceptance.
The question remains, however: How do we reach people’s heads and hearts to reject the evil of contraception? It cannot just be emphatic instruction on the mortal sin of contraception (the head). It must include a compelling invitation to a true conversion of heart. Their hearts must “see” how contraception is a withholding of themselves that deforms the marital act and stifles the very love they long for. Theology of the body is a means to illumine the immutable meaning of things (natural law) in the heart of the person.
Fortunately, the great majority truly desire love. Whether they are in a pew or at the mall on Sunday, they deserve to hear the truth in a way that they can understand it. It is in our heart — or inner life — that we as unique and unrepeatable persons encounter the One True God. While we certainly wish there were a more authentic faith witness from Catholic married couples today, we at the Theology of the Body Institute have been just as awed by conversions in the Faith as by those to the Faith. We remain passionately committed to the simple mission of educating and training men and women to understand, live, and promote the Theology of the Body.
ZENIT: Tell us about the institute and plans you have for it as the new executive director.
Owens: The Theology of the Body Institute was formed in 2004 with the simple mission to educate and train men and women to understand, live and promote the theology of the body. Each of the founders experienced a profound conversion through Blessed John Paul II’s great work and continue to be animated by the desire to make it accessible to the world — Christian and secular — in an understandable, engaging and attractive manner. Ours is an integrated educational approach that presents the rich intellectual theology in an environment that encourages a real encounter with Our Lord. As we often say, it is an immersion of the head and the heart!
Our certification program with its retreat-format courses is the heart of our mission. These courses include Theology of the Body I, II, & III, Love & Responsibility, Catholic Sexual Ethics, Writings of John Paul II on Gender, Marriage, & Family, The Thought of Karol Wojtyla, and Theology of the Body & the Interior Life. Our on-site events at schools, parishes, seminaries and conferences around the world complement these courses and have grown in number and size every year.
We have a world-class faculty that includes Dr. Janet Smith, Dr. Michael Waldstein, Christopher West, Bill Donaghy, Dr. John Haas, and beginning for 2012-2013, Dr. Peter Kreeft and Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV. To date, more than 1,600 individuals have come to Pennsylvania for our week-long certification courses, and thousands have attended our on-site events around the world. We also held the first Theology of the Body Congress in 2010 bringing together leaders from around the world to explore the diverse applications of TOB. So, I begin with an organization that I consider successful in its mission.
My plans are to build on this success with an enhanced Clergy Enrichment Program for priests and seminarians that enriches both their priestly identity and vocation as fathers. We also plan to expand both our faculty and our Certification course offerings to reach even more lay and clerical leaders. The fact remains that only a small percentage of people in the world are familiar with this profound teaching. I see my role as expanding this success, as opposed to any real change in direction.
ZENIT: You are taking over leadership of the institute when the push for same-sex marriage and adoption is unprecedented. What do you hope to contribute to this battle?
Owens: We are an educational apostolate, so our contribution to social issues such as these is teaching the meaning of things. What is marriage? What does our sexuality mean? What is love, truth, freedom, or joy? What does it mean to be a human person? How do I choose, act, and live in accord with these truths and meanings? These cultural issues ultimately represent a critical loss of the meaning and dignity of human personhood. God bless those who are taking up these issues in the public square. I did that for years and deeply appreciate the need for, and difficulty of, these urgent defenses. It is abundantly clear, however, that these issues incubated long-term in a culture steeped in a disintegrated concept of human personhood. Sexual complementarity devolved into sexual difference, now sexual difference has been denied all together. Equality is argued as sameness. So, the argument continues, since men and women are the same, there is no difference between a husband and a wife or a mother and a father.
This is an identity crisis that requires long-term reformation and restoration. If we don’t know who — and whose — we are, we won’t know how to behave in a way that is in accord with our dignity and brings us true joy. Sexuality, sexual morality, love, marriage, fatherhood, motherhood, family, and life itself are integrated realities that flow from who God has revealed himself to be — a Trinitarian Communio: Three Divine Persons in such union that they are truly One.
The Gospel is “good news” precisely because it reveals to us the deepest truths of our identity created in the “image and likeness” of God, and subsequently our vocation to love. The language, approach, and appeal of the theology of the body gives us a means to understand and embrace the Gospel by rereading the language of the body. Simply put, as the body reveals the person, masculinity and femininity reveal the original, enduring, and eternal meaning of personhood as a call to communion. Love is self-gift. By rereading the language of the body in truth, we see love as not simply something we do, but as a universal human vocation that flows from who we are.
With regard to the specific question of redefining marriage, students of theology of the body are equipped to articulate not mere disagreement, but why it is simply not possible.
By Genevieve Pollock
ALBANY, Georgia, JAN. 16, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Thousands of men are answering the call to rediscover God’s plan for fatherhood, inspired by a new movie, “Courageous,” due to be released on DVD on Tuesday.
The film, which debuted in theaters Sept. 30, follows four men striving to fulfill their mission “to serve and protect,” both as law enforcement officers and fathers.
Stephen Kendrick, producer and co-writer of the film, told ZENIT that every day he sees some 200 e-mails from “people sharing how the movie has impacted, inspired and blessed them.”
“The stories they share are so heartfelt and moving,” he said. “Countless dads are now reaching out to win the hearts of their children.”
Kendrick continued: “One man realized he needed to step up and reconnect with the daughter he’d abandoned.
“Many have chosen to forgive their dads.
“Wives are saying that ‘my husband was a good dad, but now he’s becoming a great dad after seeing this movie.’
“Couples heading for divorce have reunited and said that they must resolve to leave a legacy of faithfulness to their children like the men in the movie. We thank God for this!”
As policemen, the main characters must team up against gang members and drug dealers to protect the community. Yet even as they battle evil with their guns and Tasers, they learn to use Scripture to fight the demons within in order to become the men of integrity their families need.
“There is so much in Scripture about what fatherhood means, but most men have not taken time to search it out and then live it out,” Kendrick stated. “‘Courageous’ shows it to them in living color.”
He continued: “It is so incredible to see how a message about the importance of strong fatherhood is so deeply resonating with audiences.
“The issue of fatherhood touches the core of who we are. Millions of people have seen this movie and have gone on the emotional roller-coaster of laughter and tears as they watch five men trying to figure out what it means to be a great dad.”
For actor Ken Bevel, who portrayed the cop Nathan Hayes, the movie was an opportunity to “help serve in turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.”
He explained to ZENIT: “As I look at the consistent decline of families and the minimal involvement of fathers in our communities, my heart is challenged — challenged to the point of action. So, when God provided the opportunity to address biblical fatherhood through film, I was humbled that he would allow me to be used in such a task.”
This role, Bevel said, “caused me to examine my own life and my role as a father.”
He added: “I asked myself the question, ‘Am I being completely intentional about fatherhood and leading my children to the Lord?’ Unfortunately the answer was no. So, ‘Courageous’ has also challenged me to spend more time in Bible study with my family, while praying for wisdom in leading my children to the Lord.”
Kendrick expressed the hope for this “life change,” not only for all who worked on the movie, but also for all who view it.
The film’s release on DVD will allow its viewing by greater audiences. Parishes, ministries and other groups are encouraged to show the movie and utilize the corresponding resources to help effect this life-changing experience.
One group, the Philadelphia-based Fatherhood and Leadership Initiative, sponsored a showing of the movie that drew the players of two football teams with their fathers, in addition to other families.
Jim Gabriele, one of the group’s founders, told ZENIT that “the response was tremendous.” People were moved not only by the film, he said, but also by “the underlying message of love of Christ and faith in him as the foundation of a man’s most important vocation — his family.”
“This movie clearly brings people together,” added Gabriele, “and challenges men in particular to be men of the kingdom, the Godly husbands and fathers we are all called to be.”
He added that the “widespread release of the movie provides a tremendous opportunity to put the emotion we all felt at the end of the movie to practical use in our daily lives.”
“It is an unbelievably easy tool to use for ministry, and the producers have provided outstanding resources to bring the movie to life via Bible studies, small group sessions, etc.” Gabriele noted.
He continued: “Men are notoriously hard to reach in ministry, but the ability to invite men to an engaging movie, followed by structured discussions and the ability to delve more deeply into their faith and how it applies to marriage and fatherhood is an incredible gift.”
He revealed to ZENIT that his group will be sponsoring an eight-week study series, available through the Internet as well, on scriptural fatherhood.
Kendrick expressed the hope that many of this generation of men will see “Courageous” and “learn that the role of father is irreplaceable.”
He underlined the hope that the audience will see that God created fatherhood “to introduce the next generation to what their loving Heavenly Father is like: a loving Provider, a strong Protector, an honorable Authority, a great Example, a wise Teacher, and an intimate Friend.”
The producer continued: “We hope that men get a vision for this and begin to step up with courage and begin to lead their families by example as God intended. This will positively affect the next generation in countless ways.”
“We produced a movie,” he concluded. “But only he can change a heart. To him alone be the glory!”
British Parliament Launches Inquiry on Age Limit
By Father John Flynn, LC
ROME, OCT. 22, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A long-running debate over age limits for abortions was renewed last week in England. Current law allows abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy, but improvements in survival rates for babies born prematurely have led to pressure for the limit to be lowered.
The Abortion Act of 1967 originally set at 28 weeks the legal limit for abortions. Then, in 1990, Parliament agreed to lower the time limit to 24 weeks.
An inquiry into the age limits commenced Oct. 15 by the House of Commons committee on science and technology. The committee Web page noted that the terms of reference for the inquiry do not include the ethical or moral questions related to the debate, but will concentrate on scientific and medical evidence about fetal viability.
One of those backing a reduction in the age limit is obstetrician Stuart Campbell, reported the Telegraph newspaper on Oct. 15. Campbell pioneered three-dimensional scans of fetuses sucking their thumbs and walking in the womb.
Campbell used to perform abortions at 20 weeks, the Telegraph reported. “I feel pretty appalled at the idea that we abort normal babies and most of them are born alive and most of them are allowed to die,” he said during a BBC radio program.
The committee’s Web site contains several hundred pages of evidence submitted to the inquiry.
A submission from the Department of Health to the committee provided information about abortions in England and Wales. In 2006, there were 193,700 abortions. Of these, 89% were carried out at under 13 weeks of pregnancy.
Out of the total number, 2,948 abortions were performed at 20 weeks and over. Of these, 1,262 were performed at 22 weeks and over, and 136 at 24 weeks and over.
The Christian Medical Fellowship, an interdenominational Christian organization with more than 4,500 British doctor members, is in favor of a reduction. In its submission to the committee, it outlined a number of concerns related to abortion.
For a start, it argued that maternal mortality after abortion is higher than currently recognized. Moreover, the fellowship noted, strong evidence exists that induced abortion increases risk of premature birth in subsequent pregnancies. Such premature births not only cause neonatal mortality and ongoing disability, but also imply significant economic costs.
There is overwhelming recent evidence that abortion causes significant rates of serious mental health problems, the submission continued. Several studies have demonstrated higher levels of depression, suicidal tendencies, and problems with drug and alcohol use among women who have undergone abortion.
The fellowship also called for Parliament to reconsider the norms for abortions for reasons of fetal abnormality. The upper limit for abortion for disabled babies should not be higher than that for able-bodied babies.
The question of disabled babies being aborted was also raised by the London-based Lejeune Clinic for Children With Down Syndrome. In its submission to the parliamentary committee they said that in 2005 alone, 429 abortions were carried out on babies with Down syndrome. The law sets no time limits for abortions on babies that are held to be disabled.
The clinic also commented that after Down syndrome is detected, some women feel pressured to abort their babies. As well, very few women are offered information on help available to raise a child with the chromosomal disorder.
The submission argued that most children with Down syndrome are happy, sociable and enjoy friendships. Around 80% attend mainstream primary school, either full or part time, and nearly all integrate in a loving fashion into their families. Behavioral problems can occur, but this can be helped, the clinic pointed out.
In its conclusions, the clinic argued: “It is hard to see how the majority of children with Down syndrome fulfill the criteria for abortion on the ground of serious untreatable disability.” In fact, the majority suffer from only moderate learning difficulties and treatable physical health problems.
A written submission to the parliamentary committee was also made by the Pro-life Alliance (PLA). It started by noting its objection to any form of intentional abortion, at whatever age limit of the fetus.
Benefit of the doubt
Nevertheless, within the context of the current debate the PLA observed, “At the very least one would expect consensus in the country against the abortion of a viable baby, with the benefit of the doubt always on the side of the baby.”
Another pro-life group, also opposed to any form of abortion, which made a submission was the nonprofit organization Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE). Opinions over abortion vary widely, it observed, but there is common concern over the rising abortion rates in Britain.
The CORE submission also called for greater transparency about abortions. Currently 97% of all abortions are justified under Ground C of the Abortion Act, which groups together both the medical or psychological health of the mother as a justification. It would be much better, CORE argued, for the two to be separated as they are quite diverse conditions.
It also called for greater transparency for abortions performed on the grounds of fetal abnormality. The submission mentioned the 2001 case of a baby aborted at 7 months for cleft palate, which caused a major public reaction.
After the outcry over this case the government’s statistics became notably less specific in identifying details of the abnormalities for which abortions have been performed.
A petition for changes in the abortion law also came from Scotland, in the form of an article published in the Scotsman newspaper July 6 by Cardinal Keith O’Brien, archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh. The Catholic leader called on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to review the law and thus ensure greater respect for human life.
The Scotsman reported that the latest data show that 13,081 abortions were carried out in Scotland in 2006, compared with 12,603 the year before — the fourth consecutive annual increase.
“Abortion is neither political nor medical, though clearly it has implications in these spheres,” the cardinal stated. “It is about morality and the destruction of human life.”
Cardinal O’Brien praised Brown for being “a man of principle and deeply held moral convictions,” and noted his efforts to reduce poverty in developing nations. He then called on the prime minister to support human life for those who are unborn.
“What exists in the womb is not ‘a potential human being,’ but rather ‘a human being with potential,'” the cardinal argued.
Not a right
Benedict XVI also had strong words to say recently on protecting unborn life. During his trip to Austria, he addressed the members of government and diplomatic corps Sept. 7.
During his speech, given in the reception hall of Vienna’s Hofburg Palace, the Pontiff recalled that Europe is the place where the notion of human rights was first formulated.
“The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself,” the Pope pointed out. “Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right — it is the very opposite.”
Benedict XVI acknowledged the difficulties women experience in going ahead with difficult pregnancies, but at the same time, expressed his concern for the unborn children who have no voice.
He called upon political leaders to help bring about a society that welcomes children and encourages young married couples to start new families. Doing so, the Pope added, requires creating “a climate of joy and confidence in life, a climate in which children are not seen as a burden, but rather as a gift for all.” A gift unfortunately too often rejected by society today.
Selective Abortions Take High Toll of Girls
By Father John Flynn, L.C.
ROME, SEPT. 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Fears of a demographic crisis are mounting in India, where many years of female feticide have severely skewed the makeup of the population. Ironically, one of the latest warnings came from Ena Singh, a representative of the U.N. Population Fund — itself responsible for promoting abortion.
Singh told the news agency Reuters, in a report published Aug. 31, that the lack of women could lead to an increase in sexual violence and child abuse. According to the United Nations, an estimated 2,000 unborn girls are illegally aborted every day in India.
A much higher estimate of the number of missing girls was given earlier, when the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) presented its “State of the World’s Children 2007” report in India. According to article published Dec. 12 by Reuters, UNICEF officials said that 7,000 fewer girls are born in India each day compared with global averages.
In its Aug. 31 report, Reuters noted that a 2001 census showed regions such as Punjab, Gujarat and Himachal with fewer than 800 girls for every 1,000 boys. According to Singh, the situation is worsening, as sex-selective abortions are spreading to more regions. Statistics show that in 2001, there were 927 girls in India between the ages of 0-6 for every 1,000 boys of the same age, compared with 945 in 1991.
The Indian government, reported Reuters, admits that some 10 million girls have been killed by their parents — either before or immediately after birth — over the past 20 years.
An earlier report from Reuters, on Aug. 21, looked at the use of techniques such as ultrasounds and amniocentesis to find out the sex of a fetus, thus facilitating abortion of girls. The use of these techniques for sex selection is illegal, but is nonetheless widely practiced.
Legislation prohibiting the use of tests to determine the sex of a fetus has been in force since 1996. So far, out of 400 cases lodged with authorities there have been only two convictions, resulting in one fine of 300 rupees ($7) and another fine of 4,000 rupees ($98).
Further evidence of the enormity of the problem came with the discovery of the bodies of more than 40 female fetuses in a field by the town of Nayagarh, in eastern India, reported the British newspaper the Guardian on July 28. Santish Mishra, a health official, estimated that the fetuses were aborted at about five months of age.
The article also reported that in June a doctor in New Delhi was arrested after remains of aborted babies were found in a septic tank at his practice. Another case came in February this year, when police found the remains of 15 infants buried in the back yard of a hospital in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
Also in February nearly 400 bones from fetuses and newborn babies were discovered in a pit behind a hospital in the city of Bhopal, the Associated Press reported Feb. 18.
In reaction to this, and other discoveries, the Indian government announced it would establish orphanages to accept unwanted baby girls, according to the Associated Press. The agency quoted a declaration by Renuka Chowdhury, the minister of state for women and child development, who said the government planned to set up a center in each regional district.
The Wall Street Journal examined the problem in a front-page article on April 21. It reported that companies such as General Electric have sold so many ultrasound machines in India that tests are now available even in small towns that don’t have clean drinking water or decent roads. Scans are available for around $8, the equivalent of a week’s wages.
V. Raja, chief executive of General Electric’s health care division for South Asia, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying that the company stresses the machines are not to be used for sex determination. Nonetheless, the article also cited an obstetrician from New Delhi, Puneet Bedi, who accused companies of exploiting the demand for boys by selling the ultrasound machines.
General Electric sells about 15 different models, from machines costing $100,000 that offer sophisticated color images to basic black-and-white scanners that retail for about $7,500. It has also teamed-up with banks to help doctors finance the purchase of their machines.
The article cited data on annual ultrasound sales in India from all companies, revealing that it reached $77 million in 2006, up about 10% from the year before. There are more than 30,000 ultrasound clinics registered with the government in India.
China is another country where the sex ratios are grossly unbalanced due to the selective abortion of female fetuses. The government recently announced it would draft new laws to increase the penalties for parents and doctors responsible for killing girls, the BBC reported Aug. 25.
China’s Family Planning Association admitted that the imbalance has reached the point where in one city there are eight young boys for every five girls, according to the BBC. Among children under 4 in the eastern city of Lianyungang there are 163.5 boys for every 100 girls. In the rest of China 99 cities had gender ratios higher than 125 boys for every 100 girls.
The problem was commented on by Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at Liverpool University, in an article published Sept. 8 in the Scotsman newspaper. He said that current estimates put at around 18 million the excess number of men over women of marriageable age in China. This is forecast to reach 37 million by 2020.
“Boys without girls are, to be blunt, a menace,” said Dunbar, referring to the social problems it causes. These range from abuse of women, to rape, to increased crime levels.
Sex-selective abortions are not limited to China and India. Earlier this year the marketing in Britain of a new test that enables parents to determine the sex of an unborn baby as early as the sixth week of pregnancy raised worries.
A May 5 report by the British Telegraph newspaper said that the “Pink or Blue” test works by testing a drop of a pregnant woman’s blood. According to the company selling it, DNA Worldwide, part of the American group Consumer Genetics, the test is 98% accurate.
“With our casual attitudes to early abortion in the United Kingdom, we feel it is inevitable that abortion numbers will rise,” Julia Millington, of the Prolife Alliance, told the Telegraph.
In Britain, according to the newspaper, the sex of an unborn baby is usually determined during a scan in the 20th week of pregnancy. Some health authorities have stopped telling parents the sex of their child for fear of “wrong-sex” terminations, the article noted.
The millions of deaths already due to sex-selective abortions, with many more still to come, have gone largely ignored by family planning groups and U.N. agencies. Even though the matter was raised by UNICEF, the launch of its report on the “State of the World’s Children 2007” received little media coverage.
While the UNICEF report, at 160 pages, was dedicated to the theme of the “gender divide” suffered by women and children, a bare 102 words was spent on the issue of feticide and infanticide. Amazingly, even then the problem was minimized, with UNICEF alleging that “there is no conclusive evidence” of the misuse of diagnostic tools to determine the sex of a fetus. The deaths of millions of girls give the lie to such willful distortions.