Brothels: “Like animals in cages”

On the internet sites they are described by customers from  all around Europe as heaven where sex is easy and safe and where one can choose the body that he likes the most, and the “freshest” meat. The German brothels frequently  appear also in the media as perfect companies with easy profits even for the women who want to sell their own body, safe from the  health point of view and  in compliance with the taxation system.

But there are those who do not think in the same way. Already in 2007 Germany has been reported by the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNODC) as one of the destinations that are most frequently used by exploiters of victims of trafficking in human beings. In fact it seems that many come from Romania that is one of the main sources of “human goods” according to the UN.

Every year thousands of women and girls, some just 13 year old students, are primed with promises of jobs well paid or marriage to be instead sold to criminals who then lock them in brothels. In 2014 also spread the Manifesto of the German therapists on the trauma against prostitution on the initiative of a traumatologist, Dott.ssa Ingeborg Kraus, who exhausted herself to work and repair the damage of women raped in those closed brothels.

According to a former prostitute Marie Merklinger, inside the brothels you do not find satisfied escorts but rather  women mistreated like animals in a cage. She also intervened several times in Italy in support of the draft law on the criminal responsibility of the customer. Her story is similar to so many other girls in Germany where prostitution is legalized. She however is German, and does not come from any of the Eastern countries  as in the vast majority of cases, and has chosen to begin to prostitute herself at the age of 40 years – as a necessity thinking of being able to choose how to manage the market.

Did you start because you were unable to find a job?
“Yes, I tried to look for a job but I could not find one stable that allowed me to live well. Then I thought that there was still something that I had not yet done so, I simply connected on the network, stated the cost of my service, 30 euros, and the brothel where I work and its done. My first experience was with eight men. It was a trauma. I discovered immediately that this work could not match my sexuality but I only had to satisfy the fantasies of men. You have to deal with disgusting people and you must continue to deal with them while they abuse your body and you must also pretend to be their girlfriend. I was no longer myself, I could not recognize myself”.

But other women talk about earning a lot of money and to feel good …
“It is not the truth. Even today when I enter the brothels and I talk to the women who work there and even when they tell me that they did this as a free choice, then slowly in trust they open up and reveal the disgust that they feel. The truth is that in Germany the situation is out of control and even if the government insists on separating trafficking from prostitution, the two phenomena cannot be separated. The police can not easily enter the brothels. Most of the women come from countries which are very poor like Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. Even a politician of those countries has declared ‘those women are animals and do not interest us’”.

But how is the daily life inside a brothel?
“Women live in the same rooms where they receive their customers. The room costs 150 euro per month plus 30 euro taxes. The performance ranges from 5 to 50 euro. We are forced to receive upto 60 people per day and we have to be honest: many customers also want the performance without protection. The  new and inexperienced girls endanger their health and suffer to be able to pay for the room and for the taxes. For this they work from 12 to 14 hours”.

A German psychotherapist, Dr Michaela Huber, argues that ‘the alienation is necessary to get penetrate many times by strangers. But one leaves behind only an empty shell that can still make some gestures and movements”…
“Yes alienation makes you resist but in reality within yourself you feel bad for the abuses inflicted. You must submit to the pleasures of men and nothing else. You do not even have the force to leave because you enter in a kind of vortex. And you really risk going crazy. The problem is precisely that the customers have the  image of yourself as an object. In order for the  people to understand that women are treated like animals, I always  relate the example of the advertising of the brothel of my city: ‘Sausage, beer, xxxx: 50 euro’”.

How did you manage to get out of the circle?
“First I asked for help to the health service but they only gave me forms to fill out. Then I tried other services but they replied that it was strange that I wanted to exit from prostitution. Then my therapy was my rage. And I found an association that took care of me and the many other women. I was able to find support thanks to Solwodi, that in several European cities helps the victims of prostitution. And today together with other women from different European countries, I am part of the organization of the Space international that seeks to give voice and support to women that have survived the abuses of prostitution and I travel throughout Germany trying to help those who want to get out and also to promote everywhere the Nordic model which criminalizes the client who buys the body of woman”.

di Irene Ciambezi – www.interris.it

Give me a sweet and humble heart

trevisani_francesco_005_madonna_con_bambinoHoly Mary, Mother of God,
preserve in me the heart of a child,
pure and clean like spring water;
a simple heart that does not remain absorbed
in its own sadness;
a loving heart
that freely gives with compassion;
a faithful and generous heart
that neither forgets good
nor feels bitterness for any evil.
Give me a sweet and humble heart
that loves without asking
to be loved in return,
happy to lose itself
in the heart of others,
sacrificing itself in front
of your Divine Son;
a great and unconquerable heart
which no ingratitude can close
and no indifference can tire;
a heart tormented by the glory of Christ,
pierced by His love
with a wound that will not heal
until heaven.
– Fr. Leonce de Grandmaison

Abortion and the morning-after pill. Caution

fetoAbortion: The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor!

The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated, and who then goes about having it done.

Sometimes it is feared that the child to be born would live in such conditions that it would be better if the birth did not take place. Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic, can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

As well as the mother, there are often other people too who decide upon the death of the child in the womb.

Sometimes the woman is subjected to such strong pressure that she feels psychologically forced to have an abortion.

But in fact, “from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. This has always been clear, and … modern genetic science offers clear confirmation.

John Paul II: I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child.

The morning-after pill:  is a hormone-based preparation (it can contain oestrogens, oestrogen/progestogens or only progestogens) which, within and no later than 72 hours after a presumably fertile act of sexual intercourse, has a predominantly “anti-implantation” function, i.e., it prevents a possible fertilized ovum (which is a human embryo), by now in the blastocyst stage of its development (fifth to sixth day after fertilization), from being implanted in the uterine wall by a process of altering the wall itself.

The final result will thus be the expulsion and loss of this embryo.
Pregnancy, in fact, begins with fertilization and not with the implantation of the blastocyst in the uterine wall, which is what is being implicitly suggested.

Useful numbers:
You’re pregnant? Want help with an unwanted pregnancy: SOSVITA tel. 800 813000 www.sosvita.it

You discovered to wait a sick child?
Want support for pathological pregnancy and help center for terminal fetuses:
LA QUERCIA MILLENARIA tel. 320 8010942 www.laquerciamillenaria.org

You want to heal the wounds of a voluntary abortion
LA VIGNA DI RACHELE tel. 099 7724518 www.vignadirachele.org

33. Good and evil: am i not the only judge of all that concerns me?

Man was created free and always relishes in himself the taste for freedom which is expressed, in particular, in his choices and decisions. It can even be said that an act is human only insofar as the act is free.

  • Nowadays, many people think that because they are free, no one has the right to tell them what is good or evil. Obviously, certain rules are still more or less accepted, for example, the one that prohibits murder or the scandalizing of children, but this is not the case in all matters.

Very often our judgment is influenced by the most widespread opinion and behaviour of others. Surely, an opinion is not true simply because many share it. Deep down we feel that this is not always the case. Sometimes we engage ourselves in certain actions, which in the depths of our heart, we reprove ourselves for.

  • We do not invent good and evil. They are not dependent on our own opinion or on the opinion of others. Because it is created, there is an order in the world, sometimes referred to as natural law. This is expressed in the Book of Genesis when it describes the fundamental commandment which God gave in the Garden of Eden: “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (Gen 2:17). Thus, it can be said that original sin (see also Q. 31) consists in man’s attempt to replace God in determining good and evil.
  • Since we do not determine good or evil, how can we distinguish one from the other? Every person is endowed with what we call a conscience. It is “the most secret centre of man, the sanctuary where he is alone with God and where His voice can be heard.” (Vatican II, The Church Today, 16) It is the conscience that directs each person to orientate himself towards the good. For this to happen, we need to listen. Furthermore, our conscience must be enlightened and trained in the habit of doing good acts (virtues) and by the inspiration of the Spirit of God received in prayer: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts” (Jer.31:33). And finally, we need to listen to the Church who guides us in discerning good and evil in the light of Christ.

Most Teens Aren’t Having Sex, and They Deserve More Support for That Choice

A friend recently alerted me to a disturbing Teen Vogue article that is best described as an explicit “how-to guide” on anal sex for adolescents. In the piece, sex educator Gigi Engle uses dehumanizing language at times (like “vagina owner” for adolescent girls) to paint a positive picture of a sexual activity the CDC says is the highest risk sexual behavior for HIV for men and women. To be fair, the article was “recently updated” to emphasize the necessity of condoms because “STIs are widespread and abundant.” Engle concludes the piece by telling adolescents that anal sex is “awesome” and “if you want to give it a go, you do that. More power to you.”

Teen Vogue is obviously targeting the general content of its magazine toward sexually active teens—many, who, let’s face it, have been exposed to online pornography from a young age. In the magazine’s view, if teens are doing it, considering doing it, or being pressured by a partner to do it, then the responsible thing is to give them all the tools they need to do so as safely as possible. It’s a common argument we often hear in sex education disputes.

But this vision of young people ignores the majority who are not sexually active. These young women and men are swimming against the cultural tide that says everyone they know is “hooking up” and that even the highest-risk behaviors are acceptable, as long as they are done “right” and the person is willing. It also ignores the overwhelming majority of teens who express support for postponing sex, along with a desire for more encouragement for that decision.

Instead of giving them that support, content like this Teen Vogue article leaves teens with the mistaken impression that most of their peers are sexually active, which, as a recent Harvard study found, can put a lot of pressure on young people. Richard Weissbourd, the study’s lead author, told ABC News, “these overestimations of the size of the hook-up culture can cause young people to have sex or to hook up when they’re not really interested, and they’re not really ready.”

Last month, the CDC’s National Centers for Health Statistics (NCHS) released its latest report on teen sexual activity and contraceptive use, which is based on data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). Not surprisingly, the news that more sexually active teens today are using contraception generated a good bit of media attention. One headline from CNN read, “Teens Are Still Having Sex, Most Use Contraception.”

But the NCHS report also tells us that teens who have not yet had sexual intercourse make up well over 50% of the teen population (57.6% of teen girls and 55.8% of teen boys), similar to the “levels seen in 2002 and 2006-2010.”

In terms of overall trends, as the figure below indicates, the percentage of teen girls “who had ever had sexual intercourse” fell from 51.1% in 1988 to 42.4% in the most recent survey, and for boys it declined from 60.4% to 44.2% (there was a slight increase for boys between 2006-2010 and 2011-2015, but the NCHS says the change was “not significant”). The report also notes, “This pattern across recent decades sheds light on the contribution of sexual activity to the pattern of decline in the teen birth rate in similar time periods.”

Perhaps we should focus more of our collective attention on the majority of teens who are delaying sex and the reasons motivating them, as well as the factors most likely to influence teen sexual decision-making. Importantly, the NSFG survey asked teen girls and boys who said that they were not sexually active, “What would you say is the most important reason why you have not had sexual intercourse up to now?” The most common reason cited by girls was “against religion and morals” (35.4%), followed by “haven’t found the right person yet” (21.9%), while for boys, the two most common reasons were “haven’t found the right person yet” (28.5%) and “against religion and morals” (27.9%).

What does this information tell us about teen sexual decision-making? First, it tells us that values matter more to teens than avoiding STDs or even pregnancy (which was third on the list for both boys and girls). And the people who most strongly shape young people’s values about sex, including what type of relationship signifies the “right person,” are parents, who are consistently shown to have the biggest influence on teens when it comes sex. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy explains:

Teens who are close to their parents and feel supported by them are more likely to abstain from sex, wait until they are older to begin having sex, have fewer sexual partners, and use contraception more consistently.

But parents matter to teen sexual decision-making in another big way. The structure of a teens’ family life is also linked to their sexual debut. For both male and female teenagers in the survey, a significantly lower percentage were sexually experienced if they lived with both biological or adoptive parents when they were 14, as the figure below shows.

The bottom line is that parents still wield the most influence over teen sexual decision-making, and ideally, parents should be the primary resource for schooling young people on the ins and outs of sexual behavior, the best time to have sex, and how to form lasting relationships.

Moreover, we know from recent surveys that teens not only support delaying sex but want more support for that decision, as well as more guidance from their parents and other trusted adults in their lives. For example, a 2014 survey of young adults by The National Campaign found that: 86% said it is important for teens to know “it’s okay to be a virgin when you graduate from high school,” and 66% said they think it would help teens delay sex longer if they knew less than half their peers were sexually active. And according to the previously mentioned Harvard study, “70% of young adults wish they had received more information and guidance about finding lasting love from their parents,” and 65% wanted more guidance from a health or sex education class “on some emotional aspect of romantic relationships.”

In light of the support and guidance teens say they want, our messages about sex should go beyond the benefits of avoiding disease or pregnancy to emphasize how postponing sex protects young people against a host of negative outcomes, including emotional heartache, and helps keep them on a path to success. Research shows that teens who delay sex not only have fewer lifetime sexual partners but are also more likely to graduate high school and go on to college. This is an opportunity to make the “Success Sequence” part of our discussions and messaging about sex, which should include connecting marriage to parenthood for teens, who are growing up in a culture where cohabiting parenthood is increasingly accepted as equal to having and raising children within marriage.

The door is wide open for parents, religious communities, educators, and other trusted adults to do more to combat our sex-obsessed culture and support young people in making healthier choices about sex and relationships. This should include the message that most of their peers are not having sex and that delaying sexual activity—ideally until marriage—is best for their overall health and future success.

by Alysse ElHage
Institute for Family Studies

Surrogacy: An LGBT Equality Advocate’s Perspective

My name is Gary Powell. I have been an advocate for gay, lesbian and bisexual equality since my late teens. I also oppose surrogacy: both commercial surrogacy, and so-called altruistic surrogacy. I do not believe there is any universal human right to be a parent, and I do not believe that the campaign to legalise and facilitate surrogacy has anything to do with LGBT equality.
When I was at Oxford University in the 1980s, one of my tutors was the philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock, who had just chaired the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology, which led to the famous Warnock Report. This influential report in turn led in the UK to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, regulating human fertility treatment and human embryo experimentation, and also the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985.
Baroness Warnock and I once discussed the ethics of surrogacy, and I recall her support for surrogacy arrangements so long as they did not involve commercial payment. To me at the time, that seemed to be a reasonable position. However, recent years have led to me finding out more about the issue of surrogacy, including how it can involve the exploitation and commodification of women and children, as well as medical and psychological harm.

We know that the surrogacy process can cost up to $100,000. If surrogacy does provide equality to wealthy gay people in terms of enabling them to become parents, then it mainly provides this equality to those who enjoy the inequality of great wealth. Commercial surrogacy is mainly the privilege of the wealthy. I also regard so-called altruistic surrogacy with significant expenses payments as commercial surrogacy. There is apparently no legally-defined upper limit for such expenses in the UK. The usual expenses sums I have heard of amount to a salary in my view.

There have been some worrying developments in gay and lesbian politics in recent years. In the West, the progress in acceptance and legal equality has been phenomenal, and I applaud that wholeheartedly. However, as is the case with other minority groups, a position has been reached where many people have become eager to virtue-signal their support for LGBT rights, and frightened to say anything that might get them accused of “homophobia”. This encourages a reluctance to challenge unfair demands and behaviour, and encourages positive discrimination, where LGBT people are treated more favourably than non-LGBT people, and it is wrong. Positive discrimination in favour of person A is necessarily negative discrimination against person B. This has never been what I campaigned for. I am seeing it again and again. The worry is that, having made so much progress, there are sections of the LGBT community that are overreaching themselves, looking for new issues to commandeer as gay rights issues, in quite an aggressive and unreflective way.

The claimed right to have children via surrogacy risks becoming one such issue. I have already seen surrogacy being referred to as an LGBT rights issue. What seems to happen is that such claims can end up achieving a critical mass of support among LGBT people and well-meaning supporters. When that happens, they risk becoming mainstream.
If a pretended right to surrogacy eventually succeeds in becoming a mainstream LGBT rights issue, people will start to get shouted down when they express opposition to surrogacy, and accused of homophobia. More people will be frightened to express doubts and concerns. More and more bandwagon virtue-signallers, as well as genuinely well-meaning people, will sing the praises of surrogacy as a putatively beautiful way of promoting LGBT equality. It will be very difficult to row back from that point if it arrives.

For all the arguments about equality and progress advanced by the supporters of surrogacy, there seems to be scant consideration for the well-being of the people brought into the world via this route, or for the women psychologically and physically harmed by this process. As these issues were covered in the film Breeders: A Subclass of Women?, and as they are likely to be spoken about by other panel members, I will avoid detailing the potential physical and psychological harm caused to children and to birth mothers in this brief introduction. I would like to stress, though, that the risk of harm to children implies that surrogacy is a safeguarding issue. Safeguarding issues tend to be taken seriously in the West these days, but it does not yet feel as though the safeguarding concerns associated with surrogacy are getting proper recognition. Surrogacy is also an issue that must include discussions about the exploitation of economically poor women, and about the risk to women’s health.
Gary Powell *
(LGBT equality advocate| Anti-surrogacy campaigner| Educator| Germanist| Buddhist)

*these are remarks prepared for a panel discussion in Madrid, Spain, 26 April 2017

So that Rosary is Prayer with the Heart (Father Andrea Gasparino)

Fr. Andrea Gasparino from Cuneo, Italy is famous for his teachings on prayer, which he has been holding for more than 40 years. He teaches the prayer of silence and of the heart, and has always called himself an enemy of oral prayer. In the following interview, held on Radio Maria, the Father clarifies some doubts.

“Without contemplation of mysteries Rosary is lifeless”

Q. I pray the Rosary every day, but I don’t know if I pray with my mouth or heart, for at times my prayer is arid.

A. You need to change your prayer, for when you truly pray, as Our Lady wishes, your life changes. The Rosary is a typically oral prayer unless you work at it. Paul VI, in his encyclical “Marialis Cultus” (no. 47) said: “Unless it is a contemplative prayer it is a lifeless corpse”. Your Rosary is worth little if it is not contemplative prayer. So when you recite the Rosary take time over the mystery and see if there is something practical you can do. At each mystery ask Our Lady for light. Try reading the mystery as it is told in the Gospel, because just simply announcing it does little for you. Take a little longer to meditate the Rosary, then fix your attention on a word of the “Hail Mary.” For example, when you say “pray for us sinners now,” stop at the word “now” and you will understand that perhaps in that moment you need to forgive, or line up your will with that of the Father’s, or correct something in your behaviour. So fix your attention on one of the words from the prayer and you will see how the Rosary will convert you. Rather than say many Rosaries, say a briefer one, but the way Our Lady wishes, so as to communicate with her. It might happen that half way through you realize you have yet to communicate with her, that your thoughts are miles away; so wake up and say, “I want to communicate with Our Lady,” and fix your attention on a few words. This is the real Rosary.

Prayer of listening must change us

Q. I pray often, but I cannot reach true communion with God. I tend to speak to God, so I do not use prayer of silence.

A. It is easier to speak with God than to listen to Him, but remember that what you have to say to Him is less important, because He already knows everything. To the contrary, what He has to say to you is very important. Each time you pray stop for a lengthy pause of silence to put yourself in God’s presence. Think of Him, the Holy Trinity, present in you and ask Him: “Lord what do you want to say to me today?” Help yourself a lot with the Word of God, the Gospel. Ask for example, “What do you want to tell me today about charity, my duties, or the way I take Communion?” If you do not receive an immediate answer, remember that the Lord always speaks in a veiled manner: the wait strengthens our faith and humbleness. If your question is straightforward, the reply will come, perhaps during the day. Practise the prayer of listening. Ask the Lord every day to give you the grace to be able to pray, to know how to listen to Him, and repeat: “It doesn’t matter what I want, it only matters what You want,” and a flower, the most beautiful one, will blossom from your prayer.

Q. I belong to a Charismatic Group, but the prayer is lengthy, confused and there is a lot of gesticulation.

A. Prayer must be contact with God. Ask yourself after prayer in the group if you communicated with God, heart to heart. You probably won’t have, because of the environment. It is good to participate in community prayer, but remember that first you need to communicate with Him in the secrecy of your heart. To pray well in the group you should get used to praying for half an hour each day with prayer of silence. Without personal prayer everything is arid. All that crying out does not remove your faults; it doesn’t let you descend into your conscience. You have to descend into your conscience and listen well to what God wants from you, and you can only do this with the prayer of silence. With personal prayer your participation in the group will be sincere and real.

Q. I pray a lot, but I have the habit of naming people and their problems one by one to God to ask for His help.

A. You need not worry about that because God does not need information, however, it is good that you care and implore the Holy Spirit upon others so that He can act in them. It is a good thing when you pray in particular for another person to ask the Lord, for instance, what you can do for them, so that your prayer is concrete.

Q. My life is concentrated on God, but I cannot pray the way you suggest.

A. It is good to communicate with God all day long through your work and your encounters with other people. The important thing is that you communicate profoundly with God every day. Do not pray only while you work. You must listen to God and give a part of your day to Him; at least half an hour. You must say: “my prayer is put to good if I listen to God.” You need to understand what the Lord asks of you at home and at work.

Humility as a Key to Prayer (Father Andrea Gasparino)

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18: 9-14

Begin your prayer by  squarely facing the truth about yourself. God is truth; he does not tolerate deceit. When you come before him, be honest. Stand before him as you are: lazy, distracted, tired, wretched. To be sincere is to be humble. To begin with humility is a great psychological importance. Jesus taught us this when he drew the picture of the Pharisee and the Publican for us. Humility is the first component of love: humility is the hallmark of true Love.

The poor publican made no promises to God. He did not even have courage to raise his eyes to him, but simply acknowledged himself as a sinner. This is all he does: he acknowledges his utter wretchedness and brings it to God, like a beggar showing his rags to the passer-by and it is then that the miracle happens.

It take very little to move the heart of God. Jesus seems to be saying : just be honest, take off your masks and God fills you to the brim with his grace.

Don’t think that starting your prayer like this is a waste of time. It is not just a preparatory step to prayer, it is real prayer,  in fact, it is already love.

The Prayer of the Heart, Andrea Gasparino

I Asked God (Kirk Kilgour)

I asked God to make me strong
To carry out marvellous plans:
He has made me weak to preserve me humble.

I asked God to make me healthy
To carry out great exploits:
He’s given me pains to make me understand health better.

I asked Him richness to own everything:
He has made me poor so I could not be selfish.

I asked Him Power
Because men would need me:
He has given me humiliation because I would need them.

I asked God everything to enjoy life:
He has left me my life because I could appreciate everything.

Lord, I have not received what I asked,
but you has given me what I needed
and quite against my willing.

The prayers I did not say were answered.

Be praised my Lord, among the men
None has what I have!

Kirk Kilgour was a USA Volleyball athlete. He came to play in Series A in Italy in 1973. Due to a training accident he became paralyzed on his limbs. He passed away in 2002, he remains in history for his profound humanity in front of suffering.

You loved us first, oh God – Soren Kierkegaard

amare per primiYou loved us first, oh God.
Alas, we speak of it as if you loved us first one time only, historically speaking, when in very truth, without ceasing, you love us first all the time.
When I awaken in the morning and my soul turns at once toward you, you are first. You have already turned toward me.
If I rise at dawn and in the very first second of my awakening my soul turns to you in prayer, you have beat me to it.
You have already turned in love toward me.
Thus, we speak ingratitude if, unthankful and unaware, we speak of you as having loved us first only one time.

32. How does erotic movies hurt relationships?

Impurity blinds the heart and mind:

  • Warps perspective
  • Enslaves
  • Perverts love

Indeed, day after day, insidiously, men and women see each other as objects to be used for their personal pleasure. Our view becomes biased. Instead of discovering our fiance(e) or spouse in the fullness of their personality including their corporal, spiritual, emotional, intellectual and sensitive dimensions, we become set on a single pursuit, namely sensual indulgence.

  • In relationships with friends or in professional life the prevailing attitude becomes centered on sex as the memory is saturated with erotic images. Our relationship with others becomes blurred.
  • Pornography destroys love in a marriage. Indeed, true love is expressed by the gift of self, in listening to one another, considering one another’s feelings, in tenderness and attentiveness to each other. But here, our heart experiences blindness, stifled as it were by depression and disgust, the result of eroticism.
  • But the Creator, we realize, inscribed in the depths of our being a longing for purity. Such a longing is always present in us even when much has been done to damage it. It is always possible to regain purity whatever our situation or our past.

This comes first of all in receiving God’s forgiveness. In everyday life this continues through an inner attention: this requires an inner resolve to ward off simply but firmly all that might soil our heart (Controling one’s imagination, avoiding obscene publications and posters, looking the other way… )

  • We can be sure that, little by little our good will will gain the upper hand, and we will rediscover peace and joy of heart.
Personal Experience

Claire and I lived the first years of our married life like a young worldly couple with outings, friends, theatre, plays, videos and movies. We wanted to explore and experience everything. It was with such inclinations that we frequented erotic films.

We would come back full of laughter from such outings but not without a tinge of uneasiness and even disgust. We didn’t want to fall prey to guilt. But then in our sexual intimacy Claire was no longer the real Claire and vice versa. Mental perceptions get wedged in most insiduously driving us apart from each other.

A major family crisis made us question ourselves and our lifestyle more seriously. We came to realize that the erotic images, as they pervaded our memory, were gradually stifling our love. We decided not to go to such films anymore and, in general, not to go “grabbing” for everything under the pretence that it was the current fashion. We could now enjoy a life more in harmony with our deepest aspirations.

Stephen

A new text from Benedict XVI (Easter 2017)

Ever since I first read the Letters of Saint Ignatius of Antioch in the 1950s, one passage from his Letter to the Ephesians has particularly affected me: “It is better to keep silence and be [a Christian] than to talk and not to be. Teaching is an excellent thing, provided the speaker practices what he teaches. Now, there is one Teacher who spoke and it came to pass. And even what He did silently is worthy of the Father. He who has truly made the words of Jesus his own is able also to hear His silence, so that he may be perfect: so that he may act through his speech and be known through his silence” (15, 1f.). What does that mean: to hear Jesus’s silence and to know him through his silence? We know from the Gospels that Jesus frequently spent nights alone “on the mountain” in prayer, in conversation with his Father. We know that his speech, his word, comes from silence and could mature only there. So it stands to reason that his word can be correctly understood only if we, too, enter into his silence, if we learn to hear it from his silence.

Certainly, in order to interpret Jesus’s words, historical knowledge is necessary, which teaches us to understand the time and the language at that time. But that alone is not enough if we are really to comprehend the Lord’s message in depth. Anyone today who reads the ever-thicker commentaries on the Gospels remains disappointed in the end. He learns a lot that is useful about those days and a lot of hypotheses that ultimately contribute nothing at all to an understanding of the text. In the end you feel that in all the excess of words, something essential is lacking: entrance into Jesus’s silence, from which his word is born. If we cannot enter into this silence, we will always hear the word only on its surface and thus not really understand it.

As I was reading the new book by Robert Cardinal Sarah, all these thoughts went through my soul again. Sarah teaches us silence—being silent with Jesus, true inner stillness, and in just this way he helps us to grasp the word of the Lord anew. Of course he speaks hardly at all about himself, but now and then he does give us a glimpse into his interior life. In answer to Nicolas Diat’s question, “At times in your life have you thought that words were becoming too cumbersome, too heavy, too noisy?,” he answers: “In my prayer and in my interior life, I have always felt the need for a deeper, more complete silence. … The days of solitude, silence, and absolute fasting have been a great support. They have been an unprecedented grace, a slow purification, and a personal encounter with … God. … Days of solitude, silence, and fasting, nourished by the Word of God alone, allow man to base his life on what is essential.” These lines make visible the source from which the cardinal lives, which gives his word its inner depth. From this vantage point, he can then see the dangers that continually threaten the spiritual life, of priests and bishops also, and thus endanger the Church herself, too, in which it is not uncommon for the Word to be replaced by a verbosity that dilutes the greatness of the Word. I would like to quote just one sentence that can become an examination of conscience for every bishop: “It can happen that a good, pious priest, once he is raised to the episcopal dignity, quickly falls into mediocrity and a concern for worldly success. Overwhelmed by the weight of the duties that are incumbent on him, worried about his power, his authority, and the material needs of his office, he gradually runs out of steam.”

Cardinal Sarah is a spiritual teacher, who speaks out of the depths of silence with the Lord, out of his interior union with him, and thus really has something to say to each one of us.

We should be grateful to Pope Francis for appointing such a spiritual teacher as head of the congregation that is responsible for the celebration of the liturgy in the Church. With the liturgy, too, as with the interpretation of Sacred Scripture, it is true that specialized knowledge is necessary. But it is also true of the liturgy that specialization ultimately can talk right past the essential thing unless it is grounded in a deep, interior union with the praying Church, which over and over again learns anew from the Lord himself what adoration is. With Cardinal Sarah, a master of silence and of interior prayer, the liturgy is in good hands.

Benedict XVI, pope emeritus

Vatican City, Easter Week 2017

No to the destruction of human embryos (Pope Francis)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I welcome you with joy, and I greet each one of you present at this opportunity for meeting and reflection dedicated to Huntington’s Disease. I wholeheartedly thank all those who worked to make this day possible. I am grateful to Dr Cattaneo and to Mr Sabine for their introductory words. I would like to extend my greeting to all people who, in their body and in their life, carry signs of this disease, as well as those who suffer from other so-called rare diseases.
I know that some of you have had to brave a very long and difficult journey in order to be here today. I thank you and I am happy you are here. I have listened to your accounts and the difficulties you must face each day; I understand how much tenacity and dedication your families, doctors, health care workers and volunteers have as they support you in a journey that poses many uphill climbs, some of which are extremely difficult.
For far too long. the fears and difficulties that characterize the life of people affected by Huntington’s Disease have surrounded them with misunderstandings and barriers, veritably excluding them. In many cases the sick and their families have experienced the tragedy of shame, isolation and abandonment. Today, however, we are here because we want to say to ourselves and all the world: “HIDDEN NO MORE!”, “OCULTA NUNCA MAS!”, “MAI PIU’ NASCOSTA!”. It is not simply a slogan, so much as a commitment that we all must foster. The strength and conviction with which we pronounce these words derive precisely from what Jesus himself taught us. Throughout his ministry, he met many sick people; he took on their suffering; he tore down the walls of stigma and of marginalization that prevented so many of them from feeling respected and loved. For Jesus, disease is never an obstacle to encountering people, but rather, the contrary. He taught us that the human person is always precious, always endowed with a dignity that nothing and no one can erase, not even disease. Fragility is not an ill. And disease, which is an expression of fragility, cannot and must not make us forget that in the eyes of God our value is always priceless.
Disease can also be an opportunity for encounter, for sharing, for solidarity. The sick people who encountered Jesus were restored above all by this awareness. They felt they were listened to, respected, loved. May none of you ever feel you are alone; may none of you feel you are a burden; may no one feel the need to run away. You are precious in the eyes of God; you are precious in the eyes of the Church!
I now turn to the families. Those who experience Huntington’s Disease know that no one can really overcome loneliness and despair if they do not have people at their side who, with self-sacrifice and steadfastness, make themselves ‘travel companions’. You are all this: fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, children, brothers and sisters who, on a daily basis, silently but effectively, accompany your family members on this difficult path. For you, too, at times, the path is an uphill climb. For this reason, I encourage you, too, not to feel you are alone; not to give in to the temptation of the sense of shame or guilt. The family is the privileged place of life and of dignity, and you can cooperate to build that network of solidarity and of help that the family alone can guarantee, and which the family is first called to live.
I speak to you, physicians, health care workers, volunteers of the associations that are involved with Huntington’s Disease and with those who suffer from it. Among you there are also workers from the Ospedale Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, who, both with assistance and with research, express the contribution of a work of the Holy See in this most important field. The service that you all provide is valuable, because it is surely your dedication and your initiative that give tangible shape to the hope and motivation of the families who trust in you. The disease poses many challenges related to diagnostics, therapy and assistance. May the Lord bless your work: may you be a point of reference for patients and their families who, in various circumstances, find themselves having to face the already difficult trials that the disease entails, in a social-health care context which often is not oriented to the dignity of the human person. In this way, however, difficulties multiply. Often adding to the disease are poverty, forced separations and a general sense of dismay and mistrust. For this reason, national and international associations and institutions are vital. You are like hands that God uses to sow hope. You are the voices that these people have so as to claim their rights!
Lastly, geneticists and scientists are present here, who, for some time, sparing no energy, have dedicated themselves to studying and researching a treatment for Huntington’s Disease. Clearly, there is a great deal of expectation surrounding your work: resting on your efforts are the hopes of finding the way to a definitive cure for the disease, but also of improving the living conditions of these brothers and sisters, and of accompaniment, especially in the delicate phases of diagnosis, at the onset of the first symptoms.
May the Lord bless your task! I encourage you to always pursue it with means that do not contribute to fuelling that “throw-away culture” that at times infiltrates even the world of scientific research. Some branches of research, in fact, utilize human embryos, inevitably causing their destruction. But we know that no ends, even noble in themselves, such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society, can justify the destruction of human embryos.
Brothers and sisters, as you see, you are a large and motivated community. May the life of each of you — both of those who are directly affected by Huntington’s Disease and those who work hard every day to support the sick in their pain and difficulty — be a living witness to the hope that Christ has given us. Even through suffering there passes a path of abundant good, which we can travel together.
I thank all of you! May the Lord bless you, and please, do not forget to pray for me, as I will pray for you. Thank you.
Pope Francis

Petition to the Virgin of the Rosary of Pompeii

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

O August Queen of Victories, O Sovereign of Heaven and Earth, at whose name the heavens rejoice and the abyss trembles. O Glorious Queen of the Rosary, we, your devoted children, assembled (on this solemn day*) in your Temple of Pompeii, pour out the affection of our hearts and with filial confidence express our miseries to You. From the Throne of clemency on which You are seated as Queen, turn, O Mary, your merciful gaze on us, on our families, on Italy, on Europe and on the whole world. Have compassion on the worries and trials which embitter our lives. See, O Mother, how many physical and spiritual dangers and how many calamities and afflictions press upon us. O Mother, implore the mercy of your Divine Son for us and conquer the hearts of sinners with your benevolence. They are our brothers and your children who cause the heart of our sweet Jesus to bleed and sadden your sensitive Heart. Show us all what You are, the Queen of Peace and of Pardon.

Hail Mary…

It is true that, although we are your children, with our sins we are the first to crucify Jesus again in our hearts and pierce your heart anew. We confess that we deserve the most severe punishments, but remember that on Golgotha You received, with the Divine Blood, the testament of the dying Saviour, who declared You our Mother, the Mother of sinners. You then, as our Mother, are our Advocate, our Hope. And we raise our pleading hands to You with sighs crying, “Mercy!”. O good Mother, have pity on us, on our souls, on our families, on our relatives, on our friends, on our deceased, especially on our enemies, and on so many who call themselves Christian and yet offend the Heart of your loving Son. We implore mercy for today’s misguided Nations, for all Europe, for the whole world, so that, repentant, they may return to your Heart. Have mercy on us all, O Mother of Mercy!

Hail Mary…

Deign kindly to hear us, O Mary! Jesus has placed in your hands all the treasures of His Grace and His Mercy. You are seated crowned Queen at the right hand of your Son, resplendent with immortal glory above all Choirs of Angels. You extend your dominion throughout heavens, and earth and all creatures are subject to You. You are omnipotent by grace and therefore You can help us. Were You not willing to help us because we are ungrateful children and undeserving of your protection, we would not know to whom to turn. Your Mother’s heart would not allow seeing us, your children, lost. The Infant whom You hold on your lap and the mystical Rosary which we gaze at your hand, inspire confidence in us that You shall hear us. We confide totally in You and abandon ourselves to You, like helpless children into the arms of the tenderest of mothers, and on this very day, we expect from You the longed-for graces.

Hail Mary… 

Let us ask for Mary’s blessing

One last favour we ask of You, O Queen, which You cannot deny us (on this very solemn day*). Grant us all your steadfast love and in a special way your maternal blessing. We shall not leave You until You have blessed us. Bless, O Mary, at this moment, our Holy Father.

To the ancient splendours of your Crown, to the triumphs of your Rosary, whence You are called Queen of Victories, add also this, O Mother: grant the victory of the Faith and give Peace to human Society. Bless our Bishops, Priests and particularly those who work zealously to give honour to your Shrine. Finally, bless all those who are associated with your Temple of Pompeii and all those who cultivate and promote the devotion of the Holy Rosary. O Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet Chain which binds us to God, Bond of love which unites us to the Angels, Tower of salvation against the assaults of hell, safe Haven in the universal shipwreck, we shall never abandon You. You will be our comfort in the hour of agony. For You is the last kiss of our dying life. And the last word on our lips will be your sweet name, O Queen of the Rosary of Pompeii, O Dearest Mother, O Refuge of Sinners, O Sovereign Consoler of the Afflicted. May You be blessed everywhere, on Earth and in Heaven, today and forever. Amen.

Hail, Holy Queen…

(*) Only on the 8th of May and the first Sunday of October.

Study Finds Babies in First Trimester Have “Adult-Like” Nerves

Tridimensional Visualization and Analysis of Early Human Development

The study published in the journal Cell used 3D images of human embryos that revealed previously unknown features of human development. The images showed that an adult-like pattern of skin innervation is established before the end of the first trimester

http://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(17)30287-8?utm_source=email+marketing+Mailigen&utm_campaign=News+4.27.17&utm_medium=email

Summary

Generating a precise cellular and molecular cartography of the human embryo is essential to our understanding of the mechanisms of organogenesis in normal and pathological conditions. Here, we have combined whole-mount immunostaining, 3DISCO clearing, and light-sheet imaging to start building a 3D cellular map of the human development during the first trimester of gestation. We provide high-resolution 3D images of the developing peripheral nervous, muscular, vascular, cardiopulmonary, and urogenital systems. We found that the adult-like pattern of skin innervation is established before the end of the first trimester, showing important intra- and inter-individual variations in nerve branches. We also present evidence for a differential vascularization of the male and female genital tracts concomitant with sex determination. This work paves the way for a cellular and molecular reference atlas of human cells, which will be of paramount importance to understanding human development in health and disease.

Constructing abortion as a social problem: “Sex selection” and the British abortion debate

Fem Psychol. 2017 Feb;27(1):15-33. doi: 10.1177/0959353516678010. Epub 2017 Feb 12.

Constructing abortion as a social problem: “Sex selection” and the British abortion debate.

Abstract

Between February 2012 and March 2015, the claim that sex selection abortion was taking place in Britain and that action needed to be taken to stop it dominated debate in Britain about abortion. Situating an analysis in sociological and social psychological approaches to the construction of social problems, particularly those considering “feminised” re-framings of anti-abortion arguments, this paper presents an account of this debate. Based on analysis of media coverage, Parliamentary debate and official documents, we focus on claims about grounds (evidence) made to sustain the case that sex selection abortion is a British social problem and highlight how abortion was problematised in new ways. Perhaps most notable, we argue, was the level of largely unchallenged vilification of abortion doctors and providers, on the grounds that they are both law violators and participants in acts of discrimination and violence against women, especially those of Asian heritage. We draw attention to the role of claims made by feminists in the media and in Parliament about “gendercide” as part of this process and argue that those supportive of access to abortion need to critically assess both this aspect of the events and also consider arguments about the problems of “medical power” in the light of what took place.

Is fetal analgesia necessary during prenatal surgery?

During the second half of the pregnancy, external stimuli can awake the fetuses, although they spend most of the time in sleeping state; the presence of ENIn is absolutely not enough to guarantee an effective anesthesia during surgery. Thus, direct fetal analgesia/anesthesia is mandatory, though further studies on its possible drawbacks are necessary.

J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2017 Apr 16:1-5. doi: 10.1080/14767058.2017.1311860. [Epub ahead of print]

Is fetal analgesia necessary during prenatal surgery?

Author information

1
a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit , University Hospital of Siena , Siena , Italy.
2
b Department of Molecular and Developmental Medicine, Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology , University of Siena , Siena , Italy.

Abstract

Fetal pain and fetal anesthesia are still matter of debate: some authors hypothesize that several intrauterine endocrine neuroinhibitors (ENIn) anesthetize the fetus, keeping it in a constant state of sleep, and making pharmacological fetal anesthesia useless for fetal surgery, while others argue fetal pain is possible and shoud be prevented with fetal anesthesy.

AIM:

To retrieve evidences about fetal pain, fetal arousability and about the level of sedation induced by the ENIn, in order to assess the necessity of direct fetal anesthesia during prenatal fetal surgery.

METHODS:

We performed a careful literature review (1990-2016) on fetal arousability, and on the possibility that ENIn at the average fetal blood levels induce actual anesthesia. We retrieved the papers that fulfilled the research criteria, with particular attention to the second half of pregnancy, the period when most fetal surgery is performed.

RESULTS:

Fetuses are awake about 10% of the total time in the last gestational weeks, and they can be aroused by external stimuli. ENIn have not an anesthetic effect at normal fetal values, but only when they areartificialy injected at high doses; their blood levels in the last trimester of average pregnancies are not dissimilar either in the fetus or in the mother.

CONCLUSIONS:

During the second half of the pregnancy, external stimuli can awake the fetuses, although they spend most of the time in sleeping state; the presence of ENIn is absolutely not enough to guarantee an effective anesthesia during surgery. Thus, direct fetal analgesia/anesthesia is mandatory, though further studies on its possible drawbacks are necessary.

The biography of Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962)

Gianna Beretta was born in Magenta (Milan) October 4, 1922. Already as a youth she willingly accepted the gift of faith and the clearly Christian education that she received from her excellent parents. As a result, she experienced life as a marvellous gift from God, had a strong faith in Providence and was convinced of the necessity and effectiveness of prayer.

She diligently dedicated herself to studies during the years of her secondary and university education, while, at the same time, applying her faith through generous apostolic service among the youth of Catholic Action and charitable work among the elderly and needy as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. After earning degrees in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, she opened a medical clinic in Mesero (near Magenta) in 1950. She specialized in Pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and there after gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and poor.

While working in the field of medicine-which she considered a “mission” and practiced as such-she increased her generous service to Catholic Action, especially among the “very young” and, at the same time, expressed her joie de vivre and love of creation through skiing and mountaineering. Through her prayers and those of others, she reflected upon her vocation, which she also considered a gift from God. Having chosen the vocation of marriage, she embraced it with complete enthusiasm and wholly dedicated herself “to forming a truly Christian family”.

She became engaged to Pietro Molla and was radiant with joy and happiness during the time of their engagement, for which she thanked and praised the Lord. They were married on September 24, 1955, in the Basilica of St. Martin in Magenta, and she became a happy wife. In November 1956, to her great joy, she became the mother of Pierluigi, in December 1957 of Mariolina; in July 1959 of Laura. With simplicity and equilibrium she harmonized the demands of mother, wife, doctor and her passion for life.

In September 1961 towards the end of the second month of pregnancy, she was touched by suffering and the mystery of pain; she had developed a fibroma in her uterus. Before the required surgical operation, and conscious of the risk that her continued pregnancy brought, she pleaded with the surgeon to save the life of the child she was carrying, and entrusted herself to prayer and Providence. The life was saved, for which she thanked the Lord. She spent the seven months remaining until the birth of the child in incomparable strength of spirit and unrelenting dedication to her tasks as mother and doctor. She worried that the baby in her womb might be born in pain, and she asked God to prevent that.

A few days before the child was due, although trusting as always in Providence, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: “If you must decided between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child – I insist on it. Save him”. On the morning of April 21, 1962, Gianna Emanuela was born. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, on the morning of April 28, amid unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you», the mother died. She was 39 years old. Her funeral was an occasion of profound grief, faith and prayer. The Servant of God lies in the cemetery of Mesero (4 km from Magenta).

“Conscious immolation», was the phrase used by Pope Paul VI to define the act of Blessed Gianna, remembering her at the Sunday Angelus of September 23, 1973, as: “A young mother from the diocese of Milan, who, to give life to her daughter, sacrificed her own, with conscious immolation”. The Holy Father in these words clearly refers to Christ on Calvary and in the Eucharist.

Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994, during the international Year of the Family, and canonized by John Paul II on May 16, 2004.

Forced Marriages Introduction

What is a forced marriage?

forced marriage happens when one or both participants are coerced into matrimony – without their free consent.

They may have been emotionally blackmailed, physically threatened or abused.

Forced marriages differ from arranged ones, which may have been set up by a relative or friend, but are willingly agreed to by the couple.

An indication of being made to marry someone against their will is ‘a feeling’, says Sue from Central Manchester Women’s Aid. “You know from a young age whether you can say yes or no to your parents.

“And on the day of the ceremony, it is extremely difficult for anyone to say no when everything has been organised.”

Some young people, especially of South Asian origin, have been taken on visits to the subcontinent by their families, unaware of plans to marry them off. Passports have been confiscated to prevent them returning home.

Those who either have been or fear being forced into marriage can become depressed and frightened, develop mental and physical health problems and harm themselves.

A number of those trying to escape unwanted unions have even become victims of honour-based violence or committed suicide.

No major world faith advocates forced marriages although some may try to justify it on religious grounds.

The practice crosses boundaries of culture and class and happens worldwide, but it especially concerns those living in and originating from Asia.

“It’s tradition, not religion, that is the problem,” says Jasvinder Sanghera, who runs a charity that helps forced marriage victims and survived a forced marriage herself.

Human rights’ violation

International bodies have condemned forced unions and supported women’s right to choose their marriage partner.

Forced marriage is a violation of internationally recognised human rights standards. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16(2)

A woman’s right to choose a spouse and enter freely into marriage is central to her life and dignity, and equality as a human being.

General Recommendation No 21, UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women

State parties shall ensure on a basis of equality men and women…the same right freely to choose a spouse to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent.

Convention to Elimination all forms of Discrimination against Women, Article 16 )1), (b)

from: www.bbc.co.uk