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Christian college sues over Biden administration rule opening dorms, showers to opposite sex

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Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

A Christian college in Missouri sued the Biden administration last week over an order requiring single-sex dorms or bathrooms to be available to members of the opposite biological sex.

The College of the Ozarks, a Christian liberal arts college, claimed that an executive order from President Joe Biden would require the college to violate its religious beliefs. 

Biden issued a Jan. 21 executive order interpreting federal prohibitions on sex discrimination to also ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Legal experts warned that the order, by redefining sex discrimination, could pose far-reaching consequences for women-only accommodations such as sports teams, locker rooms and bathrooms, and shelters.

In its implementation of the order in February, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) determined that - pursuant to the order - it would now interpret federal housing laws that prohibit sex discrimination to also include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in housing. 

In a lawsuit filed on behalf of College of the Ozarks, attorneys for the group Alliance Defending Freedom argued that the directive would force the Christian college to violate its beliefs, as the college would be subject to the Fair Housing Act. 

The new agency rules would require biological males identifying as transgender females to not be denied access to female dorms or bathrooms - a violation of the school’s religious standards, ADF said.

“For decades, the College has prohibited male students from living in female dormitories, and vice versa, regardless of whether those students identify with their biological sex. The College likewise separates intimate spaces such as showers and bathrooms in its dormitories,” the April 15 lawsuit said.

In a statement, ADF Senior Counsel Julie Marie Blake said the government “cannot and should not force schools to open girls’ dorms to males based on its politically motivated and inappropriate redefinition of ‘sex.’” 

“Women shouldn’t be forced to share private spaces—including showers and dorm rooms—with males, and religious schools shouldn’t be punished simply because of their beliefs about marriage and biological sex,” Blake said. 

“Government overreach by the Biden administration continues to victimize women, girls, and people of faith by gutting their legal protections, and it must be stopped,” he said.

Dr. Jerry C. Davis, president of College of the Ozarks, said in an April 15 statement, that “Religious freedom is under attack in America, and we won’t stand on the sidelines and watch.” 

“To threaten religious freedom is to threaten America itself,” Davis said. “College of the Ozarks will not allow politicians to erode this essential American right or the ideals that shaped America’s founding.”

HUD did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

The College of the Ozarks was founded in 1906 by a Presbyterian minister. The school says it provides jobs for students to help defray the costs of their tuition, with donor-funded scholarships covering the rest of the cost.

Judge halts Ohio restrictions on chemical abortions

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Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2021 / 11:10 am (CNA).

An Ohio judge on Monday halted the state’s requirement that the abortion pill regimen be administered in-person.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) had signed Senate Bill 260 into law on Jan. 9, requiring physicians to be present in administering the initial dose of the abortion pill regimen; the abortion pill was barred from being administered remotely through telemedicine.

Planned Parenthood and its Ohio affiliate sued over the law, and on April 6, Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Alison Hatheway issued a temporary restraining order on enforcement of the law until April 19. On Monday, Judge Hatheway granted a preliminary injunction in the case, halting the law from going into effect while the court determines the case.

“Today’s ruling protects telemedicine abortion access for our patients, at least temporarily,” stated Iris E. Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.

Alexis McGill Johnson, the president and CEO and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, stated, “At a moment when access to telemedicice is gravely needed, states should be expanding all telehealth services, including abortion.”

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would allow for remote prescribing and dispensing of the abortion pill regimen during the pandemic. Since 2000, the FDA has placed the regimen on its list of higher-risk drugs and procedures which are subject to greater regulation. The administration historically required the abortion pill to be prescribed in-person by a certified prescriber in a health clinic setting.

Pro-abortion groups sought to loosen the regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that women seeking chemical abortions were at greater risk of contracting the virus by traveling to a health clinic. The Trump administration fought in court against attempts to suspend the regulations during the pandemic.

However, the Biden administration has since allowed for the regimen to be prescribed remotely and delivered through the mail or by mail-order pharmacies, during the pandemic.

Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, stated at his confirmation hearing that he wished for an expansion of telemedicine, in response to a question about the remote prescribing and dispensing of the abortion pill.

The abortion pill regimen involves the use of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. The first, mifepristone, cuts off the supply of nutrients to the unborn child; the second, misoprostol, contracts the uterus to expel the deceased child.

The group Ohio Right to Life claimed that Planned Parenthood had been using telemedicine for years to perform chemical abortions remotely.

“Planned Parenthood’s use of telemedicine to dispense abortion-inducing drugs cuts their own costs at the expense of basic health and safety standards. Patient safety shouldn’t have a price tag. Women deserve better,” the group stated in January when the law was signed.

Pro-life advocates: Planned Parenthood can’t just wish away Margaret Sanger’s racism, eugenics

Statue of Margaret Sanger at the Old South Meeting House museum in Boston / Page Light Studios/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

After the head of Planned Parenthood promised to “reckon with” founder Margaret Sanger’s connections to racism and eugenics, pro-life advocates said the organization is still part of the problem.

In an opinion piece on Saturday for the New York Times, Alexis McGill Johnson - Planned Parenthood president and CEO - stated that the question of whether or not Sanger was a racist is one “that we’ve tried to avoid, but we no longer can. We must reckon with it.”

McGill Johnson addressed Sanger’s historic association with white supremist groups and eugenicists, acknowledging that the organization has failed to fully grapple with Sanger’s beliefs.

“Up until now, Planned Parenthood has failed to own the impact of our founder’s actions,” she wrote. “We have defended Sanger as a protector of bodily autonomy and self-determination, while excusing her association with white supremacist groups and eugenics as an unfortunate ‘product of her time.’”

However, pro-life advocates said that a simple apology and denunciation of Sanger’s beliefs is “cheap” and “hollow.”

Angela Franks, author of “Margaret Sanger's Eugenic Legacy: The Control of Female Fertility,” told CNA in an interview that Planned Parenthood “is trying to have it both ways,” by appeasing to progressive activists without “getting to the heart of the problem with Sanger.”

“In some ways it's a cheap attempt to repurpose the organization within the progressive lobby,” Franks said.

Black pro-life activist and former NFL player Benjamin Watson also said that Planned Parenthood’s action “rings hollow” unless the organization takes the “next step.”

“Whether they personally identify with Sanger’s ideology or not, they continue to carry out her mission, by serving as the leading executioner of our children,” Watson said in a written statement on Sunday. 

“The same Sanger they claim to disavow would applaud their efforts and results, as a disproportionate percentage of Black children have been killed in Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinics,” he said. 

In her op-ed, McGill Johnson wrote that Sanger spoke to the women’s auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan and was associated with the eugenics movement. 

“Until recently, we have hidden behind the assertion that her beliefs were the norm for people of her class and era, always being sure to name her work alongside that of W.E.B. Dubois and other Black freedom fighters,” she wrote. “But the facts are complicated.”

Sanger also endorsed the Supreme Court’s 1927 Buck v. Bell decision “which allowed states to sterilize people deemed ‘unfit’ without their consent and sometimes without their knowledge — a ruling that led to the sterilization of tens of thousands of people in the 20th century,” McGill Johnson wrote.

“We will no longer make excuses or apologize for Margaret Sanger’s actions,” she stated. 

The admission marked a stark change in tone from the nation’s largest abortion provider on its founder Margaret Sanger, having previously described her as a “trailblazer” for women’s rights. 

While McGill Johnson’s piece touched on Sanger’s association with white supremicist groups, Franks said, it did not fully engage her embrace of eugenics. 

“There were plenty of eugenicists who wanted to reduce people who were white too,” Franks said, explaining that there were elements of classism and ableism in the ideology that targeted the poor or the cognitively or physically disabled. 

“It led them to viewing whole swaths of the population as unfit,” Franks said, adding, “they’re not facing up to that legacy at all.” 

Franks said Planned Parenthood has realized that Sanger’s views “could not simply be explained away,” but a real reckoning with her legacy would involve closing their doors. 

“You just can’t square this [legacy] with the pursuit of justice Planned Parenthood says they’re on board with,” Franks said. “The bigoted mindset of Sanger is woven into the organization in such a way that it would really have to cease doing what it does.” 

A 2016 document distributed by Planned Parenthood called “Margaret Sanger — Our Founder” described her as “a woman of heroic accomplishments,” while admitting that she was “complex and imperfect. 

“Nearly 130 years after her birth and more than 40 years after her death, Planned Parenthood is proud to carry on Sanger’s lifelong struggle to defend the basic human right to decide when or whether to have a child,” the document stated. 

The document acknowledges her association with the eugenics movement, but describes the ideology as “a theory accepted by most American scientists and physicians” at the time. It also acknowledges Sanger gave a speech to a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan, which Sanger herself referenced in her autobiography. 

“In the 1920’s, the KKK was a mainstream movement and was considered a legitimate anti-immigration organization with a wide membership that included many state and local

officials. At that time, it defined its enemies as Blacks, Catholics and Jews. Planned Parenthood today denounces Sanger’s address to the Ku Klux Klan,” it states.

At press time, the document was no longer available on Planned Parenthood’s website. 

Planned Parenthood’s shift in messaging about its founder comes after a report last year that dozens of the organization’s Black employees said they experienced “acts of racism and anti-Blackness” at Planned Parenthood with “no meaningful consequence or accountability for racial harm.”

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood told Buzzfeed News in October that its leadership “is committed to confronting the organization’s legacy of white supremacy head on.”

Planned Parenthood of Greater New York announced last year it would strip Sanger’s name from its Manhattan facility. McGill Johnson also acknowledged in the opinion piece that the organization “is making Margaret Sanger less prominent in our present and future,” and that it has “already renamed awards previously given in her honor.”

Report: China committing 'crimes against humanity' in Xinjiang

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Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

An international human rights organization has declared that China’s actions in the province of Xinjiang amount to crimes against humanity. 

In a report released on Monday, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch said that the Chinese government operates hundreds of detention camps in Xinjiang purportedly for anti-terrorism and for vocational purposes; former detainees have reported systemic torture and sexual assault in the camps. 

An estimated one million Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the region have been detained in the camps, some for “crimes” such as wearing traditional Uyghur clothing. Human Rights Watch detailed the claims in its report “‘Break Their Lineage, Break Their Roots’ China’s Crimes against Humanity Targeting Uyghurs and Other Turkic Muslims.” 

The report’s title cites an August 10, 2017 quote from Maisumujiang Maimuer, a Chinese religious affairs official. 

In his commentary posted on Weibo, a Chinese social network, Maimuer stated the aim of regional officials, to “Break [Uyghur] lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins. Completely shovel up the roots of ‘two-faced people,’ dig them out, and vow to fight these two-faced people until the end.”

The Chinese government has been detaining and persecuting Uyghurs for years, the report stated, but the abuses and restrictions on religious and cultural practices have reached “unprecedented levels” in recent years for Uyghurs both inside and outside the network of camps. 

“In addition to mass detention and pervasive restrictions on practicing Islam, there is increasing evidence of forced labor, broad surveillance, and unlawful separation of children from their families,” Human Rights Watch said. There are also reports that Uyghur women have been forcibly sterilized, and that forced abortions on late-term Uyghur women are common. 

“It’s increasingly clear that Chinese government policies and practices against the Turkic Muslim population in Xinjiang meet the standard for crimes against humanity under international criminal law,” Beth Van Schaack, a faculty affiliate at the Stanford Center for Human Rights & International Justice, said. 

“The government’s failure to stop these crimes, let alone punish those responsible, shows the need for strong and coordinated international action.”

The United States has used even stronger language to refer to China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo determining that it amounted to “genocide.” Current Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he agrees with that assessment. 

Human Rights Watch called for a United Nations “commission of inquiry,” or “COI,” to investigate the Chinese Communist Party’s actions in Xinjiang. They noted that China’s presence on the UN Security Council could hamper other international investigations. 

A UN investigation “should have a mandate to establish the facts, identify the perpetrators, and make recommendations to provide accountability,” the report said. 

The investigation “should be comprised of eminent persons, including experts in international human rights law, crimes against humanity, the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, and gender issues. This COI could be established through a resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council, though the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council, and the UN secretary-general are also empowered to take such an action.” 

Alternatively, the report suggests that individual countries “should consider pursuing criminal cases under the concept of ‘universal jurisdiction,’ which refers to the ability of a country’s domestic judicial system to investigate and prosecute certain grave crimes, such as torture, even if they were not committed on its territory.” 

Human Rights Watch encouraged countries to impose sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the abuses in Xinjiang, as well as trade restrictions on regional products made with forced labor. 

The United States recently imposed sanctions on Chinese officials connected to the abuses of the Uyghurs; China retaliated with sanctions against high-profile American politicians and members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom who spoke out against the treatment of the Uyghurs. 

Chicago case highlights religious orders that have not published lists of credibly accused clergy

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Chicago, Ill., Apr 19, 2021 / 20:01 pm (CNA).

Recent reporting from the Chicago Sun-Times highlighted several religious orders active in Chicago that have not released lists of members credibly accused of sexual abuse.

Blase Cardinal Cupich of Chicago had 2018 requested that orders active in his local Church do so. 

The Archdiocese of Chicago has said that Cardinal Cupich intends to only list archdiocesan clergy accused of abuse, leaving each individual order to list its own credibly accused clerics. 

The Sun-Times notes that the adjacent dioceses of Joliet and Rockford list on their websites religious clerics who are credibly accused of abuse and who are or were active in those dioceses. 

Some orders active in the Chicago archdiocese, such as the Carmelites, have made lists of members credibly accused of abuse public. Others active in the archdiocese, such as the Augustinians and the Passionists, have not.

The Sun-Times report includes information about the case of Deacon James Griffith, a Passionist deacon who pled guilty in 1988 to sexually abusing a young boy. 

According to the Sun-Times, Deacon Griffith resided in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston from 1988 until 2000. He then resided in Chicago at a Passionist monastery next to a school from 2002-2003, before moving to the Archdiocese of San Antonio until 2004, and then to the Diocese of Orlando from 2004-2007. He currently resides in the Archdiocese of Detroit. 

Deacon Griffith does not appear on any of those diocese’ lists of credibly accused clergy except Detroit, which added his name after the Sun-Times inquired about him. 

While a religious order needs permission from a local bishop to engage in public ministry, an order’s members are governed by its religious superior. 

The Missionaries of the Divine Word, which is based in Chicago, say they are in the process of compiling a list, while the Passionists told the Sun-Times they are “considering” publishing a list.

Allentown bishop proclaims Year of the Real Presence

Eucharistic Adoration. / Elisa Pires via JMJ Rio 2013/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

CNA Staff, Apr 19, 2021 / 18:25 pm (CNA).

The bishop of Allentown, Pennsylvania has proclaimed a jubilee year to promote a greater dedication to the Holy Eucharist.  

Bishop Alfred Schlert of Allentown declared a “Year of the Real Presence,” which began on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 11, and will end on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, June 19, 2022. 

The jubilee also aligns with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the diocese, which occurred on January 28. 

During the jubilee year, Catholics in the diocese can obtain a partial indulgence by taking part in any of the jubilee events, especially the opening Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday and the closing Eucharistic Procession and Benediction. 

An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins which have already been forgiven. It may be applied to oneself or to a soul in Purgatory.

Schlert’s decree clarified that those who are sick, elderly, or unable to leave their homes may still obtain the indulgence if they spiritually unite themselves to the event taking place and offer their prayers and sufferings to God.

A 2019 Pew Research study found that just 31% of U.S. Catholics believe that the bread and wine used in the Eucharist, through a process called transubstantiation, become the Body and Blood of Jesus— a fundamental teaching central to the Catholic faith, known as the Real Presence.

The survey’s release prompted calls for better catechesis and formation for Catholics in the country. 

Bishop Schlert said it is his obligation as a bishop to foster greater devotion to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and provide spiritual sustenance to help the faithful maintain their Christian vocations so “that they may know more fully, and live out the Paschal Mystery of Christ, by leading lives of holiness, promoting the growth of the Church, and contributing to the sanctification of the world.”

He challenged all Catholics in the diocese to reflect on the Last Supper, when Christ instituted the Eucharist. He said the bread and wine, which become the Body and Blood of Christ, are a promise of God’s love for his people. 

“Because this Mystery of Faith was mandated by Christ to be carried out by the Apostles and their successors until He returns, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the unbloody sacrifice of the Cross perpetuated down throughout the ages,” he said. 

“When a Priest, acting in the person of Christ, the Head, offers this Sacred Oblation, all of the faithful are invited to proceed to the Sacred Banquet, in which Christ is truly received. Having been illuminated by Sacred Scripture, the Churches led to the Altar of Sacrifice, where the Bread of Angels, the Bread of Heaven, the Most Precious Blood, and the Medicine of Immortality is adored and received, as our minds are filled with grace, and we are given a pledge of future glory.”

Ethicists urge caution after creation of monkey embryos containing human cells

A human-monkey chimeric blastocyst. Credit: Weizhi Ji/Kunming University of Science and Technology.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 19, 2021 / 16:03 pm (CNA).

Catholic scientists and ethicists have warned of the potential for a slippery slope in response to reports that scientists had successfully created a “chimeric embryo” that was part macaque monkey and part human. 

 

An article published April 15 in the journal “Cell” described how scientists took a blastocyst from a macaque and added human cells. The blastocyst then developed into a chimeric embryo, meaning it has parts of two species. It is the goal that these beings could be used to grow human organs, which would then be used in transplantation. 

 

Similar experiments have occurred using other animals; this was the first time a monkey-human chimera had been created. 

 

“When it comes to the ethics of mixing cellular materials between humans and animals to produce ‘chimeric animals,’ the details of what researchers are doing will be of the essence,” Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, the director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA.

 

An ethical example of this research, he said, would be to “implant human stem cells into embryonic monkeys in order to grow human hearts, kidneys, and other organs inside the monkey animal, primarily to alleviate serious donor shortages for organ transplants.” 

 

This would be ethical “as long as certain limits and boundaries are respected.” 

 

The reverse, however--adding monkey stem cells to a human--would “raise grave ethical objections,” he said. 

 

Fr. Pacholczyk told CNA that among the boundaries needed for ethical experimentation of this type were a “goal to induce one species, the monkey, to grow an organ or tissue of the other,” instead of a goal of a creation of a “new” species.

 

“The procedures must not involve the replication of major pillars of human identity or human cognition in the monkey, such as through the human brain system,” he said, adding that the monkey should not be able to produce human gametes either. 



Additionally, said Fr. Pacholczyk, “The procedures must not involve the creation, destruction or exploitation of human embryos,” and “The stem cells used for creating chimeric animals must be ethically-sourced.” 

 

“In general, we make use of animals for a wide range of purposes — we eat them, we use them to make clothing, we use them for basic scientific research — so if we can use them to generate needed organs to save people’s lives without crossing fundamental ethical lines, this approach should be helpful,” he said. 

 

Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P., a professor of biology at Providence College, had a more sceptical view on the ethical nature of human-animal chimeras. Fr. Austriaco told CNA that the creation of animal-animal chimeras “could be justified if there were a pressing research question that would benefit human health.” 

 

“However, it is problematic to attempt to make human-animal chimeras with primate embryos because of the danger that we could make a disabled human,” he said. “There are other animals like pigs that could be used to grow transplantable organs.”

 

Fr. Austriaco told CNA that he is “troubled” by this type of experimentation. 

 

“I do not believe that our post-Christian and utilitarian society has the moral resources to draw the boundaries that should limit research with embryonic humans,” he said. “Experiments are thought to be justifiable if they can help some ease their suffering and pain.” 

 

While similar experiments with pigs have been less successful, Fr. Austriaco called these experiments “an alternative that is not ethically fraught with danger in the same way.”  

 

“I think that there is a genuine desire to advance human health and well-being,” he said. “However, in a post-Christian society that legalizes abortion, there is often little concern with creating and using human embryos as long as the science ‘helps’ people.”

U.S. bishops ‘disappointed’ at White House keeping current refugee limit

Syrian refugee family / Jazzmany/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

After the Biden administration announced it would not increase the record-low cap on refugee admissions until May, the U.S. bishops expressed disappointment on Monday.

“The number of refugees who will be welcomed this year is far short of what we can do as a country and is not an adequate response to the immense resettlement need,” Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C. and chair of the migration committee at the U.S. bishops’ conference, stated on Monday.

“The dire circumstances confronting refugees and asylees has been of particular concern for the Catholic Church,” he added.

On Friday, it was reported that the Biden administration would not increase the cap on refugee admissions for the remainder of the 2021 fiscal year; the current limit of 15,000 refugees to be resettled this year in the United States is the lowest on record.

The United States has accepted only 2,050 refugees in the current fiscal year, according to the International Rescue Committee. In February, President Biden promised to raise the refugee limit to 62,500. At the 40th anniversary celebration of Jesuit Refugee Services in November, Biden promised to eventually raise the limit to 125,000.

Currently, the refugee admissions cap is at 15,000, set by the Trump administration. President Trump progressively lowered the refugee admissions cap with each year of his administration.

Late on Friday evening, the White House clarified that it would raise the refugee limit in May.

“Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his [Biden’s] initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely,” the White House stated on Friday on the Emergency Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021.

The White House also said that it would be allowing refugees to come to the United States from regions previously blocked off for resettlement; flights from those regions are slated to begin within days.

“With that done, we expect the President to set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15,” the White House stated.

Bishop Dorsonville stated the USCCB’s wishes that the administration ultimately raise the refugee cap to 125,000.

“Given the unprecedented number of refugee families seeking new homes after being persecuted for religious, political, and other reasons, we appreciate that the U.S. refugee admissions program will now offer previously left out refugees an opportunity to resettle in our country,” Bishop Dorsonville stated.

According to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), the number of forcibly displaced people was nearly 80 million at the end of 2019; 26 million of these were refugees.

“The work of the U.S. Catholic bishops in assisting and advocating on behalf of immigrants and refugees is rooted in the recognition that every person is created in God’s image and must be valued, protected, and respected for the inherent dignity that he or she possesses,” Dorsonville stated.

Is ‘The Chosen’ series about Jesus Christ a cultural moment worth watching?

The Chosen. / Press image.

CNA Staff, Apr 19, 2021 / 14:12 pm (CNA).

The Easter Sunday season two premiere of The Chosen, an evangelical Christian-produced internet series dramatizing the life of Jesus and his disciples, could have significant influence on religion and culture, a veteran religion journalist has said.

 

“Even reporters who I know are linked into the evangelical culture have missed this story,” said Julia Duin, writing at the religious news commentary site Get Religion April 6. “This thing has been watched by 50 million people in 180 countries, so it’s time to take a serious look. Are they cutting it in terms of acting; of being true to the Jewish traditions of the time? What sorts of experts are contributing to this effort?”

 

The first season of The Chosen focused on the initial meetings between Jesus and his early disciples, Peter Simon and Andrews’ struggles with debt, Matthew’s encounters with Jesus, Mary Magdalene’s meeting with Jesus, and several miraculous events. The second season’s initial episodes address Jesus’ growing fame. The production team is preparing for a third season of filming.

 

The character of Jesus is played by the actor Jonathan Roumie, a devout Catholic. The producers have used a Jerusalem set built in Goshen, Utah by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, colloquially known as Mormons.

 

The series is available through an app for iOS or Android systems, or through the website of VidAngel, its distributor. The first season is also available on DVD.

 

The Chosen’s creator and director Dallas Jenkins explained his reason for making the series.

 

“I have a passion for people to hear the ‘old, old story’ again … for the very first time,” he said.

 

“When I see Jesus movies, it’s sometimes hard for me to feel moved or excited. I've heard the stories before, and many Jesus projects just take you from Bible story to Bible story, not spending as much time on the humanity and backstories of all these characters. And they sometimes feel stiff and formal,” he said in the description of the app for The Chosen.

 

Jenkins said he wanted “to write a show that explores Jesus through the eyes of those around Him.” This means exploring characters like Simon Peter, Matthew, Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, and some of those who benefitted from Jesus’ miracles.

 

“We couldn’t help but identify with their recklessness, rough pasts, religious piety, and desperation for life change. And ultimately, their redemption,” said Jenkins.

 

The show has three biblical consultants including Catholic priest Father David Guffey, C.S.C., national director of Family Theater Productions. Another consultant is Dr. Doug Huffman, a professor of the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Huffman is an ordained minister of the Evangelical Free Church of America. Messianic Jewish Rabbi Jason Sobel of Fusion Global Ministries also serves as a biblical consultant.

 

The biblical consultants reflect on each episode in round tables, also available through the app and the Vidangel website

 

The Chosen’s YouTube channel has one million subscribers. Its Season Two Premiere on YouTube had over 2.3 million views, as of April 19.

 

The Chosen claims to be the first multi-season show about Jesus. Its website said 75,000 donors gave a total of $10 million through crowdfunding to support the first season, and over 125,000 gave a total of $10 million for the second season.

Jenkins, director of “The Chosen,” is the son of Jerry Jenkins, a writer who authored the novelization of the first season of the series.

Jerry Jenkins co-authored with Tim LaHaye the popular and deeply controversial Left Behind fictional novel series. The book series in 2003 was condemned by the Catholic Bishops of Illinois as “anti-Catholic in content and form.” They said that book series had been “a vehicle for anti-Catholic sentiments” and “a marketing tool for fundamentalist preaching about the end times and a thinly disguised polemic against the Catholic Church.”

U.S. bishops commemorate 'horrific tragedy' of Armenian genocide

Armenian orphans being deported from Turkey. Ca. 1920. / Everett Collection/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2021 / 11:15 am (CNA).

The U.S. bishops’ conference issued a statement on Monday recognizing the upcoming anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

“April 24 is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, marking the 1915 start of a campaign that resulted in the death of as many as 1.2 million Armenian Christians -- victims of mass shootings, death marches to distant camps, torture, assaults, starvation, and disease,” stated Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, chair of the USCCB’s international justice and peace committee, on Monday.

“Thousands of Armenian children were torn from their families and forcibly converted,” he added. “This horrific tragedy was intended to eliminate the Armenian people and their culture in what has been called the ‘first genocide of the 20th century.’”

Saturday, April 24, marks the 106th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide in 2015. Over the span of eight years, the Ottoman Empire targeted the mostly Christian Armenian minority for mass displacement, family separation, death marches, mass shootings, starvation, and other abuses. An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the genocide.

Turkey has historically denied that the genocide took place, claiming that the number of Armenian deaths was lower than estimated, and that many deaths were due to the First World War.

Leaders of the U.S. Armenian Catholic Church wrote President Biden on April 17, asking him to recognize the Armenian genocide.

“On the 106th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide we appeal to you with a keen, existential sense of urgency to recognize the first Genocide of 20th century perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks and request fair reparation for this crime against humanity,” the letter stated.

Signing on to the letter were Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church; Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, prelate of the church’s Eastern Prelacy; Bishop Daniel Findikian, primate of the Eastern Diocese; Bishop Torkom Donoyan, prelate of the Western Prelacy; Bishop Mikhael Mouradian, eparch of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy; Rev. Berdj Jambazian, minister of the Armenian Evangelical Union; and Zaven Khanjian, executive director of the Armenian Missionary Association of America.

They said that denial of the genocide even today threatens Armenia. A historic conflict between Armenia and neighboring Azernaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory erupted again in 2020. Turkey has declared support for Azerbaijan in the conflict.

“The Armenian Genocide is not only a historical tragedy, but as a Damoclean sword today is pending and threatening the extermination of Armenia, the hosting country of Noah’s Ark,” they wrote, noting that Erdoğan in December held a “victory parade” in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, praising one of the architects of the genocide.

“A genocide denied is a genocide repeated,” they stated.

Although the U.S. Congress in 2019 passed resolutions recognizing the genocide, U.S. officials have rarely used the term in the past after Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The U.S. submitted a written statement on the Armenian genocide to the International Court of Justice in 1951, and President Ronald Reagan mentioned it by name in an April 1981 proclamation. Joint congressional resolutions in 1975 and again in 1984 also recognized it.

President Trump in 2019 worked several times to stifle a Senate resolution recognizing the genocide, around the time of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to the White House.

Recent popes, meanwhile, have recognized the Armenian genocide by name.

In April 2015, Pope Francis called the genocide one of “three massive and unprecedented tragedies” of the 20th century. In 2016, Pope Francis prayed for peace following his trip to Armenia. “A people that suffered so much throughout its history, and faith alone, faith has kept this people on its feet,” he said.

In a common declaration in 2000, Pope Saint John Paull II and Supreme Armenian Patriarch Karekin II also recognized the genocide.

“The extermination of a million and a half Armenian Christians, in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century, and the subsequent annihilation of thousands under the former totalitarian regime are tragedies that still live in the memory of the present-day generation,” the declaration stated.

“These innocents who were butchered in vain are not canonized, but many among them were certainly confessors and martyrs for the name of Christ.”

Bishop Malloy on Monday cited Pope Francis’ prayer for peace.

“As we rejoice in the Resurrection during this Easter season, may all people of good will join together on this solemn day of recollection to pray and work for justice and peace and remember anew that eternal life in Christ reigns supreme and forever,” he stated.