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Archdiocese of Baltimore to highlight resources to fight porn

Baltimore, Md., Mar 1, 2021 / 07:36 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Baltimore has set aside the weekend of March 13-14 as a time to focus on the dangers of pornography and the resources available to avoid and recover from it.

March 14 will be observed as “Safe Haven Sunday.” Parishes are encouraged to highlight resources to fight pornography and to discuss the threat of pornography for individuals and married couples.

The archdiocese is also offering a website with resources.

The Catholic Review, a publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, cited statistics from internet accountability organization Covenant Eyes detailing how pervasive porn use is in modern American culture.

Twenty percent of mobile searches are for pornography, Covenant Eyes says, and even Christians report significant level of pornography use. Furthermore, a significant percentage of students – more than half of males and a third of females –  say they were first exposed to pornography before they were teenagers.

Father Brian Nolan, pastor of St. Isaac Jogues, told the Catholic Review that he frequently hears pornography mentioned in confession.

He said it is important for Catholics struggling with pornography to seek resources – including internet filters and professional counseling if necessary.

While overcoming a pornography addiction can be challenging, Nolan said, healing is possible – particularly with the resources and support available.

“We have the ability to say no to ourselves and to say yes to God,” Nolan told the Catholic Review. “We have the ability to grow in the virtue of self-control, which makes us self-possessed and available to God in a freer and fuller way.”

Catholic Connect suspended from Instagram for apparent copyright infringement

Denver Newsroom, Mar 1, 2021 / 06:19 pm (CNA).- Instagram this week suspended a popular Catholic account for apparent copyright violations.

Catholic Connect, an account sharing Catholic-themed content with a traditional bent aimed at young adults, was shut down Feb. 28 after Instagram notified its CEO of two copyright violations, the second of which did not appear to be related to anything Catholic Connect had shared.

Richy Orozco, CEO of Catholic Connect, told CNA that the first of the two copyright infringement complaints came from an Instagram account that had asked Catholic Connect to share one of its videos of a procession outside a Catholic church.

Orozco said he reached out to the account that owned the video immediately, but received no response.

A few hours later, Orozco says he got a second copyright infringement notification from Instagram, which showed him a small "preview" of the apparent offending material.

Orozco said he did not recognize the content, which appeared to be a video, in the preview provided by Instagram. He says his team also did not recognize the content.

Soon after, Orozco got an email from Instagram saying Catholic Connect had violated copyright and that “you are no longer permitted to use Instagram.”

“Your account has been reported multiple times for violating someone else's rights. We previously warned you that if you continued to infringe the intellectual property rights of third parties, your account would be disabled,” the Feb. 28 notification email from Instagram, which Orozco shared with CNA, reads.

Instagram’s terms of use state that “We can refuse to provide or stop providing all or part of the Service to you...if you repeatedly infringe other people's intellectual property rights.”

Catholic Connect had shared some 5,000 posts while it was active, including many memes and videos, generally with attribution.

Orozco said Catholic Connect has received copyright infringement claims before, but the last one was "over a year ago."

"That's why I wanted clarification from Instagram...it might not even be our content," he said.

"If that's so, then the account can be reinstated."

Catholic Connect’s account had some 273,000 followers when it was suspended, the organization says. Orozco and the account’s team have appealed the suspension to Instagram.

Catholic Connect has created a new account under the name of @CatholicConnect2.0, which is active as of March 1.

New Orleans archdiocese: Catholics should seek ethical alternatives to Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2021 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of New Orleans says that the recently-approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is “morally compromised,” and advises Catholics to use ethical alternatives if available.

The Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with an emergency use authorization issued on Feb. 27.

The pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute had determined that the vaccine used abortion-derived cell lines in design and development, production, and lab testing. The New Orleans archdiocese on Feb. 26 stated that the vaccine was “morally compromised” because of its connection with abortion.

However, the two other available COVID-19 vaccines are “morally acceptable,” the archdiocese said, while also not prohibiting Catholics from receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if no other ethical alternative is available.  

The decision to receive a vaccination for COVID-19 “remains one of individual conscience in consultation with one’s healthcare provider,” the archdiocese said.

“The Archdiocese of New Orleans, in light of guidance from the Vatican, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and The National Catholic Bioethics Center affirm that though there was some lab testing that utilized the abortion-derived cell line, the two vaccines currently available from Pfizer and Moderna do not rely on cell lines from abortions in the manufacturing process and therefore can be morally acceptable for Catholics as the connection to abortion is extremely remote,” the archdiocese’s statement read. 

Ethicists have said that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were “ethically uncontroversial” as their connection to abortions in the design phase were extremely remote. However, some lab tests for the vaccines were conducted using aborted fetal cell lines. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, meanwhile, used aborted fetal cell lines in all phases.

“It is under the same guidance that the archdiocese must instruct Catholics that the latest vaccine from Janssen/Johnson & Johnson is morally compromised as it uses the abortion-derived cell line in development and production of the vaccine as well as the testing,” the archdiocese said. This ethical problem is similar to that of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which also used an abortion-derived cell line in the development and testing of their product. 

The archdiocese emphasized that “in no way does the Church’s position diminish the wrongdoing of those who decided to use cell lines from abortions to make vaccines.”

“In doing so, we advise that if the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is available, Catholics should choose to receive either of those vaccines rather than to receive the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of its extensive use of abortion-derived cell lines.”

A cell line derived from an abortion decades prior (HEK-293) is commonly used in the testing and development of pharmaceuticals. 

The Archdiocese’s statement echoes that made in December by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Back then, they stated that it was “morally acceptable” to receive vaccines produced using cell lines from aborted fetuses when no alternative is available. 

In a note issued Dec. 21, the CDF said that in countries where ethically uncontroversial vaccines are not available or where their distribution is limited, it is “morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”

This does not in any way imply a legitimation of the grave evil of the practice of abortion or that there is a moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from aborted fetuses, the Vatican congregation said.

One of the touted advantages of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that it does not require specialized refrigeration and can be delivered in a single dose, making it more attractive to some healthcare professionals than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Those vaccines require deep freeze storage and are administered in two doses.

Senate confirms nominee who supported transgender athletes' participation in women's sports

Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2021 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- The Senate on Monday voted to confirm President Biden’s nominee for education secretary, who had supported males identifying as transgender females to participate in girls’ athletics.

Miguel Cardona, Connecticut’s education commissioner, was confirmed on Monday by a vote of 64 to 33. At his Feb. 4 confirmation hearing, he said that male athletes identifying as transgender females should be allowed to play girls’ sports.

Questioned by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kent.) about the matter at his confirmation hearing, Cardona repeatedly stated that it “is the legal responsibility of schools to provide opportunities for students to participate in activities, and this includes students who are transgender.”

Several female athletes had sued the state of Connecticut in 2019, over the state’s policy of allowing student-athletes to compete in sports based on their “preferred gender identity” and not their biological sex. The girls alleged that they were discriminated against by having to compete against biological males.

The Trump-era Education Department issued a letter in 2019 stating that “boys can’t compete with girls in sports.” The agency also sided with the girls in the Connecticut transgender athletics case, saying that the state had violated Title IX through its policy.

However, last week the agency reversed course and withdrew its findings in the case. President Biden has already issued an executive order on “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.” The order stated that part of the policy of his administration would be to allow students to play sports based on their gender identity.

When asked about the Education Department’s 2019 letter, Cardona would not say if he would continue to enforce the policy.  He answered that he would uphold “the civil rights of all students, and that includes activities they may engage in, in high school or in athletics.”

He later told Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) that it was “non-negotiable to make sure that our learning environments are places that are free of discrimination and harassment for all learners, including our LGBTQ students.” 

The White House has made a number of other appointments to the Education Department including Suzanne Goldberg, a former attorney with the pro-LGBT group Lambda Legal.

Goldberg, appointed to serve as assistant secretary in the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, was the founding director of the Columbia Law School's Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic, and co-director of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law. Her university bio lists her as “a leading advocate and attorney for the LGBTQ+ community.”

At Columbia, Goldberg “reaffirmed” policies for students identifying as transgender in 2018, clarifying that students could access bathrooms based on their gender identity and students

She told the New York Times in 2020 that the Supreme Court’s Bostock ruling—which extended employment discrimination protections to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity—was “a simple and profound victory for L.G.B.T. civil rights.”

Hasbro to sell gender-neutral Potato Head families, criticizing 'limiting' family and gender norms

CNA Staff, Mar 1, 2021 / 02:48 pm (CNA).- The Hasbro toy company is now marketing a gender-neutral Potato Head family set showing same-sex couples and a baby, alongside a traditional family portrayal.
 
While the company has rejected reports that it would no longer sell individual sex-specific Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head dolls, a company executive has told a progressive business leaders’ magazine that the tradition of the brand is “limiting” because of how it presents gender identity and family structure.
 
“Culture has evolved,” Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice president and general manager at Hasbro, told Fast Company magazine Feb. 25. “Kids want to be able to represent their own experiences. The way the brand currently exists—with the ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’—is limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure.”
 
“The sweet spot for the toy is two to three years old,” Boyd said. “Kids like dressing up the toy, then playing out scenarios from their life. This often takes the form of creating little potato families, because they’re learning what it means to be in a family.”
 
A box for the gender-neutral family set shows pictures of a baby potato head in three different images: one where the potato head parents appear as a man and a woman, another where they appear as a woman and a woman, and a third where they appear as a man and a man.
 
Hasbro has also produced an animated image of two potato head dolls and a baby potato head. One of the dolls changes male characteristics, while the other doll changes between male and female characteristics and accessories.
 
The toy company did counter claims that Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head would change their names. 
 
In a Feb. 25 Twitter post with several potato-related puns, the toy company Hasbro said: “your main spud, Mr. Potato Head isn’t going anywhere! While it was announced today that the Potato Head brand name & logo are dropping the ‘Mr.’ I yam proud to confirm that Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head aren’t going anywhere and will remain Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head.”
 
The Fast Company report on the new developments for the classic doll contended that dropping “Mr.” and Mrs.” is a change that means “the toys don’t impose a fixed notion of gender identity or expression, freeing kids to do whatever feels most natural to them.”
 
The avoidance of a “normative family structure” in the boxed sets, the article said, is an approach that is “clever because it allows kids to project their own ideas about gender, sexuality, and family onto the toy, without necessarily offending parents that have more conservative notions about family.”
 
Fast Company magazine’s target audiences include self-described progressive business leaders. Its story about the potato head toy contended that traditional toys and storylines about relationships and families “can be confusing to kids who live in progressive milieus, where they are exposed to many different family structures.”
 
According to Census Bureau estimates, there are about 980,000 same-sex coupled households in the U.S. About 58% of these households are considered married. Same-sex married couples’ households are about half as likely as married men and women’s households to have children. Overall, about 180,000 same-sex coupled houses have children under age 18.
 
Same-sex couple households make up 1.5% of all coupled households, with 11 states and the District of Columbia above this average. Washington, D.C. has the highest percentage of these same-sex households, 7.1%.
 
Broken down by metropolitan statistical area, same-sex coupled households are most prevalent in the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley area, where about 2.8% of coupled households were same-sex.
 
By comparison, there are some 57.8 million households of married men and women, and some 7.6 million households of unmarried men and women. The Census Bureau on Feb. 24 released these numbers in a new report analyzing its 2019 American Community Survey.
 
Previous census inquiries wrongly classified many couples as same-sex because of recording errors, including men or women who mistakenly indicated they were the same sex as their spouse. The Census Bureau has claimed to have improved the error rate.