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Eric Metaxas

One sheriff’s innovative approach to battling sex trafficking

Eric Metaxas
By Eric Metaxas

In 2009, TIME magazine listed Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Thomas Dart as one of the world’s 100 most influential people for his innovative approaches to law enforcement.

A former prosecutor and state legislator, Dart has long advocated for the plight of victims and society’s most vulnerable. Since taking over the sheriff’s office in 2006, Dart has brought reform to the nation’s largest jail. He’s introduced on-site projects that provide food for the inmates and valuable work experience that can help them land jobs when they’re released.

He’s also reformed the foreclosure eviction process by providing on-site social services for families, older folks, and people with mental illness. But while people in the Chicago-land area know him for these and other efforts, it’s his work with trafficking victims that has brought him national recognition.

In 2009, Dart was among a handful of officials around the country who targeted the so-called “Erotic Services” section of online classifieds site craigslist. He sued the company for knowingly facilitating sex trafficking, calling it “the single largest source of prostitution in the nation.” The lawsuit was dismissed, but public pressure led the site to drop this section entirely.

Within Cook County, Dart continues to advocate for women caught in the cycle of prostitution. Knowing that the women are, as he put it, “victims of crimes of violence, who have been through unspeakable horrors and betrayals,” Dart wanted a better way to restore those trapped in prostitution and keep them out of jail.

To do this, he developed the Women’s Justice Program, which employs previously prostituted women to serve as peer counselors to those arrested for prostitution. These counselors work to convince the women to leave prostitution behind when they’re released and provide ongoing counseling and resources to help them do it. Dart knows that women will struggle to trust the police who arrested them. But they might listen to someone who has walked in their shoes and managed to escape the pain and abuse that they feel.

As welcome as the Women’s Justice Program is, even better is the way that it fits within a much larger environment of restoration for the state of Illinois. In May, the state legislature passed a bill that authorizes restorative services for trafficking victims, including safe houses, counseling services and other assistance. This is funded in part with fines paid by abusers who are arrested for soliciting sex. Some of it also comes from assets seized from pimps and traffickers. It is a meaningful measure to make the thieves that tried to rob, kill and destroy these women’s lives pay at least some of it back.

Not surprisingly, Sheriff Dart has encountered resistance to his peer counseling program. Some people are bothered by the idea of employing “ex-cons” in law enforcement. Deeper down, though, we know that some will always be bothered by “ex-cons” doing anything.

That’s part of a small-minded worldview that we as Christians need to work at enlarging. Consider that millions of people have been and will be incarcerated at some point in their lives. Who better than Christians to proclaim forgiveness and work for the restoration of the whole person, victims as well as victimizers? The world hungers only for vengeance, but we serve a God who desires justice, reconciliation and mercy.

The staff and volunteers of Prison Fellowship and Justice Fellowship have been working to realize Chuck Colson’s vision for restorative justice for more than 35 years. We know we have a great deal left to do, and that’s why we’re so encouraged that someone as strategically placed and influential as Tom Dart stands at our side.

Reprinted with permission from BreakPoint.org.

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St. Peter Damian
Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve

St. Peter Damien (1049): what Church MUST do in response to rampant homosexuality among clergy

Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve
By Steve Jalsevac

June 29, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The rise of the power and influence of homosexual priests, bishops and cardinals, as well as influential laity, has been a major factor in the growing chaos within Catholicism over the past 60 years. This disorder within the Catholic Church has had a negative impact on the entire world because of the resulting decline in the positive influences that Catholicism has had on civilization for many centuries.

To think that what is happening now is new, however, betrays an ignorance of history. In 1049, when St. Peter Damien wrote his treatise, Book of Gomorrah (Liber Gomorrhianus), to Pope Leo IX, homosexuality and sexual perversion in general were far more openly rampant within the clergy than today.  This horrendous state of affairs is what the Saint addressed in his appeal to the Pope for urgently needed reforms.

We often hear from sleepy, comfortable, cowardly, timid or cultural Catholics, and especially from clergy who are directly implicated in homosexuality, that we should never criticize priests, bishops and especially the Pope. Supposedly, that is a greater sin than that of the heretics and sexual perverts facilitating great personal suffering and sending souls to Hell without anyone doing what is necessary to either convert or stop them.

St. Peter Damien was not so foolish as to listen to such nonsense denying God His justice at a time when the Church appeared to be in its death throes. He understood the grave duty to be blunt about the dangers and sinfulness, to not minimize the catastrophe that would come if strong actions were not quickly taken and to demand corrective actions. And yet, he also emphasized that all of this must be done with charity and Christian hope for the persons involved in the moral corruption. Their conversion was above all hoped and prayed for, rather than their condemnation for eternity.

An Italian translated version of the Book of Gomorrah has recently been published. An English version carefully translated by one of our LifeSite journalists will also soon become available.

On Feb. 11 of this year the Rorate Caeli website published excerpts from the introduction by Professor Roberto de Mattei to the Italian version.

Following are some paragraphs from that introduction that I hope will jar awake some of the faithful, especially considering what is going on now in the United States as a result of the mad Supreme Court decision and the moral chaos around the Synod on the Family regarding Church sexual teachings.
 

Excerpts from the Introduction:

St. Peter Damien (1007-1072) Abbot of the Fonte Avellana Monastery and subsequently Cardinal/Bishop of Ostia, was one of the most outstanding figures of Catholic reform in the XI century. His Liber Gomorrhianus, appeared around 1049, in an age when corruption was widely spread, even in the highest ranks of the ecclesiastical world.

In this writing, addressed to Pope Leo IX, Peter Damien condemns the perverted habits of his time in a language that knows no false mercy or compromises. He is convinced that of all the sins, the gravest is sodomy, a term which includes all the acts against nature and which want to satisfy sexual pleasure by separating it from procreation. “If this absolutely ignominious and abominable vice is not immediately stopped with an iron fist – he writes – the sword of Divine wrath will fall upon us, bringing ruin to many.”

There have been times in (the Church’s) history when sanctity pervades Her and others when the defection of Her members cause Her to collapse into darkness, appearing almost as if the Divinity has abandoned Her.

Peter Damien’s voice resounds today, as it did yesterday, with encouragement and comfort for those, like him, who have fought, suffered, cried and hoped, throughout the course of history.

He did not moderate his language, but kept it fiery to show his indignation. He was fearless in voicing an uncompromising hatred for sin and it was precisely this hatred that rendered his love burning for the Truth and the Good.

Today, at the beginning of the third millennium of Christ’s birth, priests, bishops and Episcopal conferences are arguing for married priests; they are placing in doubt the indissolubility of the marriage bond between man and woman and at the same time, accepting the introduction of laws for homosexual pseudo-marriage. Sodomy is not being thought of as a sin that cries to God for vengeance but is diffused in seminaries, colleges, ecclesiastical universities and even inside the Sacred Walls of the Vatican itself.

Liber Gomorrhianus reminds us that there is something worse than moral vice practiced and theorized. It is the silence that should speak, the abstention that should intervene, the bond of complicity that is established among the wicked and of those, who with the pretext of avoiding scandal are silent, and, by being silent, consent.  

Graver still, is the acceptance of homosexuality by churchmen, thought of as a “positive” tension towards the good, worthy of pastoral care and juridical protection and not as an abominable sin. In the summary Relatio post disceptationem of the first week’s work in the Synod of Bishops in October 2014, a paragraph affirmed that:   “homosexual persons have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community”, with an invitation to the Bishops “…are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing them a fraternal space in our communities?”

This scandalous statement was removed from the final report, but some bishops and cardinals, inside and outside the Synod Hall, insisted on the appeal to look for the positive aspects of a union against nature, going as far as hoping for “a way to describe the rights of people living in same-sex unions.”

St. Peter Damian as a simple monk, and with greater reason as a cardinal, did not hesitate in accusing even the Popes of that time for their scandalous omissions. Will the reading of the book Liber Gomorrhianus instill the spirit of St. Peter Damien in the hearts of some prelates or laypeople, by shaking them out of their torpor and force them to speak and act?

Even if abysmally far from the holiness and prophetic spirit of St. Peter Damien, let us make his indignation against evil, ours, and with the words that conclude his treatise we turn to the Vicar of Christ, His Holiness, Pope Francis, presently reigning, so that he may intervene and bring an end to these doctrinal and moral scandals: “May the Almighty Lord assist us, Most Reverend Father, so that during the time of Your Apostolate, all of the monstrosity of this vice be destroyed and the state of the Church, presently supine, may wholly rise up again in all its vigour.”

The book can be found in Italian here. 

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Bernadette Smyth, the head of Northern Ireland's Precious Life, speaks at LifeSiteNews' Rome Life Forum in May 2014. Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
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Victory in Ireland: Pro-life leader’s ‘harassment’ conviction overturned

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By Pete Baklinski

BELFAST, June 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Northern Ireland’s most prominent pro-life leader who last year was found guilty of “harassment” against an abortion facility director has had charges thrown out of court on appeal due to insufficient evidence.

“I thank God for my vindication and for helping my family and me through this horrible ordeal,” stated Bernadette Smyth, head of Northern Ireland’s leading pro-life group Precious Life, after the Monday decision that quashed the previous guilty verdict.

“Our prayers have been answered. I would like to thank the wonderful work of Aiden Carlin Solicitors and all my legal team. ‘Precious Life’ and I will continue with the work we have been doing over the last 18 years, which is to advocate for unborn children.”

Between 2012 and 2014 Smyth, 52, had been among a group of pro-life sidewalk counselors who prayed, handed out leaflets, and talked to passers-by outside the illegally operated Marie Stopes abortion facility in Belfast.

In 2014 Smyth was found guilty of “harassment” against the facility’s operator, the former politician Dawn Purvis who claimed she was intimidated by Smyth’s comments and “witchy” laughter. The legal attack came at precisely the moment when Smyth was publicly leading an effective campaign to oppose the liberalization of Northern Ireland’s abortion laws.

Smyth was ultimately handed a £2,000-fine, 100 hours of community service, and a five-year restraining order.

Smyth's lawyer challenged Purvis' claim that his clients interaction with the director on two occasions had left her in fear, pointing out in court on Monday that Purvis was a seasoned politician with a former role within the Progressive Unionist Party.

“Are you not a person with a bit more fortitude than that?" he asked.

When Smyth's lawyer asked to have the case thrown out, the judge agreed, ruling that the evidence at hand was insufficient for a successful prosecution.

“Today Judge Gordon Kerr quashed the conviction, ruling that Bernadette Smyth’s laughter outside the Marie Stopes center in Belfast was not criminal behavior and that there was insufficient evidence that Bernadette Smyth had harassed Dawn Purvis,” Precious Life stated in a press release.

Pro-life groups welcomed the news as a victory.

“We’re delighted that justice has been served and that the court has thrown out these ridiculous charges against Bernadette Smyth,” said Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute.

Uí Bhriain praised Smyth for giving her life to “supporting women in crisis and providing real assistance to mothers and babies.”

“This attempt to shut down her pro-life work was reprehensible and she should never have been dragged through the courts to face these baseless accusations.”

“Bernadette Smyth can hold her head high as the court has vindicated her good name and the important work she does to protect mothers and babies,” said Uí Bhriain. “ We are delighted with today’s ruling which overturned the miscarriage of justice which saw Bernadette accused of harassment.” 

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Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

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Bishops conduct exorcism over the entire nation of Mexico to cast out demon of abortion

Sofia Vazquez-Mellado
By Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

MEXICO CITY, June 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – An unprecedented event took place in the city of San Luis Potosi, in Mexico, as a group of bishops performed an exorcism on the entire country.

“Mexico opened the door to the devil when we legalized abortion,” said Cardinal Juan Sandoval, Bishop Emeritus from Gualajara, who led the exorcism. “It’s the legalization of homicide,” he told El Universal.

The first ever exorcism on a whole country took place last month behind closed doors inside the Cathedral of San Luis Potosí. It was made public once Pope Francis was informed it had happened. Only one journalist, Roberto O’Farril, was allowed inside.

“Mexico is living a demonic infestation similar to the one these territories lived before the evangelization and before Our Lady of Guadalupe’s apparition,” said O’Farril in an interview with AciPrensa.

He compared abortion to the sacrifices performed by the Aztecs. “Many of those sacrifices were human sacrificies,” he continued. “Young warriors and damsels whose chests were cut open to take out the heart and offer it to these demons.”

According to renowned exorcist Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea, who was also present, an Exorcismo Magno “is useful in a situation in which great violence is unleashed in a country.”

San Luis Potosi’s Archbishop, Mons. Cabrero, explained the exorcism was done to ask “for the liberation of this strong presence of the enemy.”

“This prayer is certainly extraordinary, but it’s still a practice within the Church,” he explained in interview with AciPrensa.

Official data show 138,000 legal abortions have been performed in Mexico City since abortion was made legal there in 2007.

A recent study from the Guttmacher Institute revealed that Mexico has one of the highest abortion rates in the world, with 33 in every 1,000 pregnancies ending in abortion.

In 2013, LifeSiteNews reported the case of a man who claimed he was suffering from demonic influence because of the legalization of abortion in Mexico. Renowned exorcist Fr. Amorth confirmed the possession and tried to exorcise the man's demons, concluding the demons would leave him when the abortion law was reversed.

O’Farril, who covered this man’s case, said the demons possessing the man had said that time, “She had banished us from Mexico but your stupid laws have allowed human sacrifices to return.”

According to Sandoval, “the grave situation we are living in Mexico has a very profound root,” that goes “further than human evil, it is the devil, who is very connected to death, he’s been the murdered since the beginning.”

Sandoval went on to compare the victims murdered by the cartels, who are often dismembered, to the children who are “torn apart inside their mother’s womb.”

CNN Mexico reported Sandoval might go on to perform more exorcisms in other Mexican states.  

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