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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
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Are you ready for the March for Life? Organizers announce 2019 theme

2 hours 7 min ago

Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The theme of the 2019 March for Life will be “Unique From Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini announced at an event on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

The theme was chosen as science is inherently pro-life, Mancini explained Oct. 18. Science has continued to “reaffirm the scientific fact, and the truth, that life begins at fertilization/conception.”

“Our DNA is present at the moment of fertilization, and no fingerprint, ever--past, present, future--is like yours. And that’s what it means to be unique from day one,” said Mancini.

She pointed out that “society often ignores or tries to block these facts,” and reminded the crowd that in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama refused to provide an answer when asked when he believed life began, saying it was “above his pay grade”

Mancini said that while remarks like these provide “cover” for someone who is in favor of abortion rights, “scientifically, it’s not factual.”

Fetal development, she said, is “astonishing.” She noted that the heart begins to beat just three weeks after fertilization, and that the fetus is capable of movement at eight weeks. At 13 weeks, the fetus has fingerprints, “just like our logo.”

Science, said Mancini, “should always be at the service of life, not the reverse.”  

"Science makes it clear that human life, our uniqueness as individuals, is true from the moment of conception or fertilization,” she said.

This meshes with the mission of the March for Life, she explained, which is to “protect the baby in its earliest stages.”

“So we exist, our very reason for being is to protect and defend life from the moment of fertilization."

Also announced on Thursday were that commentator Ben Shapiro and former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson will be speaking at the upcoming March for Life.

The 2019 March for Life will be held on January 19, in Washington DC. It has been held each year near the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade declared a legal right to abortion in 1973.

Polish priest, martyr and hero: Remembering Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko

2 hours 25 min ago

Warsaw, Poland, Oct 19, 2018 / 04:42 pm (CNA).- When Communist officials kidnapped and killed Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, they likely did not intend to help create a Polish hero, martyr and future saint for the Catholic Church.

Although the Communists had been trying to kill Popiełuszko in ways that would seem like an accident, they captured him 34 years ago today, on Oct. 19, 1984. They beat him to death and threw his body into a river. He was 37 years old.

His crimes: encouraging peaceful resistance to Communism via the radio waves of Radio Free Europe, and working as chaplain to the workers of the Solidarność (Solidarity) movement and trade union, which was known for its opposition to Communism.  

Popiełuszko was born on Sept. 14, 1947 to a farming family in Okopy, a village in eastern Poland bordering modern-day Ukraine. While World War II had ended, the regime of the Communist Party had taken place of the Nazis and ruled Poland at the time.

As a young man, Popiełuszko served his required time in the army before completing seminary studies and becoming a priest for the Archdiocese of Warsaw. He was ordained on May 28, 1972 at the age of 24.

As a priest in Warsaw, Popiełuszko served in both regular and student parishes. He became known for his steadfast, non-violent resistance to Communism, about which he spoke frequently in his homilies, which were broadcast on Radio Free Europe.

Popiełuszko participated in the Solidarity worker’s strike in Warsaw on March 27, 1981, a four-hour national warning strike that essentially ground Poland to a halt, and was the biggest strike in the history of the Soviet Bloc and in the history of Poland.

After this strikes, the Communist party declared martial law until July 1983 in the country, severely restricting the daily life of Poles in an effort to clamp down on their growing political opposition.

During this time, Popiełuszko celebrated monthly “Masses for the Homeland” on the last Sunday of the month, advocating for human rights and peaceful resistance of Communism, and attracting thousands of attendees. His Warsaw office had also become an official hub for Solidarity activities.

It was also during this time that Communist attacks against the priest escalated. In 1982, Communist authorities attempted to bomb the priest’s home, but he escaped unharmed. In 1983, Popiełuszko was arrested on false charges by the Communist authorities, but was released shortly thereafter following significant pressure from the Polish people and the Catholic Church.

According to a 1990 article in the Washington Post, Cardinal Józef Glemp, Archbishop of Warsaw at the time, received a secret message from the Polish Pope John Paul II, demanding that Glemp defend Popiełuszko and advocate for his release.

"Defend Father Jerzy - or they'll start finding weapons in the desk of every second bishop," the pope wrote.

But the Communist officials did not relent. According to court testimony, in September 1984 Communist officials had decided that the priest needed to either be pushed from a train, have a “beautiful traffic accident” or be tortured to death.

On October 13, 1984, Popiełuszko managed to avoid a traffic accident set up to kill him. The back-up plan, capture and torture, was carried out by Communist authorities on Oct. 19. They lured the priest to them by pretending that their car had broken down on a road along which the priest was travelling.

The captors reportedly beat the priest with a rock until he died, and then tied his mangled body to rocks and bags of sand and dumped it in a reservoir along the Vistula River.

His body was recovered on Oct. 30, 1984.

His death grieved and enraged Catholics and members of the Solidarity movement, who had hoped to accomplish social change without violence.

“When the news was announced at his parish church, his congregation was silent for a moment and then began shrieking and weeping with grief,” the BBC wrote of the priest’s death.

“The worst has happened. Someone wanted to kill and he killed not only a man, not a Pole, not only a priest. Someone wanted to kill the hope that it is possible to avoid violence in Polish political life,” Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, a friend of Popiełuszko, said at the time.

He also urged mourners to remain calm and peaceful during the priest’s funeral, which drew more than a quarter of a million people.

Again facing pressure from the Church and the Polish people, Poland's president Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski was forced to answer for the priest’s death, and arrested Captain Grzegorz Piotrowski, Leszek Pękala, Waldemar Chmielewski and Colonel Adam Pietruszka as responsible for the murder.

“Our intelligence sources in Poland do not believe it,” the Washington Post reported in 1990, when the case was being revisited.

“Jaruzelski had presided over a far-reaching anti-church campaign. At least two other priests died mysteriously. And Jaruzelski created the climate that allowed the SB (Communist secret service) to persecute and kill Father Jerzy.”

In 2009, Popiełuszko was posthumously awarded the Order of the White Eagle, the highest civilian or military decoration in Poland. That same year, he was declared a martyr of the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI, and on June 6, 2010 he was beatified. A miracle in France through the intercession of Popiełuszko is being investigated in France as the final step in his cause for canonization.

Popiełuszko is one of more than 3,000 priests martyred in Poland under the Nazi and Communist regimes which dominated the country from 1939-1989.

On Friday, Archbishop Stanisław Budzik of Poland and the Polish bishops’ conference released a statement honoring the memory of Father Popiełuszko and all the 20th century priest martyrs of Poland.  

“Today, remembering Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, we remember the unswerving priests who preached the Gospel, served God and people in the most terrible times and had the courage not only to suffer for the faith but to give what is most dear to men: their lives.”

 

How a Panama City parish is helping after Hurricane Michael

3 hours 7 min ago

Panama City, Fla., Oct 19, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- This is the story of a hurricane. Or, at least, the story of one Catholic parish trying to help, in the wake of one of the most powerful storms to hit the U.S. in decades.

Hurricane Michael made landfall in northwest Florida Oct. 10. The hurricane has claimed 50 lives in the U.S. and Central America, caused an estimated $8 billion in damage, and displaced thousands of people.

After Hurricane Michael overwhelmed local hospitals, St. John the Evangelist parish in Panama City has become a hub for medical services and emergency supplies.

Father Kevin McQuone, pastor of St. John Evangelist Catholic Church, told CNA that many of his parishioners’ homes are damaged and that some areas are still without power.

“Many people have lost part or all of their home. Many people [who] are displaced are looking for other places to live,” McQuone said. “A handful, I have been informed have moved on, they have lost their jobs because their business were destroyed so they have already found other jobs and moved permanently.”

St. John’s parish school has been heavily damaged, he said. The roof for the middle school building was ripped off and other school buildings have severe water damage. The priest said the school has set up a satellite campus at another parish.

He said two local hospitals in the Panama City have nearly shut down completely aside from their emergency rooms. The hurricane, he said, also destroyed a medical warehouse, which held all of the hospital’s sterile supplies.

The parish has stepped up to offer basic medical supplies and help, relying on Catholic Charities and volunteer medical professionals.

“Bringing in any sort of triage or medical clinic is welcome just to help the whole community to get the care that they need,” he said.

“We also have a mobile medical clinic that was here for part of the day yesterday and was here today as well,” he said. “Next week, we will have a group of 8-12 doctors from around the country who volunteer, and they will be here for a whole week.”

He said people have come in for basic medical help, like tetanus shots. While patients are there, they can also receive supplies – water, toiletries, and food.

The priest said a majority of the aid has been provided and organized by Catholic Charities. Noting that the Catholic population in Florida’s panhandle is only about five percent, he said the parish is helping an entire community, many of whom might have otherwise not visited a Catholic Church.

“Catholic Charities has been really great,” he said. “Immediately, we have been in connection with them. They have been sending people are way and helping us to be of service not just to our parishioners, but really to the whole community. By and large, the far majority of people that we have been serving here I’ve never met before.”

Father McQuone said that more volunteers are still needed in the area.

“Jesus told us to love God with all of our heart and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves,” he said.

For people in distress, we are “doing all we can to serve the needs of their body and the need of their soul - by prayer and by sacrificial giving.”

Neutrality on assisted suicide is the wrong prescription, Catholic doctors say

4 hours 17 min ago

New Orleans, La., Oct 19, 2018 / 02:50 pm (CNA).- The American Academy of Family Physicians has taken a neutral position on assisted suicide and will lobby the American Medical Association to do the same, drawing criticism from Catholics but praise from assisted suicide advocates.
 
Leaders of the physicians’ academy gathered for its Congress of Delegates, which met Oct. 8-10 in New Orleans, approved the resolution of “engaged neutrality,” MedPage Today reports.

The organization represents over 130,000 doctors across the U.S. and is the second-largest constituent body within the AMA.

The resolution passed by a two-thirds vote, which is required for votes that differ from AMA ethical policies, the physicians’ academy said.
 
The resolution called on the medical academy to reject use of the phrases “assisted suicide” or “physician-assisted suicide” in its formal communications and directed the academy’s delegation to the AMA to promote similar action in that association’s governing body.
 
Dr. Michael Munger, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said his group took a neutral position so it can advocate on the matter at future meetings of the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates. Munger said family physicians are “well-positioned to counsel patients on end-of-life care” and added “we are engaged in creating change in the best interest of our patients.”

The American Medical Association’s code of ethics rejects physician-assisted suicide as “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” Such a practice would be “difficult or impossible to control” and would “pose serious societal risks.”
 
“Instead of engaging in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life,” it adds.
 
Critical of the AAFP’s move was Dr. Barbara Golder, M.D., a board member of the Catholic Medical Association and editor-in-chief of its Linacre Quarterly, who said the move was “very, very disappointing” but should not necessarily be considered a full victory for backers of assisted suicide.
 
“Some people will want to look on this as a great achievement in terms of advancing physician-assisted suicide, and it certainly puts us on a slippery slope, but I think it’s also important to recognize that the AAFP did not endorse it,” Golder told CNA.
 
“That tells me that even within their own organization there’s a great deal of discussion and there’s got to be a fairly significant group of physicians within that group itself that understands the dangers of physician-assisted suicide and how it runs contrary to medicine as practiced.”
 
Backers of assisted suicide, such as the group formerly known as the Hemlock Society, welcomed the change and saw it as grounds for more.
 
“I believe many AMA constituent societies will follow suit, so it is only a matter of time before the AMA does as well,” said Dr. David Grube, national medical director of the pro-assisted suicide group Compassion and Choices and a former delegate within the physicians’ academy.
 
In response, Golder facetiously wondered whether Grube has a crystal ball to see the future.
 
“I don’t know that it’s ‘just a matter of time’,” she said. “Certainly, it’s a worrisome idea that medicine would shift from healing to killing. That’s a fundamental change the likes of which medicine has not encountered, at least in our lifetimes.
 
“When we find medicine going away from healing towards killing, we in the past have been very repulsed by it. Now suddenly we are not,” she added, warning that it is potentially a “tremendous slippery slope.”
 
For Golder, assisted suicide is against natural law and “the Catholic notion that life ought to be respected from conception to natural death.”
 
Golder said opponents of assisted suicide should consider joining medical groups and “being vocal.” She suggested doctors can leverage their patients, because they “have a voice in this as well.”
 
“The whole point of associations like this is to serve doctors and their patients,” she said. For Golder, assisted suicide disrupts the doctor-patient relationship because it means “as well as an agent of healing, the doctor can also be an agent of death.”
 
Advocacy and awareness-raising about good palliative care are also needed “so that physician-assisted suicide doesn’t look like an attractive alternative to people who are alone, in great pain, don’t have anybody to care for them,” added Golder.
 
Dr. Peter T. Morrow, M.D., president of the Catholic Medical Association, said the move ran contrary to “the medical communities’ historical and long-standing opposition against physician-assisted suicide.”
 
“It is in direct violation of the ‘do no harm’ Hippocratic Oath,” Morrow said in an Oct. 17 statement. “We at the CMA are dedicated to preserving life from conception to natural death and will continue to remain staunchly opposed to any form of assisted suicide. It goes against natural law.”
 
The Catholic Medical Association has over 2,300 healthcare professionals in 104 local guilds across the U.S. Several of its members had testified against doctor-assisted suicide at AMA’s last House of Delegates meeting in June.

The AMA has about 240,000 members in the U.S., with membership including medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic medicine, and medical students. Its 2018 interim meeting will be held in National Harbor, Maryland this November.
 
The group’s House of Delegates, meeting in Chicago in June, narrowly voted not to accept a report recommending that they continue their stance of opposing physician assisted suicide. About 56 percent of delegates voted for the report to undergo further review.
 
At the time, Morrow said that decision was “hugely disappointing.”
 
Golder told CNA that the AMA “has so far held the line, saying assisted suicide is not appropriate, and we congratulate them for that.”
 
The seven states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized assisted suicide.
 
Other AAFP resolutions included a failed vote in support of an elective abortion ban from 20 weeks into gestational age. The body passed resolutions opposing “fetal personhood” language. It recommended that medication abortion drug Mifeprex be removed from the Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy. Such restrictions create an unnecessary burden on physicians who want to offer medication abortion, backers of the decision said.
 
The delegates passed a resolution calling on the academy to create educational materials about institutional racism and segregated care within the health care system as a cause of racial disparities in patient outcomes.

With city support, Baltimore parish will issue IDs to undocumented parishioners

8 hours 1 min ago

Baltimore, Md., Oct 19, 2018 / 11:06 am (CNA).- A Baltimore Catholic parish announced that it will begin issuing parish identification cards, with the goal of making undocumented immigrants and members of other vulnerable populations in the city more comfortable reporting crimes and cooperating with the Baltimore Police Department.

“If this identification helps one person pick up the phone and call the police, it’s done what it’s supposed to do,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said during an Oct. 10 press conference announcing the parish initiative.

The cards will be issued by Baltimore’s Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, with the support of Archbishop William Lori and the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Applicants will need to show a form of picture ID, even if it is expired; proof of address; and have their identity confirmed in a sworn statement by a third party.

Each ID card will include a picture of the holder, as well as the parish’s contact information and logo. The parish is waiting for permission from the police department to start issuing the IDs; the city’s interim police commissioner has begun introducing the card to officers and trains them to recognize it.

The parish worked directly with the mayor’s office and the police department to develop a uniform version of the ID.

“It's really a pastoral response," said Father Bruce Lewandowski of Sacred Heart parish, who was one of the main proponents of the program.

"A lot of immigrants and other people in vulnerable communities don't interact with the police because of mistrust, for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it's fear of racism, sometimes it's fear....that somehow the police are connected with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], and it’s ‘if I call the police then I'm setting myself up for detention and deportation’ for people who are undocumented."

The Baltimore Police department does not handle immigration directly, which is a federal matter. Rather, the goal of the parish ID program is to better relationships between the community and the police.  

"At our meetings with [interim police commissioner Gary Tuggle], as the commissioners did before him, he assured us that there is no immigration enforcement that is done by the Baltimore city police department, that's not their job,” Father Lewandowski stated.

“Their job is to keep Baltimore citizens safe and fight crime. So in order to help them do that, that's why we're promoting the [parish ID] program."

Interim Baltimore police commissioner Tuggle said he planned to introduce the card to his command staff Oct. 11, and would train the entire department to recognize the card within two weeks.

The parish ID cards will explicitly state that they are not government-issued forms of identification.

Each recipient of the card will go through a two-hour group orientation session of 30-40 people, Father Lewandowski said, to train them on “basic civics” so they understand what the card can and cannot be used for.

“We want people to be very clear about the use of the card,” he said. “"Basically what it means is: if I call 911...I can show them the parish ID that says I'm known in the community, this is my city, I belong here—that the mayor supports me, in a certain sense; that the archbishop supports me; that my parish [supports me].”

Father Lewandowski emphasized that the relationship between some city residents and the Baltimore Police Department is very tense, and the police department has had recent issues with stability; three police commissioners have come and gone in the past 3 years, and the current interim commissioner will not be seeking a permanent position.

To mitigate any potential changes in attitude toward the program when a new police commissioner arrives, Father Lewandowski said that Mayor Catherine Pugh has publicly committed to continue to support the parish ID program under the new police commissioner, whenever he or she begins work. Pugh will be up for re-election in 2020.

Maryland already allows undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver's license or identification card, as does D.C. and 11 other states. Among other requirements, the applicant must show proof of having paid Maryland income tax for two years.

In addition, Baltimore voted to create a program in 2016 that would issue city ID cards to residents, but the program has yet to be rolled out. Father Lewandowski said the makers of the parish ID decided they couldn't wait for the city to act.

He said the parish ID is a both/and solution that will likely supplement the municipal ID in the future, but the parish ID has the added advantage of not requiring applicants to provide personal information to the City of Baltimore.

The first person to call the church ask for a parish ID, Father Lewandowski said, was an 85-year-old parishioner at Sacred Heart, born and raised in Baltimore, who no longer drives, and thus had no current form of ID.

"So the ID really is for everybody," he said. "In our very difficult circumstances here [in Baltimore], this is a way to help people feel safe.”

A broader perspective

Baltimore is not the first city to pilot church-issued ID cards; several Dallas-area churches began issuing ID cards to undocumented immigrants in May. The Texas church IDs include a person’s name, address and home parish.

Texas is one of several states that does not allow illegal immigrants to obtain a state-issued ID, Texas law enforcement officers are permitted, but not required, to inquire about the immigration status of anyone they have detained or arrested, and are required to comply with federal guidelines to hold undocumented criminal suspects for possible deportation.

Dallas law enforcement are prohibited, however, from asking the immigration status of those who are witnesses, victims, or reporters of crimes except in special circumstances. Individuals with a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license are presumed to have lawful immigration status.

Though the Texas IDs, like the ones in Baltimore, lack legal recognition, police in the cities of Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch were reportedly told in May that they are allowed to accept the church cards as a form of identification.

CNA asked Dallas Police Department whether there were any documented cases of the church-issued ID being accepted in lieu of state-issued identification. The police department said that they did not have any such cases on record, and that only identifications allowed by law could be accepted.

A representative from the Farmers Branch Police Department told CNA that their police department could choose to recognize a non-government issued forms of ID in some cases, such as a school ID for minors, if a person simply needs to let the police know who they are. If a person is accused of a crime, however, government issued IDs are typically the only form that are acceptable.

 

 

World Mission Sunday to highlight that youth can evangelize too

9 hours 23 min ago

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2018 / 09:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Church prepares to celebrate World Mission Day on Sunday, the head of the Vatican’s evangelization congregation said the timing of the day with the youth synod provides an opportunity to remind young people they too are called to spread the Gospel.

“Together with young people, we bring the Gospel to everyone,” is the theme of Pope Francis’ message for the 92nd World Mission Day, to be celebrated Oct. 21.

The Holy Father’s message for this day falls during the “synod for young people with young people,” Cardinal Fernando Filoni said at a press conference Oct. 19. “Therefore, together with the young we bring the Gospel to everyone.”

Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Filoni emphasized a concept found in Lumen gentium: that every baptized person, by virtue of his or her baptism, has the mission to evangelize and to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and this applies also to the young, he said.

“The pope, when he speaks with young people, says: life is a mission. Do not be inactive. Every life has a missionary characteristic,” Filoni stated.

Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, president of the Pontifical Mission Societies, underlined that every Christian, no matter their state in life, can pray and lend monetary support to the missions, as able.

Filoni also recalled that last year, Pope Francis asked for the entire month of October 2019 to be devoted to prayer and reflection on Ad gentes, a Second Vatican Council decree on the missionary activity of the Church, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1965.

Francis said he hopes a special month dedicated to evangelization will be a promising time of reflection on the testimony of missionary saints and martyrs, the Bible and theology, as well as catechesis and charitable missionary work of the Church.

World Mission Sunday was begun in 1926 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and is now promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Mission Societies.

Pope Francis’ message for the 2018 edition of World Mission Day was published by the Vatican earlier this year. In a video message, he said, “prayer is the first ‘missionary work’ – the first! – that every Christian can and must do, and it is also the most effective, even if this cannot be measured.”

“In fact, the principal agent of evangelization is the Holy Spirit, and we are called to collaborate with Him,” he said May 28.

Vigano letter responds to Cardinal Ouellet's charge of rebellion against pope

10 hours 45 min ago

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2018 / 08:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a new testimony Friday, Archbishop Carlo Vigano charged that Pope Francis has been negligent in his responsibilities to the Church, and responded to efforts to refute allegations he has made in recent months about Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and other ecclesiastical leaders.

Vigano also denied charges that he is in rebellion against Pope Francis.

Responding to an Oct. 7 letter from the Vatican’s prefect for the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Vigano said he is not urging anyone to “topple the papacy,” and that he prays for Pope Francis daily -- more than he has for any other pope -- urging the pontiff to “admit his errors, repent.”

However, Vigano’s Oct. 19 statement also defended his decision to “bear witness to corruption in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church,” which he called a painful decision. He said he believes his further silence would cause damage to souls and “certainly damn” his own.

Responding to the charge that he has created confusion and division in the Church with his testimony, Vigano said “impartial observers” know there was already an excess of both, a situation which he blames at least partially on Pope Francis.

Confusion and division, he said, “is inevitable when the successor of Peter is negligent in exercising his principal mission, which is to confirm the brothers in the faith and in sound moral doctrine. When he then exacerbates the crisis by contradictory or perplexing statements about these doctrines, the confusion is worsened.”

"Therefore I spoke. For it is the conspiracy of silence that has wrought and continues to wreak great harm in the Church -- harm to so many innocent souls, to young priestly vocations, to the faithful at large."

Vigano’s statement outlines the principal claims he made in his original Aug. 25 testimony about Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the knowledge he says the Vatican and Pope Francis had regarding of the ex-cardinal’s sexual abuse of seminarians.

Vigano’s latest testimony also summarizes what he considers Ouellet’s main arguments.

“In brief, Cardinal Ouellet concedes the important claims that I did and do make, and disputes claims I don't make and never made.”

Refuting a claim by Ouellet, that the Holy See was only aware of “rumors” about Archbishop McCarrick and nothing further, Vigano said that “to the contrary, that the Holy See was aware of a variety of concrete facts,” and has documentary proof in the appropriate archives, where “no extraordinary investigation is needed to recover them.”  

"The crimes reported were very serious, including those of attempting to give sacramental absolution to accomplices in perverse acts, with subsequent sacrilegious celebration of Mass."

The attempted sacramental absolution of an accomplice in a sin of sexual immorality is a "grave delict" in the Church's canon law, for which a priest can be punished with excommunication.

Vigano conceded a statement from Ouellet’s letter that there were not canonical “sanctions” against Archbishop McCarrick (as claimed by Vigano in his original testimony) but that there were “conditions and restrictions” against him.

He said that he believes “to quibble whether they were sanctions or provisions or something else is pure legalism. From a pastoral point of view they are exactly the same thing.”

The archbishop argued that the public criticism against him following his August testimony was silent on two topics: the situation of the victims and the “corrupting influence of homosexuality in the priesthood and in the hierarchy.” It is not a matter of politics or “settling scores,” he said, but “about souls.”

He said it is “an enormous hypocrisy” to condemn abuse and feel sorrow for victims, but not denounce the “root cause” of much sexual abuse: homosexuality within the clergy. He also accused homosexual clergy of “collusion,” and called clericalism an instrument of abusers, but not the “main motive.”

“I am not surprised that in calling attention to these plagues I am charged with disloyalty to the Holy Father and with fomenting an open and scandalous rebellion,” for calling attention to “homosexual corruption,” he said.

Vigano ended his testimony by asking any priests or bishops who have access to documents, or who have other knowledge, to testify to the truth of his statements.

“You too are faced with a choice,” he charged. “You can choose to withdraw from the battle, to prop up the conspiracy of silence and avert your eyes from the spreading of corruption” or choose to speak, he said.

Without Yemen ceasefire mass starvation looms, critics say

15 hours 7 min ago

Aden, Yemen, Oct 19, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- The possibility of mass starvation in Yemen continues as a military engagement over a major port city could block food and other aid for millions of people.
 
“We cannot fail to be moved by the news coming from Yemen, of families ripped apart by this war,” said Giovanna Reda, head of Middle East humanitarian programs for CAFOD, the Catholic relief agency of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.
 
“The impact of this conflict is devastating,” Reda said in an Oct. 16 CAFOD briefing. “Hunger affects 17 million Yemenis which is 60 percent of the population. People do not know where and when they will get their next meal. Millions of people don’t have access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation. Last year, the country faced the largest outbreak of cholera, claiming the lives of thousands of people.”
 
Reda called on the U.N. security council to act to secure a ceasefire and “halt the suffering of millions of people.”
 
At least 6,500 civilians have been killed in the three-year conflict, as have over 10,000 combatants.
 
Yemen’s costal city Hodeidah is a key port of entry for U.N. and other humanitarian aid. The city is now the center of a three-year-old conflict between Arab allies backed by Saudi Arabia and Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
 
Saudi-allied ground troops are now seeking to capture the city from the Houthis, CNN reports.
 
Yemeni civilians face the dangers of war: airstrikes, sniper attacks, and a fuel blockade. On top of this, they face severe water shortages and difficulties securing food, shelter, sanitation, and medical care.
 
Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said that starvation is a weapon of war.
 
“Civilians in Yemen are not starving, they are being starved. Let it be known that the worst famine on our watch is wholly man-made by Yemen’s local conflict parties and their international sponsors,” Egeland said. “Yemen has long been bombarded with air strikes and subjected to strangling tactics of war. Mass starvation is a deadly byproduct of actions taken by warring parties and the Western nations propping them up.”
 
The manner of waging war has “systematically choked civilians by making less food available and affordable to millions of people,” said Egeland, who said widespread famine can be avoided if the U.S., the U.K., France and Iran call for an immediate ceasefire and bring warring factions together for a peace deal.
 
Stephen Anderson, the U.N.’s World Food Programme Yemen country director, told CNN that since June over 500,000 people have fled their homes because of fighting in Hodeidah. The Yemeni currency, the riyal, has collapsed in value and basic food items’ cost has increased by 33 percent in a year’s time.
 
Due to the unpredictable security situation around Hodeidah, the WFP cannot import 51,000 tons of wheat stocks at its Red Sea Mills facility, Anderson said. Those supplies could feed 3.7 million people for a month.
 
CAFOD is supporting 500 Yemeni families who have fled as refugees to neighboring Djibouti. The aid, provided by Caritas Djibouti, helps provide emergency medical care, food assistance, and support for micro-credit businesses to help these families become more economically independent.
 
The Catholic agency has a relief partner working in the Yemen but it is not naming it or its areas of work “because they are operating at great risk to their own safety… publicizing their work could endanger both them and the life-saving programs they are delivering.”
 
“Against a challenging environment, they have been able to check thousands of children suffering from malnutrition or showing signs of the condition--providing the nutritious food supplements needed for proper treatment,” the agency said.
 
Before the blockade and attack on Hodeidah, its partner was able to provide nutrition services, identifying children under five years old and breastfeeding mothers who have acute malnutrition. The partner group trained community volunteers to spot the worst cases of malnutrition in their communities and help get treatment for mothers and babies.
 
The U.S. government is providing some forms of military support to Saudi Arabia and U.S.-supplied weapons to Saudi Arabia have been traced to incidents that have killed civilians. An Aug. 9 ariel bombing of a school bus killed dozens of children with a bomb manufactured by U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin, CNN said.
 
Then-President Barack Obama had banned the sale of precision-guided military technology to Saudi Arabia, citing human rights concerns, but the Trump administration overturned the ban in March 2017.
 
The Saudi-led coalition has defended its targeting standards and said it will investigate claims of civilian deaths reported by CNN.

New Zealand bishops reaffirm commitment to government abuse inquiry

19 hours 7 min ago

Wellington, New Zealand, Oct 19, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of New Zealand have countered reports that say they are backing away from an upcoming government inquiry into sexual abuse cases in state and religious institutions in the country.

“Listening to individuals who have been harmed is critical in ensuring the Church’s response will be thorough, effective and compassionate, and forms part of our experience for developing safeguarding for today and into the future,” the bishops said in a statement published on their website.

They wrote responding to reports that they had backed away from a royal commission inquiry, which will examine historical cases of sexual abuse at institutions of care in New Zealand between the years 1950-1999.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the royal commission of inquiry into sex abuse cases in January 2018, the highest form of long-term investigation available in the country.

While the original terms of the inquiry included youth detention centers, psychiatric hospitals and orphanages, as well as any government care services contracted out to private institutions, the Catholic bishops of New Zealand published a letter in March 2018 calling for an expansion of the inquiry’s terms to include Catholic care institutions.
 
In that letter, the bishops said they would be “active contributors and learners within the Royal Commission of Inquiry.”   

“We assure you once again of our support and our desire to learn from this national undertaking which we are confident will contribute positively to the strengthening and safeguarding of our whānau, communities and society,” they wrote.

In their recent statement, the bishops referenced their March letter and reiterated their support of the inquiry.

“The Bishops and representation from Catholic Religious orders wrote to Prime Minister Ardern, Minister Martin, and Sir Anand Satyanand in March this year. That letter explicitly sought the broadening of the draft Terms of Reference to include Church institutions and was made publicly available and reported in the media,” the bishops said.

The statement comes amid pressure from two New Zealand men who are publicly calling for the release of Church files on Father Cornelius O'Brien, an Irish priest who moved to New Zealand in 1963 and served at least seven parishes until 1976, at which point he was accused of indecency against a 10 year-old and returned to the UK. He is reportedly believed to have sexually abused multiple children during his time in New Zealand. O’Brien died 6 years ago, his priestly faculties having never been removed.

The New Zealand Royal Commission inquiry is expected to take several years and is similar to the recently-concluded five-year Royal Commission inquiry in Australia, which examined sex abuse in Australian schools, churches, and sports clubs, and set up a government program to financially compensate victims.

The bishops of Australia said in August that while they have accepted hundreds of specific recommendations from the final report, they reject the recommendation that priests violate the seal of confession in cases of sexual abuse disclosed during confession.

 

How diapers impact the bottom line, and how an NYC law can help

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 9:00 PM

New York City, N.Y., Oct 18, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The New York City council passed a law Wednesday that will require many centers serving women and children in the city to provide diapers and baby wipes free of charge. The bill had no opposing votes in the council.

The new law covers child care centers, domestic violence shelters, youth shelters, and homeless shelters that are contracted with the city to provide services. Each location must have clear signage or a written notice informing mothers that diapers and wipes are available to them for children three years old and younger.

The provision also includes family justice centers, which provide legal, counseling and supportive services for survivors of domestic violence, elder abuse and sex trafficking; and LYFE centers, an NYC Department of Education program that provides free early childhood education to children of student parents.

In an Oct. 16 committee report, the New York City council laid out the need for the new law, noting that an infant will use over 3,000 diapers in their first year of life at a cost of more than $500.

The report also noted that the Women, Infants, and Children assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cannot be used to purchase diapers, and that Medicaid will only reimburse diapers purchased for individuals older than 3 years.

Alison Weir, Chief of Policy at the National Diaper Bank Network, testified to the city council that the provision of free diapers to low-income families in Connecticut resulted in a decrease in the spread of disease and in decrease in rashes and other skin irritations among babies.

The New York Daily News reported that the sponsor of the bill estimates that the new provision will cost the city $1.1 million in fiscal year 2019, increasing to nearly $5 million in 2020 because of increasing demand. New York’s total budget for FY2019 is over $88 billion.
 
The law is set to take effect within four months of its passage. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services will provide the supply of diapers and wipes to the appropriate city entities, or to independent organizations contracting with the city.

The Connecticut Diaper Bank, which provides free diapers to women in that state, testified before the city council that: “Access to a reliable supply of clean diapers affects families in significant ways, like enabling parents to maintain employment, complete their education, and improve the health and well-being of their children.”

 

40 percent of U.S. children born to unmarried parents, rate increasing worldwide

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 7:00 PM

Washington D.C., Oct 18, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- New data shows that an increasing number of babies worldwide are born to unmarried parents.

The data was released in an annual report published by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA.)

About 40 percent of U.S. children born in 2016 had unmarried parents, the report shows. This is more than double the percent of U.S. children born with unmarried parents in 1980, and 10 percentage points higher than in 1990.

In the rest of the world, even more children are born to unmarried parents. In 2016, 60 percent of French babies were born with unmarried parents.

The UN data showed that across the areas studied--the United States, France, Spain, Sweden, the EU, Japan, and Russia, the unwed pregnancy rate has increased or remained relatively stable in recent years. France has had the highest percent of babies born to unmarried parents since 2010, eclipsing Sweden, the previous leader.

In 2017, the organization Save the Children rated Sweden as the fifth-best country for mothers, behind Norway, and Finland, and Iceland. Sweden is noted for its expansive social benefits made available to mothers and children.

One exception to the trend is Russia, which has seen the percent of children born to an unwed mother drop from a high of 30 percent in 2004 to 22 percent in 2016. Russia’s abortion rate has also fallen during this time period.

Japan’s unmarried parenthood rate is far lower than western nations. In 2015, 98 percent of Japanese babies were to married parents. Japan’s fertility rate also remains among the lowest in the world.

Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Robert Rector wrote a report in 2012 that described marriage as “America’s greatest weapon against child poverty.” Children living in a home with two married parents were 82 percent less likely to live in poverty than children who did not have married parents, said Rector. This number applied even when controlling for education level.

In 2009, the U.S. Census found that 37 percent of homes with children headed by a single parent were in poverty, compared to only 6.8 percent of homes with children and married parents.

 

Youth synod will write message to youth, discussion group names will not be released

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 5:56 PM

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2018 / 03:56 pm (CNA).- The 2018 Synod of Bishops has elected a group of eight participants to begin drafting a message from the synod to the youth of the world.

The text will be put to the entire assembly for approval before it is published.

Announced in an Oct. 18 press briefing, among members of the commission are youth auditors Briana Santiago, an American consecrated women of the Apostles of the Interior Life and Anastasia Indrawan, a member of the youth commission for the bishops’ conference of Indonesia.

The bishop members of the committee are Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, Auxiliary Bishop Emmanuel Gobilliard of Lyon, Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, and Bishop Eduardo Horacio Garcia of San Justo, Argentina.

Fr. Alois, prior of the Ecumenical Community of Taize, and auditor Michele Falabretti, leader of the youth pastoral care office at the Italian bishops’ conference are also part of the group selected to write the message.

Contrary to what was communicated to journalists earlier in the week, names of the members of each small language group, called “circoli minori” will not be released, the Vatican’s chief of communication, Paolo Ruffini, said Oct. 18.

The reason for this, he said, “is to seek to show forth the spirit of the synod, which is a spirit of communion” and to reflect the desire of the synod’s General Secretariat “to not transform the synod into a debate about ‘who said what’ but to tell it for what it is: a communal reflection of the Church.”

During the press conference, veteran Vatican journalist Sandro Magister noted that the names of members of each small group were published by synod organizers at the 2015 synod on the family, to which Ruffini replied that he would share the suggestion, though “each synod has its rules.”

Ruffini told journalists the small groups are now discussing the third part of the Instrumentum laboris, and the final document is well under way. Among those who spoke at the press conference was Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church who is participating in the synod as a “fraternal delegate.”

Topics of discussion and speeches inside the synod hall the last two sessions included the importance of sanctity, reading the Bible, prayer, and community for young people. The importance of fasting was also brought up as a practice which is mostly abandoned in western culture and should be rediscovered.

Other proposals from inside the hall were the creation of a pontifical council of young people on the same level as other Vatican departments, and which could be led by a woman. Discussing the role of women in the Church, a synod of bishops on women was also suggested.

The issue of the migration of youth was also covered. Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel of Ethiopia spoke about the issue during the press briefing, explaining that in Africa, about 80 percent of migration is internal, within the continent.

He said lack of good governance, corruption, conflict and civil war, and the arms trade all contribute to the challenge of migration and displacement in the African continent.

The cardinal spoke about a loss, particularly in parts of Europe, of what he sees as the biblical tradition of receiving guests and refugees well. “It is sad when we hear that some borders are being closed to people seeking safety,” he said. “Where are the Christian roots of Europe? Where are the Christian values?”

 

Federal agents investigate abuse in Pennsylvania dioceses

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 5:40 PM

Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 18, 2018 / 03:40 pm (CNA).- The Department of Justice has served subpoenas to several dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania, in what is believed to be a state-wide move by federal authorities to investigate sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.

Chanceries across the Commonwealth were served with requests for documentation and files Oct. 18.

While Pennsylvania diocesan officials have not commented on the scope of the materials subpoenaed, a senior Church official told CNA the investigation concerns the federal crimes of transporting minors across state lines to abuse them, and the production or distribution of illegal pornography, including electronically.

The files requested of at least one diocese date back only to 2001, the official said.

There has been widespread speculation that a federal investigation might focus on charges related to institutional cover-ups or conspiracy, perhaps seeking to build a case under the federal RICO laws meant for dealing with organized crime. The official told CNA that, at present, the scope of the investigation does not seem to include conspiracy or other institutional charges.

“The files they are asking to be handed over, at least here, are in relation to the possible commission of particular crimes,” he said.

“As its been explained by the agents coming in, it’s those two crimes [transporting minors across state lines and illegal pornography] that are being looked at, maybe that’s got something to do with why they are only looking at files going back to ’01,” the official said.

“Maybe there is more to come, but it looks like they are beginning by looking for actual acts of abuse of minors and not yet on the institutional side of things – at least so far.”

So far, six of the eight the dioceses in the state have confirmed being served by federal agents, these are: Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg.

“The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has received a subpoena issued by a federal grand jury, which requires the production of certain documents. The Archdiocese will cooperate with the United States Department of Justice in this matter,” Ken Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, told CNA.

Bill Genello, director of communications in the Diocese of Scranton told CNA that “the Diocese of Scranton has received the subpoena and will completely cooperate.”

The federal investigation comes just over two months after the Aug. 14 publication of a Pennsylvania grand jury report investigating clerical sexual abuse. That report identified more than 300 priests accused of abusing 1,000 victims over a period of seventy years.  

The report resulted in charges being filed against only two priests. The federal statutes of limitations that apply to crimes crossing state borders could lead to further indictments.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington told CNA that “the archdiocese knows nothing about a Department of Justice proceeding beyond the initial media reports.”

Washington’s recently retired archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, served as Bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988-2006, and came under fire after the grand jury reported suggested that he had permitted at least one priest accused of sexual abuse to remain in ministry after an accusation had been made.

According to the Washington Post, the decision to open the investigation was made by federal prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia and was not a directive from Washington, D.C.

State-led investigations into clerical sexual abuse are currently underway in several states including Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Missouri. Other states, like New York, have announced they will soon begin taking similar action.

The news of a federal investigation in Pennsylvania raises the possibility that similar probes could also be launched in other states.

 

 

Questions arise about Vatican official mentioned in Vigano report

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 1:52 PM

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2018 / 11:52 am (CNA).- An Italian magazine has raised new questions about a Vatican official mentioned in the August “testimony” of Archbishop Carlo Vigano. The report from L’Espresso, an Italian newsweekly, could be seen to provide support for at least one claim made in Vigano’s controversial testimony.

L’Espresso reported Oct. 12 that Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, 58, who began serving Oct. 15 as “sostituto” of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, might have been dismissed from a seminary where he studied because he was thought by seminary administrators to have a homosexual orientation.

As ‘sostituto’, the archbishop is tasked with overseeing much of the day-to-day business of the Vatican’s Curial offices.

The magazine published a February 1985 letter from Archbishop Domingo Perez, then Archbishop of Maracaibo, the archdiocese in which Parra was later ordained. The letter was written to the rector of the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, at which Parra did the first part of his seminary studies before being dismissed.

In the letter, Perez said that he had received negative reports about Parra from the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, and acknowledged that Parra had been dismissed from studies there. Perez said that he had subsequently sent the student to another seminary in Caracas, and had received positive reports about him there.

However, Perez wrote that he had received an anonymous letter alleging that Parra had been expelled from his first seminary because he had a homosexual orientation and was, he wrote, “a sexually sick person.”

Perez asked the seminary rector to make inquiries into those allegations. L’Espresso did not report any additional communications between the archbishop and the seminary rector. Parra was ordained six months after Perez sent his letter.

Parra is among the bishops mentioned in Vigano’s Aug. 25 “testimony” regarding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. In that document, Vigano claimed that while he oversaw personnel for Vatican diplomatic offices, he had received “worrisome information” about Parra, who worked at that time in the Vatican diplomatic corps.

Vigano did not specify what “worrisome information” he had received, but the questions raised about Parra’s seminary formation could seem to fit with the tenor of Vigano’s testimony.

The archbishop’s testimony made claims about the sexuality of other Vatican officials, while arguing that “the virtue of chastity must be recovered in the clergy and in seminaries. Corruption in the misuse of the Church’s resources and of the offerings of the faithful must be fought against. The seriousness of homosexual behavior must be denounced. The homosexual networks present in the Church must be eradicated.”

The credibility of Vigano’s claims has come under fire lately, as some Vatican officials have denounced his testimony as an attack on Pope Francis.

Nevertheless, an Oct. 7 letter from Cardinal Marc Oullet, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, corroborated Vigano’s central claim, that McCarrick had been directed by the Vatican to withdraw from public life because of reports about his alleged sexually abusive behavior toward priests and seminarians.

On the other hand, Oullet's letter refuted the notion that the measures against McCarrick were formal “canonical sanctions,” a claim initially made by Vigano that seems to mostly have been disproven.

A September report from Catholic News Service corroborated Vigano’s claim that the Vatican had received at least some reports about McCarrick as early as 2000.

CNA independently confirmed another Vigano claim, that McCarrick had been ordered by a Vatican official to move out of the Washington, DC seminary where he had been living after his retirement.

On Oct. 18, L’Espresso added to its report, noting that Parra had a longtime close relationship with Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga, the coordinator of the pope’s C9 Council of Cardinals. Vigano had also noted their friendship.

The magazine also claimed that the archbishop had developed a friendship with Bishop Juan Jose Pineda, former auxiliary bishop of Maradiaga’s Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa, who in recent months had been accused of sexual misconduct involving seminarians and other adult men.

L’Espresso reported Oct. 18 that the Vatican declined to respond to its questions about Parra.

 

USAID head meets with Vatican officials to talk aid for Iraq

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 1:45 PM

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2018 / 11:45 am (CNA).- The head of the United States government’s international aid agency met with Vatican officials and an Iraqi cardinal Wednesday, in an effort to highlight U.S. efforts in the Middle East.

Mark Green, who leads the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told CNA that the objective for his Oct. 17 day at the Vatican was to show what his organization has been doing on the ground in Iraq, working to rebuild communities and provide emergency relief.

He said it was a chance for Vatican officials “to kick the tires and offer ideas and suggestions.”

Effective development work, Green said, “is always based around dialogue and a conversation.”

The USAID Administrator met with the Vatican’s Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, and with Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.

Green’s visit to Rome took place after an announcement earlier this month that USAID had signed an agreement with the Knights of Columbus. The two groups will partner in assisting religious minorities in the Middle East rebuild their communities after the persecution and genocide of the Islamic State.

Enlisting the direct help of religious groups like the Knights of Columbus, Malteser International, and Samaritan’s Purse is “crucial” to the success of USAID’s projects in the region, Green said.

The U.S. agency also announced Oct. 16 that it was increasing assistance to religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq by around $45 million. This new commitment brings the total amount in planned and active efforts in support of minority communities in northern Iraq to more than $239 million.

While in Rome, Green also met with Cardinal Louis Sako I, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Archbishop of Baghdad.

The meeting followed strong comments from the patriarch, who had claimed that U.S. government policies were empty promises of help.

Speaking to journalists Oct. 16, Sako said, “until now,” there has been nothing from the American government to help Iraqi people return to their homes.

Green told CNA that his meeting with Sako was a good opportunity both to show what USAID was doing already, and to hear ideas from him on what else can be done.

“I’m a tough metrics guy, so don’t just tell me you’re doing it, show me that you’re doing it,” Green said. “That’s what I wanted to bring to [Cardinal Sako]. And a commitment that the door is open, that we will continue to listen.”

Sako was shown photographs of projects already underway in Iraq, and graphics illustrating the reach of the aid efforts, Green said.

He emphasized that he did not think there was major disagreement between Sako and himself, but that it is “a matter of helping to show him what it is that we’re doing and learn about more that we could be doing.”

Green travelled to northern Iraq this past summer, together with Congressman Jeff Fortenberry and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, to evaluate how U.S. aid money is being applied and see at first-hand the situation facing Iraqi minorities.

Following that trip, Green said, USAID had stationed a special representative, Max Primorac, in the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil as an on-the-ground special representative for minority assistance.

This new post, Green said, is to “take a clear-eyed, tough-minded look” at what is happening, to see what is working and what is not, and to help ensure results.

“I think what this whole effort is doing... is not only helping to meet some immediate needs, not only helping to do some strengthening and bolstering of infrastructure, but also hopefully strengthening the capacity of organizations on the ground for the long run.”

The hope, Green said, is to “continue to build up this part of Iraq, so that families say, ‘my future is here, I can live here, my children can go to school here, there will be the kinds of jobs that keep them here.’”

Pope Francis & South Korean president pray for peace

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 11:45 AM

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2018 / 09:45 am (CNA).- South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in met with Pope Francis today after praying for peace on the Korean peninsula in St. Peter’s Basilica. The visit marked the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Seoul and the Vatican.

 

“I come to you as president of South Korea, but also as a Catholic. My baptismal name is Timothy,” Moon said as he greeted Pope Francis in the Vatican Apostolic Palace Oct. 18.

 

The Korean president and the pope discussed their common commitment to fostering initiatives to overcome the tensions that still exist in the Korean Peninsula, according to the Holy See Press Office.

 

After the papal meeting, Moon met with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for the Relations with States, and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

 

The evening before the visit, Moon also participated in a “Mass for Peace” on the Korean peninsula celebrated by Cardinal Parolin in St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

“Peace is built with the choices of every day, with a serious commitment to the service of justice and solidarity, with the promotion of the rights and dignity of the human person, and especially through the care of the weakest,” Cardinal Parolin said in his homily.

 

The chief Vatican diplomat prayed that “even in the Korean Peninsula, after so many years of tensions and division, the word peace can finally resound fully.”

 

President Moon said after the Mass that their prayers in St. Peter’s will “resound as echoes of hope in the hearts of the people of the two Koreas as well as the people of the whole world who desire peace.”

 

“Just as your holiness prayed before the U.S.-North Korea summit, we are paving a desirable way toward assuring a peaceful future for the Korean Peninsula and the world,” Moon said.

 

The pope and the Korean president exchanged gifts, including a medallion of olive branches as a message of peace and a Korean image of the Virgin Mary.

 

When Pope Francis saw Moon’s gift of a sculpture of the face of Jesus by a Korean artist, he remarked that he could see the suffering of the Korean people in Christ’s crown of thorns.

 

Last month, Moon traveled to Pyongyang for the third inter-Korean summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The leaders of the two Koreas pledged to make a joint bid for the 2023 Summer Olympics.

 

During their meeting, Kim Jong Un asked the South Korean leader to extended an invitation to Pope Francis for a papal visit to North Korea. Kim told Moon that he would “greatly welcome” the pope in Pyongyang, according to South Korea’s presidential office.

 

A South Korean bishop attending the 2018 Synod of Bishops said last week that a papal visit to Pyongyang would be “a giant step forward for peace on the Korean peninsula,” but cautioned that there must be “some sort of religious freedom” before such a visit takes place.

 

North Korea has consistently been ranked the worst country for persecution of Christians by Open Doors. Christians within the atheist state have faced arrest, re-education in labor camps, or, in some cases, execution for their faith.

A United Nations investigation in 2014 produced a 372-page report that documented crimes against humanity, including execution, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, forced abortions, and knowingly causing prolonged starvation.

The U.S. State Department estimates that there are currently an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 people in North Korea’s six political prison camps.

 

“Only those who have experienced the inscrutable mystery of the apparent absence of God in the face of suffering, oppression and hatred can fully understand what it means to hear the word peace resound again,” Cardinal Parolin said at the Mass for the Korean peninsula.

 

“I and all my people hold dearly the pope's message that 'dialogue is the only solution in every conflict.' [We] will solemnly walk toward democracy, lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and an inclusive nation," Moon wrote in an article published by Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano Oct. 17.

 

President Moon expressed hope that “exchange between the Vatican and North Korea will further increase.”

Get real: What young religious hope to hear from the youth synod

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 6:00 AM

Denver, Colo., Oct 18, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Tonia Borsellino knows she’s a part of the “one percent” in the U.S. It doesn’t bother her. In fact, she seems proud.

She’s actually Sister Tonia Borsellino. And as a newly-veiled, 23 year-old novice with the Mercederian Sisters, she is among the one percent of religious sisters in the United States under the age of 40.

While her life, and the lives other young religious, may look different from those of their lay counterparts, Borsellino and other young religious say they are looking for similar things from the bishops participating in the Vatican’s synod of bishops on young people, taking part in Rome this month.

CNA spoke with several young consecrated religious sisters and brothers about their hopes for the synod.

Chief among their concerns is authenticity - they want leaders who are honest and holy; they want their bishops to be unafraid to speak the full truth of the Gospel to young people, even when it’s hard.

Brother Lawrence Johnson, 29, is a friar with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in Bronx, New York.

Johnson, who participated in a pre-synod meeting in Rome with other young people, told CNA that authenticity was one of the key concerns of the delegates at that meeting. The words “authentic” or “authenticity” appear seven times in the 14-page document from that meeting.

“We talked at the pre-synod meeting about the power of testimony and personal witness as something that really resonates with young people, and so I think to see Church leaders...give their own testimony to the power of their encounter with Christ is something youth need to hear,” he said.

It’s particularly important at this specific time in the Church, he said - the months just after the so-called  “summer of hell”, when sexual abuse scandals continued to break throughout the Church in the United States and other countries throughout the world.

Young people need an answer from their leaders as to why they are still Catholic even in difficult times, Johnson said, “because even religious and priests can have a temptation to discouragement.”

“So I think we need to talk about what’s happened, to speak credibly and authentically, but at the same time with joy and fervor...centered on the center of our faith, on the reality of God’s love manifested in Jesus Christ.”

Sister Benedicta Turner of the Daughters of St. Paul is another young sister - “yes, we exist!” - who hopes that the synod fathers recognize young people’s desire for clarity and truth, even when it is difficult.

“It is a generation that strongly values clarity and authenticity, perhaps to a fault. Slick, expensive presentations go ignored while raw, sincere testimony is held with reverence,” she said.

Turner said that Church leaders need to return to an authentic presentation of the totality of the Gospel, and to challenge rather than compromise with the current culture.

“I think we need leaders who are willing to answer the hard questions young people are asking, who are more inclined to engage the culture than to make excuses for it, and who are willing to admit mistakes and failure with honesty and humility,” she said.

“We need leaders who are unafraid to give us the Gospel in its most intense, undiluted form; the Gospel for which the martyrs offered their lives and whose beauty has inspired countless works of art over the centuries,” she added.

Only this kind of engagement with the Gospel and the hearts of young people will be effective in calling them out of complacency and into relationship with Christ, she said.

Br. Neil Conlisk, a 30 year-old Carmelite brother, told CNA that he feared the synod’s bishops would not listen to young people’s desire for authenticity and truth and that they would continue on with “business as usual” and talk past young people.  

“No one wants a worldly Church,” he said. “I fear that the Synod Fathers will try to change the Church in the name of the youth, but this ‘change-the-church’ fever is a symptom of the illness that has caused the long decline, and we simply cannot afford to destroy the Church any more.”

“We are hearing, from many bishops, moralistic therapeutic deism, but we want the fullness of the faith within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” he added.

In addition to speaking the truth, Johnson said that what he hopes arises from the synod is a greater recognition throughout the Church of the need to live lives of holiness, so that young people have examples to follow in the Christian life.

“Young people need to see examples of holiness so that they know that Christianity is true, it’s beautiful and its attainable,” he said.

When young people need to see that there are Christians who “weren’t born perfect, but there are people who admit their weaknesses and rely on the Lord’s strength and are able to lead lives of holiness,” whether that person is a bishop or a priest or a lay member of the Church, he said.

This need for examples of Christian holiness is not new, Borsellino told CNA, but it is a constant need throughout the history of the Church.

“Young people need radical, authentic witnesses of the Gospel in this world that are willing to speak to their hearts,” she said. “It has always been and will always be a need. Jesus knew that well when he formed those intimate relationships with his disciples.”  

Vocational discernment is another point of focus for the youth synod. As young people who have discerned at least the first few steps of a religious vocation, many of the young religious CNA spoke to said they hoped the synod bishops would emphasize the importance of a relationship with Jesus through prayer and the sacraments as key to discernment.

“Discernment is about listening to God's voice and one cannot do that without having a relationship with Jesus,” said Sr. Kathryne of the Holy Trinity, a 26-year old with the Mercederian Sisters. “Then once that relationship is established, it cannot remain stagnant.”

Johnson said he was surprised by the strong desire for increased access to the sacraments and Eucharistic adoration expressed by the delegates at the pre-synod meeting - something that has been echoed in synod’s working document.

“When it comes to questions of discernment and being disposed to discern God’s will, I think focusing on silence and being in the presence of Christ (particularly) in the Eucharist” are important, he said.

Another desire of young people expressed in the pre-synod document was for more formation in the faith. Borsellino said she was surprised by how many basic things about the faith she did not know until she began religious life, and emphasized the need for ongoing formation even after young people are confirmed.

“...it is important for the Church to educate the faithful because the desire will then grow in them to continue pursuing that truth,” she said.

“Especially ministering to young people, post-confirmation, when the sense of 'obligation' to continue practicing the faith is lost if there is not an understanding of the faith or deep love for Christ in their hearts.”

Overall, Borsellino said she is encouraged that the bishops are trying to listen to the young people of the Church, and encouraged Catholics not to be too discouraged by the growing number of young people who are religiously unaffiliated.

“I think the messages from the youth synod so far are proof of a desire that young people have for Truth, who is Jesus Christ,” she said. “There might not be many young people filling the pews right away but souls are being transformed. Look at the attendance at World Youth Days or FOCUS conferences,” she said.

“Young people might just go for fun at first, but then something clicks because we encounter Christ's real presence in our lives.”

She added that parishes and the whole Church community need to support each other in the journey to sainthood.

“We must all, young and old, pray for each other!” 

Legal pot will have 'disastrous effects,' Canadian bishops say

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 9:00 PM

Ottawa, Canada, Oct 17, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Canada’s bishops reiterated their opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana Wednesday, the same day that legal marijuana sales began across the country.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops underlined “the ethical problems involved with the recreational use and abuse of this drug” in an Oct. 17 statement.

Lionel Gendron, Bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, lamented the “growing problems of a society more and more dependent on drugs and alcohol,” and said that businesses and governments who wish to exploit sales of cannabis for commercial interests or tax revenue are “jeopardizing the pursuit of the common good.”

Canada is now the largest country in the world in which federal law permits marijuana to be legally sold and consumed for recreational purposes. Canada joins Uruguay as the only two countries to have legalized cannabis nationwide.

Under the new laws, Canadians will be allowed to grow up to four of their own cannabis plants, make their own cannabis products such as foods and drinks, and buy the drug from provincially-licensed stores or online.

Most Canadian provinces have set the legal age for buying cannabis at 19, the same as their legal drinking age. Ontario, the country’s most populous province, is still working on crafting regulations and likely won’t open any stores until next spring, the Associated Press reports.

The Canadian government also announced on Wednesday that they would be introducing new legislation that would allow people with convictions for possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana, which is the new legal threshold, to apply for pardons with no waiting period or fee. The new legislation will likely be introduced by the end of 2018, but may take some to make its way through Canadian parliament to become law.

Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001.  

The CCCB previously expressed disappointment at the government’s announcement of the decision to legalize cannabis in June 2018, in a statement that was also endorsed by the Chair of the Canadian Council of Imams.

The bishops cited the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and the Canadian Paediatric Society, all of whom have pointed out that the use of cannabis is linked to numerous mental and lung problems.    

“It is lamentable that the federal government has decided to facilitate the provision and use of an addictive substance that will have disastrous effects for so many people,” the bishops wrote.

The bishops asserted that their position is shared by Pope Francis, who has spoken out against even the partial legalization of so-called “soft drugs.” They assert that drug trafficking and abuse can be curtailed through education, employment opportunities, and treatment and recovery programs, rather than through legalization.

“The massive increase in cannabis use that will accompany its legalization will not produce a more just and humane society,” the bishops wrote, “But will only exacerbate or multiply problems already widespread in society, including mental illness, crime, unemployment, family breakdown, injuries and fatalities resulting from impaired driving, and increased addiction to “harder” drugs along with associated problems resulting from overdose.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 2291 that the use of drugs inflicts grave damage on human health and life, and the use of drugs beyond therapeutic use constitutes a “grave offense.” It also states in paragraph 2211 that the political community has a duty to protect the security and health of families, especially with respect to drugs.

 

Hacking pastoral care: Youth synod bishops talk technology

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 8:00 PM

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2018 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- Smartphone apps and Skype have transformed the way at least one synod bishop conducts his pastoral ministry with young people.

Bishop David Bartimej Tencer of Reykjavík said Wednesday that digital technologies help him to overcome the geographical challenges that come from shepherding a diocese spread over 40,000 square miles in Iceland.

“The church is moving forward thanks to the digital world,” Bishop Tencer said at a Vatican press conference Oct. 17.

Bishops have discussed how the Church can better extend missionary outreach and pastoral care to young people online during the 2018 Synod of Bishops, which is focused on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.

“‘Digital pastoral care’ --  how the church can be active in the world of social media,” was an important conversation topic in the synod hall Wednesday, according to Paolo Ruffini, head of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications.

This included “being a missionary in the digital world,” he said.

Bishop Tencer, who has used Skype to catechise his diocese, said that in his experience, the “contact was very real with these kids.”

The Reykjavík bishop also said that the young people responded positively to his Android app Bible challenges.

“I said, ‘You know, guys, next week, you all have to download using your Android phone or whatever,” continued Bishop Tencer, “and they all downloaded it.”

“Then I asked the kids, ‘Find in the Bible where God is whistling to the bees,” the bishop went on. “My kids found this, no problem.”

Bishop Tencer said he was surprised to find that conversations surrounding technology in the synod hall have been very positive, despite the fact that the average age of the synod fathers is above 60.

The internet is “a neutral medium,” Tencer concluded.

Prior to the 2018 synod, youth around the globe submitted 150,000 online surveys answering questions regarding morality, faith and life. These responses were analyzed by an Italian university using an algorithm.

The discussion of technology in the youth synod’s Instrumentum Laboris included both enthusiasm for technology's potential, as well as caution for its unintended consequences.

“Technology can be detrimental to human dignity if not used with conscience and caution and if human dignity is not at the center of its usage,” the document says, making particular reference to the fields of bioethics and artificial intelligence.

The pre-synod document also warns against the “isolation, laziness, desolation and boredom” that can come from young people’s obsessive consumption of media, in addition to the long-term risks of a “loss of creativity” and concentration.

“While technology has, for some, augmented our relationships, for many others it has taken the form of an addiction, becoming a replacement for human relationship and even God.”

 

Chaput: The terrain and challenge U.S. Christians face

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 7:33 PM

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2018 / 05:33 pm (CNA).- The following interview with Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia was conducted Oct. 16 by Adam Sosnowski and will be released in Poland on Oct. 24 by the Polish Catholic magazine Miesięcznik Wpis (wydawnictwo Biały Kruk). It is published here with permission.

BIALY KRUK:  What is the reason for the decrease of faith in the Western world? What can the Church do about it?

ARCHBISHOP CHAPUT:  There’s no single reason for the decline. Many different factors shaped the problem.  

The two World Wars, the rise of murder ideologies like Communism and National Socialism, the immense savagery and loss of life starting in1914 – all these traumas deeply wounded the Western psyche. The pride of the early the 20th century produced the despair we have in the early 21st. We hide that despair under a blanket of noise and distraction and consumer appetites. But it’s very real. The idea of a loving God seems implausible today for many people not because of something wicked God has done, but because of the evil we ourselves have done without God stopping us.

Augusto Del Noce, the late Italian philosopher, described our situation best in his essay, “Technological Civilization and Christianity.” It’s worth reading. As “postmoderns,” we’ve tried to overcome our despair with science and technology, and they produce many good things. But they also focus us radically on this world and away from the supernatural. As a result, man’s religious dimension, our sense of the transcendent, slowly dries up and disappears. Technological civilization doesn’t persecute religion, at least not directly. It doesn’t need to. It makes God irrelevant.

The Church will survive and continue her mission. But to do that, she first needs to acknowledge that the culture she helped create now has no use for her -- and why. As a Church, we don’t yet see reality clearly and critically enough. For example, the current synod’s instrumentum laboris (IL) talks about young people and the effects of social media and the “digital continent.” But it has no grasp of the deeper dynamics of technology that Del Noce names.  

The IL is a collection of dense social science data with very little evangelical zeal. It speaks constantly about accompaniment, which is important, but it has almost no confident teaching.  It can’t and won’t convert anybody. Hopefully, the synod fathers will fix this.

How should the Church handle its current abuse crisis? - What is the condition of the Church in the United States right now? - How much damage has been done with the recent scandal involving Cardinal McCarrick?

The Church is the United States is still strong compared to Catholic life in nearly every other “developed” country. We have good resources, many good young clergy and lay leaders, vigorous renewal movements, and plenty of thriving parishes. But we’re losing the young. That’s a huge challenge for the future. The scandal triggered by Archbishop McCarrick has done great damage, especially to the credibility of bishops. The only way we can repair that is by being absolutely transparent and honest about the scope of the abuse problem and our efforts to address it.

How much truth is there in the accusations of Archbishop Vigano?

That’s a matter for the Holy See to address. It’s above my area of responsibility and beyond my knowledge.  

Is the heritage of Saint John Paul II still alive in the Church? Is he remembered in the US?  Do we need this heritage?

John Paul’s legacy is very much alive in the United States. His visit to Denver and World Youth Day in 1993 shaped the faith of an entire generation. Some of his encyclicals are masterworks of intellect and faith. We need his kind of Christianity – a combination of courage, zeal for Jesus Christ, rigorous intelligence, and sincere belief – now more than ever.  

Karol Wojtyla’s commitment to human dignity, to the unborn and the sacredness of all life, and his theology of the body – all these things still resonate deeply with American Catholics.

How can one counter the anti-clericalism present in today’s culture and in the media? What should the Church do about this? What about laymen?

The only way to counter it is by living differently; by practicing what we claim to believe. There’s no quick fix. We’re a family of faith, not a religious General Motors, and we need to act like it. Priests, for example, are not little godlings. They’re sinners like everyone else. We’re all equal – laypeople, religious and clergy – in the Sacrament of Baptism. But, as in any family, we all have different tasks. Priests have the duty to shepherd and teach, to serve the needs of their people, to lead as pastors, and most all, to celebrate the Eucharist and other sacraments. The glue that holds the whole enterprise together is love. If we don’t respect and love each other, and show it by our behavior, everything falls apart.

What might the synod change in Church doctrine or in the interpretation of the doctrine?

No synod has the authority to change core Christian teachings; nor does any Pope. In matters of interpretation, the unstated struggle in the 2018 synod revolves around Catholic sexual morality. As one young female youth minister put it: Underneath all its social science data and verbiage, the instrumentum laboris is finally, very quietly, about sex. It’s especially odd that the word “chastity” appears almost nowhere in the IL text.  Humanae vitae and the theology of the body are completely absent.

Should the synod have been canceled?

I think the timing is inopportune. Rescheduling it for a later date probably would have been wise, but the Holy Father makes those decisions. The planning for a synod is very complicated and difficult to change.

Is it really necessary to tackle the LGBT issue at the synod and mention it in official documents?

There’s nothing wrong with addressing the issue. Quite the opposite, it’s a natural matter for discussion – so long as Catholic teaching on human sexuality is faithfully explained and reconfirmed without compromise or ambiguity. And that’s exactly where elements of the IL are regrettably weak. “LGBT” should never be used in a Church document to describe people. The Church has never identified persons by their sexual appetites, or reduced them to their sexual inclinations. “LBGT” may be acceptable in describing issues, but not people.

The traditional understanding of the family is under heavy attack. What does the situation look like in the States?  What part does the gender ideology play in this?

I’ll refer back to Del Noce here: Gender ideology is simply an expression of the technological mindset and its bias toward treating all matter, including the body, as raw material for the human will. It presumes a definition of the “human person” very different from anything in Christian belief. Gender ideology treats the body as an instrument to be upgraded, or clay to be manipulated. In contrast, Christian faith sees the body, not as some kind of “wetware” or clay capsule, but as integral and essential to who we are. God became man to redeem human flesh, not to render it meaningless.

The family, by its nature, is carnal and fertile. A man and a woman become one flesh. New life results. It’s beautiful, it’s mysterious, but it’s not efficient. To a certain kind of modern mindset, that inefficiency is offensive. 

At the heart of gender ideology is a resentment of the weakness and limitations of the body. At the heart of today’s attacks on the family is a hatred of the mutual dependence that families demand and the love within a family that seals it tight as a unit. In the end, all of today’s sexual aberrations and dysfunctions boil down to a rejection of creation; for the natural order as it is.

This is the terrain and the challenge Christians face today in the United States.