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Jeff Sessions says the Bible justifies family separation. Does it?

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 7:01 PM

Washington D.C., Jun 15, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration has pointed to the Bible in justifying its “zero-tolerance immigration policy,” which includes the separation of immigrant children from their parents.

According to one Catholic theology professor, though, scripture has much more to say on the topic of immigration.

On June 14, Attorney General Jeff Sessions referred to Romans 13 in a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” said Sessions.

When asked about the attorney general’s statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders provided further Biblical interpretation.

“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law.  That is, actually, repeated a number of times throughout the Bible,” said Sanders in a press conference on June 14.

The statement comes at a time when many Catholic bishops have been critical of the current U.S. practice of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. On June 5, the United Nations condemned the practice as “a serious violation of the rights of the child.”

“The Attorney General cites a famous passage in the theological tradition,” said theology professor Dr. Joseph Capizzi, who teaches moral theology and ethics at The Catholic University of America.

In the New American Bible translation, Romans 13:1 reads, “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God.”

“Essentially Paul is encouraging those who follow Christ to have a disposition of respect to those in political authority because, in essence, they are there by providence,” Capizzi told CNA. “It does not, by any means, license a blanket support for all laws that are made by those in political authority.”

“The obvious connection here for Catholics is the way we think about abortion,” explained Capizzi, who said that Catholics should not simply follow abortion laws because they are the law, but seek to change them because they are not moral laws.

Scripture is “legitimate as a source of wisdom to draw on” in the public square, continued Capizzi, who said that the Bible can “help us inform the way we think about things, maybe to deepen or challenge certain kind of thoughts we have about politics.”

But the Bible has a lot more to say about immigration than the attorney general’s “clumsy invocation of Paul’s letter to the Romans,” he said.

“The whole story of the Hebrew Scriptures is the story of a people that has been exiled and persecuted,” Capizzi told CNA. The Israelites are wandering, stateless and homeless, and yet they understand that they are called by God to “welcome those who are strangers among them.” Scripture calls everyone, even those who are themselves migrants, to welcome the vulnerable, he said.

The U.S. bishops for years have called for comprehensive immigration reform. They have recognized the importance of national security and border protection, but have also stressed the human rights and dignity of immigrants, the need to address root causes of migration, and the importance of family unity.

Earlier this week, on June 11, Sessions released a ruling stating that domestic abuse and gang violence claims alone should not be considered grounds for asylum claims. This decision also drew strong criticism from the bishops.

“At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life. The Attorney General's recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston-Galveston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, in a statement on June 13.

The cardinal also condemned family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma...Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

Papal investigators meet with laity, priests and religious of Osorno

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 4:51 PM

Osorno, Chile, Jun 15, 2018 / 02:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As part of their special mission to help bring healing to the troubled Chilean diocese of Osorno, Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu are holding several pastoral meetings this week which they say are aimed at listening.

Speaking to Chilean media at the airport after landing in Osorno, Scicluna said they came “to convey the special closeness of the pope to the beloved people of Osorno. We are going to have a lot of discussion and will listen to our brothers, which is the most important [task] for us.”

Similarly, Bertomeu said they are “happy to be here in Osorno,” and voiced hope that they would be able “to communicate the Holy Father's request for forgiveness in peace, in concord and in harmony.”

Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and the Vatican's former top prosecutor on cases of clerical abuse, is currently in Osorno with Bertomeu, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for a June 12-19 pastoral mission to the Chilean Dioceses of Osorno and Santiago in order to advance “the process of healing and reparation for victims of abuse” in Chile.

After spending two days in Santiago, in which they led a day of formation on the guidelines to be followed in investigations into sexual abuse in the Church, the pair arrived to Osorno June 14, where they will stay until June 17, and will hold a number of meetings with different communities in the diocese.

Immediately after landing in Osorno Thursday, Scicluna and Bertomeu held meetings with two groups of local Catholics - the “Catholic Faithful of Osorno” and a group of lay men and women from the diocese.

On Friday the pair met with clergy from Osorno, including priests and deacons, as well as the communities of Santa Rosa Parish and the Parish of the Holy Spirit.

They will meet with another parish community Saturday, and that afternoon will speak with religious men and women from Osorno. The day will close with a second encounter at a parish, after which there will be time for adoration.

On Sunday, Scicluna and Bertomeu's last day in Osorno before heading back to Santiago, they will celebrate Mass in the Cathedral of San Mateo, after which they will meet with all parish communities in the diocese to pray for peace and reconcilation.

Scicluna and Bertomeu will then go back to Santiago for two days before returning to Rome June 19.

Osorno has been at the center of the Chilean clerical abuse crisis ever since Pope Francis' 2015 appointment of Juan Barros Madrid as the diocese's bishop – a move that was met with heavy opposition due to accusations he had covered up the crimes of notorious Chilean abuser, Fr. Fernando Karadima.

Francis had initially defended Barros, saying he believed the accusations against him were “calumny” during a visit to Chile in January. However, after new evidence was presented and news of old evidence resurfaced following his trip, the pope in February sent Scicluna and Bertomeu to Chile to investigate, resulting a 2,300-page report on the crisis which prompted the pope to pen a letter to Chilean bishops in April saying he had made “serious errors” in judging the case.

Since then, Pope Francis has met with all Chilean bishops and two groups of Chilean abuse survivors at the Vatican.

On Monday the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has accepted Barros’ resignation and that of two other Chilean bishops. Every active bishop in Chile had submitted his resignation at the close of a May 15-17 meeting between the pontiff and the country's bishops, during which Francis chastised them for systematic cover-up.

Scicluna and Bertomeu, whose current visit to Santiago and Osorno coincided with the news of Barros' resignation, have from the beginning stressed that they have come to ask for forgiveness on behalf of the pope, to provide formation on how to respond to abuse, and to listen.

In a June 13 press conference before heading to Osorno, Scicluna said that “to recognize and admit the whole truth, with all of its painful repercussions and consequences, is the point of departure for an authentic healing, both for the victim and the abuser. These brothers and sisters deserve our special attention and assistance.”

He also defended the papal nuncio to Chile, Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, who has been accused of inaction when presented with abuse allegations, saying “we have a wonderful collaboration with the nuncio.”

In comments to Chilean media after landing in Osorno, Bertomeu backed Scicluna's defense of Scapolo, saying “the nuncio has a very complicated role, because he has a role as a representative of the Holy Father before the Chilean state and then there are also actions which can also be easily misinterpreted,” La Cooperativa reports.

“I myself am aware that in any moment of the day I can do something which can be misinterpreted, so I think that the procedures of justice must be respected before condemning someone and one must be a little more sure,” he said, adding that “until now the nuncio has acted correctly.”


Archbishop: Russian invasion of Ukraine is a ‘silent war’

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 3:34 PM

Rome, Italy, Jun 15, 2018 / 01:34 pm (CNA).- Speaking at the end of a closed-door meeting on religious freedom at the US Embassy to the Holy See, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Greek Catholic Ukrainian Church, stressed that “it is a matter of fact that the war in Ukraine has become a silent war.”

The meeting took place June 14, and was the first in a series of meetings dedicated to religious freedom hosted by the US Embassy to the Holy See.

In her initial remarks, Callista Gingrich, US Ambassador to the Holy See, strongly condemned Russian aggression on the Ukrainian territory.

“The facts,” she said, “are truly astonishing.  Today, Russia ranks among the worst violators of religious freedom and human rights.  There is no sign that its persecution of religious minorities and foreign missionaries is coming to an end.  And what is perhaps most troubling is that this repression is not limited to its own borders.”

Ambassador Gingrich noted that “it has been four years since Russia invaded eastern Ukraine, and occupied and attempted to annex Crimea,” and stressed that “these unjust actions, launched under the pretense of ‘defending Russian-speaking people’, have in reality been disastrous for the people living in these regions.”

The head of the biggest Eastern Catholic, or sui iuris, Church in the world, Major Archbishop Shevchuk said at the meeting: “my mission is to convey to the top leaders of the world today the voice of suffering people of Ukraine.”

Shevchuk mentioned current problems in Ukraine, among them the fact that there are thousands of children in direct exposure to explosive material, a constant risk of being targeted for airstrikes, and the pollution of water supplies stemming from underground nuclear explosions during the Soviet era.

“Very often,” he said “the future of our nation is discussed without us. I think that is a big mistake, and I think it is important to make us partners of such a process.”  

Major Archbishop Shevchuk saw in the Holy See’s diplomatic presence in the world “a special possibility to share our stories, to speak out on behalf of our people.”

The head of Greek Catholic Ukrainian Church also spoke about the need for religious reconciliation in Ukraine.

“We do not just need to pray for reconciliation. We need to do effective acts of reconciliation. This is crucial,” Shevchuk said.

He added that “reconciliation does not mean to be reconciled with the aggressor, reconciliation does not mean to be reconciled with lying or fake news.”

Shevchuk also noted that “chaplains are in the frontline to help soldiers to be converted to love, not to hatred,” and stressed that “the process of justice and reconciliation should start. We try to foster that process, we preach forgiveness even for our enemy, and we try to share the experience of other countries. We are convinced that dialogue can heal the wounds."

The archbishop emphasized the need for ecumenical dialogue in Ukraine, especially with Orthodox Christians, who are deeply divided in the country, especially after a disagreement over the relationship between Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Churches. That disagreement has become a contentious debate involving the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

“Ecumenical dialogue,” Shevchuk underscored “is crucial for Ukraine, because Ukraine is a multiethnic and multi-religious country and there is also a painful situation of an internal division between the Orthodox.”

Shevchuk said that “of course there is some sort of competition between Churches, especially those who would call themselves as Orthodox; of course, there is a sound risk of the instrumentalization of the Church for geopolitical proposals; of course there are some facts that even Orthodox priests took up arms against Ukraine’s army; but nevertheless I think that the consciousness that religious peace is a common good of all of us is prevailing right now.”

The head of Greek Catholics of Ukraine discussed the roots of the current disagreement: a request from some Ukrainian Orthodox Churches  for independence from affiliation with the Russian Orthodox Churches.

“Of course,” he said, “Ukrainian Orthodox Churches which are not in communion with the Moscow patriarchate are trying to come out of isolation within worldwide Orthodoxy; of course, they would look toward the mother Church, the Church of Constantinople.”

“There are some inner tensions in each Church as well, but thanks to be to God until now we have religious peace among us,” he added.

The archbishop expressed regret that “there is no bilateral dialogue” among the Churches, as “there is no alternative to dialogue. With no dialogue, there is just confrontation.”

He then praised a Ukrainian NGO, the “Council of the Churches and Religious Organizations” that “can help us to meet and to cooperate together for the common good of the Ukrainian society."

He added that, despite Ukraine’s struggles, he has hope.

“We are Christians, we trust in God’s providence. Only God is the master of peace, and there is no peace without justice,” he concluded.

The US Embassy to the Holy See will co-sponsor a June 25 conference on religious freedom, which will take place at the Pontifical Holy Cross University in Rome.



New York Archdiocese announces appeal over Fulton Sheen court decision  

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 2:21 PM

New York City, N.Y., Jun 15, 2018 / 12:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of New York announced on Friday that the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral are appealing a court decision that would allow Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s body to be moved to Peoria, Ill., as his cause for beatification proceeds.

The Trustees, who oversee archdiocesan seminaries, “believe that the recent court case concerning the earthly remains of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was again incorrectly decided, and will seek an appeal of that decision along with a stay on moving the remains while the appellate court considers the case,” said a June 15 statement.

“At issue in the case, as the appellate court noted in its reversal of the trial court’s original decision, is what were Archbishop’s Sheen’s personal wishes concerning his final resting place,” the statement said.

“As Trustees, it is our responsibility to respect those wishes, and we believe that this most recent decision once again fails to consider those wishes and instead relies on the speculation and conjecture of others.”  

Last week, the Superior Court of New York ruled in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham, who had petitioned to move the body of her uncle, Venerable Fulton Sheen, to the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria. The body of the late archbishop is currently in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

Judge Arlene Bluth, ruled that “the location of Archbishop Sheen's final resting place would not have been his primary concern” and that “it makes no sense, given his lifelong devotion to the Catholic Church, that he would choose a location over the chance to become a saint.”

The Peoria diocese opened the cause for Sheen’s canonization in 2002 after Archdiocese of New York said it would not explore the case. In 2012, Benedict XVI recognized the heroic virtues of the archbishop.

However, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria suspended the beatification cause in September 2014 on the grounds that the Holy See expected Sheen’s remains to be in the Peoria diocese.

The Archdiocese of New York, however, has said that Vatican officials have said the Peoria diocese can pursue Sheen’s canonization regardless of whether his body is at rest there.

Sheen was born in Illinois in 1895, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria at the age of 24. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of New York in 1951, and he remained there until his appointment as Bishop of Rochester in 1966. He retired in 1969 and moved back to New York City until his death in 1979.

Sheen’s will had declared his wish to be buried in the Archdiocese of New York Calvary Cemetery. Soon after Sheen died, Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York asked Cunningham, Sheen’s closest living relative, if his remains could be placed in the New York cathedral’s crypt, and she consented.

Cunningham has said that Sheen would have wanted to have been interred in Peoria if he knew that he would be considered for sainthood. In 2016, she filed a legal complaint seeking to have her uncle’s remains moved to Peoria.

An initial court ruling had sided with Cunningham, but a state appeals court overturned that ruling, saying it had failed to give sufficient attention to a sworn statement from a colleague of Archbishop Sheen, Monsignor Hilary C. Franco, a witness for the New York archdiocese.

Msgr. Franco had said that Sheen told him he wanted to be buried in New York and that Cardinal Cooke had offered him a space in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The appeals court ordered “a full exploration” of the archbishop’s desires.

In the New York Superior Court decision, Bluth ruled that “Mrs. Cunningham has offered a sound reason and a laudable purpose for her petition” and that Sheen “would care much less about the location of his earthly remains than his ability … to continue to serve man and God on a grand scale after his earthly demise.”

Both the Diocese of Peoria and the Archdiocese of New York have voiced prayers that the beatification cause may move forward in a timely manner.

Archbishop Sheen served as host of the “Catholic Hour” radio show and the television show “Life is Worth Living”.

In addition to his pioneering radio and television shows, Sheen authored many books, with proceeds supporting foreign missions. He headed the Society for the Propagation of the Faith at one point in his life, and continued to be a leading figure in U.S. Catholicism until his death.

Archbishop Sheen’s intercession is credited with the miraculous recovery of a pronounced stillborn American baby from the Peoria area.

In June 2014, a panel of theologians that advises the Congregation for the Causes of Saints ruled that the baby’s recovery was miraculous.

The baby, later named James Fulton Engstrom, was born in September 2010 showing no signs of life. As medical professionals tried to revive him, his parents prayed for his recovery through the intercession of Fulton Sheen.

Although the baby showed no pulse for an hour after his birth, his heart started beating again and he escaped serious medical problems.


Prime suspect arrested in murder of Philippines priest

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 1:28 PM

Manila, Philippines, Jun 15, 2018 / 11:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The primary suspect in the killing of Filipino priest Father Richmond Villaflor Nilo was found and taken into custody Thursday night.

According to media reports, the suspect, Adell Roll Milan, was identified by an altar boy who had been preparing to help Fr. Nilo celebrate Mass on June 10, when two unidentified gunmen shot Nilo four times through a window of Nuestra Senora de la Nieve Chapel in Zaragoza.

Nilo, 43, was the third priest of the Nueva Ecija province to be killed in the past six months. A parish priest in the northern Philippine Diocese of Cabanatuan, he was active in an apostolate for the deaf and mute. He also served as the financial administrator for the diocese.

Police said possible motives for the killing include a land dispute and the priest’s advocacy for rape victims.

Authorities announced the arrest the same day as Nilo’s funeral.


Pope Francis says exploiting women is a 'sin against God'

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 9:09 AM

Vatican City, Jun 15, 2018 / 07:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his daily homily Friday, Pope Francis issued a scathing critique of the ways in which women are often exploited and mistreated - whether it be through a revealing television ad, or when getting a job is contingent on sexual favors.

He said there is a tendency in many environments to view women as “second class” or as an object of “waste,” and called the ways in which women are at times abused and enslaved “sins against God.”

The pope offered his June 15 daily Mass at the Vatican's Santa Marta residence as a prayer “for the women who are discarded, for the women who are used, for the girls who have to sell their own dignity to have a job.”

He took his cue from the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, in which Jesus said: “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” and “whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery.”

Women, he said, are “what is missing in every man in order to be the image and likeness of God.”

The “doctrine on women” introduced by Jesus in the Gospel, he said, “changed history,” because up to that moment, the woman was “second class...she couldn't even enjoy full freedom.”

“The woman before Jesus is one thing, the woman after Jesus is another. Jesus dignified woman and put her on the same level as man,” Francis said, stressing that “both are 'the image and likeness of God,' both; not men first and then women a bit lower, no, both.”

“And man without woman beside him – as a mother, sister, wife, colleague, friend – that man is not the image of God.”

In the Gospel a certain “desire” for women was alluded to, the pope said, explaining that this desire is not a bygone sentiment, but is something seen in everywhere in daily activities.

“In television programs, in magazines, in newspapers, they show the woman as an object of desire, of use,” he said, comparing the publications to a “supermarket.” In order to sell a certain type of tomato, he said, using food as an example, women become an object, and are “humiliated, without clothes.”

And the problem is not distant, but it happens “where we live.” It's enough to go to an office or a business and one will see that a woman is “the object of that disposable philosophy,” as if she were “waste material” and not a real person.

“This is a sin against God the creator,” the pope said, because “without her we men cannot be the image and likeness of God.”

Francis said there is currently “a fury against women, a terrible fury, even without saying it.”

“How many girls, in order to have a job, have to sell themselves as a disposable object? How many?” he asked, noting that this is not just a problem in faraway countries, but it happens “here in Rome.”

If one were to do a “night walk” in certain areas of Rome, he said, they would see that “many women, many migrants, and many non-migrants” are exploited as if they were in a marketplace. Men approach these women, he said, “not to say 'good evening,' but 'how much do you cost?'”

Pope Francis said it would do everyone good to look at these women and think about the fact that they are “slaves of this mindset of waste.”

“Everything happens here, in Rome, it happens in every city; anonymous women, women, we can say, without an expression because the shame covers her gaze, women who do not know how to laugh” and who often do not know the joy of being mothers, he said.

But even without going to these areas, in normal daily situations “there is this awful mentality” of viewing women as “a second class object.”

“We have to reflect better,” Francis said, because entertaining this mindset toward women means “we despise the image of God, who made man and woman together in his image and likeness.”

The pope closed his homily voicing hope that the day's Gospel passage would help Catholics to think more about “the market of women; yes, trafficking, exploitation, which we see,” but even in “the unseen market, what is done and not seen. The woman is trampled because she is a woman.”

He reminded Mass-goers that Jesus himself had a mother, and had “many women friends who followed him to help him in his ministry.” Jesus also found many women who were “despised, marginalized and discarded,” however, he raised them up with “tenderness,” and restored their dignity.

'Much-needed' initiative aims to protect churches from zoning discrimination

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 8:31 AM

Washington D.C., Jun 15, 2018 / 06:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Protecting places of worship from zoning discrimination is the focus of a new initiative from the Department of Justice, announced earlier this week.  

The ‘Place to Worship’ initiative aims to increase awareness of religious institutions’ right to build, expand, buy or rent facilities.

These land-use provisions are already provided for in the 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which protects religious institutions from discriminatory or unduly burdensome zoning practices. However, these rights have come under threat recently in several legal cases.

In a statement announcing the initiative, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the provisions protect not only the private act of worship, but the public exercise of religion provided for in the Constitution.

"Under the laws of this country, government cannot discriminate against people based on their religion - not in law enforcement, not in grant-making, not in hiring, and not in local zoning laws,” Sessions said. “President Trump is an unwavering defender of the right of free exercise, and under his leadership, the Department of Justice is standing up for the rights of all Americans. By raising awareness about our legal rights, the Place to Worship Initiative will help us bring more civil rights cases, win more cases, and prevent discrimination from happening in the first place."

Goals of the new initiative include raising awareness of these rights through community outreach events, educating municipal officials and religious organizations about RLUIPA’s requirements, and providing additional training and resources for federal prosecutors regarding these cases.

The DOJ also launched a new website containing additional information about RLUIPA for religious institutions and lawyers, as well as a complaint portal and Q&A section.

Non-profit legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has represented several religious clients in RLUIPA lawsuits, applauded the initiative for providing a “much-needed” focus on religious freedom.

“No city should use its zoning laws to engage in religious discrimination. Unfortunately, in the 18 years since Congress passed RLUIPA, local governments have done just that, blatantly disregarding the law,” ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries, said in a statement.

“For that reason, we commend the Department of Justice and the Trump administration for placing a much-needed focus on the freedoms churches and other religious groups have under this federal law,” he added.

Alongside the DOJ’s announcement on Tuesday, the Department added that it was filing a  lawsuit against the Borough of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, for the denial of zoning approval for an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in three separate instances.

In their statement, ADF also noted three specific RLUIPA cases in which they have recently been involved, including a lawsuit they filed earlier this month against the city of Monroe, North Carolina, for a zoning code that effectively bans At the Cross Fellowship Baptist Church from holding worship services in its rented facilities.


Irish prime minister: Catholic hospitals will be required to perform abortions

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 5:26 AM

Dublin, Ireland, Jun 15, 2018 / 03:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Publicly-funded hospitals in Ireland will be required to perform abortions, even if they are Catholic and morally opposed to the procedure, the nation’s prime minister announced this week.

A survey on, an online medical directory for Irish healthcare professionals, found that nearly 70 percent of general practitioners say they are unwilling to perform abortions.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar clarified to the Dáil (Irish Parliament) on Monday that individual medical professionals will be able to opt out of performing abortions, but entire hospitals will not be able to do so, now that abortion is being legalized in the country.  

“It will not, however, be possible for publicly-funded hospitals, no matter who their patron or owner is, to opt out of providing these necessary services, which will be legal in this state once this legislation is passed by the Dáil and Seanad (senate),” said Varadkar.

He went on to say that “hospitals like for example Holles Street, which is a Catholic voluntary ethos hospital, the Mater, St Vincent's and others will be required, and will be expected to, carry out any procedure that is legal in this state and that is the model we will follow.”

A “voluntary” hospital in Ireland is one supported by charitable contributions. Healthcare in Ireland is government-funded and free for citizens. Many publicly-funded hospitals have historic ties to the Catholic Church and operate under Catholic ethics.

Ireland voted last month to repeal the country’s Eighth Amendment, which recognized the rights of both mothers and their unborn babies. As a result, the government is now drafting legislation to formally legalize abortion through the 12th week of pregnancy.

Prior to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, abortion was only available in Ireland if the mother’s health was deemed to be at risk.

The Irish bishops, who opposed the legalization of abortion, have spoken out on the importance of conscience rights. They have voiced objections to a government proposal that would require doctors to refer patients for abortions.

“For healthcare professionals, the right of conscientious objection must be respected,” said the Irish bishops in a statement.

“It would be a great injustice to require doctors and nurses to participate, even by referral, in the provision of services which would be a serious violation of their conscience. This would only be ‘a way of pretending to respect freedom of conscience while actually requiring one person to cooperate in what he or she sincerely believes is the wrong-doing of another. Such a presumption is at variance with the right to conscientious objection.’”

Since last month’s referendum, Ireland has grappled with conscience rights for doctors and other medical professionals, as only about 20 percent of general practitioners in the country said they would be willing to perform abortions. The Irish government has suggested that it is “likely” that a list of doctors who are willing to perform abortions will be released to the public.

Pro Life Campaign Spokesperson Dr. Ruth Cullen said that the results of the survey suggest that the government is out of step with health care professionals in the country.

“It’s clear the Government haven’t thought this one through,” said Cullen in a statement published on the campaign’s website.

“They spent so much time packaging their abortion proposals as ‘healthcare’ that they’ve no response to doctors who take issue with their proposals other than to coerce these same doctors into facilitating abortion,” she said.


Pope: Migrants should be protected, especially children and families

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 2:46 AM

Vatican City, Jun 15, 2018 / 12:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to a gathering of Mexican politicians and diplomats from the Holy See, Pope Francis said the fundamental rights and dignity of migrants must be protected, and “particular concern must be shown for migrant children and their families.”

In his June 14 message to the symposium, the pope said migration is not about numbers, but people, and “these persons, our brothers and sisters, need ongoing protection, independently of whatever migrant status they may have.”

He also urged greater protection for victims of human trafficking rings, and those who have been displaced due to conflicts, natural disasters and persecution.

“All of them hope that we will have the courage to tear down the wall of comfortable and silent complicity that worsens their helplessness,” he said, adding that “they are waiting for us to show them concern, compassion and devotion.”

Pope Francis' message was sent to participants in a June 14 symposium titled “II Holy See-Mexico Colloquium on international migration,” which was organized by the Vatican Secretariat of State's section for Relations with the States and the Mexican embassy to the Holy See.

The Pontifical Academy for the Sciences hosted the discussion, which was also supported by the migrants and refugees section of the Vatican dicastery for Integral Human Development.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin opened the discussion with a keynote speech in the morning. Other speakers included Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states; Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luis Videgaray Caso; former Mexican ambassador to Italy and current Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miguel Ruiz Cabañas Izquierdo; and current Mexican ambassador to the Holy See, Jaime del Arenal Fenochio.

Speakers highlighted the need to respect the right of people both to migrate and to stay in their own country, and to increase protection for immigrants at every stage of their journey. They also spoke of the need to identify and eliminate the root causes of forced migration, and urged nations to comply with the UN global compacts on migrants and refugees.

In his speech at the colloquium, Videgaray said both “dialogue and reflection” are needed in order to adequately respond to the migration issue, and he stressed the importance of keeping “the rights of migrants at the center of any political discussion.”

He noted a growth of nationalist sentiments in many countries, saying that a certain level of “anxiety and fear” is normal. However, “what is not advisable is that [there is] a new phenomenon which wants to label migrants as the origin of the problem,” he said, noting that many times there are social and cultural issues that prompt people to migrate in the first place.

“Migration is part of who we are,” Videgaray said, noting that Mexico itself receives many immigrants from Central America who either stay, or are in transit to the United States in order to avoid poverty and violence.

Videgaray urged greater protections for migrants at every stage of their journey. In this sense, Mexico's relationship with the United States “is increasingly more important,” he said, adding that Mexico is worried about increasing “anti-immigrant sentiments from Washington.”

“We are open to dialogue with North American authorities,” Videgaray said. Yet while Mexico respects the decision of each nation to determine their own policies, he said the government is concerned about the growing number of families who have been separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, with children being taken from their parents.

In May the Trump administration rolled out a new “zero tolerance” policy on immigration which, among other things, has enforced the separation of migrant children from their parents who have been detained by border officials.

With the new crackdown, the number of unaccompanied minors at the border has jumped 20 percent, with an estimated 10,000 migrant children being held in more than 100 shelters, most of which are at near full capacity, according to a McClatchyDC report. The Trump administration is reportedly considering the construction of a “tent city” in Texas to hold immigrant children.

Late last year, the Trump administration announced that the U.S. was pulling out of the UN global compact on migration.

Pope Francis in his message stressed the importance of the compacts, which he said promote the fundamental values of “justice, solidarity and compassion.”

“In order to acknowledge and respond to the current migration situation, the assistance of the entire international community is needed, since its transnational dimension exceeds the capacities and resources of many States,” he said.

However, “this demands a change in mindset: we must move from considering others as threats to our comfort to valuing them as persons whose life experience and values can contribute greatly to the enrichment of our society.”

In comments to journalists, Cardinal Parolin echoed the sentiment, saying the general mentality on migration is “pitifully not the most positive.” Because of this, he stressed the need to change “the image of migration.”

This is the ultimate goal of the UN compacts, he said, adding that Trump's decision to pull out of the migration compact is “not good, because we have constantly repeated that the whole world has to participate in this.”

“It's a global phenomenon which needs the contribution of everyone, no one can [hold] back.”

Parolin's comments come as Italy is currently under fire for refusing to allow a boat carrying more than 600 migrants to dock, drawing international outcry. The boat, called The Aquarius, had rescued migrants from the Mediterranean Sea and been on its way to Sicily when new Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini blocked the ship's arrival.

The decision prompted a standoff between Italy and Malta as to who would take the passengers, with Spain eventually stepping in and allowing the boat to dock.

In comments to journalists, Parolin noted that the issue is complicated. He voiced confidence that Italy's “humanitarian sensitivity has not decreased,” but said, “I think that it’s important that there is a common response to this problem so that Italy is not left alone to face the problem of migration.”

He added that the Church is concerned about the increasing number of children who are separated from their parents. “Everything that signifies violations of the rights of people and of families are shared concerns with the Holy See,” he said, noting that the Church’s role is to advocate through dialogue in order to find workable solutions.


Commentary: Immigration and 'canonical penalties'

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 7:02 PM

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jun 14, 2018 / 05:02 pm (CNA).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting this week in Fort Lauderdale for its annual spring session. The bishops have had serious discussion about a number of issues, among them immigration. On Wednesday, their discussion took an unexpected turn.

Speaking on the topic of the Trump Administration’s immigration and asylum policies and enforcement, Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tuscon, Ariz., suggested that the Church might consider subjecting Catholics involved in the enforcement of immigration policy to “canonical penalties.”

It was an arresting suggestion, and one which caused a bit of a stir on social media.

As the bishops discussed immigration and human dignity, Bishop Weisenburger posed the following question which, for context, deserves to be quoted at length:

“In light of the canonical penalties that are there for life issues, I’m simply asking the question if perhaps our canonical affairs committee could give recommendations, at least to those of us who are border bishops, on the possibility of canonical penalties for Catholics who are involved in this? I think the time is there for prophetic statement. I also think that even though what I am saying might be a little risky or dangerous, I think it is important to point out that canonical penalties are there in place to heal. First and foremost to heal. And therefore, for the salvation of these people’s souls, maybe it’s time for us to look at canonical penalties.”

Bishop Weisenburger holds a licentiate in canon law. As he began his remarks, he described himself self-deferentially as a “plumber canonist” focused on “keeping things moving through the pipes,” rather than an expert in legal theory. And made clear that he was posing a question for further reflection, not offering a well-developed plan of action. But his question does merit reflection.  

Although I am not a member of the USCCB’s committee on canonical affairs, I would like to offer a few thoughts, from the perspective of a canon lawyer, and one deeply concerned with the crisis of human rights at the border.

First, it is not immediately clear what the bishop meant by referring to those “involved in this.”

The bishops’ discussion covered a number of specific immigration issues; it is not clear whether Weisenberger meant that penalties might incurred through the separation of children from parents, the rejection of morally deserving asylum applications, or the general, and deplorable, tone and language used by some parts of the administration in the discussion of immigration issues - language that offends the human dignity of would-be immigrants and asylum applicants.

We also do not know if Bishop Weisenburger had in mind something as specific as punishing individual Border Patrol officers, ICE agents, or court officials enforcing the policy of separating children from parents, or whether he meant a broader sense of cooperation with federal immigration laws.

“This” is a small word for a very big and complicated issue. Before the canonical affairs committee could offer any sort of advice, the scope of the question needs to be made clearer.

But even from first glance, it can be said that, however well-intentioned the bishop is, immigration policy is not a subject that lends itself easily to canonical legislation and penalties.

For a start, canonical penalties are not easily imposed. Many Catholics, for example, are familiar with the concept of latae sententiae excommunication, by which a penalty is incurred by committing some forbidden act. But latae sententiae excommunications are not a simple concept.  

In order for a latae sententiae penalty to have canonical effects - to, for example, bar a Catholic from Holy Communion - the penalty has to be imposed or declared by a competent authority.

It seems unlikely that Bishop Weisenburger had in mind a system whereby individual bishops name individual Catholics for punishment.

Bishop Weisenburger was right to say that, in the vast majority of case, penalties are imposed medicinally by the Church, for the reform of the offender and for their own good. But for that reason, the Church requires that offenders be warned and called to reform before penalties are imposed. Exactly how Catholics “involved” in problematic immigration enforcement could be effectively warned is hard to see. Would ICE officers, for example, be placed in a position where their bishops told them to quit their jobs or be prepared to refuse to uphold the law?  

Indeed, when we try to apply the concept of canonical sanctions to those involved in immigration enforcement, matters get even more complicated.        

Assume, for example, that Bishop Weisenburger had a narrow and specific application in mind: that individual law enforcement officers physically separating families should be subject to canonical penalties.

To what act would a canonical penalty be attached? Bishop Weisenburger referenced existing canonical penalties for “life issues,” but these penalties are only incurred through very specific acts - the taking of human life through abortion or homicide.

If the act of physically removing a child from their parents on behalf of the government were to become the basis for a canonical penalty, would the penalty apply in all circumstances, or only on a case-by-case basis? If it applied to all cases, this would seem to negate the possibility that in some cases, even if rarely, the child’s welfare might clearly be otherwise at risk. If it is to be applied selectively, who would be the judge of when, and how, and what information would be used to make that judgment?

Those establishing such a norm would need to discern whether there are legitimate circumstances in which children could be separated from their parents, and carefully discern the implications of directing Catholics to disobey their legal obligations.

Bishop Weisenburger called rightfully for a “prophetic statement” against a public iniquity. The problem with his canonical suggestion is that prophetic witness of the Church does not naturally lend itself to the language of canon law, still less penal law.

Speaking just before Bishop Weisenburger, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces spoke about the need for “public visible gestures,” noting specific successes in closing abortion clinics through “constant and peaceful” means, including prayer vigils. He proposed that similar vigils outside federal courts hearing asylum and immigration cases might be suitable. Both bishops referenced Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark’s proposal that bishops visit the detention centers where children are held, to draw public attention, and hopefully censure, to them.

Those suggestions seem more constructive, plausible, and practical. They also have the benefit of targeting the policies and processes against which the bishops want to speak, rather than targeting individual Catholics. Federal policy and the administration’s efforts should be the focus of the Church’s efforts, at least for the time being.

Bishop Weisenburger referred to himself as the sort of bishop who usually shies away from using the “sledgehammer” of canonical penalties. This is a common sentiment among bishops. But in truth, penal law is not a sledgehammer, or some other instrument of blunt force. Penal law is, as the bishop later said, very strong medicine indeed. Strong medicine must be used carefully, with a clear diagnosis of the problem, its causes, and a plan for treatment. We are not yet there on the border.


In Florida, bishops' 'Faithful Citizenship' debate heats up

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 6:49 PM

Miami, Fla., Jun 14, 2018 / 04:49 pm (CNA).- What some expected would be a brisk vote turned out to be a lengthy discussion at the USCCB general assembly meeting on Thursday, covering the future of the bishops’ guide to political engagement, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

At the end of the vigorous discussion, when the bishops eventually voted on the action item June 14 in Ft. Lauderdale, 77 percent supported a measure calling for the production of a short letter to inspire prayer and action regarding public life, and a short video and other secondary resources -- to complement rather than to replace the existing Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship document, and to apply the teachings of Pope Francis to our day.

Preceding the debate was a presentation by Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who chairs the bishops’ working group on Faithful Citizenship. The working group is already looking ahead to the 2020 presidential election, and wants to produce “user-friendly” supplements to the document.

Gomez noted that Faithful Citizenship “has lasting value” but is too long, and perhaps not particularly accessible to those in the pews. While it does an excellent job of conveying information, he said the document lacks the ability to inspire voters, “so the task before us is to motivate the people to pray and to act.”

Archbishop Gomez noted three priorities for the working group: reminding Catholics that faith is prior to partisan politics- that faith “shapes Catholics first”, and they are “members of a political party second (or third or fourth)”; that Catholics are called to be faithful citizens at all times, continually; and that public discourse should be always civil.

The first bishop to respond to the Los Angeles archbishop was Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who said he planned to vote against the working group’s proposal, citing an apparent need to replace Faithful Citizenship with an entirely new document reflecting the “new body of teaching” from Pope Francis on issues including climate change, poverty, and immigration.

“The way he presents those is a body of teaching we need to integrate into what we’re talking to our people about,” the cardinal stated.

He also commended the bishops for their civility in pursuing debates, saying that “Our discussion, even argumentation over various issues we disagree about has the potential to model how public civil discourse should take place.”

Cardinal Cupich, who lost an election to chair the bishops' pro-life committee to Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas in November 2017, was giving voice to a faction of bishops who have recently called for a significant reworking of Faithful Citizenship, though new revisions were adopted by the USCCB only three years ago.

Archbishop Gomez noted that producing an entirely new document to replace Faithful Citizenship would be a lengthy process, and that “the one we have is very good, theologically.”

Bishop John Stowe, O.F.M. Conv., of Lexington, said he supports the production of supplementary materials, but wants a new document, citing Cardinal Cupich's concerns, as well as "the new context we find ourselves in after the last election": environmental policies, immigration issues, nuclear proliferation, and gun control.

Bishop Michael Warfel of Great Falls-Billings echoed concern to include the perspective of Pope Francis in the US bishops’ citizenship guide.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego charged that the current edition of Faithful Citizenship (last revised in 2015), doesn’t engage with current issues and “Catholic teaching as it is now.”

Since the 2016 election, he said, “legal and political institutions are being atrophied” and we are in “a radically different moment”, noting widespread opposition to immigration, profound racial divisions, and school shootings.

According to Bishop McElroy, Faithful Citizenship “doesn’t reflect the full-bodied teachings of Pope Francis,” mentioning in particular Gaudete et exsultate, saying that a wide variety of issues have “not a secondary, but a primary claim on conscience,” and that Faithful Citizenship “undermines that by its tendentious use of ‘intrinsic evil.’”

Bishop McElroy’s comments seemed to invoke the “consistent ethic of life,” or “seamless garment” approach of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Supporters say the “seamless garment” perspective served to raise consciousness among Catholics regarding a number of issues which threaten human dignity; while critics say that it implied moral equivalency between abortion and other issues, diminishing the significance of abortion, and suggesting that there was not room for a diversity of opinion on other economic and social issues.

This “seamless garment” approach seemed to be rebuffed by St. John Paul II, who identified abortion as a uniquely grave offense against human life, but it has been revitalized by some thinkers in recent years.

Archbishop Gomez responded to Bishop McElroy, praising Faithful Citizenship, and saying that it is already a particularly long document, and a new document addressing new concerns would be even longer.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark indicated he would vote against the proposal, echoing the need for new content in a revision or replacement of Faithful Citizenship, and expressed concern over the “chasm between faith and life,” in which faith has been privatized.

Bishop Robert Barron, an auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles and a member of the working group on Faithful Citizenship, noted that the document is long, and the group didn't want to make it longer.

"We have to retain a lot of what's in there now, and we would just be making a much longer document" if it included the "Franciscan shift." He suggested that instead of a replacement document, video might be a much more effective means for conveying new priorities.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington responded that videos have to be quite short to keep people’s attention, and that “we need to rethink” Faithful Citizenship.

Bishop Jaime Soto chimed in to mention the “new paradigm” introduced by Pope Francis, including his encyclical Laudato si’, and said the proposal of supplementary materials might not take that new paradigm into sufficient account.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore suggested that the audience for Faithful Citizenship isn’t Catholics in the pews, but pastors and state Catholic conference staff members, and that the working group’s proposal to develop shorter, more consumer-friendly resources “would accomplish the goals I think we had set out for ourselves.”

Bishop George Thomas of Las Vegas called Faithful Citizenship lengthy and cumbersome, and said that it reaches state Catholic conferences and clergy but misses the mark in reaching the hearts of “ordinary people.”

He charged that the document has “serious lacunae,” and that there should be created a shorter, more user-friendly document which follows the model of Pope Francis.

In a carefully-composed piece of rhetoric, Bishop Thomas said the present pope has both substance (he “connects worship and compassion, liturgy and justice”), with an eye on the preferential option for the poor, and style (“he prefers dialogue over diatribe, persuasion over polemics, accompaniment over alienation”), and that the US bishops should take his example and “the content of his teaching” to revise or replace Faithful Citizenship.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois voiced his support for the working group’s proposal, noting the importance particularly of video for reaching people today -- on his flight to the meeting, he said, no-one was reading, they were all watching screens.

He urged that another lengthy document not be issued, and suggested a series of videos rather than a single one be produced, which suggestion was agreed upon by Archbishop Gomez.

Another Los Angeles auxiliary, Bishop David O’Connell, agreed with the proposal and suggested, “we need to take time to think about how Pope Francis’ teachings inform our pastoral practice.”

Bishop John Botean of the Romanian Eparchy of Saint George’s in Canton, was highly favorable to the use of video, but emphasized that “we need to know what will be said.”

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio suggested that the document underlying whatever content is put out is not the question, because “there was consensus” to get Faithful Citizenship adopted, and that the greater question is how to disseminate its message.

Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond indicated his support for the proposal, and added that individual bishops are able to issue pastoral letters themselves.

Intervening again, Bishop Botean suggested that the working group on Faithful Citizenship produce a third item: a new document that expresses current concerns, anxieties of our day, without revising or replacing Faithful Citizenship.

Then Bishop Coyne suggested the conference was not ready to vote: “we’re so divided right now, we’re unclear where we want to go.” He suggested tabling the action item, noting that some, himself included, want an entirely new document on citizenship.

He was supported in that move by Bishop Soto, who said the discussion had given the working group a lot to consider, so that they could return with a “more robust proposal” for the November meeting of the conference.

At this point, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco rose to note the dizzying number of alternative proposals, none of which had been clearly formulated.

A vote on Bishop Coyne’s proposal to table the discussion was held, with two-thirds rejecting his proposal. The discussion continued, focused on developing amendments to the original proposal which might satisfy those bishops with objections.

Cardinal Tobin emphasized that “a number of us are calling for a different source document" to replace Faithful Citizenship, which would inform the content of videos and other new media which the working group would produce.

Bishop Mark O’Connell, a Boston auxiliary, suggested that Faithful Citizenship could be revised, but not replaced, and that the wording of the action item be changed to reflect that.

Bishop McElroy suggested that all reference to Faithful Citizenship be removed from the wording of the proposal.

Bishop McElroy’s suggestion was rejected by the working group.

The working group did, however, concede to changing the language for the pending action item, which was amended to say that the short video and other secondary resources should “complement, rather than replace” Faithful Citizenship (the original had read “complement, rather than revise or replace”). The working group also added a clause saying that newly developed resources should also “apply the teachings of Pope Francis to our day.”

With the revised wording, the proposal came to a vote. The measure passed with well more than a two-thirds majority, though it required only a simple majority. 144 bishops voted in support of the action item, with 41 (just under 22 percent) opposing it.

The discussion was pointed, and took a great deal more time than was anticipated, pushing the public session of the meeting into the afternoon rather than ending before lunch. Faithful Citizenship continues to be the guiding document for civic engagement by Catholics in the US.

Amid repeated reference to “new teachings” of Pope Francis, the unexpected argument demonstrated a deep division among the US bishops.

Abortion bill passes in Argentina's House of Representatives

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 5:26 PM

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 14, 2018 / 03:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- By a vote of 129 to 125 with one abstention, Argentina's House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would legalize abortion in the first trimester.  

The Argentine Bishops' Conference voiced sorrow over the passage of the bill.

“As Argentinians, this decision pains us,” said a statement from the Executive Committee and the Committee for the Laity and the Family.

However, they added, “the sorrow over forgetting and excluding the innocents must be transformed into strength and hope to continue fighting for the dignity of every human life.”

The bill passed the House of Representatives in a session lasting more than 20 hours.

It will now be sent to the Senate, and then to President Mauricio Macri, who has encouraged “responsible” debate over the topic and said that he personally opposes the legislation but will not veto it if Congress approves it.

The current law in Argentina prohibits abortion, except when the mother’s life or health is determined to be in danger, or in cases of rape.

The bill passed Thursday, however, would allow abortion on demand up to the 14th week of gestation. Minors under 16 could get an abortion without having to inform their parents.

Health care workers under the bill could be eligible for conscience-based objections to participating in an abortion if they make such a request in advance “individually and in writing” to the director of their medical center. Institutions and health care facilities as a whole would not be allowed to conscientiously object to abortion.

Unidad Provida, (Pro-Life Unity), an Argentine NGO that serves as an umbrella group for some 100 pro-life organizations, called the House passage of the bill “lamentable,” but assured that this outcome “does not intimidate us. It strengthens [our resolve].”

Pro-Life Unity praised “the courage of the representatives who rose up in defense of women and unborn children, raising their voices for those whom others want to silence with their systematic elimination.”

Now, the group said, “the Argentine Senate will have the opportunity to correct this dangerous threat to human rights and to honor the will of the nation's people.”

“We will only be able to build a more just Argentina by basing ourselves on unwavering respect for everyone's right to life, especially protecting the most vulnerable,” the pro-life network said.


Police in Chile raid church offices during sex abuse investigation

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 4:53 PM

Rancagua, Chile, Jun 14, 2018 / 02:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Authorities raided Catholic church offices in Chile on Wednesday in an effort to obtain documents relating to the recent sex abuse scandal which has sparked the resignation of more than 30 bishops in the country.

During the surprise raid, police seized documents and files relating to the ongoing clergy abuse investigation from the Santiago Ecclesiastical Court and the bishop’s office in Rancagua in central Chile on June 13. According to the Associated Press, there are 14 priests in the area who have been accused of child sexual abuse.

Jorge Abbott, the attorney general, said the goal of the raid was to seek “cooperation in the investigations we are carrying out with respect to abuses suffered by minors,” and noted he was satisfied with the information they gathered from the search, according to AP.

The archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, said church officials “gave the prosecutor all the requested documentation,” saying the church is “available to cooperate with the civilian justice system in all that is required.”

The raid comes just days after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Juan Barros from his post in the Chilean diocese of Osorno, after he was accused of covering up the crimes of notorious abuser Fr. Fernando Karadima.

The Holy Father also accepted the resignation of Archbishop Christian Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt and Bishop Gonzalo Duarte Garcia de Cortazar of Valparaiso, who had reached the normal retirement age for bishops. So far, the pope has officially accepted three resignations, although more could follow. All of the country’s active bishops submitted their resignations at the close of a May 15-17 meeting between the pontiff and the country's bishops, during which Francis chastised them for systematic cover-up.

In January, the Vatican began to investigate the claims of alleged child sexual abuse in Chile, which found that for years, many Chilean bishops had not reported claims of sexual abuse. Before the 2,300-page report on the scandal was published, Pope Francis had originally defended Barros, saying the accusations brought against him were untrue.

Since the investigation, which was headed by Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu, Pope Francis has offered his apologies, noting he made “serious mistakes” throughout the investigation due to faulty information. He has met with two rounds of abuse victims to ask for forgiveness.

Archbishop Scicluna and Msgr. Bertomeu, who have been tasked with advancing “the process of healing and reparation for abuse victims,” are visiting Osorno, Chile this week in an effort to express Pope Francis’ solidarity with the local Church and help provide legal assistance to the diocesan curias in handling abuse allegations.


Archbishop Gomez 'deeply disappointed' that USA Act will not be debated

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 4:00 PM

Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 14, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles decried the decision by House leaders to not allow debate on a bipartisan bill that would have opened a legal pathway to permanent residency for “Dreamers.”

“I am deeply disappointed that House leaders have decided not to permit debate on this bill, which represented a common sense, compassionate and bipartisan compromise,” said Archbishop Gomez in a June 13 statement.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an Obama-era policy that protects undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States as children. The program prevents DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” from being deported. It also provides work permits.

President Donald Trump has sought to end DACA, saying that the initial program was only an executive order that went beyond the scope of presidential powers.

Legislative efforts to include elements of DACA in an immigration law have been unsuccessful. One proposed bill, the “Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act of 2018,” had gained the endorsement of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration Committee.

The bipartisan bill would shield “Dreamers” from deportation and would provide for a path to citizenship for certain qualified persons. Additionally, the USA Act of 2018 would increase border security and would seek to address corruption in Central America – a major cause of “irregular migration.”

Even though the bill will not be debated, the archbishop noted that the vote was very close and expressed hope that legislation will be crafted this year. The immigration debate is a major concern in the U.S., he said, challenging lawmakers to find a solution.

A majority of Americans want “to provide the Dreamers with a path to become citizens in our country, while at the same time strengthening the security of our national borders,” Archbishop Gomez said.

“It would be unconscionable to allow another year to pass without finding a compassionate solution for these young people who did nothing wrong and want only to make their own contribution to the American dream.”

The archdiocese has called for a novena beginning June 15 to pray for immigrants, refugees and trafficking victims. Concluding the novena, a Mass in Recognition of All Immigrants will be held June 24 at 3:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, in conjunction with the Dioceses of San Bernardino and Orange.


Lourdes shrine evacuated due to flash flooding

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 2:24 PM

Lourdes, France, Jun 14, 2018 / 12:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As heavy rains cause flash flooding across parts of France, the Marian shrine at Lourdes has been evacuated until further notice.

“The Grotto is flooded and the International Mass in the underground basilica is canceled. Flooded everywhere,” said Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, UK on June 13 in a Tweet.

“May God protect everyone,” he continued.

Flooding has been taking place across the country over the past two weeks. Four deaths have been reported in connection with the heavy rains. A landslide near Paris derailed a train and damaged various roads. Some reports have also speculated the upcoming Tour de France may be re-routed due to the weather.

The torrential rains caused the River Gave to overflow near the Lourdes shrine, similar to the flooding which occurred five years ago when Lourdes was last evacuated.

The Lourdes chaplains said on Twitter June 14 that the grotto will be reopened at Lourdes this evening for a procession. 


Flooded area near the Sanctuary of Notre Dame de Lourdes after heavy rainfalls in Lourdes, June 13, 2018. Credit: LAURENT DARD/AFP/Getty Images.

Stolen copy of 1493 Columbus letter returns to the Vatican

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 12:27 PM

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2018 / 10:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After spending more than a decade in a private collection in Atlanta, a copy of a 1493 letter written by Christopher Columbus about his experience in America has been returned to its rightful place in the Vatican library.

Columbus penned the letter to Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1493 after returning from his voyage to America, describing what he saw during his travels.

The “Columbus Letter,” unofficially titled “Letter about the Recently Discovered Islands,” was then translated and manually printed into Latin, and several copies were distributed throughout Europe. Around 80 authentic copies still exist today.

U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, @CallyGingrich, returned this morning a recovered copy of a letter written by Christopher Columbus to its rightful home at the Vatican Library. @USinHolySee #ColumbusLetter

— Vatican Library (@vaticanlibrary) June 14, 2018 One of the oldest copies of the 8-page letter, written in small, fine print, was given to the Vatican in 1921 as part of the “De Rossi Collection,” which consisted of rare books and manuscripts given to the Vatican at the request of bibliophile Giovanni Francesco Rossi upon his death in 1854.

At some point, though it is not known exactly when, the letter was stolen. It was not until 2011 that a rare book and manuscript expert became aware that the copy in the Vatican Library collection was a forgery after closely examining details in the stitching, chain lines and page size.

The expert then contacted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Homeland Security Investigations about the possible theft.

Vatican officials were informed, and the forged letter was examined by more experts, including specialists from Princeton University, who confirmed that the letter was a fake.

The original copy of the Vatican's letter was eventually traced back to David Parsons, an actuary from Atlanta, who had purchased it for $875,000 from a rare book dealer in New York City in 2004, unaware that it had been stolen from the Vatican.

In 2013 Parsons sent his letter to the expert who originally caught the forgery, and after closely examining it, the expert found it to be authentic.

It was confirmed in 2016 that the “Columbus Letter” Parsons owned had been sold to the New York book dealer he bought it from by notorious Italian book thief, Marino Massimo De Caro, who is currently serving a 7-year sentence in Italy for the theft of roughly 4,000 ancient books and manuscripts throughout Italy.

After further comparative analysis was done on both the original letter and the forgery, it was confirmed in April 2017 that Parsons' letter had in fact been stolen from the Vatican Library, and that the theft had to have taken place sometime before 2004.

In August of that year, investigators contacted David Parsons' widow, Mary Parsons, and presented her with evidence of the theft and forgery. She agreed to part with the letter, renouncing all rights, title and interest, so that it could be returned to its original home in the Vatican Library.

The letter formally exchanged hands June 14, when U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich presented it to Vatican Archivist and Librarian, Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès, O.P. and the Library’s Prefect, Bishop Cesare Pasini, inside the Vatican Library.

During the hand-off, Gingrich called the letter “a priceless piece of cultural history,” and said she was honored to return the letter to “its rightful owner.”

She noted that U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents since 2007 have returned more than 11,000 artifacts and pieces of art from over 30 countries as part of an ongoing investigation into the illegal sale of stolen books and manuscripts.

To date, Gingrich said, HSI has repatriated both paintings and manuscripts to Austria, Italy, France, Germany and Poland, among others, and have recovered ancient artifacts from different regions, including Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East.

In addition to the letter recovered from Parsons, HSI has recovered and returned two other Columbus Letters as part of their ongoing investigation into the sale of stolen books and manuscripts. The two additional Columbus Letters that were confiscated have been returned to the Riccardiana Library in Florence, and the Library of Catalonia in Barcelona.

As a gesture of gratitude to Mrs. Parsons for agreeing to part with her late husband's treasured “Columbus Letter,” the U.S. Embassy earlier this week hand-delivered a personal note from Mrs. Parsons to the pope.

In remarks during the repatriation ceremony, Archbishop Bruguès voiced gratitude to all involved in recovering the letter, which he said is “a priceless artifact of cultural history which today has found its way back to its home.”

He said the library was “surprised” to find out their copy was a fake, and noted that while it is still unknown when the original letter was taken, the technique used in the forgery, called “stereotyping,” was a common during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and reproduces not only the visual characteristics of the original, but also the tactile characteristics.

“We are extremely grateful to be able to reinsert this volume in its rightful place in De Rossi's collection,” he said, adding that the letter “will remain at the disposal of researchers who come from around the world to study the collections of the Vatican Library.”

Ambassador @CallyGingrich was truly honored to repatriate the #ColumbusLetter to the @vaticanlibrary, a priceless piece of cultural history.

Read more about the Columbus Letter in Ambassador Gingrich's remarks here:

— U.S. in Holy See (@USinHolySee) June 14, 2018

Pope urges 'examination of conscience' on treatment of the poor

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 7:52 AM

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2018 / 05:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his message for this year's World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis challenged Catholics on their attitude toward the impoverished, asking whether they really listen to and love the needy, or engage in charity only to please themselves.  

“The condition of poverty cannot be expressed in a word, but becomes a cry which crosses the heavens and reaches God. What does the cry of the poor express if not their suffering and solitude, their delusion and hope?” the pope said in his message.

“How it is that this cry, which rises to the presence of God, is unable to penetrate our ears and leaves us indifferent and impassive?” he asked, saying the World Day of the Poor is a call “to make a serious examination of conscience in order to understand if we are really capable of hearing them.”

Francis stressed the importance of being silent in order to really listen to those in need, saying that speaking too much of oneself will make a person deaf to the voice and the cry of the poor.

The pope expressed concern that at times initiatives aimed at helping the poor, which in themselves are “meritorious and necessary,” are carried out with an intention “more to please those who undertake them than to really acknowledge the cry of the poor.”

“If this is the case, when the cry of the poor rings out our reaction is incoherent and we are unable to empathize with their condition. We are so entrapped in a culture which obliges us to look in the mirror and to pamper ourselves that we believe that a gesture of altruism is sufficient without compromising ourselves directly.”

Pope Francis' message, titled “This poor man cried and the Lord heard him,” is based on Psalm 34 and was published June 14 in anticipation of the second World Day of the Poor, which he instituted at the close of the Jubilee of Mercy.

The event now takes place throughout the world on the 34th Sunday of ordinary time, which this year falls on Nov. 18.

In his message, Pope Francis said that when it comes to serving the poor, “the last thing we need is a battle for first place.”

Rather, one must humbly recognize that it is the Holy Spirit who inspires people to be a concrete sign of God's closeness, since he is the one who opens eyes and hearts to conversion.

The poor, he said, “have no need of protagonists, but of a love which knows how to hide and forget the good which it has done.” The true protagonists, he said, “are the Lord and the poor. He who desires to serve is an instrument in God’s hands in order to make manifest His presence and salvation.”

Pointing to St. Paul's affirmation in the First Letter to the Corinthians that “the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you,'” Francis said this phrase goes not only for the different charisms of the Church, but it also goes for the poor and vulnerable in society.

True disciples of Christ, then, must not harbor “sentiments of contempt or pietism towards the poor,” but instead are called “to honor them, giving them precedence, out of the conviction that they are a real presence of Jesus in our midst.”

Francis also highlighted three verbs used by King David, the author of psalm 34, which are “to cry,” “to answer” and “to free.”

Not only are Christians called to hear the cry of the poor, but they must also answer, he said, noting that God's answer to the poor is highlighted throughout salvation history.

“God’s answer to the poor is always an intervention of salvation in order to heal the wounds of body and soul, restore justice and assist in beginning anew to live life with dignity,” he said, adding that this response is also an appeal for believers to do the same.

The World Day of the Poor is “a small answer” which the entire Church gives to poor people throughout the world as a sign of solidarity and shared concern, he said, and stressed the importance of having a personal encounter with those in need.

“It is not delegated power of which the poor have need, but the personal involvement of as many hear their cry,” he said, adding that “the concern of believers in their regards cannot be limited to a kind of assistance – as useful and as providential as this may be in the beginning – but requires a loving attentiveness which honours the person as such and seeks out his best interests.”

Pope Francis also spoke of the need to free the poor from the causes of poverty, which are frequently rooted in “selfishness, pride, greed and injustice.”

“These are evils as old as man himself, but also sins in which the innocents are caught up, leading to consequences on the social level which are dramatic,” he said.

To help migrants escape pride and injustice, then, means to free them from “the snare of the fowler” and to “subtract them from the trap hidden on their path, in order that they might proceed expeditiously and look serenely upon life.”

Like the poor blind man Bartimaeus from Mark's Gospel who was sitting on the side of the road begging when Jesus passed by, many poor people today are also sitting by the road waiting for someone to come and listen to their needs,  Francis said.

“Unfortunately, often the opposite happens and the poor are reached by voices rebuking them and telling them to shut up and to put up.”

These voices, the pope said, are “out of tune” and are guided by “a phobia of the poor, considered not only as destitute, but also as bearers of insecurity and instability, detached from the habits of daily life and, consequently, to be rejected and kept afar.”

By distancing oneself from the poor, one also distances oneself from God, he said, and urged greater solidarity on the part of Catholics through initiatives such as sharing a meal with the poor and needy.

Pope Francis closed his message saying it is often the poor who “undermine our indifference, which is the daughter of a vision of life which is too imminent and bound up with the present.”

Only by becoming rich before God, putting material wealth in secondary place, can a person truly grow in humanity and become capable of sharing with others, he said, and urged both consecrated persons and laity to “make tangible the Church’s response to the cry of the poor.”

“The poor evangelize us, helping us to discover every day the beauty of the Gospel,” he said. “Let us not waste this opportunity for grace.”

Tent city for immigrant minors 'a recipe for disaster'

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 4:52 AM

Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2018 / 02:52 am (CNA).- As the Trump administration considers building a tent city for immigrant children separated from their parents, one Catholic group warned that the plan would cause additional trauma to those who are already vulnerable.

“Detaining children in any kind of setting is never a good idea for the children. It leads to all sorts of medical, emotional and developmental repercussions, even when they are detained with their parents,” said Patricia Zapor, communications director for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC).

“Detaining children away from their parents is an even worse idea, and in tents, in the harsh climate of Texas – that’s a recipe for disaster,” Zapor told CNA.

The tent city plan, reported by McClatchyDC, comes amid a recent spike in the number of unaccompanied children at the border, due to the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy which has enforced the separation of migrant children from their parents who have been detained by officials.

With the enforcement of the new policy, the number of unaccompanied minors at the border has grown by 20 percent, and it is estimated that upwards of 10,000 migrant children are currently being held in over 100 various shelters, which are at 95 percent capacity, according to a McClatchyDC report.

Zapor criticized the separation policy and tent city, saying the government would not have “thousands of children in custody for whom they must find shelter if the administration was not unnecessarily separating them from their parents.”

“Many of these families falling under this policy are seeking asylum in the United States, protection from dangers in their own countries. They should be welcomed, allowed to file their asylum claims and given a chance to normalize their lives while their cases proceed,” Zapor said.

“Separating parents from their children and keeping everyone in detention is not necessary, is harmful to both kids and adults and is not who we are as a country,” she continued.

The president of the U.S. bishops conference has also decried the separation policy, calling it “immoral” and saying that families should be allowed to stay together.

The plans for the tent city are still being fleshed out, but the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be scoping out potential properties in Texas for development over the next month.

HHS has reportedly been considering military bases for the tent city and is eyeing the Fort Bliss Army base near El Paso, Texas as one of the prospective locations. Other bases, including Dyess in Abilene, Goodfellow in San Angelo, and Little Rock in Arkansas are also reportedly in the running for the tent city development, which is expected to hold between 1,000-5,000 children.

“As Christians, we are called to care for those in need, including those who seek protection in a new land,” Zapor said.

“It is abhorrent that our government instead chooses to cause additional emotional trauma to vulnerable people.”



El Salvador bishops call for laws defending 'human right' to water

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 2:39 AM

San Salvador, El Salvador, Jun 14, 2018 / 12:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a statement issued Monday, the Catholic bishops of El Salvador urged preventative legislation against the privatization of water sources.

A “General Water Law that guarantees this fundamental human right” to water access should be pushed in the lawmaking process, the statement said. It added that leaving the allocation of water to private entities is “absolutely anti-democratic.”

El Salvador legislators have begun debate on a national water law. Some lawmakers are pushing for more private-sector involvement in managing water in the country.

Several data sources show that El Salvador lacks consistently safe water for its citizens. According to the Water and Sanitation for Health Watch (WASHwatch), Salvadorans are increasingly using water from a “limited” source - one that takes a total of over 30 minutes to collect water from.

Certain geographical areas of the country have more limited access to water than others. The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) between the World Health Organization and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund released data indicating a significant disparity in clean water availability between urban and rural areas in El Salvador.

As of 2015, 77 percent of urban areas are within “safely managed” water services, which means that water sources are “located on the premises, available when needed and free from faecal and priority chemical contamination.”

In rural areas, however, “safely managed” water services are nearly non-existent. About 83 percent of the drinking water in rural areas is considered “basic,” indicating that any of the criteria for “safely managed” water may be absent, but it does not take longer than 30 minutes to collect.

Nearly 17 percent of rural areas collect water from “limited sources,” where the collection time is greater than 30 minutes, or they gather water straight from a lake, river, canal, pond, irrigation canal, dam or stream.

“It is up to the State to be the legitimate guarantor of the right to water for all,” the El Salvador bishops said in their letter. Therefore, the committee that governs such a guarantee must have equal and strong citizen representation.

The people should also exercise their right to be heard on this topic, the bishops said, for “an unjust law that violates the rights of the people can not be admitted.”

“As pastors,” they said, “we are witnesses of the clamor of our people, who ask for clean water in all homes and who could not pay the costs if such vital liquid became a commodity that is subject to the laws of the market.”


Church in Spain prepares to welcome migrants turned away in Italy

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 6:44 PM

Valencia, Spain, Jun 13, 2018 / 04:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Valencia, Spain is preparing resources for more than 600 immigrants on board a rescue boat that was denied entry into Italy this week.

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares of Valencia said God is calling the local people to welcome the immigrants.

“We can't let these people who are suffering be stranded.”

On June 11, the government of Italy refused entrance to 629 immigrants on board the Aquarius, a humanitarian aid vessel operated by SOS Mediterranée and Doctors Without Borders, two groups that rescue immigrants on small vessels in the Mediterranean Sea.

Among the passengers are 123 children and seven pregnant women.

The government of Spain has offered to receive the immigrants – mainly sub-Saharan Africans – and is opening the port of Valencia for their arrival.

After hearing this news, Cardinal Cañizares launched a coordination office to connect the immigrants with resources from the archdiocese.

The network includes charities, parishes, and diocesan schools, as well as aid groups that are already involved in helping immigrants in the city.

In an interview with the TreceTv network, Cardinal Cañizares explained that “in cooperation with the public administration,” they have made available “buildings, homes, personnel to help with everything that may be needed.”

“We stand ready, simply, so that these poor people who have had to leave their homeland and go through so many calamities on the Mediterranean, that when they reach us they feel welcome and treated as persons, with every effort made to help them,” the cardinal said.

Besides providing for basic needs, Cardinal Cañizares said he hopes the immigrants find “great affection and love.”

According to media outlets, the immigrants will undergo a medical examination after arriving in Valencia. The authorities will then determine whether they will be classified as refugees or undocumented immigrants without proper legal status. Categorization as a refugee allows for lodging without police supervision and a small monetary allowance.

According to Cardinal Cañizares, the Red Cross will be in charge of the first phase of care, then after that the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and the diocese's Caritas and immigration services will take over.

“Starting next week, we will collaborate on the more specific aspects of receiving them, not only basic but also ongoing needs, such as education and foster care,” he said.

The local Church will also help in offering healthcare services, as many of the immigrants may be in poor health from their countries of origin or their time on the Mediterranean Sea.

“Europe is very privileged, [it] can share what it has and it can share more of what it does,” the cardinal said.

Noting the Christian roots of Europe, he stressed that “we cannot hide that, without incurring the betrayal of Europe itself.”