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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.
Updated: 1 hour 11 min ago

Pro-life leaders welcome UK decision to reject abortion clinic buffer zones

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 15:09

London, England, Sep 25, 2018 / 01:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic leaders and pro-life advocates in England and Wales are praising the government’s decision not to impose buffer zones around abortion clinics throughout the territory, allowing peaceful protests to continue.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid rejected proposals for buffer zones around abortion clinics throughout England and Wales as disproportionate in a Sept. 13 decision, after finding that most abortion protests are peaceful and passive. He added that there were “relatively few” reports of “aggressive activities”, and noted that in 2017, only 36 of the 363 hospitals and clinics in England and Wales that offer abortions have experienced pro-life demonstrations near their facilities.

Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster praised the Home Office’s “proportionate” decision in a Sept. 17 statement.

“It should not be necessary to limit the freedom of individuals or groups to express opinions except when they could cause grave harm to others or a threat to public order,” Bishop Sherrington said.

“The freedom to assemble and express concern for both the good of the mother and the unborn person is an aspect of the furthering of the common good which involves the care for the unborn, whom we believe must be protected from harm.”

Bishop Sherrington also acknowledged Javid’s point that while “peaceful, dignified” protest is to be commended and makes up the great majority of what takes place, the forceful harassment of women outside clinics must end.

“It is an unacceptable situation if any people harass or intimidate women visiting clinics, even if such situations are rare,” the bishop said. “It is clearly not the case that all action is of this nature, and the distinctions between persons and groups should be examined further.”

Dr. John Edwards of Nottingham 40 Days for Life, a pro-life group in the East Midlands, echoed Bishop Sherrington’s sentiments. Edwards was issued a court injunction by the Nottingham City Council ahead of a planned protest in March, which was subsequently thrown out by a judge.

"As Sajid Javed pointed out, the police already have powers to prevent any abusive behaviour,” Edwards told the Nottingham Post Sept. 23. “Nottingham police have consistently confirmed that our prayer vigil has always been completely peaceful and respectful.”

The decision to reject nationwide buffer zones comes after the High Court of England and Wales upheld a buffer zone imposed by Ealing Council, in west London, around a Marie Stopes abortion clinic. The zone prevents any pro-life gathering or speech, including prayer, within about 330 feet of the clinic. The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) governing the zone is temporary and must be renewed in three year’s time, with a review to be held after six months.

Two pro-life London women are working to have the decision appealed, including Alina Dulgheriu, who chose to forgo an abortion at the Ealing clinic in question after being offered pro-life support.

Chicago priest removed 'temporarily' following rainbow flag burning

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 09:15

Chicago, Ill., Sep 25, 2018 / 07:15 am (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Chicago has confirmed the temporary removal of the parish priest at the center of a controversy over the burning of a rainbow banner. According to the archdiocese, Fr. Paul Kalchik has “left willingly” from his Chicago parish “to receive pastoral care.”

In a letter released Sept. 21, Cardinal Blase Cupich told parishioners that the decision was “not taken lightly” but that he had “become increasingly concerned about a number of issues at Resurrection Parish” over a period of several weeks.

In the same letter, Cupich appointed a temporary administrator for the parish, while an archdiocesan spokesperson told CNA that Kalchik officially remains the pastor. 

Kalchik received considerable media attention following an announcement that he would publicly burn a rainbow banner belonging to the parish.

In a Sept. 2 notice in the parish newsletter, Kalchik said that he would burn the banner, which he believed to symbolize a homosexual agenda contrary to Church teaching, in front of the church building. The event was scheduled to be held Sept. 29, the Feast of the Archangels.

The banner had previously been displayed in the parish church, beginning in 1991, but had been in storage for a number of years. According to a Resurrection Parish newsletter distributed Sept. 23, it was found “just when the news of the gay predation of Cardinal McCarrick broke.”

The newsletter said that its previous display had been “sacrilegious.” 

When news of the announcement spread the following week, the archdiocese contacted Kalchik and instructed him to cancel the event.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese told CNA that the archdiocesan vicar for clergy telephoned Kalchik, instructing him not to proceed, and the two had “mutually agreed that the event would not take place.”

While Kalchik told the Chicago Sun-Times Sept. 18 that the archdiocese threatened him with “canonical penalties,” the archdiocese told CNA that there was no discussion of potential consequences for burning the flag because Kalchik voluntarily agreed to comply with the instruction.

Despite this apparent agreement, the banner was burned Sept. 14 in the fire pit ordinarily used by the parish during the Easter Vigil liturgy. While the event was reportedly attended by Kalchik and only a handful of parishioners, images of the flag burning were circulated on the internet and generated strong reactions.

Some groups labeled Kalchik as homophobic and said the burning was a deliberately provocative act. A group called the Northwest Side Coalition Against Racism and Hate organized a demonstration Sept. 19 condemning the priest’s action.

Others have treated the priest’s apparent act of defiance as a stand against what they see as pro-homosexual agenda in some parts of the Church.

Kalchik told NBC News last week that he had disposed of the banner “in a quiet way” but insisted that the banner belonged to the parish, and that the parish had the “full right to destroy it.” 

Kalchik said that it had been done “privately because the archdiocese was breathing on our back.”

Fr. Thomas Petri, OP, academic dean of the Dominican-run Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., told CNA that it is common for church decorations, vestments, and altar cloths to be burned when they became “worn, old, or simply artifacts from a bygone era in terms of style and taste,” but he stressed that they must be disposed of reverently.

“The usual method is to burn these items, or to bury them in a place where they will not be disturbed,” Petri said. 

“Items dedicated for the worship of God cannot be used for any other use. This is why they are burned or buried; they are given to God completely and so rendered unusable to us. I presume the same is true for banners and hangings used in the sanctuary of a Church but I don’t know that this has ever been stated.”

In this case, it is not clear if the Archdiocese of Chicago objected to the burning itself, or to the public nature of the action and the apparent symbolism it was intended to convey.

In an interview after the flag was burned, Fr. Kalchik appeared to criticize openly his archbishop, Cardinal Cupich, whom he accused of downplaying the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and of rejecting a link between homosexuality and sexual abuse by clergy.

“I can’t sit well with people like Cardinal Cupich, who minimizes all of this,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Excuse me, but almost all of the [abuse] cases are, with respect to priests, bishops and whatnot, taking and using other young men sexually. It’s definitely a gay thing.”

Some Church commentators have suggested that Kalchik was right to go against Cupich’s instruction. But Petri said priestly obedience to his bishop is not a light matter. 

“We priests promise obedience to the bishop when we are ordained,” he said.

“Clearly, no bishop could command a priest to do something against the divine law, but, short of that, every priest, in my view, needs to give his bishop the benefit of the doubt and be obedient upon first request.”

Petri also pointed out that in serious cases, if the matter in grave and the priest disagrees, he should reason with his bishop about the request and, if necessary, appeal to the Holy See.

He told CNA that while the banner itself may have symbolized a wider agenda to some, it was important to consider both the potential effects of making the burning a public event, and the discernment of the bishop - in this case Cardinal Cupich.

“I think it’s sad that the rainbow has become the symbol of a movement and a lifestyle that very much flaunts a disordered sexuality and is opposed to the virtue of chastity,” Petri said.

“Yet, I know there are many homosexual men and women living a secular gay lifestyle, who wave the rainbow flag and identify with it, but who are, at the same time, already questioning the so-called gay scene, the pitfalls of the gay culture, and who are open, by the grace of God, to the healing and virtue that the Church can offer them.”

“I do not see how a priest who openly burns the symbol of a secular gay culture can hope to minister to or reach out to those men and women,” Petri told CNA. Instead, he said, the emphasis should remain on pastoral concern, not alienation. 

“Regardless of intent, when publicly announced it cannot but be viewed as a provocative and acrimonious gesture.”

“I suspect this is why the Archbishop of Chicago requested Fr. Kalchik not burn the banner publicly himself or be present when parishioners did so. It creates a spectacle that makes the priest an enemy of people he may one day need to shepherd.”

Despite the ongoing controversy, the Archdiocese of Chicago told CNA that Kalchik’s removal from the parish was not a direct consequence of his decision to go ahead with burning the banner, or his subsequent comments to the media.

Instead, the archdiocese reiterated that the cardinal had been concerned about “several issues in the parish” and that Kalchik’s break from ministry had “been in the works” prior to the emergence of the flag issue.

The archdiocese declined to comment on what issues specifically had drawn the cardinal’s attention to the parish, or what prompted him to decide that the pastor be asked to step aside.  

Fr. Kalchik has spoken publicly about his personal experience as a victim of sexual abuse, first as a child at the hands of a neighbor, and also by a priest when he was a young man and seminarian.

At least some parishioners at Resurrection suggested that his recent actions and statements should be viewed in that context, even if they did not agree with them personally. The most recent parish newsletter asked that those objecting to Kalchik’s actions  to “at least ask yourself what the banner represented to him as a victim [of sexual abuse].”

Fr. Petri added that Kalchik’s status as a victim merited concern and prayer, as does all abuse survivors.

“I understand that Fr. Kalchik was abused. I’ll pray for him as my brother priest who is also a victim. I do not stand in judgment and cannot presume to comment on his intentions or motivations.”

The circumstances of Kalchik’s absence from the parish remain unclear and have been the subject of considerable speculation, along with his current whereabouts.

Newsweek cited reports that there had been a heated exchange between Kalchik and two archdiocesan representatives, who allegedly threatened to have him sent to the St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland, a mental health care facility. 

The archdiocese declined to comment on the report that Kalchik was instructed to present himself at the St. Luke’s Institute for psychiatric evaluation.

The archdiocese also declined to comment on a Chicago Sun-Times report that Cupich has blocked a recent request from Kalchik to move to a diocese in Michigan in order to be closer to his family.

Several questions about the temporary removal of Fr. Kalchik from the parish also remain unanswered.

Despite assurances from the Archdiocese of Chicago that Kalchik’s break from ministry was by mutual agreement, accounts have surfaced that chancery representatives threatened to call the police if he refused to leave the parish. When asked about this report specifically, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese would only repeat that “Fr. Kalchik left willingly to receive pastoral support.”

Although the archdiocese  insists that it was unrelated to the controversy surrounding the banner, no indication has been given to local parishioners - many of whom say they support Kalchik - as to exactly why their pastor was removed.

An archdiocesan spokesman did tell CNA that Kalchik was now “working with the vicar for clergy to get the support he needs.”

Next step toward artificial reproduction violates human fundamentals, ethicist warns

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 05:01

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Artificial human reproduction appears to be on the horizon with Japanese scientists’ claim to have created immature human eggs from stem cells, but the technique could result in power that would cross the bounds of ethics and serve as a “profound violation” of marriage and marital love, a bioethicist has warned.

John Brehany, a Catholic bioethicist and director of institutional relations at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA that stem cell research has its positives.

“Such knowledge and power could be used for good ends, achieved with ethical means. For example, scientists could build on this sophisticated expertise in stem cell science to create human organs for transplantation or to cure major diseases or industries,” he said.

“However, given the significance of the human desire for procreation, (and) the lust for power, it appears likely that scientists will try to use this technology to engage in truly artificial human reproduction.”

The reported development is “evidence of a major advance in biotechnology prowess” and show the potential for scientists “to exert control over the most fundamental and complex building blocks of biology and life,” he said.

The team of Japanese scientists used a common method to transform adult human blood cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, which have the capacity to become other human cells, National Public Radio reports. They then placed these cells into miniature ovaries created in the lab from mouse embryonic cells. As reported in the journal Science, this triggered the human stem cells’ transformation into immature human egg cells.

The scientists said they next plan to make mature human eggs and produce human sperm using this method.

“It’s the beginning of a paradigm change,” Kyle Orwig, a professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told NPR.

Brehany thought it correct that the technique might change how humans reproduce.

“This would be a major change even if practiced only by a small group of individuals. In principle, this would be a profound violation of marriage and marital love,” he said.

The technique might be a choice for those who are infertile, NPR reported. It might allow babies to be conceived from the cells of children, grandmothers, the deceased, or cells stolen from unwitting celebrities. It could make DNA scanning of human embryos routine.

According to Brehany, it is important to note that the proposed techniques’ use for infertile couples or individuals is not a cure for infertility, just as surrogacy is not. “Rather, it would allow people to procreate through other means,” he added.

He suggested that news reports on the new development do not sufficiently acknowledge how many human embryos would be “killed by being discarded or would be subject to additional assaults on their dignity by being made the subject of lab testing.”

Dartmouth bioethicist Ronald Green told NPR there are “some very weird possibilities emerging,” such as babies conceived using cells from the blood, hair, or skin cells of children, grandmothers or the deceased. Unwitting celebrities could have their cells stolen from a used soda can or hair clippings at the salon, from which egg or sperm cells could in theory be cultivated and used to conceive babies.

“A woman might want to have George Clooney’s baby,” Green said. “And his hairdresser could start selling his hair follicles online. So we suddenly could see many, many progeny of George Clooney without his consent.”

Hank Greeley, a Stanford bioethicist, said that making human eggs and sperm from stem cells “opens up an enormous number of possibilities for changing how humans reproduce.”

Brehany said Catholic teaching holds that the “greatest goods” of human persons, like marriage, marital love, and procreation, must be “treated with the greatest respect.”

“How we respect such goods is a matter of significant principle,” he said. “Once we violate or misuse them, then it is harder to treat them as they deserve, and the negative impacts on the innocent human beings are immense.”

Brehany cited the 1987 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document Donum vitae, which criticizes the separation of the desire to procreate from the conjugal act between married spouses. He suggested that such a violation results in decreased respect for “the dignity of the human persons brought into being this way” and for their suffering “as they struggle to know their own identity and dignity.”

The 2008 CDF document Dignitas personae also addresses bioethical questions related to human life and procreation. It said: “The origin of human life has its authentic context in marriage and in the family, where it is generated through an act which expresses the reciprocal love between a man and a woman… human procreation is a personal act of a husband and wife, which is not capable of substitution.”

While recognizing the legitimacy of the desire for a child, and voicing understanding for the suffering of infertile couples, the document adds “such a desire, however, should not override the dignity of every human life to the point of absolute supremacy.”

What Catholics learned at V Encuentro, and what they hope their bishops heard

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 19:19

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 24, 2018 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- It’s a difficult time for the Catholic Church, a fact much-discussed at the National V Encuentro conference, a gathering of Hispanic and Latino Catholics from throughout the U.S. that took place Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas.

The bishops have failed their people and ask for forgiveness, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston and president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said in his address at the V Encuentro.

But even at the close of this ‘summer of scandals’, the 3,000-some Hispanic and Latino Catholics present for the gathering seemed to relish their time with and attention from the leaders of the Church.

Selfies were snapped, hugs were exchanged, and chants of “We Love You!” were signs of support and appreciation shown to the bishops present for the conference.

Ruby Fuentes, a young adult delegate from the Diocese of Brownsville “in deep south Texas, right above the Mexican border,” said she especially appreciated the bishops’ dinner and encounter night with young people, where a bishop sat at every table to listen to the needs and concerns of the young delegates.

The issues discussed varied from table to table, Fuentes said, but her particular concerns included suicide and mental health in young people, and immigration issues.

“I thought it was a really good way to be transparent within the Church and try to understand what young people are thinking about, what their concerns are,” Fuentes told CNA.

“It was really a pleasant surprise to see that bishops were the ones organizing the dinner and wanted to talk to us and see what we had to say, because oftentimes as young folks we’re cast aside, we’re not really taken seriously,” she said.

Sr. Mary Johanna of the Nashville Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia told CNA that the closeness of the bishops was the thing most-remarked on by the delegates in her group.

“It’s been great to have so many Hispanics and Anglos here together, and it’s beautiful to see so many bishops here with us and to see the attention that they’re giving, how deeply they’re listening, and just coming together as a Church,” she said.

Besides DiNardo, some of the bishops at the V Encuentro included Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, M.Sp.S. of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Archbishop José H. Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Archbishop William E. Lori of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap, of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Alfredo Portillo, a delegate from Las Vegas, told CNA that the Encuentro was a “heartwarming” experience and “for the bishops to reunite us, to bring us together, to celebrate our Hispanic inheritances, I think it’s really great, I’m really proud to be here.”

Guadalupe Alba, a delegate from St. Martha’s Catholic Church in Huntington Park, California, told CNA that it was encouraging for him to see Catholic leaders, including bishops and non-Hispanic Catholics, attending the conference and listening to what the delegates had to say.

“Even though there’s a lot of Hispanics in the United States, we’re still a minority, you know?” he told CNA.

What the bishops are communicating to Hispanic and Latino Catholics through the Encuentro is that “we know that you’re here, we accept you, and we’re on the same team. Everything in the faith,” Alba said.

Juan Carlos Reyes, a delegate from the Archdiocese of Denver, told CNA that hoped that the bishops have a renewal of a pastoral rather than a political spirit following the Encuentro.

“I feel like many times our Church, the conversation gets framed by the political aspects in the nation, and I think many of our bishops are worried about saying the right thing, being on the right side of things, they’re worried about the politics and they are detached from the people,” he said.

“And they are not congressmen, they’re pastors, so if they could take from this a renewal of a pastoral approach that would be wonderful,” he said. Another concern of Reyes was that there be a more holistic approach within the pro-life movement to the issue of immigration.

“The pro-life movement is all about the abortion issue, and that is urgent and continues to be needed,” he said. “But we march and we pray outside of abortion clinics, but we don’t march and we don’t pray outside of detention centers.”

Evangelization and bridging the cultural divide that exists in some parishes between Hispanic and Anglo Catholics were other frequently-discussed topics of conversation at the V Encuentro.

“We are failing our Church ourselves because we are not bringing people in,” Carlos Mendez from Huntington Park, California told CNA. “But first we have to go and be taught by others how to do it, we have to find the love within us and go with the Holy Spirit and take charge and be there for the ones who feel marginalized.”

Joanne Reinhardt, a delegate from Toledo Ohio, said she was leaving Encuentro with a renewed desire to “build bridges” between Hispanic and Anglo Catholics.

She said some things that her parish has done to help bridge the cultural divide is to host bilingual Masses, celebrations for Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day, and food and diaper drives for immigrants in the parish.

“Sometimes we want to separate ourselves,” she said. “But we’re one people and when we come together, things will happen.”

Former priest pleads not guilty to abuse charges in NM after extradition

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 19:01

Santa Fe, N.M., Sep 24, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A former priest is back in the United States after he fled to Morocco in 1992 to escape accusations of sexual abuse.

Arthur Perrault, 80, is accused of sexually abusing a child in the early 1990s and was extradited to New Mexico to face charges Sept. 21.

Perrault served in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe from 1973 to 1992, and the alleged abuse occurred while Perrault was serving as a military chaplain in Albuquerque. He is charged with seven counts of aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact with a minor under the age of 12.

The former priest has pled not guilty to all seven counts against him.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe stated that “over the past year” it has “fully cooperated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI during the federal grand jury investigation which ultimately led to these criminal indictments against Perrault.”

“The archdiocese has cooperated fully with all law enforcement agencies investigating the allegations and will continue to support the judicial process as it runs its course. We ask all to cooperate and respect the legal proceedings and for prayers for all victims and those affected by these very serious charges.”

Perrault had been in the custody of Moroccan authorities since October of last year, after the Department of Justice filed an indictment against him Sept. 21, 2017. U.S. Attorney John Anderson for the District of New Mexico stated that Perrault could face a maximum sentence of life in prison for the aggravated sexual abuse charge and a maximum of 10 years for the abusive sexual contact charge.

Only one alleged victim is mentioned in the indictment, but a motion filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico alleges that Perrault is a “serial child molester who abused numerous victims” during his priesthood. The Albuquerque Journal reports that nearly 40 of Perrault’s alleged victims in New Mexico have come forward, as well as the mother of one young man who claims her son committed suicide following abuse.

Perrault had been sent to a treatment center for sexually abusive priests in 1965 after being accused of molesting young men in Connecticut. The center, located in Jemez Springs, N.M., was run by the Servants of the Paraclete. In 1966, a psychologist contracting with the order recommended him for a teaching position at St. Pius X High School.

The Journal also reports that court records suggest that several priests and diocesan leaders were alerted to Perrault’s conduct during his 26 year priesthood in Albuquerque.

By 1992, after two victims reported abuse to the Albuquerque police, the then-archbishop suspended Perrault’s priestly faculties and reported the accusations to Albuquerque civil authorities. The accused priest disappeared from his Albuquerque parish in 1992, just days before an attorney filed two lawsuits against the archdiocese.

CRS sells fair trade coffee, supporting Mexican farmers and land

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 18:07

Baltimore, Md., Sep 24, 2018 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic Relief Services is now offering fair trade coffee beans that will benefit local farming communities in Mexico and foster better agricultural practices.

“So many of us love coffee, and this is just a really easy way to live out your faith and support the people who work really hard to create the products that we love,” said Meghan Gilbert, communications officer for CRS.

“As Catholics, we have to uphold the dignity of everyone and one really great way to do that is to make sure workers are treated fairly and that they are paid a fair price for what they produce,” she told CNA.

The project is called Mama Tierra, or Mother Earth, and is a joint effort of CRS and Equal Exchange, a fair trade company that looks to provide a just relationship between consumers and producers.

For every bag of coffee sold at retail price, $2 will be given to CRS. If a unit of five bags are sold at wholesale price, then $5 will be donated. CRS will use the money to help educate farmers on practices to improve quantity and reduce waste.  

The coffee sales also support members of a democratically-run cooperative of farmers in Oaxaca. The cooperative is called CEPCO and involves 4,300 farmers. The group provides a fair price for the product and educates farmers to improve cultivation.

Because coffee produces a lot of waste, a major focus of the project is to instruct farmers in environmentally-friendly agriculture, with measures such as reducing water contamination and improving soil quality, said Gilbert.

“We also work with them on how to grow this coffee so it actually puts more nutrients into the soil so it reduces the harm to the land and actually increases their yield,” she said.

“It’s about not just caring for the worker, it’s caring for the environment as well. Because if we don’t care for the environment, these workers won’t be able to produce coffee or some of the other agricultural goods.”

CRS has worked with Equal Exchange for more than 10 years, and this project has been in the works for the past few years, said Gilbert. Since the product is fair trade, the workers and farmers receive a just return on their product, she said, noting this is important because many farmers are not paid justly.

“You look around the world and you hear all these stories – workers getting paid very, very little for the amount of work they do,” she said. “When you make sure that they are paid a fair wage, then workers are treated better and they are able to produce and increase their business.”

Gilbert said fair trade is also important because it cultivates a culture that appreciates the workers on the other side of the products – items which people may take advantage of without recognizing the poor treatment those workers receive.

“I think that is really what ethical trade at CRS and fair trade over all is really trying to get people to think about who is on the other end of that product and who is creating it and making sure that they are treated well, that they are paid a fair wage.”

Archbishop Chaput shares theological critique of youth synod prep document

Sun, 09/23/2018 - 17:01

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 23, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Charles Chaput offered Friday on First Things a critique by a theologian of the working document for the upcoming Synod on Youth, which highlights five principal theological difficulties in the document.

The synod will be held Oct. 3-28 at the Vatican. Archbishop Chaput is one of five representatives who were chosen by the US bishops' conference to attend the meeting.

In addition, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark; though Tobin has elected not to attend, citing pastoral obligations in his local Church amid the sexual abuse crisis.

The Archbishop of Philadelphia wrote Sept. 21 that in recent months he has “received scores of emails and letters from laypeople, clergy, theologians, and other scholars, young and old, with their thoughts regarding the October synod of bishops in Rome focused on young people.”

“Nearly all” of those “note the importance of the subject matter”, “praise the synod’s intent”, and “raise concerns of one sort or another about the synod’s timing and possible content,” he wrote.

Archbishop Chaput shared the text of a critique of the instrumentum laboris, which he received “from a respected North American theologian.”

He noted it “is one person’s analysis; others may disagree. But it is substantive enough to warrant much wider consideration and discussion as bishop-delegates prepare to engage the synod’s theme.”

The theologian identified five principal problems with the text of the instrumentum laboris for the youth synod: naturalism, an inadequate grasp of the Church's spiritual authority, a partial theological anthropology, a relativistic conception of vocation, and an impoverished understanding of Christian joy.

The author said the document “displays a pervasive focus on socio-cultural elements, to the exclusion of deeper religious and moral issues,” and expresses a desire to examine reality through the faith and experience of the Church, while “regrettably fail[ing] to do so.”

Four examples of this naturalism are given. One of them is the discussion in section 144, where “there is much discussion about what young people want; little about how these wants must be transformed by grace in a life that conforms to God’s will for their lives.”

“After pages of analysis of their material conditions, the IL offers no guidance on how these material concerns might be elevated and oriented toward their supernatural end … the majority of the document painstakingly catalogues the varied socio-economic and cultural realities of young adults while offering no meaningful reflection on spiritual, existential, or moral concerns. The reader may easily conclude that the latter are of no importance to the Church,” the theologian wrote.

The theologian next discussed the document's “inadequate grasp of the Church’s spiritual authority,” saying that “the entire document is premised on the belief that the principal role of the magisterial Church is 'listening.'”

By its emphasis on listening and dialogue, the instrumentum laboris suggests that “the Church does not possess the truth but must take its place alongside other voices,” the author wrote. “Those who have held the role of teacher and preacher in the Church must replace their authority with dialogue.”

This misunderstanding of the Church's teaching authority results in a “conflation of the baptismal and sacramental priesthood”, the theologian wrote, and it also “presents a pastoral problem”: “the Church as mother and teacher cannot through negligence or cowardice forfeit this necessary role of setting limits and directing (Cf. §178). In this regard §171, which points to the motherhood of the Church, does not go far enough. It offers only a listening and accompanying role while eliminating that of teaching.”

Third, the theologian discussed the “partial theological anthropology” of the instrumentum laboris, which they said “fails to make any mention of the will” in its discussion of the human person.

“It is the will that is fundamentally directed toward the good,” the author notes. “The theological consequence of this glaring omission is extraordinarily important, since the seat of the moral life resides in the will and not in the vicissitudes of the affect.”

Then is discussed the “relativistic conception of vocation” in the document, which gives the impression “that vocation concerns the individual’s search for private meaning and truth.”

An example of this problem is section 139, which “gives the impression that the Church cannot propose the (singular) truth to people and that they must decide for themselves. The role of the Church consists only in accompaniment. This false humility risks diminishing the legitimate contributions that the Church can and ought to make.”

The last principal difficulty of the instrumentum laboris is its impoverished understanding of Christian joy, according to the theologian.

Spirituality and the moral life “are reduced to the affective dimension, clearest in §130, evidenced by a sentimentalist conception of 'joy.'”

According to the theologian, the document presents joy as “a purely affective state, a happy emotion …  Despite its constant reference to 'joy,' nowhere does the IL describe it as the fruit of the theological virtue of charity. Nor is charity characterized as the proper ordering of love, putting God first and then ordering all other loves with reference to God.”

Consequent upon this understanding of joy is a lack of “any theology of the Cross” in the instrumentum laboris.

“Christian joy is not antithetical to suffering, which is a necessary component of a cruciform life,” the theologian writes. “The document gives the impression that the true Christian will be 'happy' at all times, in the colloquial sense. It further implies the error that the spiritual life itself will always result in felt (affective) joy.”

“The pastoral problem that results from this comes to the fore most clearly in §137: Is it the role of the Church to make youth “feel loved by him [God]” or to aid them in knowing they are loved regardless of how they might feel?”

The theologian added that there are other serious theological concerns in the document, noting, “a false understanding of the conscience and its role in the moral life; a false dichotomy proposed between truth and freedom; false equivalence between dialogue with LGBT youth and ecumenical dialogue; and an insufficient treatment of the abuse scandal.”

Two pilgrims trek 30 miles to Encuentro to raise awareness of immigration issues

Sun, 09/23/2018 - 13:28

Dallas, Texas, Sep 23, 2018 / 11:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Most of the delegates attending the National V Encuentro conference arrived by plane, or by car if they lived locally enough.

Not Antonio Mendez and José, who walked nearly 30 miles from Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral in Dallas to Grapevine, Texas, in time for the conference’s closing Mass. The two are looking to raise awareness of immigration issues.

Despite the very rainy and “not good” weather that plagued the Dallas area on Saturday, the pair were able to safely complete the walk without any major issues. They walked to the National V Encuentro, a meeting of Hispanic and Latino Catholics from throughout the United States. Mendez told CNA that he was inspired to do this walk in part by the recent controversy over family separations at the U.S. border.

"You have families struggling, (and they are) separated all over the country,” said Mendez. “Children, suffering. Who's going to take care of that?”

He felt the walk was a way of showing people that, “You have worth, you can do something, to make people (pay) attention and take care of that.”

Before the pilgrimage, the pair did not know each other. They met when Mendez asked at a Mass at the Cathedral if anyone would be able to provide him with a ride or assistance with the trek. José (who has asked that CNA not use his last name) offered his car, and then asked if he could join as well.

This pilgrimage was similar to one Mendez does each year prior to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ annual immigration Mass. That pilgrimage takes three days, and consists of Mendez walking 47 miles from his home parish in Orange County to the Cathedral in Los Angeles. He does this to honor those who were unable to safely migrate to the United States.
 
The pair met with Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles shortly after arriving at the Gaylord Texan resort, where they had a brief chat.

Afterwards, Gomez told CNA that he feels the United States needs to make concrete moves on reforming its immigration policy, and that they were a symbol of how important the immigration issue is at this time.

“Antonio and Jose, coming from Dallas to Fort Worth to be with us here at the Encuentro is a reminder to all of us of the importance of the immigration issue at this time in our country,” said Gomez.

“They are very good Catholics, and the only thing they want to do is walk, praying that our elected officials, and all people in the United States, understand the importance of the immigrants that are in our country.”

Gomez said that he is continuing to pray that Congress is able to come up with a solution for the problems related to immigration currently in the United States. This spring, Congress was unable to reach a compromise on various measures, including the DREAM Act as well as the construction of a border wall.

“We can do it,” said Gomez.

“We are always praying for that and for them to understand how important it is for so many people that already are participating for the common good of our country.”

Gomez to Encuentro: Jesus sent disciples, Guadalupe sent Juan Diego, God sends you

Sun, 09/23/2018 - 13:15

Dallas, Texas, Sep 23, 2018 / 11:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the final Mass of the National V Encuentro gathering, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles encouraged Hispanic and Latino Catholics to go out into the world and be missionary disciples for the Church, like the many holy lay people before them.

“Our reading of today's Gospel begins with these words: ‘Jesus and his disciples They left from there and started a journey,’” he said, referencing Mark 9:30-37.

“This is our story, yours and mine. This is the history of the Church. We are his disciples.”

Gomez gave the homily on the final day of the National V Encuentro, a meeting of Hispanic and Latino Catholics from throughout the United States that was the culmination of a years-long process of consultation at the parish, diocesan and regional levels.

The theme of this National Encuentro, held Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas, was “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del amor de Dios” or “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God.”

Missionaries are made because they have first encountered Jesus, who then sends them on a journey, Gomez said.

“Your journey is now joined to Jesus. Your story is now part of the story of salvation, the journey of God’s people through history,” he added, like the disciples who spread the Gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, Asia and Africa.

“The journey of the Church continued towards the American continent with the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, in 1531,” Gomez said.

“We all know that story. We learned it when we were children, and we transmitted it to our little ones. It is a beautiful narration of the tender love of God, manifested in history.”

As Jesus sent the disciples, God through the Virgin of Guadalupe entrusted a mission to San Juan Diego - to go tell the bishop to build a church.

“Think about that, my dear brothers and sisters: Jesus entrusted him with the mission of his Church in the New World to a layman,” he said. “Not to a priest or a bishop. Not a member of a religious order.”

“You are the sons and daughters of the Virgin of Guadalupe in our time; you are the spiritual heirs of Juan Diego. The mission entrusted to him is now entrusted to you.”

Just like Juan Diego, God is calling the Hispanic and Latino Catholics of the United States to be saints, missionary disciples and leaders of the Church, Gomez said.

“He is calling the lay faithful to work together with the bishops to renew and rebuild his Church. Not only in this country, but throughout the continents of the Americas,” he said.

Hispanic and Latino Catholics are being called to lead not for power or ambition, he added, but “to lead by your holiness. True unity in the Church will only come about if every one of us - clergy and laity - is striving to be holy as God is holy.”

“Let's always move forward with confidence. Let's be men and women of the encounter! What
each one of us leads many people to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ,” Gomez said.

“And may Our Lady of Guadalupe always go with us on the journey we make as disciples of Jesus. May she help us to be saints, to be heroes, instruments of unity and healing. These times demand it. And for this is what we were made for.”

 

Passing opioid bill an important first step in addressing crisis, bishop says

Sun, 09/23/2018 - 06:05

Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2018 / 04:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The head of the U.S. bishops’ human development committee applauded the U.S. Senate for passing a bill responding to the nation’s opioid crisis, and encouraged the House of Representatives to pass the legislation as well.

“The Senate passed bill is but a first step in addressing several aspects of the opioid crisis, including support for increases in research, treatment, education, and security and law enforcement,” said Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, in a Sept. 21 statement.

“As the midterm elections and the end of the year approach, it can be difficult to complete complex legislation during the remaining time. The opioid crisis, however, cannot wait until next year.”

Bishop Dewane chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for the U.S. bishops’ conference.

He applauded the Sept. 17 passage of the Opioid Crisis Response Act in the U.S. Senate. Sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the bill was approved by a vote of 99-1.

It would provide for research for new non-habit-forming painkillers, additional medication-assisted treatment and psychological services, programs to benefit babies born with opioid addiction and their mothers, and new recovery centers for opioid addiction.

Opioids, both synthetic and natural, include common prescription painkillers such as morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl, as well as illegal drugs such as heroin.

In his statement, Bishop Dewane quoted a preliminary estimate by the Centers for Disease Control which suggested that more than 72,000 people had died in 2017 as the result of a drug overdose.

“Congress is to be applauded for the bipartisan efforts that have already occurred and should swiftly work through remaining obstacles to find effective solutions that can become law,” the bishop said.

“It is encouraging that lawmakers in Congress appear to be making progress in bipartisan legislation that would address many issues related to the crisis.”

He pointed to the words of Pope Francis: “Every drug addict has a unique personal story and must be listened to, understood, loved, and, insofar as possible, healed and purified. We cannot stoop to the injustice of categorizing drug addicts as if they were mere objects or broken machines; each person must be valued and appreciated in his or her dignity in order to enable them to be healed.”

When the Church finds itself in times of trouble, imitate Mary, bishop says

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 19:34

Dallas, Texas, Sep 22, 2018 / 05:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, said that the Catholic Church is currently in a “very dark moment” in its history, and that Catholics should look to the example of Mary in reacting to the abuse crisis.

Speaking in a closed session to reporters at the National V Encuentro conference in Grapevine, Texas on September 22, Garcia-Siller was asked how lay people can work to engage fallen-away Catholics who were upset by the recent sexual misconduct scandals.

Rather than turn away from the crisis, Garcia-Siller said that “we need to face how people are dealing with it,” and not just have emotional reactions to the stories of sexual assault and harassment. Garcia-Siller acknowledged that the problem of sexual abuse has existed in the Church for a long time, “and painfully.”

Garcia-Siller suggested that people “have to evangelize” during this time, despite everything that is happening in the Church. He said he’s seen suffering in his own archdiocese, and he has worked to let the survivors of abuse know that he will be there for them. He compared the current abuse crisis to the crucifixion of the Lord.

“People are suffering for many reasons. It is the way of the cross,” he said.

“And Jesus was very bold about it. It is the way of the cross," he repeated.

The bishop shot down the idea of having to “re-evangelize” people who have fallen away from the Church during the crisis, saying that "somebody has to evangelize, (they don’t) need re-evangelization.” He said that they should work on ensuring proper formation for those who have already been exposed to the Church.

He cautioned against the mentality that people do not need to continually experience Christ. People “cannot grasp who he is and his work of love once,” and cannot be satisfied with one singular Church experience.

“We forget,” he said, “that the Holy Spirit will remind us who Jesus is and what is the work of the Kingdom.”

Garcia-Siller drew an example from Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s homily earlier that day, when the cardinal spoke of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the first “missionary disciple” of Jesus Christ, before the apostles.

In his homily, O'Malley said that Mary was courageous in her "yes" to the Lord, even when Jesus was on the cross.

"Mary was standing, a pillar of strength, courage and faith, even with her broken heart, she said 'yes Lord, your will and not mine,'" O'Malley said. 

Now, Catholics should strive to imitate Mary during “this time of pain and suffering,” including the victims of abuse, and “in mysterious ways, the perpetrators, and the bishops,” Garcia-Siller said.

“All of us, to cope with this, we'll be needed everywhere,” he noted.

“We need everyone, everyone,” he said, because the Church, as “the Body of Christ--when one hurts, everybody hurts. When one is joyful everyone should be joyful.”

“May we, by the mercy of God, carry on what He started.”

‘We’re brothers and sisters in Christ’: For Encuentro Catholics, immigration is personal

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 19:09

Dallas, Texas, Sep 22, 2018 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When Miriam Joyce of the Diocese of Raleigh talks about immigration, her face folds with concern.

Her worry is not for her own wellbeing; she is a United States citizen. But she worries for her friends - they come from El Salvador, they have children, and soon they may have to go back to a violent, unstable country.

“One of my friends has a daughter that is 19 years old, and they came here here with permission, and now with what’s going on with the President now they have to leave by January 2019, in less than four months,” Joyce told CNA.

Her friends once had Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which was granted to El Salvador in 2001, following a massive earthquake in the country. TPS is granted for countries who are experiencing an ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or “other extraordinary and temporary conditions that prevent people from safely returning home to the country.”

In January 2018, the Department of Homeland Security terminated TPS status for El Salvador, Haiti, Sudan, and Nicaragua.

“They’re always worrying that they’re going to get a knock on the door and it’s the government telling them it’s time for you to leave.”

Immigration is a tough topic no matter what the crowd. But when that crowd is the National V Encuentro, a gathering of Hispanic and Latino Catholics throughout the United States, the topic is undoubtedly emotional and incredibly personal. Many of the 3,000-some participants are immigrants. Or are related to some. Or are best friends with others.

Andrea Lerma tears up talking about her mother, who is still in Mexico. Although Lerma was born in the United States, she grew up in Mexico until she was 15 years old. She then moved to the U.S. to live with her uncles, whom she hadn’t met.

To Latino immigrants, Lerma said she would encourage them to “keep fighting for what you want, and don’t forget who you are, who your parents are, or where you come from, because that is going to help you to set up your goals,” she said. “And pray, because sometimes we forget to pray. We forget to give thanks to God for another day.”

Alejandra Brava, is a young adult immigrant from Vera Cruz, Mexico, is a DACA recipient who now lives in and works as the Hispanic youth and young adult minister for the Archdiocese of Denver.

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, 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.

Brava said she was able to get a teaching job in the United States thanks to DACA, and it has allowed her to do what she loves.  

“I am evidence that I’m not here to hurt someone,” Brava told CNA. “I’m here and I came to study and I just wanted to do something with my life, I love teaching and I love doing ministry.”

While President Donald Trump has sought to end DACA, there have been legislative efforts to maintain elements of DACA in an immigration law, and DACA recipients may still submit applications to renew their status.

Brava said she hoped other Catholics would see immigrants as their brother or sister in the faith. “We’re human beings, there’s no difference. Legal status doesn’t make a person less worthy,” she said.

Many immigrants from Central and South America who come to the United States are Catholic, and Hispanics make up more than 40 percent of Catholics within the U.S.

Because of this, immigrants often look to the Church for help once they arrive in the U.S.

Alfonso Lara is the Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado. He said that parishes need to be intentional about welcoming immigrants, “not only with coffee and donuts but also having a committee to welcome them, realizing that they’re another human being coming to your country with a different experience of life and a different experience of the Church.”

He said he would encourage church leaders not to inquire about the legal status of immigrants, but to be “humans receiving humans.”

“We’re welcoming the stranger, that’s what we do,” he said. “When another person comes to church to have an encounter with Jesus, we need to respect that.”

Patricia Zapor is the director of communications for The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), which is a network of non-profit organizations that provide immigration legal services to their clients.

Zapor told CNA that there are many practical things that parishes can do to support and welcome immigrants in their parish.

“It could be something as simple as collecting money to help people pay the fees that go along with their applications," she said. Depending on the form, that could be anywhere between hundreds or more than a thousand dollars, which doesn’t include the fingerprint and background check fees.

“They might offer (language classes), or they might host a know your rights event,” Zapor said. CLINIC has resources about the rights of immigrants available in nine languages.

Immigrants often are not sure where to get started in the application process, and there are a “fair amount” of fraudulent companies out there that try to offer immigration services to unwitting clients, so providing proper resources and information is key, Zapor noted.

If a parish really wanted to get involved, they could host a refugee family, Zapor said.

Or they could host something as simple as a rosary with immigration-themed reflections, or a Las Posadas celebration, or other simple ways “of getting a community to think about immigrants and maybe have a conversation about them without being hammered over the head with the politics,” she said.

Ultimately, Catholics should acknowledge immigrants as fellow human beings who should be treated with care and respect, Brava said.

“We need to treat each other as brothers or sisters in Christ,” she said. “We have differences in culture, in ideas, in opinions, but at the end of the day, we believe in the same God. We need to value our neighbors, our brothers and sisters regardless of their status and immigration.”

 

Court strikes down Hawaii law requiring pregnancy centers to advertise abortion

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 18:31

Honolulu, Hawaii, Sep 22, 2018 / 04:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Hawaii law requiring pro-life doctors and pregnancy centers to advertise for abortion was struck down by a federal district court Thursday.

“Hawaii’s pro-life, nonprofit pregnancy centers offer free practical resources, information, and emotional support to women—no matter what choices those women make,” said Derald Skinner, pastor of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor and president of “A Place for Women in Waipio,” one of the pregnancy centers involved in the case.

“We’re grateful that the state has backed off its unconstitutional attack on our ministry,” Skinner said in a press release. “Our doors remain open and we continue to offer love, care, and compassion for all women and their precious little babies in our community.”

The case involved a Hawaii law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to notify clients about state programs offering free or low-cost “comprehensive family planning services,” including abortion.

The law was challenged by Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor’s pregnancy center, “A Place for Women in Waipio,” as well as the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), which has five affiliated pregnancy centers in the state.

NIFLA was involved in a similar case over the summer, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in its favor in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra.

That decision, a 5-4 ruling in June, blocked a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to post information on state programs to obtain a free or low-cost abortion. The Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court to be reconsidered, saying, “We hold that petitioners are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the FACT Act violates the First Amendment.”

The Hawaii decision, Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor v. Suzuki, cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in striking down the Hawaii regulation.

NIFLA President Thomas Glessner called the ruling “a major victory for free speech and freedom of religion.”

“Hawaii’s law was particularly egregious,” he said in a statement. “Not only did it force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion, it also compelled a church to promote abortion inside its building.”

The pro-life centers were represented in the case by Alliance Defending Freedom. Kevin Theriot, senior counsel with the alliance and vice president of the Center for Life, praised the court’s ruling.

“No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates his or her beliefs, especially on deeply divisive subjects like abortion,” he said.

“In NIFLA v. Becerra, the Supreme Court affirmed that we don’t force people to say things they don’t believe. For that reason, the district court was correct to permanently halt Hawaii’s enforcement of Act 200’s compelled speech requirement.”

Bishop Cantu to Encuentro Catholics: Don't become spiritual tumbleweeds

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 13:39

Dallas, Texas, Sep 22, 2018 / 11:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Hispanic community in the United States produces many fruits, but must be careful to water the roots, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, warned the crowd at V Encuentro.

Cantú, along with Cardinal Blaise Cupich of Chicago, and three lay speakers on a panel, spent the morning praising the unique gifts of the Hispanic community in the United States, but cautioned against growing too complacent in their faith and ignoring the potential of young people.

Bishop Cantú, who is in the process of transferring to the San Jose diocese in California, related his experience living in Las Cruces with the current state of the Church in the United States and the Latino community in particular.

In Las Cruces, Cantú encountered a tumbleweed for the first time--a plant that had dried up and detached from its root system and literally tumbled away.

“I wonder sometimes, reflecting on a very changed world, a world that is changing before our very eyes--so rapidly and so drastically, said Cantú.

“I wonder and I worry, sometimes: Are we becoming spiritual tumbleweeds?” 

One risks becoming a “spiritual tumbleweed,” he said, if their roots are not sufficiently deep during a dry season, the bishop explained. He spoke during a panel for the National V Encuentro, a gathering of Hispanic Catholics throughout the United States.

“And the dry season is here, my friends, and it will be a long one,” said Cantú. Now is the time, he said, for people to “dig deep so that our roots may find water, that our roots may find living water.”

Cantú recounted a story from his time in seminary, when he accidentally genuflected when entering a row in a movie theater. He said that people today long for something sacred within their “spiritual DNA,” and when they do not encounter this, they end up treating the non-sacred objects things as if they are in fact sacred.

“People are not finding what is truly sacred,” he said, and “because they encounter you and me, that are supposed to show signs of the sacred, and maybe they don't see it.”

People should strive to tap their roots into the “living water” in order to produce sacred fruit, Cantú advised the crowd.

“The human heart still yearns for what is beautiful, for what is truly beautiful, for what is good, and for what is true. We have that. The church has what is truly good, what is truly beautiful and good. His name is Jesus Christ.”

After Cantú spoke, he appeared on a panel with three laypeople--Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services; Brenda Noriega, Young Adults Ministry Coordinator, Diocese of San Bernardino; and Wanda Vásquez, Hispanic Ministry Director, Archdiocese of New York--where they discussed the fruits that had emerged from the four-year V Encuentro process.

Vásquez said it was “amazing” how people came together, and how the eight dioceses in her Encuentro region were able to work alongside each other during the planning stages. She particularly highlighted how the more experienced people were able to share their expertise with younger members, and that while “we are a young church, but we also are an experienced Church.”

Cantú and Noriega both said that young Hispanics need to be included in leadership positions and reminded of their particular talents. Noriega first began working in Hispanic ministry for her diocese at the age of 25, and she reiterated that it was extremely important to “make sure young people are sat at the table” and given positions on things like parish councils.

Cantú said that he often encounters discouraged youth, and that he himself felt similar growing up in a time where “it was a liability to be Hispanic.” He said that when he was applying to seminary, he was praised by a religious sister for being bilingual and fully immersed in two cultures. This sister told him that he would be “a gift to the Church,” and that he hopes the larger Latino community will “never forget that you are a blessing to the Church.”

Callahan reminded the crowd to keep their doors open to the stranger, and to also be cautious about identifying only as “Hispanic Catholics.” He believes the Latino Catholic community has the ability to lift up the entire Church, and should take steps to build bridges with the rest of the Church in the United States.

He advised people that even though the attendees of the non-Spanish Masses at a parish may look different from them, they should go out of their way to interact with them and get to know them.

“Let’s build a united church, so we can start lifting up everyone in the Catholic Church in the United States,” said Callahan, to loud applause.

Cupich, who led the morning prayer, had a slightly more optimistic look on the future of the Church than Cantú. Cupich said that he feels the Church in the United States is experiencing a “new birth,” and the Latino community is a big part of this panel. The cardinal was critical of what he called an “overly rational, logical, cerebral” approach to God in American culture, and that “faith is not only about what we hold, but it is about who holds us.”

This, explained Cupich, is where Latino culture comes in.

“The Latino experience is reminding us that faith is not only about what we hold, but who holds us,” he said.

Cupich said that while like in any birth there are “pains” and “sacrifices,” but he is convinced that the Church, as well as non-Catholic Americans, “will one day look back at the contributi you (Latinos) are making to our faith, and yes, to our nation, and rejoice at the new birth that has taken place.”

 

Encuentro Catholics ‘heartbroken’ by scandals, but unshaken in faith

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 08:19

Dallas, Texas, Sep 22, 2018 / 06:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While the so-called summer of scandals has hit the Church hard both in the United States and throughout the world, the faith of Catholics at the National V Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas, remains largely unshaken.

“We’re heartbroken from what we found out, because it doesn’t move my faith,” Rocio Portillo, an Encuentro participant from Las Vegas, told CNA. “It doesn’t move my belief in my Church, and I’m really proud to be Catholic and to be brought up in that faith and to bring that to my children.”

The National V Encuentro, held Sept. 20-23, is the culmination of a years-long process at the parish, diocesan and regional levels of listening to and empowering Hispanic and Latino Catholics.

The public disclosure of allegations of sexual misconduct against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick in June 2018 triggered a succession of public accusations that McCarrick had sexually assaulted or abused seminarians and priests over a period of decades, as well as a further accusation that he had sexually abused a minor.

Since then, numerous bishops in the United States and Rome have faced questions about when accusations against McCarrick had first been made known to Church authorities, and how he had been allowed to continue in ministry despite widespread rumors of his misconduct.

In the midst of this, a grand jury report detailing hundreds of cases of clerical sexual abuse in six diocese in Pennsylvania was published. While the scandals have not been the focus of the V Encuentro meeting, they have been mentioned numerous times in talks and among participants.

“My friends, we know that this is also a time of pain in our mother Church...as bishops, we have fallen short of what God expects of His shepherds,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the U.S. Bishop’s Conference and head of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, said in his opening remarks at Encuentro on Sept. 20.

“For this, we again ask forgiveness from both the Lord and those who have been harmed, and from you, the People of God. May God grant us the wisdom and resolve to reform and renew His Church. We will continue to support survivors of abuse in their healing. We also commit to stronger protections to ensure the evil of sexual assault and abuse of all kinds is rooted from the Church,” he said.

“Amidst this darkness, the Encuentro is a light that shines and illuminates the way forward. The enthusiasm, the passion, the love, and the joy of the Encuentro process is a means of grace, a gift to us as we rebuild the Church,” he added.

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio also addressed the scandals in his opening remarks on Thursday, telling participants that they “are right to be heartbroken by the faults of your shepherds,” he said.

“In the reading of God’s word that we have just heard, Saint Peter tells us that we ‘share Christ’s sufferings,’” he added. “Let us pray to God for the victims of the crimes that led to this crisis. Do everything you can for the healing of all the victims of these abuses. And pray also for the perpetrators and for us, your shepherds.”

Fr. José Carlos, a priest from Hobbes, New Mexico, reiterated to CNA that Encuentro delegates have to be “a light in the darkness.”

Carlos Mendez, and Encuentro delegate from Los Angeles, told CNA that the scandals “would not reduce my faith at all, because I follow the Church, I don’t follow the deeds of other people."

Alfredo Portillo, Encuentro delegate from Las Vegas, told CNA that while he is saddened by the news of scandals that seems to come “every day,” he was encouraged by what he saw at the Encuentro meeting.

“I think this came at a perfect moment,” he told CNA. “And from this something new is going to grow, and it’s much needed. This is just a great moment for the Church in the whole world.”

Pro-life women say they were overlooked by Netflix documentary 'Reversing Roe'

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 07:05

Washington D.C., Sep 22, 2018 / 05:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new Netflix documentary claims to show both sides of the abortion debate in the U.S., but pro-life advocates say the film depicts old stereotypes and ignores the many women leading the modern pro-life movement.

“In so many cases, it is women who are at the forefront of the movement to value and protect every human life. Sadly, that fact was left out of the documentary,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.

“Had it been included, viewers would have been given the chance to see that the pro-life movement is fundamentally pro-women, because every abortion harms both mother and unborn child,” she said in a statement to CNA.

According to Netflix, the new documentary “Reversing Roe” seeks to offer “candid and riveting interviews with key figures from both sides of the divide” over abortion. Created by filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, a major focus of the film is the historical development of today’s polarized political views on abortion in the U.S. The movie premiered on September 13.

The documentary includes interviews from abortion advocates including doctor Colleen McNicholas and feminist leader Gloria Steinem, as well as pro-life advocates such as Operation Rescue President Troy Newman and National Right to Life President Carol Tobias.

Critics of the film note that appearances by abortion advocates far outnumber appearances by pro-life advocates, and three of the four pro-life individuals featured in the documentary are white males.

Several prominent women in the pro-life movement say they were contacted by the filmmakers, and in some cases spent multiple hours or days talking to the camera crew, but were not included at all in the final documentary. In addition to Mancini, these women include Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder of New Wave Feminists; Catherine Foster, president of Americans United for Life; and Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee who runs And Then There Were None.

“What a waste of their time, actually, to spend two and a half days with me and these other amazing pro-life women and not to use any of that footage,” said Johnson, who founded And Then There Were None as a nonprofit that helps abortion workers leave the industry.

Johnson noted that diverse women were included among the abortion advocates filmed, but the pro-life perspective was largely limited to white men. She suggested that filmmakers were intentional in how they chose to portray the pro-life movement.

“Being a feminist and being pro-life – that those two things go hand-in-hand – that’s something that they outright reject because it does not fit the narrative that they have been trying to put forward for the past almost 46 years.”

She said advocates of abortion often present “this idea that the pro-life movement is out of touch with women and that it is only men who are speaking about abortion in the pro-life movement… That is not true, a majority of national pro-life organizations are led by women.”

Also overlooked was Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, president of New Wave Feminists, a secular, feminist organization that was removed from the official list of sponsors for the Women’s March on Washington 2017 because of its pro-life stance.

“When we look at these feminist issues through a pro-life lens, I think you get a very refreshing and different take, but they weren’t interested in a refreshing and different take - they were interested in the stale, old narrative that this is completely religious, that …it’s men trying to control women’s bodies,” Herndon-De La Rosa told CNA.

She said the film offers an outdated and inaccurate illustration of the pro-life movement, featuring pro-life leaders from the ‘80s and ‘90s and highlighting extremists who have been involved with abortion clinic violence.

“They didn’t have anyone who broke the mold, so it was very clear that a pierced, tattooed, purple-haired feminist didn’t fit the narrative that they were looking for,” she said, describing herself.

“To act as though this is only a religious issue or to act as this is only a male-dominated issue, it’s disingenuous to the American people and a big chunk of American women who do hold these pro-life views.”

How the Diocese of Brownsville ensures detained children receive sacraments

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 23:22

Dallas, Texas, Sep 21, 2018 / 09:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Most, if not every, diocese in the United States has some sort of prison ministry. Most do not have a detention center ministry to tend to the spiritual needs of minors detained by the the U.S. Border Patrol.  

The Diocese of Brownsville, located in southern Texas along the U.S./Mexico border, isn’t like most dioceses.

While the diocese had been providing services to the detention centers for a long time, Bishop Daniel Flores told CNA that things started to change about four years ago when the number of unaccompanied minors detained at the border started to swell.

“We’ve always had numbers,” Flores said, but 2014 saw a major influx in the number of unaccompanied minors from Central America attempting to cross the U.S. border. This increase in the number of people sparked a realization that something had to be done to care for the unusually high number of people in detention.

"So our prison ministry, you know, kind of morphed into more of a detention center ministry,” Flores told CNA during a closed session with the media at the National V Encuentro conference in Grapevine, Texas on Sept. 21.

This “detention center ministry” would consist of teams who would go into the centers, determine who was there, and then create some sort of spiritual offering.

These teams would “develop opportunities to go in and either offer catechesis or say Mass or hear confessions” as part of an ongoing process to minister to those in the center. This process is “ongoing,” Flores told CNA.

While the diocese tries to have some sort of presence at the centers, this can be challenging due to changes in policy over time.

“The circumstances changes, because, I’ll be honest, the government sometimes changes the rules,” said Flores, “and we try to respect that but we also kind of ask questions” as to why the changes are being made.

Despite this, Flores said the diocese has “very good cooperation” with the centers and is able to address the needs of those who are detained.

“I think the people who work at the detention centers, for the most part, that I know, recognize that it’s important that these young people have access to somebody who can help them have hope and can follow up on their cases,” explained Flores.

This ministry, while important, is “really serious commitment of time,” and is carried out by priests, religious, and laypeople. Flores credited the laypeople who volunteer their time as those “who really make the effort.”

Flores also praised the Latin American apostolic movements that have taken root in the United States for assisting with this effort.

Each minor’s experience in the detention center is different. Some may be there for weeks, and others for months, depending on the circumstances of their case.

The diocese attempts to extend this ministry even after the minors are released from custody. Flores said that after a minor leaves the center, they will attempt to contact a group or charity (such as Catholic Charities) in their destination that will keep tabs on the minor once they arrive.

“It's good to get a phone call that's not asking 'where are your documents?',” said Flores.  “It's a phone call (asking) 'how are you doing, and can we help you with something?”

“That makes a big difference."

 

Pope Francis welcomes V Encuentro as 'instrument of grace'

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 19:07

Dallas, Texas, Sep 21, 2018 / 05:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis welcomed thousands of representatives gathered in Texas this week for the Fifth Encuentro, a national meeting of Hispanic-background Catholics aimed at encounter and leadership.

National V Encuentro is “an instrument of grace that has led to the conversion of many people's hearts and above all to the pastoral conversion of situations and to the pastoral conversion of local Churches, parishes, schools, and of all kinds of ecclesial encounters,” he said in a video message to the gathering.

National V Encuentro is the culmination of four years of consultation and workshops from local to regional levels across the U.S. Delegates from 165 dioceses were selected for the event, and nearly 250,000 people participated in the local process over the past year.

Taking place in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20-23, the event is expecting as many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background. This year’s theme is “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del amor de Dios” or “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God.”

The meeting has five primary goals: to encounter the needs and aspirations of Catholics of Hispanic background; to promote leadership opportunities for them; to develop new ways to form and encourage them in their vocations; to invite all Catholics to accompany Catholics of Hispanic background; and to develop “initiatives that prepare Hispanic Catholics to share and celebrate the Good News of Jesus Christ and to become leaven for the Reign of God in society.”

The first National Encuentro in the United States was held in 1972, and it is a process that has continued at local, regional, and national levels ever since. The most recent Encuentro prior to the Grapevine meeting was held in 2000, with a related youth meeting held in 2006.

The preparatory discussions for National V Encuentro have explored topics such as the accompaniment of immigrants, access to higher education, community outreach, and the formation of lay leaders.

“I know that the experience of this Fifth Encuentro is a comfort to many immigrants living in situations of fear and uncertainty,” Pope Francis said in his welcome video message.

“The Fifth Encuentro has given them a greater sense of community, friendship, and support.”

Hispanics currently make up one of the largest contingents of the Catholic Church in the U.S., about 40 percent, and an even greater percentage of young adults in the Church.

Michigan announces investigation into seven Catholic dioceses

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 18:00

Lansing, Mich., Sep 21, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has opened an investigation into child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the state.

The inquiry was confirmed 21 Sept. in a statement posted on the attorney general’s official website, and will include all seven of the dioceses in Michigan: Gaylord, Lansing, Marquette, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Kalamazoo, and the Archdiocese of Detroit.

While the investigation was confirmed publicly on Friday, a spokesman for Schuette told local media that the process had been launched in August 2018.

"The Michigan Department of Attorney General has determined that a full and complete investigation of what happened within the Catholic Church is required," the statement from Schuette said.

"This investigation is and will continue to be independent, thorough, transparent, and prompt. My department and this investigation will find out who knew what, and when."

The department’s official website also gave details of how to contact investigators, saying they wanted to hear from anyone with “information about the Catholic Church that you think would help [the investigation].”

In a statement given to local media, Schuette’s office said that the investigation will cover accusations of "sexual abuse and assault of children and others by Catholic priests,” including priests from religious orders, in Michigan. The the investigation will cover a period of nearly 70 years, from 1950 until the present. 

It is unclear if the investigation will be limited only to allegations of abuse committed by priests, or if it will extend to all clergy and lay employees of the Church in Michigan. The attorney general’s office did not respond to requests for clarification on this point.

In addition to direct accusations of abuse, the attorney general will also examine “any allegations related to the cover-up of sexual abuse or assault” by Church authorities.

In response to the announcement, Catholic dioceses in the state both welcomed the investigation and pledged their full cooperation.

A statement released by the Archdiocese of Detroit, which serves nearly 1.5 million Catholics, said that they “looked forward” to working with state officials and said that the archdiocese would actively participate in the inquiry.

The Archdiocese of Detroit also stressed its “full confidence” in archdiocesan safe environment policies, which it said have been in place for 15 years. The statement called the investigation “the next phase of our commitment to transparency and healing."

The Diocese of Saginaw issued a similar statement which noted their own commitment to safeguarding procedures and welcomed “the opportunity to work with law enforcement authorities to determine if there is more it can do to protect children.”

The announcement of the investigation follows the conclusion of a similar inquiry led by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. A grand jury report into the sexual abuse of minors in six dioceses in that state was released in July. That report identified more than 300 alleged abusers and 1,000 victims.

The Michigan attorney general’s office is already conducting similar investigations into Michigan State University and the Flint water crisis.

In addition to serving as attorney general, Schuette is also the Republican candidate in the upcoming election for governor in Michigan. He is running against Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, a former prosecutor and state legislator.

A recent poll by Mitchell Research showed Schuette trailing his opponent by 10 points. Real Clear Politics puts Whitmer ahead by an average of 10.6 points and currently predicts a “likely Democrat” victory.

Schuette’s seven-year record as attorney general has attracted criticism during the campaign, with his opponents saying that the attorney's social conservatism is out of step with Michigan voters.

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a statewide ban on gay marriage, a policy Schuette publicly supported. In 2016, he joined a lawsuit challenging federal school guidance on transgender students.

More recently, the attorney general issued an opinion in July challenging the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s determination that existing state bans on sex based discrimination were also applicable to sexual orientation and “gender identity.”

Schuette said the Commission’s reasoning was “invalid” and in clear conflict with the “original intent” and “plain language” of the legislation.

On Sept. 19, the U.S. bishops’ conference announced a series of new policies in response to recent sexual abuse scandals. These included a new third-party reporting mechanism for making complaints of sexual misconduct against a bishop, with such complaints being forwarded to civil law enforcement when appropriate.

US nuncio to Encuentro: Missionaries must first know the joy of Christ

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 12:57

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 21, 2018 / 10:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A missionary disciple is one who has encountered Christ personally and is then able to bring him to others, Archbishop Christophe Pierre said Thursday at the National V Encuentro.  

Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, addressed approximately 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic and Latino background gathered for the summit in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20. The event is the culmination of four years of consultation and workshops at the parish, diocesan, and regional levels of the Church in the U.S.

This year, the National Encuentro’s theme is “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del amor de Dios” or “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God.”

Pierre said he believes, as do Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, that one must first encounter the person of Christ before one can become a missionary.

“For (Pope Francis), the whole missionary endeavour begins with an encounter with Christ,” Pierre said.

“The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus,” Pierre said, quoting the beginning of Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium. “Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”

Benedict also began his first encyclical reflecting on the personal encounter with Christ which every Christian must have, Pierre noted.

“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction,” Pierre said, quoting Benedict’s 2005 encyclical Deus caritas est.

This joy of encountering Christ breathes life into the missionary, who is then able to go out and encounter God’s people, Pierre said.

A Church filled with “missionary impulse” is one that channels her “customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures...for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation,” Pierre noted, referencing Evangelii gaudium.

“Just as wind pushes against a sail and causes a boat to move upon the water, so too the Spirit of God pushes the whole Church to go forth into the world, attentive to the signs of the times and the needs of the people, jettisoning that which is obsolete,” Pierre said.

The missionary spirit which leads to a conversion of heart must be inspired by belief in the God and the Church, Pierre added.

“We have to believe in the Church, this is important today not to forget...believe in the Church who makes Christ incarnate in the culture and among the people,” he said.

This conversion of heart and a missionary spirit must happen within pastors and Church leaders as well, Pierre noted, as they listen to and learn from the different people whom they serve.

“People’s religious experiences, including those of the Latinos, are an authentic place of encounter with God,” he said. “Pastoral conversion means moving from mere conservation to a decidedly pastoral ministry. Pastoral and missionary conversion go hand in hand with a conversion of attitudes and a conversion of statues.”

A Church full of missionary spirit is one that accompanies people and remains united - in a word, a missionary Church has “synodality,” he said, something that can be seen incarnate in the mission of Encuentro.

“The Encuentro process has shown the effectiveness of synodality in the Church,” Pierre added. “Listening, speaking, participating by asking critical questions and discerning the path forward .if Communion is a sharing of the faithful in the mysteries of faith and mission of the church, synodality is a sign and fulfillment of communion.”

Another characteristic of a missionary Church is joy, Pierre said. It celebrates “even small victories in the work of evangelization” and is nourished by the Eucharist, the sacrament in which “Christ is among us, and the joy that he has won is preserved and shared.”

Finally, Pierre said, a missionary Church is one that is not afraid to go to the “peripheries”, both geographical and cultural, to encounter people and bring Christ to them.

“It is my sincere hope that as we gather for these days, we may be the church that Christ wants us to be,” Pierre concluded.

“With (Jesus) at the center of our lives, our conversations and our ministries, confident that with the Virgin of Guadalupe to accompany us and intercede for us, may we always move forward in hope, making known the joy of the Gospel.”

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